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Fukushima + 5: The Disaster Continues

by Michael Steinberg Saturday, Mar. 26, 2016 at 2:48 PM

Nuclear Shutdown News chronicles the decline and fall of the nuclear industry, in the US and beyond, and highlights the efforts of those who are working to create a nuclear free future. Here is this month's issue.

Fukushima + 5: The Disaster Continues

On March 9, two days before the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Wall Street Journal ran this story, “Japanese Court Orders Shutdown of Nuclear Reactors.”

The paper reported that the court “issued an injunction to shut down two of the four reactors recently restarted” by Kansai Electric Co. because the utility failed to prove to the court's satisfaction that it could operate operate those nukes safely.
Driving the process, the Journal reported, were organized and outspoken community members “worried about a repeat of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster.”

The paper also reported “the ruling requires immediate shutdown of Takahama nuclear reactor unit 3.”

A leading actor in this half decade long drama has been Kyoto-based Green Action Japan. Kyoto is a city of 1.5 million, not far enough from the Takahama nuke plant.

After the court's ruling the organization commented, “We want to protect Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake, which provides water for 14 million people. We want to protect Kyoto's cultural heritage from radioactive contamination.”

Aileen Moko Smith, Green Action Japan's executive director, added, “Restarting of Takahama violates the Nuclear Nuclear Agency's (equivalent of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission) safety standards. Tens of thousands of children, including babies, are not being protected under emergency planning in an outright human rights violation.”

Green Action says “100,000 people would have to be evacuated in case of serious accident” at the Takahama nuke.

Meanwhile at the ruins of Fukushima itself, three melted down reactors are still a global threat and another nuclear disaster is still looming.

Fukushima's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company-TEPCO-as well as the Japanese government-have failed to find the molten nuclear fuel rods in units 1, 2 and three.

To keep another catastrophe from breaking out, massive amounts of water have to be constantly spewed into the reactors to keep more highly radioactive fires from starting, whose plumes would circle Mother Earth and deposit fallout fallout everywhere.

But this procedure produces massive amounts radioactive water, and there is no safe place to put it either.

On March 13 Kevin Kamp of Beyond Nuclear reported on KPOO radio in San Francisco, “Every day 300 tons-- 80, 000 gallons-- of radioactively contaminated waters flows uncontrolled from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean. Last year these waters began to hit the shores of North America.”
Kamp also said that multiple storage tanks (that were supposed to be temporary) spread around the Fukushima site to hold all this hot stuff, were shoddily constructed, threaten to collapse, and leak into the sea.

On March 11 the Associated Press published an article, “Decontamination workers often exploited, shunned,” detailing the plight of cleanup workers, thousands of whom are employed in and around the wrecked nuke plant each and every day.

The AP reported that these are people, “many in their 50s and 60s, from the margins of society, with no special skills or close family ties.”

“They're cleaning up radiation in Fukushima,doing sometimes unsafe work, and yet they can't be proud of what they do or even be considered workers,” Mitsuo Nakamura, a former day laborer who now heads a citizens group supporting decontamination workers told the AP. “They are exploited by the vested interests that have grown in the massive project.”

That project, “whose ballooning cost is now estimated at $44 billion, or more,” the AP reported, could take 40 years or more.

In addition, 100,000 Japanese people are still displaced by the disaster, Beyond Nuclear reported.

Besides all this, the three melted down nuclear reactors are still so radioactive that any human who tries to get anywhere close to one of them would suffer instant death.

To avoid this TEPCO has tried to send in robots to do the lethal dirty work.

But this isn't working out either.

On March 9 Reuters ran a story “Robots sent into Fukushima have “died.” The Reuters report detailed yet another catastrophe within the Fukushima catastrophe.

“Fukushima radiation,” the news service reported, “is still too powerful so it has proven impossible to find and remove blobs of melted fuel rods. The technology to establish the location of the melted fuel rods has not been developed.”

Reuters quoted Naohiro Masuda, Tokyo Electric Power's head of Fukushima's decommissioning (dismantling the plants) :”The biggest object is the radiation,” he said. “As soon as the robots get close to the reactors radiation destroys the wiring and renders them useless, causing long delays.”

Masuda added that each robot has to be custom made for the reactor it is supposed to enter, a process that takes two years.

NuclearWar, Abroad and At Home

While the worst of the Fukushima disaster is still happening in Japan, the US has not been immune from its effects.

On March 13 Stars and Stripes, a US military newspaper, reported that “13 Navy and 3 Military Sealift vessels still show signs of radiation contamination” from Fukushima.

The vessels are among 25 involved in relief effort Operation Tomuditch off the east coast of Japan after Fukushima blew. The Navy admits that the radioactive eye of plume passed over its vessels, and pictures show many sailors involved in decontamination cleanup work.

One of these ships was the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, carrying over 5000 personnel, which was then homeported in San Diego.

Stars and Stripes reported, “In 2012 eight sailors filed suit, claiming that Fukushima's owner (TEPCO) was negligent for causing radiation contamination that has caused sailors a host of health problems. Later General Electric and Hitatchi, all involved in building Fukushima, were added to the lawsuit, which now includes 350 sailors and is the US Ninth Circuit Court, Stars and Stripes reported.

Among the health problems the sailors allege were caused by Fukushima radiation are genetic system disease, headaches, thyroid problems,rectal bleeding, muscle shrinking, memory loss, testicular cancer,vision problems,and high pitched ringing in ears.

In March 2013, Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman of the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPHP) reported that radiation from the 2011 Fukushima disaster “reached the West Coast of North America in just four days.”

Within the contaminated plume were ”levels of radioactive iodine 211 times above normal” found in the US's five Pacific states.

“The number of congenital hypothyroid cases (hypothyroid disease is a diminishing of the thyroid gland's ability to function) in these states from March 7, 2011 to December 31, 2011 rose 16% higher than the same period in 2010, compared to a 3% decline in 36 other states.”

Both normal and radioactive iodine, if they enter our bodies, will concentrate in our thyroid glands. If the iodine is radioactive, this can be extremely harmful to the unborn and new born.

The RPHP researchers explain, “The fetal thyroid gland, the first glandular structure in the human embryo, begins to concentrate iodine and produce thyroid hormones by the 70th day of gestation. Proper brain development is dependent upon adequate thyroid function.”

On October 18 last year. NBC.com ran its story “Thyroid Cancer Rates Higher in Kids—Study.” That study reported “children near Fukushima have been have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer rates 20-50 times that of children elsewhere” in Japan.

More than 370, 000 children near Fukushima have had their thyroid glands tested since the meltdowns. Thyroid cancer is usually very rare.

But, NBC.com reported, “the most recent statistics (from August 2013) show thyroid cancer is suspected or confirmed for 137 kids, a number that rose by 25 from a year earlier. Elsewhere the disease occurs in only 1-2 children per million per year.”

“This is more than expected, and is emerging faster than expected,” said lead author of the study Toshihide Tsuda, of Okayamah University. The study was published in the journal Epidemiology.

Sources: Wall Street Journal wsj.com ; Green Action Japan greenaction-japan.org; Beyond Nuclear beyondnuclear.org; Associated Press ap.org; Stars and Stripes stripes.com; Radiation and Public Health Project radiation.org; reuters.com; NBC.com

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