Another marvelous spin propaganda article minimizing the dangers of the radiation in Fukushima, from the Asahi Shimbun.
If you watch that press conference from the beginning to the end, you may have different impression about their work. They do not pay any attention to the effect of the low-dose internal irradiation. Such omission being very convenient to promote the fallacy that life in Fukushima is very safe.
Haruka Onodera, a third-year student at Fukushima High School, holds a news conference with University of Tokyo professor Ryugo Hayano at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Feb. 8.
Fukushima students reach out to tell truth about radiation
Struck by ignorance about the 2011 nuclear disaster, high school science club members in Fukushima Prefecture enlisted the help of fellow students around Japan and abroad for a comparative study on radiation doses.
The results surprised even those living in the prefecture that hosts the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“The individual doses (of external radiation exposure in high school students) were almost equal inside and outside of Fukushima Prefecture, and in European areas,” Haruka Onodera, 18, said in English at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) in Tokyo on Feb. 8.
A German correspondent asked her, “Would you declare Fukushima now safe?”
“Actually, we didn’t measure the doses in people living in the contaminated areas, so we can’t say all of Fukushima is safe,” Onodera answered, often pausing in thought in the middle of her words and phrases. “But I hope we will send (personal dosimeters) to contaminated areas and help do risk management for people living there in the future.”
Onodera, a third-year student of Fukushima High School and member of the physics and radiation division of the school’s Super Science Club, also showed explanatory slides at the FCCJ news conference titled, “Fukushima and radiation monitoring. The goal of the project is to show the realities of Fukushima Prefecture to the rest of the world.
The club’s physics and radiation division started the project in summer 2014. It involved 216 high school students and teachers in Japan and abroad carrying personal dosimeters for two weeks.
Six high schools in Fukushima Prefecture–Fukushima, Adachi, Aizu Gakuho, Iwaki, Asaka and Tamura–and another six located elsewhere in Japan–including in Gifu, Kanagawa, Nara and Hyogo prefectures–were involved in the project.
They were joined by 14 high schools from France, Poland and Belarus.
According to the measurements taken by the students, the annual radiation doses in Fukushima Prefecture ranged between 0.63 and 0.97 millisievert. For elsewhere in Japan, the range was from 0.55 to 0.87 millisievert, while in Europe, the annual doses were between 0.51 and 1.1 millisieverts.
The similar levels of external doses are believed to be partly attributable to the lower level of natural background radiation in Fukushima Prefecture compared with that in western Japan. That finding came from an analysis of a database on the radioactive content of soil in areas surrounding the different high schools across Japan.
Onodera, who was seated next to Ryugo Hayano, a professor of physics with the University of Tokyo, at the FCCJ news conference, had also presented the study results last year to a workshop of high school students in France and a conference on Fukushima foodstuffs held on the sidelines of an international food exposition in Italy.
Two second-year students of the Super Science Club–Minori Saito, 17, and Yuya Fujiwara, 17–gave a talk at a workshop organized in Date, Fukushima Prefecture, by the International Commission on Radiological Protection late last year.
First- and second-year students who are members of the club, joined by eight high school students from France, visited peach farmers and shiitake mushroom growers in Fukushima Prefecture in summer last year. It was part of a program for studying the current state of Fukushima from diverse views.
The students wanted to address global audiences after they were shocked by how little was known about the actual state of Fukushima Prefecture.
“Can humans live in Fukushima?” a French high school student asked the Fukushima students over Skype as part of an international exchange program in 2014.
That prompted the Japanese students to determine the actual situation on their own, and compare it with circumstances elsewhere in Japan and abroad. Hayano advised them to undertake the endeavor when he visited Fukushima High School to give a talk.
The findings of the study were surprising. Most of the Fukushima students expected the doses in Fukushima would be the highest, even by a large margin.
The students also studied how behavior affected the dose levels.
The Fukushima High School students were being exposed to lower radiation levels when they were at school than when they were at home. They believe the school’s concrete buildings provided a more effective shield from radiation sources than the wooden houses did.
By contrast, students attending Ena High School in Gifu Prefecture were exposed to more radiation when they were at school, where granite, containing radiation sources, is used in the buildings.
Their analysis results were published in November in a British scientific journal on radiological protection. Onodera was involved in writing the research paper.
“The experience has brought home to me how important it is to address reality objectively and scientifically,” she said.
Onodera said she was growing more interested in basic sciences and dreams of doing research on molecular biology at university.
“We hope to solicit help from people in evacuation zones within Fukushima Prefecture, and from high schools in countries we have yet to address, in further broadening our study,” said Takashi Hara, a teacher and adviser to the science club’s physics and radiation division.
• The nearly mile-long structure consists of underground pipes designed to form a frozen barrier around the crippled reactors.
• The $312 million system was completed last month, more than a year behind schedule.
• Nearly 800,000 tons of radioactive water are already being stored onsite.
Japanese authorities have activated a large subterranean “ice wall” in a desperate attempt to stop radiation that’s been leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant for five years.
Construction of the $312 million government-funded structure was completed last month, more than a year behind schedule, the Associated Press reports. The nearly mile-long barrier is intended to block groundwater from entering the facility and becoming contaminated.
In a video detailing the ice wall’s design, TEPCO said the technology has been successfully used to prevent water intrusion during the construction of tunnels, but this is the first time it has been used to block water from entering a nuclear facility.
“We will create an impermeable barrier,” the company said, “by freezing the soil itself all the way down to the bedrock that exists below the plant. When groundwater flowing downhill reaches this frozen barrier it will flow around the reactor buildings, reaching the sea just as it always has, but without contacting the contaminated water within the reactor buildings.”
