Fukushima: Abe govt’s Orwellian denials will prove costly

Robert Hunziker | CounterPunch.org

Japan’s Abe government claims portions of Fukushima Prefecture (original population 2 million) are safe for habitation, radioactivity is acceptable; whereas scientific data by third-party NGOs indicates otherwise, stay away!

A few of the countless water tanks at Fukushima

A few of the countless water tanks at Fukushima

PM Abe’s specific maneuvers towards rehabilitation give the appearance that the Fukushima full-blown nuclear meltdown is relatively minimal in comparison to Chernobyl’s disastrous explosion of 1986. After all, to this day, Chernobyl after 30 years is still a 30km “exclusion zone” where nobody is allowed due to excessive levels of radiation.

Meanwhile, back in Japan, PM Abe is moving people back into former restricted zones four years after the fact.

It remains an open question as to whether the Fukushima aftermath will be worse than Chernobyl. After all, the China Syndrome may be actively at work at Fukushima and as such could last over many lifetimes.

Still, the immediate direct exposure of radiation over population centers at Chernobyl was significantly more than Fukushima of which 80% drifted out into the Pacific Ocean.

But, that may be slight solace because, horrifyingly, nobody knows where the Fukushima melted cores are located, nobody knows; it’s absolutely true, nobody knows whether the molten cores are within the containment vessels, outside of the vessels, deep in the ground, or cataclysmically traversing towards the water table.

Regardless, PM Abe’s directive appears to be: “No problem, we’ve cleaned up a whole lot of the mess outside of the immediate meltdown… so, move back into former restricted areas.”

Still, it’s nearly impossible to give an all-clear signal at this stage, especially with the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station containment vessels completely out of control with wild atom-splitting rogue radionuclides spewing into the Pacific Ocean, and who knows where else (Einstein must be spinning in his grave).

The China Syndrome Worry

“While a molten reactor core wouldn’t burn ‘all the way through to China’ it could enter the soil and water table and cause huge contamination in the crops and drinking water around the power plant. It’s a nightmare scenario, the stuff of movies. And it might just have happened at Fukushima,” Eben Harrell, Was Fukushima a China Syndrome? Time Magazine, May 16, 2011.

If Chernobyl is a leading indicator of Fukushima’s future, “Chernobyl offers many lessons about what Princeton University engineering professor Robert Socolow calls the ‘afterheat’ of a nuclear disaster, but it’s the generational lesson that’s most important. Because some of the isotopes released during a nuclear accident remain radioactive for tens of thousands of years, cleanup is the work not just of first responders but also of their descendants and their descendants’ descendants. Asked when the reactor site would again become inhabitable, Ihor Gramotkin, director of the Chernobyl power plant, replies, ‘At least 20,000 years,” Eben Harrell, Apocalypse Today: Visiting Chernobyl, 25 Years Later, Time Magazine, April 26, 2011.

As of June 12th, 2015, the Abe government is returning residents to the Iitate village in Fukushima’s Prefecture four short years post the nuclear plant meltdowns, and by the upcoming 2018 year, the prime minister is eliminating state compensation to victims.

Not only that, but since August 2015, PM Abe is reopening nuclear facilities, the Sendai No. 1 reactor has already resumed full-scale commercial operations.

Contrariwise, according to former PM Naoto Kan, who was prime minister during the Fukushima disaster: “I now consider nuclear energy to be the most dangerous form of energy, and the risks associated with it are too great for us to continue generating atomic power,” Former Japanese PM Naoto Kan: Fukushima Radically Changed my Perspective, Deutsche Welle, Feb. 25, 2015.

One of the issues in trying to assess the dangers, as well as timing of recovery, for Fukushima is believability. Who can be trusted? In that regard, the Abe government’s enactment of strict extraordinarily broad secrecy laws, similar to WWII, with the threat of prison sentences up to 10 years for any violators of indeterminately wide-open secrecy laws undermines confidence in believability of the Japanese government, by definition.

On the other hand, respected third-party NGOs seem more reliable, if only because they do not have an axe to grind, no broad open-ended secrecy laws, no threats of prison sentences, no scare tactics, no public demonstrations in opposition, no lost revenues, no cleanup costs, no threats to human health, no threats to marine life, and no connections to the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Greenpeace/Japan Exposes Failure of Fukushima Decontamination (July 21, 2015)

Greenpeace Japan presumably takes issue with Prime Minister Abe’s declaration that people can safely move back to parts of Fukushima Prefecture.

