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.”

#India- wake up—World’s biggest nuke plant may shut: Japan report


by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 25, 2013

The largest nuclear power plant in the world may be forced to shut down under tightened rules proposed by Japan’s new nuclear watchdog aimed at safeguarding against earthquakes, a report said Friday.

Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power‘s vast Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in central Japan could be on the chopping block if the Nuclear Regulation Authority expands the definition of an active fault.

The movement of a fault — a crack in the earth’s crust — can generate massive earthquakes like the one that sparked a tsunami that slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011, setting off the worst atomic crisis in a generation.

The watchdog is planning to define an active fault as one that moved any time within the past 400,000 years, rather than the current 120,000 to 130,000-year limit, an official told AFP, which could spell the end of the TEPCO plant.

“The new guidelines will be put into effect in July, and then we will re-evaluate the safety of each of Japan’s nuclear plants,” said the NRA official, adding no decisions would be made until the new rules were in place.

At least two “non-active” faults underneath the site’s reactors could be ensnared by the new definition, forcing its closure, according to a report in the mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper on Friday.

Other Japanese media have carried similar reports.

A company spokesman said TEPCO was conducting more tests on the faults underneath the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s biggest by generating capacity.

The NRA is conducting or planning to conduct investigations into six other nuclear plants in Japan.

At present only two of the country’s 50 reactors are operational, after the entire stable was shuttered over several months for scheduled safety checks. Public resistance has meant the government has been reluctant to give the go-ahead for their re-starting.

The two reactors that are working are both being investigated by seismologists.

In 2007, the government ordered the temporary closure of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake destroyed hundreds of homes in the area and jolted the sprawling plant, which was close to the quake’s epicentre, leading to a small radiation leak.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck off Japan’s northeastern coast in 2011 triggered the tsunami that left about 19,000 dead and set off the emergency at Fukushima.

No one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the nuclear catastrophe, but radiation leaks forced tens of thousands of people from their homes and left swathes of agricultural land unfarmabl

 

#India- When life is cheaper than nuclear power


Published: Monday, Jan 7, 2013, 10:00 IST
By Dilnaz Boga | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Members of New Socialist Alternative protest against nuclear power in Bangalore on Wednesday, October 24, 2012. (Pic used for representational purpose only)
Anantha Subramanyam K | DNA

Poonam Hambire, a resident of Ghivali village, 12km from Boisar in Thane district, is at the forefront of the anti-nuclear agitation against the Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS). “Women have to come forward as false cases are slapped against the male protesters in Tarapur,” she alleges.

Her village lies within the 1.6km radius around one the country’s oldest nuclear reactors built by General Electric in the 1960s. It’s the same model as Japan’s Fukushima reactor. The effects of radiation are obvious in every home not only in Ghivali but also in the neighbouring villages.
At Hambire’s home, her eight-year-old nephew’s garlanded photo adorns the wall. “He died of lung cancer, but we couldn’t get his medical reports from the government heath centre. It’s hard to talk about it as his father who is employed at the plant will lose his job. None of the sick villagers get their medical papers,” she claims.

Grievances galore
Most of India’s 20 reactors are on the list of the most unreliable 50 in the world and are being monitored by the IAEA, says former navy captain Dr Buddhi Subbarao, who has a PhD in nuclear technology from IIT-B and is an advocate in the Supreme Court.

The decommissioning cost of a nuclear reactor (about $300 million-5.6 billion) is more than the cost of construction and commissioning. That’s why TAPS hasn’t been decommissioned despite the American manufacturers’ advice to the government to do so in 1995, Subbarao adds.

Ramakrishna Tandel, secretary, Maharashtra Machimar Kruti Samiti, who has led the fishermen’s community in the area for years, says, “The mangroves have dried due to the hot water released from the plant’s cooling system. We have found boiled fish 2km away from shore. The breeding patterns of the fish have also changed and our businesses have collapsed.”

“Forget listening to our grievances, they don’t even let us stand at the gate. We are sandwiched between TAPS and the sea. Earlier, we had 28 boats, and 10 families would live off each boat. Now, we have just one,” he adds. The government has proposed 14 more nuclear plants in the area.

The discharge has increased considerably after TAPS 3 and 4 started, say villagers. The adjoining sea and creek continue to bear the brunt and many species of fish have diminished completely. Chronic illnesses are on the rise, observes environmentalist Girish Raut.

Nuclear troubles
All nuclear-spent fuel from India is being brought to BARC, Tarapur, for reprocessing and later, cooling, storing and intermediate burial-storage, amounting to high concentration of nuclear activity material in Tarapur. Tandel explains that NPCIL has no evacuation routes for the villagers in case of emergency, or even any medical facilities, food or a shelter plan. Also, residents of Palghar and Dahanu are also at high risk. “Hence, we are opposing the expansion of the facility and the port that Jindal is going to build here,” says Tandel.