TEPCO says the ice wall will be activated in stages over the next several months and is one of several measures the company is taking to reduce the amount of water being contaminated on the site.
Nearly 800,000 tons of radioactive water are already being stored in more than 1,000 industrial tanks at the nuclear plant, according to the AP.
While hopes are high that the ice wall will prove successful in stopping additional radioactive water from seeping into the Pacific Ocean, Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, urged caution.
“It would be best to think that natural phenomena don’t work the way you would expect,” he told reporters Wednesday, according to the AP report.
The activation of the ice wall comes just weeks after a TEPCO official reported that robots designed to access the dangerous interior of the plant and seek out the melted fuel rods were “dying” from the high levels of radiation.
The video below details how the ice wall is expected to work.
Different Approaches to Remembering 3/11 at the Prefecture’s Museums
Five years after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami touched off a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the disaster is no longer just a current event—it is also a part of Japan’s history. But how should that history be told? Government and civil society groups have different answers, and they are starting to emerge in a battle of museums.
A Tale of Two Museums
In a flurry of caption writing and message tweaking, Fukushima prefectural government officials are currently putting the finishing touches on a major new exhibit about the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Starting this summer, the exhibit will be permanently displayed at the ¥20 billion Fukushima Prefectural Center for Environmental Creation in the town of Miharu. Plans are in the works to send every fifth-grade student in the prefecture on a field trip to view it. The goal, according to the organizers, is to “address the worries and concerns of Fukushima residents, further understanding of radiation and environmental problems, and deepen awareness of environmental recovery.”
Some 40 kilometers away, in a small post-and-beam hall in the city of Shirakawa, a group of local citizens are planning a very different kind of exhibit. Their displays focus on the ways in which the government exacerbated the disaster and disregarded the rights of Fukushima residents in its aftermath. They will be exhibited at the Nuclear Disaster Information Center, which was built in 2013 using ¥30 million yen in donations from the public, with the goal of ensuring Fukushima and its lessons are not forgotten.
These two projects represent divergent understandings of how the Fukushima nuclear disaster should be remembered. Given their vastly unequal resources and reach, they also raise questions about the appropriate role of government in memorializing the disaster that rocked Japan and the world five years ago.
“People who have suffered from the Fukushima disaster have doubts about whether a public facility like the Center for Environmental Creation can truly communicate the lessons of an accident for which the national and prefectural governments bear partial responsibility,” says Gotō Shinobu, an associate professor at Fukushima University, who is involved in planning the alternative exhibit in Shirakawa.
A Familiar Story
The quiet battle over historical interpretation that is playing out in Fukushima has a precedent in the seaside city of Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, the site of one of the most devastating industrial disasters in world history. Thousands of people living in the area were killed or severely sickened by mercury after Chisso Corporation dumped industrial waste from its chemical plant into the bay over the course of several decades, contaminating fish and shellfish and poisoning the people who ate them. Fifty years later, public and private museums in the area are still telling different versions of that history.
One version can be found at the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum, which was established in 1993 with the goal of “handing down the lessons and experiences of Minamata Disease,” according to its mission statement. Videos and panels in the ¥6 billion facility relate the history and science of the disaster, and victims are on hand to share their personal experiences. But Endō Kunio, a board member and employee of the nonprofit victims’ support organization Sōshisha, says the museum fails to communicate the disaster’s true lessons. “Simply lining up events does not equate to history,” he says. “The facts of what happened are there, but the museum doesn’t say much about their meaning.”
Since 1988, Sōshisha has run its own museum, which displays fishing gear, protest flags, and other artifacts in a converted mushroom-cultivation shed. Among its founding principles is the goal of recording the struggles of the victims and the culpability of government and industry. “Our starting point is the perspective that Minamata Disease resulted from criminal activities on the part of Chisso Corporation and the national government,” says Endō. That perspective has shaped the low-budget museum into a symbol of resistance against the sanitization of painful historical events.
Fukushima Fault Lines
The divide in Fukushima falls along similar lines. The exhibit at the prefectural center will include a timeline of events since the meltdowns, a “radiation lab” explaining the science of radiation and measures to reduce exposure, and a large display on efforts to increase renewable energy and sustainability in the prefecture, according to an overview released last year. Although the exhibit advocates for a “Fukushima that does not depend on nuclear power,” reporting by the Tokyo Shimbun has pointed out that its planning board included several members with close ties to the nuclear industry.
In 2014, shortly after planning began, a citizen’s group with antinuclear leanings called the Fukushima Action Project sent a letter to the prefectural authorities expressing concern over the exhibit. The group requested, among other things, that the center not minimize the health risks of radiation. Since then, FAP representatives have met eight times with prefectural officials to discuss the content of the exhibits. According to meeting transcripts posted on the group’s website, they expressed concerns this January that the exhibit still does not adequately address the severe and ongoing water pollution caused by the disaster or the huge amounts of radioactive waste generated by the cleanup.
Fukushima prefectural officials, meanwhile, note that the exhibit does not touch on government or industry culpability, the fact that radiation exposure limits were raised after the disaster, or the pollution and waste problems because “these issues are not pertinent to the goals of the exhibit.” The facility’s goal, they explain, is “supporting educational activities related to radiation and the environment”; in response to public concerns about the exhibit, they state only that the exhibit content was determined by a panel of experts.
Nagamine Takafumi, the director of the Nuclear Disaster Information Center, is also deeply skeptical about the public museum. “We believe the goal of the Fukushima Prefectural Center for Environmental Creation is to create a myth of radiation safety,” he said. He and his colleagues are currently planning two permanent exhibits for their center. One, designed by Fukushima University’s Gotō, will compare global teaching materials on nuclear power and highlight the Ministry of Education’s pronuclear bias before the disaster. The other will examine the failure of all but a few municipalities in Fukushima to distribute potassium iodide pills immediately after the accident, which would have lowered residents’ risk of developing thyroid cancer.
A Third Perspective
Another private, but less politically driven, museum operates from an outbuilding at an abandoned school in the village of Kawauchi, about 25 kilometers inland from the nuclear plant. Called the Kangaeru Shirōkan, which translates roughly to “a museum for feeling, thinking, and understanding,” the free facility displays protective bodysuits, radiation meters, photographs, town newsletters, and other artifacts of the meltdown.
The museum was founded in 2012 by Nishimaki Hiroshi, a local journalist who moved to the area from Saitama Prefecture nine years ago. He says that in the months following the disaster, he wanted to do something constructive, but felt immobilized by the scale and complexity of the meltdown’s aftermath. When novelist and longtime friend Taguchi Randy suggested he open a museum, he acted on the idea.
The displays include scant explanatory text, and Nishimaki is rarely on site to act as a guide. His says his goal is simply to present the reality as locals have experienced it so that it will not be forgotten. “The government does bear some responsibility for what happened, but I don’t think of the displays as a way to attack them,” he says. Still, he has avoided government funding in order to maintain complete freedom in what he exhibits.
An Inevitable but Unequal Divide
It is hardly surprising that views of environmental catastrophe differ in private and public museums. Government actors partially responsible for a disaster are unlikely to be objective in planning a museum to memorialize it, and civic organizations that include disaster victims are equally unlikely to put aside their own experiences when interpreting the same events. In the case of the Fukushima disaster, divergent views on nuclear power further shape the messages presented in museums.
Public and private projects of historical interpretation can in this sense complement one another. Yet there is little chance the majority of the public will be exposed to both perspectives. As Gotō points out, the budget of the public museum is over 600 times that of the private one he is involved with, and visits to the private museum are not a part of any official school curriculum.
Last year, national and local officials met to discuss another large, government-funded museum focused on the nuclear disaster, this one planned to open on the prefecture’s coast some time in the coming decade. Although they haven’t asked, Minamata’s Endō has a piece of advice for them.
“It is all-important that the story of what happened be told by the people who live in that place,” he says. “When government officials and civil society groups interpret for them, it becomes something different.”
The Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) is seen in September, 2012
With about five years having passed since the start of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster, nuclear workers still lack a method of treating the around 1,000 tanks of contaminated water stored on site, and the start of work to remove melted nuclear fuel from the plant remains at least five years away.
“Until the contaminated water issue is solved, decommissioning of the reactors remains far off. We have to stop the water,” says Tetsuo Ito, professor of nuclear energy safety engineering at the Kinki University Atomic Energy Research Institute. Akira Ono, chief of the Fukushima plant, says, “We’re still at step one” of the decommissioning process, which is estimated to take until 2041 to 2051.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant’s owner, is treating the contaminated water with its Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), which can remove 62 varieties of radioactive material. However, ALPS cannot remove radioactive tritium, and because of this the treated water is stored in tanks. Tritium is extremely difficult to separate from water, because even if one of the hydrogen atoms in a water molecule is replaced by tritium, the chemical properties such as the boiling point barely change.
Pipes for an underground frozen wall to block contaminated water leakages are seen on the landward side of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, on Feb. 23, 2016.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has advised that tritium-containing water be released into the ocean, because its effect on the human body is very limited. Tritium-containing water is created even during the normal operation of a nuclear power plant, and it is released into the ocean in accordance with waste-disposal standards. However, there is local opposition to doing this at the Fukushima plant because of worries about its effects on the reputation of the local fishing industry, and no decision has been made on what to do with the water.
Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years, so storing the water until the radiation naturally lessens is another option, but there is the risk of leaks during that time if the tanks’ conditions deteriorate.
As for decommissioning the plant reactors, at the end of 2011 the national government put together a roadmap that estimated the decommission work would take 30 to 40 years. To decommission the No. 1 through 3 reactors at the plant, 1,573 units of spent fuel will have to be removed from the spent fuel pools of these reactors, and 1,496 units’ worth of fuel that melted from the reactors will have to be removed. Safe removal of the melted fuel represents the largest problem.
A wall constructed on the seaward side of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant to prevent leakages is seen on Sept. 24, 2015.
The national government and TEPCO intend to decide on a plan for the fuel’s extraction in the first half of fiscal 2018, and start extraction efforts at one of the reactors within the year 2021. Toyoshi Fuketa, a member of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), argues that nuclear fuel that is too difficult to take out should be stored on-site, saying, “There is the option of just removing as much (of the melted fuel) as possible, and hardening the rest (to seal off its radiation).”
The cost for decommissioning the reactors is already estimated at 2 trillion yen, and this could grow if the decommissioning schedule is delayed.
While the No. 1 through 3 reactors at the plant were shut down at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, they lost all power due to the proceeding tsunami and, with no way to cool the nuclear reactors, they experienced a meltdown. The tsunami measured at up to 15.5 meters, and emergency underground power supplies were flooded and failed to function.
Tanks for holding contaminated water are seen on the grounds of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, on Nov. 5, 2015
The No. 1 reactor was equipped with a cooling system called Reactor Core Isolation Cooling (IC), but this didn’t activate, and on March 12 at 3:36 p.m. the No. 1 reactor suffered a hydrogen explosion. Then, on March 14 at 11:01 a.m. the No. 3 reactor also experienced a hydrogen explosion. The No. 4 reactor was already offline at the time of the disaster for a regular inspection, but hydrogen from the adjacent No. 3 reactor leaked in, and it suffered a hydrogen explosion as well at 6:14 a.m. on March 15. The No. 2 reactor was not hit by a hydrogen explosion, but among the No. 1 through 3 reactors it is thought to have leaked the most radiation. The disaster is rated a 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the same as the Chernobyl disaster.
