"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Energy’

On The 3rd Anniversary Of The Triple Meltdown At The Fukushima Nuclear Plant A Look Back At The Cover Up

In Uncategorized on March 12, 2014 at 5:16 pm

https://i2.wp.com/blogs.cas.suffolk.edu/andreyrus95/files/2013/03/d2.jpgOldspeak: “I believe that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima was one of the—or was definitely the largest, most severe of all nuclear disasters, including going above Chernobyl. The reason for this, as I mentioned before, is the accident itself in Chernobyl was of course immense, but it was one reactor in this case. In the case of Fukushima, we have the meltdown, the melt-through of three reactors, and not only this, but the high number of spent fuel pools also. And even now, radioactive material is continuing to be released in Fukushima. And this is having a very long-lasting effect that will continue from now. So because of this, I believe that the disaster at Fukushima was larger than that of Chernobyl and is still continuing today.” -Naoto Kan, Former Prime Minister of Japan

“When a head of state tells the truth like this, it is wise to pay attention. This is an unprecedented, uncontrolled and ongoing nuclear catastrophe. TEPCO has no idea where the 3 melted down reactor cores are. 300 tons of radioactive water is leaking into the Pacific every day. Meanwhile, there are discussions about dumping all 300,000 tons of radioactive water currently stored in leaking storage tanks at the site into the Pacific! This would be in direct violation of the 1972 London Dumping Convention, prohibiting dumping of radioactive materials into the oceans. And with environmental and nuclear regulatory agencies bought and paid for by the nuclear industry, you can expect this cover up and stream of lies to continue unabated. The pacific ocean as result of unfixable disaster and acidification via global warming is slowing being turned into a deadly soup of radioactive carbonic acid. One giant dead zone. And to think this all could have been avoided if the Fukushima was built 35 meters above sea level as recommended instead of 10 meters above sea level because it was cheaper to do so. Alas, Profit is Paramount, and the ecology as always, gets fucked.” -OSJ

By George Washington @ Zero Hedge:

An ECONOMIC Expert – Rather than a NUCLEAR Expert – Briefed Japanese Prime Minister on Condition of Fukushima Reactors

The Japanese Prime Minister at the time of the Fukushima disaster – Naoto Kan – told Democracy Now:

NAOTO KAN: Even at the night of that first day of March 11, what I was being told, being reported, was that the water levels were safely above the level of where the fuel rods were located within the container. And, however, now we know that actually the measuring equipment to measure the water level was broken at that time. And only four hours after the earthquake occurred, actually, was when it experienced meltdown in the reactor one. And even through the container of thickness 20 centimeters, there was actually a hole being burned through, and melted fuel had been actually leaking through to the outside of the container. And now we know this information, that this was happening at 7:00 p.m. approximately on that day. But at the time, none of this information was accurately conveyed to me.

***

It was a situation very close to what we call perhaps the “China syndrome.”

***

And it was very difficult to obtain accurate information and to know what was really happening. And so, the next morning at around 6:00 a.m., very early, I decided that the best thing to do would be to speak directly with the person responsible at the site. So I departed at 6:00 a.m. by helicopter to go to the Fukushima Daiichi site. And there, I met with Mr. Yoshida, who was the person responsible at the plant, and he explained to me about the situation, from his perspective, which was occurring on the site. And he was a very clearly spoken man, which meant that it was very much a plus in terms of considering how to deal with the situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Wasn’t TEPCO management saying the same thing to you as this man you spoke to, the head of the actual plant, when you flew there?

NAOTO KAN: From what I was hearing from the headquarters of TEPCO, and in particular from Mr. Takeguro, who was the former vice president, was—had almost no accurate information being conveyed about what was actually the situation on site.

And one other important and serious issue at the time also was, in the case of a nuclear disaster, the system which was in place, well, the prime minister and the prime minister’s office would be in the head of, you know, the measures to be taken, the office, of what to be done from there. But the bureaucratic organization which was established to support that function was within the NISA, which is actually located within the Ministry of the Economy. And so, the person who was seconded to explain to me from the NISA about what was happening was actually not an expert on nuclear issues or nuclear power, but an economic expert. And so, through his explanation, it was impossible to know the actual situation of what was happening in the reactor.

This is not the first time Tepco has been less than honest:

  • Tepco admitted that it’s known for 2 years that massive amounts of radioactive water are leaking into the groundwater and Pacific Ocean, but covered it up
  • Tepco falsely claimed that all of the radiation was somehow contained in the harbor right outside the nuclear plants

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Blatantly Covered Up Significance of Fukushima

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is owned, captured and controlled by the nuclear industry.

It uses faulty models which put us all at risk, and pushes propaganda for the nuclear industry.

While the NRC was extremely worried about the U.S. West Coast  getting hit by Fukushima radiation, it publicly said that everything was safe and under control.

NBC News reports (in some excellent investigive journalism):

In the tense days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan on March 11, 2011, staff at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission made a concerted effort to play down the risk of earthquakes and tsunamis to America’s aging nuclear plants ….

The emails, obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, show that the campaign to reassure the public about America’s nuclear industry came as the agency’s own experts were questioning U.S. safety standards and scrambling to determine whether new rules were needed to ensure that the meltdown occurring at the Japanese plant could not occur here.

At the end of that long first weekend of the crisis three years ago, NRC Public Affairs Director Eliot Brenner thanked his staff for sticking to the talking points that the team had been distributing to senior officials and the public.

“While we know more than these say,” Brenner wrote, “we’re sticking to this story for now.”

***

The NRC staff recognized immediately the public-relations nightmare that Fukushima presented for nuclear power in the United States. More than 30 of America’s 100 nuclear power reactors have the same brand of General Electric reactors or containment system used in Fukushima.

In fact, NRC whistleblowers say that the risk of a meltdown in the U.S. is even higher than it was at Fukushima.

Yet the NRC has actually weakened safety standards for U.S. nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster.

NBC continues:

There are numerous examples in the emails of apparent misdirection or concealment in the initial weeks after the Japanese plant was devastated … :

  • Trying to distance the U.S. agency from the Japanese crisis, an NRC manager told staff to hide from reporters the presence of Japanese engineers in the NRC’s operations center in Maryland.
  • If asked whether the Diablo Canyon Power Plant on the California coast could withstand the same size tsunami that had hit Japan, spokespeople were told not to reveal that NRC scientists were still studying that question. As for whether Diablo could survive an earthquake of the same magnitude, “We’re not so sure about, but again we are not talking about that,” said one email.
  • When skeptical news articles appeared, the NRC dissuaded news organizations from using the NRC’s own data on earthquake risks at U.S. nuclear plants, including the Indian Point Energy Center near New York City.
  • And when asked to help reporters explain what would happen during the worst-case scenario — a nuclear meltdown — the agency declined to address the questions.

Some of the nuclear industry bias can bee seen in the following quotes from NBC:

When Steven Dolley, former research director of the NCI and a reporter for McGraw Hill Financial’s newsletter Inside NRC, asked McIntyre for a nuclear containment expert to speak to a reporter, the spokesman asked if the reporter had contacted the industry’s lobbying group, the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Dolley asked, “So, should I say NRC is deferring inquiries to NEI?” suggesting that the NRC was deferring to the industry it is supposed to regulate.

McIntyre shared this exchange with his bosses, adding the comment, “F—ing a-hole.”

And some of the rampant hypocrisy is seen in the difference between public and private NRC talking points:

“Q. What happens when/if a plant ‘melts down’?

“Public Answer: In short, nuclear power plants in the United States are designed to be safe. To prevent the release of radioactive material, there are multiple barriers between the radioactive material and the environment, including the fuel cladding, the heavy steel reactor vessel itself and the containment building, usually a heavily reinforced structure of concrete and steel several feet thick.

“Additional, non-technical, non-public information: The melted core may melt through the bottom of the vessel and flow onto the concrete containment floor. The core may melt through the containment liner and release radioactive material to the environment.”

***

When reporters asked if the Japanese emergency could affect licensing of new reactors in the U.S., the public answer was “It is not appropriate to hypothesize on such a future scenario at this point.”

The non-public information was more direct: This event could potentially call into question the NRC’s seismic requirements, which could require the staff to re-evaluate the staff’s approval of the AP1000 and ESBWR (the newest reactor designs from Westinghouse and General Electric) design and certifications.”

Moreover, the U.S. has long controlled Japanese nuclear policy.  And yet, NBC reports that the U.S. covered up U.S. involvement in the Fukushima crisis:

Brenner, the public affairs director, sent a “great work so far” memo to his staff at HQ and around the U.S. His third bullet point highlighted he NRC’s role in helping Japanese engineers deal with the problems at Fukushima — a fact not mentioned in the NRC’s press releases that day. The emails indicate that the Obama administration and the NRC were keen to keep up the appearance that they were merely observing the Japanese nuclear crisis and had no responsibility for helping resolve it.

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TEPCO Readies For Extremely Dangerous, Never Before Attempted Operation To Remove 400 Tons Of “Spent” Nuclear Fuel At Fukushima

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Poolside: The spent-fuel pool of reactor 4 at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant

Oldspeak: “The operation to begin removing fuel from such a severely damaged pool has never been attempted before. The rods are unwieldy and very heavy, each one weighing two-thirds of a ton, The worst-case scenario could play out in death to billions of people. A true apocalypse. It will be one of the worst, but most important jobs anyone has ever had to do. And even if executed flawlessly, there are still many things that could go wrong.Christina Consolo, fallout researcher

“Should the attempt fail, a mishandled rod could be exposed to air and catch fire, resulting in horrific quantities of radiation released into the atmosphere. The resulting radiation will be too great for the cooling pool to absorb as it simply has not been designed to do so.

