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

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on August 25th, 2011

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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 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 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


    ( 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


    Radiation effect on children’s thyroid glands

    NHK World Sunday, August 14, 2011 02:16 +0900 (JST) 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.


    Japan Held Nuclear Data, Leaving Evacuees in Peril

    Published: August 8, 2011

    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.”


    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:


    Fukushima forced depopulation, Japanese plead world aid

    , Human Rights Examiner, August 22, 2011,, 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.”


    Continue reading on Fukushima forced depopulation, Japanese plead world aid (video) – National Human Rights |


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

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

    1. debito Says:

      H23.7.27 衆院厚労委員会 児玉龍彦参考人 3.21の雨, courtesy of CE

    2. 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.

    3. TM Says:

      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.

    4. Becky Says:

      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.

    5. James Annan Says:

      “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.

    6. Momi Says:

      Well done Debito.
      A completely neglected topic is the soil contamination also in Kanto area which is affecting the whole food chain.

    7. Tom Says:

      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

      Fukushima is Worse than Chernobyl – on Global Contamination
      Interview by Norimatsu Satoko and Narusawa Muneo

    8. Chad Edwards Says:

      You stick it to ’em, Debito. Good for you.

    9. 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.

    10. 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!

    11. Klausi Says:

      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.

    12. Al Says:

      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: [both articles from same link]

    13. 無名 Says:

      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.

      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!

    14. Becky Says:

      @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.

    15. Charuzu Says:


      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.

    16. shinrin Says:

      Professor Kodama’s Speech in Four Languages (Japanese, English, French, German)

      Japanese with English subtitle in video:

      English (in text in 3 parts):

      French (in text in 3 parts, by Helios):

      German (subtitle in video, by Viola):

      Part 1:
      Part 2:

    17. Doug Says:

      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

    18. Jeff Says:

      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.” is a good place to look for (largely) scientific analysis, presented by a Nuclear engineer (as opposed to arm chair diehard Naysaying Japan Fans).

    19. 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.

    20. Hank Says:

      Could this be another Minamata in the making?

    21. flyjin Says:

      @ Momi, what/why is that big red spot in East Saitama on the map?

    22. j_jobseeker Says:

      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….

    23. La Verdad Says:

      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.

      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. 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.

      and scroll down the center for the section titled: Japan Nuclear Disaster here,
      and more than a thousand items here:

      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.

    24. James Annan Says:

      “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:-

      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.


    25. Adam Says:

      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:

      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…

      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.

    26. sendaiben Says:

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

      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
      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.

    27. Rin Says:

      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.

    28. Michael Says:

      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.

    29. Eamon Watters Says:


      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?

    30. Colin Says:

      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.”

    31. Steve King Says:

      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.

    32. debito Says:

      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

      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?”

    33. 無名 Says:

      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.

    34. 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.

    35. 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.

    36. Icarus Says:

      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:

      Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare – Up to date radiation information:

      Comprehensive list of FOOD testing results:

      Radiation measurements in ocean at Fukushima power plant:

      Ocean measurements in Ibaraki prefecture:

      Crowdsource radiation detection site:

      English language community for collecting radiation information:

      Community dedicated to helping children:

    37. Becky Says:

      @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?

    38. Eamon Watters Says:


      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:

      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

    39. Charuzu Says:


      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.

    40. Johan Says:

      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
      34 points near Fukushima plant exceed radiation standard used for Chernobyl, map shows
      Japan gov’t finds 165 locations over wide area with cesium-137 exceeding Chernobyl evacuation levels
      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
      Nuclear plant workers [from other Japanese nuclear pants] developed cancer [in the past] despite radiation exposure below legal limit — As little as 5 millisieverts

    41. Dr. H Says:

      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.

    42. Becky Says:

      @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?

    43. Michael Says:

      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.

      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.

      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.

    44. Johan Says:

      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?

    45. Eamon Watters Says:


      @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.

    46. Jeff Says:


      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.

    47. G.R.L. Cowan, hydrogen-energy fan until ~1996 Says:

      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.

    48. Charuzu Says:

      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.

    49. ssway Says:

      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.

    50. Kaoru Says:

      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 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.

    51. ssway Says:

      Wow Kaoru. I am amazed at your blind praise of the criminal government of Japan. I am quite certain that many Japanese do not share your opinion, especially those north of Tokyo. Wait another 5-10 years and we will see that number increase as the illnesses start to appear.

      There can be no denying that the Japanese government outright lied to and deceived the public following the fateful events on 3-11. Their reason for this was that if the people of Tokyo were to evacuate that would be the end of the Japanese economy. The damage to the country would be beyond comprehension but does this warrant lying to all those potentially in harm’s way?

      They knew the reactors were melting down right from the beginning and could not have any way of knowing with 100% certainty the risk to those in Tokyo or other outlying areas. So instead they sat back and told everyone not to worry and let the dice roll.

      They then also misrepresented the risks relating to radiation on a continual basis on the news by only talking about “exposure” and comparing it to x # of x-rays per year or airplane trips. They never spoke about “contamination” by means of inhalation, ingestion, etc. Also, there was never any talk about the various radionuclides beyond cesium and iodine with relatively short half lives.

      Then to add insult to injury they campaigned for people to purchase Fukushima produce (with lying Edano eating strawberries that were likely produced from elsewhere) when they could not possibly know the risk with 100% certainty. Once again this shows their prioritization of the economy over the health of the people.

      What government would allow the spread of contaminated food throughout their nation and having fed to their children? This is beyond any horror imaginable and cannot be forgiven.

      I could go on and on about the unspeakable acts by the criminal government and TEPCO but we all know full well what horrors they have done to their beautiful nation and its people.

      Also keep in mind now that nothing is “over” with regards to Fukushima as it is still very much an ongoing crisis and we still cannot trust those that are in the driver seat.

    52. beneaththewheel Says:


      You seem to be ignoring numbers. Fukushima produce is measured for radiation, and it’s scandals in the news when some with radiation over the (conservative Japanese) limit is sold. There’s also numbers for acceptable radiation, and ranges of background radiation all over the world (which Tokyo is in the middle of). Do places with higher background radiation levels have more cancer rates? I think so, but no one seemed to make a scandal out of that before Fukushima. And the only cancer risk that people are thinking about now is radiation when modern society has many more.

      What you call “economy over people” I call not destroying the Tohoku farmer’s lives based on misinformation and panic. It’s not about trusting the government, it’s about trusting numbers. The issue of the corruption of JA, or the desperation of farmers may be valid, especially if they will not get subsidized; however, that’s not an evil government feeding iodine to kids.

      Also, your certainty in a significant rise in illnesses is speculation. Why are you so certain? I am not certain their will or will not be illnesses. Why? Because the effects of prolonged exposure to low-level radiation are not known. Most hypotheses though do state that a significant rise in illness will not occur. They are mere hypotheses though, and could be wrong. We will find out in 20-30 years.

      If you read what I said and think I’m blindly trusting the government, please read what I said again. The government has been shown to lie and make bad decisions, but not to the extent that you wrote. I am appealing to looking to the numbers we have and the empirical evidence that can be used in this situation

    53. "fly"jin Says:

      After reading the above comment, I ll be the first to say the mentionable and hope the cry rings throughout the land:
      “Tepco and their associates are guilty-by negligence of crimes against humanity”.

      Tepco 731?

    54. Jake Says:

      Debito, with all due respect, you may wish to capitulate a bit yourself (see Steve King’s post for a good place to start) before demanding that others do the same. Your character was “besmirched” as much by the irresponsible way in which you responded to the 3/11 disaster as it was by the few people who irrationally attacked you on your blog. It worries me a bit that you seem unable to recognize that you could have responded in a more level-headed and constructive manner.

