Fukushima, mon amour

“just as the illusion exists in love, the illusion you can never forget, so I was under illusion I would never forget Hiroshima (…) I saw survivors too, and those who were in the wombs of the women of Hiroshima. I saw patience, the innocence, the appart meekness, with which temporary survivors of Hiroshima adapted to a fate so unjust that the imagination, usually so fertile, is silent before it (…) women risk giving birht to deformed children, to monsters, but it goes on. Men risk becoming sterile, but it goes on … ”
Resnais, A. (Director and Producer) (1958) Hiroshima mon amour. Motion Picture. France and Japan.

Photography: Celmins, V., (1968) Bikini  (pencil on paper)

Nuclear energy represents the most attractive alternative solution, and it equals progress and proud of the state. However, the progress of nuclear sector comes with huge technological, economic, environmental, political and social costs.

Besides all the benefits and known costs, nuclear energyincludesncudes hidden expenses, for which producers won’t pay. These were, are and will be charged by taxpayers (Sovacool, 2011):

  • risk due to the possibility of reactor meltdown or accident;
  • increased chance for military conflict due to rapid extraction of uranium, increase and break-down in companies that extract uranium, etc.;
  • health risks due to chronical exposure to radiation;
  • direct use of land for plants, uranium mines, enrichment stations, storage spaces:
  • destruction of land due to uranium mining and leaching;- excessive use of water;
  • excessive use of water;
  • the constant supply of warehouses for storage of waste nuclear fuel;
  • changes in local and regional economic structure due to labor loss, relocation of wealth, reduction of gross domestic products;
  • noise and reducement of comfort, reduced value of nearby land

In short, US$ 223.7 of additional costs were created in USA that were never predicted in the traditional determination of nuclear power’s price. Many of those additional costs are “hidden” and are shifted not to consumer or producer, but to society at large (Sovacool, 2011). Not having to deal with mentioned expenses, gives nuclear industry both time and money for it’s what seems to be favourite activity: lobbying. Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University found that in the US, the nuclear industry spent more than US$ 600 million on lobbying and US$ 63 million on campaign contributions from 1999 to 2009 (Pasternak, 2010)

What is known even less than mentioned are nuclear accidents. Almost every country that owes nuclear power plant had already experienced minor or major nuclear disaster (Sovacool, 2011).

HOW POLITICAL LEADERS REACT IN CASE OF NUCLEAR DISASTER?

11th of March 2011, Fukushima. Citizens of Fukushima face triple shock: earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. Forced to leave homes and leave corpses of their beloved ones were and are still completely ignored by the Japanese government. Authorities took months of delay for decontamination of homes, gardens, and parks. Instead, they have spent their time doing public speeches, passionatly defending nuclear energy. Also, it didn’t take them long to nationalize Tokio Electric Power Company (TEPCO) therefore transfering all the costs of the accident on the shoulders of Japanese taxpayers (Haverkamp, 2012). It took three months for TEPCO to confess that there were meltdowns (Ryall, 2011). Five years later company admits that it failed to follow damage assessment guidelines and that they should have reported meltdowns almost imeediately (Yoshida, 2016).

The earthquake that happened in 2011 had destroyed a cooling system of Nuclear Power plant in Fukushima. That caused hydrogen explosions and reactor meltdowns. Three nuclear reactors and four fuel cores remained exposed, and as fission product like Uranium still continue to generate heat, cooling is much needed. Problem is, by the words of former nuclear industry senior vice president Arnold Gunderson, there are no means to cool them effectively (Jamail, 2016). TEPCO is pouring large amounts of water to cool reactor and fuel cores down, consequently creating hundred of thousands, if not millions of tons of highly radioactive water that has to be dealt with somehow (Jamail, 2016). So, on the September the 14th 2015, TEPCO, pumped more than 850 tons of groundwater from the power plant into the Pacific Ocean (retrieved from http://www.ecowatch.com/850-tons-of-treated-fukushima-water-dumped-into-the-pacific-1882095937.html). As there is, by the words of Dr. Helen Caldicott, and aouthor, and anti – nuclear advocate, no way to prevent the radioactive water from reaching the western shores of the North American continent (Jamail, 2016), public health of people of United Stated faces also the risk.

In 2011 US Environmental Protecting Agency EPA told the public that radiation from the disaster would not reach the US at levels high enough to pose a public health concern. And while all the eyes were, at that moment, set on Japan’s struggle with its major nuclear crisis, EPA quietly stopped running extra tests for radiation (Ludwig 2011).

And while samples of cow’s milk, rain, and drinking water from across the country tested positive for radiation from the Fukushima plant (for radiation fell in rain across the Northern America and was absorbed by plants and dairy cows) (Ludwig 2011), EPA still continued to insist that the radiation levels were too low to cause any public health concern. However Dr. Calcidott disagrees. She claims that there are no safe levels of radiation for biological systems. She further declares that that kind of terminology is only used by the nuclear industry to cover their inevitable radioactive releases (Jamail, 2016). What also should be mentioned is a problem of of bioaccumulation – meaning that radiation’s impact expands while it moves across the food chain.

