Monday, July 11, 2011

Propaganda and the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor Accident

"I have the greatest admiration for your propaganda. Propaganda in the West is carried out by experts who have had the best training in the world -- in the field of advertising -- and have mastered the techniques with exceptional proficiency ... Yours are subtle and persuasive; ours are crude and obvious ... I think that the fundamental difference between our worlds, with respect to propaganda, is quite simple. You tend to believe yours ... and we tend to disbelieve ours." -- a Soviet correspondent based five years in the U.S.

I have been accused of many things during the short life of this blog. Most recently I have been called "propagandist for the nuclear industry" besides a lot of four letter words and anal orifices. On top of that, also in my life, I have been called many bad names and, unfortunately, done many bad things more times than I care to, or could possibly, remember. Yes. I have done many bad things in my life and I've lied before and tricked people. I have been a sh*thead many more times than I care to recall.

I want to brag, here, though, that I think I am a big enough man to admit it. I'm sorry about those things. I am trying to live right now and to make up for my past wrongs whenever and where ever I can.

No matter what I do or write on this blog, though, I keep getting attacked for being an apologist for the nuclear industry or accused of being "pro-nuclear power." That is patently false. I am not pro-nuclear power excepting for the fact that I believe, in this day and age, we have no viable cheap alternative for energy. I certainly do not like the pollution that coal and oil cause and the illnesses that come with (not to mention the wars).

This article is for those of you who are on the fence and still haven't made up your mind if the situation at Fukushima is safe for you and your family or not.

First, my disclaimer: I've said it over and over that I believe the worst thing that could happen to us is to lose a cheap and clean source of energy. Our other alternatives for energy are not clean (oil, coal) and neither are the remainders cheap or even conceivably efficient until, most probably, the next century. It has been proven that the claims by the IPCC that "80% of our energy needs could be met by renewables by 2050" is pure science fiction; so where does that leave us?

I know of one acquaintance who tells me that he has a friend who said he wishes Japan would abolish nuclear power forever and hoped we could go back to living like the days of the Edo period." You know, the days of old Japan when Samurai and Geisha were running around?.... Really! This guy said this. My only retort to that is, "You mean the Edo period like when Japan was a desperately poor country and most people were starving? Gee, that sounds like a fun and realistic vision for the future! I'm sure today's youth in Japan will be into that big time! Sweet!"

Sounds like paradise to me. I wonder what this hippie dreamer would do without his iPod and Nike hiking shoes as some Samurai chased him down wanting to whack off his blond locks for a trophy? Seriously folks, there are foreigners who have very weird ideas like this running around Japan. I've met one before! Anyhow....

I'm not anti-nuclear power nor am I pro-nuclear power. I just want to cut through the propaganda and BS and get to the truth. Regular readers of mine will know from this blog or Lew Rockwell that I am definitely anti-government in any way shape or form and am always very skeptical of what those clowns in the government say. I am also very skeptical of what passes for "news" in the media today.

Recently, I have been railing on both the government, the media and a sensationalist named Arnie Gundersen. It seems to me that you have here different entities that are all saying various things about the Fukushima disaster and, if you bother to investigate, (which I have) you'll find that they all have an agenda.

I don't have any agenda except wanting to get the truth out. As an ex-news person, I know how to check information - which is something that it seems that 97% of the people are incapable of doing by themselves - I do this because it is the field that I am expert in.

Everyone has a motivation for everything they do.

Here is what I can srumise Arnie Gundersen's motivations are. You check these things by examining a person's critics. Asking fans or followers is like asking a hard-core Rolling Stones fan what they think of Mick Jagger. I found this on Atomic Insights by a guy who works in the nuclear industry named Rod Adams. He wrote:

Gundersen is not dumb; you cannot earn an MS in nuclear engineering and be dumb. He is devious and carefully selective of the facts and opinions that he offers, perhaps that is why he is no longer employed in the industry proper and has to try to make his living on the fringes of the technology.

It is my opinion that Arnie Gundersen must be terribly disappointed with the fact that the decommissioning business has been slow ever since nuclear plant owners determined that existing nuclear plants are valuable assets that should be kept running – and producing revenue – for as long as possible. He is probably bitter about the NRC license extension process; I would bet that he entered into the decommissioning business under the assumption that there would be few, if any license extensions. He must have expected that there would be a lot of work for years to come in plant decommissioning. That was a common perception in the mid 1990s, though it was one with which I strenuously disagreed.

Finally, since the decommissioning business has not worked out, I think that he and his wife are now professional fear-mongers (aka “expert witnesses”) who are willing to testify under oath that plant operators should be forced to shut down plants producing a million dollars worth of electricity per day any time someone measures a concentration of a weak beta particle emitter at a level of about 0.0000000000075 grams/liter in a well that is not even used for drinking water. The Fairewinds Associates, Inc. clients pay them to help establish a legal basis for shutting down valuable electricity production facilities AND they take the money!

That would be enough to make me angry even if I did not know that shutting down the plant would simply require expanded operation of coal or methane burning plants.

If you bother to check, you will see that Gundersen has many issues that could be construed as a conflict of interest hence his testimony is suspect.

I don't think it is necessary that I mention how we must be very suspicious and skeptical of whatever the government says about anything. Never trust the government at face value. That's a given, unless you are brain dead. I criticize the government constantly. Of course, TEPCO's announcements about Fukushima are to be taken with a huge grain of salt too.

So take people like Gundersen who are claiming the worst industrial calamity in history, the inept and totally incompetently government and TEPCO, and what have you got?... Different entities all pushing a certain agenda. Who to believe?

There must be, of course, some middle ground. I suspect that, in that middle ground, somewhere lies the truth.

This blog has consistently and repeatedly stated that the situation near and in the nuclear power plant at Fukushima is an extremely serious problem. It is a crisis of epic proportions for the people living near or within the exclusion zone. But for those of us living in Tokyo, upwind and over 230 kilometers away (or farther), it is, as I've said many times, merely an inconvenience - no matter how much some people love having a victim complex.

Like I've stated over and over, I want to get at the truth. Sensationalism and media hype help no one. Nor does lies or cover ups. 

I live in Tokyo, I check the levels of radiation daily. They are safe. We don't drink tap water - never have - (even though those levels are very safe too) and always check where our groceries and produce are from. We don't eat processed foods and over 70% of our diet is raw fruits and vegetables. I suggest that you do the same. I have deemed that our situation here is safe. If the facts change on the ground, I might alter my opinion. Only a fool doesn't alter an opinion once different facts become available.

People making wild claims are guessing. Wild claims are not facts. They are meaningless conjecture.

Now, if I lived in Fukushima, near the nuclear power plants, that would be another story. The radiation levels there are too high. That's a fact. They are so high that even the government has ordered an evacuation. That's a fact. If I lived there, I would have left long ago. The facts insist upon that course of action.

But I don't live there. That's a fact too.

I will say here that, since we have a small child, if we lived in Fukushima, near the damaged nuclear power plants, I would have moved away long ago. Job and work be damned. But in Tokyo, so far away, even with trace elements of radioactive materials being found in tea in some areas (probably you can find traces anywhere in the world anytime of the day), we'll take the risks.... Especially when you weigh the risks intelligently against the benefits.

Toward that end, here is the best, most balanced recent article that I've found on the situation here at Fukushima. This is an article about one of Japan's top radiation treatment specialists who is extremely critical of TEPCO and the Japanese government's handling of the situation at Fukushima (join the crowd, eh?). I quote his article as it is from a critic of the situation. Let's use this to judge our risk here in Tokyo. This radiation treatment specialist is the main focus in an article entitled: Nuclear Workers and Fukushima Residents at Risk: Cancer Expert on the Fukushima Situation

Japan's leading business journal Toyo Keizai has published an article by Hokkaido Cancer Center director Nishio Masamichi, a radiation treatment specialist.

Nishio originally called for “calm” in the days after the accident. Now, he argues, that as the gravity of the situation at the plant has become more clear, the specter of long-term radiation exposure must be reckoned with.

Lamenting the poor state of public knowledge of radiation, Nishio writes, “Japan, with its history of having suffered radiation exposure from the atomic bombs, should have the most [direct] knowledge of radiation, but in fact, in the approach to the nuclear accident, has simply fallen into confusion.” He places blame on a number of groups:
  1. TEPCO executives, who he accuses of having hidden the truth and prioritized the survival of the company over public health.
  2. Bureaucrats who were unable to put together an accurate body of information about radiation effects from which to formulate policy.
  3. A prime minister and cabinet lacking both leadership and an appropriate sense of urgency.
  4. Politicians who sought to use the crisis in intra- or inter-party struggles.
  5. Nuclear industry lobbyists and “academic flunkies” (goyo gakusha) of the government who built up the myth of nuclear safety in the first place.
Looking at these groups, he writes, “I just cannot feel any hope for Japan’s future. These circumstances are simply tragic.”

This sounds terrible, and it is... For the people near the reactors and in Fukushima. But before we go off soiling our pants, we need to read more. He starts to delve into specifics:

Nishio provides a blunt and hard-hitting specialist perspective on major government decisions. Here is a summary of some of his major points:

  1. He accuses the authorities of prioritizing their own convenience over the lives of nuclear workers. Nishio argues that raising the exposure limit from 100 mSv to 250 mSv can have serious health effects. He also states that reports of poor food and sleeping conditions for workers show that “… they are not even being treated like human beings.”
  2. The JSDF helicopters that dropped water on the Fukushima Daiichi reactors and spent fuel pools in the days after March 11 were outfitted with the types of radiation shields used in hospital x-ray rooms. Nisho says that this  was akin to “putting on a lead helmet in order to protect yourself from radiation from space”. The planners, he argues, did not even understand the difference between airborne radiation from a nuclear accident and radiation used in the controlled environment of hospital treatment.
  3. Referring to “protective” suits is a misnomer bordering on fraud in Nishio’s view since nothing can offer total protection from radiation exposure.
  4. A lack of nutrition and rest can make workers more susceptible to radiation symptoms. Nishio speculates that having the workers sleep together in gymnasium-like barracks with no privacy is simply designed to keep them from running away. Just 30 minutes from the site, he points out, there are empty hotels which could offer those on the front line a quiet, secure place to rest and recuperate.
  5. He accuses TEPCO of being up to the old tricks of the nuclear industry: giving dispatch and temporary workers broken radiation monitors, only giving them monitoring devices when they are working despite high levels of radiation throughout the site, and so on.
  6. Without accurate assessment of internal radiation exposure through “whole body monitoring”, there is no way to tell how much exposure workers are actually suffering.
  7. Measures must also be taken to gauge different types of exposure (i.e. alpha rays from plutonium and beta rays from strontium).
  8. Around 5000 workers have worked at the site since March. This number is high, but if radiation release continues, 100 or even 1000 times that number may be needed over time.
  9. The MOX fuel in reactor number 3 is particularly dangerous but Nishio doubts that special measures to protect workers are being taken. 
  10. “Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Harvest” treatment has been put forward by doctors as a way to minimize the chances of bone marrow deterioration among workers, but this was turned down by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan. Nishio asserts that this is evidence that they simply do not grasp the severity of the situation.
  11. Apart from the iodine that they are being given, workers should also be taking Radiogardase (Prussian blue insoluble capsules). Not working to bring together the best preventative medicine, Nishio asserts angrily, is an example of “graveyard governance”.
You'll notice that not once, even though highly critical of the handling of the entire situation at Fukushima, does this specialist talk about dangers to, say, Tokyo residents or dangers to people outside of the exclusion zone. He talks specifically about the dangers to workers and people living near the damaged reactors or near or in the exclusion zones. Well, hell yes, it is a clusterf*ck for the people working at the reactor or the people living in the area!!!... Like I said, if I lived around that reactor, I'd have uprooted my family long ago and left... But I can't really say that. Why? I wouldn't live near a nuclear reactor in the first place. 

The doctor then goes on to criticize the situation and handling of that mess for the poor people of Fukushima. He says:

Fukushima Residents:
  1. The threat to public health is not simply a matter of distance from Fukushima. Wind patterns and topography are even more important. (The good man is completely right about that see my post about that here). 
  2. The release of data from the expensive SPEEDI system, was delayed until March 23. This delay resulted in unnecessary radiation exposure. “It is only conceivable that the high rate of radiation released was not reported because of fears of a panic.”
  3. Former Minister for Internal Affairs Haraguchi Kazuhiro has alleged that radiation monitoring station data was actually three decimal places greater than the numbers released to the public. If this is true, it constitutes a “national crime”, in Nishio’s words. He follows with, “Giving us the truth once is much more important than saying ‘hang in there Japan!’ a million times.”
  4. According to Japanese law, the rate of radiation exposure permitted for ordinary citizens is 1 mSv / year. This has been raised to 20 mSv / year in a “time of crisis”. Such a dramatic increase in permitted exposure is akin to “taking the lives of the people lightly”. Nishio believes that 20 mSv is too high, especially for children who are far more susceptible to the effects of radiation.
  5. Even more important than a permitted 20 mSv exposure rate, however, is the lack of adequate provision for measuring internal radiation exposure among the Fukushima population.
  6. The American Academy of Sciences 2008 “Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation” report claims that there is no safe level of radiation exposure. Despite this and other examples of leading research, however, the Japanese government has moved on the assumption that there is no evidence for increased cancer risk at under 100 mSv of exposure. The European Committee on Radiation Risk argues that existing risk models do not take internal exposure into account. High rates of internal exposure will mean a dramatic increase in cancer risk for Fukushima residents, with as many as 400,000 cases predicted by 2061. Nishio argues, however, that these calculations rest on some shaky assumptions and that the number is too high. He believes strongly, however, that internal radiation exposure must be taken seriously by the Japanese government.
  7. Comparing the 6.9 mSv exposure from a CT scan to a similar amount of radiation exposure outside of a controlled environment is misleading. Long term exposure and internal exposure can have unpredictable effects on the human body. Comparisons with radiation used in cancer treatment are also scientifically shaky.
  8. The large amounts of radioactive waste water at the Fukushima Daiichi site will contaminate the soil and water supplies, significantly increasing the risk of internal radiation exposure.
Once again, I direct you to the fact that, while he is extremely critical of the way this has been handled, he is specifically speaking of a localized area. More proof of this is evidenced in #1 below where he states, " is important that every resident in at risk areas be given a device to monitor personal radiation exposure."

Necessary Countermeasures:
  1. Among people living in the same area, rates of exposure can vary greatly based on lifestyle and movement patterns. As a result, it is important that every resident in at risk areas be given a device to monitor personal radiation exposure. Apart from protecting individuals and allowing them to make informed decisions about their safety, the data gathered can be used in future medical research and in court cases that will no doubt originate from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
  2. There is little conclusive scientific data on the risks of low level radiation exposure. The government, however, must not let this turn into a case of “we don’t know so we can assume it is safe”. On the contrary, Nishio argues that it is necessary to proceed under the assumption “we don’t know so we must assume that it is dangerous”.
  3. Residents must be given real time radiation data as well as the best possible advice about how to decrease their exposure.
I totally agree with this specialist. Now, how does this very critical attack against the japanese government and TEPCO stack up against people like Arnie Gundersen who claim things like dangerous radiation that can't be detected by Geiger counters being found all over Tokyo?

Once again, to repeat, I am not pro-nuclear power and I am not anti-nuclear power. But, one thing for sure is that I am very anti-sensationalist hype and pushing hidden agenda types and will attack them whenever I see the need to.

There's two sides to every story. The truth usually lies somewhere in between. It takes a diligent and fair person to find that truth. Blind acceptance is a fools game.

Don't be a fool. Check the facts. Do the research. Get the truth.

Thanks to What Really for the quote from the Soviet correspondent


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kingo999 said...

Please help children in Fukushima.

Unbelievable Comment by Dr. Yamashita
If you are smiling, you will not have any radiation effect.
If you are not smiling, you will have radiation effect.

Anonymous said...

Have you spent any time looking into the economics of nuclear power? My limited attempts at this made it seem like nuclear was not particularly cheap. Of course, critics say that it's simply the agenda of government and big business to have a cartel- and weapons-friendly form of energy.

A separate question is pollution. There's no doubt that other forms of energy have lots of problems, so nuclear may fare OK on that front.

I wish you good luck in getting at the truth regarding health risks near Tokyo. Almost everyone has a vested interest of some sort - and then there are those who are ideologically committed to something, on both sides. Averaging those who think the accident will kill 10,000,000 with those who think no-one will die and some will have better health is not so easy.

Mesa Truck Accident said...

I couldn't agree more. The people who live near the plant deserves to know the truth about the danger that lies around.

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