Sailors’ $1 billion lawsuit over radiation from Fukushima nuclear disaster sails through federal court

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SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court rejected affirmed a district court’s rejection of a Japanese power company’s motion to dismiss a $1 billion lawsuit brought by American sailors, who were allegedly harmed by radiation exposure during a relief effort following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

On June 22, a three-judge appellate panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously rejected an attempt by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to secure the dismissal of the class-action lawsuit. The suit was launched by American sailors who allegedly sustained injuries related to radiation exposure from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant during a relief effort in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. 

The appellate panel affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California’s rejection of TEPCO’s motion to have the suit dismissed on the grounds that U.S. courts lacked jurisdiction to try the case.

TEPCO’s initial challenge to U.S. jurisdiction is rooted in its interpretation of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), a 1997 international liability agreement concerning nuclear accidents. TEPCO argued that Article XIII of the CSC, which states “jurisdiction over actions concerning nuclear damage from a nuclear incident shall lie only with the courts of the contracting party within which the nuclear incident occurs,” invalidates U.S. jurisdiction. The appellate panel affirmed the district court’s ruling that the CSC, though signed in 1997, was only valid after it went into effect in April 2015. The sailors launched the lawsuit in December 2012.

TEPCO also challenged U.S. jurisdiction by citing international comity, a legal tradition allowing courts to decline jurisdiction in a court case when a foreign country has a “strong interest” in trying the case on its own soil. The appellate panel rejected this argument, noting that even though Japan had a strong interest in a case involving an incident on Japanese soil, the U.S. had a strong interest in prosecuting the case in the U.S. because the alleged victims were members of the U.S. military, and the U.S. “had a strong interest in maintaining jurisdiction over this [case] in order to help promote the CSC.”

TEPCO’s final challenge to U.S. jurisdiction was that the case violated U.S. constitutional law because it conflicted with the political question doctrine, which restricts the federal judiciary to deciding legal questions and bars it from deciding political questions. 

The panel also rejected this argument, ruling that at this time the court was “unable to undertake the ‘discriminating inquiry’ necessary to determine if the case presented a political question because there were outstanding basic factual questions regarding the Navy’s operations” during the relief effort. However, the panel noted that TEPCO was free to raise the international comity and political question issues again if information was uncovered providing justifications for those arguments.

The sailors represented in the case were deployed off the coast of Fukushima aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier on March 12, 2011, during Operation Tomodachi, a U.S. relief response following an earthquake and tsunami that caused massive damage to the region. The carrier was moved two days later, allegedly after radiation was detected. 

The sailors allege they were harmed by radiation exposure because TEPCO leadership and Japanese government officials allegedly conspired to downplay the threat posed by the damaged nuclear reactor.

The sailors launched the lawsuit on Dec. 21, 2012, seeking $10 million in damages each, along with $30 in punitive damages, and a $100 million healthcare fund for future monitoring and medical treatment.

http://norcalrecord.com/stories/511141853-sailors-1-billion-lawsuit-over-radiation-from-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-sails-through-federal-court#.WVst0i2bROI.facebook

 

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9th Circ. Allows Sailors’ $1B Fukushima Suit To Proceed

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Law360, New York (June 22, 2017, 3:25 PM EDT) — The Ninth Circuit on Thursday upheld a lower court’s decision to allow sailors to pursue their $1 billion lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. over radiation injuries they allegedly suffered during their response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

TEPCO had sought to dismiss the suit on the grounds that U.S. courts lack jurisdiction. A lower court declined to grant that motion, and on appeal, the Ninth Circuit sided with that judge, beginning with TEPCO’s theory that the suit is blocked by the 1997 Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage — an effort to establish an international liability framework for nuclear accidents.

The unanimous panel said the Convention’s provision that limits jurisdiction over nuclear accidents to the country in which it occurs only applies to claims arising after the Convention’s entry into force, which was April 2015. The sailors’ lawsuit was filed in December 2012. The panel paid particular attention to the portion of the Convention that gives exclusive jurisdiction to “the courts of the contracting party within which the nuclear incident occurs.”

