New fight over Fukushima

By: Patrap , 7:03 PM GMT on January 19, 2014

New fight over Fukushima

By Peter Huck

5:30 AM Saturday Jan 18, 2014

American rescue personnel believe health problems caused by sailing through radioactive plume.

US Navy crew members mop up the flight deck to remove radioactive contamination from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Photo / AP

On March 12, 2011, the day after a huge tsunami hit Japan's northeast coast, the USS Ronald Reagan entered the Sea of Japan on a humanitarian mission.

The massive US$4.5 billion ($5.4 billion) Nimitz-class nuclear-powered "super aircraft carrier", with a ship's company of 5500 men and women, was in the vanguard of a force of 24 US Navy ships, 189 aircraft and 24,000 service personnel deployed to help Japan in Operation Tomodachi.

By then the tsunami, triggered by a magnitude-9 offshore earthquake, had killed 19,000 people and engulfed the Fukushima nuclear power plant, owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). A catastrophic failure followed, triggering explosions and releasing highly radioactive material into the ocean and atmosphere, as three reactors went into meltdown, the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1989.

Back on board the Reagan, sailors began the grim, exhausting work of locating survivors amid apocalyptic devastation.

"On that first day, we pretty much immediately started search and rescue," recalls Lindsay Cooper, 34, then an aviation bosun's mate with the 500-strong flight deck crew. It was a frantic time as aircraft were launched and recovered.

"Next thing we know we've got this nasty, metallic taste in our mouth." She says the crew were ordered below. She believes they "had just got slammed by a radioactive plume".

This metallic taste evokes testimony from people who lived downwind of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor meltdown in 1979 and by airmen on board the US plane that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. Cooper believes they passed through other radioactive plumes and describes sailors vomiting and losing bowel control as skin rashes appeared.

"It was a real big problem. We thought gastroenteritis was going around the ship."

Now back in civilian life, Cooper is dealing with ongoing thyroid issues, dramatic weight swings and abnormal menstrual cycles. Other shipmates also have problems she says.

In Washington state, Thomas McCants, 21, copes with what he believes is the legacy of Tomodachi. A gunner's mate on the USS Germantown, McCants joined the vessel, previously part of Tomodachi, in July 2011. Fit when he joined McCants was discharged as unwell five months later. His discharge documents refer to an "adjustment disorder", manifested as stomach pain, weight loss and fatigue. Last October he was diagnosed with chronic myeloid lymphoma. He needs a bone marrow transplant. Are McCants, Cooper and many other young sailors suffering from Fukushima radiation exposure, contacted from atmospheric fallout or from seawater pumped into ship desalination systems? A mass tort lawsuit filed in San Diego last June (an amended suit with around 100 plaintiffs is due to be refiled next month) believes they are and points a finger at Tepco.

"They're suffering from the whole Chernobyl panoply," says San Diego lawyer Paul Garner, who co-authored the suit (the Weekend Herald did not see plaintiffs' medical records and relied on interviews). He says plaintiffs also served on the Essex, Washington, Prebble and other warships. Tepco wants the suit dismissed, arguing the United States has no jurisdiction. Garner says it does because Tepco is registered in California as a foreign corporation.

Garner says many plaintiffs, most in their 20s, have been diagnosed with "cancers, leukaemias, bleeding from vagina and rectum, abnormal growths, loss of eyesight, migraine headaches, weight gain/loss, immunodeficiencies, loss of strength, mobility" and other ailments. The company denies that the Fukushima disaster harmed any US sailors.

Garner contends Tepco knew some 400 tonnes of radioactivity was leaking into the sea each day. He cites the Reagan's deck logs to claim the ship spent five hours sailing through a plume of radioactive material, after steam was vented from the plant in a bid to stop a lethal chain reaction.

"Entered nuclear radiation plume at Lat 37:25 N, Long 144:0 E," says one, entered at 23:45 hours on March 16. Five hours later, at 05:07 on March 17, the log reports, "Exited radiation plume at Lat 37 24.9 N Longitude 143.53.9 E."

The Reagan was later moored at Bremerton, near Seattle, for 14 months before sailing to San Diego, its home port. Garner contends the ship was decontaminated, with debris disposed of at Hanford, a US nuclear dump.

He says Tepco will be "hard pressed" to deny a core meltdown on March 11. "According to [then] Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the meltdown occurred within five hours of the quake," says Garner.

A former nuclear advocate, Kan is now opposed to nuclear power. The complaint alleges Tepco "knowingly and negligently caused, permitted and allowed false and misleading information concerning the true nature of the FNPP [Fukushima plant] to be disseminated to the public, including the US Navy, Air Force and Marines".

"This is a product liability case," says Garner. "They chose to make electricity by boiling water through nuclear power and the tiger got out of the tank."

But even if it can be proven that Tepco was negligent (about one-third of plaintiffs remain on active duty and are legally barred from suing the US), can the plaintiffs show Fukushima caused sailors to become ill?

The official line is that radiation levels were safe, "less than 25 per cent of the annual radiation exposure from natural sources of background radiation, such as the sun", according to navy spokesman Lieutenant Greg Raelson.

The navy says radiation levels were monitored - Cooper describes exiting the flight zone via a decontamination zone and being checked with a geiger counter - and aircrew flying to the disaster zone being given thyroid medicine.

The location of specific ships - and when they were there - may prove crucial in any court case. How close were the US ships to radioactive plumes? How radioactive was seawater used by desalination gear?

Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission placed ships some 100 nautical miles offshore.

"My understanding is they were very far away from the reactors ... They detected increased radiation levels and retreated."

But Cooper says that at one time she could see land. The lawsuit alleges that "at times" the Reagan was "only a few miles from the failing plant".

At issue may be when the US ships distanced themselves from shore. The suit suggests Tepco's "fraudulent statements" meant that, at first, the navy "failed to take necessary precautions to reduce exposure to radiation".

Lyman thinks Japanese survivors faced greater risks than sailors. The effects of radiation leaking from Fukushima - 300 tonnes of radioactive water reportedly pour into the sea each day - are in dispute, even as reports emerge about problems with thyroid glands in children.

Asked if the impacts of radiation released from Fukushima would be felt by people so quickly, Lyman demurs. "There is a well established body of data on the health effects of radiation exposure. Most solid tumours will not develop for at least 10 years." As for thyroid cancer, he says it began to appear in children exposed to the Chernobyl meltdown after five years.

The US humanitarian response followed a direct request from Japan for assistance. "There was pretty significant debate about estimates of radiation exposure and the implications for US citizens, including those deployed to assist," says Sheila Smith, a senior fellow and Japanese expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, who cites US Nuclear Regulatory Commission data.

"Is it dangerous to our military? To our civilians?" Smith says the navy took a conservative stance, concerned about radiation. "But there's a huge debate about radiation exposure, how quickly it was understood. So it's not just the Ronald Reagan - was it in the right place at the wrong time? - but do we really understand today the extent to which people have been exposed?"

Meanwhile, the US Navy veterans battle on, hoping for relief. Cooper says the Veterans' Administration diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder from the disaster, and prescribed an antidepressant.

She says the threat hit home when she mustered with the Reagan's company to collect gas masks.

"The whole ship was in that hangar bay. It was scary. The navy had no idea what was going on. They didn't know how to handle it. I can't blame them. Had they known the truth I don't think we would have been in that area. We would have maintained a safe distance."

