Monday, May 22, 2017

Recycling Contaminated Soil in Fukushima

Fukushima's radioactive waste escapes efforts at containment and management.

Japan tried to incinerate Fukushima's waste,  as described by The Mainichi in September of 2011.[i]

In November of 2011, radioactive ash caused incinerators in Kashiwa (Chiba Prefecture) to shut down because of the challenges of storing the highly contaminated debris.[ii] Levels of contamination reached 70,800 Becquerels of cesium per kilogram (Bk/kg), as measured by radiation checks conducted at two incineration plants and one disposal facility.

The Mainichi reported in April of 2012 that Fukushima would begin burning 1 billion pounds of radioactive waste measuring 100,000 Bq/kg in the exclusion zone.[iii] Residents in Fukushima City promptly protested these plans.[iv]

In November of 2012, Japan announced plans to transport 13 million tons of debris 400 kilometers away from Fukushima to be ground up into mulch and burned, despite widespread citizen resistance across Japan.[v] It is not altogether clear why Japan has selected incineration given this practices does not eliminate or reduce radioactivity of waste and may spread radiation contamination in the atmosphere.[vi] Indeed, one study of incinerator ash from Fukushima contaminated debris estimated that 88 percent of the total radioactive cesium in the debris was at risk for elution and diffusion with wind and rain.[vii]

Now Japan is trying to recycle its nuclear waste:

Masatoshi Toda (2017, May 18). Ministry shows plan to recycle radioactive soil in Fukushima. The Asahi Shimbun,

MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture--In an apparent attempt to quell fears, the Environment Ministry on May 17 showed how it will recycle radioactive soil in construction projects to reduce the growing piles of widely abhorred contaminated debris.

In the demonstration to media representatives here, the ministry measured radioactivity levels of bags of soil collected in decontamination work around the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and sorted the earth from other garbage.

Using soil with readings up to 3,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, the ministry plans to create a 5-meter-tall mound measuring 20 meters by 80 meters. Such mounds could be used, for example, as foundations for seawalls and roads in Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere.

Testing of the methods started on April 24. After confirming the safety, the ministry wants to promote the use of the recycled soil.
Pretty soon, everything will be nuclear waste, including us as humans. Killer Whales may already have reached that point of bioaccumulation of radionuclides, as modeled by Alva and Gobas for killer whales:
Juan Jose Alava and Frank Gobas. A Marine Food Web Bioaccumulation model for Cesium 137 in the Pacific Northwest,” Conference for Society for Environmental Toxciology & Chemistry (SETAC); 2014 Nov 9 – Nov 13; Vancouver, Canada. Available


[i]Rubble from Quake- and Tsunami-Hit Areas to be Disposed in Tokyo’ (29 September 2011) The Mainichi,, date accessed 30 September 2011.

[ii] ‘Radioactive Ash Causes Kashiwa Incinerators to Shut Down’(4 November 2011), Japan Today,, date accessed 5 November 2011.

[iii] ‘Storage Space to be Built at 2 Sites in Fukushima for Tsunami Debris’ (8 April 2012), The Mainichi,, date accessed 9 April 2012.

[iv] ‘Decontamination Work Begins in Fukushima Prefecture City Amid Concerns Over Incinerator Plans’ (27 July 2012), The Mainichi,, date accessed 29 July 2012.

[v] A. Zolbert (8 November 2012) ‘Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Recovery Still Underway’ KSDK News 2012,, date accessed 9 November 2012.

[vi] Institute for Energy and Environmental (May 2012) ‘Incineration of Radioactive and Mixed Waste’,, date accessed 9 November 2012.

[vii] Y. Iwahana, A. Ohbuchi, Y. Koike, M. Kitano, and T. Nakamura (2013) ‘Radioactive Nuclides in the Incinerator Ashes of Municipal Solid Waste Before and After the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant’, Annals of Science, 29.1, 61-66.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

MIA: Public Records of Radiation Research Conducted During War

I'm writing a research paper on nuclear "governmentality." Governmentality research takes a particular problem, such as radiation exposure and dose effects, and explores how key constructs were defined and deployed historically, and up to the present era, by addressing the following:
Institutions that produced, managed, or exploited radiation: E.g., Manhattan Project, Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission Report (ABCC).

Knowledge formations/discourses about radiation: E.g., "Health Physics" and alternative knowledges produced by dissident authorities. Researchers' address key problem-solution frames and models that are foundational to particular knowledge formations.

Authorities: Key types of authorities (and expertise) privileged within dominant institutions, as well as the characteristics and operations of oppositional authorities.

Technologies developed to exploit or contain radiation: Atomic bomb, atomic medicine, radiation dentistry, etc.

Strategies and Tactics: Strategic designs and deployments of the above, as illustrated by the medical isotope program that was promoted by the war machine to help legitimize atomic power to global populations horrified by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

All together, these components produce an assemblage that organizes the social field. 
So, this is what an "academic genealogy of nuclear governmentality" might look like.

I'm really interested in the interdependencies across nuclear weapons, research on the biological effects of atomic radiation, and atomic medicine because these seemingly disparate fields were in fact inseparable beginning in the 1930s.

After the end of World War II, authorities involved in the Manhattan Project and in the newly established US Atomic Energy Commission (1946) chaired by David Lilienthal, former head of the Tennessee Valley Authority, agreed that wartime research on the biological effects of ionizing radiation would need to continue in the post-war environment to understand atomic weapons’ full killing potential.[i]

Manhattan Project medical director Safford Warren had before war’s end promoted extensive post-war biomedical research, an agenda that resonated with contractors eager to pursue wartime research on the human effects of ionizing radiation.[ii]

Research on the biological effects of ionizing radiation was regarded as “Urgent because effective defensive measures (in the military sense) against radiant energy are not yet known" concluded the 1947 Medical Board of Review commissioned by Lilienthal, which reported on the Atomic Energy Commission’s biomedical research program (

Among the most important research programs conducted on ionizing radiation in terms of its capacity to delimit the field of biological effects was the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission launched after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The history of the ABCC and its successor organization have been very thoroughly documented and I won't re-cap here beyond a few citations:
Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. Available Nasaonline,

Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission Report (1947). Appendix No. 6, written by James V. Neel addresses “The Question of the Genetic Effects of the Atomic Bomb”

Frank W. Putnam. 1998. The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in retrospect. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 May 12; 95(10): 5426–5431. PMCID: PMC33857

Sey Nishimura August 2009. Promoting Health in American-Occupied Japan: Resistance to Allied Public Health Measures, 1945-1952. American Journal of Public Health, 99.8, 1364-1375; S;

Susan Lindee (2016) Survivors and scientists: Hiroshima, Fukushima, and the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, 1975–2014. Social Studies of Science 2016, Vol. 46(2) 184–209. DOI: 10.1177/0306312716632933 

Yet, despite the breadth of information, there is something missing from the historical account. What is missing from the historical account is war-time research on radiation effects. 

The best information available about the US radiation experiments is probably encoded in the Adivisory Committee for Human Radiation Experiments (ACHRE) report outlined here, which covers experiments conducted from 1944 to 1974: (The best active link for final report is here).

I also recommend Eileen Welsome's book on radiation experimentation, The Plutonium Files. Her work demonstrates that US government and corporate authorities worked together to understand radiation's weapons' potential (see also Paul Langley's work here). You can learn more in this YouTube Interview:

The CIA destroyed cold war files on medical experimentation with radiation in the 1970s:
Patrick Cockburn. (1994, Janaury 5). CIA 'destroyed files on radiation victims': The public may never know full details of secret experiments on Americans during the Cold War. The Independent,
War time research on radiation's biological effects appears to be highly sensitive information. Now why is that?

And why is it that I can find no information at all about similar wartime radiation research on biological effects by Japan?

Japanese scientists were quite knowledgeable about radiation prior to WW II and understood its weapons potential. They were investigating the biological effects of radiation prior to World War II under the leadership of Dr. Yoshio Nishina, described as the “father” of modern physics in Japan (p. 142). See Kim, Dong-Won. (2007). Yoshino Nishina. Father of modern physics on Japan. New York: Taylor and Francis.

After World War II, Japanese scientists began their own research on the effects of the bombs until they were censored by American authorities. Some of their findings were eventually included in the ABCC report, but their contributions were selectively incorporated.

These assertions are well supported by the official record of formal organizational reports, media coverage from the period, and academic analyses.

So, I expected to have no trouble digging up some findings using a combination of Google and JSTOR search platforms on Japan's wartime radiation experimentation.

Surprise, surprise. I cannot find any accounts of Japanese wartime research on the biological effects of radiation, although there are many, many detailed accounts of hideous biological research of many forms of invention.

The dearth of accounts of Japanese wartime research on the biological effects of radiation is interesting. Japan had an atomic weapons program during the War.  Why would scientists, under the influence of Japan's founding modern physicist, discontinue radiation research on biological effects during the war when all other manner of weaponized biological effects were researched and the country was trying to build an atomic bomb?

I may have missed some vital cache of information on the subject so I'll keep searching but governmentality also requires that analysts address what is missing from the official record, the strange occlusions or inconsistencies in the official records of events that are easily glossed over or dismissed when they may reveal the most deeply embedded relations of power...

[i] This discussion is derived from the findings of the ACHRE report, The Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments established January 15, 1994 by US President Bill Clinton to investigate and report on the use of human beings as subjects of federally funded research using ionizing radiation. The ACHRE report is annotated in the NSA Archive here: but the link to the final report at the Department of Energy is no longer active. Therefore, references to information gleaned from the ACHRE report are sourced from the text made available by Georgetown University here:, accessed August 1, 2016.
[ii] Endnote 34 from the ACHRE report: “The program expanded from the base of Manhattan Project research sites such as Oak Ridge, Hanford, Chicago, and the Universities of California, Chicago, and Rochester to take in a growing portion of the university research establishment. The minutes of the January 1947 meeting record an ambitious program to focus on the physical measurement of radiation, the biological effects of radiation, methods for the detection of radiation damage, methods for the prevention of radiation injury, and protective measures. There followed an itemized list of the work to be done at Argonne National Laboratory, Los Alamos, Monsanto, Columbia University, and the Universities of Michigan, Rochester, Tennessee, California, and Virginia. The University of Rochester was to be the largest university contractor, receiving more than $1 million, followed by the University of California (about one-half million for UCLA, where Stafford Warren was dean of the new medical school, and Berkeley, to which Stone had returned to join Hamilton), Western Reserve (to which Warren's deputy Hymer Friedell was headed), and Columbia (more than $100,000). Argonne received an amount comparable to Rochester; other labs, including Los Alamos National Laboratory and Clinton Laboratories (now Oak Ridge National Laboratory), were scheduled for $200,000 or less. Stafford Warren, Interim Medical Committee, proceedings of 23-24 January 1947 (ACHRE No. UCLA-111094-A-26). See also ACHRE Briefing Book, vol. 3, tab F, document H. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

The End of the "Free" Internet

Mike Snyder. May 18, 2017. The FCC votes to overturn net neutrality. USA Today,
The Federal Communications Commission has officially begun undoing net neutrality rules the agency passed two years ago.  The FCC voted 2-1, along political party lines Thursday, to begin a rule-making process to replace the Open Internet order, or net neutrality rules, adopted in 2015 by the agency, then headed by Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat. 
Those original rules included provisions preventing Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or throttling legal content users sought to access, as well as preventing ISPs from accepting payment to prioritize some data. 
The 2015 rules derive the FCC enforcement power from regulations formulated for telephone companies within The Communications Act of 1934. Republicans have called such regulation as heavy-handed and burdensome for ISPs.
George Orwell on the control of information (from 1984):
And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'
The free Internet must be dismantled because it empowers the people to produce their own news, their own interpretations.

Democratization of production is quite dangerous for those who would seek to control information flows.

Trump's Budget Cuts Include Major Cuts to Food Stamps and Other Social Services

Revolutions are born when hungry people take to the street.

In my 23 years teaching at the university I've encountered many, many students whose livelihoods as children were entirely dependent on food stamps and other forms of supplementary assistance.

These students are citizens, but they come from poverty. Their college education is the promised escape, the ladder of opportunity.

Eliminate food stamps and continue cuts to education and we will have more civil unrest, perhaps even a revolution.

The elites can roll out their oppressive apparatuses, but their forces are no antidote to widespread hunger, the ultimate force of change.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Widening Income Gap and Growing Household Debt: Are They Related?

Two seemingly unconnected headlines on growing household indebtedness and the widening income gap derive in significant part from the same underlying phenomenon:
Michael Corkery and Stacy Cowley. May 17, 2017. Household Debt Makes a Comeback in the U.S. The New York Times,
Americans have now borrowed more money than they had at the height of the credit bubble in 2008, just as the global financial system began to collapse. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Wednesday that total household debt in the United States had reached a new peak — $12.7 trillion — in the first three months of the year, another milestone in the long, slow recovery of the nation’s economy…. 
Debt can fuel consumer spending, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of all economic activity in the United States. It also allows Americans to make large investments in education and housing, which can help build personal wealth and financial stability.
Household debt rises while household income stagnates and/or declines:
Ross Kerber and Peter Szekely Earnings gap over U.S. workers grows for S&P 500 CEOs: union report.
The average S&P 500 chief executive made $13.1 million last year, 347 times more than the average U.S. worker, according to a labor group analysis released on Tuesday, up from 335 times as much in the previous year.
What explains the rise in household debt and, simultaneously, the decline in personal income for the majority of the population? Michael Hudson offers the idea of the toll booth economy to capture the underlying mechanisms responsible for growing inequality and debt:
Michael Hudson. May 20, 2009.The Toll Booth Economy. Counter-Punch,
The post-bubble tomes assumes that we have reached “the end of history” as far as big problems are concerned. What is missing is a critique of the big picture – how Wall Street has financialized the public domain to inaugurate a neo-feudal tollbooth economy while privatizing the government itself, headed by the Treasury and Federal Reserve. 
Left untouched is the story how industrial capitalism has succumbed to an insatiable and unsustainable finance capitalism, whose newest “final stage” seems to be a zero-sum game of casino capitalism based on derivative swaps and kindred hedge fund gambling innovations. 
What have been lost are the Progressive Era’s two great reforms. First, minimizing the economy’s free lunch of unearned income (e.g., monopolistic privilege and privatization of the public domain in contrast to one’s own labor and enterprise) by taxing absentee property rent and asset-price (“capital”) gains, by keeping natural monopolies in the public domain, and by anti-trust regulation. 
The aim of progressive economic justice was to prevent exploitation – e.g., charging more than the technologically necessary costs of production and reasonable profits warranted. This aim had a fortuitous byproduct that made the Progressive Era reforms seem likely to conquer the world in a Darwinian evolutionary manner: Minimization of the free lunch of unearned income enabled economies such as the United States to out-compete others that didn’t enact progressive fiscal and financial policy. 
A second Progressive Era aim was to steer the financial sector so as to fund capital formation. Industrial credit was best achieved in Germany and Central Europe in the decades prior to World War I. But the Allied victory led to the dominance of Anglo-American banking practice, based on loans against property or income streams already in place. 
Today’s bank credit has become decoupled from capital formation, taking the form mainly of mortgage credit (80 per cent), and loans secured by corporate stock (for mergers, acquisitions and corporate raids) as well as for speculation. The effect is to spur asset-price inflation on credit, in ways that benefit the few at the expense of the economy at large.
Trump's tax breaks for the rich and proposed de-funding of public education (see here) illustrate the toll booth economy described by Hudson and documented in my own research on neo-feudalism (see

Growing dispossession is very likely to lead to revolutions of rising expectations.

Beware elites....

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Take-Down?

Mark Hosenball and Susan Heavey. 2017, May 16. Trump asked Comey to end investigation of Michael Flynn: source. Reuters,
U.S. President Donald Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to end the agency's investigation into ties between former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia, according to a source who has seen a memo written by Comey.   
The explosive new development on Tuesday followed a week of tumult at the White House after Trump fired Comey and then discussed sensitive national security information about Islamic State with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Merchants of Death and the Neoliberal Global Order I

See below a synopsis of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's estimated arms sales globally:
Samuel Stebbins and Thomas C. Frohlich (3/27/2017).  20 companies profiting the most from war. MSN,

National security and warfare are big business. The U.S. government spent $598.5 billion, over half of its discretionary budget, on military and weapons technology in 2015. The 100 largest arms-producing and military services companies across the globe sold an estimated $370.7 billion worth of arms that year....U.S.-based companies continue to dominate the defense market, a trend that is unlikely to change meaningfully any time soon....
You will see the usual suspects while reading the article. It is indeed strange how the largest bureaucracies, populated by mostly regular people with normative value orientations, can have the pursuit of death as their main objective. Of course, money is the ultimate end but death is a most expedient means.

In my 2008 book Governmentality, Biopower and Everyday Life (re-published in 2011), I describe the logic of "military-Kenesianism" that grew up in the US post-World War II. This logic's institutionalization explains how war/death became one of the US's most influential problem-solution governing frames:

In 1949, President Truman’s national security staff called for major increases in defense spending, believing these would invigorate the economy by stimulating industry while redressing unemployment (Wehrle, 2003), formally launching the paradigm of military Keynesianism (as described by Mike Davis).

Military-industrial expenditures constituted more than fifty percent of total U.S. government expenditures across the second half of the twentieth century (Boies, 1994). Both “hard” and social sciences conducted in universities and “private” foundations were extensively funded by military and intelligence sources producing a “science-security complex” as the state sought to out-gun and out-psychologize the Soviet Union, North Korea, and China (Moreno, 2006, p. 22).

Labor unions saw the military-industrial buildup as creating opportunities for equitable economic growth and, with the onset of the Korean War, leveraged war mobilization to address depressed areas and industries (Wehrle, 2003). Again, after the Soviets launched Sputnik, labor worked in concert with the defense industry to promote spending.

In City of Quartz, Mike Davis described the rise of Los Angeles in relation to the military-industrial complex, illustrating how military-Keynesianism contributed to the urban geography and political economy of America’s west coast cities.

Domestic military-Keynesianism was gradually supplemented with military spending abroad:  By 1969, military aid and “security assistance” constituted fifty-two percent of U.S. foreign aid (Hudson, 2003, p. 221).

American arms manufacturers also sold weapons abroad, making the U.S. the biggest international arms dealer (Boal, Clark, Matthews, & Watts, 2005). The military-industrial complex thus helped delineate and produce the liberal welfare state in America...

... War is not antithetical to neoliberal governmentality. In The Liberal Virus, Samir Amin (2004) insisted neoliberalism entails a “permanent war” of military interventions against people at the global market’s periphery (p. 24). Amin’s expansive approach to war included nearly all police action against resistant populations (see also Giroux, 2004). 

Even those who view war in more conventional terms (defined in relation to the nation-state) predict proliferating conflicts due to environmental, market, and biopolitical exigencies. Circulating commodities, such as small arms, amplify regional conflicts.

Under neoliberalism, “just wars” are waged to attain resources, to “open markets,” and to free individuals from “human rights” abuses (Douzinas, 2003, p. 172).  Costas Douzinas observed that wars fought under the guise of protecting human rights entail overwhelming material force often implemented in the form of “police” operations aimed at preventing, deterring, and punishing (purported) criminal perpetrators (p. 172).

Offenders are represented as unjust and inhuman, deserving no mercy, although critical examination reveals definitions of abuses, perpetrators, and victims as politically contingent (see Mboka, 2007).

Still, even the most de-territorialized or “just” of wars requires populations be mobilized to support or condone violence. Mobilization of support for violence often entails articulation of a racialized identity, or way of life, represented as threatened by outsiders, criminals, dissenters, etc. Compelling moral narratives must be drawn upon to fuel cooperation for repression and death (see Cairo, 2006)...

[The War on Terror provides that moral narrative]...

Although U.S. foreign policy objectives in the Middle East are fundamentally driven by the neoliberal imperatives of securitizing energy flows vital to the American way of life, they are also inflected and rationalized by a racialized national discourse formalized in the “Lewis Doctrine” (Waldman, 2004, p. A12) and Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilization thesis (1993a).

Together, the Lewis and Huntington doctrines narrate the epic struggle between the forces of modernity and light (embodied in America’s Manifest Destiny) and the forces of pre-modernity and otherness.

The “Lewis Doctrine” was coined by Peter Waldman, a journalist for The Wall Street Journal when describing the political interpretations and policy implications of works by the prominent Middle Eastern historian, Bernard Lewis. For at least sixty years, Bernard Lewis provided a looking glass through which western nations have beheld the Middle East (e.g., Lewis, 1966).

In 1978, Edward Said published Orientalism, which critiqued Lewis’ work for producing a simplifying and colonial construction of the Middle East and its peoples. Despite Said’s criticism, Lewis’ work continued to define (or legitimize) hegemonic western interpretations and policy orientations in the region.

Lewis’ continued impact is illustrated in Waldman’s (2004) article. In particular, Waldman invoked the policy implications of Lewis’ idea of Mideastern “malaise.”

Accordingly, Waldman argued:
“Most Islamic countries have failed miserably at modernizing their societies . . . beckoning outsiders—this time, Americans—to intervene” ... “Mr. Lewis’s diagnosis of the Muslim world’s malaise, and his call for a U.S. military invasion to see democracy in the Mideast, have helped define the boldest shift in U.S. foreign policy in 50 years” (p.A1). 
From this emerges fundamental problematics:  how to reduce neoliberal market barriers, contain terrorism, and promote democracy:

Terrorism has replaced Moscow as the global foe. And now America, having outlasted the Soviets to become the sole superpower, no longer seeks to contain but to confront, defeat and transform. How successful it is at remolding Iraq and the rest of the Mideast could have a huge impact on what sort of superpower America will be for decades to come: bold and assertive -- or inward, defensive and cut off. (p. A1)

Waldman cited Paul Wolfowitz as stating: “Bernard has taught us how to understand the complex and important history of the Middle East, and use it to guide us where we will go next to build a better world for generations to come” (p. A12)....


In the years since I wrote those words, Russia has achieved new salience as the "global" enemy, a phenomenon I explore in my more recent published work (e.g., see here).