Chernobyl: Unlikely Tourist Attraction

Stalking Chernobyl: Exploration After Apocalypse

Cultures of Resistance (2020)

Film Review

This documentary is about the transformation of the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant and Pripyat, the nearest city, into post-apocalyptic-culture tourist destinations.

At preset, Chernobyl is the most popular tourist destination in Ukraine – with 40,000 visitors  in 2019. Owing to chronic financial difficulties, the government promotes the nuclear disaster site as a tourist attraction, using the revenues to pay the salaries of Exclusion Zone workers. All tourist guides carry Geiger counters and avoid sites with high radiation levels.

Many Japanese tourists and officials take the tour, eager to transform Fukushima into a tourist hotspot.

Over the past two decades, Chernobyl has also experienced a big increase in illegal visitors – known as “stalkers. They scavenge scrap metal from heritage sites, as well as stealing abandoned books and other memorabilia. One group of stalkers bizarrely placed large dolls in the abandoned beds at the Pripyat hospital.

Stalkers also engage in freerunning,* abseiling,** and bungee jumping off the abandoned buildings, as well as cross country bicycle and motorbike races. And drink a lot of vodka.

Most of the airborne radiation in the Exclusion Area has settled into the soil. This makes for minimal radiation exposure, unless visitors consume food or burn firewood grown there. In fast moving streams, most of the surface water is safe to drink.

The exclusion zone is patrolled by police, military, and special forces. If caught, stalkers face stiff fines and/or lengthy imprisonment.


*Freerunning is best described as a form of “urban acrobatics” in which participants (free runners) use the city and rural landscape to perform acrobatic movements in order to get from point A to point B.

**Abseiling, also known as rappelling, involves a controlled descent off a vertical drop, such as a rock face, using a rope

 

 

 

Will Japan Cancel the Summer Olympics?

Back to Fukushima

RT (Dec 2019)

Film Review

I don’t get it. Why doesn’t Japan cancel the Olympics? The Coronavirus gives them the perfect excuse to do so, without losing face over the ongoing disaster at Fukushima.

This eerie documentary follows a half dozen or so elderly Fukushima residents as they return home. The Japanese government is slowly reopening decontaminated* areas as “safe” for returning residents.

Most returnees carry hand held Geiger counters, and there are ubiquitous digital road signs that display ambient radiation levels (in microsieverts).

It’s primarily elderly retired residents who are returning, given there are no schools or work opportunities in Fukushima. The government has reassured returnees that the elderly are more “resistant” to radiation, as most radiation-related cancers take decades to develop.

The government has built a 50 unit public housing facility, of which 30 units have been occupied. Most returning residents have been warned to remain indoors as winds flowing in from contaminated areas can increase radiation levels unpredictably.

At present visitors to Fukushima stop at checkpoints to be given protective clothing and dose meters at checkpoints. They are also scanned for radioactivity on their departure.

After watching the video, I still find it mind boggling the Japanese government still plans to hold the Olympic baseball and softball events in Fukushima in July. I can’t see how they can do so safely without providing protective clothing and masks for all the athletes and spectators.


*The main decontamination that has occurred is the wiping down of contaminated buildings and the remove of contaminated topsoil (to be stored in mountains of plastic bags in decontamination areas) and its replacement with new uncontaminated soil.

The film can be viewed free at Back to Fukushima

Ending Monopoly Control of the Electronics Industry

Rebel Geeks: Meet Your Maker

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the Maker Movement, Massino Banzi and the Arduino. Banzi created the Arduino in 2003. The latter is an Open Source one chip computer control device that allows ordinary people to create their own electronic devices without training in electronics or engineering. People have used them to create their own Open Source 3D printers, drones, smartphones, robots and other electronic devices.

The Arduino has played a pivotal role in the Maker Movement, a campaign to end monopoly control over the electronics industry. If you allow corporations to control all the electronic devices and services you use, you allow them to control your choices.

Safecast, the international Citizen Science movement that installed tiny Geiger counters across Japan in 2011 used Arduinos to build them.

See The Citizen Science Movement

 

How the World Health Organization Gave Up Its Scientific Independence

Trust WHO: The Business of Global Health

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the capture of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) by pharmaceutical and other corporations. The problem originates, according to filmmakers, from the refusal global governments to fully fund the agency. As a result, WHO has come to rely on foundations and corporate sponsors to finance their programs. Forty percent of current WHO funding comes from non-government sources. The Gates Foundation, with their strong GMO and vaccine agenda, is its second largest funder after the US government.

Worse still, only 30% of the WHO budget is discretionary. Seventy-percent must be dedicated to programs specified by donors.

The film examines numerous instances in which WHO has pursued the interest of corporate sponsors to the clear detriment of world health. The most grievous example occurred in 2011, when they failed to recommend that Japanese children take potassium iodide to prevent them from radioactive iodine released from the Fukushima meltdowns. The recommendation for children to take prophylactic potassium iodide following nuclear accidents has been a standard WHO recommendation since 1999.

According to radiation health expert Dr Helen Caldicott (see Fukushima: An Ongoing Radiological Catastrophe, more than 200 Fukushima children had developed thyroid cancer by June 2018. Most, if not all of these cases could have been prevented by giving them potassium iodide. Thyroid cancer in the Japanese population is normally quite rare – it occurs in roughly one of every million individuals.

The film can’t be embedded but can be viewed at the Al Jazeera website:

Trust Who: The Business of Global Health

Open Science and the Citizen Science Movement

Solutions: Open Science

Directed by James Corbett (2019)

Film Review

This documentary evaluates potential solutions to the problems with shoddy and fraudulent research Corbett identified in his prior documentary The Crisis of Science (see Why Most Published Research Findings Are False).

Among the reforms Corbett notes are growing pressure by scientific journals for researchers to publish raw data and negative results and the formation of an entity known as Redaction Watch. The latter closely monitors studies that are retracted for fraudulent data or questionable methodology.

However the most important solutions, in Corbett’s view, are the Open Science and Citizen Science movement. The former campaigns for free public access to scientific research, which until a decade ago was locked away behind costly paywalls.*

The most well known Open Science activist was Aaron Swartz, who published the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto in 2008. The FBI arrested Swartz in 2011 for using an MIT server to upload thousands of academic papers to a free Internet site. His legal problems allegedly prompted Swartz to kill himself two weeks before he went to trial. However numerous factors suggest he may have been “suicided” (see The Mystery of Aaron Swartz’s Alleged Suicide).

Like Swartz, Corbett argues that allowing freer public access to scientific research allows the public to monitor what scientists are up to. The Open Science movement has led to a substantial increase in research available for free on the Open Source PLOS (Public Library of Science).

Citizen Science refers to the growing participation of amateur scientists in the collection, storage and, in some case, analysis, of scientific data. Examples include projects in which scientists use citizens to collect migration data on butterflies and songbirds.

In another model, ordinary citizens set up their own projects to solve specific problems. The best example is Safecast, created by anti-nuclear  activists when it became clear the Japanese government was lying about radiation levels resulting from the Fukushima meltdowns. In this project, a network of activists created an automated Geiger counter to collect radiation counts every five seconds and upload them to an online database. They then recruited thousands of Japanese volunteers to attach them to their cars and bikes (see The Citizen Science Movement).


*Revenues resulting from scientific journal subscriptions accrue mainly to for profit publishers (like Elsevier) rather than researchers who write scientific papers.

 

 

2020 Olympics: Fukushima to Host Baseball/Softball

One of the gate guards in a hazmat suit, helmet and dual intake respirator

Photo credit: Steve Herman Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds of Ultra Fit Athletes and Thousands of International Visitors to be Irradiated in 2020

What’s wrong with this picture? In what utterly corrupt and debased universe could this possibly happen?

According to the Japan Times, Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers have given the green light for disaster-affected Fukushima Prefecture to host baseball and softball games. The position of Japan’s government is that Fukushima has been “decontaminated” by removing five centimeters (a little under two inches) of topsoil and placing it in gigantic plastic bags.

Independent radiation measurements by Greenpeace (see video below) suggest that radiation levels remain extremely high and hazardous to human health. Despite this fact, the Japanese government are pressuring Fukushima refugees to return to their homes later this year by discontinuing their government assistance.

Some international observers question whether the decision to hold the 2020 Olympics in Japan is part of the on-going cover-up of the ongoing radiation risk posed by the ongoing core meltdowns at Fukushima that continue to spew radiation into the air, groundwater and Pacific Ocean.

At present, French prosecutors are investigating the Japanese Olympic Committee for a 2.8 million Singapore dollars bribe linked to the 2013 decision to award them the 2020 Olympics.

 

America’s Fukushima?

 

 diablocanyon

Bye Bye California

Whistleblower Michael Peck, a senior member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), is calling for the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor to be shut down — pending an assessment of its ability to withstand a major earthquake. Peck, who was Diablo Canyon’s lead inspector for five years, asserts the NRC isn’t applying its own safety rules for the plant’s operation. Unlike other federal whistleblowers, who Obama and the FBI are busy locking up, Peck is participating in an NRC review process that permits employees to appeal a superior’s ruling.

Located on the Pacific Coast halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Diablo Canyon is California’s last nuclear power plant. It’s located adjacent to four seismic faults, the Shoreline, Hosgri, Los Oso and San Luis Bay. The Shoreline fault was only recently discovered; the Hosgri, located three miles from the plant, is the largest and most dangerous. It was discovered in the 1970s, after construction on Diablo Canyon was nearly complete. According to Peck, a 2011 Pacific Gas and Electric (PG& E) seismic study indicates all four faults are capable of producing significantly more “peak ground acceleration” (75% more in the case of San Luis Bay) than previously believed.

Citing these findings, Peck concludes that Diablo Canyon, based on the NRC’s own safety standards, lacks justification to continue operating. He’s asking the NRC to shut it down until PG&E can demonstrate that its piping, cooling and other systems can withstand higher stress levels than called for in its original design.

In 2012 when the NRC ruled Diablo Canyon could continue operating without reassessing its seismic safety, Peck filed a formal objection. In it he called for PG&E to be cited for violating safety standards. When his supervisors overruled him, he filed a second objection, triggering the current review.

Dave Lockbaum, from Union of Concerned Scientists, supports Peck’s position. He has researched four decades of records when the NRC, and its predecessor the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), faced similar situations. In all prior cases, the NRC/AEC disallowed nuclear facilities to operate with similar unresolved earthquake protection issues. For example, in March 1979—two weeks prior to the Three Mile Island accident—the NRC ordered a handful of nuclear power reactors to shut down and remain shut down until earthquake analysis and protection concerns were corrected.

Diablo Canyon Up for Re-licensing

Diablo Canyon is currently licensed to operate until 2025. In 2009, PG&E applied for a 20 year license extension. The re-licensing process was suspended immediately following the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Japan’s magnitude 8.9 earthquake, which was far larger than believed possible, knocked out Fukushima’s power and cooling systems, causing three core meltdowns. This led the NRC to require US nuclear power plants to re-evaluate seismic risks. These reports are due by March 2015.

Friends of the Earth has petitioned the NRC  to intervene in the Diablo Canyon’s re-licensing proceedings.

According to FOE senior adviser Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth: “It’s now clear that Diablo Canyon could never get a license to be built at its current Central Coast site. The NRC must consider this seismic data as part of public licensing hearings.”

A Question of Magnitude

Predictably PGE, via their spokesperson Blair Jones, disagrees. Jones maintains the NRC has “exhaustively analyzed” earthquake threats for Diablo Canyon and demonstrated it’s seismically safe. According to Jones, the core issue involving earthquake ground motions was resolved forty years ago with seismic retrofitting (Diablo Canyon was originally designed to withstand a 6.75 earthquake – with the upgrade it can supposedly withstand a 7.5 earthquake). The obvious assumption being that none of the four faults surround Diablo Canyon could cause a 7.6 magnitude or higher earthquake.

PG&E’s position is understandable, as nuclear power plants aren’t cost effective to begin with. They only become profitable with massive taxpayer subsidies. If the NRC requires quire them to retrofit Diablo Canyon to current earthquake standards, a permanent shutdown is highly likely. In 1976, the Humbolt Bay nuclear power plant in northern California, which was within 3,000 yards of three faults, was shut down to reinforce its ability to withstand possible earthquakes. Retrofitting it became more difficult and costly than projected and it never re-opened.

Our Non-regulating Regulatory Agencies

A Fukushima-style earthquake and meltdown at Diablo Canyon could wipe out agriculture in California and parts of the Midwest for centuries. Yet like many federal regulatory agencies, the NRC is more concerned about protecting PG&E’s bottom line than the health, safety and food security of the American public.

Michael Peck, who holds a doctorate in nuclear engineering is presently a senior instructor at NRC’s Technical Training Center in Tennessee.

photo credit: NRCgov via photopin cc