Wednesday, March 30, 2011




EPA Plans to Reduce Cleanup of Nuclear Fallout Now
“No rest for the wicked!" Says EPA Employee With a Smile

by Michael Kane
(Special to CollapseNet)

© Copyright 2011 CollapseNetwork, Inc.   (Please Distribute Widely)

[Long time readers will remember Michael Kane from his years of writing for From The Wilderness where he proved himself a fearless investigative journalist. Michael also contributed a chapter to my book “Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. It’s nice to see him in the field again. – MCR]

March 24, 2011, 12:30 EDT, NEW YORK CITY In the wake of the continuing nuclear tragedy in Japan, the United States government is still moving quickly to increase the amounts of radiation the population can “safely” absorb by raising the safe zone for exposure to levels designed to protect the government and nuclear industry more than human life. It’s all about cutting costs now as the infinite-growth paradigm sputters and moves towards extinction. As has been demonstrated by government conduct in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Deepwater Horizon and in Japan, life has taken a back seat to cost-cutting and public relations posturing.

The game plan now appears to be to protect government and the nuclear industry from “excessive costs”… at any cost.

Protective Action Guides , or PAGs as they are called by the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ), are used to enforce the law following any incident involving the release of radioactive material. If there were a dirty bomb attack in America or nuclear meltdown, how would the EPA interpret the Clean Water Act? How would it interpret a whole suite of laws that impact upon our food, water and soil? As with the incredibly toxic pollution which has claimed many lives of 9-11 responders, the sole decision about what is safe is an administrative EPA process shielded from public scrutiny.

In 1992, the EPA produced a PAGs manual that answers many of these questions. But now an update to the 1992 manual is being planned, and if the “Dr. Strangelove” wing of the EPA has its way, here is what it means (brace yourself for these ludicrous increases):
  •  A nearly 1000-fold increase for exposure to strontium-90;
  • A 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for exposure to iodine-131; and
  • An almost 25,000 rise for exposure to radioactive nickel-63.i
The new radiation guidelines would also allow long-term cleanup thresholds thousands of times more lax than anything EPA has ever judged safe in the past. Under long-established EPA policy, in conformity with long-accepted international standards on “acceptable” amounts of radiation these proposed changes would increase the permissible amounts of radiation to levels where 25% of those exposed to these “new acceptable levels” would develop cancer based on the EPA’s own numbers.ii

And the scariest part is that once the EPA publishes the changes in the Federal Register, it is a done deal. EPA deliberations are not discussed in public or debated in Congress. There is only a public comment period after the new PAGs are published. But it could be said that the EPA is notorious for ignoring what the public has to say during such comment periods.

These insane changes are nothing new. In the final days of the Bush Administration, the “Dr. Strangelove” wing of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was preparing to dramatically increase permissible radioactive releases in drinking water, food and soil after “radiological incidents.”

Radiological incidents include both reactor incidents at power plants and dirty bomb attacks.
This psychotic move was stopped in the eleventh hour in 2009 by a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER ) who submitted two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. When the EPA was not forthcoming with all of the documentation, PEER sued obtaining the desired docs and winning $12,000 in lawyer fees. They thought that was the end of it.iii
Right now there is another push within the EPA to resurrect this agenda. Many mid and upper-level managers currently at EPA were working for the agency under Bush and are, in fact Bush-Cheney era appointees.
One such person is Sara DeCair, a health physicist with the EPA’s Office of Radiation and Indoor Air since 2003. She is currently one of those rewriting the standards.

In an internal EPA email that was obtained by PEER, DeCair explains that the Head Administrator of the EPA, Lisa P. Jackson , had given the green light to go forward with these changes sometime in the beginning of May, 2010. In that email, which was time-stamped 05/06/2010 04:35 PM EDT, DeCair ominously wrote the following:

“We have noticed that she (Lisa P. Jackson) does not like any delay between deciding a thing and moving forward. No rest for the wicked, I like to say! Thank you :)” (emphasis added)iv (see below)

Notice how Sara DeCair closes the email with a smiley face. Why didn’t she just go ahead and throw in a  LOL or LMFAO ? No rest for the wicked, indeed.

Not all in EPA agreed to the Draconian changes. There is an internal battle being fought, but it appears – based on the email obtained by PEER which is published at the end of this report – that the battle may have already been won since Lisa P. Jackson has seemingly given the green light.

Jackson is the Head Administrator of EPA. The final decision rests with her and President Obama. While it seems she may have already been swayed by the Dr. Strangelove wing of her agency, she needs to be swayed back down to reality on planet earth with the rest of us.

Here is Jackson’s email address:
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Email Lisa P. Jackson and tell her you are outraged that she seems to have given the green light to this horrific EPA plan. Demand that she stops the process and fires Sara DeCair for putting a smiley face on serving the corporate interest over the public interest.

Email or call Sara DeCair here: decair.sara@epa.govThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   (202) 343-9713

Let DeCair know her words are being read and examined, and that you’ve emailed the Head Administrator of the EPA (Jackson), demanding DeCair be fired. Until these people know we are holding them accountable, they will hide in the shadows where they are most dangerous.

Reading the above-mentioned EPA email (provided at the end of this report) makes it clear that the agency has very little interest in protecting the environment but is consumed with its “communication strategy” to the power-players involved, most notably the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). They even state that DHS needs to be met with first “so that the DHS is not surprised when we begin the Interagency discussions.”
[Or maybe so that DHS can keep their personnel out of areas labeled safe for useless eaters. – MCR]

Act of Congress or Enforcement?

As I learned about this, my first question was, “Wait a minute. Isn’t this all about legislation? Wouldn’t such a change require an act of Congress?”

NO! This is all about enforcement, and enforcement rests with the executive branch, which in this case is the EPA. It is the EPA who decides in advance how laws will be enforced by the rest of government.

And these decisions are hammered out in backroom deals so concealed from the public that members of the EPA itself feel comfortable giving their work the tagline of “no rest for the wicked” with a smiley face in communications where they are attempting to fast-track a process that would jeopardize millions of lives and risk further injury to our obviously unstable environment.

Federal Register

Published by the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Federal Register is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents.v

The EPA will be publishing their update of PAGs in the Federal Register once clearance has been given by the EPA’s Head Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, and, of course, by President Obama. Once that happens, it is effectively game-over. So stopping the new PAGs before they make it to the Federal Register is imperative.
How much time is there to stop it? That’s hard to say because it is not a public process. The only time we get a glimpse as to the rollout plans of the EPA is when groups like PEER are successful with FOIA requests for internal documents.

According to Jeff Ruch, the Executive Director of PEER (, his organization currently has yet another FOIA request in process that should result in the disclosure of all of the EPA’s documents in this regard. Originally the request was put in while the documents were still in draft form, so a follow-up was required. Ruch anticipates that all documentation will be provided in fairly short time.

PEER’s plan is to air those documents in full daylight and let them speak for themselves. Ruch feels confident that – in light of the crisis in Japan – the EPA will have no choice but to back off of this redrafting of PAGs (for the time being).
Bridge The Gap

The overwhelming majority of the above information was provided to CollapseNet by Jeff Ruch and PEER. Ruch got us in touch with Dan Hirsch, who is President of The Committee to Bridge the Gap. Ruch told CollapseNet that Hirsch and his organization were the main players opposing the EPA’s changing of PAGs.
In a phone interview with Hirsch, CollapseNet asked what he and those he worked with were planning to do to stop the EPA from making these life-threatening changes.

Hirsch indicated that he had planned to write to the Assistant Administrator of the EPA expressing concern that the PAGs had not been addressed properly and request another face-to-face meeting. Hirsch informed me he and his colleagues had met with EPA a year and a half ago in regards to their attempt to change the PAGs back at that time. Remember, this process began at the end of the Bush administration and has only recently resurfaced.

It took only a few minutes for Hirsch to state that all his PAGs work has been put on hold by the unfolding events in Japan. He has been consumed with trying to get the American government to deploy appropriate radiation monitors – which they do have, somewhere – into California to detect radioactive iodide from radioactive plumes possibly coming from Japan. No such deployment has occurred.

Hirsch said there were 12 monitors deployed in California and that only 5 of them are operational. None of them are capable of detecting radioactive iodide. Under standard operating procedures the samples would be sent to Georgia for processing and the results should be available 5 days later. But by that time the radioactive plume would no longer be in California so the data would be completely useless in helping to protect humans from being exposed to radiation.

The government does have monitors that can detect radioactive iodide instantly, but they have not been deployed in California as of this writing. CollapseNet told Hirsch that, based on what he was saying, it seemed like the federal government had no intent to detect radioactive iodide in time to prevent exposure.
“It certainly gives that impression,” responded Hirsch.

Worst Fears

It seems that the Strangelove-wing of the EPA is working so hard to change the PAGs it is as if the powerful are anticipating radiological disasters in America as inevitable. Anything is possible, and everything is conceivable in the continuing collapse of human industrial civilization.

i Interview with Jeff Ruch, Executive Director of PEER (, on March 17, 2011 at 4:45pm EST
See also|head
ii Ibid
iii Ibid
iv The email originating with Sara DeCair was sent to me via pdf attachment from Jeff Ruch on March 17, 2011, and has been published along with this report.  (see below)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Blogger's Note: I personally know Mark Crispin Miller(MCM) and Jonathan Simon, and I've heard Bob Fritakis speak a couple of times, including when he upstaged me by speaking just ahead of me at the National Election Reform Conference in Nashville, April 8-10, 2005. Jonathan is one of the smartest people I know and is the current director of the Election Defense Alliance. Jon, Bob, and I each wrote a chapter for the book edited by MCM entitled "Loser Take All -- Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy 2000 - 2008." You can order a copy from Amazon.

The following segments were recorded on March 19, 2011 at the Left Forum 2011 at Pace University, New York City. The workshop included
"The Rise of Electronic Voting, the Red Shift and the Question of Election Democracy" with * Lori Minnite—Barnard College * Mark Crispin Miller—New York University * Robert J. Fitrakis—Columbus State Community College * Jonathan Simon--Election Defense Alliance

Left Forum 2011 Election Democracy Part I: Lori Minnite

Left Forum 2011 Election Democracy Part II Bob Fitrakis

Left Forum 2011 Election Democracy Part III: Mark Crispin Miller

Left Forum 2011 Election Democracy Part IV: Jonathan Simon

Left Forum 2011 Election Democracy Part V: Jonathan Simon

Monday, March 28, 2011


March 28, 2011

Thousands protest in London against government spending cuts

As many as 500,000 protesters marched in London on Saturday to protest Britain’s deepest cuts to public spending since World War II. The protests come after U.K. officials estimated corporate taxes would be reduced even as it tackles a $235 billion deficit and plans to cut more than 300,000 public sector jobs. Meanwhile, in the United States protesters gathered in 40 cities on Saturday to oppose tax cuts for the wealthy amid budget cuts to public services. We broadcast a video report from the streets of London and speak to British journalist Johann Hari and Allison Kilkenny of Citizen Radio in New York. [Original w/ transcript]

London's Night Riot; Neglected Throw Bottles @ Police

Uploaded by 108morris108 on Mar 26, 2011

As evening fell, the people wanted to take over Trafalger Square, the way the Egyptians took over Tahrir square. The police were having none of it.

I mistakenly refer to everyone as RifRaf - but the ones showing violence to the Police look like society's neglected.
Two conclusions:
One: It is a fitting Kharma that the neglected ones should be the ones causing problems.
Two: Maybe they are actually the ones that start the real revolution.

Amidst all these troubles I can't help reflect on the amount of blood our leaders and their backers are soaked in.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Setback for Japan at Rogue Reactors


Tokyo Electric Power employees work to restore power at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

TOKYO—The regulator overseeing Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex on Saturday announced a sharp elevation in radioactive contamination had been detected in nearby seawater, furthering signs of distress at a plant where officials had cautioned of radioactive leaks near hobbled reactors the day before.

A spokesman said the spike in radioactive iodine—to 1,250 times the legal limit—didn't pose an immediate threat to human health or the area environment, since the material quickly dissipates in the tides and would become diluted before reaching fish and seaweed.

"Because nobody is engaged in fishery in the evacuation area within a radius of 20 kilometers [from the plant], there will be no immediate impact on people in the area," added Hidehiko Nishiyama, spokesman for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told reporters at a news conference Saturday morning.

But the news underscores that fact that, for all the progress claimed by officials over the past week, they have a long way to go in bringing Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s reactors under control and understanding exactly what is happening inside the compound.

Saturday's report came a day after efforts to repower key cooling systems at the plant slowed amid reports of highly radioactive water in puddles at the plant's troubled reactor No. 3, where workers came into contact with the water on Thursday and had to be hospitalized.

Mr. Nishiyama on Friday linked the radioactive puddles in plant No. 3 to a possible breach in pipes or ventilators leading to, but not inside, the vessels that surround the core at plant No. 3. Plant officials said later Friday that puddles at Nos. 1 and 2 also contained high levels of radiation.

The precise source of the radiation in the seawater—by air or by water—could yield clues about whether there is new, unanticipated damage in the complex.

Mr. Nishiyama on Saturday said officials weren't sure what caused the latest surge. "Radioactive substances may have been transmitted through the air, or contaminated water could have drained from the plant somehow," he said. "I don't have further ideas."

He also said officials were crafting a plan to deal with the poisonous puddles. "I have heard that [the operator] has an idea about a place to store water and is preparing" for drainage, he said.

The seawater reading announced Saturday compared with an earlier report that showed iodine at 126 times the legal limit. A person drinking half a liter of water with the latest level of contamination would be consuming 1 millisievert, the equivalent of a full year's acceptable consumption.

The plant's regulator said Saturday it had begun to drain puddles with high levels of radioactivity at the turbine building connected to the No. 1 reactor.

The agency and Tokyo Electric Power, or Tepco, are mulling ways to drain puddles in reactors 2 and 3, while examining the amount of water in those reactors, Mr. Nishiyama said.

Workers started spraying fresh water on a reactor pressure vessel at No. 2 reactor Saturday, switching from a last-resort measure in which seawater had been used to cool reactors, a process that has led experts to worry about the accumulation of crystallized salt in cooling pumps.

Among the plant's most immediate concerns is reactor No. 3, where the basement of the turbine building has partially flooded with water that officials said contained radiation levels 10,000 times as high as normal, according to official briefings.

Patients exposed to nuclear-plant radiation transferred on Friday.
"The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is still very grave," said Prime Minister Naoto Kan at a news conference. "We are still not at a stage where we can be optimistic."

Early Friday, Mr. Nishiyama said the radiation levels in the water at reactor No. 3 appeared to suggest there had been a breach to the reactor.

Later that day, he amended that view to say there was no indication that the structures around the fuel rods—the pressure vessel and the containment vessel that surrounds it—had been damaged. Rather, he said, damage to ventilators or pipes leading to those structures was believed to be responsible for the leak.

While a breach involving reactor No. 3 would already appear to represent the most significant radiation leak thus far at the plant, it would be less severe than any damage closer to the fuel rods.

