Monthly Archives: June, 2011

Long Term Effects

Two million Fukushima residents will undergo radiation health checks for thirty years.

This is not because Tokyo Electric Power Company is taking corporate responsibility, or because the Japanese nanny state is solicitous of the health of citizens. This is because the Japanese people demand an honest assessment of the real damage.

Citizen groups are buying their own radiation monitors and putting the information online. A radiation map is here.

As the people lead, local authorities have followed.

Daily Yomiuri–As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant drags on, an increasing number of concerned citizens in Tokyo and the surrounding areas have started to measure radiation levels on their own.

One local government in Saitama Prefecture has been flooded with applications from residents wanting to use its radiation-measuring instrument.

People have become anxious about so-called hot spots, in which radiation levels in isolated places are much higher than the surrounding areas. Parents with small children have been especially uneasy about the situation.

The government cannot appease them with ‘no immediate damage’ when the crisis has repeatedly outpaced efforts to control it.

Our own corporations assure us that it would be different here, but the heart of the matter is using a deadly toxin, and creating more of it the longer we rely on nuclear power. In the US, we take the risk, industry takes the profits, and the long term problems are becoming apparent today as plants like Vermont Yankee age out.

Workplace– Artist’s Model

A guy I used to know, who was a pretty good writer but needed a day job was posing for the life drawing class at RISD.

“It’s the essence of job,” he said.
“You go to work, you plant yourself there and stay for a number of hours. Afterwards you get paid for the number of hours you were there.”

There’s something to that, although there are many people planted in cubicles who are less aesthetically pleasing than a model striking a pose. And whose work does not advance a great cause, such as art, and making sure youth do not draw people looking lumpy and ill-proportioned (unless they are doing it on purpose of course.)

Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day to all our readers. I’m grateful today for my father and father-in-law still well, and to my husband who is such a good father and example. I’ll try to keep the spirit going for the other 364 days of the year.

Workers Dark and Stranded at Fukushima

A damning report today from the Toronto Star details how the Fukushima nuclear disaster was worsened by lack of an emergency plan. Workers were left to their own desperate measures to try to stop the radioactive core from melting– their heroic efforts thwarted by omissions and errors of management…

TOKYO — A new report says Japan’s tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant was so unprepared for the disaster that workers had to bring protective gear and an emergency manual from distant buildings and borrow equipment from a contractor.

The report, released Saturday by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., is based on interviews of workers and plant data. It portrays chaos amid the desperate and ultimately unsuccessful battle to protect the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant from meltdown, and shows that workers struggled with unfamiliar equipment and fear of radiation exposure.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the plant’s power and crucial cooling systems, causing three reactor cores to melt and causing several explosions.

TEPCO has been criticized for dragging its feet on venting and sea water cooling — the two crucial steps that experts say could have mitigated the damage. Company officials have said the tsunami created obstacles that were impossible to anticipate. An investigation by an independent panel is pending.

The report revealed insufficient preparations at the plant that TEPCO hadn’t previously acknowledged.

When the Unit 1 reactor lost cooling functions two hours after the quake, workers tried to pump in fresh water through a fire pump, but it was broken.

A fire engine at the plant couldn’t reach the unit because the tsunami left a huge tank blocking the driveway. Workers destroyed a power-operated gate to bring in the engine that arrived at the unit hours later. It was early morning when they finally started pumping water into the reactor — but the core had already melted by then.

Again, greed, carelessness and human error are facts of life. We have no engineering that can protect deadly toxins for tens of thousands of years. This is not the answer to our energy crisis.

All of us have workplace experience of corner cutting– management and workers alike thwarting safety measures that seem onerous and too expensive. Everything is fine until it isn’t. A new idea is mini nuclear plants, spreading the risk and stretching the resources of government to regulate safety. We know what industry’s record is on self-regulation.

Conservation, smart use and decentralization can buy time until solar, wind and water grow into the market. We couldn’t put a man on the moon today, the vision and will are not there. But this is our own race against time and we can win.

Carl Jung Interviewed at Bollingen

Agent Orange

From Yahoo News…

HANOI, Vietnam – Vietnam on Friday started the first phase of a joint plan with former enemy the United States to clean up environmental damage leftover from the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, a lasting legacy from the Vietnam War.

The work concentrates on a former U.S. military base in central Vietnam where the herbicide was stored during the war that ended more than three decades ago. It marks the first time the two sides will work together on the ground to clean up contamination.

The comments section has passionate and informed opinions from American veterans and families who also deal with the effects of dioxin, the known poison that magnified the lethality of Agent Orange.

Can we learn anything from this terrible history? Can we do justice today, and consider future generations who pay so dearly for our wars and greed? Can we do right by our own veterans and let all of us pay the price when we put our youth in harm’s way?

So far we have not learned. Depleted uranium left behind in Iraq is blamed for a rise in birth defects and childhood cancers, our troops were also exposed. Eventually the denials won’t hold up. This history is one reason the public is sceptical when scientists, politicians and corporations share a common interest in damage control.

Setback at Fukushima

“Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water.”, said Einstein.

The latest setback facing workers and technicians who are trying to alleviate the damage is a function of how nuclear power works. Heat is the product. In this crisis there was no better alternative than to pump tons of water into the plant to cool the nuclear core. The problem of radioactive water was kicked down the road, and is proving more complicated than anticipated.

Officials at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant suspended an operation to clean contaminated water hours after it had begun because of a rapid rise in radiation.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), which operates the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, is investigating the cause and could not say when the clean-up will resume, company spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said.

Fresh water is being pumped in to cool damaged reactor cores, and is becoming contaminated in the process. Around 105,000 tonnes of highly radioactive water have pooled across the plant, and could overflow within a couple of weeks if action is not taken.

Water itself is hard to control. The world is in desperate need of clean energy, and current sources are all unsustainable, but nuclear is not the way. Human error and unforseen events are the rule, not the exception.

Human beings are living in the path of radioactive fallout, and human beings are doing drudge labor to literally bail out the mess. From the Daily Yomiuri

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Friday released a revised version of its timetable to bring the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant under control, in response to reports that workers dealing with the crisis at the plant were overexposed to radiation.

The original timetable in April was revised once before–on May 17.

Taking into consideration that several workers at the nuclear power plant may have been exposed to levels of radiation exceeding emergency dosage limits, TEPCO added “radiation control and medicine” to the timetable.

This section pledges the utility will establish a new clinic with state-of-the-art medical equipment within the grounds of the power plant and increase the number of doctors.

Slow to act. Another certainty of human nature– fear and dissembling.


Here’s a link to Kathy Hodge reporting on Bioblitz 2011. Kathy went as an amateur naturalist and professional artist and combined the two disciplines by drawing from life and nature.

Moths, bats and insects were observed and counted by hundreds of volunteers. Check out Art and Nature for details and photos of the blitz.

Radiation Hotspots

Fukushima is low in the fifteen minute news cycle, but the problem of long-lived and far traveling nuclear pollution is not going away…

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan plans to ask pregnant women and children to move away from radiation “hotspots” that were found far away from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, the government said on Thursday, reflecting new anxieties about the spread of radioactivity.

The government will not, however, evacuate entire towns, but rather homes where residents could be exposed to more than 20 millisieverts of radiation per year. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.

See our post of 2 months ago, Radiation Does Not Spread in Circles.

The Mainichi Daily News has a Q and A for Japanese readers concerned about the unfolding crisis…

Q: Why do areas far from the plant become hot spots?

A: Radioactive materials emitted from a damaged nuclear plant do not spread evenly. Rather, they form into plumes that are carried by the wind. In the Fukushima disaster, large-scale emissions of radioactive materials are thought to have occurred from March 15 to 16 after hydrogen explosions damaged reactor buildings at the plant.

According to an analysis by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, a plume of radioactive materials started heading west around noon on March 15, and from around 2 to 3 p.m. it came into contact with rain and fell over the cities of Koriyama and Shirakawa. Later, the plume was carried northwest and rained over areas including Iitate from the evening of March 15 to the predawn hours of March 16.

In areas over which plumes happened to come into contact with rain, radioactive materials were deposited on the ground, creating hot spots.

The pro-nuclear arguments only make sense when you discount human error and unpredictable events– two things that are guaranteed in the real world.


Someone somewhere mentioned that NPR, often accused of a liberal bias, has a show called ‘Marketplace’. But there’s no show called ‘Workplace’.

I have wanted for a long time to remedy that, and I’m starting a series on this blog where we talk about work.

I want to invite our readers, especially some of our most dedicated commenters, to submit work stories.

Please do use pseudonyms. I don’t know the legal implications, but I don’t want Burger Chef to rise from the dead and sue us if someone discloses what happened after the patties defrosted and the manager refroze them. That’s just a hypothetical. Burger Chef is really dead, right?

Other than avoiding slander, guidelines are to make work the focus of your post, the more real details of the actual work, the better.

Send submissions to me at

Let’s break the last taboo– what do you do at work all day?


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