Radioactive hot particles still afloat throughout Japan six years after Fukushima meltdowns — BuzzFlash

” Radioactive particles of uranium, thorium, radium, cesium, strontium, polonium, tellurium and americium are still afloat throughout Northern Japan more than six years after a tsunami slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant causing three full-blown nuclear meltdowns. That was the conclusion reached by two of the world’s leading radiation experts after conducting an extensive five-year monitoring project.

Arnie Gundersen and Marco Kaltofen authored the peer reviewed study titled, Radioactively-hot particles detected in dusts and soils from Northern Japan by combination of gamma spectrometry, autoradiography, and SEM/EDS analysis and implications in radiation risk assessment, published July 27, 2017, in Science of the Total Environment (STOLEN).

Gundersen represents Fairewinds Associates and is a nuclear engineer, former power plant operator and industry executive, turned whistleblower, and was CNN’s play-by-play on-air expert during the 2011 meltdowns. Kaltofen, of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), is a licensed civil engineer and is renowned as a leading experts on radioactive contamination in the environment.

415 samples of “dust and surface soil” were “analyzed sequentially by gamma spectrometry, autoradiography, and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray analysis” between 2011 and 2016. 180 of the samples came from Japan while another 235 were taken from the United States and Canada. The study further clarifies, “Of these 180 Japanese particulate matter samples, 57 were automobile or home air filters, 59 were surface dust samples, 29 were street dusts (accumulated surface soils and dusts) and 33 were vacuum cleaner bag or other dust samples.”

108 of the Japanese samples were taken in 2016, while the other 72 were gathered in 2011 after the meltdowns. Gundersen and Kaltofen tapped 15 volunteer scientists to help collect the dust and soil — mostly from Fukushima Prefecture and Minamisoma City. “A majority of these samples were collected from locations in decontaminated zones cleared for habitation by the National Government of Japan,” the study revealed. For the 108 samples taken in 2016, an “International Medcom Inspector Alert surface contamination monitor (radiation survey meter) was used to identify samples from within low lying areas and on contaminated outdoor surfaces.”

Fairewinds Associates’ video from 2012 features Gundersen collecting five samples of surface soil from random places throughout Tokyo — places including a sidewalk crack, a rooftop garden, and a previously decontaminated children’s playground. The samples were bagged, declared through Customs, and brought back to the U.S. for testing. All five samples were so radioactive that according to Gundersen, they “qualified as radioactive waste here in the United States and would have to be sent to Texas to be disposed of.” Those five examples were not included as part of the recently released study, but Gundersen went back to Tokyo for samples in 2016. Those samples were included, and were radioactive, and according to Gundersen were “similar to what I found in Tokyo in [2012].”

Furthermore, 142 of the 180 samples (about 80 percent) contained cesium 134 and cesium 137. Cesium 134 and 137, two of the most widespread byproducts of the nuclear fission process from uranium-fueled reactors, are released in large quantities in nuclear accidents. Cesium emits intense beta radiation as it decays away to other isotopes, and is very dangerous if ingested or inhaled. On a mildly positive note, the study shows that only four of the 235 dust samples tested in the United States and Canada had detectable levels of cesium from Fukushima.

Cesium, due to its molecular structure, mimics potassium once inside the body, and is often transported to the heart where it can become lodged, thereafter mutating and burning heart tissue which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Other isotopes imitate nutritive substances once inside the body as well. Strontium 90 for example mimics calcium, and is absorbed by bones and teeth.

“Different parts of the human body (nerves, bones, stomach, lung) are impacted differently,” Kaltofen told EnviroNews in an email. “Different cells have radio-sensitivities that vary over many orders of magnitude. The body reacts differently to the same dose received over a short time or a long time; the same as acute or chronic doses in chemical toxicity.”

In contrast to external X-rays, gamma, beta or alpha rays, hot particles are small mobile pieces of radioactive elements that can be breathed in, drunk or eaten in food. The fragments can then become lodged in bodily tissue where they will emanate high-intensity ionizing radiation for months or years, damaging and twisting cells, potentially causing myriad diseases and cancer. The study points out, “Contaminated environmental dusts can accumulate in indoor spaces, potentially causing radiation exposures to humans via inhalation, dermal contact, and ingestion.”

The study also explains, “Given the wide variability in hot particle sizes, activities, and occurrence; some individuals may experience a hot particle dose that is higher or lower than the dose calculated by using averaged environmental data.” For example, a person living in a contaminated area might use a leaf blower or sweep a floor containing a hefty amount of hot particle-laden dust and receive a large does in a short time, whereas other people in the same area, exposed to the same background radiation and environmental averages, may not take as heavy a hit as the housekeeper that sweeps floors for a living. People exposed to more dust on the job, or who simply have bad luck and haphazardly breathe in hot radioactive dust, are at an increased risk for cancer and disease. High winds can also randomly pick up radioactive surface soil, rendering it airborne and endangering any unsuspecting subject unlucky enough to breath it in.

Hot particles, or “internal particle emitters” as they are sometimes called, also carry unique epidemiological risks as compared to a chest X-ray by contrast. The dangers from radiation are calculated by the dose a subject receives, but the manner in which that dose is received can also play a critical factor in the amount of damage to a person’s health.

“Comparing external radiation to hot particles inside the body is an inappropriate analogy,” Gundersen toldEnviroNewsin an email. “Hot particles deliver a lot of energy to a very localized group of cells that surround them and can therefore cause significant localized cell damage. External radiation is diffuse. For example, the weight from a stiletto high heal shoe is the same as the weight while wearing loafers, but the high heal is damaging because its force is localized.”

Kaltofen elaborated with an analogy of his own in a followup email with EnviroNews saying:

Dose is the amount of energy in joules absorbed by tissue. Imagine Fred with a one joule gamma dose to the whole body from living in a dentist’s office over a lifetime, versus Rhonda with exactly the same dose as alpha absorbed by the lung from a hot particle. Standard health physics theory says that Fred will almost certainly be fine, but Rhonda has about a 10 percent chance of dying from lung cancer — even though the doses are the same.

External radiation and internal hot particles both follow exactly the same health physics rules, even though they cause different kinds of biological damage. Our data simply shows that you can’t understand radiation risk without measuring both.

Some isotopes, like plutonium, only pose danger to an organism inside the body. As an alpha emitter, plutonium’s rays are blocked by the skin and not strong enough to penetrate deep into bodily tissue. However, when inhaled or ingested, plutonium’s ionizing alpha rays twist and shred cells, making it one of the most carcinogenic and mutagenic substances on the planet.

“Measuring radioactive dust exposures can be like sitting by a fireplace,” Dr. Kaltofen explained in a press release. “Near the fire you get a little warm, but once in a while the fire throws off a spark that can actually burn you.”

“We weren’t trying to see just somebody’s theoretical average result,” Kaltofen continued in the press release. “We looked at how people actually encounter radioactive dust in their real lives. [By] combining microanalytical methods with traditional health physics models… we found that some people were breathing or ingesting enough radioactive dust to have a real increase in their risk of suffering a future health problem. This was especially true of children and younger people, who inhale or ingest proportionately more dust than adults.”

“Individuals in the contaminated zone, and potentially well outside of the mapped contaminated zone, may receive a dose that is higher than the mean dose calculated from average environmental data, due to inhalation or ingestion of radioactively-hot dust and soil particles,” the study says in summation. “Accurate radiation risk assessments therefore require data for hot particle exposure as well as for exposure to more uniform environmental radioactivity levels.” ”

source with video by Arnie Gundersen

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Labor groups protest reopening of rail lines near Fukushima — CounterPunch

” Labor activists have protested the reopening this month of a railway line in parts of northeast Japan where they believe radiation levels are still dangerous.

The Joban Line runs from Nippori Station in Tokyo to Iwanuma Station, just south of Sendai City. It is one of main connections between northeast Tokyo’s major station of Ueno up along the coast through Chiba, Ibaraki and Miyagi prefectures.

