Nuclear Protests Rock Japan as Kids Fall Victim to Fukushima's Fallout
March 11, 2013
Harvey Wasserman / The Free Press & Yuri Kageyama / Associated Press & Asahi Shimbun
Thyroid abnormalities have now been confirmed among tens of thousands of children downwind from Fukushima. They are the first clear sign of an unfolding radioactive tragedy that demands this industry be buried forever. Thousands of people rallied in a Tokyo park Saturday, demanding an end to atomic power and vowing never to give up the fight.
3.11: Surviving Japan
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Fukushima Is Already Harming our Children
Harvey Wasserman / The Free Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (March 10, 2013) -- Thyroid abnormalities have now been confirmed among tens of thousands of children downwind from Fukushima. They are the first clear sign of an unfolding radioactive tragedy that demands this industry be buried forever.
Two years after Fukushima exploded, three still-smoldering reactors remind us that the nuclear power industry repeatedly told the world this could never happen.
And 72 years after the nuclear weapons industry began creating them, untold quantities of deadly wastes still leak at Hanford and at commercial reactor sites around the world, with no solution in sight.
Radiation can be slow to cause cancer, taking decades to kill. But children can suffer quickly. Their cells grow faster than adults'. Their smaller bodies are more vulnerable. With the embryo and fetus, there can never be a "safe" dose of radiation. NO dose of radiation is too small to have a human impact.
Last month the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey acknowledged a horrifying plague of thyroid abnormalities, thus far afflicting more than forty percent of the children studied.
The survey sample was 94,975. So some 38,000 children are already cursed with likely health problems… that we know of.
A thyroid abnormality can severely impact a wide range of developmental realities, including physical and mental growth. Cancer is a likely outcome.
This is the tenth such study conducted by the prefecture. As would be expected downwind from a disaster like Fukushima, the spread of abnormalities has been increasing over time. So has the proportion of children with nodules that are equal to or larger than 5.1 mm. The number of cysts has also been increasing.
And the government has revealed that three cases of thyroid cancer have already been diagnosed in the area. All have been subjected to surgery.
Fukushima's airborne fallout came to our west coast within a week of the catastrophe. It's a virtual certainty American children are being affected. As health researcher Joe Mangano puts it: "Reports of rising numbers of West Coast infants with under-active thyroid glands after Fukushima suggest that Americans may have been harmed by Fukushima fallout. Studies, especially of the youngest, must proceed immediately."
Untold billions of gallons of unmonitored liquid poisons have poured into the Pacific. Contaminated trash has carried across the ocean (yet the US has ceased monitoring wild-caught Pacific fish for radiation).
Worldwide, atomic energy is in rapid decline for obvious economic reasons. In Germany and elsewhere, Solartopian technologies -- wind, solar, bio-fuels, efficiency -- are outstripping nukes and fossil fuels in price, speed to install, job creation, environmental impact, reliability and safety.
No one has yet measured the global warming impacts of the massive explosions and heat releases at Fukushima (or at Chernobyl, where the human death toll has been estimated in excess of a million).
The nuclear fuel cycle -- from mining to milling to enrichment to transportation to waste management -- creates substantial greenhouse gases. The reactors themselves convert ore to gargantuan quantities of heat that warm the planet directly, wrecking our weather patterns in ways that have never been fully assessed.
Even in the shadow of Fukushima, the industry peddles a "new generation" of magical reactors to somehow avoid all previous disasters. Though they don't yet exist, they will be "too cheap to meter," will "never explode" and will generate "radiation that is good for you."
But atomic energy is human history's most expensive technological failure, defined by what seems to be a terminal reverse learning curve. After more than a half-century to get it right, the industry has most recently poked holes in the head of a reactor in Florida, and installed $700 million steam generators it knew to be faulty in two more in California. It now wants to open San Onofre Unit Two at a 70% level, essentially to see what happens. Some 8 million people live within a 50-mile radius.
This from an increasingly dangerous industry that has brought us four "impossible" explosions -- one at Chernobyl, three at Fukushima -- clearly with more yet to come. Its radiation has spewed for decades. Its wastes have no place on this planet.
The ultimate death toll among Fukushima's victims may be inescapable. But the industry that's harming them is not.
Those thyroid-damaged children bring us yet another tragic warning: There's just one atomic reactor from which our energy can safely come.
Two years after Fukushima, it is still 93 million miles away -- but more ready than ever to safely, cleanly and cheaply power our planet.
