Unskilled and Destitute Are Hiring Targets for Fukushima Cleanup

Why nuclear accidents happen has long been obvious. The technology uses highly dangerous radioactive fuel, the current reactors are aging, the new reactors are overbudget and years behind schedule due to unresolved safety problems, or exist only as elegant designs on computer screens unrealizable in the real world. Any real safety culture is absent, corporate interests lie with the government money and preferential treatment they receive, government interests lie with corporate money for campaigns and an excuse to maintain their nuclear weapons  programs (or the potential to start one). The the damage is subsidized by the taxpayers and ratepayers. An industry that has no liability for its actions and harm will cut corners.

But the horror of the fallout (literally and figuratively) of nuclear accidents that do happen is that instead of the well oiled disaster management plan you would expect of an industry whose materials involve forever deadly waste and long-lived carcinogenic isotopes- the clean-up falls to people unsuited in anyway for the serious work ahead, untrained, unskilled in some cases, unprepared, and desperate. Desperate to stay alive, desperate because they have no guidance, desperate because they, like the Fukushima reactor, are slowly being distanced from corporate responsibility and left to struggle and worry at a facility that is becoming more and more fragile.

NARAHA, Japan — “Out of work? Nowhere to live? Nowhere to go? Nothing to eat?” the online ad reads. “Come to Fukushima.”

That grim posting targeting the destitute, by a company seeking laborers for the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, is one of the starkest indications yet of an increasingly troubled search for workers willing to carry out the hazardous decommissioning at the site.

The plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, has been shifting its attention away, leaving the complex cleanup to an often badly managed, poorly trained, demoralized and sometimes unskilled work force that has made some dangerous missteps. At the same time, the company is pouring its resources into another plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, that it hopes to restart this year as part of the government’s push to return to nuclear energy three years after the world’s second-worst nuclear disaster. It is a move that some members of the country’s nuclear regulatory board have criticized.

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Are nuclear design bases still sufficient?

Arnie Gundersen l  4 November, 2012

Click here to listen to the podcast:

In this edition, we'll discuss the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and what lessons must be learned including the breakdown in emergency preparedness. - Nuclear power plants are built to a "design basis" in an effort to prepare them for Mother Nature's worst events. Are these design bases still sufficient? - Containment Venting has long been a concern associated with Mark 1 BWR containment systems. Now, NRC staff has recommended that these filtered vents be hardened. - Looking at industry wide changes, we discuss the new Vogtle nuclear power plant, under construction in Georgia, that will cost billions of dollars for ratepayers and US taxpayers. Finally, in response to reader questions, we discuss what other radioactive isotopes in addition to cesium were released into the environment from the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown.
Also, listen to Fairewinds other Hurricane Sandy related podcasts:
October 30, 2012
Gundersen speaks with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now the morning after Hurricane Sandy makes landfall. They discuss the Oyster Creek nuclear plant, which was close to the eye of Hurricane Sandy. The tidal surge at Oyster Creek was within six inches of flooding the service water pumps that cool the nuclear reactor. Several other plants shut down and reverted to their diesel engines for reactor cooling. They also discuss how spent fuel pools are not cooled by diesels - so in the event of a "loss of offsite power," if a plant is shutdown for refueling, the spent fuel pool cannot be cooled.
October 30, 2012
In this special edition question & answer podcast, Gundersen and Hurley discuss what effects Hurricane Sandy had on U.S. nuclear power plants, especially Oyster Creek. Gundersen explains how spent fuel pools are not configured to be cooled with diesel power in the event of a loss of offsite power. Oyster Creek and several other nuclear power plants did lose offsite power and Thomson Reuters reports that they may use fire pumps to cool the pools.
October 28, 2012
In this week's podcast Arnie Gundersen discusses with Kevin Hurley what effect we can expect Hurricane Sandy to have on operating U.S. nuclear plants. Nuclear power plants rely on off-site power to cool the reactors, but in the event of a "loss of off-site power" (which is likely in a hurricane,) plants rely entirely on backup diesel generators. A new report from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution finds Fukushima Daiichi accident released more radiation into the Pacific Ocean than any other nuclear event. Massive protests in India, at the site of the new Kudankulam nuclear plant, are met a harsh response by the Indian government. The U.S. Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant is about to shut down for good. Gundersen discusses the costs of operating a nuclear power plant and suggests that other single-unit nuclear plants may soon follow suit.