Even so, Friday's report from the No. 3 complex foiled the completion a top-priority job, as officials sought to pinpoint where workers are being exposed to hazardous levels of radiation.

Workers at the six-reactor complex had hoped to connect the control room of the No. 2 unit to outside power and start cooling systems at the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 reactors by the end of Friday. Returning the plant's cooling pumps to stable functioning by Friday had been a priority for the government and Tepco.

"Radiation levels in some parts of the facilities are just stunning," said one official at Japan's nuclear regulator. "The work to fix the cooling system was made all the more difficult by the lack of information about where radiation is high inside the complex."

Officials said Friday they didn't know now when the cooling systems would come online. "We cannot say with certainty at this point in how many days all the reactors will be brought to a state of cold shutdown," or the cooling of a nuclear reactor to safe levels, said Mr. Nishiyama said Friday.

The setbacks came after a week in which workers at the plant appeared to make slow progress toward stabilizing the plant after Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out vital systems that cool nuclear fuel. High radiation levels, as well as difficulties in assessing and fixing damaged cooling equipment, have slowed efforts.

A week ago, much of the plant was still without power, control rooms were dark and temperatures were out of control in the pools holding spent nuclear fuel. Now, all the units are hooked up to the electric grid, all but one have lights on, and the temperatures in the pools have fallen. Mr. Nishiyama said he wanted to have the lights turned on at the last remaining dark control room Saturday.

"The amount of heat being generated by the core is declining.... Now physics is on their side. Last weekend it was against them," said Murray Jennex, an associate professor at San Diego State University, who worked in the commercial nuclear industry for 17 years. "The longer they go without anything major happening, the better."

Go to original to play these features.
Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Friday the U.S. has offered to provide fresh water for the cooling operations. A U.S. military spokesman in Japan said that as an initial step, the U.S. military plans to ship 525,000 gallons of fresh water on two Navy barges from a base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo.

Japan's government also said Friday it would begin helping evacuate people who live just beyond the "no-go" zone that surrounds the plant. The government has said it isn't considering officially broadening its 12-mile evacuation zone around the nuclear complex. But a state monitoring body this week released estimates that suggested radiation in some areas just outside the zone had reached levels deemed harmful to infants in the long term. People in the zone from 12 to 18 miles (20 to 30 kilometers) of the plant are also suffering shortages of everyday goods.

Underscoring the worries about a drawn-out recovery process, the government said it would begin helping evacuate people who live between 12 miles and 18 miles from the plant. Those people are currently being advised to stay indoors. The U.S. government has recommended a 50-mile (80-kilometer) exclusion zone.

More than a quarter million people have been evacuated overall in Japan following the March 11 twin natural disasters. On Friday, Japan's National Police Agency said 10,102 people had been confirmed dead and 17,053 were missing.

The Fukushima Daiichi accident is currently rated 5 on a seven-level international scale of nuclear accidents. That is the same as the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, meaning there was a release of radiation to the environment. The 1986 Chernobyl accident was a 7. Mr. Nishiyama of the nuclear regulator left open the possibility of raising the number after more data are available.

"Five is too low, given the severity of radiation in areas around the nuclear complex," said Masako Sawai of the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, an antinuclear group in Tokyo. "The government is either underestimating the crisis or avoiding looking at it squarely."

—Chester Dawson and Stephen Power contributed to this article.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Daily Bail

We Are Not Able To Measure The Amount Of Radiation Coming From The Power Plant

Uploaded by MoxNewsDotCom on Mar 23, 2011

March 23, 2011 CNN

Radiation Alert: Black smoke at Fukushima, contamination fears in Tokyo

Uploaded by RussiaToday on Mar 23, 2011

High levels of radiation have reached Tokyo following the accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant. People in the capital have been told not to drink tap water. The country's struggle to resolve its nuclear crisis has again been stalled, with workers at the Fukushima plant evacuated after black smoke emerged from one of its reactors. RT's Igor Ogorodnev is in the Japanese capital for us.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Yesterday, the Japanese government admitted that 30 kilometers outside [Fukushima]—not an evacuated zone—a person could have been exposed to as much as 100 millisieverts of radiation ...twice the amount of the evacuation threshold established by the IAEA and WHO."


March 24, 2011

Radioactivity in Food, Water Sparks Fears of Widespread Contamination in Japan

Japan is facing growing fears as radiation leaking from the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station has contaminated food and water supplies. Bottled water was in short supply across Tokyo after Japanese authorities warned that tap water is too dangerous for consumption by infants. Thousands of people remain without potable water in areas of northern Japan ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami. We speak with Aileen Mioko Smith of Kyoto-based Green Action, one of Japan’s leading voices challenging the production, commerce and transport of nuclear material, and calling for sustainable energy policies. [Original w/ transcript]

Aileen Mioko Smith, director of Kyoto-based Green Action. She is one of Japan’s leading voices challenging the production, commerce and transport of nuclear material, and calling for sustainable energy policies.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


March 22, 2011

"You Get 3,500,000 the Normal Dose. You Call That Safe? And What Media Have Reported This? None!"

What They're Covering Up at Fukushima


Introduced by Douglas Lummis


Hirose Takashi has written a whole shelf full of books, mostly on the nuclear power industry and the military-industrial complex.  Probably his best known book is  Nuclear Power Plants for Tokyo in which he took the logic of the nuke promoters to its logical conclusion: if you are so sure that they're safe, why not build them in the center of the city, instead of hundreds of miles away where you lose half the electricity in the wires? 
He did the TV interview that is partly translated below somewhat against his present impulses.  I talked to him on the telephone today (March 22 , 2011) and he told me that while it made sense to oppose nuclear power back then, now that the disaster has begun he would just as soon remain silent, but the lies they are telling on the radio and TV are so gross that he cannot remain silent.

I have translated only about the first third of the interview (you can see the whole thing in Japanese on you-tube), the part that pertains particularly to what is happening at the Fukushima plants.  In the latter part he talked about how dangerous radiation is in general, and also about the continuing danger of earthquakes.

After reading his account, you will wonder, why do they keep on sprinkling water on the reactors, rather than accept the sarcophagus solution  [ie., entombing the reactors in concrete. Editors.] I think there are a couple of answers.  One, those reactors were expensive, and they just can't bear the idea of that huge a financial loss.  But more importantly, accepting the sarcophagus solution means admitting that they were wrong, and that they couldn't fix the things.  On the one hand that's too much guilt for a human being to bear.  On the other, it means the defeat of the nuclear energy idea, an idea they hold to with almost religious devotion.  And it means not just the loss of those six (or ten) reactors, it means shutting down all the others as well, a financial catastrophe.  If they can only get them cooled down and running again they can say, See, nuclear power isn't so dangerous after all.  Fukushima is a drama with the whole world watching, that can end in the defeat or (in their frail, I think groundless, hope) victory for the nuclear industry.  Hirose's account can help us to understand what the drama is about. Douglas Lummis

Hirose Takashi:  The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident and the State of the Media

Broadcast by Asahi NewStar, 17 March, 20:00

Interviewers: Yoh Sen'ei and Maeda Mari

Yoh:  Today many people saw water being sprayed on the reactors from the air and from the ground, but is this effective?

Hirose:  . . . If you want to cool a reactor down with water, you have to circulate the water inside and carry the heat away, otherwise it has no meaning. So the only solution is to reconnect the electricity.  Otherwise it’s like pouring water on lava.

Yoh:  Reconnect the electricity – that’s to restart the cooling system?

Hirose:  Yes.  The accident was caused by the fact that the tsunami flooded the emergency generators and carried away their fuel tanks.  If that isn’t fixed, there’s no way to recover from this accident.

Yoh: Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power Company, owner/operator of the nuclear plants] says they expect to bring in a high voltage line this evening.

Hirose: Yes, there’s a little bit of hope there.  But what’s worrisome is that a nuclear reactor is not like what the schematic pictures show (shows a graphic picture of a reactor, like those used on TV).  This is just a cartoon.  Here’s what it looks like underneath a reactor container (shows a photograph).  This is the butt end of the reactor.  Take a look.  It’s a forest of switch levers and wires and pipes.  On television these pseudo-scholars come on and give us simple explanations, but they know nothing, those college professors.  Only the engineers know.  This is where water has been poured in.  This maze of pipes is enough to make you dizzy.  Its structure is too wildly complex for us to understand. For a week now they have been pouring water through there.  And it’s salt water, right?  You pour salt water on a hot kiln and what do you think happens?  You get salt. The salt will get into all these valves and cause them to freeze.  They won’t move.  This will be happening everywhere.  So I can’t believe that it’s just a simple matter of you reconnecting the electricity and the water will begin to circulate.  I think any engineer with a little imagination can understand this.  You take a system as unbelievably complex as this and then actually dump water on it from a helicopter – maybe they have some idea of how this could work, but I can’t understand it.

Yoh:  It will take 1300 tons of water to fill the pools that contain the spent fuel rods in reactors 3 and 4.  This morning 30 tons.  Then the Self Defense Forces are to hose in another 30 tons from five trucks.  That’s nowhere near enough, they have to keep it up.  Is this squirting of water from hoses going to change the situation?

Hirose:  In principle, it can’t.  Because even when a reactor is in good shape, it requires constant control to keep the temperature down to where it is barely safe.  Now it’s a complete mess inside, and when I think of the 50 remaining operators, it brings tears to my eyes.  I assume they have been exposed to very large amounts of radiation, and that they have accepted that they face death by staying there.  And how long can they last?  I mean, physically.  That’s what the situation has come to now.  When I see these accounts on television, I want to tell them, “If that’s what you say, then go there and do it yourself!”  Really, they talk this nonsense, trying to reassure everyone, trying to avoid panic.  What we need now is a proper panic.  Because the situation has come to the point where the danger is real. 

If I were Prime Minister Kan, I would order them to do what the Soviet Union did when the Chernobyl reactor blew up, the sarcophagus solution, bury the whole thing under cement, put every cement company in Japan to work, and dump cement over it from the sky.  Because you have to assume the worst case.  Why?  Because in Fukushima there is the Daiichi Plant with six reactors and the Daini Plant with four for a total of ten reactors.  If even one of them develops the worst case, then the workers there must either evacuate the site or stay on and collapse.  So if, for example, one of the reactors at Daiichi goes down, the other five are only a matter of time.  We can’t know in what order they will go, but certainly all of them will go.  And if that happens, Daini isn’t so far away, so probably the reactors there will also go down.  Because I assume that workers will not be able to stay there. 

I’m speaking of the worst case, but the probability is not low.  This is the danger that the world is watching.  Only in Japan is it being hidden.  As you know, of the six reactors at Daiichi, four are in a crisis state.  So even if at one everything goes well and water circulation is restored, the other three could still go down.  Four are in crisis, and for all four to be 100 per cent repaired, I hate to say it, but I am pessimistic.  If so, then to save the people, we have to think about some way to reduce the radiation leakage to the lowest level possible.  Not by spraying water from hoses, like sprinkling water on a desert.  We have to think of all six going down, and the possibility of that happening is not low.  Everyone knows how long it takes a typhoon to pass over Japan; it generally takes about a week.  That is, with a wind speed of two meters per second, it could take about five days for all of Japan to be covered with radiation.  We’re not talking about distances of 20 kilometers or 30 kilometers or 100 kilometers.  It means of course Tokyo, Osaka.  That’s how fast a radioactive cloud could spread. Of course it would depend on the weather; we can’t know in advance how the radiation would be distributed.  It would be nice if the wind would blow toward the sea, but it doesn’t always do that.  Two days ago, on the 15th, it was blowing toward Tokyo.  That’s how it is. . . .

Yoh: Every day the local government is measuring the radioactivity.  All the television stations are saying that while radiation is rising, it is still not high enough to be a danger to health. They compare it to a stomach x-ray, or if it goes up, to a CT scan.  What is the truth of the matter?

Hirose: For example, yesterday.  Around Fukushima Daiichi Station they measured 400 millisieverts – that’s per hour.  With this measurement (Chief Cabinet Secretary) Edano admitted for the first time that there was a danger to health, but he didn’t explain what this means.  All of the information media are at fault here I think.  They are saying stupid things like, why, we are exposed to radiation all the time in our daily life, we get radiation from outer space.  But that’s one millisievert per year.  A year has 365 days, a day has 24 hours; multiply 365 by 24, you get 8760.  Multiply the 400 millisieverts by that, you get 3,500,000 the normal dose.  You call that safe?  And what media have reported this?  None.  They compare it to a CT scan, which is over in an instant; that has nothing to do with it.  The reason radioactivity can be measured is that radioactive material is escaping.  What is dangerous is when that material enters your body and irradiates it from inside.  These industry-mouthpiece scholars come on TV and what to they say?  They say as you move away the radiation is reduced in inverse ratio to the square of the distance.  I want to say the reverse.  Internal irradiation happens when radioactive material is ingested into the body.  What happens?  Say there is a nuclear particle one meter away from you. You breathe it in, it sticks inside your body; the distance between you and it is now at the micron level. One meter is 1000 millimeters, one micron is one thousandth of a millimeter.  That’s a thousand times a thousand: a thousand squared.  That’s the real meaning of “inverse ratio of the square of the distance.”  Radiation exposure is increased by a factor of a trillion.  Inhaling even the tiniest particle, that’s the danger.

Yoh:  So making comparisons with X-rays and CT scans has no meaning.  Because you can breathe in radioactive material.

Hirose:  That’s right.  When it enters your body, there’s no telling where it will go.  The biggest danger is women, especially pregnant women, and little children.  Now they’re talking about iodine and cesium, but that’s only part of it, they’re not using the proper detection instruments.  What they call monitoring means only measuring the amount of radiation in the air.  Their instruments don’t eat.  What they measure has no connection with the amount of radioactive material. . . .

Yoh:  So damage from radioactive rays and damage from radioactive material are not the same.

Hirose:  If you ask, are any radioactive rays from the Fukushima Nuclear Station here in this studio, the answer will be no.  But radioactive particles are carried here by the air.  When the core begins to melt down, elements inside like iodine turn to gas.  It rises to the top, so if there is any crevice it escapes outside.

Yoh:  Is there any way to detect this?

Hirose: I was told by a newspaper reporter that now Tepco is not in shape even to do regular monitoring.  They just take an occasional measurement, and that becomes the basis of Edano’s statements.  You have to take constant measurements, but they are not able to do that.  And you need to investigate just what is escaping, and how much.  That requires very sophisticated measuring instruments.  You can’t do it just by keeping a monitoring post.  It’s no good just to measure the level of radiation in the air.  Whiz in by car, take a measurement, it’s high, it’s low – that’s not the point.  We need to know what kind of radioactive materials are escaping, and where they are going – they don’t have a system in place for doing that now.

Douglas Lummis is a political scientist living in Okinawa and the author of Radical Democracy. Lummis can be reached at

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Translated from the original French by the blogger:

Original here.

Simulations of the atmospheric dispersion of the radioactive plume formed by the ejecta from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant since 12 

Mise à jour du 19 mars 2011

1 - What does one know about the radioactive ejecta emitted since 12 March 2011?

The IRSN (Institute of Radiationprotection and Nuclear Safety) doesn't have the data to measure directly the composition and amounts of ejected radioactive materials, but rather it collects technical information about accidents at nuclear installations.

The interpretation of such information has permitted the IRSN to devise probable scenarios for the degradation of the three reactors since 12 March upon assuring their coherence with the the dose rates measured on the site. The IRSN has equally retained the hypothesis that the radioactive releases continued through the 20th of March.

The readioactive elements emitted in the course of different episodes of ejection consist of rare gasses (chemically non-reactive radioactive elements resting in the atmosphere and not falling to the ground) and volatile elements, principally radioactive iodide, i.e., iodine 131, with a halflife of 8 days, and radioactive cesium, i.e., cesium 137.

2 - The dispersion of radioactive ejecta in the atmosphere

The IRSN has simulated the atmospheric dispersion of the estimated amounts of material ejected between 12 and 22 March with the aid of a computer model applicable to long distances (on a scale of several hundreds of kilometers) by using the observations and meteorological forecasts furnished by Météo France.

This simulation has been applied to cesium 137 as the tracer of the radioactive plume in the course of this period. The results of this modelling are expressed in becquerels of cesium 137 per cubic meter of air (Bq/m3).

Play this simulation here.

This modelling effecting the scale of Japan shows that the plume is headed in different directions at different times: first toward the northeast just until 14 March, next toward the south and the southwest, in the direction of Tokyo on 15 March, then toward the east in the direction of the Pacific Ocean.

The IRSN has compared the results of this simulation with the measures contamination of the air effected in Tokyo, finding the results of the simulation to be of the same order of magnitude as those measured in the city, as illustrated in the graphics below for iodide 131 and cesium 137.

3 - Estimation of doses capable of being received by persons exposed to the radioactive plume

The IRSN has estimated the doses likely to be received by a person exposed the the radioactive plume, assuming that this person remains in the same area without protection (outside) from 12 to 22 March. In order to caluculate the dose, the IRSN has considered a one-year-old baby who is the the most suseptible to iodine 131 (dose to the thyroid).

The next simulations will show the evolution of doses in the course of time.

In cases of accidents, the maximum whole body doses without special protection recommended are 10 mSv (milliSivert) to seek shelter and 50 mSv for evacuation. Below 10 mSv the risk to health is judged sufficiently slight as to not make necessary protective actions. By comparison, the average annual dose received in France due to natural and medical radiation exposures is 3.7 mSv.

Doses to the thyroid likelt to be received by a one-year-old baby in the absence of protection

4 - Modelling the dispersion of radioactive ejecta in the atmosphere on the global scale

Based on the ejecta estimated by the IRSN, Météo France has simulated the the long distance dispersion of radionuclides over global distances, projected to 26 March 2011.

View the animated simulation here.

For comparison, the values measures in the days following the Chernobyl accident were higher than 100,000 Bq/m3 in the first few kilometers surrounding the center; they were of the order of 100 to 1000 Bq/m3 in the countries most affected by the radioactive plume (Ukraine, Belarus); in eastern France the measured values were of the order 1 to 10 Bq/m3 (May Day 1986). Today, a very week activity of cerium 137 is still in the air, of the order 0.000001 Bq/m3.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Definition of Communism: "A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people."

Rachel Maddow: Michigan's Dystopian (Corporate Republican) Future and Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine

Rachel Maddow, The Rachel Maddow Show/MSNBC
20 March 11

Sunday, March 20, 2011



Blogger's Note: To properly judge the all-is-well-with-U.S.-reactor-safety defense, the reader is advised to first read this column and this one.

Interestingly, the interviewer mentions that the World Trade Center Towers are regarded to have been destroyed by jetliner strikes (never mind the evidence they were packed with explosives) and should not therefore U.S. nuclear reactors be strengthened against airliner strikes? The industry-favorable debater said that the industry is doing all that is required of them by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is to do "analyses."  According to the academic debater, no material changes have been done by the U.S. nuclear power industry because the NRC hasn't required them to do anything that costs them money. Still, the industry rep finishes by assessing probability of a Japan-like disaster in the U.S. as "beyond credible" (despite the fact that 23 reactors in the U.S. are identical to those in Fukashima).

March 19, 2011

Debate: Is US Nuclear Power Safe?

Is The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear industry prepared to deal with disaster?

More at The Real News


Daphne Wysham is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and founder and host of Earthbeat, now airing on 61 public radio stations in the US and Canada. Eileen Supko began her career as a nuclear engineer at Carolina Power and Light Company. She is is a Vice President of Energy Resources International, Inc., a nuclear fuel consulting company in Washington, DC. For over 25 years, she has worked in the electric power industry, providing technical, economic, and policy expertise in all phases of nuclear fuel management to US and international companies. As well, between 1995 and 1997, she was the U.S. representative of a consultancy to the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding international experience with the storage of spent nuclear fuel. Arjun Makhijani is president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. He is the author of "Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy" (2007) and he has served as a consultant on energy issues for agencies of the United Nations.


Power Corrupts, Nuclear Power Corrupts Absolutely

Michael Collins

The Chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Gregory Jaczko, told a US House of Representatives subcommittee that: "There is no water in the spent fuel pool [at the Fukushima I plant] and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures." A "utility spokesman" for Tokyo Electric responded quickly claiming that the "condition is stable." AP, March 17

The New York Times, China's Peoples Daily, and other outlets covered this extraordinary asymmetrical exchange between the highest nuclear regulatory official in the US government and a "utility spokesman." (Image)

The public disagreement between two close allies in the midst of a severe crisis is highly instructive on a number of levels. If chair Jaczko wrong, it is a terrible embarrassment for the US. If he's right, we can conclude that much of the information from Tokyo Electric is questionable.

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima I is a complex event. Logical progressions are difficult to grasp and follow, particularly when the United States and Japan disagree so fundamentally at the highest levels.

Concerns about human loss and suffering are paramount. Information on that is also challenging. One theme from the start has been, this is not another Chernobyl. As failures continue and risks become apparent, the comparison to Chernobyl is less important than the risks to the 103 million Japanese on Honshu Island and those in surrounding nations. The best scenario advanced for a major release of toxic elements from the Fukushima I plant involves winds taking the danger west to the Pacific Ocean.

Guenther Oettinger, Commissioner of Energy for the European Union (EU) issued an ominous statement just hours ago:

"The site is effectively out of control," Guenther Oettinger, commissioner for energy, told a European Parliament committee. "In the coming hours there could be further catastrophic events which could pose a threat to the lives of people on the island." Dow Jones, March 20

Ottinger went on to say that information from Japanese government sources was contradictory and that he had an information network beyond just official statements from Tokyo.

When the top US nuclear official and the commissioner of energy for the EU make major hedges on the worsening events in Japan, it's time to take notice.

The Larger Issue

In the midst of all this, it is important to pose the question that may have prevented this disaster and changed the world's energy future. Is nuclear energy an acceptable source of power?

The issue of fuel rod storage combined with the initial regulatory approach to the dangers of nuclear power plants can help answer the question.

The spent fuel pool consists of spent nuclear fuel rods that are stored in the Fukushima reactors (and other GE reactors with a similar design) after they have outlived their usefulness. They're placed in the pool of water designed to maintain the rods in a safe state. The storage needs will exceed capacity in the US by 2015.

Take a look at the image above of the reactor design at Fukushima (and 23 nuclear reactors in the US) and ask this question. Does this make any sense? The spent fuel rods, pilled up in the fuel pool, are above the reactor vessel and active fuel rods. If there is a meltdown or an explosion of sufficient quantity, toxic elements from both the reactor and the fuel pools may breach the containment structure and enter the atmosphere. Why create a design that compounds the most serious problem, the meltdown, with additional toxic emissions? Don't nuclear regulators understand the concept of a reasonableness test?

Market Driven Regulation

Robert Gillette wrote a classic investigative report for the Los Angeles Times 1979. He described the acceleration of nuclear plant sales and installations and the parallel retreat of regulators. There were no sales of nuclear plants in 1964. By 1966, 63% of new power generation came from nuclear plants. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was swamped with new proposals and short of staff. As larger, more complex reactors were designed, the AEC's budget suffered a series of cuts. Gillette summed it up nicely:

"Larger reactors would … build up larger amounts of radioactive wastes, which if dispersed in an accident, which if dispersed in an accident would amplify the consequences." Robert Gillette, Rapid nuclear growth at root of accident. Los Angeles Times , April 9, 1979

Despite budget cuts, there were farsighted regulators. One of them, Stephen Hanauer, wrote an internal AEC memo in which he suggested that GE was less than serious about it's reported tests of reactors like those at Fukushima I:

"Recently we have reevaluated the GE test results and decided on a more conservative interpretation than has been used by GE all these years (and accepted by us). We now believe that the former interpretation was incorrect, using data from tests not applicable to accident conditions." Stephen J. Hanauer, Atomic Energy Commission New York Times pdf September 20, 1972 (Article)

GE's use of "data from tests not applicable to accident conditions" is the height of reckless cynicism taken to an extreme.

After praising the logic of Hanauer's the suggestion to discontinue the GE reactors with the Mark I design, nuclear energy chief Joseph M. Hendrie suggested that adopting the plan, "could well be the end of nuclear power." He concluded that such an act would generally create more turmoil than I can stand thinking about." Joseph M. Hendrie, 1972 from the New York Times pdf, March 17 (Article)

Myopic Testing - The Past and Right Now

A flawed approach to testing compounded the problems of US nuclear regulators. A 1962 AEC regulation defined testing as the analysis of all credible accidents. Robert van de Poel's analysis showed the following: "What counted as an unacceptable credible accident was defined by a postulated maximum credible accident (MCA) which was laid down in official regulations in 1962. Changing Technologies 1998 van de Poel p.248 If industry scientists and regulators decided that an event couldn't take place, no matter how arbitrary the decision, the nuclear plant's requirement to withstand that event was forgiven.

Safety testing for Fukushima I by Tokyo Electric and Japanese nuclear regulators followed the exclusionary tradition of maximum credible accidents and its successor, probabilistic risk assessment. The credible level of stress on the plant, based on probability analysis, resulted in tests for a 7.9 Richter scale earthquake.

Why? Because that's what the plant could withstand, if you're a bit skeptical and presume that they tested the maximum stress tolerance prior to performing the official test. Why not test it for higher magnitudes on the Richter scale? It is not as though regulators and energy companies had to create a real earthquake for testing. This testing is done with software. Why not extend the effort to a 9.0 on the Richter scale? How hard is that?

They knew that there was a problem in 1972 and did nothing. They know now there are serious problems and they do nothing.

The US government recommended that the Japanese government adopt a 50-mile evacuation radius to around the distressed Fukushima reactors.

That same US government approved nuclear facilities with the similar designs, GE Mark I boiling water reactors. Each reactor or cluster of reactors is within 50 miles of a the population area listed in the chart below.

NRC Database 2011 (BWR=GE boiling water reactor -- similar to Fukushima)
That same US government recommends boldly pushing forward with more nuclear installations. It says nothing about the obvious dangers based on a history of flawed assumptions, testing, and performance review for the GE reactor type and the entire array of reactors in place.

Is this technology safe? Is it acceptable? Can we trust those in charge to tell us the truth? The answer to each of those questions looks more like no every day.

N.B. Nuclear energy firms in the United States questioned the governments suggestion that US citizens observe the suggested 50 mile radius around the Fukushima reactors.

This article may be reproduced entirely or in part with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


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Home > Publications > Blogs > Beat the Press > NPR Joins Drive to Cut Social Security

NPR Joins Drive to Cut Social Security

Tuesday, 15 March 2011 19:48

NPR ran a piece that largely accepted untrue or misleading Republican assertions about Social Security. The piece told readers that:

"Republicans also believe [emphasis added] the very best time to fix Social Security is now, during a time of divided government when both Democrats and Republicans can share ownership of any changes."

Actually, NPR's reporters/editors have no clue what Republicans "believe." They are just making this up. The Republicans in question (like Democrats) are politicians. They say things that advance their political agenda whether or not they actually believe them. Competent reporters know this and don't try to tell their audience that these politicians actually believe their assertions; competent reporters just report the assertions and let their audience make up their own mind as to whether the politicians believe what they are saying.

It is also not a fact that Social Security needs to be fixed in any meaningful sense of the term. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the program can pay all benefits for the next 28 years with no changes whatsoever and can pay nearly 80 percent of projected benefits indefinitely into the future, even if nothing is ever done to change the program.

The article includes a statement from Alabama Senator Richard Shelby noting that Social Security paid out more in benefits than it took in taxes last year: "

"Social Security is now at the tipping point, the first step of a long, slow march to insolvency if we don't do something about it."

It would have been worth noting that this actually was part of the design of the program. The reason that payroll taxes were raised to a point where they exceeded benefits was to cover the cost of the baby boomers' retirement, which meant that there would be points like the present where benefits exceeded taxes. Otherwise, the increase in the payroll taxes in the 1980s made no sense. It would have been appropriate to point out to listeners that Mr. Shelby either does not understand the program or is deliberately trying to mislead the public.

Similarly, the segment included an assertion from Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn that money was stolen from Social Security:

"The fact is ... $2.8 trillion was stolen from Social Security .., The money was spent. It's broke. And we're going to have to fund $2.8 trillion over the next 20 years just to make the payments that we've got. I would think most people would think we ought to fix that."

Actually, not a penny was stolen from Social Security. Social Security lent money to the federal government by buying bonds, just as individuals, private corporations and banks do all the time. When an individual or company buys a bond from the government, it doesn't matter to them at all (except as citizens) whether or how the government spends the money. The government owes the exact same money regardless.

When the government pays back the bonds held by the Social Security trust fund it will effectively be replacing the bonds held by the trust fund with other bonds. The borrowing took place when the government sold bonds to the Social Security trust fund in the first place. It is not new borrowing when the government repays the bonds held by the Social Security trust fund.
About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, including False Profits: Recovering from the Bubble Economy. Read more about Dean.


Friday, March 18, 2011


 March 18, 2011

 "Underestimating the Seriousness of the Problem": Experts Urge Japan to Raise Nuclear Alert Level and Evacuate Wider Area

The Japanese nuclear crisis worsens as Japanese authorities race to cool the overheating reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. Earlier today, Japan raised the nuclear alert level at the crippled plant from a four to a five, on par with Three Mile Island. This decision has shocked many nuclear experts. “Our experts think that it’s a level 6.5 already, and it’s on the way to a seven, which was Chernobyl," says Philip White of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo. We also speak with Dr. Ira Helfand of Physicians for Social Responsibility about the long-term health effects from radiation exposure from Fukushima. [Original w/ transcript here]

March 18, 2011

"Why Are We Playing Russian Roulette With the American People?": Longtime Nuclear Critic Ralph Nader Advocates Phasing Out Nuclear Power Industry

Former presidential candidate and longtime consumer advocate and nuclear critic Ralph Nader strongly advocates phasing out nuclear power in the United States by calling for public hearings on the status of every single nuclear power plant. "What we’re seeing here is 110 or so operating nuclear plants in the United States, many of them aging, many of them infected with corrosion, faulty pipes, leaky pumps and combustible materials... Why are we playing Russian roulette with the American people for nuclear plants whose principal objective is simply to boil water and produce steam? ... This is institutional insanity, and I urge the people in this country to wake up before they experience what is now going on in northern Japan." [Original w/ transcript here]

Nuclear Crisis -- Projection: Diluted Radiation Plumes Will Reach California Friday; Tokyo Flight Sets Off Radiation Detectors in Chicago

Follow the latest news from the disaster in Japan at the Fukushima Daiichi plant:

Blogger's Note: Don't miss video embedded below.( Scroll down to find it.)

Update: Al Jazeera reports that the official death toll in Japan is now 6,539, with 10,354 people missing.

Meanwhile, the Japanese nuclear safety agency has raised Fukushima's crisis level from a 4 to a 5. On the 7-point nuclear crisis scale, Three Mile Island was a 5, while Chernobyl was a 7.

Update: Americans, being a somewhat panicky people, have made a run on potassium iodide, which is administered to those exposed to high levels of radioactive iodine-131. 

Also, according to the LA Times, "taking potassium iodide tablets without just cause can be risky for some people, health experts warned Wednesday."

UpdateThe New York Times has an animated model that shows the likely travel path of the plume of radioactivity released from damaged reactors at Fukushima No. 1 power plant in Japan. It suggests that it the leading edge of it will reach the West Coast on Friday. The good news, for North American readers, is that the radiation will be highly diluted by the time it makes its long journey across the Pacific, and authorities say they expect the plume to represent no threat to human health. 

More troubling is that the situation is not yet under control, and could deteriorate -- a hazard heightened by the powerful aftershocks that continue to batter Japan. There is also uncertainty about exactly how much radioactivity has been released into the environment so far; Japanese authorities and TEPCO officials have released neither measurements nor estimates. 

Take a look at the Times' model here

Update: NHK English reports the latest official stats from the March 11 earthquake and Tsunami: 5,700 confirmed dead and 9,500 missing.

Update: The Chicago Tribune reports that traces of radiation were detected on a United Airlines jet that arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport from Tokyo yesterday "but determined that the plane’s cargo and passengers were safe."
Federal officials inspected a United Airlines jet and one other with Geiger counters after they arrived in Chicago from Narita International Airport Wednesday, sources told the Tribune. A person familiar with the search  said it was conducted by Customs and Border Patrol agents in the “guise of a random inspection.”

Though officials detected trace elements of radiation on two cargo containers on one of the planes, they later determined that the packages were safe, sources said. Officials also determined the jets were safe after inspecting for radiation.
The radiation plume forming over the Pacific from Japan’s nuclear crisis is a growing concern for U.S. carriers, who want to avoid contaminating aircraft surfaces and exposing passengers and employees to harmful radioactive isotopes.

For the first time in recent memory, maps used to guide aircraft around hazards such as storms and active volcanoes now carry a red radioactive sign to denote a no-fly zone over the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors. Flight dispatchers Thursday were also given the coordinates of an area over the Pacific where airborne concentrations are of greatest concern, sources told the Tribune.

Update: The Kyodo news agency offers a confusing report about the attempts to get water into a cooling pond for highly radioactive spent fuel rods at Fukushima. First, some apparently good news:
An unprecedented attempt to douse an apparently overheating spent fuel pool with tons of coolant water at a stricken nuclear plant in Fukushima bore some fruit Thursday, but the emission of smoke newly confirmed at another pool suggests the difficulties that lie in the way of resolving the crisis triggered by the March 11 quake and tsunami.
But the headline, "Operation to pour water at Fukushima nuke plant said effective," appears to have overstated the tangible results:
The utility said vapor rising from the partially destroyed No. 3 reactor building suggests the operation went some way toward cooling down the pool that could otherwise emit highly contaminated radioactive materials.

However, no major changes were seen in radioactive levels at the plant immediately afterward.
Update: The disaster at Fukushima Dai'ichi has brought renewed attention to Japan's spotty nuclear safety track-record. AJE summarizes:
In 1997, at least 37 workers were exposed to radiation at the Tokaimura plant, after a fire and explosion.

In 1999, workers were reported to be hand-mixing uranium at the same plant.  Two workers later died.

Hundreds of people were exposed to radiation and thousands evacuated in the same year after an accident at Tokaimura.

The Fukushima number 1 plant has also had problems in the past. In 2006, a small amount of radioactive steam seeped out and blew beyond the compound.
In 2007, a powerful earthquake caused malfunctions at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant.  The damage included radioactive water spills, burst pipes and fires.

Update: This stunning footage shows the extent of the devastation at Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear plant:

Update: Al Jazeera English, citing the IAEA, reports that "Japanese engineers have laid an external grid power cable to the number 2 unit, in accordance with plans announced on Thursday."
However they can't reconnect power until they have finished spraying water on unit 3, which is at major risk of overheating and sending more radiation out into the atmosphere. Earlier attempts to drench the fuel rod pools appeared to have very limited success.
Japanese officials have claimed that the power line would end the crisis, but that is questionable if, as has been reported, two containment vessels have been breached.

Update:  Here's the latest report from CNN on cooling efforts by the Japanese military:
Military helicopters began dumping water on the reactor Thursday morning, with police and fire trucks opening up after 7 p.m. (6 a.m. ET). Japan's Defense Ministry said the first effort lasted 40 minutes, and the Tokyo Electric Power Company said the efforts would continue throughout the night in order to keep the reactor and its adjacent spent fuel pool from overheating.
Update: This morning's report in the New York Times is grim indeed, describing the failure of multiple "ever more desperate and unconventional methods to cool damaged reactors" to make a significant impacts. Extremely high levels of radiation are preventing some efforts, hindering workers from getting too close to the zone. The Times also describes conflicting messages from American and Japanese officials, as Americans  such as Gregory Jaczko, the chair of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, have been much more fatalistic in public than their Japanese counterparts. American officials have recommemded evacuation within a 50-mile radius of the plant, more than the distance recommended by the Japanese.

Another article suggests that non-threatening radiation plumes could reach the West Coast of the U.S. in days. The radiation plumes from the plant "will "churn" across the ocean, "touching the Aleutian Islands on Thursday before hitting Southern California late Friday" according to a projection from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, a UN-run organization.

Update: The LA Times has a sad story about what life is like at this moment for people who are trapped near the nuclear plant, and their sense of betrayal and isolation:
Residents describe spooky scenes of municipal cars driving down near-empty streets telling people to stay indoors, but they've seen few other signs of outside help.
Aid agencies are reluctant to get too close to the plant. Shelters set up in the greater Fukushima area for "radiation refugees" have little food, in part because nobody wants to deliver to an area that might be contaminated. And with little or no gasoline available, not everyone who wants to leave can get out. Radiation fears mingled with a sickening sense of abandonment Wednesday.
The fear of ostracism also brought back memories of the stigma faced by survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who were often shunned due to their exposure to radiation. The connection between the two disasters isn't all negative:  scientific teams from Hiroshima are preparing to visit the stricken area while Hiroshima's hospitals are also getting ready to receive victims of radiation poisoning, according to this excellent report from Democracy Now!
Meanwhile the AP reports on the "bungling" and mismanagement and secrecy of the nuclear industry at large in Japan 
Leaks of radioactive steam and workers contaminated with radiation are just part of the disturbing catalog of accidents that have occurred over the years and been belatedly reported to the public, if at all. In one case, workers hand-mixed uranium in stainless steel buckets, instead of processing by machine, so the fuel could be reused, exposing hundreds of workers to radiation. Two later died.
TreeHugger adds that WikiLeaks reveals warnings about the specific vulnerability of these plants to earthquakes two years ago.

Update: USA Today -- without information on radioactivity levels in Fukushima, there's no way of predicting how much radiation will hit the US:
"The Japanese government's radiation report for the country's 47 prefectures Wednesday had a notable omission: Fukushima, ground zero in Japan's nuclear crisis. Measurements from Ibaraki, just south of Fukushima, were also blanked out. Radiation experts in the USA say that the lack of information about radioactivity released from the smoldering reactors makes it impossible to gauge the current danger, project how bad a potential meltdown might be or calculate how much fallout might reach the USA."
Update: BBC reports:
Japanese defence minister Toshimi Kitazawa confirms four water drops took place over the Fukushima Daiichi plant. He says 11 "special purpose vehicles" manned by defence forces will conduct water spraying operations from the ground on Thursday afternoon.
Update: NHK English reports that temperatures are rising in the spent fuel cooling pools at Units 5 and 6. The two reactors were offline when the earthquake hit, but the fuel rods remain hot for years. The cooling systems in 5 and 6 are damaged, which poses a risk that the water will boil off, exposing the rods to the environment. In the worst case scenario, the spent fuel could combust in a chemical reaction, releasing radioactive smoke into the environment.

Operators at Fukushima No. 1 are desperately trying to get water into the cooling pools. According to NHK they are now trying to use a heavy water cannon to direct water onto the pools.

Update: An unnamed US official has told ABC news that Washington is not happy with how the Japanese have responded to the crisis:
U.S. officials are alarmed at how the Japanese are handling the escalating nuclear reactor crisis and fear that if they do not get control of the plants within the next 24 to 48 hours they could have a situation that will be "deadly for decades."
"It would be hard to describe how alarming this is right now," one U.S. official told ABC News.
"We are all-out urging the Japanese to get more people back in there to do emergency operation there, that the next 24 to 48 hours are critical," the official said. "Urgent efforts are needed on the part of the Japanese to restore emergency operations to cool" down the reactors' rods before they trigger a meltdown.
"They need to stop pulling out people—and step up with getting them back in the reactor to cool it. There is a recognition this is a suicide mission," the official said.

Update: According to the Washington Post, industry is digging into its deep pockets to buy some influence in the hope of heading off efforts to better regulate nuclear plant operators.
Nuclear power advocates are waging an intense lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill this week in an attempt to limit the political fallout from the reactor crisis in Japan, which threatens to undermine already shaky plans for expanded nuclear capacity in the United States.
Lobbyists with the Nuclear Energy Institute and some of the United States’s largest energy firms, including Exelon of Chicago, are holding meetings with key lawmakers and standing-room-only briefings for staff members in an attempt to tamp down talk of restrictions in response to the Japanese disaster.
The efforts come as lawmakers held hearings Wednesday focused on the impact of the worsening catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, where at least three reactor cores are believed to be imperiled following a major earthquake and tsunami last week.

Update: Stars and Stripes reports, "experts are now saying the Fukushima crisis could rival the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union."
Nuclear scientists use the term “core-on-the-floor” to describe radioactive fuel burning through protective containment layers, hitting water and bursting into the atmosphere in a huge steam explosion, spreading clouds of radioactive gas and dust.
It’s never happened before, but experts fear it may soon become reality in one or more reactors at the Fukushima nuclear complex, which was gravely damaged in last Friday’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
“We are right now closer to core-on-the-floor than at any time in the history of nuclear reactors,” said Kenneth Bergeron, a former Sandia National Laboratory researcher who spent his career simulating such meltdowns, including in reactors of the type at the Fukushima plant.
This scenario is sometimes (inaccurately) referred to as the "China Syndrome." 
Update: The Daily Telegraph reports: "Japan was warned more than two years ago by the international nuclear watchdog that its nuclear power plants were not capable of withstanding powerful earthquakes."
An official from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in December 2008 that safety rules were out of date and strong earthquakes would pose a "serious problem" for nuclear power stations.

While it responded to the warnings by building an emergency response centre at the Fukushima plant, it was only designed to withstand magnitude 7.0 tremors. Friday's devastating earthquake was a magnitude 9.0 shock.
The news is likely to put further pressure on Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, who has been criticised for "dithering" over the country's response to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The Japanese government pledged to upgrade safety at all of its nuclear plants, but will now face inevitable questions over whether it did enough.

Update: The chief of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says that there is no longer water in one of the spent fuel pools at the Fukushima Dai-ichi, according to NPR. Japanese officials deny the report. What does this mean? NPR explains:
If NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko is correct, this would mean there's nothing to stop the fuel rods from getting hotter and ultimately melting down. The outer shell of the rods could also ignite with enough force to propel the radioactive fuel inside over a wide area.
Update: According to Stars and Stripes Magazine, the Pentagon is preparing for a worst case scenario in Japan -- a full-scale meltdown. The military has instituted the following precautions to protect American service personnel and their dependents:
-- 50-mile no-go zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi (much bigger than the Japanese evacuation zone).
-- US Air crews flying rescue missions 80 miles have been told to start taking potassium iodide tablets.

Update: The Tokyo Electric Power company says "a new power line that could solve the nuclear crisis is almost ready." The power line would, in theory, restore the plant's crippled cooling systems. We're a bit skeptical that restoring power would end the crisis, given that multiple containment domes have reportedly been breached, but we'll keep you informed of the latest.
Last night here and this morning in Japan, a horrfying drama unfolded. News reports circulated saying that the remaining 50 workers struggling to contain the damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had to temporarily leave because of a dangerous spike in radiation levels. They soon returned, but their absence provoked fears.

Furthermore, it appeared that the containment vessel in reactor 3 had ruptured, and plumes of smoke were seen exiting from the roof. Concerns remained about the pool which contained the fuel rods.
The vessel that possibly ruptured on Wednesday had been seen as the last fully intact line of defense against large-scale releases of radioactive material from the stricken reactor, but it was not clear how serious the possible breach might be. The implications of overheating in the fuel rod pool, which is also at the No. 3 reactor, seemed equally dire. The developments were the latest in Japan’s swirling tragedy since an earthquake and tsunami struck the country with unbridled ferocity last Friday. Emperor Akihito told the nation on Wednesday he was “deeply worried” about the nuclear crisis.
The company operating the reactors had withdrawn most of its workers from the plant on Tuesday, leaving only a skeleton crew of 50 struggling to lower temperatures.
When those workers were forced to suspend cooling operations, the spent fuel rod pool began heating up dangerously.
There are many concerns about this growing nuclear threat, not the least of which is that the drama and horror is overshadowing the world's attention from massive humanitarian crisis--the homeless, foodless, hurt and missing--that has taken such an unimaginable, devastating toll already.
And then there is the anger and frustration with persistent claims that nuclear power is safe, and with the UN watchdog group International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which has to rely on member-states cooperation to provide inspection. One Russian expert who had helped with the Chernobyl clean up was particularly biting in his criticism: 
"The Japanese were very greedy and they used every square inch of the space. But when you have a dense placing of spent fuel in the basin, you have a high possibility of fire if the water is removed from the basin," former Soviet nuclear expert Iouli Andreev said, according to The Guardian. He had harsh words for the IAEA. "This is only a fake organisation because every organisation which depends on the nuclear industry – and the IAEA depends on the nuclear industry – cannot perform properly ... It always will try to hide the reality."