• 14 JUN 13
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    Cleanup From Fukushima Daiichi: Technological Disaster Or Crisis In Governance?

    From the Fairewinds Energy Education web site

    By Art Keller

    More than 19,000 Japanese drowned, their bodies scattered on Japan”s eastern shores when a tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011. Kevin Wang wanted to help, and his Anaheim, Califonia-based company, PowerPlus, had the cleaning know-how to handle almost anything. Wang has spent decades developing equipment to clean up almost every sort of nasty gunk in existence, from massive oil spills, to radiological contamination, to dead bodies in quantity.

    Immediately after the tsunami, Wang visited the Japanese consul general in Los Angeles to offer his company”s assistance in dealing the huge threat to public health posed by this mass casualty event. The response by Japan”s consul-general made Wang”s jaw drop. “Absolutely not,” the consul replied, continuing on with rejection language so brusque, Wang had no doubt his offer was taken as an insult.

    Far from being an isolated incident, the encounter that Wang had now seems to be a harbinger of the systemic denial that has crippled the Japanese government”s response to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. First-hand witnesses have described a deeply flawed reaction to the nuclear meltdown that has been marked by an underestimation of the extent of the contamination, insufficient radiological testing, and a glacially-slow response making clean-up harder as time passes. Most damning of all has been a stubborn unwillingess to use desperately needed clean-up assistance by ignoring technical competence in favor of political influence.

    Undeterred by the consul”s rebuff, Wang was galvanized to action in the days after the tsunami when the safety systems at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant subsequently began to fail and massive amounts of radiation started spewing into the air and sea. Wang assembled a crew of indepent decontamination experts and shipped custom radiological decontamination gear to Japan. Wang and his team arrived in Japan to do decontamination demonstrations in June of 2011.

    In an effort to begin the intense cleanup work, Wang and his crews demostrated their cleanup capabilities to a variety of audiences during that trip and three more trips to Japan, the second in October 2011, the third in February 2012, and the last in January 2013. His team was observed by television crews, city, prefecture, and national government officials, bureacrats from Japan”s Ministries of Defense and Environment, dozens of businesses, as well as representatives of the Tokyo Power Company (TEPCO), the owners of the ill-fated Fukushima plant.

    Wang”s crew had notable success decontaminating a car towed out of the highly radioactive “exclusion zone” surrounding the Fukushima plant, reducing the radiation contaminating the car by 99 percent. Given the difficulty in cleaning more porous materials, Wang”s team also inevitably turned in some less-stellar results, which included suffering cold-weather equiment failure more than once. Overall, these trips clearly demonstrated that Wang and his crews could consistently clean biological materials in their natural condition, substantially reducing contamination on substances that many others considered uncleanable, including dirt, grass, and water, even reducing the radiation on living cherry trees up to 70%. Even on the days plagued by equipment failure, the team still managed to reduce the radiation levels in frozen earth by 20-40%.


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