Masao Yoshida, the late chief of the Fukushima plant who headed up the frontline disaster-response efforts, testified to a government panel investigating the disaster, “We (who were on-site) imagined it as the destruction of eastern Japan. I really thought we were dead.”
Four reports on the disaster were put together, from the national government, the Diet, TEPCO and elsewhere in the private sector. They differ on points such as why the IC in the No. 1 reactor did not activate. The Diet probe raised the possibility that the IC system’s piping was damaged in the earthquake, but the national government’s investigative panel denied that earthquake damage was the cause. Due to the high radiation levels in the reactor buildings, there has not yet been an on-site investigation to better understand what happened.
U.S.-bound plutonium that has recently been shipped out of Japan will be disposed of at a nuclear waste repository in New Mexico after being processed for “inertion” at the Savannah River Site atomic facility in South Carolina, according to an official of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
“The plutonium will be diluted into a less sensitive form at the SRS and then transported to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for permanent disposal deep underground,” said Ross Matzkin-Bridger in charge of the operation at the NNSA, a nuclear wing of the Department of Energy.
“The dilution process involves mixing the plutonium with inert materials that reduce the concentration of plutonium and make it practically impossible to ever purify again,” he told Kyodo News in a recent phone interview.
The official made the remarks ahead of the latest Nuclear Security Summit, sponsored by President Barack Obama, which began Thursday in Washington.
The fourth such meeting of world leaders is focused on how to secure weapons-usable nuclear materials all over the globe. The summit started after Obama’s 2009 speech in Prague, in which he called for “a world without nuclear weapons” and for which he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize later that year.
At the previous summit in the Netherlands in March 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to return plutonium and highly enriched uranium upon request from the Obama administration, which is seeking to strengthen control of nuclear materials.
The removal of 331 kilograms of plutonium and hundreds of kilograms of HEU from the Fast Critical Assembly, a research facility located in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, was completed before the Nuclear Security Summit kicked off.
Japan received the plutonium and HEU fuels from the United States, Britain and France from the late 1960s to early 1970s for research purposes in the name of “Atoms for Peace.”
The nuclear fuel delivery, however, has generated controversy in South Carolina since it was reported that it was en route to the U.S. government-run SRS facility in the state.
South Carolina is “at risk of becoming a permanent dumping ground for nuclear materials,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a recent letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, calling for the freight to be stopped or rerouted.
The final disposal at the WIPP, as described by Matzkin-Bridger, may defuse these local concerns in South Carolina.
The WIPP is a repository — about 660 meters underground — for permanently storing nuclear waste created by the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program.
“The Department of Energy has signed a Record of Decision to implement our preferred option to prepare 6 metric tons of surplus plutonium from the SRS for permanent disposal at the WIPP near Carlsbad, New Mexico,” Matzkin-Bridger explained. “This includes all foreign plutonium that we bring to the United States under our nonproliferation programs.”
The HEU from Japan’s FCA will be “down-blended” to low enriched uranium at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, according to the official. In the future, LEU will be used for research purpose at research reactors both in the U.S. and Japan, possibly including the FCA.
“This project was accomplished on an accelerated timeline well ahead of schedule, thanks to the hard work and strong cooperation from both sides,” said a U.S.-Japan joint statement released Friday on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit.
“It furthers our mutual goal of minimizing stocks of HEU and separated plutonium,” the document added, emphasizing the importance of the operation in strengthening nuclear security.
In the statement, the Japanese government made a new pledge to remove and transfer HEU fuels from the Kyoto University Critical Assembly (KUCA), another Japanese research institute, to the United States for down-blending and “permanent threat reduction.”
“If the KUCA’s HEU reactor is successfully converted to a LEU unit, it will have a significant meaning for other reactors in the U.S. and European nations, which are pursuing to convert reactors for LEU,” Hironobu Unesaki, a professor at Kyoto University, said. “The KUCA could provide academic outputs for future LEU conversion process worldwide.”
Officials and specialists in both nations have praised the bilateral cooperation, which aims to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism through securing sensitive materials.
However, the materials recently transferred from Japan are only the tip of the iceberg. Currently, Japanese utilities possess over 47 metric tons of separated plutonium, which is equivalent to about 6,000 nuclear bombs.
At the last Nuclear Security Summit two years ago, Abe restated the nation’s international promise not to possess any plutonium that it has no use for. But the country’s stockpile of the nuclear material has since slightly increased.
A recent court injunction to suspend the operation of two plutonium-consuming reactors in Fukui Prefecture has made a solution for the plutonium problem more elusive.
Japan to Recycle Waste Collected during Fukushima Decontamination
TOKYO – The Japanese government announced Wednesday it will recycle the material collected during the decontamination of the Fukushima nuclear plant for construction purposes if radiation levels are found to be sufficiently low.
The government plans to store the waste collected from the radiation-affected region and use it as construction material in places outside the prefecture in northeastern Japan, within 30 years, reported state broadcaster NHK.
According to the country’s environment ministry, residue showing less than 8,000 becquerel per kg could be used in future to pave roads, build anti-tsunami walls and in other public works.
Over 90 percent of the material, accumulated since the 2011 disaster, could be re-used if the contaminated elements are removed, according to the authorities, who are, however, yet to develop the technology to separate waste with high radiation levels.
Currently, Fukushima authorities store the radioactive waste at two depots close to the plant, which can store up to 30 million tons.
The waste will remain at these storage sites for the next 30 years, to be later transferred to a definitive storage place, whose location remains to be determined, and to be used in public works if cleared of high radiation levels.
