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Mar 30, 2011

Japan, a land where it's pollen versus radiation

This is spring -- the hay fever season with huge amounts of cedar pollen wafting on the air, writes Rick Tanaka from Tokyo


A lot of the foreign reporters and observers who rushed into Japan after the triple whammy hit on March 11 mistook the Japanese custom of wearing face masks as preparation for the potential radioactive fallout. Many viewers around the world watching the coverage from Japan might have made the same assumption. Admittedly, some were indeed wearing those masks because they were afraid of airborne radiation dust coming in from Fukushima, but most were more likely trying to fend off different kinds of offensive substances getting into their system.

This is spring — the hay fever season with huge amounts of cedar pollen wafting on the air. Hillsides and mountain foothills glow orange all around the country at this time of the year, and the nightly weather forecast on TV always includes a pollen warning for the next day. Since Fukushima, that segment also includes an alert of the level of atmospheric radiation (with details of wind direction and strength).

Hay fever was never quite such the problem it is now. But then again, neither was iodine, caesium and other radioactive substances but in a curious manner, these two problems are related.

For most foreigners Japan has a very urban image, but in fact it is one of the world’s most heavily forested countries — a contender as poster pin-up for the UN designated International Year of the Forests, 2011. According to a UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Global Forest Assessment Report (2005), 25 million hectares or close to 70% of Japan’s land is forest. Only Finland has more trees. The world average is only around 30% and Australia is way down the list with only 21.3% (NZ is 31% ). Japan’s forest may be the critical factor in two current health problems. To understand why, we need to look at the trees, not the forest.

Japan’s hillsides and mountains used to be quite different from the way they are now.  Old-growth forests have long gone, leaving only a few pockets with most of the rest managed forests. Until as late as the 1960s, most of them would be dominated by broad-leaf trees such as beech, oak, elm, birch, horse chestnut, and many others. These forests used to provide people with food, as well as timber and for tools, baskets, roofing materials, fabric and most important charcoal for fuel. Trees were coppiced so that they grew back and grew another harvest within 10-15 years.

Typically, rural farming communities were self-sustaining. They grew rice, vegetables and other cereals in the fields, and during summer people collected fruits and nuts in the forest and in winter made charcoal, from the forest trees, making them an indispensable resource for the rural economy.

Charcoal was used mostly in the city for cooking. Its consumption reached its postwar peak in 1957 — 2.2 million tonnes — but soon went out of favour when imported oil products became readily available, a change that devastated rural economies. Only a fraction over 1% of that 1957 figure for charcoal is used today and the demand for those other forest products has been replaced by cheap mass-produced plastic tools (also derived from oil).

That switch from charcoal to oil signalled urban economic growth, and rural life lost its wealth and the capacity to sustain itself. The loss of income in the rural areas drove many farmers to the city for work. The urban centres needed cheap labour and out of work farmers migrated from the countryside, either in winter or permanently. The catalyst for Japan’s “economic miracle” of the 1960s, imported cheap oil, may have created the army of workers the economy needed, but it destroyed the old charcoal-based energy system and set in motion decades of environmental degradation.

Old forests were either abandoned or cleared for other income options — mostly plantations. More than 10 million hectares of Japan’s forests are now plantation — fast-growing evergreens such as cedar, cypress and pine planted during the late 1950s and ’60s in straight rows. Their wood is good for house building, but not charcoal. They only yield an income when they mature.

Which is where the pollen blows in, because right now a generation of these trees  has reached stage where they are producing huge loads of pollen, but sadly, not much saleable timber, because their value has been diminished by cheap imports. In fact these plantations haven’t been maintained properly either because there are fewer forestry workers employed to look after them — nearly half a million in 1960 down to 5000, and they are getting old. A quarter of Japan’s forestry workers are over 65.

Nearly all the young and able workers have gone to the cities. At its peak during the miracle decade, half of the seasonal migrant workforce was made up of people from the Tohoku region, the area hardest hit by the recent earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima radiation hazard. In those days youngsters graduating from junior high school were so prized by employers they were known as the “golden eggs”.

As young people left, rural areas decayed and the forests were left to their own devices. Now the gap between city and rural life in Japan has grown so wide country people have long felt they were completely left way behind. How to catch up and be part of the economic miracle? Companies were reluctant to invest in industrial plants, but the power utilities were looking for locations from whence they could supply power to urban industries — by nuclear power.

When a rural area agreed to a nuclear power plant it would be rewarded not only with jobs (although many would would be only as subcontractors) but all kinds of flow on benefits to encourage locals and to bring in more industry — government subsidised flow on benefits such as roads, railways, ports and of course electricity. Locals suspicious of the health hazards were assured the plants were foolproof (there are people still claiming that Fukushima is an example of the safety rather than the hazard of nuclear power plants). To the eyes and ears of the rural (and coastal) poor, shiny new infrastructure installations were symbols of affluence too tempting to refuse.

Such was the scope of the government’s largesse that many of Japan’s “nuclear towns” have a totally disproportionate range and volume of public buildings, sporting venues and other “municipal” facilities.

Now, after what some are already calling 3/11, nuclear power has lost whatever gloss it had. Even the opposition leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, which propagated that nuclear energy policy for four decades, has called for its review. So things must be serious. In the short term, natural gas and oil may fill the nuclear void, but with the era of cheap oil nearing its end, as admitted in International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook last year, maybe Japan should start seriously looking at its forest as a potential energy source.

Who knows, we may even get a return to the old diversity of the mixed forests instead of mono-cultural plantations. And fewer people needing to wear those face masks.


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22 thoughts on “Japan, a land where it’s pollen versus radiation

  1. Michael James

    So Crikey is now supporting the burning of forests for power?

    What will the greens say?

  2. Matt Hardin

    The energy that Japan uses would burn all of their forest in no time

  3. baal

    I don’t think that’s what Mr Tanaka is advocating. I think he is interested in explaining how Japan got to the point it’s at now. Not everyone who contributes to Crikey has all the answers.

  4. Geoff Russell

    Fascinating article. Elinor Ostrom used Japanese mountain commons as one of her case studies in “Governing the commons” but I have no idea how representative that study is.

    The “nuclear disaster” has been running about 3 weeks now. During that time Japan will have had about 35300 new cases of cancer … but not one from Fukushima. Not yet and most likely not ever. Nobody has died from radiation and probably nobody will. About 5000 of the new cases will be lung cancer and about 4000 of those people will be dead in under 5 years. Of the 4000 cases of thyroid cancer due to radiation at Chernobyl, 98.8 percent were successfully treated. If you are going to get a cancer, thyroid is about the best going. If I hear one more silly comments about so and so many milli Sieverts being above this or that limit, I’ll throw up. From what has been reported by the IAEA a few people have had way more radiation they should but nobody has been put even close to the cancer risk of a drinking smoking steak eating Aussie or their numerous Japanese counterparts. The earthquake killed people, falling buildings killed people, fires killed people, the tsunamis killed people, bacterial infections have killed people … but nobody has died from Fukushima radiation. Not one single person.

  5. nicolino

    GR, I think you’re being a little “optimistic” about no-one having died “yet” from Fukushima. I wish I shared your confidence.

  6. Geoff Russell

    The 26 of March TEPCO report had 17 workers with 100 to 180 mSv.
    According to Mayo clinic radiation experts, a dose of 1000 mSv (1 Sv) will give you a 1 in 125 chance of getting a cancer and if it is thyroid cancer, you’d be really unlucky not to be completely cured. The global media hysteria has whipped up a fear that is totally out of keeping with the scale of the problem. The biggest death toll associated with Fukushima will be animals abandoned in the evacuation zone and left to starve.

  7. Mike Cowley


    What exactly do you think is going to happen at Fukushima at this point that is going to kill large numbers of people?

    I don’t see how the situation can get anywhere near as bad as Chernobyl from this point, and you would need to have a Chernobyl every few years to come close to killing or harming as many people as coal- and hydrocarbon-fired power stations do through mining accidents, particulate emissions and (in the longer term) carbon emissions.

  8. Flower

    I would agree with Nicolino since truth is a persistent casualty in the nuclear industry. Nuclear proponents very often fail to allude to the beginning of the nuclear cycle, particularly the mining of uranium in Australia.

    The elevated radioactivity in Olympic Dam tailings is some 200 times natural background levels (Source: Mark Parnell MLC SA).

