These high-resolution aerial photographs of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were taken on March 20 and 24, 2011 by a small unmanned drone operated by Air Photo Service, a company based in Niigata prefecture. Click [Enlarge] under each image for the full version.
[Enlarge] Unit 3 (left) and Unit 4 (right) - March 24
[Enlarge] Left to right: Unit 4, Unit 3, Unit 2 and Unit 1 - March 20
In the early 1990s, Japan's Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation (PNC) -- a nuclear energy research organization which is now part of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) -- created a pro-nuclear PR cartoon entitled "Pluto-kun, Our Reliable Friend." The aim of the animated film, which features the company mascot Pluto-kun, is to dispel some of the fears surrounding plutonium. Scroll down for a rough summary.
[~1:30] The video begins with Pluto-kun disguised as a ghost. He explains that much of the fear surrounding plutonium is due to misconceptions. He says that it is very unfortunate that plutonium is used in nuclear weapons [like the one dropped on Nagasaki]. But he hates war! He loves to work for peace. He aspires to be like dynamite, whose power has been used for the benefit of mankind.
[1:30] Pluto-kun provides some basic information about plutonium. He explains that plutonium is created from uranium in nuclear reactors. He also says it was discovered by the US scientist Glenn T. Seaborg in 1940, and that it was named after the dwarf planet Pluto. (See Wikipedia for more.)
[2:30] Misconception #1 -- Pluto-kun addresses the fear that criminals could obtain plutonium and build a nuclear weapon. He explains two reasons why this would be virtually impossible. First, weapons require plutonium with a purity of at least 93%, but plutonium from reactors is only about 70% pure. A high level of technology would be required to produce weapons from this plutonium. Second, a high level of security is maintained around plutonium in Japan, making it all but impossible to steal.
[4:00] Misconception #2 -- Pluto-kun addresses the fear that plutonium is deadly and causes cancer. Plutonium's danger to the human body stems from the alpha radiation it emits. Because alpha radiation is relatively weak, it does not penetrate the skin, and plutonium is not absorbed into the body if it comes into contact with skin. He explains that you would not die instantly if you were to drink plutonium. If swallowed, the vast majority simply passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed. If it enters the blood stream (through a cut, for example) it cannot be removed easily from the body. It accumulates in the lymph nodes before ending up in the bones or liver, where it continues emitting alpha radiation. Plutonium can also get into the liver or bones if it is inhaled into the lungs. It is important not to breathe it in or allow it to enter the blood stream.
[6:00] No human is ever known to have died because of inhaling or ingesting plutonium.
[7:00] Pluto-kun explains what would happen if criminals dumped plutonium into a reservoir that provides our drinking water. Plutonium is heavy and it does not dissolve easily in water, so most of it would sink to the bottom. Even if you were to drink plutonium-laced water everyday, the vast majority of it would simply pass through the digestive system without being absorbed by the body.
[7:30] Pluto-kun suggests that the dangers of plutonium are often overemphasized, making it seem scarier than it actually is. He explains that most people associate plutonium with deadly radiation and nuclear weapons, but he likens this to a fear of non-existent ghosts.
[9:40] Pluto-kun explains that he is not a monster, and he asks you to understand who he truly is. As long as people use him peacefully and with care, there will never be any danger or anything to fear. He will provide an endless source of energy for a long time to come. He will be a reliable friend.
Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto's "1945-1998" is an animated map showing the 2,053 nuclear explosions that took place around the world during the 20th century, from the detonations at Alamogordo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to the tests conducted by India and Pakistan in 1998.
The month and year are displayed in top right corner, and the number of nuclear explosions for each country appear next to the flags in the margins. The total is displayed in the bottom right corner.
The numbers reveal that, on average, 1 nuclear explosion occurred every 9.6 days during the 54-year period, with the greatest activity in 1958 and 1962.
The time map does not include the two nuclear tests conducted by North Korea in October 2006 and May 2009, nor does it include the dozens of subcritical nuclear tests (explosions that do not produce a sustained nuclear chain reaction) conducted in recent years by the US/UK and Russia.
A vast subway system, extensive subterranean shopping arcades and miles of pedestrian tunnels make Tokyo's underground city a hotbed of human activity -- and a fertile source of mystery and intrigue. Here is a look at six of the most persistent rumors to emerge from beneath the city's streets.
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Rumor #1: Government officials have access to secret trains.
The Tokyo subway system is the most highly used rapid transit system in the world, with an estimated eight million daily passengers using 13 lines run by two major operators (Tokyo Metro and Toei). Of the roughly 300 stations that make up the 300-kilometer (200-mile) network, few are as shrouded in mystery as Kokkai-gijidōmae station, located next to the National Diet Building in central Tokyo.
Two subway lines -- the Marunouchi and Chiyoda lines -- stop at Kokkai-gijidōmae station. The Chiyoda line platform is situated about 38 meters (125 ft) underground, making it the deepest station in the Tokyo Metro network (though many stations on the Toei Ōedo Line are deeper underground). Rumors claim the underground facility existed as an air raid shelter before it was renovated into a subway station in the 1950s. The station's depth and its proximity to the Diet Building has led to speculation that it is designed to function as a nuclear fallout shelter.
Kokkai-gijidōmae station is also rumored to have a secret door that connects directly to the basement of the adjacent House of Representatives Annex Building #2.
In addition, old construction blueprints of the Chiyoda line platform reportedly show an extra level even deeper underground. This concealed floor ostensibly houses a platform for special trains that transport government officials out of the city in the event of a major disaster.
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Rumor #2: There is a nuclear shelter under the Diet Building.
Like Kokkai-gijidōmae station, the National Diet Building is suspected of hiding a few secrets. Rumors suggest the building has at least five underground levels (instead of just the one that the public knows about).
Is there a nuclear shelter beneath the National Diet Building?
These secret underground floors are believed to extend at least 38 meters (125 ft) underground and are rumored to include a bomb shelter and a tunnel leading to the secret subway platform beneath Kokkai-gijidōmae station.
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Rumor #3: Secret tunnels link key buildings in central Tokyo.
Other nearby government buildings are also believed to be sitting on top of secrets. The Prime Minister's residence, for example, is suspected of having five levels underground, as well as a tunnel linking it to the Diet Building.
There are also rumors of a network of tunnels linking important government buildings in central Tokyo. The oldest is an underground passageway connecting the old Tokyo Central Post Office building with Tokyo station. This tunnel, which was once used to transport mail back and forth between the buildings, was constructed in the early 20th century, well before the Ginza line (Tokyo's oldest subway) opened in 1927. Similar passageways are believed to exist between government ministry buildings in Nagatachō, Kasumigaseki, Ōtemachi and Marunouchi, as well as the Imperial Palace and Hie shrine.
This network of secret tunnels is also believed to include the National Diet Library, which houses about 12 million books and periodicals on eight underground floors. The floors are off limits to the public, and journalists have reportedly been denied access to the lower levels on multiple occasions, leading to suspicion that the library has something to hide.
Floor plan of National Diet Library Annex
According to the National Diet Library website, the stacks were built underground in order to preserve the surrounding landscape. In addition, underground stacks are seen as more thermally stable, energy-efficient and cost-effective, as well as less vulnerable to earthquakes.
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Rumor #4: The Ōedo line was built for military and relief purposes.
Another source of mystery is the Ōedo line, which runs in a 40-kilometer (25-mile) loop around Tokyo and intersects with every other subway line in the city.
The fact that the Ōedo line's 38 stations are situated as deep as 48 meters (157 ft) underground has led to speculation that they are designed to serve as nuclear fallout shelters.
Journalist Shun Akiba, who has written several books documenting the mysteries of the Tokyo underground, claims the Ōedo line tunnels existed long before the city decided to turn them into public subways. He believes the tunnels are part of a much larger subterranean complex built after World War II in preparation for a possible nuclear attack.
Whether or not this claim is true, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is known to maintain a number of emergency warehouses at Ōedo line stations. The warehouses are stocked with food and supplies to be used in the event of a major disaster.
Here is some video that takes a look inside a 1,480 square meter (16,000 sq ft) warehouse located 20 meters (65 ft) beneath a Tokyo sidewalk.
The warehouse locations are reportedly kept secret in order to prevent people from gathering at the sites after a disaster, though two are known to exist at Azabu-jūban and Kiyosumi-shirakawa stations.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has also conducted disaster drills on the subway line. In the year 2000, the government demonstrated, among other things, how Ground Self-Defense Force troops might use the Ōedo line in the event of a major emergency. As part of the exercise, dubbed "Big Rescue 2000," a special Ōedo line train transported troops from Nerima ward to a staging area in Shin-kiba (near Tokyo Bay). The exercise appears to have fueled suspicions that the line was built for military and disaster relief purposes.
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Rumor #5: The Yūrakuchō line was built for military use.
The Yūrakuchō line is also rumored to have been built for military purposes. This speculation arises from the fact that key military facilities are located at several stations on the line, including Ichigaya, which is home to the Ministry of Defense headquarters, as well as Nerima, Heiwadai and Wakō, which are near military bases. Furthermore, Inariyama-kōen station on the Seibu-Ikebukuro line (an extension of the Yūrakuchō line) is near Iruma Air Base.
Rumors claim that Yūrakuchō line trains are designed to transport military supplies and personnel between these sites, if necessary. In addition, the tunnels have high ceilings, leading to speculation that they can serve as emergency underground roads for trucks and armored vehicles.
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Rumor #6: There is a secret base under Shōwa Memorial Park.
Media reports have also speculated about the existence of a secret government base located beneath Shōwa Memorial Park in Tachikawa (western Tokyo). Although the government has offered no official comment on these reports, the claims are lent some credibility by the fact that the park is located near the Tachikawa Wide-Area Disaster Management Base, which is intended to function as a government backup site in an emergency. The US military's Yokota Air Base is also located in the vicinity.
[Note: This is the latest in a series of weekly posts on Japanese urban legends. Check back next week for another report.]
Named "Lucky Dragon," the 15-meter (49-ft) long aluminum cruise boat is outfitted with a 7-meter (23-ft) tall mechanical dragon that moves its neck and wings, spits fire and water, and flashes glowing red eyes. The boat is scheduled to entertain onlookers with periodic fire-breathing performances in the local waterways (Okawa river and Dotonbori canal) until October 12.
Lucky Dragon spits fire at Suminoe shipyard, September 5
The vessel is named after the infamous Lucky Dragon No.5 (Daigo Fukuryu Maru), a Japanese fishing boat that was exposed to fallout from a US nuclear weapons test on Bikini Atoll in 1954. Yanobe, a native Osakan, hopes Lucky Dragon will encourage people to think about peace while sparking the local economy.
This spoof advertisement from the mid-1980s shows an imaginary home power system called the Chernobyl Household Nuclear Generator. Here is a loose translation.
A gentle source of unlimited energy for the home
Reduce your monthly electric bill by 80% and enjoy a constant, stable supply of energy free from the fluctuations in supply that affect the oil market.
A single, user-friendly activation switch makes the Chernobyl Household Nuclear Power Generator simple to operate, even for children and the elderly. One small nuclear fuel rod (about 15 cm long) generates enough electricity to support the average household for six months. To dispose of a spent fuel rod, simply insert it into its special shielded case and discard it along with ordinary non-combustible household waste.
Main unit: 1.31 million yen [$5,450*] (plus tax)
Set of 3 fuel rods: 137,000 yen [$570*] (plus tax)
[* Dollar figures based on early '80s exchange rate of 240 yen/dollar.]
When using the power generator with direct current, people near the device may on rare occasions experience dizziness or a tingling sensation in the hands or feet. If you experience such conditions, temporarily discontinue use and consult a physician.
Nuclear batteries (Types AA, C and D)
500x longer lifespan than conventional alkali batteries!)
Safe, efficient nuclear power is now readily available for use in your home.
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum's Peace Watch Tower, which records the number of days since the last nuclear test, was reset on October 10, one day after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test.
The peace clock's two digital displays show the number of days since the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the number of days since the last nuclear test was conducted. Before being reset on Monday, the clock read 40 -- the number of days since the US conducted a subcritical nuclear test at the end of August.
The clock was set up on August 6, 2001 on the 56th anniversary of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Over the past 5 years, the clock has been reset 11 times following each of the nuclear tests conducted by the US (some in cooperation with the UK) and Russia.
Museum director Koichiro Maeda says, "We are concerned that more nations will start to believe their national security can be strengthened by possessing nuclear weapons. It is extremely foolish." The museum is now considering making room for North Korea in the reference library exhibit, which displays information about nations possessing nuclear weapons.
About 300 survivors of the Hiroshima nuclear bombing gathered in the park near the museum condemning the possession and testing of all nuclear weapons by all nations.