How Austerity Kills the Public Health System


By DAVID STUCKLER and SANJAY BASU, NYT

EARLY last month, a triple suicide was reported in the seaside town of Civitanova Marche, Italy. A married couple, Anna Maria Sopranzi, 68, and Romeo Dionisi, 62, had been struggling to live on her monthly pension of around 500 euros (about $650), and had fallen behind on rent.

Angus Greig

Because the Italian government’s austerity budget had raised the retirement age, Mr. Dionisi, a former construction worker, became one of Italy’s esodati (exiled ones) — older workers plunged into poverty without a safety net. On April 5, he and his wife left a note on a neighbor’s car asking for forgiveness, then hanged themselves in a storage closet at home. When Ms. Sopranzi’s brother, Giuseppe Sopranzi, 73, heard the news, he drowned himself in the Adriatic.

The correlation between unemployment and suicide has been observed since the 19th century. People looking for work are about twice as likely to end their lives as those who have jobs.

In the United States, the suicide rate, which had slowly risen since 2000, jumped during and after the 2007-9 recession. In a new book, we estimate that 4,750 “excess” suicides — that is, deaths above what pre-existing trends would predict — occurred from 2007 to 2010. Rates of such suicides were significantly greater in the states that experienced the greatest job losses. Deaths from suicide overtook deaths from car crashes in 2009.

If suicides were an unavoidable consequence of economic downturns, this would just be another story about the human toll of the Great Recession. But it isn’t so. Countries that slashed health and social protection budgets, like Greece, Italy and Spain, have seen starkly worse health outcomes than nations like Germany, Iceland and Sweden, which maintained their social safety nets and opted for stimulus over austerity. (Germany preaches the virtues of austerity — for others.)

As scholars of public health and political economy, we have watched aghast as politicians endlessly debate debts and deficits with little regard for the human costs of their decisions. Over the past decade, we mined huge data sets from across the globe to understand how economic shocks — from the Great Depression to the end of the Soviet Union to the Asian financial crisis to the Great Recession — affect our health. What we’ve found is that people do not inevitably get sick or die because the economy has faltered. Fiscal policy, it turns out, can be a matter of life or death.

At one extreme is Greece, which is in the middle of a public health disaster. The national health budget has been cut by 40 percent since 2008, partly to meet deficit-reduction targets set by the so-called troika —  the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank — as part of a 2010 austerity package. Some 35,000 doctors, nurses and other health workers have lost their jobs. Hospital admissions have soared after Greeks avoided getting routine and preventive treatment because of long wait times and rising drug costs. Infant mortality rose by 40 percent. New H.I.V. infections more than doubled, a result of rising intravenous drug use — as the budget for needle-exchange programs was cut. After mosquito-spraying programs were slashed in southern Greece, malaria cases were reported in significant numbers for the first time since the early 1970s.

In contrast, Iceland avoided a public health disaster even though it experienced, in 2008, the largest banking crisis in history, relative to the size of its economy. After three main commercial banks failed, total debt soared, unemployment increased ninefold, and the value of its currency, the krona, collapsed. Iceland became the first European country to seek an I.M.F. bailout since 1976. But instead of bailing out the banks and slashing budgets, as the I.M.F. demanded, Iceland’s politicians took a radical step: they put austerity to a vote. In two referendums, in 2010 and 2011, Icelanders voted overwhelmingly to pay off foreign creditors gradually, rather than all at once through austerity. Iceland’s economy has largely recovered, while Greece’s teeters on collapse. No one lost health care coverage or access to medication, even as the price of imported drugs rose. There was no significant increase in suicide. Last year, the first U.N. World Happiness Report ranked Iceland as one of the world’s happiest nations.

Skeptics will point to structural differences between Greece and Iceland. Greece’s membership in the euro zone made currency devaluation impossible, and it had less political room to reject I.M.F. calls for austerity. But the contrast supports our thesis that an economic crisis does not necessarily have to involve a public health crisis.

Somewhere between these extremes is the United States. Initially, the 2009 stimulus package shored up the safety net. But there are warning signs — beyond the higher suicide rate — that health trends are worsening. Prescriptions for antidepressants have soared. Three-quarters of a million people (particularly out-of-work young men) have turned to binge drinking. Over five million Americans lost access to health care in the recession because they lost their jobs (and either could not afford to extend their insurance under the Cobra law or exhausted their eligibility). Preventive medical visits dropped as people delayed medical care and ended up in emergency rooms. (President Obama’s health care law expands coverage, but only gradually.)

<nyt_text>

The $85 billion “sequester” that began on March 1 will cut nutrition subsidies for approximately 600,000 pregnant women, newborns and infants by year’s end. Public housing budgets will be cut by nearly $2 billion this year, even while 1.4 million homes are in foreclosure. Even the budget of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s main defense against epidemics like last year’s fungal meningitis outbreak, is being cut, by at least $18 million.

To test our hypothesis that austerity is deadly, we’ve analyzed data from other regions and eras. After the Soviet Union dissolved, in 1991, Russia’s economy collapsed. Poverty soared and life expectancy dropped, particularly among young, working-age men. But this did not occur everywhere in the former Soviet sphere. Russia, Kazakhstan and the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) — which adopted economic “shock therapy” programs advocated by economists like Jeffrey D. Sachs and Lawrence H. Summers — experienced the worst rises in suicides, heart attacks and alcohol-related deaths.

Countries like Belarus, Poland and Slovenia took a different, gradualist approach, advocated by economists like Joseph E. Stiglitz and the former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. These countries privatized their state-controlled economies in stages and saw much better health outcomes than nearby countries that opted for mass privatizations and layoffs, which caused severe economic and social disruptions.

Like the fall of the Soviet Union, the 1997 Asian financial crisis offers case studies — in effect, a natural experiment — worth examining. Thailand and Indonesia, which submitted to harsh austerity plans imposed by the I.M.F., experienced mass hunger and sharp increases in deaths from infectious disease, while Malaysia, which resisted the I.M.F.’s advice, maintained the health of its citizens. In 2012, the I.M.F. formally apologized for its handling of the crisis, estimating that the damage from its recommendations may have been three times greater than previously assumed.

America’s experience of the Depression is also instructive. During the Depression, mortality rates in the United States fell by about 10 percent. The suicide rate actually soared between 1929, when the stock market crashed, and 1932, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president. But the increase in suicides was more than offset by the “epidemiological transition” — improvements in hygiene that reduced deaths from infectious diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia and influenza — and by a sharp drop in fatal traffic accidents, as Americans could not afford to drive. Comparing historical data across states, we estimate that every $100 in New Deal spending per capita was associated with a decline in pneumonia deaths of 18 per 100,000 people; a reduction in infant deaths of 18 per 1,000 live births; and a drop in suicides of 4 per 100,000 people.

OUR research suggests that investing $1 in public health programs can yield as much as $3 in economic growth. Public health investment not only saves lives in a recession, but can help spur economic recovery. These findings suggest that three principles should guide responses to economic crises.

First, do no harm: if austerity were tested like a medication in a clinical trial, it would have been stopped long ago, given its deadly side effects. Each nation should establish a nonpartisan, independent Office of Health Responsibility, staffed by epidemiologists and economists, to evaluate the health effects of fiscal and monetary policies.

Second, treat joblessness like the pandemic it is. Unemployment is a leading cause of depression, anxiety, alcoholism and suicidal thinking. Politicians in Finland and Sweden helped prevent depression and suicides during recessions by investing in “active labor-market programs” that targeted the newly unemployed and helped them find jobs quickly, with net economic benefits.

Finally, expand investments in public health when times are bad. The cliché that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure happens to be true. It is far more expensive to control an epidemic than to prevent one. New York City spent $1 billion in the mid-1990s to control an outbreak of drug-resistant tuberculosis. The drug-resistant strain resulted from the city’s failure to ensure that low-income tuberculosis patients completed their regimen of inexpensive generic medications.

One need not be an economic ideologue — we certainly aren’t — to recognize that the price of austerity can be calculated in human lives. We are not exonerating poor policy decisions of the past or calling for universal debt forgiveness. It’s up to policy makers in America and Europe to figure out the right mix of fiscal and monetary policy. What we have found is that austerity — severe, immediate, indiscriminate cuts to social and health spending — is not only self-defeating, but fatal.

Look where biometrics (don’t) get you — Armless artist Karipbek Kuyukov ‘denied entry’


7 May 2013, BBC

Karipbek KuyukovKaripbek Kuyukov says he is disappointed he could not enter the UK

A Kazakh artist who was born without arms says he could not get permission to enter the UK last month because he could not give fingerprints.

Karipbek Kuyukov planned to attend an anti-nuclear conference in Edinburgh.

But he got a letter from the British Consulate in Istanbul saying his “biometrics were of poor quality” and asking him to resubmit his application.

The UK Home Office said his visa was not refused and it may have been the result of a “miscommunication”.

Mr Kuyukov, 44, who was forced to cancel his attendance at the conference, spoke of his disappointment.

‘Did not understand’

“Maybe they did not understand that I am disabled or check the information provided,” said the artist.

“But in my online visa application it was written that I am an artist and that I don’t have hands. I paint by holding a brush in my mouth and between my toes.”

Mr Kuyukov was born in the region of Semipalatinsk, the former Soviet Union’s main nuclear testing ground.

Many thousands of children were born with disabilities during the nuclear test programme.

Mr Kuyukov has used his painting to campaign for nuclear disarmament for the past 20 years.

 

Evidence of substandard equipment from Zio-Podolsk in Koodankulam


Koodankulam Alert!
There are substandard equipment from Zio-Podolsk!
Concrete Evidence!
Over the past few years ZiO produced and implemented a set of equipment for foreign nuclear power plants with VVER-1000: “Tianwan” (China), “Busher” (Iran), “Kudankulam” (India).
JSC “Machine-Building Plant” ZIO-Podolsk, “starting with the construction of the world’s first nuclear power plant in the years 1952-1954. (Obninsk), is one of the leading Russian companies in the development and supply of equipment for nuclear power plants. Plant manufactures and supplies reactor vessels, steam generators, separators, steam heaters, heaters high and low pressure for the system recovery steam turbines, mains water heaters, heat exchangers for various purposes, ion-exchange filters and traps, blocks, parts and support for piping, tanks, block removable insulation, evaporating installation of metal inspection of the reactor vessel and other equipment for nuclear power plants.
At all nuclear power stations built in the Soviet Union, the factory installed equipment. Foreign nuclear power plant in Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, East Germany, Finland and the VVER-440 and VVER-1000 is equipped with equipment marked “ZIO”. The factory is a manufacturer of unique equipment for nuclear power plants with fast reactors with sodium-cooled BN-350 and BN-600 reactor vessels, intercoolers “sodium-sodium” steam generators. Reliable operation of the equipment for 25 years testifies to the correctness of the choice of design and manufacturing technology.
The plant started production of capital equipment for the installation of a new generation of reactor on fast neutron reactor BN-800 (reactor vessel, steam generator, an intermediate heat exchanger, separator, steam heaters, heaters (LDPE), etc.).
For nuclear power plants with VVER-440 plant has produced more than 100, and for nuclear power plants with VVER-1000 more than 120 steam generators, which operate at different nuclear power plants in Russia and abroad.
Since 1984, the plant started production of control systems (ACC-213, SC-187), which are designed for periodic monitoring and inspection of the body, heads, nozzles VVER-440, VVER-1000 and provide:
·         External ultrasonic testing of metal hulls, bottoms and nipples;
·         radiographic testing of welds zone pipes;
·         outer, inner, and television viewing periscope inside the reactor.
Monitoring system set both on domestic and on foreign nuclear power stations.
Over the past few years ZiO produced and implemented a set of equipment for foreign nuclear power plants with VVER-1000: “Tianwan” (China), “Busher” (Iran), “Kudankulam” (India).
The plant is constantly being modernized equipment operating nuclear power plants to improve the reliability, economic performance and increase the resource set. The modernization of equipment in nuclear power plants, “Kozloduy” (Bulgaria), Rivne (Ukraine), Armenia (Armenia), Novovoronezh, Kola, Volgodonsk, Beloyarsk (Russia). Together with “Rosenergoatom” was designed and implemented the program to survey and upgrade equipment intermediate separation and steam superheat at all nuclear power plants in Russia.
In the past few years there have been new designs of projects separator superheater, high-pressure heaters for units with VVER-1000, BN-800. In the design operating experience of similar equipment and cutting-edge science and technology (NGN applied centrifugal separators, used a more advanced design PVD chamber type instead of “collector”). In the design of PGV-1000 steam generators for nuclear power reactor VVER1000 applied all the latest developments in the field of parogeneratorostroeniya: bezzhalyuziyny separator, the new distribution of feed water and purging, eddy-current testing jumpers collectors and heat exchanger tubes along their entire length, low-temperature heat treatment of collectors and others. Plant designers are working to develop equipment for nuclear power plants with VVER-1000 with a lifetime of 60 years, including the steam generator of a new generation, developed in collaboration with FSUE EDO “Hydraulic”.
The plant constantly develops new types of manufacturing equipment for nuclear power stations. The manufacture of ion-exchange filters and filter traps for water treatment systems and special water treatment plant. Also mastered the production of equipment for evaporating systems, new types of heat exchangers with heat transfer surface of the spiral wound pipes, bubblers, tanks of up to 1,000 m3, jet-vortex capacitors accident localization system for VVER-440, block removable thermal insulation of equipment and pipelines of high and low pressure of atomic power stations and more.
The design uses the latest technologies that are protected by copyright certificates and patented a number of leading countries of the world. In manufacture the advanced and unique technology: a longitudinal fin tubes, hydraulic rolling and rolling by explosion, deep hole drilling, and others.
The main goal of the design and manufacturing of the equipment is to increase the safety and reliability of nuclear power plants.
Source:
Translated using Google Translate
This is from Zi0-Podolsk’s Russian Website

 

 

Zio-Podolsk Scandal – Save Our Souls – Part 2 #Nuclear


Zio-Podolsk: The Complete Story

By- CharlesDigges

It all started on May 2, 1919 as the repair assembly plant called the Steam-Engine. Repair of locomotives was carried out until 1930. A total of 863 locomotives repaired.

In 1931, the plant was converted to KES – Cracking-electric locomotive and in the same year, in a record time (for 3 months and 25 days), produced the first Soviet cracking unit for the petrochemical industry. In those years, the company, except for crackers, produced narrow-gauge steam locomotives, railroad cars, industrial and mining locomotives locomotives, tubing for the Moscow metro, and many other products.

At the request of the workers on April 8, 1936 the plant was named commissar of heavy industry, and the plant was called Podolsk Engineering Plant named after Ordzhonikidze (ZIO).

In 1941 the factory ceased production of civilian products (part of the equipment along with the workers had been evacuated to the Urals), and all the facilities were transferred to large-scale production for the needs of the defense industry. The plant manufactured the case of grenades, anti-tank obstacles, repairing tanks and guns were equipped with armored combat aircraft IL-2.

In 1942, after the evacuation in Podolsk Taganrog Boiler plant, ZIO was carrying out repair of steam boilers, and then, in 1946, made the first steam boiler with the trademark “ZIO”. The plant has priority in the field of domestic quick steam generators, production of which began in the late 40′s. For 70 years, has produced over 700 boilers of different capacities and options for 152 domestic and foreign power plants with total capacity of over 66 million kW, including more than 16 million kWh for export.

Since 1952, starting with the construction of the world’s first nuclear power plant in Obninsk, the plant produced the most responsible of mechanical equipment for nuclear power plants. Equipment labeled “ZIO” installed on all nuclear power plants built in the Soviet Union. Foreign nuclear power plants with VVER-440 and VVER-1000 is also equipped with the equipment of the plant.

Since 2000, the plant is called of “Mashinostroitelnyyzavod” ZIO-Podolsk. ” Since 2007, the factory is a holding company “Atomenergomash” – power engineering division of the State Corporation “Rosatom”. The main customers include the State Corporation “Rosatom”, OAO “Gazprom”, and “Mosenergo.”

General manager:        Igor Kotov

Tel.: +7 (495) 747 25 October dob.2022
Fax: +7 (495) 747 25 October dob.2325
E-mail: zio@eatom.ru

Executive director :     Andrei Davydov, S.

Tel.: +7 (495) 747-10-02
Fax: +7 (495) 747-10-25 ext. 2325
E-mail: zio@eatom.ru

Chief engineer:                        Anatoly Rubtsov

Tel.: +7 (495) 747-10-25 ext. 2012
Fax: +7 (495) 747-10-25 dob.2325
E-mail: m.dragomir @eatom.ru

Director of Production: Sergeants Vladimir V.

Tel.: +7 (495) 747-10-25 dob.2004, +7 (4967) 65-42-89
Fax: +7 (495) 747-10-25 dob.2211
E-mail: ziopr@eatom.ru

Chief Technologist – Deputy Chief Engineer: Viktor Terekhov

Tel.: +7 (495) 747-10-25 ext. 2031
Fax: +7 (495) 747-10-25 ext. 2213
E-mail: ogt@eatom.ru

Director of Quality:    Lizunova Tatiana

Tel.: +7 (495) 747-10-25 ext. 2013
Fax: +7 (495) 747-10-23
E-mail: t.lizunova @eatom.ru

Purchasing Director:   Bruises Andrey

Tel.: +7 (495) 747 10 25 * 2002
Tel.: +7 (495) 747 May 10
Fax: +7 (495) 747 25 October 2170 *
E-mail: a.sinyakov@eatom.ru

Director of Development and Investment: Arkady V. Kuznetsov

Tel.: +7 (495) 747 25 October 2007 *
E-mail: av.kuznecov@eatom.ru

FSB looked into nuclear reactor, atom industry

As the “Rosbaltu,” the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation is investigating the theft in the production of assemblies for nuclear power plants operating in Russia and abroad. According to the Russian Federal Security Service, the equipment for nuclear power plants was made from cheaper than normal steels, and the proceeds of fraud were divided among managers of several major companies of the nuclear industry. The Purchasing Director of Engineering Plant “ZIO-Podolsk” Sergei Shutov has been taken into custody.

As the “Rosbaltu” RF IC criminal case filed back in 2011 based on the Federal Security Service (into the theft of funds allocated by the state for the purchase of blanks for equipment for nuclear power plants). In December, in fact there were specific suspects. It is the leaders of the “Atom-Industry” (the supplier of products for the nuclear and power engineering) CEO Dmitry Golubev and Managing Director Olga Fedorova, as well as purchasing director of “Machine-Building Plant” ZIO-Podolsk “Sergei Shutov.” ZIO-Podolsk “- one of the largest Russian manufacturers of equipment for the nuclear industry (in particular, it supplies the machines for the nuclear power plants in Iran, India, Bulgaria and China ).

In the “Atom-industry” and “ZIO Podolsk” SK and the FSB raided, during which, according to a source in the security services agency, were seized documents showing that the misappropriation of funds of the nuclear industry have been put on stream. Believe in the RF IC, “Atom-Industry” supplied the blanks from cheaper brands of metal “ZIO-Podolsk,” and there are manufactured equipment for nuclear power plants. The plant on the poor quality of incoming goods “blind eye” Purchasing Director Sergei Shutov.

During a search of the “Atom-Industry” has been removed “black accounting”, hosted by Chief Financial Officer Diane Dmitrieva. The documents indicated that Shutov receive a share of profits received by JSC “Atom-industry” of large-scale fraud. The decision of the Basmanny Court of Moscow December 27, 2011 Sergei Shutov was arrested. He was charged under Section 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code (fraud on a large scale). Similar charges were brought against the leaders of the “Atom-industry”, and Dmitry Golubev – in absentia.

As explained by “Rosbalt” a source in the security services, “ZIO-Podolsk” since 2007, signed with JSC “Atom-industry” a series of agreements (the supply pipe plates, heads, shells, etc.) for a total amount of more than 100 million rubles. These blanks later used for the production of equipment supplied to the largest nuclear power plants in Russia and other countries. In particular, the tube sheets shipped “Atom-industry”, used in the production of high pressure heaters for the NPP “Kozloduy” (Bulgaria). Later, however, it became clear that the “Atom-Industry” delivered “ZIO-Podolsk” tube plate and the bottom, made of much cheaper grades of steel than was stipulated in the contract.

As a result of such substitution only on the supply of four tube sheets illegal proceeds “Atom-Industry” was 39 million rubles. “This company bought cheap steel in the Ukraine, and then betrayed her for the more expensive, the proceeds divided between the organizers of the fraud,” – said the source “Rosbalta” in the security services. He declined to say whether such fraud has affected the quality of the machinery supplied to nuclear power plants, as well as what other stations, except for Bulgaria, was sent with the equipment to use products from the “Atom-industry.”

In most of the “Atom-Industry” correspondent “Rosbalt” said they would not comment on the situation until the investigation is completed. “In 2010, the materials were considered SU UPC Russia in St. Petersburg, there passed a resolution not to institute proceedings in connection with the absence of crime, – one of the company’s employees. – However, more than a year after that the RF IC case filed. We did not do anything illegal, confirmed our right of arbitration awards. ” It is noteworthy that the site is “Atom-Industry” states that in March 2010, the company delivered the blanks for the hydro-power plant, which was then rebuilt after a major industrial disaster.

Notes:

[1] http://aozio.ru/company/predpr/

[2] Alexander Shvarev, http://www.rosbalt.ru/moscow/2012/02/22/949018.html

http://kractivist.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/zio-podolsk-scandal-save-our-souls-part-1-nuclear/

http://kractivist.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/zio-podolsk-scandal-save-our-souls-part-3-nuclear/

http://kractivist.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/india-zio-podolsk-scandal-save-our-souls-part-4-nuclear/

Chernobyl, not Peristroika, Caused Soviet Union Collapse: Gorbachev


DiaNuke

Editor’s Note: Journalist Alla Yaroshinskaya’s article based on declassified documents, contradicting Mr. Gorbachev’s claims here that there was no cover-up in Chernobyl, can be accessed here.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail GorbachevMikhail Gorbachev was the last head of state of the Soviet Union, and helped bring about a peaceful end to the Cold War, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

Courtesy: Project Syndicate

The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 26 years ago this month, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later. Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was an historic turning point: there was the era before the disaster, and there is the very different era that has followed.

The very morning of the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear station on April 26, 1986, the Politburo met to discuss the situation, and then organized a government commission to deal with the consequences. The commission was to control the situation, and to ensure that serious measures were taken, particularly in regard to people’s health in the disaster zone. Moreover, the Academy of Science established a group of leading scientists, who were immediately dispatched to the Chernobyl region.

The Politburo did not immediately have appropriate and complete information that would have reflected the situation after the explosion. Nevertheless, it was the general consensus of the Politburo that we should openly deliver the information upon receiving it. This would be in the spirit of the Glasnost policy that was by then already established in the Soviet Union.

Thus, claims that the Politburo engaged in concealment of information about the disaster is far from the truth. One reason I believe that there was no deliberate deception is that, when the governmental commission visited the scene right after the disaster and stayed overnight in Polesie, near Chernobyl, its members all had dinner with regular food and water, and they moved about without respirators, like everybody else who worked there. If the local administration or the scientists knew the real impact of the disaster, they would not have risked doing this.

In fact, nobody knew the truth, and that is why all our attempts to receive full information about the extent of the catastrophe were in vain. We initially believed that the main impact of the explosion would be in Ukraine, but Belarus, to the northwest, was hit even worse, and then Poland and Sweden suffered the consequences.

Of course, the world first learned of the Chernobyl disaster from Swedish scientists, creating the impression that we were hiding something. But in truth we had nothing to hide, as we simply had no information for a day and a half. Only a few days later, we learned that what happened was not a simple accident, but a genuine nuclear catastrophe – an explosion of a Chernobyl’s fourth reactor.

Although the first report on Chernobyl appeared in Pravda on April 28, the situation was far from clear. For example, when the reactor blew up, the fire was immediately put out with water, which only worsened the situation as nuclear particles began spreading through the atmosphere. Meanwhile we were still able to take measures in helping people within the disaster zone; they were evacuated, and more than 200 medical organizations were involved in testing the population for radiation poisoning.

There was a serious danger that the contents of the nuclear reactor would seep into the soil, and then leak into the Dnepr river, thus endangering the population of Kiev and other cities along the riverbanks. Therefore, we started the job of protecting the river banks, initiating a total deactivation of the Chernobyl plant. The resources of a huge country were mobilized to control the devastation, including work to prepare the sarcophagus that would encase the fourth reactor.

The Chernobyl disaster, more than anything else, opened the possibility of much greater freedom of expression, to the point that the system as we knew it could no longer continue. It made absolutely clear how important it was to continue the policy of glasnost, and I must say that I started to think about time in terms of pre-Chernobyl and post-Chernobyl.

The price of the Chernobyl catastrophe was overwhelming, not only in human terms, but also economically. Even today, the legacy of Chernobyl affects the economies of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Some even suggest that the economic price for the USSR was so high that it stopped the arms race, as I could not keep building arms while paying to clean up Chernobyl.

This is wrong. My declaration of January 15, 1986, is well known around the world. I addressed arms reduction, including nuclear arms, and I proposed that by the year 2000 no country should have atomic weapons. I personally felt a moral responsibility to end the arms race. But Chernobyl opened my eyes like nothing else: it showed the horrible consequences of nuclear power, even when it is used for non-military purposes. One could now imagine much more clearly what might happen if a nuclear bomb exploded. According to scientific experts, one SS-18 rocket could contain a hundred Chernobyls.

Unfortunately, the problem of nuclear arms is still very serious today. Countries that have them – the members of the so-called “nuclear club” – are in no hurry to get rid of them. On the contrary, they continue to refine their arsenals, while countries without nuclear weapons want them, believing that the nuclear club’s monopoly is a threat to the world peace.The twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe reminds us that we should not forget the horrible lesson taught to the world in 1986. We should do everything in our power to make all nuclear facilities safe and secure. We should also start seriously working on the production of the alternative sources of energy.

The fact that world leaders now increasingly talk about this imperative suggests that the lesson of Chernobyl is finally being understood.

 

Kudankulam nuclear power project cost up 14%


Construction began in Sept 2001 with estimated cost at Rs 13,600 cr; expenditure on the project at Rs 15,454 cr till Jan 2013

 Economy & Policy » News » News

BS Reporter  |  Chennai  March 21, 2013

The delay in commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) has pushed the project cost up around 14 per cent. When construction began in September 2001, the government had joined hands with Russia for the project, which was then expected to cost Rs 13,600 crore. But according to the government, till January 2013, expenditure on KNPP was Rs 15,454 crore.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office V Narayanasamy said, the expenditure on Kudankulam Project (KKNPP Units 1&2 – 2 x 1000 Mw) till January 2013 had been Rs 15,454 crore and efforts were being made to commission the first unit in May this year. It may be noted that the project was supposed to go on stream in Sept 2007.

KNPP is in the coastal village of Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, 650 km south of Chennai. An inter-governmental agreement for the project was signed in Nov 1988 by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and erstwhile Soviet Union’s President Mikhail Gorbachev, for construction of two reactors.

However, the project was in a limbo for a decade due to the political and economic upheaval in Russia after the post-1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. There were also objections from the United States on the grounds that the agreement does not meet the 1992 terms of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Then, the construction began only in September 2001 and the cost was estimated to be $3 billion (around Rs 13,600 crore).

In a statement to the Lok Sabha on Thursday, the minister, said in nuclear power plants, a series of activities including integrated system tests, first criticality, subsequent performance tests, synchronisation of the unit with the grid and raising of power in steps take place.

The nuclear power reactors at Kudankulam employ several safety features to ensure protection of people and the environment even under most stressful situation like extreme natural events leading to a loss of power and cooling water supply, the minister said.

 

Fukushima is not Chernobyl ? Think Again ! #Sundayreading


Safety and Accidents, at dianuke.org
Sarah Phillips

Sarah D. Phillips is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is author of Women’s Social Activism in the New Ukraine: Development and the Politics of Differentiation (2008, Indiana U Press) and Disability and Mobile Citizenship in Postsocialist Ukraine (2011, Indiana U Press). Her website is athttp://www.indiana.edu/~medanth/

Article courtesy:Somatosphere

The March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami caused the deaths of approximately 16,000 persons, left more than 6,000 injured and 2,713 missing, destroyed or partially damaged nearly one million buildings, and produced at least $14.5 billion in damages. The earthquake also caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Japan’s eastern coast. After reading the first news reports about what the Japanese call “3.11,” I immediately drew associations between the accident in Fukushima and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 in what was then the Soviet Union. This was only natural, since studying the cultural fallout of Chernobyl has been part of my life’s work as an anthropologist for the past 17 years. Knowing rather little about Japan at the time, I relied on some fuzzy stereotypes about Japanese technological expertise and penchant for tight organization and waited expectantly for rectification efforts to unfold as a model of best practices. I positioned the problem-riddled Chernobyl clean-up, evacuation, and reparation efforts as a foil, assuming that Japan would, in contrast, unroll a state-of-the-art nuclear disaster response for the modern age. After all, surely a country like Japan that relies so heavily on nuclear-generated power has developed thorough, well-rehearsed, and tested responses to any potential nuclear emergency? Thus, I expected the inevitable comparisons between the world’s two worst nuclear accidents to yield more contrasts than parallels.

Fukushima City, view from the train station, Nov. 2012.
Bullet train, symbol of Japanese modernity, entering Fukushima station.

But as reporting on the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP unfolded, an unsettling story of stonewalling and sloppiness emerged that was eerily reminiscent of the Chernobyl catastrophe. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), which operates the Fukushima Daiichi NPP, and the plant’s head, Masao Yoshida, proved to be masters of understatement. Yoshida characterized radiation levels nearly 100 times higher than normal as “higher than the ordinary level,” and he used the wholly inadequate phrase “acute danger” to describe two explosions and the meltdown of three of the reactor cores[1] (how about “catastrophic meltdown necessitating immediate evacuation?”). One is reminded of the first official statement acknowledging the Chernobyl accident, which only appeared in a Kyiv newspaper three days after the disaster, and was hidden on the third page in the Weather section: “From the Cabinet of Ministers of the USSR. An accident has occurred at the Chernobyl atomic electrostation; one of the atomic reactors was damaged. Measures are being taken to liquidate the consequences of the accident. The victims are receiving assistance.”[2]

Recently-released video footage of the early days and weeks of the Japanese crisis reveals that some of the same mistakes made during the Soviet state’s blighted response to Chernobyl were repeated at Fukushima Daiichi. Military helicopters made futile attempts to douse flames inside the damaged reactors with water, a strategy already proven ineffective, dangerous, and potentially counterproductive during the Windscale fire in Great Britain in 1957, and later at Chernobyl. Local Fukushima firefighters were called to the accident scene but not informed of the extremely high levels of radiation—the TEPCO video reveals an official at headquarters to say, “There’s no use in us telling the fire department. That’s a conversation that needs to happen at higher levels.” Recall the six firemen who lost their lives battling the fires at Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4; along with 25 other plant workers and first responders the firefighters for years were the only Chernobyl casualties officially recognized by the Soviet state. The accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima alike have been traced back to lax safety controls and poor plant design or siting, and the emergency response after both disasters included a muddled chain of command, the intentional withholding of vital radiological data and health directives, and the privileging of economic concerns and saving face over the well-being of human beings and the environment. Did we learn nothing from Three Mile, Selafield, Windscale, and Chernobyl? Will the Fukushima accident finally jar us out of complacency, or will the accident be successfully “socially contained,” enabling humankind to “stagger on toward our next disaster?”[3]

Thanks to colleagues at the Japan College of Social Work in Tokyo, during October and November 2012 I visited Japan to participate in interviews, informal meetings, and conference roundtables with Fukushima evacuees, social workers, medical professionals, and community activists. It was an enlightening though sobering experience: many of the Fukushima stories I heard echoed nearly word-for-word narratives I have read and collected among persons affected by the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union. Just like people who survived Chernobyl and the Soviet Union’s “rectification efforts,” Fukushima-affected persons and their advocates complain of government secrecy and misinformation, top-down decision making, generalized disorganization, and the social ostracism of nuclear accident “victims.”

“No one knows what really happened here”

I traveled through northeast Japan with an esteemed group of scholars:  Dr. Yukio Yamaguchi and Dr. Takashi Fujioka, professors at the Japan College of Social Work; Dr. Masumi Shinya, a professor of sociology at East China University of Science and Technology’s School of Social and Public Administration; Dr. Decha Sungkawan, Dean of the Faculty of Social Administration at Thammasat University in Bangkok; and Dr. Charles Figley, professor and Chair of the Tulane University Trauma Institute.

Lt to Rt: Charles Figley, Masumi Shinya, Sarah Phillips, Takashi Fujioka, Decha Sungkawan. At Nihonmatsu Station. Photo by Yukio Yamaguchi.

We traveled by trains and taxis, making research stops in cities like Nihonmatsu and Yamagata City, which received thousands of disaster evacuees, and Otsuchi (Iwate Prefecture), a coastal town devastated by the 3.11 tsunami. Before the disaster Otsuchi had a population of 15,262. At least 800 residents were killed in the tsunami that carried away most of the city’s infrastructure; nearly 500 residents are still missing. Today there are 10,000 people living in Otsuchi, 5,400 of who still live in cramped temporary housing units.

Our guide in Otsuchi was Mr. Ryoichi Usuzawa, a community organizer. Mr. Usuzawa drove us around the city, much of which now consists only of partial concrete foundations where buildings once stood. The entire city administration of Otsuchi (more than 20 persons) drowned in the tsunami—they had been called by the mayor to the town hall at the time of the earthquake. Mr. Usuzawa drove us up a steep hill to an area overlooking the town, just above the now-destroyed Buddhist temple and the adjoining hillside cemetery, which is still intact. On 3.11, hundreds of residents watched from this vantage point as the massive wall of water rolled in and mowed down their town (including their own homes, some with people still inside), the buildings collapsing “like dominos.” The devastation resulted in huge amounts of debris that caused further damage in turn, as tanks of propane gas bobbed along, became entangled in debris, and ignited fires and explosions “bubbling on top with smoke.” Mr. Usuzawa says, “It was like a huge washing machine was spinning the whole town. Everything was moving clockwise.”[4]

Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, October 2012

One of these hilltop spectators captured the scene on video, and we watched the terrifying footage on Mr. Usuzawa’s laptop as we looked down over the now-leveled city.[5] He explained that hundreds of residents, many of them elderly, fled to the Buddhist temple for refuge from the water and drowned inside. As the tsunami was rolling over Otsuchi, some 200 kilometers away a wall of water invaded the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, destroying the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the surrounding towns. Yet the impact on residents’ health is harder to calculate, because it consists not only of physical destruction but radiation contamination.

As cultural geographer Shiloh Krupar notes, “Embodied knowledge…take[s] on a particular significance in the presence of large-scale technological -environmental disasters…, where the variability and duration of harmful waste and its biological effects are uncertain and never closed.”[6]  Measuring radiation exposure and absorbed dose requires specific, often hard-to-access technologies, and laypersons are dependent on experts and their expert knowledge for interpretation of these measurements. Individuals’ ability to know and assess their risks is severely curtailed when expert knowledge—produced by agents usually beholden to states and powerful industrial interests—is the only form of knowledge recognized as valid, even as states and industry intentionally withhold information on hazards and their biological effects. Meanwhile, embodied self-knowledge is discredited.

Fukushima evacuees and their advocates report egregious examples of misinformation, negligence, and cover-up that have exacerbated their health risks. After the earthquake and tsunami the United States Department of Defense and the Department of Energy conducted environmental and radiological monitoring of air, water, and soil on DOD installations in the region.[7] According to Professor Yukio Yamaguchi of the Japan College of Social Work, when this valuable data was shared with Japanese authorities they shelved it for two weeks instead of immediately informing the population about radiation risks. Further, the Japanese government failed to provide the Japanese public with data from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI)—data predicting the location and extent of radioactive contamination after the nuclear accident—until March 23, nearly two weeks after the disaster. Because the SPEEDI data was not available, some families evacuated themselves to locations that actually were more contaminated than where they were living.[8] Perversely, the Japanese authorities provided the SPEEDI data to the U.S. military on March 14 but waited a full nine days before releasing it to the Japanese people.[9]

As happened in the Soviet Union after the Chernobyl accident, after the Fukushima accident the government quickly raised the “acceptable” level of individual radiation exposure. In Japan, the pre-nuclear accident maximum “safe” exposure was one millisievert (mSv)/year.[10] After the Fukushima disaster, suddenly exposure of 20 mSv/year was deemed safe. Some medical professionals went so far as to suggest that 100 mSv/year was a safe level of exposure.[11] Such inconsistencies made it difficult for those living near the Fukushima Daiichi NPP to make informed choices and take actions to minimize their risk of exposure to damaging radionuclides. In this context of uncertainty, a common phrase among Fukushima accident-affected persons is that, “No one knows what really happened here.”

In an age where sophisticated radiological monitoring is possible and information technology facilitates the rapid evaluation and dissemination of radiological data, the Japanese government’s crude “mapping” of the radiation fallout baffles the innocent and informed alike. Environmental contamination after a nuclear explosion or accident is uneven and patchy. We have known this since the 1950s, when radioactive fallout from bombs detonated in Nevada was carried by rain clouds all the way to New York state. Similarly, radiation maps of the area around Chernobyl (not released until years after the disaster) show an irregular contamination pattern around the NPP with “anomalous” hotspots of contamination hundreds of miles away caused by rains —biochemist and journalist Mary Mycio describes it as a “hand” with a dark palm six miles around the plant and 20-30 mile-long “fingers” caused by radiation carried by the wind.[12] Why, in the immediate wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, did the authorities not apply this knowledge? Why was the contamination not mapped according to the actual radiological data? Instead, in a move strangely reminiscent of the initial Chernobyl “mapping” of a 30-kilometer “zone of alienation,” a 20-kilometer “planned evacuation zone”[13] of compulsory evacuation was drawn around the Fukushima Daiichi NPP. The Japanese Cabinet Public Relations Office announced that the cumulative radiation level in those areas could reach 20 mSv/year. People living outside this artificially-drawn zone have been provided no state support to evacuate from their homes, even if the levels of contamination are actually higher there than in some places inside the planned evacuation zone.

Consider for instance the town of Namie. Namie, which was affected by both the tsunami and the NPP accident, is located inside the exclusion zone, and its roughly 20,000 surviving residents were evacuated to the city of Nihonmatsu.[14] However, levels of contamination in Namie are lower than in some towns outside the zone,[15] whose residents have not had equitable access to evacuation assistance, medical care and social services. Evacuees from Namie face their own set of very difficult circumstances in Nihonmatsu: they are tired of living in hastily-built, cramped temporary housing quarters; unemployment, boredom, and feelings of lack of control over the future fuel anomie. Long-term reliance on social welfare is demoralizing, and evacuation is especially frustrating for elderly persons who just want to go home. According to a community leader at NPO Namie in Nihonmatsu, evacuees are experiencing serious psychological problems; now that they are not in “emergency mode,” he said, they increasingly dwell on their memories of the devastating tsunami. Many suffer from survivor guilt, asking themselves why they lived when others perished. Social workers report high levels of depression and anxiety, alcoholism, gambling, and marital discord among residents of temporary housing units.

Temporary housing site for Namie evacuees in Nihonmatsu. Located in a former athletic field, this site accommodates 240 families (550 persons), including 75 children under 15 years old, and 78 solitary elderly persons. Photo by Charles Figley.

Realizing that returning to Namie is only a distant prospect, and concerned about reports of Namie children being bullied in local schools, in fall 2012 a group of community activists founded Namie Elementary School in Nihonmatsu. The school has enrolled just 30 students so far, but organizers hope it will grow and serve to cohere the community of Namie evacuees in Nihonmatsu, who one community leader described as having been “scattered like sesame seeds.”[16] Indeed, loss of community is one of the consequences of 3.11 and the resulting evacuations and resettlements of paramount concern to social workers and NPO leaders. Social work specialists in Japan point out that loss of communities was a major problem after the Great Hanshin (Kobe) earthquake in 1995, but the lessons of that tragedy have not been applied after 3.11.

Commons area at Namie Elementary School, Nihonmatsu. Photo by Charles Figley.
A map at Namie Elementary School in Nihonmatsu shows where students and teachers used to live in the seaside town of Namie, whose 20,000 surviving residents were evacuated after 3.11.

