This video is the single best piece of journalism I have seen on the dangers of the Fukushima Daiichi, tracing back through the series of lies and coverups by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). It was published on March 24, 2012, and I am disturbed (but not surprised) that the information in this video has, for the most part, not been shared by American news media. Johannes Hano and his video crew of ZDF Zoom speak with a nuclear engineer who has worked in the Japanese nuclear industry, including Fukushima, for many years, a former American nuclear engineer who inspected Fukushima Daiichi, former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, former Fukushima prefecture Governor Eisako Sato, parliament member Taro Kono, a renowned seismologist and representatives of TEPCO to expose the inner workings and corruption of the “Nuclear Village” of Japan, a network consisting of TEPCO, the government and researchers from universities.
This video is in German but does contain English subtitles if you click on the “cc” captions icon in the bottom right corner of the video display.
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Below is the spoken dialogue of the video that I have transcribed for your reference. For clarity’s sake, I put a * next to voiceover dialogue and ” ‘so-and-so’ said: “…” ” to distinguish who is speaking. I have also highlighted some key points. Note: The dialogue is in present tense, despite that the video is talking about past events. That is merely the style of broadcast journalism. Don’t let that confuse you.
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*To protect us fro radioactive dust and to prevent us from being recognized by the police, we are wearing protective clothing. The contaminated area around the destroyed Japanese nuclear plant is a forbidden zone. We are meeting with a man who wants to bring home the message about what is really going on. Yukitero Naka is the boss of an engineer’s office which has worked in the Japanese nuclear industry for decades, also in Fukushima. We pass the checkpoint unrecognized. Workers return in buses after their deployment in the nuclear ruins. Many signs indicate that the catastrophe on March 11 is only a foretaste of what could occur in Japan and the world, warns Yukitero Naka. To understand the danger we must understand the past.
*We are in the exclusion zone 7 kilometers from the nuclear ruins. Yukitero Naka lived and worked here between the two nuclear power stations Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini. For many years Yukitero Naka and his staff drew people’s attention to safety breaches in the nuclear power plants, but nobody listened to them.
Naka said: “Some of the smart people recognized my concern and took it seriously. However, they were not allowed to take note of it as there exists a big, influential group in Japan. In Japan we call them the nuclear village. Their philosophy is the economy first. This nuclear village consists of TEPCO, the government and researchers form universities.”
*We meet for an exclusive interview in Tokyo with Naoto Kan. Back then he used to be the head of government and had to lead the country through the most difficult crisis since the Second World War. He will tell us a few stories that astound us. Such as a network that even keeps the prime minister in the dark. The media spreads lies about him. He is forced to resign. The head of government took on a battle against the nuclear village.
Kan said: “The biggest problem was that precautionary measures which should have been taken before the 11th of March where not taken. In this sense, although the direct cause of the accident was the tsunami, more significantly the mistake was that the required safety measures were not taken. That is a mistake of those responsible. They simply did not do what was required.
*The cause of the catastrophe was not the earthquake and tsunami. We are on the track of the nuclear village and discover a network of lies and complicit energy industry criminals.
*We have an appointment with a man who inspected the reactors for many years. Thus he experienced how the Japanese nuclear company TEPCO was able to hide even the most serious incidents. The first reactor there was built by the American company General Electric in the 70s. American engineers take over the inspections. And continually problems arise in Fukushima.
Q. What did TEPCO expect from them when the inspections were finished?
Sugaoka A. I can describe to you in two words what they wanted from me after I discovered the cracks: ‘Shut up. Don’t say nothin’.’
*Problems are not expected, as the nuclear industry has no problems in Japan. American engineer Kei Sugaoka is not allowed to change anything about that.
Sugaoka said: “It was in 1989 where we were about to make a video inspection about vapor drier. We started our inspections of the reactor and suddenly we discovered a really big crack – a crack the size of which I had never seen before.”
*But this is not the only thing Kei Suguoka and his colleague discovered.
Sugaoka said: “My colleague looked at the reactor and his eyes got bigger and bigger. Then he exclaimed they built in the vapor drier upside down.”
*The central building areas of the reactor had serious mistakes and flaws. Kei Sugaoka lead the inspections and is responsible for the correct building procedures. TEPCO does not support the outcome of the inspection.
Sugaoka said: “We did the inspections, found the cracks and they demanded the video material be erased. I wasn’t even allowed to write the report by myself. They wrote it and I just signed it. They knew that I saw the wrong position of the vapor drier in the reactor.”
Q. They forced your management to manipulate the documents?
A. Yes! They forced our management to falsify our documents.
*Sugaoka remained silent for 10 years out of fear of losing his job. When General Electric made him redundant, he broke his silence and fully informs the appropriate Japanese government department. To his astonishment nothing happens for years. Japan’s nuclear oversight agency tries to get rid of him. However in 2001 he finally connects with an American engineer who will be his ally here in Fukushima, Japan.
*Eisako Sato was governor of the prefecture for 18 years in Fukushima, member of the then ruling conservative party LPD (Liberal Democratic Party). Sato is a man of the political establishment who even accompanied the Japanese royal couple on their travels. He let himself be convinced that the nuclear industry posed no danger for the population. But then Sato lost his trust.
Sato said: “I received 20 faxes from informants from the nuclear power station about my prefecture. Two of those were also from Kei Sugaoka. The Minister of Economics, instead of checking the accusations, directly passed on the information to TEPCO. Then something happened that I can hardly believe. TEPCO simply falsified the reports. I then wrote a newspaper article saying that if they continued to do this that there would definitely be a serious accident.”
*Now the bureaucrats must act. 17 reactors are switched off. A new investigation discovered that the electricity company TEPCO has been falsifying documents for decades, has hushed up serious incidents, including a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima that was concealed for 30 years. Executives resign, staff are punished but receive new posts. Nobody is charged. The most responsible at TEPCO Tsunehisa Katsumata is even promoted to president of the company. He excuses himself to governor Sato for the fraud and unethical behavior. Sato however doesn’t rest. He continues to criticize the rapid growth of nuclear energy. This however goes against the game rules of Japanese nuclear politics. In 2004 they take revenge.
Sato said: “On the 27th of December a newspaper report appears in which I was accused of being entangled in illegal real estate sales. The author was a journalist who was actually specialized in nuclear politics. The story was a pure fiction. Then my brother was arrested. The responsible solicitor was from the department of the minister president and had been temporarily moved here. His name was Morimoto and he told my brother that sooner or later we would destroy your brother the governor. It went so far that 200 people from my circle of friends were put under pressure. They told them, ‘Speak badly about the governor – that is enough for us.’ Two or three couldn’t stand the pressure and committed suicide. One of my department leaders is still lying in a coma.”
*To protect his friends and colleagues Sato resigns. A court later confirms is innocence, but the troublemaker who dared to break his silence is finished. This is the revenge of the powerful group that has big parts of the Japanese society fast in its grip. Its harmless sounding name is ‘Nuclear Village’ in Japan.
Kan said: “For a long time in Japan, especially the last 10-20 years, there has been a suppression of statements in relation to the dangers of nuclear power. When specialists from universities state that certain risks could exist, then they risk their future careers. Politicians often receive financial support from the energy companies. However, when one speaks out about the risks of nuclear energy, then one loses this support. On the other side of the coin, when you agree with nuclear energy, you receive generous donations. This also applies to culture, sports and it includes the media. Due to these ties, an environment has been created in which criticisms can hardly be spoken. This is why the Nuclear Village is not a problem limited to a small area, but encompasses the whole country. Everyone is caught in this Nuclear Village.”
*The Prime Minister Kan faces a Parliament in which more than 100 members receive money from TEPCO. Within these include a former prime minister as well as members of his own party. The net is much bigger. Many civil servants switch over to the electricity giant at the end of their political career. Since 1962, the position of the TEPCO vice president has been occupied by former top political officials who were responsible for regulating nuclear power. They call them “Amukadari,” which means in Japanese, ‘those from the heavens descended.’ The reverse also occurs. Tokio Kanou swaps from being vice president of TEPCO to the parliament. In those days he was responsible for the energy policy for the government party LPD for 12 years before he returned to TEPCO.
*We speak about this network with the member of parliament Taro Kono. Kono comes from a prominent political dynasty. His father was foreign minister. Kono belongs to the conservative party LDP. The LDP was leading the country after the Second World War for nearly 60 years. It was the LPD that greatly encouraged the building and extension of the nuclear industry.
Kono said: “They always explained, ‘Nuclear disasters cannot happen in Japan.’ They never told the people that they should be prepared for it. Even the local councils were not made aware of the dangers. It was only stated that they didn’t need to be ready for a serious incident because such cases could simply never happen. They tried to maintain this fiction and covered the truth with stories they made up, and now they have to admit that they were all lies.
*In this atmosphere a catastrophe occurs on the 11th of March that Japan has never seen before. At 14:46 [2:46 p.m.], one of the strongest recorded earthquakes strikes the land. Its strength is 9.0. But the earthquake is only the trigger for the horror that is unfolding far away from the coast in the Pacific. An enormous wave hurls forward towards the Japanese coast at several hundred km/h. The wave is up to 30 meters high in some parts and punches through whole cities. Nearly 20,000 people lose their lives in the floods.
*The waves also roll over the intact nuclear power station Fukushima Daiichi. Their tsunami safety wall of 6 meters is much too short. This is vengeance for having neither TEPCO nor the nuclear regulatory body take the so called killer tsunami seriously and for changing the plan for the location.
Kan said: “The area on which the nuclear power plant was originally was at a height of 35 meters, but the soil was then removed till it was 10 meters above sea level before it was built.”
*The explanation was that a lower lying height would allow more efficient pumping of water from the ocean. This is stated explicitly in TEPCO’s own company history that this was especially economical.
*The enormous wave destroyed the rest of the badly damaged nuclear power plant. Firstly the electricity fails and then the emergency power is flooded because it lies too low. Without power there is no cooling of the reactor core.
Kan said: “By law every power station needs an emergency central for the serious case. In Fukushima it was 5 meters from the power station, but it didn’t work properly for even one minute. Due to the earthquake people were not able to reach the location immediately. Then there was no power and thus all of the transmission equipment was out of service. This means that confronted with a real emergency situation the emergency center didn’t even work at all. The law didn’t even consider that an earthquake and nuclear accident could occur at the same time.
*Naoto Kan receives at this time almost no information about the dramatic developments at the nuclear power plant. Japan’s prime minister only discovers the news about the strong explosion in the nuclear plant on the TV.
Kan said: “Even over an hour after the images appeared on TV, TEPCO did not report on what type of explosion had taken place. Even if it would probably have been very difficult to assess the situation on site, TEPCO should have been in the position to evaluate the state of affairs and informed the public, but they did not put enough effort in to it.
*On the 15th of March 2011, four days after the catastrophe, TEPCO and the Japanese nuclear oversight agency continue to publicly downplay the risks. However, secretly TEPCO asks permission fro Prime Minister Kan for the workers to be evacuated from the nuclear power plant. Otherwise they would all die.
Kan said: “I had the TEPCO company president visit me and told him that an evacuation was out of the question. Because if they pulled out from there we would face a nuclear meltdown which would release an enormous amount of radioactive material. If that happens then a very big area of our country would be uninhabitable.
*Kan doesn’t trust TEPCO from the start and flies to Fukushima himself. He wants to inform himself on site, but nobody informs Japan’s prime minister that at this point meltdown has already occurred in three reactors which took place on the 11th of March, on the evening of the catastrophe.
Kan said: “In the reports from TEPCO and the Japanese nuclear oversight agency, not one sentence can be found that mentions that the fuel rods were damaged or that it had come to a nuclear meltdown. In the report of the 15th of March, it was stated that such an event had not yet occurred.
*Tokyo nearly one year after the catastrophe.
*We want to know from TEPCO why it took two months for them to admit what all experts around the world already expected. That the reactors had reached meltdown at the beginning of the catastrophe.
Q. When did TEPCO know that a nuclear meltdown had occurred in reactors 1, 2 and 3?
TEPCO representative Junichi Matsumoto A. Naturally we can’t see it with our own eyes, but we can evaluate the situation from the data from the central control center. We only became aware that the core had melted and was probably sitting on the floor of the pressure chamber at the beginning of May.
*They are still hiding behind numbers and paper to this day. On a daily basis, in press conferences, the electricity giant explains that the situation in the nuclear power plant is under control. Hidden in the measurement data are signs which lead one to question if those responsible for the catastrophe really know what they are doing. Casually one of the speakers explains that contaminated cool water has disappeared. The reason is that the pipes on the contaminated land have been damaged by growing grass.
Q. Did you really just say that radioactive water is being transported through pipes that can be damaged by weeds?
A. Well, yes, it was the first time that we placed the pipes over a field. I believe our knowledge about this was not quite sufficient.
*But it is not only grass that endangers the nuclear ruins. We are in Tomioka, a ghost town. We are 7 kilometers from what remains of Fukushima Daiichi. We are traveling with Yukitero Naka, the nuclear engineer. Local residents like him are allowed to return an hour at a time to retrieve personal affects from the exclusion zone. He shows us his company, destroyed from the earthquake and made uninhabitable by the radiation.
Naka said: “This wood house was very comfortable. A nice office. It was quiet, cool in summer and warm in winter. My people were very happy here.
*Eighty nuclear experts work for him. Since the catastrophe many of them help to try and keep the damaged nuclear power plant under control. Yukitero Naka and his people know what is really happening int he nuclear ruins.
Naka said: “My biggest fear is that we soon won’t have any staff who can work in the damaged nuclear power plant. Most of them will soon have reached their maximum radiation quota. I don’t know where wee will get enough staff for the work in the power plant.
*Without qualified, underexposed staff it will be impossible to keep the disaster under control. Even if they were able to create enough qualified engineers and staff for the next 40 years, one problem remains that could change Japan and the world.
Q. Is the nuclear power plant safe now?
Naka A. Well, that’s what TEPCO and the government says, but the people in there don’t believe it. There is still a great danger. My personal concern is the fourth reactor block. The building has been strongly damaged by the earthquake. There are approximately 1300 spent fuel rods in the cooling pond on level four. In the level above, newer rods are stored as well as a lot of heavy machinery. This is all very, very heavy. If another earthquake occurs, then the building could collapse and another chain reaction could very likely occur.
*So, a meltdown under the free sky which would be the end of Japan as we know it today. The radiation would be direct deadly. The work on the ground would be totally impossible. The most likely consequences is that reactors 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 get out of control. Armageddon!
*In Tokyo we meet the renowned seismologist Professor Hideki Shimamura. In February scientists of the University of Tokyo released a new study about earthquakes. According to their research, Japan will be visited by a new big earthquake in the next four years with a likelihood of 75 percent.
Q. Is there a realistic chance that the nuclear plant will be damaged by such an earthquake?
Shimamura A. Yes! Very likely. -Why? The seismic acceleration that we measure in gal during was much stronger than we though was possible. In the last few years we built more than 1000 measurement devices and established that the earthquake was stronger and faster than we had previously imagined possible.
*This therefore means that all the buildings in Japan have a massive problem, including the nuclear power plants, explains professor Shimamura.
Shimamura said: “This is the building plan for one of the Japanese nuclear plants (pointing at a computer screen). The company assumes that the strongest earthquake in the future could have an acceleration of 300-450 gal. Then they explain that for this highly unlikely event they will plan for acceleration for up to 600 gal. But this only applies to the containment area of the reactors, not for the remaining structures. Our research shows that the last two big quakes had accelerations of up to 4000 gal. This is much higher than the amount planned for in the design specification.
Q. The nuclear plant owners knew this but didn’t reinforce them, right?
Shimamura A. Not yet! Not enough, I fear! To build such a plant that can withstand such a strong quake is nearly impossible.
*Sixty kilometers away from the nuclear ruins. Here in the crisis center all the information comes together. TEPCO, the nuclear oversight agency and the prefecture coordinate fight against the nuclear hellfire. We have an appointment with TEPCO staff who are responsible for cleaning up after the catastrophe. We want to know from them how they want to protect the nuclear power plant form a strong earthquake. Especially the endangered reactor block 4.
Shirai Isao, who works for TEPCO’s catastrophe control, said: “We are storing many fuel rods in the spent fuel pit of reactor 4. To protect them, it is necessary to further reinforce the pit. In the floor under the pit, they are building buttresses. Their nuclear power plant is nearly completely destroyed.
Q. How do you know if it will withstand a new quake, since it didn’t work a year ago when the nuclear power plant was still intact?
Isao A. We did tests to provide earthquake safety. However, not only relating to reactor 4, and we got the result that there were no problems.
Q. Seismologists measure forces up to 4000 gal and state that no nuclear power plant can withstand this. What makes you so sure that an earthquake directly under Fukushima would not seriously damage the rest of the nuclear power plant?
Isao A. The location of the 4000 gal that you speak of is maybe a different one, I believe. I cannot answer that.
A. Do your really believe that TEPCO is ready to run nuclear power plants in Japan?
After 22 seconds of silence, Isao said: “That is too difficult to answer.”
[Back in Fukushima, Yukitero Naka measures the radioactivity in the air.]
Nake said: “Mankind should learn for this history, so we can plan for a better future for the common people.