Home > Japan, Special Report > Part V: Town in Fukushima “safe” – politicians said so

Part V: Town in Fukushima “safe” – politicians said so

April 12, 2012

This is an abandoned school in Chernobyl. Why are towns in Fukushima not learning from the accident in 1986? Food is also being grown in radioactive areas in Japan. Source: PMGTG

The USSR dealt with radiation, why not Japan?

This is not to minimise the other hardships people living in the town have. Some have what they believe are good reasons to stay, like the workers interviewed by the press (see here). Their plight and suffering are real; their financial losses are not a small matter, and the damage from the nuclear power disaster cannot easily be remedied.

Among the many groups of people affected by radiation, there are a number of rice farmers whose livelihoods depend on a clean environment. They are reluctant to leave their jobs and ancestral lands (which in some cases go back hundreds of years); this is hardly difficult to understand. People in any society would find it difficult to relocate. Add to this the high cost of land in Japan and the lack of compensation from Tepco or the government. The thought of condemning the radioactive areas and compensating the farmers so they can purchase lands elsewhere is not even a thought.

Banning the farming and selling of food in areas contaminated with radiation might be the sensible decision to make for the benefit of people’s health. Fukushima’s radiation is not the first time a release of dangerous material caused problems for residents. The government had to ban food products in Toyama, Gifu, when cadmium, released into the environment by Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co., caused numerous people to get itai-itai disease (or “it hurts”). The government took steps to clean the land over several decades. The decontamination process partly consisted of removing the topsoil, putting it in a deep hole and covering it up with new topsoil. Farmers can now grow rice there even though the Japan Times says unpolished rice has an “average of 0.08 to 0.09 parts per million, compared with the safety standard of 0.4 ppm.” An improvement, but hardly contamination free (see here and here). As to those directly affected, only 4 of the 196 victims are left today. These are serious matters, to say the least.

In many affected areas with Fukushima’s radiation, food is simply grown in radioactive soil. Unsurprisingly it produces radioactive food. It is not as if that has ever been different

Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. – Jesus, Matthew 7:17 King James

As obvious as it was in the ancient world, the tendency in Japan has been to think “good fruit” can come from bad soil. Few people would apply such logic to Chernobyl. But Chernobyl was worse, was it not? That is what many say, but it is largely irrelevant if it is 10, 20 or 40% worse. If Chernobyl is the benchmark, then Fukushima is not much better off. This cannot be suggested in Japan. They also rebuke anybody who even suggests there might be a problem with radioactive food, debris or the mindless acceptance of such policies. The media have largely joined in with the government to promote a consensus Japan that eats and breathes radiation, as if it were an essential part of a healthy diet. There are already plans to burn massive amounts of radioactive debris and incorporate the remnants in items as diverse as concrete sidewalks. In Japan new meaning is being added to the term “sharing is caring.”

These students are just 21 km away (13 miles). If the US says this is unsafe for American children. Source: The Atlantic

Regardless of the rhetoric coming from Tokyo, the stark reality is that some lands affected by the Fukushima plant are going to be radioactive for centuries. Anyone who can read a periodic table can understand this basic fact. This should be apparent due to the presence of caesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years and will literally take hundreds of years to go away. That is not insignificant. But, unfortunately for farmers, there are other isotopes that may be present, some of which are not going anywhere for tens of thousands of years – which would be the case if plutonium were found. But plutonium was found. The question is where and in what concentrations. Add to it strontium (which was found in Kawauchi) and a whole list of possible contaminants that could have escaped in the plume.

It is not just food. Living in contaminated zones is a problem that even the USSR was unwilling to expose its own people to. If the “evil empire” had evacuations that remain in effect today, what prevents the Japanese from keeping people out of areas they know present a potential long-term health risk? Their position is: just stay in the contaminated area, eat the food and enjoy burning debris. Is anyone in Tokyo really interested in dealing with these problems?

Part VI will conclude this series with a look at “sharing is caring.” For parts I, II, III & IV click here, here, here and here.

Civis Journal

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