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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Hinkley nuclear deal with France turning out a very bad one for Britain

“The decision-makers on both sides are totally underestimating” the risks, says Mycle Schneider, an independent nuclear analyst in Paris. “But the farther they go on, the more difficult it is to pull out.”

Hinkley costs

French Plans for a Nuclear Plant Begin to Look Like a Bad Deal for Britain,Bloomberg 30 Apr 16 A new reactor design poses risks on both sides of the English Channel. As Britain races to replace its aging nuclear reactors and coal generators, it’s hoping to team up with France to build the most expensive power plant in history—a massive atomic facility with two reactors at Hinkley Point on England’s southwestern coast. It could provide 7 percent of the country’s electricity by 2025. But the design, intended to showcase the latest French reactor technology, poses engineering and financial problems that could create a costly morass for both countries.

State utility Électricité de France (EDF) is expected to build the plant and finance two-thirds of the estimated £18 billion ($26.2 billion) cost. That price tag assumes the Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR), the next-generation model planned for Hinkley Point, will be delivered on time and on budget. But that hasn’t been the case in France and Finland, where EPRs under construction have run into multiyear delays and billions in cost overruns.
Plans for Hinkley Point are creating turmoil within EDF, which also needs to spend €50 billion ($56.5 billion) to renovate its network of French nuclear reactors by 2025. In March, EDF’s chief financial officer quit rather than continue with the U.K. project. Ratings agencies have warned of a possible credit downgrade, and employee unions are threatening to strike. Private investors, who own 15 percent of EDF shares, are spooked: The stock is down 50 percent over the past year. On April 22, EDF said it plans to sell €4 billion in new shares to raise cash. News of the plan caused shares to drop even further.
Construction problems on EPRs in Finland and France led to billions of euros in losses at Areva, the French state-controlled nuclear group that designed and is helping to build the reactors. To rescue Areva, the government broke up the company last year and is selling its reactor business to EDF. French officials had expected to have a financing plan in place for Hinkley Point by May but have pushed it back to September, Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told the newspaper Journal du Dimanche on April 24. China has pledged £6 billion in financing in exchange for a one-third stake in the plant.
If EDF can deliver the Hinkley site’s two reactors, the payoff would be rich. In 2012, Britain agreed to pay at least £92.50 per megawatt-hour for 35 years for the power they would generate. At the time, the rate was more than twice the average wholesale cost of electricity; today it’s more than three times the average, as cheaper oil and gas and tumbling renewable energy prices have pushed down electricity rates. The project could lock British consumers into some of the highest power prices in the world for decades…..

Public support for the project in Britain has fallen to 33 percent, down from 57 percent in 2013, according to a YouGov poll released on April 26 commissioned by New Nuclear Watch Europe, a pro-nuclear group.

 Britain can offset the closure of old nuclear and coal plants and put off the need for new reactors for another decade by increasing its investment in renewable energy, says Deepa Venkateswaran, a utility analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in London. New, less expensive technologies might be developed to store energy from wind and solar, helping to ensure reliable supply. Building Hinkley Point now, she says, “is not make-or-break.”

In the end, politics could trump finance and technology. France wants to protect thousands of well-paying jobs in its nuclear industry. And British Prime Minister David Cameron, who in March joined French President François Hollande in reaffirming support for Hinkley Point, is keen for a project that would create jobs in an economically depressed region. “The decision-makers on both sides are totally underestimating” the risks, says Mycle Schneider, an independent nuclear analyst in Paris. “But the farther they go on, the more difficult it is to pull out.”

With Francois de Beaupuy and Rachel Morison    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-29/hinkley-point-u-k-nuclear-plant-plans-begin-to-look-like-bad-deal

April 30, 2016 Posted by | politics international, UK | Leave a comment

Hanford nuclear workers affected by chemical vapour exposure

20 Hanford nuclear facility workers checked for chemical vapor exposure http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2016/04/20_hanford_nuclear_facility_wo.html RICHLAND, Wash. — Officials say 20 workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation have sought medical attention in the past two days after working near an area where waste from a leaking tank was being transferred.

KVEW-TV reports that 13 of the workers reported having various symptoms after smelling suspicious odors. Officials say seven more sought a medical evaluation as a precaution.

Nineteen of the workers have been cleared to return to work while one was still being evaluated Friday afternoon.

Industrial hygiene workers gathered air samples and analyzed data, which they say found chemical concentrations well below regulatory standards. Chemical vapors are generated in the radioactive and chemical waste stored in the underground tanks.

Earlier this month, officials revealed that a tank known as AY-102 had leaked several thousand gallons of radioactive waste from its primary tank. Last week, officials said they were trying to determine whether a second giant underground tank was also leaking.

The sprawling site near Richland, Washington, was constructed during World War II to make plutonium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons. Workers at the site are now engaged in cleaning up the leftover waste at a cost of more than $2 billion a year, The Tri-City Herald reported.

The most dangerous wastes are stored in 177 underground tanks, most of them old, single-walled tanks, some of which have leaked. The double-walled tanks were presumed to be much safer.

The latest estimate to finish the cleanup of Hanford is $107.7 billion and the work will take until 2060.

April 30, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Mayak: Russia’s radioactive horror that just keeps on giving

Mayak disaster

Russia’s nuclear nightmare flows down radioactive river,  http://www.concordmonitor.com/Russia-s-nuclear-nightmare-flows-down-radioactive-river-1834751  Monitor, By KATHERINE JACOBSEN Associated Press. Friday, April 29, 2016  At first glance, Gilani Dambaev looks like a healthy 60-year-old man and the river flowing past his rural family home appears pristine. But Dambaev is riddled with diseases that his doctors link to a lifetime’s exposure to excessive radiation, and the Geiger counter beeps loudly as a reporter strolls down to the muddy riverbank.

Some 30 miles upstream from Dambaev’s crumbling village lies Mayak, a nuclear complex that has been responsible for at least two of the country’s biggest radioactive accidents. Worse, environmentalists say, is the facility’s decades-old record of using the Arctic-bound waters of the Techa River to dump waste from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, hundreds of tons of which is imported annually from neighboring nations

At first glance, Gilani Dambaev looks like a healthy 60-year-old man and the river flowing past his rural family home appears pristine. But Dambaev is riddled with diseases that his doctors link to a lifetime’s exposure to excessive radiation, and the Geiger counter beeps loudly as a reporter strolls down to the muddy riverbank.

Some 30 miles upstream from Dambaev’s crumbling village lies Mayak, a nuclear complex that has been responsible for at least two of the country’s biggest radioactive accidents. Worse, environmentalists say, is the facility’s decades-old record of using the Arctic-bound waters of the Techa River to dump waste from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, hundreds of tons of which is imported annually from neighboring nations.

The results can be felt in every aching household along the Techa, where doctors record rates of chromosomal abnormalities, birth defects and cancers vastly higher than the Russian average – and citizens such as Dambaev are left to rue the government’s failure over four decades to admit the danger.

“Sometimes they would put up signs warning us not to swim in the river, but they never said why,” said Dambaev, a retired construction worker who like his wife, brother, children and grandchildren have government-issued cards identifying them as residents of radiation-tainted territory. “After work, we would go swimming in the river. The kids would too.”

Thousands already have been resettled by Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corp. to new homes a mile inland from the river, leaving Dambaev’s village of Muslyumovo in a state of steady decay as shops close and abandoned homes are bulldozed. The evacuations began in 2008, two decades after Russia started to admit disasters past and present stretching from Mayak’s earliest days in the late 1940s as the maker of plutonium for the first Soviet atomic bombs.

 The question, 30 years after the former Soviet Union’s greatest nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, is whether Mayak is truly cleaning up its act or remains primed to inflict more invisible damage on Russians. Nuclear regulators say waste no longer reaches the river following the last confirmed dumping scandal in 2004, but anti-nuclear activists say it’s impossible to tell given the level of state secrecy.

Vladimir Slivyak, an activist for the Russian environmentalist group EcoDefense, has visited villages downstream from Mayak many times to help document the poor health of locals in the area, 870 miles east of Moscow near Russia’s border with Kazakhstan.

“My opinion is they’re still dumping radioactive waste,” he said, “but proving that is impossible unless Mayak says: ‘Yes, we’re dumping radioactive waste.’“

The Nuclear Safety Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, which oversees safety standards for the country’s nuclear industry, told the AP that Mayak’s nuclear waste processing system presents no danger to the surrounding population. The plant also manufactures a range of radioactive isotopes of use for specialist equipment, medical research and cancer treatments that generate lucrative contracts worldwide.

Rosatom spokesman Vladislav Bochkov, in response to several Associated Press requests seeking an interview to discuss Mayak’s safety standards and operations, sent an email Thursday denying Mayak dumps nuclear waste in the river. Bochkov said the complex “follows all the environmental protection guidelines and has all the approvals it needs for operation.”

“The level of pollution in the Techa River today completely complies with the sanitary standards of the Russian Federation,” he wrote. He said the river water is clean: “You can drink it endlessly.”

But when the AP took a Geiger counter to the riverbank outside Dambaev’s home, the meter reading surged at the water line and the machine began beeping loudly and continuously. Measurements ranged from 8.5 to 9.8 microsieverts — 80 to 100 times the level of naturally occurring background radiation. A typical chest X-ray involves a burst of about 100 microsieverts.

Nuclear Safety Institute member Leonid Bolshov bills these levels as safe, saying: “The level of pollution in the water today is incomparably less to what it used to be.”

What it used to be is pretty bad. Environmentalists estimate that Mayak tossed 76 million cubic meters (2.68 billion cubic feet) of untreated waste — enough to fill more than 30,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — into the river from 1948 to the mid-1950s as nuclear scientists scrambled to catch up to the U.S. nuclear program.

