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Archives for : Fukushima

Fukushima-Style Nuclear Power Plant in Washington Is a Seismic Timebomb

Gar Smith, Earth Island Journal | May 5, 2014 12:59 pm

The landscape of eastern Washington State is deceptively tranquil: a pastiche of vineyards, farms, scrub grass, ridges and windmills. But what appears peaceful and settled in the moment has proven restive and violent over geologic time. Beneath the glacial trough of the Puget Lowland, and extending east through the Cascades to the Columbia Basin, lies a hidden landscape of geomorphic rubble—broken basalt, vast shards of continental rock, volcanic ash and layers of ancient sediment. Like a picnic blanket spread over a minefield, the Columbia Basin’s flat meadows and rolling hills veil an oft-times explosive past.

Not the best place, you might think, to build a nuclear power plant. Especially a General Electric Mark II “Fukushima-style” boiling water reactor.

nucFI
The Columbia Generation Station,, Washington’s only commercial reactor, sits inside the Department of Energy’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a former nuclear weapons production site. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Energy

The Columbia Generation Station, Washington’s only commercial reactor, sits inside the Department of Energy’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a former nuclear weapons production site. Powered by a General Electric Mark II boiling water reactor, Columbia began operating in Dec. 1984. In 2009, the industry-funded Institute of Nuclear Power Operations ranked Columbia as one of the country’s two reactors “most in need of improvement.” Of the 75 unplanned shutdowns (or “scrams”) that hobbled the U.S. commercial nuclear fleet that year, Columbia accounted for five. Even Brad Sawatzke, the plant’s chief nuclear officer, conceded in an April 2011 interview that “our one Northwest nuclear reactor has the worst shutdown history in the country.” But, he hastened to add, “most [of the scrams were]… associated with the turbine side of the house and not nuclear.”

Faulty Assumptions

Today, the reactor has become the focus of a growing debate over the safety of nuclear plants built in seismic trouble spots. The problem stems from the fact that the seismic studies available to the Washington State Public Power System engineers who designed the reactor only ran from 1974 to 1981, and new faults have been discovered since then.

When the atomic plant was still on the drawing boards, there were only two known historic earthquakes that drew concern. In 1872, a magnitude 6.5 to 7.4 quake rumbled through the Cascades, sending massive landslides tumbling into the Columbia River. In 1936, a window-cracking magnitude 5.7 to 6.1 quake opened 200-foot-long fissures in the Walla Walla Valley along the Washington-Oregon border.

After pro-reactor advocates conspired to “locate” the epicenter of the 1872 quake in the North Cascades (180 miles from the proposed Columbia site), the state’s engineers only needed to focus on potential impacts of the smaller 1936 quake, whose epicenter was 55 miles southeast of the Hanford Site. This convenient relocation of risk enabled the Nuclear Regulator Commission to green-light the reactor’s construction.

In wasn’t until after the 1,170MW reactor went operational in 1984 that scientists began to discover that Washington’s seemingly placid landscape masked a troubling and rambunctious past. Initially, geologists thought the state’s earthquakes were largely confined to the sea-facing portion of Washington, west of the Cascades. They believed the faults beneath the inland ridges of the Columbia Basin were “uncoupled”—short, shallow and unconnected fractures that posed little risk. We now know that much of the Hanford Reservation is transected by several significant faults.

Geologist Bill Bakun offered a dire assessment of Central Washington: “It’s all riddled with faults,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me to have a magnitude 6.8 quake anywhere in that region, including near Hanford.” In 2002, Bakun and several colleagues uncovered evidence that located the 1872 quake’s epicenter at the southern end of Lake Chelan, a mere 99 miles from the Columbia plant. Bakun set the quake’s magnitude at 6.8—with a margin of error ranging from 6.5 to 7. (Other seismologists rate the quake at magnitude 7.4.)

The Lake Chelan quake rocked at least 151,000 square miles and may have been felt as far north as Alaska. Had the Columbia energy station existed when the quake occurred, it most likely would have sustained moderate to severe damage.

Energy Northwest (as Washington State Public Power System is now known) insists that its reactor—built to withstand a “very strong” to “severe” 6.5 magnitude quake—could handle a “violent” 6.9 magnitude event “based on conservative practices in design, manufacturing, fabrication and installation, plant structures, systems and components.” But dealing with a magnitude 7.4 quake—nearly eight times more powerful than a 6.9 quake—would be a different matter.

In 2009, a swarm of more than 1,000 mini-quakes shook the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. While the quakes were no larger than magnitude 3.3, they struck close to the surface and produced a significant “peak ground motion.” Casting a worried eye toward the Reservation’s shuttered Cold War nuclear weapons facilities and its aging radioactive-waste-storage tanks, seismologist Annie Kammerer observed: “Frankly, it is not a good story for us. The plants were more vulnerable than they realized.”

 

Fukushima-Style Nuclear Power Plant in Washington Is a Seismic Timebomb

Gar Smith, Earth Island Journal | May 5, 2014 12:59 pm | Comments
 192  124  2

384  27

The landscape of eastern Washington State is deceptively tranquil: a pastiche of vineyards, farms, scrub grass, ridges and windmills. But what appears peaceful and settled in the moment has proven restive and violent over geologic time. Beneath the glacial trough of the Puget Lowland, and extending east through the Cascades to the Columbia Basin, lies a hidden landscape of geomorphic rubble—broken basalt, vast shards of continental rock, volcanic ash and layers of ancient sediment. Like a picnic blanket spread over a minefield, the Columbia Basin’s flat meadows and rolling hills veil an oft-times explosive past.

Not the best place, you might think, to build a nuclear power plant. Especially a General Electric Mark II “Fukushima-style” boiling water reactor.

nucFI
The Columbia Generation Station,, Washington’s only commercial reactor, sits inside the Department of Energy’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a former nuclear weapons production site. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Energy

The Columbia Generation Station, Washington’s only commercial reactor, sits inside the Department of Energy’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a former nuclear weapons production site. Powered by a General Electric Mark II boiling water reactor, Columbia began operating in Dec. 1984. In 2009, the industry-funded Institute of Nuclear Power Operations ranked Columbia as one of the country’s two reactors “most in need of improvement.” Of the 75 unplanned shutdowns (or “scrams”) that hobbled the U.S. commercial nuclear fleet that year, Columbia accounted for five. Even Brad Sawatzke, the plant’s chief nuclear officer, conceded in an April 2011 interview that “our one Northwest nuclear reactor has the worst shutdown history in the country.” But, he hastened to add, “most [of the scrams were]… associated with the turbine side of the house and not nuclear.”

Faulty Assumptions

Today, the reactor has become the focus of a growing debate over the safety of nuclear plants built in seismic trouble spots. The problem stems from the fact that the seismic studies available to the Washington State Public Power System engineers who designed the reactor only ran from 1974 to 1981, and new faults have been discovered since then.

When the atomic plant was still on the drawing boards, there were only two known historic earthquakes that drew concern. In 1872, a magnitude 6.5 to 7.4 quake rumbled through the Cascades, sending massive landslides tumbling into the Columbia River. In 1936, a window-cracking magnitude 5.7 to 6.1 quake opened 200-foot-long fissures in the Walla Walla Valley along the Washington-Oregon border.

After pro-reactor advocates conspired to “locate” the epicenter of the 1872 quake in the North Cascades (180 miles from the proposed Columbia site), the state’s engineers only needed to focus on potential impacts of the smaller 1936 quake, whose epicenter was 55 miles southeast of the Hanford Site. This convenient relocation of risk enabled the Nuclear Regulator Commission to green-light the reactor’s construction.

In wasn’t until after the 1,170MW reactor went operational in 1984 that scientists began to discover that Washington’s seemingly placid landscape masked a troubling and rambunctious past. Initially, geologists thought the state’s earthquakes were largely confined to the sea-facing portion of Washington, west of the Cascades. They believed the faults beneath the inland ridges of the Columbia Basin were “uncoupled”—short, shallow and unconnected fractures that posed little risk. We now know that much of the Hanford Reservation is transected by several significant faults.

