Category Archives: Energy Policy

New Normal in Japan After Fukushima

Just Keep Smiling

Common Dreams

Fukushima’s disaster task force has started issuing leaflets with a bird character called Kibitan telling children to stay away from pools and ditches where radioactive cesium from the damaged nuclear power plant might have accumulated.

The smiling, round Kibitan explains why radiation is dangerous, urging children to make a habit of washing their hands and gargling their mouths after coming in from the outdoors.

Radiation can make people sick if allowed to get inside their body, says the cartoon bird, which is a variant of the local narcissus flycatcher.

The bird is definitely well-informed on the dangers of radiation, and the autoradiographs of a dead Fukushima flycatcher posted in April by a Japanese photojournalist confirm that.

Below are the photos, from the blog Fukushima Diary.

‘hot’ enough to develop photo paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Ghostly Outline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cute public safety cartoons in this century are as sinister as Duck and Cover was in the last. But it’s not all bad. You can send away for a pocket geiger on your cell phone.

From here in Rhode Island, it’s hard to vet internet content of blogs from Japan. On American news sites Fukushima is completely off the radar. On Japanese sites like Japan Times and Daily Yomiuri the nuclear crisis is off the front page but continues to develop. Japanese citizen journalists say their government is not giving them the whole truth. The news stream at Uhohjapan2 blog is deeply frightening.

The people of Japan have suffered enough in the wake of the disasters of 2011. They should not be further harmed by panic and despair. But the people of Japan are owed the truth. The world, also, needs to know the true extent of the nuclear contamination from the Fukushima disaster. Nations are rushing to build more nuclear plants, for energy and for war.

During the last presidential debate, when the topic was energy, I noticed an interesting omission from President Obama. He did not say the ‘N’ word. He did not mention nuclear power. Mitt Romney did, at least twice.

President Obama did support nuclear power as part of the mix, but I wonder if the global picture is looking different now. The economic costs and ongoing environmental effects will slow the rush to nuclear.

The Fukushima disaster is not over, but if we are lucky the damage will be limited, and if we are wise we will learn that dangerous, expensive and centralized power is not the way.

Solar Saves When the Grid Goes Down

From today’s Scientific American, Solar Power Helped Keep the Lights on in India.

Every day, at least 400 million Indians lack access to electricity. Another nearly 700 million Indians joined their fellows in energy poverty over the course of the last few days, or roughly 10 percent of the world’s population.

Oddly enough, some of the formerly energy poor—rural villagers throughout the subcontinent—found themselves better off than their middle-class compatriots during the recent blackouts, thanks to village homes outfitted with photovoltaic panels. In fact, solar power helped keep some electric pumps supplying water for fields parched by an erratic monsoon this year.

Local and diverse, though David Biello, the author of the article, argues that we need to look at the grid in the USA, or else stock up on flashlight batteries. You can read the rest of his short and interesting blog post here.

And here’s from the financial magazine, Forbes…

While national renewable energy policies – or the lack there of – remain mired in Congressional election-year politics, the great green future has already arrived in California.

On Tuesday, state regulators announced that California’s three big investor-owned utilities – Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison – had reached a mandated target – called the renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, to obtain at least 20% of the electricity they sell from renewable sources.

In 2011, the three utilities collectively secured 20.6% of the electricity sold to retail customers from solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable power generation.

Perfect time for the USA to win the energy race and lead the world in more efficient and cheaper solar and renewable technology. We’ve done this kind of thing before, that’s why our flag waves on the moon. Now it’s time to get serious about planet earth.

The Stupid Human Factor

My GPS is a miracle of 21st Century technology. Linking to satellites in geosynchronous orbit, the GPS uses timing down to a milisecond.

When I turn it on it displays a message– Do not program the GPS while driving the car. Duh.

It’s not that we’re that stupid, it’s that when there’s a temptation to get it done fast, human nature leads us to figure we can get away with it. And we do. Until we don’t.

The same goes for corruption. Ever since I was a kid punching a power press in a factory, and the boss came around in a panic turning the safety shields back into the proper position– instead of pushed to the side so we could work faster– I am unsurprised by expedience. OSHA didn’t have teeth even then, but the prospect of a fine made more of an impression than protecting workers from losing fingers. Of course, after the inspection, he turned the shields back to where they were out of the way.

Raw Story posts this item from today’s Ashahi Shimbun…

A subcontractor at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant told workers to lie about possible high radiation exposure in an apparent effort to keep its contract, reports said Saturday.

An executive at construction firm Build-Up in December told about 10 of its workers to cover their dosimeters, used to measure cumulative radiation exposure, with lead casings when working in areas with high radiation, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and other media said.

The action was apparently designed to under-report their exposure to allow the company to continue working at the site of the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, media reports said.

If we build more of these nuclear plants, we are creating a permanent hazard for future generations. Will human nature evolve fast enough to carry this burden?

Clean, Local, Diverse

Japan is re-starting two of its nuclear plants to supply the country’s need for energy. There is not yet a green solution. But that is changing…

Biomass town shining amid Fukushima taint
Kyodo

While the nation in general frets over power supply shortages this summer, many of the more than 300 “biomass towns” in Japan are offering a glimpse at a range of new energy alternatives.

Among them is the city of Maniwa in Okayama Prefecture. It has been attracting attention for successfully developing comprehensive city planning and industrial tourism based on the promotion of biomass utilization to efficient produce energy.

The biomass comes from byproducts of their lumber industry, sawdust and bark processed into wood pellets that burn clean and hot enough to fuel electric generators.

You can read the rest in tomorrow’s Japan Times

Kiersten Marek:

True to my new commitment to provide more information on wind energy, here is an interesting post about a huge annual conference on wind energy in Europe.

Originally posted on Low Carbon Living:

EWEA Exhibition 2012 – Here you can see the Scottish section.

I visited the EWEA’s (European Wind Energy Association) annual conference and exhibition in Copenhagen last month.

The event, which took place over four days featured over 500 exhibitors, more than 100 expert speakers from across the wind industry, and in excess of 10,600 visitors from Europe and indeed the world.

It gave me a great opportunity to meet a number of Igloo3′s current clients (especially those based in Mainland Europe), some of the candidates we’ve placed in the last year as well as meet a few new client prospects and candidates.

View original 749 more words

Need help with those medical co-pays? Here’s a Start

Dr. Kevin DeJesus, Kmareka’s Mideast policy expert, sends this post on the relationship between profits for corporations and austerity for the rest of us...

Indeed no one intellectually, politically, or humanistically
interested in the Middle East, nor in the situation of common
Americans who struggle to keep out of the recession’s manifold black
holes, while simultaneously caring for kin who are both young and
aging, can elide questions concerning the role of big oil in the
making of war and economic morass. Nowhere is this connection clearer
than in the current soar in gas prices consumers are dealing with
across the globe. Big Oil’s field day on the American pocketbook must
come to an end, while our need for far more nuanced energy policies
and practices, as well as for continually more sophisticated policy
approaches to the Middle East increases exponentially day by day.

One means by which common America can begin to reclaim its political
power, while contribute to re-structuring our economic landscape is to
contact your US Senator, no matter where you are located across this
vast union, and tell them you expect their support of US Senator
Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vermont) efforts to pass S.2204, the “Repeal Big
Oil Tax Subsidies Act.” Simply state, you need money for medical
co-pays, and by reducing Big Oil’s grab at the pump vis-a-vis this
legislation, average Americans can begin to meet day to day expenses
more easily. Gratefully, both Senator Reed and Senator Whitehouse are
strong supporters of this legislation. You can also email your Senator
using the Open Congress Website, here.

Remember, those with hands in Big Oil’s pockets will indeed be
contacting legislators. Those tightly grasping pen and checkbook with
fear and dread may yet to realize how much power they have. It’s time
to use it!

Here is Senator Leahy’s recent statement on this legislation:

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act

Statement As Prepared For Delivery

March 28, 2012

Mr. President, it is long past time to close the wasteful tax
loopholes for Big Oil. Over the past 10 years, the five biggest
private sector oil companies — BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and
ConocoPhillips — have amassed combined profits of almost $1 trillion.
Last year was no different. Due to skyrocketing prices for oil,
these same five corporations raked in a record-breaking $137 billion
in profits. Despite this massive windfall, Big Oil continued to
receive billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies – subsidies that are
unnecessary and, in my opinion, unconscionable. The Repeal Big Oil
Tax Subsidies Act will eliminate these harmful subsidies and level the
playing field for all Americans.

Big Oil does not need these big tax breaks, and the prices they set
for consumers at the pump suggest that they don’t appreciate them. As
of March 22, the national average price of regular gasoline is over
$3.88 per gallon – up almost $0.34 from a year ago. I need look no
further than the prices at the pump in Vermont, where the average
price for a gallon of gasoline is $3.85 – up approximately $0.30 from
the average price in March 2011. This price increase is especially
burdensome in rural states like Vermont, where people must often rely
on cars to get around, and heating fuel is a life-or-death necessity
in the winter. For every penny that the price of gasoline increases,
big oil companies make an additional $200 million per quarter.

In spite of their ever-increasing profits and unneeded subsidies, the
five major oil companies have done absolutely nothing to bring down
prices for average consumers. Instead, they have padded their own
pockets, using the vast majority of their net profits to pay
exorbitant dividends, repurchase stock, lobby government officials,
and buy radio and newspaper advertising to fight this bill. These
actions benefit elite oil company executives and the companies’
largest stockholders, but do nothing whatsoever to ease the pain of
hardworking Americans who trying to commute to their jobs every day or
heat their homes during the long winter months.

This bill will halt the transfer of money from hardworking middle
class families to oil company fat cats by ending more than $2 billion
in annual tax breaks. It is a watershed moment for both energy policy
and deficit reduction, and I support it whole heartedly. Eliminating
these wasteful tax breaks that benefit a few, undeserving companies
will allow us to reinvest in clean energy technologies that will
benefit everyone. These investments will improve our national
security by making the U.S. less dependent on foreign oil. They will
also strengthen our economy and create new green jobs for the large
number of Americans who are currently out of work and facing hard
times.

Specifically, the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act would renew
incentives for clean energy technologies and put America on the path
to energy independence. In order to break free from our unhealthy
addiction to oil, we must choose the President’s “all-of-the-above”
energy strategy which will grow clean energy industries, including
alternative fuel vehicles, advanced manufacturing, biofuels, and
solar, to name just a few. Savings from repealing these tax subsidies
for Big Oil will help continue important incentives for alternatives
to oil and usher in a bright new future of energy independence.

In addition to the benefits that we will receive from investing in
clean energy technology, the remaining savings from this bill will be
dedicated to reducing the national deficit, a goal shared by both
Democrats and, supposedly, Republicans. Time and again we have heard
seemingly impassioned rhetoric from Republicans about the need to
balance the budget and reign in spending. And yet, when given the
chance to end more than $2 billion per year in unnecessary tax breaks,
Republicans have stood with Big Oil. Instead of standing with Big
Oil, we need to stand up to Big Oil.

For years, Republicans have opposed efforts to end taxpayer subsidies
to the major oil companies. However, lavishing these giant
corporations with incentives they do not need merely deepens our
deficit and takes money out of the pockets of hard working families,
money which could be spent growing the economy and hastening our
recovery. The Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act is precisely the
action we should take to ensure that oil companies pay their fair
share to help lower the deficit, just as working class taxpayers do.

It is important to note that cutting these subsidies will not result
in less oil production or an increase in prices. Expert analysis has
revealed that it costs the big five oil companies only about $11.00 to
produce a single barrel of oil. This amount is dwarfed by the current
price of a barrel of oil, which has consistently hovered around $110
per barrel. At today’s prices, oil companies regularly earn $100 in
pure profit from each barrel of oil that they sell. In fact, the
former Chief Executive Officer of Shell Oil Company, John Hofmeister,
has admitted that, in his point of view, high oil prices made
subsidies unnecessary. Therefore, it is highly improbable that a
small change in tax subsidies would reduce their output. Furthermore,
because oil is a global commodity, any incremental change in
production that might result from changing oil subsidies in the United
States will likely have no impact on world oil prices and, therefore,
no impact on the price of oil.

The Senate should also go one step further and once again pass the No
Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act (NOPEC), which I have filed as
an amendment to today’s bill, along with Senator Kohl and others. We
must do everything we can to ensure that oil prices are not
artificially inflated, driving up gas prices at the pump. Our NOPEC
amendment will hold accountable those who engage in collusive behavior
that artificially reduces supply and increases the price of fuel by
allowing the Justice Department to crack down on illegal price
manipulation by oil cartels. This illegal manipulation affects us
all. As long as OPEC’s actions remain sheltered from antitrust
enforcement, OPEC’s member-governments will continue to have the
ability to wreak havoc on the American economy and their destructive
power will remain unchecked.

