A confidential report by a senior nuclear expert calls on regulators to close California’s last nuclear plant until it can be established the facility can survive a powerful earthquake, according to an exclusive AP report.
The Diablo Canyon Power Plant, which was built near three geographical fault lines, provides electricity needs for more than 2.2 million people in America’s largest state. However, a confidential report by the plant’s former inspector, Michael Peck, is calling on federal regulators to pull the plug on the facility.
Following the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 2013, 30-year-old Diablo Canyon is the sole remaining nuclear energy supplier in California.
Peck warned in his 2013 report, which was obtained and verified by the Associated Press, that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is failing to maintain safety standards previously put in place for the facility’s operation.
The primary issue, as described by AP, is that “no one knows whether the facility’s equipment can withstand strong shaking from those faults – the potential for which was realized decades after the facility was built.”
Continuing to operate Diablo Canyon plant “challenges the presumption of nuclear safety,” the nuclear expert, who is employed as an instructor by the NRC, warned.
The surfacing of the confidential report comes after a magnitude-6 earthquake hit northern California on Sunday, injuring dozens of people and causing over $1 billion dollars in property losses. Fears that Sunday’s earthquake was just a precursor to the much-feared ‘Big One’ have once again sparked debate on the ability of California’s aging infrastructure to withstand an earthquake.
Meanwhile, nuclear experts continue to be haunted by the nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, which suffered severe damage following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011. To this day, Japanese authorities, amid a very concerned public, are attempting to halt the leak of radiation from the damaged structure.
In a report put out in July entitled, “Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of US Nuclear Plants,” it is advised that the nuclear industry should “access their preparedness for severe nuclear accidents associated with offsite-scale disasters.”
It adds that the current approach to nuclear safety is “clearly inadequate for preventing core-melt accidents and mitigating their consequences.”
After the Fukushima disaster, the NRC ordered US nuclear plants to reevaluate the risks posed by earthquakes, with studies due by March 2015.
Much of the current debate over the viability of California’s last nuclear facility originates from the 2008 discovery of the Shoreline fault, which, together with a number of other potentially active regions, including the large Hosgri fault, arguably places Diablo Canyon in a vulnerable geographical position.
Peck says Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the company that owns the nuclear facility, failed to prove that the plant would withstand the vibrations of a powerful earthquake, thereby violating its operating license. PG&E has challenged those claims, saying the structure is sound.
Blair Jones, a spokesman for PG&E, the company that owns the nuclear facility, said the NRC has conducted extensive analysis to prove the plant is “seismically safe.”
Jones told AP that concerns regarding earthquake-generated movements of the nuclear plant, which could potentially lead to a disaster, were put to rest in the 1970s following “seismic retrofitting” of the facility.
In 2012, the NRC supported preliminary studies that said vibrations and aftershocks coming from the Shoreline fault would not jeopardize the structural integrity of the reactors.
Meanwhile, the release of the confidential report has sent shockwaves through California’s political circles.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, expressed alarm that Peck’s report has only surfaced now.
“The NRC’s failure to act constitutes an abdication of its responsibility to protect public health and safety,” she said.
The committee announced it would hold hearings into how the NRC has responded to Peck’s suggestions.
Peck, currently an instructor at the NRC’s Technical Training Center, declined to comment on the AP report.
Only luck and real courage at 14 nuclear reactors on Japan’s Pacific coast overcame the technical failures of nuclear power and prevented the nation from being destroyed by radiation.
The untold story of March 11, 2011 is how close Japan came to three more spent fuel pool fires at Fukushima Daiichi and four meltdowns at Fukushima Daini.
When the magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the Pacific coast caused a seismic shock wave that reverberated throughout northern Japan, the country’s nuclear plants shut down automatically, as planned, preventing any further nuclear chain reactions.
Therein lies nuclear power’s fatal flaw, because an automatic shutdown does not stop the ongoing heat generated inside each nuclear reactor.
When uranium atoms split (a process called fission), they release tremendous energy, as well as rubble. Even when the chain reaction stops, the highly radioactive rubble emits decay heat that continues for years. Automatic shutdown simply means that no new nuclear fissions will occur.
A tsunami struck the west coast of Japan at Fukushima Daiichi just 45 minutes after the earthquake and plant shutdown, damaging all six nuclear reactors at the site and destroying shoreline emergency cooling water pumps.
The tsunami flooded Fukushima Daiichi’s emergency diesel generators. This is portrayed as the cause of the triple meltdown, because without diesel generators producing electricity, the plant could not be cooled.
Some have suggested that the diesel generators should be relocated so they are higher than a tsunami could reach, but this is the wrong solution to the wrong problem.
When the tsunami struck, the cooling equipment along the shoreline was turned into a scrap yard of twisted metal. Even if they had not been flooded, without operational shoreline pumps, the emergency diesel generators were doomed to fail, making it impossible to cool the nuclear core. In truth, the utter destruction of the shoreline pumps caused the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi.
The tsunami also wrecked cooling pumps at eight other reactors located at Fukushima Daini, Onagawa, and Tokai.
Twenty-four of the 37 emergency diesel generators located at four separate nuclear power sites, which contained a total of 14 nuclear reactors, failed during the tsunami. Of the 24 diesel generators that failed, only nine failures were due to flooding (eight at Fukushima Daiichi and one at Fukushima Daini). The other 15 diesel generators were not flooded, but were disabled when the tsunami wrecked their shoreline cooling pumps.
The situation in Japan was dire when the sun set on March 11, 2011. At Fukushima Daiichi, three reactors were melting down and three spent fuel pools were at risk of catching fire because they could not be cooled. Conditions were also worsening at Fukushima Daini’s four reactors.
It was good fortune and extreme courage that saved Japan and its people from a more tragic catastrophe.
First, the wind blew out to sea rather than inland. Experts have acknowledged that only 20 percent of Fukushima’s airborne radiation releases blew inland, while 80 percent streamed out to sea. If the wind had blown in the opposite direction, exposure to radiation would have been five times worse, and Tokyo would have been evacuated.
Fortunately, the tsunami-generating earthquake struck during a normal workday, when almost 1,000 people were working at Fukushima Daiichi and thousands more were working at Fukushima Daini. The employees trapped on site fought courageously to mitigate the escalating catastrophe. Without their efforts, Japan could have had as many as 10 nuclear meltdowns and simultaneous spent fuel fires.
If the earthquake and tsunami had begun at night, only 200 employees would have been working at these plants. With roads and bridges destroyed, none of the necessary staff would have been able to return to work.
Now, more than three years after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, shoreline cooling pumps throughout the world – including in Japan – remain unprotected from flooding or terrorist attacks.
Japan is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis. Is reopening its nuclear plants worth the risk to its people and their homeland?
The simultaneous technological failure at 14 nuclear reactors due to a single natural phenomenon clearly shows that the nuclear engineers who envisioned and designed nuclear power failed to expect the unexpected.
Unfortunately, the nuclear industry continues to push its message that nuclear power can be made safer. Fukushima, and before it Chernobyl, shows us that nuclear technology will always be able to destroy the fabric of a country in the blink of an eye.
Arnold GundersenArnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates is a former nuclear industry senior vice president and licensed reactor operator. He earned his master’s degree in nuclear engineering via the prestigious Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship.
Over 3 years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, there is virtually no health research being conducted or released on harm to the Japanese. An April report by a UN committee tried to sweep the issue under the rug, predicting any harmful effects of the catastrophe is “unlikely.”
The UN panel made a very broad assumption about the worst nuclear catastrophe in history (or worst since Chernobyl) – and did this BEFORE research is done. However, a local health study raises alarm bells. Fukushima Medical University found 46% of local children have a pre-cancerous nodule or cyst, and 130 have thyroid cancer, vs. 3 expected. Incredibly, the University corrupts science by asserting the meltdown played no role in these high figures.
But Japanese studies must go far beyond childhood thyroid diseases. Japan isn’t the only site to study, as the fallout from the meltdown spread across the northern hemisphere.
In 2011, we estimated 13,983 excess U.S. deaths occurred in the 14 weeks after Fukushima, when fallout levels were highest – roughly the same after Chernobyl in 1986. We used only a sample of deaths available at that time, and cautioned not to conclude that fallout caused all of these deaths.
Final figures became available this week. The 2010-2011 change in deaths in the four months after Fukushima was +2.63%, vs. +1.54% for the rest of the year. This difference translates to 9,158 excess deaths – not an exact match for the 13,983 estimate, but a substantial spike nonetheless.
Again, without concluding that only Fukushima caused these deaths, some interesting patterns emerged. The five Pacific and West Coast states, with the greatest levels of Fukushima fallout in the U.S., had an especially large excess. So did the five neighboring states (Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Utah), which received the next highest levels.
Most of the spring 2011 mortality increase were people over 80. Many of these elderly were in frail health; one possibility is that the added exposure to radioactive poison sped the dying process.
Fukushima radiation is the same as fallout from atom bomb explosions, releasing over 100 chemicals not found in nature. The radioactive chemicals enter the body as a result of precipitation that gets into the food chain. Once in the body, these particles harm or kill cells, leading to disease or death.
Once-skeptical health officials now admit even low doses of radiation are harmful. Studies showed X-rays to pregnant women’s abdomens raised the risk of the child dying of cancer, ending the practice. Bomb fallout from Nevada caused up to 212,000 Americans to develop thyroid cancer. Nuclear weapons workers are at high risk for a large number of cancers.
Rather than the UN Committee making assumptions based on no research, medical research on changes in Japanese disease and death rates are needed – now, in all parts of Japan. Similar studies should be done in nations like Korea, China, eastern Russia, and the U.S. Not knowing Fukushima’s health toll only raises the chance that such a disaster will be repeated in the future.
Joseph Mangano is Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.
Janette D. Sherman MD is an internist and toxicologist, and editor of Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment.
Westinghouse plans to hold a competitive tender “within the next year” for construction of a seventh reactor at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria. The AP1000 reactor is projected to be online by 2023.
The site is already home to two operating Russian-designed VVER-1000 pressurised water reactors, Kozloduy 5 and 6, as well as four shut-down VVER-440s.
Westinghouse, part of Japan’s Toshiba group, announced the target date following its signing today of a shareholder agreement for the Kozloduy nuclear power plant expansion project. A source close to the talks in Sofia told World Nuclear News the agreement decides the ownership of project company Kozloduy NPP – New Builds plc, of which Kozloduy NPP plc and Westinghouse will own, respectively, 70% and 30%.
The agreement followed consultations with all of Bulgaria’s political parties, Westinghouse said in a statement. This and subsequent agreements for the project will be subject to future government oversight, it said. Bulgaria will have an interim government for two months, following the resignation of prime minister Plamen Oresharski’s government last week and a snap election in October.
The agreement also formalizes the selection of an AP1000 design reactor by Bulgarian Energy Holding EAD (BEH EAD), Kozloduy NPP plc and Kozloduy NPP – New Build plc. These parties entered into exclusive talks with Westinghouse in December 2013, following a feasibility study conducted under a competitive tender. Westinghouse will provide all of the plant equipment, design, engineering and fuel for the new unit.
A tender for the plant’s construction will follow European Union and Bulgarian public procurement rules, Westinghouse said. This process is expected to involve Bulgarian and global construction companies.
Bulgaria’s council of ministers approved an economy and energy ministry report on the shareholder agreement on 30 July, BEH EAD said yesterday. The agreement – including the financing terms of an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the project – will enter into force after approval by the next government, it said.
Today’s agreement does not in itself mean that Kozloduy 7 will be built, however.
“Any future build will be dependent on future agreements such as an EPC. It will also require mutual agreement on financing terms and conditions,” Westinghouse spokesman Hans Korteweg told World Nuclear News.
“This agreement does not identify any specific assumptions on state support of any kind. It allows both Westinghouse and Kozloduy to engage international finance entities to determine best conditions for both parties. If this is not realized, the project will not go forward,” Korteweg said.
“This agreement in no way creates a binding decision to proceed – by either party. What it does do is to provide a basis for the project to go forward through a working partnership in reaching the next key agreements and obtaining attractive financing,” he said.
Some commentators in Bulgaria have said discussion about the project had lacked transparency, but Korteweg said this assertion was false.
“The process is similar to those conducted in France and the UK, for instance, where a partner and a technology are selected from current viable alternatives,” he said. “Specifically, there are only three PWR reactor designs certified in Europe – AP1000, EPR and MIR.1200. The Westinghouse AP1000 meets the criteria of diversified technology from existing reactors and 1200 MW maximum in size due to Bulgarian grid limitations,” he said.
Prior to today’s announcement, Kozloduy NPP and Westinghouse were bound by confidentiality common in all industries before release of the parameters of an agreement, he said.
Although he would not confirm the share ownership of the project company, Korteweg said Westinghouse will not remain an equity investor once the reactor has been completed.
“We believe this is a national asset for Bulgaria and do not wish to dictate or otherwise influence the decision-making of its owners and operators. Bulgaria will have 100% of the revenue and profits of this plant,” Korteweg said. “Westinghouse’s stake in the project company during construction incentivizes Westinghouse to build a plant that meets international and Bulgarian safety standards, on schedule and within budget,” he said.
Bulgaria has an oversupply of electricity, but supply will fall in the mid-2020s with changes in the country’s energy mix, including fossil fuel plant closures due to CO2 emission reduction requirements and relative competitiveness of renewable energy, he said.
