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Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Beijing 2008: A Painting and its Meaning


I stumbled across this intriguing picture on Facebook, of all places. The image was posted by a certain Joel Ng, who appears to be living in Brunei, again of all places. And this what he said by way of accompaniment: “Amazing thought-provoking painting “Beijing 2008” by Chinese-Canadian artist Liu Yi. The woman with the tattoos on her back is China. On the left, focused intensely on the game, is Japan. The one with the shirt and head cocked to the side is America. Lying provocatively on the floor is Russia. And the little girl standing to the side is Taiwan. This painting, named Beijing 2008, has been the subject of much discussion in the west as well as on the internet. What’s interesting is that this painting is called Beijing 2008, yet it depicts four women playing mahjong, and conceals a wealth of meaning within . . . China’s visible set of tiles “East Wind” has a dual meaning. First, it signifies China’s revival as a world power. Second, it signifies the military might and weaponry that China possesses has already been placed on the table. On one hand, China appears to be in a good position, but we cannot see the rest of her hand. Additionally, she is also handling some hidden tiles below the table. America looks confident, but is glancing at Taiwan, trying to read something off of Taiwan’s expression, and at the same time seems to be hinting something at Taiwan. Russia appears to be disinterested in the game, but this is far from the truth. One foot hooks coyly at America, while her hand passes a hidden tile to China, both countries can be said to be exchanging benefits in secret. Japan is all seriousness while staring at her own set of tiles, and is oblivious to the actions of the others in her self-focused state. Taiwan wears a traditional red slip, symbolizing that she is the true heir of Chinese culture and civilization. In one hand she has a bowl of fruit, and in the other, a paring knife. Her expression as she stares at China is full of anger, sadness, and hatred, but to no avail; unless she enters the game, no matter who ends up as the victor, she is doomed to a fate of serving fruit. Outside the riverbank is darkened by storm clouds, suggesting the high tension between the two nations is dangerously explosive. The painting hanging on the wall is also very meaningful; Mao’s face, but with Chiang Kai Shek’s bald head, and Sun Yat-Sen’s mustache”.a

Beijing 2008

Ng continues that the “four women’s state of undress represent the situation in each country. China is naked on top, clothed with a skirt and underwear on the bottom. America wears a bra and a light jacket, but is naked on the bottom. Russia has only her underwear left. Japan has nothing left. At first glance, America appears to be most composed and seems to be the best position, as all the others are in various states of nakedness. However, while America may look radiant, her vulnerability has already been exposed. China and Russia may look naked, yet their key private parts remain hidden. If the stakes of this game is that the loser strips off a piece of clothing, then if China loses, she will be in the same state as Russia (similar to when the USSR dissolved). If America loses, she also ends up in the same state as Russia. If Russia loses, she loses all. Japan has already lost everything. Russia seems to be a mere ‘filler’ player, but in fact is exchanging tiles with China. The real ‘filler’ player is Japan, for Japan has nothing more to lose, and if she loses just once more she is immediately out of the game. America may look like she is in the best position, but in fact is in a lot of danger, if she loses this round, she will give up her position as a world power. Russia is the most sinister, playing along with both sides, much like when China was de-occupied, she leaned towards the USSR and then towards America; as she did not have the ability to survive on her own, she had to weave between both sides in order to survive and develop. There are too many of China’s tiles that we cannot see. Perhaps suggesting that China has several hidden aces? Additionally China is also exchanging tiles with Russia, while America can only guess from Taiwan’s expression of what actions have transpired between Russia and China. Japan on the other hand is completely oblivious, still focused solely on her own set of tiles. Taiwan stares coldly at the game from aside. She sees everything that the players at the table are doing, she understands everything that is going on. But she doesn’t have the means or permission to join the game, she isn’t even given the right to speak. Even if she has a dearth of complaints, she cannot voice it to anyone, all she can do is to be a good page girl, and bring fresh fruit to the victor. The final victor lies between China and America, this much is apparent. But look closely; while America is capable, they are playing Chinese Mahjong, not Western Poker. Playing by the rules of China, how much chance at victory does America really have?”.b And that is question, particularly now that America’s nominal figurehead is a buffoon like the Drumpf, who seems to be bumbling through life as much anything else. In fact, the artist also has a Facebook page, and I imagine that enterprising or merely curious onlookers might want to query Lui Liu.c Still, I would say that Joel Ng has done an excellent job at unraveling the various layers of meaning and decoding the iconography as well as iconology of the work.


aJoel Ng’s post in ’21SilkRd’ Facebook (01 July 2019). https://www.facebook.com/groups/947867908642430/permalink/2287003388062202/.

b Joel Ng’s post in ’21SilkRd’.

c“Lui Liu. @luiliupainter” Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/luiliupainter/.

Fukushima Today: Scorpion Robot Mission Aborted


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


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”.


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.


‘Tariq Ali talks to Karel van Wolferen, author and expert on Japan about Japan’s current political situation, its incapacity to heal relations with China and rid itself of US military presence. Published on Jul 7, 2015’.

Nuclear Iran: Regional Danger, Global Threat or Harbinger of Peace???

