top
San Francisco
San Francisco
Newswire
Calendar
Features
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
View other events for the week of 7/11/2016
Rally-Speak Out Stop Restarting Japan Nuke Plants-Defend Children & Families of Fukushima
Date Monday July 11
Time 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Location Details
Japanese Consulate
275 Battery St/California St
San Francisco
Event Type Press Conference
Organizer/AuthorNo Nukes Action Committee
6/11 Rally-Speak Out Stop Restarting Japan Nuke Plants-Defend Children and Families of Fukushima/Shut Down Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant
Monday July 11, 2016 3:00 PM and March to PG&E To Demand Closure Now Of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant at 3:30 PM
275 Battery St./California St.
San Francisco
March to PG&E Headquarters
245 Market Street, San Francisco
Press Conference 3:45 PM

The Japanese Abe government continues to seek the restart of many nuclear plants despite the great dangers of another Fukushima melt-down. The Abe government has attacked reporters through a secrecy law and are preventing information getting out about the critically serious continuing dangers at the Fukushima plant and the dangers at other nuclear plants that the government wants to reopen.
Japanese children and people throughout the country continue to get thyroid cancers and the number of surgeries is growing. The government refuses to release the statistics of thyroid cancer surgeries throughout the country.
The government has raised the level of "acceptable" limits of radioactive contamination in order to push for continuation of the nuclear program and some of Abe's Liberal Democratic politicians are telling people that the Japanese can "overcome" radiation and the government is telling people that you can decontaminate Fukushima.
The government which now runs TEPCO is also allowing the Yakuza to bring in subcontracted workers who are not properly trained or protected. This systemic corruption and criminal negligence of the Abe government must be challenged and publicly exposed. We also call for support to the US sailors who were contaminated by the Fukushima melt-down. TEPCO and the Japanese government continue to fight their liability for their contamination and cancers from the Fukshima melt-down.
Nuclear whistleblowers are also retaliated against and during the major earthquake in Kumamoto-Kyushu the Abe government appointed director of NHK told reporters not to "excite" people about the dangers.
We call for the evacuation of the children and families in Fukushima with compensation and oppose the propaganda that Fukushima has been "decontaminated" and that the Japanese people can
They need to speak out for the people of Fukushima and the world that the nuclear plants in Japan as well as the US need to be closed including Diablo Canyon which is also on an earthquake fault. We will also continue to call for the closure of the PG&E run Diablo Canyon nuclear plant which was built on an earthquake fault and threatens another Fukushima on the coast of California. NNA is against the deal made to keep the plant open for many years despite the dangers of a major catastrophe. After the press conference and rally at the Japanese consulate we will march to PG&E headquarters on 245 Market Street and have a press conference outside PG&E to call for the immediate closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. PG&E cannot be allowed to control our health and safety. We support the protection of the workers and not the stockholders and executives who are still making many millions of dollars from the nuclear industry. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, the Brown controlled PUC Chair Picker and PG&E have colluded to avoid following the law in protecting the public.
Defending the people of Fukushima Japan and the people of California comes first before the protection of TEPCO executives, the nuclear industry and the politicians who are controlled by these corporations.
We support the closure of all nuclear plants and facilities like Hanford WA to defend the workers and the people of the United States.

Stop Restarting Japan's Nuclear Plants
Defend the Children and Families of Fukushima
End the Secrecy Laws In Japan
Close PG&E's nuclear plant now-NO More Illegal Extensions of Nuclear Power in California
Close All Nuclear Plants in The US And Defend Nuclear Industry Workers and Whistleblower

Rally 6/11 Japanese Consulate
3:00 PM 245 Battery/California
March To PG&E
3:45 PM
Press Conference PG&E
Shut Down Diablo Canyon Now

Speak Out and Rally initiated by
No Nukes Action Committee
http://nonukesaction.wordpress.com/
For more information and to endorse and speak at rallies
Contact
(510) 495-5952

Former Prime Minister Koizumi backs U.S. sailors suing over Fukushima radiation
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/05/19/national/former-prime-minister-koizumi-backs-u-s-sailors-suing-over-fukushima-radiation/#.V23nLDc8y-Q
KYODO
MAY 19, 2016
CARLSBAD, CALIFORNIA – Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has thrown his support behind a group of former U.S. sailors suing the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The sailors claim health problems they now suffer were caused by exposure to radiation after a triple meltdown at the plant following an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday in Carlsbad, California, with some of the plaintiffs, Koizumi said, “Those who gave their all to assist Japan are now suffering from serious illness. I can’t overlook them.”

The lawsuit was lodged in 2012 against plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., which was last month renamed Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

The plaintiffs include crew members of the U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, which provided humanitarian relief along the tsunami-battered coastline in a mission dubbed Operation Tomodachi.

Koizumi spent Sunday through Tuesday meeting 10 of the plaintiffs, asking about the nature of the disaster relief they undertook and about their symptoms.

“I learned that the number of sick people is still increasing, and their symptoms are worsening,” he told the news conference.

Koizumi called on those in Japan, both for and against nuclear power, to come together to think of ways to help the ailing U.S. servicemen.

The group of about 400 former U.S. Navy sailors and Marines alleges the utility did not provide accurate information about the dangers of radioactive material being emitted from the disaster-struck plant.

This led the U.S. military to judge the area as being safe to operate in, resulting in the radiation exposure, the group claims.

One of the plaintiffs at the news conference, Daniel Hair, said Koizumi’s involvement made him feel for the first time that Japan is paying serious attention to their plight.

According to lawyers for the group, seven of its members have died so far, including some from leukemia.

Koizumi, who served as prime minister between 2001 and 2006, came out in opposition to nuclear power in the wake of the 2011 disaster. He has repeatedly urged the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to halt its efforts to restart dormant reactors across Japan.

Fukushima 3/11 Breeds Cynicism
http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/21/fukushima-311-breeds-cynicism/
JUNE 21, 2016
Fukushima 3/11 Breeds Cynicism
by ROBERT HUNZIKER




There’s an old saying “disasters bring out the best in people,” but Fukushima 3/11 of March 11, 2011 has put an exclamation point on cynicism rather than heartfelt concern.

Similar to America’s experience of outright lies by its government about the Iraqi Massacre, the blowback of cynicism and contempt bring forth a strain of populism, rejecting establishment, attracting lowly dishonorable politics, as America gooses-up an abomination!

Fukushima’s a horror story of hidden agendas, lies, scare tactics, and harsh secrecy laws, yet it’s held up as a icon of safe nuclear power by clever mastery of pro-nuke Oceania Newspeak, which, in the novel 1984 penalized “rebellious thoughts” as illegal, similar to Japan’s 2013 secrecy law wherein the “act of leaking itself” is bad enough for prosecution, regardless of what, how, or why, off to jail for 10 years. These decadent precepts are hard to accept with a straight face.

However, the day is fast approaching when the pro-nukie crowd, which claims Fukushima 3/11 caused few, if any, major radiation casualties, will be forced to “munch on their own words.” As time passes, it becomes ever more obvious that pro-nuke arguments, supporting big fat cumbersome nuclear power plants, metaphorically, hang by fingertips on an electric fence.

As an aside, it is rumored, thru the grapevine in Japan, that hospitals have been instructed to categorize, and officially report, patients’ radiation symptoms as “stress-related cases.” Hmm!

As for pro-nuclear news:

“In spite of this whole theatrical drama the result was…nobody killed or injured, and no indication of long term negative radiation effects on people. So the lesson of Fukushima is that nuclear power is much safer than people thought,” Kelvin Kemm, The Lesson of Fukushima – Nuclear Energy is Safe, Cfact, Feb. 16, 2015.

Another example:

“No one has been killed or sickened by the radiation — a point confirmed last month by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Even among Fukushima workers, the number of additional cancer cases in coming years is expected to be so low as to be undetectable, a blip impossible to discern against the statistical background noise,” George Johnson, When Radiation Isn’t the Real Risk, New York Times, Sept. 21, 2015

And, one more:

“There were no cases of radiation sickness among plant workers, because their radiation doses were too low to produce sickness,” Georgetown Radiation Expert, Author Reflects on 5th Anniversary of Fukushima Meltdown, Georgetown University Medical Center, Newswise, Feb. 23, 2016.

Bunk! To the contrary, not only have several independent sources in Japan reported cover ups of Fukushima worker deaths, bodies incinerated with ashes hidden in Buddhist temples, and instances of hair falling out, nose bleeding, and assorted serious ailments unique to radiation poisoning, now several deaths of U.S. sailors may be closely linked to this disaster that a pro-nuclear crowd claims demonstrates how “safe” nuclear power really is.

Thus, begging the question: Are the pro-nukites liars and/or are they being lied to, or what’s up? Who knows, and who really cares which, but their published articles, grandstanding nuclear power, are prominent throughout mainstream big time, and small time, magazines and newspapers and hyperspace, Oceania redux.

Whereas, in vivid contrast to this pro-nuke claptrap, one of Japan’s most eminent former prime ministers Junichiro Koizumi (2001-06) declares support for the U.S. sailor’s TEPCO lawsuit, more on this later.

Additionally, PM Koizumi has repeatedly urged PM Abe to halt efforts to restart Japan’s nuclear reactors. He is the second former Japanese prime minister, including PM Naoto Kan (2010-11), to plea for a halt to nuclear power. They claim nuclear power is not safe!

Luckily for the nuclear power industry, Abe is the prime minister.

Yet, there’s a festering problem, prevalence of radiation-poisoned deaths:

“The ashes of half a dozen unidentified laborers ended up at a Buddhist temple in this town just north of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. Some of the dead men had no papers, others left no emergency contacts. Their names could not be confirmed and no family members had been tracked down to claim their remains. They were simply labeled “decontamination troops” — unknown soldiers in Japan’s massive cleanup campaign to make Fukushima livable again five years after radiation poisoned the fertile countryside,” Mari Yamaguchi, Fukushima ‘Decontamination Troops’ Often Exploited, Shunned, AP & ABC News, Minamisona, Japan, March 10, 2016.

And, here’s another:

“It’s a real shame that the authorities hide the truth from the whole world, from the UN. We need to admit that actually many people are dying. We are not allowed to say that, but TEPCO employees also are dying. But they keep mum about it,” Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba (Fukushima Prefecture), Fukushima Disaster: Tokyo Hides Truth as Children Die, Become Ill from Radiation – Ex-Mayor, RT, April 21, 2014.

And, one more:

Mako Oshidori, director of Free Press Corporation/Japan, investigated several unreported worker deaths, and interviewed a former nurse who quit TEPCO: “I would like to talk about my interview of a nurse who used to work at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) after the accident… He quit his job with TEPCO in 2013, and that’s when I interviewed him… As of now, there are multiple NPP workers that have died, but only the ones who died on the job are reported publicly. Some of them have died suddenly while off work, for instance, during the weekend or in their sleep, but none of their deaths are reported.”

“Not only that, they are not included in the worker death count. For example, there are some workers who quit the job after a lot of radiation exposure… and end up dying a month later, but none of these deaths are either reported, or included in the death toll. This is the reality of the NPP workers,” (The Hidden Truth about Fukushima by Mako Oshidori, delivered at the international conference Effects of Nuclear Disasters on Natural Environment and Human Health held in Germany, 2014 co-organized by International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War).

Still and all, PM Abe insists upon fireside chats with pro-nuke campers whilst reopening nuclear power plants even though Japan survived just fine for five years without. He appears to have ants in his pants, pushing hard to restart the ole nuke plants A-SAP.

Meanwhile, in another universe, former PM Koizumi supports the lawsuit of U.S. sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan that participated in Operation Tomodachi, providing humanitarian relief after the March 11th Fukushima meltdowns. Allegedly, they were assured that radiation levels were okay!

“There is no excuse for Tokyo Electric Power Co. not to give the 400 U.S. sailors and marines who are now suing the company the proper facts. Things are looking especially good for the plaintiffs now that former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is backing the lawsuit over the Fukushima radiation,” Support for U.S. Sailor’s Tepco Suit, The Japan Times, June 17, 2016.

“Undoubtedly, Koizumi was convinced to help the sailors because they now suffer from radiation poisoning. He said: ‘Those who gave their all to assist Japan are now suffering from serious illness. I can’t overlook them,” Ibid.

According to lawyers representing the sailors, Charles Bonner & Cabral Bonner & Paul Garner, Esq., Sausalito, CA, seven sailors have already died, including some from leukemia.

With passage of time, the number of plaintiffs and numbers of deaths grows as the latency effect of radiation sets in. Thus, over time, the latency effect works against the pro-nuclear squawk talk that “all’s clear.”

Initially, the lawsuit represented less than 200 sailors but over time, the latency effect brings forward 400 sailors claiming radiation-poison complications, including leukemia, ulcers, gall bladder removal, brain cancer, brain tumors, testicular cancer, uterine bleeding, thyroid illness, stomach ailments, and premature deaths. These are youngsters.

The lawsuit process has been exacting for the young sailors: “Lindsey Cooper, for example. The woman who started the whole thing was torn apart on a CNN program by atomic energy experts and was later mocked on conservative radio shows,” Alexander Osang, Uncertain Radiological Threat: US Navy Sailors Search for Justice After Fukushima Mission, Spiegel Online International, Feb. 5, 2015.

As it happens, it’s not disasters that turn people’s stomachs as much as cover-ups and lying, bringing forth cynicism, contempt, and ultimately populist blowback as people get fed up with establishment politics.

It is very likely that, similar to American populist blowback, Japan will meet the same fate.

On second thought:

“There is one thing that really surprised me here in Europe. It’s the fact that people here think Japan is a very democratic and free country.” (Mako Oshidori, director/Free Press Corporation/Japan, speech in Germany)

Evacuation lifted for Fukushima village; only 10% preparing return
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201606120031.html
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
June 12, 2016 at 16:35 JST

Lights appears at only a few houses in Katsurao, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 11, the eve of the government’s lifting of the evacuation order following the 2011 nuclear accident. Waste from decontamination operations is covered with sheets in the foreground. (Yosuke Fukudome)
The government on June 12 lifted the evacuation order for Katsurao, a village northwest of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, but most of the residents appear reluctant to return home.

The lifting of the order covers more than 90 percent of the households in Katsurao. The entire village was ordered to evacuate after the crisis at the Fukushima plant started to unfold on March 11, 2011.

Katsurao is the fourth municipality in Fukushima Prefecture that had the evacuation order lifted, following the Miyakoji district in Tamura, the eastern area of Kawauchi village and Naraha.

Government officials said cleanup and other efforts have reduced radiation levels in Katsurao to a point that poses little problem. The lifting of the evacuation order means that 1,347 people from 418 households, out of 1,466 people from 451 households in Katsurao, can return to their homes to live in the village.

But only 126 people from 53 households, or 10 percent of those eligible to return, have signed up for a program for extended stays in the village to prepare for their return, according to Katsurao officials.

The officials said they believe that many evacuees would rather go back and forth between temporary housing and their homes in Katsurao for the time being, given the situation in the village.

Medical institutions and shops have yet to resume operations in Katsurao. And nearly half of the rice paddies there are being used for the temporary storage of radioactive waste produced in the cleanup operation.

Local officials say they have no idea when the waste can be moved out of the village for permanent storage.

Among the Katsurao residents eligible to return are those with homes in the government-designated “residence restricted zone,” where the annual radiation dose was projected at more than 20 millisieverts and up to 50 millisieverts as of March 2012.

This was the first time evacuees from such a zone have been permitted to return home.

Only the “difficult-to-return zone” carries a higher annual radiation dose.

The government plans to lift evacuation orders for other parts of the prefecture by the end of March 2017, except for the “difficult-to-return zone,” where the annual radiation dose was estimated at 50 millisieverts or higher as of March 2012.

The additional lifting of the evacuation orders would allow 46,000 of 70,000 displaced residents to return to their homes to live.

(This article was written by Makoto Takada and Yuri Oiwa.)

Time to permanently shut down Japan Monju nuclear reactor
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160606/p2a/00m/0na/018000c

June 6, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)

Japanese version

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology expert committee tasked with considering the future of the Monju experimental fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, has put together its report.

• 【Related】Japan enacts law to expand gov't role in nuclear fuel reprocessing

• 【Related】Decommissioning of troubled fast-breeder reactor Monju would cost 300 billion yen

• 【Related】Nuclear Watch: The Monju reactor's enormous expense
The Monju project has been plagued by mishaps and scandals, including serious oversights during inspections. As such, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) advised the science minister in November last year that the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) should "exit" as Monju's managing body.

It must be pointed out, however, that the committee's deliberations were based on the assumption that the Monju project would be continued, and considered only how it would be managed. In the end, nothing about Monju may change except the sign above the door -- exactly the outcome the NRA warned it would not accept.

Does Monju have a valid place in Japan's energy policy? How much will the reactor cost to operate going forward? These questions go straight to the heart of the Monju project, but they have been and continue to be ignored. The government could be looking to keep Monju going uselessly, and this cannot be allowed.

The expert committee report specifies prerequisites for a new reactor operator, including bringing in specialists from the industrial and legal sectors to join its management board. The science ministry will apparently decide on the new operator of the Monju reactor by this summer, and submit it to the NRA.

The report also calls for the appointment of a person with experience running a power plant to a leadership position, and strengthening maintenance and management systems.

However, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan has already stated that none of its members has any intention of taking over Monju's management. The fast-breeder reactor is quite different from commercial reactors, and requires handling volatile sodium coolant. The expert report admits that JAEA is the only organization in Japan with the expertise to deal with sodium coolant, and says that the committee believes the reactor operator will have to be left to a government-related body or specially licensed company.

Put all this together, and it appears that the new Monju operator will include people from outside the nuclear power industry at the top, but leave on-site operation of the plant in the hands of the current staff.

The suggestion to bring in outsiders is a repeat of recommendations for past JAEA reforms, so there's nothing new to see there.

The government has promoted Japan's nuclear fuel cycle policy of extracting plutonium from spent fuel and using this reprocessed fuel again in reactors. The Monju reactor, which burns plutonium, is essential to putting the fuel cycle into effect.

However, the Monju reactor has been shut down almost continuously since a 1995 sodium leak. The national government has invested more than 1 trillion yen in the project so far, and it takes about 20 billion yen a year to keep the plant running. Many other rich industrialized nations have given up on fast-breeder reactor development because of its technical and cost hurdles. The fuel cycle project is effectively broken beyond repair.

Under Japan's basic energy policy, passed by the Cabinet two years ago, Monju had a central role in research and development to solve the country's nuclear waste problem. This R&D can be conducted at other facilities, and there is no reason to prolong Monju's life.

It's time for the government to decide, not on how Monju will continue, but on how it will be shut down for good.

Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/29/hanford-not-fukushima-is-the-big-radiological-threat-to-the-west-coast/
by Robert Jacobs

There is a dangerous radiological threat to the West Coast of the United States that puts the health of millions of Americans at risk. It includes dangers to public health, dangers to the food supply, and dangers to future generations from long-lived radionuclides, including some of the most toxic material in the world. It is not Fukushima, it is Hanford. While radiation from the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns is reaching the West Coast, carried across the ocean from Japan, the radiation from Hanford is already there, has been there for 70 years, and is in serious risk of catastrophe that could dwarf the effects of Fukushima even on Japan.
Hanford, on the Columbia River in Eastern Washington State, is the site where the United States produced the majority of its plutonium for nuclear weapons during the Cold War. These tens of thousands of American nuclear weapons were built as an end product of the high levels of plutonium production at Hanford. The first three nuclear reactors on Earth were built at Hanford, with a total of nine nuclear power plants being built there eventually. Nuclear power plants operated for ten years in this world before they were ever used to generate electricity. Electricity is a secondary purpose for nuclear power plants, they were designed and built as plutonium manufacturing plants.
Hanford was the first of these plutonium production sites. The two worst radiological disasters (besides nuclear weapon detonations) in the first four decades of the Atomic Age were accidents at the plutonium production sites of the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, both in 1957. Military plutonium production sites remain among the most contaminated sites on Earth. During the period of operation more than 67 metric tons of plutonium were manufactured at Hanford. Hanford is home to 60% (by volume) of all of the high level radioactive waste stored in the United States. Nearly 80% of the Department of Energy’s inventory of spent nuclear fuel rods are stored just 400 yards away from the Columbia River. (Statistics taken from Physicians for Social Responsibility webpage)
Here is a very brief review of some of the worst impacts and dangers at the Hanford Site.
The Green Run
In December 1949 the United States deliberately released an immense amount of radiation into populated areas at the Hanford Site during the notorious Green Run. It was the largest intentional release of radiation conducted by the U.S. government. While nuclear testing in Nevada exposed many people to significant amounts of radiation, this was a byproduct of the desire to test weapons. In the Green Run the intention was specifically to release the radiation into the Hanford area. The Green Run was conducted in reaction to the test of the first Soviet nuclear weapon in Kazakhstan several months earlier. The first indications that the Soviets had successfully tested a nuclear weapon came when sensors at Hanford picked up the radiation several days later. It was decided to release radiation “similar” to that of the Soviet test to develop and hone detection equipment and better analysis of the Soviet program.
After the end of World War Two the U.S. method of processing the plutonium from the spent nuclear fuel rods involved “maturing” the rods, or letting them cool for approximately 100 days to allow short-lived nuclear isotopes (like iodine-131) to decay. Kate Brown has a detailed discussion of the decisions that eventually led to extending this maturing period at Hanford during this time in her pivotal book, Plutopia. The U.S. assumed that in their rush to produce nuclear weapons as quickly as possible the Soviets were “short-cooling” their plutonium being manufactured at the Mayak Complex, and thus processing the plutonium before these short-lived radionuclides had decayed. The Green Run was a plan to mimic this and process plutonium that had not cooled for 100 days, but instead had cooled only a few weeks and was, hence, “green.” To increase the ability of the radiation detection equipment in the area, and on the airplanes that participated, the filters at the plutonium processing plants that specifically filtered out iodine-131 were turned off for the 12-hour duration of the Green Run.
As bad as this deliberate release of radiation into the downwind communities was, things did not go as planned. The intended amount of iodine-131 to be released was dwarfed by the actual release, which was double what was anticipated. While scientists imagined they would then be tracking a coherent cloud as it moved away from the site, the resulting radiation dispersed throughout a vast area stretching across much of Washington State and into Southern Oregon. Concentrations were found in valleys and lowlands as the radiation distributed irregularly. Internalizing iodine-131 is a direct cause of thyroid cancer.

EPA map of iodine-131 distribution following the Green Run showing both heavy dose area and total distribution
The Tank Farms
Few things pose as great a threat to public health at Hanford than the Tank Farms. The Tank Farms are 177 single and double shelled waste storage tanks sited at two different locations on the Hanford complex. In the early days at Hanford, when plutonium for nuclear weapons was separated from the spent nuclear fuel, the leftover uranium from the process was stored in these tanks. Over the years a wide range of the highest level radioactive and chemical wastes were dumped into these tanks. According to the State of Washington the 177 tanks hold 53 million gallons of the highest level radioactive waste existing in the United States. 67 of the single shelled tanks have leaked over 1 million gallons of this highly radioactive waste which is migrating through the soil and groundwater into the Columbia River. In 2011 the Department of Energy emptied the contents of many of the leaking single shelled tanks into double shelled tanks, however the design of the double shelled tanks was found to be flawed, resulting in further leaks.

A section of the Tank Farms at Hanford. Photo: D0E.
Dealing with the 53 million gallons of highly radioactive waste is a multi-billion-dollar effort designed to manage the waste by 2050, or roughly 100 years after it was first manufactured. Currently almost nothing has yet been accomplished towards this goal besides the paying out of the contracts to design plans and begin the construction of the “Vitrification Plant” that is intended to encase the waste in glass. In recent years’ numerous whistleblowers have come forward from among Hanford employees to describe the flawed design and safety protocols of the Vit Plant. Most of these whistleblowers have been fired by the contractors running the Hanford cleanup. One, Walter Tamosaitis, the research and technology manager of the Vit Plant, was vindicated and awarded $4.3M to settle his wrongful termination suit, however other whistleblowers have been dismissed from their positions since that award. While the liquid waste has been extracted from the tanks the remaining high level waste in the tanks remains largely untreated.
Hanford employees who work maintaining the Tank Farms have suffered serious and unexplained health problems in recent years. Each year numerous workers have been exposed to “vapors” and have become sick or lost consciousness and required hospitalization. Many have suffered ongoing health problems as a result of these exposures. In 2014 over 40 workers suffered from such exposures including a two-week period in late March that saw 26 workers hospitalized. According to KGW news in Portland, a 1997 study conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory warned that workers exposed to vapors from specific tanks would have significantly increase risk of cancers and other serious diseases, but the conclusions of this report “were never made public, shared with Hanford workers or members of the federally chartered Hanford Advisory Board.”
On 29 September 1957 a tank containing waste similar to the waste in the Hanford Tank Farms exploded at the Mayak plutonium production site in the former Soviet Union, known as the Kyshtym Disaster. The cooling system for one of the tanks at the Mayak site failed and the temperature inside the tank rose eventually causing a chemical explosion that sent a radioactive cloud for over 350 km downwind and heavily contaminated an area near the plant with catastrophic levels of cesium-137 and strontium-90. This was one of the worst radiological disasters in human history at the time, and remained so, along with the fire three weeks later inside a nuclear reactor core at the Windscale facility (now called Sellafield) in Cumbria in the United Kingdom, until the Chernobyl meltdown and explosion in 1987. The Kyshtym Disaster, which a Soviet study concluded resulted directly in 8,000 deaths (not to mention illnesses) was the consequence of an explosion in one tank. At Hanford there are currently 177 such tanks, each containing similar disastrous potential, and located beside one another.
Contaminations and Dangers
The EPA has identified between 1,500-1,200 specific sites on the Hanford grounds where toxic or radioactive chemicals have been dumped. The ambiguity of that number speaks volumes about the lack of record keeping and functional data for addressing these problems. If plans for remediation of the waste in the Tank Farms at the Hanford Site are carried out as intended, there remains massive contamination of the soil and groundwater under the site, leeching into the Columbia River and surrounding countryside. That is if things go well. Things could go badly. The Kyshtym Disaster shows the dangers of an explosion in one of the tanks storing waste such as that stored in the 177 tanks at the Hanford Tank Farms. An incident in which multiple tanks experience problems could be catastrophic beyond our imagination. What’s more, there is not effective containment or security at the Tank Farms to face the threats of current times. While the countries around the world worry about the dangers of flying airplanes or drones into nuclear power plants, or of cyber attacks on the power supplies to such plants, those sites have at least some effective containment around the toxic materials they hold. The Tank Farms are open air and unshielded. The amount of deadly radiological materials contained in these tanks is far beyond that contained at any single nuclear site in the United States.
Hanford is Here, Fukushima is There
The triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi was a horrible disaster that has released massive amounts of radiation into the environment. The daily passage of tons of water through the watershed below the plants where the melted nuclear cores (corium) sit smoldering will continue to release radiation into the ocean for decades to come. The health toll that this will take, especially on the children of Northern Japan is horrifying. Already a much higher than expected incidence of thyroid cancers have been reported in area youth. This is the first of the cancers to present and is the tip of the iceberg of health impacts on those in the area. The release of long lived radionuclides such as cesium-137 and uranium into the ecosystem presents dangers to people all around the world as these particles cycle through the biosphere. But the largest and most tragic impacts of Fukushima will be on people in Japan. The plumes from the explosions of March 2011 deposited the bulk of their fallout within a few hundred kilometers of the plants. Radiation from the regular releases of contaminated water into the ocean, and the passage of groundwater across the corium will continue to bring radioactive particles into the Pacific Ocean where they will work their way up the food chain much as the fallout deposited by atmospheric nuclear testing did in the Pacific during the 1940s and 1950s. Some of that radiation is reaching the West Coast of the U.S., and this will continue as long as the site hemorrhages contaminated water into the ocean, which will likely be for some decades. This disaster should not be discounted. But it should also be remembered that it is the people of Japan, and specifically the children of Japan who live in the areas where the fallout plumes deposited that face the direst of these consequences.
There is currently a great deal of awareness about the arrival of Fukushima radiation on the West Coast. There are many people who say they will not eat fish from the Pacific Ocean, or eat food from Japan. At the same time, there is no discussion about eating Salmon from the Columbia River, drinking wines from the Columbia Valley, or fruit from the orchards that fill the downwind area around Hanford. The amount of radiation in the Hanford area dwarfs the amount arriving on the West Coast of the United States on a scale that is mindboggling. What is arriving from Fukushima is the result of the meltdowns of three nuclear cores, and it is crossing an ocean. What is stored at Hanford and leeching into the Columbia is resultant from 2/3rds of the high level nuclear waste of the United States, and is from production that began decades before Fukushima was built. This is not just contamination that is arriving today, or this year, it has been saturating the groundwater and ecosystem of the Northwest for more than 70 years.
Furthermore, the impacts from Hanford are not only what may happen, but what has already happened. Hanford downwinders have suffered generations of cancers and other diseases across a wide area of Eastern Washington and beyond. There is a legacy of death and illness that spans generations downwind from Hanford, and the source of those diseases percolates away in the tanks and waste sites that sit along the Columbia River, spreading deeper into the surrounding ecosystem. The radiation from Fukushima may slowly seep across the vast Pacific, while at Hanford we have the threat of a radiological explosion or terrorist act that could release volumes more radiation than was released by Fukushima and deposited in Japan any day of any week, and spread radiation across the West Coast and mountain west.
By all means we should be vigilant and monitor the levels of Fukushima radiation that arrives on the West Coast of the United States, while remembering that the most profound victims of Fukushima are children living near the site. But we should turn our attention and concerns to the radioactive wound that seeps radiation into the ecosystem of the American and Canadian West every day and threatens it with a radiological disaster that would dwarf the worst that Fukushima has done even in Japan. Stand up for Hanford whistleblowers. Demand transparency on waste management practices and plans at Hanford. Stand up for the health of Hanford workers who are being exposed to dangerous vapors in their workplace. And demand support and compensation for the downwind families and workers whose health and wellbeing has been devastated by the most radioactive site in the United States.
Join the debate on Facebook
Robert Jacobs is a historian of nuclear technologies and radiation technopolitics at the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University. @bojacobs.
japan_mass_protest-tokyo-160712a.jpg
Added to the calendar on Thursday Jul 7th, 2016 11:23 AM
§Japan People Protest Nuclear Power
by No Nukes Action Committee Thursday Jul 7th, 2016 11:23 AM
japan_nuclear_power_protest.jpg_1718483346.jpg
The vast majority of the Japanese people are against nuclear power plants.
§Japanese Children Get Tested After Fukushima
by No Nukes Action Committee Thursday Jul 7th, 2016 11:23 AM
japan_fukushima_children_at_shelter.jpg
Japanese children continue to be contaminated by the Japanese Abe government which is forcing people to move back to Fukushima

We are 100% volunteer and depend on your participation to sustain our efforts!

Donate

donate now

$ 97.00 donated
in the past month

Get Involved

If you'd like to help with maintaining or developing the website, contact us.

Publish

Publish your stories and upcoming events on Indybay.

IMC Network