Fukushima Commentary 10...10/2/13-11/9/13
Topics include Japan Press feeds Fukushima spent fuel fears, Fukushima refugee's income, Fukushima Tritium controversy, Lady Barbara Judge, Fukushima doomsday prophecies, and much more.
November 9, 2013
Japanese Politician Falls Prey to an Antinuclear Paradigm
One of the long-standing tenets of the antinuclear demographic is that their “evidence” is largely unknown to most people. They feel that if their concepts were widely reported, the world would necessarily turn against their great Satan – nuclear energy. It seems that a young antinuclear lawmaker in Japan has fallen prey to this concept and performed a taboo act that has cost him dearly.
Taro Yamamoto, former actor and unwavering antinuclear activist, violated proper Japanese behavior and violated his nation’s constitution by handing the Emperor an antinuclear letter in the Imperial Garden. His act has touched off a major public outcry. The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s No. 1 newspaper, called his behavior “outrageous” and “unprecedented”. The constitution says the Emperor is to be kept out of any political issues. Since the end of WWII, it has been taboo for anyone to include the Emperor in politics. The monarch himself is not allowed to express any view that could be construed as political.Plus, boldly approaching the Emperor like this…literally unannounced…just isn’t condoned in Japan. It is no wonder that politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties condemned Yamamoto’s action.
Why would anyone in Japan do such a thing? Yamamoto insists that informing Emperor Akihito of his personal opinion about nuclear energy does not constitute political exploitation of the Emperor. “I didn’t think that (my action) would cause such trouble. I feel sorry about that. I was not aware that (such an action) was violating the rules.” He subsequently tried to blame the resulting national uproar on the news media, “[My action] has been denounced as one intended for political purposes because the matter was played up by the media. The mass media are the ones that are using [the Emperor] for political purposes.” The ploy didn’t work.
Yamamoto knew exactly what he was doing! It was the deed of a former entertainer seeking free publicity…and he got it, albeit not the kind he envisioned. He confronted the Emperor in the midst of an imperial garden party attended by some 150 national and local politicians, and nearly 2,000 members of the public. The event was rife with Press coverage, and the cameras were capturing every move Emperor Akihito and his wife made. There would be no better place and time to perform a bold act and accumulate some free publicity. What Yamamoto didn’t expect was the severely negative reaction of the Press and his fellow solons.
Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura said Yamamoto’s behavior “is something that deserves resignation as a Diet member.” Upper House Chief Masashi Waki told party executives that the LDP should consider proposing a Diet resolution demanding that Yamamoto resign from the Upper House. Land Minister Akihiro Ota said Yamamoto’s action was “inappropriate” and that he lacks the proper decorum of a Diet member. LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba said the Diet should take strict steps because Yamamoto’s deed “cannot be overlooked.” Jin Matsubara, chairman of the minority Democratic Party of Japan’s Diet affairs committee, said, “I share the idea that he should resign as a lawmaker.”
On Friday, Yamamoto was formally banned from Imperial events and ceremonies by the Upper House Steering Committee. Such punishment is unusual because his deed violated no formal laws. But Yamamoto had violated the constitution and needed to be disciplined. The ruling was handed down under the right to “maintain order” because of an atypical breach of protocol (Mainichi Shimbun) The House also warned Yamamoto to “always keep in mind that you are a lawmaker and do nothing to dirty the name of parliament.” The Imperial Household Agency also criticized the politician, saying his actions were “inappropriate” and defied common sense. (Japan Daily Press)
It should be noted that Yamamoto has a few supporters from within the antinuclear community who say his action has brought the plight of Fukushima’s children into the open and may ultimately be seen as a watershed moment in Japan’s nuclear controversy. This was to be expected considering the fanatical level of fear and hate displayed by the more extreme fringe of the antinuclear demographic in Japan, and the Press’ penchant to accommodate the antinuclear persuasion at every turn. But, the vast majority of those approached by the Press find Yamamoto’s act to be rude and repulsive.
When I first read of Yamamoto’s action, I literally could not believe it. I had to wait until the next day to see how Japan’s Press would react, to see if my incredulity was “just me” or not. When I found that almost all of Japan was outraged, I asked myself what would ever possess a 38-year-old fledgling public official in Japan to do such a thing.
In my honest opinion, Yamamoto fell prey to the long-held antinuclear paradigm that most people have not been exposed to their evidence. They are convinced that once their “side” is heard, their “no-nukes” goal will become a reality. Yamamoto must have convinced himself that the reason the Emperor had not become vocally antinuclear was because he had no idea of the antinuclear version of “truth”. Yamamoto must have felt the only way to expose the monarch to his paranoiac version of Fukushima health effects was to make a bold move in front of the Press. Although clearly unwise, Yamamoto knew exactly what he was doing. As a result, he made a horrible mistake.
Does Yamamoto think the Emperor doesn’t follow the Press? The Japanese news media bends over backwards to make the antinuclear persuasion well publicized. Even the most innocuous events at Fukushima are disseminated widely from the scariest angles possible. The world knows what the Japanese antinuclear demographic is positing. The Emperor is surely aware of their fears and phobias.
Does Yamamoto believe the Emperor has been brainwashed by the Tokyo government and Tepco? Perhaps. The naïve notion of a covert conspiracy between the government and the nuclear utilities in Japan to “cover up the truth” is firmly believed by all antinukes in the island nation. It is also shared to international antinuclear luminaries, both explicitly and implicitly.
Or, was it merely a publicity stunt intended to bring the fledgling politician into national prominence? In my honest opinion, this was his intent from the start. There’s an old adage among entertainers that there is no such thing as bad publicity. This is one time the axiom has failed.
November 6, 2013
Cherry-picking Japanese Press Feeds Spent Fuel Fears
In a previous Commentary, we predicted that Japan’s Press will trumpet apocalyptic concepts as the removal of spent fuel from Fukushima Daiichi unit #4 approaches. Well…it’s happening. Japan’s leading English-language newspaper, Japan Times, has begun what promises to be a news media feeding frenzy. On Tuesday, the Times posted an article which was headlined “Tepco feeling heat over fuel removal”. (1) They selected the most outrageous foreign and domestic voices of criticism for the impending operation, while at the same time conveniently avoiding statements by long-standing antinuclear critics who say this is much ado about relatively nothing.
Let’s look at fear-mongering statements included in the Times article. In a recent letter to America’s president, Former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland Mitsuhei Murata said, “It is urgently needed to set up an international task force to assist Japan by deploying all possible means to reduce the risks of the imminent first unloading of spent fuel from unit 4.” Next, long-time nuke activist Harvey Wasserman of Global Research says Tepco does not have the scientific, technical or financial resources to do the job on its own. He insists that the work “may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban missile crisis. We are petitioning the United Nations and Obama to mobilize the global scientific community to take charge of the nuclear power plant and the job of moving these fuel roads to safety.” These are but two of several criticisms in the Times piece. There are no “balancing” statements provided.
There are several antinuke sources that might have been used to balance the report. Numerous western “experts” have question the extreme claims, and call for calm during operation that will only improve the situation at F. Daiichi. The Times should have followed the lead of New York-based Bellona newspapers which posted an article with a semblance of balance. (2) At first they cited Yale University professor Charles Perrow who says the operation is worthy of fear, "Tokyo would have to be evacuated because of cesium and other poisons that are there will spread very rapidly. Even if the wind is blowing in the other way it's going to be monumental. This has me very scared." However, Bellona also quoted the Natural Resource Defense Council’s nuclear program senior scientist Thomas Cochran, who said, “That Tokyo would have to be evacuated is complete nonsense. There are lots of worries at Fukushima. [The fuel pool] is not one of the pressing ones.” Union of Concerned Scientists expert Edwin Lyman says a pool accident is not a risk of significance, and “The vast majority of fission materials are encased in ceramic material – if a fuel assemble casing broke, you would be dealing with noble gasses as well as a small amount of radioactive ones, but I don’t think that would cause any sign of off-site exposure.”
Folks…the NRDC and USC have been trumpeting antinuclear persuasions to the world since the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979. These are not voices coming out of the so-called nuclear industry, the IAEA or any other nuclear community affiliation. They are about as “independent” as it gets. However, there is nothing about their position on the matter in the Japan Times. Is The Times turning heel on the NRDC and UCS? Probably not. There is another methodology at work here.
The Times is using what is called “cherry-picking” – to carefully select only the best or most desirable sources to support a pre-conceived agenda. This is done routinely by much of the Japanese Press. Usually, all nuclear critics line up on the same side of the field, if you will. But, in the case of the spent fuel removal scheduled to start in the middle of November, there is no such judgmental uniformity among them. The Times is clearly ignoring opposing viewpoints, performing a disservice to their numerous readers, and obviously only interested in fomenting fiction-based fears.
It should be noted that one English newspaper in Japan has gone a bit further than the Times by predicting future apocalyptic situations at F. Daiichi associated with fuel removal. Japan Daily Press says the unit #4 spent fuel removal is merely “a good opportunity to practice” for what they feel will be even more risky future spent fuel handling at the nuke station. (3) The daily Press explains, “The more dangerous affair will be extracting the radioactive fuel rods from the three molten down cores, where a small mistake might become the spark that starts a whole new nuclear disaster on its own.” The Daily Press also says “Tepco cannot be trusted with this dangerous process by itself”, and calls for international assistance. Regardless, after all the spent fuel from unit #4 has been safely transferred to the nearby common storage facility, it seems the scare-mongering will continue with removing spent fuel and melted corium from units #1 through #3. The beat will unquestionably go on, and Japan’s cherry-picking Press will do their utmost to keep their readers angst-ridden.
