Tag Archives: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

The China Syndrome


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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In the town outside of the Fukushima nuclear plant, the archway of hope still reads 'Nuclear Power Our Bright Future'
In the town outside of the Fukushima nuclear plant, the archway of hope still reads ‘Nuclear Power Our Bright Future’

On Friday March 11, 2011, at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC), a magnitude 9.0 (Mw) undersea mega-thrust earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan. The epicentre was about 43 miles (70 km) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypo-center was at an underwater depth of about 19 miles (30 km).

The Japanese refer to this earthquake as the Great East Japan Earthquake and as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Since modern record-keeping began in 1900, it was the fifth most powerful earthquake in the world and the most powerful known earthquake ever to have struck Japan. The earthquake moved Honshu (the main island of Japan) 8 feet (2.4 metres) east and shifted the Earth on its axis between 4 inches (10 cm) and 10 inches (25 cm).

An aerial view of the reactor buildings at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, north-eastern Japan.
An aerial view of the reactor buildings at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, north-eastern Japan.

Also, the earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves. In Miyako in Tōhoku’s Iwate Prefecture, tsunami waves reached heights of up to 133 feet (40.5 metres) and in the Sendai area, travelled up to 6 miles (10 km) inland.

Radioactive route: Journalists in protective gear are taken to the No. 4 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 6. (Photo:  AP)
Radioactive route: Journalists in protective gear are taken to the No. 4 reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 6, 2011. (Photo: AP)

On March 11, 2011, after the Tōhoku earthquake and the ensuing 15-metre tsunami, a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and release of radioactive materials from three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant caused a nuclear accident. All three cores melted in the first three days. Panic reigned at the plant while trying to deal with the three out-of-control reactors.

Used fuel generates heat, and needs to be cooled and shielded. This is initially performed by water in ponds, circulated by electric pumps through external heat exchangers, that dump the heat and maintain a low temperature. The ponds hold some fresh fuel and some used fuel, pending its transfer to the central used/spent fuel storage on site.

At the time of the accident, Unit 4’s reactor was undergoing maintenance. So, in addition to a large number of used fuel assemblies, unit 4’s pond also held a full core load of 548 fuel assemblies these having been removed at the end of November. A new set of problems arose as the fuel ponds, holding fresh and used fuel in the upper part of the reactor structures, were found to be depleted in water.

Masao Yoshida

Masao Yoshida was the plant manager during this Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, where he played a critical role by disobeying corporate headquarter orders to stop using seawater to cool the reactors

On March 12, 2011, about 28 hours after the tsunami struck, TEPCO executives ordered workers to start injecting seawater into Reactor No. 1. However, 21 minutes later, they ordered Yoshida to suspend the operation. Yoshida chose to ignore the order. That night, at 20:05 JST, the Japanese government again ordered seawater to be injected into Unit 1.

Early on Tuesday March 15, 2011, hydrogen explosions rocked reactor buildings 1, 3 and 4. Before dawn, Masao Yoshida, the director of the plant, remarked: “The worst-case scenario is a China syndrome.

On June 7, 2011, Yoshida was verbally reprimanded for defying the order and not reporting it earlier.

According to nuclear physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, the decision to use seawater arguably prevented a much greater disaster. The massive influx of seawater is the only thing that stopped the cores from exploding, according to Dr. Kaku, who added this was a last-ditch effort.

Worst case scenario - China syndrome

In Early May, 2011, Tepco sent engineers to recalibrate water level gauges in reactor No. 1. What they discovered was alarming: virtually all the fuel in the core had melted down. In other words, the zirconium alloy tubes that hold the uranium fuel and the fuel itself lies in a clump – either at the bottom of the pressure vessel, or in the basement below or possibly even outside the containment building.

Japanese Environment Minister Goshi Hosono
Goshi Hosono, Japanese Environment Minister

On December 19, 2011, in regard to where the nuclear fuel might be Goshi Hosono, Minister of State for the Nuclear Power Policy and Administration (Nuclear Accident
Minister) said there are 3 possibilities:

  1. In pressure vessel
  2. In containment vessel
  3. “In regard to that third possibility that some [nuclear] fuel may have worked its way out of the containment vessel and gone underneath it, I think there’s a very strong possibility…we think there is a strong possibility that some fuel is in that location as well.”

The phrase “China syndrome” now touted very much in the news is a fanciful term that should not be taken literally. It owes its origin to the movie China Syndrome, a 1979 terrific American thriller starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas. It tells the story of a television reporter and her cameraman who while doing a series of reports on alternative energy sources discover safety cover-ups at a nuclear power. The movie is based on a screenplay by director James Bridges and American screenwriters Mike Gray, and T.S. Cook.

While doing a series of reports on alternative energy sources, an opportunistic reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) and her radical cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) while visiting the (fictional) Ventana nuclear power plant outside Los Angeles, witness the plant going through an emergency shutdown (SCRAM). The movie describes a fictional worst-case result of a nuclear meltdown, where reactor components melt through their containment structures and into the underlying earth, “all the way to China.” Kimberly determined to publicise the incident soon finds herself entangled in a sinister conspiracy to keep the full impact of the incident a secret.

The China Syndrome

Click on the above image to read the full plot of the film China Syndrome.

The film “China Syndrome” was based on a number of real-life nuclear plant incidents and in particular the Brown’s Ferry Alabama Nuclear Power Plant Fire that occurred four years earlier in 1975.

The film was released on March 16, 1979, and 12 days later the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania suffered a partial meltdown. Luckily no one was hurt. Coincidentally, in one scene in the movie, physicist Dr. Elliott Lowell (Donald Hotton) says that the China Syndrome would transform “an area the size of Pennsylvania” permanently uninhabitable. The Three Mile Island incident helped turn The China Syndrome into a blockbuster.

Nuclear meltdown

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Lawsuit Seeks Evacuation of Fukushima Children


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AP –  April 14, 2013

An aerial view of the reactor buildings at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, north-eastern Japan.
An aerial view of the reactor buildings at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, north-eastern Japan. Their demand: The right to live free of radiation. The plaintiffs who started the legal battle: 14 children. A Japanese appeals court is expected to rule soon on this unusual lawsuit, filed on behalf of the children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists in June 2011 in a district court in Fukushima city. — FILE PHOTO: AP/KYODO NEWS

THEIR demand: The right to live free of radiation. The plaintiffs who started the legal battle: 14 children.

A Japanese appeals court is expected to rule soon on this unusual lawsuit, filed on behalf of the children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists in June 2011 in a district court in Fukushima city, about 60 kilometres west of the crippled nuclear plant that spewed radiation when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit it more than two years ago.

The lawsuit argues that Koriyama, a city of 330,000, should evacuate its children to an area where radiation levels are no higher than natural background levels in the rest of Japan, or about 1 millisievert annual exposure.

In a culture that frowns upon challenging the authorities, the lawsuit highlights the rift in public opinion created by the baffling range in experts’ views on the health impact of low dose radiation. Although some experts say there is no need for children to be evacuated, parents are worried about the long-term impact on their children, who are more vulnerable to radiation than adults. Consuming contaminated food and water are additional risks.

After the Fukushima accident, the world’s worst since Chernobyl, Japan set an annual exposure limit of 20 millisieverts for determining whether people can live in an area or not. The average radiation for Koriyama is far below this cutoff point, but some “hot spots” around the city are above that level.

“This is the level at which there are no major effects on health and people can live there,” said Keita Kawamori, an official with the Japanese Cabinet Office. “Academic experts decided this was the safe level.”

A prominent medical doctor in charge of health safety in Fukushima has repeatedly urged calm, noting damage is measurable only at annual exposure of 100 millisieverts, or 100 times the normal level, and higher.

A lower court rejected the lawsuit’s demands in a December 2011 decision, saying radiation had not reached the 100-millisievert cutoff. The International Commission on Radiological Protection, the academic organisation on health and radiation, says risks decline with a drop exposure, but does not believe there is a cutoff below which there is no risk.

An appeal filed is still before Sendai High Court in nearby Miyagi Prefecture more than a year later.

After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which emitted more radiation than the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, the Soviet government made it a priority to evacuate women and children from within a 30-kilometre radius of the plant, bigger than the 20-kilometre no-go zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

The number of children behind the original lawsuit dwindled to 10 for the appeal, and is now down to one as families left the prefecture voluntarily or the children grew older. Legally in Japan, a city has responsibility for children only through junior high (7th-9th grades), since high school is not compulsory.

But the case serves as a precedent for other Fukushima children.

Toshio Yanagihara
Toshio Yanagihara, a lawyer representing 14 children from Fukushima who started a legal battle for the right to live free of radiation, holds a leaflet urging quick action be taken. Picture: Yuri Kageyama Source: AP

Toshio Yanagihara, one of the lawyers, criticised the government as appearing more worried about a population exodus than in saving the children.

“I don’t understand why an economic power like Japan won’t evacuate the children – something even the fascist government did during World War II,” he said, referring to the mass evacuation of children during the 1940s to avoid air bombings. “This is child abuse.”

After Chernobyl, thousands of children got thyroid cancer. Some medical experts say leukemia, heart failure and other diseases that followed may be linked to radiation.

In Fukushima, at least three cases of thyroid cancer have been diagnosed among children, although there’s no evidence of a link with the nuclear disaster. There are no comparative figures on thyroid cancer in other areas of Japan.

The children in the lawsuit and their families are all anonymous, and details about them are not disclosed, to protect them from possible backlash of ostracism and bullying.

“Why is Japan, our Fukushima, about to repeat the mistakes of Chernobyl?” wrote a mother of one of the children in a statement submitted to the court. “Isn’t it up to us adults to protect our children?”

The trial has attracted scant attention in the mainstream Japanese media but it has drawn support from anti-nuclear protesters, who have periodically held massive rallies.

Among the high-profile supporters are musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, Manga artist Tetsuya Chiba and American linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky.

“There is no better measure of the moral health of a society than how it treats the most vulnerable people within it, and none or more vulnerable, or more precious, than children who are the victims of unconscionable actions,” Chomsky wrote in a message.

A 12-year-old, among those who filed the lawsuit but have since left the area, said she was worried.

“Even if I am careful, I may get cancer, and the baby I have may be hurt,” she said in a hand-written statement.

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“The Imminent Death of Civil Nuclear Energy” by Anamika Badal


Some may consider that civilian nuclear energy programs are going great guns and will grow in future. They will not. In fact, its slow death is already on and will only accelerate in future. Let’s understand why.

By Anamika Badal

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The nuclear energy industry has had a charmed half century of existence.

What essentially started as military research for the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was subtly packaged into a benign energy source. At heart, the roots of nuclear energy are firmly linked to military use.

The cold war was an occasion which offered the nuclear energy industry the use of massive funds, research facilities, government grants (subsidies) and huge freedom to conduct more and more research into making more and more weapons.

Nuclear Energy was simply a byproduct of this military work.

Companies and governments worked overtime to create a veil of secrecy around atomic energy so that the common person would not be able to link the two. And to their credit, they succeeded for a large part. In the days before the advent of the internet, information was scarce and expensive to procure. People – by and large – tended to believe what the ‘scientists’ and the governments told them.

Essentially, they were sold two stories

1) Nuclear industry means ‘national security’ and ‘national pride.’ Any opposition to nuclear automatically makes you an anti-national.

2) Nuclear Energy has no alternative because of its “cleanliness” and ability to deliver large amounts of power at cheap cost.

It is said that if a lie is told a thousand times, people start to believe that it is the truth.

Yet, it is also said that ‘You can fool some people all the time, you can fool all the people sometimes but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

The tipping point for the nuclear industry came after the end of the cold war. Contrary to what most people believe, Chernobyl had no effect on the growth of the nuclear energy business. After a tiny blip, the industry was back to it’s own self.

Anyway, concealment, fabrications, misrepresentation of facts, propaganda, censorship of news, strong arm tactics were all part of the overall cold war game.

The world knew that a huge nuclear accident had happened in Russia.

But beyond that, they had little more knowledge. The Russians painted a picture of “all-is-well“, while the West tried to malign Russian technology and safety. Neither really questioned nuclear energy as a whole.

Sure, there were enough independent researchers who risked life and limb to bring out the truth. But it was easy for the governments of those days to tackle these civilian groups – after all, government agencies were trained to play the big spy games – a bunch of civilians was a cakewalk for the masters.

The disguise continued unabated until the unexpected end of the cold war. The cold war meant that there was little need for military deterrence (?) The future wars would be fought on economic fronts and smart wars would take centre stage.

Tactical weapons, quick surgical strikes on specific small strategic targets did not require the kind of arsenal needed during the cold war days. It was no longer fashionable to parade the missiles and warheads on National days and gloat about technological prowess.

The new kind of weapons did not require as much of plutonium but needed a material that was far easier to procure – depleted uranium (DU).

DU is easily and openly available from nuclear reactors without the need for complex and expensive reprocessing technologies. The guided missiles tipped with DU are hundreds of times more powerful compared to ordinary bombs and can cause massive damage to over and underground structures. Because of the fact that they do not leave a huge visible impact (like that of an Atomic Bomb), people do not realize that effectively, a nuclear weapon has been used.

These missiles have been extensively used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While they have sometimes ensured that the targets are taken out, they are as deadly as a nuclear attack and leave behind vast amounts of radiation in the environment. People affected by DU develop the same conditions as those in Hiroshima or Nagasaki – the only difference being that of immediate visibility and localization.

The US and NATO troops have got away by using these weapons of tactical attack for many years now and the effects are showing up in the local population there – increased cancer, deformities, mutations and all the other radiation induced diseases are seen here. The soil and ground water is polluted with uranium and will continue to do so for many decades to come. The radiation has spread wider and entered the food chain and will continue to irradiate for a long time to come.

The West had found the ideal nuclear weapon which can be used easily – without any concern of accountability or justification needed for a full blown nuclear attack.

The need to use nuclear energy and the spent fuel had diminished and the military had a far lesser interest in these reactors.

Almost at the same time, another and more significant revolution was taking place.

The information revolution.

Almost out of nowhere, the computers, satellite television, instant messengers and the internet were all over the world.

Nothing was hidden. Information previously restricted to libraries or locked away in forgotten cupboards was suddenly openly available.

Information flow meant that there were no longer any holy cows. Discussions happened over emails and internet, ideas exchanged and previous paradigms challenged.

When Data gets analyzed, it turns into Information.

The massive amount of data which was scattered all over the globe earlier was put together and analyzed. Cheaper but more powerful computers allowed this massive data to be analyzed on desktop computers without the need for super computers.

What emerged was the naked truth.

Atomic and nuclear science is no more (or less) mysterious or complex than any other science. The sheer eliteness of being part of a select “nuclear club” was shown to be hollow. The cost of nuclear energy in purely financial terms was proven to be the highest, the enormous social damage, the horrible medical conditions and the silent environmental destruction were proven – with irrefutable data.

Troubles, they say, come in multiples.

More was to follow.

With no place to hide, the nuclear industry was hit by developments in renewable energies which took off at a massive scale resulting in prices crashing beyond imagination. A new, safe and cost effective option arose for which the nuclear industry was totally unprepared – literally caught with its pants down!

With no business model to survive, shrinking patronage from the defence and government ministries, Fukushima was the final nail in the coffin. In plain, open view, the incident shamed the industry badly and showed the world that the civilian nuclear operators were leagues ahead of Big Oil and Tobacco when it came to blatant lies and endangering lives for maximizing own profits. Safety and ethics be damned.

In the end, the nuclear industry has only itself to be blamed for its decimation. Nobody – except probably its own nuclear village fraternity – will shed any tears on its death.

It is one death which does not merit a RIP.

Reproduced from DiaNuke.org

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The Nuclear Sacrifice of Our Children by Dr. Helen Caldicott


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By Helen Caldicott

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When I visited Cuba in 1979, I was struck by the number of roadside billboards that declared ”Our children are our national treasure.”

This resonated with me as a pediatrician, and of course it is true. But as Akio Matsumura said in his article, our children are presently being sacrificed for the political and nuclear agenda of the United Nations, for the political survival of politicians who are mostly male, and for “national security.”

The problem with the world today is that scientists have left the average person way behind in their level of understanding of science, and specifically how the misapplication of science, in particular nuclear science, has and will destroy much of the ecosphere and also human health.

The truth is that most politicians, businessmen, engineers and nuclear physicists have no innate understanding of radiobiology and the way radiation induces cancer, congenital malformations and genetic diseases which are passed generation to generation.  Nor do they recognize that children are 20 times more radiosensitive than adults, girls twice as vulnerable as little boys and fetuses much more so.

Hence the response of Japanese politicians to the Fukushima disaster has been ludicrously irresponsible, not just because of their fundamental ignorance but because of their political ties with TEPCO and the nuclear industry which tends to orchestrate a large part of the Japanese political agenda.

Because the Fukushima accident released 2.5 to 3 times more radiation than Chernobyl and because Japan is far more densely populated than the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and because one million people have died within 25 years as a result of Chernobyl, we expect to see more than one million Japanese casualties over the next 25 years.  But the incubation time for cancer after radiation exposure varies from 2 to 90 years in this generation.  These facts also apply to all future generations in Japan that will be exposed to a radioactive environment and radioactive food.

It seems that the people in charge in Japan are busily ignoring or covering up these ghastly medical predictions and deciding in their ignorance that people can return to live highly contaminated areas or else remain living there.  Even areas of Tokyo are recording dangerous radioactive isotopes that originated in Fukushima in house-dust, in plants, and in street soil.

Thyroid cancers related to Chernobyl started appearing only three to four years post-accident (over 92,000 have now been diagnosed).  Yet only 12 months post-accident in the Fukushima Prefecture, 36% of 38,000 children under 18 have been diagnosed by ultrasound with thyroid cysts or nodules (most of these lesions should be biopsied to exclude malignancy). This short incubation time would indicate that these children almost certainly received a very high dose of thyroid radiation from inhaled and ingested radioactive iodine.

These results bode ill for the development of other cancers because hundreds of other radioactive elements escaped which are now concentrating in food, fish and human bodies and inhaled into the lungs.  Some elements are radioactive for minutes but many remain radioactive for hundreds to thousands of years meaning much of the Japanese food will remain radioactive for generations to come.  Nuclear accidents therefore never end.  40% of the European landmass is still radioactive and will remain so for millennia.

So what should happen in Japan? These are my recommendations.

  1. All areas of Japan should be tested to assess how radioactive the soil and water are because the winds can blow the radioactive pollution hundreds of miles from the point source at Fukushima.
  2.  Under no circumstances should radioactive rubbish and debris be incinerated as this simply spreads the isotopes far and wide to re-concentrate in food and fish.
  3. All batches of food must be adequately tested for specific radioactive elements using spectrometers.
  4. No radioactive food must be sold or consumed, nor must radioactive food be diluted for sale with non-radioactive food as radioactive elements re-concentrate in various bodily organs.
  5.  All water used for human consumption should be tested weekly.
  6.  All fish caught off the east coast must be tested for years to come.
  7.  All people, particularly children, pregnant women and women of childbearing age still living in high radiation zones should be immediately evacuated to non-radioactive areas of Japan.
  8. All people who have been exposed to radiation from Fukushima  – particularly babies, children, immunosuppressed, old people and others — must be medically thoroughly and routinely examined for malignancy, bone marrow suppression, diabetes, thyroid abnormalities, heart disease, premature aging, and cataracts for the rest of their lives and appropriate treatment instituted. Leukemia will start to manifest within the next couple of years, peak at five years and solid cancers will start appearing 10 to 15 years post-accident and will continue to increase in frequency in this generation over the next 70 to 90 years.
  9. All physicians and medical care providers in Japan must read and examine Chernobyl–Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment by the New York Academy of Sciences to understand the true medical gravity of the situation they face.
  10.  I also suggest with humility that doctors in particular but also politicians and the general public refer to my web page, nuclearfreeplanet.org for more information, that they listen to the interviews related to Fukushima and Chernobyl on my radio program at ifyoulovethisplanet.org and they read my book NUCLEAR POWER IS NOT THE ANSWER.
  11. The international medical community and in particular the WHO must be mobilized immediately to assist the Japanese medical profession and politicians to implement this massive task outlined above.
  12. The Japanese government must be willing to accept international advice and help.
  13. As a matter of extreme urgency Japan must request and receive international advice and help from the IAEA and the NRC in the U.S., and nuclear specialists from Canada, Europe, etc., to prevent the collapse of Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 4 and the spent fuel pool if there was an earthquake greater than 7 on the Richter scale.As the fuel pool crashed to earth it would heat and burn causing a massive radioactive release 10 times larger than the release from Chernobyl. There is no time to spare and at the moment the world community sits passively by waiting for catastrophe to happen.
  14. The international and Japanese media must immediately start reporting the facts from Japan as outlined above. Not to do so is courting global disaster.

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Re-posted from Reader Supported NewsAugust 28, 2012

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Dr. Helen Caldicott is a pediatrician specializing in cystic fibrosis and the founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, which as part of a larger group that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. Please visit her website.

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