Category Archives: Fukushima

It’s Not An Anniversary

On Five Years Of An Ongoing Accident In Fukushima: It’s Not An Anniversary

DiaNuke editorial on the Five Years since the Earthquake-Tsunami-Meltdown

by Kumar Sundaram, March 12, 2016

On March 11, 2011, I was sitting in my office in the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis, when the news of massive tsunami and earthquake came. I was working as a Senior Research Fellow on a project funded by the Dept. of Atomic Energy.

I was new to Facebook, and wished safety to all my Japanese friends, and I asked some over Facebook messaging and emails if they were fine.

And then, the news of nuclear accident in Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactors flashed. Within hours, it turned into an unimaginable horror.

I almost didn’t sleep for several days – checking every detail on the internet – the radiation counts, the design details of the reactors, every single news release, the weather reports for understanding the direction and speed of wind, getting glued to the map of Tohoku region. A number of other people tracking Fukushima on the social media from different countries became friends. We kept doing that for months. Some still meticulously gather every single detail.

For me, it was a reckoning of the insurmountable nature of nuclear accidents. The accidents might not happen so frequently, but the fact that every reactor can undergo an accident and there is no human response possible for nuclear accidents, even in technologically most advanced countries, makes nuclear power uniquely and unacceptably dangerous.

The accident also revealed decades of complacency in Japan. The nexus between politics, nuclear corporations, the elites, and the media was openly exposed. We can rely on the Indian system to be far worse than Japan in that respect. The labour mafia in Japan has been callously using the poor and migrant workers as cheap fodder in Fukushima’s clean-up.

The clean-up will take decades. They have not been able to get the reactor under control, even after 5 years. We have no clue about the state of tons of molten fuel in the crippled reactor. What the government means by ‘under control’ is just that they are pouring water daily to keep the temperature in the crumbled building low. Thousands of litres of contaminated water from the reactor are coming out daily, and they have no idea what to do with the water except storing it in thousands of huge tanks and stealthily letting it go into the Pacific Ocean.

A 20-kilometre radius area around the reactor remains uninhabitable, and more than 20,000 people evacuated from this area have no hope to return.

I have been to Fukushima twice since the accident. I went inside the evacuation zone and saw the ghost towns like Namie, Futaba and Itate. Houses, offices, shops, schools, playgrounds, railway stations, everything is there, but there are no humans. In 5 years, heavy dust and moss has accumulated everywhere.

There are decontamination workers working in this 20 kilometre zone, mostly scraping the top-soil and cleaning houses and offices. This highly radioactive dump is transported, shifted from one place to other in ‘temporary’ storage sites. The people doing this work know there’s no solution. They know everything is just an eyewash, for appearance’s sake. The same company which didn’t heed to warnings before the accident, and played every trick in the book to exclude as many people as possible from getting compensation, is gaining from these decontamination contracts.

Life for the evacuated people is unimaginably hard and shattered. Building a new life is not easy for most of them. There’s very little support from the government, and there are many attempts to stop even that as the years pass. There are documented proofs that the community in Fukushima is also facing social ostracism, as people fear that radiation-caused diseases might appear after several years. People are experiencing psychological breakdowns.

The resilience of the community, and the larger Japanese society, however, is moving. People across the country are providing support in every possible manner.

The political fallout of Fukushima is historic. Something has changed in the normally apolitical Japanese society. The kind and gentle Japanese people are angry. They understand the connections between corporations, government, politicians and the media. They are still grappling with how to make their collective response more effective. Thousands of reluctant activists flock to the Japanese parliament building in Tokyo every Friday after their work, chant slogans, play music, light candles, and share dreams of a better future. This has proliferated and there are weekly protests all over Japan.

In India, we have a additional set of problems when it comes to nuclear: higher population density, deeper corruption and unaccountability in the system, absence of an independent nuclear safety regulator, attempts to dilute even the ridiculously low nuclear liability. And more than anything else, brutal bulldozing of public dissent, environmental and safety concerns as the commitment for setting up new reactors stems primarily from the elite’s foreign policy choices rather than some well-thought energy policy.

Fukushima has led to policy changes in several countries. As a BBC survey has revealed, popular support for nuclear power is touching bottom, globally.

But in India, legitimate concerns about nuclear safety are deemed superstition. The previous government sent psychological counselors to Koodankulam when local residents raised objections about the project. And when these counselors couldn’t “cure” them, the police came. Thousands of para-military forces surrounded the villages, ransacked houses and fishing boats, and killed innocents.

Asking questions has become anti-national in India. Thousands of villagers on the southern-most tip of India face sedition charges for peacefully protesting against the project, which has now revealed itself as an expensive and dangerous white elephant. In almost 3 years since its commissioning, after much fanfare and repression, Koodankulam nuclear plant has not even operated successfully for 100 consecutive days. The latest news is that the reactor has been shut down again due to a dangerous leak. People around the area have reported a pungent smell coming from the plant for the last few days.

I left my previous job and have associated myself with the Coalition For Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) after the Fukushima accident. We have been trying to mobilise solidarity for the struggling villagers, amplify their voices and connect the dots by collaborating with civil society groups to ask questions on liability, safety, economic viability and environmental impacts of the proposed and existing nuclear plants in India.

In this country with hugely anachronistic nuclear ambitions, which is one of the handful countries with expansion plans after Fukushima, we all have been labeled anti-national.

One of the first things the new BJP government did after coming to power was to deliberately ‘leak’ an intelligence report calling CNDP and other such organisations anti-national. Some 40 names were mentioned, including mine. The IB became an economist and axiomatically said we are bringing down India’s growth by 2 to 3 percent. How more absurd can it get? I survive in Delhi on odd freelance pieces of work and minimum organisational support.

In the 5th year of Fukushima, I have lost track of the details that I started accumulating in March 2011. It’s not about facts and figures any more. It’s about politics. It’s about power structures. It’s about our lifestyles. Everything needs to be questions and transformed if the world has to be kept safe from nuclear horror and climate change.

If challenging the status-quo is anti-national, so be it. I am proud to carry the label.

Fukushima Report: 10,000 Excess Cancers Expected in Japan as a Result of 2011 Reactor Meltdowns, Ongoing Radiation Exposure

Report Gauges Cancer Prospects for Children, Rescue/Recovery Worker, and General Population; Japanese Government Criticized for “Disturbing” Failure to Examine Wider Radiation-Related Diseases

PSR | March 9, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. & BERLIN – March 9, 2016 – Residents of the Fukushima area and the rest of Japan will experience more than 10,000 excess cancers as a result of radiation exposure from the triple-reactor meltdown that took place on March 11, 2011, according to a new report from Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

Titled “5 Years Living With Fukushima” and available online atwww.psr.org/FukushimaReport2016, the PSR/IPPNW report laments that the full impact of Fukushima may never be known, due to Japan’s failure to immediately and fully track radiation exposures, as well as a “disturbing” lack of testing of the general population for radiation-related diseases and other impacts (miscarriages, fetal malformations, leukemia, lymphomas, solid tumors or non-cancerous diseases). The massive initial radioactive emissions were not recorded at the time of the triple-reactor meltdown and some radioactive isotopes (including strontium-90) have not been measured at all.

The PSR/IPPNW report uses the best available science and data to gauge the excess cancer rates among children, rescue and clean-up workers, and the general population of Japan. In addition to the 200,000 Fukushima residents relocated nearby into makeshift camps, the exposed include millions of others in Japan as a result of fallout-contaminated food, soil and water. Fukushima is often incorrectly seen as a “past” event; the reality is that radioactive emissions from the wrecked reactors continue to this day both into the atmosphere and in the form of 300 tons of leakage each day into the Pacific Ocean.

Key findings of the PSR/IPPNW report include the following:

  • Children. “116 children in Fukushima Prefecture have al­ready been diagnosed with aggressive and fast-growing, or already metastasizing, thyroid cancer – in a population this size about one to five case per year would normally be expected. For 16 of these children a screening effect can be excluded as their cancers developed within the last two years.”
  • Workers. “More than 25,000 cleanup and rescue workers received the highest radiation dose and risked their health, while preventing a deterioration of the situation at the power plant site. If data supplied by the operator TEPCO is to be believed, around 100 workers are expected to contract cancer due to excess radia­tion, and 50 percent of these will be fatal. The real dose levels, how­ever, are most likely several times higher, as the operator has had no qualms in manipulating the data to avoid claims for damages – from hiring unregistered temporary employees to tampering with radiation dosimeters and even crude forgery.”
  • The rest of Japan. “The population in the rest of Japan is exposed to increased radiation doses from minor amounts of radioactive fallout, as well as contaminated food and water. Calculations of increased cancer cases overall in Japan range from 9,600 to 66,000 depending on the dose estimates.”

