The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

 The British campaigners who shed light on deadly nuclear fuel reprocessing 

Children were dying. They took action The British campaigners who shed light on deadly nuclear fuel reprocessing, By Linda Pentz Gunter 1 June 18

The road winds steeply up through bucolic countryside, some of the most spectacular in Britain. There are sheep bleating in the distant meadows. Then suddenly, you are out on the fell, stripped almost barren, black, empty. But still there are sheep, their wool the same smoky color as the landscape, dotted like the rocks that are scattered across these bleak tops, the hallmark of the storied Lake District. Then down we go again, past a stone-walled pub, up another hill, and we are pulling up in front of a whitewashed cottage straight from a Beatrix Potter film.

And indeed, that is where we are — in Potter country — about as far removed in atmosphere and idyll as it is possible to be from the ugly, industrial, and deadly blight that sits just a few miles away on the Cumbria shore. That would be the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing facility, which spews radioactive waste into the sea, pumps it into the air, and has accumulated 140 tonnes of plutonium to absolutely no purpose.

A sheepdog runs out to greet us. A pair of elderly cats languish contentedly on a warm stone wall, basking in some late afternoon sunshine. Later, we are introduced to a small flock of Herdwick sheep who are “pets,” and a flock of pigeons, of which more later.

The people who live in the house are Janine Allis-Smith and Martin Forwood, the heart of the aptly named small activist group CORE — Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment. They have dedicated more than three decades to challenging the continued operation of Sellafield and calling out the harm it has caused. 

Martin and Janine, partners in life as well as activism, embody the longstanding and tenacious anti-nuclear fight in Cumbria, the most nuclear county in the United Kingdom. Without their watchdog vigilance and their educational advocacy, far less would be known about the dangers posed by the British nuclear industry, and particularly by the Sellafield reprocessing and nuclear waste site.

Martin and Janine have been at the heart of the struggle against the Sellafield operations since the mid-1980s. They have exposed the facility’s clandestine activities, especially emissions of radioactive wastes into the environment. For Janine, formerly from the Netherlands, this hit home especially hard when her own son was diagnosed with leukemia in 1983. He survived, but as Janine began to look into the issue, she found far too many other instances of childhood leukemias among children living close to Sellafield, many fatal.

The pair began to suspect that radioactive discharges from Sellafield were contaminating local beaches and tide pools where children loved to play. And, as Allis-Smith, recounted, “it was not just leukemia, but other cancers. Some were stillborn, while other suffered unexplained deaths at a very young age.”

This launched Janine and Martin on a relentless campaign to expose the on-going violations at the Sellafield site where radioactive discharges have made the Irish Sea one of the most radioactively contaminated bodies of water in the world. In 2017, CORE released a damning report which showed how, “during the 1995-2013 period, the radioactive discharges to the marine environment from Sellafield’s reprocessing facilities B205 (magnox) and THORP (oxide) have dominated those from all other UK facilities and are recognized as being the major contributor to the levels of radioactive substances recorded in the Irish Sea and wider oceans.”

Both Martin and Janine were new to the issue when they began their work. But they quickly educated themselves, then others. They perfected an ideal and complementary presentation style — with Martin offering a simple, lay explanation of reprocessing itself, then Janine describing its impact, especially on the health of children. They quickly moved hearts and minds in equal measure. Politicians, the media, and the public at large were forced to take notice.

Over the years, the pair have collected numerous mud samples from local beaches and estuaries that have been analyzed for radioactive contamination, confirming their suspicions.

The pair uncovered scandals involving illegal activities at the Sellafield site. They fought the THORP reprocessing plant, due to close permanently in 2018; the rash decision to develop a MOX fuel manufacturing plant, which closed after just 10 years of operation; and the global transport of radioactive materials.

In 1990 Martin gave his first guided “Alternative Sellafield Tour”, highlighting the spots where the reprocessing plant endangers the environment.

More recently, the pair were part of a successful effort to prevent the Nuclear Waste Agency NIREX from building a subterranean depository for British and international nuclear waste at the edge of the Lake District National Park.

Currently, they are at the forefront of the fight to block new nuclear power plants planned for Moorside adjacent to Sellafield. Their landmark 2015 report, “Moorside Build & Job Projections – All Spin and No Substance,” has proven an essential tool for the broad opposition to this deadly scheme.

The couple are not without a sense of fun either. In 2005, Martin made and delivered a radioactive “Pizza Cumbriana” to the Italian Embassy in London — Italy was shipping radioactive waste to Sellafield for reprocessing at the time. The box was marked “Best before 26005”, a reference to plutonium 239, which has a half-life of 24,400 years. The pizza was immediately seized by the Environment Agency, stored, then buried eight years later at the Drigg nuclear waste dump in Cumbria, adjacent to the Sellafield site.

Also buried as radioactive waste was the garden of two elderly ladies living along the sea front in the drab town of Seascale adjacent to the Sellafield plant. The sisters had devotedly fed flocks of pigeons who visited their garden — birds that also roosted on the Sellafiled roofs. After the guesthouse next door complained about excessive bird poop and called for the birds’ removal, the entire garden had to be excavated down to several feet and hauled away as radioactive waste. Martin and Janine took in a few of those pigeons. Their descendants still live with them today and appear each morning and evening on the garage roof for feeding time.

Last year, Forwood and Allis-Smith received some long-overdue recognition for their commitment to a safer, cleaner, greener environment when they received the Nuclear-Free Future Award in the category of Education, a prize that carries a $10,000 cheque, a rare and much needed boon in a movement largely deprived of meaningful or consistent funding. (Disclaimer, I nominated them for the award.)

The couple were unable to attend the ceremony, but wrote in a press release: “We are honoured to have received NFFA’s Education Award for 2017 and humbled to be joining the list of diverse and distinguished winners of the past. Since the 1980s, when Sellafield was preparing to double its commercial reprocessing activities, we have focused not only on acting locally but also being the ‘eyes and ears’ for the many interested parties world-wide on Sellafield and its many detriments which include site accidents, environmental contamination, health risks, plutonium stockpiles and nuclear transports.

“With decades of uniquely difficult decommissioning yet to come, and with plans for new-build at Moorside, we still have much to do and will face the challenges with the same determination that has seen us through the many highs and lows experienced over the last thirty years in our campaign against an industry we believe still has much to answer for.” (You can view their full acceptance remarks in the video higher up in this article.)

This article was adapted from its original publication in The Ecologist.



July 2, 2018 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, PERSONAL STORIES, UK | 1 Comment

Hiroshima witness urges New Zealand to lead nuclear weapons elimination 

Stuff,  LAURA WALTERS , June 28 2018,   When the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, Taeko Yoshioka Braid watched from the second-floor window of herclassroom, 60 kilometres away.

Braid, who moved to New Zealand in 1956 and now lives in Hastings, travelled to Hiroshima the next day with classmates to look for her family members and take supplies to the victims.

Yoshioka Braid said it was hard to talk about the horrors she saw as a 13-year-old in Hiroshima, including children separated from their parents, and people dying from burns from the blast and the radiated water.

On her second trip to the town at the epicentre, she felt something sticking to her shoes. She eventually realised it was human skin, which had melted off, following the blast.

…….. At a time when the international rules-based order is being challenged, and nuclear weapons remain a global issue, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reinstated the Cabinet portfolio of disarmament and arms control. Ardern announced Winston Peters would take up the ministerial role, during her first foreign policy speech in February.     In September last year, New Zealand was one of the first countries to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at a ceremony during the United Nations General Assembly.

The treaty is a landmark legally-binding international instrument prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons and related activities.

In July last year, it was adopted by the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.

Yoshioka Braid’s comments came during the international treaty examination, at a Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee hearing on Thursday. Something that needed to take place before New Zealand ratified the treaty.

“If anyone went there the day the bombed dropped, I’m sure they would all think like me: never again…

“I don’t want those same sorts of things to happen anywhere in the world; anywhere in the world.”

Alternative NZ submission by stuffnewsroom on Scribd….(included on original) ..

It was difficult to describe the experience, she said, adding that the bomb was so strong, some people died instantly, others were alive but too injured to move or talk.

Her daughter, Jacky Yoshioka Braid said New Zealand needed to take a leadership role in the elimination of nuclear weapons.

“We need to stop the fighting, and stop this fantasy around a nuclear war that we possibly could survive – it won’t happen.

“We saw what happened in Hiroshima, we’ve seen the after effects of what happened there and in Nagasaki. They were tiny compared to what could happen today.”

New Zealand created a world-leading anti-nuclear policy in 1984, after seeing what happened in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the cold war years.

“I think it’s really important that New Zealand takes this leadership role and helps guide these other young people around the world who want to stop the nuclear proliferation,” she said………..

June 29, 2018 Posted by | New Zealand, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Britain’s nuclear veterans, damaged by radiation, deserve to be recognised as heroes

Because while science cannot be certain, common sense tells us why successive governments did not test these terrible new weapons in the skies over Britain. Yet for 60 years governments of every stripe denied, ignored or failed our nuclear heroes.

Tom Watson: Nuclear test veterans’ long battle for nation’s thanks is cruel shame A medal from the nation would go a long way to healing some of their wounds. ByTom Watson 29 MAY 2018 

Sixty years ago, Britain sent thousands of men to the middle of the South Pacific and ordered them to take part in one nuclear explosion after another.

Our National Servicemen went to Christmas Island and built a runway, a hospital, and officers’ mess. They put up tents, fuel tanks and refrigeration units. Then they were told to watch as RAF crews dropped hydrogen bombs, and they say the only care taken was to tell them to cover their eyes.

Thirty years ago those men got together and the Mirror told their stories: of leukaemia, rare cancers, miscarriages, birth defects. Of troubled wives and sick children. Of ground crew allegedly contaminated washing down the planes, Royal Engineers who fell sick after collecting bomb-damaged equipment, strapping navy stevedores suddenly struck down by ill health. They fought long court battles, to no avail.

Twenty years ago research from Durham University found evidence that 1 in 3 of the nuclear veterans had bone cancer or leukaemia, and that twice as many veterans had multiple myeloma than successive British governments had admitted.

Eleven years ago research in New Zealand showed survivors of British tests had the same rate of genetic damage as survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Ten years ago the Isle of Man Tynwald voted to give 8 of its residents, who were nuclear veterans, £6,000 each in recognition of their service. Five years ago those who still survived and their families marched – with walking sticks and wheelchairs – on Downing Street demanding recognition. Not money: just recognition.

Today, of the 22,000 who saw those tests, just 1,500 survive. I met one of them, a West Bromwich born-and-bred gentleman called John Ward, when he came to Parliament to see me. You can see the video of our chat on the Mirror website. I already knew a little of his story but was stunned to learn that in that powerful flash of light from the bomb’s explosion he saw the bones in his hands as though in an X-ray.

And it was incredibly moving to hear him talk of the troubles his family has suffered since. John went on to work for the Wolverhampton Express & Star, the Birmingham Post and later for the government itself in the Cabinet Office, but meanwhile his wife Margaret had difficult pregnancies and a miscarriage, John and his son Mark both recently had tumours removed from their kidneys, and his daughter Denise is, in his words, “a medical mess”.

What struck me about John was his bravery and dignity in the face of terrible experiences, and that he – quite wrongly – holds himself to blame. That because he was ordered into danger, he feels guilt for the problems suffered by his family. Nobody should have to bear that burden.

But there are not many people like John who feel that worry, because most have died. Thousands of men who were the fittest the British armed forces could find to take part in experiments vital to this nation’s future safety and security have passed away many years before they were expected to.

And still they cannot prove what, if anything, happened to them. The records of the time are missing or incomplete, science is simply unable to link genetic changes definitively to radiation from a bomb, and there are so few veterans left it is hard for scientists to find suitable subjects to help them find that silver bullet.

But there is, nevertheless, something we can do. And something we SHOULD do.

Because while science cannot be certain, common sense tells us why successive governments did not test these terrible new weapons in the skies over Britain. Yet for 60 years governments of every stripe denied, ignored or failed our nuclear heroes. We let people like John, and their families, feel ashamed of something that was never their fault. It is a stain on our nation’s record that for so long we asked these men for proof of what was done to them, when all most of them ever wanted was our thanks for doing it.

Now four survivors of those tests have returned to the Pacific proving grounds to bear witness once again. It has been 60 years since they helped Britain to do the improbable, and now it is time for us to repay that debt. Regardless of whether or not these men, or their children, have suffered ill effects as a result of the nuclear tests it is time the nation honoured their service. A medal from the nation would go a long way to healing some of their wounds.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Japanese atomic bomb survivor pays tribute to U.S. POWs killed in A-bombing

Hiroshima hibakusha attends Massachusetts memorial ceremony for U.S. POWs killed in A-bombing KYODO An atomic bomb survivor attended a memorial ceremony Monday to honor the 12 American servicemen who died in the U.S. nuclear attack in the closing days of World War II.

Hibakusha Shigeaki Mori, an 81-year-old historian, spent years researching and identifying the 12 American soldiers who were killed during the bombing of Hiroshima. He was reunited at the ceremony with a relative of one of the fallen POWs, Normand Brissette of Lowell, Massachusetts.

In a speech, Mori said Brissette was a true patriot who risked his life to fight for his country. Brissette was a naval officer who was taken prisoner and died from radiation poisoning in the days following the bombing.

Susan Archinski, a niece of Brissette, said her reunion with Mori is “emotional because he is a wonderful, wonderful man and his wife is a wonderful woman. Mori-san is (the) best. Very pleased.” The two had met once before, in Hiroshima in 2015.

Mori was 8 years old at the time of the world’s first atomic bombing. He was blown off a bridge near his school at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, 1½ miles (about 2.5 km) from ground zero in Hiroshima.

After 42 years of research, Mori found each soldier’s name and tracked down their next of kin to obtain permission to memorialize the 12 POWs on the cenotaph for A-bomb victims in Hiroshima among the more than 300,000 Japanese, Korean and Chinese victims.

Mori is visiting the United States for the first time. He attended screenings of the film “Paper Lanterns,” a documentary about his research into the U.S. POWs, in California and will attend more screenings of the film in Boston and at the United Nations in New York.

The 2016 documentary, which the filmmakers hope to release digitally this summer, caught the attention of former U.S. President Barack Obama shortly after its limited release.

Obama, who in May 2016 became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, mentioned Mori in his speech at the Peace Memorial Park as “the man who sought out families of Americans killed here because he believed their loss was equal to his own.”   Afterward, Obama and Mori shared an embrace that garnered international attention.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Hiroshima bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow continues her fight for a nuclear free world

The Growing Dangers of the New Nuclear-Arms Race,  The Trump Administration’s push for more nuclear weapons is part of a perilous global drive to miniaturize and modernize devices that already promise annihilation. New Yorker, By Eric Schlosser, 24 May 18,  “…….On the morning of August 6, 1945, Setsuko Thurlow, then thirteen years old, was preparing to decode messages on the second floor of the Army headquarters in Hiroshima. About twenty girls from her school worked beside her, and thousands of other middle schoolers were employed at patriotic tasks throughout the city as part of the Student Mobilization Program. Thurlow noticed a bright bluish-white flash outside the window at 8:15 a.m. She never saw the mushroom cloud; she was in it. She felt herself fly through the air, blacked out, and awoke pinned in the rubble of the collapsed building, unable to move. Lying there in silence and total darkness, she had a feeling of serenity. And then she heard the cries of classmates trapped nearby: “God, help me!,” “Mother, help me!” Someone touched her, removed the debris on top of her, and told her to crawl toward the light.

She somehow made it out safely and realized that what was left of the headquarters was on fire. A half dozen or so other girls survived, but the rest were burned alive.

The smoke and dust in the air made the morning look like twilight. As Thurlow and a few classmates left the city center and walked toward the hills, they witnessed one grotesque scene after another: dead bodies; ghostly figures, naked and burned, wandering the streets; parents desperately searching for lost children. She reached an Army training ground in the foothills, about the size of two football fields. Every inch of ground was covered with wounded people begging for water. There seemed to be no doctors, no nurses, no medical help of any kind. Thurlow tore off strips of her clothing, dipped them in a nearby stream, and spent the day squeezing drops of water from them into the mouths of the sick and dying. At night, she sat on the hillside and watched Hiroshima burn.

Thurlow was reunited with her parents. But her sister and her sister’s four-year-old son died several days later. Her sister’s face had grown so blackened and swollen that she could only be recognized by her voice and her hairpin. Soldiers threw her body and that of her son into a ditch, poured gasoline on them, and set them on fire. Thurlow stood and watched, in a state of shock, without shedding a tear. Her favorite aunt and uncle, who lived in the suburbs outside Hiroshima and appeared completely unharmed, died from radiation poisoning a few weeks after the blast.

More than seven decades later  on the afternoon of December 10, 2017, I watched Thurlow accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ican). It was a remarkable moment, as she slowly walked to the podium with a cane, and the crowd in Oslo’s City Hall gave a standing ovation. After the bombing, Thurlow attended universities in Hiroshima and Lynchburg, Virginia. Later, she earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Toronto. She married a historian and settled in Canada. She began her anti-nuclear activism in 1954, and became a leading advocate for survivors of the atomic bombings, known as the hibakusha. A few years ago, I spent time with her in Stockholm, meeting with academics and legislators to discuss the nuclear threat.  In her early eighties, she was sharp, passionate, tireless, and free of bitterness. “Today, I want you to feel in this hall the presence of all those who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki . . . a great cloud of a quarter of a million souls,” Thurlow said in her Nobel speech.  “Each person had a name. Each person was loved by someone. Let us insure that their deaths were not in vain.”………..


May 25, 2018 Posted by | Japan, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Hibakusha: 93-yr-old A-bomb survivor recognized for his continuing fight for peace

 (Mainichi Japan)  HIROSHIMA — In a room filled with the gentle spring sunshine at the city hall in the Nishi Ward of this city in the beginning of April, 93-year-old Sunao Tsuboi met Mayor Kazumi Matsui with a smile.

For his work campaigning for the abolition of nuclear weapons and support for other survivors of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings, or “hibakusha,” Tsuboi was recognized as an honorary resident of Hiroshima in March, and on April 5, 2018, went to formally receive the title from Mayor Matsui at the municipal government.

“While my time left on Earth may be short, I will continue to be true to my name and ‘honestly’ work toward making a peaceful world with everyone until I burn up from my ardent passion,” said Tsuboi, whose given name is a homonym for “honesty” in Japanese. He made his fiery declaration with a mischievous expression after the medal with its green and white ribbon was draped around his neck. The audience then burst into applause……..

May 16, 2018 Posted by | Japan, PERSONAL STORIES | Leave a comment

A personal experience of Chernobyl nuclear radiation

FT 15th May 2018 ,I wish I had known Serhii Plokhy was writing this book. I would have told
him why the Chernobyl disaster is an indelible part of my life. When the
nuclear plant’s fourth reactor exploded in the early hours of Saturday,
April 26 1986, I was 130km away in Kiev. A Moscow-based reporter for
Reuters news agency, I was spending the weekend in the Ukrainian capital
with a friend who taught at Kiev university under a British Council

Like almost all the city’s 2.5m residents, we knew nothing about
the accident, the world’s worst nuclear disaster. Until the evening of
Monday April 28, the Kremlin held to its unforgivable decision to keep
Soviet citizens and the world in complete darkness. All that time,
radiation was spreading far beyond the stricken reactor. For the first few
days, the strongest winds blew to the north-west, so anyone in Kiev – which
is south of Chernobyl – got off relatively lightly.

However, when I returned to Moscow and underwent a radiation check at the US embassy, the
Geiger counter went beep-beep-beep, registering abnormal levels on my
clothes. Before my eyes an embassy official tossed my jeans into an
incinerator. Plokhy, a Harvard professor of Ukrainian background, is
ideally placed to tell the harrowing story of Chernobyl. He is the first
western-based historian to make extensive use of Chernobyl-related material
in Communist party, government and, especially, KGB security police
archives that became available after Ukraine’s 2014 pro-democracy

May 16, 2018 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, Ukraine | Leave a comment

A voice from the heart – on the exploitation of indigenous people in the cause of nuclear weaponry

Why do we desperately need to listen to voices from the heart?

The corporate dominated world does not like to hear voices from the heart. Oh no, there must be no emotion. We must all stick to technical jargon, statistics, the “accepted” facts, in appropriately respectable academic language.

Of course statistics, facts, and technical language have their place in the nuclear-free movement. But as long as the anti-nuclear voices remain boring, the corporate global empires do not need to worry.

This voice came as a comment today on our sister ship

Jan –– 6 May 18 -My grandad was half kiowa. His father married a native american lady, to expand his spread. She was his last wife. The other two died in child-birth. All, so he could have more slave kids to work his spread. May grandad ran away from home at age 12.

I am a westerner. I used to think the west was so grand! My family is from the west. Places like Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and yes parts of California.

Later, i realized, our frikin government, used the west as a sacrifice zone for open air nuclear bomb testing, biological and chemical warfare testing, uranium mining and processing, nuclear bomb testing.

I have been to every native nation in the west and, most in Alaska as a professional. No sane person thinks the anglos did the west any favors!

People ask me if natives or, even anglos are better off from the europeans coming in and taking america. The anglos used their rascist-Monroe Doctrine, as an excuse for the environmental destruction and genocides of the once pristine, western United States!

In the end, is the west better off? Hell no! They ruined turtle island, and the whole northern hemisphere with their insanity!

Shockley was the dumnest, white rascist ever! He might have helped invent transisters, but the genetics of Europeans and Americans are forever ruined, by the white evil-war-monkey obession, with the magic rocks.

There are very few radionuclide toxicologists in the world because, of the nuclear cosa nostra. Radionuclides are a billion times more genotoxic, teratogenic, mutagenic, carcinogenic, than the most dangerous manmade-mutagenic, chemicals, like agent orange.

Anything factual about radionuclides is verboten! Environmental health professionals, are pariahs in the war-monging, capitalist-paradigm. Health physics is nuclearist propaganda. Superior Northern-European culture and technology, is a sick-cosmic-joke.

The northern europeans culture, with it’s insane blood-lust and psychopathy, has made Europeans genetically inferior and, That’s a Fact Jack! That is the cruel irony



May 6, 2018 Posted by | indigenous issues, PERSONAL STORIES, USA | Leave a comment

Sisters now ill, exposed to Chernobyl radiation, – urge others to get cancer checks 

Sisters urge those exposed to Chernobyl radiation to get cancer checks Apr 24, 2018  WESTBURY –

Two Long Island sisters who were exposed to radiation at Chernobyl in 1986 are urging others exposed to get checked for various types of cancer.

In 1986, Rebecca Sanders and Jennifer Fogarty were in western Germany with their father, who was in the military when Chernobyl exploded. Both were exposed to radiation.

The sisters want to get the word out that those who were exposed to radiation in 1986 should still be checked.

Sanders is now fighting stage 4 bladder cancer and Fogarty has thyroid disease.

Fogarty says that the military did not alert people who lived there at the time of the accident.

“They did not tell us anything for 10 days, and then after that it was martial law for 30 days where we had to stay inside. We could still go to school, and then after the 30 days, we were cleared to be outside and we were told we would be OK and we’re not,” says Sanders.

Fogarty says she and her sister want everyone to know that if they were in western Europe in 1986 when Chernobyl exploded, they are at very high risk of thyroid and or bladder cancer.  She says that both are curable, but people need to get checked and treated.

Fogarty says there are many studies done in Germany that show a link between the Chernobyl incident and people getting sick.

Thursday marks the 32nd anniversary of Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear accident.

April 25, 2018 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Remembering Katsuko Saruhashi’s pioneering scientific achievement and anti nuclear work

KATSUKO SARUHASHIThe first woman to earn a chemistry PhD in Japan traced the global reach of nuclear fallout    Katsuko Saruhashi, a Japanese geochemist, became one of the leading voices in nuclear disarmament and female empowerment through her work in the late 20th century. She’s being memorialized today (March 22) with a Google Doodle on what would have been her 98th birthday.

Saruhashi, born in Tokyo in 1920, lived through World War II as a young adult. Global events undoubtedly shaped her field of research.

Katsuko Saruhashi’s pioneering work

After graduating from Toho University (formerly the Imperial Women’s College of Science) in 1943, she went on to study carbon dioxide in ocean water at the Meteorological Research Institute. In 1957, she became the first woman in Japan to earn her PhD in chemistry from the University of Tokyo.

Few researchers were interested in studying carbon-dioxide levels in water when Saruhashi embarked on her work, which ended up being instrumental for decades. She penned the formula that would allow scientists to determine the amount of carbonic acid in oceans—now one of the hallmark measures of climate change—by hand. Now, researchers use computers for that task.

Saruhashi also studied the amount of radioactive isotopes of elements in seawater following nuclear- bomb test detonations. Working at the Central Meteorological Observatory, she found that tiny radioactive particles floating in the ocean waters along the coast of Japan resulting from the 67 nuclear explosions the US detonated in the Marshall Islands. “There was a controversy over her argument that the radioactive fallout in seawater was more than what they used to think,” Toshihiro Higuchi, a historian at Georgetown University, told the Verge.

Scientists at the US Atomic Energy Commission quickly became interested in her work, and invited Saruhashi to work at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego to compare US methods of measuring these radioactive isotopes to those used by the Japanese. It wasn’t entirely a friendly working environment: One of her American male colleagues, Theodore Folsom, told her that there was no need for her to come into the office daily, and that instead she should work out of an isolated wooden hut (pdf, p. 4).

Nevertheless, Saruhashi persisted. Her analyses of radioactive isotopes were essentially identical to Folsom’s, despite her inferior working conditions.

Saruhashi became a beacon for women in science

Saruhashi became an advocate for her fellow female scientists and for world peace. In 1958, she co-founded Society of Japanese Women Scientists, and in 1981 established a prize in her name awarded annually to young Japanese female scientists for their excellence in research and mentorship. In 1980, she became the first woman elected to the Science Council of Japan, and went on to receive the Miyake Prize for geochemistry and the Tanaka Prize from the Society of Sea Water Sciences.

She died in September 2007, and her legacy as a scientist, pacifist, and feminist lives on. “I wanted to highlight the capabilities of women scientists,” she said. “Until now, those capabilities have been secret, under the surface.”

March 22, 2018 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, Women | Leave a comment

Informational power to the people: Safecast volunteers monitor Fukushima radiation


NGO Safecast co-founder Pieter Franken explains to schoolgirls how to assemble a Geiger counter kit in their classroom in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture. 

Tracking Fukushima’s radiation ,  Source: AFP   Editor: Fu Rong     Beneath the elegant curves of the roof on the Seirinji Buddhist temple in Japan’s Fukushima region hangs an unlikely adornment: a Geiger counter collecting real-time radiation readings.

The machine is sending data to Safecast, an NGO born after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster that says it has now built the world’s largest radiation dataset, thanks to the efforts of citizen scientists like Seirinji’s priest Sadamaru Okano.

Like many, Okano lost faith in the government after the nuclear meltdown seven years ago.

“The government didn’t tell us the truth, they didn’t tell us the true measures,” he said.

Okano was in a better position than most to doubt the government line, having developed an amateur interest in nuclear technology 20 years earlier after the Chernobyl disaster. To the bemusement of friends and family, he started measuring local radiation levels in 2007.

“The readings were so high, 50 times higher than natural radiation,” he said of the post-disaster data. “I was amazed. The news told us there was nothing, the administration was telling us there was nothing to worry about.”

That dearth of trustworthy information was the genesis of Safecast, said co-founder Pieter Franken, who was in Tokyo with his family when disaster hit. Franken and friends had the idea of gathering data by attaching Geiger counters to cars and driving around.

“Like how Google does Street View, we could do something for radiation in the same way,” he said. “The only problem was that the system to do that didn’t exist and the only way to solve that problem was to go and build it ourselves. So that’s what we did.”

Within a week, the group had a prototype and got readings that suggested the 20-kilometer exclusion zone declared around the Fukushima plant had no basis in the data, Franken said.

“Evacuees were sent from areas with lower radiation to areas with higher radiation” in some cases, he said.

The zone was eventually redrawn, but for many local residents it was too late to restore trust in the government.

Okano evacuated his mother, wife and son while he stayed with his flock.

A year later, based on his own readings and after decontamination efforts, he brought them back. He learned about Safecast’s efforts and in 2013 installed one of their static counters on his temple.

“I told them: ‘We are measuring the radiation on a daily basis… so if you access the (Safecast) website you can choose (if you think) it’s safe or not’.”

Norio Watanabe has been a Safecast volunteer since 2011. In the days after the disaster evacuees flocked to Koriyama, which was outside the evacuation zone. He assumed his town was safe.

He sent his children away, but stayed behind to look after his mother, a decision he believes may have contributed to his 2015 diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

“As a scientist, I think the chance that it was caused by the Fukushima accident might be 50-50, but in my heart, I think it was likely the cause,” he said.

His thyroid was removed and is now healthy, but Watanabe worries about his students, who he fears “will carry risk with them for the rest of their lives.”

“If there are no people like me who continue to monitor the levels, it will be forgotten.”

Safecast now has around 3,000 devices worldwide and data from 90 countries. Its counters come as a kit that volunteers can buy through third parties and assemble at home.

March 19, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, PERSONAL STORIES, politics, radiation | 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., 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

The fight for justice for Fukushima nuclear evacuees: the determination of Mrs Mizue Kanno

This woman is winning the fight for justice after Fukushima  by Kazue Suzuki and Shaun Burnie  

March 12, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, Legal, PERSONAL STORIES | Leave a comment

Plagued by disease, ridiculed for their explanation: A Three Mile Island ‘survivors’ group is growing

Plagued by disease, ridiculed for their explanation: A TMI ‘survivors’ group is growing, York Daily Record, Joel  12 Feb 18,  

February 17, 2018 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, USA | Leave a comment

UK’s nuclear veterans to be DNA tested

DNA tests for UK’s nuclear bomb veterans 16 February 2018 

Decades ago they witnessed nuclear weapons tests in the South Pacific. Now some veterans hope new DNA testing will prove it was responsible for their subsequent ill health, which they say ruined their lives.

“It was awe-inspiring, like another sun hanging in the sky. The blast bowled people over. A few men were on the ground screaming.”

(Picture is not of Bob Fleming. It is of Gomer Hickman) 

Bob Fleming was wearing a T-shirt, khaki shorts and flip flops when the bomb went off.

At just 24, he had just witnessed one of the most powerful weapons on earth detonate on Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean.

It was 1956 and the Cold War threat was growing.

The RAF serviceman was one of around 22,000 British service personnel who witnessed nuclear weapons tests on mainland Australia, the Montebello Islands off Western Australia and Christmas Island in the South Pacific between 1952 and 1958.

With their backs to the bomb, they felt the intense heat from the explosion first.

Then, after the countdown, they were ordered to turn round and look directly at the huge mushroom cloud in front of them.

“We had no protective clothing,” said Bob, who’s from Downham Market in Norfolk.

“We were guinea pigs. It was so bright I could see the bones in my hands with my eyes closed. It was like an X-ray.”

‘Genetic curse’

The veterans say the nuclear tests ruined their lives, causing cancers, fertility problems and birth defects passed down the generations.

Now 83, the great-grandfather believes that three generations of his family are living with the “genetic curse” of those explosions. Sixteen out of 21 of his descendants have had birth defects or health problems.

His youngest daughter, Susanne Ward, has thyroid problems and severe breathing difficulties, and her teeth fell out prematurely.

“It just gets worse as the next generation comes along. Our grandchildren have similar problems,” Suzanne said.

“My dad blames himself, but it isn’t his fault.”

  • The Fleming family now hope new DNA testing could end decades of uncertainty.Last week, the UK’s first Centre for Health Effects of Radiological and Chemical Agents was launched at Brunel University in London.One of its projects is a three-year genetic study looking for any possible damage to the veterans’ DNA caused by the tests.

    Blood samples will be taken from 50 veterans who were stationed at nuclear test sites, and compared with a control group of 50 veterans who served elsewhere.

    Blood will also be taken from their wives and any children they have together.

    Dr Rhona Anderson, who is leading the study, said a major question to answer is whether “there is a genetic legacy of taking part at these nuclear tests”.

    “If no differences (in the DNA) are seen between test and control groups then this will be reassuring for the nuclear community.”

    ‘No valid evidence link’

    Fewer than 3,000 nuclear veterans are still alive today.

    They cannot volunteer for the study, as that might lead to bias in the results.

    Veterans will be selected using military service records and information available about those who were most at risk of exposure to radiation.

    The Ministry of Defence says it is grateful to Britain’s nuclear test veterans for their service, but maintains there is no valid evidence to link participation in these tests to ill health.

    The UK is the only nuclear power to deny special recognition and compensation to its bomb test veterans.

    The veterans took their case for compensation to the highest court in the land and lost in 2012.

    The Supreme Court Justices said the veterans would face great difficulty proving a link between their illnesses and the tests.

    In 2015 the Aged Veterans’ Fund was set up by the government using bank industry fines. It will help to fund a series of social and scientific projects.

    Doug Hern, who’s 81, and his wife Sandie, from Lincolnshire have been campaigning tirelessly for years.

    When Doug was 21 he saw five nuclear explosions on Christmas Island and has suffered ill health ever since.

    He said is skeleton is “crumbling”. He has skin problems and bone spurs.

    His daughter died, aged 13, from a cancer so rare it did not have a name. He believes this was a consequence of her inheriting his “corrupted genes”.

    Sandie Hern is vice-chair of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association (BNTVA)

    “The veterans have been treated abominably. They’ve been forgotten. We need this research to see if anything can be done to help their children,” she said.

    The overall aim of the new centre at Brunel is to work closely with the veteran community to improve their health and well-being in the future.

    After years of personal suffering, the Flemings want to have their DNA tested and are waiting to hear if they have been selected.

    Six decades on, nuclear families are still living in the aftermath of the bomb tests, and searching for answers.

February 17, 2018 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment