Nuclear Energy

Published on February 26th, 2016 | by Joshua S Hill


Greenpeace Launches Scientific Investigation Into Fukushima Disaster’s Effect On Pacific Ocean

February 26th, 2016 by  

Nearly five years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Greenpeace has launched a high-tech investigation into the radiation effects of the meltdowns on the Pacific Ocean.

In March of 2011, the Tōhoku earthquake triggered a tsunami which precipitated three nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on the east coast of Japan. It was the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and eventually ended up sending low-levels of radiation across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of the United States.

Nearly five years on, Greenpeace Japan announced Thursday that it is conducting an underwater investigation into radiation contamination of the Pacific Ocean caused by the disaster. According to Greenpeace, the investigation will be conducted aboard a Japanese research vessel using a one of a kind Remotely Operated Vehicle fitted with a sensitive gamma radiation spectrometer and sediment sampler.

Mr Naoto Kan, the former Prime Minister of Japan and leader at the time of the nuclear accident, joined the crew of the Greenpeace Flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, on the opening day of the investigation, and called for a complete phase out of nuclear power.

“I once believed Japan’s advanced technology would prevent a nuclear accident like Chernobyl from happening in Japan,” said Mr. Kan. “But it did not, and I was faced with the very real crisis of having to evacuate about 50 million people at risk from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. I have since changed my mind. We do not need to take such a big risk. Instead we should shift to safer and cheaper renewable energy with potential business opportunities for our future generations.”


Since the disaster, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which has maintained the plant, has produced over 1.4 million tonnes of radioactive contaminated water in an effort to cool down the three reactors that went critical. Furthermore, in addition to the initial release of liquid nuclear waste during the first weeks of the accident, and the daily releases ever since, contamination has also flowed from the land itself, particularly nearby forests and mountains of Fukushima, and are expected to continue to contaminate the Pacific Ocean for at least the next 300 years.

“The Fukushima disaster is the single largest release of radioactivity into the marine environment in history,” said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist with Greenpeace Germany. “There is an urgent need to understand the impacts this contamination is having on the ocean, how radioactivity is both dispersing and concentrating and its implications.

“TEPCO failed to prevent a multiple reactor meltdown and five years later it’s still an ongoing disaster. It has no credible solution to the water crisis they created and is failing to prevent the further contamination of the Pacific Ocean.”


Greenpeace’s investigation will continue into March along the coast of the Fukushima prefecture, and will protrude into the 20 kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

“There is still no end in sight for communities in Fukushima, many of whom can’t return home due to radiation contamination,” said Mamoru Sekiguchi, Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Japan. “Rather than pushing for the restart of nuclear power, the Japanese government should put these people first and focus on managing the Fukushima Daiichi site. Many people in Japan have rejected nuclear power and are demanding the only safe and clean technology that can meet Japan’s needs – renewable energy.”

Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist with Greenpeace Germany, explained more about the crisis in a recent blog post, and the role that Greenpeace has played, and continues to play.

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

  • Rico Warner

    Have a technology concept for consideration by engineers working on Fukushima. As an aside, why does not the Gates Foundation, the U.N., or NASA to name a few…have a way for unsolicited ideas from the general public on issues such as this, global poverty-species extinction–child care, etc.?

    Would post it here but have an image of the 3D model that goes with it. Please msg me on FB at the name shown, for more details.

  • Consider the die-off of phytoplankton by 40% because it is ingesting PCB-laced marine microplastic. Phytoplankton supplies over half the world’s oxygen or every second breath we take. The oceans are suffocating as are many cities of the world. Couple this with the clear cutting of the rain forests for animal agriculture, the California forests dying, the excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mountaintop removal and it’s easy to see we no longer have to worry about global warming. A 2 or 3 point drop in oxygen levels will eliminate all life on the planet. It’s already happening

    • John_ONeill

      ‘ A 2 or 3 point drop in oxygen levels will eliminate all life on the planet. It’s already happening’
      Rubbish. There’s about 500 times more O2 in the atmosphere than CO2 – about 2,000 years’ worth of production from all the photosynthesisers in action now. The level is falling, but it will have to fall a hell of a long way further before it affects anything. The reservoir of carbon dioxide in the air is small enough that human activities can have a much larger effect on it, much more quickly. Try to worry about real problems, not imaginary ones. ( Hydrogen Sulfide poisoning from the deep ocean might be a real problem, if warming continues unchecked, but I’m hopeful that earlier bad effects will motivate people to take action before that becomes an issue.)

