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Insight: Fukushima Danger

 

Six years after the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged central and northern Japan, the clean up at the decimated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is making slow progress. Once hailed as a cleaner route to electric power the building of new reactors has slowed in Europe but is accelerating in China. Insight looks at the high stakes world of nuclear power

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April 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | | Leave a comment

Fukushima native replaces reconstruction minister after quake gaffe

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Fukushima native replaces disaster minister after quake gaffe

Japan’s disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura resigned Wednesday, a day after saying it was “a good thing” the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan rather than the Tokyo area.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe picked Masayoshi Yoshino, a House of Representatives member from Fukushima Prefecture and the chairman of a special lower house committee on disaster reconstruction, to replace Imamura.

“I severely troubled and hurt people in (northeastern Japan),” Imamura told reporters at Abe’s office after submitting his resignation, which the prime minister accepted immediately.

“I apologize from my heart for my lack of virtue,” he added, while rejecting calls to also resign as a lawmaker.

Abe also apologized, both to the residents of areas recovering from disasters and the Japanese public as a whole, after accepting Imamura’s resignation.

Imamura made the “good thing” comment at a function in Tokyo for a faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe was also attending, on Tuesday evening. He immediately retracted the remark and apologized, but the damage was done.

The lawmaker made the remark after citing a figure of 25 trillion yen ($225 billion) for the damage to social capital and other infrastructure from the March 2011 disaster.

“It’s a good thing it was over there in the northeast. If it had been close to the greater Tokyo area, there would have been vast, enormous damage,” he said.

The disaster left 15,893 people dead and 2,553 still listed as missing, the National Police Agency said in its latest tally.

Imamura, 70, prompted calls for his resignation earlier this month when he suggested people displaced by the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the quake should fend for themselves.

A native of Saga Prefecture in Japan’s southwest, Imamura was given his post in a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.

His 68-year-old replacement Yoshino, a fellow LDP lawmaker and former senior vice environment minister, hails from Iwaki, a city in Fukushima on the Pacific coast that bore the brunt of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

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“My own home was damaged by the tsunami, and my campaign office was completely destroyed, so I think I understand better than anyone else the feelings of those affected by the disaster,” Yoshino said at his first press conference as a Cabinet minister later Wednesday.

The choice of a Fukushima local apparently reflects the administration’s desire to avoid further criticism that the reconstruction minister is unable to relate to people affected by the disaster.

Imamura’s resignation prompted the main opposition Democratic Party and three smaller opposition parties to also seek his resignation as a lawmaker.

The opposition demanded holding Diet committee sessions to pursue Abe’s responsibility in the matter.

The LDP and Democratic Party agreed Wednesday to hold such a session in the lower house on May 8. They are expected to arrange a House of Councillors committee session on May 9 or near that date.

The opposition parties had essentially threatened not to turn up for Diet deliberations until such a date was fixed.

Imamura’s resignation follows a series of blunders by Cabinet ministers and has dealt another blow to the government at a time when it is already facing issues that risk splitting public opinion.

The Diet is deliberating a bill to criminalize conspiracy to commit serious crimes, ostensibly to combat terrorism, which opponents say could result in the suppression of civil liberties.

Public sensitivity also surrounds a special bill in the works to enable the abdication of Emperor Akihito.

The string of embarrassments prompted Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, to warn last week the administration is “strikingly lacking in a sense of alertness.”

Yamaguchi spoke after LDP lawmaker Toshinao Nakagawa resigned as parliamentary vice minister of economy, trade and industry amid media reports of extramarital affairs.

The week before that, regional revitalization minister Kozo Yamamoto, another LDP lawmaker, called curators of cultural properties a “cancer” that needs to be “eradicated,” before being forced to apologize and retract the remark.

“(The administration) must take seriously the suggestions that we are becoming slack,” Abe acknowledged Wednesday in his apology over Imamura’s resignation, vowing to “win back the public’s trust.”

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/04/43790ecd62a8-update5-fukushima-native-replaces-disaster-minister-after-quake-gaffe.html

 

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Disaster minister quits after quake gaffe, Fukushima rep takes over

Japan’s disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura resigned Wednesday, a day after saying it was “a good thing” the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan rather than the Tokyo area.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe picked Masayoshi Yoshino, a House of Representatives member from Fukushima Prefecture and a former senior vice environment minister, to replace Imamura.

Imamura tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday morning and the prime minister accepted it immediately.

“I severely troubled and hurt people in (northeastern Japan),” Imamura told reporters at the prime minister’s office after submitting his resignation.

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“I apologize from my heart for my lack of virtue,” he added, while rejecting calls to also resign as a lawmaker.

Abe also apologized, both to the residents of areas recovering from disasters and to the Japanese public at large, after accepting Imamura’s resignation.

Imamura made the “good thing” comment at a function in Tokyo for a faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe was also attending, on Tuesday evening. He immediately retracted the remark and apologized, but the damage was done.

Imamura had prompted calls for his resignation earlier this month when he suggested people displaced by the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the quake should fend for themselves.

The leader of the main opposition Democratic Party on Wednesday said Imamura’s resignation is not enough on its own.

“This brings into question Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s responsibility for having appointed (Imamura),” Renho said at a party meeting.

Abe acknowledged that this responsibility lies with him in his apology. “(The administration) must take seriously the suggestions that we are becoming slack,” Abe said, vowing to “bring back the public’s trust.”

Imamura, a native of Saga Prefecture in Japan’s southwest, was given his post in a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.

His replacement Yoshino hails from Iwaki, a city in Fukushima on the Pacific coast that bore the brunt of damage in the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

“I have been making reconstruction my life, so I’m happy to be given a challenging post,” Yoshino told reporters at the LDP’s head office in Tokyo on Wednesday morning.

Imamura’s resignation has prompted the suspension of House of Representatives proceedings scheduled for Wednesday morning and most of the House of Councillors proceedings scheduled for Wednesday.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/04/e8335852ad1d-update2-disaster-minister-quits-after-quake-gaffe-fukushima-rep-takes-over.html

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Utility seeks to restart two reactors in Fukui from mid-May

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The Takahama Nuclear Power Plant’s No. 3 reactor, left, and No. 4 reactor are pictured in this file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, on June 15, 2016.

FUKUI, Japan (Kyodo) — Kansai Electric Power Co. said Tuesday it will seek to restart its two idled reactors in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan, in mid-May and early June, respectively.

Shigeki Iwane, the utility’s president, presented the plan to reboot the two units at the Takahama plant on the Sea of Japan coast when meeting with Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa.

“It is correct that (Kansai Electric Power) will take procedures to start operations,” Nishikawa told reporters after the meeting.

Kansai Electric Power will start to load nuclear fuel at the No. 4 unit later this month, eyeing the start of electricity generation in late May while aiming to reactivate the No. 3 reactor in early June after fueling the facility in mid-May, according to the schedule released by the Osaka-based company.

Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has been promoting the restart of nuclear reactors across Japan, most of the reactors remain offline amid safety concerns among residents following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

The two reactors in Takahama were brought back online in early 2016 after meeting the safety requirements introduced after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

While the No. 4 unit was shut down immediately after its restart in February last year due to a technical problem, the No. 3 reactor was forced to go offline the following month in the wake of an Otsu District Court order that resulted from a lawsuit filed by residents in neighboring Shiga Prefecture.

In March this year, the Osaka High Court struck down the lower court’s decision, making it possible for the two reactors to resume operation.

Among the four units at the Takahama plant, Japan’s nuclear regulators approved June last year the utility’s plan to extend the operation of the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors beyond the government-mandated 40-year service period.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170426/p2g/00m/0dm/001000c

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan reconstruction minister quits after inappropriate comment on disaster zone

FILE PHOTO: Japan's State Minister in charge of Reconstruction Masahiro Imamura speaks at a news conference in Tokyo

 

The Japanese cabinet minister overseeing reconstruction of areas devastated by the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster resigned on Wednesday after saying it was better the disaster struck the northeastern region instead of Tokyo.

Masahiro Imamura was forced to quit after remarks he made on Tuesday at a party for ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmakers and is the latest in a spate of ruling party lawmakers in trouble for their comments or behavior.

Speaking of the costs incurred in the 9.0 earthquake that set off a massive tsunami and left nearly 20,000 dead or missing, Imamura said: “It was better that this happened in the northeast.”

The comments came just weeks after Imamura set off a furor at a news conference by disparaging people who left Fukushima out of fear after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, then shouting at a reporter and storming out of the room.

Imamura’s comments prompted an immediate rebuke from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who apologized on his behalf. His swift resignation was seen aimed at minimizing the damage to Abe’s government, which has been accused of complacency in the absence of a viable opposition.

“It was an extremely inappropriate comment and hurtful to people in the disaster zone, an act causing the people a reconstruction minister works for to lose trust in him, ” Abe told reporters after Imamura resigned.

The subject still touches a raw nerve because regional businesses have struggled to recover and reconstruction work has been slow. Many evacuee families have also given up hope of returning to their home towns.

Shunsuke Mutai, a deputy reconstruction minister, drew fire last year after forcing a subordinate to carry him on his back so his feet could stay dry as he visited a flooded area. He quit in March on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the March 11 disaster after making a joke about the incident.

A week ago the vice minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Toshinao Nakagawa, was forced to resign from his position after news broke of an extramarital affair. He later resigned from the LDP.

Abe’s support currently hovers around 50 percent despite a series of recent scandals, including one involving a nationalist school. He has a shot at becoming Japan’s longest-serving leader after party rule chances allow him to serve a third consecutive three-year term after his current tenure ends in 2018.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-politics-resignation-idUSKBN17S07R

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Survey: 80% of voluntary Fukushima disaster evacuees outside pref. unwilling to return home

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A group of evacuees offer silent prayers for earthquake and tsunami victims at an evacuation centre in Soma, Fukushima prefecture on May 11, 2011.

80% of voluntary Fukushima evacuees unwilling to return home – survey

A vast majority of Fukushima voluntary evacuees are not planning to move back to their homes out of fear of radiation despite the government declaring living conditions in the prefecture to be “good”, a new government survey has discovered.

Some 78.2 percent of “voluntary” evacuees households have no intention of returning to their previous places of residence and plan to “continue living” in the area they had evacuated to, results of a Fukushima Prefectural Government survey released on April 24 show.

Only 18.3 percent of households said they intended to move back to the Fukushima prefecture.

On their own accord, some 12,239 households left areas that were not covered by the government’s evacuations orders that were issued following the tsunami and the subsequent meltdown of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

Unlike people who were forced to relocate under evacuation orders, voluntary evacuees only received a fraction of the payment of at least 8.5 million yen ($77,300) that the government offered in compensation to mandatory evacuees.

For six years, most of them lived in other parts of Japan through government sponsored subsidies which ended in March this year after the government claimed that the “living environment (in Fukushima Prefecture) is in good order.”

Despite the official assessment, the environmentally wary refugees “still worry about radiation, and many of them have shifted the foundations of their lives to the places they’ve evacuated to,” the prefectural official in charge of the survey told Mainichi, Japan’s national daily.

Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori pledged to work closely with local governments where the evacuees’ old and new homes are located to help them.

It’s essential to respect the evacuee’s intentions” about returning home, Uchibori told reporters after the release of the survey. “However, we will work to create an environment where people can live with peace of mind, so evacuees can return home in the future.”

https://www.rt.com/news/386153-voluntary-fukushima-evacuees-survey/

 

80% of voluntary Fukushima disaster evacuees outside pref. won’t move back: survey

FUKUSHIMA — Some 80 percent of voluntary Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees now living in other areas of Japan have no intention of returning, results of a Fukushima Prefectural Government survey released on April 24 show.

The prefecture ended a housing subsidy for voluntary evacuees at the end of March this year, stating that the “living environment (in Fukushima Prefecture) is in good order” due to ongoing decontamination work and other factors.

Voluntary evacuees “still worry about radiation, and many of them have shifted the foundations of their lives to the places they’ve evacuated to,” the prefectural official in charge of the survey said.

The survey covered 12,239 voluntary evacuee households that had been receiving the prefectural housing subsidy, of which 5,718 households had left Fukushima Prefecture. A total of 4,781 supplied answers to the prefecture regarding where they intended to live in the future, 78.2 percent of which stated that they would “continue living” in the area they had evacuated to. Another 3.5 percent stated that they would move, but not back to Fukushima Prefecture. Only 18.3 percent of respondent households said they intended to move back to the prefecture.

However, only 23.6 percent of voluntary evacuees living in Fukushima Prefecture said they would stay in their current locations, while 66.6 percent said they hope to return to their pre-disaster homes.

Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told reporters at an April 24 news conference, “It’s essential to respect the evacuees intentions” about returning home. “However, we will work to create an environment where people can live with peace of mind, so evacuees can return home in the future.”

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170425/p2a/00m/0na/003000c

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 1 Comment

Trump says that Kim Jong Un ‘is a problem that needs to be finally solved’,sends Cruise missile-carrying nuclear submarine to South Korea

Trump sends Cruise missile-carrying nuclear submarine to South Korean port as he warns Kim Jong Un ‘is a problem that needs to be finally solved’

  • The USS Michigan arrived on Monday ahead of a possible Tuesday nuke trial
  • Tuesday is the 85th anniversary of the start of the North’s Korean People’s Army
  • The US, Japan and South Korea are meeting in Tokyo to discuss North Korea
  • Trump has also invited the entire Senate to the White House on Wednesday
  • And the UN Security Council on North Korea will also meet on Friday
  • Japan and China are to meet too; China is an unhappy ally of the hermit state 
  • North Korea has refused to stop its nuclear tests and is threatening more trials 
  • The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group is also heading to the peninsula

The port call in Busan by the USS Michigan came as an American aircraft carrier strike group continued steaming towards Korean waters.

And as tensions in the area continued to rise, the top nuclear envoys from South Korea, Japan, and the US met in Tokyo to discuss North Korea’s refusal to give up its nuclear program.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump called for tougher new UN sanctions on Pyongyang, saying the North was a global threat and ‘a problem that we have to finally solve’.

The USS Michigan’s armament comprises four torpedo tubes and 154 BGM-109 Tomahawks. It was modified to remove its nuclear armaments in the mid-2000s.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshide Suga, told a media briefing that China’s nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, would also hold talks with Japanese Foreign Ministry officials on Tuesday.

A ministry source said Wu was likely to meet his Japanese nuclear counterpart on Wednesday.

Matching the flurry of activity in North Asia, the State Department in Washington said on Monday US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would chair a special ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council on North Korea on Friday.

Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs chairman General Joseph Dunford, would also hold a rare briefing for the entire US Senate on North Korea on Wednesday, Senate aides said……..

Two Japanese destroyers conducted exercises on Monday with the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group that is headed for waters off the Korean peninsula, sent by Trump as a warning to the North.

The South Korean military is also planning to conduct joint drills with the carrier group.

As those drills continued, the USS Michigan arrived in the South Korean port of Busan on Tuesday, the US Navy said. The nuclear-powered submarine is built to carry and launch ballistic missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

As well as his military show of force, Trump has also sought to pressure China to do more to rein in its nuclear-armed neighbor.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally, has in turn been angered by Pyongyang’s belligerence, as well as its nuclear and missile programs.

Regardless, North Korea has carried out nuclear and missile tests in defiance of successive rounds of United Nations sanctions………http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4442190/U-S-submarine-makes-S-Korea-port-call-North-remains-defiant.html

April 26, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

China’s strong warning to North Korea against another nuclear weapons test

China warns North Korea another nuclear weapons test would take relations beyond ‘point of no return’
Warning comes amid fears of new launch to mark anniversary of Pyongyang’s military,
Independent, Lizzie Dearden  @lizziedearden , 25 Apr 17North Korea has been warned not to go past the “point of no return” with another nuclear test by China, as the US and South Korea carry out high-profile military exercises.

An editorial in the Global Times, regarded as a mouthpiece for the ruling Communist Party, said Beijing was hoping for a peaceful outcome but had “very limited influence on the entire situation”.

“The game of chicken between Washington and Pyongyang has come to a breaking point,” it added, saying that if North Korea followed through on vows to carry out a sixth nuclear test, “it is more likely than ever that the situation will cross the point of no return.“All stakeholders will bear the consequences, with Pyongyang sure to suffer the greatest losses.”

The warning followed a conversation between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, who has put pressure on China to “properly deal” with its ally’s continued violations of UN sanctions.

“China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea so, while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will,” the US President tweeted on Saturday.

As North Korea’s chief source of trade, food and fuel aid, Beijing has come under increasing pressure to use its influence to dissuade Kim Jong-un from continuing weapons development that has generated international alarm.

But the Chinese government is wary of any measures that could threaten the North Korean regime’s existence, and provoke a potential nuclear war or a new government in Pyongyang beholden to Washington and Seoul.
A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, Lu Kang, said diplomatic channels remained “smooth [with] normal exchanges” on Tuesday, amid fears of a new test to coincide with the 85th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army.He urged all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from any actions that could push tensions even higher. “The current situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive and the tension is high,” he added.

“We urge all sides concerned to keep restrained and calm and refrain from taking actions that could escalate tensions.”

Two American destroyers are conducting joint maritime exercises with ships from the Japanese and South Korean navies, which were to continue on Wednesday in waters both sides of the Korean Peninsula…….. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-north-korea-nuclear-weapons-test-point-no-return-state-media-newspaper-us-south-korea-military-a7701161.html

 

April 26, 2017 Posted by | politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Why so little public protest on the current threats of nuclear war?

So why is there so little public protest today?………

It would be a terrible thing if it takes a disastrous nuclear war between the United States and North Korea to convince people that nuclear war is simply unacceptable.


Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Common Dreams, Lawrence Wittner, 26 Apr 17,  In recent weeks, the people of the world have been treated to yet another display of the kind of nuclear insanity that has broken out periodically ever since 1945 and the dawn of the nuclear era.

On April 11, Donald Trump, irked by North Korea’s continued tests of nuclear weapons and missiles, tweeted that “North Korea is looking for trouble.” If China does not “help,” then “we will solve the problem without them.” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded by announcing that, in the event of a U.S. military attack, his country would not scruple at launching a nuclear strike at U.S. forces. In turn, Trump declared: “We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. We have the best military people on earth.”

During the following days, the governments of both nuclear-armed nations escalated their threats. Dispatched to South Korea, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence declared that “the era of strategic patience is over,” and warned: “All options are on the table.” Not to be outdone, North Korea’s deputy representative to the United Nations told a press conference that “thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.” Any missile or nuclear strike by the United States would be responded to “in kind.” Several days later, the North Korean government warned of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” that would reduce U.S. military forces in South Korea and on the U.S. mainland “to ashes.” The United States and its allies, said the official statement, “should not mess with us.”

Curiously, this North Korean statement echoed the Trump promise during his presidential campaign that he would build a U.S. military machine “so big, powerful, and strong that no one will mess with us.” The fact that both Trump and Kim are being “messed with” despite their possession of very powerful armed forces, including nuclear weapons, seems to have eluded both men, who continue their deadly game of nuclear threat and bluster.

And what is the response of the public to these two erratic government leaders behaving in this reckless fashion and threatening war, including nuclear war? It is remarkably subdued. People read about the situation in newspapers or watch it on the television news, while comedians joke about the madness of it all. Oh, yes, peace and disarmament organizations condemn the escalating military confrontation and outline reasonable diplomatic alternatives. But such organizations are unable to mobilize the vast numbers of people around the world necessary to shake some sense into these overwrought government officials.

The situation was very different in the 1980s, when organizations like the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign (in the United States), the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (in Britain), and similar groups around the world were able to engage millions of people in protest against the nuclear recklessness of the U.S. and Soviet governments―protest that played a key role in curbing the nuclear arms race and preventing nuclear war.

So why is there so little public protest today?………

It would be a terrible thing if it takes a disastrous nuclear war between the United States and North Korea to convince people that nuclear war is simply unacceptable. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should already have convinced us of that.https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/04/23/why-there-so-little-popular-protest-against-todays-threats-nuclear-war

 

April 26, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Time to pay attention to long term effects of low dose ionising radiation

The numbers of cases rose into the thousands, too high to dismiss, and in 1996 the WHO and the IAEA finally admitted that skyrocketing rates of childhood thyroid cancer were most likely due to Chernobyl exposures.

Today we know little about the non-cancerous effects that Soviet scientists working in contaminated zones reported in the late 1980s, and which they attributed to internal and external exposures to ionizing radiation. Are these effects as real as the childhood thyroid cancers proved to be? The Soviet post-Chernobyl medical records suggest that it is time to ask a new set of questions about long-term, low-dose exposures.

Chernobyl’s hidden legacy http://live.iop-pp01.agh.sleek.net/physicsworld/reader/#!edition/editions_Nuclear_2017/article/page-19330 Kate
Brown
 is a historian at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, US, e-mail kbrown@umbc.edu
 Historian Kate Brown argues that scientists should re-examine Soviet-era evidence of health effects from low doses of radiation

In June 1980 a doctor with the Oak Ridge Associated Universities in the US wrote a letter to a colleague at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in upstate New York. The pair were corresponding about a forthcoming study of employee health at the Knolls reactor, and the doctor, C C Lushbaugh, wrote that he expected “little ‘useful’ knowledge” from this study “because radiation doses have been so low”. Even so, he agreed that the study had to be done because “both the workers and their management need to be assured that a career involving exposures to low levels of nuclear radiation is not hazardous to one’s health”. The results of such a study, he surmised, would help to counter anti-nuclear propaganda and resolve workers’ claims. However, they could also be a liability. If a competing union or regulatory agency got hold of the employees’ health data, Lushbaugh fretted, it could be weaponized. “I believe,” he continued, “that a study designed to show the transgressions of management will usually succeed.”

Lushbaugh’s dilemma is characteristic of research on the human health effects of exposure to low doses of radiation. He assumed he knew the results – good or bad – before the study began, because those results depended on how the study was designed. The field was so politicized, in other words, that scientists were using health studies as polemical tools and, consequently, asking few open-ended scientific questions.

A few years after Lushbaugh posted this letter, reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant blew up, killing 31 workers and firefighters and spreading radioactive material across a broad area of what was then the Soviet Union (now Ukraine and Belarus) and beyond. The accident also exploded the field of radiation medicine and, for a while, promised to rejuvenate it. In August 1986, months after the accident, the chief of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), Giovanni Silini, advocated an enduring epidemiological investigation similar to research on atomic-bomb survivors in Japan [1]. Many other scientists concurred, hoping that Chernobyl could clear up ongoing controversies and uncertainties surrounding low-dose exposures.

It never happened. No long-term epidemiological study took place. That’s not to say there isn’t any information. A few summers ago I went to the Ukrainian national archives in the dusty, bustling outskirts of Kiev and asked the archivists for files on Chernobyl from Soviet Ukraine’s Ministry of Health. They laughed, telling me Chernobyl was a banned topic in the Soviet Union. “You won’t find anything,” they said.

They were wrong. I found dozens of collections labelled “The medical effects of the Chernobyl disaster”. I started reading and have not yet been able to stop.

The aftermath

In the years between 1986 and 1991, doctors and sanitation officials wrote to the Ministry of Health in Kiev with alarming accounts of widespread, chronic illness among the hundreds of thousands of children and adults living in contaminated territories. They recorded increases in tonsillitis, upper respiratory disease and disorders of the digestive tract and immune system. Between 1985 and 1988, cases of anaemia doubled. Physicians from almost every region in the zone of contamination reported a leap in the number of reproductive problems, including miscarriages, stillbirths and birth malformations. Nervous-system disorders surged. So did diseases of the circulatory system. In 1988, in the heavily contaminated Polesie region of northern Ukraine, 80% of children examined had upper respiratory diseases and 28% had endocrine problems. In Ivankiv, where many cleanup workers lived, 92% of all children examined had a chronic illness.

I also went to Minsk to check the archives in Belarus. There, I read reports that sounded eerily similar to the Ukrainian documents. These reports were classified “for office use only”, meaning that at the time, scientists were not free to exchange this information across districts or republics of the Soviet Union. Even so, independently, they were reporting similar, bad news. The problem grew so dire in Belarus that in 1990 officials declared the entire republic, which received more than 60% of Chernobyl fallout, a “zone of national ecological disaster”.

The Ukrainian and Belarusian reports, hundreds of them, read like a dirge from a post-catastrophic world. Doctors wrote from clinics in Kharkiv, far outside the contaminated zone, and described similar health problems among evacuees who had settled there. Physicians sent telegrams from Donetsk, where they were treating a complex of illnesses among young miners who had burrowed under the smouldering reactor in the days after the accident. Medical workers sent in to examine people in contaminated regions also fell ill.

In response, the Union of Soviet Radiologists penned a petition to alert Soviet leaders of the ongoing public health disaster. The president of the Belarusian Academy of Science sent a detailed summary of scientists’ findings to Minsk and Moscow. Even a KGB general, Mikhailo Zakharash, sounded the alarm. Zakharash, who was also a medical doctor, conducted a study of 2000 cleanup workers and their family members in a specially equipped KGB clinic in Kiev. In 1990, summing up four years of medical investigation, he wrote, “We have shown that long term, internal exposures of low doses of radiation to a practically healthy individual leads to a decline of his immune system and to a whole series of pathological illnesses.”

Chronic radiation

These findings track with what Soviet doctors had long described as chronic radiation syndrome, a complex of symptoms derived from chronic exposure to low doses of radiation. Researchers working on Chernobyl discerned a pattern of disease that tracked with pathways of radioactive isotopes entering the body, paths that began in either the mouth and headed towards the gastrointestinal tract or started in the lungs and followed blood into circulatory systems. Radioactive iodine sped to thyroids, they hypothesized, causing endocrinal and hormonal damage.

Critics, mostly in Moscow and the ministries of health, acknowledged the growth in health problems, but denied a connection to Chernobyl. A E Romanenko, the Ukrainian Minister of Health, is credited with inventing the word “radiophobia” to describe a public fear of radiation that induced stress-related illness. He and his colleagues also pointed to a screening effect from mass medical monitoring. Local doctors, they said, were projecting the diagnoses of chronic radiation syndrome onto their patients, blaming it for any illness found after Chernobyl.

There are some problems with these arguments. From 1986 to 1989, Chernobyl was a censored topic in the Soviet Union. Doctors could not exchange information about health problems, nor did they have access to maps of radioactive contamination. They only learned to be “radiophobic” by judging the bodies they examined. In the same years, doctors were also fleeing contaminated areas en masse, leaving hospitals and clinics in those regions staffed at 60%. As physicians left, so too did the chance for diagnosis, meaning that under-reporting of illnesses was more likely than a screening effect. Moreover, doctors from the northern regions of the Rivne province, which were at first judged clean and only in late 1989 designated contaminated, reported the same growth of illness as areas originally deemed “control zones,” regions with counts of more than 5 curies per square kilometre. The president of the Belarusian Academy of Science, V P Platonov, pointed to a vacuum of knowledge: “Until this time, no population has ever lived with continual internal and external exposures of this size.” Risk assessments assuring safe levels in the contaminated zones were extrapolated from the Japanese Atomic Bomb Survivor Lifespan Study, but these began only in 1950, five years after exposure. “Much is uncertain,” Platonov continued, “about fundamental aspects of the effects of low doses of radiation on human organs,” [2].

What happened to the 1980s Chernobyl health studies, which might have led to a renaissance in the field of radioecology? Essentially, they were overlooked. To figure out why, I went to the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, to the UN’s archives in New York and the archives of UNSCEAR in Vienna. There, I found evidence of a conflict between branches of the WHO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over which organization would control the studies of Chernobyl health effects.

By 1989 angry crowds were questioning the Soviet Union’s handling of Chernobyl, and Soviet leaders asked foreign experts for help in assessing the disaster’s health impacts. The IAEA agreed, and Fred Mettler, a radiologist and American delegate to UNSCEAR, was appointed to head the medical section of an IAEA team. In 1990, as he and his team examined 1726 people in six contaminated zones and six control zones, Soviet doctors gave him 20 slides from children diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is very rare in children: before the Chernobyl accident, doctors saw eight or nine cases per year in all of Ukraine. Twenty cases in just three provinces was hard to believe. Dubious, Mettler brought the slides to the US to have them verified. They indeed indicated thyroid cancer.

Cancer cluster

Mettler mentioned this major medical finding in the 1991 International Chernobyl Project (ICP) technical report, but strangely, he also stated that there was “no clear pathologically documented evidence of an increase in thyroid cancer” [3]. The report concluded that there were no detectable Chernobyl health effects and only a probable chance of childhood thyroid cancers in the future. In a 1992 publication on thyroid nodules in the Chernobyl territories, Mettler failed to mention the 20 verified cases at all [4].

How could such a lapse occur? I found a confidential 1990 UN memo that seems relevant, particularly in light of the study-design problem set out in Lushbaugh’s letter a decade earlier. The memo suggests that the IAEA was conducting the ICP study to “allay the fears of the public” in service of “its own institutional interest for the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy” [5]. The experiences of Keith Baverstock, then head of the radiation protection programme in the WHO’s European office, likewise reveal an institutional aversion to bad news. In July 1992 Baverstock planned to go to Minsk to examine childhood thyroid cases in Belarus, where doctors reported an astounding 102 new cases. At the last minute, officials from the WHO and the Commission of European Communities inexplicably pulled out of the mission. In an interview with me, Baverstock, an expert on the effects of ionizing radiation, said that a WHO official told him he could get fired if he went to Minsk.

He went anyway. With Belarusian scientists, he published news of the thyroid cancer epidemic in Nature. A top IAEA official complained angrily to the WHO, and the two agencies put pressure on Baverstock to retract his article. He refused, and a barrage of letters followed in Nature disputing the connection between the cancers and Chernobyl exposures [6]. Leading scientists from the US Department of Energy, the National Cancer Institute, Japan’s Radiation Effects Research Foundation and the IAEA argued that cancers were found because of increased surveillance. They called for a suspension of judgment and for further study. Repetitive and dismissive, their letters read like an orchestrated pile-on.

We now know that these global leaders in radiology were wrong. The numbers of cases rose into the thousands, too high to dismiss, and in 1996 the WHO and the IAEA finally admitted that skyrocketing rates of childhood thyroid cancer were most likely due to Chernobyl exposures. Today, the UNSCEAR maintains that the health consequences of the Chernobyl accident are limited to 31 direct fatalities – plus 6000 cases of children’s thyroid cancer [7].

Lingering questions

The question is – so what? Despite the 1991 ICP report’s erroneous claim of no health effects, UN agencies eventually recognized the cancer epidemic. What difference did a few years make? A great deal, it turns out. The ICP report also recommended that resettlements from the most contaminated regions should cease [8]. Consequently, the planned resettlement of 200,000 people living in areas contaminated with high levels of radiation (between 15 and 40 curies per square kilometre) slowed tremendously. The UN General Assembly had also been waiting for the report before raising funds for Chernobyl relief. The $646m budget (equivalent to about $1.1bn today) included medical aid, resettlement funds and a large-scale epidemiological study of Chernobyl health effects. The assertion by important UN agencies that there were no detectable health effects deflated that effort. Before the report, Japan had given $20m to the WHO, but afterwards it gave no more and complained about the funds being wasted. A few other countries gave sums totalling less than $1m, while the US and the European Community begged off entirely, citing the ICP report as a “factor in their reluctance to pledge” [9].

In subsequent years, IAEA and UNSCEAR officials cited the ICP report when discouraging Chernobyl-related health projects. In 1993 UNSCEAR scientific secretary Burton Bennett recommended that UN agencies suspend all programmes aimed at Chernobyl relief because they were unnecessary. He and IAEA administrator Abel Gonzalez, who led the ICP assessment, widely shared their views among UN agencies about “misinformation surrounding the Chernobyl accident” [10]. When the WHO, nonetheless, started a pilot study on Chernobyl health effects, Gonzalez wrote that he could not imagine what the WHO “expects to be able to detect for the level of doses in question”. Irked that WHO officials would examine any effects but psychological ones, he charged, “The World Health Organization seems to ignore, expressly or tacitly, the conclusions and recommendations of the International Chernobyl Project,” [11].The consequences of this moment of deviant science continue 30 years later. Today we know little about the non-cancerous effects that Soviet scientists working in contaminated zones reported in the late 1980s, and which they attributed to internal and external exposures to ionizing radiation. Are these effects as real as the childhood thyroid cancers proved to be? The Soviet post-Chernobyl medical records suggest that it is time to ask a new set of questions about long-term, low-dose exposures.

References

  1. Giovanni Silini 1986 “Concerning proposed draft for long-term Chernobyl studies” Correspondence Files, UNSCEAR Archive
  2. V P Platonov and E F Konoplia 1989 “Informatsiia ob osnovynkh rezul’tatakh nauchnykh rabot, sviazannykh s likvidatsiei posledstvii avarii na ChAES” RGAE 4372/67/9743: 490
  3. International Chernobyl Project, Proceedings of an International Conference (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 47. Mettler also admitted that the slides checked out at the Vienna conference convened to discuss the report. For a discussion of thyroid cancer, see The International Chernobyl Project, Technical Report, Assessment of Radiological Consequences and Evaluation of Protective Measures (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 388
  4. Fred Mettler et al. 1992 “Thyroid nodules in population around Chernobyl” Journal of American Medical Association 268 616
  5. From Enrique ter Horst, Asst Sec Gen, ODG/DIEC to Virendra Daya, Chef de Cabinet, EOSG, 16 April 1990, United Nations Archive, New York S-1046 box 14, file 4, acc. 2001/0001
  6. Baverstock et al. 1992 “Thyroid cancer after Chernobyl” Nature 359 21; Kazakov et al. 1992 “Thyroid cancer after Chernobyl” Nature 359 21; I Shigematsu and J W Thiessen 1992 “Childhood thyroid cancer in Belarus” Nature 359 680; V Beral and G Reeves 1992 “Childhood thyroid cancer in Belarus” Nature 359 680; E Ron, J Lubin, A B Scheider 1992 “Thyroid cancer incidence” Nature 360 113
  7. The Chernobyl accident: UNSCEAR’s assessments of the radiation effects” UNSCEAR website
  8. The International Chernobyl Project: an Overview (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 44
  9. “International co-operation in the elimination of the consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident” 24 May 1990, UNA S-1046/14/4; “Third meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Chernobyl” 19–23 September 1991, WHO E16-445-11, 5; “Briefing note on the activities relating to Chernobyl” 3 June 1993, Department of Humanitarian Affairs DHA, UNA s-1082/35/6/, acc 2002/0207; Anstee to Napalkov, 17 Jan 1992, WHO E16-445-11, 7
  10. Gonzalez to Napalkov, 10 August 1993, WHO E16-445-11, 19; B G Bennett 1993 “Background information for UNEP representative to the meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Coordination on Chernobyl” 17 November 1993, New York, Correspondence Files, UNSCEAR Archive, Vienna
  11. Gonzalez to Napalkov, 10 August 1993, WHO E16-445-11, 19

April 26, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Greens Party condemns as immoral UK government’s willingness for pre-emptive strike

Tories are ‘fanatics’ for saying they would start a nuclear war, Green Party says http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-nuclear-first-strike-war-green-party-fanatics-jeremy-corbyn-jonathan-bartley-a7700071.html Green co-leader Jonathan Barley attacked the Tories and Labour’s positions on Trident, Jon Stone Political Correspondent @joncstone, 25 Apr 17,  The Green Party has accused the Conservatives of “fanaticism” after the Defence Secretary admitted that Theresa May could start a nuclear war.

Michael Fallon had said the Prime Minister could launch a nuclear attack against another country, even if the UK was not under nuclear attack, in “the most extreme circumstances”. 

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, branded the position “immoral”  because it would lead to the deaths of countless civilians.  He also criticised Jeremy Corbyn, whose party says it will renew Trident despite its leader’s clear statement that he would not use the weapon of mass destruction. Mr Bartley branded Labour’s approach to the multi-billion pound missile system “HMS Pointless”.

Speaking at St George’s Hospital in Tooting on Monday the Green co-leader pledged spend the cost of the weapon on the NHS.

“Voters are being offered a choice between Tory first strike fanaticisms and Labour’s HMS Pointless. What could be more immoral than considering a first use of nuclear weapons, knowing full well that it would lead to the death of countless civilians?” he said.

“And what could be more illogical that pledging to renew a multi-billion pound nuclear weapons system that will never be used? With people struggling to get by in Britain it’s inexcusable to be ploughing people’s money into this cold war relic.

“Instead of replacing this nuclear monstrosity the Green Party would give the NHS an emergency kiss of life. People are being treated in corridors while we flush money away on nuclear weapons. Cancelling Trident would give our NHS more than £3bn per year – which must be added to additional funding from raising taxes.

“Real security means having a world class health service, not locking ourselves into replacing these weapons we’ll never use. Imagine the impact on our NHS of employing 85,000 more nurses, midwives and health professionals – that’s what is at stake here.”

Speaking on Sunday Labour leader Mr Corbyn said he would try to de-escalate a nuclear war and said that “any use of nuclear weapons is a disaster for the whole world”. His party however says it is committed to maintaining a “nuclear deterrent” and would renew Trident.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning Mr Fallon, Ms May’s defence secretary, said: “In the most extreme circumstances, we have made it very clear that you can’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike.

Asked in what circumstances, he replied: “They are better not specified or described, which would only give comfort to our enemies and make the deterrent less credible.”

The highest estimate of the cost of replacing Trident is £205 billion over its lifetime, according to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. One estimate collated from ministerial statement by Crispin Blunt, the Tory MP who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, pegged the cost at £167 billion.

The independent Trident Commission, which reported in 2014, pegged the cost at closer to £100 billion.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Theresa May would be willing to fire a pre-emptive nuclear strike

Theresa May would fire UK’s nuclear weapons as a ‘first strike’, says Defence Secretary Michael Fallon
‘We have made it very clear that you can’t rule out the use 
of nuclear weapons as a first strike’ Independent,  Rob Merrick Deputy Political Editor @Rob_Merrick , 24 Apr 17,
Theresa May would fire Britain’s nuclear weapons as a ‘first strike’ if necessary, the Defence Secretary has said.

Michael Fallon said the Prime Minister was prepared to launch Trident in “the most extreme circumstances”, even if Britain itself was not under nuclear attack.

The statement came as the Conservatives continued to exploit Labour divisions on the retention of the Trident deterrent, to warn of the“very dangerous chaos” if Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister……..

“In the most extreme circumstances, we have made it very clear that you can’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike,” Mr Fallon said.

Asked in what circumstances, he replied: “They are better not specified or described, which would only give comfort to our enemies and make the deterrent less credible.

“The whole point about the deterrent is that you have got to leave uncertainty in the mind of anyone who might be thinking of using weapons against this country.”

Mr Fallon also insisted that critics of Trident – including senior military figures who have ridiculed the idea that it is an effective deterrent – were “absolutely wrong”……..

“The Labour party is very clear we are committed to a credible nuclear credibility at the minimum end of the scale. That is Labour party policy and it will be in the manifesto,” Mr Gwynne said.

But he appeared to rule out a first strike, adding: “We would not be in a position where the first choice would be to press that red button. It is a deterrent because we have them.

“We believe in multilateralism, we believe in negotiating away our nuclear weapons system to create a nuclear weapon free world.”…….http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-nuclear-weapons-first-strike-michael-fallon-general-election-jeremy-corbyn-trident-a7698621.html

April 26, 2017 Posted by | UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Russian warning: Britain would be ‘razed to the ground’if it launched a nuclear attack

Britain would be ‘literally erased from the face of the earth’ if it launched a nuclear attack, warns Russian MP  Another translation says Britain would be ‘razed to the ground’ in a retaliatory strike, Independent, Samuel Osborne @SamuelOsborne93, 24 Apr 17, Britain would be “literally erased from the face of the earth” in a nuclear war, a Russian MP has warned.

Franz Klintsevich, a retired colonel, was responding to comments from Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who said “in the most extreme circumstances, we have made it very clear that you can’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike.”

Mr Klintsevich said if Britain were to launch a preemptive strike, then “not having the biggest territory, it will literally be erased from the face of the earth.”  Another translation, carried by the Russian news agency TASS, says Britain would be “razed to the ground” in a retaliatory strike.

Sir Michael’s comments came in response to Labour divisions over retaining the Trident deterrent, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suggesting renewal might not be in the party’s election manifesto — only to be corrected later by party colleagues.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme, Sir Michael said Labour had left voters “completely unsure as to what would actually happen to our nuclear deterrent.”

He said Prime Minster Theresa May would be ready to use Trident as a “pre-emptive initial strike”…….
Mr Klintsevich, who is deputy chairman of the upper house of the Russian parliament’s defence and security committee, called Sir Michael’s comments “disgusting” and said it “deserves a tough response”. He added: “In the best case this statement should be taken as an element of psychological war — which looks particularly disgusting in such a context.

“Otherwise, it sounds really bad, because a reasonable question arises: Against whom is Great Britain going to preemptively use nuclear weapons?”

If Britain intended to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state, he added, “then probably English people desperately want to share the laurels of the USA who threw nuclear bombs at defenceless [Japanese cities] Hiroshima and Nagasaki [in 1945].”

“But those times have gone for good, as has the era of the greatness of the British Empire.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/uk-nuclear-war-russia-warn-senator-frants-klintsevich-erased-face-earth-razed-ground-us-cold-war-a7701411.html

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Russia, UK, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Florida’s nightmare outlook with climate change

Climate change poses ‘nightmare scenario’ for Florida coast, Bloomberg warns https://thinkprogress.org/bloomberg-coastal-real-estate-638716394641

STUDY: Impact Of Climate Change On Florida, Goodbye Miami

America’s trillion-dollar coastal property bubble could burst “before the sea consumes a single house.” Here’s why. “Pessimists selling to optimists.” That’s how one former Florida coastal property owner describes the current state of the market in a must-read Bloomberg story.

Right now, science and politics don’t favor the optimists. The disintegration of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is speeding up, providing increasing evidence we are headed for the worst-case scenario of sea level rise — three to six feet (or more) by 2100.

The impacts are already visible in South Florida. “Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock,” explains Bloomberg. “Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply.”

At the same time, President Trump is working to thwart both domestic and international climate action while slashing funding for coastal adaptation and monitoring. E&E News reported earlier this month that the EPA has already “disbanded its climate change adaptation program” and reassigned all the workers.

Faster sea level rise and less adaptation means the day of reckoning is nigh. Dan Kipnis, chair of Miami Beach’s Marine and Waterfront Protection Authority — who has failed to find a buyer for his Miami Beach home for nearly a year — told Bloomberg, “Nobody thinks it’s coming as fast as it is.”

But this is not just South Florida’s problem. The entire country is facing a trillion-dollar bubble in coastal property values. This Hindenburg has been held aloft by U.S. taxpayers in the form of the National Flood Insurance Program.

A 2014 Reuters analysis of this “slow-motion disaster” calculated there’s almost $1.25 trillion in coastal property being covered at below-market rates.

When will the bubble burst? As I’ve written for years, property values will crash when a large fraction of the financial community — mortgage bankers and opinion-makers, along with a smaller but substantial fraction of the public — realize that it is too late for us to stop catastrophic sea level rise.

When sellers outnumber buyers, and banks become reluctant to write 30-year mortgages for doomed property, and insurance rates soar, then the coastal property bubble will slow, peak, and crash.

The devaluation process had begun even before Trump’s election reduced the chances we would act in time to prevent catastrophic climate change. The New York Times reported last fall that “nationally, median home prices in areas at high risk for flooding are still 4.4 percent below what they were 10 years ago, while home prices in low-risk areas are up 29.7 percent over the same period.”

Sean Becketti, the chief economist for mortgage giant Freddie Mac, warneda year ago that values could plunge if sellers start a stampede. “Some residents will cash out early and suffer minimal losses,” he said. “Others will not be so lucky.”

As this week’s Bloomberg piece puts it, “Demand and financing could collapse before the sea consumes a single house.”

So here’s a question for owners of coastal property — and the financial institutions that back them — as they watch team Trump keep his coastal-destroying promises: Who will be the smart money that gets out early — and who will be the other kind of money?

April 26, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Japanese buying nuclear shelters and radiation-blocking air purifiers, in fear of nuclear attack

Report: Japanese seeking out nuclear shelters, air purifiers over North Korean threat https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/04/24/japanese-seeking-nuclear-shelters-air-purifiers-north-korea-threat/22053701  As North Korea ratchets up international tensions with missile tests and aggressive rhetoric, some residents of a neighboring country are reportedly taking actions to protect themselves in advance.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Japan, safety, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Just 10 minutes to prepare for a North Korean nuclear attack, Japan’s government says

Japanese citizens have 10 minutes to prepare for a North Korean nuclear attack, Missile ‘will not take long to reach Japan,’ says government, The Independent, Harriet Agerholm  @HarrietAgerholm 25 Apr 17, Japanese citizens will have just 10 minutes to prepare a North Korean ballistic missile attack, authorities in the country have warned.

In the event of an attack, a document posted on the country’s civil protection site advises people to find the strongest concrete building possible or go underground.

Then they should then take cover under tables and stay away from windows, it says.  A ballistic missile would likely take around 10 minutes to travel 1,600 km (1,000 miles) from its launch pad in North Korea to Okinawa, it adds, citing a launch in February last year which took that length of time to fly over the Japanese island.

The warning comes as tensions ratcheted up between North Korea, its Asian neighbours and the US. ​The secretive communist state test-fired four ballistic missiles last month, three of which landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan, just off the coast of the country.

It has subsequently emerged that the country’s civil defence website had 5.7 million visitors in the first 23 days of April — more than 14 times the usual monthly traffic.

Japan’s early-warning system, which issues missile strike alerts to the population via loudspeaker and telephone has come under increased scrutiny amid the rising tensions.

In 1998, North Korea demonstrated that its missiles were capable of reaching Japan when it fired a missile to launch a satellite across Japanese territory that landed in its economic zone on the Pacific Ocean side.

Japan’s government has been briefing local authorities on what they should do if a missile lands in their area and urging them to hold evacuation drills. Sales of nuclear shelters and radiation-blocking air purifiers have also surged in recent weeks. ……..http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/japan-north-korea-nuclear-attack-10-minutes-prepare-missile-tests-warheads-kim-jong-un-a7700971.html

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Japan, weapons and war | Leave a comment