Tuesday, 14 July’s diplomatic victory in Vienna is cause for celebration as it will allow Iran to re-enter the current Concert of Nations. But, even though, the purely peaceful nature of Iran’s ambitions have now become universally recognized and accepted, will this deal nevertheless lead to a dangerous situation in the medium- to long-term?

The nuclear stand-off between the West and the Islamic Republic of Iran has finally come to an end with the formalization of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Tuesday, 14 July 2015. The intention to realize this potential goal was announced by the EU as long ago as January 2014: “On 24 November [2013] in Geneva, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, together with the Foreign Ministers of the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), successfully concluded a meeting at which an agreement (known as the Joint Plan of Action) was reached with Iran on a first step towards a comprehensive and verifiable diplomatic solution to concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme”. In fact, this whole tortuous diplomatic debâcle has its roots in the previous century, given that the Israeli leadership has been exaggerating the dangers posed by Iran and its Ayatollahs since 1992. At that time, first George H. W. Bush and then Bill Clinton were in charge of the White House, the invasion of Iraq an as-yet unrealized pipedream, and the “reformist” Mohammad Khatami President of Iran. Back in mid-November 1997, the BBC reported that the “Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, has said that Iran could pose a bigger danger than Iraq. He said the situation could develop where Iran had nuclear weapons aimed at Britain and the United States”.[1]

Then, just like now, Benyamin Netanyahu (aka Bibi) did not mince his words, clearly disclosing to the world the extent of his paranoid delusions: “Iran, unseen, unperturbed and undisturbed is building a formidable arsenal of ballistic missiles, actually ICBM’s [Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles] . . . Stage One would reach our area, Stage Two it would reach Britain and Stage Three, believe it or not, they actually plan to reach the eastern seaboard of the United States, Manhattan”.[2]  And in years to come, the world led by the United States (under Israeli tutelage) would implement policies and impose sanctions aimed at dissuading the Islamic Republic from ever attempting to possess nuclear capability or even build a nuclear weapon. In reality, the Islamic Republic was merely acting in continuation of plans and programmes developed by none other than the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (ruled 16 September 1941 –11 February 1979). Pahlavi decided that oil-rich Iran needed a nuclear programme, a programme that would see Iran develop the technology to split the atom in order to boil some water and generate electricity. The American activist, blogger and author David Swanson reminds us that “Iran [only] has a nuclear energy program because the U.S. and European governments wanted Iran to have a nuclear energy program. The U.S. nuclear industry took out full-page ads in U.S. publications bragging about Iran’s support for such an enlightened and progressive energy source. The U.S. was pushing for major expansion of Iran’s nuclear program just before the Iranian revolution of 1979”.

The Islamic Revolution put a stop to all that, and rather than seeing Iran as a potential client for expensive nuclear technology, the United States proceeded to demonize and isolate the Islamic Republic. Still, “Tehran [has been nothing but] public about its quest to acquire peaceful nuclear energy to serve a population that has doubled since the 1979 revolution”, as expressed by Dr. Shahram Chubin, an affiliate of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (or GCSP). On a purely theoretical and even theological level, Iran is all but opposed to the mere idea of nuclear weapons. Swanson put is like this: “Iran is committed to not using or possessing [chemical, biological, and nuclear] weapons of mass destruction. The results of inspections bear that out. Iran’s willingness to put restrictions on its legal nuclear energy program — a willingness present both before and after sanctions — bears that out”. In the aftermath of the 2012 elections, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made the following statement: “The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous”. Still, even before the JCPOA was announced, everybody’s favourite scaremonger Bibi tweeted on 8 July that “Iran’s aggression is more dangerous than that of ISIS, and the true goal of this aggression in the end is to take over the world”, hinting at an imminent nuclear holocaust in case of an amicable agreement and a concordant easing of the sanctions’ regime. On a basic level, the West is suspicious of the Islamic Republic of Iran because it is a theocratic democracy — oftentimes portrayed in the mainstream media as a “fundamentalist regime” that poses a clear and present danger. The Iranian system as a theocratic democracy is such that the Supreme Leader has the ultimate power and the nation’s President “is more like a vice president . . . than a real executive”, in the words of the eminent Middle East specialist Professor Juan Cole. The Supreme Leader is the commander in chief of the armed forces and the one who ultimately decides on nuclear and other national policy.

The celebrated JCPOA was concluded to “ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful”, marking the start of a new era, a new era of understanding and cooperation between the West and Iran. The E3/EU+3 “anticipate that full implementation of this JCPOA will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons”. Furthermore, the “JCPOA will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme, including steps on access in areas of trade, technology, finance, and energy”. And already on Monday, 13 July 2015, the Iranian newspaper Jahan-e Sanat announced on its front page that 8 Iranian banks had re-joined the SWIFT transaction system, which facilitates worldwide bank transfers. In fact, preliminary talks over restoration of financial transactions with Iranian banks had been underway since last April.

Now the world has woken up to another day, a new day that sees the Islamic Republic of Iran becoming part of the international community again. This whole nuclear diplomatic debâcle has been nothing but a Manufactured Crisis, to quote the title of Gareth Porter’s recent book on the issue. As a result, it would seem that the nuclear issue was nothing but a diplomatic device skilfully employed to ostracize the Islamic Republic and turn the potentially powerful regional player into an effective pariah state. Nevertheless, in the end an agreement was reached and now, as stated by the document itself, “[s]uccessful implementation of this JCPOA will enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the relevant articles of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in line with its obligations therein, and the Iranian nuclear programme will be treated in the same manner as that of any other non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT”. This means that in the not too faraway future, Iran will set up its own nuclear power plants, nuclear power plants which will produce electricity for local consumption, allowing the Islamic Republic to capitalize on the sale of its hydrocarbon assets, so coveted by the rest of the world. Iran won’t be the first regional player willing to capitalize on this alternative source of energy. The International Energy Agency (IEA) indicates that at the outset of the 21st century about 13% of the world’s electricity is produced by nuclear power plants.

But what happens inside a nuclear power plant and is it really a safe and sound way to produce energy?  Even though the term “nuclear” conjures up all kinds of futuristic imagery and might give people the idea that “nuclear fission” is a power source in its own right, in truth the heat and energy generated by the splitting of atoms, or fission, is simply used to heat water and produce steam. As a result, a nuclear power plant is nothing but a thermal power station using nuclear energy as its heat source. In a nuclear reactor at the heart of a nuclear power plant, heat is generated by controlled nuclear fission which is then used to raise steam. This steam then runs through turbines powering electrical generators. This means that nuclear power plants are no different from other thermal power stations. The only real difference is that the heat source at the heart of the plant is nuclear fission, rather than coal or hydrocarbon assets. And hence, there are no emission of greenhouse gases involved.

But in spite if this clearly positive aspect, nuclear power plants pose other kinds of dangers. The World Nuclear Association might very well declare on its website that the “use of nuclear energy for electricity generation can be considered extremely safe. Every year several thousand people die in coal mines to provide this widely used fuel for electricity. There are also significant health and environmental effects arising from fossil fuel use”. In truth, nuclear power plants pose a great danger to the environment and human life. For starters, there are the health effects of radiation. As explained by Professor Bernard L. Cohen, this “radiation consists of subatomic particles traveling at or near the velocity of light—186,000 miles per second. They can penetrate deep inside the human body where they can damage biological cells and thereby initiate a cancer. If they strike sex cells, they can cause genetic diseases in progeny”. An even greater source of danger is posed by the radioactive waste from spent nuclear fuels. These waste products also emit radioactivity which diminishes over time, but the time frames in question range from 10,000 to millions of years.

According to the World Nuclear Association, a pro-nuclear international organization, at present about 45 countries are “actively considering embarking” upon nuclear power programmes. The organization’s website posted about a month ago that the “front runners after Iran are [the] UAE, Turkey, Vietnam, Belarus, Poland and possibly Jordan”. In fact, Iran’s north-eastern neighbour Turkey is close to initiating two nuclear power plants on the Anatolian peninsula — a first one near the southern city of Akkuyu in the Mediterranean province of Mersin, and a second one located near the north-western city of Sinop on the Black Sea. This first Turkish nuclear power plant will be located in the vicinity of the East Anatolian Fault and thus very likely to experience an earthquake at some stage. The second one will operate in the vicinity of the North Anatolian Fault –  a faultline has often been in the news because of earthquakes and minor tremors. It is a 1,500-kilometer-long east-west trending fault that runs across most of Turkey. Since 1939, a progression of deadly earthquakes has been marching westward across the fault – westward towards Istanbul. Turkey’s largest city was struck by a major earthquake in 1999 and has been waiting for the next big tremor to hit ever since.

It seems particularly ironic that the Sinop nuclear power plant is being built by a Japanese firm, as reported by the Turkish news agency Anadolu Ajansı (AA): “Turkey and Japan on Friday [, 24 December 2010] signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a nuclear power plant in a northern Turkish city”. In 2012, then still Turkey’s Premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (currently, President of the Republic or the Prez) declared that “[w]hat happened at Fukushima upset all of us. But these things can happen. Life goes on. Successful steps are being taken now with the use of improved technology”. In spite of these optimistic and reassuring words, opposition against the construction of these nuclear power plants in Turkey remains vocal and active, particularly in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that led to a number of nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. And, it does bear repeating at this stage that the Iranian plateau is also a region prone to earthquakes and all kinds of types of tectonic activity. In this century alone more than ten major earthquakes have hit Iran so far. Complicating matters, however, is the fact that “[a]ctive faults have not been mapped and trenched in Iran to the degree that they have in more developed countries”, as related by the geologists Manuel Berberian and Robert S. Yeats  All in all, the fact that a number of projected nuclear power plants in the neighbours Turkey and Iran now seem to be in the works is anything but reassuring. And in this context, it seems worthwhile to take a few steps back and reconsider the disaster that occurred in Japan in March 2011. While it is true that the Fukushima nuclear disaster has all but left the current news cycles, this does not necessarily mean that all is well in Japan.

