Monday, March 12, 2012

Fukushima Disaster - One Year Later From "Fukushima Nuclear Disaster - One Year After" nuke expert Arnold Gundersen & 2 Japanese activists from Fukushima. Music bed credit: drums by Vastmandana

On the anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster in Fukushima Japan, I am taking you with me to a heart-breaking conference organized by physicians, to assess the on-going damage.

You will hear the latest from nuclear engineer Arnold Gundersen, just back from Japan. He'll tell us about continuing dangers, spreading waste throughout the country, and radiation in North America, from trees to seafood.

More important still, two Japanese activists tell us how citizens in Fukushima Prefecture are coping. How, in the face of organized denial by governments and universities, they are acting to protect their children.

This story goes well beyond the melt-down of three reactors still out of control in Japan. Listen closely, and you hear how governments fail their citizens in emergencies. How they lied after the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear accidents. And why you must be prepared to organize your local community when any kind of disaster strikes.

Whether it's a hurricane like Katrina, big floods or tornados, governments cannot, and will not, save us.

This conference was in Vancouver, March 11th 2012. "The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster One Year Later" was organized by Physicians for Global Survival, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Simon Fraser University, and other medical organizations in British Columbia. It was recorded by Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock.

Let's start with the clearest most honest voice, right from the start of the Fukushima disaster, Arnie Gundersen of

[Gundersen - main speech 31 min]

Gundersen's talk is filled with important information about the situation in Japan - with implications for American reactors.

We could talk about the weakness of the Mark I GE reactors. Their bad design makes them prone to melt-downs. Everyone knows it, including the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission, the NRC. Fukushima, with its three operating Mark I type reactors, proved. So why are there more than a dozen similar reactors still running in the United States?

Gundersen explains why this design fails in such dangerous ways.

Then we have the extreme health danger to the people of Japan, especially women and children. Gundersen departs from the official Japanese position that no one has died, and there is a very low health risk. In fact, our speaker predicts a million cancers from Fukushima radiation in Japan in the next 20 years.

Is he an ill-informed fringe speaker? Hardly. Arnie Gundersen worked in the industry, helped write the official government handbook on decommissioning reactors. He's been an official witness in all sorts of inquiries and law cases.

Gundersen explodes the myth that the American Three Mile Island reactor melt-down (and it was a melt-down, though seldom reported as such) - killed anyone. In fact, peer-reviewed studies and reports show a higher cancer death among those people exposed to TMI radiation.

Arnie works from peer-reviewed papers on Chernobyl deaths, and Three Mile Island, comparing that to the radiation dose experienced by the population of Japan. The results look terrible. We'll find out in the coming years.

While in Japan in the last few weeks, Gundersen took a soil sample from five random locations in Tokyo. He brought them back to the States for testing. All five would be classified as "nuclear waste" in America. The residents of Tokyo are walking around on nuclear waste.

The Fukushima one year anniversary conference, organized by Physicians for Global Survival, was attended by doctors, experts, and concerned Japanese people. The questions were penetrating. I play you the complete Question and Answer exchange with Arnie Gundersen.

He explains the forests of Japan were so contaminated with radiation, that when cedar buds open again this spring that will initiate another wave of radioactive Cesium into the environment.

Gundersen calculates that due to the favorable winds during the major releases at Fukushima, about 20 percent of the radioactive plume fell on the Japanese mainland. Another 78 percent dropped into the Pacific Ocean - and two percent of that radiation reached North America, particularly hitting the Cascades region of the West Coast.

A few cedar buds sent to Gundersen from California, right after the winds reached North America, proved positive for the two types of Cesium that could only have come from a fresh nuclear accident (and not from earlier atomic bomb testing.) But Arnie doesn't think there will be any significant re-release of Cesium in North America when cedar buds open there.