Catherine Thomasson, MD, report co-editor, and executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility, said: “The health legacy of Fukushima will haunt Japan for years to come and it cannot be wished out of existence by cheerleaders for nuclear power. Unfortunately, the pro-nuclear Japanese government and the country’s influential nuclear lobby are doing everything in their power to play down and conceal the effects of the disaster. The high numbers of thyroid cancers already verified with 50 additional waiting for surgery in the children of Fukushima prefecture is astounding. The aim seems to be to ensure the Fukushima file is closed as soon as possible and the Japanese public returns to a positive view of nuclear power. This rush to re-embrace nuclear power is dangerous to the extent that it sweeps major and very real medical concerns under the rug.”

Dr. Alex Rosen, pediatrician and vice-chair, International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, said: “One is of course reminded of the tobacco lobby disputing the notion that the horrific effects of its products have no adverse health impacts. This self-serving falsehood echoed for decades was made possible simply because the long-term health effects of smoking were not immediately observable. The 10,000 to 66,000 people who will develop cancer solely as a result of the “manmade disaster” are neither ‘negligible’ nor ‘insufficient,’ as Japanese authorities, the nation’s nuclear lobby, and various industry-dominated international bodies, would have you believe.”

Tim Mousseau, PhD, professor of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, said: “It is unfortunate that, in some regards, we have better and more complete data about the impacts of Fukushima radiation on trees, plants and animals than we do on humans. We are seeing higher mortality rates, reduction in successful reproduction and significant deformities. A great deal of this research has been done to date and it has troubling implications. The research findings should be heeded to direct human studies, particularly regarding the question of genetic and transgenerational effects of radiation.”

Robert Alvarez, senior scholar specializing in nuclear disarmament, environmental, and energy policies, Institute for Public Studies, and former senior policy advisor, US Department of Energy, said:“Radioactive fallout from the reactors has created de faco ‘sacrifice zones’ where human habitation will no longer be possible well into the future. In November 2011, the Japanese Science Ministry reported that long-lived radioactive cesium had contaminated 11,580 square miles (30,000 sq km) of the land surface of Japan. Some 4,500 square miles – an area almost the size of Connecticut – was found to have radiation levels that exceeded Japan’s allowable exposure rate of 1 mSV(millisievert) per year. Fourteen of the nation’s 54 reactors are permanently shut down as they are on fault lines and only four have been restarted.”

The PSR/IPPNW report also cautions that Fukushima was far from a one-time radiation incident: “The wrecked reactors have been leaking radioactive discharge since March 2011, de­spite assurances by the nuclear industry and institutions of the nuclear lobby such as the International Atomic Energy Organi­zation that a singular incident occurred in spring 2011, which is now under control. This statement ignores the continu­ous emission of long-lived radionuclides such as cesium-137 or strontium-90 into the atmosphere, the groundwater and the ocean. It also ignores frequent recontamination of affected ar­eas due to storms, flooding, forest fires, pollination, precipitation and even clean-up operations, which cause radioactive isotopes to be whirled into the air and spread by the wind. Thus, sev­eral incidents of new contamination with cesium-137 and stron­tium-90 have been discovered during the past years, even at considerable distance beyond the evacuation zone.”

The report also notes: “Finally, there are frequent leaks at the power plant itself – par­ticularly from the cracked underground vaults of the reactor buildings and from containers holding radioactive contaminated water, which were hastily welded together and already exhibit numerous defects. According to TEPCO, 300 tons of radioactive wastewater still flow unchecked into the ocean every day – more than 500,000 tons since the beginning of the nuclear disaster. The amount and composition of radioactive isotopes fluctuate widely so that it is not possible to ascertain the actual effect this radioactive discharge will have on marine life. What is clear, however, is that increasing amounts of strontium-90 are being flushed into the sea. Strontium-90 is a radioactive isotope that is incorporated into living organisms in a similar way to calcium – in bones and teeth. As it travels up the marine food chain, it undergoes significant bioaccumulation and, because of its long biological and physical half-lives, will continue to contaminate the environment for the next hundreds of years.”

ABOUT THE GROUPS

Physicians for Social Responsibility has been working for more than 50 years to create a healthy, just and peaceful world for both the present and future generations. PSR advocates on key issues of concern by addressing the dangers that threaten communities. www.psr.org.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War is a non-partisan federation of national medical groups in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens who share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation. www.ippnw.org

MEDIA CONTACT: Max Karlin, +1 (703) 276-3255 (in US) ormkarlin@hastingsgroup.com.