As recently as last month, AP’s Tokyo-based reported Mari Yamaguchi wrote an in-depth piece on Fukushima and her words are far from reassuring indeed, starting off that “the road ahead remains riddled with unknowns”. She next puts forward that “[e]xperts have yet to pinpoint the exact location of the melted fuel inside the three reactors and study it, and still need to develop robots capable of working safely in such highly radioactive conditions”, and as an afterthought adds, “[a]nd then there’s the question of what to do with the [nuclear] waste”. Yamaguchi goes on to list “[s]ome of the uncertainties and questions”, starting with the issue of the “fuel rods”, then mentioning the “melted fuel”, which she calls the “the hardest part of the decommissioning”, then moving on to the issue of the “contaminated water” that is seeping into the underground and possibly into the Pacific Ocean as well. And last by not least, Mari Yamaguchi refers to the matter of the “radioactive waste”. She elaborates on the issue by saying that “Japan currently has no plan for the waste that comes out of the plant”, adding that “[w]aste management is an extremely difficult task that requires developing technology to compact and reduce the toxicity of the waste, while finding a waste storage site is practically impossible considering public sentiment”. As such, the words written by AP’s Yamaguchi should manage to stir the public and awaken a greater awareness of the dangers inherent in the construction of nuclear power plants, particularly in regions which are earthquake-prone, such as Japan, Turkey, and Iran.

As a result, one could put forward that even Iran’s pursuit of a “nuclear programme” that is  “exclusively peaceful” in nature might very well prove dangerous and pose a dire threat to the region and beyond. But it seems that the Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to exercise its newly gained rights and will, together with Turkey (and the UAE) proceed to construct extremely dangerous technological marvels to boil water in the Middle East.

[1] http://rt.com/op-edge/turkey-iran-thaw-history-521.

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/31801.stm.

Fukushima 2015 or a Ticking Timebomb

Recently a post originally submitted by “Tyler Durden on 08/05/2013 10:44 -0400” is doing the rounds on another website, and that just goes to show that the public-at-large just has no idea about what is happening in Japan . . . Anyways, here is “Tyler Durden” and what he had to say two years ago under the headline ‘Japan Finally Admits The Truth: ‘Right Now, We Have An Emergency At Fukushima”: “Tepco is struggling to contain the highly radioactive water that is seeping into the ocean near Fukushima. The head of Japan’s NRA, Shinji Kinjo exclaimed, ‘right now, we have an emergency’, as he noted the contaminated groundwater has breached an underground barrier and is rising toward the surface – exceeding the limits of radioactive discharge. In a rather outspoken comment for the typically stoic Japanese, Kinjo said Tepco’s ‘sense of crisis was weak’, adding that ‘this is why you can’t just leave it up to Tepco alone’ to grapple with the ongoing disaster. As Reuters notes, Tepco has been accused of covering up shortcomings and has been lambasted for its ineptness in the response and while the company says it is taking actions to contain the leaks, Kinjo fears if the water reaches the surface ‘it would flow extremely fast’, with some suggesting as little as three weeks until this critical point”.[1]

On the other hand, last Wednesday, Danielle Demetriou reported from Tokyo that “[m]ore than 7,000 residents from a Fukushima town completely evacuated following the 2011 nuclear crisis will be able to return home permanently from September [2015], the Japanese government has announced. The 7,401 residents of Naraha will become the first evacuees able to return home permanently among the seven Fukushima municipalities whose entire populations were ordered to leave following the crisis. The lifting of the first evacuation order will take place more than four years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami damaged nearby Fukushima nuclear power plant. However, it was not immediately clear how many residents from Naraha, which is around two miles from the plant, will want to return to their hometown from September 5, due to lingering radiation concerns and lack of infrastructure”.[2]

Demetriou explains that “Naraha’s rehabilitation as a livable town began in March [2015] when the government announced that its decontamination was completed, with radiation contamination down 60 per cent from 2011 levels to 0.3 microsievert per hour. The following month, residents were allowed to return home for three-month stays in preparation for a permanent return when the evacuation order was lifted, with 688 people from 326 households taking part in the initiative. This week, the government confirmed the September 5 return date for all Naraha residents to return permanently, after assessing with local authorities the airborne radiation levels and monitoring how infrastructure was being improved as well as consulting with residents. The new evacuation order will permit the biggest homecoming of Fukushima evacuees since the 2011 disaster, with a total of 7,401 residents from 2,704 households allowed to live at home once again”.[3]

