Mining Awareness +
News release from the Sierra Club:
“TRUMP ENDS RULE BLOCKING CORPORATE POLLUTERS FROM PAYING THEMSELVES
Interior Rule Prevented Fossil Fuel Companies From Selling Resources to Themselves
Friday, February 24, 2017
Jonathon Berman, (202) 297-7533, firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, DC — Today, Donald Trump rescinded a Office of Natural Resource Revenue rule that prevented companies from selling fossil fuels extracted on public lands to a subsidiary at a low price, paying royalties on that initial sale, and then reselling the fuel at a far higher price without paying royalties on the second sale.
In response, Sierra Club Lands Protection program Director Athan Manuel released the following statement:
“It’s no surprise that someone with Donald Trump’s checkered business history would rescind a rule preventing fossil fuel companies from ripping off the American people. Donald Trump should represent the people, and as such, should conduct business that puts their interests first — not…
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¶ “Trump’s draconian budget proposals will destroy US clean energy innovation” • Voters who expected Trump to prioritize revitalized manufacturing may be disappointed, as his opening budget proposals will stymie progress toward the critical jobs of the 21st century: developing, manufacturing, and installing renewable energy. [Quartz]
Hey Trump: Europe is beating you on clean
energy – bigly. (Reuters / Denis Balibouse)
¶ “Here’s Why the US Nuclear Industry Is in Jeopardy” • The Spiraling construction costs at new facilities and planned closures of decades-old plants highlight why the nuclear industry in the United States remains in trouble, even as the quest for zero-carbon energy sources grows. Nuclear plants are facing financial meltdowns. [Seeker]
¶ “The Economist embraces renewables” • In this week’s cover story, The Economist thoughtfully argues for expanded use of renewable energy, noting, “It is no longer far-fetched to think that the world…
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The UK is banking on the 3.2GW nuclear power plant to provide as much as 7pc of the country’s energy by the middle of next decade. However, the Hinkley Point, Moorside and Sizewell B projects have all been dogged by delays and concerns over whether the multi-billion pound investments can be shouldered by the companies.
Radiation Free Lakeland
From the Telegraph ….
Yeo: Treasury needs to pour billions into nuclear projects
The Treasury is facing calls to pour billions of pounds into a string of troubled new nuclear projects which threaten the UK’s energy supplies.
Tim Yeo, a former environment minister and energy committee chairman, is warning that the only way the Government can avert a crisis for the country’s nuclear programme is to take a direct financial stake in the projects.
Ministers should also actively encourage investment from nuclear companies in China, South Korea and Russia where the the industry is relatively insulated from the challenges faced by European companies thanks to strong state backing, he said.
Tim Yeo Credit: Geoff Pugh
Ministers are wary of involving the foreign powers in its energy security plans and have steadfastly resisted taking on the financial risk involved in nuclear construction.
In a letter to Business…
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Nuclear Power Is In Crisis As Cost Overruns Cripple Industry Giants, New Matilda., By Jim Green on February 26, 2017 Nuclear ‘dark ages’
“…….The latest dramas occur against a backdrop of deep industry malaise, with the receding hope of even the slightest growth resting squarely on the shoulders of China.
A February 15 piece in the Financial Times noted: “Hopes of a nuclear renaissance have largely disappeared. For many suppliers, not least Toshiba, simply avoiding a nuclear dark ages would be achievement enough.”
Toshiba and Westinghouse are in deep trouble because of massive cost overruns building four AP1000 reactors in the US ‒ the combined overruns are about $14 billion and counting. The saga is detailed in Bloomberg pieces titled ‘Toshiba’s Nuclear Reactor Mess Winds Back to a Louisiana Swamp‘ and ‘Toshiba’s Record Fall Highlights U.S. Nuclear Cost Nightmare‘.
Toshiba said on February 14 that it expects to book an $8.2 billion write down on Westinghouse, on top of a $3 billion write down in April 2016. These losses exceed the $7.1 billion Toshiba paid when it bought a majority stake in Westinghouse in 2006.
Almost half of the reactors in the US have been operating for 40 years or more and are nearing retirement. Yet the four AP1000 reactors are the only ones under construction, so nuclear power is certain to continue its downward slide in the US.
“There’s billions and billions of dollars at stake here,” said Gregory Jaczko, former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “This could take down Toshiba and it certainly means the end of new nuclear construction in the US.”
Likewise, pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman notes that the Toshiba/Westinghouse AP1000 fiasco “apparently ends the so-called nuclear renaissance in the US for full size reactors. During 2007-2010 there were more than two dozen applications expected for new reactors, but now only a few licenses that have been completed and they do not have any links to near term plans to build the units”.
Bankruptcy looms for Toshiba, with the banks circling and the risk heightened by the likelihood of further delays and cost overruns with the four partially-built AP1000 reactors in the US, and unresolved litigation over those projects. Toshiba says it would likely sell Westinghouse if that was an option ‒ but there is no prospect of a buyer. The nuclear unit is, as Bloomberg noted, “too much of a mess” to sell. And since that isn’t an option, Toshiba must sell profitable businesses instead to stave off bankruptcy……. https://newmatilda.com/2017/02/26/nuclear-power-is-in-crisis-as-cost-overruns-cripple-industry-giants/
“In January, TEPCO urged the court to dismiss the case, citing that it is a political matter that could impact international relations.”
With a class action lawsuit pending, hundreds of Navy sailors say they can’t get the help they need
Navy servicemember seeks treatment for alleged radiation poisoning following Operation Tomodachi.
“Right now, I know I have problems, but I’m afraid of actually finding out how bad they really are,” said William Zeller, a 33-year-old active-duty Navy servicemember living in San Diego. He’s one of the 4,500 sailors who were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan during Operation Tomodachi, a humanitarian aid mission sent to Japan the day after a tsunami triggered the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown.
“I know there’s something wrong,” Zeller said. “I’ve got many other people around me telling me I don’t look good, and I need to get checked out. While I am a workaholic, it’s a distraction.”
Zeller is only one of 318 sailors (and counting) who have joined a billion-dollar class action lawsuit filed in 2012 against the nuclear generators’ operating company, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, for injuries allegedly caused by radiation exposure.
