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Fukushima 2013: A Continuing Nuclear Disaster of Global Significance

Massive radiation releases continue to spread in Japan and globally via the atmosphere, ocean, precipitation, contaminated food & manufactured goods. By Kia Mistilis. Independent journalist & contributing editor to Nuke Free Future. March, 2013.

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Tracking the situation at the stricken nuclear power station:  Two years since the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the situation at the Daichi nuclear plant remains critical. Fukushima is a continuing nuclear disaster – it did not end when the world’s mainstream media abruptly stopped reporting on it just a few months after it began. Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with 40 years’ experience, has been monitoring the reactors and radiation releases since March 11, 2011. He posts regular video updates on his NGO website: Fairewinds Energy Education, which explain the unfolding disaster in layman’s terms. He is one of a small handful of independent experts who have stepped into the gap left by the nuclear industry, TEPCO and the Japanese government, to provide the public with accurate scientifically based information and analysis. You can access Arnie Gundersen’s video reports and media interviews here. Gundersen told Al Jazeera in June 2011 that “Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind.”

A triple meltdown occurred 1-2 days after the earthquake & tsunami hit:  When the earthquake hit, the plant lost power and water used to cool the reactors stopped circulating. Back up diesel generators located in the basements failed when the tsunami flooded the buildings. Without power to cool the water which controls the temperature of the fuel rods, the fuel melted, turning into molten lava and breaching the steel containment vessels at the reactors’ floor. Gundersen’s reports confirm that a triple meltdown occurred within 24-48 hours after the plant lost power.

Three big hydrogen explosions released very radioactive material into the atmosphere:   In addition to the meltdown of three reactors in the Daichi complex, there were three huge explosions. Zirconium, which is used in uranium fuel rods, reacts with water at 1500 degrees celcius to produce hydrogen. At reactors 1, 3 and 4, hydrogen built up as the water used to cool the fuel rods became very hot, producing four hydrogen explosions which released massive amounts of radiation from the reactors into the atmosphere.

Lack of information on the ground in Japan:  Although the Japanese government knew at the time and immediately told the U.S military exactly what had happened – they did not tell the Japanese people for three months. Nor did they tell their citizens which direction the massive radioactive cloud was travelling in the days after March 11, so Fukushima evacuees fled to the north west of Japan – right into the path of the radioactive plume.

Radioactive ‘hot’ particles were carried on the jet stream as far as America and Europe:  This explains how airborne particles of plutonium have reached not only Tokyo, but as far away as Seattle, Washington and Lithuania in Central Europe. Two years later, the reactors are far from being under control, and hydrogen continues to build up inside the containment vessels. TEPCO workers are constantly injecting nitrogen into the reactors to dilute the hydrogen and prevent more explosions from occurring.

One reactor suffered 100% liquification of its uranium core and two others are at risk:  Dr Micio Kaku, Professor of Physics at New York City University investigated the state of the reactors in 2012. His team sent cameras inside to record video images, which confirmed that reactor 2 had liquified.  Dr Kaku said “we have never seen this before in the history of nuclear power – a 100% liquification of a uranium nuclear core.” Video cameras sent into reactor 3 revealed the unit has only 0.6096 m of water above the core not 10 m as previously assumed, “meaning that the core is completely or partially uncovered, meaning it too could liquify.” Listen to Dr Micio Kaku’s radio interview on San Francisco Bay Area public radio on May 9, 2012.

Left: Haruka is 12 and lives in Koriyama, Fukushima. Her drawing shows her wishing she could just play, but she is menaced by monsters in the shape of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant. In collaboration with Geoff Read. Part of the Strong Children Japan exhibition~ view the full collection of drawings on their website. Reproduced with permission.

Right: Dark clouds of worry above the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors. “It’s sad for me that there are nuclear plants near Koriyama.” Naoya is 8 and lives in Koriyama, Fukushima. Drawing in collaboration with Greg Read. From their exhibition Strong Children Japan ~view the full collection on their website. Reproduced with permission.

“We don’t have enough human resource nor engineers to settle down reactor 4 in addition to other reactors.” Fukushima Daichi plant worker:     In a series of messages tweeted on May 25, 2012, a Fukushima Daichi plant worker wrote: “in case of aftershock, all the reactors will be in crisis” and that high radiation levels, unsafe cracked roads and the lack of a heliport will prevent workers from getting close to the reactors. Read the full text of tweets here

Workers continue to be exposed to high levels of radiation and their labour rights are being denied:  Saburo Kitajima, a contract laborer and union organizer from the Fukushima Daichi plant spoke to Democracy Now! in NYC on March 11, 2012. “The workers at the Fukushima plant are currently working under extreme circumstances. To be more specific, the wages are extremely low, and there are no rights being observed at the moment. In spite of being exposed to radiation, the levels of wages run to about about $100 a day.” Watch the full interview with Daichi plant worker, Saburo Kitajima.

Over 200 000 tonnes of radioactive waste water dumped or leaked into the Pacific Ocean. Radioactive releases began in March 2011 and are ongoing:   Since March 2011, TEPCO has been using sea water in a desperate effort to cool the reactors, causing further damage from corrosion and drastically increasing radioactive releases because the waste water is being dumped into the Pacific Ocean. See this radioactive sea water impact map which models the releases of waste water from March 2011 to March 2012; and the still image from February 2012, below. Many tonnes of highly radioactive isotopes are contaminating marine life, from the northern to southern hemispheres. Dilution does not negate risk, because the most highly radioactive isotopes have a half life of thousands of years and can be fatal in tiny quantities. For example, one millionth of one gram of plutonium is carcinogenic when ingested or inhaled, and plutonium’s half life is 24 000 years. Cesium 137 has a half life of 30 years, which means it is radioactive for 600 years. Radiation also bio magnifies by a factor of 10 – 20 as it moves up the food chain. This means that radioactive contamination of algae from radioactive waste water or fallout becomes more potent in the process of being eaten by crustaceans, small fish, bigger fish and then humans. Radioactive waste dumping has been continuous since March, 2011, resulting in significant contamination of the Pacific Ocean. The waste water also creates radioactive steam and gas when pumped inside the reactors, which is escaping into the atmosphere.