October 30, 2013
The Business of Being a Fukushima Refugee
On Saturday, October 26th, an Asahi Shimbun article included (buried at the end) a breakdown of how much money Fukushima evacuees have received from Tepco since April of 2011.(1) It took me several days to get my mind around the numbers. Many times, I returned to the article to make sure I didn’t read it incorrectly. The payouts have been staggering, and I’m not afraid to admit outrage on my part. I had a feeling the stipends were considerable, but nothing like this.
Here’s the breakdown, as posted by the Science and Environment Ministry and reported by The Asahi. An average family of four has received about $900,000 (90 million yen) in compensation from Tepco since April, 2011 - $490,000 for real estate compensation, $110,000 in lost wages, and $300,000 in “consolation” money for pain and suffering (including psychological distress). In other words, each family of four has been getting about $30,000 per month. It’s many, many times more than any tsunami refugees are getting from Tokyo ($1,900-2,400 per month, from the reports I’ve seen). It’s more money each month than I made in all of last year! No wonder many F-D evacuees have refused to return home in the few locations where evacuation orders are about to be lifted. There are officially 84,000 Fukushima residents receiving these stipends. Being a Fukushima evacuee has become big business.
At the same time these numbers were released, Tokyo said they are considering extending the statute on the existing pain and suffering payout of more than $1,000 per month per person - and it is tax-exempt. Currently, the statute on the psychological damage is for one year after the restriction on repopulation is lifted for each community. The Ministry says they will consider extending the statute if social infrastructure and employment opportunities are considered insufficient. In addition, a further statute extension is possible if psychological suffering continues unabated.
The Ministry announcement has caused some of the evacuees to say “enough”! One Miyakoji resident is in favor of cutting off the compensation after a year so that people would stop depending on the payments and move forward with their lives. Iitate mayor Norio Kanno, whose residents continue to live as evacuees, said one year after restrictions are lifted is an appropriate cutoff point because people would not feel the need to return to work if the compensation was overly extended. And, the psych monies but a small part of the total now being paid out.
How did this magnificent munificence happen? The first few days of the Fukushima accident in March, 2011, then-PM Naoto Kan and his staff arbitrarily set an evacuation radius of 20 kilometers around F. Daiichi. Arbitrarily? Absolutely! They refused to use the meteorological assessment system available to them (SPEEDI) in order to establish where people needed to be moved. Naoto Kan later testified that he believed meteorological projections were inherently inaccurate so he told his Kantei (Cabinet staff) to ignore SPEEDI. As it turned out, only about half of the 20 km radius really warranted evacuation, based on IAEA guidelines. The airborne releases during the first three days of the accident, including the first two hydrogen explosions, were blown out to sea. When the wind finally shifted in-land on the fourth day, it carried contamination north and northwest of F. Daiichi before effectively dissipating. It should be noted that initial evacuation out to 3 kilometers in all directions was probably correct. But, not 20 kilometers in all directions.
In the months that followed, Kan and his cronies craftily used the Press to constantly lower the exposure goal for having people return home. At first it was 20 millisieverts per year, the IAEA criteria for in-home sheltering and precautionary evacuation (in special cases). Blaming public outcry in the Press over the exposure limits being too high, the repopulation criteria was eventually dropped to 1 measly mSv/yr. In the process, it made Kan’s unnecessary and arbitrary evacuations of thousands of not-at-risk Fukushima residents seem appropriate.
But, Kan didn’t stop there. The passage of a Fukushima compensation act was quietly pushed through the Diet by Kan and his majority Democratic Party of Japan. By prior law, an industrial accident causing public evacuation must be compensated-for by the guilty company. Kan revised the law to support Fukushima evacuees for however long it was needed before they returned home, and Tokyo told the Press it was (after all) the right thing to do. Kan’s regime estimated the total payouts would be $600,000 per family over the estimated 3 year period needed to decontaminate their homes. They were very wrong.
Kan used Fukushima to deflect the world’s attention away from the horrific disaster caused by the tsunami, which made more than 300,000 Tohoku residents permanently homeless many hours before the nuke accident began. He was an unpopular Prime Minister, already on the verge of being booted from his lofty perch due to Japan’s plummeting economy and an extremely high valuation of the Japanese Yen. He needed something to stem his political bleeding. Kan’s government had precious little money to help the tsunami refugees, but he could use his nation’s historic fear of radiation to make Tepco pay out the nose and generously compensate many thousands of refugees that Tokyo forced to flee.
As a result, there are 84,000 Fukushima residents getting big bucks for separation from hearth and home. Many say they don’t want to go home because they are afraid of getting cancer. Others say they don’t trust the government’s exposure standards for repopulation. However, most of the reluctant refugees say it’s because they don’t trust Tepco. But, they certainly trust Tepco to issue them their huge monthly checks.
Let’s face it – they don’t want to go home because being a Fukushima evacuee is a serious money-making life-style, and they don’t want to lose their lucrative income.
