Robert Alvarez, former senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Energy, is currently a senior researcher at the Institute of Political Studies, where he works on the subject of nuclear disarmament, the environment and energy policies. He speaks here of the dangers of low secure storage of spent nuclear fuel in many plants, Japan or the United States pools. It is also in America found closest to saturation pools, in 2015, battered fuel having suffered the highest rate of combustion in the world. There is also talk of high activity radioactive waste produced by the defense sector, which nobody really knows what to do in 60 years in terms of stabilization and final disposal. Resources mentioned in the video:
Video made the symposium “The medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima nuclear accident” (medical & environmental consequences of the nuclear accident at Fukushima) organized by the Helen Caldicott Foundation 11 & 12 March 2013 in New York.
original upload here Piscines à combustible nucléaire usé et déchets radioactifs – R. Alvarez 12 03 13 http://youtu.be/RNSe7_MQNJ0 Pools for spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste – March 12, 13 R. Alvarez
IPPNW is the Nobel Peace Prize winning global federation of doctors working for “a healthier, safer and more peaceful world.” The group has adopted a highly critical view of nuclear power because as it says, “A world without nuclear weapons will only be possible if we also phase out nuclear energy.”
UNSCEAR, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, published its deeply flawed report April 2. Its accompanying press release summed up its findings this way: “No discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases are expected due to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident.” The word “discernable” is a crucial disclaimer here.
Cancer, and the inexorable increase in cancer cases in Japan and around the world, is mostly caused by toxic pollution, including radiation exposure according to the National Cancer Institute. But distinguishing a particular cancer case as having been caused by Fukushima rather than by other toxins, or combination of them, may be impossible – leading to UNSCEAR’s deceptive summation. As the IPPNW report says, “A cancer does not carry a label of origin…”
UNSCEAR’s use of the phrase “are expected” is also heavily nuanced. The increase in childhood leukemia cases near Germany’s operating nuclear reactors, compared to elsewhere, was not “expected,” but was proved in 1997. The findings, along with Chernobyl’s lingering consequences, led to the country’s federally mandated reactor phase-out. The plummeting of official childhood mortality rates around five US nuclear reactors after they were shut down was also “unexpected,” but shown by Joe Mangano and the Project on Radiation and Human Health.
The International Physicians’ analysis is severely critical of UNSCEAR’s current report which echoes its 2013 Fukushima review and press release that said, “It is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers.”
“No justification for optimistic presumptions”
The IPPNW’s report says flatly, “Publications and current research give no justification for such apparently optimistic presumptions.” UNSCEAR, the physicians complain, “draws mainly on data from the nuclear industry’s publications rather than from independent sources and omits or misinterprets crucial aspects of radiation exposure”, and “does not reveal the true extent of the consequences” of the disaster. As a result, the doctors say the UN report is “over-optimistic and misleading.” The UN’s “systematic underestimations and questionable interpretations,” the physicians warn, “will be used by the nuclear industry to downplay the expected health effects of the catastrophe” and will likely but mistakenly be considered by public authorities as reliable and scientifically sound. Dozens of independent experts report that radiation attributable health effects are highly likely………. http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/18/fukushima-bad-and-getting-worse/
TEPCO official: “We are aware that our approach proved to be lax as we were unable to detect the problem until the leak occurred. We are reviewing the way checks should be conducted.”
Similar incident at Unit 5 on July 6 — Fukushima Daiichi NPS Prompt Report, Jul 8, 2014: The cooling of the spent fuel pool of Unit 5 [...] was stopped due to seawater leak found at a pipe resumed cooling by another system at 15:40 today [...] A system that cools the spent fuel pool at Unit 5 has been stopped on July 6 2014, after seawater was found leaking from a pipe [...] the cooling of 994 fuel assemblies inside the spent fuel pool will be continued through another system [...]
How Nuclear Worsens Climate Change, Sierra Club, Dave Andrews May 28, 2014 The nuclear industry has been selling the world a story that nuclear power is a solution to climate change because it does not generate carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas. While this is true of the nuclear chain reaction itself, the front and back ends of nuclear power generate a large volume of CO2 and leave a trail of endlessly dangerous radioactivity along the way.
☢ Nuclear power has a big carbon footprint. At the front end of nuclear power, carbon energy is used for uranium mining, milling, processing, conversion, and enrichment, as well as for transportation, formulation of rods and construction of nuclear reactors (power plants). At the back end, there is the task of isolation of highly radioactive nuclear waste for millennia—a task which science has so far not been able to address. Large amounts of water are also used, first in mining and then in cooling the reactors.
All along the nuclear fuel chain, radioactive contamination of air, land and water occurs. Uranium mine and mill cleanup demands large amounts of fossil fuel. Each year 2,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste and twelve million cubic-feet of low-level radioactive waste are generated in the U.S. alone. None of this will magically disappear. Vast amounts of energy will be needed to isolate these dangerous wastes for generations to come.
☢ Nuclear power takes too long to deploy. Construction of the 1500 new reactors that the nuclear industry claims are needed to address global warming would mean opening a new reactor once every 2 weeks for the next 60 years. Reactors can take 10-15 years to build with an estimated cost of $12-15 billion each. In the past, cost and time needed for construction have each more than doubled from original estimates. We need to supply low-carbon energy sources NOW.
☢ Nuclear power is not suited for warming climates. Nuclear reactors need enormous amounts of cool water to continually remove heat from their cores. Reactors have been forced to close during heat waves due to warmth of sea, lake or river water — just when electricity is being used most. Low water levels during heat and drought have also forced reactors to shut down. In addition, cooling causes serious damage to aquatic life, killing millions of fish and untold numbers of macroinvertebrates, aquatic eggs and larvae.
☢ Six times as much carbon can be saved with efficiency or wind. Benjamin Sovacool from the Institute for Energy and Environment at Vermont Law School averaged the high and low estimates of carbon pollution from nuclear power. His study revealed that nuclear power’s carbon emissions are well below scrubbed coal-fired plants, natural gas-fired plants and oil. However, nuclear emits twice as much carbon as solar photovoltaic and six times as much as onshore wind farms. Energy efficiency and some of the other renewables also beat nuclear by sixfold or more.
☢ Nuclear power is not flexible. Nuclear is all-or-nothing power. A reactor can’t be geared to produce less power when electricity from renewables (like wind and solar) increases on the grid. This can make it challenging to increase renewables past a certain point. (continued on page 2)
When a reactor shuts down due to accident, planned upgrade or permanent closure, a large amount of power has to be found elsewhere. And nuclear plants are being closed, not opened — some because they no longer are making a profit. It’s important to develop renewablesNOW to be able to replace the electricity when utilities announce plans to close reactors.
☢ Nuclear subsidies rob research on renewables. Nuclear power has been subsidized throughout most of its fuel chain. In 2011 the Union of Concerned Scientists published Nuclear Power, Still Not Viable without Subsidies. This report shows that in some cases subsidies were greater than the value of the electricity produced. Subsidies are supposed to be for new innovations — not for propping up outdated technologies like fossil fuels and nuclear. Nuclear is also a dirty extractive industry – and like coal, oil and gas, nuclear depends on a limited supply of natural resources (uranium) in the ground.
☢ Cost of nuclear is going up, while cost of renewables is going down.Estimates for new reactors are, on average, four times higher than estimates from just eight years ago. Estimates for new reactors are invariably far less than the final cost, with the final cost often doubling. Sometimes, as in the cases of the Columbia Generating Station, Cherokee, and Perry, billions were spent while the reactors were never finished. Costs of renewables continue going down while their efficiency increases. ……. http://content.sierraclub.org/grassrootsnetwork/sites/content.sierraclub.org.activistnetwork/files/teams/documents/SierraNuclearClimate%20%284%29.pdf
June a global scorcher as records melt, The Age July 22, 2014 Peter Hannam Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald Last month was a scorcher for global temperatures with warmth over land and sea breaking records for June while sea-surface temperatures posted their largest departure from long-term averages for any month.
More striking for climatologists, though, were the sea-surface temperatures. These came in 0.64 degrees above the 20th century average of 16.4 degrees – the first time any month had exceeded the long-run norm by more than 0.6 degrees.
Parts of all major ocean basins notched their warmest June, with almost all the Indian Ocean and regions off south-eastern Australia the hottest on record.
An El Nino event remains about a 70 per cent chance of forming during the northern summer, which could see more records tumble. The weather pattern sees the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean becoming relatively warm compared with western regions, and typically brings hotter, drier than usual conditions to south-east Asia and Australia.