The lawsuit argues TEPCO is financially responsible for the sailors’ medical care because the operating company, admittedly, did not inform the Japanese government of the meltdown. In turn, the Japanese government unknowingly misinformed the U.S. Navy of potential dangers of anchoring off the coast of Japan where the ship was engulfed in a plume of radiation for several hours.
“Everywhere we went we had to carry [gas masks] on our hips,” Zeller said. “We were turning on news networks, and we could see how we were right in the plume. You could taste the metallic air.”
In the six years since Fukushima, Zeller has only sought medical attention from the Navy since the care is financially covered.
“The military health system is a process, putting it politely,” he said, explaining how it took four years to learn he had abnormal bone growth, nerve damage and what he believes is irritable bowel syndrome, all of which began a year after Operation Tomodachi. His weight fluctuates 20 to 30 pounds within a month, and he’s unendingly fatigued.
“Before I went [on the USS Ronald Reagan], I used to be a martial arts instructor,” he said. “I used to go on regular bike rides. I hiked. I was in very good shape. Now, I wear a breathing machine when I go to sleep because I have respiratory problems. I literally just go to work and go home now. I don’t have the energy or the pain threshold to deal with anything else.”
Considering the Veterans Association’s inability to treat members in a timely or efficient manner, Zeller’s lawyer, Paul Garner, said VA care is not an option. Instead, they’re hopeful that a fund set up by former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will come to fruition.
Koizumi announced the creation of the fund while visiting 10 affected sailors, including Zeller, in San Diego in May. Koizumi said he expects to raise $2 million by a March 31 cutoff date. The plan is to then transfer the money to the U.S. to supplement the sailor’s medical bills at, according to Garner, some of the best care centers across the country.
USS Ronald Reagan
However, Garner knows $2 million won’t be enough to cover every need, especially since some sailors have reported symptoms appearing in their children who were born after Operation Tomodachi.
“I have no idea if it’s caused by the radiation that I was exposed to on the Reagan, but I don’t know that it’s not,” said Jason F., who was also on board the USS Ronald Reagan but didn’t want to share his last name while he’s still active duty. His breathing is audible over the phone, as if climbing several sets of stairs, but he’s tucking his three-year-old daughter into bed at their San Diego home.
“That’s standard breathing for me,” he said. “I don’t know what to do about it. She has difficulty breathing too,” he said of his daughter, who was born in 2013. “She snores like a grown man.”
Jason is 36 years old, in shape, never smoked a day in his life and didn’t have trouble breathing until after his time on the USS Ronald Reagan. His respiratory difficulties have aggrandized since 2011, peaking during a 2016 deployment where the doctors told him the contrasting temperatures were to blame and gave him an inhaler to puff on. It took a formal request to fly him off the ship to receive medical treatment in Bahrain, where he was told he had a 60 percent chance of tuberculosis and a 40 percent chance of lung cancer. He has since been diagnosed with asthma by an outside specialist, although the treatments aren’t working.
“It’s difficult for them to figure out,” Jason said. “I mean, how many patients have they had that are exposed to radiation? And are they trained for that?”
When Zeller mentioned radiation exposure to doctors at the Navy, he said he was told it was interesting, if acknowledged at all.
Lung cancer is one of several cancers associated with high radiation exposure, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website, as well as leukemia, which several sailors have been diagnosed with. Bloody noses, rectal and gynecological bleeding, weakness and ulcers, are also symptoms reported by the sailors and are signs of radiation poisoning, according to the Scripps Health website.
In 2014, the Department of Defense published a report acknowledging that radiation exposure can cause such medical issues, but that the exposure levels were too low and the symptoms appeared too soon to make a connection.
While Zeller and Jason hope for financial support either from Koizumi’s fund or by winning the lawsuit, they want support for the others affected.
“I’m experiencing symptoms, but it’s not just for me,” Zeller said. “It’s for the individuals who are way worse than me and to bring attention to them… They have tumors, cancers, birth defects in their children, some individuals have mass muscle fatigue where their entire half of their body isn’t functional anymore, and they are stuck in wheelchairs. I am currently on the better end.”
The sailors are waiting for a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determining whether the lawsuit will continue in the United States or in Japan, if at all.
In January, TEPCO urged the court to dismiss the case, citing that it is a political matter that could impact international relations.
Jason said the lawsuit is about more than money, specifically when it comes to his daughter’s future.
“I just want accountability,” he said. “I want her taken care of. Whatever that takes.”
A man living outside Fukushima Prefecture writes, “When I said that I came from Fukushima, I was told, ‘You are an evacuee, aren’t you?’ I cannot forget that.”
More than 60 percent of current or former evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear crisis said they were victims of bullying or discrimination in areas they evacuated to or witnessed or heard of such incidents, according to a new survey.
The survey, released Feb. 26, was conducted jointly by The Asahi Shimbun and Akira Imai, professor of local governments’ policies at Fukushima University, in January and February.
“It is probably the first time that the actual conditions of ‘bullying evacuees’ became clear in large quantities and concretely,” Imai said. “The recognition that evacuees are victims of the nuclear accident is not shared in society. That is leading to the bullying.”
The series of surveys started in June 2011, three months after an accident occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
In the latest survey, the sixth, The Asahi Shimbun and Imai sent a questionnaire in late January to 348 people who had replied to the series of surveys.
Of these, 184 people of 18 prefectures, including Fukushima Prefecture, gave valid responses. Of the 184, 147 were still evacuees.
The latest survey asked for the first time whether they were bullied or discriminated due to the fact that they evacuated because of the nuclear accident. Thirty-three of the 184, or 18 percent, said that they or their family members became victims of bullying or discrimination.
In addition, 81 of the 184, or 44 percent, replied that they saw or heard of those actions around them.
In a section in which respondents can freely describe their experiences or opinions, a 35-year-old woman wrote, “I was told, ‘Why do you work despite the fact that you have money. I felt sad, wondering whether I have no right to work.”
A 59-year-old man wrote, “When I bought in bulk, I was told, ‘Oh! An evacuee.’”
Meanwhile, 60 of the 184 respondents, or 33 percent, responded that they have neither been victims of bullying or discrimination nor have they seen or heard of any acts.
