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Life as a liquidator after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster

 

Hard duty in the Chernobyl zone,  Life as a liquidator after the 1986 nuclear disaster

Cathie Sullivan, a New Mexico activist, worked with Chernobyl liquidator, Natalia Manzurova, during three trips to the former Soviet Union in the early 2000s. Natalia was one of 750,000 Soviet citizens sent to deal with the Chernobyl catastrophe. Natalia is now in her early 60s and has long struggled with multiple health issues. She was treated last year for a brain tumor that was found to be cancerous. A second tumor has since been found and funds were recently raised among activists around the world to help with the costs of this latest treatment. Natalia and Cathie together authored a short book, “Hard Duty, A woman’s experience at Chernobyl” describing Natalia’s harrowing four and a half years as a Chernobyl liquidator. What follows is an excerpt from that book with some minor edits.

By Natalia Manzurova

When I tell people that I was at Chernobyl they often ask if I had to go. My training is in radiation biology and I was born in a city that was part of the secret Soviet nuclear weapons complex, much like Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the first A-bomb was built. People from my city considered it a duty to go to Chernobyl, just as New York City firefighters went to the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Because of the radiation danger to women of child-bearing age, those under 30 did not go, but being 35 in 1987, I began my 4.5 years of work at Chernobyl. ………..

Sad experiences

In 1987, when I first arrived at Chernobyl, my group of about 20 scientists from the Ozyersk radio-ecology lab started a Department of Environmental Decontamination and Re-Cultivation. We used a 10-acre greenhouse complex for our plant studies, built before the accident, and for office space we used an empty, nearby kindergarten……..

Like many liquidators I ‘wear’ a ‘Chernobyl necklace’, the scar on the lower throat from thyroid-gland surgery.* While working in the exclusion zone I experienced slurred speech, memory loss and poor balance. One of my bosses and I realized that we were forgetting appointments and obligations and agreed to help each other remember who, what, where and when. I had severe amnesia for a time and read letters I wrote my mother to help fill in forgotten years.

The Chernobyl accident is not over, in fact its damaging effects on people and the land will only taper off slowly for generations—lingering harm that is almost certainly unique to nuclear accidents.

Natalia Manzurova, with fellow Russian activist, Nadezhda Kutepova, was awarded the 2011 Nuclear-Free Future Award in the category of Resistance.

Print copies of Hard Copy are available from Cathie Sullivan. Please email her at: cathiesullivan100@gmail.com. more  https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2019/04/21/hard-duty-in-the-chernobyl-zone/

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April 22, 2019 Posted by | employment, PERSONAL STORIES, social effects, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Fall in numbers of children in Fukushima municipalities

8 Years On: Number of Kids Dives in Disaster-Hit Fukushima Municipalitieshttps://www.nippon.com/en/news/yjj2019031300954/8-years-on-number-of-kids-dives-in-disaster-hit-fukushima-municipalities.html Mar 15, 2019  Fukushima, March 15 (Jiji Press)–In 10 Fukushima Prefecture municipalities where elementary and junior high school have reopened after the lifting of nuclear evacuation advisories, the number of students stood at 758 as of May 1, 2018, about 10 pct of the level before the March 2011 disasters.

During protracted evacuations, many child-rearing families rebuilt their lives in new locations, leading to the sharp fall in the number of students in Fukushima.

As a result, the local governments are facing difficulties in school operations.

In the Yamakiya district of the town of Kawamata, the evacuation advisory was removed in March 2017, six years after the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 plant, heavily damaged by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami.

Elementary and junior high schools reopened in the town in April 2018, but five six-graders are the only elementary school children. With no freshman joining this spring, the elementary school plans to suspend its operations in April.

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Japan, social effects | Leave a comment

Fukushima Prefecture to lose 15 high schools, due to population decline

As population declines, Fukushima Prefecture to lose 15 of its 96 high schools, Japan Times , FUKUSHIMA MINPO, MAR 15, 2019

The Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education will reduce its number of prefecture-run high schools by 15 by the end of fiscal 2023 as the region continues to struggle with a dwindling number of students due to a declining birthrate.

The mergers will be implemented over the span of three years from fiscal 2021 and will reduce the number of high schools in the prefecture from 96 to 81.

Twenty-five schools will be merged and reorganized into 13 under the plan, which will integrate schools located in close proximity of one another. Each school will retain four to six classes per grade.

With the merger, the prefecture’s 88 day schools and seven night schools will be reduced to 74 and six, respectively, by the end of March 2024, according to the education board’s reform plan revealed Feb. 8. Fukushima’s only correspondence school will remain open……… https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/03/15/national/population-declines-fukushima-prefecture-lose-15-96-high-schools/#.XIwdDSIzbGg

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, social effects | Leave a comment

New study on the social consequences of the 3/11 nuclear accidentin Fukushima prefecture.

IRSN 11th March 2019 IRSN publishes a study on social consequences of the 3/11 nuclear accident
in Fukushima prefecture. Result of the French-Japanese research project
Shinrai, the report “The 3/11 accident and its social consequences – Case
studies in Fukushima prefecture” analyses post accidental policy in
Fukushima prefecture, particularly the questions linked to return or
non-return to evacuated towns and villages. The report also compares the
concrete experience of the inhabitants and the decision-makers with a
number of principles that underlies international post accidental policy
and recommendations.

https://www.irsn.fr/EN/newsroom/News/Pages/20190311_Fukushima-shinrai-study-social-consequences.aspx

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Japan, social effects | Leave a comment

Prejudice against Fukushima nuclear evacuees

‘You’re Contaminated’: The Stigma Against Japan’s Fukushima Survivors, Broadly, 12 Mar 19,

A 2011 quake and tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, killing thousands and displacing more. Two ‘nuclear refugees’ explain why returning home is more complicated than it seems.


…….. While the nuclear disaster is becoming a distant memory for most Japanese, for some others it is their everyday reality. Nuclear refugees and evacuees face discrimination, separation from loved ones, and in some cases, they are even forced to return to the former evacuation zone.

The government, worried about people getting exposed to radiation, declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the plant and uprooted close to 165,000 people. As of today, there are still 50,000 people who haven’t returned to Fukushima.

Keiko Owada, 66, is one of them. When I meet her in Tokyo, she refers to the Japanese capital as her home for the past seven years. That will soon change due to the government’s decision to withdraw her free housing subsidies.

Because decontamination work has made progress and food declared safe from radiation, it has been deemed safe to return to most villages within the evacuation zone. The same goes for Owada’s village Naraha, where the evacuation order was lifted two years ago.

Owada is not excited about the prospect of returning to Naraha. “Would I continue to get financial support for my apartment here in Tokyo, I would have stayed here, yes. I’ll tell you why: there is no hospital in Naraha, only a small hospital for first aid. There is no supermarket, only a small convenience store. And the reason is simple: only a few people have returned.”

Life as an evacuee hasn’t always been easy, Owada explains. “It wasn’t like people were treating me any different, but my neighbors never greeted me. I think it’s because of the compensation I received and the free housing. They knew I was from Fukushima, that’s why.”

According to Owada, some of the other evacuees in Tokyo she knows have faced harsher treatment. “I know of others whose cars were damaged on purpose because they had a Fukushima license plate. That’s why I never parked my car in the middle of the parking lot, but always in a corner, so no one could see it.”

If anything, Owada’s story illustrates how many evacuees continued to live in fear. Displaced from their homes, dropped in a new community—the disaster is anything but over for them. ……….

When Kamata got in touch with relatives living in other parts of Japan, she was shocked to hear one sister-in-law’s initial response. “After the disaster, I wanted to flee to Chiba [a prefecture next to Tokyo], my sister-in-law picked up the telephone and told me I didn’t have to come to their house. ‘You’re contaminated,’ she told me.”……….
As Kamata remembers what life was like back in Fukushima, she uses a handkerchief to wipe a tear from her cheek. She barely speaks to her friends anymore.

“The disaster divided our communities, both physically as well as mentally. ………https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/mb5zny/japan-fukushima-earthquake-survivors-stigma

March 12, 2019 Posted by | Japan, psychology - mental health, social effects | Leave a comment

How quickly we ‘normalise’ rising temperatures

 

Just by the way- Scientists found that frogs DO jump out of the water as it gets hot. They are smarter than we are.

 

 

AS THE CLIMATE CHANGES, ARE WE ALL BOILING FROGS?

New research finds that we normalize rising temperatures remarkably quickly. https://psmag.com/environment/as-the-climate-changes-are-we-all-boiling-frogs,TOM JACOBS, FEB 26, 2019 

How about this weird weather we’ve been having? It’s a common query around the Pacific Standard office, and for good reason: Abnormalities such as the recent cold and snow in Southern California capture pretty much everyone’s attention.

Climate change is significantly increasing the chances of more unsettling weather in the years to come, including longer and more severe heat waves. But if you’re hoping the strange conditions will inspire people to realize that something profoundly dangerous is occurring—and will prod politicians into acting—new researchsuggests you’re likely to be disappointed.

An analysis of more than two million Twitter posts finds that people do indeed take note of abnormal temperatures. But it also reports that our definition of “normal” is based on recent history—roughly, the past two to eight years.

These findings suggest that, in less than a decade, climate change-induced conditions cease to seem all that unusual. That lack of historical perspective may make it hard to grasp the enormity of the changes that are already underway, and which promise to accelerate. Continue reading

February 27, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, social effects | Leave a comment

Mental health issues in Kimba, a small Australian agricultural town, because government plans a nuclear waste dump there

Nuclear waste site selection process triggers mental health concerns, business boycotts and division, FOI documents reveal, ABC North and West By Gary-Jon Lysaght  13 Feb 19, (FOI documents are attached on the original) Freedom of Information (FOI) documents reveal the Federal Government has been aware of potential mental health issues, from as early as 2017, caused by the search for a site to store the nation’s nuclear waste.The Federal Government is currently considering two sites at Kimba and one near Hawker for a facility that would permanently store low-level waste and temporarily store medium-level waste.

Kimba, a small town on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, has been divided on whether to support or oppose the facility. Some residents believe the facility could help bring much-needed business to the rural town, while others suggest it could damage the region’s agricultural reputation.

“Many of the opposed group have raised the issue of mental health in submissions and direct discussions,” the FOI documents, written in 2017, said.

They believe mental health issues are arising in Kimba due to the stress of being in this process.

“These issues have been raised with the Kimba doctor and counsellor.”

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick obtained the Freedom of Information documents and hoped the concerns were a catalyst for change.

“In my view, that creates a very strong obligation for the Government to act,” he said.

“They’ve clearly known about this issue since 2017 and it is now time to ask the minister exactly what he is doing in relation to that.”……. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-13/foi-documents-show-kimba-divided-over-nuclear-waste-site/10807462

February 14, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, psychology - mental health, social effects, wastes | Leave a comment

Japan’s Fukushima Survivors are stigmatised

‘You’re Contaminated’: The Stigma Against Japan’s Fukushima Survivors ,   A 2011 quake and tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, killing thousands and displacing more. Two ‘nuclear refugees’ explain why returning home is more complicated than it seems. https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/mb5zny/japan-fukushima-earthquake-survivors-stigma, Bobbie van der List, 

This month marks the seventh anniversary of the triple disaster that hit the east coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, when a 9.1 magnitude quake and tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Almost 16,000 people were declared dead.

While the nuclear disaster is becoming a distant memory for most Japanese, for some others it is their everyday reality. Nuclear refugees and evacuees face discrimination, separation from loved ones, and in some cases, they are even forced to return to the former evacuation zone.

The government, worried about people getting exposed to radiation, declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the plant and uprooted close to 165,000 people. As of today, there are still 50,000 people who haven’t returned to Fukushima.

Keiko Owada, 66, is one of them. When I meet her in Tokyo, she refers to the Japanese capital as her home for the past seven years. That will soon change due to the government’s decision to withdraw her free housing subsidies.

Because decontamination work has made progress and food declared safe from radiation, it has been deemed safe to return to most villages within the evacuation zone. The same goes for Owada’s village Naraha, where the evacuation order was lifted two years ago.

Owada is not excited about the prospect of returning to Naraha. “Would I continue to get financial support for my apartment here in Tokyo, I would have stayed here, yes. I’ll tell you why: there is no hospital in Naraha, only a small hospital for first aid. There is no supermarket, only a small convenience store. And the reason is simple: only a few people have returned.”

Life as an evacuee hasn’t always been easy, Owada explains. “It wasn’t like people were treating me any different, but my neighbors never greeted me. I think it’s because of the compensation I received and the free housing. They knew I was from Fukushima, that’s why.”

According to Owada, some of the other evacuees in Tokyo she knows have faced harsher treatment. “I know of others whose cars were damaged on purpose because they had a Fukushima license plate. That’s why I never parked my car in the middle of the parking lot, but always in a corner, so no one could see it.”

If anything, Owada’s story illustrates how many evacuees continued to live in fear. Displaced from their homes, dropped in a new community—the disaster is anything but over for them.

As an evacuee in Tokyo, Owada went back to Fukushima on numerous occasions. She can still recall her first time back in June 2011. The town of Naraha was still a no-go-area, and she and her family only had one hour to visit. “We wore protective clothes against radiation, with only a small plastic bag for gathering some personal belongings. We had too little time, and the bag was too little for our entire family. But I can remember the smell—[there were] rats everywhere and small animals’ feces.”

Of course, there are things she misses about her old town, like growing vegetables and fruits on her land. But it doesn’t take away the concerns she has about the dangers of radiation exposure, despite the government’s reassurance that it is safe to live there.

“Even though the streets and houses are decontaminated, they didn’t even touch with mountains and forests. Radiation hasn’t been cleaned everywhere. My house is right next to the mountains, so my house might get contaminated.”

Akiko Kamata, 66, still remembers how she was surprised by the alarm warning for a tsunami in her village of Odaka. When I meet her at a Tokyo café, she recalls how she sheltered in Fukushima the first few weeks after the disaster. “I still remember taking my first bath after 10 days, it felt so good.”

When Kamata got in touch with relatives living in other parts of Japan, she was shocked to hear one sister-in-law’s initial response. “After the disaster, I wanted to flee to Chiba [a prefecture next to Tokyo], my sister-in-law picked up the telephone and told me I didn’t have to come to their house. ‘You’re contaminated,’ she told me.” 

Eventually she did manage to find a place in Chiba, the region she grew up in as a child. “People were nice to us in Chiba. But still I noticed some skepticism. After I asked the regional authorities for financial support their answer was, ‘No, people in Chiba are victims of the earthquake as well.’”

Kamata did receive a one-off compensation payment from TEPCO: 7 million yen per person, or just over $65,600. Her husband received a similar amount.

Although Kamata is thankful for the financial support, they have not been compensated for the loss of income from their family business in Odaka. “I’m thinking about calling in the help of an organization that specializes evacuees with these type of claims,” she says.

Kamata has decided not to return to Odaka. Her husband’s illness (he suffers from a nerve disease that makes him reliant on Kamata’s support) got worse during the evacuation. She fears that it might worsen if they move back to Fukushima.

As Kamata remembers what life was like back in Fukushima, she uses a handkerchief to wipe a tear from her cheek. She barely speaks to her friends anymore.

“The disaster divided our communities, both physically as well as mentally. People got separated. One friend of mine in Chiba is thinking about divorcing her husband. He wants her to come back to Fukushima, but she doesn’t want this. One reason is exposure to radiation, but there are more reasons, such as her child’s school and the fact that they’ve gotten used to life in Tokyo.”

There is one more story she would like to share, Kamata says while crying. “One friend of mine is a farmer in Odaka. She had 10 cows. They evacuated to Chiba just like me and couldn’t go back to Fukushima to feed the cows. Once they could return for the first time to check on the animals, only three of them were still alive. The others died from starvation, and they were all looking at the same direction—the road the farmers would come from to feed them.”

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, PERSONAL STORIES, social effects | Leave a comment

Hatoko Comes Home: Civil Society and Nuclear Power in Japan

Article

 https://works.bepress.com/daniel_aldrich/13/ Journal of Asian Studies (2011), Daniel P AldrichPurdue University, Martin DusinberreNewcastle University  

Abstract

This article seeks to explain how, given Japan’s “nuclear allergy” following World War II, a small coastal town not far from Hiroshima volunteered to host a nuclear power plant in the early 1980s. Where standard explanations of contentious nuclear power siting decisions have focused on the regional power utilities and the central government, this paper instead examines the importance of historical change and civil society at a local level.

Using a microhistorical approach based on interviews and archival materials, and framing our discussion with a popular Japanese television show known as Hatoko’s Sea, we illustrate the agency of municipal actors in the decision-making process. In this way, we highlight the significance of long-term economic transformations, demographic decline, and vertical social networks in local invitations to controversial facilities. These perspectives are particularly important in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima crisis, as the outside world seeks to understand how and why Japan embraced atomic energy.

February 17, 2018 Posted by | Japan, social effects | Leave a comment

Russia’s Mayak, where “People have become a sort of radioactive waste.” 

Those words were spoken to me by the Russian human rights lawyer, Nadezhda Kutepova. For years she, with her NGO, Planet of Hopes, defended people who suffer in one of the most radioactively polluted places on this planet: the area surrounding the nuclear waste and reprocessing complex, Mayak, in Russia’s Southern Urals. Kutepova continues to stand up for her people from Paris where she has been exiled to because she was no longer safe in her home town. She made the comment when we were discussing the latest radiation measurement findings that Greenpeace published this week.

The people around Mayak are suffering from the third biggest nuclear catastrophe in history: The Kyshtym disaster that happened 60 years ago today. The radioactive pollution from Mayak continues to this day.

The Kyshtym Disaster is named after the nearest known town on the map. In 1957 a mistake in the reprocessing plant led to an explosion that contaminated 20,000 square kilometres – an area that did not appear on any map. Nor did the nearby town of Chelyabinsk, which was a so-called “secret” or “closed town” for Mayak nuclear complex workers. It is also Kutepova’s birth place. Around 270,000 people were directly affected by the disaster.

Only in the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, did the true impact of the accident become apparent. Only then did the Russian nuclear industry, now known as Rosatom, take some responsibility. Only after Kutepova started supporting local victims and photographer, Robert Knoth, who recorded the the lives of those affected, did Rosatom concede to evacuating those who suffered most.

Well, kind of.

First of all, not everyone in the village was moved. Some of the people’s documents were not in order. They had to stay in a ghost town without services. And five other villages were not evacuated at all.

The pollution from Mayak never really stopped, either. Radioactive waste-water continues to be dumped in ponds around and connected to the Techa river. In all the local villages Greenpeace Russia found highly elevated strontium-90 levels. The same levels as found in the evacuated village of Muslyumovo.

Rosatom already acknowledged several times that water is seeping out of the ponds into the Techa river system. And the people of Muslyumovo and it’s surroundings are still depending on that water for their gardens. Still, Rosatom continues to dump its waste into the ponds. But, they are not called “ponds” anymore. They are now called “special industrial ponds”, “objects of nuclear energy use”, and the dumping is called “inserting liquid radioactive waste for storage”.

Mayak is everywhere. Rosatom may be polluting a Mayak near you: by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from your nearby nuclear power station, by building a nuclear power station that will later send its spent fuel to Russia for reprocessing, or by loading your neighbouring nuclear plant with reprocessed uranium fuel from Mayak.

Rosatom’s operation in Mayak illustrates that the nuclear industry is not interested in people. After all, 60 years since the disaster the people around Mayak are “a sort of radioactive waste”.

Jan Haverkamp is an expert consultant nuclear energy and energy policy for GreenpeaceCentral and Eastern Europe and part of Greenpeace’s Radiation Protection Advisors team.

September 30, 2017 Posted by | environment, Russia, social effects | Leave a comment

A picnic in a uranium town that used to be

“Every house. Every tree. Everything was dug up, shredded and buried in a big hole on top of the hill,” Thompson said. Decades and decades of mining left Uravan contaminated with radioactive chemicals and heavy metals. The EPA declared it a superfund site in the 1980s and ordered the mining company, Umetco, to start clearing away the entire town.

You’d never know the empty picnic area was once a community of about 1000 people. Today, you just see the bottom of a crumbling sandstone river valley

she wants to keep having these annual reunion picnics, where the real star of the show is the desert: an actual yellow cake, with yellow frosting and black radioactive signs on top.

Uravan residents may have lost their town, but not their sense of humor.

Uravan: The Uranium Town That Was http://wyomingpublicmedia.org/post/uravan-uranium-town-was,  • SEP 8, 2017 Superfund cleanups are a priority for Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He wants to cut through red tape that has left more than a thousand sites still contaminated with everything from radioactive waste to lead.

He also wants to remove sites that have already been cleaned up from the so-called National Priority List, which has more than 1300 sites. One of those sites is the town of Uravan.

After hours in the dark main room of the Rimrocker Historical Society,  Jane Thompson showed off what put this part of Western Colorado on the map. She turned on a geiger counter, which began wildly clicking due to the radioactive yellow rock in a nearby antique jar.

Thompson also helps spearhead an annual picnic some 15 minutes up the road, as she did last weekend. She calls it a reunion picnic at the site of her hometown of Uravan.

“The things that happened here were very important,” Thompson said.

A few dozen people gathered under trees and canopies in the otherwise hot empty field on that late August day. Uravan, a tiny mining company town, provided uranium for nuclear weapons developed during the Manhattan Project.

“Even though the town is gone, we feel like that the history of those people need(s) to be kept,” she said.

Uravan — it is gone. Not just the mill where those yellow rocks were processed into so-called yellowcake uranium ore; everything is gone.

“Every house. Every tree. Everything was dug up, shredded and buried in a big hole on top of the hill,” Thompson said. Decades and decades of mining left Uravan contaminated with radioactive chemicals and heavy metals. The EPA declared it a superfund site in the 1980s and ordered the mining company, Umetco, to start clearing away the entire town.

You’d never know the empty picnic area was once a community of about 1000 people. Today, you just see the bottom of a crumbling sandstone river valley. Larry Cooper, 91, sat in a camping chair, wearing suspenders and breathing with the help of an oxygen tank.

“I didn’t know it was dangerous,” he said. “I didn’t know it would hurt ya.”

He worked in the mills and mines around Uravan, starting in the 1950s. His health suffered.

“I got cancer. I lost half of my lung on the right side,” he said.

Registered Nurse Joanna Godwin said it’s very common for former Uravan workers. She attended the picnic with a non-profit called Nuclear Care Partners. They provide free health care through the Department of Labor for medical issues that can be traced back to the mining of radioactive materials.

“We’ve had people with skin cancers. Pulmonary things are very prevalent. It’s a whole array of things,” she said, referring to conditions in former Uravan employees.

After two decades of cleanup, the EPA declared the remediation of Uravan wrapped up in 2008. But, this empty-field-that-used-to-be-a-town was never taken off the list. The agency says it needs further investigation and study before giving it a clean bill of health.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently submitted comments to the EPA, saying the agency’s continued work in Uravan is duplicative, costly and causing delay. That seems to be the kind of thing Administrator Pruitt is looking to streamline.

Still, Jane Thompson doesn’t hold out any hope the Uravan site will ever totally be out of the hands of the federal government.

“Well, I think it will remain forever,” she said.

But, she wants to keep having these annual reunion picnics, where the real star of the show is the desert: an actual yellow cake, with yellow frosting and black radioactive signs on top.

Uravan residents may have lost their town, but not their sense of humor.

September 11, 2017 Posted by | environment, Reference, social effects, Uranium | 1 Comment

In remote Asia, solar power is transforming the lives of women

Climate News Network 1st Aug 2017, A solar revolution is transforming the lives of women in the remotest parts of Asia. They no longer have to wait decades to be connected to a power grid but are able today to exploit the huge potential of the abundant sunshine.

In societies where women normally play a subservient role and spend much of their time on menial chores, solar businesses are creating a new breed of female entrepreneur who are bringing electricity to their villages.

In the last two years two schemes designed to encourage women to bring the solar revolution to parts of rural India and Nepal have won international Ashden Awards, which bring the organisations involved
£20,000 (US$26,360) each in prize money and a lot of guidance to improve
and extend their businesses. http://climatenewsnetwork.net/women-take-control-solar-revolution/

August 4, 2017 Posted by | decentralised, social effects, women | Leave a comment

The devastating social and mental health legacies of atomic bomb testing

The worst effects of our nuclear programme are the ones that nobody talks about http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/nuclear-war-threat-weapons-us-north-korea-russia-nuclear-testing-worst-thing-a7739131.html  Between 1946-1996, more than 2,000 nuclear weapons tests were conducted by the US, UK, Soviet Union, France and China. Most of these took place in locations selected on the basis of colonial history, and in lands belonging to indigenous peoples Beyza Unal , 16 May 17  A quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War, interest in nuclear weapons has revived, not reduced. But still a taboo surrounds our nuclear legacy. For all the debate over the tensions between the United States and North Korea, a taboo still surrounds the lingering impacts of nuclear weapons testing and fears for their future use in conflict.

Our latest research looked not only at the implications of a potential future nuclear conflict, but also the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons testing for more than seven decades.

Between 1946-1996, more than 2,000 nuclear weapons tests were conducted by the US, UK, Soviet Union, France and China. Most of these took place in locations selected on the basis of colonial history, and in lands belonging to indigenous peoples. And the impacts were severe.

  • As well as devastating costs to their health and environment, many affected communities still live with the social, cultural and economic consequences of these tests. Subjected to forced displacement, they lost their land and connection to that land forever. Many were prevented from pursuing their traditional livelihoods. Not everyone was compensated, and those affected reported a lack of official accountability.Nuclear tests have adversely impacted mental health, by fostering climate of fear over radiological exposure in test locations, and through the creation culture of social stigma and discrimination.
  • One of the less tangible legacies of nuclear tests has been a sense of humiliation and alienation from society. This was seen following the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when hibakusha women – survivors of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki – faced marriage discrimination, but it echoed at testing sites. As a UNIDIR study noted, women from the Marshall islands suffered “humiliating” examinations by US military medical and scientific personnel as a result of the American nuclear weapons testing programme until 1958.
  • oday, the potential use of nuclear weapons, deliberate or accidental,  represents a great risk to humanity. Two decades on from its inception, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – an agreement to ban all types of nuclear detonations, including atmospheric, underground, space and underwater tests – has still not entered into force. The international nuclear order is in peril: the US and Russia have increased investment in nuclear modernisation; North Korea has conducted five tests in the past decade and has the will to continue, regardless of sanctions or threats of action.Nuclear testing is part of weapons research and development: several steps ahead of a test is the decision to be ready, in principle, to use a nuclear weapon. There is an important connection between the widely-supported comprehensive ban on nuclear testing, and attempts to ban nuclear weapons altogether. A ban on testing has been pursued largely due to unacceptable effects on human life and the environment; precisely the same concerns drive current efforts to prohibit nuclear weapons.
  • Last week, the British and Australian governments announced healthcare aid for the indigenous communities who were exposed to radiation as a result of British nuclear tests 50 years ago. In a personal interview with us last year, Sue-Coleman Haseldine, a first-generation nuclear test survivor in Australia,  told us the only possible compensation to her community would be “a world free of nuclear weapons”.It’s time to start talking about the long-lasting effects of nuclear weapons. After all, unless we do, the nuclear taboo will only exist until a devastating detonation occurs somewhere in the world.

    Dr Beyza Unal is a research fellow in nuclear weapons policy at Chatham House

May 17, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, psychology - mental health, social effects, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear power and the collapse of society

 http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/nuclear-weapons-power-Chernobyl-Fukushima-danger/blog/59326/  by Rex Weyler, 5 May 17,  On March 1 1954, on Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, the US military detonated the world’s first lithium-deuteride hydrogen bomb, a thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. The radiation blew downwind, to the southeast, and irradiated the residents of Rongelap and Utirik atolls, and the crew of tuna boat Fukuryu Maru, “Lucky Dragon.”  

The islanders and fishing crew suffered radiation sickness, hair loss, and peeling skin. Crew member, Aikichi Kuboyama, died six months later in a Hiroshima hospital. Island children, suffered lifelong health effects, including cancers, and most died prematurely. The Lucky Dragon sailors were exposed to 3-5 sieverts of radiation.

One sievert will cause severe radiation sickness leading to cancer and death. Five sieverts will kill half those exposed within a month (like the workers who died at Chernobyl within the first few week). Ten sieverts will kill any human being. Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims received 150 Sieverts. Even microorganisms perished.

Today, inside the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor-2, the melting core releases 530 sieverts per hour, enough to kill a human instantly and melt steel robotic equipment within two hours.

The meaning of “collapse”

When we hear the term “collapse of industrial society,” some may picture a doomsday or a Hollywood apocalypse film. But the collapse of societies – like in Rome, Mesopotamia, or the Rapa Nui on Easter Island – doesn’t work like that. The “collapse” of a complex society usually involves ecological habitat degradation that can take centuries. So, what does “social collapse” really look like?

James Kunstler calls the collapse of industrial society a “long emergency” – a process that unfolds in fits and starts over generations. Some social conflicts we witness in the world today – banking crises, war, refugees, racism – can be understood as symptoms of this long, ecologically-triggered collapse. Russian author Dmitry Orlov describes the five stages of collapse: Financial, commercial, political, social, and, finally, cultural. When business-as-usual becomes impossible, communities seek alternatives to currency trading; markets fail, faith in government disappears, trust of neighbours erodes, and people lose faith in common decency.

Dr. Joseph Tainter, professor of Environment and Society at Utah State University describes collapse as a “simplification” of society, a reversal of the process by which the society became increasingly complex. “To understand collapse,” he explains, “we have to understand complexity.”

Societies evolve complex solutions to solve social problems that arise, generally from environmental limits. Eventually, the marginal benefits of these alleged solutions decline. Consider oil, military aggression, or nuclear power as solutions to problems, that later manifest unintended consequences. As technical solutions meet bio-physical limits, added investment leads to less benefit, until the society grows vulnerable to catastrophe, such as global warming, war, or radiation.

Societies collapse, according to Tainter, when technical complexities cost more than they return as benefits. This understanding of social collapse fits the state of chaos now unfolding at the nuclear plant at Fukushima.

Socialise the cost

TEPCO, the company that owns the Fukushima reactors, ignored early warnings of risk, from both inside and outside the company, because the safeguards were too expensive. Thus, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the plant’s cooling systems and led to a core meltdown in all three reactors.

Today, six years later, the reactor cores are melting down through the rock, and radiation levels are so intense that even robots can’t survive long enough to locate the burning fuel rods. Removal of the rods, originally scheduled for 2015, then delayed until 2017, has been delayed again, with no end in sight. Meanwhile, 300 tons of radioactive water floods into the Pacific Ocean every day.

Cleanup cost estimates have risen to several billion Euros per year and decommissioning is now expected to take about 40 years. In December, 2016, the Japanese government announced that the estimated cost of decommissioning the plant and storing radioactive waste, if they can achieve this at all, would reach over 21 trillion yen (€180 billion; US$ 200 billion). This scenario is based on no major earthquakes occurring before the 2050s.

TEPCO will likely go bankrupt before it will pay these costs, so the government has stepped in, which means the citizens pay the costs, just as they bailed out the banks after the last economic collapse. This is a core policy for large, modern corporations: Privatise the profits, socialise the costs.

The nuclear “solution” to growing energy demand – now a massive technical and financial black hole, with negative marginal returns, draining scarce resources from struggling communities – is what industrial collapse looks like in the real world.

The victims

The wealthy may not notice collapse in the early stages, as the first victims are the poorest and most vulnerable. The nuclear meltdown at Fukushima displaced over 150,000 people. Some 1,600 died during evacuation, and the survivors live in makeshift camps on meagre allotments of food and supplies. As families abandoned their homes, lifelong dreams shattered, childhoods were disrupted, families broke apart, and modest enterprises lost forever.

Women and children suffered the greatest challenges and risks due to “a yawning gender gap” in Japanese society, as Kendra Ulrich writes in “Unequal Impact.” Among the 34 highly developed countries, ranked for gender wage gap, Japan stands at the bottom with South Korea and Estonia. After the nuclear meltdown, single mothers faced financial and social barriers to recovery. Radiation puts fetuses and young children at the greatest risk for future health effects.

Last year, Ichiro Tagawa, 77, returned to his village of Namie and reopened the bicycle repair shop that had been in his family for 80 years. “I am so old,” he told a New York Times reporter, “I don’t really care about the radiation levels.” Citizens have measured radiation in Namie at 4 microsieverts an hour, enough to receive a cumulative 3-sieverts (Lucky Dragon level) in a month.

To save money, the Japanese government has declared some towns near Fukushima “safe,” by increasing the radiation limits and then cancelling evacuee housing and insisting that citizens return to those “safe” villages. Sending people back to that environment could amount to random murder, since some will attract cancer and die from the radiation.

Corruption and cover-up have become a way of life inside TEPCO and the nuclear industry. The Japanese government and TEPCO also increased “safe” radiation limits for plant workers by about 700-times, and then ordered scientists to stop monitoring radiation levels in some areas of the plants that exceed even these new, dangerous regulations. According to Tomohiko Suzuki’s book, Yakuza to Genpatsu (The Yakuza and Nuclear Power), TEPCO subcontractors pay bribes to Japanese crime gangs, the Yakuza, to obtain construction contracts, and the Yakuza pay politicians and media to keep quiet. Workers lured into the plant include the homeless, the mentally ill, illegal immigrants, and former Yakuza debtors.

The deadly industry

The story of how nuclear generated power came to be starts in the 1950s. After WWII, the US, UK, France, Russia, and China set out to build arsenals, but required more plutonium than could be furnished by their respective military programs. A US Atomic Energy Commission study concluded that commercial nuclear reactors for power were not economically feasible because of costs and risks. Dr. Charles Thomas, an executive at Monsanto, suggested a solution: A “dual purpose” reactor that would produce plutonium for the military and electric power for commercial use.

Companies profited from these dual markets, while leaving the public to assume responsibility for research, infrastructure, and risk: Privatise the profits, socialise the costs. The real purpose of a “nuclear power” industry was to provide plutonium for weapons and profit for a few corporations.

This deadly industry has now left dead zones and ghost towns around the world. The Hanford nuclear storage site in the US, Acerinox Processing Plant in Spain, The Polygon weapons test site in Kazakhstan, the Zapadnyi uranium mine in Kyrgyzstan, and countless other uranium mines, decommissioned plants, nuclear waste dumps, and catastrophes like Fukushima and Chernobyl.

No one knows exactly how many people have died due to the Chernobyl meltdown. The Russian academy of sciences estimates 200,000 and a Ukrainian national commission estimated 500,000 deaths from radiation’s health effects.

In 1983, a Yorkshire television station uncovered evidence that child leukemia had increased ten-times in the village of Seascale, near the Sellafield/Windscale nuclear site. It has become a deadly radioactive blotch on the landscape, leaking radioactive plutonium-24, americium-241, and caesium-137 into the surrounding environment, and sending bomb grade plutonium into the world’s political environment. According to the BBC, the cost of cleaning up the mess is now estimated at £70-billion, and rising annually, as one corporation or consortium after another fails to make progress, but always makes money. These cleanup costs now consume most of the UK’s “climate change” budget since nuclear power was once considered a solution to carbon emissions.

In February, the EDF Flamanville nuclear plant in France – three-times over budget and years behind schedule – closed after an explosion and fire. France faces a €200 billion cost to decommission 58 reactors at the end of their life. Germany set aside €38 billion to decommission 17 nuclear reactors, and the UK estimates a cost between €109‒250 billion to decommission UK’s nuclear sites.

This is the face of industrial collapse, when alleged solutions become bigger problems. Nuclear power has now become a massive liability, draining resources from communities that need schools, hospitals, and the essentials of life. Joseph Tainter, Jared Diamond, and other researchers point out that some societies – Tikopia island, Byzantine society in the 1300s – avoided collapse, not by increasing complexity with better technology, but by down-sizing intentionally, learning to thrive on a lower level of complexity.

This is now the challenge of industrial society. Can we, and especially the rich and powerful, change our habits of consumption and growth? Can we come back to Earth?


 References and Links

James Kunstler: “The Long Emergency

Joseph Tainter, the Collapse of Complex Societies: Book and Lecture online:

The Dynamics of Complex Civilisations, David Korowicz, Oil Drum, 2010

Gail Tverberg: Energy Flow, Emergent Complexity, and Collapse, Oil Drum

“The Collapse of Civilization,” New Scientist, April, 2008

  • “Les civilisations sont-elles vouées à disparaître?”: Les Cahiers de Science & Vie, (n. 109).

    Jared Diamond: “Ecological Collapses of Pre-industrial Societies,” Tanner Lecture, University of Utah, 2000

    “Culture and the Environment on Easter Island and Tikopia,” Ben Ewen-Campen, Swarthmore, 2003).

    “Nuclear refugees tell of distrust, pressure to return to Fukushima,” Japan Times, March, 2016.

    Tomohiko Suzuki, “Yakuza to genpatsu: Fukushima Daiichi sennyuki,” The Yakuza and Nuclear Power: Undercover Report from Fukushima Daiichi), Bungeishunju Ltd., Japan

    “Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link,” Amory Lovins, 1981; and Annual Report, Commonwealth Edison Company, 1952; at Nuclear Energy Information Service.

    Sellafield, UK, £70bn clean-up costs, BBC, 2014.

    Nuclear Power as a false solution, Rex Weyler, Deep Green: Atomic Renaissance Interrupted, R. Weyler, Deep Green, 2008. Nuclear Delusions, R. Weyler, Deep Green, 2011. Precaution and Common Sense, R. Weyler, EcoReport, 2013

May 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, social effects | Leave a comment

Palisades nuclear plant closure is a disruption for local community

Great Lakes community contemplates nuclear plant closure, Marketplace, By May 01, 2017 “…….some residents are happy to see the plant go. Palisades is one of the oldest nuclear plants in the country and has had several emergency shutdowns.

May 3, 2017 Posted by | social effects, USA | Leave a comment