Geologist Bill Bakun offered a dire assessment of Central Washington: “It’s all riddled with faults,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me to have a magnitude 6.8 quake anywhere in that region, including near Hanford.” In 2002, Bakun and several colleagues uncovered evidence that located the 1872 quake’s epicenter at the southern end of Lake Chelan, a mere 99 miles from the Columbia plant. Bakun set the quake’s magnitude at 6.8—with a margin of error ranging from 6.5 to 7. (Other seismologists rate the quake at magnitude 7.4.)

The Lake Chelan quake rocked at least 151,000 square miles and may have been felt as far north as Alaska. Had the Columbia energy station existed when the quake occurred, it most likely would have sustained moderate to severe damage.

Energy Northwest (as Washington State Public Power System is now known) insists that its reactor—built to withstand a “very strong” to “severe” 6.5 magnitude quake—could handle a “violent” 6.9 magnitude event “based on conservative practices in design, manufacturing, fabrication and installation, plant structures, systems and components.” But dealing with a magnitude 7.4 quake—nearly eight times more powerful than a 6.9 quake—would be a different matter.

In 2009, a swarm of more than 1,000 mini-quakes shook the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. While the quakes were no larger than magnitude 3.3, they struck close to the surface and produced a significant “peak ground motion.” Casting a worried eye toward the Reservation’s shuttered Cold War nuclear weapons facilities and its aging radioactive-waste-storage tanks, seismologist Annie Kammerer observed: “Frankly, it is not a good story for us. The plants were more vulnerable than they realized.”

 

Fukushima-Style Nuclear Power Plant in Washington Is a Seismic Timebomb

Gar Smith, Earth Island Journal | May 5, 2014 12:59 pm | Comments
 192  124  2

384  27

The landscape of eastern Washington State is deceptively tranquil: a pastiche of vineyards, farms, scrub grass, ridges and windmills. But what appears peaceful and settled in the moment has proven restive and violent over geologic time. Beneath the glacial trough of the Puget Lowland, and extending east through the Cascades to the Columbia Basin, lies a hidden landscape of geomorphic rubble—broken basalt, vast shards of continental rock, volcanic ash and layers of ancient sediment. Like a picnic blanket spread over a minefield, the Columbia Basin’s flat meadows and rolling hills veil an oft-times explosive past.

Not the best place, you might think, to build a nuclear power plant. Especially a General Electric Mark II “Fukushima-style” boiling water reactor.

nucFI
The Columbia Generation Station,, Washington’s only commercial reactor, sits inside the Department of Energy’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a former nuclear weapons production site. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Energy

The Columbia Generation Station, Washington’s only commercial reactor, sits inside the Department of Energy’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a former nuclear weapons production site. Powered by a General Electric Mark II boiling water reactor, Columbia began operating in Dec. 1984. In 2009, the industry-funded Institute of Nuclear Power Operations ranked Columbia as one of the country’s two reactors “most in need of improvement.” Of the 75 unplanned shutdowns (or “scrams”) that hobbled the U.S. commercial nuclear fleet that year, Columbia accounted for five. Even Brad Sawatzke, the plant’s chief nuclear officer, conceded in an April 2011 interview that “our one Northwest nuclear reactor has the worst shutdown history in the country.” But, he hastened to add, “most [of the scrams were]… associated with the turbine side of the house and not nuclear.”

Faulty Assumptions

Today, the reactor has become the focus of a growing debate over the safety of nuclear plants built in seismic trouble spots. The problem stems from the fact that the seismic studies available to the Washington State Public Power System engineers who designed the reactor only ran from 1974 to 1981, and new faults have been discovered since then.

When the atomic plant was still on the drawing boards, there were only two known historic earthquakes that drew concern. In 1872, a magnitude 6.5 to 7.4 quake rumbled through the Cascades, sending massive landslides tumbling into the Columbia River. In 1936, a window-cracking magnitude 5.7 to 6.1 quake opened 200-foot-long fissures in the Walla Walla Valley along the Washington-Oregon border.

After pro-reactor advocates conspired to “locate” the epicenter of the 1872 quake in the North Cascades (180 miles from the proposed Columbia site), the state’s engineers only needed to focus on potential impacts of the smaller 1936 quake, whose epicenter was 55 miles southeast of the Hanford Site. This convenient relocation of risk enabled the Nuclear Regulator Commission to green-light the reactor’s construction.

In wasn’t until after the 1,170MW reactor went operational in 1984 that scientists began to discover that Washington’s seemingly placid landscape masked a troubling and rambunctious past. Initially, geologists thought the state’s earthquakes were largely confined to the sea-facing portion of Washington, west of the Cascades. They believed the faults beneath the inland ridges of the Columbia Basin were “uncoupled”—short, shallow and unconnected fractures that posed little risk. We now know that much of the Hanford Reservation is transected by several significant faults.

Geologist Bill Bakun offered a dire assessment of Central Washington: “It’s all riddled with faults,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me to have a magnitude 6.8 quake anywhere in that region, including near Hanford.” In 2002, Bakun and several colleagues uncovered evidence that located the 1872 quake’s epicenter at the southern end of Lake Chelan, a mere 99 miles from the Columbia plant. Bakun set the quake’s magnitude at 6.8—with a margin of error ranging from 6.5 to 7. (Other seismologists rate the quake at magnitude 7.4.)

The Lake Chelan quake rocked at least 151,000 square miles and may have been felt as far north as Alaska. Had the Columbia energy station existed when the quake occurred, it most likely would have sustained moderate to severe damage.

Energy Northwest (as Washington State Public Power System is now known) insists that its reactor—built to withstand a “very strong” to “severe” 6.5 magnitude quake—could handle a “violent” 6.9 magnitude event “based on conservative practices in design, manufacturing, fabrication and installation, plant structures, systems and components.” But dealing with a magnitude 7.4 quake—nearly eight times more powerful than a 6.9 quake—would be a different matter.

In 2009, a swarm of more than 1,000 mini-quakes shook the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. While the quakes were no larger than magnitude 3.3, they struck close to the surface and produced a significant “peak ground motion.” Casting a worried eye toward the Reservation’s shuttered Cold War nuclear weapons facilities and its aging radioactive-waste-storage tanks, seismologist Annie Kammerer observed: “Frankly, it is not a good story for us. The plants were more vulnerable than they realized.”

 

Read more here – http://ecowatch.com/2014/05/05/fukushima-style-nuclear-plant-seismic-timebomb/3/

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ACTION ALERT- Do not permit Restart of the Sendai or Genkai Nuclear Power Plants

Nuclear Wetlands

Nuclear Wetlands (Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps)

 

All of 48 nuclear power plants in Japan are stopped operation because of
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority(NRA)’s safety screening process.

NRA says it will prioritize this process for the Sendai nuclear power
plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan. And Japanese
government says when NPP passes this process, they will give a restart
permission to NPP owner.

In Japan, prefecture governor where NPP located on also have a authority
to give a permission to restart NPP. So now we conduct petition
campaign to asking 7 Prefecture Governers in Kyusyu area (Fukuoka, Saga,
Nagasaki, Oita, Kumamoto, Miyazaki and Kagoshima) about do not permit
the restart of the Sendai NPPs(Kagoshima prefecture) or Genkai(Saga
prefecture) NPPs.

You can sign the petition via online form. Please participate in this
action!
https://ssl.form-mailer.jp/fms/0e3164c3298231

Kind regards,

Hajime Matsukubo, CNIC

 

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Read Compelling Stories of Shameful Treatment of Fukushima Victims

Greenpeace | February 22, 2014

When most of us think of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster we think about leaks of contaminated water, criminal gangs hiring ill-trained workers to work on cleaning up radioactive materials on the site, ice-dams to stop water flowing, or government announcements that never improve anything.

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Six anti-nuclear activists from India, Korea, Poland, and Germany and the Greenpeace France executive director met victims in the Fukushima area this week. Photo credit: Greenpeace

What we often don’t think about are the victims. More than 150,000 people were made victims by this disaster, most are still victims. But these days there is little coverage of their daily lives and the problems they continue to face.

