2014/01/24

The Myth of Extra Fossil Fuel Imports Devastating the Japanese Economy


If asked whether we should increase our reliance on caviar to fight world hunger, most people would laugh. Relying on an overly expensive commodity to perform an essential task spends too much money for too little benefit, while foreclosing more promising approaches. That is nuclear power's fundamental flaw in the search for plentiful energy without climate repercussions, though reactors are also more dangerous than caviar unless you're a sturgeon.”
   Peter A. Bradford,
former commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission*
For almost three years, those with vested interests in the Japanese nuclear industry have promoted a false notion that the extra fossil fuel imports required by the loss of nuclear energy are going to devastate the Japanese economy. The data has been distorted and exaggerated, and the nuclear crisis has been scapegoated for the serious economic, fiscal and demographic crisis that has been forming since long before 2011.



In the last nine months of 2011, with no electricity produced by nuclear, consumption of fossil fuels went from 81.58% to 89.64%. But that increase was caused by an event that came in the third month of the year, so if we extend this trend for three more months, we get an annualized increase up to 92.24%. This jump from 81.58% to 92.24% represents a 13% increase.

Chart 2

(Chart 2 shows the same data as in Chart 1: As it is taught in my son’s grade 8 math textbook, you can manipulate a graph so that a change in a pattern looks a lot more dramatic than it really is.)

So how bad is a 13% increase in fossil fuel imports to the balance of trade and the fortunes of the nation? It’s not small, but it is not quite the devastating change in circumstances that it has been portrayed as. Consumers and middle class workers are forced to absorb such shocks all the time. For example, they have to take salary and benefit cuts, and mortgage rates can increase by 13% on short notice (a seemingly tiny change from 2.500% to 2.825% is a 13% increase). Corporations also have to routinely deal with swings of 10% or more in currency values. And who remembers the rampant speculation in world oil prices in 2007 that sharply drove up fuel costs for everyone, without a nuclear shutdown as the cause? These sorts of price fluctuations are common, and governments usually expect individuals and businesses to just roll with the punches.
I’ve been watching reports about Japan’s energy crunch for the last three years, and I haven’t seen a single report in the commercial media that put fossil fuel consumption in its proper context with something like the simple graph shown above. The data wasn’t hard to find, but reporters have preferred to go along with the official line that the loss of nuclear energy is hammering the economy and causing a steep rise in carbon emissions. It’s funny how no one seemed to worry about the failure to meet emission targets before 2011.
There is an additional factor which casts doubt on the claim about the necessity of nuclear energy. If the extra fuel imports were the critical factor in economic recovery, why would the Japanese government embark on a deliberate policy of currency devaluation? The currency has lost over 20% of its value since 2012, which means the Abe government thought this extra cost could be absorbed along with the 13% extra already paid for fuel imports.
If the extra fuel purchases really are such a problem, there are numerous ways to reduce them. Some analysts think that Japan has maxed out on efficiency gains, but they are usually foreign energy experts who have never seen a Tokyo electronics store with hundreds of appliances and air conditioners switched on just for demonstration purposes. Or they have never seen the state of home heating in the countryside. If you want to know about the state of Japanese energy efficiency, come spend the oshogatsu holiday in a traditional Japanese wooden home.
In addition to efficiency gains, we could consider the taboo topic of restricting consumption. If a nation really is in a crisis, it might be reasonable to ask citizens to drive 10% less, for example. However, no one has figured out how to keep people employed while eliminating arbitrarily defined non-essential uses of energy. Once one starts asking about the necessity of vending machines and illuminated billboards, one quickly comes to grim existential questions about the energy expended in almost all economic activity. Very few people would be left standing if we really had to think hard about what is essential.
Finally, another strategy is to get serious about developing alternative energy and ways to store it. With or without nuclear energy, and with or without climate change (since fossil fuel is a finite resource), renewable energy has to be expanded dramatically.
All of this is obvious to anyone disinterested (that is, not uninterested but free from selfish motive or interest) in the Japanese nuclear and power industries. Westinghouse-Toshiba, GE-Hitachi, Areva-Mitsubhishi, the electric utilities, and the politicians who do their bidding have attempted a great con over the last three years in selling the myth that the Japanese economy will be doomed without nuclear energy and nuclear technology exports. It is the opposite, though. Japan is doomed with them. The risks are too great in a nation of earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, while the rewards – a 13% reduction in fossil fuel imports − are too small to matter. The share of energy produced by fossil fuel is so large that it is pointless to worry about the small increase or the sacrifices that will be needed for a few years before new technologies and new patterns of production and consumption emerge.

*
Wall Street Journal Reports: Energy. “Should the World Increase Its Reliance on Nuclear Energy?” The Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2012.

2014/01/22

Chinese Hibakusha Activist Addresses French Senators

Chinese Nuclear Tests: A voice for thousands of victims invited to the French Senate
January 21, 2014
TRANSLATION by Dennis Riches, 2014/01/22
ORIGINAL SOURCE:
Dominique Leglu, «Essais Nucléaires Chinois: les milliers de morts s'invitent au Sénat français. » Le Nouvel Observateur (blogs), 2014/01/21.

“In 1973, I was just an elementary school student, stunned to see around me and my classmates a glowing powder, as if earth was falling from the sky onto our heads. When I asked the teacher what it was, she told us there had been a storm on Saturn, and that this was the effect.”
The man who spoke these words became a doctor, and he does not hesitate to say now that the dust was radioactive fallout on the city of Urumchi, coming after one of the Chinese nuclear tests at Xinjiang (there were 23 atmospheric tests and 23 underground tests in China.) He doesn’t hesitate to state that nuclear test fallout led to a 35% increase in the rate of cancer in this province in Western China of 20 million inhabitants, compared to the rate in Henan Province (100 million inhabitants) in Central China where there were no tests. He has compiled figures from hospital records, in particular the four main hospitals of Xinjiang.
It is rare in Paris to hear eyewitness testimony about the impact of Chinese nuclear tests on local populations. It is also alarming to hear the witness say that he could not respond to certain questions from the audience because he has been threatened with twenty years in prison if he gives explanations that would be considered as violations of state secrets.
Nonetheless, this Monday, January 20, 2014, forty years after the event described above, this Uighur doctor, Enver Tohti, came to give his testimony in Paris, as he has done in other talks for fifteen years since he first guided British documentary filmmakers (Death on the Silk Road, 1998) to the contaminated zones. At that time, he decided to leave China and reveal this story to the world.
This testimony was given at a quasi-official international symposium, the first of its kind in France, entitled The Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. The event took place in the basement of the Palais de Luxembourg. There were three roundtable sessions (1) organized by two elected representatives. One was Senator Paris Leila Aichi (EELV Party, Europe Ecologie-Les Verts), who opened the event, and the other was a senator from Polynesia, Richard Tuheiava (Socialist Party), who closed the proceedings. The event was organized by two groups: Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND, with 800 members in 80 countries) and l’Observatoire des Armements.
The date of this event was ironic because on this day the new nuclear accord between Iran and six other nations (US, Russia, China, France, Great Britain, and Germany – all except the latter are nuclear powers themselves) came into effect.
Enver Tohti discussed the results of research by Jun Takada, a physician at Sapporo University of Medicine, with whom he has collaborated for several years on research that examines the health effects of Chinese nuclear weapons tests. They call it Project Lop Nor, named after the geological basin where the tests occurred.
Thanks to the theoretical model developed by the Japanese physician, they were able to estimate the fallout pattern of each test. The images of the simulations, shown at the symposium, indicate that at the time of the two-megaton test of June 17, 1967, a fallout pattern oriented southeast to northwest would have drifted close to the large city of Urumchi (today with a population of 2 million), with a dose of about 2 sieverts. Furthermore, this cloud would have hung in the area for many hours or many days. For perspective, keep in mind that the permitted dose for the population in France, above what occurs naturally or in medical treatments, is 1/1000 of a Sievert for an entire year.
Enver Tohti pointed out that, in contrast with Hiroshima where a “black rain, as well as humidity and condensation, did something to disperse radioactive particles into the ground, in Lop Nor it hasn’t rained for thousands of years, and after the tests the dust has continued to blow in the wind.”
Enver Tohti continued by presenting the results of the Japanese researcher which are based on calculations from his earlier work in Kazakhstan (the location of Soviet nuclear tests). They show that there could have been as many as 190,000 deaths from acute radiation syndrome in the neighboring regions. This is an enormous figure, he says, “more than any estimate of damage from tests done by any other nation.”  This statement came as a shock to this Western audience that wasn’t familiar with the first publication of this news in 2009 (3). It is very difficult to verify, given the difficulty of conducting research in the testing sites.
The speaker added that to this figure we must also include a million victims struck in other ways (tumors, birth defects…), and we must consign ourselves to the long-term effects of this radiation on future generations. Will there be genetic malformations, or numerous induced cancers? He insists here that we don’t know how to compare the health effects of nuclear tests, which were done repeatedly over many decades, with those of the “one-time-only” bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He also protests against the impossibility of Xinjiang victims receiving medical treatment. “Chemotherapy costs $5,000, while the local population earns an average of $1,000 per year.” Nonetheless, he pointed out that an association of veterans of testing has started to stand up for their rights.
One could say that holding this critical event in an official setting rattled the cages of one of the taboos of French society: discussion of the strategic weapon par excellence, the atomic bomb. This event was held, after all, not in a university, nor in an independent association or foundation, but in La Salle Clemenceau of the Senate. But let’s not kid ourselves. It was only a rattling of the cages. France conducted 210 nuclear tests (4) and it will not be represented at the international conference in Mexico February 13-14, 2014 devoted to the health consequences of nuclear tests. Nor will any of the other nuclear powers be represented. The conference in Mexico follows the first conference of this type which was held in May 2013 in Oslo. In contrast with France, where disarmament and the effects of fallout are not on the political radar, these subjects retain the attention of all countries in Northern Europe, Austria, Switzerland, and the 123 states that signed, in October 2013, a UN resolution on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear arms. Yet in France there is only a stunning silence on these issues. A former Socialist Party defense minister, Paul Quilès, wrote less than a year ago a book (5) which risked the crime of lèse-majesté for its title Stop the Bomb.

Notes:

(1) First roundtable: The reality of the impact of nuclear weapons. Moderated by Patrick Bouveret, director of l’Observatoire des armements.
Second roundtable: The humanitarian dimension: the path to re-launching debate at the UN on nuclear disarmament. Moderated by Yann Mens, editor in chief of Alternatives Internationales.
Third roundtable: The role and power of European and French Parliamentarians in the processes of control and disarmament of nuclear weapons. Moderated by Jean-Marie Collin, director of PNND for France.

(2) See the two recent works by Bruno Barillot published by l’Observatoire des armements: Nuclear Tests: the Poisoned Heritage (2012) and Victims of French Nuclear Tests: History of a Combat (2010).

(3) Zeeya Merali, “Did China Nuclear Tests Kill Thousands and Doom Future Generations?” Scientific American, 2009.

(4) In the next blog post we’ll cover the session on the French tests conducted in Algeria and Polynesia.

(5) Paul Quiles, Arrêtez la bombe! (Le Cherche Midi, 2013).

Translator's note:

See also Jun Takada's book about Chinese nuclear tests:

Jun Takada, Chinese Nuclear Tests: Disasters Caused by Nuclear Explosions on the Silk Road (Iryokagakusha, 2009).

2014/01/16

The nuclear discourse exclusion zone

The nuclear discourse exclusion zone: How the nuclear lobby shuts out the voices that have been proven right about nuclear hazards