Every fortnight, the authorities take samples of soil and water for testing from the villages in the plant’s vicinity, but the results are never shared with the inhabitants.

A 40-year-old maintenance mechanic from the neighbouring village of Pofran, who works at TAPS, complained about pain in his joints. “About 29 of us have been employed on contracts so we get no medical treatment. I earn Rs300 a day; how will I spend on doctors? We have to live with what we suffer from,” he says.

“People don’t talk about cancer here due to the stigma. Who will give their daughter’s hand in marriage to such a family?” asks deputy sarpanch of Ghivali Sunil Prabhu. Take the example of Prakash Ambhire, 47. He died of eye cancer last November. “He worked as a helper in the plant. He didn’t get any treatment and there are no case papers. He is survived by his aged mother, a son and three daughters,” Prabhu adds.

RK Gupta, 73, who worked with BARC’s fuel reprocessing division of the plutonium plant as an engineer and has been exposed to radiation, is suffering from its after-effects.

“Labourers and contractuals are appointed from the roadside. There is no proper health procedure. They die on the roadside after their contracts are through. But employees are treated differently. I was over-exposed and I am handicapped now. I was diagnosed early but I am suffering because of medical negligence. I have psoriasis,” he says.

Apathetic state
Rajendra Gavit, minister of state for tribal development and labour affairs, who addressed the fishing community on World Fisheries day last month, said, “Project-affected people will get permanent jobs in the plant. We are fighting to make 200 workers permanent every year.”

Gavit added, “I realise the issue about cancer and radiation. Doses (radiation) for the employees need to be reduced. We have been trying for their safety all these years. Now, we are trying to decrease their exposure.” At TAPS, contractual labourers may be exposed to 1,500 doses in two months and employees to 1,000 a year.

Vivek Sundara, an anti-nuclear protester, says, “Studies from all over the world show that any kind of radiation is bad. If it’s harmless like the government says, then why are women told not to breastfeed after mammogram? Government needs to stop using nuclear energy and switch to more sustainable and eco-friendly forms. This toxicity will last for millions of years,” he adds.

Scientist Dr V Pugazhenthi, who had conducted a survey in Chinchani village, 8km from the plant two years ago, said cases of neuroblastoma can be attributed to radiation. “Even 40km away from the plant cases of unexplained anaemia, Down’s Syndrome, tumours, high rate of abortions and miscarriages and multiple myeloma are seen.”

 

India signing nuclear test ban treaty to kick-start talks with Japan?


TOKYO/ NEW DELHI: It may not be necessary for India to sign Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty(CTBT) for resumption of talks with Japan for peaceful use of nuclear energy but it will certainly help if any such bilateral agreement can weave in New Delhi’s commitment to ban on nuclear test. Top diplomatic sources here told TOI that merely a generic voluntary moratorium on carrying out nuclear tests, which India keeps reiterating, will not be of much help.

The talks for civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries have remained suspended since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in March, 2011. In a recent interaction with outgoing Japanese PMYoshihiko Noda in Cambodia, PM Manmohan Singh had raised the issue of nuclear cooperation with Tokyo, but there is still no commitment from Japan exactly when talks will restart.

“Japan is not insisting that India sign CTBT but it is my reading that if India can commit to a test ban in any bilateral agreement for such a cooperation between the two countries, it will certainly make things easier,” a top diplomatic source handling Japan’s non-proliferation policy told TOI. The official was talking on the sidelines of the Fukushima ministerial conference that discussed measures to enhance nuclear safety worldwide, apart from showcasing Japan’s efforts to cope up with the nuclear disaster.

The official added though that Japan was not imposing any pre-conditions for resumption of nuclear dialogue. Indian officials here said though that it was not possible for New Delhi to go any further than what New Delhi had committed to before Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG) in September, 2008, where got India a waiver to carry out nuclear commerce. Then foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee had said in a statement that India remained committed to a voluntary and unilateral moratorium on nuclear test and to negotiate a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT).

India is hoping that the Liberal Democratic Party chief and the incoming PM, Shinzo Abe, will work towards resumption of talks. Abe shunned the policy of doing away completely with nuclear power and yet managed an emphatic win in the recent Lower House elections. After his victory, Abe has suggested that he will reconsider Japan’s ban on construction of new nuclear reactors in the country. Abe had earlier described the Noda-led government’s call for zero-dependence on nuclear energy as “unrealistic and irresponsible”.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/India-signing-nuclear-test-ban-treaty-to-kick-start-talks-with-Japan/articleshow/17726296.cms?

 

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.”

 

 

Japan- local governments addicted to nuclear subsidies


Monday, Nov. 26, 2012

 

SENTAKU MAGAZINE

Nov 26,2012

Municipalities hosting nuclear power plants throughout Japan have received large amounts of central government subsidies, donations from utilities and lucrative business contracts.