The benefits of the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act should be obvious
to all Senators. An overwhelming majority of the Americans, 66
percent, have said that repealing tax subsidies for Big Oil is an
acceptable way to help reduce the deficit. I would go further. Not
only is this an acceptable way to reduce the deficit, but in these
lean times when so many are struggling to make ends meet, it is an
essential way to bring the budget back in line. It is time to end Big
Oil’s free ride at the expense of taxpayers.

Going forward, our focus should be on 21st Century clean energy that
powers a jobs boom and fuels our economy. If these tax breaks were
ever justified, that day has long passed. The Repeal Big Oil Tax
Subsidies Act will end the unjustified federal subsidies for the
biggest oil companies that are enjoying record profits at the expense
of working families. It will propel us into the future by investing
the savings in clean energy technologies and reducing the federal
deficit.

Senators must make a choice: stand with the American people and stand
up to Big Oil or continue business as usual? I think the choice is
clear, and strongly support this bill.

Kevin M. DeJesus, PhD

They’re So Beautiful

The wind turbines seem to be offline, but the blades were rotating gently in the morning breeze. The light reflecting and changing on the bright white surfaces was fascinating, and the clean, aerodynamic look– contrasting with the rusty rail cars and low buildings.


In between taking care of two generations of family, I had time just before sunrise, and then around noon. I took those few minutes to get pix of the windmills, from as many angles as possible.

The view of the windmills at the tops of the little streets off Allens Ave is amazing, but I was unable to get the right perspective– and also people were looking at me like I might be up to something. I decided to go back another time, and maybe capture that picture with a paintbrush– which is often more true than a camera.

How Did That Happen?

Dawn on Providence Harbor

The windmills seemed to appear overnight. Mary, Kmareka’s Environmental Science consultant, says they are going to supply 85% of the electricity for the Fields Point waste treatment plant.

They’re pretty amazing, especially looking down the streets named after states on Allen’s Ave. They loom over the triple deckers, but screened by trees, they may not be so visible when the leaves come in.

How did something so big sneak up on us?

Good News and Bad News

Reading between the lines in this Burlington Free Press article…

MONTPELIER — Fish in the Connecticut River near the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant are no more radioactive than fish far across the state, according to recent study results from the state Health Department.

The testing found signs of cesium 137 and strontium 90 in four smallmouth bass in Lake Carmi in Franklin County, said Bill Irwin, radiological health chief with the state Health Department.

The findings raise questions about whether Vermont Yankee is the source of strontium 90 found in fish in the Connecticut River last year. Lake Carmi and Vermont Yankee are 200 miles apart with no waterway connection.

The latest results indicate the overall environment contains radioactive material, Irwin said, possibly long-term fallout from nuclear weapons testing and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

Irwin said the levels of radioactive materials are similar to what has been documented in American diets and do not pose a health risk.

“There’s good news and there’s bad news,” said House Fish and Wildlife Committee Chairman David Deen, D-Westminster, whose committee heard from Irwin on Friday afternoon. “The good news is it seems to be background levels. The bad news is it seems to be background levels.”

The US, Russia, and other nations conducted above-ground detonations of nuclear weapons for decades between 1945 and 1980. The bad news is that the radiation released over 60 years ago continues to move and concentrate in the environment, showing up in unpredictable ways.

While Vermont measures radioactivity from decades past, Japan faces uncertainty about their land and their food supply, with inadequate support from their government while the perpetrators wash their hands.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), privatized their profit, now they have socialized the loss. The Japanese people will have to bear the financial cost, when neither government nor industry protect them. Heroic individuals are acting on their own.

A Zen monk named Koyu Abe has dedicated himself to protecting the citizens of Fukushima from unrecorded and uncontrolled radioactive fallout…

Now he is trading his ceremonial robes for a protective mask, working with volunteers to track down lingering pockets of radiation and cleaning them up.

One participant is Masataka Aoki, a 65-year-old engineer at nuclear plant maker Hitachi for more than 40 years. None of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors were made by Hitachi.

Aoki had long been a believer in nuclear power, but he had a change of faith after the meltdowns and now seeks to assuage a sense of guilt.

“The thing I’d come to believe was good and useful to society turned out to be useless and caused everybody trouble,” Aoki said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse.”

On a recent weekend volunteers including Aoki looked for radioactive hot spots along a small path which local parents said was mostly used by children on their way to school.

Tests with hand-held Geiger counters yielded results of more than 9 microsieverts per hour, higher than in some areas of the evacuation zone near the plant itself.

Figures from government testing stations within the exclusion zone the same day read between 3.6 microsieverts and 13 microsieverts an hour. A typical chest x-ray is about 20 microsieverts a scan.

