By Dr. Rianne Teule
“Forgetting Fukushima makes it more likely that such a nuclear disaster could happen elsewhere,” said Tatsuko Okawara, one of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Fukushima accident that began on March 11, 2011.
Though Okawara is right, the world still seems to forget.
The nuclear industry is trying its hardest to make us forget by downplaying the impacts of the accident, ignoring the fact that the Fukushima reactors are still not under control and claiming that lessons have been learned. Nothing is further from the truth.
So business continues as usual and in many countries the same mistakes are being made that played a role in Fukushima. These are systemic failures linked to the nuclear sector, such as a lack of independent regulators, no accountability, putting profits before the protection of people, insufficient emergency planning and the continued belief in a nuclear safety paradigm that has been proven wrong.
A truly independent nuclear regulator is a rarity as most are closely connected to the sector that they should control. And at the same time, decisions are made on the basis of politics and economics, rather than people and their safety.
The nuclear industry still benefits from a liability system that shields them from carrying responsibility for the risks and damages they create. Big companies harvest large profits, while the moment things go wrong, it is the society and people who need to deal with the losses and damages.
Those who are paying for Fukushima are the many thousands of citizens who lost their livelihoods; whose communities and families have been broken up; whose children cannot play outside because radiation levels are too high. The people who are paying are the Japanese people whose tax money is being used to deal with the crippled Fukushima reactors and clean up of the contaminated areas.
We were led to believe that the probability of a severe nuclear accident like Chernobyl was virtually insignificant. But looking at the real world, the evidence shows the frequency of reactor meltdowns is approximately once in every decade. Still, the nuclear sector uses the same probability assessments and procedures that were proven entirely wrong. Regulators continue to hesitate to properly act to reduce reactor risks, because stricter regulations would make the nuclear industry unprofitable.
The world is still running more than 400 inherently dangerous nuclear reactors and continues to build dozens more. Millions of people are at risk because, as Fukushima has shown, the radioactive contamination does not stop at a distance of 10 or 20 kilometres, which is the border of the officially designated evacuation zones. And still, nobody is prepared to handle a large-scale nuclear accident when people may need to be evacuated even hundred kilometres away from the nuclear power plant.
Nuclear energy is not a necessary evil, because affordable, safer and cleaner energy solutions exist. They are only a matter of political choice.
That’s why we must not forget Fukushima. We must listen to those who suffer from the accident. We must remember, learn and act to build a better world.
Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.
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So many have come forward that the progress of their federal class action lawsuit has been delayed.
Bay area lawyer Charles Bonner says a re-filing will wait until early February to accommodate a constant influx of sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and other American ships.
Within a day of Fukushima One’s March 11, 2011, melt-down, American "first responders" were drenched in radioactive fallout. In the midst of a driving snow storm, sailors reported a cloud of warm air with a metallic taste that poured over the Reagan.
Then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, at the time a nuclear supporter, says “the first meltdown occurred five hours after the earthquake.” The lawsuit charges that Tokyo Electric Power knew large quantities of radiation were pouring into the air and water, but said nothing to the Navy or the public.
Had the Navy known, says Bonner, it could have moved its ships out of harm’s way. But some sailors actually jumped into the ocean just offshore to pull victims to safety. Others worked 18-hour shifts in the open air through a four-day mission, re-fueling and repairing helicopters, loading them with vital supplies and much more. All were drinking and bathing in desalinated water that had been severely contaminated by radioactive fallout and runoff.
Then Reagan crew members were enveloped in a warm cloud. "Hey," joked sailor Lindsay Cooper at the time. "It's radioactive snow."
The metallic taste that came with it parallels the ones reported by the airmen who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and by Pennsylvania residents downwind from the 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island.
When it did leave the Fukushima area, the Reagan was so radioactive it was refused port entry in Japan, South Korea and Guam. It’s currently docked in San Diego.
The Navy is not systematically monitoring the crew members’ health problems. But Cooper now reports a damaged thyroid, disrupted menstrual cycle, wildly fluctuating body weight and more. "It's ruined me," she says.
Similar complaints have surfaced among so many sailors from the Reagan and other U.S. ships that Bonner says he’s being contacted by new litigants “on a daily basis,” with the number exceeding 70.
Many are in their twenties, complaining of a terrible host of radiation-related diseases. They are legally barred from suing the U.S. military. Tepco denies that any of their health problems could be related to radiation from Fukushima. The company also says the U.S. has no jurisdiction in the case.
The suit was initially dismissed on jurisdictional grounds by federal Judge Janis S. Sammartino in San Diego. Sammartino was due to hear the re-filing Jan. 6, but allowed the litigants another month to accommodate additional sailors.
Bonner says Tepco should be subject to U.S. law because “they are doing business in America ... Their second largest office outside of Tokyo is in Washington DC."
Like the lawsuit, the petitions ask that Tepco admit responsibility, and establish a fund for the first responders to be administered by the U.S. courts.
In 2013 more than 150,000 citizens petitioned the United Nations to take control of the Fukushima site to guarantee the use of the best possible financial, scientific and engineering resources in the attempted clean-up.
The melted cores from Units One, Two and Three are still unaccounted for. Progress in bringing down Unit Four’s suspended fuel assemblies is murky at best. More than 11,000 “hot” rods are still scattered around a site where radiation levels remain high and some 300 tons of radioactive water still flow daily into the Pacific.
But with U.S. support, Japan has imposed a state secrets act severely restricting reliable news reporting from the Fukushima site.
So now we all live in the same kind of dark that enveloped the USS Reagan while its crew was immersed in their mission of mercy.
Visit EcoWatch’s FUKUSHIMA page for more related news on this topic.
Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org, where petitions calling for the repeal of Japan’s State Secrets Act and a global takeover at Fukushima are linked. He is author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth.
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