As we continue ignoring the subject called Fukushima, from the day one that it happened, catastrophe is taking new and wider dimensions.

On February 2nd, TEPCO released a statement, revealing a discovery of a hole with the diameter of 2 meters. The hole is located within metal grating underneath the pressure vessel in the plant reactor Number 2 (retrieved from http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170202/p2g/00m/0dm/087000c).

What is even more shocking than the hole itself is the level of radiation detected in the area. In January TEPCO conducted an inspection inside the containment vessel, using a remote-controlled camera. An analysis of the images found that the radiation level inside the vessel was up to 530 sieverts per hour (retrieved from https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170203_09/).  Note that exposure to 1 sievert can already cause radiation sickness, including nausea. Exposure to single dose of 5 sieverts would cause a death of half of those that were exposed and exposure to single dose of 10 sieverts is fatal and exposed person will die within a week (retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/mar/15/radiation-exposure-levels-guide).  Official speculate that strong radiation inside the vessel is due to a mixture of nuclear fuel and melted parts of the reactor’s facility.

At first, TEPCO believed that the most of the reactor’s nuclear fuel had been contained in the pressure vessel, but company spokesman for nuclear power Yuichi Okamura has been quoted saying that “it’s highly possible that melted fuel leaked through” (retrieved from http://asia.nikkei.com/Japan-Update/Nuclear-fuel-likely-melted-through-Fukushima-reactor-vessel)

On the base of the possibility that fuel would leak outside of the reactor, TEPCO reached the conclusion to send a robot into the area to make deeper examinations.

However, the first robot that was deployed on February the 16th, was unable to conduct any meaningful measurements. The reason for that were the extreme conditions within the reactor, disregarding the fact that the robot’s ability to withstand high levels of radiation. The probe, even though it is designed to withstand up to 1,000 sieverts of radiation in total, would not sustain severe damage because it was unlikely to remain for too long at a single point, a TEPCO spokesman Shinichi Nakakuki said.  (retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2017-02-scorpion-robot-mission-fukushima-reactor.html). When a second robot was sent to investigate, it also failed (Webb, 2016).

AND WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE?

Radiation is difficult to understand and its low impact of the catastrophe of nuclear disaster dislocates it from the disaster itself. All the world was focused on Fukushima in the moment when plants have exploded. As time went by media stopped reporting about it, but disaster kept spreading and causing tragedies (Jacobs, 2016).

Meanwhile, the government is urging Japanese citizens to return their homes in the nuclear wasteland. On March 31st, government officials are planning on cutting housing support for the thousands of people that had been evacuated. Supposedly cleaning of the area of Ilitate, which is 24 miles away from nuclear power plant, is finished, therefore people can come back home. Even though the government is claiming that level of radiation is safe for human life, many disagree, saying that it is simply not wise to send thousands of people back to the area that is surrounded by highly radiated levels (Batts, 2017).

Since the August of 2011, about 45,000 workers have been involved in cleanup work at the Fukushima plant. Four years after the accident, Japan confirmed the first case of cancer caused by catastrophe. The unnamed man in his 30s worked at the plant from October 2012 to December 2013 and was exposed to high levels of radiation. (Wakatsuki, 2015). The other victim, to whom the government confirmed that his disease is a consequence of the exposure to radiation in the power plant, is a man, in his 40s. He worked at several nuclear power plant between 1992 and 2012 as a TEPCO’s employee. He was present at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant during the March 11, 2011, meltdown. Three years later he was diagnosed with thyroid gland cancer, which was confirmed to be a consequence of exposure to radiation. As of March, 174 people who worked at the plant had been exposed to over 100 millisieverts of radiation. And there is also an estimate that more than 2,000 workers have radiation doses exceeding 100 millisieverts in their thyroid gland (retrieved from https://www.rt.com/news/370650-thyroid-cancer-fukushima-plant-radiation/). It should be noted that these are merely the cases that government of Japan have recognized as work-related.

Furthermore, as part of regular government screening of around 300,000 children under 18 in the Fukushima region, rates of Thyroid Cancer among children have been detected to be higher than normal. In 2016 total 116 children were confirmed and 50 suspected of having a disease. These figures are reportedly in stark contrast to elsewhere. Disease typically occurs in as few as one or two in every million children per year, making rates of suffered in Japan as much as 20 to 50 times higher than average (Demetriou, 2016). Previously, in the year of 2012, it was stated in the Survey of Fukushima Prefecture Health Management that 35.8 % of children have lumps or cysts and that real effects of radiation exposure will only be seen after four or five years after a catastrophe (Ryall, 2012). Nevertheless, the main problem is that it is not often scientifically possible to directly connect an individual cancer case to radiation exposure (Demetriou, 2016).

In the meantime, in should be noticed that not only physiological impacts are devastating. Nuclear disaster that took place in Fukushima brings with it load of psychological and emotional struggles that should not be unmentioned. Families have been “temporarily” split, children are taught to avoid contact with nature, marriages are being dissolved while one of the parents is forced to leave a family in order to earn money, and the other stays with children away from radiological hazards. Lives of people that survived are forever embraced with uncertainty and fear whenever any kind of illness appears nearby. If one is exposed or was exposed the whole family, community and individual is disrupted (Jacobs, 2016).

It seems like catastrophic consequences of the devastating catastrophe that took place in March 2011, is yet to show its real dimensions. While we ignore it, it will reveal itself through continuous deaths and diseases of not only humans but also other creatures of this planet.

SOURCES:

850 Tons of Treated Fukushima Water Dumped Into the Pacific (2015, Sep. 15th) EcoWatch: For the Love of Earth. Retrieved from http://www.ecowatch.com/850-tons-of-treated-fukushima-water-dumped-into-the-pacific-1882095937.html

Batts, V. (2017, Feb 24) Fukushima Residents Being Forced To Move Back To Radioactive Wasteland. Twisted News. Retrieved from http://www.twisted.news/2017-02-24-fukushima-residents-being-forced-to-move-back-to-radioactive-wasteland.html

Demetriou, D. (2017, Feb 17) Fukushima disaster: Children cancer rates rise with 16 new cases. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/12160794/Fukushima-disaster-Children-cancer-rates-rise-with-16-new-cases.html

First thyroid cancer case in Japan recognized as Fukushima-related & compensated by govt (2016, Dec 18) Russia Today. Retrieved from https://www.rt.com/news/370650-thyroid-cancer-fukushima-plant-radiation/

Haverkamp, J. (2012, May) Fukushima nuclear disaster: Who profits and who pays?  Greenpeace. Retrieved from http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/fukushima-who-profits-who-pays/blog/40463/

Jacobs, R. (2016, March 1st) “On Forgetting Fukushima”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 14, Issue 5, No. 1.

Jamail, D. (2016) Radioactive Water From Fukushima Is Leaking Into the Pacific. Truthout. Retrieved from http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34565-radioactive-water-from-fukushima-is-leaking-into-the-pacific

Ludwig, M. (2011, Jun 23rd) EPA Halted Extra Testing for Radiation From Japan Weeks Ago. Truthout. Retrieved from: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/1796:epa-halted-extra-testing-for-radiation-from-japan-weeks-ago

Nuclear fuel likely melted through Fukushima reactor vessel (2017, Feb 3rd) Nikkei Asian Review. Retrieved from http://asia.nikkei.com/Japan-Update/Nuclear-fuel-likely-melted-through-Fukushima-reactor-vessel

Pasternak, J. (2010, January) Nuclear Energy Lobby Working Hard to Win Support. Investigative Reporting Workshop, retrieved from http://investigativereportingworkshop.org/investigations/nuclear-energy-lobbying-push/story/nuclear-energy-working-hard-win-support/

Radiation exposure: a quick guide to what each level means (2011, Mar. 15th) Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/mar/15/radiation-exposure-levels-guide

Radiation Level at Fukushima reactor highest since 2011 disaster; grating hole found (2017, Feb 2nd) The Mainichi Japan. Retrieved from http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170202/p2g/00m/0dm/087000c

Ryall, J. (2011, May 12th) Nuclear meltdown at Fukushima plant. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/8509502/Nuclear-meltdown-at-Fukushima-plant.html

Ryall, J. (2012, Jul 19) Nearly 36pc of Fukushima children diagnosed with thyroid growths. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/9410702/Nearly-36pc-of-Fukushima-children-diagnosed-with-thyroid-growths.html

»Scorpion« robot mission inside Fukushima reactor aborted (2017, Feb 16th) Phys Org. Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2017-02-scorpion-robot-mission-fukushima-reactor.html

Sovacool, B. K. (2011, December) The »Self – limiting« future of Nuclear Energy. Nuclear Monitor, 738, 1 – 12. Retrieved from https://www.nirs.org/wp-content/uploads/mononline/nm738.pdf

TEPCO mulls deploying robot into damaged reactor (2017, Feb. 3rd) NHK WORLD. Retrieved from https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170203_09/

Yoshida, R. (2016, Feb 24th) Tepco admits it should have declared meltdowns at Fukushima plant much earlier. The Japan Times. Retrieved from http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/02/24/national/tepco-admits-initial-assessments-fukushima-meltdowns-wrong/#.WLrAC9LhDIW

Wakatsuki (2015, Oct 21) First case of cancer linked to Fukushima cleanup work diagnosed. CNN. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/20/asia/japan-fukushima-radiation-cancer/index.html

Webb, W. (2017, Feb 24th) Concern Over Fukushima Increases As Radiation Cripples Two Robots. True Activist. Retrieved from  http://www.trueactivist.com/concern-over-fukushima-increases-as-radiation-cripples-two-robots/#.WLFMGkkdpn0.facebook

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