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FUKUSHIMA – An Unstopable Slow Motion Disaster

The image below is the most recent Fukushima radioactivity distribution map of the Pacific ocean. It speaks for itself of the scale of this disaster. Why isn’t this more in the news?  What is our government doing for us?

FukushimPacific Map 2013

TEPCO, the operators of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, can’t stop radiation from leaking into the Pacific Ocean. They are keeping the melted cores cool by pumping in fresh water, then storing the radioactive hot water in storage tanks. There are about a thousand tanks holding this radioactive cooling water on site, and they just keep adding more tanks.  Meanwhile, there appear to be things happening to these tanks. Radiation levels in some tanks are rising.  TEPCO had eight workers assigned to inspect and manage the tanks. That means, if they each took 15 minutes to inspect a tank, it would take over a week to inspect all the tanks. Now, as a result of the radiation levels being 18 times higher than they thought it was, they have hired 50 more people to look after these storage tanks. (See article below)

In addition to the storage tank problems and the unending addition of more tanks to capture the radioactive cooling water being pumped in and out of the reactor cores, there are cracks in the floor of the containment buildings leaking radioactive material directly into the Pacific. There are no viable plans to stop these leaks.  There is also the impending disaster of the elevated spent fuel rod storage tanks that are at risk of collapsing.

ADDENDUM: One day after this post a new BBC news story [ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23940214 ] reported Japan will spend $470 million on a plan to freeze the ground between the reactor and the Pacific Ocean. It is hoped this frozen wall will contain the radio active water leaking from the reactor containment tanks. Well holes would be drilled into the ground at certain intervals and cooling pipes connected to a massive refrgeration plant would be inserted into the holes to freeze the ground along the shore.  If the heated water leaking from the reactors doesn’t defeat the cooling system, it seems to me that the wall would actually function more like a damn and would only work if the geology under the plant is just perfect for this containment method. Being a seismically active area, this seems unlikely, but we shall see.

Fukushima radiation levels 18 times higher than previously thought

Operator of Japanese nuclear power plant claims there has been no leak but has yet to discover cause of radiation spike

theguardian.com, Sunday 1 September 2013 05.22 EDT

water tanks at the Fukushima nuclear power plant leak

A Tepco employee in protective clothing works around water tanks at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in June. Photograph: Noboru Hashimoto/EPA

Radiation levels 18 times higher than previously reported have been found near a water storage tank at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing fresh concern about the safety of the wrecked facility.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), said radiation near the bottom of the tank measured 1,800 millisieverts an hour – high enough to kill an exposed person in four hours. Tepco said water levels inside the tank had not changed, indicating there had not been a leak. But the company said it had yet to discover the cause of the radiation spike.

Last month Tepco said another storage tank – of the same design as the container causing concern at the weekend – had leaked 300 tonnes of radioactive water, possibly into the sea.

Japan‘s nuclear watchdog confirmed last week it had raised the severity of that leak from level 1, an “anomaly”, to level 3, a “serious incident”, on an eight-point scale used by the International Atomic Energy Agency for radiological releases.

Earlier, the utility belatedly confirmed reports that a toxic mixture of groundwater and water being used to cool melted fuel lying deep inside the damaged reactors was seeping into the sea at a rate of about 300 tonnes a day.

Experts said those leaks, which are separate from the most recent incidents, may have started soon after the plant was struck by a powerful tsunami on 11 March 2011.

The tsunami smashed into the plant after Japan’s north-east coast was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake. The waves killed almost 19,000 people, while the resulting triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi forced 160,000 people to abandon their homes.

The high radiation levels announced on Sunday highlighted the dangers facing thousands of workers as they attempt to contain, treat and store water safely, while preventing fuel assemblies damaged in the accident from going back into meltdown.

Japan’s nuclear workers are allowed an annual accumulative radiation exposure of 50 millisieverts. Tepco said radiation of 230 millisieverts an hour had been measured at another tank, up from 70 millisieverts last month. A third storage tank was emitting 70 millisieverts an hour, Tepco said. Radiation near a pipe connecting two other tanks had been measured at 230 millisieverts.

Tepco admitted recently that only two workers had initially been assigned to check more than 1,000 storage tanks on the site. Neither of the workers carried dosimeters to measure their exposure to radiation, and some inspections had not been properly recorded.

The firm responded to growing criticism of its handling of the water problem by increasing the number of workers patrolling the tanks from the current total of eight to 50.

The firm’s inability to safely store contaminated water and prevent more damage to the environment has prompted doubts about its ability to lead the Fukushima Daiichi cleanup. Decommissioning the plant is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars and last around 40 years.

Tepco recently set up a committee to focus on the water leaks and said it would seek advice from foreign decommissioning experts. The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has said the government will play a bigger role in preventing water contamination.

The chairman of the country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, Shunichi Tanaka, said: “We cannot fully stop contaminated water leaks right away. That’s the reality. The water is still leaking in to the sea, and we should better assess its environmental impact.”