They have compelling stories to tell. To learn about the stories, and to expose the shameful neglect of victims, Greenpeace Japan brought six international witnesses to tour the Fukushima area this week and to meet five victims.

The witnesses heard about the victims’ exposure to high doses of radiation in the early days of the disaster and the government misinformation about the risks. They heard about worries over long-term effects and about children—many still play where there is too much radiation. They heard about abandoned farms, where edible food may never grow again, or the pain farmers felt when they had to kill off their dairy cows. The heard about the strong yearning for lost family life, and for communities and important traditions now lost.

UW

Victims shared their personal stories on how the Fukushima disaster affected them. Photo credit: Greenpeace

The spin from the Japanese government these days is that the Fukushima disaster is over. This spin allows it to abandon the victims. Instead of helping people, the government is spending more time planning the Olympics for 2020 and trying to sell nuclear technology to other countries.

The victims on the tour are doing what they can to fight back. Kenichi Hasegawa, a farmer, and Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of an evacuated town, have both travelled to other countries to talk about the poor treatment of victims. All speak out.

The story of shameful treatment is about more than five people; it’s about the tens of thousands who still haven’t been able to rebuild their lives, as David McNeill writes for us.

Around 100,000 people from the Fukushima area are still living in two-room temporary living quarters. They had to flee a world they loved to live crammed together in buildings that are already falling apart.

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Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba, presents his his family tree going back hundreds of years to the Greenpeace witnesses. Photo credit: Greenpeace

Fukushima: Don’t Forget—that is the goal of the witness tour. The witnesses committed to telling the stories in their home countries so this tragedy and the impact on people won’t be forgotten. They will talk about the Fukushima stories to enhance their own anti-nuclear work. People everywhere need to know that the shameful treatment of Fukushima victims is what will happen anywhere there is another nuclear disaster.

Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.

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Nuclear Collusion: From Fukushima to Gorakhpur

  DiaNuke.org
14th Jan 2014
daysj_banner
Major General Sudhir Vombatkere

S G VombatkereMajor General S.G. Vombatkere retired as the Additional Director General, Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ, New Delhi. He is Adjunct Associate Professor of the University of Iowa, USA, in international studies, and is a member of NAPM and PUCL. He writes on strategic and development-related issues.

Contact details:

Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd) // 475, 7th Main Road // Vijayanagar 1st Stage // Mysore – 570017

Tel:0821-2515187; E-mail: <[email protected]>

India’s Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh inaugurated a nuclear power plant (NPP) at Gorakhpur in Haryana on January 13, 2014. This NPP is an invitation to disaster since it relies on canal water for cooling, and canals can, and do, run dry. Besides, routine radioactive discharges into the cooling water will reach downstream canal users. Also, in the event of a serious nuclear accident, even full-flow water in the canal will be woefully insufficient to handle the crisis. At another level, it draws water which was meant for agriculture, thereby denying Haryana farmers their rightful due of water for 100,000 acres of extremely fertile four-crops-a-year land.

Rather than using methods of democratic governance to address the 4-years-long peaceful protest demonstrations of land- and livelihood-losers of this project, government has resorted to standard machinations of steam-rolling dissent and sidelining or suppressing agitations. The motivation for this is the need to execute commercial agreements between members of the exclusive nuclear brotherhood.

This article shows how the nuclear brotherhood has downplayed nuclear disasters and effectively suppressed dissent, and how this is playing out in the Indian context.

Nuclear brotherhood

The combination of esoteric science, extreme secrecy, economic influence and political power is peculiar to the nuclear industry in all countries that have nuclear power or nuclear weapons. The nuclear industry is the interface between ethically questionable science, anti-democratic politics and barren economics. There is a nexus between the nuclear industries in various countries to encourage nuclear power in the interest of keeping the nuclear industry alive. Yet, the politics of nuclear power cause every country to guard its nuclear secrets (technology, inventory of fissile material, costs, releases of radioactivity, safety conditions, etc.) under extreme security.

Led by USA, the international nuclear lobby of the 1950s began by stating that electric power generated from nuclear fission would be “too cheap to meter” but, coming to terms with contemporary reality, the nuclear lobby changed its tack to selling the idea that nuclear power is “safe-clean-cheap” and later, climate-friendly. Present advertisements by India’s Department of Atomic Energy go a poetic step further by calling nuclear energy “clean, green and benign”.

The nuclear lobby suffered credibility crises due to disastrous nuclear accidents (Three Mile Island, USA; 1971, Chernobyl, former USSR; 1986, and Fukushima, Japan; 2011) which could not be concealed. However, the respective countries have played down the on-occurrence physical and radiological damage, and continue to withhold full information on downstream risks and costs.

Farmers burn effigiy of the PM in Gorakhpur on 13th January 2014 Farmers burn effigiy of the PM in Gorakhpur on 13th January 2014

The reluctance of the nuclear establishment of one country to comment on the shortcomings of another country’s nuclear establishment reveals the intrinsic vulnerability of each country’s own nuclear system, and the need to collude across political or ideological barriers to conceal lesser disasters. Apart from nuclear radiation and nuclear wastes, what comes out of high-security, anti-democratic, national nuclear establishments is only what they wish to release as propaganda to promote nuclear power, or politically-doctored and ethically-and-technologically questionable information about what it is unable to conceal.

The nuclear establishment of every country is controlled by the highest of the political, bureaucratic and sci-tech personages, and this nexus claims exclusive and superior knowledge, and derives power and authority from draconian laws.

Oldest nuclear establishment

The U.S federal government created Hanford (Washington) in the 1940s as part of the secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today, seventy-plus years later, it spends about $2 billion annually, roughly one-third of its entire national budget for nuclear clean-up, on the 586-square-mile Hanford site to prevent its polluting the neighbouring Columbia River and the ground water, something at which its effectiveness remains doubtful. The fact that $2 billion are annually recurring costs is significant, but more significant is the fact that most of this cost is to supply fuel and electrical power for the installation and safety devices to maintain the installation. While the effectiveness of “clean-up” is disputable even if it is transparent (which it is not), these costs should be (but are not) included in the real-time costs of nuclear power that the nuclear establishment downplays.

Today, after spending $13 billion in 24 years, the clean-up is nowhere near complete. On-site technical problems appear to have multiplied, particularly regarding how to handle the remainder of 56 million gallons of dangerous plutonium sludge that has not yet leaked out of decades-old, corroded steel tanks. It has been possible to withhold information regarding the on-going leakage of plutonium into ground water and the Columbia river, simply because radioactivity not being detectable by ordinary human senses and the extreme secrecy allowed to the nuclear establishment.

Uncontrollable leakages of plutonium from storage tanks into the ground over decades in Hanford Nuclear Reservation, have recently led Washington State Governor Jay Inslee to declare that “…there’s no available technology to plug the leaks”, and“The energy department has expressed concern that contamination from the single-shell tanks may be making its way toward the Columbia River, which supplies drinking water and agricultural irrigation”. [Ref.1]. Also, “The Federal government spends billions of dollars to clean up the 586-square-mile site neighbouring the Columbia River”. [Ref.2] .

But remaining unstated is the on-going environmental/ecological disaster of the plutonium leaks and the essential non-safety of the nuclear industry. The fact is that USA, acknowledged technological leader in matters nuclear, does not know how to handle its nuclear waste despite spending astronomical sums of dollars that any other country would not be able to afford. It is pertinent to note that the nuclear powers, namely USA, UK, France, former USSR & present Russia, and China, were earlier admittedly dumping radioactive waste packed in steel drums and even entire nuclear reactors into the ocean. It is not clear whether this practice continues in secret to cut financial costs of nuclear waste disposal.

The disposal of high-level nuclear wastes by “advanced technology” of vitrification and deep geological burial (the prohibitive costs of which should rightly be added to the cost of nuclear-generated electric power, but are not) are not less unethical than dumping them into the oceans. Nuclear technology and materials are being recognised by an increasingly aware worldwide community as lacking legitimacy, being anti-life, anti-environment, anti-ecology and anti-democratic.

Fukushima

The radioactive leaks from the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor and the spent-fuel pool remain out of control. TEPCO proposes to build an “ice wall” in the ground by freezing water to stop the on-going flow of radionuclides into the Pacific Ocean, even as it struggles to empty the spent fuel pools and, at the same time, keep the operations and its risks and costs under wraps. The electric power necessary to create and maintain this ice wall frozen for decades if not centuries, will call for more electric energy than the Daiichi reactors could ever have produced. Also, decomissioning the Fukushima installation is conservatively expected to take decades, adding to the already incurred enormous costs of attempting to contain the damage. And the Japanese government plans to borrow $30 billion more to continue the damage control, thereby adding to the huge financial liability to contain the radiological liability ….

The human and environmental/ecological costs of nuclear accident related to health and life on the planet, if incorporated into an economic-energy balance sheet, would show that nuclear power is economically and environmentally unsustainable. Yet, political compulsions caused the Japanese government to collude with TEPCO to underwrite the losses, conceal full facts from the domestic and international public, and secretly continue planet-wide environmental/ecological devastation.

This irresponsibility is not condemned by other national governments which are under the thrall of self-professed and self-certifying scientists within their own establishments. Not condemning the Japanese irresponsibility is itself irresponsible of the nuclear establishment of every elected government on the globe. But the various national nuclear lobbies that fiercely compete for nuclear business, directly or through multinational business corporations, have a common stake in secrecy and duplicity, characteristic of the nuclear industry.

Besides causing untold damage to marine life in the Pacific Ocean and in other oceans through ocean currents, radioactive materials from Fukushima have crossed the Pacific Ocean, reaching the U.S west coast for several months now, silently affecting human life. That the U.S administration has not informed its own public of the radiation risks or proposed public health measures, shows that official stances concerning nuclear matters have little to do with ground realities or genuine international or national public interest. This official reticence is possible only because radioactivity is not detectable by human senses, and because the nuclear industry in every country is unaccountable to the public under the protection of draconian laws.

Radioactivity

The innumerable smaller routine, operational or accidental radionucleide releases in nuclear facilities around the world are successfully hidden from public view because detection of nuclear radiation is the sole preserve of the secretive nuclear industry, and declaration of an “event” is at its sole discretion. Nuclear regulators within countries are essentially under political-technocratic control and not answerable to the public or their legislators, and draconian laws protecting the nuclear industry precludes the public from measuring radioactivity which they cannot sense otherwise. The nuclear industry questions the scientific credibility and even the patriotism of persons who object to its self-certification of safety and costs.

It cannot be over-emphasised that nuclear industries in all nations are self-certifying with respect to accident safety, declaration of accident, public health, radiation exposure and risks of nuclear industry employees, standards of “acceptable” exposure to radiation, storage of nuclear wastes and its risks and costs, or real-time cost of electrical power generated. Briefly, they are a law unto themselves, with almost complete freedom and almost zero accountability and transparency. For these reasons, if not for several others like corrupt deals concerning substandard materials or design/safety short-cuts, there is worldwide questioning of the credibility of the nuclear industry’s “safe-clean-cheap” mantra.

With respect to the “safe-clean-cheap” slogan, the nuclear industry routinely comes out with disinformation, misinformation and absurdities concerning risk and safety (disaster probabilities), environment-friendliness (routine radioactive discharges, carbon emissions, etc) and cost (showing its competitiveness with other modes of power generation). The three components of the slogan are closely connected and clearly affect each other. Competent dissenting scientists and engineers have amply demonstrated that operation by a compromise between them is unsafe, or environmentally damaging or economically unsustainable.

Apart from the routine high-, medium- and low-level wastes created in routinely operating nuclear installations, the decommissioned nuclear installation itself is an immovable, highly radioactive, enormous concrete-and-metal mass that occupies land which will be dangerous to life for more millenia into the future than humankind imagines about its own past.

Leaving aside the ethical and moral bankruptcy and questionable technological capability of the nuclear lobby regarding decommissioning its installations, its economics are also flawed. The financial expenditures of decommissioning and waste handling, treatment and disposal are not accounted in the cost of power generated.

Relatively unknown nuclear disaster

Concerning nuclear accidents, most writers refer to only three: Three Mile Island (USA, 1979), Chernobyl (USSR now Russia, 1986); and Fukushima (Japan, 2011). Radiological decommissioning of the Three Mile Island reactor is still in hand 34 years down the road and is likely to cost $918 million against $578 million available. Work on the Chernobyl reactors is still on with mounting costs estimated at $1.4 billion for a steel casing over emergency structures already constructed at huge cost, and the land around uninhabitable for at least several more centuries. Volumes have been written about these accidents, but somehow, Windscale (U.K, 1957) is rarely if ever mentioned.

On October 10, 1957, the nuclear core of one of the two Windscale reactors caught fire. This dire emergency was courageously and successfully handled by the ground staff at enormous personal risk and cost, inspite of which there was substantial release of radionucleides into the environment. [Ref.3]. The accident, ranked 5 on the 7-point International Nuclear Event Scale, was downplayed in the media to overcome public fears that the name “Windscale” evoked, and the area came to be known as Sellafield where the Calder Hall reactor was also constructed later. The Windscale reactors, constructed in the early “learning phase” of nuclear power, were designed to generate plutonium for UK’s nuclear weapons program.

Even though the Windscale reactors were built in the early years of nuclear expertise (1950 and 1951), and problems could be expected, the nuclear industry had apparently not appreciated the inherent risks in the technology itself. This is evidenced from the report that “[b]etween 1950 and 2000 there were 21 serious incidents or accidents involving some off-site radiological releases that warranted a rating on the International Nuclear Event Scale, one at level 5, five at level 4 and fifteen at level 3. Additionally during the 1950s and 1960s there were protracted periods of known, deliberate, discharges to the atmosphere of plutonium and irradiated uranium oxide particulates. These frequent incidents, together with the large 2005 Thorpe plant leak which was not detected for nine months, have led some to doubt the effectiveness of the managerial processes and safety culture on the site over the years”. [Ref.4]

It is pertinent to question the reason for this nuclear accident being relatively unknown. Some would have it that the British government’s nuclear establishment deliberately kept the accident out of the news, and continues to downplay the on-going risks and costs of the Windscale decommissioning as well as the operation and plutonium inventory of the adjacent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, and the protests of neighbourhood people.

Films that never made it

The power of the nuclear industry to suppress information to the general public is demonstrated by two Hollywood feature films starring top-notch actors. The first is “Silkwood” starring Meryl Streep, released in 1983. It is a story based on a real-life person named Karen Silkwood, who discovered wrong-doing – falsifying safety reports, etc – in a nuclear installation. The film ends with her untimely and mysterious death in a car accident, and the disappearance from her car of important documentary evidence of nuclear leaks, which she was on her way to deliver to a reporter of New York Times. This film, inconvenient to the nuclear establishment because of its bald representation of facts, never made it beyond niche viewing.

The second film is the award-winning “The China Syndrome” starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas. The story line is about safety cover-ups in a nuclear power plant that was brought to the brink of a meltdown. The film was released on March 16, 1979, and was met with immediate backlash from the nuclear power industry, which claimed that it was “sheer fiction” and “character assassination of an entire industry”, while a film reviewer wrote that it raises the most unsettling questions about how safe nuclear power plants really are, and exposed the dangers of money and corruption. [Ref.5] A mere twelve days later, the Three Mile Island accident happened. Reportedly, showing of the film was actively discouraged by the nuclear establishment since it closely anticipated what went wrong at Three Mile Island.

A number of 1980s films exposing the realities and dangers of nuclear power include “Testament”, “Threads”, “Special Bulletin”, “The Day After”, “When the Wind Blows”, “Letters from a Dead Man”, and “Memoirs of a Survivor”. Most people may not have even heard of these films (some are documentaries), let alone view them. The obscurity of these films has been attributed to active opposition from the nuclear establishment.