The Fukushima crisis has been the worst nuclear accident in history after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.
The nuclear plant, which suffered a meltdown in the aftermath of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck the country on March 11, 2011, is now being dismantled, a task that will take at least four decades to complete.
Unaoil’s global web of corruption, however, shows that bribery is still alive and kicking. The companies that secured contracts through Unaoil bribes are based in countries that signed the OECD anti-bribery convention, including the U.S., U.K. Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Spain and Turkey.
The response of these nations will be the next test of international commitment to stop corruption.
Crooked political leaders embroiled in attention-grabbing stories like these don’t act alone. They are often enabled by international corporations like Unaoil, which greased government officials’ pockets across North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia to secure lucrative contracts.
This kind of international graft is what has prompted the United States in recent decades to crack down on corruption, an issue it has come to see as a significant national security problem.
Because of that 35-year American effort, joined by other Western nations, more countries are “adopting serious reforms, enforcing anti-corruption laws with real effectiveness, and government officials are feeling tremendous pressure as a result,” said Andrew Spalding, an expert in U.S. anti-corruption law at the University of Richmond School of Law.
The tough U.S. stance on bribery and corruption dates to the Watergate scandal, which brought down President Richard Nixon. Congressional investigations revealed illegal corporate contributions to the Nixon campaign, and found that U.S. companies — including Lockheed Martin, Mobil Oil and Northrup — maintained bank accounts for the purpose of bribing foreign officials to secure contracts abroad.
In response, Congress passed the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 1977, making the U.S. the first nation to ban companies from bribing foreign government officials.
The law was rarely enforced at first, but it nevertheless caused concern for U.S. companies. In the late 1980s, corporations pushed for Congress to repeal or weaken the law, arguing that it put them at a disadvantage with international competitors. A 1988 compromise required the president to work with the Organization of Economic Coordination and Development, an international trade organization, to press other countries to adopt anti-bribery laws.
It took nine more years for the U.S. to convince other OECD nations to enact an anti-bribery convention that aligned their laws with the U.S. In 2003, the United Nations created its own anti-bribery scheme, expanding the restrictions to countries not part of the OECD. ……….
The watershed moment for anti-bribery enforcement came in 2008, when the German engineering company Siemens pleaded guilty to paying $1.4 billion in bribes to government officials in Argentina, Israel, Nigeria, China and Russia, among other countries, to secure lucrative contracts. The company agreed to pay a record $1.6 billion to U.S. and European authorities to settle the charges.
The Siemens settlement spurred even more enforcement actions in the U.S., targeting U.S. and foreign companies. Both the DOJ and the Securities and Exchange Commission can bring FCPA charges against any company listed on U.S. stock exchanges, doing business through U.S. banks, or making transactions in U.S. dollars.
Since 2008, U.S. regulators have reached billions of dollars in settlements with major companies. Top executives have been sent to jail. Halliburton and KBR reached a $402 million settlement in 2009 for a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian officials for contracts. British company BAE Systems settled for $400 million in 2010 over accusations of bribing Saudi Arabian princes in exchange for defense contracts. German automaker Daimler settled following an investigation that found it was paying bribes in 22 countries……..
The BAE Systems investigation ultimately landed with U.S. authorities. In 2010, the company pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $400 million.
Blair’s attempt to protect BAE Systems highlighted a significant problem with the OECD anti-bribery convention — that only a few countries actually enforce their anti-bribery laws. Transparency International, a nongovernmental organization that monitors corruption, reported that only four of the 41 OECD nations are major enforcers of their laws, and six are moderate enforcers. Despite the BAE Systems dustup — or perhaps because of it — Britain ranks as a major enforcer. Japan remains one of biggest problem countries…….
Collecting evidence across multiple borders is time consuming and challenging, forcing investigators to navigate each country’s laws for data privacy and information sharing. As a result, a 2014 international report found that enforcement cases were taking an average of seven years to reach a conclusion.
Another problem for OECD countries is the lack of involvement of rising economies, like China and India.
U.S. focus on anti-corruption enforcement was underscored on March 16, when Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke at the annual meeting of the OECD anti-bribery convention.
“[W]e have transitioned in less than two decades from a world in which bribery of foreign officials was considered a sound business strategy, to one in which bribery is treated like the destructive and corrosive crime that it is,” Lynch said. “That is a tremendous achievement in which we can all take pride — and it is a testament to what is possible through multinational cooperation.”
Unaoil’s global web of corruption, however, shows that bribery is still alive and kicking. The companies that secured contracts through Unaoil bribes are based in countries that signed the OECD anti-bribery convention, including the U.S., U.K. Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Spain and Turkey.
The response of these nations will be the next test of international commitment to stop corruption. http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/unaoil-corruption-enforcement_us_56fb04b4e4b0daf53aedee71?section=australia
Trump contradicts himself on nuclear weapons – as it happened, Guardian, Alan Yuhas, 4 Apr 16, “……
- Donald Trump suggested that Japan and South Korea should build nuclear weapons or pay protection fees to the US – and then said his greatest fear is the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
- “Maybe they would be better off if they defended themselves from North Korea,” he said in one interview. “I think if somebody gets nuclear weapons that’s a disaster,” he said in another……..
- The senator also defended his claims that Clinton receives millions in donations from fossil fuel interests, although employees of the industry have given her about $308,000 and him about $54,000. He cited a Greenpeace study that links the contributions of lobbyists, fundraisers and Super Pacs to the industry………http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/live/2016/apr/03/donald-trump-ted-cruz-republicans-wisconsin-sanders-clinton-live
Plutonium from Japan to be disposed of underground in New Mexico, Japan Times, KYODO APR 2, 2016 U.S.-bound plutonium that has recently been shipped out of Japan will be disposed of at a nuclear waste repository in New Mexico after being processed at the Savannah River Site facility in South Carolina, according to an official of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
“The plutonium will be diluted into a less sensitive form at the SRS and then transported to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for permanent disposal deep underground,” said Ross Matzkin-Bridger, who is in charge of the operation at the NNSA, a nuclear wing of the Department of Energy.
