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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

57 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

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