WikiLeaks accuses French nuclear giant of ‘exploiting’ CAR workers
French state-owned nuclear giant Areva was one of several companies accused of “a corrupt multi-billion-dollar” grab of uranium and other resources in the Central African Republic (CAR) in a new raft of documents released by WikiLeaks on Friday.
WikiLeaks accused Areva of failing to ensure the welfare of local employees, particularly in protecting miners from high levels of radiation, as well as “abandoning” workers after it pulled out of the Central African Republic following what proved to be a financially and politically disastrous business venture.
An undated Central African government committee report published by WikiLeaks claimed that key workers at Areva’s Bakouma mine who were in direct contact with uranium were provided with “no means of protection nor made aware of measures to protect against radiation while carrying out their activities”.
“The processing of soil samples was done with bare hands and with no protection,” it added.
The Central African Republic, a former French colony, is one of the world’s poorest countries despite rich mineral reserves.
Areva’s involvement in the country began with its ill-fated purchase of the Canadian uranium mining firm UraMin in 2007. The French outfit paid some $2.5 billion (€2.24 billion) for the firm, taking ownership of the company’s uranium mines in central and southern Africa, including the Bakouma mine in the Central African Republic.
However, it soon became apparent that the reserves at UraMin’s mines were much lower than first thought, making them essentially worthless, and Areva was forced to write off the cost of the purchase.
When Areva finally withdrew from the Central African Republic in 2012, the government report published by WikiLeaks said that it failed to provide its employees with a means to return safely from the remote mine to the capital Bangui, some 850kms away.
It also accused the company of failing to provide information – and even destroying essential data – requested by the committee to assess conditions at the mine.
The documents “show the constant disdain of the company towards Central African Republic institutions and its population, and the neocolonial conditions of exploitation of its mines in Africa”, said WikiLeaks on its website. …
WikiLeaks has also accused several other organisations and companies of corruption in the name of financial gain in the Central African Republic that it says are backed up by the raft of documents published Friday.
Protesters railed against the restarting of the ‘No. 1’ nuclear reactor at the Kyushu Electric Power Co. plant in Sendai, Kagoshima, Monday, the day company officials announced that a full safety check of the radioactive rods would take place ahead of its potential new lease of life.
Protesters rallied outside Japan’s Sendai nuclear plant and its company’s headquarters to demonstrate against the planned restarting of operations, over four years after the Fukushima disaster that left the entire world horrified.
One major concern about the resumption is that no evacuation plans – in case of a Fukushima-style catastrophe – have been disclosed to locals.
“There are schools and hospitals near the plant, but no one has told us how children and the elderly would be evacuated,” Yoshitaka Mukohara, a prominent Japanese anti-nuclear activist leading the protest, told the Guardian as the demonstration gathered in front of the Kyushu Electric Power Co. headquarters.
“Naturally there will be gridlock caused by the sheer number of vehicles, landslides, and damaged roads and bridges.”
His concerns were echoed by many, including Naoto Kan, prime minister during the Fukushima crisis and a participant in the protests.
“We don’t need nuclear plants,” he told protesters as he spoke during the rally.
The Fukushima catastrophe had “exposed the myth of safe and cheap nuclear power, which turned out to be dangerous and expensive,” the former leader added.
Anti-nuclear activists also expressed their frustration at the step.
“I cannot understand why operations are resuming,” said Tatsuya Yoshioka, director of Peace Boat, one of the rally organizers, as cited by the Asahi newspaper.
A day earlier, 2,000 people marched near the Sendai nuclear plant to protest against the re-launch.
It comes as the first reactor is to be restarted since a March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the Fukushima nuclear power plant. …
Japan: Protesters & police scuffle as return to nuclear power looms
10 August 2015
Several protesters scuffled with police as they railed against the restarting of the ‘No. 1’ nuclear reactor at the Kyushu Electric Power Co. plant in Sendai, Kagoshima, Tuesday. A day earlier, company officials announced that a full safety check of the radioactive rods had taken place ahead of its potential new lease of life. The reactor is set to be brought online later in the day.
Dr Chris Busby was commissioned by the programme to investigate cancer death rates in the 11 wards surrounding the plant. He found a significant 60% excess risk in women dying between 1999 and 2008 in the downwind wards compared with the distant wards.
There was also two-fold excess lung cancer risk in men in Amlwch Port downwind of the plant. Busby had previously studied cancer near three other nuclear power stations, Hinkley Point in Somerset, Bradwell in Essex and Trawsfynydd in Wales. All three have statistically significant excess risk of breast cancer in those living near the contaminated areas.
The Bradwell breast cancers were associated with living near the contaminated coastal sediment of the R[iver] Blackwater estuary. A joint CERRIE commissioned study between Busby, the nuclear industry (Richard Wakeford) and NRPB was shut down in 2004 by the committee chairman when it became apparent that Busby’s figures were correct and those of the government’s Small Area Health Statistics Unit incorrect. Latest figures for Burnham-on-Sea, downwind of the Hinkley Point plant show a continued excess breast cancer mortality, supporting the many earlier studies carried out by Busby’s Green Audit.
The Hinkley site is contaminated with enriched uranium. (See www.llrc.org, www.stophinkley.org, www.greenaudit.org and the CERRIE Minority Report.) Data supplied by the official Public Health Wales obtained under a Freedom of Information request by ITV show a significant child leukemia excess in the downwind wards for the period 1974-2008. Ex-nuclear industry chief scientist Richard Wakeford, who denied these links when working for BNFL Sellafield, was recently appointed to the government’s COMARE committee who advise on radiation risk.
BREAST cancer levels near a defunct Welsh nuclear power station are five times higher than average, a researcher has revealed.
Environmental scientist Dr Chris Busby also said in a research paper that in areas around Trawsfynydd power station in Gwynedd, some other cancers were reported to be double average levels.
Trawsfynydd, which has been out of use since 1993, used a neighbouring lake for cooling. Contaminated water was returned to the lake.
Dr Busby’s report said that more than 90 per cent of those living downwind of the station were surveyed.
His paper, published this month in the Jacobs Journal of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, states: “Trawsfynydd is a ‘dirty’ nuclear power station. As it has carbon dioxide gas-cooled graphite block reactors its releases to air are higher than most other types of nuclear reactor.
“Results show very clearly that the downwind population has suffered because of these exposures.”
A spokesman for Public Health Wales said that it was liaising with local health teams covering Traswfynydd to see whether any cancer clusters had been identified in the area.
BEHIND THE NEW CANCER WARNING FOR RED MEAT “Specifically, the researchers found evidence that eating a 50-gram portion of processed meat daily (about one hot dog) can increase a person’s relative risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Since a person’s lifetime risk of colorectal cancer is about five percent, daily meat consumption seems to boost that absolute risk by one point to 6 percent (or 18 percent of the 5 percent lifetime risk).” [Vox]
Japan says several measures taken by South Korea violate the WTO’s sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) agreement and Seoul has failed to justify its trade restrictions as required, the WTO said in a statement.
Under WTO rules, South Korea has 60 days in which to deal with Japan’s concerns in bilateral talks. After that Japan could ask the WTO to adjudicate on the matter.
“In upcoming talks with Japan, we plan to explain fully that the import ban is necessary for people’s safety, and actively deal with Japan over the issue they raised based upon WTO’s dispute settlement procedures,” South Korea’s trade, agriculture, foreign affairs and other related ministries said in a joint statement.
“We’ve urged the South Korean government to lift the ban, but we expect it is unlikely to be dropped quickly,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said in a statement on Thursday.
Last October, the Japanese representative at the WTO committee said contamination levels in more than 99 percent of food items were below standard limits, and strict measures prevented the sale or export of any food exceeding those limits.
South Korea’s representative told the same meeting that its restrictions were in line with WTO rules, but Japan had not provided it with sufficient data for an objective and science-based risk assessment.
The average annual value of South Korean imports of Japanese fish and seafood was $96 million in 2012-2014, less than half the average of $213 million in 2006 through 2010, according to data from the International Trade Center in Geneva.
Ex-Futaba mayor sues state, Tepco over Fukushima nuclear disaster — The Japan Times: here.
Tepco to sell large portion of uranium reserves — Enformable Nuclear News: here.
Fukushima may end free housing for voluntary nuclear evacuees in 2017 — The Japan Times: here.
Survey: Large majority of Fukushima evacuees have family members with health problems — The Asahi Shimbun: here.
Fukushima thyroid examination May 2015: 103 Thyroid cancer cases confirmed, 5 in the second-round screening — Fukushima Voice: here.
Huge spike in neurological diseases in Japan after Fukushima; 600% rise in disorders among evacuees: here.
Japan still aims to start removing fuel debris from stricken reactors in 2021 — The Japan Times: here.
Risk of hydrogen explosion from leaking containers at Fukushima plant — The Asahi Shimbun: here.
Fukushima pressure relief system failed at reactor 2 after disaster, Tepco reveals: here.
IAEA report on Fukushima slams lack of tsunami preparedness despite awareness of threat — The Japan Times: here.
Spent-nuclear fuel issues plague restarts — The Japan Times: here.
Letters from Mitsuhei Murata, former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland, to Caroline Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Washington Post: here.
The Horrors of Fukushima — Mitsuhei Murata, April 20, 2015: here.
FUKUSHIMA – In 30 to 40 years from now, a majority of the young people living in 12 radiation-contaminated municipalities in Fukushima do not plan to be living in the same place where they experienced the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, it has been learned: here.
Plan to end rent subsidies for some Fukushima evacuees under fresh fire: here.
The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. are planning to push back the start of removing spent fuel at the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex by two to three years from the current schedule, according to government sources: here.
7,000 Tochigi residents seek compensation over Fukushima nuclear disaster — The Japan Times: here.
Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster — Truthdig book review: here.
Birds Are in a Tailspin Four Years After Fukushima
Like the proverbial canary in a coalmine, avian abundances may paint a grim picture of the effects of nuclear disasters on wildlife
The first time Tim Mousseau went to count birds in Fukushima, Japan, radiation levels in the regions he visited were as high as 1,000 times the normal background. It was July 2011, four months after the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent partial meltdown at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant, and the nation was still recovering from massive infrastructure damage. Still, when Mousseau and his research partner rented a car and drove up from Tokyo, they encountered little resistance on the road.
“I knew we had to get there and capture as best we could the early effects [of radioactive contamination] that nobody had really looked for,” he remembers thinking after seeing news of the Fukushima disaster. “Ultimately we realized that our best possible approach for that first year was simply to start doing bird counts.”
Now, after four years surveying bird populations in 400 sites around Fukushima-Daiichi, Mousseau and his team have assembled a grim portrait of the disaster’s impact on local wildlife, using bird populations as a model system. Even though radioactivity has dropped throughout the region, their data show that bird species and abundances are in sharp decline, and the situation is getting worse every year.
“At first only a few species showed significant signs of the radiation’s effects,” Mousseau says. “Now if you go down and around the bend maybe five or ten kilometers [from a safe zone] to where it’s much, much hotter, it’s dead silent. You’ll see one or two birds if you’re lucky.”
Mousseau’s team conducted almost 2,400 bird counts in total and gathered data on 57 species, each of which showed specific sensitivity to background radiation. Thirty of the species showed population declines during the study period, the team report in the March issue of the Journal of Ornithology. Among these, resident birds such as the carrion crow and the Eurasian tree sparrow demonstrated higher susceptibility than migratory species, which didn’t arrive in the region until a few weeks after the partial meltdown in early March.
Nuclear accidents are rare in human history, so we have very little data about such radiation’s direct effects on wildlife. Mousseau has spent the past 15 years drawing comparisons between nuclear events to help build up our knowledge base and fill in the gaps. For instance, while there are no official published records of the Chernobyl disaster’s early impact on wildlife, plenty of work has been done in recent years to assess Chernobyl’s ecosystem post-accident, from local birds to forest fungi.
When Mousseau returned to Fukushima in 2012, he began capturing birds in irradiated zones that had patches of bleach-white feathers. It was a familiar sign: “The first time I went to Chernobyl in 2000 to collect birds, 20 percent of the birds [we captured] at one particularly contaminated farm had little patches of white feathers here and there—some large, some small, sometimes in a pattern and other times just irregular.”
His team thinks these white patches are the result of radiation-induced oxidative stress, which depletes birds’ reserves of the antioxidants that control coloration in their feathers and other body parts. In Chernobyl, the patches have a high coincidence with other known symptoms of radiation exposure, including cataracts, tumors, asymmetries, developmental abnormalities, reduced fertility and smaller brain size.
By 2013, the birds Mousseau was counting in Fukushima had white patches big enough to be seen through binoculars.
Presented together, Mousseau thinks such data sets on Chernobyl and Fukushima could offer significant evidence for radiation’s prolonged, cumulative effects on wildlife at different stages after a nuclear disaster. But other experts have a completely different take on the available information.
“I’m not convinced about the oxidative stress hypothesis, full stop,” says Jim Smith, editor and lead author of Chernobyl: Catastrophe and Consequences and an expert on pollution in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. “The radiation levels in both Fukushima and Chernobyl are currently low-dose, and the antioxidant capacity of a cell is way, way bigger than the oxidizing capacity of the radiation at those levels,” he says. This would mean the white feather patches—and perhaps the overall bird declines—are being caused by something other than radiation.
Birds’ feathers often change color as a byproduct of aging, much like our hair color changes as we get older. They also get replaced in molt cycles a few times a year and require new doses of melanin every time to retain their pigment. According to Yale evolutionary ornithologist Richard Prum, this opens the door for pigment mutations to occur quite regularly—whether or not a bird lives in or passes through a radiation zone.
“It’s a bit like fixing a car: the problem may be obvious, but there are lots of moving parts,” says Prum, who studies the evolution of avian plumage coloration. “Melanin stress can manifest in the same way—such as white feathers—under a variety of circumstances, and the causes behind it can be very diverse. Just this winter I saw four species with abnormal white pigmentation visit my feeder at home, but I’m not too worried about radiation levels in New Haven.”
Prum says he had heard the ecosystem at Chernobyl was doing quite well, an opinion defended by Mousseau’s critics. Back at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., Smith primarily studies aquatic invertebrates, and in some of Chernobyl’s most contaminated lakes he has actually observed increased levels of biodiversity following the accident.
“Many of the literature studies on animals find it difficult to distinguish between the early effects of high doses shortly after the accident and later effects of much lower subsequent doses,” Smith says. “Plus some of them don’t properly account for the ecosystem impacts of removal of humans.”
Back in 2000, Robert Baker and Ron Chesser of Texas Tech University published a paper characterizing Chernobyl as a wildlife preserve, established thanks to the absence of humans since the accident. …
Mousseau acknowledges that his research methods deviate from those of “old-school radiation biologists,” whose work has typically measured responses to radiation based on Geiger counter readings of individual animals. Not caring about the exact levels of radioactivity, as Mousseau says he does not, understandably ruffles some feathers.
“We’re strictly motivated by measurements of ecological and evolutionary response,” Mousseau says. “Our extraordinary evidence relates to these censuses, these massively replicated bionic inventories across a landscape scale and in both locations, and that has not been done in any rigorous way by any of these other groups.
“The data are not anecdotal, they’re real and rigorous,” he adds. “They’re replicated in space and time. How you interpret them is up for grabs, and certainly a lot more experimentation needs to be done in order to better appreciate the mechanism associated with these declines.” For their part, Mousseau’s team hopes next to understand why different bird species in their data appear to demonstrate varying levels of radioactive sensitivity. They’re headed to Chernobyl again next week, and back to Fukushima in July.
Update 5/1: James Smith’s affiliation has been corrected; he is a professor at the University of Portsmouth.
Fukushima No. 1 workers with high radiation doses up 1.5-fold — The Japan Times: here.
The 42 cameras were installed in the exclusion zone by The Tree Project in November 2014. In order to get a true picture the cameras are moved to new, randomly selected, locations at approximately 8 week intervals, which will mean by the end of 2015 the cameras will have been positioned at 84 locations.
“This will be achieved through four interlinked science components beginning with improving our understanding of the biogeochemical behaviour of radionuclides in soils through to studying the transgenerational effects of ionising radiation exposure on wildlife. Our studies will combine controlled laboratory experiments with fieldwork; most of which will take place in the Chernobyl Exclusion.”
Four months into the project the team has already captured more than 10,000 images of animals, suggesting the 30km zone, established shortly after the April 1986 disaster when a nuclear reactor exploded, ejecting radioactive material across the surrounding terrain and high into the atmosphere, is thriving in wildlife.