Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fukushima Updates

Toll of U.S. Sailors Devastated by Fukushima Radiation Continues to Climb

The roll call of U.S. sailors who say their health was devastated when they were irradiated while delivering humanitarian help near the stricken Fukushima nuke is continuing to soar.

So many have come forward that the progress of their federal class action lawsuit has been delayed. 

U.S. sailors irradiated while delivering humanitarian help near the stricken Fukushima nuke say their health has been devastated.

Bay area lawyer Charles Bonner says a re-filing will wait until early February to accommodate a constant influx of sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and other American ships.
Within a day of Fukushima One’s March 11, 2011, melt-down, American “first responders” were drenched in radioactive fallout. In the midst of a driving snow storm, sailors reported a cloud of warm air with a metallic taste that poured over the Reagan.

Then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, at the time a nuclear supporter, says “the first meltdown occurred five hours after the earthquake.” The lawsuit charges that Tokyo Electric Power knew large quantities of radiation were pouring into the air and water, but said nothing to the Navy or the public.

Had the Navy known, says Bonner, it could have moved its ships out of harm’s way. But some sailors actually jumped into the ocean just offshore to pull victims to safety. Others worked 18-hour shifts in the open air through a four-day mission, re-fueling and repairing helicopters, loading them with vital supplies and much more. All were drinking and bathing in desalinated water that had been severely contaminated by radioactive fallout and runoff.

Then Reagan crew members were enveloped in a warm cloud. “Hey,” joked sailor Lindsay Cooper at the time. “It’s radioactive snow.”

The metallic taste that came with it parallels the ones reported by the airmen who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and by Pennsylvania residents downwind from the 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island.

When it did leave the Fukushima area, the Reagan was so radioactive it was refused port entry in Japan, South Korea and Guam. It’s currently docked in San Diego.

The Navy is not systematically monitoring the crew members’ health problems. But Cooper now reports a damaged thyroid, disrupted menstrual cycle, wildly fluctuating body weight and more. “It’s ruined me,” she says.

Similar complaints have surfaced among so many sailors from the Reagan and other U.S. ships that Bonner says he’s being contacted by new litigants “on a daily basis,” with the number exceeding 70.
Many are in their twenties, complaining of a terrible host of radiation-related diseases. They are legally barred from suing the U.S. military. Tepco denies that any of their health problems could be related to radiation from Fukushima. The company also says the U.S. has no jurisdiction in the case.
The suit was initially dismissed on jurisdictional grounds by federal Judge Janis S. Sammartino in San Diego. Sammartino was due to hear the re-filing Jan. 6, but allowed the litigants another month to accommodate additional sailors.

Bonner says Tepco should be subject to U.S. law because “they are doing business in America … Their second largest office outside of Tokyo is in Washington DC.”

Like the lawsuit, the petitions ask that Tepco admit responsibility, and establish a fund for the first responders to be administered by the U.S. courts.

In 2013 more than 150,000 citizens petitioned the United Nations to take control of the Fukushima site to guarantee the use of the best possible financial, scientific and engineering resources in the attempted clean-up.

The melted cores from Units One, Two and Three are still unaccounted for. Progress in bringing down Unit Four’s suspended fuel assemblies is murky at best. More than 11,000 “hot” rods are still scattered around a site where radiation levels remain high and some 300 tons of radioactive water still flow daily into the Pacific.

But with U.S. support, Japan has imposed a state secrets act severely restricting reliable news reporting from the Fukushima site.

So now we all live in the same kind of dark that enveloped the USS Reagan while its crew was immersed in their mission of mercy.

Petitions in the sailors’ support are circulating worldwide on NukeFree.org, MoveOn, Avaaz, RootsAction and elsewhere.

Harvey Wasserman
Harvey Wasserman's Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.progressiveradionetwork.com, and he edits www.nukefree.org. Harvey Wasserman's History of the US and Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth are at www.harveywasserman.com along with Passions of the PotSmoking Patriots by "Thomas Paine."  He and Bob Fitrakis have co-authored four books on election protection, including How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election, at www.freepress.org.




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Worldwide Demand for UN Takeover at Fukushima

| October 3, 2013 11:28 am | Comments

Harvey Wasserman

hwasserman

More than 48,000 global citizens have now signed a petition at NukeFree.org asking the United Nations and the world community to take charge of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. Another 35,000 have signed at RootsAction. An independent advisory group of scientists and engineers is also in formation.

The signatures are pouring in from all over the world. By November, they will be delivered to the United Nations.

The corporate media has blacked out meaningful coverage of the most critical threat to global health and safety in decades.

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The much-hyped “nuclear renaissance” has turned into a global rout. In the face of massive grassroots opposition and the falling price of renewable energy and natural gas, operating reactors are shutting and proposed new ones are being cancelled.

This lessens the radioactive burden on the planet. But it makes the aging reactor fleet ever more dangerous. A crumbling industry with diminished resources and a disappearing workforce cannot safely caretake the decrepit, deteriorating 400-odd commercial reactors still licensed to operate worldwide.

All of which pales before the crisis at Fukushima. Since the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the six-reactor Daichi site has plunged into lethal chaos.

For decades the atomic industry claimed vehemently that a commercial reactor could not explode. When Chernobyl blew, it blamed “inferior” Soviet technology.

But Fukushima’s designs are from General Electric—some two dozen similar reactors are licensed in the U.S. At least four explosions have rocked the site. One might have involved nuclear fission. Three cores have melted into the ground. Massive quantities of water have been poured where the owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), and the Japanese government think they might be, but nobody knows for sure.

As the Free Press has reported, steam emissions indicate one or more may still be hot. Contaminated water is leaking from hastily-constructed tanks. Room for more is running out. The inevitable next earthquake could rupture them all and send untold quantities of poisons pouring into the ocean.
The worst immediate threat at Fukushima lies in the spent fuel pool at Unit Four. That reactor had been shut for routine maintenance when the earthquake and tsunami hit. The 400-ton core, with more than 1300 fuel rods, sat in its pool 100 feet in the air.

Spent fuel rods are the most lethal items our species has ever created. A human standing within a few feet of one would die in a matter of minutes. With more than 11,000 scattered around the Daichi site, radiation levels could rise high enough to force the evacuation of all workers and immobilize much vital electronic equipment.

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. By some estimates there’s enough radioactivity embodied in the rods to create a fallout cloud 15,000 times greater than the one from the Hiroshima bombing.

The rods perched in the Unit 4 pool are in an extremely dangerous position. The building is tipping and sinking into the sodden ground. The fuel pool itself may have deteriorated. The rods are embrittled and prone to crumbling. Just 50 meters from the base is a common spent fuel pool containing some 6,000 fuel rods that could be seriously compromised should it lose coolant. Overall there are some 11,000 spent rods scattered around the Fukushima Daichi site.

Dangerous as the process might be, the rods in the Unit Four fuel pool must come down in an orderly fashion. Another earthquake could easily cause the building to crumble and collapse. Should those rods crash to the ground and be left uncooled, the consequences would be catastrophic.

Tepco has said it will begin trying to remove the rods from that pool in November. The petitions circulating through NukeFree.org and MoveOn.org, as well as at RootsAction.org and avaaz.org, ask that the United Nations take over. They ask the world scientific and engineering communities to step in. The Rootsaction petition also asks that $8.3 billion slated in loan guarantees for a new U.S. nuke be shifted instead to dealing with the Fukushima site.

It’s a call with mixed blessings. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is notoriously pro-nuclear, charged with promoting atomic power as well as regulating it. Critics have found the IAEA to be secretive and unresponsive.

But Tepco is a private utility with limited resources. The Japanese government has an obvious stake in downplaying Fukushima’s dangers. These were the two entities that approved and built these reactors.

While the IAEA is imperfect, its resources are more substantial and its stake at Fukushima somewhat less direct. An ad hoc global network of scientists and engineers would be intellectually ideal, but would lack the resources for direct intervention.

Ultimately the petitions call for a combination of the two.

It’s also hoped the petitions will arouse the global media. The moving of the fuel rods from Unit Four must be televised. We need to see what’s happening as it happens. Only this kind of coverage can allow global experts to analyze and advise as needed.

Let’s all hope that this operation proves successful, that the site be neutralized and the massive leaks of radioactive water and gasses be somehow stopped.

As former Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata has put it: full-scale releases from Fukushima “would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival.”

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


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Japan’s New ‘Fukushima Fascism’

| December 11, 2013 7:57 am | Comments 
ECOWATCH
 
hwasserman

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.


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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.
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Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org, where petitions calling for the repeal of Japan’s State Secrets Act and a global takeover at Fukushima are linked. He is author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth.


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70+ USS Ronald Reagan Crew Members, Half Suffering From Cancer, to Sue TEPCO For Fukushima Radiation Poisoning

| December 27, 2013 2:28 pm | Comments 
ECOWATCH
 
After U.S. Navy sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan responded to the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan for four days, many returned to the U.S. with thyroid cancer, Leukemia, brain tumors and more.

At least 71 sailors—many in their 20s—reported radiation sickness and will file a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the Fukushima Daiichi energy plant.
The men and women accuse TEPCO of downplaying the danger of nuclear radiation on the site. The water contaminated the ship’s supply, which led to crew members drinking, washing their bodies and brushing their teeth with contaminated water. Paul Garner, an attorney representing 51 sailors, said at least half of the 70-plus sailors have some form of cancer.

“We’re seeing leukemia, testicular cancer and unremitting gynecological bleeding requiring transfusions and other intervention,” Garner told New York Post.

Senior Chief Michael Sebourn, a radiation-decontamination officer assigned to test the aircraft carrier, said that radiation levels measured 300 times higher than what was considered safe at one point. Meanwhile sailors like Lindsay Cooper have contrasted their initial and subsequent feelings upon seeing and tasting metallic “radioactive snow” caused by freezing Pacific air that mixed with radioactive debris.

“We joked about it: ‘Hey, it’s radioactive snow!” Cooper said. “My thyroid is so out of whack that I can lose 60 to 70 pounds in one month and then gain it back the next. My menstrual cycle lasts for six months at a time, and I cannot get pregnant.

“It’s ruined me.”

Cooper said the Reagan has a multimillion-dollar radiation-detection system, but the crew couldn’t get it activated quickly enough.

“And then we couldn’t go anywhere,” she said. “Japan didn’t want us in port, Korea didn’t want us, Guam turned us away. We floated in the water for two and a half months.”

San Diego Judge Janis L. Sammartino dismissed the initial suit in late November, but Garner and a group of attorneys plan to refile on Jan. 6, according to Fox 5 San Diego.

Though publications like The Washington Times have wondered if the Navy and/or National Security Agency might have known about the conditions the sailors were heading into two years ago, Garner and the attorneys say the lawsuit is solely directed at TEPCO.

“We’re suing this foreign corporation because they are doing business in America,” co-counsel Charles Bonner. “Their second largest office outside of Tokyo is in Washington, D.C.

“This foreign corporation caused harm to American rescuers, and they did it in ways that give rise to jurisdiction here in this country.”

Hear more comments from Bonner, Cooper and Garner in the above video by eon3EMFblog.net .

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


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Judge dismisses sailor radiation case

Door open for follow-on lawsuit; attorney says he will refile with more plaintiffs


A San Diego federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that U.S. sailors were exposed to dangerous radiation during the humanitarian response to the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

But Judge Janis L. Sammartino left the door open for a follow-on lawsuit, and the attorney representing several sailors from the San Diego-based aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan said he intends to refile.
The judge dismissed the case Nov. 26 on jurisdictional grounds, saying that it was beyond her authority to determine whether the Japanese government had perpetrated a fraud on its American counterpart.

The defendant in the December 2012 case was Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. 

The lawsuit argued that power company officials lied about the amount of leakage from the damaged plant, in concert with the government of Japan. It says the Navy used those reports in its own calculations about the safety of U.S. sailors in the relief effort, called Operation Tomodachi.
The carrier Reagan responded to the disaster and for more than three weeks stayed off the coast, launching aircraft to help Japanese survivors. 

Two days after the disaster, the Navy repositioned the Reagan after detecting low levels of contamination in the air and on 17 aircrew members. 

Sailors represented in the lawsuit were deckhands who washed down the flight deck, and performed over decontamination tasks on the ship.

Paul Garner, the Encinitas lawyer leading the case, said the sailors’ ailments include rectal bleeding and other gastrointestinal trouble, unremitting headaches, hair loss and fatigue. Some have thyroid and gallbladder cancer. Many are in their 20s. 

Garner said he will refile the case without alleging the conspiracy with the Japanese government.
The number of plaintiffs is now at 51 people. Garner said he intends to add at least 20 more when he refiles.

Radiation experts interviewed by U-T San Diego earlier this year said that acute illness such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea usually comes on quickly — in days or weeks — after massive radiation exposure.

Unless there are fatalities, people recover within a few months. So, with typical radiation sickness, these former Reagan sailors wouldn’t still have symptoms today. 

Long-term illnesses, such as cancer, may result from a smaller amount of radiation exposure. But that type of ailment wouldn’t typically come on so soon, less than two years after the incident.

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