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Fukushima: thousands have died, thousands more will die

New evidence from Fukushima shows that as many as 2,000 people have died from necessary evacuations, writes Ian Fairlie, while another 5,000 will die from cancer. Future assessments of fatalities from nuclear disasters must include deaths from displacement-induced ill-heath and suicide in addition to those from direct radiation impacts.

Official data from Fukushima show that nearly 2,000 people died from the effects of evacuations necessary to avoid high radiation exposures from the disaster.

The uprooting to unfamiliar areas, cutting of family ties, loss of social support networks, disruption, exhaustion, poor physical conditions and disorientation can and do result in many people, in particular older people, dying.

Increased suicide has occurred among younger and older people following the Fukushima evacuations, but the trends are unclear.

A Japanese Cabinet Office report stated that, between March 2011 and July 2014, 56 suicides in Fukushima Prefecture were linked to the nuclear accident. This should be taken as a minimum, rather than a maximum, figure.

Mental health consequences

It is necessary to include the mental health consequences of radiation exposures and evacuations. For example, Becky Martin has stated her PhD research at Southampton University in the UK shows that “the most significant impacts of radiation emergencies are often in our minds.”

She adds: “Imagine that you’ve been informed that your land, your water, the air that you have breathed may have been polluted by a deadly and invisible contaminant. Something with the capacity to take away your fertility, or affect your unborn children.

“Even the most resilient of us would be concerned … many thousands of radiation emergency survivors have subsequently gone on to develop Post-Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorders as a result of their experiences and the uncertainty surrounding their health.”

It is likely that these fears, anxieties, and stresses will act to magnify the effects of evacuations, resulting in even more old people dying or people committing suicide.

Such considerations should not be taken as arguments against evacuations, however. They are an important, life-saving strategy. But, as argued by Becky Martin,

“We need to provide greatly improved social support following resettlement and extensive long-term psychological care to all radiation emergency survivors, to improve their health outcomes and preserve their futures.”

Untoward pregnancy outcomes

Dr Alfred Körblein from Nuremburg in Germany recently noticed and reported on a 15% drop (statistically speaking, highly significant) in the numbers of live births in Fukushima Prefecture in December 2011, nine months after the accident.

This might point to higher rates of early spontaneous abortions. He also observed a (statistically significant) 20% increase in the infant mortality rate in 2012, relative to the long-term trend in Fukushima Prefecture plus six surrounding prefectures, which he attributes to the consumption of radioactive food:

“The fact that infant mortality peaks in May 2012, more than one year after the Fukushima accident, suggests that the increase is an effect of internal rather than external radiation exposure.

“In Germany [after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster] perinatal mortality peaks followed peaks of cesium burden in pregnant women with a time-lag of seven months [2]. May 2012 minus seven months is October 2011, the end of the harvesting season. Thus, consumption of contaminated foodstuff during autumn 2011 could be an explanation for the excess of infant mortality in the Fukushima region in 2012.”

These are indicative rather than definitive findings and need to be verified by further studies. Unfortunately, such studies are notable by their absence.

Cancer and other late effects from radioactive fallout

Finally, we have to consider the longer term health effects of the radiation exposures from the radioactive fallouts after the four explosions and three meltdowns at Fukushima in March 2011. Large differences of view exist on this issue in Japan. These make it difficult for lay people and journalists to understand what the real situation is.

The Japanese Government, its advisors, and most radiation scientists in Japan (with some honourable exceptions) minimise the risks of radiation. The official widely-observed policy is that small amounts of radiation are harmless: scientifically speaking this is untenable.

For example, the Japanese Government is attempting to increase the public limit for radiation in Japan from 1 mSv to 20 mSv per year. Its scientists are trying to force the ICRP to accept this large increase. This is not only unscientific, it is also unconscionable.

Part of the reason for this policy is that radiation scientists in Japan (in the US, as well) appear unable or unwilling to accept the stochastic nature of low-level radiation effects. ‘Stochastic’ means an all-or-nothing response: you either get cancer etc or you don’t.

As you decrease the dose, the effects become less likely: your chance of cancer declines all the way down to zero dose. The corollary is that tiny doses, even well below background, still carry a small chance of cancer: there is never a safe dose, except zero dose.

But, as observed by Spycher et al (2015), some scientists “a priori exclude the possibility that low dose radiation could increase the risk of cancer. They will therefore not accept studies that challenge their foregone conclusion.”

