Category Archives: environment

Japan Sacrificing Its Elders to Nuclear Fallout

Having utterly failed to anticipate the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster following the earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese government and its parasite nuclear industry plod along amidst a worsening situation. They’ve dumped coolants from helicopters, brought in huge cranes, dug holes– all to no avail. They’ve tried humans in the form of nuclear plant workers, but they have begun to die by the ones and twos. In the meantime, there has been no serious consideration of criminal indictments against the government and industry officials responsible for this incredible industrial failure.

Finally they’ve been handed a genius solution: mass suicide by old people in the spirit of national pride. These volunteers will willingly march forward into the valley of death.  If they get cancer, the thinking goes, it won’t hit them until they are dead anyhow. And they will provide a valuable service to society: saving the young men and women  so they can procreate and provide labor for years to come. And it’s all being done amidst a wonderful flowering of national patriotism.

The death march of the old is described in the New York Times.

Seemingly against logic, Yasuteru Yamada, 72, is eager for the chance to take part. After seeing hundreds of younger men on television struggle to control the damage at the Daiichi power plant, Mr. Yamada struck on an idea: Recruit other older engineers and other specialists to help tame the rogue reactors.

Not only do they have some of the skills needed, but because of their advanced age, they are at less risk of getting cancer and other diseases that develop slowly as a result of exposure to high levels of radiation. Their volunteering would spare younger Japanese from dangers that could leave them childless, or worse.

“We have to contain this accident, and for that, someone should do the work,” said Mr. Yamada, a retired plant engineer who had worked for Sumitomo Metal Industries. “It would benefit society if the older generation took the job because we will get less damage from working there.”

Japanese report Fukushima Fallout reached US and Europe

Mainichi Daily News of June 25,2011 suggests the extent of the radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear facility. I have already run various bits and pieces of information to show the range of radiactivity. This is another suggestive report.

Radioactive materials spewed out from the crippled Fukushima No. 1  Nuclear Power Plant reached North America soon after the meltdown and  were carried all the way to Europe, according to a simulation by  university researchers.”

More detail from the report:

The computer simulation by researchers at Kyushu University and the  University of Tokyo, among other institutions, calculated dispersal of  radioactive dust from the Fukushima plant beginning at 9 p.m. on March  14, when radiation levels around the plant spiked.

The team found that radioactive dust was likely caught by the jet  stream and carried across the Pacific Ocean, its concentration dropping  as it spread. According to the computer model, radioactive materials at a  concentration just one-one hundred millionth of that found around the  Fukushima plant hit the west coast of North America three days later,  and reached the skies over much of Europe about a week later.

According to the research team, updrafts in a low-pressure system  passing over the disaster-stricken Tohoku region on March 14-15 carried  some of the radioactive dust that had collected about 1.5 kilometers  above the plant to an altitude of about 5 kilometers. The jet stream  then caught the dust and diffused it over the Pacific Ocean and beyond.

 

Vitter and Koch:A lesson in Who Runs this Nation

What people often miss in following the actions of government as reported in the media is the  banality of life in Washington.  Behind the scenes Congress plods along,its real workings mostly hidden from view.

Thanks to the Institute of Southern Studies, we have a crisp civics lesson in what really goes on in the form of a detiled account of how Congress,working as so often it does,with lobbyists in tow,set about delaying reforms that would protect the public from the carcinogins leaking out from the chemical formaldehyde.

Take a minute or so to  read this. You’ll see just how our democratic government actually works:

6/10/2011Date on which the Department of Health and Human Services released a report  classifying formaldehyde — a chemical used in the manufacture of consumer goods  including carpeting, plywood, personal care products and pharmaceuticals — as  “a known carcinogen”

1989Year in which the  Environmental Protection Agency first assessed the health risks of formaldehyde

1998 Year in which the agency first tried to update that assessment, only to be repeatedly stalled by industry and  and its allies in Congress: 1998

2004:Year in which Sen. James Inhofe  (R-Okla.) pressed the EPA to delay the revised assessment, despite preliminary  findings from a National Cancer Institute (NCI) study linking formaldehyde to  leukemia.

