Fukushima – Deep Trouble
FEBRUARY 22, 2016
by ROBERT HUNZIKER – counterpunch.org
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster may go down as one of history’s boundless tragedies and not just because of a nuclear meltdown, but rather the tragic loss of a nation’s soul.
Imagine the following scenario: 207 million cardboard book boxes, end-to-end, circumnavigating Earth, like railroad tracks, going all the way around the planet. That’s a lot of book boxes. Now, fill the boxes with radioactive waste. Forthwith, that’s the amount of radioactive waste stored unsheltered in one-tonne black bags throughout Fukushima Prefecture, amounting to 9,000,000 cubic metres
But wait, there’s more to come, another 13,000,000 cubic metres of radioactive soil is yet to be collected. (Source: Voice of America News, Problems Keep Piling Up in Fukushima, Feb. 17, 2016).
And, there’s still more, the cleanup operations only go 50-100 feet beyond roadways. Plus, a 100-mile mountain range along the coast and hillsides around Fukushima are contaminated but not cleansed at all. As a consequence, the decontaminated land will likely be re-contaminated by radioactive runoff from the hills and mountains.
Indubitably, how and where to store millions of cubic metres of one-tonne black bags filled with radioactive waste is no small problem. It is a super-colossal problem. What if bags deteriorate? What if a tsunami hits? The “what-ifs” are endless, endless, and beyond.
“The black bags of radioactive soil, now scattered at 115,000 locations in Fukushima, are eventually to be moved to yet-to-be built interim facilities, encompassing 16 square kilometers, in two towns close to the crippled nuclear power plant,” Ibid.
By itself, 115,000 locations each containing many, many, mucho one-tonne bags of radioactive waste is a logistical nightmare, just the trucking alone is forever a humongous task, decades to come.
According to Japanese government and industry sources, cleaning up everything and decommissioning the broken down reactors will take at least 40 years at a cost of $250 billion, assuming nothing goes wrong. But dismally, everything that can possibly go wrong for Tokyo Electric Power Company (“TEPCO”) over the past 5 years has gone wrong, not a good record.
And, Japan is hosting the 2020 Olympics?
Yet, Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant remains totally out of control with no end in sight. As far as that goes, Olympic events alongside an out of control nuclear meltdown seem unfathomable.
As recently as October 30, 2015, The Japan Times reported: “Extremely high radiation levels and the inability to grasp the details about melted nuclear fuel make it impossible for the utility to chart the course of its planned decommissioning of the reactors at the plant.”
On the other hand, according to TEPCO, preparation is underway for removal of the melted nuclear fuel, scheduled to begin in 2021. “But it is difficult to know what is happening inside the reactors, and there are no established methods for doing so… It is not difficult to get a camera inside the reactor. The problem is the camera breaks down due to high levels of radiation,” according to Toru Ogawa, director of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Collaborative Laboratories for Advanced Decommissioning Science (Kiyoshi Ando, senior staff writer, Long Road Ahead for Fukushima Cleanup, Nikkei Asian Review, Feb. 19, 2016).
Beyond the remote possibility they find the melted nuclear core aka: corium, engineers have not yet figured out how to cart the molten core away, assuming it can ever be located, and somehow handled. Meantime, if molten core burrows through the steel-reinforced concrete containment vessels into Earth, then what? It is likely a disaster for the ages! But, what about the Olympics?
If perchance melted nuclear core penetrates its steel-reinforced concrete containment vessel and burrows into the ground, it likely results in deadly isotopes uncontrollably spreading erratically, ubiquitously into surrounding underground soil and water. It is difficult to imagine Olympic events where melted nuclear core is still at large.
“Sporting events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are to be held in the Japanese region of Fukushima… Spectators and athletes in the Olympic village will be served with food from the region as part of an effort to restore the reputation of Fukushima, formerly one of Japan’s richest agricultural regions,” Fukushima to Host Olympic 2020 Events, The Times, Feb. 25, 2015.
The Tragedy of Countless Unreported Worker Deaths
Indeed, the question of whether Fukushima can ever be adequately, safely decontaminated is wide-open, which logically segues to question who does the dirty work, how workers are hired, and what’s their health status? According to mainstream news sources in Japan, workers are doing just fine, estimates range up to 45,000 workers all-in, no major problems.
As far as the world is concerned, the following headline sums up radiation-related issues for workers, First Fukushima Worker Diagnosed With Radiation-linked Cancer, The Telegraph, Oct. 20, 2015. All things considered, that’s not so bad. But, who’s counting?