Location of Naraha in Fukushima Prefecture

In the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown the people inhabiting a 20 kilometer exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant were evacuated for safety reasons . . . as reported by the Washington Post Staff Writers Chico Harlan and Steven Mufson in 2011, “[s]ome 170,000 people have been evacuated around a 12-mile radius of the plant. They join more than 450,000 other evacuees from other quake- and tsunami-affected regions”.[4]  And now, after more than 4 years of 7,401 residents are allowed to return home . . . last March The Japan Times reported that “[a]round 120,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture remain evacuees due to lingering fears of radiation exposure four years after the start of the nuclear crisis. Although the central government lifted evacuation orders on some areas last year, evacuees have been slow to move back and an increasing number are choosing to rebuild their lives in new places without returning to their old homes. Of the 120,000 nuclear evacuees, 79,000 are from areas adjacent to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant who were ordered to evacuate because of high radiation levels, according to the Cabinet Office . . . The number of evacuees currently residing outside Fukushima Prefecture total about 47,000. At least a few are in every other prefecture. A growing number of the people from areas where residents were ordered to leave are using compensation to find permanent homes in the areas where they now live. Those still under evacuation orders are entitled to a real estate tax break adopted by the central government to help them buy property. The number of land purchases using the tax break was only 35 in fiscal 2011 but rose to 356 in fiscal 2012 and 804 in fiscal 2013. In the first half of fiscal 2014, the number of purchases was 593. As of the end of last September, 1,451 of the deals were for plots in Fukushima Prefecture. The rest were in 29 other prefectures, including 88 in Ibaraki, 69 in Tochigi, 36 in Miyagi and 33 in Saitama. The number of purchases for other forms of housing under the tax break stood at 28 in fiscal 2011, 323 in fiscal 2012 and 598 in fiscal 2013”.[5] Deutsche Gründlichket à la Japonaise . . .

On the other hand, Reuters reported some months ago that “radiation from Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has for the first time been detected along a North American shoreline, though at levels too low to pose a significant threat to human or marine life, scientists said on Monday [, 6 April 2015]. Trace amounts of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 were detected in samples collected on Feb. 19 off the coast of Ucluelet, a small town on Vancouver Island in Canada’s British Columbia, said Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist Ken Buesseler. “Radioactivity can be dangerous, and we should be carefully monitoring the oceans after what is certainly the largest accidental release of radioactive contaminants to the oceans in history,” Buesseler said in a statement”.[6]  Dr Ken Buesseler went on like this: “[r]adioactivity can be dangerous, and we should be carefully monitoring the oceans after what is certainly the largest accidental release of radioactive contaminants to the oceans in history”.[7]

About a month prior to the Reuters’ reports, Dr Buesseler gave a lecture on this very topic: “The triple disaster of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent radiation releases at Fukushima Dai-ichi were unprecedented events for the ocean and society. This presentation will provide an overview of studies of Fukushima radionuclides in the ocean. The radioactive releases from Fukushima will be compared to natural and prior human sources. The fate and transport of cesium and its uptake by fish and impacts on Japanese fisheries will be discussed. Although levels of cesium in the ocean and being released from Fukushima nuclear power plants four years later are a thousand times lower than in 2011, other isotopes such as strontium-90 are becoming of greater concern as they are elevated relative to cesium in the groundwater and storage tanks at the reactor site. Across the Pacific, ocean currents carrying Fukushima cesium are predicted to be detectable along the west coast of North America by 2015, and though models suggest at levels below those considered of human health concern, measurements are needed. A report will be given on Our Radioactive Ocean,[8] a citizen scientist launched to monitor the arrival of Fukushima cesium along the west coast over the coming 2-3 years”.[9]

And just the other day, Daily Buzz‘ Lisa Reddy posted that “[p]hotos of flowers on Twitter and Instagram may be as commonplace as sunsets and selfies, but one Japanese amateur photographer has captured something a bit more unique than a beautiful bloom. Twitter user @san_kaido posted a photo of mutated yellow daisies last month, found in Nasushiobara City, around 70 miles from Fukushima, the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster. The photos show daisies with fused yellow centres and with the petals growing out the side of the flower. The daisies are not the first deformed plants found after the disaster. In 2013, the Daily Mail posted photos of mutated vegetables and fruit, attributing the apparent abnormalities to high levels of radiation found in the groundwater. The daisy photos come four years after the Fukushima Daichii Nuclear Power Plant meltdown which was caused after a devastating earthquake and tsunami knocked out three of the plant’s nuclear reactors. Earlier this month, The Telegraph reported that on Sept. 5, residents of Naraha, close to Fukushima, will finally be allowed to return home”.[10]

In a more alarmist voice, Robert Hunziker remarked last month that “Fukushima’s still radiating, self-perpetuating, immeasurable, and limitless, like a horrible incorrigible Doctor Who monster encounter in deep space. Fukushima will likely go down in history as the biggest cover-up of the 21st Century. Governments and corporations are not leveling with citizens about the risks and dangers; similarly, truth itself, as an ethical standard, is at risk of going to shambles as the glue that holds together the trust and belief in society’s institutions. Ultimately, this is an example of how societies fail. Tens of thousands of Fukushima residents remain in temporary housing more than four years after the horrific disaster of March 2011. Some areas on the outskirts of Fukushima have officially reopened to former residents, but many of those former residents are reluctant to return home because of widespread distrust of government claims that it is okay and safe. Part of this reluctance has to do with radiation’s symptoms. It is insidious because it cannot be detected by human senses. People are not biologically equipped to feel its power, or see, or hear, touch or smell it (Caldicott). Not only that, it slowly accumulates over time in a dastardly fashion that serves to hide its effects until it is too late”.[11]  In the next instance, Hunziker takes a few steps back and relates “some Chernobyl facts that have not received enough widespread news coverage: Over one million (1,000,000) people have already died from Chernobyl’s fallout. Additionally, the Rechitsa Orphanage in Belarus has been caring for a very large population of deathly sick and deformed children. Children are 10 to 20 times more sensitive to radiation than adults. Zhuravichi Children’s Home is another institution, among many, for the Chernobyl-stricken: ‘he home is hidden deep in the countryside and, even today, the majority of people in Belarus are not aware of the existence of such institutions’ (Source: Chernobyl Children’s Project-UK)”. Quite rightly Robert Hunziker next asserts that “[o]ne million (1,000,000) is a lot of dead people. But, how many more will die? Approximately seven million (7,000,000) people in the Chernobyl vicinity were hit with one of the most potent exposures to radiation in the history of the Atomic Age. The exclusion zone around Chernobyl is known as ‘Death Valley’. It has been increased from 30 to 70 square kilometres. No humans will ever be able to live in the zone again. It is a permanent ‘dead zone’. Additionally, over 25,000 died and 70,000 disabled because of exposure to extremely dangerous levels of radiation in order to help contain Chernobyl. Twenty percent of those deaths were suicides, as the slow agonizing ‘death march of radiation exposure’ was too much to endure”. Turning next to Fukushima, Hunziker states that “[i]n late 2014, Helen Caldicott, M.D. gave a speech about Fukushima at Seattle Town Hall (9/28/14) . . . Dr. Helen Caldicott is co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and she is author/editor of Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastroph . . . For over four decades Dr. Caldicott has been the embodiment of the anti-nuclear banner, and as such, many people around the world classify her as a ‘national treasure’ [for Australia, arguably]. She’s truthful and honest and knowledgeable. Fukushima is literally a time bomb in quiescence. Another powerful quake and all hell could break loose. Also, it is not even close to being under control. Rather, it is totally out of control. According to Dr. Caldicott, ‘It’s still possible that Tokyo may have to be evacuated, depending upon how things go’. Imagine that! According to Japan Times as of March 11, 2015: ‘There have been quite a few accidents and problems at the Fukushima plant in the past year, and we need to face the reality that they are causing anxiety and anger among people in Fukushima, as explained by Shunichi Tanaka at the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Furthermore, Mr. Tanaka said, there are numerous risks that could cause various accidents and problems’. Even more ominously, Seiichi Mizuno, a former member of Japan’s House of Councillors (Upper House of Parliament, 1995-2001) in March 2015 said: ‘The biggest problem is the melt-through of reactor cores . . . We have groundwater contamination . . . The idea that the contaminated water is somehow blocked in the harbor is especially absurd. It is leaking directly into the ocean. There’s evidence of more than 40 known hotspot areas where extremely contaminated water is flowing directly into the ocean… We face huge problems with no prospect of solution’ . . . At Fukushima, each reactor required one million gallons of water per minute for cooling, but when the tsunami hit, the backup diesel generators were drowned. Units 1, 2, and 3 had meltdowns within days. There were four hydrogen explosions. Thereafter, the melting cores burrowed into the container vessels, maybe into the earth”.[12]

The AP’s Tokyo-based reported Mari Yamaguchi also wrote last June that “[f]our years after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, the road ahead remains riddled with unknowns. The government approved a revised 30-to-40-year roadmap Friday [, 12 June 2015] that delays by three years the start of a key initial step — the removal of still-radioactive fuel rods in the three reactors that had meltdowns following the March 2011 disaster in northeast Japan. Experts have yet to pinpoint the exact location of the melted fuel inside the three reactors and study it, and still need to develop robots capable of working safely in such highly radioactive conditions. And then there’s the question of what to do with the waste”. Yamaguchi then goes on to list “[s]ome of the uncertainties and questions”: “THE FUEL RODS: Kept cool in storage pools on the top floor of each of the three reactors, they need to be removed to free up space for robots and other equipment to go down to the containment chambers. The 1,573 bundles of fuel rods — mostly used but some new — are considered among the highest risks at the plant, because they are uncovered within the reactor building. To remove them, the building roofs must be taken off and replaced with a cover that prevents radioactive dust from flying out. Each building is damaged differently and requires its own cover design and equipment. The government and plant operator TEPCO hope to start the process in 2018, three years later than planned. THE MELTED FUEL: Once the spent fuel rods are out of the way, workers can turn their attention to what is expected to be the hardest part of the decommissioning: Removing the melted fuel from the three wrecked reactors. The biggest questions are where the melted fuel is and in what condition. Radiation levels are too high for humans to approach. Based on computer simulations and a few remote-controlled probes, experts believe the melted fuel has breached the cores and fallen to the bottom of the containment chambers, some possibly seeping into the concrete foundation. A plan to repair the containment chambers and fill them with water so that the melted fuel can be handled while being kept cool may be unworkable, and experts are studying alternatives. How to reach the debris — from the top or from the side — is another question. A vertical approach would require robots and equipment that can dangle as low as 30 meters (90 feet) to reach the bottom. Experts are also trying to figure out how to obtain debris samples to help develop radiation-resistant robots and other equipment that can handle the molten fuel. CONTAMINATED WATER: The plant is still plagued with massive amounts of contaminated water — cooling water that must be added regularly, and subsequently leaks out of the reactors and mixes with groundwater that seeps into the reactor basements. The volume of water grows by 300 tons daily. TEPCO runs it through treatment machines to remove most radioactive elements, and then stores it in thousands of tanks on the compound. Water leaks pose environmental concerns and health risks to workers. Nuclear experts say controlled release of the treated water into the ocean would be the ultimate solution. RADIOACTIVE WASTE: Japan currently has no plan for the waste that comes out of the plant. Under the roadmap, the government and TEPCO are supposed to compile a basic plan by March 2018. Waste management is an extremely difficult task that requires developing technology to compact and reduce the toxicity of the waste, while finding a waste storage site is practically impossible considering public sentiment. This raises serious doubts about whether the cleanup can be completed within 40 years”.[13]

[1] Tyler Durden, “‘Japan Finally Admits The Truth: “Right Now, We Have An Emergency At Fukushima”‘” Zero Hedge (05 August 2013). http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-08-05/japan-finally-admits-truth-right-now-we-have-emergency-fukushima.

[2] Danielle Demetriou, “Thousands of residents to return home following Fukushima nuclear disaster” The Telegraph (08 July 2015). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/11725300/Thousands-of-residents-to-return-home-following-Fukushima-nuclear-disaster.html.

[3] Danielle Demetriou, “Thousands of residents to return home following Fukushima nuclear disaster”.

[4] Chico Harlan and Steven Mufson, “Japanese nuclear plants’ operator scrambles to avert meltdowns” Washington Post (13 March 2011). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/12/AR2011031205493.html.

[5] “More Fukushima evacuees are deciding to stay away for good” The Japan Times (04 March 2015). http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/03/04/national/more-fukushima-evacuees-are-deciding-to-stay-away-for-good/#.VaTYMu9rPpB.

[6] “Radiation From Japan’s Fukushima Detected Off Canada” Reuters (06 April 2015). http://www.newsweek.com/radiation-japans-fukushima-detected-canada-320009.

[7] “Radiation From Japan’s Fukushima Detected Off Canada”.

[8] http://ourradioactiveocean.org.

[9] Ken Buesseler,” Fukushima–A View from the Ocean” USC Dornsife (12 March 2015). http://dornsife.usc.edu/assets/sites/218/docs/events/2015-03-12_Buesseler.pdf.

[10] Lisa Reddy, “Deformed daisies from Fukushima disaster site gain Internet fame” Daily Buzz (14 July 2015). https://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/author/lisa-reddy/.

[11] Robert Hunziker, “What’s Really Going on at Fukushima?” CounterPunch (17 June 2015). http://www.globalresearch.ca/whats-really-going-on-at-fukushima/5456277.

[12] Robert Hunziker, “What’s Really Going on at Fukushima?”.

[13] Mari Yamaguchi,” What’s ahead for Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant: Latest roadmap riddled with uncertainties” AP (12 June 2015). http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2015/06/12/whats-ahead-for-japans-fukushima-nuclear-plant.

Fly Me to the Moon: Missions Ahead

The United Press International’s Science, Health, and Environment News Reporter Brooks Hays states that “Japan’s space agency announced plans on Monday [, 21 April 2015] to send an unmanned lander probe to the moon by fiscal year 2018. The mission will be Japan’s first attempt to visit the lunar surface”; and, adding next that “[o]fficials with Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) delivered the news at a political roundtable featuring policymakers from the country’s education ministry. It’s reported that JAXA first cleared the idea (and its expected budget) with Japan’s state panel before going public with the news”.[1]

Hays explains that the “mission is expected to cost between $8 billion and $12.5 billion. The agency will use a probe called SLIM, or the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon. It will be launched to the moon by a small-scale Epsilon rocket built in Japan. Japan conducted its first lunar mission, called the Japanese Lunar Exploration Program, in 2007. The mission consisted of a series of lunar satellite probes. At the time, JAXA officials called it ‘the largest lunar mission since the Apollo program’. The newly announced lunar mission is one of several launches JAXA has planned for the next decade. The agency also hopes to put landers on both Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos”.[2]

But Japan isn’t the only one dreaming about flying to the moon . . . as told by Stuart Clark in the Guardian: the “European Space Agency has outlined its vision for what lunar exploration could be in the future in a new video released onto the internet . . . It comes in the wake of a decision to look into collaborating with the Russians over sending a lander to the Moon’s south pole”.[3]  On YouTube, ESA published the video on 19 January 2015: “[t]his 8-minute film gives an overview of the past, present, and future of Moon exploration, from the Lunar cataclysm to ESA’s vision of what Lunar exploration could be. Why is the Moon important for science? What resources does the Moon have? Is there water? Why should we go back and how will we do it?”.