This region was severely damaged by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th, 2011, while the subsequent Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster meant that large areas through which trains pass were contaminated by radiation.

The Joban Line was directly hit by the massive tsunami wave in 2011, sweeping train carriages away. Though parts of the line were quickly reopened that same year, two sections of the line—between Tatsuta and Odaka stations, and between Soma and Hamayoshida—remained closed, with passengers served by buses for some of the stations.

However, the operator, East Japan Railway Company (JR East), and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, have been keen to reopen the whole line as part of the northeast Japan reconstruction efforts. The Joban Line represents a valuable source of income from both passengers traveling between Sendai and Tokyo as well as freight.

Following decontamination measures, rail services resumed from Iwaki to Tatsuta in late 2014. However, north of Tatsuta lies the areas located within a 20km radius of the devastated Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which is widely considered a no-go zone.

In July this year, JR East resumed services on the 9.4-kilometer stretch between Odaka and Haranomachi stations as the evacuation order was lifted for the southern part of Minamisoma City, though few residents are willing to return to a community so close to the contaminated area. Media reports suggest only 10-20% are coming back to live in the area.

On December 10th, the previously closed 23.2-kilometer northern section of line between Soma and Hamayoshida reopened for rail services. It means passengers will now be served by a further six stations on the section, though three of these (Shinchi, Yamashita and Sakamoto stations) had to be relocated inland by up to 1.1 kilometers as an anti-tsunami measure. Along with the construction of elevated tracks, the total cost of the latest reopening is said to be 40 billion yen ($350 million).

By spring 2017, the line will be reopened between Namie and Odaka, and then later in the year between Tatsuta and Tomioka. The final section linking Tomioka and Namie, passing through somewhat infamous areas like Futaba, is set to reopen by the end of fiscal 2019 (end of March 2020).

Local tourist bodies are naturally delighted and are pulling out all the stops to attract people. At the newly reopened stations, passengers are able to buy commemorative tickets, take hiking trips, and even try on historical armor.

Lingering Doubts over Radiation

Official announcements say that radiation levels have fallen and clean-up efforts will remove any health risk. Last August, JR East began decontamination tests on parts of the railway between Yonomori and Futaba stations where the radioactivity remains high. It has reported that falling radiation levels can be confirmed at six inspection points along the line, making it confident that decontamination measures are working.

However, the legacy of the Fukushima disaster is a lingering distrust for government and corporate claims about radiation. Activists allege that authorities and JR East are putting profits and the appearance of safety over the genuine health of rail workers and passengers. Just as with the gradual lifting of restrictions on entering the areas around the Joban Line, reopening the railway is, they say, an attempt to encourage evacuated residents to return and tourists to visit even though health risks may remain.

This pressure to reconstruct the region quickly and maintain an impression of safety to Japan and the rest of the world comes from the very top, as demonstrated by the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s now notorious claim that the Fukushima disaster was “under control” in his speech in September 2013 during the final (and successful) Tokyo bid to win the 2020 Olympic Games. Abe also officiated at the opening of the rebuilt Shinchi Station on December 10th.

Protests Against Reopening

The rank and file rail unions Doro-Mito (National Railway Motive Power Union of Mito) and Doro-Chiba (National Railway Motive Power Union of Chiba) have long protested the ambitions of JR East as part of their campaigns against the operator’s growing policies of rationalization and outsourcing.

On December 10th, around 50 activists from Doro-Mito and associated groups opposed the Joban Line reopening by demonstrating at the Sendai branch of JR East in the morning. A small number of train drivers from the union also went on strike that day. This was coordinated with other protests and actions in Fukushima City and Tokyo at JR sites. At an afternoon protest outside the JR East headquarters in Shinjuku, central Tokyo, around 150 unionists demonstrated.

These are just the most recent examples of actions by this network of medium-sized yet feisty unions, which have waged several strikes and protests since JR East began reopening parts of the track following the 2011 disaster. Unionists have fought to block the reopening in order to protect the well-being of workers as well as the general public.

