Sep 20 2011

After Fukushima, Japanese Activists Determined to Shut Down Nuclear Industry

Up to 60,000 Japanese protesters rallied on Monday in Tokyo to demand an end to the nuclear power industry in Japan. Recalling the events of the massive radiation fallout caused by the meltdown of the Fukushima Da-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant, protesters demanded that all 54 of Japan’s nuclear reactors be shut down. Despite the protests, the Japanese Government continues to advocate for nuclear energy in its meetings with the International Atomic Energy Commission, even while Germany, Switzerland and other European nations have decided to completely abandon their nuclear energy programs since the disaster. Over six months have passed since the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that caused the collapse of the Fukushima plant’s cooling systems, yet radiation continues to spread. Cleanup workers at the power plant have recently discovered a radiation hot spot that is more lethal than anything previously recorded. Despite these alarming findings, the Japanese government is allowing 20,000 people living within a 12 mile radius, and evacuated, to return to the site for temporary visits. The Japanese government also faces criticism for raising the safety limits for acceptable radiation levels in children from 1 millisieverts per year to 20 millisieverts per year. Meanwhile, new reports are revealing that the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company, severely underestimated the amount of radiation leaking from the plant at the onset of the disaster. Radiation from Fukushima continues to show up as far away as the Western Coast of the United States.

GUEST: Kaori Azumi, Director of Shut Tomari, an organziation working to close the first reactor to re-start since the Fukushima meltdowns, and Co-Director of Save Fukushima Children Hokaido

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Rough Transcript:

Kolhatkar: Can you tell us what the activists like yourself are demanding? You want an end to all nuclear power plants?

Izumi:Yes, but especially our group which is ‘Shut Tomari’ we are based in Hokkaido. We have one nuclear power plant in Tomari. So we are first demanding the government to shut down all the three reactors in Tomari. We are together with all the other non-nuclear organizations in Japan to shut down all of them in Japan.

Kolhatkar: And so are there any specific outcomes that you’re seeing from the disaster in terms of radiation levels in people’s bodies? Are you able to pinpoint the ill effects of the nuclear disaster in the health of ordinary people even though its only been six months? This particular disaster was of such great magnitude that are you seeing even six months after it happened ill effects among the public?

Izumi: Yes. You know we first thought that it is a Fukushima disaster, but we are all affected. We live 630 kilometers away from Fukushima but now we don’t know what to buy when we go to the supermarket. Especially the biggest problem is the people living in Fukushima state because the Japanese Government refused to evacuate them. They are trying to keep them as many as possible there because they fear the economy will be destroyed and the community will disappear. So the people in Fukushima they are exposed to high level of radiation, especially children who are extremely vulnerable to radiation. They eat at school. They have to 20 millisieverts but the data they pretended as if they used to 1 millisievert but the reality is not. And its only inside the school yard and they pass from their home to school. The rest there isn’t in controlled. But they gave so much money. . . to the contaminate the soil that children are still there.

Kolhatkar: The actual source of the radiation . . . Is it still leaking radiation? Because when we’ve seen past disasters like Chernobyl etc. immediately people have been evacuated there has been a finite time of leaking and there’s been cleanup. Is Fukushima different?

Izumi: It is different because in Chernobyl it was a big explosion and then it stopped. In Fukushima its ongoing and because its so highly contaminated the workers can not go in to actually find out the actual cause what the real situation is. The worst can happen still. It’s not ending it’s still ongoing. The disaster is still ongoing. And the water that we keep hearing from the Tokyo Electric and the government that its under control the contaminated water etc etc but the problem is now we don’t trust them.

Kolhatkar: And so does it feel as though ordinary citizens like yourself are the only line of defense between the effects of the disaster and Japanese children who are among the most vulnerable?

Izumi: Yes, and also of course which is very little talked about is the workers. About 430,000 workers have so far been mobilized after the disaster. If I remember correctly the official number of deaths is 36. But, unofficially, we don’t know how many. And the Electric Company tend to hide all these accidents. They are well known for that. And then the latest I know from the end of August is that 186 workers are missing meaning that they can not trace them. They don’t know where they are gone. They don’t know how much radiation they have been exposed to. Because they try to locate them and measure how much radiation they got but there are 186 they cannot find. And this is not an accident this is deliberate. That’s what they do Electric Company they don’t get correct ID.

Kolhatkar: So they deliberately don’t keep track of the cleanup workers?

Izumi: They don’t take the responsibility for the impact.

Kolhatkar: Now, what about the influence of the nuclear industry on the Japanese Government? Is that playing a major role in the Japanese Government’s reticence to close down these reactors?

Izumi: I say that they are one family. They work very much together. They have very close relationship. There is a problem of revolving door. The Japanese Government bureaucrats especially from the Ministry of Economic Industry which is in charge of nuclear departments they get to be employed in Tokyo Electric or any other . . . I think in the past 6 or 8 such cases which we know and then also the government. Like our governor for example she gets so much fund from all the board members of Hokkaido Electric and even the president of the, the governors fundraising managing organization is the former president of Hokkaido Electric. And that’s kind of business as usual. So the media, the academia, business circle, the electric company, the government judiciary everybody is together.

Kolhatkar: Well, you mention the media and academics, lets focus on that a little bit. Is the Japanese media not covering the extent of the damage or being critical enough?

Izumi: No. Not at all. Just to give an example, you mention in the beginning that 19th of September 60,000 people got together demanding an end to the nuclear plants in Japan and it wasn’t covered by our national broadcasting company. They played down. They always try to report that the damage was minimum. The disaster is under control.

Kolhatkar: And what about academia? Are there sort of pro-nuclear intellectuals, which is the kind we see everywhere, even here in the US and in Europe who defend nuclear energy based on calculations and arguments as the only clean source of energy even though that just seems so ironic.

Izumi: They receive so much different funds from Electric Company, those who are critical to nuclear power they never get promotion. They remain as assistant. Like Mr. Koride from [unintelligible] University whose radically critical of nuclear. He is 62 years old now. He has published, he is well known in academia on this issue and he’s an assistant researcher at the age of 62.

Kolhatkar: So finally Kaori, what is the goal of your delegation that’s visiting here in the United States? Why are you here in the US?

Izumi: One is the plight of the children in Fukushima. Our government totally abandoned the children in Fukushima. Now we want the world to stand up to help them out from the situation even to provide asylum for them if necessary. And the second reason, we want to show that the immense suffering of the people in Fukushima can make meaning only if we all learn from the disaster that we have to end nuclear power now. Fukushima is not Japanese problem, Fukushima is world problem. It has come to USA to Europe, everywhere. Radiation is spread everywhere. We cannot afford another Fukushima in the world. So if we don’t learn now just as we failed to learn from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl another Fukushima will definitely happen. At any time anywhere.

Kolhatkar: Well finally Kaori is there a website you’d like to recommend where people can get more information?

Izumi: Beyond Nuclear. That’s what I recommend most.

Special thanks to Bipasha Shom for transcribing this interview.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “After Fukushima, Japanese Activists Determined to Shut Down Nuclear Industry”

  1. darkstaron 20 Sep 2011 at 8:30 pm

    We should do the same here in the US.

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