A film on Fukushima is reportedly under production, but it is not clear whether it is a documentary or a feature film, and it remains to be seen how it fares in public viewing both within Japan and abroad.

The Indian context

The managerial processes of nuclear power installations consist of operational compromises at the control room consoles between the conflicting demands of producing maximum power (to achieve a high Plant Load Factor to keep down the cost of energy generated) and not compromising safety against accident nor permitting unplanned releases of radionucleides. A wrong operating action or decision can have very serious radiological consequences. These actions and decisions are dependent upon the training, experience and integrity of operating staff and higher management. It is useless to pretend that Indian staff and managers are superior to their Japanese or American counterparts in training, experience or integrity.

The nuclear establishment, run by technocrats whose technical and financial integrity is being increasingly questioned, claims that the technology is safe, and Indian standards of safety and operational efficiency are not only adequate but are being enforced strictly. However, a U.S based think-tank has ranked India low in nuclear safety due to weak regulations, lack of independence of its nuclear regulatory structure, and, most worryingly for Indians, “high levels of corruption”. [Ref.6].

The Indian nuclear industry is government-owned and government-operated. It claims to have made large strides in self-sufficiency of nuclear technology and engineering (the science is not esoteric) during the period India was in the nuclear doghouse following Pokharan I in 1974, for nuclear technology and materials. However, self-sufficiency claims are belied by its present reliance on Russia, USA and France to provide nuclear hardware, technology and materials, and its approaching Australian and Canadian nuclear suppliers. The argument offered by the nuclear establishment is that since expansion of nuclear power generation is the only way India can provide itself adequate electric power for growth of the power sector (an assertion that is being cogently questioned and consistently stone-walled), it is imperative to negotiate with the nuclear suppliers group.

When these claims are questioned by persons of high scientific and technological standing, the nuclear establishment resorts to stone-walling, making misleading statements or outrightly condemning critics. It is also suspected of getting dissenters and critics persecuted by getting false police cases foisted against them.

The fears of serious nuclear accident in Indian nuclear installations have been magnified following Fukushima. But the Indian nuclear establishment continues to be in a state of denial, perhaps in the false belief that Indian scientific and technical managers and staff are superior to Japanese personnel in professional integrity and operational efficiency. Its reluctance to take cognisance of the on-going shadow-play around Fukushima, as the Japanese government and TEPCO struggle to keep the worsening serious situation under wraps, is based upon professional and political collusion for commercial ends. This is perhaps borne out by the fact that Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe is to be the Chief Guest for India’s 2014 Republic Day. But continual incoming news of the uncontrolled and uncontrollable situation of the Daiichi reactors at Fukushima only causes fears to grow.

India’s nuclear establishment does not have the financial or technical resources to handle disasters like Hanford, Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima, nor indeed the know-how for routine decommissioning of reactors. However it does have the power of secrecy which the Indian Atomic Energy Act bestows on it to successfully deflect, even suppress, all criticism. But circumstances are changing and the politico-sci-tech nuclear establishment is increasingly under pressure from a ground swell of people’s resistance and objections to nuclear power and its installations, on cogently argued economic, technical and legal premises.

Even discounting the long-term health and social costs, the horrendous financial costs being incurred by UK, USA and Japan to decommission reactors are clearly unaffordable for India, accident or no accident. Linked with professional and financial integrity issues within the nuclear establishment, there is no place for complacency among India’s decision makers in the nuclear context.

Folly

The nuclear establishment would be fully aware that if the real-time socio-enviro-ecological costs and economic liabilities of nuclear power due to nuclear radiation, nuclear waste handling, decommissioning reactors, and accidents, are honestly taken into account, the clean-green-benign “mantra” would be laid naked in its hollowness.

Therefore, along with the untruths and half-truths put into the public domain at public cost, intransparency is a part of their standard operating procedure, to hide behind a facade of sci-tech and impenetrable legal walls of secrecy concerning commercial and strategic deals. This is possible only because of the collusion of the nuclear establishments of countries around the world.

People alive today and future generations will bear the brunt of continuing nuclear folly of some combination of egoistic ignorance, irrational desire for money or fame, and socio-environmental myopia among politicians, bureaucrats, scientists and technologists running nuclear establishments around the world. The inauguration of the Gorakhpur NPP by India’s Prime Minister is only the latest example of this folly.

(3,390 words of text)

References

1. ”Governor: Nuclear waste leaking at an estimated 1,000 gallons a year — ‘No available technology to plug the leaks’ at Hanford”; <http://enenews.com/governor-nuclear-waste-is-leaking-an-estimated-1000-gallons-a-year-no-available-technology-to-plug-the-leaks-at-hanford>; Energy News; February 27, 2013.

2. “Board warns key U.S senator of explosion risk at nation’s most contaminated nuclear site”; Associated Press report; April 3, 2013.

3. Paul Dwyer: “Windscale – A Nuclear Disaster”; <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7030281.stm>; October 5, 2007. [Accessed 31.12.2013.

4. G A M Webb (March 2006). “Classification of events with an off-site radiological impact at the Sellafield site between 1950 and 2000, using the International Nuclear Event Scale”. Journal of Radiological Protection 26 (1): 33–49. Bibcode:2006JRP….26…33W. doi:10.1088/0952-4746/26/1/002. PMID 16522943. Ref.49 from Wikipedia <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sellafield#Decommissioning>; Accessed 31.12.2013.

5. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_China_Syndrome; Accessed 09.01.2014].

6. [“India ranks below Pakistan in n-safety index”;<http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-ranks-below-pakistan-in-nsafety-index/article5557184.ece#.Us5gyR1felE.gmail>; The Hindu; January 9, 2014.]

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– See more at: http://www.dianuke.org/nuclear-collusion-from-fukushima-to-gorakhpur/#sthash.6PabYW5y.dpuf

 

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Gangsters and ‘Slaves’: The People Cleaning Up Fukushima

By Michael Okwu, Al Jazeera America

08 January 14

 

n the depths of Japan’s nuclear crisis in March 2011, a small band of workers at the Fukushima power plant stayed behind, stomaching daily doses of deadly radiation to bring the plant under control after a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns. They became known as the Fukushima 50.

“We felt we had a responsibility to put things right,” nuclear engineer Atsufumi Yoshizawa told America Tonight. “And we felt that we were probably the only ones that could deal with the situation.”

The courage of employees like Yoshizawa made them heroes in Japan, and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the stricken power plant, showcases them as symbols for what the company represents. But there is another group of workers that TEPCO rarely mentions, workers who continue to undertake the largest radiation cleanup in history, but are subcontracted into a system that leaves them vulnerable to exploitation. These workers put themselves at great risk every day, for minimum wage, only to be fired when their radiation levels get too high.

America Tonight gained rare access into the dark underworld of Japan’s decontamination industry for this look at the conditions of the workers at its center, and those who profit from their labor. Nuclear gypsies

J-Village used to be Japan’s national soccer training center. Now, it’s where workers gather before heading into the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant – the frontlines of an ongoing nuclear disaster. In Japan, they’re known as “nuclear gypsies,” an army of about 50,000 itinerant laborers recruited at low pay to clean up the radioactive debris and build tanks to store the unending flood of contaminated water that’s generated to keep the reactor cores cool.

Most of them are subcontractors, unskilled and poorly paid.

“They’re, in many cases, living sort of drifter-type lifestyles,” said David McNeill, a journalist and author who has been following the plight of these unsung heroes of Fukushima. “They move from job to job. They’re unqualified, of course, in most cases.”

One of those workers, who had never before spoken to media, told America Tonight about the big promises – and the big risks – of the job.

“My job was to help workers remove their gear when they came back from dealing with contaminated water and debris, and to check them with a Geiger counter for contamination,” explained Tanaka, who asked not to be identified by his real name, like all the workers interviewed by America Tonight, for fear of retribution.

For this work, Tanaka was compensated roughly $100 a day.