However, some seaweed and other sea products were lightly radiated by the accident on the Pacific Coast. But the real concern in North America would be the large migratory fish circulating in the Pacific, like tuna, and especially salmon. The current sea food is safe, because those fish, and those polluted currents, have not reached North America yet. The 2013 fish catch might be suspect.

The authorities in North America have resisted testing Pacific fish for safety, and in some case promised not to test it. Gundersen wonders whether we will find out if a fishing boat sets off alarms set in ports to detect nuclear threats from terrorists. Perhaps public pressure will force the governments to test Pacific fish products in a thorough manner?

In the Q and A, I asked Gundersen about the Japanese government policy to distribute debris contaminated with radioactivity to various parts of the country for disposal, including incineration. Gundersen says this is the very wrong way to go. For one thing, it will make future studies of cancer more difficult, since all of Japan will be irradiated, instead of just the area around Fukushima and the East coast of Japan.

The more serious threat is to spread the danger to the whole country, physically, and by releasing more radioactive particles into the air (they don't burn). Gundersen suggests Japan should ship all contaminate debris to the exclusion zone around Fukushima, and admit the truth, those residents will never be allowed to go back home. At least this would prevent the further spread of radioactive materials.

This entire presentation by Gundersen, both the speech and Q and A, are too loaded with information to summarize it all here. You just have to listen.

As a follow-up, discover a series of helpful videos on Fukushima at the Gundersen's web site,

This is the Radio Ecoshock special on the one year anniversary of the terrible triple melt down of reactors in Fukushima Japan. I've covered this story since the day it happened. Find our half dozen one hour specials on Fukushima at our web site,

Now it's time to hear citizen activists from Fukushima Prefecture. We start with a shocking apology to the world, from Aya Marumori. She is Executive Director of health, at the Japanese non-profit group CRMS. Aya volunteers in shelters in Fukushima, meets with doctors, and helps parents create "Life Notes" to monitor radiation impacts in their kids.

She begins with this admission, not unusual among people in Japan, who know the horror of nuclear radiation, and deeply regret being part of its release into the Pacific, North America, and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere:

"I have known the danger of nuclear power plants, but I have not acted enough to stop it. I like to apologize that this has happened, and radiation has been defusing to the world - till now."

She goes on to tell us about public opinion polls in Japan. In a country and culture of consensus, more than half the people no longer trust the government. That is a stunning change in Japan. Most people in the Fukushima area feel great stress, daily. More than half of women with children would move away if they could, polls show.

Aya Marumori, from the Japanese NGO called CRMS, if very informative about the real situation in the region hit by Fukushima radiation.

Next we hear about citizen efforts to do their own radiation monitoring, helped by donations of equipment from France and Belarus. Wataru Iwata represents the Citizens' Radioactive Measuring Stations, CRMS. He gets help from the French group CRIIRAD, to measure radiation in the air, in food, and in peoples' bodies.

We are told that CRMS had to appeal to specialists outside the Fukushima region - because the government and Fukushima University have a prepared line for all local doctors - which minimizes the risk, and downplays peoples' anxiety.

For the same reason, this local NGO is organizing an international conference for early June, to bring in other opinions from other countries. Local people feel the need to defend their own interests and lives, especially to protect their families.

It is heart-breaking, to find the government refuses to do adequate testing, to protect young lives, to admit the awful truth of radiation.

This recording by Alex Smith comes from the conference “The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster One Year Later" held in Vancouver, Canada on March 11th, 2012.

The conference was Physicians for Global Survival, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, and other medical organizations. Find a complete listing of speakers here.

I think this Fukushima story is much more than the death knell for nuclear power on planet Earth. We can't handle a technology that can destroy an entire country, while polluting a whole hemisphere, for thousands of years.

It's also a case of how big governments gather up to protect the status quo, to minimize serious problems. They fail to protect their own citizens. Only you and I, organizing at the local level, can ensure survival when disaster strikes. Don't wait. Organize and act now.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and caring about your world.

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