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

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

April 14, 2012

This is the government’s idea of a “stable” plant. The water purification system at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which leaked 12 tonnes of radioactive in April.  AP/Tepco

Final Part VI

Residents of Japan should not worry. The government has a plan to decontaminate the lands. In case just putting radioactive soil in bags under schoolyards does not work, it can always resort to other methods. And if the future goes as well its earlier experiments using sunflowers, Japan might be free of harmful radiation – well, perhaps in a few hundred years. “Sunflowers next to useless for nuclear decontamination,” read the Asahi, one of Japan’s most respected newspapers (here). Probably most 15-year-olds of average intelligence would have scoffed at the idea of a few plants magically cleaning up the radioactive fallout from the plant, but the press took it seriously. “Large areas in yellow blossoms [will serve] as a symbol of hope and reconstruction and to lure back tourists.” Not only would it achieve such wonders – which elude Chernobyl where people can also plant seeds- the world would marvel at Japanese wisdom. So great would its success be that “it will surprise NASA” (see here). At least in the first century CE (cited earlier) some people understood that bad land would yield bad results.

Motivations

The government would prefer people live in these radioactive areas. There are two reasons which cannot be discounted. The first is to restore confidence in nuclear power, which has been badly shaken. A summer without any nuclear plants demonstrates they are not needed. This is why Noda and Edano are so desperate to restart the Oi reactor, even though some of the new safety measures will not be implemented until several years after it starts. That is like saying a car passed safety inspection even though seat belts and airbags will not be installed for another 3 years. Just do not have an accident today.

Can Japan survive without nuclear power? This question is nonsensical. As was proven in summer and winter of 2011, other sources (oil, coal, thermal) can make up the difference, and where they cannot conservation is key. A more appropriate question, therefore, is what kinds of changes will the public and businesses have to make so there are no shortages. It will mean lower business profits, but much energy is wasted currently. From vending machines on nearly every corner to large air-conditioned malls to huge neon lighting at the pachinko and love hotels, there are options that could be explored, and the list is quite long.

The real objection to using gas and oil to generate electricity has little to do with global warming. It means lower profits for the monopoly energy companies – hence part the desperation for the restart, which could only come from the plant owners themselves. There is also the elephant in the room of restoring pork-barrel spending for the lucrative construction projects of the 1990s. As they declined, so did some corporate profits. Not to worry. Several hundred billion dollars will now be spent restoring areas all over the disaster zone, even if they will still be virtually defenceless against tsunamis, to say nothing about rebuilding on a virtual nuclear waste dump with levels higher than some of the Chernobyl exclusion areas. No problem for that either. Business profit comes first, which is openly discussed in the Japanese press.

There are other ways to decontaminate. The Japanese favourite is to just burn the radioactive debris, even if it means torching rubbish with up to “100,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium or less, it may be disposed of at a temporary incinerator,” reported the Mainichi (see here). That has no effect on health either, even though it is 1000 times the limit of caesium allowed in food – so the public is told. But those who oppose burning are “unpatriotic” people creating “baseless rumors.” “Sharing is caring” and soon all of Japan gets to enjoy the benefits of incinerated particles being released into the air. The suffering of Tohoku has to spread, and it looks like it will, at the behest of people like the Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, one of the biggest proponents of the scheme. There is more to the story, but this is a major part of the rush to have a “rebirth.”

Students study just 13 miles away from this site at Fukushima Daiichi.

Mature Thinking

There is a difference between adults who are capable of understanding the risks and children who do not. Clearly a child who wants to be with friends or play outside a few miles away the Daiichi plant is not conscious of the dangers just round the corner. This is what the Yomiuri focused on. “Despite the government declaration that Fukushima Daiichi is stable, the plant is largely running on makeshift equipment and remains vulnerable,” warned the Associated Press on March 30 (see here). So stable is this nuclear plant (with a makeshift garble of hoses falling out of their casing), that the chief of the plant himself is on record saying, “it’s still rather fragile” (see here). Well, it only took 6 days after is comments were published for this “vulnerable” yet “stable” plant to “leak” 12 tonnes of radioactive water on April 5 (our report is here). Guess what it contained? Strontium. How is the water table by the way? Better not to ask.

The adults, unlike the children who just want to play with friends, are able to comprehend the dangers politicians demand they endure. And for what? The mayor of Kawauchi discussed this when he said, “the town [Kawauchi] tries to rebuild and [be] reborn.” But why is rebuilding and going home a priority in one of the world’s worst disaster zones? “He believes the longer people wait, the less likely their centuries old village will be able to keep its identity,” reported Al Jazeera (see here). People should suffer the effects of radiation (whatever they may be in the long-term) and the vulnerability of being next to a “stable” but “vulnerable” plant for “identity.” Maybe residents of Pripyat should all move back in to preserve their identity. Few seem willing.

One might recall the village told returning residents “areas outside the no-go zone was safe,” even though they are within the 30 km area the US and Greenpeace said children should avoid (the US only said it was unsafe for “U.S. citizens” – maybe radiation does not affect Japanese). The mayor is aware of the dangers. Even he has doubts about safety. “He admits, though, he is not sure that argument itself outweighs the radiation risks.” No wonder the title of the report is called “Japanese mayor defies radiation risk.” To people like the mayor of Kawauchi the risks are acceptable. There are always a few who might be willing to follow a Captain Ahab. If there are any long-term health effects, the children are the most vulnerable. What will they do year from now if they get sick?

A History of Denial

But being independent enough to say no is not allowed in the “Japanese” character, so history might suggest. After all, millions of Japanese took orders from their emperor in WWII and went on a murderous rampage all over Asia, to say nothing of the horrendous war crimes in other areas the Japanese government and historians still cannot admit to almost 70 years later. Even the Nanking Massacre, in which the Japanese slaughtered tens of thousands of Chinese – if not more – is still referred to as the “Nanking Incident.” Some outright deny these facts. There were also millions of Chinese they outright killed, which is routinely denied or ignored, with all emphasis instead being put on the US. If a German leader announced that Rudolf Hoess (Höss), Adolf Eichmann and Ernst Kaltenbrunner were innocent under domestic law, there would be an immediate uproar calling attention to Holocaust denial. Yet, the Japanese get away with such denials on a daily basis, including in their school lessons.

If one takes Prime Minister Noda’s comments seriously, Hideki Tojo, a convicted Class-A war criminal, is not a criminal under Japanese law. What credibility does he have?

Prime Minister Noda’s recent comments that the convicted Japanese war criminals are a case in point. A useful exercise would be to contrast the reaction over Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Japanese leaders. It is quite telling that most of the protests come from the Asian nations that suffered at the hands of the Japanese  – little from the “West,” which is pretty much how it was when Japan was committing the horrendous crimes. A well-known example is that of the Korean sex slaves, euphemistically called “comfort women,” who still cannot get a real apology or compensation decades later. All of this bears out one simple point: How can the Japanese deal with reality now when they cannot do so with events that happened decades ago?

At the end of the day there are people living in a town with nice pictures, but the situation is anything but rosy. If there are more radiation “leaks” in the area and the wind just happens to blow it southwest a few kilometers over to Kawauchi, the residents will have to evacuate again. Not to worry, though. The Japanese government will probably not warn them until months later (like with Namie and SPEEDI), and in the event some bureaucrat should receive a warning in a set of e-mails, they might just end up deleted “because they took too much space on the server.”

It takes a special kind of indoctrination to even entertain such beliefs, particularly after all the lies, cover ups, corruption and lack of information about the meltdowns and radiation releases. Well, at least they addressed these in a matter of months, not decades. Who knows, the Japanese press might one day discover the meltdowns were actually a “disaster,” and not a “crisis.” But since they repeat government propaganda verbatim – as in this case – one should not count on it anytime soon.

Civis Journal

Conclusion of this series. For parts I, II, III, IV & V click here, here, here, here & here.

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  1. April 15, 2012 at 04:20

    Once again a well researched and extremely insightful analysis of this Heinous Crime… I mean Crisis…

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