Australia posted its hottest 12 months on record in the year to June, while 2013 was the hottest calendar year in more than a century of records, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
While June was another month of above-average temperatures, Western Australia and the Northern Territory were cooler than normal – breaking a sequence begun in February in which every state or territory had above-average warmth, NOAA noted.
June was the 352nd month when global temperatures were above the 20th century average – with the last below-average month in February 1985……….
Stand-Alone Solar Power “Container” Supports Educational Development on Remote Indonesian Island
>Panasonic, Jul 22, 2014 Indonesia consists of approximately 13,000 islands, many of which lack access to electricity due to the difficulty building large power plants and running power lines in the distinctive geography. Panasonic chose Karimunjawa Island, an island located not far from Java Island, near Jepara District, as the recipient of our installation of the Power Supply Container, an easy to set up and transport electrical supply system, in aims to make life better for the people living there.
In total, 250 people attended the ceremony, including Governor KH. Ahmad Marzuki of Jepara District, Minister Yoshiko Kijima of the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia, Representative Director Iskandar Budisaroso Kuntoadji of IBEKA, and the Executive Director Tri Mumpuni as guests of honor; and teachers and students. The guests of honor delivered congratulatory speeches; Mrs. Kijima told that she felt really happy about regional contributions through support by a Japanese company. People in Karimunjawa Island can only use electricity at night from 6pm-6am, utilizing diesel generators. As no power is available during daytime, their crucial activities are interfered including commercial activities and certain education curriculum. In particular the opportunity to utilize electronic devices, such as fans, computers, or even lighting during the day ultimately hamper the economical development of the island. To solve this social issue, Koperasi Pundih Artah, which receives Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security, IBEKA and Panasonic have launched a project for improving the educational environment, by utilizing the Power Supply Container, under the cooperation of Jepara District and the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia.
During school hours, the Power Supply Container gives support to improve the educational environment; children can use lighting fixtures, ceiling fans and audiovisual educational materials through personal computers and TVs. When there are no classes, the electricity is sold to nearby areas through a management association of the Power Supply Container to contribute to activation of the regional community and improve the regional electricity infrastructure.
Panasonic made efforts to provide the Power Supply Container and to offer IBEKA with technical assistance in this project. Meanwhile, IBEKA is giving support for establishing management associations in Karimunjawa for independent operation of power supplies as well as provides training and supports for their operation, management and maintenance to achieve a sustainable power supply in Karimunjawa……..http://news.panasonic.net/stories/2014/0722_28041.html
Row over contract to help nuclear firms, Herald Scotland, Daniel Sanderson Wednesday 23 July 2014
FIVE years ago the First Minister branded nuclear power “a busted flush”.
However, Scottish Enterprise, the quango that received £233million in Scottish Government funding in 2012-13, apparently holds a different view to that of its paymasters.
The body is to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds of public cash in a project aimed at helping Scottish firms move into the nuclear power industry.
As part of its Nuclear Supply Chain Phase II initiative, Scottish Enterprise has advertised for expert companies to come forward to assist Scottish firms to win business in the sector. In a document provided to firms interested in winning the three-year contract, worth up to a third of a million pounds excluding VAT, it says that as well as extensive opportunities for businesses to play a role in decommissioning old plants, there is also “considerable commitment to nuclear new-build” in the UK and overseas that could be exploited.
The contract has been offered despite Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing saying last year that support for nuclear was “misguided” after the UK Government announced it planned to build another plant in England. Mr Ewing added that economic powerhouses, including France and Germany, were scaling back or eliminating their reliance on the power source and that investment should instead be diverted to renewable energy sources.
While Scottish Enterprise said it believed the “vast majority” of new activity would involve the decommissioning of old plants, environmentalists have hit out at the agency, accusing it of wasting public money by “chasing the nuclear dream”.
Meanwhile, opposition MSPs have accused the SNP of “hypocrisy” after details of the project emerged. Murdo Fraser, energy spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “The Scottish Government continually argues that nuclear power is declining, yet is now looking for a firm to deliver a programme designed to help businesses take advantage of nuclear power opportunities.”
