Fukushima radioactive leak again

This video says about itself:

Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant leaks radioactive water; 20 February 2014

New Highly Radioactive Leak At Japan’s Fukushima Plant

Around 100 tonnes of highly radioactive water have leaked from a storage tank.

By Will Morrow:

Japan: New radioactive water leak at Fukushima

24 February 2014

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) revealed last Thursday that one of the 1,000 makeshift tanks used to hold radioactive water at its Fukushima nuclear plant had leaked more than 100 tonnes of highly contaminated water over the previous day. The leakage—the largest since August 2013—occurs two weeks after revelations that TEPCO deliberately suppressed, for six months, its own findings of extremely high radiation levels in groundwater near the sea.

TEPCO spokesman Masayuki Ono said the company was sorry for “worrying the public with such a leak,” and claimed it was “unlikely” that the radioactive water had reached the ocean, which is just 700 metres away. The water had a radioactivity of 230 million becquerels per litre, 23 million times greater than the legal limit for drinking water.

The company has immediately sought to present the leakage—which occurred because the tank overfilled—as a result of human error. The company claims that valves controlling the flow of water along a pipe that fills the tank were mistakenly left open by an employee. However, TEPCO has admitted that one of the three valves was closed and is investigating why this did not prevent the tank from filling.

The leakage is a direct result of the short-term measures put in place by the company to address previous problems. The radioactive water breached a concrete perimeter around the tank by passing along a rainwater gutter. The gutters were installed in November to prevent rainwater from building up inside the barrier. Heavy rains the previous month flooded the storage area and allowed radioactive water to breach the concrete walls. Ono admitted that “this incident revealed [the gutter’s] weak point. We have to redesign it.”

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami resulted in a failure of power supplies at the Fukushima plant, a partial meltdown, several hydrogen explosions and damage to the spent fuel rod pool at a fourth reactor. The failure of the reactors’ cooling systems meant that water had to be continuously injected into the cores, producing huge quantities of highly radioactive water. The company is now storing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of contaminated water in more than 1,000 tanks at the plant and the quantity continues to grow.

At every stage, TEPCO has sought to cut costs, creating further dangers. Yoshitatsu Uechi, an auto mechanic at the plant from December 2011 to June 2012, told the Asahi Shimbun in January that duct tape was commonly used to seal holes in storage tanks, and that wire nets rather than reinforcing steel bars were used in the storage tank foundations. Waterproof sheets were placed along the joints of the metal tanks to save on sealing agent. Uechi told the Japanese newspaper: “I couldn’t believe that such slipshod work was being done, even if it was part of stopgap measures.”

No faith can be placed in any of the claims of TEPCO or the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) about the extent of water leakage or the amount of radioactive waste that has reached the environment. TEPCO has a long and documented history of cover-ups and falsifying safety reports, with the collusion of the government’s nuclear supervisory organisations.

On February 7, TEPCO released its own findings on radioactivity levels in groundwater in the area around the plant—only 25 meters from the sea. The samples were taken in July and analysed by September 2013. Groundwater passes through the plant due to the natural weather cycle, becoming contaminated in the process. Between 300-400 tonnes of radioactive groundwater passes every day into the ocean.

TEPCO revealed that the groundwater at one of its monitoring wells contained five million becquerels per litre of Strontium-90, which is highly poisonous as it can replace calcium, accumulate in the food chain and build up in the bones of humans. This is more than five times the 900,000 becquerels per litre that the company reported at the time for all isotopes emitting beta radiation, including Strontium-90.

The company has given no explanation for the delay in releasing the data. NRA official Shinji Kinjo told Reuters on February 13: “We did not hear about this figure when they detected it last September. We have been repeatedly pushing TEPCO to release strontium data since November. It should not take them this long to release this information.”

The NRA was set up as a merger of two previous organisations, in a bid to dispel mass opposition to the Fukushima disaster and the collusion of regulatory bodies with giant energy companies such as TEPCO. Despite its history of deception and cost cutting, TEPCO has been left in charge of the massive task of dismantling the Fukushima reactors and cleaning up the site.

The latest storage tank leak is the largest since last August, when it was revealed that approximately 300 tonnes of radioactive water had leaked from a tank. Leaks are occurring regularly, however, and it is unclear how much of the water has already reached the ocean. Also on February 7, TEPCO announced that video footage taken by a robot used to clear debris from the damaged number three reactor showed highly radioactive water—containing large amounts of cesium and cobalt—leaking to the reactor’s drainage ditch.

The Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, like its predecessors, is completely beholden to the interests of the big energy corporations. Last month, the government approved—in the face of popular opposition to nuclear power in Japan—TEPCO’s plan to restart its biggest nuclear station, Kashiwazaki Kariwa, this summer.

The government has vested interests in suppressing evidence of the catastrophe caused by the Fukushima disaster. Abe is determined to ensure that Japan maintains its capacity to produce nuclear energy and, if ordered by the government, nuclear weapons. At the same time, Abe has downplayed the threat to the population posed by nuclear leaks at Fukushima as part of his bid for the 2020 Olympic Games.

BBC News – North American scientists track incoming Fukushima plume: here.

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John Pilger on Korean and other wars

This video from South Korea is called Peace activists on Jeju Island rally to protect their village from military base plans.

By John Pilger, from the New Statesman in Britain:

Buried horors and forgotten wars

Thursday 20th February 2014

JOHN PILGER looks back to the Korean war of 1950-53 and how distorted history masks the true nature of a conflict which scars the region to this day

Fifty years ago, EP Thompson‘s The Making of the English Working Class rescued the study of history from the powerful. Kings and queens, landowners, industrialists and imperialists had owned much of public memory.

In 1980 Howard Zinn‘s A People’s History of the United States also demonstrated that the freedoms and rights we enjoy precariously – free expression, free association, the jury system, rights of minorities – were the achievements of ordinary people, not the gift of elites.

Historians, like journalists, play their most honourable role when they myth-bust.

Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America (1971) achieved this for the people of a continent whose historical memory was colonised and mutated by the dominance of the United States.

We need such smokescreen-clearing now more than ever.

The powerful would like us to believe that the likes of Thompson, Zinn and Galeano are no longer necessary – that we live, as Time magazine put it, “in an eternal present” in which reflection is limited to Facebook and historical narrative is the preserve of Hollywood.

This is a confidence trick. In Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell wrote: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

The people of Korea understand this well.

The slaughter on their peninsula following the second world war is known as “the forgotten war,” whose significance for all humanity has long been suppressed in military histories of cold war good versus evil.

I have just read The Korean War: a History by Bruce Cumings (2010), professor of history at the University of Chicago.

I first saw Cumings interviewed in Regis Tremblay’s extraordinary film The Ghosts of Jeju, which documents the 1948 uprising on the southern Korean island of Jeju and the campaign by the present-day islanders to stop the building of a base with US missiles aimed provocatively at China.

Like most Koreans, the farmers and fishing families protested at the senseless division of their nation between north and south in 1945 – a line drawn along the 38th parallel by a US official, Dean Rusk, who had “consulted a map around midnight on the day after we obliterated Nagasaki with an atomic bomb,” as Cumings writes.

The myth of a “good” Korea (the South) and a “bad” Korea (the North) was invented.

In fact, Korea, north and south, has a remarkable people’s history of resistance to feudalism and foreign occupation, notably Japan’s in the 20th century.

When the US defeated Japan in 1945 it occupied Korea and often branded those who had resisted the Japanese as “commies.”

On Jeju, as many as 60,000 people were massacred by militias supported, directed and in some cases commanded by US officers.

This and other unreported atrocities were a “forgotten” prelude to the Korean war (1950-53), in which more people were killed than Japanese died during all of the second world war.

Cumings gives an astonishing tally of the degree of destruction of the cities of the North – Pyongyang 75 per cent, Sariwon 95 per cent, Sinanju 100 per cent.

Great dams in the North were bombed in order to unleash internal tsunamis. “Anti-personnel” weapons, such as napalm, were tested on civilians.

Cumings’s superb investigation helps us understand why today’s North Korea seems so strange, an anachronism sustained by an enduring mentality of siege.

“The unhindered machinery of incendiary bombing was visited on the North for three years,” he writes, “yielding a wasteland and a surviving mole people who had learned to love the shelter of caves, mountains, tunnels and redoubts, a subterranean world that became the basis for reconstructing a country and a memento for building a fierce hatred through the ranks of the population.

“Their truth is not cold, antiquarian, ineffectual knowledge.”

Cumings quotes Virginia Woolf to describe how the trauma of this kind of war “confers memory.”

The guerrilla leader Kim Il Sung had begun fighting the Japanese militarists in 1932.

Every characteristic attached to the regime he founded – “communist, rogue state, evil enemy” – derives from a ruthless, brutal, heroic resistance, first to Japan, then the United States, which threatened to nuke the rubble its bombers had left.

