An overview of nuclear and radiation issues in Japan written by a mother journalist

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IAEA headquarters

The following is a report on the development of nuclear issues in Japan written by a mother-journalist. She has been has been critically studying the issues of the safety of nuclear power since 1999 and reports what she has found so far on the developing nuclear issue in Japan. This includes an overview of nuclear developments in Japan in recent years, her visit to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Japanese politics around nuclear power, her observations following the Fukushima Daiichi accident and the her views on the new Japanese government's position on nuclear issues.

 

Epilogue Please Help Japanese Kids!

I came to know the issue of nuclear power for the first time in the summer of 1999. A US scientist talked about the possibility of station blackouts at nuclear power plants in relation with Y2K. Until I heard her lecture, I had never in my life heard of any danger from nuclear power plants and was greatly shocked. Even after Chernobyl, Japanese media were telling us that that accident was totally irrelevant to Japan since the type of nuclear reactor was different, and I simply believed it.

I was very quick to get down to action once I became aware of this danger. I went to the Prime Minister’s Residence with a person I knew, and shared the information I had translated with the Cabinet Secretary's Crisis Management Officer. The Officer scolded both me and the man who introduced me to him, yelling, “Japanese nuclear power is absolutely safe. Do not bring a weird person in this office!”

 

Going back to the previous topic, since I found that the government of Japan would do nothing, I went to Europe and delivered some materials to an energy expert in the European Green Party at the European parliament. To my amazement, he welcomed my information, and came up with a draft resolution in only two days! As he recommended, I visited other parties in the Parliament with the draft, and was able to obtain their support.  Two months later, word came that the resolution had passed unanimously in the Parliament. At that time, I was truly impressed by the European politicians who listened to me for what I was saying not for who I was.

 

Meanwhile, only two months after I was kicked out by the Chief Cabinet Crisis Management Officer, the first nuclear accident with an officially recognized death toll took place in Japan. There was a criticality accident at the JCO nuclear fuel fabrication factory in Tokai-mura leaving two workers killed and more than 600 people exposed to neutron rays. However, health damages claimed by residents were totally denied including Mr. and Mrs. Oizumi who were only 120 meters from the accident site when it happened.

 

Blood tests revealed DNA damage to six residents whose blood was sampled but amazingly, Ibaraki prefecture concealed the fact at that time. (Now Fukushima prefecture is concealing the results of blood tests of Fukushima children.)

 

Quite pitifully, it is a common practice for the national government and municipalities to conceal  inconvenient health-related data related to radiation exposure. I came to realize this after communicating with several former nuclear plant workers. Deteriorated health conditions among nuclear power plant workers have always been denied by the government in collaboration with doctors.

 

Since 2000, I have been focussed on the reactor and earthquake issue because I thought it was probable that station black out could be caused by an earthquake in a country as seismically active as Japan. In 2001 and 2002, I was working as a translator for an anti-nuclear non-profit organization and in during this time, the Hamaoka nuclear power plant had two serious emergency cooling system accidents in a row. Hamaoka is located on a plate boundary and a magnitude 8 class earthquake could occur at any time, so I really wanted to prevent an earthquake-caused nuclear disaster by any means before it actually takes place.

 

In 2002, I visited the International Atomic Energy Agency alone to directly make a plea regarding the Japanese nuclear and earthquake issue. However, when I talked to a representative (a Japanese female) from Department of Nuclear Safety, Engineering Safety Section, regarding the dangers of nuclear plants due to obsolete seismological studies at the time of construction and the potential for pipe ruptures to be caused by earthquakes, she kept saying, “No matter how damaged, nuclear power plant will not release any radiation outside.” Listening to her illogical layman’s excuse, I could not believe she was from the Nuclear Safety Department.

 

I also talked with the Deputy Director General of the Nuclear Safety Department. After listening to my talk and glancing the materials I brought, he interestingly asked me the following question without commenting on my plea.

 

“Can you make your living by doing these kind of things?” (To be honest, I think I spent millions of yen for anti-nuke activities, but I didn’t think I was doing anything special, since this is an issue of life itself and not a matter of money. I had always wondered why so few people were doing anti-nuclear activities.)

 

After that, I personally talked with a person from Nuclear Safeguards Department, who was an acquaintance of an acquaintance. He frankly told me the following, “Ms. Takenouchi, to be honest, this issue is too big to tackle. Unless everybody in Japan calls for anti-nuclear power, nuclear power plants will not be stopped. If an accident takes place and 5 million people were killed, there would be nothing we could do. I am frankly amazed to see most Japanese living normally without fear. My family? Well, all my family members are living here in Vienna with me.”

 

Now the accident did happen and I am deeply sad. What made me astounded was that the government of Japan concealed the emitted radiation after the accident. Specifically, the SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information) data was secretly passed on to the US military on the night of 14th while it was concealed from the people. Also, the real time rising radiation data was not announced to the public including Tokyo in the early morning of 15th though the US military was advising the Japanese government regarding it. So the people were not asked to stay inside and lots of people were outside including me.

 

Mr. Yukio Edano, the then-Chief Cabinet Secretary repeated only, “There will be no immediate health hazards.” He did not give any warning during 15th when the radioactive cloud was thickest in Tokyo, leaving tens of millions of people exposed to radiation. I myself and my son got exposed to radiation listening to his statements. I knew his information was too optimistic and wanted to give true warning to people in Fukushima (my late grandparents were from Fukushima) and the northern Japan area while I was in Tokyo.

 

On the 13th, I answered the interview of French reporter in the anti-nuclear NGO saying that the Japanese government was concealing the information. On the 14th, I wanted to give information to Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Japan along with a Hiroshima radiation exposed doctor regarding the danger of internal radiation so that foreign media would give warning to Japanese people since no Japanese media were doing it. (After all, this event wasn't realized since the doctor was concerned that such information would be disturbing for the rescue works conducted for Tsunami victims.)

 

It really didn’t cross my mind that the government would conceal the real time radiation data. Then we got exposed and we had some symptoms and thyroid nodules I wrote in the beginning.

 

However, I recently learned some unbelievable information. Amazingly, the then-Chief Cabinet Yukio Edano made his wife and children fly to Singapore immediately after the accident! If this is true, Mr. Edano was doing some criminal action. I sincerely want the truth to be sought.

 

I think the most important issue of this nuclear accident is the already the emerging health damages that will become really serious in the future. In order to draw attention to this problem, I organized a press conference called, “No More Hibakusha, No More Nuclear Power” at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Tokyo on November 2011.  The event went almost completely unreported, though there were 40 or 50 journalists present (http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/18530453). I believe this absence of major reporting on health damages emerging in Japan is the issue of paramount concern in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident. Below are the speakers in order of presentation. In order to know the real consequences of radiation exposed people, I hope you will watch this one hour Youtube video.

 

Lastly, the current Prime Minister Abe is not only pro-nuclear power but also pro-nuclear weapons. In 2002, in a lecture at Waseda University, he stated, “If an enemy is preparing for an attack, we should recognize it as an attack. An inter-continental ballistic missile is not unconstitutional. If it is a small sized one, it wouldn’t be a problem to possess a nuclear weapon.” The Vice Prime Minister Taro Aso is also pro-nuclear weapon and said, “Possessing a nuclear weapon should be one of our options,” when he was a Foreign Minister.

 

Prime Minister Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, was a A-class war criminal who was the Trade and Technology Minister during WWII, but through negotiations with the CIA, he became the Prime Minister after the war. As early as 1957, he already mentioned, “For self-defense purposes, Japan could be nuclear armed.” During Mr. Kishi’s regime, Japan’s first nuclear reactor was introduced from UK. The first one was a Calder Hall-type reactor, which could be easily used for manufacturing nuclear weapons.

 

Without any attack from overseas, Japan has as many as 54 nuclear power plants on such a seismically active land. There is no space for negotiation with earthquakes. How foolish! Moreover, even after the Fukushima accident, the current regime is promoting nuclear energy, furthermore eyeing on restart of Monju and Rokkasho reprocessing plants, which shows their intention to continue nuclearization. I feel strong resentment toward the foolish aspirations of Japanese politicians.

 

Particularly, owing to these small number of idiot politicians, our beautiful land is being harmed permanently and our most precious treasure, children's and future generations' DNA are being damaged at this moment. I cannot overlook this anymore. Without support from conscientious citizens and international organizations, Japanese children will be slaughtered by this foolish state.

 

Please help Japanese children. This is my sincerest hope.

 

A mother-journalist

Source: Save Kids Japan

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