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends Of The Earth Scotland, said he believed the Scottish Enterprise project was “a waste of time”, and said the cash would be far better spent on creating jobs in green energy. He said: “Scotland is a world leader in renewable energy but has no useful expertise in new nuclear. Scottish Enterprise should concentrate on playing to our strengths in renewables and not be distracted by the nuclear white elephant.”……..http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/row-over-contract-to-help-nuclear-firms.24830973
Fukushima: Bad and Getting Worse - Global Physicians Issue Scathing Critique of UN Report on Fukushima CounterPunch, by JOHN LaFORGE, 20 July 14 Physicians find ten grave failures in UN report
The majority of the IPPNW’s report details 10 major errors, flaws or discrepancies in the UNSCEAR paper and explains study’s omissions, underestimates, inept comparisons, misinterpretations and unwarranted conclusions.
1. The total amount of radioactivity released by the disaster was underestimated by UNSCEAR and its estimate was based on disreputable sources of information. UNSCEAR ignored 3.5 years of nonstop emissions of radioactive materials “that continue unabated,” and only dealt with releases during the first weeks of the disaster. UNSCEAR relied on a study by the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) which, the IPPNW points out, “was severely criticized by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission … for its collusion with the nuclear industry.” The independent Norwegian Institute for Air Research’s estimate of cesium-137 released (available to UNSCEAR) was four times higher than the JAEA/UNSCEAR figure (37 PBq instead of 9 PBq). Even Tokyo Electric Power Co. itself estimated that iodine-131 releases were over four times higher than what JAEA/UNSCEAR) reported (500 PBq vs. 120 BPq). The UNSCEAR inexplicably chose to ignore large releases of strontium isotopes and 24 other radionuclides when estimating radiation doses to the public. (A PBq or petabecquerel is a quadrillion or 1015 Becquerels. Put another way, a PBq equals 27,000 curies, and one curie makes 37 billion atomic disintegrations per second.)
2. Internal radiation taken up with food and drink “significantly influences the total radiation dose an individual is exposed to,” the doctors note, and their critique warns pointedly, “UNSCEAR uses as its one and only source, the still unpublished database of the International Atomic Energy Association and the Food and Agriculture Organization. The IAEA was founded … to ‘accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world.’ It therefore has a profound conflict of interest.” Food sample data from the IAEA should not be relied on, “as it discredits the assessment of internal radiation doses and makes the findings vulnerable to claims of manipulation.” As with its radiation release estimates, IAEA/UNSCEAR ignored the presence of strontium in food and water. Internal radiation dose estimates made by the Japanese Ministry for Science and Technology were 20, 40 and even 60 times higher than the highest numbers used in the IAEA/UNSCEAR reports.
3. To gauge radiation doses endured by over 24,000 workers on site at Fukushima, UNSCEAR relied solely on figures from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the severely compromised owners of the destroyed reactors. The IPPNW report dismisses all the conclusions drawn from Tepco, saying, “There is no meaningful control or oversight of the nuclear industry in Japan and data from Tepco has in the past frequently been found to be tampered with and falsified.” Continue reading →
Whilst the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) public hearings on the guidelines for the electricity reseller tariffs were ongoing inside Gallagher convention centre today, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and different community based organisations were demonstrating their frustrations over the unreasonably high electricity tariffs charged by Eskom and its many electricity resellers outside the venue.
http://earthlife.org.za/2014/07/protesters-outside-nersa-public-hearing/“…………..protesters are concerned that South African consumers are not seeing the promised investment in social infrastructure because of the huge national debt being accumulated by Eskom. But one of the reasons for the debt is the cheap electricity supply deal that the power utility holds with Australian company BHB Billiton resulting in losses estimated at more than R11.5 billion. Lerato Maragele, Education and Outreach Officer at Earthlife Africa Jhb, explains that: “NERSA must investigate and widely publicise how lost Eskom revenue translates into electricity tariff increases for households.”
Thirdly, protesters are concerned by NERSA’s apparent inactivity on Eskom’s failure to build electricity power stations to budget and on time, and the resultant electricity price increases. “The mandate of NERSA is to promote the protection of the interests of vulnerable groups within the Electricity Supply Industry. The delays at Medupi and Kusile are causing a ripple effect throughout the whole supply chain and impacting on the most vulnerable consumers,” explains Dominique Doyle, Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg.
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg:
Senior Programme Manager
Tel (w): 011 339 3662
Mobile: 082 682 9177
Email: makoma [at] earthlife.org.za
Energy Policy Officer
Tel (w): 011 339 3662
Mobile: 079 331 2028
Email: dominique [at] earthlife.org.za
A new study predicts 2 billion dead, 25-year winter after a ‘limited’ nuclear war, news.com.au 22 July 14 IT’S a horrifying scene burned into our collective conscious: A flash of light, a blast of hot air and a ballooning mushroom cloud. But there’s much more to a nuclear war, as a new study reveals.
Specifically, they ran computer models on a fight between Pakistan and India through advanced climate predicting software developed to study pollution-based climate change.
Even for this “limited, regional nuclear war”, it means a one-to-two degree plunge in global temperatures and a nine-per cent cut in worldwide rainfall. In practical terms, that equates to worldwide crop failures and famine.
“This would self-loft to the stratosphere, where it would spread globally, producing a sudden drop in surface temperatures and intense heating of the stratosphere.”
The resulting “nuclear winter” would last at least 25 years — almost double that of previous estimates.
With the coldest temperatures for more than a 1000 years, but extending over decades, will come an expansion in sea ice — and killer frosts which will reduce growing seasons by between 10 and 40 days each year.
Other side-effects include a 20 to 50 per cent loss in the density of the ozone layer over populated areas. Such levels would be unprecedented in human history, the report says, causing widespread damage to agriculture and natural ecosystems — not to mention human skin cancer.
So much for a “limited” nuclear war.
Remember: The modern hydrogen-bomb technology of Russia, China and the United States makes such weapons as those possessed by India and Pakistan seem antique.
An exchange between these big players would likely produce far worse effects.
The scientists are confident in the accuracy of their assessment.
The computer model they plugged the data into takes into account atmospheric chemistry, ocean dynamics and even the interaction of sea ice and land masses with the air.
Wind preferable to nuclear, coal, MyCentralJersey 21 July 14 No energy source is without some adverse environmental impact. Even wind power poses some concerns. But given the alternatives in New Jersey, especially coal and nuclear, wind power should be an important part of the energy mix.
So it was welcome news last week when the U.S. Department of Interior announced that 344,000 acres of sea floor off Long Beach Island and the southern Jersey Shore will be opened to wind power development. Leases will be offered to companies that want to build wind turbines along the ocean floor, starting about seven miles off Long Beach Island, Atlantic City and Cape May County.
A forecast analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy says that if that area is developed to maximum potential, turbine fields would generate up to 3,400 megawatts, enough to power 1.2 million homes…………
given the negative impacts of other traditional sources of energy — coal, gas and nuclear — the adverse effects of wind turbines pale in comparison.
Wind power is hardly a new or untested technology. Turbines supply energy off the California coast and abroad in Europe.
Renewable energy — wind, solar and other alternative technologies — is essential if the U.S. is to wean itself off nuclear and coal during the next 20 to 25 years. Nuclear should not be in the mix. It’s costly, it poses safety, health and environmental risks, and it is becoming prohibitively expensive to build new plants.
So far, the government’s wind-energy initiative for the Atlantic coast has led to five commercial wind-energy leases being awarded in Massachusetts, Delaware and Virginia.
In New Jersey, after formal publication of the proposal in the Federal Register today, there will be a 60-day public comment period ending Sept. 19, after which a date for the bidding will be announced.
Fukushima: Bad and Getting Worse - Global Physicians Issue Scathing Critique of UN Report on Fukushima CounterPunch, by JOHN LaFORGE, 20 July 14 “……..Points of agreement: Fukushima is worse than reported and worsening still
Before detailing the multiple inaccuracies in the UNSCEAR report, the doctors list four major points of agreement. First, UNSCEAR improved on the World Health Organization’s health assessment of the disaster’s on-going radioactive contamination. UNSCEAR also professionally “rejects the use of a threshold for radiation effects of 100 mSv [millisieverts], used by the International Atomic Energy Agency in the past.” Like most health physicists, both groups agree that there is no radiation dose so small that it can’t cause negative health effects. There are exposures allowed by governments, but none of them are safe.
Second, the UN and the physicians agree that areas of Japan that were not evacuated were seriously contaminated with iodine-132, iodine-131 and tellurium-132, the worst reported instance being Iwaki City which had 52 times the annual absorbed dose to infants’ thyroid than from natural background radiation. UNSCEAR also admitted that “people all over Japan” were affected by radioactive fallout (not just in Fukushima Prefecture) through contact with airborne or ingested radioactive materials. And while the UNSCEAR acknowledged that “contaminated rice, beef, seafood, milk, milk powder, green tea, vegetables, fruits and tap water were found all over mainland Japan”, it neglected “estimating doses for Tokyo … which also received a significant fallout both on March 15 and 21, 2011.”
Third, UNSCEAR agrees that the nuclear industry’s and the government’s estimates of the total radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean are “far too low.” Still, the IPPNW reports shows, UNSCEAR’s use of totally unreliable assumptions results in a grossly understated final estimate. For example, the UN report ignores all radioactive discharges to the ocean after April 30, 2011, even though roughly 300 tons of highly contaminated water has been pouring into the Pacific every day for 3-and-1/2 years, about 346,500 tons in the first 38 months.
Fourth, the Fukushima catastrophe is understood by both groups as an ongoing disaster, not the singular event portrayed by industry and commercial media. UNSCEAR even warns that ongoing radioactive pollution of the Pacific “may warrant further follow-up of exposures in the coming years,” and “further releases could not be excluded in the future,” from forests and fields during rainy and typhoon seasons –when winds spread long-lived radioactive particles – a and from waste management plans that now include incineration.
Tokyo, Japan - “Abe colour” is an expression occasionally used in Japan’s domestic media. It means those government policies that reflect Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s personal views, and the term relates to his hawkish security policies. Critics claim the secrecy bill passed into law in December 2013 is said to be one such example of “Abe colour”, and it will go into effect this December.
Proper safeguards and oversight bodies were supposed to be included, but critics say that this secrecy law is still far from adequate.
One of the strongest critics of the new law comes from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which has asked the government to completely reconsider the law. Yoichi Eto, its representative, told Al Jazeera that “this law simply provides new powers to the government officials. It says that they are authorised to do this or that. But it has nothing to say at all about what officials must not do.
“There are no limits on the scope of this law, and that is its biggest problem,” Eto said.
Almost every critic of the law points to vagueness of its language; the manner in which the line between what is allowed and what is forbidden is not clearly specified.
“If we don’t have clarity in the regulations, if don’t have clarity in the law, then we don’t know what is the extent of the government’s power,” said Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University in Tokyo. ” We don’t know how government agencies will use that power, to what degree, to what extent, what range of information may be covered.”
Professor Repeta goes on to note that the law makes no distinction about whether or not information is properly designated as a secret, or if release of the information will actually have any negative effect on national security, or if it is demonstrably in the public interest: All that the new law says is that if someone reveals something designated (for whatever reason) as a special secret, then they have committed a crime for which they may spend up to ten years in prison.
The new Japanese secrecy law also specifically targets journalists. While there is language in the text that supposedly guarantees “normal” journalistic practice, it also says that reporters and others who utilise “inappropriate means” to learn a special secret may be subject to prosecution and up to five years in prison.
What exactly constitutes “inappropriate means” to gather the news? The law is silent on this point, suggesting once again that the government and police will decide for themselves what the law mandates, once they are faced with a specific case.
Journalists at risk
Japan’s freelance investigative journalists are at particular risk, as the government may not even recognise their status as being part of a legitimate news media.
The present government has an unusually large number of things that it wants to hide
- Yu Terasawa, reporter
Yu Terasawa, recently cited by Reporters Without Borders as one of the world’s “100 Information Heroes” – the only person in Japan given such an honor – sees the main purpose of the law as preventing the media from revealing embarrassing information to the public. “The present government has an unusually large number of things that it wants to hide,” Terasawa said.
“This includes issues surrounding the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as well as, looking forward, possible conflicts with China, Russia, or North Korea.”
Terasawa is part of of a group of 43 freelance journalists and other writers who have launched a lawsuit against the new secrecy law. Michiyoshi Hatakeyama, another freelance journalist who is a plaintiff in the case, explains, “What is a secret? The line where these special secrets begin will not be clear. Even if one is arrested and you ask them why you’ve been arrested, that too may be a secret under this law.”
