Steve Zeltzer’s Report “One Day in Fukushima” » Counterpunch
One Day in Fukushima
When a doctor told a Fukushima mother recently that the chance of her child having cancer was only 1 in 100. This mother had let her children evacuate to Yamagata after two of her children had gotten 3 milimeter thyroid cists in their throats had answer to the doctor. For her she said, it is not 1 in 100, but it is 1 in 1.
This epitomizes the continuing nightmare the people of Fukushima face as Tokyo Electric Power Company TEPCO, the Japan and US government and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continue a full press campaign to convince people that the three Fukushima nuclear plant meltdowns can be “overcome”. This was the statement in fact of a politician last year running for parliament in the city of Sendai, which is about 60 miles from the plant meltdowns.
This past week, I went to the city of Fukushima to see how this plan is working.
Despite the appearance of “normality” and the national effort to convince the Japanese people that things are getting better in the region, the reality is not as it appears.
Following a slight rain pour on October 28, 2012, we visited a citizens testing center to check the residents and their food for contamination.
We had a check-up and found that the radiation count on our heads and shoulders, where were wet by the rain were higher than on the rest of our bodies.
The effort to limit liability also is going into high gear. As former residents, as close as 4 miles or 7 kilometers to the actual meltdown are being told that the area has been decontaminated and the radiation level is now low enough so, they have to move back to their homes and businesses or they will be threatened with loosing their compensation. Fumio Hayashi is a retired salary man who had bought a restaurant in a town called Namie near Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which was 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the plants and has now relocated to Akita. He told his story about the threat by the government to take away his compensation and force him to move back to the town.
Who would go to his restaurant in the contaminated area was apparently not a concern for government officials who want to return the area to “normal”.
Over 100,000 residents have been evacuated but over 300,000 children along with many others are still stranded in the contaminated region.
The government refuses to pay for the evacuation of all those residents unless they are within 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the nuclear meltdowns.
A Fukushima Community Clinic is being established and will open on December 1. It will test and treat the residents who haven’t been able to escape for radiation poisoning and cancers. Over 35% of the children tested have thyroid cists and this deadly cost will grow.
Mothers of Fukushima children also reported that they have been pressured to downplay potential health signs with government provided doctors.
While we were in Mito, which is about 75 miles south from Fukushima Daiichi power plant and it has also been contaminated, had another 6.0 earthquake had hit. According to the residence we talked, they are having earthquake daily.
It was also in Mito that the Doro-Mito railway workers union had struck against Japan Rail when their members were ordered to work on a contaminated trains that were left in the contaminated area for over 6 months.
Although TEPCO has been kept in operation by government funding since it is really bankrupt, it is run by the same people who covered up the danger of the original meltdown.
It now says it will cost ¥10 trillion ($127.796 billon) to “decontaminate” the region and for compensation. This according to TEPCO includes “scrubbing residents homes.” To decontaminate them. However most of the funds according to refugees are going to contractors connected to the major political parties in Japan.
TEPCO also holds a powerful grip on the national Fukushima University. The university brought in pro-nuclear “experts” to give a lecture, but when students sought to invite a nuclear plant whistleblower, the university, which has a partnership with TEPCO and the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA denied their right to speak. They also have brought in the Center For Strategic and International Studies CSIS.
Residents of Fukushima also have many stories about how government doctors are taking statistics and records but refusing to treat their children.
The Japanese history of the victims of nuclear radiation are not good. Following the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US denied that there was radiation sickness, because of this, the people had to set up their own community hospitals to get real treatment.
While in Sendia, we interviewed mothers who brought coloring books produced by Tohoku Power Co. that were passed out in their children’s schools. The coloring books propagandized to the children, that nuclear power was just one of the power sources of Japan and it’s cost was economical for the people of Japan.
At the Onagawa nuclear power plant operated by Tohoku Power Co., which is north of Fukushima, distributes the pamphlets on what the company had done to prepare for earthquakes. One of the pictures was handle bars on the nuclear power control room so the operators could hold on when an earthquake struck.
You cannot make this up.
In the same company’s PR facility above the plant on a hill, there was an art show by children on how nuclear power was compatible with the fish and wildlife in the sea.
The propaganda is that the topsoil can be removed and this makes the area clean again. Much of the money going into the region is of course not going to the residents who want to evacuate but to contractors and subcontractors.
Even a Korean TV stations did an investigative report that a school site had been decontaminated in Fukushima but when tested, still had high rates of radioactive material.
The cesium and other radioactive material released in the four nuclear dirty hydrogen bomb explosions and three meltdowns continue to contaminate the region and the world. The rain that spreads throughout the forests and fields of beautiful Fukushima washes cesium and other dangerous toxin into the ocean and Tokyo Bay where high levels of contaminants have been found.
Joining in the effort to develop a strategy for decontaminating the area is the rightwing think tank Center For Strategic and International Studies supported by former Bush advisor Richard Armitage. It has had many “education” sessions throughout the country to reassure that Japanese people that the disaster is being controlled and that the region can be “decontaminated.”
On March 22, 2012, the CSIS Energy and National Security Program even had a panel in Japan with pro-nuke advocate NRC Commissioner William Magwood who recently joined at the NRC to boot the chair Gregory Jaczko for being too hard on the US industry.
It is also setting up pro-nuclear education sessions throughout the country to reassure the people that plans are moving ahead to make the remaining nuclear plants safe to restart. They have developed the strategic plan to make the Fukushima area a special economic zone for decontamination and economic development. Tohoku is also now the fastest growing region in Japan due to this massive investment which of course includes the reconstruction of towns destroyed not only by the tsunami.
The same week that I was in Fukushima, the government admitted that it had allowed the Oui nuclear plant to restart with an active fault going through the center of the plant. As many have pointed out before, Japan like California, is on the Pacific ring of fire and is regularly rocked by earthquakes. The dangerous nuclear power plant San Onofre near San Diego has been leaking and is presently shut down but the NRC, Southern California Edison along with the California Public Utility Commission are intent on starting up the plant again. The idea that any nuclear plant is safe flies in the face of reality, but the industry controls the governments of Japan and the US, and continues to push to keep the plans operating.
In Japan, the ruling Democratic Party and the Liberal Democrats along with their allies the Kohmei-tou “Clean Party” continue to back nuclear power as a legitimate power source.
At the same time, the largest Japanese trade union federation RENGO like the AFL-CIO continues to support nuclear power. In fact, RENGO even has ministers in the present government and has fully supported the restarting of the remaining 50 nuclear plants in the country.
It has also been completely silent as well about the continued contamination of the tens of thousands of non-contract workers who are sent into the Fukushima plant without training on the dangers of radiation and in most cases without proper protection. These workers are not properly registered and will not get proper medical care and compensation when they are likely to get cancers and other diseases from this work.
The government has also raised the maximum radiation exposure dose to 250 millisieverts a year from 100 millisieverts.
Additionally many nuclear power whistleblowers have been retaliated against by the utilities for exposing systemic health and safety problems at the Fukushima plant and many others throughout Japan and the world.
There also has been no crash program to build solar panels on all new construction and the private energy companies still are pushing to re-open all the plants despite the growing public anger and protest. In Tokyo, there are weekly mass protests in front of the Prime Minister’s office and at other government buildings, but you would not know this from most of the corporate controlled media.
Japan has also been bribing regional prefectures to burn the rubble, export waste to Mongolia and is engaged in a full press effort to sell more nuclear plants throughout the world.
On November 8, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that nuclear power is “safer now than before 2011”. He supports the expansion of nuclear plants into China, Korea, India and Russia.
Additionally the Japan Atomic Energy Agencies plans to reopen the accident prone plagued Monju prototype fast breeder reactor in suruga, Fukui Prefecture.
The reality however is that another nuclear meltdown or meltdowns in Japan could destroy the entire country. There were even plans for the evacuation of Tokyo by the former Prime Minister Kan. He also wanted to evacuate people 175 kilometers (108 miles) from the meltdowns.
While I was in Japan, Kan claimed on a television program Morning Bird that there had been a vendetta against him by the nuclear utilities and the corporate media to drive him out of office after he demanded that all nuclear plants be shutdown and a proper evacuation take place.
The role of Obama and the US government in his removal is also publicly acknowledged by many. The US nuclear industry that Obama kowtows is also extremely concerned that the full permanent closure of all the nuclear plants in Japan which would be a body blow to the industry and the US has played a key role along with the nuclear industry in Japan in keeping the plants open to the detriment of the people of Japan and the world.
The continued collusion and interconnection between the government, media and nuclear industry is systemic and has not changed despite the efforts to prettify this terrifying picture.
A documentary “Fukushima Never Again” produced by the Labor Video Project documents the voices of the mothers of Fukushima and labor and experts about the reality of this catastrophe from the ground floor and is available on line athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU-Z4VLDGxU
Steve Zeltzer is a labor videographer and journalist/producer at KPFA Radio on the Pacifica Network. He is working on a documentary on “The Mothers Of Fukushima.” He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org