by rahnuma ahmed
I must write about Fukushima — I’ve been telling myself repeatedly for over a year.
The 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan’s north-eastern coast on March 11, 2011. A tsunami followed soon after, sweeping away cars, ships and buildings, crushing coastal communities. An estimated 15,800 people died; a three thousand still missing.
The Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant was affected. How badly, and what this has meant for Japan, and, for the rest of the world, is still being debated. But not in the mainstream media any longer, activists allege.I sat and watched an old DemocracyNow! programme, made weeks after the nuclear disaster occurred at Fukushima. Amy Goodman had hosted a debate between British journalist George Monbiot, author, columnist, Guardian, and Dr. Helen Caldicott, world-renowned anti-nuclear advocate, author and paediatrician, co-founder, Physicians for Social Responsibility — over the future of nuclear energy given the nuclear catastrophes at Chernobyl (USSR, 1986) and Fukushima.
Goodman graphically describes the crisis right at the beginning: Japan’s prime minister Naoto Kan says, his government has declared a state of maximum alert over the crisis at Fukushima. High radiation levels continue to delay efforts to fix the plant’s cooling systems. Experts are debating whether to cover its reactor buildings with a special material in order to try and stop the spread of radioactive substances. Radioactive water is seeping into the sea and highly radioactive liquid has been found inside and outside several reactor buildings. Small amounts of plutonium have also been detected in the soil of the plant. The Institute of Energy and Environmental Research has released data showing that the radiation leak in Japan is far worse than the one on Three Mile Island in 1979. Researchers estimate, the Japanese plant has released 160,000 times as much radioactive iodine-131 as the Three Mile island. Researchers say, radiation leak in Chernobyl was 10 times larger than the leak thus far in Japan
But, Monbiot insists, since “coal is a hundred times more dangerous than nuclear power,” if the global response to what’s happening at Fukushima is to shut down nuclear power stations around the world, to cancel future nuclear power stations, to replace nuclear energy by coal — it will be disastrous. Coal is much more dangerous not only because of carbon footprints and climate change but also because of industrial accidents and the pollution impact on local people (unpleasant lung diseases). These massively outweigh both the fatalities and the injuries caused by nuclear accidents. In China alone in 2010, 2,300 people were killed in coalmine accidents, this means that the official death toll of a week’s coal accidents in China is greater than the official death toll from Chernobyl in 25 years.
Dr Caldicott disagrees vehemently. The idea of low-level radiation is “absolute rubbish.” A millionth of a gram of plutonium, or less, can induce cancer. Each reactor has 250 kilos or 500 pounds of plutonium, which means that there’s enough plutonium in these reactors to kill everyone on earth. If you inhale a millionth of a gram of plutonium, the surrounding cells receive a very, very high dose. Most cells die within that area, because it’s an alpha emitter. The cells on the periphery remain viable. They mutate, and the regulatory genes are damaged. Years later, that person develops cancer. There can never be any safe nuclear power since it creates massive quantities of radioactive waste. It leaks into the water over time, it bioconcentrates in the food chains, in the breast milk, in the fetuses, which are thousands of times more radiosensitive than adults. One x-ray to the pregnant abdomen doubles the incidence of leukemia in the child. Over time, nuclear waste will induce epidemics of cancer, leukemia and genetic disease, and random compulsory genetic engineering. If politicians could only get out of the pockets of the nuclear companies, the coal companies, the oil companies, she says, then they could begin to fund renewable energy.
The debate heats up pretty soon. Dr Caldicott advises Monbiot to read the recently-released New York Academy of Sciences report which contains 5,000 papers translated from Russian into English, which claims upto a million people have died from Chernobyl. Monbiot counters this by mentioning the United Nations Scientific Committee report which claims the Chernobyl death toll, both workers and local people, to be 43. Caldicott warns Monbiot not to be taken in by the nuclear industry’s propaganda, Monbiot cautions all to not cherry-pick scientific evidence (like climate change deniers), to not dismiss the UN Scientific Committee (and, its “very large amount of data”) on the spurious grounds that it is part of the nuclear industry. Doing this, he remarks, smacks of “conspiratorial thinking.”
But, Dr Caldicott insists, what about the “unholy alliance” between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organization (WHO)? “WHO cannot examine any accident related to nuclear power, etc., without the permission of the IAEA. And indeed, it didn’t examine Chernobyl.” A decidedly shocked Monbiot says, to imply that WHO is part of a conspiracy, of a coverup, is downright “mind-boggling.”
Yes, the mind does boggle, retorts Dr Caldicott, but its true, the IAEA promotes nuclear power, WHO does nothing, the effects of nuclear radiation is the largest cover-up in the history of medicine. The United Nations Scientific Committee’s report is “a lie,” and yes, while coal is a “deadly substance,” we must not go from the “global warming frying pan into the nuclear fire.”
Much has come to light since the March 2011 debate — largely ignored or sidelined by the mainstream media — which proves Dr Caldicott to be right.
To take a quick at some of the headlines reported in alternative media sources which enjoy a high degree of credibility:
– Coverup of Fukushima nuclear disaster: IAEA knew reactors had melted down…Public not told for a month and a half, Global Research, May 25, 2011
– Japanese Nuclear Expert Compares Fukushima to 20 Hiroshimas in Viral Video, Epoch Times, August 24, 2011
– Canadian Medical Association Journal: Japanese Response to Fukushima Even Worse than Communist Russian Response to Chernobyl … “The Japanese Government Was Lying Through Its Teeth”, posted on WashingtonsBlog, December 29, 2011
– Radiation, Coverups and the Legacy of Fukushima, Global Research, March 13, 2012
– “Planetary Genocide”: Fukushima One Year Later : The Poisoning of Planet Earth, Global Research, March 8, 2012
– California Slammed with Fukushima Radiation, Global Research, March 30, 2012
– Nuclear Radiation Crisis: Japan is Poisoning Other Countries by Burning Highly-Radioactive Debris, Global Research, April 9, 2012
– The Fuel Pools of Fukushima: The Greatest Short-Term Threat to Humanity, Global Research, April 9, 2012
– Plume-gate: Secret documents prove global cover-up of continued Fukushima radiation pollution, Natural News, May 12, 2012
– Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War: The Unspoken Crisis of Worldwide Nuclear Radiation, Global Research, May 28, 2012
– Record high radiation levels detected at Fukushima reactor, Natural News, July 3, 2012
– WHO Report on Fukushima a Travesty, Institute of Science in Society, July 9, 2012
– Fukushima Panel: Information on Radiation Release Suppressed, Global Research, July 16, 2012
It seems that the IAEA had known about the meltdown in late March but government agencies had sat on this information until TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co) had admitted meltdown at No 1 reactor on May 15, 2011. But its not surprising, adds the author of the piece, since governments have covered up nuclear meltdowns for the last fifty years. The coverup has been described by the well known American physicist Dr Michio Kaku, We were told not to worry, there had been only three partial meltdowns. Now we know it was a hundred percent meltdown in all three reactors. Radiation? Minimal, that’s what we were told. Now we know it was comparable to the radiation at Chernobyl. And as for evacuation? Yes, 12 miles that’s it. Now they find hotspots, four hotspots outside evacuation zones. Now we see 34,000 schoolkids going to school with radiation badges, so, all the mythology of radiation has been turned upside down. The authorities have finally confessed to how severe the accident was. As a physicist, I knew things were more severe than the feeble information that they gave us. Now we know for certain that they had “lied to us.” Fukushima, says Dr Kaku, is “a still ticking time bomb” (CNN interview, September 1, 2011).
The WHO report, “Preliminary dose estimation from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami” (May 2012), is, according to scientists at ISIS, a “public relations exercise.” It bears “all the hallmarks of WHO’s subservience to the IAEA.” It has been written not by WHO personnel but by an international expert panel convened by WHO, all of whom have ties to the nuclear industry (directly as members of the IAEA or UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation), or indirectly, UK’s Health Protection Agency). WHO — surprise of surprises — doesn’t have any department or expert in radiation and health. Since the signing of an agreement between the two organisations in 1959, it is “entirely dependent on the IAEA for its information on the subject.”
Scientists at ISIS criticise WHO’s Fukushima report for citing only data supplied by the Japanese government, not drawing on alternative information sourced by independent Japanese citizen organisations, CRIIRAD (France), Fairewinds (USA) or Greenpeace International, for not assessing radiation effects on people living within 20 km of the reactor, or workers at the nuclear power plant either, in other words, the two groups who had suffered the highest levels of radiation! Radiation dose in the rest of the world is not provided in the WHO report either, on the grounds that they are not available. Which is not true, for, as the ISIS report points out, Dr Chan, Director-General of WHO, had confirmed to members of IndependentWHO, that she receives regular reports from 60 measuring stations worldwide belonging to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), and that she herself, despite lacking personal competence in radiation science, had confidently pronounced, there was no need to disseminate the information because there was “no public health threat” (WHO Report on Fukushima A Travesty, ISIS Report, July 9, 2012).
As I write, a news report says that Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is investigating a report that workers at Fukushima had been urged to cover up unsafe radiation levels (CNN, AFP, July 21, 2012).
Analysts have pointed out that the Japanese government’s admission that the Fukushima severity rating was as bad as Chernobyl, was part of the coverup. “While Chernobyl was an enormous unprecedented disaster, it only occurred at one reactor and rapidly melted down. Once cooled, it was able to be covered with a concrete sarcophagus that was constructed with 100,000 workers. There are a staggering 4,400 tons of nuclear fuel rods at Fukushima, which greatly dwarfs the total size of radiation sources at Chernobyl.” (Extremely High Radiation Levels in Japan: University Researchers Challenge Official Data, Global Research, April 11, 2011).
Less than two months ago, former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan told the Japanese parliament to abandon nuclear power. He confessed that he, as head of government, was partly responsible for the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. While criticising the role of the Tokyo Electrical Power Company and decades of lobbying by the nuclear power industry, Kan said, they have “dominated the nuclear power industry for the last 40 years.” Vested interests, similar to the former Imperial Japanese military, have created a “nuclear clique” and the rules of the game, they “expelled and isolated industry experts, politicians and bureaucrats who were critical, while the rest just looked on because of self-protection and an attitude of peace-at-any-cost” (“Nuclear Dictatorship in Japan,” World War 4 Report, citing VOA account, May 28, 2012).
While the words of the renowned novelist Haruki Murakami tragically resonate, “This time no one dropped a bomb on us … We set the stage, we committed the crime with our own hands, we are destroying our own lands, and we are destroying our own lives” — unmasking and resisting a nuclear clique which governs industrialised nations, which dominates international bodies, influences agreements so that they work in favour of the industry, has its pockets stuffed with politicians, a media which compliantly covers up, a class of well-meaning scientists and intellectuals who are either concerned to protect themselves or eager to label as “conspiracies” whatever they are conceptually unable to get a handle on…is not easy.
But too much is at stake. Lands. Lives. Human beings. All other species. Planet earth itself, our mother.