Officials inspect a site at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Japan says it plans to build an “ice wall” around the Fukushima nuclear plant to stop radioactive water from spreading further. But critics say there are environmental and political risks to such a move. We discuss the efforts to control the leaks, and look at how the radioactive waste might affect the West Coast of America.

Kenji Kushida, research associate in Japanese studies at Stanford University's Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center
Daniel Madigan, postdoctoral researcher at Stony Brook University in New York and co-author of two studies on radiation levels in bluefish tuna in the Pacific Ocean
Eliza Strickland, associate editor at IEEE Spectrum, a magazine that focuses on technology and engineering
Matt Charette, senior scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

  • Jonathan

    Could your guest talk about the dangers to public health in the bay area from increased levels of cesium 137 coming from Japan starting in 2014 and peaking in 2016?

  • Jonathan

    okay, your guest say that the cesium 137 will not be that bad in 2014. What would be the affect on the public with higher levels of cesium in the bay?

  • Antonia

    I don’t understand how people say only the Fukushima bottom
    fish is impacted by the disaster. Does the flounder not get eaten by
    other fish? Does the food chain not work in the sea?

    Some of these radioactive elements’ half life is in the
    million of years. Aren’t we being a little naïve thinking that the
    disaster is limited to animals living 20kms off the coast of the plant?


    • Ruben Willmarth

      It’s because the Cesium doesn’t bioaccumulate like Strontium does, or Methyl Mercury for that matter. With radiation, only the dose makes the poison, ie a little is harmless or even helpful, while a lot is not. The miniscule amounts that will reach our shores will be so dilute as to be less than 1/1000th of the background radiation we all get.

  • JS

    Your guests are
    egregiously biased, and clearly making

    outrageous excuses for the current Japanese Government.

    I have followed the news on Tepco and the leaks in the plant


    The pictures released show rust that has certainly been

    there from current Japanese PM Abe egregiously lied to get the contracts to

    build nuclear power plant in the Middle East and around the world. He DID LAND THOSE NUCLEAR PLANT

    while these rust was already there, and most likely already known and covered


    Those contracts were signed when the rust was already there.

    And Abe went on a world wide tour, saying completely dishonest things like

    learnt from the lesson of Fukushima” and now become experts.

    The Japanese are experts on robots because of the need to

    serve their aging population. They have been using robots to survey the plants

    for a long time. There is NO reason the

    rust and leaks were not discovered earlier to avoid contaminating the Pacific

    Ocean and its neighbors, particularly the neighbors that Japan openly declare

    that they want their economies to tank, knowing that it will hurt the world

    They grin when they talk about for every percentage they manipulate the

    depreciation of the Yen, how much they can depress the GDP of the other


    I hope you will stop relying on the famous academics who

    whitewash war crimes and cover up the defamation Japan consistently made

    Just remember the cover up of Olympus scandals, the history

    of the knowing negligence that led to the Fukushima accident in the first

    place. The whistleblower was fired

    because he “did not understand the Japanese culture” that portrays a semblance

    of transparency but does exactly the opposite.

    As for the conception of an ice wall, of course it will not

    be completely effectively based on basic Physics. At the edge of the wall where
    it meets the ocean, there will also

    be a temperature gradient. It is impossible to control the temperature of the

    ocean; hence, it is impossible to have perfect containment of a continuous

    radioactive leak of water into the ocean that way. A Japanese professor, whose
    name eludes me off hand, has done the

    calculation to cross check the earlier official mumbo jumbo, and has declared

    the official ones did not add up, forcing the admission that water has already

    leaked to the ocean. It just shows that

    BOTH the Japanese Government AND Tepco are complicit in this deliberate cover

    up to the world and many who are affected, including many poor Japanese

    fishermen. Now that the water is already leaking continuously, to claim that an

    “ice wall” will be effectively is mere science fiction.

    There are some fierce demonstrations by the Japanese people

    lately against nuclear power; yet, Kushida egregiously covered up these

    grievances to the world, and whitewash the gross injustice to Japanese people

    by quoting statistics of public opinion that were based polls done when the

    Japanese people only had access to the false Abe’s propaganda. That means

    Kushida is against the poor Japanese fishermen and the neighbors who are preys

    for Abe’s hawkish agenda. By hawkish, I mean hawkish economically with little

    regard for the common people. Abe does anything to grab power and push his

    underlying military revival agenda because his grandfather was in the cabinet

    of WWII and an official ally of Adolf Hitler; it has been his life long dream

    to revive militarism in Japan. In fact,

    that was how Abe lost election after a mere 1 year as Prime Minister last time.

    The major criticism then was that he did not focus on the problems of the

    economy and only cared to revive his militaristic agenda. So this time, he used

    deliberate willful blindness to land some contracts at the expense of the

    people. How is that different than his

    support and reverence for Kamikaze tradition, i.e., let the innocent Japanese

    fishermen and former residents of Fukushima suffer for the sake of Abe getting

    enough power by deceiving the world, and thereby revise the Constitution and a

    subtle but steadily gradual return to whitewashing the class I war criminals

    and militaristic tradition.

    Michael. Don’t trust Research Associate Kushida ever

    from now on!

    Kushida said
    “no panic” !!!!!!!!

    Look at the angry
    Japanese demonstrators who say they are “fed up”. Boycott Kushida’s
    propaganda to protect innocent Japanese people!!!

    Your other guest is even MORE egregious. There was incompetence, corruption, cover
    up. Engineers were incompetent. Yet, she praised these people with

    Blind praise with evidence completely OPPOSITE to the what
    she said. PLEAZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Save the minority
    Japanese victims who are most affected from these egregious lying guests who
    speak opposite to evidence with a “STRAIGHT

    Your guest has sold out truth to blind Japanese
    whitewashing propaganda.

  • JS

    As for Kushida’s claim that Abe
    was re-elected with a landslide, how did Abe achieve that?

    Besides covering up the nuclear disaster to land contracts to build nuclear
    plants oversea, he egregiously manipulated the Japanese currency by a whopping
    25%, in a direct aggressive, antagonistic move against competitors such as
    American auto-makers. It also manipulated the Japanese stock market to
    transient rise about 15,000. The nation was on a high. They all know that it
    may not last long term, but who wouldn’t go along with it. It’s merely a few
    months, the stock market has dropped promptly below 14,000. The truth about
    Abe’s claim that they had learnt from the nuclear disaster is now out.
    Everything is COMPLETELY consistent with Abe’s life long political history, and
    his longstanding platform — he egregiously covered up, cleverly manipulated
    history for decades, and misled his people. And Kushida is complicit in this
    horrible lie against human rights and against freedom of information. Atrocious
    Mr. Kushida!

    Please spare
    the Olympic athletes from having to bath in radioactive water!

    Abe is lying
    again through his teeth, blatantly to the Olympic Committee in seeking to have
    Olympics to be hosted by Tokyo, when he pretended that it was Tepco’s problem and that the Government is heroically throwing lots of
    money to solve Tepco’s problem — typical Abe “image manicuring” to distract from the ample evidence of his own complicity.

    PLEASE spare
    the world from more ravaging by the “superb” Japanese engineers who
    could do nothing more but to obey the corrupt Tepco business managers and the
    extremely savvy Japanese politician who has manipulated world opinion and never
    stops manipulating respect for the war criminals whose tradition started two
    world wars. Abe has been successful in misleading American media by guilefully
    inserting war criminals into shrines for millions of war dead when the world
    was not paying attention to the demonstrations. Now. the fake propaganda has
    taken hold that the demonstrations are fabricated rather than from the bottom
    of the hearts of the hundreds of millions of victims or descendants of victims.
    THAT fact shows how guileful Abe is. And Kushida spins the fact to
    cover up Abe! What kind of utterly untrustworthy news and opinion source
    is Kushida?! So is Stanford, which has a tradition of honoring Kaneko,
    who propagated the myth that Japanese people were the Aryan race, while colored
    people, all other non-Japanese Asians were not, thus paving the foundation for
    the adoption of that Aryan race theory by one with the initial AH decades
    later. Stanford has NOT come to terms with history and admitting the harm
    Kaneko did to create the “western” Japanese philosophy that started
    both world wars in the 20th century, and continued in the whitewashing
    tradition in whitewashing Kaneko’s successor, Abe. Good grief!

    knows why Japan insists on keeping nuclear power.