Additional nuclear power capacity during this timeframe “can certainly be utilized domestically and in export growth,” he said. Kozloduy 7 also represents the “smooth and eventual” replacement of units 5 and 6 in the next 20-30 years, especially after units 1-4 were shut down as part of Bulgaria’s accession to the EU in 2007, he said.
Asked if there will be a guaranteed power price for the reactor once it comes online, Korteweg said today’s agreement does not mention this.
“While many EU countries will be utilizing this tool, such as the UK, this is the decision of the Bulgarian government and its energy regulator to decide. The most important point is that the project produces power at the most competitive price compared to alternatives. This is something we are confident will be achieved,” he said.
Korteweg would not comment on the cost to build Kozloduy 7, but said Westinghouse has “offered a commercially attractive price to Bulgaria to provide diverse energy security without greenhouse gas generation.”
The company has “full confidence” that the conditions of this and future agreements for the project will meet EU rules, he said.
Korteweg referred to the European Commission’s publication in May of a Communication outlining its recommendations for the establishment of a European Energy Security Strategy.
“Central to that strategy is the urgent need for the EU to increase its indigenous energy production, reduce its dependence upon external suppliers, and encourage diversity in the energy mix in order to meet its energy needs,” he said.
A European Council decision in late June to diversify energy supplies from Russia is also consistent with the Kozloduy 7 project, he said, as currently Russian companies have a monopoly supply of fuel to the plant.
“Westinghouse is not an integrated vendor and must therefore contract with local suppliers,” Korteweg said. “A significant amount of the project will be done in Bulgaria and is expected to significantly boost local, regional and national Bulgarian economies. Bulgarian companies are currently heavily involved with other contracts that Westinghouse has with units 5 and 6,” he said.
At the height of construction of the new unit, close to 3500 local workers will be employed on site, with an additional 15,000 workers involved in the associated supply chain, he said. Regional unemployment around the construction site could be reduced to 9% from the current rate of 13%, he said. Once the reactor is completed, its operation will require between 500 and 800 highly-skilled specialists, he said.
Westinghouse is also prepared to integrate Bulgarian companies into other ongoing and prospective projects, such as in the UK, he said.
Westinghouse recently announced an agreement to supply three Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors to the NuGeneration Limited’s Moorside project in West Cumbria, England, in partnership with Toshiba and GDF Suez.
Hillary Mann Leverett on the Iran Nuclear Talks
Earlier this week, Hillary appeared on CCTV’s The Heat to discuss the Iran nuclear talks; click on video above or see here. In her segment, she focused on what really drives the divide between Tehran and the Western members of the P5+1 (the United States, Britain, and France) over Iranian enrichment—namely, the clash between the Islamic Republic’s commitment to strategic independence and Western powers’ determination that Tehran must accept their directives regarding implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the dynamics of Middle Eastern power politics. As Hillary notes,
“There has been progress on some significant issues—but this fundamental issue about enrichment is critically important. It gets to not just the number of centrifuges…The issue is really a question of independence.
Iran is fiercely devoted to its independence. That’s what the Islamic Revolution was all about—for Iran to be independent of foreign powers—and it wants this civilian nuclear program as part of its program for independence. So it needs to not dismantle any of its current infrastructure—which includes about 10,000 operating centrifuges—and to increase it, to a have full-fledged civilian nuclear power program.
The United States wants just the opposite. The United States has finally come around, after more than ten years of pounding its fist on the table, to admitting that maybe Iran could have a symbolic program—but that Iran needs to remain dependent on other countries…Not only does this go against the very principles of the revolution in Iran, for independence, but, in fact, Iran tried that. They bought fuel from Argentina, until the United States got angry and forced Argentina to cut it off. And they were part of a project called Eurodif, where Iran bought ten percent of that project, and then they were cut off.
So that’s the fundamental divide—whether to keep Iran dependent on the international community, or to allow them to be independent. That is going to be a very difficult bridge to cross…It’s not a matter of time; it’s a matter of mentality.”
Of course, official Washington’s hegemonic mentality—and its accompanying pretensions—are increasingly at odds with the actual distribution of power in an evolving international order. In part, this reflects the declining utility of America’s military might; to paraphrase a line from that timeless study in the exercise of power (and classic Hollywood blockbuster film), The Godfather, “the United States doesn’t even have that kind of muscle anymore—and can’t really use that much of what it still has.” As Hillary elaborates, that’s an important reason the United States is negotiating, however reluctantly, with Iran:
“It’s interesting that President Obama has refrained…since January of this year, from saying that all options are on the table, for two reasons. One, I think, in terms of allowing the negotiations to go forward, is to take the military option off the table as an offensive rhetorical device against the Iranians.
But part of this is real. This is something that, from all my trips to Iran, I understood. The Supreme Leader there, security and political analysts there, realized a few years ago that after America’s failed interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, we don’t have the military option on the table, and that gives room for negotiations.
So, even though I’m not optimistic there’s going to be a deal, a comprehensive deal either today or in four months (the new deadline), I do think that there’s enough incentive on both sides to continue negotiations for a very long time. And you may see in September, when the United Nations convenes in New York, you may see not only continued intensive negotiations of high-level officials, but potentially even a President Obama-President Rohani meeting—not to actually seal the deal, but to inject enough momentum to keep things going past the November congressional elections and continue to kick this can down the road.”
Hillary is similarly skeptical about the prospects for a unilateral Israeli attack against Iran:
“Even though a tragically high number of Palestinians have been killed in this current conflict [in Gaza], there is a bit of exposure of the emperor wearing no clothes, that the Israelis are not able to defeat HAMAS in Gaza. And the Iranians certainly see the Israelis having no clothes, that they don’t have the technical capability to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. With that, there is, again, more time for negotiations.”
Beyond the purely military dimension of America’s relative decline, the rising influence of non-Western powers—China, Russia, and, in the Middle East itself, Iran—has also helped push the United States into multilateral nuclear talks with the Islamic Republic. As Hillary explains, that’s an important reason the P5+1 is negotiating with Iran:
“The world has changed in the past ten years. Ten years ago, when the United States would say that the U.S., Israel, France, and Britain were ‘the international community,’ nobody really made that much noise. Today, they do. So today, the United States has to take the views of, particularly, Russia and China very squarely into account. They have to be at the table, and they have to buy into what the political and security order is going to look like in the Middle East—not just how many centrifuges Iran is going to have. That’s why we have the negotiations.”
Yet, even though it has been pushed into multilateral nuclear negotiations with Iran, the United States continues to take hegemonically assertive positions in the talks. Take Washington’s positions on the duration of a prospective final agreement, the number of centrifuges Iran should be “allowed” to operate under a final agreement, and limiting Iran’s alleged “breakout” capability. As Hillary describes,
“The United States wants at least a ten-year, and they’re gunning really for a twenty-year deal. That has nothing to do with proliferation. That has to do with their wanting to outwait the Supreme Leader, the Supreme Leader’s life…so that the Islamic Republic has, in their view, a prospect of collapsing into a more pro-American political order.
The Iranians are not buying into that…they’re focused more on what their practical needs are, based on when they have contracts or prospective contracts for nuclear plants, when they need the fuel, and how much fuel they need.
That gets into the number of centrifuges—and, again, this is where the Supreme Leader has spoken about numbers that are much greater than the Americans are willing to consider at this point. But he’s focused on what are the practical needs—the practical needs as told to him by the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, who (guess what) has his Ph.D. from MIT here in the United States, and who knows what he’s doing.
So [the Iranians] are really talking about a practical needs-based approach, based on a sovereign country pursuing a technical, practical program. The United States is focused on power and influence, and on maintaining a pro-American political and security order in the Middle East…
The so-called ‘breakout issue’ is also a lot of smoke and mirrors. Again, it’s aimed at limiting Iran’s domestic, indigenous, sovereign capacity to pursue this program.
If the United States and its so-called partners were really interested in proliferation, they would accept the Iranian deal, which is to convert all—not some, but all—their enriched uranium into oxide, into powder to make into fuel. All of it. You’d solve the proliferation issue overnight, but the United States isn’t interested in that…We’re interested in constraining capacity, to constrain Iran’s power—its rising power, particularly in the Middle East—at a very volatile time for the United States.”
Hillary goes on to discuss the strategic imperative for the United States to pursue “Nixon-to-China”-style rapprochement with the Islamic Republic—and, in the process, “to change America’s strategy from one of dominance and hegemony in the Middle East to one that is a balance of power, that recognizes and deals with all the critical powers as they are, not as we would like to transform the Middle East.”
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett
There is broad disagreement over the amounts and effects of radiation exposure due to the triple reactor meltdowns after the 2011 Great East-Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) joined the controversy June 4, with a 27-page “Critical Analysis of the UNSCEAR Report ‘Levels and effects of radiation exposures due to the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East-Japan Earthquake and tsunami.’”
IPPNW is the Nobel Peace Prize winning global federation of doctors working for “a healthier, safer and more peaceful world.” The group has adopted a highly critical view of nuclear power because as it says, “A world without nuclear weapons will only be possible if we also phase out nuclear energy.”
UNSCEAR, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, published its deeply flawed report April 2. Its accompanying press release summed up its findings this way: “No discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases are expected due to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident.” The word “discernable” is a crucial disclaimer here.
Cancer, and the inexorable increase in cancer cases in Japan and around the world, is mostly caused by toxic pollution, including radiation exposure according to the National Cancer Institute. But distinguishing a particular cancer case as having been caused by Fukushima rather than by other toxins, or combination of them, may be impossible leading to UNSCEAR’s deceptive summation. As the IPPNW report says, “A cancer does not carry a label of origin…”
UNSCEAR’s use of the phrase “are expected” is also heavily nuanced. The increase in childhood leukemia cases near Germany’s operating nuclear reactors, compared to elsewhere, was not “expected,” but was proved in 1997. The findings, along with Chernobyl’s lingering consequences, led to the country’s federally mandated reactor phase-out. The plummeting of official childhood mortality rates around five US nuclear reactors after they were shut down was also “unexpected,” but shown by Joe Mangano and the Project on Radiation and Human Health.
The International Physicians’ analysis is severely critical of UNSCEAR’s current report which echoes its 2013 Fukushima review and press release that said, “It is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers.”
“No justification for optimistic presumptions”
The IPPNW’s report says flatly, “Publications and current research give no justification for such apparently optimistic presumptions.” UNSCEAR, the physicians complain, “draws mainly on data from the nuclear industry’s publications rather than from independent sources and omits or misinterprets crucial aspects of radiation exposure”, and “does not reveal the true extent of the consequences” of the disaster. As a result, the doctors say the UN report is “over-optimistic and misleading.” The UN’s “systematic underestimations and questionable interpretations,” the physicians warn, “will be used by the nuclear industry to downplay the expected health effects of the catastrophe” and will likely but mistakenly be considered by public authorities as reliable and scientifically sound. Dozens of independent experts report that radiation attributable health effects are highly likely.
Points of agreement: Fukushima is worse than reported and worsening still
Before detailing the multiple inaccuracies in the UNSCEAR report, the doctors list four major points of agreement. First, UNSCEAR improved on the World Health Organization’s health assessment of the disaster’s on-going radioactive contamination. UNSCEAR also professionally “rejects the use of a threshold for radiation effects of 100 mSv [millisieverts], used by the International Atomic Energy Agency in the past.” Like most health physicists, both groups agree that there is no radiation dose so small that it can’t cause negative health effects. There are exposures allowed by governments, but none of them are safe.
Second, the UN and the physicians agree that areas of Japan that were not evacuated were seriously contaminated with iodine-132, iodine-131 and tellurium-132, the worst reported instance being Iwaki City which had 52 times the annual absorbed dose to infants’ thyroid than from natural background radiation. UNSCEAR also admitted that “people all over Japan” were affected by radioactive fallout (not just in Fukushima Prefecture) through contact with airborne or ingested radioactive materials. And while the UNSCEAR acknowledged that “contaminated rice, beef, seafood, milk, milk powder, green tea, vegetables, fruits and tap water were found all over mainland Japan”, it neglected “estimating doses for Tokyo … which also received a significant fallout both on March 15 and 21, 2011.”
Third, UNSCEAR agrees that the nuclear industry’s and the government’s estimates of the total radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean are “far too low.” Still, the IPPNW reports shows, UNSCEAR’s use of totally unreliable assumptions results in a grossly understated final estimate. For example, the UN report ignores all radioactive discharges to the ocean after April 30, 2011, even though roughly 300 tons of highly contaminated water has been pouring into the Pacific every day for 3-and-1/2 years, about 346,500 tons in the first 38 months.
Fourth, the Fukushima catastrophe is understood by both groups as an ongoing disaster, not the singular event portrayed by industry and commercial media. UNSCEAR even warns that ongoing radioactive pollution of the Pacific “may warrant further follow-up of exposures in the coming years,” and “further releases could not be excluded in the future,” from forests and fields during rainy and typhoon seasons when winds spread long-lived radioactive particles and from waste management plans that now include incineration.
As the global doctors say, in their unhappy agreement with UNSCAR, “In the long run, this may lead to an increase in internal exposure in the general population through radioactive isotopes from ground water supplies and the food chain.”
Physicians find ten grave failures in UN report
The majority of the IPPNW’s report details 10 major errors, flaws or discrepancies in the UNSCEAR paper and explains study’s omissions, underestimates, inept comparisons, misinterpretations and unwarranted conclusions.
1. The total amount of radioactivity released by the disaster was underestimated by UNSCEAR and its estimate was based on disreputable sources of information. UNSCEAR ignored 3.5 years of nonstop emissions of radioactive materials “that continue unabated,” and only dealt with releases during the first weeks of the disaster. UNSCEAR relied on a study by the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) which, the IPPNW points out, “was severely criticized by the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission … for its collusion with the nuclear industry.” The independent Norwegian Institute for Air Research’s estimate of cesium-137 released (available to UNSCEAR) was four times higher than the JAEA/UNSCEAR figure (37 PBq instead of 9 PBq). Even Tokyo Electric Power Co. itself estimated that iodine-131 releases were over four times higher than what JAEA/UNSCEAR) reported (500 PBq vs. 120 BPq). The UNSCEAR inexplicably chose to ignore large releases of strontium isotopes and 24 other radionuclides when estimating radiation doses to the public. (A PBq or petabecquerel is a quadrillion or 1015 Becquerels. Put another way, a PBq equals 27,000 curies, and one curie makes 37 billion atomic disintegrations per second.)
2. Internal radiation taken up with food and drink “significantly influences the total radiation dose an individual is exposed to,” the doctors note, and their critique warns pointedly, “UNSCEAR uses as its one and only source, the still unpublished database of the International Atomic Energy Association and the Food and Agriculture Organization. The IAEA was founded … to ‘accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world.’ It therefore has a profound conflict of interest.” Food sample data from the IAEA should not be relied on, “as it discredits the assessment of internal radiation doses and makes the findings vulnerable to claims of manipulation.” As with its radiation release estimates, IAEA/UNSCEAR ignored the presence of strontium in food and water. Internal radiation dose estimates made by the Japanese Ministry for Science and Technology were 20, 40 and even 60 times higher than the highest numbers used in the IAEA/UNSCEAR reports.
3. To gauge radiation doses endured by over 24,000 workers on site at Fukushima, UNSCEAR relied solely on figures from Tokyo Electric Power Co., the severely compromised owners of the destroyed reactors. The IPPNW report dismisses all the conclusions drawn from Tepco, saying, “There is no meaningful control or oversight of the nuclear industry in Japan and data from Tepco has in the past frequently been found to be tampered with and falsified.”
4. The UNSCEAR report disregards current scientific fieldwork on actual radiation effects on plant and animal populations. Peer reviewed ecological and genetic studies from Chernobyl and Fukushima find evidence that low dose radiation exposures cause, the doctors point out, “genetic damage such as increased mutation rates, as well as developmental abnormalities, cataracts, tumors, smaller brain sizes in birds and mammals and further injuries to populations, biological communities and ecosystems.” Ignoring these studies, IPPNW says “gives [UNSCEAR] the appearance of bias or lack of rigor.”
5. The special vulnerability of the embryo and fetus to radiation was completely discounted by the UNSCEAR, the physicians note. UNSCEAR shockingly said that doses to the fetus or breast-fed infants “would have been similar to those of other age groups,” a claim that, the IPPNW says, “goes against basic principles of neonatal physiology and radiobiology.” By dismissing the differences between an unborn and an infant, the UNSCEAR “underestimates the health risks of this particularly vulnerable population.” The doctors quote a 2010 report from American Family Physician that, “in utero exposure can be teratogenic, carcinogenic or mutagenic.”
6. Non-cancerous diseases associated with radiation doses — such as cardiovascular diseases, endocrinological and gastrointestinal disorders, infertility, genetic mutations in offspring and miscarriages — have been documented in medical journals, but are totally dismissed by the UNSCEAR. The physicians remind us that large epidemiological studies have shown undeniable associations of low dose ionizing radiation to non-cancer health effects and “have not been scientifically challenged.”
7. The UNSCEAR report downplays the health impact of low-doses of radiation by misleadingly comparing radioactive fallout to “annual background exposure.” The IPPNW scolds the UNSCEAR saying it is, “not scientific to argue that natural background radiation is safe or that excess radiation from nuclear fallout that stays within the dose range of natural background radiation is harmless.” In particular, ingested or inhaled radioactive materials, “deliver their radioactive dose directly and continuously to the surrounding tissue” — in the thyroid, bone or muscles, etc. — “and therefore pose a much larger danger to internal organs than external background radiation.”
8. Although UNSCEAR’s April 2 Press Release and Executive Summary give the direct and mistaken impression that there will be no radiation health effects from Fukushima, the report itself states that the Committee “does not rule out the possibility of future excess cases or disregard the suffering associated…” Indeed, UNSCEAR admits to “incomplete knowledge about the release rates of radionuclides over time and the weather conditions during the releases.” UNSCEAR concedes that “there were insufficient measurements of gamma dose rate…” and that, “relatively few measurements of foodstuff were made in the first months.” IPPNW warns that these glaring uncertainties completely negate the level of certainty implied in UNSCEAR’s Exec. Summary.
9. UNSCEAR often praises the protective measures taken by Japanese authorities, but the IPPNW finds it “odd that a scientific body like UNSCEAR would turn a blind eye to the many grave mistakes of the Japanese disaster management…” The central government was slow to inform local governments and “failed to convey the severity of the accident,” according to the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission. “Crisis management ‘did not function correctly,’ the Commission said, and its failure to distribute stable iodine, “caused thousands of children to become irradiated with iodine-131,” IPPNW reports.
10. The UNSCEAR report lists “collective” radiation doses “but does not explain the expected cancer cases that would result from these doses.” This long chapter of IPPNW’s report can’t be summarized easily. The doctors offer conservative estimates, “keeping in mind that these most probably represent underestimations for the reasons listed above.” The IPPNW estimates that 4,300 to 16,800 excess cases of cancer due to the Fukushima catastrophe in Japan in the coming decades. Cancer deaths will range between 2,400 and 9,100. UNSCEAR may call these numbers insignificant, the doctors archly point out, but individual cancers are debilitating and terrifying and they “represent preventable and man-made diseases” and fatalities.
IPPNW concludes that Fukushima’s radiation disaster is “far from over”: the destroyed reactors are still unstable; radioactive liquids and gases continuously leak from the complex wreckage; melted fuel and used fuel in quake-damaged cooling pools hold enormous quantities of radioactivity “and are highly vulnerable to further earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and human error.” Catastrophic releases of radioactivity “could occur at any time and eliminating this risk will take many decades.”
IPPNW finally recommends urgent actions that governments should take, because the UNSCEAR report, “does not adhere to scientific standards of neutrality,” “represents a systematic underestimation,” “conjures up an illusion of scientific certainty that obscures the true impact of the nuclear catastrophe on health and the environment,” and its conclusion is phrased “in such a way that would most likely be misunderstood by most people…”
John LaForge works for Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and anti-war group in Wisconsin, and edits its Quarterly.
 Nancy Wilson, National Cancer Institute, “The Majority of Cancers Are Linked to the Environment, NCI Benchmarks, Vol. 4, Issue 3, June 17, 2004
In-service dates for two nuclear units under construction at Plant Vogtle in Georgia have been moved out to December 2017 and December 2018, and the total project cost is now estimated at $6.76 billion—$650 million more than the certified cost—staff from Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) reported this week.
Steven Roetger and GDS Associates consultant William Jacobs, who testified on behalf of the PSC’s public interest advocacy staff on June 20 cited the 9th/10th Vogtle Construction Monitoring Report—which is yet to be made public—when they reported that companies building the project are behind on scheduled milestones.
The consortium building the project had originally projected the first of the two new reactors would be operational in April 2016.
Developers continue to be in litigation with the contractors Westinghouse and Chicago Bridge and Iron per an engineering, procurement, and construction agreement to determine which party is responsible for certain delays in the project schedule. Delays posed several risks, including mounting capital and financing costs, and replacement fuel costs, Roetger and Jacobs told the regulatory commission.
Much progress had been accomplished on the Unit 3 and Unit 4 nuclear islands last year, the staff members noted. But, “The engineering completion schedule identified that hundreds of activities were pushed out past the construction need date due to late engineering which delayed necessary procurement,” they said. “This in turn pushed out the start and end dates of some construction activities.”
Further delays are likely because some components for the AP1000 units have never been built before. The shield building, for example, is a first-of-a-kind design, fabricate, and assemble activity, and the design of the fully digital control system is also a first-of-a-kind activity, staff said. Schedule risks include technical difficulties with development of other key pieces of equipment as well, including the canned rotor coolant pumps, and the squib valves. Meanwhile, startup testing and resolution of problems identified during startup “will take longer than presently planned,” Roetger and Jacobs projected.
Southern Co. this week told the commission in its own monthly report that its “uncompromising focus continues to be on quality and safety of the project as decisions are made concerning schedule and cost.”
Construction of the two AP1000 reactors, each about 1.1 GW, was approved by the Georgia PSC in 2009. Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power, which owns 45.7% of the project with three other entities, received a combined construction and operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in February 2012. The Department of Energy finalized a $6.5 billion loan guarantee in February 2014 for two of Vogtle’s owners: Georgia Power and Oglethorpe Power Corp. The DOE is working on the remaining $1.8 billion for the expansion project’s third owner, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia. … Full article
The historiography of the atomic bomb can be roughly categorized into three camps: traditionalists, revisionists, and middle-ground “consensus” historians.  Traditionalists, also referred to as orthodox historians and post-revisionists, studying the atomic bomb generally accept the view posited by the Truman administration and articulated most clearly in Henry Stimson’s 1947 Harper’s Magazine article. In short, this argument assumes that the use of the atomic bombs against Japan was justifiable on military grounds in order to prevent a costly invasion of the Japanese home islands. Often attached to such analysis is the notion that insofar as the atomic bombs ended the war prior to an invasion and saved hundreds of thousands or millions of lives, the use of the atomic bombs was also a morally sound decision. There tends to be a remarkable level of homogeneity amongst the traditionalist arguments. Whereas they may emphasize certain facts or aspects of the debate, they tend to present strikingly similar arguments, with a few exceptions.
The revisionists, in contrast, tend to be far more heterogeneous. Revisionist historians are unconvinced by the official narrative, and tend to emphasize the alternatives to the atomic bomb not pursued by the Truman administration. Furthermore, most revisionists accept, on some level, the “atomic diplomacy” thesis articulated first by Gar Alperovitz in 1965. To one degree or another revisionists argue that the Truman administration purposefully chose not to pursue alternatives to ending the war and that post-war diplomatic concerns vis-à-vis the Soviet Union were germane to, and in some historian’s view dictated, the use of the atomic bombs.
The third camp, the consensus historians, are those who J. Samuel Walker refers to as having “reached a broad, though hardly unanimous, consensus on some key issues surrounding the use of the bomb.” These include the fact that Truman and his advisers were aware of alternatives that seemed likely to end the war, that invasion would likely not have been necessary, and that the atomic bomb did not save hundreds of thousands or millions of lives. What distinguishes them from the traditionalists is the argument that the atomic bombs were not a military necessity. On the other hand, their rejection or hesitancy to incorporate atomic diplomacy into their analysis differentiates them from the revisionists.
Given the nature of the three camps, the organizational framework I have utilized includes three sections. The first section will deal with the debate between traditionalists and revisionists. It will focus on questions of atomic diplomacy, the Potsdam Conference, unconditional surrender, Soviet entry into the war, projected casualty figures, and certain key figures in the Truman administration, the Soviet Union, and Japan. The second section will examine the points of disagreement within the revisionist camp. Although revisionists all challenge the orthodox position, they are significantly less homogenous than the latter. The third section of the essay will explore the consensus historians and their disagreements with both the traditionalists and the revisionists. Given the level of unanimity amongst the traditionalist historians, it is unnecessary to dedicate a section exploring differences between them because with rare exceptions, which will be noted when appropriate, there is remarkably little disagreement. The essay will conclude with a brief analysis of the authors, such as Robert Newman and Paul Boyer, who have extended their chronological framework significantly beyond the actual use of the atomic bombs.
The Traditionalists vs. the Revisionists
The five monographs within the traditionalist camp that will be analyzed here are Robert James Maddox’sWeapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision (2004), Robert P. Newman’sTruman and the Hiroshima Cult (1995), Richard B. Frank’s Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (1999), Paul D. Walker’sTruman’s Dilemma: Invasion or the Bomb (2003), and Wilson D. Miscamble’s The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan (2011). On the other side of the debate are four revisionist historians, including Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (1995), Martin J. Sherwin’s A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies (2003), Ronald Takaki’s Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb (1995), and Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (2005). The positions of the traditionalists and the revisionists regarding atomic diplomacy, the Potsdam Conference, Japanese surrender, the unconditional surrender policy, Soviet entry into the war, projected casualty figures, and key individuals involved in the decision to use the bomb and Japanese surrender are fundamentally at odds.
The question of atomic diplomacy is what creates the fundamental divide between the two camps. Although there is great variation between revisionist and traditionalist positions on unconditional surrender, the role and race and racism, and other factors, most questions tend to be subsumed within and intricately bound up with atomic diplomacy. Since the revisionists first posited this thesis, it is appropriate to adumbrate their arguments. Objecting to the official narrative that “Truman simply had no choice except to use the atomic bomb,” Alperovitz argues that Truman, significantly influenced by James Byrnes, used the bomb as a form of “atomic diplomacy” to pursue post-war U.S. interests in both Europe and Asia. In essence, Alperovitz argues that the U.S. government “generally understood” that “Japan was defeated and preparing to surrender before the bomb was used.”  According to Alperovitz there was a “quite general” notion amongst U.S. officials at Potsdam that the bomb would strengthen U.S. diplomacy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. It was during this time that “a conscious decision not to encourage Soviet participation in the war” was undertaken. Attempts “to delay the Red Army’s attack to the extent feasible” were meant to “limit Soviet political influence in Asia.” For Alperovitz atomic diplomacy is the crucial element in explaining the use of the bomb.
Martin Sherwin supplements Alperovitz’s atomic diplomacy thesis by extending the importance of such diplomatic concerns backwards into the Roosevelt administration. Sherwin posits that the policies of the Roosevelt administration suggest “that the diplomatic value of the bomb began to shape his atomic energy policies as early as 1943.” Although Sherwin cites Roosevelt’s elusive decision making process and sudden death as inhibitors to fully understanding his policy, he posits that Roosevelt “consistently opposed international control and acted in accordance with Churchill’s monopolistic, anti-Soviet views.” Ronald Takaki, despite emphasizing the role of race and racism in the decision, also concedes that atomic diplomacy was indeed a factor. He notes the “incredible pressure” on Manhattan project scientists to complete the bombs prior to the Potsdam conference. Similarly, he explains how Truman purposefully postponed the conference to coincide with the bomb tests. Takaki maintains that two “schools of thought” dominated the thinking of U.S. officials, including the “quid-pro-quo” strategy, articulated by people like Henry Stimson, and the “monopoly” strategy a la James Byrnes.  In Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s view, the Potsdam Proclamation was not a warning to Japan, but an attempt to justify the use of the bomb.
Hasegawa’s argument aligns with Alperovitz’s as well. He maintains that a “race” began at Potsdam between the United States and the Soviet Union when the Soviets set August 15 as their projected state of entry into the war. This “gave American policymakers a definite deadline to work for.”  Thus, the timing of the Potsdam Proclamation was “integrally connected with the schedule for deployment of the atomic bombs.” The Truman administration desired to end the war via the atomic bombs in order to avoid Soviet entry and maintain hegemony in the Pacific in the post-war world. Therefore, the Truman-Byrnes commitment to unconditional surrender and the Potsdam declaration was simply a prelude to the use of the atomic bombs. Byrnes position was essentially: “if we insisted on unconditional surrender, we could justify dropping of the atomic bomb.” Concerned about the post-war political consequences of Soviet participation in the war, U.S. planners sought to bring about Japan’s surrender before the Soviets could join. At best, Soviet participation in the war was an “insurance policy” in case the atomic tests failed.
Thus, the revisionist position is quite clear. Officials in the United States were deeply concerned about post-war hegemony, particularly in the Pacific but in Europe as well, and saw the use of the atomic bomb against Japan as a way to contain the Soviet Union. Subsequently, any and all alternatives that could have ended the war, albeit not in time to prevent Soviet entry, were disregarded and not pursued. This conclusion is often premised on the fact that Japan was already defeated and near surrender. Alperovitz argues that “Japan was defeated and preparing to surrender before the atomic bomb was used. Though the question of timing was in dispute, it is also certain that this was generally understood in the U.S. government at the time.”  Hasegawa contends that the “Soviet entry into the war played a greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender” and, as such, the Japanese would have quickly surrendered upon Soviet entry even without the use of the atomic bombs.
It is on these grounds that the traditionalists most vehemently challenge the revisionists. Robert James Maddox challenged what he saw as “blatant revisionist distortions” in order to construct his argument that the single-most decisive factor in forcing the Japanese to surrender and preventing a costly land invasion of Japan was the use of the atomic bombs. Whereas Alperovitz maintained that the casualty figures for a land invasion were inflated as post-war justifications by the Truman administration, Maddox suggests that the half-a-million figure “cited by Truman, and even higher ones, were circulated within the upper echelons of government.” For Maddox bombs were utilized out of military necessity because the Japanese would not have surrendered without the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Indeed, according to Maddox the “very idea of surrender was alien to the Japanese samurai tradition.” Furthermore, ULTRA intercepts suggest surrender prior to an invasion was not even a serious option, let alone inevitable. Richard Frank goes even further, arguing that the conclusions the revisionist reach regarding the MAGIC are erroneous because they ignore the fact that Japanese peace feelers were completely “want of official sanction.”  Thus, the “thesis that Japan was actively seeking to surrender in 1945, and that American policy makers knew this primarily from code breaking,” is rejected by the traditionalists.
Robert Newman concurs with this analysis, adding that most “Hiroshima cultists,” including Gar Alperovitz, P. M. S. Blackett, Paul Boyer, the Smithsonian exhibit authors, and others who “swallow this conclusion of the [United States Strategic Bombing Survey] whole” are incorrect because the study itself was extremely flawed.  Information in the survey was purposefully distorted to support conclusions already arrived at a priori by Paul Nitze, and the testimony of most high-ranking Japanese officials “overwhelmingly indicated that Japan was not about to surrender before the bomb.” Thus, the “Truman bashers” are incorrect to argue that the bomb changed no minds. In fact, according to Newman it “created a situation in which the peace party and the emperor could prevail.”  Wilson Miscamble also views himself as “exploding permanently the myth of a Japan ready to surrender,” a “myth” perpetuated by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946. 
Richard Frank furthers this argument by explaining that Japan’s “fundamental policy,” based on the Ketsu-Go defense plan, was a national resistance program intended to bloody the invading enemy enough to force political negotiations and ipso facto avoid unconditional surrender. Frank relies heavily upon the document produced by the Big Six entitled “The Fundamental Policy to Be Followed Henceforth in the Conduct of the War,” which argued Japan “must fight to the finish and choose extinction before surrender.” In essence, Japan was “effectively locked on course for a fight to the last man, woman, and child.” Furthermore, Frank continues this theme, arguing that the goal was to “severely bloody the invaders” to the point of achieving political goals. Ultra documents, according to Frank, did much to “unmask their carefully wrought plans.” The forces on Kyushu far exceeded the 350,000 number given to Truman. Indeed, by November 1 Japanese strength would be 680,000, much closer to the 1:1 ration of American to Japanese soldiers that U.S. leaders desperately wanted to avoid. Paul Walker takes this argument to its logical extreme. He argues that due the 35 percent casualty rate of the Iwo Jima and Okinawa battles, as well as the “fanaticism of the Japanese military and their updated code of Bushido,” casualties would have ranged from around 250,000 in the invasion of Kyushu alone, to over one million with the invasion of both Kyushu and Honshu. Miscamble maintains that “retrospective castigations” like William D. Leahy’s memoirs in 1950, which denounced the atomic bomb as a “modern type of barbarism not worthy of Christian man,” can be dismissed since “no military officials counseled the president against using the weapons prior to Hiroshima.” Maddox concurs, explaining that despite the retroactive denunciations of the atomic bomb by top-ranking military officials, no military officials seriously attempted to guide Truman away from using the bomb prior to its deployment. The fact that the bomb was utilized out of military necessity dismisses the “gravest charge against Truman,” namely that the atomic bomb was deployed “primary as a diplomatic weapon to intimidate the Soviet Union.”
The question of Soviet entry into the war preoccupies an important space in the discourse as well. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa maintains that “Soviet entry into the war played a greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender.” Interestingly, Maddox claims the Soviets invaded Manchuria not to be “a good ally” but rather “to get in on the kill,” an analysis Hasegawa would largely share. However, where the revisionists and the traditionalists differ, is that most traditionalists seriously downplay the role of Soviet entry into the war. In Frank’s narrative, “Soviet intervention was a significant but not decisive reason for Japan’s surrender… reinforcing but not fundamental.” Miscamble maintains that revisionist historians who emphasize Soviet entry in the war “distort history by overemphasizing” its importance. According to Miscamble, Hasegawa’s claim that Truman was disappointed at the Soviet entry into the war “are not substantiated by the historical evidence.”  Paul Walker points out that when the emperor finally surrendered on August 15, 1945, the Russian invasion was not mentioned as a cause of surrender. Hasegawa counters this point by citing “another historic document” written by Sakomizu’s  assistant and sanctioned by the emperor that was not issued until August 17. This re-script explained that if Japan continued fighting after the entrance of the Soviet Union into the war it would endanger “the very foundation of the empire’s existence,”  reinforcing Hasegawa’s claim that Soviet intervention was key.
Perhaps the most creative defense of the use of the atomic bomb from the traditionalist camp is the moral one. One of the primary objectives of Wilson Miscamble is to “confront the question regarding the morality of the atomic bomb.” Miscamble suggests that for Byrnes and Truman “moral complexity or future diplomatic implications failed to complicate their straight forward thinking.” If the atomic bomb “might save American lives” then it must be used, and this “remained, throughout, the essential motivation that guided the decision.”  Whereas revisionists argue that Japan was defeated, he makes a stark distinction between defeat and surrender, explaining that the U.S. would have eventually won the war by “continued obliteration bombing of Japanese cities and infrastructure, a choking blockade, the terrible invasions… [and these] would have meant significantly greater Allied casualties and much higher Japanese civilian and military casualties.” Likewise, the abrupt end to the war also brought an end to Japanese brutality in other parts of Asia. Furthermore, “indiscriminate bombing had become the norm for the Anglo-American forces well before 1945,” indicating that any “moral Rubicon” had already been crossed prior to Hiroshima. Thus, the bomb was the “lesser of the evils available,” and subsequently Miscamble pleas that in “future anniversaries of the dropping of the atomic bomb… one might hope for less moralizing condemnation of Truman’s decision… Perhaps there might even be some empathy for the man who felt required to make the decision and who carried the burden of it.”
Robert Newman makes a slightly less sophisticated moral defense, proclaiming that neither “Hiroshima cultists nor professional moralists had even considered the possibility that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were legitimate retribution for the millions of deaths caused by Japan’s fourteen-year rampage through China and the Pacific,” an idea he apparently entertains. Newman suggests that the atomic bombs were moral actions taken in order to prevent greater evil. According to him the general arguments against Truman’s choice to use the bomb come in four general varieties: first, atomic bombs are intrinsically evil and should not be used; second, their use violated the principle of noncombatant immunity; third, the bombs were used on invalid motives, including retribution, revenge, and reprisal; and fourth, no specific warning was given. To the first, Newman responds that “the case for immorality of today’s overkill arsenals and war fighting doctrines is strong,” but “to apply the same case retrospectively to 1945, however, is senseless.” To the second, Newman quotes Bamba Nobuya to suggest that the “Marxist interpretation of imperialistic war,” namely that “the ‘people’ should have been innocent,” is incorrect. The Japanese population did not just passively support imperialism, “on the contrary, most people competed to get front seats on the fascist bandwagon.”  Thus, they were not noncombatants and to attack them was legitimate. To the third point Newman maintains that because the Japanese were involved in developing atomic weapons as well, even though U.S. leaders were not aware of this at the time, it retroactively justifies the decision. Since “upwards of 250,000 people… would have died each month the Japanese Empire struggled in its death throes beyond July 1945,” and since the bomb had the ability to end the war early, it could not have been used for the wrong reasons. To the last point, he responds that the shock value of the bomb was decisive in ending the war, and thus it would have been ineffective and prolonged the war to issue the warning.
Finally, the issue of culture and its relationship to policies of surrender are intricately bound up in the traditionalist narrative. For Paul Walker, a key element of the war was the “barbarism, savageness, and race hatred” of “an oriental enemy with a brutal heritage.”  According to Walker, the Japanese in World War II “believed they were fighting in the proud traditions of their samurai ancestors.” This ideological reliance upon “a version of Bushido” meant that military schools taught “a perverted cult of death” which made “young Japanese men expendable numbers for the military’s reckless and costly adventures.”  Tracing Japanese history from the Forty Seven Ronin to the Meiji Restoration and beyond, Walker paints a picture of uniform brutality and aggression. This culminates in the period from 1894 to 1945, where “Japan was involved in almost constant warfare with her neighbors.” Since being a prisoner of war was “completely unacceptable, considered dishonorable or shameful, and contrary to the samurai code,” the Japanese were essentially automatons that fought to the death. In contrast with U.S. imperialism, where “Filipinos had a positive image of America” and U.S. intervention in Vietnam “sorted itself out,” Japanese imperialism was infinitely more brutal, according to Walker. This notion that the Japanese were imbued with fanaticism and the ideology of Bushido, which permeated their consciousness for centuries, is an important part of Walker’s thesis because it attempts to reinforce the notion that the toll of casualties would be great in a U.S. invasion of Japan. Miscamble suggests a similar theme, explaining that the “the twisted neo-samurai … geared up with true banzai spirit to engage the whole population in a kind of national kamikaze campaign.”  Maddox is slightly less crude, suggesting that that the “very idea of surrender was alien to the Japanese samurai tradition.”
Thus, within the traditionalist camp one finds a remarkable degree of unanimity. While some authors, such as Miscamble and Newman, focus on the moral argument, others, such as Maddox, implore the military aspect. Others still emphasize the “savage” culture of the “Oriental enemy” a la Paul Walker. Yet, all of the traditionalists tend to converge in their main analysis. There is little disagreement among them on any vital issues. In one way this greatly distinguishes them from the revisionist camp, which presents a quite heterogeneous and diverse array of analyses.
The Revisionist Camp
The traditionalists and revisionists part ways on the fundamental divide of atomic diplomacy. Within the traditionalist camp arguments are largely convergent, whereas within the revisionists camp the nuances are far more pronounced. All tend to agree that some level of atomic diplomacy was in play. Most, however, disagree on a variety of other issues. Gar Alperovitz and Martin Sherwin heavily emphasize the role of atomic diplomacy. In contrast, Takaki suggests race and racism as primary variables. Hasegawa maintains that an “international” perspective is vital, and criticizes past revisionists for heavily focusing on leaders in Washington. As Gar Alperovitz is the first and quintessential revisionist, much of the internal discussion amongst revisionists is characterized by correcting, expanding, or challenging certain assumptions Alperovitz has made.
The first distinction of analysis can be seen in the characterization of the Roosevelt and the Truman administration. Alperovitz imbues individual political actors, particularly Harry Truman and his adviser James Byrnes, with immense agency over the use of the bomb. He warns against “analyses which assert that a combination of factors-political, military, racial, and financial-produced the decision.” He also makes the case against “momentum theories,” which may have “an odd feeling of seeming plausibility about them,” but which go against the evidence that top U.S. military officials were against the bombing. Throughout his work it is stressed that individual political actors were absolutely fundamental in the decision, and that no sort of “momentum theory” is capable of capturing the dynamics of the top-level discussions that led to the final decision. Alperovitz emphasizes the importance of the Truman-Byrnes relationship, implicitly suggesting that the outcome may have been different with Roosevelt in office.
Martin Sherwin articulates a somewhat distinct argument that draws a strong line of continuity between the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. For Sherwin, an “analysis of the policies [Roosevelt] chose… suggests that the diplomatic value of the bomb began to shape his atomic energy policies as early as 1943.” Although Sherwin cites Roosevelt’s elusive decision making process and sudden death as inhibitors to fully understanding his policy, he posits that Roosevelt “consistently opposed international control and acted in accordance with Churchill’s monopolistic, anti-Soviet views.” He concludes that Roosevelt’s commitment to amicable postwar relations with the Soviets has “often been exaggerated,” and that “his prescriptions for the diplomatic role of the atomic bomb… reveal a carefully guarded skepticism regarding the Grand Alliance’s prospects for surviving the war intact.” Thus, Sherwin argues that Truman did not “inherit the question” of whether to employ the bomb as a means of atomic diplomacy, but he “inherited the answer” since by 1943 the diplomatic value of the bomb had already begun to shape atomic energy policies. The decision to use the bomb, and its diplomatic implications, were prescribed by Roosevelt. Truman’s decisions were more or less technical, revolving around how specifically to use the bomb. Where Alperovitz has attempted to present a break or disconnect between what he perceives as Roosevelt’s uncertain and wavering atomic policies, Sherwin presents a forceful analysis suggesting strong continuity between the two administrations.
A second point of contention amongst revisionists is the role of race and racism in the decision to use the bomb. Here Alperovitz argues that while “it is certainly possible” that racism amongst U.S. officials played a role in the decision to drop the bomb, “it is all but impossible to find specific evidence that racism was an important factor.” In contrast, while Takaki adopts Alperovitz’s notion of atomic diplomacy, he drastically parts with him on the issue of race. Takaki’s primary focus is understanding the decision within the trajectory of US racism.  In this regard, it seems his argument is best encapsulated when he declares, borrowing from John Dower, that “in this ‘war without mercy,’ Truman made the deadly mushroom cloud of ‘Manhattan’ appear over Japan in order to destroy an enemy he regarded as ‘a beast’.” Takaki explicates upon the “racialization of the Pacific War,” positioning it within the historic context of racism and US expansionism. After briefly addressing Japanese notions of racial superiority, Takaki attempts to place Truman’s decision to use the atomic bombs within the “sociological imagination” of anti-Japanese racism in US society. In doing so, he links the war in the Pacific to earlier periods of conquest. His analysis focuses on the complex processes by which the US idea of democracy was intricately bound up with westward expansion and slavery, all institutions saturated with racialized notions of superiority. Citing the Chinese Exclusion Act, “Yellow Peril” hysteria, the American Federation of Labor anti-Japanese agitation, and the Asiatic Exclusion League, Takaki draws a long line of continuity culminating in the internment of Japanese Americans and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For Takaki, notions of racial superiority and anti-Asian racism were key variables in the “sociological imagination” which facilitated the bombing of hundreds of thousands of civilians. It is in this context of a society deeply permeated with both institutional and individual racism that Truman’s actions must be analyzed. Takaki analyzes Truman’s biography, emphasizing the implicit notions of racial superiority deeply embedded in him and his family of ex-slave owners. Takaki outlines Truman’s broadly anti-Asian sentiments, such as in 1911 when he explained that he “does hate Chinese and Japs” and that the “yellow men [ought to be] in Asia.”  By 1945, Truman referred to the “Japs” as “savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic.” Thus, the “sociological imagination” was a highly racialized one that helped rationalize the slaughter of innocent Japanese civilians in the minds of men like Truman.
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa also takes Alperovitz to task on more than one occasion. Throughout Racing the Enemy he points out that he views his work as a corrective to the mistakes of revisionist historians. As he explains, the “sharp division between revisionist and orthodox historians in the Unites States” has failed to address the crucial international dimension because “the main point of contention is over American perceptions of Soviet intentions” that “depict Soviet actions as a sideshow and assign to Moscow a secondary role at best.” Furthermore, although Hasegawa is certainly not an orthodox historian, he is mildly critical of the revisionists who have preceded him: “Although much of what revisionist historians argue is faulty and based on tendentious use of sources, they nonetheless deserve credit for raising an important moral issue that challenges the standard American narrative of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Thus, Hasegawa strengthens the revisionist narrative by correcting some of the errors and increasing the attention to the international dynamic at work.
Alperovitz in large part bases his argument on the conclusions of the 1946 United States Strategic Bombing Survey which argued that Japan “would likely have surrender in 1945 without atomic bombing, without a Soviet declaration of war, and without an American invasion.”  In contrast with Alperovitz and most other revisionist historians who uncritically accept the United States Strategic Bombing Survey’s conclusion, Hasegawa maintains that “defeat and surrender are not synonymous,” and Paul Nitze’s “conclusion was repeatedly contradicted by the evidence in the Survey itself.” He largely accepts the critique of the USSBS findings put forward by Barton Bernstein. Instead, he argues that “even without the atomic bombs, the war most likely would have ended shortly after Soviet entry into the war-before November 1.” Strangely, Hasegawa tends to overemphasize his departure from Alperovitz on this point, or he must have simply overlooked Alperovitz contention that, even had the atomic bomb not been used, it is “almost a certainty that the Japanese would have capitulated upon the entry of Russia into the war.”
On a number of other points Hasegawa and Alperovitz certainly do disagree, however. Whereas Alperovitz characterizes the Sino-Soviet negotiations between Stalin and the Nationalists as a U.S. ploy to prolong Russian entry in the war, Hasegawa responds that in the Sino-Soviet negotiations, the “interests of Truman, Stalin, and Chiang Kai-shek all converged: the successful conclusion of a Sino-Soviet treaty could make everyone happy.”  Hasegawa does not view the difficult negotiating by the Chinese as a concocted plot by the U.S. to keep the Soviets out of the war. “Revisionist historians are wrong,” Hasegawa explains, “in asserting that Harriman’s actions were meant to pressure Soong to resist Stalin’s demand in order to prevent Soviet entry into the war against Japan.” Likewise, throughout his work Hasegawa repeatedly attempts to re-characterize Byrnes as someone not nearly as bent on geopolitical conflict with the Soviet Union as other revisionist historians have made him out to be. For instance, in response to the Soviet Kurils Operation as part of August Storm, Hasegawa argues that Byrnes, “though often regarded by revisionist historians as an ardent advocate for a tough stance against the Soviet Union… favored a conciliatory position on this issue.” Thus, the internecine differences amongst the revisionists exist. They are not nearly as pronounced or as heated as the differences between the traditionalists and the revisionists, but significantly more obvious than any real disagreement amongst traditionalist scholars.
Consensus Historians vs. The Traditionalists and the Revisionists
Between the traditionalist and revisionist historians lay a murky “middle ground” that encompasses a group of scholars who posit quite different arguments regarding the atomic bomb but tend to share in common a notion that alternatives existed. These “consensus” historians, as J. Samuel Walker refers to them,  in some way suggest that Truman and his advisers were aware of alternatives that seemed likely to end the war. The “consensus” historians reject the traditionalist argument that the atomic bombs were a military necessity and at the same time greatly distance themselves from the atomic diplomacy thesis. Samuel Walker’sPrompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of the Atomic Bombs Against Japan (1997), Dennis Wainstock’sThe Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1996), and Sean L. Malloy’s Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan (2008) form the core of this “consensus” or middle ground camp.
Dennis Wainstock argues that the policy of unconditional surrender was a “policy of revenge, and it hurt America’s national self-interest.”  He continues, suggesting that had the United States given Japan conditional surrender terms, including retention of the emperor, Japan would have surrendered significantly earlier than it did. This means that neither the atomic bombs nor Soviet intervention would have been required. By prolonging the war in Europe and East Asia the policy of unconditional surrender expanded Soviet power in both areas, thereby harming U.S. interests. The dropping of the atomic bomb only “hastened the surrender of an already defeated enemy.”  Wainstock does not neatly align with either the traditionalist or revisionist camp. First, he aligns his critique of unconditional surrender within “U.S. national interests.” His emphasis is that unconditional surrender unnecessarily prolonged the war, and Truman’s commitment to it subsequently harmed U.S. interests since the prolonged war eventually allowed the Soviet Union to enter the arena and exercise increased influence in East Asia. This “policy of revenge [unconditional surrender]… hurt America’s national self-interest” because it “prolonged the war… and helped to expand Soviet power.”
It is in this way that Wainstock differs sharply from all of the traditionalists who, in one way or another defend the policy of unconditional surrender. Whereas Paul Walker, Richard Frank, and Wilson Miscamble tend to be generally supportive of the unconditional surrender policy, James Maddox, in a rather reserved way, argues that “there is no way of telling whether the doctrine prolonged the war in any way.”  Robert Newman is Wainstock’s primary adversary in this regard, however. Newman argues two main points: first, Truman “had no good reason” to believe that permitting retention of the emperor would have led to early capitulation and, second, the “Potsdam Declaration defined surrender in a fashion acceptable to the Japanese peace forces.” To “those who insist that unconditional surrender was a purely punitive stance,” he proclaims that the “leaders of the Japanese peace party… saw in the Potsdam terms an acceptable alternative to the destruction Japan would otherwise sustain.” The reason that Truman eventually accepted the condition that the emperor be retained was, according to Newman, because “peace was too tantalizing to resist.”  In the end, however, Newman is sure that retaining the emperor, “what Hiroshima cultists insist was a viable alternative for Truman to end the war early… was really no alternative at all.” Furthermore, the conditions outlined at Potsdam were not unconditional surrender, and the Japanese knew it. Thus, for Newman the entire thesis constructed by Wainstock rests on dubious grounds.
Regarding his differences with the revisionists, Wainstock concedes that “perhaps Truman’s decision to drop the bombs was an attempt to both impress the Soviets… and to end the war before the Soviets entered and seize the Far Eastern territories.” Even if this were true, however, it was totally counterproductive since in the end it prolonged the war and allowed Soviet entry, something that could have been prevented by altering the policy. This brief commentary is all the space that Wainstock provides for the atomic diplomacy thesis. In other words, despite accepting that atomic diplomacy may have played some minor role, Wainstock contends that a blind policy of unconditional surrender was of prime importance in the decision. This is where his greatest disagreement comes to the fore with the revisionists, and in particular Hasegawa. Hasegawa contends that even if Truman had “accepted a provision in the Potsdam declaration allowing the Japanese to retain a constitutional monarchy,” it would “not have immediately led to Japan’s surrender.” It is doubtful, Hasegawa maintains, “that Japan would have capitulated before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and the Soviet Union entered the war.” Thus, whereas the policy of unconditional surrender is the fundamental variable for Wainstock, it is significantly less so for Hasegawa. Wainstock significantly minimizes the significance of atomic diplomacy and inflates the importance of the unconditional surrender policy.
Sean Malloy, like Takaki, attempts to analyze the decision to use the atomic bomb through the “lens of biography.”  Malloy attempts to approach “the use of the bomb through a conceptual framework he calls the “context of use,” positioning the use of the bomb as a “compound product of a series of choices” rather than “the result of single decision.”  Malloy makes the argument that Stimson, as secretary of war, unintentionally “presided over a set of policies that accelerated the budding nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union,” despite his “deep concern with limiting the effects of war on civilians and fostering trust between nations as the foundation of the peace that followed.”  In essence, realpolitik dominated Stimson’s approach to the atomic bomb and undermined his moral commitments.
One example of this is Stimson’s oversight of the 1945 Stassfurt operation intended to secure Anglo-American hegemony over uranium supplies. By the time of Strassfurt, when the U.S. moved in to seize the largest known stock of uranium in Europe, they “did as so as part of a one-sided nuclear arms race” in which, “by 1945, the Soviet Union was already America’s primary nuclear rival.” Thus, while Stimson is the tragic hero with a fatal flaw, James Byrnes is his foil, presented as the bad apple in the administration who desires conflict with the Soviet Union. Malloy’s key argument, then, is that “by his own actions during World War II, the secretary of war had helped to set in motion exactly the kind of destructive international competition in armaments that he had spent much of his long public career attempting to avoid.”  The almost capricious nature of his rapidly changing positions, and the tenuous justifications which frequently accompanied them, indicates that Stimson’s moral convictions were more often than not drown out for the sake of political expediency. Malloy’s conception of the atomic bomb as a “tragedy” is the principle departure from the traditionalists who tend to glorify the use of the bomb and celebrate it for ending the war and saving lives.
Malloy’s differences with the revisionist camp are rather nuanced, but significant. Once again, his conception of the bombs as a “tragedy,” rather than a calculated diplomatic initiative, separates him from the revisionists. Second, he makes the argument that the secretary of war “was in a unique position to shape many of the decisions about the use of the bomb.” This is in direct contradistinction to other historians, such as Alperovitz, who emphasize the agency of actors such as James Byrnes at Stimson’s expense. Second, Malloy attempts to put forward a sort of “momentum theory” that Alperovitz considers “seemingly plausible” but in reality historically bankrupt. During the various decisions that led to the atomic bombing, the morals and convictions of officials were often sublimated for political expediency. For Malloy, this was particularly true of Stimson. In this way, a sort of “momentum theory” is employed by Malloy to mitigate the pernicious intent of certain actors and explain away the “failures” of their decisions. Thus, the atomic bombs were not intentionally used as diplomatic tools by most of the Truman administration, but policy “failures” as individuals were swept up in events. Further modifying the arguments of Alperovitz and Hasegawa, Malloy argues that “American domestic politics” were a primary reason that Truman “failed at Potsdam” to use the “two potentially useful, if imperfect, diplomatic levers… in an effort to end the war.”  Furthermore, whereas Hasegawa presents Soviet entry as vital, Mallow suggests that “neither the public threat of Soviet entry nor the lure of allowing the Japanese to retain the emperor after the war were diplomatic panaceas.”  Thus, Malloy’s differences with the revisionists are perceptible.
A slightly different approach is apparent in J. Samuel Walker’s book. He sets out to answer two interrelated questions: was the bomb “necessary at all” and, “if so, what exactly did it accomplish?” By the conclusion of the book, Walker asserts that the answer to the first question “seems to be yes and no. Yes, it was necessary to end the war as quickly as possible. No, it was not necessary to prevent an invasion of Japan.” Addressing the second question, he maintains that the bomb “shortened the war and saved the lives of a relatively small but far from inconsequential number of Americans.” By situating his thesis within these parameters, S. Walker avoids having to take a position regarding the morality of the atomic bombings and instead focuses on rather narrow notions of “military necessity.” He presents a variegated list of reasons Truman dropped the bomb: “(1) the commitment to ending the war successfully at the earliest possible moment; (2) the need to justify the effort and expense of building the atomic bombs; (3) the hope of achieving diplomatic gains in the growing rivalry with the Soviet Union; (4) the lack of incentives not to use atomic weapons; and (5) hatred of the Japanese and a desire for vengeance.”
Walker’s differences with the traditionalists are quite clear: Walker suggests three rectifications to the popular narrative, a narrative the traditionalists largely accept: first, “there were other options available for ending the war… without the bomb and without an invasion”; second, due to Japan’s enervated capacity for war, Truman and his advisers did not regard invasion as inevitable; last, even if invasion was necessary to end the war, military planners “projected the number of American lives lost at far fewer than the hundreds of thousands that Truman and his advisers claimed after the war.” Furthermore, Walker relies on the USSBS, a point of divergence between himself and both the traditionalists and Hasegawa, to conclude “the war would probably have ended before an American invasion of Kyushu became necessary.”  Walker essentially dismisses the entire traditionalist approach, with the caveat that Truman was indeed concerned with saving as many American lives as possible.
It is important to note that he is rather critical of the revisionist approach as well. First and foremost, Walker specifically outlines what Alperovitz disparages as an analysis asserting “that a combination of factors-political, military, racial, financial-produced the decision.” Alperovitz’s criticism of such an approach is that it “is easy to assemble fragments of evidence” that suggest such an analysis, but jumping from these “fragments to an explanatory conclusion about decision-making at the very top of the U.S. government is suspect.” Thus, Walker’s “five fundamental considerations” are a significant departure from Alperovitz. More significantly, Walker actually considers the entire atomic diplomacy thesis as a sideshow. For instance, he maintains that “Truman did not drop the bomb primarily to intimidate the Soviets.” It was at best an ancillary consideration, a “bonus.”
Thus, the “consensus” historians, largely agree that potential alternatives existed, that invasion may not have been necessary, and that the atomic bombs were probably not responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives. In other words, they were not a military necessity. At the same time, the atomic bombs were not deployed primarily as diplomatic mechanisms. Even if they eventually came to fulfill this role, it was either the unintentional result of “momentum” or a tertiary variable barely perceptible vis-à-vis other considerations.
Conclusion: The Myth, the Cult, Nuclearism, and Nuclear Consciousness
In the post-war era, the debate and discussion over the bomb has been of tremendous importance. Both the traditionalist and revisionist camps have plotted the trajectory of the discourse surrounding Hiroshima and Nagasaki in different ways. Gar Alperovitz has suggested that officials promulgated propaganda in a top-down manner in order to manufacture an “American myth” surrounding the use of the atomic bombs. Robert J. Lifton’s preface to Martin Sherwin’s A World Destroyed laments the emergence of “nuclearism,” the ideology that the atomic bomb is a “deity” capable of both “destroying the world” and “capable of ruling and protecting the world, even of keeping the world going.” In contrast, Robert Newman denounces Alperovitz and other revisionists as “Hiroshima cultists,” “Truman bashers,” and a host of other pejoratives for creating a “cult” that worships at the altar of Hiroshima. Lastly, Paul Boyer, in his book By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (1994), suggests that a sort of “nuclear consciousness” has infused itself in the perceptions and ideology of Americans in the post-war era. In fact, “nuclear reality” so deeply pervades our “consciousness that it is hard to imagine what existence would have been like without it.”  In these various ways authors have interpreted the post-war world after the atomic bomb.
In the second part of his book, Alperovitz explores the creation of the mythology surrounding the ostensibly “inevitable” use of the bomb. He maintains that three decisions, including the rejection to provide enough time for Japan to surrender, the choice to not offer the Japanese emperor assurances, and the explicit decision not to test a Russian entry into the war, “set the terms of reference for the bomb’s subsequent seemingly ‘inevitable’ use… [and] so tightly framed the remaining issues as to make it all but impossible thereafter to oppose the bombings.”  This “framing of the bomb,” alongside the top-down campaign of disinformation immediately after the war, were key factors that facilitated the permeation of American consciousness with the “inevitability” narrative.
Stimson, Truman, Byrnes, and Groves were key figures in this top-down propaganda campaign. Despite what Alperovitz argues was an ancillary role in the actual decision to drop the bomb, Stimson did play a vital role in propagating the official discourse, citing Stimson’s 1947 Harper’s article which was presented as “a mere recital of the facts.” Stimson posited a rigid dichotomy later picked up by traditionalist historians: either a costly invasion or use of the bomb was required to end the war. As Alperovitz explains, the article was an “extraordinary success,” with the New York Times, the Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and an indeterminate number of other media outlets “decidedly uncritical and, indeed, often effusive in praise.” Truman’s argument that “the dropping of the bombs stopped the war” and “saved millions of lives” was the main line of thought he propagated continuously after the war. He maintains that the “over a million” figure” became the essential source for a myth which has been repeated with only occasional challenge for much of the last half century” despite modern scholarship demonstrating “the estimate to be without any serious foundation in the documents of that period.”  Byrnes systematically distorted and revised the past by shrouding himself in secrecy and meticulously managing his personal writings. Groves’ role as “an expert public relations artist and news ‘spin’ master” also comes to light when he devised a strategy whereby U.S. officials would “saturate” the “huge market hungry for information with officially approved material from the only authoritative source available.” In Japan itself a Civil Censorship Division of the Occupation had some 8,700 staffers engaged in examining thousands of newspapers, magazines, textbooks, motion pictures, and even private mail to ensure they did not stray too far from the official discourse. The most pernicious form of censorship was also the most ubiquitous; namely, government classification. Thus, as Alperovitz argues, “the ‘normal’ functioning of government… is even more effective than the occasional excesses which make the headlines.” In these ways the historical narrative from beginning to end was “managed” by U.S. officials.
Part of Martin Sherwin’s work is intended to combat the legacy of nuclearism. In a world where humans have “infused [the atomic bomb] with a constellation of awe and mystery. That constellation has included tendencies to embrace the bomb, to become fiercely dependent upon it, indeed, to render it something close to a deity.” The “willful embrace of the cruelest weapon ever created is the essence” of nuclearism. Suggesting a line of continuity with Paul Boyer, A World Destroyed suggests that an “idealistic aura of peacemaking was inseparable from the bomb’s lure of ultimate technology and ultimate power-all of which became part of the transcendent technology of nuclearism.” Hence, “the bizarre emphasis on the bomb’s ostensible function of ‘saving lives’ rather than destroying them, of rendering the world peaceful rather than bringing to it a specter of annihilation.”  This “bizarre emphasis” has been the plaything of traditionalist scholars for decades.
In sharp contrast with Alperovitz and Sherwin, Robert P. Newman’s thesis in Truman and the Hiroshima Cult is the paradigmatic post-revisionist account of the atomic bomb and its aftermath. In it he argues that a “cult,” with attendant cultists, has arisen around Truman and the Hiroshima decision. These “Hiroshima cultists” argue, in a variety of forms, that Japan was on the verge of surrender, that the “unconditional surrender” formula unnecessarily prolonged the war, and that Truman’s decision to drop the bomb was driven either by racism towards the Japanese or diplomatic concerns vis-à-vis the Soviets, or some combination thereof. Newman vehemently rejects what he refers to as the “Japanese-as-victim cult,” suggesting that any and all of the above suggestions are fundamentally incorrect. Newman proclaims that neither “Hiroshima cultists nor professional moralists had even considered the possibility that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were legitimate retribution for the millions of deaths caused by Japan’s fourteen-year rampage through China and the Pacific.”
Newman traces the development and growth of what he maliciously and interchangeably refers to as the “Japan-as-Victim myth” or “Hiroshima cult.” He begins by explaining how in the immediate aftermath of the war “the whole world viewed Japan as villainous.”  After 1948, however, things began to change, in both Japan and the United States. In 1949 John Hersey’s Hiroshima was published, which Newman credits with having the opposite but equally powerful impact that Anne Frank’s diary had on Germany. Where Anne Frank’s diary forced Germany to come to terms with its atrocities, Hiroshima shielded Japan from having to do so, and helped begin the “Japan-as-Victim” myth. Furthermore, in 1951 P. M. S. Blackett published Fear, War, and the Bomb, which argued that the bomb was not the last act of the Second World War but the first act of the Cold War. Finally, in 1954 when the U.S. tested the new H-bomb and the crew of a tuna trawler were affected by radioactive fallout, the “five most important Japanese newspapers took a common position: this was the third atomic bombing.” 
Despite all this, however, in 1964 a public opinion poll suggested that 49 percent of the Japanese public viewed the United States as their “favorite foreign country.” By 1973, after the U.S. atrocities in Vietnam and use of Japan to accomplish them, this “popularity” had dropped to 18 percent.  By the late sixties people were questioning earlier U.S. military endeavors, notably the dropping of the atomic bombs, as a reflection of the changing political tide and anti-Vietnam war sentiment. By 1989, the “majority opinion even among Japanese scholars” was accepting of both the Blackett thesis and racism as primary factors in the dropping of the atomic bomb. In the United States, the gradual buildup of anti-nuclear activism, starting with The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in the late 1940s to the “Scientists’ Declaration on Nuclear Power” in 1975, had a major impact on retroactive views of the bombings. Thus, “accurate charges” of postwar “overkill… seemed to legitimate chargers of overkill levied at the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.” Furthermore, many “who became disillusioned with the American terror bombing in Vietnam became converts to the Hiroshima guilt trip.” Newman also cites Ian Buruma’s The Wages of Guilt, which explores the myriad of factors for why a “Japan-as-Victim” cult developed but no comparably “cult” developed around Germany. The key factor as Newman sees it, however, was Vietnam. Without it, “the Japanese-as-victims cult in the United States would still be puny.” Newman’s work is a vicious attack on the legacy of revisionists like Gar Alperovitz and Martin Sherwin.
Paul Boyer’s study, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age, addresses the “unsettling new cultural factor” of the atomic bomb that had been introduced in immediate post-war period from 1945 to 1950.  His contention is that the bomb “had transformed not only military strategy and international relations, but the fundamental ground of culture and consciousness” in the United States. These five formative years shaped how Americans first “confronted the bomb, struggled against it, and absorbed it into the fabric of the culture.”  In short, Boyer maintains that the 1945 to 1946 period was a time of “obsessive post-Hiroshima awareness of the horror of the atomic bomb,” while in the period from 1947 to 1950 and after there was a “diminished cultural attention and uneasy acquiescence” as the “dread destroyer of 1945 had become the shield of the Republic by 1950.” In essence, Sherwin’s “transcendent technology of nuclearism” permeated what Boyer calls America’s “nuclear consciousness.” This “nuclear consciousness” was infused into the very core of American ideology in the post-war era and so deeply pervades American “consciousness that it is hard to imagine what existence would have been like without it.” Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Boyer argues, “stand as signposts marking both a gash in the living flesh of our historical consciousness and a turning point in our ethical history.” 
From 1945 to 1946 an “intense discourse” had surrounded the atomic bomb, where after 1947 this “diminished to scattered murmurs and faint echoes” and by 1950 “America’s nuclear culture… would appear as a gray and largely deserted landscape.” Around this time the Atomic Energy Commission began a full throttle propaganda campaign to associate atomic energy with health, happiness, and prosperity. This campaign drew in scientists, educators, radio personalities, health workers, and others, directly reaching some four million Americans and indirectly affecting many more. A “policy of deep secrecy about atomic-bomb research and stockpiling,” alongside the “pervasive official practice… of playing down the bomb’s dangers” continued to condition the American public. In this context, and with the ensuing Cold War schism that dominated international relations, the “civil defense” paradigm displaced the “international control” slogan dominant during 1945-6. This multifaceted propaganda campaign was so successful that by 1950 Americans had overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, embraced the atomic bomb. The mid-1950s saw a resurgence of debate over the atomic bomb and then a re-decline after 1963. He argues that the illusion of diminished risk, the loss of immediacy, the promise of a world transformed by atomic energy, the complexity and comfort of deterrence theory, and the importance of the Vietnam War led to the decline of atomic prominence. Interestingly, whereas Newman positions the Vietnam War as the central feature in establishing the “Hiroshima cult,” Boyer contends that the Vietnam War actually lessened discussion and debate over the atomic bomb.
Although Boyer aligns neatly with revisionist historians, he does refocus the chronological lens. Where other historians have drawn a line of continuity between the development of the bomb and its use, or between the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, Boyer furthers that line of continuity by exploring the state’s role in managing post-Hiroshima public discourse. In this way Boyer’s work partially overlaps and agrees with but significantly transcends Alperovitz’ “architecture of an American myth.” By focusing on the state’s institution of a broad, far-reaching propaganda campaign that helped shape popular opinion, Boyer repositions the role of the state not just as user of the atomic bomb, but also as manager of the dominant discourse after its use. In this way, Boyer provides a unique historiographical contribution by arguing that atomic policies “transformed not only military strategy and international relations, but the fundamental ground of culture and consciousness” in the United States.
Thus, not only is the discourse surrounding the actual use of the atomic bomb split into competing camps, the post-war discourse itself is a topic of debate. In this regard, Paul Boyer’s work is the most thorough, sophisticated, and systematic cultural analysis of the post-war discourse. For those of us interested in challenging not only the excesses of war, but the inter-imperial rivalries that ultimately lead to the use of the bomb, understanding the nuances of the historiographical debate is vital. More importantly, in the wake of the 1995 Smithsonian controversy and the ever-expanding list of countries with access to nuclear armaments, those of us on the left must continue to wage war on the post-war discourse justifying and rationalizing the atomic bomb.
Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.
Boyer, Paul. By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
Frank, Richard B. Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.
Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi. Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005.
Maddox, Robert James. Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2004.
Malloy, Sean L. Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008.
Miscamble, Wilson D. The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Newman, Robert P. Truman and the Hiroshima Cult. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1995.
Walker, J. Samuel. Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of the Atomic Bombs Against Japan. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
Walker, Paul D. Truman’s Dilemma: Invasion or the Bomb. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 2003.
Stimson, Henry L. “The Decisions to Use the Atomic Bomb.” Harper’s Magazine (1947).
Sherwin, Martin J. A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.
Takaki, Ronald. Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.
Wainstock, Dennis. The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb. New York: Enigma Books, 2011.
 I borrow the term “consensus” from J. Samuel Walker.
 Tsuyoshi Hasegawa utilizes “orthodox” to describe this position.
 Henry L. Stimson, “The Decisions to Use the Atomic Bomb,” Harper’s Magazine (1947). See full article: http://classrooms.tacoma.k12.wa.us/stadium/mberggren-2/us-history/download/Stimson%2B-%2BHarper%2BFeb%2B1947%2B-%2BDecision%2Bto%2BUse%2Bthe%2BAtomic%2BBomb.pdf?id=230795
 J. Samuel Walker, Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of the Atomic Bombs Against Japan (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 105.
 Originally published in 1995.
 A reiteration and strengthening of his 1965 work Atomic Diplomacy.
 Originally published in 1973.
 Truman, Stimson, Byrnes, Stalin, Hirohito, and the Big Six in Japan are examples where disagreement is most pronounced.
 Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), 19.
 Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, 225.
 Martin J. Sherwin, A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 6.
 Sherwin, A World Destroyed, 7.
 This argument maintained that the US should share atomic technology with the Soviet Union in exchange for political cooperation.
 This position stated that the US should maintain a monopoly over atomic technology as long as possible and advance its diplomatic aims through harsh bargaining from its position of atomic power.
 Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005), 140.
 Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy, 154.
 Ibid., 135.
 Ibid., 139.
 Alperovitz, 19.
 Robert James Maddox, Weapons for Victory: The Hiroshima Decision (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2004), xv.
 Maddox, Weapons for Victory, 146.
 Ibid., 113.
 Richard B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (New York: Penguin Books, 1999), 104.
 This is Newman’s term for revisionist historians.
 The USSBS maintained that in all likelihood Japan would surrender prior to November 1, 1945 without the atomic bombing or the entrance of the Soviet Union into the war. It further states that had Japan not surrendered by November 1, it would definitely have surrendered prior to the end of 1945.
 Robert P. Newman, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1995), 36.
 Newman, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult, 47.
 This is one of Newman’s other terms for revisionists.
 Ibid., 49.
 Wilson D Miscamble, The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 91.
 Frank, 95.
 Ibid., 96.
 Ibid., 197.
 Paul D. Walker, Truman’s Dilemma: Invasion or the Bomb (Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 2003), 171.
 Miscamble, 115. Original emphasis.
 Maddox, 153.
 Hasegawa, 5.
 Maddox, 131.
 Frank, 348.
 Miscamble, 89.
 Ibid., 91.
 Sakomizu was chief secretary to the cabinet of Japan during World War II.
 Hasegawa, 250.
 Miscamble, 3.
 Ibid., 44.
 Ibid., 113.
 Ibid., 119.
 Ibid., 124.
 Newman, xiii. Emphasis added.
 Ibid., 120.
 Ibid., 130.
 Ibid., 138. Emphasis original.
 Paul Walker, 15.
 Ibid., 17.
 Ibid., 18-19.
 Ibid., 27.
 Ibid., 43-44.
 Miscamble, 120-1.
 Maddox, xv.
 Alperovitz, 656.
 Ibid., 657.
 Sherwin, 6.
 Ibid., 7.
 Ibid., 8.
 Alperovitz, 655.
 Ronald Takaki, Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), 8.
 Takaki, Hiroshima, 100.
 Ibid., 94.
 Hasegawa, 2.
 Hasegawa, 300.
 Alperovitz, 4
 Hasegawa, 295.
 Ibid., 296.
 Alperovitz, 85.
 Hasegawa., 129.
 Ibid., 188
 Ibid., 275
 Samuel Walker cites Barton Bernstein as one of the pioneering “consensus” historians of Hiroshima.
 Dennis Wainstock, The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb (New York: Enigma Books, 2011), 178.
 Wainstock, The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb, 178.
 Ibid., 178.
 Maddox, 8.
 Newman, 57.
 Ibid., 71.
 Ibid., 73.
 Ibid., 77.
 Wainstock, 171
 Hasegawa, 290
 Ibid., 291
 Sean L. Malloy, Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb Against Japan (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008), 7.
 Malloy, Atomic Tragedy, 8.
 Ibid., 81.
 Ibid., 11.
 Ibid., 67.
 Ibid., 70.
 Ibid., 9.
 Ibid., 129. Here he is referring to retention of the emperor (modifying unconditional surrender) and the public threat of Soviet entry into the war.
 Malloy, 129
 Samuel Walker, 6.
 Ibid., 109.
 Ibid., 109.
 Ibid., 92.
 Ibid., 5-6.
 Ibid., 89.
 Alperovitz, 656.
 Walker, 95.
 Sherwin, xi.
 Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994), xix.
 Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light, xx.
 Alperovitz, 631.
 Ibid., 455.
 Ibid., 466.
 Ibid., 598.
 Ibid., 610.
 Ibid., 613.
 Sherwin, xi.
 Ibid., xi.
 Ibid., xii.
 Ibid., xi.
 Newman, xiii.
 Ibid., 153.
 Ibid., 161.
 Ibid., 164.
 Ibid., 177.
 Ibid., 183.
 Ibid., 184.
 Boyer, xxi.
 Ibid., xxi.
 Ibid., xx.
 Ibid., 352 and 349.
 Boyer, xx
 Ibid., 182.
 Ibid., 291.
 Ibid., 303.
US papers don’t often report on the radiation disaster continuing at Fukushima-Daiichi in Northeast Japan.
But on June 17 the New York Times noted: “Inside the complex, there are three wrecked reactor cores, twisted masses of hundreds of tons of highly radioactive uranium, plutonium, cesium and strontium. After the meltdown[s], which followed a tsunami and earthquake in 2011, most of the material in the reactors re-solidified, in difficult shapes and in confined spaces, wrapped around and through the structural parts of the reactors and the buildings. Or at least, that is what the engineers think. Nobody really knows, because nobody has yet examined many of the most important parts of the wreckage. Though three and a half years have passed, it is still too dangerous to climb inside for a look, and sending in a camera would risk more leaks.”
The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and tsunami caused a Station Black Out at Fukushima the total loss of power used to run cooling mechanisms and the consequent melting of fuel rods dispersed massive amounts of radiation to the air and to the Pacific.
The Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), owners of the Fukushima wreckage, has said it would take 40 years to clean up the disaster. Tepco’s number was probably pulled out of the thin air, because owners of the undamaged Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin, which shut down last April, said decommissioning of Kewaunee would take 40 years.
Radiation Tripled in Pacific Albacore Tuna since Triple Meltdowns
Radioactive cesium-137 levels in Pacific albacore tuna have tripled since the triple meltdowns at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan, according to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology.
Delvan Neville, lead author of the study and a graduate research assistant in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University, told the Statesman Journal Apr. 28, “You can’t say there is absolutely zero risk because any radiation is assumed to carry at least some small risk.”
Jason Phillips, a co-author of the report, said 26 of the large Pacific fish were analyzed from 2008 to 2012. “If we were going to see it [cesium-137] in something, we would see it in albacore or other high-level predators.”
Dr. Steve Starr, Director of Clinical Laboratory Science Program, University of Missouri-Columbia, noted in a recent lecture, “Cesium 137 tends to bio-accumulate in plants and animals, which means it cannot be excreted faster than it is being ingested. Thus, as it accumulates, it increases in its concentration in the plants or animals that are routinely ingesting it. Cesium-137 also tends to bio-magnify as it moves up the food chain. This means it becomes progressively more concentrated in predator species.”
As US Agency Hushed-up Dangers to US Reactors, Reactors’ Owner Tepco Under-reported Radiation Exposures
NBC News reported Mar. 10 that internal emails by staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission prove the agency deliberately down-played known earthquake and tsunami vulnerabilities at aging US reactors in the early days of the Fukushima catastrophe. NBC said the emails, “show that the campaign to reassure the public about America’s nuclear industry came as the agency’s [NRC’s] own experts were questioning US safety standards and scrambling to determine whether new rules were needed to ensure that the meltdown[s] occurring at the Japanese [site] could not occur here.”
NBC said the emails reveal the NRC’s “efforts to protect the industry it is supposed to regulate.” The news network went as far as to say, “Dating back to the Three Mile Island nuclear crisis in 1979, many nuclear watchdogs and critics have said that the NRC acts first to protect the industry, and its own reputation.”
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was helped in misleading the public by Tepco, which repeatedly underestimated internal radiation exposures of its workers involved in immediate emergency response, according to Japan’s Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, Asahi Shimbun reported.
Last July, the Ministry reviewed exposure data on around workers and revealed that reported exposure levels for 452 out of 1,300 workers surveyed were too low. After that announcement, the Ministry looked at records of the remaining 6,200 workers, and in late March it announced 142 additional cases of under-reporting.
TEPCO did not have whole-body radiation counters when the radiation disaster began, so true contamination measurements were not possible.
Contaminated Soil and Cemeteries May be Moved from Fukushima
Japan’s federal government announced in late May that it will move thousands of tons of radioactively contaminated soil scraped from school yards and elsewhere during decontamination efforts outside Fukushima Prefecture “within 30 years” after first keeping it in storage in the heavily-contaminated prefecture.
New federal law will be needed to allow Japan’s Environmental Safety Corporation to operate the “temporary” dumps.
In a macabre aspect of compensating for areas made radioactively uninhabitable by fallout from the meltdowns, Japan is considering paying for new cemeteries and reburying the remains of people now buried in radioactive exclusion zones.
Food Not Monitored for Radiation Causing Internal Contamination
The Japan Times reported June 17, that “eating unchecked homegrown vegetables and wild game from radiation-tainted areas on a regular basis can lead to high levels of internal radiation exposure.”
According to a study published in the US online science journal PLOS ONE, “Levels of radioactive cesium detected in the bodies of the study’s participants declined once they stopped eating highly contaminated food.” The study’s authors called for increasing public awareness of radiation-risky foods especially “at a time when public interest appears to be dwindling.”
Soil from the seafloor collected about 6 kilometers from the wrecked reactors contains as much 2,700 Becquerels of cesium-137 per kilogram, according to Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority June 14.
In Aug. 2012, Tepco reported an all-time record 25,800 Becquerel’s-per-kilogram in two fish known as greenling caught in 20 kilometers of the stricken reactors. “There may be radiation hot spots on the seabed,” a TEPCO official said then.
The wrecked reactors spewed enormous, unprecedented volumes of radioactive materials into the Pacific Ocean where cesium levels near Fukushima ballooned to an astonishing 50 million times pre-disaster levels (and continue to do so, 3.5 years after it began).
The agency said that it is difficult to assess the figure because there is no standard against which evaluations can be made, but that its research would continue.
Note to Japan’s NRA: for a baseline standard, check seabed levels of cesium off any area free of nuclear reactor effluent.
John LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch in Wisconsin and edits its Quarterly.
Bulgaria’s prime minister, Plamen Oresharski, has ordered a halt to work on Russia’s South Stream pipeline, on the recommendation of the EU. The decision was announced after his talks with US senators.
“At this time there is a request from the European Commission, after which we’ve suspended the current works, I ordered it,” Oresharski told journalists after meeting with John McCain, Chris Murphy and Ron Johnson during their visit to Bulgaria on Sunday. “Further proceedings will be decided after additional consultations with Brussels.”
McCain, commenting on the situation, said that “Bulgaria should solve the South Stream problems in collaboration with European colleagues,” adding that in the current situation they would want “less Russian involvement” in the project.
Russia’s Energy Ministry said it had not yet received any official notification from Bulgaria on work on the project being suspended.
Earlier this week, EU authorities ordered Bulgaria to suspend construction on its link of the pipeline, which is planned to transport Russian natural gas through the Black Sea to Bulgaria and onward to western Europe. Brussels wants the project frozen, pending a decision on whether it violates the EU competition regulations on a single energy market. It believes South Stream does not comply with the rules prohibiting energy producers from also controlling pipeline access.
The EU is also asking for an investigation into how contracts were awarded for work on the pipeline in Bulgaria. Brussels sent the Bulgarian government a letter of formal notice asking for information, to which Sofia had one month to reply.
Russia’s energy giant Gazprom’s South Stream pipeline requires European approvals as its route would pass through the territory of several EU countries.
In Bulgaria, the ruling Socialists support the South Stream project, while Movement for Rights and Freedom leader Lyutvi Mestan told parliament on June 5 that Bulgaria should defend its strategic interests “in cooperation, not in confrontation” with Europe.
Earlier Serbia has said it has no plans to delay the start of construction of its leg of the South Stream pipeline, scheduled for July. Serbian Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic said that the position was not decisive: “I believe the European Commission and member states will find a solution because this is a European project in the best interests of energy security.”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also said June 5 that the pipeline should be built, as there was no alternative to the project.
The corporate media silence on Fukushima has been deafening even though the melted-down nuclear power plant’s seaborne radiation is now washing up on American beaches.
Ever more radioactive water continues to pour into the Pacific.
At least three extremely volatile fuel assemblies are stuck high in the air at Unit 4. Three years after the March 11, 2011, disaster, nobody knows exactly where the melted cores from Units 1, 2 and 3 might be.
Amid a dicey cleanup infiltrated by organized crime, still more massive radiation releases are a real possibility at any time.
Radioactive groundwater washing through the complex is enough of a problem that Fukushima Daiichi owner Tepco has just won approval for a highly controversial ice wall to be constructed around the crippled reactor site. No wall of this scale and type has ever been built, and this one might not be ready for two years. Widespread skepticism has erupted surrounding its potential impact on the stability of the site and on the huge amounts of energy necessary to sustain it. Critics also doubt it would effectively guard the site from flooding and worry it could cause even more damage should power fail.
Meanwhile, children nearby are dying. The rate of thyroid cancers among some 250,000 area young people is more than 40 times normal. According to health expert Joe Mangano, more than 46 percent have precancerous nodules and cysts on their thyroids. This is “just the beginning” of a tragic epidemic, he warns.
There is, however, some good news—exactly the kind the nuclear power industry does not want broadcast.
When the earthquake and consequent tsunami struck Fukushima, there were 54 commercial reactors licensed to operate in Japan, more than 12 percent of the global total.
As of today, not one has reopened. The six at Fukushima Daiichi will never operate again. Some 30 older reactors around Japan can’t meet current safety standards (a reality that could apply to 60 or more reactors that continue to operate here in the U.S.).
As part of his desperate push to reopen these reactors, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shuffled the country’s regulatory agencies, and removed at least one major industry critic, replacing him with a key industry supporter.
But last month a Japanese court denied a corporate demand to restart two newer reactors at the Ooi power plant in Fukui prefecture. The judges decided that uncertainty about when, where and how hard the inevitable next earthquake will hit makes it impossible to guarantee the safety of any reactor in Japan.
In other words, no reactor can reopen in Japan without endangering the nation, which the court could not condone.
Such legal defeats are extremely rare for Japan’s nuclear industry, and this one is likely to be overturned. But it dealt a stunning blow to Abe’s pro-nuke agenda.
In Fukushima’s wake, the Japanese public has become far more anti-nuclear. Deep-seated anger has spread over shoddy treatment and small compensation packages given downwind victims. In particular, concern has spread about small children being forced to move back into heavily contaminated areas around the plant.
Under Japanese law, local governments must approve any restart. Anti-nuclear candidates have been dividing the vote in recent elections, but the movement may be unifying and could eventually overwhelm the Abe administration.
A new comic book satirizing the Fukushima cleanup has become a nationwide best-seller. The country has also been rocked by revelations that some 700 workers fled the Fukushima Daiichi site at the peak of the accident. Just a handful of personnel were left to deal with the crisis, including the plant manager, who soon thereafter died of cancer.
In the meantime, Abe’s infamous, intensely repressive state secrets act has seriously constrained the flow of technical information. At least one nuclear opponent is being prosecuted for sending a critical tweet to an industry supporter. A professor jailed for criticizing the government’s handling of nuclear waste has come to the U.S. to speak.
The American corporate media have been dead silent or, alternatively, dismissive about the radiation now washing up on our shores, and about the extremely dangerous job of bringing intensely radioactive fuel rods down from their damaged pools.
Fukushima’s General Electric reactors feature spent fuel pools perched roughly 100 feet in the air. When the tsunami hit, thousands of rods were suspended over Units 1, 2, 3 and 4.
According to nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, the bring-down of the assemblies in Unit 4 may have hit a serious snag. Gundersen says that beginning in November 2013, Tokyo Electric Power removed about half of the suspended rods there. But at least three assemblies may be stuck. The more difficult half of the pile remains. And the pools at three other units remain problematic. An accident at any one of them could result in significant radiation releases, which have already far exceeded those from Chernobyl and from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
At least 300 tons of heavily contaminated Fukushima water still pour daily into the Pacific. Hundreds more tons are backed up on site, with Tepco apologists advocating they be dumped directly into the ocean without decontamination.
Despite billions of dollars in public aid, Tepco is still the principal owner of Fukushima. The “cleanup” has become a major profit center. Tepco boasted a strong return in 2013. Its fellow utilities are desperate to reopen other reactors that netted them huge annual cash flow.
Little of this has made its way into the American corporate media.
New studies from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have underscored significant seismic threats to American commercial nuclear sites. Among those of particular concern are two reactors at Indian Point just north of New York City, which sit near the highly volatile Ramapo Fault, and two at Diablo Canyon, between Los Angeles and San Francisco, directly upwind of California’s Central Valley.
The U.S. industry has also suffered a huge blow at New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project. Primarily a military dump, this showcase radioactive waste facility was meant to prove that the industry could handle its trash. No expense was spared in setting it up in the salt caverns of the desert southwest, officially deemed the perfect spot to dump the 70,000 tons of high-level fuel rods now backed up at American reactor sites.
But an explosion and highly significant radiation release at the pilot project last month has contaminated local residents and cast a deep cloud over any future plans to dispose of American reactor waste. The constant industry complaint that the barriers are “political” is absurd.
While the American reactor industry continues to suck billions of dollars from the public treasury, its allies in the corporate media seem increasingly hesitant to cover the news of post-Fukushima Japan.
In reality, those gutted reactors are still extremely dangerous. An angry public, whose children are suffering, has thus far managed to keep all other nukes shut in Japan. If they keep them down permanently, it will be a huge blow to the global nuke industry—one you almost certainly won’t see reported in the American corporate media.
The Obama administration today threw a potential — and limited — lifeline to the country’s ailing nuclear industry, highlighting the ability of existing reactors to help states curb emissions.
U.S. EPA unveiled a proposal for curbing emissions from existing power plants that pointed to the United States’ fleet of about 100 reactors as playing a critical role — alongside ramping up efficiency and shifting to natural gas and other low-carbon alternatives — in cutting the utility sector’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2030.
At issue is EPA’s finding in the proposal that preventing the closure of “at-risk” existing reactors could avoid up to 300 million metric tons of carbon dioxide during the initial compliance phase of 10 years.
“Policies that encourage development of renewable energy capacity and discourage premature retirement of nuclear capacity could be useful elements of CO2 reduction strategies and are consistent with current industry behavior,” the agency said. “Costs of CO2 reductions achievable through these policies have been estimated in a range from $10 to $40 per metric ton.”
The U.S. nuclear industry is facing a host of challenges, including stiff competition from cheap natural gas, low wholesale energy prices, increasing fixed operation and maintenance costs, and high upfront capital costs for building new units.
EPA noted that units have recently closed in California, Florida and Wisconsin, and additional closures have been announced in Vermont and New Jersey. EPA also noted that the U.S. Energy Information Administration in its most recent annual energy outlook projected that an additional 5.7 gigawatts of capacity — about 6 percent of the country’s current capacity — is at risk of retiring.
EPA pointed to a February 2013 Credit Suisse report that found nuclear plant operators may be experiencing a $6-per-megawatt-hour shortfall in covering operating costs with electricity sales.
“Assuming that such a revenue shortfall is representative of the incentive to retire at-risk nuclear capacity, one can estimate the value of offsetting the revenue loss at these at-risk nuclear units to be approximately $12 to $17 per metric ton of CO2,” the agency wrote. “EPA views this cost as reasonable.”
The agency went on to propose that emission reductions from retaining 6 percent of each state’s historical nuclear capacity should be factored into each state’s goals. EPA also asked for comments on whether the cost of completing new reactors in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee should be considered in the states’ compliance plans.
Steve Clemmer, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ director of energy research and analysis, said it’s reasonable for EPA to include existing nuclear generation in the baseline and to credit states for new reactors, adding that the agency’s modeling of the rule doesn’t project the construction of new reactors beyond the five currently being built. But Clemmer questioned EPA’s methodology and finding that 6 percent of the nation’s existing fleet is at-risk economically and applying that percentage equally across the states, noting that factors playing into each plant’s closure varies.
“In states where existing plants aren’t economically vulnerable, they could get a windfall profit by getting extra credit,” he said, noting that the industry already receives generous subsidies.
The EPA proposal is already emboldening the industry’s focus on state compliance plans.
Marv Fertel, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s president and CEO, said in an interview that the U.S. nuclear industry in coming months and years will be pushing states with merchant nuclear plants to value those units for avoiding emissions. States must submit compliance plans by June 30, 2016, or ask for an extension by April 1, 2016. The rule is slated to be finalized next June.
“We have a bunch of states that have renewable portfolio standards; we think you ought to be basically looking at in the state maybe a clean energy standard … and you should be including nuclear as a part of that,” Fertel said.
Fertel said state policies could bolster nuclear units — just as they currently boost wind and solar.
“It would work the same way it’s working for renewables right now. You have to meet the renewable standard, so you’re driving renewables into certain portfolios in the state; this would say that you ought to be looking not only to drive nuclear by either updates or whatever, but value the existing nuclear for the attribute of no emissions, as well as all it does for reliability,” Fertel said.
The current fleet of reactors avoids 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, equivalent to removing 113 million cars from the road, Fertel added.
The Obama administration in recent months has highlighted the link between climate mitigation and nuclear power. Pete Lyons, the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy, said earlier this year that a rash of premature U.S. reactor closures could threaten the country’s climate goals.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in prepared remarks for an event in Washington, D.C., today placed nuclear power on par with solar and wind, saying states have the opportunity to “shift to ‘no’ carbon sources like nuclear, wind, and solar.” McCarthy went on to say that the nation’s nuclear reactors continue to “supply zero carbon baseload power. Homegrown clean energy is posting record revenues and creating jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.”
The administration earlier this year finalized $6.5 billion worth of loan guarantees for the country’s first U.S. reactors in decades without requiring developers to pay a “credit subsidy fee” — money that protects taxpayers should the developers default (Greenwire, April 21).
The nuclear industry has stepped up its campaign efforts in recent months, with Exelon Corp. taking the lead, partially funding a new front group called Nuclear Matters. The group’s members include former White House climate adviser and former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, former Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, and former Commerce Secretary and Obama Chief of Staff Bill Daley.
Doug Vine, a senior fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), said EPA is setting base lines over the country’s total generation mix, and a state’s job becomes more difficult if a reactor retires. Vine said C2ES has seen two approaches that could benefit nuclear plants, including the clean energy standard that Fertel mentioned and carbon pricing.
Kyle Aarons, a senior fellow at C2ES, said the rule could act to incentivize states to keep current reactors running.
“It’s certainly going to change states’ thinking,” Vine said. “It’s going to put a more long-term focus on nuclear.”