October 27, 2013
180th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers
The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 180th edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. For the full reports, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include – the sorrow felt by the closing of Vermont Yankee, Japan’s impending Tritium issue, the startup of India’s Kudankulam nuke, censorship of Japan’s nuclear employees, and more.
From ANS Nuclear Café –
We Are Not Spock: Emotion and Nuclear Power by Meredith Angwin
From The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary –
Fukushima and the Inevitable Tritium Controversy
From The Next Big Future –
Two and a half years after construction…India connects the Kudankulam Reactor to the Grid
From Nuke Power Talk –
Japan, Independence and Transparency: Has There Been Any Change?
From Yes Vermont Yankee –
From NEWS OK: Science and Technology –
Nuclear bonding has similarities to chemical bonding
From Forbes.com –
Fukushima Anti-Radioactive Underwear -- Really?
October 25, 2013
Fukushima and the Inevitable Tritium Controversy
Early in 2014, Tokyo Electric Company intends to begin the full-scale operation of their Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) at Fukushima Daiichi. It will remove 60+ radioactive isotopes remaining in the currently-stored wastewater that has been run through the Cesium absorber system. It seems ALPS will use high-efficiency resin beds to strip the materials from the liquids flowing through them. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130329_01-e.pdf
The resulting water will be so pure that it will not conduct electricity very well, if at all. Only one radioactive isotope will remain – Tritium. The ultimate question will be whether or not Tepco’s allowed to release the ultra-clean Tritiated water into the sea, mitigating their wastewater buildup problem. Any detectible radioactivity makes millions of Japanese fear for their lives, and the mere thought of eating seafood that might contain something radioactive makes many consumers shun fish caught off the Fukushima coast. The Fisheries of Fukushima have already declared that they will never agree to allow Tritiated water releases to the sea, no matter what.
Tritium is the radioactive isotope of Hydrogen and one of the numerous radioactive isotopes produced by Mother Nature, in this case caused by upper-atmospheric collisions between energetic molecules and cosmic rays. Tritium has one proton in its nucleus, which makes it Hydrogen. But, it also has two neutrons attached to the proton, which is why it is symbolized as H-3. The two neutrons cause the nucleus to be a bit unstable. The resulting radioactive process goes like this - one of the neutrons spits out an electron, turns into a proton, and the Tritium instantly becomes non-radioactive Helium (He-3). The freed electron is called a Beta particle, incorrectly dubbed a “beta ray” by the Press. Gamma and X-ray radiations are “rays” because they are a continual flow of energy. Betas are negatively-charged sub-atomic particles…not rays.
Betas are about the weakest of the various forms of ionizing radiation. The most energetic Beta’s known to man (~7 Mev and up) cannot penetrate heavy-duty aluminum foil. Tritium’s Betas are among the weakest of the lot (~6 KeV) - a thousand times weaker than the just-mentioned high-power Betas. As a result, Tritium’s Betas can be stopped by cheap, thin cellophane, and are completely attenuated by our skin.
Because it is hydrogen, Tritium is part of the water molecule. This is why it cannot be removed by Fukushima’s Cesium absorption units, reverse osmosis system (to reduce salt concentration), or ALPS resin beds. Water cannot be removed from water, if you will. Separating Tritium from non-radioactive water is possible, but a slow and expensive process. There are international markets for Tritium including biomedical research and some glow-in-the-dark technologies such as emergency exit signs and remote-location airport runway lights. In all cases, the technologies produce less radiation exposure than household smoke detectors. The advantage is that the Tritium-based equipment needs no power to operate and never stops working.
While building a Tritium removal facility at F. Daiichi for international marketing might seem a reasonable solution, the financial investment would be massive and the demand is limited. Tepco doesn’t have the money for it. Further, all Tritium removal technologies only reduce concentrations, but cannot get all of it out. To Japan’s radiophobic demographic, this will not be good enough. To them, the only acceptable release will be no release.
Tepco cannot build more and more wastewater tanks ad infinitum. At some point, the stored-water buildup must stop. Inevitably, the Tritiated waters will have to be released into the ocean. There is no other option, as recently stated by expert consultants Lake Barrett, Dale Klein, and Lady Barbara Judge. When the inevitable happens, it will surely become a major issue producing a huge amount of negative Press around the world, along with apocalyptic what-if scenarios from the prophets of nuclear energy doom.
And, for what?
Tritium has never been found to actually cause death to any human being…ever…anywhere in the world. There is one case of a woman accidently ingesting 37 billion Becquerels of Tritium, resulting in detectible chromosomal aberrations for 11 years - all were repaired by her body’s natural mechanisms. (NCRP, 1979) Other than this, no negative health effects to humans due to Tritium have ever actually happened. Because of this, both the US EPA and NRC assume that because Tritium is radioactive at very low every levels, and all radiation causes damage to living cells, exposure via ingestion necessarily places people at an extremely low level of risk.