In the worst-case scenario, the pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and cause an explosion many times worse than in March 2011.” -RT

The complex has recently seen a series of setbacks, including highly toxic water gushing from storage tanks into the Pacific. The incidents, many of them caused by human error, have added to concerns about operator Tepco’s ability to safely dismantle the No. 1 plant” –Japan Times

“Ummm…. this can’t be good. Let me get this straight. TEPCO is going to attempt an extremely dangerous and never before tried operation that it originally planned to do in 2 years in 1 YEAR? So they’re going to rush through the job, and expect everything to go off (pun intended) without a hitch?! Given its record of mismanagement, unpreparedness, false information, human error and breathtaking incompetence handling this ongoing and ever worsening ecological and environmental catastrophe, i don’t understand why  responsibility is still being left to TEPCO to do anything!  Why would anyone with knowledge of the situation have ANY confidence that TEPCO could execute this operation successfully?!?! Sure they’re accepting international help, 2 years later, but this is an unprecedented event. A triple-meltdown, where nuclear cores have been lost, and there is no existing means to contain the perpetual radiation release. Expect a potentially life altering fuck up to kill billions of people. There are just too many ways this shitshow can go sideways real fast. ” –OSJ

Related Story

U.S. To Help With No. 1 Shutdown

Dangerous Operation Planned For Fukushima Plant

By RT:

Fukushima operator TEPCO is getting ready for its toughest and the most dangerous clean-up operation. In November it will try to remove 400 tons of spent fuel from plant’s Reactor No. 4. But even a little mistake may result in a new nuclear disaster.

The operation is scheduled to start in the beginning of November and be completed by around the end of 2014.

Under normal circumstances, the operation to remove all the fuel would take about 100 days. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co) initially planned to take two years, but reduced the schedule to one year in recognition of the urgency, as even a minor earthquake could trigger an uncontrolled fuel leak.

During this period TEPCO plans to carefully remove more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies, packing radiation 14,000 times the equivalent of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb, from their cooling pool.

The base of the pool where the fuel assemblies are situated is 18 meters above ground and the rods are 7 meters under the surface of the water.

TEPCO’s first task is to remove the debris from the Reactor No. 4 fuel pool.

Then, one by one, the fuel rods will be removed from the top store of the damaged building using a crane suspended above the crippled reactor.

Installation status of fuel removal cover of Unit 4 (Image from tepco.co.jp)Installation status of fuel removal cover of Unit 4 (Image from tepco.co.jp)

Previously a computer-controlled process, this time it has to be done completely manually. And this is what makes this removal operation extremely dangerous.

The fuel rods must be kept submerged and must not touch each other or break.

“The operation to begin removing fuel from such a severely damaged pool has never been attempted before. The rods are unwieldy and very heavy, each one weighing two-thirds of a ton,” fallout researcher Christina Consolo earlier told RT.

Should the attempt fail, a mishandled rod could be exposed to air and catch fire, resulting in horrific quantities of radiation released into the atmosphere. The resulting radiation will be too great for the cooling pool to absorb as it simply has not been designed to do so.

In the worst-case scenario, the pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and cause an explosion many times worse than in March 2011.

“The worst-case scenario could play out in death to billions of people. A true apocalypse,” Consolo said.

Reactor No. 4 contains 10 times more Cesium-137 than Chernobyl did. This lets scientists warn that in case of another nuclear disaster, it will be the beginning of the ultimate catastrophe of the world and the planet.

“It will be one of the worst, but most important jobs anyone has ever had to do. And even if executed flawlessly, there are still many things that could go wrong,” Consolo said.

The World Nuclear Report, released in July 2013, said “the worst-case scenario” will require evacuation of up to 10 million people within a 250-kilometer radius of Fukushima, including a significant part of Tokyo.

Although some experts are skeptical, TEPCO is confident the operation will be a success. Last year two fuel rods were successfully removed from the pool in a test operation, but back then rod assemblies were empty and posed a far smaller threat.

The operation will be just one installment in the decommissioning process for the plant, and is forecast to take about 40 years and cost $11 billion.

TEPCO, responsible for the clean-up, is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the nuclear disaster, but with the crisis over radiation-contaminated water at the plant, it has been criticized for its ad hoc response to the disaster. In August TEPCO pleaded for overseas help to contain the radioactive fallout, after 18 months of trying to control it internally.

The Japanese government was also ordered to take a more active role in controlling the overflow of radioactive water being flushed over the melted reactors in Units 1, 2 and 3 at the plant.

Three of the Fukushima plant’s nuclear reactors were damaged by an earthquake-triggered tsunami on March 11, 2011, which led to a nuclear disaster. The plant has been accumulating radioactive water ever since. The government imposed a 20-kilometer ‘no-go’ zone around the plant area.

Fukushima – A Global Threat That Requires A Global Response

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2013 at 2:30 pm
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Workers take soil samples in Ukedo, Japan, which was evacuated after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, August 30, 2013. Two and a half years after the Fukushima Daiichi plant belched plumes of radioactive materials over northeast Japan, the almost 83,000 refugees evacuated from the worst-hit areas are still unable to go home. (Photo: Tomas Munita / The New York Times

Oldspeak: “The history of TEPCO shows we cannot trust this company and its mistreated workforce to handle the complex challenges faced at Fukushima. The crisis at Fukushima is a global one, requiring a global solution….

The problems at Fukushima are in large part about facing reality – seeing the challenges, risks and potential harms from the incident. It is about TEPCO and Japan facing the reality that they are not equipped to handle the challenges of Fukushima and need the world to join the effort. 

Facing reality is a common problem throughout the nuclear industry and those who continue to push for nuclear energy. Indeed, it is a problem with many energy issues. We must face the reality of the long-term damage being done to the planet and the people by the carbon-nuclear based energy economy.” –Kevin Zeese & Margaret Flowers

“That’s really all it boils down to isn’t it? “We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” –Carl Jung. We have to accept reality. Our energy sources and the systems of extraction and exploitation they require are unsustainable, incalculably toxic and dangerous. This is beyond dispute. Coal is not “Clean”. Diesel Gas is not “Clean”. Fracked methane gas is not “Clean” or “Natural”. Nuclear energy is not worth the gargantuan risks it poses to, well, everything that lives. We can’t waste time covering up, blame shifting or condemning past actions at this point. This incident is an ongoing, ever-expanding and uncontrolled release of massive quantities of radioactive material that threatens the planet. it is on a scale far beyond the capabilities of any one nation or corporation to stop or contain. May very well be beyond the capabilities of all nations. But we can’t keep extending and pretending that the Japanese are handing the disaster. An urgent and globally coordinated response is needed.” -OSJ

Related Story:

Fukushima Far From Over

Radioactive Rainwater Overwhelms Fukushima Nuclear Plant

By Kevin Zeese & Margaret Flowers @ Truthout:

The story of Fukushima should be on the front pages of every newspaper. Instead, it is rarely mentioned. The problems at Fukushima are unprecedented in human experience and involve a high risk of radiation events larger than any that the global community has ever experienced. It is going to take the best engineering minds in the world to solve these problems and to diminish their global impact.

When we researched the realities of Fukushima in preparation for this article, words like apocalyptic, cataclysmic and Earth-threatening came to mind. But, when we say such things, people react as if we were the little red hen screaming “the sky is falling” and the reports are ignored. So, we’re going to present what is known in this article and you can decide whether we are facing a potentially cataclysmic event.

Either way, it is clear that the problems at Fukushima demand that the world’s best nuclear engineers and other experts advise and assist in the efforts to solve them. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds.org and an international team of scientists created a 15-point plan to address the crises at Fukushima.

A subcommittee of the Green Shadow Cabinet (of which we are members), which includes long-time nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman, is circulating a sign-on letter and a petition calling on the United Nations and Japanese government to put in place the Gundersen et al plan and to provide 24-hour media access to information about the crises at Fukushima. There is also a call for international days of action on the weekend of November 9 and 10. The letter and petitions will be delivered to the UN on November 11 which is both Armistice Day and the 32nd month anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Problems of Fukushima

There are three major problems at Fukushima: (1) Three reactor cores are missing; (2) Radiated water has been leaking from the plant in mass quantities for 2.5 years; and (3) Eleven thousand spent nuclear fuel rods, perhaps the most dangerous things ever created by humans, are stored at the plant and need to be removed, 1,533 of those are in a very precarious and dangerous position. Each of these three could result in dramatic radiation events, unlike any radiation exposure humans have ever experienced.  We’ll discuss them in order, saving the most dangerous for last.

Missing reactor cores:  Since the accident at Fukushima on March 11, 2011, three reactor cores have gone missing.  There was an unprecedented three reactor ‘melt-down.’ These melted cores, called corium lavas, are thought to have passed through the basements of reactor buildings 1, 2 and 3, and to be somewhere in the ground underneath.

Harvey Wasserman, who has been working on nuclear energy issues for over 40 years, tells us that during those four decades no one ever talked about the possibility of a multiple meltdown, but that is what occurred at Fukushima.

It is an unprecedented situation to not know where these cores are. TEPCO is pouring water where they think the cores are, but they are not sure. There are occasional steam eruptions coming from the grounds of the reactors, so the cores are thought to still be hot.

The concern is that the corium lavas will enter or may have already entered the aquifer below the plant. That would contaminate a much larger area with radioactive elements. Some suggest that it would require the area surrounding Tokyo, 40 million people, to be evacuated. Another concern is that if the corium lavas enter the aquifer, they could create a “super-heated pressurized steam reaction beneath a layer of caprock causing a major ‘hydrovolcanic’ explosion.”

A further concern is that a large reserve of groundwater which is coming in contact with the corium lavas is migrating towards the ocean at the rate of four meters per month. This could release greater amounts of radiation than were released in the early days of the disaster.

Radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean:  TEPCO did not admit that leaks of radioactive water were occurring until July of this year. Shunichi Tanaka the head of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority finally told reporters this July that radioactive water has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean since the disaster hit over two years ago. This is the largest single contribution of radionuclides to the marine environment ever observed according to a report by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety.  The Japanese government finally admitted that the situation was urgent this September – an emergency they did not acknowledge until 2.5 years after the water problem began.

How much radioactive water is leaking into the ocean? An estimated 300 tons (71,895 gallons/272,152 liters) of contaminated water is flowing into the ocean every day.  The first radioactive ocean plume released by the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster will take three years to reach the shores of the United States.  This means, according to a new study from the University of New South Wales, the United States will experience the first radioactive water coming to its shores sometime in early 2014.

One month after Fukushima, the FDA announced it was going to stop testing fish in the Pacific Ocean for radiation.  But, independent research is showing that every bluefin tuna tested in the waters off California has been contaminated with radiation that originated in Fukushima. Daniel Madigan, the marine ecologist who led the Stanford University study from May of 2012 was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying, “The tuna packaged it up (the radiation) and brought it across the world’s largest ocean. We were definitely surprised to see it at all and even more surprised to see it in every one we measured.” Marine biologist Nicholas Fisher of Stony Brook University in New York State, another member of the study group, said: “We found that absolutely every one of them had comparable concentrations of cesium 134 and cesium 137.”

In addition, Science reports that fish near Fukushima are being found to have high levels of the radioactive isotope, cesium-134. The levels found in these fish are not decreasing,  which indicates that radiation-polluted water continues to leak into the ocean. At least 42 fish species from the area around the plant are considered unsafe.  South Korea has banned Japanese fish as a result of the ongoing leaks.

The half-life (time it takes for half of the element to decay) of cesium 134 is 2.0652 years. For cesium 137, the half-life is 30.17 years. Cesium does not sink to the ocean floor, so fish swim through it. What are the human impacts of cesium?

When contact with radioactive cesium occurs, which is highly unlikely, a person can experience cell damage due to radiation of the cesium particles. Due to this, effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding may occur. When the exposure lasts a long time, people may even lose consciousness. Coma or even death may then follow. How serious the effects are depends upon the resistance of individual persons and the duration of exposure and the concentration a person is exposed to, experts say.

There is no end in sight from the leakage of radioactive water into the Pacific from Fukushima.  Harvey Wasserman is questioning whether fishing in the Pacific Ocean will be safe after years of leakage from Fukushima.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is claiming that this will have limited effect on human health, with concentrations predicted to be below WHO safety levels. However, experts seriously question the WHO’s claims.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Radiation is in the process of writing a report to assess the radiation doses and associated effects on health and environment. When finalized, it will be the most comprehensive scientific analysis of the information available to date examining how much radioactive material was released, how it was dispersed over land and water, how Fukushima compares to previous accidents, what the impact is on the environment and food, and what the impact is on human health and the environment.

Wasserman warns that “dilution is no solution.”  The fact that the Pacific Ocean is large does not change the fact that these radioactive elements have long half-lives.  Radiation in water is taken up by vegetation, then smaller fish eat the vegetation, larger fish eat the smaller fish and at the top of the food chain we will find fish like tuna, dolphin and whales with concentrated levels of radiation. Humans at the top of the food chain could be eating these contaminated fish.

As bad as the ongoing leakage of radioactive water is into the Pacific, that is not the largest part of the water problem.  The Asia-Pacific Journal reported last month that TEPCO has 330,000 tons of water stored in 1,000 above-ground tanks and an undetermined amount in underground storage tanks.  Every day, 400 tons of water comes to the site from the mountains, 300 tons of that is the source for the contaminated water leaking into the Pacific daily. It is not clear where the rest of this water goes.

Each day TEPCO injects 400 tons of water into the destroyed facilities to keep them cool; about half is recycled, and the rest goes into the above-ground tanks. They are constantly building new storage tanks for this radioactive water. The tanks being used for storage were put together rapidly and are already leaking. They expect to have 800,000 tons of radioactive water stored on the site by 2016.  Harvey Wasserman warns that these unstable tanks are at risk of rupture if there is another earthquake or storm that hits Fukushima. The Asia-Pacific Journal concludes: “So at present there is no real solution to the water problem.”

The most recent news on the water problem at Fukushima adds to the concerns. On October 11, 2013, TEPCO disclosed that the radioactivity level spiked 6,500 times at a Fukushima well.  “TEPCO said the findings show that radioactive substances like strontium have reached the groundwater. High levels of tritium, which transfers much easier in water than strontium, had already been detected.”

Spent Fuel Rods:  As bad as the problems of radioactive water and missing cores are, the biggest problem at Fukushima comes from the spent fuel rods.  The plant has been in operation for 40 years. As a result, they are storing 11 thousand spent fuel rods on the grounds of the Fukushima plant. These fuel rods are composed of highly radioactive materials such as plutonium and uranium. They are about the width of a thumb and about 15 feet long.

The biggest and most immediate challenge is the 1,533 spent fuel rods packed tightly in a pool four floors above Reactor 4.  Before the storm hit, those rods had been removed for routine maintenance of the reactor.  But, now they are stored 100 feet in the air in damaged racks.  They weigh a total of 400 tons and contain radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

The building in which these rods are stored has been damaged. TEPCO reinforced it with a steel frame, but the building itself is buckling and sagging, vulnerable to collapse if another earthquake or storm hits the area. Additionally, the ground under and around the building is becoming saturated with water, which further undermines the integrity of the structure and could cause it to tilt.

How dangerous are these fuel rods?  Harvey Wasserman explains that the fuel rods are clad in zirconium which can ignite if they lose coolant. They could also ignite or explode if rods break or hit each other. Wasserman reports that some say this could result in a fission explosion like an atomic bomb, others say that is not what would happen, but agree it would be “a reaction like we have never seen before, a nuclear fire releasing incredible amounts of radiation,” says Wasserman.

These are not the only spent fuel rods at the plant, they are just the most precarious.  There are 11,000 fuel rods scattered around the plant, 6,000 in a cooling pool less than 50 meters from the sagging Reactor 4.  If a fire erupts in the spent fuel pool at Reactor 4, it could ignite the rods in the cooling pool and lead to an even greater release of radiation. It could set off a chain reaction that could not be stopped.

What would happen? Wasserman reports that the plant would have to be evacuated.  The workers who are essential to preventing damage at the plant would leave, and we will have lost a critical safeguard.  In addition, the computers will not work because of the intense radiation. As a result we would be blind – the world would have to sit and wait to see what happened. You might have to not only evacuate Fukushima but all of the population in and around Tokyo, reports Wasserman.

There is no question that the 1,533 spent fuel rods need to be removed.  But Arnie Gundersen, a veteran nuclear engineer and director of Fairewinds Energy Education, who used to build fuel assemblies, told Reuters “They are going to have difficulty in removing a significant number of the rods.” He described the problem in a radio interview:

“If you think of a nuclear fuel rack as a pack of cigarettes, if you pull a cigarette straight up it will come out — but these racks have been distorted. Now when they go to pull the cigarette straight out, it’s going to likely break and release radioactive cesium and other gases, xenon and krypton, into the air. I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing.”

Wasserman builds on the analogy, telling us it is “worse than pulling cigarettes out of a crumbled cigarette pack.” It is likely they used salt water as a coolant out of desperation, which would cause corrosion because the rods were never meant to be in salt water.  The condition of the rods is unknown. There is debris in the coolant, so there has been some crumbling from somewhere. Gundersen  adds, “The roof has fallen in, which further distorted the racks,” noting that if a fuel rod snaps, it will release radioactive gas which will require at a minimum evacuation of the plant. They will release those gases into the atmosphere and try again.

The Japan Times writes: “The consequences could be far more severe than any nuclear accident the world has ever seen. If a fuel rod is dropped, breaks or becomes entangled while being removed, possible worst case scenarios include a big explosion, a meltdown in the pool, or a large fire. Any of these situations could lead to massive releases of deadly radionuclides into the atmosphere, putting much of Japan — including Tokyo and Yokohama — and even neighboring countries at serious risk.”

This is not the usual moving of fuel rods.  TEPCO has been saying this is routine, but in fact it is unique – a feat of engineering never done before.  As Gundersen says:

“Tokyo Electric is portraying this as easy. In a normal nuclear reactor, all of this is done with computers. Everything gets pulled perfectly vertically. Well nothing is vertical anymore, the fuel racks are distorted, it’s all going to have to be done manually. The net effect is it’s a really difficult job. It wouldn’t surprise me if they snapped some of the fuel and they can’t remove it.”

Gregory Jaczko, Former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission concurs with Gundersen describing the removal of the spent fuel rods as “a very significant activity, and . . . very, very unprecedented.”

Wasserman sums the challenge up: “We are doing something never done before – bent, crumbling, brittle fuel rods being removed from a pool that is compromised, in a building that is sinking, sagging and buckling, and it all must done under manual control, not with computers.”  And the potential damage from failure would affect hundreds of millions of people.

The Solutions

The three major problems at Fukushima are all unprecedented, each unique in their own way and each has the potential for major damage to humans and the environment. There are no clear solutions but there are steps that need to be taken urgently to get the Fukushima clean-up and de-commissioning on track and minimize the risks.

The first thing that is needed is to end the media blackout.  The global public needs to be informed about the issues the world faces from Fukushima.  The impacts of Fukushima could affect almost everyone on the planet, so we all have a stake in the outcome.  If the public is informed about this problem, the political will to resolve it will rapidly develop.

The nuclear industry, which wants to continue to expand, fears Fukushima being widely discussed because it undermines their already weak economic potential.  But, the profits of the nuclear industry are of minor concern compared to the risks of the triple Fukushima challenges.

The second thing that must be faced is the incompetence of TEPCO.  They are not capable of handling this triple complex crisis. TEPCO “is already Japan’s most distrusted firm” and has been exposed as “dangerously incompetent.”  A poll found that 91 percent of the Japanese public wants the government to intervene at Fukushima.

Tepco’s management of the stricken power plant has been described as a comedy of errors. The constant stream of mistakes has been made worse by constant false denials and efforts to minimize major problems. Indeed the entire Fukushima catastrophe could have been avoided:

“Tepco at first blamed the accident on ‘an unforeseen massive tsunami’ triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Then it admitted it had in fact foreseen just such a scenario but hadn’t done anything about it.”

The reality is Fukushima was plagued by human error from the outset.  An official Japanese government investigation concluded that the Fukushima accident was a “man-made” disaster, caused by “collusion” between government and Tepco and bad reactor design. On this point, TEPCO is not alone, this is an industry-wide problem. Many US nuclear plants have serious problems, are being operated beyond their life span, have the same design problems and are near earthquake faults. Regulatory officials in both the US and Japan are too corruptly tied to the industry.

Then, the meltdown itself was denied for months, with TEPCO claiming it had not been confirmed.  Japan Times reports that “in December 2011, the government announced that the plant had reached ‘a state of cold shutdown.’ Normally, that means radiation releases are under control and the temperature of its nuclear fuel is consistently below boiling point.”  Unfortunately, the statement was false – the reactors continue to need water to keep them cool, the fuel rods need to be kept cool – there has been no cold shutdown.

TEPCO has done a terrible job of cleaning up the plant.  Japan Times describes some of the problems:

“The plant is being run on makeshift equipment and breakdowns are endemic. Among nearly a dozen serious problems since April this year there have been successive power outages, leaks of highly radioactive water from underground water pools — and a rat that chewed enough wires to short-circuit a switchboard, causing a power outage that interrupted cooling for nearly 30 hours. Later, the cooling system for a fuel-storage pool had to be switched off for safety checks when two dead rats were found in a transformer box.”

TEPCO has been constantly cutting financial corners and not spending enough to solve the challenges of the Fukushima disaster resulting in shoddy practices that cause environmental damage. Washington’s Blog reports that the Japanese government is spreading radioactivity throughout Japan – and other countries – by burning radioactive waste in incinerators not built to handle such toxic substances. Workers have expressed concerns and even apologized for following order regarding the ‘clean-up.’

Indeed, the workers are another serious concern. The Guardian reported in October 2013 the plummeting morale of workers, problems of alcohol abuse, anxiety, loneliness, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. TEPCO cut the pay of its workers by 20 percent in 2011 to save money even though these workers are doing very difficult work and face constant problems. Outside of work, many were traumatized by being forced to evacuate their homes after the Tsunami; and they have no idea how exposed to radiation they have been and what health consequences they will suffer. Contractors are hired based on the lowest bid, resulting in low wages for workers. According to the Guardian, Japan’s top nuclear regulator, Shunichi Tanaka, told reporters: “Mistakes are often linked to morale. People usually don’t make silly, careless mistakes when they’re motivated and working in a positive environment. The lack of it, I think, may be related to the recent problems.”

The history of TEPCO shows we cannot trust this company and its mistreated workforce to handle the complex challenges faced at Fukushima. The crisis at Fukushima is a global one, requiring a global solution.

In an open letter to the United Nations, 16 top nuclear experts urged the government of Japan to transfer responsibility for the Fukushima reactor site to a worldwide engineering group overseen by a civil society panel and an international group of nuclear experts independent from TEPCO and the International Atomic Energy Administration , IAEA. They urge that the stabilization, clean-up and de-commissioning of the plant be well-funded. They make this request with “urgency” because the situation at the Fukushima plant is “progressively deteriorating, not stabilizing.”

Beyond the clean-up, they are also critical of the estimates by the World Health Organization and IAEA of the health and environmental damage caused by the Fukushima disaster and they recommend more accurate methods of accounting, as well as the gathering of data to ensure more accurate estimates. They also want to see the people displaced by Fukushima treated in better ways; and they urge that the views of indigenous people who never wanted the uranium removed from their lands be respected in the future as their views would have prevented this disaster.

Facing Reality

The problems at Fukushima are in large part about facing reality – seeing the challenges, risks and potential harms from the incident. It is about TEPCO and Japan facing the reality that they are not equipped to handle the challenges of Fukushima and need the world to join the effort.

Facing reality is a common problem throughout the nuclear industry and those who continue to push for nuclear energy. Indeed, it is a problem with many energy issues. We must face the reality of the long-term damage being done to the planet and the people by the carbon-nuclear based energy economy.

Another reality the nuclear industry must face is that the United States is turning away from nuclear energy and the world will do the same. As Gary Jaczko, who chaired the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the time of the Fukushima incident says “I’ve never seen a movie that’s set 200 years in the future and the planet is being powered by fission reactors—that’s nobody’s vision of the future. This is not a future technology.” He sees US nuclear reactors as aging, many in operation beyond their original lifespan.  The economics of nuclear energy are increasingly difficult as it is a very expensive source of energy.  Further, there is no money or desire to finance new nuclear plants. “The industry is going away,” he said bluntly.

Ralph Nader describes nuclear energy as “unnecessary, uneconomic, uninsurable, unevacuable and, most importantly, unsafe.”  He argues it only continues to exist because the nuclear lobby pushes politicians to protect it. The point made by Nader about the inability to evacuate if there is a nuclear accident is worth underlining.  Wasserman points out that there are nuclear plants in the US that are near earthquake faults, among them are plants near Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, DC.  And, Fukushima was based on a design by General Electric, which was also used to build 23 reactors in the US.

If we faced reality, public officials would be organizing evacuation drills in those cities.  If we did so, Americans would quickly learn that if there is a serious nuclear accident, US cities could not be evacuated. Activists making the reasonable demand for evacuation drills may be a very good strategy to end nuclear power.

Wasserman emphasizes that as bad as Fukushima is, it is not the worst case scenario for a nuclear disaster. Fukushima was 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the center of the earthquake. If that had been 20 kilometers (12 miles), the plant would have been reduced to rubble and caused an immediate nuclear catastrophe.

Another reality we need to face is a very positive one, Wasserman points out “All of our world’s energy needs could be met by solar, wind, thermal, ocean technology.” His point is repeated by many top energy experts, in fact a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy is not only possible, it is inevitable.  The only question is how long it will take for us to get there, and how much damage will be done before we end the “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that emphasizes carbon and nuclear energy sources.

Naoto Kan, prime minister of Japan when the disaster began, recently told an audience that he had been a supporter of nuclear power, but after the Fukushima accident, “I changed my thinking 180-degrees, completely.” He realized that “no other accident or disaster” other than a nuclear plant disaster can “affect 50 million people . . . no other accident could cause such a tragedy.” He pointed out that all 54 nuclear plants in Japan have now been closed and expressed confidently that “without nuclear power plants we can absolutely provide the energy to meet our demands.”  In fact, since the disaster Japan has tripled its use of solar energy, to the equivalent of three nuclear plants. He believes: “If humanity really would work together . . . we could generate all our energy through renewable energy.”

To learn more, click here.

Related articles by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese:

Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free Energy Economy Is Inevitable

Vibrant Movement for Green Energy Economy

Gang Green or Fresh Greens?

US Climate Bomb is Ticking: What the Gas Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

America’s Secret Fukushima Poisoning the Bread Basket of the World

The Rule of Law in Times of Ecological Collapse – Truthout

Dirty Energy’s Dirty Tactics: Boulder on the Front Lines of the Renewable Energy Future

To hear Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers interview with Harvey Wasserman of NukeFree.org Fukushima – A Global Threat That Requires a Global Response click here.

28 Signs That The West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried With Radiation From Fukushima Nuclear Plant

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm

https://i2.wp.com/media.salon.com/2013/08/FukushimaPlume-tiff.jpg

Oldspeak: “With recent news of a typhoon threatening Fukushima nuclear plant, causing land collapses around the planta 7.3 magnitude earthquake hitting 231 miles off the coast of Japan,  forcing evacuation of workers from the plant, it’s not a matter of if there will be a catastrophic collapse of the spent fuel pool in unit 4, but when. Meanwhile, this ongoing ecological disaster is continuing unabated, with 300 tons of radioactive water flowing into the pacific EVERY DAY which is causing severe and unpredictable damage to the ocean environment. 30 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium and another 30 billion becquerels of radioactive strontium continue to leak into the outer ocean every day. The negative effects are beginning to be seen in wildlife & the environment and humans. it’s a time bomb and it’s still ticking. Japan is obviously not up to the task of containment or clean up. A global response in required. Not silence from government agencies tasked with monitoring & reporting on radioactivity in our environment. Not a virtual media black out.  Not continued acceptance of radioactive produce from the contaminated area. Not allowing the same company whose plant caused the disaster, be in charge of the clean up & containment but mostly cover up of the horrors at the site.” -OSJ

“It is critical that we all understand the true consequences of radiation exposure so that proper monitoring is conducted in all those who were exposed to radioactive fallout. Ultimately, what is at stake is the universal right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of the affected population. This should be the guiding principle in evaluating the health effects of the nuclear catastrophe.” –Physicians For Social Responsibility

 

By Michael Snyder @ Activist Post:

The map below comes from the Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center. It shows that radiation levels at radiation monitoring stations all over the country are elevated. As you will notice, this is particularly true along the west coast of the United States. Every single day, 300 tons of radioactive water from Fukushima enters the Pacific Ocean. That means that the total amount of radioactive material released from Fukushima is constantly increasing, and it is steadily building up in our food chain.
Ultimately, all of this nuclear radiation will outlive all of us by a very wide margin. They are saying that it could take up to 40 years to clean up the Fukushima disaster, and meanwhile countless innocent people will develop cancer and other health problems as a result of exposure to high levels of nuclear radiation. We are talking about a nuclear disaster that is absolutely unprecedented, and it is constantly getting worse. The following are 28 signs that the west coast of North America is being absolutely fried with nuclear radiation from Fukushima…

1. Polar bears, seals and walruses along the Alaska coastline are suffering from fur loss and open sores

Wildlife experts are studying whether fur loss and open sores detected in nine polar bears in recent weeks is widespread and related to similar incidents among seals and walruses.

The bears were among 33 spotted near Barrow, Alaska, during routine survey work along the Arctic coastline. Tests showed they had “alopecia, or loss of fur, and other skin lesions,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement.

2. There is an epidemic of sea lion deaths along the California coastline…

At island rookeries off the Southern California coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June have died, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service based in Seattle. Normally, less than one-third of the pups would die.   It’s gotten so bad in the past two weeks that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event.”

3. Along the Pacific coast of Canada and the Alaska coastline, the population of sockeye salmon is at a historic low.  Many are blaming Fukushima.

4. Something is causing fish all along the west coast of Canada to bleed from their gills, bellies and eyeballs.

5. A vast field of radioactive debris from Fukushima that is approximately the size of California has crossed the Pacific Ocean and is starting to collide with the west coast.

6. It is being projected that the radioactivity of coastal waters off the U.S. west coast could double over the next five to six years.

7. Experts have found very high levels of cesium-137 in plankton living in the waters of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the west coast.

8. One test in California found that 15 out of 15 bluefin tuna were contaminated with radiation from Fukushima.

9. Back in 2012, the Vancouver Sun reported that cesium-137 was being found in a very high percentage of the fish that Japan was selling to Canada…

• 73 percent of mackerel tested
• 91 percent of the halibut
• 92 percent of the sardines
• 93 percent of the tuna and eel
• 94 percent of the cod and anchovies
• 100 percent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish

10. Canadian authorities are finding extremely high levels of nuclear radiation in certain fish samples…

Some fish samples tested to date have had very high levels of radiation: one sea bass sample collected in July, for example, had 1,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium.

11. Some experts believe that we could see very high levels of cancer along the west coast just from people eating contaminated fish

“Look at what’s going on now: They’re dumping huge amounts of radioactivity into the ocean — no one expected that in 2011,” Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear policy lecturer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Global Security Newswire. “We could have large numbers of cancer from ingestion of fish.”

12. BBC News recently reported that radiation levels around Fukushima are “18 times higher” than previously believed.

13. An EU-funded study concluded that Fukushima released up to 210 quadrillion becquerels of cesium-137 into the atmosphere.

14. Atmospheric radiation from Fukushima reached the west coast of the United States within a few days back in 2011.

15. At this point, 300 tons of contaminated water is pouring into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.

16. A senior researcher of marine chemistry at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Meteorological Research Institute says that “30 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium and 30 billion becquerels of radioactive strontium” are being released into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima every single day.

17. According to Tepco, a total of somewhere between 20 trillion and 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium have gotten into the Pacific Ocean since the Fukushima disaster first began.

18. According to a professor at Tokyo University, 3 gigabecquerels of cesium-137 are flowing into the port at Fukushima Daiichi every single day.

19. It has been estimated that up to 100 times as much nuclear radiation has been released into the ocean from Fukushima than was released during the entire Chernobyl disaster.

20. One recent study concluded that a very large plume of cesium-137 from the Fukushima disaster will start flowing into U.S. coastal waters early next year

Ocean simulations showed that the plume of radioactive cesium-137 released by the Fukushima disaster in 2011 could begin flowing into U.S. coastal waters starting in early 2014 and peak in 2016.

21. It is being projected that significant levels of cesium-137 will reach every corner of the Pacific Ocean by the year 2020.

22. It is being projected that the entire Pacific Ocean will soon “have cesium levels 5 to 10 times higher” than what we witnessed during the era of heavy atomic bomb testing in the Pacific many decades ago.

23. The immense amounts of nuclear radiation getting into the water in the Pacific Ocean has caused environmental activist Joe Martino to issue the following warning

Your days of eating Pacific Ocean fish are over.

24. The Iodine-131, Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 that are constantly coming from Fukushima are going to affect the health of those living the the northern hemisphere for a very, very long time.  Just consider what Harvey Wasserman had to say about this…

Iodine-131, for example, can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue. A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40 percent of the children in the Fukushima area. That percentage can only go higher. In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth. Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer.

Strontium-90’s half-life is around 29 years. It mimics calcium and goes to our bones.

25. According to a recent Planet Infowars report, the California coastline is being transformed into “a dead zone”…

The California coastline is becoming like a dead zone.

If you haven’t been to a California beach lately, you probably don’t know that the rocks are unnaturally CLEAN – there’s hardly any kelp, barnacles, sea urchins, etc. anymore and the tide pools are similarly eerily devoid of crabs, snails and other scurrying signs of life… and especially as compared to 10 – 15 years ago when one was wise to wear tennis shoes on a trip to the beach in order to avoid cutting one’s feet on all the STUFF of life – broken shells, bones, glass, driftwood, etc.

There are also days when I am hard-pressed to find even a half dozen seagulls and/or terns on the county beach.

You can still find a few gulls trolling the picnic areas and some of the restaurants (with outdoor seating areas) for food, of course, but, when I think back to 10 – 15 years ago, the skies and ALL the beaches were literally filled with seagulls and the haunting sound of their cries both day and night…

NOW it’s unnaturally quiet.

26. A study conducted last year came to the conclusion that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster could negatively affect human life along the west coast of North America from Mexico to Alaska “for decades”.

27. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is being projected that the cleanup of Fukushima could take up to 40 years to complete.

28. Yale Professor Charles Perrow is warning that if the cleanup of Fukushima is not handled with 100% precision that humanity could be threatened “for thousands of years“…

Conditions in the unit 4 pool, 100 feet from the ground, are perilous, and if any two of the rods touch it could cause a nuclear reaction that would be uncontrollable. The radiation emitted from all these rods, if they are not continually cool and kept separate, would require the evacuation of surrounding areas including Tokyo. Because of the radiation at the site the 6,375 rods in the common storage pool could not be continuously cooled; they would fission and all of humanity will be threatened, for thousands of years.

Are you starting to understand why so many people are so deeply concerned about what is going on at Fukushima?

Radiation Levels At Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Plant Soar Over 20% To Record High; Hits 2,200 mSv And Rising

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2013 at 12:46 pm
An aerial view shows Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco's) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and its contaminated water storage tanks (bottom) in Fukushima, in this file photo taken by Kyodo 20 August 2013

Tepco faces a major challenge to safely store contaminated water at Fukushima

Oldspeak: “Meanwhile, news from the Department Of Existential Threats…  Years later, the ongoing global ecological disaster that keeps on giving is giving ALOT MORE lately. And still no one knows how to stop it. Now there’s talk of freezing the earth around the plant creating an “ice wall” to prevent further groundwater contamination. Riiiiight… Given the fact that radioactive water has been continuously leaking from the reactors, spent fuel pools & multiple storage tanks for years into the surrounding ground, air, and ocean, while defects in the storage tanks make it probable that they’ll ALL leak at some point, this seems like  too little too late, and a colossal waste of time and energy. The overarching fact of the matter is there is no safe way to store nuclear waste products. This catastrophe will only get worse as time passes, and there’s not much anyone can do about it. Thankfully, the silence on this crisis is being broken ” –OSJ

Related Stories:

Record Radiation Readings Near Fukishima Contaminated Water Tanks

By BBC News Asia:

Radiation levels around tanks storing contaminated water at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have risen by a fifth to a new high, officials say.

Ground readings near one set of tanks stood at 2,200 millisieverts (mSv) on Tuesday, the plant operator and Japan’s nuclear authority said.

Saturday’s reading was 1,800 mSv.

Last month, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said it had found highly contaminated water leaking from a storage tank.

Other leaks have also been reported, prompting the government on Tuesday to pledge 47bn yen ($473m, £304m) in funding to tackle the problem.

The spike in radiation levels found on Tuesday was in the same area where the 1,800 mSv level was detected on Saturday, a spokeswoman from Tepco told Bloomberg.

The readings are thought to be high enough to provide a lethal radiation dose to someone standing near contaminated areas without protective gear within hours.

But Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) also said the areas were easily contained.

‘Drastic measures’

The earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 knocked out cooling systems to reactors at the Fukushima plant, three of which melted down.

Water is now being pumped in to cool the reactors, but storing the resultant large quantities of radioactive water has proved a challenge for Tepco.

The process creates an extra 400 tonnes of contaminated water every day, which must be stored in temporary tanks.

But leaks of contaminated water, both from the tanks, pipes and through damaged structures, have been a persistent problem. Groundwater from the hills surrounding the plant also flows down and into the radioactive areas.

Under the government plan announced on Tuesday, a wall of frozen earth will be created around the reactors using pipes filled with coolant. This aims to prevent groundwater coming into contact with contaminated water being used to cool fuel rods.

Water treatment systems would also be upgraded to tackle the build-up of contaminated water, officials said.

On Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told journalists in Tokyo that the government was willing “to take drastic measures of a maximum scale” to resolve the issue ahead of the 2020 summer Olympic Games.

“We are aware of concerns over the issue of contaminated water leakages at Fukushima, the government will take charge and will definitely resolve this problem,” he said.

Tokyo is a candidate as a host nation for the Olympics, and the decision is expected in days.

Fukushima Uncontained: Nuclear Plant Continuosly Releasing 93 Billion Becquerels Of Radiation A DAY Into Pacific Ocean For Years

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2013 at 7:07 pm

https://i1.wp.com/img.allvoices.com/thumbs/event/609/480/75214631-danger-radiation.jpgOldspeak: “The bottom line is that the reactors have lost containment. There are not “some leaks” at Fukushima. “Leaks” imply that the reactor cores are safely in their containment buildings, and there is a small hole or two which need to be plugged. But scientists don’t even know where the cores of the reactors are. That’s not leaking. That’s even worse than a total meltdown.” This is a daily, ongoing ecological catastrophe. Being ignored and denied  by American and by proxy Japanese goverments to preserve and proliferate pro-nuclear energy policy. Why is this profoundly dangerous, toxic and perpetually contaminating energy source being propped up as viable? Our ecosystem is continuously being contaminated by deadly radiation. It’s being transported around the planet via water and air. How is this part of American environmental policy? It is destroying the environment!? Tell your elected officials you want to your food, air and environment tested for radiation.  You want to know what’s being done to protect the public and environment from this ongoing catastrophe.  I, for the first time in two years, heard a 1 minute mention of the conditions at the plant just now on Free Speech TV on the Thom Hartman Show. Zero coverage in corporate controlled media. ”

 By Washington’s Blog:

You may have heard that Tepco – the operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plants – announced a large leak of radioactive water.

You may have heard that the cooling system in the spent fuel pools at Fukushima has failed for a second time in a month.

This is newsworthy stuff … but completely misses the big picture.

Associated Press notes:

Experts suspect a continuous leak into the ocean through an underground water system, citing high levels of contamination in fish caught in waters just off the plant.

(Tepco graphics of the Fukushima plants even appear to show water directly flowing from the plant to the ocean. And see this.)

In fact, Japanese experts say that Fukushima is currently releasing up to 93 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium into the ocean each day.

How much radiation is that?

A quick calculation shows that Chernobyl released around ten thousand times more radioactive cesium each day during the reactor fire. But the Chernobyl fire only lasted 10 days … and the Fukushima release has been ongoing for more than 2 years so far.

Indeed, Fukushima has already spewed much more radioactive cesium and iodine 131 than Chernobyl. The amount of radioactive cesium released by Fukushima was some 20-30 times higher than initially admitted.

Fukushima also pumped out huge amounts of radioactive iodine 129 – which has a half-life of 15.7 million years. Fukushima has also dumped up to 900 trillion becquerels of radioactive strontium-90 – which is a powerful internal emitter which mimics calcium and collects in our bones – into the ocean.

And the amount of radioactive fuel at Fukushima dwarfs Chernobyl … and so could keep leaking for decades, centuries or millenia.

The bottom line is that the reactors have lost containment. There are not “some leaks” at Fukushima. “Leaks” imply that the reactor cores are safely in their containment buildings, and there is a small hole or two which need to be plugged. But scientists don’t even know where the cores of the reactors are. That’s not leaking. That’s even worse than a total meltdown.

So what are the consequences for people living outside of Fukushima itself?

They could be quite severe, indeed.

Fukushima Reactor Meltdowns Driving Increased Abnormalities Among U.S. Infants; Mass Die Offs & Sickness In Sea Life

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Oldspeak: “Congenital hypothyroidism results from a build up of radioactive iodine in our thyroids and can result in stunted growth, lowered intelligence, deafness, and neurological abnormalities—though can be treated if detected early. Because their small bodies are more vulnerable and their cells grow faster than adults’, infants serve as the proverbial ‘canary in the coal mine’ for injurious environmental effects. According to researchers from the Radiation and Public Health Project who performed the study, “Fukushima fallout appeared to affect all areas of the US, and was especially large in some, mostly in the western part of the nation.” This is an ongoing environmental disaster. There has been no effective containment of the radiation constantly spewing from this reactor. The Pacific ocean is contaminated with radiation, as the Japanese had the brilliant idea of dumping untold millions of gallons of highly radioactive water into it . Fallout has affected all areas of the U.S. There have been repeated mass die offs, sickness and  irradiation among plant and animal life. Now the devastating effects are showing up in children on the west coast.  Expect these effects to keep showing up. Nonetheless, there is no coverage, testing or analysis of this ongoing ecological calamity. There is no effort to inform or protect the population. It will be really interesting to see what effects manifest in 8 years when Fukushima radiation levels on the west coast are expected to reach their peak. WOW.

By Lauren McCauley @ Common Dreams:

Infants on the West Coast of the United States are showing increased incidents of thyroid abnormalities, which researchers are attributing to radiation released following the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

According to a new study (.pdf) published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics, children born in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington between one week and 16 weeks after the meltdown began are 28 percent more likely to suffer from congenital hypothyroidism (CH) than were kids born in those states during the same period one year earlier.

CH results from a build up of radioactive iodine in our thyroids and can result in stunted growth, lowered intelligence, deafness, and neurological abnormalities—though can be treated if detected early.

Because their small bodies are more vulnerable and their cells grow faster than adults’, infants serve as the proverbial ‘canary in the coal mine’ for injurious environmental effects.

“With the embryo and fetus, there can never be a ‘safe’ dose of radiation,” writes nukefree.org founder Harvey Wasserman. “NO dose of radiation is too small to have a human impact.”

According to researchers from the Radiation and Public Health Project who performed the study, “Fukushima fallout appeared to affect all areas of the US, and was especially large in some, mostly in the western part of the nation.” They add that CH can provide an early measure to “assess any potential changes in US fetal and infant health status after Fukushima because official data was available relatively promptly.”

Health researcher Joe Mangano similarly cautioned, “Reports of rising numbers of West Coast infants with under-active thyroid glands after Fukushima suggest that Americans may have been harmed by Fukushima fallout. Studies, especially of the youngest, must proceed immediately.”

Earlier this year, the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey found that more than 40 percent of the Japanese children studied showed evidence of thyroid abnormalities, which Wasserman says signifies a “horrifying plague.” He continues:

The ultimate death toll among Fukushima’s victims may be inescapable. But the industry that’s harming them is not. Those thyroid-damaged children bring us yet another tragic warning: There’s just one atomic reactor from which our energy can safely come. Two years after Fukushima, it is still 93 million miles away—but more ready than ever to safely, cleanly and cheaply power our planet.

Is Fukushima Radiation Causing the Epidemic of Dead and Starving Sea Lions In California?

By Washington’s Blog:

What’s Causing the Mass Die-Off and Starvation of California Sea Lions?

Associated Press reports:

At island rookeries off the Southern California coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June have died, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service based in Seattle. Normally, less than one-third of the pups would die.

It’s gotten so bad in the past two weeks that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event.” That will allow more scientists to join the search for the cause, Melin said.

***

Even the pups that are making it are markedly underweight ….

***

Rescuers have had to leave the worst of them in an effort to save the strongest ones, she said.

***

Routine testing of seafood is being done by state and federal agencies  and consumer safety experts are working with NOAA to find the problem.”No link has been established at this time between these sea lion strandings and any potential seafood safety issues,” NOAA said in a statement.

Given that the FDA has refused to test seafood for radiation, we’re not that confident that the government is looking that hard to see if Fukushima fallout is the cause.

Reuters notes:

From the beginning of this year through last Sunday, 948 sea lion pups came ashore in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, according to figures from NOAA.

“There really isn’t an oceanographic explanation for what we’re seeing,” Melin said. “We’re looking at disease as a possibility and also at the food supply, and it could be some combination.”

CNN reports:

This is an unprecedented crisis for the species in this state says the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.

***

“So we are seeing exponentially higher numbers” [Keith Matassa, who runs the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach said].

***

When you say off the charts, this is what you’re talking about.

CBS News reported last week:

”They’re very sick,” said Keith Matassa, who runs the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. His team is nursing 115 sea lions back to health. “A normal sea lion at this age — 8 to 9 months old — should be around 60, 70 pounds,” said Matassa. “We’re seeing them come into our center at 20 to 25 pounds, and really they look like walking skeletons.”

AP notes:

Biologists knew last spring that this year’s supply of anchovies and sardines could be limited, Boehm said.

“These two species of fish are an extremely important part of California sea lions’ diets, and females simply may not have been able to nurse their young sufficiently, resulting in abandonment, premature weaning and subsequent strandings,” he said.

Besides anchovies and sardines, sea lions also eat squid and other ocean creatures.

Time reported in April 2011:

Few people want to see the ocean’s anchovy stocks wiped out by radiation either. That’s just the scenario that seemed to be developing, however, when reports coming out of Japan revealed that elevated levels of cesium-137 had been found in anchovies in the waters off Chiba, near Toky0—a direct result of the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

***

In the big-fish-eats-little-fish way of the ocean, the radioactive contamination eventually gets passed up the food chain, concentrating in fats which get consumed and stored, until the isotopes finally come to rest in the very largest creature at the top of the food chain ….

Huge die-offs of sardines were also reported in the Chiba area of Japan after Fukushima.

Moreover, the Vancouver Sun reported in January 2012 that 94 per cent of the anchovies and 92 per cent of the sardines sold by the Japanese to Canada contained radioactive cesium. Some of the fish were caught in Japanese coastal waters; but others were made many hundreds of miles away in the open ocean.

(Note: there may be additional reasons for fluctuations in the numbers of anchovies and sardines other than radiation.)

Moreover, radiation from Fukushima was directly deposited into the kelp off the Western coast of North America … especially in Southern California.

Fish that eat the kelp have also gotten exposed to the radiation … as have the animals that eat those fish.

NOAA reports:

Sea lions … feed on the fish that live in kelp forests.

(Images here.)

There are numerous other routes in which the Fukushima radiation could be getting to the sea lion pups.  We noted last year:

A 1955 U.S. government report concluded that the ocean may not adequately dilute radiation from nuclear accidents.

MIT says that seawater which is itself radioactive may begin hitting the West Coast within 5 years.

In 10 years, peak radioactive cesium levels off of the West Coast of North America could be 10 times higher than at the coast of Japan.

As we’ve previously noted, Reuters reports that Alaskan seals are suffering mysterious lesions and hair loss:

Scientists in Alaska are investigating whether local seals are being sickened by radiation from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Scores of ring seals have washed up on Alaska’s Arctic coastline since July, suffering or killed by a mysterious disease marked by bleeding lesions on the hind flippers, irritated skin around the nose and eyes and patchy hair loss on the animals’ fur coats.

***

“We recently received samples of seal tissue from diseased animals captured near St. Lawrence Island with a request to examine the material for radioactivity,” said John Kelley, Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“There is concern expressed by some members of the local communities that there may be some relationship to the Fukushima nuclear reactor’s damage,” he said.

Here’s a picture of one of the injured seals:

We reported yesterday that a new scientific paper shows that the Fukushima radioactive plume contaminated the entire Northern hemisphere during a relatively short period of time ….

Radioactive fish are also being found off the West Coast.

A California-sized island of debris from Japan is also hitting the West Coast.

And West Coast residents have also been exposed to Fukushima radiation from the air.  See this, this and this.

Unfortunately, the nuclear accident is nowhere near contained.  Japanese experts say that Fukushima is currently releasing up to 93 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium into the ocean each day, the reactors have lost containment, and groundwater is flooding into the stricken reactors (delaying clean-up).

And things may get worse for California, instead of better .

 

Plutonomy & The Precariat: On The History Of The U.S. Economy In Decline

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Oldspeak:”We’re really regressing back to the dark ages. It’s not a joke.  And if that’s happening in the most powerful, richest country in history, then this catastrophe isn’t going to be averted — and in a generation or two, everything else we’re talking about won’t matter. Something has to be done about it very soon in a dedicated, sustained way.” –Dr. Noam Chomsky
Empires in decline follow the same general pattern. High debt, unsound economic policies, intransigent political corruption, perpetual war and increases in war funding to the detriment of all else , privatized military, environmental degradation, looting of resources from throughout the empire rather than producing  things, systems deplete their resource base beyond levels that are ultimately sustainable. All these conditions exist in the American Empire. Something has to be done about fundamentally changing these conditions before it’s too late.

By Tom Engelhardt & Noam Chomsky @ TomsDispatch:

By Tom Engelhardt:

If you had followed May Day protests in New York City in the mainstream media, you might hardly have noticed that they happened at all.  The stories were generally tucked away, minimalist, focused on a few arrests, and spoke of “hundreds” of protesters in the streets, or maybe, if a reporter was feeling especially generous, a vague “thousands.”  I did my own rough count on the largest of the Occupy protests that day. It left Union Square in the evening heading for the Wall Street area.  I walked through the march front to back, figuring a couple of thousand loosely packed protesters to a block, and came up with a conservative estimate of 15,000 people.  Maybe it wasn’t the biggest protest of all time, but sizeable enough given that Occupy, an organization without strong structures but once strongly located, had been (quite literally) pushed or even beaten out of its camps in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere across the country and toward oblivion.

It’s true that if you were checking out the Nation or Mother Jones, you would have gotten a more accurate sense of what was going on.  Still, didn’t the great protest movement of our American moment (on a planet still in upheaval) deserve better that day? And no matter what you read in the mainstream, here’s what you would have known nothing about: this country is increasingly an armed camp and those marchers, remarkably relaxed and peaceable, were heading out into a concentration of police that was staggering and should have been startling.

Cops on motor scooters patroled the edges of the march, which was hemmed in by the usual moveable metal barricades.  Police helicopters buzzed us at rooftop level.  The police managed to alter the actual path of the marchers partway along and the police turnout — I estimated up to 75 cops, three deep on some street corners doing nothing but collecting overtime — was little short of incomprehensible.

Though Occupy marchers used to chant, “Whose streets, our streets!” it was never so.  The streets belong to the police.  If this is the democracy and freedom to dissent that American officials constantly proclaim to the world as one of our core values, then pinch me.  If most of it is even legal, I’d be surprised.  But when it comes to legality, we’re past all that.  So any march on a sunny day is instantly imprisoned, and the protesters turned into a captive audience.  When young people break out of the barricades and the serried ranks of cops and head in unexpected directions, it has the unmistakable feel of a jailbreak.

The fact is that, in a country whose security forces are up-armored to the teeth from the Mexican border to Union Square, just behind any set of marchers, you can feel the unease of those in power, edging up to fear.  And no wonder.  We remain in a “recovery” that’s spinning on a dime.  Let the Eurozone falter and begin to fall, the Chinese housing bubble pop, or the Persian Gulf go up in flames, and hold onto your signs.  Like Bloomberg in the Big Apple, many mayors sent in their paramilitaries (with a helping hand from the Department of Homeland Security) to get rid of the “troublemakers.”  Only problem: their real problems run so much deeper and when the next “moment” comes, Occupy could look like a march in the park (which, in many inspirational ways, it largely was).  In the meantime, the streets increasingly belong to the weaponized.  Americans who protest blur into the “terrorists” who, since 9/11, have been the obsession of what passes for law enforcement.

If you want some sense of just what’s lurking under the surface of all the police drones and helicopters and tanks and even mini-drone submarines, what underpins our fragile, edgy moment, then check out this talk TomDispatch regular Noam Chomsky gave.  It’s excerpted from his new book Occupy, with special thanks to its publisher Zuccotti Park Press. Tom

By Noam Chomsky:

The Occupy movement has been an extremely exciting development. Unprecedented, in fact. There’s never been anything like it that I can think of.  If the bonds and associations it has established can be sustained through a long, dark period ahead — because victory won’t come quickly — it could prove a significant moment in American history.

The fact that the Occupy movement is unprecedented is quite appropriate. After all, it’s an unprecedented era and has been so since the 1970s, which marked a major turning point in American history. For centuries, since the country began, it had been a developing society, and not always in very pretty ways. That’s another story, but the general progress was toward wealth, industrialization, development, and hope. There was a pretty constant expectation that it was going to go on like this. That was true even in very dark times.

I’m just old enough to remember the Great Depression. After the first few years, by the mid-1930s — although the situation was objectively much harsher than it is today — nevertheless, the spirit was quite different. There was a sense that “we’re gonna get out of it,” even among unemployed people, including a lot of my relatives, a sense that “it will get better.”

There was militant labor union organizing going on, especially from the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations). It was getting to the point of sit-down strikes, which are frightening to the business world — you could see it in the business press at the time — because a sit-down strike is just a step before taking over the factory and running it yourself. The idea of worker takeovers is something which is, incidentally, very much on the agenda today, and we should keep it in mind. Also New Deal legislation was beginning to come in as a result of popular pressure. Despite the hard times, there was a sense that, somehow, “we’re gonna get out of it.”

It’s quite different now. For many people in the United States, there’s a pervasive sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair. I think it’s quite new in American history. And it has an objective basis.

On the Working Class

In the 1930s, unemployed working people could anticipate that their jobs would come back. If you’re a worker in manufacturing today — the current level of unemployment there is approximately like the Depression — and current tendencies persist, those jobs aren’t going to come back.

The change took place in the 1970s. There are a lot of reasons for it. One of the underlying factors, discussed mainly by economic historian Robert Brenner, was the falling rate of profit in manufacturing. There were other factors. It led to major changes in the economy — a reversal of several hundred years of progress towards industrialization and development that turned into a process of de-industrialization and de-development. Of course, manufacturing production continued overseas very profitably, but it’s no good for the work force.

Along with that came a significant shift of the economy from productive enterprise — producing things people need or could use — to financial manipulation. The financialization of the economy really took off at that time.

On Banks

Before the 1970s, banks were banks. They did what banks were supposed to do in a state capitalist economy: they took unused funds from your bank account, for example, and transferred them to some potentially useful purpose like helping a family buy a home or send a kid to college. That changed dramatically in the 1970s. Until then, there had been no financial crises since the Great Depression. The 1950s and 1960s had been a period of enormous growth, the highest in American history, maybe in economic history.

And it was egalitarian.  The lowest quintile did about as well as the highest quintile. Lots of people moved into reasonable lifestyles — what’s called the “middle class” here, the “working class” in other countries — but it was real.  And the 1960s accelerated it. The activism of those years, after a pretty dismal decade, really civilized the country in lots of ways that are permanent.

When the 1970s came along, there were sudden and sharp changes: de-industrialization, the off-shoring of production, and the shift to financial institutions, which grew enormously. I should say that, in the 1950s and 1960s, there was also the development of what several decades later became the high-tech economy: computers, the Internet, the IT Revolution developed substantially in the state sector.

The developments that took place during the 1970s set off a vicious cycle. It led to the concentration of wealth increasingly in the hands of the financial sector. This doesn’t benefit the economy — it probably harms it and society — but it did lead to a tremendous concentration of wealth.

On Politics and Money

Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. The legislation, essentially bipartisan, drives new fiscal policies and tax changes, as well as the rules of corporate governance and deregulation. Alongside this began a sharp rise in the costs of elections, which drove the political parties even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector.

The parties dissolved in many ways. It used to be that if a person in Congress hoped for a position such as a committee chair, he or she got it mainly through seniority and service. Within a couple of years, they started having to put money into the party coffers in order to get ahead, a topic studied mainly by Tom Ferguson. That just drove the whole system even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector (increasingly the financial sector).

This cycle resulted in a tremendous concentration of wealth, mainly in the top tenth of one percent of the population. Meanwhile, it opened a period of stagnation or even decline for the majority of the population. People got by, but by artificial means such as longer working hours, high rates of borrowing and debt, and reliance on asset inflation like the recent housing bubble. Pretty soon those working hours were much higher in the United States than in other industrial countries like Japan and various places in Europe. So there was a period of stagnation and decline for the majority alongside a period of sharp concentration of wealth. The political system began to dissolve.

There has always been a gap between public policy and public will, but it just grew astronomically. You can see it right now, in fact.  Take a look at the big topic in Washington that everyone concentrates on: the deficit. For the public, correctly, the deficit is not regarded as much of an issue. And it isn’t really much of an issue. The issue is joblessness. There’s a deficit commission but no joblessness commission. As far as the deficit is concerned, the public has opinions. Take a look at the polls. The public overwhelmingly supports higher taxes on the wealthy, which have declined sharply in this period of stagnation and decline, and the preservation of limited social benefits.

The outcome of the deficit commission is probably going to be the opposite. The Occupy movements could provide a mass base for trying to avert what amounts to a dagger pointed at the heart of the country.

Plutonomy and the Precariat

For the general population, the 99% in the imagery of the Occupy movement, it’s been pretty harsh — and it could get worse. This could be a period of irreversible decline. For the 1% and even less — the .1% — it’s just fine. They are richer than ever, more powerful than ever, controlling the political system, disregarding the public. And if it can continue, as far as they’re concerned, sure, why not?

Take, for example, Citigroup. For decades, Citigroup has been one of the most corrupt of the major investment banking corporations, repeatedly bailed out by the taxpayer, starting in the early Reagan years and now once again. I won’t run through the corruption, but it’s pretty astonishing.

In 2005, Citigroup came out with a brochure for investors called “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances.” It urged investors to put money into a “plutonomy index.” The brochure says, “The World is dividing into two blocs — the Plutonomy and the rest.”

Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that’s where the action is. They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift. We don’t really care about them. We don’t really need them. They have to be around to provide a powerful state, which will protect us and bail us out when we get into trouble, but other than that they essentially have no function. These days they’re sometimes called the “precariat” — people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. Only it’s not the periphery anymore. It’s becoming a very substantial part of society in the United States and indeed elsewhere. And this is considered a good thing.

So, for example, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, at the time when he was still “Saint Alan” — hailed by the economics profession as one of the greatest economists of all time (this was before the crash for which he was substantially responsible) — was testifying to Congress in the Clinton years, and he explained the wonders of the great economy that he was supervising. He said a lot of its success was based substantially on what he called “growing worker insecurity.” If working people are insecure, if they’re part of the precariat, living precarious existences, they’re not going to make demands, they’re not going to try to get better wages, they won’t get improved benefits. We can kick ’em out, if we don’t need ’em. And that’s what’s called a “healthy” economy, technically speaking. And he was highly praised for this, greatly admired.

So the world is now indeed splitting into a plutonomy and a precariat — in the imagery of the Occupy movement, the 1% and the 99%. Not literal numbers, but the right picture. Now, the plutonomy is where the action is and it could continue like this.

If it does, the historic reversal that began in the 1970s could become irreversible. That’s where we’re heading. And the Occupy movement is the first real, major, popular reaction that could avert this. But it’s going to be necessary to face the fact that it’s a long, hard struggle. You don’t win victories tomorrow. You have to form the structures that will be sustained, that will go on through hard times and can win major victories. And there are a lot of things that can be done.

Toward Worker Takeover

I mentioned before that, in the 1930s, one of the most effective actions was the sit-down strike. And the reason is simple: that’s just a step before the takeover of an industry.

Through the 1970s, as the decline was setting in, there were some important events that took place.  In 1977, U.S. Steel decided to close one of its major facilities in Youngstown, Ohio. Instead of just walking away, the workforce and the community decided to get together and buy it from the company, hand it over to the work force, and turn it into a worker-run, worker-managed facility. They didn’t win. But with enough popular support, they could have won.  It’s a topic that Gar Alperovitz and Staughton Lynd, the lawyer for the workers and community, have discussed in detail.

It was a partial victory because, even though they lost, it set off other efforts. And now, throughout Ohio, and in other places, there’s a scattering of hundreds, maybe thousands, of sometimes not-so-small worker/community-owned industries that could become worker-managed. And that’s the basis for a real revolution. That’s how it takes place.

In one of the suburbs of Boston, about a year ago, something similar happened. A multinational decided to close down a profitable, functioning facility carrying out some high-tech manufacturing. Evidently, it just wasn’t profitable enough for them. The workforce and the union offered to buy it, take it over, and run it themselves. The multinational decided to close it down instead, probably for reasons of class-consciousness. I don’t think they want things like this to happen. If there had been enough popular support, if there had been something like the Occupy movement that could have gotten involved, they might have succeeded.

And there are other things going on like that. In fact, some of them are major. Not long ago, President Barack Obama took over the auto industry, which was basically owned by the public. And there were a number of things that could have been done. One was what was done: reconstitute it so that it could be handed back to the ownership, or very similar ownership, and continue on its traditional path.

The other possibility was to hand it over to the workforce — which owned it anyway — turn it into a worker-owned, worker-managed major industrial system that’s a big part of the economy, and have it produce things that people need. And there’s a lot that we need.

We all know or should know that the United States is extremely backward globally in high-speed transportation, and it’s very serious. It not only affects people’s lives, but the economy.  In that regard, here’s a personal story. I happened to be giving talks in France a couple of months ago and had to take a train from Avignon in southern France to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, the same distance as from Washington, DC, to Boston. It took two hours.  I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the train from Washington to Boston, but it’s operating at about the same speed it was 60 years ago when my wife and I first took it. It’s a scandal.

It could be done here as it’s been done in Europe. They had the capacity to do it, the skilled work force. It would have taken a little popular support, but it could have made a major change in the economy.

Just to make it more surreal, while this option was being avoided, the Obama administration was sending its transportation secretary to Spain to get contracts for developing high-speed rail for the United States, which could have been done right in the rust belt, which is being closed down. There are no economic reasons why this can’t happen. These are class reasons, and reflect the lack of popular political mobilization. Things like this continue.

Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons

I’ve kept to domestic issues, but there are two dangerous developments in the international arena, which are a kind of shadow that hangs over everything we’ve discussed. There are, for the first time in human history, real threats to the decent survival of the species.

One has been hanging around since 1945. It’s kind of a miracle that we’ve escaped it. That’s the threat of nuclear war and nuclear weapons. Though it isn’t being much discussed, that threat is, in fact, being escalated by the policies of this administration and its allies. And something has to be done about that or we’re in real trouble.

The other, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Practically every country in the world is taking at least halting steps towards trying to do something about it. The United States is also taking steps, mainly to accelerate the threat.  It is the only major country that is not only not doing something constructive to protect the environment, it’s not even climbing on the train. In some ways, it’s pulling it backwards.

And this is connected to a huge propaganda system, proudly and openly declared by the business world, to try to convince people that climate change is just a liberal hoax. “Why pay attention to these scientists?”

We’re really regressing back to the dark ages. It’s not a joke.  And if that’s happening in the most powerful, richest country in history, then this catastrophe isn’t going to be averted — and in a generation or two, everything else we’re talking about won’t matter. Something has to be done about it very soon in a dedicated, sustained way.

It’s not going to be easy to proceed. There are going to be barriers, difficulties, hardships, failures.  It’s inevitable. But unless the spirit of the last year, here and elsewhere in the country and around the globe, continues to grow and becomes a major force in the social and political world, the chances for a decent future are not very high.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.  A TomDispatch regular, he is the author of numerous best-selling political works, most recently, Hopes and Prospects, Making the Future, and Occupy, published by Zuccotti Park Press, from which this speech, given last October, is excerpted and adapted. His web site is www.chomsky.info.