The human sex odds at birth after the atmospheric atomic bomb tests, after Chernobyl, and in the vicinity of nuclear facilities

Nuclear power generation, accidents, and atomic testing have all affected boy/girl birth ratios. While it has disproportionately affected the birth rate of girls, it has also lowered the overall birthrate.

The human sex odds at birth after the atmospheric atomic bomb tests, after Chernobyl, and in the vicinity of nuclear facilities.

Hagen Scherb & Kristina Voigt  l 19 February 2011     Springer-Verlag


Background, aim, and scope Ever since the discovery of the mutagenic properties of ionizing radiation, the possibility of birth sex odds shifts in exposed human populations was considered in the scientific community. Positive evidence, however weak, was obtained after the atomic bombing of Japan. We previously investigated trends in the sex odds before and after the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident. In a pilot study, combined data from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Poland, and Sweden between 1982 and 1992 showed a downward trend in the sex odds and a significant jump in 1987, the year immediately after Chernobyl. Moreover, a significant positive association of the sex odds between 1986 and 1991 with Chernobyl fallout at the district level in Germany was observed. Both of these findings, temporality (effect after exposure) and dose response association, yield evidence of causality. The primary aim of this study was to investigate longer time periods (1950–2007) in all of Europe and in the USA with emphasis on the global atmospheric atomic bomb test fallout and on the Chernobyl accident. To obtain further evidence, we also analyze sex odds data near nuclear facilities in Germany and Switzerland.

Data and statistical methods National gender-specific annual live births data for 39 European countries from 1975 to 2007 were compiled using the pertinent internet data bases provided by the World Health Organization, United Nations, Council of Europe, and EUROSTAT. For a synoptic re-analysis of the period 1950 to 1990, published data from the USA and from a predominantly western and less Chernobyl-exposed part of Europe were studied additionally. To assess spatial, temporal, as well as spatial–temporal trends in the sex odds and to investigate possible changes in those trends after the atomic bomb tests, after Chernobyl, and in the vicinity of nuclear facilities, we applied ordinary linear logistic regression. Region-specific and eventually changing spatial–temporal trends were analyzed using dummy variables coding for continents, countries, districts, municipalities, time periods, and appropriate spatial–temporal interactions.

Results The predominantly western European sex odds trend together with the US sex odds trend (1950–1990 each) show a similar behavior. Both trends are consistent with a uniform reduction from 1950 to 1964, an increase from 1964 to 1975 that may be associated with delayed global atomic bomb test fallout released prior to the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963 and again a more or less constant decrease from 1975 to 1990. In practically all of Europe, including eastern European countries, from 1975 to 1986, and in the USA from 1975 to 2002, there were highly significant uniform downward trends in the sex odds with a reduction of 0.22% to 0.25% per 10 years. In contrast to the USA, in Europe there was a highly significant jump of the sex odds of 0.20% in the year 1987 following Chernobyl. From 1987 to 2000, the European sex odds trend reversed its sign and went upward, highly significantly so, with 0.42% per 10 years relative to the downward trend before Chernobyl. The global secular trend analyses are corrobo- rated by the analysis of spatial–temporal sex odds trends near nuclear facilities (NF) in Germany and Switzerland. Within 35 km distance from those NF, the sex odds increase significantly in the range of 0.30% to 0.40% during NF operating time.

ConclusionsThe atmospheric atomic bomb test fallout affected the human sex odds at birth overall, and the Chernobyl fallout had a similar impact in Europe and parts of Asia. The birth sex odds near nuclear facilities are also distorted. The persistently disturbed secular human sex odds trends allow the estimation of the global deficit of births in the range of several millions. 

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Millions Fewer Girls Born Due to Nuclear Radiation?

As we think about the disproportionate harm to women and children from exposure to radiation, last year's National Geographic article adds another piece of the puzzle with information on a study showing lower birth rate for girls after nuclear testing and accidents.

Ker Than l National Geographic  2 June, 2011

Nuclear radiation from bomb tests and power plant accidents causes slightly more boys than girls to be born, a new study suggests. While effects were seen to be regional for incidents on the ground, like Chernobyl, atmospheric blasts were found to affect birth rates on a global scale.


The result: Millions fewer females have been born worldwide than would otherwise be expected, researchers estimate. And given Japan's current nuclear troubles, another boy boomlet could be on the way, experts say.

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Leaked Report Suggests Long-Known Flood Threat To Nuclear Plants, Safety Advocates Say

An unredacted version of an NRC report acquired by Greenpeace reveals that the NRC has been lying about the safety of US nuclear facilities from dam failures.

"The redacted information shows that the NRC is lying to the American public about the safety of U.S. reactors," said David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and safety advocate with the Union of Concerned Scientists...

...According to the NRC's own calculations, which were also withheld in the version of the report released in March, the odds of the dam near the Oconee plant failing at some point over the next 22 years are far higher than were the odds of an earthquake-induced tsunami causing a meltdown at the Fukushima plant.

The NRC report identifies flood threats from upstream dams at nearly three dozen other nuclear facilities in the United States, including the Fort Calhoun Station in Nebraska, the Prairie Island facility in Minnesota and the Watts Bar plant in Tennessee, among others."

Read article here:  l HuffPost Green 20 October, 2012

Leaked Report Suggests Long-Known Flood Threat To Nuclear Plants, Safety Advocates Say

Un-redacted version of report.

Background to Entergys lockout at Massachusetts nuclear power plant

Lockout endangers already unsafe reactor station as skilled workers are replaced by unskilled labor, safety measures are cancelled, and attention is called to risk factors such as the use of flammable fireproofing material. Entergy continues to take in $1 million a day.
John Marion l  20 June, 2012

Entergy Corporation’s lockout at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts, has focused renewed attention on the US nuclear power industry. The company escorted more than 240 members of Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 369 from the plant at midnight, June 5, after workers rejected a four-year contract that included deep cuts to health benefits and limited raises to 2 percent.

Louisiana-based Entergy has continued to haul in an estimated $1 million a day during the lockout. At facilities throughout the US, the nuclear power industry benefits from government subsidies of everything from construction costs to decommissioning. Similar to the actions at Cooper Tire and other companies, Entergy took an aggressive stance, locking workers out when they refused to submit to their draconian demands despite these huge profits.

A 2011 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), “Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable without Subsidies,” found that “Government subsidies to the nuclear power industry over the past fifty years have been so large in proportion to the value of the energy produced that in some cases it would have cost taxpayers less to simply buy kilowatts on the open market and give them away.”

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Health Risks of Nuclear Power

Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen l Ceedata    22 November 2010    


This study starts with a physical assessment of the quantities of the radioactivity being generated and mobilized by the entire system of related industrial processes making civilian nuclear power possible. It assesses the actual and potential exposure of the public to natural and human-made nuclear radioactivity, and it discusses empirical evidence of harmful health effects of these exposures. The biomedical effects of radionuclides in the human body are briefly discussed.

Furthermore this study analyses the mechanisms which may cause the uncontrolled spread of very large amounts of radioactivity into the environment. The study explains some consequences of a basic law of nature (Second Law) for the health risks of nuclear power now and in the future. Misconceptions, uncertainties and unknowns of the nuclear safety issue are addressed. Risk enhancing factors are discussed, along with the consequences of the present economic paradigm for the health risks of nuclear power at this moment and in the future.

Full report

Children Radiation Maps from Belarus and Ukraine, children are not safe even in clean areas

This is what we should be examining now, trying to understand and verify what is happening. A good translation of studies of what has happened in Belarus and surrounding areas since Chernobyl would help bolster the case that the danger to children has gone beyond politics and has become a human rights issue. This is critical to understanding Japan's future, and how best to protect its people, just as it affects the rest of the world as we move foward into a time of nuclear accidents. We cannot privilege money and power over public health and the environment or we will lose everything.

Children Radiation Maps l Jan Hemmer Blog  14 April, 2012

On April 5th I went to BELRAD Institute ( in Belarus (got 72% of the Chernobyl fallout), with a friend and translator, to get important data about their work. Here I present with the permission of vice director Mr. Babenko of BELRAD, the Children radiation maps of Belarus (below). First, some background on the data: We see here 17 regions of Belarus:

Irradiated areas and relatively “CLEAN” areas. Children have Cesium in their bodies, no matter if they live in “clean” or irradiated areas.  This is one important fact these maps show. Why is that? The average irradiated soil in Belarus is: 1 – 40 Curie per square kilometer (= 37,000 – 1,480,000 becquerel per m²) of radionuclides,  such as Cesium 137, Strontium 90, Americium 241 and other radionuclides. It reaches also 160 Curie per km², although it is 40 on official maps, but reaches 18,500,000 becquerel per m² in some places. Here is more info: Here is a list of the radionuclides:

Caesium 137, food, children, apple pectin:

Nesterenko, founder of BELRAD: “Children receive the highest doses, because the dose coefficients, in a 3 year old child, are 5 times higher than in adults.

But the Children Radiation Maps are based uponWhole Body Counter measurments of Children, measuring Cesium 137. They are the latest maps available by Belrad. More Info:

Not even world’s biggest nuclear-reactor-children-cancer study (KIKK) counts in INTERNAL radiation: only measure EXTERNAL radiation. No known children cancer study is interested in INTERNAL emitters, although 70 – 90% of radiation comes from food today. THE WORLD HAS TO LEARN FROM BELARUS. If the focus is set only to external radiation, is seen only radiation in water and air, only milli sievert is discussed.  Clean city, irradiated food. No children cancer study I know is interested in internal emitters. We can not afford this failure a 2nd time. This is not mere methodology. This is survival.

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Severe Nuclear Reactor Accidents Likely Every 10 to 20 Years, European Study Suggests

Europe re-analyzes risk after Fukushima and finds it higher than expected. Close neighbors may make them more cautious going forward than large countries like the U.S. who seem to feel less vulnerable. But, the danger is the same even if the perception is different. Nuclear power threatens every country that uses it. It threatens security, public health, the environment, food and water safety, the list of possible harm is almost endless. The benefits non-existent.

Science Daily l May 22, 2012

Western Europe has the worldwide highest risk of radioactive contamination caused by major reactor accidents.

Catastrophic nuclear accidents such as the core meltdowns in Chernobyl and Fukushima are more likely to happen than previously assumed. Based on the operating hours of all civil nuclear reactors and the number of nuclear meltdowns that have occurred, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz have calculated that such events may occur once every 10 to 20 years (based on the current number of reactors) -- some 200 times more often than estimated in the past. The researchers also determined that, in the event of such a major accident, half of the radioactive caesium-137 would be spread over an area of more than 1,000 kilometres away from the nuclear reactor. Their results show that Western Europe is likely to be contaminated about once in 50 years by more than 40 kilobecquerel of caesium-137 per square meter. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, an area is defined as being contaminated with radiation from this amount onwards. In view of their findings, the researchers call for an in-depth analysis and reassessment of the risks associated with nuclear power plants.

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Disproportionate Harm: Women and Children are more Vulnerable.

The Helen Caldicott Foundation: Disproportionate Harm, Initial Talking Points

There has been a lot of discussion about the spent fuel at Fukushima, especially now - about the reactor #4 spent fuel pool. The harm this could cause should it collapse is incalculable. But, the truth is we are getting sick and dying from radiation exposure already, and it is happening in disproportionate numbers. We need to keep referencing that this is happening now in Japan, and everywhere around the world. We are asking for your help in making this widely known. Please join us!

Disproportionate Harm: Women and Children are more Vulnerable.

This year the Helen Caldicott Foundation in partnership with NIRS, and all other groups who want to join us (national and international), will embark on the start of a major education to action campaign on the effects of radiation exposure on the health of all people. But, its particular focus will be the disproportionate risk radiation exposure poses to women and children. Buried in the literature to date is the fact that men are more resistant to radiation. The safety standards, which time has shown protect no one, were designed at the time of the Manhattan Project to protect young, healthy, western, men. Presumably, military men expected to accept a certain degree of risk in exchange for protecting their country.

Insufficient as it is, even the National Academy of Sciences BEIR V11 Report, widely accepted as the industry standard, clearly states:

  1. There is no safe dose of ionizing radiation. Any exposure can trigger cancer.
  2. Although the reasons are not yet clearly understood, women and children are 
significantly more vulnerable.
  3. Women are 40-60% more likely to get cancer than men, given the same exposure. 
They are about 50% (half again) more likely to acquire a fatal cancer from this exposure. This means that for every two men who die of radiation related cancer, three women will die given a similar exposure.

Children between the ages of 0-5 are more vulnerable than all adults, both men and women. But what is almost never discussed, also from the BEIR V11 Report, is that in this age group little girls are twice as vulnerable as boys. This means that for every boy, there will be two girls who will acquire a fatal or non-fatal cancer...


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Nuclear Power is not the Answer