[Marxism] Purveyors of doom and fear

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Apr 30 09:31:37 MDT 2013

As to the effects of the Fukushima accident on areas inside and outside 
the'evacuation zone' that remains to been seen. If you pay attention to 
the side-show act of Arnie Gundersen, they ought to start evacuating all 
of Japan right now. This would serve the purveyors of doom and fear 
nicely. There is likely to be no increase in mortality from 
radioactivity-initiated cancers in Japan at all as the result of 
Fukushima. At least not a noticeable one. Anywhere there. But that 
remains to be seen, obviously.

--David Walters, 4/1/2012

* * * *

NY Times April 29, 2013
Flow of Tainted Water Is Latest Crisis at Japan Nuclear Plant

TOKYO — Two years after a triple meltdown that grew into the world’s 
second worst nuclear disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant 
is faced with a new crisis: a flood of highly radioactive wastewater 
that workers are struggling to contain.

Groundwater is pouring into the plant’s ravaged reactor buildings at a 
rate of almost 75 gallons a minute. It becomes highly contaminated 
there, before being pumped out to keep from swamping a critical cooling 
system. A small army of workers has struggled to contain the continuous 
flow of radioactive wastewater, relying on hulking gray and silver 
storage tanks sprawling over 42 acres of parking lots and lawns. The 
tanks hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-size pools.

But even they are not enough to handle the tons of strontium-laced water 
at the plant — a reflection of the scale of the 2011 disaster and, in 
critics’ view, ad hoc decision making by the company that runs the plant 
and the regulators who oversee it. In a sign of the sheer size of the 
problem, the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or 
Tepco, plans to chop down a small forest on its southern edge to make 
room for hundreds more tanks, a task that became more urgent when 
underground pits built to handle the overflow sprang leaks in recent weeks.

“The water keeps increasing every minute, no matter whether we eat, 
sleep or work,” said Masayuki Ono, a general manager with Tepco who acts 
as a company spokesman. “It feels like we are constantly being chased, 
but we are doing our best to stay a step in front.”

While the company has managed to stay ahead, the constant threat of 
running out of storage space has turned into what Tepco itself called an 
emergency, with the sheer volume of water raising fears of future leaks 
at the seaside plant that could reach the Pacific Ocean.

That quandary along with an embarrassing string of mishaps — including a 
29-hour power failure affecting another, less vital cooling system — 
have underscored an alarming reality: two years after the meltdowns, the 
plant remains vulnerable to the same sort of large earthquake and 
tsunami that set the original calamity in motion.

There is no question that the Fukushima plant is less dangerous than it 
was during the desperate first months after the accident, mostly through 
the determined efforts of workers who have stabilized the melted reactor 
cores, which are cooler and less dangerous than they once were.

But many experts warn that safety systems and fixes at the plant remain 
makeshift and prone to accidents.

The jury-rigged cooling loop that pours water over the damaged reactor 
cores is a mazelike collection of pumps, filters and pipes that snake 
two and a half miles along the ground through the plant. And a pool for 
storing used nuclear fuel remains perched on the fifth floor of a 
damaged reactor building as Tepco struggles to move the rods to a safer 

The situation is worrisome enough that Shunichi Tanaka, a longtime 
nuclear power proponent who is the chairman of the newly created 
watchdog Nuclear Regulation Authority, told reporters after the 
announcement of the leaking pits that “there is concern that we cannot 
prevent another accident.”

A growing number of government officials and advisers now say that by 
entrusting the cleanup to the company that ran the plant before the 
meltdowns, Japanese leaders paved the way for a return to the 
insider-dominated status quo that prevailed before the disaster.

Even many scientists who acknowledge the complexity of cleaning up the 
worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl fear that the water crisis is 
just the latest sign that Tepco is lurching from one problem to the next 
without a coherent strategy.

“Tepco is clearly just hanging on day by day, with no time to think 
about tomorrow, much less next year,” said Tadashi Inoue, an expert in 
nuclear power who served on a committee that drew up the road map for 
cleaning up the plant.

But the concerns extend well beyond Tepco. While doing a more rigorous 
job of policing Japan’s nuclear industry than regulators before the 
accident, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has a team of just nine 
inspectors to oversee the more than 3,000 workers at Fukushima.

And a separate committee created by the government to oversee the 
cleanup is loaded with industry insiders, including from the Ministry of 
Trade, in charge of promoting nuclear energy, and nuclear reactor 
manufacturers like Toshiba and Hitachi. The story of how the Fukushima 
plant ended up swamped with water, critics say, is a cautionary tale 
about the continued dangers of leaving decisions about nuclear safety to 
industry insiders.

When Tepco and the government devised the current plans for 
decommissioning the plant in late 2011, groundwater had already been 
identified as a problem — the plant lies in the path of water flowing 
from nearby mountains to the sea. But decision makers placed too low a 
priority on the problem, critics say, assuming the water could be stored 
until it could be cleaned and disposed of.

According to some who helped the government plan the cleanup, outside 
experts might have predicted the water problem, but Tepco and the 
government swatted away entreaties to bring in such experts or companies 
with more cleanup expertise, preferring to keep control of the plant 
within the collusive nuclear industry.

Tepco also rejected a proposal to build a concrete wall running more 
than 60 feet into the ground to block water from reaching the reactors 
and turbine buildings, and the Trade Ministry did not force the issue, 
according to experts and regulators who helped draw up the 
decommissioning plan.

Instead, Tepco made interim adjustments, including hastily building the 
plastic- and clay-lined underground water storage pits that eventually 
developed leaks.

It was only after the discovery of those leaks that the regulation 
agency was added as a full-fledged member to the government’s cleanup 
oversight committee.

But the biggest problem, critics say, was that Tepco and other members 
of the oversight committee appeared to assume all along that they would 
eventually be able to dump the contaminated water into the ocean once a 
powerful new filtering system was put in place that could remove 62 
types of radioactive particles, including strontium.

The dumping plans have now been thwarted by what some experts say was a 
predictable problem: a public outcry over tritium, a relatively weak 
radioactive isotope that cannot be removed from the water.

Tritium, which can be harmful only if ingested, is regularly released 
into the environment by normally functioning nuclear plants, but even 
Tepco acknowledges that the water at Fukushima contains about 100 times 
the amount of tritium released in an average year by a healthy plant.

“We were so focused on the fuel rods and melted reactor cores that we 
underestimated the water problem,” said Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman 
of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, a government body that helped 
draw up Tepco’s original cleanup plan. “Someone from outside the 
industry might have foreseen the water problem.”

Tepco rejects the criticism that it has mishandled the growing 
groundwater problem, saying that the only way to safely stop the inflow 
is by plugging the cracks in the damaged reactor buildings. It contends 
that no company in the world has the ability to do that because it would 
require entering the highly radioactive buildings and working in 
dangerously toxic water several feet deep.

“We operate the plant, so we know it better than anyone else,” said Mr. 
Ono, the Tepco spokesman. He then teared up, adding, “Fixing this mess 
that we made is the only way we can regain the faith of society.”

For the moment, that goal seems distant. The public outcry over the 
plans to dump tritium-tainted water into the sea — driven in part by the 
company’s failure to inform the public in 2011 when it dumped 
radioactive water into the Pacific — was so loud that Prime Minister 
Shinzo Abe personally intervened last month to say that there would be 
“no unsafe release.”

Meanwhile, the amount of water stored at the plant just keeps growing.

“How could Tepco not realize that it had to get public approval before 
dumping this into the sea?” said Muneo Morokuzu, an expert on public 
policy at the University of Tokyo who has called for creating a 
specialized new company just to run the cleanup. “This all just goes to 
show that Tepco is in way over its head.”

Makiko Inoue contributed reporting from Tokyo, and Matthew L. Wald from 

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