Trustworthy sources outside of mainstream news claim otherwise, none more so than Mako Oshidori, a Japanese freelance journalist and a director of Free Press Corporation/Japan, and a former student of School of Life Sciences at Tottori University Faculty of Medicine, in a lecture entitled “The Hidden Truth about Fukushima” delivered at the international conference “Effects of Nuclear Disasters on Natural Environment and Human Health” held in Germany in 2014 co-organized by International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.
Free Press Corporation/Japan was formed after the 2011 Great Sendai Earthquake as a counterbalance to Japan’s mainstream government influenced media, described by Mako as journalists who do not report truth, journalists afraid of the truth!
“There is one thing that really surprised me here in Europe. It’s the fact that people here think Japan is a very democratic and free country.” (Mako Oshidori)
According to Mako, TEPCO and the government deliberately cover-up deaths of Fukushima workers, and not only do they cover-up deaths, but once she investigated stories of unreported deaths, government agents started following her: “When I would talk to someone, a surveillance agent from the central government’s public police force would come very close, trying to eavesdrop on the conversation,” Exposed: Death of Fukushima Workers Covered-Up by TEPCO and Government, NSNBC International, March 21, 2014.
Mako Oshidori: “I would like to talk about my interview of a nurse who used to work at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) after the accident… He quit his job with TEPCO in 2013, and that’s when I interviewed him… As of now, there are multiple NPP workers that have died, but only the ones who died on the job are reported publicly. Some of them have died suddenly while off work, for instance, during the weekend or in their sleep, but none of their deaths are reported.”
“Not only that, they are not included in the worker death count. For example, there are some workers who quit the job after a lot of radiation exposure, such as 50, 60 to 70 mili Sieverts, and end up dying a month later, but none of these deaths are either reported, or included in the death toll. This is the reality of the NPP workers.”
The “reality of the NPP workers… dying a month later” does not correspond very well with Abe administration insistence that nuke plants reopen, even though the country has continued to function for five years without nuclear power, hmm.
In her speech, Mako talks about problems for journalists because of government interference: “An ex-agent who is knowledgeable about the work of the Public Security Intelligence Agency (“PSIA”) said that when you are visibly followed, that was meant to intimidate you. If there was one person visible, then there would be ten more. I think that is analogous to cockroaches. So, when you do a little serious investigation about the nuclear accident, you are under various pressure and it makes it more difficult to interview people.”
Still, she interviewed Fukushima mothers, e.g., “Next, I would like to talk about mothers in Fukushima. These mothers (and fathers) live in Iwaki City, Fukushima. They are active on school lunch issues. Currently, Fukushima produce isn’t selling well due to suspected contamination. So the prefectural policy is to encourage the use of Fukushima produce in school lunches, in an attempt to appeal to its safety… the mothers claim that currently in Japan only cesium is measured and they have no idea if there is any strontium-90. They oppose the use of Fukushima produce in school lunches for fear of finding out, ten-plus years down the road, that there was actually plutonium in the food that children ate.”
Mothers who oppose the prefecture’s luncheon policy are told to leave Fukushima Prefecture, move out if they worry about contamination, pull up stakes and move on.
Mako’s full interview is found here.
All of which begs the question of who does the dirty work? According to Michel Chossudovsky, director of Centre for Research on Globalization (Canada), Japan’s organized crime syndicate Yakusa is actively involved in recruitment. Personnel who qualify for radioactive cleanup work include underemployed, impoverished, indigent, unemployed, homeless, hard up, down-and-out, and poverty-stricken individuals, as well as non-destitute people willing to undertake under-paid, high-risk work. The nameless are shoe-ins.
As intimated by Mako Oshidori, governmental secrecy laws and intimidation techniques vastly overshadow the tragedy of the disaster, an oppressive black cloud that won’t go away. People are scared to say anything for fear of reprisal, jail, and blacklisting. Mako Oshidori’s name is prominently secretly blacklisted. A government mole told her.
Accordingly, it is instructive to look at Japan’s new state secrecy law Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets (SDS) Act No. 108 of 2013 passed on the heels of the Fukushima meltdown, very similar to Japan’s harsh Public Peace and Order Controls of WWII. According to Act No. 108, the “act of leaking itself” is bad enough for prosecution, regardless of what, how, or why.
Thereupon, 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,” Abe’s Secrets Law Undermines Japan’s Democracy, The Japan Times, Dec. 13, 2014.
Public opinion is shaped by public knowledge of events, but the Abe government’s enactment of an extraordinarily broad dastardly secrecy law (almost anyone can be arrested) that threatens prison sentences up to 10 years undermines confidence in believability of the Japanese government.
But categorically, Japan needs to nurture confidence.