Reluctant to speak, Fukushima moms admit fear of radiation, pressure from families — The Japan Times

” To stay or to flee. Mothers in Fukushima Prefecture had to make harsh decisions for their families after the nuclear disaster of March 2011. More than four years on, they still have to.

Those who remain there live in constant fear for their children’s health. But choosing to flee opened them to accusations of being bad wives who abandoned their relatives, community and husbands tied to jobs.

It is a no-win situation for those who face the decision to stay or go, because they may be unable to live up to the ideal of a ryosai kenbo (good wife, wise mother).

“Consciously or subconsciously, women are aware of the role we are expected to play in a family. After the earthquake and nuclear disaster, however, everything changed,” said Yukiko (not her real name), a mother and voluntary evacuee in her 30s. “I can’t live up to those expectations any more, and society judges me.”

All women interviewed for this story spoke on condition of anonymity.

As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant began to play out, Tokyo Electric Power Co. established a 20-km no-go zone around the site, outside of which the government said conditions were safe. Many did not believe the assertion.

Yuriko, a woman in her 70s who lives in the city of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, believes the zone restrictions divided the community.

“Some people trusted the government’s word and continued to live here, but others couldn’t stand living every day in fear and moved out,” Yuriko said. “Nobody knew what to believe and communities have fallen apart.”

The fear of radiation, rumors and media reports about the safety of local food prompted many mothers just outside the no-go zone to evacuate voluntarily for the sake of their children’s health. Some moved to neighboring prefectures, including Iwate and Miyagi, and others made the great leap south to Tokyo.

“To be honest, I didn’t have much knowledge about the nuclear reactors in Fukushima. But I did know how deadly high exposures of radiation could be,” said Yuko, in her 30s, who has a 6-year-old daughter. “I evacuated to Tokyo within a week of the disaster. My husband stayed in Fukushima, but I was determined to leave to prioritize the safety of my daughter.”

In many cases, voluntary evacuees like Yuko are mothers who fled with their children while their husbands remained in Fukushima to work.

Some were accused of abandoning or running away from their families, particularly those they married into. Relatives labeled the wives disloyal and overly sensitive.

The worried mothers, meanwhile, believe they are wise to protect their children from radiation exposure.

But with no concrete scientific or medical proof to justify their decision to flee, they often feel guilty for leaving a tight-knit community.

“Every time I go up to visit my hometown in Fukushima for a funeral or a traditional holiday, I’m always asked the same question by my relatives,” Yuko said.

” ‘When are you moving back home?’ they ask. ‘It’s safe now.’ The relationship I have with my family has become distant.”

Even those who evacuated to Tokyo may not find life any better.

The government helps evacuees whose homes were within the 20-km-wide zone with free accommodation and a monthly stipend. But voluntary evacuees do not qualify for this and thus struggle to make a living.

Life is just as difficult for mothers who remain in Fukushima. They have constant qualms about the invisible dangers of radiation and about whether they made the right choice by staying.

Some said they decided to stay for the sake of their husbands, to avoid separating the family. Some, like Hiroko, felt they had no choice — they had no money to evacuate, they could not find housing for a family of five with pets, and had a life in Fukushima they did not want to risk losing.

“It is strange because nobody talks about their worries dealing with 3/11,” said Hiroko, a 30-something who now lives in the town of Kashima, Fukushima Prefecture.

“It’s almost like the disaster never happened and people erased the crucial reality.”

Mothers who stay also face being branded as bad.

“Sometimes when I’m alone in the house, I start to cry, imagining the future of my children,” Hiroko said. “I fear my children may become sick, and the ones who I love most will hold a grudge against me for failing to protect them. That is my biggest fear.”

As reconstruction speeds up in the prefecture, with posters everywhere boasting slogans such as “Ganbaro Nippon” (Stick it out, Japan) or “Ganbaro Fukushima,” there is pressure on mothers to keep their worries to themselves.

What has saved some mothers are peer support groups — organizations specifically created for women to share information and give each other mutual support.

Among them is Beteran Mama no Kai (Veteran Mom’s Group), an organization based in both Fukushima and Tokyo.

The group’s main goal is to encourage mothers who were victims of 3/11 to speak to other women in a similar situation and make connections. Monthly events are held to check up on each other and to relieve stress.

Akiko was among the women who joined the group.

“I was able to speak to other women about topics I would have never been able to talk about on a daily basis, such as food regulations or radiation levels,” Akiko said. “I was able to make friends within the group, and I don’t feel so alone anymore.”

Academic experts say women have long been known to suffer heavily following a trauma like this.

“A disaster such as Fukushima is not a single event, but a period of struggle that continues to change over time,” said David Slater, professor of anthropology at Sophia University. “And women often carry the heaviest burden, working behind the scenes.”

While mothers who live in Fukushima fear for their children’s health and dread health checkups because of the risk of getting a bad diagnosis, those who voluntarily evacuated to Tokyo are contemplating whether to move back up north.

Some mothers worry that their children need a father figure in their lives.

Moreover, balancing two households, in Fukushima and Tokyo, is financially and emotionally difficult — and there is always the emotional pressure from relatives in Fukushima nagging them about their return.

Yet, some fear returning.

“If I am forced to move back to Fukushima, I have to pretend I don’t care about radiation — when I actually do,” said Yuko, the Tokyo evacuee. ”

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Tepco rejected requests for anti-tsunami steps before 2011 nuclear crisis — The Japan Times

” Tokyo Electric Power Co. turned down requests in 2009 by the nuclear safety agency to consider concrete steps against tsunami waves at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which suffered a tsunami-triggered disaster two years later, government documents showed Friday.

“Do you think you can stop the reactors?” a Tepco official was quoted as telling Shigeki Nagura of the now-defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, who was then assigned to review the plant’s safety, in response to one of his requests.

The detailed exchanges between the plant operator and the regulator came to light through the latest disclosure of government records on its investigation into the nuclear crisis, adding to evidence that Tepco failed to take proper safety steps ahead of the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

According to records of Nagura’s accounts, Nagura heard Tepco’s explanations of its tsunami estimates at the agency’s office in Tokyo in August and September 2009 as it was becoming clear that coastal areas of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures were hit by massive tsunami following an earthquake in 869.

Tepco said the height of waves was estimated to be around 8 meters above sea level and will not reach the plant site, which was located at a height of 10 meters, they show.

But Nagura said he remembered thinking pumps with key cooling functions, which were located on the ground at a height of 4 meters, “will not make it” and told Tepco, “If this is the outcome, you better consider concrete responses.”

In refusing to immediately act, Tepco said it would wait for related studies to be carried out by the academic society of civil engineers, which it had requested to be done by March 2012.

Nagura also proposed placing the pumps inside buildings to protect them from being exposed to water, but a Tepco official told him, “Our company cannot make a decision without seeing the results of the (studies by the) society of civil engineers.”

Then another Tepco official told Nagura, “Do you think you can stop the reactors?” according to the government documents.

Nagura recalled in the documents, “I wondered why I had to be told such a thing.” But he also admitted that, after all, he only encouraged Tepco to “consider” tsunami countermeasures and did not request that it “take” specific measures.

The Fukushima crisis has revealed how Japan, which had boasted of possessing the world’s safest nuclear power plants, was ill-prepared against a severe nuclear accident.

Three reactors suffered core meltdowns after they lost their key cooling functions amid a loss of all electrical power following a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The government-appointed nuclear accident investigation panel has already issued a final report, and the government is now gradually disclosing the records of hearings conducted to people involved. ”

source

**The Human consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accidents — Eiichiro Ochiai, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus

” When a very strong earthquake (magnitude 9.0) hit the Pacific ocean side of the northeastern part of the main island of Japan on March 11th (3.11) 2011, the accompanying huge tsunami wiped out many communities along the coast. Close to 20,000 people lost their lives, mainly due to the tsunami. Many who were stripped of their homes and livelihood continue to struggle to recover their ways of life.

One of the most disastrous results of the quake/tsunami was the devastation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (Fk-1) of the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO). The plant is known in Japan as Fk-1 (Fuku-ichi. It released an enormous amount of radioactive material. Its effects on living organisms have already begun to be felt in many ways, though it’s been only four and a half year[s]. It may, however, be premature to make a judgment as to the degree of disaster, in light of the fact that the after-effects of the Chernobyl accident of 1986 are still unfolding.

This article discusses some prominent features of the current situation (as of August 2015) in the aftermath of the Fk-1 accident.

The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident

Four of the six reactors (units 1~4) on the premises of the Fk-1 plant experienced serious accidents including explosion, while the other two reactors (5 and 6) were not in operation and remained intact, as they are located slightly apart from the others.

Units 1~3 were operating at the time, but shut down automatically when the quake hit. The shutdown reactors need to be continuously cooled, because the fuel rods, though out of fission reaction, release great heat due to the nuclear decaying process of radioactive fission products. The quake caused substantial damage to the reactors, and the cooling systems of units 1~3 did not function properly due to both physical damage and human errors. As a result, the fuel rods in units 1~3 “melted down”.

Water added from outside for cooling purposes reacted with the hot rods to form hydrogen gas. The resulting hydrogen explosion in unit 1 stripped the roof on March 12th. Unit 2 showed no apparent damage, but released an enormous amount of radioactive material through holes created by the quake, mostly on March 15 and thereafter. The explosion at unit 3 on March 14 was most damaging. TEPCO insists that it was also a hydrogen explosion, but many observers offered different opinions, including one that it a small-scale nuclear fission explosion occurred. Unit 4 had no nuclear fuel rod in the reactor, though a large number of spent as well as new fuel rods were in its storage pool. It exploded also, its cause unknown, though TEPCO speculated that hydrogen gas entered from the adjacent unit 3, and exploded.

Release of Radioactive Material from Fk-1

A large amount of radioactive material was released as a result of the accidents. How did it happen? Leakage through cracks and holes made by the quake on some reactors, explosions, intentional vents to relieve pressure, and leakage of cooling water which is contaminated as a result of contact with the melt fuel rod debris.

The amount of radioactive material cannot be determined accurately, and can only be estimated by various means. TEPCO made an estimate of the released amounts of several tens of radioactive nuclides based on the readings of several monitoring posts placed on the premise 1. The initial governmental data 2 were based on these estimates. Some of the official data are presented in Table 1. The government’s assessment of the scale of the release from Fukushima, based on these data, was that the radiation release was relatively small compared to that of Chernobyl (April, 1986 in Ukraine), about one tenth to at most one third.

But these data accounted for only the release into the atmosphere. Radioactive materials were also released into the water systems surrounding the facilities, as well as directly into the ocean. When the amounts released into the water and the ocean were estimated 3, the total amounts released were re-calculated 4. They are shown in Table 1 along with the official data. The ratio of the amount released from Fukushima to that from Chernobyl ranges from 1.2 to 3.1 for the major nuclides, suggesting that the extent of radiation release from Fukushima was very likely more than that from Chernobyl; perhaps more than twice if all were taken account of.

Table 1. The amount of radioactive nuclides released from the Fk-1 accident (2011) compared with those released from the Chernobyl accident (1986)

nuclide Quantity in reactors at Fukushima

at the time of accidenta

The official released amount from Fukushimaa Total amount released from

Fukushimab

Total amount

released from

Chernobylc

Fukushimab

over

Chernobylc

Kr-85 8.37E+16 8.37E+16
Xe-133 1.20E+19 1.1E+19 1.20E+19 6.5E+18 1.85
I-131 6.01E+18 5.0E+17 2.08E+18 1.76E+18 1.18
Cs-134 7.19E+17 1.8E+16 1.65E+17 5.4E+16 3.06
Cs-137 7.00E+17 1.5E+16 1.59E+17 8.5E+16 1.87
Sr-89 5.93E+18 2.0E+15 7.31E+16 1.15E+17 0.636
Sr-90 5.22E+17 1.4E+14 8.49E+15 1.0E+16 0.849
Pu-238 1.47E+16 1.9E+9 1.91E+10 3.5E+13 0.00055
Pu-239 2.62E+15 3.2E+9 3.14E+9 3.0E+13 0.00011
H-3 3.40E+15

E+18 means 1018; a. ref 3, b. ref 4, c. ref. 5

Radioactive materials are still continuously coming out; and the data shown in the table do not take account of them. For example, Fig. 1 shows the radiation levels (Bq/L) of Cs-134, Cs-137, Sr-90, H-3 and all beta sources found in one of the drainage systems in the facility, which drained out into the ocean between April 2014 and Feb 2015 6. The amounts leaked out through drainage systems are given in Table 2 6. Substantial amounts continue to leak out. The main reason is that 300 tons of cooling water is being added daily to keep the fuel rod debris cold. That cooling water is immediately contaminated, and leaks out as a number of gaps/holes were created by the quake, though an effort has been made to contain and store it in tanks. Eventually TEPCO hopes to decontaminate the water collected, and return it to nature. How successfully decontamination procedures are being carried out is not known. There are other sources of water. One is subterranean water, which flows through the premises, particularly under the contaminated buildings. This has not yet been halted.

Fig. 1. Radioactivity of K-drain system in Fk-1 premises

Table 2 Leaked amount of radioactive material through drainage systems in Fk-1 premises

Are radioactive materials still leaking out into the atmosphere as well? No obvious phenomena, such as explosions, have been observed since March 2011, though sudden rises in temperature of the reactors have occurred occasionally. However, some signs of plumes are still often observed visually (as dense fog) as well as on the monitoring posts placed all over Fukushima prefecture and throughout Japan. Monitoring post data are daily posted on the internet 7. Occasionally sudden peaks (spikes) appear on a number of posts, near and far. If time sequences are carefully taken account of, it seems, they could show the flow of a plume. Such a plume flow was seen throughout Japan on April 14, 2015. Spike phenomena occurred on April 8/9 and May 16, 2015, as well. Fig. 2 shows an example of a spike phenomenon on April 9 in Iidate-mura 30 km northwest of Fk-1. This is not a complete record; it is only what this writer observed in periodic checks.

 

Fig. 2. Spikes observed in a monitoring post in Iidate-mura, Fukushima

Each time there are spikes on monitors, the government attributes such a phenomenon to a “malfunctioning monitor”, and shuts down such posts, until the readings return to normal (regular) levels. It is rather strange that a number of monitoring posts (all across Japan) go out of order simultaneously or rather in sequence. This phenomenon indicates that sudden releases of radiation are still happening occasionally, but how often, on what scale, and their causes are not known.

All these events suggest that the accidents are “far from contained”, and radioactive materials are still leaking out. In sum, the overall radioactive materials released from the Fk-1 accidents are already larger than that of Chernobyl and will increase further unless measures are taken to stop these leakages.

Distribution of Radiation Levels

How far and how widely the radioactive materials are dispersed, i.e., the radiation levels at various locations, are constantly monitored not only by officials as mentioned above, but also by civil activists. Unfortunately the official data may not be reliable, as many observers have noticed. Civil activists have compared the monitoring values with their own readings and found the monitor readings lower by as much as 50% at many locations. The structure of the monitor itself often prevents the true reading of radiation. It has been pointed out, for example, that a metal plate placed just under the measuring device shields radiation coming from below 8.

A monitor placed by the government reads the so-called spatial dose; i.e., the supposed external exposure dose at 1 meter above the ground. The radioactivity is measured in terms of Bq and, if equipped, the energy value of the radiation measures is combined to indicate the spatial dose value, expressed often in terms of mSv/hr. Most monitors can measure only g-radiation, and many monitors as well as Geiger counter type instruments measure only cpm (counts per minute), convert it to Bq values, which are converted to Sv values assuming that radiation is due to cesium (Cs-137). Cs-137 has a relatively long half-life of 30 years and is produced in a significant quantity in the fission reaction. The spatial dose is due to many other nuclides such as strontium (Sr)-89/90, tritium (H-3) and iodine (I)-129/131, but the contribution from these and other nuclides is not taken account of, or rather is counted as Cs-137. It is a sort of measure of radiation level, but does not represent the true exposure dose. However, this value is commonly used in assessing the danger level due to radiation.

A few readings will be cited here to illustrate the typical radiation levels given by the government. Some readings at monitoring posts on March 31, 2015 were: 6~10.5 mSv/hr in Hutaba-cho where Fk-1 is located, 4~17 mSv/h in Okuma-cho, just south of Hutaba (several km from Fk-1) and 1.7~3.6 mSv/hr in Tomioka-cho, south of Okuma (i.e, 10 km south of Fk-1). These are readings in highly contaminated areas.