Additional waste water leakages due to cracked pipes:    These accidents occurred in late March and early April, 2012. In the second incident, the damaged pipes were not noticed until more than 12 tons of  radioactive wastewater had been released into the Pacific Ocean. The National Science Foundation of America, an independent federal agency, said: “The release of radioactivity from Fukushima — both as atmospheric fallout and direct discharges to the ocean — represents the largest accidental release of radiation to the ocean in history.”  The leaks from radioactive waste water are coming from a variety of locations in and around the nuclear plant, and some are yet to be pin pointed. As of February, 2013, TEPCO has still not identified the the source of leaks from damaged containment vessels which are storing the highly radioacitve spent fuel rods.

Cooling the fuel rods in the Fukushima plant will continue for many years, creating massive amounts of radioactive wastewater which must be stored: Two years after the disaster began, “ever-increasing radioactive water has become a key challenge for TEPCO. Groundwater is flowing into reactor buildings, where it mixes with water used to cool melted fuel inside the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors. The amount of radioactive water stored in tanks and other facilities rose to 230,000 tons this month, up from 10,000 tons in July 2011. In addition, an estimated 100,000 tons of water have accumulated in the basements of buildings. Currently, there are nearly 500 storage tanks on the plant premises, many as tall as three-story buildings. TEPCO plans to add more by 2015 when it expects to have to store 700,000 tons of radioactive water.” 

Radioactive releases in the Pacific Ocean. February, 2012. Image courtesy TerraMetrics.

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“Fate of Japan and the world depends on Reactor 4″  says Mitsuhei Murata, Executive Director, the Japan society for global system and ethics.

Out of a total of 15 000 fuel rods, there are 11 138 spent (used and highly radioactive) fuel rods being stored at the Daichi plant, containing 85 times the Cesium 137 released at Chernobyl and 5 -10 times the radioactivity of the reactors themselves. These rods are stored in pools which have been exposed to air since the hydrogen explosion in March 2011, and are continuing to emit radiation into the atmosphere. Radioactivity levels inside the reactors also are extremely high, and access has become impossible in reactor 2, which is too radioactive even for robots to function. The most serious concern is reactor 4, which suffered extensive damage from the earthquake, leaving it with zero seismic tolerance. It cannot withstand a tremor, let alone another earthquake. In a letter sent to the U.N on March 25, 2012, Mitsuhei Murata, Executive Director, the Japan Society for Global System and Ethics, appealed directly to U.N Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon for an independent, international team to be established to deal with this grave situation. Since spent fuel rods are far more radioactive than new ones, it is not possible to just lift them out with a crane – they must be sealed in water inside fortified steel containers for removal, and a task of this magnitude has never been attempted before. Mitsuhei Murata said: “I raised the crucial problem. of N0.4 reactor of Fukushima containing 1535 fuel rods. It could be fatally damaged by continuing aftershocks. Moreover, 50 meters away from it exists a common cooling pool for 6 reactors containing 6375 fuel rods! It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of Japan and the whole world depends on NO.4 reactor. This is confirmed by most reliable experts like Dr. Arnie Gundersen or Dr. Fumiaki Koide.” Read the full text of Mitsuhei Murata’s letter to the U.N

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Radioactive fall out in Japan and America:   When the nuclear disaster began, the radioactive plume covered Fukushima prefecture before being carried by the wind to Japan’s north west. The wind then changed direction and radioactive plume was carried across the Pacific Ocean, reaching the west coast of the U.S in three days. Within six days, it had reached Seattle and Vancouver and by March 21st, the North American continent was enveloped in a cloud of radioactive fallout.

Information black out: air radiation levels are not being recorded by U.S, Canadian govts:   The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Canadian government have switched off radiation monitors, and are not providing information to the public regarding atmospheric radiation. The EPA has pulled 8 of its 18 radiation monitors in California, Oregon and Washington because (by implication) they are giving readings which seem too high. Remember, for the sake of context, that the government has covered up nuclear meltdowns for fifty years to protect the nuclear power industry. And now, the EPA is considering drastically raising the amount of allowable radiation in food, water and the environment.

Media Manipulation:  The lack of information available to the public in the wake of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters has a context within the history of the nuclear industry. In this podcast, Karl Grossman, a veteran journalist with over 45 years’ experience in covering nuclear issues, reveals over 40 years of nuke media manipulation.

The reactors are still releasing a lot of radioactive materials:   We know from Arnie Gundersen that the Daichi nuclear plant continues to release trillions of becquerels of radiation per day, This means that radioactive contamination is continuing to spread throughout the northern hemisphere via the atmosphere, precipitation and the Pacific Ocean.

Decommissioning the nuclear plant is 30 – 40 years away, requiring new technologies and a ‘trial and error’ approach, as the triple meltdown was unprecedented: Currently, workers cannot easily approach the three reactor buildings where the meltdowns occurred due to high radiation levels.They have been removing debris, such as concrete blocks, on the plant premises. Work to remove melted fuel from the three reactors is expected to begin by around 2022. Fuel is believed to be scattered within the pressure vessels, containment vessels or piping systems, but exact locations remain unclear.

Elevated radiation levels are being detected all over the U.S:   These include highly radioactive hot particles, such as plutonium. These particles are half the width of a human hair, very mobile, and able to travel long distances on the jet stream. Arnie Gundersen’s tests revealed that “the air over Seattle was loaded with hot particles, as it was in Tokyo, in April and May of 2011.” Ambient radiation levels in Seattle have been measured at 40 000 times higher than before the disaster; Amerecium – which is more toxic than plutonium – is being detected in Boston.

Burning radioactive debris in Japan has international effects on human and environmental health:   Arnie Gundersen says that the Japanese government’s decision to burn radioactive debris will not only affect Japan, the airborne radioactive pollution will also end up in Hawaii, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon and that “burning radioactive debris is basically recreating Fukushima all over again, as it is releasing a huge amount of radioactivity which had settled on the ground, back into the air.” Due to prevailing winds and the proximity of the continent to the Japanese archipelago, the United States, especially central and southern California, is receiving the brunt of Fukushima’s airborne radiation.

Radioactive fallout is also reaching Europe:   Although levels are not as high as the U.S. There are variations within Europe as well. Atmospheric radiation levels are much higher in central and northern European countries than in the south. Plutonium was detected in Lithuania in March and April of 2011, as well as iodine and cesium at one quarter the levels detected after Chernobyl, and in Finland’s forests, cesium is being detected in lichens, fungi, elk and reindeer meat.  

Airborne radiation reached as far as Greece in late March and April, 2011:   Radiation was detected in the south, but at a tiny fraction of the levels still being detected in the U.S., and at lower levels than detected in northern Europe. The Institute of Nuclear Technology-Radiation Protection, Environmental Radioactivity Laboratory in Athens, Greece, published a study showing that very low concentrations of iodine 131, cesium 137 and cesium 134 in airborne particulate matter were measured in Athens during the period of March 24 to April 28, 2011, but no radionuclides could be detected in air after April 28, 2011. The institute’s scientists also detected traces of iodine 131 in grass, soil and sheep’s milk and meat. 

Radioactivity Has No Borders. Photo by ShootTokyo.com

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Fukushima radiation has become a global issue, not only because significant radiation emissions are being spread by the earth’s stratosphere, weather systems and the Pacific Ocean, but also because our governments have agreed to continue importing Japanese products without testing for radiation. In the sphere of national governments and multinational corporations it is business as usual, as if Fukushima never happened!

Business as usual – no independent radiation testing for Japanese imports arriving in Australia, the U.S and E.U:    Arnie Gundersen stated in an interview that Hillary Clinton signed an agreement with her Japanese counterpart, to import radioactive food and manufactured products from Japan without testing. Official policy in Europe confirms the E.U has followed suit, and Australia will not be testing Japanese imports either. The broad policies of the U.S, EU & Australia is exactly the same: to continue normal trading without independent testing, and accept the Japanese govt’s radiation screening results, which have been shown to be very unreliable

Radioactive goods are being circulated globally without the public’s knowledge:    Our governments’ decision to continue trade as usual with Japan without thorough radiation testing means they are intentionally allowing radioactive products to be circulated globally without the public’s knowledge. Japan’s exports range from fresh and processed food to manufactured goods, like electrical appliances, cars and car parts. It is significant to note that the Nissan factory is located in Fukushima prefecture, and that Gundersen’s tests of Japanese car filters from Fukushima, and Tokyo – which is over 200 km from the Daichi plant – put them both in the category of nuclear waste.

Australia only does random spot checks for radiation – there is no thorough screening system for radioactive goods:   Australia’s policy regarding radiation in imported food is to conduct random spot checks which the computer selects, and when radioactivity is found, contaminated items are mixed in with non radioactive products. Remember that dilution as a solution to pollution is fallacious when it comes to radiation.

All the food species in Japan have been contaminated with radiation:   We live in an era of globalised food supplies and all the biggest companies, like Kellogs, Nestle, Kraft, Pepsico and Coca-Cola, source Japanese ingredients for their products, but they are not disclosing radioactive ingredients, due to ‘propriety.’ A relatively few large multinational companies own most brands of processed food and drink products commonly available in supermarkets worldwide. To see exaclty who owns what, check out this pictorial diagram.

China’s radiation testing stop contaminated shipments at the border:   In contrast to western countries, China is testing Japanese imports thoroughly, and taking action to stop radioactive shipments crossing their borders. In May 2012, Ningbo Customs prevented 1127 tons of radioactive scrap metal from entering China. “The scraps were imported by a Ningbo-based company and shipped from Chiba Port. Testing result showed that their Cesium-137 content was more than three times above China’s national safety limit.”

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The U.N is buying radioactive fish from Japan and sending it to school children in developing countries as part of the World Food Program:   “The Japanese government exchanged letters with the UN WFP regarding the ODA (Official Development Assistance) so that people in developing countries will eat processed marine products made in the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami. The purpose is to promote [the recovery of] fisheries industry in the disaster-affected areas and to dispel baseless rumors [that food in Japan is contaminated with radioactive materials] The WFP will purchase cans of boiled sardines and mackerels made in factories in Aomori, Iwate, Ibaraki, and Chiba Prefectures. The cans will be shipped to five countries including Cambodia for the use in school lunches.” The U.N’s policy of facilitating radioactive food aid represents a gross violation of the human rights of children, the most radio sensitive of the population.

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Radiation is unsafe at any dose:   Dr. Helen Caldicott clarifies the issue of radiation and safety in this NY Times OP-ED piece: “…physicists talk convincingly about “permissible doses” of radiation. They consistently ignore internal emitters — radioactive elements from nuclear power plants or weapons tests that are ingested or inhaled into the body, giving very high doses to small volumes of cells. They focus instead on generally less harmful external radiation from sources outside the body, whether from isotopes emitted from nuclear power plants, medical X-rays, cosmic radiation or background radiation that is naturally present in our environment.

However, doctors know that there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation, and that radiation is cumulative. The mutations caused in cells by this radiation are generally deleterious. We all carry several hundred genes for disease: cystic fibrosis, diabetes, phenylketonuria, muscular dystrophy. There are now more than 2,600 genetic diseases on record, any one of which may be caused by a radiation-induced mutation, and many of which we’re bound to see more of, because we are artificially increasing background levels of radiation.”

Radiation bio-concentrates as it moves up the food chain:   When radioactive fallout descends from the atmosphere and settles in environment, it contaminates the land, air and water for hundreds or many thousands of years, depending on the life span of the radioactive element. Radioactivity also bio-magnifies as it moves up the food chain, and is internally emitted in humans and animals when ingested (in food and liquids) or inhaled into the lungs. Dr Helen Caldicott explains radiation in the food chain in this talk, hosted by the Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Internal radiation is ingested or inhaled into the body. Dr Helen Caldicott explains internal radiation emitters in the human body:   In the talk linked above, Dr Helen Caldicott also explains how radiation is emitted inside the human body. She explains the difference between alpha and beta radioactive particles – which enter the human body when ingested or inhaled – and gamma radiation, which is external and measured with Geiger counters. Alpha and beta radioactive particles cannot be detected with Geiger counters and become more potent as they move up the food chain. For example: grass > cows > milk > humans. Or from: grass > meat > humans. Similarly, when radioactive fallout lands in the sea or the ocean, it is absorbed by algae and plankton and then bio-concentrates at each stage as it moves from crustaceans > small fish > bigger fish > humans, who are at the top of the food chain. It is therefore a significant international public health issue that from June, 2012, cesium at 10 times pre-Fukushima levels is being detected in blue fin tuna high caught off the California coast. The tuna swam 6000 km from Japan to the west coast of the U.S. Arnie Gundersen says “They went 15 for 15. Every tuna they caught had cesium. So that basically means that every tuna in the Pacific is carrying cesium 134 and 137. I think that cesium will continue going up for the next couple of years.” The Pacific Ocean straddles two hemispheres, so South East Asia is also affected. The tropics are abundant in marine life and vast quantities of seafood caught in the commercial fishing waters around Thailand and exported all over the world, which is contaminating of a large part of world’s seafood supply.

In a post Fukushima world, it’s important to realise that governments world wide are not acting in the best interests of their citizens’ health, nor are they providing accurate information regarding radioactive contamination spreading in the environment and via international trade.  As people sharing the same planet, it is therefore up to us to educate ourselves, to become aware of where the ingredients in our food and manufactured products come from and to use our knowledge to prevent internal radiation exposure wherever possible. This is especially important for children, babies and pregnant women, who are the most radio sensitive of the population.

Nuke Free Protesters marching in central Tokyo. March 2012. Photo- AP

TOKYO: 70 000 people gather for a national nuke free rally, marking the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. March 11, 2012. Photo- AP.

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Tokyo now has 25 radioactive hot spots worse than Chernobyl:   Fukushima’s reactors have been releasing radioactive particulates into the atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean since March, 2011. Arnie Gundersen visited Tokyo In April 2012 and measured radiation levels all over the city. He also took soil and dust samples from children’s playgrounds, roof top gardens, parks and footpaths – which he analyzed upon return to the U.S. Gundersen says that “Tokyo soil samples would be considered nuclear waste in the U.S.”

Serious radioactive contamination extends 200 km from the Fukushima Daichi plant, maybe more says Chris Busby, nuclear scientist:   Chris Busby has been analyzing car engine air filters from Tokyo and finding high levels of cesium 134 and cesium 137, from which “we can conclude, without any doubt, that that area, up to 200km away from the catastrophe site, maybe more – has been seriously contaminated with radionuclides.”  Arnie Gundersen also tested car filters sent to the U.S from Tokyo, which were so radioactive they had to be disposed of in nuclear waste dump facilities. The tsunami and earthquake created about 22.5 million tons of debris from Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. Incredibly, the Japanese government is moving hundreds of tons of radioactive debris from Fukushima to all over Japan, including 25 locations in Tokyo city and incinerating it in bins designed for household waste. Dr Helen Caldicott writes that: “Incineration of radioactive debris all around Japan is a crime. Dilution is the solution to pollution does not work with radiation which remains deadly for enormous amounts of time even in tiny amounts, especially when it becomes an internal emitter. Women and children are disproportionately vulnerable to radiation. Is Japan saying that their health does not matter?”

High levels of radiation measured in fresh produce, fish and meat; contaminated food is being sold as ‘safe’ all over Japan:   Since the disaster began, the Japanese government has been telling the public to support farmers and their produce from East Japan. They even have a “Buy Fukushima, Eat Fukushima” campaign. Half of Japan’s rice is grown in Fukushima prefecture, and “farmers in contaminated areas in Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, and Chiba continue to farm, and the government is busy setting up one PR campaign after another to appeal to the safety of things produced in Japan.” Testing reveals that contaminated food is on the market and being detected nationwide. This article contains a list of food items with radioactive levels above the new safety limit of 100bq/kg. Here are some specific incidents of high radiation food being sold and consumed in Japan: Beef from cows fed with straw from Fukushima was distributed to 37 prefectures that is, most of Japan.

Very young children have been exposed to high doses of internal radiation at school. Kindergarten children in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, were served dried shitake mushrooms with 1400 bq/kg of radioactive cesium from Ibaraki Prefecture. Then there’s issue of retailers falsifying the origin of food items. A butcher “in Osaka City sold at least 1,424 kilograms of beef from Tohoku and Kanto regions as ‘made in Kagoshima’ and other prefectures, including 750 kilograms of beef from Fukushima.” Japan Today reported that in April 2012, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler relabelled 358 boxes of Fukushima cucumbers and sold them in Tokyo. In both cases, the authorities told the retailers not to re-label produce again and took no further action. The Japanese government’s policy regarding food safety and testing reflects their priority that commercial farming and fishing in contaminated areas continues.

Economic considerations alone are driving their policy, not public health and safety. This means that everyone in Japan is potentially being affected by radioactive food contamination, from the common citizen to the most privileged in Japanese society. Japan’s royal family source their household’s fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs and milk from their 252 hectare organic farm in Tochigi prefecture. “Vegetables, mushrooms, teas, and beef from the area have been found with levels of radioactive cesium exceeding the old provisional safety limit of 500 becquerels/kg. But the Imperial Household Agency has kept sending the produce from the farm to the imperial household with young children as if nothing has happened.”

Our Hearts Ache For You, Japan. At the Consulate General of Japan. Los Angeles, California. Summer, 2012.

Radioactive debris is being recycled into furniture and manufactured goods:   Previously unaffected areas have become radioactive as vast quantities of radioactive debris is being recycled to make household furniture, electrical appliances and other manufactured products, and concrete debris is being used to build roads, footpaths in national parks and flood prevention banks along the coast. The Japanese government has set the radioactive limit for recycling debris at a very high 1000 becquerels/ kg and 3000 becquerels/kg for Fukushima debris.

The right to evacuate:   Residents living in highly radioactive areas outside the 20 km exclusion zone are campaigning for official evacuation status, says Aileen Mioko Smith from Green Action, Japan.She spoke with Democracy Now! on March 11, 2012, about the situation in Fukushima: “There are two million people living in the (Fukushima) prefecture and about three quarters of those people are living under levels of very serious radioactive contamination. There are prefectures in hot spots in surrounding areas that also have high levels. About 350,000 children are living under these conditions.” She also said that the government is using its “decontamination” efforts in Fukushima prefecture as an alibi to deny evacuation rights to residents outside the 20 km exclusion zone. Official permission to evacuate entitles citizens to compensation for the loss of their homes and jobs, whereas self evacuees receive a one off payment of $1043. This has spawned a grass roots “right to evacuate” movement amongst residents living 60-80 km from the Daichi plant. Watch the full interview with Aileen Mioko Smith.  Thomas Breuer, Head of the Climate and Energy Unit for Greenpeace Germany, led a team of field monitors who first measured radiation in Fukushima prefecture during March and April 2011. Breuer considers Fukushima “not equal to Chernobyl, but way worse” because we are facing the partial or total meltdown three reactors, as opposed to one. Also, Chernobyl is situated in a rural area, whereas Fukushima prefecture is densely populated. Breuer told Democracy Now! in April 2011: “We warned the government that there are a lot of cities and villages outside the 20 km evacuation zone where the radiation levels are so high that people need urgently to be evacuated, especially children and pregnant women, because they are the most vulnerable part of the population to radiation.” The situation with regard to evacuating citizens from highly radioactive areas remains the same in 2013.

Across Japan, people are feeling increasingly frustrated with their govt’s response to the ongoing disaster, with regard to radiation exposure. In April 2012, Toshio Nishi wrote in detail of the siutation which is unfolding, and that Japanese feel angry and ignored, prisoners of both radiation and bureaucracy.

And the Japanese people are not the only citizens being abandoned by their government with regard to radiation exposure. In January, 2013, The New Jersey Newsroom reported that “the Department of Defense has decided to walk away from an unprecedented medical registry of nearly 70,000 American service members, civilian workers, and their families caught in the radioactive clouds blowing from the destroyed nuclear power plants at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan. The decision to cease updating the registry means there will be no way to determine if patterns of health problems emerge among the members of the Marines, Army, Air Force, Corps of Engineers, and Navy stationed at 63 installations in Japan with their families. In addition, it leaves thousands of sailors and Marines in the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group 7 on their own when it comes to determining if any of them are developing problems caused by radiation exposure.”

Fukushima survivors seek compensation:   Agence Presse France reported in early February, 2013, that: “People whose homes or farms were hit by radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant will file class-action lawsuits next month to seek damages from the Japanese government, lawyers said Friday. At least 350 residents are to file a case with Fukushima District Court on March 11, the second anniversary of the disaster, the lawyers said, describing it as the largest class-action on the issue against the state.”

Fukushima victims told they have to repay the compensaton money they received from TEPCO: A relatively small number of people affected by the disaster received compensation from TEPCO, and in February, 2013 they learned that these monies are a loan and must be repaid. The ABC’s North Asia correspondent, Mark Willacy, is based in Japan and filed this report, which includes interviews, and information from Greenpeace which points out that the nuclear companies are exempt from any liability and therefore not required to pay a cent in compensation to the Japanese people. This unconscionable situation once again highlights the fact that the nuclear industry is underwritten by the public, and when things go wrong, it is the public that bears the health and financial costs associated with nuclear accidents, even catastrophes on the scale of Fukushima, where human error has been shown to have caused the disaster.

