News from Japan
March 17, 2011
Last week I had just begun a post announcing the founding of our farm in Japan when the earthquake struck. If we needed a reminder that you cannot take off to the hills and escape the worries of the world we have certainly had that. Although the peace and quiet of our mountain farm, the spring blossoms of wild cherry and plum trees, the beautiful birdsong of the hototogisu cuckoo make it hard to comprehend the chaos that ensues to the north east of us we constantly have one eye nervously on the weather reports fearing a change in wind direction that would bring the radiation leaking from Fukushima Daiichi towards us.
To all the friends that have been contacting us concerned about our safety please rest assured that Asako and I are okay. We are living some 500km’s south west of the areas most effected by the tsunami. In our area there was only minimal flooding from the tsunami. Like all of you we have been watching this disaster unfold in absolute horror. And it continues…
The situation is very bad in Japan. The weather has turned very cold and hundreds of thousands of people are without heat and many are without any drinking water. There are numerous reports of food shortages in the north as well. And there are people still left in remote villages and within the evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear power plant that have no emergency supplies at all. There is a shortage of medicine in both Iwate and Miyage prefectures.
The situation at Fukushima continues to worsen. The authorities are drip feeding information in order not to cause panic but it is clear that a partial meltdown has occurred and it is just a question of how many of the reactors and/or waste pools will meltdown. Public remote access to the radiation monitoring stations in Fukushima and Miyage has been blocked possibly due to damaged equipment. The governments evacuation policy is totally absurd. They are evacuating in response to events that have already occurred when they need to be evacuating for worst case scenarios. All children should be immediately evacuated at least 50km’s away from the power plant.
There is growing panic especially in Tokyo. Despite government efforts to keep people calm there have been rushes on food, gasoline and medical supplies. Friends in Tokyo are telling us that the shop shelves are beginning to look worryingly bare. And everyone is nervously watching the weather. So far the winds have been taking any radiation plumes out to sea although on occasion higher than usual radiation levels have been recorded in Tokyo (there are 34 million people in the greater Tokyo area).
The government has continuously downplayed the high radiation levels that have been detected saying they pose no immediate threat to human health. Decoded, that means immediate signs of radiation sickness will not be visible but it says nothing about the cancers and other long term radiation effects that may be experienced by people being exposed.
Yesterday in Shizouka prefecture, where we live, there was a magnitude 6 earthquake. Located in Shizouka, directly on a fault line, is Hamaoka nuclear power plant.
There are 22 nuclear power plants in the United States of almost exactly the same design as Fukushima.
The nuclear industry has already begun its PR campaign in Japan to convince the people of Japan that they have no alternative to nuclear power. Outside “experts” are talking about how Tokyo Electric Power Company has flaunted safety regulations and that Fukushima was poorly designed. That may well be true. But the majority of nuclear power plants are no different and there is no such thing as a safe nuclear power plant!
They say that Fukushima will not result in another Chernobyl because it is a completely different kind of reactor design. Chernobyl was one reactor. At Fukushima we are looking at six reactors with waste pools! Reactors 5 and 6 have hardly figured in the news because they were shut down at the time of the earthquake but both reactors have storage pools that will meltdown if not cooled and they have had no functioning cooling system since the tsunami struck.
Every time there is a nuclear disaster the industry responds that such an accident couldn’t possibly happen again due to design or management improvements already put in place. Yet the disasters, while they are never exactly the same, continue to happen.
People of the world have some unfinished business to take care of… Events in Japan sparked the beginning of the anti-nuclear movement. Can they also spark the end of the nuclear industry?
The information sources we are using:
Fukushima Upadate (English language blog of breaking news and analysis regarding nuclear disaster in Japan.)
Citizens Nuclear Information Center (English/Japanese. Tokyo based NGO. Regular video releases regarding developments at Fukushima. Analysis by non-government and non-industry affiliated scientists).
NHK World (Streaming english language Japanese public television.)
Democracy Now! (Excellent analysis by nuclear industry insiders and anti-nuclear activists.)
Al Jazeera (Streaming english language service.)