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Hi Blog. While I still want to reserve the summer for cycling and outdoor non-blog stuff, one thing has to be said: Fukushima is a mess, just like we suspected it would be. More than five months later, the Japanese public still has insufficient information about what’s going on down there, and people are being slowly poisoned as radiation percolates through the food chain and begins to be picked up overseas. As I’ve said before, this is Japan’s long-burning tyreyard fire, and there is still no end to the crisis in sight.
But one other thing also has to be said. Back in March, when Debito.org merely had the audacity to raise some questions about the situation and the information we were getting, we were roundly criticized for being “alarmist”, “ignorant”, “wrong”, “reputation-damaging”, and even “racist”. One even said, “The greatest health effects of all nuclear incidents have been due to the anxiety that people like you are doing their best to ramp up. Thanks a lot for contributing to the problem.” That’s pretty bold — as if we were trying to instigate a panic and damage people’s health just because we wanted to know more information (which the nuclear industry worldwide keeps a lid on, down to the very science, to keep the public in the dark about their shenanigans and corruption).
Well, guess what critics — five months later, clearly YOU were wrong.
The Fukushima Crisis has exposed the inability of the GOJ (whether you mean politician or bureaucrat) to respond in a timely or safe manner, to follow the rules and safety standards (even changing safe radiation levels to suit political exigency), to show proper leadership or even adequate concern for its citizens in harm’s way, to release facts of the case so that people could make an informed decision, or to acknowledge there had even been a meltdown (something other observers knew based upon reasoned analysis of reactors’ output, but the GOJ would not admit), for months! The political culture which enables people in power in Japan to evade responsibility is now slowly poisoning Japanese society, if not eventually parts of the world, and that has to be addressed in the arena of public opinion.
Back in March, we at Debito.org did try to err on the side of caution and give some benefiting of the doubt (even shutting ourselves up when we had insufficient information). We wanted to wait and see how the cards fell. They clearly fell in favor of our original assertions that we were not being told the full story, and that things were far worse than was being let on. Now, critics, let’s have some honest capitulation on your part. You know who you are. It’s so easy to be a critic, but much harder to admit you’re wrong. Have the cojones to do that, especially about something as serious and society-changing as this.
Some referential articles follow, showing 1) the slow poisoning of children by Fukushima (NHK World), 2) how deep the institutional rot runs (NY Times), 3) more on the science of radioactivity and how seriously matters are not being taken (Japan Focus), and 4) the new attempts at spin-doctoring the situation, for starters. Knee-jerk defensive comments that do not reflect a careful reading of these references will not be approved. I think we’ve had quite enough knee-jerk-ism regarding this subject here already. Arudou Debito
(Debito.org Readers who wish to post more articles in the Comments Section, please do so with date, link, and pertinent excerpt if not entire article.)
More Fukushima-related articles on Japan Focus, a trustworthy academic site, can be found by plugging in keyword “Fukushima” in their search engine, see http://japanfocus.org/site/search
Radiation effect on children’s thyroid glands
NHK World Sunday, August 14, 2011 02:16 +0900 (JST)
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/13_26.html Courtesy BCH
A survey shows that a small amount of radioactive iodine has been detected in the thyroid glands of hundreds of children in Fukushima Prefecture.
The result was reported to a meeting of the Japan Pediatric Society in Tokyo on Saturday.
A group of researchers led by Hiroshima University professor Satoshi Tashiro tested 1,149 children in the prefecture for radiation in their thyroid glands in March following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactive iodine was detected in about half of the children.
Tashiro says radiation in thyroid glands exceeding 100 millisieverts poses a threat to humans, but that the highest level in the survey was 35 millisieverts.
Tashiro says based on the result, it is unlikely that thyroid cancer will increase in the future, but that health checks must continue to prepare for any eventuality.
Japan Held Nuclear Data, Leaving Evacuees in Peril
By NORIMITSU ONISHI and MARTIN FACKLER
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.
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: http://japanfocus.org/-Kodama-Tatsuhiko/3587
Fukushima forced depopulation, Japanese plead world aid
Deborah Dupre, Human Rights Examiner, August 22, 2011, Examiner.com, courtesy BCH (excerpt)
After “off-scale” radiation contamination at Fukushima was reported in early August, this weekend extremely excessive radiation contamination around Fukushima reported by the Ministry of Science and Education is forcing the Japanese government toward what New York Times termed “long-term depopulation” with an announcement making the area officially uninhabitable for decades, as Japanese people, including radiation refugees, plead for global help to survive human right to health violations experienced since March when Japan’s ever worsening nuclear power plant catastrophe began.
The government is expected to make a formal announcement telling many of the radiation refugees that they will be prohibited from returning to their homes indefinitely according to several Japanese news reports over the weekend reported the New York Times on Monday.
“Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels, several major media outlets said Monday.”
Fukushima area being uninhabited for decades is no surprise to many independent nuclear experts or lay persons aware that has been case for areas around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine after its 1986 catastrophic accident. Today, an estimated five million people in the Ukraine suffer Chernobyl radiation deformities and cancer, many of whom were not born when that catastrophe began, according to a recent Australia CBS report. (See: “Fukushima now radiating everyone: ‘Unspeakable’ reality,” Dupré, August 16, 2011)
Examiner colleague, Alfred Lambremont reported in early July that, “Leuren Moret [MA, PhD (ABT)] released her court statement as expert witness in a lawsuit brought to force government officials to evacuate more than 350,000 children from the Fukushima area where they are being forcibly exposed by the government to lethal doses of radiation.”
The anticipated Japanese government relocation announcement would be the “first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant” reported The New York Times.
This forced depopulation issue is one that “scientists and some officials have been warning about for months” and criticized the government for not doing sooner. New York Times reports that:
“… evacuations have been a sensitive topic for the government, which has been criticized for being slow to admit the extent of the disaster and trying to limit the size of the areas affected, despite possible risks to public health. Until now, Tokyo had been saying it would lift the current evacuation orders for most areas around the plant early next year, when workers are expected to stabilize Fukushima Daiichi’s damaged nuclear reactors.”
U.S. involvement in nuclear genocide abroad and at home has been recorded by Leuren Moret who wrote in her Court statement:
“Instead of evacuation, the government gives the children (sick with radiation symptoms) film badges to measure the external exposure dose… another study group like U.S. govt. studies on Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims (they are still being studied), Iraq victims, Gaza victims. And the U.S. government did the same thing to Americans during 1300 nuclear bomb tests in the US.”
Radiation deniers foster nuclear industry
There have been Japanese government televised programs espousing Plutonium is good for humans.
After the Fukushima nuclear power plant catastrophe began, the nuclear industry urgently redoubled efforts to convince the world that nuclear radiation is safe and even more, “they are trying to say that radiation is actually good for us” according to Noel Wauchope.
“The whole idea of radiation is good for you is not new,” said Nuclear News editor Christina MacPherson in an email to Dupré. “It was pushed a few years back by Frenchman Bruno Comby with his ‘environmentalists for nuclear power’ campaign.”
Continue reading on Examiner.com Fukushima forced depopulation, Japanese plead world aid (video) – National Human Rights | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/human-rights-in-national/fukushima-forced-depopulation-japanese-plead-world-aid-video#ixzz1W3AdOlmn
More Fukushima-related articles on Japan Focus, a trustworthy academic site, can be found by plugging in keyword “Fukushima” in their search engine, see http://japanfocus.org/site/search
74 comments on “It’s time for the naysayers to capitulate regarding the Fukushima Crisis; referential articles”
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.
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
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”.
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.
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.
— 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.”
@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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Teo Chian Wei at email@example.com
‘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.
BTW, Mistubishi Heavy Industries in Kobe is where they make and sell reactors.
Busby has been found ripping off the vulnerable by selling them snake-oil “remedies”:
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.
— 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.
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.
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.
Greenpeace Int’l reports that the Fukushima contamination situation is “rapidly spinning out of control”:
Living with Fukushima City’s radiation problem
Greenpeace.org, 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
‘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.)
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.
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.
@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
By DAVID MCNEILL
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 http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120108x3.html
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!
This may be important
— Also WHO assessment, courtesy of Chad.
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.
Couple of interesting reports from ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) on this topic: