Sunday, April 24, 2011

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Trial in France May Have Affected the Japanese Government's Decision to Upgrade to INES Level 7

Or may not, as people involved in the trial seem to think the case will be dismissed anyway.

It is an almost a decade-long trial of the ex-director of the Central Service for Protection against Ionizing Radiation (SCPRI) who famously (allegedly) said "the cloud stopped at the border." He was referring to the radioactive fallout cloud from Chernobyl in May 1986.

Checking a Japanese site that has the Fukushima-related links submitted by the site members, I found a link this morning to a blog site that had a curious link. The member who submitted the blog link thought this was part of the reason the Japanese government decided to raise the accident level to INES Level 7.

The link at the blog site goes to a site called "Iran Japanese Radio IRIB World Service", and the news, in Japanese and dated 4/7/2011, talks about a trial in France of the ex-chief of the French agency for radiation protection, who is accused of having suppressed the relevant data from the Chernobyl nuclear accident and misled the public by underestimating the severity of the accident.

That's interesting. So I looked for the confirmation of the news from other sources, and I found one AP article written on March 31:

PARIS (AP) — A French prosecutor wants to drop a decade-long investigation into the fallout in France from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, citing lack of proof that it caused health problems.

The prosecutor argued in a Paris hearing Thursday that the probe has been inconclusive and should be abandoned, according to a judicial official. The official was not authorized to be named because the hearing was closed to the public.

The hearing came amid global worries about the risks of fallout from Japan's nuclear disaster, as Japanese authorities struggle to contain radiation from reactors destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami earlier this month.

Investigators said that the head of the French radiation safety agency at the time of the Chernobyl accident deliberately misled the public by minimizing the health risks in France from the radioactive cloud it produced.

The safety agency chief, Pierre Pellerin, is the only person who has been handed preliminary charges in the case. He has insisted on his innocence, and the prosecutor said there was no evidence he misled the public on purpose.

Researchers and cancer victims accuse the government of downplaying the effects of the Chernobyl explosion, partly to protect France's powerful nuclear industry. A few dozen people, including thyroid disease victims, staged a protest Thursday near the courthouse.

French authorities have been widely ridiculed for insisting after the Chernobyl accident that the radiation did not reach France, though neighboring countries all said it passed through their skies. Other European countries pulled milk from shelves or recommended that children take iodine tablets to reduce radiation risks, while France took none of these steps.

French government agencies have adjusted some of their initial radiation estimates since the accident, but deny any intentional deception.

The Paris appeals court will decide Sept. 7 whether to abandon the investigation. Until that decision is made, the probe is effectively frozen.

Since the Japanese nuclear troubles began, French nuclear safety authorities have taken pains to soothe the French public about potential risks, holding daily press conferences for two weeks after the tsunami.

The court hearing comes amid renewed questions about the safety of nuclear plants, and second thoughts by many countries about re-investing in nuclear energy. France is the world's most nuclear energy-dependent country, with more than 70 percent of its electricity coming from nuclear reactors and has been at the forefront of a recent so-called nuclear renaissance.

Further looking for additional information, I got to the article by Le Figaro, in French, dated 4/1/2011 (with Google translation, sentence by sentence; French in blue):

At the head of the Nuclear Protection Authority in 1986, the scientist is accused of having minimized the fallout over France.

Il aurait certainement souhaité meilleur calendrier. He would certainly want better timing. En pleine catastrophe nucléaire au Japon, la responsabilité du Pr Pierre Pellerin dans la gestion qu'eut la France des retombées du nuage de Tchernobyl voilà vingt-cinq ans, est étudiée par la justice. Full nuclear disaster in Japan, the responsibility of Professor Pierre Pellerin in the management of France What would the benefits of the Chernobyl cloud these twenty-five years, is considered by the court. Une étiquette colle à la peau du Pr Pellerin : celle d'avoir été l'homme qui aurait déclaré que «le nuage s'est arrêté à la frontière». A label is stuck with Prof. Pellerin: that of being the man who reportedly said that "the cloud stopped at the border." S'il n'a en réalité jamais prononcé cette phrase, celui qui était alors le directeur du Service central de protection contre les rayonnements ionisants (SCPRI), est accusé d'avoir minimisé l'impact des retombées radioactives sur la France et des risques encourus par la population. If he never actually uttered this sentence, the then director of the Central Service for Protection against Ionizing Radiation (SCPRI), is accused of having minimized the impact of radioactive fallout over France and Risk incurred by the population. Une attitude qui, selon les parties civiles, serait responsable d'une hausse des cancers de la thyroïde. An attitude which, according to plaintiffs, would be responsible for an increase in thyroid cancers.

«Tromperie aggravée» "Deception aggravated"

Le dossier dans lequel Pierre Pellerin âgé de 88 ans est mis en examen depuis 2006 pour «tromperie aggravée» était étudié jeudi à huis clos par la cour d'appel de Paris. The folder in which Pierre Pellerin aged 88 was indicted in 2006 for "aggravated deception" was examined Thursday in closed session by the Court of Appeal of Paris. Elle dira si la juge Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy peut poursuivre son enquête commencée en 2002. She [referring to the dossier] says if the judge Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy may continue its investigation began in 2002. Le parquet général qui requiert un non-lieu estime, que, à ce jour, l'accident de Tchernobyl du 26 avril 1986 n'a pas eu de conséquences sanitaires mesurables en France. The Prosecutor General's Office which requires a non-place [dismissal] is estimated that, to date, the Chernobyl accident of April 26, 1986 had no measurable health consequences in France. À l'issue de l'audience, même l'avocat des parties civiles, Me Bernard Fau, pronostiquait la fin prochaine de l'enquête. Following the hearing, even the plaintiffs' lawyer, Bernard Fau, prognosticated the end of the next survey. La décision sera rendue le 7 septembre. The decision will be made on September 7.

(The article continues.)

Le Figaro's article quotes the member of the French association of thyroid cancer patients, who says "En cas de non-lieu, nous irons plus haut." In case of dismissal, we will go higher [to appeal].

I also found this old AFP article from December 2005 that French authorities deliberately suppressed information about the radioactive fallout from the May 1986 Chernobyl disaster:

PARIS, Dec 15 (AFP) - French authorities deliberately suppressed information about the spread of radioactive fallout from the May 1986 Chernobyl disaster over France, according to details of an experts' report leaked Thursday.

Two independent physicists say in the report that the state-run Central Service for Protection against Radioactive Rays (SCPRI) knew of high levels of contamination in Corsica and southeastern France but kept the details under wraps.

The study was commissioned by magistrate Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy, who since 2001 has been examining allegations that the atomic cloud from Chernobyl caused a surge in cases of thyroid cancer in parts of France.

This week Bertella-Geffroy handed over the report -- originally completed in March -- to civil plaintiffs in the case, who passed details to AFP.

"Now we have proof that there was a breakdown in the system. So now the judicial case will succeed -- I can't see how it can do otherwise," said Chantal Hoir, president of the French Association of Victims of Thyroid Cancer.

The report states that the SCPRI issued imprecise maps that concealed the high levels of fallout in certain areas, according to sources who saw the document.

It also states that with full information health authorities could have taken targeted steps to reduce the exposure of vulnerable people such as children and pregnant mothers.

It was the first time an independent study gave substance to long-standing accusations from anti-nuclear groups that the French government deliberately played down the risk posed by the nuclear cloud.

(The article continues.)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was awfully quick to come to Japan and offer assistance. The French company AREVA quickly won the contract to build a nuclear waste processing facility at Fukushima I Nuke Plant to process highly radioactive water in the buildings. Maybe President Sarkozy also quietly advised the Japanese government to avoid future trials by upgrading the Fukushima accident to the maximum Level 7. There is no higher level, so the Japanese won't be accused of minimizing the accident..

It's interesting to note that both France and Japan have very long tradition of the elite bureaucrats running the country.


netudiant said...

It is plausible that Sarkozy helped Japans leadership to recognize that bumping up the INES rating was a smart move. It helped show leadership, rather than always lagging reality.
The rest of the article is less convincing. France has a long history of holding scandals in court until everyone involved has died or retired. Perhaps Japan does as well,
but it seems too local an issue for a Franco-Japanese discussion.

Anonymous said...

If France won't even admit to nuclear accidents that happened in other countries what is the chance they didn't have a myriad of past nuclear problems they don't admit to?

The French are already having problems with leaks at their waste storage facilities in France this doesn't bode well for future champagne sales.

"Problems at a radioactive waste dumpsite in Soulaine were reported by its operator, ANDRA, to the French nuclear safety authority on May 24th, 2006. According to their report "the wall of a storage cell fissured" while concrete was being added to a recent layer of waste."

"Back in the 1980's, ANDRA stated categorically that their dumpsite would not release any radioactivity into the environment. But that was when they were seeking planning permission. Today, the French nuclear authority is saying "This event revealed a flaw in the conception of the storage cells of the site.""

As a result of questions from Acro, ASN, and others in regard to the high levels of tritium in the groundwater and the Grand Bel, Andra looked into the possibility of setting up a pumping system to treat the groundwater. In May 2008, as a result of its study, Andra reported that it would not be helpful to treat the groundwater to lower the level of tritium in the Grand Bel [ASN 07, 08].


In order to carry out the projected surveillance, a budget of 12 to 13 million francs a year until the year 2300 will be necessary. M. Kaluzny, director of Andra, has wondered himself: “Do financial instruments guaranteeing such revenues for three hundred years actually exist?” [LeMo l.xi.95].


Anonymous said...

The trial is too fuzzy to be a threatening example - on the contrary, especially 25 years later! But french people have been fooled (another word commes to mind) about Tchernobyl, and nobody likes that, so quite early, the french government, and french not-so-mainstream medias, reported a much more severe situation in the plants than japanese medias. They could not take the risk to be seen as liars once again. People here knowing a bit about Japan or nukes thought right after the explosions that it was on the same scale as Tchernobyl. In the US they had TMI, and also gave quite scary information.
What's been said "off the record" between TEPCo, G.E., Areva, the US Army, and governements, we don't know... That would be a great leak, a best-seller!
From here I see the raising to level 7 accident as a late late move, that had to be done anyway.
But what occurs now is that every one gets tired of five months of bad news, of a slow moving disaster, and this is dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Five weeks, of course, sorry.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Japanese like "fuzzy". They put fuzzy logic chips in everything from washing machine to refrigerator...

That aside, I do believe the Japanese bureaucrats have a keen sense of self-preservation and wouldn't take chances.

You're right about "slow moving disaster" being dangerous. From the MSM in Japan, news about the Fukushima nuke plant is almost all gone from the main headlines.

Help our kids said...

“Help our kids!”
Moms to Save Children from Radiation (MSCR) is a portal site created by mothers all over Japan to protect the children in Fukushima from radiation.
We’ll let the foreign media know the urgent plight of children in Fukushima. Please view the following links.

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