“The dilution process involves mixing the plutonium with inert materials that reduce the concentration of plutonium and make it practically impossible to ever purify again,” he said in a recent phone interview.
The official made the remarks ahead of the latest Nuclear Security Summit, sponsored by President Barack Obama, which began Thursday in Washington.
On Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan will give up more highly enriched uranium (HEU) as part of what Obama hailed as an unprecedented bid to tighten control over unused nuclear material…..
Japan received the plutonium and HEU fuels from the U.S, Britain and France from the late 1960s to early 1970s for research purposes in the name of “Atoms for Peace.” The nuclear fuel delivery, however, has generated controversy in South Carolina since it was reported that it was en route to the U.S. government-run SRS facility in the state.
South Carolina is “at risk of becoming a permanent dumping ground for nuclear materials,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in a recent letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, calling for the shipment to be stopped or rerouted…….
In the statement, the Japanese government made a new pledge to remove and transfer HEU fuels from the Kyoto University Critical Assembly (KUCA), another Japanese research institute, to the United States for down-blending and “permanent threat reduction.”…….
the materials recently transferred from Japan are only the tip of the iceberg. Currently, Japanese utilities possess over 47 metric tons of separated plutonium, which is equivalent to about 6,000 nuclear bombs http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/02/national/politics-diplomacy/plutonium-japan-disposed-underground-new-mexico/#.VwGXrZx97Gj
“………Sen. Bernie Sanders has said he thinks the modernization plan is a waste of money. Hillary Clinton has suggested that she’s worried about the cost, but hasn’t taken a firm position. Sen. Ted Cruz has said he wants to spend more money on defense, including nuclear weapons.
And Donald Trump? When conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump for his position on the nuclear triad last year, the businessman was flummoxed.
“For me, nuclear is just the power,” Trump replied. “The devastation is very important to me.”
We deserve better answers. It’s a matter of survival.
Mar 31, 2016. Leaked docs show how the shadowy company Unaoil bribes Middle Eastern regimes for oil contracts for multinationals …
The interactive report “The Bribe Factory” details how Unaoil exploits the widespread corruption in many oil-rich nations, based on company documents obtained by the Huffington Post and its Australian partner Fairfax Media.
Must-read three-part interactive report ‘The Bribe Factory: World’s biggest bribe scandal’
The Bribe Factory: World’s biggest bribe scandal
A global bribery scheme that implicates leading Western multinationals has been exposed by the leak of confidential files in the oil industry.
(Links for the three parts are listed below. Check out the additional stories – twenty in total and all well worth reading – that are listed for the three parts. These can also be readily accessed at: http://www.theage.com.au/interactive/2016/the-bribe-factory/.)
The Bribe Factory Part 1/3: Unaoil: The company that bribed the world
It was the company with jet-set style and dirty hands. From the tiny principality of Monaco, Unaoil reached across the globe to pay multi-million dollar bribes in oil rich states. The beneficiaries? Some of the biggest companies in England, Europe, America and Australia.
In the list of the world’s great companies, Unaoil is nowhere to be seen. But for the best part of the past two decades, the family business from Monaco has systematically corrupted the global oil industry, distributing many millions of dollars worth of bribes on behalf of corporate behemoths including Samsung, Rolls-Royce, Halliburton and Australia’s own Leighton Holdings.
Now a vast cache of leaked emails and documents has confirmed what many suspected about the oil industry, and has laid bare the activities of the world’s super-bagman as it has bought off officials and rigged contracts around the world.
The Bribe Factory Part 2/3: Unaoil: Police launch joint global investigation
The biggest leak of documents in oil-industry history has exposed Monaco-based company Unaoil as an agent of serious corruption. Now, law enforcement groups around the world, including the FBI, are taking notice.
A Fairfax Media and Huffington Post investigation has uncovered an extraordinary story of bribery and corruption in the oil industry, centred on Monaco-based company Unaoil. This is the story of Unaoil’s penetration of the former Soviet states.
The Bribe Factory Part 3/3: Unaoil: Dark secrets of Asian powers
Asian companies such as Hyundai, Samsung, Sinopec and Petronas are household names. But they have dark secrets. In the latest in Fairfax Media and The Huffington Post’s global bribery expose, these firms and more are implicated for paying kickbacks, money laundering and corruption.
Unaoil: Asia’s corruption tigers
In the list of the world’s great companies, Unaoil is nowhere to be seen. But for the best part of the past two decades, the family business from Monaco has systematically corrupted the global oil industry, distributing many millions of dollars worth of bribes on behalf of corporate behemoths including Samsung, Rolls Royce, Halliburton and Australia’s own Leighton Holdings. This is the story of how Unaoil helped Korean giants form a cartel in Africa.
Unaoil in Africa
A Fairfax Media and Huffington Post investigation has uncovered an extraordinary story of bribery and corruption in the oil industry, centred on Monaco-based company Unaoil. This is the story of Leighton Offshore’s pursuit of a billion dollar pay day. Unaoil was desperate for a piece of the action in Africa’s burgeoning oilfields.
Unaoil & Tony Kazal: The Sydney Connection
A Fairfax Media and Huffington Post investigation has uncovered an extraordinary story of bribery and corruption in the oil industry, centred on Monaco-based company Unaoil. This is the story of Leighton Offshore’s pursuit of a billion dollar pay day. Unaoil had friends in many places – including a Sydney identity who helped it do business in the Middle East.
