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Their signs read "We want to live!" and "Road to Death," and many bear the bright yellow symbol warning of radiation. On Monday, several hundred protesters gathered in the south of Moscow outside residential housing blocks that overlook a nuclear waste site.
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Japan's New Environmental Minister Calls for Closing Down All Nuclear Reactors to Prevent Another Disaster Like Fukushima
Japan's new environmental minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, called Wednesday for permanently shutting down the nation's nuclear reactors to prevent a repeat of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, comments that came just a day after Koizumi's predecessor recommended dumping more than one million tons of radioactive wastewater from the power plant into the Pacific Ocean.
By Harvey Wasserman
Had last Friday's 7.1 earthquake and other ongoing seismic shocks hit less than 200 miles northwest of Ridgecrest/China Lake, ten million people in Los Angeles would now be under an apocalyptic cloud, their lives and those of the state and nation in radioactive ruin.
The Federal Government Has Long Treated Nevada as a Dumping Ground, and It’s Not Just Yucca Mountain
By Michael Green
Nevadans can be forgiven for thinking they are in an endless loop of "The Walking Dead" TV series. Their least favorite zombie federal project refuses to die.
In 2010, Congress had abandoned plans to turn Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, into the nation's only federal dump for nuclear waste so radioactive it requires permanent isolation. And the House recently voted by a wide margin to resume these efforts.
Naomi Klein: 'New York City Is Taking a Game-Changing First Step in Turning the World Right Side Up'
The following is a speech given by Naomi Klein in New York City on Jan. 10.
I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for this historic announcement that New York is divesting from fossil fuels and suing five oil majors.
By Stephanie Malin
Companies such as Energy Fuels, Inc. have played well-publicized roles in lobbying the Trump administration to reduce federal protection for public lands with uranium deposits. The Defense Department's Nuclear Posture Review calls for new weapons production to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which could spur new domestic uranium mining. And the Interior Department is advocating more domestic uranium production, along with other materials identified as "critical minerals."
Indian Point Energy Center is a three-unit nuclear power plant station located in Buchanan, New York, just south of Peekskill. Tony Fischer / Wikipedia
By Joseph Mangano
In the late 1970s, the rate of new thyroid cancer cases in four counties just north of New York City—Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties—was 22 percent below the U.S. rate. Today, it has soared to 53 percent above the national rate. New cases jumped from 51 to 412 per year. Large increases in thyroid cancer occurred for both males and females in each county.
That's according to a new study I co-authored which was published in the Journal of Environmental Protection and presented at Columbia University.
By Jan Haverkamp and Andrey Allakhverdov
A week ago, the Russian meteorological service, Roshydromet, reacted to a month-long standing request for information from Greenpeace. It triggered extraordinary interest among journalists world-wide in a rather unknown bit of nuclear physics: the radioactive substance ruthenium-106.
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By Kieran Cooke
It was the worst nuclear accident in history, directly causing the deaths of 50 people, with at least an additional 4,000 fatalities believed to be caused by exposure to radiation.
The 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine also resulted in vast areas of land being contaminated by nuclear fallout, with a 30-kilometer exclusion zone, which encompassed the town of Pripyat, being declared in the area round the facility.
A building in the abandoned town of Pripyat, which sits inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone.Ryan Roberts / Flickr
Solar Power Plant
Now two companies from China plan to build a one-gigawatt solar power plant on 2,500 hectares of land in the exclusion zone to the south of the Chernobyl plant.
Ukrainian officials say the companies estimate they will spend up to $1 billion on the project over the next two years.
A subsidiary of Golden Concord Holdings (GLC), one of China's biggest renewable energy concerns, will supply and install solar panels at the site, while a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Machinery Corporation will build and run the plant.
"It is cheap land and abundant sunlight constitutes a solid foundation for the project," said Ostap Semerak, Ukraine's minister of environment and natural resources.
"In addition, the remaining electric transmission facilities are ready for reuse."
In a press release, GLC state work on the solar plant will probably start this year and talk of the advantages of building the facility.
"There will be remarkable social benefits and economical ones as we try to renovate the once-damaged area with green and renewable energy," said Shu Hua, chairman of the GLC subsidiary.
"We are glad that we are making joint efforts with Ukraine to rebuild the community for the local people."