One reason why such scientists refuse to accept radiation’s stochastic effects (cancers, strokes, CVS diseases, hereditary effects, etc) is that they only appear after long latency periods – often decades for solid cancers. For the Japanese Government and its radiation advisors, it seems out-of-sight means out-of-mind.

This conveniently allows the Japanese Government to ignore radiogenic late effects. But the evidence for them is absolutely rock solid. Ironically, it comes primarily from the world’s largest on-going epidemiology study, the Life Span Study of the Japanese atomic bomb survivors by the RERF Foundation which is based in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The lessons of Chernobyl

The mass of epidemiological evidence from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 clearly indicates that cancer etc increases will very likely also occur at Fukushima, but many Japanese (and US) scientists deny this evidence.

For example, much debate currently exists over the existence and interpretation of increased thyroid cancers, cysts, and nodules in Fukushima Prefecture resulting from the disaster. From the findings after Chernobyl, thyroid cancers are expected to start increasing 4 to 5 years after 2011.

It’s best to withhold comment until clearer results become available in 2016, but early indications are not reassuring for the Japanese Government. After then, other solid cancers are expected to increase as well, but it will take a while for these to become manifest.

The best way of forecasting the numbers of late effects (ie cancers etc) is by estimating the collective dose to Japan from the Fukushima fall out. We do this by envisaging that everyone in Japan exposed to the radioactive fallout from Fukushima has thereby received lottery tickets: but they are negative tickets. That is, if your lottery number comes up, you get cancer [1].

If you live far away from Fukushima Daiichi NPP, you get few tickets and the chance is low: if you live close, you get more tickets and the chance is higher. You can’t tell who will be unlucky, but you can estimate the total number by using collective doses.

The 2013 UNSCEAR Report has estimated that the collective dose to the Japanese population from Fukushima is 48,000 person Sv: this is a very large dose: see below.

Unfortunately, pro-nuclear Japanese scientists also criticise the concept of collective dose as it relies on the stochastic nature of radiation’s effects and on the Linear No Threshold (LNT) model of radiation’s effects which they also refute. But almost all official regulatory bodies throughout the world recognise the stochastic nature of radiation’s effects, the LNT, and collective doses.

Summing up Fukushima

About 60 people died immediately during the actual evacuations in Fukushima Prefecture in March 2011. Between 2011 and 2015, an additional 1,867 people [2] in Fukushima Prefecture died as a result of the evacuations following the nuclear disaster [3]. These deaths were from ill health and suicides.

From the UNSCEAR estimate of 48,000 person Sv, it can be reliably estimated (using a fatal cancer risk factor of 10% per Sv) that about 5,000 fatal cancers will occur in Japan in future from Fukushima’s fallout. This estimate from official data agrees with my own personal estimate using a different methodology.

In sum, the health toll from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is horrendous. At the minimum

  • Over 160,000 people were evacuated most of them permanently.
  • Many cases of post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorders arising from the evacuations.
  • About 12,000 workers exposed to high levels of radiation, some up to 250 mSv
  • An estimated 5,000 fatal cancers from radiation exposures in future.
  • Plus similar (unquantified) numbers of radiogenic strokes, CVS diseases and hereditary diseases.
  • Between 2011 and 2015, about 2,000 deaths from radiation-related evacuations due to ill-health and suicides.
  • An as yet unquantified number of thyroid cancers.
  • An increased infant mortality rate in 2012 and a decreased number of live births in December 2011.

Non-health effects include

  • 8% of Japan (30,000 sq.km), including parts of Tokyo, contaminated by radioactivity.
  • Economic losses estimated between $300 and $500 billion.

Catastrophes that must never be repeated

The Fukushima accident is still not over and its ill-effects will linger for a long time into the future. However we can say now that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima delivered a huge blow to Japan and its people.

2,000 Japanese people have already died from the evacuations and another 5,000 are expected to die from future cancers.

It is impossible not to be moved by the scale of Fukushima’s toll in terms of deaths, suicides, mental ill-health and human suffering. Fukushima’s effect on Japan is similar to Chernobyl’s massive blow against the former Soviet Union in 1986.

Indeed, several writers have expressed the view that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was a major factor in the subsequent collapse of the USSR during 1989-1990.

It is notable that Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the USSR at the time of Chernobyl and Naoto Kan, Prime Minister of Japan at the time of Fukushima have both expressed their opposition to nuclear power. Indeed Kan has called for all nuclear power to be abolished.

Has the Japanese Government, and indeed other governments (including the UK and US), learned from these nuclear disasters? The US philosopher George Santayana (1863-1962) once stated that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Dr Ian Fairlie is an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment. He has a degree in radiation biology from Bart’s Hospital in London and his doctoral studies at Imperial College in London and Princeton University in the US concerned the radiological hazards of nuclear fuel reprocessing.

Ian was formerly a DEFRA civil servant on radiation risks from nuclear power stations. From 2000 to 2004, he was head of the Secretariat to the UK Government’s CERRIE Committee on internal radiation risks. Since retiring from Government service, he has acted as consultant to the European Parliament, local and regional governments, environmental NGOs, and private individuals.

 

Source: The Ecologist

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2989686/fukushima_thousands_have_died_thousands_more_will_die.html

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | | 1 Comment

Volcanoes of Japan (118 volcanoes)

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Source:

http://www.volcanodiscovery.com/japan.html

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | | 2 Comments

Japan nuclear utility says no special precautions over volcano

Japanese utility Kyushu Electric Power said on Monday that it was monitoring activity at a volcano near its Sendai nuclear plant, but did not need to take any special precautions after authorities warned of the risk of a larger-than-usual eruption.

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TOKYO: Japanese utility Kyushu Electric Power said on Monday that it was monitoring activity at a volcano near its Sendai nuclear plant, but did not need to take any special precautions after authorities warned of the risk of a larger-than-usual eruption.

The reactor is the first to be restarted under new safety standards put in place since the meltdowns at Fukushima in 2011.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and much of Japanese industry want reactors to be switched on again to cut fuel bills, but opinion polls show a majority of the public oppose the move after the nuclear crisis triggered by an earthquake and tsunami.

The possibility of a significant eruption of Sakurajima, located about 50 km (30 miles) from Sendai, is a reminder of the volatile geology of Japan, which has 110 active volcanoes.

“We are not currently taking any particular response,” Kyushu Electric spokesman Tomomitsu Sakata said by phone.

“There is no impact in particular to the operations” of the Sendai plant, Sakata said. “We will continue to pay close attention to information from the Japan Meteorological Agency.”

The 890-megawatt-reactor had reached 50 percent of its output by Sunday and the operator expects full power to be achieved around Aug. 24, Sakata said.

Critics of the nuclear industry say that new safety measures are insufficient, particularly for plants such as Sendai, which is located near five giant calderas, crater-like depressions formed by past eruptions, with the closest one about 40 km away.

The precautions by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority for volcanic eruptions were “wanting in a number of important respects” and did not meet international standards, said John Large, chief executive of Large & Associates, a nuclear engineering consultancy.

Large wrote a report this year on the Sendai plant’s ability to withstand being hit by volcanic ash and has testified in court about the issue.

Sakurajima is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and erupts almost constantly. There was a risk of larger than usual eruption, an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency said on Saturday.

“With Kyushu’s volcanoes clearly more active, Sendai should be shut immediately,” said Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director at activist group, Green Action, claiming there was no viable evacuation plan for the plant.

The Meteorological agency raised the warning level on the peak, about 1,000 km southwest of Tokyo, to an unprecedented 4, for prepare to evacuate, from 3.

Seventy seven residents who live within a 3 km radius of the craters have been evacuated, an official said on Monday.

Source: Channel News Asia

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/japan-nuclear-utility-say/2055256.html#.VdHuMAEVI4M.facebook

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Utilities spent ¥1.4 trillion last year to maintain idled reactors

The nation’s nine utilities with nuclear power plants had to spend a total of about ¥1.4 trillion last fiscal year to maintain their idled reactors, financial statements showed Monday, revealing part of the reason that electricity rates went up.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. restarted a reactor last week despite strong public opposition, adding to the view the utilities are trying to reactivate their idled plants as soon as possible to help rehabilitate their balance sheets, which are also suffering from rising fuel costs for alternative power generation.

All of the country’s commercial reactors remained offline in fiscal 2014, which ended March 31, amid heightened safety concerns following the 2011 crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 complex.

Tepco spent the most — ¥548.6 billion — having to maintain the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear complex, which is located about 10 km south of Fukushima No. 1, and the massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture.

Kansai Electric Power Co., which relied heavily on nuclear power before the Fukushima disaster, spent ¥298.8 billion, while Kyushu Electric spent ¥136.3 billion.

Last week, a reactor owned by Kyushu Electric became the first to come back online under upgraded regulations introduced after the Fukushima meltdowns.

Five of the nine companies — Tohoku Electric Power Co., Tokyo Electric, Chubu Electric Power Co., Hokuriku Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric — also had to pay some ¥130 billion to Japan Atomic Power Co. to honor their contracts with the entity, even though their reactors were idle.

Source: Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/08/17/business/corporate-business/utilities-spent-%C2%A51-4-trillion-last-year-maintain-idled-reactors/#.VdIiOJeFSM

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima operator’s mounting legal woes to fuel nuclear opposition

Four and a half years after the Fukushima disaster, and as Japan tentatively restarts nuclear power elsewhere, the legal challenges are mounting for the crippled plant’s operator.

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IWAKI, Japan: Four and a half years after the Fukushima disaster, and as Japan tentatively restarts nuclear power elsewhere, the legal challenges are mounting for the crippled plant’s operator.

They include a judge’s forced disclosure of a 2008 internal document prepared for managers at Tokyo Electric Power Co warning of a need for precautions against an unprecedented nuclear catastrophe.

Also, class actions against Tepco and the government now have more plaintiffs than any previous Japanese contamination suit and, overruling reluctant prosecutors, criminal charges have been levelled against former Tepco executives for failing to take measures to prevent the 2011 meltdowns and explosions.

Radiation from the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 forced 160,000 people from their homes, many never to return, and destroyed businesses, fisheries and agriculture.

The criminal and civil legal cases do not threaten financial ruin for Tepco, which is now backstopped by Japanese taxpayers and faces far bigger costs to decommission the Fukushima plant and clean up the surrounding areas.

Rather, the cases could further increase opposition to nuclear restarts – which consistently beats support by about two-to-one – as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government pushes to restore nuclear to Japan’s energy mix to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuel.

“The nuclear plant disaster has upended our way of life,” evacuee and former beekeeper Takahisa Ogawa, 45, testified recently in a court in Iwaki, near the Fukushima power station. “We’ve lost the support we counted on.”

PROVING NEGLIGENCE

Ogawa and other plaintiffs are seeking 20 million yen (US$160,000) each in damages from Tepco. More than 10,000 evacuees and nearby residents have brought at least 20 lawsuits against the utility and the government over the handling of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant 220 km (130 miles) north of Tokyo.

The biggest class action, with 4,000 plaintiffs, seeks to dramatically increase Tepco’s liability by proving negligence under Japan’s civil law, rather than simply proving harm and seeking compensation, said lead attorney Izutaro Managi.

Japan recently approved increasing the amount of compensation payments through a government-run fund to 7 trillion yen (US$56 billion).

Prosecutors twice declined to charge former Tepco bosses over their handling of the disaster, citing a lack of evidence, but a citizens’ panel overruled them last month. It’s unlikely the three former executives, who will be summoned to give evidence in court, will be convicted as it is hard to prove criminal acts in this type of case, said Nicholes Benes of The Board Director Training Institute of Japan.

A first trial is not expected to start until next year at the earliest.

The legal actions against Tepco are “serious for the industry” as it seeks to gradually bring some of Japan’s 43 idled nuclear reactors back online, said Tom O’Sullivan, an independent energy consultant and former investment banker.

“With potentially up to 25 reactors coming online, board members of other electric power companies must be quite nervous about what could happen if something goes wrong,” he said. “Most reactors have been switched off for four years so switching them back on is going to be potentially problematic, not to mention the risk of natural disasters.”

“UNAVOIDABLE”

It’s unclear what bearing the various lawsuits against Tepco might have on one another, but a common thread is that it should have anticipated the possibility of a devastating quake and tsunami and taken steps to reduce the impact.

The company maintains that the severity of the 9.0 magnitude quake and 13-meter wave could not have been predicted.

But the document introduced as evidence in the shareholders’ suit after a judge forced Tepco to produce it, appears to challenge that. The “Tsunami Measures Unavoidable” report, dated September 2008, was filed with the Tokyo District Court in June, but has not been widely reported.

The unnamed authors prepared the report for a meeting attended by the head of the power station and marked the document “to be collected after discussion.” It’s not clear whether senior executives in Tokyo saw the report at the time.

The report called for Tepco to prepare for a worse tsunami than it previously assumed, based on experts’ views.

“Considering that it is difficult to completely reject the opinions given thus far of academic experts on earthquakes and tsunami, as well as the expertise of the (government’s) Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, it is unavoidable to have tsunami countermeasures that assume a higher tsunami than at present,” says the report.

“This is prime evidence that Tepco recognised the need for tsunami measures,” said Hiroyuki Kawai, lead attorney in the shareholders’ suit. “This will have an important impact on the lawsuit.”

Tepco, in a court filing, counters that the document “does not mean there was a risk that a tsunami would strike and did not assume any specific tsunami countermeasures.”

Asked to comment further on the internal report and the range of legal problems facing the company, Tepco spokesman Kohji Sakakibara told Reuters, “We cannot answer these questions because they pertain to lawsuits and because they suppose a hypothetical determination of negligence. However, the company is making appropriate assertions in the lawsuits and expects that in the end the courts will render fair judgements.”

The shareholder lawsuit, filed in March 2012, seeks to establish responsibility for the disaster and demands 5.5 trillion yen (US$44 billion) in damages from current and former executives. A verdict is not expected for at least a year.

“This is likely to become a long battle where lawsuits go on for several decades or half a century,” said Shunichi Teranishi, a professor emeritus of environmental economics at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, comparing it to the Minamata mercury poisoning disaster in the 1950s, where lawsuits continue to be filed to this day.

Source: Channel News Asia

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/fukushima-operator-s/2054688.html

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Plutonium Problem

OXFORD, England — When Japan marked the 70th anniversary of Nagasaki’s obliteration by a plutonium bomb on Aug. 9, its own cache of weapons-usable plutonium was more than 47 metric tons — enough to make nearly 6,000 warheads like the one that flattened Nagasaki.

Japan, an industrial powerhouse but resource-poor, has long depended on nuclear energy. Before the earthquake and meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011, it was generating nearly one-third of its electricity from nuclear power, and had plans to increase that share to 50 percent by 2030. Japan’s 48 standard reactors burn uranium fuel, a process that yields plutonium, a highly radioactive and extremely toxic substance.

These reactors were shut down after Fukushima. But Japan still stores nearly 11 tons of plutonium on its territory (the rest is abroad for now), and stockpiling plutonium remains hazardous: There is seismic instability, but also the risk of theft by terrorists. Yet just this week, Japan put one reactor back online, and another four have been approved for restart by the end of FY2015.

For this, one can thank a powerful network of utility companies, conservative politicians and bureaucrats in Japan, who peddle the notion that plutonium constitutes a sort of thermodynamic elixir. A byproduct of burning uranium, plutonium itself can be processed in so-called fast-breeder reactors to produce more energy. That step also yields more plutonium, and so in theory this production chain is self-sustaining — a kind of virtuous nuclear-energy cycle.

In practice, however, fast-breeder technology has been extremely difficult to implement. It is notoriously faulty and astronomically expensive, and it creates more hazardous waste. By the 1990s, many countries that experimented with fast-breeder reactors, including the United States, had phased them out.

But Japan doubled down. The government invested heavily in Monju, a prototype fast-breeder reactor, and the nuclear industry went on a charm offensive. It introduced Mr. Pluto, a puckish animated character, who claimed plutonium was safe enough to drink. It set up so-called PR centers next to nuclear plants: An exhibit at the one near Monju declared that the reactor was “necessary because plutonium can be used for thousands of years.”

The exhibit did not say Monju was a failure. The reactor became operational in 1994, but was shut down the next year after a leak caused a coolant to catch fire. Then came a botched cover-up, more than a decade of repairs, a failed restart and another accident. Monju has cost about $12.5 billion so far and produced only a tiny amount of energy.

In 1993 Japan also started spending a fortune on a reprocessing facility at Rokkasho, which would transform nuclear waste into fuel by separating plutonium and usable uranium from other waste. The process also is extremely expensive, and it, too, creates huge amounts of waste. Scheduled to begin operations in 2016, the plant could add as many as eight tons of plutonium to Japan’s stockpile each year.