A 48-year-old woman wrote, “Superiors or colleagues in my workplace in the area where I have evacuated have treated me normally. I have been able to encounter good people.”
The survey also asked the 147 respondents, who are still evacuees, whether they think they are unwilling to tell people around them the fact that they are evacuating. Sixty-one, or 41 percent, replied that they think so.
In the free description section, a 49-year-old woman wrote, “I have the anxiety that talking (with other people) will lead to discussing compensation money.” A 31-year-old woman wrote, “I have a concern that my children could be bullied.”
Meanwhile, 50 of the 147 respondents, or 34 percent, replied that they don’t have that anxiety about telling people. In addition, 26 of the 147 people, or 18 percent, answered that they don’t know whether they think so or not.
A 56-year-old man wrote, “I dare not tell people who do not know that I am evacuating. I cannot move my life forward if I continue to say that I am an evacuee.”
Currently, about 80,000 people are living in and outside Fukushima Prefecture as evacuees.
A man living outside Fukushima Prefecture writes, “When I said that I came from Fukushima, I was told, ‘You are an evacuee, aren’t you?’ I cannot forget that.”
Nuclear Power Is In Crisis As Cost Overruns Cripple Industry Giants, New Matilda., By Jim Green on February 26, 2017 ‘ The EU, the US and Japan are busy committing nuclear suicide’
“………..The nuclear industry and its supporters have responded in varying ways to the crises facing nuclear utilities and the industry’s broader malaise. Some opt for head-in-the-sand delusion and denial. Others are extremely pessimistic about the industry’s future. Others paint a picture of serious but surmountable problems.
There is agreement that the nuclear industries in the US, Japan and the EU ‒ in particular their nuclear export industries ‒ are in deep trouble. A February 2017 EnergyPostWeekly article says “the EU, the US and Japan are busy committing nuclear suicide.” Michael Shellenberger from the pro-nuclear Breakthrough Institute notes that: “Nations are unlikely to buy nuclear from nations like the US, France and Japan that are closing (or not opening) their nuclear power plants.”
Shellenberger said: “From now on, there are only three major players in the global nuclear power plant market: Korea, China and Russia. The US, the EU and Japan are just out of the game. France could get back in, but they are not competitive today.”
That’s good news for the nuclear industries in South Korea, China and Russia. But they might end up squabbling over scraps ‒ there were just three reactor construction starts last year around the world.https://newmatilda.com/2017/02/26/nuclear-power-is-in-crisis-as-cost-overruns-cripple-industry-giants/
“This is too cruel.
Why play with local people’s strong desire to believe in the back-to-normal dream?
This desire is in the heart of all the people who love their hometown and want to recover the ordinary life before the nuclear accident.
If you mention the contamination, you are regarded almost as an enemy to the back-to-normal reconstruction efforts. This is how you destroy the solidarity, and it has been going on since 6 years. People’s heart bleed in this cruel situation and contradictions.”
Fishing boats return to Ukedo fishing port in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 25.
NAMIE, Fukushima Prefecture–Fishing boats returned to their home port on Feb. 25 for the first time in six years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant wreaked havoc here.
The Ukedo fishing port, located seven kilometers north of the nuclear plant, was destroyed by the tsunami caused by the powerful earthquake in March 2011. In addition, nearby areas of the sea were contaminated by radioactive substances discharged from the crippled plant.
Since then, the reconstruction of the port has started and the work is ongoing.
On Feb. 25, 26 fishing boats entered the port to prepare for the start of the fishing season of “kounago,” or young fish of “ikanago” (Japanese sand lance), in mid-March. Fishing is scheduled to resume in waters that are more than 10 km from the nuclear plant.
“This is the first step to return to my life as a fisherman,” said a smiling Ichiro Takano, 69, a third-generation fisherman.
Noda city (Noda-shi on the map) is located in Chiba prefecture, at the northern doorstep of Tokyo.
Noda City announced on January 24 that more than 15,550 Becquerel of radioactive cesium exceeded the criteria of designated waste (more than 8,000 bq per 1 kilogram) from the rooftop sludge of Municipal Nittsuka Elementary School. It is the first time that sludge exceeded the standard value in the city. The city already removed the sludge, in accordance with procedures as specified waste based on the Special Measures Law.
In response to the high radiation dose measurements found in Kashiwa city public property site this month, the city started inspection of sludge etc. and dose measurement at 300 public facilities. The country’s decontamination standard is 0.23 microsieverts per hour with a measurement height of 1 meter (50 centimeters for children-related facilities), but the city has independently set the measurement height to be a more severe 5 cm. There are no places that have exceeded city standards so far.
Meanwhile, on the 14th and 15th, they measured sludge on the roof of 12 elementary and junior high schools that were the subjects of solar panel roofing projects. As a result, they found doses exceeding city standards at five schools, up to 0.85 micro-Sievert was measured. City removed the sludge and checked radioactive cesium concentration. Only the sludge of Yotsuka-sho, had concentration of cesium exceeding the standard value of designated waste.
The removed sludge is temporarily stored at a temporary storage place surrounded by containers on the city hall premises. Approximately 5 cubic meters of targeted waste is treated, and four schools sludge which cesium concentration was found within the standard value were treated as general waste.
Translated from Japanese by Hervé Courtois
Workers bring in a new water tank, right, as a replacement for an old contaminated water tank at TEPCO’s No. 1 nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture on Feb. 24, 2017
OKUMA, Fukushima — With two weeks to go until the sixth anniversary of the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant here, the Mainichi Shimbun visited the plant on Feb. 24, obtaining a first-hand view of working conditions and the persisting problem of tainted water.
The number of areas on the plant site requiring full face masks has decreased considerably, and the overall working environment has improved greatly. However, the issue of having to replace the tanks that hold radioactively contaminated water lingers.
Dealing with contaminated water requires significant manpower. According to TEPCO, about half of the approximately 6,000 people working daily at the No. 1 nuclear power plant are involved in handling contaminated water.
There are roughly 1,000 tanks of contaminated water inside the No. 1 plant site, forming a forest of containers with nowhere else to go.
A worker makes checks with a hammer on an impermeable wall near TEPCO’s No. 4 reactor in the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture on Feb. 24, 2017
During the immediate aftermath of the nuclear disaster in 2011, a considerable number of tanks known as flanges were placed within the site. However, as concerns continue to grow about contaminated water leaking from these tanks due to dilapidation, TEPCO has taken action and is working on dismantling them.
Although covering the ground at the No. 1 plant with concrete has made it possible to work in about 90 percent of the site without a protective uniform, all those working near the old tanks must wear full face masks and Tyvek suits as the tanks once held highly contaminated water. Wearing this kind of protective clothing makes the work much harder to perform — as it can be difficult to breathe — and it is physically exhausting, even in the middle of winter.
Hiroshi Abe, 55, of Shimizu Corp. — the company overseeing the dismantling work — states, “As we work toward recovery from the disaster, we want to ensure that all workers are protected from radiation exposure and injuries.”
Presently, the level of radiation in the vicinity of the buildings housing the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 reactors is high. During the Mainichi Shimbun’s visit to the site on Feb. 24, the radiation level near the No. 3 reactor was found to be more than 300 microsieverts per hour, and near the No. 2 reactor building, it was discovered to be 137.6 microsieverts per hour.
A radiation measuring device shows a reading of 137.6 microsieverts per hour near TEPCO’s No. 2 reactor in the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture on Feb. 24, 2017.
Furthermore, an “ice wall,” which was built to restrict the flow of contaminated water underground, has not been as effective as initially expected.
A spokesman for TEPCO, Takahiro Kimoto, who accompanied the Mainichi Shimbun on this visit, said, “Nearly six years have passed since the disaster. Our decommissioning work is now about to enter the main stage of extracting melted fuel.”
However, with TEPCO and the government’s decommissioning work set to continue until around 2041-2051, there is still a long way to go until they can reach the “main stage.”
He believes the current arsenal is more than capable of defending against even a more aggressive Russia.“There’s been no military requirement, no need to develop new types of warheads or delivery systems,” Reif said. “There aren’t gaps. The alleged gaps are mirages.”
The United States has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity,” President Donald Trump said last week, and he wants to make sure the U.S. is at the “top of the pack” among the world’s nuclear powers. He has bluntly criticized the treaty that sets the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals at equal levels as “one-sided.” And he’s called for a formal nuclear posture review.
Words like those cause ears to perk up at Offutt Air Force Base, where Gen. John Hyten, who heads U.S. Strategic Command, is the keeper of the keys to the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He’s also the chief adviser to the president and senior military leaders on all matters nuclear.
His top concern, Hyten said in an interview this month with The World-Herald, is not so much the size of the U.S. nuclear force but whether it remains fit to deter its enemies. He believes updating the arsenal — much of it built in the 1980s or earlier — is more important than enlarging it.
“If you look at every element of the nuclear enterprise, it has to be modernized,” Hyten said. “All our stuff is old. It’s still ready, safe, secure, reliable. But it’s old.”
He believes the size of his current force is enough to deter America’s adversaries, and he could even live with cuts — as long as Russia cuts its arsenal too.
“Nobody wants to decrease our deterrent posture,” Hyten said. “Not with Russia the way it is right now, not with China building in the Pacific. And not with, goodness, what’s going on right now in North Korea and Iran.”
He does welcome the nuclear posture review.
“Every new administration that comes in, one of the first things they should do is take a look at our nuclear capabilities, because it is the most sobering, daunting, powerful element of our defensive architecture,” Hyten said. “The way you do that is through a nuclear posture review. I look forward to participating in it myself.”
Hyten said no timetable has been set for the review, but he expects it will take 12 to 18 months. StratCom will be heavily involved.
“In this building there are some of the best and brightest nuclear thinkers, nuclear operators in the country today,” Hyten said. “And we’ll provide the expertise we need to do it.”
Trump has consistently said he wants to be less predictable than his predecessors, and the broad strokes of his nuclear policy have yet to be colored in. In the early days of his administration he has shown a great deal of deference to his new defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis — who also commands the respect of many of Trump’s critics.
“I think Mattis is the wild card here,” said Kingston Reif, director of disarmament and threat reduction policy for the non-proliferation advocacy group Arms Control Association. “He may be the check on some of those more Strangelovian impulses.”
The New START treaty with Russia, signed in 2010, requires both the U.S. and Russia to cut the size of their nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 delivery systems (sea-launched missiles, ICBMs and nuclear bombers) by February 2018 and maintain parity for 10 years. The treaty is up for renewal in 2021, but Trump has complained to Reuters that it is a “one-sided deal.”
Russia’s nuclear force also is old, but the country is several years into a program to modernize its aging nuclear force, while the U.S. remains a few years behind.
That worries Michaela Dodge, a senior policy analyst specializing in nuclear weapons policy with the Heritage Foundation, a national think-tank that generally advocates for conservative causes.
“There already is a nuclear arms race,” she said, “but the U.S. isn’t in it.”
In recent years Republicans and Democrats have more or less worked together on the early stages of funding the expensive new bombers and submarines and gravity bombs Pentagon officials say will be needed to deter future attacks on the U.S. and its allies.
But in an era of strong taxpayer resistance to big spending programs, the reconstruction of the U.S. nuclear force is sure to be one of the biggest. A new report by the Government Accountability Office estimated the cost of rebuilding the arsenal at $400 billion over the next 10 years.
And the work will continue for years, or even decades, beyond that. For example, development work on the new Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine already has started, even though the first subs aren’t scheduled for delivery until the early 2030s.
Hyten’s job, as he sees it, is to keep making the case for updating the arsenal — hopefully, stiffening the spines of wavering members of Congress who balk at the price tag. That’s the same thing his two predecessors, Adm. Cecil Haney and Gen. C. Robert Kehler, did during their StratCom tours.
“The good part right now is that we have broad support in the new administration, broad support in the Congress to modernize all elements of it,” Hyten said. “But because they are nuclear weapons and because there will be some expense for the taxpayers, I think that’s why it gets so much discussion.”
As the new chairwoman of the Senate’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer will have a lot of influence over future spending on nuclear weapons.
Like Hyten, she is committed to rebuilding the bombers, submarines and missiles that make up America’s nuclear force — even if the price is high.
“We didn’t build new types of nuclear delivery systems for the last 25 years. I think we need to modernize,” Fischer said in an interview Saturday.
But, she added, “I don’t believe our (arsenal) is second-rate.”
Fischer interprets Trump’s call for expansion as support for the modernization program — which, she notes, President Barack Obama also backed.
“I’m not disputing that it’s going to be expensive,” she said, “but we have to make the commitment.”
In spite of Trump’s criticism of the New START treaty, Fischer believes it’s a framework that the U.S. and Russia should stick with.
“I’m not advocating re-looking at these treaties at this point,” the Republican said. “We are on target right now. We need to meet the obligations, and the Russians need to meet the obligations.”
Although Trump has complimented Russian President Vladimir Putin on his toughness and leadership, Fischer said she has no illusions about the threat the Russian leader poses to the U.S., and to his neighbors.
“I think Putin’s a thug,” she said. “We need to be aware of what (the Russians) are doing. We need to monitor them.”
There’s been some talk in recent years — among anti-nuclear activists on the left and budget hawks on the right — about scrapping the air, land and sea triad that has formed the bedrock of nuclear deterrence since the 1960s.
Like his predecessors, Hyten said all three legs of the triad are essential. ICBMs are cheaper and faster to launch, heavy bombers are highly flexible, and submarine-launched missiles are easiest to hide and most likely to survive a first strike.
“Each element of the triad is fundamental to defending ourselves against any threat on the planet today,” Hyten said.
The last nuclear posture review took place soon after Obama’s famous Prague speech in 2009, during which he called for an eventual end to nuclear weapons in the world. It was undergirded by the assumption that Russia wasn’t an adversary, Dodge said, and that a nuclear confrontation with the Russians was unlikely.
“If you assume Russia is friendly, you probably have a different target set,” Dodge said. “Eight years later we kind of have more evidence that it’s not true.”
Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, doesn’t know what form Trump’s call for an expanded arsenal will take. He believes the president will quickly run into economic reality if he tries to propose more weapons, or new ones.
“Trump is going to be more than busy trying to find funding for the modernization program,” Kristensen said. “He cannot afford to come in with fantastic new weapons systems in the nuclear realm.”
Reif hopes Trump will stick with Obama’s policy of pledging no new classes of weapons, no new nuclear capabilities, and no new missions for the nuclear force. He believes the current arsenal is more than capable of defending against even a more aggressive Russia.
Sunday 26th February, 2017
Cape Town – A nuclear agreement with Russia has far-reaching consequences for the budget the Western Cape High Court heard on Friday, as it places all liability for a nuclear accident on South Africa, while indemnifying Russia completely.
David Unterhalter, SC, appearing for Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute, who are challenging government’s nuclear procurement process in court, said liability for nuclear accidents fell on South Africa even if it occurred outside the country.
If the Russian company building the proposed eight new nuclear power stations had an accident while transporting nuclear material from Vladivostok to Qatar, for instance, causing extensive damage, the Russian inter-governmental agreement made South Africa liable for what could be “massive” costs, GroundUp reported.
“South Africa bears the burden under the indemnity clause. A country making this kind of offer would have to make very special provision for this in its budget,amp;” Unterhalter said.
Such liability was not even consistent with the Vienna Convention on liability for nuclear damage, he said.
“So we have gone very far in seeming to court Russia and to say, ‘We will pay and we will indemnify'” Unterhalter said.
The court is not being asked to decide on the merits of the Russian nuclear agreement, as this would be beyond its powers. However, the contents are relevant as the court is being asked to decide whether an international agreement of this nature should first have been tabled in Parliament for approval, particularly because of the massive financial implications.
The litigants argue that tabling the agreement without Parliamentary approval was unlawful as it did not comply with the Constitution and the agreement should be set aside.
Counsel for Minister of Energy Tina Joematt-Pettersson, who tabled the Russian agreement, argued that it did not need to come before Parliament, nor was there a need to allow the public to make representations. This was because it fitted into the category of agreements between countries that dealt with “technical, administrative or executive” matters, which did not have extra-budgetary consequences.
Marius Oosthuizen, SC, for the government, argued that the minister’s tabling of it under this category therefore did not contradict constitutional requirements.
One of the two presiding judges, ED Baartman, commented that a government guideline indicated that international agreements which dealt with minor, everyday issues did not need Parliamentary approval.
“Are you saying the Russian agreement is a minor, everyday issue?” she asked.
Oosthuizen replied that the Russian agreement would not constitute something that was high on the South African agenda as it was about co-operation between governments on an executive level.
The litigants are also asking the court to set aside the minister’s “determinations”, made under the Electricity Regulation Act, that South Africa needed 9600MW of new nuclear power.
One was made in 2013, where the Department of Energy was the body that would buy the nuclear power, and the other in 2016 that made Eskom the procurer.
“Both are infected with administrative error and neither should survive” Unterhalter said.
The court heard submissions on whether the minister’s decisions were administrative in nature – which meant they could be reviewed and set aside – or whether they were policy decisions, which could not be.
One of the tests in deciding whether a decision was administrative was whether it had consequences and whether it affected anyone.
Oosthuizen argued the decision to determine that South Africa needed 9600MW of nuclear power had not affected anyone’s rights, but had merely imposed an obligation on the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) which had the statutory duty to issue electricity-generating licences.
Judge LJ Bozalek said, “You can’t just look at this through the prism of Nersa’s rights. You have to look at the rights of people.”
Oosthuizen replied, “Yes. But that decision did not affect my electricity bill by one cent.”
Baartman said, “Not yet.”
The case has ended. No date was set for judgment.
Letter against nuclear energy proposal in South Africa
I UNDERSTAND President Zuma and team have made a deal with the Russians to build a nuclear plant here in South Africa.
Many hundreds of South Africans are totally against this deal – why aren’t we marching with banners, “No Nuclear”? You know the dangers of the nuclear plant from radiation to storing the radioactive waste, which has to be kept secure for years.
We all remember the Cheronbyl accident which led more countries to abandon the nuclear option and go for renewables.
We need to stand up against this deal – someone said, “it will show the Arms Deal as a picnic” so, no doubt, many stand to gain bribes and illegal pay-outs.
Through the Highway Mail, we can stand up against this programme. Apparently we only have till the end of March to object. It is so important – please make it a priority.
Letters respond to Jill Lepore’s article about the history of climate science and nuclear-winter theory.
The Nuclear-Winter Debate
Jill Lepore’s article about the history of climate science and nuclear-winter theory is important, but her story is incomplete (“Autumn of the Atom,” January 30th). Although Lepore states that the nuclear-winter debate has “long since been forgotten,” research done in the past ten years, using modern climate models, has shown that the theory of nuclear winter—which says that smoke from fires started by nuclear detonation will block sunlight, causing the Earth to become drastically colder—was correct. Lepore also refers to Stephen Schneider’s alternate theory of nuclear “autumn,” from the nineteen-eighties, as if it refuted the nuclear-winter theory. But it failed to take into account the Earth’s stratosphere, was never published in a scientific journal, and was certainly not accepted by the scientific community. It was, however, used by supporters of nuclear weapons to try to discredit nuclear winter.
Despite the over-all decrease in Russia and the U.S.’s nuclear arsenals, the two countries still have the capability to produce a nuclear winter: a nuclear war that used less than one per cent of the current global arsenal would cause a climate change unprecedented in recorded human history. Let us hope that this summer’s U.N. negotiations to ban nuclear weapons will make it clear that a nation threatening retaliation or a first strike would be acting as a suicide bomber.
Alan Robock, Rutgers University
New Brunswick, N.J.
Lepore has done history and science, your readers, and my late husband, Carl Sagan, a great disservice. Her article’s central thesis demeans Carl’s scientific acumen and his character, wrongly asserting that, in his “grandiosity,” he harmed the environmental movement by advancing an exaggerated theory of the long-term consequences of nuclear war.
From Lepore’s account, readers would conclude that Carl’s interest in the greenhouse effect on Venus was something that he picked up from a bright grad student. In fact, five years earlier, Carl had published his own dissertation, viewed as the beginning of our modern understanding of Venus, which included his groundbreaking greenhouse model.
Lepore also gives the impression that the theory of nuclear winter has been debunked. If anything, more recent scientific research indicates that Carl and his colleagues were conservative in their estimates. Tellingly, she makes no reference to the findings—in peer-reviewed, refereed publications—that fully support, and expand on, the models created by Carl and the other nuclear-winter scientists.
Carl is also faulted for “partisanship,” in part for declining an invitation to dine with the Reagans in the White House—a choice that I made, in response to the El Mozote massacre and other crimes in Central America for which I believed Reagan bore some responsibility. Does Lepore find those public figures and celebrities who refuse to be co-opted by the Trump White House to be partisan? Or is that an unwillingness to lend your cachet to policies that you abhor?
According to Lepore, Sagan “made some poor decisions” and “undermined environmental science.” She leaves the reader to wonder what those bad decisions were. Fighting for the reduction of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons? Sounding the alarm on global warming decades before others started paying attention to it? Mounting the world’s most successful campaign for public scientific literacy? Attracting multitudes to science and reason? Turning the camera on Voyager 1, which was out by Neptune, to point homeward, to make us see our true circumstances in the vastness? What better decisions have other people made?
J Lepore article on the New Yorker from the 30 January 2017 http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/the-atomic-origins-of-climate-science
Paper posted at Harvard by J Lepore http://scholar.harvard.edu/jlepore/publications/autumn-atom-how-arguments-about-nuclear-weapons-shaped-climate-change-debate
Blissfully away from news, and from all matters digital, – I returned to find that the climate and environment politics are worse than ever in USA and Australia.
Meanwhile, on the nuclear scene, things would be farcical, if they were not so dangerous. Donald Trump wants to expand US nuclear arsenal, make it ‘top of the pack’. Australia’s own Dr Helen Caldicott set out all too clearly the grim situation at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.
The farcical part is in the nuclear lobby’s pretense that theirs is a viable industry. As the giant Toshiba corporation nears bankruptcy, and nuclear power stations go down like dominoes in USA, it’s really only China where the industry still might save itself. And that’s dubious, too.
Global action is needed, NOW, to defeat the out-of-control Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Effect of air pollution might have masked mid-20th Century sea ice loss.
EUROPE. Iodine 131 reported in Europe in January 2017 – European radiation facts revealed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_30LrqgHqg Radiation ‘sniffer plane’ over Europe.
JAPAN. Almost six years on, Fukushima nuclear disaster still ongoing nightmare. Global nuclear catastrophe waits in the wings, as Japan plans for Olympics. Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees ‘pressured’ to return to contaminated homes, says Greenpeace. Nuclear station restart at Oi is approved – but local consent is needed. Toshiba’s c rippling burden of its overseas nuclear business.
SOUTH AFRICA. Court case to save South Africa from nuclear-industry caused bankruptcy.
FRANCE. Long closure of Flamanville nuclear reactor is costing EDF £1m a day.
CHINA. China delays nuclear reactor start again and again. Opposition to nuclear power grows. China’s culture, and the fear of speaking out on environmental concerns.
INDIA. Solar power for 7,000 Railway Stations In India.
PAKISTAN. Pakistan and India have agreed to extend their bilateral nuclear safety agreement.
RUSSIA. Russia lessening its reliance on nuclear weapons.
ALGERIA. Algerian human rights agency to prosecute France for nuclear tests.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. Arab states might develop nuclear weapons? United Arab Emirates push for nuclear power
- One more case of suspected thyroid cancer was diagnosed by cytology since the last report.
- No additional surgeries since the last report: the number of confirmed cancer cases remains at 145 (101 in the first round and 44 in the second round)
- Total number of confirmed/suspected thyroid cancer diagnosed (excluding a single case of benign tumor) is 184 (115 in the first round and 69 in the second round)
- The second round screening data is still not final (confirmatory examination still ongoing).
- Thyroid Examination Evaluation Subcommittee will be convened in May or June 2017 to evaluate the results of the second round screening.
On February 20, 2017, less than two months since the last report, the 26th Oversight Committee for Fukushima Health Management Survey convened in Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture. Among other information, the Oversight Committee released the latest results (as of December 31, 2016) of the second and third rounds of the Thyroid Ultrasound Examination (TUE). Official English translation of the results will be posted here. The narrative below presents basic facts of TUE and its current results in perspective, including information covered during the committee meeting and the subsequent press conference.
As of December 31, 2016, there is only 1 more case with cancer or suspicion of cancer from the second round, making a grand total of 184 (185 including the single case of post-surgically confirmed benign nodule) for the first and second round screening results combined. The number of surgically confirmed cancer cases, excluding the aforementioned case of benign nodule, did not change from the previous report (101 from the first round and 44 from the second round), and the remaining 38 (14 from the first round and 24 from the second round) continue to be under observation.
The second round screening (the first Full-Scale screening) was originally scheduled to be conducted from April 2014 through March 2016, and the primary examination (with the participation rate of 70.9% and the progress rate of 100.0%), is essentially complete. But the confirmatory examination (with the participation rate of 79.5% and the progress rate of 95.0%) is still ongoing.
The third round screening (the second Full-Scale Screening) began on May 1, 2016 and is scheduled to run through March 2018–the end of Fiscal Year 2018. As of December 31, 2016, 87,217 out of the survey population of 336,623 residents have participated in the ongoing primary examination at the participation rate of 25.9%. The confirmatory examination began on October 1, 2016, with the participation rate of 29.6% so far.
Full-Scale Screening (first and second)
To be conducted every 2 years until age 20 and every 5 years after age 20, the Full-Scale screening began with the second round screening (the first Full-Scale Screening) in April 2014, including those who were born in the first year after the accident. There are 381,282 eligible individuals born between April 2, 1992 and April 1, 2012. As of December 31, 2016, 270,489 actually participated in the primary examination.
The participation rate remained the same as 3 months earlier at 70.9% but lower than 81.7% from the first round screening. Results of the primary examination have been finalized in 270,468 participants, and 2,226 (increased by 4 since the last Oversight Committee meeting) turned out to require the confirmatory examination.
The confirmatory examination is still ongoing for the second round. Of 2,226 requiring the confirmatory examination, 1,770 have participated at the participation rate of 79.5% (increased from the previous 75.8% but still lower than 92.8% from the first round screening). So far 1,681 have received final results including 95 that underwent fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) which revealed 69 cases suspicious for cancer.
Confirmation of thyroid cancer requires pathological examination of the resected thyroid tissue obtained during surgery. There has been no additional surgical case since the last reporting. As of December 31, 2016, 44 underwent surgery and 43 were confirmed to have papillary thyroid cancer. One remaining case was confirmed to have “other thyroid cancer” according to the classification in the seventh revision of Japan’s unique thyroid cancer diagnostic guidelines. A specific diagnosis was not revealed, but it has been reported as a differentiated thyroid cancer that is not known to be related to radiation exposure and it is allegedly neither poorly differentiated thyroid cancer nor medullary cancer.
The third round screening or the second Full-Scale Screening has covered 87,217 or 25.9% of the survey population of 336,623. The primary examination results have been finalized in 71,083 or 81.5% of the participants, revealing 483 to require the confirmatory examination. Results of the confirmatory examination have been finalized in 64 of 143 (29.6%) that have been examined. FNAC was conducted in one person with a negative result: No cancer case has been diagnosed from the third round as of now.
Conducted every 2 years up to age 20, the TUE transitions at age 25 to milestone screenings to be conducted every 5 years. Some residents are beginning to participate in the age 25 milestone screening, and if they have never participated in the TUE, their milestone screening results will be added to the second round screening results. Thus the number of the second round screening participants is expected to increase even though the screening period technically ended in March 2016.
However, the third round screening survey population excludes the age 25 milestone screening participants: their results will be tallied up separately.
Also in some cases, confirmatory examinations from the second and third rounds might be simultaneously ongoing, or there could be significant delays in conducting confirmatory examinations due to logistical issues such as the lack of manpower. A two-year screening period originally designed for subsequent rounds of the Full-Scale Screening is essentially spread over a longer time period, overlapping with the next round of screening. A precise interpretation of results from each round of screening might be nearly impossible.
A newly diagnosed case in the second round
In the second round, only 1 case was newly diagnosed by FNAC with suspicion of cancer. It is a female from Koriyama-City who was 17 years old at the time of the March 2011 disaster. Her first round screening result was A1.
Prior diagnostic status of the cases newly diagnosed with cancer in the second round
Of 69 total cases suspected or confirmed with cancer in the second round, 32 were A1, 31 were A2, and 5 were B in the first round. One remaining case never underwent the first round screening (no information such as age, sex or place or residence, is available regarding this case).
Thirty-two cases that were A1 in the first round, by definition, had no ultrasound findings of cysts or nodules, whereas 7 of 31 cases that were previously diagnosed as A2 had nodules with the remaining 24 being cysts. All 5 cases that were previously diagnosed as B were nodules, and at least 2 of them had undergone the confirmatory examination in the first round.
This means 56 (32 “A1” and 24 “A2 cysts”)of 69 cases had no nodules detected by ultrasound in the first round which could have developed into cancer. This is 81% of the second round cases suspected or confirmed with cancer. It has been speculated by some that these 56 cases were new onset since the first round, suggesting the cancer began to form in 2 to 3 years after the first round screening, conflicting with the common notion that thyroid cancer in general is slow growing.
Akira Ohtsuru, the head of the TUE, explained that even though some of the small nodules are very easy to detect by ultrasound, exceptions arise when 1) the border of the lesion is ambiguous, 2) the density of the lesion is so low that it blends into the normal tissue, or 3) the lesion resembles the normal tissue. Thus, it is not because the nodules newly formed since the first round screening, but because the nodules were simply not detected even though they were there, that cases which previously had no nodules are now being diagnosed with cancer. Ohtsuru said that when such previously undetected nodules become relatively large enough to become detectable by ultrasound, they might look as if they suddenly appeared. Ohtsuru added that nodules that have already been detected by ultrasound do not to appear to grow very rapidly in general.
This is a better, more legitimate explanation than the previous ones he offered that stated the nodules were present in the first round albeit invisible. However, 56 out of 69 cases seem like a lot to be explained by this.
An issue of the female to male ratio
The female to male ratio of cancer cases warrants a special attention. For thyroid cancer, the female to male ratio is nearly 1:1 in the very young, but it is known to increase with age and decrease with radiation exposure. (See below Slide 2 in this post for more information). In the second round, the female to male ratio has been ranging from 1.19:1 to 1.44:1 overall, but the FY2015 municipalities have consistently shown a higher number of males than females with the most recent female to male ratio of 0.7:1.
What Ohtsuru said about the the female to male ratio boils down to the following:
The female to male ratio for thyroid cancer is influenced by the reason for diagnosis and the age. When the confirmatory examination of the second round screening is completed, the data will be analyzed by adjusting for age and participation rates by sex. The female to male ratio in Japan’s cancer registry data, including all ages, is around 3:1, but it used to be bigger at 4:1 or 6:1 in the 1980’s and earlier. In Fukushima, the TUE was conducted in asymptomatic youth around puberty–a different condition than the cancer registry. Yet even in the cancer registry, the female to male ratio tends to be close to 1:1 up to the puberty. Autopsy data of occult thyroid cancer in individuals who died of causes other than thyroid cancer show the female to male ratio of 1:1 or smaller (more males) in adults. This fact indicates that thyroid cancer screening would yield the female to male ratio close to 1:1 even in adults. Thus, it is scientifically expected that thyroid cancer screening in general leads to a smaller female to male ratio.
He is claiming that thyroid cancer diagnosed by cancer screening before becoming symptomatic–as opposed to symptomatic thyroid cancer diagnosed clinically–is expected to show the female to male ratio near 1:1 or smaller, i.e., as many males are diagnosed as females, or more males are diagnosed than females.
To say the least, calling extrapolation from autopsy data to screening “scientific” seems a bit of a stretch. Furthermore, Ohtsuru’s claim does not add up scientifically. South Korea, where active screening increased the incidence of thyroid cancer, did not observe a smaller female to male ratio as shown in the table of thyroid cancer incidence by sex and age group compiled from Ahn et al. (2016). It is obvious the female incidence is much higher than the male incidence without actually calculating the ratio.
Thyroid cancer incidence by sex and age group per 100,000
in the 16 administrative regions in Korea
Compiled from Supplementary Tables 2 & 3 in Ahn et al. (2016) Thyroid Cancer Screening in South Korea Increases Detection of Papillary Cancers with No Impact on Other Subtypes or Thyroid Cancer Mortality (link)
Furthermore, Ohtsuru’s claim that the female to male ratio tends to be close to 1:1 up to the puberty in the cancer registry is not corroborated by the actual data. The table below was compiled from the National estimates of cancer incidence based on cancer registries. The number of thyroid cancer cases for each sex was listed side-by-side for each year and age group. Then a total from 2000 to 2012 was tallied for each sex and age group to obtain the female to male ratio, because the number of cases varies from year to year. Even without knowing exactly which age range Ohtsuru meant by “up to the puberty,” it is clear that the female to male ratio is not at all close to 1:1.
The number of thyroid cancer cases by sex and age group from 2000 to 2012
Compiled from the National estimates of cancer incidence based on cancer registries in Japan (link)
According to this study, the female to male ratio peaks at puberty and declines with age, as excerpted below:
The increased F:M ratio in thyroid cancer incidence does not remain static with age. Female predominance peaks at puberty. […] This pattern occurs as the thyroid cancer incidence begins to increase at an earlier age in females than in males, leading to a rise in the F:M ratio. The ratio starts to decline as the male incidence rate begins to increase and, concurrently, the rate of increase in female incidence rate slows down. The steady decrease in F:M ratio with age continues, and the peak male rate does not occur until between 65 and 69 years of age, compared with the earlier peak female rate between 45 and 49 years of age, just before the mean age of menopause at 50 years.
An issue of the participation rate
The primary examination participation rate of 70.9% in the second round screening is lower than 81.7% in the first round. Most notable is the participation rate of the oldest age group: 52.7% for ages 16-18 (age at exposure) in the first round plummeted to 25.7% for ages 18-22 (age at examination) in the second round. It is 6.6% for ages 18-24 (age at examination) for the ongoing third round so far.
Younger age groups in school have maintained pretty high participation rates thanks to the school-based screening. The older age group often leave the prefecture for college or jobs, and it becomes increasingly difficult to get them to participate, especially with their interests fading in their busy lives.
The status of the new third-party committee
The “international, third-party, neutral, scientific, up-to-date and evidence-based” expert committee proposed by Chairman Hokuto Hoshi at the last committee meeting is being discussed at the prefectural level in consultation with the central government. The prefectural official admitted that the plan was to establish an independent entity that will offer, from a neutral standpoint, latest knowledge of thyroid cancer needed by the Oversight Committee.
A committee member Tamami Umeda from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare elaborated on her vision of the third-party committee as an entity to review and organize the latest clinical and epidemiological knowledge and studies. It would be separate from the Thyroid Examination Evaluation Subcommittee that is intended to evaluate and analyze the status of the TUE, including the evaluation of radiation effects. (Note: In reality, the Thyroid Examination Evaluation Subcommittee has been far from being effective in analyzing the TUE data due to lack of information released by Fukushima Medical University on the premise of protecting personal clinical data).
Explaining that international organizations frequently separate a scientific review process from discussions relating to policy making in order to maintain neutrality, Umeda said she thought a similar process might be useful for the Fukushima Health Management Survey. This comment drew questions from committee members as well as the press about the status of the Oversight Committee itself: Is it a policy-making body? Is it not scientific enough?
It would make more sense to invite experts to join the Thyroid Examination Evaluation Subcommittee to incorporate knowledge gained from the latest research on thyroid cancer. Why it has to be an “international” committee is unclear other than to say that it was recommended by the Organizing Committee of 5th International Expert Symposium in Fukushima on Radiation and Health, including Shunichi Yamashita. A former chair to the Oversight Committee, Yamashita resigned from the position in March 2013 amid controversies surrounding “secret meetings.” Although no longer involved with the Oversight Committee, he has maintained ties with the Survey as Founding Senior Director of the Radiation Medical Science Center for the Fukushima Health Management Survey, the Office of International Cooperation for the Survey.