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Japan Watch Thread

Japan Shinzō Abe China Korea sci-tech military politics USA East Asia Pacific

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#1
wjfox

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http://aljazeera.com...4828302638.html


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Fukushima: It's much worse than you think

Scientific experts believe Japan's nuclear disaster to be far worse than governments are revealing to the public.

Dahr Jamail
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2011

"Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind," Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, told Al Jazeera.

Japan's 9.0 earthquake on March 11 caused a massive tsunami that crippled the cooling systems at the Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan. It also led to hydrogen explosions and reactor meltdowns that forced evacuations of those living within a 20km radius of the plant.

Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience, managing and coordinating projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the US, says the Fukushima nuclear plant likely has more exposed reactor cores than commonly believed.

"Fukushima has three nuclear reactors exposed and four fuel cores exposed," he said, "You probably have the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactor cores because of the fuel cores, and they are all in desperate need of being cooled, and there is no means to cool them effectively."

TEPCO has been spraying water on several of the reactors and fuel cores, but this has led to even greater problems, such as radiation being emitted into the air in steam and evaporated sea water - as well as generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive sea water that has to be disposed of.

"The problem is how to keep it cool," says Gundersen. "They are pouring in water and the question is what are they going to do with the waste that comes out of that system, because it is going to contain plutonium and uranium. Where do you put the water?"

Even though the plant is now shut down, fission products such as uranium continue to generate heat, and therefore require cooling.

"The fuels are now a molten blob at the bottom of the reactor," Gundersen added. "TEPCO announced they had a melt through. A melt down is when the fuel collapses to the bottom of the reactor, and a melt through means it has melted through some layers. That blob is incredibly radioactive, and now you have water on top of it. The water picks up enormous amounts of radiation, so you add more water and you are generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive water."

Independent scientists have been monitoring the locations of radioactive "hot spots" around Japan, and their findings are disconcerting.

"We have 20 nuclear cores exposed, the fuel pools have several cores each, that is 20 times the potential to be released than Chernobyl," said Gundersen. "The data I'm seeing shows that we are finding hot spots further away than we had from Chernobyl, and the amount of radiation in many of them was the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man's-land for Chernobyl. We are seeing square kilometres being found 60 to 70 kilometres away from the reactor. You can't clean all this up. We still have radioactive wild boar in Germany, 30 years after Chernobyl."

Radiation monitors for children

Japan's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters finally admitted earlier this month that reactors 1, 2, and 3 at the Fukushima plant experienced full meltdowns.

TEPCO announced that the accident probably released more radioactive material into the environment than Chernobyl, making it the worst nuclear accident on record.

Meanwhile, a nuclear waste advisor to the Japanese government reported that about 966 square kilometres near the power station - an area roughly 17 times the size of Manhattan - is now likely uninhabitable.

In the US, physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published an essay shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant.

The eight cities included in the report are San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, and Boise, and the time frame of the report included the ten weeks immediately following the disaster.

"There is and should be concern about younger people being exposed, and the Japanese government will be giving out radiation monitors to children," Dr MV Ramana, a physicist with the Programme on Science and Global Security at Princeton University who specialises in issues of nuclear safety, told Al Jazeera.

Dr Ramana explained that he believes the primary radiation threat continues to be mostly for residents living within 50km of the plant, but added: "There are going to be areas outside of the Japanese government's 20km mandatory evacuation zone where radiation is higher. So that could mean evacuation zones in those areas as well."

Gundersen points out that far more radiation has been released than has been reported.

"They recalculated the amount of radiation released, but the news is really not talking about this," he said. "The new calculations show that within the first week of the accident, they released 2.3 times as much radiation as they thought they released in the first 80 days."

According to Gundersen, the exposed reactors and fuel cores are continuing to release microns of caesium, strontium, and plutonium isotopes. These are referred to as "hot particles".

