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The Japanese government and the Fukushima nuclear disaster – History repeating itself?

17 November 2021

Did you know that there are global agreements against the dumping of nuclear waste into the world’s oceans? They are called the London Convention and London Protocol (LC/LP) and the latest meeting of the government signatories and observers, including Greenpeace International, has just finished under the auspices of the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO). It was an uncomfortable experience for Japanese diplomats trying to defend the decision to dispose of nuclear waste from Fukushima Daiichi into the Pacific Ocean. But it also triggered memories of a different time and a different policy nearly three decades ago when Japan at the IMO took on the role of protecting the marine environment from radioactivity.

The LC/LP international conventions, which were established between the 1970’s and the 1990’s, only exist because of sustained public pressure against governments and the global nuclear industry which from 1946 had been dumping nuclear waste from ships into the world’s oceans. For countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, France, and Russia, military and commercial nuclear programs were producing enormous volumes of nuclear waste of many different types.

Faced with the rapidly growing stockpiles of wastes, from the 1950’s governments choose one of the least costly options for dealing with some of those wastes – dumping solid and liquid wastes directly into the ocean. The thinking was that the waste would be out of sight in the deep ocean and that radioactivity would dilute. Other countries also developing their commercial nuclear power programs, such as Germany and Japan, also supported nuclear waste dumping at sea. Seventy years of the commercial nuclear industry and the nuclear waste crisis has only got worse and still with no viable safe solution.

Greenpeace activists attempt to prevent dumping barrels of nuclear waste from the ship Scheldeborg. North Atlantic

Fortunately, the last known deliberate nuclear waste dumping from a ship into the ocean was in October 1993 when the Russian navy dumped 900 tons of liquid and solid nuclear waste into the international waters off the coast of Vladivostok in the sea near Japan and Korea. The justifications offered by the government in Moscow were that the issue was urgent as storage space was running out, that the radioactive waste was not hazardous, and that the dumping was carried out according to international norms. 

Sound familiar?

History on repeat

The Japanese government in April 2021 announced its decision to proceed with plans for the deliberate discharge of nuclear waste water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Even beyond the 900 tons of nuclear waste the Russian’s dumped in 1993, Japan plans for more than at least 1.2 million tons to be mixed with sea water and discharged via a sub-seabed pipeline into the Pacific Ocean. The discharges are scheduled to take 30 years, but are almost certainly going to last much longer.

In 1993, the Japanese government called the Russian dumping extremely regrettable. Now, the Japanese government justifies its plans to discharge over 1 million tons of radioactive waste water as “necessary” because storage space is not available, and that the water is not contaminated but “treated”. Nearly 30 years apart, the dezinformatsiya, perfected by the Soviet Union and Russia and used to justify waste dumping, is mirrored by the disinformation from Tokyo. 

In early 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), already knew of Russia’s plans to dump nuclear waste, but did not intervene and chose not to inform Tokyo. Today, the IAEA has formed a partnership with the Japanese government to provide cover for its plans and to  ensure, as it states, that the discharges will be done safely and in line with international practice. It continues to play the same historical role as set down in its 1957 statute of supporting and promoting the interests of the nuclear industry, not protecting the environment or public health.

Greenpeace documenting Russian ship TNT27 dumping nuclear waste in the sea near Japan and Korea. 18 October 1993

Since the 1970’s Greenpeace had been challenging nuclear sea dumping. After years of investigations and campaigning, the Russian navy’s secret operations to pump nuclear waste into the sea were challenged and filmed by the Nuclear Free Seas campaign team on board the Motor Vessel Greenpeace ship on 18 October 1993. While the MV Greenpeace sat off the Russian coast after the Russian military ship TNT27 and other navy vessels returned to port to pick up another cargo of nuclear waste, their nuclear dumping exposed to world attention, the Russian’ government announced on 22 October that it would halt further disposal plans. The TNT27 remained in port. 

By the time the Greenpeace ship had docked in Japan, the government of Morihiro Hosokawa had announced a policy change. It would no longer advocate nuclear waste disposal at sea. Instead, it would support an amendment to the London Convention at the November 1993 meeting at the IMO that would prohibit all nuclear waste disposal at sea. Both then and now, Greenpeace International representatives were at the IMO meeting pushing for an end to radioactive pollution of the marine environment.

I played a very minor role at that time, chasing the then IAEA Director Hans Blix, from Seoul to Tokyo with a copy of a telex (it was three decades ago!) from the Russian government informing Blix of their plans for nuclear dumping. The IAEA for some reason had chosen not to inform the Japanese government. Travelling from South Korea to Japan, I still remember as if it was only yesterday how moved I was watching my Greenpeace colleagues John Sprange, Twilly Cannon, Dima Litvinov, Thomas Schultz, captain Pete Wilcox and the rest of the crew of the MV Greenpeace confronting the Russian navy on NHK TV .

One further result of Greenpeace International, Greenpeace Germany, and Greenpeace Japan’s exposé of Russian dumping was that the Japanese government took the decision to financially support the building of additional storage and processing facilities for nuclear waste in the Russian Far East. This was a point that Greenpeace International has emphasised over the years at IMO meetings and drew the parallels for the Fukushima water crisis. 

Failed discussions and agreements

A principal objective of the London Convention and London Protocol is to protect the marine environment from pollution, including man-made radioactivity. However, the Japanese government contends that their plans for Fukushima contaminated water have nothing to do with the conventions. In fact, at the latest meeting on 26 October 2021, Japan tried to stop further discussion of the Fukushima water issue, arguing that the IAEA was the correct place to discuss such matters and it was not appropriate for governments to consider the issues at the LC/LP United Nations hosted meeting. This is an absurd and scientifically bankrupt position when radioactivity discharged from a pipeline poses potentially a greater coastal threat to the marine environment than deep sea dumping from a ship. 

Jacob Namminga from the Netherlands, head of radiation protection for the Greenpeace survey team doing marine sediment sampling onboard Asakaze, a Japanese research vessel chartered by Greenpeace Japan. The organisation is doing radiation survey work off shore of Fukushima Daiichi, doing sea bed survey and sampling of marine sediment with the Rainbow Warrior acting as a campaign support ship. A gamma ray spectrometer is used to measure the distribution of radioactivity discharged from the plant, and sampling and the under water videos /stills documentation are conducted by a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). All samples will be sealed upon before transport to independent laboratories in Japan and France.

Japan failed to end discussion of the Fukushima contaminated water issue at the LC/LP. In Greenpeace International’s written submission, Greenpeace International proposed that a scientific working group be established under the LC/LP that would consider the alternatives to discharging the Fukushima waste into the Pacific. Greenpeace International argued, as in 1993, that there were alternatives to the Russian dumping, namely additional storage and applying best available processing technology, and that these should also be applied at Fukushima Daiichi.