In September 1957, underground storage tanks of overheating nuclear waste exploded, sending a cloud of nuclear fallout 300 kilometers (200 miles) northeast across 217 towns and villages containing 272,000 people, a minority of which were quietly evacuated over the following two years.

A decade later, a nearby lake used to dispose of nuclear waste dried up amid a summer drought, and high winds whipped the exposed powdery residue to many of the same population centers. Greenpeace estimates the fallout reached 68 towns and villages containing 42,000 people.

Russia suppressed all news of both disasters until the late 1980s, when it acknowledged the two accidents and the Mayak site’s very existence.

In 1993, Russia said the two accidents combined with longer-term dumping of waste into the river meant that an estimated 450,000 people had been exposed to excess radiation from Mayak. It offered no breakdown of immediate deaths, accelerated deaths or increased rates of illness and disease in the populace.

A 2005 criminal case against Mayak’s then-director, Vitaly Sadovnikov, revealed that the plant continued to dump at least 30 million cubic meters (1 billion cubic feet) of untreated nuclear waste into the river from 2001 to 2004. Prosecution documents said the dumping quadrupled the volume of the radioactive isotope strontium-90 in the river.

A study by Greenpeace in 2007, citing hospital records and door-to-door surveys of Muslyumovo residents, reported cancer rates 3.6 times higher than the Russian national average. Russian scientists have reported residents suffer 25 times more genetic defects than the general population.

A decades-long Radiation Research Society study of people living near the Techa River conducted jointly by Russian and American scientists has linked radiation particularly to higher rates of cancer of the uterus and esophagus. In their latest 2015 report, the scientists analyzed 17,435 residents born before 1956, among them 1,933 with cancer. They found that the vast majority of residents had accumulated heightened deposits of strontium-90 in their bones and such “radiation exposure has increased the risks for most solid cancers.”

Such figures come as no surprise to one of Muslyumovo’s longest-serving doctors, Gulfarida Galimova, a gynecologist and family general practitioner who started work in the village’s hospital in 1981. Galimova says she was immediately struck by the exceptional volume of pediatric emergencies involving miscarriages, early and still births, and newborns with malformed limbs and other defects.

Still, like others she did not know Mayak —unmarked on any map at the time and still off-limits to the public today — even existed. She recalls 1980s mornings of blissful ignorance washing her hair in the deceptively soft waters of the Techa.

“The water was nice and not calcified. Soft water. Your hair would be so fluffy,” Galimova recalled.

She was among some 280 households that accepted Rosatom’s offer to abandon their homes in Muslyumovo for new two-story homes away from the river in what today is called New Muslyumovo. But her 2012 move came too late for her own family. A son born in the village in 1985, and a grandson born last year, both have birth defects that she blames on Mayak radiation. Her son has a club foot; her grandson has heart deformities.

One of her neighbors in New Muslyumovo, with its rows of pastel yellow homes with red roofs, blames the new location for her family’s health problems. Alfia Batirshina, 28, says a radon deposit beneath the topsoil of the new settlement gives her chronic headaches and her 8-year-old daughter recurring nosebleeds.

She is loath to discuss her daughter’s own birth defect, a deformed leg, and keeps her out of view of journalists. Her 62-year-old father, Vakil Batirshin, struggles to say anything at all. His neck is painfully swollen from lymph nodes that have grown triple their normal size, leaving his words nearly unintelligible.

The homemaker says she and neighbors are resigned to their medical fate living in Mayak’s nuclear shadow.

“I don’t hope for anything anymore,” she said. “If we get sick, we get sick.”    Associated Press reporters Iuliia Subbotovska in Muslyumovo, Jim Heintz in Moscow and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this story.

April 30, 2016 Posted by | environment, Reference, Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

Netherlands anxious about Belgian nuclear reactors: now handing out more anti-radiation pills

Netherlands to hand out iodine pills in case of nuclear accident, Guardian,  Fear over safety of reactors across the border in Belgium prompts government to order 15m pills, which help reduce radiation build-up in the body  Agence France-Presse  Saturday 30 April 2016

The Dutch government has ordered 15m iodine pills to protect people living near nuclear plants in case of an accident, as concerns rise over ageing reactors across the border in Belgium.

The iodine pills, which help reduce radiation build-up in the thyroid, would be given first to children under 18 and pregnant women living within a 100-kilometre (62-mile) radius of a plant, health ministry spokeswoman Edith Schippers said.

Until now, the tablets have been available within 20km of a plant, to everyone aged 40 and under.

The Netherlands has only one nuclear power plant – at Borssele in the southwest – but the expansion will provide pills for people living in border areas near Germany’s Emsland plant and two Belgian facilities, Doel and Tihange……..http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/30/netherlands-to-hand-out-iodine-pills-in-case-of-nuclear-accident

April 30, 2016 Posted by | EUROPE, safety | Leave a comment

More arrests in Georgia relating to theft of radioactive materials

Georgia arrests five people for trying to sell radioactive uranium material. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-29/georgia-arrests-five-for-trying-to-sell-uranium/7369232Georgia has arrested five people for trying to sell radioactive uranium material, the second such seizure this month, investigators say.

The State Security Service said the five were trying to sell 1.6 kilograms of nuclear material that included uranium-238 and uranium-235 isotopes for $US3 million ($3.9 million).

The suspects, who were arrested in the Black Sea resort of Kobuleti, were remanded in custody on Wednesday.

If convicted, they could face jail terms of up to 10 years.

Uranium enriched in the 235 isotope can be used for a nuclear bomb if it is used in a large enough quantity.

The seizures have raised questions about nuclear security in the former Soviet Union amid fears that extremists are seeking to acquire nuclear material to use in attacks.

Thursday’s announcement came just 10 days after Georgia’s State Security Agency said it had arrested three Georgians and three Armenians for trying to sell uranium-238.

In 2012, Armenia foiled a plot to sell another radioactive isotope, strontium-90.

In 2010, Georgia thwarted a planned sale of another radioactive substance, caesium-137.

The same year Georgian police arrested two Armenian men accused of smuggling 18 grams of highly enriched uranium from Armenia to Georgia and trying to sell it to an undercover agent posing as an Islamist extremist.

April 30, 2016 Posted by | EUROPE, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Fast warming of Arctic region will mean many climate refugees

climate-changeObama administration warns of ‘climate refugees’ due to rapid Arctic warming

US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has painted a stark picture of communities displaced by rising Arctic temperatures that are ‘washing away’ towns, Guardian,  @olliemilman  Saturday 30 April 2016 The Obama administration has warned the US will need to deal with a wave of “climate refugees” as the Arctic continues to warm, joining with the Canadian government to express alarm over how climate change is affecting indigenous communities.

Sally Jewell, US secretary of the interior, painted a stark picture of communities relocating and lives disrupted in her first official visit to Canada. The Arctic, which is warming at twice the rate of the global average, has just recorded its lowest recorded peak ice extent after what’s been called a “warm, crazy winter”……..

Obama declares disaster as Marshall Islands suffers worst-ever drought….http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/29/climate-change-refugees-arctic-obama-administration-warning

April 30, 2016 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Russian nuclear submarine fires CRUISE MISSILE in Arctic

Russian nuclear sub fires CRUISE MISSILE in chilling footage of Arctic military drill, Mirror, BY JONATHAN SHARMAN, 30 APR 16 The 120-metre Severodvinsk submarine can be seen sinking slowly below the surface before its Kalibr missile erupts from the wave… [INCL  VIDEO]…..

The Russian military said the cruise missile struck its target, in the Arkhangelsk region, “with high accuracy”.

A statement added: “A strike group of the flotilla has conducted firing drills using naval practice targets and hit them successfully.”

The Kalibr missile, which can carry nuclear or conventional payloads, travels at speeds up to Mach 2.9 – the same as a space shuttle during launch. The land-attack weapon has a range of up to 1,500 miles……..http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/russian-nuclear-sub-fires-cruise-7866647

April 30, 2016 Posted by | ARCTIC, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Police clear Finland’s anti-nuclear plant protest camp

30 Apr 16, Police have cleared protesters from the site of a proposed nuclear power plant at Pyhäjoki on the north-west coast after demonstrations took a violent turn on Thursday….http://yle.fi/uutiset/police_clear_anti-nuclear_plant_protest_camp/8849910

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Finland, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

New kinds of nuclear dangers, with China’s plan for floating reactors

Fukushima at sea? China wants a fleet of floating nuclear power plants, CNN, By Tony Roulstone, 29 Apr 16

  • China has ambitious plans to build a fleet of 20 floating nuclear reactors
  • Russia is already building a floating nuclear power plant
  • But storms, waves, maintenance all pose safety concerns<

    CNN)China is planning to build nuclear reactors that will take to the sea to provide power in remote locations, possibly including the controversial man-made islands in the contested waters of the South China Sea.

    These small power plants will be built in Chinese shipyards, mounted on large sea-going barges, towed to a remote place where power is needed and connected to the local power grid, or perhaps oil rig…….
    The plans have raised eyebrows and many are asking: Why are they being planned? Will they be safe? Will they be economic?
This idea is not new.
In 1966, the U.S. mounted a submarine nuclear power plant on the Liberty ship, Sturgis, to power the Panama Canal Zone from 1968 to 1975.
Now Russia is building floating nuclear plants with reactors taken from their nuclear powered icebreaker program……

Seven floating nuclear power plants are planned by Russia. The first, the Akademik Lomonosov, should be completed this year at the high cost of $740m, according to World Nuclear News.

It is destined for the Far East port of Pevek, in the Chukotka Republic of Kamchatka…..
 There are many  questions as to whether these reactors will be safe on the seas.
They will be exposed to the vagaries and the uncertainties known by seafarers and to extreme storms and waves — sinking of the barge is a possibility.
Also, it could be harder to protect seaborne reactors — opposed to their land-based counterparts — from external threats such as the loss of off-site power or a terrorist attack.
Maintenance, key to safe operation, will be much more difficult in remote locations. These are new and different hazards from those considered for land-based reactors.
The crucial issues of flooding for nuclear reactors and the loss of power required for cooling were highlighted by the accident at Fukushima.
While the Chinese regulators may use the same safety standards as elsewhere in the world, their process is not sufficiently transparent for outsiders to be clear whether, or not, these novel floating nuclear power plants can be made as safe as modern land-based reactors. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/28/opinions/china-floating-nuclear-reactors/

April 30, 2016 Posted by | China, Russia, safety | Leave a comment

Japan’s meek media kowtows to the government

p18-kingston-media-a-20160501-870x579.jpg

A force to be reckoned with: Two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power station have been cleared to operate, despite being beyond their 40-year shelf life. The ‘nuclear village’ is alive and kicking despite massive demonstrations and opposition to nuclear power, including from the media, since the meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1 power plant in March 2011.

Last week I compared the Catholic Church in Boston and Japan’s “nuclear village” of atomic-power advocates — two powerful institutions that stifled embarrassing revelations for some time. The Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” depicts the comeuppance of the church hierarchy after investigative reporters from The Boston Globe broke the story about pedophile priests in 2002, including how the church chose to reassign them to other unsuspecting dioceses where they continued to prey on children.

Unlike the pedophiles and their enablers, the nuclear industry has avoided accountability over its culture of wishing risk away and corner-cutting that put public safety at risk. The nuclear village has also overcome massive demonstrations and opposition to nuclear power and revved up a reactor near quake-stricken Kumamoto despite having a dubious evacuation plan and its proximity to active volcanoes. And now two “antique” reactors in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, have been cleared to operate beyond their 40-year shelf life. The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was given an identical clearance just a fortnight before the three meltdowns in 2011. On April 24, Gerald Curtis, professor emeritus at Columbia University, appeared on TBS and questioned the wisdom of operating nuclear reactors in such an earthquake-prone nation. Lessons ignored?

U.N. Special Rapporteur David Kaye — who recently put a spotlight on the Abe administration’s media-muzzling ways — cited a star journalist in the Asahi Shimbun’s award-winning investigative team working on the Fukushima debacle who was punished for his reporting with a salary cut and reassignment to a clerical job. Japan’s nuclear village took down the Asahi’s investigative team, clipping the wings of the media organization that did most to expose the mismanagement of risk and regulatory capture that lay at the heart of Japan’s Chernobyl. For many journalists it remains hard to understand why the Asahi rolled over and conceded without a fight. For others, it is an object lesson of what happens to those who speak truth to power.

According to Curtis, the spineless local media has much to answer for: “The big difference is that the U.S. media stands up to power, as the ‘Spotlight’ movie documents, and the Japanese media all too often kowtows to it.”

Curtis believes the self-censorship is a result of “the pressure from people in senior management and middle-aged reporters who want to be considered for promotion … the salaryman mentality keeps everyone in line.”

He adds, “There are many talented and courageous journalists in Japan, but the media’s craven abdication of its responsibility to defend them and to protect freedom of speech is what needs to be put in the spotlight.”

In March 2011, shortly after the disaster, the Asahi established an investigative team of more than 20 reporters to focus on various aspects of the Fukushima accident. On the strength of the investigative team’s reporting about the nuclear disaster, the Asahi garnered Japan’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and 2013. This sparked jealously with rivals and Asahi insiders also resented the fact that an outsider, Yorimitsu Takaaki, had been recruited to lead the team. Takaaki had been hired away from his position at the Kochi Shimbun to be editor in charge of the special investigation team. To inspire his team he put up a sign in the office: “Datsu pochi sengen,” or “Declaration against pooches.” Media lapdogs were not amused.

Yorimitsu encouraged his reporters to spurn the access journalism of cozy “press clubs” where journalists are spoon-fed information by companies and government officials in exchange for pulling their punches — the woeful norm in the nation’s mainstream media. Instead they were exhorted to find important Fukushima disaster stories others weren’t telling as a way to regain the public’s trust and make up for the media’s meek reporting in the first two months after the meltdowns, when it failed to challenge cover-up efforts.

The Asahi reported on May 20, 2014 that during the 2011 disaster some 650 workers decamped to the Fukushima No. 2 plant — 10 kilometers away from the stricken Fukushima No. 1 plant — leaving a skeleton crew to cope with three meltdowns. This scoop was based on a leaked copy of plant manager Masao Yoshida’s testimony, which had been kept from the public. The Asahi reported that workers ignored the orders of Yoshida — an exaggeration, since he said that he did not actually authorize this relocation — but suggested that his instructions were vague and probably garbled as they got passed along the chain of command. The Asahi made it seem like a chaotic mutiny rather than an improvised plan that many workers had reason to believe was authorized, even if it wasn’t.

