My story of living in Tokyo, Japan and being poisoned by radiation.
Here are eight things you need to know about this ongoing tragedy:
1. In a residential area park in Tokyo, 230 km from Fukushima, the soil was found to have a radiation level of 92,335 Becquerels per square meter. This is a dangerous level, comparable to what is found around Chernobyl ④ zone (the site of a nuclear catastrophe in 1986). One reason this level of pollution is found in the capital is that between Tokyo and Fukushima there are no mountains high enough to block radioactive clouds. In the capital people who understand the danger absolutely avoid eating food produced in eastern Japan.
2. Inside Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactors #1 – #3 the pipes (which had circulated cooling water) are broken, which caused a meltdown. This means the nuclear fuel overheated, melted, and continued to melt anything it touched. Thus it melted through the bottom of the reactor, and then through the concrete floor of the building, and sank into the ground. As mentioned above, for two and a half years TEPCO workers have been desperately pouring water into the reactor, but it is not known whether the water is actually reaching the melted fuel. If a middle-strength earthquake comes, it is likely to destroy totally the already damaged building. And as a matter of fact, in the last two and a half years earthquakes have continued to hit Fukushima. (And as an additional matter of fact, just as this letter was being written Fukushima was hit by another middle-strength earthquake, but it seems that the building held up one more time. So far so good.) Especially dangerous is Reactor #4, where a large amount of nuclear fuel is being held in a pool, like another disaster waiting for its moment.
3. The cooling water being poured into the reactor is now considered the big problem in Japan. Newspapers and TV stations that previously strove to conceal the danger of nuclear power, are now reporting on this danger every day, and criticizing Shinzo Abe for the lie he told the IOC. The issue is that the highly irradiated water is entering and mixing with the ground water, and this leakage can’t be stopped, so it is spilling into the outer ocean. It is a situation impossible to control. In August, 2013 (the month prior to Abe’s IOC speech) within the site of Fukushima Daiichi Reactor, radiation was measured at 8500 micro Sieverts per hour. That is enough to kill anyone who stayed there for a month. This makes it a very hard place for the workers to get anything done. In Ohkuma-machi, the town where the Daiichi Nuclear Reactor is located, the radiation was measured in July, 2013 (two months before Abe’s talk) at 320 micro Sieverts per hour. This level of radiation would kill a person in two and a half years. Thus, over an area many kilometers wide, ghost towns are increasing.
4. For the sake of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, an important fact has been left out from reports that go abroad. Only the fact that irradiated water is leaking onto the surface of the ground around the reactor is reported. But deep under the surface the ground water is also being irradiated, and the ground water flows out to sea and mixes with the seawater through sea-bottom springs. It is too late to do anything about this.
5. If you go to the big central fish market near Tokyo and measure the radiation in the air, it registers at about 0.05 micro Sieverts – a little higher than normal level. But if you measure the radiation near the place where the instrument that measures the radiation of the fish is located, the level is two or three times greater (2013 measurement). Vegetables and fish from around the Tokyo area, even if they are irradiated, are not thrown away. This is because the level established by the Japanese Government for permissible radiation in food – which if exceeded the food must not be sold – is the same as the permissible level of radiation in low-level radioactive wastes. Which is to say, in Japan today, as the entire country has been contaminated, we have no choice but to put irradiated garbage on the dinner table. The distribution of irradiated food is also a problem. Food from near Fukushima will be sent to another prefecture, and then sent on, relabeled as produced in the second prefecture. In particular, food distributed by the major food companies, and food served in expensive restaurants, is almost never tested for radiation.
6. In Japan, the only radiation from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactors that is being measured is the radioactive cesium. However large amounts of strontium 90 and tritium are spreading all over Japan. Strontium and tritium’s radiation consists of beta rays, and are very difficult to measure. However both are extremely dangerous: strontium can cause leukemia, and tritium can cause chromosome disorder.
7. More dangerous still: in order, they say, to get rid of the pollution that has fallen over the wide area of Eastern Japan, they are scraping off the top layer of the soil, and putting it in plastic bags as garbage. Great mountains of these plastic bags, all weather-beaten, are sitting in fields in Eastern Japan subject of course to attack by heavy rain and typhoons. Eventually the plastic will split open and the contents will come spilling out. When that happens, there will be no place left to take them.
8. On 21 September, 2013 (again, as this letter was being composed) the newspaper Tokyo Shimbun reported that Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose said at a press conference that what Abe expressed to the IOC was his intention to get the situation under control. “It is not,” Inose said, “under control now.”
It’s a sad story, but this is the present situation of Japan and of Tokyo. I had loved the Japanese food and this land until the Fukushima accident occurred. But now…
My best wishes for your health and long life.
Takashi Hirose is the author of Fukushima Meltdown: The World’s First Earthquake-Tsunami-Nuclear Disaster (2011) available on Amazon both as a Kindle e-book and a Createspace on-demand book.
- from counterpunch, A Letter to All Young Athletes Who Dream of Coming to Tokyo in 2020; Some Facts You Should Know About Fukushima
Published on Thursday, October 24, 2013 by Common Dreams
Fuel Removal From Fukushima's Reactor 4 Threatens 'Apocalyptic' Scenario
In November, TEPCO set to begin to remove fuel rods whose radiation matches the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs
- Andrea Germanos, staff writer
An operation with potentially "apocalyptic" consequences is expected to begin in a little over two weeks from now - "as early as November 8" - at Fukushima's damaged and sinking Reactor 4, when plant operator TEPCO will attempt to remove over 1300 spent fuel rods holding the radiation equivalent of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs from a spent fuel storage tank perched on the reactor's upper floor.
Fukushima Reactor 4 While the Reactor 4 building itself did not suffer a meltdown, it did suffer a hydrogen explosion, is now tipping and sinking and has zero ability to withstand another seismic event.
The Japan Times explained:
To remove the rods, TEPCO has erected a 273-ton mobile crane above the building that will be operated remotely from a separate room.
[...] spent fuel rods will be pulled from the racks they are stored in and inserted one by one into a heavy steel chamber while the assemblies are still under water. Once the chamber is removed from the pool and lowered to the ground, it will be transported to another pool in an undamaged building on the site for storage.
Under normal circumstances, such an operation would take little more than three months, but TEPCO is hoping to complete the complicated task within fiscal 2014.
A chorus of voices has been sounding alarm over the never-been-done-at-this-scale plan to manually remove the 400 tons of spent fuel by TEPCO, who so far has been responsible for mishap after mishap in the ongoing crisis at the crippled nuclear plant.
Arnie Gundersen, a veteran U.S. nuclear engineer and director of Fairewinds Energy Education, warned this summer that "They are going to have difficulty in removing a significant number of the rods," and said that "To jump to the conclusion that it is going to work just fine is quite a leap of logic." Paul Gunter, MD, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project with Takoma Park, Md.-based Beyond Nuclear, also sounded alarm on Thursday, telling Common Dreams in a statement that "Given the uncertainties of the condition and array of the hundreds of tons of nuclear fuel assemblies, it will be a risky round of highly radioactive pickup sticks." Gundersen offered this analogy of the challenging process of removing the spent fuel rods:
If you think of a nuclear fuel rack as a pack of cigarettes, if you pull a cigarette straight up it will come out — but these racks have been distorted. Now when they go to pull the cigarette straight out, it’s going to likely break and release radioactive cesium and other gases, xenon and krypton, into the air. I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing. […]
I suspect we’ll have more airborne releases as they try to pull the fuel out. If they pull too hard, they’ll snap the fuel. I think the racks have been distorted, the fuel has overheated — the pool boiled – and the net effect is that it’s likely some of the fuel will be stuck in there for a long, long time.
The Japan Times adds:
Removing the fuel rods is a task usually assisted by computers that know their exact location down to the nearest millimeter. Working virtually blind in a highly radioactive environment, there is a risk the crane could drop or damage one of the rods — an accident that would heap even more misery onto the Tohoku region.
As long-time anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman explained, the
Spent fuel rods must be kept cool at all times. If exposed to air, their zirconium alloy cladding will ignite, the rods will burn and huge quantities of radiation will be emitted. Should the rods touch each other, or should they crumble into a big enough pile, an explosion is possible.
"In the worst-case scenario," RT adds,
the pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and cause an explosion many times worse than in March 2011.
Wasserman says that the plan is so risky it requires a global take-over, an urging Gunter also shared, stating that the "dangerous task should not be left to TEPCO but quickly involve the oversight and management of independent international experts."
Wasserman told Common Dreams that
The bring-down of the fuel rods from Fukushima Unit 4 may be the most dangerous engineering task ever undertaken. Every indication is that TEPCO is completely incapable of doing it safely, or of reliably informing the global community as to what's actually happening. There is no reason to believe the Japanese government could do much better. This is a job that should only be undertaken by a dedicated team of the world's very best scientists and engineers, with access to all the funding that could be needed.
The potential radiation releases in this situation can only be described as apocalyptic. The cesium alone would match the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs. If the job is botched, radiation releases could force the evacuation of all humans from the site, and could cause electronic equipment to fail. Humankind would be forced to stand helplessly by as billions of curies of deadly radiation pour into the air and the ocean.
As dire as Wasserman's warning sounds, it is echoed by fallout researcher Christina Consolo, who told RT that the worst case scenario could be "a true apocalypse." Gunter's warning was dire as well.
"Time is of the essence as we remain concerned that another earthquake could still topple the damaged reactor building and the nuclear waste storage pond up in its attic," he continued. "This could literally re-ignite the nuclear accident in the open atmosphere and inflame it into hemispheric proportions," said Gunter.
Wasserman says that given the gravity of the situation, the eyes of the world should be upon Fukushima:
This is a question that transcends being anti-nuclear. The fate of the earth is at stake here and the whole world must be watching every move at that site from now on. With 11,000 fuel rods scattered around the place, as a ceaseless flow of contaminated water poisoning our oceans, our very survival is on the line.
Fukushima readies for dangerous operation to remove 400 tons of spent fuel
Published time: October 23, 2013 19:34
Edited time: October 24, 2013 11:53
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Contaminated water tanks at the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant (AFP Photo / TEPCO)
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Fukushima nuclear disaster
Accident, Health, Japan, Nuclear
Fukushima operator TEPCO is getting ready for its toughest and the most dangerous clean-up operation. In November it will try to remove 400 tons of spent fuel from plant’s Reactor No. 4. But even a little mistake may result in a new nuclear disaster.
The operation is scheduled to start in the beginning of November and be completed by around the end of 2014.
Under normal circumstances, the operation to remove all the fuel would take about 100 days. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co) initially planned to take two years, but reduced the schedule to one year in recognition of the urgency, as even a minor earthquake could trigger an uncontrolled fuel leak.
During this period TEPCO plans to carefully remove more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies, packing radiation 14,000 times the equivalent of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb, from their cooling pool.
The base of the pool where the fuel assemblies are situated is 18 meters above ground and the rods are 7 meters under the surface of the water.
TEPCO’s first task is to remove the debris from the Reactor No. 4 fuel pool.
Then, one by one, the fuel rods will be removed from the top store of the damaged building using a crane suspended above the crippled reactor.
Installation status of fuel removal cover of Unit 4 (Image from tepco.co.jp)
Previously a computer-controlled process, this time it has to be done completely manually. And this is what makes this removal operation extremely dangerous.
The fuel rods must be kept submerged and must not touch each other or break.
“The operation to begin removing fuel from such a severely damaged pool has never been attempted before. The rods are unwieldy and very heavy, each one weighing two-thirds of a ton,” fallout researcher Christina Consolo earlier told RT.
Should the attempt fail, a mishandled rod could be exposed to air and catch fire, resulting in horrific quantities of radiation released into the atmosphere. The resulting radiation will be too great for the cooling pool to absorb as it simply has not been designed to do so.
In the worst-case scenario, the pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and cause an explosion many times worse than in March 2011.
“The worst-case scenario could play out in death to billions of people. A true apocalypse,” Consolo said.
Reactor No. 4 contains 10 times more Cesium-137 than Chernobyl did. This lets scientists warn that in case of another nuclear disaster, it will be the beginning of the ultimate catastrophe of the world and the planet.
“It will be one of the worst, but most important jobs anyone has ever had to do. And even if executed flawlessly, there are still many things that could go wrong,” Consolo said.
The World Nuclear Report, released in July 2013, said “the worst-case scenario” will require evacuation of up to 10 million people within a 250-kilometer radius of Fukushima, including a significant part of Tokyo.
Although some experts are skeptical, TEPCO is confident the operation will be a success. Last year two fuel rods were successfully removed from the pool in a test operation, but back then rod assemblies were empty and posed a far smaller threat.
The operation will be just one installment in the decommissioning process for the plant, and is forecast to take about 40 years and cost $11 billion.
TEPCO, responsible for the clean-up, is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the nuclear disaster, but with the crisis over radiation-contaminated water at the plant, it has been criticized for its ad hoc response to the disaster. In August TEPCO pleaded for overseas help to contain the radioactive fallout, after 18 months of trying to control it internally.
The Japanese government was also ordered to take a more active role in controlling the overflow of radioactive water being flushed over the melted reactors in Units 1, 2 and 3 at the plant.
Three of the Fukushima plant’s nuclear reactors were damaged by an earthquake-triggered tsunami on March 11, 2011, which led to a nuclear disaster. The plant has been accumulating radioactive water ever since. The government imposed a 20-kilometer ‘no-go’ zone around the plant area.
And, in the “I’m fooling no one but myself” category:
Japanese PM eats seafood caught off Fukushima
Japanese leader attempts to dispel fears over Fukushima fallout by sampling local seafood
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) eats seafood landed by a test fishing operation following the Tokyo Electric Power Company Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident during his inspections at a fishing port in Soma, Fukushima prefecture Photo: AFP
Julian Ryall in Tokyo
6:12AM BST 22 Oct 2013
Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, has tucked into a slice of octopus caught close to the Fukushima nuclear plant and declared local seafood to be "good and safe."
Mr Abe visited the town of Soma, 26 miles north of the crippled reactors, at the weekend as part of the government's efforts to convince domestic consumers and the rest of the world that Japanese seafood and produce can be eaten.
"We will work to wipe out the harmful rumours by giving out accurate information," he told a group of local residents before savouring the slice of octopus tentacle.
"I want everyone in the country to know they are good and safe," he declared of the seafood laid out by the local fishery cooperative.
Fishermen returned to the sea in late September on a trial basis, with their catches tested for radiation.
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The Japanese leader's efforts to dispel health concerns are an echo of John Gummer's famous public consumption of a beefburger at a boat show in Suffolk in 1990, the height of the BSE scare.
The then-agriculture minister demonstrated his faith in the safety of beef by also feeding his 4-year-old daughter, Cordelia, a burger.
Sampling local cuisine has long been a favourite way for politicians to express their confidence in produce, with President Barack Obama eating shrimp at a restaurant in Louisana after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister, publically tucking into fried chicken during the bird flu scare of 2004.
With the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima plant, more Japanese politicians are being required to signal their conviction that radiation has not rendered all the local produce inedible.
Yukio Edano, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, was photographed eating strawberries from Iwaki City, just outside the 18-mile exclusion zone around the plant, a month after it was wrecked in the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami.
Even this latest stunt by the prime minister is unlikely to sway Japan's neighbours, with South Korea refusing to lift its ban on imports of seafood from seven prefectures close to the Fukushima plant, despite threats from Tokyo to take the case to the World Trade Organisation on the grounds that the ban is not based on science and is therefore discriminatory.
09:27 PM EST on October 27th, 2013 | 7 comments
Film: Young Fukushima girl douses herself with gasoline, then lights it — Asks “Why did this nuclear disaster happen to us?” whenever she cries (VIDEO)
03:31 PM EST on October 27th, 2013 | 34 comments
Fukushima farmer sees 16 of his 30 horses die suddenly this year, mainly young ones — No disease, no parasitic worms, high cesium levels — “Daughter tried to commit suicide… Do you think it’s really okay with this situation in Japan?” (PHOTOS)
11:17 AM EST on October 27th, 2013 | 42 comments
NYTimes Experts: Fukushima is having bigger effect on environment than we expected, we don’t know what’s happening — Radioactive releases from plant spiking this year — “Worrisome problems”
12:30 AM EST on October 27th, 2013 | 289 comments
“Nothing like this has ever been attempted” — Yale Professor: “All of humanity will be threatened for 1000s of years” if rods in Unit 4 pool touch and have nuclear reaction during removal process — Tepco: “Not clear” if fuel is already damaged
03:58 PM EST on October 26th, 2013 | 22 comments
TV: Water released at Fukushima plant as typhoon passes off coast — Gov’t Expert: Possible aftershocks around M7 will occur “once in a while” — 3 quakes reported, up to M5.5