Tepco’s handling of the leaks has drawn an angry response from local fishermen, who had to abandon plans to conduct a trial catch at the end of August. Fishermen south of Fukushima Daiichi have not been able to fish commercially since the disaster, while those north of the plant can catch only octopus and whelks.

“We think that contaminated water management by your company has completely fallen apart,” Hiroshi Kishi, chairman of the Japan Fisheries Co-operative, told Tepco’s president, Naomi Hirose, during a meeting in Tokyo last week.

“This has dealt an immeasurable blow to the future of Japan’s fishing industry, and we are extremely concerned.”


Despite Flaws, We May Be The Model For Pluralistic Societies

The story which follows supports a theory of mine that the UnitedState, with its highly diverse population, and despite all our ethnic and racial bias, may still be the most social advanced nation with respect to the development of a pluralistic society. Pluralistic societies, to the extent of ours here in America, are a relatively recent development. Our founding fathers were thefirst to build a nation based on principles and ideals instead of geographic population and culture.  This was, and is, a gift to human progress.


European nationality remains primarily based on geography and the resulting cultural diversity that historical isolation once allowed. What would happen, for example, if migration patterns resulted in the majority of the Germans being from various other cultures?  While we have a long way to go in becoming a truly pluralistic society, we have a two-hundred year head start over most other countries.  Unfortunately, there are those here who would undo this progress but the long arch of history is not on their side.

Greece: Halt Mass Migrant Round-Ups

Discriminatory Police Sweeps Violate Rights

AUGUST 8, 2012


(London) – The Greek authorities’ ongoing sweeps targeting suspected migrants based on little more than their physical appearance violate international standards, Human Rights Watch said today. Since August 4, 2012, more than 6,000 foreigners presumed to be undocumented migrants have been taken into police stations for questioning, and more than 1,500 arrested for illegal entry and residence with a view to deportation to their countries of origin.
Greece has the right to enforce its immigration laws, and after a fair process, to deport people with no legal basis to stay in the country”, said Benjamin Ward, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division at Human Rights Watch. “But it doesn’t have the right to treat people like criminals or to presume irregular immigration status just because of their race or ethnicity.”

Greek police must have specific cause to stop and question people beyond the appearance of their national origin. Mass expulsions are strictly prohibited under international law. Greece is also legally bound not to return refugees to persecution or anyone to risk of torture. Yet Greece has failed to demonstrate its capacity even to receive asylum claims, let alone to process and decide them fairly, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch and others have also documented inhuman and degrading conditions in Greek migrant detention facilities. While enforcing its immigration laws, Greece needs to be scrupulous in respecting the basic human rights of migrants.  Greece should not discriminate based on race or ethnicity and should not subject migrants to arbitrary detention, inhuman and degrading treatment or to summary removal without due process of law. Greece should also provide effective remedies to those in need of protection.

With its deep economic crisis, and after years of mismanaged migration and asylum policies, anti-migrant sentiment has grown in Greece. A far-right party entered parliament for the first time in 2012 elections. A recent Human Rights Watch report showed that xenophobic violence in Greece has reached alarming proportions, with gangs regularly attacking migrants and asylum seekers. The attackers are rarely arrested, and police inaction is the rule.

“Greek police have a duty to protect all foreigners from violence, just as they do Greek citizens”, Ward said. “These sweeps are a dangerous distraction from the real policing challenges the country faces.”

U.S. Drops to 12th Place on Global Prosperity and Well Being Index

How prosperous is the United States compared with other nations?  The latest Prosperity Index is out, and the news for America is disappointing.   The U.S. fell to 12th place in the world, just behind Luxembourg and Ireland.  Partisan and ideologically driven arguments should to be set aside for the moment as we analyze and assess this data.  We should take this finding as a challenge to be solved by appealing to our strengths as a nation.   In the coming months I will be exploring various aspects effecting our national prosperity.  I invite the readers of this blog to check back periodically to see what I uncover.

The 2012 Legatum Global Prosperity Index of Wealth and Well Being


The just released Global Prosperity Index finds the United States has fallen to 12th place in the world. This is the first time the US has not been in the top 10 group.  The Index is based on the Dubai-based Legatum Institute’s assessment of prosperity based on both material wealth and personal wellbeing in 142 different countries, in eight categories ranging from the economy and entrepreneurship to health and personal freedom. The top 25 nations ranking is as follows:

Prosperity Index
1 – Norway
2 – Denmark
3 – Sweden
4 – Australia
5 – New Zealand
6 – Canada
7 – Finland
8 – Netherlands
9 – Switzerland
10 – Ireland
11 – Luxembourg
12 – U.S.
13 – UK
14 – Germany
15 – Iceland
16 – Austria
17 – Belgium
18 – Hong Kong
19 – Singapore
20 – Taiwan
21 – France
22 – Japan
23 – Spain
24 – Slovenia
25 – Malta

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2227334/Scandinavian-countries-list-worlds-prosperous-nations–U-S-drops-time.html#ixzz2BCCN6dJl

There are eight categores by which national prosperity is judged.  The United States scored as follows on these eight categories:

Ranking    Catigory
20         Economy
12         Entrepreneurship /Opportunity
10         Governance
5         Education
2         Health
27        Safety/Security
14        Personal Freedom
10        Social Capital

U.S. Global Business Competitiveness Slipping

The World Economic Forum published a study on global business competitiveness that ranks 144 nations according to indicators in 12 categories.  We American’s sometimes inflate our greatness among nations.  With respect to our Militarily this is justified.  The United States represent nearly half of the worlds total military capability.  But on measures of national well being, ecology, human rights, health care, press freedom and many other critical areas we often fall short in comparison to other advanced nations.

Given how highly our politics regards U.S. business interests, you might assume our global business competitiveness makes us number one in the world.  Keep in mind as you read on that many of the specific measures that make businesses competitive are not in the best interest of ordinary citizens.  Business interests and  social interests are sometime opposed.

The business competitiveness  study categories and where the United States ranks:

          CATIGORY                                                            RANK  (Out of 144)

1.   Institutions         42
2.   Infrastructure       14
3.   Macroeconomic Environment     111
4.   Health and Primary Education      34
5.   Higher Education and Training        8
6.   Goods Market Efficiency       23
7.   Labor Market Efficiency         6
8.   Financial Market Development        16
9.   Technological Readiness       11
10.  Market Size            1
11.  Business Sophistication       10
12.  Innovation           6

Overall, the United States is very competitive, ranking 7th out of 144 nations.  This is a decline from last year, however, when we were 5th out of 142 countries.  Major reasons for the overall low marks can be found in our Macroeconomic situation, primarily our  government budge imbalance and huge national debt on which we were ranked 140th and 136th respectively .  Our gross national savings is also very low, with a rank of 114th in the world.  Still, confidence in America’s credit rating remains high, 89.4%, or 11th among the nations.

Looking at our strengths and weaknesses, in the Institutions category our top ranking was 5th in investor protections.  Our next highest rankings were in efficiency of corporate boards (23rd), intellectual property protection and ethical behavior of firms (both ranked 29th).  Our lowest ranking was on the business cost of terrorism (124th). Next lowest rankings were in the business cost of crime and violence, and the business cost of organized crime (86th and 87th).

We did better in Infrastructure.  We ranked 1st in available airline seats and 15th in telephone land lines.  Interestingly, mobile phone subscriptions were our lowest indicator (72nd) followed by the quality of our electric supply (33rd in the world).  Our transportation infrastructure didn’t fair much better (30th).

In the category of Health and Primary Education we had no malaria impact on businesses (1st) but the prevalence and business impact of HIV was high ranking the US 92nd and 90th in the world.  Also surprising was our low ranking on primary school enrollments (58th), infant mortality (41st) and the quality of our primary education (38th).

In Higher Education and Training we are doing well in post-secondary education (2nd) and the availability of research and training opportunities (9th).  We ranked 47th in secondary school enrollment and the quality of our math and science education.

In Goods and Market Efficiency we rank 9 and 10 in market dominance and buyer sophistication.  Our worst ranking is on the business tax rate to profit ration (103rd).

In the area of Labor Efficiency we apparently have  the lowest labor redundancy costs in the world (1st) and our hiring and firing practices are also great for business (8th).  The labor redundancy variable estimates the cost of advance notice requirements, severance payments, and penalties due when terminating a redundant worker. We also ranked 5th in the brain drain measure and 8th in the efficiency of our hiring and firing practices.  Our low rankings here were in the women to men ratio in the work force (we ranked 44th) and our cooperation in labor-employer relations (42nd) , perhaps no surprise give our ease and thrift in firing people).

In the Financial Market Development category we are very competitive in the availability of venture capital (10th) but weak on the strength of our banking institutions (80th).  Regarding the regulation of security and exchange, we also ranked low (39th) although it is unclear if this means we are over or under regulated.

In the area of Technological Readiness we ranked 8th in the number of internet subscribers yet 20th in the percentage of individuals using the internet.  We rank lowest, (43rd) on foreign direct investment and technology transfer.

Market Size, we remain number one in domestic market size (we buy more things) and number two in foreign market size.

In the category of  Business Sophistication we are third in the extent of marketing and ranked in the low teens on other measures, such as production process (13th) and local supplier quality/quantity (14th).

When it comes to Innovation, The United States is still doing very well.  We are ranked in the single digits on most measures, including University-industry collaboration in R&D (3rd), Availability of scientists and engineers (5th), Quality of scientific research institutions (6th), Capacity for innovation and Availability of scientists and engineers (both ranked 7th).  Our lowest ranking in this area was in government procurement of advanced tech products (15th).

Read more at:   http://reports.weforum.org/global-competitiveness-report-2012-2013/