While Japan’s record with nuclear waste is abysmal, no other state has found a safe or economically sustainable way to reuse such substances, especially not plutonium. Britain has announced it will abandon its costly and highly toxic reprocessing efforts by around 2020. The United States has a program to recycle nuclear byproducts into a mixed-oxide fuel known as MOx, a blend of uranium and plutonium. But the Obama administration has put it on stand-by because of ballooning costs.

France, which is at the forefront of MOx conversion efforts, has also struggled and is expected to phase out its MOx program by 2019. Instead, it has announced plans to start building in 2020 a new kind of fast-breeder reactor, known as ASTRID. This reactor is designed to generate energy by converting high-level nuclear waste into less dangerous residues, which require storage for several hundred years rather than many thousands of years, as is the case with plutonium. But this project has been delayed until at least 2030.

By far the best way to handle plutonium is to store it in secure long-term repositories underground. Having long banked on conversion, neither France nor Britain has permanent facilities; they keep plutonium in interim storage at reprocessing plants. Only two states have begun building viable long-term storage. Finland is constructing a vast facility blasted out of granite, which should be usable as of 2020. In the United States, underground chambers that can accommodate 12 metric tons of plutonium have been dug in New Mexico.

Considering Japan’s many vulnerabilities, particularly seismic activity, nuclear waste should no longer be stored there. The Japanese government should pay its closest allies to take its plutonium away, permanently.

Britain already holds about 20 tons of Japan’s plutonium, and France, about 16 tons, under contracts to reprocess it into usable fuel. Under current arrangements, this fuel, plus all byproducts (including plutonium), are to be sent back to Japan by 2020. Instead, Japan should pay, and generously, for that plutonium to stay where it is, in secure interim storage. And it should help fund the construction of secure permanent storage in Britain and France.

The Japanese government should also pay the United States to take the nearly 11 tons of plutonium currently in Japan. This proposal will seem controversial to some Americans, but the two states already have arrangements for the exchange of nuclear material. (With Finland, however, the proposition is a political nonstarter.) But it will take many years to build additional permanent storage in the United States — and overcome likely opposition in Congress — so in the meantime, Japan’s plutonium should be stored in interim facilities at American plants.

Handling Japan’s plutonium would be a great burden for receiver countries, and Japan should pay heftily for the service. But even then the expense would likely amount to a fraction of what Japan spends on its ineffectual plutonium-energy infrastructure: By the most conservative estimate, the Rokkasho facility is expected to cost $120 billion over its 40-year lifetime.

The benefits of this policy would extend far beyond Japan. An earthquake near Rokkasho could trigger an unprecedented nuclear catastrophe; preventing such an accident is in the whole world’s interest. And by funding the construction of long-term storage facilities overseas, Japan wouldn’t just be solving its plutonium problem. It would also be helping other states mitigate their own.

Peter Wynn Kirby is a nuclear and environmental specialist at the University of Oxford. 

Source: The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/17/opinion/japans-plutonium-problem.html?_r=0

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Japanese volcano alert issued just miles from newly reopened nuclear reactor

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Japan’s weather agency issued a warning to thousands of residents in Kagoshima that the likelihood of the eruption of a nearby volcano was extremely high.

Officials have raised their alert to its second highest level after it detected a spike in seismic activity in a volcano on Saturday near the offshore volcano Sakurajima, Agency France Presse reported.

They have warned an evacuation of the city of just over 600,000 people may be necessary.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency said: “The possibility for a large-scale eruption has become extremely high for Sakurajima.”

It warned residents to exercise “strict caution” and prepare for evacuation.

An official told Sky News: “There is the danger that stones could rain down on areas near the mountain’s base, so we are warning residents of those areas to be ready to evacuate if needed.”

It comes as a nuclear reactor 50 kilometres (31 miles) away was switched back on for the very first time on Tuesday after it was closed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Critics had warned that the reopening of the Sendai plant, the first in Japan’s renewed nuclear programme, was premature and Japan’s nuclear reactors are still vulnerable to natural disaster.

In October last year, the meterological agency warned that another volcano, Ioyama, near to Sendai plant was at risk of an eruption.

Japan is on the so called “Ring of Fire” along the Earth’s tectonic plates where earthquakes and volcanos are thought to be more common.

According to the agency there are more than 100 active volcanoes in Japan making it one of the most seismological volatile places on earth.