TEPCO delays robotic surveys at Fukushima nuclear reactors

The Asahi Shimbun | Hiromi Kumai | January 29, 2016

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The Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has postponed inspections by robots to finally confirm the location and state of melted fuel at two damaged reactors of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The camera-equipped robots were scheduled to enter the containment vessels of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors within fiscal 2015, which ends in March. But TEPCO said Jan. 28 that a series of unexpected circumstances, such as poor visibility caused by murky radioactive water, have ruined that plan.

The robot for the No. 1 containment vessel will be redesigned, and the remote-controlled survey will be conducted in fiscal 2016, the utility said, without offering a more specific timetable.

Nuclear fuel assemblies in the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors are believed to have melted and fallen to the bottom of the containment vessels following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Radiation levels inside the containment vessels remain extremely high, making them too dangerous to be approached by workers.

The remote-controlled robotic probe was seen as crucial in determining conditions inside the containment vessels for the eventual decommissioning of the nuclear plant.

TEPCO conducted a preliminary survey using an industrial endoscope in the containment vessel of the No. 1 reactor. It found accumulated waste turned the water murky and blocked the view.

For the No. 2 reactor, TEPCO had planned to locate the melted nuclear fuel using a robot last summer. But decontamination and cleanup work near the entrance to the containment vessel proved difficult. That prevented TEPCO from carrying out robotic survey as planned.

By HIROMI KUMAI/ Staff Writer

Even low radiation dose can take toll: scientist

The China Post | Enru Lin | January 27, 2016

TAIPEI, Taiwan–Animals exposed to even low doses of radiation suffer a higher incidence of physical abnormalities, a world-leading ecologist said in Taipei on Tuesday.

Timothy Mousseau, an ecologist at the University of South Carolina, is a pioneering expert on what radiation does to organisms.

For decades, he and his research team have studied Chernobyl, Ukraine — site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986 — and Fukushima in Japan.

Their studies found that radiation exposure had significant effects on local populations, for instance causing tumors, small brain sizes, sterility and cataracts in birds in Chernobyl.

No Safe Dose?

Findings indicate that radiation, even at low doses, can increase mortality rates and the incidence of physical abnormalities.

“There is no threshold below which there is no effect on organisms,” Mousseau said.

“We need to be very concerned not only about the consequences of nuclear accidents, but also the regular day-to-day operations of nuclear power plants, where radiation is released on a regular basis.”

Call for Taiwan Research

Mousseau was speaking on invitation at a press briefing and forum at the Legislative Yuan, where he was joined by three Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers including Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇).

At the event, anti-nuclear activists called on the central government to commission an independent research team to study effects on people who live near Taiwan’s three operating nuclear power plants.

Birds, Butterflies First

Mousseau said his data suggested that some organisms were far more sensitive to radiation than others.

Studies from Chernobyl and Fukushima showed that the first significant effects of radiation occurred in the same taxonomic groups.

“Birds and butterflies are the two most sensitive groups — we saw immediate large responses in birds and butterflies in Fukushima,” he said.

Other animals, such as grasshoppers and spiders, are less susceptible to the effects of radiation.

On Humans

Meanwhile, there is insufficient research on the human population to make convincing assessments on the impact of low dose radiation.

Mousseau said that in the U.S., studies are thwarted when researchers can’t access the relevant health records.

“There are privacy issues related to health records that are so strong in the United States, and there is a lack of organization of the registries. That makes it very difficult to do solid, hard science,” he said.

In addition, causation is difficult to prove — even more so for human populations than for birds.

“The difficulty with people is that they move around and they have very complex behaviors in general,” Mousseau said.

“They have many factors on their lives impinging on their health. They smoke, drink, engage in other behaviors. So it is often difficult to unravel the various causes of disease.”

 

Group to monitor trial of former TEPCO executives to clarify truth about Fukushima disaster

The Asahi Shimbun | Masakazu Honda | January 27, 2016

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From left, Ruiko Muto, Kazuyoshi Sato and Takashi Soeda hold a news conference in Fukushima on Jan. 19 to announce a planned group that will monitor the trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Masakazu Honda)

Lawyers, journalists and scientists will form a group to help expose the truth and spread details about the Fukushima nuclear disaster during the criminal trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

“We will encourage the court to hold a fair trial while transmitting information regarding the trial across the nation,” said an official of the planned organization, whose name is translated as “support group for the criminal procedure on the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.”

Tsunehisa Katsumata, former chairman of TEPCO, the operator of the crippled plant, and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, face mandatory charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

Although the trial is still months away, 33 people are now setting up the group, including Ruiko Muto, who heads an organization pursuing the criminal responsibility of TEPCO and government officials for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tetsuji Imanaka, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, and Norma Field, a professor emeritus of East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago, have also joined.

Three reactors melted down at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11, 2011. A number of hospital patients died in the chaotic evacuation.

About 14,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture filed a criminal complaint against TEPCO executives, government officials and scientists in 2012, saying they were aware of the dangers to the Fukushima nuclear plant from a tsunami, but they failed in their responsibility to take proper countermeasures.

Tokyo prosecutors twice decided not to indict the three former TEPCO executives. However, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, a panel of citizens, decided to forcibly indict the three in July last year.

“It has been almost five years since the disaster, but many details, including their foreseeability of the tsunami, remain unclear,” said science writer Takashi Soeda, one of the group’s co-founders. “As TEPCO has not unveiled a sufficient amount of information even in inquiries conducted by the Diet and the government or in civil lawsuits, the truth must be uncovered through the legal force of a criminal trial.”

Five lawyers appointed by the Tokyo District Court will act as prosecutors in the trial.

Legal experts expect the lawyers will indict the former TEPCO executives and release a statement naming the victims around March 11, the fifth anniversary of the triple disaster that still haunts the Tohoku region.

By MASAKAZU HONDA/ Staff Writer

Japan’s nuclear watchdog isn’t policing its own safety standards

Greenpeace International | Justin McKeating | 14 December, 2015

A watchdog that isn’t watching is no watchdog at all.

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It emerged last week that Japan’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is failing to conduct adequate safety checks at the country’s nuclear reactors.

It’s like this: in 2012, in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, the then nuclear watchdog (more like nuclear lapdog), the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) was abolished. NISA was a branch of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and also had the responsibility to promote nuclear energy in Japan.

You can see the problem. An organisation that was supposed to hold the nuclear industry to account while promoting nuclear energy? NISA had to go.

And so the NRA was born with a mandate enshrined in law to draw up and police safety procedures and protocols that would aim to prevent another Fukushima.

In the light of recent events, it would seem the NRA is failing miserably in its duty.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has announced that approximately 2,000 cables have been incorrectly installed at two of its nuclear power plants – Kashiwazaki-Kariwa and Fukushima Daini (the sister plant of Fukushima Daiichi which was destroyed by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami).

It was found that cables used for the day to day running of the plants’ reactors were not separate from cables for the safety systems as they should be.

It’s basic common sense: if the safety cables aren’t separate from the rest of the system and there’s an accident, the safety system is compromised along with everything else. If your safety system is compromised, you’re in big trouble.

The kicker?

The Nuclear Regulation Authority failed to conduct on-site inspections to determine if safety equipment cables were installed separately from other cables.

The NRA doesn’t conduct visual inspections of these cables! It relies completely on the honesty on the nuclear operators.

As we’ve seen in the past, this isn’t a very sensible policy. For example, TEPCO was warned in 2008 that tsunami defences at Fukushima No. 1 were inadequate but ignored and covered up the warning. We all know what happened three years later: earthquake, tsunami and meltdown.

This is just two nuclear plants we’re talking about right now. How many more might be compromised? How can the problem be fixed? The NRA simply doesn’t know.

“At present, we can’t deny the possibility that other cables are mixed at pressurized-water reactors, but how to handle the problem has yet to be decided,” it has said.

The Japanese government and nuclear industry are currently in a reckless, headlong rush to restart the country’s idle nuclear reactors in the face of major concerns about those reactors’ safety.

The last thing the Japanese people need is a nuclear “watchdog” asleep on the job.

The potential risks from this problem cannot be understated – but it is just one of multiple nuclear  safety issues that remain unresolved, ignored and brushed aside both by nuclear power utilities and the NRA.

In the coming months, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will conduct a review of the NRA – the first since its inception in 2012. If the IAEA were up to the job, its review would be robust, critical and transparent.

Unfortunately, we have no confidence that it will be. One international nuclear lapdog reviewing another domestic lapdog is no way to oversee an industry that, in the event of an accident, can threaten the existence of a society. That was the reality faced by Japanese Prime Minister Kan after Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission gave him the then-confidential worst case scenario for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe while the disaster was still unfolding in March 2011.

The majority of the people of Japan do not believe that nuclear power can be made safe – one of the primary reasons that at the end of 2015 only two reactors out of a possible 43 are operating. Japanese civil society, including Greenpeace, will continue the fight into next year to stop further nuclear reactor restarts. We are committed to helping to bring about the energy future that is affordable, attainable and that guarantees no future nuclear reactor disasters or nuclear victims – and that is a Japanese society based on renewable energy.

In the year of the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi accident and thirty years after the Chernobyl accident the nuclear-free, renewable energy future is not only possible, but is what Japan, and the rest of the world, deserve and will achieve.

Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.

Fukushima Amplifies Murphy’s Law

Counterpunch | Robert Hunziker | December 14, 2015

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Murphy’s Law has found a permanent home in Fukushima: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

For instance, only recently, radioactive cesium in tunnels at Fukushima suddenly spiked by more than 4,000 times similar measurements from one year ago. This spooky/huge spike in radiation levels hit 482,000 Becquerels per liter. TEPCO intends to investigate the reason behind the enormous anomalous increase, Radiation Spikes in Fukushima Underground Ducts, NHK World, Dec. 9, 2015. Over the course of a year, 4,000 times anything probably is not good.

Not only that but the barrier constructed at the Fukushima nuclear power plant to hopefully prevent contaminated water from leaking into the ocean is tilting and has developed a crack about 0.3 miles in length along its base. The wall is 0.5 miles long and 98 feet below ground.

An ocean barrier, indeed: “Higher levels of radiation from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident are showing up in the ocean off the west coast of North America, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution reported,” Higher Levels of Fukushima Radiation Detected Off West Coast, Statesman Journal, Dec. 3, 2015. Fortunately, so far, the detected levels still remain below U.S. government-established safety limits.

In the meantime, TEPCO battles one of the most perplexing disasters of all-time with an average number of daily workers more than 7,000. The difficulty of procuring workers at the site is beyond imagination. Homeless people are hired off the streets to do the dangerous decontamination work.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The situation better get better really soon because the Olympics are scheduled for 2020, which brings to mind perilous lost corium, the sizzling hot melted core in Plant #2, that hopefully, keeping one’s fingers crossed, has not burrowed into the ground, spreading deadly isotopes erratically, ubiquitously throughout. Still, nobody knows where this Missing Corium-Waldo of the Nuclear World is located.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace/Japan accuses the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of downplaying the health risks of the 2011 Fukushima disaster and accuses the agency of acting in concert with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempts to “normalize” the disaster, Greenpeace Japan: IAEA Downplays Dangers of Fukushima Disaster, Sputnik News, Feb. 9, 2015. Hurry, hurry, the Olympics is coming!

One clever approach to the problem of too much radiation is to increase the “allowable limits”: “The permissible annual level of radiation exposure has been dangerously heightened in Japan after the March 11th accident. One (1) millisievert (mSv) has been elevated to 20 mSv for residents in affected areas. The government increased the annual limit for nuclear workers’ radiation exposure from 100 mSv to 250 mSv in ‘emergency situations,” Mitsuhei Murata (Executive Director of Japan Society for Global System and Ethics and former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland) Nuclear Disaster and Global Ethics, UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, March 16, 2015.

When the “permissible level” of radiation was initially moved higher, the Japan Medical Association stated: “The scientific basis for choosing the maximum amount of 20 mSv in the band of 1 to 20 mSv is not clear.”

Furthermore, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility, there is no safe level of radiation. Apropos the Fukushima situation: “It is unconscionable to increase the allowable dose for children to 20 millisieverts (mSv). Twenty mSv exposes an adult to a 1 in 500 risk of getting cancer; this dose for children exposes them to a 1 in 200 risk of getting cancer. And if they are exposed to this dose for two years, the risk is 1 in 100. There is no way that this level of exposure can be considered ‘safe’ for children.”

Recent studies confirm “exposure to low levels of radiation can cause cancer,” specifically, “No matter whether people are exposed to protracted low doses or to high and acute does, the observed association between dose and solid cancer risk is similar per unit of radiation dose,” (Source: British Medical Journal, Press Release, Low Doses of Ionizing Radiation Increase Risk of Death from Solid Cancers, International Agency for Research on Cancer, WHO, Oct. 21, 2015).

In sharp contrast to Japan’s position, Chernobyl’s officialdom has a different take on “permissible annual radiation exposure,” specifically: “The radiation limit that excluded people from living in the 30km zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant exclusion zone was set at 5mSV/year, five years after the nuclear accident. Over 100,000 people were evacuated from within the zone and will never return,” (Greenpeace Japan). Never ever return!

Nuclear disasters don’t go away easily. For example, Chernobyl is already facing a brand new crisis. The durability of the original decaying blighted sarcophagus expires within the next 12 months. However, the new replacement sarcophagus, the world’s biggest-ever metallic dome, will not be accomplished in time as they are short of funds (615million EUR).

In addition to Ukraine’s internal strife with pro-Russian citizens, the country has serious financial difficulties. All of this amounts to one more “spoke in the wheel” against nuclear reactor proliferation (Incidentally, China has 400 reactors on the drawing board). Who knows if and when a crippled reactor ends up in the hands of a financially strapped country? Then what?

Already, Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors standing tall, so far, amongst whizzing bullets and powerful rockets. Dismally, Ukraine has conceivably become a nuclear holocaust tinderbox in the midst of cannon fire, rumbling tanks, and surface-to-air missiles, for example, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a missile, supposedly by accident, on July 17, 2014, all 298 on board died.

Meanwhile, back in Japan, raising the level of permissible annual radiation exposure does not escape international notice. According to Dr. Ian Fairlie, former head of the Secretariat of the UK Government’s CERRIE Committee on Internal Radiation Risks: “The Japanese government goes so far as to increase the public limit for radiation in Japan from 1 mSv to 20 mSv per year, while its scientists are making efforts to convince the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) to accept this enormous increase.”

But, wait a moment; the Olympic Committee has already designated Tokyo 2020. Is it possible the IOC has the cart ahead of the horse, maybe way ahead?

As for the newly established higher acceptable Japanese limit for radiation: “This is not only unscientific, it is also unconscionable,” Dr. Fairlie, Unspoken Death Toll of Fukushima: Nuclear Disaster Killing Japanese Slowly, Sputnik International, Aug. 8, 2015. After all, on a factual basis, “unscientific and unconscionable” are strong indictments.

Yet, the Olympic committee has already approved Tokyo 2020, and people from around the world will be making plans to attend. Withal, if the Olympic Committee is okay with Japan’s capricious radiation conditions, then shouldn’t everybody else be okay with it too? Well….

All of which brings to mind: If Fukushima’s a canary in the mineshaft that exposes nuclear power’s hidden dirty underbelly, meaning, once things go wrong they really go wrong, adhering to Murphy’s Law, then what of the potential consequences of big ole nuke plants in war zones? How would Murphy’s Law apply in a war zone? The most comfortable answer is: Don’t even think about it.

Still, the world’s 430 nuclear reactors are “big fat sitting ducks.” According to former ambassador Murata, nuclear reactors are “the world’s most serious security problem.”

Thus, Fukushima may be more than the poster child of nuclear power’s fragility vis a vis extreme forces of nature; it’s also a surrogate poster child for lurking dangers behind and within terrorism and within war zones when “anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” for example, a downed airliner over Ukraine.

Nuclear Reactors are as Dangerous as Nuclear Weapons (Murata)

Rockets have been fired at nuclear facilities in Israel. “Hamas claimed responsibility for the rockets, stating that it had been attempting to hit the nuclear reactor. Militants from Hamas’s Qassam Brigades said they had launched long-range M-75 rockets towards Dimona” (The Jerusalem Post, July 9, 2014).

As mentioned earlier, Ukraine is home to 15 nuclear reactors in the midst of a war zone. What if a missile accidentally, or purposefully, hits a nuclear reactor? Does Fukushima provide any clues as to the consequences of such a disaster?

Assuming Fukushima is truly a harbinger of how remarkably well nuclear disasters harmonize with, in fact, cohere to Murphy’s Law, it probably implies that “all bets are off.”

Postscript: “The future of the Olympic Games is at stake. It is as a believer in the spirit of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement that I am pleading for an honorable retreat, and this, in order for Japan to devote maximum efforts to controlling the Fukushima crisis,” Mitsuhei Murata, Former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland and Executive Director, Japan Society for Global System and Ethics, Tokyo, October 28, 2015.

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at roberthunziker@icloud.com