      Furthermore, many of those “naysayers” from whom you are now demanding “capitulation” were traditionally some of your staunchest supporters and most reasonable readers (I should know; I personally know several of them). That fact alone should have resonated with you a little bit and induced a slightly higher degree of humility.

      — It did. That’s why I even vacationed the blog and refrained from comment on the matter because I simply didn’t know enough about the subject. Then I eventually realized that public ignorance was systematic, enforced by the industry itself worldwide in order to keep people double-guessing themselves into silence.

      A philosophical note: I’m free to “besmirch” my own character — that’s just a matter of free will, a personal choice in pursuing a line of inquiry, and I know my own motives (which I still assert were level-headed and constructive). But when other people besmirch my character (to the point of saying that I was doing all this just to sell fucking books!), and impugn the motives of others on this blog just for daring to ask uncomfortable questions about The System, that’s a completely different dynamic. I reserve the right to be more than a bit indignant, and ask for people to capitulate when if things were reversed I would be doing so.

      Sorry if that feels to you like a lack of humility (and I’m sorry if that curries disfavor with the “staunchest supporters”, but one doesn’t necessarily want only “fair-weather friends”), but it’s not a matter of humility at all. It is the basic need for vindication, when it’s essentially true that we were ultimately right after all for raising those questions about The System.

    55. Jake Says:

      Again, with all due respect:

      Vacating the blog and refraining from comment AFTER posting several alarmist articles (one of which was later proven to be blatantly and absurdly wrong) is locking the stable door after the horses have bolted. Furthermore, you “refrained from comment” after posting a massive parting shot to those who questioned the rationality of your response — that’s hardly “refraining from comment.” Your claims of humility might be more convincing if you had instead apologized for posting erroneous information from a “trustworthy source” and assured everyone that you would be double-checking your sources before posting them as fact. That was extremely irresponsible on your part, and your critics were absolutely right to call that into question; and if that is the sort of information you have no qualms about passing on as truth, people can surely be forgiven for approaching the rest of your information with a pinch of salt.

      Almost none of the “naysayers” were denying that the accident was terrible. What people were concerned about was the one-sidedness and basic factual accuracy of your information, as well as the timing at which that information was disseminated. For my part, I found myself wondering: instead of posting all this anonymous speculation, why aren’t there continued posts providing information on charities and calls for donations to help the people IMMEDIATELY affected by the earthquake and tsunami? There was a single link to the Red Cross buried in the comments section of one post — a post that, appallingly, made a point of illustrating how foreigners CANNOT help. I agree 100% that questioning “The System” is essential, but there is another school of thought, which is that in the immediate aftermath of an unprecedented natural disaster, a) there are other, more pressing priorities, and b) it is absolutely essential to fact-check your information lest you become part of the problem.

      So yes, you DO have a lot to “capitulate” about — at least as much as the “naysayers” do. In times of crisis there should be no “basic need” for vindication — only a basic urge to do as much positive as possible. The latter has driven your actions for years now, and I certainly hope it continues to do so in the future.

      — Thanks for your feedback. Sorry if you don’t feel I (or contributors to this blog) did enough to help or did enough not to hurt. I hope to pass muster with you somehow in future.

    56. debito Says:

      — Contrast with initial prognosis of Fukushima decommissioning (ten years):


      Fukushima decommissioning will take at least three decades
      The Asahi Shimbun, October 29, 2011

      A draft road map outlining the more than 30-year process of decommissioning and dismantling the crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was published by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) on Oct. 28.

      The extraction of fuel rods in the storage pools at the reactors will begin around 2014, according to the plan, and removal of melted fuel rods within the reactors is expected to start around 2021.

      The whole decommissioning process could be finished by 2041, but the authors of the draft report warn that significant delays are possible because they have not had access to full details of the extent of damage to the nuclear reactors and fuel rods.

      Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant operator, will draw up detailed plans on the basis of the final report, due to be finalized by the end of the year, and will set about the decommissioning process as soon as a “cold shutdown” of the reactors is achieved, officials said. A cold shutdown is a state in which a nuclear reactor is kept at low temperature on a sustained basis.

      A total of 1,496 fuel rods are held in the damaged No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 reactors, and a further 3,108 fuel rods are stored in the spent fuel storage pools at those four reactors. Melted fuel rods are thought to have fallen to the bottom of the pressure vessels causing some leakage into containment vessels at the No. 1 through No. 3 reactors, which were operating when the tsunami hit the plant on March 11.

      The decommissioning process at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the United States, where a core meltdown occurred in 1979, was a key reference point for report’s authors.

      The draft says decommissioning at Fukushima will begin with decontamination of the interiors of the reactor buildings, repairs to the damaged containment vessels, and refilling containment vessels with water.

      Equipment to remove melted fuel rods will be inserted into the reactors and extraction will start around 2021. The extraction of fuel from the interior of the reactors is expected to be completed around 2026, although the report does not give a precise date.

      The cranes that would normally be used to extract spent fuel rods were broken by the hydrogen explosions that ripped through the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 reactor buildings following the tsunami. New cranes will be installed to replace them, and the extraction of fuel from the spent fuel storage pools is expected to begin around 2014.

      The draft report says that the government, research institutions, TEPCO and manufacturers will set up a research and development headquarters and work closely with overseas bodies.

      “We envision that the extraction of fuel rods will be completed in about five years,” said Hajimu Yamana, professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute who led the committee that drew up the draft report. “We hope to complete the decommissioning process in about the same time that it usually takes to decommission typical nuclear reactors, but we may need longer.”

    57. another jon Says:

      @Jeff “propose to measure the living daylights out of everything and take informed actions.

      But we cannot trust that the J government is too busy, too incompetent, to ever go around every square inch of Tokyo and check for hot spots. So we just don`t know where is safe or not.

      The only way to be sure is not to live there.

    58. debito Says:

      Contributor DR says:
      Vindicated Seismologist Says Japan Still Underestimates Threat to Reactors

      A clear example of how the Japanese press encircles and protects their own by not reporting the truth, and in this case, the truth may kill a lot more people than it already has, and the bunglers in Nagata-cho don’t want it known.


      Vindicated Seismologist Says Japan Still Underestimates Threat to Reactors
      By Jason Clenfield – Nov 21, 2011

      Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tsuruga nuclear power station in Tsuruga city, Fukui prefecture, Japan. Reactor 1 at the Tsuruga plant, which had its license extended for 10 years in 2009, is one of 13 on Wakasa bay, a stretch of Sea of Japan coast that is home to the world’s heaviest concentration of nuclear reactors. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

      Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) — Robert Geller, a professor at Tokyo University’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, talks about Japan’s preparedness for the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left about 19,000 people dead or missing and caused the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. Geller speaks with Susan Li on Bloomberg Television’s “First Up.” (Source: Bloomberg)

      Dismissed as a “nobody” by Japan’s nuclear industry, seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi spent two decades watching his predictions of disaster come true: First in the 1995 Kobe earthquake and then at Fukushima. He says the government still doesn’t get it.

      The 67-year-old scientist recalled in an interview how his boss marched him to the Construction Ministry to apologize for writing a 1994 book suggesting Japan’s building codes put its cities at risk. Five months later, thousands were killed when a quake devastated Kobe city. The book, “A Seismologist Warns,” became a bestseller.

      That didn’t stop Haruki Madarame, now head of Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, from dismissing Ishibashi as an amateur when he warned of a “nuclear earthquake disaster,” a phrase the Kobe University professor coined in 1997. Ishibashi says Japan still underestimates the risk of operating reactors in a country that has about 10 percent of the world’s quakes.

      “What was missing — and is still missing — is a recognition of the danger,” Ishibashi said, seated in a dining room stacked with books in his house in a Kobe suburb. “I understand we’re not going to shut all of the nuclear plants, but we should rank them by risk and phase out the worst.”

      Among Japan’s most vulnerable reactors are some of its oldest, built without the insights of modern earthquake science, Ishibashi said. It was only in the last four years that Japan Atomic Power Co. recognized an active fault line running under its reactor in Tsuruga, which opened in 1970 about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Osaka and close to a lake that supplies water to millions of people in the region.

      New Fault Lines

      Japan Atomic is reinforcing the plant to improve quake tolerance and believes it’s safe despite the discovery of new active faults lines in 2008, Masao Urakami, a Tokyo-based spokesman for the utility, said.
      “We can’t respond to every claim by every scientist,” he said. “Standards for seismic ground motion are not decided arbitrarily, but are based on findings by experts assigned by the government.”

      Reactor 1 at the Tsuruga plant, which had its license extended for 10 years in 2009, is one of 13 on Wakasa bay, a stretch of Sea of Japan coast that is home to the world’s heaviest concentration of nuclear reactors. The area is riddled with fault lines found in the last three or four years, according to Ishibashi.
      Energy Review

      In the first annual review of energy policy since the Fukushima disaster, the government on Oct. 28 approved a white paper calling for reduced reliance on nuclear power. The report also omitted a section on nuclear power expansion that was in last year’s review.

      The government “regrets its past energy policy and will review it with no sacred cows,” the report said.
      The white paper needs to be followed with action, Ishibashi said. “Changing the energy policy is a good thing, but I really do wonder if there will be follow-through,” he said.

      Opinion polls show the Fukushima disaster has turned the majority of Japanese against nuclear power. Companies, meantime, are worried about higher costs and unstable electricity supply. The country has no oil reserves and 30 percent of Japan’s electricity supply came from atomic energy before March 11.

      Japan without nuclear energy may add as much as 1.7 trillion yen ($22 billion) a year to the power bill for industry, the Japan Iron and Steel Federation said in July.

      Threat to Move

      Komatsu Ltd. (6301), the world’s No. 2 maker of construction machinery, has said it will move overseas if stable electricity supply isn’t guaranteed. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Sept. 2 that some reactors shut down after the March disaster will have to restart to keep the economy going.

      “These plants are a calculated risk,” says Tom Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center in Los Angeles. “Japan has been reasonably thoughtful but they obviously have problems with earthquakes and they have underestimated the risks. Still you have to ask the question: what is the risk of depending on other sources of power?”

      Flipping through binders of press clippings in a black T- shirt and grey slacks, Ishibashi said he still remembers his fear of quakes when he was a boy. He slept with a flashlight next to his pillow in case he had to escape in the night.

      While in college, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake off Japan’s coast killed dozens in the city of Niigata and sent shock waves through Ishibashi’s apartment in Tokyo.

      Experts Needed

      “There was a radio broadcast that night saying Japan didn’t have enough earthquake experts,” he said, adjusting his steel-rimmed glasses. “I decided I’d do that.”

      It was 1964. Modern seismology was getting started and Japan was halfway through building its first nuclear reactor. By the time Ishibashi got his doctorate in seismology from the University of Tokyo 12 years later, there were 24 reactors running or under construction, including six at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station.

      Seismologists at the time still focused on written records, rather than geological history, for clues about where and when quakes struck. And it wasn’t until 1977 that mainstream scientists had the tools to measure the size of quakes like the magnitude-9 that triggered the Fukushima disaster.

      The Richter scale used before then went only to 8.5, or about 6 times less energy than the March 11 quake.

      Significant Damage

      “So all of a sudden everyone knew that, hey, there are magnitude-9 earthquakes in the world,” said Robert Geller, a professor of geophysics at the University of Tokyo. “They didn’t know that when they built the nuclear power plants at Fukushima or other plants from that era. But when that became known they should have done some rethinking.”

      Minutes of a June 2009 trade ministry meeting on safety at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant show Tokyo Electric and the regulator ignored scientific findings that emerged after the power station was built.

      “We didn’t think the damage would be that significant,” said Isao Nishimura, a manager at the utility’s nuclear earthquake resistance technology center, when asked at the meeting why its safety review omitted studies showing the area had a history of major earthquakes and tsunami.

      Debate was cut short by an official from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, according to minutes of the meeting obtained by Bloomberg News. The regulator approved Fukushima Dai-Ichi’s safety report a month later, despite studies by Tohoku University geologist Koji Minoura in the 1990s that showed giant tsunami had hit Japan’s northeast coast three times in the last 3,000 years.

      Russian Roulette

      “That’s about one every 1,000 years on average,” said Geller. “If you’ve got a plant that runs 50 years, you have a 5 percent chance. You’re talking about Russian roulette.”

      Disregard for the science extended to a government panel started in 2001 to revise seismic engineering standards for Japan’s nuclear plants, said Ishibashi. He quit the panel after five years of debate that he called rigged and unscientific.

      The revised seismic standards didn’t reflect evidence that earthquakes could occur in areas where there were no signs of active faults. The omission allowed the utilities to carry on without undertaking expensive retrofits, Ishibashi says.

      “The point I was trying to make was that if you’re going to have nuclear plants here in Japan, they should be built to withstand the most severe shaking that’s been observed,” he said, recalling the date he resigned from the panel in exasperation on Aug. 28, 2006. “They tried to chip away at that as much as they could,” he said.

      Worst Case Scenario

      Masanori Hamada, a Waseda University engineering professor who also served on the panel, said there were reasons for not adopting Ishibashi’s views.

      “I understood what Ishibashi was saying, but if we engineered factoring in every possible worst case scenario, nothing would get built,” Hamada said. “What engineers look for is consensus from the seismologists and we don’t get that.”

      The Fukushima disaster is forcing a rethink in the U.S. nuclear industry. A task force for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the disaster recommended in July that U.S. utilities re-evaluate earthquake hazards every 10 years.

      “At this point there is no requirement to re-review basic seismic design information,” NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said by e-mail.

      In June, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission instructed its experts to review guidelines for earthquake and tsunami defenses at nuclear plants.

      License to Operate

      There are no plans to introduce regular seismic reviews as the U.S. proposes, said a commission official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and declined to be identified.

      “The nuclear industry has tended to give you a license and then once you have that license you are deemed safe,” said Norm Abrahamson, a seismologist at the University of California at Berkeley and an adviser at Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the state’s biggest utility.

      “Nuclear plants are such huge investments that operators need some assurance of getting their money back,” Abrahamson said. “They’re looking for what they would call regulatory stability, but regulatory stability and scientific change don’t go hand in hand.”

      Ishibashi says he didn’t start out as a critic of Japan’s nuclear industry. In 1976, when the then 31-year-old researcher at Tokyo University made his first important discovery — that a fault line west of Tokyo was much bigger than assumed — the risk to Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka prefecture didn’t occur to him. The plant had opened that year above the fault.

      Fukushima Foretold

      His view changed after a magnitude-6.9 quake killed more than 5,500 people on Jan. 17, 1995, and toppled sections of elevated expressway.

      After a disaster that Japanese engineers had said couldn’t happen, the nuclear regulator didn’t immediately re-evaluate its construction standards. It said the plants were “safe from the ground up,” as the title of a 1995 Science Ministry pamphlet put it. Ishibashi decided to investigate.

      The result was an article on Hamaoka published in the October 1997 issue of Japan’s Science Journal that reads like a post-mortem of the Fukushima disaster: A major quake could knock out external power to the plant’s reactors and unleash a tsunami that could overrun its 6-meter defenses, swamping backup diesel generators and leading to loss of cooling and meltdowns.

      When the local prefecture questioned industry experts about Ishibashi’s paper, the response was that he didn’t need to be taken seriously.

      Ishibashi a ‘Nobody’

      “In the field of nuclear engineering, Mr. Ishibashi is a nobody,” Madarame said in a 1997 letter to the Shizuoka Legislature. Madarame, then a professor at the University of Tokyo school of engineering, is now in charge of nuclear safety in the country.

      Requests made to Madarame’s office in October for an interview on his current views of Ishibashi’s work were declined.

      On Oct. 24, Madarame was asked after a regular press briefing for the commission if he’d changed his opinion about Ishibashi.

      “Because of the accident there’s a need to take another look at things, including the earthquake engineering guidelines, and we’re doing that,” he said. “Ishibashi contributed a lot to the revisions to the earthquake guidelines and his comments there are important.” He declined to comment further.

      Hamaoka’s reactors, the subject of Ishibashi’s 1997 report, were shut in May after then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan went on television to publicly plead with Chubu Electric to close the plant. The utility estimates it will cost 100 billion yen and 18 months to build a seawall around the reactors.

      Speaking Engagements

      Now Professor Emeritus at Kobe University, Ishibashi said he hasn’t much time for hiking or other hobbies as his schedule is packed with speaking engagements.

      The message he gives to business leaders and politicians is the focus on tsunami risk after Fukushima has deflected attention from the fundamental issue: The danger of having more than 50 nuclear reactors in one of the world’s most earthquake- prone countries.

      At a private meeting with the Kobe Chamber of Commerce at a Chinese restaurant on July 31, Ishibashi planned to talk through a slide presentation on the risk associated with the 13 nuclear reactors on Wakasa Bay up the coast, nine of which are more than 30 years old.

      The reactors, which keep factories running for companies including Panasonic Corp. (6752) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. (7012) as well as powering the cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, are in an area that has had at least five magnitude-7 and magnitude-8 quakes over the last 500 years.

      Ishibashi said he got through only a few of his 36 Power Point slides before his time was up and dinner started. He was seated at a round table next to the chairman of one of Japan’s biggest companies, who Ishibashi asked not be identified because the meeting was private.

      “‘I know you want the reactors shut,’” he said the chairman told him. “‘But it can’t happen. We need the electricity.’”

      To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Clenfield in Tokyo at
      To contact the editor responsible for this story: Teo Chian Wei at

    59. Jim Di Griz Says:

      ‘He was seated at a round table next to the chairman of one of Japan’s biggest companies, who Ishibashi asked not be identified because the meeting was private.

      “‘I know you want the reactors shut,’” he said the chairman told him. “‘But it can’t happen. We need the electricity.’”’

      That’ll be Mistubishi Heavy Industries in Kobe then.

    60. Jim Di Griz Says:

      BTW, Mistubishi Heavy Industries in Kobe is where they make and sell reactors.

    61. James Annan Says:

      Busby has been found ripping off the vulnerable by selling them snake-oil “remedies”:

    62. debito Says:

      Future cancers caused by Fukushima radiation may be hidden

      By Malcolm Ritter
      NATIONAL NOV. 21, 2011

      FUKUSHIMA —Even if the worst nuclear accident in 25 years leads to many people developing cancer, we may never find out.

      Looking back on those early days of radiation horror, that may sound implausible.

      But the ordinary rate of cancer is so high, and our understanding of the effects of radiation exposure so limited, that any increase in cases from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster may be undetectable.

      Several experts inside and outside Japan told The Associated Press that cancers caused by the radiation may be too few to show up in large population studies, like the long-term survey just getting under way in Fukushima.

      That could mean thousands of cancers under the radar in a study of millions of people, or it could be virtually none. Some of the dozen experts the AP interviewed said they believe radiation doses most Japanese people have gotten fall in a “low-dose” range, where the effect on cancer remains unclear.

      The cancer risk may be absent, or just too small to detect, said Dr. Fred Mettler, a radiologist who led an international study of health effects from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

      That’s partly because cancer is one of the top killers of people in industrialized nations. Odds are high that if you live long enough, you will die of cancer. The average lifetime cancer risk is about 40%.

      In any case, the 2 million residents of Fukushima Prefecture, targeted in the new, 30-year survey, probably got too little radiation to have a noticeable effect on cancer rates, said Seiji Yasumura of the state-run Fukushima Medical University. Yasumura is helping run the project.

      “I think he’s right,” as long as authorities limit children’s future exposure to the radiation, said Richard Wakeford, a visiting epidemiology professor at the Dalton Nuclear Institute at the University of Manchester in England.

      Wakeford, who is also editor of the Journal of Radiological Protection, said he’s assuming that the encouraging data he’s seen on the risk for thyroid cancer is correct.

      The idea that Fukushima-related cancers may go undetected gives no comfort to Edwin Lyman, a physicist and senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group that advocates for nuclear safety. He said that even if cancers don’t turn up in population studies, that “doesn’t mean the cancers aren’t there, and it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.”

      “I think that a prediction of thousands of cancer deaths as a result of the radiation from Fukushima is not out of line,” Lyman said. But he stressed that authorities can do a lot to limit the toll by reducing future exposure to the radiation. That could mean expensive decontamination projects, large areas of condemned land and people never returning home, he said. “There’s some difficult choices ahead.”

      Japan’s cabinet this month endorsed a plan to cut contamination levels in half within the next two years. The government recently announced it plans to study the risk from long-term exposure to the low-dose radiation level used as a trigger for evacuations.

      The plant was damaged March 11 by a tsunami triggered by a magnitude-9 earthquake. Japanese authorities estimate it leaked about one-sixth as much radiation as the Chernobyl accident. It spewed radioactive materials like iodine-131, cesium-137 and 29 others contaminating the water, soil, forests and crops for miles around. A recent study suggested that emissions of cesium-137, were in fact twice what the government has estimated.

      So far, no radiation-linked death or sickness has been reported in either citizens or workers who are shutting down the plant.

      And a preliminary survey of 3,373 evacuees from the 10 towns closest to the plant this summer showed their estimated internal exposure doses over the next several decades would be far below levels officials deem harmful.

      Many don’t trust gov’t reassurances

      But while the Fukushima disaster has faded from world headlines, many Japanese remain concerned about their long-term health. And many don’t trust reassurances from government scientists like Yasumura, of the Fukushima survey.

      Many consumers worry about the safety of food from Fukushima and surrounding prefectures, although produce and fish found to be above government-set limits for contamination have been barred from the market. For example, mushrooms harvested in and around Fukushima are frequently found to be contaminated and barred from market. Controversy has also erupted around the government’s choice of a maximum allowed level for internal radiation exposure from food.

      Fukushima has distributed radiation monitors to 280,000 children at its elementary and junior high schools. Many children are allowed to play outside only two or three hours a day. Schools have removed topsoil on the playgrounds to reduce the dose, and the Education Ministry provided radiation handbooks for teachers. Thousands of children have been moved out of Fukushima since the March disasters, mainly due to radiation fears.

      Many parents and concerned citizens in and around Fukushima, some even as far as Tokyo, carry Geiger counters for daily measurement of radiation levels in their neighborhoods, especially near schools and kindergartens. The devices are probably one of the most popular electronics gadgets across Japan these days. People can rent them at DVD shops or drug stores in Fukushima, while many Internet rental businesses specializing in Geiger counters also have emerged.

      Citizens groups are also setting up radiation measuring centers where people can submit vegetables, milk or other foods for tests. Some people are turning to traditional Japanese diet—pickled plum, miso soup and brown rice—based on a belief that it boosts the immune system.

      “I try what I believe is the best, because I don’t trust the government any more,” says Chieko Shiina, who has turned to that diet. The 65-year-old Fukushima farmer had to close a small Japanese-style inn due to the nuclear crisis.

      She thinks leaving Fukushima would be safer but says there is nowhere else to go.

      “I know we continue to be irradiated, even right at this moment. I know it would be best just to leave Fukushima,” she said.

      Yuka Saito, a mother of four who lives in a Fukushima neighborhood where the evacuation order was recently lifted, said she and her three youngest children spent the summer in Hokkaido to get away from the radiation. She tells her children, ages 6 to 15, to wear medical masks, long-sleeved shirts and a hat whenever they go out, and not to play outside.

      She still avoids drinking tap water and keeps a daily log of her own radiation monitoring around the house, kindergarten and schools her children attend.

      “We Fukushima people are exposed to radiation more than anyone else outside the prefecture, but we just have to do our best to cope,” she said. “We cannot stay inside the house forever.”

      Mental health problems prevalent

      Japanese officials say mental health problems caused by excessive fear of radiation are prevalent and posing a bigger concern than actual risk of cancer caused by radiation.

      But what kind of cancer risks do the Japanese really face?

      Information on actual radiation exposures for individuals is scarce, and some experts say they can’t draw any conclusions yet about risk to the population.

      But Michiaki Kai, professor of environmental health at Oita University of Nursing and Health Sciences, said that based on tests he’s seen on people and their exposure levels, nobody in Fukushima except for some plant workers has been exposed to harmful levels of radiation.

      Radiation generally raises cancer risk in proportion to its amount. At low-dose exposures, many experts and `regulators embrace the idea that this still holds true. But other experts say direct evidence for that is lacking, and that it’s not clear whether such small doses raise cancer risk at all.

      “Nobody knows the answer to that question,” says Mettler, an emeritus professor of radiology at the University of New Mexico and the U.S. representative to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, or UNSCEAR. If such low doses do produce cancers, they’d be too few to be detected against the backdrop of normal cancer rates, he said.

      To an individual the question may have little meaning, since it deals with the difference between no risk and small risk. For example, the general population was told to evacuate areas that would expose them to more than 20 millisieverts a year. A millisievert measures radiation dose and 20 mSv is about seven times the average dose of background radiation Americans get in a year. A child exposed to 20 mSv for a year would face a calculated risk of about 1 in 400 of getting cancer someday as a result, says David Brenner of Columbia University. So that would add 0.25% onto the typical lifetime cancer risk of about 40%, he said.

      And the average dose among the 14,385 workers who worked on the plant through July was 8 mSv, according to the Japanese government. The average lifetime risk of cancer to an individual from that dose alone would be calculated at about 0.05%, or 1 in 2,000, Brenner said.

      Brenner stresses that such calculations are uncertain because scientists know so little about the effects of such small doses of radiation.

      But in assessing the Fukushima disaster’s effect on populations, the low-dose question leads to another: If a lot of people are each exposed to a low dose, can you basically multiply their individual calculated risks to forecast a number of cancers in the population?

      Brenner thinks so, which is why he believes some cancers might even appear in Tokyo although each resident’s risk is “pretty minuscule.”

      But Wolfgang Weiss, who chairs the UNSCEAR radiation committee, said the committee considers it inappropriate to predict a certain number of cancer cases from a low-dose exposure, because low-dose risk isn’t proven.

      Nuclear accidents can cause cancer of the thyroid gland, which can absorb radioactive iodine and become cancerous. That disease is highly treatable and rarely fatal.

      After the Chernobyl disaster, some 6,000 children exposed to radioactive fallout later developed thyroid cancer. Experts blame contaminated milk. But the thyroid threat was apparently reduced in Japan, where authorities closely monitored dairy radiation levels, and children are not big milk drinkers anyway.

      Thyroids of 360,000 young people to be checked

      Still, the new Fukushima survey will check the thyroids of some 360,000 young people under age 18, with follow-ups planned every five years throughout their lifetimes. It will also track women who were pregnant early in the crisis, do checkups focused on mental health and lifestyle-related illnesses for evacuees and others from around the evacuation zone, and ask residents to fill out a 12-page questionnaire to assess their radiation exposure during the first weeks of the crisis.

      But the survey organizers are having trouble getting responses, partly because of address changes. As of mid-October, less than half the residents had responded to the health questionnaire.

      Some residents are skeptical about the survey’s objectivity because of mistrust toward the government, which repeatedly delayed disclosing key data and which revised evacuation zones and safety standards after the accident. Also, the government’s nuclear safety commission recommended use of iodine tablets but none of the residents received them just before or during evacuation, when the preventive medicine would have been most effective.

      Some wonder if the study is using them as human guinea pigs to examine the impact of radiation on humans.

      Eisuke Matsui, a lung cancer specialist and a former associate professor at Gifu University School of Medicine, criticized the project. He said it appears to largely ignore potential radiation-induced health risks like diabetes, cataracts and heart problems that have been hinted at by some studies of Chernobyl.

      “If thyroid cancer is virtually the only abnormality on which they are focusing, I must say there is a big question mark over the reliability of this survey,” he said.

      He also suggested sampling hair, clipped nails and fallen baby teeth to test for radioactive isotopes such as strontium that are undetectable by the survey’s current approach.

      “We should check as many potential problems as possible,” Matsui said.

      Yasumura acknowledges the main purpose of his study is “to relieve radiation fears.” But Matsui says he has a problem with that.

      “A health survey should be a start,” Matsui says, “not a goal.”

      Tatsuhiko Kodama, head of the Radioisotope Center at the University of Tokyo, urged quick action to determine the cancer risks.

      He said big population surveys and analysis will take so long that it would make more sense to run a careful simulation of radiation exposures and do anything possible to reduce the risks.

      “Our responsibility is to tell the people now what possible risks may be to their health,” he said.

    63. debito Says:

      — Asahi reports that TEPCO tries to squirm out of responsibility for the Fukushima disaster, arguing in court that radioactive contamination is the property of the contaminated, not TEPCO. Kinda like saying that the bullet after firing is the property of the person shot, no longer the responsibility of the shooter, so no murder rap. Amazing. The argument was dismissed, but TEPCO still looks to be absolved of responsibility anyway. Not so amazing.


      TEPCO: Radioactive substances belong to landowners, not us
      November 24, 2011, courtesy lots of people
      By TOMOHIRO IWATA / Asahi Shimbun Weekly AERA

      During court proceedings concerning a radioactive golf course, Tokyo Electric Power Co. stunned lawyers by saying the utility was not responsible for decontamination because it no longer “owned” the radioactive substances.

      “Radioactive materials (such as cesium) that scattered and fell from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant belong to individual landowners there, not TEPCO,” the utility said.

      That argument did not sit well with the companies that own and operate the Sunfield Nihonmatsu Golf Club, just 45 kilometers west of the stricken TEPCO plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

      The Tokyo District Court also rejected that idea.

      But in a ruling described as inconsistent by lawyers, the court essentially freed TEPCO from responsibility for decontamination work, saying the cleanup efforts should be done by the central and local governments.

      Although the legal battle has moved to a higher court, observers said that if the district court’s decision stands and becomes a precedent, local governments’ coffers could be drained.

      The two golf companies in August filed for a provisional disposition with the Tokyo District Court, demanding TEPCO decontaminate the golf course and pay about 87 million yen ($1.13 million) for the upkeep costs over six months.

      TEPCO’s argument over ownership of the radioactive substances drew a sharp response from lawyers representing the Sunfield Nihonmatsu Golf Club and owner Sunfield.

      “It is common sense that worthless substances such as radioactive fallout would not belong to landowners,” one of the lawyers said. “We are flabbergasted at TEPCO’s argument.”

      The golf course has been out of operation since March 12, the day after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami set off the nuclear crisis.

      The companies wanted to reopen the course in July, but radiation levels, checked by the Nihonmatsu municipal government in June, were above the national safety limits.

      On Aug. 10, a level of 2.91 microsieverts per hour was recorded 10 centimeters above ground at the tee of the sixth hole. The level was 51.1 microsieverts per hour near a drainage ditch in a parking space for golf carts, a level comparable to the Ottozawa area of Okuma, 2.4 km from the plant.

      But TEPCO questioned the reliability of these figures.

      “There is room for doubt about the ability of the measuring equipment the city used and the accuracy of the records,” it said.

      TEPCO even suggested that the levels of contamination at the golf course would not pose a problem: “There are sites overseas with an annual reading of 10 millisieverts of natural radiation.”

      The district court on Oct. 31 not only rejected TEPCO’s argument that radioactive fallout belongs to individual landowners, it also said the city’s radioactivity measurements were credible.

      Moreover, the court ruled that companies have the right to demand decontamination work by TEPCO.

      But the court went on to say that central or local governments should be responsible for the decontamination work, given the efficiency of their cleanup operations so far.

      The district court also rejected the companies’ demand for compensation, saying the golf course operations could have been resumed because the radiation levels were below 3.8 microsieverts per hour, the yardstick set by the science ministry in April for authorizing the use of schoolyards.

      The golf course companies immediately appealed the district court’s decision.

      Lawyers said operations were suspended at the golf course because of potential health risks to employees and customers.

      “It is only natural that an employer take into account the health of its employees,” one of the lawyers said.

      Sunfield Nihonmatsu Golf Club says that it doesn’t know when it can reopen.

      The Fukushima prefectural golf association, citing “high radiation levels,” canceled a tournament at the golf course that was scheduled for early July. The fairways and greens have become overgrown with grass and weeds.

      “We have asked 15 part-time workers, including caddies, to stay home since March 12,” said Tsutomu Yamane, representative director of the golf course. “We also asked all 17 employees working at the front desk and facility management, except for one employee, to voluntarily quit in September.”

      The golf course company commissioned a radiation testing agency to check the course on Nov. 13. It detected 235,000 becquerels of cesium per kilogram of grass, a level that would put the area into a no-entry zone under safety standards enforced after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

      On Nov. 17, radioactive strontium at 98 becquerels per kilogram was detected in the grass and ground.

      Asked about TEPCO’s doubts concerning the city’s radiation measurements, Nihonmatsu Mayor Keiichi Miho said, “We made the utmost efforts when we conducted the checks.”

      A TEPCO official told The Asahi Shimbun that company will refrain from commenting on the legal battle.

    64. Jim Di Griz Says:


      City governments won’t have the funds for such a massive decontamination effort. They will have to increase city taxes to pay for it. Let’s see how that goes down with the local residents.

    65. debito Says:

      RE: Comment 63 above. Just noticed some poor journalism here:

      “After the Chernobyl disaster, some 6,000 children exposed to radioactive fallout later developed thyroid cancer. Experts blame contaminated milk. But the thyroid threat was apparently reduced in Japan, where authorities closely monitored dairy radiation levels, and children are not big milk drinkers anyway.”

      This is an article authored by AP Science Writer Malcolm Ritter, who has worked for the AP according to his Linkedin for more than 27 years. What’s the source of this sloppy assertion that “children are not big milk drinkers anyway”, when Japanese schoolchildren basically are forced to drink milk in school daily from grade school through junior high? Is this ignorant, or is this the assertion of some Japanese public official? It’s unclear as written.

    66. debito Says:

      Greenpeace Int’l reports that the Fukushima contamination situation is “rapidly spinning out of control”:

      Living with Fukushima City’s radiation problem, Blogpost by Ike Teuling – December 8, 2011 at 15:27

      While walking through the highly contaminated outskirts of Fukushima City last week, I suddenly realized that this capital of the prefecture is as far from the Fukushima nuclear disaster site as my hometown is from Borssele where the only Dutch nuclear power plant in the Netherlands is located —about 60 km. While people in the 20 km exclusion zone around the Fukushima disaster site have been evacuated, the residents of this densely populated city have already waited nine months for decontamination of their houses, gardens and parks without getting any official government support for relocation, not even for children and pregnant women.

      We spent four days in Fukushima City doing a radiation survey in the neighbourhoods of Watari and Onami. People there have been left to cope alone in a highly contaminated environment by both the local and national governments. Our radiation experts found hot spots of up to 37 microSieverts per hour in a garden only a few meters away from a house and an accumulation of radioactivity in drainage systems, puddles and ditches. Overall, the radiation levels in these neighbourhoods are so high that people receive an exposure to radiation just from external sources that is ten times the annual allowed dose. How high their internal exposure is from eating contaminated food and inhaling or ingesting radioactive particles remains unknown, since no government program is keeping track of this.

      Parks are the most contaminated areas in Fukushima City. Some are marked with signs: “Due to radioactive contamination, don’t spend more than one hour per day in this park.” Even on sunny days last week, the parks where empty. Mothers are smart enough to not let their children play on the playgrounds in these parks, not even for an hour. Even inside their houses, they have to worry about radiation. We measured the rooms of an elderly lady’s house who is expecting her grandchildren for Christmas. She wanted to know what the safest place was for her grandchildren to sleep.

      People in Fukushima City are worried about their health, especially families with children and pregnant women. We walked around with dosimeters and radiation detection equipment and were aware of what we are exposed to and of the risk we were taking. The residents of Fukushima City had one government survey at their house last July, if any at all. Detected hotspots where left unmarked, no instructions were given on how to behave in a radioactive environment. Since then, only 35 of the thousands of houses that need to be decontaminated have been cleaned by the government.

      The decontamination done by the local authorities is both uncoordinated and thoroughly inadequate. The subcontractors they are using are badly instructed, risking their own health and spreading the radioactive contamination instead of removing it. We found radioactive run-off water from a decontamination process leaking directly into the environment. And because there is no storage site for radioactive waste from decontamination work, the waste is buried directly on people’s property, sometimes only a few meters away from their houses.

      The Japanese government doesn’t know how to deal with the massive contamination caused by the nuclear disaster. Instead of protecting people from radiation, they are downplaying the risks by increasing the allowed radiation levels far above international standards. And professors like Dr. Yamashita, who make statements like ‘If you smile, the radiation will not affect you’ are being employed as official advisors on radiation health risk.

      In short, it is clear that the situation in Fukushima is rapidly spinning out of control, and if the national government does not take full responsibility for the protection of its population, the people affected by the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi will continue to suffer for a long time to come.

      Ike Teuling is a Greenpeace radiation expert

      Photo: Greenpeace radiation monitoring team members Ike Teuling and Daisuke Miyachi check contamination levels in downtown Fukushima city, approximately 60km from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. © Noriko Hayashi / Greenpeace

    67. debito Says:

      ‘Absolutely no progress being made’ at Fukushima nuke plant, undercover reporter says
      Mainichi Daily News December 16, 2011

      Tomohiko Suzuki, in full protective gear, near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on July 18. (Photo courtesy of Tomohiko Suzuki)

      Conditions at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant are far worse than its operator or the government has admitted, according to freelance journalist Tomohiko Suzuki, who spent more than a month working undercover at the power station.

      “Absolutely no progress is being made” towards the final resolution of the crisis, Suzuki told reporters at a Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan news conference on Dec. 15. Suzuki, 55, worked for a Toshiba Corp. subsidiary as a general laborer there from July 13 to Aug. 22, documenting sloppy repair work, companies including plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) playing fast and loose with their workers’ radiation doses, and a marked concern for appearances over the safety of employees or the public.

      For example, the no-entry zones around the plant — the 20-kilometer radius exclusion zone and the extension covering most of the village of Iitate and other municipalities — have more to do with convenience that actual safety, Suzuki says.

      Tomohiko Suzuki shows reporters a watch with a pinhole camera on Dec. 15 at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. He used the watch to photograph the inside of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant while working undercover there in July and August. (Mainichi)

      “(Nuclear) technology experts I’ve spoken to say that there are people living in areas where no one should be. It’s almost as though they’re living inside a nuclear plant,” says Suzuki. Based on this and his own radiation readings, he believes the 80-kilometer-radius evacuation advisory issued by the United States government after the meltdowns was “about right,” adding that the government probably decided on the current no-go zones to avoid the immense task of evacuating larger cities like Iwaki and Fukushima.

      The situation at the plant itself is no better, where he says much of the work is simply “for show,” fraught with corporate jealousies and secretiveness and “completely different” from the “all-Japan” cooperative effort being presented by the government.

      “Reactor makers Toshiba and Hitachi (brought in to help resolve the crisis) each have their own technology, and they don’t talk to each other. Toshiba doesn’t tell Hitachi what it’s doing, and Hitachi doesn’t tell Toshiba what it’s doing.”

      Meanwhile, despite there being no concrete data on the state of the reactor cores, claims by the government and TEPCO that the disaster is under control and that the reactors are on-schedule for a cold shutdown by the year’s end have promoted a breakneck work schedule, leading to shoddy repairs and habitual disregard for worker safety, he said.

      Workers at a Toshiba Corp. facility at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant are seen in this photo taken with a hidden camera. (Photo courtesy of Tomohiko Suzuki)

      “Working at Fukushima is equivalent to being given an order to die,” Suzuki quoted one nuclear-related company source as saying. He says plant workers regularly manipulate their radiation readings by reversing their dosimeters or putting them in their socks, giving them an extra 10 to 30 minutes on-site before they reach their daily dosage limit. In extreme cases, Suzuki said, workers even leave the radiation meters in their dormitories.

      According to Suzuki, TEPCO and the subcontractors at the plant never explicitly tell the workers to take these measures. Instead the workers are simply assigned projects that would be impossible to complete on time without manipulating the dosage numbers, and whether through a sense of duty or fear of being fired, the workers never complain.

      Furthermore, the daily radiation screenings are “essentially an act,” with the detector passed too quickly over each worker, while “the line to the buzzer that is supposed to sound when there’s a problem has been cut,” Suzuki said.

      One of the reactor buildings at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant destroyed by hydrogen explosions is seen in this photo taken with a hidden camera. (Photo courtesy of Tomohiko Suzuki)
      Meanwhile much of the work — like road repairs — is purely cosmetic, and projects directly related to cleaning up the crisis such as decontaminating water — which Suzuki was involved in — are rife with cut corners, including the use of plastic piping likely to freeze and crack in the winter.

      “We are seeing many problems stemming from the shoddy, rushed work at the power plant,” Suzuki says.

      Despite the lack of progress and cavalier attitude to safety, Suzuki claims the cold shutdown schedule has essentially choked off any new ideas. The crisis is officially under control and the budget for dealing with it has been cut drastically, and many Hitachi and Toshiba engineers that have presented new solutions have been told there is simply no money to try them.

      “Yakuza to genpatsu,” by Tomohiko Suzuki. (Cover image courtesy of Bungei Shunju)

      In sum, Suzuki says what he saw (and photographed with a pinhole camera hidden in his watch) proves the real work to overcome the Fukushima disaster “is just beginning.” He lost his own inside look at that work after it was discovered he was a journalist, though officially he was fired because his commute to work was too long.

      “The Japanese media have turned away from this issue,” he laments, though the story is far from over. (By Robert Irvine, Staff Writer)


      A book by Tomohiko Suzuki detailing many of his experiences at the plant and connections between yakuza crime syndicates and the nuclear industry, titled “Yakuza to genpatsu” (the yakuza and nuclear power), was published by Bungei Shunju on Dec. 15.
      (No Japanese version available.)

    68. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Debito, the above is a frightening post. I don’t know what’s worse; that the mainstream media has by inaction allowed TEPCO and the government to hide the facts of Fukushima for so long, or that the tatemae of appearing to fix the problem is more important than the honne of actually fixing the problem.
      In the 70’s and 80’s striking was called the ‘English sickness’ by Europeans, perhaps we should name the tatemae/honne reality gap the ‘Japanese sickness’? I am not joking.

    69. debito Says:

      The Fukushima black box
      A dangerous lack of urgency in drawing lessons from Japan’s nuclear disaster
      The Economist Jan 7th 2012 | from the print edition, Banyan Column

      THERE is a breathtaking serenity to the valley that winds from the town of Namie, on the coast of Fukushima prefecture, into the hills above. A narrow road runs by a river that passes through steep ravines, studded with maples. Lovely it may be, but it is the last place where you would want to see an exodus of 8,000 people fleeing meltdowns at a nearby nuclear-power plant.

      Along that switchback road the day after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th 2011, it took Namie’s residents more than three hours to drive 30km (19 miles) to what they thought was the relative safety of Tsushima, a secluded hamlet. What they did not know was that they were heading into an invisible fog of radioactive matter that has made this one of the worst radiation hotspots in Japan—far worse than the town they abandoned, just ten minutes’ drive from the gates of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. It was not until a New York Times report in August that many of the evacuees realised they had been exposed to such a danger, thanks to government neglect.

      Negligence forms the backdrop for the first government-commissioned report into the Fukushima nuclear disaster, released in late December. Although only an interim assessment (the complete report is due in the summer), it is already 500 pages long and the product of hundreds of interviews. A casual reader might be put off by the technical detail and the dearth of personal narrative. Yet by Japanese standards it is gripping. It spares neither the government nor Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), the operator of the nuclear plant. It reveals at times an almost cartoon-like level of incompetence. Whether it is enough to reassure an insecure public that lessons will be learnt is another matter.

      Since the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979, it has become axiomatic to assume that complex systems fail in complex ways. That was broadly true of Fukushima, though often the failures appear absurdly elementary. In the most quake-prone archipelago on earth, TEPCO and its regulators had no accident-management plan in the event of earthquakes and tsunamis—assuming, apparently, that the plant was proofed against them and that any hypothetical accidents would be generated only from within. TEPCO had, in the event of nuclear disaster, an off-site emergency headquarters just 5km from the plant that was not radiation-proof, and so was effectively useless. On site, the workers in its number one reactor appear not to have been familiar with an emergency-cooling system called an isolation condenser, which they wrongly thought was still working after the tsunami. Their supervisors made the same mistake, so a vital six hours were lost before other methods for cooling the overheating atomic fuel rods were deployed. Partly as a result, this was the first reactor to explode on March 12th.

      The government was almost as clueless. Naoto Kan, then prime minister, had a crisis headquarters on the fifth floor of the Kantei, his office building. But emergency staff from various ministries were relegated to the basement, and there was often miscommunication, not least because mobile phones did not work underground. Crucial data estimating the dispersion of radioactive matter were not given to the prime minister’s office, so that evacuees like those from Namie were not given any advice on where to go. That is why they drove straight into the radioactive cloud. The report faults the government for providing information that was often bogus, ambiguous or slow. Perhaps the biggest failure was that nobody in a position of responsibility—neither TEPCO nor its regulators—had sought to look beyond the end of their noses in disaster planning. No one seems ever to have tried to “think the unthinkable”.

      In America official reports such as those on the September 11th attacks or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have become acclaimed books. This one is hardly a page-turner. A privately funded foundation, headed by Yoichi Funabashi, a former editor of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, is doing a separate investigation, based partly on the testimony of TEPCO whistle-blowers. (One, according to Mr Funabashi, says the earthquake damaged the reactors before the tsunami, a claim that officials have always rejected.) It at least promises to have literary merit. Mr Funabashi, a prominent author, draws parallels between the roots of the disaster and Japan’s failures in the second world war. They include the use of heroic front-line troops with out-of-touch superiors; rotating decision-makers too often; narrow “stovepipe” thinking; and the failure to imagine that everything could go wrong at once.

      Complex systems, jerry-rigged

      For now, the risk is that the interim report does not get the attention it deserves. So far it seems to have aroused more interest on a techie website called Physics Forums, beloved of nuclear engineers, than in the Japanese press. The government, led by Yoshihiko Noda, has not yet used it as a rallying call for reform. One of its recommendations, an independent new regulatory body, will soon be set up. Others, such as new safety standards and broader evacuation plans, would take months to implement.