Amount in campaign contributions Inhofe received that  same year from Koch Industries, a major chemical manufacturer: $6,000

Number of pulp mills that Koch bought that same year from Georgia-Pacific, a leading formaldehyde producer and  plywood manufacturer: 2

2005: Year in which Koch bought all of  Georgia-Pacific

2006:Year in which the International  Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified formaldehyde as a known  carcinogen

2009:Year in which the NCI released a  study linking formaldehyde exposure to cancers of the blood and lymphatic  system

Increased risk of leukemia for  workers exposed to high amounts of formaldehyde, according to the NCI study:  78%

Increased risk of death from blood  cancers for highly exposed workers: 37%

2009 Year in which both the IARC and  National Toxicology Program concluded that formaldehyde exposure is linked to  leukemia

2009:Year in which Sen. David Vitter  (R-La.)  successfully delayed the formaldehyde assessment by  placing a hold on the nomination of a key EPA appointee to force the agency to  send its draft assessment to the National Academy of Sciences for review

Average cost of an NAS review:  $800,000 to $1,000,000

Amount that  Formaldehyde Council lobbyist Charles Grizzle personally donated to Vitter’s  campaign the same day he placed the hold on the EPA nomination: $2,400

The suggested donation to  attend a fundraising party thrown for Vitter by Grizzle after EPA agreed to send  its assessment to the NAS: $1,000

Amount that Vitter’s campaign  received in 2009 from companies that produce large amounts of formaldehyde waste  in Louisiana: about $20,500

Amount Vitter’s campaign  received that same year from companies with interests in formaldehyde  regulation: about $40,000

Rank of Monsanto’s plant  in Luling, La. among top U.S. emitters of formaldehyde pollution in 2009: 1

Rank of Angus Chemical’s plant in    La. among top U.S. emitters of formaldehyde pollution in 2009:  2

4/8/2011:Date on which the NAS released its  formaldehyde review, finding that the chemical irritates the eyes, nose and  throat and causes respiratory lesions and cancer of the nose and upper throat —  but not leukemia:

Amount the federal government spent  to purchase trailers for for Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims that were later  found to have dangerously high levels of formaldehyde: $2 billion

Percent of the 134,000 FEMA  trailers provided to Katrina and Rita victims estimated by the federal  government to have formaldehyde problems: 33

6/3/2011:Date on which Rep. Cedric Richmond  (D-La.) introduced legislation to create a health registry of people who were  provided with FEMA trailers between 2005 and 2009

2010:Year in which President Obama  signed a law establishing the first national standards for formaldehyde in  composite wood products such as plywood and particle board

2013 Year by which the U.S. will have  the most stringent standards for formaldehyde emissions in the work

This is a lesson in how government really works: not by mandating or reversing laws, but through the endless behind closed door dealing, so often fending off change for the better. In this case more than 20 years.We saw it in air pollution regulations where Robert Byrd (coal) and John Dingel (autos) succeeded for years in delaying the acceptance of emission controls. We saw it just recently in the credit card legislation,which in the name of reform,ended up raising rates for many people. And we saw it in health care where the insurance and pharmaceutical industries successfully fended off any serious reform. This is the Republic in action.

Infant Mortality on Pacific Coast Jumped after Fukushima

Ever since radioactive leaks were reported at the Fukushima nuclear power facility on the northeast Japanese coast following the earthquake and tsunami, American officialdom has stolidy insisted that no matter what, radioactive fallout from Japan would have no effect on the US.  Pacific currents flowing past Fukushima and winds circulating overhead go across the  Pacific and onto the Pacific coast. As the Japanese balloon bomb attacks during World War II demonstrated, the prevailing winds carried the balloons far into the middle of the continent.But the US apparently  considers the winds and ocean currents to be  of scant significance. The government doesn’t test fish along the northern Pacific coast.It insists increases in radioactive fallout across the continental US are slight and of no threat to health. Charts plotting the course of tsunami debris across the Pacific towards the US are seen as of little consequence..

   Nonetheless, questions remain,especially in light of the fact that Japanese officials now say  three Fukushima reactors suffered meltdown, accompanied by leaks into the air ,ground water and closeby Pacific ocean

  This from a recent Washington Post piece:

 N uclear fuel at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi power plant began melting just five hours after Japan’s March 11 earthquake, a Japanese nuclear engineer told a panel of U.S. scientists Thursday.About 11 hours later, all of the uranium fuel in the facility’s unit 1 reactor had slumped to the bottom of its inner containment vessel, boring a hole through a thick steel lining, the University of Tokyo’s Naoto Sekimura told a committee of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sekimura’s assessment further damages the credibility of the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco). This week, the company admitted for the first time that nuclear fuel in three of the plant’s reactors had melted — a conclusion that independent scientists had reached long ago

   Last week Washington blog picked up and printed the following report,which raises more questions. “Now, writes the blog, “ a physician (Janette D. Sherman, M. D.) and epidemiologist (Joseph Mangano) have penned a short but horrifying essay asking whether a spike in infant deaths in the Northwest are due to Fukushima”:

The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:

4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 – 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 – 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)

This amounts to an increase of 35% (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%), and is statistically significant. Of further significance is that those dates include the four weeks before and the ten weeks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster. In 2001 the infant mortality was 6.834 per 1000 live births, increasing to 6.845 in 2007. All years from 2002 to 2007 were higher than the 2001 rate.