Unaoil: Why we must act
2 Apr 16. Australia is leagues behind the US when it comes to investigating corrupt multinational companies who bribe their way to success in third world countries.
This fact is even more concerning given that US prosecutors acknowledge that even they aren’t getting it right, and need to do more to send US corporate crooks to jail. If the US regime needs a jolt, Australia’s system needs a triple bypass.
The Age Editorial
The Age Editorial: Lax laws and morals let corruption flourish
April 1, 2016. Ata Ahsani, the patriarch of the Unaoil company, suggests the work his outfit does in countries such as Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and Yemen is “very basic”. The way he puts it, Unaoil helps to “integrate Western technology with local capability”. A more straightforward description is that Unaoil pays bribes to government officials on behalf of some of the world’s biggest companies.
In an extensive global investigation, The Age, in conjunction with The Huffington Post, has revealed how Monaco-based Unaoil has operated a veritable factory of sly dealings sealed through illegal transactions as its tentacles threaded into the topmost tiers of corrupt countries.
Related Huffington Post items:
Unaoil’s Huge New Corporate Bribery Scandal, Explained
03/30/2016. Here’s what you need to know.
(And check out the other important stories recommended at the end of this article)
There’s A Huge New Corporate Corruption Scandal. Here’s Why Everyone Should Care.
03/30/2016. Bribery fuels political instability — and it’s a propaganda tool for terrorists. …
On Wednesday, The Huffington Post and its Australian partner, Fairfax Media — led by reporters Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie — published the results of a months-long investigation of Unaoil, an obscure firm that helps big multinational corporations win contracts in areas of the world where corruption is common.
U.S. Oil Industry Giant Paid Millions To A Company At The Center Of Huge Corruption Scandal
While KBR was being investigated for bribery in Nigeria, it was partnering with a company that bribed officials in Kazakhstan.
The American engineering and construction firm KBR hired Unaoil — an obscure Monaco-based company now involved in amassive international bribery scandal — to help it win oil and gas contracts in Kazakhstan. KBR, which until 2007 was part of the oilfield services giant Halliburton, paid Unaoil millions of dollars from 2004 until at least 2009, according to thousands of internal documents obtained by The Huffington Post and Fairfax Media.
Inside The Battle Against Global Corruption
Here’s the enforcement landscape that companies involved in corruption with Unaoil will face.
As the world’s leaders gather Thursday in Washington for a two-day Nuclear Security Summit dedicated to keep such weapons in check, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is once again shaking things up: he argues that U.S. allies should build their own nuclear weapons so they no longer have to rely on an impoverished America’s atomic umbrella.
It’s amazing his defense of campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, charged with grabbing a reporter Mar. 8, is getting more attention than his suggestion that it may be time for Japan and South Korea to outfit themselves with nuclear arms to counter the threat posed by North Korea.
“Every President since Harry Truman has tried to stop other nations from going nuclear,” says Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a non-profit group dedicated to reducing the threat posed by nuclear weapons. “John F. Kennedy started the effort to get the Non-Proliferation Treaty because Japan and Germany—countries we had just defeated in war—were researching nuclear weapon programs. We stopped them, and South Korea and dozens of other nations. And now Trump wants give them the bomb? This is insane.”
Trump actually backed into this mess. “Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation,” he told the New York Times last Friday. But he made clear on Tuesday that letting Japan and South Korea develop their own nuclear deterrent may be the best way to handle North Korea. “At some point we have to say, you know what, we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself,” he told CNN. “Wouldn’t you rather, in a certain sense, have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?”
Trump doubled down Wednesday, when he refused to say he wouldn’t use a nuclear weapon somewhere in Europe or the Middle East. “I’m not going to take it off the table,” he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. To do so, he suggested, would weaken U.S. deterrence. “Why are we making them?” he asked of the nation’s thousands of atomic weapons. Then he made a rhetorical U-turn: “I’m not going to use nuclear, but I’m not taking any cards off the table.”
Trump’s approach to nuclear matters seems to be a work in progress. He appeared ignorant about the bomber, submarine and ICBM legs of the U.S. nuclear triad in a December debate. Tuesday, he cited his purchase of “thousands” of South Korean televisions—“because I am in the real estate business, you know, in my other life”—to suggest South Korea is smart and rich enough to build its own nuclear arsenal. And he mentioned an uncle, John G. Trump, who was a professor at MIT, to lend credence to his nuclear insights.
Like many of Trump’s proposals, there’s a certain initial logic to his push to free the nuclear genie in east Asia. He cites the $19 trillion U.S. debt as the key reason for surrendering the U.S. nuclear shield over east Asia. “We can’t afford it anymore,” he told CNN Tuesday. “It’s very simple.”
But the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal accounts for only about 10% of the Pentagon’s annual $600 billion budget—and nearly all of that nuclear spending would have to continue to deter China and Russia. The added cost to tuck Japan and South Korea under the U.S. nuclear umbrella is minimal. The far bigger costs are the conventional, non-nuclear forces the U.S. has in both countries. There are about 53,000 military personnel (39,000 onshore and 14,000 afloat in nearby waters), 43,000 dependents, and 5,000 Pentagon civilian employees in Japan (the $1.6 billion that Tokyo pays Washington annually for their presence foots only a portion of their cost). Seoul pays about half as much to support the nearly 30,000 U.S. troops based on South Korean soil.
But the ultimate downside to Trump’s stance is so great that his arguments collapse. The first is that the U.S. benefits greatly in terms of trade from a stable east Asia, something a regional nuclear-arms race could throw into a tailspin. The U.S. has been the key guarantor of stability in the region since World War II. The economic benefits Americans get from such trade eclipses by far the cost of U.S. military support in the neighborhood…….http://time.com/4276960/trump-wants-to-free-the-nuclear-genie/
New Report Claims India’s 12 New Nuclear Reactors Are Economically Unviable http://cleantechnica.com/2016/03/31/new-report-claims-indias-12-new-nuclear-reactors-economically-unviable/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+IM-cleantechnica+%28CleanTechnica%29 March 31st, 2016 by Joshua S Hill
A new report published by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has concluded that India’s plans to build 12 new nuclear reactors is economically unviable.
According to the new report (PDF), published this week by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), India’s current plans to build 12 new nuclear-powered plants is not only economically unviable, but fraught with risk, as the plants are intended to be a “first-of-its-kind” design that is untested. As such, the development of the nuclear power plants would likely result in numerous delays and technical problems.
David Schlissel, IEEFA’s director of resource planning analysis, concludes that the proposed nuclear plants, designed by Toshiba-Westinghouse and General Electric-Hitachi, and planned for the Mithi Virdi and Kovvada complexes, “are neither economically nor financially viable.” The plans intend for the 12 plants to be built across two separate sites in India. Six would be sited at Mithi Virdi in Gujarat, and would use the new Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design — which Schlissel notes has already “run into technical problems and significant cost increases and schedule delays” in other locations where the design is already under construction. The other six new plants, intended to be developed in Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh, would use GE’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design, and would be the first country in the world to develop this particular design.
“They would take much longer than expected to build, they would result in higher bills for ratepayers, and, if they are built, they might not work as advertised,” Schlissel said.
The report also noted that the development of the new nuclear power plants would come at the expense of solar, leading the author to conclude that India would do well to instead direct that money and effort into developing solar resources. “Investing in new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity would be a much lower-cost, significantly less environmentally harmful and far more sustainable alternative to the Mithi Virdi and Kovvada projects,” Schlissel said.
Among the report’s specific findings:
- Capital costs of the 12 plants would far exceed those of comparable solar-energy projects and, barring long-term and probably unsustainable government subsidies, consumers will pay more for electricity from the plants than they would for solar energy
- The first new reactors in the expansions at Mithi Virdi and Kovvada will take 11 to 15 years to build, if approved, even assuming the projects manage to avoid likely delays. None of the new reactors at Mithi Virdi and Kovvada would generate any power for the electric grid until sometime between 2029 and 2032. The remaining units at each project are unlikely to be completed, if approved, until late in the 2030s
- Even without likely time-and-cost overruns, both projects would require massive investment over the next two decades, ranging from Rs. 6.3 lakh crores (US $95 billion) to 11.3 lakh crore rupees (US $170 billion). It is unlikely that the Indian government would be able to simultaneously support other electricity-sector expansions, including in renewable resources and energy-efficiency programs
- Both projects, if approved, would probably be slowed by lengthy land-acquisition delays, complicated liability issues, lags associated with new-technology difficulties and compliance with the country’s “Make in India” policy
“All of these can be expected to lead to substantial, and perhaps indefinite, delays and significant increases in capital costs, possibly even far beyond those we have assumed in our analyses,” Schlissel said.
Other areas including Bradwell, Hartlepool, Heysham, Oldbury, Sizewell, Sellafield and Wylfa are also thought to be possibilities. Small modular reactors are attractive because they can be built in factories and assembled on-site. They take less time to develop than conventional nuclear power stations but they produce much less power – meaning there must be more of them to generate sustainable energy and they must be built close to the communities they serve.
A former Government advisor warned the plans were dropped under the Coalition after pressure from Liberal Democrat Ministers because of fears that communities would reject nuclear power stations close to towns.
But in the Budget in March, George Osborne announced a funding competition to get the industry off the ground in the UK.
The document revealed: “The government is launching the first stage of a competition to identify a small modular nuclear reactor to be built in the UK, and will publish an SMR delivery roadmap later this year. It will also allocate at least £30m of funding for research and development in advanced nuclear manufacturing.”
A number of companies are already working on plans for the small power stations…………..experts have warned that new power stations must not be imposed on local communities.
Liberal Democrat energy spokesman Lynne Featherstone said: “It is just striking how little regard the Conservatives have for communities around this country, and the ridiculous lengths they’ll go to to avoid positive investment in renewables. Continue reading
Cities Speak Up to Save Obama’s Clean Power Plan, City Lab, A large coalition of U.S. mayors and local governments is coming to the EPA’s defense in the legal battle to cut carbon emissions from power plants. JULIAN SPECTOR @JulianSpector Mar 31, 2016
President Barack Obama’s flagship plan to fight climate change is getting a boost from city leaders across the country.
The National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and a coalition of 54 local governments are filing arguments in federal court Friday morning in support of the Clean Power Plan, imploring the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases emitted from existing power plants.
The amicus brief, provided in advance to CityLab, argues that the EPA has a duty to protect the public from harmful pollution in ways laid out by the Clean Power Plan. Cities, meanwhile, are uniquely vulnerable to climate change and are already paying for its effects, they say.
These comments come days after the EPAoutlined its own arguments in defense of the plan, which is being challenged by 27 states and an assortment of coal and power industry groups. The rule would force changes in the power sector with a goal of cutting its emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. At stake is the scope of the EPA’s regulatory powers, but also the ability of the U.S. government to meet its commitments to fighting climate change, as agreed to in the Paris negotiations last December………
“President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is essential to reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti writes to CityLab. “The Supreme Court must choose between helping cities fight climate change or standing squarely in their way.” http://www.citylab.com/politics/2016/03/epa-clean-power-plan-cities-supreme-court/476127/
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