In 2006, the state of California ran an intensive study on the Tritium issue and found that the EPA and NRC-imposed limits on Tritium in water are based on carcinogenic assumptions. http://oehha.ca.gov/water/phg/pdf/phgtritium030306.pdf In addition, they found that the only evidence for any negative health effects comes from exposing lab mice to enormous levels of Tritium, in excess of 37,000,000 Bq/liter! While some of the specimens grew excess tumors, none of them were fatal. The report says, “Apparently, animals were not dying from tumors associated with tritium exposure.” In the very next paragraph, the report states, “We have found no human data that specifically addresses the carcinogenic effects of tritium.” Why? Because there is none! Regardless, the California state limit on Tritium in water was adopted directly from the US national standard of 20,000 Bq/liter. Drinking two liters per day at this level would result in an assumed annual internal exposure of 0.3 millisieverts per year. No fatal cancers have ever been documented below 1500 millisieverts per year in humans due to any form of ionizing radiation. It should be noted that Japan’s limit for release is 60,000 Bq/liter. Unquestionably, the US and California limits on Tritium are ultra-ultra-conservative. We might even judge them to be absurd…but that’s another issue for another time.
Using the above facts as background, we can look at the Tritium levels in the wastewaters at F. Daiichi and reasonably evaluate whether or not it will be worth getting upset about after ALPS does its job. The highest Tritium activity level at F. Daiichi is 630,000 Bq/liter in samples taken from the untreated turbine building basements. There’s no reason to think the waters inside any of the storage tanks at F. Daiichi have higher concentrations. Thus, after ALPS does its job, around 630,000 Bq/liter of Tritium will remain. Although it is a little more than 30 times higher than America’s standard for release, dumping it directly into the sea wouldn’t harm a mouse, let alone a fish or anyone eating the fish. But, Tepco and the government will probably not do that. Instead, it seems they will dilute the ALPS-cleansed waters with non-tritiated freshwater, well-below whatever limit they will ultimately set, before releasing it to the sea.
Along the way, the Press will make a mountain out of this virtual mole-hill, Japan’s antinuclear demographic will scream bloody-murder, and the international prophets of nuclear energy doom will guarantee widespread cancer epidemics along the Pacific Rim. All because of a low energy form of radiation that couldn’t hurt a mouse!
October 19, 2013
Lady Barbara Judge Causes Token “Balance” in Japanese Press
Late last year, a poll of the 50 major Japanese news outlets resulted in 47 admitting to being antinuclear. This tends to explain why every seemingly negative event at Fukushima Daiichi – no matter how trivial or inconsequential – gets widespread, tabloid-level coverage. The positive is carried by the precious few nuclear-neutral (called pronuclear by Japan’s antinukes) Press sources, with little or no coverage by the overwhelming majority. But, something has happened that seems to have caught the antinuclear Japanese Press off-guard. Her name is Lady Barbara Judge of Great Britain.
Lady Barbara has extensive experience in managing the decommissioning of defunct and/or damaged nuclear facilities with Britain's Atomic Energy Authority. Her credentials are impeccable. Lady Barbara was hired by Tokyo Electric Company as one of their foreign expert consultants, along with former American NRC boss Dale Klein, to advise Tepco with the cleanup of Fukushima Daiichi. Her knowledge and proficiency has been widely touted by all Japanese Press outlets. Until this week, Lady Barbara essentially said the negative things about F. Daiichi the Tepco-bashing Japanese Press loved. However, her latest Tokyo Press interview has shown that she is as astute with the Press as she is with nuclear technology.
At the interview, Lady Barbara stressed three key points…
1. “They [Tepco] need to have a number of foreign firms to come in and assist them with the cleanup. For TEPCO right now, it’s a question of learning as you go.”
2. The recent spate of contaminated water leaks and spills at Fukushima pose no health threat to the public.
3. Tepco should be allowed to restart nukes at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station to improve the company’s finances.
It should come as no surprise as to which of her three points made headlines and comprised nearly all of the articles that followed. The first, of course. The Japanese Press has the undeniable agenda of trying to make Tepco appear incompetent, and they have done a very good job when we consider the Tepco-bashing journalism common to the international news media. However, Lady Barbara’s other two points contradict the intent of Japan’s Press coverage.
The overwhelming number of articles concerning the Fukushima leaks/spills say that the waters are toxic, tainted with radiation, contain carcinogenic radioactive Strontium and etc. Clearly, Japan’s news media is sending a subliminal, at times overt, message that the leaks/spills do indeed pose a public health threat. Lady Barbara said just the opposite.
Next, Japan’s Press bends over backwards to publicize any and all who are against letting Tepco restart any of the units at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. Since the Press wants their readers to believe Tepco is incompetent, then they cannot be trusted to safely run the K-K units. The underlying assumption is that Tepco allowed Fukushima to happen and if they start up any K-K units, it will happen again. Let the possibility of Tepco bankruptcy be damned! Tepco is anything but trustworthy, and nothing else matters. Regardless, once again Lady Barbara’s statement that Tepco’s K-K units should be restarted contradicts the news media’s agenda.