Other unions and labor groups have apparently remained silent on the Joban Line issue, as have the major anti-nuclear power protest organisations. The mainstream media has also given the Joban Line protests almost no coverage, though the reopening itself was extensively celebrated.

Doro-Mito and Doro-Chiba are the largest groups in a network of militant unions called Doro-Soren, affiliated with the Japan Revolutionary Communist League. Other smaller unions have been established in Tokyo, Fukushima, Niigata and elsewhere. While the overall numbers of unionized workers remain only in the hundreds, organizers hope to create a national union in the future.

The unions have held small strikes on the Joban Line issue alongside their regular strikes and protests against labor conditions, as well as participating in general rallies against the restarting of nuclear power plants in Japan. In this way, the issues of neoliberalism and nuclear power have become aligned in a new and invigorating way.

The Doro-Soren network is also associated with NAZEN, which was formed in August 2011 as a youth group to fight the nuclear industry. The various groups have taken part in annual protests at Fukushima on the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami, regularly mobilizing over 1,000 demonstrators. … 

by William Andrews

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Returning home after Fukushima nuclear disaster — Al Jazeera

” Fukushima, Japan – This week, authorities lifted an evacuation order for nearly all parts of Minamisoma city, Fukushima prefecture, allowing more than 10,000 people to return to their homes for the first time since 2011’s nuclear disaster.

Tens of thousands of people across the prefecture had to abruptly leave their homes five years ago after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan’s northeast wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The lifting of the evacuation order marked the largest number of people allowed back into their hometown – yet only around an estimated 20 percent of Minamisoma’s 10,807 residents in 3,487 households decided to come back.

Since 2014, the government has been gradually lifting up evacuation orders within a 20km radius of the nuclear power plant, following the progress of some clean-up efforts.

Our team drove to Minamisoma from Tokyo along the country’s northeastern coast.

It was not difficult to spot the on-going clean-up efforts.

A great number of big contaminated waste disposal bags were piled up at temporary holding areas on fields across Fukushima prefecture.

Some holding areas were massive in size, occupying huge chunk of the fields, with a string of trucks constantly dropping off black bags.

Roads into contaminated towns were still blocked by big barricades, and checkpoints were put in place to only allow people with a special permit to enter.

As we drove past contaminated areas, the reading on our Geiger counter, which measures the level of radiation, would from time to time jump above usual levels, reaching as high as 3μSv/h – the government’s long-term reduction goal for areas within a 20km radius of the nuclear power plant stands at 0.23μSv/h.

Passing through the still largely empty, yet seemingly peaceful streets of Minamisoma, we arrived at the Odaka station in the city’s Odaka district.

Although the train service had been resumed for the first time in more than five years on the 9.4km stretch between Odaka and Haranomachi station, only a handful of passengers were seen during the day.

Trains arrived and departed, largely empty.

What caught my attention was a large screen in front of the station, showing radiation levels in real time.

The reading was 0.142μSv/h, which was higher than 0.06μSv/h in Tokyo – but still below the 0.23μSv/h government goal.

Such screens were set up across the city to assuage the public’s lingering concerns over radiation contamination.

Over the past few years, a growing number of Minamisoma residents settled somewhere else, worried over the potential long-term health effects of a return back home.

However, people who did decide to come back were trying their best to ensure that life in their hometown, albeit slowly, returned to normal.

About a three-minute walk distance from the station, we spotted around 30 young students and residents.

Preparations were under way by a number of local organisations to celebrate the opening of a community centre in a makeshift building, where residents could freely come and talk about their life back in hometown.

An old lady asked passers-by to take a seat as she served local food. Young students were hanging out with their friends, doing hula hoop and blowing bubbles.

Many of the returnees told us that despite the uncertainties and doubts, they hoped to restore a sense of community – and thus prove to friends and families who were having second thoughts about coming back that it was worth returning home.

“Although we cannot bring back Odaka to what it used to be before the disaster, as residents here, we want to bring back its spirit and the community,” Yoshiki Konno, a local resident and the head of an NGO, told Al Jazeera.

“That is the most important thing we must do.”  ”

by Musun Kim

source

Arirang special: Fukushima and its aftermath (후쿠시마, 그 이후) — Arirang

This is an excellent video that explains concerns of radiation exposure in Japan and the safety standards for radiation in foods sold in Korea.

source

**The Fukushima disease: Creation of virtual world based on radioactive reality — Derek Monroe via RT

This article is long but definitely worth reading in its entirety.

” Visiting Tohoku region of Japan for a second time in four years brings a variety of evocative emotions to the surface after witnessing the wrath of nature combined with the man’s attempt to defy it.

While human dimensions of the catastrophe are present now as much as then, there is a complete change in the Japanese zeitgeist when it comes to dealing with the disaster’s aftermath.

The area around Haranomachi JR station in Fukushima Prefecture is a de facto entry gate to a recently declared safe area that was closed to the outside world until recently. Despite continuous assurances from both municipal, prefectural and national governments that the area is safe to go back and live, the majority of people under 40 with young kids are decidedly against moving back. “I decided to stay here as I have no place to go but my sister with her kids is not coming back here,” said Setsuko-san as she packed my groceries in the local store. “Despite all they are all telling us nobody believes it and besides many people already have their lives somewhere else so there is no use to start it here again. Just look at the town and see for yourself if there is anything to go back to,” said Setsuko-san.

The two kilometer walk from Haranomachi station to the Minamisoma City Hall leads through rows of dilapidated businesses, many of which are shut down or on the way, judging from lack of customers in them. The city itself has regrouped in an attempt at a comeback, a far cry from March 2011 when its mayor Sakurai-san [Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai] announced that people had been “abandoned” by the national government in the wake of orders for all remaining residents to stay in their homes despite raising radiation from the Daiichi Nuclear Plant, 16 miles away. The city produces regular monitoring reports of radioactivity from 10 locations around town with Geiger counters placed in public spaces for residents and visitors to check their daily intake.

“We are in a difficult position that we made ourselves reliable on nuclear energy first and then were hurt by it,” said a local city employee who asked to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to talk to the media. “Many people here had good jobs and good lives and when the nuclear accident happened this came to a complete halt,” he said. The city’s website now is very optimistic in its proclamation of moving forward without nuclear power, despite the central government’s move to the contrary. The government in Tokyo has decided what is best for the citizens of Minamisoma and all of Japan.

Furthermore, nuclear power is back in charge as if it never left.  Nationalist Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s administration is another one anointed by “kempatsu mura”“the nuclear village”, power and money complex that has been a steady fixture in the history of modern Japan.  In 2012, Tokyo’s Waseda University researcher Tetsuo Arima disclosed declassified CIA documents dating to the 1950s. It was revealed that the long time kingmaker of Japanese politics, Matsutaro Shoriki and head of the country’s most powerful Yomiuri Shimbun media empire, worked hand in hand with the CIA to popularize nuclear energy as way for the future. Despite its peaceful angle and spin thrown onto the Japanese public that was still traumatized within a generation of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, Shoriki insisted the way to a successful future would have to include Japan’s nuclear armament. Regardless of the existing US nuclear umbrella over Japan in the form of defense treaties and US bases, the thought of a “made in Japan” nuclear capability has been a wet dream of the Japanese political establishment ever since. In 2012 before becoming a defense minister, Satoshi Morimoto stated he viewed the nation’s nuclear power plants as a deterrent against foreign attack, apparently because they made neighboring countries believe Japan could produce atomic weapons quickly if it wanted to. That is despite the fact of Fukushima’s meltdown eight months earlier and its own government’s moratorium on nuclear power in time he made his statement.

In the 2012 book “Fukushima and the Privatization of Risk” by Majia Nadesan, Professor at Arizona State University, the convoluted story behind the long road to the Fukushima disaster was revealed contrary to the “safe and bright” future narrative sold to an unwitting and gullible Japanese public. In 1997 an explosion at the Donen reprocessing plant resulted in radiation being released and largely covered up by officials in charge. In 1999, the Joyo nuclear reprocessing plant explosion killed two workers and released huge amount of radioactivity into its surroundings, prompting the Japanese government to get temporarily serious in its supervisory role. “Actually now it is much worse since the Fukushima disaster as the nuclear industry feels it is completely in charge. For example, one thing nobody talks about is a complete extinction of marine life species that is taking place off the US west coast. Nobody in the media is talking about this as it is very much likely connected to the release of nuclear pollution into the water around Fukushima. You just need to look no further than the sea currents flowing from the Japanese islands and how it winds up the coast in the US and Canada,” said Majia Nadesan.

The long standing and corrupt practice of “amakudari”“descent from heaven” which led to the capture of regulators by the regulated in form of career revolving doors has made any meaningful reform a pipe dream. This ultimately allowed the Tokyo Power Company (TEPCO), Japan’s largest utility, to defeat any efforts to improve plant safety as it would cost it too much money to comply with increased regulatory requirements. The ensuing legal fight kept the sea wall at 10 meters instead of increasing it to the height that would have stopped the tsunami in 2011 thus protecting the plant from damage.

TEPCO also used the lawsuit against the Japanese government to abdicate its responsibility to foresee the disaster and its fall out. As the problem of Daiichi melting reactors was taking on speed, TEPCO used its central position in the “nuclear village” to attack the PM Naoto Kan and to deflect its role in the crisis. As PM Kan ran afoul of TEPCO with his criticism of the company’s actions while on site in Fukushima, TEPCO orchestrated a media campaign against him. It has twice spread false information about Kan’s alleged interference with its operations, just to recant it when it was caught red handed. On the other hand, PM Kan has been more than willing to play a role of anti-nuclear industry “hero” while covering up its tracks and making it even more influential in the process. The endgame of it was nationalization of TEPCO as it could not be held responsible for financial liabilities due to its negligence and just like the US in its financial bailout; the taxpayers were left holding the bag.

Ironically the way Fukushima crisis transpired is very much reminiscent of the Soviet Union after the Chernobyl accident. Just as the Soviets did, the Japanese government quickly raised the “acceptable” level of individual radiation exposure to 20 millisieverts mSv/year contrary to the previous maximum “safe” exposure set at one (mSv)/year. Some medical professionals along with mainstream Japanese media went so far as to suggest that 100 mSv/year was a safe level of exposure which goes against international and commonly accepted norms set by science. This led to resignation of Professor Toshiso Kosako, an expert on radiation safety at the University of Tokyo and a nuclear adviser to PM Kan. In late April 2011 Kosako resigned protesting a decision that allowed “children living near the crippled Daiichi nuclear plant to receive doses of radiation equal to the international standard for nuclear power plant workers.”  Professor Kosako said he could not endorse this policy change from the point of view of science, or from the point of view of human rights. This happened under the watch of PM Kan and is contrary to his present role of anti-nuclear crusader while taking no responsibility for the action that as of today justifies and results in 150 cases of thyroid cancer in Fukushima children, annually.

The threat of evacuation of 50 million people due to multiple meltdowns has a certain imprint of fatalism that affected the population in Tokyo as well as it’s nearest biggest population center, Sendai. Located only 66 miles (111km) away from the 1.07 million metropolis, Sendai, has the distinction of being located just north of the plant in Tohoku plain. Contrary to the situation four years ago, the city has the appearance of a complete renewal if not outright amnesia about what happened in its suburbs to the east due to the tsunami and in the south in Fukushima. “I think our daily remainder of the situation is our economy as in our business we are at about 90 percent level of the period before the tsunami,” said Naoko-san who is selling Japanese cakes at the small stand in Sendai JR station. “We have a lot of people from Fukushima and coastal areas living here but everyone wants to live a normal life so talking about it just hurts,” said Naoko-san. A similar opinion and ambiance is also present at the Sendai city hall which happened to have the only Geiger counter present in the city center that read 0.62-0.68 mSv in the span of about 1 hr. “We still have about one third of the people who came here in the period right after the disaster and stayed. Frankly I don’t know if they are ever going back to lives they left behind as they are staying in both temporary housing and apartments throughout the city,” said Koichiro Yokono, Director of Sendai’s Post-Disaster Reconstruction Bureau. “As far as forgetting (the disaster) I know it is not a good thing. With every year and month the human mechanism is such that it wants to live life and forgetting is probably just a part of the life process, I guess,” said Yokono.

The idea of forgetting and moving on also suits the political establishment as asking questions about the disaster also evokes questions about ultimate responsibility and, most importantly, if the lessons from it were ever learned. Judging from continued efforts to deal with the crisis that produces new releases of water and steam with unknown radiation contamination, the answer points to no.  While the clean up, according to the Japanese government, to reduce the contamination level of the land and environment to 20 mSv/year has now concluded, questions remain about its effectiveness or even whether the job was done properly to begin with. According to a Jan 7th, 2013 report by New York Times, the cleanup has not been done properly as the best experts in technology; experience and capability were not hired.“Don’t you think it is ironic that a company that was hired for the cleanup, Kajima Corporation (Japan’s biggest construction company) was also the one that built the reactors in Fukushima to begin with? It is like letting them cover up their own incompetence and mistakes that might have contributed to the disaster to begin with,” said Kato-san (the name given is an alias) who worked for over a year at the site building containment tanks for a consortium of companies hired by Kajima.“The whole thing was like a game to begin with. First they would give out propaganda about national importance of the project while in fact everyone was in it for the money. The job paid between 4500-5000 Yen ($36-40) per hour and we all did it for the money, myself included. We were suited up and as the process of putting it on with full gear and getting to site took about 1 hr. We worked in shifts with actual work time varying from 25 minutes to 4 hrs depending on level of radiation,” said Kato. “I don’t know if I will have problems from this in the future as it will take at least 10 years to show up and if  there is anything (radiation) in me from this. Kajima was also in it for the money and the way they were logging us in at the site showed they also wanted to limit their liability as well. For example I have seen the log book that they are required to keep in order to keep track of who goes in and out of the site. But the entry is only general and it is the same whether one person goes in or a group of four as it was in my case. Tell me if this is not to cover themselves in case of anyone getting radiation sickness or cancer? We were simple workers but not stupid enough to not know why they did this that way and no other.” he added.

The money train that was designated to deal with the aftermath of the disaster has produced a mini-boom in private contracting that was reminiscent of the worst excesses of US rule in Iraq and Afghanistan in the so-called “reconstruction” sector. According to the UK’s Guardian, the money spent was often the result of pork barrel politics in the Japanese Diet with the most egregious example of funds allocation to the Japanese whaling fleet to protect itself against international anti-whaling activists. Another way the money was spent was on PR that reinforced the well being of the population in affected areas, a truly Soviet-style like exercise in propaganda. Special attention was paid to cultivation of international public opinion in regards to the disaster and its aftermath. For example in Chicago in the United States, the Japanese Consulate General along with a bunch of its closely associated organizations paid for an annual propaganda program called “Kizuna”“the bond”. Instead of showing reality in post-apocalyptic areas of disaster, the Japanese government chose to put on a face of positive spin resulting in a bizarre collage of visual arts meeting old fashioned propaganda while cultivating local media personalities. In 2012, Greg Burns , the member of Chicago Tribune editorial board joined a pantheon of corporate pundits as Kizuna’s “moderator” while Yoko Noge, Chicago-based reporter for arch-conservative Nippon Keizai Shimbun newspaper served as the Kizuna propagandist in 2014. “The displaced people in Fukushima are struggling while the government is blowing our tax money on useless projects that benefit cronies and parasites,” said Mizuho Fukushima of the Social Democratic Party of Japan during a recent opposition rally in Tokyo. “It is unbelievable that our stupid government is giving money to South Sudan serving others’ national interests while we have young mothers with children not having enough money to buy food,” Mizuho Fukushima said.

Japan’s disaster had huge international and foreign policy ramifications that went beyond pure humanitarian concerns. There have been series of conversations in the US government on a level of involvement of the US forces in Japan and the fate of its military bases if the country was to evacuate 25 percent of its territory due to the meltdown’s worst case scenario. Politically this also became an issue of messaging as there was a presumption of radiation might affect US west coast to its east and as the cesium from Fukushima was detected west of Japan as far as Lithuania. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission hid the real situation from Americans while trying to reassure the public that everything was fine.

In Britain the government together with the industry decided on a strategy to spin the information released to the public as to avert a backlash against nuclear energy experienced in Germany as result of the disaster in Japan.

In Japan the propaganda warfare took a more sinister turn blaming the victims for their predicament. Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun that is closely connected to Japan’s ruling elite has run a series of articles on “radiophobia”, attributing health complaints of the affected to psychological and emotional stress. Ironically the same took place during a period of“radiophobia” scare doled out by medical professionals and nuclear experts in the Soviet Union after the Chernobyl disaster. Their fears and concerns were met with explanation that the victims were subjected and suffered from fear of radiation rather than the radiation itself. University of California anthropologist Adriana Petryna’s ethnographic study of the Chernobyl medical assessment and compensation system shown it was biased against the victims and politically manipulated. The same now applies to the case of Fukushima disaster victims as the more sophisticated forms of manipulation employing intrinsically Japanese traits of shame and group think are now used to shift the effects of the disaster onto victims’ own sense of responsibility. This allows the system to move on and not take responsibility for what transpired while using the cultural trait of the population’s acquiescence as a catalyst for its de facto forced amnesia.

Looking at the Japanese media and governmental space that work hand in hand to obfuscate its responsibility to inform, the truth of the matter is : the technology to decommission melted reactors doesn’t exist and the most optimistic scenario of final solution to the crisis is pure fiction.

As the country’s political establishment is readying itself to host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo for which there is no public money or popular support whatsoever, the nuclear sword of Damocles will be hanging over it. The negligence and incompetence bordering on willful disregard for lives of its citizens makes the Japanese government a perfect candidate for prosecution under the crimes against humanity statues. Its handling of the Fukushima crisis puts into doubt Japanese credentials as a real democracy that is able and willing to address its citizens’ needs instead of using them as fodder for obscene corporate profits and foreign policy gamesmanship.

As a result Fukushima is worse than Chernobyl in many respects, making the difference between both political systems only a semantic one at best.

Japan Red Cross declined to be interviewed for the story.
Japanese Government did not respond to questions about its propaganda funding.
Chicago Tribune did not respond to request for interview.
Greg Burns did not respond to request for interview.
TEPCO did not respond to request for interview.
Japan Times did not respond to request for interview.

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Radiation monitoring center opens in coastal Fukushima — The Asahi Shimbun

” MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture–A research headquarters to monitor radiation levels from the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant around the clock opened here Nov. 16.

A branch of the Fukushima Prefectural Center for Environmental Creation, the “environmental radiation center” in coastal Minami-Soma city operates with a total budget of 2.7 billion yen ($21.88 million).

“The center will conduct more minute and precise radiation monitoring and release accurate data to the public to dispel the anxiety of Fukushima residents and negative publicity (about radioactive contamination),” Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori said Nov. 16.

The 1.8-hecter facility was set up to oversee programs to monitor radiation and soil contamination levels in the prefecture’s Hamadori coastal region.

It is tasked with monitoring airborne radiation levels on a full-time basis and conducting systematic soil surveys in areas around the crippled plant.

The center is also tasked with compiling comprehensive data on radioactive contamination and publicly disclosing the results of each survey.

In addition to prefectural officials, around 15 workers of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) staff the facility on a full-time basis to provide their expertise in developing monitoring methods. ”

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