WHO downplays the health impacts of Fukushima nuclear disaster, a ‘PR Spin’


Published on Thursday, February 28, 2013 by Common Dreams

Greenpeace says report ‘shockingly downplays’ increased cancer risk for thousands of Japanese

- Jon Queally, staff writer

A new study released by the World Health Organization says that women, and especially female infants, exposed to radiation released following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan are at a significant risk of developing cancer later in life.

 A child is screened for radiation contamination before entering an evacuation center in Fukushima, Japan, Friday 1 April 2011. (Photograph: Wally Santana/AP) Despite those announcements by the WHO, critics of the new report say that overall the organization has done a great disservice by downplaying the overall dangers posed by the leaked radiation and accused the report of hiding “crucial information” about the ongoing dangers faced by those living in and beyond the Fukushima Prefecture.

“The WHO report shamelessly downplays the impact of early radioactive releases from the Fukushima disaster on people inside the 20 km evacuation zone who were not able to leave the area quickly,” said Dr. Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International nuclear radiation expert.

“The WHO should have estimated the radiation exposure of these people to give a more accurate picture of the potential long-term impacts of Fukushima. The WHO report is clearly a political statement to protect the nuclear industry and not a scientific one with people’s health in mind.”

Specifically focused on the threat to girls and women, Reuters reports on the WHO findings by explaining:

In the most contaminated area, the WHO estimated that there was a 70% higher risk of females exposed as infants developing thyroid cancer over their lifetime. The thyroid is the most exposed organ as radioactive iodine concentrates there and children are deemed especially vulnerable.

Overall, however, it was the WHO’s conclusion that “predicted risks” of cancer for Japanese generally “are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated,” that Greenpeace aggressively pushed back against.

Pointing out that the WHO only releases its radiation assessments only with the approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency—often criticized as an advocate for, not a regulator of, the global nuclear industry—Greenpeace says the entire report should be looked on suspiciously as more “public relations spin” than good science.

According to Greenpeace scientists, the WHO “shockingly downplays” the cancer impacts on the population by emphasizing small percentages increases in cancers, but fails to adequately describe how those seemingly small numbers translate into the risks posed ot many thousands of people.

“The WHO’s flawed report leaves its job half done,” said Teule. “The WHO and other organizations must stop downplaying and hiding the impact of the Fukushima disaster and call for more emphasis on protecting the millions of people still living in contaminated areas.”

Fukushima–Hopes of Home Fade Among Japan’s Displaced


AIZU-WAKAMATSU JOURNAL

Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

The community center of a temporary housing complex in Aizu-Wakamatsu, where some fled after last year’s nuclear disaster.

By 
Published: November 25, 2012

AIZU-WAKAMATSU, Japan — As cold northerly winds sprinkle the first snow on the mountains surrounding this medieval city, those who fled here after last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster are losing hope that they will ever return to their old homes.

Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

Cleanup in Kawauchi, a village in Fukushima Prefecture. In Okuma, decontamination efforts have been slow to reduce radiation dosages.

The mayor of Okuma, a town near the Fukushima Daiichi plant that was hastily evacuated when a huge earthquake and tsunami crippled the reactors’ cooling systems on March 11, 2011, has vowed to lead residents back home as soon as radiation levels are low enough. But the slow pace of the government’s cleanup efforts, and the risk of another leak from the plant’s reactors, forced local officials to admit in September that it might be at least a decade before the town could be resettled.

A growing number of evacuees from Okuma have become pessimistic about ever living there again. At a temporary housing complex here in Aizu-Wakamatsu, a city 60 miles west of the plant, the mostly elderly residents say they do not have that much time or energy left to rebuild their town.

Many said they preferred plans that got them out of temporary housing but helped them maintain the friendships and communal bonds built over a lifetime, like rebuilding the town farther away from the plant.

“I was one of those who kept saying, ‘We will go back, we will go back!’ ” said Toshiko Iida, 78, who fled her rice farm three miles south of the plant. “Now, they are saying it will be years before we can go back. I’ll be dead then.”

Such feelings of resignation are shared by many of the 159,000 people who fled their towns after the earthquake and tsunami caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant, spewing radiation over a wide area of northeastern Japan in the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl, in what was then the Soviet Union.

After first being reassured by the authorities that the accident was not so bad, then encouraged as the government began its costly decontamination effort, many evacuees are finally accepting that it may take decades, perhaps generations, before their town could be restored to anything like it was before the disaster.

“We all want to go back, but we have to face the obvious,” said Koichi Soga, 75, a retired carpenter who once worked on reactor buildings at the plant. “Look at the Soviet Union. They are still not back, right?”

Such sentiments have led to a very public loss of hope by the 11,350 displaced residents of Okuma, one of nine communities within 12 miles of the stricken plant that were evacuated.

After living in school gymnasiums and other shelters for about a month, Okuma’s town hall officials and about 4,300 of its residents relocated to temporary sites in Aizu-Wakamatsu, with most of the rest scattered as far as Tokyo, about 140 miles away. The mayor, Toshitsuna Watanabe, immediately began drawing up plans for returning to Okuma that called for a group to resettle a small corner of the town where radiation levels were relatively low. The settlers would then slowly expand the livable areas, decontaminating one street or building at a time, like colonists reclaiming a post-apocalyptic wilderness.

Last fall, the plan won de facto approval when Okuma residents re-elected Mr. Watanabe over a challenger who had called for building a new town at a safer location. Hopes were still high early this year when the Environmental Ministry began a decontamination program, with a budget of $4.8 billion for 2012 alone, that employed a small army of workers to scrape away top soil, denude trees and scrub down buildings in Okuma and other evacuated communities.

But the ministry said this summer that an experimental effort to decontaminate a 42-acre area in Okuma had failed to reduce radiation dosages by as much as had been hoped, leading officials to declare most of the town uninhabitable for at least another five years. That forced Okuma’s officials to change the target date of their “road map” for repopulating the town to 2022, instead of 2014.

“People are giving up because we have been hit by negative news after negative news,” said Mr. Watanabe, 65, who set up a temporary town hall in a former girls’ high school on a corner of Aizu-Wakamatsu’s six-century-old castle. “Keeping our road map is the only way to hold onto hope, and prevent the town from disappearing.”

The New York Times

Okuma’s town hall officials and about 4,300 of its residents relocated to temporary sites in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

World Twitter Logo.

Mr. Watanabe admits that his plan has a dwindling number of adherents. In response to a questionnaire sent to Okuma’s evacuees by the town hall in September, only 11 percent of the 3,424 households that responded said they wanted to go back, while 45.6 percent said they had no intention of ever returning, mostly because of radiation fears.

Hopes for a return took another blow in early November, when Environmental Ministry officials told Mr. Watanabe that they planned to build as many as nine temporary storage facilities in Okuma for dirt and other debris from the cleanup. Many evacuees said they did not want to go back if their town was to be used as a dumping ground for radioactive refuse.

At the temporary housing site, where prefabricated apartments stood in rows like barracks on a former soccer field, many evacuees said they had been allowed to return to their homes in Okuma wearing hazmat suits and masks on tightly monitored, one-hour visits to retrieve some belongings. Many said that as the months passed, it was becoming more difficult emotionally to think about spending the time and energy to rebuild.

“My house has become a playground for mice,” said Hiroko Izumi, 85, adding, “Every time I go back, it feels less and less like my home.”

Many others said the town needed to move fast to keep its relatively small number of working-age residents, who were already beginning to find jobs and start new lives in places like Aizu-Wakamatsu.

“If too much time passes, Okuma could just disappear,” said Harue Soga, 63, a health care worker.

For those who do not want to move back, Okuma drew up an alternative plan in September that calls for building a new town on vacant land safely outside the evacuation zone around the plant. The new town — including a town hall, fire and police stations and housing — would be built within five years.

Mr. Watanabe admits that he is now among a minority of former residents who are still determined to go back to the original Okuma. He describes an almost spiritual attachment to the land where his family has grown rice for at least 19 generations, and that holds the family graves that Confucian tradition forbids him to abandon.

“We have been living there for 1,000 years,” he said. “I have promised myself that one day, I will again eat my own rice grown on my ancestral farm.”

 

 

Sayonara nuclear power


Editorial- The Hindu , sEPT 22, 2012

The much needed big push towards low-cost,, highly-efficient, cutting-edge renewable energy technologies was lacking till recently. Even the compulsion to cut down carbon dioxide emission levels by 2020 failed to overcome the inertia. But the landscape has squarely and dramatically changed following the 9 magnitude earthquake and killer tsunami waves that resulted in the catastrophic accident in the Fukushima nuclear reactor units in Japan. In what may appear as well co-ordinated announcements made very recently, Japan and France, both major nuclear power champions, have announced their departure from nuclear energy dependence. If March 11, 2011 has gone down in history as a dark day for Japan, the government’s September 14 decision to end its reliance on nuclear power by 2040 by closing down all 50 reactors will forever be remembered as a defining moment. This will, in all probability, mark the beginning of a renewable energy technology revolution. If after World War II, the Japanese people transformed their nation into one of the world’s most industrially developed ones, the possibility of the country producing an encore with alternative energy technology developments cannot be ruled out.

Japan is not alone. The Fukushima shiver has had its reverberations in France as well. By 2025, France will cut its reliance on nuclear energy by 25 per cent from the current level of 75 per cent by shutting down 24 reactors. Six months after the Fukushima catastrophe and following Germany’s decision to get out of nuclear energy by 2022, Siemens had made public its decision to exit nuclear power business. The engineering giant intends to shift its focus to alternative energies. By 2020 Germany intends to derive 35 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources. While critics decry Japan’s plan to wait another three decades before switching off its last nuclear plant, the decision is not without basis. Some 30 per cent of the country’s power requirement is met by these plants. Decommissioning operating plants that have not completed their lifetime will mean economical suicide. This period also gives Japan the time to develop and scale up revolutionary technologies that are better adapted to harness power from even very low wind speed, and low-intensity sunlight for the better part of the year in countries situated in higher latitudes. The focus will also be on developing technologies for harnessing wave energy. To begin with, the cost of production using these alternative technologies may be higher than even nuclear. But costs are bound to fall over time and wider acceptance is inevitable.

Keywords: renewable energy technologies, nuclear power, alternative energy, Fukushima catastrophe, Kudankulam

Anti-nuclear conference in Japan calls international day of action, March 11


“We now stand at a crossroads. We have the choice to break out of the nuclear fuel chain and move towards efficient, renewable and sustainable energy that does not threaten health or environment.”

The Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World was held at Pacifico Yokohama on 14 and 15 January 2012. 6000 people on the first day and 5500 on the second, including 100 international participants from over 30 countries, gathered at the conference, with a total of 11,500 participants.

The conference was broadcast live over the internet, with an audience of approximately 100,000. At the closing of the conference, the Yokohama Declaration for a Nuclear Power Free World was announced. The 11 March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and related melt down at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has led to great suffering for the people of Japan and has increased radioactive contamination across the globe. It has also sounded a warning bell throughout the world about the long-term health, environmental and economic risks of nuclear power. As with Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the accident at Fukushima has reminded us once again that nuclear technology is unforgiving and accidents cannot be contained. The situation is not under control as declared by the Japanese Government.

The nuclear power plant is still unstable and workers continue to work under life-threatening conditions. Radioactive contamination is spreading. This is a regional and global emergency. People are either forced to flee with their children or live with unacceptable health dangers and prolonged radiation exposure. In Fukushima prefecture, evidence of radioactive material has been found in the breast milk of mothers and the urine of children. Lives are threatened, including those of future generations. The regional economy has been destroyed. Every step in the nuclear fuel chain has created Hibakusha, a term initially used to describe survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, but now used for all victims of radiation exposure. Uranium mining, nuclear weapons testing, accidents at nuclear power plants, and the storage and transport of nuclear waste have all created Hibakusha. The experience of these Hibakusha around the world is one of secrecy, shame and silence. The right to information, health records, treatment and compensation has been inadequate or denied with excuses of “national security” or due to cost. This lack of accountability is not limited to Japan, but is a problem fundamentally present in the nuclear industry everywhere due to the corrupt relationship between governments and the nuclear industry. We now stand at a crossroads. We have the choice to break out of the nuclear fuel chain and move towards efficient, renewable and sustainable energy that does not threaten health or environment. For the sake of future generations, it is our responsibility to do so.

Turning away from nuclear energy goes hand in hand with nuclear weapons abolition, and will contribute to lasting world peace. The global solidarity shown towards the people of Fukushima and the spirit of those gathered at the Yokohama Global

Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World demonstrates that connections between people are truly what will create the foundations for our future.

We call for:

1. The protection of the rights of those affected by the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident; including the right to evacuation, health care, decontamination, compensation and the right to enjoy the same standard of living as before 11 March 2011;

2. Full transparency, accountability and responsibility of the Japanese Government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the establishment of an independent body to disseminate information to the public to reverse the history of concealing information from the public and releasing contradictory information.

3. Ongoing comprehensive data collection and radiation measurement of humans, food, water, soil and air to inform the urgent and necessary measures to minimise the populations exposure to radiation. Data collection will be necessary for generations and inter-agency governmental undertakings and the support of the international community are required. Corporations that have profited from the nuclear industry should carry their share of the costs.

4. A global road map for the phase out of the nuclear fuel chain – from uranium mining to waste – and the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants. The ‘safety myth’ has been destroyed. Nuclear technology has never been safe and has never survived without massive public subsidies. Renewable energy is proven and ready to be deployed on a decentralised and local scale if only policies to promote it were advanced to support local economies, such as Feed-in-Tariffs.

5. Currently closed Japanese nuclear power plants to not be reopened. Japan’s energy needs can be met by implementation of policies including the Feed-in-Tariff law that has been adopted and the structural separation of ownership of transmission and production of energy.

6. The prohibition of export of nuclear power plants and components, especially to industrialising nations in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

7. Support for local and municipal authorities that play an important role in creating a society not dependent on nuclear power. We encourage solidarity between local municipal leaders, regional parliamentarians and civil society to promote strong communities, decentralization, bottom up approaches and an end to economic, racial and gender discrimination.

8. Actions, demonstrations, seminars and media events to be held throughout the world on 11 March 2012 to protest the treatment of the citizens of Fukushima and call for a nuclear power free world. Based on the above principles, the participants of the Global Conference have launched the “Forest of Action for a Nuclear Power Free World”, containing concrete plans for action.

These many recommendations will be submitted as appropriate to the Japanese Government, governments of other nations, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development(Rio+20) and so on. 10,000 people came to the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World in Yokohama, and 30,000 watched online. We, the participants are determined to maintain an international network to support Fukushima, cooperation among those affected by radiation through the Global Hibakusha Network, the establishment of the East Asia Non Nuclear Power Declaration Movement, and a network of local municipal leaders and mayors.