Asse Nuclear Waste Repository, Germany (Spiegel Online)
The most obvious and immediate lesson I drew from the Fukushima meltdowns was that the anti-nuclear groups in Japan had been right all along. The earthquake-tsunami-meltdown syndrome had happened exactly like they said it would. One would think that such accurate prognosticators would now be given a prominent role in setting energy policy for the future, not only in Japan but throughout the world. It doesn’t take much imagination to appreciate how valuable these critics of the nuclear industry could be, if the people in power cared to listen to them. TEPCO would still be a viable and profitable corporation today if it had followed the advice of its most hostile critics, to say nothing of all the harm to people and other life forms that could have been avoided.
In spite of the obvious value of viewpoints that come from outside the nuclear industry and its servants in government, advertising and academia, these institutions have gone right back to their old habits, turning inward and referring only to their own narrow parameters of analysis. Two recent news items illustrate this dismal trend.
The first example, from Phys.Org, is entitled “Researchers grapple with UK's nuclear legacy.” The article describes how The University of Leeds and a consortium of ten universities will study ways to deal with Britain’s nuclear waste. The UK government’s Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is spending less than 1% of its budget to fund the program.
The objective is to “bring together the nuclear industry, the Government's nuclear advisors and the country's leading academic researchers” who will work on how to deal with different types of spent fuels, packaging and storing waste, and nuclear sludges in ponds and silos at nuclear power stations.
The report frames the issue as if it hadn’t been an urgent and well-researched problem since the inception of nuclear technology. Project leader Professor Simon Biggs, Director of the University of Leeds' Institute of Particle Science and Engineering, said, “The project is primarily focused on developing new technologies and providing confidence in the safe storage and disposal of legacy waste. The UK is a technology leader in this field and the core aim of this project is to maintain and further develop that skill base.
The key words here are “providing confidence,” which indicate that the mission is political rather than scientific. If the intent were to do scientific research, there would be no goal at the outset of providing confidence. Honest research might lead to the conclusion that the situation is so dire that it might not give any confidence at all.
The claim to being a leader in the field must also be kept in perspective. This leadership has consisted of the contamination of British shorelines and the Irish Sea. The news from Phys.Org was released just as a related report in The Independent was published announcing that Ireland will now be free to sue the UK for radiological contamination of the Irish Sea, thanks to changes in the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy that will take effect this year. In addition, the elevated cancer rates along the UK shores near the Sellafield nuclear facility were documented by Chris Busby in his book Wolves of Water. So this gives some additional understanding of what is involved when people claim that their nation is a “technology leader” in this field.
Professor Biggs also said that he was glad the “appropriate research” was being funded and that it would be a “truly interdisciplinary effort.” However, it includes only civil engineers, chemists, chemical engineers, robotics experts, radiochemists, mechanical engineers and material engineers working on thirty projects. The problem apparently needs no input from philosophers, historians, economists, artists, lawyers or contrarian radiochemists like Chris Busby who assert that the legacy of radioactive waste is something more than a “challenge” ─ a term which exemplifies the sort of anodyne, obfuscating understatement preferred by the nuclear lobby.
The most telling quote from the report came from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's Head of Research and Development, Melanie Brownridge, who said: “Our industry benefits hugely when high-level academic research is focused at some of the challenges we face in decommissioning our nuclear legacy.” This statement makes it explicit: the purpose of the research is to benefit the nuclear industry, not to pursue yet unknown conclusions that might suggest the nuclear industry should be shut down.
Most strangely of all, the acronym for the new program is DISTINCTIVE, which one is supposed to guess stands for Decommissioning, Immobilisation and Storage Solutions for Nuclear Waste Inventories. This replaces the previous research program launched in 2007 called DIAMOND (Decommissioning, Immobilisation And Management Of Nuclear wastes for Disposal). The nuclear waste problem has been well understood for many decades, yet it remains unsolved. Solutions are promised as governments continually launch into one more research program after another that promises to solve the “challenge.” It may be a bad sign that solutions have been so elusive that the British can no longer come up with suitable acronyms that will put fresh lipstick on this pig. DIAMOND was good, but in the present case they seemed to have done alright only with the first three letters, then they just sort of threw the rest together randomly with any letters they found in the remaining words. It is strange that they didn’t see a more obvious combination of letters there: DISINVENT, which is exactly what sensible people wish could be done with nuclear technology.

