This past weekend marked the 66th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our hearts go out to the survivors of both bombings, which we believe to be the greatest possible misuse of Einstein’s idea. The two disasters have been the greatest detriment to the benign uses of Einstein’s brainchild because they are the determinant source of nearly all nuclear energy misconceptions and anxieties. Unfortunately, the memorial services marking this solemn anniversary have been used by opportunists to reinforce the two greatest misconceptions correctly anticipated by Einstein; (1) confusing reactors with bombs and (2) confusion between fallout and radiation itself. Several revealing instances from this past weekend include…

  • Since 2005, the anti-nuclear weapons groups in Hiroshima and Nagasaki have moved away from the false notion of making a firm connection between reactors and bombs. This year, however, the Fukushima accident has caused them to re-invigorate the false notion. Many speeches treated the radioactive releases from Fukushima and bomb fallout as being one-and-same, which they are not.
  • Although Hiroshima’s residents probably understand the differences between reactors and bombs better than any demographic in the world, the organizers of the memorial demonstration found one Hiroshima survivor who believes there are no differences. Akira Yamada, chairman of the Hiroshima A-Bomb Survivor’s Association, said in his speech, “Who would think we would be threatened by radiation twice in our lives? Nuclear bombs and nuclear plants are the same in that they both use nuclear fission, and this disaster has shown that humankind does not have complete control over nuclear power. We have to stop running the plants until we have safer technology.” Mainichi Shimbun says that the areas of Fukushima Prefecture left deserted by evacuations remind Yamada of the burnt remains of Hiroshima. Next, Yamada evokes the no-safe-level of radiation theory, “The effects of radiation come gradually. The people I’m worried about are the young.”Asahi Shimbun adds something interesting to the story. There are now 219,410 “hibakusha” (atomic bomb survivors) still alive after 66 years. The average age is 77. This means most of the living survivors were children when the bombs were dropped. Their exposures were far greater than anything Fukushima children will have to face. Is this a statistical demonstration of inordinate lethal risk? What do you think?
  • Prime Minister Kan spoke at the memorial and briefly condemned the use of nuclear weapons. But he quickly shifted to his personal view of a nuclear-energy-free Japan. As usual, he presented his personal opinion as if it is the official Tokyo government’s position. Some of Japan’s news media have picked up on this and negatively reported on his rhetorical mischief. Yomiuri Shimbun has taken an apparent lead by finding out that Kan’s own staff advised him to not use the memorial to try and make a connection between bombs and reactors. One aide was quoted as saying, “The ceremony’s purpose is to console the spirits of the people killed during World War II. It’s inappropriate to make remarks that treat the [Fukushima] nuclear accident the same way as the atomic bombings.” The newspaper then says Kan hoped the policy would “help prolong his ailing administration by winning public support for denuclearization.”In the Japan Times we find something we suspected but had not been able to prove; Kan began his political career as an environmental activist promoting only solar and wind as the best alternatives to fossil fuel burning. He never stated his personal position on nukes until now. Since March 11, he has repeatedly said he is sorry for believing what he calls the myth of nuclear safety, but his political background shows his words are vacuous. He never supported nuclear energy. Now, he’s using Fukushima to promote his personal anti-nuclear agenda in a last-ditch effort to make it national policy before he resigns.

Now for some Fukushima updates…

  • TEPCO has quietly constructed a desalination system to remove the salts from the contaminated sea-waters in the basements of the turbine buildings. It is an evaporation method where the seawater is boiled, the steam in condensed back into liquid (to be used for RPV injections), and the remaining concentrated waters stored for clean-up in the two decontamination systems. For every 80 tons pumped into the system, 30 tons of relatively pure water will be generated.
  • U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has visited Fukushima, which has made national Press headlines because of his sadness over the deserted towns inside the 20km no-go zone. Near the end of each article, it is mentioned he also visited the tsunami-ravaged city of Soma, 40 km from Fukushima Daiichi. He was horrified at the destruction, and all the demolished buildings, destroyed cars, and fishing-industry materials that remain in the devastated area. While Fukushima Daiichi is getting all the government attention in the Press, much of the tsunami wastes have been downplayed. Prime Minister Kan would rather proliferate hypothetical nuclear fears than focus on cleaning up the immediate disaster.
  • JAIF reports some of the evacuated residents from Kawamata Town, Northwest of Fukushima Daiichi, have been allowed to return home to weed their properties and the grave sites of ancestors. Next week is the Bon festival of ancestor celebration. One significant thing about Kawamata is its location. It is in the middle of the zone thought to have the highest concentration of radioactive contamination. We hope local officials sent in monitoring teams to sample the soils and surfaces of buildings in order to find out what the actual levels are, both in contamination and radiation exposures.
  • Our last submittal (Aug. 5) reported on the NSC’s approval of NISA’s estimates of additional meltdown and hydrogen explosions being “slim”. Some of the Japanese Press asked why there wasn’t more detail on the lengthy discussions between NSC and NISA that led to their joint conclusion? The government response is that the discussions were “too technical for the public to understand”.Too technical? We have two words for that…cop out! There is nothing too technical that it cannot be “translated” into everyday language. It seems NISA and NSC don’t want to take the time to “translate”, or there’s things they don’t wish to reveal…or both. Is this an example of full, transparent disclosure? Of course not.
  • Asahi Shimbun and a few other newspapers report that Minister Kaieda’s appointments for replacing the three NISA officials dismissed this past week, are in fact three more supporters of nuclear energy. Prime Minister Kan doesn’t like it one bit, further widening the gap between him and the Ministry of Economy. However, in the reports we find something perhaps more revealing. All three appointees are Ministry officials, and have been for a number of years. All NISA senior appointments are filled from METI ranks, and have been for the decade since the creation of NISA. Why has NISA been severely compromised by METI’s economic considerations since its inception? The answer seems obvious; in-house promotions sprinkled lightly with some nebulous sort of nuclear seasoning. Regulators should be nuclear experts, not political brown-nosers.
  • Mainichi Shimbun reports a large number of people across Japan are growing sunflowers to “absorb widespread radiation” from the soil. The seeds will be sent to Fukushima Prefecture for planting next season. Organically, the radiation itself cannot be taken into the plants. That is a misconception, of course. Actually, what is drawn into the sunflowers is the radioactive Cesium, which has chemical properties similar to Potassium. While the soils will have their Cesium concentrations lowered, the resulting sunflowers will have relatively high concentrations of the element, and handling of them will potentially be a problem. Not that the sunflowers will be radiologically health-threatening, but the elevated radiation levels will probably cause yet another source of radiation fears.