Harvey Wasserman's SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.harveywasserman.com. With Norman Solomon, Robert Alvarez & Eleanor Walters, he is co-author of KILLING OUR OWN: THE DISASTER OF AMERICA'S EXPERIENCE WITH ATOMIC RADIATION, available free on the Internet.
Protesters in Tokyo Demand End to Nuclear Power
Yuri Kageyama / Associated Press
TOKYO (March 9, 2013) -- Thousands of people rallied in a Tokyo park Saturday, demanding an end to atomic power and vowing never to give up the fight, despite two years of little change after the nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan.
Gathering two days ahead of the second anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that sent the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant into multiple meltdowns, demonstrators said they would never forget the world's worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl, and expressed alarm over the government's eagerness to restart reactors.
"I can't see what lies ahead. It looks hopeless, but if I give up now, it's over," said Akihiro Nakata, a 47-year-old owner of a construction company, who had a drum slung around his shoulder. "I'd rather die moving forward."
Only two of Japan's 50 working nuclear reactors have been put back online since the disaster, partly because of continuous protests like Saturday's, the first time such demonstrations have popped up in this nation since the 1960s movement against the Vietnam War.
People have thronged Tokyo parks on national holidays, and have gathered outside the parliament building every Friday evening. The demonstrations have drawn people previously unseen at political rallies, such as commuter "salarymen" and housewives. Organizers said Saturday's demonstration drew 13,000 people.
Two years after the disaster, 160,000 people have left their homes around the plant, entire sections of nearby communities are still ghost towns, and fears grow about cancer and other sicknesses the spewing radiation might bring.
But the new prime minister elected late last year, Shinzo Abe, hailing from a conservative party that fostered the pro-nuclear policies of modernizing Japan, wants to restart the reactors, and maybe even build new ones.
The protesters said they were shocked by how the government was ignoring them.
"I am going to fight against those who act as though Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima never happened," Nobel Prize-winning writer Kenzaburo Oe told the crowd, referring to the atomic bombings preceding the end of World War II. "I am going to fight to prevent any more reactors from being restarted."
The demonstrators applauded, waving signs and lanterns that read, "Let's save the children" and "No nukes." Some were handing out leaflets, pleading to save animals abandoned in the no-go zone.
Kazuko Nihei, 36, was selling trinkets and soap that mothers, like her, who had fled Fukushima had made, hoping to raise funds for children's health check-ups and their new lives in Tokyo.
"When the government talks about recovery, they are talking about infrastructure. When we talk about recovery, we are talking about the future of our children," she said.
Another big Tokyo rally was planned for Sunday. A concert Saturday evening was to feature Oscar and Grammy-winning musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, one of the most vocal opponents of nuclear power. Commemorative services will be held Monday throughout the nation to remember the nearly 19,000 people who died in the disaster.
Less under the spotlight Monday will be a class-action lawsuit being filed against the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operates Fukushima Dai-ichi, demanding all land, the natural environment and homes be restored to their state before March 11, 2011.
The lawsuit in Fukushima District Court is unusual in drawing people from all walks of life, including farmers, fishermen and housewives, because of the wording of the damage demand.
It has drawn 800 plaintiffs so far, a remarkable number in a conformist culture that frowns upon any challenge to the status quo, especially lawsuits. That number may grow as people join the lawsuit in coming months. A verdict is not expected for more than a year.
"We can't believe the government is thinking about restarting the reactors after the horrendous damage and human pain the accident has caused," Izutaro Managi, one of the lawyers, said by telephone. "It is tantamount to victimizing the victims one more time."
Kazuko Ishige, a 66-year-old apartment manager who was at the rally with a friend from Fukushima, said she was sick of the government's lies about the safety of nuclear plants.
"I am really angry," she said. "I am going to have to keep at it until I die."
60% in Fukushima Say
More than 2 Decades Needed
To Return to Pre-disaster Lifestyles
TOKYO (March 5, 2013) -- Sixty percent of Fukushima Prefecture residents said it will take more than 20 years to recoup the lifestyles they lost when the prefecture was hit by the triple disaster of 2011, a survey showed.
Nineteen percent said pre-disaster lifestyles can return in "20 years or so," 14 percent said around 10 years and just 3 percent picked "five years or so" among the four options.
By age, 80 percent of those in their 30s and 73 percent of those in their 40s and 50s chose the answer "more than 20 years."