The second example is the Asahi Shimbun article SYMPOSIUM: Japan’s massive stockpile of plutonium casts shadow over nonproliferation efforts. The Asahi Shimbun has done a lot of critical reporting on nuclear issues since 2011, and it has published many editorials that are opposed to the continuation of nuclear energy, but for some reason it invited no critical outsiders to this symposium. Most of the participants appear to have been selected from insiders and “realists,” the very perpetrators who were in charge during the lead-up to disaster. Now they all acknowledge the significant problems, but their proposed solutions are compromises that are not solutions at all. They remain within parameters that nuclear advocates will find to be “realistic” policy options.
The main issue was the complete failure of Japan’s nuclear energy policy as it was envisioned in the 1970s. The dream was to achieve energy independence by reprocessing nuclear fuel and using the new fuel, rich in plutonium, in fast breeder reactors. The reprocessing center was built in Rokkasho, in Northern Japan (Aomori Prefecture), and the Monju fast breeder reactor was built in Western Japan (Fukui Prefecture). Both facilities consumed billions of dollars, but neither has worked as planned. The program has essentially failed.
When Monju failed to be a viable way to use the reprocessed fuel, power companies agreed to take it as MOX fuel, and run it in their existing reactors. It was this fuel that was released in the explosion of Fukushima Daiichi No. 3 reactor, which scattered large amounts of plutonium into the earth’s atmosphere.
The dilemma for planners now is what to do about this completely failed nuclear fuel cycle dream. Aomori Prefecture agreed to take spent fuel from all over Japan, on the promise that it would not be left there. It was to be sent out to fast breeder reactors yet to be built. In order to live up to its promises, some think the Japanese government should advance with plans to make Rokkasho function as designed. It actually never has operated, and the spent fuel has been sent to the UK and France to be processed then re-imported later. There is now no realistic hope of fast breeder reactors ever being operational in Japan, and the whole future of nuclear energy is in doubt, but there are still people in high places saying that spent fuel should be processed in Rokkasho simply to live up to the agreement made in the past with Aomori Prefecture.
To make matters worse, the dream of fuel recycling has always been a major weapons proliferation issue. All other countries that reprocess spent nuclear fuel possess nuclear weapons. Since reprocessed spent fuel is a source of plutonium for weapons, neighboring countries wonder why Japan has desired to have such a large stockpile of plutonium, enough to make 1,500 weapons.
These issues are what the chosen experts at the symposium discussed.
Steve Fetter, a former U.S. White House official during the Obama administration, said, “Japan should stop reprocessing spent nuclear fuel,” but then hedged this assessment by waffling, “… if that is not possible, it should at least make clear its plan to use plutonium and reduce the amount of plutonium to the minimum necessary.” How would one define the “necessary” amount of plutonium?
Yoriko Kawaguchi, who has served as foreign minister and environment minister, declared it was not possible for Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons, in spite of having a massive stockpile of plutonium the likes of which the international community would never let Iran possess. She said, “Going nuclear would mean withdrawing from the NPT and facing international sanctions like North Korea and Iran. Japanese people would never support (Japan’s nuclear armament).” However, this contention is not necessarily true. According to a strict interpretation of the the NPT, Japan shouldn’t be stockpiling plutonium, but it does. Under Kawaguchi's logic, Israel would now be suffering sanctions for its possession of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, it remains to be seen whether Japanese people would tolerate nuclear armament. We were told for years that Japanese people would never accept American nuclear weapons being kept on Okinawa, or on US naval vessels in Japanese ports, but the nation didn’t erupt in protest when it learned that nuclear weapons have always been kept in Japan by US forces.
Yukio Sato, a former permanent representative of Japan to the United Nations, claimed that Japan’s current lack of a feasible plan to use its plutonium is an “unintended situation,” created by the devastating accident that unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. This utter falsehood could have been countered effectively if leaders from the anti-nuclear movement had been invited to attend. The recycling program was stalled before 2011. The Monju reactor had worked for only a few hours since opening in the early 1990s. Beyond that time frame, the proliferation implications, and the danger and implausibility of the reprocessing dream had been foreseen by critics before construction began. The situation was unintended only to the extent that it was unforeseeable by gullible people who ignored the fundamental problems with the whole project.
Sato went on to say that when the reprocessing program restarts, Japan will “return to the principle of holding no more plutonium than absolutely necessary.” Once again, no one acknowledges the ethical and political questions involved in determining what amount of plutonium is “necessary.”
We can credit Sato for bringing up the usually unmentionable topic of the true causes of the meltdowns at Fukushima. He said, “Japan should fully disclose information concerning the causes of the Fukushima nuclear disaster,” but he diplomatically avoided specifying what he was alluding to. This lack of courage is disheartening. If anti-nuclear representatives had been invited to speak, they would have understood the need to clearly raise the alarm about this important matter before power companies are allowed to restart their reactors. The crucial facts about the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, which TEPCO is loath to talk about, are that (1) the earthquake fatally damaged the reactors before the tsunami hit, and (2) when the waves hit they damaged the heat removal system so badly that the loss of electricity for pumps may have been irrelevant.
Vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, Tatsujiro Suzuki, was honest enough to admit that pluthermal power generation, which burns MOX fuel, is more expensive than the cost of just disposing of spent nuclear fuel. Unfortunately, he made no mention of the health effects of MOX fuel being released into the environment during an accident, as was the case with the Unit 3 explosion.
Klaus Janberg, a German nuclear engineering consultant pointed out that in Germany, when the costs were understood, “It was the electric utilities themselves who pulled the plug.” He added that without a continuous breeder program (i.e. reactors like Monju) it simply makes no sense do continue reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.
Another non-Japanese person in the room was able to point out the obvious dangers that the Japanese experts hesitated to confront. Gordon Thompson, executive director of the US Institute for Resource and Security Studies, said it would be dangerous to gather spent fuel from all nuclear power plants in Japan in one location at Rokkasho. There is simply too much volume of radioactive isotopes to risk having them in one place. The effects of an accident or terrorist attack, or act of war, would be devastating on a global scale.
It is stunning to me, as it would be to many sober observers, that after these experts described the horrific implications of the mess that has been created, they couldn’t agree that Japan should stop reprocessing. The most they could agree on is that they shouldn’t reprocess all the spent nuclear fuel. Hajime Yamana, chairman of the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning, added that the realistic approach was to pursue a mix of options. However, his reasoning was based on the irrational pursuit of recovering costs sunk into a lost cause. Because so much has been spent on building Rokkasho, and so much was promised to the citizens of Aomori (economic benefits, safety, removal of reprocessed fuel to elsewhere), he argues that the project must continue no matter how pointless, dangerous and costly it is.
The reason for this view is that we are supposed to feel sorry for the people of Aomori Prefecture who agreed to host the reprocessing facility. Motohisa Furukawa, former minister of national strategy of Japan, claimed, “But we have to honor the promises the successive administrations have made to Aomori Prefecture.” Actually, no, they don’t. Believing that Japan has to honor this promise means that the whole nation has to go along with some rigid and childish notion of the importance of keeping promises, even if it has become clear that the cost of keeping them will be a much greater injustice. One would think that the educated elite at this symposium would know that ethical dilemmas do not usually offer up black and white solutions. In the adult world, debts and promises are renegotiated all the time as circumstance change. 
The Asahi reporter added, “Abandoning the policy of promoting nuclear fuel recycling could destroy the trust between the central government and Aomori Prefecture.” This would be true, if there remained any trust between the central government and Japanese citizens, but it should be clear by now that the failure of the national energy policy has already broken this sacred bond.
Another way of looking at this is that the people of Aomori were warned. If anti-nuclear groups had been at the symposium, they could have reminded everyone of this fact. The people of Aomori didn’t oppose the intrusion of national energy policy on their lives, they shunned anti-nuclear activists as social misfits, and they elected governors and mayors who unwisely accepted assurances from the central government. They have to accept responsibility for this mistake.
Another non-Japanese person at the symposium was William Walker, a professor at St. Andrews University who studies Britain’s nuclear energy policy. He pointed out that Britain has already gone down this road of a failed reprocessing program. Plutonium has been extracted from spent fuel since the 1990s, but he says, “Nobody knows what to do with the 100 tons of plutonium that have been left behind.” Processing continues just because of the momentum of established economic interests.
Another foreign scholar, Frank von Hippel, of Princeton University, thought it would be better to store spent fuel over a wide range of sites in dry storage casks, even if this meant moving what is already at Rokkasho. Termination of the reprocessing program would save seven trillion yen over time, and this could be used to compensate Aomori Prefecture for the broken promises.
The symposium finally got around to discussing the final solution ─ permanent underground storage of radioactive waste. Japan has devoted little thought to this problem, perhaps because it staked so much hope on reprocessing.
Hiroya Masuda, former minister of internal affairs and communications, said about 70 percent of national land in Japan is scientifically suitable for locating a final disposal site. This absolutely stunning claim seems to have gone unquestioned. It is a surprising statement because the US, with much more land, has not been able to establish an appropriate place for permanent storage. The proposed Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada was cancelled by the Obama administration after billions of dollars and decades had been spent studying its suitability.
If Chris Busby, or any other scientist from the anti-nuclear side, had been invited to this symposium or the British research project, he would have been able to refute the optimistic claims about solutions to “challenges.”
The symposium failed to address, and the British project will fail to address, the hard truths of the situation. The Yucca Mountain site was cancelled partly due to NIMBY politics and senator Harry Reid’s influence, but the main factors were uncertainties about geological stability and the integrity of containers. There is no known material that can remain intact for 100,000 years while it holds radioactive waste, especially now that so many nuclear plants are using high burn-up fuel. Busby has claimed that the only feasible solution is to, first, stop making nuclear waste, and, second, prepare to store it above ground across many future generations. We will need to create a new profession called something such as Guardians of the Nuclear Waste, and pass on the knowledge of how to isolate it from the ecosystem and continually repair and replace nuclear waste receptacles. That’s the honest truth that the perpetrators of the nuclear dilemma don’t want to face up to, so honest messengers are not welcome at their table.