      • Worldwide O2 levels average 20.9% the lowest safe level for humans before being affected is 19.5% 17% effects mental capacity. You seem to believe photosynthesis will continue to pump O2 into the atmosphere despite the fact that phytoplankton the largest producer of O2 is in decline by as much as 40%. Add the clear cutting of the forests and it is obvious that a 2% or 3% drop in O2 is reasonable.

        • John_ONeill

          You’ve retreated a bit from ‘ will eliminate all life on the planet ‘ to ‘ effects mental capacity ‘. Humans might be able to wipe ourselves out – we’ve only been here for a couple of hundred thousand years – but life has been around for two million times longer, and is a much hardier beast.
          ‘ These plots show the atmospheric O2 concentration relative to the level around 1985. The observed downward trend amounts to 19 ‘per meg’ per year. This corresponds to losing 19 O2 molecules out of every 1 million O2 molecules in the atmosphere each year.’ Going down by nineteen parts in a million would give you almost a 2% drop in about a thousand years. Cleared forests will be replaced by crops or weeds, which still make some oxygen. If phytoplankton are decimated, something else will fill the gap – maybe not as well, but you’re not going to completely eliminate all the oceans’ vegetation. Most of that 19 per meg drop is not from our efforts at biocide, but from burning fossil fuels as fast as we can, and not even the keenest proponents of fossil fuels think we have enough of them to keep up the current rate for another thousand years.

  • Vivienne Perkins

    If we humans were not in denial about nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors, this kind of study would have been launched immediately. Naoto Kan is the only public figure in Japan that I know about who is talking sense on a subject where a lot of profits are at stake and where lies ABOUND. The abiding truth is that an activity that will generate waste harmful to all biological organisms for 200.000 years has to be given up. Period. Human beings lived without air conditioning and the rest of our superfluous crap for thousands of years. Running these kinds of risks with the future of our planet and all future generations only shows how selfish we are if we have not become entirely psychotic.

  • stan wetch

    Coal burning was doubled for 60 years because of anti-nuc power activism. Not only Global warming has ensued, but volatile organic compounds released have have caused 10 s of 1000s of deaths per year, 100,000s of times far more radiation has been released in our environment from coal burning than all Nuclear power combined and acid rain with ocean acidification have destroyed marine life irrevocably. Yet does Greenpeace taking ANY responsibility for the damage and carnage to our planet they caused by the de facto rise in coal burning they greatly contributed to?

    Nuclear power is the only 24/7 carbon-free generation of electricity available to humanity.

    • Jenny Sommer

      The reason coal was built is that it was cheap compared to nuclear.
      Now wind an PV are cheaper than nuclear which is actually bankrupting utilities which now face decommissioning and storage costs.

      The sad part is that this was known since the 70ties. Michael Müller said back then: “planes where started that we don’t have landing strips for”.

      It was not before 2010 that Germany started the Energiewende. 40 lost years that greedy utilities and stupid polititions wasted building stranded assets (nuclear and coal), privatizing gains and socialising losses, instead of finding cleaner alternatives.
      Coal is the buddy of nuclear.

      There is a complete list of clean technologies that can provide power around the clock cheaper than dirty nuclear plants.

      • stan wetch

        Coal depends on a low plant high bit high recurring cost (fuel and it’s transport) -nuclear is the opposite-1/10,000 the fuel.
        The cost of plants are MUCH less when there is infrastructure to support their construction (like the 70s) had. No its was the turning away from Nuclear from the popular culture that fed politicians -this regulators fears.
        Anti-nuclear activism is largely responsible for the acceleration of Global Warming

        • Bob_Wallace


          Nuclear was far too expensive back in the 1970s when regulations were much lower than today.

          We quit building reactors even before there was significant public pressure to quit nuclear. Three Mile Island happened in 1979. US nuclear was dead prior to TMI.

          Nuclear is too expensive. That’s just a fact. Learn to live with it.

    • globi

      Nuclear power is the only 24/7 carbon-free generation of electricity available to humanity.

      Besides that 24/7 from a single power plant is not needed thanks to the grid: You mean like the Japanese nuclear power plants or the numerous nuclear power plants which failed unexpectedly or simply needed to be refueled?

      If anything hydro power has a higher availability than nuclear and despite the fact that its potential is significantly smaller than that of wind power and PV, hydro power produced over 60% more energy last year than nuclear power:

      • Jenny Sommer

        PV and wind have the highest availability factors. Both approaching 100%.
        They are available whenever there is favorable weather.
        That’s when there is light for PV (captain obvious)…but there are also turbines generating 85-90% of the time (not to be confused with capacity factor).