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5. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
5:34 PM GMT on February 05, 2014
Patrap has created a new entry.
4. Patrap
5:42 AM GMT on January 22, 2014
Quoting 869. ColoradoBob1:
The most important climate change article ever posted , it's long and it's well written , please read all of it :

Green Capitalism: The God That Failed


As soaring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions drove global CO2 concentrations past 400 parts per million in May 2013, shell-shocked climate scientists warned that unless we urgently adopt "radical" measures to suppress GHG emissions (50 percent cuts in emissions by 2020, 90 percent by 2050) we're headed for an average temperature rise of 3 degrees or 4 degrees Celsius before the end of the century. Four degrees might not seem like much, but make no mistake: Such an increase will be catastrophic for our species and most others. Humans have never experienced a rise of 4 degrees in average temperatures. But our ancestors experienced a four-degree cooler world. That was during the last ice age, the Wisconsin Stage (26,000 to 13,300 years ago). At that time, there were two miles of ice on top of where I'm sitting right now in New York City. In a four-degree warmer world "Heat waves of undreamt-of-ferocity will scorch the Earth's surface as the climate becomes hotter than anything humans have ever experienced. ... There will be "no ice at either pole." "Global warming of this magnitude would leave the whole planet without ice for the first time in nearly 40 million years." Sea levels will rise 25 meters - submerging Florida, Bangladesh, New York, Washington DC, London, Shanghai, the coastlines and cities where nearly half the world's people presently live. Freshwater aquifiers will dry up; snow caps and glaciers will evaporate - and with them, the rivers that feed the billions of Asia, South America and California. The "wholesale destruction of ecosystems" will bring on the collapse of agriculture around much of the world. "Russia's harsh cold will be a distant memory" as "temperatures in Europe will resemble the Middle East. ... The Sahara will have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and be working its way north into the heart of Spain and Portugal. ... With food supplies crashing, humanity's grip on its future will become ever more tentative." Yet long before the temperature increase hits four degrees, the melting will have begun thawing the permafrost of the Arctic, releasing vast quantities of methane buried under the Arctic seas and the Siberian and North American tundra, accelerating GHG concentrations beyond any human power to stop runaway warming and sealing our fate as a species.

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3. Patrap
6:20 PM GMT on January 20, 2014

Truthout Interviews: Richard Smith on the Failure of Green Solutions to Solve Environmental Problems

Sunday, 19 January 2014 10:24

"Don't shoot the messenger." Richard Smith's message may be sobering, but it's based on information that suggests we've reached a tipping point when it comes to climate change. How can we reverse the effects of greenhouse gases changing our climate? Smith says we can't – at least not under a corporate capitalist framework. The logic of corporate capitalism simply won't allow the large-scale changes needed to reverse the disastrous effects global climate change will have on life on our planet.

Also see: Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism?

As Richard notes in the interview, no amount of recycling, buying environmentally friendly goods, or market-based carbon reduction schemes can change corporate capitalism's rapacious depletion of natural resources in the production of consumable goods. Moreover, these goods (that often have a short shelf life so companies can produce more) are key to stock prices, 401k portfolios, and other investments individuals have made to assure their own security.

The will of the shareholder that drives the cycle of extraction, production, consumption and disposal of goods will push us to the environmental tipping point sooner than we think. We simply cannot sustain the levels of production and consumption with the population explosion of humans on our world.
The news is not good, but people have the capacity for imaginative and creative solutions to problems that plague our world. Now that the survival of our species is on the line, we need to move now to change our economic system.
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2. Patrap
7:44 PM GMT on January 19, 2014
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1. Patrap
7:23 PM GMT on January 19, 2014
Fukushima: An Ongoing Warning to the World

By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan

TOKYO—“I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world,” wrote the journalist Wilfred Burchett from Hiroshima. His story, headlined, “The Atomic Plague” appeared in the London Daily Express on Sept. 5, 1945. Burchett violated the U.S. military blockade of Hiroshima, and was the first Western journalist to visit that devastated city. He wrote: “Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller had passed over it and squashed it out of existence.” Jump ahead 66 years, to March 11, 2011, and 600 miles north, to Fukushima and the Great East Japan Earthquake, which caused the tsunami.
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