Sources and Further Reading:

Allison Macfarlane and Rodney C. Ewing, Uncertainty Underground Yucca Mountain and the Nation’s High-Level Nuclear Waste (MIT Press, 2006).



Chris Busby, Wolves of Water: A Study Constructed from Atomic Radiation, Morality, Epidemiology, Science, Bias, Philosophy and Death (Green Audit Books, 2007).


“Researchers grapple with UK's nuclear legacy.” Phys.Org. Jan 08, 2014.

2014/01/04

Nuclear Free by 2045: Partial Table of Contents

It’s been 2.5 years since I started this blog and it just had its 50,000th. individual page-view. That’s rather small-time compared to high profile blogs and Ciley Myrus videos, but it’s four orders of magnitude more than the number of people who read my book on bilingual education in Canada (available on Amazon, in case anyone wants to be the first person to actually pay for it!). Aside from the satisfaction of having had readers from all over the world, I made many new friends and had a brief moment of fame when I was interviewed on Nuclear Hotseat in August, 2013 (episode 120, aired on October 1st).

Recently, I’ve run out of steam for writing new blog posts, perhaps because I’ve covered just about every aspect of the nuclear era. It has become difficult to think of any original angle on recent topics that are all being well covered elsewhere.

This week I decided to do a retrospective of my 176 blog posts. I put labels on each post, and these are now visible on the right side of the main page. On this post, I have created a partial table of contents in 8 sections (A-H), listing 30 of the articles that I found the most interesting to write.

Others can judge the quality of the writing and the originality of reports, but at this point I will humbly say that I may have created a fairly good educational resource about the nuclear era. If the writing itself is not the important thing, you might agree with a good friend who told me, “I like it for the links.”

So there you have it: a skillfully arranged collection of hyperlinks.

A. WWII and the Manhattan Project

1.
The Air Conditioned Nightmare Part I, The Air Conditioned Nightmare Part II. In the early 1940s, Henry Miller wrote The Air Conditioned Nightmare. He probably didn’t know anything about the Manhattan Project underway at the time, but this travelogue is strangely prescient about the dreadful age that was coming into view. And the title was apt in ways that he couldn’t have imagined. Air conditioning technology was essential for uranium enrichment. No chill, no bomb.

2.
American heroes of the atomic age. What’s the connection between General Leslie Groves, mastermind of the Manhattan Project, and Lance Armstrong? Both were bold gamblers who knew you had to lie, deceive manipulate others to a goal in war or sport. Groves gave the world plutonium, which is known to hide out in human gonads and cause the kind of cancer through which Armstrong “livestronged.”

3.

4.
The atomic cities that grew up near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are still rated by some sources as “one of the best places to raise children” in the USA. It is also a favorite place for the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses to hold their annual convention. Yet this is also arguably the most polluted place on earth. What accounts for these divergent views?

5.
We might take this as a metaphor for Japan’s dogged determination to restart its nuclear reactors. In 1944-45, the Japanese government threw the last of its resources into a doomed effort to build the Matsuhiro Imperial General Headquarters, a massive underground bunker built to preserve the Emperor and the functions of government during the coming Allied invasion.

B. Fast breeder reactors and Next Generation Nuclear Technology

6.
The cautionary tale of France’s experiment with fast breeder technology. Follow the links to Superphenix Parts 1, 2 and 3.

7.
People who promote advanced nuclear technology are actually anti-nuclear because, in order to promote the new technology, they have to admit the old technology is horribly unsafe. They are the anti-nuke pro-nukers.

C. Weapons

8.
The new laser technology for uranium enrichment is a double-edged sword. It is far more energy efficient than the old methods, but the low energy footprint of it will make it hard to detect when it is used to make fuel for nuclear weapons.

9.

10.
The nations that possess nuclear weapons are bound by the non-proliferation treaty to move the world toward nuclear disarmament. But instead they are spending billions on modernizing their arsenals.

11.
The possible reasons for Japan’s plutonium stockpile. Does Japan harbor a secret ambition to stockpile plutonium in order to quickly assemble a nuclear weapon when or if it can no longer rely on the US nuclear umbrella?

12.

D. The Cold War

13.

14.
Review of Full Body Burden, and background about the history of the Rocky Flats plutonium pit factory.

15.
A visit the a museum on Tokyo’s Dream Island, and a review of The Day the Sun Rose in the West, the story of the Japanese fishermen who were caught in the fallout of the Bravo test in 1954.

16.
Nora Ephron and Silkwood. Why was Nora Ephron remembered for her romantic comedies and not for the one film that came close to being a serious film about something more important?

17.
Review of The Plutonium Files, the account of the shocking research done on American citizens who were deliberately injected, without consent, with radioactive elements.

18.

19.
An overview of the amazing work done by the independent researcher Mark Purdy. He found connections between common neurological diseases and nuclear and non-nuclear military waste.

E. Fukushima

20.
Lies that lying liars tell. First they found children getting thyroid cancer within two years of Chernobyl. After Fukushima, when children started showing up with thyroid cancer within two years, they said the latency period after Chernobyl was four years.

21.
The response to a nuclear emergency is done right only in fiction. Read about how a president responded to a nuclear emergency. How it happened on the TV drama The West Wing was totally different from how it goes down in reality.

22.

23.
Who knew there was a billion-dollar nuclear decontamination project underway just east of Toronto? One of Canada’s best kept secrets in Port Hope, Ontario.

24.

25.

26.
Shakespeare speaks to the nuclear age. A selection of Shakespeare quotes repurposed to describe our dangerous age. Extraordinary events require extraordinary language.

F. Chernobyl

27.
Review of the book Chernobyl: Crime without Punishment. This is essential reading for anyone who might be tempted to think the Soviets did everything right after Chernobyl in contrast to the Japanese doing everything wrong after Fukushima.

G. Nuclear energy and Public Health Studies

28.
The medical and industrial uses of radiation haven’t kept up with the need to track everyone’s lifetime dose.

29.
The nuclear industry as a case study in institutional self-deception. A long, comprehensive review of many of the topics I covered in my blog over two years (also published in India by Dianuke.org).

H. Space

30.
The love of space exploration cuts across ideological divides. We all love it, but it comes at a cost. The future of space exploration depends on the continuation of the nuclear industry. As Barry McGuire sang, "You may leave here for four days in space. But when you return, it's the same old place."