The last major eruption of Sakurajima was in 2013 where an estimated 63 people were killed.

Source: The Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/japanese-volcano-alert-issued-just-miles-from-newly-reopened-nuclear-reactor-10457830.html

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August 18, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , , | 2 Comments

North American Animal Decline Since Fukushima

The biological effects of Fukushima contamination are likely to extend far beyond Japan. The use of seawater to cool the reactors produced spherical, uranium peroxide clusters called buckyballs, which are noted for their durability and transportability.

Radioactive Sulfur-35 (35S) was detected in Southern California from 20-28 March 2011. The researchers concluded that neutron leakage transformed salt water chlorine (35Cl) into radioactive 35S through a process of multistage decay.

During roughly that same time period, separate researchers from California State Long Beach sampling kelp offshore found Iodine-131, which has an approximate eight day half-life. The researchers concluded that the iodine-131 was likely deposited by precipitation contaminated with Fukushima fallout.

Contamination transported by wind and precipitation is supplemented by dispersion of radionuclides by ocean currents. Research conducted by Stan-Sion, Enachescu, and Pietre identified arrival of the ocean-borne plume of radionuclides from the initial days of the Fukushima disaster in La Jolla, California, evidenced by a 2.5 factor increase in Iodine-129 and Iodine-127 activity peaking June 18 2013 (date collection ended July 2013).

More plumes of contaminated water are no doubt forthcoming given (1) ongoing dumping of water contaminated with tritium and (2) relentless leakage of water contaminated by the entire range of fission isotopes, with Strontium-90 emerging as particularly salient given spiking levels in Fukushima’s port during the spring of 2015.

Although there is no way of proving causation, a vast number of adverse mortality events occurring in sea life up and down the North American Pacific Coast raises questions about whether Fukushima and tsunami contamination may have interfered with the food cycle or increased susceptibility to disease. 

In 2011 and unusual mortality events were reported for Alaskan walruses, seals, and polar bears, all of which were found to be “suffering from hair loss, skin sores, and unusually lethargic behavior.” No cause was ever identified. Unusual mortality events for California sea lions were reported by the NOAA in 2013, escalating to catastrophic losses in 2015.

Dolphin populations in California also experienced significant mortality events in 2013 and were found to have significantly impaired immune systems. Sardines in the Pacific Northwest experienced also experienced a significant reduction in numbers in 2013, with the November population estimate of 378,000 tons constituting a steep drop from the 1.5 million tons estimated in 2000. 378,000 tons represented the lowest reported in over ten years. The King Salmon population in Alaska declined 73 percent from 2011 to 2012 (Jim Carlton, Wall Street Journal (August 4, 2012) p. A3).

In 2014, starfish were afflicted with a devastating and inexplicable wasting disease up and down the coast of North America.

An unusual mortality event was reported for Alaskan whales in 2015. North American Pacific coast sea birds have also been impacted. Adverse mortality events have afflicted murres and shearwater. Autopsies indicated the shearwaters had a high parasite count and were starving. Auklets living along entire north American pacific coast have also experienced a steep population declines that were described as “just massive, massive, unprecedented” by Julia Parish, a seabird ecologist at the University of Washington who oversees the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team.

Land animals in Alaska and California also experienced significant and inexplicable population declines. 

Western Arctic caribou experienced a decline of 27 percent between 2011 and 2013. Monarch butterfly populations that migrate to a specific area in Mexico experienced a record low in 2013, with their numbers contained by 2.9 acres in 2013, compared to 12 acres between 2003 and 2012. In 2013 California race horses were afflicted with a mysterious affliction that caused them to drop dead suddenly. Bees in California also experienced a significant population decline in 2013: “A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.” The moose population, already in decline prior to Fukushima, fell still further between 2010 and 2014 with one population in Minnesota cut in half between 2010 and 2014.

These data points suggest a trend of accelerating population declines in sea and land life that became very apparent in 2013. 

NOAA officials and scientists queried by the media have not provided definitive answers, often describing the events as perplexing and befuddling. In 2015, large numbers of dying sea lions on California beaches heightened media inquiry.

