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On Fukushima/Daiichi and the nuclear meldown

Relax the problem will diminish in 4.5 BN years.

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Comment by Chris on January 27, 2017 at 12:42am


Rick Perry as Energy secretary?

Video: Rick Perry On Energy Department's Nuclear Oversight in 2014

A New York Times report on the eve of Rick Perry's confirmation hearing for Secretary of Energy Wednesday alleged that the former Texas governor had only recently discovered that the job largely involves nuclear issues.

But Perry acknowledged in 2014 that the Department of Energy is responsible for overseeing the country's nuclear arsenal.

"You served in the Air Force and probably know a big part of the Department of Energy is National Security and nuclear, nuclear arsenal," said Greg Dalton, founder of the Climate One forum, during a discussion on energy independence.

"Yep," Perry said.

Perry also reiterated his calls for cuts to government agencies, including the Department of Energy.

"I'm not sure why we need a Department of Energy that is as broad, and as big, and as cumbersome as the one that we have," he said. "There are, obviously, great and good innovations that come out of the Department of Energy. But I will suggest to you that we cannot afford the size and the scope of the government that we're paying for today."

Comment by Chris on January 24, 2017 at 10:33pm

A Public broadcasting TV network has an interesting documentary about Nuclear power - though it didn't cover nuclear waste.

Nova: The Nuclear Option.

Comment by Chris on January 13, 2017 at 6:10am

If people knew how much effort it takes  to keep the lights on  they may be more conservative with electricity.

Keeping a front porch ligh on, or Brightening up the night with Christmas lights means burning coal.

I don't think people understand  the coralation.

Perhaps global warming is out of mind and meanineless to most until they wonder why there is flooding at their door.

Even then I don't think they get it.

Comment by Chris on January 13, 2017 at 6:01am

Nuclear was advertized as free!. Many people still think so.

Go Olympics in Tokyo!

Comment by Chris on January 13, 2017 at 5:57am

Cradel to grave wiith  all pollution should be sometheing citizens should be concerned about.

I'm glad to hear an answer Daniel.

Is the public absent about some of the energy problems present?

Comment by Chris on December 18, 2016 at 9:41pm

The  Nuclear-News, and Fukushima Watch web sites have continuing updates about Fukushima and other nuclear news.

Comment by Chris on December 17, 2016 at 2:30am

Don't ya think nuclear electricity would be covered by private/commercial insurance companies if it was safe? 

Comment by Chris on December 17, 2016 at 2:27am
Comment by Chris on December 17, 2016 at 2:16am

For what it's worth, if you are curious about nuclear energy and accidents.

https://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/ops-experience/japan-dashboa...

Comment by Chris on December 16, 2016 at 10:34pm

16 US ships that aided in Operation Tomodachi still contaminated wi...

By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 13, 2016

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Sixteen U.S. ships that participated in relief efforts after Japan’s nuclear disaster five years ago remain contaminated with low levels of radiation from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, top Navy officials told Stars and Stripes.

In all, 25 ships took part in Operation Tomadachi, the name given for the U.S. humanitarian aid operations after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011. The tsunami, whose waves reached runup heights of 130 feet, crippled the Fukushima plant, causing a nuclear meltdown.

In the years since the crisis, the ships have undergone cleanup efforts, the Navy said, and 13 Navy and three Military Sealift Command vessels still have some signs of contamination, mostly to ventilation systems, main engines and generators.

“The low levels of radioactivity that remain are in normally inaccessible areas that are controlled in accordance with stringent procedures,” the Navy said in an email to Stars and Stripes. “Work in these areas occurs mainly during major maintenance availabilities and requires workers to follow strict safety procedures.”

All normally accessible spaces and equipment aboard the ships have been surveyed and decontaminated, Vice Adm. William Hilarides, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, wrote to Stars and Stripes.

“The radioactive contamination found on the ships involved in Operation Tomodachi is at such low levels that it does not pose a health concern to the crews, their families, or maintenance personnel,” Hilarides said.

The largest U.S. ship to take part in the relief operation was the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which normally carries a crew of more than 5,000 sailors. In 2014, three years after the disaster, the Reagan’s ventilation system was contaminated with 0.01 millirems of radiation per hour, according to the Navy. Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines advise no more than 2 millirems of radiation in one hour in any unrestricted area, and 100 millirems total in a calendar year from external and internal sources in unrestricted and controlled areas, so full-time exposure on the Reagan would be below that.

Plume of radiation

In the days after the tsunami hit the Fukushima complex, the plant suffered multiple explosions and reactors began to melt down.

Officials from the NRC told Congress that extremely high levels of radiation were being emitted from the impaired plant. Japanese nuclear experts said winds forced a radioactive plume out to sea, and efforts to keep fuel rods cool using sea water caused tons of radiated water to be dumped into the ocean.

The Reagan was dispatched to take part in relief efforts, arriving the next day. Navy officials say the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier stayed at least 100 nautical miles away from the damaged plant, but many sailors have disputed the Navy’s accounting, saying they were so close that they could see the plant.

The Navy has acknowledged that the Reagan passed through a plume of radiation. Navy images showed sailors with their faces covered, scrubbing the deck of the Reagan with soap and water as a precautionary measure afterward. The Reagan and sailors stayed off the coast of Japan for several weeks to aid their Japanese allies.

The multibillion-dollar ship, projected to last at least 50 years after its launch in 2001, then was taken offline for more than a year for “deep maintenance and modernization” at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., according to Navy officials.

“Procedures were in place to survey, control and remove any low-level residual contamination,” the Navy said. “Personnel working on potentially contaminated systems were monitored with sensitive dosimeters, and no abnormal radiation exposures were identified.”

Upgrades and cleaning also took place at the ship’s next stop in San Diego.

Sailors who performed the work said it entailed entering spaces deep within the ship, testing for high levels of radiation, and if it was found, sanding, priming and painting the areas. They say there were given little to no protective gear, a claim that the Navy denies.

Of the 1,360 individuals aboard the Reagan who were monitored by the Navy following the incident, more than 96 percent were found not to have detectable internal contamination, the Navy said. The highest measured dose was less than 10 percent of the average annual exposure to someone living in the United States.

Radiation effects unknown

Experts differ on the effects of radiation in general and, specifically, for those involved in Operation Tomodachi.

Eight Reagan sailors, claiming a host of medical conditions they say are related to radiation exposure, filed suit in 2012 against the nuclear plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. The suit asserts that TEPCO lied, coaxing the Navy closer to the plant even though it knew the situation was dire. General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi were later added as defendants for allegations of faulty parts for the reactors.

A spokesman for TEPCO declined to comment for this story because of the sailors’ lawsuit, which was slated to go forward pending appeals in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The illnesses listed in the lawsuit include genetic immune system diseases, headaches, difficulty concentrating, thyroid problems, bloody noses, rectal and gynecological bleeding, weakness in sides of the body accompanied by the shrinking of muscle mass, memory loss, leukemia, testicular cancer, problems with vision, high-pitch ringing in the ears and anxiety.

The list of sailors who have joined the lawsuit, which is making its way through the courts, has grown to 370.

In early 2014, Congress ordered Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Jonathan Woodson to investigate the claims.

After a peer-reviewed study into the levels of exposure, Woodson reported back to Congress, defending the military’s response and safeguards.

Any illnesses that sailors have developed since the operation are not a result of the relief campaign, he said.

“There is no objective evidence that the sailors … experienced radiation exposures that would result in an increase in the expected number of radiogenic diseases over time,” Woodson wrote. “The estimated radiation doses for all individuals in the Operation Tomodachi registry, including sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan, were very small and well below levels associated with adverse medical conditions.”

Furthermore, Woodson said, more sailors would have been sick if the levels were high enough to cause the illnesses cited. There were upward of 5,000 sailors aboard the Reagan at the time of the operation. He also said symptoms developed too early to be associated with the operation.

But Shinzo Kimura — a professor at Dokkyo Medical University in Japan who has studied radiation exposure from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Chernobyl and, now, Fukushima — said it wasn’t too early for sailors to show symptoms of exposure-related conditions. Doctors have seen conditions in children living near the plant that surfaced earlier than would normally be expected.

Kimura, hired by the Nihonmatsu city government for his expertise in the field, was the first scientist on the ground taking readings in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. He said each person and the way their body is affected by radiation is different.

While unable to definitively say if the sailors were sickened by the radiation, Kimura reasoned that the levels aboard the Reagan were high enough to cause illnesses. Otherwise, he said, why go through the bother of repeated cleanings to lower radiation levels?

“It is impossible to speculate or calculate how much the doses were before the two decontamination works,” he said. “The U.S. military is very good at risk-management. Considering that, it is assumed that decontaminations were conducted twice because the levels were not favorable.”

burke.matt@stripes.com 

sumida.chiyomi@stripes.com

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