      • Jenny Sommer

        Nuclear is very comparable with religions. No matter if it is the most expensive, less reliable, dirty and dangerous it has to be nuclear…at all cost (wait…we already had most expensive).

      • John_ONeill

        From your source, ‘ Globally, total installed hydropower broke 1,055 GW while worldwide hydro generation – which naturally varies each year with hydrological conditions – was estimated at 3,900 TWh in 2014 ‘. Multiply the capacity by 8760 – the number of hours in a year – and divide that into the amount of power produced, and you get the capacity factor – from these figures, about 42%, which sounds about right. ( It varies locally and from year to year.)
        The corresponding figures for nuclear, for 2014, are about 384 GW of capacity – 440 reactors – and 2,411 TWh ( billion kilowatt/hours ). That’s 87.5% capacity – over twice that of hydro.
        As for availability, In New Zealand hydro flows are lowest in winter, because we’re getting snow on the mountains instead of water in the hydro lakes. Winter is when our demand is highest, for heating, so that’s when we burn by far the majority of the gas and coal used for electricity. The same is true in most countries where heating is a bigger factor than cooling. Places like northern Australia and the southern United States have high power demand for air conditioning in summer, and low hydro flows then as well. Availability for nuclear in both cases is much better, simply because you can choose when to take them offline for maintenance and refueling, and that’s mostly done in spring or autumn, and one at a time.
        Renewable champions like to bring up the few occasions when reactors have had to slow down, or stop, because the water they were using for cooling got too warm. This is a matter of conditions going outside the band that the plants were designed for, and can be managed. Most new plants are coastal, and the sea isn’t heating as fast as rivers are. If warm water events get too frequent, it’s much cheaper to build a cooling tower than equivalent new generating plant of any type. And new reactors are simply designed to accommodate the local conditions. The Koreans are building four APR 1400 reactors in the United Arab Emirates. The seawater they will use for cooling can reach 36 degrees Centigrade, compared to 20 C in Korea. So they’re designed with extra pumps and more surface area in the heat exchangers, and will run at a lower efficiency, putting out 1360 MW each instead of 1450. They’ll still make far more power than all Germany’s solar panels, which have taken fifteen years to install, and about 62 billion Euros so far just in feed-in tariffs.
        ( See section 4.3, ‘ Total Remunerations Paid ‘)

        • globi

          Capacity factors are not relevant. Relevant is the availability factor. For instance, the Swiss hydro power plants which are connected to a dammed lake have a capacity factor of less than 30% but have an availability factor of almost 100% as they require very little maintenance and no refueling. These hydro power plants can also deliver and shut down 100% of the nameplate capacity within a few minutes and this regardless of the water level.

  • Al

    To evaluate nuclear energy based on the effects of 40-50 year old design is intentionally misleading. There are lot safer alternatives such as pebble bed reactors and more recently work being done on molten salt based reactors that will never have the risk of going critical. Earlier designs required a constant pumping of water to keep the reactor from melting down. There are much better designs now where the reaction will stop automatically if something goes wrong so there is never a risk of meltdown. Molten salt based reactor design can make use of existing radioactive waste instead of generating new radioactive waste I support solar and wind but we should not throw nuclear completely out the window. They are an excellent source of baseload power that can completely replace fossil fuels.

    • Jenny Sommer

      Too expensive.
      Once through is still the cheapest. Reprocessing is always expensive.
      People don’t like reactors releasing radioactivity near them. We will just replace nuclear with wind and solar.

    • vensonata

      The tide has turned. It has turned on the price of energy from renewables. Few really expected it, but renewables just outperform the competition. And basically nuclear is the only competition. Fossil fuel pricing is irrelevant since they are fundamentally unuseable because of “side effects” ie “likely to cause planetary fever and eliminate large numbers of species if used in doses of more than a tablespoon”.

    • eveee

      Pebble bed reactor? You mean like the German AVR? Failure. Possibly the worst Strontium 90 contamination until Fukushima.

      “There exists currently no dismantling method for the AVR vessel, but it is planned to develop some procedure during the next 60 years and to start with vessel dismantling at the end of the century. In the meantime, after transport of the AVR vessel into the intermediate storage, the reactor buildings will be dismantled and soil and groundwater will be decontaminated. Fuel removal out of AVR was difficult and lasted 4 years. During this procedure it became obvious that the AVR bottom reflector was broken; in its crack about 200 fuel pebbles remain captured. AVR dismantling costs will exceed its construction costs by far.”