Greenpeace Japan conducted a radiation survey and sampling program in Iitate, a village in Fukushima Prefecture. Even after decontamination, radiation dose rates measured ten times (10xs) the maximum allowed to the general public.

According to Greenpeace Japan: “The Japanese government plans to lift restrictions in all of Area 2 [2], including Iitate, where people could receive radiation doses of up to 20mSV each year and in subsequent years. International radiation protection standards recommend public exposure should be 1mSv/year or less in non-post accident situations. The radiation limit that excluded people from living in the 30km zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant exclusion zone was set at 5mSV/year, five years after the nuclear accident. Over 100,000 people were evacuated from within the zone and will never return.” (Greenpeace Press Release, July 21, 2015).

So, Chernobyl’s 5mSV/year radiation limit morphs into the possibility of 20mSV radiation each year for some areas of Fukushima, subjecting residents to what?

According to Green Cross International, founded in 1993 by Mikhail Gorbachev, who was president of the Soviet Union when Chernobyl exploded: Both Chernobyl and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disasters are categorized as Level 7 events defined as a major release of radioactive material.

“However, the number of people affected by radiation in Japan has tripled when compared to Chernobyl, says Nathalie Gysi of Green Cross Switzerland… water leakage at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant remains a problem four years after… There continue to be rising doubts over the safety of seafood, such as radioactivity levels in tuna and other fish.” (Green Cross Int’l March 11, 2015).

The Green Cross International 2015 Fukushima Report was prepared under direction of Jonathan M. Samet, MD, University of Southern California professor Keck School of Medicine and chair Department of Preventive Medicine, using the same standards as a similar 2012 study of Chernobyl.

According to the report: “Continued exposure to low-level radiation, entering the human body on a daily basis through food intake, is of particular consequence.”

Morphologically Defective Fir Trees

According to the National Institute of Radiological Science/Japan (“NIRS” est. 1957 as Japan’s only institute of radiology science) fir trees in Fukushima are exhibiting “strange growth patterns,” meaning the trees are stunted and showing morphological defects, in particular bifurcation or the splitting of a tree body into two parts at the tip. Thus, further normal tree growth is stopped dead.

Fir trees normally extend upward in growth patterns with two or more branches each year. However, 98% of inspected fir trees within a 3.5km area of the Fukushima damaged nuclear plants have severe defects. NIRS believes radiation causes abnormalities of fir trees “without a top bud,” hence no more normalized growth. Results of inspected trees found 125 out of 128 abnormal.

Thus, begging the question: If tree growth is stunted/deformed within 3.5km of the damaged nuclear plants, what’s the analogous impact on people?

Missing Birds

According to CBS News (April 16, 2015): “Birds are becoming a rarity around the damaged nuclear site… dramatic reductions… in terms of swallows in Fukushima, there had been hundreds if not thousands in many of these towns where we were working. Now we are seeing a few dozen… It’s just an enormous decline,” (Dr. Tim Mousseau, biologist, University of South Carolina, Dwindling Bird Populations in Fukushima, sc.edu, 4/14/15).

Fukushima Myths

Chris Harris, a former senior nuclear reactor operator for over three decades and currently a nuclear consultant, claims Fukushima is an extinction level event: Containment is a myth, there isn’t any; cold shutdown is a myth; cooling is a myth because there is no way to measure cooling when nobody knows where the nuclear fuel is located; waste processing is a myth; cleanup is a myth because it’s a “waste generation facility” that won’t stop.

Voices Within Japan

According to Yauemon Sato, the ninth-generation head of a sake brewery, since 1790, and the president of Aizu Denryok, an electric utility: “You know the caldron of hell? You will be sent to hell and will be boiled in that caldron if you do evil. And there are four such caldrons in Fukushima… And the disaster has yet to end. It continues to recur every day. More than 300 tons of water, contaminated with intense levels of radioactive substances, are being generated every day,” The Asahi Shimbun, May 1, 2015.

Hiroaki Koide, professor (retired) at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute reacts to PM Abe, as of April 24, 2015:

“The Prime Minister [said Fukushima] had been brought to a close. My reaction on hearing his words was, ‘Stop kidding.’ Reality is, though 4 years have passed, the accident has not yet been brought to a close at all… The Japanese government has issued a declaration that this is an emergency situation. As a result, normal laws do not have to be followed. What they are saying is that, in these very high radiation exposure level areas, they have basically abandoned people to live there. They’ve actually thrown them away to live there… The Cs-137 that’s fallen onto Japanese land in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, so much so that this area should all be put under the radiation control area designation [the Kanto region includes Tokyo and is home to over 40 million people].”

Footnote on Cs-137: Cesium-137 is one of the most problematic fission isotopes as it easily moves and spreads in nature and has a half-life of 30 years. It is deadly dangerous, for example: The Kramatorsk Radiological Incident of 1989 in Ukraine a small capsule of Cs-137 was discovered inside concrete walls of an apartment building, probably part of a measurement device, lost and accidentally mixed with gravel used to make concrete. For over 9 years two families lived in the apartment. By the time the capsule was discovered, 6 residents had already died from leukemia.

Fortunately for PM Abe, unfortunately for radiation victims, radiation is a silent destroyer that slowly progresses over time. In fact, it takes 5-40 years for the incubation period to take hold. Next year is the 5th year.

Nevertheless, when hit by powerful rapid radiation exposure, too much too soon, physical damage occurs relatively quickly, now experienced by sailors of the USS Reagan that served in Japan in 2011.

U.S. Sailors File Lawsuit

Two hundred U.S. sailors of the USS Reagan have a pending lawsuit filed in San Diego against TEPCO, General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba and Hitachi through the law offices of Bonner & Bonner, Sausalito, CA. The plaintiffs won a crucial battle in the U.S. District Court/San Diego last year, allowing the case to move forward.

“The lawsuit is based on the sailors’ participation in Operation Tomodachi (meaning “Friends”), providing humanitarian relief after the March 11, 2011 devastation caused by the Earthquake and Tsunami. The lawsuit includes claims for illnesses such as leukemia, ulcers, gall bladder removals, brain cancer, brain tumors, testicular cancer, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, thyroid illnesses, stomach ailments and a host of other complaints unusual in such young adults. The injured servicemen and women will require treatment for their deteriorating health, medical monitoring, payment of their medical bills, appropriate health monitoring for their children, and monitoring for possible radiation-induced genetic mutations,” Press Release, The Law Offices of Bonner & Bonner, Sausalito, CA.

According to the press release, up to 70,000 U.S. citizens were potentially affected by the radiation and will be able to join the class action suit, which alleges that TEPCO deliberately lied to the public and the U.S. Navy about radiation levels at the time the Japanese government was requesting help.

Therein lies a prime example, although only alleged, of why official sources in Japan cannot be trusted. Moreover, as far as convincing evidence goes: How is it that a disproportionately high number of very young naval personnel, all from the same ship, have severe medical problems like leukemia and brain cancer?

Furthermore, according to Charles Bonner, Esq.: Additional plaintiffs with serious aliments from radiation are continuing to come forward.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster is a grim tragedy that is extremely difficult to fully understand or gain trustworthy information, in large measure because the Japanese government instituted a new secrecy law, Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, Act No. 108 that is extraordinarily broad and provides up to 10 years in prison for release of “state secrets,” which may be subjectively, not objectively, defined by government bureaucrats… oh, isn’t that just grand!

Essentially, Japan surreptitiously institutes news blackouts of any information that government employees don’t like, carte blanche.

“On Dec. 10, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new special secrets law took effect despite overwhelming public opposition. The new law gives bureaucrats enormous powers to withhold information produced in the course of their public duties that they deem a secret — entirely at their own discretion — and with no effective oversight mechanism to question or overturn such designations. The law also grants the government powers to imprison whistle-blowers, and prohibits disclosure of classified material even if its intention is to protect the public interest. This Draconian law also gives the government power to imprison journalists merely for soliciting information that is classified a secret,” Abe’s Secrets Law Undermines Japan’s Democracy, The Japan Times, Dec. 13, 2014.

Once again: “This Draconian law gives the government power to imprison journalists merely for soliciting information.” For merely soliciting information, for merely soliciting information, gives the government power to imprison journalists for merely soliciting info…. some footprints should never stop.

“Susumu Murakoshi, president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, says the law should be abolished because it jeopardizes democracy and the people’s right to know. Meiji University legal scholar Lawrence Repeta agrees with Murakoshi,” Ibid.

What democracy?

Thus, on the surface, by all appearances, the government of Japan has something to hide. It must be really big. Why else adopt a hard-hitting secrecy law on the heels of the worst disaster to hit Japan since America dropped A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Japan’s citizenry really should expect consolation rather than aggravation, intimidation, and terrorizing by their own government.

At the end of the day, George Orwell’s 1984 has captivated a radiantly glowing ancient country.



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