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ECOLOGICAL DISASTER: FUKUSHIMA

MOVEON PETITION: The World Community Must Take Charge at Fukushima

Petition by Harvey Wasserman

 To be delivered to Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General, United Nations and Barack Obama, President, United States of America

At Fukushima Unit 4, the impending removal of hugely radioactive spent fuel rods from a pool 100 feet in the air presents unparalleled scientific and engineering challenges. With the potential for 15,000 times more fallout than was released at Hiroshima, we ask the world community, through the United Nations, to take control of this uniquely perilous task.

Sign the petition  HERE 

Fukushima continues to spew out radiation. The quantities seem to be rising, as do the impacts.

The site has been infiltrated by organized crime. There are horrifying signs of ecological disaster in the Pacific and human health impacts in the U.S.

But within Japan, a new State Secrets Act makes such talk punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Taro Yamamoto, a Japanese legislator, says the law “represents a coup d’etat” leading to “the recreation of a fascist state.” The powerful Asahi Shimbun newspaper compares it to “conspiracy” laws passed by totalitarian Japan in the lead-up to Pearl Harbor, and warns it could end independent reporting on Fukushima.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been leading Japan in an increasingly militaristic direction. Tensions have increased with China. Massive demonstrations have been renounced with talk of “treason.” 

But it’s Fukushima that hangs most heavily over the nation and the world.

Tokyo Electric Power has begun the bring-down of hot fuel rods suspended high in the air over the heavily damaged Unit Four. The first assemblies it removed may have contained unused rods. The second may have been extremely radioactive.

But TEPCO has clamped down on media coverage and complains about news helicopters filming the fuel rod removal.

Under the new State Secrets Act, the government could ban—and arrest—all independent media under any conditions at Fukushima, throwing a shroud of darkness over a disaster that threatens us all.

By all accounts, whatever clean-up is possible will span decades. The town of Fairfax, CA, has now called for a global takeover at Fukushima. More than 150,000 signees have asked the UN for such intervention.

As a private corporation, TEPCO is geared to cut corners, slash wages and turn the clean-up into a private profit center.

It will have ample opportunity. The fuel pool at Unit Four poses huge dangers that could take years to sort out. But so do the ones at Units One, Two and Three. The site overall is littered with thousands of intensely radioactive rods and other materials whose potential fallout is thousands of times greater than what hit Hiroshima in 1945.

Soon after the accident, TEPCO slashed the Fukushima workforce. It has since restored some of it, but has cut wages. Shady contractors shuttle in hundreds of untrained laborers to work in horrific conditions. Reuters says the site is heaving infiltrated by organized crime, raising the specter of stolen radioactive materials for dirty bombs and more.

Thousands of tons of radioactive water now sit in leaky tanks built by temporary workers who warn of their shoddy construction. They are sure to collapse with a strong earthquake.

TEPCO says it may just dump the excess water into the Pacific anyway. Nuclear expert Arjun Makhijani has advocated the water be stored in supertankers until it can be treated, but the suggestion has been ignored.

Hundreds of tons of water also flow daily from the mountains through the contaminated site and into the Pacific. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen long ago asked TEPCO to dig a trench filled with absorbents to divert that flow. But he was told that would cost too much money.

Now TEPCO wants to install a wall of ice. But that can’t be built for at least two years. It’s unclear where the energy to keep the wall frozen will come from, or if it would work at all.

Meanwhile, radiation is now reaching record levels in both the air and water.

The fallout has been already been detected off the coast of Alaska. It will cycle down along the west coast of Canada and the U.S. to northern Mexico by the end of 2014. Massive disappearances of sea lion pups, sardines, salmon, killer whales and other marine life are being reported, along with a terrifying mass disintegration of star fish. One sailor has documented a massive “dead zone” out 2,000 miles from Fukushima. Impacts on humans have already been documented in California and elsewhere.

Without global intervention, long-lived isotopes from Fukushima will continue to pour into the biosphere for decades to come.

The only power now being produced at Fukushima comes from a massive new windmill just recently installed offshore. 

Amidst a disaster it can’t handle, the Japanese government is still pushing to re-open the 50 reactors forced shut since the melt-downs. It wants to avoid public fallout amidst a terrified population, and on the 2020 Olympics, scheduled for a Tokyo region now laced with radioactive hot spots. At least one on-site camera has stopped functioning. The government has also apparently stopped helicopter-based radiation monitoring.

A year ago a Japanese professor was detained 20 days without trial for speaking out against the open-air incineration of radioactive waste.

Now Prime Minister Abe can do far worse. The Times of India reports that the State Secrets Act is unpopular, and that Abe’s approval ratings have dropped with its passage.

But the new law may make Japan’s democracy a relic of its pre-Fukushima past.

It’s the cancerous mark of a nuclear regime bound to control all knowledge of a lethal global catastrophe now ceaselessly escalating.

Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic HERE

JOIN Facebook group: RADIOACTIVE WORLD (WE DON’T WANT ONE) HERE

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Government must take over Fukushima nuclear cleanup

Government must take over Fukushima nuclear cleanup

BY ANDREW DEWIT AND CHRISOPHER HOBSON

SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES

Recent weeks have seen increasingly concerned calls, from within and without Japan, for the Japanese government to take a direct role in managing the multifaceted crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The most recent opinion poll shows 91 percent of the Japanese public wants the government to intervene.

The Economist calls Fukushima a “nightmare,” and the editors of Bloomberg deem it “ground zero” for the Abe government. Tepco’s handling of the stricken plant continues to be a litany of negligence and error, raising grave doubts over whether the company is up to the incredibly difficult and important task of decommissioning the plant. While it may be politically inconvenient for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to accept, it is time to intervene and take over the plant before it is too late.

Understandably, most commentary on the Fukushima plant focuses on the multiple leaks of water laced with high- and low-level radiation. An estimated 300 tons of highly toxic water, including Strontium-90, has leaked from a hastily constructed tank. This became a level-3 crisis on Aug. 21, “serious” on the United Nation’s 7-point International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, and represents the most urgent reported problem at the plant since the initial meltdowns.

The leaks closely follow Tepco’s admission that contaminated water has been flowing into the ocean since the accident took place in on March 11, 2011. Crises have been arising with such frequency that NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has described the plant as being like a “haunted house” in which “mishaps keep happening one after the other.”

Yet Japan has been very lucky that nothing worse has occurred at the plant. But luck eventually runs out. The longer Tepco stays in charge of the decommissioning process, the worse the odds become. Without downplaying the seriousness of leaks and the other setbacks at the plant, it is important to recognize that things could very quickly get much worse.

In November, Tepco plans to begin the delicate operation of removing spent fuel from Reactor No. 4. There are 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies in a pool above the reactor. They weigh a total of 400 tons, and contain radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The spent-fuel pool, standing 18 meters above ground, was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami and is in a deteriorating condition. It remains vulnerable to any further shocks, and is also at risk from ground liquefaction. Removing its spent fuel, which contains deadly plutonium, is an urgent task.

Even under ordinary circumstances spent-fuel removal is a difficult task, normally requiring the aid of computers. But due to the damage, removal of spent fuel from Reactor No. 4 and the five other reactors will have to be done manually. This work will be undertaken in arduous conditions, increasing the risk of yet another mishap.

And if something does go wrong, the consequences could be far more severe than any nuclear accident the world has ever seen. If a fuel rod is dropped, breaks or becomes entangled while being removed, possible worst case scenarios include a big explosion, a meltdown in the pool, or a large fire. Any of these situations could lead to massive releases of deadly radionuclides into the atmosphere, putting much of Japan — including Tokyo and Yokohama — and even neighboring countries at serious risk.

When the stakes are this high, who do you want to bet on? Tepco’s abysmal track record is characterized by repeated blunders. Even now there are few signs that Tepco fully understands the magnitude of the situation they — and we — collectively face. It is therefore vital, literally a matter of national security, that Fukushima No. 1′s decommissioning be taken over by the government with the assistance of an international task force of experts.

Regarding the contaminated water problem, industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced on Monday that, “from now on, the government will move to the forefront.” This is a start, but not enough. Tepco must be relieved of control of the whole decommissioning process.

One of the key findings of the independent commissions that studied the accident at Fukushima No. 1 was that it was a “manmade disaster” because the risks and warning signs were repeatedly down-played or ignored. These kinds of warnings have been streaming from the plant since the crisis began. How many more alarm bells does Abe need before he recognizes the gravity of the problem and intervenes?

It is understandable why Abe and his backers do not want to directly take on this toxic job. They risk being tarred with responsibility for further mishaps. But this crisis is too big for Tepco, and the public wants decisive intervention. So the buck stops at the prime minister’s desk.

Moreover, many of Abe’s key aims as leader — including restoring Japan’s economy and national pride — are dependent on successfully managing the precarious situation at Fukushima No. 1. Even his pro-nuclear agenda is reliant upon what happens there: With each new problem or revelation, public skepticism towards nuclear power deepens. Ultimately this is what Abe’s prime ministership will be judged on, whether he likes it or not. Now is the time for action, before it is too late.

Andrew DeWit is a professor in the School of Policy Studies, Rikkyo University. Dr. Christopher Hobson is a research fellow at the Institute for Sustainability and Peace, United Nations University, Tokyo.

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