“The use of the present tense suggests that the provision applies to future nuclear incidents and does not include past incidents,” the panel said. “One would expect the drafters to have used the past tense had they intended to alter jurisdiction over claims arising out of nuclear incidents that occurred before the CSC’s entry into force.”

TEPCO had also argued federal courts lack jurisdiction over the case because of the international comity doctrine, which allows a court to dismiss a case when another country has a strong interest in handling the claims and can adequately do so.

The panel noted that the Fukushima incident did happen in Japan, giving that country “a strong interest” in the litigation. But it also acknowledged that the plaintiffs are U.S. service members, giving this country a strong interest in the case as well. The government of Japan and the U.S. filed briefs on the question, both asserting their own country was the proper legal venue. Ultimately the panel was swayed by the U.S.’ argument that “allowing the suit to continue in California is consistent with U.S. interests in promoting the CSC.”

“In hopes that other countries would do the same, the United States [prior to the Convention] may have preferred that U.S. courts not exercise jurisdiction over claims arising out of foreign nuclear incidents. But that policy appears to have changed,” the panel said. “Now that the United States has ratified the CSC, the State Department takes the position that it would prefer to keep exclusive jurisdiction as a bargaining chip to encourage other nations to join the CSC. We owe this view deference.”

The panel also rejected TEPCO’s argument that the case does not belong in the U.S. under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, which allows a court to dismiss a case when it would be more conveniently handled in a foreign forum.

“In this case, plaintiffs are U.S. citizens, and their decision to sue in the United States must be respected. The district court properly took plaintiffs’ choice of their home forum into consideration and did not abuse its discretion in finding that other private and public considerations did not outweigh plaintiffs’ interest in suing at home,” the panel said.

Finally, the panel rejected TEPCO’s argument that the plaintiffs’ claims are nonjusticiable under the “political question” doctrine — which holds that the court cannot rule on fundamentally political questions.

But the panel left open the possibility that either the international comity doctrine or the political question doctrine could be used as a reason to dismiss the sailors’ lawsuit once the case progresses and more facts come to light.

U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino in October 2014 granted TEPCO’s motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ strict liability and design defect claims, but denied TEPCO’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Judges A. Wallace Tashima, Kim McLane Wardlaw and Jay S. Bybee sat on the panel.

The sailors are represented by Charles A. Bonner, Adam Cabral Bonner and Paul C. Garner of the Law Offices of Bonner & Bonner and John R. Edwards and Catharine E. Edwards of Edwards Kirby.

TEPCO is represented by Daniel P. Collins, Bryan H. Heckenlively and Gregory P. Stone of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP.

The government is represented by Benjamin C. Mizer, Laura E. Duffy, Douglas N. Letter, Sharon Swingle and Dana Kaersvang of the U.S. Department of Justice; Brian J. Egan of the U.S. Department of State; and Jennifer M. O’Connor of the U.S. Department of Defense.

GE is represented by Michael D. Schissel, John B. Bellinger III, Lisa S. Blatt, David J. Weiner, Elisabeth S. Theodore and Sally L. Pei of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP.

The case is Lindsay R. Cooper et al. v. Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc., case number 15-56424, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

https://www.law360.com/california/articles/937440/9th-circ-allows-sailors-1b-fukushima-suit-to-proceed

Toshiba’s nuclear flagship U.S. Westinghouse goes bust after $10 billion losses

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Where Toshiba’s $10bn nuclear debt came from: the Vogtle AP1000 construction site in Georgia, under inspection by NRC Commissioner Svinicki.

Toshiba’s nuclear flagship goes bust after $10 billion losses

News that one of the world’s biggest nuclear power constructors, Westinghouse, has filed for bankruptcy in with debts of over $10 billion has put the entire sector on notice and issued a dire warning to nuclear investors everywhere, writes Jim Green. Among the likely casualties: the UK’s Moorside nuclear complex in Cumbria.

The rapidly-evolving nuclear power crisis escalated dramatically yesterday when US nuclear giant Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba, filed for bankruptcy.

The Chapter 11 filing took place in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in New York City.

Westinghouse and its parent Toshiba are in crisis because of massive cost overruns building four ‘AP1000’ nuclear power reactors in the southern US states of Georgia and South Carolina.

The combined cost overruns for the four reactors now amount to about $1.2 billion and counting. And it has now emerged that they may never be finished at all. Whether the four reactors will be completed is now subject to an “assessment period”, according to Westinghouse.

The corporate mishap may also signal the end of new nuclear power in the US. No other reactors are under construction in the country and there is no likelihood of any new reactors in the foreseeable future. The US reactor fleet is one of the oldest in the world, with 44 out of its 99 reactors having been operated for four decades or more.

A $10 billion financial hole – and it’s getting deeper!

Toshiba says Westinghouse had debts totalling US$9.8 billion. Plans for new Westinghouse reactors in India, the UK and China are in jeopardy and will likely be cancelled. Bloomberg noted yesterday: “Westinghouse Electric Co., once synonymous with America’s industrial might, wagered its future on nuclear power – and lost.”

The same could be said about Toshiba, which is selling profitable businesses to stave off bankruptcy. Toshiba said yesterday it expects to book a net loss of $9.1 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends on Friday – a record loss for a Japanese manufacturer.

That projected loss is also well over double the estimate provided just last month, raising investor fears that the final figure may be greater still. “Every time they put out an estimate, the loss gets bigger and bigger”, said Zuhair Khan, an analyst at Jefferies in Tokyo. “I don’t think this is the last cockroach we have seen coming out of Toshiba.”

The BBC noted that Toshiba’s share-price has been in freefall, losing more than 60% since the company first unveiled the problems in December 2016. Toshiba president Satoshi Tsunakawa said at a news conference yesterday: “We have all but completely pulled out of the nuclear business overseas.”

Westinghouse is the major member of the Nugen consortium that’s set to build a massive three-reactor AP1000 nuclear complex at Moorside in the UK, next to the Sellafield site. The company has already stated that while it intends to progress the project through planning stages, it is unable to take on financing or construction and intends to sell its share.

Nugen’s other member, the French energy company Engie (formerly GDF Suez) has also gone on record as wanting to extricate itself from the Moorside project in favour of the ‘new energy’ economy based on renewable, storage and smart grid technologies.

It’s now looking increasingly probable that the Moorside project, given the state of the Nugen consortium and the massive failure of the AP1000 design, may never progress to construction.

The good news for the nuclear industry? The UK’s Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) today – with impeccable timing – accepted the AP1000 design as suitable for construction in the UK and issued Westinghouse a Design Acceptance Certificate.

Is the nuclear game up at last?

A similar crisis is unfolding in France, which has 58 power reactors but just one under construction. French ‘EPR’ reactors under construction in France (Flamanville) and Finland are three times over budget – the combined cost overruns for the two reactors amount to about €12.7 billion and counting.

The French government is selling assets so it can prop up its heavily indebted nuclear utilities Areva and EDF. The French nuclear industry is in its “worst situation ever” according to former EDF director Gérard Magnin.

Meanwhile a simple comparison of decommissioning provision between France and Germany indicates that EDF has massively under-budgetted for its liabilities. Germany has set aside €38 billion to decommission its 17 nuclear reactors (€2.2 billion each), but France has set aside only €23 billion to decommission its 58 reactors (€0.4 billion each).

When the real costs, for which EDF will be liable, come in, they could easily bankrupt the company. This in turn puts the UK’s Hinkley Point double EPR nuclear project, in which EDF is the main partner, in doubt.

The crisis-ridden US, French and Japanese nuclear industries account for half of worldwide nuclear power generation. Other countries with crisis-ridden nuclear programs or nuclear phase-out policies account for more than half of worldwide nuclear power generation.

Meranwhile renewable energy generation doubled over the past decade and strong growth, driven by sharp cost decreases, will continue for the foreseeable future.

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2988820/toshibas_nuclear_flagship_goes_bust_under_10_billion_debt_burden.html

 

Toshiba’s nuclear unit files for bankruptcy, 1 tril. yen loss eyed

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Toshiba Corp. said Wednesday its troubled U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric Co. has filed for Chapter 11 and it could post a net loss of over 1 trillion yen, the biggest ever for a Japanese manufacturer.

Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, as the Japanese parent company was rushing to limit further losses from the U.S. unit and looking to exit the money-losing overseas nuclear business.

With the do-or-die decision on the filing, Toshiba will make all-out efforts to move out of its financial woes, Toshiba President Satoshi Tsunakawa told a press conference in Tokyo after Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy.

“We are almost risk-free as we are pulling out of overseas nuclear operations, the biggest problem,” he said.

Toshiba said it could post a group net loss of 1.01 trillion yen ($9.13 billion) for the fiscal year ending on Friday, with massive costs related to the Chapter 11 filing. Westinghouse has $9.8 billion in total liabilities, much of which must be shouldered by Toshiba under a debt guarantee for the U.S. unit.

The estimated net loss would eclipse 787.3 billion yen posted by Hitachi Ltd. in the year to March 2009 following the 2008 global financial crisis and would be much worse than the 390 billion yen loss the company projected in February.

The huge loss would put the company in a negative net worth of 620 billion yen at the end of March, Toshiba said, far larger than the 150 billion yen it previously estimated.

Tsunakawa said that he feels responsibility for the company’s crisis but has no intention to step down as chief executive.

He took the helm at the company last June after it had been hit by an accounting scandal in 2015.

The bankruptcy filing will deconsolidate Westinghouse from Toshiba’s financial results for the current fiscal year.

The company has been under pressure to have Westinghouse file for bankruptcy protection, as the unit is the main cause of its massive losses with delays in U.S. plant projects leading to cost overruns, informed sources have said.

The nuclear-to-electronics conglomerate was looking to finalize losses related to the unit within the current fiscal year through the bankruptcy filing.

In February, Toshiba said it was expecting a loss of 712.5 billion yen in its U.S. nuclear business for the nine months through December on an unaudited basis. The company had to delay its earnings announcement twice, saying it needed more time to look into an accounting problem at Westinghouse.

Faced with ballooning losses, Toshiba had been considering a way to separate itself from the debacle at Westinghouse, which it bought in 2006 as a step to tap into overseas markets.

The cash-strapped company has decided to spin off its prized memory chip business and sell a majority stake, or even the whole operation, to raise funds to bolster its financial standing.

Toshiba closed the first round of bids Wednesday for the new semiconductor division that it plans to establish on Saturday. It has likely attracted 10 bidders and will choose the preferred buyer in May, according to sources close to the matter.

Tsunakawa is confident that the bidders have a strong financial standing and the proceeds from the sale will be able to eliminate the company’s liabilities.

He estimates the value of the chip business at 2 trillion yen at least, and said he expects the value to continue to rise.

Toshiba is seeking support from Korea Electric Power Corp. as a sponsor, aiming to sell its Westinghouse shares to the South Korean utility.

“We are focused on developing a plan of reorganization to emerge from Chapter 11 as a stronger company while continuing to be a global nuclear technology leader,” Westinghouse Interim President and Chief Executive Officer Jose Emeterio Gutierrez said in a release.

The company turned the corner in stemming the bleeding for the time being. But the fate of its turnaround remains unclear.

The sale of Westinghouse and the pullout of the overseas nuclear business will leave the company with no core profit-making businesses after it sold its cash-cow medical business and as it plans to sell its chip operation.

The outlook for the sale of the U.S. unit is far from certain. Toshiba may find it difficult to attract a buyer with slowing demand for nuclear power generation after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170330/p2g/00m/0bu/029000c

 

Fukushima radiation has reached U.S. shores

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Tanks holding radiation contaminated water at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on February 25, 2016 in Okuma, Japan.

 

Its official. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has samples of Fukushima-sourced cesium-134 in salmon off the Pacific Coast of Oregon. Given cesium-134 has such a short half-life the source is linked to the on-going leaks from Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster. While the amount is still very, very low, it remains a concern given the Fukushima disaster is still not contained after more than five years.

SALEM, Ore. — For the first time, seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has been detected on the West Coast of the United States.

Cesium-134, the so-called fingerprint of Fukushima, was measured in seawater samples taken from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach in Oregon, according to researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Because of its short half-life, cesium-134 can only have come from Fukushima.

For the first time, cesium-134 has also been detected in a Canadian salmon, according to the Fukushima InFORM project, led by University of Victoria chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen.

Should we be worried? In both cases, levels are extremely low, the researchers said, and don’t pose a danger to humans or the environment.

Massive amounts of contaminated water were released from the crippled nuclear plant following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. More radiation was released to the air, then fell to the sea.

Woods Hole chemical oceanographer Ken Buesseler runs a crowd-funded, citizen science seawater sampling project that has tracked the radiation plume as it slowly makes its way across the Pacific Ocean.

The Oregon samples, marking the first time cesium-134 has been detected on U.S. shores, were taken in January and February of 2016 and later analyzed. They each measured 0.3 becquerels per cubic meter of cesium-134.

Buesseler’s team previously had found the isotope in a sample of seawater taken from a dock on Vancouver Island, B.C., marking its landfall in North America.

In Canada, Cullen leads the InFORM project to assess radiological risks to that country’s oceans following the nuclear disaster. It is a partnership of a dozen academic, government and non-profit organizations.

Last month, the group reported that a single sockeye salmon, sampled from Okanagan Lake in the summer of 2015, had tested positive for cesium-134.

The level was more than 1,000 times lower than the action level set by Health Canada, and is no significant risk to consumers, Cullen said.

Buesseler’s most recent samples off the West Coast also are showing higher-than background levels of cesium-137, another Fukushima isotope that already is present in the world’s oceans because of nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s.

Those results will become more important in tracking the radiation plume, Buesseler said, because the short half-life of cesium-134 makes it harder to detect as time goes on.

Cesium-134 has a half-life of two years, meaning it’s down to a fraction of what it was five years ago, he said. Cesium-137 has a 30-year half-life.

A recent InFORM analysis of Buesseler’s data concluded that concentrations of cesium-137 have increased considerably in the central northeast Pacific, although they still are at levels that pose no concern.

It appears that the plume has spread throughout this vast area from Alaska to California,” the scientists wrote.

They estimated that the plume is moving toward the coast at roughly twice the speed of a garden snail. Radiation levels have not yet peaked.

As the contamination plume progresses towards our coast we expect levels closer to shore to increase over the coming year,” Cullen said.

Even that peak won’t be a health concern, Buesseler said. But the models will help scientists model ocean currents in the future.

That could prove important if there is another disaster or accident at the Fukushima plant, which houses more than a thousand huge steel tanks of contaminated water and where hundreds of tons of molten fuel remain inside the reactors.

In a worst-case scenario, the fuel would melt through steel-reinforced concrete containment vessels into the ground, uncontrollably spreading radiation into the surrounding soil and groundwater and eventually into the sea.

That’s the type of thing where people are still concerned, as am I, about what could happen,” Buesseler said.

Scientists now know it would take four to five years for any further contamination from the plant to reach the West Coast.

Tracking the plume

Scientists are beginning to use an increase in cesium-137 instead of the presence of cesium-134 to track the plume of radioactive contamination from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster. These figures show the increase in cesium-137 near the West Coast between 2014 and 2015.

Graphic courtesy Dr. Jonathan Kellogg of InFORM, with data from Dr. John Smith, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Dr. Ken Buesseler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/fukushima-radiation-has-reached-us-shores/ar-AAlkXUr?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartandhp

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Nuclear pact’s future could emerge in Abe-Trump talks, arms remarks to complicate talks on U.S.-Japan deal ending in ’18

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Troops from the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military carry out a joint exercise on Ukibaru Island, Okinawa Prefecture, on Monday.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York next week, both men will size up each other and discuss the bilateral relationship and the challenges that lie ahead.

One challenge, whether it’s on the agenda or not, will be the future direction of Japan’s nuclear power program.

With a key 1988 bilateral agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear power due to expire in July 2018, Tokyo and Washington next year will have to begin addressing the question of what, exactly, Japan’s nuclear policy should be.

Renegotiating the treaty is also sure to raise questions about the possibility of Japan using nuclear materials for military purposes, especially as Trump made contradictory statements about the possibility of arming Japan with nuclear weapons.

In an April TV interview, he suggested that Japan might defend itself from North Korea’s nuclear weapons by way of a nuclear arsenal of its own. That comment came a few weeks after another television interview in which he said that it is time to reconsider America’s policy of not allowing Japan to arm itself with nuclear weapons because it is going to happen anyway, and is only a question of time.

Trump later claimed that his opponents were misrepresenting his position. In the weeks before Tuesday’s election, he toned down his rhetoric on nuclear weapons use in general.

Japan’s reply to Trump was that it would continue to maintain its three non-nuclear principles of not manufacturing, possessing, or introducing nuclear weapons.

Now, with the agreement’s extension soon to become an issue in the bilateral relationship, experts are wondering how Trump, when he is president, will handle negotiations.

“I have absolutely no idea what position the Trump administration will adopt. It’s pretty clear their issues team hasn’t thought through things like this,” says James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The U.S. has a long-standing policy against the accumulation of plutonium, but Japan already has about 48 tons stockpiled domestically and in Europe, and how it will consume or disposed of it remains uncertain.

“Japan has plans to produce more plutonium in the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. Given how few MOX-burning reactors will be operating in the foreseeable future, there is a very serious risk of a large imbalance between plutonium supply and demand,” Acton said, using the acronym for mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel. “I suspect the U.S. will use the occasion of the agreement’s renewal to try and address this problem.”

The Rokkasho plant is in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.

Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany, says Trump has created an unprecedented degree of uncertainty in Japan about nuclear cooperation in general.

“Regardless of what position the new U.S. administration takes with regard to renewing the 1988 agreement, it is Japan, with its 48 tons of separated plutonium and no peaceful use plans, together with the nations of East Asia, that need to take a leadership role in reducing the risks from nuclear power. That includes terminating Rokkasho,” Burnie said.

The 1988 agreement came about after concerns in the U.S. that Japan was pursuing a plutonium program that could lead to proliferation issues, and a desire by Japan to make it easier to obtain U.S. approval for nuclear material shipments to Japan from Europe, as required by a previous agreement. In turn, the U.S. got more say in the inspection and security requirements for nuclear facilities in Japan.

The agreement also clearly emphasized it was only for the peaceful uses of power.

Article 8 of the agreement specifically bans the transfer of nuclear material to Japan (or from Japan to the U.S.) for use in nuclear explosive devices, for research specifically on, or development of, nuclear devices, and for military purposes.

“The U.S. does not think that Japan is looking to possess nuclear weapons. But holding so much plutonium, like Japan does, sets a very bad example for other countries and creates great concerns in the U.S. about the problem of nuclear terrorism,” wrote Tetsuya Endo, former deputy chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission in a March article for the Tokyo-based Institute for Peace Policies.

Nuclear pact’s future could emerge in Abe-Trump talks

Radiation-absorption tests under development could save lives in nuclear explosion

Direct measurement (like Becquerels) via blood samples described in the article sounds like the way to go.

The key to understand is that this is something that has never existed and we hope it never gets used,” Josh LaBaer, principal investigator and director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, told Homeland Preparedness News.

The tests could also have civilian applications as well, LaBaer said, such as in the event of industrial accidents at a nuclear power plant or in medical situations when people are exposed to excessive radiation.

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The U.S. government is funding the late-stage development of tests that would quickly determine how much radiation a person has absorbed in the event of a catastrophic nuclear explosion.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) is sponsoring the development of tests that go beyond detecting whether radiation is on a person’s skin to determining the amount of radiation that has been absorbed into a person’s body.

The key to understand is that this is something that has never existed and we hope it never gets used,” Josh LaBaer, principal investigator and director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, told Homeland Preparedness News.

ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will provide more than $21.3 million over four years to develop the tests. Kansas City, Missouri-based MRIGlobal said in a written statement the contract could be extended for up to $100 million over 10 years.

MRIGlobal is partnering with Thermo Fisher Scientific and Arizona State University to lead the development of the program for BARDA. The agency also will provide more than $22.4 million in funding over two years to DxTerity Diagnostics based near Los Angeles.

The challenge was that in the event of a nuclear bomb in a major American city, there is an instantaneous release of high doses of gamma radiation, which is the type of radiation that travels through the air over large distances,” LaBaer said. “In that type of mass casualty event there would be lots of people who would need to be evaluated.”

The task for researchers was to develop a device that could quickly measure how much radiation large numbers of people had potentially absorbed into their organs and blood cells during a nuclear emergency. Devices currently available today can only detect radiation on the skin.

The amount of radiation that gets absorbed into the body has a direct implication on how that person gets triaged and managed,” LaBaer said. Absorption of a small or moderate dose of radiation could require medication, while a larger dose could require hospitalization and a potential bone marrow transplant.

BARDA is supporting development of the tests with the goal of potentially purchasing them from one or more of the companies for the Strategic National Stockpile.

After a six-year effort, the university has developed the ASU radiation (ARad) biodosimetry test, which would generate results in about eight hours and could be used on people who were exposed to radiation up to seven days after the event. HHS said the potential exists where 400,000 or more tests could be processed a week.

In the test, a blood sample is taken to isolate the white blood cells in order to collect the genes that have been exposed to radiation. Certain genes are more predictive when it comes to determining the amount of radiation the body was exposed to.

We were looking for the smallest number of genes we could use but that still were accurate in predicting dose depending on the time after the event,” LaBaer said.

Work to date has been based on animal studies and developing conversion factors to transfer to humans.

The tests could also have civilian applications as well, LaBaer said, such as in the event of industrial accidents at a nuclear power plant or in medical situations when people are exposed to excessive radiation.

https://homelandprepnews.com/featured/20018-radiation-absorption-tests-development-save-lives-nuclear-explosion/

Carlsbad, CA News Conference on the US sailors’ lawsuit against TEPCO

In March of 2011 as the still-ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster began, the US Navy sent a fleet of ships led by the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to participate in an humanitarian earthquake and tsunami relief effort called Operation Tomadachi (‘friendship’ in Japanese).

Fleet commanders were not informed by either TEPCO, the nuclear plant operator, or by the Japanese government about the plume of radioactive fallout being blown out to sea from what was eventually admitted to be a triple meltdown.

US navel personnel and their ships and aircraft were repeatedly doused with radiation from the rapidly shifting plume, which contaminated equipment, the ships’ air & ventilation systems, as well as drinking and bathing water.

Today, over 400 of those irradiated personnel have joined in a lawsuit against TEPCO seeking medical costs and compensation for the serious health effects they are experiencing, including cancers, miscarriages and loss of multiple bodily functions. At least 7 so far have died of their radiation-induced illnesses.

The suit, filed in the US court in California by attorneys Charles and Cabral Bonner and Paul Garner, charges that TEPCO withheld information from the Navy that would have prevented the mass radiation exposure and is therefore responsible to pay reparations.

TEPCO’s army of high-priced lawyers have been fighting to block the suit for over 5 years, and the merits of the case have yet to be addressed by the court as plaintiffs continue to die.

Last May, when former Japanese Prime Minister heard of the sailors’ plight, he insisted on coming to the US to interview some of the victims himself.

After several days of face-to-face private conversations with a sampling of suit’s plaintiffs and their affected family members, Mr. Koizumi held a news conference announcing his support of the lawsuit. Fighting back tears, he described what he had learned in the interviews, and stated his intention to establish a fund to help with the plaintiffs’ medical expenses.

Pt. 1 Mr. Koizumi’s Statement

This is the first of three segments of a May 17, 2016 news conference held in Carlsbad, CA by Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the US sailors’ lawsuit against TEPCO.

 

Pt. 2 – Q&A
This is the second of three segments of a May 17, 2016 news conference held in Carlsbad, CA by Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the US sailors’ lawsuit against TEPCO.

 

Pt. 3 – A soldiers story – This is the third of three segments of a May 17, 2016 news conference held in Carlsbad, CA by Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the US sailors’ lawsuit against TEPCO.