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Japan’s Nuclear Cover-up Continues, Nine Years after the Fukushima Disaster


March 10, 2020

Written by Arnie Gundersen

The six atomic power reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site were severely damaged 9-years ago when a Richter 9 earthquake in the Pacific Ocean occurred at 2 p.m. on March 11, 2011 ravaging the nuclear reactors, flooding safety systems, and causing three atomic power meltdowns.

Fairewinds is using the 9th commemoration of the meltdowns at Fukushima to discuss how the government of Japan, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Co), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the worldwide nuclear industries have perpetuated their coverup of the tragedy of the Fukushima meltdowns. These corporate and governmental groups and agencies have consistently misinformed the International Press, the citizens of Japan, and people around the world about the true consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns.

The Government of Japan, the nuclear industry, and its regulators  have “framed” what happened at Fukushima Daiichi and thereby have controlled the Fukushima narrative for 9-years. ‘Framing’ is choosing the right words to portray and control any narrative.  George Lakoff and his co-authors explain how controlling that framework of words controls how people view an issue. You may read more in their book that discusses ‘framing’ any issue entitled “Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate”. 




The Fukushima atomic power meltdowns were not ‘accidents’ [none are]

Accidents” cannot be avoided. However, an accident is when a deer jumps in front of your car or when a tree falls on someone’s home or car during a tornado. A nuclear meltdown is not an accident, it is a manmade disaster. The truth is that government officials in Japan, the US nuclear officials, other nuclear power and nuclear weapons incentivized countries, and  the nuclear industries themselves continue to frame the Fukushima Daiichi disaster as an ‘accident’.  Why? Because, if the mainstream media and people around the world believe the pro-nuke falsehood that nuclear meltdowns like Fukushima happen rarely if ever and meltdowns were never anticipated, then the majority of the media and the people it influences will look the other way as antiquated, outmoded, costly, and unsafe atomic power reactors are restarted or receive permits to extend their operating lives past their 40-year design lives.

The mainstream media continues to accept verbatim framing by the atomic power owners, corporations, and governments that nuclear meltdowns are accidents.  Let’s stop it right here: the three meltdowns at the six atomic power reactor Fukushima Daiichi site were not accidents. Scientists, engineers, fabricators, machinists, government regulators, politicians, and energy corporations know the truth.

According to the official report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, published by the National Diet [the national legislature] of Japan and its Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission in 2012, the meltdowns in Fukushima Prefecture [State] could have been avoided:

THE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI of March 11, 2011 were natural disasters of a magnitude that shocked the entire world. Although triggered by these cataclysmic events, the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster. It was a profoundly manmade disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented. And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response.

Calling these meltdowns ‘accidents’ enables countries where nuclear power exists to continue operating this dangerous and no longer viable technology. If it was ever viable. Earlier in my career, I believed in and worked for the nuclear power industry. I was strongly against nuclear weapons, and I still am. I chose nuclear power engineering as a college sophomore because I believed that the peaceful use of the atom and would be a safe method of creating badly needed energy. Quite simply, I was wrong. Nuclear power plants, like those at Fukushima and Three Mile Island were designed by Americans and were predicated on the risk analysis predictions that failsafe systems designed into each atomic power reactor would safely shut down each reactor in an emergency, and that its containment systems would make sure that people and communities nearby would be protected from any releases of radioactivity.

At Fukushima Daiichi, every supposedly failsafe system failed and unprecedented amounts of highly radioactive microparticles were spewed into the air and were carried off by wind and weather [rain, snow, and snowmelt] to contaminate entire communities, valuable farmland, small cities, wide forests, small streams, rivers, groundwater, and all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Well, hold on, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s seriously look at what happened in Japan following the Fukushima meltdowns, and as we do so, let’s also look at the lies that were told by nuclear power proponents as well as the coverups that continue today. 



TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Corp] denied meltdowns were in progress 

On the first day of TEPCO’s emergency at Fukushima, it was clear to me that the Fukushima Daiichi reactors were in jeopardy. I asked Maggie to hold all my calls so I could research what was happening in Japan following the earthquake. I was convinced that a meltdown was in progress. I spent that day and the next two researching all the information I could find about the exact design of those reactors and any record of vulnerabilities they might have. At the same time, Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) misinformed the government and regulators in Japan and also forbade its engineers, managers, and public liaisons to ever use the word ‘meltdown’. It was so incongruous that while the Fukushima Daiichi atomic reactors were exploding live on TV, the Japanese Government was vehemently denying the seriousness of the disaster. FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (US NRC) activated the release of numerous NRC emails proving that the US federal regulators were well-aware that meltdowns were in progress in Japan.  To counteract the block on accurate information, Maggie organized the development of Fairewinds’ videos and podcasts to keep the world apprised of the real tragedy happening right before its eyes live on the internet and on television. People living in Japan flocked to Fairewinds website to watch our videos and listen to podcasts explaining what was actually happening in their own country.

Unfortunately, it was not until 2019 that TEPCO finally acknowledged its coverup and attempted to apologize to the people of Japan for refusing to tell people living there that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power reactors had actually melted down!

The head of Tokyo Electric Power Co. apologized Tuesday over his predecessor’s order to not use the term “core meltdown” to describe the situation at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in the early days of the March 2011 crisis. “It is extremely regrettable. People are justified in thinking it as a coverup,” Tepco President Naomi Hirose said at a news conference in Tokyo.

The nuclear industry downplayed the radioactive danger being unleashed 

While the Japanese government kept denying that meltdowns had even occurred, the rest of the nuclear industry and the governments in the thrall of atomic lobbyists for the nuclear power and nuclear weapons industries actively downplayed the tragedy occurring right before our eyes.

In a brilliant analysis from the UK newspaper The Guardian, reporters uncovered a coordinated coverup that began within two-days of the onset of the Fukushima disaster:

British government officials approached nuclear companies to draw up a coordinated public relations strategy to play down the Fukushima nuclear accident just two days after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and before the extent of the radiation leak was known.

Internal emails seen by the Guardian show how the business and energy departments worked closely behind the scenes with the multinational companies: EDF EnergyAreva and Westinghouse to try to ensure the accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in the UK.

“This has the potential to set the nuclear industry back globally,” wrote one official at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), whose name has been redacted. “We need to ensure the anti-nuclear chaps and chapesses do not gain ground on this. We need to occupy the territory and hold it. We really need to show the safety of nuclear.”

On March 18, 2011, seven-days after the disaster began, US Department of Energy Secretary Chu said that Fukushima was at a Level-5 on the nuclear incident scale, which is similar to the level the US Government assessed at Three Mile Island (TMI), but not the level-7 that the world assessed for Chernobyl. On CNN that night, I was the first expert in the world to say publicly on mainstream media that Fukushima and its radioactive releases were already as bad as Chernobyl.

CNN’s John King: “Secretary Chu called it worse than Three Mile Island…”
Arnie: “I actually think it’s at Chernobyl level right now…100 time worse than the worst case we imagined a year ago.”




Every time Fairewinds released a video, podcast, newsletter or I appeared on television or radio, I was publicly slammed and called a liar and fear monger by the nuke industry that I had been directly been employed with for 20-years. I began my career first as a nuclear engineer and reactor operator and later progressed to become Senior Vice President of a nuclear power corporation – until I became a nuclear power whistleblower.  After being fired for telling the truth, I took on the role of nuclear safety critic, which I have had for the last 30-plus-years. In Fairewinds opinion, these corporate coverups were obvious to anyone who focused on the real science of nuclear engineering and was not afraid to look behind the curtain, where the Wizard of Oz was manipulating the truth.

Only 11-months after the meltdowns, I was flown to Japan in February 2012 by Shueisha Publishing to unveil the publication of Fairewinds book [entitled Fukushima Daiichi: The Truth and the Way Forward] and to speak at various venues in Tokyo, including the Japanese Foreign Correspondents Press Club. Here is a portion of what I said:

I was an expert on the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and I see in Fukushima the same mistakes that the Americans made at Three Mile Island.  At Three Mile Island and at Fukushima, the plant management – the people in the plant – really understood the severity of the accident. But in both cases, 30 years apart, when the plant management contacted offsite management – it was General Public Utilities in the United States, and of course, it was Tokyo Electric in Japan – the process began to slow down.

What I saw on Three Mile Island was that the corporate office was trying to protect the corporate assets and they actually told the plant manager not to order an evacuation, despite the fact that the plant manager wanted an evacuation. And I see the same thing at Fukushima. I believe that the management onsite in the first day and the first week really understood the severity of it. But senior management working up the chain, for whatever their motivations were, failed to act quickly enough…. it seems to me like the lesson at Three Mile Island and the lesson at Fukushima really are institutional problems in that the corporate officers and corporate offices simply don’t respond quick enough. In addition to the internal problems between the plant and Tokyo Electric offices, there of course were the problems between Tokyo Electric and the Nation of Japan. 

Following the triple meltdowns in 2011, I became acquainted with Naoto Kan, the Prime Minister of Japan at the time of the meltdown. At a venue where we were both keynote speakers, I told him that I thought he had not been given the correct information about the meltdowns. He replied,

The information I received from both TEPCo and METI (Japan’s nuclear regulator) was neither timely nor accurate.” 

Please think about the enormity of that single sentence!  Any industry so powerful that it does not feel compelled to tell the truth to the leader of a nation is failing its country and their people.

What is a nuclear or radiological incident?

The distinction between a Level-5 [TMI] and a Level-7 [Chernobyl] ‘incident’ is not only a technical or a semantic issue. Downplaying the severity of the disaster as it unfolded deliberately jeopardized the safety of hundreds of thousands of citizens. The classification of an atomic or nuclear incident distinctly impacts emergency planning scenarios and disaster management.

  • Lives are at stake!
  • How quickly and which individuals should be evacuated?
  • How far away from the nuclear reactor should people be evacuated?
  • And in what direction should they be moved? So that people are not walking directly into the radioactive plume – as happened to some of the Fukushima evacuees and refugees.

When I was invited to speak at the Foreign Correspondents Press Club in Tokyo in February of 2012, I spoke about the human cost of delayed responses:

Of all of the people on the planet, the Japanese are the best at emergency planning because you have earthquakes and you understand that you need to respond in the case of an emergency. And so for the problem to happen in Japan tells me that worldwide, it is likely that other nations would respond in a very poor fashion. During the first week of the accident, I was on CNN and I said then that women and children should have been evacuated out to at least 50 kilometers. But …. if you don’t believe it’s a severity 7 accident, you’re not going to evacuate the women and children.  So there’s a definite connection between understanding how severe the accident was at the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric home office level and their response in inadequately moving women and children away.

The bottom line is that in Japan during the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, the lives of women and children were sacrificed to create the appearance that TEPCO had the triple meltdowns under control.



Grossly underestimating the cost of the Disaster

People living and working in Japan and the country’s own citizens were clearly deceived about the severity of the meltdowns, the urgent need to evacuate, and the significant health impact for generations of families following the Fukushima disaster. And, these people were also deceived about the astronomical cost to dismantle the four severely damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi site, protect the ocean and surrounding areas from the ongoing migration of radioactivity, and the total cost to complete the partial remediation of Fukushima Prefecture.  I say partial remediation, because the remediation [the removal of radioactivity] will always be partial. So much radioactivity blew into the mountains, and the mountains and forests are so contaminated with highly radioactive isotopes including plutonium, that it will take tens of thousands of years for that radioactivity to dissipate [the industry term is decay away]. Every time in rains or the snow melts or the wind blows from or through the mountains, that radioactivity is spread farther away and also back into areas that were allegedly cleaned. The government informed people that these contaminated areas are clean and that they should now move back into their old communities and homes, and that the government stipends they had been receiving were ending and all the evacuee housing was being closed. What are people to do when they have no place to live and no money to live on except to go back to their old community?

A “lowball” price estimate showing that recovery from the meltdowns would be inexpensive was designed to show Japan’s citizens that the meltdowns were not that bad after all.  Immediately following the meltdowns, Japan closed 44 atomic power reactors until the government had regained public trust.  If every citizen in Japan had known that she or he would each face at least a $1,000 USD cleanup bill for just the Fukushima site alone, in addition to higher electric costs, it is extremely doubtful that the public would have accepted the reopening of any of its nukes. More than 70% of the citizens of Japan were against the continued operation of Japan’s nukes and demanded significant movement toward sustainable and renewable sources of energy production.  Instead Japan’s nuclear industry, its government regulators, and its politicians deceived the public once again, so that the aging and decrepit nuclear reactors could begin generating electricity and profits would again start flowing to nuclear corporations, investors and the banks that bailed out the industry.

One month after the triple meltdowns, NPR [National Public Radio] interviewed Lake Barrett, a former NRC manager who is now employed by TEPCO.  As I discussed on C-Span at the 40th Commemoration of the TMI disaster, Lake Barrett was the official NRC representative who originally underestimated by ten-fold (ten times) the radioactive releases that were emitted by the TMI meltdown. One month after the three Fukushima reactors exploded Lake told NPR [US National Public Radio]:

And containing and cleaning up the radioactive material could take at least 10 years, at a cost of more than $10 billion. Even though many of the details about what’s happening at the reactors are not known, experts can predict the tasks ahead for workers…. (Lake) Barrett says to count on cleanup costing $10 billion. Engineers can break the problem down to the basics, and they know how to do each individual step — but nobody’s ever tried a nuclear cleanup on this scale before.

When I heard Lake Barrett’s claim on NPR, I knew he was up to his old tricks of deceiving the public once again. Let’s put Lake Barrett’s lowball estimate in perspective. When atomic power reactors that released much less radioactivity than Fukushima are being decommissioned, it costs almost one billion dollars [$1,000,000,000] to decommission and dismantle each ‘clean’ reactor site. It is absolutely impossible that the three nukes that exploded at Fukushima and spewed radioactivity in an area the size of the State of Connecticut would cost only $10B USD to decommission and dismantle.

When I spoke at the Japanese Foreign Correspondents’ Press Club in Tokyo on February 2012, I began to correct the false narrative Barrett created on dismantlement costs:

I believe it will be about a quarter of a trillion U.S. to completely – over the next 20 or 30 years – to completely clean up after this accident.

My estimate was never published by the media, and I was severely criticized about my assessment while I was in Tokyo.  Instead, because of his employment with the NRC, Lake Barrett’s estimate was taken as correct.  Now at the 9-year post-disaster mark, we all know that even though my estimate was 25-times higher than Lake Barrett’s conjecture, my estimate was also too low. New cost estimates by TEPCO and the government of Japan now estimate that the cleanup costs will be twice as high as I suggested and 50-times higher than Lake Barrett’s estimate for NPR.




What would the reaction in Japan have been if people there had been informed, as they saw the steaming meltdowns at Fukushima on television and the internet every day? Would they, as citizens, want to be stuck with a bill in excess of $250 Billion dollars?  Likely every nuclear plant would have been permanently closed and been replaced with renewable power as I, and my co-authors Reiko Okazaki and Maggie Gundersen, recommended in our 2012 book Fukushima Daiichi: The Truth and the Way Forward.


2020 Olympics

If the 2020 Olympics open in Japan this summer as scheduled, something that may not happened due to the spread of the coronavirus, the pièce de résistance of Japan’s Fukushima coverup will be unfolding in Tokyo.  In 2011, even while the three Fukushima nuclear carcasses were emitting extensive radiation, Japan’s new Prime Minister Noda (he was between the ousted Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who was PM when the Fukushima Meltdowns occurred and today’s Prime Minister Abe), claimed that the three melted down Fukushima reactors were in ‘cold shutdown’, which they were not, in order to lay the groundwork for Japan’s Olympic bid. In order to bid as a host for the 2020 Olympics, Noda claimed “… we can consider the accident contained”.  Fairewinds compared Noda’s ‘cold shutdown’ hypocrisy to former President George Bush crowing about ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Iraq, so that he could gain the support of the American people by calling the war already finished, when it had just begun.

In order for Japan to win its Olympic bid in 2013, two years later, Japan’s next Prime Minister Abe stated that the Fukushima disaster was ‘under control’.  This statement was also a blatant lie that succeeded in winning the bid to hold the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo at the expense of the taxpayers and residents of Japan.  Don’t take Fairewinds word for it!  Read what Japan’s former Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi said to Reuters in September 2016. Entitled Abe’s Fukushima ‘under control’ pledge to secure Olympics was a lie: former PMReuters wrote,

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s promise that the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant was “under control” in his successful pitch three years ago for Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic Games “was a lie”, former premier Junichiro Koizumi said on Wednesday.

Frequent readers of the Fairewinds newsletter will remember last year’s posts entitled Atomic Balm 1 and Atomic Balm 2 in which Fairewinds Energy Education described in detail the path of deception that Japan has used to take the world’s attention off of the lives of its own people, who are still being compromised by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear tragedy.  The 2020 Olympics puts the media focus onto something else – so that the world continues to believe that nuclear power reactors are still a safe form of generating electricity.

This nine year legacy of lies by the government of Japan, nuclear incentivized governments worldwide, and the atomic industry are a harbinger for the seemingly inevitable approach of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Hopefully mainstream media covering the summer games will finally see through this glamorous marketing scam and identify the fact that Fukushima Prefecture remains severely radiologically contaminated. Real people, who are citizens of Japan, are seeing their health and that of their families being compromised for generations as they are forced to return to radiologically contaminated areas. Entire families and their communities are facing significant health risks simply to enable corporate profiteering of those investors, energy producers, banks, and government officials associated with the ongoing operation of nuclear power plants in Japan and around the world.



March 13, 2020 - Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | ,

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