Disaster-Stricken Japanese Towns Still Struggle After Earthquake, Tsunami

June 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Toxic Spills, Water Quality

After seeing the news footage of the earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that slammed into Japan in March and hearing about the Fukushima nuclear power plant explosion, I thought I wouldn’t be making a return trip to the country anytime soon.

I traveled to Japan in December, and I couldn’t wait to go back. Seeing news accounts of the destruction and devastation of so many of its people was heartbreaking, and I presumed the country as a whole was no longer a desirable destination or a safe place to travel.

I was fortunate enough, however, to have been able to take another trip to Japan, where I’ve found that presumption to be untrue. Tokyo and other large metropolitan areas are bustling as usual. Radiation levels in most of the country are back to normal, except in areas surrounding the Fukushima power plant. Most of the food and water is safe to consume.

If I were to confine myself to Tokyo or many other cities here, I would never know an earthquake or tsunami had struck the country. I might convince myself that it never happened, as the pictures and other news footage seemed so unreal to begin with.

Unfortunately, denial was not in the cards on this trip. The purpose of traveling here with my significant other was to oversee the installation of temporary housing units for earthquake and tsunami victims.

His company, CTSS Group, has begun to ship these small but functional units to earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged villages to help people begin to live independently again, rather than in classrooms or gymnasiums.

The three-month anniversary of the disaster passed a few days ago, and by the looks of things on the coast, little progress has been made in the affected region.

Some roads have been rebuilt and some debris has been sorted, but the scale of the storm-related damage is unfathomable and the government has released little or no funding for relief efforts. The turmoil in the inhabitants’ lives continues.

While visiting the affected areas, all of your senses are thrown for a loop. The sight of the destruction is unimaginable. Many towns are deserted, so the silence is eerie. The pungent odor is what I imagine the beach would smell like in hell.

The winding drive along the coast, with views of green mountains and calm blue water, prompts you to stop and ponder how nature can be so beautiful, yet so incredibly deadly.

In one of the small towns we visited Saturday, we met the mayor, who now lives with his family in a nearby shelter. All 28 families in the town lost their houses, but they all survived. They had prepared for an evacuation and had fled to the hills before the tsunami hit.

The mayor came to watch the few new temporary housing units being set up amid the debris of the destroyed houses.  His house once sat by the water but had been pushed hundreds of yards inland. As he knelt down by the roof of his home, I watched and wondered what he was thinking.

Was he dreaming of his new life or mourning the loss of what once was? Either way, when I saw him gazing out over the ocean with the slightest gleam in his eye, I sensed he had hope for the future of his town.

As will many other towns in the United States that recently have been hit by storms, these small coastal villages will take years to recover. Still, I admire people who are so loyal to their hometowns and refuse to let Mother Nature deter them from calling a certain place home.

I can’t say that I’d definitely stay in Sewickley if such a catastrophe destroyed everything I once knew. I do hope that, like that mayor, I would look at my disaster-ridden community and believe that things eventually would be OK.

The author is currently visiting parts of Japan, including Sendai, which was destroyed  by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Article source: http://sewickley.patch.com/articles/disaster-stricken-japanese-towns-still-struggle-after-earthquake-tsunami

Missouri river flooding threatened America’s nuclear plant

June 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Water Quality

By IBTimes Staff Reporter | Jun 21, 2011 04:17 AM EDT

The swollen Missouri River had posed a serious threat to a riverside nuclear power plant in the state of Nebraska in the United States after levees built to hold back the rising floodwaters failed.

The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant was reportedly very close to getting engulfed by the floodwaters, raising fears of a crisis similar to Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

Though the nuclear plant declared the event as “unusual,” the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) maintained that there was no risk of disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, was devastated by Tsunami waves in March 2011, leading to leakage of radioactive water into the ocean.

As a massive earthquake and tsunami killed thousands of people in Japan, radiation woes and a much more severe nuclear crisis took the country’s economy into recession affecting businesses, consumer spending and tearing apart supply chains.

Federal officials widened flood gates last week to allow record, or near-record water releases to ease pressure on six major reservoirs swollen by heavy rains and melting snow, Reuters reported.

But later in the week, Missouri River floodwaters reached a levee built up to protect Hamburg, Iowa, after the main protection along the river failed, a county emergency official said.

Check out some of the latest pictures of Missouri river flooding below:

Missouri river flooding threatened Americas nuclear plant

A crew of U.S. Fish Wildlife Service employees reinforce a levy to stop flood waters more than a mile away from the Missouri River in rural Missouri Valley, Iowa, June 17, 2011. The Missouri River, swollen by heavy rains and melted snow, has been flooding areas from Montana through Missouri.

Source: REUTERS


Vehicles sit stranded in flood waters in rural Missouri Valley, Iowa June 17, 2011. Missouri River floodwaters have reached a levee built up this week to protect Hamburg, Iowa, after the main protection along the river failed, a county emergency official said on Thursday.

Source: REUTERS

U.S. Fish Wildlife Service employees reinforce a levy more than a mile away from the Missouri River in rural Missouri Valley, Iowa, June 17, 2011.

Source: REUTERS

Steve Howerton ties a sandbag as U.S. Fish Wildlife Service employees reinforce a levy to stop flood waters more than a mile away from the Missouri River in rural Missouri Valley, Iowa, June 17, 2011.

Source: REUTERS

A pickup truck is submerged on an access road just east of Blair, Nebraska, June 12, 2011. Residents have been shoring up levees along the Missouri River from Montana through Missouri as federal officials widen flood gates to allow record, or near-record water releases to ease pressure on six major reservoirs swollen by heavy rains and melting snow.

Source: REUTERS/Daniel Wallis1

Article source: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/166612/20110621/latest-pictures-of-missouri-river-fort-calhoun-nuclear-power-plant-flooding-missouri-river-flooding.htm

Fukushima radiation found in California milk, fruit, vegetables

May 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Toxic Spills

radioactive

Commentary by Steven Hoffman

As the crippled reactors in Japan continue to emit radiation into the environment, the risk grows that it will appear in our food. Radiation has already been detected in trace amounts in milk across the U.S., and in strawberries, kale and other vegetables in California.

“The Swiss government Wednesday decided to exit nuclear energy, phasing out the country’s existing nuclear plants and seeking alternative energy sources to meet Switzerland’s energy needs, following widespread security concerns in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.”  – Dow Jones, May 25, 2011

“We believe we can show those countries who decide to abandon nuclear power—or not start using it—how it is possible to achieve growth, creating jobs and economic prosperity while shifting the energy supply toward renewable energies.”  – Chancellor Angela Merkel when announcing on May 30 that Germany would abandon nuclear power by 2022.

Nuclear energy is clean…until it isn’t.

The emerging reality of the ongoing nuclear reactor crisis in Fukushima, Japan—now in its third month after a devastating earthquake and tsunami caused nuclear explosions at the plant 150 miles north of Tokyo—is that it is not under control at all. Three of the six reactors are in meltdown. The crippled reactors are acting like a huge dirty bomb, emitting significant quantities of radioactive isotopes that are, in fact, contaminating our air, water, soil and food in a steady stream that may continue for a long time.

And it’s not just affecting Japan, though they’re certainly getting the worst of it. Since the accident on March 12, radioactive fallout from Fukushima has been spreading to the U.S. and across the northern hemisphere. Elevated levels of radiation caused by the meltdowns in Japan have been detected in drinking water across the country, in rainwater, in soil, and in food grown on U.S. farms.

The mainstream media is not really reporting on this. Since the initial weeks of the accident, there has been a disturbing silence. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the utility that owns and operates the reactors, and the government of Japan have handled public relations around this monumental disaster about as well as BP handled the Gulf oil spill last summer, and they are losing credibility fast. The radiation has leaked much faster than TEPCO’s disclosure of information related to the crisis; it’s only now that we know that three of the six reactors at the plant are in full meltdown. One of the meltdowns occurred within hours of the accident on March 12, but was not revealed until May 15, more than two months later.

Crisis, What Crisis?

In announcing the news, TEPCO admitted that it did not want the public to know the extent of the accident early on to avoid panic. They continue to downplay the time it will take to get the reactors under control and the threat this unprecedented crisis presents to our food, health and environment. While TEPCO has given a time estimate of six to nine months to control the reactors, on May 29 a senior TEPCO official admitted that it may be impossible to stabilize the crippled plant by the beginning of 2012. One U.S. official, John Kelly, deputy assistant secretary for nuclear reactor technologies at the U.S. Energy Department, told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in late May that the Fukushima reactors are still in grave danger and may continue to vent radioactive steam for a year or more, according to the Washington Post.

With the reactors in meltdown, TEPCO employees are racing to avoid a potential “China Syndrome” as superhot nuclear fuel melts down through holes burned into the steel and concrete containment vessels into the earth, thus liberating it into the environment.

Additionally, highly toxic radioactive iodine, cesium, strontium, plutonium and other toxic man-made radionuclides have leaked unabated since March 12 into the ocean and atmosphere. The radiation is contaminating large areas of Japan. Monitoring the ocean around the Fukushima plant, Greenpeace reported on May 26 that the contamination is spreading over a wide area and accumulating in sea life, rather than simply dispersing like the Japanese authorities claimed would happen.

Also, radiation continues to blow in a steady stream across the Pacific Ocean toward North America, following the course of the jet stream in the atmosphere, and major currents in the ocean that flow from Japan to America. It took less than a month for radioactive iodine and cesium from the Fukushima nuclear accident to first show up in U.S. milk, and it continues to be detected in trace amounts in milk produced in California, one of the only states conducting any kind of testing for radiation in food.

– Next page: Independent Tests Indicate Radiation Is Entering the U.S. Food Chain

More on nuclear power:

Article source: http://redgreenandblue.org/2011/06/01/fukushima-radiation-found-in-california-milk-fruit-vegetables/

Serious Marine Radiation Contamination Found off Fukushima: Greenpeace

May 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Toxic Spills, Water Quality

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tokyo- (PanOrient News) Greenpeace today slammed the Japanese authorities’”continued inadequate response” to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, after new data from its radiation monitoring showed seaweed radiation levels 50 times higher than official limits, raising serious concerns about continued long-term risks to people and the environment from contaminated seawater.

In a statement issued today, Greenpeace said that earlier this month, its radiation monitoring teams on shore, and on board the international environmental organisation’s flagship Rainbow Warrior, collected samples of marine life including fish, shellfish and seaweed outside Japan’s 12-mile territorial waters and along the Fukushima coast. Detailed analysis by accredited laboratories in France (ACRO) and Belgium (SCK CEN) found high levels of radioactive iodine contamination and significantly high levels of radioactive caesium in the samples.

In contrast, Japanese authorities claim that radioactivity is being dispersed or diluted and are undertaking only limited marine radiation monitoring. Path of radioactive water leak at Japan plant unclear, and “radioactivity is quickly diluted in the ocean, and the dump should not affect the safety of seafood in the area,” according to the Japanese government.

“Our data show that significant amounts of contamination continue to spread over great distances from the Fukushima nuclear plant”, said Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace Radiation Expert. “Despite what the authorities are claiming, radioactive hazards are not decreasing through dilution or dispersion of materials, but the radioactivity is instead accumulating in marine life. The concentration of radioactive iodine we found in seaweed is particularly concerning, as it tells us how far contamination is spreading along the coast, and because several species of seaweed are widely eaten in Japan.

“Japan’s government is mistaken in assuming that an absence of data means there is no problem. This complacency must end now, and instead mount a comprehensive and continuous monitoring program of the marine environment along the Fukushima coast, along with full disclosure of all information about both past and ongoing releases of contaminated water.”

Most fish and shellfish sampled by Greenpeace were found to contain levels of radioactivity above legal limits for food contamination. This is just one of the multiple, chronic sources of radiation exposure to people living in the greater Fukushima area. In April, the authorities raised regulatory limits for levels of radiation exposure twentyfold to 20 milliSievert per year for all people – including children.

Greenpeace has criticised this controversial revision of regulatory standards, saying it only accounts for sources of external exposure – radioactive materials can also be ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Any increased exposure consequently also increases the risk of developing cancer and other radiation-related illnesses, it said.

“Ongoing contamination from the Fukushima crisis means fishermen could be at additional risk from handling fishing nets that have come in contact with radioactive sediment (6), hemp materials such as rope, which absorb radioactive materials, and as our research shows, radioactivity in fish and seaweed collected along Fukushima’s coast,” said Wakao Hanaoka, Greenpeace Japan Oceans Campaigner. “Fishermen, their communities and consumers desperately need information on how radioactivity affects their lives, livelihoods and the ecosystems they rely on, and especially how they can protect themselves and their families from further contamination.”

For example, eating one kilo of highly contaminated seaweed sampled by Greenpeace could increase the radiation dose by 2.8 milliSievert – almost three times the internationally recommended annual maximum, according to the statement.

“Even if all the leaks caused by the Fukushima nuclear crisis were to stop today, the radiation problem is not going to go away. A long-term, comprehensive monitoring programme must be put in place, decisive action taken to protect the health of fisherman, farmers and consumers, and compensation given to all whose lives have been destroyed by this disaster,” said Hanaoka.

PanOrient News

Article source: http://www.panorientnews.com/en/news.php?k=970