In 1993, Russia accepted international assistance and the dumping stopped. However, Dr. David Santillo, Greenpeace International’s science representative reported that Japan refused to consider this option at the October 2021 IMO meeting, and its position was supported by the United States, France and the UK. The governments of South Korea, Chile, China, and the Pacific Island nations of Vanuatu and Palau all spoke in favour of reviewing alternatives to discharge in a technical working group. The meetings operate on consensus and with Japan’s objections, agreement to assess alternatives was impossible. Dr. David Santillo, challenged the IAEA over its role, and asked if it could be tasked with reporting on its discussions with Japan on the alternatives to discharges. The IAEA has agreed to report back in 2022. 

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident marks the 10-year anniversary on March 11, 2021. Greenpeace Japan has been conducting continuous radiation surveys in Fukushima Prefecture right after the accident, and in November 2020, we conducted our 32nd survey in Iitate and Namie.

There is a historical resonance and also a tragic irony with Japan’s attempts to remove discussion of its Fukushima nuclear waste crisis from international review at the LC/LP IMO meetings. The Russian dumping in 1993 caused public and political outrage in Japan. The Japanese government of Hosokawa subsequently played an important and critical role at the LC/LP meeting when it supported the prohibition of all nuclear waste ocean dumping. Nearly thirty years ago its position was no doubt informed by self-interest – protecting its coastal waters from radioactive pollution and the rights of its own citizens, especially the fishing communities that were at risk. 

Back then, the position of the Japanese government was the right and just thing to do. Today, protecting the marine environment from deliberate radioactive pollution still remains the right and legal thing to do – except that’s not what’s happening.  
Instead, the government of Prime Minister Kishida, like his predecessors Abe and Suga, are disregarding and disrespecting the views and rights of their own citizens and fishing communities along the Tohoku coast.

The decision to discharge violates an agreement to abide by the views of the Fukushima fishing federations. They are not acting to protect the marine environment from radioactive pollution but instead will be the source of pollution. The Japanese government is also seeking to avoid scrutiny of their plans and to dismiss the concerns and opposition of neighbours in the Asia Pacific region, near and far. And they clearly don’t want to explore any viable alternative options of storage and processing.

Continuing the fight

There are many technical and radiological reasons to be opposed to discharging Fukushima waste water into the Pacific Ocean. And Greenpeace East Asiahas reported on these and continues to investigate. But the decision also affects you on a fundamental level. It should rightly trigger an outrage. In the 21st century, when the world’s oceans are already under the most severe threats including the climate and biodiversity emergencies, a decision by any government to deliberately contaminate the Pacific with radioactivity because it’s the least cost/cheapest option when there are clear alternatives seems so perverse. That it is Japan, given its historical role in securing the prohibition on nuclear dumping in the London Convention and London Protocol, makes it all the more tragic.

On occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Greenpeace Japan activists hold up a banner saying “Stand with Fukushima” in front of the national Diet (Parliament) building, calling for the Japanese government to shift to a renewable energy future.

There are numerous legal problems facing Japan’s plans – they have dismally failed to consult with affected coastal countries, including South Korea, China and northern Pacific Island States; they have failed to conduct an environmental impact assessment, and they have obligations not to allow pollution from their own waters to pollute international waters or the waters of other countries. This disregard for the human rights of both their own Japanese citizens, as well as those in the wider Asia Pacific region, including indigenous people’s has justifiably been challenged, not least by UN human rights Special Rapporteurs

Japan is under international legal obligation to take all measures possible to avoid transboundary pollution from radioactivity, and its failure to develop the alternatives to dumping in the Pacific by continued storage (which it can certainly extend; it is a question of money) and treating the water to remove radioactive, including carbon-14 and tritium, (another question of money).  But these are just reflections of the blazingly obvious: Japan is exporting its radioactive pollution by dumping it in the Pacific ocean. 

However, there is time to stop the discharges which are due to begin in 2023, at the earliest. The governments attending the LC/LP, under the auspices of the United Nations IMO, together with Greenpeace International, will continue to question and challenge the Japanese government on the Fukushima nuclear waste water crisis. It’s only one of several international instruments that allow scrutiny of the Fukushima Daiichi plant and to directly challenge the plans to discharge. The articles of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) have even greater relevance and application to Tokyo’s misguided plans. The new government of Kishida may yet find out, as the government of Boris Yeltsin did nearly three decades ago, that you may have plans for dumping radioactive waste into the sea, but it does not mean you will be able to.

Shaun Burnie is a Senior Nuclear Specialist at Greenpeace East Asia.

November 23, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

85% of Special Decontamination Area remained contaminated Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning road map unachievable – a new plan is inevitable

2021-03-04

Mar 4, 2021 (Greenpeace Japan) – Nearly a decade after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, Greenpeace released two reports today that highlighted the complex legacy of the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. 

The first report Fukushima 2011-2020 detailed radiation levels in Iitate and Namie in Fukushima prefecture. Our original findings showed that decontamination efforts have been limited and that 85% of the Special Decontamination Area has undergone no decontamination. 

The second report Decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station From Plan-A to Plan-B Now, from Plan-B to Plan-C critiqued the current official decommission plan within 30-40 years of having no prospects of success and is delusional. 

“Successive governments during the last ten years, and largely under prime minister Shinzo Abe, have attempted to perpetrate a myth about the nuclear disaster. They have sought to deceive the Japanese people by misrepresenting the effectiveness of the decontamination program and ignoring radiological risks,” said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist at Greenpeace East Asia. 

“At the same time, they continue to claim that the Fukushima Daiichi site can be returned to ‘greenfield’ status by mid-century. The decade of deception and delusion on the part of the government and TEPCO must end. A new decommissioning plan is inevitable so why waste any more time with the current fantasy?” Burnie added.

The first Greenpeace radiation expert team arrived in Fukushima prefecture on 26 March 2011, and have conducted 32 investigations into the radiological consequences of the disaster over the last decade, the most recent in November 2020. The key findings of the radiation report Fukushima 2011-2020 are:

  • Greenpeace has consistently found that most of the 840 square kilometers Special Decontamination Area(SDA), where the government is responsible for decontamination, remains contaminated with radioactive cesium. 
  • Analysis of the government’s own data shows that in the SDA an overall average of only 15% has been decontaminated.
  • No time frame for when the Japanese government’s long-term decontamination target level of 0.23 microsieverts per hour (μSv/h) will be achieved in many areas. Citizens will be subjected for decades of radiation exposure in excess of 1mSv/y recommended maximum.
  • In the areas where evacuation orders were lifted in 2017, specifically, Namie and Iitate, radiation levels remain above safe limits, potentially exposing the population to increased cancer risk. Plans to continue to lift evacuation orders are unacceptable from a public health perspective.
  • Up till 2018, tens of thousands of decontamination workers had been employed in decontamination in the SDA. As documented by Greenpeace[1], the workers, most of whom are poorly paid subcontractors, have been exposed to unjustified radiation risks for a limited and ineffective decontamination program. 

