Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

News & Supplemental  

The Yakuza’s Cleanup Crew: It’s Not What You Think But Still Alarming

Orga­nized crim­i­nal net­works could be thought of as a coven of keep­ers of well guard­ed secrets. Pow­er­ful, prof­itable well guard­ed secrets. The orga­nized “sys­tem” works because only “need to know” peo­ple know about it. It’s like Sci­en­tol­ogy, minus the actu­al Sci­en­tol­ogy. That’s sort of how mil­i­taries and gov­ern­ments work, where the most pow­er­ful and dan­ger­ous infor­ma­tion and capa­bil­i­ties are com­part­men­tal­ized in a hier­ar­chi­cal man­ner. Some mafias are qua­si-legal and part of the gov­ern­ment offi­cial­ly or unof­fi­cial­ly:

The Dai­ly Beast
The Death and Lega­cy of Yakuza Boss ‘Mr. Goril­la’

For years Yoshi­nori Watan­abe (aka ‘Mr. Goril­la’) ran Japan’s most pow­er­ful and suc­cess­ful yakuza group. Jake Adel­stein on his mys­te­ri­ous death over the weekend—and his lega­cy of mod­ern and ruth­less man­age­ment of the crime syn­di­cate.
Dec 3, 2012 5:54 PM EST
Jake Adel­stein

Watan­abe was found col­lapsed at his home in Kobe on Sat­ur­day, by his fam­i­ly; his death was con­firmed the same day. A memo­r­i­al ser­vice was held for him Mon­day. The cause of death is unknown, but he alleged­ly had been in poor health for years.

Watan­abe became the fifth head of the Yam­aguchi-gumi in 1989 after a four-year gang war between the Yam­aguchi-gumi and the Ichi­wa-kai, which had split off from the main group. Watan­abe, in a move to encour­age Ichi­wa-kai mem­bers to return to the fold, is cred­it­ed with intro­duc­ing a pen­sion plan to the Yam­aguchi-gumi that promised to take care of retired “employ­ees,” much like major Japan­ese cor­po­ra­tions. Watan­abe was a high­ly intel­li­gent gang­ster, but because of his slight­ly simi­an facial fea­tures, he was known amongst some police offi­cers and some yakuza affec­tion­ate­ly as “Mr. Goril­la”.

Watan­abe was a charis­mat­ic leader and a good busi­ness­man. By keep­ing the asso­ci­a­tion dues low and through aggres­sive gang wars and lever­aged peace treaties with rival gangs, he expand­ed the orga­ni­za­tion to become Japan’s largest orga­nized crime group; by 2004, the Yam­aguchi-gumi head­quar­ters was col­lect­ing near­ly $25 mil­lion per year in asso­ci­a­tion dues alone, accord­ing to police files. In the book The Busi­ness Man­age­ment Meth­ods of the Yam­aguchi-gumi (2005), by yakuza expert Atsushi Mizoguchi, Watan­abe suc­cinct­ly explains the secret of his orga­nized crime man­age­ment: “Absolute Uni­ty. Retal­i­a­tion. Silence. Appro­pri­ate rewards and pun­ish­ments, and judi­cious use of vio­lence.”

How­ev­er, dur­ing his reign, prob­lems also emerged. Anti-yakuza leg­is­la­tion went on the books (1992) and legal prece­dents were set that grad­u­al­ly forced the yakuza under­ground. In a civ­il law­suit over the shoot­ing death of a police­man in a gang con­flict that involved the Yam­aguchi-gumi, Watan­abe was effec­tive­ly ordered by Japan’s Supreme Count to pay dam­ages of about 80 mil­lion yen in 2004. This was the first time the courts rec­og­nized a Yakuza boss’s “employ­er lia­bil­i­ty.”

...

Watan­abe was a folk hero in Kobe, the town where he died, after orga­niz­ing relief efforts and pro­vid­ing food, water, and essen­tial sup­plies to the locals after the Great Han­shin Earth­quake in Jan­u­ary of 1995.

Under Watanabe’s suc­ces­sor, Shi­nobu Tsukasa, the Yam­aguchi-gumi absorbed the Tokyo-based Kokusui-kai in 2005, giv­ing them a strong base in east­ern Japan. By 2007 the Yam­aguchi-gumi had effec­tive­ly put the Ina­gawa-kai under their umbrel­la, mak­ing them the Wal­mart of Japan­ese orga­nized crime with more than half of the total yakuza (79,000) being under their con­trol.

Note the ref­er­ences to the Yam­aguchi-guchi’s pen­sion plan for its “employ­ees” as well as the “employ­er lia­bil­i­ty” legal rul­ing that forced the Yam­aguch-guchi clan to pay a fine in 2005 after one of its “employ­ees” killed a police offi­cer. The yakuza­’s employ­ment efforts will be high­ly rel­e­vant in excerpts below. Their dis­as­ter relief efforts are also going to be high­light­ed. As evi­denced by the yakuza­’s post-earth­quake/t­sunami/nu­clear melt­down actions, the yakuza are a lot like a cor­rupt polit­i­cal par­ty in many ways but one dif­fer­ence is that the yakuza­’s awful attempts at pop­ulist folksi­ness actu­al­ly involve help­ing peo­ple some­times:

The Dai­ly Beast
Yakuza to the Res­cue
Even Japan’s infa­mous mafia groups are help­ing out with the relief efforts and show­ing a strain of civic duty. Jake Adel­stein reports on why the police don’t want you to know about it.

Mar 18, 2011 5:00 AM EDT
Jake Adel­stein

The worst of times some­times brings out the best in peo­ple, even in Japan’s “losers” a.k.a. the Japan­ese mafia, the yakuza. Hours after the first shock waves hit, two of the largest crime groups went into action, open­ing their offices to those strand­ed in Tokyo, and ship­ping food, water, and blan­kets to the dev­as­tat­ed areas in two-ton trucks and what­ev­er vehi­cles they could get mov­ing. The day after the earth­quake the Ina­gawa-kai (the third largest orga­nized crime group in Japan which was found­ed in 1948) sent twen­ty-five four-ton trucks filled with paper dia­pers, instant ramen, bat­ter­ies, flash­lights, drinks, and the essen­tials of dai­ly life to the Tohoku region. An exec­u­tive in Sumiyoshi-kai, the sec­ond-largest crime group, even offered refuge to mem­bers of the for­eign community—something unheard of in a still slight­ly xeno­pho­bic nation, espe­cial­ly amongst the right-wing yakuza. The Yam­aguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime group, under the lead­er­ship of Tadashi Irie, has also opened its offices across the coun­try to the pub­lic and been send­ing truck­loads of sup­plies, but very qui­et­ly and with­out any fan­fare.

The Ina­gawa-kai has been the most active because it has strong roots in the areas hit. It has sev­er­al “blocks” or region­al groups. Between mid­night on March 12th and the ear­ly morn­ing of March 13th, the Ina­gawa-kai Tokyo block car­ried 50 tons of sup­plies to Hitachi­na­ka City Hall (Hitachi­na­ka City, Ibara­ki Pre­fec­ture) and dropped them off, care­ful not to men­tion their yakuza affil­i­a­tion so that the dona­tions weren’t reject­ed. This was the begin­ning of their human­i­tar­i­an efforts. Sup­plies includ­ed cup ramen, bean sprouts, paper dia­pers, tea and drink­ing water. The dri­ve from Tokyo took them twelve hours. They went through back roads to get there. The Kana­gawa Block of the Ina­gawa-kai, has sent 70 trucks to the Ibara­ki and Fukushi­ma areas to drop off sup­plies in areas with high radi­a­tions lev­els. They did­n’t keep track of how many tons of sup­plies they moved. The Ina­gawa-kai as a whole has moved over 100 tons of sup­plies to the Tohoku region. They have been going into radi­at­ed areas with­out any pro­tec­tion or potas­si­um iodide.

The Yam­aguchi-gumi mem­ber I spoke with said sim­ply, “Please don’t say any more than we are doing our best to help. Right now, no one wants to be asso­ci­at­ed with us and we’d hate to have our dona­tions reject­ed out of hand.”

To those not famil­iar with the yakuza, it may come as a shock to hear of their phil­an­thropy, but this is not the first time that they have dis­played a human­i­tar­i­an impulse. In 1995, after the Kobe earth­quake, the Yam­aguchi-gumi was one of the most respon­sive forces on the ground, quick­ly get­ting sup­plies to the affect­ed areas and dis­trib­ut­ing them to the local peo­ple. Admit­ted­ly, much of those sup­plies were paid with by mon­ey from years of shak­ing down the peo­ple in the area, and they were cer­tain­ly not unaware of the pub­lic rela­tions factor—but no one can deny that they were help­ful when peo­ple need­ed aid—as they are this time as well.

It may seem puz­zling that the yakuza, which are orga­nized crime groups, deriv­ing their prin­ci­pal rev­enue streams from ille­gal activ­i­ties, such as col­lect­ing pro­tec­tion mon­ey, black­mail, extor­tion, and fraud would have any civic nature at all. How­ev­er, in Japan since the post-war peri­od they have always played a role in keep­ing the peace. Accord­ing to Robert Whiting’s Tokyo Under­world and Tim Weiner’s Lega­cy of Ash­es, the US gov­ern­ment even bought the ser­vices of one infa­mous yakuza fix­er, Yoshio Kodama, to keep Japan from going com­mu­nist and main­tain order. Kodama would lat­er put up the fund­ing to cre­ate the Lib­er­al Demo­c­rat Par­ty of Japan that ruled the coun­try for over fifty years. When Pres­i­dent Oba­ma vis­it­ed Japan last year, the police con­tact­ed the heads of all Tokyo yakuza groups and asked them to behave them­selves and make sure there were no prob­lems.
...

Inter­est­ing fun-fact: The “yakuza fixer”/power-broker ref­er­enced above, Yoshio Kodama, was the one-time prison cell mate of for­mer prime min­is­ter Nobo­suke Kishi for war crimes(Kishi is the grand­fa­ther of cur­rent prime min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe). Kodama was also a backer of gang­ster/oli­garch/sushi king/new mes­si­ah rev­erend Sun Myung Moon. It’s a small world at the top. The glue that seems to hold the world at the togeth­er appears to be high­ly prof­itable and pow­er­ful secre­cy and lots of mon­ey. Curi­ous­ly, though, an large num­ber of those pow­er­ful secrets aren’t real­ly very secret:

The Dai­ly Beast
Japan’s Jus­tice Min­is­ter to Resign Over Yakuza Ties
It’s almost too per­fect: Japan’s new min­is­ter of jus­tice is about to resign over his ties to a lead­ing yakuza (mafia) orga­ni­za­tion. Jake Adel­stein reports on the lat­est polit­i­cal scandal—and just what the yakuza do for the politi­cians.

Oct 18, 2012 11:30 PM EDT
Jake Adel­stein

It seems like Japan­ese politi­cians just can’t get enough of the yakuza.

It was report­ed last week that the new­ly appoint­ed Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Keishu Tana­ka (Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Japan) had strong ties to the Japan­ese mafia. This Thurs­day, Japan’s respect­ed week­ly news mag­a­zine, Shukan Bun­shun, ran an arti­cle on how Japan’s Min­is­ter of Finance Kori­ki Joji­ma, was sup­port­ed by a yakuza front com­pa­ny dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign. Min­is­ter Tana­ka is expect­ed to resign Fri­day (Japan time). If he does, he’ll be the sec­ond Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Japan (DPJ) appoint­ed cab­i­net min­is­ter since 2009 to resign after expo­sure of yakuza ties. Not a good thing for the DPJ, which came to pow­er as “the clean par­ty.”

Last Thurs­day the week­ly mag­a­zine Shukan Shin­cho was the first to write that Min­is­ter Tana­ka had long run­ning ties to the Ina­gawa-kai. The Ina­gawa-kai, Japan’s third-largest crime group, was found­ed as Ina­gawa-Kogyo cir­ca 1948 and their cur­rent head­quar­ters are across the street from the Ritz Carl­ton Tokyo; they have 10,000 mem­bers. Accord­ing to the police, since 2007 the group has been under the umbrel­la of the Yam­aguchi-gumi, the largest yakuza group in the coun­try, with 39,000 mem­bers. Kazuo Uchi­bori, the leader of the Ina­gawa-kai, was arrest­ed this month on mon­ey-laun­der­ing charges. The Tokyo Prosecutor’s Office (TPO) has not yet decid­ed whether to pros­e­cute him. The TPO is also part of the Min­istry of Jus­tice, head­ed by Mr. Tana­ka.

The Shin­cho arti­cle alleges Tana­ka has long relied on the sup­port of the Ina­gawa-kai in his polit­i­cal and busi­ness deal­ings and had par­tic­i­pat­ed in many Ina­gawa-kai events—including serv­ing as a match­mak­er (nakou­do) at the wed­ding of an under­boss. The piece also states that the Ina­gawa-kai sup­pressed scan­dalous rumors about Tanaka’s life, involv­ing a tawdry love affair. The under­boss respon­si­ble for han­dling the neg­a­tive PR mat­ters alleged­ly told would-be extor­tion­ists, “Tana­ka was the match­mak­er at my wed­ding. Save my face—forgive and for­get about it.”

The Dai­ly Beast spoke with Ina­gawa-kai mem­bers and police offi­cers from Kana­gawa Pre­fec­ture who con­firmed that Tana­ka did indeed have strong ties to the Ina­gawa-kai, until at least two years ago.

Tana­ka has admit­ted to attend­ing Ina­gawa-kai events in the past, includ­ing the wed­ding, but has denied the rest of the alle­ga­tions.

Sen. Sho­ji Nishi­da who has inves­ti­gat­ed and writ­ten about the ties of some DPJ mem­bers to the mob in WILL mag­a­zine (Novem­ber 2011) says, “Tana­ka is the 4th DPJ-coali­tion-appoint­ed min­is­ter with yakuza ties. I won­der if they even screen the peo­ple they put in cab­i­net posi­tions. The min­is­ter of Jus­tice is sup­posed to be the watch­dog of the law, not a match­mak­er for the yakuza. Putting a yakuza asso­ciate in charge of Japan’s crim­i­nal-jus­tice sys­tem ... that’s out­ra­geous. Now I can under­stand why the Yam­aguchi-gumi endorsed their par­ty.”

...

It should be point­ed out that the DPJ coali­tion has not offi­cial­ly endorsed any orga­nized crime group in Japan. It may very well be a uni­lat­er­al rela­tion­ship. The DPJ has con­sis­tent­ly opposed pass­ing a Crim­i­nal Con­spir­a­cy Law, leg­is­la­tion that would be fatal to Japan’s semi-legit­i­mate orga­nized-crime groups. It would make sense for the mob to sup­port their own inter­ests.

It was not that unusu­al for Japan­ese politi­cians to have yakuza ties in the past. In the good old days, yakuza them­selves even served as min­is­ters of the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment. The grand­fa­ther of ex-prime min­is­ter Junichi­ro Koizu­mi (Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty), Mata­jiro Koizu­mi, was a mem­ber of a yakuza group lat­er absorbed into the Ina­gawa-kai. Dur­ing his term serv­ing as the min­is­ter of gen­er­al affairs (1929–1931), due to his ornate body art, Mata­jiro Koizu­mi was fond­ly known as “Irezu­mi Dai­jin” or “the tat­tooed min­is­ter.”

...

It is increas­ing­ly like­ly that at least Keishu Tana­ka will be forced to resign from office due to his past role as a “yakuza match­mak­er.” His res­ig­na­tion is unlike­ly to be the end of—what so far—has been a real­ly great rela­tion­ship for the Japan­ese polit­i­cal par­ties and the underworld—a match made in heav­en. For Japan’s polit­i­cal par­ties the yakuza are a nec­es­sary evil. When you need to get out the vote, squelch pos­si­ble polit­i­cal scandals—or cre­ate them, nobody does the job quite as well as Japan’s mafia.

The embrace of the yakuza or any mafia out­fit as a “nec­es­sary evil” by politi­cians is not a sur­pris­ing glob­al phe­nom­e­na. If you go deep enough into the world of deep state pow­er pol­i­tics you’ll end up above the law. Nor­mal laws no longer apply in those envi­ron­ments.

Smol­der­ing piles of high­ly radioac­tive waste. No roof. Big prob­lem.
One promi­nent excep­tion to exemp­tion from nor­mal laws for deep state actors would be the laws of physics. They’re just real­ly hard to get around. For exam­ple, if an earthquake/tsunami hap­pens to trig­ger a pow­er­ful enough explo­sion to blow its roof off AND the build­ing hap­pens to con­tain over a thou­sand spent nuclear fuel rods, the laws of physics strong sug­gest that you’re going to have a real­ly hard time clean­ing that up. And those dif­fi­cul­ties are going to last for a very long time:

Asahi
High radi­a­tion bars decom­mis­sion­ing of Fukushi­ma plant
Feb­ru­ary 21, 2013

By HISASHI HATTORI/ Senior Staff Writer

Prepa­ra­tions for the mam­moth task of decom­mis­sion­ing crip­pled reac­tors at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant are being stymied by con­tin­ued high lev­els of radi­a­tion from the triple melt­downs there two years ago.

Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., oper­a­tor of the plant, has had to install more tanks to store radioac­tive water, which con­tin­ues to swell by sev­er­al hun­dreds of tons dai­ly.

Asahi Shim­bun reporters entered the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing on Feb. 20, accom­pa­nied by inspec­tors from the sec­re­tari­at of the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty, to assess the sit­u­a­tion.

The reac­tor was offline for reg­u­lar inspec­tions when the magnitude‑9.0 Great East Japan Earth­quake struck on March 11, 2011, gen­er­at­ing tow­er­ing tsuna­mi that swamped the plant.

In the days that fol­lowed, a hydro­gen explo­sion tore through the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing. It raised alarm world­wide that the stor­age pool for spent nuclear fuel in the build­ing might lose its water through evap­o­ra­tion, result­ing in the dis­charge of volu­mi­nous amounts of radioac­tive sub­stances.

That was nar­row­ly avert­ed.

Most of the debris, such as steel frames man­gled in the explo­sion, have been removed from the roof­less top floor of the reac­tor build­ing, but radi­a­tion lev­els remain high.

“Here, the read­ing is 200 microsiev­erts per hour,” an inspec­tor said. “But it is 1,000 microsiev­erts on the north side close to the No. 3 reac­tor build­ing. Keep your dis­tance.”

A shroud has been placed over the spent fuel stor­age pool on the top floor. The water tem­per­a­ture was about 20 degrees. The water, seen through an open­ing, was mud­dy and brown. The fuel inside the pool was not vis­i­ble.

Work­ers were installing a shroud for the No. 4 reac­tor build­ing on the south side of the build­ing. It will be equipped with a crane to remove spent fuel from the stor­age pool.

The foun­da­tion work was already com­plet­ed, and steel frames were being assem­bled.

TEPCO intends to mount a deter­mined effort to remove spent fuel from the stor­age pool in Novem­ber. Two fuel assem­blies were removed on a tri­al basis in July.

...

Ever-increas­ing radioac­tive water has become a key chal­lenge for TEPCO.

Ground­wa­ter is flow­ing into reac­tor build­ings, where it mix­es with water used to cool melt­ed fuel inside the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reac­tors.

The amount of radioac­tive water stored in tanks and oth­er facil­i­ties rose to 230,000 tons this month, up from 10,000 tons in July 2011.

In addi­tion, an esti­mat­ed 100,000 tons of water have accu­mu­lat­ed in the base­ments of build­ings.

Cur­rent­ly, there are near­ly 500 stor­age tanks on the plant premis­es, many as tall as three-sto­ry build­ings. TEPCO plans to add more by 2015 when it expects to have to store 700,000 tons of radioac­tive water.

...

Prepa­ra­tions for decom­mis­sion­ing have only recent­ly begun. Decom­mis­sion­ing will not be com­plet­ed for the next 30 to 40 years under a plan drawn up by the gov­ern­ment and TEPCO.

...

Cur­rent­ly, work­ers can­not eas­i­ly approach the three reac­tor build­ings where the melt­downs occurred due to high radi­a­tion lev­els. They have been remov­ing debris, such as con­crete blocks, on the plant premis­es.

Work to remove melt­ed fuel from the three reac­tors is expect­ed to begin by around 2022. Fuel is believed to be scat­tered with­in the pres­sure ves­sels, con­tain­ment ves­sels or pip­ing sys­tems, but exact loca­tions remain unclear.

In addi­tion, TEPCO has yet to iden­ti­fy where radioac­tive water has been leak­ing from the dam­aged con­tain­ment ves­sels. The con­tain­ment ves­sels must be filled with water before melt­ed fuel is removed.

In Decem­ber, TEPCO sent a remote-con­trolled robot near the pres­sure sup­pres­sion cham­ber in the No. 2 reac­tor build­ing to find out where water was leak­ing. But the mis­sion failed when the robot lost its bal­ance and got stuck.

New tech­nolo­gies must be devel­oped for decom­mis­sion­ing, but man­u­fac­tur­ers and gen­er­al con­trac­tors have shown lit­tle enthu­si­asm.

The com­pa­nies fear they will not be able to recov­er their invest­ments because the tech­nolo­gies would have lit­tle prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion oth­er than for the Fukushi­ma plant.

Yep, the nuclear plant that had its roof blown off two years ago by an earth­quake/t­suna­mi-induced hydro­gen explo­sion is going to take 30–40 years to decon­t­a­m­i­nate. And it’s still very very radioac­tive. And the build­ing is still leak­ing very very radioac­tive water. Thanks “Laws of Physics”!

Addi­tion­al­ly, the arti­cle ends by inform­ing us that fix­ing the sit­u­a­tion will require the devel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies. But busi­ness­es aren’t inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing the tech­nolo­gies because the anti-nuclear cat­a­stro­phe tech­nolo­gies won’t have obvi­ous appli­ca­tions beyond the still unfold­ing nuclear disaster...even though the suc­cess­ful cleanup of that nuclear waste is required for the long-term health of Japan and the bios­phere at large. As some might say, “cor­po­ra­tions are peo­ple”. And like peo­ple, cor­po­ra­tions can be mind-numb­ing­ly short­sight­ed and lack even a basic sense of self-preser­va­tion. Thanks “The Mar­ket”!

Help Want­ed: Smol­der­ing piles of high­ly radioac­tive waste. No roof. Big prob­lem.
For­tu­nate­ly, while new tech­nolo­gies may be at hand, there are strong indi­ca­tions that find­ing new peo­ple to work on the cleanup efforts won’t be as much of an issue. And there’s prob­a­bly going to be a lot of new work­ers required for the cleanup giv­en time-frame involved (30–40 years) and oth­er staffing com­pli­ca­tions.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that pool of avail­able man­pow­er appears to be due, in part, to orga­nized crime boss­es try­ing to secure nuclear cleanup con­tracts. Let’s hope there aren’t any “employ­er lia­bil­i­ty” cas­es relat­ed to the Fukushi­ma cleanup effort for the next few decades:

Japan­ese under­world tries to cash in on tsuna­mi clean-up

The yakuza is turn­ing its atten­tion from help­ing dis­as­ter vic­tims to win­ning con­tracts for the mas­sive rebuild­ing effort

Justin McCur­ry in Tokyo
The Guardian, Wednes­day 15 June 2011 09.44 EDT

In the after­math of the dev­as­tat­ing March tsuna­mi, Japan’s under­world made a rare dis­play of phil­an­thropy, hand­ing out emer­gency sup­plies to sur­vivors, some­times days before aid agen­cies arrived.

Three months lat­er, how­ev­er, the yakuza appears to have dis­pensed with largesse and is instead hop­ing to cash in on the daunt­ing clean-up effort in dozens of ruined towns and vil­lages.

The gov­ern­ment and police fear they are los­ing the bat­tle to pre­vent crime syn­di­cates from win­ning lucra­tive con­tracts to remove mil­lions of tonnes of debris left in the tsunami’s wake, includ­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed rub­ble near the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant that many firms are reluc­tant to han­dle.

The dis­as­ter cre­at­ed almost 24m tonnes of debris in the three hard­est-hit pre­fec­tures, Fukushi­ma, Miya­gi and Iwate, accord­ing to the envi­ron­ment min­istry. So far, just over 5m tonnes – or 22% – has been removed.

Those lin­ing up to prof­it from the clear­ance oper­a­tion, which is expect­ed to take three years, include home­grown gangs and Chi­nese crime syn­di­cates, accord­ing to the June edi­tion of Sen­taku, a respect­ed polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic affairs mag­a­zine.

The mag­a­zine recounts the sto­ry of a lead­ing Chi­nese gang­ster who, accom­pa­nied by a nation­al politi­cian, vis­it­ed the may­or of Minami­so­ma – a town near Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi, where a par­tial evac­u­a­tion order is in place – hop­ing to win con­tracts to remove radioac­tive waste that, accord­ing to police, could have end­ed up at dis­pos­al sites in Chi­na.

...

“The yakuza are try­ing to posi­tion them­selves to gain con­tracts for their con­struc­tion com­pa­nies for the mas­sive rebuild­ing that will come.”

...

Offi­cials have said that the removal of debris should come under cen­tral gov­ern­ment con­trol, and the names of “anti­so­cial” indi­vid­u­als have been for­ward­ed to local author­i­ties.

But giv­en the sheer quan­ti­ty of debris, and the man­pow­er required to remove and dis­pose of it, few believe Japan’s most pow­er­ful yakuza gangs will be kept out alto­geth­er.

...

“The nexus of mas­sive con­struc­tion projects, bureau­crats, politi­cians, busi­ness­men and yakuza are as reveal­ing about Japan as they are about Italy and Rus­sia,” Jeff Kingston, direc­tor of Asian stud­ies at Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty in Tokyo, wrote in his recent book, Con­tem­po­rary Japan.

...

So just months after the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter (when the above arti­cle was writ­ten), orga­nized crime groups were angling to get a share of the mas­sive cleanup pro­ceeds. And they were already so infused into construction/government con­tract sec­tors of the econ­o­my that their involve­ment was vir­tu­al­ly guar­an­teed. And that cleanup effort is sched­uled to take decades and will involve the han­dling of large amounts of high­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al. And the mafia appears to be inter­est­ed in the high­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al dis­pos­al con­tracts. AND hard­ly any­one appears to be sur­prised or per­turbed by this devel­op­ment because the yakuza has sup­ply­ing man­pow­er to Japan’s nuclear pow­er indus­try for a long time. Major cat­a­stro­phes often have a sud­den “quick” phase of dis­as­ter (the earthquake/tsunami) fol­lowed by long, slow rolling phase of sec­ondary dis­as­ters that emerge in the wake of the cat­a­stro­phe. Orga­nized crim­i­nal out­fits infil­trat­ing pow­er­ful insti­tu­tions is an exam­ple of the larg­er pat­tern of endem­ic sys­temic cor­rup­tion and endem­ic sys­temic cor­rup­tion is a glob­al phe­nom­e­na. Endem­ic sys­temic cor­rup­tion is also a slow motion dis­as­ter. And full-spec­trum too:

The Tele­graph
How the Yakuza went nuclear
What real­ly went wrong at the Fukushi­ma plant? One under­cov­er reporter risked his life to find out

By Jake Adel­stein

11:30AM GMT 21 Feb 2012

On March 11 2011, at 2:46pm, a 9.0 mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck Japan. The earth­quake, fol­lowed by a colos­sal tsuna­mi, dev­as­tat­ed the nation, togeth­er killing over 10,000 peo­ple. The earth­quake also trig­gered the start of a triple nuclear melt­down at the Fukushi­ma Nuclear Pow­er Plant, run by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny (Tep­co). Of the three reac­tors that melt­ed down, one was near­ly 40 years old and should have been decom­mis­sioned two decades ago. The cool­ing pipes, “the veins and arter­ies of the old nuclear reac­tors”, which cir­cu­lat­ed flu­id to keep the core tem­per­a­ture down, rup­tured.

Approx­i­mate­ly 40 min­utes after the shocks, the tsuna­mi reached the pow­er plant and knocked out the elec­tri­cal sys­tems. Japan’s Nuclear Indus­tri­al Safe­ty Agency (Nisa) had warned Tep­co about safe­ty vio­la­tions and prob­lems at the plant days before the earth­quake; they’d been warned about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a tsuna­mi hit­ting the plant for years.

The denials began almost imme­di­ate­ly. “There has been no melt­down,” gov­ern­ment spokesman Yukio Edano intoned in the days after March 11. “It was an unfore­see­able dis­as­ter,” Tepco’s then pres­i­dent Masa­ta­ka Shimizu chimed in. As we now know, the melt­down was already tak­ing place. And the dis­as­ter was far from unfore­see­able.

Tep­co has long been a scan­dal-rid­den com­pa­ny, caught time and time again cov­er­ing up data on safe­ty laps­es at their pow­er plants, or doc­tor­ing film footage which showed fis­sures in pipes. How was the com­pa­ny able to get away with such long-stand­ing behav­iour? Accord­ing to an explo­sive book recent­ly pub­lished in Japan, they owe it to what the author, Tomo­hiko Suzu­ki, calls “Japan’s nuclear mafia… A con­glom­er­a­tion of cor­rupt politi­cians and bureau­crats, the shady nuclear indus­try, their lob­by­ists…” And at the cen­tre of it all stands Japan’s actu­al mafia: the yakuza.

It might sur­prise the West­ern read­er that gang­sters are involved in Japan’s nuclear indus­try and even more that they would risk their lives in a nuclear cri­sis. But the yakuza roots in Japan­ese soci­ety are very deep. In fact, they were some of the first respon­ders after the earth­quake, pro­vid­ing food and sup­plies to the dev­as­tat­ed area and patrolling the streets to make sure no loot­ing occurred.

...

“Almost all nuclear pow­er plants that are built in Japan are built tak­ing the risk that the work­ers may well be exposed to large amounts of radi­a­tion,” says Suzu­ki. “That they will get sick, they will die ear­ly, or they will die on the job. And the peo­ple bring­ing the work­ers to the plants and also doing the con­struc­tion are often yakuza.” Suzu­ki says he’s met over 1,000 yakuza in his career as an inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist and for­mer edi­tor of yakuza fanzines. For his book, The Yakuza and the Nuclear Indus­try, Suzu­ki went under­cov­er at Fukushi­ma to find first-hand evi­dence of the long-rumoured ties between the nuclear indus­try and the yakuza. First he doc­u­ments how remark­ably easy it was to become a nuclear work­er at Fukushi­ma after the melt­down. After sign­ing up with a legit­i­mate com­pa­ny pro­vid­ing labour, he entered the plant armed only with a wrist­watch with a hid­den cam­era. Work­ing there over sev­er­al months, he quick­ly found yakuza-sup­plied labour, and many for­mer yakuza work­ing on site them­selves.

Suzu­ki dis­cov­ered evi­dence of Tep­co sub­con­trac­tors pay­ing yakuza front com­pa­nies to obtain lucra­tive con­struc­tion con­tracts; of mon­ey des­tined for con­struc­tion work fly­ing into yakuza accounts; and of politi­cians and media being paid to look the oth­er way. More shock­ing, per­haps, were the con­di­tions he says he found inside the plant.

His fel­low work­ers, found Suzu­ki, were a mot­ley crew of home­less, chron­i­cal­ly unem­ployed Japan­ese men, for­mer yakuza, debtors who owed mon­ey to the yakuza, and the men­tal­ly hand­i­capped. Suzu­ki claims the reg­u­lar employ­ees at the plant were often giv­en bet­ter radi­a­tion suits than the yakuza recruits. (Tep­co has admit­ted that there was a short­age of equip­ment in the disaster’s ear­ly days.) The reg­u­lar employ­ees were allowed to pass through sophis­ti­cat­ed radi­a­tion mon­i­tors while the tem­po­rary labour­ers were sim­ply giv­en hand rods to mon­i­tor their radi­a­tion expo­sure.

...

A for­mer yakuza boss tells me that his group has “always” been involved in recruit­ing labour­ers for the nuclear indus­try. “It’s dirty, dan­ger­ous work,” he says, “and the only peo­ple who will do it are home­less, yakuza, or peo­ple so bad­ly in debt that they see no oth­er way to pay it off.” Suzu­ki found peo­ple who’d been threat­ened into work­ing at Fukushi­ma, but oth­ers who’d vol­un­teered. Why? “Of course, if it was a mat­ter of dying today or tomor­row they wouldn’t work there,” he explains. “It’s because it could take 10 years or more for some­one to pos­si­bly die of radi­a­tion excess. It’s like Russ­ian roulette. If you owe enough mon­ey to the yakuza, work­ing at a nuclear plant is a safer bet. Wouldn’t you rather take a chance at dying 10 years lat­er than being stabbed to death now?” (Suzuki’s own feel­ing was that the effects of low-lev­el radi­a­tion are still unknown and that, as a drinker and smok­er, he’s prob­a­bly no more like­ly to get can­cer than he was before.)

...

The sit­u­a­tion at Fukushi­ma is still dire. Num­ber-two reac­tor con­tin­ues to heat up, and appears to be out of con­trol. Rolling black­outs are a reg­u­lar occur­rence. Nuclear reac­tors are being shut down, one by one, all over Japan. Mean­while, there is talk that Tep­co will be nation­alised and its top exec­u­tives are under inves­ti­ga­tion for crim­i­nal neg­li­gence, in rela­tion to the 3/11 dis­as­ter. As for the yakuza, the police are begin­ning to inves­ti­gate their front com­pa­nies more close­ly. “Yakuza may be a plague on soci­ety,” says Suzu­ki, “but they don’t ruin the lives of hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple and irra­di­ate the plan­et out of sheer greed and incom­pe­tence.” Suzu­ki says he’s had lit­tle trou­ble from the yakuza about his book’s alle­ga­tions. He sus­pects this is because he showed they were pre­pared to risk their lives at Fukushi­ma – he almost made them look good.

Find­ing Good Help is Hard Every­where
The prac­tice of forc­ing debtors to work around nuclear waste isn’t just an incred­i­bly cru­el form of debtors prison, it’s also kind of crazy for all par­ties involved. When you’re pay­ing an orga­ni­za­tion to safe­ly dis­pose of tox­ic waste you have the obvi­ous con­cern that waste will be dis­posed of unsafe­ly. This is a les­son the Ital­ian mafia hasa long­time part­ner of both the Vat­i­can and Ital­ian pow­er net­works — taught us in recent years. And when it’s nuclear waste, you have the addi­tion­al con­cern that the mafia might want to dump it in the sea or bury it, or maybe enrich it (imag­ine a mob-bomb. yikes). These are some les­son the Ital­ian mafia has been teach­ing us for decades:

From cocaine to plu­to­ni­um: mafia clan accused of traf­fick­ing nuclear waste

Tom King­ton in Rome
The Guardian, Mon­day 8 Octo­ber 2007

Author­i­ties in Italy are inves­ti­gat­ing a mafia clan accused of traf­fick­ing nuclear waste and try­ing to make plu­to­ni­um.

The ‘Ndrangheta mafia, which gained noto­ri­ety in August for its blood feud killings of six men in Ger­many, is alleged to have made ille­gal ship­ments of radioac­tive waste to Soma­lia, as well as seek­ing the “clan­des­tine pro­duc­tion” of oth­er nuclear mate­r­i­al.

Two of the Cal­abri­an clan’s mem­bers are being inves­ti­gat­ed, along with eight for­mer employ­ees of the state ener­gy research agency Enea.

The eight are sus­pect­ed of pay­ing the mob­sters to take waste off their hands in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time they were based at the agen­cy’s cen­tre at Roton­del­la, a town in Basil­i­ca­ta province in the toe of Italy, which today treats “spe­cial” and “haz­ardous” waste. At oth­er cen­tres, Enea stud­ies nuclear fusion and fis­sion tech­nolo­gies.

The ‘Ndrangheta has been accused by inves­ti­ga­tors of build­ing on its ori­gins as a kid­nap­ping gang to become Europe’s top cocaine importer, thanks to ties to Colom­bian car­tels. But the nuclear accu­sa­tion, if true, would take it into anoth­er league.

An Enea offi­cial who declined to be named denied the accu­sa­tion, say­ing: “Enea has always worked with­in the rules and under strict nation­al and inter­na­tion­al super­vi­sion.”

A mag­is­trate, Francesco Basen­ti­ni, in the city of Poten­za began the inves­ti­ga­tion fol­low­ing oth­ers by mag­is­trates and the leak­ing to the press of the police con­fes­sion of an ‘Ndrangheta turn­coat, detail­ing his role in the alleged waste-dump­ing.

An Enea man­ag­er is said to have paid the clan to get rid of 600 drums of tox­ic and radioac­tive waste from Italy, Switzer­land, France, Ger­many, and the US, the turn­coat claimed, with Soma­lia as the des­ti­na­tion lined up by the traf­fick­ers.

But with only room for 500 drums on a ship wait­ing at the north­ern port of Livorno, 100 drums were secret­ly buried some­where in the south­ern Ital­ian region of Basil­i­ca­ta. Clan mem­bers avoid­ed bury­ing the waste in neigh­bour­ing Cal­abria, said the turn­coat, because of their “love for their home region”, and because they already had too many kid­nap vic­tims hid­den in grot­toes there.

Inves­ti­ga­tors have yet to locate the radioac­tive drums alleged­ly buried in Basil­i­ca­ta — although, in a par­al­lel inves­ti­ga­tion, police are search­ing for drums of non-radioac­tive tox­ic waste they believe were dumped by the ‘Ndrangheta near the Unesco town of Mat­era in Basil­i­ca­ta, famous for its ancient hous­es dug into the rock, the Ansa news agency report­ed yes­ter­day.

Ship­ments to Soma­lia, where the waste was buried after buy­ing off local politi­cians, con­tin­ued into the 1990s, while the mob also became adept at blow­ing up shiploads of waste, includ­ing radioac­tive hos­pi­tal waste, and send­ing them to the sea bed off the Cal­abri­an coast, the turn­coat told inves­ti­ga­tors. Although he made no men­tion of attempt­ed plu­to­ni­um pro­duc­tion, Il Gior­nale news­pa­per wrote that the mob­sters may have planned to sell it to for­eign gov­ern­ments.

...

Ah, won­der­ful: the des­ti­na­tion of choice for the dis­pos­al of nuclear waste by the Ital­ian mafia has been some­where off the coast of Soma­lia. Prob­lem solved! And the most noto­ri­ous of the Ital­ian mafias, the ‘Ndrangheta, appears to be inter­est­ed in plu­to­ni­um pro­duc­tion (plu­to­ni­um pro­duc­tion ambi­tions should­n’t be as much of an issue for the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, although not for reas­sur­ing rea­sons).

So do we have to wor­ry about any yakuza with nuclear-traf­fick­ing ambi­tions? Well, giv­en that the yakuza are sort of like an arm of the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment, full-scale nuclear enrich­ment and traf­fick­ing is prob­a­bly not a mas­sive con­cern. It sounds like the yakuza have been play­ing a role in Japan’s nuclear indus­try for decades includ­ing roles involv­ing the han­dling of nuclear mate­r­i­al. There’s got to be some sort of TEP­CO-yakuza infor­mal pro­to­col that’s been devel­oped over the years so indis­crim­i­nate nuclear traf­fick­ing. Nuclear dump­ing, on the oth­er hand, is a real pos­si­bil­i­ty giv­en the scale of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al that’s going to have to be decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ed and moved some­where. Out of sight out of mind lots of prof­it. There’s going to be dump­ing. TEPCO has already engaged in no-longer-secret dumpling so it’s not real­ly a ques­tion of whether or not secret dump­ing of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al will take place but whether or not the yakuza will be doing TEP­CO-approved secret dump­ing or their own “inde­pen­dent” secret dump­ing.

It’s wide­ly pre­sumed that the mafia is going to con­tin­ue to be involved with these nuclear cleanup activ­i­ties and the police appear to lack the resources to iden­ti­fy mob-sup­plied work­ers. It seems like just a mat­ter of time before we get reports of ille­gal dump­ing of nuclear mate­r­i­al by yakuza affil­i­ates and prob­a­ble some non-yakuza affil­i­ates too. Hope­ful­ly that’s not the case. There was an enor­mous amount of offi­cial­ly tolter­at­ed dump­ing of radioac­tive waste into the coun­try­side in the ini­tial after­math based on reports. Nuclear cleanup fraud is where the big mon­ey’s going to be for a lot of con­nect­ed par­ties in Japan for a long time. Prob­a­bly.

So let’s hope the yakuza nev­er goes down the path of egre­gious dump­ing, because each of those ships filled with toxic/nuclear waste that the Ital­ian mafia sank off the coast of Italy were extreme­ly seri­ous wounds to the bios­phere. Life is pret­ty tough, but enriched nuclear waste can be tougher. Or at least it can give life a seri­ous headache. And maybe muta­tions. Muta­tions just add up. So does nuclear waste. The half can get nasty with the stuff found in that roof­less build­ing. The Japan­ese gov­ern­ment is still look­ing at sites to store the waste so we real­ly have very lit­tle idea of what the long-term plans are going to be for the dis­pos­al of that stuff but pre­sum­ably the dis­pos­al space will be at a pre­mi­um. There’s a lot or mate­r­i­al to store. Lots is going to get tossed. Please dump gen­tly Mr. yakuzas. Like, at least hire ecol­o­gy grad stu­dents to find the least dam­ag­ing spots to dump stuff if it comes to that. And take low­er prof­its to do it in the least envi­ron­men­tal­ly dam­ag­ing way. And if you could use your yakuza pow­ers to ensure all the oth­er dumpers also dump gen­tly that would be super of an epic pro­por­tion. Don’t dump, of course. But if you just have to dump, dump gen­tly. The ecosys­tem is already in a qua­si-state of col­lapse and cli­mate change is just get­ting under­way. Throw­ing large amounts of radi­a­tion into the mix is cru­el.

Just over a month ago, we saw the first arrest of a yakuza boss pro­vid­ing cleanup staff. Police called it the first such arrest of a yakuza boss for send­ing peo­ple to work at Fukushi­ma. It was also the sec­ond such “first arrest of a yakuza boss for Fukushi­ma”. The first one took place last May, although the reports are unclear if this is the same per­son that was arrest­ed on both occa­sions. Either way, there were no hints of improp­er activ­i­ties by the employ­ees in the reports...the prob­lem was that they were hired by a yakuza boss sub­con­trac­tor that was tak­ing a cut of their salaries. So it appears that there is indeed some yakuza mus­cle mov­ing that nuclear waste. Not much, based on reports, but some:

Japan police arrest mob­ster over Fukushi­ma clean-up

(AFP) – Feb 1, 2013

TOKYO — Japan­ese police have arrest­ed a high-rank­ing yakuza over claims he sent work­ers to the strick­en Fukushi­ma nuclear plant for the clean-up with­out a licence.

Offi­cers in north­ern Yam­a­ga­ta pre­fec­ture were quizzing Yoshi­nori Arai, a 40-year-old senior mem­ber of a local yakuza group affil­i­at­ed to the Sumiyoshi-kai crime syn­di­cate, a police spokesman said.

Arai alleged­ly dis­patched three men to Fukushi­ma to work on clean-up crews in Novem­ber, he said.

Under Japan­ese law, a gov­ern­ment licence is required by any­one who acts as an employ­ment agent.

Arai is also sus­pect­ed of send­ing peo­ple to work on the con­struc­tion of tem­po­rary hous­ing in the tsuna­mi-hit north­east, the spokesman said.

Arai report­ed­ly told police that he intend­ed to prof­it from the scheme by tak­ing a cut of the work­ers’ wages. Those employed at Fukushi­ma earn more than oth­ers in sim­i­lar work because of the poten­tial­ly haz­ardous nature of the job.

It was the first arrest of a mob­ster linked to Fukushi­ma clean-up, the police spokesman said.

...

The full scale of the dam­age done from the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter is yet to be deter­mined. Some of it will come down to luck, like whether or not anoth­er major earth­quake and/or tsuna­mi hits the plant before those nuclears rods can be safe­ly removed. But much of the dam­age that will emerge for the dis­as­ter two years ago is yet to be deter­mined and its going to be deter­mined pri­mar­i­ly by human error and human choic­es. The “Fukushi­ma 50” — work­ers that hero­ical­ly worked at the plant in spite of the enor­mous per­son­al risks — includ­ed Yakuza-affil­i­ates. Their actions pre­vent­ed a bad sit­u­a­tion from become much worse. There are going to be an enor­mous num­ber of sac­ri­fices required in the future in order to min­i­mize the addi­tion dam­age that has yet to be inflict­ed by the giant pile of high­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al sit­ting in a build­ing with its roof blown off. Due the nature of the sit­u­a­tion and the exist­ing polit­i­cal pow­er struc­tures, those crit­i­cal future deci­sion are going to be large­ly in secret be large­ly unknown indi­vid­u­als. And due to the yakuza­’s unique “risky/dirt busi­ness” niche in both Japan’s pow­er struc­ture and nuclear indus­try it seems like­ly that some of those secret deci­sions will be made by the yakuza. Secrets like “who dumped what hor­ri­ble tox­in where?” might be the exclu­sive domain of yakuza boss­es in many instances.

The idea of yakuza mob boss­es pos­si­bly hav­ing con­trol of enor­mous­ly pow­er­ful nuclear secrets should be a rather dis­turb­ing thought. At the same time, orga­nized crim­i­nal syn­di­cates have always played a role in nation­al secu­ri­ty affairs and pow­er secrets, so this isn’t a new sit­u­a­tion and the world has­n’t blown up yet. Then again, the world is going to hell in a hand­bas­ket, so while qua­si-mob-rule isn’t a new sit­u­a­tion, it’s still a bad sit­u­a­tion that’s get­ting worse. And if you removed the mobs from the equa­tion, it would­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly get much bet­ter. Mob rule can be a a state of mind.

The Sav­ing the Econ­o­my By Sav­ing Each Oth­er Stim­u­lus Plan
One of the rea­sons the Japan­ese gov­ern­men­t’s recent deci­sion to engage in seri­ous stim­u­lus spend­ing was like­ly to be a use­ful pol­i­cy is that an enor­mous amount of work needs to be done to address the still dire sit­u­a­tion at Fukushi­ma. That’s going to cost mon­ey. A LOT of mon­ey. The entire world real­ly should be par­tic­i­pat­ing in a glob­al eco­nom­ic stim­u­lus plan: the “Save Japan” plan. It had a hor­rif­ic earth­quake, tsuna­mi, and ongo­ing nuclear melt­down all at once. Yeah, it’s a very wealthy coun­try with immense resources but again: earth­quake, tsuna­mi, ongo­ing nuclear melt­down. And EVERYONE needs the exist­ing dan­gers put under con­trol. So why not have a glob­al “Save Japan because, you know, earth­quake, tsuna­mi, and ongo­ing nuclear melt­down” plan?

Japan may be act­ing like it has every­thing all under con­trol but it’s total­ly fronting. It’s not going to ask for help because, you know, it’s Japan. But they still need help and the more help they get, in terms of real man­pow­er, the less yakuza and oth­er shady con­trac­tors will be required and hired. They’re just going allow them­selves to qui­et­ly get irra­di­at­ed and it’s going to take longer to deal with those extreme­ly radioac­tive rods. “Save Japan” is in every­one’s best inter­est. Coun­tries around the world can build all sort of new busi­ness­es and areas of research and devel­op what­ev­er tech­nolo­gies the busi­ness­es report­ed­ly weren’t inter­est­ed in doing. This would be the per­fect stim­u­lus tar­get: glob­al radioac­tive calami­ty that could take place should anoth­er major event hit that plant and release even more radi­a­tion. How many tens of bil­lions of dol­lars would it cost to fig­ure out what­ev­er needs to be fig­ured out for Fukushi­ma rods? It’s going to take a while, but learn­ing how to move and store high­ly radioac­tive crap bet­ter seems like a very use­ful thing for human­i­ty to know how to do giv­en our predilec­tion for cre­at­ing it. $100 bil­lion over a decade for a crash movement/processing/storage pro­gram divid­ed up between the world maybe?

Ok, now add a save Yemen because it’s about to run out of water glob­al stim­u­lus pro­gram. There’s clear­ly going to be a num­ber of new tech­nolo­gies and infra­struc­ture need­ed to pre­pare Yemen for that fate­ful “oh crap” day that’s hit­ting some­time soon­er or lat­er.

Sim­i­lar­ly, make a “Save the Nile region because a Nile Water War Would be Hell” glob­al stim­u­lus plan. Nations all over could study the region’s grow­ing water needs and study what’s going to be required to tran­si­tion that regions towards a sus­tain­able econ­o­my. Not one on a tra­jec­to­ry towards eco-cat­a­stro­phe and war.

And just keep going find­ing regions of the world with the place is careen­ing towards calami­ty and needs help. And just do it as stim­u­lus. No coun­ter­bal­anc­ing aus­ter­i­ty non­sense (I’m look­ing at you Europe). Just stim­u­lus. Save the world and stim­u­late the econ­o­my while you’re doing it! Each coun­try could throw in what­ev­er mon­ey they want but would all have to be direct­ed as solv­ing one of the most trou­bled regions of the world. A place fac­ing loom­ing dis­as­ter. The amount should prob­a­bly be a pret­ty big chunk for coun­tries that can afford it. The US, for instance, could prob­a­ble afford to con­tribute at least, oh, say, around $85 bil­lion or so to the “Save the World and Stim­u­late While You Do It” plan. At least $85 bil­lion, if not more. US indus­tries could be devel­oped ded­i­cat­ed to find­ing things like awe­some new desalin­iza­tion tech­nolo­gies, bet­ter radi­a­tion shield­ing (great for space trav­el), robot­ic fac­to­ries that build ultra-eco-friend­ly homes and then fac­to­ries that build the fac­to­ries that build the homes. And then we give the home-build­ing fac­to­ries to the places that need ultra-eco-friend­ly homes. And we just keep doing that and no one cares about bal­ance of trade or what­ev­er. The entire mod­ern econ­o­my needs to be tech­no­log­i­cal­ly revamped to deal with the con­straints of the 21st cen­tu­ry. And once there are no more seri­ous prob­lems — prob­lems like pover­ty or thou­sand of high­ly radioac­tive spent fuel rods that are sit­ting in a build­ing with its roof blown off — we can end the stim­u­lus pro­gram. We will have saved our­selves by sav­ing each oth­er in a stim­u­lat­ing way.

Update 11/12/2013
Here’s an update on the sit­u­a­tion in Fukushi­ma: Tep­co is about to begin the high­ly dan­ger­ous process of safe­ly remov­ing the 1,300+ spent fuel-rods from Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi 4.

Q. What could go wrong?

A: OMFG.

Agence France-Presse
Novem­ber 6, 2013 23:21
Facts on com­plex oper­a­tion to remove Fukushi­ma fuel rods

Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (TEPCO) will this month start remov­ing fuel from a stor­age pool at Japan’s Fukushi­ma nuclear plant, the most chal­leng­ing oper­a­tion since run­away reac­tors were brought under con­trol two years ago.

Here are some key facts about the oper­a­tion.

Q: What’s the state of nuclear fuel at the site?

A: Reac­tors No. 1, 2 and 3 went into melt­down after their cool­ing sys­tems were knocked out by the March 2011 tsuna­mi. The tem­per­a­ture of the cores and spent fuel pools at all reac­tors is now sta­ble and water is being used to keep them cool.

Reac­tor No. 4, whose out­er build­ing was dam­aged by fires and an explo­sion, has an emp­ty core but a total of 1,533 fuel assem­blies — 1,331 spent fuel bun­dles and 202 unused ones — are in its stor­age pool.

Q: Why does TEPCO have to take fuel from the pool?

A: Accord­ing to the firm, it is safer to store all fuel in a shared pool that is rein­forced against pos­si­ble future earth­quakes and tsunamis.

This will be the first post-tsuna­mi attempt to move any fuel from one part of the plant to anoth­er.

Q: How will the oper­a­tion work?

A: Under nor­mal cir­cum­stances, nuclear plants shuf­fle fuel rods around fair­ly fre­quent­ly, often using com­put­er-con­trolled robot­ic arms that “know” exact­ly where each fuel assem­bly is.

But the dam­age to the build­ing hous­ing this pool, along with the pres­ence in the pool of debris from explo­sions, is a wild­card that will com­pli­cate this oper­a­tion con­sid­er­ably.

Work­ers in heavy pro­tec­tive equip­ment will use a remote con­trol to direct a spe­cial­ly installed “grab­ber” into the pool where it will latch onto fuel assem­blies and drop them into a huge cask.

Each 4.5‑metre (15-foot) fuel bun­dle needs to be kept com­plete­ly sub­merged at all times to pre­vent it from heat­ing up.

Once loaded with assem­blies and water, the 91-tonne cask will be lift­ed out by a dif­fer­ent crane and put onto a trail­er. It will then be tak­en to anoth­er part of the com­plex and the process will be reversed.

Remov­ing all 1,500-odd assem­blies is expect­ed to take until the end of 2014. Get­ting this done suc­cess­ful­ly will mean engi­neers can then start try­ing to extri­cate fuel from the reac­tors that went into melt­down.

But where the fuel pool oper­a­tion is tricky and con­tains a few unknowns, remov­ing fuel from the melt­ed and mis­shapen cores of reac­tors 1, 2 and 3 will pose a whole new lev­el of dif­fi­cul­ty.

Q. What could go wrong?

A: Each rod con­tains ura­ni­um and a small amount of plu­to­ni­um. If they are exposed to the air, for exam­ple if they are dropped by the grab­ber, they would start to heat up, a process that, left unchecked, could lead to a self-sus­tain­ing nuclear reac­tion — known as “crit­i­cal­i­ty”.

TEPCO says a sin­gle assem­bly should not reach crit­i­cal­i­ty and the grab­ber will not car­ry more than one at a time.

Assem­blies exposed to the air would give off so much radi­a­tion that it would be dif­fi­cult for a work­er to get near enough to fix it.

Scep­tics say with so many unknow­ables in an oper­a­tion that has nev­er been attempt­ed under these con­di­tions, there is poten­tial for a cat­a­stro­phe.

Gov­ern­ment mod­el­ling in the imme­di­ate after­math of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, which was only sub­se­quent­ly made pub­lic, sug­gest­ed that an uncon­trolled nuclear con­fla­gra­tion at Fukushi­ma could start a chain reac­tion in oth­er near­by nuclear plants.

That worst-case sce­nario said a huge evac­u­a­tion area could encom­pass a large part of greater Tokyo, a mega­lopo­lis with 35 mil­lion inhab­i­tants.

Only one rod can be moved at a time and if one spent fuel rod drops on the ground dur­ing it might give off so much radi­a­tion that work­ers will be unable to get near enough to fix it. Plus, if a rod is allowed to heat up too much it could spon­ta­neous­ly go “crit­i­cal”. And this whole process will have to be repeat­ed 1,300+ times, hope­ful­ly by the end of 2014.

How about we all send some extreme­ly good vibes to the Fukushi­ma cleanup work­ers that are tak­ing one for Team Life-on-Earth. Espe­cial­ly the new ones.

Discussion

63 comments for “The Yakuza’s Cleanup Crew: It’s Not What You Think But Still Alarming”

  1. House­keep­ing note: Com­ments 1–50 avail­able here.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 27, 2017, 8:10 pm
  2. With the Trump admin­is­tra­tion depri­or­i­tiz­ing any poli­cies intend­ed to reduce car­bon emis­sions while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly flood­ing the ener­gy mar­kets with car­bon-based ener­gy sources like nat­ur­al gas, one of the inter­est­ing ques­tions fac­ing the ener­gy sec­tor is what’s going to nuclear pow­er, an indus­try that has long screamed “we’re car­bon-free” when try­ing to jus­ti­fy its exis­tence. And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle sug­gests, while the answer is unclear, it’s prob­a­bly going to involve a lot of help from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion:

    Bloomberg

    Trump Team’s Ask­ing for Ways to Keep Nuclear Pow­er Alive

    by Mark Che­di­ak
    and Cather­ine Tray­wick
    Decem­ber 8, 2016, 10:38 PM CST Decem­ber 9, 2016, 2:55 PM CST

    * Nuclear fac­ing increas­ing com­pe­ti­tion from gas, renew­ables
    * Trump team asked Ener­gy Depart­ment for ways to help nuclear

    Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s advis­ers are look­ing at ways in which the U.S. gov­ern­ment could help nuclear pow­er gen­er­a­tors being forced out of the elec­tric­i­ty mar­ket by cheap­er nat­ur­al gas and renew­able resources.

    In a doc­u­ment obtained by Bloomberg, Trump’s tran­si­tion team asked the Ener­gy Depart­ment how it can help keep nuclear reac­tors “oper­at­ing as part of the nation’s infra­struc­ture” and what it could do to pre­vent the shut­down of plants. Advis­ers also asked the agency whether there were statu­to­ry restric­tions in resum­ing work on Yuc­ca Moun­tain, a pro­posed fed­er­al depos­i­to­ry for nuclear waste in Neva­da that was aban­doned by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion.

    The list of ques­tions to the Ener­gy Depart­ment offers one of the clear­est indi­ca­tions yet of Trump’s poten­tial plans for aid­ing America’s bat­tered nuclear pow­er gen­er­a­tors. Five of the country’s nuclear plants have closed in the past five years, based on Ener­gy Depart­ment data, and more are set to shut as cheap­er sup­plies from gas-fired plants, wind and solar squeeze their prof­its.

    The Ener­gy Depart­ment could “just direct­ly offer pow­er pur­chase con­tracts to some of these plants,” Julien DuMoulin-Smith, a New York-based ana­lyst for UBS Group AG, said Fri­day by phone. “That’s a last resort. It’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly like­ly but it’s some­thing they’re look­ing at. They are very inter­est­ed in keep­ing the com­mer­cial port­fo­lio avail­able.”

    Media rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the Trump tran­si­tion and the Ener­gy Depart­ment didn’t respond to calls and e‑mails seek­ing com­ment.

    Some envi­ron­men­tal­ists have warned the clo­sures could under­mine efforts to com­bat cli­mate change as nuclear reac­tors are the biggest source of zero-emis­sions pow­er in the U.S. Plant own­ers includ­ing the nation’s largest — Exelon Corp. — have sought relief from state pol­i­cy mak­ers, with New York and Illi­nois approv­ing mil­lions in annu­al pay­ments to keep reac­tors run­ning.

    ‘So Many Incen­tives’

    “We’re not sure if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is going to have a pri­or­i­ty on a low-car­bon future, but there are so many incen­tives for cer­tain tech­nolo­gies that cre­ate a skewed or an unlev­el play­ing field in the mar­ket­place,” Exelon’s Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer Chris Crane said Fri­day in an inter­view at a forum in Wash­ing­ton. “Let’s design the mar­kets to the out­comes that we want and merge envi­ron­men­tal and ener­gy pol­i­cy togeth­er.”

    ...

    To be sure, the Depart­ment of Energy’s author­i­ty is fair­ly lim­it­ed on what the agency can do to help exist­ing reac­tors stay open, said Rob Bar­nett, an ana­lyst for Bloomberg Intel­li­gence. “To make sure exist­ing nuclear stays open, you need Con­gress to pony up sub­si­dies and we think that’s an uphill bat­tle.”

    Among a list of ques­tions the Trump team sent to the Ener­gy Depart­ment was whether the agency has plans to resume the license pro­ceed­ings for Yuc­ca Moun­tain and how it can con­tin­ue sup­port­ing the per­mit­ting of small mod­u­lar reac­tors, seen as the next gen­er­a­tion of nuclear tech­nol­o­gy.

    Anoth­er Clo­sure

    On Thurs­day, Enter­gy Corp. announced that it’ll shut the Pal­isades nuclear plant in Michi­gan in 2018, adding to the grow­ing list of reac­tors plan­ning to retire ear­ly.

    Trump has voiced his sup­port for nuclear pow­er in the past. In a tele­vi­sion inter­view with Fox News in 2011, he said he was “very strong­ly in favor of nuclear ener­gy,” while stress­ing the need for safe­guards at plants.

    ...

    “In a doc­u­ment obtained by Bloomberg, Trump’s tran­si­tion team asked the Ener­gy Depart­ment how it can help keep nuclear reac­tors “oper­at­ing as part of the nation’s infra­struc­ture” and what it could do to pre­vent the shut­down of plants. Advis­ers also asked the agency whether there were statu­to­ry restric­tions in resum­ing work on Yuc­ca Moun­tain, a pro­posed fed­er­al depos­i­to­ry for nuclear waste in Neva­da that was aban­doned by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion.”

    So we’ll see if the Trump team tries to stop the exist­ing trend of nuclear plant clo­sures while it simul­ta­ne­ous­ly attempts to get as much car­bon-based ener­gy out of the ground as pos­si­ble. And while sub­si­dies are indeed an option, don’t for­get that dereg­u­lat­ing nuclear pow­er and hop­ing reg­u­la­to­ry cost-cut­ting will save the indus­try is always an option. A hor­ri­ble option, but it’s an option. A very pos­si­ble option.

    So if there is a wave of nuclear pow­er dereg­u­la­tion and we end up hav­ing a nuclear ‘oop­sie’ event, it’s worth not­ing new EPA guide­lines on the ‘safe’ lev­els of radi­a­tion dur­ing a nuclear emer­gency sug­gest that you offi­cial­ly should­n’t have to wor­ry near­ly as much about all that radi­a­tion expo­sure as you might have in the past. Which is rather wor­ry­ing:

    Truth Outh

    Are the EPA’s Emer­gency Radi­a­tion Lim­its a Cov­er for Fukushi­ma Fum­bles?

    Tues­day, Jan­u­ary 10, 2017 By Mike Lud­wig

    The Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) is poised to issue guide­lines that would set radi­a­tion lim­its for drink­ing water dur­ing the “inter­me­di­ate peri­od” after the releas­es from a radioac­tive emer­gency, such as an acci­dent at a nuclear pow­er plant, have been brought under con­trol. The emer­gency lim­its would allow the pub­lic to be exposed to radi­a­tion lev­els hun­dreds and even thou­sands of times high­er than typ­i­cal­ly allowed by fed­er­al law.

    Oppo­nents say that under the pro­posed guide­lines, con­cen­tra­tion lim­its for sev­er­al types of radionu­clides would allow a life­time per­mis­si­ble dose in a week or a month, or the equiv­a­lent of 250 chest x‑rays a year, accord­ing to Pub­lic Employ­ees for Envi­ron­men­tal Respon­si­bil­i­ty, a watch­dog group that rep­re­sents gov­ern­ment employ­ees.

    The EPA has stressed that the pro­pos­al is aimed at guid­ing state and local lead­ers dur­ing a cri­sis and would not change exist­ing fed­er­al radi­a­tion lim­its for the water we drink every day, which are much more strin­gent, and assume there may be decades of reg­u­lar con­sump­tion. Crit­ics of the new pro­pos­al say the emer­gency guide­lines are a pub­lic rela­tions ploy to play down the dan­gers of radi­a­tion and pro­vide cov­er for an agency that fum­bled dur­ing the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter in 2011.

    The emer­gency lim­its are even high­er than those pro­posed by the EPA dur­ing the final days of the Bush admin­is­tra­tion, which with­drew the pro­pos­al after fac­ing pub­lic scruti­ny and left the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion with the job of final­iz­ing the guide­lines.

    Now, in the twi­light of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, the EPA’s “Pro­tec­tive Action Guide­lines” for drink­ing water are once again draw­ing fire from nuclear watch­dogs and pub­lic offi­cials.

    “The mes­sage here is that the Amer­i­can pub­lic should learn to love radi­a­tion, and that much high­er lev­els than what are set by the statu­to­ry lim­its are OK,” said Jeff Ruch, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Pub­lic Employ­ees for Envi­ron­men­tal Respon­si­bil­i­ty (PEER), a watch­dog group that rep­re­sents gov­ern­ment employ­ees.

    PEER says that inter­nal doc­u­ments released under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act show the EPA’s radi­a­tion divi­sion hid pro­posed lim­its for dozens of radionu­clides from the pub­lic — and even from oth­er divi­sions with­in the agency that were crit­i­cal of the plan — in order to “avoid con­fu­sion” until the final guide­lines were released.

    “It’s not like this has been done with a lot of open­ness,” Ruch said. “We had to sue them to find out what lev­els they would allow.”

    EPA Caught With Its “Pants Down” Dur­ing Fukushi­ma

    In 2011, the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi Nuclear Pow­er Plant in Japan suf­fered a melt­down after a dead­ly earth­quake and tsuna­mi and released mas­sive amounts of dan­ger­ous radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­nants into the ocean and atmos­phere. Ruch said the EPA was caught with its “pants down” as this radi­a­tion was detect­ed in air, rain­wa­ter and even milk in the Unit­ed States. The EPA had been work­ing since the ear­ly 1990s to devel­op guide­lines on how the gov­ern­ment should respond to such a dis­as­ter, but spe­cif­ic lim­its for radi­a­tion in drink­ing water are only now being set.

    As Truthout report­ed at the time, the EPA told the pub­lic that radi­a­tion from the dis­as­ter would not reach the US at lev­els high enough to pose a pub­lic health con­cern, even as the agen­cy’s own data showed con­cen­tra­tions of radionu­clides in rain water far exceed­ing fed­er­al drink­ing water stan­dards. As Japan strug­gled with a major nuclear cri­sis and the media debat­ed the rel­a­tive dan­ger of radioac­tive plumes blow­ing about the world’s atmos­phere, the EPA qui­et­ly stopped run­ning extra tests for radi­a­tion less than two months after the dis­as­ter began.

    By then, sam­ples of cow’s milk, rain and drink­ing water from across the coun­try test­ed pos­i­tive for radi­a­tion from the Fukushi­ma plant, and nuclear crit­ics warned that it was dif­fi­cult to tell whether there could be impacts on human health in the absence of enhanced radi­a­tion mon­i­tor­ing.

    The EPA’s radi­a­tion divi­sion is now on the verge of approv­ing a long-await­ed update to its Pro­tec­tive Action Guide­lines for respond­ing to such a “large-scale emer­gency.” Ruch said employ­ees from oth­er divi­sions of the EPA were cut out of the deci­sion-mak­ing process, and inter­nal EPA doc­u­ments indi­cate that the con­cen­tra­tion lim­its were set high­er than those detect­ed dur­ing Fukushi­ma to cov­er for the EPA’s embar­rass­ing per­for­mance.

    Ruch points to notes from a 2014 brief­ing at the EPA’s radi­a­tion divi­sion, which state that the agency “expe­ri­enced major dif­fi­cul­ty con­vey­ing its mes­sage to the pub­lic” that con­cen­tra­tions of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al in rain water, although high­er than fed­er­al Max­i­mum Con­tain­ment Lev­els (MCLs), “were not of imme­di­ate con­cern to pub­lic health” dur­ing the Fukushi­ma cri­sis.

    No Safe Dose of Radi­a­tion

    The EPA’s new pro­posed guide­lines are osten­si­bly meant to help pub­lic offi­cials decide when to take pro­tec­tive actions to reduce expo­sure to radi­a­tion, such as ask­ing the pub­lic to switch from tap water to bot­tled water. Most of the man­u­al has already been final­ized, except for the sec­tion on drink­ing water, which has been mired in con­tro­ver­sy since the Bush admin­is­tra­tion.

    In June, the EPA put the pro­pos­al up for pub­lic com­ment, but only made lim­its for four types of radionu­clides pub­licly avail­able. Crit­ics say the agency still received 60,000 com­ments oppos­ing the guide­lines, includ­ing state­ments from 65 envi­ron­men­tal groups. PEER sued the agency under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act in Octo­ber, and the EPA released the pro­posed lim­its for dozens of oth­er radionu­clides just days before the Christ­mas hol­i­day.

    Dan Hirsch, pres­i­dent of the Com­mit­tee to Bridge the Gap, a nuclear watch­dog group, attend­ed a brief­ing with EPA offi­cials on Thurs­day and told Truthout that the agency intends to final­ize the guide­lines despite ongo­ing protests.

    “It’s real­ly hard to believe,” Hirsch said.

    Under­ly­ing the debate are MCLs for radioac­tive mate­r­i­al in drink­ing water set by the Safe Drink­ing Water Act of 1974. Hirsch said that the nuclear indus­try has tried to “get out from under” these lim­its for years, but fed­er­al law pro­hibits them from being low­ered. So, the indus­try and its allies at the EPA focused on the Pro­tec­tive Action Guide­lines instead.

    The MCLs are based on the idea that adults should not be exposed to more than 4 mil­lirem (mrem) of radi­a­tion in drink­ing water each year for a 70-year peri­od, for a total of 280 mrem in an aver­age life­time. Since the “inter­me­di­ate phase” fol­low­ing a nuclear emer­gency is expect­ed to be tem­po­rary, the emer­gency radionu­clide lim­its are capped at amounts that would expose adults to a max­i­mum 500 mrem dose of radi­a­tion over the course of a year.

    Hirsch said that such as dose of radi­a­tion is equiv­a­lent to receiv­ing a chest x‑ray about five days a week for a year. The EPA arrived at these fig­ures by “play­ing” with the num­bers used to cal­cu­late radi­a­tion absorbed by human organs, which in turn increased the amount of cer­tain radionu­clides that can be present in drink­ing water by hun­dreds, thou­sands and even tens of thou­sands of times.

    Hirsch said guide­lines reflect the nuclear indus­try’s long­stand­ing argu­ment that MCLs are far too low, and the pub­lic should accept high­er dos­es of radi­a­tion as per­mis­si­ble in an emer­gency.

    The EPA claims there have been “advance­ments in sci­en­tif­ic under­stand­ing of radi­a­tion dose and risk” since it began draw­ing up the Pro­tec­tive Action Guide­lines back in 1992, and its emer­gency dose guide­lines are based on the “lat­est sci­ence.” The guide­lines are also designed to pro­vide flex­i­bil­i­ty for deci­sion-mak­ers respond­ing to a cri­sis.

    Nuclear crit­ics, how­ev­er, argue that no dose of radi­a­tion is safe. Even small dos­es can cause can­cer in small por­tions of a large pop­u­la­tion.

    “The sci­ence has actu­al­ly worked in the oppo­site direc­tion over the years,” Hirsch said. “Sci­ence has con­clud­ed that radi­a­tion is much more dan­ger­ous than what was assumed in the ’70s.”

    The guide­lines are based on expect­ed expo­sure over the course of one year, but both Ruch and Hirsch point out that radi­a­tion from nuclear calami­ty could per­sist for far longer — just look at the fall­out from Fukushi­ma, which Japan has strug­gled with for years. Radi­a­tion from the dis­as­ter is still being detect­ed in fish on North Amer­i­ca’s west­ern coast. They argue that the pub­lic needs bet­ter pro­tec­tions in the event of an emer­gency, and the nuclear indus­try should not be let off the hook based on inflat­ed safe­ty lim­its.

    “The whole thing appears to be [an attempt to] achieve a post-inci­dent reac­tion of ‘don’t wor­ry be hap­py,’ ” Ruch said.

    ...

    “Under­ly­ing the debate are MCLs for radioac­tive mate­r­i­al in drink­ing water set by the Safe Drink­ing Water Act of 1974. Hirsch said that the nuclear indus­try has tried to “get out from under” these lim­its for years, but fed­er­al law pro­hibits them from being low­ered. So, the indus­try and its allies at the EPA focused on the Pro­tec­tive Action Guide­lines instead.

    Will the nuclear indus­try man­age to “get our from under” a lot more than just the Max­i­mum Con­tain­ment Lev­els (MCLs) lim­its it’s been fight­ing for years? Only time will tell, although every­thing Trump has told us about his plans for envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions is pret­ty telling.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 27, 2017, 8:12 pm
  3. The for­mer chief of the Fukushi­ma probe, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, just issued some rather sig­nif­i­cant and omi­nous crit­i­cism of Japan’s nuclear indus­try. Specif­i­cal­ly, Kurokawa is rais­ing alarm of a lack of ade­quate evac­u­a­tion plans now that nuclear reac­tors are get­ting restart­ed. But per­haps more omi­nous­ly, Kurokawa is also rais­ing alarm over how Japan’s Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Author­i­ty (NRA) is now head­ed by an offi­cial for the econ­o­my min­istry, the min­istry with a long his­to­ry cheer­lead­ing the nuclear pow­er indus­try. So sounds like Japan’s nuclear indus­try is steadi­ly revert­ing back to busi­ness as usu­al. Dan­ger­ous busi­ness as usu­al:

    The Asahi Shim­bun

    For­mer chief of Fukushi­ma probe crit­i­cizes reac­tor restarts

    By SHINICHI SEKINE/ Staff Writer
    June 13, 2017 at 14:05 JST

    The leader of the Diet inves­ti­ga­tion into the 2011 Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ter blast­ed the Abe administration’s poli­cies on restart­ing reac­tors, not­ing that prop­er evac­u­a­tion plans are not in place.

    “What are you going to do if a tsuna­mi comes?” Kiyoshi Kurokawa, for­mer chair­man of the Fukushi­ma Nuclear Acci­dent Inde­pen­dent Inves­ti­ga­tion Com­mis­sion, said at a June 12 meet­ing of the Low­er House ad hoc com­mit­tee for research of nuclear pow­er issues. “How can you go (there) to res­cue peo­ple if cars can­not move for­ward on roads?”

    Kurokawa was refer­ring to the restarts of the No. 4 and No. 3 reac­tors of the Taka­hama nuclear pow­er plant in Fukui Pre­fec­ture in May and June.

    The reac­tors cleared the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Authority’s safe­ty stan­dards that were estab­lished after the acci­dent unfold­ed at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant in March 2011.

    Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe has said these stan­dards are the strictest in the world.

    But Kurokawa said, “I can­not accept such rhetoric.”

    Kurokawa, also a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of med­ical sci­ence at the Nation­al Grad­u­ate Insti­tute for Pol­i­cy Stud­ies, was select­ed as chair­man of a third-par­ty advi­so­ry body estab­lished by the ad hoc com­mit­tee in May.

    ...

    Kurokawa also raised ques­tions about the rules for per­son­nel at the NRA, the country’s nuclear watch­dog.

    In Jan­u­ary, Masaya Yasui, an offi­cial of the Min­istry of the Econ­o­my, Trade and Indus­try, assumed the post of sec­re­tary-gen­er­al of the NRA’s sec­re­tari­at

    Kurokawa said he was con­cerned that an offi­cial of the econ­o­my min­istry, which has pro­mot­ed nuclear pow­er gen­er­a­tion, is now at the top of the sec­re­tari­at.

    Pre­vi­ous­ly, a “no-return rule” was in place that pro­hib­it­ed employ­ees of the NRA sec­re­tari­at from return­ing to the econ­o­my min­istry.

    How­ev­er, the Abe admin­is­tra­tion changed the rule to allow them to return to the min­istry at bureaus not direct­ly relat­ed to nuclear pow­er gen­er­a­tion.

    Regard­ing the change, Kurokawa said, “The most impor­tant thing is to pro­tect the no-return rule.”

    ———-

    “For­mer chief of Fukushi­ma probe crit­i­cizes reac­tor restarts” by SHINICHI SEKINE; The Asahi Shim­bun; 06/13/2017

    “Kurokawa said he was con­cerned that an offi­cial of the econ­o­my min­istry, which has pro­mot­ed nuclear pow­er gen­er­a­tion, is now at the top of the sec­re­tari­at.”

    Well, let’s hope the worst nuclear dis­as­ter in his­to­ry with no end in site tem­pers the ‘any­thing goes’ atti­tude Japan’s nuclear indus­try has tra­di­tion­al­ly enjoyed now that more and more reac­tors are start­ing back up. *fin­gers crossed*:

    ...
    “What are you going to do if a tsuna­mi comes?” Kiyoshi Kurokawa, for­mer chair­man of the Fukushi­ma Nuclear Acci­dent Inde­pen­dent Inves­ti­ga­tion Com­mis­sion, said at a June 12 meet­ing of the Low­er House ad hoc com­mit­tee for research of nuclear pow­er issues. “How can you go (there) to res­cue peo­ple if cars can­not move for­ward on roads?”

    Kurokawa was refer­ring to the restarts of the No. 4 and No. 3 reac­tors of the Taka­hama nuclear pow­er plant in Fukui Pre­fec­ture in May and June.

    The reac­tors cleared the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Authority’s safe­ty stan­dards that were estab­lished after the acci­dent unfold­ed at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant in March 2011.
    ...

    And note that while the Taka­hama nuclear pow­er plant — oper­at­ed by Kan­sai Elec­tric Pow­er (Kep­co) — is already restart­ing, this is still the begin­ning of the nuclear restart phase. There’s undoubt­ed­ly going to be plen­ty of future restarts in the future. Whether it’s wise or not:

    The Guardian

    Vic­to­ry for Japan­ese nuclear indus­try as high court quash­es injunc­tion

    Taka­hama reac­tors to restart with­in a month despite Green­peace say­ing they have seri­ous unre­solved safe­ty issues

    Daniel Hurst in Tokyo

    Tues­day 28 March 2017 13.20 EDT Last mod­i­fied on Tues­day 28 March 2017 14.53 EDT
    Japan’s strug­gling nuclear pow­er indus­try has won a vic­to­ry against a land­mark legal injunc­tion that halt­ed the run­ning of two reac­tors.

    Six years on from the triple melt­down at Fukushi­ma, the indus­try faces con­cert­ed oppo­si­tion from res­i­dents and some offi­cials due to lin­ger­ing con­cerns about safe­ty.

    In an illus­tra­tion of the dam­age to the industry’s rep­u­ta­tion after the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, just three of Japan’s 42 usable reac­tors are run­ning at present, accord­ing to the Japan Atom­ic Indus­tri­al Forum.

    That num­ber is to rise after the Osa­ka high court on Tues­day backed a restart of reac­tors 3 and 4 at the Taka­hama pow­er plant north of Kyoto. In doing so, it over­turned an ear­li­er rul­ing that Green­peace had hailed as the first known case in Japan­ese his­to­ry of a judge order­ing the shut­down of an oper­at­ing nuclear reac­tor.

    The chal­lenge had been brought by a group of res­i­dents in neigh­bour­ing Shi­ga pre­fec­ture, who were con­cerned about the risk of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of water sup­plies at Lake Biwa.

    The oper­a­tor, Kan­sai Elec­tric Pow­er (Kep­co), said the shut­down imposed in March last year was not based on objec­tive sci­ence and had cost it more than ¥200m (£1.4m) a day.

    Kendra Ulrich, a senior glob­al ener­gy cam­paign­er for Green­peace Japan, said the injunction’s can­cel­la­tion was “not whol­ly unex­pect­ed in the noto­ri­ous­ly nuclear-friend­ly Japan­ese legal sys­tem”.

    “It clears the way for Kep­co to restart reac­tors that have seri­ous unre­solved safe­ty issues,” she said.

    The Taka­hama reac­tors would restart with­in about a month, local media reports said.

    ...

    Two weeks ago a dis­trict court near Tokyo ruled that neg­li­gence by the state con­tributed to the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear dis­as­ter in March 2011 and award­ed sig­nif­i­cant dam­ages to evac­uees.

    The gov­ern­ment has said it sup­ports restart­ing reac­tors where it is safe to do so, and has set a tar­get of obtain­ing between 20% and 22% of the country’s pow­er from nuclear sources by 2030.

    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (Tep­co), which oper­at­ed the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plant, is push­ing to restart two of the reac­tors at anoth­er of its sta­tions in Niiga­ta pre­fec­ture. The Kashi­waza­ki-Kari­wa nuclear pow­er plant was pre­vi­ous­ly the world’s largest such facil­i­ty but has been offline for years.

    The Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty last month ordered Tep­co to resub­mit safe­ty doc­u­ments after the com­pa­ny revealed pre­vi­ous­ly secret analy­sis that a key build­ing on the site could not with­stand a severe earth­quake.

    At the wrecked Fukushi­ma site, mean­while, Tep­co is still try­ing to work out how to remove fuel debris as part of an expen­sive decom­mis­sion­ing oper­a­tion that is expect­ed to take decades. It has lost sev­er­al robots sent in to inves­ti­gate the dam­age from the earth­quake and tsuna­mi-trig­gered melt­downs.

    ———-

    “Vic­to­ry for Japan­ese nuclear indus­try as high court quash­es injunc­tion” by Daniel Hurst; The Guardian; 03/28/2017

    “Kendra Ulrich, a senior glob­al ener­gy cam­paign­er for Green­peace Japan, said the injunction’s can­cel­la­tion was “not whol­ly unex­pect­ed in the noto­ri­ous­ly nuclear-friend­ly Japan­ese legal sys­tem”.”

    Yep, don’t be sur­prised if more plants with unre­solved safe­ty issues are deemed by Japan’s nuclear reg­u­la­tors to be safe enough to make the risk of anoth­er his­toric dis­as­ter worth it. And that includes not being sur­prised if Tep­co, Fukushi­ma’s oper­a­tor, gets in on the action too:

    ...
    Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (Tep­co), which oper­at­ed the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plant, is push­ing to restart two of the reac­tors at anoth­er of its sta­tions in Niiga­ta pre­fec­ture. The Kashi­waza­ki-Kari­wa nuclear pow­er plant was pre­vi­ous­ly the world’s largest such facil­i­ty but has been offline for years.

    The Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty last month ordered Tep­co to resub­mit safe­ty doc­u­ments after the com­pa­ny revealed pre­vi­ous­ly secret analy­sis that a key build­ing on the site could not with­stand a severe earth­quake.
    ...

    “The Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty last month ordered Tep­co to resub­mit safe­ty doc­u­ments after the com­pa­ny revealed pre­vi­ous­ly secret analy­sis that a key build­ing on the site could not with­stand a severe earth­quake.”

    How many oth­er secret analy­ses of dire vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties are yet to be revealed by the oper­a­tors of the yet to be restart­ed reac­tors? We’ll find out. Prob­a­bly via hor­rif­ic tragedy.

    And as a recent arti­cle in Sci­ence about the find­ings of researchers from Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty and the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists reminds us, we should­n’t assume those future tragedies involv­ing secret analy­ses of major vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties won’t hit clos­er to home. Espe­cial­ly if you live near a nuclear pow­er plant. A cat­e­go­ry that includes a lot of peo­ple:

    Wired UK

    Faulty analy­sis could lead to a nuclear fall­out ‘worse than Fukushi­ma’ in the US

    Pro­jec­tions show how 8 mil­lion peo­ple in the US could be forced to relo­cate if a fire was trig­gered by an earth­quake or ter­ror­ist attack

    By Lib­by Plum­mer
    Thurs­day 25 May 2017

    A lack of vital action from reg­u­la­tors could leave the pub­lic at high risk from nuclear-waste fires, claims a new report.

    In an arti­cle in Sci­ence, researchers from Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty and the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists found that a reliance on “faulty analy­sis” by US nuclear experts could result in a cat­a­stroph­ic fire that has the poten­tial to force some 8 mil­lion peo­ple to relo­cate, and result in a stag­ger­ing $2 tril­lion (£1.5 tril­lion) in dam­ages.

    Fall­out from such a fire could be con­sid­er­ably larg­er than the radioac­tive emis­sions from the 2011 Fukushi­ma acci­dent in Japan and the team claims such a fire at any one of dozens of reac­tor sites around the coun­try could be trig­gered by a large earth­quake or a ter­ror­ist attack. The researchers argue that the US Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion (NRC) – a gov­ern­ment agency tasked with ensur­ing the safe use of radioac­tive mate­ri­als – refus­es to imple­ment reg­u­la­to­ry mea­sures that could avoid such a dis­as­ter.

    “The NRC has been pres­sured by the nuclear indus­try, direct­ly and through Con­gress, to low-ball the poten­tial con­se­quences of a fire because of con­cerns that increased costs could result in shut­ting down more nuclear pow­er plants,” said co-author Frank von Hip­pel, research physi­cist at Prince­ton’s Pro­gram on Sci­ence and Glob­al Secu­ri­ty (SGS).

    “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, if there is no pub­lic out­cry about this dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion, the NRC will con­tin­ue to bend to the indus­try’s wish­es.”

    The paper con­tin­ues that the pub­lic is at risk from fires in pools used to store and cool radioac­tive fuel rods because the water-filled basins are so tight­ly packed with nuclear waste.

    Sim­i­lar ‘spent-fuel’ pools were brought into the spot­light fol­low­ing the March 2011 nuclear dis­as­ter in Fukushi­ma, Japan. A tsuna­mi trig­gered by a 9.0‑magnitude earth­quake hit the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant, knock­ing out elec­tri­cal cool­ing sys­tems and lead­ing to melt­downs of three of the facility’s six reac­tors and the release of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al.

    “The Fukushi­ma acci­dent could have been a hun­dred times worse had there been a loss of the water cov­er­ing the spent fuel in pools asso­ci­at­ed with each reac­tor,” von Hip­pel said. “That almost hap­pened at Fukushi­ma in Unit 4.”

    Fol­low­ing the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, the NRC con­sid­ered a vari­ety of new safe­ty fea­tures includ­ing a ban on dense­ly pack­ing spent-fuel pools and a require­ment to move cooled spent-fuel to dry stor­age casks after five years.

    The NRC con­clud­ed that a spent-fuel pool fire would cause around $125 bil­lion (£96 bil­lion) in dam­ages while trans­fer­ring the fuel to dry casks could reduce radioac­tive releas­es from pool fires by 99 per cent. How­ev­er, the agency con­sid­ered a fire to be so unlike­ly that it would not jus­ti­fy the cost of around $50 mil­lion (£38 mil­lion) need­ed to secure each pool.

    The researchers claim this analy­sis was based on the assump­tion that there would be no con­se­quences from radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion beyond a 50-miles radius from a fire and that any affect­ed areas could be cleaned up with­in a year. This doesn’t match up with the real­i­ty expe­ri­enced at Fukushi­ma and fol­low­ing the 1986 Cher­nobyl dis­as­ter, says the report.

    The researchers note that Con­gress has the author­i­ty to fix the cost­ly prob­lem if the NRC fails to take any fur­ther action. They also sug­gest that state-lev­el sub­si­dies could be lim­it­ed to plants that agree to make their spent-fuel pools safer.

    “In far too many instances, the NRC has used flawed analy­sis to jus­ti­fy inac­tion, leav­ing mil­lions of Amer­i­cans at risk of a radi­o­log­i­cal release that could con­t­a­m­i­nate their homes and destroy their liveli­hoods,” said co-author Edwin Lyman, from the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists Lyman. “It is time for the NRC to employ sound sci­ence and com­mon-sense pol­i­cy judg­ments in its deci­sion-mak­ing process.”

    While the NRC has, so far, not instruct­ed plant own­ers to move spent-fuel away from pools, it did imple­ment a series of safe­ty improve­ments fol­low­ing the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter.

    In March 2012, it issued three orders requir­ing nuclear pow­er plants to obtain addi­tion­al emer­gency equip­ment, install enhanced equip­ment to mon­i­tor water lev­els in spent-fuel pools and install or improve emer­gency vent­ing sys­tems to relieve pres­sure in the event of a major acci­dent.

    ...

    ———-

    “Faulty analy­sis could lead to a nuclear fall­out ‘worse than Fukushi­ma’ in the US” by Lib­by Plum­mer; Wired UK; 05/25/2017

    “In an arti­cle in Sci­ence, researchers from Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty and the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists found that a reliance on “faulty analy­sis” by US nuclear experts could result in a cat­a­stroph­ic fire that has the poten­tial to force some 8 mil­lion peo­ple to relo­cate, and result in a stag­ger­ing $2 tril­lion (£1.5 tril­lion) in dam­ages.”

    And what’s behind this faulty analy­sis that’s been accept­ed by the US’s Nuclear Reg­u­la­tor Com­mis­sion (NRC)? The nuclear indus­try. Of course:

    ...
    “The NRC has been pres­sured by the nuclear indus­try, direct­ly and through Con­gress, to low-ball the poten­tial con­se­quences of a fire because of con­cerns that increased costs could result in shut­ting down more nuclear pow­er plants,” said co-author Frank von Hip­pel, research physi­cist at Prince­ton’s Pro­gram on Sci­ence and Glob­al Secu­ri­ty (SGS).

    ...

    The NRC con­clud­ed that a spent-fuel pool fire would cause around $125 bil­lion (£96 bil­lion) in dam­ages while trans­fer­ring the fuel to dry casks could reduce radioac­tive releas­es from pool fires by 99 per cent. How­ev­er, the agency con­sid­ered a fire to be so unlike­ly that it would not jus­ti­fy the cost of around $50 mil­lion (£38 mil­lion) need­ed to secure each pool.
    ...

    “The NRC con­clud­ed that a spent-fuel pool fire would cause around $125 bil­lion (£96 bil­lion) in dam­ages while trans­fer­ring the fuel to dry casks could reduce radioac­tive releas­es from pool fires by 99 per cent. How­ev­er, the agency con­sid­ered a fire to be so unlike­ly that it would not jus­ti­fy the cost of around $50 mil­lion (£38 mil­lion) need­ed to secure each pool.

    Is a price-tag of $50 mil­lion per spent-fuel pool to avoid the prospects of a spent-fuel pool fire caus­ing $125 bil­lion in dam­ages and a mas­sive evac­u­a­tion of mil­lions of peo­ple worth the cost? Not accord­ing to the indus­try-friend­ly NRC.

    So don’t for­get, when the for­mer chair­man of the Fukushi­ma Nuclear Acci­dent Inde­pen­dent Inves­ti­ga­tion Com­mis­sion warns about the poten­tial­ly dis­as­trous con­se­quence of an over­ly cozy rela­tion­ship between reg­u­la­tors and the nuclear indus­try, his warn­ing does­n’t just apply to Japan.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 16, 2017, 8:00 pm
  4. Here’s a quick update on the progress the Fukushi­ma cleanup efforts. Specif­i­cal­ly, the cleanup of the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil in the areas around Fukushi­ma:
    First, it turns out radi­a­tion was flow­ing into the Tokyo Bay for at least 5 years after the ini­tial melt­down. That’s accord­ing a study led by Hideo Yamaza­ki, a for­mer pro­fes­sor of envi­ron­men­tal analy­sis at Kindai Uni­ver­si­ty. Their find­ings are based on mud sam­ples from 2016 tak­en from the mouth of the Kyu-Edo­gawa riv­er, which emp­ties into Tokyo. Alarm­ing­ly, Yamaza­k­i’s team found a max­i­mum radioac­tive cesium lev­els of 104,000 bec­querels per square meter in the mud in 2016 which was 5 times high­er than was found at the same site just 5 months after the ini­tial melt­down. Yamaza­ki attrib­uted this increase in radioac­tiv­i­ty to cesium first con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing areas upstream of the riv­er and lat­er flow­ing down to the riv­er and even­tu­al­ly accu­mu­lat­ing in the mud at the mouth of the bay:

    The Asahi Shim­bun

    Study: Cesium from Fukushi­ma flowed to Tokyo Bay for 5 years

    By NOBUTARO KAJI/ Staff Writer
    June 7, 2018 at 15:05 JST

    Radioac­tive cesium from the crip­pled Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant con­tin­ued to flow into Tokyo Bay for five years after the dis­as­ter unfold­ed in March 2011, accord­ing to a researcher.

    Hideo Yamaza­ki, a for­mer pro­fes­sor of envi­ron­men­tal analy­sis at Kindai Uni­ver­si­ty, led the study on haz­ardous mate­ri­als that spewed from the nuclear plant after it was hit by the Great East Japan Earth­quake and tsuna­mi on March 11, 2011.

    Five months after dis­as­ter caused the triple melt­down at the plant, Yamaza­ki detect­ed 20,100 bec­querels of cesium per square meter in mud col­lect­ed at the mouth of the Kyu-Edo­gawa riv­er, which emp­ties into Tokyo Bay.

    In July 2016, the study team detect­ed a max­i­mum 104,000 bec­querels of cesium per square meter from mud col­lect­ed in the same area of the bay, Yamaza­ki said.

    He said cesium released in the ear­ly stages of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter remained on the ground upstream of the riv­er, such as in Chi­ba Pre­fec­ture. The radioac­tive sub­stances were even­tu­al­ly washed into the riv­er and car­ried to Tokyo Bay, where they accu­mu­lat­ed in the mud, he said.

    On a per kilo­gram basis, the max­i­mum lev­el of radioac­tiv­i­ty of cesium detect­ed in mud that was dried in the July 2016 study was 350 bec­querels.

    The gov­ern­ment says soil with 8,000 bec­querels or low­er of radioac­tive cesium per kilo­gram can be used in road con­struc­tion and oth­er pur­pos­es.

    ...

    ———–

    “Study: Cesium from Fukushi­ma flowed to Tokyo Bay for 5 years” by NOBUTARO KAJI; The Asahi Shim­bun; 06/07/2018

    “Radioac­tive cesium from the crip­pled Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant con­tin­ued to flow into Tokyo Bay for five years after the dis­as­ter unfold­ed in March 2011, accord­ing to a researcher.”

    Five years of radioac­tive cesium accu­mu­lat­ing at the mouth of Tokyo Bay led to a 5‑fold jump in detect­ed radi­a­tion from 20,100 bec­querels of cesium per square meter to 104,000 bec­querels. It’s an exam­ple of how the hor­rif­ic sit­u­a­tion of a nuclear melt­down can get qui­et­ly worse:

    ...
    Hideo Yamaza­ki, a for­mer pro­fes­sor of envi­ron­men­tal analy­sis at Kindai Uni­ver­si­ty, led the study on haz­ardous mate­ri­als that spewed from the nuclear plant after it was hit by the Great East Japan Earth­quake and tsuna­mi on March 11, 2011.

    Five months after dis­as­ter caused the triple melt­down at the plant, Yamaza­ki detect­ed 20,100 bec­querels of cesium per square meter in mud col­lect­ed at the mouth of the Kyu-Edo­gawa riv­er, which emp­ties into Tokyo Bay.

    In July 2016, the study team detect­ed a max­i­mum 104,000 bec­querels of cesium per square meter from mud col­lect­ed in the same area of the bay, Yamaza­ki said.

    He said cesium released in the ear­ly stages of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter remained on the ground upstream of the riv­er, such as in Chi­ba Pre­fec­ture. The radioac­tive sub­stances were even­tu­al­ly washed into the riv­er and car­ried to Tokyo Bay, where they accu­mu­lat­ed in the mud, he said.
    ...

    And note how this radioac­tive mud when dried is actu­al­ly well below the max­i­mum lev­el of radi­a­tion the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment allows for soil that can be used for road con­struc­tion and oth­er pur­pos­es. On a per kilo­gram basis, that mud with 104,000 bec­querels per square meter had 350 bec­querels when the mud was dried. And after relax­ing its stan­dards, the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment allows soil with up to 8,000 bec­querels per kilo­gram to be used in road con­struc­tion and oth­er pur­pos­es:

    ...
    On a per kilo­gram basis, the max­i­mum lev­el of radioac­tiv­i­ty of cesium detect­ed in mud that was dried in the July 2016 study was 350 bec­querels.

    The gov­ern­ment says soil with 8,000 bec­querels or low­er of radioac­tive cesium per kilo­gram can be used in road con­struc­tion and oth­er pur­pos­es.
    ...

    So who knows, maybe that radioac­tive mud will end up as part of a con­struc­tion project some­where. But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, if that mud does end up as part of a con­struc­tion project it will be over the resis­tance of a lot of very unhap­py Fukushi­ma res­i­dents:

    The Japan Times

    Fukushi­ma res­i­dents fight state plan to build roads with radi­a­tion-taint­ed soil

    Apr 29, 2018

    FUKUSHIMA – The Envi­ron­ment Min­istry plans to use radi­a­tion-taint­ed soil to build roads in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture, start­ing with tri­als in the city of Nihon­mat­su next month.

    But in the face of fierce protests from safe­ty-mind­ed res­i­dents, the min­istry is strug­gling to advance the plan.

    “Don’t scat­ter con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil on roads,” one res­i­dent yelled dur­ing a Thurs­day brief­ing by Envi­ron­ment Min­istry offi­cials in Nihon­mat­su.

    The offi­cials repeat­ed­ly tried to soothe them with safe­ty assur­ances, but to no avail.

    “Ensur­ing safe­ty is dif­fer­ent from hav­ing the pub­lic feel­ing at ease,” said Bun­saku Takamiya, a 62-year-old farmer who lives near a road tar­get­ed for the plan. He claims the project will pro­duce ground­less rumors that near­by farm pro­duce is unsafe.

    Sev­en years after the March 2011 core melt­downs at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant, Takamiya has final­ly been able to ship his pro­duce in Fukushi­ma with­out wor­ry. Then the ministry’s soil plan sur­faced.

    A woman in the neigh­bor­hood agrees.

    “The nature and air here are assets for the res­i­dents. I don’t want them to take it away from us,” she said.

    Under the plan, taint­ed soil will be buried under a 200-meter stretch of road in the city. The soil, packed in black plas­tic bags, has been sit­ting in tem­po­rary stor­age.

    The plan is to take about 500 cu. meters of the soil, bury it under the road at a depth of 50 cm or more, cov­er it with clean soil to block radi­a­tion, and pave over it with asphalt. The min­istry intends to take mea­sure­ments for the project in May.

    Fukushi­ma is esti­mat­ed to have col­lect­ed about 22 mil­lion cu. meters of taint­ed soil at most. The min­istry plans to put it in tem­po­rary stor­age before trans­port­ing it to a final dis­pos­al site out­side the pre­fec­ture.

    The idea is to reduce the amount. The min­istry thus intends to use soil with cesium emit­ting a max­i­mum of 8,000 bec­querels per kg in pub­lic works projects nation­wide.

    The aver­age radi­a­tion lev­el for soil used for road con­struc­tion is esti­mat­ed at about 1,000 bec­querels per kg, the min­istry says.

    The min­istry has already con­duct­ed exper­i­ments to raise ground lev­els in Minami­so­ma with the taint­ed soil, say­ing “a cer­tain lev­el” of safe­ty was con­firmed.

    Sim­i­lar plans are on the hori­zon regard­ing land­fill to be used for gar­den­ing in the vil­lage of Iitate. But it is first time it will be used in a place where evac­u­a­tions weren’t issued after the March 2011 melt­downs.

    ...

    ———-

    “Fukushi­ma res­i­dents fight state plan to build roads with radi­a­tion-taint­ed soil”; The Japan Times; 04/29/2018

    “The Envi­ron­ment Min­istry plans to use radi­a­tion-taint­ed soil to build roads in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture, start­ing with tri­als in the city of Nihon­mat­su next month.”

    So the tri­als of using radioac­tive soil start­ed in May in the city of Nihon­mat­su. Under the plan, the soil will be buried under a 200-meter stretch of road in the city. 500 cubic meters of the soil will be buried 50 cm or more, cov­ered in clean soil, and the paved over with asphalt:

    ...
    Under the plan, taint­ed soil will be buried under a 200-meter stretch of road in the city. The soil, packed in black plas­tic bags, has been sit­ting in tem­po­rary stor­age.

    The plan is to take about 500 cu. meters of the soil, bury it under the road at a depth of 50 cm or more, cov­er it with clean soil to block radi­a­tion, and pave over it with asphalt. The min­istry intends to take mea­sure­ments for the project in May.
    ...

    And if this tri­al run is deemed accept­able, the plan for for cesium taint­ed soil to be used for pub­lic works projects nation­wide:

    ...
    Fukushi­ma is esti­mat­ed to have col­lect­ed about 22 mil­lion cu. meters of taint­ed soil at most. The min­istry plans to put it in tem­po­rary stor­age before trans­port­ing it to a final dis­pos­al site out­side the pre­fec­ture.

    The idea is to reduce the amount. The min­istry thus intends to use soil with cesium emit­ting a max­i­mum of 8,000 bec­querels per kg in pub­lic works projects nation­wide.

    The aver­age radi­a­tion lev­el for soil used for road con­struc­tion is esti­mat­ed at about 1,000 bec­querels per kg, the min­istry says.

    The min­istry has already con­duct­ed exper­i­ments to raise ground lev­els in Minami­so­ma with the taint­ed soil, say­ing “a cer­tain lev­el” of safe­ty was con­firmed.
    ...

    Not sur­pris­ing­ly, farm­ers, espe­cial­ly Fukushi­ma area farm­ers, are par­tic­u­lar­ly upset about this plan over con­cerns that peo­ple will assume near­by farm pro­duce is unsafe:

    ...
    The offi­cials repeat­ed­ly tried to soothe them with safe­ty assur­ances, but to no avail.

    “Ensur­ing safe­ty is dif­fer­ent from hav­ing the pub­lic feel­ing at ease,” said Bun­saku Takamiya, a 62-year-old farmer who lives near a road tar­get­ed for the plan. He claims the project will pro­duce ground­less rumors that near­by farm pro­duce is unsafe.

    Sev­en years after the March 2011 core melt­downs at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant, Takamiya has final­ly been able to ship his pro­duce in Fukushi­ma with­out wor­ry. Then the ministry’s soil plan sur­faced.

    ...

    So it seems safe to assume that these farm­ers prob­a­bly aren’t very about the gov­ern­ment plans to start test­ing the use this taint­ed soil for gar­den­ing:

    ...
    Sim­i­lar plans are on the hori­zon regard­ing land­fill to be used for gar­den­ing in the vil­lage of Iitate. But it is first time it will be used in a place where evac­u­a­tions weren’t issued after the March 2011 melt­downs.
    ...

    Yep, radi­a­tion taint­ed soil for gar­den­ing. That’s what’s going to be test­ed out in the vil­lage of Iitate. And as the fol­low­ing arti­cle makes clear, the gov­ern­men­t’s plans for using radi­a­tion taint­ed soil for agri­cul­ture go much fur­ther: the Min­istry of Envi­ron­ment released a plan on June 3rd for use of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil to devel­op farm­land in the Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture to grow crops that won’t be con­sumed by humans. This pre­sum­ably means crops for cat­tle and oth­er farm ani­mals. Or maybe pet food, who knows. So while humans won’t be direct­ly eat­ing the food grown by the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture, it sure sounds like they might end up indi­rect­ly eat­ing that food if they end up eat­ing those ani­mals. As we should expect, the Japan­ese pub­lic isn’t thrilled by the pro­pos­al:

    Bloomberg News
    Envi­ron­ment & Ener­gy Report

    Blow­back Over Japan­ese Plan to Reuse Taint­ed Soil From Fukushi­ma

    By Bri­an Yap
    June 14, 2018

    Japan’s plan to reuse soil con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with radi­a­tion from the Fukushi­ma-Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant acci­dent for agri­cul­ture is spark­ing some­thing of its own nuclear reac­tion.

    Res­i­dents and oth­er crit­ics don’t want any part of it.

    “Pol­lu­tants con­tained in crops will sure­ly pol­lute air, water and soil, there­by con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing food to be con­sumed by human beings,” Kazu­ki Kumamo­to, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Mei­ji Gakuin Uni­ver­si­ty in Tokyo told Bloomberg Envi­ron­ment. Con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed crops “could trig­ger the release of radi­a­tion.”

    The Min­istry of the Envi­ron­ment released its lat­est plan June 3 for reusing the soil as part of a decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion project asso­ci­at­ed with the Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ter in March 2011. The acci­dent occurred after a tsuna­mi dis­abled the facility’s pow­er sup­ply and caused its emer­gency gen­er­a­tors to fail, lead­ing to melt­downs in three reac­tors, hydro­gen-air explo­sions, and the release of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al.

    The ministry’s plan calls for using the soil to devel­op farm­land in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture for hor­ti­cul­tur­al crops that won’t be con­sumed by humans, the June 3 doc­u­ment said. It builds on the ministry’s 2017 plan to use the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil for road con­struc­tion.

    Japan enact­ed a law in 2011 to respond to the Fukushi­ma acci­dent that pro­vides for post-dis­as­ter mea­sures and enables the gov­ern­ment to reuse con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed waste for pub­lic works and oth­er pur­pos­es, with roads them­selves being dis­pos­al sites, Osamu Inoue, envi­ron­men­tal law part­ner at Ushi­ji­ma & Part­ners in Tokyo, told Bloomberg BNA.

    Safe­ty issues

    The reuse projects for road con­struc­tion and agri­cul­tur­al land have met heavy oppo­si­tion from res­i­dents liv­ing close to where such projects have been planned, accord­ing to Aki­ra Nagasa­ki, envi­ron­men­tal law part­ner at City-Yuwa Part­ners in Tokyo.

    Key among their con­cerns are the changes Japan made to its bench­mark.

    Con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil isn’t clas­si­fied as nuclear waste under the law and there­fore isn’t required to be treat­ed by spe­cial facil­i­ties, Kumamo­to said. That’s because Japan relaxed its bench­mark, based on one set by the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency, for deter­min­ing at what lev­el of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion radioac­tive waste must be treat­ed and dis­posed using more pro­tec­tive mea­sures.

    The inter­na­tion­al agency stan­dard is 100 bec­quer­el, a mea­sure of radioac­tiv­i­ty, per kilo­gram. Japan revised its lim­it to 8,000 bec­quer­el per kilo­gram for nuclear waste and soil, exempt­ing a greater amount of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil from strict treat­ment require­ments and allow­ing it to be reused for pub­lic works projects and agri­cul­tur­al land.

    “The relaxed bench­mark is one fac­tor trig­ger­ing safe­ty con­cerns among res­i­dents,” Nagasa­ki told Bloomberg Envi­ron­ment June 8. He added that the gov­ern­ment has been pro­mot­ing its plan to put con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil back to earth, which seems con­trary to the for­mer process of remov­ing it.

    “The gov­ern­ment is say­ing that the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil will be cov­ered by mate­ri­als such as con­crete, effec­tive­ly reduc­ing radi­a­tion lev­els, but many res­i­dents near the reuse projects aren’t con­vinced,” he said.

    The government’s orig­i­nal scheme set in 2012, Kumamo­to said, was to have the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed areas in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture com­plete­ly cleaned up in 30 years, with the taint­ed soil that had been tem­porar­i­ly stored off­site moved to inter­im stor­age facil­i­ties near the Fukushi­ma No.1 Nuclear Plant.

    Thir­ty-six of the prefecture’s 59 cities and town­ships are includ­ed in the government’s decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion plan, envi­ron­ment min­istry sta­tis­tics show. Con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil tem­porar­i­ly stored out­side the areas clos­est to the Fukushi­ma No. 1 plant was sup­posed to have been moved to inter­im stor­age facil­i­ties on land near­est the nuclear site by 2015 and kept there for 30 years.

    ...

    ———-

    “Blow­back Over Japan­ese Plan to Reuse Taint­ed Soil From Fukushi­ma” by Bri­an Yap; Bloomberg News; 06/14/2018

    “Japan’s plan to reuse soil con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with radi­a­tion from the Fukushi­ma-Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant acci­dent for agri­cul­ture is spark­ing some­thing of its own nuclear reac­tion.”

    That’s the plan: radioac­tive soil for food that humans won’t eat. And the use of this soil for agri­cul­ture is seen as part of a decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion project:

    ...
    The Min­istry of the Envi­ron­ment released its lat­est plan June 3 for reusing the soil as part of a decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion project asso­ci­at­ed with the Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ter in March 2011. The acci­dent occurred after a tsuna­mi dis­abled the facility’s pow­er sup­ply and caused its emer­gency gen­er­a­tors to fail, lead­ing to melt­downs in three reac­tors, hydro­gen-air explo­sions, and the release of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al.

    The ministry’s plan calls for using the soil to devel­op farm­land in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture for hor­ti­cul­tur­al crops that won’t be con­sumed by humans, the June 3 doc­u­ment said. It builds on the ministry’s 2017 plan to use the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil for road con­struc­tion.

    Japan enact­ed a law in 2011 to respond to the Fukushi­ma acci­dent that pro­vides for post-dis­as­ter mea­sures and enables the gov­ern­ment to reuse con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed waste for pub­lic works and oth­er pur­pos­es, with roads them­selves being dis­pos­al sites, Osamu Inoue, envi­ron­men­tal law part­ner at Ushi­ji­ma & Part­ners in Tokyo, told Bloomberg BNA.
    ...

    And we have experts warn­ing that such a plan could actu­al­ly trig­ger the release of the radi­a­tion trapped in the soil. So you have to won­der if the plan is lit­er­al­ly to grow food, and release some radi­a­tion in the process, for the pur­pose of decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ing that soil. If so, that’s a rather con­tro­ver­sial decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion project:

    ...
    Res­i­dents and oth­er crit­ics don’t want any part of it.

    “Pol­lu­tants con­tained in crops will sure­ly pol­lute air, water and soil, there­by con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing food to be con­sumed by human beings,” Kazu­ki Kumamo­to, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Mei­ji Gakuin Uni­ver­si­ty in Tokyo told Bloomberg Envi­ron­ment. Con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed crops “could trig­ger the release of radi­a­tion.”
    ...

    Adding to the pub­lic con­cerns is the fact that con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil isn’t actu­al­ly clas­si­fied as nuclear waster under Japan­ese law and does­n’t require treat­ment as spe­cial facil­i­ties thanks to a relax­ation in reg­u­la­tions that the gov­ern­ment made after the melt­down. Japan used to use the stan­dard set by the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency of 100 bec­querels per kilo­gram. But after the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter it was increased to 8,000 bec­querels per kilo­gram. As long as the soil isn’t more than 80 times the inter­na­tion­al radi­a­tion stan­dards, it can poten­tial­ly be used to grow food under this plan:

    ...
    Safe­ty issues

    The reuse projects for road con­struc­tion and agri­cul­tur­al land have met heavy oppo­si­tion from res­i­dents liv­ing close to where such projects have been planned, accord­ing to Aki­ra Nagasa­ki, envi­ron­men­tal law part­ner at City-Yuwa Part­ners in Tokyo.

    Key among their con­cerns are the changes Japan made to its bench­mark.

    Con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil isn’t clas­si­fied as nuclear waste under the law and there­fore isn’t required to be treat­ed by spe­cial facil­i­ties, Kumamo­to said. That’s because Japan relaxed its bench­mark, based on one set by the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency, for deter­min­ing at what lev­el of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion radioac­tive waste must be treat­ed and dis­posed using more pro­tec­tive mea­sures.

    The inter­na­tion­al agency stan­dard is 100 bec­quer­el, a mea­sure of radioac­tiv­i­ty, per kilo­gram. Japan revised its lim­it to 8,000 bec­quer­el per kilo­gram for nuclear waste and soil, exempt­ing a greater amount of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil from strict treat­ment require­ments and allow­ing it to be reused for pub­lic works projects and agri­cul­tur­al land.
    ...

    So that’s the update on the radioac­tive soil sit­u­a­tion in Japan: the radioac­tive soil is still radioac­tive, but now it’s con­tro­ver­sial­ly use­ful too.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 14, 2018, 9:57 pm
  5. With his­toric lev­els of flood­ing hit­ting Japan in recent days lead­ing to dozens of deaths, it’s unfor­tu­nate­ly worth not­ing one par­tic­u­lar bit of good flood-relat­ed news: the flood­ing was in south­west Japan and not in the Fukushi­ma region. In oth­er words, it could be worse. A LOT worse. As we’ve already seen, radi­a­tion has been found in Japan far from Fukushi­ma, for exam­ple trav­el­ing down rivers and con­cen­trat­ing at the mouth of Tokyo Bay, and large vol­umes of radi­a­tion remain stored in con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil. So when there’s mas­sive flood­ing in Japan these days it begs the ques­tion of whether or not radioac­tive mate­r­i­al is get­ting relo­cat­ed and pos­si­bly con­cen­trat­ed in new areas. For­tu­nate­ly, it does­n’t sound like hap­pened with this par­tic­u­lar flood­ing event.

    But while Japan may have got­ten ‘lucky’ with this his­toric flood­ing, the risk of extreme weath­er dis­turb­ing and dis­burs­ing radi­a­tion remains a real threat, which is part of what makes the fol­low­ing arti­cle from back in Feb­ru­ary so dis­turb­ing. The arti­cle talks about Tep­co dis­cov­er­ing new areas lethal lev­els of radi­a­tion in and around the Fukushi­ma plant. And as Mycle Schnei­der, the lead author of the World Nuclear Indus­try Sta­tus Report, points out, the dis­cov­ery of lethal radi­a­tion leaks by Tep­co sev­en years after the dis­as­ter just con­firms what he’s long observed which is that Tep­co has no idea what it’s doing with the clean up effort. Schnei­der goes on to point out the waste from the plant is stored in an “inap­pro­pri­ate” way in tanks that are vul­ner­a­ble to extreme weath­er events and if these radi­a­tion leaks con­tin­ue, and con­tin­ue leak­ing into the ocean, this could end up being a glob­al dis­as­ter. And that’s all part of why his­toric flood­ing in Japan isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly just a dis­as­ter for Japan.:

    The Inde­pen­dent

    Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ter: Lethal lev­els of radi­a­tion detect­ed in leak sev­en years after plant melt­down in Japan

    Expert warns of ‘glob­al’ con­se­quences unless the plant is treat­ed prop­er­ly

    Jeff Far­rell
    Fri­day 2 Feb­ru­ary 2018 15:16

    Lethal lev­els of radi­a­tion have been detect­ed at Japan’s Fukushi­ma nuclear pow­er plant, sev­en years after it was destroyed by an earth­quake and tsuna­mi.

    The Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny (Tep­co), which oper­at­ed the com­plex and is now respon­si­ble for its clean up, made the dis­cov­ery in a reac­tor con­tain­ment ves­sel last month.

    The ener­gy firm found eight siev­erts per hour of radi­a­tion, while 42 units were also detect­ed out­side its foun­da­tions.

    A siev­ert is defined as the prob­a­bil­i­ty of can­cer induc­tion and genet­ic dam­age from expo­sure to a dose of radi­a­tion, by the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mis­sion on Radi­o­log­i­cal Pro­tec­tion (ICRP). One siev­ert is thought to car­ry with it a 5.5 per cent chance of even­tu­al­ly devel­op­ing can­cer.

    Experts told Japan­ese state broad­cast­er NHK World that expo­sure to that vol­ume of radi­a­tion for just an hour could kill, while anoth­er warned the leaks could lead to a “glob­al” cat­a­stro­phe if not tack­led prop­er­ly.

    It came as Tep­co said con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water around the plan­t’s three reac­tors was seep­ing into the ground, caus­ing major dif­fi­cul­ties in the decom­mis­sion­ing process.

    ...

    Tep­co has admit­ted that it could be until 2020 until the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion issue is resolved. Only then can it move onto the sec­ond stage of remov­ing nuclear debris at the site, includ­ing the dam­aged reac­tors.

    Richard Black, direc­tor of the Ener­gy and Cli­mate Intel­li­gence Unit, said the high lev­els of radi­a­tion found in and around the reac­tor last month were “expect­ed” and unlike­ly to pose a dan­ger.

    He told The Inde­pen­dent: “Although the radi­a­tion lev­els iden­ti­fied are high, a threat to human health is very unlike­ly because apart from work­ers at the site, no-one goes there.

    “The high read­ings from fuel debris would be expect­ed – the high­er read­ing from the foun­da­tions, if con­firmed, would be more of a con­cern as the cause is at present unclear. But as offi­cials indi­cate, it might not be a gen­uine read­ing any­way.

    “What this does demon­strate is that, sev­en years after the dis­as­ter, clean­ing up the Fukushi­ma site remains a mas­sive chal­lenge – and one that we’re going to be read­ing about for decades, nev­er mind years.”

    But Mycle Schnei­der, an inde­pen­dent ener­gy con­sul­tant and lead author of the World Nuclear Indus­try Sta­tus Report, said that Tep­co “hasn’t a clue what it is doing” in its job to decom­mis­sion the plant.

    He added that the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water that is leak­ing at the site could end up in the ocean if the ongo­ing treat­ment project fails and cause a “glob­al” dis­as­ter, he told The Inde­pen­dent.

    “Find­ing high read­ings in the reac­tor is nor­mal, it’s where the molten fuel is, it would be bizarre if it wasn’t,” he said.

    “I find it symp­to­matic of the past sev­en years, in that they don’t know what they’re doing, Tep­co, these ener­gy com­pa­nies haven’t a clue what they’re doing, so to me it’s been going wrong from the begin­ning. It’s a dis­as­ter of unseen pro­por­tions.”

    Mr Schnei­der added that the radi­a­tion leaks cou­pled with the waste from the plant stored in an “inap­pro­pri­ate” way in tanks could have glob­al con­se­quences.

    “This is an area of the plan­et that gets hit by tor­na­does and all kinds of heavy weath­er pat­terns, which is a prob­lem. When you have waste stored above ground in inap­pro­pri­ate ways, it can get washed out and you can get con­t­a­m­i­na­tion all over the place.

    “This can get prob­lem­at­ic any­time, if it con­t­a­m­i­nates the ocean there is no local con­t­a­m­i­na­tion, the ocean is glob­al, so any­thing that goes into the ocean goes to every­one.”

    He added: “It needs to be clear that this prob­lem is not gone, this is not just a local prob­lem. It’s a very major thing.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ter: Lethal lev­els of radi­a­tion detect­ed in leak sev­en years after plant melt­down in Japan” by Jeff Far­rell; The Inde­pen­dent; 02/02/2018

    “The ener­gy firm found eight siev­erts per hour of radi­a­tion, while 42 units were also detect­ed out­side its foun­da­tions.”

    42 siev­erts of radi­a­tion per hour out­side its foun­da­tions. That’s what Tep­co found out­side of a reac­tor con­tain­ment ves­sel. Need­less to say, that’s A LOT of radi­a­tion.

    And while we should expect extreme­ly high lev­els of radi­a­tion to be dis­cov­ered fol­low­ing a nuclear melt­down, the fact that Tep­co had to acknowl­edge this find­ing at the same time it had to report that water is con­tin­u­ing to leak from the destroyed build­ings into the ground­wa­ter and out into the oceans high­lights the fact that this dis­as­ter con­tin­ues to remain a glob­al threat. Yes, oceans are big, but you can only dump high­ly radioac­tive mate­ri­als into the oceans for so many years with­out seri­ous con­se­quences:

    ...
    A siev­ert is defined as the prob­a­bil­i­ty of can­cer induc­tion and genet­ic dam­age from expo­sure to a dose of radi­a­tion, by the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mis­sion on Radi­o­log­i­cal Pro­tec­tion (ICRP). One siev­ert is thought to car­ry with it a 5.5 per cent chance of even­tu­al­ly devel­op­ing can­cer.

    Experts told Japan­ese state broad­cast­er NHK World that expo­sure to that vol­ume of radi­a­tion for just an hour could kill, while anoth­er warned the leaks could lead to a “glob­al” cat­a­stro­phe if not tack­led prop­er­ly.

    It came as Tep­co said con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water around the plan­t’s three reac­tors was seep­ing into the ground, caus­ing major dif­fi­cul­ties in the decom­mis­sion­ing process.
    ...

    And while the dis­cov­ery of high­ly radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion is to be expect­ed for a melt­down like this, note how Tep­co can’t actu­al­ly move on to the next stage of remov­ing the radioac­tive mate­r­i­al at plants until it resolves these con­t­a­m­i­na­tion issues. Which the com­pa­ny projects might not hap­pen until 2020 (which real­is­ti­cal­ly means much lat­er than 2020). And the long it takes to remove the mate­r­i­al, the more time there is for that radi­a­tion to seep into the ground water and out into the oceans:

    ...
    Tep­co has admit­ted that it could be until 2020 until the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion issue is resolved. Only then can it move onto the sec­ond stage of remov­ing nuclear debris at the site, includ­ing the dam­aged reac­tors.
    ...

    Giv­en all that, we have the rel­a­tive­ly pos­i­tive spin from one ener­gy expert, Richard Black, who tried to calm the pub­lic by point­ing out that dis­cov­er­ies of lethal radi­a­tion leaks are “expect­ed” and unlike­ly to pose a dan­ger to any­one oth­er than the work­ers at the site:

    ...
    Richard Black, direc­tor of the Ener­gy and Cli­mate Intel­li­gence Unit, said the high lev­els of radi­a­tion found in and around the reac­tor last month were “expect­ed” and unlike­ly to pose a dan­ger.

    He told The Inde­pen­dent: “Although the radi­a­tion lev­els iden­ti­fied are high, a threat to human health is very unlike­ly because apart from work­ers at the site, no-one goes there.

    “The high read­ings from fuel debris would be expect­ed – the high­er read­ing from the foun­da­tions, if con­firmed, would be more of a con­cern as the cause is at present unclear. But as offi­cials indi­cate, it might not be a gen­uine read­ing any­way.

    “What this does demon­strate is that, sev­en years after the dis­as­ter, clean­ing up the Fukushi­ma site remains a mas­sive chal­lenge – and one that we’re going to be read­ing about for decades, nev­er mind years.”
    ...

    In oth­er words, as long as the radi­a­tion stays there for the com­ing decades dur­ing the clean up effort, it’s unlike­ly to be a health haz­ard to peo­ple liv­ing in sur­round­ing areas.

    But, of course, with the radioac­tive water leak­ing into the ground water and out into the oceans, it’s obvi­ous­ly not stay­ing there. So when Mycle Schnei­der, lead author of the World Nuclear Indus­try Sta­tus Report, sug­gest that Tep­co does­n’t have a clue and the world’s oceans are poten­tial­ly at risk, that’s a warn­ing we should prob­a­bly heed. Espe­cial­ly Schnei­der’s warn­ings about improp­er­ly stored radioac­tive water con­tain­ers poten­tial­ly leak­ing as a result of an extreme weath­er event:

    ...
    But Mycle Schnei­der, an inde­pen­dent ener­gy con­sul­tant and lead author of the World Nuclear Indus­try Sta­tus Report, said that Tep­co “hasn’t a clue what it is doing” in its job to decom­mis­sion the plant.

    He added that the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water that is leak­ing at the site could end up in the ocean if the ongo­ing treat­ment project fails and cause a “glob­al” dis­as­ter, he told The Inde­pen­dent.

    “Find­ing high read­ings in the reac­tor is nor­mal, it’s where the molten fuel is, it would be bizarre if it wasn’t,” he said.

    “I find it symp­to­matic of the past sev­en years, in that they don’t know what they’re doing, Tep­co, these ener­gy com­pa­nies haven’t a clue what they’re doing, so to me it’s been going wrong from the begin­ning. It’s a dis­as­ter of unseen pro­por­tions.”

    Mr Schnei­der added that the radi­a­tion leaks cou­pled with the waste from the plant stored in an “inap­pro­pri­ate” way in tanks could have glob­al con­se­quences.

    “This is an area of the plan­et that gets hit by tor­na­does and all kinds of heavy weath­er pat­terns, which is a prob­lem. When you have waste stored above ground in inap­pro­pri­ate ways, it can get washed out and you can get con­t­a­m­i­na­tion all over the place.

    “This can get prob­lem­at­ic any­time, if it con­t­a­m­i­nates the ocean there is no local con­t­a­m­i­na­tion, the ocean is glob­al, so any­thing that goes into the ocean goes to every­one.”

    He added: “It needs to be clear that this prob­lem is not gone, this is not just a local prob­lem. It’s a very major thing.”
    ...

    “This is an area of the plan­et that gets hit by tor­na­does and all kinds of heavy weath­er pat­terns, which is a prob­lem. When you have waste stored above ground in inap­pro­pri­ate ways, it can get washed out and you can get con­t­a­m­i­na­tion all over the place.”

    It’s anoth­er reminder that the world real­ly should be treat­ing the Fukushi­ma cleanup effort as a glob­al pri­or­i­ty, not just a Japan­ese pri­or­i­ty.

    But while Fukushi­ma rep­re­sents a poten­tial glob­al risk to the health of the oceans, the great­est risk is obvi­ous­ly to the local areas. One real­ly nasty flood­ing event in the wrong part of Japan would end up spread­ing that radioac­tive mate­r­i­al to all sorts of areas, but the local areas are obvi­ous­ly the most at risk.

    And that extreme weath­er risk of spread­ing radi­a­tion into cur­rent­ly ‘clean’ regions of Japan is part of what makes the fol­low­ing arti­cles to pro­found­ly dis­turb­ing: It turns out the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment has found a new cost-cut­ting area to help reduce the enor­mous price of this cleanup effort: 80 per­cent of the radi­a­tion mon­i­tors installed in Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture are set to be scrapped by 2020. The 12 munic­i­pal­i­ties clos­est to the actu­al nuclear plant dis­as­ter site will keep their mon­i­tors, but the rest of Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture is going to be assumed to be clean going for­ward. Yep.

    So why is it going to save so much mon­ey just get­ting rid of radi­a­tion mon­i­tors? Well, because they’ve been mal­func­tion­ing exten­sive­ly for years, and fix­ing them turns out to be pret­ty expen­sive. Instead of fig­ur­ing out why they keep mal­func­tion­ing and reduc­ing costs that way the Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Agency (NRA) is plan­ning on ditch­ing them instead.

    The offi­cial expla­na­tion giv­en by the NRA is that the mon­i­tors are no longer need­ed because radi­a­tion lev­els have fall­en and sta­bi­lized. And this, of course, com­plete­ly ignores the real­i­ty that radioac­tiv­i­ty can move around and show up in places that were pre­vi­ous­ly clean, as the con­tin­u­ous leaks into the ocean should make clear. And also ignores the real­i­ty that these mon­i­tors have a his­to­ry of mal­func­tion­ing. But that pre­sump­tion of low radi­a­tion lev­els now and for the fore­see­able future is the offi­cial expla­na­tion for remov­ing 80 per­cent of the radi­a­tion mon­i­tor­ing just 7 years after a nuclear melt­down that will take decades to clean up.

    One might expect that real­ly aggres­sive mon­i­tor­ing would have been the approach the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment would want to take in assur­ing the pub­lic that it’s safe, but nope, they are going with an assump­tion of low radi­a­tion for the rel­a­tive­ly clean areas of Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture going for­ward. Declar­ing every­thing fixed in most of Fukushi­ma munic­i­pal­i­ties and elim­i­nat­ing 80 per­cent of the mon­i­tors might be a cheap­er options, but it’s also hard to imag­ine a bet­ter invest­ment for Japan than high qual­i­ty radi­a­tion mon­i­tor­ing in Fukushi­ma. If you’re going risk wast­ing gov­ern­ment mon­ey on some­thing that seems like the place to risk over­spend­ing. Espe­cial­ly in the lead up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Pri­or­i­ties.

    And as we might expect, the locals in Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture were very unhap­py to hear about these uncon­scionably cost-con­scious pri­or­i­ties:

    The Japan Times

    Radi­a­tion mon­i­tors in Fukushi­ma to be scrapped after mal­func­tion­ing to the tune of ¥500 mil­lion a year

    Kyo­do, Staff Report
    May 21, 2018

    The thou­sands of radi­a­tion-mon­i­tor­ing posts installed in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture after the 2011 nuclear cri­sis have mal­func­tioned near­ly 4,000 times, sources said Sun­day as the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty pre­pares to remove them after spend­ing ¥500 mil­lion a year on repair costs.

    “It’s all about the bud­get in the end. They can’t reuse the devices and there seem to be no con­crete plans,” said Teru­mi Katao­ka, a house­wife in Aizuwaka­mat­su who formed a group of moth­ers to peti­tion the NRA last month to keep the mon­i­tors in place. The NRA refused.

    Around 3,000 of the mon­i­tors were installed in the wake of the triple core melt­down at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 pow­er plant fol­low­ing the March 2011 mega-quake and tsuna­mi. The NRA, which oper­ates the mon­i­tor­ing posts, plans to remove around 80 per­cent of them by the end of fis­cal 2020 on the grounds that radi­a­tion lev­els in some areas have fall­en and sta­bi­lized.

    But the move is being viewed by some as an attempt to cut costs because the gov­ern­ment is also look­ing to ter­mi­nate its spe­cial bud­getary account for rebuild­ing Tohoku by the same year.

    Some munic­i­pal­i­ties and res­i­dents oppose scrap­ping the mon­i­tor­ing posts because they will no longer be able to gauge the risk to their health. They were installed in kinder­gartens, schools and oth­er places to mea­sure radi­a­tion in the air, accord­ing to the NRA..

    But in the five years since the net­work was acti­vat­ed in fis­cal 2013, the sys­tem has been plagued by prob­lems includ­ing inac­cu­rate read­ings and data-trans­mis­sion fail­ures. The tal­ly of cas­es stands at 3,955.

    Each time, the undis­closed mak­ers of the device and secu­ri­ty com­pa­nies were called to fix it, cost­ing the cen­tral gov­ern­ment about ¥500 mil­lion a year.

    In March, the NRA decid­ed to remove about 2,400 of the mon­i­tor­ing posts from areas out­side the 12 munic­i­pal­i­ties near the wrecked pow­er plant and reuse some of them in the munic­i­pal­i­ties.

    Local cit­i­zens’ groups have asked the NRA not to remove the mon­i­tor­ing posts until the plant, run by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny Hold­ings Inc., is decom­mis­sioned. That project is expect­ed to take decades.

    ...

    On Mon­day, Fukushi­ma Gov. Masao Uchi­bori urged the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to inves­ti­gate the cause of the mon­i­tor mal­func­tions and take mea­sures to address the issue.

    “The accu­ra­cy of the sys­tem is impor­tant,” he said.

    Safe­cast, a glob­al vol­un­teer-based cit­i­zen sci­ence orga­ni­za­tion formed in 2011 to mon­i­tor radi­a­tion from the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, said some devices had to be replaced because they didn’t work or were not made to the required spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Many were placed in loca­tions that had notably low­er ambi­ent radi­a­tion than their sur­round­ings, and so were not ade­quate­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the sit­u­a­tion, it added.

    “Remov­ing the units seems like a huge step away from trans­paren­cy,” said Azby Brown, lead researcher at Safe­cast.

    Brown said the pub­lic will cer­tain­ly view the move with sus­pi­cion and increas­ing­ly mis­trust the gov­ern­ment, while the con­ti­nu­ity of the data­base is lost.

    ———-

    “Radi­a­tion mon­i­tors in Fukushi­ma to be scrapped after mal­func­tion­ing to the tune of ¥500 mil­lion a year”; The Japan Times; 05/21/2018

    “Around 3,000 of the mon­i­tors were installed in the wake of the triple core melt­down at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 pow­er plant fol­low­ing the March 2011 mega-quake and tsuna­mi. The NRA, which oper­ates the mon­i­tor­ing posts, plans to remove around 80 per­cent of them by the end of fis­cal 2020 on the grounds that radi­a­tion lev­els in some areas have fall­en and sta­bi­lized.”

    The 3000 mon­i­tors Japan put in place is going down to about 600 by 2020. And while the Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Agency (NRA) asserts this is because those mon­i­tors are no longer need­ed, sus­pi­cions have under­stand­ably fall­en on cost of fix­ing these mon­i­tors as being the real rea­son for the deci­sion:

    ...
    The thou­sands of radi­a­tion-mon­i­tor­ing posts installed in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture after the 2011 nuclear cri­sis have mal­func­tioned near­ly 4,000 times, sources said Sun­day as the Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty pre­pares to remove them after spend­ing ¥500 mil­lion a year on repair costs.

    “It’s all about the bud­get in the end. They can’t reuse the devices and there seem to be no con­crete plans,” said Teru­mi Katao­ka, a house­wife in Aizuwaka­mat­su who formed a group of moth­ers to peti­tion the NRA last month to keep the mon­i­tors in place. The NRA refused.

    ...

    But the move is being viewed by some as an attempt to cut costs because the gov­ern­ment is also look­ing to ter­mi­nate its spe­cial bud­getary account for rebuild­ing Tohoku by the same year.

    ...

    But in the five years since the net­work was acti­vat­ed in fis­cal 2013, the sys­tem has been plagued by prob­lems includ­ing inac­cu­rate read­ings and data-trans­mis­sion fail­ures. The tal­ly of cas­es stands at 3,955.

    Each time, the undis­closed mak­ers of the device and secu­ri­ty com­pa­nies were called to fix it, cost­ing the cen­tral gov­ern­ment about ¥500 mil­lion a year.
    ...

    Of course, we can’t for­get the oth­er obvi­ous rea­son the gov­ern­ment might want to elim­i­nate 80 per­cent of the mon­i­tors: a desire not to know. That would be a real­ly unpleas­ant rea­son but it’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty.

    And giv­en that accu­ra­cy in radi­a­tion read­ings was appar­ent­ly one of the chron­ic issues, it’s pos­si­ble some lin­ger­ing radioac­tive hot spots that weren’t iden­ti­fied due to an uncaught mal­func­tion won’t get caught in the future. It real­ly is like the last area Japan should be sav­ing mon­ey or cov­er­ing up things. Because don’t for­get: radi­a­tion moves. Like how it’s mov­ing into the ground water and oceans. Or on peo­ple if there’s a con­t­a­m­i­na­tion event. The idea that radi­a­tion lev­els have fall­en, and there­fore won’t rise again, is pred­i­cat­ed on the insane assump­tion that the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a ran­dom con­t­a­m­i­na­tion event won’t hap­pen in the future.

    And note some of the loca­tions that are slat­ed to lose their mon­i­tors: kinder­gartens and schools. Should you want to keep an eye and make sure those radi­a­tion lev­els stay low in places that are lit­er­al­ly hous­ing the future of Japan?

    ...
    Some munic­i­pal­i­ties and res­i­dents oppose scrap­ping the mon­i­tor­ing posts because they will no longer be able to gauge the risk to their health. They were installed in kinder­gartens, schools and oth­er places to mea­sure radi­a­tion in the air, accord­ing to the NRA.
    ...

    Also note how the plan isn’t just to remove 80 per­cent of the radi­a­tion mon­i­tors in the areas out­side of the 12 munic­i­pal­i­ties near the Fukushi­ma plant. The plan is also to reuse the mon­i­tors in those remain­ing 12 munic­i­pal­i­ties. And yet the cause of the chron­ic mon­i­tor mal­func­tions isn’t yet known. So let’s hope they don’t reuse the inac­cu­rate mon­i­tors but at this point we should prob­a­bly assume they will:

    ...
    In March, the NRA decid­ed to remove about 2,400 of the mon­i­tor­ing posts from areas out­side the 12 munic­i­pal­i­ties near the wrecked pow­er plant and reuse some of them in the munic­i­pal­i­ties.

    Local cit­i­zens’ groups have asked the NRA not to remove the mon­i­tor­ing posts until the plant, run by Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny Hold­ings Inc., is decom­mis­sioned. That project is expect­ed to take decades.

    On Mon­day, Fukushi­ma Gov. Masao Uchi­bori urged the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to inves­ti­gate the cause of the mon­i­tor mal­func­tions and take mea­sures to address the issue.

    “The accu­ra­cy of the sys­tem is impor­tant,” he said.
    ...

    Final­ly, giv­en that the NRA is jus­ti­fy­ing the deci­sion to remove the mon­i­tors based on the obser­va­tion that some areas have had sus­tained drops in radi­a­tion, not the obser­va­tion by Safe­cast, vol­un­teer-based cit­i­zen sci­ence orga­ni­za­tion formed in 2011 to mon­i­tor radi­a­tion from the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter: many of these mon­i­tors were placed in loca­tions with notably low­er ambi­ent radi­a­tion than their sur­round­ings. And it’s under­stand­able that you would want radi­a­tion mon­i­tors in the clean­est areas of an at-risk region so you can ensure they stay rel­a­tive­ly clean. But if the read­ings from these mon­i­tors were used to declare areas ‘safe’, that would be prob­lem­at­ic:

    ...
    Safe­cast, a glob­al vol­un­teer-based cit­i­zen sci­ence orga­ni­za­tion formed in 2011 to mon­i­tor radi­a­tion from the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, said some devices had to be replaced because they didn’t work or were not made to the required spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Many were placed in loca­tions that had notably low­er ambi­ent radi­a­tion than their sur­round­ings, and so were not ade­quate­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the sit­u­a­tion, it added.
    ...

    And, of course, with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of extreme weath­er con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing cur­rent­ly clean areas, it’s utter­ly insane to just assume that cur­rent­ly clean areas are going to remain clean for decades to come as the cleanup effort remains stalled by lethal radi­a­tion leaks that pre­vent­ing the actu­al cleanup.

    Don’t for­get that cli­mate change is only going to make extreme weath­er events more and more like­ly as it gets worse so bet­ting that no future con­t­a­m­i­na­tion will take place is for decades to come is an increas­ing­ly stu­pid bet.

    So is the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment stick­ing with the plans to remove these mon­i­tors even in face of the cur­rent his­toric floods? It sounds like it, and the local res­i­dents and offi­cials are increas­ing­ly pissed and alarmed:

    THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

    Locals opposed to removal of most dosime­ters in Fukushi­ma

    by Hiroshi Ishizu­ka and Yasuo Tomat­su
    July 9, 2018 at 07:10 JST

    TADAMI, Fukushi­ma Prefecture–Officials and res­i­dents in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture are oppos­ing the cen­tral gov­ern­ment plan to remove 80 per­cent of the radi­a­tion dosime­ters set up in the wake of the 2011 acci­dent at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant.

    The Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty (NRA) in March announced plans to remove 2,400 of the 3,000 mon­i­tor­ing posts by fis­cal 2020 in areas where dose rates have fall­en and keep the remain­ing 600 in 12 munic­i­pal­i­ties around the plant.

    About 20 res­i­dents on June 25 attend­ed a meet­ing here dur­ing which the NRA sec­re­tari­at explained a plan to remove sev­en of nine mon­i­tor­ing posts in the town, includ­ing those installed at three ele­men­tary and junior high schools.

    Sho­ji Takeya­ma, head of the secretariat’s mon­i­tor­ing infor­ma­tion sec­tion, asked the res­i­dents to under­stand the objec­tives of the move.

    “We believe that con­tin­u­ous mea­sur­ing is unnec­es­sary in areas where dose rates are low and sta­ble,” Takeya­ma said. “The equip­ment requires huge main­te­nance costs. We have to effec­tive­ly use the lim­it­ed amount of funds.”

    Res­i­dents expressed oppo­si­tion.

    One described the plan as being “out of the ques­tion,” say­ing that the ship­ment of edi­ble wild plants and mush­rooms in Tada­mi was pro­hib­it­ed although the town is far from the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant.

    The sec­re­tari­at empha­sized that two portable mon­i­tor­ing posts will remain in the town.

    NRA offi­cials have said dose rates have sig­nif­i­cant­ly dropped in areas oth­er than those near the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant, annu­al main­te­nance costs for mon­i­tor­ing posts total 400 mil­lion yen ($3.64 mil­lion) and that the dosime­ters will soon reach the end of their 10-year oper­at­ing lives.

    In late June, the NRA was forced to sus­pend the plan to remove 27 mon­i­tor­ing posts in Nishi­go after the vil­lage assem­bly adopt­ed a state­ment oppos­ing the plan, say­ing that suf­fi­cient expla­na­tions have not been pro­vid­ed to res­i­dents.

    The Aizu-Waka­mat­su city gov­ern­ment in May sub­mit­ted a request to con­tin­ue oper­at­ing mon­i­tor­ing posts to the NRA.

    The city argues “there are cit­i­zens who are con­cerned about the radiation’s poten­tial impact on their health and pos­si­ble acci­dents that could hap­pen dur­ing decom­mis­sion­ing work, and such peo­ple can feel relieved by visu­al­ly check­ing dose rates con­stant­ly with mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems.”

    The pre­fec­tur­al gov­ern­ment says it is “call­ing on the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to pro­ceed with the plan while win­ning con­sent from res­i­dents at the same time.”

    A cit­i­zens group has sent a state­ment to the pre­fec­tur­al gov­ern­ment and sev­en cities and towns, call­ing for main­tain­ing mon­i­tor­ing posts. It has also col­lect­ed more than 2,000 sig­na­tures on a peti­tion to be sub­mit­ted to the NRA.

    Yumi Chi­ba, 48, a co-leader of the group, said author­i­ties should take into account the real­i­ty sur­round­ing those resid­ing in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture.

    “What is impor­tant is not know­ing the aver­age but iden­ti­fy­ing where dose rates are high­er,” said Chi­ba, who lives in Iwa­ki in the pre­fec­ture. “I would like author­i­ties to con­sid­er the cir­cum­stances fac­ing res­i­dents.”

    The NRA plans to offer expla­na­tions to res­i­dents accord­ing to requests. The gath­er­ing in Tada­mi was the first of its kind, and sim­i­lar meet­ings are planned in Kitaka­ta, Aizu-Waka­mat­su and Koriya­ma on July 16, July 28 and Aug. 5, respec­tive­ly.

    ...

    ———-

    “Locals opposed to removal of most dosime­ters in Fukushi­ma” by Hiroshi Ishizu­ka and Yasuo Tomat­su; THE ASAHI SHIMBUN; 07/09/2018

    “TADAMI, Fukushi­ma Prefecture–Officials and res­i­dents in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture are oppos­ing the cen­tral gov­ern­ment plan to remove 80 per­cent of the radi­a­tion dosime­ters set up in the wake of the 2011 acci­dent at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant.”

    As we should expect, the peo­ple of Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture aren’t super pleased to learn that they’ve been giv­en the ‘all clear’ in all but 12 of the munic­i­pal­i­ties. The 2400 radi­a­tion mon­i­tors that are going to be removed by 2020 could come in real­ly handy in a place like Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture. Espe­cial­ly at places like the three ele­men­tary and junior high schools in the town of Tada­mi:

    ...
    The Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty (NRA) in March announced plans to remove 2,400 of the 3,000 mon­i­tor­ing posts by fis­cal 2020 in areas where dose rates have fall­en and keep the remain­ing 600 in 12 munic­i­pal­i­ties around the plant.

    About 20 res­i­dents on June 25 attend­ed a meet­ing here dur­ing which the NRA sec­re­tari­at explained a plan to remove sev­en of nine mon­i­tor­ing posts in the town, includ­ing those installed at three ele­men­tary and junior high schools.
    ...

    And this recent town meet­ing in Tada­mi where the author­i­ties explained the rea­sons for tak­ing away almost all of the radi­a­tion mon­i­tors was the first pub­lic meet­ing of its kind. And as we should expect, this first pub­lic meet­ing did­n’t go well, as the peo­ple of Tada­mi learned that their 7 radi­a­tion mon­i­tors would go down to two (the schools are pre­sum­ably the places that lose the mon­i­tors):

    ...
    A cit­i­zens group has sent a state­ment to the pre­fec­tur­al gov­ern­ment and sev­en cities and towns, call­ing for main­tain­ing mon­i­tor­ing posts. It has also col­lect­ed more than 2,000 sig­na­tures on a peti­tion to be sub­mit­ted to the NRA.

    Yumi Chi­ba, 48, a co-leader of the group, said author­i­ties should take into account the real­i­ty sur­round­ing those resid­ing in Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture.

    “What is impor­tant is not know­ing the aver­age but iden­ti­fy­ing where dose rates are high­er,” said Chi­ba, who lives in Iwa­ki in the pre­fec­ture. “I would like author­i­ties to con­sid­er the cir­cum­stances fac­ing res­i­dents.”

    The NRA plans to offer expla­na­tions to res­i­dents accord­ing to requests. The gath­er­ing in Tada­mi was the first of its kind, and sim­i­lar meet­ings are planned in Kitaka­ta, Aizu-Waka­mat­su and Koriya­ma on July 16, July 28 and Aug. 5, respec­tive­ly.
    ...

    And notice how the NRA rep­re­sen­ta­tive notes cost sav­ings as one of the rea­sons. Falling radi­a­tion lev­els and costs sav­ings are the rea­sons they give. A rea­son that assumes the risk of ran­dom con­t­a­m­i­na­tion, pos­si­bly from bad weath­er, won’t hap­pen:

    ...
    Sho­ji Takeya­ma, head of the secretariat’s mon­i­tor­ing infor­ma­tion sec­tion, asked the res­i­dents to under­stand the objec­tives of the move.

    “We believe that con­tin­u­ous mea­sur­ing is unnec­es­sary in areas where dose rates are low and sta­ble,” Takeya­ma said. “The equip­ment requires huge main­te­nance costs. We have to effec­tive­ly use the lim­it­ed amount of funds.”

    ...

    NRA offi­cials have said dose rates have sig­nif­i­cant­ly dropped in areas oth­er than those near the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant, annu­al main­te­nance costs for mon­i­tor­ing posts total 400 mil­lion yen ($3.64 mil­lion) and that the dosime­ters will soon reach the end of their 10-year oper­at­ing lives.
    ...

    And as pissed off res­i­dents of Tada­mi point­ed out, the need for mon­i­tor­ing is going to be there for decades because the decom­mis­sion process is going to take decades and acci­dents hap­pen:

    ...
    Res­i­dents expressed oppo­si­tion.

    One described the plan as being “out of the ques­tion,” say­ing that the ship­ment of edi­ble wild plants and mush­rooms in Tada­mi was pro­hib­it­ed although the town is far from the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant.

    The sec­re­tari­at empha­sized that two portable mon­i­tor­ing posts will remain in the town.

    ...

    The Aizu-Waka­mat­su city gov­ern­ment in May sub­mit­ted a request to con­tin­ue oper­at­ing mon­i­tor­ing posts to the NRA.

    The city argues “there are cit­i­zens who are con­cerned about the radiation’s poten­tial impact on their health and pos­si­ble acci­dents that could hap­pen dur­ing decom­mis­sion­ing work, and such peo­ple can feel relieved by visu­al­ly check­ing dose rates con­stant­ly with mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems.”

    The pre­fec­tur­al gov­ern­ment says it is “call­ing on the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to pro­ceed with the plan while win­ning con­sent from res­i­dents at the same time.”
    ...

    And that meet­ing, where the NRA rep­re­sen­ta­tive explains that radi­a­tion lev­els have dropped and it’s expen­sive and then the locals get pissed, is pret­ty mch how it’s going to go in the rest of Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture. The era of error-prone radi­a­tion mon­i­tor­ing ends with a pre­emp­tive ‘all clear’ to cut costs. It’s an alarm­ing set of pri­or­i­ties.

    And that’s all part of why Japan’s weath­er is a glob­al prob­lem. As Mycle Schnei­der warns us, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a his­tor­i­cal­ly bad storm hit­ting the Fukushi­ma cleanup site and caus­ing a cat­a­stroph­ic release of radi­a­tion is a real pos­si­bil­i­ty and the ongo­ing leak­age into the ocean is an ongo­ing cat­a­stro­phe. The prover­bial but­ter­fly flap­ping its wings and caus­ing a hur­ri­cane might also cause a nuclear cat­a­stro­phe for the oceans. Anoth­er ‘Black Swan’ dis­as­ter in the region between now and when­ev­er the decomis­sion­ing is com­plet­ed decades from now and we could be look­ing at some­thing far worse than the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in terms of radioac­tive pol­lu­tion, espe­cial­ly for the oceans.

    And that threat to the oceans is a big rea­son why every­one on the plan­et, not just Japan, is kind of watch­ing the Japan­ese weath­er­man while whistling past the leaky tox­ic grave­yard with this Fukushi­ma sit­u­a­tion. If Mycle Schnei­der is cor­rect and Tep­co real­ly is incom­pe­tent, isn’t it insane to leave this cru­cial task up to them? It seems like there should be a mas­sive inter­na­tion­al com­po­nent to the cleanup effort, lit­er­al­ly for every­one’s sake. Ocean ecosys­tems are impor­tant and prob­a­bly should­n’t have too much radi­a­tion leak­ing into them for too many decades. A real­ly bad event could leak hyper-tox­ic sludge. Clean­ing up that leaky tox­ic grave­yard is every­one’s prob­lem. Whistling is option­al but clean­ing up isn’t.

    Well, ok, not clean­ing up is also an option for the world, but it’s an option that involves a lot of extra radi­a­tion for Japan and the oceans (it seems like the like­ly option).

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 9, 2018, 11:33 pm
  6. With Hur­ri­cane Flo­rence (now Trop­i­cal Storm Flo­rence) cur­rent­ly flood­ing the Car­oli­nas in the US at the same time the most pow­er­ful storm of the year, Typhoon Mangkhut, slams into Chi­na, now seems like an appro­pri­ate time to remind our­selves about the grow­ing dan­ger hur­ri­canes and oth­er extreme weath­er events pose to the world’s nuclear pow­er plants as a result of cli­mate change. As Fukushi­ma made abun­dant­ly clear, all it takes is one par­tic­u­lar­ly nasty nat­ur­al dis­as­ter, and an unpre­pared nuclear plant, to cre­ate a nuclear night­mare with no end in sight.

    What kinds of risks do the two cur­rent mega-storms pose for nuclear plants? Well, Typhoon Mangkhut is set to hit two Chi­nese nuclear plants near Hong Kong, so hope­ful­ly all the appro­pri­ate prepa­ra­tions have been made, espe­cial­ly giv­en the mas­sive num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing in the vicin­i­ty. And so far it does­n’t appear that any of the nuclear plants under threat from Hur­ri­cane Flo­rence will be over­whelmed as the flood­ing con­tin­ues. But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, it’s actu­al­ly pret­ty dif­fi­cult to know how vul­ner­a­ble those plants are because the U.S. Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion (NRC) has not pub­licly released the required flood-pro­tec­tion pre­pared­ness reports it required fol­low­ing the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter of 2011:

    City Lab

    Nuclear Pow­er Plants Brace for Hur­ri­cane Flo­rence

    Tan­vi Mis­ra Nicole Javorsky
    Sep 13, 2018

    The Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists has ques­tioned whether two plants, in North Car­oli­na and Vir­ginia, are ready for a megas­torm.

    Two nuclear plants in Hur­ri­cane Florence’s path are vul­ner­a­ble to hur­ri­cane-force winds and flood­ing, accord­ing to the watch­dog group the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists (UCS). As Flo­rence approach­es the North Car­oli­na coast Thurs­day, the Brunswick plant near Wilm­ing­ton, North Car­oli­na, and the Sur­ry plant near Williams­burg, Vir­ginia, might be unpre­pared for the up-to-13-foot storm surges and heavy flood­ing expect­ed.

    Dave Lochbaum, the nuclear safe­ty project direc­tor at UCS, said that it’s hard to tell just how vul­ner­a­ble these plants are because the U.S. Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion (NRC) has not pub­licly released the required flood-pro­tec­tion pre­pared­ness reports it required fol­low­ing the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter of 2011. That’s when an earth­quake-induced tsuna­mi caused three reac­tor-core melt­downs and a hydro­gen explo­sion at the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear-pow­er plant in Japan, forc­ing thou­sands of peo­ple to evac­u­ate.

    “We do know that both Brunswick and Sur­ry have had poten­tial­ly seri­ous prob­lems that we hope they fixed,” Lochbaum said in a UCS press release.

    UCS points to the fact that in 2012, Duke Ener­gy, Brunswick’s own­er, report­ed to the NRC that there were hun­dreds of miss­ing or degrad­ed flood bar­ri­ers at the plant. The company’s fol­low-up report from 2015 is not pub­licly avail­able, so there isn’t a way to con­firm that the bar­ri­ers are ready for Flo­rence. In addi­tion, a 2017 NRC sum­ma­ry assess­ing that fol­low-up report stat­ed that some plant build­ings were designed for a 3.6‑foot storm surge—lower than the pro­jec­tions for Flo­rence. As for Sur­ry, a 2015 doc­u­ment from plant own­er Domin­ion stat­ed that heavy rain­fall could cause flood­ing that over­whelms the plant’s pro­tec­tion bar­ri­ers.

    It’s not uncom­mon for some reports about nuclear facil­i­ties to be kept under wraps for nation­al-secu­ri­ty rea­sons, but it does make it dif­fi­cult for mem­bers of the pub­lic to check on progress toward prepar­ing nuclear plants for weath­er events like Flo­rence. And America’s track record with indus­tri­al pol­lu­tion shows there’s rea­son to want more infor­ma­tion about the sta­tus of repairs.

    When Hur­ri­cane Har­vey struck Hous­ton in 2017, res­i­dents com­plained of “unbear­able” chem­i­cal smells. It turned out that many of the petro­chem­i­cal plants in the state had sim­ply not been pre­pared to with­stand the hur­ri­cane, and more than 40 plants had released dan­ger­ous pol­lu­tants, affect­ing low-income Lati­no com­mu­ni­ties that lived near­by. Nuclear plants, too, have a his­to­ry: Although fatal acci­dents are rare, the envi­ron­men­tal risks asso­ci­at­ed with nuclear pow­er pro­duc­tion and waste have often fall­en dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly on com­mu­ni­ties of color—particularly native pop­u­la­tions and the poor.

    Experts say that in a worst-case sce­nario, in the event of a seri­ous acci­dent at either plant, fast-mov­ing winds and storm surge could car­ry radioac­tive fumes or oth­er types of dan­ger­ous efflu­ent very far, very quick­ly, expos­ing peo­ple with­in a 50-mile radius to radi­a­tion and poten­tial­ly mak­ing soil dan­ger­ous for crops.

    ...

    In response to ques­tions about pre­pared­ness, Richard Zuercher of Domin­ion Ener­gy, the com­pa­ny that runs the plant in Sur­ry Coun­ty, told City­Lab via email that man­age­ment had tak­en steps to make sure that the plant would oper­ate “reli­ably and safe­ly” dur­ing the storm. He added that, gen­er­al­ly, “nuclear sta­tions are designed to with­stand hur­ri­canes and oth­er nat­ur­al events such as earth­quakes.” Accord­ing to Sur­ry County’s emer­gency-ser­vices coor­di­na­tor Ray Phelps, the coun­ty held prepa­ra­tion meet­ings with com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers to explain the risks in case the dis­as­ter trig­gers a nuclear emer­gency.

    The plant in Wilm­ing­ton, run by Duke Ener­gy, is the same design and age as the Fukushi­ma pow­er plant, the News & Observ­er reports, and it iden­ti­fied poten­tial issues in 2012. Karen Williams, a spokesper­son for the com­pa­ny, told City­Lab: “We are ful­ly pre­pared for Flo­rence and have no con­cerns about flood­ing at this point.”

    Sev­er­al nuclear pow­er plants in the path of #Hur­ri­cane­Flo­rence https://t.co/gZbLworGVb pic.twitter.com/uStrhg2gCq
    — Fox News (@FoxNews) Sep­tem­ber 13, 2018

    While sci­en­tists like Lochbaum are most con­cerned about these two nuclear plants, there are sev­er­al oth­ers in Florence’s path. In the after­math of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, it became clear that as the world urban­izes and pop­u­la­tions grow, the threats of breach­es from nuclear plants affect more peo­ple than ever before. In 2011, an analy­sis found that the pop­u­la­tion liv­ing with­in 10-mile emer­gency plan­ning zones near plants had increased by 17 per­cent in the pre­vi­ous decade. More recent esti­mates show that a third of Amer­i­cans live with­in 50 miles of a nuclear reac­tor.

    Chances are there’s a plant uncom­fort­ably close, and if they fail to with­stand extreme weath­er events, the reper­cus­sions could be dev­as­tat­ing.

    ———-

    “Nuclear Pow­er Plants Brace for Hur­ri­cane Flo­rence” by Tan­vi Mis­ra Nicole Javorsky; City Lab; 09/13/2018

    Dave Lochbaum, the nuclear safe­ty project direc­tor at UCS, said that it’s hard to tell just how vul­ner­a­ble these plants are because the U.S. Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion (NRC) has not pub­licly released the required flood-pro­tec­tion pre­pared­ness reports it required fol­low­ing the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter of 2011. That’s when an earth­quake-induced tsuna­mi caused three reac­tor-core melt­downs and a hydro­gen explo­sion at the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear-pow­er plant in Japan, forc­ing thou­sands of peo­ple to evac­u­ate.”

    Are US nuke plants pre­pared to han­dle extreme weath­er events? Let’s hope so because they aren’t telling:

    ...
    “We do know that both Brunswick and Sur­ry have had poten­tial­ly seri­ous prob­lems that we hope they fixed,” Lochbaum said in a UCS press release.

    UCS points to the fact that in 2012, Duke Ener­gy, Brunswick’s own­er, report­ed to the NRC that there were hun­dreds of miss­ing or degrad­ed flood bar­ri­ers at the plant. The company’s fol­low-up report from 2015 is not pub­licly avail­able, so there isn’t a way to con­firm that the bar­ri­ers are ready for Flo­rence. In addi­tion, a 2017 NRC sum­ma­ry assess­ing that fol­low-up report stat­ed that some plant build­ings were designed for a 3.6‑foot storm surge—lower than the pro­jec­tions for Flo­rence. As for Sur­ry, a 2015 doc­u­ment from plant own­er Domin­ion stat­ed that heavy rain­fall could cause flood­ing that over­whelms the plant’s pro­tec­tion bar­ri­ers.

    It’s not uncom­mon for some reports about nuclear facil­i­ties to be kept under wraps for nation­al-secu­ri­ty rea­sons, but it does make it dif­fi­cult for mem­bers of the pub­lic to check on progress toward prepar­ing nuclear plants for weath­er events like Flo­rence. And America’s track record with indus­tri­al pol­lu­tion shows there’s rea­son to want more infor­ma­tion about the sta­tus of repairs.
    ...

    And let’s hope they are thor­ough­ly pre­pared for the plant in Wilm­ing­ton giv­en that it’s the same design and age of the Fukushi­ma pow­er plant. As we’ve now know, the Fukushi­ma plant had a design flaw that made a melt­down more like­ly. So the Wilm­ing­ton plant pre­sum­ably shares that design flaw:

    ...
    The plant in Wilm­ing­ton, run by Duke Ener­gy, is the same design and age as the Fukushi­ma pow­er plant, the News & Observ­er reports, and it iden­ti­fied poten­tial issues in 2012. Karen Williams, a spokesper­son for the com­pa­ny, told City­Lab: “We are ful­ly pre­pared for Flo­rence and have no con­cerns about flood­ing at this point.”
    ...

    And as the arti­cle points out, under a worst-case sce­nario the areas 50 miles around these plants are con­sid­ered dan­ger zones. And about one-third of the US pop­u­la­tion lives with­in 50 miles of a nuclear plant. Some­thing that’s like­ly to be the case in every coun­try that uses nuclear ener­gy. It’s also the case that the per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans liv­ing with­in 50 miles of a nuclear plant has swelled 4.5‑fold since 1980. It’s a reminder that, as cli­mate change increas­es the risk to all nuclear plants, it’s the kind of risk that poten­tial­ly pos­es an imme­di­ate dan­ger to a mas­sive and grow­ing por­tion of a coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion under a worst case sce­nario. A worst case sce­nario that’s only going to become more like­ly as cli­mate change plays out:

    ...
    Experts say that in a worst-case sce­nario, in the event of a seri­ous acci­dent at either plant, fast-mov­ing winds and storm surge could car­ry radioac­tive fumes or oth­er types of dan­ger­ous efflu­ent very far, very quick­ly, expos­ing peo­ple with­in a 50-mile radius to radi­a­tion and poten­tial­ly mak­ing soil dan­ger­ous for crops.

    ...

    While sci­en­tists like Lochbaum are most con­cerned about these two nuclear plants, there are sev­er­al oth­ers in Florence’s path. In the after­math of the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, it became clear that as the world urban­izes and pop­u­la­tions grow, the threats of breach­es from nuclear plants affect more peo­ple than ever before. In 2011, an analy­sis found that the pop­u­la­tion liv­ing with­in 10-mile emer­gency plan­ning zones near plants had increased by 17 per­cent in the pre­vi­ous decade. More recent esti­mates show that a third of Amer­i­cans live with­in 50 miles of a nuclear reac­tor.
    ...

    And as the arti­cle also points out, when it comes to the risks of indus­tri­al pol­lu­tion, the dan­gers of pol­lu­tion from nuclear plants is only one cat­e­go­ry indus­tri­al pol­lu­tion to wor­ry about. When Hur­ri­cane Har­vey hit, there were more than 40 indus­tri­al plants that end­ed up releas­ing pol­lu­tants:

    ...
    When Hur­ri­cane Har­vey struck Hous­ton in 2017, res­i­dents com­plained of “unbear­able” chem­i­cal smells. It turned out that many of the petro­chem­i­cal plants in the state had sim­ply not been pre­pared to with­stand the hur­ri­cane, and more than 40 plants had released dan­ger­ous pol­lu­tants, affect­ing low-income Lati­no com­mu­ni­ties that lived near­by. Nuclear plants, too, have a his­to­ry: Although fatal acci­dents are rare, the envi­ron­men­tal risks asso­ci­at­ed with nuclear pow­er pro­duc­tion and waste have often fall­en dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly on com­mu­ni­ties of color—particularly native pop­u­la­tions and the poor.
    ...

    It’s unfor­tu­nate to also note that flood­ing from Flo­rence just cause a mas­sive spill from a coal ash land­fill man­aged by Duke Ener­gy near the North Car­oli­na coast. And don’t for­get that coal ash is high­ly radioac­tive, in addi­tion to con­tain­ing all sorts heavy met­als. So if you’re wor­ried about super storms result­ing in a release of radioac­tive mate­ri­als near you, you have bet­ter be wor­ried about more than just nuclear plants.

    So the good news is that there haven’t been any nuclear inci­dents report­ed as a result of these two storms. It could have been worse. The bad news obvi­ous­ly includes a coal ash spill. But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, in the con­text of cli­mate the bad news also includes the same bad news that hap­pens every time we have hur­ri­cane or typhoon with­out a nuclear inci­dent: the worst case sce­nario isn’t sim­ply get­ting more like­ly. The worst case sce­nario is get­ting worse. Thanks to cli­mate change. How much worse? Well, accord­ing to Jeff Mas­ters, one of the most respect­ed mete­o­rol­o­gists in Amer­i­ca, cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes, which have been seen before, aren’t just going to become pos­si­ble as the plan­et warms. They’re going to become inevitable::

    The Guardian

    This is how the world ends: will we soon see cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes?

    There is no such thing as a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane or trop­i­cal storm — yet. But a com­bi­na­tion of warmer oceans and more water in the atmos­phere could make the dev­as­ta­tion of 2017 pale in com­par­i­son

    Jeff Nes­bit
    Sat 15 Sep 2018 03.00 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Sun 16 Sep 2018 19.15 EDT

    There is no such thing as a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane or trop­i­cal storm – yet. The high­est lev­el – the top of the scale for the most pow­er­ful, most dev­as­tat­ing hur­ri­cane or trop­i­cal storm capa­ble of destroy­ing entire cities like New Orleans or New York – is a cat­e­go­ry 5 storm.

    Mete­o­rol­o­gists and sci­en­tists nev­er imag­ined that there would be a need for a cat­e­go­ry 6 storm, with winds that exceed 200 miles per hour on a sus­tained basis, sweep­ing away every­thing in its path. Until now, such a storm wasn’t pos­si­ble, so there was no need for a new cat­e­go­ry above cat­e­go­ry 5.

    Right now, how­ev­er, there is any­where from 5 to 8% more water vapor cir­cu­lat­ing through­out the atmos­phere than there was a gen­er­a­tion ago. This, com­bined with warmer tem­per­a­tures that are dri­ving water up from the deep ocean in places where hur­ri­canes typ­i­cal­ly form, has cre­at­ed the poten­tial for super­storms that we haven’t seen before – and aren’t real­ly pre­pared for.

    This com­bi­na­tion of warmer oceans and more water in the earth’s atmos­phere – whip­sawed by sus­tained peri­ods of dri­er and wet­ter con­di­tions in regions of the world that cre­ate super­storms – is now start­ing to cre­ate storms with con­di­tions that look pre­cise­ly what a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane would look like.

    No one in Amer­i­ca has ever expe­ri­enced the wrath and fury of a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane, which now gen­uine­ly seems pos­si­ble and real­is­tic. We’ve been lucky. Unof­fi­cial cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes have appeared in oth­er parts of the world, and we’re see­ing much stronger storms on a reg­u­lar basis. It’s only a mat­ter of time before one hits the US.

    When it does, it will come as quite a shock. The dev­as­ta­tion we saw in 2017 in Hous­ton, sev­er­al Caribbean islands, and Puer­to Rico may actu­al­ly pale in com­par­i­son.

    Jeff Mas­ters, one of the most respect­ed mete­o­rol­o­gists in Amer­i­ca, has begun to won­der pub­licly about the poten­tial for a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane. He launched a live­ly debate among his col­leagues with a provoca­tive post in July of 2016 on the Weath­er Under­ground – a thought-pro­vok­ing piece that prompt­ed the Weath­er Chan­nel and oth­ers to weigh in with their thoughts and the­o­ries as well.

    “A ‘black swan’ hur­ri­cane – a storm so extreme and whol­ly unprece­dent­ed that no one could have expect­ed it – hit the Less­er Antilles Islands in Octo­ber 1780,” Mas­ters wrote to open the post. “Deserved­ly called The Great Hur­ri­cane of 1780, no Atlantic hur­ri­cane in his­to­ry has matched its death toll of 22,000. So intense were the winds of the Great Hur­ri­cane that it peeled the bark off of trees – some­thing only EF5 tor­na­does with winds in excess of 200mph have been known to do.”

    Mas­ters then made the star­tling claim that such a “black swan” hur­ri­cane was not only pos­si­ble now but almost cer­tain to occur more than once. He said that such storms should more prop­er­ly be called “grey swan” hur­ri­canes because the emerg­ing sci­ence clear­ly showed that such “bark-strip­ping” mega-storms are near­ly cer­tain to start appear­ing.

    “Hur­ri­canes even more extreme than the Great Hur­ri­cane of 1780 can occur in a warm­ing cli­mate, and can be antic­i­pat­ed by com­bin­ing phys­i­cal knowl­edge with his­tor­i­cal data,” wrote Mas­ters, who once flew into the strongest hur­ri­cane at the time as one of Noaa’s “Hur­ri­cane Hunters” in the 1980s. “Such storms, which have nev­er occurred in the his­tor­i­cal record, can be referred to as ‘grey swan’ hur­ri­canes.”

    Mas­ters based his bold pre­dic­tion on research by two of the best hur­ri­cane sci­en­tists in the world – Ker­ry Emanuel of MIT and Ning Lin of Prince­ton – who pub­lished the most detailed hur­ri­cane mod­el in his­to­ry in August 2015. Emanuel and Lin’s hur­ri­cane mod­el was embed­ded with­in six dif­fer­ent world­wide cli­mate mod­els rou­tine­ly run by super­com­put­ers.

    “The term ‘black swan’ is a metaphor for a high-con­se­quence event that comes as a sur­prise. Some high-con­se­quence events that are unob­served and unan­tic­i­pat­ed may nev­er­the­less be pre­dictable,” they wrote in Nature Cli­mate Change. “Such events may be referred to as ‘grey swans’ (or, some­times, ‘per­fect storms’). Unlike tru­ly unpre­dict­ed and unavoid­able black swans, which can be dealt with only by fast reac­tion and recov­ery, grey swans – although also nov­el and out­side expe­ri­ence – can be bet­ter fore­seen and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly pre­pared for.”

    Lin and Emanuel said their research showed that not only were grey swan hur­ri­canes now like­ly to occur, one such dev­as­tat­ing hur­ri­cane would almost cer­tain­ly hit the Per­sian Gulf region – a place where trop­i­cal cyclones have nev­er even been seen in his­to­ry. They iden­ti­fied a “poten­tial­ly large risk in the Per­sian Gulf, where trop­i­cal cyclones have nev­er been record­ed, and larg­er-than-expect­ed threats in Cairns, Aus­tralia, and Tam­pa, Flori­da”.

    Emanuel and Lin showed that the risk of such extreme grey swan hur­ri­canes in Tam­pa, Cairns, and the Per­sian Gulf increased by up to a fac­tor of 14 over time as Earth’s cli­mate changed.

    In the event of such a storm, city offi­cials may have no idea what they tru­ly face. At least one city plan­ning doc­u­ment (from 2010) antic­i­pat­ed that a cat­e­go­ry 5 hur­ri­cane could cause 2,000 deaths and $250bn in dam­age. But it could be far worse.

    “A storm surge of 5 meters is about 17 feet, which would put most of Tam­pa under­wa­ter, even before the sea lev­el ris­es there,” Emanuel told reporters. “Tam­pa needs to have a good evac­u­a­tion plan, and I don’t know if they’re real­ly that aware of the risks they actu­al­ly face.”

    A city like Dubai is even more unpre­pared, Emanuel said. Dubai, and the rest of the Per­sian Gulf, has nev­er seen a hur­ri­cane in record­ed his­to­ry. Any hur­ri­cane, of any mag­ni­tude, would be an unprece­dent­ed event. But his mod­els say that one is like­ly to occur there at some point.

    “Dubai is a city that’s under­gone a real­ly rapid expan­sion in recent years, and peo­ple who have been build­ing it up have been com­plete­ly unaware that that city might some­day have a severe hur­ri­cane,” Emanuel said. “Now they may want to think about ele­vat­ing build­ings or hous­es, or build­ing a sea­wall to some­how pro­tect them, just in case.”

    Fol­low­ing Masters’s provoca­tive post, many of his mete­o­rol­o­gist col­leagues weighed in. The Weath­er Chan­nel pre­dict­ed that a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane, and a change in the scale to accom­mo­date it, may be on its way.

    “Jeff Mas­ters got the entire weath­er com­mu­ni­ty think­ing: could there be a Cat­e­go­ry Six hur­ri­cane?” Bri­an Done­gan wrote on the network’s site. “Last year, Hur­ri­cane Patri­cia reached max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 215mph in the east­ern Pacif­ic Ocean. It was the most intense trop­i­cal cyclone ever record­ed in the West­ern Hemi­sphere.”

    A fel­low mete­o­rol­o­gist, Paul Hut­tner, said Patri­cia makes it all but cer­tain that we’ll see cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes. “Many mete­o­ro­log­i­cal observers [were] stunned at how rapid­ly Patri­cia blew up from trop­i­cal storm to one of the strongest cat­e­go­ry 5 hur­ri­canes on earth in just 24 hours,” Hut­tner wrote for Min­neso­ta Pub­lic Radio.

    ...

    ———-

    “This is how the world ends: will we soon see cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes?” by Jeff Nes­bit; The Guardian; 09/15/2018

    There is no such thing as a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane or trop­i­cal storm – yet. The high­est lev­el – the top of the scale for the most pow­er­ful, most dev­as­tat­ing hur­ri­cane or trop­i­cal storm capa­ble of destroy­ing entire cities like New Orleans or New York – is a cat­e­go­ry 5 storm.”

    The top of the cur­rent hur­ri­cane scale does­n’t even include cat­e­go­ry 6 storms yet. Because it’s always been unthink­able that a hur­ri­cane that strong is even pos­si­ble giv­en the his­to­ry of hur­ri­canes. But that was then, this is now:

    ...
    Mete­o­rol­o­gists and sci­en­tists nev­er imag­ined that there would be a need for a cat­e­go­ry 6 storm, with winds that exceed 200 miles per hour on a sus­tained basis, sweep­ing away every­thing in its path. Until now, such a storm wasn’t pos­si­ble, so there was no need for a new cat­e­go­ry above cat­e­go­ry 5.

    Right now, how­ev­er, there is any­where from 5 to 8% more water vapor cir­cu­lat­ing through­out the atmos­phere than there was a gen­er­a­tion ago. This, com­bined with warmer tem­per­a­tures that are dri­ving water up from the deep ocean in places where hur­ri­canes typ­i­cal­ly form, has cre­at­ed the poten­tial for super­storms that we haven’t seen before – and aren’t real­ly pre­pared for.

    This com­bi­na­tion of warmer oceans and more water in the earth’s atmos­phere – whip­sawed by sus­tained peri­ods of dri­er and wet­ter con­di­tions in regions of the world that cre­ate super­storms – is now start­ing to cre­ate storms with con­di­tions that look pre­cise­ly what a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane would look like.
    ...

    And the fact that researchers can already fore­see nev­er-before-seen storms means that we should be pat­ting our­selves on the back about a rel­a­tive­ly lack of nuclear inci­dents as a result of hur­ri­canes. Your grand­chil­drens’ hur­ri­canes aren’t going to look like your hur­ri­canes:

    ...
    No one in Amer­i­ca has ever expe­ri­enced the wrath and fury of a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane, which now gen­uine­ly seems pos­si­ble and real­is­tic. We’ve been lucky. Unof­fi­cial cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes have appeared in oth­er parts of the world, and we’re see­ing much stronger storms on a reg­u­lar basis. It’s only a mat­ter of time before one hits the US.

    When it does, it will come as quite a shock. The dev­as­ta­tion we saw in 2017 in Hous­ton, sev­er­al Caribbean islands, and Puer­to Rico may actu­al­ly pale in com­par­i­son.
    ...

    These are the pre­dic­tions of Jeff Mas­ter, one of the most respect­ed mete­o­rol­o­gists in Amer­i­ca, who has con­clud­ed that cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes are not just pos­si­ble but cer­tain to occur more than once. Now, it’s unclear from the arti­cle what sort of time frame he’s refer­ring when mak­ing that pre­dic­tion, but his larg­er point is that cli­mate change has now cre­at­ed the con­di­tions where cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes go from ‘black swan’ events (events no one could fore­see), to ‘grey swan’ events (where you can con­fi­den­tial­ly pre­dict they will hap­pen, albeit rarely). So if you think of cat­e­go­ry 5 hur­ri­canes as today’s ver­sion of a ‘grey swan’, that ‘grey swan’ sta­tus is inevitably going to be trans­ferred to cat­e­go­ry 6 storms. Which also implies cat­e­go­ry 5 storms are going to become a lot more com­mon too. Along with hur­ri­canes in gen­er­al:

    ...
    Jeff Mas­ters, one of the most respect­ed mete­o­rol­o­gists in Amer­i­ca, has begun to won­der pub­licly about the poten­tial for a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane. He launched a live­ly debate among his col­leagues with a provoca­tive post in July of 2016 on the Weath­er Under­ground – a thought-pro­vok­ing piece that prompt­ed the Weath­er Chan­nel and oth­ers to weigh in with their thoughts and the­o­ries as well.

    “A ‘black swan’ hur­ri­cane – a storm so extreme and whol­ly unprece­dent­ed that no one could have expect­ed it – hit the Less­er Antilles Islands in Octo­ber 1780,” Mas­ters wrote to open the post. “Deserved­ly called The Great Hur­ri­cane of 1780, no Atlantic hur­ri­cane in his­to­ry has matched its death toll of 22,000. So intense were the winds of the Great Hur­ri­cane that it peeled the bark off of trees – some­thing only EF5 tor­na­does with winds in excess of 200mph have been known to do.”

    Mas­ters then made the star­tling claim that such a “black swan” hur­ri­cane was not only pos­si­ble now but almost cer­tain to occur more than once. He said that such storms should more prop­er­ly be called “grey swan” hur­ri­canes because the emerg­ing sci­ence clear­ly showed that such “bark-strip­ping” mega-storms are near­ly cer­tain to start appear­ing.

    “Hur­ri­canes even more extreme than the Great Hur­ri­cane of 1780 can occur in a warm­ing cli­mate, and can be antic­i­pat­ed by com­bin­ing phys­i­cal knowl­edge with his­tor­i­cal data,” wrote Mas­ters, who once flew into the strongest hur­ri­cane at the time as one of Noaa’s “Hur­ri­cane Hunters” in the 1980s. “Such storms, which have nev­er occurred in the his­tor­i­cal record, can be referred to as ‘grey swan’ hur­ri­canes.”
    ...

    And note how Mas­ters is bas­ing his pre­dic­tions on the search of two of the best hur­ri­cane sci­en­tists in the world: Ker­ry Emanuel of MIT and Ning Lin of Prince­ton:

    ...
    Mas­ters based his bold pre­dic­tion on research by two of the best hur­ri­cane sci­en­tists in the world – Ker­ry Emanuel of MIT and Ning Lin of Prince­ton – who pub­lished the most detailed hur­ri­cane mod­el in his­to­ry in August 2015. Emanuel and Lin’s hur­ri­cane mod­el was embed­ded with­in six dif­fer­ent world­wide cli­mate mod­els rou­tine­ly run by super­com­put­ers.

    “The term ‘black swan’ is a metaphor for a high-con­se­quence event that comes as a sur­prise. Some high-con­se­quence events that are unob­served and unan­tic­i­pat­ed may nev­er­the­less be pre­dictable,” they wrote in Nature Cli­mate Change. “Such events may be referred to as ‘grey swans’ (or, some­times, ‘per­fect storms’). Unlike tru­ly unpre­dict­ed and unavoid­able black swans, which can be dealt with only by fast reac­tion and recov­ery, grey swans – although also nov­el and out­side expe­ri­ence – can be bet­ter fore­seen and sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly pre­pared for.”
    ...

    Here’s a fun fact about Ker­ry Emanuel of MIT, one the sci­en­tists who did the research Mas­ters is bas­ing his pre­dic­tions on: Emanuel pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished research sug­gest­ing that the aster­oid impact that is assumed to have trig­gered the extinc­tion of the dinosaurs achieved that glob­al extinc­tion by heat­ing up the ocean enough to cre­ate “hyper­canes”, which is a hur­ri­cane with wind speeds approach­ing the sound bar­ri­er. And these hyper­canes may have been a big part of how the aster­oid impact killed off the dinosaurs glob­al­ly. So if you think a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane that can strip the bark off of trees is unimag­in­able, the dinosaurs scoff at your lack of imag­i­na­tion. Or at least would scoff if the hyper­canes had­n’t wiped them out:

    And Emmanuel and Lin’s research found a par­tic­u­lar loca­tion on the globe that they pre­dict­ed would be most like­ly to expe­ri­ence one of these super hur­ri­canes. And it’s a loca­tion that’s nev­er expe­ri­enced a hur­ri­cane before: the Per­sian Gulf:

    ...
    Lin and Emanuel said their research showed that not only were grey swan hur­ri­canes now like­ly to occur, one such dev­as­tat­ing hur­ri­cane would almost cer­tain­ly hit the Per­sian Gulf region – a place where trop­i­cal cyclones have nev­er even been seen in his­to­ry. They iden­ti­fied a “poten­tial­ly large risk in the Per­sian Gulf, where trop­i­cal cyclones have nev­er been record­ed, and larg­er-than-expect­ed threats in Cairns, Aus­tralia, and Tam­pa, Flori­da”.

    Emanuel and Lin showed that the risk of such extreme grey swan hur­ri­canes in Tam­pa, Cairns, and the Per­sian Gulf increased by up to a fac­tor of 14 over time as Earth’s cli­mate changed.

    In the event of such a storm, city offi­cials may have no idea what they tru­ly face. At least one city plan­ning doc­u­ment (from 2010) antic­i­pat­ed that a cat­e­go­ry 5 hur­ri­cane could cause 2,000 deaths and $250bn in dam­age. But it could be far worse.

    “A storm surge of 5 meters is about 17 feet, which would put most of Tam­pa under­wa­ter, even before the sea lev­el ris­es there,” Emanuel told reporters. “Tam­pa needs to have a good evac­u­a­tion plan, and I don’t know if they’re real­ly that aware of the risks they actu­al­ly face.”

    A city like Dubai is even more unpre­pared, Emanuel said. Dubai, and the rest of the Per­sian Gulf, has nev­er seen a hur­ri­cane in record­ed his­to­ry. Any hur­ri­cane, of any mag­ni­tude, would be an unprece­dent­ed event. But his mod­els say that one is like­ly to occur there at some point.

    “Dubai is a city that’s under­gone a real­ly rapid expan­sion in recent years, and peo­ple who have been build­ing it up have been com­plete­ly unaware that that city might some­day have a severe hur­ri­cane,” Emanuel said. “Now they may want to think about ele­vat­ing build­ings or hous­es, or build­ing a sea­wall to some­how pro­tect them, just in case.”
    ...

    So the part of the globe that’s nev­er expe­ri­enced hur­ri­canes, and there­fore won’t have pre­pared for them in build­ing their infra­struc­ture, is the most like­ly place to expe­ri­ence a super hur­ri­cane accord­ing to Emmanuel and Lin’s research. It’s a grim pre­dic­tion that rein­forces the real­i­ty that cli­mate change isn’t just going to exac­er­bate and shift around exist­ing weath­er pat­terns. It’s also going to intro­duce entire new cat­e­gories of weath­er events to a region. Also keep in mind that a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane is like­ly to be so huge that loca­tions that seem too far inland to be direct­ly hit by a hur­ri­cane today could be with­in reach of tomor­row’s giant super storms. There’s going to be no short­age of new hur­ri­cane expe­ri­ences in our future.

    Final­ly, note that, while there is no record of a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane hit­ting land, Hur­ri­cane Patri­cia jumped from a trop­i­cal storm to a cat­e­go­ry 5 storm with sus­tained wind speeds of 215 miles per hour in less than 24 hours in 2015. And that’s the kind of event that makes a pre­sumed black swan cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane start look­ing a lot grey­er:

    ...
    Fol­low­ing Masters’s provoca­tive post, many of his mete­o­rol­o­gist col­leagues weighed in. The Weath­er Chan­nel pre­dict­ed that a cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­cane, and a change in the scale to accom­mo­date it, may be on its way.

    “Jeff Mas­ters got the entire weath­er com­mu­ni­ty think­ing: could there be a Cat­e­go­ry Six hur­ri­cane?” Bri­an Done­gan wrote on the network’s site. “Last year, Hur­ri­cane Patri­cia reached max­i­mum sus­tained winds of 215mph in the east­ern Pacif­ic Ocean. It was the most intense trop­i­cal cyclone ever record­ed in the West­ern Hemi­sphere.”

    A fel­low mete­o­rol­o­gist, Paul Hut­tner, said Patri­cia makes it all but cer­tain that we’ll see cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes. “Many mete­o­ro­log­i­cal observers [were] stunned at how rapid­ly Patri­cia blew up from trop­i­cal storm to one of the strongest cat­e­go­ry 5 hur­ri­canes on earth in just 24 hours,” Hut­tner wrote for Min­neso­ta Pub­lic Radio.
    ...

    So it sounds like the top hur­ri­cane sci­en­tists are pre­dict­ing with con­fi­dence cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes in our future. And while cat­e­go­ry 6 storms aren’t going to wipe us out like the dinosaurs, they are going to unleash dev­as­ta­tion on any area they touch. Includ­ing nuclear plants. Unless, of course, prepa­ra­tions are made for these ‘grey swan’ events. And in the US the pub­lic does­n’t appear to get to learn about nuclear plant prepa­ra­tions, so let’s hope cat­e­go­ry 6 ‘grey swan’ hur­ri­cane prepa­ra­tions are on Duke Ener­gy’s to-do list.

    It’s also worth recall­ing that one of the more intrigu­ing sub-chap­ters of the #TrumpRus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion involves the lob­by­ing efforts of Michael Fly­nn to pro­mote a ‘Mar­shall Plan for the Mid­dle East’, where Sau­di Ara­bia would finance a num­ber of nuclear plants across the Mid­dle East. And while Fly­nn was tech­ni­cal­ly lob­by­ing on behalf of US nuclear pow­er com­pa­nies (X‑Co/Iron Bridge and ACU Strate­gic Part­ners), it sound­ed like the Sau­di gov­ern­ment was also behind the plan, which is just the lat­est indi­ca­tion that we should expect a num­ber of new nuke plants to pop up across the Mid­dle East soon­er or lat­er. So while it’s chill­ing enough to come to grips with the real­i­ty that cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes are prob­a­bly going to be ‘grey swan’ pre­dictable rare events for future gen­er­a­tions, keep in mind that the actu­al ‘grey swan’ events will prob­a­bly be more like cat­e­go­ry 6 hur­ri­canes that trig­ger a wave of nuclear melt­downs and oth­er indus­tri­al dis­as­ters. We don’t know when it will hap­pen. We just know it will almost cer­tain­ly even­tu­al­ly hap­pen
    in the fore­see­able future. And in the case of the Mid­dle East that ‘grey swan’ is prob­a­bly going to be a ‘light grey swan’. A ‘light grey swan’ that just keeps get­ting lighter.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 16, 2018, 8:42 pm
  7. It’s been over two years since it was announced in March of 2017 some of the 2020 Olympic games for base­ball and soft­ball would be played in Fukushi­ma. Soc­cer games have also been added to the list. So while the sta­tus of the Fukushi­ma nuclear cleanup efforts is obvi­ous­ly extreme­ly impor­tant in gen­er­al until this dis­as­ter is actu­al­ly cleaned up, it’s going to be extra extreme­ly impor­tant over the next year because there’s going to be quite a few peo­ple in the Fukushi­ma area pret­ty soon. So how is it going? Well, accord­ing to the fol­low­ing arti­cle, about as well as could be expect­ed at this point which is not well at all:

    The Nation

    Is Fukushi­ma Safe for the Olympics?
    A recent vis­it sug­gests that the reper­cus­sions of the 2011 nuclear dis­as­ter aren’t over.

    By Dave Zirin and Jules Boykoff
    JULY 25, 2019

    The 2020 Olympic torch relay will com­mence in Fukushi­ma: a place more often asso­ci­at­ed with a 2011 earth­quake, tsuna­mi, and nuclear dis­as­ter than inter­na­tion­al sports. That’s no acci­dent: the loca­tion is meant to con­vey a nar­ra­tive of recov­ery, and the idea that Fukushi­ma is a safe place to vis­it, live–and of course, do busi­ness. Olympic base­ball and soft­ball games, also to be held in Fukushi­ma just 55 miles from the melt­down, are meant to ham­mer the mes­sage of these “Recov­ery Olympics,” as Tokyo 2020 orga­niz­ers have brand­ed them, home

    But after a vis­it to Fukushi­ma, their claims seem ques­tion­able at best. In fact, the entire set­up is a pro­found­ly cyn­i­cal act of “post-truth” pol­i­tics. Fukushi­ma is not yet safe, and no amount of sun­ny rhetoric from Olympic big­wigs as well as Japan­ese politi­cians, can make it so.

    We trav­eled to Fukushi­ma on a bus full of jour­nal­ists, film­mak­ers, and activists from around the world. We were accom­pa­nied by pro­fes­sor Fuji­ta Yasumo­to who car­ried a dosime­ter, a device that charts the lev­els of radi­a­tion. With two hours to dri­ve before hit­ting Fukushi­ma, his dosime­ter read 0.04; any­thing above 0.23, he told us, was unsafe. The nee­dle jumped fur­ther as we approached the nuclear plants and atten­dant cleanup oper­a­tions. Out­side the Decom­mis­sion­ing Archive Cen­ter, it moved into unsafe ter­ri­to­ry with a 0.46 read­ing before spik­ing to a tru­ly alarm­ing 3.77 as we approached Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi Unit 1 reac­tor, one of three that melt­ed down. The Olympic torch run is cur­rent­ly sched­uled to pass through some of these high-con­t­a­m­i­na­tion areas.

    As we entered Fukushi­ma, we start­ed to see what looked like black Hefty garbage bags, filled with radioac­tive top­soil that had been scraped up by work­ers, most of whom, we are told, trav­el great dis­tances to Fukushi­ma to work. Thou­sands of these bags—which locals call “black pyramids”—are piled on top of one anoth­er, but the toil­ing work­ers aren’t wear­ing haz­mat suits. Some of the piles of bags have veg­e­ta­tion pop­ping out. The sight of the plants pok­ing through the tox­ic muck could be tak­en as a sign of hope, but, for oth­ers, they’re a por­tent of dan­ger, rais­ing fears that the wind will blow the most con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed parts of the top­soil into the less radi­at­ed parts of the city.

    No one here we met is buy­ing Japan­ese Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe’s line from 2013 when he tried to assuage the con­cerns of vot­ers at the Inter­na­tion­al Olympic Com­mit­tee by telling them that things in Fukushi­ma were “under con­trol.” Hiroko Aihara, an inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ist based in Fukushi­ma, said to us, “The gov­ern­ment has pushed pro­pa­gan­da over truth. This has peo­ple in Japan divid­ed as to how seri­ous it is. But for the peo­ple who live here, the cri­sis and the cleanup and con­t­a­m­i­na­tion con­tin­ue.”

    The sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies about how safe Fuk­ishi­ma are at the moment are in great dis­pute. Nation­al trav­el guides put the area that is unsafe at only 3 per­cent of the pre­fec­ture. How­ev­er, as Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can wrote, “In its haste to address the emer­gency, two months after the acci­dent the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment raised the allow­able expo­sure from 1 mSv annu­al­ly, an inter­na­tion­al bench­mark, to 20 mSv. Evac­uees now fear Abe’s deter­mi­na­tion to put the Dai­ichi acci­dent behind the nation is jeop­ar­diz­ing pub­lic health, espe­cial­ly among chil­dren, who are more sus­cep­ti­ble.”

    We also spoke with Masu­mi Kowa­ta. She is a remark­able indi­vid­ual, and the only woman on the 12-per­son Oku­ma Town munic­i­pal coun­cil in Fukushi­ma. She is also the only per­son on the coun­cil who is speak­ing out on the dan­gers of nuclear pow­er. Kowa­ta was liv­ing in Fukushi­ma when Abe made his grand pro­nounce­ment. She said, “Things were absolute­ly not ‘under con­trol’ and noth­ing is over yet. The nuclear radi­a­tion is still very high. Only one small sec­tion is being cleaned. The wider region is still an evac­u­a­tion zone. There is still radi­a­tion in the area. Mean­while, we’re [host­ing] the Olympics.”

    ...

    Despite this bleak scene, Kowa­ta some­how brims with fight­ing ener­gy. “The local peo­ple have come to me and told me to tell the world what is actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing,” she said. “That’s where I get my strength. There are peo­ple get­ting sick. There are peo­ple who are dying from stress. The world needs to know.”

    ———-

    “Is Fukushi­ma Safe for the Olympics?” by Dave Zirin and Jules Boykoff; The Nation; 07/25/2019

    ” We trav­eled to Fukushi­ma on a bus full of jour­nal­ists, film­mak­ers, and activists from around the world. We were accom­pa­nied by pro­fes­sor Fuji­ta Yasumo­to who car­ried a dosime­ter, a device that charts the lev­els of radi­a­tion. With two hours to dri­ve before hit­ting Fukushi­ma, his dosime­ter read 0.04; any­thing above 0.23, he told us, was unsafe. The nee­dle jumped fur­ther as we approached the nuclear plants and atten­dant cleanup oper­a­tions. Out­side the Decom­mis­sion­ing Archive Cen­ter, it moved into unsafe ter­ri­to­ry with a 0.46 read­ing before spik­ing to a tru­ly alarm­ing 3.77 as we approached Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi Unit 1 reac­tor, one of three that melt­ed down. The Olympic torch run is cur­rent­ly sched­uled to pass through some of these high-con­t­a­m­i­na­tion areas.”

    The Olympic torch is going to glow a lit­tle extra bright this time. And while the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment assures us that every­thing will be safe none of the locals this team of jour­nal­ists inter­act­ed with agreed with that. Play ball:

    ...
    No one here we met is buy­ing Japan­ese Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe’s line from 2013 when he tried to assuage the con­cerns of vot­ers at the Inter­na­tion­al Olympic Com­mit­tee by telling them that things in Fukushi­ma were “under con­trol.” Hiroko Aihara, an inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ist based in Fukushi­ma, said to us, “The gov­ern­ment has pushed pro­pa­gan­da over truth. This has peo­ple in Japan divid­ed as to how seri­ous it is. But for the peo­ple who live here, the cri­sis and the cleanup and con­t­a­m­i­na­tion con­tin­ue.”

    The sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies about how safe Fuk­ishi­ma are at the moment are in great dis­pute. Nation­al trav­el guides put the area that is unsafe at only 3 per­cent of the pre­fec­ture. How­ev­er, as Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can wrote, “In its haste to address the emer­gency, two months after the acci­dent the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment raised the allow­able expo­sure from 1 mSv annu­al­ly, an inter­na­tion­al bench­mark, to 20 mSv. Evac­uees now fear Abe’s deter­mi­na­tion to put the Dai­ichi acci­dent behind the nation is jeop­ar­diz­ing pub­lic health, espe­cial­ly among chil­dren, who are more sus­cep­ti­ble.”

    We also spoke with Masu­mi Kowa­ta. She is a remark­able indi­vid­ual, and the only woman on the 12-per­son Oku­ma Town munic­i­pal coun­cil in Fukushi­ma. She is also the only per­son on the coun­cil who is speak­ing out on the dan­gers of nuclear pow­er. Kowa­ta was liv­ing in Fukushi­ma when Abe made his grand pro­nounce­ment. She said, “Things were absolute­ly not ‘under con­trol’ and noth­ing is over yet. The nuclear radi­a­tion is still very high. Only one small sec­tion is being cleaned. The wider region is still an evac­u­a­tion zone. There is still radi­a­tion in the area. Mean­while, we’re [host­ing] the Olympics.”
    ...

    And that’s why the sto­ry of the Fukushi­ma cleanup is going to be an extra urgent sto­ry over the next year. Fukushi­ma is about to become part of one of the biggest tourist attrac­tions on the plan­et.

    But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle reminds us, it’s not like the sit­u­a­tion at Fukushi­ma isn’t going remain extreme­ly urgent after all the Olympic tourists leaves. It’s going to remain a gap­ing eco­log­i­cal wound for the plan­et and Pacif­ic Ocean espe­cial­ly. And accord­ing to TEPCO, the stor­age capac­i­ty for hold­ing the radioac­tive water col­lect­ed by the cleanup effort is going to run out by 2022 with no option for expand­ing it because there lit­er­al­ly won’t be any space left on the site to build more. Worse, the opin­ion of nuclear experts that include mem­bers of the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency is that “con­trolled release” of the radioac­tive water into the Pacif­ic is the only real­is­tic option. Beyond that, we are being told that the part of the rea­son there’s going to be no space for new water stor­age capac­i­ty at the Fukushi­ma site is that the removal of the melt­ed down nuclear fuel is sched­uled to start in 2021 and that’s going to require space cur­rent­ly used by water stor­age con­tain­ers. So the amount of water stored at Fukushi­ma is going to have to fall as the cleanup effort expands in 2021. And while the locals are against the con­trolled release pro­pos­al over fears that it would destroy the local fish­ing and agri­cul­tur­al sec­tor, TEPCO is warn­ing that a refusal to reduce the amounts of water stored will only delay the start of the nuclear fuel removal.

    Keep in mind that the radioac­tive water is com­ing from ground water flow­ing into the reac­tor build­ings and mix­ing with the melt­ed down nuclear fuel, so clean­ing up the nuclear fuel is crit­i­cal for end­ing the need for more water stor­age capac­i­ty. But remov­ing that fuel is also expect­ed to take decades so the need for a solu­tion of what to do with radioac­tive water is only going to keep grow­ing. Oth­er pro­posed solu­tions include vapor­iz­ing it, under­ground injec­tion, and long-term stor­age. And in the long-run they may turn to one of those alter­na­tives. But for now it’s look­ing like the Japan­ese author­i­ties and TEPCO are push­ing for an upcom­ing round of “con­trolled releas­es” in the lead up to 2022 after the Olympics.

    Recall that we’ve been hear­ing for years now warn­ings from TEPCO about the unsus­tain­abil­i­ty of sim­ply adding more local water stor­age capac­i­ty to the site and the even­tu­al need for “con­trolled releas­es” into the Pacif­ic. TEPCO was open­ly talk­ing about con­trolled releas­es back in March of 2014. And when TEPCO was attempt­ing to a mas­sive ice wall by freez­ing the ground, some experts were warn­ing that doing the best they can at scrub­bing the radi­a­tion and dump­ing the less-radioac­tive water back into the Pacif­ic was the only real long-term solu­tion. We’ve been warned this is going to hap­pen. Over and over. And now it’s 2019 and those warn­ings are grow­ing more loud­ly an includ­ing the threat that fuel removal will be delayed if the dump­ing does­n’t begin. Alter­na­tives might be found, but prob­a­bly not. Don’t for­get one oth­er major advan­tage to dump­ing: it’s cheap and easy, which is why dump­ing this water back into the Pacif­ic after some degree of treat­ment is the long-term solu­tion we’ll like­ly get. It may not be easy on the envi­ron­ment but it’s far and away the cheap­est and eas­i­est solu­tion for TEPCO and the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment. At least in the short-term. The long-term costs are obvi­ous­ly going to depend on the extent of the eco­log­i­cal impact. But in the short-term there’s no com­par­i­son to just dump­ing it all into the ocean for ease and cost effi­cien­cy. That’s why the alter­na­tives aren’t seri­ous­ly being con­sid­ered despite the urgency. Ocean dump­ing is the planned solu­tion, we just haven’t been offi­cial­ly told yet. And that’s all and why the urgent sto­ry of the Fukushi­ma cleanup sta­tus head­ing into the 2020 Olympics is going to become an increas­ing­ly urgent after the tourists leave:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Fukushi­ma nuclear plant out of space for radioac­tive water

    By MARI YAMAGUCHI
    August 9, 2019

    TOKYO (AP) — The util­i­ty com­pa­ny oper­at­ing Fukushima’s tsuna­mi-dev­as­tat­ed nuclear pow­er plant said Fri­day it will run out of space to store mas­sive amounts of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water in three years, adding pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment and the pub­lic to reach a con­sen­sus on what to do with it.

    Three reac­tors at the Fukushi­ma Dai-ichi plant suf­fered melt­downs in a mas­sive 2011 earth­quake and tsuna­mi that dev­as­tat­ed north­east­ern Japan.

    Radioac­tive water has leaked from the dam­aged reac­tors and mixed with ground­wa­ter and rain­wa­ter at the plant. The water is treat­ed but remains slight­ly radioac­tive and is stored in large tanks.

    The plant has accu­mu­lat­ed more than 1 mil­lion tons of water in near­ly 1,000 tanks. Its oper­a­tor, Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Co., says it plans to build more tanks but can accom­mo­date only up to 1.37 mil­lion tons, which it will reach in the sum­mer of 2022.

    What to do after that is a big ques­tion.

    Near­ly 8 1/2 years since the acci­dent, offi­cials have yet to agree on what to do with the radioac­tive water. A gov­ern­ment-com­mis­sioned pan­el has picked five alter­na­tives, includ­ing the con­trolled release of the water into the Pacif­ic Ocean, which nuclear experts, includ­ing mem­bers of the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency, say is the only real­is­tic option. Fish­er­men and res­i­dents, how­ev­er, strong­ly oppose the pro­pos­al, say­ing the release would be sui­cide for Fukushima’s fish­ing and agri­cul­ture.

    Experts say the tanks pose flood­ing and radi­a­tion risks and ham­per decom­mis­sion­ing efforts at the plant. TEPCO and gov­ern­ment offi­cials plan to start remov­ing the melt­ed fuel in 2021, and want to free up part of the com­plex cur­rent­ly occu­pied with tanks to build safe stor­age facil­i­ties for melt­ed debris and oth­er con­t­a­m­i­nants that will come out.

    In addi­tion to four oth­er options includ­ing under­ground injec­tion and vapor­iza­tion, the pan­el on Fri­day added long-term stor­age as a sixth option to con­sid­er.

    Sev­er­al mem­bers of the pan­el urged TEPCO to con­sid­er secur­ing addi­tion­al land to build more tanks in case a con­sen­sus can­not be reached rel­a­tive­ly soon.

    TEPCO spokesman Junichi Mat­sumo­to said con­t­a­m­i­nants from the decom­mis­sion­ing work should stay in the plant com­plex. He said long-term stor­age would grad­u­al­ly reduce the radi­a­tion because of its half-life, but would delay decom­mis­sion­ing work because the nec­es­sary facil­i­ties can­not be built until the tanks are removed.

    Mat­sumo­to declined to spec­i­fy the dead­line for a deci­sion on what to do with the water, but said he hopes to see the gov­ern­ment lead pub­lic debate.

    Some experts, how­ev­er, said the pri­or­i­ty should be the feel­ings of the res­i­dents, not the progress of decom­mis­sion­ing.

    ...

    ———-

    “Fukushi­ma nuclear plant out of space for radioac­tive water” by MARI YAMAGUCHI; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 08/09/2019

    “Near­ly 8 1/2 years since the acci­dent, offi­cials have yet to agree on what to do with the radioac­tive water. A gov­ern­ment-com­mis­sioned pan­el has picked five alter­na­tives, includ­ing the con­trolled release of the water into the Pacif­ic Ocean, which nuclear experts, includ­ing mem­bers of the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency, say is the only real­is­tic option. Fish­er­men and res­i­dents, how­ev­er, strong­ly oppose the pro­pos­al, say­ing the release would be sui­cide for Fukushima’s fish­ing and agri­cul­ture.”

    The only real­is­tic option. That’s how the ocean dumps will be por­trayed when it’s even­tu­al­ly declared the offi­cial long-term solu­tion. TEPCO warns that long-term stor­age tanks are also an avail­able option but it would delay the cleanup work because need­ed facil­i­ties can’t be built until exist­ing tem­po­rary water stor­age tanks are removed. If that’s the case that means water is get­ting dumped in 2021. They just haven’t gold us yet:

    ...
    Experts say the tanks pose flood­ing and radi­a­tion risks and ham­per decom­mis­sion­ing efforts at the plant. TEPCO and gov­ern­ment offi­cials plan to start remov­ing the melt­ed fuel in 2021, and want to free up part of the com­plex cur­rent­ly occu­pied with tanks to build safe stor­age facil­i­ties for melt­ed debris and oth­er con­t­a­m­i­nants that will come out.

    In addi­tion to four oth­er options includ­ing under­ground injec­tion and vapor­iza­tion, the pan­el on Fri­day added long-term stor­age as a sixth option to con­sid­er.

    Sev­er­al mem­bers of the pan­el urged TEPCO to con­sid­er secur­ing addi­tion­al land to build more tanks in case a con­sen­sus can­not be reached rel­a­tive­ly soon.

    TEPCO spokesman Junichi Mat­sumo­to said con­t­a­m­i­nants from the decom­mis­sion­ing work should stay in the plant com­plex. He said long-term stor­age would grad­u­al­ly reduce the radi­a­tion because of its half-life, but would delay decom­mis­sion­ing work because the nec­es­sary facil­i­ties can­not be built until the tanks are removed.
    ...

    If dump­ing does­n’t begin, work on end­ing the source of the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water in the first place can’t start. That’s the sit­u­a­tion that’s going to lead to “con­trolled releas­es”. Prob­a­bly soon after the Olympics.

    So we’ll see if the fact that Olympic tourists and ath­letes will be invit­ed to Fukushi­ma for the 2020 Olympic games less than a year away makes the sto­ry of the ongo­ing Fukushi­ma cleanup efforts more of a big deal for the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty. Let’s hope so.

    One of the prob­lems that has always plagued the Fukushi­ma cleanup effort is the recog­ni­tion by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty that this is a glob­al issue that is going to require a glob­al effort to fix. The eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ter that is Fukushi­ma is play­ing out at the same time cli­mate change, pol­lu­tion, and habi­tat loss are already destroy­ing the bios­phere so there’s a syn­er­gis­tic dynam­ic at work. A dead­ly cas­cad­ing syn­er­gy of eco-col­lapse. And all indi­ca­tions so far from the reports on the cleanup sug­gest that the tech­nol­o­gy required to do what needs to be done — extract the melt­ed-down nuclear fuel deep inside the build­ings with super high radi­a­tion lev­els and store and decon­t­a­m­i­nate it — yet to be devel­oped. The tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenge is unprece­dent­ed. But work on the fuel removal is sched­uled to start in 2021. So some enor­mous tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenges are ahead of the cleanup crew.

    That’s why Fukushi­ma is too dire and urgent a cat­a­stro­phe to leave to Japan alone. The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty’s idea of show­ing sol­i­dar­i­ty with Japan was to sup­port the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. A major sus­tained inter­na­tion­al com­mit­ment to fix­ing Fukushi­ma as soon as pos­si­ble by devel­op­ing the tech­nolo­gies required would have been more appro­pri­ate. An inter­na­tion­al anti-Man­hat­tan Project crash pro­gram in devel­op­ing the tech­nolo­gies in extract­ing, stor­ing, decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ing, and dis­pos­ing of the melt­ed fuel while deal­ing the ground­wa­ter con­t­a­m­i­na­tion issues. An Olympics of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy focused on fix­ing Fukushi­ma. That’s what human­i­ty would be doing right now if it was­n’t nuts. So hope­ful­ly the fact that Olympic tourists are going to be invit­ed to Fukushi­ma in less than a year will make glob­al pub­lic remem­ber that this is an ongo­ing glob­al dis­as­ter. And let’s hope the inter­na­tion­al pub­lic learns about the loom­ing logis­ti­cal dead­line that’s going to force TEPCO to start dis­charg­ing the radioac­tive water into the Pacif­ic soon after the Olympics and that this is like­ly going to be the long-term solu­tion for the col­lect­ed radioac­tive water unless a bet­ter alter­na­tive is found. Find­ing a bet­ter alter­na­tive seems like the kind of thing the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty could do.

    In relat­ed news, the ambas­sador to South Korea would like to have a word with Japan’s ambas­sador about the reports of pro­posed plans to dis­charge the radioac­tive water into the Pacif­ic. There’s unfor­tu­nate­ly prob­a­bly going to be a lot more relat­ed news like that for the fore­see­able future.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 18, 2019, 9:45 pm
  8. Here’s a pair of sto­ries about the future prospect for the nuclear pow­er indus­try in Japan. First, here’s an arti­cle from a cou­ple of weeks ago about the stance tak­en by Japan’s new Envi­ron­men­tal Min­is­ter Shin­jiro Koizu­mi. Sur­pris­ing­ly, it turns out Koizu­mi is call­ing for the clos­ing down of all nuclear pow­er in Japan to pre­vent anoth­er Fukushi­ma-like cat­a­stro­phe.

    Part of what makes this sur­pris­ing is the fact that Shin­zo Abe him­self has opposed calls to entire­ly shut down Japan nuclear pow­er sec­tor and the Abe gov­ern­ment envi­sions nuclear pow­er mak­ing up 20–22 per­cent of Japan’s over­all ener­gy mix by 2030.

    But anoth­er part of what made Koizu­mi’s calls for shut­ting down all of Japan’s nuclear reac­tors so sur­pris­ing is that it’s sur­pris­ing he was even made the Envi­ron­men­tal Min­is­ter at all. As the arti­cle notes, Koizu­mi has a his­to­ry of express­ing sharp dif­fer­ences with senior Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty lead­er­ship over the past decade and even sup­port­ed a rival to Abe in the most recent elec­tion for par­ty pres­i­dent.

    At the same time, Koizu­mi is a con­tender to serve as the next prime min­is­ter based on palls, and the ele­va­tion of him to Envi­ron­ment Min­is­ter is seen as Abe inten­tion­al­ly ele­vat­ing the next gen­er­a­tion the par­ty’s politi­cians. It’s also impor­tant to note that Koizu­mi is the son of for­mer prime min­is­ter Junichi­ro Koizu­mi and Shin­zo Abe was, him­self, seen as Junichi­ro’s cho­sen suc­ces­sor. So it’s pos­si­ble Abe is effec­tive­ly return­ing the favor by ele­vat­ing Junichi­ro’s son. Either way, it’s quite remark­able that a young fig­ure seen as a ris­ing star in the LPD and a pos­si­ble future prime min­is­ter just called for clos­ing all of Japan’s nuclear pow­er plants after becom­ing the sur­prise new Envi­ron­men­tal Min­is­ter:

    Com­mon Dreams

    Japan’s New Envi­ron­men­tal Min­is­ter Calls for Clos­ing Down All Nuclear Reac­tors to Pre­vent Anoth­er Dis­as­ter Like Fukushi­ma

    “We will be doomed if we allow anoth­er nuclear acci­dent to occur.”

    by Jes­si­ca Cor­bett, staff writer
    Pub­lished on Thurs­day, Sep­tem­ber 12, 2019

    Japan’s new envi­ron­men­tal min­is­ter, Shin­jiro Koizu­mi, called Wednes­day for per­ma­nent­ly shut­ting down the nation’s nuclear reac­tors to pre­vent a repeat of the 2011 Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter, com­ments that came just a day after Koizu­mi’s pre­de­ces­sor rec­om­mend­ed dump­ing more than one mil­lion tons of radioac­tive waste­water from the pow­er plant into the Pacif­ic Ocean.

    Koizu­mi was appoint­ed to his posi­tion Wednes­day as part of a broad­er shake-up of Japan­ese Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe’s cab­i­net. He is the 38-year-old son of for­mer Japan­ese Prime Min­is­ter Junichi­ro Koizu­mi, a vocal crit­ic of nuclear ener­gy.

    “I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them,” the younger Koizu­mi, whose min­istry over­sees Japan’s nuclear reg­u­la­tor, said dur­ing his first news con­fer­ence late Wednes­day. “We will be doomed if we allow anoth­er nuclear acci­dent to occur. We nev­er know when we’ll have an earth­quake.”

    ...

    After the dis­as­ter, all 54 of Japan’s nuclear reac­tors were shut down. Reuters report­ed Wednes­day that “about 40 per­cent of the pre-Fukushi­ma fleet is being decom­mis­sioned” and only six reac­tors are cur­rent­ly oper­at­ing. Amid drawn out legal bat­tles over the impacts of the melt­down, cam­paign­ers have ramped up oppo­si­tion to nuclear pow­er gen­er­a­tion in the coun­try.

    How­ev­er, some Japan­ese politi­cians, includ­ing the cur­rent prime min­is­ter, have argued that nuclear ener­gy is nec­es­sary to meet nation­al cli­mate goals. Japan’s new trade and indus­try min­is­ter, Isshu Sug­awara, crit­i­cized Koizu­mi’s call to shut­ter the coun­try’s reac­tors. “There are risks and fears about nuclear pow­er,” Sug­awara said. “But ‘zero-nukes’ is, at the moment and in the future, not real­is­tic.”

    Accord­ing to The Guardian:

    Japan’s gov­ern­ment wants nuclear pow­er to com­prise 20 per­cent to 22 per­cent of the over­all ener­gy mix by 2030, draw­ing crit­i­cism from cam­paign­ers who say nuclear plants will always pose a dan­ger giv­en the coun­try’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to large earth­quakes and tsunamis.

    Abe, how­ev­er, has called for reac­tors to be restart­ed, argu­ing that nuclear ener­gy will help Japan achieve its car­bon diox­ide emis­sions tar­gets and reduce its depen­dence on import­ed gas and oil.

    Despite Abe and Sug­awara’s stances, “the gov­ern­ment is unlike­ly to meet its tar­get of 30 reac­tor restarts by 2030,” due to local oppo­si­tion and legal chal­lenges, not­ed The Guardian.

    The Tele­graph report­ed Thurs­day that Koizu­mi “was a sur­prise addi­tion” to Abe’s cab­i­net, con­sid­er­ing that the new min­is­ter “has expressed sharp dif­fer­ences with senior mem­bers of the rul­ing Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty since he was first elect­ed in 2009 and sup­port­ed a rival in the most recent elec­tion for par­ty pres­i­dent.”

    Polls often indi­cate that Koizu­mi is con­sid­ered a pop­u­lar con­tender to serve as the next prime minister—and Abe’s choice to appoint him to the cab­i­net, accord­ing to The Tele­graph, is “seen as an effort to give a new gen­er­a­tion of politi­cians an oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn the ropes of gov­ern­ment.”

    Koizu­mi replaced Yoshi­a­ki Hara­da, who made head­lines around the world ear­li­er this week. Respond­ing to a pro­jec­tion from Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (TEPCO) that the util­i­ty will run out of stor­age space for con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter around the Fukushi­ma plant around the sum­mer of 2022, Hara­da sug­gest­ed dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Tues­day that “the only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Japan’s New Envi­ron­men­tal Min­is­ter Calls for Clos­ing Down All Nuclear Reac­tors to Pre­vent Anoth­er Dis­as­ter Like Fukushi­ma” by Jes­si­ca Cor­bett; Com­mon Dreams; 09/12/2019

    “I would like to study how we will scrap them, not how to retain them,” the younger Koizu­mi, whose min­istry over­sees Japan’s nuclear reg­u­la­tor, said dur­ing his first news con­fer­ence late Wednes­day. “We will be doomed if we allow anoth­er nuclear acci­dent to occur. We nev­er know when we’ll have an earth­quake.”

    Japan will be doom­ing itself if it con­tin­ues to rely on nuclear pow­er because there’s no way to know when there’s going to be anoth­er earth­quake of the mag­ni­tude that can destroy these plants. It’s quite a bold stance for Japan’s new Envi­ron­men­tal Min­is­ter to take, espe­cial­ly since it’s in con­flict with his gov­ern­men­t’s offi­cial stance on the future of nuclear pow­er:

    ...
    How­ev­er, some Japan­ese politi­cians, includ­ing the cur­rent prime min­is­ter, have argued that nuclear ener­gy is nec­es­sary to meet nation­al cli­mate goals. Japan’s new trade and indus­try min­is­ter, Isshu Sug­awara, crit­i­cized Koizu­mi’s call to shut­ter the coun­try’s reac­tors. “There are risks and fears about nuclear pow­er,” Sug­awara said. “But ‘zero-nukes’ is, at the moment and in the future, not real­is­tic.”

    Accord­ing to The Guardian:

    Japan’s gov­ern­ment wants nuclear pow­er to com­prise 20 per­cent to 22 per­cent of the over­all ener­gy mix by 2030, draw­ing crit­i­cism from cam­paign­ers who say nuclear plants will always pose a dan­ger giv­en the coun­try’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to large earth­quakes and tsunamis.

    Abe, how­ev­er, has called for reac­tors to be restart­ed, argu­ing that nuclear ener­gy will help Japan achieve its car­bon diox­ide emis­sions tar­gets and reduce its depen­dence on import­ed gas and oil.

    ...

    So Abe’s new Envi­ron­men­tal Min­is­ter has a big dis­agree­ment with the rest of Abe’s gov­ern­ment. It’s part of what makes Koizu­mi such a sur­pris­ing choice. But per­haps even more sur­pris­ing is that this choice appears to be an attempt at Abe to ele­vate Koizu­mi’s nation­al pro­file as a future LDP leader and poten­tial future prime min­is­ter. Is this Abe return­ing Junichi­ro’s favor by ele­vat­ing his son? Or is the LDP sim­ply try­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on the young Koizu­mi’s pop­u­lar­i­ty? The motive remains a mys­tery:

    ...
    Koizu­mi was appoint­ed to his posi­tion Wednes­day as part of a broad­er shake-up of Japan­ese Prime Min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe’s cab­i­net. He is the 38-year-old son of for­mer Japan­ese Prime Min­is­ter Junichi­ro Koizu­mi, a vocal crit­ic of nuclear ener­gy.

    ...

    The Tele­graph report­ed Thurs­day that Koizu­mi “was a sur­prise addi­tion” to Abe’s cab­i­net, con­sid­er­ing that the new min­is­ter “has expressed sharp dif­fer­ences with senior mem­bers of the rul­ing Lib­er­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty since he was first elect­ed in 2009 and sup­port­ed a rival in the most recent elec­tion for par­ty pres­i­dent.”

    Polls often indi­cate that Koizu­mi is con­sid­ered a pop­u­lar con­tender to serve as the next prime minister—and Abe’s choice to appoint him to the cab­i­net, accord­ing to The Tele­graph, is “seen as an effort to give a new gen­er­a­tion of politi­cians an oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn the ropes of gov­ern­ment.”
    ...

    So who know why exact­ly Abe’s gov­ern­ment made the choice make Shin­jiro Koizu­mi the new Envi­ron­men­tal Min­is­ter. It might just be for 2020 Olympic pub­lic rela­tions pur­pos­es. But there’s no deny­ing that Koizu­mi was cor­rect when he point­ed out that it’s sim­ply impos­si­ble to pre­dict and when and where the next earth­quake strong enough to destroy a nuclear pow­er plant is going to take place.

    And that brings us to the sec­ond sto­ry relat­ed to the future of Japan’s nuclear pow­er indus­try. It’s about how the three exec­u­tives of TEPCO who are fac­ing pros­e­cu­tion for their role in allow­ing the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter to hap­pen — Tsune­hisa Kat­suma­ta, a for­mer TEPCO chair­man and for­mer vice pres­i­dents Sakae Muto and Ichi­ro Takekuro — were just acquit­ted. The pros­e­cu­tion cen­tered around the argu­ment that they had ample warn­ings that a Fukushi­ma-like dis­as­ter was pos­si­ble and they did­n’t require the com­pa­ny to take the ade­quate pre­cau­tion­ary steps that could have pre­vent­ed a full blown melt­down.

    The exec­u­tives argued through­out their tri­al that the data they were sup­posed to make their deci­sions on was unre­li­able. As Takekuro put it dur­ing the tri­al, “It is dif­fi­cult to deal with issues that are uncer­tain and obscure.” In oth­er words, it’s basi­cal­ly the oppo­site of the approach advo­cat­ed by Koizu­mi. Where Koizu­mi viewed the uncer­tain­ty sur­round­ing earth­quakes as a rea­son for Japan to get off nuclear pow­er because it’s essen­tial­ly impos­si­ble to pre­dict the kinds of events that can destroy a plant, Tokekuro used that uncer­tain­ty as an excuse not to do any­thing. And he and the oth­er exec­u­tives were just acquit­ted for tak­ing that approach to risk man­age­ment.

    So if Koizu­mi does­n’t suc­ceed in push­ing Japan towards denu­cleariza­tion and Japan does con­tin­ue oper­at­ing its fleet of nuclear plants, the exec­u­tives run­ning those plants now know that they prob­a­bly won’t be held legal­ly culpi­ble if their plants expe­ri­ence a cat­a­stroph­ic nat­ur­al dis­as­ter even if there’s evi­dence they were warned such a dis­as­ter could hap­pen and did noth­ing about it:

    The Guardian

    Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter: Japan­ese pow­er com­pa­ny chiefs cleared of neg­li­gence

    Three exec­u­tives at Tep­co acquit­ted, mark­ing the end of the only crim­i­nal action over the dis­as­ter

    Justin McCur­ry in Tokyo and agen­cies

    Thu 19 Sep 2019 00.36 EDT

    Three for­mer exec­u­tives at the com­pa­ny that runs the ruined Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant have been acquit­ted of fail­ing to pre­vent the March 2011 nuclear melt­down, in the only crim­i­nal action result­ing from the dis­as­ter.

    Tsune­hisa Kat­suma­ta, a for­mer chair­man of Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (Tep­co) and for­mer vice pres­i­dents Sakae Muto and Ichi­ro Takekuro, had apol­o­gised for the triple melt­down at the plant, but said they could not have fore­seen the mas­sive tsuna­mi that trig­gered the dis­as­ter.

    Pros­e­cu­tors had accused the for­mer exec­u­tives of fail­ing to act on infor­ma­tion that showed the risks to the plant from a major tsuna­mi.

    While no one is offi­cial­ly record­ed as hav­ing died as a direct result of the melt­down, the charges relat­ed to 44 elder­ly peo­ple who died dur­ing or after they were forcibly evac­u­at­ed from local hos­pi­tals.

    The defen­dants had all plead­ed not guilty to charges of pro­fes­sion­al neg­li­gence result­ing in death, argu­ing that the data avail­able to them before the dis­as­ter was unre­li­able.

    “It is dif­fi­cult to deal with issues that are uncer­tain and obscure,” Takekuro said dur­ing the tri­al at the Tokyo dis­trict court.

    Pros­e­cu­tors had demand­ed a five-year prison term for each of the men.

    Out­side the court, pro­test­ers voiced anger at the ver­dict. “I can­not accept this,” one woman said.

    Green­peace accused Japan’s legal sys­tem of fail­ing to pro­tect the right of tens of thou­sands of peo­ple affect­ed by the Fukushi­ma melt­down.

    Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear spe­cial­ist at Green­peace Ger­many, said a guilty ver­dict would have dealt a “dev­as­tat­ing blow” to Tep­co, the pro-nuclear gov­ern­ment of prime min­is­ter Shin­zo Abe and Japan’s nuclear indus­try.

    “It is there­fore per­haps not a sur­prise that the court has failed to rule based on the evi­dence,” Burnie, who is cur­rent­ly in Tokyo, said in a state­ment. “More than eight years after the start of this cat­a­stro­phe, Tep­co and the gov­ern­ment are still avoid­ing being held to full account for their decades of ignor­ing the sci­ence of nuclear risks.”

    The Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi plant suf­fered melt­downs in three of its six reac­tors after it was struck by a tsuna­mi on 11 March 2011. Waves reach­ing up to 14 metres (46 feet) in height knocked out the plant’s back­up pow­er sup­ply, caus­ing fuel inside the reac­tors to melt.

    Pros­e­cu­tors had argued that Kat­suma­ta, Muto and Takekuro should have under­stood the risk a huge tsuna­mi posed and had failed to take nec­es­sary safe­ty mea­sures.

    The men were present at meet­ings where experts warned of the threat posed by large tsunamis off the Fukushi­ma coast and had access to data and warn­ing that a tsuna­mi exceed­ing 10m (33ft) could trig­ger pow­er loss and a major dis­as­ter at the plant.

    In addi­tion, a Tep­co inter­nal study, based on a 2002 report by a respect­ed gov­ern­ment pan­el, con­clud­ed that a wave of up to 15.7m (52ft) could strike after a magnitude‑8.3 quake. The earth­quake that trig­gered the March 2011 tsuna­mi was record­ed as magnitude‑9.0.

    The tsuna­mi killed more than 18,000 peo­ple along Japan’s north-east coast, includ­ing Fukushi­ma. The nuclear melt­down sent plumes of radi­a­tion into the atmos­phere and forced the evac­u­a­tion of 160,000 peo­ple liv­ing near the plant, some of whom are still unable to return to their homes.

    Tep­co has said it will take 40 years to locate and remove the melt­ed fuel from the reac­tor cores, although some experts believe decom­mis­sion­ing could take longer.

    The gov­ern­ment has esti­mat­ed that the total cost of dis­man­tling the plant, decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ing sur­round­ing areas and com­pen­sat­ing vic­tims at about $200bn.

    ...

    Ini­tial­ly it appeared unlike­ly that the exec­u­tives would ever face crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings. Pros­e­cu­tors twice declined to pro­ceed with the case, cit­ing a lack of evi­dence and slim odds for a con­vic­tion.

    The case went to court, how­ev­er, after a judi­cial review pan­el com­pris­ing ordi­nary cit­i­zens ruled in 2015 that the three men should face tri­al.

    Hiroyu­ki Kawai, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing more than 5,700 Fukushi­ma res­i­dents who filed the crim­i­nal com­plaint against the for­mer exec­u­tives, said before the rul­ing that he expect­ed the legal bat­tle to last about a decade because the los­ing side would appeal.

    “This is only the begin­ning of a major bat­tle,” he said at a ral­ly. “Our ulti­mate goal is to erad­i­cate dan­ger­ous nuclear plants that have thrown many res­i­dents into despair.”

    ———

    “Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter: Japan­ese pow­er com­pa­ny chiefs cleared of neg­li­gence” by Justin McCur­ry in Tokyo and agen­cies; The Guardian; 09/19/2019

    “Tsune­hisa Kat­suma­ta, a for­mer chair­man of Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er (Tep­co) and for­mer vice pres­i­dents Sakae Muto and Ichi­ro Takekuro, had apol­o­gised for the triple melt­down at the plant, but said they could not have fore­seen the mas­sive tsuna­mi that trig­gered the dis­as­ter.”

    They could­n’t have fore­seen such a dis­as­ter. That was the suc­cess­ful legal defense used by these three TEPCO exec­u­tives. Suc­cess­ful in the face of evi­dence that they knew the risks of an earthquake/tsunami dis­as­ter crip­pling the Fukushi­ma plant because experts informed them of these risks years ago but they chose not to spend the resources to mit­i­gate those risks. The exec­u­tives suc­cess­ful­ly argued that the data avail­able to them was­n’t reli­able, with Takekuro lament­ing in court that, “It is dif­fi­cult to deal with issues that are uncer­tain and obscure.” And while it’s hard to argue with Takekuro on that point about the dif­fi­cul­ty of deal­ing with uncer­tain­ty, it’s hard to under­stand why exact­ly this was seen as a valid jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for not prepar­ing for uncer­tain risks when the risks are poten­tial­ly cat­a­stroph­ic in nature. If you’re man­ag­ing a nuclear pow­er plant you are deal­ing with all sorts of dif­fer­ent risks that are uncer­tain and osbcure. That’s their job, the ques­tion is whether or not it was crim­i­nal­ly neg­li­gent of them to use that uncer­tain­ty as an excuse to not spend the mon­ey to pre­pare for this kind of dis­as­ter. And the answer in this rul­ing is appar­ent­ly that it’s not con­sid­ered crim­i­nal­ly neg­li­gent for these exec­u­tives to have used that uncer­tain­ty as an excuse for not prepar­ing for a dis­as­ter experts were warn­ing them about:

    ...
    Pros­e­cu­tors had accused the for­mer exec­u­tives of fail­ing to act on infor­ma­tion that showed the risks to the plant from a major tsuna­mi.

    ...

    The defen­dants had all plead­ed not guilty to charges of pro­fes­sion­al neg­li­gence result­ing in death, argu­ing that the data avail­able to them before the dis­as­ter was unre­li­able.

    “It is dif­fi­cult to deal with issues that are uncer­tain and obscure,” Takekuro said dur­ing the tri­al at the Tokyo dis­trict court.

    Pros­e­cu­tors had demand­ed a five-year prison term for each of the men.

    ...

    Pros­e­cu­tors had argued that Kat­suma­ta, Muto and Takekuro should have under­stood the risk a huge tsuna­mi posed and had failed to take nec­es­sary safe­ty mea­sures.

    The men were present at meet­ings where experts warned of the threat posed by large tsunamis off the Fukushi­ma coast and had access to data and warn­ing that a tsuna­mi exceed­ing 10m (33ft) could trig­ger pow­er loss and a major dis­as­ter at the plant.

    In addi­tion, a Tep­co inter­nal study, based on a 2002 report by a respect­ed gov­ern­ment pan­el, con­clud­ed that a wave of up to 15.7m (52ft) could strike after a magnitude‑8.3 quake. The earth­quake that trig­gered the March 2011 tsuna­mi was record­ed as magnitude‑9.0.
    ...

    We’ll see how the case ends. There’s still the entire legal appeals process that has to play out. But it sure looks like the nuclear exec­u­tives in Japan were just giv­en a legal green light to con­tin­ue the kinds of cost/benefit analy­sis that helped put Japan in this pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion in the first place. Cost/benefit analy­sis that appar­ent­ly views the uncer­tain­ty as to whether or not there’s going to be a mas­sive earth­quake near a plant as an excuse not to pre­pare for that pos­si­bil­i­ty. Which is anoth­er rea­son Japan should prob­a­bly fol­low its new Envi­ron­ment Min­is­ter’s advice and get rid of its nuclear fleet ASAP.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 29, 2019, 8:13 pm
  9. The July 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are get­ting clos­er and clos­er. And means the the lin­ger­ing pub­lic safe­ty ques­tions about the parts of the games tak­ing place in Fukushi­ma are only get­ting more and more urgent. If there’s a big radi­a­tion prob­lem, there’s only about sev­en months left to fix it. That’s why the fol­low­ing arti­cle isn’t just alarm­ing, it’s urgent­ly alarm­ing: Green­peace was test­ing the Fukushi­ma area where the pub­lic is going to con­gre­gate for Olympic activ­i­ties and found radi­a­tion hot spots at lev­els 1700 times the pre-Fukushi­ma lev­els. Lev­els reached 71 Siev­erts, which is over 300 times the 0.23 Seivert lev­el the gov­ern­ment pledged to main­tain in Fukushi­ma Olympic areas. These hot spots includ­ed a cor­ner of a park­ing area adja­cent to J‑Village, the sports com­plex where the Olympic activ­i­ties are going to take place, includ­ing the start of the Olympic torch relay. Yep, the torch relay starts in Fukushi­ma and the cor­ner of a park­ing area adja­cent to the sports com­plex had seri­ous radi­a­tion hot spots. Also recall that base­ball, soft­ball, and soc­cer have been added to the list of Olympic events Fukushi­ma. Fukushi­ma is going to be an impor­tant Olympic loca­tion.

    Green­peace esti­mat­ed that pay­ing stay­ing near the sta­di­um could receive radi­a­tion dos­es in a sin­gle day that exceed the aver­age annu­al radi­a­tion expo­sure. J‑Village was the makeshift base for the melt­down cri­sis response for the past eight years before get­ting turned back into a sta­di­um for the games back in April. So peo­ple have been work­ing around there for years. This hot spot was lit­er­al­ly next to the base of the clean up efforts for the past eight years. And that clean up base got con­vert­ed into an Olympic sta­di­um.

    The Green­peace report has been con­firmed by the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment, which told the pub­lic TEPCO is inves­ti­gat­ing why the hot spots exist­ed and was­n’t detect­ed before. So it sounds like if Green­peace had­n’t done this study, this hot spot could have been there in a pub­lic park­ing area for the launch of the Olympic torch relay. And there’s just sev­en months left to clean up the hot spots Green­peace found and find the rest they missed and TEPCO and the gov­ern­ment have been miss­ing all along:

    CNN

    Radi­a­tion hot spots found at 2020 Olympics torch relay venue near site of nuclear dis­as­ter, Green­peace claims

    By Eric Che­ung and Yoko Wakat­su­ki,
    Updat­ed 6:32 AM ET, Thu Decem­ber 5, 2019

    Tokyo (CNN)High-level radi­a­tion hot spots can be detect­ed at a sports com­plex in Japan’s north­east­ern Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture, where the 2020 Tokyo Olympics torch relay will kick off next year, accord­ing to a report by envi­ron­men­tal group Green­peace.

    The study, pub­lished on Wednes­day, revealed that radi­a­tion lev­els around the J‑Village sports camp were over 1,700 times high­er than pri­or to the 2011 mas­sive earth­quake and tsuna­mi that trig­gered the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear dis­as­ter.

    J‑Village is home to a 5,000-capacity sta­di­um, 11 soc­cer fields, a gym, swim­ming pool, and hotel and con­fer­ence cen­ter. It is around 12 miles (20 kilo­me­ters) south of the now-dis­abled nuclear plant.

    Radi­a­tion lev­els at the com­plex reached as high as 71 microsiev­erts per hour at the hot spots, even though the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment has pledged to keep the read­ing to below 0.23 microsiev­erts per hour, the Green­peace report said.

    The J‑Village sports com­plex is locat­ed around 12 miles south of the dis­abled Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear pow­er plant.

    One mil­lion microsiev­erts is equal to 1 siev­ert, the unit used to mea­sure radi­a­tion and quan­ti­fy the amount absorbed by the body.

    Accord­ing to the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency, an aver­age per­son receives nat­ur­al expo­sure to radi­a­tion of 2,400 microsiev­erts a year, but a very large dose may result in height­ened risks of long-term health effects like can­cer.

    Using Green­peace’s cal­cu­la­tions, peo­ple stay­ing near the sta­di­um could be exposed to a greater amount of radi­a­tion in just over a day than they would nat­u­ral­ly expe­ri­ence in a year.

    Pub­lic health con­cern

    Kauze Suzu­ki, ener­gy cam­paign­er at Green­peace Japan, said while the gen­er­al radi­a­tion lev­els at the sta­di­um remained low, the hot spots were con­cern­ing because they were detect­ed in areas vis­it­ed by a large num­ber of peo­ple.

    “These radi­a­tion hot spots are of sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic health con­cern,” he said, adding the group called on the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment to “act urgent­ly and to ini­ti­ate imme­di­ate decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion.”

    In March 2011, the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi nuclear plant, about 130 miles (210km) north­east of Tokyo, was dam­aged by a tsuna­mi result­ing from a mag­ni­tude 9.0 earth­quake that sparked reac­tor melt­downs and leaked high lev­els of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al into the sea and air.

    Decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work

    In response to the report, Japan’s envi­ron­ment min­istry said it had con­duct­ed fur­ther decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work and would enhance radi­a­tion mon­i­tor­ing at the sta­di­um, where the Japan­ese leg of the Olympic torch relay will start on March 26, 2020.

    Speak­ing to CNN on Thurs­day, a deputy coun­selor at Japan’s Min­istry of the Envi­ron­ment, Kishiko Yokoya­ma, said the gov­ern­ment has worked with the Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny (TEPCO) — which owned the nuclear plant — to decon­t­a­m­i­nate the area.

    The radi­a­tion was found in a cor­ner of a park­ing lot adja­cent to the J‑Village,” she said. “TEPCO is inves­ti­gat­ing why the high radi­a­tion lev­el was found in that spot.”

    She added the gov­ern­ment would enhance mon­i­tor­ing of radi­a­tion lev­els at the sta­di­um to ensure the safe­ty of ath­letes and spec­ta­tors.

    ...

    In a state­ment, orga­niz­ers of the Games said they were wait­ing to hear the result of the inves­ti­ga­tion, and have been work­ing with the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment to ensure the even­t’s suc­cess.

    The state­ment said the Olympic torch relay would be “a grand start for us and we would like to coor­di­nate with rel­e­vant par­ties to con­tin­ue the prepa­ra­tion.”

    ————

    “Radi­a­tion hot spots found at 2020 Olympics torch relay venue near site of nuclear dis­as­ter, Green­peace claims” by Eric Che­ung and Yoko Wakat­su­ki; CNN; 12/05/2019

    “Using Green­peace’s cal­cu­la­tions, peo­ple stay­ing near the sta­di­um could be exposed to a greater amount of radi­a­tion in just over a day than they would nat­u­ral­ly expe­ri­ence in a year.”

    It’s quite the loca­tion to start the torch relay. Choos­ing Fukushi­ma as the start­ing point for the Olympic torch relay may have seemed like a great way to show­case the progress made on the cleanup when it was cho­sen but with sev­en months it was up to Green­peace to find the dan­ger­ous­ly high radi­a­tion hot spots that elud­ed the detec­tion efforts of the gov­ern­ment and TEPCO. That’s not some­thing you want to show­case. And it does­n’t sound like it would have only impact­ed peo­ple who parked near the cor­ner of the park­ing area. It was impact­ing the gen­er­al area:

    ...
    Kauze Suzu­ki, ener­gy cam­paign­er at Green­peace Japan, said while the gen­er­al radi­a­tion lev­els at the sta­di­um remained low, the hot spots were con­cern­ing because they were detect­ed in areas vis­it­ed by a large num­ber of peo­ple.

    “These radi­a­tion hot spots are of sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic health con­cern,” he said, adding the group called on the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment to “act urgent­ly and to ini­ti­ate imme­di­ate decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion.”

    ...

    In response to the report, Japan’s envi­ron­ment min­istry said it had con­duct­ed fur­ther decon­t­a­m­i­na­tion work and would enhance radi­a­tion mon­i­tor­ing at the sta­di­um, where the Japan­ese leg of the Olympic torch relay will start on March 26, 2020.

    Speak­ing to CNN on Thurs­day, a deputy coun­selor at Japan’s Min­istry of the Envi­ron­ment, Kishiko Yokoya­ma, said the gov­ern­ment has worked with the Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny (TEPCO) — which owned the nuclear plant — to decon­t­a­m­i­nate the area.

    The radi­a­tion was found in a cor­ner of a park­ing lot adja­cent to the J‑Village,” she said. “TEPCO is inves­ti­gat­ing why the high radi­a­tion lev­el was found in that spot.”

    She added the gov­ern­ment would enhance mon­i­tor­ing of radi­a­tion lev­els at the sta­di­um to ensure the safe­ty of ath­letes and spec­ta­tors.
    ...

    So as we can see, there remain quite a few major ques­tions about how safe Fukushi­ma’s J‑Village sports com­plex will actu­al­ly be when the games begin in July with the start of the Olympic torch relay race there.

    And then there’s the now urgent ques­tion about the expo­sure of all the peo­ple who have been work­ing on prepar­ing the J‑Village so far and dur­ing the eight years it was the clean up response head­quar­ters. How old is that hot spot and how many years worth of radi­a­tion expo­sure has it been inflict­ing on the peo­ple already work­ing there? It was lit­er­al­ly a hot spot next to the for­mer base of the clean up efforts. It’s kind of the worst sign pos­si­ble. So that’s how the Fukushi­ma Olympic prepa­ra­tions are going.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 8, 2019, 11:09 pm
  10. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approach­es and more atten­tion is (hope­ful­ly) focused on the ongo­ing severe radi­a­tion dan­gers from Fukushi­ma, here’s a reminder that Fukushi­ma isn’t the only loca­tion that risks becom­ing a per­ma­nent source of radi­a­tion leak­ing into the Pacif­ic Ocean: The Runit Dome, con­crete tomb built by the US to con­tain the radioac­tive mate­ri­als gen­er­at­ed by years of Cold War nuclear test­ing on the Mar­shall Islands, is leak­ing and increas­ing­ly threat­ened by the ris­ing seas and stronger storms that come with cli­mate change. In addi­tion, tons of radioac­tive soil from Neva­da nuclear test­ing sites were also secret­ly placed in this dome. Oh, and it turns out the con­t­a­m­i­na­tion from dozens of bio­log­i­cal war­fare exper­i­ments involv­ing vir­u­lent bac­te­ria are also part of the waste site. So that’s hap­pen­ing. The Los Ange­les Times and Colom­bia Uni­ver­si­ty School of Jour­nal­ism had a team look into the issue of the Mar­shall Island’s radi­a­tion cleanup chal­lenges and pub­lished a big arti­cle about it back in Novem­ber. It’s a depress­ing arti­cle.

    Even worse, the pol­lu­tion lev­els in the area around the Runit Dome are already so high the sit­u­a­tion basi­cal­ly can’t get worse. That’s the con­clu­sion from Ter­ry Hamil­ton, a researcher at the Lawrence Liv­er­more Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry and the cur­rent Depart­ment of Ener­gy point per­son on assess­ing the Mar­shall Islands’ radioac­tive dan­gers. At a meet­ing back in May, Hamil­ton told an audi­ence of offi­cials that Runit Dome was already suck­ing in water and releas­ing pol­lu­tion as it bobbed with the tides, but that it’s already so pol­lut­ed the leaks don’t real­ly mat­ter. At the same time, Hamil­ton is assert­ing that there’s no cause for health con­cerns for peo­ple liv­ing in the area, which is rais­ing con­cerns among the locals that this is rhetor­i­cal set up for allow­ing the US to con­tin­ue neglect­ing its cleanup oblig­a­tions. He’s basi­cal­ly argu­ing that the radioac­tive sub­stances leak­ing out are safe for because they’re soak­ing into the ground. Back in 2012, Hamil­ton was warn­ing that plu­to­ni­um could leak out of the dome, but today Hamil­ton asserts that even if plu­to­ni­um does leak out it’s fine because it’s only a health con­cern when air­born or intro­duced to the body via a cut in the skin. It’s the kind of com­ments that are osten­si­bly sup­posed to reas­sure the pop­u­la­tion of Mar­shall Islands but is of course hav­ing the oppo­site effect because it’s sound­ing like this Cold War nuclear and bio­log­i­cal waste site is poised to con­tin­ue poi­son­ing the Mar­shall Islands while the US con­tin­ues pre­tend­ing like it’s not a hap­pen­ing and not a prob­lem if it is hap­pen­ing.

    Ok, first, here’s an arti­cle from back in July about a study that found spots on the Mar­shall Islands that were more radioac­tive than Cher­nobyl and Fukushi­ma, in some places 10 to 1,000 times more radioac­tive. As the arti­cle notes, while only 67 of the 1,054 total nuclear tests car­ried out by the US from 1946 to 1992 took place on the Mar­shall Islands, they with­stood more than half the total ener­gy yield­ed from all US nuclear tests dur­ing that time. In oth­er words, the nuclear tests the US con­duct­ed on the Mar­shall Islands were the most mas­sive tests ever done by the US. The researchers warned that the radi­a­tion lev­els on Runit Island in Enew­tak atoll (where the Runit Dome exists) were so high that there should be no use of the island, which the same island that the top Depart­ment of Ener­gy sci­en­tist work­ing on the sit­u­a­tion claims is both so con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed it does­n’t mat­ter if gets more con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed but also per­fect­ly safe for humans in the sec­ond arti­cle below. So a sit­u­a­tion arguably worse than Cher­nobyl or Fukushi­ma is already leak­ing into the Pacif­ic ocean and it’s only going to get worse and the Depart­ment of Ener­gy top sci­en­tist is tell us it’s all large­ly ok and it does­n’t real­ly mat­ter if all the radioac­tive stuff leaks out. which is kind of a worst case sce­nario:

    CNN

    Parts of the Mar­shall Islands are more radioac­tive than Cher­nobyl and Fukushi­ma, study finds

    By Helen Regan
    Updat­ed 5:13 AM ET, Wed July 17, 2019

    (CNN) Radi­a­tion lev­els across parts of the Mar­shall Islands in the Pacif­ic Ocean, where the Unit­ed States test­ed nuclear bombs dur­ing the Cold War, are high­er than areas con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed by the Cher­nobyl and Fukushi­ma nuclear dis­as­ters, new research sug­gests.

    From 1946 to 1958, the US gov­ern­ment con­duct­ed 67 nuclear tests on sev­er­al small islands — called atolls — in the Mar­shall Islands.

    The US gov­ern­ment relo­cat­ed entire pop­u­la­tions and exposed oth­ers to can­cer and dis­ease-caus­ing radi­a­tion.

    More than 60 years lat­er, researchers at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty say radi­a­tion on four of these atolls remains alarm­ing­ly high — in some areas ten to 1,000 times high­er than radioac­tive areas near the Cher­nobyl pow­er­plant, which explod­ed in 1986, and Fukushi­ma, where an earth­quake and tsuna­mi caused a nuclear dis­as­ter in 2011.

    Ana­lyz­ing soil sam­ples, researchers found con­cen­tra­tions of ameri­ci­um-241, cesium-137, plu­to­ni­um-238, and plutonium-239,240 on 11 islands across the four north­ern atolls.

    The pop­u­la­tion of the Mar­shall Islands is rel­a­tive­ly small, with just over 75,000 peo­ple liv­ing on the chains as of July 2018. It is a com­bi­na­tion of islands and atolls, which are usu­al­ly cir­cu­lar islands ring­ing a wide lagoon or coral reef.

    Some of the atolls and islands have just a few hun­dred peo­ple on them. Enew­tak Atoll was home to just 664 peo­ple in the 2011 cen­sus.

    Enew­tak was one of two atolls, along with Biki­ni, which were described by researchers as “ground zero” for the nuclear tests.

    While a frac­tion of the 1,054 total nuclear tests car­ried out by the US from 1946 to 1992 took place on the Mar­shall Islands, the coral atolls with­stood more than half the total ener­gy yield­ed from all US nuclear tests dur­ing that time, the researchers said.

    Biki­ni was the site of the US’s largest hydro­gen bomb test known as Cas­tle Bra­vo in 1954 — the blast was 1,000 times as pow­er­ful as those dropped on Japan dur­ing World War II.

    Biki­ni Island was found to have the high­est lev­els of radi­a­tion of areas stud­ied, with the report’s authors rec­om­mend­ing that Biki­ni remains unin­hab­it­ed, owing to its high lev­els of radi­a­tion.

    Res­i­dents of Biki­ni atoll were forcibly relo­cat­ed in 1946 and were shipped around to sev­er­al dif­fer­ent islands due to unsus­tain­able food and water sources. Researchers said some Bikini­ans briefly returned to Biki­ni Island in the late 1960s after the US gov­ern­ment declared the island safe for reset­tle­ment, but soon left due to high lev­els of radi­a­tion expo­sure.

    Else­where, researchers said that the pres­ence of radioac­tive iso­topes on Runit Island in Enew­tak atoll was “a real con­cern” and rec­om­mend­ed that peo­ple should be warned “against any use of the island.”

    Fol­low­ing US occu­pa­tion dur­ing World War II, the islands became a US ter­ri­to­ry until the late 70s. It is now an inde­pen­dent nation but has a Com­pact of Free Asso­ci­a­tion with the US.

    Accord­ing to the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, expo­sure to very high lev­els of radi­a­tion, such as being close to an atom­ic blast, can cause skin burns and acute radi­a­tion syn­drome, known as radi­a­tion sick­ness. It can also result in long-term health effects such as can­cer and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

    The report also rais­es con­cerns that wash-off of exist­ing iso­topes into the ocean would be exac­er­bat­ed by ris­ing sea lev­els and risked con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing the island’s lagoon and the sur­round­ing ocean.

    Sev­er­al hun­dred peo­ple cur­rent­ly live on Enewe­tak Island in the south of the atoll after a mas­sive radioac­tive cleanup in 1980.

    The oth­er two atolls — Ron­ge­lap and Utirik — were sig­nif­i­cant­ly affect­ed by the radia­tive fall­out from the Bra­vo test.

    In Ron­ge­lap atoll, researchers found that north­ern Naen island had the high­est lev­els of exter­nal gam­ma radi­a­tion of all islands exam­ined in the study — well above the legal expo­sure lim­it agreed between the Repub­lic of the Mar­shall Islands and the US. Soil sam­ples on Naen were also found to have high con­cen­tra­tions of radioac­tive iso­topes.

    An untest­ed the­o­ry for the high lev­els of radi­a­tion on Naen could be that the island may have been used as a dump­ing ground for some of the waste from the cleanup on Ron­ge­lap, researchers sug­gest.

    ...

    ———-

    “Parts of the Mar­shall Islands are more radioac­tive than Cher­nobyl and Fukushi­ma, study finds” by Helen Regan; CNN; 07/17/2019

    “More than 60 years lat­er, researchers at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty say radi­a­tion on four of these atolls remains alarm­ing­ly high — in some areas ten to 1,000 times high­er than radioac­tive areas near the Cher­nobyl pow­er­plant, which explod­ed in 1986, and Fukushi­ma, where an earth­quake and tsuna­mi caused a nuclear dis­as­ter in 2011.”

    10 to 1000 times high­er lev­els of radi­a­tion than the radioac­tive areas near Cher­nobyl and Fukushi­ma. That’s pret­ty radioac­tive, but maybe what we should expect from the largest nuclear tests ever done by the US. No one lives on Biki­ni Atoll, but 664 peo­ple were liv­ing on Enew­tak Atoll in the 2011 cen­sus. Hope­ful­ly none of them live in Runit Island which is part of that atoll because that’s the island the researchers sug­gest should remain unin­hab­it­ed and not used for any­thing:

    ...
    Some of the atolls and islands have just a few hun­dred peo­ple on them. Enew­tak Atoll was home to just 664 peo­ple in the 2011 cen­sus.

    Enew­tak was one of two atolls, along with Biki­ni, which were described by researchers as “ground zero” for the nuclear tests.

    While a frac­tion of the 1,054 total nuclear tests car­ried out by the US from 1946 to 1992 took place on the Mar­shall Islands, the coral atolls with­stood more than half the total ener­gy yield­ed from all US nuclear tests dur­ing that time, the researchers said.

    ...

    Else­where, researchers said that the pres­ence of radioac­tive iso­topes on Runit Island in Enew­tak atoll was “a real con­cern” and rec­om­mend­ed that peo­ple should be warned “against any use of the island.”

    ...

    The report also rais­es con­cerns that wash-off of exist­ing iso­topes into the ocean would be exac­er­bat­ed by ris­ing sea lev­els and risked con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing the island’s lagoon and the sur­round­ing ocean.
    ...

    And the Ron­ge­lap and Ultirik Atolls, where fall­out from the mas­sive tests rained down, are also heav­i­ly impact­ed and the high radi­a­tion lev­els on island of Naen may be due to a sus­pect­ed dump­ing ground from the ini­tial cleanup of Ron­ge­lap. It’s a reminder that part of the cleanup effort the islands need involves clean­ing up from the pre­vi­ous cleanup effort that most just con­sist­ed of bury­ing the prob­lem:

    ...
    The oth­er two atolls — Ron­ge­lap and Utirik — were sig­nif­i­cant­ly affect­ed by the radia­tive fall­out from the Bra­vo test.

    In Ron­ge­lap atoll, researchers found that north­ern Naen island had the high­est lev­els of exter­nal gam­ma radi­a­tion of all islands exam­ined in the study — well above the legal expo­sure lim­it agreed between the Repub­lic of the Mar­shall Islands and the US. Soil sam­ples on Naen were also found to have high con­cen­tra­tions of radioac­tive iso­topes.

    An untest­ed the­o­ry for the high lev­els of radi­a­tion on Naen could be that the island may have been used as a dump­ing ground for some of the waste from the cleanup on Ron­ge­lap, researchers sug­gest.
    ...

    So that all sounds like a very real night­mare sit­u­a­tion for the Mar­shall Islands. Next, here’s the Los Ange­les Times arti­cle about the sta­tus of the Mar­shall Islands cleanup. It’s basi­cal­ly a dis­as­ter, although if we lis­ten to the assess­ment of the Depart­ment of Ener­gy’s top sci­en­tist of the job, Ter­ry Hamil­ton, there’s no real risk to any­one’s health because it’s all leak­ing into the ground and not float­ing around in the air. It’s not exact­ly reas­sur­ing.

    The arti­cle also talks about the bio­log­i­cal war­fare exper­i­ments con­duct­ed on the island of vir­u­lent dead­ly bac­te­ria. Which means vir­u­lent dead­ly bac­te­ria has been exposed to extra lev­els of radi­a­tion for decades on these islands, which is a reminder that this night­mare sit­u­a­tion is a sci-fi hor­ror night­mare sit­u­a­tion.

    As the arti­cle also notes, the Runit Dome con­tains 130 tons of soil from atom­ic test­ing grounds that was secret­ly placed there by the US gov­ern­ment. So the radi­a­tion that needs to be cleaned up prop­er­ly, or else will leak out of the dome and into the Pacif­ic, includes all that extra radioac­tive mate­r­i­al from Neva­da. In oth­er words, part of the prob­lem the US is neglect­ing and deny­ing is the prob­lem it secret­ly import­ed and dumped there that the Mar­shall Islands pop­u­lace is only learn­ing about now:

    The Los Ange­les Times

    How the U.S. betrayed the Mar­shall Islands, kin­dling the next nuclear dis­as­ter

    By Susanne Rust
    Nov. 10, 2019 | REPORTING FROM MAJURO, MARSHALL ISLANDS

    Five thou­sand miles west of Los Ange­les and 500 miles north of the equa­tor, on a far-flung spit of white coral sand in the cen­tral Pacif­ic, a mas­sive, aging and weath­ered con­crete dome bobs up and down with the tide.

    Here in the Mar­shall Islands, Runit Dome holds more than 3.1 mil­lion cubic feet — or 35 Olympic-sized swim­ming pools — of U.S.-produced radioac­tive soil and debris, includ­ing lethal amounts of plu­to­ni­um. Nowhere else has the Unit­ed States sad­dled anoth­er coun­try with so much of its nuclear waste, a prod­uct of its Cold War atom­ic test­ing pro­gram.

    Between 1946 and 1958, the Unit­ed States det­o­nat­ed 67 nuclear bombs on, in and above the Mar­shall Islands — vapor­iz­ing whole islands, carv­ing craters into its shal­low lagoons and exil­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple from their homes.

    U.S. author­i­ties lat­er cleaned up con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil on Enewe­tak Atoll, where the Unit­ed States not only det­o­nat­ed the bulk of its weapons tests but, as The Times has learned, also con­duct­ed a dozen bio­log­i­cal weapons tests and dumped 130 tons of soil from an irra­di­at­ed Neva­da test­ing site. It then deposit­ed the atoll’s most lethal debris and soil into the dome.

    Now the con­crete cof­fin, which locals call “the Tomb,” is at risk of col­laps­ing from ris­ing seas and oth­er effects of cli­mate change. Tides are creep­ing up its sides, advanc­ing high­er every year as dis­tant glac­i­ers melt and ocean waters rise.

    Offi­cials in the Mar­shall Islands have lob­bied the U.S. gov­ern­ment for help, but Amer­i­can offi­cials have declined, say­ing the dome is on Mar­shallese land and there­fore the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the Mar­shallese gov­ern­ment.

    “I’m like, how can it [the dome] be ours?” Hil­da Heine, the pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of the Mar­shall Islands, said in an inter­view in her pres­i­den­tial office in Sep­tem­ber. “We don’t want it. We didn’t build it. The garbage inside is not ours. It’s theirs.”

    To many in the Repub­lic of the Mar­shall Islands, Runit Dome is the most vis­i­ble man­i­fes­ta­tion of the Unit­ed States’ nuclear lega­cy, a sym­bol of the sac­ri­fices the Mar­shallese made for U.S. secu­ri­ty, and the bro­ken promis­es they received in return.

    They blame the Unit­ed States and oth­er indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries for glob­al cli­mate change and sea lev­el rise, which threat­en to sub­merge vast swaths of this island nation’s 29 low-lying atolls.

    “More than any oth­er place, the Mar­shall Islands is a vic­tim of the two great­est threats fac­ing human­i­ty — nuclear weapons and cli­mate change,” said Michael Ger­rard, a legal schol­ar at Colum­bia University’s law school. “The Unit­ed States is entire­ly respon­si­ble for the nuclear test­ing there, and its emis­sions have con­tributed more to cli­mate change than those from any oth­er coun­try.”

    Over the last 15 months, a report­ing team from the Los Ange­les Times and Colum­bia University’s Grad­u­ate School of Jour­nal­ism made five trips to the Mar­shall Islands, where they doc­u­ment­ed exten­sive coral bleach­ing, fish kills and algae blooms — as well as major dis­ease out­breaks, includ­ing the nation’s largest record­ed epi­dem­ic of dengue fever. They inter­viewed folk singers who lost their voic­es to thy­roid can­cers and spent time in Arkansas, Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, where tens of thou­sands of Mar­shallese have migrat­ed to escape pover­ty and an uncer­tain future.

    Mar­shallese lead­ers acknowl­edge that Amer­i­ca doesn’t bear full respon­si­bil­i­ty for their nation’s dis­tress. But they say the Unit­ed States has failed to take own­er­ship of the envi­ron­men­tal cat­a­stro­phe it left behind, and they claim U.S. author­i­ties have repeat­ed­ly deceived them about the mag­ni­tude and extent of that dev­as­ta­tion.

    A Times review of thou­sands of doc­u­ments, and inter­views with U.S. and Mar­shallese offi­cials, found that the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment with­held key pieces of infor­ma­tion about the dome’s con­tents and its weapons test­ing pro­gram before the two coun­tries signed a com­pact in 1986 releas­ing the U.S. gov­ern­ment from fur­ther lia­bil­i­ty. One exam­ple: The Unit­ed States did not tell the Mar­shallese that in 1958, it shipped 130 tons of soil from its atom­ic test­ing grounds in Neva­da to the Mar­shall Islands.

    U.S. author­i­ties also didn’t inform peo­ple in Enewe­tak, where the waste site is locat­ed, that they’d con­duct­ed a dozen bio­log­i­cal weapons tests in the atoll, includ­ing exper­i­ments with an aerosolized bac­te­ria designed to kill ene­my troops.

    U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy experts are encour­ag­ing the Mar­shallese to move back to oth­er parts of Enewe­tak, where 650 now live, after being relo­cat­ed dur­ing the U.S. nuclear tests dur­ing the Cold War. But many Mar­shallese lead­ers no longer trust U.S. assur­ances of safe­ty.

    “We didn’t know the Runit Dome waste dump would crack and leak…. We didn’t know about cli­mate change,” said Jack Ading, a Mar­shallese sen­a­tor from Enewe­tak Atoll. “We weren’t nuclear sci­en­tists who could inde­pen­dent­ly ver­i­fy what the U.S. was telling us. We were just island peo­ple who des­per­ate­ly want­ed to return home.”

    Adding to the alarm is a study pub­lished this year by a team of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty sci­en­tists show­ing lev­els of radi­a­tion in some spots in Enewe­tak and oth­er parts of the Mar­shall Islands that rival those found near Cher­nobyl and Fukushi­ma.

    Such dis­cov­er­ies could give Mar­shallese lead­ers fresh ammu­ni­tion to chal­lenge the 1986 com­pact, which is up for rene­go­ti­a­tion in 2023, and also to press the Unit­ed States to hon­or prop­er­ty and health claims ordered by an inter­na­tion­al tri­bunal.

    The tri­bunal, estab­lished by the two coun­tries in 1988, con­clud­ed the Unit­ed States should pay $2.3 bil­lion in claims, but Con­gress and U.S courts have refused. Doc­u­ments show the U.S. paid just $4 mil­lion.

    The U.S. posi­tion is that it has already paid more than $600 mil­lion for the reset­tle­ment, reha­bil­i­ta­tion and radi­a­tion-relat­ed health­care costs of com­mu­ni­ties affect­ed by the nuclear test­ing, said Karen Stew­art, the U.S. ambas­sador to the Repub­lic of the Mar­shall Islands. She said infla­tion brings the num­ber clos­er to $1 bil­lion.

    “The Unit­ed States rec­og­nizes the effects of its test­ing and has accept­ed and act­ed on its respon­si­bil­i­ty to the peo­ple of the Repub­lic of the Mar­shall Islands,” Stew­art said in a state­ment.

    In Sep­tem­ber, the Mar­shallese par­lia­ment, the Niti­jela, approved a nation­al nuclear strat­e­gy, which calls for a risk analy­sis and envi­ron­men­tal sur­vey of Runit Dome, an assess­ment of legal options for its cleanup and a new attempt to secure the $2.3 bil­lion ordered by the tri­bunal.

    Last month, Mar­shall Islands law­mak­ers called on the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to reduce green­house gas­es caus­ing what they declared to be a “nation­al cli­mate cri­sis.”

    Chi­na is tak­ing an increas­ing inter­est in the Mar­shall Islands and oth­er Pacif­ic island nations, in part because of their strate­gic loca­tion and Beijing’s inter­est in reduc­ing U.S. influ­ence in the region. Those inroads by Chi­na have alarmed U.S. lead­ers, forc­ing them to pay more atten­tion to the griev­ances of Mar­shallese lead­ers such as Heine.

    “This height­ened inter­est,” Heine said, “should bode well for us.”

    Some of the atolls and islands have just a few hun­dred peo­ple on them. Enew­tak Atoll was home to just 664 peo­ple in the 2011 cen­sus.
    the next day, it dou­bles back.

    As it approach­es Majuro, the blue-scape of the ocean is bro­ken by an oblong neck­lace of white-coral-beached islands, dot­ted with coconut, pan­danus and bread­fruit trees.

    The Mar­shall Islands’ atolls are the rem­nants of ancient vol­ca­noes that once pro­trud­ed from these cerulean seas. They were set­tled 3,000 years ago by the ances­tors of present-day Mar­shallese who crossed the ocean on boats from Asia and Poly­ne­sia. For Amer­i­can offi­cials in the mid-1940s, this 750,000-square-mile expanse of ocean, near­ly five times larg­er than the state of Cal­i­for­nia, must have seemed like a near-per­fect spot to test their grow­ing atom­ic arse­nal.

    “The Mar­shall Islands were select­ed as ground zero for nuclear test­ing pre­cise­ly because colo­nial nar­ra­tives por­trayed the islands as small, remote and unim­por­tant,” said Autumn Bor­d­ner, a for­mer researcher at Colum­bia University’s K=1 Project, which has focused on the lega­cy of nuclear test­ing in the Mar­shall Islands, and now a research fel­low in ocean law and pol­i­cy at UC Berkeley’s Cen­ter for Law, Ener­gy & the Envi­ron­ment.

    Ner­je Joseph, 72, was a wit­ness to the largest ther­monu­clear bomb test­ed by the Unit­ed States: the Cas­tle Bra­vo det­o­na­tion. She was 7 years old at the time, liv­ing with her fam­i­ly in Ron­ge­lap Atoll, 100 miles east of Biki­ni Atoll — a trop­i­cal lagoon com­man­deered for nuclear test­ing.

    On March 1, 1954, Joseph recalls wak­ing up and see­ing two suns ris­ing over Ron­ge­lap. First there was the usu­al sun, top­ping the hori­zon in the east and bring­ing light and warmth to the trop­i­cal lagoon near her home. Then there was anoth­er sun, ris­ing from the west­ern sky. It light­ed up the hori­zon, shin­ing orange at first, then turn­ing pink, then dis­ap­pear­ing as if it had nev­er been there at all.

    Joseph and the 63 oth­ers on Ron­ge­lap had no idea what they had just wit­nessed. Hours lat­er, the fall­out from Cas­tle Bra­vo rained down like snow on their homes, con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing their skin, water and food.

    Accord­ing to Joseph and gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments, U.S. author­i­ties came to evac­u­ate the Ron­ge­lapese two days lat­er. By that time, some islanders were begin­ning to suf­fer from acute radi­a­tion poi­son­ing — their hair fell out in clumps, their skin was burned, and they were vom­it­ing.

    The Cas­tle Bra­vo test and oth­ers in the Mar­shall Islands helped the U.S. estab­lish the cred­i­bil­i­ty of its nuclear arse­nal as it raced against its Cold War adver­sary, the Sovi­et Union, to devel­op new atom­ic weapons. But the test­ing came at a hor­ri­ble price; Joseph and oth­er Mar­shallese end­ed up becom­ing human guinea pigs for U.S. radi­a­tion research.

    Three years after Cas­tle Bra­vo, U.S. author­i­ties encour­aged Joseph, her fam­i­ly and her neigh­bors to return to Ron­ge­lap.

    U.S. gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments from the time show that offi­cials weighed the poten­tial haz­ards of radi­a­tion expo­sure against “the cur­rent low morale of the natives” and a “risk of an onset of indo­lence.” Ulti­mate­ly they decid­ed to go for­ward with the reset­tle­ment so researchers could study the effects of lin­ger­ing radi­a­tion on human beings.

    “Data of this type has nev­er been avail­able,” Mer­rill Eisen­bud, a U.S offi­cial with the Atom­ic Ener­gy Com­mis­sion, said at a Jan­u­ary 1956 meet­ing of the agency’s Biol­o­gy and Med­i­cine Com­mit­tee. “While it is true that these peo­ple do not live the way that West­ern­ers do, civ­i­lized peo­ple, it is nonethe­less also true that they are more like us than the mice.”

    The reset­tle­ment proved cat­a­stroph­ic for the peo­ple of Ron­ge­lap. Can­cer cas­es, mis­car­riages and defor­mi­ties mul­ti­plied. Ten years lat­er, in 1967, 17 of the 19 chil­dren who were younger than 10 and on the island the day Bra­vo explod­ed had devel­oped thy­roid dis­or­ders and growths. One child died of leukemia.

    In 1985, the peo­ple of Ron­ge­lap asked Green­peace to evac­u­ate them again after the Unit­ed States refused to relo­cate them or to acknowl­edge their expo­sure, accord­ing to gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments and news reports from the time.

    Joseph, who had her thy­roid removed because of her radi­a­tion expo­sure, has spent near­ly sev­en decades tak­ing dai­ly thy­roid med­ica­tion, enabling her body to pro­duce hor­mones it oth­er­wise would not gen­er­ate.

    A qui­et, dig­ni­fied woman with thick, wavy gray hair, Joseph lives in a cin­der-block home in Majuro, the cap­i­tal, a set­ting far dif­fer­ent from the pris­tine atoll where she grew up.

    Com­posed of three low-lying islands con­nect­ed by one flood-prone road, Majuro is long and nar­row and home to rough­ly half the pop­u­la­tion of the Mar­shall Islands, about 28,000 peo­ple. Taxis crawl the length of this lone road, fit­ting as many rid­ers into their vehi­cles as they can accom­mo­date. Vis­i­tors opt­ing to walk are encour­aged to car­ry long sticks to beat away packs of fer­al dogs that roam the streets.

    Joseph says she miss­es her home, but she knows she may nev­er go back.

    “We had a one­ness when we lived on Ron­ge­lap,” she said of her child­hood. “We worked togeth­er, we ate togeth­er, we played togeth­er. That has been lost.”

    The lega­cy of the test­ing pro­gram is most evi­dent at Enewe­tak, an atoll that took the brunt of the Unit­ed States’ late-stage nuclear det­o­na­tions before an inter­na­tion­al ban on atmos­pher­ic test­ing in 1963.

    A string of 40 islands to the west of Biki­ni, Enewe­tak was once a post­card-per­fect ring of coral reefs, white-sand beach­es and coconut trees, where rough­ly 450 dri-Enewe­tak and dri-Enje­bi — the two clans that lived in the atoll — gath­ered bread­fruit and pan­danus, and har­vest­ed fish and clams from the lagoon.

    Between 1948 and 1958, the U.S. mil­i­tary det­o­nat­ed 43 atom­ic bombs here. After agree­ing to a 1958 tem­po­rary mora­to­ri­um on nuclear test­ing with the Unit­ed King­dom and the Sovi­et Union, the U.S. began using the atoll as a con­ven­tion­al and bioweapons test­ing ground. For the next 18 years, the U.S. shot bal­lis­tic mis­siles at it from Cal­i­for­nia, test­ed vir­u­lent forms of bac­te­ria on its islands and det­o­nat­ed a series of oth­er large, con­ven­tion­al bombs in the lagoon.

    In 1972, after the U.S had near­ly exhaust­ed its mil­i­tary inter­est in the region, it invit­ed the lead­ers of Enewe­tak back to see the atoll for the first time since 1946.

    Accord­ing to a Depart­ment of Ener­gy report of the event, the Enewe­tak lead­ers “were deeply grat­i­fied to be able to vis­it their ances­tral home­land, but they were mor­ti­fied by what they saw.”

    The islands were com­plete­ly denud­ed. Pho­tos show an apoc­a­lyp­tic scene of windswept, defor­est­ed islands, with only the occa­sion­al coconut tree jut­ting up from the ground. Else­where, crum­bling con­crete struc­tures, warped tar­mac roads and aban­doned con­struc­tion and mil­i­tary equip­ment dot­ted the bar­ren land­scape.

    The dam­age they saw on that vis­it was the result of near­ly three decades of U.S. mil­i­tary test­ing.

    The Unit­ed States had det­o­nat­ed 35 bombs in the Mar­shall Islands in 112 days in 1958. Nine of these were on Enewetak’s Runit Island. With names such as But­ter­nut, Hol­ly and Mag­no­lia, the bombs were det­o­nat­ed in the sky, under­wa­ter and on top of islands.

    One test shot, Quince, mis­fired Aug. 6, 1958, and sprayed plu­to­ni­um fuel across Runit Island. The Depart­ment of Defense and the Lawrence Liv­er­more Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry, which was spon­sor­ing the test, ordered sol­diers into the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground zero to pre­pare the site for the next bomb, 12 days lat­er.

    Sol­diers swarmed in with bull­doz­ers and earth­mov­ing equip­ment, push­ing the radioac­tive soil into big debris piles that they shoved into the lagoon, the ocean or pos­si­bly left alone; gov­ern­ment reports dif­fer on these details.

    What is clear, and which has nev­er been report­ed before, is that 130 tons of soil trans­port­ed 5,300 miles from an atom­ic test site in Neva­da was dumped into a 30-foot-wide, 8‑foot-deep “con­i­cal plug” where the next bomb, Fig, was det­o­nat­ed.

    Archived doc­u­ments sug­gest the soil was used as part of an exper­i­ment, to help sci­en­tists under­stand how soil types con­tribute to dif­fer­ent blast impacts and crater sizes.

    Ter­ry Hamil­ton, a researcher at the Lawrence Liv­er­more Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry and today the Depart­ment of Energy’s point per­son on the Mar­shall Islands’ nuclear issues, said the soil was clean and tak­en from Area 10 at the Neva­da Test Site. That area of the Neva­da site had been the site of two nuclear blasts in 1951 and 1955, accord­ing to gov­ern­ment records.

    “It is appalling that the Mar­shallese peo­ple, and in par­tic­u­lar the peo­ple of Enewe­tak, are just learn­ing about this for the first time,” said Sen. Ading, the Mar­shallese min­is­ter of jus­tice, immi­gra­tion and labor.

    A decade lat­er, in 1968, teams from the Depart­ment of Defense set up a new exper­i­ment. This time, they were test­ing bio­log­i­cal weapons — bombs and mis­siles filled with bac­te­ria designed to fell ene­my troops.

    Accord­ing to a 2002 mil­i­tary fact sheet and Ed Reg­is, the author of “The Biol­o­gy of Doom,” U.S. gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists came to Enewe­tak with “their boats and mon­keys, space suits and jet fight­er planes” and then sprayed clouds of bio­log­i­cal­ly enhanced staphy­lo­coc­cal entero­tox­in B, an inca­pac­i­tat­ing bio­log­i­cal agent known to cause tox­ic shock and food poi­son­ing and con­sid­ered “one of the most potent bac­te­r­i­al super­anti­gens.”

    The bac­te­ria were sprayed over much of the atoll — with ground zero at Lojwa Island, where U.S. troops were sta­tioned 10 years lat­er for the cleanup of the atoll.

    Accord­ing to mil­i­tary doc­u­ments, the weapons testers con­clud­ed a sin­gle weapon could cov­er 926.5 square miles — rough­ly twice the size of mod­ern-day Los Ange­les — and pro­duce a 30% casu­al­ty rate.

    Records of the test, includ­ing a two-vol­ume, 244-page account of oper­a­tion “Speck­led Start,” as it was called, are still clas­si­fied, accord­ing to the Defense Tech­ni­cal Infor­ma­tion Cen­ter, a branch of the Depart­ment of Defense.

    Today, 40 years after it was con­struct­ed, the Tomb resem­bles an aged, neglect­ed and slight­ly diminu­tive cousin of the Hous­ton Astrodome.

    Spi­der­web cracks whip­saw across its cap and chunks of miss­ing con­crete pock its facade. Pools of brown, brack­ish water sur­round its base, and vines and foliage snake up its sides.

    The Tomb, which was built atop an unlined crater cre­at­ed by a U.S. nuclear bomb, was designed to encap­su­late the most radioac­tive and tox­ic land-based waste of the U.S. test­ing pro­grams in Enewe­tak Atoll. This includ­ed irra­di­at­ed mil­i­tary and con­struc­tion equip­ment, con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil and plu­to­ni­um-laced chunks of met­al pul­ver­ized by the 43 bombs det­o­nat­ed in this 2.26-square-mile lagoon, accord­ing to U.S. gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments.

    It took 4,000 U.S. ser­vice­men three years to scoop up 33 Olympic-sized swim­ming pools’ worth of irra­di­at­ed soil and two Olympic swim­ming pools’ worth of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed debris from islands across the atoll and dump it into the crater on Runit Island.

    Much of it was mixed in a slur­ry of con­crete and poured into the pit, which was even­tu­al­ly capped with a con­crete dome. Six men died dur­ing the cleanup; hun­dreds of oth­ers devel­oped radi­a­tion-induced can­cers and mal­adies that the U.S. gov­ern­ment has refused to acknowl­edge, accord­ing to news reports.

    “It’s like they say in the Army,” said Bob Ret­mi­er, a retired Hunt­ing­ton Beach-based elec­tri­cian who did two six-month tours of duty at the dome in 1977 and 1978. “They treat us like mush­rooms: They feed us crap and keep us in the dark.”

    Ret­mi­er, who was in Enewe­tak with Com­pa­ny C, 84th Engi­neer Bat­tal­ion out of Schofield Bar­racks, Hawaii, said he didn’t know he had been work­ing in a radioac­tive land­scape until he read about the dome in The Times this year.

    “They had us mix­ing that soil into cement,” he said. “There were no masks, or res­pi­ra­tors, or bug suits, for that mat­ter. My uni­form was a pair of com­bat boots, shorts and a hat. That was it. No shirt. No glass­es. It was too hot and humid to wear any­thing else.”

    Accord­ing to unclas­si­fied mil­i­tary doc­u­ments, the com­ple­tion of the dome ful­filled “a moral oblig­a­tion incurred by the Unit­ed States.”

    Mar­shallese offi­cials say they were nev­er told that U.S. author­i­ties had doubts about the long-term integri­ty of the dome to safe­ly store waste.

    Accord­ing to a 1981 mil­i­tary doc­u­ment chron­i­cling the con­struc­tion of the dome, U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials met Feb. 25, 1975, to dis­cuss var­i­ous cleanup options — includ­ing ocean dump­ing and trans­port­ing the waste back to the U.S. main­land. Many “of those present seemed to real­ize that radioac­tive mate­r­i­al was leak­ing out of the crater even then and would con­tin­ue to do so,” the doc­u­ment report­ed.

    But because the oth­er options were so expen­sive, they set­tled on the dome and relied on mil­i­tary per­son­nel to do the clean­ing instead of con­trac­tors.

    At that meet­ing, a top Pen­ta­gon offi­cial was asked what would hap­pen if the dome failed and who would be respon­si­ble.

    “It would be the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the Unit­ed States,” said Lt. Gen. War­ren D. John­son of the U.S. Air Force, who was direct­ing the cleanup process through the Defense Nuclear Agency.

    Doc­u­ments show that as con­struc­tion teams were fin­ish­ing the dome by cap­ping it with an 18-inch con­crete cov­er, new, high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed debris was dis­cov­ered.

    In the process of adding that mate­r­i­al to the waste site, parts of the con­crete top were embed­ded with con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed metal­lic debris.

    “It was slop­py,” said Paul Griego, who worked as a con­tract radio­chemist for Eber­line Instru­ments in Enewe­tak while the mil­i­tary built the dome.

    The authors of the report not­ed that because the dome was “designed to con­tain mate­r­i­al and pre­vent ero­sion rather than act as a radi­a­tion shield,” the radioac­tive mate­r­i­al in the dome cov­er was no cause for con­cern.

    Today, U.S. offi­cials main­tain that the dome has served its “intend­ed pur­pose” — to hold garbage, not nec­es­sar­i­ly to be a radi­a­tion shield.

    That dis­tinc­tion, though, is not well under­stood in the Mar­shall Islands, where many assumed the Unit­ed States built the dome to pro­tect them.

    “My under­stand­ing from day one is that the dome was to shield the radi­a­tion from leak­ing out,” Ading said.

    Soon after the dome was com­plet­ed, the win­ter tides washed more than 120 cubic yards of radioac­tive debris onto Runit’s shores, prompt­ing U.S. author­i­ties to build a small antecham­ber adja­cent to the dome to hold the new “red-lev­el” debris.

    When more debris washed up, they built a sec­ond, small­er antecham­ber.

    Then they left.

    The U.S. sci­en­tif­ic expert on Runit Dome is Hamil­ton, the Ener­gy Depart­ment con­trac­tor. He began work­ing on radi­a­tion issues near­ly three decades ago and is wide­ly respect­ed among nuclear sci­en­tists and physi­cists.

    In 2012, Hamil­ton called the waste site a high­ly radioac­tive “point source” whose con­struc­tion was “not con­sis­tent” with U.S. Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion reg­u­la­tions. He also sug­gest­ed it could pos­si­bly release more plu­to­ni­um into the sur­round­ing envi­ron­ment.

    “Any increas­es in avail­abil­i­ty of plu­to­ni­um will have an impact on food secu­ri­ty reserves for the local pop­u­la­tion,” he wrote with two Lawrence Liv­er­more Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry coau­thors, not­ing a “grow­ing com­mer­cial export mar­ket” for sea cucum­bers in the lagoon.

    In more recent years, Hamilton’s mes­sage has changed: The islands are safe, U.S. researchers are mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion, and no one should be con­cerned.

    At a May meet­ing in Majuro, he told an audi­ence of Mar­shallese dig­ni­taries, politi­cians and U.S. offi­cials that the Tomb was bob­bing with the tides, suck­ing in and flush­ing out radioac­tive water into the lagoon. More­over, he said, its phys­i­cal integri­ty is “vul­ner­a­ble to leak­age and the sus­tained impacts of storm surge and sea lev­el rise.”

    But Hamil­ton went on to assure them such a sce­nario was not cause for alarm. Enewe­tak lagoon is already so con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed, he said, that any added radi­a­tion intro­duced by a dome fail­ure would be vir­tu­al­ly unde­tectable — in the lagoon, or in the wider ocean waters.

    Hamil­ton has said that his assess­ment is based on a sam­pling of U.S. doc­u­ments from the 1970s and 1980s sug­gest­ing that there is far more con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in Enewe­tak lagoon than remains inside the dome. He con­tends the land is safe for habi­ta­tion and will remain so, even if the dome crum­bles and releas­es its con­tents into the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed lagoon.

    Plu­to­ni­um is a risk to human health only when it is air­borne or intro­duced via a cut in the skin, Hamil­ton said. The plu­to­ni­um in the lagoon, he claims, is not a con­cern.

    “Under exist­ing liv­ing con­di­tions, there is no radi­o­log­i­cal basis why I or any­one else should be con­cerned about liv­ing on Enewe­tak,” Hamil­ton said in an email, reflect­ing a posi­tion that oth­er experts find per­plex­ing.

    “That’s crazy,” said Hol­ly Bark­er, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton anthro­pol­o­gist who serves on the Mar­shall Islands nuclear com­mis­sion. The whole point of build­ing the Tomb, she said, was to clean up con­t­a­m­i­na­tion left behind by the U.S. test­ing pro­grams.

    “Does that mean they didn’t clean it up?” she asked.

    Asked about his con­tra­dic­to­ry mes­sages, Hamil­ton wrote in an email that his ear­li­er assess­ment was “put for­ward to help pro­vide a sci­en­tif­ic jus­ti­fi­ca­tion” for secur­ing fund­ing and time for a more thor­ough analy­sis of the dome.

    “Peo­ple liv­ing on Enewe­tak do not show ele­vat­ed lev­els of plu­to­ni­um in their bod­ies,” he said, dis­count­ing con­cerns. “This is the ulti­mate test.”

    To many, Hamilton’s most recent posi­tion is just anoth­er case of the Unit­ed States mov­ing the goal posts in the Mar­shall Islands: It promised a thor­ough cleanup, only to back­track in the face of new rev­e­la­tions or costs.

    Griego, the radio­chemist and the New Mex­i­co state com­man­der of the Nation­al Assn. of Atom­ic Vet­er­ans, notes that when Hamil­ton wrote a report for the Depart­ment of Ener­gy in 2013 stat­ing that cat­a­stroph­ic fail­ure of the dome would be incon­se­quen­tial, the report includ­ed a mis­sion state­ment that cast doubt on its sci­en­tif­ic integri­ty.

    Accord­ing to the doc­u­ment, the report’s pur­pose was to “address the con­cerns of the Enewe­tak com­mu­ni­ty” and “help build pub­lic con­fi­dence in the main­te­nance of a safe and sus­tain­able reset­tle­ment pro­gram on Enewe­tak Atoll.”

    Griego worked as a con­trac­tor in Enewe­tak in 1978.

    “I saw the water ris­ing and falling as we filled that dome. I know that lime­stone is porous. And I know how sick peo­ple got,” Griego said. “That dome is dan­ger­ous. And if it fails, it’s a prob­lem.”

    Cli­mate sci­en­tists have been near­ly unan­i­mous about one thing: The waters around the Mar­shall Islands are ris­ing — and grow­ing warmer.

    On an August day a year ago, tens of thou­sands of dead fish washed up on the ocean side of Biki­ni Atoll.

    Dick Dieke Jr., one of sev­en tem­po­rary care­tak­ers work­ing for a Depart­ment of Ener­gy con­trac­tor there, recalls the water being uncom­fort­able.

    “It didn’t feel good to put my feet in it,” he said. “It was too hot.”

    Ear­li­er that day, the typ­i­cal­ly crys­talline and azure waters of the Biki­ni lagoon, near Nam Island, were cloudy and brown. Sea tur­tles, reef fish and rays swam slow­ly through the murk, appear­ing sud­den­ly out of the cloudy bloom only to dis­ap­pear just as quick­ly.

    Dive com­put­ers showed 92-degree tem­per­a­tures 30 feet below the sur­face in the lagoon, an area usu­al­ly no warmer than 86 degrees in August.

    It is impos­si­ble to say exact­ly what caused that day’s mas­sive algae bloom and fish kill, but sci­en­tists say such marine inci­dents will occur more fre­quent­ly as oceans warm from cli­mate change.

    “I’ve nev­er seen or heard of a fish kill in Biki­ni,” Jack Nieden­thal, the Mar­shall Islands’ sec­re­tary of health and human ser­vices, said in an inter­view last sum­mer, just a week after the event. “That’s sur­pris­ing and deeply upset­ting.”

    Just a few years ago, the north­ern Mar­shall Islands were known for their pris­tine coral reefs, lit­tle dis­turbed by human con­tact, in part because many of these isles were radi­a­tion no-go zones. But dur­ing a vis­it last year, The Times saw vast expans­es of bleached and dead coral around Biki­ni Atoll, a find­ing that sur­prised some famil­iar with the region.

    Elo­ra López, a Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty doc­tor­al stu­dent, accom­pa­nied a PBS doc­u­men­tary film team in 2016 to Biki­ni Atoll to col­lect coral sam­ples. The reefs — hun­dreds of miles from the near­est tourist — were healthy.

    But when she returned in 2018, using GPS coor­di­nates to find the same loca­tion, all of the corals were dead.

    Since 1993, sea lev­els have risen about 0.3 inch­es a year in the Mar­shall Islands, far high­er than the glob­al aver­age of 0.11 to 0.14 inch­es. Stud­ies show sea lev­els are ris­ing twice as fast in the west­ern Pacif­ic than else­where.

    Based on fore­casts by the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Pan­el on Cli­mate Change, sea lev­els could rise 4 to 5 feet by the end of the cen­tu­ry, sub­merg­ing most of the Mar­shall Islands.

    Even if seas rose just half that, said Curt Stor­lazzi, a geo­engi­neer at the Unit­ed States Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey, the islands would be in trou­ble — dam­ag­ing infra­struc­ture and con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing most ground­wa­ter reserves.

    “We have a lot of dif­fi­cult choic­es to make,” James Matayoshi, the may­or of Ron­ge­lap Atoll, said in a Sep­tem­ber inter­view. “If the seas don’t stop ris­ing, we’re going to lose some places. Assum­ing we can save some, we’ll have to decide which islands, which places, for which peo­ple. But who gets to do that?”

    The thought of aban­don­ing their home­land is unthink­able for many Mar­shallese, the nation’s pres­i­dent said.

    “Many of our peo­ple … want to stay here,” Heine said. “For us, for these peo­ple, land is a crit­i­cal part of our exis­tence. Our cul­ture is based on our land. It is part of us. We can­not think about aban­don­ing the land.”

    Out­breaks of cer­tain dis­eases in the Pacif­ic also have been linked to cli­mate change. The Repub­lic of the Mar­shall Islands is fight­ing the largest out­break of dengue fever in its record­ed his­to­ry — more than 1,000 peo­ple have been infect­ed, with the out­er atolls quar­an­tined to pre­vent the spread of dis­ease among peo­ple with no access to hos­pi­tal care.

    “Most peo­ple talk about ris­ing sea lev­els when it comes to cli­mate change,” said Nieden­thal, the health sec­re­tary. “Even more imme­di­ate and dev­as­tat­ing is what has been hap­pen­ing with dis­ease out­breaks. This is the worst out­break in Pacif­ic his­to­ry.”

    For many Amer­i­cans, the Mar­shall Islands are best known for a movie mon­ster and a car­toon icon. Godzil­la, the Japan­ese-inspired mon­ster of the Pacif­ic, was awak­ened and mutat­ed by the atom­ic bombs in Biki­ni Atoll. Sponge­Bob SquarePants, the Nick­elodeon car­toon char­ac­ter, lives with his friends in Biki­ni Bot­tom.

    A recent review of Cal­i­for­nia-approved high school his­to­ry text­books and cur­ric­u­la showed no men­tion of the Mar­shall Islands or the U.S. nuclear test­ing pro­gram and human exper­i­men­ta­tion pro­gram there.

    Even less wide­ly known are the Mar­shallese attempts, for the last three decades, to seek com­pen­sa­tion from the U.S. for the health and envi­ron­men­tal effects of nuclear test­ing. They’ve been denied stand­ing to sue in U.S. courts, and Con­gress has declined their requests.

    The Nuclear Claims Tri­bunal — an inde­pen­dent arbiter estab­lished by the U.S.-Marshall Islands com­pact to process and rule on claims — has ruled in their favor, award­ing them more than $2 bil­lion in dam­ages. But the U.S. has paid out only $4 mil­lion, accord­ing to con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny, and no enforce­ment mech­a­nism exists.

    In the last few years, though, the island nation’s claims have begun to get more vis­i­bil­i­ty.

    Pres­i­dent Heine has achieved near-celebri­ty sta­tus at inter­na­tion­al events. The Mar­shall Islands recent­ly secured a seat on the Unit­ed Nations Human Rights Coun­cil, giv­ing the nation anoth­er forum in which to raise its con­cerns.

    A geopo­lit­i­cal shift also has giv­en the islands new lever­age. Chi­na has increased its reach into the cen­tral Pacif­ic, pro­vid­ing aid and loans to dozens of nations, sur­pass­ing the Unit­ed States as the region’s largest trade part­ner.

    “Chi­na is try­ing to erode U.S. influ­ence in the region to weak­en the U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence and cre­ate an open­ing for Chi­nese mil­i­tary access,” accord­ing to a 2018 report from the U.S.-China Eco­nom­ic and Secu­ri­ty Review Com­mis­sion, a con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee.

    In Sep­tem­ber, two of the Unit­ed States’ staunchest allies in the Pacif­ic — Kiri­bati and the Solomon Islands — sev­ered diplo­mat­ic ties with Tai­wan, embrac­ing Chi­na instead.

    Wash­ing­ton has greet­ed those devel­op­ments with con­cern.

    In August, Sec­re­tary of State Michael R. Pom­peo flew to Microne­sia to meet with the lead­ers of sev­er­al Pacif­ic island nations, includ­ing the Mar­shall Islands.

    He announced the Unit­ed States’ inten­tion to extend the com­pact with the Mar­shall Islands — pro­vid­ing aid in exchange for a secure mil­i­tary pres­ence, and work­ing rights for Mar­shallese in the Unit­ed States.

    The announce­ment came as a sur­prise to the Mar­shallese, who were antic­i­pat­ing the expi­ra­tion in 2023 of their com­pact, which includes annu­al grants from the U.S. that total about $30 mil­lion a year.

    Mar­shallese offi­cials read that as a sign that the islands have new nego­ti­at­ing pow­er.

    “These are mat­ters of life and death for us,” said Ading, the Enewe­tak sen­a­tor. “We can’t afford to rely exclu­sive­ly on reas­sur­ances from one source. We need neu­tral experts from the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to weigh in, to con­firm or chal­lenge” pre­vi­ous U.S. find­ings.

    ...

    ————

    “How the U.S. betrayed the Mar­shall Islands, kin­dling the next nuclear dis­as­ter” by Susanne Rust; The Los Ange­les Times; 11/10/2019

    “Here in the Mar­shall Islands, Runit Dome holds more than 3.1 mil­lion cubic feet — or 35 Olympic-sized swim­ming pools — of U.S.-produced radioac­tive soil and debris, includ­ing lethal amounts of plu­to­ni­um. Nowhere else has the Unit­ed States sad­dled anoth­er coun­try with so much of its nuclear waste, a prod­uct of its Cold War atom­ic test­ing pro­gram.”

    35 Olympic-sized swim­ming pools of dead­ly radioac­tive soil. Some of it from Neva­da nuclear test sites that the US secret­ly shipped to the Mar­shall Islands and stored in the Runit Tomb with­out telling the islands. But despite a his­to­ry like like, the US gov­ern­ment is basi­cal­ly doing every­thing it can to avoid pay­ing the $2.3 bil­lion claims set­tle­ment the peo­ple of the Mar­shall Islands won in an arbi­tra­tion tri­bunal. And Ter­ry Hamil­ton, the Depart­ment of Energy’s point per­son on the Mar­shall Islands’ nuclear issues, assures us the soil was tak­en from the Neva­da Test Site was actu­al­ly clean soil used for soil dis­per­sion exper­i­ments. Now, on the hand, it’s not incon­ceiv­able that soil from some­where else might have been want­ed for nuclear test­ing soil dis­per­sion exper­i­ments. But that soil would prob­a­bly be espe­cial­ly use­ful for soil dis­per­sion exper­i­ments if it was already slight­ly radioac­tive with a dis­tinct sig­na­ture. Who knows if that’s the rea­son. be the case if the soil was :

    ...
    A Times review of thou­sands of doc­u­ments, and inter­views with U.S. and Mar­shallese offi­cials, found that the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment with­held key pieces of infor­ma­tion about the dome’s con­tents and its weapons test­ing pro­gram before the two coun­tries signed a com­pact in 1986 releas­ing the U.S. gov­ern­ment from fur­ther lia­bil­i­ty. One exam­ple: The Unit­ed States did not tell the Mar­shallese that in 1958, it shipped 130 tons of soil from its atom­ic test­ing grounds in Neva­da to the Mar­shall Islands.

    ...

    The tri­bunal, estab­lished by the two coun­tries in 1988, con­clud­ed the Unit­ed States should pay $2.3 bil­lion in claims, but Con­gress and U.S courts have refused. Doc­u­ments show the U.S. paid just $4 mil­lion.

    The U.S. posi­tion is that it has already paid more than $600 mil­lion for the reset­tle­ment, reha­bil­i­ta­tion and radi­a­tion-relat­ed health­care costs of com­mu­ni­ties affect­ed by the nuclear test­ing, said Karen Stew­art, the U.S. ambas­sador to the Repub­lic of the Mar­shall Islands. She said infla­tion brings the num­ber clos­er to $1 bil­lion.

    “The Unit­ed States rec­og­nizes the effects of its test­ing and has accept­ed and act­ed on its respon­si­bil­i­ty to the peo­ple of the Repub­lic of the Mar­shall Islands,” Stew­art said in a state­ment.

    ...

    What is clear, and which has nev­er been report­ed before, is that 130 tons of soil trans­port­ed 5,300 miles from an atom­ic test site in Neva­da was dumped into a 30-foot-wide, 8‑foot-deep “con­i­cal plug” where the next bomb, Fig, was det­o­nat­ed.

    Archived doc­u­ments sug­gest the soil was used as part of an exper­i­ment, to help sci­en­tists under­stand how soil types con­tribute to dif­fer­ent blast impacts and crater sizes.

    Ter­ry Hamil­ton, a researcher at the Lawrence Liv­er­more Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry and today the Depart­ment of Energy’s point per­son on the Mar­shall Islands’ nuclear issues, said the soil was clean and tak­en from Area 10 at the Neva­da Test Site. That area of the Neva­da site had been the site of two nuclear blasts in 1951 and 1955, accord­ing to gov­ern­ment records.
    ...

    And not just the peo­ple of the Mar­shall Islands who were treat­ed as guin­nea pigs by the US for decades. The health con­cerns of the 4,000 sol­diers who built the Runit Tomb with­out any pro­tec­tion and who were nev­er told they were han­dling radioac­tive mate­ri­als have been rou­tine­ly writ­ten off by the US gov­ern­ment for decades too. For a coun­try that loves mul­ti-tril­lion dol­lar tax cuts for the rich, it’s pret­ty remark­able how hard it it is to find $2.3 bil­lion for the island nation that the US used as a nuclear guinea pig/waste dump. This is why Chi­na is an increas­ing­ly tempt­ed part­ner for the Mar­shall Islands:

    ...
    The Tomb, which was built atop an unlined crater cre­at­ed by a U.S. nuclear bomb, was designed to encap­su­late the most radioac­tive and tox­ic land-based waste of the U.S. test­ing pro­grams in Enewe­tak Atoll. This includ­ed irra­di­at­ed mil­i­tary and con­struc­tion equip­ment, con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil and plu­to­ni­um-laced chunks of met­al pul­ver­ized by the 43 bombs det­o­nat­ed in this 2.26-square-mile lagoon, accord­ing to U.S. gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments.

    It took 4,000 U.S. ser­vice­men three years to scoop up 33 Olympic-sized swim­ming pools’ worth of irra­di­at­ed soil and two Olympic swim­ming pools’ worth of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed debris from islands across the atoll and dump it into the crater on Runit Island.

    Much of it was mixed in a slur­ry of con­crete and poured into the pit, which was even­tu­al­ly capped with a con­crete dome. Six men died dur­ing the cleanup; hun­dreds of oth­ers devel­oped radi­a­tion-induced can­cers and mal­adies that the U.S. gov­ern­ment has refused to acknowl­edge, accord­ing to news reports.

    “It’s like they say in the Army,” said Bob Ret­mi­er, a retired Hunt­ing­ton Beach-based elec­tri­cian who did two six-month tours of duty at the dome in 1977 and 1978. “They treat us like mush­rooms: They feed us crap and keep us in the dark.”

    Ret­mi­er, who was in Enewe­tak with Com­pa­ny C, 84th Engi­neer Bat­tal­ion out of Schofield Bar­racks, Hawaii, said he didn’t know he had been work­ing in a radioac­tive land­scape until he read about the dome in The Times this year.

    “They had us mix­ing that soil into cement,” he said. “There were no masks, or res­pi­ra­tors, or bug suits, for that mat­ter. My uni­form was a pair of com­bat boots, shorts and a hat. That was it. No shirt. No glass­es. It was too hot and humid to wear any­thing else.”

    Accord­ing to unclas­si­fied mil­i­tary doc­u­ments, the com­ple­tion of the dome ful­filled “a moral oblig­a­tion incurred by the Unit­ed States.”

    Mar­shallese offi­cials say they were nev­er told that U.S. author­i­ties had doubts about the long-term integri­ty of the dome to safe­ly store waste.
    ...

    It’s so scan­dalous, the Runit Tomb tech­ni­cal­ly was­n’t even designed to be a radi­a­tion shield. It was designed to con­tain the radioac­tive mate­r­i­al but if radi­a­tion escaped via water seep­ing in and out that was appar­ent­ly fine because con­tain­ing radi­a­tion was nev­er the object. It was anoth­er detail only recent­ly made clear to the peo­ple of the Mar­shall Islands:

    ...
    Accord­ing to a 1981 mil­i­tary doc­u­ment chron­i­cling the con­struc­tion of the dome, U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials met Feb. 25, 1975, to dis­cuss var­i­ous cleanup options — includ­ing ocean dump­ing and trans­port­ing the waste back to the U.S. main­land. Many “of those present seemed to real­ize that radioac­tive mate­r­i­al was leak­ing out of the crater even then and would con­tin­ue to do so,” the doc­u­ment report­ed.

    But because the oth­er options were so expen­sive, they set­tled on the dome and relied on mil­i­tary per­son­nel to do the clean­ing instead of con­trac­tors.

    At that meet­ing, a top Pen­ta­gon offi­cial was asked what would hap­pen if the dome failed and who would be respon­si­ble.

    “It would be the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the Unit­ed States,” said Lt. Gen. War­ren D. John­son of the U.S. Air Force, who was direct­ing the cleanup process through the Defense Nuclear Agency.

    Doc­u­ments show that as con­struc­tion teams were fin­ish­ing the dome by cap­ping it with an 18-inch con­crete cov­er, new, high­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed debris was dis­cov­ered.

    In the process of adding that mate­r­i­al to the waste site, parts of the con­crete top were embed­ded with con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed metal­lic debris.

    “It was slop­py,” said Paul Griego, who worked as a con­tract radio­chemist for Eber­line Instru­ments in Enewe­tak while the mil­i­tary built the dome.

    The authors of the report not­ed that because the dome was “designed to con­tain mate­r­i­al and pre­vent ero­sion rather than act as a radi­a­tion shield,” the radioac­tive mate­r­i­al in the dome cov­er was no cause for con­cern.

    Today, U.S. offi­cials main­tain that the dome has served its “intend­ed pur­pose” — to hold garbage, not nec­es­sar­i­ly to be a radi­a­tion shield.

    That dis­tinc­tion, though, is not well under­stood in the Mar­shall Islands, where many assumed the Unit­ed States built the dome to pro­tect them.

    “My under­stand­ing from day one is that the dome was to shield the radi­a­tion from leak­ing out,” Ading said.
    ...

    And then there’s the absurd assur­ances by Ter­ry Hamil­ton that no one needs to wor­ry about the plu­to­ni­um leak­ing out of the dome. It’s the kind of assur­ance that seems more than an assur­ance that the US gov­ern­ment is plan­ning on deny­ing more cleanup assis­tance or dam­age claims based on the argu­ment that the radi­a­tion leak­ing out isn’t actu­al­ly harm­ing any­one:

    ...
    The U.S. sci­en­tif­ic expert on Runit Dome is Hamil­ton, the Ener­gy Depart­ment con­trac­tor. He began work­ing on radi­a­tion issues near­ly three decades ago and is wide­ly respect­ed among nuclear sci­en­tists and physi­cists.

    In 2012, Hamil­ton called the waste site a high­ly radioac­tive “point source” whose con­struc­tion was “not con­sis­tent” with U.S. Nuclear Reg­u­la­to­ry Com­mis­sion reg­u­la­tions. He also sug­gest­ed it could pos­si­bly release more plu­to­ni­um into the sur­round­ing envi­ron­ment.

    “Any increas­es in avail­abil­i­ty of plu­to­ni­um will have an impact on food secu­ri­ty reserves for the local pop­u­la­tion,” he wrote with two Lawrence Liv­er­more Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry coau­thors, not­ing a “grow­ing com­mer­cial export mar­ket” for sea cucum­bers in the lagoon.

    In more recent years, Hamilton’s mes­sage has changed: The islands are safe, U.S. researchers are mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion, and no one should be con­cerned.

    At a May meet­ing in Majuro, he told an audi­ence of Mar­shallese dig­ni­taries, politi­cians and U.S. offi­cials that the Tomb was bob­bing with the tides, suck­ing in and flush­ing out radioac­tive water into the lagoon. More­over, he said, its phys­i­cal integri­ty is “vul­ner­a­ble to leak­age and the sus­tained impacts of storm surge and sea lev­el rise.”

    But Hamil­ton went on to assure them such a sce­nario was not cause for alarm. Enewe­tak lagoon is already so con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed, he said, that any added radi­a­tion intro­duced by a dome fail­ure would be vir­tu­al­ly unde­tectable — in the lagoon, or in the wider ocean waters.

    Hamil­ton has said that his assess­ment is based on a sam­pling of U.S. doc­u­ments from the 1970s and 1980s sug­gest­ing that there is far more con­t­a­m­i­na­tion in Enewe­tak lagoon than remains inside the dome. He con­tends the land is safe for habi­ta­tion and will remain so, even if the dome crum­bles and releas­es its con­tents into the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed lagoon.

    Plu­to­ni­um is a risk to human health only when it is air­borne or intro­duced via a cut in the skin, Hamil­ton said. The plu­to­ni­um in the lagoon, he claims, is not a con­cern.

    “Under exist­ing liv­ing con­di­tions, there is no radi­o­log­i­cal basis why I or any­one else should be con­cerned about liv­ing on Enewe­tak,” Hamil­ton said in an email, reflect­ing a posi­tion that oth­er experts find per­plex­ing.

    “That’s crazy,” said Hol­ly Bark­er, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton anthro­pol­o­gist who serves on the Mar­shall Islands nuclear com­mis­sion. The whole point of build­ing the Tomb, she said, was to clean up con­t­a­m­i­na­tion left behind by the U.S. test­ing pro­grams.

    “Does that mean they didn’t clean it up?” she asked.

    Asked about his con­tra­dic­to­ry mes­sages, Hamil­ton wrote in an email that his ear­li­er assess­ment was “put for­ward to help pro­vide a sci­en­tif­ic jus­ti­fi­ca­tion” for secur­ing fund­ing and time for a more thor­ough analy­sis of the dome.

    “Peo­ple liv­ing on Enewe­tak do not show ele­vat­ed lev­els of plu­to­ni­um in their bod­ies,” he said, dis­count­ing con­cerns. “This is the ulti­mate test.”

    To many, Hamilton’s most recent posi­tion is just anoth­er case of the Unit­ed States mov­ing the goal posts in the Mar­shall Islands: It promised a thor­ough cleanup, only to back­track in the face of new rev­e­la­tions or costs.
    ...

    And this denial of the prob­lem is hap­pen­ing in the con­text of some­thing cli­mate sci­en­tists are near­ly unan­i­mous about: the sea lev­els are ris­ing which means more water is going to be seep­ing in and out of the Tomb. At the same time, much the Mar­shall Islands will be sub­merged while ground water sup­plies are con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed. And, of course, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion denies cli­mate change too. Late last month, the defense appro­pri­a­tion bill was passed by con­gress that includ­ed the need for a new assess­ment of the radi­o­log­i­cal risks of the site along with an assess­ment of the risks to the site from cli­mate change. Except the words cli­mate change had to be removed from the bill to pla­cate Sen­a­tor James Inhofe. It real­ly is a real night­mare for the Mar­shall Islands, where active malign denial and neglect are the scary mon­ster:

    ...
    Cli­mate sci­en­tists have been near­ly unan­i­mous about one thing: The waters around the Mar­shall Islands are ris­ing — and grow­ing warmer.

    ...

    Since 1993, sea lev­els have risen about 0.3 inch­es a year in the Mar­shall Islands, far high­er than the glob­al aver­age of 0.11 to 0.14 inch­es. Stud­ies show sea lev­els are ris­ing twice as fast in the west­ern Pacif­ic than else­where.

    Based on fore­casts by the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Pan­el on Cli­mate Change, sea lev­els could rise 4 to 5 feet by the end of the cen­tu­ry, sub­merg­ing most of the Mar­shall Islands.

    Even if seas rose just half that, said Curt Stor­lazzi, a geo­engi­neer at the Unit­ed States Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey, the islands would be in trou­ble — dam­ag­ing infra­struc­ture and con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing most ground­wa­ter reserves.
    ...

    Oh, and then there’s the dozens of bio­log­i­cal war­fare tests involv­ing dead­ly bac­te­ria designed to kill troops. Weapons testers con­clud­ed that a sin­gle weapons could cov­er an area twice the size of LA and have a 30% casu­al­ty rate:

    ...
    U.S. author­i­ties lat­er cleaned up con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed soil on Enewe­tak Atoll, where the Unit­ed States not only det­o­nat­ed the bulk of its weapons tests but, as The Times has learned, also con­duct­ed a dozen bio­log­i­cal weapons tests and dumped 130 tons of soil from an irra­di­at­ed Neva­da test­ing site. It then deposit­ed the atoll’s most lethal debris and soil into the dome.

    ...

    U.S. author­i­ties also didn’t inform peo­ple in Enewe­tak, where the waste site is locat­ed, that they’d con­duct­ed a dozen bio­log­i­cal weapons tests in the atoll, includ­ing exper­i­ments with an aerosolized bac­te­ria designed to kill ene­my troops.

    U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy experts are encour­ag­ing the Mar­shallese to move back to oth­er parts of Enewe­tak, where 650 now live, after being relo­cat­ed dur­ing the U.S. nuclear tests dur­ing the Cold War. But many Mar­shallese lead­ers no longer trust U.S. assur­ances of safe­ty.

    ...

    A decade lat­er, in 1968, teams from the Depart­ment of Defense set up a new exper­i­ment. This time, they were test­ing bio­log­i­cal weapons — bombs and mis­siles filled with bac­te­ria designed to fell ene­my troops.

    Accord­ing to a 2002 mil­i­tary fact sheet and Ed Reg­is, the author of “The Biol­o­gy of Doom,” U.S. gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists came to Enewe­tak with “their boats and mon­keys, space suits and jet fight­er planes” and then sprayed clouds of bio­log­i­cal­ly enhanced staphy­lo­coc­cal entero­tox­in B, an inca­pac­i­tat­ing bio­log­i­cal agent known to cause tox­ic shock and food poi­son­ing and con­sid­ered “one of the most potent bac­te­r­i­al super­anti­gens.”

    The bac­te­ria were sprayed over much of the atoll — with ground zero at Lojwa Island, where U.S. troops were sta­tioned 10 years lat­er for the cleanup of the atoll.

    Accord­ing to mil­i­tary doc­u­ments, the weapons testers con­clud­ed a sin­gle weapon could cov­er 926.5 square miles — rough­ly twice the size of mod­ern-day Los Ange­les — and pro­duce a 30% casu­al­ty rate.

    Records of the test, includ­ing a two-vol­ume, 244-page account of oper­a­tion “Speck­led Start,” as it was called, are still clas­si­fied, accord­ing to the Defense Tech­ni­cal Infor­ma­tion Cen­ter, a branch of the Depart­ment of Defense.
    ...

    That night­mare stuff got exposed to all that evo­lu­tion-dri­ving radi­a­tion these past decades. You have to won­der how many of the strange health ail­ments expe­ri­enced by ini­tial cleanup crew and the islands pop­u­la­tion in the decades since is due to that super-bac­te­ria. A 30% casu­al­ty rate is one nasty bug.

    And that’s all why the nuclear waste sit­u­a­tion in the Mar­shall Islands rep­re­sents a radi­o­log­i­cal threat that arguably exceeds both Cher­nobyl and Fukushi­ma. It’s a nuclear night­mare that exceeds the radi­a­tion lev­els of Fukushi­ma and Cher­nobyl and it’s a biowar­fare test­ing ground too. And the biggest part of the dis­as­ter is that it can’t be fixed because it’s being sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly under-esti­mat­ed and ignored because the wealth­i­est nation on the plan­et clear­ly views it as too expen­sive to real­ly clean up. It’s all a reminder that the hid­den costs of deal­ing with the nuclear waste gen­er­at­ed by nuclear pow­er and weapons include the costs inten­tion­al­ly hid­den by gov­ern­ments that qui­et­ly con­clud­ed the real costs are too expen­sive to pay. At least pay direct­ly. These are the kinds of costs that will be paid one way or anoth­er, prob­a­bly in form of dis­eases and a radi­a­tion rav­aged envi­ron­ment.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 12, 2020, 3:35 am
  11. Here’s a pair of quick updates on the sta­tus of the Fukushi­ma cleanup effort. It’s not great news but both cas­es it could be worse: First, here’s an update on the long-stand­ing pol­i­cy of dump­ing treat­ed water back into the ocean. Dump­ing treat­ed water that had been scrubbed by the ALPS (advanced liq­uid pro­cess­ing sys­tem) sys­tem — which we’re told removes every­thing but tri­tium — was being open­ly done in start­ing back in 2015 in order to deal with the lim­its on water stor­age capac­i­ty at the Fukushi­ma site. Remov­ing tri­tium from water is par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult but also the least impor­tant form of radi­a­tion to cleanup. It only gen­er­ates beta par­ti­cles (elec­trons) so the dam­age to cells is lim­it­ed. But that’s stills ion­iz­ing radi­a­tion and its pos­si­ble tri­tium isn’t as innocu­ous as is hoped. It’s a risk, but the best risk in terms of dump­ing radioac­tive iso­topes into the ocean.

    But that tri­tium-laden water dumped back in 2015 was the radioac­tive ground­wa­ter that was gath­ered up from around the plant. And we were told at the time that they still weren’t sure what to do with the water that was pumped into the nuclear reac­tor cores dur­ing the melt­downs in 2011 to keep the reac­tors cooled. There was 680,000 tons of high­ly radioac­tive water from that cool­ing oper­a­tion stored on site get­ting decon­t­a­m­i­nat­ed but they still weren’t ready to dump it into the ocean. Well, it sounds like they might have fig­ured out what to do with that 680,000 tons of high­ly radioac­tive water. A pan­el of experts work­ing for Japan’s econ­o­my and indus­try min­istry just arrived at a con­clu­sion on what to do with 1.2 mil­lion tons of water that has been pumped into the build­ings to keep the melt­ed down nuclear mate­r­i­al cooled. Dump it into the ocean, of course. We’re told that it’s been scrubbed of every­thing by the tri­tium.

    It’s unclear if that 1.3 mil­lion tons includes the 680,000 tons of water that had been pumped into the reac­tors dur­ing the melt­down in 2011, but the fact that it’s described as water from the cool­ing pipes cer­tain­ly sounds like it’s the same set of water. Just twice as much as they had in 2015. And hope­ful­ly more cleaned. Down to just the tri­tium.

    And if the scrub­bing sys­tems real­ly are good enough to get it down to just the tri­tium that would prob­a­bly be fine. The ocean is a good place to dilute tri­tium. It’s more a ques­tion of just how much of the oth­er 62 radioac­tive sub­stances are actu­al­ly left over in the water. But we can be sure there’s some of all of it left over. So it’s real­ly a ques­tion of whether or not dump­ing mas­sive vol­umes of water that have low lev­els of 62 dif­fer­ent tox­ic radioac­tive sub­stances into the ocean is bad. It seems like the answer is like­ly yes, it’s very bad, but the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment pan­el con­clud­ed it’s the best option and they’re going to start dump­ing the cool­ing pipe tri­tium water:

    The Inde­pen­dent

    Japan plan­ning to release over a mil­lion tonnes of radioac­tive water into sea from Fukushi­ma pow­er plant

    Coolant con­tains tox­ic ele­ment which can­not be removed

    Har­ry Cock­burn
    Fri­day 31 Jan­u­ary 2020 21:03

    Mas­sive amounts of radioac­tive water being stored at Japan’s Fukushi­ma pow­er plant could be released into the sea under plans pro­vi­sion­al­ly accept­ed by the country’s gov­ern­ment.

    Tokyo Elec­tric has col­lect­ed near­ly 1.2 mil­lion tonnes of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water from cool­ing pipes used to keep fuel cores from melt­ing since the plant was dev­as­tat­ed by the earth­quake and tsuna­mi which hit east­ern Japan in 2011.

    The water, con­tain­ing 62 radioac­tive ele­ments, is stored in huge tanks on the site of the now dis­abled pow­er plant, but Tokyo Elec­tric has said it will run out of room to store the water by 2022.

    The water has been treat­ed and Tokyo Elec­tric said it is able to remove all radioac­tive par­ti­cles from the water to lev­els not harm­ful to humans, except tri­tium, an iso­tope of hydro­gen which is more dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate from water.

    A pan­el of experts work­ing for Japan’s econ­o­my and indus­try min­istry con­clud­ed that let­ting the water run into the sea was the best option after look­ing at oth­er pro­pos­als. The only oth­er viable option con­sid­ered was to let the water evap­o­rate.

    In Friday’s pro­pos­al, the min­istry said the con­trolled release to the sea is supe­ri­or because its route is pre­dictable and eas­i­er to sam­ple and mon­i­tor.

    “Com­pared to evap­o­ra­tion, ocean release can be done more secure­ly,” the com­mit­tee said, point­ing to com­mon prac­tice around the world where nuclear pow­er sta­tions oper­at­ing under nor­mal con­di­tions rou­tine­ly release water con­tain­ing tri­tium into the sea.

    But the deci­sion will alarm neigh­bour­ing coun­tries and comes ahead of Japan’s host­ing of the 2020 Olympic Games, with some events due to be held less than 60km away from the Fukushi­ma site.

    Fish­er­men and res­i­dents also fear health effects from releas­ing the radioac­tive water as well as harm to the region’s image and farm indus­tries.

    Neigh­bour­ing South Korea has retained a ban on imports of seafood from Japan’s Fukushi­ma region imposed after the nuclear dis­as­ter and sum­moned a senior Japan­ese embassy offi­cial last year to explain how the Fukushi­ma water would be dealt with, Reuters report­ed.

    ...

    Experts say there is no estab­lished method to ful­ly sep­a­rate tri­tium from water, but it is not a prob­lem in small amounts. Gov­ern­ment offi­cials also say tri­tium is rou­tine­ly released from exist­ing nuclear pow­er plants around the world.

    The report acknowl­edges the water releas­es would harm indus­tries that still face reluc­tant con­sumers despite safe­ty checks. It promised to rein­force mon­i­tor­ing of tri­tium lev­els and food safe­ty checks to address safe­ty con­cerns.

    ————

    “Japan plan­ning to release over a mil­lion tonnes of radioac­tive water into sea from Fukushi­ma pow­er plant” by Har­ry Cock­burn; The Inde­pen­dent; 01/31/2020

    “Tokyo Elec­tric has col­lect­ed near­ly 1.2 mil­lion tonnes of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water from cool­ing pipes used to keep fuel cores from melt­ing since the plant was dev­as­tat­ed by the earth­quake and tsuna­mi which hit east­ern Japan in 2011.”

    Cool­ing pipes water. Yikes. That’s the extra scary stuff. And it too is get­ting dumped into the Pacif­ic. As is prob­a­bly going to hap­pen to all the cleanup water at some point. Because what else are they going to do. That’s why we bet­ter hope the cleanup of the oth­er 62 radioac­tive ele­ments real­ly is work­ing and real­ly is safe for long-term mass ocean-dump­ing:

    ...
    The water, con­tain­ing 62 radioac­tive ele­ments, is stored in huge tanks on the site of the now dis­abled pow­er plant, but Tokyo Elec­tric has said it will run out of room to store the water by 2022.

    The water has been treat­ed and Tokyo Elec­tric said it is able to remove all radioac­tive par­ti­cles from the water to lev­els not harm­ful to humans, except tri­tium, an iso­tope of hydro­gen which is more dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate from water.

    A pan­el of experts work­ing for Japan’s econ­o­my and indus­try min­istry con­clud­ed that let­ting the water run into the sea was the best option after look­ing at oth­er pro­pos­als. The only oth­er viable option con­sid­ered was to let the water evap­o­rate.

    ...

    Experts say there is no estab­lished method to ful­ly sep­a­rate tri­tium from water, but it is not a prob­lem in small amounts. Gov­ern­ment offi­cials also say tri­tium is rou­tine­ly released from exist­ing nuclear pow­er plants around the world.
    ...

    So as we can see, there’s been progress on the issue of what to do with the scrubbed con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water that’s been pumped into the reac­tor build­ings to cool down the melt­ed down mate­r­i­al. It’s just that the progress is unfor­tu­nate­ly in the form of the deci­sion to just dump it in the ocean.

    Next, here’s an arti­cle about the progress of anoth­er aspect of cleanup effort. That’s the removal of the actu­al melt­ed down mate­r­i­al from the reac­tor build­ings. The update is about the progress on the Fukushi­ma No. 1 reac­tor build­ing. The plan was to holes in the pri­ma­ry con­tain­ment ves­sel’s out­er door using pres­sur­ized water mixed with a pol­ish­ing agent and then the drill through the inner door. They drilled three holes in the out­er door and then start­ed drilling a hole in the inner door in June of 2019. That pro­ce­dure caused a tem­po­rary increase in radioac­tive dust that sus­pend­ed work. Work resumed on Jan­u­ary 14. The plan is to drill holes big enough to send drone in that can help them deter­mine how to pro­ceed with the work with­out releas­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed dust. So it sounds like we can add the unset­tling of radioac­tive dust to the list of major cleanup obsta­cles:

    The Japan Times

    Delayed probe of Fukushi­ma No. 1 reac­tor to push back fuel debris removal

    Fukushi­ma Min­po
    Jan 31, 2020

    A plan to remove fuel debris from the pri­ma­ry con­tain­ment ves­sel of a reac­tor at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant is expect­ed to be fur­ther pushed back after it became appar­ent that Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny Hold­ings Ltd. will not be able to con­duct an inter­nal probe — a key step to start remov­ing the fuel debris — by the end of March as planned.

    The inter­nal probe would involve using remote-con­trolled robots to col­lect fuel debris inside the No. 1 reac­tor so Tep­co can exam­ine its com­po­si­tion and form.

    Tepco’s plan is to open three holes in both the out­er and inner doors of the pri­ma­ry con­tain­ment ves­sel using pres­sur­ized water mixed with a pol­ish­ing agent. After it suc­ceed­ed in open­ing three holes in the out­er door, Tep­co start­ed drilling a hole in the inner door in June 2019.

    But that pro­ce­dure caused the con­cen­tra­tion of radioac­tive dust to increase tem­porar­i­ly, prompt­ing staff to sus­pend work.

    On Jan. 14, Tep­co resumed the project, which involves drilling rough­ly 40 per­cent of a hole 21 cen­time­ters in diam­e­ter over the course of 10 days in order to gath­er data on how to con­tin­ue with the work with­out releas­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed dust.

    In order to move on to the inter­nal probe, Tep­co needs to fin­ish drilling the hole as well as two more. Not only that, Tep­co needs to secure a path for the robot to go inside the pri­ma­ry con­tain­ment ves­sel, install cam­eras and mea­sur­ing instru­ments inside, and make sure it can be remote­ly con­trolled once the robot is inside. The entire pro­ce­dure is expect­ed to take at least sev­er­al months.

    To get a com­plete under­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion inside the No. 1 reactor’s pri­ma­ry con­tain­ment ves­sel, Tep­co hopes to send a robot that can move under­wa­ter and take pho­tos of the inside as it swims in the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water.

    Not only will it mea­sure the phys­i­cal con­di­tion of sed­i­ment inside the ves­sel, it will col­lect sam­ples as well, and the infor­ma­tion will hope­ful­ly be use­ful in the future when Tep­co removes the fuel debris.

    Tep­co first planned to con­duct an inter­nal probe dur­ing the first half of fis­cal 2019. This was post­poned to the lat­ter half of the fis­cal year.

    On Jan. 16, Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty Chair­man Toyoshi Fuke­ta urged Tep­co Pres­i­dent Tomoa­ki Kobayakawa to start dis­cussing ways to dis­pose of the spent fuel debris and radioac­tive waste inside reac­tors at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant in the decom­mis­sion­ing process.

    Tep­co has stat­ed that spent fuel rods at the Fukushi­ma No. 2 nuclear pow­er plant will be trans­port­ed out­side of Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture, but noth­ing con­crete has been decid­ed for the melt­ed fuel debris, spent fuel and radioac­tive waste at Fukushi­ma No. 1.

    “Decom­mis­sion­ing won’t be com­plete just by clear­ing up Fukushi­ma No. 1 and leav­ing (radioac­tive waste) inside,” Fuke­ta said. “If we don’t remove what we can, the decom­mis­sion­ing process will be stalled. I want you to work on a con­crete plan to remove (the waste).”

    ...

    ————

    “Delayed probe of Fukushi­ma No. 1 reac­tor to push back fuel debris removal” by Fukushi­ma Min­po; The Japan Times; 01/31/2020

    “On Jan. 14, Tep­co resumed the project, which involves drilling rough­ly 40 per­cent of a hole 21 cen­time­ters in diam­e­ter over the course of 10 days in order to gath­er data on how to con­tin­ue with the work with­out releas­ing con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed dust.”

    Work on reac­tor No. 1’s con­tain­ment ves­sel resumed last month, but instead of pro­ceed­ing with the work of send­ing in a drone into the con­tain­ment ves­sel, it sounds like the resumed work was focused on send­ing in a drone so they could fig­ure out how to pro­ceed with kick­ing up a bunch of radioac­tive dust again. That’s quite an obsta­cle. Dust is pret­ty easy to dis­turb. And it’s easy to imag­ine radioac­tive dust would com­plete­ly mess with the sen­sors get­ting set up by the robots to detect what’s going on inside the reac­tor ves­sels. It’s an exam­ple of how the Fukushi­ma cleanup crew real­ly are forced to deal with hor­rif­i­cal­ly chal­leng­ing prob­lems. It’s nasty and hard every step of the way. Includ­ing the radioac­tive dust that made prob­ing the :

    ...
    In order to move on to the inter­nal probe, Tep­co needs to fin­ish drilling the hole as well as two more. Not only that, Tep­co needs to secure a path for the robot to go inside the pri­ma­ry con­tain­ment ves­sel, install cam­eras and mea­sur­ing instru­ments inside, and make sure it can be remote­ly con­trolled once the robot is inside. The entire pro­ce­dure is expect­ed to take at least sev­er­al months.

    To get a com­plete under­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion inside the No. 1 reactor’s pri­ma­ry con­tain­ment ves­sel, Tep­co hopes to send a robot that can move under­wa­ter and take pho­tos of the inside as it swims in the con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water.

    Not only will it mea­sure the phys­i­cal con­di­tion of sed­i­ment inside the ves­sel, it will col­lect sam­ples as well, and the infor­ma­tion will hope­ful­ly be use­ful in the future when Tep­co removes the fuel debris.
    ...

    There are going to be some incred­i­bly hardy robots built by the end of this cleanup effort. Because it’s going to take a very long time and a lot of robots that don’t dis­turb dust. So long that Tep­co has­n’t even begun pub­li­cal­ly dis­cussing how it’s going to dis­pose of the spent fuel debris it’s sup­posed to col­lect for the Reac­tor No. 1 cleanup oper­a­tion. So Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty Chair­man Toyoshi Fuke­ta urged Tep­co Pres­i­dent Tomoa­ki Kobayakawa to start that dis­cus­sion. And that points to anoth­er sig­nif­i­cant obsta­cle in the cleanup of Reac­tion No. 1: They haven’t even start­ed to dis­cuss where to put the high­ly radioac­tive mate­ri­als that need to be pulled out of those build­ings and cleaned and dis­posed of some­how. It’s bound to be a high­ly con­tentious deci­sion and they haven’t even start­ed the pub­lic dis­cus­sions. But it’s prob­a­bly going to be a while before the debris is removed at the large scale so it’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly urgent. Still, the deci­sion of where to put the debris might take a while:

    ...
    On Jan. 16, Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion Author­i­ty Chair­man Toyoshi Fuke­ta urged Tep­co Pres­i­dent Tomoa­ki Kobayakawa to start dis­cussing ways to dis­pose of the spent fuel debris and radioac­tive waste inside reac­tors at the Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear plant in the decom­mis­sion­ing process.

    Tep­co has stat­ed that spent fuel rods at the Fukushi­ma No. 2 nuclear pow­er plant will be trans­port­ed out­side of Fukushi­ma Pre­fec­ture, but noth­ing con­crete has been decid­ed for the melt­ed fuel debris, spent fuel and radioac­tive waste at Fukushi­ma No. 1.

    “Decom­mis­sion­ing won’t be com­plete just by clear­ing up Fukushi­ma No. 1 and leav­ing (radioac­tive waste) inside,” Fuke­ta said. “If we don’t remove what we can, the decom­mis­sion­ing process will be stalled. I want you to work on a con­crete plan to remove (the waste).”
    ...

    So we’ll see where the Reac­tor No. 1. cleanup debris ulti­mate­ly goes. Let’s hope it’s not the ocean.

    That’s an update on those two fronts. And per­haps the most depress­ing part of the sto­ry of the ocean dump­ing is that it’s def­i­nite­ly not going to be the last ocean dump­ing sto­ry. Because the longer this goes, the more ocean dump­ing there’s going to be. So there’s going to be a lot more ocean dump­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 23, 2020, 11:53 pm
  12. With COVID-19 more or less over­tak­ing the glob­al news cycle for well over a month now here’s a sto­ry that thank­ful­ly has noth­ing to do with the pan­dem­ic. It does, how­ev­er have to do with anoth­er poten­tial­ly civ­i­liza­tion-destroy­ing cat­a­stro­phe:

    A Japan­ese gov­ern­ment pan­el just issued a report on its study of the like­li­hood of a future dev­as­tat­ing tsunamis off the coast of Hokkai­do, the sec­ond largest island in Japan. It’s a region of the ocean that Fukushi­ma is also on the coast of so if there’s a mega-earth­quake there it could also hit the Fukushi­ma plant too. The experts warned that anoth­er 9.0 mega-earth­quake like the kind that trig­gered the Fukushi­ma mega-cat­a­stro­phe could be “immi­nent”, although not in the exact region where the 2011 earth­quake took place.

    Keep in mind that immi­nence on geo­log­i­cal scales can still mean in a very long time. The pan­el point­ed to the fact that the area off the coast of Hokkai­do cen­tered around the Japan Trench and the Kuril Trench hap­pens every 300 to 400 years and the last tsuna­mi known to emerge from that area was in the 17th cen­tu­ry. So “immi­nent” in this case is like “prob­a­bly in the 100 years”. Still, for some­thing as absolute­ly dev­as­tat­ing as a mega-earth­quake/t­suna­mi, a pro­jec­tion that it’s prob­a­bly going to hap­pen in the next cen­tu­ry or so is a stark warn­ing. Prepa­ra­tions need to be made.

    And that’s where the pan­el had anoth­er round of bad news. They don’t fore­see hard infra­struc­ture as being capa­ble of defend­ing against these kinds of events and evac­u­a­tion would like­ly be the only viable pol­i­cy in response to such an event. And that means any crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture along the coast, like a nuclear plant, can’t real­is­ti­cal­ly be pre­emp­tive­ly pro­tect­ed with coastal lev­ees or what­ev­er.

    What does this mean for the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter zone that’s pro­ject­ed to be an active cleanup zone for decades to come? Well, the pan­el also pre­dict­ed that when this pre­dict­ed 9.0 earth­quake hits, the result­ing tsuna­mi would flood the Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture with a 5 to 20 meter tsuna­mi and sub­merge the plant. Keep in mind that the tsuna­mi that hit the Fukushi­ma plant was esti­mat­ed to be about 14-meters. So if this pro­ject­ed mega-earth­quake hits soon­er rather than lat­er, that cleanup site could become a renewed dis­as­ter site:

    The Japan Times

    M9 quake, 30-meter tsuna­mi could hit north­ern Japan: gov­ern­ment pan­el

    Apr 21, 2020

    A gov­ern­ment pan­el said Tues­day that tsuna­mi as high as 30 meters could hit Hokkai­do in north­ern Japan and Iwate in the north­east if a mag­ni­tude 9 earth­quake occurs along sea trench­es off the country’s Pacif­ic coast.

    The group of experts made the warn­ing based on a worst-case sce­nario and said a mega-earth­quake cen­tered around the Japan Trench and the Kuril Trench off north­ern parts of the coun­try could be “immi­nent.”

    While the Cab­i­net Office pan­el said it is dif­fi­cult to cal­cu­late the prob­a­bil­i­ty such an earth­quake could occur, it point­ed to the fact that mas­sive tsuna­mi have hap­pened in the region every 300 to 400 years with the lat­est observed in the 17th cen­tu­ry.

    The Japan Trench extends from waters off the coast of Hokkai­do to the Boso Penin­su­la in Chi­ba Pre­fec­ture, east of Tokyo, and the Kuril Trench stretch­es from the sea off Tokachi on the country’s north­ern­most main island to the Kuril Islands in Russia’s Far East.

    The mag­ni­tude 9.0 earth­quake and sub­se­quent tsuna­mi which dev­as­tat­ed north­east­ern Japan in 2011 and left more than 15,000 peo­ple dead were also focused on the Japan Trench. How­ev­er, the pan­el this time pre­dict­ed quakes specif­i­cal­ly cen­tered around waters off San­riku and Hida­ka as well as the sea off Tokachi and Nemuro.

    Seis­mol­o­gist Ken­ji Satake, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Tokyo pro­fes­sor and head of the pan­el, point­ed out a mas­sive earth­quake and tsuna­mi, though not often, would cer­tain­ly hap­pen in the region because such quakes have occurred there sev­er­al times in the past 6,000 years.

    A mas­sive earth­quake of this class (shown in the sim­u­la­tion) would be dif­fi­cult to deal with by devel­op­ing hard infra­struc­ture (such as coast lev­ees). To save people’s lives, the basic pol­i­cy would be evac­u­a­tion,” Satake said.

    ...

    The lat­est pan­el sim­u­la­tion based on the analy­sis of tsuna­mi deposits in the past 6,000 years cov­ered dam­age to sev­en pre­fec­tures — Hokkai­do, Aomori, Iwate, Miya­gi, Fukushi­ma, Ibara­ki and Chi­ba.

    Miyako in Iwate Pre­fec­ture was fore­cast to be hit by the largest tsuna­mi of 29.7 meters, fol­lowed by the Hokkai­do town of Eri­mo at 27.9 meters.

    The area around Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny Hold­ings Inc.’s Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant that was crip­pled by the 2011 dis­as­ter is pro­ject­ed to be sub­merged as well, while the coast of Miya­gi and Fukushi­ma pre­fec­tures could be hit by 5- to 20-meter tsuna­mi.

    Tsuna­mi could also hit parts of Aomori Pre­fec­ture fac­ing the Sea of Japan as well as Mut­su Bay, with the pre­fec­tur­al gov­ern­ment office and Aomori city hall pre­dict­ed to be under more than 1‑meter of water, accord­ing to the pan­el.

    ————

    “M9 quake, 30-meter tsuna­mi could hit north­ern Japan: gov­ern­ment pan­el”; The Japan Times; 04/21/2020

    “The group of experts made the warn­ing based on a worst-case sce­nario and said a mega-earth­quake cen­tered around the Japan Trench and the Kuril Trench off north­ern parts of the coun­try could be “immi­nent.”

    Anoth­er mega-earth­quake, with all its result­ing dev­as­ta­tion, could be “immi­nent”. We can’t pre­dict that it will hit this this year or decade but we can pre­dict with a fair degree of con­fi­dence that it’s some time in the next cen­tu­ry or so. It’s not quite like clock­work, but sort of, and we’re due:

    ...
    While the Cab­i­net Office pan­el said it is dif­fi­cult to cal­cu­late the prob­a­bil­i­ty such an earth­quake could occur, it point­ed to the fact that mas­sive tsuna­mi have hap­pened in the region every 300 to 400 years with the lat­est observed in the 17th cen­tu­ry.
    ...

    What are the pan­el’s rec­om­men­da­tions for prepar­ing for this 9.0 mega-earth­quake? Get ready to evac­u­ate peo­ple because coastal lev­ees won’t real­is­ti­cal­ly be able to hand it. And that includes the Fukushi­ma pow­er plant, which is pro­ject­ed to be sub­merged under a 5 to 20 meter:

    ...
    A mas­sive earth­quake of this class (shown in the sim­u­la­tion) would be dif­fi­cult to deal with by devel­op­ing hard infra­struc­ture (such as coast lev­ees). To save people’s lives, the basic pol­i­cy would be evac­u­a­tion,” Satake said.

    ...

    The area around Tokyo Elec­tric Pow­er Com­pa­ny Hold­ings Inc.’s Fukushi­ma No. 1 nuclear pow­er plant that was crip­pled by the 2011 dis­as­ter is pro­ject­ed to be sub­merged as well, while the coast of Miya­gi and Fukushi­ma pre­fec­tures could be hit by 5- to 20-meter tsuna­mi.
    ...

    What kind of impact could a new flood­ing of the cleanup site have on the all the wild­ly radioac­tive mate­r­i­al stored there? Don’t for­get that it was just a cou­ple months ago that we were told ocean dump­ing of scrubbed radioac­tive water was going to com­mence due to a lack of on-site stor­age capac­i­ty after they built so many water tanks that there the entire cleanup site ran out of space to build more. How much of that water would end up get­ting released by a tsuna­mi?

    And that scrubbed water is rel­a­tive­ly benign com­pared to the rest of the night­mare sub­stances that must be stored on that site. How much of the high­ly radioac­tive mate­ri­als that have been retrieved and stored by the cleanup effort on site would be released? And what about all the extreme­ly radioac­tive mate­ri­als that are yet to be retrieved from the melt­ed down reac­tors and all the mate­r­i­al that was released and flowed into the base­ments of the plants? If there’s a new tsuna­mi, how much of that water will end up flow­ing under­ground and even­tu­al­ly into those base­ments where it can be con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed before flow­ing back into the envi­ron­ment. Remem­ber when TEPCO built that “ice wall” of frozen soil back in 2014 to block the flow of ground­wa­ter into of the plants and back out into the ocean? Well, the ice wall is still up and run­ning and kind of work­ing so let’s hope it holds. There’s going to be a lot more ground water flow­ing into and out of those build­ings into the ocean if the site gets flood­ed again.

    So as we can see, one of the few pos­i­tive things about the COVID-19 glob­al pan­dem­ic is the how it serves as a very com­pelling dis­trac­tion from our reg­u­lar stream of glob­al cat­a­stroph­ic news.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 25, 2020, 10:50 pm
  13. Here’s a nuclear cat­a­stro­phe update. It’s not a Fukushi­ma or Cher­nobyl update about a past (ongo­ing) cat­a­stro­phe but it does tan­gen­tial­ly relate to the still-unre­solved sto­ry of the Michael Flynn/George Nader/Michael Cohen nuclear pow­er plant scheme to finance the US-backed con­struc­tion of nuclear pow­er plants across the Mid­dle East:

    It’s an update about the future nuclear catastrophe(s) that’s kind of guar­an­teed at this point thanks to the fact that the UAE is now bring­ing online a brand new nuclear pow­er pow­er, the Arab world’s first nuclear pow­er plant in the Mid­dle East. A new nuclear pow­er plant that’s also the first and only export for South Kore­a’s Elec­tric Pow­er Cor­po­ra­tion (KEPCO) which won the con­tract to build the plant by under­cut­ting the com­pe­ti­tion with a bid that’s 30 per­cent low­er than the next-cheap­est com­peti­tor. And it sounds like one of the ways KEPCO man­aged to make that low bid was by using a cheap design that lacks some of the basic safe­ty fea­tures one would expect for a mod­ern new nuclear pow­er plant. Basic safe­ty fea­tures like hard­ened con­crete to pro­tect against an aer­i­al attack or a “core catch­er” that catch­es the reac­tor core if it melts down. So it’s not real­ly a nuclear cat­a­stro­phe update as much as it’s a nuclear cat­a­stro­phe fore­cast. Some­thing real­ly bad is going to hap­pen over the life­time of this poor­ly and cheap­ly designed nuclear plant. That’s the fore­cast.

    In addi­tion, there’s no actu­al long-term stor­age plans for the spent fuel rods. That’s yet to be deter­mined. Plus, thanks to the loca­tion cho­sen for the plant if there’s a melt­down the radi­a­tion is going to drain into the rel­a­tive­ly shal­low waters of the Per­sian Gulf and linger there guar­an­tee­ing far greater eco­log­i­cal dam­age to the sur­round­ing marine life than what took place after Fukushi­ma, where the radi­a­tion flowed into the deep waters of the Pacif­ic and rapid­ly dis­bursed over a large area.

    So this is a brand new extra dan­ger­ous nuclear pow­er plant that’s going to be oper­at­ing in the Mid­dle East for decades to come. The first of the four reac­tors got fueled up in March. Once the oth­er four reac­tors are up and run­ning the plant is pro­ject­ed to pro­vide 25% of the UAE’s elec­tric­i­ty demands. So there’s plen­ty of remain­ing demand that might prompt the UAE to build more plants in the future. Except, as the fol­low­ing Aljazeera arti­cle notes, the eco­nom­ics of nuclear pow­er com­pared to green alter­na­tives like wind and solar (which is ide­al for the UAE) have become far less favor­able over the last decade com­pared to the rel­a­tive costs in 2009 when the UAE start­ed this nuclear pow­er ini­tia­tive. It’s one of the rare bits of good news about this sto­ry: the eco­nom­ics jus­ti­fy­ing the con­struc­tion of this high­ly dan­ger­ous plant shift almost imme­di­ate­ly after the UAE start­ed build­ing it so hope­ful­ly this is the last extra cheap/dangerous plant of this nature built any­where ever again. But that rare bit of good news is also lead­ing to dark sus­pi­cions. Dark and per­fect­ly log­i­cal sus­pi­cions that the rea­son the UAE built this plant when green ener­gy that would­n’t have all of these safe­ty con­cerns was rapid­ly get­ting cheap­er is pre­cise­ly because the UAE is plan­ning on build­ing nuclear weapons. It’s the only sce­nario where build­ing this plant sense. At least makes sense in a mutu­al­ly assured MAD-ness sort of way.

    And if the UAE builds nukes we can be sure its neigh­bors are going to be extra inter­est­ed in acquir­ing nukes of their own. That’s why the sto­ry of the UAE’s new Barakah nuclear plant is such bad news: it’s the kind of bad new that inher­ent­ly spawns an ever-grow­ing bad news arms race:

    Aljazeera

    Nuclear Gulf: Experts sound the alarm over UAE nuclear reac­tors

    From envi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter to a nuclear arms race, experts warn of lay­ers of risks sur­round­ing Barakah nuclear plant.

    by Patri­cia Sab­ga
    15 Jul 2020

    If there is one les­son the world can learn from the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, it is that the­o­ret­i­cal, bor­der-breach­ing cat­a­stro­phes can sud­den­ly become very real and very dead­ly.

    Nuclear ener­gy experts have long under­stood this. They spend their entire careers think­ing about and try­ing to mit­i­gate low-prob­a­bil­i­ty, high-impact risks.

    After all, nuclear pow­er plants have been around since the 1950s. The rough­ly 440 nuclear pow­er reac­tors cur­rent­ly in use today most­ly hum along unno­ticed — split­ting atoms to release ener­gy, gen­er­at­ing heat that pow­ers steam tur­bines to pro­duce elec­tric­i­ty.

    Put sim­ply, nuclear pow­er reac­tors boil water — an over­whelm­ing­ly unevent­ful process.

    Until the unthink­able hap­pens.

    Cher­nobyl. Fukushi­ma. Both infa­mous acci­dents. Both root­ed in human error. And to date, the only ones rat­ed as sev­en — the high­est lev­el of sever­i­ty on a scale cre­at­ed by the Unit­ed Nations’ nuclear watch­dog, the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency (IAEA).

    Near­ly a decade on from Fukushi­ma and three and a half decades after Cher­nobyl, nuclear pow­er no longer dom­i­nates glob­al dis­cus­sions — in part because many coun­tries are mov­ing away from it, decom­mis­sion­ing reac­tors, or scrap­ping or scal­ing back nuclear ener­gy projects in favour of far cheap­er, much safer renew­able ener­gy solu­tions like wind and solar.

    But as much of the world looks for ways to move on from 20th-cen­tu­ry fis­sion ener­gy and embrace sus­tain­able, more fis­cal­ly respon­si­ble 21st-cen­tu­ry options, the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates (UAE) is going nuclear.

    In March, the UAE fin­ished load­ing fuel rods into one of four brand-new nuclear reac­tors at the Barakah nuclear pow­er sta­tion — the first on the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la.

    Years behind sched­ule and bil­lions of dol­lars over bud­get, Barakah — Ara­bic for “divine bless­ing” — has been ham­pered by con­struc­tion prob­lems that were not dis­closed in a time­ly fash­ion, and a pauci­ty of prop­er­ly trained staff to run the plant.

    The UAE is adamant its inten­tions are peace­ful. It has agreed not to enrich its own ura­ni­um or reprocess spent fuel, and has signed up to the IAEA’s Addi­tion­al Pro­to­col, sig­nif­i­cant­ly enhanc­ing the agen­cy’s inspec­tion capa­bil­i­ties.

    It has also secured a cov­et­ed 123 Agree­ment with the Unit­ed States — a seal of approval from Wash­ing­ton that paves the way for bilat­er­al civil­ian nuclear coop­er­a­tion includ­ing the trans­fer of nuclear mate­r­i­al, equip­ment and com­po­nents.

    Still, nuclear ener­gy spe­cial­ists are sound­ing the alarm over the poten­tial fall­out the UAE reac­tors could vis­it upon the Gulf, an eco­log­i­cal­ly frag­ile and geopo­lit­i­cal­ly volatile patch of plan­et Earth.

    What they describe is not one poten­tial risk, but lay­ers of them — from an envi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter, to theft of radioac­tive mate­ri­als, to a nuclear arms race between region­al rivals.

    Among the con­cerned is Paul Dorf­man, Hon­orary Senior Research Fel­low at the Ener­gy Insti­tute, Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don and founder and chair of the Nuclear Con­sult­ing Group.

    Dorf­man advis­es gov­ern­ments on nuclear radi­a­tion risks. And gov­ern­ments take his advice.

    His ver­dict on Barakah: “This is the wrong reac­tor, in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

    Vul­ner­a­ble to attack

    Nuclear weapons are designed to kill. Nuclear pow­er plants are designed to pro­duce pow­er for soci­ety at large. But talk to a nuclear spe­cial­ist, and the line sep­a­rat­ing a mil­i­tary weapon from a civil­ian-use reac­tor can quick­ly blur.

    “There’s an old say­ing, which is a nuclear pow­er plant in a coun­try is like a pre-deployed nuclear weapon for the ene­my,” Mycle Schnei­der, con­ven­ing lead author and the pub­lish­er of the World Nuclear Indus­try Sta­tus Report (WNISR), told Al Jazeera. “Peo­ple don’t realise, but the radioac­tive inven­to­ry in a nuclear pow­er plant is much, much larg­er than what is in a nuclear weapon.”

    The acci­dent at Cher­nobyl, for instance, released 400 times more radioac­tive mate­r­i­al into the plan­et’s atmos­phere than the atom­ic bomb dropped on Hiroshi­ma by the US, accord­ing to the IAEA.

    But a radioac­tive release does not have to stem from human error. It could also result from a delib­er­ate attack on a nuclear reac­tor. And the Mid­dle East has wit­nessed more of those than any oth­er region on Earth.

    “This is not a place that allows for mere aca­d­e­m­ic spec­u­la­tion about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of some­one else tak­ing a whack at a reac­tor,” Hen­ry Sokol­s­ki, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Pol­i­cy Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter, told Al Jazeera. “If you go back just even a few years, you can get to 13 aer­i­al strikes against reac­tors in the region.”

    Those reac­tors were locat­ed in Iraq, Iran and Israel, and include a sus­pect­ed one under con­struc­tion in Syr­ia that Israel bombed.

    Iraq’s reac­tors were destroyed. Israel has two reac­tors in oper­a­tion and Iran oper­ates a nuclear pow­er plant at Bushehr.

    Now, the UAE is adding the Arab world’s first nuclear pow­er plant into that Mid­dle East mix.

    Locat­ed in the Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi, the Barakah nuclear pow­er plant has four reac­tors, the first of which is ful­ly con­struct­ed and had fuel rods loaded in March this year.

    Emi­rates Nuclear Ener­gy Corp (ENEC), which is build­ing and oper­at­ing the plant, says it will pro­vide 25 per­cent of the UAE’s elec­tric­i­ty needs when all four reac­tors are fired up and plugged into the grid.

    This spring, ENEC’s CEO said the first reac­tor would reach “crit­i­cal­i­ty” — the point of a sus­tained chain-reac­tion (nuclear fis­sion) — “very soon”.

    It has been a long time com­ing. Barakah is three years behind sched­ule and has been plagued by prob­lems stem­ming from what experts describe as a cut-rate design and poor con­struc­tion that would not fly in safe­ty-con­scious Europe.

    The Barakah reac­tors are the first and only export order secured by South Kore­a’s Korea Elec­tric Pow­er Cor­po­ra­tion (KEPCO), which won the UAE con­tract with a bid that was report­ed­ly about 30 per­cent low­er than the next-cheap­est one.

    “It’s con­cern­ing that in a volatile area, these reac­tors are being built in what seems to be a rel­a­tive­ly cheap and cheer­ful kind of way,” said Dorf­man. “The Barakah reac­tor, although it is a rel­a­tive­ly mod­ern reac­tor, it does not have what is known as ‘Gen­er­a­tion III+ [three plus] Defense-in-Depth’. In oth­er words, it does­n’t have added-on pro­tec­tion from an air­plane crash or mis­sile attack.”

    Those miss­ing defence fea­tures include what Dorf­man describes as “a load of con­crete with a load of rein­forced steel” for extra pro­tec­tion from an aer­i­al attack and a “core catch­er” that lit­er­al­ly catch­es the reac­tor core if it melts down.

    “Both of these engi­neer­ing groups would nor­mal­ly be expect­ed in any new nuclear reac­tor in Europe,” he said.

    And Europe is not near­ly as volatile as the Gulf, where as recent­ly as Sep­tem­ber, Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s oil facil­i­ties at Abqaiq and Khu­rais were attacked by 18 drones and sev­en cruise mis­siles — an assault that tem­porar­i­ly knocked out more than half of the king­dom’s oil pro­duc­tion.

    “I would say that they [Barakah reac­tors] are as vul­ner­a­ble as Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s Abqaiq facil­i­ty was, which was pro­tect­ed by three lay­ers of mis­sile defence,” said Sokol­s­ki.

    Aer­i­al assaults are just one poten­tial avenue of attack. The UAE has pledged not to enrich its own ura­ni­um, so it has to import it. The UAE plans to cool spent fuel rods on site in pools, but accord­ing to ENEC’s web­site, it has no long-term stor­age pol­i­cy in place yet.

    “What you’ll see is nuclear fuel rods and fuel com­ing in and high-lev­el waste going out,” said Dorf­man. “Now acci­dents and inci­dents on this high-lev­el stuff could prove deeply prob­lem­at­ic. And we know even into the Ara­bi­an Sea there’s ques­tions about pira­cy.”

    Ripe for human error

    Beyond the spec­tre of a delib­er­ate attack or theft of radioac­tive mate­ri­als, experts also wor­ry that Barakah could wit­ness an acci­dent caused by human error.

    Every coun­try needs a nuclear reg­u­la­to­ry body to ensure the safe oper­a­tions of reac­tors. In the UAE, that job falls to the Fed­er­al Author­i­ty for Nuclear Reg­u­la­tion (FANR).

    Estab­lished in 2009, FANR boasts on its web­site that it has “achieved remark­able suc­cess in the UAE’s peace­ful nuclear pro­gramme through trans­paren­cy in its oper­a­tions”.

    But Barakah has a trou­bling record of less-than-time­ly dis­clo­sures of prob­lems.

    Cracks in Barakah’s num­ber-three con­tain­ment build­ing were detect­ed in 2017, but the Direc­tor Gen­er­al of FANR, Chris­ter Vik­tors­son, only pub­licly dis­closed this in Novem­ber 2018, dur­ing an inter­view with the pub­li­ca­tion Ener­gy Intel­li­gence.

    Cracks are a seri­ous issue because con­tain­ment build­ings are sup­posed to pre­vent a radi­o­log­i­cal release into the atmos­phere should an acci­dent hap­pen.

    ENEC did not release a state­ment about the cracks in the num­ber-three unit until Decem­ber 2018, when it fur­ther admit­ted that cracks had also been found in Barakah’s num­ber-two con­tain­ment build­ing.

    “ENEC’s reluc­tance to reveal any details speaks vol­umes about the trans­paren­cy of the Barakah new build,” said Dorf­man.

    Cracks were even­tu­al­ly detect­ed in all four Barakah con­tain­ment build­ings.

    “I can def­i­nite­ly say that in most cas­es, there’s more infor­ma­tion avail­able on the progress of con­struc­tion than is the case in the UAE,” said Schnei­der. “It seems to be par­tic­u­lar­ly prob­lem­at­ic to access infor­ma­tion in this coun­try [the UAE], which is some­what wor­ry­ing when it comes to high-risk tech­nolo­gies.”

    When prop­er over­sight is lack­ing at nuclear facil­i­ties, the impact on peo­ple and the plan­et can be dev­as­tat­ing.

    The inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion com­mit­tee appoint­ed by Japan’s nation­al leg­is­la­ture to look into the dis­as­ter at the Fukushi­ma Dai­ichi Nuclear Pow­er Plant con­clud­ed that it was not the result of the earth­quake and tsuna­mi that shook Japan on March 11, 2011, but “a pro­found­ly man­made dis­as­ter — that could and should have been fore­seen and pre­vent­ed”.

    But it is not only nuclear reg­u­la­tors who can drop the ball. Nuclear work­ers need to be prop­er­ly trained in their jobs and steeped in a cul­ture that pro­motes pub­lic safe­ty above all oth­er con­sid­er­a­tions.

    Here too, experts find Barakah want­i­ng.

    FANR did not issue an oper­at­ing licence to Barakah in 2017 — the year it was orig­i­nal­ly sched­uled to go online. At the time, ENEC said the start-up date had been pushed back to allow more time to ensure safe­ty stan­dards and rein­force “oper­a­tional pro­fi­cien­cy” for plant work­ers.

    “There are some real con­cerns about the train­ing lev­els [of nuclear work­ers],” said Schnei­der, adding that while he thinks there “are very seri­ous doubts about the inde­pen­dence” of FANR, even the UAE’s nuclear reg­u­la­tor was “not con­vinced that the lev­el of train­ing was suf­fi­cient to start up the first [Barakah] reac­tor.”

    Nei­ther ENEC nor FANR respond­ed to Al Jazeer­a’s requests for an inter­view to dis­cuss the con­cerns sur­round­ing Barakah.

    What spills in the Gulf hangs around in the Gulf

    Attack or human sna­fu, the ques­tion then becomes, what hap­pens to the UAE and its neigh­bours if radi­a­tion from Barakah is released into the sur­round­ing envi­ron­ment?

    There are so many vari­ables to con­sid­er, the dis­as­ter sce­nar­ios are bound­less. But past nuclear inci­dents can offer a win­dow into the pub­lic health prob­lems that can arise, from ele­vat­ed lev­els of cer­tain kinds of can­cers, DNA dam­age and death, to social dis­rup­tions, com­mu­ni­ty break­downs and anguish­ing social stig­mas suf­fered by sur­vivors.

    One vari­able attached to Barakah that trou­bles nuclear spe­cial­ists and oth­er sci­en­tists is the unique ecosys­tem of the Gulf.

    Most of the radi­a­tion released dur­ing the Fukushi­ma acci­dent end­ed up in the Pacif­ic Ocean — which is vast, cold and deep — enabling it to dis­perse over a wide area. The Gulf, by com­par­i­son, is far small­er, warmer and shal­low­er.

    Rough­ly 600 miles (965km) long, the Gulf’s width varies from just over 200 miles (322km), nar­row­ing to around 35 miles (56km) at the Strait of Hor­muz, where dur­ing the spring, the tidal range is only 1.2 metres.

    “It’s a very stressed water body in terms of the ecosys­tem,” said Roger A Fal­con­er, emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of Water Engi­neer­ing at Cardiff Uni­ver­si­ty.

    Fal­con­er has stud­ied three-dimen­sion­al com­put­er mod­els of the Gulf, map­ping so-called “res­i­dence times” — the aver­age time a par­cel of water or a spillage, like oil, hangs around in the Gulf before it is flushed out via the Strait of Hor­muz.

    “To get from Abu Dhabi to the Strait of Hor­muz, it would typ­i­cal­ly take two years, which is a long time,” Fal­con­er told Al Jazeera.

    “I would have thought it was bet­ter to put the nuclear pow­er sta­tion on the oth­er side of the Strait of Hor­muz out­side the basin,” he added.

    The prospect of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al pol­lut­ing the Gulf is even more wor­ri­some, say experts, when you con­sid­er that it has the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of water desali­na­tion plants on Earth, and no lia­bil­i­ty regime in place to deter­mine who pays for what if a radi­a­tion inci­dent hap­pens.

    “It would be enor­mous­ly help­ful if the GCC [Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil] states got togeth­er and start­ed think­ing about a lia­bil­i­ty regime, a lia­bil­i­ty struc­ture to think through what if some­thing hap­pens,” said Dorf­man.

    The finan­cial toll of a nuclear acci­dent can be stag­ger­ing. Japan’s gov­ern­ment esti­mat­ed in 2016 that the final price tag for clean­ing up Fukushi­ma will be north of $200bn, while the Japan Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic Research reck­ons it could cost more than three times that amount. And most of the radioac­tive con­t­a­m­i­na­tion from Fukushi­ma blew out to sea — not toward heav­i­ly pop­u­lat­ed areas like Tokyo.

    The mar­ket just says ‘no’ to nuclear

    When the UAE launched its nuclear pro­gramme back in 2009, nuclear ener­gy was sold as a “sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion” to the coun­try’s econ­o­my as well as its future ener­gy secu­ri­ty.

    The ini­tial pro­ject­ed cost for the plant was $20bn. But thanks to delays, that fig­ure had bal­looned to more than $24bn by 2016. Some esti­mates put the total cost of the Barakah build at around $28bn to $30bn.

    While the bill for Barakah was climb­ing, the price of green­er, renew­able ener­gy start­ed plum­met­ing dra­mat­i­cal­ly.

    Between 2009 and 2019, util­i­ty-scale aver­age solar pho­to­volta­ic costs fell 89 per­cent and wind fell 43 per­cent, while nuclear sky­rock­et­ed 26 per­cent, accord­ing to an analy­sis by the finan­cial advi­so­ry and asset man­ag­er Lazard.

    Zoom in on the Gulf, and the mar­ket case for nuclear real­ly starts to break down.

    Accord­ing to the forth­com­ing 2020 edi­tion of the WNISR, the lat­est con­tract­ed solar pho­to­volta­ic pow­er pur­chase agree­ment for the fifth-phase Dubai solar park came in under two cents ($0.02) per kilo­watt-hour (kWh). Barakah’s pro­ject­ed lev­elized cost of ener­gy (life­time costs divid­ed by ener­gy pro­duc­tion) back in 2012 was a lit­tle over sev­en cents ($0.07) per kWh.

    Mean­while, Lazard’s 2019 glob­al esti­mate for the aver­age glob­al lev­elized cost of nuclear ener­gy came in at $0.118- $0.192 per kWh.

    “Renew­able costs have plum­met­ed to such an extent that the mar­ket just says ‘no’ to nuclear,” said Dorf­man. “The only way you can build nuclear these days is with mas­sive, mas­sive state sub­si­dies.”

    Not sur­pris­ing­ly, free mar­kets have start­ed to give a thumbs-down to nuclear ener­gy. The num­ber of nuclear pow­er units under con­struc­tion around the world fell from 68 at the end of 2013 to 46 by mid-2019.

    One rea­son con­struc­tion is still mov­ing for­ward with many of these, says Schnei­der, is nuclear pow­er’s momen­tum.

    “This tech­nol­o­gy is a lock-in tech­nol­o­gy,” he said. “Once you do the first step, it’s very dif­fi­cult to walk back the deci­sion-mak­ing process­es.”

    When the UAE estab­lished its pro­gramme in 2009, nuclear was more cost effec­tive for gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­i­ty than solar and wind. But Barakah did not break ground until 2012 — after Fukushi­ma had led many coun­tries to either scrap or post­pone nuclear projects, and by which time solar costs were clos­ing in on nuclear and wind had become an even cheap­er option.

    “There was def­i­nite­ly a lost oppor­tu­ni­ty, you know, [for the UAE] to get out of this project,” said Schnei­der.

    Pro­lif­er­a­tion con­cerns

    When­ev­er the words “nuclear” and “Mid­dle East” are uttered in the same sen­tence, a dis­cus­sion about pro­lif­er­a­tion risks is almost sure­ly bound to fol­low because nuclear tech­nol­o­gy is dual-use.

    “The tense geopo­lit­i­cal envi­ron­ment in the Gulf makes nuclear a more con­tro­ver­sial issue in this region than else­where, as all new nuclear pow­er pro­vides the capa­bil­i­ty to devel­op and make nuclear weapons,” Dorf­man notes.

    This has long been a con­cern in the Mid­dle East — a region wracked by armed con­flict, civ­il unrest and super­pow­er agen­das.

    A cold war between Sau­di Ara­bia and Iran has opened mul­ti­ple fault­lines. The air, land and sea block­ade of Qatar by Sau­di Ara­bia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt just entered its fourth year. The civ­il wars in Syr­ia and Libya are also region­al and inter­na­tion­al proxy wars. Anti-gov­ern­ment demon­stra­tions erupt­ed last year in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Alge­ria, Egypt, Jor­dan, Moroc­co, Pales­tine and Tunisia. There has been no progress in resolv­ing the more than half-cen­tu­ry-old Pales­tin­ian-Israeli con­flict. And the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic is caus­ing painful eco­nom­ic dis­rup­tions that are already fuelling more dis­con­tent.

    For years, the light­ning rod for Mid­dle East nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion dis­course has been Iran and the slow­ly unrav­el­ling deal with world pow­ers to keep Tehran’s nuclear pro­gramme in check.

    The Mid­dle East is not a region where trust on mat­ters nuclear is eas­i­ly extend­ed by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty. And for good rea­son. Israel has nev­er admit­ted to pos­sess­ing nuclear weapons even though it is wide­ly believed to have them. Iraq had a covert nuclear weapons pro­gramme that was gut­ted after the 1991 Gulf War. Libya admit­ted in 2003 that it had a clan­des­tine nuclear pro­gramme that was sub­se­quent­ly dis­man­tled. Alge­ria admit­ted in the ear­ly 1990s that it had con­struct­ed a nuclear research reac­tor with Chi­na’s help. And though Iran insists its nuclear pro­gramme has nev­er been mil­i­tary in nature, it did admit in 2002 that it had built nuclear facil­i­ties that were not declared to the IAEA.

    Under­stand­ably, the UAE has tried to dis­tance itself from bad behav­iour — real or per­ceived — of its region­al cohorts.

    Most recent­ly, the UAE’s ambas­sador to the US, Yousef Al Otai­ba, wrote an op-ed pub­lished in the Wall Street Jour­nal remind­ing the world that the UAE had opt­ed to “for­go domes­tic enrich­ment and repro­cess­ing of nuclear mate­r­i­al”, and has agreed to let the IAEA inspect its nuclear facil­i­ties on short notice.

    “New and bet­ter rules have deliv­ered a new huge source of clean pow­er and reduced the risk of nuclear pro­lif­er­a­tion,” Otai­ba wrote.

    But con­cerns still linger.

    Since new nuclear makes lit­tle appar­ent sense in the Gulf, which has some of the best solar ener­gy resources in the world, the nature of the inter­est in nuclear may lie hid­den in plain sight,” Dorf­man not­ed in a report he authored on Barakah.

    Sokol­s­ki also has ques­tions about Mid­dle East nuclear ener­gy ambi­tions. “If they want elec­tric­i­ty, this is a very poor way to do it,” he said, not­ing the abun­dance of alter­na­tive ener­gy sources the UAE and oth­er coun­tries in the region with nuclear pow­er plants under devel­op­ment could har­ness includ­ing nat­ur­al gas, sun and wind. “Build­ing a nuclear pow­er plant would be like num­ber 58 on your top five things to do, and that they’ve cho­sen to focus on this [nuclear] is sus­pect.”

    ...

    ———-

    “Nuclear Gulf: Experts sound the alarm over UAE nuclear reac­tors” by Patri­cia Sab­ga; Aljazeera; 07/15/2020

    “His ver­dict on Barakah: “This is the wrong reac­tor, in the wrong place at the wrong time.””

    The wrong reac­tor, in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s a suc­cinct way of putting it, although giv­en that it’s an extra dan­ger­ous reac­tor design it’s real­ly the wrong tech­nol­o­gy in all places at all times. Espe­cial­ly going for­ward now that green ener­gy is cheap­er. There’s basi­cal­ly no excuse for new nuclear plants at this point, espe­cial­ly in a region like the Mid­dle East where solar ener­gy is abun­dant. And yet the UAE has pledged to the world that it has no inter­est in nuclear weapons. It built this super-expen­sive tick­ing time-bomb for com­plete­ly unre­lat­ed rea­sons that have noth­ing to do with nuclear weapons:

    ...
    In March, the UAE fin­ished load­ing fuel rods into one of four brand-new nuclear reac­tors at the Barakah nuclear pow­er sta­tion — the first on the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la.

    ...

    The UAE is adamant its inten­tions are peace­ful. It has agreed not to enrich its own ura­ni­um or reprocess spent fuel, and has signed up to the IAEA’s Addi­tion­al Pro­to­col, sig­nif­i­cant­ly enhanc­ing the agen­cy’s inspec­tion capa­bil­i­ties.

    It has also secured a cov­et­ed 123 Agree­ment with the Unit­ed States — a seal of approval from Wash­ing­ton that paves the way for bilat­er­al civil­ian nuclear coop­er­a­tion includ­ing the trans­fer of nuclear mate­r­i­al, equip­ment and com­po­nents.

    ...

    Since new nuclear makes lit­tle appar­ent sense in the Gulf, which has some of the best solar ener­gy resources in the world, the nature of the inter­est in nuclear may lie hid­den in plain sight,” Dorf­man not­ed in a report he authored on Barakah.

    Sokol­s­ki also has ques­tions about Mid­dle East nuclear ener­gy ambi­tions. “If they want elec­tric­i­ty, this is a very poor way to do it,” he said, not­ing the abun­dance of alter­na­tive ener­gy sources the UAE and oth­er coun­tries in the region with nuclear pow­er plants under devel­op­ment could har­ness includ­ing nat­ur­al gas, sun and wind. “Build­ing a nuclear pow­er plant would be like num­ber 58 on your top five things to do, and that they’ve cho­sen to focus on this [nuclear] is sus­pect.”
    ...

    But the UAE did­n’t sim­ply choose an extreme­ly expen­sive ener­gy source to ful­fill its grow­ing elec­tric­i­ty needs. It chose the extra cheap and dan­ger­ous reac­tor design to cut costs. And it’s the very first nuclear plant built out­side of Korea by South Kore­a’s Korea Elec­tric Pow­er Cor­po­ra­tion (KEPCO) in a bid won by under­cut­ting the next-cheap­est bid­der by 30 per­cent:

    ...
    Nuclear weapons are designed to kill. Nuclear pow­er plants are designed to pro­duce pow­er for soci­ety at large. But talk to a nuclear spe­cial­ist, and the line sep­a­rat­ing a mil­i­tary weapon from a civil­ian-use reac­tor can quick­ly blur.

    “There’s an old say­ing, which is a nuclear pow­er plant in a coun­try is like a pre-deployed nuclear weapon for the ene­my,” Mycle Schnei­der, con­ven­ing lead author and the pub­lish­er of the World Nuclear Indus­try Sta­tus Report (WNISR), told Al Jazeera. “Peo­ple don’t realise, but the radioac­tive inven­to­ry in a nuclear pow­er plant is much, much larg­er than what is in a nuclear weapon.”

    ...

    Locat­ed in the Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi, the Barakah nuclear pow­er plant has four reac­tors, the first of which is ful­ly con­struct­ed and had fuel rods loaded in March this year.

    Emi­rates Nuclear Ener­gy Corp (ENEC), which is build­ing and oper­at­ing the plant, says it will pro­vide 25 per­cent of the UAE’s elec­tric­i­ty needs when all four reac­tors are fired up and plugged into the grid.

    This spring, ENEC’s CEO said the first reac­tor would reach “crit­i­cal­i­ty” — the point of a sus­tained chain-reac­tion (nuclear fis­sion) — “very soon”.

    It has been a long time com­ing. Barakah is three years behind sched­ule and has been plagued by prob­lems stem­ming from what experts describe as a cut-rate design and poor con­struc­tion that would not fly in safe­ty-con­scious Europe.

    The Barakah reac­tors are the first and only export order secured by South Kore­a’s Korea Elec­tric Pow­er Cor­po­ra­tion (KEPCO), which won the UAE con­tract with a bid that was report­ed­ly about 30 per­cent low­er than the next-cheap­est one.

    “It’s con­cern­ing that in a volatile area, these reac­tors are being built in what seems to be a rel­a­tive­ly cheap and cheer­ful kind of way,” said Dorf­man. “The Barakah reac­tor, although it is a rel­a­tive­ly mod­ern reac­tor, it does not have what is known as ‘Gen­er­a­tion III+ [three plus] Defense-in-Depth’. In oth­er words, it does­n’t have added-on pro­tec­tion from an air­plane crash or mis­sile attack.”

    Those miss­ing defence fea­tures include what Dorf­man describes as “a load of con­crete with a load of rein­forced steel” for extra pro­tec­tion from an aer­i­al attack and a “core catch­er” that lit­er­al­ly catch­es the reac­tor core if it melts down.

    “Both of these engi­neer­ing groups would nor­mal­ly be expect­ed in any new nuclear reac­tor in Europe,” he said.

    ...

    Cracks in Barakah’s num­ber-three con­tain­ment build­ing were detect­ed in 2017, but the Direc­tor Gen­er­al of FANR, Chris­ter Vik­tors­son, only pub­licly dis­closed this in Novem­ber 2018, dur­ing an inter­view with the pub­li­ca­tion Ener­gy Intel­li­gence.

    Cracks are a seri­ous issue because con­tain­ment build­ings are sup­posed to pre­vent a radi­o­log­i­cal release into the atmos­phere should an acci­dent hap­pen.

    ENEC did not release a state­ment about the cracks in the num­ber-three unit until Decem­ber 2018, when it fur­ther admit­ted that cracks had also been found in Barakah’s num­ber-two con­tain­ment build­ing.

    “ENEC’s reluc­tance to reveal any details speaks vol­umes about the trans­paren­cy of the Barakah new build,” said Dorf­man.

    Cracks were even­tu­al­ly detect­ed in all four Barakah con­tain­ment build­ings.

    “I can def­i­nite­ly say that in most cas­es, there’s more infor­ma­tion avail­able on the progress of con­struc­tion than is the case in the UAE,” said Schnei­der. “It seems to be par­tic­u­lar­ly prob­lem­at­ic to access infor­ma­tion in this coun­try [the UAE], which is some­what wor­ry­ing when it comes to high-risk tech­nolo­gies.”
    ...

    It’s like a planned nuclear dis­as­ter. A planned nuclear dis­as­ter that does­n’t include a plan for where to store the spent nuclear fuel rods. Recall how stores of spent fuel rods — which are far more radi­o­log­i­cal­ly dan­ger­ous than unspent rods because they’ve been con­vert­ed into a kalei­do­scope of high­ly radioac­tive ele­ments — have been one of the great­est ini­tial hur­dles when clean­ing up the Fukushi­ma dis­as­ter site. It’s a warn­ing of the dan­gers of tem­po­rary spent fuel rod stor­age. Dan­gers that poten­tial­ly include repur­pos­ing the spent fuel rods for build­ing nuclear weapons which rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not the UAE does­n’t have any long-term plans for stor­ing those spent fuel rods because the long-term plans are to turn them into bombs:

    ...
    Aer­i­al assaults are just one poten­tial avenue of attack. The UAE has pledged not to enrich its own ura­ni­um, so it has to import it. The UAE plans to cool spent fuel rods on site in pools, but accord­ing to ENEC’s web­site, it has no long-term stor­age pol­i­cy in place yet.

    “What you’ll see is nuclear fuel rods and fuel com­ing in and high-lev­el waste going out,” said Dorf­man. “Now acci­dents and inci­dents on this high-lev­el stuff could prove deeply prob­lem­at­ic. And we know even into the Ara­bi­an Sea there’s ques­tions about pira­cy.”
    ...

    Final­ly, the new Barakah plant has the ‘fea­ture’ of being locat­ed in a part of the world that will geo­graph­i­cal­ly ensure any major radi­a­tion leaks are going to dev­as­tate the ecosys­tems of the rel­a­tive­ly shal­low Per­sian Gulf and irra­di­ate the desali­nat­ed water sup­plies of coun­tries in the region:

    ...
    One vari­able attached to Barakah that trou­bles nuclear spe­cial­ists and oth­er sci­en­tists is the unique ecosys­tem of the Gulf.

    Most of the radi­a­tion released dur­ing the Fukushi­ma acci­dent end­ed up in the Pacif­ic Ocean — which is vast, cold and deep — enabling it to dis­perse over a wide area. The Gulf, by com­par­i­son, is far small­er, warmer and shal­low­er.

    ...

    “To get from Abu Dhabi to the Strait of Hor­muz, it would typ­i­cal­ly take two years, which is a long time,” Fal­con­er told Al Jazeera.

    “I would have thought it was bet­ter to put the nuclear pow­er sta­tion on the oth­er side of the Strait of Hor­muz out­side the basin,” he added.

    The prospect of radioac­tive mate­r­i­al pol­lut­ing the Gulf is even more wor­ri­some, say experts, when you con­sid­er that it has the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of water desali­na­tion plants on Earth, and no lia­bil­i­ty regime in place to deter­mine who pays for what if a radi­a­tion inci­dent hap­pens.

    “It would be enor­mous­ly help­ful if the GCC [Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil] states got togeth­er and start­ed think­ing about a lia­bil­i­ty regime, a lia­bil­i­ty struc­ture to think through what if some­thing hap­pens,” said Dorf­man.
    ...

    And that whole night­mare ener­gy project — the wrong tech­nol­o­gy in the wrong place at the wrong time — is just com­ing online now. The loom­ing dan­gers for the region are going to be plagu­ing the Mid­dle East for decades to come. And when it comes to nuclear weapons pro­lif­er­a­tion it’s not like the dan­gers are lim­it­ed to the region around the nuclear plant where the weapons orig­i­nat­ed from. The glob­al risk of nuclear con­flict rose with the open­ing of this plant. An extra dan­ger­ous plant design to save mon­ey in the short-run at the risk of com­plete cat­a­stro­phe if things wrong awry at any point in the long-run.

    And that points to one of the grim sil­ver lin­ings of Fukushi­ma cat­a­stro­phe: the lessons learned from the Fukushi­ma cleanup are going to be trag­i­cal­ly use­ful in the future thanks tick­ing nuclear time-bombs like the brand new Barakah plant.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 19, 2020, 9:12 pm

Post a comment