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Here’s How Much The Government Shutdown Cost The Economy

Swampland

$24 billion.

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High levels of radiation found in new well at Fukushima plant

The Asahi Shimbun is reporting that high levels of radiation were found in a recently dug well on the seaward side of the plant between reactors 1 and 2. Radiation levels of 400,000 becquerels per liter were found in samples taken from the well Tepco reported on Friday. Contaminants found in the water included strontium.

Strontium is known for being carcinogenic. It tends to mimic calcium and is stored in the bones where it can lead to leukemia or bone cancer.

Readings of 900,000 becquerels per liter were detected in a different well in the same area on July 5.

These two incidents appear to indicate that highly radioactive water flowing thru the basements of the reactors and underground tunnels are escaping into the groundwater.

These findings belie Prime Minister Abe’s continued assurances that the situation is “under control” and effects of radioactive contamination are “perfectly blocked”. The truth of the matter appears that little or nothing has changed since the leakage of radioactive water was first disclosed back in July.

The public realizes this is a difficult problem to solve and may take time to do so. But the public also expects accurate information and assessment of the situation, not meaningless reassurances from Japan’s “Dishonest Abe”.

Japan Agrees To French Help In Dealing With Fukushima

According to ABC News, Japan has made an agreement with France, accepting French help in the process of decommissioning and dismantling the Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant in Fukushima. After 2 and a half years of refusing foreign assistance, this marks a change in Japanese policy.

The agreement was struck between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Francois Hollande after they met on the sidelines of the United Nations meeting in New York. No details as to exactly how the French will help have yet to be disclosed. However France is a leader in nuclear power technology and certainly will bring expertise to the situation.

I believe this is welcome news. The Russians have said that any nuclear accident is an international not national problem. They have also offered to help but no agreement has yet been reached. I think with their experience in dealing with Chernobyl, Japan would be well served to bring the Russians on board. In any event, let’s hope that the agreement between Japan and France marks the start of international cooperation in finding solutions to the many challenges Fukushima poses. This situation affects the whole world and the brightest minds on the planet should be brought in to address it.

Japanese Government Spent Only 40% of Funds Allocated For Fukushima Cleanup

According to an article in the Asahi Shimbun, the Japanese central government in fiscal 2012 withheld more than 60 per cent of the ¥255 billion ($2.57 billion) allocated for radioactive cleanup projects overseen by 36 municipal governments in Fukushima Prefecture.

The central government deposits fund with the prefectural government, which pays for the cost of the work and then sends the bill to Tepco, the operator of the Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant.

Documents from the prefectural government showed that only 40 per cent of the allocated funds were used. 32 municipal governments carried over unused funds with 17 of them using less than half.

Apparently the main reason for these unused funds is taking Tepco’s ability to pay into account. Officials in the municipalities also say that the Environment Ministry often rejects the clean up methods proposed. There has also been delays in finding land for temporarily storing waste. Another issue is a shortage of workers to do the cleanup.

The Environment Ministry holds meetings with municipal government officials to decide on clean up methods. Discussions were held on 284 cleanup issues in fiscal 2012. It can take up to 6 months for a decision to be reached.

Asahi spoke with an official from the Environment Ministry’s Fukushima Office For Environmental Restoration, who said Tepco’s opinion must be taken into account when making decisions. “We cannot approve methods that TEPCO does not approve,” the official explained.

The paper also spoke to a senior official in the central government who agreed with the Environment Ministry’s position. “It’s only natural to negotiate matters so that TEPCO would not refuse payments,” the senior official said.

Tepco has so far refused to pay 15.9 billion yen of the 21.2 billion yen in bills from the central government, citing ambiguities in the decontamination methods. The central government will likely end up picking up the tab for the unpaid bills.

One official from the Fukushima city government was quoted as saying, “The cleanup processes will speed up only if the municipal governments are given the authority to make decisions.”

There is distrust of the central government among municipal government officials who feel the government is being overly strict in regulating the cleanup to lessen the use of funds.

So once again we see Tepco as a hindrance to the decontamination work in Fukushima. And again we see the lack of urgency on the part of the central government. So what if there’s “a bit” of radioactive stuff lying around, we’ll get around to it eventually. Such a blatant disregard towards the public health is both irresponsible and reprehensible.

As far as Tepco’s ability or willingness to pay the expenses of the cleanup, that is completely irrelevant. The responsibility of protecting its citizens from threats to the public health rest squarely on the shoulders of the Japanese government. Does not the government have the authority to force Tepco to pay seizing its assets if necessary?

Why does the central government show more deference towards Tepco than it does towards victims of the accident?Tens of thousands of evacuees are still living in evacuation centers, while the government callously drags its heels on decontamination work that might allow their return. The government can find billions of dollars for building olympic facilities while it scrimps on spending money for the important decontamination work.

It is long past time for the Japanese government to make resolving the issued surrounding the nuclear accident its number one priority. The full resources of the Japanese government must be made available for dealing with the numerous problems in Fukushima. And after more than 2 and a half years, the Japanese government needs to wake up and approach Fukushima with the sense of urgency the situation deserves.

Japanese town protests against Prime Minister Abe’s assertions

Namie is a small town in Fukushima prefecture. After the Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant suffered meltdowns in 3 of its reactors, the entire town of 21,000 people were forced to evacuate. Half the town sits within the mandatory 20 km evacuation zone which surrounds the crippled nuclear plant.

After Prime Minister Abe toured the plant and stated the contaminated water is perfectly blocked by the plant’s artificial bay, the town’s council decided to protest Abe’s statements. The council unanimously adopted a resolution stating Abe’s remarks conflicted with facts on the ground and that the 300 tons of contaminated water leaking from the plant daily was a “serious problem”. The statement also said radioactive water is “far from being controlled or blocked completely.” The statement went on to voice its anger saying, “Members of the town cannot help feeling furious at the government and TEPCO which neglected Fukushima,”

It would appear that people living in the area, whose lives are more directly affected by the situation at the plant hold a much different point of view from Abe’s. As stated previously in this blog, the member of Japan’s upper house who represents Fukushima Prefecture in the country’s Diet, Teruhiko Mashiko, went so far as to say Abe lied in his presentation to the Olympic committee. I have yet to see any evidence that contradicts Mr.Mashiko’s statement.

Japanese Lawmaker says Abe lied to Olympic committee

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared before the International Olympic Committee that the situation at Fukushima was “under control” and that “effects from the contaminated water have been perfectly blocked within the (man made) bay” adjacent to the nuclear plant.

After touring the plant on Thursday, Abe repeated his assurances. He told reporters, “effects from cintaminated water have been perfectly blocked within the bay. By stating this clearly, I want to bring to an end harmful rumors about Fukushima.”

Other government officials have backed Abe’s claims, pointing to monitoring results which show radiation levels within the bay within safety limits set by the government. However, some experts say the levels only remain low because seawater entering the bay is diluting its contents.

In fact Tepco itself admitted that a large volume of water was escaping the bay and entering the ocean. According to a simulation Tepco ran, a maximum of 10 trillion becquerels of radioactive strontium-90 and 20 trillion becquerels of cesium-137 may have already reached the ocean. That doesn’t sound “perfectly contained” to me.

Teruhiko Mashiko, a member of Japan’s diet’s upper house and vice president of the opposition party. The Democratic Party of Japan, said in an interview with The Japan Times, “During the presentation for the Olympic Games, Prime Minister Abe told a lie. This is a big problem. The government should invest more people, money and technologies to turn their lies into truths.” Mr. Mashiko represents Fukushima Prefecture in the diet.

Mashiko has voiced his concerns about the storage tanks holding contaminated water at the plant. Of the more than 1000 tanks at the site, 350 are of the less sturdy flange type instead of the more durable welded tanks. Of the 350, 5 have already sprung leaks. Mashiko also claimed that last spring, a local tank manufactured warned that the tanks were not very good quality and could start linking within 2 years. Tepco approached the tank maker, asking for 6 low cost tanks to be made within a month. The company refused because the quality would have been poor and the contract conditions were bad.

At recent news conferences, a Tepco spokesman has repeatedly refused to comment on Mashiko’s remarks or give any information about storage tank contracts. He stated Tepco does not disclose information about private contracts. Many believe Tepco has been using the cheaper tanks to try and save money on the growing costs of the operation.

Instead of making blanket statements and giving empty reassurances, the Japanese government should be taking action. The area of the plant has been hit by an earthquake and a typhoon in the past week alone. Every single one of those 350 cheaply built tanks should be replaced immediately. The Japanese government needs to stop relying on Tepco to manage the situation. It is abundantly clear that Tepco is not up to the job, nor does it have the confidence or trust of the public.

As far as Mr. Abe is concerned, I think we should start calling him “Dishonest Abe”. (For non Americans “Honest Abe” was a title given to American President Abraham Lincoln.) We need to see actions not just words from Dishonest Abe. Declaring dangerous situations safe and under control is not just dishonest, it is dangerous. It is time for Dishonest Abe to come up with real solutions and not empty platitudes.
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US advice to Japan on avoiding groundwater contamination ignored

Just 2 months after the tsunami caused a triple meltdown at the Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant, the US strongly urged Japan to take immediate steps to avoid groundwater contamination. That advice was ignored.

The advice was given in a memo to Japanese government officials. It urged the building of a barrier wall to prevent the flow of groundwater into the plant. The operator of the plant, Tepco opposed the plan calling it infeasible. Tepco was worried that the news of such a costly project would rattle investors in the company and raise the specter of bankruptcy. The Japanese government sided with Tepco and the plan was shelved.

Now more than 2 years later, the Japanese government has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to create an ice wall to stop the flow of water into the plant which then flows into the Pacific. The ice wall will take nearly 2 years to build while every day 300 tons of highly contaminated water flows into the Pacific.

This issue demonstrates the fundamental flaw in Japan’s approach from the very beginning of the crisis. That flaw is this leaving a financially distressed, for profit company in control of the clean up and decommissioning of the reactors. The Japanese government should have taken charge of the situation from the beginning. Tepco had neither the resources or the proper motivation to manage the situation. Time and time again Tepco has cut corners to save on costs, such as using poorly made storage tanks to contain the contaminated water. 5 of those tanks have already leaked and surely more will follow, since the tanks were not made for long term use.

We are witnessing the daily polluting of the Pacific all because of the concerns of one company about its financial well being. But ultimately the fault rests with the Japanese government in shirking its responsibility to take control and manage the situation. This ceased to be just Tepco’s problem the minute the accident occurred.

Typhoon brings heavy rains to Fukushima

Typhoon Man-yi struck Japan on Monday causing at least 2 fatalities. The typhoon also brought heavy rainfall to the Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant in Fukushima. Workers pumped water out from the storage tank areas where it is believed contaminated water has been seeping into the groundwater. “But we decided to release the water into sea as we reached a conclusion that it can be regarded as rainfall after we monitored levels of radiation,” Tepco spokesman Yo Koshimizu said.

The released water contained strontium and other radioactive substances. According to the Tepco spokesman, the water had radiation readings of 24 berequels per litre, below the 30 berequels per liter limit set by the Japanese government for any releases into the environment. However Koshimizu stated the actual amount of water that was released is unknown.

This just highlights the precarious situation at the plant. If the typhoon had been stronger and approached closer, there could have been much more radiation released. The already heavily damaged buildings of reactors 1,2,3 and 4 have spent fuel pools with thousands of fuel assemblies sitting on top of them.

It is playing radioactive russian roulette to not firmly secure those buildings from possible natural disasters. Removal of the fuel assemblies stored in the pools is set to begin within the next 2 months. It will be a slow, dangerous and painstaking procedure. A collapse of any of the 4 buildings could cause a release of radiation worse than Chernobyl. Just doing some shoring up of the buildings and hoping they don’t collapse before removal of the fuel rods is accomplished is not good enough. Everything possible must be done to secure those buildings. To not do so is testing fate.

One typhoon that did not even hit the plant at full force caused Tepco to release unknown amounts of contaminated water into the sea. What happens when a bigger typhoon comes full force at the plant?

First International Expert Appointed By Tepco

More than 2 years after the Great Hanshin Earthquake and Tsunami devestated the Tohoku region of Japan and caused the triple meltdown of 3 reactors at the Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, Tepco has appointed an international expert as an outside advisor.

Lake Barrett led the clean up effort after the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident. He will now work as an advisor to Tepco in the clean up and decommissioning process. Mr. Barrett is not without controversy. He recently wrote an article for atomic scientists, where he expressed the opinion that water stored at the site should be released into the ocean after it has been filtered to bring the radiation down to safe levels. He is of ghe opinion that the current tanks cannot permanently store the water and building more permanent structures would just be a waste of resources and counterproductive.

In other words, Tepco’s only effort at seeking international help is to find someone who endorses what they already wish to do. I am not impressed. My idea of an international assistance would be an international panel of experts who would review the situation and make recommendations. It seems to me like Mr. Barrett’s appointment is just another in a series of moves to try and manipulate opinion without offering anything new.

The Pacific Ocean belongs to all of mankind. One Japanese fisherman opposed to the dumping put it like this, “They tell us the dumping is safe, but they also told us nuclear power is safe.” Dumping into the Pacific may be the most convenient and economical way to dispose of the thousands of tons of contaminated water being stored at the site, but that does not mean it is the wise one. The decision should not be left up to the Japanese alone, the international community should oppose the further dumping of any radioactive products into the Pacific and come up with a safer alternative. Mr. Barrett is just one man and does not represent the rest of the world regardless of his expertise or credentials.

Tepco Scrambles at Damage Control

Tepco was scrambling Friday to do damage control after one of its senior executives contradicted the Prime Minister’s assurances that the situation was “under control”.

The executive, Kazuhiko Yamashita was speaking at a hearing in Fukushima prefecture. When asked about Prime Minister Abe’s remarks to the International Olympic Committee, he said, “I think the current situation is that it is not under control.”

Tepco later issued a statement that read :“It is our understanding that the Prime Minister intended his statement ‘the situation is under control’ to mean that the impact of radioactive materials is limited to the area within the port of the power station, and that the densities of radioactive materials on the surrounding waters are far below the referential densities and have not been on continuous upward trends. According to this understanding, we share the same views.” The company also said that Yamashita was aware that the contaminated water was only affecting the inner part of the harbor.

It seems Tepco and the Japanese government are more concerned about appearances than substance. When someone comes forward and speaks honestly, it is downplayed and spun to mean something else. It is long past time for word games and subtleties. The people of Japan and the entire international community deserve a frank assessment of the situation. It is natural for any government to try and reassure its people in the face of difficulty, but when those reassurances veer from the truth, it only causes more anxiety. I hope Mr.Abe will stop playing politics and be more open and honest when he addresses this issue. Not only Japan, but the whole world is listening.

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