The key findings of The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station decommissioning report[2] are:

  • There are no credible plans for retrieval of the hundreds of tons of nuclear fuel debris remaining inside and under the three Reactor Pressure vessels – it requires a fundamental review. 
  • Water used in reactor cooling and groundwater contamination, and therefore accumulating in tanks, will keep growing into the future unless a new approach is adopted.
  • All nuclear contaminated material should remain on the site indefinitely. If the nuclear fuel debris is ever retrieved, it also should remain on site. Fukushima Daiichi is already and should remain a nuclear waste storage site for the long term. 
  • The current plan is unachievable in the timeframe of 30-40 years in the current road map and impossible to achieve in terms of returning the site to greenfield.

It is recommended that a fundamental rethink in approach and a new plan for the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi, including a delay in molten fuel removal for 50-100 years or longer is needed with the construction of secure containment buildings for the long term. The Primary Containment vessel, with reinforcement, should be used as an incomplete primary boundary and the reactor building as the secondary boundary for the medium-to-long term, while developing robotic technology that can perform tasks without high radiation risks to human workers. 

Finally, to prevent the further increase of radioactive contaminated water, cooling of nuclear fuel debris should be switched from water to air cooling, and the Fukushima Daiichi site should be made into a ‘dry island’ isolated from groundwater with the construction of a deep moat. 

ENDS

Links to full reports: 

Notes:

[1] Greenpeace Japan, “On the Frontline of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Workers and Children Radiation risks and human rights violations”, March 2019

[2] Report commissioned by Greenpeace from a consulting nuclear engineer, formerly with General Electric including at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, Mr. Satoshi Sato.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s Radioactive Legacy with Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace

Shaun Burnie, of Greenpeace, discusses the Fukushima radioactive water problem and the impacts of the nuclear power industry on the environment and people. This video was organized in partnership with groups making up the Coalition for Nuclear Safety. Recorded on October 30, 2020

November 15, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Greenpeace Warns ‘Potential Damage to Human DNA’ at Risk With Japan’s Plan to Dump Fukushima Water Into Ocean

“The policy of the Japanese government to dump nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean is not based on scientific or environmental protection principles and has no justification.”

Storage tanks for radioactive water stand at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on Jan. 29, 2020 in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.

Greenpeace sounded alarm Friday over the Japanese government’s plan to release stored water from the ill-fated Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, releasing a new report warning about the presence of carbon-14, which the group says “has the potential to damage human DNA.”

The warning laid out in a new report says the government and plant operator TEPCO’s controversial plan—which has been under consideration for some time—is founded on “a series of myths” and pursues the cheapest option to get rid of the water over what is best for human and ecological health.

The plan allows “the government [to] create the impression that substantial progress is being made in the early decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors,” Greenpeace says. 

Entitled Stemming the tide 2020: The reality of the Fukushima radioactive water crisis, the publication argues that the planned release of the water “will have serious, long-term consequences for communities and the environment, locally and much further afield.”

“Nearly 10 years after the start of the disaster, TEPCO and the Japanese government are still covering up the scale of the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi,” said Shaun Burnie, author of the report and senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany. He further accused the entities of having “deliberately held back for years detailed information on the radioactive material in the contaminated water.”

Beyond the remaining radioactive material tritium in the water, an additional problem is the presence of high levels of carbon-14, which belies the government’s assertion that the water is not “contaminated,” said Greenpeace.

According to the report, If the contaminated water is discharged to the Pacific Ocean, all of the carbon-14 will be released to the environment. With a half-life of 5,730 years, carbon-14 is a major contributor to global human collective dose; once introduced into the environment carbon-14 will be delivered to local, regional, and global populations for many generations. […] Contrary to the understanding of the Japanese government, water that contains large quantities of radioactive carbon-14 (as well as the other radioactive isotopes including strontium-90 and tritium) can only be described as contaminated.

Burnie said that TEPCO and the Japanese government “have failed to explain to the citizens of Fukushima, wider Japan, and to neighboring countries such as South Korea and China that the contaminated water to be dumped into the Pacific Ocean contains dangerous levels of carbon-14. These, together with other radionuclides in the water will remain hazardous for thousands of years with the potential to cause genetic damage.”

“It’s one more reason why these plans have to be abandoned,” said Burnie.

The report puts some of the blame on TEPCO’s decision to rely on technology known as ALPS that the operator should have known was incapable of bringing concentrations of radionuclides down to acceptable levels.

Rather than quickly moving to dump the water into the ocean, the Greenpeace report says the government should pursue “continued long-term storage and processing of the contaminated water.”

“There is no technical, engineering, or legal barrier to securing additional storage space for ALPS-treated contaminated water. It is a matter of political will,” said Burnie.

“The policy of the Japanese government to dump nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean is not based on scientific or environmental protection principles,” he said, “and has no justification.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/10/23/greenpeace-warns-potential-damage-human-dna-risk-japans-plan-dump-fukushima-water?fbclid=IwAR2ZgJZ1obTZDHZiFBuggz2R5t0lvDphkKs_zDl5M_-EOvipVTIxB7nPshs

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: Contaminated water could damage human DNA, Greenpeace says

The radioactive water has been stored in huge tanks which will fill up by 2022

October 23, 2020

Contaminated water from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant contains a radioactive substance that has the potential to damage human DNA, a report by Greenpeace says.

The claim from the environmental campaign group follows media reports suggesting the government plans to release the water into the ocean.

Many scientists say the risk is low but some environmentalists oppose the idea.

The government has not yet responded to the Greenpeace report.

For years Japan has debated over what to do with the more than a million tonnes of water used to cool the power station, which went into meltdown in 2011 after being hit by a massive tsunami.

Space to store the liquid – which includes groundwater and rain that seeps daily into the plant – will fill up by 2022.

The government says most of the radioactive isotopes have been removed using a complex filtration process but one isotope, tritium, cannot be removed.

Last week Japanese media reported that the government had decided to start releasing the water into the sea from 2022. Under the reported plans, the water would be diluted inside the plant first in a process that would take several decades.

In its report Stemming the tide 2020: The reality of the Fukushima radioactive water crisis released on Friday, Greenpeace claimed the contaminated water contained “dangerous levels of carbon-14”, a radioactive substance that it says has the “potential to damage human DNA”.

The group accused the government of suggesting the water was “treated” giving the impression it “only contains tritium”.

The government said no decision had been made, but observers think one could be announced by the end of the month.

Environmental groups have long expressed their opposition to releasing the water into the ocean. And fishing groups have argued against it, saying consumers will refuse to buy produce from the region.

However some scientists say the water would quickly be diluted in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, and that tritium poses a low risk to human and animal health.

What happened in 2011?

On 11 March 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the north-eastern coast of Japan, triggering a 15-metre tsunami.

While the back-up systems to prevent a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant survived the initial quake, further damage was inflicted by the tsunami.

As the facility’s cooling systems failed in the days that followed, tonnes of radioactive material were released. The meltdown was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Around 18,500 people died or disappeared in the quake and tsunami, and more than 160,000 were forced from their homes.

Billions of dollars in compensation have already been paid to individuals and businesses affected by the disaster. Last month, a Japanese high court upheld a ruling ordering the government and the plant’s operating company to pay a further $9.5m (£7.3m).

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-54658379?fbclid=IwAR3BMy4jGsaWyFXyqePd-P1EuwIILX7xUCemja79yDsFHBEBslfylWc5VnU

October 26, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Fukushima’s radioactive water discharge is important to Koreans’

optimizeGreenpeace nuclear campaigner Shaun Burnie in front of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, five years after the accident. The environmental organization has launched an underwater investigation into the marine impacts of radioactive contamination on the Pacific Ocean resulting from the 2011 nuclear disaster,

By Bahk Eun-ji

March 13, 2020

Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany, has been working in Fukushima since 1997 to stop the operation of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, with much of his time based in Japan.

Among a number of nuclear experts around the world who have been condemning the Japanese government’s plan to discharge radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima power plant into the Pacific Ocean, Burnie claims this issue is clearly important to Koreans as they understand the risks of nuclear energy and care about the environment.

“Fukushima is a defining issue of this time as it continues to pose a threat to the environment not just of Japan but the Asia Pacific region. This is a nuclear disaster with no end and Koreans realize that only by speaking up and opposing bad decisions can the progress be made in protecting our environment,” he said.

The nuclear expert said the opposition in Korea to the Japanese government’s plan to discharge contaminated water from Fukushima is entirely justified and essential, so the opposition should continue here in Korea. At the same time, Koreans also should be supporting the local Japanese communities who are opposed to the discharges.

Burnie also said the discharges of the contaminated water are a direct threat to the marine ecosystem and human health as all radioactivity has the potential to cause harm as technically there is no safe level of exposure. The discharges are more than tritium, which can cause damage to human and non-human DNA, but also many other radionuclides such as strontium that, even if processing of the contaminated water is successful, will still be discharged in enormous quantities.

“None of this can be justified from an environmental perspective when there is a clear alternative ― long term storage and processing to remove radionuclides, including tritium.”

The Japanese government has sought for many years to deny that there are radiation risks in Fukushima, which is a central part of their strategy to support nuclear power. By creating the illusion that Fukushima has recovered from the 2011 disaster, the Japanese government think they can convince people to support the restarting of nuclear reactors although the majority of Japanese people are against it.

“It is one reason why the human rights of tens of thousands of Fukushima citizens, including women and children, as well as tens of thousands of workers are violated consistently by the Japanese government,” he said.
https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2020/03/371_286064.html

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Radioactivity on the move 2020: Recontamination and weather-related effects in Fukushima

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9 March 2020

Tokyo, Japan – Greenpeace Japan’s latest extensive radiation survey

has found evidence of recontamination caused by 2019’s Typhoon 19 (Hagibis) and Typhoon 21 (Bualoi), which released radioactive caesium from the forested mountains of Fukushima Prefecture. 

The survey, which was conducted over three weeks in October and November of 2019, observed concentrated radiation levels throughout Fukushima Prefecture. These localised areas were where radioactivity was observed at higher levels than in previous years, as well as a reduction in levels in some areas, and recontamination elsewhere. 

The survey identified high-level hotspots throughout Fukushima Prefecture, including in Fukushima City. This ongoing and complex radiological emergency in parts of Fukushima Prefecture runs directly counter to the narrative of the Japanese government which continues to push its propaganda of normalization in Fukushima and the effectiveness of its massive decontamination program.

Typhoons no. 19 & 21 deposited large volumes of rain across Japan, including in Fukushima Prefecture. In recent years, scientists have been reporting the effect of heavy rainfall leading to increased migration of radioactivity from mountainous forests through the river systems. 

The results of our 2019 radiation survey demonstrate the complex and persistent nature of radionuclide mobilization and recontamination in areas of Fukushima Prefecture. The mountainous forest regions of Fukushima prefecture, which have never been decontaminated, will continue to be long-term sources of recontamination. The findings from our recent radiation survey definitively disprove the myth of a ‘return to normal’ in parts of Fukushima.” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Japan.

The main findings of the Greenpeace Japan investigation include:

  • Hotspots measured in all areas surveyed; including Okuma, Naraha (J-Village), as well in Fukushima City.
  • Significant variations in radiation levels from previous years in certain zones that cannot be explained by radioactive decay. 
  • Likely remobilization of radioactivity in the soil and weather-related effects resulting from heavy rainfall was also identified in the reopened area of Iitate, with significant changes in radiation levels comparing across the five year period for which we have data.
  • Along the Takase river in the newly reopened area of Namie, and where the government claims it is safe to live, 99% of radiation levels averaged 0.8 μSv/h with a maximum of 1.7 μSv/h, with 99% exceeded the government’s long-term decontamination target of 0.23 μSv/h measured at 1 meter and were twenty (20) times higher than pre-2011 levels.
  • In a period of four hours, the survey team identified forty-six (46) hot spots in the around Fukushima City central station, eleven of which equaled or exceeded the Japanese government decontamination long term target of 0.23 μSv/h measured at 1 meter; including observed levels of radiation that 137 times higher than the background radiation levels measured in the Fukushima environment prior to the 2011 nuclear disaster. 
  • In an area close to a former school and kindergarten in the reopened area of Namie, annual dose rates would be between 10-20 mSv based on the Japanese government methodology and between 17-33 mSv based on sustained exposure over a full year; which are between 10 and 33 times above the international recommended maximum exposure for the public.
  • Near the new town hall in the newly reopened area of Okuma, and within a few hundred meters of the planned Olympic torch route, radiation hotspots were measured to be of 1.5 µSv/h at 1 meter and 2.5 µSv/h at 10cm (62 times above the background levels of 0.04 µSv/h before the nuclear accident in March 2011).
  • The evidence from earlier typhoons and resulting data strongly suggest that there was a substantial increase in downstream contamination from October 2019. Greenpeace intends to return later this year to further investigate and substantiate the hypothesis of major weathering effects in Fukushima.

The radiation hotspots we found in public areas along the pavements and streets of central Fukushima City, including tens of meters from the entrance to the Shinkansen train line to Tokyo, highlight the ongoing scale of the nuclear disaster in 2011. The hotspots we found are at a level that they would require a special license to be transported and in the category of Dangerous Goods. The government is using the Olympics as a platform to communicate the myth that everything has returned to normal in Fukushima. They falsely claim that radiation has either been decontaminated or is under control. Our radiation survey clearly shows that the government propaganda is not true.” said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist of Greenpeace Germany.