Radiation that escaped as a result of the explosion at Chernobyl reached as far away as the mountains and hills of Wales in the UK, and a substantial portion of the radioactive dust released fell on farmlands in Belarus, north of Ukraine.
Till now the exclusion zone, including the town of Pripyat, has been out of bounds for most people, with only limited farming activity permitted on lands that are still regarded as contaminated.
Many former residents of the area are allowed back only once or twice a year for visits—to their old homes or to tend their relatives' graves. However, a growing number of tourists have been visiting the Chernobyl area recently.
There has also been renewed interest in Chernobyl due to recent major engineering work at the plant, with a new steel-clad sarcophagus—described as the largest movable land-based structure ever built—being wheeled into position over much of the structure, to prevent any further leaks of radiation.
As yet, neither the Ukrainians nor the Chinese have disclosed the safety measures that will be adopted during the construction of the solar plant.
Ecologists who have visited the exclusion zone around Chernobyl say that there is an abundance of wildlife in the area, with substantial populations of elk, deer, wild boar and wolves.
Other researchers say there is still evidence of contamination, with limited insect activity and disease in many smaller mammals.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
Thirty years after the nuclear disaster Greenpeace revisits the site and the Unit 4 with the New Safe Confinement (NSC or New Shelter). Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace
The 1986 meltdown, which released radiation at least 100 times more powerful than the radiation released by the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, rendered roughly 2,600 square kilometers of the area unsuitable for habitation. Greenpeace found that animals living within the exclusion zone have higher mortality rates, increased genetic mutations and decreased birth rate.
But in a twist of poetic justice, the Ukrainian government has expressed ambitions to turn 6,000 hectares within Chernobyl's "exclusion zone" into a renewable energy hub. The proposed plant would generate 1-gigawatt of solar power and 400-megawatts of biogas per year, the Guardian reported. The country is pushing for a six-month construction cycle.
PV-Tech, ecology minister Ostap Semerak has visited the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) with the plan. The proposal has since been issued to investment firms in the U.S., Canada and the UK. If it gets the green light, the renewable energy farm will generate about a third of the electricity that the former nuclear plant generated when it was running.
“The Chernobyl site has really good potential for renewable energy," Semerak said during an interview in London. “We already have high-voltage transmission lines that were previously used for the nuclear stations, the land is very cheap and we have many people trained to work at power plants. We have normal European priorities, which means having the best standards with the environment and clean energy ambitions."
Semerak said that two U.S. investment firms and four Canadian energy companies have already expressed interest in the Chernobyl's solar potential, the Guardian reported. The project is
estimated to cost between $1 and $1.5 billion.
"The EBRD may consider participating in the project so long as there are viable investment proposals and all other environmental matters and risks can be addressed to the bank's satisfaction," an EBRD representative said.
However "nothing is imminent," the spokesperson added. "We are keeping an open mind. But it's important not to read too much into it at this stage."
"The Ukraine has indicated it will open the exclusion zone, and we welcome that. Renewables are one of our priorities, and as soon and as long as they secure investment then we will discuss the project and provide co-financing," the bank rep said.
The renewable energy project isn't just good news for the environment, it will provide Ukraine some energy independence, as the country currently gets the bulk of its natural gas from Russia,
Business Insider pointed out.
If construction is approved, Chernobyl's solar farm will hold the title of "World's Largest Solar Plant" before Dubai's massive concentrated solar plant
catches up to it.
The under-construction Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai will produce 1 gigawatt of electricity by 2020 with ambitious expansion plans of 5 gigawatts by 2030.
By Dahr Jamail
Former nuclear industry senior vice president Arnie Gundersen, who managed and coordinated projects at 70 U.S. atomic power plants, is appalled at how the Japanese government is handling the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
"The inhumanity of the Japanese government toward the Fukushima disaster refugees is appalling," Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 45 years of nuclear power engineering experience and the author of a bestselling book in Japan about the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, told Truthout.
Following the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Greenpeace USA released a new report Tuesday on the 166 near misses at U.S. nuclear power plants over the past decade. Of the incidents identified in Nuclear Near Misses: A Decade of Accident Precursors at U.S. Nuclear Plants, 10 are considered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to be important precursors to a meltdown.
“Contrary to NRC commissioners’ claims, there is nothing safe about the nuclear reactors in the United States,” Greenpeace Nuclear Policy Analyst Jim Riccio said. “Thirty years after Chernobyl and five years after Fukushima, it is clear that these kinds of disasters could absolutely happen here. It is time for the NRC to listen to the whistleblowers within its own ranks and address these longstanding issues and vulnerabilities.”
In addition to the 163 accident precursors or near misses documented by the NRC, Greenpeace identified three significant near misses that NRC risk analysts failed to review under the agency’s Accident Sequence Precursor Program (ASP): the triple meltdown threat to Duke Energy’s Oconee Nuclear Station west of Greenville, South Carolina. According to NRC’s risk analysts, if nearby Jocassee Dam had failed, all three of the nuclear reactors at Oconee were certain to meltdown.
The report identified the following incidents as the top 10 near misses at nuclear plants between 2004-2014:
1. Browns Ferry 1 in Athens, Alabama: Residual heat removal loop unavailable; valve failure.
2. Wolf Creek in Burlington, Kansas: Multiple switchyard faults, reactor trip and loss of offsite power.
3. Robinson in Hartsville, South Carolina: Fire causes partial loss of offsite power & reactor coolant pump seal cooling challenges.
4. Fort Calhoun in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska: Fire in safety-related 480 volt electrical breaker due to deficient design control. 8 other breakers susceptible.
5. River Bend in St. Francisville, Louisiana. Loss of normal service water, circulating water and feedwater caused by electrical fault.
6. Oconee 1 in Seneca, South Carolina: Failure of Jocassee Dam would result in a meltdown.
7. Oconee 2 in Seneca, South Carolina: Failure of Jocassee Dam would result in a meltdown.
8. Oconee 3 in Seneca, South Carolina: Failure of Jocassee Dam would result in a meltdown.
9. North Anna 1 in Mineral, Virginia: Dual loss of offsite power caused by earthquake AFW pump out of service & failure of Unit 2 EDG.
10. Byron 2 in Byron, Illinois: Transformer & breaker failures cause Loss of Off Site Power, reactor trip and de-energizing of safety buses.
“If the NRC can’t even accurately track near meltdowns why should the public have any confidence that they can prevent them? It’s time to retire these dangerous nuclear plants and end the nuclear era once and for all,” Riccio concluded.
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In Peekskill, New York, just about an hour north of New York City, residents have launched a blockade in efforts to stop the construction of a gas pipeline slated to run only hundreds of feet from the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant.
The proposed project has sparked concerns from residents and nuclear experts that a pipeline break could cause a catastrophic nuclear disaster that would threaten the entirety of New York City. The pipeline is being built by Spectra Energy and is officially known as the Algonquin Incremental Market Project or AIM pipeline.
Peekskill residents and activists escalated the campaign to stop this pipeline's construction by installing a fully sustainable shipping container at the entrance of Spectra's work yard—complete with two activists living inside. Democracy Now! was there as the blockade was launched.
Here's the transcript of the interview:
Juan Gonzalez: In Peekskill, New York, just about an hour north of New York City, residents have launched a blockade in efforts to stop construction of Spectra Energy's Algonquin Incremental Market Project, known as the AIM pipeline, which would carry high-pressure methane gas from Massachusetts through Rhode Island, Connecticut and down to the communities along the Hudson River. In Peekskill, the pipeline is slated to run only hundreds of feet from the aging Indian Point nuclear power plant, sparking concerns from residents and nuclear experts that a pipeline break could cause a catastrophic nuclear disaster that would threaten the entirety of New York City.
Well, only hours ago, Peekskill residents and activists escalated the campaign to stop the pipeline's construction by installing a fully sustainable shipping container at the entrance of Spectra's work yard—complete with two activists living inside. Democracy Now! was there as the blockade was launched.
Lee Stewart: My name is Lee Stewart. We are now on the site, the construction site, of Spectra AIM's pipeline. The workers will be arriving very soon to find our home here now, where they're supposed to be doing work.
Jane Kendall: We have a pouch we can fill with water and put it up here so the sun will heat it, so we can have hot showers.
I'm Jane Kendall. Spectra Energy has put their construction pipe for the pipeline through people's yards, through our woodlands, through our wetlands. Now we're putting our home in their yard, in their path. You'll see there's heavy equipment there. They're beginning to plow through to get the path to lay the pipeline. And over here is a yard where they're keeping heavy equipment.
Laura Gottesdiener: And the shipping container, where is that in between all this?
Jane Kendall: It's right smack in the middle. It's stopping everything. And the really great thing is, everybody in this area driving back and forth on the way to work is going to see it.
Laura Gottesdiener: What does the message on the side of this container say?
Lee Stewart: "Our lives on the line. Stop Spectra."
Activist: Here we go, guys. Here we go. There's workers here.
Jane Kendall: Ok, go.
Activist: I'm going to give you this closing.
Jane Kendall: Here we go. Ciao.
Lee Stewart: Love.
Amy Goodman: That was Lee Stewart speaking this morning before he and Jane Kendall locked themselves into the shipping container blockading Spectra Energy's work yard. The project has already faced massive resistance at other points along the route, including in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, where activists from a group known as The FANG Collective have staged a series of tree-sits and protests. Spectra is currently suing three FANG members for $30,000 over a protest in which activists locked themselves to structures at a construction site, delaying work for hours. The three are heading to court this Thursday. In Peekskill, this morning's blockade is the latest in a series of escalating actions. On Saturday, 21 people were arrested after forming a human chain to block trucks from moving in or out of the construction site. Democracy Now!'s Laura Gottesdiener was there, speaking to residents, protesters risking arrest and a nuclear safety expert.
Protesters: Get up! Get down! Leave fossil fuels in the ground! Get up! Get down!
Courtney Williams: My name is Courtney Williams. I am a resident of Peekskill and I am working to stop the Algonquin pipeline expansion. I first heard about the pipeline over two years ago, when a local organization called SAPE, which is Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion, had an info session at the local library. And they had been working to stop fracking and they realized that even if New York banned hydrofracking, we would still be feeling a lot of the health and safety impacts of it if we had massive fracked gas pipelines going through our communities. So that's when we first learned about the project. And my husband actually said, "I think these people are crazy or we need to move," because they're building this pipeline right next to the nuclear power plant, right next to the elementary school and 400 feet from our front door. Our home will be incinerated if this pipeline ruptures near to our house. And the school district, the great school district that we were buying to live in, now our daughter will be going to kindergarten 400 feet from the pipeline, where, you know, she and 300 other kids would be harmed if the pipeline ruptured there.
Laura Gottesdiener: How old is your daughter Irene?
Courtney Williams: My daughter is six. And my—and so she's a kindergartner there now. And my son is going to be four on Monday, actually. And he would be starting there, if we still live here.
Laura Gottesdiener: If this section becomes operational, will you stay and send your kids to this school, where there's—400 feet away, there's the possibility that there could be a pipeline explosion?
Courtney Williams: We really don't feel safe here anymore.
Protesters: We're gonna roll! We're gonna roll! We're gonna roll! We're gonna roll! We're gonna roll right over Spectra!
Jean Bergman: My name is Jean Bergman. And we're here in Peekskill to protest the Spectra pipeline. Right now we have over 20 people willing to risk arrest to try to stop this pipeline from being built. We're standing across the entrance to the pipeline work area and we're going to stay here and prevent vehicles from coming in or out as long as we can.
Protesters: We shall not be moved.
Benjamin Shepard: I'm Benjamin Shepard from Brooklyn, New York City. And we're here to ask: If all of our elected representatives are on record as being against this pipeline, if the mayor of Peekskill is on record as being against the pipeline, if the people of Peekskill are on record as being against this pipeline, who's calling the shots? The people or the corporations? And if the corporations won't get out of the way, the people have to do it, are going to have to get in their way. And that's why we're here, to get on the—stop the machinery.
Paul Blanch: My name is Paul Blanch. I'm a registered professional engineer. I've studied nuclear safety for 50 years. And I know there's a probability of an event occurring that would literally destroy the area here and impact 20 million people and cause property and infrastructure damage exceeding $8 trillion. There is no nuclear power plant that we are aware of, first of all, that's located in such a high densely populated area. There's no nuclear power plant with a gas line running 400 feet from the control room. There is no protection in the control room, should an event occur. If an event occurs, an explosion or the release of gas, even unexploded, could cause disabling the people in the control room and result in meltdown of both reactors. An explosion would engulf the Indian Point facility. And the containments wouldn't be affected, but it's very likely that we would have a release exceeding those of Chernobyl and Fukushima, because there's more radioactive material stored here than at those facilities.
Laura Gottesdiener: So you're saying if there were an explosion at Indian Point power plant, nuclear power plant, everybody in New York City would be displaced?
Paul Blanch: Well, I'm not saying everybody. It depends on which way the wind is blowing. And if it blows to New York City, there's been studies that, you know, the evacuation area could extend beyond 50 miles. And New York City downtown is only 35 miles away. And predominant winds are down the Hudson River and it could cause the relocation of people permanently.
Protesters: Get up! Get down! Leave fossil fuels in the ground! Get up! Get down!
Amy Goodman: That was nuclear power safety expert Paul Blanch speaking Saturday in Peekskill, New York, about the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The facility has long been plagued with aging infrastructure and safety concerns. On Tuesday, the environmental group Friends of the Earth filed an emergency petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission demanding one of Indian Point's reactors be kept offline and that another be shut down due to the disintegration of key bolts holding the reactor cooling system together.
Well, for more, we're joined here in New York by Nancy Vann, president of Safe Energy Rights Group and a member of Resist AIM. She's a resident of Peekskill, New York. She just left the newly launched blockade of the AIM pipeline.
Nancy, welcome to Democracy Now!
Nancy Vann: Thank you.
Amy Goodman: So, the significance of this pipeline being next to this nuclear power plant and then Friends of the Earth filing this complaint?
Nancy Vann: The pipeline is dangerous enough on its own. We anticipate that a blast radius from a rupture would be between 800 and a thousand feet. And it runs within about 105 feet of the switchyard that supplies all the power to Indian Point to keep the cores cooled. If the core power goes out, there's a backup generator and the pipeline will run 115 feet from the fuel that would fuel those backup generators. So, any rupture of this pipeline would completely obliterate really critical safety structures at Indian Point.
Juan Gonzalez: Why did public officials allow this pipeline to be built in the first place? Governor Cuomo, for instance, is known as an opponent of the Indian Point nuclear power plant and wants to close it down. Why haven't they stepped forward on this issue?
Nancy Vann: Well, Governor Cuomo actually did step forward on it. He had issued a letter and sent it to FERC, which is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a little—about a month ago, saying that he wanted this pipeline construction halted until an independent risk assessment could be done. FERC, that we like to call FERCbecause of its implications—we always talk about them FERCing us—they are an industry that—they are captured by the industry. They are really a rogue agency. All of their funding comes from the fossil fuel industry. If there were no new projects, there would be no agency.
Amy Goodman: Last year, The FANG Collective—standing for Fighting Against Natural Gas—recorded a series of interviews with a whistleblower who worked as a contract safety inspector on Spectra's AIM pipeline. He was asked to describe the safety conditions at the site. His voice has been distorted.
Safety Inspector: We had an excavator that flipped over, a very heavy—I'd have to guess, but I'd be remiss to say it was easily greater than 50,000 pounds—a trackhoe, flip over on a jobsite, the arrest of it—tumbling down a field. It was arrested by falling onto the flatbed it was putting pipe on. You had the situation at Cromwell, where a crane forgets to unhook its headache ball from the front of the crane and starts to boom crane out. Well, when you do that, cable is supposed to get longer, but it didn't, so it catastrophically broke the cable. The ball hit 10-inch plate, that could have been under pressure. What if that would have been live pressurized plate, that by now had been struck by headache ball, by crane that weighs upteen tons? That could have led to a humongous environmental safety issue as well as multiple deaths. So, the bottom line is, these are all situations where I was personally confronted, from crane to the trackhoe, to the head injuries, to the minor heat exhaustion, to the so on and so forth.
Amy Goodman: The whistleblower went on to say inspectors told him about other safety violations.
Safety Inspector: Inspectors come up to me in the field and say to me, "There was a pipe buried underground that was not inspected properly." And the reason it was not excavated and inspected was that it cost too much money. The right thing for the inspector to do is to make them dig it back up. That's the right thing to do. With the pressure you receive from Spectra, you will never do that.
Amy Goodman: So, Nancy Vann, explain what this safety inspector is saying, in the last 30 seconds we have.
Nancy Vann: He is talking about the fact that new pipelines are actually failing at a much higher rate than older pipelines. They're being put in too fast. The wells are not being inspected. They're using faulty steel, using often Chinese steel that is not up to the standards that it should be. And
Amy Goodman: Our latest news is police are currently trying to cut through the shipping container that was set up today, not successful so far. What about this blockade launch that was just begun this morning? You've got 10 seconds.
Nancy Vann: Our lives really are on the line. In court, we are pleading the necessity defense, saying that we have to do this to keep a greater harm from being perpetrated on the people of New York. There are 20 million people that could be affected if something goes wrong at this pipeline next to Indian Point.
Amy Goodman: Nancy Vann, I want to thank you for being with us, president of Safe Energy Rights Group, member of Resist AIM, lives in Peekskill, New York. And that does it for the show. Special thanks to Laura Gottesdiener and Juan Carlos Dávila for that report.
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On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a tsunami, which in turn produced equipment failures and the release of radioactive material at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. The disaster is the single largest release of radioactivity into the ocean and one of only two Level 7 nuclear disasters in world history—the other being Chernobyl.
The environmental impacts of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster are already becoming apparent, according to a new analysis from Greenpeace Japan, and for humans and other living things in the region, there is "no end in sight" to the ecological fallout.
The report warns that these impacts—which include mutations in trees, DNA-damaged worms, and radiation-contaminated mountain watersheds—will last "decades to centuries." The conclusion is culled from a large body of independent scientific research on impacted areas in the Fukushima region, as well as investigations by Greenpeace radiation specialists over the past five years.
"The government's massive decontamination program will have almost no impact on reducing the ecological threat from the enormous amount of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster," Kendra Ulrich, senior nuclear campaigner at Greenpeace Japan, said. "Already, more than 9 million cubic meters of nuclear waste are scattered over at least 113,000 locations across Fukushima prefecture."
According to Radiation Reloaded: Ecological Impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident 5 Years Later, studies have shown:
- High radiation concentrations in new leaves, and at least in the case of cedar, in pollen;
- apparent increases in growth mutations of fir trees with rising radiation levels;
- heritable mutations in pale blue grass butterfly populations and DNA-damaged worms in highly contaminated areas, as well as apparent reduced fertility in barn swallows;
- decreases in the abundance of 57 bird species with higher radiation levels over a four year study; and
- high levels of caesium contamination in commercially important freshwater fish; and radiological contamination of one of the most important ecosystems—coastal estuaries.
The report comes amid a push by the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to resettle contaminated areas and also restart nuclear reactors in Japan that were shut down in the aftermath of the crisis.
However, Ulrich said, "the Abe government is perpetuating a myth that five years after the start of the nuclear accident the situation is returning to normal. The evidence exposes this as political rhetoric, not scientific fact. And unfortunately for the victims, this means they are being told it is safe to return to environments where radiation levels are often still too high and are surrounded by heavy contamination."
According to Greenpeace, it's not only the Abe government that holds "deeply flawed assumptions" about both decontamination and ecosystem risks, but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), too. Indeed, the failures in the methods used by the IAEA to come to the "baseless conclusion" that there would be no expected ecological impacts from the Fukushima disaster are "readily apparent," the report claims.
In September, Greenpeace Japan blasted the IAEA for "downplaying" the continuing environmental and health effects of the nuclear meltdown in order to support the Japanese government's agenda of normalizing the ongoing disaster.
Meanwhile, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) charged on Thursday that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has also failed to learn lessons from the Fukushima meltdown. In its report, Preventing an American Fukushima, the group states that five years after the nuclear accident, the NRC "has made insufficient progress in improving U.S. nuclear power safety" while implementing "half-baked" reforms.
"[A]ll too often," UCS said, "the agency abdicated its responsibility as the nation's nuclear watchdog by allowing the industry to rely on voluntary guidelines, which are, by their very nature, unenforceable."
"The NRC and the nuclear industry have taken steps to address some of the safety vulnerabilities revealed by the Fukushima disaster," acknowledged report author Edwin Lyman, a UCS senior scientist and co-author of the 2014 book, Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster. "But so far, the agency has failed to fully learn the lessons of Fukushima. It needs to go back to the drawing board and reconsider critical safety recommendations that it dismissed without good justification. The health and safety of the more than 100 million Americans living within 50 miles of a nuclear plant hang in the balance."
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5 Years Later Fukushima Still Spilling Toxic Nuclear Waste Into Sea, Top Execs Face Criminal Charges
Five years after the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Telco) were indicted Monday for allegedly failing to prevent the tsunami-sparked crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
A satellite image shows damage at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant In Fukushima Prefecture. The damage was caused by the offshore earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011. Photo credit: Greenpeace
Former Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto were charged with contributing to deaths and injuries stemming from the nuclear meltdown triggered by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Their indictment is Japan's first criminal action taken in connection with the nuclear crisis. If convicted, the three men could face up to five years in prison or a penalty up to 1 million yen.
According to The Japan Times, the trio have been blamed for injuries to 13 people, including Self-Defense Forces personnel, hydrogen explosions at the plant and the deaths of 44 patients who were forced to evacuate from a nearby hospital. The indictment seeks to answer in court the question of whether the three bosses should be held criminally responsible for the disaster, the publication stated.
Tepco had been warned years earlier about the dangers of an earthquake and a tsunami hitting the plant. According to The Japan Times, the inquest committee said the former executives received a report by June 2009 that the plant could be hit by a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters and that they “failed to take pre-emptive measures knowing the risk of a major tsunami.”
The three executives were not taken into custody and are likely to plead not guilty to the charges arguing that it was impossible to predict the size of the tsunami, according to Abc.net.au. The trial is not expected to begin until next year.
Still, many have been encouraged by the indictment.
"I'm full of emotion," Ruiko Muto, head of a campaign group pushing for a trial, told a Tokyo press briefing. "This will be a great encouragement for hundreds of thousands of nuclear accident victims who are still suffering and facing hardship."
Environmental group Greenpeace also called the charges against the Tepco executives a step forward for Fukushima victims.
"The court proceedings that will now follow should reveal the true extent of Tepco's and the Japanese regulatory system's enormous failure to protect the people of Japan," Hisayo Takada, deputy program director at Greenpeace's Japan office, said in a statement. “Tepco and the Japanese regulator continue to ignore demands to disclose key details of what they know about the causes of the accident. The hundred thousand people who still can’t return home deserve to have all the facts.”
In response to the indictment, a Tepco spokesman said, "We will continue to do our utmost to sincerely address the issue of compensation, decontamination and decommissioning of the plant, and at the same time we express our unflagging resolve to ensure strengthening the safety measures at our nuclear power plant."
The nuclear meltdown forced the evacuation of 160,000 locals who lived around the power plant with many who will never return. The devastating fallout continues to this day, as Scientific American wrote in their upcoming issue:
The plant has yet to stop producing dangerous nuclear waste: its operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), currently circulates water through the three melted units to keep them cool—generating a relentless supply of radioactive water. To make matters worse, groundwater flowing from a hill behind the crippled plant now mingles with radioactive materials before heading into the sea.
Tepco collects the contaminated water and stores it all in massive tanks at the rate of up to 400 metric tons a day. Lately the water has been processed to reduce the concentration of radionuclides, but it still retains high concentrations of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Disputes over its final resting place remain unresolved. The same goes for the millions of bags of contaminated topsoil and other solid waste from the disaster, as well as the uranium fuel itself. Health reports, too, are worrisome. Scientists have seen an increase in thyroid cancers among the children who had lived in Fukushima at the time, although it is too early to tell if those cases can be attributed to the accident.
Indeed, as Beyond Nuclear reported in October, a study examining children who were 18 years and younger at the onset of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown found an increase in thyroid cancers, as predicted by World Health Organization initial dose assessments.
Despite the environmental and human health catastrophe—as well as widespread public opposition—Japan restarted its first nuclear reactor in August.
“Five years since the Fukushima accident began, Japan’s nuclear regulator is repeating the same kind of mistakes that led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Last week, the plutonium-fueled Takahama 4 reactor was restarted, just days after a radioactive leak in the primary coolant system,” Kendra Ulrich, senior global energy campaigner at Greenpeace Japan, said in a statement Monday.
“Japan’s nuclear regulator continues to look the other way on major safety issues. The government continues to press ahead with nuclear restarts despite unresolved safety problems that put the public at risk. It’s time to break free from nuclear and embrace the only safe and clean technology that can meet Japan’s needs—renewable energy.”
Last week, Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior vessel surveyed waters near the Fukushima plant to take samples from the seabed to be analyzed in independent laboratories in Japan and France.
"It's very important (to see) where is more contaminated and where is less or even almost not contaminated," Greenpeace's Jan Vande Putte told AFP, stressing the importance of such findings for the fishing industry.
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A study examining children who were 18 years and younger at the onset of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe found an increase in thyroid cancers, as predicted by World Health Organization (WHO) initial dose assessments.
The expected cases of thyroid cancer in children is 1-2 per year per million. Photo credit: Yoshiaki Miura / Japan Times
Lead researcherhis is more than expected and emerging faster than expected ... ” by either initial WHO predictions or studies of thyroid cancers after the Chernobyl nuclear explosion in 1986. Tsuda was urged by international experts and the publishing journal to publish his study as soon as possible due to its potential implications for public health.
The study, published in Epidemiology, analyzed prefecture data up to Dec. 31, 2014.
There were no precise measurements of internal or external radiation exposure, so researchers used residential addresses at the time the catastrophe began in 2011 as a surrogate for dose. The highest incidence rate ratio was among people whose districts were not evacuated, approximately 50 to 60 km (30 to 40 miles) west of the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Data show 605 thyroid cancer cases per 1 million examinees. The expected cases of thyroid cancer in children is 1-2 per year per million.
A second round of screening, to be completed in March 2016, will include those who were in utero in 2011. Data already show an additional 25 thyroid cancers.
Ground contamination does not necessarily reflect exposure. Some of the most exposed people came from areas where radionuclide deposition was minimal, but radioactive iodine in the air as a result of the catastrophe still left them exposed.
The magnitude of the increase is too great to be explained by increased screening, since available data show that, at most, a 6 to 7–fold increase would be attributable to enhanced screening efforts. The data examined by Tsuda show cancer cases an order of magnitude higher.
The increase cannot be attributed to over-diagnosis, either. The cancers found by the screenings in Fukushima prefecture had metastasized to lymph nodes in 74 percent of cases (40 cases out of 54), meaning that these cases were not in early stages of development; medical professionals support this conclusion: "However, physicians actually involved with diagnosis during the thyroid examination unanimously agree that 'it is not over-diagnosis.' These physicians include Dr. Akira Miyauchi from Kuma Hospital, one of nation’s top thyroid clinicians, as well as Dr. Shinichi Suzuki from Fukushima Medical University, director of thyroid examination in Fukushima prefecture." Over-diagnosis "refers to diagnosis of disease that does not require medical treatment, as opposed to screening effect which means early detection of asymptomatic disease that patients are unaware of and which eventually requires medical treatment."
Contrary to claims that we would not see an increase in cancers this early (within a year after exposure to radioactivity), radioactivity from Fukushima could be the cause of the rising number of thyroid cancer cases, as excess cancers were likewise observed in the years immediately following Chernobyl disaster. Further, the U.S. Center for Disease Control recognizes a minimum empirical induction time of 2.5 years in adults and 1 year in kids for all cancers, including thyroid cancer.
Though the study focused on children, residents who were older than 18 years in 2011 should also be monitored for thyroid cancers.
In addition to predicting increases in thyroid cancers, the WHO also predicted increases in leukemia, breast and other types of cancers. The WHO acceded to demands by the government of Japan to reduce estimated doses. As a result, doses listed in the WHO’s report are 1/10th to 1/3rd lower than initially drafted.
The study concludes: “In Chernobyl, excesses of thyroid cancer became more remarkable 4 or 5 years after the accident in Belarus and Ukraine, so the observed excess alerts us to prepare for more potential cases within a few years. Furthermore, we could infer a possibility that exposure doses for residents were higher than the official report or the dose estimation by the World Health Organization, because the number of thyroid cancer cases grew faster than predicted in the World Health Organization’s health assessment report.”
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