Sunday, January 18, 2015

One Nuke, One Nation

People will realize nuclear power stations take up to ten years to build…. The poor will not be able to afford the investment or the fuel. Exploration and exploitation of oil and gas will become completely frenzied.

- Petroleum geologist Dr. Colin Campbell, March 2002.
Bill McKibben offers a bit of a mea culpa without specifics when he says, in Eaarth (2010), that he winces a bit when he reads what he wrote as a much younger man in The End of Nature (1989). Perhaps he is referring to his writing style, but that has changed very little. More likely he refers to his praise in End of Nature for nuclear energy and genetic engineering, which he said would be okay if we can just allow ourselves to tolerate the risks.

At the same time The End of Nature was published, our own less noticed Climate in Crisis pulled no punches where nukes or gene splicing were concerned. Of genetic engineering we wrote:

"Circumventing this ancient breeding barrier in the laboratory opens a door into a realm we have never previously entered. It is almost as foreign as if the laws of gravity and magnetism were suddenly suspended. For a brief moment in time we inhabit a different world. But we should ask: Is it a better world? Is it sustainable?"

Of nuclear power, we wrote:

 "One Chernobyl-scale accident every ten years is an inevitable consequence of light-water reactors in the hands of light-headed men. Inevitable. Even without accidents, some 250 radioactive isotopes are released into the environment by the fissioning of uranium fuels. These invisible radionuclides are inhaled, ingested, swallowed, absorbed, and passed around the biological domain we inhabit. Cancers and birth defects, diseases of the immune system, and general increases in the ill health of populations living near nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps are steadily increasing as the pollution from commercial fission spreads."

Every now and then it is useful to look at what these so-called advances of science have wrought. We can pass over genetic modification for the moment because it has really done little more than boost the bottom line for herbicide manufacturers and Big Pharma laboratories without providing any of the revolutionary products Bill McKibben promised it would, and nuclear power is random, compulsory, non-consensual genetic engineering in any event.

Take, for instance, this report just in from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) January 12, 2015 (Google Translation):

For pumping water groundwater observation hole No.1-12 taken on January 12, cesium 134, cesium 137, cobalt 60 and total beta value is higher as compared with the previous value, the maximum value previously is detected.

Cesium-134: 140 Bq/L [~7,500% above Jan. 5 level; new record high]
Cesium-137: 470 Bq/L [~7,500% above Jan. 5 level; new record high]
Cobalt-60: 1.9 Bq/L [Quadruple previous record high set in 2013]
β (all beta): 15,000 Bq/L [~6,000% above Jan. 8 level; ~1,300% above previous record high]

Tepco's observation hole number 1-12 is near the Fukushima Unit 2 trench that channels the thousands of tons of highly radioactive water that keep gushing out of the melted core as rains push groundwater through and rising seas lap at the crumbling seawall.  Tepco is attempting to seal the trench, but has failed repeatedly.

After touring the facility, on December 14th, Dr. Steve Elwart, an engineer and expert for US Dept. of Homeland Security, reported:

With most of the media silent about the cleanup, the public may think the worst is over. Nothing could be further from the truth… [Radioactive water is] leaking out into the ocean, allowing it to spread… around the world through ocean currents [and this has] prompted grave concerns over the impact on sea life in the area and around the world. [Officials] decided to build an “ice wall” around the reactor site… TEPCO conceded defeat and announced the efforts to construct the plug failed… As if things couldn’t get worse, less than two months ago, TEPCO once again came out with an announcement that it was having problems with the ice wall [and] was going to cease operations on the ice wall and pour cement… TEPCO President Naomi Hirose stated officials “will never give up” on the wall… debate continues over how to stop water from leaking into the ocean… outright failures continue to plague the Fukushima cleanup efforts.

After spending much of December pouring cement into underground tunnels to stop the water inflow, officials reported to Japan's Nuclear Authority that when they pumped water up from one of the pits, the water level at another pit changed. That suggests that gaps exist in the concrete-filled tunnels. The water is believed to be leaking in from the ground and out to the sea. Worse, now that the tunnels have been filled with concrete, they cannot be excavated to staunch the flow.

Tepco has been employing impoverished farmers and shopkeepers in the region as "jumpers," administering the maximum allowable dose among ever expanding numbers of Japanese men and women of childbearing age before discharging and replacing them with fresh atomfodder. While it could be conceivable that some method could be employed to jackhammer the December concrete pour for a do-over, Tepco is not going there, yet.

February 9, 2014:  TV: Fukushima underground dam not working, radiation levels now exceeding gov’t limit near shore — Tepco Official: “The flow of contaminated water into ocean is causing problems… It’s quite difficult to stop” (VIDEO)

November 14, 2014:  TV: Attempt to stop flow of highly radioactive liquid at Fukushima “in doubt” — AP: Much of it is pouring in trenches going out into Pacific — Experts: Amount entering ocean “increasing by 400 tons daily” — Problem “so severe” it’s consuming nearly all workers at site — Top Plant Official: “Little cause for optimism” (VIDEO)

November 23, 2014: Officials have “admitted failure” at Fukushima plant — Giving up on attempts “to prevent highly contaminated water from pouring into ocean” — Regulator asks “What was all the trouble over the past months for?” — Gov’t experts worried cement barrier is going to crack (VIDEO)

December 3, 2013: TV: All-time high radiation level in well at Fukushima plant 40 meters from Pacific — 1.1 billion Bq/m³ of strontium-90, other beta emitters — “Feared highly contaminated water leaking into ground” and being allowed to flow into sea (VIDEO)

May 21, 2014:  Risk of “disturbing crust” around Fukushima reactors from plan to reduce amount of groundwater — Nuclear Officials: Land could start ‘sinking’ — WSJ: Changing water flow may cause highly contaminated leak.

From an older documentary featuring radiation experts (at 6:30 in):

Dr. Alice Stewart, physician and epidemiologist: All recommendations say one big hit is more dangerous than just a little one… It’s the basis of the control of nuclear waste — if you dilute it enough, it will be safe. Well, we say dilute it and it will add to the dangers.

Jan van de Putte, radiation safety specialist: There’s a philosophy called the dilution philosophy, which means if you dilute something, then it doesn’t give any harm. But with all the knowledge we have today, we must say radiation is inducing health damage regardless of how little the doses of are. If you dilute radiation… all the health effects will only be more widely distributed. This is the only effect of this dilution philosophy.

Dr. Richard Piccioni, biophysicist: Whether you have put it all in one place or have spread it out, the total irradiation of human beings… is the same. In fact if what some researchers like Dr. Stewart are saying is true, it will be even worse.

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The Japanese government, demonstrating spectacular ignorance for a nation that was atomic power's first guinea pig, at first insisted that TEPCO "clean up" the water flowing from emergency pumps into newly constructed tank farms. You know, use some floral pink detergent or something. Scrub, rinse, repeat.

In November 2013, a meeting was held of a “task force for a high performance multi-nuclide removal system” (aka ALPS). But apparently the site tests for TEPCO's ALPS system didn’t go as expected. The "ionizing" radioactive material in the water was thought to exist as individual molecules having a static charge. It seems that the radioactive ions in the water actually exist as “colloids” or clumps of material. Colloidal material is much bigger than ions and quickly plug filters designed to attract charged particles. The meeting concluded the system generates too much waste material, or “slurry,” that is still dangerously radioactive. ALPS only made the problem larger.

March 17, 2014: Record cesium levels at Pacific Ocean sampling location north of Fukushima plant — Spikes to 6,900 Bq/m³ from ‘not detected’ in one day

May 18, 2014: Record-high radiation levels have been observed” Tepco says — Officials: “Cause of seawater spike is unknown”

September 15, 2014: Ocean hits record high for radioactive Strontium at all 6 locations near Fukushima reactors — Levels up to 20 times higher than reported last week — Officials: Contamination from highly radioactive ‘debris’ is seeping into ground and flowing out to sea

October 16, 2014: Record Radiation at Fukushima after Vongfong: First tests since Tuesday’s typhoon show radioactive material continues rising near ocean — Officials: We can’t do anything more to stop this, ‘depth and scope’ of contamination flowing out are unknown
Meanwhile The New York Times reported on January 16 that the oceans were already dying, even before the billions of gallons of radioactive water started spewing from Fukushima into the Pacific current.

Coral reefs have declined by 40 percent worldwide, partly as a result of climate-change-driven warming. The paper reported separately the same day that 2014 is now officially the warmest year on record.

Some fish are migrating to cooler waters already. Black sea bass, once most common off the coast of Virginia, have moved up to New Jersey. Less fortunate species may not be able to find new ranges. At the same time, carbon emissions are altering the chemistry of seawater, making it more acidic.

“If you cranked up the aquarium heater and dumped some acid in the water, your fish would not be very happy,” Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University, said. “In effect, that’s what we’re doing to the oceans.”

Fragile ecosystems like mangroves are being replaced by fish farms, which are projected to provide most of the fish we consume within 20 years. Bottom trawlers scraping large nets across the sea floor have already affected 20 million square miles of ocean, turning parts of the continental shelf to rubble.

 “We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

Comparing patterns of terrestrial and marine defaunation helps to place human impacts on marine fauna in context …. [It] began in earnest tens of thousands of years later in the oceans than it did on land…. Despite our late start, humans have already powerfully changed virtually all major marine ecosystems.

While we cannot yet epidemiologically connect the dots, on Jan 10th the Orange County Register tweeted:

8 sea lions rescued in OC in just over a week; number mystifies officials.

It’s not normal for eight sea lions to need rescuing in just over a week — especially at this time of year. But that’s exactly what has happened… six were pups and yearlings… [one] only 21 pounds, and [another] 23 pounds… [Experts don't] know why it’s happening.

Related tweets:

ABC 7′s Greg Lee, Jan 12, 2015: Sad, sad photo: Huge increase in rescued #sealions across CA.

ABC Los Angeles, Jan 12, 2015: News at 5: a big increase in the number of stranded sea lions being rescued… Some of them very seriously ill… nearly a dozen sea lions at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Baby sea lions in very bad shape.

Kirsten Sedlick, PMMC supervisor: Since January 1st, we’ve had 11 stranded California sea lions; last January we had 4 total [On pace for 30 in January, over 7 times last year's total]… They are extremely emaciated; we’ve noticed there’s been a high parasite infestation in them as well and some upper respiratory infections.

NBC Los Angeles: Jan 12, 2015: What’s making these sea lions so sick?… Experts say this is a year they are concerned about a UME… an unusual mortality event. … If this rate of 2.22/day continues, January’s total will be ~70 — over 5 times Jan 2014. At the Marine Mammal Center in the Bay Area, 15 patients died in just over a month at the end of 2014. The previous year saw one death in the same period.


UC Berkeley Nuclear Professor: California seeing Fukushima fallout won’t be a surprise — ‘Especially concerned’ after radioactive leaks at plant were admitted — “I’m not terribly confident in information Japan is sharing”. January 19, 2014

UC Berkeley Nuclear Prof.: My wife’s “very concerned” about Fukushima impact in U.S., my children are also concerned, as is public… I am too — His ‘Kelp Watch’ Co-founder: “We’d all be better off if this material didn’t exist and wasn’t coming over, but… nothing we can do about it” (AUDIO) February 6, 2014

NBC: Record level of sick or injured California seals and sea lions turning up — “The numbers are extraordinary” — “Scientists worried… The worst kind of perfect storm” — Pups should be weighing 2 or 3 times as much, “severely malnourished” (VIDEO) April 18, 2014

CBS San Francisco: Record number of sick seals & sea lions — Doctor: A lot with “large pockets of green and yellow puss all over their body.” April 20, 2014

TV: Over 50 dead seals, sea lions, whales, walrus recently stranded in Alaska — Dozens of seals suffering from baldness, skin sores — Experts: “Marine transported Fukushima radionuclides… may represent a new stressor to ecosystem” May 6, 2014

TV: Huge increase in dead and sick sea mammals on California coast — Unprecedented numbers, annual record broken in 7 months — Starving, drooling, brain damaged, suffering seizures — Sea lions ‘mysteriously’ vanishing on other side of Pacific — Experts: We don’t know what’s happening (VIDEO). August 3, 2014

TV: “Surge in marine mammal strandings” on US West Coast — Scientists: “This is very weird”; “My biggest fear is if this… is everywhere” along coast — Whales, dolphins, sea lions, birds recently washing up in large numbers — Many thousands likely dead — Violent seizures shown on news (VIDEO) August 30, 2014

Does anyone still think any nation should be lurching headlong to a nuclear powered future?

And yet, China plans to expand atomic capacity threefold by 2020 with more than 5 gigawatts of added capacity, Shen Lixin, deputy secretary general of the Chinese Nuclear Society,  said in Beijing January 15. China has 22 reactors in operation and another 26 under construction. Atomic energy now accounts for just 2 percent of the country’s total power generation, according to IEA estimates.

Asia has 47 reactors under construction and a further 142 forecast by 2030, according to the World Nuclear Association. Asian investment in nuclear projects could reach $781 billion even before cost overruns.

All this, while nearby, lonely little Japan has yet to grasp what few outside will say, that Fukushima was a bullet to its abdomen, and while the process of death is slow, it is certain.

The first symptoms came in the Tokyo markets that sold products from Fukushima – sake, rice and fish, for instance. Those accustomed to seeing products from that region noted their disappearance, and for many it was just as well, because they had already stopped buying them.

Then China, Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand started to test food imported from Japan for radiation, and the European Union recommended that its member countries do the same. Manufacturers began sweeping cars waiting for oversea shipment, knowing they would be tested on arrival at their destinations.

In the US, EPA and FDA were forced to cut radiation checks at the insistence of Hillary Clinton's State Department, which stepped into to protect Japanese exports. Responding to critics, FDA said, “based on current information, there is no risk to the U.S. food supply.” Japan accounts for 4 percent of American food imports.

Pre-Fuke, Japan had the world's third largest economy. Today Japan is synonymous with stagflation, used as a cautionary tale to other economies — warning where they might be headed unless they act with either Keynesian stimulus packages or extreme austerity, or perhaps, like Switzerland, keep one foot mashing the accelerator and the other desperately pounding the brake.

The government's response to Fukushima has been to throw money at Tepco. Japanese people hold about 90 percent of the government's debt, yet the yield on the 10-year bond is less than 1 percent. Bondholders' faith in this government non-strategy is Japan's only finger in the dam. Pensioners are making no money but are willing to hold on out of patriotism.

"We find that the amount of government debt will exceed the private sector financial assets available for the government debt purchase in the next 10 years or so," wrote economist Takeo Hoshi in the journal Economic Policy.

Japan is an aging society, and its household savings rate will inevitably decline, placing pressure on government bond issues. As the crisis wears on, the post-war baby-boomers are using more savings to live on, and the working-age population is in decline by 8 percent, halving every 9 years.

Of course, this says nothing about the health care impact when the radiation-induced cancers and genetic effects come home to roost after latent periods of 15, 20 and 30 years. The Japanese have seen this pattern before, but are slow to recognize they have just had it done to them again, only five to five-hundred times worse.

Figures for 2012 put Japan's net debt-to-GDP ratio at about 134 percent. By comparison, the United States is at 87 percent and the United Kingdom is at 82 percent. Japan's debt ratio is higher than southern European countries. Greece eventually defaulted on its debts when the net debt-to-GDP ratio reached 150 percent.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that without a substantial adjustment, Japan's net debt-to-GDP ratio will exceed 200 percent by 2023. "Japan's fiscal situation is not sustainable," Hoshi says.

One need only look back to the nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. During the accident 31 heroic but foolhardy Ukrainian jumpers perished and long-term effects such as cancers are estimated to run to the tens of millions, with 985,000 already reported prior to 2004 by the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.  The Chernobyl accident was relatively quickly followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, no coincidence in our opinion.

A similar result could come from meltdown of the reactors upwind of New York City, Washington DC, Paris, London, Delhi, Madrid, Capetown or any number of other locations.

One bomb, one city, was what Pentagon brass said jubilantly after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now the slogan could be one nuke, one nation.


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