Subcontractors poured into Fukushima Prefecture after the earthquake and tsunami triggered the catastrophic nuclear disaster. After all, there’s plenty of money to be made in the estimated $150-billion cleanup effort. As McNeill put it: “There’s an enormous amount of money being scattered around.”

The resulting network of contractors and subcontractors is labyrinthine, making it almost impossible to track the taxpayer dollars siphoned into the cleanup. Reuters counted 733 companies performing work for the Ministry of Environment in the 10 most contaminated towns and nearby highway.

But it appears that very little of that money ends up in the hands of the people on the ground. Hiroyuku Watanabe, a councilman in Iwaki, a city near Fukushima where many laborers find lodgings, said some earn as little as $60 a day.

“For people in Japan who live like me and work various places, it’s hard to find work that pays $100 a day,” said Tanaka, who has spent most of his life traveling Japan as a laborer. “I get housing, and was able to save more than usual.”

“TEPCO is God. The main contractors are kings, and we are slaves.”

Tanaka

‘Nuclear gypsy’

But the risks were also higher. Tanaka was shocked to find radioactive hot spots in the area he worked, marked with tape but never decontaminated. Training and protective gear were also in short supply.

“The training didn’t teach us the dangers of handling radiation, so there were some people who worked with their bare hands,” he said. “They would contaminate not only themselves, but would spread particles to others.”

Subcontracted workers endured worse conditions than those directly hired by TEPCO, Tanaka said. For example, TEPCO employees received charcoal filters, while workers at his subcontracting company only got dust filters, like those you’d buy at a convenience store.

“TEPCO is God,” Tanaka said. “The main contractors are kings, and we are slaves.”

Tanaka was fired after his company’s contract wasn’t renewed. Like many nuclear workers approaching their radiation limit of 50 millisieverts a year, it is unlikely that Tanaka will ever be hired at Fukushima again. He’s since lost his apartment, and is crippled by fatigue.

“I can’t say whether radiation is the cause, but since used-up nuclear workers don’t get any compensation, I’m worried about my future,” he explained. “So some of it could be psychological.”

Gangsters

The subcontracting system and high demand for labor that gave rise to nuclear gypsies have been a boon for one group: organized crime.

The Yakuza is one of the largest criminal organizations in the world. Enmeshed in right-wing politics, the Japanese mafia often target low-skill occupations.

“The Yakuza have, historically, been deeply embedded in the structure of the construction industry,” explained Takeshi Katsura, a laborer who also helps workers exploited by the Japanese mafia.

Finding thousands of bodies to fill some of the most undesirable jobs in the developed world, particularly in a country with an aging population and growing labor shortage, is tough the legal way. And many of the estimated 50 Yakuza gangs in Fukushima have leapt to the task of supplying workers to the labor-intensive effort to decontaminate the prefecture.

“To quickly gather 4,000, 5,000 decontamination workers in Fukushima, you need to do it the traditional way,” said Katsura. “Using the Yakuza.”

The decontamination industry is particularly appealing for criminals, because of the extra government-funded $100-a-day in danger pay per worker. And Fukushima laborers in the grip of organized crime are even less likely to receive their fair share.

“The government says it will pay $100 a day, but I initially got $20,” said Sato, a worker who was lured to Fukushima by the government’s promise of extra cash. “The contractors and subcontractors took the remaining $80.”

“It’s the structure that’s evil.”

Takeshi Katsura

When Sato complained, he was told his contract had changed, and that he now owed money for food and lodging. He later found out that the president of his contracting company was a former leader of the Fukushima branch of a right-wing group.

Sato was lucky. Others who complain and quit like him have faced violent retribution.

“I’ve had workers tell me that they’ve been beat up and been told, ‘I’ll kill you,'” said Katsura. “Threatened with, ‘You know what will happen to you.'”

In January, October and November of last year, Japanese gangsters were arrested on charges of illegally recruiting workers for the government-funded cleanup, reported Reuters. In the October case, the recruiters rounded up homeless men at a train station and sent them to work for less than minimum wage. The workers were at the bottom of a complex ladder that led all the way to Obayashi Corp, one of the 20 major contractors heading the decontamination effort, and the second largest construction company in Japan.

Critics say the subcontracting system allows TEPCO to turn a blind eye to these abuses and wash its hands of worker safety.

“It’s the structure that’s evil,” said Katsura. “Because workers are hired through subcontractors, wages are skimmed all along the way, and the worker at the bottom actually doing the work sees their pay go down.”

In an interview with America Tonight, TEPCO spokesman Masayuki Ono acknowledged that the ultimate responsibility for working conditions lay with them.

“If there are labor practices that are occurring that violate the law, there’s a legal process to remedy those situations,” he said. “However, it is our responsibility to improve the working environment inside the plant. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we do aim for an even higher level of improvement.”

But any improvements will be too late for the many workers who feel they no longer have a future after toiling in the contaminants of the Fukushima Daiichi plant and the surrounding countryside.

“When they needed people, they used subcontractors to hire us,” said Tanaka. “When our services were no longer needed, I’m among the victims who are thrown away.”

 

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Eight Months, Ten Mishaps: A Look at Fukushima Errors

Fukushima *

Fukushima * (Photo credit: Sterneck)

Tuesday, 29 October 2013 09:11 By Mari YamaguchiJapan Today |

TOKYO — Workers overfill a tank, spilling radioactive water on the ground. Another mistakenly pushes a button, stalling a pump for a vital cooling system. Six others get soaked with toxic water when they remove the wrong pipe. All over the course of one week in October.

A string of mishaps this year at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was swamped by a tsunami in 2011, is raising doubts about the operator’s ability to tackle the crisis and prompting concern that another disaster could be in the making.

Worried Japanese regulators are taking a more hands-on approach than usual to seek solutions to what they say appear to be fundamental problems.

R

Human error is mostly to blame, as workers deal with a seemingly unending stream of crises. Tanaka said earlier this month the repeated “silly mistakes” are a sign of declining morale and sense of responsibility. The operator, known as TEPCO, acknowledged a systemic problem in a recent report: Workers under tight deadlines tend to cut corners, making mistakes more likely; at times, they don’t fully understand their assignment or procedures.

The utility has been losing experienced workers as they reach their radiation exposure limits, and hundreds of others are quitting jobs seen as underpaid given the difficulty and health risks. Regulators have urged the plant to have enough supervisors to oversee the workers on site; TEPCO says it has added staff and is ensuring proper field-management.

Some of this year’s mishaps:

  • Oct 20-21: Heavy rains wash contaminated storm-water over protective barriers around storage tanks at six locations, before workers finish setting up additional pumps and hoses to remove the water.
  • Oct 9: Six workers remove the wrong pipe, dousing themselves with highly radioactive water. TEPCO says exposure for the workers, who were wearing facemasks with filters, hazmat suits and raingear, is negligible. An estimated 7 tons of water almost overflows the barrier around it.
  • Oct 7: A worker mistakenly presses a stop button during a power switchboard check, stalling a pump and cooling-water supply to the Unit 1 reactor for a split second. A monitoring device for Units 1 and 2 and a building ventilator also fail briefly until backup power kicks in.
  • Oct 2: Workers overfill a storage tank for radioactive water, spilling about 430 liters (110 gallons). The workers were trying to maximize capacity amid the plant’s water storage crunch. Most of the spill is believed to have reached the sea via a nearby ditch.
  • Oct 1: About 5 tons of contaminated rainwater overflows when workers pump it into the wrong tank, most of it seeping into the ground.
  • Sept 27: A piece of rubber lining mistakenly left inside a water treatment unit clogs it up, causing it to fail hours after it resumed a test-run following repairs. The fragment is removed, and the unit returned to testing.
  • Sept 19: A firefighting water pipe is damaged during debris removal, and 300 liters of non-radioactive water spurt out. The same day, TEPCO provides Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with a hazmat suit for a plant visit with the wrong Japanese character for his family name on the nametag. Spotting the mistake halfway through the tour, an apparently displeased Abe peels the sticker off.
  • Sept 12: A water treatment machine overflows, leaking about 65 liters of contaminated water, when a worker doing unrelated work nearby inadvertently shuts a valve.
  • Aug 19: A patrolling worker finds a massive pool of contaminated water spilling out of a protective barrier around a storage tank. TEPCO later concludes an estimated 300 tons escaped unnoticed over several weeks.
  • April 4: A worker pushes the wrong button on a touch panel, temporarily stopping one of three water treatment units during a pre-operation test.

Humans aren’t always to blame. A rat sneaked into an outdoor power switchboard on March 18, causing a short-circuit and blackout lasting 30 hours in some areas. Four nuclear fuel storage pools lost cooling, but power was restored before a meltdown. A few weeks later, workers caused another short-circuit while installing anti-rat nets, leaving one of the fuel storage pools without cooling for several hours

Read more ehre- http://truth-out.org/news/item/19680-eight-months-ten-mishaps-a-look-at-fukushima-errors

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Is Nuclear Power Compatible With Democracy? #mustread

Sajjad Hussain/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images Activists protested against the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra
Posted: 10/02/2013 7:21 pm, Huffingtonpost

When India‘s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in the U.S. last week, he reportedlycarried a generous gift: an unlimited number of free lives. To be precise, Singh was ready to promise President Obama that should any of the nuclear reactors that India is planning to buy from U.S. companies ever suffer an accident, they will not have to pay anything in damages. Whether or not he made this offer is unclear — but the meeting evidently went well. Afterward the two leaders announced a deal between Westinghouse and India’s nuclear operator for building six reactors in Mithi Virdi, Gujarat.

The White House has long demanded such a pledge, and more: that it be written into India’s body of law. In 2008, Singh and President George Bush had finalized a deal enabling India to import reactors and uranium fuel without signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty. “The people of India deeply love you,” a grateful prime minister had gushed to Bush. Indians soon discovered, however, that earning a superpower’s affection takes deep pockets: in lieu of US support Singh had secretly promised to buy at least 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power from Westinghouse and General Electric, at an ballpark cost of about $40 billion. The deal also implied that India would ratify the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage.

Pioneered by the U.S., this agreement requires countries purchasing nuclear power plants to pass domestic legislation, both to indemnify the suppliers from all costs of accidents and also to deny citizens the right to sue for compensation. “The concern is that if there is an accident the compensation could be so huge that the companies would be bankrupt,” explains M.V. Ramana of Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security. Chernobyl has cost well above, and Fukushima may cost as much as, $250 billion — virtually all of which expense is being borne by victims and taxpayers in the affected countries. The convention ensures that this model of compensation will remain the norm.

Thus far, the agreement has been ratified by Argentina, Morocco, Romania and the United States–which, however, has exempted itself from key provisions. The relevant U.S. law is instead the Price-Anderson Act of 1957, which channels liability to the operators of a plant and currently caps it at about $12 billion; it does not curtail Americans’ right to sue. One more country with some installed nuclear capacity has to ratify the convention before it comes into force.

Try as he might, however, Singh could not get India’s raucous democracy to fall in line. To begin with, the nuclear deal precipitated a no-confidence vote that he barely scraped through. In a cable later revealed by Wikileaks, an employee of the U.S. embassy in New Delhi reported that five days before the vote a member of Singh’s Congress party showed him two chests full of cash, and told him they were part of a $10 million cache being used to purchase the support of ministers of parliament. Evidently the U.S. needed reassurance that Singh was doing all he could to push the deal through.

The nuclear liability bill proved just as contentious — not least because memories of the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984 surfaced even as it was being discussed. Union Carbide had paid a mere $470 million for what is now estimated to be more than 15,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries, and many Indians were adamant that no other company would walk away from such devastation. The Nuclear Liability Act of 2010, allegedly also passed by dubious means, nonetheless removes Indians’ ability to sue for compensation and channels liabilities to the local operators, capping them at 15 billion rupees (currently about $240 million).

Not all went according to plan, however. The law also specifies that if a reactor defect causes an accident, the operator can claim from the supplier whatever it pays out. Despite the cap of $240 million — a small fraction of the price of a reactor and a thousand times less than the potential cost of an accident — the U.S. strongly disapproved. So in writing the regulations for the bill, Singh’s team decreed that the operator can claim only for accidents occurring within the initial licensing period for a reactor, which is normally five years. A reactor has a lifespan of four to six decades.

Even that was not enough. “The nuclear industry doesn’t like this business of being liable for anything at all,” Ramana observes. Accordingly, Singh is believed to have pledged last Friday that India’s government-owned nuclear operator, which will be running the Westinghouse and GE plants, would waive all claims. Given the current form of its law, however, India cannot ratify the convention.

Nuclear suppliers are worried: even a tiny crack in their defensive wall could expand in the future, letting in a flood of claims. Under Japan’s nuclear law, for instance, GE bears no liability for the ongoing catastrophe in Fukushima, although it designed all six of the damaged reactors and supplied three of them. Experts had long criticized the weak containment dome of these reactors, three of which gave way. The Fukushima fallout includes a Greenpeace demand for revising similar liability laws around the world, such as in Canada.

Meanwhile, the fierce determination of not only the U.S., but also France and Russia to evade liability for their nuclear suppliers (India is buying reactors from all three countries as payoff for entry into the nuclear club) has convinced many Indians that the plants must be unsafe. The suspicion is well founded. For instance, if a severe accident indeed occurs as infrequently as once in four million years, as Westinghouse claims, the insurance to cover a reactor for a lifetime of operation in India would cost less than $3,500 — rendering moot all the arm-twisting to extract a pass on liability. According to Thomas Cochran, a former senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, the extant record of nuclear power shows the chance of an accident to be a thousand times higher than commonly claimed.

On the eve of Singh’s departure for the U.S., thousands of people from Mithi Virdidemonstrated against the proposed Westinghouse reactors. Mithi Virdi, which means Sweet Water, is the name of a lake that farmers depend on, and whose water the plant will use and pollute in its routine operations. Building it there will require further abrogation of democracy — but Singh has had some practice. In Koodankulam, at the southern tip of India, the police have suppressed a prolonged and spirited campaign against new Russian reactors by turning away journalists, deporting foreign sympathizers, desecrating a church, placing three villages under virtual siege and slapping sedition cases (which can carry sentences of life imprisonment) on close to seven thousand protestors, including children.

Around the world, and especially in countries where the public has a say on policy, nuclear power plants are shutting down because of concerns over cost and risk. Companies that clearly don’t trust their own claims of safety have long been asking ordinary people to stake their lives on the same — and they are no longer willing to comply. In the post-Fukushima era, nuclear power may well turn out to be incompatible with meaningful democracy.

 

 

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Fukushima farce reveals nuclear industry’s fatal flaw

Damian Carrington, The guardian

Keeping the lid on costs when the task is to keep the lid on a slow motion atomic explosion is an impossible challenge

Damian Carrington
Wednesday 4 September 2013

theguardian.com

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2013/sep/04/fukushima-farce-nuclear-industry-flaw

—-

Once upon a time, when the nuclear industry was shiny and new, it simply burned uranium. Now, old and tarnished, it burns money. From the promise of nuclear electricity being too cheap to meter, we now have costs that are too great to count.

At the site of the Fukushima meltdown in Japan, the government is being forced to spend over £200m on a fanciful-sounding underground ice wall in the latest desperate attempt to halt the radiation-contaminated water that is leaking into the sea.

When mere stopgaps cost this much, it is clear any real solution will cost the earth. Japanese taxpayers have already had to bail out the operator Tepco to the tune of £6.5bn. The final clean up will cost tens of billions and take 40 years.

Yet supporters maintain that nuclear power offers affordable low-carbon electricity and is a vital tool in the fight to curb climate change. The UK government, already spending most of its energy budget on nuclear clean up, has crashed through deadline after deadline in a fruitless search to find anybody willing to build new nuclear power stations at reasonable cost.

The only serious players left in the game are those backed by the French, Chinese and Russian states, whose interest in power is as much political as electrical. Commercial companies have fled the scene.

The fundamental reason why the price of nuclear power climbs each day as surely as the rising sun is a straightforward one. Keeping a lid on costs is impossible if the task in hand is keeping the lid on an exploding atomic bomb.

For that is what a nuclear reactor is, a slow motion detonation. That intrinsic danger means that as each new risk to reactors is discovered, more and more expensive measures need to be put in place as mitigation. When accidents happen, as they will over a half century or more of operation, the intrinsic risk of radioactive materials means more money is piled on the bonfire to ensure the risk to the public is limited.

The answer from the nuclear industry to all these criticisms is always the same: it will be different next time. But the rolling farce in Fukushima proves yet again the opposite. The only reliability the industry can offer is consistently breaking promises and busting budgets.

Today, it was revealed that radiation levels by the tanks of contaminated cooling water at Fukushima are 2,200 millisieverts an hour – a level that could kill an unprotected person in hours – and 22 times higher than previously thought. Why were previous measurements so useless? Because, Tepco belatedly admitted, they were taken using equipment that could not record radiation levels above 100 millisieverts an hour.

When you remember that this crass disregard for safety is occurring in one the most technologically advanced democracies in the world, the prospect of reactors proliferating around the world is alarming.

But perhaps this time it really can be different. Just two of Japan’s 50 working nuclear reactors are currently in operation and both are expected to be offline for maintenance by 15 September. That will leaving Japan without nuclear energy for only the second time in almost half a century. The UK government may at some point have to admit defeat in its attempts to start a nuclear renaissance.

As the false nuclear dawn fades, a new brighter horizon may be revealed, where the intrinsically safe and therefore ultimately cheaper technologies of energy efficiency and renewable energy can used to build a power system fit for the 21st century, not one harking back to the 20th.

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TEPCO sued over deaths of elderly patients during Fukushima evacuation

Fukushima *

Fukushima * (Photo credit: Sterneck)

 

 

June 11, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN,

Noriko Abe is demanding answers over the death of her 98-year-old father-in-law who was forced to take a 230-kilometer bus trip lasting more than eight hours in the confusion following the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Dozens of hospital patients died during the arduous evacuation process, which was hampered by poor communications, a lack of manpower and the sheer chaos in the aftermath of two natural disasters. At least one medical worker said decisions made during the evacuation likely exacerbated the situation for the frail patients.

Abe and the families of three other patients at Futaba Hospital who died in the evacuation process filed a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court on June 10, seeking a total of about 130 million yen ($1.3 million) in compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The patients’ ages ranged from 62 to 98 when they died.

“This is not an issue about money,” Abe, 71, said. “I want the court to clarify the reasons our father had to die and for TEPCO to apologize.”

The government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations pointed to a lack of communications between various agencies of the central and Fukushima prefectural governments as part of the reason for the delay in evacuating the Futaba Hospital patients.

But the plaintiffs, citing their own advanced age, focused the lawsuit on TEPCO to avoid a drawn-out court battle against the governments.

The lawsuit adds to the mountain of compensation claims against the utility over the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“We would like to refrain from commenting on the lawsuit,” a TEPCO official said.

According to the lawsuit, the four patients, who were being treated for pneumonia and other ailments, were among about 340 at Futaba Hospital when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami knocked out power at the nearby Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 11, 2011.

Power outages meant medical equipment could not be used at Futaba Hospital, and the four patients did not receive adequate care, the lawsuit said.

The following day, 209 patients were evacuated from the hospital and eventually taken to Iwaki Kaisei Hospital. The four patients were not among them.

At 3:36 p.m. that day, the first hydrogen explosion rocked the Fukushima No. 1 plant. Officials of the central and Fukushima prefectural governments tried to pick up the pace of relocating patients in nearby hospitals.

But the explosions hampered the evacuation of the remaining patients at Futaba Hospital.

A decision was made to take the second group of 34 patients–including the four–from Futaba Hospital to the Soso public health center in Minami-Soma, about 25 kilometers north of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, for radiation checks before transferring them to an evacuation center.

But it wasn’t until the early morning of March 14 when the Self-Defense Forces rescued the 34 patients and used an SDF bus to take them to the Soso public health center.

“I could not do anything for them,” said Kenji Sasahara, 47, who headed the Soso public health center when the patients arrived for radiation checks. “Their conditions were very bad so I should have asked that they be taken directly to the evacuation center.”

Sasahara said a number of patients were pale and in such serious condition they could not be removed from the SDF bus. Center workers entered the vehicle to conduct the radiation checks, which were completed in about 10 minutes.

A plan was devised to transfer the patients to Iwaki Koyo Senior High School, about 46 kilometers south of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, on a bus chartered by the Fukushima prefectural government.

But to avoid approaching the stricken nuclear plant, the bus route went inland and covered a distance of 230 kilometers.

According to the government investigative panel’s final report, officials at the prefectural agency dealing with the natural disasters were not aware that many of the patients were in serious condition and unfit for such a long drive.

Sasahara said he asked the SDF members to take the patients to Iwaki without transferring them to the other bus.

“It would have been dangerous to even transfer the patients to the other bus because that alone would have been a heavy burden,” he said.

Sasahara asked a public health center worker from Iwaki to travel with the group as a navigator. “That was the only thing I was able to do,” Sasahara said.

The four patients died between March 15 and April 18 while being evacuated or after they had reached the evacuation center. Abe’s father-in-law died on March 16.

A third group of 54 patients evacuated from Futaba Hospital on March 15, while 35 others were moved on March 16. Both groups ended up in Nihonmatsu, northwest of the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Although Sasahara was worried about the patients, he and the 50 workers at the center were swamped with work as about 1,000 evacuees a day showed up for radiation checks.

Early on the morning of March 16, Sasahara received a call on his mobile phone from an acquaintance in Iwaki who worked in the prefectural government.

“A number of patients have died,” the acquaintance said, leaving Sasahara speechless.

According to the government investigative panel, three patients died before the bus reached the Iwaki high school, while five others died by the morning of March 16.

According to Futaba Hospital officials, four from the group of 34 died by the end of March.

In total, 19 patients evacuated from Futaba Hospital died over the five days after the nuclear accident, and 21 others died by the end of March.

Sasahara, who holds a PhD in medicine, now heads the Fukushima prefectural public hygiene research institute.

“The patients were not exposed to radiation because they were always either in the hospital or in a vehicle,” he said. “Looking back on it, there was no need to bring those patients to the public health center in the first place.”

(This article was compiled from reports by Shinichi Fujiwara and Noriyoshi Ohtsuki.)

 

source- http://ajw.asahi.com/

 

 

 

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#India – Anti-nuke activists urge PM not to sign Nuclear Agreement with Japan

By Newzfirst Bureau5/27/13

New Delhi – In the wake of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan, hundreds of people from across the globe have appealed him not to sign the IndiaJapan Nuclear Agreement.

Singh will be visiting Tokyo on Monday, 27th May in a trip that was scrapped last year after a general election was called in Japan.

With an aim to expand the partnership by discussing a wide range of issues including politics and the economy, it is expected to include the signing of infrastructure projects deals worth $15 billion, say reports.

“We stand in complete opposition to the India-Japan nuclear cooperation agreement that is currently under intense negotiation. The governments of both countries must refrain from promoting nuclear commerce, jeopardizing the health and safety of their people and environments.” reads the petition addressed to the both Indian and Japanese authorities.

Referring the Fukushima accident and post-accident impacts, the petition further reads thatIndia must behave responsibly and should rethink its use of nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy currently provides less than 3% of its total electricity and can be easily replaced, freeing the country to embrace renewable and sustainable alternatives, it adds.

Petitioners have also appealed the Government of Japan to desist the Nuclear Export Policy, through which it exports nuclear technology to other countries.

“The current policy option of exporting nuclear energy to countries like India, Vietnam, Jordan etc… are totally unjust while Japan is reeling under the huge financial losses posed by the Fukushima accident and its citizens are observing massive protests to demand a nuclear-free future and the victims of the triple meltdowns remain uncompensated.” the petition says.

(IANS)

 

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