    Mining expert Gavin Mudd advises that the current authorisation requires rehabilitation of uranium mines in such a manner that uranium tailings are physically isolated from the environment for at least 10,000 years (clause 5.4.1); and that any contaminants arising from the tailings will not result in any detrimental environmental impact for at least 10,000 years (clause 5.4.2).

    According to David Noonan (ACF) ‘BHP propose to dump radioactive mine tailings on the surface and to leave them there forever rather than to dispose of their wastes. BHP do not intend to rehabilitate the proposed open pit, intending instead to leave a toxic lake as a radioactive scar on the landscape.’

    There are four tailings storage facilities at Olympic Dam and only three of these are lined with plastic to slow seepage and around 1,000,000 litres of toxic solution seep to groundwater every day (a breach of regulations and with impunity). Obviously nuclear proponents believe that breaching regulations and contaminating precious groundwater and aquifers is an entirely acceptable practice. And the proposed expansion of OD will see the potential for some 9,000 Mt (ie. 9 billion tonnes) of radioactive tailings on the surface in perpetuity.

    So that’s ten thousand years of future generations left to monitor just one monstrous pile of radioactive waste. And there are more. Historically, providing uranium to other countries by converting the source nation into a radioactive wasteland has been the practice of third world despots.

    Further, I fail to understand why people continue to compare nuclear impacts to coal. They have many similarities but don’t they understand that we’re over coal? Comparing the environmental and health impacts of nuclear to renewables would restore a smidgin of credibility to the nuclear industry.

    Ascertaining the impacts of the Fukushima calamity is a little premature. As in other man-made nuclear “events” and catastrophes, historians will set the truth free. Meanwhile one can only pray that the environmental and health impacts on the Japanese people from this current disaster, will be minimal.

  9. Geoff Russell

    Flower, Nicolino: Have a look at GLOBOCAN


    Have a look at the cancer rates in Ukraine (that’s right,
    filthy dirty Chernobyl polluted Ukraine) and at clean green
    Australia … people keep talking about so and so many thousands
    of time higher than “safe” or background without saying what this

    Answer: Ukraine 191 cases per 100,000 per annum … this is age standardised incidence … and Australia? 313. We don’t need
    Chernobyl we have beef, booze, tobacco and obesity. Ukraine only has booze and tobacco.

  10. Mike Cowley


    Please don’t mistake this for advocacy, but we are not *over* coal. Coal is still the most common fuel for electricity generation and along with other hydrocarbon fuels accounts for over 80% of global energy usage. Coal power is responsible for far more environmental damage and human death and disease than nuclear power.

    Wishful thinking will not make it otherwise, and despite lots of rhetoric I don’t see too many serious efforts to change this situation anytime soon – and many of those serious efforts involve nuclear power.

    Comparisons to coal are valid – before people started to take climate change seriously there was plenty of opposition to nuclear power as compared to coal, even though without taking climate change into account nuclear is still safer and less deadly than coal power by a considerable margin.

  11. Flower

    Mike Cowley – Thank you for responding to an item in my previous post. The status quo is for nuclear proponents to shun any contents in an opponent’s post that may cast a dim light on the nuclear industry. Rather, they go merrily on their way, throwing in a myriad of red herrings.

    However, being “over coal” and being “stuck with coal” has two different definitions. An example is shown in Canada where Canadians are over asbestos but they are stuck with it.

    The reason for that is the product is banned for use in Canada but it is mined and flogged off to developing nations. Therefore I will persist with the notion that we are “over coal” but stuck with it and we are also flogging it off to developing nations. Therefore, comparing yester-year’s technology of coal to yester-year’s nuclear technology is rather vacuous because when sanity finally prevails, coal mining will be a distant memory like asbestos is in Australia and nuclear reactors will be a non-event on an island imbued with sun, wind and water.

    Of course the moral hypocrisy of our duplicitous politicians is that all three industries, coal, asbestos and nuclear (via uranium mining) causes lung disease in humans. But I guess workers must be used as cannon fodder to keep the economy buoyant or so the economists tell us, also confirmed by an FOI reveaing the fudging of radiation exposure levels that has been occurring with impunity at the Olympic Dam project.

  12. Flower

    Geoff Russell – Am I correct that a leak of one million litres of radioactive solution into groundwater each day at Olympic Dam meets with your approval? And the 100,000 litres a day leaking into the Kakadu surrounds from the Ranger TSF is just fine? And the 9 billion tonnes of radioactive tailings in perpetuity left for future generations to monitor for 10,000 years is good stuff?

    You appear to speak with some authority on behalf of the nuclear industry but seemingly you are unaware that alluding to WHO to substantiate an argument on nuclear matters is not very prudent.

    In 2006, the Nuclear Information and Research Centre Washington reminded readers of the 1957 agreement between IAEA and WHO which recognised that “whenever either organization proposes to initiate a programme or activity on a subject in which the other organization has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult with the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutal agreement. ”

    It also added a privacy clause where IAEA and WHO “recognize that they may find it necessary to apply certain limitation for the safeguarding of confidential information furnished to them.” This anachronistic agreement legally allows IAEA and WHO to self-censor each other’s work, and keep it out of the public view, especially work with results that are unfavourable to the agency’s mission to promote nuclear power. This is not science – it is totalitarian censorship.

    An example of politics meddling into science and public health was the 2005 revelation that the French government hid Chernobyl fallout exposure data from the people of Corsica and southern France who were exposed to radiation. France is the pin-up man-child of the nuclear industry. The revelation of France’s cover-up was incorporated into a civil class action lawsuit on behalf of thyroid cancer victims in France. Other governments have been similarly accused of suppressing such fallout information. There is no denial from WHO and IAEA who remain mute. Why is that?

    WHO and IAEA have also remained mute on the revelation that around a million people have died from the Chernobyl disaster. The evidence was collated by Belarus’ radiation experts in conjunction with their top environmental agency and drawn from 5,000 research papers, printed in Slavic languages and never published in English before until last year when the book was released by the New York Academy of Sciences. Where is WHO’s and IAEA’s rebuttal of the evidence? There isn’t any. And one can’t speak without the other’s approval. How despotic is that?

  13. Geoff Russell

    Flower: If you want to close the planet’s uranium mines, then the newer reactor designs will enable you to do it because they will run on current nuclear waste … including depleted uranium. So if you really want to get rid of waste then the only way I know to get rid of
    it is in a fast reactor.

    I’m aware of the WHO conspiracy theory. Absolute fruit loop stuff.
    The kinds of death rates from Chernobyl found in research by a variety of teams and assembled by WHO are consistent with research on Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors. The conspiracy has to extend to all of the people feeding data into the world’s cancer registries. As you can see from my previous comment, Ukraine has a very low all-cause cancer rate. If you subtract some large number of Chernobyl caused cases then the rate of non-Chernobyl cancers becomes impossibly low.

    Whether a million litres of radioactive waste going anywhere is okay depends on the level of radioactivity.

    I note that nobody has died because of the Fukushima events. In
    the past 3 weeks, about 31000 Indian children have died because their
    families still cook with wood and cattle dung. Do you seriously want
    the Indian government to stop its fast breeder projects to supply these people with energy because of a so called “disaster” where nobody died? Another 30000 Japanese have been diagnosed with cancer, but you are worried about a “disaster” where nobody died. Get real. All you have is conspiracy theories.

  14. Flower

    “Flower: If you want to close the planet’s uranium mines, then the newer reactor designs will enable you to do it because they will run on current nuclear waste … including depleted uranium. So if you really want to get rid of waste then the only way I know to get rid of
    it is in a fast reactor.”

    Geoff Russell – Your reference to Gen IV reactors that gobble up the waste is vacuous. They don’t exist. Nor do I imagine Gen IV reactors coming off an assembly line any time prior to 2040.

    Additionally, Gen IV reactors will not be gobbling up tailings wastes so I repeat, uranium tailings will be in perpetuity.

    “Whether a million litres of radioactive waste going anywhere is okay depends on the level of radioactivity. ”

    Indeed it does not. Tailings also contain heavy metals, acids and chemicals which you are suggesting we dump on the environment? You are also clearly unaware of the radionuclides left over in the tailings after extracting uranium. You clearly have no knowledge of the synergistic impacts of Ra 226 and Rn 222.

    Clearly you are lacking basic knowledge on the uranium and nuclear industry. If not, then you are obscuring facts.

    Should you disagree you may explain why Australian regulations dictate that uranium tailings dams must be monitored for 10,000 years and any release of radionuclides to the biosphere is illegal – forbidden. Of course they are released with impunity but that is because Dracula’s in charge of the bloodbath but Dracula cannot control the atom – the facts of which you are also obscuring.

    The Australian public are in possession of more than half a sensory neuron Geoff Russell. Get used to it.

  15. Mike Cowley


    Tailings from any type of mine contain heavy metals, acids and chemicals in addition to the naturally occuring radionuclides found almost everywhere at varying levels of concentration. I’m not saying the current mines are managed well or that there are no problems, just that this is a problem we have to deal with anyway regardless of whether we are mining uranium, so it’s not a good reason not to mine uranium while we continue to mine other metals.

    As for “why Australian regulations dictate that uranium tailings dams must be monitored for 10,000 years” but “Dracula’s in charge of the bloodbath”? Really? So the regulators (you know, the people that make the regulations) are smart enough to make wise regulations but not smart enough to enforce them? Which is it? Why are they smart when they write the rules but dumb/evil/imaginary_supernatural_being when they manage them?

    No one (well no one sensible anyway) is saying there are no problems with uranium mining, refinement or fission for power generation. But there are problems with *every* power generation method. May I suggest http://www.withouthotair.com/ as a reference that promotes sustainable energy while actually looking at reality.

  16. Geoff Russell

    Flower: You seem to have no idea of the bigger picture. You keep talking about tiny (but important) problems as if they are big problems. I mention 30,000 children dying over a 3-week period and you talk about tailing dams and heavy metals. Has anybody died from these? Will anybody ever die from these? Perhaps you care not about people but about “the environment” … whatever that is. I care intensely about wildlife and other animals. So I don’t eat them and I minimise my impact on wildlife by not eating the animals whose production entails habitat destruction. This isn’t some theoretical destruction I’m talking about but the actual deforestation of about 70 million hectares by the sheep and cattle industries which have driven the major extinctions on this continent for the past century … much of it in my lifetime because the so-called green movement won’t give up its BBQs to save our native wildlife. If you aren’t vegan then either you haven’t been paying attention to the real causes of habitat destruction or you don’t REALLY give a damn. The planet doesn’t have time for pretend greenies.

    Monbiot has at least woken up to having been conned by the likes
    of Caldicott (she used to be a heroine of mine a while back also … its
    pretty unpleasant waking up to the fact that you were asleep at the wheel!):


    Flower, we face huge problems. As for IFR. All the pieces have been
    demonstrated and sure putting them together will take time, but there is no viable alternative. Wind in Denmark? A dismal failure. Solar in
    Germany, Spain, everywhere? Just nice little toys. They will have little niche markets, but they won’t solve the big demand issues. Energy efficiency? A dismal failure. Every time they succeed in making more efficient TV screens, they just get bigger, zero actually energy saving. Its the same story everywhere. Make more efficient devices and people just buy more of them. I’m using a 21 watt computer with a 40 watt screen to type this. People like me who take energy saving seriously are a tiny minority. Most people simply don’t care.

  17. Flower

    Mike Cowley – You seem to have a problem with the definition of hazardous waste and the short-term, chronic and latent impacts of radiation on human and animal health. So are you recommending that we resume the mining of asbestos too? If not why not? In addition, you appear not to have any idea on who sets the health standards for pollutant industries or who enforces them.

    I thank Geoff Russell for his concerns over our diminishing wildlife. His bleeding heart apparently remains indifferent to the wildlife mortalities caused by uranium tailings dams which are notorious for slaughtering native birds and animals. BHP acknowledged the mortalities of the wildlife who drink or drown in the hazardous radioactive solution from their tailings ponds at the OD project. They also admitted that the estimate was difficult since many birds sink to the bottom of the dam or predators enter the dam to consume many of the dead birds, thus the number of mortalities remain incalculable and the radioactive contamination of the food chain continues.

    In 40 years of operation, a total of 270 billion litres of water has been used in the desperately poor country of Niger by France’s predatory Areva uranium and nuclear company, contaminating the water and draining the aquifer, which will take thousands of years to be replaced.