No one would put a child under an x-ray for an hour. No one would feed a baby radioactive milk. Not knowingly.

From the detonation of the first nuclear bomb at Los Alamos, NM, in 1945, there has been a persistent pattern of public risk, private profit and lying to the public. From the Americans in the path of the radioactive fallout from weapons tests, the innocent civilians whose way of life was wiped out by contamination,the Russians at Chernobyl, and now the citizens of Fukushima– government and industry shirk the responsibility of making nuclear power safe. Can nuclear power be made safe at all, for thousands of years into the future?

“the levels of radioactive materials are similar to what has been documented in American diets and do not pose a health risk.”

Based on what science? Acute radiation poisoning, as in the accident that killed Rhode Islander, Robert Peabody, is measurable in the short term. Long term effects- the possibility that some of those who tried to rescue Mr.Peabody died prematurely of radiation-caused diseases–are much harder to measure.

You can eat a couple of cigarettes and instantly poison yourself, but smoking them is harmless, possibly beneficial– in the short term. It took large-scale studies over decades to gather the evidence that tobacco causes cancer. It took even longer to alert the public.

For the same reason, it’s not correct to say that artificially created radioactive pollution in small quantities over a lifetime poses no health risks. There are too many unknowns. The evidence is accumulating but has not yet reached critical mass.

When government and industry are complicit, who will fund the research. Who wants to open that can of worms?

The US Department of Energy has approved the first new nuclear reactors in over 30 years.

Little has changed. The plants are still financed by public risk for private profit, the public is still placated by promises of safety broken again and again– but this time it’s different.

It’s time to really make it different. Shine some sunlight on the profit motive and incomplete science. In 1945 the Nazi threat hounded us into creating this menace to future generations. Now we have a crisis of climate change– as global and real as WWII and with no easy answers. But as they say, when you find yourself in a hole–first stop digging.

WWII has been called the ‘stimulus project’ that got us out of the depression. We are further along in progress toward clean, diverse, decentralized renewable energy than the scientists were at Los Alamos in 1945. What is needed is for all the information to be presented to the American public.

When that trust is not supported financially or politically, who will take it on?

It may be that the people of Japan, in the wake of the tragic natural disaster of the tsunami and the man-made folly of TEPCO will lead the way.

UPDATE: The #2 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi is heating up and has required extra cooling water.
Engineers are watching the situation. This is a ‘cold shutdown’.

Fukushima Nuclear– No End in Sight

I’ve been reading the Japanese press, and after almost a year, the Fukushima Nuclear disaster is still in the headlines.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reports that views from an endoscope inserted into the No.2 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant show that the plant has achieved a ‘cold shutdown’…

The endoscope captured images of water dripping from above apparently because of condensation, and paint was seen possibly falling off the inner wall of the container in some areas exposed to high temperatures and humidity over the months since the nuclear disaster erupted following the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year.

The probe was “the first step” to check the condition inside the reactor, Matsumoto said, but added the high humidity and radiation blurred the image.

He also said that confirming the state of the melted fuel, a key step toward decommissioning the crippled reactors, would require further technology development.

The fuel inside the No. 2 reactor, as well as inside the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, is believed to have melted through the pressure vessels and been accumulating in the outer primary containers after the Fukushima plant lost its key functions to cool the reactors in the wake of the natural disasters.

The damaged reactors are leaking water continually injected as a coolant, but the utility known as TEPCO has said the fuel is stably cooled by a water circulation system installed after the accident.

Radioactivity so intense that engineers will have to create new technology to explore the damage, a temperature of 44.7 C (112.46 F), paint falling off walls, water leaking but contained for now– this is the first of three reactors to be viewed, chosen because disaster relief seemed to ‘go more smoothly’ there. ‘Cold shutdown’ doesn’t convey the hell inside this plant.

Even in countries where nuclear accidents have not occurred, the normal lifespan of a plant and the waste it generates create a problem beyond the scope of governments and societies.

An op-ed by Edan Corkill, staff writer for Japan Times, gives perspective on Finland’s project to deal with their stockpile of nuclear waste. The Finnish government is building a secure site…

Located in Eurajoki on Finland’s west coast, the Onkalo facility consists of a vast network of tunnels more than 400 meters below ground where that country’s nuclear waste will be stored. Construction began in 2004 and will continue in stages until some time in the next century.