And now, there is even the ‘Google Lunar X PRIZE . . . a $30 million competition for the first privately funded team to send a robot to the moon, travel 500 meters and transmit video, images and data back to the Earth’. The Google team even published a full-length lunar propaganda movie last January: ‘Watch our cool movie about going back to the Moon. In case you haven’t heard, the Moon is trending again… and in a big way. Narrated by Tim Allen (voice of Buzz Lightyear), this is a complete behind-the-scenes feature on the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the largest incentivized prize in history. Adapted from the award-winning digital planetarium show, the 24-minute movie chronicles 18 teams from around the world looking to make history by landing a privately funded robotic spacecraft on the Moon. This global competition is designed to spark imagination and inspire a renewed commitment to space exploration, not by governments or countries – but by the citizens of the world (26 January 2015)’.

Then, here we have NASA scientist Red Whittaker talks about using robots to explore lunar caves and lava tubes on the Moon (14 Oct 2014).

[1] Brooks Hays, “Japan to land probe on the moon in 2018” UPI (21 April 2015). http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2015/04/21/Japan-to-land-probe-on-the-moon-in-2018/5821429619556/.

[2] Brooks Hays, “Japan to land probe on the moon in 2018”.

[3] Stuart Clark, “Esa favours moon not Mars for next crewed mission: The Guardian (20 Jan 2015). http://www.theguardian.com/science/across-the-universe/2015/jan/20/esa-favours-moon-not-mars-for-next-manned-mission.

More Bad News: Fukushima Leaks

Mari Saito reports that the “operator of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant said on Thursday [, 20 February 2014] that 100 tonnes of highly contaminated water had leaked out of a tank, the worst incident since last August [2013], when a series of radioactive water leaks sparked international alarm. Tokyo Electric Power Co told reporters the latest leak was unlikely to have reached the ocean. But news of the leak at the site, devastated by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, further undercut public trust in a utility rocked by a string of mishaps and disclosure issues”.[1]

Saito continues that “Tepco said water overflowed from a large storage tank at the site late on Wednesday [, 19 February 2014] after a valve had remained open by mistake and sent too much contaminated water into a separate holding area. A worker patrolling the area, around 700 metres from the ocean, spotted drips of water leaking through a drain attached to the side of the tank. The utility has been harshly criticised for its response to the three nuclear meltdowns following the quake and tsunami at the plant, 220 km (130 miles) north of Tokyo. A nuclear regulatory official last week said Tepco delayed release of record-high measurements of strontium-90 in groundwater despite repeated requests by the regulator. Initial measurements of the latest incident showed the leaked water had a reading of 230 million becquerels per litre of beta-emitting radioactive isotopes, including strontium 90”.[2]

[1] Mari Saito, “New highly radioactive leak at Japan’s Fukushima plant” Reuters (20 Feb 2014). http://www.firstpost.com/world/new-highly-radioactive-leak-at-japans-fukushima-plant-1400111.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter.

[2] Mari Saito, “New highly radioactive leak at Japan’s Fukushima plant”.

The Big Picture: 02 Jan 2014

‘Thom talks the possibility of the U.S. government granting Edward Snowden clemency with Radio Host and Attorney Mike Papantonio, talks minimum wage and wealth inequality with the Campaign for America’s Future Richard Eshow and the latest Fukushima news with Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps. Thom takes viewer video questions and phone calls in “Your Take, My Take Live” and in tonight’s “Daily Take” Thom discusses the Republicans love of donut holes (2 Jan 2014)’.

Another Fukushima Update: Broken Records and a Comedy of Errors


‘Japan is breaking its own radioactive records – as huge amounts of beta-ray emitting substances have been discovered at another reactor at the crippled Fukushima power plant. Meanwhile the government says the decontamination work scheduled to be completed by March – may take another 3 years. For more we’re joined by Alex Kerr – an expert on Japan (23 Dec 2013)’.

Finally, Fukushima Fuel Rod Removal

‘Japanese nuclear engineers were on Monday preparing to move uranium and plutonium fuel rods at Fukushima, their most difficult and dangerous task since runaway reactors were brought under control two years ago.Operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) is expected to begin the precarious operation later in the day, a tricky but essential step in the plant’s decades-long decommissioning plan (17 Nov 2013)’.

The BBC dutifully reports that the ‘fuel rods – 4m-long tubes containing pellets of uranium fuel – are in a precarious state in the Unit Four storage pool . . . The rod assemblies will be lifted out in batches of 22 in casks filled with water, using a crane – each batch will take 7-10 days . . . Two critical issues are whether the rods were damaged during the disaster and so are likely to leak, and whether the casks remain watertight so the rods have no contact with air . . . The fuel rods will be deposited into a new “common” pool with a cooling system’.  The BBC reports adds that the “removal process, which has been preceded by months of repair work and planning, began on Monday [, 18 November] afternoon. “At 15:18 [06:18 GMT], we started to pull up the first fuel assembly with a crane,” a spokesman for Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power Company) said. A recently-installed crane is being lowered into the pool and hooked onto the assemblies to place them inside a cask. The fuel rods will then be deposited into a more secure storage pool with a cooling system. Experts say it it vital that the casks are watertight so the rods have no contact with air – which risks overheating and possible contamination. Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s top government spokesman, said he hoped the operation would be done properly”.[1]

[1] “Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant begins fuel rod removal” BBC News (18 November 2013). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24958048.