    Environmental and health concerns at Rio Tinto’s Rössing facility in third world country Nambia are abundant. The mine produces 20 million tons of crushed, sulphuric-acid-soaked, slightly radioactive rock on an annual basis. In addition, the plant consumes millions of cubic metres of fresh water annually in a region where rainfall totals only about 3 centimetres per year.

    BHP Billiton consumes 35 million litres of water from the Great Artesian Basin every day. BHP enjoys a raft of indefensible exemptions from the SA Environment Protection Act, the Natural Resources Act, the Aboriginal Heritage Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

    BHP Billiton is to reopen the Yeelirrie uranium mine in WA. BHP Billiton’s predecessor, Western Mining Corporation admitted leaving the contaminated uranium mine exposed to the public, with inadequate fencing and warning signs, for more than 10 years. Wildlife freely entered the contaminated site and bushwalkers unwittingly used a dam at the site for swimming, which was found to be 30 times above World Health Organisation radiation safety standards.

    The rare occasion of when a uranium miner was fined was when workers were contaminated by drinking and bathing in water 400 times the allowable radiation limits at the Ranger mine at Kakadu.

    And Geoff Russell speaks of dying children? Please….. Has he any idea what India’s state owned uranium company is doing to villagers, their children, their soil, air and water? “Buddha weeps in Judugoda.” Is he aware of the Indian people’s protests and that of other nations their objections abounding around the globe? Does he know that Australia deals with a country, China who jails anyone who dares blows the whistle on their uranium mines like Sun Xiaodi, a former uranium worker and his daughter Sun Dunbai who were recently jailed and sent to a ”re-education through labour” camp for their efforts to expose corruption and contamination in China’s nuclear industry.

    Radionuclides are invisible, odourless and tasteless and uranium has killed thousands of workers around the world – the silent killer……… and the nuclear industry rejoices.

    So now it’s Yellowcake George Monbiot to the rescue to putty up the cracks? Not likely thanks. I prefer to take my information from the peer-reviewed literature.

    Greed +Ignorance+Ecocide = Disaster

  18. Geoff Russell

    Flower: You like numbers but throw them around like a duck shooter with a shotgun. You need to give them context. “35 million litres a day” (I’m assuming this is accurate, I didn’t check) sounds like a lot. It’s about 13 billion per annum. The dairy industry sucked 323 times this amount from the Murray Darling Basin at their peak before the drought hit. There is a link to the CSIRO report with the data here:


    That’s right 4,200 billion litres of water and 2.5 million tonnes of cereals turned into milk and bobby calves taken away from their mum at birth and trucked to slaugher 7 days later. You choose to live a cruel and vicious lifestyle and the best defence you can hurl at vegans is “bleeding heart”. Gosh that hurts. As it happens I do care about the animals killed by huge mines of any kind and not only do I want to shut all coal and uranium mines, but I have a practical way to do it. IFR (Integrated Fast Reactors). They will enable the closing of the mines we both object to. You also no-doubt object to nuclear waste. Unlike you, I have a plan to get rid of it … IFR again. That waste can power the planet for hundreds of years.

    Back to water. What exactly is your objection to the 35 million litres. Do you object to it being taken from the ground? Do you object to it being polluted? What impact will any pollution have? Spell it out, don’t just flail about.

    The nuclear engineers who designed IFRs were worried about waste and mining 3 decades ago, but unlike you, they did something about it which can simultaneously save lives, while providing clean energy. All you do is throw another dead animal body part on the BBQ and pretend to care about things.

    Let me know when you change your own cruel and vicious lifestyle and we can continue the discussion, but for now, I’ve better things to do. Have a nice day … your future food definitely won’t.

  19. Flower

    Geoff Russell – You will not win a debate on presumptions or hypocritical hubris. Despite your silly allegations, I am an animal welfare activist and an environmentalist who endeavours to put her money where her mouth is. And I have lost count of the number of submissions I have made (both as an individual and as a community representative) to appeals convenors concerning pollutant industries in this nation.

    And your attempt at fudging figures is pitiful considering that the 35 million litres of water/day consumed by the Olympic Dam project applies to ONE single company not an entire industry. Pray tell me how many companies are in the dairy industry, the rice industry, the heinous meat and livestock industry – albeit all massive users of water? However, these are companies are feeding 22 million people and beyond. What is ONE single company, the Olympic Dam project feeding? The ecocidal nuclear industry and the maniacal manufacturers of nuclear weapons.