According to an investigative journalist who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of ongoing work, it is this imprecision that made it difficult for other liberal media outlets to defend the Asahi when the conservative media pounced in August 2014. That month, the Yoshida testimony was leaked to the Sankei Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun, possibly by the prime minister’s office, in order to further discredit the Asahi as it was reeling from an orchestrated campaign of vilification by these same rivals over the “comfort women” issue.

The revelation about the exodus of workers was big news because it underscored the risks of effectively managing a nuclear accident. In 2012 an official inquiry also revealed that Yoshida acknowledged that he did not properly operate emergency equipment. Human error in a cascading disaster is understandable if not inevitable, but it does give pause in considering nuclear safety.

The Asahi article challenged the heroic narrative of Yoshida and the “Fukushima 50″ saving the plant. The narrative “served the nuclear industry’s purposes,” argues Martin Fackler, former Tokyo bureau chief for The New York Times, “by giving the public the reassuring image of the plant manager firmly in control during the crisis, and plant workers as selflessly working for the greater good. The Asahi article seemed to punch a hole in both of those claims by reporting that Yoshida had actually lost control of most of his plant’s workers, who the article implied had abandoned the plant for fear of their lives.”

The Sankei and Yomiuri slammed the Asahi for its sensationalized version of the exodus, but, Fackler says, “rather than using their copies of the Yoshida transcript to hold Tepco or nuclear regulators accountable for their nation’s biggest postwar trauma, the two had instead focused their ire exclusively on Japan’s leading left-wing newspaper and antagonist of the prime minister.” Cui bono?

Tatsuro Hanada, a professor at Waseda University’s Institute for Journalism, asserts that Japan’s political elites were prioritizing damage control — arising from the exposure of the nuclear village’s usually hidden flows of money and patronage — over recovery of the disaster-struck communities. Taking down the Asahi was part of that agenda.

“These efforts to demolish the Fukushima article had clear benefits to Japan’s nuclear establishment,” says Fackler, “by casting doubt on the Asahi’s critical coverage just as the Abe administration was moving to restart reactors idled since the Fukushima catastrophe.”

Under fire, on Sept. 11, 2014 — a month after the Asahi admitted that 13 articles published on “comfort women” in the 1980s and ’90s had relied on one veteran’s discredited testimony (just as its conservative rivals had) — the Asahi capitulated ignominiously, retracting the exodus story and spiking a robust rebuttal by the investigative team. Instead of a simple correction about the exodus, the team was downsized, key journalists transferred to nonpolitical desk jobs and management shifted the spotlight away from Fukushima — futile gestures of appeasement and damage control. The Asahi’s response heralded similar capitulations across the industry and the subsequent purge of prominent newscasters critical of Abe.

Not since U.S. President Richard Nixon has there been a democratic leader as paranoid, hypersensitive and menacing toward the media. Very uncool, Mr. Abe.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/04/30/commentary/japans-meek-media-kowtows-government/

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

What is True?

What is true about Chernobyl’s legacy? I offer two competing accounts.

The first account describes Chernobyl as a “wildlife wonderland”:

Karin Brulliard. April 26, 2016. 30 years after Chernobyl disaster, camera study captures a wildlife wonderland. The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2016/04/26/30-years-after-chernobyl-disaster-camera-study-captures-a-wildlife-wonderland/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_evening

Anecdotal reports of wildlife doing well in the ruins of Chernobyl have been controversial. Some scientists argue that the disaster has taken a deleterious toll on fauna, causing genetic damage and population declines. A study published last fall, however, backed up the idea of the fallout zone-turned-enchanted forest with data from helicopter observation and animal tracks. They pointed to flourishing animal populations.

The big picture of these pictures? According to Beasley, it’s that radiation does not seem to have kept wildlife from self-sustaining and spreading out across the Belarus evacuation zone. He said he expects another camera trap study being carried out in the Ukraine half of the zone will find the same thing.

I wondered what study “published last fall” backed the idea that the “fallout zone-turned-enchanted forest” had a flourishing animal population. It was apparently Dr. James Beasley’s (from the University of Georgia). He has quite a record of funding from the US Departments of Energy and Defense and is currently a consultant for the IAEA on Fukushima.  I recommend looking at his cv http://srel.uga.edu/facstaffpages/CVs/beasleyCV.pdf.  There is no information available about his methodology in the publication, which is a “correspondence” here: http://dx.doi. org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.017.

In contrast to Dr. Beasley’s glowing account of “fallout zone-turned-enchanted forest” there is Dr. Tim Mousseau’s account of transgenerational effects that include reduced sperm count and smaller bird brains. 

I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Mousseau describe his research and his extensive field work capturing, sampling and releasing a range of animals in the Chernobyl and Fukushima zones. He is a very careful and methodical scientist who is not funded by US government agencies or the IAEA. He and his research partner have concluded that animals are not in fact adapting to radiation-contaminated zones ( see academic study here  ). Dr. Mousseau describes his findings here:

Timothy Mousseau. April 25, 2016. At Chernobyl and Fukushima, radioactivity has seriously harmed wildlife. The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/at-chernobyl-and-fukushima-radioactivity-has-seriously-harmed-wildlife-57030

…in the past decade population biologists have made considerable progress in documenting how radioactivity affects plants, animals and microbes. My colleagues and I have analyzed these impacts at Chernobyl, Fukushima and naturally radioactive regions of the planet.

Our studies provide new fundamental insights about consequences of chronic, multigenerational exposure to low-dose ionizing radiation. Most importantly, we have found that individual organisms are injured by radiation in a variety of ways. The cumulative effects of these injuries result in lower population sizes and reduced biodiversity in high-radiation areas….

Radiation exposure has caused genetic damage and increased mutation rates in many organisms in the Chernobyl region. So far, we have found little convincing evidence that many organisms there are evolving to become more resistant to radiation. You decide what is true.

http://majiasblog.blogspot.fr/2016/04/what-is-true.html

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Ice wall designed to surround Fukushima wreckage

TOKYO (AP) – Coping with the vast amounts of ground water flowing into the broken Fukushima nuclear plant – which then becomes radiated and seeps back out – has become such a problem that Japan is building a 35 billion yen ($312 million) “ice wall” into the earth around it.

But even if the frozen barrier built with taxpayers’ money works as envisioned, it won’t completely block all water from reaching the damaged reactors because of gaps in the wall and rainfall, creating as much as 50 tons of contaminated water each day, said Yuichi Okamura, a chief architect of the massive project.

“It’s not zero,” Okamura said of the amount of water reaching the reactors in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week. He is a general manager at Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, which operates the facility that melted down after it was hit by a tsunami in 2011, prompting 150,000 people to evacuate.

Workers have rigged pipes that constantly spray water into the reactors to keep the nuclear debris inside from overheating, but coping with what to do with the resulting radiated water has been a major headache. So far, the company has stored the water in nearly 1,000 huge tanks around the plant, with more being built each week.

TEPCO resorted to devising the 1.5-kilometer (1-mile)-long ice wall around the facility after it became clear it had to do something drastic to stem the flow of groundwater into the facility’s basement and keep contaminated water from flowing back out.

“It’s a vicious cycle, like a cat-and-mouse game,” Okamura said of the water-related issues. “We have come up against many unexpected problems.”

The water woes are just part of the many obstacles involved in controlling and dismantling the Fukushima Dai-chi plant, a huge task that will take 40 years. No one has even seen the nuclear debris. Robots are being created to capture images of the debris. The radiation is so high no human being can do that job.

The ice wall, built by construction company Kajima Corp., is being turned on in sections for tests, and the entire freezing process will take eight months since it was first switched on in late March. The entire wall requires as much electricity as would power 13,000 Japanese households.

Edward Yarmak, president of Arctic Foundations, based in Anchorage, Alaska, which designs and installs ground freezing systems and made an ice wall for the Oak Ridge reactor site, says the solution should work at Fukushima.

“The refrigeration system has just been turned on, and it takes time to form the wall. First, the soil freezes concentrically around the pipes and when the frozen cylinders are large enough, they coalesce and form a continuous wall. After time, the wall increases in thickness,” he said in an email.

But critics say the problem of the groundwater reaching the reactors was a no-brainer that should have been projected.

Building a concrete wall into the hill near the plant right after the disaster would have minimized the contaminated water problem considerably, says Shigeaki Tsunoyama, honorary professor and former president of University of Aizu in Fukushima.

Even at the reduced amount of 50 tons a day, the contaminated water produced at Fukushima will equal what came out of Three Mile Island’s total in just eight months because of the prevalence of groundwater in Fukushima, he said.

Although TEPCO has set 2020 as the goal for ending the water problems, Tsunoyama believes that’s too optimistic.

“The groundwater coming up from below can never become zero,” he said in a telephone interview. “There is no perfect answer.”

Okamura acknowledged the option to build a barrier in the higher elevation near the plant was considered in the early days after the disaster. But he defended his company’s actions.

The priority was on preventing contaminated water from escaping into the Pacific Ocean, he said. Various walls were built along the coastline, and radiation monitors show leaks have tapered off over the last five years.

Opponents of nuclear power say the ice wall is a waste of taxpayers’ money and that it may not work.

“From the perspective of regular people, we have serious questions about this piece of research that’s awarded a construction giant,” says Kanna Mitsuta, director of ecology group Friends of the Earth Japan. “Our reaction is: Why an ice wall?”

http://www.newsminer.com/news/alaska_news/ice-wall-designed-to-surround-fukushima-wreckage/article_aaa6dd1c-0d5b-11e6-ac9c-6b7acf88e1ab.html

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Have you seen images from Japan showing mountains of black bags filled with radioactive soil?

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By Hiroyuki Hamada

Have you seen images from Japan showing mountains of black bags filled with radioactive soil? You probably wondered what they are going to do with them, right? The bags only last for a few years, and in fact, I’ve seen pictures of bags already broken with weeds sticking out from them.