      Such reports are, after all, confidence-building exercises. They are meant to reassure the public that, by exposing failures, they will help to prevent them from being repeated. In the case of Fukushima Dai-ichi there is still plenty to be nervous about. Although the government declared on December 16th that the plant had reached a state of “cold shutdown”, much of the cooling system is jerry-rigged and probably still not earthquake-proof. On January 1st a quake temporarily caused water levels to plunge in a pool containing highly radioactive spent-fuel rods.

      Meanwhile, across Japan, 48 out of 54 nuclear reactors remain out of service, almost all because of safety fears. Until somebody in power seizes on the report as a call to action, its findings, especially those that reveal sheer ineptitude, suggest that the public has every reason to remain as scared as hell.

    70. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @69 Jim Di Griz

      Yes, and here’s another article from the Japan Times that suggests the source of institutional lies orchestrated by the mainstream J-media, the central government, and a class-A corporate criminal. Free Press is indeed restricted by the powers-that-be.

      The Japan Times Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012
      Fukushima lays bare Japanese media’s ties to top

      Is the ongoing crisis surrounding the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant being accurately reported in the Japanese media?

      No, says independent journalist Shigeo Abe, who claims the authorities, and many journalists, have done a poor job of informing people about nuclear power in Japan both before and during the crisis — and that the clean-up costs are now being massively underestimated and underreported.

      “The government says that as long as the radioactive leak can be dammed from the sides it can be stopped, but that’s wrong,” Abe insists. “They’re going to have to build a huge trench underneath the plant to contain the radiation — a giant diaper. That is a huge-scale construction and will cost a fortune. The government knows that but won’t reveal it.”

      The disaster at the Fukushima plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) again revealed one of the major fault lines of Japanese journalism — that between the mainstream media and the mass-selling weeklies and their ranks of freelancers.

      The mainstream media has long been part of the press-club system, which funnels information from official Japan to the public. Critics say the system locks the country’s most influential journalists into a symbiotic relationship with their sources, and discourages them from investigation or independent lines of analysis.

      Once the crisis began, it was weekly Japanese magazines that sank their teeth into the guardians of the so-called nuclear village — the cozy ranks of polititicians, bureaucrats, academics, corporate players and the media who promote nuclear power in this country.

      Shukan Shincho dubbed Tepco’s management “war criminals.” Shukan Gendai named and shamed the most culpable of Japan’s goyō gakusha (unquestioning pronuclear scientists; aka academic flunkies).

      Meanwhile, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper’s well-respected weekly magazine AERA revealed that local governments manipulated public opinion in support of reopening nuclear plants. The same magazine’s now-famous March 19, 2011, cover story showing a masked nuclear worker and the headline “Radiation is coming to Tokyo” was controversial enough to force an apology and the resignation of at least one columnist (though the headline was in fact correct).

      Others explored claims of structural bias in the mainstream press.

      Japan’s power-supply industry, collectively, is Japan’s biggest advertiser, spending ¥88 billion (more than $1 billion) a year, according to the Nikkei Advertising Research Institute. Tepco’s ¥24.4 billion alone is roughly half what a global firm as large as Toyota spends in a year.

      Many journalists were tied to the industry in complex ways. A Yomiuri Shimbun science writer was cited in “Daishinsai Genpatsu Jiko to Media” (“The Media and the Nuclear Disaster”; Otsuki Shoten, 2011) as working simultaneously for nuclear-industry watchdogs, including the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (sic). Journalists from the Nikkei and Mainichi Shimbun newspapers have also reportedly gone on to work for pronuclear organizations and publications.

      Before the Fukushima crisis began, Tepco’s advertising largesse may have helped silence even the most liberal of potential critics. According to Shukan Gendai, the utility spent roughly $26 million on advertising with the Asahi Shimbun. Tepco’s quarterly magazine, Sola, was edited by former Asahi writers.

      The financial clout of the power-supply industry, combined with the press-club system, surely helped discourage investigative reporting and keep concerns about nuclear power and critics of plants such as the aging Fukushima complex and Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka facility in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, which sits astride numerous faults, well below the media radar.

      Throughout the Fukushima crisis, the mainstream media has relied heavily on pronuclear scientists’ and Tepco’s analyses of what was occurring. After the first hydrogen blast of March 12, the government’s top spokesman, Yukio Edano, told a press conference: “Even though the reactor No. 1 building is damaged, the containment vessel is undamaged. … On the contrary, the outside monitors show that the (radiation) dose rate is declining, so the cooling of the reactor is proceeding.”

      Any suggestion that the accident would reach Chernobyl level was, he said, “out of the question.”

      Author and nuclear critic Takashi Hirose noted afterward: “Most of the media believed this. It makes no logical sense to say, as Edano did, that the safety of the containment vessel could be determined by monitoring the radiation dose rate. All he did was repeat the lecture given him by Tepco.”

      As media critic Toru Takeda later wrote, the overwhelming strategy throughout the crisis, by both the authorities and big media, seems to be to reassure people, not alert them to possible dangers.

      By late March, the war in Libya had knocked Japan from the front pages of the world’s newspapers, but there was still one story that was very sought after: life inside the 20-km evacuation zone around the Fukushima atomic plant.

      Thousands of people had fled and left behind homes, pets and farm animals that would eventually die. A small number of mainly elderly people stayed behind, refusing to leave homes that often had been in their families for generations. Not surprisingly, there was enormous global interest in their story and its disturbing echoes of the Chernobyl catastrophe 25 years earlier.

      Yet not a single reporter from Japan’s big media filed from inside the evacuation zone — despite the fact that it was not yet illegal to be there. Some would begin reporting from the area much later after receiving government clearance — the Asahi Shimbun newspaper sent its first dispatch on April 25, when its reporters accompanied the commissioner-general of the National Police Agency. Later, they would explain why they stayed away and — with the exception of government-approved excursions — why they continue to stay away.

      Smoke signals: The leaking Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 20, 2011. Critics accuse Japan’s mainstream media of failing to properly report the ongoing crisis. KYODO PHOTO
      “Journalists are employees and their companies have to protect them from dangers,” explained Keiichi Sato, a deputy editor with the News Division of Nippon TV.

      “Reporters like myself might want to go into that zone and get the story, and there was internal debate about it, but there isn’t much personal freedom inside big media companies. We were told by our superiors that it was dangerous, so going in by ourselves would mean breaking that rule. It would mean nothing less than quitting the company.”

      Rest of the article at

    71. debito Says:

      FYI, here are zillions of pages on the Fukushima disaster courtesy of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Agency.

      Submitter AG says, “There is a sense of frustration throughout that the only info available to them at the time is from media outlets and almost nothing at all from the Jgov or other officials. a MASSIVE read but thought you might be interested…”

      If anyone feels like poring through them, feel free!

    72. Charuzu Says:

      This may be important

      — Also WHO assessment, courtesy of Chad.

    73. debito Says:

      Record radiation in Fukushima reactor building
      The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 29, 2012)

      Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it detected 10,300 millisieverts of radiation per hour in the basement of a building housing the No. 1 reactor of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the highest radiation recorded in the plant’s reactor buildings.

      According to the utility’s announcement Wednesday, it would take about 20 seconds for a worker exposed to this level of radiation to reach the government-set, annual cumulative dose limit of 50 millisieverts. Acute symptoms of radiation exposure such as vomiting would develop in about six minutes.

      TEPCO said it needs to identify and repair spots where radiation-contaminated water is leaking in the building as it moves toward decommissioning the No. 1 reactor. The power company said such work will be difficult, as the high radiation makes it necessary to use robots instead of human workers.

    74. congee Says:

      Couple of interesting reports from ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) on this topic:

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