Nuclear Reactors 214 - Japanese Media Practicing Self-censorship and Not Criticizing the Japanese Government

         I have often blogged about the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March of 2011. The current Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, has made nuclear power a major part of his economic development plan for Japan. Despite public opposition, he is working to restart the idled fleet of Japan's nuclear power reactors. He is also promoting the manufacture and export of nuclear technology to other countries. Japan passed a law after Fukushima that appears to be aimed at suppressing media coverage of those who oppose Abe's plan and try of offer evidence against his claims about the benefits of nuclear power and nuclear technology exports.

         In the past, the Japanese media often spoke truth to power. Now the national media appears to be losing its passion for challenging powerful interests. Although the new law is vague, the Japanese government has succeeded in sending a message to the media. If they criticize the government position with respect to Fukushima, the nuclear industry and/or the government nuclear regulatory agencies, they risk losing access to high level officials in corporations and government. This has led to the practice of "self-censorship" where media organizations voluntarily stay away from sensitive subjects such as the nuclear contamination caused by Fukushima, corporate corruption and failure of government regulatory agencies.

         PM Abe appointed Katsuto Momii to be chairman of NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation, the national public broadcasting organization and the largest media organization in Japan. It operates two terrestrial TV stations, two satellite TV stations and three radio stations. After his appointment, Momii said "We cannot say left when the government says right." An Abe aide sent a letter to media organizations late last year that demanded "fair" campaign coverage. Many in the media saw the letter as a threat to their government access if they were too critical. Prior media self-censorship usually involved the Imperial Family.

         A former NHK producer and current professor of media studies at Musashi University says that "Criticism of the government has dropped sharply." A producer of a major nightly television news show was reassigned to a new position because she would not follow internal warnings about not criticizing the Abe government. Shigeaki Koga, a guest commentator on the same news show, will be dropped in March because he criticized the way that the Abe government dealt with the killing of two Japanese hostages of ISIS. The network producing the news show denied that they had made any decisions with respect to anchors or guests on the show.

         A government representative said that the airing of the segment criticizing how the hostage crisis was handled showed that there was press freedom in Japan. However, just this month, three thousand people including journalists, scholars and other people involved in the Japanese media, signed a statement of concern over press freedom. As Koga, the guest commentator on the news show, put it, "We’ve reached the stage where even without the government doing anything, mass media produce articles that cozy up to authorities or refrain from criticism. The public is not getting the right information to make decisions.”

Japan Broadcasting Corporation logo:

Geiger Readings for February 26, 2014

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 90 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 80  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 77 nanosieverts per hour
Carrot from Central Market = 87  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 93 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 79 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Weapons 123 - Three Scenarios of North Korean Nuclear Weapons Development in the Next Five Years

         North Korea has been in the news recently with respect to the theft of electronic records from the Sony studios in Los Angeles, California. They have also been making the usual threats to annihilate the U.S. with a rain of nuclear warheads. It is though that they may have between ten and sixteen nuclear bombs made of plutonium and/or weapons grade uranium but it is doubted that they have the missile technology necessary to reach the continental U.S. Now there is a new report on the North Korean nuclear weapons programs.

         Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and David Albright, a nuclear nonproliferation expert are embarking on a fifteen month study involving North Korean nuclear weapons. The study is taking place at the Washington, D.C. Institute for Science and International Security. It is a project of the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Combining satellite imagery, media coverage of North Korea and their extensive knowledge of nuclear proliferation, Wit and Albright created three different scenarios about possible North Korean progress during the years from 2009 to 2014 which followed the  collapse, in 2008, of international six-party talks dealing with the N.K nuclear weapons programs. The report concludes that these five years were very productive for the N.K. nuclear weapons program. Contrary to popular opinion, the Institute concluded that N.K. already has plutonium warheads that are small enough to install on medium-range and intercontinental-range missiles.

        The first scenario has N.K. doubling its stockpile of nuclear warhead to about twenty with yields of about ten kilotons each by 2020. These plutonium warheads could be miniaturize enough to be mounted on intermediate-range and shorter-range ballistic missiles. The second and most likely scenario would see N.K. continue on its current course and producing fifty nuclear warheads by 2020. The third and worst case scenario finds N.K. growing its stockpile of nuclear bombs to over one hundred with yields between twenty and fifty kilotons by 2020. This scenario includes N.K. making major advances in designing tactical weapons that could be deployed on battlefields.

       Even though there are a variety of international sanctions against the spread of nuclear weapons technology, N.K. can still obtain nuclear technology in various ways including purchasing through Chinese front companies and smuggling across the Chinese-North Korean border. The U.S. is concerned that some of the technology currently being supplied to China for Chinese nuclear projects may wind up in N.K. The U.S. Congress is considering implementing harsher sanctions against foreign companies working with N.K.

        N.K. already has missiles that can reach South Korea and Japan. In the future, they may produce a few Taepodong space launch vehicles that could be repurposed missiles for attacking the U.S. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that "The United States remains committed to the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and will continue — in close consultation with our allies — to bring pressure to bear on North Korea in support of that goal." The U.S. and other major powers are trying to find a way to bring N.K. back to the negotiating table. It is understood that the more nuclear weapons that N.K. has, the more difficult it will be to convince them to surrender them.

Geiger Readings for February 25, 2014

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 104 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 96  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 134 nanosieverts per hour
Bartlett pear from Central Market = 93  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 98  nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 91 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactor 213 - Lawsuit in Japan Challenges TEPCO Immunity from Liability for Fukushima Distaster

         I have blogged a lot about the March 11, 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. I have also posted hundreds of links to articles about the situation at Fukushima as well as the social, political, economic and public health repercussions. There is widespread evidence of illegal activity and corruption at Fukushima as well as the agencies of the Japanese government that are supposed to regulate nuclear power plants. The government has passed harsh laws against citizens who reveal information about the nuclear disaster that contradicts the official government position. Despite overwhelming rejection of nuclear power by the majority of the Japanese people, Prime Minister Abe forges ahead with his plan to restart the idled nuclear reactors and to export nuclear technology.

       In October of 2014, a lawsuit pertaining to the Fukushima disaster and its aftermath was filed in Japan. Lawyers filing the lawsuit are representing one thousand four hundred and fifteen plaintiffs including thirty eight people who resided in Fukushima and three hundred and fifty seven people who live outside of Japan. Named in the suit are the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Toshiba, Hitachi and General Electric (GE). GE manufactured the reactors for Fukushima. Toshiba, Hitachi and General Electric were the companies that manufactured the tanks that were developed to hold radioactive liquids. The lawsuit holds the defendants responsible for the Fukushima disaster and all the damage that it caused.

       In the past, manufactures and operators have been granted immunity from liability for accidents. Governments have granted this immunity because no insurance company in the world would offer insurance against nuclear accidents when the nuclear age began. This lawsuit is an major attempt to overturn this international policy.

      The Japanese government and TEPCO have been accused of hiding information about the Fukushima disaster and the damage it caused so that the public would not know about the irresponsibility of the Japanese nuclear industry. TEPCO repeatedly lied about the amount of radiation that was and still is being released. TEPCO lied about having enough manpower to deal with the Fukushima cleanup when labor subcontractors said that there was a shortage of manpower. Inaccurate information has hampered cleanup efforts in Japan and discouraged the international aid that many experts say will be required to deal with the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

      Prior to this lawsuit, GE which designed and built the Mark I Boiling Water Reactors that melted down at Fukushima, has not been held accountable for the Fukushima disaster. Critics of GE claim that the corporation escaped accountability because it had  close ties to the Obama administration in the U.S. These reactors have been criticized since the early 1970s because they are particularly vulnerable to the build-up of hydrogen gas which can result in explosions and rupture of the containment vessel. There are currently twenty of the GE Mark I nuclear reactors operating in the U.S. that pose a serious threat to the ecosystem and public health. Another accident involving a Mark I reactor is virtually inevitable.

GE Mark I Boiling Water Reactor Diagram:


Geiger Readings for February 24, 2014

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 85 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 130  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 126 nanosieverts per hour
Mango from Central Market = 81  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 123  nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 108 nanosieverts per hour

Radioactive Waste 119 - The World Health Organization Refuses To Release Study on the Effects of Depleted Uranium on the Health of the Iraqi People

         Most naturally occurring uranium is U-238 which is mildly radioactive. When the tiny amount of highly-radioactive U-235 in uranium ore is extracted and concentrated to make uranium fuel and nuclear weapons, the U-238 that is left in the processed ore is called "depleted uranium." It is very dense and makes excellent projectiles for use in munitions. Cynics said that it was a way for weapons makers to turn a radioactive waste product into a useful material for making conventional munitions.

         During the Iraq War, it is estimated that the U.S. used between one and two metric tons of DU in munitions exploded in Iraq. These munitions left huge amounts of DU dust and fragments of contaminated metal scattered over cities, battlefields and the country side of Iraq. Critics have claimed that the low-level radioactivity of DU causes serious human health problems like cancer and birth defects. Others have rejected this claim and said that DU has not caused any health problems in Iraq. There have been numerous reports from Iraq about an increase in cancers and birth defects following the Iraq war. These findings have been vigorously challenged by other researchers. The debate rages on over claims of widespread radiation damage to human health in Iraq.

         The World Health Organization has conducted studies on the aftermath of U.S. use of DU during bombings and battles in Iraq during the 2003 war. The WHO report on cancers and birth defects was supposed to be released in November of 2012. It is now over two years later and apparently the officials at WHO are indefinitely delaying the release of the report. In response to calls for release of the study, WHO says that the report is "classified" and that the conclusions need to be verified by a "team of independent scientists." Critics of WHO says that the organization is protecting the U.S. government and military from being held accountable for the horrible impact of DU on the people of Iraq.

        Mozhgan Savabieasfahani worked on a peer-reviewed study of the DU impact on the health of Iraqis. She said "Thirty-five million Iraqis wake up every morning to a living nightmare of childhood cancers, adult cancers and birth defects. Familial cancers, cluster cancers and multiple cancers in the same individual have become frequent in Iraq. Why, then, does the WHO refuse to release its study?" She also said that release of the WHO report “will enable researchers to collaborate, ask the most relevant questions and spearhead research to remedy this health emergency.”

        In an article in the Guardian newspaper, John Pilger reports that Hans von Sponeck, the former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, recently said that "The US government sought to prevent WHO from surveying areas in southern Iraq where DU had been used and caused serious health and environmental dangers."

        The last time that I talked about DU on this blog, a reader attacked me viciously, saying that I didn't know anything about DU and that DU was perfectly safe. He was ex-military or maybe not so "ex." The U.S. government and military would be open to legal action if it could be proven that DU seriously damaged the health of many Iraqi civilians and that the U.S. government was aware of the dangers of DU before the war. Calls for more research should be accompanied by calls for the release of the WHO DU report.

Geiger Readings for February 23, 2014

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 121 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 115  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 108 nanosieverts per hour
Avacado from Costco = 71  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 89  nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 81 nanosieverts per hour

Geiger Readings for February 22, 2014

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 105 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 66  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 71 nanosieverts per hour
Crimini mushroom from Costco = 111  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 91  nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 76 nanosieverts per hour