***

Data from Chernobyl, which exploded 25 years ago, clearly shows increased numbers of sick and weak newborns and increased numbers of deaths in the unborn and newborns, especially soon after the meltdown. These occurred in Europe as well as the former Soviet Union. Similar findings are also seen in wildlife living in areas with increased radioactive fallout levels.
(Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, Alexeiy V. Yablokov, Vasily B. Nesterenko, and Alexey V. Nesterenko. Consulting Editor: Janette D. Sherman-Nevinger. New York Academy of Sciences, 2009.)

Levels of radioisotopes were measured in children who had died in the Minsk area that had received Chernobyl fallout. The cardiac findings were the same as those seen in test animals that had been administered Cs-137. Bandashevsky, Y. I, Pathology of Incorporated Ionizing Radiation, Belarus Technical University, Minsk. 136 pp., 1999. For his pioneering work, Prof. Bandashevsky was arrested in 2001 and imprisoned for five years of an eight year sentence.

***

Why should we care if there may be is a link between Fukushima and the death of children? Because we need to measure the actual levels of isotopes in the environment and in the bodies of people exposed to determine if the fallout is killing our most vulnerable. The research is not technically difficult – the political and economic barriers may be greater. Bandshevsky and others did it and confirmed the connection. The information is available in the Chernobyl book. (Previously cited.)The biological findings of Chernobyl cannot be ignored: isotope incorporation will determine the future of all life on earth – animal, fish, bird, plant and human. It is crucial to know this information if we are to avoid further catastrophic damage.

Tropical Storm Rains Bring Floods to Fukushima Region

There is a growing sense that the Japanese either can’t or won’t do anything to  get the radiation from the stricken nuclear facility at Fukushima under control..Over the weekend,with a typhoon approaching, the company simply said it didn’t know what to do.The typhoon was downgraded to a tropical storm,but the heavy rains have caused flood alerts, and fears of landslides.  Radiation-tainted water levels  seem sure to rise.

A BBC report of May 28:

 Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is not fully prepared for heavy
rain and winds of a typhoon heading towards the country, officials admit.Tokyo
Electric Power (Tepco), which runs the plant, said some reactor buildings were
uncovered, prompting fears the storm may carry radioactive material into the
air and sea.’’

The Japanese quite openly admit their attempts to control spreading radiation
have not been successful.   More from the BBC:

Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is not fully prepared for heavy rain and winds of a typhoon heading towards the country, officials
admit. Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), which runs the plant, said some reactor buildings were uncovered, prompting fears the storm may carry
radioactive material into the air and sea……

“We have made utmost efforts, but we have not completed covering the damaged reactor buildings,” a Tepco official said on Saturday.

“We apologise for the lack of significant measures against wind and rain,” the official added.

Tepco has been pouring anti-scattering agents – such as synthetic resins – around the damaged buildings of reactors one and four.

But some of the buildings still remain uncovered after they were damaged by hydrogen explosions soon after the quake and tsunami struck.

A special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan criticised Tepco, saying that the current safety measures “cannot be said to be appropriate”.

Adviser Goshi Hosono added: “We are now doing the utmost to prevent further spreading of radioactive materials”.

Japan Times reported Monday evening that the typhoon, now
downgraded to a tropical storm, is bringing heavy rains and flooding to the
nuclear disaster area.

   Heavy rain caused by the remains of Typhoon Songda posed multiple landslide threats Monday in areas hit by the March 11 disasters, prompting local authorities to go on alert.Several areas already had been flooded by the morning and dozens of cars were trapped on overflowing roads in Sendai’s Wakabayashi Ward and in the nearby city of Iwanuma, both in Miyagi Prefecture.

The ground in some areas sank several centimeters during the massive quake, which shifted the island’s position in the Pacific Ocean. This made many areas vulnerable for the first time to high tides and heavy rain.’

 

Meanwhile, the overall situation looks worse,not better. Another Chernobyl seems assured.

Bloomberg today (May 30)

  Radioactive soil in pockets of areas near Japan’s crippled
nuclear plant have reached the same level as Chernobyl, where a “dead zone”
remains 25 years after the reactor in the former Soviet Union exploded.

Soil samples in areas outside the 20-kilometer (12 miles) exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant measured more than 1.48 million becquerels a square meter, the standard used for evacuating residents after the Chernobyl accident, Tomio Kawata, a fellow at the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, said in a research report published May 24 and given to the government.

Radiation from the plant has spread over 600 square kilometers (230 square miles), according to the report. The extent of contamination shows the government must move fast to avoid the same future for the area around Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant as Chernobyl, scientists said. Technology has improved since the 1980s, meaning soil can be decontaminated with chemicals or by planting crops to absorb radioactive materials, allowing residents to return.

“We need to finish this treatment as quickly as possible, within three years at most,” Tetsuo Iguchi, a specialist in isotope analysis and radiation detection at
Nagoya University in central Japan, said in a telephone interview. “If we take
longer, people will give up on returning to their homes.”

 

Typhoon Approaching Stricken Japanese Nuclear Plant

An approaching Typhoon has set off new alarms at the damaged Japanese nuclear Fukushima complex. This from Bloomberg

 Typhoon Songda strengthened to a supertyphoon after battering the Philippines and headed forJapan on a track that may pass over the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant by May 30, a U.S. monitoring center said.

Songda’s winds increased to 241 kilometers (150 miles) per hour from 213 kph yesterday, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center said on its website. The storm’s eye was about 240 kilometers east of Aparri in the Philippines at 8 a.m. today, the center said. Songda was moving northwest at 19 kph and isforecast to turn to the northeast and cross the island of Okinawa by 9 p.m. local time tomorrow before heading for Honshu.

The center’s forecast graphic includes a possible path over Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, which has been spewing radiation since March 11 when an earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems. Three of six reactor buildings have no roof after explosions blew them off, exposing spent fuel pools and containment chambers that are leaking.

“We are still considering typhoon measures and can’t announce detailed plans yet,” Takeo Iwamoto, a spokesman at Tokyo Electric Power Co., said by phone when asked about the storm. The utility known as Tepco plans to complete the installation of covers for the buildings by October, he said.

 

New Terrorist Threats: Greenpeace and Dead Elephant

The ongoing surveillance of environmental groups by state and federal governments under the rubric of routing out terrorists (which I wrote about last week) can have its comical side. This was the case with one dispatch uncovered by the Public Intelligence site.

Florida antiterrorist watchdogs, operating in the interests of  “domestic security,” issued Intelligence Report 6, August 2010, labeled SENSITIVE BUT
UNCLASSIFIED. It begins as follows:

This report is being created as an intelligence product for Region 5 of the Domestic Security Task Force. If you or your agency has any information or notice any trends that you would like included in this weekly report please contact the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange…

The report begins with a short account of two mosques expanding. There don’t appear to be any imminent dangers here, but unpredictable situations can always occur.

Of more general interest, Florida antiterrorist intelligence are keeping an eye out for disruptions following the death of a local zoo animal :

[A]n Asian elephant named Dondi died unexpectedly at the age of 36 at Southwick Zoo outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Although Dondi lived in Boston over the summers, she preformed at Flea World in Sanford, Florida in the winters. The group In Defense  of Animals (IDA) has filed a complaint with the USDA to urge an investigation into the death.

An anti terrorist analyst notes that this is of some interest because: “ARFF
has held numerous demonstrations at the Sanford Flea Market to protest on
behalf of Dondi, whom they wanted to be retired and moved to a sanctuary. Currently there are no known protests surrounding the death of Dondi.”

The report then proceeds to the more serious matters at hand:

During the week of 9 August 2010, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise will be heading to Gulf of Mexico for a three month expedition to “document the true impacts of the BP Deepwater Disaster.”

Greenpeace feels that “BP has devoted inadequate resources to the oil spill response, withheld information from the American public, and denied access to spill sites”. The Arctic Sunrise will leave from Tampa, Florida and visit the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas prior to going to the oil spill site. During the expedition, they will be examining the effects of the spill as well as looking for oiled marine life.

Analyst Notes: Although there are no known threats associated with this expedition at the time this report was created, aggressive tactics utilized by the Arctic Sunrise in the past may increase the likelihood of unforeseen incidents occurring. Since the beginning of the Gulf spill, Greenpeace have taken numerous actions against BP, including shutting down 40 BP stations throughout London, England in late July 2010. Members of the organization dropped off letters to each station and on their way out pulled a safety switch which cut off power to the station. They also covered BP signs with posters reading “Closed:Moving Beyond Petroleum.”

The report ends with the following warnings and provisos:

If you have or receive any information regarding a possible threat or have questions or comments please contact the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange (CFIX).

SENSITIVE  BUT UNCLASSIFIED

PUBLIC AND MEDIA RELEASE IS NOT AUTHORIZED

DISSEMINATION TO AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY

NOTE: The accuracy of this information is based solely on the sources from which it was derived.