A World In Denial: Underestimating Japan’s Nuclear Disaster
Richard Wilcox, Guest Writer
cognitive dissonance – noun –
Mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information…. when confronted with challenging new information, most people seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists (1).
I see dead people…. Walking around like regular people. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead. – The Sixth Sense (2)
I’m only human on the inside. – The Pretenders (3)
Every day, very sad and disturbing news about the Fukushima nuclear disaster reveals itself. People in Fukushima are suffering the brunt of this nightmare. But it is also a fact of life that Tokyo drinking water is irradiated. It is not by much, but as we will see even a little bit of radiation can cause harm.
The Japanese government has measured cesium in much of the public water supply in the northeastern and Tokyo regions. From January to March 2012, 0.0071 becquerels per kilogram of cesium 134 and 137 was measured in Tokyo; April to June, 0.0049; and from July to September 0.0053 (4; 5; 6). This indicates that although the amount is small, the problem is not improving. There may be ecological and seasonal reasons, along with levels of ongoing emissions from the Fukushima nuclear power plant (FNPP), as to why the level is not steadily decreasing.
It is worth perusing the research results of ACRO, the French radiation monitoring group, which has posted comparative radiation contamination data from Fukushima and other prefectures measured from water, soil, house dust and human urine (7).
All results of analyzes on children in Tokyo and its suburbs show no contamination, except for a child in the city of Matsudo, Chiba pref.
Not so far from the FNPP, there are still children with contaminated urine, more than a year after the massive discharges into the environment. This is particularly the case in the province of Fukushima, but also in the neighbouring prefectures of Miyagi and Tochigi. These contaminations are low, but persist over time. At Kurihara, Miyagi prefecture, they are all children of farmers who eat farm products. Contamination levels of the urine are similar ranging from 1.68 to 2.5 Bq / liter for…caesium.
Of course, there may be other dangerous forms of radiation present such as strontium, plutonium and tritium that were not measured by ACRO. People in the northeastern and Tokyo regions are constantly exposed to low-doses of radiation in the water and air (8). Depending on ecological cycles and seasonal factors, radiation may ebb and flow to different degrees according to location, creating “demons in the dust,” the temporary or long-term radioactive hotspots found in gutters or low lying muddy areas.
Between the Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
Information uncertainty has left the majority of people vulnerable to the circumstances they find themselves in, unable to know where to turn to for help and safety. Although many people consume mainstream, corporate owned media “information,” my guess is that most people do not deeply believe what they are hearing. Nonetheless, to the extent that they believe anything, those beliefs may be shaped by the most powerful voices, and corporate news has the money behind it to create effective propaganda.
Take the recent example of Japan’s supposedly liberal The Asahi Shimbun (News), faithfully prostrating itself as the World Health Organization’s brothel worker. Asahi reported on a recent WHO report that severely downplays health dangers from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The Enenews.com editor asked Fairewinds’ chief engineer, Arnie Gundersen, “Do you trust the WHO?” His response:
I don’t trust this data…my guess is that WHO underestimated the radiological deposition and releases, and thus came up with exposures that are too low. Also, I suspect they have omitted hot particles and internal emitters from their dose assumptions. The same thing happened at TMI [Three Mile Island]. Bad assumptions create low exposures. GIGO (9).
Arnie uses the amusing phrase, GIGO, meaning “Garbage In Garbage Out”. If you start out with a weak hypothesis or faulty data, you will end up with the wrong results…uh, duh. The Asahi News parroted the WHO’s findings with no scrutiny of its pro-nuclear history and agenda, readily accepting their assumptions while ignoring alternative theories (See: “No Safe Dose”: 10).
On the other hand, sometimes citizen activists go overboard and base their claims not only on no scientific analysis or evidence, but also on almost no anecdotal evidence, other than their own opinion. One well meaning lady who is part of an artist’s group has made all sorts of generalizations about people “probably” getting sick from radiation in Tokyo, even though the fallout maps do not support her hypothesis (10). Stating that “the moon is made of green cheese” does not make it so.
While the lion’s share of the blame falls on the corporate owned media for not properly educating the public, we in the alternative media must also be extra vigilant, “go that extra mile” and be sure to find the truth. Of course, we do not have the budget of the Rothschilds’ Muliti-Trillion Dollar Media Empire or Fox/CNN/BBC/PBS/CIA on our side.
As Paul Zimmerman writes in his must-read book, A Primer In The Art Of Deception,
Unbeknownst to those who first made forays into the world of the atom, their quest carried within itself a poison seed. The release of atomic energy on planet Earth is a supreme violation of the natural order.
