Project Censored: No end in sight for Fukushima disaster

Project Censored’s yearly book of under-reported and unreported news is now out, and Fukushima is #7 of their 25 top stories for the year. Books can be purchased as well as donations made to continue this important work at http://www.projectcensored.org

7. No End in Sight for Fukushima Disaster

Five years after the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, Dahr Jamail reported that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) officials in charge of the plant continue to release large quantities of radioactive waste water into the Pacific Ocean. Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, called Fukushima “the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of humankind.” As Jamail reported, experts such as Gundersen continue warning officials and the public that this problem is not going away. As Gundersen told Jamail, “With Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and now with Fukushima, you can pinpoint the exact day and time they started…but they never end.” Another expert quoted in Jamail’sTruthout article, M.V. Ramana, a physicist and lecturer at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security and the Nuclear Futures Laboratory, explained, “March 2011 was just the beginning of the disaster, which is still unfolding.”

Although the Fukushima plant has been offline since the disaster, uncontrolled fission continues to generate heat and require cooling. The cooling process has produced “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tons” of highly radioactive water, Jamail reported. TEPCO has no backup safety systems or proactive plan for dealing with the accumulation of contaminated water, so much of it is released into the Pacific Ocean. Drawing on reports from the Asahi Shimbun and Agence France-Presse, Common Dreams reported that, on September 14, 2015, “Despite the objections of environmentalists and after overcoming local opposition from fishermen, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) pumped more than 850 tons of groundwater from below the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.” Each day, according to these reports, TEPCO was pumping approximately 300 tons of groundwater to the surface for treatment before placing it in storage. Officially no water is released into the ocean until it is tested for radioactive content, but many experts are skeptical of this claim. As Jamail reported, “The company has repeatedly come under fire for periodically dumping large amounts of radioactive water.”

According to Helen Caldicott, the antinuclear advocate and author, once it is released, “There is no way to prevent radioactive water [from] reaching the western shores of the North American continent and then circulating around the rest of the Pacific Ocean … At the moment, it seems like this is going to occur for the rest of time.” Radioactive water affects ocean life through a process described by Caldicott as “biological magnification.” The effect of radiation expands each step up the food chain—from algae, to crustaceans and small fish, up to the ocean’s largest creatures.

While biological magnification may ultimately impact human health, a December 2015 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution study showed a 50 percent increase in seawater radiation levels 1,600 miles west of San Francisco. That report indicated that these levels are far below what the US government considers dangerous, but Caldicott and other experts question the standards that the US government and other official agencies use to determine safe levels of radiation exposure.

Meanwhile, Linda Pentz Gunter, writing for the Ecologist, reported that the Japanese government has kept its citizens “in the dark” from the start of the disaster about high radiation levels and dangers to health. “In order to proclaim the Fukushima area ‘safe’,” Gunter wrote, “the Government increased exposure limits to twenty times the international norm,” a determination preliminary to Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s stated goal of lifting evacuation orders and forcing displaced Fukushima refugees to return home by March 2017. Government policy is now to “‘normaliz[e]’ radiation standards,” Gunter wrote, and to tell the Japanese people that everything is all right, despite medical or scientific evidence to the contrary.

At a conference in February 2016, prefectural governors urged young people to return to Fukushima. Doing so would facilitate the region’s reconstruction and “help you lead a meaningful life,” said Fukushima’s governor, Masao Uchibori. However, as Gunter reported, young people appear not to be cooperating. Instead, most of the returning evacuees are senior citizens, with stronger traditional ties to the land and their ancestral burial grounds. This creates a further dilemma for local authorities, according to Gunter: Local tax revenues are levied on both individuals and corporations, with nearly a quarter of the taxes collected by local prefectures and municipalities coming from individuals. “The onus is on governors and mayors,” she wrote, “to lure as many working people as possible back to their towns and regions in order to effectively finance local public services.” Retired senior citizens do not contribute to income tax.

Gunter reported the public remarks of Tetsunari Iida, the founder and executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) in Japan: Prime Minister Shinzō Abe “says ‘everything is under control’… Yes—under the control of the media!” While Iida directed his critique to Japan’s press, it could easily apply to US corporate media coverage of Fukushima and its aftermath, as documented by sociologist Celine-Marie Pascale of American University. Pascale conducted a content analysis of more than 2,100 articles, editorials, and letters to the editor on Fukushima, published by theWashington Post, the New York Times, Politico, and the Huffington Post between March 11, 2011 and March 11, 2013. Her analysis focused on two basic questions, “Risk for whom?” and “Risk from what?” Pascale found that just 6 percent of the articles reported on risk to the general public. “This in itself,” she reported, “is a significant finding about the focus of news media during one of the largest nuclear disasters in history.”

More specifically, Pascale found that the great majority of news coverage that focused on risks to the public significantly discounted those risks. Sixty-five of the 129 articles that focused on risk to the general population characterized it as being “quite low on the basis of comparisons to other risks or claims of no evidence.” (For example, Pascale wrote, “Media practices encouraged publics to understand the largest nuclear disaster in history as no more significant than the radiation produced by the sun.”) An additional forty-four articles characterized risk as low on the basis of uncertain evidence. In other words, assessments of uncertain risk were interpreted by news media as low risk. Over two years, the four major US news outlets that Pascale studied reported just seventeen articles that characterized the disaster as having even “potentially high risk to the general population.” Pascale concluded: “The largest and longest lasting nuclear disaster of our time was routinely and consistently reported as being of little consequence to people, food supplies, or environments. Impressively this was done systematically across The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post. In short, the media coverage was premised on misinformation, the minimization of public health risks, and the exacerbation of uncertainties.”

A flurry of corporate media coverage around the fifth anniversary of the disaster for the most part reproduced the pattern identified by Pascale. For example, as CNBC’s anniversary report acknowledged, “Elevated [radiation] levels off the coast of Japan show that the situation is not yet under control, and that the facility is still leaking radiation.” But, the report continued, “the levels observed near the United States are below—very far below—those set by health and safety standards, and are also far outstripped by naturally occurring radiation.”

In February 2016, the Associated Press and other news outlets reported that three TEPCO executives, including Tsunehisa Katsumata, TEPCO’s chairman at the time of the earthquake and tsunami, were formally charged with negligence in the Fukushima nuclear disaster.


Dahr Jamail, “Radioactive Water from Fukushima is Leaking into the Pacific,” Truthout, January 27, 2016, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34565-radioactive-water-from-fukushima-is-leaking-into-the-pacific.

Linda Pentz Gunter, “No Bliss in This Ignorance: The Great Fukushima Nuclear Cover-Up,” Ecologist, February 20, 2016,http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987222/no_bliss_in_this_ignorance_the_great_fukushima_nuclear_coverup.html.

Celine-Marie Pascale, “Vernacular Epistemologies of Risk: The Crisis in Fukushima,”Current Sociology, March 3, 2016,http://csi.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/03/03/0011392115627284.abstract.

Student Researcher: Harrison Hartman (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)

7. No End in Sight for Fukushima Disaster

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The great Fukushima nuclear cover-up

From the Ecologist

No bliss in this ignorance: the great Fukushima nuclear cover-up
Linda Pentz Gunther
February 20, 2016

The Japanese were kept in the dark from the start of the Fukushima disaster about high radiation levels and their dangers to health, writes Linda Pentz Gunter. In order to proclaim the Fukushima area ‘safe’, the Government increased exposure limits to twenty times the international norm. Soon, many Fukushima refugees will be forced to return home to endure damaging levels of radiation.

Once you enter a radiation controlled area, you aren’t supposed to drink water, let alone eat anything. The idea that somebody is living in a place like that is unimaginable.

Dr. Tetsunari Iida is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) in Japan.

As such, one might have expected a recent presentation he gave in the UK within the hallowed halls of the House of Commons, to have focused on Japan’s capacity to replace the electricity once generated by its now mainly shuttered nuclear power plants, with renewable energy.

But Dr lida’s passionate polemic was not about the power of the sun, but the power of propaganda. March 11, 2011 might have been the day the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. But it was also the beginning of the Great Japan Cover-Up.

On the ISEP website, Iida extols the coming of the Fourth Revolution, following on from those in agriculture, industry and IT. “This fourth revolution will be an energy revolution, a green industrial revolution, and a decentralized network revolution”, he writes.

But in person, Iida was most interested in conveying the extent to which the Japanese people were lied to before, during and after the devastating nuclear disaster at Fukushima-Daiichi, precipitated on that same fateful day and by the deadly duo of earthquake and tsunami.

“Shinzo Abe says ‘everything is under control'”, said Iida, speaking at an event hosted by Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Green Cross, and Nuclear Consulting Group in late January. It was headlined by the former Japan Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, who was at the helm when the triple disasters struck. “Yes – under the control of the media!”

A trial for Tepco like post-war Tokyo Trials

The media may have played the willing government handmaiden in reassuring the public with falsehoods, but in July 2012, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission concluded that the disaster was really no accident but man-made. It came about, the researchers said, as a result of “collusion” between the government, regulators and the nuclear industry, in this case, Tepco.

“There should be a Tepco trial like the post-war Tokyo Trials”, Iida said, referring to the post World War II war crimes trial in which 28 Japanese were tried, seven of whom were subsequently executed by hanging.

Hope for such accountability – without advocating hanging – is fleeting at best. In 2011, while addressing a conference in Berlin hosted by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, I suggested the Tepco officials should be sent to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, (a body the US still conveniently refuses to recognize) to answer for what clearly amounts to crimes against humanity.

The remark caused a bit of a stir and earnest questions about the mechanism by which Tepco could be brought there. Needless to say, nothing of the kind ever happened, or is likely to.

Instead, the Abe’s government’s preferred tactic is to go full out to restart reactors and move everybody back home as soon as possible, as if nothing serious had happened. Just scoop off a little topsoil, cart it away somewhere else and, Abracadabra! Everything is clean and safe again!

Normalizing radiation, a policy and now a practice

Of course radiological decontamination is not that easy. Nor is it reliable. It is more likepushing contamination from one spot to the next”, as independent nuclear expert, Mycle Schneider describes it. And radiation does not remain obediently in one place, either.

“The mountains and forests that cannot even be vaguely decontaminated, will serve as a permanent source of new contamination, each rainfall washing out radiation and bringing it down from the mountains to the flat lands”, Schneider explained. Birds move around. Animals eat and excrete radioactive plant life. Radiation gets swept out to sea. It is a cycle with no end.

Next in the ‘normalization’ process came the decision to raise allowable radiation exposure standards to 20 millisieverts of radiation a year, up from the prior level of 2 mSv a year. The globally-accepted limit for radiation absorption is 1 mSv a year.

This meant that children were potentially being exposed to the same levels of radiation that are permitted for adult nuclear power plant workers in Europe. Some officials even argued that zones where rates were as high as 100 mSv a year should be considered ‘safe’. Writing on his blog, anti-pollution New Orleans-based attorney, Stuart Smith,observed wryly:

“Instead of taking corrective measures to protect its people, Japan has simply increased internationally recognized exposure limits. It seems that the priority – as we’ve seen in so many other industrial disasters in so many other countries – is to protect industry and limit its liability rather than to ensure the long-term health and well being of the masses. Go figure.”

For the entire article:

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987222/no_bliss_in_this_ignorance_the_great_fukushima_nuclear_coverup.html

— Researcher asks for investigative help to verify major nuclear accident(s) in 2016 and cover-up

From Allegedly Apparent
May 1, 2016

Request for Investigative Assistance! WANTED: Verification of MAJOR Nuclear Accident(s) in 2016: WHEN, WHERE, HOW BAD, and WHO is covering it up?

https://goo.gl/ZYEdai — short link

Excerpt on detections:

Ruthenium-103, mid-January 2016, Southern Norway
Cesium-137, early/mid-March 2016, Far-Northern Finland
Tellurium-103, late April 2016, Northern Germany

https://allegedlyapparent.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/request-for-investigative-assistance-wanted-verification-of-major-nuclear-accident-in-2016-when-where-how-bad-and-who-is-covering-it-up/

PG&E covers up continued safety problems at Diablo Canyon

From the Lompoc Record
February 25, 2016

Nuke plant poses risks

PG&E recently reported to the NRC its analysis of an incident that occurred on Dec. 31, 2014, at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

PG&E described it as an “event or condition that could have prevented the fulfillment of the safety function of structures or systems needed to remove residual heat and mitigate the consequences of an accident.” Do they mean meltdown?

Just how small of a problem was this that took over a year to diagnose, repair and report? Did they shut down part of the plant during that year, or did they continue to operate without knowing the cause of the problem?

Once again we are reminded that while we sleep, the possibility of a nuclear disaster at Diablo is very real. How many safety regulations have been fudged away over the years? What health risks are people living downwind from these reactors subjected to?

The way for California to safely meet carbon emission standards is by using renewable sources, not by keeping Diablo open. Renewables mean no carbon or highly toxic radioactive waste hanging around for 250,000 years.

Shut it down now, before it’s too late.

by Simone Malboeuf
Los Osos

http://lompocrecord.com/news/opinion/mailbag/hartmann-nuke-risks-oil-trains/article_9f1703e4-4a34-5f16-997c-6be468a26bc9.html

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