Ordinarily, Lady Barbara’s two not-negative statements about Tepco would not have seen the light of day. But, she has been widely advertised as a sort of nuclear savior by the Press. Ignoring any of her publicly-stated opinions would eventually come back to haunt Japan’s news media. Letting the sleeping dog lie would leave her first point out of the mix, which would also not be in the best interest of the Press. So, what did they do? Without exception, Lady Barbara’s two not-negative points were posted in the very-last paragraph of every Japanese article about her Tokyo interview – without exception!
Technically, this type of reporting is called “balanced”. To me, balance would have been best-served by giving equal focus to each of Lady Barbara’s points. However, giving each point equal time would only serve to possibly diminish public skepticism towards Tepco, and that simply cannot be allowed! The agenda-directed western Press has been doing this sort of “balanced” reporting with nuclear energy since the seminal days of Three Mile Island, nearly 35 years ago. It seems their Japanese colleagues are now following the same path. Here’s the subtle strategy – statistics show that most people read the headline and a paragraph or two of the following article. It’s the minority that read articles to their conclusion.
Lady Barbara Judge is a sharp professional, including her dealings with the Press. Three decades ago, I was news media spokesperson for an Ohio nuclear plant. Back then, I wish I would have used the ploy Lady Barbara is implementing now. First, establish unquestioned credibility. Second, tell the Press what they want to hear. Then, add-in material the Press might find uncomfortable to post. It will end up at the article’s very end – an obligatory mention, if you will – but at least the good news will be available to anyone persistent enough to consume the whole enchilada.
October 11, 2013
Doomsday Prophecies Precede Fukushima’s Spent Fuel Removal
Next month, the staff at Fukushima Daiichi will begin moving the 1331 spent fuel bundles out of the unit #4 Spent Fuel Pool. Ordinarily, such an operation at any nuclear plant in the world is quite routine and not considered newsworthy. However, the impending operation at F. Daiichi is getting considerable Press and the international prophets of nuclear energy doom are exploiting the opportunity to the fullest. Here’s what they are predicting.
Perhaps the most extreme of the prophetic voices is Harvey Wasserman, a long-time American fear-monger. (1, 2) He writes, “We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Wasserman adds that the unit #4 building is “…tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.” Tokyo Electric Co., owner of F. Daiichi, brought in two independent experts to judge the structural condition of the unit #4 Primary Containment Vessel, which includes the SFP in question. Both said the building is not tilting…not even a tiny bit. In addition, while much of the several-hundred-mile-long Tohoku coast dropped about 2 feet in elevation, there is no record of unit #4 at F. Daiichi “sinking” on its own. Wasserman is clearly appealing to internet-based rumors, and not the facts.
Wasserman also says that “Spent fuel rods are the most lethal items our species has ever created.” Worse than a nuclear weapon? Worse than any other weapon of mass destruction? Where does he get all these preposterous notions? He asserts that his nightmarish vision would release 15,000 times more fallout than the bombing of Hiroshima. Actually, the big-number prediction is entirely based on Cesium-137, which is a trace isotope from nuclear weapon detonations. Wasserman wants us all to believe his 15,000-bomb estimate is for the entire matrix of bomb fallout, which is incredibly misleading to the lay audience. Then there’s the problem with getting all the Cesium out of the 1331 fuel bundles and into the atmosphere. 90-95% of the Cesium is too-deeply ensconced in the Uranium fuel pellets internal to the Zirconium tubes to be released, even if his apocalyptic, all-fuel-bundle fire scenario were possible.
Most of Wasserman’s statements are produced out of a creative mind long-experienced at concocting fantasies of nuclear energy apocalypse. His alleged evidence comes from fellow American antinuclear prophets like Robert Alvarez and Arnie Gundersen. This is tantamount to Al Qaida using other terrorist groups as evidence for their hatred of Western Civilization.
First, Wasserman uses Alvarez’ estimate that the spent fuel bundles contain more radioactive Cesium than was released by Chernobyl. While there may be a kernel of truth to the numbers cited by Alvarez, the problem is getting it all released to the atmosphere. Wasserman says that it will happen because spent fuel tubes made of Zirconium, and when exposed to the air they can ignite and release all contents. He further states that if the building collapses, the fuel bundles will all burn and a world-wide cataclysm will ensue. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission studied this extensively, long before Fukushima happened, and found that after no more than 180 days with Boiling Water Reactor fuel (Fukushima’s reactors are all BWRs), the rate of heat production due to radioactive decay is insufficient to cause Zirconium to burn. (3) The “newest” spent fuel bundles in unit #4 SFP have been there since November, 2010, and the rest have been there many years longer. Thus, they can no longer get hot enough to burn.
Next, Wasserman evokes Arnie Gundersen’s fantastic concoction that the unit #4 fuel bundles, now safely ensconced in sturdy vertical racks, are “…damaged and embrittled to the point of crumbling.” The problem with this notion is that there is no proof of Gundersen’s claim, other than his own confabulated speculations based the rumor that the pool boiled the week of 3/11/11. He refers to NRC Chair Jaczko’s ridiculous claim made on March 16, 2011, which the NRC retracted later that summer. While there is some debris on the tops of the closely-packed unit #4 bundles, all studies to date show no damage whatsoever to any of them. In fact, back in July Tepco removed two of the bundles and diligently inspected them for damage. They found nothing! (4)
Gundersen also says the impending fuel transfer is unprecedented in human history. This is true…sort of. 1331 spent fuel bundles have never been moved in one continuous operation before. However, the level of risk with this removal is so close to zero as to be unworthy of mention with any nuke plant other than Fukushima. Because we’re dealing with (shudder) Fukushima (!!!), Gundersen unabashedly embellishes on his wild speculation, calling the operation “unique and daunting” – so much so that it must be done with “100% perfection”. Wasserman says that if the attempt fails, the bundles would be exposed to the air and burn with horrific consequences, causing the pool itself to crash to the ground and create a pile of fuel cells that could fission and “possibly explode”. There is no known reason why a fictitious spent fuel fire could magically cause a massive, steel-reinforced concrete structure to collapse. Further, reactor plant spent fuel is many, many times too dilute in fissionable isotopes to detonate…or even fizzle!
Wasserman next cites a nuclear-naïve former Japanese ambassador as further proof of his irresponsible apocalyptic claims. Former ambassador Mitsuhei Murata says full-scale releases from Fukushima “would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.” Since when does a mere politician with no nuclear credentials whatsoever serve as factual evidence for anything nuclear?
But, Wasserman is not the only antinuclear prophet to predict potential doom with the unit #4 spent fuel transfer. Helen Caldicott of Australia, another several-decades-long nuclear power basher and exaggeration artist, says that if the phantasmagoric pool collapse caused all the bundles in unit #4 SFP to spill out into a pile, “The cooling water would dissipate, the fuel rods would spontaneously ignite releasing 10 times more cesium than that released at Chernobyl contaminating much of the Northern Hemisphere and more than 50 million Japanese people would need evacuating.” She calls the impending spent fuel transfer a “risky procedure” because the bundles may be so “damaged and twisted that they will not be able to remove them from their racks.” (5)
But, all of the above bombast would probably be for naught if it were not for the Japanese Press. International antinuclear luminaries are given “expert” billing, and Japan’s Press eats it up with a gusto usually reserved for a gourmet feast. One of the most representative examples comes from Japan Times, which says, “There are 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies in a pool above the reactor. They weigh a total of 400 tons, and contain radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The spent-fuel pool, standing 18 meters above ground, was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami and is in a deteriorating condition. It remains vulnerable to any further shocks, and is also at risk from ground liquefaction.” (6) The articles goes on to say that spent fuel transfer is ordinarily a difficult task (which it isn’t) using computers, but the unit #4 bundle movements must be done manually, “And if something does go wrong, the consequences could be far more severe than any nuclear accident the world has ever seen. If a fuel rod is dropped, breaks or becomes entangled while being removed, possible worst case scenarios include a big explosion, a meltdown in the pool, or a large fire. The Times says any of these situations could lead to massive releases of deadly radionuclides into the atmosphere, putting much of Japan — including Tokyo and Yokohama — and even neighboring countries at serious risk.”
So, where do you think the Times writer got this worst-case scenario from? From foreign prophets of antinuclear doom, of course.
Unfortunately, there are millions of Japanese who have become so terrified by worst-case Fukushima scenarios that all sorts of paranoiac behavior can be expected when Tepco’s unit #4 fuel transfer is imminent. I predict that a constant “vigil” of protesting activists in Tokyo, beginning in early November and lasting throughout the entire fuel transfer process. You can bet the aforementioned apocalyptic prophecies will be broadcast long and hard by the Japanese news media. I also predict that when it’s all over, and nothing of any consequence happens, the Japanese Press will say something like this…”WHEW!! That was a close one!”