“Living apart is too difficult”

The experiences of the Nakamura family illustrate the difficulties faced bt many Fukushima accident-affected families. Before 3.11, Miki Nakamura, a nutritionist, lived with her husband and three young daughters in Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture, 58 kilometers from the damaged NPP. The Nakamuras evacuated temporarily immediately after the accident. However, being understandably reluctant to uproot their young family, they returned to Fukushima as the new school year began in April. As in other locations close to the damaged nuclear power plant, the schools in Koriyama stayed open even though neither radiological monitoring nor decontamination efforts were underway.[17] During an informal interview in October 2012, Miki Nakamura recalled that she and other parents were told “very firmly” by their children’s schoolteachers that children should continue to attend school; children were advised to wear masks, windbreakers, and hats to protect them from radiation. Trusting in the judgment of the teachers—and in the reassurances issued by the then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and the Secretary General that “there will not be immediate health impacts”—the children in Koriyama continued going to school.

The young families who at the time of the Chernobyl accident were living in Pripyat—the workers’ city built 2 km from the NPP—would find this tragedy familiar. Although news of the accident began to circulate informally hours after the Chernobyl explosion, the authorities did not warn the 49,000 residents of Pripyat to take precautions until a full 36 hours after the accident. Children enjoyed playing outside on the warm April day, unaware that their young bodies, especially their young thyroid glands, were soaking up radioactive particles. The thyroid gland is the organ most sensitive to radiation exposure; this is particularly true for children and for those with iodine deficiencies. Local health workers were instructed not to distribute prophylactic potassium iodine pills, for fear of “causing panic.” (Subsequently, around 6,000 cases of thyroid cancers—and many more cases of thyroid anomalies—have been documented among children who at the time of the Chernobyl accident were living in contaminated areas in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.[18]) Incredibly, a similar scenario unfolded after the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Although health workers themselves took prophylactic potassium iodine, it was not given to children.[19]

On March 15, it snowed in Fukushima, and the snow contained radioactive materials. Radioactive particles landed on the surface of the soil. In April, the air dose rate exceeded 3.8 microsieverts (μSv)/hour at “hot-spots” in Koriyama, and 8 microsieverts/hour at some points along the school route.[20]Meanwhile, during the days following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the Nakamuras’ dosimeter registered radiation levels of 1.5 microsieverts /hour right outside their home. It was not long before the eldest Nakamura daughter (age nine at the time) started having uncontrollable nosebleeds that her mother says “persisted even after going through a box of tissues.” The child’s nosebleeds were the first key factor in the family’s decision to leave Koriyama.

The second factor was the resignation of Professor Toshiso Kosako, an expert on radiation safety at the University of Tokyo and a nuclear advisor to the Japanese Prime Minister. In late April 2011 Kosako resigned in protest of the Japanese government’s decision after the Fukushima Daiichi accident to raise the official acceptable level of radiation exposure in schools from 1 to 20 mSv/year, a decision that allowed “children living near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to receive doses of radiation equal to the international standard for nuclear power plant workers…a level [that is] is far higher than international standards set for the public.”[21] Professor Kosako said he could not endorse this policy change from the point of view of science, or from the point of view of human rights.

The Nakamura family made a difficult decision: Miki and the children would move to Yamagata City, about an hour’s drive across the mountains from Koriyama. Mr. Nakamura would remain behind for his job, and the family would get together on weekends. Thus, Miki Nakamura and her three girls joined approximately 4,200 evacuees from Fukushima prefecture who moved to Yamagata. Like the Nakamuras, around 2,500 of these evacuees are from Fukushima City and the surrounding Nakadori area that were not under mandatory evacuation.[22] As “voluntary” evacuees, these citizens are hardly entitled to the same state entitlements that mandatory evacuees receive. Some voluntary evacuees did receive two-part reparation payments from TEPCO, the first for the months up until December 2012, and the second for the months from January to August 2013.

The financial stress on voluntary evacuees—many of which find themselves running two households (one back home, one in Yamagata)—is enormous. Rent is free for evacuation housing, but families spend approximately 100,000 Yen ($1,110) per month on moving costs, utilities for two residences, and children’s kindergarten and school fees outside their place of official residence. (The latter obstacle compels some voluntary evacuee families to transfer their official place of residence, a decision that produces its own set of complications.) Costs of transportation are also high for these split families, who travel frequently to spend time together; also, unlike mandatory evacuees, voluntary evacuees must cover the costs of their own medical check-ups. Reparations from TEPCO do not even begin to offset these expenditures: the Nakamura family received the first compensation payment of just 400,000 yen for one child, 80,000 yen for each parent “for their unnecessary radiation exposure that could have been avoided,” and another 200,000 yen “for minor and additional costs.” The second payment consisted of only 80,000 yen for a child, 40,000 yen for an adult, and 40,000 yen for additional costs.

Miki Nakamura notes that, lacking appropriate entitlements and compensation, among voluntary evacuees “there are so many children and mothers across the country that live each day by digging into their savings set aside for children’s education and their own retirement.”[23] Over time, despite their continuing concerns about radioactive contamination, the financial and emotional burdens of voluntary evacuation have compelled a number of these families to return home against their better judgment. Miki Nakamura predicts that a number of families will return to Fukushima Prefecture from Yamagata in spring 2013, “not because Fukushima will be safe, but because living apart is too difficult.”

“I am not a doctor but I know my children are sick”

In Yamagata City, the Nakamura girls continue to have health problems such as sore throat, canker sores, swollen lymph nodes, and dark circles under their eyes, which their mother believes to be related to the nuclear accident. The 10-year-old’s nosebleeds continue, but doctors—state employees who likely do not have the freedom to admit a Fukushima accident-related diagnosis—continue to discount radiation effects. One doctor who examined the eldest Nakamura child suggested that the girl’s nosebleeds were “caused by the stress of the mother.”

This readiness to attribute bodily complaints of disaster-affected persons to psychological and emotional stress is all too reminiscent of the diagnoses of “radiophobia” doled out by medical professionals and experts in the Soviet Union after the Chernobyl disaster.[24] Not surprisingly, many people in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia who believed that Chernobyl fallout had compromised their health balked at the suggestion that their ailments were caused by “fear of radiation,” not radiation itself. They had good reason to be skeptical. Anthropologist Adriana Petryna’s ethnographic study of the Chernobyl medical assessment and compensation system has revealed it that system to be anything but objective.[25] Petryna documents how the invention and application of radiation-related diagnoses in Soviet medicine were as political and social as they were scientific. Further, only half-hearted attempts were made to systematically collect health data from Chernobyl-affected persons (plant workers, clean-up workers, evacuees), making any firm conclusions about biological effects of radiation exposure versus psychological effects of “radiophobia” impossible.

During 1997 I shadowed medical professionals working at the clinic in Kyiv that houses the “Chernobyl registry.” Persons with a “Chernobyl tie” from across the country (those deemed partially or fully disabled due to Chernobyl’s effects on their health) were offered regular examinations at the clinic—some were required to undergo these checks to retain their benefits—and personnel were supposed to enter patients’ data into the clinic’s computer database. The doctors and nurses I shadowed were harried and underpaid, and saw the data entry task as a nuisance. Often data was never entered, or it was entered helter-skelter. It is well known that after Chernobyl some data concerning individual exposure to radiation (particularly among clean-up workers) was actively destroyed or changed.[26]

I also in 1997 assisted with a WHO-funded study of children’s thyroid health in Chernobyl-contaminated areas whose planned evacuation was scuttled due to lack of funds. The research team exerted a yeoman’s effort, but the desperate conditions of local infrastructure made our tasks extremely difficult. We worked in hospitals without running water or electricity, and thus our ability to do blood draws and perform ultrasounds on children’s thyroids was limited. Local medical personnel were skeptical of our team and the study’s motives and we suspected they actively discouraged sick villagers from participating. Qualitative questionnaires were not tailored to local ways of life. For instance, youngsters who spent hours each day working in the fields and walking long distances to school were never sure how to answer the ill-phrased question, “Do you exercise or do sports regularly?”

Observing these problematic data-collection procedures makes me question research conclusions that purport to definitively assess Chernobyl’s health impacts, and especially those that downplay the medical effects of radiation exposure (e.g. the 2003-2005 Report of the Chernobyl Forum).[27] The same critical eye should be applied to Fukushima accident health studies, since reports from Japan indicate that health monitoring of persons exposed to radiation after the Fukushima Daiichi NPP accident has been far from systematic or problem-free. The affected population is skeptical that doctors in the state system of medicine can offer objective diagnoses. This distrust means they may be compelled to pay out-of-pocket for private health care, in which case their medical data may not make it into official databases. In the future, these persons will not be eligible for public compensation for their Fukushima accident-related health problems.

Skepticism of official health pronouncements is reflected in people’s desire to have their personal levels of radiation exposure checked. Whole body counters (a device used to identify and measure the radioactive material in the body) are in deficit in Fukushima City, and the waiting list to be checked is some six months long.[28] Even though Yamagata hosts the largest group of Fukushima evacuees in Japan, there is not a single whole body counter in the city.[29] And as with Chernobyl, the chaotic evacuation of residents after the Fukushima accident complicates exposure assessment and health monitoring. Additionally, in early Feburary 2013 at a private meeting of the research and survey committee on residents’ health, it was suggested that the Fukushima Prefectural Medical College, the institution entirely responsible for examining radiation and its health effects, has attempted to delay the thyroid check-up for evacuees outside the prefecture.[30]

Not surprisingly, “radiophobia” has made its way into the Fukushima accident lexicon.[31] It becomes convenient and somehow perversely comforting to focus on the psychological impacts of nuclear disasters, with their many “unknowns.” The victim-blaming Miki Nakamura encounters (“the child’s health complaints are caused by the stress of the mother”) would be familiar to many Chernobyl-affected persons I have interviewed in Ukraine. Of course, this is not to discount the real psychosocial stresses associated with evacuation and the multiple forms of Fukushima’s fallout (radioactive, economic, social, psychological), many of which are being tracked by the Fukushima Health Management Survey.[32]

Miki Nakamura has met with other forms of stonewalling in her efforts to monitor her children’s health. Like all children living near the disaster site, the Nakamura girls are entitled to thyroid screenings. After her daughters’ thyroid checks at the Fukushima Prefectural Medical College, Miki received a brief notice in the mail that lacked any details or explanation of the test results. When she phoned the Medical College to ask for an explanation of the test results, personnel told her, “We are so very busy…” and discouraged her from getting a second opinion, which in the words of the doctors, “just causes confusion.” Despite the deficit of whole body counters, Miki  managed to arrange whole body counts for her daughters. However, without regular follow-ups to track the dynamic—whether their counts are going up or down—the information is of limited utility.

Miki Nakamura sums up her frustrations: “I am not a doctor but I know that my children are sick. And I saw that other children from Fukushima and in the greater Kanto region had the same health problems as my daughters, though I do not hear about it anymore…” Recent health studies show that Miki’s concern about her daughters’ thyroid health is far from unfounded. According to the April 2012 Sixth Report of Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey, which included examinations of 38,114 children, 35.3% of those examined were found to have cysts or nodules of up to 5 mm (0.197 inches) on their thyroids. A further 0.5% had nodules larger than 5.1 mm (0.2 inches).[33] Contradicting earlier reports, the National Institute of Radiological Sciences admitted in July 2012 that children from Fukushima had likely received lifetime thyroid doses of radiation.[34] The Health Risk Assessment from the Nuclear Accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in February 2013 states that in the most affected regions of Fukushima Prefecture the preliminary estimated radiation effective doses[35] for the first year after the disaster ranged from 12 to 25 mSv. According to the report, in the most contaminated location the estimated increased risks over what would normally be expected are as follows:

  • all solid cancers – around 4% in females exposed as infants;
  • breast cancer – around 6% in females exposed as infants;
  • leukemia – around 7% in males exposed as infants;
  • thyroid cancer – up to 70% in females exposed as infants (the normally expected risk of thyroid cancer in females over lifetime is 0.75% and the additional lifetime risk assessed for females exposed as infants in the most affected location is 0.50%).[36]

“The future is what we are looking at right now”

Miki Nakamura spends time with other evacuee families every day as founder and director the Yamagata Association of Mothers in Evacuation (YAME). The association is a resource base and support system for families like the Nakamuras who are voluntary evacuees often split between two households. YAME has a liaison council to help mothers get necessary information, provides babysitting services and a “mothers’ morning out,” offers free legal consultations, and sponsors a regular “children’s plaza” where mothers can socialize and exchange advice while their children play. Miki Nakamura and her association worked with a local politician to draft the Fukushima Child Victims’ Law, which was passed by the Diet. But this is just a resolution without enforceability, and specific measures to protect victims’ rights (e.g. the right not to return to Fukushima) have not been determined.

As a nutritionist, in a context of radiological uncertainty Miki Nakamura draws on her knowledge of food properties and the complexities of the food supply to regulate her children’s diet. She shares and publishes recipes that contain “radioprotective” ingredients. Foods that contain beta carotene and vitamin C, for example, can help rid the body of radionuclides.[37] One food that people in the Fukushima-affected areas have not enjoyed since 3.11 is persimmons (a crop for which the region is famous), which actively absorb radionuclides and thus are highly contaminated. The Yamagata countryside is adorned with scores of persimmon trees laden with ripe, juicy, entirely inedible fruit. Just as apples have become the key symbol of the Chernobyl accident (the forbidden fruit, original sin, humankind’s folly in seeking to control nature through science)[38], perhaps the quintessential symbol of the Fukushima Daiichi accident will be the persimmon, which in Buddhist thought symbolizes the transformation of humans’ ignorance (the acrid green persimmon) into wisdom (the sweet, ripened fruit).

Loaded persimmon tree in Yamagata City.

Miki Nakamura has lost all trust in the authorities. Before the disaster she always believed the government and she never thought twice about living near a nuclear power plant. Today she demands justice. She said: “The Fukushima disaster is not just an economic problem, but a problem of our children’s future. The future is what we are looking at right now. Our kids have the right to safety and to a good and long, peaceful life. These are not ‘poor kids.’ They have a future. The most important part of reconstruction after the accident is the restoration of people’s trust and sense of security.”

Was nuclear technological failure—the Chernobyl disaster—the “straw that broke the camel’s back” of the Soviet Union?[39] The botched handling of the accident and its aftermath—and especially the central government’s overt failure and disinterest to protect the safety of citizens—confirmed what many citizens strongly believed: their government did not care for them and the system had become thoroughly corrupt and untrustworthy. While widespread protest against nuclear energy and its environmental and health risks was not possible in the authoritarian Soviet state, even in those conditions of a muzzled press and lack of freedom of speech a green movement emerged in response to Chernobyl. Chernobyl’s political fallout was one factor contributing to Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost (openness), and in a limited way anti-nuclear sentiment also fueled the Ukrainian independence movement.

Similarly, Japanese citizens have lost trust in the government and in engineers and physicians who previously commanded such respect and authority. Community leaders strongly feel that Japan lags behind other industrialized nations in democratic governance; they are particularly concerned about lack of press freedom. Indeed, in December 2012 the World Audit on corruption, democracy, and freedom of press gave Japan a democracy ranking of 29 (1 is most democratic, 150 least democratic). This puts Japan in the Audit’s “Division 2” list, along with Ghana, Panama, and Israel. Of the 26 OECD countries, Japan ranks 19th in democratic governance.[40]

The sound defeat of the Democratic Party by the Liberal Democratic Party in the national parliamentary elections in December 2012 reflected dissatisfaction with the status quo. But the elections were a referendum on the DP, not nuclear power; the LDP is pro-nuclear and does not plan to scale back nuclear energy production. Indeed, traveling through Japan I was struck by the relative lack of anti-nuclear discourse, even in Fukushima Prefecture. Few politicians criticize nuclear power. A notable exception is Tetsunari Iida, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies who lost a bid for governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture in elections in July 2012. The anti-nuclear Tomorrow of Japan Party—formed less a month before the national parliamentary elections in December 2012—garnered scant voter support and disappeared. Reportedly the party’s calls for nuclear power drawdown failed to gain traction “amid concerns that electrical shortages could hurt the already shrinking economy.”[41]

Indeed, one gets the impression that response to the disaster has centered primarily on short-term economic, not human, concerns. Before the accident at the Fukushima NPP, Japan relied on nuclear power for 30% of its energy needs and was planning to increase that to over 50% within two decades. According to Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, scrapping nuclear power would result in losses of $55.9 billion for power companies, at least four of which would likely face insolvency.[42] With these economic stakes, it is not surprising that TEPCO and the Japanese government have been stingy with information about the disaster, the radioactive fallout, and the potential health consequences. My acquaintances who hoped Japan would abandon nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster fear that the chance to “change the country’s direction” has already passed by.

Haruhiko Fukase, a resident of Yamagata City who worked as a shelter volunteer and coordinator during the evacuation effort, said that the nuclear accident-affected people have been forgotten not just by the international community, but by many of their fellow Japanese citizens. “For people in Tokyo and other big cities,” he said, “the evacuees don’t even register anymore. Their problems have been forgotten.” But for thousands of families, the Fukushima nuclear disaster will never end. Community leaders repeat this refrain: “The reactor is still hot; the situation is still unstable.” Miki Nakamura and like-minded community leaders are not giving up on the democratic process. They continue to speak justice to power. As Nakamura said during the December 2012 Japanese elections, “To give up on Japanese politics is, to me, to give up on Fukushima.”[43]

Fukushima is Chernobyl. Independent of the system (Japanese, Soviet), nuclear technology requires disregard for the public, misleading statements, and obfuscation in multiple domains (medicine, science and technology, governance). As anthropologist Hugh Gusterson notes, “The disaster at Fukushima has generated cracks in what we might call the ‘social containment vessels’ around nuclear energy—the heavily scientized discourses and assumptions that assure us nuclear reactors are safe neighbors.”[44] Comparing the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima shows that “peaceful” nuclear technology is anything but.

I am grateful to Miki Nakamura, Satoko Hirano, Yukio Yamaguchi, Paul Josephson, Marvin Sterling, and Charles Figley for their contributions to this article.

.

 

First unit of Koodankulam plant to start by month-end: PMO


By PTI – NEW DELHI

05th December 2012 04:30 PM

The much-delayed Koodankulam nuclear power project is expected to be commissioned by the end of this month, the government today told the Lok Sabha.

“The Unit-1 is likely to be commissioned by the end of December 2012,” Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy said in a written reply.

He said the fuel has been loaded in Unit-1 and it has been made ready for approach to first criticality or the start of the nuclear fission chain reaction.

“The process of criticality in Unit-1 would start after the stage-wise clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB),” he said.

The AERB had given its nod to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) to load 163 bundles of enriched uranium fuel in the first reactor on September 18.

This was done after the NPCIL complied with all the conditions laid down by AERB in its August 10 sanction order.

The fuel loading process was completed on October two.

NPCIL is setting up two 1,000 MW VVER reactors at Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district with Russian collaboration.

The nuclear power project is an outcome of an Inter-Governmental Agreement between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988. However, the construction began only in 2001.

 

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.”

 

 

CENTRAL ASIA: Disabled Citizens Find Avenues to Advancement Blocked


By Alisher Khamidov

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, Oct 24 2012 (EurasiaNet) - As a child, Feruza Alimova dreamed of becoming a lawyer so she could help disabled people.

But the 22-year-old cannot pursue a law degree because a bone deformity keeps her homebound. Her parents, who make a living growing cotton and tobacco in the Kyrgyzstani hamlet of Chekabad, in the Ferghana Valley, spend a large chunk of their income on expensive medications for Feruza and two other children suffering a similar bone condition.

Mukhabat, Feruza’s mother, says neighbours blamed her and her husband for their children’s disabilities. “We were also ashamed at the beginning, but gradually we decided that what mattered is not the opinions of others, but the happiness of our children,” Mukhabat told EurasiaNet.org.

Because public minibuses do not accommodate her wheelchair, Feruza could not attend law school. Instead, last year she completed a knitting course offered by a local vocational school.

Across Central Asia, hundreds of thousands of disabled people are unable to attend school because they live in a world with few handicap-accessible amenities, according to the State Department’s 2011 Human Rights reports for Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

In Tajikistan, the law “requires government buildings, schools, hospitals, and transportation to be accessible to persons with disabilities, but the government did not enforce these provisions,” the report states.

In Uzbekistan, the State Department maintains that disabled Uzbeks are stigmatised and educational opportunities are limited for those unable to walk on their own. “Many of the high schools constructed in recent years have exterior ramps, but no interior modifications that would allow wheelchair accessibility,” the report stated.

Civil society groups say Central Asian governments are resistant to addressing the issue.

“Authorities (across the region) view a disability as a medical ailment that can be treated, and not as a social condition that needs to be accepted by society,” said Azat Israilov of Kelechek, a Bishkek-based non-governmental organisation that works with disabled children. As a result, state assistance is often limited to monthly payments to help cover medicine, he said.

In a continuation of Soviet-era practices, all of the Central Asian republics divide disabilities into three groups. People with “category one” disabilities are completely dependent on others for care; people in “category two” can take care of themselves with assistance (blindness, some intellectual disabilities, and bone deformities fall into this category); “category three” can include impaired vision and rheumatism. State-run medical commissions assign the categories.

According to official data, in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, individuals in category one receive up to 70 dollars per month; no precise figure is available for Kazakhstan, though the number is sometimes reported as 100 dollars.

The cash is welcome, but nothing like the benefits that disabled people received a generation ago, before the Soviet Union collapsed.

“During the Soviet period, we (disabled people) enjoyed many privileges such as free healthcare, state subsidies, and allowances. Now most of these perks are gone,” said Ilkhom Madumarov, a Tashkent resident in his late fifties who, missing a leg, is in category two.

Mukhabat, Feruza’s mother, says the cash benefits for her children, whose disabilities all fall into category one, is not enough to cover their monthly treatment. But it’s not the size of the payments that makes her angry.

“What my children need is not just small monetary compensation; they want to be treated like everyone else. The government needs to create conditions in which children like mine can function like normal people despite their disabilities,” she said, such as access to schools.

For years, international aid agencies have promoted reform. But in recent years, their support has dwindled. Following the May 2005 massacre in Andijan, a suspicious central government in Tashkent forced many foreign non-governmental organisations out of Uzbekistan. And since the 2010 political turmoil in Kyrgyzstan, Israilov of Kelechek complains, much of the donor community’s attention has focused on post-conflict reconstruction efforts.

In some cases, too, aid agencies appear to be suffering from donor fatigue. Despite pressure from international development outfits, endemic corruption and bureaucracy have hampered reform efforts, aid workers say privately.

For example, given the monetary compensations and other perks associated with disability status (people with disabilities pay lower taxes, obtain subsidised medical treatment at state-funded clinics, and receive discounts when using public transportation), government disability commissions throughout Central Asia often try to extort bribes from applicants, some of whom do not have disabilities.

A December 2010 law adopted by Uzbekistan’s parliament abolished financial payments for category three disabilities, a move that impacted 200,000 individuals, who lost monthly benefits of 60,000 sums (37 dollars) a month. Legislators said they were trying to make the system more efficient. Observers in Tashkent believe the law is also intended to crack down on corrupt government employees selling disability permits.

More generally, benefits seem to be on the chopping block in budgeted-squeezed Central Asian states. On Oct. 18, Kyrgyzstan’s government announced budget cuts that will affect social spending.

Some disabled people have taken radical measures to improve their plight. Since the April 2010 uprising in Kyrgyzstan, a group of disabled people have illegally occupied a mansion belonging to the ousted president’s hated son.

In Uzbekistan, meanwhile, a group of people with disabilities petitioned several independent news outlets in March, blowing the whistle on alleged infighting within the Society for Disabled People of Uzbekistan, a quasi-government agency that administers some of the state’s assistance programmes. The petition claimed the Society is rife with corruption and nepotism.

Such outspoken criticism of the government is rare in Uzbekistan and often punished severely. “These protest letters indicate the extent of despair,” said a local teacher familiar with the campaign.

*Editor’s note: Alisher Khamidov is a researcher specialising in Central Asian affairs.

This story was originally published by EurasiaNet.org.