Well, the mystery is solved. The government changed the law in secret meetings so that the radioactive waste is no longer radioactive. They raised the safety level from 100 becquerel per kg to 8000 becquerel per kg.

According to the secret meetings, the formerly radioactive material will be now safely used as construction material across the nation.

Now I wonder what they will do with the radio active water stored in already leaking giant tanks around the nuclear plants. They are right by the Pacific Ocean.

By the way, for those who can not grasp what all this oddity means, the simple way to understand is that instead of coming up with safe ways to take care of dangerous radioactive materials, the Japanese government decided to work with media and industry to make money off of people’s health. It is more profitable to spread radiation across Japan than taking care of people’s lives. And that way, those who take care of people’s health can make money too.

But if they are dead or surrounded by radiation everywhere, how do they appreciate money? I really think this whole capitalism thing is a huge fucking bullshit.

Japan to Recycle Waste Collected during Fukushima Decontamination:

http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2408901&CategoryId=12395

一億総被ばくの国家プロジェクト… 8,000ベクレル/kg以下の除染土を 全国の公共事業に!?: https://foejapan.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/8000bq_problem/

汚染土壌の再生利用は世界に前例の無い一大ナショナル・プロジェクト: http://oshidori-makoken.com/?p=2059

The picture is from: http://asama888.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2015/11/post-5f2f.html

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | 1 Comment

Court orders TEPCO to pay 31 million yen over deaths of Fukushima patients

The Tokyo District Court on April 27 ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to pay a total of around 31 million yen to the families of two former patients at a local hospital who died following the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The families of the two elderly men had demanded the operator of the crippled nuclear plant pay a total of about 66 million yen, claiming that they died after being forced to evacuate from Futaba Hospital located approximately 4.6 kilometers from the power plant in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma.

Of some 50 patients at Futaba Hospital who died following the nuclear disaster, the families of a then 98-year-old dementia patient and a then 73-year-old schizophrenia patient filed the lawsuit. While there have been two cases of settlement between the families of former Futaba Hospital patients and TEPCO at Chiba and Fukushima district courts, this is the first court ruling to have been delivered over deaths of patients at the hospital.

TEPCO had acknowledged the causal relationship between evacuation and the deaths of the two patients. The trial, therefore, had focused on the amount of damages.

According to the ruling, the conditions of the two patients had been severe and they required assistance with eating and other daily tasks. An evacuation order was issued on March 12, 2011, the following day of the disaster, and the patients left the hospital on March 14 and 16, respectively. However, unable to receive appropriate medical care, the pair died of dehydration and hypothermia.

The court determined the amount of damages at 20 million yen for each patient and judged that their existing conditions had affected the development of additional illnesses. It then reduced the amount demanded by the families by 40 percent for the dementia patient and by 20 percent for the schizophrenia patient.

An attorney representing the plaintiffs said it was unfortunate that circumstances particular to a nuclear plant disaster was not taken into consideration in the ruling.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. released a comment stating that the utility will go through the ruling and sincerely handle the situation.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160428/p2a/00m/0na/010000c

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Evacuation order for Fukushima village to be lifted in June

The government is planning to lift an evacuation order for part of the Fukushima Prefecture village of Kawauchi on June 14, more than five years after the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster, it has been learned.

The government’s nuclear emergency response headquarters disclosed the plan on April 28. The central government and the Kawauchi Municipal Government will hold a joint briefing session for local residents on May 8 to gather opinions and discuss the matter in order to formally decide the date when the evacuation order will be removed. Once the order is lifted, the entire village of Kawauchi will be free of any nuclear evacuation zones.

The Ogi and Kainosaka districts in the eastern part of the village will be subject to the move. The area — which is home to 52 residents in 19 households — has been designated as a “zone preparing for the lifting of evacuation orders,” where the annual accumulated radiation doses are 20 millisieverts or less.

The evacuation orders that were in place for areas other than the Ogi and Kainosaka districts were lifted in October 2014.

During a meeting of the Kawauchi Municipal Assembly, Osamu Goto — the deputy head of the central government’s nuclear emergency response headquarters — sought understanding from the village with regard to lifting the evacuation order for the remaining districts, citing reasons including the conclusion of decontamination work in those areas. Kawauchi Mayor Yuko Endo is set to accept the request.

Meanwhile, only two local residents from one household have thus far signed up for a program allowing residents to temporarily stay over in evacuation areas to prepare for permanent return. The Kawauchi Municipal Government expects, therefore, that only a few households will return even after the evacuation order has been lifted in the districts.

The central government issued evacuation orders for 11 municipalities around the plant following the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Among these, the orders were lifted in the Miyakoji district of the city of Tamura in April 2014, followed by those in part of the village of Kawauchi and the town of Naraha.

Evacuation orders for the city of Minamisoma and the village of Katsurao are also expected to be lifted shortly, with the exception of areas designated as “difficult-to-return zones” due to high radiation levels.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160428/p2a/00m/0na/020000c

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment