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The Ever-Revolving Door: Industry and the EPA

GarryRogers Nature Conservation

GR: The ‘revolving door’ between government and industry creates close ties that often weaken regulation of business activities. Here’s an example. The article below gives another well-documented example of this insidious problem within our government.

Beyond Pesticides, October 3, 2017– “On August 20, the U.S. Senate was to have held a hearing on the Trump Administration’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for chemical safety, Michael L. Dourson, PhD. The hearing was abruptly postponed on August 19, with no reason offered, and has not yet been rescheduled.

“Dr. Dourson has spent a good deal of his career helping companies resist constraints on their use of potentially toxic compounds in consumer products. Critics, including former EPA officials, Congressional Democrats, and public health scientists say that these ties with the chemical industry, in particular, should keep him from becoming the country’s chief regulator of toxic chemicals.

“U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)…

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October 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October 3 Energy News



¶ “Military Leaders See Solar and Energy Storage as Differentiator” • There might be a debate in the political world about the value of solar energy and energy storage for the grid, businesses, and homeowners. But there doesn’t seem to be any disagreement in the military over the value of solar energy, both in the field and at bases in the US. [Motley Fool]

Solar system (Getty Images)


¶ Tesla has already reached the half-way point in its plan to build the world’s biggest battery, in South Australia. Elon Musk said Tesla would build the $A150 million ($117 million) wind-charged battery in 100 days or the state would not have to pay for it. The official countdown to the end of the 100-day deadline began on 30 September. [BBC]

¶ Morocco is getting ready to launch a €200 million program to spark investment in…

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October 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

October 2 Energy News



¶ “What the Trump administration doesn’t understand about wildfires” • The major fires erupting across the West this year have burned through over 8 million acres and $2 billion. It seems the right time to carefully assess wildland fire, its climate drivers and forest-health consequences. But the administration blames “radical environmentalists.” [Los Angeles Times]

Fire in Corona, California (Watchara Phomicinda | Associated Press)

¶ “Puerto Rico needs a new energy grid (not just repairs to the old one)” • Hurricane María devastated Puerto Rico. As has been widely reported, the US territory’s essential infrastructure is down. A week after María, 60% of our homes lacked running water, and 100% lacked electricity. What is needed now is a stronger and “smarter” grid. [The Hill]

¶ “What civilians can learn from military investments in solar” • Without electricity from civilian power plants, the US military could be…

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October 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Scientists find new source of radioactivity from Fukushima disaster

No one is either exposed to, or drinks, these waters, and thus public health is not of primary concern here,” the scientists said in a study published October!!!

29-scientistsfiThe research team sampled eight beaches in Japan within 60 miles of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant and found high levels of radioactive cesium discharged from the 2011 accident in the brackish groundwater beneath the beaches. The cesium did not constitute a public health concern, but it showed how radioactive material can be transported far from accidents sites, where it attaches to and is stored by sand grains. Credit: Souichiro Teriyaki, Kanazawa University


Scientists have found a previously unsuspected place where radioactive material from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster has accumulated—in sands and brackish groundwater beneath beaches up to 60 miles away. The sands took up and retained radioactive cesium originating from the disaster in 2011 and have been slowly releasing it back to the ocean.

“No one is either exposed to, or drinks, these waters, and thus public health is not of primary concern here,” the scientists said in a study published October 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But “this new and unanticipated pathway for the storage and release of radionuclides to the ocean should be taken into account in the management of coastal areas where nuclear power plants are situated.”

The research team—Virginie Sanial, Ken Buesseler, and Matthew Charette of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Seiya Nagao of Kanazawa University—hypothesize that high levels of radioactive cesium-137 released in 2011 were transported along the coast by ocean currents. Days and weeks after the accident, waves and tides brought the cesium in these highly contaminated waters onto the coast, where cesium became “stuck” to the surfaces of sand grains. Cesium-enriched sand resided on the beaches and in the brackish, slightly salty mixture of fresh water and salt water beneath the beaches.

But in salt water, cesium no longer “sticks” to the sand. So when more recent waves and tides brought in salty seawater from the ocean, the brackish water underneath the beaches became salty enough to release the cesium from the sand, and it was carried back into the ocean.

“No one expected that the highest levels of cesium in ocean water today would be found not in the harbor of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, but in the groundwater many miles away below the beach sands,” said Sanial.

The scientists estimated that the amount of contaminated water flowing into the ocean from this brackish groundwater source below the sandy beaches is as large as the input from two other known sources: ongoing releases and runoff from the nuclear power plant site itself, and outflow from rivers that continue to carry cesium from the fallout on land in 2011 to the ocean on river-borne particles. All three of these ongoing sources are thousands of times smaller today compared with the days immediately after the disaster in 2011.

The new study revealed a previously unsuspected pathway for radioactive material to be transported, stored for years, and subsequently released far from the site where it was initially discharged. Credit: Natalie Renier, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


The team sampled eight beaches within 60 miles of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant between 2013 and 2016. They plunged 3- to 7-foot-long tubes into the sand, pumped up underlying groundwater, and analyzed its cesium-137 content. The cesium levels in the groundwater were up to 10 times higher than the levels found in seawater within the harbor of the nuclear power plant itself. In addition, the total amount of cesium retained more than 3 feet deep in the sands is higher than what is found in sediments on the seafloor offshore of the beaches.

Cesium has a long half-life and persists in the environment. In their analyses of the beaches, the scientists detected not only cesium-137, which may have come from the Dai-ichi plant or from nuclear weapons tested in the 1950s and1960s, but also cesium-134, a radioactive form of cesium that can only come only from the 2011 Fukushima accident.

The researchers also conducted experiments on Japanese beach samples in the lab to demonstrate that cesium did indeed “stick” to sand grains and then lost their “stickiness” when they were flushed with salt water.

“It is as if the sands acted as a ‘sponge’ that was contaminated in 2011 and is only slowly being depleted,” said Buesseler.

“Only time will slowly remove the cesium from the sands as it naturally decays away and is washed out by seawater,” said Sanial.

“There are 440 operational nuclear reactors in the world, with approximately one-half situated along the coastline,” the study’s authors wrote. So this previously unknown, ongoing, and persistent source of contamination to coastal oceans “needs to be considered in nuclear power plant monitoring and scenarios involving future accidents.”

More information: Virginie Sanial el al., “Unexpected source of Fukushima-derived radiocesium to the coastal ocean of Japan,” PNAS (2017).

October 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 1 Comment

No joke: Despite the evidence, nuclear power declared safe!

ikata 30 sept 2017.pngA touch-panel screen at a facility in Ikata explains that the nuclear power plant in the town was built to withstand strong earthquakes.


IKATA, Ehime Prefecture–It’s as if the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan never happened.

A public relations facility here that was set up to publicize the safety of the Ikata nuclear power plant operated by Shikoku Electric Power Co. still insists that nuclear plants can withstand a tsunami of any height.

Like the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that went into triple meltdown, the Ikata facility faces the coast. A magnitude-9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011, triggered tsunami that put the Fukushima facility out of action.

More than six years after that catastrophic event, the Ehime prefectural government is finally moving to revise the information designed to ease fears about a nuclear accident.

The contents on display will be updated before the end of the fiscal year because, as one prefectural government official put it, “Some of the information does not square with the current situation.”

The facility is located in the Minatoura district of Ikata about four kilometers east of the Ikata nuclear plant. It was established in 1982 by Ehime prefectural authorities to remove concerns the public may have about nuclear power generation.

It is operated by an organization that survives on funding from Shikoku Electric, the Ehime prefectural government and the Ikata town government.

In the last fiscal year, the facility had 1,761 visitors, including elementary school students who live nearby.

Near the entrance to the facility is a touch-panel screen where visitors can learn about nuclear power plants in a quiz format.

One question asks, “What would happen to a nuclear power plant if a large earthquake should strike?”

The three alternatives to choose from are: 1) Continue to generate power; 2) The reactor automatically stops to prevent any form of accident; and 3) It would be destroyed if a large earthquake struck.

The second choice is considered the correct answer.

The monitor also offers this reassurance: “(The nuclear plant) is a sturdy building that would not budge an inch in an earthquake, typhoon or tsunami.”

Another entry states that “it was designed with the largest possible quake in mind.”

Another question asks, “Would a nuclear power plant explode like a nuclear bomb?”

Again, there are three choices: 1) It would explode if used in a wrong way; 2) It would never explode; and 3) Nuclear reactors might explode once it ages.

The correct answer is again the second choice.

In fact, after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant were severely damaged by hydrogen explosions caused by core meltdowns after cooling functions were lost when power to the plant was lost.

About a year ago, facility operators have attached a sign to the touch-panel screen that says, “We are in the process of preparing a revision because some of the wording differs from the current situation.”

However, no explanation is offered to show what sections differ from reality.

A prefectural government official in charge of nuclear power safety measures said, “There is some accurate information so we decided it was preferable that some of it was viewed.”

But, the official added that the display would be revised along with improvements in other equipment. The cost of about 500,000 yen ($4,400) would be paid for from tax subsidies obtained through laws covering power generation.

After the Fukushima nuclear accident, a new display was added to show the safety measures being taken at the Ikata plant. There is also a video shown at the facility which explains there has been no noticeable spike in cancer rates or hereditary illness caused by radiation levels under 100 millisieverts.

October 3, 2017 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Hazama Ando pair charged with padding expenses during Fukushima decontaminaton work

n-fukushima-a-20170930-870x531.jpgWorkers stand on a water tank containing contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, in 2014


Two employees of general contractor Hazama Ando Corp. have been indicted without arrest for alleged fraud linked to a Fukushima radiation decontamination project.

The employees, who were indicted by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office on Thursday, are Yuichi Yamashita, 48, and Yoshiji Moro, 50, who worked at the Tohoku branch of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. in Sendai. Both have admitted to the allegations, investigative sources said.

According to the indictment, the two padded the accommodation costs for workers involved in the decontamination project by ¥41 million and submitted a false report listing ¥200 million in expenses to the Tamura Municipal Government, which ordered the project, between July and August 2015. They are suspected of cheating the city out of some ¥76 million, and of supplying manipulated receipts as the supporting documents for the expense report.

Hazama Ando said in June this year that it had overstated expenses by some ¥27 million in its report to Tamura and about ¥53 million in its report to Iwaki, another city in Fukushima Prefecture. The prosecutor’s office apparently opted not to pursue the case in Iwaki.

In a statement Thursday, Hazama Ando said the indictment of the employees was a serious matter but denied the contractor had systematic involvement in the misconduct.

An official of the Tamura Municipal Government said the city will consult with the prefectural and central governments on getting back the money it paid to cover the inflated accommodation costs.

The decontamination project is part of the prefecture’s efforts to recover from the March 2011 core meltdowns at the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

October 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Radioactive Water “Possibly” Leaked From Reactors For Months “By Error” Says Tepco

wrong gauges measuring 28 sept 2017.jpgA Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) employee (center) speaks to the media in front of a monitor in the refrigerator building at the company’s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan, on February 23. The company’s attempt to clean up and recover the wrecked site has been beset by frequent delays and rising costs.


Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Radioactive Water May Have Been Leaking From Reactors for Months

The Japanese company in charge of cleaning up one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters said Friday its latest error may have caused contaminated water to leak into the ground for nearly half a year.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said it erroneously configured gauges used to measure groundwater levels in six wells near Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant reactors Nos. 1 through 4, all of which were destroyed when a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the Japanese coast and caused a series of meltdowns at the plant.

The false readings, which have been relied on since April 19 and were discovered this week, meant that groundwater levels were actually more than two feet below what Tepco was measuring, The Japan Times reported. The company said this mistake caused groundwater levels to fall below the limit set to prevent radioactive water from flowing out of the plant and into the nearby wells, known as subdrains, at least once, in May.

Tepco spokesperson Shinichi Nakakuk said, however, the company’s readings did not show any significant increases in radioactivity outside of the facilities and that a leak was unlikely, according to Sky News.

Between May 17 and May 21, groundwater reportedly fell as much as 7 and a half inches below the safety levels at least eight times. Tepco has not been able to determine how long the dangerous levels persisted because they only measure the site hourly. Company officials said they were still investigating the incident, according to Japan’s NHK news outlet.

More than 15,000 people were killed when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan’s east coast, where the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is located. The threat of radioactive contamination following meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant’s Nos.1, 2 and 3 reactors, as well as massive damage to the fourth, forced 150,000 residents to evacuate, most of whom have yet to return.

Since the disaster, plant owner Tepco has struggled through the recovery process, the price tag of which was raised to $192 billion last year, according to Reuters. The leading obstacle that the company faces is extracting the nuclear fuel that remains in the plant’s damaged nuclear reactors. The severe radiation levels have “killed” even robots specifically designed to swim underwater and detect the location of the melted nuclear fuel.

Lava-like rocks believed to be the elusive nuclear fuel were finally discovered in July using a small, custom-built robot known as “Little Sunfish,” according to Sky News. Actually removing the deadly substance, however, has once again been delayed and would not likely begin until 2023, according to Japanese officials.

Japan’s latest plan to clean up the site did not make any mention of what Tepco would do with about 777,000 tons of water contaminated with tritium, a nuclear byproduct that’s notoriously difficult to remove once mixed with water. In July, Tepco chairman Takashi Kawamura said the “decision has already been made” to dump the tritium-tainted water into the Pacific Ocean; however, he later said he would need Tokyo’s support to go through with the measure.

While Tepco and experts have said dumping the tritium-laced water used to cool down the reactors into the ocean would be relatively harmless, local fishermen and environmental activists have condemned the potential solution, saying it would further hurt the already damaged reputation of the region.

Botched Gauges Mean Radioactive Water Might Be Leaking From Fukushima

Radioactive, contaminated water may have leaked from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan into nearby groundwater, report plant officials. The incident has not been confirmed, but is suspected to have occurred because of a fault in well placement.

The wells around the reactors are designed to pump groundwater away from the facility. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the plant, said that six wells in the vicinity of the reactors were actually a full three feet below the required safe height to avoid contamination. This means it’s possible that radioactive waste water has been leaking into the soil at those sites.

The mistake was noticed in April 2017 during tests that preceded the digging of a new well, and TEPCO launched a full investigation. The mistake was a result of TEPCO erroneously configuring the gauges in the wells, repeatedly giving them false readings of the groundwater levels at those sites.

TEPCO tested all six questionable sites and found that the groundwater has no elevated levels of radioactivity. A leak is therefore unlikely, according to TEPCO spokesman Shinichi Nakakuki.=

The Fukushima plant suffered a triple meltdown following the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, killing around 16,000 people. After the meltdown that forced 174,000 people to abandon their homes, further contamination occurred when melted-down nuclear fuel seeped into the groundwater.

The wells are to prevent radioactive water from leaking into the Pacific, but TEPCO has had repeated troubles with managing thousands of tons of contaminated water. Shortly after the meltdown, an underground barrier of frozen soil was built, but in 2016 they revealed that the measure had been ineffective. In July 2013, TEPCO revealed that radioactive water was leaking from the plant into the Pacific Ocean, something they had previously denied. 

TEPCO has been severely criticized by the Japanese government and public for their mishandling of the meltdown and ensuing crisis. In 2016, three of TEPCO’s top executives, including former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, were indicted on charges of criminal negligence.

They are also the subject of 30 class action lawsuits from displaced and injured residents. The most recent lawsuit was resolved earlier in September, when the company was ordered to pay 376 million yen ($3.36 million) to 42 plaintiffs.

Botched gauge settings might have contaminated Fukushima groundwater from April onward: Tepco

The discovery of falsely configured monitoring equipment at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant means the groundwater flowing underneath it might have gotten contaminated from April onward, Tokyo Electric said Friday.

The utility said incorrect gauge settings were used to measure groundwater levels in six of the wells near reactors 1 and 4. This resulted in groundwater readings about 70 cm higher than reality, which means the beleaguered power utility has been mismanaging the groundwater there for months.

To prevent tainted water from leaking from the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. installed water gauges so it could keep the groundwater levels in the wells a meter higher than the contaminated water in the buildings.

Tepco adjusts the amount of water in wells called subdrains around the buildings to keep the groundwater higher than the tainted water inside them, which prevents it from flowing out. If the groundwater levels sink below the level of the radioactive water, it might leak out.

On Friday, Tepco said the estimated groundwater level in one of the six subdrain wells close to reactor 1 fell below the level in the reactor building at least eight times during the five-day period to May 21 because the gauges were set incorrectly.

Groundwater levels were 2 mm to 19 mm lower than the level in the buildings, Tepco said, adding that it does not know precisely how long each of these problematic situations lasted because water level data is collected by the hour.

Tepco said groundwater levels in five other wells affected by the incorrect settings did not fall below the levels in the nearby reactor buildings.

All six are in the area surrounded by an underground ice wall designed to prevent groundwater leakage.

According to Tepco, the incorrect settings date as far back as April 19. The earliest error affected the gauge in a well where groundwater fell to hazardous levels.

In the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the plant experienced core meltdowns and reactors 1, 3 and 4 were severely damaged by hydrogen explosions following a massive offshore earthquake that spawned large tsunami in March 2011.

October 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

The hottest drive: Safecasting the newly reopened Route 114 in Namie

hottest drive 28 sept 2017Above: National Route 114 runs through the current exclusion zone in Namie. The area remains evacuated but the road was recently reopened for public use.


National Route 114 in Namie was reopened to public access on Sept 20th of this year. The route, also known as the Tomioka Highway, is a primary thoroughfare which runs east-west in Fukushima, primarily through the mountainous sections of Namie. Prior to the accident it was the major lifeline connecting Fukushima City in the west with the center of Namie and other coastal towns in the east. Since April 2011 the road has been officially closed to public access, as the entire town of Namie was placed under evacuation orders. However, Joe and Kalin shot this video on Rte 114 in Namie in May, 2012, so it was still at least partly accessible then, and to the best of our recollection remained so until Spring of 2013. In March this year, the previously more populated eastern portion of Namie was reopened for residence. But the rest of the town, through which Rte 114 runs, remains part of the “Difficult to return zone” (kikan konnan kuiki), usually marked in red on evacuation maps. It’s been difficult for us to get access to this area in the past, but longtime volunteer KM Aizu recently Safecasted the reopened road. He measured dose rates at 1 meter of up to 5.91 µSv/hr along one stretch. This is somewhat higher than the 5.53 µSv/hr shown by an official survey in August, as reported recently in the Asahi Shimbun.  It is also significantly lower than the 19.6 µSv/hr we measured there in Oct-Nov 2011.

KM Aizu commented that while driving on the road, which took about 45 minutes end-to-end, he thought, “It’s been a long time since I’ve been anywhere with dose rates this high.” The portion of Route 6 in front of Fukushima Daiichi is still up to about 5 µSv/hr, he noted, “But this is now the highest dose rate anywhere that is publicly accessible in Fukushima.”  As with Rte. 6 and the Joban Expressway, both of which cut through the “Difficult to return zone,” the government advises people not to stop along the way but to enter and leave the area quickly so as to minimize their radiation exposure. Barriers blocking access to side roads have been placed at over 80 locations along Rte 114, and according to our volunteer, the road is regularly patrolled by police cars. (KM Aizu noted that as with other law enforcement teams patrolling and manning roadbocks, the ones he saw were from other prefectures). He also noted that while Rte 6 is lined with houses and businesses to which somewhat efficient decontamination could be done before and after reopening it, Rte 114 runs almost entirely through forested hillsides.  The hillsides immediately flanking the road have been remediated to a distance of about 10 meters, but the remainder is essentially untouched. “If people went even a fairly short distance into the mountains,” he observed, “I’m sure the doses would be much higher.”

The reopening of Rte 114 will definitely make travel between Fukushima City and the coast easier for people and goods, and in that sense it will bring benefits and is probably justified. There have been increasing discussions about reopening Rte 399, which runs north-south between Iitate and Katsurao, intersecting Rte 114 in Namie, as well. This would essentially restore the basic road network through the area. Locals generally seem to acknowledge and accept the risks the potential exposures present, but nevertheless we urge people intending to travel in the region to be aware of the situation and to exercise adequate caution.

October 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment