Exposed: Japan Kills Whales Inside Sanctuary

Environmental campaign group Sea Shepherd says it has video of the Japanese fleet killing protected whales inside an internationally recognized whale sanctuary.

Radiation Soars 6,700 Times Legal Limit as Fukushima Disasters Continue Unabated

'Clean-up' a litany of failures: near daily leaks, escalating danger, TEPCO and government cover-ups

TEPCO admitted Thursday that yet another spill at the crisis-hit Fukushima nuclear plant has released water 6,700 times more radioactive than the legal limit, adding to the near daily news of fresh leaks and climbing radiation pointing towards systemic failure to mitigate or contain the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

At least 430 liters of contaminated water spilled Thursday when workers overfilled a tank while transferring water without using a gauge. TEPCO revealed that the water that escaped had readings as high as 200,000 becquerels per liter, well above the legal limit of 30 becquerels.

Plant workers resorted to using sandbags in an attempt to absorb the leak, but TEPCO admits that by now, the radioactive water may have reached the Pacific Ocean.

This was just the latest in a series of near daily mishaps that, when added up, paint a picture of ongoing structural failure to contain a nuclear disaster that has only grown since a tsunami sparked a reactor-meltdown two and a half years ago.

While it is nearly impossible to paint a complete picture of the Fukushima emergency, given efforts on the part of TEPCO, the nuclear industry, and the Japanese government to cover it up, as well as the sheer scope of the crisis, Common Dreams has reported a series of key developments that occurred in September alone:

  • Tanks are leaking and spilling on a near-daily basis, releasing radioactive water into the groundwater and sea. Even a 'radiation barrier' fence surrounding the tanks burst a hole. There is no short-term strategy for containing the ever-growing amounts of radioactive water contaminated by efforts to cool the melted reactors.
  • The destroyed plant is extremely vulnerable to weather fluctuations, with storms and heavy rains resulting in the further release of toxic water. Facing the threat of Typhoon Man-Yi in mid-September, TEPCO released an unknown quantity of radioactive water into the ocean, in a bid to fend off further disaster, the company claims. As recently as Tuesday, a heavy rainstorm resulted in the leakage of at least 4 tons of toxic water.
  • In early September, TEPCO admitted it had detected leaked water with radiation at levels high enough to kill a person within 4 hours of exposure. To date, it is not known what the short or long-term health effects will be for the thousands of clean-up workers at the plant.
  • A rare admission from TEPCO senior official Kazuhiko Yamashita that the "situation is not under control" was quickly covered up by other company officials and the Japanese government, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scrambles to convince the International Olympic Committee that the problem is manageable.
  • The Japanese government announced in early September it will invest $500 million to build a giant 'wall of ice' surrounding the plant. Yet, experts it will take at least 2 years to complete, and there is no evidence it will mitigate the crisis.
  • Despite the growing emergency, TEPCO is pushing to re-activate the world's largest nuclear power plant, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility, located approximately 300 kilometers northwest of Tokyo.

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Worst Incident at Fukushima for Two Years

27404_53254The seemingly endless torrent of scandals rushing from the damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima continues with the news that a serious incident is underway at the stricken plant. Once again we see that Fukushima’s owner TEPCO is utterly unfit to deal with the ongoing disaster.

And the bad news just keeps coming. We now hear that 300 tonnes of highly contaminated water has escaped from storage tanks at the site – the worst leak since the disaster began in March 2011.

Currently, the situation is being classified by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority as level 3 on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) – a serious incident.

INES-scaleThe source of the leak is a mystery and there is no confirmation from TEPCO that it has been stopped. Right now, TEPCO has denied the possibility that the water is leaking into the Pacific Ocean but we’ve heard these reassurances before. TEPCO’s announcements simply can’t be trusted. The radioactive waste is flowing into the soil and it is just a matter of time that it will be taken towards the ocean by the groundwater.

Radiation levels found in one of the puddles are the highest found in the two and a half years since the reactors were destroyed. According to TEPCO, the leaked water contains 80 million Becquerel of beta radiation per liter. One location measured over 100 milliSievert per hour of radiation dose. The high contamination levels in the water means it will be extremely difficult for humans to clean it up - workers will easily be exposed to more than the maximum allowable limit of radiation.

Why wasn’t TEPCO monitoring these tanks properly? That such a massive amount of dangerous radiation could escape before anything was done is another damning scandal amid an ocean of damning scandals rushing from Fukushima. How much more incompetence from TEPCO will the Japanese government tolerate? Why isn’t the company being held responsible? Nobody has been arrested or lost their jobs. Meanwhile, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe tours the world acting as salesman for the nuclear industry. The situation is absurd.

The chilling question now is: what might happen next? We’ve been saying things have been going from bad to worse for years. Things are now going from worse to what? Worser? We’re running out of ways to describe this never-ending nightmare.

It is long past time the Japanese government took over the disaster relief efforts and TEPCO’s executives were held to account. An urgent appeal for international assistance must be made immediately. This is an emergency none of us can afford to ignore.

Top image: Satellite image showing damage at Japan's Fukushima 1 Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant after the March 11 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Source: DigitalGlobe

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Toxic Radiation Found at Japanese Plant

Toxic radioactive substances have once again been detected in groundwater at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, its...Toxic radioactive substances have once again been detected in groundwater at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, its Japanese operator says, the latest in a series of incidents at the tsunami-battered complex.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said on Sunday that tests showed that tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen used in glow-in-the-dark watches, was present at levels 10 times the permitted rate.

"From test samples on July 5 ... we detected a record high 600,000 becquerels per litre" of tritium, 10 times higher than the government guideline of 60,000 becquerels per litre, TEPCO said in a statement.

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Nuclear Plant in Japan Leaks Toxic Water

TOKYO — Tens of thousands of gallons of radioactive water leaked from a large underground storage pool at Japan’s crippled nuclear plant, and thousands more gallons could seep out before the faulty pool can be emptied, the plant’s operator said Saturday.

About 120 tons, or almost 32,000 gallons, of highly contaminated water appeared to have breached the inner protective lining of the pool at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, said the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company. It was unclear how much of the water had made it through two additional layers of lining to reach soil, but radiation levels outside the pool have risen, a sign that some water is getting out, said the company, known as Tepco.

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Profit Before Safety: Engineer Exposes Coverup of Reactor Flaw

Former Babcock-Hitachi engineer and member of the Japanese Parliament committee investigating TEPCO, Mitsuhiko Tanaka, details a flaw in the manufacture of the pressure vessel for Fukushima Daiichi reactor 4. This flaw was covered up despite compromising the safety of the reactor. Though not the cause of the explosion, it was one of many problems at the plant not properly investigated or adequately repaired.

Women of Fukushima

Women of Fukushima, Part 1

Women of Fukushima, Part 2

Whalers Win Injunction Against Sea Shepherd

Japan's whalers have won an injunction in a United States court against Sea Shepherd, restraining the anti-whaling group from attacking their ships in the Southern Ocean.

The decision by the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was described as "somewhat astonishing" by Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson on Tuesday.

It follows an appeal to the court by Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research against the decision of a US District Court judge refusing an injunction earlier this year.

Chief Judge, Tashima Kozinski said in the decision that Sea Shepherd, Mr Watson, and anyone acting for them, were "enjoined from physically attacking any vessel engaged by Plaintiffs the Institute of Cetacean Research, Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha, Lt., Tomoyuki Ogawa or Toshiyuki Miura in the Southern Ocean."

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Ocean Still Suffering from Fukushima Fallout

Radioactivity is persisting in the ocean waters close to Japan's ruined nuclear power plant at Fukushima Daiichi.

New data presented at a conference held on 12–13 November at the University of Tokyo show that levels of radioactivity in the sea around the plant remain stable, rather than falling as expected. Researchers believe that run-off from rivers, as well as continued leaks from the plant, may be partially to blame. But contaminated sediment and marine organisms also seem to be involved.

The level of contamination is not likely to pose a significant health risk to humans. But it could have long-term economic consequences for fishermen along Japan's east coast.

“We can't answer the basic question of when these fisheries will be able to open.”

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IFAW IWC 2012 – “Calm Before the Storm”

In this brief video, produced by the International Fund for Animal Welfare International Whaling Commission team on location in Panama, the stage is set for the answering of a few very critical questions in the pursuit of protecting the world's whales.