For its part, the Abe administration has been very reluctant to publicly defend the secrecy law since its passage last December. The minister put in charge of handling the issue, Masako Mori, is the most junior member of the Abe Cabinet, whose portfolio is Minister of State for Gender Equality, the Declining Birthrate, and Consumer Affairs. She declined repeated requests from Al Jazeera to explain the government’s position on the secrecy law, and at a press conference this month at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan the minister indicated that she only wanted to address the issue of gender equality.
Still, one journalist managed to challenge the minister on the secrecy law, and her defense of it consisted of denying that it posed any particular problems for the public good. She asserted that all necessary protections for journalists and for the public’s right to know had been properly legislated.
She also claimed that whistleblowers are fully protected under Japanese law. The only problem she acknowledged was that the government may have made insufficient efforts to inform the public about the responsible and entirely appropriate nature of this particular law. “The secrets protection law was written after exhaustive research on similar legislation of other countries,” Mori said.
Outside Japan’s government, independent observers directly contest these claims.
In the summer of 2013, the Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information, better known as the Tshwane Principles, were issued after a study involving more than five hundred experts from more than seventy countries at fourteen meetings held around the world. The Tshwane Principles calls on governments to protect and uphold freedom of information.
Professor Repeta, for example, states, “One of my biggest complaints about Japan’s parliamentary procedure was they didn’t consider the Tshwane Principles at all. It was as if they did not exist.”
It is hard to imagine a country that less needs a secrecy law than Japan.
- Morton Halperin, Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department
One of the world’s top experts on secrecy and declassification procedures, the former Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department, Morton Halperin, agrees with Repeta that the Japanese secrecy law in no way conforms with the Tshwane Principles and reflects an extremely alarming approach to secrecy legislation.
Among the problems cited by Halperin are that in the new Japanese law there is no credible third party oversight of the secrecy designation and its declassification systems, no concept that the public interest might sometimes override the need of the government to keep secrets, and no provision in the law that bureaucrats must explain why a particular document should be designated as a special secret.
The Abe administration has asserted repeatedly that fears about its new secrecy law are overblown. They say that the government will be restrained and responsible in the way that it applies the law to specific cases.
The problem, however, is that there is nothing in the law that actually obligates the government to act with restraint, and even if the Abe administration is sincere in its promises to act responsibly, it has handed an alarmingly broad power to future Japanese governments whose practices are far from certain.
Even in the absence of the new secrecy law, the Japanese government’s actual operations are often guarded from public view. Almost every major study of Japan’s mainstream media notes its tendency to shy away from investigative political reporting and to “reveal” to the Japanese public that information simply handed to them by the public relations officials of the various ministries and other government agencies.
In this context, Morton Halperin observed, “It is hard to imagine a country that less needs a secrecy law than Japan.”
Dr. Alex Rosen, a German pediatrician and Vice President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in Germany, cites his organization’s recently published Critical Analysis of the UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee On The Effects Of Atomic Radiation) report on Fukushima that seriously – if not criminally — minimizes the health dangers of that nuclear disaster. Rosen decodes the UNSCEAR report’s methodology, shows where it cherry-picked its data and, in effect, demolishes its credibility.
Fukushima city government launches a new public information program to educate its kids about radiation. It includes such contraindicated gems as:
It is important to walk or play outside.
Open the window to keep good ventilation (nothing about the need for air filtration).
Dry clothes in sunshine (no word about radionuclides in the air or dust)
Air your futon outside when it’s sunny!
For a more realistic look at what it means to attempt life in Fukushima Daiichi’s radiation-saturated environment, here’s a picture of Fukushima nuclear refugee Setsuko Kida (from Nuclear Hotseat #134 – http://ow.ly/sP00P) facing the need to do her dishes with bottled water:
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION DUCK AND COVER REPORT:
Oconee Nuclear Station in Florida forced to shut down from undetected crack that leaked; NRC forces regulator Duke Energy to attend a conference;
Proposed shutdown of Indian Point reactors near Manhattan so heated water discharge doesn’t kill billions of fish, fish eggs and larvae; Entergy asks NRC to extend licenses another 20 years each, though Unit 2′s license expired in 2013 – and it’s still operating!
Florida Power and Light’s Turkey Point nuclear power reactors in Miami-Dade County are trying to cool the reactor with canal water that’s 99 degrees – only one degree short of the NRC’s safety limit for cooling water. FPL’s solution? Asking the NRC to raise the 100-degree operating limit to 104 degrees so the reactors can stay on line. OY!