On April 14, 2015 when a plume seemed to have been released, several readings (except the spike, which was a sudden rise to twice or higher level) were: 0.03~0.04 mSv/hr in Hokkaido (northernmost island); 0.02~0.05 mSv/hr in Aomori; 0.02~0.05 mSv/hr in Iwate; 0.04~0.12 mSv/hr in Miyagi (just north of Fukushima); 0.14~0.30 mSv/hr in Soma city, Fukushima; 0.05~0.12 mSv/hr in Tochigi; 0.08~0.09 mSv/hr in Tokyo; 0.03~0.06 mSv/hr in Kyoto; 0.05~0.08 mSv/hr in Hiroshima; 0.04~0.06 mSv/hr in Fukuoka.

These are recorded on the monitoring posts, but many places are not covered by monitoring posts, where much higher radiation levels have been recorded; i.e., “hot spots”. Recently reported examples were: 1.23 mSv/hr in western Tokyo on July 23, 2.92 mSv/hr in Saitama on July 25, 4.8 mSv/hr in Iwaki (30 km south of Fk-1) on Aug. 2 9.

Let’s assume that you are standing on a location where the monitoring post showed 0.1 mSv/hr throughout a whole year. Then, you will be exposed to 0.9 mSv/year (0.1 mSv/hr x 24 hrs x 365 days=876 mSv/year=0.9 mSv/y). The Japanese government calculates the dose per year by assuming that one would stay in open areas for 8 hrs and for the rest of the day in buildings, where the radiation level is assumed to be about 40% of the outside. This calculation would make the exposure dose significantly lower than the real value; in the example above, it would be 0.54 mSv/year. This assumption is arbitrary, indeed, the inside of a building has often been found to have radiation levels as high as that of the immediate outside.

The official exposure dose allowed is currently set as 1 mSv/year (see note at the end). This corresponds to a dose rate of 0.18 mSv/hr according to the governmental way of calculation. It is further degraded to 0.23 mSv/hr with some other arbitrary assumptions, and this value is regarded as the permissible level of dose rate. So dose rate below this value is supposed to be OK. If you are exposed directly to this level for a year, then your accumulated dose will be 2 mSv/year. In other words, the government limit of 1 mSv/year is actually close to 2 mSv/year in reality. The government is currently trying to raise the 1mSv/year limit to 20 mSv/year. If 20 mSv/year is approved and people are forced to return to their previous homes under this condition, they will be exposed to dangerously high levels of radiation. It must be pointed out, though, that there is no safe level.

Radioactive iodine affects the thyroid immediately. Iodine-131 is short-lived with a half-life of 8 days, and I-129 has a very long half-life of 15.7 million years. Both would be readily absorbed into the thyroid gland, as iodine is used to make thyroid hormones. In the nuclear reactor, both are produced in comparable amounts, but I-131 affects the thyroid more seriously. An entity with a shorter half-life emits radiation more often than that with a longer half-life in the same chemical quantity. The distribution of I-131 in the environment is difficult to determine accurately, as it is short-lived.

In Dec. 2014, the official nuclear regulatory committee (Japan) published a report to indicate that Fk-1 is still emitting I-131 and other I-radioisotopes 10. According to their report, trans-uranium Cm-242 and other such nuclides were formed in the fuel rods during the operation, and they fission spontaneously, as a result producing radioactive nuclides including I-131. The possible maximum amount of I-radioisotopes released from this source has been estimated as 28 mSv/week (=170 mSv/hr) in terms of equivalent dose for child thyroid at the border of the premises of Fk-1 10.

An alternative expression of contamination is the radioactivity of soil, typically Bq value per kg of soil, which often is converted to Bq/m2. It is assumed that the density of soil is 1.3 g/cm3 and that the radioactive material exists in the uppermost 5 cm of the soil, so that Bq/m2 value is 65 x the value in Bq/kg. This value (Bq/kg) is real, measured directly by an instrument on a sample of soil. Hence this may be more reliable in expressing the level of contamination than the spatial exposure dose. Besides, the source of radiation (from a soil sample) can be readily identified. This is not sufficient, however, as minute radioactive particles can be floating above the soil, which can be measured as spatial radiation.

In all these expressions, a fundamental uncertainty is that radiation levels may not be constant over time. Radioactive material decays over time and can move due to water flow or wind. Therefore, radiation levels have to be monitored continuously.

It must be pointed out that the external exposure dose level obtained from measurements of this kind (i.e., spatial dose and soil contamination) is less important than the internal exposure dose, which is not necessarily related to the external dose. The significance of internal exposure will be outlined below. The only thing that can be said here is that people living in a place of higher spatial dose level and/or higher soil contamination would have a higher risk of being exposed internally; but there is no proven direct correlation, and cannot be.

The more serious factor, internal exposure, is supposed to be measured by the whole body counter. But it can measure only g-radiation, and cannot measure the more serious a- and b-radiation. Besides, it measures only the radiation coming out of a body at the time of the test, and cannot determine the more meaningful accumulated exposure dose. Hence whole body counter results can only be used to give a tested person mental relief in cases where the reading is low or non-detectable. But, even that could be dangerous, if the source inside is emitting a and/or b radiation.

Reality of Internal Exposure

The effects of radioactive fallout from an accident of a nuclear power reactor as well as a nuclear bomb explosion are caused mostly by “internal exposure”, yet no adequate attention has been given to this aspect by the authorities and the associated scientists. The sources of the internal exposure are minute radioactive particles floating in the air, which can be inhaled, and contaminated food and drinks consumed. Radioactivity of foods and drinks produced in the contaminated area is monitored, and those with activity higher than the regulation values cannot legally be marketed.

One cannot well safeguard against ingesting radioactive material, unless one measures the radioactivity of everything one takes in, which is not possible. The issue of “internal exposure” is complicated, and would require another detailed article. For now, three photographs are shown below to illustrate the reality of internal exposure.

Figs. 3 and 4 are the trace of a-particles in the preserved tissues of victims of the atomic bomb explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not easy technically to take this kind of photo, and scientists succeeded in doing so only recently (11, 12). The source of the first trace is plutonium from the Nagasaki bomb, and that of the second is uranium from the Hiroshima bomb. The plutonium and uranium embedded in the tissues of atomic bomb victims are still emitting a-radiation after 70 years. This says that the fallout of the atomic bomb explosions, which included uranium in the Hiroshima bomb and plutonium in the Nagasaki bomb, somehow got into the body of the victims and stuck in those tissues, and emitted and destroyed the surrounding tissues for 70 years. Both plutonium and uranium have a long half-life, millions of years or more.

Fig. 3. a-Particles travel straight even in tissues. The linear traces are those emitted by plutonium in the preserved kidney tissues of an A-bomb victim in Nagasaki (70 years ago) 11 Fig. 4. A trace of a-particle of uranium in the lung tissue of a Hiroshima victim 12 Fig. 5. The heart muscle fibers are broken in the heart of a man (43 years old) who died of heart disease in the most contaminated area (Belarus) of the Chernobyl accident 13

Fig. 5 shows the heart muscle fibers of a victim of the Chernobyl accident 13. They are broken at many places. Likely the b and g radiation from Cs-137 (and others) damaged the fibers by breaking the chemical bonds. The traces of b and g cannot be visualized in such samples.

Thyroid Cancers among Children in Fukushima

The authorities, such as ICRP and IAEA, have acknowledged that thyroid cancers in children can be caused by radiation, likely due to I-131. They have also recognized the causal relationship between leukemia and radiation. But they deny a causal relationship in the case of other cancers and other diseases, despite the fact that many studies and reports have shown that all sorts of disease including cancers can be caused by radiation.

The rate of thyroid cancer is very low among children (those under 18 years) under normal circumstances; 1 or 2 per million children per year. Fukushima prefecture started to investigate abnormalities in the thyroid gland in children (under 18 years old) in 2011. Soon they found high rates of abnormalities: nodules, cysts, and then tumors mostly malignant. By the spring of 2015 they have counted 126 thyroid cancer cases (mostly papillary) among 370,000 children in Fukushima 14. This rate amounts to 340/1,000,000 over 4 years, i.e., 85/1,000,000/year. This is abnormally high, approximately 60 times the normal rate, even much higher than that reported in Chernobyl.

Yet, the authorities and the committee in charge of this investigation have denied causality to radiation from Fk-1 accidents. They argued against causality thus:

(a) Screening effects, that is, they used sophisticated techniques to show that cancers that are ordinarily non-detectable were detected. However, officials admitted recently that screening effects would not be able to explain such a high rate 15.

(b) In the case of Chernobyl thyroid cancers in children appeared only 4 years after the accident. It is too early for Fukushima children to get thyroid cancers. This argument has been rebutted by an article published in the Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 16.

(c) They checked a few other places in Japan, and say that the thyroid cancer rate in Fukushima is similar to that found in Aomori, Nagasaki and Yamanashi 17. They imply that Fukushima is not abnormal. This study is based on a very small sample in which only one cancer was found; hence the result is not statistically meaningful.

(d) It is too soon for thyroid cancers to appear. It usually takes four to five years. This is in addition to the argument of comparison with Chernobyl (b) above. Hence the cancers found here should have started before the accidents.

(e) The amount of radioactive material released was far lower than that of Chernobyl, and hence would not have such effects as those found in Chernobyl.

A recent report 18 indicates that the latent period for thyroid cancer can be as short as one year in children. The amount of radioactive material released (e) has been discussed earlier, and has been shown to be at least as high as, or even higher than, that of Chernobyl. All of these arguments by the authorities are based on weak or incorrect information.

Careful studies of the relationship between the locations where children who got thyroid cancer live and the radiation distribution have revealed correlations, though these are not perfect. A correlation obtained by an analysis is shown in Fig. 6 19. This indicates a likely causality; i.e., radiation caused the thyroid cancers, though the dose used here does not necessarily represent an accurate value of I-131 but rather a general radiation level. Thyroid cancers are increasing among adults, too. As seen in Table 4, the increase over 2010-2013 was more than 200 % in Fukushima as well as in adjacent prefectures: Ibaragi, Gunma and Tochigi.

Fig. 6. Pediatric thyroid cancer rate vs spatial exposure rate for different areas in Fukushima prefecture. The line is the linear regression line. R2 implies that the line accounts for 54% of the variance in thyroid cancer rate due to radiation.

Other Diseases are also Increasing in Fukushima since the Accident

No systematic investigation has been published officially on the health effects of radiation as a result of the Fukushima accident. However, some statistical data may be indicative of significant trends. All indications are that incidence of many diseases is increasing not only in Fukushima but also all over Japan.

Table 3 shows the number of diagnosed cases recorded at Fukushima (prefectural) Medical School Hospital (latest published data based on ref. 20). Cancer of the small intestine, which is normally rare, increased by 400% in two years. Eye disease (cataract), brain, heart disease (angina) and all kinds of cancer have increased. Many diseases other than those listed in the table have also increased since the Fk-1 event.

Table 3. Increase in diseases since the accidents: records at the Hospital of Fukushima (prefectural) Medical School

Disease 2010 2011 2012
cataract 150 (100%) 344 (229%) 340 (227%)
angina 222 (100%) 323 (145%) 349 (157%)
bleeding in brain 13 (100%) 33 (253%) 39 (300%)
lung cancer 293 (100%) 504 (172%) 478 (163%)
esophagus cancer 114 (100%) 153 (134%) 139 (122%)
stomach cancer 146 (100%) 182 (125%) 188 (129%)
cancer in small intestine 13 (100%) 36 (277%) 52 (400%)
colon cancer 31 (100%) 60 (194%) 92 (297%)
prostate cancer 77 (100%) 156 (203%) 231 (300%)
shortened pregnancy period + low birth weight 44 (100%) 49 (114%) 73 (166%)

The Problem is Not Confined to Fukushima; Diseases are Increasing All over Japan

Radioactive materials do not stop at the border of Fukushima prefecture. They have spread beyond Fukushima as noted earlier. Accordingly, health effects could be observed in other prefectures, as well. Indeed this turned out to be the case. Unfortunately, no systematic studies of cities or prefectures have been published yet. However, every hospital publishes its activities listing the number of patients with different diseases, the number of surgeries, etc. These data may be indicative of larger patterns in Japan.

The following tables are based on such accounts; collecting data for all hospitals that reported data. They include published data from all prefectures 21. The tables list such data for Fukushima and the surrounding prefectures (Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaragi, Yamagata, Miyagi), the next nearest prefectures (Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Kanagawa), and several major prefectures further away (Aichi, Osaka, Fukuoka, Hokkaido and Okinawa).

In three years since the accident, many diseases increased by 40-50% as shown in tables 4-6. These tables were constructed on the basis of collections of data from hospitals across Japan 21. The incidence of thyroid cancer, which is the most sensitive indicator, more than doubled in the three years 2010 to 2013 not only in Fukushima but in neighboring Gunma, Tochigi and Ibaragi to the south of Fukushima. It increased by amounts ranging from 26 to 61 percent in all other prefectures listed below, as well. The national total rose by 42%.

Table 4. Thyroid cancers increased everywhere since the 11 March 2011 accident 21

prefecture 2010 2011 2012 2013 2013/2010
Fukushima 119 187 199 271 228%
Tochigi 116 218 211 235 203%
Gunma 108 124 185 350 217%
Ibaragi 61 115 136 138 226%
Yamagata 95 128 146 139 146%
Miyagi 248 343 378 399 161%
Saitama 203 226 306 301 148%
Chiba 260 340 410 352 135%
Tokyo 1833 2819 2874 2884 157%
Kanagawa 469 664 656 749 160%
Aichi 525 632 819 949 120%
Osaka 650 938 1048 1039 160%
Fukuoka 583 736 629 587 101%
Hokkaido 855 1083 1151 1227 144%
Okinawa 82 104 117 103 126%
Japan 10816 14909 15635 16023 148%

It is known that Cs-137 (as well as Cs-134) affects the myocardial muscles, causing heart diseases, myocardial infarction and other diseases. Table 5 shows increases in myocardial infarction. Not only neighboring prefectures but also Tokyo and as far away as Okinawa showed significant increases.

Table 5. Increase of myocardial infarction 21

prefecture 2010 2011 2012 2013 2013/2010
Fukushima 507 622 668 675 133%
Tochigi 722 878 1014 977 135%
Gunma 538 710 797 821 153%
Ibaragi 700 948 1077 1212 173%
Miyagi 598 718 831 901 151%
Saitama 1873 2465 2733 2752 147%
Chiba 1447 2008 2558 2604 135%
Tokyo 3680 4849 5581 5605 180%
Kanagawa 2361 2871 3421 3657 155%
Aichi 2212 2877 3158 3287 149%
Osaka 2335 3224 3648 3652 156%
Fukuoka 1533 1996 2326 2285 149%
Okinawa 437 572 537 669 153%
Japan 35411 46109 51947 53400 151%

Leukemia is another specific indicator of radiation effect. The data shown in Table 6 indicate that it increased over 2010-2013 by as much as three times in neighboring Gunma while the total for Japan increased by 142%.

Table 6. Acute leukemia is also increasing 21

Prefecture 2010 2011 2012 2013 2013/2010
Fukushima 108 97 79 230 213%
Tochigi 363 418 340 322 89%
Gunma 113 178 267 350 310%
Ibaragi 251 309 351 324 129%
Yamagata 121 117 172 135 112%
Miyagi 191 236 199 241 126%
Saitama 266 336 590 757 285%
Chiba 449 430 529 576 128%
Tokyo 1770 2135 2366 2342 132%
Kanagawa 686 1024 964 1062 155%
Aichi 895 1138 1208 1178 132%
Osaka 869 1210 1393 1623 187%
Fukuoka 686 755 722 767 112%
Hokkaido 449 628 728 830 185%
Okinawa 101 111 111 110 109%
Japan 12820 15498 17015 18167 142%

These are only the tip of the iceberg. Diseases that may not be caused by radiation itself can also be attributable indirectly to radiation effects. Radiation affects lymphatic and also blood producing systems and weakens the immune system. This makes such people more vulnerable to infectious diseases. It is noteworthy in this regard that death from pneumonia seems to have increased significantly since the Fukushima accident. This is only one example.

This could be only the beginning of further serious developments in time. The radiation effects are likely to increase with time. In particular, various solid cancers have relatively long latent periods. They increase after 10 years or later as seen among atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 22.

Concluding Remarks

The Japanese government under Democratic Party rule, declared that the Fukushima accident was over at the end of 2011, and the prime minister in Sept 2013 under the Liberal-Democratic Party at the IOC meeting to select the next Olympic site pronounced that the Fukushima accident had been contained and Tokyo was well prepared for the Olympics.

The real situation is far different, as documented above. Leakage of radioactive materials through various routes continues. The locations and states of the melted fuel rods in the reactors at Fk-1 have yet to be determined. It was found only recently (by use of muon radiation/absorption technique) that the nuclear reactors of units 1 and 2 are indeed devoid of nuclear fuel rods in the core 23, but the technique was insufficient to locate the melted fuel rod debris.

Serious health effects of radiation in general have already been widely observed. It is best to refer to better studied examples of the past: Chernobyl 24 and down-winders of Nevada tests 25. The reality of health effects at Chernobyl due to fallout from the explosive accident as detailed in 26 and summarized in 27 may indicate the future of Fukushima and Japan.

The health effects of radiation are often slow in manifesting, particularly in the case of cancers, though cancer rates have already started to increase in Fukushima and elsewhere, as discussed above. Therefore, more people will be affected by radiation in the years to come, not only in Fukushima, but across Japan.

The health effects have been investigated by the Japanese national and local governments only with respect to Fukushima children’s thyroid abnormalities, as mentioned above. The Fukushima prefectural medical school is reportedly collecting data from all hospitals in Japan, but it has not published the data. Although still in denial of the causal relationship between children’s thyroid cancers and radiation, they finally admitted recently that the cancer rate is indeed abnormally high 15.

Radiation effects are seen not only on human health, but also on many living organisms. A butterfly species has been observed to be affected by radiation, and the effects seem to be inherited from one generation to another 27. Reproductive success of goshawks has decreased in response to higher levels of radiation 28. Many bird species are rapidly decreasing in number 29. Deserted cows have been found to be highly contaminated with cesium-137 and other nuclides 30. Deformed vegetables and fruits have been observed at many locations. These are but a few examples of radiation effects on plants and animals.

The government may be attempting to cover up the negative data it gathers. If it admits the causal relationship between serious health effects and radiation, it would be obliged to abolish the nuclear power plants or at least delay re-opening closed plants. The truth that “radiation (of high energy) is incompatible with life” 31 directly confronts humankind, yet many refuse to recognize it because the government and the nuclear industry and associated scientists in Japan and many other countries continue to suppress the data.

No single nuclear power plant has operated in Japan in the last two years, yet there has been no shortage of electricity. The Japanese government, along with the nuclear industry, has now restarted one of the fifty nuclear power reactors, despite strong opposition by the majority of Japanese and despite the high risk in Japan of further geological activity, both volcanic and earth quakes.

Note: The limit 1 mSv/year was set by the department of science and education of the Japanese government, based on a law (protection against radiation effects due to radioactive isotopes) and a recommendation by ICRP (international commission of radiological protection)

Acknowledgement: Comments and suggestions made by Drs. Anders Moller, Leonard Angles, and Mark Selden are gratefully acknowledged.

Eiichiro Ochiai was born in Japan, and educated up to the PhD in Japan. He taught and conducted research in chemistry at college/universities in Japan, the United States, Canada and Sweden. Publications include “Bioinorganic Chemistry, an Introduction” (Allyn and Bacon, 1977), “Bioinorganic Chemistry, a Survey” (Elsevier, 2008), “Chemicals for Life and Living” (Springer Verlag, 2011), and “A Sustainable Human Civilization Beyond ‘Occupy’ Movements” (Kindle, 2011).

Recommended citation: Eiichiro Ochiai, “The Human Consequences of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant Accidents”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 38, No. 2, September 28, 2015. “

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Radiation impact studies – Chernobyl and Fukushima — CounterPunch

” Some nuclear advocates suggest that wildlife thrives in the highly-radioactive Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, animals like it, and not only that, a little radiation for anybody and everybody is harmless and maybe good, not bad. This may seem like a senseless argument to tackle were it not for the persistence of positive-plus commentary by nuke lovers. The public domain deserves better, more studied, more crucial answers.

Fortunately, as well as unfortunately, the world has two major real life archetypes of radiation’s impact on the ecosystem: Chernobyl and Fukushima. Chernobyl is a sealed-off 30klm restricted zone for the past 30 years because of high radiation levels. Whereas, PM Abe’s government in Japan has already started returning people to formerly restricted zones surrounding the ongoing Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

The short answer to the supposition that a “little dab of radiation is A-Okay” may be suggested in the title of a Washington Blog d/d March 12, 2014 in an interview of Dr. Timothy Mousseau, the world-renowned expert on radiation effects on living organisms. The hard answer is included further on in this article.

Dr. Mousseau is former Program Director at the National Science Foundation in Population Biology, Panelist for the National Academy of Sciences’ Panels on Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities and GAO Panel on Health and Environmental Effects from Tritium Leaks at Nuclear Power Plants, and a biology professor – and former Dean of the Graduate School, and Chair of the Graduate Program in Ecology – at the University of South Carolina.

The title of the Washington Blog interview is:

Chernobyl and Fukushima Studies Show that Radiation Reduces Animal and Plant Numbers, Fertility, Brain Size and Diversity… and Increases Deformities and Abnormalities.

Dr. Mousseau made many trips to Chernobyl and Fukushima, making 896 inventories at Chernobyl and 1,100 biotic inventories in Fukushima. His mission was to test the effects of radiation on plants and animals. The title of his interview (above) handily serves to answer the question of whether radiation is positive for animals and plants. Without itemizing reams and reams of study data, the short answer is: Absolutely not! It is not positive for animals and plants, period.

Moreover, low doses of radiation aka: “radiation hormesis” is not good for humans, as advocated by certain energy-related outlets. Data supporting their theory is extremely shaky and more to the point, flaky.

Furthermore, according to the Cambridge Philosophical Society’s journal Biological Reviews, including reported results by wide-ranging analyses of 46 peer-reviewed studies published over 40 years, low-level natural background radiation was found to have small, but highly statistically significant, negative effects on DNA and several measures of good health.

Dr. Mousseau with co-author Anders Møller of the University of Paris-Sud examined more that 5,000 papers involving background radiation in order to narrow their findings to 46 peer-reviewed studies. These studies examined plants and animals with a large preponderance of human subjects.

The scientists reported significant negative effects in a range of categories, including immunology, physiology, mutation and disease occurrence. The frequency of negative effects was beyond that of random chance.

“There is no threshold below which there are no effects of radiation,” Ibid.

“With the levels of contamination that we have seen as a result of nuclear power plants, especially in the past, and even as a result of Chernobyl and Fukushima and related accidents, there’s an attempt in the industry to downplay the doses that the populations are getting, because maybe it’s only one or two times beyond what is thought to be the natural background level…. But they’re assuming the natural background levels are fine. And the truth is, if we see effects at these low levels, then we have to be thinking differently about how we develop regulations for exposures, and especially intentional exposures to populations, like the emissions from nuclear power plants….” Ibid.

Results of Major Landmark Study on Low Dose Radiation (July 2015)

A consortium of researchers coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, examined causes of death in a study of more than 300,000 nuclear-industry workers in France, the United States and the United Kingdom, all of whom wore dosimeter badges, Researchers Pin Down Risks of Low-Dose Radiation, Nature, July 8, 2015.

The workers received on average just 1.1 millisieverts (mSv) per year above background radiation, which itself is about 2–3 mSv per year from sources such as cosmic rays and radon. The study confirmed that the risk of leukemia does rise proportionately with higher doses, but also showed that this linear relationship is present at extremely low levels of radiation.

The study effectively “scuppers the popular idea that there might be a threshold dose below which radiation is harmless,” Ibid.

Even so, the significant issue regarding radiation exposure for humans is that it is a “silent destroyer” that takes years and only manifests once damage has occurred, for example, 200 American sailors of the USS Reagan have filed a lawsuit against TEPCO, et al because of radiation-related illnesses, like leukemia, only four years after radiation exposure from Fukushima.

Japan Moving People Back to Fukushima Restricted Zones

Japan’s Abe government has started moving people back into former restricted zones surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station even though it is an on-going major nuclear meltdown that is totally out of control.

Accordingly, Greenpeace Japan conducted a radiation survey and sampling program in Iitate, a village in Fukushima Prefecture. Even after decontamination, radiation dose rates measured ten times (10xs) the maximum allowed to the general public.

According to Greenpeace Japan: “The Japanese government plans to lift restrictions in all of Area 2 [2], including Iitate, where people could receive radiation doses of up to 20mSV each year and in subsequent years. International radiation protection standards recommend public exposure should be 1mSv/year or less in non-post accident situations. The radiation limit that excluded people from living in the 30km zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant exclusion zone was set at 5mSV/year, five years after the nuclear accident. Over 100,000 people were evacuated from within the zone and will never return.” (Greenpeace Press Release, July 21, 2015). ”

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’85 percent of Japanese don’t trust nuclear energy after Fukushima’ — Eyewitness News

” CAPE TOWN – A Japanese nuclear expert says close to 85 percent of the Japanese population do not trust the use of nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Dr Tatsujiro Suzuki says the public’s mistrust largely stems from the widely held belief that the government has not been transparent about its nuclear policies.

In his lecture on nuclear energy policies at the University of the Western Cape today, Suzuki claims nuclear power can only become a viable energy option when officials overcome public dissidence and manage waste adequately.

Suzuki says the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 are still being felt today.

He says parts of Japan will forever remain uninhabitable, with some potentially high risk regions still being evacuated.

The ongoing evacuations have led to widespread public mistrust in the safety of the industry and government’s nuclear policies.

It’s believed between 80 to 85 percent of the population believe a phase out or immediate shut down of the nuclear industry is the only option.

Last month, the first nuclear plant was activated after a two year hiatus.

Suzuki says the fact that there was no energy shortage in Japan in the last two years, further suggests the country can survive without the power source. ”

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New robot to map Fukushima reactors — BBC News

” A new robot designed to help decommission reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant is to undergo tests before entering the harsh radioactive environment, it’s been reported.

Developed by the Universities of Tokyo and Tsukuba, and the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID), the remotely-controlled robot will use 360-degree cameras and lasers to create a three-dimensional map of the inside of the reactor buildings. It will help plant operator Tepco to know how much wreckage needs to be cleared before decontamination work can begin, Japanese newspaper The Mainichi reports.

The cameras, which are mounted on top of the robot, will give a panoramic view to scientists who have so far been hampered by a lack of clear information. “We’ve expanded the field of vision, so it should give the workers operating the robot a bird’s-eye view of what they’re doing,” an unnamed project official tells The Mainichi.

The Fukushima plant suffered a meltdown after a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011. Efforts to clean up the site have been repeatedly held up by obstacles blocking remotely-controlled devices, as well as high levels of radiation inside the power plant. In April, a robot failed after three hours inside the reactor building, and while a flying drone has been tested for use at the site, it has not entered the most badly damaged buildings. It’s estimated that decontaminating the Fukushima site will take up to 40 years and cost tens of billions of dollars. ”

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