(Reading time: 6 - 12 minutes)
No Dumping, Drains to Ocean
Image: Matt Capriglioni, Flickr, CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

In this eighth installment of our Nuclear Spring Series, I wanted to discuss and dispel some myths about the recent headlines concerning the release of more than 1,000,000 tons of radioactive water from Fukushima Dai-ichi. This decision, according to the New York Times, was approved last week by the government of Japan. Claiming that these discharges would be harmless, Japan’s government said that Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) had no other alternative but to dump highly toxic water into the Pacific.

So, here we go again, just as TEPCO and the Japanese government tried to claim that everything was fine after Fukushima and contended for weeks that there was no meltdown, they are at it again.

Now, Japan’s government has teamed up with TEPCO once more, covering up the consequences of the extraordinary amounts of radioactivity they plan to unleash upon the world.

No matter what TEPCO and Japan claim,  dumping more than one million tons of radioactive liquid into the Pacific is one more death knell to the ocean, to its aquatic life, and to other countries where it will end up.

Such an approach is a blatant disregard for all life on our small and interconnected Planet Earth. And a move like this also sets a legal precedent that will open the door to allow countries worldwide to decimate the international environment; however, they wish with no limits to whom they hurt or how.

For Japan’s business world, this is anything but new. Just like Japan did with “Pluto-kun, our reliable friend” in 1993, they developed a cute little cartoon character called “Little Mr. Tritium” to assure the world that releasing more than one million tons of radioactive water into the Pacific is safe!

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TEPCO and the Japanese government would have the world believe that saturating the Pacific Ocean with Tritium and other radioactive isotopes is not harmful, just as Japan’s government tried to do in 1993 with its claim Plutonium is our friend!

In 1993: The Japanese Government created the Plutonium Story, highlighting all the supposed advantages of plutonium, featuring a cute little character called Pluto-kun, our reliable friend. Did they not know that in Greek mythology, Pluto is the God of Hell?

Pluto-kun, or Little Mr. Pluto, who appeared in the mid-1990s to soften the image of plutonium on behalf of Japan's nuclear industry. With his cherubic face and green helmet bearing the chemical symbol for plutonium, Pluto-kun fell out of favour after an appearance in an animated educational film in which a boy downs a glass of plutonium, with no apparent ill-effects.

The complete translation by Norma Field is posted in the references. (1)

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Yes, it is unfortunate, but this is how a world in the thrall of corporations acts. Typically large corporations and governments hire expensive public relations (PR) firms to present their profit-making schemes as favorably as possible to the public. These professional PR spin doctors have learned that the earliest presentation of an issue gets the headlines and controls the public dialogue, which is called framing an argument. Being first to speak out is better than being right in the PR world. She/He who controls the framing of the dialogue wins the fight. 

Let’s quickly look at few examples of how corporations and governments have framed volatile issues during other critical environmental incidents:

  1. 1979:  Bill Gross, Three Mile Island PR representative, read a statement on the morning of the meltdown (10:20 AM,3/28/1979) saying that radioactive monitoring teams have found nothing on or off-site.

  2. 2010: "I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest,” Tony Hayward, head of British Petroleum, said during the Deep Water Horizon oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico. (2)

  3. 2011:  Fukushima’s reactors crippled in Japan's earthquake and tsunami are now in a "cold shutdown," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on December 16, 2011. 

    “Today, we have reached a great milestone,” Mr. Noda said in a televised address to the nation. “The reactors are stable, which should resolve one big cause of concern for us all.”

  4. 2014:  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised that the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant was “under control” in his successful pitch for Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

Their latest claim that these releases are harmless and are necessary is based upon three false premises.

First, it is wrong that TEPCO will remove all the radiation in that water except for tritium.  While we note that more than 1,000,000 tons of water have been filtered, those filters cannot capture all the radiation. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, in Falmouth, Massachusetts, United States, has also expressed the same concern

… in addition to tritium, more dangerous isotopes with longer radioactive lifetimes, such as ruthenium, cobalt, strontium, and plutonium, sometimes slip through the ALPS process, something TEPCO only acknowledged in 2018. The company now says these additional nuclides are present in 71% of the tanks. “These radioactive isotopes behave differently than tritium in the ocean and are more readily incorporated into marine biota or seafloor sediments,” says Ken Buesseler, a marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The government official says the Fukushima water will be “repurified” to meet regulatory standards for these nuclides. Buesseler notes that those limits were put in place for operational nuclear power plants, not for the deliberate release of contaminated water from a nuclear disaster. “Would this open the door for any country to release radioactive waste to the ocean that is not part of normal operations?” he asks.

Of course, the second falsehood is that tritium is harmless. Claiming that tritium is harmless is a willful atomic industry myth to cover up the fact that tritium crosses the placental barrier and can damage babies in utero and how much internal damage it does inside any person or species. Long time Fairewinds’ followers will remember that we covered this issue in-depth precisely five years ago in an interview entitled Tritium Exposé (April 18, 2016) with renowned scientist Ian Fairlie. You can listen to that podcast here!  

Fairewinds and Dr. Fairlie are not the only scientists to identify the hazards of tritium. See more at the bottom of this blogpost!

And finally, the third falsehood that TEPCO is running out of land and has no place to put more water storage tanks is a shameless lie. Look at this photograph of the contaminated ground surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi site. The photo makes it evident that TEPCO has plenty of land to construct more storage tanks adjacent to the tanks they already have built. TEPCO and the government of Japan simply do not want to spend more money to clean up the lethal Fukushima radioactive water and prefer instead to share their misery and despoil the Pacific Ocean. (See photo HERE.)

Fortunately, Japanese citizens, scientists, and the global community expressed serious concerns about using the Pacific Ocean as the personal garbage dump of the Japanese government and TEPCO.

“It seems the government’s desire to release the water into the sea takes priority over everything,” Katsuo Watanabe, an 82-year-old Fukushima fisher, told the Kyodo news agency. “The gap between the gravity of the problems we face and the levity of the character is huge.”

Riken Komatsu, a local writer, tweeted: “If the government thinks it can get the general public to understand just by creating a cute character, it is making a mockery of risk communication.”

There remains a chance to stop this environmental injustice before the releases begin through public pressure and legal action.

 Fairewinds water truck 300

 Oh, by the way, we wanted to put 1,000,000 tons into perspective. 

The math: one million tons is two billion pounds. This truck carries 5,000 gallons, or about 40,000 pounds of water. 2B/40,000= 50,000 truckloads.

That’s a lot of truckloads.


ToxicOceans RalphEarlandson CC BY NC 600

Photo:  Flickr. Caption added.~ Ed

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1.) The Plutonium Story: Pluto-kun ((suffix used for little boys, male juniors)), our reliable friend—translated by Dr. Norma Field:

“Hi, everybody. I'm your buddy Pluto-kun. Everybody seems to think of me like a scary ghost. 

(1)People think I can be turned into a bomb. It's really a shame that I was used as a tool of war, turned into an atomic weapon. But I hate war! I love working for peace. Think about dynamite, invited by Alfred Nobel. It's dangerous, but it can be useful, too. That's how I want to be. I want to tell you the true story of Pu today. But for that, you need Pu enriched to 93%

(2)That I'm such a toxic substance, like potassium cyanide, that you die right away if you drink me; I emit alpha rays (not particles?) for a long time--can be blocked with a sheet of paper. If you touch it, you can wash it off; if it gets into your stomach or intestines, most of it will be eliminated (words on screen commonly used to describe the pleasant sensation that high-fiber foods give you); but if it gets into the bloodstream, you can't get rid of it easily; it'll get into your lymph glands, then your liver, and emit alpha rays from there; it can also get into your lungs; some of it will be exhaled, but not all--from there, it could get into your bones and liver and emit alpha rays for a long time. The most important thing--don't get Pu in your blood, don't breathe it in. From 6:17--since there's no evidence that internalized Pu has resulted in cancer, we've relied on experimental data from animals. These show that there's a possibility that cancer might result from internalized Pu years, if not decades later. We do have evidence that radium can cause cancer, but we don't have a single case that Pu has caused cancer. (Back to Pu speaking): there are strict standards for how I should be handled. So it's unthinkable (the same word repeated about the F1 disaster having caused all those pediatric thyroid cancers) that I should have any effect on the human body. 7:19 Let's suppose some bad guys throw me into a reservoir. I don't dissolve easily in water. I'm also heavy, so most of me will sink to the bottom. 7:33 Even if, by some chance, you drink me, most of it will not be absorbed by the stomach or intestines but will be excreted/eliminated. But people keep emphasizing just my dangerous features and use me as a threat. Because people don't have the correct information about me--they just emphasize atomic bombs, radioactivity, and other scary things.  Once people realize that's like a made-up ghost, no one will use me to threaten people.

Pu is most efficient for the new model of fast-breeder reactor (Monju, which has hardly ever run, is an outrageous expensive disaster, a challenge to ... decommission?). This makes our energy future a bright one, filled with hope. That's how I'm going to be useful for you. I'm not a ghost--please look at my true form.  I've been used for Voyager, too, to explore Jupiter. If you deal with me in a peaceful, warmhearted way, I'm not dangerous and I'm not scary. I'm going to be providing you with energy for a long, long time-- a reliable buddy for you.”

2.) Page 232, Poisoned Legacy, The Human Cost of BP’s Rise to Power, by  Mike Magner, St. Martin’s Press, 2011


Fairewinds ArnieMaggie Arn2BmagFairewinds Energy Education is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2008 by Maggie Gundersen, journalist, paralegal, and former atomic power industry spokesperson. Maggie is the president of Fairewinds Energy Education as well as a member of the Board of Directors. Her husband nuclear engineer and expert witness Arnie Gundersen is the chief engineer for Fairewinds Associates, Inc, paralegal services and expert testimony firm as well as a member of Fairewinds Energy Education’s Board of Directors. Other Fairewinds Energy Education Board members are: Chiho Kaneko, Robert Manning, and Thomas Pound.

We have designed our website to be a hub for fact-based, undistorted information about nuclear power in order to fulfill our mission to inform and educate people around the world, legislative officials, and members of the press concerning the scientific and economic issues relating to the production of electricity and the sources of energy used to create power. 

Fairewinds Energy Education publishes under a Creative Commons license.  CC BY NC SA  In re-posting "TEPCO Aims for Cheap & Quick Fukushima Waste Dump in Pacific" from Fairewinds' "Nuclear Spring" series, the introductory photo was replaced with a substitute by Matt Capriglione, one photo was omitted (but linked to) and the final article photo was substituted with a Flickr photo. Read the original article here.  

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