 

Now, 1½ years after the Fukushima nuclear disasters, those municipalities realize how much their finances depend on the nuclear power-induced money.

“They’re like drug addicts cut off from supplies,” said a member of the assembly of Niigata Prefecture, which hosts Tokyo Electric Power Co.‘s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant on the Sea of Japan coast. All the reactors at the plant remain shut down after its No. 5 and 6 reactors went offline earlier this year.

After the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdowns in March 2011, the government refused to give the go-ahead for restarting reactors at other plants throughout Japan that had gone offline for regular inspections, until it approved reactivating two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant in Fukui Prefecture in July.

“I was scared to death when the Fukushima accident happened, but now I am thankful that the plant resumed operations,” said a resident of the town of Oi who works for a subcontractor to the power station. “I think that most of the local people here feel the same way.”

Many newspaper reporters and TV crew rushed to Oi — along with anti-nuclear power activists — when the town was at the center of nationwide attention over the government’s decision to reactivate the reactors. The man says he did not feel like talking to media crews, who he thought were trying to paint a stereotype picture of the local residents worried about the dangers of reactivating the plant.

There are indeed gaps among local residents and businesses on how they benefit financially from hosting the nuclear plants.

Host prefectures and municipalities receive central government grants based on laws designed to promote development of power generation facilities.

These subsidies are heavily distributed while siting research and construction are going on, but are gradually reduced once the plants starts operation. After that, only the local residents who work at the plant and related businesses continue to get the rewards.

“People who do not benefit from the plant are a minority here. Still, it’s true that some residents who don’t directly get the money were unhappy about the restart,” said an Oi town assemblyman.

Media reports played up the voices of residents who spoke up in opposition to the restart. But it was “never a consensus of the local residents” to oppose the plant restart, the assemblyman said.

People in other host municipalities have mixed feelings toward the restart of the Oi plant.

“A growing number of residents ask me when the plant here will be restarted,” says a politician from Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, where Japan Atomic Power Co. has a power station and Japan Atomic Energy Agency operates the Monju fast-breeder reactor, which constitutes the core of the nation’s nuclear fuel cycle policy.

A reporter with a local newspaper says “special financial consideration” has been given to the Tsugaru area as part of the effort to achieve the nuclear fuel cycle, which he called “a pie in the sky” to begin with. Money kept flowing in generously from the nuclear community even after Monju was kept mostly offline following a serious sodium coolant leak in 1995.

The city of Tsuruga has so far received a total of over ¥100 billion in “official” grants. In addition, another ¥10 billion has been provided to the city coffers in the name of “anonymous donations.”

Such funds are then used to benefit local businesses in the form of public works projects contracts. One construction industry insider in Fukui Prefecture explains that bid-rigging is still rampant in such projects in municipalities hosting nuclear plants, resulting in higher costs.

For example, the municipal government paid well in excess of ¥100 million for a road improvement project, but the sum would have been more than 20 percent less if the same work had been undertaken in other cities, he said.

There will be additional construction orders from a utility after a nuclear plant starts operations — at costs mostly above the industry average, according to a source familiar with the construction industry in the Kansai region. Some of the money will likely go from construction firms to local politicians, the source said.

Kansai Electric Power Co., which operates three nuclear power plants in Fukui Prefecture, is a private company and may not see a problem in paying whatever price is bid for its construction work. But under relevant laws, utilities are allowed to pass all of such costs on to electricity bills charged on consumers.

Even among host municipalities, there are differences in attitudes depending on the extent to which they rely on financial assistance and benefits linked to nuclear energy. In February, Kashiwazaki Mayor Hiroshi Aida expressed his support for a policy to reduce and eventually eliminate the nation’s dependence on nuclear energy, but his counterpart at Kariwa said his village cannot survive without the nuclear power station.

While they both host Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, nuclear plant-related subsidies or donations from the utility account for 14 percent of Kashiwazaki’s annual budget and as high as 30 percent of Kariwa’s.

An insider in the construction industry in Kashiwazaki says that local politicians and contractors continue to hunt for new sources of nuclear power-related income even after the Fukushima plant disasters. Even though it is now next to impossible to hope for construction of new nuclear plants, they are looking into the possibility of building facilities for temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants around the country, or a storage site for contaminated materials from Fukushima, he points out.

Another example of a local community dependent on money related to nuclear facilities is in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, formerly a poverty-stricken village where most of its 11,000 residents relied on agriculture and fisheries for their livelihood. The village is now called one of Japan’s wealthiest municipalities.

Nippon Nuclear Fuel Ltd., which plays the central role in the nation’s nuclear fuel cycle project, has its headquarters in Rokkasho and accounts for ¥6 billion of the estimated ¥6.8 billion in local tax revenue for fiscal 2012. Rokkasho’s general account budget for the year is ¥13 billion — double the amount of a village in Kumamoto Prefecture with roughly the same population.

If the government’s plan to phase out nuclear power in Japan is to be implemented, the whole concept of a nuclear fuel cycle in this country would collapse, which in turn would deal a serious blow to Rokkasho’s fiscal foundation.

Alarmed by such a prospect, the village assembly in September unanimously adopted a resolution demanding that if the nuclear fuel cycle program were to be stopped, all spent fuels that had been shipped to the reprocessing facility in Rokkasho be moved out of the village immediately. It was an outright threat to both the central government and the power companies.

Spent fuel storage pools at nuclear plants throughout the country are filled almost to capacity, and would overflow if the fuel rods at Rokkasho were returned to the power plants where they originated. This would make it impossible to restart any of the nuclear plants in Japan.

A journalist who covers nuclear power issues for a major newspaper notes that Rokkasho’s special status among host municipalities gives it enormous leverage.

“It’s like a drug addict engaging in robbery to get the money to buy more narcotics,” the journalist said.

The episode shows that the system in which money flows from the nuclear community into host municipalities remains intact, and unless the link is cut off, those municipalities will continue to rely on the nuclear industry.

This is an abridged translation of an article from the November issue of Sentaku, a monthly magazine covering Japanese political, social and economic scenes.

 

A call for Action: toward a nuclear free world #mustshare


Introduction:

The AEPF9 Final Declaration calls the ASEM governments to build a nuclear free world. On “Sustainable Energy Production and Use”, the 5th  “Key Recommendation” states:  “Commit to progressing, with urgency, to a nuclear power free world. This will require decommissioning existing nuclear power stations, stopping the development of planned power stations and taking forward alternatives.”

During Vientiane AEPF9, an “AEPF No-Nuke Circle” was launched to act on this issue. Workshop participants came from nine Asian and European countries. Representatives of networks from other countries supported this initiative, even if they could not be present at the workshop because of simultaneously held meetings.

The following statement – the « Call for Action » – explains why we engage ourselves in the fight for a nuclear free word.

This statement can be endorsed by organizations, networks and individuals.

For endorsement, please write to: prousset68@gmail.com

—————————————-

At a time when the some of the advanced industrialized countries of North America, Europe and Japan have decided to phase out completely their nuclear energy programmes or reduce their dependence on nuclear energy for electricity production, the main markets for North American, European, Russian and Japanese suppliers of nuclear equipment are in Asia. China and India are the two countries with the most ambitious plans for expanding nuclear power generation. Many other countries are reconsidering or abandoning their plans to start nuclear power production.

To bring about an end to nuclear energy programmes in Asia and Europe more than ever do we need a coordinated campaign among civil society activists and groups not only in the different countries of Asia but also similar alliances with civil society counterparts in Europe where popular disillusionment and opposition to nuclear energy has sometimes been successful in making governments change their nuclear power policies.

The AEPF therefore is an ideal venue for developing such a coordinated campaign. What follows is a statement of basic arguments for opposing nuclear energy in favour of environmentally appropriate use of renewable energy sources.

Our Stand

The promise’’ of nuclear energy in the 1950s which led to the development of civilian nuclear programmes for electricity generation in numerous countries around the world has been completely belied. Indeed, in the eyes of one expert Amory Lovins, the performance worldwide of civilian nuclear energy programmes has revealed it to be perhaps the single greatest failure of the industrial age! After over 60 years of experience the case against nuclear energy especially given its safety record is now overwhelming. The main arguments can be summed up under six basic categories – too little, too late, too secretive, too centralised, too expensive, too dangerous.

 

Too Little

Nuclear energy constitutes an ever declining proportion of world electricity generation whether measured in terms of capacity or output. It now accounts for less than 12% of world output. Of the world’s 430 odd existing reactors, even as some old reactors are having their life spans dangerously extended, considerably more reactors will be shut down over the next two decades than will be built. The proportion of electricity generated by nuclear power will go down even further. In 2009 the installed capacity in energy generation with “new” renewable sources (excluding large hydropower) worldwide surpassed nuclear power capacity for the first time. Since then the gap has got increasingly wider. Nuclear power is not the energy of the future! The claims made of a nuclear renaissance are false.

Too Late

The most recent and popular argument being made to promote the nuclear power industry is that it is a clean energy source and crucial for addressing the problem of global warming. However, nuclear power is not and cannot be clean given the long lasting and highly dangerous radioactive wastes it generates for which there is no long term safe storage process and for which short term storage processes cannot but carry some level of risk of unforeseeable and possible leakages  due to circumstances/events/developments beyond control.

While it is true that nuclear reactors do not directly generate carbon emissions, the whole “nuclear fuel cycle”—from uranium mining to fuel fabrication to building, running and maintaining reactors, and managing and storing/reprocessing their  wastes — produces a substantial amount of carbon dioxide. Therefore the eventual saving or carbon abatement from nuclear power is much less than from most renewable sources although it is more than from fossil fuel burning. However, even such a saving does not make it worthwhile to go in for nuclear power plants since the opportunity costs are so huge and the period of construction (usually 10 to 13 years)  is so long that if the same amount of money was spent for establishing renewable energy sources, the amount of carbon emissions saved would not only be much greater but – and this is very important – the savings would take place much more quickly. Some expert studies conclude that for nuclear energy to make a significant dent in carbon emissions we would need to build close to one plant every fortnight for the next ten years!

Too Secretive

Given both its inherent dual-use character, i.e., its military potential in terms of generating fissile materials for bomb-making and the risks of leakages at various points in the construction and running of plants and in waste disposal, all civilian nuclear programmes are unavoidably far more secretive than is the case in other industries. All industries are subject to what organisation theorist Charles Perrow calls “normal accidents”. The nuclear industry is no exception. Full transparency about such events would undoubtedly raise great concerns and opposition among the population at large and be highly detrimental to the credibility of all those involved in preserving the nuclear programme – suppliers, operators, governments. The very nature of the industry demands that it must institutionalise deeply undemocratic mechanisms of non-transparency and non-accountability with respect to the wider public.

Too Centralised

Nuclear power only makes some sense if its role is connected to a highly centralised system of electricity generation and distribution and use which also means significant distribution and transmission losses, i.e accepted inefficiencies. For most developing and developed countries the only sensible approach is to develop a strongly decentralised system of energy production and use alongside existing grid systems since such a decentralised approach is both cheaper and far more compatible with the use of renewable energy sources and local surpluses in electricity generation can be fed into a network of local and regional grids and even into the national grid. Thus, renewable energies are creating many more jobs than nuclear.

Too Expensive

The full costs of nuclear power generation and distribution from the beginning of the fuel cycle to the end of waste disposal and storage are never properly calculated. Indeed, governments from France to Japan to others have always provided open or hidden subsidies of one kind or the other. Among the costs usually excluded in part or full from “levellised costs” or the cost per kilowatt hour produced by nuclear power plants, are the following: a) the cost of decommissioning the plant when its life span is over which is maybe one-third to one-half of the cost of construction itself. b) Not adding the costs, howsoever discounted over a prolonged period, of waste management and storage. c) The ‘real’ financing cost including interest payments made on borrowed capital and other charges associated with long construction periods. d) Costs are fast rising with new security requirements – and if they were not, it would mean that security is traded off against profits. c) The cost of insurance against accidents (including huge premium costs) if liability is absolute (as it should be) and of creating contingency funds for accidents causing economic, ecological and health damage.

Yet despite the partial or total exclusion of these elements, the costs stated by industry and publicised by the media are everywhere still higher than all other forms of energy production by fossil fuels and with most renewables. Even the most expensive of alternative energy sources today, namely solar energy, is already lower than the levellised costs of nuclear power in many scenarios and steady technical and scientific improvements are making solar energy progressively cheaper over time compared to nuclear power. The opportunity costs of nuclear energy are prohibitively uneconomical. This is the single most important reason why the private sector will not go in for nuclear power without assured subsidies and liability caps guaranteed by governments.

Too Dangerous

There are five kinds of dangers actual or potential.

1)      The release of ionising radiation and dangerous isotopes bound up with each step of the nuclear fuel cycle, endangering people in various countries from uranium mining to waste storage. These are invisible poisons, which produce cancers and genetic damage and against which there is no defence or cure.

2)      There is the insoluble problem of waste disposal. Present problems and dangers of waste disposal are partly rationalised by the pro-nuclear lobby as the other side of the coin of present benefits and services. But for future generations there are only the problems and dangers and no presumed benefits and services. Nuclear power is poisoning the earth.

3)      Accidents are normal in all industries. Consequences small or big always follow. But nuclear power is the sole mode of energy generation in the world, which is vulnerable to catastrophic accidents with enormous and unacceptable consequences. The health and environmental effects of nuclear accidents are of such a nature that they must be deemed unacceptable, although the scale of incidence can vary from small to big. Even if as claimed the probability of a major accident is low it is never zero and no one can give a precise measure of how low. But the consequences of a major accident are beyond measure and simply incalculable. Even absolute liability only means that the culprits behind the accidents will lose money while the actual victims of such accidents are innocent others who have to pay with their health and lives!

4)      Nuclear plants are potential targets for conventional assaults by state or non-state actors, and vulnerable to sabotage with huge consequences.

5)      The actual or potential military-related dual-use possibilities of civilian programmes means that if the world is serious about wanting to move towards complete disarmament of nuclear weapons then this must require the complete elimination of all civilian nuclear power programmes as well. As long as civilian nuclear power programmes exist, the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation exists.

The countries of Asia and Europe must give up on all or any civilian nuclear power programmes. Where such plants and fuel cycle activities exist, they should be phased out as quickly as possible never to be revived. Nuclear plants can be reconverted wherever possible into other environmentally friendly facilities for productive and employment generating activities.

AEPF initiative on nuclear industry will be articulated with ongoing campaigns for nuclear disarmament and for an overall socially and environmentally appropriate policy on energy.

AEPF “No-Nuke” Circle

For endorsement by organizations, networks and individuals, please write to: prousset68@gmail.com

Al Jazeera: Report says EU nuclear reactors need $ 32 BILLION to prevent disaster!


 

Report says EU nuclear reactors need repair

A leaked report on Europe’s nuclear reactors found that up to $32bn needs to be invested to prevent disaster.
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2012 09:23

Almost all of Europe’s nuclear reactors are in need of an urgent overhaul that could cost as much as $32bn, according to a leaked draft-report by the European Commission.

The Commission is expected on Thursday to finalise its stress test report, which was designed to ensure that a disaster similar to the one at Japan‘s Fukushima could not happen again.

The report will be debated by EU ministers later this month..

After that, the Commission intends in 2013 to propose new laws, including on insurance and liability to “improve the situation of potential victims in the event of a nuclear accident”, the draft obtained by Reuters news agency said.

Of the 134 EU nuclear reactors grouped across 68 sites, 111 have more than 100,000 inhabitants living within 30 km.

Safety regimes vary greatly and the amount that needs to be spent to improve them is estimated at $13-32bn across all the reactors, the draft says.

France‘s nuclear watchdog has already said the country, which relies on nuclear power for about 75 per cent of its electricity, needs to invest billions of euros.

The lesson of Fukushima was that two natural disasters could strike at the same time and knock out the electrical supply system of a plant completely, so it could not be cooled down.

The stress tests found that four reactors, in two different countries, had less than one hour available to restore safety functions if electrical power was lost.

By contrast, four countries operate additional safety systems fully independent from the normal safety measures and
located in areas well-protected against external events. A fifth country is considering that option.

The main finding, the draft says, is that there are “continuing differences” between member states’ safety regimes.

It also says provisions to ensure the independence of national regulators are “minimal”.

Imad Khadduri, a nuclear analyst, told Al Jazeera that this report reflects “what is now an issue in Japan, which is the complacency of the nuclear industry, and the following up with modifications and updates on safety issues.”

“European power reactors should take much more strident efforts in fixing and implementing the safety issues.

Khadduri went on to say that if the public “is going to be alarmed by the $30bn cost of it all, they should be more worried about how much it could cost to decommission reactors, which is incredibly costly.”

Voluntary exercises

The stress tests are a voluntary exercise to establish whether nuclear plants can withstand natural disasters, aircraft crashes and management failures, as well as whether adequate systems are in place to deal with power disruptions.

All 14 member states that operate nuclear plants took part, however, as did Lithuania, which is decommissioning its nuclear units.

From outside the 27-member bloc, Switzerland and Ukraine joined in the exercise.

The tests were meant to have been completed around the middle of the year, but countries were given extra time to assess more reactors.

Non-governmental organisations are among those who have criticised the process as not going far enough and having no powers to force the shut-down of a nuclear plant.

“The stress tests only give a limited view,” said Roger Spautz, energy campaigner at Greenpeace, which believes nuclear power should be phased out.

He cited independent research earlier this year which said some European reactors needed to be shut down immediately, as well as the example of Belgium, where the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors have been halted because of suspected cracks.

The draft report says the stress tests are not a one-off exercise and will be followed up. Existing legislation also needs to be enforced, it said.

The deadline for passing the existing nuclear safety directive into national law was July 2011. The Commission started infringement proceedings against 12 member states that missed it.

To date, two have still not complied but the report did not specified which ones.

The Commission does not comment on leaked drafts.

But on Monday, the EU energy spokeswoman said the recommendations were being finalised and would not be “very,
very detailed”.

In France, the nuclear watchdog and operator EDF said they would not comment before seeing the official report.

 

 

A Nuclear-Free Future is Our Common Dream: Letter from the Japanese Activists Deported from India #mustshare


To our friends who struggle for nuclear free future,

 

A Historic movement is underway in Tamil Nadu State against Koodankulam nuclear power station. People across the world are moved by the resistance and want to express solidarity

We tried to visit India to show our solidarity on September 25 but were denied access at Chennai airport. After an hour-long interrogation, we had our paper written as “Inadmissible person” ,which denied our entrance to India. It is unforgivable for the government, which invites countless nuclear merchants from Western countries, to deny such small citizens like us. We are writing this letter because we would like you to know what we experienced.

 

When we got off the plane and approached the immigration counter, one personnel came to us smiling.

We asked them where we can get arrival visa. They immediately checked our passport and brought us to the immigration office. There were more than 5 personnels asking questions to us respectively. I was brought to another room and three personnels asked me whether I am a member of No Nukes Asia Forum Japan. I was surprised because they mentioned the concrete name of the organization.

 

“You signed the international petition on Koodankulam, didn’t you? Your name was on the list. It means you are anti-nuclear” a personnel said. It so happens that all three of us our signatories of the international petition (May 2012). Another one asked me what we would do at Koodankulam. I was surprised again because no one had mentioned about Koodankulam. But the man showed me a printed itinerary of our domestic flight that I have never seen yet.

 

“We already know that you have booked the domestic flight. So you are going there. Who invited you all? Who is waiting for you at the arrival gate now? Who will pick you up at Tuticorin airport? Tell me their names. Tell me their telephone number. Will you join the agitation? ”  They asked many questions and surprisingly, they knew all our Indian friends’ names. We felt scared. We felt something wrong would happen to you. So we didn’t answer.

 

We know that many scientists supportive of nuclear power, and some that are paid by the nuclear industry have visited India and spoken on behalf of nuclear power. These were not merely allowed by the Indian Government, but even encouraged. With India’s avowed commitment to democracy, one would imagine that contrary points of view would be encouraged.

 

Then, they asked me another questions about us, referring to a bunch of papers. “What is Mr. Watarida’s occupation? He is involved in the anti-nuclear movement in Kaminoseki, right?” According to Mr. Watarida, there was a lot of information about our activities in Japan written on those papers. They already researched our activities in detail.

They tried to ask various questions. At first they talked in a friendly manner. They told us that we can enter India if we gave them the information about the movement in Koodankulam. But gradually they got irritated because they wanted to deport us as soon as possible. The Air Asia airplane that brought us to Chennai one hour earlier was about to leave again for Kuala Lumpur. We were at the office more than one hour. Finally, they said ” Answer within 5 minutes, otherwise you will be deported.” We answered a little but it seemed that they didn’t get satisfied with our answer. We were taken to the departure area. Mr. Nakai asked them to allow him to go to washroom, but they refused. Probably they didn’t want us to call some of our Indian friends, or they were waiting us to make domestic phone call. They wanted to know the exact names and telephone number of our friends, so I couldn’t use my cell phone.

 

At the last gate, Mr. Watarida asked a immigration staff why we got deported. He answered that the Indian government directed us to be sent out and that we would be in jail if we didn’t obey. We were taken to the Air Asia airplane and it took off immediately.

 

We were given a paper.  Mine was written as below;

 

WHEREAS Mrs. Yoko Unoda national who arrived at Chennai Airport from Kuala Lumpur on 25/9/2012 by flight No. AK1253 has been refused permission to land in India.

You are hereby directed under para 6 of THE FOREIGNERS ORDER 1948 TO REMOVE THE SAID FOREIGNER Mrs. Yoko Unoda out of India by the same flight or the first available flight failing which you shall be liable for action under the said PARA of Foreigners Order, 1948.

 

We had come to India in peace, to extend our peace and to extend our learnings about the dangers of nuclear power. As Japanese, we should know what the problems are with both the military use and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We are aware that in India, your government has organised international meetings of the nuclear industry, where the people interested in selling nuclear equipment have been invited as state guests to come and flaunt their wares. We have nothing to sell, just our stories about the dangers and pains that nuclear energy will bring you. It is unfortunate that your Government denied us the hospitality that the people of India were extending to us. In a democracy, and particularly with controversial technologies like nuclear energy, it is important that free and fair debate is conducted in a fear-free atmosphere. It is clear that the nuclear establishment in India is not prepared for such a free and fair debate.

 

In Japan, a report of a high level committee set up by the Parliament after Fukushima found that the disaster was made in Japan and was a result of secrecy, the failure of people to question their Governments and the closeness between the regulators and the nuclear energy operators.

 

Your Government’s refusal of entry to us merely because we bear an opinion contrary to theirs on the matter of nuclear energy speaks poorly of your Government’s claims to democratic ideals and free speech. We are fearful of the consequences of deploying a hazardous technology like nuclear power in such a secretive and oppressive context.

 

We could not see people in Koodankulam and those sympathized with them. It is truly regrettable that we could not meet them. However, after being denied entrance, our concern has become more serious and our solidarity has been stronger. Those who push for nuclear energy are closely connected. Globally, there are no boarders when it comes to  nuclear devastation. Then let us overcome the difference of nationalities and languages and make thousands of, ten thousands of comrades to fight for our future without nukes together. We hope to see you in India on next opportunity.

 

Masahiro Watarida(Hiroshima Network against Kaminoseki NPP)

Shinsuke Nakai(Video Journalist)

Yoko Unoda(No Nukes Asia Forum Japan)

 

 

India- Desirability of nuclear power is the real question


 

MADHUMITA DUTTA, The Hindu

  • EXPOSURE LIMIT: While the environmental and health risks of radiation are known, the magnitude of the impact of nuclear accidents takes time to play out in a real world situation.
    APEXPOSURE LIMIT: While the environmental and health risks of radiation are known, the magnitude of the impact of nuclear accidents takes time to play out in a real world situation.

A few days ago, The Hindu carried an article titled “The real questions from Kudankulam” (editorial page, Sept. 14, 2012). Incidentally, it was published a few days after the brutal crackdown by the Tamil Nadu police on the protesting fisherfolk who have been opposing the siting of a nuclear power plant in their midst for over two decades now. The author of the article, a physicist with a reputed scientific research institution, questioned the agency of the protesting fisherfolk by bracketing them as “victims only of unfounded scaremongering” who were purportedly being misled by “educated purveyors.” The article claimed that the debate around Kudankulam has not been a “genuine” one and has been in abstraction, mostly around the “desirability of nuclear power” rather than “mechanisms” to make it safe. The claim being modern technology, maintenance and safety standards will make it “safe.” Notwithstanding of course the ideal scientifically “controlled” conditions vs ground realities. If one looks at the dubious track record of nuclear power plants across the world and its horrendous reputation of regularly exposing its workers and residents to dangerous levels of ionising radiations, the disconnect is pretty obvious.

In 1957, a fault in the cooling system in Kyshtym nuclear complex in Russia led to a chemical explosion and the release of 70-80 tonnes of radioactive material into the air, exposing thousands of people and leading to the evacuation of thousands more. Major accidents, which have killed, maimed and exposed large populations of worker and local residents, have been reported from various other nuclear facilities — Windscale nuclear reactor, U.K. (1957); Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, U.S. (1961); Three Mile Island power plant, U.S. (1979); Chernobyl power plant, Russia (1986); Seversk, Russia (1993); the Tokai-Mura nuclear fuel processing facility, Japan (1989); Mihama power plant, Japan (2004); Fukushima Daiichi power plant, Japan (2011) and the Marcoule nuclear site, France (2011). All these incidents and many more unreported ones including from India have obviously raised questions about the desirability of nuclear energy and any real possibility of it being “safe.” While environmental and health risks of radiation are now scientifically known, the magnitude of the impact of accidents such as a Fukushima or Chernobyl takes a long time to play out in a real world situation. The fact that in each of these places people have not been able to return to their homes, that their lives have never been normal again, and that they constantly live under the shadow of diseases and death makes nuclear energy patently dangerous.

And on top of it, the obtuseness of governments to disclose information related to nuclear, civilian or military, makes it even worse. Take for instance the confession by the Japanese government in June 2012 that it had withheld from the public important radiation maps provided by the U.S. Energy Department post-Fukushima. The information revealed that residents in an area northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were being exposed to their annual permissible dose of radiation within eight hours. This meant that these residents were not evacuated by the government to a safer place, an act that can be termed criminal.

In France, over 20,000-30,000 workers dubbed as “nuclear nomads” are subcontracted annually in the 58 nuclear reactors operated by Électricité de France S.A. (EDF) located in 20 sites which contribute 78 per cent of the electricity produced in the country. EDF subcontracts over 1,000 companies, who employ the “nuclear nomads,” sometimes of foreign origin, to do the dangerous maintenance, repair and clean-up work in these plants, exposing them to ionising radiations. In her book “Nuclear Servitude: Subcontracting and Health in the French Civil Nuclear Industry,” French social scientist Annie Thébaud-Mony has highlighted this division of labour and “risk” by subcontracting dangerous work in the French nuclear power industry. In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, over 18,000 workers were hired to clean-up the power plant, who were all subcontracted to do dangerous radioactive clean-up work. These men, hailed as “national heroes” by many, were actually local residents rendered unemployed by the disaster or were daily wagers from city slums. Since the 1970s, Japan has had a dubious track record of subcontracting maintenance work of reactors to outside companies which hire workers on a short-term basis who remain employed till they reach their radiation exposure limit (Nuclear Nomads: A look at the Sub-contracted Heroes by Gabrielle Hecht in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 9, 2012).

In the case of Kudankulam, the fisherfolk have been raising similar questions. They have been asking to see the disaster management plan which, till date, remains a secret, even under the Right to Information Act. Given the inherent uncertainties of natural disasters, questions about preparedness to mitigate impact of calamities such as tsunami waves of higher magnitude are being asked. An inadequate reserve of fresh water for cooling as well as a lack of back up electricity are concerns that have been raised by people and their expert committee many times but consistently dodged by the government and officials of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. Secrecy shrouds the fate of the radioactive spent fuel, its reprocessing and transportation. All these questions and more remain unanswered. Are all these issues a debate in abstraction? Is questioning the “desirability” of nuclear power not a valid one given the above track record? If this is not concrete, what is?

(Madhumita Dutta is with the Vettiver Collective in Chennai and a volunteer with the Chennai Solidarity Group for Kudankulam Struggle.)

Rahul Siddharthan responds

 

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