Courting disaster – Japan restarts nuclear power:   Barely a year after the Fukushima disaster began, the Japanese govt announced it will restart nuclear power production, beginning with Ooi nuclear plant in Fukui prefecture. PM Noda stated in a press conference in early June, 2012 that the restart of nuclear power is necessary for the Japanese economy. The announcement sparked a surge in nuke free demonstrations, especially outside the PMs official residence in Tokyo, where the numbers of protesters every Friday night in June rose to about  200 000 by the end of the month. The June 29 demonstration acknowledged by PM Noda as a “big noise,” was filmed from a helicopter by an independent journalists’ collective who stepped into the gap left by mainstream media. Watch the unique aerial footage of 200 000 protesters in central Tokyo here. Meanwhile, the Ooi plant was plagued with serious safety issues, delaying its restart. Evidence also emerged that the plant’s buildings are not earthquake proof and that two active faultines run through the plant complex, out of a total of five active faultines in the Japanese archipelago. “PM Noda also confirmed the restart of the Monju ‘Fast Breeder’ reactor, in July 2012. Monju’s operation has been nothing but “test operation” for nearly 20 years (the reactor achieved criticality in April of 1994), and for the most part it has been idle because of seemingly endless problems. The biggest of all was the leak of liquid sodium coolant that resulted in fire at the plant in December of 1995, but what was at issue was not so much of the fire incident itself. The Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation, who was running the plant at that time, downplayed the accident and hid the information of the accident.“  In 2013, Japan’s decision to resume nuclear power generation remains unchanged, despite serious safety issues plaguing several reactors and the Daichi plant being far from under control. In February, 2013, evidence emerged of illegal meetings between Japan’s nuclear watchdog and power corporations.

In February, 2013, Greenpeace published a new report which shows how Japan can meet its energy needs without nuclear power. The challenge does not lie in accessing sufficient clean energy reosurces, but the lack of political will in Japan to make the transition, coupled with a longstanding corrupt relationship with the nuclear power industry.

Families at a Nuke Free rally in Tokyo. March, 2012. Photos- AP

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Kids are 10-20 times more radio sensitive than adults, Women are more radio sensitive than men, girls are twice as radio sensitive as boys, fetuses are thousands of times more radio sensitive than adults:   Children are especially vulnerable to developing cancers from radiation because unlike adults, their cells are dividing at a very fast rate. During the process of cell division, genes and chromosones are synthesised and split into new cells. It is during this process of synthesis that children’s cells are vulnerable to damage from ionising radiation. When children are exposed to radioactive iodine, their thyroid glands “soak it up like a sponge.” Nuclear power stations produce 200 man-made radioactive elements, all of which cause cancer and genetic diseases, radioactive iodine is just one example. Dr Helen Caldicott explains the implications of radiation exposure in children in this video talk, hosted by the Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. It is unknown how many children have been exposed to radioactive iodine, especially in the first days after the disaster began, when the atmospheric radiation levels were exceptionally high. A primary school child reporting for the webcast special: What Will Our Future Be?: Nuclear Power Plants and Radiation Seen Through the Eyes of Children, said that when the disaster began, “the Fukushima Daichi plant lost all its power and the nuclear meltdown started a few hours later. But all this information was  not conveyed to the public and iodine tablets to prevent thyroid cancer were not distributed to children, except in a few municipalities.” The Ministry of Education and Science raised the (gamma) radiation safety level to 20 millisieverts/year and re-opened schools in April 2012. Parents are protesting to have it reverted back to 1 millisievert/year, the official limit before March, 2011.

Less than a year after the Fukushima nuclear accident began, children living in 13 cities and towns throughout Fukushima prefecture were given thyroid tests. Out of 38 114 children who were tested, 13 460 children, or 35.3% have developed nodules or cysts on their thyroid glands, which are a pre-condition to thyroid cancer. Dr Helen Caldicott, pediatrician, said: “That’s really early, it’s unheard of.  She noted that thyroid growths were not found in Chernobyl’s children until 5 years after the accident, and at much smaller rates than were being detected in Japan just 10 months after the nuclear disaster, which indicates that “something new in the history of medicine is happening in Fukushima.” Dr Caldicott said that all cysts and nodules found in Japanese children must be sent immediately for fine needle biopsy to rule out malignancy and that malignant growths must be removed and followed up with treatment, such as thyroid replacement therapy, to endeavour to save the child’s life. This is not being done for children in Japan because the government’s policy is to “follow them” and wait two years before conducting follow up examinations.

The Tenth Report of Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey was released on February 13, 2013. The key findings have been translated into English in this article: The results compiled up to January 21, 2013 revealed that 41,947 (44.2%) of 94,975 children had thyroid ultrasound abnormalities.  Together with 38,114 children (13,645 or 35.8% had thyroid ultrasound abnormalities) tested in the last half of Fiscal Year Heisei 23 (FYH23)  from October 2011 through March 2012, a total of 55,592 (41.8%) of 133,089 Fukushima children have been found to have ultrasound abnormalities.

Radiation in school lunches:   Schools did not start measuring radiation levels until June 2011, the second semester after the disaster. Kira Nakata, a 6th grade student living in Tokyo city, was one of 16 children who participated in the webcast special: What Will Our Future Be? Nuclear Power Plants and Radiation Seen Through the Eyes of Children. Kira told OurPlanet-TV that when her Tokyo school started testing school lunches for radiation and announcing the origin of food items, they also started giving students the results. “From the very first result, we knew radiation had been detected in green onions from Ibarati. The results were printed as handouts and distributed at school. It was all the more shocking because we had already eaten them. In July and August radiation was also detected in various food items and each time radiation was detected, a handout was distributed. When I looked at it I felt so shocked and said to myself ‘Oh no, I’ve eaten this! I went, like, why, why why?’ “ The primary and junior high school children who participated in the webcast are from all over Japan. They spoke in depth about how the disaster has affected their lives and also contributed their own reports to the program. Watch the webcast special on OurPlanet-TV, recorded on January 22, 2012.

Children’s art and personal stories:   When the earthquake and tsunami hit, child evacuees had to deal with the added trauma of sudden dislocation from their homes and schools. Many families relocated from regional towns and villages to Tokyo’s urban metropolis. Many others have been left behind which has fractured the communities of several prefectures. Children often use art to express their feelings, especially in response to big events which are beyond their control. Strong Children Japan features “portraits of Japanese children and young people living with the ongoing consequences of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear accident, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of March 11th 2011. The images and words are made by the children, combined with their portrait by Japan based English artist Geoff Read done according to their instructions.” We invite you to view all the children’s portraits and read the accompanying texts that they have written.

Left: Kota is 10 and lives in Yanaizu, Fukushima prefecture. His writing on the picture says “The world is no good now. Let’s clean the earth by borrowing sunshine power and water power!!” By Kota with Geoff Read.Part of the Strong Children Japan. exhibition~ view the full collection of drawings on their website. Reproduced with permission.

Right: Is there radiation in the food?” By Ami, 10 year old Fukushima child, in collaboration with Greg Read. Part of their Strong Children Japan exhibition ~ view the full collection on their website. Reproduced with permission.

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Naoto Matsumura is a fifth generation rice farmer from the town of Tomioka, 16 km from the Fukushima Daichi plant. When the nuclear disaster began, the government declared a 20 km exclusion zone and ordered 78 000 residents to evacuate, with no rescue plan for livestock and pets. The government forbade evacuees from taking their domestic and farm animals with them, telling residents they would be returning within a few days and not to worry about their animals. Many animals perished within a few weeks, especially those tethered or in pens. Naoto Matsumura refused to evacuate from Tomioka, where he is the last remaining resident out of an original population of 16 000 people. His home has no electricity or running water and he lives on canned food. He has been caring for hundreds of animals inside the exclusion zone, including horses, 400 cows, 60 pigs, 30 fowl, more than 100 cats, 10 dogs and an ostrich  – and doing so completely on his own for over a year. In a video report filmed in Tomioka in early March 2012, Matsumura told reporters: “There were reasons to stay, but one of the biggest was my farm animals, I had to take care of them. Later I started to feed all the dogs and cats as well. Once I started I thought that I couldn’t leave them, so I’m still staying.” After more than a year caring for hundreds of animals alone, Naoto Matsumura finally has some ongoing assistance. In May 2012, two NGOs were established to assist with animal care inside the exclusion zone. The task of caring for Fukushima animals remains an overwhelming one, even with NGO support. Watch footage on Naoto Matsumura’s youtube channel. You can also view updates on  Naoto Matsumura’s Facebook page, set up by international supporters and join their fundraising campaign.

Naoto Matsumura in Tomioka. Spring 2012. photographer – unknown

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A growing people’s movement is calling for Fukushima truth & a nuke free future: 

Scholar and long time environmental and human rights activist Professor Akira Murakami is devoted to raising awareness in the community about the implications of Fukushima. In this video he discusses the challenges facing Japanese people who are grappling to deal with the ongoing disaster in a climate of government and nuclear industry cover up. “So much information has been kept a secret and we were duped into believing that almost nothing has happened. But they are doing it to make this collective crime look smaller.” Professor Murakami also speaks about his work educating mothers about the dangers of internal radiation.  Watch the interview with Professor Akira Murakami speaking on KPFA. (Amercian public radio)Recorded on 14 March, 2012.

Akio Matsumura is a renowned diplomat who has dedicated his life to building bridges between government, business, and spiritual leaders in the cause of world peace  He is the founder and Secretary General of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival with conferences held in Oxford, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, Kyoto, and Konya. Akio Matsumura has been tracking the situation at the Daichi plant and the effects of the disaster in Japan, in writings featured on his blog.

Fukushima Women:   Protesting the Japanese government’s announcement to re-start Ooi nuclear plant, about 70 women, including 10 women from Fukushima prefecture staged a “Die-In” outside the official residence of the prime minister on June 7, 2012. Protesting the Japanese government’s announcement to re-start Ooi nuclear plant, about 70 women, including 10 women from Fukushima prefecture staged a “Die-In” outside the official residence of the prime minister on June 7, 2012. Earlier in the day, the women met with officials to submit letters of request to prime minister Yoshihiko Noda. Each of the women also spoke a few words to communicate their grave concerns about living in Fukushima, to the prime minister’s representatives. Here is what one Fukushima woman had to say: “In late June last year I started to suffer from various health problems, one after the other. The problems are exactly the same as those found in villages around Chernobyl. I feel really uncomfortable when I have an armpit ache for two days. We were already exposed to a critical amount of radiation when the (atmospheric) levels were high. In addition, now we are forced to be exposed to radiation internally every day.” In the same meeting, a Fukushima mother told officials: “I wanted to raise my children with the safest possible meals, so I started organic farming. But all my rice paddies and fields have been contaminated. Every day, every time I prepare a meal, I wonder if it’s OK to feed my children with certain becquerel vegetables. I’m worried if they might affect my children in the future, Can you understand this feeling?”  Watch this video of all the women speaking, and see their protest outside the prime minister’s residence.

A group of 40 women from Fukushima protested outside TEPCO headquarters in Tokyo on December 28, 2011.  A representative from Japan’s Renewable Energy Coalition read a protest letter from Fukushima citizens: “The safety myth of nuclear plants has been shattered and a large amount of radioactive material has been spread throughout the world, causing huge environmental contamination. In Fukushima, many people are forced to live their lives in a high level of radioactive contamination unparalleled in human history. . . the accident of Fukushima Daichi plant has revealed the human race cannot coexist with nuclear power. An energy that destroys human health is not needed. We strongly want the transition to a society based on alternative energies that can coexist with human life.” Watch the protest video here.

School Children:   “What Will Our Future Be?: Nuclear Power Plants and Radiation Seen through the Eyes of Children”is a web media special produced by independent media program: OurPlanet-TV. It was webcast on January 22, 2012 and contains interviews with primary school children as well as their own reports. One of the children who participated is Kokoro Fujinama, a 14 year old author and blogger from Hyogo prefecture in western Japan. Kokoro decided to start writing about nuclear issues as soon as the disaster started. Her first blog post elicited 14 000 comments. A student from Fukushima prefecture, Ayu Kano was asked how she felt after the disaster: “Radiation flew to Fukushima and we couldn’t play in the schoolyard anymore and we had to wear a hat and mask on the way to school and back home. A completely different life started and it was a little painful.” Watch a 4-part selection of the webcast with English subtitles.

Fukushima Children vs Japanese government: Four children from Fukushima met with ten bureaucrats from Ministry of Science and Education and Nuclear Emergency Response in Japan’s Lower House of Parliament on August 17, 2011. Each of the children, including third grade and junior high school students, handed letters of request to the officials and then spoke a few words. Here is what one girl had to say: “Children in Fukushima cannot swim in the swimming pool and have to wear face masks when they go to school. Even so, the government insists that it’s safe. I doubt it very much. How can I believe it’s safe when the government raised the safety limit to a few dozen times higher than the original legal safety limit? Even junior high school students like me wouldn’t be fooled by such a trick. Do you value money more than the people of Fukushima? Why do children in Fukushima have to be exposed to radiation from the nuke plant that adults arbitrarily built? Why do we have to suffer so much? Why does the govt intend to resume the operation of nuke plants even after such a terrible accident occurred? I just don’t understand…Please make a maximum effort now to create a future where we will live really safely. This is my plea.” Watch the video of all four children speaking in the Japanese parliament.

Videos of Street Protests:     Evacuate Fukushima- evacuate 911 “I made this video from the Shinjuku protest against Nuclear Energy and to save the children of Fukushima.” Video and English subtitles by Nelson Surjon.

Fukushima residents protest outside TEPCO’s Tokyo headquarters. “This video clip is part of the protest to TEPCO’s headquarters by people including around 40 women from Fukushima, on December 28, 2011, the last working day of the year for TEPCO’s headquarters and government offices in Japan. Though the women had made an appointment with TEPCO to submit their letters of requests, TEPCO refused to let them inside its premises.” Video and English subtitles by tokyobrowntabby2

Independent Media:   As nuke free demonstrations started gaining momentum, the numbers of people demonstrating has also been rising steadily. Protesting the govt’s decision to restart Japan’s nuclear power stations, thousands turned up to demonstrate outside the PM’s residence every Friday night in June, peaking with 200 000 people by the end of the month. Japan’s mainstream media continued to either ignore the protests, or play down the numbers of people attending. Independent Web Journal (IWJ) an independent Japanese media collective, rented a helicopter and filmed the June 29 protest from the air to prove how big the demonstrations have become and to challenge the media to report the truth. The aerial footage was featured on some news bulletins in Japan, an important step forward in breaking the mainstream media silence on the nuke free movement. Watch IWJ’s unique footage of 200 000 protesters in central Tokyo, filmed from a helicopter on the night of June 29, 2012.

Documentary Film 311: Surviving Japan worldwide premiere 11 March, 2013: “The lingering effects of the March 2011 Japanese earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disasters are captured by filmmaker Christopher Noland, an American living and working in Tokyo during the catastrophic events, who volunteered for the cleanup in Northeastern Japan, documenting true stories from those affected by the disaster. The only film of its kind takes an in depth, critical look at the mismanagement of the nuclear crisis and tsunami relief efforts by corporations, the U.S and Japanese governments, and Tokyo Electric Power Company© (TEPCO), drawing questions on the future of nuclear power in the 21st century. “The perpetrator is known, but the government doesn’t want this information to come out yet.”- Minami-Soma City Councilman Oyama. The screening will benefit the Save Minami-Soma Project, providing clean water and food to Japanese citizens still living in radioactive waste. A portion of the ticket sales will be donated and generated by your participation. This is an opportunity to raise awareness of the clean-up effort, including worldwide radioactive contamination through open-air burning policies and 200,000+ tons of highly radioactive water dumped into the Pacific Ocean. Stay informed and let your voice be heard.”

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For scientific and medical information on nuclear issues and updates on Fukushima, we recommend:   Helen Caldicott, MD.Australian pediatrician, cystic fibrosis specialist and dedicated nuclear free advocate,  Dr Caldicott has devoted 40 years to educating the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age. She was a co-founder of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. She taught medicine at Harvard University and practiced medicine at the Boston Children’s Hospital. She is the author of eight books, including:  Nuclear Power is Not the Answer and If You love this Planet and Nuclear Madness: What You Can Do and Metal of Dishonour.  Dr Caldicott also has a weekly radio show: If You Love this Planet. In her regular public talks, Dr Helen Caldicott shares her extensive knowledge about nuclear power and the medical effects of radiation. Visit Dr Caldicott’s websites: Nuclear Free Planet and Helen Caldicott MD. And her Facebook page. A unique public symposium, “The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident,” will be held on March 11-12  at the New York Academy of Medicine to explore the latest data and its implications. A project of The Helen Caldicott Foundation, the symposium is being co-sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility. This event will be available as a Live Stream.

Arnie Gundersen, nuclear engineer. Former independent safety advisor for U.S nuclear plants with 40 years’ experience in the industry. He is now devoted to his NGO, Fairewinds Energy Education. Arnie posts regular video updates about the current status of Fukushima and the reactors and the implications for Japan and the international community. Gundersen presents scientific and technical information in a format which is easy for the public to understand.