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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Fukushima Today: Scorpion Robot Mission Aborted

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The Associated Press reports that “[r]obot probes sent to one of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear reactors have suggested worse-than-anticipated challenges for the plant’s ongoing cleanup. The plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the remote-controlled ‘scorpion’ robot was sent into the Unit 2 reactor’s containment vessel Thursday [, 16 February 2017] to investigate the area around the core that had melted six years ago, but it failed while climbing over highly radioactive debris. The robot, carrying a dosimeter and two small cameras, transmitted some data and visuals but could not locate melted fuel — key information to determine how to remove debris out of the reactor. The robot was abandoned inside the vessel at a location where it won’t block a future robot. Preliminary examinations over the past few weeks have detected structural damage to planned robot routes and higher-than-expected radiation, suggesting the need to revise robot designs and probes. TEPCO is struggling with the plant’s decommissioning, which is expected to last decades, following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the meltdown. Tens of thousands of residents had evacuated their homes, many of them still unable to return due to high radiation”.i

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Already in 2015, AP’s Mari Yamaguchi reported that a “new robot that raises its tail like a scorpion is scheduled to survey melted nuclear fuel inside one of the three wrecked reactors at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant. Toshiba Corp., co[-]developer of the device, which was demonstrated on Tuesday [, 30 June 2015], said the robot will venture into reactor 2’s primary containment vessel in August after its operators undergo a month of training”.ii And after long delays, ‘scorpion’ robots have finally started to penetrate the site in the early months of 2017, leading “TEPCO officials [to say] that despite the dangerously high figures, radiation is not leaking outside of the reactor”.iii In a more straightforward manner, though, Japan Today reports that the ‘scorpion’ “robot [finally] sent into a Japanese nuclear reactor to learn about the damage suffered in a tsunami-induced meltdown had its mission aborted after the probe ran into trouble, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said Thursday [, 16 February 2017]”.iv A Japan Today reader employing the pseudonym since1981 penned this telling and insightful comment, even managing to include a swipe at the Drumpf: “6 years on and still investigating damage. But they want the world to believe all is safe and people can return to their homes. Even CNN has a nice ad explaining that all is well. Sad, so sad”.

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i“Robot probes show Japan reactor cleanup worse than expected” Associated Press on Yahoo (17 Feb 2017). http://associatedpress-yahoopartner.tumblr.com/post/157343800402/robot-probes-show-japan-reactor-cleanup-worse-than.

ii Mari Yamaguchi r, “Toshiba rolls out ‘scorpion’ robot to look inside crippled reactor at Fukushima No. 1” AP (01 July 2015). http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/01/business/tech/toshiba-rolls-scorpion-robot-look-inside-stricken-fukushima-reactor-2/#.WKbXPPnhDIU.

iii “Robot probes show Japan reactor cleanup worse than expected”.

iv“’Scorpion’ robot mission inside Fukushima reactor aborted” Japan Today (17 Feb 2017). https://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/scorpion-robot-mission-inside-fukushima-reactor-aborted.

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Last Hours

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‘The film Last Hours is the 2nd film in the Green World Rising Series ( the first one is Carbon that is available on this channel). Last Hours describes a science-based climate scenario where a tipping point to runaway climate change is triggered by massive releases of frozen methane. Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has already started to percolate into the open seas and atmosphere from methane hydrate deposits beneath melting arctic ice, from the warming northern-hemisphere tundra, and from worldwide continental-shelf undersea methane pools. Burning fossil fuels release carbon that, principally through greenhouse effect, heat the atmosphere and the seas. This is happening most rapidly at the polar extremes, and this heating has already begun the process of releasing methane. If we do not begin to significantly curtail the use of carbon-based fossil fuels, this freed methane threatens to radically accelerate the speed of global warming, potentially producing a disaster beyond the ability of the human species to adapt. With this film, we hope to awaken people to the fact that the earth has experienced five major extinctions in the deep geologic past – times when more than half of all life on earth vanished – and that we are now entering a sixth extinction. Industrial civilization with its production of greenhouse gases has the potential to trigger a mass extinction on the order of those seen in the deep geological past. In the extreme, it could threaten not just human civilization, but the very existence of human life on this planet. An asset for the climate change movement, Last Hours will be disseminated globally to help inform society about the dangers associated with climate change and to encourage the world community to chart a path forward that greatly reduces green house gas emissions . . . Last Hours is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, presented by Thom Hartmann and directed by Leila Conners. Executive Producers are George DiCaprio, Earl Katz and Roee Sharon Peled. Last Hours is produced by Mathew Schmid and was written by Thom Hartmann, Sam Sacks, and Leila Conners. Music is composed and performed by Francesco Lupica. Last Hours is brought to you by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and produced by Tree Media. Published on Sep 19, 2014′.

 

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TRT World on the World Humanitarian Summit

‘This special edition is hosted from the first World Humanitarian Summit. The Newsmakers’ Imran Garda talks about disaster management and the global security challenge, and how it impacts what’s being described as the worst humanitarian situation in history.  DISASTER AID: The Newsmakers’ Francis Collings reports on how the international community responds to disasters. EU-TURKEY DEAL: The Newsmakers’ Yvette McCullough reports on the deal that critics say is on the brink of collapse. Published on May 24, 2016.

 

Agenda for Humanity

Cancer: A Man-Made Disease

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It’s been a while now, more than five years actually, that the journal Nature published the findings of a study done by two scientists affiliated with the University of Manchester, Rosalie David and Michael Zimmerman: “[i]n industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. [Studying t]he history of this disorder has the potential to improve our understanding of disease prevention, aetiology, pathogenesis and treatment. A striking rarity of malignancies in ancient physical remains might indicate that cancer was rare in antiquity, and so poses questions about the role of carcinogenic environmental factors in modern societies. Although the rarity of cancer in antiquity remains undisputed, the first published histological diagnosis of cancer in an Egyptian mummy demonstrates that new evidence is still forthcoming”.[1]

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A members of Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences, Professor Rosalie David said that in “industrialised societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. But in ancient times, it was extremely rare. There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease, down to pollution and changes to our diet and lifestyle . . . The important thing about our study is that it gives a historical perspective to this disease. We can make very clear statements on the cancer rates in societies because we have a full overview. We have looked at millennia, not one hundred years, and have masses of data”.[2] For his part, the other author and researcher Professor Zimmerman, after having carried out the first ever histological diagnosis of cancer in an ancient Egyptian mummy, added that in “an ancient society lacking surgical intervention, evidence of cancer should remain in all cases. The virtual absence of malignancies in mummies must be interpreted as indicating their rarity in antiquity, indicating that cancer causing factors are limited to societies affected by modern industrialization”.[3] David and Zimmerman ‘studied both mummified remains and literary evidence for ancient Egypt but only literary evidence for ancient Greece as there are no remains for this period, as well as medical studies of human and animal remains from earlier periods, going back to the age of the dinosaurs. Evidence of cancer in animal fossils, non-human primates and early humans is scarce – a few dozen, mostly disputed, examples in animal fossils, although a metastatic cancer of unknown primary origin has been reported in an Edmontosaurus fossil while another study lists a number of possible neoplasms in fossil remains. Various malignancies have been reported in non-human primates but do not include many of the cancers most commonly identified in modern adult humans. It has been suggested that the short life span of individuals in antiquity precluded the development of cancer. Although this statistical construct is true, individuals in ancient Egypt and Greece did live long enough to develop such diseases as atherosclerosis, Paget’s disease of bone, and osteoporosis, and, in modern populations, bone tumours primarily affect the young. Another explanation for the lack of tumours in ancient remains is that tumours might not be well preserved. Dr. Zimmerman has performed experimental studies indicating that mummification preserves the features of malignancy and that tumours should actually be better preserved than normal tissues. In spite of this finding, hundreds of mummies from all areas of the world have been examined and there are still only two publications showing microscopic confirmation of cancer. Radiological surveys of mummies from the Cairo Museum and museums in Europe have also failed to reveal evidence of cancer. As [Professors David and Zimmerman] moved through the ages, it was not until the 17th century that they found descriptions of operations for breast and other cancers and the first reports in scientific literature of distinctive tumours have only occurred in the past 200 years, such as scrotal cancer in chimney sweeps in 1775, nasal cancer in snuff users in 1761 and Hodgkin’s disease in 1832’.[4] In conclusion, Professor David declared that “[w]here there are cases of cancer in ancient Egyptian remains, we are not sure what caused them. They did heat their homes with fires, which gave off smoke, and temples burned incense, but sometimes illnesses are just thrown up. The ancient Egyptian data offers both physical and literary evidence, giving a unique opportunity to look at the diseases they had and the treatments they tried. They were the fathers of pharmacology so some treatments did work. They were very inventive and some treatments thought of as magical were genuine therapeutic remedies. For example, celery was used to treat rheumatism back then and is being investigated today. Their surgery and the binding of fractures were excellent because they knew their anatomy: there was no taboo on working with human bodies because of mummification. They were very hands on and it gave them a different mindset to working with bodies than the Greeks, who had to come to Alexandria to study medicine. Yet again extensive ancient Egyptian data, along with other data from across the millennia, has given modern society a clear message – cancer is man-made and something that we can and should address”.[5]

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[1] A. Rosalie David & Michael R. Zimmerman, “Cancer: an old disease, a new disease or something in between?” Nature (October 2010). http://www.nature.com/nrc/journal/v10/n10/full/nrc2914.html.

[2] “Scientists suggest that cancer is man-made” The University of Manchester (10 Oct 2010). http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/scientists-suggest-that-cancer-is-man-made.

[3] “Scientists suggest that cancer is man-made”.

[4] “Scientists suggest that cancer is man-made”.

[5] “Scientists suggest that cancer is man-made”.

Climate Change and Migration Patterns: Hitting the Fan

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The journal Climate Change recently published a joint article entitled “Strongly increasing heat extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st century”.[1] The collective of authors consists of the specialists Jos Lelieveld, Y. Proestos, P. Hadjinicolaou, M. Tanarhte, E. Tyrlis and G. Zittis. And their conclusions are dire indeed, as summarized by the journalist Matt Atherton: “Up to 500 million people living in the Middle East and North Africa [MENA] could be forced to leave their homes because of extreme heat predicted in the near future, researchers have said. A study has found that these regions will become uninhabitable by the end of the century, when temperatures of up to 50C will become the norm during the summer months”.[2] Or, if you like a more scientific wording: “We conclude that the MENA is a climate change hotspot that could turn into a scorching area in summer. There is general consent that heat extremes impact human health, contribute to the spreading of food- and water borne diseases, and that more intense heat waves increase premature mortality. In the past, climate assessments of social and economic impacts due to changing weather extremes, including consequences for human security and migration, have often focused on storms, floods, droughts and sea level rise. It is increasingly recognized that hot weather extremes cause a loss of work capacity and aggravate societal stresses, especially for disadvantaged people and vulnerable populations (IPCC 2014). We anticipate that climate change and increasing hot weather extremes in the MENA, a region subject to economic recession, political turbulence and upheaval, may exacerbate humanitarian hardship and contribute to migration”.[3]

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Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and co-author of the above-quoted study,  said that “[i]n future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy . . . Climate change will significantly worsen the living conditions in the Middle East and in North Africa. Prolonged heat waves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate”.[4] Or, if you will, the present migration crisis in Europe is but the beginning of the real crisis that will surely happen as the century moves along into the near future . . . And at this juncture, the World Bank has also just released another report: “Water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP by 2050, spur migration, and spark conflict, according to a new World Bank report High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy. The combined effects of growing populations, rising incomes, and expanding cities will see demand for water rising exponentially, while supply becomes more erratic and uncertain, the report finds, with these effects expected to be most pronounced in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia”.

 

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[1] J. Lelieveld, Y. Proestos, P. Hadjinicolaou, M. Tanarhte, E. Tyrlis & G. Zittis, “Strongly increasing heat extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st century” Climate Change (25 March 2016). http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-016-1665-6.

[2] Matt Atherton, “Climate change: Middle East and North Africa to become uninhabitable forcing mass migration” IBT (03 MAy 2016). http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/climate-change-middle-east-north-africa-become-uninhabitable-forcing-mass-migration-1558023.

[3] J. Lelieveld, Y. Proestos, P. Hadjinicolaou, M. Tanarhte, E. Tyrlis & G. Zittis, “Strongly increasing heat extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st century”, p. 13.

[4] Matt Atherton, “Climate change: Middle East and North Africa to become uninhabitable forcing mass migration”.

Chernobyl and Nuclear Power: 30 Years of Fallout

FRANCE_24_logo_svg’30 years ago today, a botched safety test led to the world’s worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in eastern Ukraine. France, with its 58 nuclear reactors, is particularly sensitive to this story. François Hollande reiterated a promise to close the oldest one at Fessenheim but no firm date is set. What future for atomic energy? And could the next Chernobyl be on purpose? It’s a serious question since Belgian authorities revealed that the Brussels attackers had considered targeting nuclear plants. (26 April 2016)’.

 

On a dedicated website, the IAEA presents this potted history of the impact of the Chernobyl disaster: “On 26 April 1986, the most serious accident in the history of the nuclear industry occurred at Unit 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Since that time there has been much confusion about the real consequences of the accident, including implications for health, the environment, nuclear safety, society and the economies of countries affected by the accident. In 1996 at the time of the tenth anniversary there were major reviews of the information available in an attempt to clarify and synthesise a consensus on the actual consequences of the accident. In 2000-2001, by the fifteenth anniversary, several articles books, and important publications on the topic were issued, and international reviews were prepared on lessons learned. The most comprehensive analysis on human exposures and health consequences of the Chernobyl accident, both for workers of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, rescue and clean-up workers and for the population of Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian areas contaminated with radionuclides, was provided by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), in its 2 000 Report to the General Assembly . . . In 2001, on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, two international scientific conferences were held in Kiev, Ukraine. The first of them, called ‘Fifteen Years after the Chernobyl Accident. Lessons Learned’ held April 18-20, 2001, discussed lessons learned from the accident in areas of nuclear and radiation safety, emergency preparedness and response, status and future of the Shelter and the exclusion zone, radiation health and environmental effects. The second conference entitled ‘Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident: Results of the 15-year follow-up Studies’, was held 4-8 June 2001, only considered the health effects of the accident, presented medical lessons learnt and developed recommendations for public health services and for future research. conclusions. During 2001-2002, the UN family organizations UNDP, WHO, OCHA, and UNICEF prepared and published, with the IAEA’s support, the UN report on The Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident – a Strategy of Recovery. After a proposal made by Belarus, the IAEA initiated a project in 1995 to convene an international group of high level experts who would review the information drawn from the long term environmental and social studies of the Chernobyl accident and its consequences. The study had been monitored by an International Advisory Committee under the project management of the Institut de protection et de sûreté nucléaire (IPSN), France. The project report, based mainly on the studies carried out by experts from Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine during the period 1986-1995, was published as an IAEA TECDOC, Present and future environmental impact of the Chernobyl accident – IAEA-TECDOC-1240 (3MB). Two further projects were initiated by the IAEA in its follow-up actions designed to mitigate the impact of the accident’s consequences. The first of these was to establish the Chernobyl Forum, through which the relevant organizations within the UN system the governments of the primarily affected countries (Belarus, Russia and Ukraine) and other relevant international organisations could discuss their views on the consequences of the accident and implement, jointly or individually. The Forum was launched in February 2003, and the first Organizational Meeting was convened at the Agency headquarters in Vienna on 3-5 February 2003. The second project is the new series of Chernobyl-related technical co-operation (TC) projects with the affected countries. Through the TC Programme over US $10 million have already been disbursed since 1990 within the frame of 31 completed and ongoing projects aiming to reduce the impact of the Chernobyl accident. During 2003 the IAEA launched its new topical regional TC project (RER/9/074) on the long-term rehabilitation strategies and monitoring of human exposure in the rural areas affected by the Chernobyl accident. The IAEA will continue to support activities aiming to overcome the adverse radiological effects of the largest nuclear accident in human history as long as they are internationally recognized to be justified”.[1]

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The above-quoted verbiage appears to consist of a lot of words that indicate that the ultimate impact of Chernobyl is still hard to determine and that the process is still ongoing . . . or a project in progress, if you will.

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[1] “Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident” IAEA. http://www-ns.iaea.org/appraisals/chernobyl.asp.

Indian Point – We Are Flirting With Catastrophe

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‘For years people have been claiming that nuclear power is a safe and clean alternative to fossil fuels. But that doesn’t explain why New York governor Andrew Cuomo wants to shut down a nuclear plant less than 100 miles from New York City. The latest leak is just one incident in a long list of problems – problems that show just closely we are flirting with catastrophe. Published on Feb 16, 2016’.

 Staff writer at Natural News David Gutierrez elaborates that “Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a nuclear power plant about 40 miles from Manhattan had leaked one of the most potent radioactive carcinogens into the groundwater. The groundwater in that area flows to the Hudson River just 25 miles north of New York City . . . Alarmingly, the leak is not the first for this plant in recent years. In fact, such leaks are relatively common among U.S. nuclear power plants . . . The [current] leak took place at the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which supplies about 30 percent of New York City’s electricity. Jerry Nappi, spokesperson for plant operator Entergy, said the leak probably came from a “spillage of water as a result of a mechanical issue during pumping of water” during January [2016]. Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), said that an out-of-service sump pump caused water to build up and overflow from a containment drain. This then produced a leak from the building, and eventually the radioactive water made its way into the ground. There was no word on why the leak went undetected for so long. Samples taken at the testing wells around the plant showed the highest radioactivity levels ever detected at Indian Point, in some cases exceeded 8 million picocuries per liter. The radioactive component that escaped appears to be tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Alarmingly, tritium is most carcinogenic when it contaminates drinking water. It can also cause birth defects”.[1]

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[1] David Gutierrez, “Massive leak at nuclear facility in New York causes 65,000% increase in radioactivity of ground water” Natural News(14 Jan 2016). http://www.naturalnews.com/052964_Indian_Point_Energy_Center_nuclear_power_plant_radioactive_groundwater.html#ixzz40Q3YJHIc.