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From 1/1/12 to 1/28/13, I posted editorial blurbs on the Fukushima Update pages, entitled Fukushima Commentary. This section has them all including those after 1/28/13, listed by date with most recent first and oldest last. These postings generally address four questions. What Japanese decisions border on the irrational? Is the Fukushima accident ongoing? Does Fukushima have the potential for world-wide apocalyptic disaster? Are the Fukushima radiation levels health-threatening? To find the possible answers, one can begin by reading these posts.
"Fukushima : The First Five Days"...is a book taken from the records kept by the operating staff at Fukushima Daiichi during the first crucial days of the crisis. It is now available at most E-book outlets, including Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Koble. For the PDF and bundle, click here... http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-the-first-five-days.html
May 23, 2013
In the spring of 1336, Francesco Petrarch ascended Mt. Ventoux, in southeastern France. As he reached the 6,200 ft. peak, he was stunned by the grandeur that lay below him. A scholar, Petrarch opened his book of St. Augustine and read how mankind is awed by natural wonders such as mountains, seas, waterfalls and the movement of the stars. However, the wonders themselves are “uninterested”. This caused Petrarch to reflect on the arrogance of human vanity and ponder his sudden admiration for the nobility of uncorrupted thought. Upon descent from Ventoux, Petrarch “hastily and extemporaneously” penned a letter to his collegiate counselor, Diogoni di Borgo San Sepolcro, in order to document his experience. Many historians mark this letter as critical to the onset of western humanism and the Renaissance.
This past Sunday, an article in The Japan Times (1) brought Petrarch to my mind. Photographer Tomoki Imai has been compiling a photo journal of the natural environment around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station since April 21, 2011. He has made 20 visits since then, ascending mountains located between 20 and 30 kilometers from the nuclear accident site. However, his most recent visitation was the first time a news reporter had accompanied him. Imai’s recent book “Semicircle Law” had generated minor news media interest because it showed a different view of the accident’s aftermath, unlike the apocalyptic visuals that have been common in the Press for more than 2 years. The wrecked reactor buildings are rarely seen in the pictorial. In the few pictures where the plant can be seen, it’s little more than a mote on a distant shoreline. Accompanied by the Times reporter, Imai stood on the observation deck of Mount Higakure, nearly 20 kilometers from F. Daiichi…the closest he had ever been to the plant. While there, the photographer reflected on his first experience, more than two years earlier.
In April 2011, Imai scaled to the top of Mount Tekura, some 2,000 feet high and 30 kilometers from the accident site. “I wanted to stand there and see the [Fukushima] No. 1 plant with my own eyes,” Imai explained. “When I first climbed up the mountain, I remember being really nervous and scared.But when the photos actually started coming out, I realized that the prints didn’t necessarily reflect all the trepidation I felt. So then I realized how my view of Fukushima was being distorted by all the TV images and the information we were being bombarded with at the time — when, in actuality, the view from the mountaintop was quite pretty to look at. I found that disconnect very interesting.”
Upon reading Imai’s words, an analogy to Petrarch’s realization atop Mount Ventoux dawned on me. What Imai saw had a profound effect on his work, convincing him to shift the focus of his plans for his Fukushima project. He had decided to visualy document the land surrounding Fukushima Daiichi instead of photographing the devastation caused along the Tohoku coast by the massive tsunami. Others were already doing that. Imai wanted to show changes he felt would occur with the Fukushima coastal area resulting from the nuclear accident. “First, there were many restrictions on where I could go, so the [local Fukushima] cities were kind of out of the equation to begin with,” he recalled. “But once I started taking photographs in the mountains, I realized that was another valid way to document the ongoing aftermath of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.” Imai initially expected that some visible effects of the radiation would eventually show in his pictures, but just the opposite has happened. He now wishes to show that any changes to landscape inside the exclusion zone are invisible. However, what Imai sees makes him wonder whether or not the contamination has tainted the cyclical nature of Mother Earth.
The journalistic schema of the Japan Times article is decidedly antinuclear. They post a few quotes from Imai that imply he remains convinced future visits by him will reveal radiation damage he can visually document. The Times article suggests Imai has not experienced a complete personal catharsis with respect to his feelings about the nuclear accident...his doubts remain. However, the sudden change in his vision upon gazing down from Mount Tekura more than two years ago, and his recent photo journal, could eventually have an influence on the Japanese people as significant as Petrarch’s impact on western civilization. Could Tomoki Imai’s scaling of Mount Tekura in 2011 stimulate a conceptual renaissance concerning Fukushima Daiichi?
May 15, 2013
Fukushima groundwater makes fishermen fearful
This past Monday, Tokyo Electric Company met with the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Association hoping for approval to discharge groundwater from the F. Daiichi power station to the sea. The discharge could reduce the Fukushima Daiichi waste-water build-up by 25%. Testing of the groundwater showed no evidence of Fukushima contamination, but the fisheries withheld their approval, nonetheless. Why? For one thing, much of the union’s membership doesn’t know the difference between groundwater and contaminated water. That’s what federation head Tetsu Nozaki said, “Some members do not understand the difference between groundwater and contaminated water. Many of our members got a wrong idea that contaminated water would be dumped into the sea after being treated.” (Asahi Shimbun) Added to the naivety issue is the fear that rumors of the discharge being radioactive will further damage the local fishing business. One union member bluntly stated, “Even if it is [only] groundwater, damage to the public perception of fishing will be unavoidable and could hurt our operations.” (Asahi Shimbun)
The issue is the clear result of ignorance and fear. Fishermen in the Tohoku region are typical of a significant fraction of the Japan population. Anything that has to do with radiation and F. Daiichi evokes fear-spawning stories in the Japanese Press; not only radioactive contamination itself, but also the mere possibility of it. Detectible radioactivity of any kind that comes from anywhere near the power station is explicitly and/or implicitly presented by the Press to have come from F. Daiichi. Information concerning the absolute safety of the groundwater is always reported to be coming from Tepco, and the Press plays on the public’s distrust of the company. Fukushima radiation fears fed by the Press have terrorized a nation, including the Fukushima fishermen.
Is the groundwater actually contaminated? Tepco bored twelve “wells” to test the groundwater. Eight of them showed nothing, but four initially revealed a few traces of radioactive isotopes identical to those found in rivers and streams of the region. (The most recent analyses of 5/14 show nothing in all twelve) If the initial trace isotopes in the groundwater were actually due to Fukushima contamination, there would have been evidence of Cesium-137 and Cs-134. Japanese news reports say only Cs-137 was detected. This strongly suggests the source is atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, many decades ago. Another of the trace isotopes was Strontium, which is also a long-lived residual of past nuclear weapons tests. However, none of the Japanese Press reports mentioned the possibility of the Cesium and Strontium coming from weapon’s tests. Not one!
Because the groundwater samples were taken from the earth below F. Daiichi, some fishermen suspect the radioactivity comes from F. Daiichi’s underground waste water reservoirs. It doesn’t matter that only a few liters of leakage got out of the multi-layer sheets that completely line the cisterns. It doesn’t matter that it was entirely absorbed by the material packed around the plastic sheets. It doesn’t matter that none got far enough to contaminate anything in the natural environment. The mere possibility that some of it got in the groundwater is all that matters.
On Tuesday, Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said he will intercede on Tepco’s behalf and seek understanding of the Fukushima fisheries. He stressed the importance of cooperation from the fishermen. Motegi admitted that failure to persuade the fishermen to permit the discharge could greatly delay resolution of the F. Daiichi wastewater problem. But, even if Motegi and Tepco are successful, merely informing the Fukushima fishermen about the difference between groundwater and contaminated water will not resolve the over-riding issue which has simmered since 3/11/11 – mortal fear of radiation experienced by a significant portion of the Japanese public.
The Japanese government and Tepco should do what this writer has advocated since 3/11/11, and educate everyone about the realities of radiation and its natural existence the environment. There are 14 naturally-occurring elements which have radioactive isotopes. These isotopes are not radioactive because of bombs or nuclear plants. They come from the nuclear cores of stars across the universe. The radioactive isotopes of these elements are everywhere…in the air we breathe (such as Radon), the water we drink (such as Tritium) and the food we eat (such as Potassium-40). Construction materials, including granite and adobe brick, contain numerous naturally-occurring isotopes like Uranium, Thorium and Radium. Then there’s Carbon-14, which is found everywhere. We live in a naturally radioactive world. It’s about time the Japanese people were made aware of this… at the very least, the population of the Tohoku region.
One might ask… who will pay for it? Allow me a not-so-modest proposal. The Tokyo government has required Tepco to pay Fukushima evacuees billions of dollars in compensatory living expenses for more than two years. Thousands of the evacuees are either voluntary (not from the exclusion zone) or from communities which have had their restrictions lifted. Many could go home, if they wanted to, but do not because of baseless radiation fears. Some of the evacuees who can go home have admitted they have no intention of returning because they will lose their compensatory checks, which can be $1,500/month or more. Tepco gives millions of dollars each month to people who can safely go home, but are afraid of trivial amounts of radiation exposure they might receive.
Japan should stop hand-outs to evacuees who ought to go home, and use the money to set up a radiation education program for the residents of the Tohoku region…if not the whole country. Oh, the Press and antinuclear Tokyo politicians will call it mistreatment of Fukushima refugees, but it would make a lot more sense than doling out big bucks to people who are afraid of what they don’t understand. Spend the money on public understanding instead of fear-appeasement.
There is an old adage which purports that ignorance is bliss. Ignorance about radiation is anything but blissful, especially when combined with mortal fear. It makes rumors seem real and the unreasonable appear reasonable.
May 11, 2011
Radiation Fears Continue F. Daiichi Wastewater Build-up
The wastewater build-up problem at Fukushima Daiichi increases with every day that passes. After Cesium-stripping some 850 tons of raw wastewater per day, about 450 tons is used for cooling of the damaged fuel cores in units #1, 2 &3. The remainder is stored. Thus, the amount sent to storage increases by about 400 tons per day. Currently, there is more than 300,000 tons of Cesium-depleted water in storage. Tokyo Electric Company is testing a system, called ALPS, to remove all but one of the 62 isotopes that remain. The one residual radioactive isotope, Tritium, cannot be removed by ALPS because it is actually Hydrogen that is integral to the water molecule itself. The radioactive level of the Tritium in the stored wastewaters is about 100 Becquerels per milliliter. (ANS) Because of the Tritium, it is unlikely that Tepco will be allowed to discharge the ALPS-treated water to the sea and resolve the build-up problem. Why? Because local fisheries won’t agree to let it happen due to radiation fears and rumors that continually hurt the fishing business all along the Tohoku coastline. Further, based on the Asian-Pacific outcry following Tepco’s release of 11,500 tons of mildly radioactive water to the sea on April 4, 2011, it is likely a similar outcry will occur. Tokyo doesn’t want to go through that political problem again.
What would happen to the environment if Tepco did discharge the Tritiated water into the Pacific? Let’s look at the numbers. Tritium is a naturally-occurring radioactive isotope found in all water systems of the world. Tritium is produced in the upper atmosphere when cosmic rays strike nitrogen-based molecules in the air. (EPA) The Pacific Ocean naturally contains a total Tritium activity level of 370,000 Terabecquerels. (ISU) One Terabecquerel equals one trillion radioactive disintegrations per second. In addition, Tritium is a Beta radiation emitter, which is one of the two least-penetrating types of radioactivity. Plus, Tritium’s Beta particle is one of the weakest in all of nature. The half-life of tritium is 12.5 years, so it lasts a long time. Mother Nature’s natural build-up mechanism for Tritium balances with the radioactive decay, keeping the Tritium levels in the Pacific relatively constant.
As mentioned earlier, the stored wastewaters at Fukushima Daiichi contain a Tritium activity of about 100 Becquerels per milliliter. Tepco says there is nearly 325,000 tons of Cesium-stripped water now in storage. That’s a lot of milliliters – just under half a trillion milliliters, in fact. Thus, by multiply in 0.4 trillion by 100, we find the total Tritium activity of the wastewaters now stored at F. Daiichi is about 40 Terabecquerels. What would this added Tritium do to the Pacific if Tepco dumps all of it after decontamination with their ALPS system? It would increase the Tritium level of the Pacific by one one-hundredth of one percent...one part in ten thousand! Instead of 370,000 terabecquerels of Tritium, the Pacific would hypothetically contain 370,040 Terabecquerels. In point of fact, the increase would be barely detectible using the most sensitive monitoring technology known to mankind. It would be virtually indistinguishable from the Pacific's natural concentration variations.
In other words, the dumping of all the post-ALPS Tritiated water from F. Daiichi directly into the Pacific would do nothing. That’s right – nothing.
Tritium is very difficult to remove from water. It is a slow, expensive process. Removing the Tritium will require keeping the hundreds of thousands of tons of Tritiated wastewaters in storage for additional months, if not years. In the end, what good would it do to remove the Tritium? It would be a good public relations move, to be sure. It would be a good political move, too. But, as we can see, it would not be a move dictated by the numbers. It would not be a move based on rationality and reason. While it would be socially and politically expedient, it would probably not avoid negative Press. Already, antinuclear voices in Japan say they will try and stop Tepco from discharging the waters to the sea, even if completely stripped of every last radioactive atom. Why? Antinuclear groups say they will take all action necessary to bar a release even if the Tritium were also removed because the water would have been previously radioactive and unacceptably “tainted”. No matter what Tepco ultimately does, it will get bad Press. It’s unavoidable.
Tepco will probably not be allowed to make this technically-innocuous discharge because of international politics, an antinuclear Press, and public fear of radiation. Because of Tritium, Tepco’s wastewater build-up will continue unabated and produce countless negative news reports into the foreseeable future.
What’s wrong with this picture?
1. ANS – Fukushima Daiichi: ANS Committee Report; Section IV.B., Current Status; June, 2012. http://fukushima.ans.org/report/cleanup
2. EPA – Tritium: Where does tritium come from?; US Environmental Protection Agency; April 24, 2012. http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/tritium.html#where
3. ISU – Natural Radioactivity in the Ocean; “Radioactivity in Nature”; Idaho State University: Radiation Information Network. http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/natural.htm
May 4, 2013
NBC News Article isFull of FUD*
*(Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt)
NBC News’ article, 'A very fragile situation': Leaks from Japan's wrecked nuke plant raise fears, is too disappointing for words. It is clearly intended to feed pre-existing fears using scary speculation, served with an appetizer of uncertainty and a hearty entre of doubt. The journalistic meal hit the table running. In the second sentence, the writer says the plant is so fragile it “could even start to break apart during a cleanup process expected to take years.” This is clearly intended to provoke fear. There is no basis for the statement other than unfounded speculation! Next, the article says the recent IAEA inspection of Fukushima Daiichi was held because recent “leaks, power outages and other glitches have raised fears”. It is little more than a twisting of the truth. The visit had been planned for months, long before these recent events. Fear, once again, seems to be at the root. Then, the article adds that the recent WHO report on F. Daiichi says baby boys have a 7% greater chance of leukemia and baby girls a 6% greater risk of breast cancer. However, WHO concluded there will be “no discernible increase in health risks” and “no observable increases in cancer above natural variation”. Regardless, the cancer risk statement reeks of uncertainty and doubt.
Next, NBC news immediately goes off the deep end by citing John Large of Greenpeace at length. They pose him as an expert because he spoke before British Parliament and writes on Fukushima for Greenpeace. He’s actually a confirmed antinuke who makes a living scaring people about nuclear energy. Regardless, Large tells us robots “normally” could easily move about and clean things up, but not at Fukushima because of tsunami and quake damage. There are no other nuke plants, other than F. Daiichi, requiring use of robots to clean things up. He’s clearly playing on ignorance of the audience to make his point seem realistic. He next says that the plant is too close to the water table and in-leakage can’t be stopped. Although it makes no sense, he says the un-stopped in-leakage proves radioactivity cannot be contained and that the buildings at Fukushima will collapse because they were not designed for radioactive containment, “Until you can stop that transfer, you will not contain the radioactivity. That will go on for years and years until they contain it. The structures of containment start breaking down. Engineered structures don’t last long when they are put in adverse conditions." He further contends Fukushima girls will never find husbands, "It may have some marked effect on the health of future generations in Japan. What it will create is a Fukushima generation — like in Nagasaki and Hiroshima -where girls particularly will have difficulty marrying because of the stigma of being brought up in a radiation area." Plus, Mr. Large contends the recent minor leaks will only add to contamination on-shore because tiny radioactive particles will wash onto beaches, dry, and be blown around by the wind. Assumption sautéed in speculation and served over a platter of FUD.
But, NBC news doesn’t stop there. They next present the biased views of Ms. Hisayo Takada, a Greenpeace-Japan energy campaigner and source of the headline’s “fragile” assertion. She says, “It’s still a very fragile situation and measures implemented by the government and [power company] TEPCO are only temporary solutions. The issue with the contaminated water is very serious and we're very concerned. And we're very angry because it’s been two years and they've been saying that everything's safe. The land and sea will never return to the way it was before the accident.” Fukushima fear, uncertainty and doubt all rolled into a nice, neat package.
It must be noted that NBC news “balances” the above by citing a spokesman for NEI, but everything in his quotes concern American nukes and the safety upgrades made since Fukushima. The article posts nothing from the NEI spokesman about the situation at Fukushima itself. Did NBC even ask him about Fukushima? It seems they did not. That’s not journalistic balance – it’s no more than convenient deflection from the topic at hand!
Asking Greenpeace about Fukushima is tantamount to asking Al Qaida about America. Greenpeace has been spreading rhetorical terrorism for decades. They want the world to be afraid of nuclear energy, using uncertainty and doubt as the cornerstones of their assault. NBC should be ashamed for such a one-sided, speculation-packed report. This NBC article is full of FUD.
April 27, 2013
Japanese court does the right thing for the wrong reason
This past week, the Sendai High Court summarily rejected a lawsuit calling for the complete evacuation of all children in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture. A small number of city parents (14) filed the suit with the Koriyama City Lower court in June, 2011. The plaintiffs demanded that all children in the city of more than 330,000 be evacuated because they have “the right to live free of radiation”. The lower court rejected to suit in December, 2011, but one family pursued an appeal to the high court, which was in Sendai. The high court said if any parents feel the radiation levels in Koriyama are a danger to their children, they should leave the area of their own accord and not try to have the government pay for it.
The court stated that some locations in Koriyama, which stretches between 50 and 60 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi, have radiation levels higher than the existing national standards. But, there is no legal precedent for the government evacuating children to other parts of Japan at these levels. Although the court is correct, they did the right thing for the wrong reason. The children of Koriyama were not at risk due to the radiation levels found around the city, which has been demonstrated by recent scientific reports concerning comprehensive studies run on the children of Fukushima Prefecture. The court should have ruled that since there is no compelling, conclusive evidence to support the plaintiff claims of radiological risk to Koriyama children, there is no rational reason for moving the kids elsewhere.
One of the scientific studies was posted by a team of experts from four Japanese universities. (https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/pjab/89/4/89_PJA8904B-01/_pdf) The study covered more than 100,000 people who had sensitive Whole Body radioactive tests, including thousands of children. The team concluded, “…internal exposure levels of [Fukushima] residents are much lower than estimated. In particular, the first sampling-bias-free assessment of internal exposure of children in the town of Miharu, Fukushima, shows that the Cs137 body burdens of all children were below the detection limit of 300 Bq/body in the fall of 2012.” In other words, there is no risk to the children.
A few weeks earlier, a group of Tokyo University researchers found that 99% of the people in Fukushima Prefecture have no detectible radioactive Cesium in their systems. Team leader Ryugo Hayano said they ran examinations on over 22,000 residents and found 212 had bodies that contained detectible Cesium levels, mostly older people eating home-grown and wild vegetables. The 10 Becquerels per kilogram found in these few people is 1/100th of that found in comparable locations near the Chernobyl accident in 1986. None of the positive tests were with children in Fukushima. Again we find there is no risk to the children.
Even before both of the above reports were filed, another report was released out of Tokyo’s Environment Ministry. The study found that in three prefectures, each hundreds of kilometers from F. Daiichi, the incidence of child thyroid anomalies (cysts and nodules) was roughly 56%. (http://www.env.go.jp/en/headline/file_view.php?serial=499&hou_id=1922 ) A heavily-publicized study reported in 2012 by the Fukushima Health Management Survey revealed that about 40% of their children had the anomalies. The 2012 report spawned numerous postings of possible Fukushima radiation injuries in the Japanese press and antinuclear websites around the world. At the time, Professor Shinichi Suzuki of Fukushima Medical University called for caution because their thyroid screenings for children had never been before conducted in Japan. Now, they have and we now know the children of Fukushima have the lowest of the four prefectures studied, and the difference is considerable. In this case we find Fukushima children actually have better thyroid health than non-Fukushima children.
None of the above research results were used by the Sendai high court. Instead, they followed a less controversial path and rejected the Koriyama lawsuit based on purely legal grounds. In the process, the court left the door open for the Press to downplay the court decision and keep parental fear of radiation alive. Japan Today posted “Thousands of children got cancer after the Chernobyl disaster, but the cases did not surface for several years. It is unclear whether Fukushima children are equally prone, as cancer has various causes, and radiation affects people differently. Radioactive contamination is complex, tainting not only the air but also getting in the food, soil and water.” Toshio Yanagihara, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, said the ruling was unfair as the children were “victims with absolutely no responsibility for the nuclear accident.” Another lawyer, Toshio Yanagihara, said, "I don't understand why an economic power like Japan won't evacuate the children -- something even the fascist government did during World War II," he said, referring to the mass evacuation of children during the 1940s to avoid bombings. "This is child abuse."
The three above-cited reports on the actual health of Fukushima’s children have received precious little Press coverage in Japan. If the Sendai court would have ruled based on this scientific evidence, it could have forced the Press to let the people of Japan know the truth. Instead, uncertainty and doubt with respect to the health of Fukushima’s children continues. If upheld, the suit would have forced tens of thousands of healthy, innocent children to be moved elsewhere and be subjected to far-greater health risk in the process. That could have meant movement as far as Okinawa, (which is over 1,100 miles “as the crow flies”) or the northern part of Hokkaido (a distance of between 500 and 600 miles). At least the Sendai court has prevented this unconscionable travesty, but they could have begun closing the door on radiophobic fears about Fukushima’s children’s health.
April 20, 2013
Tokyo has greatly overestimated Fukushima resident’s exposures
A team at Tokyo University’s Science Research Dept. reports that Fukushima resident’s exposures due to ingestion since October, 2011, have been negligible. In addition, the results indicate that previous official exposure assessments for the prefecture’s most contaminated communities have been greatly over-estimated. Unfortunately, the Japanese Press has refrained from covering this good news.
This is believed to be the first study of its kind relative to the Fukushima accident. Team leader Dr. Ryugo Hayano says, “Findings suggest that the level of internal radiation exposure brought about by pollution from the soil within the Fukushima Prefecture is much less than originally believed. The amount is so negligible that it is difficult to imagine there being any risk to the health.” Hayano’s group found that nearly 120,000 Fukushima residents were given sensitive Whole Body Counter scans between March 2011 and November 2012. 99.9% show an internal exposure of less than 1 millisievert, which is the national standard. All of those above the criterion were examined before May, 2011, with the majority of positive results occurring in March of that year. Since then, thousands have been reexamined and found to have no detectible radioactive Cesium in their systems. This includes the more than 1,000 students who were tested at Miharamachi elementary school, 50 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi.
Up to this point, residential exposure estimates were created out of worst-case, upper limit ingestion assumptions, but did not use any actual data. Hayano’s team used only actual data, and their findings were stunning. First, of course, were the results of a comprehensive study of the Whole Body Count outcomes, mentioned above. When he actual numbers were much lower than expected, they wanted to know why. Ministry of Health records contain over 40,000 radiological analyses on foodstuffs since 3/11/11. 10% failed Tokyo’s exceedingly restrictive limit of 100 Becquerels per kilogram. However, only 2% of the failed foods were over the health standard. In other words, only a tiny fraction of each specific food banned for distribution actually had contamination levels above 100 Bq/kg. 98% of the volume was below the limit. This strongly indicates that the actual ingestion of radioactive Cesium has been many times lower than prior government estimates.
In addition, the report contradicts the exposure estimates for communities that have the higher levels of soil contamination outside the government-mandated exclusion zone. 10,000 of the people tested live in locations reported to have more than 100,000 Bq/m2. Only 4.7% showed detectible Cesium radioactivity in March 2011. Only 1% of those re-tested since then have detectible Cesium in their systems. After August 2012, no children have shown even a trace of internal contamination. The team believes the lower than expected exposure levels are because residents have been keenly aware of the foods they buy, and also because food restrictions began almost immediately after the first week of the crisis at F. Daiichi. Professor Hayano says, “Results have shown that even the minority of people whose radiation exposure was high can reduce or eliminate exposure through regular health monitoring and avoiding contaminated food.”
Even with all this good news, the research team wanted to know more; where did the original, flawed exposure estimates come from? They feel it has to do with a line of thought prominent after the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Exposures were assumed to be proportional to soil contamination levels, similar to what was the case with the Chernobyl-area population. At Chernobyl, food restrictions were not put in place until weeks after the accident, plus contamination was much-more wide-spread and the concentrations much higher than around F. Daiichi. When these Chernobyl-based assumptions were applied to a community like Koriyama, which had many areas above 100,000 Bq/m2, it was estimated that the population’s Cesium intake would result in a 5 mSv/yr exposure. This was assuming that the population was consuming the banned foodstuffs at a rate similar to their ingestion before the Fukushima accident. However, the actual levels of intake were considerably less and the resulting exposures more than 5 times lower than the long-standing official estimates. It also suggests that a majority of food products from areas of higher soil contamination were not as contaminated as first thought. Again, the previous estimates for contamination up-takes from the soil were centered on Chernobyl-based assumptions that no longer seem to be valid for Fukushima.
Dr. Hayano believes that the team’s findings ought to ease the public’s deep-rooted fear of radiation, and dispel negative rumors about Fukushima, its foods and its people. However, it does not appear the Japanese public will know of this good news because their politicians and popular press are not telling anyone. The politicians are probably remaining mum because it would seem they have been needlessly frightening hundreds of thousands of Fukushima residents, and tens of thousands of evacuees could have safely returned home a long time ago. Tokyo should tell those who can safely go home to “go home”, and be done with it. The Press is probably remaining silent because this extremely good news conflicts with their publically-admitted antinuclear agenda. But, it seems Japan’s news media only wants to keep the radiophobic demographic cowering in fear.
(1) Hayano, Ryugo S., et.al.; ”Internal radiocesium contamination of adults and children in Fukushima 7 to 20 months after the Fukushima NPP accident measured by extensive whole-body-counter surveys”; Proceedings of Japan Academy: Series B89; 2013. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/pjab/89/4/89_PJA8904B-01/_pdf
(2) “Fukushima Prefecture Produces First Thesis on the Effects of Internal Radiation Exposure: Children of Fukushima Unaffected?”; Rocket News 24; April 19, 2013. http://en.rocketnews24.com/2013/04/20/fukushima-prefecture-produces-first-thesis-into-the-effects-of-internal-radiation-exposure-children-of-fukushima-unaffected/
April 13, 2013
Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt Resurfaces in Japan
Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) comprise the rhetorical foundation of the world’s antinuclear persuasion. Use of FUD ran rampant in the popular Press of Japan for nearly two years after a massive tsunami caused the Fukushima accident. The politicians of the then-in-power Democratic Party of Japan catered the antinuclear Press to a fault, and they paid dearly for it. The DPJ was roundly defeated by the Liberal Democratic Party in December. After the new regime swept into office, the Press seemed to ease their admitted antinuclear bias and move toward a more objective stance. However, the discovery of three leaking waste water reservoirs at Fukushima Daiichi has brought the Press’ use of FUD back with a vengeance. It has also provided some “experts” in Tokyo with the ammunition to attack the new Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) as being a “rubber stamp” for the nuclear utilities.
Actually, the fear aspect began to re-emerge last month when a rat invaded a temporary electrical panel outside F. Daiichi’s new auxiliary power distribution building. The animal cause a power loss and cooling systems for three spent fuel pools were knocked out of service; one of them for about 30 hours. It made no difference that none of the pools would have approached their technical limit for operation (65oC) for at least two weeks. It made no difference that the worst-case SFP accident scenario would take many months before it could have happened. The Press exploited the opportunity by running catastrophic what-if scenarios and posting impossible speculations as unquestionable fact. The term “makeshift” constantly used to identify the temporary electrical supply technology for the SFPs. The message was clear. Nuclear catastrophe was imminent at any given moment because the technology being used at F. Daiichi to cool the SFP’s is crude and primitive.
The Press’ use of fear amplified this week due to three water reservoir leaks. It didn’t matter that the vast majority of the 120 tons that leaked from the first pool was contained between the sheets of the triple-layer water-proof pool liner. It didn’t matter that a total of three liters of the stuff made it through the absorbent “special earth” surrounding the reservoir’s walls, greatly stripped of its isotopes in the process. It didn’t matter that the total radioactive concentration in the three expunged liters was five times less radioactive than Brazil nuts. It didn’t matter that there was no danger of contaminating the sea. It didn’t matter that the groundwater samples taken at F. Daiichi show no detectable radioactive isotopes. All that mattered were leaks out of reservoirs holding radioactive waste waters. The Press was clearly exploiting the public’s fear of radiation, or more correctly the mere possibility of radiation.
In order to exploit uncertainty and doubt, the Japanese press used the leaks as proof that (1) the Tokyo Electric Company is using nothing but “rickety” technology which is prone to failure, (2) Tepco is unable to prevent radiation leaks, (3) the NRA cannot be trusted to stop the allegedly on-going accident, and (4) the Fukushima accident has not ended yet. The first two foment uncertainty, and the last two provoke doubt.
The technology being used by Tepco is being trumpeted to evoke a general feeling of uncertainty. Allegedly, one cannot be sure that the equipment being used by Tepco to cool the reactors and SFPs will work well enough to keep from experiencing another large radiological release. Probably the most overt example is The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second largest newspaper, which had this to say, “Radiation monitors and other devices have repeatedly broken down. Human error remains a constant problem. And the troubles plaguing the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant reached farcical levels when a rat caused a blackout and subsequent work to prevent a recurrence led to another system failure…Such problems continue because the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., is still using temporary equipment and makeshift facilities…TEPCO has delayed replacing the temporary equipment and rickety facilities because it has underestimated the precarious conditions of the Fukushima No. 1 plant.” (April 8) Makeshift? Rickety? What makes the news media think they know enough to be judge and jury? Frankly, I doubt they know the difference between neutrons and ping-pong balls! Regardless, malicious allegations are posted by the Press to make it seem as if Tepco is either stupid or, worse yet, doesn’t really care.
Japan Times reports that the Nuclear Regulatory Authority has also taken up the uncertainty banner. (4/11/13) The paper quotes NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka as saying, “Fukushima Daiichi is still in an extremely unstable condition, there is no mistake about that. We cannot rule out the possibility that similar problems might occur again. The contaminated water situation is on the verge of collapse.” Not to be outdone, The Mainichi Shimbun asserts, “The nuclear crisis is far from over. There is a limit to what the patchwork operation can do on a jury-rigged (sic) system.” Clearly, the Press says there is nothing about the Fukushima situation that anyone can count on. The only certainty is uncertainty, and with the possibility of radiation releases, that’s just not good enough.
Next, there’s the use of doubt. Since 3/11/11, Tepco has been under the microscope of suspicion, but now doubt is being used to challenge the efficacy of Japan’s NRA. Headlines like the Mainichi Shimbun’s “NAIIC says NRA inadequate” lead the assault. Nine members of the Diet’s Fukushima investigative committee (NAIIC) told Japan’s Parliament they have no faith in the NRA, and call for a formal congressional takeover. It started with former NAIIC chair Kiyoshi Korokawa telling the Diet, “Obviously, the crisis is not yet under control.” He was followed by eight other panel members who began pointing fingers of doubt at the NRA and Tepco. Lawyer Shuya Nomura told the Diet to actively get involved in bringing F. Daiichi under control and explained, "Is it all right to leave the response to contaminated water and other problems to the discretion of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the executive branch of the government? As representatives of the people, Diet members should have expertise and get involved in the response with the mindset of the general public." Since when do career bureaucrats have the expertise to get involved in a scientific/technological situation? They don’t. Period!
It didn’t take long for other news outlets to post the scathing judgments from other former NAIIC members. Antinuclear whistleblower Mitsuhiko Tanaka said the NRA gives carte-blanche approval to plans submitted by Tepco, “They make a risk assessment, submit their plans to the government and they’re approved. It’s the same old routine. The new regulation standards will be toothless unless the causes of the accident are brought to light. We ask the Diet to inspect the site on its own.” (Japan Today) Seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi said, “We cannot say the world’s top-class safety measures will be in place (as the NRA claimed).” (Asahi Shimbun)
How did the NRA respond? Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa said the recent water leaks pose a threat to Tepco’s water management program, but probably not to the environment. He questioned TEPCO’s risk evaluation of the cisterns’, but acknowledged that regulators must allow TEPCO to use the remaining underground tanks for now, “Although we need more long-term plans, we have to tackle the most immediate problem first.” (Japan Today) Fuketa’s rational words come at the very end of the few news reports to have have quoted him.
When the new regime under PM Shinzo Abe came to power, some of the Japanese news outlets relaxed their Fukushima fixation. But, the brief SFP power loss and the totally contained water leaks in the F. Daiichi waste water reservoirs have reinvigorated the antinuclear Japanese Press. Even the historically nuclear-neutral Japan News (nee, Yomiuri Shimbun) has joined the fray by reporting Tepco has underestimated the potential radiological risk of the reservoir leakage 50-fold! The News posted, “The impact of the leak could also be much bigger than Tepco’s estimate” when they guesstimated a worst-case release of 35 trillion Becquerels. It doesn’t matter that this incomprehensible number assumes every drop of water now in cistern storage would have to be lost to the environment. It doesn’t matter that big numbers scare people when applied to anything nuclear. It’s scary, fosters uncertainty and engenders doubt. Whether or not the assumption is reasonable makes no difference.
The bottom line is this. It doesn’t matter that none of the fuel bundles in the F. Daiichi SFPs were ever in danger of damage and a radiological release. It doesn’t matter that all of the water leaking from the waste reservoirs is being collected and returned to the cisterns. It doesn’t matter than the groundwater flowing beneath F. Daiichi has not been contaminated. It doesn’t matter than a waste water release to the ocean is not going to happen. FUD sells, and the Japanese Press unquestionably believes they are doing the right thing because they are dealing with the possibility of radiation!