1. Wasserman, H.; Humankind’s Most Dangerous Moment: Fukushima Fuel Pool at Unit 4; Global Research; September 20, 2013. http://www.globalresearch.ca/humankinds-most-dangerous-moment-fukushima-fuel-pool-at-unit-4/5350779
2. Wasserman, H; Demand for a Global take-over at Fukushima has Hit Critical Mass; Common Dreams, October 1, 2013. http://portside.org/2013-10-03/demand-global-take-over-fukushima-has-hit-critical-mass
3. NUREG CR-4952 - http://www.osti.gov/scitech/biblio/6135335
4. Japan utility takes out 2 Fukushima nuke fuel rods; http://news.yahoo.com/japan-utility-takes-2-fukushima-nuke-fuel-rods-045923646.html
5. Caldicott, Helen; The Medical Implications of Fukushima; July 10, 2013. http://japansafety.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/the-medical-implications-of-fukushima-helen-caldicott/
6. Government must take over Fukushima nuclear cleanup; Japan Times; August 29, 2013. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/08/29/commentary/government-must-take-over-fukushima-nuclear-cleanup/#.UlQqFIHD8dX
October 2, 2013
Reactor-Bomb Confusion Continues in Japan
Antinuclear protests occur regularly in Japan, and many times “Hiroshima” and “Fukushima” are used in tandem by the demonstrators. Many in Japan believe that the Fukushima accident was the third nuclear bombing of their country, albeit self-inflicted. One of the most recent examples is author Hiromichi Ugaya’s book “Road from Hiroshima to Fukushima”. In it, he says that the radiation hazards from nuclear power plants are no different than those from nuclear weapons. He writes,“The atomic bomb and nuclear power are like twin siblings if you trace their history.” Another example concerns the recent protests in Tokyo where outcries against nuclear plants and atomic weapons were used interchangeably. Nuclear power critics have no inhibitions about trying to cement the conceptual tie-in between reactors and bombs. It seems they believe it is their most effective and compelling strategy.
However, the first city to suffer an atomic bombing in 1945 is taking issue with the attempts at a tie-in. Many, if not most of the people living in Hiroshima understand that the differences between reactors and bombs vastly greater the similarities. They take umbrage with those outside the city who make it seem that a nuke power plant is the same as a bomb. The only realistic connection between the two is that they both involve radiation; but it is a weak association to the people of Hiroshima. In Japan Today, the mayor of Hiroshima, Kazumi Matsui, said, “Our position, and this is a position we can never compromise, is that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil. [But] I oppose connecting the two simply because they both involve radiation.” He stressed there is widespread sentiment that Hiroshima endured something much worse than the Fukushima accident, and his constituency resents having the two lumped together. The bombing of Hiroshima caused the deaths of about 140,000 Japanese, thousands of which were due to huge radiation exposures and the massive ingestion of fallout. Most of the exposure and fallout victims died within a year. The people of Hiroshima know that Fukushima’s radiation pales in comparison, and has killed no-one in more than two-and-one-half years.
Pleas from Hiroshima to end the proliferation of atomic weapons carry considerable moral weight across Japan. Antinuclear activists have long-sought support from the city’s populace, but their petitions go unsigned and most of the population refuses to get involved. One of the few residents to join the antinuclear effort is Robert Jacobs of the Hiroshima Peace Institute. He believes Fukushima is a “slow-motion nuclear war”. But his opinion is but one of the few dissenting voices out of more than 1.1 million city residents. At the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, it is atomic weapons that are the enemy – not nuclear reactors. “Look at these pictures,” said Kenji Shiga, chief of the museum, pointing to a photo of a corpse. “And this is one of the less gruesome ones. Here, it all came with a bang. This is not a place merely dripping radiation.” (Japan Today)
It should be noted that before the bombing of Hiroshima, Albert Einstein went to the American Congress and tried to stop it. For one reason, he was a devout pacifist. But, he was also tormented by a nightmare that his idea would be literally dropped on the world under the specter of a radioactive mushroom cloud. He believed that unless the differences between reactors and bombs were openly shared with the world, confusion between the two could set back the benign development of his idea for a century or more. Few listened. There is no greater manifestation of Einstein’s fear than what has been happening in Japan since 3/11/11 due to reactor/bomb confusion. Outside of Hiroshima, few know, or even care to understand the differences.
Sadly, confusion between reactors and bombs is not specific to Japan. The belief that the source of heat in a nuclear reactor is a constant low-level nuclear detonation is not uncommon, as shown by the words of author Ugaya (above). Antinuclear people have evoked the same belief in negative comments sent to me about my Hiroshima Syndrome website which explains the considerable differences. But, it’s not only the antinukes who believe the misconception. One of my tutorial students recently broached the question of a nuclear reactor exploding like a bomb with his AP English class, and all 18 in the class responded in the affirmative – including the teacher! I’ve posed the possibility to literally hundreds of people over the past 25 years, and most have responded with a resounding “Yes”. When I explain that Uranium itself is not an explosive and the fuel used in nuke plants is the wrong kind of material for a nuclear explosion, many refuse to believe it. The belief has become paradigm in many people’s minds. False paradigms are often extremely difficult to correct.
Confusion between reactors and bombs is a foundation of the world’s antinuclear prophets of doom. It is one of their greatest fears that this incorrect paradigm might someday be corrected. If it were up to the people of Hiroshima, the confusion between reactors and bombs would already be a thing of the past. But it isn’t, and the residents of the city to first suffer a nuclear weapon don’t like it one bit.