      Molten Salt? A youtube wonder.

      Its always another newer design that will solve all the problems. It will take too long to be of any meaningful benefit. Nuclear had 60 years. Its still getting more expensive.

      Its not needed.

      You don’t seem to understand that nuclear is not about just reactors and meltdowns.

      The entire cycle from mining to storage is fraught with problems. Some of the biggest disasters had nothing to do with a reactor. And there is still no long term storage.

      Nuclear is still too expensive, there is no waste solution, and everything is promises for a new technology. Face it. Its trying to contain vast quantities of the most toxic substances known to man for lengthy periods of time. We have had plenty of experience with how badly that works. Time to stop.

      • John_ONeill

        Quite a few errors in the pebble bed article. Not sure if it’s a good way forward, but the author doesn’t really cover the strengths or weaknesses of the design. In any case it’s far from being the only alternative to a light water reactor – Canada, Britain, Russia and India get a significant amount of their power from three completely different designs, and many others have been tried.
        ‘It’s trying to contain vast quantities of the most toxic substances known to man’. Bernard Cohen challenged Ralph Nader, who called plutonium ‘ the most toxic substance known to man ‘, to eat as much caffeine as Cohen would eat plutonium. Neither is really recommended neat, but plutonium is much harder to get at. Cadmium Telluride, by contrast, is extremely toxic, and if used in solar panels, has to be spread all over the landscape. Plutonium does hang around for a few thousand years – cadmium is forever – but plutonium left in a reactor will make a lot of electricity and a small amount of fission products, mostly with half-lives less than thirty years.

        • Mike

          Whatever your motivation to slander solar with worse waste issues than fission reactors, we can all sleep knowing that the almighty dollar will dictate the end of fission reactors because each new one is progressively more expensive to build, whilst each new PV panel/wind turbine is progressively cheaper to build. The market will dictate the winner. Cheers

          • eveee

            He’s telling me an author in the reference didn’t give pros and cons. The reference is Wikipedia. There are 11 references. LOL. Now he wants you to drink plutonium because its safe.

          • Mike

            IMHO, I suspect he is paid by someone in the nuclear industry.

          • John_ONeill

            SHILL – Someone Holding ideas I’m too Lazy to Listen to?
            Here’s someone changing his mind on nuclear, and no, they didn’t pay him to – he’s making all his income public, and suggests other opinion shapers do the same.


          • eveee

            What ties to do you have to the nuclear industry?

          • eveee

            You know, I suspect that, but you never know. He quotes other peoples stuff sans research and validation from from an unmentionable well known dubious pro nuke site. A lot of it is crazy over the top stuff like drinking plutonium.Whatever garbage sticks to the wall and distracts and confuses the uninitiated. The tobacco companies and oilcos used a similar tactic. A typical troll will waste your time going over spurious garbage, carefully checking for how completely useless and unreliable it is.

            His latest that ticked me off was to cite an Alberta HVDC as an example of high HVDC costs and impugn the integrity of several well know researchers on the subject. It was a sham. Alberta HVDC costs are an outlier. I know. I checked the costs of other HVDC projects. Apparently, HVDC lines experience heavy icing and high winds in Canadas tundra like conditions. The towers and lines are heavy duty, and more expensive. And construction has to wait for the right time, because of muskeg. Sometimes frozen, sometimes muck. Makes for expensive construction. Whoda thunk it.

          • Mike


          • John_ONeill

            Interesting. I still think it unlikely that people actually running a grid will be prepared to bet the farm on HVDC lines going thousands of miles to where the wind might be blowing harder than at home.
            Regarding my ties to the nuclear industry – none. I live in New Zealand, and the nearest power reactor in any direction is almost half a hemisphere away. I last visited a reactor about forty years ago, hitchhiking in France, when a kid in a deux chevaux gave me a ride to an anti-nuke demo at Flamandville. Stayed the night there, listened to some of the speeches and songs next day, figured it was their business not mine, went on my way and never thought about nuclear for thirty years.
            Then I started learning about climate change. I read ‘ Two Degrees ‘, by Mark Lynas – a scary tome.’ Heat ‘ by George Monbiot. I started following Barry Brook’s blog – ‘ Brave New Climate ‘. Over the next few years, they all came to the conclusion that nuclear power was going to be essential for weaning the world off fossil fuels.
            In New Zealand, being non-nuclear is regarded as being as natural as breathing – American ship visits were banned in the seventies, with much popular support, and that decision has never really been revisited. A good friend of mine is a German who came to NZ partly because of the nuclear thing in Europe, and who has put up solar panels, built three electric cars, the works. I helped him put up his second wind turbine – ( the first was a single-blade prototype, and never worked properly while he had it. ) This is probably one of the few countries that possibly could do without fossil fuels and without nuclear, though it wouldn’t be easy. That wouldn’t help us much, though – there’s another seven going on nine billion people sharing the same planet. More of them live in cities than not, and those cities need to import a lot of energy just for the inhabitants to stay alive. At the moment, worldwide, that energy is nearly ninety percent from combustion.
            Here’s another ex-hippy environmental heretic –

          • John_ONeill

            I was referring to the article in Daily Kos. Your chances of getting hold of any plutonium to drink are nonexistent.

  • John_ONeill

    I expect Greenpeace will find that any negative effects of radionuclides off the coast are vastly outweighed by the gains from the fishing ban in the area – just as the zone round Chernobyl has become a wildlife refuge. Will their report mention this? Ask yourself..

    • Sean Oliver


    • eveee

      Go live there. Eat the fish.

      • John_ONeill

        I don’t eat fish. The oceans have been plundered way too much already, and they burn far too much diesel catching what’s left. However, the only fish caught in the last couple of years with cesium levels above Japanese limits, was one actually inside the breakwater of the power plant, which has been closed off from the ocean.
        I don’t fly either, but I’d have no concerns about eating Fukushima rice.

  • Joe Viocoe

    Greenpeace has lost credibility with serious environmentalists. They have gone too extreme in many cases.
    I don’t hold them up as an authority that can objectively conduct an “investigation”.

    It’ll be an “inquisition”

  • Cubanx

    Shouldn’t the Japanese gov’t already did research on the global scope of this disaster? It wasnt a few radiactive barrels, its 1.4 million tonnes so far! Crazy, corporations will destroy in a few hundred years what took billions for the earth to create.

    • John_ONeill

      Release to the atmosphere was 43 grams of Iodine 131 – which in five years will have decayed to zero ( ~ one week half life means you halve the radiation output 52 x 5 times ), and 4 kilograms of Cesium 137. Cs137 has a ~ 30 year half-life, so the radiation release won’t have fallen much, but it will be far more diluted, and having such a slow release means the radioactivity was weak to begin with.
      In contrast, the coal burned to replace Japan’s fifty reactors’ output will have added about 65 million tons of CO2 every year to the air and ocean, with minor contaminants like sulphur dioxide and mercury probably also in the hundreds and tens of tons, respectively.

      • vensonata

        Just what do you expect a sentence like “one week half life means you halve the radiation output 52 x 5 times ), and 4 kilograms of Cesium 137. Cs137 has a ~ 30 year half-life, so the radiation release won’t have fallen much,” to mean to non specialist readers? This is the problem with nuclear, the average person is in no position to evaluate the technical claims. But the average person knows there are political and economic interests at play that will spin these issues. So…what to do? Go with renewables, and set aside nuclear.

        • John_ONeill

          Spin works both ways. If renewables could replace coal, oil, and gas, sure. So far, they’ve just been trying to replace nuclear, in Germany and California. The fossil fuel plants can’t close, they’re needed every time the wind drops or the sun gets clouded over. Solzhenitsyn said – ‘ The truth is bitter ‘ – most people don’t want to think about stuff like global warming, or anything else that might disrupt their lives. Sooner or later, they’ll have to.

          • vensonata

            And the solution would be to build what, 15000 nuclear plants? And how long would that take? Nope. If time is of the essence renewables are the quicker solution. They don’t get the backlash that nuclear does. The backlash used to be mostly fear based and that stopped it dead in the U.S. But there is something that average people seem to care about more than that and that is money. Once the money scale swung in favor of renewables it is game, set, match. And of course the old fuzzy arguments about variability, and land surface area etc. are no longer persuasive. Enough study of the matter has taken place that such arguments hold no weight any longer…at least to the open minded.

      • Steven F

        Uranium and thorium are also present in coal. Some of that uranium andthorium likely was released into the environment.

    • eveee

      Its a conflict of interest for the government, because investigating it would kill their fishing industry. Japan relies on fish. The government is still in collusion with Tepco. They don’t want to declare it bankrupt, and they don’t want to admit the severity of the disaster. The Northest coast of Japan used to have a nice tourist and agriculture industry. Dead.
      Size of the area.
      100s of billions in cleanup costs lasting centuries.
      Is it worth it?

  • Kraylin

    5 years already, time flies!… It will be interesting to reading Green Peace’s report after their investigation.

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