Sunday, July 7, 2013

Nuclear Leaks 26: Japan's Return to Nuclear Power

Anti-nuke protest, Tokyo, 15 July 2013. Image Source: LA Times.

After the Fukushima nuclear crisis began in March 2011, public protests in Japan led to all of Japan's nuclear reactors being taken off line by May 2012. Then Japan had an election in September 2012, and Japan's new PM, Shinz┼Ź Abe, scrapped the plans of his predecessors. Now Japan is inching toward putting its reactors back online. CTV: "Hit by soaring gas and oil costs to run conventional power generation plants to make up for the shortfall, Japanese utility companies have desperately sought to put their reactors back online." This policy is going ahead despite multiple mass protests. On 2 June 2013, 60,000 people protested near the diet building in Tokyo to declare their opposition to the government's agenda. On 15 July 2013, 170,000 people protested the nuclear restart.

In March 2013, anti-nuke activist and Australian physician, Helen Caldicott, organized a conference at the New York Academy of Medicine to discuss the impact of Fukushima. Webcast videos from the conference are here and you can see the talks on Youtube here.

Akio Matsumura, one of the speakers at Caldicott's conference, observed (here) that nuclear issues will become the defining legacy of the 20th century, because nuclear waste has to be stored for 20,000 years or more. He expects the impact of Fukushima to last for several hundred years.

Also lately discussed is the impact of Fukushima fallout on California's fish and produce. From Japan Finds Radioactivity in More Foods From California: The California Radiation Report:
In August 2012, it was learned that a Japanese supermarket chain tested U.S.-exported pistachio nuts for radioactivity and found 9.54 becquerels per kilogram of cesium-1 37 but no detectable cesium-134. (98% of all pistachio nuts are grown in California.) The pistachios contained about 95 times more cesium-137 than California almonds from 2011 and surpassed dozens of other food items in the supermarket's lab report for cesium content. The level of cesium-137 - a beta and gamma emitter produced in fission - in the pistachio nuts is equivalent to 257 picocuries per kilogram, which makes it more contaminated than most food items tested by the U.S. Public Health Service during the peak of nuclear weapons testing fallout (in 1963)!

It is downright frightening to know that in one instance an orange grown in 2011 in California was 'hotter' than oranges grown there in the 1960s when hydrogen nuclear bombs were exploding in open-air at testing sites closer to the U.S. than Fukushima! It is even scarier that pistachios grown in the U.S. were the 'hottest' item in an 'isotopic test' selection of supermarket items in newly contaminated Japan in 2012! A quick search in Wikipedia reveals that the San Joaquin Valley, which lies adjacent to the San Luis Obispo CDPH station and dairy farm, is where citrus products, almonds and nuts are grown. Other foods grown in the valley include a medley of vegetables, as well as cotton and grapes. Is the San Joaquin Valley harboring a secret hotspot from Fukushima? Based on this analysis, which has utilized historical data, the meager monitoring data made available by U.S. state and federal agencies and two Japanese entities who are concerned about the radiation content of U.S.-grown foods, the answer is 'yes.'

It is a curious matter that Californians themselves , who greatly value their fresh, locally grown - even organic and non-GMO - food, aren't concerned that the food they eat and export could be tainted with radiation. Back in March 2011, there were press reports of Californians depleting store shelves of iodine tablets statewide. Back then, why didn't Californians press existing radiation monitoring bodies (or create their own, like a group did in Vancouver, Canada) to ensure their food was safe ? What we have learned is that sustained inputs of isotopes into the environment from long-winded nuclear disasters in concert with chronic rains can lead to the formation of 'hotspots'' in 'wet areas' that often are synonymous with arable areas.
Below the jump, see some videos from the Caldicott conference. Naoto Kan, Former Prime Minister of Japan during the Fukushima crisis, describes his experiences at that time. Arnie Gundersen, nuclear engineer and now anti-nuke activist explains the history of Fukushima and how the meltdowns occurred. And there is a press conference from former members of the American navy who were exposed to Fukushima radioactive fallout and now face a range of serious health problems. Steven Starr gives the talk: "The Implications of Massive Radiation Contamination of Japan with Radioactive Cesium." Bear in mind that pro-nuclear industry commentators would likely dismiss these arguments, even from physicians, as politically biased toward environmental activism. Some of the research presented at the conference was funded by the Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust.
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