KGO Radio: Host Pat Thurston recently interviewed Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer for Fairewinds Energy Education on KGO radio to discuss the latest challenging news from Japan about the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power reactor including the high levels of radiation emanating from the reactors, all the failed robotic expeditions, where we should go from here, as well as how ongoing radioactive releases from the Fukushima Daiichi site may be impacting the west coast of the United States.
BBC Newsday: BBC Radio interviewed nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen to discuss TEPCO’s attempts to send a special robot into Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #2 in Japan to investigate the obstacles in the way of TEPCO’s progress determining the location and condition of the atomic fuel. Unfortunately even this specially designed robot failed in its attempt to clear the path for additional investigations as the nuclear radioactivity was so high, it shut down the robots before they could complete their mission.
Enviro News: The astronomical radiation readings at Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #2 of 530 Sv/hr complicate the already complex task of decommissioning the plant. These levels are so radioactive that a human would be dead within a minute of exposure and specially designed robots can only survive for about 2 hours. Fairewinds chief engineer Arnie Gundersen says that the best solution would be to entomb the reactors, similar to the sarcophagus entombing Chernobyl, for at least 100-years, otherwise the radiation level that workers would be exposed to is simply too dangerous.
Read the whole article here
Are the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi over? The answer is no. Made all the more prevalent a year out from it’s initial release by the recent robotic expeditions into Reactor #2 which gave us a clearer picture on just how deadly the radiation levels are, watch Chief Engineer and nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen inform viewers on what’s going on at the Japanese nuclear meltdown site, Fukushima Daiichi. As the Japanese government and utility owner Tokyo Electric Power Company push for the quick decommissioning and dismantling of this man-made disaster, the press and scientists need to ask, “Why is the Ukrainian government waiting at least 100 years to attempt to decommission Chernobyl, while the Japanese Government and TEPCO claim that Fukushima Daiichi will be decommissioned and dismantled during the next 30 years?”
Like so many big government + big business controversies, the answer has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics and money. To understand Fukushima Daiichi, you need to follow the money.
Our Rainbow Warriors Facebook group started in 2011 as an FB group about the Fukushima catastrophe, its old name was the “Fukushima 311 Watchdogs”. In June 2012, after an exhausting first year the Fukushima 311 Watchdogsgroup was dissolved, and one month later was reborn as the Rainbow Warriors, with a broader scope of interests, environment protection, climate change etc. https://www.facebook.com/groups/277245265712386/
However the ongoing Fukushima catastrophe still remains one of our our major concerns.
The Fukushima 311 Watchdogs has survived as a community FB page:
Fukushima 311 Watchdogs https://www.facebook.com/fukushima311watchdog/
and as a blog: Fukushima 311 Watchdogs https://dunrenard.wordpress.com/
This coming March 11th will be the 6th Anniversary of the beginning of the still ongoing nuclear catastrophe. Many people have disappeared along the way since March 2011, however among those who were with us right from the beginning, the Fukushima Watchers, the Fukushima Watchdogs, some haven’t yet forgotten and are still here with us.
3.11.2017 FUKUSHIMA SIXTH ANNIVERSARY ONGOING DISASTER.
TAKE ACTION: #FUKU+6 Anniversary is happening 3.11.17 … six years since the #Fukushima nuclear meltdown and ongoing poisoning of our oceans began … our air land food water have been contaminated. #Fukushima continues to spew radioisotopes into the Pacific Ocean threatening vital marine life, ecosystems and the food chain. Japan continues to burn radioactive debris and dump it into the Pacific spreading poison into the atmosphere. Join the FUKU+6 actions and events fb page taking place worldwide. Act in solidarity, please click on this image, download it, and make it your cover pic, and help spread the word. https://www.facebook.com/groups/3.11fukushimasixthanniversaryactions/601393323403623/?ref=notif¬if_t=like¬if_id=1487640969842420
Year over year, ever since 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown grows worse and worse, an ugly testimonial to the inherent danger of generating electricity via nuclear fission, which produces isotopes, some of the most deadly poisonous elements on the face of the planet.
Fukushima Daiichi has been, and remains, one of the world’s largest experiments; i.e., what to do when all hell breaks lose aka The China Syndrome.
Scientists still don’t have all the information they need for a cleanup that the government estimates will take four decades and cost ¥8 trillion. It is not yet known if the fuel melted into or through the containment vessel’s concrete floor, and determining the fuel’s radioactivity and location is crucial to inventing the technology to remove the melted fuel.1
As it happens, “”inventing technology” is experimental stage stuff. Still, there are several knowledgeable sources that believe the corium, or melted core, will never be recovered. Then what?
According to a recent article, “Potential Global Catastrophe of the Reactor No. 2 at Fukushima Daiichi,” February 11, 2017 by Dr. Shuzo Takemoto, professor, Department of Geophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University: The Fukushima nuclear facility is a global threat on level of a major catastrophe.
Meanwhile, the Abe administration dresses up Fukushima Prefecture for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, necessitating a big fat question: Who in their right mind would hold Olympics in the neighborhood of three out-of-control nuclear meltdowns that could get worse, worse, and still worse? After all, that’s the pattern over the past 5 years; it gets worse and worse. Dismally, nobody can possibly know how much worse by 2020. Not knowing is the main concern about holding Olympics in the backyard of a nuclear disaster zone, especially as nobody knows what’s happening. Nevertheless and resolutely, according to PM Abe and the IOC, the games go on.
Along the way, it’s taken Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) nearly six years to finally get an official reading of radiation levels of the meltdown but in only one unit. Analysis of Unit #2 shows radiation levels off-the-charts at 530 Sieverts, or enough to kill within minutes, illustrative of why it is likely impossible to decommission units 1, 2, and 3. No human can withstand that exposure and given enough time, frizzled robots are as dead as a door nail.
A short-term, whole-body dose of over 10 sieverts would cause immediate illness and subsequent death within a few weeks, according to the World Nuclear Association.1
Although Fukushima’s similar to Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in some respects, where 1,000 square miles has been permanently sealed off, Fukushima’s different, as the Abe administration is already repopulating portions of Fukushima. If they don’t repopulate, how can the Olympics be held with food served from Fukushima and including events like baseball held in Fukushima Prefecture?
Without question, an old saw – what goes around comes around – rings true when it comes to radiation, and it should admonish (but it doesn’t phase ‘em) strident nuclear proponents, claiming Fukushima is an example of how safe nuclear power is “because there are so few, if any, deaths” (not true). As Chernobyl clearly demonstrates: Over time, radiation cumulates in bodily organs. For a real life example of how radiation devastates human bodies, consider this fact: 453,391 children with bodies ravaged, none born at the time of the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, today receive special healthcare because of Chernobyl radiation-related medical problems like cancer, digestive, respiratory, musculoskeletal, eye disease, blood disease, congenital malformation, and genetic abnormalities. Their parents were children in the Chernobyl zone in 1986.2
Making matters worse yet, Fukushima Daiichi sets smack dab in the middle of earthquake country, which defines the boundaries of Japan. In that regard, according to Dr. Shuzo Takemoto, professor, Department of Geophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University:
The problem of Unit 2… If it should encounter a big earth tremor, it will be destroyed and scatter the remaining nuclear fuel and its debris, making the Tokyo metropolitan area uninhabitable. The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 will then be utterly out of the question.3
Accordingly, the greater Tokyo metropolitan area remains threatened for as long as Fukushima Daiichi is out of control, which could be for generations, not years. Not only that, Gee-Whiz, what if the big one hits during the Olympics? After all, earthquakes come unannounced. Regrettably, Japan has had 564 earthquakes the past 365 days. It’s an earthquake-ridden country. Japan sits at the boundary of 4 tectonic plates shot through with faults in zigzag patterns, very lively and of even more concern, the Nankai Trough, the candidate for the big one, sits nearly directly below Tokyo. On a geological time scale, it may be due for action anytime within the next couple of decades. Fukushima Prefecture’s not that far away.
Furthermore, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex is tenuous, at best:
All four buildings were structurally damaged by the original earthquake some five years ago and by the subsequent hydrogen explosions so should there be an earthquake greater than seven on the Richter scale, it is very possible that one or more of these structures could collapse, leading to a massive release of radiation as the building falls on the molten core beneath.4
Complicating matters further, the nuclear site is located at the base of a mountain range. Almost daily, water flows from the mountain range beneath the nuclear plant, liquefying the ground, a sure-fire setup for cascading buildings when the next big one hits. For over five years now, radioactive water flowing out of the power plant into the Pacific carries isotopes like cesium 134 and cesium 137, strontium 90, tritium, plutonium americium and up to 100 more isotopes, none of which are healthy for marine or human life, quite the opposite, in fact, as those isotopes slowly cumulate, and similar to the Daleks of Doctor Who fame (BBC science fiction series, 1963-present) “Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!”
Isotopes bio-concentrate up the food chain from algae to crustaceans to small fish to big fish to bigger humans. Resultant cancer cells incubate anytime from two years to old age, leading to death. That’s what cancer does; it kills.
Still, the fact remains nobody really knows for sure how directly Fukushima Daiichi radiation affects marine life, but how could it be anything other than bad? After all, it’s a recognized fact that radiation cumulates over time; it’s tasteless, colorless, and odorless as it cumulates in the body, whether in fish or further up the food chain in humans. It travels!
An example is Cesium 137, one of the most poisonous elements on the planet. One gram of Cesium 137 the size of a dime will poison one square mile of land for hundreds of years. That’s what’s at stake at the world’s most rickety nuclear plant, and nobody can do anything about it. In fact, nobody knows what to do. They really don’t.
When faced with the prospect of not knowing what to do, why not bring on the Olympics? That’s pretty good cover for a messy situation, making it appear to hundreds of thousands of attendees, as well as the world community “all is well.” But, is it? Honestly….
The Fukushima nuclear meltdown presents a special problem for the world community. Who knows what to believe after PM Abe lied to the IOC to get the Olympics; see the following headline from Reuters News:
“Abe’s Fukushima ‘Under Control’ Pledge to Secure Olympics Was a Lie: Former PM,” Reuters, September 7, 2016.
Abe gave the assurances about safety at the Fukushima plant in his September 2013 speech to the International Olympic Committee to allay concerns about awarding the Games to Tokyo. The comment met with considerable criticism at the time… Mr. Abe’s ‘under control remark, that was a lie,’ Koizumi (former PM) now 74 and his unruly mane of hair turned white, told a news conference where he repeated his opposition to nuclear power.
As such, a very big conundrum precedes the 2020 games: How can the world community, as well as Olympians, believe anything the Abe administration says about the safety and integrity of Fukushima?
Still, the world embraces nuclear power more so than ever before as it continues to expand and grow. Sixty reactors are currently under construction in fifteen countries. In all, 160 power reactors are in the planning stage and 300 more have been proposed. Pro-Nuke-Heads claim Fukushima proves how safe nuclear power is because there are so few, if any, deaths, as to be inconsequential. That’s a boldfaced lie.
Here’s one of several independent testimonials on deaths because of Fukushima Daiichi radiation exposure (many, many, many more testimonials are highlighted in prior articles, including USS Ronald Reagan sailors on humanitarian rescue missions at the time):
It’s a real shame that the authorities hide the truth from the whole world, from the UN. We need to admit that actually many people are dying. We are not allowed to say that, but TEPCO employees also are dying. But they keep mum about it.5
- “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Kids With Bodies Ravaged by Disaster”, USA Today, April 17, 2016).
- Shuzo Takemoto, “Potential Global Catastrophe of the Reactor No. 2 at Fukushima Daiichi”, February 11, 2017.
- Helen Caldicott: “The Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown Continues Unabated”, Independent Australia, February 13, 2017.
- Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba (Fukushima Prefecture), “Fukushima Disaster: Tokyo Hides Truth as Children Die, Become Ill from Radiation – Ex-Mayor”, RT News, April 21, 2014.
By Pierre Fetet, translation Hervé Courtois
Difficult to be innovative on the subject of Fukushima. Would we have already said everything for the last six years that the catastrophe is going on?
Well, no, with the film of Linda Bendali, “From Paris to Fukushima, the secrets of a catastrophe”, the subject of the attitude of nuclear France in March 2011 had never been approached from this angle: while Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan faced with nuclear fire became anti-nuclear, the Fillon government launched the heavy artillery to counter any vehemence of debate on this subject in France.
For the french Minister of Industry, Eric Besson, it was an just incident. Nicolas Sarkozy invited himself to Japan while he was not expected, to promote nuclear in the midst of the atomic crisis. And France pretended to help Japan by sending unusable or outdated products.
Therefore a good documentary pointing both Japanese and French dysfunctions that we can see in replay here again a few days. http://pluzz.francetv.fr/videos/cellule_de_crise_,153344813.html
And a good synthesis by Arnaud Vaulerin there. http://www.liberation.fr/planete/2017/02/12/fukushima-la-bataille-de-la-france-au-nom-de-l-atome_1547304
At the beginning of the documentary, Tepco, champion of the lie and the unspoken is expressed by the voice of his spokesman Yuichi Okamura: “We never imagined that such an accident could happen. From the statistics, we calculated that the tsunami should not exceed 5 meters. Our forecasts were exceeded. “
He is then contradicted by the film director. I very much thank Linda Bendali for insisting that the report of the parliamentary inquiry commission on Fukushima gave as first conclusion that the Fukushima disaster was of human origin. Because few people understand the sequence of events and it is too often heard that “the Fukushima disaster was caused by the tsunami”.
The IRSN is always taken as an example and looks after its image. Normal, it is the official reference body. Yet I have already taken this institute several times in flagrante delicto of lie: Assurance that the evacuees would return within three months in 2011, http://fukushima.over-blog.fr/article-le-nouveau-pellerin-est-arrive-71748502.html
Assurance that there was no discharge of strontium and plutonium into Japan, http://www.fukushima-blog.com/2016/05/pourquoi-l-irsn-ment.html
Assurance that a nuclear power plant cannot explode in France … http://www.fukushima-blog.com/2016/05/pourquoi-l-irsn-ment.html
Thierry Charles even recently claimed to know where the corium is, even though Tepco itself does not know … http://www.lefigaro.fr/sciences/2017/02/10/01008-20170210ARTFIG00213–fukushima-tepco-evalue-peu-a-peu-l-ampleur-des-degats.php
In the documentary, the narrator assures that “IRSN is the first organization in the world to announce that the molten core has escaped from its confinement”. Indeed, listening to Jacques Repussard we get the impression that his institute communicated on this subject in March 2011.
However, six months after the catastrophe began, the IRSN still was writing: “It remains unclear whether molten fuel could be relocated to the bottom of the enclosure and in what quantity. “ (Communiqué of 25 August 2011) http://www.irsn.fr/FR/connaissances/Installations_nucleaires/Les-accidents-nucleaires/accident-fukushima-2011/crise-2011/impact-japon/Documents/IRSN_Seisme-Japon_25082011.pdf
No seriously. The first organization that announced the me of the three cores is Tepco, on 24 May 2011. And the IRSN announced it the next day. Previously, IRSN never wrote anything else, for reactors 1, 2 and 3, that “The injection of fresh water continues. The flow rate of the water injection is adjusted in order to ensure the cooling of the core, which remains partially depleted. “
In 2011, the first person who dared to break the omerta of the nuclear lobby is Mishio Ishikawa, founder of Japan Nuclear Technology Institute (JANTI): During a Japanese TV show on April 29, 2011, he stated that the hearts of Fukushima Daiichi reactors 1, 2 and 3 were 100% melted. http://www.fukushima-blog.com/article-les-coeurs-des-reacteurs-1-2-et-3-de-fukushima-dai-ichi-auraient-fondu-a-100-73003947.html
That’s the story, that’s how it happened. IRSN never said that before anyone. The IRSN respected the omerta on the total meltdown of the three hearts like all the actors of the nuclear world and obediently waited for Tepco to announce the reality to acquiesce, no matter what Jacques Repussard is saying now six years later.
– Naoto Kan went to the Fukushima Daiichi plant in full crisis and greatly disturbed the ongoing management of the ongoing crisis. Director Masao Yoshida was asked to explain and explain what he was doing, wasting precious time on those who tried to solve problems one by one (It was just before the explosions of No. 2 and No. 4!). The documentary suggests that Masao Yoshida was going to leave the nuclear plant with all the workers, and that through Kan’s intervention they were forced to stay. It’s not true. Tepco may have intended to leave the ship, but the plant’s director denied any plan to abandon the site.
– The documentary shows Naoto Kan kneeling before Nicolas Sarkozy. Politeness or industrial pressures? It is not known why he did not dare to counter the French nuclear VRP.
– Naoto Kan will remain for all inhabitants of evacuated areas the one who decided to raise the standard from 1 to 20 mSv / year. On the one hand, he was ready to evacuate Tokyo, but on the other he made a whole region irradiated with a very high radiation rate. Something is bizarre in these contradictory attitudes.
Pierre Pellerin, even disappeared, is still doing damages … Between the two parts of the documentary, Frédéric Boisset, editor-in-chief of Brainworks Press, presents the story of Chernobyl in this way: “In 1986, the radioactive cloud spread throughout Europe. The authorities do not have the technical means to measure the fallout, to give instructions to the French. Can we eat fruit and vegetables? Should we caulk indoors? It was to avoid this type of failure that this institute was created [the IRSN]. “
But this is not an interview taken on the spot, it is a carefully prepared text before the recording. Frédéric Boisset therefore pretends without blushing that the SCPRI of 1986, the ancestor of the IRSN, did not have the means to alert the French of the dangers of radioactivity! What an enormity! In Germany, they had the means to prohibit the sale of spinach and salads, to confine the students inside but not in France. Frédéric Boisset refeeds us the story of the Chernobyl radioactive plume that stops at the border? It is unbelievable that still in 2017 a journalist perpetuates the disinformation lie that began in 1986.
However, the IRSN, worthy successor of SCPRI, made this statement on March 15, 2011, the day when the radioactive cloud of Fukushima arrived in Tokyo: “A slight increase in ambient radioactivity in Tokyo is noted by a few measures. This elevation is not significant in terms of radiological impact. “ Pierre Pellerin would not have said better! At the same time, Olivier Isnard, an IRSN expert sent to Tokyo, advocated caulking the premises of the French embassy. Fortunately, Philippe Faure, the French ambassador to Japan, communicated to his expatriates at 10 am: “Stay in your houses, making sure to caulk them to the maximum, this effectively protects against the low-intensity radioactive elements that could pass through Tokyo. ” But at 8 pm, he changed his tone and resumed the official speech dictated by the IRSN: “The situation remains at this time quite safe in Tokyo. A very slight increase in radioactivity was recorded. It represents no danger for human health. “ 100 Bq / m3 would pose no health hazard for a radioactive cloud coming directly from a nuclear reactor? I am feeling not any more safe than in 1986 unfortunately.
One last deception. The IRSN has purposedly mistranslated the words of Masao Yoshida, director of the Fukushima Daiichi power station. Immediately after the explosion of Unit 3, the latter, distraught, called the headquarters to inform them of the situation. Tepco released this recording and the IRSN broadcasted it in a video in 2013. I do not know Japanese but I have Japanese friends who have assured me of the translation of his words. I give you both versions, that of my friends and that of the IRSN. The people knowing japanese will be able to check for themselves.
The Japanese TV version : https://youtu.be/OWCLXjEdwJM
The IRNS version : https://youtu.be/tjEHCGUx9JQ
The documentary gives another version: “HQ, HQ, it’s terrible! This is very serious ! “Yes, here HQ.” “It seems there was an explosion on reactor 3, which looks like a hydrogen explosion.” Who recommended this text to journalists? Even though Yoshida himself said “suijôki” (steam) and not “suiso” (hydrogen). The IRSN’s translation therefore censures the hypothesis put forward by the director of the nuclear plant: the steam explosion. This is normal, it is the official version of the Japanese government and the IRSN can not go against it.
The steam explosion is a taboo issue among nuclear communicators. Experts talk about it to each other, carry out studies about it, write theses about it, but never talk about it to the public because the subject of a nuclear power plant explosion is too anxiogenic. If we ever learned that a steam explosion had arrived in Fukushima, it would undermine the image of nuclear power worldwide.
In France, the political-industrial lobby has axed its communication on the control of hydrogen: All French power plants have hydrogen recombiners to avoid hydrogen explosions. But against an steam explosion, nothing can be done. When the containment vessel is full of water and the corium at 3000 ° C falls in it, it’s boom, whether in Japan or in France, whether it be a boiling water reactor or a pressurized water reactor.
In the space-time of environmental devastation announced by the Anthropocene, nuclear catastrophe is a type of “fuzzy boundaries trouble” that challenges our capacity for understanding. We know from Günther Anders that it operates in the supraliminary sphere, so large that it cannot be seen or imagined, which causes cognitive paralysis. By Ulrich Beck that produces an anthropological shock, the transformation of the consciousness of the subjects in relation to the experience of insecurity and uncertainty in the face of an invisible threat. By Svetlana Alexeivich that is characterized by vagueness and indefinition, which produces a war without enemies. And by Olga Kuchinskaya that generates a politics of invisibility regarding public knowledge of its consequences for life.
As Chernobyl before, the Fukushima disaster has reached the maximum level in the scale of accidents, when several nuclear reactors melted down 200 kilometers from the most populous metropolitan area of the planet. The dangerous radionuclides, once enclosed between concrete and steel walls, began to blend intimately with the biosphere. Before this mutant ecology, the artists have responded from the first moments. Through photography, guerrilla art, dance, video art or fiction narrative, this artistic response to the nuclear crisis has faced a double invisibility: the one of ionizing radiation and the institutional invisibility – the affirmation of the authorities that the problem “is under control”.
Taking as a theoretical framework the interdisciplinary discussion of the Anthropocene and its critical epistemologies, such Jason Moore’s Capitalocene and Donna Haraway’s Chthulucene, we investigate how artists are staying with the trouble in Fukushima. Recalibrating our sensory systems to adjust them to the contradiction and volatility of industrial advances, we explore the ability of art to construct an ontology complementary to hegemonic technoscience, one that allows us a more in-depth understanding of what nature and we humans has become in the Anthropocene.
Anti-nuclear village voice: Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi attends a press conference in Carlsbad, California, in May with former U.S. soldiers who have sued Tokyo Electric Power Co. for damage to their health they believe was caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The author of this column, Brian Victoria, who acted as translator for Koizumi during the trip, is seated on the left.
Dear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,
Let me first acknowledge that after four long years of silence, the Japanese government has finally taken a position regarding the lawsuit filed against Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the U.S. by more than 450 American sailors, marines and civilians who were on board the USS Reagan and accompanying military ships off the coast of Tohoku after 3/11.
These young people experienced serious health problems resulting from, they allege, radiation exposure while participating in Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. military’s humanitarian rescue mission launched in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and subsequent multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
While the Japanese government’s acknowledgement of the suit is welcome, the unconditional support it has given to Tepco is a matter of deep concern. Even now, U.S. service personnel find themselves prevented from seeking justice because Tepco, with the support of the Japanese government, is doing its utmost to ensure the case will never be heard in an American court.
The Japanese government submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 3. An amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief is one presented by a party not directly involved in the suit in the hope of influencing the outcome. The brief contains two points:
1. “The Government of Japan has developed a comprehensive system to ensure compensation for victims of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident.”
2. “Damage claims brought in tribunals outside of Japan threaten the continuing viability of the compensation system established by the Government of Japan.”
Examining the first point, if the Japanese government truly had “a comprehensive system to ensure compensation for victims,” there would be no need for the U.S. service members’ lawsuit. Yet, as you know, the Japanese government and its subsidiaries have, to date, not paid a single yen to any non-Tepco-related victim of radiation exposure from Fukushima No. 1. This includes, as of March this year, a total of 173 children from the prefecture who underwent surgery after being diagnosed with suspected thyroid cancer, 131 of whom were confirmed to have had cancer.
If the Japanese government will not admit that the suffering of its own children was caused by radiation exposure, how confident can young Americans be that the apparently radiation-induced injuries they experienced will be recognized as such, let alone compensated for, in Japan?
Further, at least seven of these previously healthy young Americans have already died and many others are too ill to travel to Japan even if they could afford to, let alone reside in this country during lengthy legal procedures, which typically take years to resolve. This is not to mention the prospect of expensive legal costs, including for court fees, hiring Japanese lawyers, translation of relevant documents, etc. And let us never forget, Prime Minister, it was the Japanese government that requested the assistance of these American military personnel.
As for the second point above, I agree the U.S. military personnel’s lawsuit threatens “the continuing viability of the compensation system established by the Government of Japan.” For example, if a U.S. court were to ascribe the plaintiffs’ illnesses to radiation exposure, how could the Japanese government continue to claim that none of the many illnesses the children and adults of Fukushima presently experience are radiation-related? The American service personnel truly serve as “the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to demonstrating the damaging effects of radiation exposure. Moreover, this canary is out of the Japanese government’s ability to control.
Let us further suppose that an American court were to award $3 million per person as compensation for the deaths, currently standing at seven, of the military personnel who were irradiated. By contrast, the Japanese government continues to deny compensation, for radiation-induced illnesses let alone deaths, to its own citizens. This would surely impact the “viability” (not to mention reputation) of the Japanese government in its ongoing denial of radiation-related injuries to non-Tepco employees.
Let me close by noting that there is one Japanese political leader who has accepted personal responsibility for the injuries inflicted on American service personnel. I refer to former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who, after meeting with injured servicemen and women in San Diego in May, initiated a fund to meet as many of the medical needs of these sailors and marines as possible.
Fortunately, thanks to the support of thousands of ordinary Japanese, he has already raised $700,000 toward his $1 million goal. With tears in his eyes, Koizumi explained that he could not ignore the suffering of hundreds of formerly healthy young Americans who willingly put themselves at risk in order to render aid to the Japanese people.
Prime Minister Abe, I call on you to end the Japanese government’s unconditional legal support of Tepco. Further, if the Japanese government has a conscience, please immediately provide medical aid and compensation to the hundreds of American victims of Operation Tomodachi.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is considering making customers of new, smaller power companies who previously used nuclear energy from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and other utilities shoulder part of the surging compensation costs for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Under the Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage, nuclear power operators must each provide 120 billion yen to be used together with money paid by TEPCO and other major utilities to the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation to provide compensation. However, the compensation bill for the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster continues to grow, and the compensation fund is expected to be left trillions of yen short.
The ministry takes the view that major utilities should have gathered more compensation funds from their customers, and it therefore plans to seek compensation funds from those who were previously in contracts with major power companies, using their nuclear energy.
A plan has surfaced to charge small-scale power companies more to deliver electricity through the power grids of major utilities, with the extra costs to be used for compensation. This and other plans will be debated on Nov. 2 at a working group of a ministry committee on energy reform. However, as some customers could face higher bills as a result, the move could trigger a public backlash.
TEPCO employee says he has depression due to overwork, seeks compensation
A 35-year-old employee handling compensation claims relating to the Fukushima nuclear disaster for Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has filed an application with the Tokyo Central Labor Standards Inspection Office seeking workers’ compensation for depression.
Tadafumi Ichii filed the application on Oct. 31, arguing that he started suffering from depression as a result of being forced to work long hours illegally. According to his application and other information, in September 2011 — six months after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis — Ichii transferred to a division tasked with handling complaints from businesses that were not satisfied with the amounts of compensation they were offered for declining sales. In February 2013, he took over the role of giving advice to about 450 TEPCO employees on whether or not to pay damages.
The man clocked 89 hours overtime in March 2013, but he stated, “My overtime working hours, if combined with unpaid overtime and take-home work, stood at 169 hours (in March).” On the morning of June 20, 2013, he could not get out of bed, and failed to show up for work that day. He then transferred to TEPCO’s branch office in Tachikawa, western Tokyo, on July 1, 2013. He frequently started being absent from the office or leaving early, suffering symptoms such as vomiting in the office’s toilet. He was diagnosed on Sept. 3, 2013, as having tendency toward depression and he took a leave of absence from the following day. He was officially diagnosed with depression in April 2014.
The man received a notice from TEPCO in October this year stating that he would be dismissed on Nov. 5 when his recuperation period was due to expire. TEPCO demanded that Ichii submit documents including a doctor’s medical certificate, if he intended to return to work. Ichii says he still suffers symptoms such as insomnia. His doctor, therefore, has judged that he requires further medical treatment, he says.
“I worked hard until I was worn out,” Ichii said at a news conference.
An official with the public relations department at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. commented, “We understand that the labor standards inspection office concerned decides on individual claims for workers’ compensation. We decline to answer questions regarding individual cases.”
According to TEPCO, work to pay compensation to local residents whose livelihoods were lost and companies whose sales dropped due to the nuclear accident started in April 2011 and is ongoing.
As of Oct. 28, there were about 2,691,000 applications and about 6.479 trillion yen had been paid for a total of about 2,515,000 applications that TEPCO had finished screening.
TEPCO worker seeks compensation over Fukushima job
A 35-year-old employee of Tokyo Electric Power Company is seeking insurance benefits, arguing that he developed depression due his work dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident.
Tadafumi Ichii spoke to reporters on Monday after filing the request for workers’ accident compensation with labor authorities.
Ichii said that, in September of 2011, he was tasked with paying redress to businesses affected by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant six months earlier.
He said he was in charge of up to 180 companies and put in nearly 170 hours of overtime a month. He added that he was caught between his bosses and his clients, and mentally driven to the edge.
The utility reportedly plans to dismiss him when his sick leave ends in early November.
Ichii said he sacrificed his health to do the job and that he cannot accept the way his employers are treating him.
Tokyo Electric Power Company said in a statement that the utility will deal with the matter sincerely when it is contacted by labor authorities.
The “flawed and woefully incomplete” public data from the nuclear industry is leading to an over-confident attitude to risk, the researchers warned.
The study, which put fresh pressure on the nuclear industry to be more transparent with data on incidents, also called for a fundamental rethink of how accidents are rated, arguing that the current method (the discrete seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale or INES) is highly imprecise, poorly defined, and often inconsistent.
For example, the Fukushima accident and the Chernobyl accident are rated 7 — the maximum severity level — on the INES scale.
However, Fukushima alone would need a score of between 10 and 11 to represent the true magnitude of consequences, the researchers said.
Catastrophic nuclear accidents like Chernobyl disaster in the US that took place in 1986 and the more recent Japan’s Fukushima disasters in 2011 may not be relics of the past. But the risk of such disasters are still more likely to occur once or twice per century, a study has warned.
The study found that while nuclear accidents have substantially decreased in frequency, this has been accomplished by the suppression of moderate-to-large events.
The researchers estimated that Fukushima and Chernobyl-scale disasters are still more likely than not once or twice per century, and that accidents like 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island in the US are more likely than not to occur every 10-20 years.
For the study, a team of international risk experts analysed more than 200 nuclear accidents — the biggest-ever analysis of nuclear accidents — which provided a grim assessment of the risk estimated by the nuclear industry.
The “flawed and woefully incomplete” public data from the nuclear industry is leading to an over-confident attitude to risk, the researchers warned.
“We have found that the risk level for nuclear power is extremely high,” said lead author Spencer Wheatley, Professor at ETH Zurich in Switzerland.
“The next nuclear accident may be much sooner or more severe than the public realises,” added Benjamin Sovacool, Professor at the University of Sussex in Britain.
Further, the standard methodology used by the International Atomic Energy Agency to predict accidents and incidents — particularly when focusing on consequences of extreme events — is also problematic, the researchers said.
The study, which put fresh pressure on the nuclear industry to be more transparent with data on incidents, also called for a fundamental rethink of how accidents are rated, arguing that the current method (the discrete seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale or INES) is highly imprecise, poorly defined, and often inconsistent.
For example, the Fukushima accident and the Chernobyl accident are rated 7 — the maximum severity level — on the INES scale. However, Fukushima alone would need a score of between 10 and 11 to represent the true magnitude of consequences, the researchers said.
To remove a possibility of such disasters would likely require enormous changes to the current fleet of reactors, which is predominantly second-generation technology, Wheatley noted.
But, “even if we introduce new nuclear technology, as long as older facilities remain operational — likely, given recent trends to extend permits and relicense existing reactors — their risks, and the aggregate risk of operating the global nuclear fleet, remain,” Sovacool said.
The results were published in the journals Energy Research & Social Scienceand Risk Analysis
We already know what is Tokyo definition of “truth”: five years and half of continuous deception, lies and cover-ups, tidbits of truth released only when forced to do so….
More than five years after the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, the legacy of the accident continues, characterized by constant radiation exposure and an ever-lasting sense of fear, not only in this island country but also beyond its territory.
Numerous reports about nuclear radiation and its damage to human bodies have been filed since the Fukushima disaster. An Asahi Shimbun article in 2014 revealed that high levels of accumulated radioactive cesium had been detected in the mud of 468 reservoirs outside of the Fukushima evacuation zone.
But more discouraging news awaits. According to a recent report by The Mainichi, an Environment Ministry survey found that high concentrations of radioactive cesium have been accumulating at the bottom of 10 major dams 50 kilometers away from Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, yet officials were quoted as saying that “it is best to contain cesium at those dams.”
It is the inaction that is most depressing. As people’s physical health is exposed to possible risks, the psychological fallout from the accident is worrying as well. As nuclear radiation reports are always published, people affected by the nuclear leak are fearful.
The aftermath of the Fukushima disaster that concerns the lives of millions has failed to prompt the Japanese government to assume responsibility actively on a massive scale.
Earlier this month, former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi accused current leader Shinzo Abe of lying to the international community that the situation at the nuclear power plant is under control.
Those in a position of Japanese authority should release information about Fukushima-related contamination once and for all. The government should also set up a mechanism which can inform the country and the international community of new findings in a timely manner.
As a neighbor of Japan, China has also felt uneasy with the radiation from the disaster. Years after the meltdown of the Fukushima reactors, Chinese travelers are still asking if it is safe to go to Japan. In terms of food safety, despite a ban by Chinese authorities on food imports and agricultural products from Fukushima and 11 other Japanese regions affected by nuclear contamination since the accident, potentially radiation-tainted seafood from Fukushima smuggled to China poses health threats to the Chinese people.
Since a large number of Chinese travelers are going to Japan, related information is indispensable. Therefore, China should also come up with solutions such as assigning experts to monitor the situation in Japan and offer credible advice to the anxious public. This “nuclear war without a war” will attest to the responsibility of a government to its people.
By Norma Field
We are ogres of the North
“Those of you from Fukushima, please stand. Hello, everyone! I came here from Fukushima. I came today with many busloads of companions from Fukushima Prefecture and from the places where we’ve evacuated.”1
Meiji Park (Tokyo), September 19, 2011. Many participants from Fukushima dressed in matching yellow T-shirts bearing such words as “Let’s protect our children from radiation” and “We don’t need nuclear power.”
These unassuming words begin the speech that electrified the 60,000-some gathered under an intense autumn sun for an anti-nuke rally in Meiji Park on September 19, 2011. Six months had passed since the triple disaster. The rally was dramatic evidence for a world that had forgotten the first postwar decades that Japanese people could, and indeed do, protest. Mutō’s speech spread over the internet, over the archipelago and into the world. Six months later, she would be heading The Complainants for Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, whose activities represent the most sustained, and to date, only successful effort to seek criminal prosecution of individuals responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
What are the features of that speech that have given it a distinctive place in the annals of postwar Japanese movements? What does it tell us about the kind of leader Mutō has become and the movement she represents?
First of all, it is beautiful. Whether in Japanese or English translation, its lyrical precision invites reproduction in the form of poetry. Take the lines invoking the choices pressed upon people in the early aftermath of the disaster:
To flee, or not to flee.
To eat, or not to eat.
To hang out the wash, or not.
To make children wear masks, or not.
To plough our fields, or not.
To protest to someone, or remain silent.
How deftly they capture the relentless tension of those days, both for those who lived it and for those learning about it. Care of selection makes the activities convincingly representative, as social roles with particular textures of exposure threat. The beauty makes their rehearsal bearable, and the ability to hold these painful experiences in mind creates an opening to action, invoked in some of the most memorable lines of the speech that respond to the warning, “’Do not take us for fools/Do not rob us of life’”:
We are ogres of the North
the fuel of our anger.
“Division,” or bundan, continues to be a recurrent word designating one of the thorniest problems afflicting Fukushima. It might be said that TEPCO and the state expend what ingenuity they have in exercising the principle of “divide and conquer.” This speech acknowledges the pain of division, explicitly and implicitly: people have responded in opposing ways to the series of choices, so-called, enumerated above. Because of the pervasive, invasive anxiety produced by the prospect of exposure, neighbors are readily threatened by neighbors’ decisions about mundane and definitive life choices. Mutō draws them together as “ogres of the North” (Tohoku), reminding them of their centuries-old union as dominated peoples capable of mounting resistance against centralized power.
Which brings us back to the modest opening, the insistence that the speaker is one of a large group of suffering, determined people, some of whom have left, others staying behind. As Tomomi Yamaguchi explicates in a thorough discussion of the formation of the Complainants group, Mutō, through her predilection for women’s nonviolent direct action in her antinuclear activism extending back to Chernobyl (1986), is a believer in shared organizational leadership, the principle of the “level field.”2 Katsuya Hirano’s interview reveals how the elements manifested in the September 2011 speech translate into the kind of leadership she has developed in a movement involving men and women in the arena of the law, a nonviolent stage, to be sure, but one of abstraction, impersonality, and temporal delay.
At present, there are approximately 30 Fukushima-nuclear-disaster-related cases making their way through the courts. They take the form of “group litigation” (shūdan soshō, not to be confused with American-style “class action suits”),3 involving more than ten thousand plaintiffs.4 Among environmental lawsuits, the Okinawa Kadena Air Base Noise Pollution suit (3rd round, 2011), with 22,000 plaintiffs, is said to be the largest, but the Fukushima lawsuits already exceed the 8,000 involved over the years in the Minamata mercury poisoning case, the largest of the “Big Four” pollution cases.5
As an outgrowth of work with the Complainants, Mutō Ruiko helped organize a national group, Hidanren (Gempatsu Jiko Higaisha Dantai Renrakukai, or the Liaison Council of Victims of the Nuclear Disaster). Established in May of 2015, it continues to seek affiliates for mutual support, including pooling the knowledge gathered along the arduous path of legally challenging the state and the nuclear industry. Although many of the names of membership organizations, including “observers,” take the form of “xx [place, often an evacuation location] Nuclear Power Plaintiffs,” others give a more vivid sense of plaintiff identity: The Association for the Trial Seeking to Protect Children from Radiation Exposure; The Association to Protect Evacuee Life; Plaintiffs in the If Only Nuclear Power Had Not Existed Trial; “Give Us Back Our Livelihood, Give Us Back Our Land”: Fukushima Nuclear Power Plaintiffs; Denouncing Nuclear Power Damage: Fukushima Petitioners of Iitate Village. The last-named group is engaged in an ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) procedure outside the courtroom. Individuals and groups, including prefectural governments, have had recourse to ADR in the hopes of swift settlement, Many have been disappointed, however, by TEPCO’s refusal to accept the sums suggested by a national dispute resolution center and ended up going to court.6
Two major categories of claims have emerged from these struggles: compensation for loss, psychological as well as material, and support for continued evacuation. It goes without saying that the government and TEPCO wish to minimize such forms of expenditure, and that that wish is inextricable from the desire to minimize, preferably to deny altogether, the impact of the nuclear disaster, thus safeguarding the role of nuclear power in the Japanese energy mix as well as overseas sales. The migration of the “safety myth” from nuclear power itself to radiation exposure can be traced in the breathtakingly cynical redefinition of safety as measured in air dose rate from the government’s original decontamination goal of 1 mSv per year to up to 20 mSv per year. The threshold of 20 mSv per year, averaged over five years, is the ICRP (International Commission for Radiological Protection) standard for industry workers, not the general public.7 Combining the announcement of compensation cutoffs (for mental anguish and damage to business) with lifting evacuation orders from “preparing-to-lift-evacuation-order zones” and “residency-restricted zones”(most recently, on July 12 of 2016) effectively reinforces the new safety campaign,8 which, moreover, must have completed its work in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It was in September of 2013 that Prime Minister Abe, bidding for the Olympics in London, declared Fukushima to be “under control.” Now Mr. Abe is even suggesting reopening parts of the “difficult-to-return zones.”9 In the meanwhile, compensation payments, like the initial designation of concentric zones of risk/safety, with their inevitable semblance of arbitrariness, have yielded the by-product of suspicion and resentment, in other words, division.10
An especially urgent target of struggle is the cut-off of housing aid, announced for March 2017, to so-called “voluntary” evacuees. Because they left without government orders, they have been eligible only for housing assistance under a general disaster relief law. Their very status as “voluntary” evacuees is the result, of course, of the excruciatingly parsimonious designation of zones warranting departure. The anxiety understandably provoked by general awareness of the sensitivity of children to radioactivity—even or especially among those who have thought themselves unable to leave—has made this a distinctly fraught issue. “Don’t you love Fukushima? Why do you want to hurt it?” is the sort of question leveled at parents who have stayed away.11 The imminent cut-off of housing aid for evacuee families, most of whom have had to maintain two households, means that “parents must now choose between submitting their children to poverty or to radiation exposure.”12
The mission of the Fukushima Complainants
The organization Mutō Ruiko heads, The Complainants for Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, shares the concerns of the civil suits referred to above. What distinguishes it, then? Citizens can file a criminal complaint with the police or prosecutors when they believe that a crime has been committed but has not been pursued by the police or prosecutors. To do so is to insist that responsible parties be identified by public authorities and not just by private citizens who feel they have sustained injuries. In the case of Fukushima, it is a refusal to accept the nuclear disaster, let alone its aftermath, as an act of nature. Unlike the civil suits, compensation is not the object. In the words of the Complainants:
We are people who have had to leave behind our hometowns.
We are people who continue to live, exposed to radiation, in our transformed hometowns.
We are people who suffer, feeling the suffering of our neighbors as our own.
And we are people who seek to put an end to the repetition of the tragic history of this country in which sacrifices are imposed on human beings in the name of the economy, corporations, and the state.
What caused this accident?
Why were actions taken that have augmented the damage?
We must elucidate the truth and halt the damage caused by the continuing disaster.
Those who should be held responsible should take responsibility and make amends for their errors.
We must make use of the resources provided by a democratic society.
In the act of filing our complaint,
from the depths of our anger and sorrow,
As Mutō observes to Hirano, recognition of oneself as a victim demands effort, especially when social conditioning suggests that life and livelihood are more secure if one is numb to exploitation. Without establishing the truth about responsibility, both the prevention of future repetition and mitigation of ongoing harm are hamstrung; without acknowledging victimization, the harm itself remains obscure. These elements are interdependent in the logic of this complaint.
This simple yet profound logic was fleshed out into legal documents bearing the names of 1324 Complainants, ages 7 to 87, all residing in Fukushima at the time of the explosions, and of 33 accused parties, filed in the Fukushima District Public Prosecutors Office. The 33 included officials of TEPCO, heads of relevant government agencies, and medical experts.14 Of these, only 3 remain as defendants in the forthcoming criminal trial. In the Hirano interview, Mutō especially regrets the difficulty of pursuing the responsibility of medical authorities: they have played a leading role in “augmenting the damage” by minimizing health risk, with consequential policy decisions. Filing in Fukushima rather than Tokyo reflected the hope that local government officials might be mindful of their own vulnerable humanity, shared with other residents of the prefecture. In the event, the complaint was moved to Tokyo, lumped with two others, and summarily dismissed on September 9, 2013, the day after Prime Minister Abe secured the 2020 Olympics.
The Complainants then had recourse to a relatively novel institution, the committee for inquest of prosecution (kensatsu shinsakai), consisting of 11 randomly selected citizens with an attorney serving in an advisory capacity. (Readers may envisage something comparable to the US grand jury, but without prosecutorial involvement.) The requisite majority of 8 found three of the accused “appropriate for indictment,” whereupon the case was sent back to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors, who once again elected not to indict. The last resort of the Complainants was a new committee for inquest of prosecution. In July of 2015, this committee, too, decided in favor of the indictment of three TEPCO executives. This, then, triggered a mandatory indictment, with five attorneys—an unprecedented number—appointed by the Tokyo District Court to serve as a prosecution team.
“We are victims who fight back!” Launch of the Support Group for the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Criminal Proceedings Mutō Ruiko is second from left. (Tokyo, January 30, 2016).
When will the trial actually begin? That is unclear; the prosecution has filed its materials, but the pretrial conference procedure may be protracted. Still, given the demonstrated unwillingness of the public prosecutors to indict under a political regime committed to nuclear restarts, it is a near-miracle that a criminal trial is slated to take place. With the Minamata mercury poisoning case, it was 1976, a quarter of a century after the first signs of disease when the Kumamoto Public Prosecutors indicted the former head of Chisso Corporation and the factory supervisor. It is also the case that preceding civil lawsuits yielded a Kumamoto District Court decision in 1973 that may prove especially relevant to the Fukushima case: in response to Chisso Corporation’s argument that because the appearance of Minamata Disease in Kumamoto was unprecedented, it could not have anticipated the health impact of its procedures, the court held that a chemical factory had a special “duty of care” with respect to the impact of effluents on the lives and health of surrounding residents.15
The Minamata precedent, legally, politically, and socially, is, however, mostly sobering for Fukushima. Even a welcome, newly awakened sense of empathy among victims of environmental disaster has its distracting, potentially harmful aspects: as Mutō makes emphatically clear in her conversation with Hirano, mercury poisoning and radioactive contamination must not be conflated. Whatever the good will underlying proposals to show support by adopting Fukushima produce in Minamata area school lunches, not only is there no guarantee that only uncontaminated items will be shipped, but such gestures feed into the safety myth by accepting the rhetoric of “eat and support” (tabete ouen) and “reputational damage.” More generally, there are worries that the divisions and protracted pain of Minamata are being repeated in Fukushima.16 The trial will certainly result in the disclosure of valuable information for the public record. Given that the tsunami has buttressed TEPCO’s insistence that what happened was an unforeseeable natural disaster, internal evidence indicating willful dismissal of recommendations for taking protective measures for the sake of economizing will be key.17
Underscoring, by unfortunate contrast, the Complainants’ unusual victory in securing criminal prosecution is the recent (June 23, 2016), swift decision by a committee for inquest of prosecution on a separate complaint launched by the Fukushima Complainants to the Fukushima prefectural police in 2013, arguing that the continued release of extraordinary volumes of contaminated water into the Pacific constituted a pollution crime. The police refused to charge TEPCO executives, and the judicial inquest committee concurred. For the time being, it seems unlikely that unfettered contamination of the ocean by a range of radionuclides, presumably a matter of international concern, will be examined in the courtroom.
To find the next step: despair and truth
(1) Not a day goes by when I am not tormented by shame and guilt that “my continuing to teach here is the cause for children to be exposed to radiation.”
(2) The words of well-meaning outsiders—“It’s dangerous,” “Why don’t you try to escape?” bring only more pain to those who have stayed behind. Someone even said to me, “You’re the one who’s murdering the kids.”
(3) I can no longer meet with the friends and acquaintances I’ve made…. Some of them I’ve lost. Because I evacuated, a psychological gulf, a division, has set in between me and friends and acquaintances who didn’t or couldn’t.18
Especially in the process of soliciting the first round of Complainants—anyone, regardless of age or nationality, residing in Fukushima in March 2011—Mutō and her partners took pains to support self-examination. One record of that “conscious effort to become aware of [one’s] victimhood” is a selection of fifty statements by Complainants from that first round, collected and published in 2013 The presentation is a novel one, by age of writer at the time of the triple disaster, ranging from 7 to 87. Beginning with its evident respect for losses suffered by children, this arrangement of expressions of grief, anger, and anxiety becomes a richly concrete composite of life stages gone badly awry thanks to the nuclear disaster itself and its handling in the continuing aftermath.
Fukushima Radiation: Will You Still Say No Crime Was Committed? Statements by 50 Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (ebook, 2015)
If courageous effort is required to name oneself a victim willing to accuse others of a crime, then additional effort becomes necessary in order to reveal the grounds for that decision in a publication. Of the fifty statements in this booklet, the writers of 26 are presented anonymously, through initials, place of residence or evacuation, occupation, or no identifying information whatsoever except for gender. Interestingly, 33 of the writers are female, 17, male. Of the former, 24 are anonymous in contrast to 2 of the latter. Was there a striking preponderance of female Complainants, or did they tend to write more vividly, tying the harm they had suffered to their life experiences? And having permitted publication, why were they proportionately more inclined to seek anonymity?
“To flee, or not to flee” was the first example Mutō gave in her 2011 speech of pressing decisions forced on Fukushima residents. The heavy consequences of choices made are exemplified in the excerpts from three statements quoted above. Examples (1) and (2) show the risk incurred in choosing to stay and, especially, continuing to work with children. The first is by Yamauchi Naoko, a special needs teacher; the second, by Sasaki Michinori, a Buddhist priest and head of a kindergarten associated with his temple, himself the father of young children. (Mutō recounts Sasaki’s asking Dr. Yamashita Shun’ichi, the prefectural medical adviser summoned from Nagasaki—
he of laugh-and-ye-shall-not-be-touched-by-radiation fame—whether he would bring his own grandchildren to play in the sandboxes of Nihonmatsu; Sasaki and especially his wife Ruri play key roles in Kamanaka Hitomi’s documentary, Little Voices from Fukushima.19) Example (3) comes from a statement by an anonymous woman who has evacuated to Hiroshima with her child, leaving her husband to work in Fukushima. Their appearance together in these pages is precious because even though they have given opposite answers to that first, critical question, they have not turned against each other: all three are Complainants, willing to attest to the harm inflicted on them and in the case of the first two, continuing anxiety about staying on.
Little Voices from Fukushima by Kamanaka Hitomi (2015)
Five years after the beginning of the catastrophe, and one year after Hirano’s interview of Mutō, the tension between those who left and those who stayed behind has only grown. For those who stay on, and especially for those with children, any suggestion of health risks is ever more unwelcome. (There is yet another group, those who give up and return, who may become the most ardent believers in Fukushima safety.20) “Reconstruction” seems undeniably real, embodied in the dump trucks hurtling along with their loads of soil carved out of mountainsides to replace what had been removed in decontamination21 and construction materials for the convenience stores and community centers to anchor the replacement habitats. Should we pause over the young women who direct traffic along the dusty routes, without the protection of even the most casual of masks? No doubt this is a precious form of employment in the region. Why should such forward-looking efforts be hampered by the possibility of ill health for who knows how many years hence? What if the road now traversed mainly by dump trucks were to become part of the Olympic torch route?22
Fukushima health anxiety intertwines two potent strands of dread: (1) fear of illness and (2) fear of discrimination, tracing its way back to the hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Together, they sustain a regime of mutual surveillance and self-censorship as pervasive and penetrating as anything the state could wish for. Of course, we should note the role of radioactivity’s inaccessibility to our senses and the delayed appearance of health effects in shaping the ways in which anxiety is expressed—or not expressed. Kawai Hiroyuki, a lead attorney for the Fukushima Complainants, points to the peculiar lacuna—“like the missing center piece of a jigsaw puzzle”—at the heart of all Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) cases and the lawsuits involving more than 10,000 plaintiffs: they all concern compensation for property or mental anguish, but the reason why the plaintiffs seek compensation for their property and mental anguish, that is, fear of illness, goes unaddressed, stymied by the insistence on the part of medical experts that “it is difficult to think” (kangae nikui) that there is a causal relationship between manifest evidence of illness, especially childhood thyroid cancer, with the nuclear accident.
Nuclear Japan by Kawai Hiroyuki (2014) Kawai standing to the left of collaborating attorney Kaito Yūichi
Kawai made this observation at a remarkable event, the press conference announcing the launch of the 311 Thyroid Cancer Family Association on March 12, 2016.23 Three advisers of the group—a former local politician and a physician, along with Kawai—made this an exceptionally informative public event.24 But it was above all the format of the occasion that made it unforgettable. Billed as a “coming out” (kamingu auto), appropriately enough, since patients and their families had not appeared in public, the press conference had journalists gathered in a room in Tokyo, and two fathers appearing via Skype from Fukushima—but with only their torsos showing and their voices altered. To facilitate Q&A, one was dressed mostly in white, hence, referred to as “the person in white,” and the other became “the person in black.” The fathers recounted with careful, almost painful, restraint their and their children’s experiences through diagnosis and surgery, what they were told and not told. They wanted to know, if the nuclear disaster wasn’t the cause, what was responsible for their children’s disease?
Press conference announcing launch of the 311 Fukushima Thyroid Cancer Family Association. March 12, 2016. Tokyo and Fukushima. (Source)
This was meant to be, and in context, indeed was, a hopeful beginning: the beginning of the end to an isolation compounding the devastation of one’s child’s serious illness following a catastrophe. And we must imagine the courageous determination required of these fathers to speak to the press.
And yet. Why could it happen only in this guise? What historical experiences (the atomic bombings, of course, but also Hansen’s Disease, tuberculosis, etc.) and social structures have made it apparently necessary for victims to present themselves as if they were the wrongdoers? No one should be forced into disclosing a stigmatizing condition, but how can the condition be addressed and the stigma challenged, if enjoining secrecy is the kindest solution society is prepared to offer?25
In 2012, Hiroshima hibakusha Matsumoto Akiko wondered, “Like most children, I did as I was told and didn’t let anyone know I was a hibakusha. What if all of us hibakusha hadn’t tried to keep our identities secret? Would Fukushima have happened?”26
There is a remarkable moment in Hirano’s interview of Mutō Ruiko when she embarks on an elaboration of why she doesn’t want a movement motivated by fear, even if “radiation is … terrifying.” She goes on to say, “I want to take on despair, too, and despair properly.” She deflects Hirano’s invitation to describe this as a process leading to hope. Rather, she insists on the importance of knowing: “I’m the kind of person who wants to know. I want to know the truth.”
What might it mean to embrace despair, despair over “what our country is doing to us”—denying, in effect, that something irreversible had happened, thereby obstructing the possibility of genuine remediation, a remediation that would put life first. As time passes, this denial drives more and more weary people to collude in the denial of their victimization and to continue to place themselves and their children at risk. Mutō observes, but does not criticize such people. In those exhausting but suddenly hopeful days when the trauma was still fresh, when 60,000 people turned out to say good-bye to nuclear power, she had urged, “However cruel our path, let us not avert our gaze, let us support each other.”
Born on August 15, she was given the name Ruiko (類子) by parents who associated that day with “humanity.”
My warm thanks go to Kats Hirano for letting me participate in this project and to Mark Selden for his inordinate editorial patience. I thank Mutō Ruiko for living as she does. I also want to thank people living in Fukushima or northern Kantō and Osaka (as evacuees) who have shared their stories. Whenever I think about them and others I will never meet, I want to say, “I’m sorry for how I speak and write about you, even as I know that I can’t ever fully know what you are experiencing.”
“Mutō Ruiko and the Movement of Fukushima Residents to Pursue Criminal Charges against TEPCO Executives and Government Officials, APJ-Japan Focus (July 1, 2012).
In Japanese civil procedure, there is no provision for class action, which, in the U.S., makes it possible for one party to represent an entire class of similarly injured parties, identified and not identified; in “group litigation,” each plaintiff is separately identified and damages, if awarded, are limited to the injuries specific to each plaintiff. My thanks to Lawrence Repeta for clarification.
“ ‘Genkokudan zenkoku renrakukaigi’ kessei 9700nin sanka,” Mainichi shimbun (February 13, 2016).
“Kakudaisuru Fukushima gempatsu soshō, kuni to Tōden no baishōgaku fueru kanōsei mo,” Reuters (August 17, 2015). On the “Big Four” cases, see Frank Upham, Law and Social Change in Postwar Japan (Harvard UP, 1987).
For example, TEPCO rejected sums proposed by the center six times over two years and nine months after 20,000 residents of Namie Township filed for compensation for mental anguishTEPCO. “[Shinsai kara 5nen] ‘Songai baishō’ ADR shinri ga chōkika Tōden wakaian o kyohi ‘Shikumi no keigaika’ shiteki mo,” Fukushima minpō (August 2, 2016).
See the ICRP Guidance for Occupational Exposure. Recall the tearful resignation of Tokyo University professor Kosako Toshiso, a government nuclear adviser, when the government announced 20 mSv as a safe level of exposure for school children in April 2011. There is also a “Minami Sōma Demand to Retract the 20 mSv Standard” lawsuit. See the support group website for vivid accounts of dealings between municipal representatives and officials of the Environment Ministry, in which the bureaucrats of the central government explain to the locals that they are presenting “explanations” and not engaging in a “consultative” meeting.
“Kikan konnan kuiki, natsu made ni minaoshian Ichibu kaijo mo Shushō hyōmei,” Asahi shimbun (March 10, 2016).
“Gempatsu jiko 5nen, baishō meguri jūmin bundan, onaji machi de kotonaru kyūsai,” Nihon keizai shimbun (March 2, 2016). This is a separate topic for investigation, but it is worth noting how, on the one hand, the state and TEPCO have promoted differential, even discriminatory treatment in paying out compensation, while, on the other, pushed debris incineration throughout the country and more recently proposed “recycling” radioactive soil accumulated through decontamination in road construction projects throughout the country: in other words, reward differentially (on grounds that appear purely arbitrary) but burden equally, in the name of national solidarity or cost-savings (the recycling proposal).
Stated by Morimatsu Akiko, whose husband has stayed in Koriyama while she lives in Osaka with their two children, from the floor of the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the Hokkaido Religious Association for Peace (Hokkaido Shūkyōsha Heiwa Kyōgikai, Sapporo, November 7, 2015). Morimatsu has become co-chair of the Genkokudan Zenkoku Renrakukai (National Liaison Council of Plaintiffs), with 9700 members.
Nakate Seiichi, head, “Plaintiffs for Nuclear Disaster Compensation, Hokkaido” in his presentation at the Hokkaido Religious Association for Peace anniversary meeting.
From the website of the Complainants. This is part of the “statement” at the time of the second-round filing, with 13,262 Complainants from all around Japan. (There were 1324 first-round Complainants, those resident in Fukushima at the time of the triple disaster.) Translated by N. Field.
See Japan Institute of Constitutional Law discussion here. For an informative survey of how the state has been unconcerned with maintaining even the appearance of prioritizing citizen life over corporate protection, see Yoshinaga Fusako and Gavan McCormack, “Minamata: The Irresponsibility of the Japanese State,” APJ-Japan Focus (December 10, 2004).
“Minamatabyō, kōshiki kakunin kara 60nen Naze Fukushima de mo, onaji koto ga kurikaesareru no ka,” Huffington Post (May 20, 2016).
See source and supplementary materials for Soeda Takafumi, Gempatsu to ōtsunami: Keikoku o hōmutta hitobito (Iwanami Shinsho, 2014).
Statements #32, 14, and 10 from Fukushima Radiation: Will You Still Say No Crime Was Committed? Statements by 50 Complainants for Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. Translated by Norma Field and Matthew Mizenko (2015). This is an electronic version in English of the print booklet from Kinyobi Publishers, Kore demo tsumi o toenai no desuka! Fukushima Gempatsu Kokusodan 50nin no chinjutsusho (2013). The English text updates the original with a “sequel” to the afterword by Mutō Ruiko in response to the various decisions of public prosecutors and committees of inquest for prosecution.
Shuttling between Fukushima and Belarus, Kamanaka’s documentary provides a rare glimpse of a lived contrast between post-Chernobyl and post-Fukushima policies. Incidentally, Mutō did the Japanese voiceover for Dr. Valentina Smolnikova, pediatrician and founder of “Children of Chernobyl.”
“Fukushima fukkōron Taidan: boshi hinan to kikan o sasaeru,” Mainichi shimbun (February 4, 2016).
It is commonplace now to observe that the neologism josen (“decontamination”), “removal of radioactively contaminated materials” should have been isen, “transfer of radioactively contaminated materials.” In any case, the materials are stored in “flexible container bags”—glorified garbage bags—and stacked five deep and covered over with tarp for rain protection. While they await an intermediate storage site, they have begun to split and sprout and sport gas-venting pipes.
“Seika rirē ‘Kokudō 6gō’ de Shushō ni Futaba, Futaba Shōyō Kōsei ga yōbō,” Fukushima minyū (April 5, 2016).
The press conference (in Japanese) may be watched on youtube. A transcript of Kawai’s introductory remarks may be found here. The website of the Family Association is here. In addition to all of his nuclear-related legal activities, Kawai has recently made an acclaimed documentary, Nuclear Japan, in part as an effort to educate judges along with the general public. A young woman who has had thyroid cancer surgery speaks on camera, though without disclosing her name, to Ian Thomas Ash; she hopes to encourage other young people to be examined. Toward the end, she reveals that her boyfriend’s parents urged them to break up after her illness was discovered. Marriage discrimination is alive and well.
Chiba Chikako’s words are transcribed here, and Dr. Ushiyama Motomi’s words here. Dr. Ushiyama states that the commonly held view that thyroid cancer develops slowly and is easily treated through surgery is not applicable to children, and she also counters the “screening effect” and “overdiagnosis” interpretations of the cases confirmed through the Fukushima Prefectural Health Survey: of the 116 patients (18 and under at the time of 3.11) who have undergone surgery, over 90% had tumors that exceeded the minimal size recommended for surgery or, even if the tumors were small, they had moved on to the lymph nodes or metastasized to the lungs. For a thoroughgoing analysis of the childhood thyroid cancer controversy, see Piers Williamson, “Demystifying the Official Discourse on Childhood Thyroid Cancer in Fukushima,”APJ-Japan Focus (December 5, 2014); for a study taking into account various ills as reported by hospitals post 3.11, see Eiichiro Ochiai, “The Human Consequences of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant Accidents,” APJ-Japan Focus (November 21, 2015); for the long view on impediments thrown up in the study of radiation and health effects, hearkening back to the redoubtable (and beleaguered) Alice Stewart, see Gayle Greene, “Science with a Skew: The Nuclear Industry after Chernobyl and Fukushima,” APJ-Japan Focus (December 25, 2011); finally, on a factor that is stunningly under-remarked even though it appears in the 2006 National Academy of Sciences BEIR (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) VII report—the disproportionately greater risk faced by women and girls exposed to radioactivity—see Mary Olson, “Atomic Radiation Is More Harmful to Women,” Nuclear Information and Resource Service (2011).
Of course, “kindness” is not the only quality in play. The police have insisted on preserving the anonymity of the names of the 19 victims killed (along with 26 injured) on July 26, 2016, at a home for people with mental disabilities on the grounds of an “elevated need” to preserve family privacy, together with alleged communication of wishes for “consideration” from the families. Quite apart from the fact that any family suffering a traumatic crime might want privacy, the police policy of maintaining anonymity for victims with disabilities surely warrants debate. See the thoughtful editorial in the Mainichi shimbun, “Sagamihara jiken Tokumei ga toikakeru mono” (August 6, 2016).
In Skype call to an undergraduate class at the University of Chicago; reconfirmed in June 2016; with thanks to Arthur Binnard for connecting us.
Source : http://apjjf.org/2016/17/Field.html
Residents of Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, disembark from a ferry after its arrival at a port in Oita Prefecture as part of a nuclear disaster evacuation drill, in November 2015
Residents living in areas hosting Japan’s nuclear power plants are voicing concerns about nuclear accident evacuation plans following two recent deadly earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture registering a maximum 7 on the Japanese intensity scale.
The government’s evacuation plans are based on the premise of some residents near nuclear plants initially remaining indoors, and having them flee to other prefectures if necessary. But questions have been raised over how effective current plans would be in the event of disasters like those that hit Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011.
“If there were a nuclear accident, remaining indoors would be impossible. The Kumamoto Earthquake has made me even more anxious,” said Ikue Yamaguchi, a 34-year-old public servant raising two children in the Kagoshima Prefecture city of Ichikikushikino. Her home is just around 15 kilometers away from the No. 1 and 2 reactors at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Satsumasendai in the prefecture. The reactors are the only ones currently operating in Japan.
Before the Fukushima nuclear disaster, areas within 8 to 10 kilometer radii of nuclear power plants were designated as being subject to evacuation plans, but after the outbreak of the disaster, the areas were expanded to a 30 kilometer radius. As a result, 135 municipalities in 21 prefectures are now subject to such plans, compared with 45 municipalities in 15 prefectures before the disaster. Altogether, some 4.8 million people, or about 4 percent of the population, are subject to such evacuation plans.
Under government evacuation plans, those living within 5 kilometers of a nuclear power plant are supposed to be evacuated immediately if there are signs of a nuclear accident, while those living 5 to 30 kilometers away are to remain indoors, and then evacuate further away if there are signs that radiation levels are increasing. The Nuclear Regulation Authority says that radiation exposure can be sufficiently reduced in areas between 5 and 30 kilometers from a nuclear power plant by remaining indoors. It adds that if people in those areas go out of their way to evacuate, they could face a heighted risk of radiation exposure and health damage.
But in the case of an earthquake like the temblors that recently struck Kumamoto Prefecture, which left many homes in danger of collapsing, it would be difficult to remain indoors. And not all shelters offer stable protection, either. As of the end of March last year, 85.7 percent of public facilities in Kagoshima Prefecture supposed to be used as shelters during disasters had been reinforced against earthquakes — a figure lower than the national average of 88.3 percent. Ehime Prefecture, which hosts Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata Nuclear Power Plant that is expected to be reactivated in late July, has the nation’s third worst rate, at 79.1 percent.
If an accident were to occur at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, then according to estimates, it could take up to around 29 hours to evacuate some 210,000 people living within a 30 kilometer radius of the plant who would be subject to evacuation. This, however, is based on the premise of people living in areas within 5 to 30 kilometers of the plant initially remaining indoors — if everyone were to start evacuating at once, then it is predicted that transportation networks would become congested, and evacuation would take even longer.
“Even if we were to evacuate indoors, then we would have to go outside (to receive supplies, etc.) and wouldn’t be able to avoid exposure to radiation,” Yamaguchi says. “I would want to evacuate immediately, but evacuation routes would probably be crowded.”
Shunro Iwata, an official at the nuclear safety control division of the Kagoshima Prefectural Government, commented, “When evacuating indoors, people are not forbidden from going outside, so they can go out if the need arises. There would be no immediate effect on health (for radiation levels below the standard reading). We are not in a position to revise plans, and there is no change to the fact that this is the most reasonable approach at present.”
Naoya Sekiya, a specially appointed associate professor at the University of Tokyo who is familiar with evacuation plans during disasters, said it is not realistic to base evacuation plans on the premise of people remaining indoors.
“Evacuation plans should be made with the presumption of a major earthquake cutting off roads and railways. If evacuation orders are issued to people within a five-kilometer radius of a nuclear plant, then obviously people in surrounding areas will start evacuating, too, resulting in further confusion. An evacuation plan based on the premise of people remaining indoors is not realistic,” he said.
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