Posts Tagged ‘nuclear-free land’

On 2012 March 19, The Asahi Shimbun reported that the “city of Osaka, the largest shareholder of Kansai Electric Power Co., will call on the utility to abolish all of its reactors “at the earliest possible time” and today, Mainichi Daily News commented that Osaka had “stirred ripples”. Articles are reproduced below. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s suggestion to phase out of nuclear power, surely surprised KEPCO investors but also citizens for its unusual thoughtfulness.

Kansai is the western region of Japan where Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara cities lie and, depending on definition, the nuclear power plant shore-lined prefecture of Fukui, where a 7.3 magnitude earthquake killed 1% of population and completely damaged 79% of buildings in 1948. Besides, prevalent winds blow from Fukui towards the huge drinking water Biwako reservoir and aforementioned Kansai cities. Under the radioactive fallout in case of such an earthquake would also be prefectures of Gifu and Aichi, an industrial heartland centered on Nagoya city, where Toyota, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toray Industries (worldwide leader in the carbon fiber industry that should make Boeing Dreamliner fly someday) are based. A new powerful earthquake in Fukui would probably relegate Japan a few ladders down the economic rankings. Kansai is already under severe economic stress – it always was but for a brief decade of national euphoria called the “bubble”.

Since about 30 years ago, poor Japanese regions exchanged time and again their votes and security against subventions and nuclear power plants. Whenever subventions would dry up, they would agree for a new reactor building. Nowadays that these are idled and that subventions have run out, poor regions cannot start a new cycle and are pushing and being pulled to ramp up their radioactive waste “management” business. In the same vote buyout scheme as for nuclear power plants, over-sized incinerator plants have been built and left unused due to their capacity threshold being over the actual amount of waste. Poor prefectures now plan to upgrade these little used, dioxin-spitting facilities so that they could operate at a wider range of waste quantities and include some kind of filtering for radiation. This scheme represents a large economic boost promise in terms of construction work, which is the main employment outside large cities – and under the control of yakuza gangs, who request some sustained business to replace the drop in their recruiting services for nuclear plant workers.

Radioactive waste are largely above what is considered as “low-level waste” worldwide and its incineration in current facilities turn their prefecture into secondary radioactive sources, the primary being Fukushima, still emitting as of 2012 March 22, a year after. Current secondary radioactive sources include 23 wards in Tokyo, Tomakomai (Hokkaido) and Shimada (Shizuoka, where Japanese green tea comes from).

Many prefectures have requested to become secondary radioactive sources, including places where the transportation hazard, time and cost had prevented the Japanese government to push for it such as Okinawa. However, Okinawa is surviving only by the presence of the US army and its underlying economy is threatened by a possible redeployment in Japan, in Guam or elsewhere. Tourism has been declining since about 5 years ago in Okinawa and will not pick up when it will effectively become a secondary radioactive source. Food in supermarkets in Okinawa come from all over Japan as it does not produce much besides beef which become labeled “Kobe” beef after spending 1 year in that heavily industrialized city. Okinawa cows are rather skinny so it must be quite a terrible feeding process that turn them into extra-fatty meat one year later in Kobe warehouses. There have been some scandals of radioactive wood used to bake pizzas in Okinawa, schools have been forced by parents to cancel radioactive snowball gifts, some vegetation like mosses from irradiated areas have been planted in Okinawa, etc. Okinawa is not a nuclear-free land anymore: this concept does not apply to any Japanese territory anymore one year after the disaster. As an advice to nuclear refugees from the no man’s land, if you cannot leave Japan, it is safer to settle down in cities where you can work to sustain a healthier lifestyle, not necessarily to the far end of the archipelago where they have no job; no sense about radio-protection; no clean food choice – and where you will be stuck when they start incinerating radioactive waste.

How does the new denuclearization scheme fit in with the irradiated waste incineration plan and is it for real? Kansai is searching for ways to revitalize its broken economy and incineration is one leg. The other leg is nuclear decommissioning, a potentially profitable business. It takes 5 years for nuclear combustible to cool down, under active controlled systems (or not so controlled systems). Then the proper decommissioning operations begin (and probably never really end). As an actual example, if we look at Sellafield in the UK, a mere 2 square mile facility, the official planning states that decommissioning and closure of the site is planned for 2120 (right: 108 years from now). After this stage, management of radioactive materials is forever. Therefore, decommissioning of the 3 reactors in Mihama, 4 in Oi and 4 in Takahama – and maybe Monju / Tsuruga – all in Fukui prefecture and globally called the Nuclear Ginza, could create a 300 years business, not including the storage and monitoring of million-year long radioactive waste. It could easily give a job to anyone and sustain the local economy. Additional benefits would come from the development of health care – did we mention that Osaka was a biotech center ?

Japanese pharmaceutical companies had trouble to compete globally because their drugs are not properly tested and have resulted in accidents and because they lack innovation. However, in the grand Osaka renewal scheme of joint radioactive waste incineration and nuclear decommissioning, there would be plenty of test subjects and Japan would have an incomparable lead in radiation-induced diseases, even though they would not be marketed as such: auto-immune diseases such as the Kawasaki syndrome, pneumonia, heart attacks, leukemia and all sorts of cancers, or any other kinds of affections described by Pr. Bandazhevsky, even in children (sic).

How is it that decommissioning would make the population sick? Nuclear reactor decommissioning is a task forecast to take over 1 century in the case of Sellafield but nuclear projects always get behind schedule (Areva EPR project in Finland as a relevant example). As a rule of thumb, you can at least double the time (in the case for Olkiluoto, Finland, Areva started in 2005, due to be completed in 4 years – now maybe in 9 years, probably 12) and since it is impossible to rule out wars, economic depressions, natural disasters and social unrest over the period of a century, it could take 4 to 500 years to carry out. The probability of the job being properly done to the end is marginal and our grandchildren, if they ever live, will most likely have to deal with no man’s lands in every place there used to be a nuclear power plant in the 20th century. Working in a nuclear power plant make people sick, they have in Japan, as well documented, not only in Fukushima. Work ethics are shoddy here and tasks are carried out by the 6th level of untrained sub-contractors aka yakuza firms. Nuclear Ginza and other locations in Japan like Tokaimura and Genkai accumulate accidents and are regularly leaking radioactive material, not surprisingly. Now let us project this over the next 500 years for a large segment of society busy cleaning a mess and adding to it at the same time: everyone would get sick, even if Hosono, Noda and Edano, the devilish Trinity as it were, were not working so hard to distribute contaminated food over all the territory – which they are. Mutations get transmitted to people who are not involved in the multi-generational task, weakening the whole society. As a side-note, it is of course impossible to decommission Fukushima nuclear plant within 40 years: it will never be really clean, no matter the official whitewash.

Recently 2 Japanese researchers apologized because they had taken some bone-marrow samples from cancer patients during surgical operations without anybody knowing: with radiation-induced diseases, all Japanese medical researchers would be able to experiment, publish their results and test new drugs on unsuspecting patients. When the Japanese war criminal in charge for human live dissection and experimentation during the war became the head of the top medical institute in Tokyo and was never bothered except for a moment by the Chinese woman who recognized him, anything can happen. Unit 731, Masaji Kitano and Green Cross all over again. Kansai, with Nuclear Ginza, you invested in a future treasure trove for your biotech and pharmaceutical industry (sic) ! Just as some people do not get black humor, let us note here that we are being sarcastic and we do not wish this nightmarish scenario to happen, quite the contrary but we are at a loss as to how prevent it. Japan has yet to come to term with its dark past and its present shows that it is never far behind – humor is a way to get some relief in the terrible situation we are now, and black humor can be offensive. Current Japanese politics are just as offensive.

So it could be for real and it would be the least damaging, as the alternative would be to wait until the next great Fukui earthquake and a fireworks over Nuclear Ginza.

Another possibility is that Hashimoto does not really intend to denuclearize Kansai, but is only trying to gain more KEPCO shares, some financial compensation or a special investor status from KEPCO for Osaka city in exchange for a time extension, a percentage increase in nuclear-produced electricity or such compromise.

Whichever, the pain only begins.

(more…)

My risk analysis for Japan remains unchanged for October, please refer to Japan Livability Map September 2011 in SurvivalJapan for my definitions of  “no man’s land”, “monitored land” and “nuclear-free land”. I only report on events which affect the latter two – and there has been no news lately. After a summary of the current status to the best of our knowledge, I take the opportunity of the news black hole to offer a more editorial piece with further recommendations for those who choose to stay in Japan, out of the no man’s land.

Status

The reason for the dysfunctional steam condenser which prompted the emergency shutdown of a reactor at the Genkai nuclear plant in Kyushu island ten days ago has still not been disclosed. Genkai encountered issues in the past as most Japanese nuclear plants and is the object of much political controversy and scandal so the reason may never be known by the general public. Officially no radiation was leaked and citizen seem to not make any measurements anymore in Kyushu. The monitored land on the whole is not properly monitored.

The government announced that they will handle the spread and disposal of nuclear waste themselves without disclosing any detail, which is open to any interpretation.

The free circulation of contaminated food is now in full gear, with for instance Fukushima rice declared safe and available in supermarkets all over the country.

Mainstream media now occasionally publish information that used to be available only on blogs and alternative media, the latter focus on the no man’s land.

Editorial and Further Recommendations

1. Improved environment radiation monitoring

The general lack of information and action is a temporary psychological relief but it is also dangerous. Besides previous recommendations about food made in SurvivalJapan (cf. tag “food”), we should monitor radiation on following sites in every prefecture of the monitored land and nuclear-free land:

  • near each incineration plants
  • on sites in the mountains where citizens and businesses alike illegally dump their garbage (old TV sets, stolen bikes, etc. – where all the great Japanese electronics companies products usually end up their life)
  • near sites where construction-related companies and so-called “gumi” (associations) park their trucks in the mountains, usually hidden behind corrugated sheet metal walls like entrenched forts, with or without dogs (careful with these people)
  • at each garbage disposal sites
  • near cement companies (careful again with construction-related workers…)
  • near companies that specialize in construction material recycling (same remark as construction sector)

Lakes and ponds were also always favored to dispose of hazardous material (Lake Geneva in Switzerland is filled with all kinds of weapons, nerve agents, etc., the Baltic Sea is littered with Russian nuclear waste and Biwako lake in Japan is heavily polluted too as a few examples). Streams should also be monitored. As it is difficult to measure radiation in liquids, fresh water fish, shells and algae like aonori should be monitored as to give an indication.

2. Example of unsuspected and widespread food contamination : irradiated seaweed extracts

Besides this constant environmental monitoring which is completely lacking in these regions, radioactivity ingestion risks exists in forms that are not well-known to the general public and which are difficult to avoid (in order to grasp the extent of the issue, read for instance Exa-Becquerel Now In Pacific Ocean ? on SurvivalJapan and related posts). For example, seaweed yields :

  • alginic acid (slimming aids, appetite suppressants, etc.),
  • agar (many Western and Asian desserts alike including delicious Japanese yokan – but also used in dentistry, modelling clay for kids, etc.),
  • carrageenan (desserts, ice cream, cream, milkshakes, sweetened condensed milks, sauces, beer, pâtés and processed meats like ham, etc. fatty foods without fat, toothpaste, fruit gushers, as a excipient in pills / tablets, in soy milk, diet sodas, but also fire fighting foam, shampoo and cosmetic creams, air freshener gels, fabric marbling, shoe polish, pet food, personal lubricants and sexual lubricants, etc.).

Ocean radiation spill has further increased the risk of eating processed food, but also of using cosmetics, etc.

Here is a link to hydrocolloids producers worldwide, among which a few Japanese companies of course, for example :

A positive side of the Japanese nuclear crisis in Japan is that it may have raised the awareness of the multiple dangers of the nuclear industry of course, but also of industrial food, etc.

Conclusion

Although it is of course impossible to avoid every risk, we should remain on our guard and probably purchase and use a Geiger counter anywhere in the world now, as some industrial countries soils are as irradiated as in Japan “monitored land” from wild dumps of uranium extraction waste, nuclear bomb testings, nuclear plant spills and wild waste dumps – including from medical and research facilities, etc. Leaving Japan is not necessarily the solution as it might be worse in your home country without you never having realized it for lack of any large-scale disaster happening yet. Education, positive action and life choices, citizen monitoring are part of the solution to a multi-dimensional problem which is bigger than just a nuclear issue.

In our Japan Livability Map September 2011, we showed that the only remaining nuclear-free land in Japan is the Okinawa archipelago. It may be a tempting relocation strategy for expats who want to stay in Japan in safe conditions, and some Japanese have already made the move from Tokyo to save their children, as can be read in this WSJ article  and this one too. Recently, Shinsuke Shimada, a prominent show-business local figure embroidered in a mafia scandal is rumored to have moved in his holiday house there permanently. As a side note, Okinawa is famous in Japan as a refuge for law enforcement fugitives… There are two main issues to consider for expats looking down south, which are directly linked with the same in the rest of Japan:

1. Contaminated food

Okinawa is a tropical area so a lot of food is imported from mainland Japan. Although the main provider is relatively safe Kyushu island, itself being subtropical, some produce has to come from more temperate, albeit “hotter” parts of Japan. Besides, the free flow of food implies that some tainted ingredients will inevitably be mixed in factories all over the nation, like some great red wines are sometimes illegally cut with lower quality wines that producers need to get rid of, without most people noticing. Unless your diet is exclusively based on mango, goat liver noodle soup, bitter goya salad, “sea grapes” seaweed, premium local beef, Awamori (vodka-like local “sake”), etc., chances are that you’ll still ingest some irradiated food on the long-term. Ask yourself questions like how can you keep forever your kids from eating tainted ice-cream in a tropical island?

Expats usually enjoy a high living standard and candidates to Okinawa relocation will most probably need to resign from their current position and set up a low-profitability, high-risk business as local unemployment is high, level of living low and the economic sectors very focused and much less developed than in mainland. The lower living standard means that purchasing expensive, nuclear-free, imported food will become impossible for these new-comers. More about these consequences in issue no. 2 below.

2. Nuclear waste

Governments like to place dangerous sites away from the capital city where their offices and families reside. For instance, in Japan, the MOX reprocessing plant is as far north as possible on the main island, in Rokkasho village of the Aomori prefecture. Okinawa used to not be Japanese, it is a source of constant trouble for the Japanese government between the US army bases and Chinese spying missions and challenges, it is relatively sparsely populated, its participation in GNP is modest and most of all, it is as far as one can get from Tokyo. All these reasons should make it very tempting for politicians to choose it as a perfect nuclear waste deposit site. So if you flee from a contaminated land, there is a high chance that you’d be settling in a future contaminated one. However if you read issue no. 1 above, you know that you will mostly likely be too poor by that time to evacuate back home.

As a matter of fact, the government just settled for an operation planning with waste deposits (undisclosed sites) starting this January, as can be read in the Yomiuri Shimbun article below. More interestingly, the Japanese article from Ryukyu Shimpo hereafter simply confirm our hypothesis of a deposit in Okinawan most beautiful islands. It just makes sense that, as nuclear power plants are the main income source in rural Japan, that nuclear power waste sites will be sought after by the same.

We leave out of the discussion possible threats of a Chinese invasion / bombing in Okinawa and other unhealthy issues such as agent orange spread around and buried by the American army, as well as their unofficial, hidden nuclear weapons and hazardous materials in their bases, nor will we delve into rapes and fights by their personnel. Anyway, the main island of Okinawa where these issues exist, is an uninteresting concrete sprawl, so we are only considering the true smaller gems of the archipelago in this post.

As a conclusion, relocating in Okinawa is a medium-term viable strategy at best and candidates should be able to rely on their Embassy and wealthy relatives to organize and fund a repatriation when the archipelago will not be nuclear-free anymore and their own financial resources will have dried up in the settling process.

The Yomiuri Shimbun article is reproduced below :

Apart from the ludicrously inefficient  “usual practice to remove soil up to a depth of five centimeters”, the main highlight is the following (bold characters by SurvivalJapan), as decontamination means here waste spread kick-off date:

“The Environment Ministry will draw up plans based on a law concerning special measures on dealing with environmental contamination by radioactive substances as early as the end of November and start full-scale decontamination in January.”

28 million cubic meters of ‘hot’ soil in Fukushima / Ministry aims to set storage site guidelines

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Up to 28 million cubic meters of soil contaminated by radioactive substances may have to be removed in Fukushima Prefecture, according to the Environment Ministry.

In a simulation, the ministry worked out nine patterns according to the rates of exposure to and decontamination of radioactive materials in soil, mainly in forests.

The ministry found if all the areas which were exposed to 5 millisieverts or more per year were to be decontaminated, 27.97 million cubic meters of contaminated soil would have to be removed. The calculation covered 13 percent of the prefecture’s area.

These figures indicate the size of the temporary facilities that will be needed to store the soil, and the capacity of intermediate storage facilities where the soil will be taken later.

The assumptions were made using three categories according to yearly radiation doses in soil–20 millisieverts or more; 5 millisieverts or more; and 5 millisieverts or more plus some areas with contamination of from 1 to 5 millisieverts.

The three categories were divided further according to possible decontamination rates in forests–100 percent, 50 percent and 10 percent. The resulting nine patterns were broken down further to include “houses and gardens,” “schools and child care centers” and “farmland.”

The ministry calculated that the largest amount of contaminated soil was 28.08 million cubic meters in the case of 100 percent decontamination in forests in the category of 5 millisieverts or more plus some areas with contamination of from 1 to 5 millisieverts.

The smallest amount was 5.08 million cubic meters if 10 percent decontamination is carried out in forests with radiation doses of 20 millisieverts or more.

In the breakdown of areas with yearly radiation doses of 5 millisieverts or more, it was found 1.02 million cubic meters of soil should be removed from houses and gardens, 560,000 cubic meters from schools and child care centers and 17.42 million cubic meters from farmland.

The total amount of contaminated soil with a yearly radiation dose of 5 millisieverts or more is 27.97 million cubic meters in the case of 100 percent decontamination in forests that cover an area of 1,777 square kilometers.

The figures will be submitted Tuesday to a ministry study group that decides on the nation’s decontamination policy.

The ministry made its calculation based on an aerial survey by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry and a land use survey by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

A senior Environment Ministry official said, “The standard we basically agreed on at a study meeting is decontamination in areas with yearly radiation doses of 5 millisieverts or more.”

Even though forests occupy about 70 percent of contaminated areas in the prefecture, the ministry does not believe it will be necessary to remove all contaminated soil, as long as the government restricts the entry of residents in mountainous areas and recovers cut branches and fallen leaves, according to the official.

The usual practice is to remove soil up to a depth of five centimeters. However, a senior official said this depends on the location of the contaminated soil.

The Environment Ministry will draw up plans based on a law concerning special measures on dealing with environmental contamination by radioactive substances as early as the end of November and start full-scale decontamination in January.

But the government still has not procured sufficient storage sites for contaminated soil, which has been temporarily buried in school yards or piled on vacant lots.

According to the central government, contaminated soil should be collected at temporary storage sites by local governments. The government recommends placing impermeable sheets under the soil at locations far from living areas.

The government also has no prospect of setting up intermediate storage facilities. Shortly before he stepped down, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan called on the Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato to set up facilities in the prefecture. The request was rejected.

Contaminated soil must be removed as soon as possible to allow evacuees to return to their houses within no-entry and evacuation zones.

(Sep. 26, 2011)

SurvivalJapan now exclusively reports on areas referred on the map as “monitored land” and “nuclear-free land”, except for events occurring in the “no man’s land” which may negatively affect the formers. With Chernobyl and Fukushima in mind, you may compare the respective size and distance of Belarus, Germany and Azores in case of doubt about the relevancy of our map. Data used: CRMS Civil Radioactivity Monitoring Stations, Meteocentrale Dispersion Movies for Japan and food supply chain as monitored in the news. (more…)