The Great Fukushima Cover-Up | presstorm.com
Recently the Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan says:
“From now on, people…should live life as normal,”
“consume products from the areas that have been affected”
in order to
“support the area.”
This statement was made about the same time Fukushima was reclassified as a level 7 accident, the same as Chernobyl. Who does he think he is kidding? Let’s go back to normal only weeks after Japan has experienced a nuclear major disaster?
Still, we should not be surprised. The banks and companies behind the nuclear power industry are some of the biggest in the world, and in each country this industry is closely connected with its government. Prime Minister Kan is only doing is job, namely covering up the real dangers posed by the damaged reactors to the citizens of Japan. So what is really going on? We will see that the Japanese government has hidden the full impact of the disaster at Fukushima from their citizens and the rest of the world.
THE REACTORS ARE UNSTABLE
The media presents the condition of the reactors at Fukushima as stable, while the situation is really getting worse all the time. There are cracks in at least one of the reactor cores, while other unspecified problems contribute to highly radioactive water leaking into the ocean. On 17 April Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced it would be able to reduce radiation leaks in three months, and bring the plant to a “cold shutdown” in nine months. One can only hope they know what they are doing.
There is nothing in the operations manuals for nuclear reactors to guide TEPCO and Japanese government in this situation. Dr Michio Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of New York, explained how he sees the situation to Amy Goodman in an interview for Democracy Now posted on 13 April.
“The situation is not stable at all. So, you’re looking at basically a ticking time bomb. It appears stable, but the slightest disturbance—a secondary earthquake, a pipe break, evacuation of the crew at Fukushima—could set off a full-scale meltdown at three nuclear power stations, far beyond what we saw at Chernobyl.”
In other words, there is still a real possibility the reactors could go into a full meltdown and release even more radioactivity than they have so far.
HIGH RADIATION LEVELS WILL KILL WORKERS
The success of TEPCO’s plans to cool down the reactors and fix the leaks requires people to work in almost impossible conditions. The workers at Fukushima are in reality on a suicide mission, not very different from kamikaze pilots. The details of the one accident on the 25th March which was reported show seriously burned workers were not wearing the correct protective clothing. While most media reports claim that the level of radiation inside the plants is within the new legal limit of 250 millisieverts, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced the injured workers were exposed to between 2000 and 6000 milisieverts. (A sievert = Sv is a measure of the biological effects of ionizing radiation.)
Again Michio Kaku fills in the details:
“Because of the fact that the radiation levels are so great, workers can only go in for perhaps 10 minutes, 15 minutes at a time, and they get their year’s dose of radiation. You’re there for one hour, and you have radiation sickness. You vomit. Your white corpuscle count goes down. Your hair falls out. You’re there for a day, and you get a lethal amount of radiation.”
This is what is expected of the people who going to repair the reactors.
THERE ARE HIGH LEVELS OF RADIOACTIVE CONTAMINATION
Still the condition of the reactors is only a small part of the picture. The contamination of the land around Fukushima is perhaps more important, certainly in the long term. The Japanese government provides very little information about the levels of radioactive contamination in the area surrounding the damaged reactors. In the Prefecture of Fukushima, the only data they provide is for the little village of Iltate. It has a population of about 7000 people and is about 45 km from the damaged reactors. The Japan Times Online provides the daily maximum radiation levels at Iltate and other places in Japan since 21 March, thanks to the Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology Ministry of the Fukushima Prefectural Government.
The readings for Iltate range from 21.8 µSv/h (µSv/h = microsieverts per hour) on the 21 March to 3.2µSv/h on 20 April. While the legal limit of is 1000 µSv per year, the data shows that residents of Iltate have received five years worth of radition, about 5000 µSv, in the 32 days between the 21 March and 21 April. Greenpeace has also made measurements in several areas outside of the exclusion zone, between 35 and 45 km from the reactors on 26 and 27 March. They found places which ranged from 20 to 100 µSv/h while the data for Iltate on those days were 10.3 and 9.3 µSv/h. Since Iltate is well outside of the new mandatory evacuation zone of 30 km from the reactors, we can only conclude that the land within the evacuation zone would have even higher levels.
IS THE CONTAMINATION WORSE THAN CHERNOBYL?
In an article from CounterPunch, the radiation expert Chris Busby gives us some idea of how serious the situation is by comparing the levels of contamination at Fukushima and Chernobyl. He uses different data from another source. He reports the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found radiation levels at Fukushima up to 78 km from the reactors are between 200 and 900kBq/sq metre. (A becquerel = Bq measures the activity of a given amount of radioactive material, so the higher the reading the more dangerous the substance.) At Chernobyl, the radiation levels within the area 30 km from the reactor are 555kBq/sq or greater. So at more than twice the distance from the reactors in Fukushima, we find levels of radiation of the same magnitude we find within 30 km of the reactor at Chernobyl. This seems to indicate that the emissions so far from Fukushima are greater than what is supposed to be the worst nuclear accident.
Still, it has been reported by the BBC that the plans announced by TEPCO to bring the reactors to a “cold shutdown” in nine months will “allow the tens of thousands of families evacuated from the area around the facility to return home as soon as possible.” Fixing the reactors, however it is done, will not remove the materials that have contaminated the surrounding countryside. There is no real connection between these two events.
Busby also explains that the United Nations definition of radioactively contaminated land is 37kBq/sq metre. Not only should the people who live within 30 km of the reactors not return to their homes, but people who live within 78 km probably should also be evacuated permanently as well. All of this must be known by the Japanese government, yet they still insist that the situation is now back to normal, and “soon” people will be able to return to their homes.
CANCER RATES WILL INCREASE DRAMATICALLY
What are the consequences of such high levels of radioactive contamination? Chris Busby explains that this contamination will cause an increase in cancer.
“Since the official IAEA figures for the Fukushima contamination are from 200 to 900kBq.sq metre out to 78km from the site, we can expect between 22 per cent and 90 per cent increases in cancer in people living in these places in the next 10 years.”
Estimates of the results of the exposure to the radiation released so far from Fukushima show that there could be about 100,000 extra cases of cancer within a 100 km circle around Fukushima in the next 10 years, assuming permanent residence and no evacuation, and another 100,000 in the next 40 years. These numbers will be about twice as high within a 200 km circle.
CONTAMINATED FOOD SHOULD NOT BE SOLD OR EATEN
And what about the food? Understanding the levels of contamination in the area around the reactors is still does not give us the full story. As Greenpeace explains
“the readings are only external radiation, and do not include the risk of inhalation or eating a radioactive particle.”
Radiation which comes from outside the body is dangerous, but even the smallest particles which get inside the body are much worse. These particles are only microns away from your cells. Pregnant women and small children are most at risk.
Clearly eating contaminated food is worse than living with the external contamination noted above. Michio Kaku was quite clear.
“…(T)his accident has released enormous quantities of iodine, radioactive iodine-131, into the atmosphere, like what happened at Chernobyl, about 10 percent the level of Chernobyl. Iodine is water soluble. When it rains, it gets into the soil. Cows then eat the vegetation; create milk, and then it winds up in the milk. Farmers are now dumping milk right on their farms, because it’s too radioactive. Foods have to be impounded in the area.”
Greenpeace has found radioactively contaminated vegetables with levels up to 75 times more than the legal limits. They also found that people in contaminated areas have not been told to avoid eating their crops. The Low Level Radiation Campaign suggests that the government should ask for international food aid to prevent people having to eat contaminated food. In the light of these comments, the suggestion of the Prime Minister that people continue to eat food from the areas around Fukushima is criminal.
WHAT IS BEING COVERED-UP?
The main thing Japanese officials want to cover up is the fact that their choice of generating electricity from nuclear power stations has been a serious mistake. They obviously thought a disaster on such a scale could never happen. Now they want to pretend that things are not too bad so they can continue to rely on nuclear power in the future. This is also useful to the nuclear power industry world-wide, which has been working overtime to minimize the dangers the accident at Fukushima has caused. As a result of the Japanese cover-up: (1) officials have provided very little real information about the condition of the reactors, (2) they have released only a limited amount of data about levels of contamination, (3) what they have released looks like the lowest levels they can find, (4) they have allowed people to remain in areas with high levels of contamination, and (5) they have continued to play down or ignore the dangers from eating contaminated food.
There is also one more problem which needs to be dealt with, namely compensation. TEPCO will pay up to US$12,000 to each of the more than 50,000 families who lived in the 30km evacuation zone. These payments are intended to cover short-term living expenses, and final compensation packages have yet to be worked out. It is quite possible that the people who have been evacuated will never be able to return to their property. This means they will need some kind of compensation for jobs, houses, businesses and farms which must be abandoned.
YET MORE COVER-UP
This article has concentrated on the way that Japanese authorities have reacted to the events at Fukushima. My aim has been to argue that protecting the health and welfare of the Japanese people is not as important as protecting the image of the nuclear power industry. Still the cover-up does not stop here. Two areas which have not been discussed are (1) the contamination of the Pacific Ocean from the leaking reactors and (2) the air-borne radioactivity from Fukushima which has been found in the United States and Canada.