"We are discovering hot particles everywhere in Japan, even in Tokyo," he said. "Scientists are finding these everywhere. Over the last 90 days these hot particles have continued to fall and are being deposited in high concentrations. A lot of people are picking these up in car engine air filters."

Radioactive air filters from cars in Fukushima prefecture and Tokyo are now common, and Gundersen says his sources are finding radioactive air filters in the greater Seattle area of the US as well.

The hot particles on them can eventually lead to cancer.

"These get stuck in your lungs or GI tract, and they are a constant irritant," he explained, "One cigarette doesn't get you, but over time they do. These [hot particles] can cause cancer, but you can't measure them with a Geiger counter. Clearly people in Fukushima prefecture have breathed in a large amount of these particles. Clearly the upper West Coast of the US has people being affected. That area got hit pretty heavy in April."

Blame the US?

In reaction to the Fukushima catastrophe, Germany is phasing out all of its nuclear reactors over the next decade. In a referendum vote this Monday, 95 per cent of Italians voted in favour of blocking a nuclear power revival in their country. A recent newspaper poll in Japan shows nearly three-quarters of respondents favour a phase-out of nuclear power in Japan.

Why have alarms not been sounded about radiation exposure in the US?

Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama's biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was senator. Exelon has donated more than $269,000 to his political campaigns, thus far. Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.

Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan.
He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.

"Most of the reactors in Japan were designed by US companies who did not care for the effects of earthquakes," Dr Sawada told Al Jazeera. "I think this problem applies to all nuclear power stations across Japan."

Using nuclear power to produce electricity in Japan is a product of the nuclear policy of the US, something Dr Sawada feels is also a large component of the problem.

"Most of the Japanese scientists at that time, the mid-1950s, considered that the technology of nuclear energy was under development or not established enough, and that it was too early to be put to practical use," he explained. "The Japan Scientists Council recommended the Japanese government not use this technology yet, but the government accepted to use enriched uranium to fuel nuclear power stations, and was thus subjected to US government policy."

As a 13-year-old, Dr Sawada experienced the US nuclear attack against Japan from his home, situated just 1400 metres from the hypocentre of the Hiroshima bomb.

"I think the Fukushima accident has caused the Japanese people to abandon the myth that nuclear power stations are safe," he said. "Now the opinions of the Japanese people have rapidly changed. Well beyond half the population believes Japan should move towards natural electricity."

A problem of infinite proportions

Dr Ramana expects the plant reactors and fuel cores to be cooled enough for a shutdown within two years.
"But it is going to take a very long time before the fuel can be removed from the reactor," he added. "Dealing with the cracking and compromised structure and dealing with radiation in the area will take several years, there's no question about that."

Dr Sawada is not as clear about how long a cold shutdown could take, and said the problem will be "the effects from caesium-137 that remains in the soil and the polluted water around the power station and underground. It will take a year, or more time, to deal with this".

Gundersen pointed out that the units are still leaking radiation.

"They are still emitting radioactive gases and an enormous amount of radioactive liquid," he said. "It will be at least a year before it stops boiling, and until it stops boiling, it's going to be cranking out radioactive steam and liquids."

Gundersen worries about more earthquake aftershocks, as well as how to cool two of the units.

"Unit four is the most dangerous, it could topple," he said. "After the earthquake in Sumatra there was an 8.6 [aftershock] about 90 days later, so we are not out of the woods yet. And you're at a point where, if that happens, there is no science for this, no one has ever imagined having hot nuclear fuel lying outside the fuel pool. They've not figured out how to cool units three and four."

Gundersen's assessment of solving this crisis is grim.

"Units one through three have nuclear waste on the floor, the melted core, that has plutonium in it, and that has to be removed from the environment for hundreds of thousands of years," he said. "Somehow, robotically, they will have to go in there and manage to put it in a container and store it for infinity, and that technology doesn't exist. Nobody knows how to pick up the molten core from the floor, there is no solution available now for picking that up from the floor."

Dr Sawada says that the creation of nuclear fission generates radioactive materials for which there is simply no knowledge informing us how to dispose of the radioactive waste safely.

"Until we know how to safely dispose of the radioactive materials generated by nuclear plants, we should postpone these activities so as not to cause further harm to future generations," he explained. "To do otherwise is simply an immoral act, and that is my belief, both as a scientist and as a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing."

Gundersen believes it will take experts at least ten years to design and implement the plan.

"So ten to 15 years from now maybe we can say the reactors have been dismantled, and in the meantime you wind up contaminating the water," Gundersen said. "We are already seeing Strontium [at] 250 times the allowable limits in the water table at Fukushima. Contaminated water tables are incredibly difficult to clean. So I think we will have a contaminated aquifer in the area of the Fukushima site for a long, long time to come."

Unfortunately, the history of nuclear disasters appears to back Gundersen's assessment.

"With Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and now with Fukushima, you can pinpoint the exact day and time they started," he said, "But they never end."

Follow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail

#2
Caiman

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Gundersen's assessment of solving this crisis is grim.


This is a really disturbing article. I think history might look back darkly on the way that the Japanese government handled this one, actually- I understand there's a delicate balance in trying not to cause panic and control the situation but they really should have declared this disaster wide open and sought a much faster and larger effort to get a handle on what unfolded at Fukushima.

This whole thing is a blow for civilian nuclear power, without a doubt. While the process itself is largely safe, it's just proving too much of a risk when exposed to factors beyond our control, once in a lifetime is too much for an accident of this magnitude.
~Jon

#3
Dead Redshirt

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I've always thought it was. China has always been a country that has wanted to show the world to be a strong-willed country, much in the same way it didn't want the world to know what was going on with Tibet before the Beijing Olympics. They've always been one to show a happy face to the world.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton - 1950 - 2011

#4
Craven

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Is it too much risk? We're talking about trillions of clean Kilowatt hours every year. And 99,9% of time safe. Will you ban razor blades because people from time to time hurt themselves with them? But that's wrong example since it wasn't intentional, it was bloody once-in-century earthquake... I wonder if they can't just do it like in Chernobyl, seal it with concrete sarcophagus. It's not very elegant way but if they say there's no method to extract molten cores from plant, they should seal it.
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"I walk alone and do no evil, having only a few wishes, just like an elephant in the forest."

"Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Weep, and you weep alone."

#5
Caiman

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I am by no means an opponent to nuclear technology, but I just don't think there's any comparable analogy to use in terms of the repercussions of a nuclear disaster like this one. Perhaps it will bolster research efforts and investment into clean fusion technologies?
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~Jon

#6
Dead Redshirt

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I agree. It's very hard to compare and I think by even comparing, we might be doing a disservice to those who were affected in this. The interesting thing that my Dad explained to me was that while North American reactors are water-cooled, the ones China uses aren't and that because of that the damage is worse than it could have been with water cooled reactors.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton - 1950 - 2011

#7
Azevo

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Is it too much risk? We're talking about trillions of clean Kilowatt hours every year. And 99,9% of time safe. Will you ban razor blades because people from time to time hurt themselves with them? But that's wrong example since it wasn't intentional, it was bloody once-in-century earthquake...


I wonder if they can't just do it like in Chernobyl, seal it with concrete sarcophagus. It's not very elegant way but if they say there's no method to extract molten cores from plant, they should seal it.


Those Sarcophagus deteriorate over time, even now they are having to replace the one at Chernobyl and lord knows how much that will cost. Nuclear plants are still a risk, even if it is small, they do however, become an even bigger risk when they are placed in area which are prone to natural disasters of such frequency like Japan is.

In New Zealand a Nuclear plant would be one of the most dumbest and risky ways of providing energy to this country, a country known for it's earthquakes and sleeping volcanoes, that is why we have invested in wind farms and hydro power and soon to be tidal power facility up north. The only place I feel a nuclear plant is safe and a viable source of energy, is far, far away from any town or city, where it cannot be subject to a natural disaster.

#8
Shimmy

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nuclear power is perfectly safe if used properly. The Fukushima reactors were decades out of date and didn't have the appropriate safeguards. Any modern western reactor built with earthquakes in mind would easily be able to handle even a "once in century" earthquake like this one without causing any widespread damage. The moves by several european countries to cancel their nuclear building programs are ridiculous and have no basis in science or safety but simply in the ignorance and irrational fear of their citizens. Also, this is from Al Jazeera and is a very biased article (although done in a subtle way) as most of their news is. The facts have been exagerated and twisted significantly to make nuclear power and america look bad.
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#9
Time_Traveller

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From faulty spacecraft to two damaged facilities, the past year has been a tough year for Japan’s astronomical programs. Yes despite the setbacks, Japan has already begun working to fix every problem they’ve faced in this difficult year.


From http://www.universet...uki-250x200.jpg

Well i hope the test does well then they can do a orbital insertion in November 2015.
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#10
Time_Traveller

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Japan's beleaguered Prime Minister Naoto Kan has announced his resignation, clearing the way for the country's sixth leader in five years.


From http://www.bbc.co.uk.../world-14675445

I was wondering who would be the next PM of Japan.
I want to go ahead of Father Time with a scythe of my own.

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#11
wjfox

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Moved. Please post news stories about current events in the news section.

#12
Time_Traveller

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At least 19 people have been killed and more than 50 are missing after powerful Typhoon Talas ripped through western Japan, local media reports.


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From http://www.bbc.co.uk...acific-14778719

That's what Japan needs a Typoon, they just had a Earthquake a couple of months back.
I want to go ahead of Father Time with a scythe of my own.

H. G. Wells

#13
Time_Traveller

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A big earthquake is much more likely to hit the Japanese capital, Tokyo, in the next few years than the government has predicted, researchers say.

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From http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/16681136

I think the next Earthquake may be worse than the one in March 2011 and may cripple/destroy the capital.

Edited by Time_Traveller, 23 January 2012 - 07:38 PM.

I want to go ahead of Father Time with a scythe of my own.

H. G. Wells

#14
mic of orion

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:( II feel sorry for japan, first tsunami and now feer of major earthquake, I mean one would think Japanese are being punished for something they did in their past ?
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They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

#15
Time_Traveller

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:(

II feel sorry for japan, first tsunami and now feer of major earthquake, I mean one would think Japanese are being punished for something they did in their past ?


Well they are on 4 Tectonic Plates (N. American, Eurasian, Phillipines Plate and Pacific Plate), so a bad place to be in the world. :negative:

Edited by Time_Traveller, 23 January 2012 - 08:00 PM.

I want to go ahead of Father Time with a scythe of my own.

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#16
Craven

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It's God's punishment for creating disgusting porn and censoring nice porn.
"I walk alone and do no evil, having only a few wishes, just like an elephant in the forest."

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#17
H3llion

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:(

II feel sorry for japan, first tsunami and now feer of major earthquake, I mean one would think Japanese are being punished for something they did in their past ?


Same, why so much shitstorm for Japan? Hope it goes better for them, they don't need more shit after what happend last year :(


It's God's punishment for creating disgusting porn and censoring nice porn.


Haha, I seen some weird porn but only images while looking through Asian .... Never clicked on it.... cba getting scared for life.... But yeah true, true! xD

Edited by iCFX, 23 January 2012 - 11:36 PM.


#18
GNR Rvolution

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Well if you will build a whole bunch of nuclear reactors in a geologically unstable location, you gotta expect a little fallout...
All right, brain. You don't like me and I don't like you, but let's just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.

#19
themethod

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It's God's punishment for creating disgusting porn and censoring nice porn.


well, in that case, Americans are the one who should be punished (google why japanese porn is censored)

Edited by themethod, 25 January 2012 - 03:40 AM.


#20
Craven

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Damn you Americans!!!
"I walk alone and do no evil, having only a few wishes, just like an elephant in the forest."

"Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Weep, and you weep alone."





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