Zimmerman describes how living organisms adapted to background levels of radiation in the environment, yet the artificially higher levels of ionizing radiation released from atomic bomb tests, depleted uranium munitions and nuclear power plants is “intense enough to break chemical bonds apart” in the cells of organisms (11; pp. 19 – 20). Zimmerman makes the point that elite decision makers are either foolishly allowing nuclear technologies to be used while not knowing the dangers, or are intentionally spreading radiation in order to cull the world population. Either way their actions are heinous crimes.
Numerous studies indicate that low-dose radiation is a danger to health. One expert states that “[t]here is near-universal acceptance that epidemiological data demonstrates an excess risk of delayed cancer incidence above a dose of 0.1 sievert” (12). According to a rigorously researched and frightening new report:
Even the very lowest levels of radiation are harmful to life, scientists have concluded in the Cambridge Philosophical Society’s journal Biological Reviews. Reporting the results of a wide-ranging analysis of 46 peer-reviewed studies published over the past 40 years, researchers from the University of South Carolina and the University of Paris-Sud found that variation in low-level, natural background radiation had small, but highly statistically significant, negative effects on DNA as well as several measures of health (13).
In addition, Washington’s Blog offers a comprehensive survey of reports about low-dose radiation dangers, ranging from nuclear power plant emissions to so-called depleted-uranium munitions used by the US in Middle Eastern wars (14).
We are now seeing these realities take hold with increasing numbers of reports of people with health ailments occurring especially in the Fukushima region.
Circling The Drain: 300 Billion Becquerels Per Month
Ongoing emissions of radioactivity from the FNPP disaster site does not bode well for ecology or human health. NHK, the Japanese government news station, broadcast that “[g]roundwater is flowing into the reactor buildings and becoming tainted with radioactive materials.” Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) is “trying to collect the water and store [it] in the tanks for decontamination…they don’t deny this polluted water is seeping into the Pacific Ocean” (15). Tokyo University oceanographer, Jota Kanda, has calculated that the FNPP “itself is leaking around 0.3 terabecquerels per month” (16). Additionally, US scientist Ken Buesseler has stated that “[t]here has to be a source. And they’re cooling those reactors quite extensively, some of that water’s getting back into the ocean, either actively being pumped out after some decontamination or through leaks in the buildings, they’re not able to contain all of the water that they use to cool [the reactors]” (17).
This is an incredible revelation, between the admissions of two respected oceanographers from both Japan and the US, there is no doubt that radioactive water is leaking into the ocean– possibly even being intentionally “pumped out” despite Tepco’s contradictory explanations. Since there is no independent investigation allowed, we have a case of the criminals in charge of a murder investigation, and third parties are kept at bay while the truth leaks out in dribs and drabs. This is not just a legal or academic concern, one nuclear engineer close to the situation worries this leakage could further contaminate the public water supply (18).
The consequences of radiation released during the initial disaster at the time of 311, along with ongoing emissions from the FNPP has resulted in a clear pattern of environmental pollution. Fukushima prefecture has not been the only place to face dire consequences. One scientific report found that as far away as 70 kilometers to the south on Japan’s coastline, “[m]ost of radiocesium in the coastal sediments is incorporated into lithogenic fractions, and this incorporation is almost irreversible” (19).
Also, in Ibaraki prefecture directly to the south of Fukushima, although the water in Lake Kasumigaura itself was not found to be radioactive with cesium– the lake which supplies drinking water to nearly a million people in Ibaraki and is just 60 km northeast of Tokyo– does contain contaminated mud.
[M]ud samples from the lake and the rivers…were found to contain up to 5,200 becquerels/kg of cesium-134 and cesium-137, compared with a maximum of 500 Bq/kg detected a year ago, a maximum of 5,800 Bq/kg in February this year and a maximum of 4,800 Bq/kg in July. The sludge sampled from the bottom of the lake registered cesium contamination ranging from 97 Bq/kg to 520 Bq/kg. That is lower than the maximum 1,300 Bq/kg registered in February, but higher than the 340 Bq/kg detected in the first round of monitoring a year ago (20).
This amount of radiation is relatively low compared to Fukushima, where, for example, “515,000 Bq/Kg of cesium was measured from the soil of an irrigation channel in Fukushima city…. 2km South East of [the] Fukushima prefectural government office” (21).
Are radioactive hot particles that are regularly being emitted from the FNPP being carried by the wind 1100 km away? It would appear so. Radioactive tea leaves are being discovered in the farthest reaches of southwestern Japan, with readings of 80 Bq/kg of cesium 134/137 found on leaves in Kagoshima; with 40 Bq/kg in Shizuoka; and 120 Bq/kg in Saitama, which borders Tokyo (22).
Shakin’ All Over
In addition to persistent radiation problems, Japan is in danger of additional large earthquakes. The good news is that all but two reactors are now shut down which means if another major quake struck, theoretically it would be a much safer situation than prior to 311. As a recent seismological report warns:
Japan should be prepared for the possibility of a magnitude-10 earthquake, although the chances of a temblor that size are slim…. If a temblor of such a scale should strike, the underground rupture would continue for 20 minutes to an hour, meaning tsunami could hit coasts before the shaking subsides…. If a 3,000-kilometer stretch from the Japan Trench to the Kuril-Kamchatka Trench along the Pacific Ring of Fire has a slip of 60 meters, that would constitute a magnitude-10 earthquake (23).
Researchers emphasize that it is better to be safe than sorry. The Magnitude 9 quake on 311 was expected to be M8, not M9, so nothing should surprise us. Time is precious and the longer it takes Tepco (Tipkill) to clean up the “Nukushima” disaster site, the greater are the chances of a large quake disrupting their clean-up operations. It is expected to take several more years to remove the massive amounts of radioactive fuel from damaged fuel pools and another four decades to decommission the site!
The nuclear industry and a compliant public have created a fire-breathing monster that cannot be forced back into its cave. Only one year after the accident, it was estimated that 30,000 workers had been exposed to “significant” radiation at the FNPP (24). Tepco is so desperate for workers they now have plans to require their 100,000 employees to work two to three times a year at the FNPP (25). This policy is being proposed just as it is learned that deteriorating conditions at the site are causing present workers to quit (26).
Postmodern Postmortem Denial Syndrome
The college aged students I teach in Japan are in denial and do not want to talk about Fukushima. Some have even give pro-nuclear presentations in class! Indeed, many are keenly aware of the nuclear dangers and are critical of nuclear power, but others have fatalistic attitudes. Some students told me their parents who live in Fukushima or near there are worried and angry about the situation, but if you ask the average person in Tokyo about the issue, they would probably just shrug their shoulders. People do not like having bad news pointed out to them or having their noses rubbed in radioactive debris. If they feel, or the mass media helps them to believe, that they are far enough away from the problem, they can convince themselves that it is not worth worrying about.
Escapism and distraction is the name of the game. Japanese TV variety shows can only be described as narcissistic, self-absorbed, childish, silly and often substance-less nonsense. This is great for creating a dumbed-down and subservient society but not good for long term sustainability. A thriving democracy depends upon a well informed public. The situation is similar in many countries.
What is the psychological dimension for understanding how a society can become so complacent while life-threatening dangers stare us in the face? Like a beautiful but beguiling snake that has been trampled upon, the venom released from the bite of its fangs can be deadly to the victim.
An apt illustration of our cognitive dissonance comes from journalist David McNeil, who endured the 311 nuclear crisis in Tokyo and notes with irony, “[t]hroughout the worst week of the crisis, a diligent clerk at my local video store phoned daily to remind me that I had failed to return a DVD” (27). Even though the country had been nearly brought to its knees, it was business as usual. Political analyst, Dean Hendersen, notes an historical aspect of this behavior:
By indoctrinating people as to the omnipotence of the Emperor and of the need to make sacrifices in his name, the Japanese become in many ways the most exploited people on the planet- working long hours, never questioning their supervisors, singing company songs and drinking only with company cohorts after hours. Any resistance to this fascism is instantly branded anti-Japanese behavior. The perpetrator is considered mentally disturbed. Rather than challenge this state terror regime, most Japanese have learned to suppress their feelings… (28).
The cultural underpinnings that led to the nuclear disaster are explained by Professor Shaun O’Dwyer, who studies modern Confucianism.
There are two important habitual attitudes in postwar Japanese and East Asian governance that are arguably Confucian. There is paternalism on the part of governments, legitimized by the efficiency of a highly educated, meritocratic bureaucracy; and (until recently) reciprocating loyalty from citizens, grounded in a faith in the moral and intellectual ability of their leaders to work for their good.
Japan’s nuclear power policy since the 1960s must represent the high point of this residual Confucian politics. Bureaucrats, government, the captains of industry and scientists joined hands in a “nuclear village” to develop an energy policy that would loosen Japan’s dependence upon a volatile fossil fuels market, and deliver high quality power to growing export industries.
Under the government’s paternalistic guidance, the Japanese public and mass media were rallied to believe in a vision of prosperity partly driven by nuclear power, and to trust in the prudence of bureaucrats and the expertise of scientists to manage this energy source safely (29).
From a wider perspective, a cosmologist notes that the international scientific community has failed us and become the promoter of “Dysfunctional Science.”
Science is at a tipping point because, having fragmented into specialties and sub-specialties, it is no longer equipped to deal with falsifying data. The barricades of technical jargon and self-serving politics prevent the specialists from seeing what would be all too obvious from a higher vantage point. Such a system is averse to outside challenges by ‘those who transcend the conventional,’ and leading authorities feel free to ignore them…. Few universities have shown the courage to insist on a broad and balanced picture of present knowledge or an even-handed comparison of theoretical assumptions and available alternatives. To apply such basic standards today would risk discrediting entire departments (30).
Nuclear energy, which provides only 2.5 percent of global primary energy needs, is the most dangerous experiment humanity has ever undertaken. The time to end the insanity is now (31). Between reducing consumption, rearranging society in a less consumer intensive form, and implementing an array of alternative energy schemes, our problems could be solved.
What You Can Do To Protect Your Health From Radiation
There are a number of measures people can take to minimize radiation dangers. These include using: sulfur; magnesium; fiber in diet; French clay; detoxifying herbs (there is a long list); iodine; and medicinal seaweeds (32; 33).
Internet searches at a variety of health oriented websites reveal that eating a healthy diet with fibrous fruits and vegetables is about the best way to expel radiation from the body.
It goes without saying that whatever you are consuming should be radiation-free. There are also many herbs and spices that can help. Internet searches based on scrupulous and careful consideration, cross checking data and results and references, can give an understanding of how you can protect against radiation and other harmful toxins that build up in the body. I eat a diet high in delicious fruits and vegetables, and also drink a variety of herbal teas. Take a magnesium salt bath and relax after a stressful day.
About the Author
Richard Wilcox has a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from a social science, holistic perspective. He teaches at a number of universities in the Tokyo, Japan area. His articles on environmental topics including the Fukushima nuclear disaster are archived at http://richardwilcox99.blogspot.jp/ and are regularly published at Activist Post, The Intel Hub and Rense.com. His interviews with Jeff Rense are available at the website www.rense.com.
1. cognitive dissonance
3. The Pretenders, Human
4. Readings of radioactivity level in drinking water by prefecture, Tokyo, January-March, 2012
5. Readings of radioactivity level in drinking water by prefecture, Tokyo, April-June, 2012
6. Readings of radioactivity level in drinking water by prefecture, Tokyo, July-September, 2012
7. Results of ACRO’s monitoring in Japan (12th of July 2012 update)
8. Monitoring information of environmental radioactivity level
9. Gundersen on WHO: I don’t trust their data
10. WHO forecasts no significant increase in cancer patients in Fukushima
11.No Safe Dose – Japan’s Low-Dose Radiation Disaster
12. “All who met with Fukushima’s radioactive fallout are probably to have some problem with the thyroid”
13. Paul Zimmerman, A Primer in the Art of Deception: The Cult of Nuclearists, Uranium Weapons and Fraudulent Science (778 pgs., 2009).
14. The scientific jigsaw puzzle: Fitting the pieces of the low-level radiation debate
15. Even low-level radioactivity is damaging
Broad analysis of many radiation studies finds no exposure threshold that precludes harm to life
16. Meta-Review of 46 Studies: Even the Lowest-Level Radiation Is Damaging to Human Health
17. Tepco doesn’t deny radioactive materials are seeping into Pacific
18. Ocean still suffering from Fukushima fallout
19. Top scientist suggests contaminated water is “actively being pumped out” into ocean from Fukushima plant
20. Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Plant’s Contaminated Water Storage Running Out Of Spacehttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/25/fukushima-nuclear-disaster_n_2016407.html?utm_hp_ref=tw
21. Contamination from Fukushima “is almost irreversible” in coastal sediments
22. The muddy issue of cesium in a lake
23. 515,000 Bq/Kg of cesium in Fukushima city
24. 80 Bq/Kg of cesium from tea leaves produced in Kagoshima
25. Researcher: Japan should prepare for worst-case magnitude-10 earthquake
26. Fukushima One Year On: Nuclear workers and citizens at risk
27. Tepco will oblige all the employees to go to Fukushima, 100,000ppl/y in total
28. NHK Documentary: Recently deteriorating working conditions at Fukushima plant causing workers to quit
29. A Tokyo resident on facing his fear and living with earthquakes
30. Inside the Japanese Matrix
31. Nuclear crisis lowers curtain on Japan’s Confucian politics
32. Science’s Looming ‘Tipping Point’
33. Martin Cohen and Andrew McKillop, The Doomsday Machine: The High Price of Nuclear Energy, The World’s Most Dangerous Fuel, pg. 28, (Palgrave, 2012, 242 pgs.)
34. Fukushima’s Radiation Release Here’s One Important Way to Protect Yourself
35. Medicinal Uses of Seaweeds
This article originally appeared at Activist Post.
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