    Could you
    guess Michael? Listen to the criticism of the mayors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima at
    the recent anniversaries, when they criticized Abe for not signing the
    international agreement to refrain from using nuclear weapons. The reason
    to insist on having nuclear power is to maintain the ability to build nuclear
    bombs quickly. Kushida, judging from the extremely biased things he has
    said here, will NEVER tell the American people about those criticisms from the
    representatives of the Japanese victims of the nuclear bombs. Kushida wants to
    perpetuate the myth that Japan was always blameless in the “democratic traditiona” just like Kushida is
    doing in the over a century old Kaneko tradition! Democracy does NOT mean that the
    minority should be sacrificed, and should have their voice muffled by Kushida

    Like Bob
    Dylan’s lyrics, ” How many times must a man….. before he will

  • Harold Crenetz

    This show was disgusting. You mean to tell me there are no scientists at any University on the west coast that has a differing opinion than the guests on your program today. Everyone on the panel seemed to say there is no problem with leaking radiation from the Fukishima plant. KQED seems to have lost its independence!

    • Ruben Willmarth

      or perhaps the truth is different than your pre-conceived notions? I used to believe similar to you, but as I read more and more, the facts didn’t support those notions, and I had to accept that I had been ignorant of the facts. If we are to actually achieve a cleaner environment, we must rely on the facts, not our emotional desires of how things “should be”.

      • William Rothman

        From William of Belvedere

        Dear Mr. Willmarth it is interesting that you report that you “used to believe similar to,,,:” me, but that as you “read more and more, the facts didn’t support those notions.”
        If you are not concerned about the consequences of the nuclear power plant disaster that is, of course, all well and good.
        However, in checking your employment bio, I note that you have, since 2005 worked for in an energy branch of Mitsubishi Industries, a corporation which produces nuclear power generators. Perhaps that may have influenced you. Perhaps the “fact” that was most influential in eliminating your concern about nuclear power was the “fact” of your noting that the name “Mitsubishi” appeared repeatedly on you pay checks, but maybe that “fact” is not at play here, In the interest of full disclosure you might have considered telling people about that FACT. If you had not “neglected” to do so it would certainly have helped all of us to more fully evaluate the objectivity of your perspective.

        • Ruben Willmarth

          Mr Rothman,
          I’m disappointed that you only looked at my Bio close enough to see the Corporate Name, but not the division, and then chose to speculate instead of ask about my ultimate intentions based on your assumptions of my employment. This is exactly the type of self-delusion & Ad Hominem fallacies we all have to learn to curb. The hope is that you can discount everything I’ve said based on my employment, right? But the fact is I work for Mitsubishi Electric, HVAC division, where I facilitate the application and use of High Efficiency heat pumps, helping to reduce our collective energy consumption. Before that, I helped build small power plants that used Biofuels and Co-Generation plants that allowed Hospitals and others to improve their energy efficiency. I have been promoting the efficient use and production of energy for over 20 years now in both my professional & private life. In College I gave a speech on why CFL’s made economic sense, even though they were over $20 each at the time. I know firsthand how beneficial and how challenging increasing energy efficiency is. I also know that we need clean carbon-free energy sources to power an efficient economy, and Nuclear Power must be a part of that for us to succeed in the timeframe that Dr. James Hansen and other scientists have determined we must. Using all the Nuclear, Solar, Wind & Geothermal are the only way we will get there in time. Being intellectually honest is the only way we will see that. Full disclosure here, now may i ask that you do the same?

          • William Rothman

            From William of Belvedere
            Dear Mr. Willmarth:
            The question of whether the fact that you work for a branch of Mitsubishi industries, a corporation that produces nuclear power generators, should be seen as perhaps influencing your advocacy for the technology that generates your employer’s profit cannot but be left to those who, now that they have been made aware of that fact will evaluate the question for themselves.
            I am glad to hear that you are, as your bio, depicts you to be, interested in energy conservation. That fact, of course, in no way vitiates reasonable doubts about your pro nuclear power position motivations that may be engendered by the fact that your employer has a strong financial involvement in advocating nuclear power.

            Since you ask, I am a California-licensed Internal Medicine Specialist, and unlike yourself do not in any way benefit financially from any entity linked to the concerns that I espouse concerning the issue under discussion.

          • Ruben Willmarth

            Mr Rothman,
            you sadly demonstrate how even educated people can cling to prejudices (as in only someone with financial gain would support Nuclear). Research will show you that Mitsubishi Electric doesn’t make nuclear reactors or even the turbines, that’s MHI, a completely different company. ME makes the generators, transformers, switches, that are used in ALL power plants regardless of fuel source. They also make Photovoltaic Panels, so by your logic I should be staunchly anti-nuclear, since there would be more money to be made there. I COULD argue that you have more to profit because the air pollution nuclear prevents keeps a steady stream of customers entering your business. But I am not so cynical as to believe that, nor should you be so of anyone who disagrees with you, as it is a mental crutch. Let’s instead discuss the facts, like the actual harm that comes from extraction & burning fossil fuels, and how that compares to the Nuclear power industry? The reason I support nuclear power (as well as renewables) is that it has fewer deaths per MWhr than any other energy source, except maybe Wind, even with the tragic accidents at Fukushima & Chernobyl. I hope to profit by living a healthier life, and seeing my children do the same. Can we both agree on that?

          • William Rothman

            From William of Belvedere
            Dear Mr. Willmarth:
            Clearly, different people have different opinions regarding the dangers of nuclear power generation.
            We can all have our own opinions, but facts are facts, and here is one fact, and I cannot believe you are not aware that it is a fact, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which builds and operates nuclear power plants and Mitsubishi electric are simply branches of the same single, one and only Mitsubishi Corporation, just as Chevrolet and Cadillac are simply branches of General Motors. So, you work for, and are paid by a company that profits from building and operating nuclear power plants. Does that automatically mean that your opinion about the safety of nuclear power should be disregarded? Of course it does not mean that, but what it does mean is that most people eat their buttered bread with the buttered side up, which is to say they know on which side their bread is buttered.
            At any rate, I think we understand our differing perspectives regarding the safety issues of nuclear power, and with respect to my pointing out that your advocacy of that technology might be at least partially motivated by who writes your pay checks, our back and forth on that could have been avoided if you had simply said something to the effect that, “Because I am employed by a corporate conglomerate that builds and operates nuclear power plants, and have, in that capacity, learned a lot about nuclear power, I can say that it is a safe technology.” Wouldn’t that have been simpler, and wouldn’t it have avoided any suspicion that you had, to avoid appearing to have a conflict of interest, intentionally ignored mentioning your financial interest in the nuclear power industry?

          • William Rothman

            From William of Belvedere
            Mr. Willmarth, I forgot to mention that it appears, based upon the decisions by Japan, and by many European countries to back away from Nuclear Power, and from the fact that, within the last two months, not only have two U.S. nuclear plants announced they were closing, but in addition plans for two additional U.S. nuclear power plants have been canceled. that however correct you may feel are your views about the safety of nuclear power plants, you views are not shared by the western industrialized nations, Japan, and especially by capitalist investors. Certainly you, as do I must believe in the wisdom and the sacredness of capitalism. Why do so many capitalists disagree with you on the safety issue. How can they have been so misled?