Here’s the scale of time we are dealing with…

The earliest known cave paintings date from about 30,000 years ago, and the earliest bone tools found so far predate those paintings by another 40,000 years. Go back 100,000 years, and Homo sapiens — us lot — are only just emerging, though the fossil record suggests our ancestors back then had larger molars and thicker and heavier bones than we do.

How else would they differ from us?

Given a time machine, could we go back and communicate with them? Across such a vast temporal divide, would we be able to convey anything to them at all?

And how about the future? What if we needed to leave a message for people 100,000 years from now?

I wonder how the Finns are dealing with the politics of a hundred-year project to bury the waste from electricity they used decades ago?

And who pays? TEPCO has handed their liability to the Japanese people, with a plan to nationalize the cost…

The business plan is intended to prevent the utility from becoming insolvent due to the massive costs stemming from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster, while making sure that compensation payments related to the accident are made in a timely fashion.

The injection of public funds that would effectively nationalize Tepco is expected to amount to about ¥1 trillion. The company will also try to improve its earnings by raising household electricity charges, possibly in the fall, as well as by reactivating its idled reactors in Niigata Prefecture starting in spring 2013.

TEPCO and the Japanese government have not been able to protect the public from contaminated debris–from the Daily Yomiuri

Contaminated crushed stone pieces taken from a quarry in the government’s expanded evacuation zone following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have been used to repair an irrigation channel and a road outside a school in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture.

The discovery was made after authorities began tracking down the whereabouts of 5,280 tons of the material that was quarried from Namie Town, in the same prefecture, after the stones were used in the construction of a condominium building in Nihonmatsu City, which was later found to contain high levels of radiation. The material is proving difficult to track because it has been sold to more than 100 construction companies throughout the prefecture.

Radioactivity is showing up in women’s breast milk…

Many mothers have expressed concerns about breast-feeding their babies amid fears that their milk may be contaminated by radioactive materials released into the air and sea by the Fukushima plant since it was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

About 18,000 babies are born each year in Fukushima Prefecture. The officials estimate that about 10,000 mothers breast-feed their babies.

The prefecture will also begin sending questionnaires in mid-January to expecting and breast-feeding mothers to get a better grasp of their mental and physical health, the officials said.

In a survey conducted in May and June by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, traces of radioactive cesium were detected in the breast milk of seven of 21 women from Fukushima. Government officials and experts have said the minute amounts posed no health risks to babies.

Good thing there’s no health risk, because there’s nothing these women could do about it if there were.

Here in the US, our Northwest coast is bracing for a vast pile of debris, traveling on ocean currents across the Pacific to Alaska…

“After the overwhelming devastation in Japan, it is distressing to see reminders of it washing up on our shores,” said Merrick Burden, the [Marine Conservation Alliance] foundation’s executive director. “Although we’re planning cleanups for next summer, if a massive onslaught of tsunami debris hits, it will overwhelm our resources.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is downplaying concerns that some debris may contain radiation. “By the time the (Fukushima) radioactive water leak developed, the debris was already in the ocean, miles from the reactor and moving farther offshore.”

A previously unknown disease or poison is affecting Alaskan wildlife…

Scientists in Alaska are investigating whether local seals are being sickened by radiation from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Scores of ring seals have washed up on Alaska’s Arctic coastline since July, suffering or killed by a mysterious disease marked by bleeding lesions on the hind flippers, irritated skin around the nose and eyes and patchy hair loss on the animals’ fur coats.

That the ocean dilutes radioactivity doesn’t rule out the possibility of concentrated hot spots…

Experts hesitate to predict where the radiation will go. Once radioactive elements that can harm health are released into the outdoors, their travel patterns are as mercurial as the weather and as complicated as the food chains and biochemical pathways along which they move.

It’s likely that the seals are suffering from a previously unknown bacteria or virus, but it makes sense to check for radioactivity. After Chernobyl, contamination showed up in milk, drunk by children who later suffered a high rate of thyroid cancer.

I wouldn’t have expected that the Japanese, with an educated population and high awareness of crisis would have allowed radioactive concrete to be used in building schools, apartments and irrigation ditches.

But that seems to be a given of human nature. We’re smart, but we’re good at not seeing what we don’t want to see. We evolved to deal with life in the short term– not to sacrifice for children of the next millenium.

We have a nasty 20th Century nuclear mess to clean up. We’re already feeling the pain. We have an energy crisis with no easy answers, but nuclear is not the way.

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