Cumings exposes as propaganda the notion that Kim Il Sung, leader of the “bad” Korea, was a stooge of Moscow.

In contrast, the regime that Washington invented in the South, the “good” Korea, was run largely by those who had collaborated with Japan and the United States.

The Korean war has an unrecognised distinction.

It was in the smouldering ruins of the peninsula that the US turned itself into what Cumings calls “an archipelago of empire.”

When the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, it was as if the whole planet was declared pro-US – or else.

But there is China now.

The base being built on Jeju Island will face the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai, less than 300 miles away, and the industrial heartland of the only country whose economic power is likely to surpass that of the US.

“China,” says President Obama in a leaked briefing paper, “is our fast-emerging strategic threat.”

By 2020, almost two-thirds of all US naval forces in the world will be transferred to the Asia-Pacific region. In an arc extending from Australia to Japan and beyond, China will be ringed by US missiles and nuclear-weapons-armed aircraft.

Will this threat to all of us be “forgotten” too?

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Fukushima disaster update

This video, recorded in Japan, says about itself:

5 March 2013

Dateline visits one of the most contaminated places on earth – the ghost towns around Fukushima – to see the effect of the nuclear meltdown two years on.

The Environment Ministry has classified 2.9 tons of sludge from Kanagawa Prefecture as radioactive waste derived from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the first such designation for the prefecture on the southern border of Tokyo: here.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. decommissioned the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors at its meltdown-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture on Friday: here.

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Fukushima disaster news

This video from Japan says about itself:

Radioactive Water: Fukushima Daiichi’s Hidden Crises

NHK World News Documentary: Fukushima Daiichi Crisis

In-depth look at the struggles of the brave men trying to stop the huge amounts of highly radioactive water flowing into the Pacific ocean. They think the melted core is still in unit-1.

As one of the engineers says we don’t know how we can stop the flow of contaminated water.

This documentary explores the men working in unit-1 reactor, exposing themselves to high doses of deadly radiation. When ask about units 2 & 3 they say we have no idea what’s going on in them because the radiation levels our so high they can’t go in them.

Speculation is the cores in units-2 & 3 have burned through the containment vessels and burned its way deep into the earth. If this theory is right there’s no chance to recover the molten corium.

Tepco waited five months before releasing Fukushima data about radioactive strontium-90: here.

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Fukushima disaster news

This video is called Nuclear Snow! USS Ronald Reagan Sailors Sue TEPCO Over Fukushima Radiation Sickness.

Fukushima: 20,000 tons of radioactive liquid in the drain system: here.

Tepco corrects last summer’s water pollution data to record high — JIJI Press News: here.

See also here.

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Japanese militarism revival

This video from Japan says about itself:

Demo in Shibuya, 26.12.2012

26 Dec 2012

Demonstration against an amendment of Japan’s constitution which foresees a stronger military involvement of Japan in oversea affairs.

By Peter Symonds:

The revival of Japanese militarism

8 February 2014

Nearly seven decades after the end of World II, the right-wing government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is rapidly remilitarising Japan, freeing its armed forces from any legal or constitutional constraints and revising history to whitewash the past crimes and atrocities of Japanese imperialism.

Abe has been engaged in an ideological offensive that was marked by his visit December 26 to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine to Japan’s war dead, including 14 convicted class A war criminals. The same month, he appointed four right-wing figures to the board of governors of Japan’s public broadcaster NHK in order to shift its political orientation.

The purpose of the appointments has quickly become apparent. In late January, the new NHK chairman, Katsuto Momii, triggered a public furore by justifying the systematic abuse of hundreds of thousands of women as sex slaves by the Imperial Army in the 1930s and 1940s. Momii apologised for expressing his private view in his role as chairman, but did not retract the remarks.

This week, another Abe appointee, Naoki Hyakuta, declared that the Rape of Nanking, one of the worst atrocities of the twentieth century, “never happened.”

In 1937, Japanese troops entered the city and over a period of weeks engaged in an orgy of rape, murder and destruction in which up to 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers were killed.

Yet Hyakuta claimed that the Nanking massacre was fabricated in order to cover up the crimes of the US in dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is an argument that until now has been confined to extreme right-wing fringe groups. They justify the horrific crimes of Japanese imperialism in the 1930s and 1940s by pointing to those of US imperialism during World War II.

The denial of crimes on the scale of the Rape of Nanking has only one meaning—it is the ideological preparation for new wars and new atrocities.

The Japanese government is not alone. Five years after the eruption of the 2008 global financial crisis, capitalism is mired in economic slump and financial turmoil, fuelling inter-imperialist rivalries, neo-colonial interventions and diplomatic intrigues in every corner of the world.

It is no accident that as Abe is refurbishing Japanese militarism, the new grand coalition government in Germany is repudiating its previous policy of military restraint. Nor is the Japanese government the only one rewriting history. The British and Australian governments, among others, are seizing on the anniversary of World War I to glorify the bloodbath that claimed the lives of millions in the inter-imperialist struggle for colonies, markets and strategic dominance.

The chief destabilising factor in world politics is the eruption of US militarism. US-led neo-colonial interventions have devastated Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Now, in the name of Obama’s “pivot to Asia”, the US is engaged in an all-out diplomatic offensive to undermine China and encircle it militarily.

The Obama administration is responsible for encouraging Japan to take a more aggressive stand against China, creating a dangerous new flashpoint in the East China Sea—the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Japanese counterpart and affirmed again that Washington would back Tokyo in a war with Beijing over the rocky, uninhabited outcrops.

Having pressed Japan to remilitarise, the US has set political forces in motion that it does not control. The Abe government, while affirming the US-Japan alliance, is determined to defend the interests of Japanese imperialism.

Since coming to power in December 2012, Abe has boosted the military budget and established a National Security Council to concentrate foreign and defence policy in his hands. He is pushing to end constitutional restraints on the involvement of the armed forces in aggressive wars.

This revival of militarism is both to prosecute the interests of Japanese imperialism abroad and project outwards, against a foreign “enemy”, the tensions produced by the growing social crisis at home. Abe came to power promising to end two decades of deflation and economic stagnation. However, his “Abenomics” has proven to be a chimera, boosting share markets but failing to produce sustained growth.

Abe set out his agenda very clearly at the World Economic Forum at Davos last month. He made clear that Japanese imperialism was not about to relinquish its position as a leading power in Asia.

Dismissing those who described Japan as the “land of the setting sun”, Abe insisted that “a new dawn” was breaking. His portrayal of China as an aggressive new power comparable to Germany prior to World War I went hand-in-hand with an outline of pro-market restructuring designed to turn Japan into one of the “most business-friendly places in the world.”

There is no significant opposition in the Japanese political establishment to Abe’s rightward lurch to militarism. …

The working class, however, has a long history of opposition to Japanese militarism. The crimes of the wartime regime in the 1930s and 1940s were not confined to atrocities abroad such as the Nanking massacre. The Tokkō, or “thought police”, were as ruthless as the Nazi Gestapo in Germany in eliminating all forms of criticism or opposition, especially among workers. Abe’s recently enacted secrecy law provoked widespread opposition in Japan precisely because it recalled the 1925 Peace Preservation Law that greatly expanded the role of the Tokkō.

Abe’s provocative attacks on China, the comments by his NHK appointee denying the Rape of Nanking, and related developments constitute a sharp warning to workers and youth in Japan and every other country. The preparations for war are accompanied by a campaign of lies and jingoism that presages class war against the working class. Workers can halt the drive to war and the assault on their living standards and democratic rights only by unifying their struggles internationally on the basis of a socialist program to put an end to the bankrupt profit system.

A senior Japanese government official has visited a controversial shrine to honor the country’s World War II dead, amid tension between Japan and its neighbors over the shrine. Chairman of Japan’s National Public Safety Commission Keiji Furuya visited on Sunday the war shrine, which is viewed as a symbol of the country’s past militarism: here.

China condemns Japanese city’s plan to add kamikaze pilots’ letters to world memory list: here.

Japan orders military to strike any new North Korea missile launches: here.

Robert Fisk: Japan’s sinister efforts to minimise its war crimes and portray itself as a victim: here.

Defence Secretary Hagel cements US-Japan imperialist alliance: here.

US defense secretary threatens China during Japan visit: here.

Washington and Tokyo are hypocritically using North Korean missile drills as an excuse for the remilitarisation of Japan, directed against China and Russia: here.

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Japanese governmental militarism in media and schools

This video from Korea is called Documentary “Ineffaceable War Crimes of Japan”.

It says about itself:

28 May 2013

Production: Korea Record Science Film Studio.

Sponsor: Korea Japanese military “comfort women” and forced labor emergency committee.

By John Watanabe:

Japanese government promotes militarism in media and schools

5 February 2014

In line with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s boosting of the military and aggressive stance toward China, his government is seeking to refashion both the media and school curriculum to promote Japanese nationalism and militarism.

Abe’s agenda has become evident in the remarks of Katsuto Momii, who was appointed chairman of Japan’s public broadcaster NHK in December. The government stacked the NHK’s 12-member board of governors with four right-wing appointees to implement a shift in the company’s political orientation and programming. Momii, who was regarded as Abe’s preferred candidate for chairman, is a former vice president of the trading arm of Mitsui, a leading Japanese trust.

Momii immediately signaled his readiness to toe the government line. Speaking at a news conference held to mark the start of his chairmanship, he said NHK’s programming “shouldn’t be far removed from (the stance of) the Japanese government.” Momii stated: “When the government is saying, ‘Right,’ we can’t say, ‘Left.’ International broadcasting has such a (propagandist) nuance.”

Momii triggered a public furor on January 25 with remarks justifying the systematic abuse of hundreds of thousands of mostly East and Southeast Asian women as sex slaves by the Imperial Army in the 1930s and 1940s. He dismissed such military brothels as “common in any country at war,” adding: “Can we say there were none in Germany or France? It was everywhere in Europe… In the current moral climate, the use of comfort women would be wrong. But it was a reality of those times.”

The comments provoked criticism not only from China and South Korea, but also the US. Called before a parliamentary committee, Momii apologised for what he called misunderstandings, saying that “it is my intention to protect freedom of speech and be unbiased.” He did not, however, withdraw his remarks on “comfort women,” saying only that he apologised for expressing “personal views” when speaking in his capacity as NHK chairman. “It was my first time [speaking] at such an occasion and I did not know the rules,” he said.

Momii’s views are not the exception, but rather the rule, throughout broad sections of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Japanese political establishment as a whole. The comments reflect the widespread attitude in ruling circles that Japan was unfairly singled out for criticism following its defeat in World War II. Abe himself has repeatedly played down the issue of “comfort women,” as they are euphemistically called, and so has Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Another of Abe’s appointees to the NHK board, Naoki Hyatuka, is publicly campaigning for former Air Force Chief of Staff Toshio Tamogami, a candidate for Tokyo governor, who is backed by the ultra-right wing Japanese Restoration Party. Tamogami was dismissed in 2008 after writing an essay defending Japanese militarism. He claimed that Japan was not an aggressor in World War II, had been dragged into a war with China, and had brought prosperity to occupied Asian countries.

Campaigning for Tamogami on Monday, Hyatuka declared that the Nanking Massacre had been a fabrication manufactured by the US to justify its own war crimes. He pointed to the US fire-bombing of Tokyo and the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The argument is common in right-wing, militarist circles in Japan—seeking to use the crimes of US imperialism to justify those of Japanese imperialism. After the Japanese army entered the city of Nanking in 1937 it killed up to 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers in an orgy of killing, rape and destruction lasting weeks.

Hyatuka defended his decision to campaign for Tamogami, saying that while NHK governors had to be “thoroughly neutral” in regard to broadcasting, the Broadcast Act did not restrict his “private activities.” His support for Tamogami, however, is a clear demonstration of how Hyatuka will seek to reorient NHK broadcasting.

The comments of the government’s NHK appointees are paralleled by its announcement last week of revised teaching guidelines for junior and senior high schools, demanding that textbooks and teachers explicitly back the government’s claims on disputed islands in the region.

The new guidelines require publishers to describe three groups of islands—in dispute with China, South Korea and Russia—as “integral parts of Japan’s territory.” These include the Russian-controlled South Kuriles, known as Northern Territories in Japan, and Takeshima Island, administered by South Korea, which calls it Dokdo. The new rules specify that these territories are to be referred to as “illegally occupied.”

For the first time, the guidelines mention the Senkakus, the islets in East China Sea also claimed by China under the name of Diaoyu. Backed and encouraged by Washington, the Abe administration has used the Senkakus to line up behind the US “pivot to Asia,” to raise military expenditure and make organizational and legal preparations for war.

Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura asserted: “It is extremely important that the children who will bear our future can properly understand our territory.”

The new textbooks—to come into use from 2016 and 2017 in history, geography and civics curricula—are encouraged to reflect the government’s official position that no dispute exists over the islets. The new manuals also require the Self-Defense Forces—Japanese armed forces—to be presented in a positive light, as “working to protect the lives and safety of the people.”

While the Japanese media stress that the teaching guidelines are not mandatory, the Abe government has been devising mechanisms to better implement its diktat. Last October, the education minister ordered the school board of Taketomi—a small Okinawan township near Taiwan and the Senkakus—to use a right-wing history textbook that it had rejected. In November, a government-appointed committee suggested putting mayors in charge of local school districts—a move designed to strengthen political control over local educational issues, such as textbook selection.

During his first term of office, in late 2006 Abe changed the Fundamental Law of Education. The amendment, emphasizing patriotism, the nation and tradition, was the first since the law was enacted in 1947 under US occupation. This is part-and-parcel of Abe’s rejection of post-war legislation, including the Constitution, as foreign-imposed, to be amended and overthrown. Strong public opposition to the changed education law was one of the factors that eroded Abe’s support and led to his resignation in 2007, after less than a year in office.

The Abe government’s determination to assert control of the NHK and school curriculum is part of a campaign to whip up Japanese nationalism and militarism. The concerted efforts to whitewash the past war crimes of the Japanese military in the face of deep-seated opposition among Japanese workers and youth is an integral part of the government’s preparations for new wars of aggression to advance the interests of Japanese imperialism.

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Fukushima disaster and fish

This video is called Radioactive Fish, Pacific Ocean, Fukushima Leaking MORE Radiation update 7/11/13.

By Dr. David Suzuki, EcoWatch:

Filling in the gaps on Fukushima radiation and its effects on fish

January 29, 2014

An Internet search turns up an astounding number of pages about radiation from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown that followed an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. But it’s difficult to find credible information.

One reason is that government monitoring of radiation and its effects on fish stocks appears to be limited. According to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, “No U.S. government or international agency is monitoring the spread of low levels of radiation from Fukushima along the West Coast of North America and around the Hawaiian Islands.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s most recent food testing, which includes seafood, appears to be from June 2012. Its website states, “FDA has no evidence that radionuclides from the Fukushima incident are present in the U.S. food supply at levels that would pose a public health concern. This is true for both FDA-regulated food products imported from Japan and U.S. domestic food products, including seafood caught off the coast of the United States.”

The non-profit Canadian Highly Migratory Species Foundation has been monitoring Pacific troll-caught albacore tuna off the B.C. coast. Its 2013 sampling found “no residues detected at the lowest detection limits achievable.” The B.C. Centre for Disease Control website assures us we have little cause for concern about radiation from Japan in our food and environment. Websites for Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency yield scant information.

But the disaster isn’t over. Despite the Japanese government’s claim that everything is under control, concerns have been raised about the delicate process of removing more than 1,500 nuclear fuel rod sets, each containing 60 to 80 fuel rods with a total of about 400 tonnes of uranium, from Reactor 4 to a safer location, which is expected to take a year. Some, including me, have speculated another major earthquake could spark a new disaster. And Reactors 1, 2 and 3 still have tonnes of molten radioactive fuel that must be cooled with a constant flow of water.

A radioactive plume is expected to reach the West Coast sometime this year, but experts say it will be diluted by currents off Japan’s east coast and, according to the Live Science website, “the majority of the cesium-137 will remain in the North Pacific gyre—a region of ocean that circulates slowly clockwise and has trapped debris in its center to form the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’—and continue to be diluted for approximately a decade following the initial Fukushima release in 2011.”

With the lack of data from government, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is asking the public for help. In January, Ken Buesseler, senior scientist and director of the Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity at the U.S.-based non-profit, launched a fundraising campaign and citizen science website to collect and analyze seawater along North America’s West Coast.

“Whether you agree with predictions that levels of radiation along the Pacific Coast of North America will be too low to be of human health concern or to impact fisheries and marine life, we can all agree that radiation should be monitored, and we are asking for your help to make that happen,” Buesseler said in a news release.

Participants can help fund and propose new sites for seawater sampling, and collect seawater to ship to the lab for analysis. The David Suzuki Foundation is the point group for two sampling sites, on Haida Gwaii and at Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Data will be published at How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?, and will include an evolving map showing cesium concentrations with links to information about radioactivity in the ocean and what the levels mean.

The oceans contain naturally occurring radioactive isotopes and radiation from 1960s nuclear testing. Buesseler doesn’t think levels in the ocean or seafood will become dangerously high because of the Fukushima disaster, but he stresses the importance of monitoring.

The Fukushima disaster was a wake-up call for the potential dangers of nuclear power plants, especially in unstable areas. North Americans may have little cause for concern for now, but without good scientific information to determine whether or not it is affecting our food and environment we can’t know for sure. The Woods Hole initiative is a good start.

50 reasons we should fear the worst from Fukushima — Harvey Wasserman via EcoWatch: here.

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