Mizue Kanno, a resident of Namie who cooperated on the Greenpeace radiation survey said, “I hope the world knows the real situation in Fukushima. Radioactivity is washing down from the mountains due to heavy rain and flowing into the decontaminated areas. The radiation levels found around my house are higher than ever before. Once a nuclear accident happens, it looks like this, and soon we are going to have the Olympics and pretend that everything is okay. It’s not. ”

ENDS

Notes:

Full report in English, here


Photos and videos, here

https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/29250/radioactivity-on-the-move-2020/

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | 1 Comment

Fukushima and the 2020 Olympics

by Shaun Burnie –  5 February 2020

As 2020 is the year the Olympics and Paralympics come to Japan, this is an exciting time for sports and for the people of Japan. Amidst all the excitement however, there is the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima prefecture. Labeled as the ‘Reconstruction Olympics’, Prime Minister Abe in 2013 declared that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi was under control. Seven years later there still remains a nuclear emergency at the nuclear plant and surrounding areas. In addition to the enormous challenges of how to safely manage over 1 million tonnes of contaminated water at the site and as much as 880 tonnes of molten nuclear fuel for which there is no credible solution, there remain wider issues regarding radioactive contamination of the environment, its effect on workers and Fukushima citizens, including evacuees and their human rights.

01Greenpeace radiation survey team in Fukushima, Japan

 

These issues were the subject of a 28 January 2020 documentary

broadcast by the U.S. network HBO as an investigative report by the program ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel ’, the U.S.’s most-honored sports journalism series (with 33 Sports Emmy Awards, including 19 for Outstanding Sports Journalism) during the opening episode of its 26th season. 

What does it mean to host the Olympics and Paralympics in the context of an ongoing nuclear disaster, the effects of which are still being felt by tens of thousands of Japanese citizens? What does it tell about the Japanese government and its commitment to respecting the values of transparency and the human rights of its citizens? These are some of the important questions raised by HBO and they warrant careful consideration in the months leading up to this year’s summer games.

02Greenpeace radiation survey team in Fukushima, Japan

 

Greenpeace Japan applauds Olympic values and spirit, while recognizing that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has the responsibility to ensure the Olympic Games have a minimum impact on the environment and leave a positive legacy for those hosting the Games. The IOC has an opportunity to do this in a way that fulfills the ideals of the environment as the third pillar of Olympism – sustainability – by making the Games a showcase for environmental solutions. Simultaneously, we recognize that hosting the Olympics and Paralympics requires the Japanese Government to ensure absolute safety for athletes, international visitors, and the Japanese public alike. 

The decision to host two sporting events in Fukushima city raises genuine and important questions over radiation risks. The route of the Olympic Torch relay in all the municipalities of Fukushima prefecture includes the districts of Iitate, Namie, and Okuma where Greenpeace Japan’s Nuclear Monitoring & Radiation Protection Team has discovered radioactive hotspots, both in the open areas as well as in the remaining radiation exclusion zones, that remain too high even by revised governmental standards. What does all this mean for the hosting of Olympic events, including for athletes and visitors?

03Greenpeace radiation survey team in Fukushima, Japan

 

By conducting extensive radiation investigations, Greenpeace Japan attempts to explain the complex radiological environment, where nothing is straightforward, and where judging precise risks to health at the individual level is near impossible. In an effort to better understand and explain the radiological situation in parts of Fukushima, as well as the ongoing issues of human rights for both Fukushima citizens and decontamination workers, Greenpeace Japan will be publishing its latest radiation survey results in early March 2020.

Shaun Burnie is Senior Nuclear Specialist at Greenpeace Germany.

https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/28509/fukushima-and-the-2020-olympics/

February 6, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Korea should take leading role in stopping Japan from discharging radioactive water’

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Chang Mari, a Climate and Energy Campaigner at the Greenpeace East Asia Seoul Office, poses for a picture during the inspection in Fukushima, Japan, in October 2019
January 4, 2020
By Kim Jae-heun
 
“Korea should take a leading role in stopping Japan from discharging radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean,” said Chang Mari, a Climate and Energy Campaigner at the Greenpeace East Asia Seoul Office, Tuesday.
 
The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry revealed last Monday its draft reviewing three ways to dispose of 1.15 million tons of radioactive contaminated water stored in some 980 tanks at power plants in Fukushima. It said Japan can discharge the radioactive water into the ocean, evaporate it into the air or a combination of the two methods.
 
Chang warned that if Japan really chooses to dump contaminated water into the ocean, it can cause serious damage to marine life and the ecosystems of not only the neighboring countries but the whole world.
 
“Korea, obviously will be affected the most by the discharge, as Japan’s closest neighbor. However, water flows and it will eventually bring damage to the whole world,” Chang said. “When a tsunami hit nuclear power plants in Fukushima in 2011, a high level of radioactive water leaked into the Pacific Ocean and it traveled around the world for a year to return to the East Sea. We found the level of cesium went up in the water there.
 
“The world knows this is dangerous but nobody is taking action because Japan has not confirmed its final decision on this issue yet. Tokyo is now observing what other nations have to say about their draft. However, other countries, especially developed countries, cannot protest Japan confidently, because they have had or still are discharging radioactive waste into the environment as well,” Chang said.
 
According to Chang, the United States, Russia and China are not entitled to complain to Japan about the pollution. Even South Korea has been operating nuclear power plants and has already flown tritium into the sea, so it cannot be innocent.
 
However, the amount of tritium flowing into the sea at the time of nuclear power generation is much smaller than the amount Japan is reviewing to discharge.
 
“Korea will suffer an unprecedented and unpredictable level of damage if Japan release radioactive water into the ocean. Therefore, Korea has to take action on the national level and conduct research to set it as a global agenda in solving it,” Chang said.
 
“Approaching the issue with the international law of the sea, it is Korea that has to take the leading role, because it will be affected the most as a neighboring country,” Chang added.

January 12, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

High-level radiation hot spots found at J-Village, the starting point of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay

1e892707-191026_j_villageThe Japan leg of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic torch relay will start at a the J-Village soccer facility in Fukushima Prefecture.

Tokyo, Japan, 4 December 2019 – High-level radiation hot spots have been found at the sports complex where the 2020 Tokyo Olympic torch relays will begin, according to a survey to be released by Greenpeace Japan. The radiation levels around J-Village Stadium in Fukushima Prefecture were as high as 71 microsieverts per hour at surface level. This is 1,775 times higher than the 0.04 microsieverts per hour prior to the Fukushima Daiichi triple reactor meltdown in 2011.

