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Fukushima’s mothers became radiation experts to protect their children after nuclear meltdown

Key points:

  • Mothers in Fukushima set up a radiation testing lab because they didn’t trust government results
  • The women test food, water and soil and keep the public informed about radiation levels
  • A major earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima power plant in 2011

They are testing everything — rice, vacuum cleaner dust, seafood, moss and soil — for toxic levels of radiation.

But these lab workers are not typical scientists.

They are ordinary mums who have built an extraordinary clinic.

“Our purpose is to protect children’s health and future,” says lab director Kaori Suzuki.

In March 2011, nuclear reactors catastrophically melted down at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, following an earthquake and tsunami.

Driven by a desperate need to keep their children safe, a group of mothers began testing food and water in the prefecture.

The women, who had no scientific background, built the lab from the ground up, learning everything on the job.

The lab is named Tarachine, a Japanese word which means “beautiful mother”.

“As mothers, we had to find out what we can feed our children and if the water was safe,” Ms Suzuki says.

“We had no choice but to measure the radiation and that’s why we started Tarachine.”

After the nuclear accident, Fukushima residents waited for radiation experts to arrive to help.

“No experts who knew about measuring radiation came to us. It was chaos,” she says.

In the days following the meltdown, a single decision by the Japanese Government triggered major distrust in official information which persists to this day.

The Government failed to quickly disclose the direction in which radioactive materials was drifting from the power plant.

Poor internal communications caused the delay, but the result was that thousands fled in the direction that radioactive materials were flying.

Former trade minister Banri Kaieda, who oversaw energy policy at the time, has said that he felt a “sense of shame” about the lack of disclosure.

But Kaori Suzuki said she still finds it difficult to trust the government.

“They lied and looked down on us, and a result, deceived the people,” Ms Suzuki says.

“So it’s hard for the people who experienced that to trust them.”

She and the other mothers who work part-time at the clinic feel great responsibility to protect the children of Fukushima.

But it hasn’t always been easy.

When they set up the lab, they relied on donated equipment, , and none of them had experience in radiation testing. There was nobody who could teach us and just the machines arrived,” Ms Suzuki says.

“At the time, the analysing software and the software with the machine was in English, so that made it even harder to understand.

“In the initial stage we struggled with English and started by listening to the explanation from the manufacturer. We finally got some Japanese software once we got started with using the machines.”

Radiation experts from top universities gave the mothers’ training, and their equipment is now among the most sophisticated in the country.

Food safety is still an issue

The Fukushima plant has now been stabilised and radiation has come down to levels considered safe in most areas.

But contamination of food from Japan remains a hotly contested issue.

Australia was one of the first countries to lift import restrictions on Japanese food imports after the disaster.

But more than 20 countries and trading blocs have kept their import ban or restrictions on Japanese fisheries and agricultural products.

At the clinic in Fukushima, Kaori Suzuki said she accepted that decision.

“It doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong. I feel that’s just the decision they have made for now,” she says.

Most results in their lab are comparatively low, but the mothers say it is important there is transparency so that people know what their children are consuming.

Fukushima’s children closely monitored after meltdown

Noriko Tanaka is one of many mothers in the region who felt that government officials were completely unprepared for the unfolding disaster.

She was three months pregnant with her son Haru when the disaster struck.

Ms Tanaka lived in Iwaki City, about 50 kilometres south of the power plant.

Amid an unfolding nuclear crisis, she panicked that the radioactive iodine released from the meltdown would harm her unborn child.

She fled on the night of the disaster.

When she returned home 10 days later, the fear of contamination from the invisible, odourless radioactive material weighed deeply on her mind.

“I wish I was able to breastfeed the baby,” she says.

“[Radioactive] caesium was detected in domestic powdered milk, so I had to buy powdered milk made overseas to feed him.”

Ms Tanaka now has two children —seven-year-old Haru and three-year-old Megu. She regularly takes them in for thyroid checks which are arranged free-of-charge by the mothers’ clinic.

Radiation exposure is a proven risk factor for thyroid cancer, but experts say it’s too early to tell what impact the nuclear meltdown will have on the children of Fukushima.

Noriko Tanaka is nervous as Haru’s thyroid is checked.

“In the last examination, the doctor said Haru had a lot of cysts, so I was very worried,” she says.

However this time, Haru’s results are better and he earns a high-five from Dr Yoshihiro Noso.

He said there was nothing to worry about, so I feel relieved after taking the test,” Ms Tanaka says.

“The doctor told me that the number of cysts will increase and decrease as he grows up.”

Doctor Noso has operated on only one child from Fukushima, but it is too early to tell if the number of thyroid cancers is increasing because of the meltdown.

“There isn’t a way to distinguish between cancers that were caused naturally and those by the accident,” he says.Dr Noso says his biggest concern is for children who were under five years old when the accident happened.The risk is particularly high for girls.

Even if I say there is nothing to worry medically, each mother is still worried,” he says.

“They feel this sense of responsibility because they let them play outside and drink the water. If they had proper knowledge of radiation, they would not have done that,” he said.

Mums and doctors fear for future of Fukushima’s children

After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986, the incidence of thyroid cancers increased suddenly after five years….

“In the case of Chernobyl, the thyroid cancer rate increased for about 10 years. It’s been eight years since the disaster and I would like to continue examinations for another two years.” …….

Some children, whose families fled Fukushima to other parts of Japan have faced relentless bullying.

“Some children who evacuated from Fukushima living in other prefectures are being bullied [so badly that they] can’t go to school,” Noriko Tanaka said.

“The radiation level is low in the area we live in and it’s about the same as Tokyo, but we will be treated the same as the people who live in high-level radiation areas.”

Noriko is particularly worried for little Megu because of prejudice against the children of Fukushima.

“For girls, there are concerns about marriage and having children because of the possibility of genetic issues.”


May 13, 2019 Posted by | Japan, radiation, women | Leave a comment

A key annual defense bill is poised to serve as a battleground over President Trump’s nuclear weapons policy.

May 13, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear power completely unnecessary in sunblest Middle East

No one in the sun- and gas-soaked Middle East needs nuclear power  
Mark Dubowitz. Chief Executive, Henry Sokolski, 12 May 19

May 13, 2019 Posted by | MIDDLE EAST, politics | Leave a comment

Chernobyl nuclear accident: how it happened, and the aftermath

In the immediate aftermath of Chernobyl, a total of 31 firemen and plant workers died. Some of their bodies were so radioactive, they had to be buried in lead coffins. A report by the World Health Organization estimated that 600,000 people within the Soviet Union were exposed to high levels of radiation, and of those, 4,000 would die. Those who lived near the Chernobyl site have reported increased instances of thyroid cancer, and they have an increased risk of developing leukemia.

700 Million Years

The Chernobyl accident is one of only two nuclear energy accidents that is classified as a “Level 7 Event,” the highest classification. The other is 2011’s Fukushima disaster in Japan. At the lowest level of Reactor 4 lies the famous “elephant’s foot”, a several-meter wide mass of corium that is still giving off lethal amounts of radiation. The half-life of radioactive elements is defined as the amount of time it takes for the radioactivity to fall to half its original value. The half life of U-235 is 700 million years. 

May 13, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Ukraine, wastes | Leave a comment

U.S. federal board rejects objections to proposed New Mexico nuclear dump 

Federal panel rejects all objections to proposed New Mexico nuclear dump

 • MAY 7, 2019  On Tuesday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that its Atomic Safety and Licensing Board had rejected every objection made by intervenors challenging Holtec International’s application to build a storage facility for high-level nuclear waste in southeast New Mexico.

Among the requests the panel refused to consider was the objection raised by Sierra Club that U.S. law clearly prohibits nuclear waste being moved to interim facilities before a permanent storage site has been identified. No such permanent sites exist in the U.S.

“This ‘interim’ storage facility could well become a permanent repository without the protections of a permanent repository,” Sierra Club attorney Wally Taylor said in response to Tuesday’s ruling. “Now it is up to the people and public officials in New Mexico to protect New Mexicans from this boondoggle.”

“New Mexico citizens should be very concerned about this project,” Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter Nuclear-Waste Co-Chair John Buchser said. “Energy Secretary Rick Perry has indicated he is OK with the storage-site proposal in Texas, just across the New Mexico border, becoming a permanent facility.  The Sierra Club is very concerned about possible radioactive releases from containers designed for short-term storage. The transport of this highly radioactive waste is even more risky, and the nation’s rail system is not safe enough to transport this waste.”

Taylor, representing the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, and attorneys for Beyond Nuclear, Fasken, AFES and transportation intervenors raised nearly 50 different contentions before the three-judge board during oral arguments in January in Albuquerque.

The panel, charged with ruling on petitioners’ standing and the admissibility of their contentions under NRC regulations, agreed that some of the six petitioners, including the Sierra Club, had standing, but ruled that not not a single one of nearly 50 contentions raised were admissible for even an evidentiary hearing.

“The board won’t even consider transportation risk,” Buchser said.

“This decision is a perfect example and a lesson for the citizens of New Mexico and the United States of how the NRC process is shamelessly designed to prevent the public from participating,” Taylor said.

“It’s clear from the hearings across the state that the people of New Mexico don’t want this. They need to join forces and make that clear to New Mexico officials,” Taylor said. “State officials can pass and enforce laws that would require permits or other protections from the dangers posed by the transport of high-level radioactive waste to southeast New Mexico.”

The next step for Sierra Club is to appeal to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

May 13, 2019 Posted by | legal, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Deep divisions between nations as preparations made for next year’s review of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

May 13, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

May 12 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “Life As We Know It” • Species of plants and animals are disappearing faster than at any time in human history. We know who is to blame. Our planet has suffered five mass extinctions, with the last about 66 million years ago, probably because of an asteroid hit the Earth. Now, the sixth […]

via May 12 Energy News — geoharvey

May 13, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Greenland Melt off to a Rather Early Start — robertscribbler

Of the two great masses of land ice capable of dramatically raising sea levels and altering hemispheric weather patterns through global warming spurred melt, Greenland is the one closest to home for many humans living on Earth. And as fossil fuel burning keeps dumping more carbon into our atmosphere, Greenland melt continues to dump tens […]

via Greenland Melt off to a Rather Early Start — robertscribbler

May 13, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As Reactors Shut in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, Nuke War Rages in Ohio and New York, By Harvey Wasserman, Reader Supported News, 11 May 19As the nuke power industry slumps toward oblivion, two huge reactors are shutting in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

The shutdowns are a body blow to atomic energy. The soaring costs of the decayed US reactor fleet have forced them to beg gerrymandered state legislatures for huge bailouts.

Just two US reactors are still being built. Stuffed with $12 billion in interest-free federal loans, Georgia’s Vogtle is nearing a staggering $30 billion in cost. Years behind schedule, the lowest possible costs of whatever electricity the two reactors there might produce already far exceed wind and solar.

Virtually none of the 98 US reactors now operating can compete with wind, solar, or methane. All but one are more than twenty years old, with serious issues of obsolescence and decay; some are more than forty, operating far behind their original design life.

Four decrepit, money-losing, upstate New York State reactors still run because Governor Andrew Cuomo is handing them $7.6 billion in bailouts. This year’s price tag jumped more than $50 million, despite Cuomo’s promise it would drop. Safe energy/consumer groups are fighting him in court.

Cuomo has otherwise agreed to shut two old reactors at Indian Point, which sit on an earthquake fault north of New York City.

But Illinois has voted billions to sustain three old reactors that can’t compete with wind/solar and gas. New Jersey has also jumped in with hundreds of millions for money-losing nukes.

In Massachusetts, the Pilgrim reactor will shut this month. The New York Times says Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island Unit One will die in September, dropping the US fleet to 96. The industry wants to scam billions in bailouts for the Keystone State’s other nukes, which are being vastly outstripped by renewables.

But the Ohio war over two geezer nukes rages full bore. Their owner, Akron’s FirstEnergy, is bankrupt, trying to shed its cleanup responsibilities. Despite slipping millions in “lobbying” to key state officials, FirstEnergy has still been unable to shaft the state with its $300m/year nuke-bailout scam.

Designed in the 1960s, FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse opened near Toledo in 1977. A serious accident presaged the 1979 meltdown at its doomed clone, Three Mile Island Unit Two.

In 2002, boric acid ate Davis-Besse’s infamous “hole in the head” to within an inch of irradiating the entire Great Lakes and north coast.

The leaks are still an issue. But Davis-Besse’s owners sawed off the top of an abandoned Michigan nuke, cut through the containment building, and pasted it into the damaged reactor. The radioactive shield building is crumbling along with the rest of the nuke, from top to bottom.

East of Cleveland, Perry opened in 1986, just after the first earthquake that damaged a US nuke. To this day, no operators have been forced to run a reactor caught amidst a seismic shaking.

The utility and its backers are betting on Ohio’s gerrymandered legislature to gouge some $300 million from the tax/rate-paying public. A bevy of “free market” Republicans wants at least $150 million per year for the nukes, and another $150 million or more for various unclear activities, including about $8.5 million yearly for company president Chuck Jones.

FirstEnergy burns huge quantities of gas, oil, and coal but hypes its “emissions free” nukes that spew Carbon 14, heat, and radiation. The industry does not want to mention or pay for its thousands of tons of radioactive waste.

Such details are loudly overlooked by a mutant choir trumpeting nukes as “zero emission.” All reactors spew deadly isotopes along with climate-killing heat and some Carbon 14. They stand in the way of the wind, solar, batteries, and LED efficiency that comprise our only route to saving the climate.

Ohio’s north coast region is great for wind. More than $4 billion in private capital is waiting to create more than 10,000 jobs while slashing electric rates. The surrounding states of Indiana, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania have far more wind turbines than Ohio, operating at big profits with substantial workforces.

But an absurd anti-green setback requirement from a bought legislature has frozen Ohio’s turbine industry. Without that single Ohio Code sentence, cheap wind energy would be flooding the state. The “need” for nukes would evaporate. The reactor jobs “lost” would be dwarfed by those in renewables.

Against all odds, a very broad coalition of environmentalists, wind promoters, consumers, and industrialists has kept FirstEnergy at bay. Bailout opponents vastly outnumber nuke pushers at ongoing hearings.

But worldwide, the clock ticks on the next old money-sucking reactor to collapse from incompetence and greed, or to crumble in an earthquake, tsunami, or terror attack.

The shutdowns of Pilgrim and Three Mile Island mark huge victories for jobs, the economy, and the climate. If green advocates can now win in Ohio and Pennsylvania and roll back the insanity in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, the march of the shutdowns just might outrun the next meltdown. Stay tuned!

Harvey Wasserman’s Green Power & Wellness Show is podcast at; California Solartopia is broadcast at KPFK-Pacifica, 90.7 fm, Los Angeles. His Life & Death Spiral of US History: From Deganawidah to Solartopia will soon be at

May 13, 2019 Posted by | politics | Leave a comment

North Korea is unlikely to ever give up all its nuclear weapons

North Korea won’t give up all its nuclear weapons, former Defense Secretary Gates says. Politico, By PATRICK TEMPLE-WEST, 05/12/2019  
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said North Korea is unlikely to ever give up all its nuclear weapons, and that President Donald Trump was right to walk away from deal with leader Kim Jong-un in February.In an interview with CBS that taped on May 10, Gates said North Koreans have come to see some modest nuclear capabilities as “essential to their national survival.”

“I believe that North Koreans will never completely denuclearize,” Gates said, adding that the Trump administration is “unrealistic in believing that they can get complete denuclearization.” …….

May 13, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UK to become the first major economy to embrace a legally-binding net zero emissions goal

Business Green 10th May 2019 The UK government is preparing to announce that it will broadly embrace therecommendations of the Committee on Climate Change and introduce a new target to cut emissions to net zero by 2050, according to reports from news agency Bloomberg. Citing officials familiar with the plan, the agency
reported the new target is likely to be announced within two months. Such a fast tracked timetable could potentially allow for amendments to theClimate Change Act to be passed before Parliament’s summer recess,
especially given the limited nature of the government’s legislative agenda in the wake of the delay to Brexit.

Since the CCC’s wide-ranging report was released last week, leading Ministers have repeatedly hinted they want to
see the government adopt the target as quickly as possible and ensure the UK becomes the first major economy to embrace a legally-binding net zero emissions goal.

May 13, 2019 Posted by | climate change, UK | Leave a comment

UK to become the first major economy to embrace a legally-binding net zero emissions goal

Business Green 10th May 2019 The UK government is preparing to announce that it will broadly embrace the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change and introduce a new target to cut emissions to net zero by 2050, according to reports from news agency Bloomberg. Citing officials familiar with the plan, the agency
reported the new target is likely to be announced within two months. Such a fast tracked timetable could potentially allow for amendments to theClimate Change Act to be passed before Parliament’s summer recess,especially given the limited nature of the government’s legislative agenda in the wake of the delay to Brexit.

Since the CCC’s wide-ranging report was released last week, leading Ministers have repeatedly hinted they want to see the government adopt the target as quickly as possible and ensure the UK becomes the first major economy to embrace a legally-binding net zero emissions goal.

May 13, 2019 Posted by | climate change, Ukraine | Leave a comment

UK’s Conservative govt increases tax on domestic solar, despite its goal to fight climate change

Independent 10th May 2019 James Dyke – Professor of Sustainability Southampton Univ. The UK can’t fight the climate emergency when the Tories are entirely opposed to
renewables like solar. The party’s decision to increase tax on domestic
solar power shows that its head is still firmly in the sand.
Why does the UK government appear to be intent on frustrating the deployment of solar
power? The real reason for this tax hike is that domestic solar has proved
too popular. The cost of solar panels have plummeted and people
increasingly see them as desirable improvements to their homes.
The accelerating update of domestic solar threatens to disrupt the UK’s still
largely centralised energy grid. It also butts up against seemingly
ideological opposition to renewable energy in the current Conservative
Party. The decision to increase tax on domestic solar power needs to be
considered alongside its support of fracking for gas, billions of pounds of
subsidies to continue to pump fossil fuels out of the North Sea, and
resistance to onshore wind turbines.

May 13, 2019 Posted by | politics, renewable, UK | Leave a comment

UK’s Committee on Climate Change sinks nuclear power in the UK in favour of renewables.

May 13, 2019 Posted by | renewable, UK | Leave a comment

AS Wylfa nuclear project suspended, MPs have called on the UK and Welsh governments to consider a range of low-carbon energy projects

May 13, 2019 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment