It’s time for the naysayers to capitulate regarding the Fukushima Crisis; referential articles

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Hi Blog. While I still want to reserve the summer for cycling and outdoor non-blog stuff, one thing has to be said: Fukushima is a mess, just like we suspected it would be. More than five months later, the Japanese public still has insufficient information about what’s going on down there, and people are being slowly poisoned as radiation percolates through the food chain and begins to be picked up overseas. As I’ve said before, this is Japan’s long-burning tyreyard fire, and there is still no end to the crisis in sight.

But one other thing also has to be said.  Back in March, when Debito.org merely had the audacity to raise some questions about the situation and the information we were getting, we were roundly criticized for being “alarmist”, “ignorant”, “wrong”, “reputation-damaging”, and even “racist”.  One even said, “The greatest health effects of all nuclear incidents have been due to the anxiety that people like you are doing their best to ramp up. Thanks a lot for contributing to the problem.”  That’s pretty bold — as if we were trying to instigate a panic and damage people’s health just because we wanted to know more information (which the nuclear industry worldwide keeps a lid on, down to the very science, to keep the public in the dark about their shenanigans and corruption).

Well, guess what critics — five months later, clearly YOU were wrong.

The Fukushima Crisis has exposed the inability of the GOJ (whether you mean politician or bureaucrat) to respond in a timely or safe manner, to follow the rules and safety standards (even changing safe radiation levels to suit political exigency), to show proper leadership or even adequate concern for its citizens in harm’s way, to release facts of the case so that people could make an informed decision, or to acknowledge there had even been a meltdown (something other observers knew based upon reasoned analysis of reactors’ output, but the GOJ would not admit), for months!  The political culture which enables people in power in Japan to evade responsibility is now slowly poisoning Japanese society, if not eventually parts of the world, and that has to be addressed in the arena of public opinion.

Back in March, we at Debito.org did try to err on the side of caution and give some benefiting of the doubt (even shutting ourselves up when we had insufficient information).  We wanted to wait and see how the cards fell.  They clearly fell in favor of our original assertions that we were not being told the full story, and that things were far worse than was being let on.  Now, critics, let’s have some honest capitulation on your part.  You know who you are.  It’s so easy to be a critic, but much harder to admit you’re wrong.  Have the cojones to do that, especially about something as serious and society-changing as this.

Some referential articles follow, showing 1) the slow poisoning of children by Fukushima (NHK World), 2) how deep the institutional rot runs (NY Times), 3) more on the science of radioactivity and how seriously matters are not being taken (Japan Focus), and 4) the new attempts at spin-doctoring the situation, for starters.  Knee-jerk defensive comments that do not reflect a careful reading of these references will not be approved.  I think we’ve had quite enough knee-jerk-ism regarding this subject here already.  Arudou Debito

REFERENTIAL ARTICLES

(Debito.org Readers who wish to post more articles in the Comments Section, please do so with date, link, and pertinent excerpt if not entire article.)

More Fukushima-related articles on Japan Focus, a trustworthy academic site, can be found by plugging in keyword “Fukushima” in their search engine, see http://japanfocus.org/site/search

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Radiation effect on children’s thyroid glands

NHK World Sunday, August 14, 2011 02:16 +0900 (JST)
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/13_26.html Courtesy BCH
A survey shows that a small amount of radioactive iodine has been detected in the thyroid glands of hundreds of children in Fukushima Prefecture.

The result was reported to a meeting of the Japan Pediatric Society in Tokyo on Saturday.

A group of researchers led by Hiroshima University professor Satoshi Tashiro tested 1,149 children in the prefecture for radiation in their thyroid glands in March following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactive iodine was detected in about half of the children.

Tashiro says radiation in thyroid glands exceeding 100 millisieverts poses a threat to humans, but that the highest level in the survey was 35 millisieverts.

Tashiro says based on the result, it is unlikely that thyroid cancer will increase in the future, but that health checks must continue to prepare for any eventuality.
ENDS

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Japan Held Nuclear Data, Leaving Evacuees in Peril

By NORIMITSU ONISHI and MARTIN FACKLER
Published: August 8, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/world/asia/09japan.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

FUKUSHIMA, Japan — The day after a giant tsunami set off the continuing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, thousands of residents at the nearby town of Namie gathered to evacuate.

Given no guidance from Tokyo, town officials led the residents north, believing that winter winds would be blowing south and carrying away any radioactive emissions. For three nights, while hydrogen explosions at four of the reactors spewed radiation into the air, they stayed in a district called Tsushima where the children played outside and some parents used water from a mountain stream to prepare rice.

The winds, in fact, had been blowing directly toward Tsushima — and town officials would learn two months later that a government computer system designed to predict the spread of radioactive releases had been showing just that.

But the forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism. Japan’s political leaders at first did not know about the system and later played down the data, apparently fearful of having to significantly enlarge the evacuation zone — and acknowledge the accident’s severity.

“From the 12th to the 15th we were in a location with one of the highest levels of radiation,” said Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of Namie, which is about five miles from the nuclear plant. He and thousands from Namie now live in temporary housing in another town, Nihonmatsu. “We are extremely worried about internal exposure to radiation.”

The withholding of information, he said, was akin to “murder.”

In interviews and public statements, some current and former government officials have admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order, some of them said, to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry. As the nuclear plant continues to release radiation, some of which has slipped into the nation’s food supply, public anger is growing at what many here see as an official campaign to play down the scope of the accident and the potential health risks.

Seiki Soramoto, a lawmaker and former nuclear engineer to whom Prime Minister Naoto Kan turned for advice during the crisis, blamed the government for withholding forecasts from the computer system, known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, or Speedi.

“In the end, it was the prime minister’s office that hid the Speedi data,” he said. “Because they didn’t have the knowledge to know what the data meant, and thus they did not know what to say to the public, they thought only of their own safety, and decided it was easier just not to announce it.”

In an interview, Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, dismissed accusations that political considerations had delayed the release of the early Speedi data. He said that they were not disclosed because they were incomplete and inaccurate, and that he was presented with the data for the first time only on March 23.

“And on that day, we made them public,” said Mr. Hosono, who was one of the prime minister’s closest advisers in the early days of the crisis before being named nuclear disaster minister. “As for before that, I myself am not sure. In the days before that, which were a matter of life and death for Japan as a nation, I wasn’t taking part in what was happening with Speedi.”

The computer forecasts were among many pieces of information the authorities initially withheld from the public.

Meltdowns at three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors went officially unacknowledged for months. In one of the most damning admissions, nuclear regulators said in early June that inspectors had found tellurium 132, which experts call telltale evidence of reactor meltdowns, a day after the tsunami — but did not tell the public for nearly three months. For months after the disaster, the government flip-flopped on the level of radiation permissible on school grounds, causing continuing confusion and anguish about the safety of schoolchildren here in Fukushima.

Too Late

The timing of many admissions — coming around late May and early June, when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Japan and before Japan was scheduled to deliver a report on the accident at an I.A.E.A. conference — suggested to critics that Japan’s nuclear establishment was coming clean only because it could no longer hide the scope of the accident. On July 4, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, a group of nuclear scholars and industry executives, said, “It is extremely regrettable that this sort of important information was not released to the public until three months after the fact, and only then in materials for a conference overseas.”

The group added that the authorities had yet to disclose information like the water level and temperature inside reactor pressure vessels that would yield a fuller picture of the damage. Other experts have said the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, have yet to reveal plant data that could shed light on whether the reactors’ cooling systems were actually knocked out solely by the 45-foot-tall tsunami, as officials have maintained, or whether damage from the earthquake also played a role, a finding that could raise doubts about the safety of other nuclear plants in a nation as seismically active as Japan.

Government officials insist that they did not knowingly imperil the public.

“As a principle, the government has never acted in such a way as to sacrifice the public’s health or safety,” said Mr. Hosono, the nuclear disaster minister.

Here in the prefecture’s capital and elsewhere, workers are removing the surface soil from schoolyards contaminated with radioactive particles from the nuclear plant. Tens of thousands of children are being kept inside school buildings this hot summer, where some wear masks even though the windows are kept shut. Many will soon be wearing individual dosimeters to track their exposure to radiation.

At Elementary School No. 4 here, sixth graders were recently playing shogi and go, traditional board games, inside. Nao Miyabashi, 11, whose family fled here from Namie, said she was afraid of radiation. She tried not to get caught in the rain. She gargled and washed her hands as soon as she got home.

“I want to play outside,” she said.

About 45 percent of 1,080 children in three Fukushima communities surveyed in late March tested positive for thyroid exposure to radiation, according to a recent announcement by the government, which added that the levels were too low to warrant further examination. Many experts both in and outside Japan are questioning the government’s assessment, pointing out that in Chernobyl, most of those who went on to suffer from thyroid cancer were children living near that plant at the time of the accident.

Critics inside and outside the Kan administration argue that some of the exposure could have been prevented if officials had released the data sooner.

On the evening of March 15, Mr. Kan called Mr. Soramoto, who used to design nuclear plants for Toshiba, to ask for his help in managing the escalating crisis. Mr. Soramoto formed an impromptu advisory group, which included his former professor at the University of Tokyo, Toshiso Kosako, a top Japanese expert on radiation measurement.

Mr. Kosako, who studied the Soviet response to the Chernobyl crisis, said he was stunned at how little the leaders in the prime minister’s office knew about the resources available to them. He quickly advised the chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, to use Speedi, which used measurements of radioactive releases, as well as weather and topographical data, to predict where radioactive materials could travel after being released into the atmosphere.

Speedi had been designed in the 1980s to make forecasts of radiation dispersal that, according to the prime minister’s office’s own nuclear disaster manuals, were supposed to be made available at least to local officials and rescue workers in order to guide evacuees away from radioactive plumes.

And indeed, Speedi had been churning out maps and other data hourly since the first hours after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. But the Education Ministry had not provided the data to the prime minister’s office because, it said, the information was incomplete. The tsunami had knocked out sensors at the plant: without measurements of how much radiation was actually being released by the plant, they said, it was impossible to measure how far the radioactive plume was stretching.

“Without knowing the strength of the releases, there was no way we could take responsibility if evacuations were ordered,” said Keiji Miyamoto of the Education Ministry’s nuclear safety division, which administers Speedi.

The government had initially resorted to drawing rings around the plant, evacuating everyone within a radius of first 1.9 miles, then 6.2 miles and then 12.4 miles, widening the rings as the scale of the disaster became clearer.

But even with incomplete data, Mr. Kosako said he urged the government to use Speedi by making educated guesses as to the levels of radiation release, which would have still yielded usable maps to guide evacuation plans. In fact, the ministry had done precisely that, running simulations on Speedi’s computers of radiation releases. Some of the maps clearly showed a plume of nuclear contamination extending to the northwest of the plant, beyond the areas that were initially evacuated.

However, Mr. Kosako said, the prime minister’s office refused to release the results even after it was made aware of Speedi, because officials there did not want to take responsibility for costly evacuations if their estimates were later called into question.

A wider evacuation zone would have meant uprooting hundreds of thousands of people and finding places for them to live in an already crowded country. Particularly in the early days after the earthquake, roads were blocked and trains were not running. These considerations made the government desperate to limit evacuations beyond the 80,000 people already moved from areas around the plant, as well as to avoid compensation payments to still more evacuees, according to current and former officials interviewed.

Mr. Kosako said the top advisers to the prime minister repeatedly ignored his frantic requests to make the Speedi maps public, and he resigned in April over fears that children were being exposed to dangerous radiation levels.

Some advisers to the prime minister argue that the system was not that useful in predicting the radiation plume’s direction. Shunsuke Kondo, who heads the Atomic Energy Commission, an advisory body in the Cabinet Office, said that the maps Speedi produced in the first days were inconsistent, and changed several times a day depending on wind direction.

“Why release something if it was not useful?” said Mr. Kondo, also a retired professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tokyo. “Someone on the ground in Fukushima, looking at which way the wind was blowing, would have known just as much.”

Mr. Kosako and others, however, say the Speedi maps would have been extremely useful in the hands of someone who knew how to sort through the system’s reams of data. He said the Speedi readings were so complex, and some of the predictions of the spread of radiation contamination so alarming, that three separate government agencies — the Education Ministry and the two nuclear regulators, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Nuclear Safety Commission — passed the data to one another like a hot potato, with none of them wanting to accept responsibility for its results.

In interviews, officials at the ministry and the agency each pointed fingers, saying that the other agency was responsible for Speedi. The head of the commission declined to be interviewed.

Mr. Baba, the mayor of Namie, said that if the Speedi data had been made available sooner, townspeople would have naturally chosen to flee to safer areas. “But we didn’t have the information,” he said. “That’s frustrating.”

Evacuees now staying in temporary prefabricated homes in Nihonmatsu said that, believing they were safe in Tsushima, they took few precautions. Yoko Nozawa, 70, said that because of the lack of toilets, they resorted to pits in the ground, where doses of radiation were most likely higher.

“We were in the worst place, but didn’t know it,” Ms. Nozawa said. “Children were playing outside.”

A neighbor, Hiroyuki Oto, 31, said he was working at the plant for a Tepco subcontractor at the time of the earthquake and was now in temporary lodging with his wife and three young children, after also staying in Tsushima. “The effects might emerge only years from now,” he said of the exposure to radiation. “I’m worried about my kids.”

Seeds of Mistrust

Mr. Hosono, the minister charged with dealing with the nuclear crisis, has said that certain information, including the Speedi data, had been withheld for fear of “creating a panic.” In an interview, Mr. Hosono — who now holds nearly daily news conferences with Tepco officials and nuclear regulators — said that the government had “changed its thinking” and was trying to release information as fast as possible.

Critics, as well as the increasingly skeptical public, seem unconvinced. They compare the response to the Minamata case in the 1950s, a national scandal in which bureaucrats and industry officials colluded to protect economic growth by hiding the fact that a chemical factory was releasing mercury into Minamata Bay in western Japan. The mercury led to neurological illnesses in thousands of people living in the region and was captured in wrenching photographs of stricken victims.

“If they wanted to protect people, they had to release information immediately,” said Reiko Seki, a sociologist at Rikkyo University in Tokyo and an expert on the cover-up of the Minamata case. “Despite the experience with Minamata, they didn’t release Speedi.”

In Koriyama, a city about 40 miles west of the nuclear plant, a group of parents said they had stopped believing in government reassurances and recently did something unthinkable in a conservative, rural area: they sued. Though their suit seeks to force Koriyama to relocate their children to a safer area, their real aim is to challenge the nation’s handling of evacuations and the public health crisis.

After the nuclear disaster, the government raised the legal exposure limit to radiation from one to 20 millisieverts a year for people, including children — effectively allowing them to continue living in communities from which they would have been barred under the old standard. The limit was later scaled back to one millisievert per year, but applied only to children while they were inside school buildings.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Toshio Yanagihara, said the authorities were withholding information to deflect attention from the nuclear accident’s health consequences, which will become clear only years later.

“Because the effects don’t emerge immediately, they can claim later on that cigarettes or coffee caused the cancer,” he said.

The Japanese government is considering monitoring the long-term health of Fukushima residents and taking appropriate measures in the future, said Yasuhiro Sonoda, a lawmaker and parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office. The mayor of Koriyama, Masao Hara, said he did not believe that the government’s radiation standards were unsafe. He said it was “unrealistic” to evacuate the city’s 33,000 elementary and junior high school students.

But Koriyama went further than the government’s mandates, removing the surface soil from its schools before national directives and imposing tougher inspection standards than those set by the country’s education officials.

“The Japanese people, after all, have a high level of knowledge,” the mayor said, “so I think information should be disclosed correctly and quickly so that the people can make judgments, especially the people here in Fukushima.”
ENDS

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Radiation Effects on Health: Protect the Children of Fukushima

Kodama TatsuhikoProfessor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo Head, Radioisotope Center, the University of Tokyo

Talk at the July 27, 2011 meeting of the Committee on Welfare and Labor of the House of Representatives

…In that case, the total dose is not much of an issue; rather, the density of radiation in each individual is the focus. However, following the recent accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, 5 μSv within 100 kilometers and 0.5 μSv within 200 kilometers from the complex were recorded. And as all of you know now, radiation reached further beyond to affect Ashigara and Shizuoka tea leaves.When we examine radiation poisoning, we look at the entire amount. TEPCO and the government have never clearly reported on the total amount of radiation doses resulting from the Fukushima nuclear accident. When we calculate on the basis of the knowledge available at our Radioisotope Center, in terms of the quantity of heat, the equivalent of 29.6 Hiroshima a-bombs leaked. Converted to uranium, an amount equivalent to 20 Hiroshima a-bombs is estimated to have leaked.

What is further dreadful is that, according to what we know so far, when we compare the amount of radiation that remained after the a-bomb and that of radiation from the nuclear plant, that of the former goes down to one-thousandth after one year whereas radioactive contaminants of the latter are reduced to only one-tenth.

In other words, in thinking about the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, the first premise is that, as in the case of Chernobyl, an amount of radiation equivalent to tens of a-bombs was released and far greater contamination remains afterward compared with the a-bomb…

Rest of the article at: http://japanfocus.org/-Kodama-Tatsuhiko/3587

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Fukushima forced depopulation, Japanese plead world aid

, Human Rights Examiner, August 22, 2011, Examiner.com, courtesy BCH (excerpt)

After “off-scale” radiation contamination at Fukushima was reported in early August, this weekend extremely excessive radiation contamination around Fukushima reported by the Ministry of Science and Education is forcing the Japanese government toward what New York Times termed “long-term depopulation” with an announcement making the area officially uninhabitable for decades, as Japanese people, including radiation refugees, plead for global help to survive human right to health violations experienced since March when Japan’s ever worsening nuclear power plant catastrophe began.

The government is expected to make a formal announcement telling many of the radiation refugees that they will be prohibited from returning to their homes indefinitely according to several Japanese news reports over the weekend reported the New York Times on Monday.

“Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels, several major media outlets said Monday.”

Fukushima area being uninhabited for decades is no surprise to many independent nuclear experts or lay persons aware that has been case for areas around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine after its 1986 catastrophic accident. Today, an estimated five million people in the Ukraine suffer Chernobyl radiation deformities and cancer, many of whom were not born when that catastrophe began, according to a recent Australia CBS report. (See: “Fukushima now radiating everyone: ‘Unspeakable’ reality,” Dupré, August 16, 2011)

Examiner colleague, Alfred Lambremont reported in early July that, “Leuren Moret [MA, PhD (ABT)] released her court statement as expert witness in a lawsuit brought to force government officials to evacuate more than 350,000 children from the Fukushima area where they are being forcibly exposed by the government to lethal doses of radiation.”

The anticipated Japanese government relocation announcement would be the “first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant” reported The New York Times.

This forced depopulation issue is one that “scientists and some officials have been warning about for months” and criticized the government for not doing sooner. New York Times reports that:

“… evacuations have been a sensitive topic for the government, which has been criticized for being slow to admit the extent of the disaster and trying to limit the size of the areas affected, despite possible risks to public health. Until now, Tokyo had been saying it would lift the current evacuation orders for most areas around the plant early next year, when workers are expected to stabilize Fukushima Daiichi’s damaged nuclear reactors.”

U.S. involvement in nuclear genocide abroad and at home has been recorded by Leuren Moret who wrote in her Court statement:

“Instead of evacuation, the government gives the children (sick with radiation symptoms) film badges to measure the external exposure dose… another study group like U.S. govt. studies on Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims (they are still being studied), Iraq victims, Gaza victims. And the U.S. government did the same thing to Americans during 1300 nuclear bomb tests in the US.”

Radiation deniers foster nuclear industry

There have been Japanese government televised programs espousing Plutonium is good for humans.

After the Fukushima nuclear power plant catastrophe began, the nuclear industry urgently redoubled efforts to convince the world that nuclear radiation is safe and even more, “they are trying to say that radiation is actually good for us” according to Noel Wauchope.

“The whole idea of radiation is good for you is not new,” said Nuclear News editor Christina MacPherson in an email to Dupré.  “It was pushed a few years back by Frenchman Bruno Comby with his ‘environmentalists for nuclear power’ campaign.”

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Continue reading on Examiner.com Fukushima forced depopulation, Japanese plead world aid (video) – National Human Rights | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/human-rights-in-national/fukushima-forced-depopulation-japanese-plead-world-aid-video#ixzz1W3AdOlmn

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More Fukushima-related articles on Japan Focus, a trustworthy academic site, can be found by plugging in keyword “Fukushima” in their search engine, see http://japanfocus.org/site/search
ends

74 comments on “It’s time for the naysayers to capitulate regarding the Fukushima Crisis; referential articles

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  • Will Crowbourne says:

    It comes as no surprise that gathering evidence is mounting to prove that the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear disaster was far worse than officially recorded. During the crisis itself, I a former resident of Japan who now lives in Europe, followed Western Media outlets. I was struck by the difference between what Nuclear experts were saying and what the J-government were saying about the disaster. In fact, having seen how the J-gov act with regards to other incidents I was able to turn round to my partner, a student of Japanese, and predict the truth of each of official pronouncement. Within days each prediction proved to be true.

    I hope that does not sound too big headed or anything, but that’s how it is. It always struck me, in Japan and even more since leaving it, how blind some people can be. I felt the JET Programme, for whom I worked, was aimed at producing people to go home and promote Japan to their home countries. This idea seems to have worked with a good number of people, who live blinded to the huge social, demographic, environmental and economic problems Japan has.

    These same people are the naysayers you are referring to. There was one campaign on Facebook that I am aware of that called for the foreign media to be reasonable. They believed the foreigners were hyping up the story and being alarmist. Now finally facts are coming from Japan that they were just being right.

    Just don’t go expecting any apologies from them. Such people will just go on blindly believing.

  • People’s opinions and understanding are shaped by their information sources, and these days it is difficult (at least for me) to trust information coming from the mainstream media, ie. corporate-owned and state-owned network tv news, newspapers, and magazines.

    I rely on alternative media for real news as I feel they are legitimate “truth seekers”, however I also keep my eye on mainstream news to see what they are saying, and decide based on evidence who or what I believe.

    After the earthquake and tsunami, I read reports from my alternative media sources that the Fukushima nuclear plant was experiencing meltdowns, and crazy amounts of radiation were spreading not only around northern Japan, but around the whole northern hemisphere. This was in the first few days after the tsunami and supposed hydrogen explosions at the nuke plant.

    When I saw these reports I immediately went into denial mode, as I felt this was either fear-mongering or if it were true, it was just too much for me to handle. These sources of information are usually, if not always, correct in their analyses of world events and issues, so I suppose the latter was true for me – I didn’t want to believe that a meltdown and excessive amounts of radiation being released could actually be happening.

    I kept an open mind on the subject as I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions or criticize anybody, and over the next few weeks I read all kinds of conflicting information about the issue, and about radiation’s effects on the body. It seemed scientists were divided about the how much radiation is acceptable, but then again, what are these scientist’s motivations or who is influencing their “expert opinions”? Science (and gov’ts) have literally been hijacked by big business, so who can we trust??

    Well, around the middle of May, the mainstream news started reporting that meltdowns had in fact occurred in those first few days after the tsunami, just like the alternative media had reported 2 months earlier!! The difference is the alt. media’s sources of information were independent scientists and analysts, while the mainstream media relied on Tepco and the Japanese gov’t for information.

    I can somewhat sympathize with people who don’t want to hear about meltdowns and radiation, as they’d rather carry on with their lives uninterrupted than worry about a silent, invisible, slow-kill monster. The effects may not be seen for years, so people may think – why worry now? And besides where are tens of millions of people going to go?
    It is hard for people to accept the truth, so denial is the best thing they can do, in their minds. I guess over time they will accept it, especially if they have to deal with health problems caused by radiation.

    All I can say is that this has strengthened my belief in seeking out the truth using alternative media sources, and keeping an open mind about information, rather than dismissing anybody who challenges the “official” version of events as a “conspiracy theorist”. People have to realize that this kind of thinking is really just their defense mechanisms kicking in when they receive information that conflicts with their beliefs, scares them into denial, or causes them to question their faith in the belief that their government, corporations, and the media are working in the public’s best interest.

    — I don’t mind people questioning sources or the data as presented. I do mind when people call into question our motives, and in this case so viciously at that. Quite frankly, I think they owe us at least an apology for the tone.

  • Thank you very much for posting this, Debito.

    Bet all the folks who made fun of “flyjin” are feeling pretty stupid now, huh?

    — Sadly, I doubt it. Haters gotta hate.

  • “people are being slowly poisoned”

    Oh stop your stupid scaremongering. More people get killed by hornets. I’m not denying it is a horrible thing to have happened to the people who live nearby and who have lost their homes, neither am I defending the incompetence of the Govt and Tepco, but the simple fact is that the risk from radiation is utterly negligible on a personal level.

    What is actually harming and even killing people in measurable levels is the life in refugee centres, of course. And that does affect nuclear evacuees the same as tsunami evacuees.

    What is the actual basis of this radiation hysteria? Why have you never written about the “radium onsens” where the level of radiation is orders of magnitude higher than the current contamination that you now claim is “poisoning society”? It’s just not significantly dangerous at the low levels that we are seeing.

    — Look, I don’t understand why you are so hostile towards our discussion, and why you are trying to shut us up. Evidence is mounting from credible sources that there is a growing problem here that has been willfully covered up. I’ll take reports from media such as the New York Times over your “simple facts”-cum-facile assertions any day.

    Simply accusing us of scaremongering over and over is getting tedious, and furthermore saying that we are part of the problem merely for wanting to have a discussion about what’s coming out at last is pretty disingenuous. You can choose not to believe this information or take it seriously, but many of us here do, so we are not going to shut up. So either discuss constructively or don’t bother commenting.

  • I still see nothing to suggest that things are as bad as the doomsayers have been saying. So the Japanese government is obfuscating. Big surprise. I don’t think anyone ever argued that they wouldn’t. Where is the hard scientific evidence that this is as bad or worse a disaster as Chernobyl, like many have been claiming all along. Where are the national and international spikes in cancer levels? Where is the contaminated food? Where is the overwhelmingly conclusive evidence of meaningful radiation spikes outside the immediate disaster area?

    There’s nothing worse that a gloater. Especially when he doesn’t really have much to gloat about

    — I can think of something worse than a gloater. A hypocrite. And gloating is not the intent of this blog entry, so tone it down.

    But anyway, information on comparisons with Chernobyl, which are available at the Japan Focus site I recommended:

    What Price the Fukushima Meltdown? Comparing Chernobyl and Fukushima
    Matthew Penney and Mark Selden
    http://japanfocus.org/-Mark-Selden/3535

    Fukushima is Worse than Chernobyl – on Global Contamination
    Interview by Norimatsu Satoko and Narusawa Muneo
    http://japanfocus.org/-Chris-Busby/3563

  • Eamon Watters says:

    I’m just chipping in to say I’m in agreement with James on this – despite the incompetence of the Government and TEPCO* there is little solid evidence to say that we’re facing a health catastrophe directly from Fukushima. The fact is that worry, and the unhealthy conditions the evacuees must live in, will have a much greater toll on their health than any radioisotopic effects. The former was concluded from studies on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    As for the Chris Busby interview you provide in post 7, Dr Busby is a maverick in his field, with very unorthodox views (e.g. low doses of radiation being much deadlier than high levels). His views should be taken with a pinch of salt. The “European Committee on Radiation Risk” that he is a member of, and which features largely in the link comparing Fukushima and Chernobyl is not an official body, despite it’s grandiose title – it is a grouping of like-minded individuals, and so should not be considered authoritative. As for Alexey V. Yablokov, also mentioned in the piece – his report on Chernobyl is highly contentious, not peer reviewed (essential in science) – hand has been largely criticized in the field of Radiation Safety.

    Of course, none of this means that this unorthodox research is not correct – but it is an indicator of the weight that should be placed upon them.

  • Eamon Watters says:

    Forgot my addendum:

    *and who honestly expects that the incompetence of the Government, the Bureaucracy, and other Private enterprises is only confined to nuclear power generation? Tohoku was not prepared for the ‘predicted’ tsunami – who was responsible for that? We’ve seen mass poisonings, food safety cock-ups, dispatch agency manslaughters, a certain company testing unsafe trucks on the roads – better hope whoever is involved in ensuring the safety of Japan’s dams stands out from the pack!

  • As a biochemist, I also found the notions spread at that time, that “radioactivity is in reality quite harmless” and that the real problem was “exaggeration by the Western media” quite absurd.
    And, the real health damage from this event will take many years to materialize. Cancer doesn’t always develop in a few months.

  • I am with Debito on this one. I think some of what’s happening here though is self-delusion and the people who were arguing against Debito’s point were in some cases trying to convince themselves that everything will be alright. I wish that were the case but it is unlikely. From what I am reading officially Fukushima is about the equivalent of 50% of Chernobyl now but in my experience the estimates will be lower than the reality. That’s not to say that you can’t live in these conditions and be fine but the closer you live to Fukushima the higher the risk. Even the relatively minor disaster of Windscale caused a surge in Leukemia in the following decade. Of course the powers that be tried to deny the connection and I understand that correlation and causation and not the same

    Read these two articles and tell us you feel everything will be OK: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110825n1.html [both articles from same link]

  • All you naysayers can shove it! I lived in Fukushima City until a couple months ago. I bought two different Geiger counters to take readings at my son’s preschool and in and around my house. The level of radiation is five to six times the legal limit set by the nuclear safety consortiums at 1.0 millisieverts per year. I had no other recourse but to evacuate my family from the house we built three years ago.

    For you dip shits that are asking where the cancer diagnosis are, it takes years for the symptoms to set in. Look it up yourselves. Cancer doesn’t “just happen”.

    Even if we had not evacuated and had taken precautions such as wearing a mask and never going outside our sealed house, we would still gain exposure to higher than normal amounts of radiation via food and water consumtion.

    As it is now, kids can’t even play outside in the parks because they’re too irradiated. The local and national governments don’t advertise these facts.

    Go to Fukushima City, some 60 KM from ground zero and bring a Geiger counter! I challenge you to bring your kids there and live. Then we can freaken talk!

    Posted below is a link to a YouTube video which is of a meeting that took place at A city office ( Korrase, nishiguchi) in Fukushima City. You can see first hand the ineptitude of the city officials and their wanton denial thereof.

    http://www.japanprobe.com/2011/07/26/fukushima-residents-angrily-shout-at-mid-level-bureaucrat-demand-he-accept-bottled-urine/

    I must admit that even I had doubts about what Debito was saying before he went on his yearly biking escapade, but I was surely put in my damn place once I took my own readings which I verified with a professor from Fukushima University who is a friend of mine. In addition, I’d just like to say that my father in law is the chief head of a hospital in Date City. He has had to go to many farewell parties for colleagues who have evacuated themselves to neighboring Yamagata Prefecture. Even some doctors are voluntarily leaving for fear of their families long term health prospects.

    It’s time to eat some crow! I did. Chow the hell down!

  • @James Annan: You’re just not getting it. Hornets? Simple, keep your kids away from places where they are likely to come into contact with them. Radium onsen? Simple, don’t take your kids there (granny might by okay, though). But when it comes to the food that they eat at school, the water that they drink, the air that they breathe … what are you gonna do, stop them from eating, drinking and breathing anything at all? How do you do that?

    @Tom: It’s been what, all of five months. How do you demonstrate a cancer spike in that time? And if the Japanese government is obfuscating, as you freely acknowledge, then you’re probably not going to get an awful lot of hard scientific evidence anyway.

  • Debito:

    You are obviously correct that the major problem, and the problem that has led to all other problems, is the lack of honesty and transparency by the government towards the people.

    That lack, compounded by incompetence, created the problems in planning and execution by the government prior to the accident, and is creating the problems since the accident.

    Rather than having a pointless debate on the hazards of ionising radiation (this is not a blog essentially focused on, and with an audience of radiation and health scientists, after all), the focus should be on the failure by government to its citizens.

    As to the fears and concerns held by people (whether scientifically justified or not), the fact is that there exists within the minds of people great uncertainty and fears as to what the real threats are.

    And, because the government has shown itself to be unreliable in its duty to represent the public interest, fears and concerns (even if unjustified scientically) will proliferate.

    The government, as has been noted, has generally shown itself to be unable and unwilling to serve as the representative of the public good, and in a wide variety of areas.

    People cannot evaluate the underlying science and what it means to the public; that is the role of government.

    Fundamentally, therefore, the real problem is the failure of government to fulfill its role of acting in the public interest.

  • I remember posting my technical discussion of what was going on at Fukushima and I was basically trashed by commenters on this site for doing so.

    Unfortunately my analysis was proved correct and meltdowns were admitted to by TEPCO.

    I am glad Debito-san that you chose to publish this item as the units are still not in a cold shutdown state and it does not look like they will be for the foreseeable future.

    Enjoy your summer

  • http://www.fairewinds.com/content/new-data-supports-previous-fairewinds-analysis-contamination-spreads-japan-and-worldwide

    Ending comments from the transcript:

    “Japan has a problem, a tough problem. But in order to solve the tough problem, first you have to recognize there is a tough problem. And this constant ignoring of the significance of the problem by the Japanese government is, in fact, making the problem longer, and eventually more costly, than doing it right the first time.

    I think the Japanese need to recognize that they have a problem. And it is serious and they have to recognize that it is going to cost a lot of money to fix. But it is fixable if it begins with the concept that there is a serious problem that needs to be solved.”

    http://www.fairewinds.com is a good place to look for (largely) scientific analysis, presented by a Nuclear engineer (as opposed to arm chair diehard Naysaying Japan Fans).

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    These naysayers just don’t care what people on this blog say simply because they don’t like us holding and engaging in a critical-rational deliberation. They will likely vent off their ire on liberals and progressives for promoting a various form of public advocacy such as environmental activism, anti-abortion, or GLBT movement. Their paranoid pretty much resonates with anti-intellectualism by the rightists in a western society…

    It’s obvious to many people that the central government failed to provide the information to the residents and evacuees thoroughly and on a timely manner. It’s been more than 5 months since the reactors got crippled and began emitting radioactive substances on March 11.

    Yes, “people are slowly poisoned” because the duct is still open since the TEPCO decided to turn it on to suck in the seawater in a failed attempt to cool down the reactor on March 13. They NEED to find a way to turn it off eventually. Otherwise, they will end up toxifying not only the people in Fukushima but the whole environment in Japan.

  • j_jobseeker says:

    Debito,
    Glad to have you back on this issue. For my part, I am always of the mind that somewhere between the worse news and the best news is the “real” news. In the case of this nuclear crisis in Fukushima, in those early days there were the staunch anti-nuclear people who were churning out the worst case scenarios. On the other hand, there was TEPCO and the GOJ taking a slower approach and limiting the news they let out (for whatever reasons which are superfluous to this discussion). Some where in between there is/was the truth. I take this view to keep myself from overreacting to the worst kinds of alarmist (not referring to you Debito) news nor being duped by those trying to protect their interests. In any emergency situation, thinking for oneself, gathering your own evidence and making an educated choice or guess if that’s the best you have, is the best way to respond.

    Sadly, Japanese society is rife with stark needle swings from one direction to another, riding the waves of the latest “boom” then quickly forgetting that for whatever comes next. If I were playing devil’s advocate, releasing data too early without proper explanation (or ability to explain it) is at least an understandable-if unreasonable-presumption for the GOJ to have made in order to spread panic, say like the buying binges in response to all the rumors floating around on the net.

    There’s a little blurb in the first article referenced that says:

    “the prime minister’s office refused to release the results even after it was made aware of Speedi, because officials there did not want to take responsibility for costly evacuations if their estimates were later called into question.”

    Now think about that. A still two-year-old DPJ constantly under attack by the LDP (who set up Japan’s nuclear policies, dolled out “nuclear money” to the cities hosting a nuclear plant, set up the nuclear safety ministry under the METI, and so on) for anything and everything it had been doing–resulting in PM Hatoyama quitting and a heated campaign for PM Kan to step down just prior to the earthquake hitting–being afraid of making a decision in which it could be criticized further. You may not agree with the decision, but at least understand where that mind set comes from.

    In a country that has plowed through 5 (soon to be 6) Prime Ministers in as many years, is there any doubt that the handling of something so monumental as the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster would be loused up? The entire political environment has degenerated to a game of political musical chairs with Nagatacho as the prize–all to the detriment of the people. But sadly, it is the people who have put these clowns in their positions of power; a populace who can be easily manipulated by public opinion poles without so much as to question the facts or their sources or research the truth for themselves. If any good comes out of this crisis, I hope it will be a much more cynical Japanese citizenry who will question, openly, what the hell their leaders are doing and call them out on their incompetence. Only time will tell….

  • I concur with Debito, and, sadly this was predictable. The GOJ is the consummate “sweeper under the carpet” of facts it would rather not deal with. Below is a link to other posts which I’ve perused of late, and it appears that it’s not only the GOJ which has been deliberately, and I would say maliciously, negligent.

    http://northerntruthseeker.blogspot.com/search?q=fukushima&updated-max=2011-08-11T08%3A22%3A00-05%3A00&max-results=20

    Each of these posts are re-posts from an ever widening sphere of items concerned with the spread of radiation left unchecked. If one was at all given to leaning in the direction of conspiracies, it would be easy to arrive at the idea that it is deliberate, a kind of culling of the sheeple, so to speak. Two other aspects of this saga remain unaddressed: the company responsible for security at Fukushima was Israeli based, and the Stuxnet virus was found in the backup systems, in effect causing this meltdown. http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/news/intrnational/2011/08/14/564.html It has been floated in intelligence circles that Japan was in the business of reprocessing fuel for re-delivery to Iran’s nuclear program, and that this was a de-facto terror attack, to teach the country a lesson.

    Also:
    http://blog.alexanderhiggins.com/?s=fukushima
    and scroll down the center for the section titled: Japan Nuclear Disaster here, http://www.rense.com
    and more than a thousand items here: http://www.google.com/search?aq=f&hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&btnmeta_news_search=1&q=radiation+leaks%2C+fukushima

    Debito is right. Fukushima is a mess. No amount of head-tilting, comb-over’d penpushers sucking in wind through their teeth will fix it. It has obviously evolved into something beyond the competence of the GOJ or TEPCO. To heck with sovereignty, it’s time to bring in some experts to DO something about this. Before the radiation contaminates the entire planet.

  • “what are you gonna do, stop them from eating, drinking and breathing anything at all? How do you do that?”

    No, I wouldn’t do any of that, because I don’t hyperventilate over negligible risks. I hope you don’t do anything as dangerous as crossing the road.

    See the last paragraph here for the relevance of that particular comparison:-

    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2011/03/radiation-risks.html

    I don’t trust the JGovt and any similarity between my attitude and theirs is essentially coincidental. I do trust my own ability to understand the scientific facts and judge the risks for myself. If you aren’t up to this task, then that’s fine, you can choose to do what you want, but it doesn’t make you right! All the available evidence is that the risks are basically too small to be worth wasting any worry over.

    James

  • All you have to look at to see what is likely is Chernobyl. Evacuation zones that cannot be returned to for generations, belts where the kids all got thyroid cancer, food that has to be tested for radiation decades into the future. Much produce and meat from Fukushima and even surrounding prefectures is not safe to eat, just as in Europe as far away as Germany wild boar meat is still not safe. Decommissioning the reactors will take decades, perhaps a half century or more. Like the Chernobyl reactor, it will be a festering sore that will require maintainence for decades into the future, and may end up in a concrete sarcophagus. The Mainichi has an English article:

    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110828p2a00m0na002000c.html

    The great part is the ironic tag line, “Regardless, what we face is a great unknown to all of mankind.” Tell that to people of the Ukraine and Belarus. This is what happens when things go really wrong at a fission plant. Only due to meteorological and seasonal luck did the wind blow most of the worst of the contamination out to sea, if it had blown toward Tokyo instead we would be seeing the world’s first half-abandoned, contaminated megacity. What if this happens again?

    Japan may better manage this than the Soviets in some ways – through testing of food and permanent evacuation of contaminated areas, perhaps they will manage to avoid most problems with cancer. Perhaps very few people will die from this. However, they will have to admit that some people’s land is now a permanent nature park that will NOT be decontaminated (because there is simply too much contaminated area and it is too difficult to make it safe) except by time measured in decades if not centuries, and that the livelihoods of most of the farmers and ranchers in Fukushima are gone for good. Those of you who say nuclear is so safe, tell those people about how few people have died from nuclear power. I’m sure they will be very impressed.

    Some things are just bad ideas. Nuclear fission power is one of them. I understand why Japan went for it – modern, western society is based on the consumption of tremendous amounts of energy and resources, and Japan lacks oil and coal on the scale neccessary to do it with fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources are not as consistent or energy dense, and so would require some social adjustment to using less energy as well as a long time to build up the capacity. Now people are dealing with that anyway…

    ARTICLE:
    Experts split on how to decommission Fukushima nuclear plant
    (Mainichi Japan) August 28, 2011

    An experiment to decontaminate soil is conducted in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, on Aug. 11. (Mainichi)
    What is actually going to take place at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, where word is that the four reactors that were crippled in the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami will eventually be decommissioned?

    The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) defines “decommissioning” as the process of removing spent fuel from reactors and dismantling all facilities. Ultimately, the site of a decommissioned reactor is meant to be reverted into a vacant lot.

    In 1996, the then Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) — now the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) — finished decommissioning its Japan Power Demonstration Reactor. The decommissioning process of the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant in the Ibaraki Prefecture village of Tokai began in 1998 and is set to end in fiscal 2020, while the No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear reactors at the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in the Shizuoka Prefecture city of Omaezaki are slated for decommissioning by fiscal 2036. Around the world, only around 15 nuclear reactors have thus far been dismantled.

    The standard decommissioning process entails six major steps: 1. Remove spent fuel rods, 2. Remove radioactive materials that have become affixed to reactor pipes and containers, 3. Wait for radiation levels to go down with time, 4. Dismantle reactors and other internal vessels and pipes, 5. Dismantle the reactor buildings, and 6. Make the site into a vacant lot.

    “Cleaning,” “waiting,” and “dismantling” are the three key actions in this process. Needless to say, this all needs to be done while simultaneously containing radioactive materials.

    In the case of the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant, the first commercial plant to undergo decommissioning, spent fuel was removed over a span of three years beginning in 1998, and was transported to Britain for reprocessing. Dismantling of the facilities began in 2001, with current efforts being made toward the dismantling of heat exchangers; workers have not yet begun to take the reactor itself apart. The entire process is expected to be an 88.5-billion-yen project involving 563,000 people.

    Hitachi Ltd., which manufactures nuclear reactors, says that it “generally takes about 30 years” to decommission a reactor. The Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors operated by Chubu Electric Power Co. are also expected to take about 30 years before they are decommissioned.

    In the case of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, meanwhile, the biggest challenge lies in how to remove the fuel, says Tadashi Inoue, a research advisor at the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI), a foundation that conducts research on energy and environmental issues in relation to the electrical power industry. Inoue has long been engaged in research concerning nuclear fuel and reprocessing, and as a member of a special committee in the Cabinet Office’s Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), is deliberating mid- to long-term technological milestones for the stricken Fukushima plant.

    “But,” Inoue continues, “we must deal with rubble contaminated with radioactive materials that were scattered in the hydrogen blasts and treat the radiation-tainted water being used to cool nuclear fuel before we can go on to fuel removal.”

    Currently, the Fukushima plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), is desperately trying to treat the contaminated water. Huge challenges remain with regards to the contaminated rubble, as radiation levels of over 10 sieverts per hour were found near outdoor pipes on the plant grounds just the other day. Exposure to such high levels would mean death for most people.

    Each step in the process toward decommissioning is complicated and requires great numbers of people. It’s a race against time because the maximum amount of radiation that workers can be exposed to is 250 millisieverts.

    Prefacing the following as “a personal opinion,” Inoue says: “Building a car that can protect the people inside as much as possible from radioactive materials, and attaching an industrial robotic arm to the car that can be manipulated by those people could be one way to go about it.”

    Two types of fuel removal must take place. One is to take out the spent fuel in the containment pools, and the other is to remove the melted fuel from the reactor cores. Because the radiation levels of the water in the spent fuel pools have not shown any significant changes from before the crisis, it is believed that the spent fuel has not suffered much damage. However, removing it will require repairing and reinstalling cranes to hoist the fuel rods out.

    The breached reactor core is a bigger problem. It is believed that raising water levels inside the reactor has been difficult because of a hole in the bottom of the vessel. It will be necessary to plug the hole, and continue filling the vessel with water while extracting the melted fuel. How to fill the vessel with water is still being debated. If the reactor can be filled with water, steps taken after the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident can serve as a guide because in that case, in which approximately 50 percent of the core had melted, workers were able to fill the reactor with water and remove the fuel within.

    Inoue predicts that removal of spent fuel from the containment pools will begin about five years after the crisis, and about 10 years in the case of melted fuel from the reactor core. Work on the four reactors at the Fukushima plant will probably take several years.

    “Unless we look at the actual reactors and take and analyze fuel samples, we can’t know for sure,” Inoue adds. Plus, even if workers succeed in removing the fuel, reprocessing it is an even more difficult task. A review of processing methods and storage sites, moreover, has yet to take place.

    The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) calculated in 2007 that decommissioning one nuclear reactor costs approximately 66 billion yen. Inoue suggests, however, that the cost of decommissioning reactors after a disaster of this magnitude may be much higher.

    Meanwhile, at least one expert says he doesn’t believe that workers will be able to remove the melted fuel from the crippled plant.

    “If there’s 10 sieverts per hour of radiation outside, then the levels must be much higher closer to the reactor core,” says Tadahiro Katsuta, an associate professor at Meiji University and an expert in reactor engineering and reactor policy who was once a member of an anti-nuclear non-profit organization called Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). “The fuel has melted, and we haven’t been able to cool it consistently. If work is begun five or 10 years from now when radiation levels have not yet sufficiently gone down, workers’ health could be at serious risk.”

    Katsuta predicts that it will probably take at least 10 years just to determine whether it is possible to remove the fuel. He adds that it could very well take 50 years before the task of dismantling the reactor and other facilities is completed.

    What Katsuta has in mind is a Chernobyl-style concrete sarcophagus, which would entail cloaking the melted tomb with massive amounts of concrete. “How could we simultaneously dismantle four reactors that have been contaminated to the extent that they have by radioactive materials?” asks Katsuta. “Japan has little experience in decommissioning reactors, and this case is quite different from standard decommissioning processes. It’s not realistic to think we can revert the site back to a vacant lot. I think we should be considering options such as entombing the site with concrete or setting up a protective dome over the damaged reactor buildings.

    As for decommissioning costs, Katsuta predicts the figure will not be as high as the construction cost of the reactors (300 billion to 400 billion yen per reactor) themselves, but close to it, due to the massive amounts of highly contaminated radioactive waste.

    Regardless, what we face is a great unknown to all of mankind.
    ENDS

  • Have you seen this comparing the A-bomb in Hiroshima to Fukushima?

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110828a4.html

    Don’t really see how you would go about downplaying it 😉

    Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011
    Cesium release equal to 168 Hiroshima A-bombs
    NISA compares contamination to Hiroshima blast
    AP
    The amount of radioactive cesium ejected by the Fukushima reactor meltdowns is about 168 times higher than that emitted in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the government’s nuclear watchdog said Friday.

    The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency provided the estimate at the request of a Diet panel but noted that making a simple comparison between an instantaneous bomb blast and a long-term accidental leak is problematic and could lead to “irrelevant” results.

    The report said the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant has released 15,000 terabecquerels of cesium-137, which lingers for decades and can cause cancer, compared with the 89 terabecquerels released by the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

    The report estimated each of the 16 isotopes released by the “Little Boy” bomb and 31 of those detected at the Fukushima plant. NISA has said the radiation released at Fukushima was about one-sixth of that released during the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

    “Little Boy,” dropped Aug. 6, 1945, destroyed most of the city and eventually killed as many as 140,000 people.

    Most of the Hiroshima victims were killed in the initial heat wave, while others died from the neutron rays generated by the midair explosion or the deadly radioactive fallout.
    ENDS

  • So, should we evacuate Japan?

    What should be done, seriously?

    I’m all for pointing at problems and where people are holding information (especially stuff as important as this), but I’d like to know what to do too. I seriously don’t understand the half of this.

  • This is the first time since March that I have looked at Debito’s blog and it’s depressing to see you beating the same tired and erroneous drum. Are you not aware that not one member of the public has received enough radiation to cause any ill effects?

    Yes, Kodama is a very unhappy man but you must know that he does not by any means represent mainstream scientific opinion. It is extremely irresponsible to present his ideas without counterbalance and to do so severely undermines your reputation in the NJ community. Did you not wonder that it is THIS video that is going around the net? Not more measured and rational reports? To me, this says a lot more about the human potential for paranoia than it does about radiation levels in Tokyo. This is exactly the kind of fear mongering that is the actual cause of the distress the Japanese are enduring this year, and which you seem so smug about. But you don’t seem to be aware of that. You don’t need a radiation detector, Mr Debito; you need an irony detector.

    As an example of the fear of radiation versus radiation, consider the current beef scare. When it broke out NHK featured an hour-long news report focusing on this issue. There was a lengthy introduction, footage from cattle farms in Fukushima, an examination of flaws in the inpection system, repeated shrill announcements of becquerels in the hundreds and thousands, interviews with crying supermarket managers who inadvertently sold the meat, on the street interviews with young mothers fearfully clutching babies and wailing about the safety of their family etc etc. Finally, there was a 10-second clip from an actual nuclear scientist at Tokyo university, calmly stating that you would have to eat a kilogram of the beef every day for several years in order for it to have any measurable effect upon human health.

    And that contrast- between 45 minutes of fear and 10 seconds of reality – tells you all you need to know about the nuclear ‘crisis’ in Japan.

  • Eamon Watters says:

    無名,

    All you naysayers can shove it!

    you dip shits

    I can understand your need to vent, but is this really the language we want on a Human Rights blog?

    In addition, I’d just like to say that my father in law is the chief head of a hospital in Date City. He has had to go to many farewell parties for colleagues who have evacuated themselves to neighboring Yamagata Prefecture. Even some doctors are voluntarily leaving for fear of their families long term health prospects.

    And are these doctors experts in the field of radiological protection?

  • Unfortunately, the government will do whatever it wants. It`ll continue to lie to the people and operate in a corrupt fashion. Holy smokes, Japanese people got on with their lives a long time ago. The people suffering are few in numbers and the rest of the population haven`t done much aside from providing money and volunteering. Giving money to charity and volunteering isn`t going to change bureaucracy. The people of this country need to start demanding things. They need to start screaming at the suits. Not bow their heads and say “taihen.”

  • I think back in March, there were a lot of things that were said and written that were irresponsible, inaccurate, and flat out wrong. On both the ‘alarmist’ and ‘apologists side’ of this ‘fence’, which people seem to keep wanting to draw.

    Take for example the ‘trustworthy sources’ that were quoted on this blog with seemingly zero attempt made to corroborate these claims or check them for simple accuracy:

    “The USS Ronald Reagan, located 100 miles Northeast, had to relocate due to a radioactive plume cloud heading their way.”

    Any follow up on the eventual final destination of this ‘radioactive plume cloud’? Where did it ‘hit’? What damage did it cause? Did anyone take any photographs?

    “17 members of the Reagan’s helicopter crews doing rescue missions have tested positive for radioactivity. All helos are being decontaminated as they return to the Reagan”

    Any news on the fate of these men? Are they still alive? What is there current medical condition? Where are they? I’m sure your ‘trustworthy source’ can fill us in with the details.

    “The plant at Onagawa is also experiencing abnormally high radiation levels. This plant is much closer to Tokyo.”

    Have we managed to clarify the precise location of Onagawa yet or is this similar to Fox New’s Shibuya Eggman plant, which turned out to be a nightclub? Did we ascertain whether this plant is nearer, or, dare I speculate, actually much farther North of Tokyo?

    Debito, you are correct in your assertion that not everything people said in the extremely worrisome and stressful days after March 11 proved to be correct. That is hardly surprising. However, you are far from alone in having words to eat.

    A degree of humility, please.

  • Fukushima radiation alarms doctors
    Japanese doctors warn of public health problems caused by Fukushima radiation.
    Al-Jazeera, By Dahr Jamail Last Modified: 18 Aug 2011 14:09
    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/08/201181665921711896.html

    Scientists and doctors are calling for a new national policy in Japan that mandates the testing of food, soil, water, and the air for radioactivity still being emitted from Fukushima’s heavily damaged Daiichi nuclear power plant.

    “How much radioactive materials have been released from the plant?” asked Dr Tatsuhiko Kodama, a professor at the Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology and Director of the University of Tokyo’s Radioisotope Centre, in a July 27 speech to the Committee of Health, Labour and Welfare at Japan’s House of Representatives.

    “The government and TEPCO have not reported the total amount of the released radioactivity yet,” said Kodama, who believes things are far worse than even the recent detection of extremely high radiation levels at the plant.

    There is widespread concern in Japan about a general lack of government monitoring for radiation, which has caused people to begin their own independent monitoring, which are also finding disturbingly high levels of radiation.

    Kodama’s centre, using 27 facilities to measure radiation across the country, has been closely monitoring the situation at Fukushima – and their findings are alarming.

    According to Dr Kodama, the total amount of radiation released over a period of more than five months from the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster is the equivalent to more than 29 “Hiroshima-type atomic bombs” and the amount of uranium released “is equivalent to 20” Hiroshima bombs.

    Kodama, along with other scientists, is concerned about the ongoing crisis resulting from the Fukushima situation, as well as what he believes to be inadequate government reaction, and believes the government needs to begin a large-scale response in order to begin decontaminating affected areas.

    Distrust of the Japanese government’s response to the nuclear disaster is now common among people living in the effected prefectures, and people are concerned about their health.

    Recent readings taken at the plant are alarming.

    When on August 2nd readings of 10,000 millisieverts (10 sieverts) of radioactivity per hour were detected at the plant, Japan’s science ministry said that level of dose is fatal to humans, and is enough radiation to kill a person within one to two weeks after the exposure.

    10,000 millisieverts (mSv) is the equivalent of approximately 100,000 chest x-rays.

    It is an amount 250 per cent higher than levels recorded at the plant in March after it was heavily damaged by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

    The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), that took the reading, used equipment to measure radiation from a distance, and was unable to ascertain the exact level because the device’s maximum reading is only 10,000 mSv.

    TEPCO also detected 1,000 millisieverts (mSv) per hour in debris outside the plant, as well as finding 4,000 mSv per hour inside one of the reactor buildings.

    The Fukushima disaster has been rated as a “level seven” on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES). This level, the highest, is the same as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, and is defined by the scale as: “[A] major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.”

    The Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters are the only nuclear accidents to have been rated level seven on the scale, which is intended to be logarithmic, similar to the scale used to describe the comparative magnitude of earthquakes. Each increasing level represents an accident approximately ten times more severe than the previous level.

    Doctors in Japan are already treating patients suffering health effects they attribute to radiation from the ongoing nuclear disaster.

    “We have begun to see increased nosebleeds, stubborn cases of diarrhoea, and flu-like symptoms in children,” Dr Yuko Yanagisawa, a physician at Funabashi Futawa Hospital in Chiba Prefecture, told Al Jazeera.

    She attributes the symptoms to radiation exposure, and added: “We are encountering new situations we cannot explain with the body of knowledge we have relied upon up until now.”

    “The situation at the Daiichi Nuclear facility in Fukushima has not yet been fully stabilised, and we can’t yet see an end in sight,” Yanagisawa said. “Because the nuclear material has not yet been encapsulated, radiation continues to stream into the environment.”

    Health concerns

    Al Jazeera’s Aela Callan, reporting from Japan’s Ibaraki prefecture, said of the recently detected high radiation readings: “It is now looking more likely that this area has been this radioactive since the earthquake and tsunami, but no one realised until now.”

    Workers at Fukushima are only allowed to be exposed to 250 mSv of ionising radiation per year.

    Junichi Matsumoto, a TEPCO spokesman, said the high dose was discovered in an area that does not hamper recovery efforts at the stricken plant.

    Yet radioactive cesium exceeding the government limit was detected in processed tea made in Tochigi City, about 160km from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, according to the Tochigi Prefectural Government, who said radioactive cesium was detected in tea processed from leaves harvested in the city in early July.

    The level is more than 3 times the provisional government limit.

    Yanagisawa’s hospital is located approximately 200km from Fukushima, so the health problems she is seeing that she attributes to radiation exposure causes her to be concerned by what she believes to be a grossly inadequate response from the government.

    From her perspective, the only thing the government has done is to, on April 25, raise the acceptable radiation exposure limit for children from 1 mSv/year to 20 mSv/year.

    “This has caused controversy, from the medical point of view,” Yanagisawa told Al Jazeera. “This is certainly an issue that involves both personal internal exposures as well as low-dose exposures.”

    Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Executive Director, said: “It is utterly outrageous to raise the exposure levels for children to twenty times the maximum limit for adults.”

    “The Japanese government cannot simply increase safety limits for the sake of political convenience or to give the impression of normality.”

    Authoritative current estimates of the health effects of low-dose ionizing radiation are published in the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation VII (BEIR VII) report from the US National Academy of Sciences.

    The report reflects the substantial weight of scientific evidence proving there is no exposure to ionizing radiation that is risk-free.

    The BEIR VII estimates that each 1 mSv of radiation is associated with an increased risk of all forms of cancer other than leukemia of about 1-in-10,000; an increased risk of leukemia of about 1-in-100,000; and a 1-in-17,500 increased risk of cancer death.

    Dr Helen Caldicott, the founding president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, a group that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, is equally concerned about the health effects from Japan’s nuclear disaster.

    “Radioactive elements get into the testicles and ovaries, and these cause genetic disease like diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and mental retardation,” she told Al Jazeera. “There are 2,600 of these diseases that get into our genes and are passed from generation to generation, forever.”

    So far, the only cases of acute radiation exposure have involved TEPCO workers at the stricken plant. Lower doses of radiation, particularly for children, are what many in the medical community are most concerned about, according to Dr Yanagisawa.

    “Humans are not yet capable of accurately measuring the low dose exposure or internal exposure,” she explained, “Arguing ‘it is safe because it is not yet scientifically proven [to be unsafe]’ would be wrong. That fact is that we are not yet collecting enough information to prove the situations scientifically. If that is the case, we can never say it is safe just by increasing the annual 1mSv level twenty fold.”

    Her concern is that the new exposure standards by the Japanese government do not take into account differences between adults and children, since children’s sensitivity to radiation exposure is several times higher than that of adults.

    Al Jazeera contacted Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s office for comment on the situation.

    Speaking on behalf of the Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Public Relations for the Prime Minister’s office, Noriyuki Shikata said that the Japanese government “refers to the ICRP [International Commission on Radiological Protection] recommendation in 2007, which says the reference levels of radiological protection in emergency exposure situations is 20-100 mSv per year. The Government of Japan has set planned evacuation zones and specific spots recommended for evacuation where the radiation levels reach 20 mSv/year, in order to avoid excessive radiation exposure.”

    The prime minister’s office explained that approximately 23bn yen ($300mn) is planned for decontamination efforts, and the government plans to have a decontamination policy “by around the end of August”, with a secondary budget of about 97bn yen ($1.26bn) for health management and monitoring operations in the affected areas.

    When questioned about the issue of “acute radiation exposure”, Shikata pointed to the Japanese government having received a report from TEPCO about six of their workers having been exposed to more than 250 mSv, but did not mention any reports of civilian exposures.

    Prime Minister Kan’s office told Al Jazeera that, for their ongoing response to the Fukushima crisis, “the government of Japan has conducted all the possible countermeasures such as introduction of automatic dose management by ID codes for all workers and 24 hour allocation of doctors. The government of Japan will continue to tackle the issue of further improving the health management including medium and long term measures”.

    Shikata did not comment about Kodama’s findings.

    Kodama, who is also a doctor of internal medicine, has been working on decontamination of radioactive materials at radiation facilities in hospitals of the University of Tokyo for the past several decades.

    “We had rain in Tokyo on March 21 and radiation increased to .2 micosieverts/hour and, since then, the level has been continuously high,” said Kodama, who added that his reporting of radiation findings to the government has not been met an adequate reaction. “At that time, the chief cabinet secretary, Mr Edano, told the Japanese people that there would be no immediate harm to their health.”

    Kodama is an expert in internal exposure to radiation, and is concerned that the government has not implemented a strong response geared towards measuring radioactivity in food.

    “Although three months have passed since the accident already, why have even such simple things have not been done yet?” he said. “I get very angry and fly into a rage.”

    According to Kodama, the major problem caused by internal radiation exposure is the generation of cancer cells as the radiation causes unnatural cellular mutation.

    “Radiation has a high risk to embryos in pregnant women, juveniles, and highly proliferative cells of people of growing ages. Even for adults, highly proliferative cells, such as hairs, blood, and intestinal epithelium cells, are sensitive to radiation.”

    ‘Children are at greater risk’

    Early on in the disaster, Dr Makoto Kondo of the department of radiology of Keio University’s School of Medicine warned of “a large difference in radiation effects on adults compared to children”.

    Kondo explained the chances of children developing cancer from radiation exposure was many times higher than adults.

    “Children’s bodies are underdeveloped and easily affected by radiation, which could cause cancer or slow body development. It can also affect their brain development,” he said.

    Yanagisawa assumes that the Japanese government’s evacuation standards, as well as their raising the permissible exposure limit to 20mSv “can cause hazards to children’s health,” and therefore “children are at a greater risk”.

    Nishio Masamichi, director of Japan’s Hakkaido Cancer Centre and a radiation treatment specialist, published an article on July 27 titled: “The Problem of Radiation Exposure Countermeasures for the Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Concerns for the Present Situation”.

    In the report, Masamichi said that such a dramatic increase in permitted radiation exposure was akin to “taking the lives of the people lightly”. He believes that 20mSv is too high, especially for children who are far more susceptible to radiation.

    “No level of radiation is acceptable, for children or anyone else,” Caldicott told Al Jazeera. “Children are ten to 20 times more sensitive than adults. They must not be exposed to radiation of any level. At all.”

    In early July, officials with the Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission announced that approximately 45 per cent of children in the Fukushima region had experienced thyroid exposure to radiation, according to a survey carried out in late March. The commission has not carried out any surveys since then.

    “Now the Japanese government is underestimating the effects of low dosage and/or internal exposures and not raising the evacuation level even to the same level adopted in Chernobyl,” Yanagisawa said. “People’s lives are at stake, especially the lives of children, and it is obvious that the government is not placing top priority on the people’s lives in their measures.”

    Caldicott feels the lack of a stronger response to safeguard the health of people in areas where radiation is found is “reprehensible”.

    “Millions of people need to be evacuated from those high radiation zones, especially the children.”

    Dr Yanagisawa is concerned about what she calls “late onset disorders” from radiation exposure resulting from the Fukushima disaster, as well as increasing cases of infertility and miscarriages.

    “Incidence of cancer will undoubtedly increase,” she said. “In the case of children, thyroid cancer and leukemia can start to appear after several years. In the case of adults, the incidence of various types of cancer will increase over the course of several decades.”

    Yanagisawa said it is “without doubt” that cancer rates among the Fukushima nuclear workers will increase, as will cases of lethargy, atherosclerosis, and other chronic diseases among the general population in the effected areas.

    Yanagisawa believes it is time to listen to survivors of the atomic bombings. “To be exposed to radiation, to be told there is no immediate effect, and afterwards to be stricken with cancer – what it is like to suffer this way over a long period of time, only the survivors of the atomic bombings can truly understand,” she told Al Jazeera.

    Radioactive food and water

    An August 1 press release from Japan’s MHLW said no radioactive materials have been detected in the tap water of Fukushima prefecture, according to a survey conducted by the Japanese government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters.

    The government defines no detection as “no results exceeding the ‘Index values for infants (radioactive iodine)’,” and says “in case the level of radioactive iodine in tap water exceeds 100 Bq/kg, to refrain from giving infants formula milk dissolved by tap water, having them intake tap water … ”

    Yet, on June 27, results were published from a study that found 15 residents of Fukushima prefecture had tested positive for radiation in their urine.

    Dr Nanao Kamada, professor emeritus of radiation biology at Hiroshima University, has been to Fukushima prefecture twice in order to take internal radiation exposure readings and facilitated the study.

    “The risk of internal radiation is more dangerous than external radiation,” Dr Kamada told Al Jazeera. “And internal radiation exposure does exist for Fukushima residents.”

    According to the MHLW, distribution of several food products in Fukushima Prefecture remain restricted. This includes raw milk, vegetables including spinach, kakina, and all other leafy vegetables, including cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and beef.

    The distribution of tealeaves remains restricted in several prefectures, including all of Ibaraki, and parts of Tochigi, Gunma, Chiba, Kanagawa Prefectures.

    Iwate prefecture suspended all beef exports because of caesium contamination on August 1, making it the fourth prefecture to do so.

    Due to caesium contaminated straw, beef exports have been banned in four Japanese prefectures [EPA]
    Jyunichi Tokuyama, an expert with the Iwate Prefecture Agricultural and Fisheries Department, told Al Jazeera he did not know how to deal with the crisis. He was surprised because he did not expect radioactive hot spots in his prefecture, 300km from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

    “The biggest cause of this contamination is the rice straw being fed to the cows, which was highly radioactive,” Tokuyama told Al Jazeera.

    Kamada feels the Japanese government is acting too slowly in response to the Fukushima disaster, and that the government needs to check radiation exposure levels “in each town and village” in Fukushima prefecture.

    “They have to make a general map of radiation doses,” he said. “Then they have to be concerned about human health levels, and radiation exposures to humans. They have to make the exposure dose map of Fukushima prefecture. Fukushima is not enough. Probably there are hot spots outside of Fukushima. So they also need to check ground exposure levels.”

    Caldicott said people around the world should be concerned about the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Radiation that continues to be released has global consequences.

    More than 11,000 tonnes of radioactive water has been released into the ocean from the stricken plant.

    “Those radioactive elements bio-concentrate in the algae, then the crustaceans eat that, which are eaten by small then big fish,” Caldicott said. “That’s why big fish have high concentrations of radioactivity and humans are at the top of the food chain, so we get the most radiation, ultimately.”

    On August 6, the 66th anniversary of the US nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said: “Regarding nuclear energy, we will deeply reflect over the myth that nuclear energy is safe. We will thoroughly look into the cause of the [Fukushima] accident, and to secure safety, we’ll implement fundamental measures while also decreasing the degree of dependence on nuclear power generation, to aim for a society that does not rely on nuclear power.”

    But doctors, scientists, agricultural experts, and much of the general public in Japan feel that a much more aggressive response to the nuclear disaster is needed.

    Kodama believes the government needs to begin a large-scale response in order to begin decontaminating affected areas. He cited Japan’s itai itai disease, when cadmium poisoning from mining resulted in the government eventually having to spend 800 billion yen to decontaminate an area of 1,500 hectares.

    “How much cost will be needed if the area is 1,000 times larger?”
    ENDS

  • Eamon Watter:

    My father in law and the other doctors that evacuated with their families are 循環器科 (cardiology) and 内科 (internal medicine) doctors. HOWEVER, my next door neighbor in Fukushima City is a 放射線学者(RADIOLOGIST) who never married. SHE got the hell out of Fukushima City as well.

    As for my language, I’m way past the point of giving a crap.

  • Stan Tersel says:

    Well, guess what critics — five months later, clearly YOU were wrong.

    Aside from this being a rather pompous statement rather inline with the disappointingly arrogant “told you so” tone of your introduction, it’s clearly FAR TOO early to be able to draw any conclusions whatsoever from this.

    The fact is, NO ONE knows what the effects of this disaster will be on the health of Japanese residents, because the figures will come out over the next few decades, not in the few months since the initial disaster.

    Anyone who feels qualified to comment about what the long term health impact will be in a such a complex and unprecedented situation, should be ignored by default. We simply don’t know yet.

    — So you’re saying we should say nothing and do nothing as radiation continues to leak and spread? Sorry, I don’t believe that’s an option. Call me pompous. It affects me less than thinking about radioactive accumulation in children’s thyroids.

  • beneaththewheel says:

    A few issues:

    Comparing to Chernobyl/Hiroshima: This is for effect. If any media source is doing it, they’re basically saying “WE WANT TO GET YOU WITH EMOTION AND NOT RATIONAL FACTS”. NY Times says kids in Fukushima are in danger because kids in Chernobyl died of thyroid cancer? Did they evacuate the area around Chernobyl? Did they measure radiation in all kids in Chernobyl? Did they ban milk in Chernobyl? What are the differences in radiation in the areas in question? How about the amount of radiation in the kids? These are questions that lead to a proper comparison, but the NY Times doesn’t do that. They go by looking at how close people were to the Fukushima reactor compared to the Chernobyl reactor.

    Using experts means nothing in this situation. Nuclear power is a controversial issue with experts on all sides of the spectrum all saying different things. The media is using the experts they agree with, and most likely we’re using the experts that go along the same lines as our own assumptions. The only thing to trust is what is being said, and what empirical evidence is backing it up. How much radiation is measured? How was it measured? What similar situation happened in the past? What was the result of that situation? What factors make it difficult to compare? Bringing up Hiroshima makes sense if talking about prolonged low-level radiation, etc., but not to scare people.

    If someone is name calling, they’re making themselves look childish. I’m fairly sure we’re all adults and are able to debate without being petty.

  • Debito, the largest releases of radiation are done and finished with (unless there is some other future accident). That means that instead of preventing the spread of radiation, more people are worried about cleaning up contaminated areas and making sure food remains radiation free.

    There are numerous sources of information available to help people make appropriate decisions:

    MEXT and local government radiation measurements:
    http://www.nnistar.com/gmap/fukushima.html

    Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare – Up to date radiation information:
    http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/topics/2011eq/index.html

    Comprehensive list of FOOD testing results:
    http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/topics/2011eq/dl/30Aug2011_Sum_up.pdf

    Radiation measurements in ocean at Fukushima power plant:
    http://www.tepco.co.jp/cc/press/betu11_j/images/110830n.pdf

    Ocean measurements in Ibaraki prefecture:
    http://www.tepco.co.jp/cc/press/betu11_j/images/110830p.pdf

    Crowdsource radiation detection site:
    http://hakatte.jp/

    English language community for collecting radiation information:
    http://www.facebook.com/Tokyo.Radiation.Levels

    Community dedicated to helping children:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tokyo-Kids-Radiation/227762067240468

  • @James Annan #25

    “I hope you don’t do anything as dangerous as crossing the road.” Odd analogy, James. I don’t have any qualms about crossing busy roads. I do have qualms about sending small children and/or vulnerable folks across them, unaccompanied. I don’t have any problem with drinking a glass of beer, or smoking a ciggie. I do have a problem with forcing toddlers to join me.

    @Michael #29

    “Yes, Kodama is a very unhappy man but you must know that he does not by any means represent mainstream scientific opinion.” Michael, I really don’t know how you can argue with the head of the Tokyo University Radioisotipe Centre. The HEAD! TODAI! What do you expect next, God Almighty to step out of heaven and have her/his say on the matter? Will that finally convince you?

  • Eamon Watters says:

    Becky@38

    The funny thing about Dr Kodama, is that when you look at his scientific output (using Google Scholar) you find he has published little or no research on radiation or radioisotopes.

    When you look at his interviews in the media there is little beyond tabloid science: e.g. radioisotope releases being X times that of Hiroshima. Real science needs more detail – like giving the breakdown of the releases over Hiroshima, around Fukushima, and adjusting the numbers compared to take into account the fact that equal amounts of different radioisotopes can have vastly differing effects on the human body. For example, Cesium does not accumulate in the body – so its isotopes have a much lower effect than those that do, Strontium for example.

    Just because someone in Japan is head of some organization or does not automatically mean that person is the qualified in the field the organization operates in. General Tamogami comes to mind as one example (right-wing nutter appointed head of the JASDF)

    This info from NISA is at least more scientific: http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201108270177.html

    Fukushima accident released far more cesium than Hiroshima bombing

    a key excerpt:

    However, a NISA official said it was not possible to make a “simple comparison of effects” based on the amount of radiation emitted.

    “The atomic bomb had effects from heat rays, the bomb blast and neutron rays. There are major differences in characteristics with the nuclear accident,” the official said.

    By the way, there is a logical fallacy called “Appeal to Authority” which applies broadly to your response to Michael

  • Becky,

    I agree but would add that the essential problem is not the science, but rather the lack of transparency by government.

    Rather than debate radiological health issues (in which they are not well-educated), Japanese want a notion that honest and clear facts are being presented to them by their governmental agencies responsible for doing just that.

  • Debito, quite frankly, I’d stop giving the nay sayers the attention. There are people who are unsure of what to believe who I think your blog and time would be of more use. You can view sites like GP and see that those who attacked people who left or seem worried continue doing the same. They want to see bodies dropping dead with irrefutable evidence it’s directly related to the nuclear power plant. They also buy the nuclear industry’s propaganda, that all these radio isotopes are no worse than eating bananas or flying in an airplane. Scientists who warn of danger are never qualified enough for their trust or must be evil anti-nuclear shills who make shit up because they’re hippies who irrationally hate wonderful nuclear power, unlike the serious scientists who work for the nuclear industry.

    Here’s some crazy alarmist hysteria from loony Mainichi News, Wall Street Journal, and AlJazeera:
    Nuclear plant worker dies of acute leukemia
    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110830p2g00m0dm084000c.html
    34 points near Fukushima plant exceed radiation standard used for Chernobyl, map shows
    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20110830p2a00m0na013000c.html
    Japan gov’t finds 165 locations over wide area with cesium-137 exceeding Chernobyl evacuation levels
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904332804576540131142824362.html
    Doctors near Tokyo attributes symptoms to radiation exposure: We have begun to see increased nosebleeds, stubborn cases of diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms in children
    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/08/201181665921711896.html
    Nuclear plant workers [from other Japanese nuclear pants] developed cancer [in the past] despite radiation exposure below legal limit — As little as 5 millisieverts
    http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110727p2a00m0na010000c.html

  • As many here have stated, the overall health effect of this won’t show up for many years to come. And I hope that not a single person gets cancer or eats a contaminated meal. But the unfortunate reality is the rather long half-life of cesium isotopes. That stuff is going to stick around for a long time. It’s not the one-time exposure that we have to worry about. It’s the cumulative effect of repeated exposures over a lifetime.

    Look at your skin. The parts of it that see the sun are much more likely to show effects of radiation damage (i.e. UV radiation from the sun) than the parts of it that don’t. Skin that is exposed to the sun is more prone to darkening, freckling, aging, wrinkling, and unfortunately skin cancer. It’s a similar effect with any radiation. Massive single doses can cause radiation poisoning. But consistent, repeated exposure is going to slowly lead to declining health.

    The children that were tested in the last few weeks still had iodine isotope in their thyroid glands. That’s 21 half-lives of decay since March 11. Let’s look at a simple example. If you start with a gram of isotope, in one half-life you’d be left with 0.5 grams that are still radioactive. In another half-life you’d be left with 0.25 grams that are still radioactive. If all the radioactive iodine that blew out around mid-March was all that was released….21 half-life cycles….there should be almost nothing left. But they found it in the thyroids of half the children living in that area. How much was released? How much is left?

    The various cesium isotopes have half-lives of 2 years and 30 years, roughly. In 30 years, half of it will still be radioactive and still set off a geiger counter. That’s a long time to live with that stuff in your backyard. Cumulative effects.

    I don’t want anyone to get cancer. I also don’t want anyone to increase their risk of cancer when it is easily avoidable. If you live in Kansai….don’t worry. If you live in Hokkaido, don’t worry. But if you live in the area immediately around Fukushima, it might be a good idea to get away. It might be a good idea to consider leaving.

  • Okay Eamon, you are right when you say that appeal to authority can be dangerous. Having lots of initials after your name does not make you right. However, in a technical subject like the effects of radiation, authority can and should matter. I doubt that many people on this blog have degrees in nuclear phyics. That’s why wikipedia for example makes a concerted effort to portray mainstream scientific opinion and gives less weight to fringe theories. That’s why when 95-99% of the world’s climatologists believe in global warming it matters, and when 99.9% of the world’s biologists believe in evolution it matters. It doesn’t make those scientists right, but you sure better be careful if you say they’re wrong. And that’s why it’s important for people to realise that the fear-mongering they hear does not represent mainstream nuclear science.

    Becky, for the ‘authoritative view’, you can’t go past the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, a UN body run by the most respected nuclear scientists in the world who study thousands of empirical studies, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2010/UNSCEAR_2010_Report_M.pdf

    http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/faq.html

    http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/fukushima/missionsummary010611.pdf

    In the IAEA’s judgement, the accident was a very serious one, but the Japanese governement’s response has been both appropriate and successful. From the UNSCEAR documents you can learn what radiation is, and how much of it you have to have before it can cause any harm.

    Actual radiation measurements are readily available from a number of sources, e.g.

    http://www.naver.jp/radiation

    Where you can see Tokyo radiation is 0.5 millisievert/ a year, well within the range of natural background radiation. So that pretty much puts an end to claims Tokyo is a dangerous place to live. The dose in Fukushima, of course, is considerably higher, but still well within the range of background radiation in various places in the world.

    People may,of course, doubt the IAEA and the UNSCEAR. Many do, but now you’re getting into the area of conspiracy theory. Indeed, it has been pointed out that anti-nuclear activists and climate change denialists often use many of the same tactics: denial or deliberate misuse of data, claims of conspiracy or cover-up, inflation of their personal resumes, support of fringe theories etc.

  • Is Fukushima safe? The evacuation area around Chernobyl? If you think so, I think you’ll find quite cheap rent, if the government will let you in. Are people safe in Tokyo and further from Fukushima? None of us here can really say, though we can assume the further away the safer. The main argument made by those who oppose nuclear energy is that when there’s a problem, the consequences can lead to uninhabitable land for decades to centuries and health problems for those with high exposure, possibly those with lower exposure, though it’s harder to prove. I’m hardly an anti-nuclear “activist”, it just seems that we have more sustainable, cleaner, safer energy options now. I really can’t see what motivates people who still support nuclear power given the known consequences. Is nuclear power so much better that we should keep it around indefinitely and build more?

  • Eamon Watters says:

    Becky@43

    @Eamon Watters #39
    “The funny thing about Dr Kodama, is that when you look at his scientific output (using Google Scholar) you find he has published little or no research on radiation or radioisotopes.”

    Lack of funding, perhaps?

    But he’s published a lot of other papers, and one would assume that having access to a radioisotope center would permit a lot of research into radioisotopes if one was interested.

  • “http://www.naver.jp/radiation

    Where you can see Tokyo radiation is 0.5 millisievert/ a year, well within the range of natural background radiation. So that pretty much puts an end to claims Tokyo is a dangerous place to live. The dose in Fukushima, of course, is considerably higher, but still well within the range of background radiation in various places in the world.”

    No, this is an example of cherry picking or misrepresenting data. I agree it likely safe to live in Tokyo, but it is also true that there are places where the deposition of radio cesium is above safety limits in Tokyo. And so no, I don’t propose to evacuate, but I do propose to measure the living daylights out of everything and take informed actions.

  • Is nuclear power so much better that we should keep it around indefinitely and build more?

    Yes. It’s the one thing that has cut into governments’ oil and gas income, and — of course — oil and gas vendors’ oil and gas income.

    They lose a lot of money per life saved, but I’m not sorry about that.

    Insightful pronukes don’t portray the opposition as hippies. We believe there’s big money behind them. Big corporate money, and especially big government money.

  • The reason that people on this blog are debating the science is that many Japanese lack confidence in the proclamations by the Japanese governmental agencies responsible for public radiological health.

    This is a microcosm of real Japanese society, in this limited regard.

    The real problem to be fixed is the Japanese government.

    Unless it is transparent and honest, no one will ever have confidence that effective remediation has occured, or that safety standards are reasonable and well-enforced.

  • There are people here claiming to know it is “safe” to live in Tokyo when in reality NO ONE actually knows the real risk potential at this time. The government and TEPCO likely have a much better idea but will never disclose this information to the public as it would literally destroy the nation as Tokyo would fall and that would be the end of the Japanese economy.

    Keep in mind though that new “hot spots” are being found continuously, contaminated food is willingly being sold to the public, everyone is kept in the dark as to the true extent of the contamination. Also the situation at the Daiichi site is far from a done deal with the fuel having melted through into the ground and still openly fissioning away.

    Anyone purporting Tokyo to be 100% safe is either an idiot or Japan fanboy living in a fantasy world. People need to face facts, Japan will never be the same again. I hope with all my heart that things can get under control in Fukushima and things can improve but things will never be like before 3-11. It is an impossibility. Now it is a matter of coping and forgetting for many.

    I will add that I left Japan soon after 3-11, taking my Japanese family with me. I miss it more than words can express but I am not ashamed to admit this despite all the negative “flyjin” talk being thrown about or the calls of “disloyalty” or cowardice. As much as I love Japan I have no loyalty to any flag or lines on a map. The only loyalty I have is to my family. If the Japanese government does not want to do all they can do to save their country and people there is nothing I can do but protect my own. If other people want to believe it is safe in Japan they are free to do so and more power to them but they should show a great respect to those who had the courage and strength to leave as it is an extremely difficult thing to do for anyone.

  • As you know, I haven’t agreed with every one of your causes, but I have always separated Debito the person from Debito the public persona, and never had any problem with the former. This whole episode has been a major cause for concern though.

    The issue I have is not that Fukushima has turned out to be worse than initially expected. I doubt anybody ever said that it wasn’t a problem. Even TEPCO weren’t saying that (and no, they couldn’t confirm a meltdown at first but DID say they suspected one was in progress and were proceeding based on that assumption). My primary concern during that first week was in evaluating the level of risk in staying put in Tokyo.

    March 11th was a very bad day to be in Japan. We had one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history shake the entire Eastern half of Japan for what turned out to be a very long time, a tsunami reaching up to 50 meters literally wiping hundreds of square kilometers of Northern Japan off the map, constant barrages of strong aftershocks, missing friends and relatives, disruptions to most services and food supplies, power shortages, and to cap it all off we had the developing situation at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant which nobody could get close enough to accurately assess the long term seriousness of. It was a very tense time and people were scared.

    Reputable news sources such as NHK (not to mention Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano) did a fantastic job keeping people informed in a down to earth, matter of fact way. Because that’s what people needed – calm presentation and sober appraisal of the known facts with which they could evaluate the risks themselves with some degree of perspective.

    Putting up blog entries that begin “You are absolutely right to have zero trust in Government of Japan (GOJ) or Japanese-controlled press on this.” just 4 days later with the implicit understanding that THIS anonymous source was an authority to be trusted, and further suggesting that only world media that openly contradicted GOJ sourced information and maintained that the Japanese people were doomed of radiation could be believed, has the effect of causing panic and additional/unnecessary uncertainty and stress. I felt this was extremely insensitive (not to mention dangerous), and subjecting your wide readership to your personal anti-nuclear power views in this way and at this time felt like an abuse of your reputation as an authority in an unrelated field.

    It’s your blog so of course you can post whatever you want, but I can also choose not to read it, which is what I ended up doing after your March 15th post. I had a lot on my plate at the time as I’m sure most people did, and didn’t need any more people trying to convince me that the world was ending and that panic was the only answer.

    As an aside, Britain’s chief scientific advisor was kind enough to give an open tele-meeting with the British Embassy in Tokyo shortly after, where he basically confirmed what was believed to be happening, that the GOJ’s actions and advices were appropriate and proportionate, that Fukushima Daiichi was a serious problem *in the local area*, and that the instructions of local authorities should be followed. Official travel advisories were to be based on this, so we can assume some erring on the side of caution was taking place. That’s the kind of calm presentation and sober appraisal of the known facts that people were looking for.

    — Likewise I wish you could have separated the fearmongerers from the well-meaning and justifiable (especially in retrospect) “question authority and the information they are giving you” people who were posting on Debito.org. Nobody was saying that the world was coming to an end. But we were saying that we were being lied to (indubitably, and especially in the form of not being told the whole truth) back then, and that has come to be true in the end. I still think we need some capitulation on that from the people who have besmirched our character and questioned our motives.

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