Greenpeace’s Nuclear Monitoring & Radiation Protection Advisors detected and documented several radiation hot spots on 26 October during its annual survey, which will be published in spring 2020. On 18 November, Greenpeace Japan sent a letter to Minister Koizumi of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment

, demanding immediate decontamination measures and assurance that the public will not be exposed to radiation hot spots during the Olympics and Paralympics events at J-Village. Copies were also sent to the President of the International Olympic Committee, as well as the Presidents of the International Paralympic Committee, Japanese Olympic and Paralympic Committees, and the Governor of Fukushima Prefecture, who is also the President of J-Village. 

Greenpeace has yet to receive a response from the Japanese government but is publicly releasing the information on the radiation hot spots due to an article published today (4 December) by Sankei Shimbun.

The article reports some details of Greenpeace Japan’s letter to the Japanese government and Olympic bodies, which was leaked to the media by an unknown official. The article states that the soil around the particular hotspot with 71 microsieverts per hour at surface level was removed by TEPCO yesterday (3 December).

While general radiation levels were low at the J-Village, these radiation hot spots are of significant public health concern. Radiation hot spots of such high levels can be found in the closed area around Fukushima (so-called Area 3), but should not be present in publicly accessible areas. Yet, they are at a location that has been the focus of an extensive decontamination program and is also the starting point for the Olympic torch relay in Japan. 

These radiation hot spots highlight both the scale of contamination caused by the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, and the failure of decontamination efforts. We have called on the Ministry of Environment to act urgently and to initiate immediate decontamination,” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan. 

The radiation hot spots at the parking lot close to J-Village are of particular concern because they are located in an area that is currently visited by a large number of people. The highest figures were: 71µSv/h at contact, 32µSv/h at 10cm, 6µSv/h at 50cm and 1.7µSv/h at 1m, while the official Japanese government’s decontamination threshold is 0.23µSv/h. 

There is a risk that heavy rain will spread these higher levels of contamination on public roads, and thus re-contaminate already decontaminated surfaces. This could partially undo earlier efforts to decontaminate the public areas in J-Village. From our observations, it is unlikely that radiation hot spots of such high levels re-emerged from re-contamination after the previous decontamination. It is more logical that the decontamination was not sufficiently and thoroughly conducted in the first place,” said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist at Greenpeace Germany and the team leader of the survey.

To protect public safety, Greenpeace Japan demands that the Japanese government conduct an immediate and extensive radiation survey of the public areas in and around J-Village and nearby Olympic/Paralympic venues. Furthermore, they should promptly conduct decontamination if further radiation hot spots are identified. Regular screenings of the radiation levels in J-Village should be also conducted to monitor possible re-contamination of public areas.

Greenpeace’s Nuclear Monitoring & Radiation Protection Advisors will soon re-test the J-Village to determine if subsequent decontamination attempts have been adequately conducted.

https://www.greenpeace.org/japan/uncategorized/press-release/2019/12/04/11770/?fbclid=IwAR2ipzVjeLhwCvAc4szkNbgg_tBfcL4SU7RM9eeLbY6Zt_W43D3qYfZSbHg

December 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Olympics-Radiation hot spots found at Tokyo 2020 torch relay start – Greenpeace

1e892707-191026_j_village.pngJ-village

December 4, 2019

TOKYO, Dec 4 (Reuters) – Radiation hot spots have been found at the J-Village sports facility in Fukushima where the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay will begin, Greenpeace Japan said on Wednesday.

Greenpeace found that radiation levels around the recently refurbished venue, which also hosted the Argentina team during the Rugby World Cup earlier this year, were significantly higher than before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor meltdown following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Greenpeace’s survey found radioactivity readings taken at J-Village on Oct. 26 as high as 71 microsieverts per hour at surface level.

People are exposed to natural radiation of 2,000-3,000 microsieverts a year, so anyone staying in the vicinity of J-Village for two or more days could be exposed to more than that.

These readings, although not deemed life-threatening if exposed for a short length of time, are 1,775 times higher than prior to the March 2011 disaster, according to the NGO.

The Olympic flame is due to arrive from Greece in Japan on March 20, with the torch relay officially starting from J-Village on March 26.

Greenpeace said in a statement that it had sent its findings to Japan’s Ministry of Environment, but had received no response.

“There is a risk that heavy rain will spread these higher levels of contamination on public roads, and thus re-contaminate already decontaminated surfaces,” warned Greenpeace nuclear specialist Shaun Burnie, team leader of the J-Village survey, in a statement.

An ministry official acknowledged to Reuters on Wednesday that the ministry had been alerted to higher radiation level readings in an area surrounding J-Village and that decontamination measures had been taken.

“The ministry cooperated with related groups to decrease radiation levels in that area,” said the official.

“On Dec. 3, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) took measures to decrease radiation levels in said area.”

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station, located about 220 km (130 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011, sparking three reactor meltdowns.

More than 160,000 residents fled nearby towns in the aftermath as radiation from the reactors contaminated water, food and air. Greenpeace called on the Japanese government to conduct more extensive radiation surveys in the area and the NGO planned to return to J-Village soon to “determine if subsequent decontamination attempts have been adequately conducted.”

Tokyo 2020 organisers could not be immediately reached for comment.

Worries that local food could be contaminated by the nuclear disaster has prompted plans by South Korea’s Olympic committee to buy radiation detectors and ship homegrown ingredients to Japan for its athletes at the Tokyo Games. (Additional reporting by Mari Saito; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

https://af.reuters.com/article/africaTech/idAFL8N28E0L7?fbclid=IwAR01no7I0LUG2acAbapUgk9ERcWBHsndxvGdEeC1mYvj_fEYJZ-SEHlEr6g

December 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Radiation hotspots ‘found near Fukushima Olympic site’

Greenpeace calls for fresh monitoring of region where nuclear disaster occurred

 

1002.jpegThe Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which was the site of a nuclear disaster in 2011. Officials are keen to showcase the area’s recovery.

Wed 4 Dec 2019

Greenpeace has said it detected radiation hotspots near the starting point of the upcoming Olympic torch relay in Fukushima.

Japan’s environment ministry said the area was generally safe but it was in talks with local communities to survey the region before the 2020 Games, which open on 24 July.

The government is keen to use the Olympics to showcase Fukushima’s recovery from the 2011 tsunami. It intends to use J-Village, a sports complex located about 12 miles from the nuclear plant that was damaged in the disaster, as the starting point for the Japan leg of the torch relay taking place in March.

Originally designed as a training centre for athletes, J-Village functioned for years as a logistics hub for crews working to control and decommission the defunct reactors.

After a cleanup process, the sports centre became fully operational again in April this year, shortly after the torch relay decision.

Greenpeace urged fresh radiation monitoring and continued cleanup efforts, saying it had detected some spots with radiation levels as high as 1.7 microsieverts per hour when measured one metre above the surface.

This compared with the national safety standard of 0.23 microsieverts per hour, and a normal reading in Tokyo of about 0.04 microsieverts per hour. The hotspots showed a reading of 71 microsieverts per hour at the surface level, Greenpeace said.

However, J-Village’s website said the radiation reading at its main entrance was 0.111 microsieverts per hour on Wednesday, while one of its fields showed a reading of 0.085 microsieverts per hour.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates the Fukushima plant, said it cleaned the spots on Tuesday after the environment ministry told the firm about them.

Greenpeace said it relayed its findings to the Japanese government as well as local and international Olympic organisers. The group will publish a report of its findings in the region next year.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/04/radiation-hotspots-found-near-fukushima-olympic-site-greenpeace

December 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima tragedy: The day of black snow

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Aerial view of nuclear waste storage area in the mountainous forests of Iitate, Fukushima prefecture in Japan.
August 30, 2019
Toru Anzai is a former resident of Iitate, a small village in Fukushima, Japan, and dearly missed the bamboo shoots that grew in his hometown. During autumn, the bamboo shoots would blanket the mountains that overlooked the residents’ homes in the village. The residents would climb the mountains, gather the plants, and prepare them for dinner. But ever since that tragic day, no one climbed the mountains, and the wild plants vanished from their dinner tables. For Anzai, the bamboo shoots became sad reminders of what used to be.
 
Anzai remembers the day as the “black snow” day. He heard the explosions on 12 March, 2011. Black smoke rose from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and the smell of burning iron pervaded the village. It started to rain. The rain turned into snow. The snow was black.
The black snow filled Anzai with an ominous dread, and soon, his fears became reality.
After the black snow shrouded the village, Anzai described in an interview how he started to feel throbbing pain on his skin. It was almost like being sunburned after sunbathing for too long. Both of his legs darkened then peeled in white patches. The only remedy to the peeling was applying medicinal ointment. 
Soon after, his entire body began to suffer. The headaches came, followed by shoulder pains. Then the hair loss occurred. Three months after the disaster, he left behind his home and evacuated to survive. Unfortunately, the tragedy did not end there.
Three years later, Anzai started having strokes and heart attacks. A stent was placed in his blood vessel; the tube held open his narrowed blood vessel and kept the blood flowing to his heart. With treatment, his pain somewhat subsided, but whenever Anzai visited Iitate, the pain throughout his entire body relapsed. While these symptoms have not been conclusively connected to the radiation exposure, Anzai believed that they were the realities of the black snow day. 
222.jpg
Toru Anzai visting his house in Iitate, Fukushima prefecture, Japan.
 
Anzai’s temporary housing was very narrow and consisted of a living room and a bedroom. He had moved into this subsidised housing complex eight years ago. He was one of the first of the 126 families. Often, evacuees gathered around the common area and shared fond memories of their hometowns with each other. Whatever solace could be found, the evacuees found it in each other. 
Since allegedly completing the decontamination operation in Iitate, the Japanese government have been urging people to return to their village. In fact, Fukushima prefectural government had ended housing subsidies this past March, and by the end of the month, most people had left the complex. Only around ten families were still looking for a new place to live. 
Absently gazing into the dark, clouded sky, Anzai spoke bitterly. “I was kicked out of my hometown for doing nothing wrong. It was heartbreaking. Now, Iitate is polluted, and some of my neighbours have died. When the government asked me to evacuate last minute, I left. Now, they want me to go back. Back to all of the radioactive contamination. I’m so angry, but I don’t know what to do. We have repeatedly petitioned the government, but they’re not willing to listen. Our government has abandoned us.”
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Nuclear waste storage area in Iitate, Fukushima prefecture in Japan. Adopting a return to normal policy, the Japanese government undertook an unprecedented decontamination program for areas of Fukushima contaminated by the triple reactor meltdown in March 2011
 
Prior to the nuclear incident, there were about 6,300 residents in Iitate. Eight years later, only a little over 300 evacuees have returned at the government’s persistent urging. Most of the returning residents were elderly, aged 60 or older. Even counting the non-natives who had recently relocated to the village, the total figure hovered around only 900 residents. 
Iitate’s old and new residents are exposed to radioactive substances on a daily basis. The Japanese government claimed to have completed the decontamination work, but a full decontamination is impossible due to the village’s terrain. More than 70% of Iitate is forest, and unlike in the farmlands, the removal of contaminants that have fallen among the mountainous forest is nearly impossible. 
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Greenpeace nuclear expert Heinz Smital (Germany) and Florian Kasser (Switzerland) talk with Toru Anzai.
 
Each year, Greenpeace Germany conducts extensive research on Fukushima villages including Iitate. The findings confirm that the radiation exposure in these villages exceeds the established international safety standards. Anzai believes that the Japanese government is behind the forced homecoming of the Iitate residents. 
“The government hopes to publicise good news: the nuclear accident has been dealt with, and the residents have returned home. People who had no choice but to leave are now being pressured to return and put their lives on the line,” lamented Anzai.
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The destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, nearly 8 years after the accident.
 
The Japanese government hopes to release more than one million tonnes of highly radioactive water into the Fukushima coast. If the contaminated water becomes flushed into the ocean, the contamination will only add to the harm already inflicted by the Fukushima accident. Furthermore, the ocean currents will shift the radioactive materials through the surrounding waters including the Pacific Ocean. 
The industrial pollution and toxins have already caused much distress to our oceans. Discharging the Fukushima’s radioactive water will only worsen the situation, and we cannot, and should never, let this happen. 
Sean Lee is the communication lead of Greenpeace Korea. 

September 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Greenpeace slams Japan’s plan to dump radioactive Fukushima water into the ocean

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22 January, 2019
The decision by the government and the tsunami-devastated plant’s operator to release contaminated water into the Pacific was ‘driven by short-term cost-cutting’, a new study has found
Greenpeace has slammed a plan by the Japanese government and an electric utility company to release into the ocean highly radioactive water from the tsunami-devastated Fukushima Daiichi power plant, saying in a new report the decision was “driven by short-term cost-cutting”.
Released on Tuesday, the Greenpeace study condemns the decision taken after the disaster to not develop technology that could remove radioactivity from the groundwater, which continues to seep into the basement levels of three of the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima.
An estimated 1.09 million tonnes of water are presently stored in more than 900 tanks at the plant, which was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, with up to 4,000 tonnes added every week.
The decision by the government and the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), to avoid developing the relevant technology “was motivated by short-term cost-cutting, not protection of the Pacific Ocean environment and of the health and livelihoods of communities along the Fukushima coast”, said Kazue Suzuki, campaigner on energy issues for Greenpeace Japan.
“We have raised the water crisis with the UN International Maritime Organisation and firmly stand with local communities, especially fisheries, who are strongly opposed to any plans to discharge contaminated water into their fishing grounds.”
The backlash against the plan jointly put forward by the government and Tepco began late last year after the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) held public hearings in Tokyo and Fukushima designed to convince local people that releasing the water into the ocean would have no impact on marine or human life.
Anti-nuclear and environmental groups had obtained data leaked from government sources, however, that showed that the water was still contaminated, triggering public anger. Tepco was forced to admit late last year that its efforts to reduce radioactive material – known as radionuclides – in the water had failed.
The company had previously claimed that advanced processes had reduced cancer-causing contaminants such as strontium-90, iodine-129 and ruthenium-106 in the water to non-detectible levels.
Despite the much-vaunted Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) plant at Fukushima, Tepco has confirmed that levels of strontium-90, for example, are more than 100 times above legally permitted levels in 65,000 tonnes of water that have already been through the ALPS system.
n one of the hearings, Tatsuhiko Sato, a resident of Naraha who only returned to his home last spring because of contamination from the nuclear accident, accused Tepco of “not gathering all the data” and failing to adequately investigate reports that dangerous levels of radionuclides were still in the water after it was treated.
Local fishermen used the public hearing to express their “strong opposition” to plans to release the water, with one, Tetsu Nozaki, pointing out that while levels of radiation in locally caught fish and shellfish have been at or below normal levels for the past three years, releasing contaminated water would “deal a fatal blow” to the local fishing industry.
There has also been anger in some nearby countries, with environmental groups demonstrating in Seoul in November and Korea Radioactive Watch declaring that releasing the water “will threaten the waters of South Korea and other neighbouring nations”.
The issue was also part of a referendum held in Taiwan in November, with voters asked whether the government should maintain the ban on imports of food and products from areas of Japan that were most seriously affected by radiation from the disaster.
Japan’s trade ministry, however, still refuses to rule out the possibility that the water will be poured into the Pacific.
“We have established a committee to discuss the treatment of the water that is presently being stored and those discussions are still going on,” Shinji Hirai, director of the ministry’s Nuclear Accident Response Office, told the Post.
“There are five proposals being discussed, including releasing the water into the ocean or storing it underground, and we have not set a deadline for the committee to reach a decision.”
He declined to comment on the findings of the Greenpeace report.
But others have welcomed the new study, with Caitlin Stronell, spokeswoman for the Tokyo-based Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre, also expressing opposition to plans to dump the water into the ocean.
“There needs to be a lot of consultations before any decision is reached on what to do and it cannot simply be the government making an arbitrary decision,” she said. “The whole story of the Fukushima disaster has been one of lies and half-truths from the authorities and it is very hard to trust anyone in Tepco or the government on this issue.
“People’s opinions have been completely disregarded in the rush by the government to tell us how everything is just fine and we believe the people from the region, those who have lost the most, cannot be overlooked or neglected.”
The Greenpeace report concludes that the water crisis at the plant will remain unresolved for the foreseeable future – and that the only viable option to safeguard local communities and the environment is to continue to store the water.
“The Japanese government and Tepco set an objective of ‘solving’ the radioactive water crisis by 2020 – that was never credible,” said Shaun Burnie, a nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany.
“The reality is that there is no end to the water crisis at Fukushima, a crisis compounded by poor decision-making by both Tepco and the government. Discharging into the Pacific is the worst option and must be ruled out.”

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Technical failures increase risk of contaminated Fukushima water discharge into Pacific – Greenpeace

The nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant contin
by Greenpeace International
22 January 2019
Tokyo, 22 January 2019 – The nuclear water crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has been compounded by multiple technical failures and flawed decision making driven by short term cost cutting by the Japanese government and TEPCO, a new Greenpeace Germany analysis concludes.
The report details how plans to discharge over 1 million tonnes of highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean was proposed by the same Government task force that ignored alternative options that would have avoided threatening further contamination of the ocean.
“The decision not to develop water processing technology that could remove radioactive tritium was motivated by short term cost cutting not protection of the Pacific ocean environment or the health and livelihoods of communities along the Fukushima coast,” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan. “We have raised the water crisis with the UN International Maritime Organization and firmly stand with local communities, especially fisheries, who are strongly opposed to any plans to discharge contaminated water into their fishing grounds.”
The report concludes that the water crisis remains unresolved, and will be for the foreseeable future. The only viable option to protect the environment and the communities along the Fukushima coast being long term storage for the contaminated water.
The discharge option for water containing high levels of radioactive tritium was recommended as least cost by the Government’s Tritiated Water Task Force and promoted by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). The Task Force concluded in 2016 that “sea discharge would cost 3.4 billion yen (US$30 million) and take seven years and four months to complete. It concluded that this was cheapest and quickest of the five methods.” However, technical proposals for removing tritium were submitted to the same Government Task Force by multiple nuclear companies with estimated costs ranging from US$2-US$20 billion to US$50-US$180 billion depending on the technology used. These were dismissed as not viable but without detailed technical consideration.
TEPCO has claimed since 2013 that its ALPS technology would reduce radioactivity levels “to lower than the permissible level for discharge.” However, in September 2018 TEPCO admitted that the processing of over 800,000 tons of contaminated water in 1000 storage tanks, including strontium, had failed to remove radioactivity to below regulatory limits, including for strontium-90, a bone seeking radionuclide that causes cancer. TEPCO knew of the failure of the technology from 2013. The Greenpeace report details technical problems with the ALPS system.
The Fukushima Daiichi site, due its location, is subject to massive groundwater contamination which TEPCO has also failed to stop. Each week an additional 2-4000 tonnes of contaminated water is added to the storage tanks.
“The Japanese government and TEPCO set an objective of ‘solving’ the radioactive water crisis by 2020 – that was never credible. TEPCO has finally admitted that its ALPS technology has failed to reduce levels of strontium, and other hazardous radioactivity, to below regulatory limits,” said Shaun Burnie, nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany.
“The reality is there is no end to the water crisis at Fukushima, a crisis compounded by poor decision making by both TEPCO and the government. Discharging into the Pacific is the worst option and must be ruled out. The only viable option, and it’s not without risks, is the long term storage of this water in robust steel tanks over at least the next century, and the parallel development of water processing technology.”
Greenpeace offices are calling on the government and TEPCO to urgently reassess options for the long term management of highly contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi. Paramount in any future decision making should be the protection of the environment and the interests of the those in the front line – the communities and fishing industries of Fukushima’s Pacific coast.
END
Photos and video can be accessed here
Notes:
“TEPCO Water Crisis” briefing can be accessed  here
Contact:
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist, Greenpeace Germany, sburnie@greenpeace.org – +49 151 6432 0548
Greenpeace International Press Desk, pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org, phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment