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Fukushima Commentary (blog)
These postings 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?
"Fukushima : The First Five Days"...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 all E-book outlets. For the PDF and bundle... (click here)
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April 18, 2015
Japanese court injunction not a result of misunderstanding
On Tuesday, April 22nd, a Fukui Prefecture court issued an injunction against restarting Takahama units 3&4. Maverick Justice Hideaki Higuchi, who headed the Fukui judicial panel, personally attacked the regulatory process administered by Tokyo’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, saying “the standards lack rationality”. On Wednesday, the NRA’s Chairman, Shunichi Tanaka, responded to the judge’s uncalled-for criticism. Tanaka said the court decision must be due to a “misunderstanding” of the facts, and, “many things that are based on misunderstandings are written in the verdict…It is internationally recognized that our new regulatory regime is one of the strictest… but that was apparently not understood (by the judge).”
As I commented in Fukushima Updates on April 16th, it is literally unthinkable that any judge in Japan would say “The [NRA] standards lack rationality” merely based on a misunderstanding of the facts. I find it inconceivable that anyone in Japan would not know about Japan’s regulatory system being hailed as more than sufficiently strict to assure safety. I am of the firm belief that Higuchi’s injunction is a cold, calculated moveintended to needlessly delay nuke restarts. He knows exactly what he is doing. The question thus becomes; why did he do it?
First… he did it because he could. Higuchi headed another Fukui panel that filed a similar injunction nearly a year ago against Oi units 3&4, which are in Fukui Prefecture. With that prior practice under his belt, he did it again, modifying the Oi injunction’s terminology to make the Takahama injunction have greater legal certitude. It doesn’t matter that the local officials of the community hosting the Takahama station, the Fukui Assembly, and the prefecture’s governor have all approved the restart. Higuchi found he could file an injunction, no matter what anyone else might have done. This is the modus operandi of decided antinukes around the world – use legal methods to be as obstreperous as possible and create delays in the process. Judge Higuchi has demonstrated that he is definitely an antinuke.
But deeper, unstated reasons surely exist for Higuchi’s grandiose, self-absorbed action. It is likely he suffers the psychological traumas caused by radiophobia (mortal fear of radiation) and the Hiroshima Syndrome (mortal fear of nuclear energy based, in great part, on the conviction that there is no safe level of radiation exposure).
Higuchi argues that the NRA regulations do not provide absolute assurance of safety, and he asserts that absolute safety with nukes is not possible. In other words, the only “safe” nuke, in Higuchi’s opinion, is one that is not operating.
The plaintiffs in the case allege that safety upgrades at Takahama made since 3/11/11 cannot unconditionally guarantee that an earthquake will never cause another Fukushima. Unless Higuchi has been living in an informational vacuum, he must be well-aware that the Great East Japan Earthquake did not cause the Fukushima accident. The culprit was the massive tsunami. Basing the injunction on earthquake-based conjecture, flies in the face of the facts. As opined in Japan’s largest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, “We have no choice but to call it an irrational decision. Such a stance seeking zero risk is unrealistic.” The bottom line here is that Higuchi doesn’t care about the facts; all he cares about is stopping nuke restarts at all costs.
An even deeper, albeit unstated reason behind the injunction seems to be this… On the vanishingly slim chance that an earthquake of biblical proportion happens, and all the emergency power supply upgrades fail resulting in a Fukushima-like nuke accident, citizens near the plant will be exposed to low level radiation. It doesn’t matter how much or how little exposure manifests, only zero exposure can guarantee absolute safety in the decidedly radiophobic persuasion, and absolute safety is what Higuchi demands. This is the no-safe-level assumption in action. His dread seems amplified by the residual paranoia still gripping millions of Japanese concerning Hiroshima/Nagasaki. A Japanese colleague recently revealed that a rather common belief in Japan is that all ~200,000 who died from the two bombs in 1945 was because of radiation exposure. This is the Hiroshima Syndrome in action.
Thus, I contend that Mr. Tanaka’s position of Higuchi’s verbal broadside being the result of mere misunderstanding is, in all probability, incorrect. Higuchi is doing what he can to delay due process because he is deathly afraid of radiation. The judge is confused, but not with the facts concerning the NRA. He misunderstands radiation! He needs to learn, and embrace, the realities of radiation; what it can do, and what it cannot. He is contributing to Japan’s wide-spread fear of radiation. Clearly, he would not know a gamma ray from a doorknob…and it scares him to death.
Update 4/22/15 – This morning, the Kagoshima District court ruled on a similar filing concerning the two Sendai units expected to be the first Japanese nukes to restart later this year. Kagoshima’s presiding Judge Ikumasa Maeda rebuked the opinion Judge Higuchi, saying, “No unreasonableness is evident in new regulatory standards set by the NRA for nuclear power generation.” End Update
April 15, 2015
Japanese Press needs education on radiation
On Friday, April 10, 2014, a high-tech robot was sent inside the primary containment (PCV) of Fukushima Daiichi unit #1. The device had traversed more than two-thirds of its planned path when it became stuck. It would no longer move. The robot’s camera, radiation detector, and temperature monitor continued to fully function. But, after two days of trying to get the robot moving again, the operators decided to sever the connecting power cable and abandon it.
Now, here’s the problem. The robot recorded that the radiation level inside the PCV was 9.7 sieverts per hour. All but one of the Press outlets in Japan said that this would kill a human being in an hour. (1) The clear implication being that if a person were in a radiation field of this magnitude for an hour, they would literally keel over dead. This is pure science fiction, most recently depicted in last fall’s movie Blackhat. In Blackhat, a person inside the high-exposure-level control room succumbs to the radiation in about 10 minutes.
It would never happen like that with the radiation levels depicted in the movie, and certainly not with those detected inside F. Daiichi unit #1’s PCV. If a person were on the 9.7 Sv/hr field for an hour, the exposure would certainly cause Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS), and the person would possibly die. But, not on the spot!
ARS symptoms from this level of exposure would take time to manifest. In general, the symptoms would be (at ~10 Sievert exposure over a short period of time); nausea and vomiting beginning about an hour after exposure, diarrhea in 1-3 hours, headache in 1-2 hours, moderate to severe elevated body temperature (fever) in about an hour, and an onset of detectible nervous system dysfunction in less than 24 hours. Nearly all symptoms will literally disappear after a day or two, but resurface a few days later with more intensity. Without medical attention, death would take 2-4 weeks to occur.
But not all persons exposed to 10 Sieverts would die… some, perhaps, but not all. As the time needed to reach a potentially lethal exposure increases, our natural cellular and genetic repair mechanisms can significantly counteract the damage being experienced. Thus, an exposure that takes an hour to accumulate will have a much less potential for lethality than one that takes but a few minutes. Further, it is with exposures of 30 Sieverts or more over a short period of time where everyone would certainly die. A key point is that the lowest one-hour exposure that might cause a person to almost immediately swoon is in the 50-100 Sievert range.
The CDC explains that for ARS to occur the radiation dose must be high, the radiation be a type that penetrates (i.e. gamma or neutron), the entire body (or most of it) exposed, and the dose must be absorbed in a short period of time, typically within minutes. The CDC emphasizes that, “After the initial symptoms, a person usually looks and feels healthy for a period of time, after which he or she will become sick again.” In addition, the typical cause of death (if it occurs) would be destruction of enough bone marrow to allow severe infections and internal bleeding. (2)
In other words, a 9.7 Sievert exposure over the course of an hour would take at least a week for death to occur with some people, but it is not an absolute death sentence! Only one Japanese Press outlet (that I have found) got it right – Wall Street Journal’s Japan RealTime. It says, “…short-term exposure to 10 sieverts is enough to kill a person within a few weeks.” (3)
All of the above information could have been uncovered on the internet in less than an hour by any responsible journalist. It is not rocket science, per se. Thus, all of Japan’s Press could have easily, and correctly, reported the medical truth, however all but one failed to make the effort.
Clearly, the Japanese Press needs a good education on radiation; what it can do, and what it cannot. Having radiation-ignorant reporting will eventually cause loss of credibility with the Japanese public. In a country with millions upon millions who suffer radiophobia (mortal fear of radiation), it seems a moral imperative to relate such information correctly and not in a fashion that only proliferates science-fiction-based misinformation.
1. Radiation Levels Reach 9.7 Sieverts inside TEPCO N-Reactor; Jiji Press; 4/13/15. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015041300788 (a representative example from a relatively objective news outlet)
2. Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS): A Fact Sheet for the Public; Center for Disease Control. http://emergency.cdc.gov/radiation/ars.asp
3. What the Robot Saw: Images from Inside Fukushima Reactor; Japan RealTime, 4/14/15. http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2015/04/14/what-the-robot-saw-images-from-inside-fukushima-reactor/
April 11, 2015
Evaporation is not the answer to Fukushima’s Tritium issue
It seems Tepco will look into any possibility for the reduction of Tritium-laced waters being stored at F. Daiichi in order to dull the pain from the constant socio-political bashing they suffer. However, the latest consideration is nothing more than an exercise in futility… the use of atmospheric evaporation instead of release to the sea.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of water at F. Daiichi have been run through the multistep radionuclide removal process, lowering all concentrations below Tepco’s ridiculously low, self-imposed limits for release…except for Tritium. The Tritium is biologically harmless with the levels found in the Fukushima waste waters, but Tepco is reluctant to do what the rest of the world would do and pump the liquid out to sea. Why? Because any detectible level of radioactivity released to the Pacific exacerbates consumer shunning of Fukushima seafood in Japan’s major markets. Though biologically innocuous, the numbers associated with the concentrations are huge – hundreds of thousands to millions of Becquerels per liter. Big numbers tend to incite panic in the radiophobic demographic, even if below the no observable adverse effect level (NOAEL). All reported concentrations are below NOAEL.
Kurion Corp. is set to provide a Tritium removal technology at F. Daiichi. It will reduce the concentrations by several orders of magnitude, resulting in levels below Japan’s 10,000 Becquerels per liter drinking water limit. However, the process is relatively time consuming and costly. Now, Tepco is considering another couple of options in parallel – evaporation and deep geological burial.
Burial will have its own issues that make it a problem, such as siting the location for it. In all likelihood, public opposition will be considerable, and perhaps impossible to overcome. Thus we might ask… is evaporation a viable, realistic solution?
Evaporation was used to treat waste waters at Three Mile Island. At TMI, about 9,000 tons of contaminated water was evaporated, but it took over two and one-half years! That was about 10 tons per day. More than 300,000 tons of F. Daiichi waste waters have already been fully processed, and another ~250,000 tons await processing. The numbers increase at a rate of about 300 tons per day. The point is that evaporation is a very, very slow process that will not work fast enough to curb the rate of contaminated water production, let alone make the tiniest of dents in the waters currently stored.
In addition, there’s one historical problem that cannot be avoided. Evaporation will release the Tritium into the atmosphere, rather than isolating or eliminating it. Japan’s numerically-significant radiophobic demographic will like this no more than the thought of releasing it to the sea. Former US NRC chairman Dale Klein explains, "They [Tepco] have huge volumes of water so they cannot evaporate it like they did at Three Mile Island.If they did it would likely be evaporated, go out over the ocean, condense and fall back as rainwater. There's no safety enhancement." In other words, one way or another, it’s going to end up in the sea, and the radiophobic millions in Japan will not in the least be appeased.
I would quibble one point with Mr. Klein. The Tritium concentrations at F. Daiichi are harmless. How can there be a “safety enhancement” on a process that is already absolutely safe? We’re not dealing with actual safety, in this case. We’re dealing with the perception of safety. I think that Klein means there will be no perceived safety enhancement. Evaporation will release radiation, and phobic fear of radiation is the singular issue.
In my honest opinion, here’s the bottom line on what ought to be done with the waste waters piling up at F. Daiichi. Evaporation will have to surmount the same major socio-political hurdles as unrestricted release of tritiated waters. It will be socio-politically unacceptable because evaporation will make the air (shudder) radioactive and will rain into the ocean when the wind blows out to sea. On the other hand, dilution to below Japan’s standard for release (60,000 Bq/liter), and pumping it out to sea…which can begin immediately, by the way…will result in the same socio-political harangues while providing the quickest, cheapest path to an effective, harmless resolution.
The best way to go seems obvious. The only roadblock is unrealistic, phobic public fear. It seems the fear will never be overcome, at least not soon enough to make a difference in the wastewater situation at F. Daiichi. Sometimes, the best thing to do is not the most popular choice. Tepco, and Tokyo’s NRA, should start diluting and releasing the waters ASAP, and decide to live the radiophobic repercussions.
April 4, 2015
Fukushima Accident Chasing
The past three years have witnessed numerous public-generated lawsuits concerning the Fukushima accident. Some want Tepco officials tried as criminals, but many more have tried to make Tepco pay even more to the evacuees than the generous stipends currently being given them. All of these legal actions have one thing in common; none have been successful. But, one thing is certain…the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the failed cases have succeeded in getting paid.
Now, reason for litigation emerges that defies logic. In this case, the evacuees are neither asking for money nor alleging that Tepco officials are criminals. Rather, they are trying to prove that the government is breaking the law by allowing them to return home! This is a turn-about that takes one’s breath away. For four years, the constant mantra of the Fukushima refugees has been that they cannot return home. Now that some can, they try to sue Tokyo for getting their wish, based on what seems to be a fabrication…and there are attorneys who have agreed to represent them.
Minamisoma residents are going to sue the Tokyo government for lifting evacuation restrictions on about 150 homes. Rather than be relieved, many are willing to risk their money to prove that the removal of restrictions has placed their health and well-being in jeopardy. Based on what? They contend that the limit for radiation exposure under the law on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness has always been one millisievert per year, but the restriction was lifted at a level of 20 mSv/yr. The plaintiff’s attorney purports, “The government has selfishly raised the limit on annual public radiation exposure from 1 millisievert set before the nuclear crisis to 20 millisieverts, having residents return to their homes still exposed to high doses of radiation. This is an illegal act that violates the residents’ right to a healthy environment guaranteed by the Constitution and international human rights laws.” (1)
However, upon studying both the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness (2) and the inter-related Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness (3), we find nothing about a one mSv/yr limitation on repopulation. There is no radiation exposure levels stated for repopulation, at all. Further, there is no mention of 1 mSv/yr anywhere in either of the documents. In point of fact, the lowest actual rate of exposure mentioned in either of the above, is in reference #3. It states that the operator of a nuclear plant must notify local officials when measurements at the site’s property boundary reaches or exceeds five mSv per hour! There are other criteria with higher stated dose-rate trigger points, but the 5 mSv/hr level is the one referenced repeatedly in the Law allegedly being violated by Tokyo. It is the lowest stated exposure level to be found, and it has nothing to do with repopulation.
Further, the stipulation that Japan’s citizens have a right to health and well-being is not in either of these legal documents. It is only to be found in yet another law - Basic Law of Disaster Countermeasures (4) – which applies to all cataclysms. (Article 3; paragraph 1) Even in this law, there is no mention of a one mSv/yr limit for repopulation, or anything else, for that matter.
One mSv/yr was a decontamination goal created by the Tokyo government under the now-deposed Democratic Party of Japan regime. 20 mSv/yr was initially invoked as a decontamination goal, based on guidelines held by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. However, Japan’s politically-vocal demographic claimed that 20 mSv/yr was not safe enough, so the DPJ under PMs Kan and Noda kept lowering the decontamination goal until public pressure became a non-burden to them. The final decontamination goal was set at 1mSv/yr. A goal is not a legal limit, but it seems the future suit’s plaintiffs believe otherwise, and their well-paid attorney is going along with it.
Clearly, there is no just cause for the lawsuit. In the interest of correctness, the attorneys for the plaintiffs ought to advise their clients that they have no case based on what is contained in Law on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness, or the other two laws that apparently overlap it. However, it is not the best of all possible worlds in Japan with respect to the Fukushima accident. If plaintiffs claim harm, or potential harm, relative to the radiation that came from Fukushima, they will always be able to find attorneys willing to be paid as the suit’s legal representation. Whether or not their clients actually have a case doesn’t seem to matter. Instead of chasing ambulances, some attorneys in Japan are chasing the Fukushima accident.
March 29, 2015
254th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 254th edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. This week we have postings by Dan Yurman, Dr. Jim Conca, Meredith Angwin, Dr. Gail Marcus, Rod Adams, Rick Maltese, and Leslie Corrice.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… Albert Einstein’s book “Relativity” went through fifteen editions.
Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links.
* * *
From Dan Yurman’s Neutron Bytes (2) –
Areva Struggles to Dig Out of Debt
Mideast nuclear projects report a mix of progress and perils
From Dr. Jim Conca of Forbes magazine (2) -
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Thinks America Should Be More Like Europe
We Need To Get This Iranian Nuclear Deal Done
From Meredith Angwin’s Yes Vermont Yankee (2) -
Distributed Generation for Vermont: Making a Virtue of Necessity
Support for Ginna: Write a Comment to New York State
And Meredith Angwin also sends us…
From Northwest Clean Energy (2) –
The next generation…and nuclear energy
New poll reveals Washington state opinions on nuclear energy
From Dr. Gail Marcus’ Nuke Power Talk –
Nuclear News from Japan, Part 2: An Interesting Rumor
From Rod Adams’ Atomic Insights –
SMRs – lots of noise but DOE budget that’s 1% of annual wind tax credit
From Rick Maltese’s Energy Reality Project (2) –
California’s Water Emergency – A Solution Worth Considering
(Guest post by the Thorium Energy Silicon Valley group)
Perception versus Reality
From Leslie Corrice’s Hiroshima Syndrome –
Radiation experts advise Japan’s government to repopulate Fukushima
* * *
Fact or Fiction (?) quiz answer – Fact.
Einstein seemed to have a strong desire to be understood by a wide audience, both scientific and lay. Albert began his quest to bring his ideas to the non-scientific, college-educated demographic, beginning with the first edition of his book “Relativity: The Special and General Theory” in 1916. He kept revising it until he died in order to make it easier to understand and “bring someone a few happy hours of suggestive thought”. The final edition, number 15, was published posthumously in 1961 by his estate. Please note, the book has a secondary subtitling, “A clear explanation that anyone can understand”. I highly recommend this little book to everyone.
March 1, 2015
250th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the Quarter-Millennial, 250th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by Dr. Gail Marcus, Rod Adams, Meredith Angwin, Dan Yurman, Will Davis, Brian Wang, and Leslie Corrice.
Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… On November 13, 1938, Otto Hahn met secretly with Lise Meitner in Copenhagen. At her suggestion, Hahn and colleagues performed further tests on a uranium-produced product they thought was Radium. Radium became the first fission product discovered from uranium fission.
Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links.
* * *
From Nuke Power Talkby Dr. Gail Marcus (2) –
Nuclear Power Plant Performance 2014: Maintaining High Levels
More Acronyms: Beyond Energy
From Atomic Insights by Rod Adams (2) –
Diseconomy of scale – world’s largest canned-motor reactor coolant pump
Atomic Show #233 – Innovators discuss advanced reactor development in US
From Yes Vermont Yankee by Meredith Angwin (2) –
The Local Grid: Pictures at the Edge
Northwest Clean Energy blog…
Forbes’ Jim Conca showcases benefits of clean nuclear energy
From Neutron Bytes by Dan Yurman (2) –
From ANS Nuclear Café by Will Davis –
Belgian Doel-3, Tihange-2 back in the news
From Next Big Future by Brian Wang (2) –
Concentrated solar does set birds on fire…
China could build 200 reactors in the next 20 years
From Fukushima Commentary by Leslie Corrice –
Japan’s latest source of radiophobia – Rainwater!
And, we close with a thought-provoking poem by English poet Wendy Cope, submitted by Dr. Jim Conca…
He tells her that the Earth is flat -
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well.
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.
The planet goes on being round
* * *
Fact or Fiction (?) quiz answer – Fiction.
They eventually found that it was Barium, not Radium. They published their results in Naturwissenschaften (January 6, 1939). The process producing the Barium was called “nuclear fission”, using Bohr's model of the nucleus. The esearch paper appeared in Nature (February 11, 1939). Unfortunately, in a sign of the times, Lise’s contribution to the discovery was excluded by her peers. Hahn was given the Nobel Prize for discovering fission in 1944. Eventually, Meitner’s contribution was understood by the scientific community. The Nobel Prize omission was partly rectified in 1966, when Hahn and Meitner were co-awarded the U.S. Fermi Prize. Lise was also honored when element number 109 was named “Meitnerium” after it was created in 1982. https://www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/meitner.html
February 25, 2015
Japan’s latest source of radiophobia – Rainwater!
Fear of radiation in Japan has reached a new low. Now, it’s small, biologically-harmless amounts of radioactive material being flushed away by rainwater.
Last Sunday, a radiation monitor on a drainage ditch alarmed at Fukushima Daiichi. The alarm set-point for Beta-emitting isotopes, approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, was 1,500 Becquerels per liter. It reached 7,000 Bq/liter at the highest reading. Within 90 minutes, it had dropped back below the set-point. Tepco honestly reported that no tanks were leaking and no increase in the level of seawater activity had occurred. The company said they would investigate the source of the temporary activity spike.
On Tuesday, Tepco said they may have found the source of the sporadic alarm; a large puddle of rainwater that had accumulated on the roof of reactor building #2. The puddle’s activity was 23,000 Bq/liter. The outlet of the roof’s drainage gutter fed into the channel monitored by the device that alarmed. Plus, there were other puddles on the roof reading between 900 and 1,900 Bq/liter, but only one had enough activity to cause the monitor’s high reading on Sunday.
When asked by the Press, Tepco said that every time it rained the monitor showed an increase in activity, but this was the first time it alarmed. Further, while nearly all of the water passing by the monitor flowed through a bypass channel into the barricaded inner port, a small amount may have leaked by the closed gate leading directly to the sea. And, Tepco said it took about 90 minutes to close the gate isolating the channel from the inner port. This seems to be the point at which the feces hit the fan! The Press, as well as Tokyo’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, went haywire!
On Wednesday, the Mainichi Shimbun (one of Japan’s 5 largest newspapers) ran the report with the headline “Highly toxic water leaks into ocean from Fukushima plant”. The Mainichi claims there were actually 29,000 Bq/liter of cesium isotopes, and 52,000 Bq/liter of Beta emitters in the “puddle”, citing an un-named source at Tepco. Japan Times, one of the leading Japanese-American outlets, said, “The utility admitted Tuesday it failed to disclose leaks of rainwater containing radioactive substances from a drainage ditch at the stricken plant even though it was aware of high radiation in the water last spring.” The allegation of a cover-up is obvious. Even the usually-objective NHK World added to the fray, “TEPCO knew last April that the density of radioactive substances in the channel rose when rain fell. But it did nothing to prevent contaminated water from leaking directly out to sea, nor did it make the finding public.” Again, the implied supposition is “cover up”.
Fukushima’s fishermen also went ballistic, and the Press exploited it to the fullest. Japan Times reports that Masakazu Yabuki, chief of the Iwaki fisheries cooperative, said, “I don’t understand why (Tepco) kept silent even though they knew about it. Fishery operators are absolutely shocked.” Jiji Press adds that Soma-Futaba fisheries head says, “[Tepco] concealed the leaks into the ocean” and “Our relationship of trust has collapsed”. NHK World reports, “Fishermen are accusing the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant of betraying their trust.” In other words, allegations of cover-up abound among Fukushima’s fisheries.
In what seems to be another attempt to show it is in-charge, the Nuclear Regulation Authority demanded that Tepco thoroughly investigate the drain-leakage incident, which it seems the company was already doing. Adding insult to injury, NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka said Tepco should not have allowed any contamination to drain to the plant’s port and a system of automatic gate closures should have been in place to stop flow if a monitor alarmed. In other words, Tanaka believes the rainwater incident is worthy of public concern and Tepco wasn’t professional enough to keep it from happening.
I guess it doesn’t matter whether or not an approved alarm set-point was breached. Every time it rains in Fukushima, raising the environmentally-innocuous level of contamination in the run-off, Tepco is supposed to shout it to the world! And, based on what we have seen the past few days, each declaration will be exaggerated by the Press with elaborated notions of “high toxicity”, and the local fishermen will scream bloody murder.
Radiophobia (mortal fear of radiation) infects millions, if not tens of millions of Japanese. Surveys show that 20% the public refuses to buy any foodstuffs coming from Fukushima Prefecture because it might contain an undetectable bit of Fukushima contamination. They believe that if it came from Fukushima, it is necessarily tainted…a term used incessantly by the Press when reporting on Fukushima.
Exploiting radiophobia is good for the news media business in Japan. Radiophobia is one of the core reasons Japan has a Nuclear Regulation Authority. Radiophobia is a real and present danger to the psychological health of the third largest economic entity in the world, but Japan’s Press and nuclear regulators don’t really seem to care. They exploit the fear-ridden millions with what is no less than reckless abandon.
The foundation of radiophobia is the belief that there is no safe level of radiation exposure. That is, all radiation exposure, no matter how trivial, poses a risk of inducing mortal cancer. No level of exposure is 100% safe, under this notion. However, no-safe-level is nothing more than a false belief. (click on “Radiation: The No-Safe-Level Myth” and “Science Proves ‘No-Safe-Level’ is a Fiction”, in the left-hand column) However, the scientific truth about the safety of low level exposure is nowhere to be found in the Japanese Press, and the NRA is clearly an accomplice to this informational omission.
What about the impact by the alleged leak on the Pacific Ocean? None of the numerous sampling points inside the F. Daiichi port’s break-wall show one iota of radiological impact. Ditto for those taken outside the break-wall, including the sampling point nearest the old, now-isolated drain discharge directly to the sea. It has been this way since the sporadic, non-alarmable fluctuations in the discharge channel have occurred since last April. But, this doesn’t matter to the Press or the NRA.
It seems that every time it rains in Fukushima, Tepco will be forced to warn everyone that an ensuing, harmless-but-detectible release of radioactive rainwater run-off is possible. The Press will post exaggerated copy of toxicity and the NRA will tell Tepco to do the job it is already doing. As a result, Japan’s millions within the radiophobic demographic are having their existent nuclear stress amplified by a new, entirely unnecessary source of angst…rainwater!
February 21, 2013
Fear of radiation the only thing stopping discharge of Fukushima wastewaters
This week, the head of the IAEA Fukushima inspection team urged Tepco to release fully treated Fukushima wastewaters to the sea. At a news conference in Tokyo, Juan Carlos Lentijo said, “Controlled discharges are a normal practice in the industry. Most of the [world’s] nuclear power plants are discharging treated water. This is accomplished with negligible impact on the environment and the safety of the people.” The head of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, Shunichi Tanaka, said essentially the same thing last month. In response to a worker falling to his death while fabricating yet another giant storage tank, Tanaka asserted, “Tokyo Electric Power must consider whether it (storing the water) is really necessary. It is surely harmful if it leads to the death of workers. It is important to listen to public opinion, but human life must not be lost for the sake of echoing public views. You [Tepco] are not yet demonstrating appropriate determination.”
All waste waters are run through what is essentially a three stage process to remove radioactive isotopes. The first is a cesium absorption system that has worked better than expected. It was hoped it would have a removal factor of 1,000, but has actually had a Cesium decontamination factor of more than 10,000. The next stage is called ALPS; Advanced Liquid Processing System. ALPS strips the water discharged from the Cesium absorbers of all additional radioisotopes, except one – Tritium. Since ALPS’ output has a tiny amount of radioactive Strontium in it, Tepco recently added a mobile Strontium removal system as the final step in the process. All that remains is water… Water so chemically pure it rivals that used in research facilities. Water so chemically pure it would probably not conduct electricity!
One might ask, what about the Tritium? Tritium is hydrogen, albeit the element’s radioactive isotope. The Tritium is an integral part of water molecules in the storage tanks, just the same as the non-radioactive isotope of hydrogen found in all water molecules of the universe. Tritium is also biologically innocuous; i.e. it will not harm organisms. (For more detail, click on “Background Information on Tritium” in the left-hand column)
In the best of all possible worlds, and in any other country on our planet, the Tritium-only waters would already have been dumped into the Pacific Ocean, and the unfortunate death of the plant worker last month would never have happened! But, Japan is not the best of all possible worlds when it comes to radiation. In fact, it may well be the worst!
Unbridled fear of radiation (radiophobia), no matter how trivial, infects millions of Japanese citizens. If radiation is detectible, it is unacceptable. The Japanese Press continually uses the term “tainted” to describe any waters found to have radioactive isotopes in it, or have had contamination in it. Thus, the Press recurrently reinforces radiophobia in the minds of those so-afflicted. In fact, the mere possibility of radiation triggers this paranoiac aversion.
Less than 48 hours after NRA Chair Tanaka urged Tepco to discharge fully-treated waters, the Fukushima Fisheries demanded this not happen. Why? Because it would possibly further hurt sale of their catches in Japan’s large marketplaces. Surveys show that as much as 20% of the public shuns any foods coming out of Fukushima Prefecture, whether or not it contains detectible contaminants. It doesn’t matter that all Fukushima foods must pass the most stringent marketing restrictions in the world. The food might have some radioactive material in it that is too little to be detected. After all, if it’s from Fukushima, it must be tainted. This is why the Fukushima Fisheries are convinced that releasing the tritiated waters to the sea would make a bad situation worse.
Unfortunately, they are probably right.
A Japanese colleague who lives in Japan says fear of radiation has infected the island nation since the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. He says millions believe that all of the people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were due to fallout; i.e. they all died due to radiation exposure. Actually, of the 200,000 who died due to the nuclear bombings, more than 97% were due to the two horrific explosions, and not due to radiation. It seems that Japan’s government neglected to tell its people this simple fact and it has become a foundation of the country’s current fear of radiation, exacerbated by a complete lack of education about radiation over the past seven decades!
This is my fourth Fukushima Commentary posting on the matter. My first “A Plea to Tepco and Tokyo – Just Do It!” was on 9/27/14, the second “Radiophobia increasing in Japan’s markets (again)” on 10/8/14, and the next was “Japan’s NRA chief is right: Tepco should release water ASAP” on 1/28/15. If this is beginning to sound like a stuck record, so be it. Franklin Roosevelt once said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. It seems that such a concept is alien to Japan’s numerous radiophobic demographic. Tepco seems more concerned about catering to their unfounded fears than releasing the entirely harmless wastewater to the sea.
January 28, 2015
Japan’s NRA chief is right: Tepco should release water ASAP
On January 21, Chairman Shunichi Tanaka of the Nuclear Regulation Authority spoke about the worker safety issue at Fukushima Daiichi following the death of a contractor employee. The employee slipped and fell from the top of a ten-meter high tank while helping secure the top cover of the container. Tanaka said one of the causes was Tepco continually building more and more tanks to store contaminated and decontaminated waters. He reiterated his opinion, made a few days earlier, that fully treated water should be released to the sea, as long as all radio-isotopic levels are below permissible limits.
Tanaka’s original statement caused a negative outcry from some of the public, and Fukushima fishermen, who did not want the releases to happen. The public reasoning was that even if contamination is well-below national standards, some radioactivity could remain and any detectible amount is unacceptable. The fishermen balked at Tanaka’s suggestion because any release to the sea could further damage the sale of Fukushima seafood in the marketplace.
After Tanaka’s January 21st restatement of his position, members of the public and Press in attendance shouted their continued disapproval. He responded with anger, “Even if a person dies?” He then turned to the Tepco Chairman and said,“It is important to listen to public opinion, but human life must not be lost for the sake of echoing public views. You are not yet demonstrating appropriate determination.” (1)
It should come as no surprise to regular readers of these blogs that this writer is not a big fan of Tanaka. However, in this case I must give him a hearty “well done”! About half of the 400,000 tons of wastewater stored at Fukushima Daiichi has been run through the multi-system decontamination process and cleansed to a purity approaching near-laboratory quality. Tepco has already said that any release will be run through mobile Strontium absorbers one final time to insure that the only radio-isotope remaining is Tritium, which is part of the water molecule itself. As I have written on many occasions, Tritium is biologically harmless.
To make the outcry from the public and Press even more ridiculous, Tepco has self-imposed limits that are ten to 15 times lower than Japan’s ultra-conservative drinking water standards. Further, this water will be released into the Pacific Ocean; not into a drinking water supply! And, no one drinks seawater, anyway! It seems that some segments of the Japanese public and Press believe that miniscule hypothetical risks are more important than human life!
Is Tepco taking heed of the NRA Chair’s admonition? It seems not! It appears Tepco is entirely comfortable with building more and more storage tanks, at considerable cost. They have ceased all decommissioning and recovery work at F. Daiichi until all worker safety considerations are checked and all contractors are fully trained in safety. This is also costing considerable time and money. However, the loss of life, as well as subsequent expenditures for upgraded worker safety, could have been easily avoided if Tepco had shown “appropriate determination” a long time ago and discharged the fully treated waters to the sea.
Yes…I’m mad as a wet hornet about this, and have been since word of the employee’s unfortunate demise hit the news last week. I called for Tepco to begin discharges to the sea in my September 27 Commentary; “A Plea to Tepco and Tokyo: Just Do it!” (2) NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka is telling Tepco to do the same thing., and start the discharges as soon as possible, before someone else gets hurt.
1 – Fall of Worker: NRA Chairman Urged TEPCO to Release Water to the Sea; http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/news_images/pdf/ENGNEWS01_1421903957P.pdf