The survey, conducted jointly by The Asahi Shimbun Co. and Fukushima Broadcasting Co. on March 2-3, showed some signs of optimism in the prefecture struggling to rebuild from the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011.
For example, fewer residents want to move out of the prefecture or to areas of lower radiation levels.
But for the most part, the outlook for getting Fukushima Prefecture back to normal remained dim among residents ahead of the second anniversary of the multiple disasters.
The telephone survey received valid responses from 1,014 eligible voters in Fukushima Prefecture, or 59 percent of those contacted. Similar surveys were carried out in September 2011 and March 2012.
Thirty-eight percent of the respondents in the latest survey were positive about the radioactive cleanup work conducted so far, including 2 percent who said they “greatly” appreciated the work and 36 percent who said they did so "to a certain extent."
In contrast, 62 percent saw the work in a negative light, with 45 percent saying they did "not appreciate the work very much" and 17 percent saying they did not appreciate it at all.
The residents were also evenly split over future decontamination work.
Fifty percent said they held positive expectations, including 12 percent with “strong” expectations and 38 percent with “moderate” expectations for the cleanup efforts to come.
A combined 49 percent were pessimistic, with 39 percent saying their expectations were “weak” and 10 percent saying they held "no expectations at all."
The Fukushima prefectural government has argued that all areas contaminated with radioactive substances, including forests, should be cleaned up.
Thirty-eight percent of the respondents agreed “very much” with the prefecture's stance, whereas 35 percent agreed "to a certain extent," 18 percent did "not agree with it very much" and 6 percent did "not agree with it at all."
The residents were asked how deeply they were concerned about the impact of radioactive substances on themselves and their family members.
Thirty-one percent said they were "greatly" concerned, 45 percent were concerned "to a certain extent," 21 percent were "not concerned very much," and 3 percent were "not concerned at all."
Those figures were largely unchanged from the previous survey in March 2012, in which the results were 32 percent, 46 percent, 17 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
The pollees were also asked if they would want to relocate outside Fukushima Prefecture or to areas with lower radiation levels if that option was available.
Twenty-six percent said they would wish to do so, down from 32 percent in the previous survey.
A combined 80 percent of the respondents were negative about the work to lay the groundwork for rebuilding Fukushima Prefecture. Fifty-nine percent said they believed "little groundwork" has been laid, and 21 percent said "no groundwork" has been laid.
Those numbers were down from the corresponding figures a year ago--92 percent, 54 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
Seventy-three percent of the respondents were critical of the way the central government has handled the nuclear disaster so far. Only 17 percent gave the government a positive assessment.
The Liberal Democratic Party's defeat of the Democratic Party of Japan in the Lower House election in December did not lead to a significant rise in optimism in Fukushima Prefecture.
Only 27 percent of the respondents said they believed that the change of power will help accelerate the central government's response to the nuclear disaster. Sixty-four percent said they did not believe it would.
The central government has said it wants to set up an interim storage facility for radioactive soil and other contaminated substances in Futaba county, which contains the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.
Fifty-nine percent of the respondents said they could accept that idea, up from 39 percent in the previous survey a year ago, while 29 percent said they could not accept it, down from 41 percent.
The survey also asked the Fukushima residents about their feelings toward nuclear power, and the results were compared with a nationwide survey conducted by The Asahi Shimbun on Feb. 16-17.
The differences in opinion were quite stark.
In Fukushima Prefecture, 19 percent were in favor of nuclear power and 64 percent were against it. Nationwide, 37 percent were in favor and 46 percent opposed.
In both surveys, the pollees were asked to choose one of five scenarios they hope to see for the future of Japan's nuclear power generation.
Twenty-nine percent of the respondents in Fukushima Prefecture and 13 percent of the respondents across Japan chose an immediate departure from nuclear power.
Abandoning nuclear power before 2030 was favored by 32 percent in Fukushima Prefecture and 24 percent nationwide. Seventeen percent in Fukushima Prefecture and 22 percent across Japan wanted a nuclear phaseout completed during the 2030s, while 7 percent in Fukushima and 12 percent across Japan wanted the nation to be nuclear-free after the 2030s.
Eleven percent in Fukushima and 18 percent nationwide wanted Japan to continue using nuclear power.
Seventy-two percent of Fukushima residents and 66 percent across Japan said they believed general public interest in issues related to victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster is fading.
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