    Toro Energy plans to mine uranium at Lake Way and Centipede south of Wiluna in WA, and Mega wants to at a nearby mine at Lake Maitland. Altogether this will demand 4 to 4.5 gigalitres of good quality water each year, according to Senator Ludlam.“Add that to the 1.8 gigalitres a year that BHP Billiton wants for its proposed Yeelirrie mine and that’s about six gigalitres of water each year to be drawn from aquifers in the arid northern Goldfields by these three proposed mines.

    “Six gigalitres is equivalent to at least 3,000 Olympic swimming pools – or 60 times Wiluna’s town annual scheme supply, each year,” Ludlam advised. The uranium industry boasts to the international financial market of their “450 uranium projects” in WA alone.

    The nuclear industry slaughters billions of wildlife every year. Yes billions possibly trillions! Indian Point’s two nuclear units in New York violate state law and the federal Clean Water Act because they kill close to 1 billion aquatic organisms a year, including the endangered shortnose sturgeon, while consuming 2.5 billion gallons of water a day.

    These nuclear units have been sucking up a billion marine life annually for nearly forty years. Around half of nuclear reactors operate with the same technology and many of the licences are being extended for 20-30 years. Google “Indian Point reactors one billion marine” and readers can get a handle on the diabolical practices of this industry.

    Indian Point is appealing an enforcement notice to make good their technology to prevent the wholesale slaughter of out threatened marine species. What do they care about the carnage they commit or their crimes against humanity?

    And I repeat, Gen IV reactors that gobble up nuclear waste do NOT exist. I repeat, the proposed Gen IV reactors have no use for the radionuclides in tailings dams – Ra 226, Rn 222, polonium 210 etc, heavy metals or eco-destructive chemicals. They will remain a radioactive scar on the landscape for us and future generations in perpetuity.

    I have dubbed you “hypocrite of the decade.” If the cap fits, wear it. Take that back to your master of duplicity, one Barry Brook.

  20. Geoff Russell

    Flower: The 4,200 billion litres from the Murray Darling Basin was ONLY the dairy industry.

    Make no mistake, I want to shut down all the world’s uranium and coal mines, but the uranium mines can’t shut until we have IFRs and the coal mines can’t shut until we have more Gen III nukes … but that can happen quickly if people make rational decisions and not decisions based on irrational fear of things which don’t, as a matter of record, kill people or make them sick on anything like a relevant scale.

    Reactors that can gobble up waste were built decades ago and some
    are running today.


    The IFR is a combination of reactor and reprocessing technology in the one unit.

    As I said, if you want to actually close uranium mines and get rid of
    the vast majority of waste from current plants, and have a fighting chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, then these reactors
    are a key part of what is required. Do you have another way of
    getting rid of nuclear waste?

    In the real world, the best solution isn’t always perfect. But may still be the best. Wind farms kill birds, harvesting grain kills all kinds of things. I see the problem of feeding 9 billion people in 2050 while avoiding dangerous climate change as one of minimising land use to maximise land available for reforestation and wildlife. Rolling back 200 years of deforestation isn’t optional, but necessary to sequester about 60 ppm of CO2. No solution is perfect.

  21. Flower

    “Make no mistake, I want to shut down all the world’s uranium and coal mines, but the uranium mines can’t shut until we have IFRs and the coal mines can’t shut until we have more Gen III nukes … but that can happen quickly if people make rational decisions and not decisions based on irrational fear….”

    Total bulls-t Geoff Russell and we are well acquainted with the U beaut nuclear spin on “pyroprocessing.” Further, the Olkiluoto-3 nuclear reactor being constructed in Finland and the one in Flamanville France has descended into a farcical nightmare which has nothing to do with any “irrational fear” but all to do with shaved monkeys boasting of ‘fail-safe’ Gen III designs that have realised 1700 flaws including hundreds of safety issues plus massive delays, litigation and 50% over budget and so far they are a little more than half-way through construction after eight years.

    The nuclear industry cannot provide energy (albeit polluting energy) that humanity needs over the next three or four decades. Twenty five reactors in Australia by 2050 (1.6 reactors/year) will increase this country’s CO2 emissions not reduce them. Fifty reactors by 2050 will tip this nation over the edge. Go figure. And heading the list of mongrels impeding climate change action towards renewable energy is BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto who are global polluters + global cheats+ ecocidal maniacs = nuclear and fossil fuel industrialists.

    Rio Tinto’s Ranger uranium mine has ceased production because the tailings dam is near to overflowing. The indigenous owners want Rio out of Kakadu and BHP’s proposed expansion will see them using 250 million litres of water daily. The water consumption includes building a desalination plant that threatens marine life in the Spencer Gulf according to concerned marine biologists.

    Clean energy means non-polluting energy. Nuclear power is a significant source of GHGs including the diabolical hexafluoride gas (Hex), a halogenated compound and one of several that are used at various stages of the nuclear cycle. HCs are potent warming gases, thousands of times more potent than CO2 and unsurprisingly, there is no published data on releases of HCs from nuclear energy.

    The global PR spin on IFRs has been propagated by Tom Blees, a fishing boat skipper for God sakes, in collaboration with Barry Brook, a biologist with zero credentials in nuclear physics.

    The damage the nuclear industry has already done to the biosphere and human health is incalculable. The priority for the nuclear industry is to use the electricity generated by nuclear power to clean up its own pollution NOW and compensate every taxpayer in every nation for the trillions spent to remediate the environmental damage caused to the planet by these bludgers.

    Then they should phase themselves out before events force them to close down abruptly and permanently. The taxpayers’ tolerance of paying for the carnage committed by these grim reapers has been exhausted. Contrary to what you are peddling and given the huge scale of the carnage it has caused, the nuclear industry provides a piddling 2.5% of the world’s final energy demand.

    And while the nuclear industry continues to plunder uranium from its undisturbed state, obfuscating the unpalatable truths, I shall continue to make trouble for its false prophets.

    As a member of the animal rights’ movement Geoff Russell, you make a convincing sadist. May I suggest you engage in a crash course on environmental manners?

  22. Geoff Russell

    Flower: Okay, so we shouldn’t take notice of Barry Brook because he has no credentials in nuclear physics and we should take notice of you, an anonymous blog commentator who rarely bothers with links to
    source material because … ?

    Uranium hexaflouride (hex) is produced as part of the uranium fuel production chain. I don’t know if it is a greenhouse gas, but I know that you can’t guess these things. Sulphur hexafluoride is a greenhouse gas and is mentioned in the IPCC AR4. UF6 isn’t. In any event, it isn’t released during the production process and any hex that isn’t actually used is stored. According to Sovacol here:


    France creates about 16,000 tonnes of hex per year.

    The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 report puts the life cycle emissions
    range of nuclear at similar to solar photovoltaic. Building a bunch
    of nuclear stations in Australia would involve considerable initial
    emissions because of construction, but these emissions would be
    far less than solar thermal (for example) because far less steel and
    concrete is required per gigawatt. If emissions are CO2, then it
    matters little whether we put up a huge lump now, or gradually over
    30 years. It’s the long term which matters because most of the CO2
    stays in the sky for a long time. That’s why the current political plans which call for annual or short term targets are a bit silly. A long term plan for CO2 and short term plans for the short lived climate
    forcers like Black Carbon/Methane/Ozone is far more sensible.
    And by “plan” I mean plan, not “target”. Without a plan, a target is a waste of words.

    Scaling up solar thermal to the kinds of sizes required to shut down coal would take about 15 times more concrete and 75 times
    more steel than nuclear. Some indicative calculations are here:


    As for Finland’s problems. Anybody can find a failed project to “prove” that this or than technology is flawed. I could point to the explosion of
    a 900,000 gallon tank of Polychlorinated biphenyl at a Solar power station in the US in 1999 …


    except I wouldn’t. I could point to Indian nukes being built in 5 years
    from first concrete to criticality.


    Isolated examples don’t prove anything.

    Lastly, the latest International Energy Association data (is that part of your conspiracy also? where does your 2.5% figure come from?)


    puts nuclear at 5.8% of total primary energy and 13.5% of global electricity … geothermal, solar, wind are (combined) just
    0.7% of primary energy.


https://www.crikey.com.au/2011/03/30/japan-a-land-where-its-pollen-versus-radiation/ == https://www.crikey.com.au/free-trial/==https://www.crikey.com.au/subscribe/

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