          • Ruben Willmarth

            Mr Rothmann,

            that is an excellent question, and it pains me to see what you so accurately describe, as a retreat from Nuclear in many areas. What we must remember is that capitalists focus on making money, and most are agnostic about anything else. I don’t think they consider the long term safety issues, compared to the safety of their capital, which means they don’t always act in our best long term interests. We have seen a huge shift in power generation from Coal to Natural gas, for no other reason than it was cheaper to burn gas. Did the exemption from the clean water act help in this regard? of course! I still think it’s a good thing that we are using gas instead of coal, but that risk is unnecessary, and no nuclear plant is allowed that same exemption. The hysteria over tritium leaks at Vermont Yankee were a good example of the irrational fear that surrounds anything called nuclear, and how nuclear plants face enormous expenses that no other type does, due to this fear, and that is what makes capitalists pause. The shutdown of Kewaunee & Vermont Yankee, were as I understand it, because of the current oversupply of gas keeping short term pricing so low they couldn’t get enough customers to buy their power. The long term reliability that nuclear offers, has no value in the current markets. Again, not in our best interests there. By the same token, in Germany where they closed all their nuclear plants, these same capitalists are starting to flee to other countries because of the grid instability that has come from the high % of renewables and the loss of the baseload from the Nuclear plants. They are bringing on lots of new coal fired plants too. Again, not in our best interest there. Please don’t just take my word for it, read for yourself the links to articles below.

            A final thought for the night, the premature shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear plant has wiped out ALL the pollution free electricity gains we have made in CA from Solar, and most of that from wind too. The reduced health of those in So Cal will be the result.

          • Ruben Willmarth

            Mr Rothmann
            that’s an excellent point, and I would have done it if any of those assumptions were true. But Mitsubishi Electric & Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are completely independent companies, and while I’ve learned a tremendous amount about heat pumps & refrigeration in general while working here, my knowledge of Nuclear Power stems from my personal interest in all things related to energy and all the information I have researched on my own over the years. It’s easy to see why you’d assume that, I didn’t know that there were some 127 independent Mitsubishi companies until my initial HR orientation. Because there are so many that use the Mitsubishi Name, we are supposed to use the full name to properly distinguish ourselves. Each has it’s own separate stock listing (7011 & 6503/MEL respectively) & board of directors. In fact since MHI also makes a line of heat pumps, MHI is a direct competitor of mine. So, you are correct, I do know where my bread is buttered, and while I confess to a preference to how I heat my house based on my work, my opinions on energy are entirely my own. I would urge everyone to focus not just on where someones bread is buttered, but more importantly on the merits of their argument. The facts are facts, and as I mentioned before, i used to believe there was no need for Nuclear, but have come to realize that I was wrong, and that we do. I am happy to explain why, and to intelligently discuss why you or others may not agree. perhaps we can find some common ground.

    • Frank Vee

      nope. they have all been paid off by the tuna fishing industry and others. The only one doing actual scientific observations and reporting I’ve found ic Woods Hole.

  • PeggyP

    I, too, was deeply, deeply disappointed by this show. The experts didn’t specifically answer questions regarding exposures and risk, but repeatedly just said that everything was okay even while admitting that there are no data to back up those statements. Where are the data from the Alaskan seals with lesions and hair loss? Why did the EPA shut down radiation monitors in the US after 311? What about the documented plant abnormalities in Japan as well as the West Coast? We deserve to have information based on real data and evaluated by the appropriate technical experts.

    And to say that the Fukushima situation is considered less than Chernobyl is astounding. Fukushima has and is releasing more material into the environment, is still uncontrolled and uncontained, and the impacts are not known. There were 3 melt throughs, and no one knows where the coriums are located. A massive fuel rod pool is exposed and is structurally unsound.

    With respect to the proposed ice wall, it was interesting to hear that it is considered feasible but that it’s successful operation will totally depend on uninterrupted electric power.

    And lastly, I really resented the repeated use of “hysteria”–by the experts as well as Michael K.–when discussing legitimate concerns about public health, risks, and impacts to the environment. I’m a long-time listener and really expected better. How about another show with experts from the Hiroshima Peace Institute, scientists who can discuss the cumulative effects of the different radionuclides being released, and others willing to discuss the issues without just saying don’t worry–everything’s safe?

  • William Rothman

    From William of Belvedere

    It is apparent from the comments of others that there is widespread disagreement with the reassurances given by the guests. Particularly, I am sorry to need to say, ignorant, was the comment of Mr. Charrette, who said that there was no need to worry about the presence of cesium in fish, because it had a half-life of only 50 days. Cesium has a half-life of approximately 10 years, and fish can hardly be expected to to something to take away its radioactivity. Whatever radioactive cesium is in one fish, is taken into another fish when the first is eaten by the second fish, and on and on like that. And even after 10 years, half of the radioactivity of the cesium remains in whatever fish then contains the cesium. So, if initially the cesium radioactivity was at levels 100 times safe levels, then after “only” 10 years, it is still at levels 50 times safe levels. Doesn’t sound very safe to me.

    • Ruben Willmarth

      His statement was accurate, in that the Cesium is NOT bioaccumulative as you assume. After being absorbed from the water, it is excreted by the fish, and so has a half-life “in the fish” of 50 days.

      • William Rothman

        And then where does it go, taken up by plankton, then eaten by other fish, and what happens if the fish that is radioactive is eaten by another fish before the cesium is excreted by the first fish. If the fish are safe, why has the U.S. government stopped testing them. Would that be considered a violation of “free trade” rules because testing would be a stigma?

        • Ruben Willmarth

          It is soluble in water, so it is constantly being diluted. if another fish eats that one, some portion is absorbed, but it too then is constantly excreted. Just like when you eat a banana, you take in Potassium, and then you sweat it off, or pee it out. And that Potassium is naturally radioactive by the way. Every one of us is because of that. I expect they stopped testing because the accumulation of results showed no cause for concern, and so those limited resources should be used to test for something that actually could harm us, as they should do. Were you aware every single coal fired plant puts radioactive Uranium, Thorium, and even Radium particles into the air every day? But we don’t track that. Not to mention Mercury, Lead, Arsenic, and Nox, CO, Sox, and fine particulates that lead to heart disease?

  • Ruben Willmarth

    I thought the show was decent overall, though I wish they would have tried to educate people more about what the relative risks actually are. Ice walls like this aren’t new, it’s what oil companies want to do in the US to extract “oil shale” by freezing the ground to prevent groundwater contamination while they inject steam to melt the tar in the shale. Those walls would dwarf this one by comparison! But building this wall is a colossal waste of money that would be better spent fixing the leaky tanks and disposing of the treated water that’s left in some of the tanks. It’s only Tritium that’s left, and that is truly harmless, but uninformed hysteria about radiation has prevented that from happening. We should be far more concerned with the gigantic amount of fossil fuels Japan is now burning to replace the closed nuclear plants, or all the air pollution from same blowing across the Pacific from China, which now accounts for some 5% of all that we breathe. THAT really does affect our health! If you’re worried about fish, it’s Mercury, not radiation that we have to watch out for. You couldn’t physically eat enough Tuna to get radiation poisoning, but you could easily die from the heavy metal poisoning that comes from too much Mercury. And the Mercury comes from burning coal, which Japan is now doing lots of instead of operating their nuclear plants. If anyone wants to actually learn about radiation health effects, nuclear power, and related issues, go to, or the blog AtomicInsights which has a wealth of good discussions on all the related topics. Ask questions, BE CIVIL, and you can learn a lot!

  • DontListenToTrolls

    A highly recommended site to learn the truth about the dangers of Fukushima and the dangers of nuclear radiation is —>
    ENENEWS (dot) com
    Skim through the headlines if you don’t have time to read the articles.
    There’s also an excellent Forum at Enenews of people monitoring radiation around the world.
    And an excellent Forum of radiation mitigation.
    The commenters are excellent and the information is amazing.

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