The most commonly forwarded explanation for their condition was an unprecedented toxic algae bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia, often described as red tide, which produces a neurotoxin named domoic acid. Unusually warm water was figured as responsible for this algae bloom off the coast of California, but no research has been released about potential radionuclide contamination of the bloom, nor were radionuclide results of sampled deceased animals made publicly available, although another species of red tide aglae has been shown to bioaccumulate radionuclides.

Climate change is being forwarded as the generalized and encompassing cause for all animal mortality events, but this explanation ignores the potential contribution of other factors, especially radiation bioaccumulation effects in the wake of the Fukushima crisis.

Moreover, tritium and noble gasses produced by Fukushima (among other radionuclides), particularly Krypton-85, may have played a role in altering climatic and ocean conditions. 

Atmospheric levels of Krypton-85 have increased tremendously throughout the atomic age, raising scientific concerns about atmospheric effects. A 1997 study found significant increases in Krypton-85 in the atmosphere from nuclear explosions and reprocessing, noting that in the mid-1940s there existed less than 5 disintegrations per minute (dpm) per liter of krypton, but by the end of that decade levels had risen to 100 dpm per liter. Samples from the 1990s measured “tens of thousands” of disintegrations per minute per liter. Krypton-85 increases air ionization and electrical conductivity.

A study on Krypton-85 published by the IAEA notes: “There are unforeseeable effects for weather and climate if the krypton-85 content of the earth atmosphere continues to rise. There may be a krypton-specific greenhouse effect and a collapse of the natural atmospheric-electrical field.” Concerns about Krypton-85 levels caused the EPA to announce new regulatory efforts in 2014.

Fukushima reactors 1 through 3 were estimated to have lost their full inventory of Krypton-85, resulting in a release of 44.1 PetaBecquerels, whereas Chernobyl produced 33 PetaBecquerels.

This estimate for Fukushima does not include emissions from the fuel in reactor 4’s spent fuel pool, although that pool was known to have lost water for at least five days. Remember that research from Stohl et al. on Fukushima’s noble gas releases concluded that unit 4 must have also contributed to releases.

The estimate of 44.1 PetaBecquerels of Krypton-85 also does not include ongoing noble gas emissions reported by TEPCO in 2012 and 2015.

Increased ionization of the atmosphere by Krypton-85 may have impacted atmospheric conditions, contributing to the “record drought” in the western US reported in the summer of 2012. Moreover, ionization from the decay of Krypton-85 and other radionuclides could also be contributing to ocean acidification. Many radionuclides, such as tritium and cesium, are water soluble and noble gasses saturate the sea surface, although colder temperatures increase uptake. Radioactive decay can cause oxidation, which promotes acidification. Some algae are better adapted to acidification, including red algae ones that produce domoic acid. Acidification of the world’s oceans was an escalating problem before the Fukushima disaster. The impacts of the unprecedented release of radionuclides, including Krypton-85, Tritium, and Cesium, from Fukushima may be contributing to an array of factors that together present “tipping points” for already stressed ocean life.

As noted in previous chapters, marine defaunation is escalating, reaching critical proportions in some species. Mass animal mortality events can be triggered by complex inputs whose synergies produce “tipping points.” A mass mortality event is defined as a:

rapidly occurring catastrophic demographic events that punctuate background mortality levels. Individual MMEs are staggering in their observed magnitude: removing more than 90% of a population, resulting in the death of more than a billion individuals, or producing 700 million tons of dead biomass in a single event. (1)

Although well documented, science lacks understanding of the major features and characterizations of MMEs, including causes and trends. Scientists studying MMEs have found they are increasing in number and seem connected to a rise in disease emergence, biotoxicity, and events resulting from multiple interacting stressors. MMEs with the largest magnitude resulted from multiple stressors, starvation and disease. Tipping points occur through the convergence of multiple stressors.

SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS OF BIOACCUMULATION OF RADIONUCLIDES IN PACIFIC OCEAN LIFE NEEDED NOW!

SOURCE

[i]           Samuel Fey, Adam Siepielski, Sébastien Nusslé, Kristina Cervantes-Yoshida, Jason Hwan, Eric Huber, Maxfield Fey, Alessandro Catenazzi, and Stephanie Carlson “Recent shifts in the occurrence, cause, and magnitude of animal mass mortality events,” PNAS (2014 early edition), www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1414894112., 1.

Source: Majia’s Blog

http://majiasblog.blogspot.fr/2015/08/north-american-animal-decline-since.html

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Canada, USA | | Leave a comment