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Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), operator of the crisis-ridden Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, said it found a new leak near the tanks holding contaminated water at the disaster site.
The utility, which serves 29 million customers in the Tokyo metropolitan area, is collecting soil where the leak occurred and doesn’t believe any water reached the ocean, company executives said at a briefing in Tokyo. About 100 metric tons (26,400 gallons) of water may have escaped a concrete barrier, the company said.
“Such a water leak was found despite a variety of measures taken by the company,” Masayuki Ono, an official at the utility’s nuclear power and plant division, said. “We are sorry to have caused concern,” he said.
The finding is a reminder of the task still facing Tokyo Electric as the utility, known as Tepco, battles to manage the plant almost three years since the earthquake and tsunami.
Beta radiation readings of 230 million becquerels per liter were taken in a sample collected from a gutter on top of the leaked tank at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, according to a statement from the Tokyo-based utility. Japan’s safety limit for radioactive materials in drinking water is 10 becquerels per liter, according to the health ministry.
Radioactive water overflowed from the 10-meter long tank after two valves — which were supposed to be closed — had been opened, Ono said today. The leak was found 700 meters (0.4 miles) from the ocean in an area isolated from any drainage ditch, he said.
Setback to Decommissioning
Japan’s nuclear regulator, which is planning to check the utility’s probe of the leak and planned preventative measures, said today that it has asked Tepco to ensure no more leaks from the same type of water storage tanks occur.
The leak highlights difficulties for the regulator as it seeks to force Tepco to limit radiation at the site without slowing down its decommissioning.
“We need a balance of the best regulation and also the quickest decommissioning at Fukushima Dai-Ichi because we really want to have the reduction of the risk at the site,” Nuclear Regulation Authority commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa said today in Tokyo.
Tepco has installed about a thousand tanks at Fukushima to store hundreds of thousands of tons of water used to cool fuel after the nuclear accident in March 2011.
Some 300 tons of contaminated groundwater seep into the ocean each day at the Dai-Ichi station 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo, Japan’s government has said.
Between May 2011 and August 2013, as many as 20 trillion becquerels of cesium-137, 10 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and 40 trillion becquerels of tritium entered the ocean via groundwater, according to past statements from Tepco.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at email@example.com
by Brian Covert
When International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials praised the authorities in Japan in October 2011 for their “efficient” handling of the Fukushima nuclear accident seven months after it occurred, perhaps the organization was speaking a little too soon or thinking too wishfully.
Or perhaps it had something to do with the head of the IAEA at the time, Yukiya Amano, being a career bureaucrat from Japan who was just doing what he was hired to do. Or perhaps the IAEA itself was just doing the job it was created to do back in 1957 by the United Nations of supporting and promoting the “peaceful use” of nuclear energy worldwide.
Or maybe it was just a simple matter of laying the first foundation of The Official Story: that the Fukushima nuclear disaster was basically, as Japanese authorities have insisted, sotei-gai — beyond expectations — that it was totally unforeseen and could not possibly have been predicted, but not to worry: Everything would soon be under control and back to business as usual.
Despite the best efforts of a “poodle press” in Japan, snuggled comfortably in the elite laps of power, to repeat such reassuring words to an anxious public, some of the truth did manage to come out about what is arguably the worst nuclear accident in human history.
Looking back decades from now, however, 2013 may well be remembered as the year when the iron lid finally came down over the truth and The Official Story concerning Fukushima was set firmly in place.
It was this year that the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the Fukushima plant, admitted that, among other problems, 300 tons of radioactive groundwater could not be stopped from leaking every day from the Fukushima plant into the nearby Pacific Ocean. It was highly contaminated water, of course, but it was not officially expected to harm sea life or human beings in any way. Not to worry.
Then there was the announcement in September 2013 that Tokyo — a city located less than 320 kilometers (200 miles) from the ongoing nuclear crisis at Fukushima — was chosen to be the site of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
A month later, as if to bolster Japan’s good news, a United Nations scientific committee, in a report to be submitted to the UN General Assembly, downplayed all the public worry over Fukushima. The UN committee placed the levels of radiation as being “very low,” stating: “No discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public or their descendants.” This prompted a strong rebuke from citizens groups and others in Japan who saw this as an attempted whitewash of major proportions by the UN.
But there was one more step to be taken before The Official Story could be called airtight: In November and December 2013, the Japanese government — with the blessing of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama and despite strong public opposition at home in Japan — proceeded to ram a bill through its parliament that, upon becoming law, would make whistleblowing a crime of state that could result in a prison term of up to 10 years.
This “state secrets protection bill” was supposedly intended to protect Japanese government and military secrets from possible terrorist actions (and, no doubt, from an Edward Snowden-type of situation) at a time when Japan’s military-industrial complex was expanding in lock-step with that of the U.S. But it could also be considered no mere coincidence that this state secrets bill was being pushed through to law at a time when TEPCO was just starting a yearlong operation in decommissioning the Fukushima nuclear plant that was unprecedented both in scale and in the potentially devastating consequences that could result if the slightest thing — forces of nature, mechanical failure, human error — went wrong in the course of that year.
This operation involves removing some 1,500 fuel rods from a Fukushima reactor, one by one, and placing them in a more secure area, something that has never been attempted before anywhere. Radiation levels said to be many thousands of times those of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima could be emitted from the Fukushima nuclear plant if any unforeseen problems occur along the way.
Now that Japan’s state secrets bill has become law, leaking sensitive information concerning Fukushima could technically be considered a crime, both for the whistleblower who leaks it and for any journalist who reports it. The extended “war on terror” has now joined hands with “atoms for peace,” with truth becoming the first casualty.
As of the end of 2013, nearly three years after the crisis began at Fukushima, there are an estimated 150,000-plus Japanese residents evacuated from the Fukushima area, many living in temporary housing. Some of that housing is reportedly now in substandard condition, with residents essentially being left to fend for themselves.
Confirmed cases of thyroid cancer are now appearing in some children from the Fukushima area, and the numbers of such cases are certain to rise in the future. Reports of increased levels of radiation, of varying degrees, have also come up throughout Japan and beyond its borders.
Meanwhile, TEPCO and two government ministries are busy arguing about which one of the three parties is responsible for cleaning up the contaminated water that is seeping into the ground and into the nearby sea. And yet, in spite of these and many other problems along the way, the IAEA has wavered little in its praise for Japan’s handling of the Fukushima accident and the quote-unquote “good progress” that has resulted.
The Official Story surrounding Fukushima is one of an unexpected disaster being dealt with swiftly and safely by honest, open authorities facing unlucky circumstances — and being duly investigated by an independent-minded news media that is diligently doing its job. But like all official stories, this story has a long and sordid history behind it. It is a history that people need to know about if they are to understand how and why Fukushima happened in the first place, and which direction the crisis is likely to take in the future.
Here, then, is the story behind the story of Fukushima.
This research was originally published as chapter 14 in Censored 2013: Dispatches From the Media Revolution, eds. Mickey Huff, Andy Lee Roth, and Project Censored (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2012).
On the Road to Fukushima: The Unreported Story behind Japan’s Nuclear-Media-Industrial Complex
The most powerful earthquake to ever hit the islands of Japan struck on the afternoon of March 11, 2011. The magnitude 9 quake, centered about 70 kilometers (43 miles) off the Pacific coast, sent oceanic shock waves racing toward Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region. Located squarely on the tsunami’s course were coastal areas that are also home to several nuclear power plants, such as in Fukushima Prefecture, which is situated about 240 kilometers (150 miles) from Tokyo, the most populated metropolis on the planet. As it became clear that something had gone seriously wrong and, due to the tsunami, Japan now had a nuclear catastrophe on its hands at Fukushima, all eyes turned to the Japanese press.
But the Japanese press was nowhere to be found. In the immediate aftermath of reactor meltdowns and the release of radioactivity at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, when evacuations and press restrictions had not yet been set by Japan’s government, the major Japanese news companies did not have a single reporter on the ground in the area.1 Such media companies in Japan usually spare no expense in having their reporters or photographers camp for days at a time outside the homes of suspects in sensationalized crime cases or when stalking scandal-tainted celebrities. But when it comes to pursuing real news stories of public concern, investigating the nation’s political or corporate centers of power, and exercising the freedom of press as enshrined in the Japanese constitution, the news media of Japan can be strangely submissive or even silent. Nowhere has that been more on display than in the reporting of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
How is it that one of the most technologically advanced, democratic societies in the world finds itself with a press that serves more as a lapdog to the powerful than as a watchdog for the public? How does Japan’s nuclear power industry in particular fare in the news media? And more importantly, how is censorship fostered in such an environment and how did it get this way?
The answers to such questions can be found by taking a look back on the road to Fukushima that Japan has traveled since the Second World War. It is the story that most of the mainstream media in Japan are failing to report or to piece together in the wake of Fukushima, perhaps because, in many ways, the media itself is the story.
It is the story of how of the Japanese press has risen to become a global media power unto itself,2 and how Japan’s corporate-dominated news industry grew hand-in-glove with the nation’s development of atomic energy and other major industries following the war. It is the story of a Japanese war crimes suspect imprisoned by US occupation forces, of Japan’s preeminent media tycoon, of the godfather of Japanese nuclear power development, and of the father of Japanese professional baseball—all of whom happen to be the same man, the powerful Japanese predecessor of today’s Rupert Murdoch.
It is the story of the power wielded by right-wing forces in Japan and, at the fringes, of the Japanese mafia. It is a story that also closely involves the United States of America as benefactor: the Central Intelligence Agency, the US Congress, and the US media establishment. It is the story of America’s Cold War geopolitical priorities over the long-term security and environmental safety of the planet.
It is the story, in the end, of Japan’s rise as a modern nuclear-media-industrial power from the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 up to Fukushima more than sixty-five years later. This report attempts to connect the dots of Japan’s atomic past and present, providing the much bigger picture behind the individual acts of censorship surrounding Fukushima and, in doing so, will hopefully offer lessons for the future of a democratic, responsible press in Japan.
The Shoriki Factor
If there is one person who has stood at the nexus of nuclear power, media conglomeration, politics, and industrial development in postwar Japan, it would be Matsutaro Shoriki.
Shoriki, in the early 1920s, was a high-ranking official of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, and in previous years had reportedly been involved in every major incident of police repression of social unrest.3 That included the Great Kanto Earthquake of September 1923, Japan’s deadliest natural disaster up to then, in which more than 100,000 people died and tens of thousands of others went missing.4
After the earthquake’s ensuing panic and confusion and the Japanese government’s declaration of martial law, the police took the opportunity to round up ethnic Koreans living in Japan, along with leading Japanese socialists, anarchists, labor activists, and other leftist dissidents of the day—some of whom were later reported killed.5 This all happened on Shoriki’s watch, and a month after the quake he was promoted to a department head position within the Tokyo police hierarchy.6 Shoriki’s law enforcement career came to a halt a couple months later, however, when a young Communist Party supporter attempted to shoot Hirohito, the emperor-to-be, in public. Shoriki was among those dismissed from their police posts for the lapse in security surrounding the assassination attempt.
It was the end of Shoriki’s days as a hard-line police official, but just the beginning of his career as a central figure in the Japanese media world.
One month after his firing from the Tokyo metropolitan police, Shoriki—with no past media experience whatsoever—found himself serving as president of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, then a fledgling 50,000-circulation Japanese metropolitan daily paper in Tokyo.7 He had bought out a controlling stake in the newspaper through a huge personal loan from a cabinet minister then serving in the Japanese government. A rebellion immediately arose among the editorial staff of the paper, but the new owner had no regrets. “Instead of committing hara-kiri” (ritual disembowelment) over the police firing, “I bought a newspaper,” Shoriki would boast.8
The openly pro-capitalistic, anticommunistic Shoriki quickly showed himself as having a finger on the public pulse, understanding well the links between three key areas: mass entertainment, mass mobilization, and massive profits.9
His Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper company sponsored tours in Japan of major league baseball players from the US—first in 1931, then again in 1934, when the Yomiuri paid for US baseball legends Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and others to come and play in Japan. The next year, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper created its own baseball team, the Yomiuri Giants, in the exact image of the famed Giants baseball team of New York (later of San Francisco). In 1936, Japan’s first professional baseball league was started, with Shoriki going on to serve as owner of the Yomiuri Giants pro team and as the first commissioner of the Nippon Professional Baseball league years later.
By the late 1930s and early 1940s, the winds of war were blowing in Japan. All of the Japanese press was expected by the military-dominated government to support Japan’s war of aggression throughout East Asia and the Pacific, and the major news publications—from liberal to conservative—toed the line, either under government pressure or out of a sense of patriotism. Two days after the Japanese military attack on the US-occupied Pacific island of Hawaii in December 1941, the major newspapers in Japan sponsored a public rally in Tokyo denouncing the US and Britain. Shoriki, representing the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, was reportedly one of the main speakers.10
In the fifteen years since Shoriki had taken over the paper, the Yomiuri had gone from being a fairly liberal Tokyo metro daily paper to being an unashamedly conservative national daily newspaper—the third-largest daily paper in Japan, in fact—with a circulation of 1.2 million.11 The Yomiuri became the most nationalistic of Japan’s mainstream news media during World War II. For his efforts, Shoriki, like other press executives in Japan, was appointed to several key government propaganda organizations during the war, including as cabinet-level advisor in the government.12
Behind Prison Walls
Following the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed more than 200,000 people in August 1945, and Japan’s formal surrender a month later, the occupation forces under General Douglas MacArthur wasted no time in sniffing out suspected war criminals as part of victor’s justice, Yankee-style.
The top ranking of war criminals, “Class A,” applied to persons in the highest decision-making bodies in Japan who were believed to have taken part in the starting and/or waging of war against the Allied powers. Among those who were openly demanding that the Americans include Shoriki, the Yomiuri newspaper president, in that Class-A category were Shoriki’s longtime enemies on the Japanese political left and, incredibly, some of the newspaper magnate’s own editorial staff at the Yomiuri Shimbun.13 Long considered to be something of a “dictator” within his paper,14 Shoriki was now facing a serious mutiny by his crew at a very sensitive time in Japanese history. In December 1945, he was ordered by the US occupation forces to report to Japan’s notorious Sugamo Prison in central Tokyo as an inmate.
The dozens of initial suspects of Class-A war crimes at the prison made up a virtual “who’s who” of the most elite of Japanese political, military, and business circles. Shoriki was placed in cellblock 2-B of the prison, directly across from a prominent industrialist who had once been head of the mighty Nissan group of corporations.15 As a media baron, Shoriki commanded respect even behind bars. The Buddhist priest in charge of counseling the accused war criminals at the prison recalled: “Mr. Shoriki, former president of the ‘Yomiuri Newspaper,’ I had met two or three times at banquets given by the Chief Priest, whose advisors in various matters we both had been. He [Shoriki] was still as vigorous as ever. . . .”16
George Herman Ruth, one of the US baseball idols invited by Shoriki to play for Japanese audiences back in the 1930s, had little sympathy for his former patron. “That bum [Shoriki] seemed like a pretty nice fellow,” Babe Ruth, now retired from baseball, said on hearing the news of Shoriki’s imprisonment in Tokyo. “I guess he was too nice, come to think of it. All any of them guys did was bow to us, and even then they must have had a knife in their kimona [sic].”17 Ruth even complained that the American ballplayers had been cheated during their tour of Japan a decade before: “Shoriki didn’t pay us what he promised to pay. Most of us spent more money in Japan than we made.”18
As Shoriki and the others languished in prison not knowing their fate, the US, at least in the early stages, proceeded with its plan of “reforming” Japan, putting a high priority on strengthening democratic institutions and the rights of the individual.
But a funny thing happened on the way to democracy: on a parallel track, the government of the United States, under the umbrella of the Truman Doctrine of President Harry Truman, was also proceeding on a “reverse course” in Japan. From 1947–48 onward, the US priority began shifting away from promoting democracy to fighting communism. General MacArthur’s occupation forces in Tokyo now sought to “strengthen, not punish” right-wing Japanese leaders so as to secure Japan as a key ally especially against the regional influence of Communist China.19
The Cold War was starting and, almost overnight, the US had gone from purging its sworn wartime enemies on the political right in Japan to purging those on the left. Japanese ultra-rightist organizations and even the yakuza, Japan’s mafia syndicates, were becoming useful tools for the US occupation authorities in suppressing the growing social movement of organized labor and liberal political dissent, including in the Japanese news media.20
And so it was that right-wing media mogul Matsutaro Shoriki walked out of the Tokyo prison gates on September 1, 1947—twenty-one months of prison time served and no war-crime charges filed against him.21 Shoriki and many of his fellow Japanese war-criminal suspects were looking much more useful to the United States beyond—rather than behind—prison walls.
Television and “Atoms for Peace”
In summer 1951, with the official end of the American occupation of Japan just around the corner, Shoriki and other released Japanese war criminal suspects were finally removed from General MacArthur’s war-criminal “purge list” and were now free to resume their former public lives. Shoriki received his pardon on August 6, the sixth anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. The very next day, he went to work on his next big project: establishing Japan’s first commercial television network.22
In this venture, Shoriki had warm support from conservative members of the US Congress, who, like their right-wing counterparts in Japan, apparently saw the mass media not as a way to inform or educate the poverty-stricken Japanese masses but rather as a means to essentially feed the Japanese public a steady stream of pro-American messages of progress and development in the postwar period.
Shoriki’s key ally in the US Congress for this was Karl Mundt, a Republican senator from South Dakota. Through the mid-1940s, Mundt had served as an active member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that was investigating suspected Communist infiltration throughout US society. During that same period, Mundt pushed a bill through Congress in 1948 that became law, creating the Voice of America short-wave radio propaganda program.23 But Mundt had an even bigger dream: using the rising medium of television to carry VOA broadcasts throughout the world, including in Japan, as a way to counter the growing global “red” menace. Mundt called his grand plan “Vision of America.”24
It was Hidetoshi Shibata, then a popular conservative, America-friendly radio commentator on Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster) and a former Yomiuri newspaper reporter under Shoriki, who eventually hooked up Mundt and Shoriki.25 On August 14, only a week after Shoriki’s pardon as a US-branded war crimes suspect, Mundt, at a press conference in Washington DC accompanied by a member of Japan’s parliament, announced plans for a team of three American “experts” to fly to Japan the following week to firm up the plans for this new Japanese TV broadcasting network.26 Another week later, the Japanese and American sides met in Tokyo and worked out the details: it was agreed that instead of making this new TV station a part of Mundt’s worldwide “Vision of America” scheme, it would be a wholly Japanese-owned and Japanese-run network financed in part by airing Voice of America radio broadcasts within Japan.27
Shoriki had meanwhile regained his old position as the largest shareholder of the Yomiuri paper, and now persuaded the heads of his archrival daily newspapers, the liberal Asahi and Mainichi, to join the conservative Yomiuri in putting up joint capital of about ¥2 billion ($25 million) for the TV station. Shoriki also used his highly placed connections in Japanese government and financial institutions to further strengthen support for the new station, promoting the TV network as potentially attracting three million Japanese viewers within five years.28
In July 1952, just three months after the US occupation bureaucracy had packed its bags and gone home, the new Nippon Television Network (NTV) was granted its broadcasting license by Japanese media regulators. Shoriki became the first president of NTV in October 1952, and in August 1953, the station went on the air with black-and-white television programs. Now it was just a matter of getting the message out to the masses.
“Kilowatts, not killing”
At the United Nations in December 1953, US President Dwight Eisenhower announced the start of his “Atoms for Peace” program. Several months later in September 1954, US atomic energy commissioner Thomas Murray stood before a convention of American steelworkers at Atlantic City, New Jersey, and called for a nuclear power plant to be built in Japan with US know-how and manpower as “a dramatic and Christian gesture which would lift all of us far above the recollection of the carnage” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nine years before.29 An editorial in the Washington Post immediately and enthusiastically supported this “brilliant idea,” stating: “How better, indeed, to dispel the impression in Asia that the United States regards Orientals merely as nuclear cannon fodder!”30
A few months after that in early 1955, Representative Sidney Yates, a Democrat from Illinois, took it even further when he stood on the floor of the US Congress and called for that proposed first nuclear power plant in Japan to be constructed, of all places, in the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima. He was then sponsoring a bill in Congress for a 60,000-kilowatt nuclear power generating plant to be built in Hiroshima as part of Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace”—a power plant, Yates said, that would “make the atom an instrument for kilowatts rather than killing.”31 (Plans for the Hiroshima nuclear plant eventually fizzled out.)
Back in Japan around that same time, Matsutaro Shoriki, while still president of NTV, campaigned in February 1955 for a seat in his own country’s House of Representatives and won. He was appointed to the cabinet-level position of minister of state. Everything now seemed to be in place. For the better part of 1955, Eisenhower’s newly established United States Information Service (USIS), with its mission of overseas “public diplomacy” (read: propaganda) and Shoriki’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, which now had a colossal circulation of more than two million readers,32 worked closely together on plans to bring America’s atomic-age vision to the Japanese people.33
The Atom Returns to Japan
On November 1, 1955, the USIS and Shoriki’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper kicked off the opening of a futuristic, traveling “Atoms for Peace” exhibition at an event hall in downtown Tokyo, not far from the Imperial Palace.
The fifteen sections of the exhibition, touted as the first of its kind in Far East Asia, explained “how the boundless wealth of the atom has been unlocked, and now it is already being used in many ways for man’s benefit in medicine and industry.” The exhibition was to be shown in Tokyo for a month and a half, then rotated on to seven other major Japanese cities.34 The exhibition included profiles of ten pioneering nuclear scientists; a small demonstration nuclear reactor; a movie about the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; panel displays; and an introduction to the medical, agricultural, and industrial uses of atomic isotopes.35 On New Year’s Day of 1956, while the exhibition was still touring Japan, state minister Shoriki was appointed the first chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, a move praised by US atomic energy commissioner Lewis Strauss as “an important contribution to international peace.”36
The “Atoms for Peace” exhibition finally arrived in Hiroshima in May 1956 and was shown for three weeks at the recently opened Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, located within the city’s Peace Memorial Park commemorating the victims of the 1945 US atomic bombing. An estimated 110,000 Japanese visitors came to see the “Atoms for Peace” exhibition in Hiroshima, and a reported 2.5 million people had seen the exhibition nationwide.37 At the end of it all, notwithstanding some public and press criticism that arose, the “Atoms for Peace” exhibition in Japan was considered a resounding success, primarily due to the positive spin given to it by the Japanese media, especially the Yomiuri newspaper and NTV network headed by Shoriki.38
Code Name: PODAM
Tetsuo Arima, a professor of media studies at the elite Waseda University in Tokyo, goes where the Japanese mainstream press fears to tread in researching and making public the CIA’s past connections to the media and nuclear power in Japan, having published several books on the subject in recent years. He has visited the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington DC and obtained almost 500 pages of once-secret documents detailing the introduction of atomic energy technology to Japan.39
“Relations with PODAM have now progressed to the stage where outright cooperation can be initiated,” Arima quotes one of those CIA documents as reading, concerning political maneuvering against the Japan Communist Party back in the 1950s.40 Another document approves “PODAM” as being used to gain information about political developments and trends in Japan, along with information on persons working in Japanese newspapers and media. PODAM, the code name of a CIA asset, was none other than Japanese media tycoon Matsutaro Shoriki.41
Indeed, a cursory check of the NARA website (www.archives.gov) reveals Matsutaro Shoriki as being listed under the cryptonym PODAM as well as “POJACKPOT-1.”42 Equally revealing is Shoriki’s TV station, Nippon Television, being listed in the archive’s CIA file index as part of a project called “KMCASHIER.”43 Project KMCASHIER, as Arima notes, was a failed 1953 US plan to construct a massive microwave communications network covering four Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines) as part of a larger international microwave communications network. Japan’s role in KMCASHIER was listed under the CIA code name of “POHIKE.”44 “POBULK” is listed in the archive index as the CIA code name for the Yomiuri, Shoriki’s newspaper.
Arima found also that Shibata, the popular NHK radio newscaster who initially put Shoriki in touch with US senator Mundt of VOA fame, had contacted and met in Tokyo with persons connected with the CIA (presumably on Shoriki’s behalf), both before and after Shoriki obtained the broadcast license for NTV.45 The professor also came across a document dated May 5, 1955—placing it around the time of joint preparations by the USIS and Shoriki’s Yomiuri newspaper for the “Atoms for Peace” exhibition—in which a “provisional” security clearance was sought for Shoriki as an “unwitting cutout.”46 This indicates that Shoriki would have been considered a trusted intermediary for passing along highly sensitive information, yet not necessarily aware of the details of that information or exactly how he was being used for such intelligence purposes.
According to one CIA document that Arima uncovered, Shoriki as atomic energy commissioner was so impatient to get nuclear power online in Japan following the 1955–56 “Atoms For Peace” exhibition that he seriously considered buying a small reactor to power his own home as a public show of atomic energy’s benefits.47 And what was PODAM’s urgent motivation? To help reach his political aspiration of becoming the prime minister of Japan.
The Deep Ties that Bind
Japanese nuclear power, industrial production (especially in electronics), and the news media grew side by side in the critical Cold War years that would see Japan elevated to the status of “economic miracle.” Without doubt, from the end of the Second World War onward, the media industry has been a crucial part of that whole corporate synergy in Japan—not an objective, neutral force standing outside it.48
That is still the situation today for the most part. The electric power companies in Japan advertise widely in the major print and broadcast media companies. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)—operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant and two others—alone spent about ¥27 billion ($330 million) on public relations and other events promoting nuclear energy in 2010, ranking tenth highest among all Japanese corporations in the amount of money spent on such expenses that year.49 Of that amount, TEPCO spent ¥9 billion ($110 million) directly on advertisements placed in the media.50
So what effect does this kind of relationship between nuclear energy and media in Japan have on news coverage? According to author and independent journalist Osamu Aoki, a former reporter for Japan’s Kyodo News wire service, “Newspapers, TV, magazines—it makes no difference: because they receive these huge advertising monies, it’s hard for them to criticize the power companies, especially with nuclear power. It’s a taboo that’s been going on for some time.”51
Where Japan differs from the US and other developed countries is in the sheer breadth and depth of external press controls and media self-censorship in the form of the “kisha club” (reporters’ club) system.52
The kisha clubs are press clubs attached to various Japanese government agencies (from the highest levels of government down to local government agencies), political parties, major corporations, consumer organizations . . . and electric power companies. At last count there were an estimated 800 to 1,000 kisha clubs nationwide. Membership in such clubs is mostly restricted to the big Japanese newspaper and broadcasting companies, with smaller Japanese media and the foreign press normally not allowed in. One important rule: kisha club reporters are not usually allowed to “scoop” fellow club members on any given story, even if they are reporters for rival Japanese news companies. In most cases a kisha club is based on the premises of the institution that the reporters are covering, with the operating expenses of the club paid by that institution. The kisha club rooms generally are off-limits to the average Japanese citizen, even when located inside of public buildings.
TEPCO, like other power companies around Japan, has its own in-house kisha club. And what was the chairman of TEPCO doing at the time of the March 11 quake/tsunami and subsequent Fukushima nuclear plant disaster? He was hosting Japanese journalists on a press junket in China, courtesy of the power company.53
According to an independent journalist attending a press conference hosted by TEPCO soon after the accident on March 11, 2011, not one of the power company’s kisha club reporters got around to asking the TEPCO chairman at press conferences about the possibility of plutonium leaks from the Fukushima plant until the independent journalist himself raised the critical question two weeks after the accident. Another independent Japanese reporter working for Internet media was shouted down by the TEPCO kisha club reporters when he tried to ask the TEPCO chairman a question at the same press conference. These are not uncommon occurrences at kisha clubs in Japan.54
How did all of this translate in terms of Japanese versus overseas reporting on Fukushima soon after the accident? There were often major gaps between the two. On the morning of March 12, the day after the accident, for example, Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK television, was telling evacuees from Fukushima to calmly “walk instead of drive to an evacuation area” while also repeating Japanese government assurances that there was “no immediate danger.”55 That same morning, the tone of reports carried on BBC News, as just one foreign news media source, was one of skepticism of such Japanese government assurances rather than blind acceptance.56 That kind of gap between Japanese and overseas coverage would widen considerably as the Fukushima crisis went on, with the Japanese public increasingly voicing distrust of their government and suspicious that Japan’s media were not reporting the whole story.
That is certainly true for one related issue that has been underreported in Japan for years: the so-called “nuclear gypsies”—the thousands of day laborers, many unskilled and homeless, that make up a large part of the workforce at Japan’s fifty-four nuclear power plants nationwide—and the yakuza (organized crime) syndicates as suppliers of such temporary workers to the industry.57 The underside of Japan’s economic miracle in the postwar era was the existence of pools of cheap, “disposable” labor from the slums of the big cities, such as the Sanya district in Tokyo and Kamagasaki district in Osaka, working in the vast construction industry with which the yakuza have long been aligned. But the electric power companies today also use such day laborers, doing highly dangerous work with little or no job security, and many of these nuclear workers are financially exploited by the yakuza and other labor agents as well.
It has been left mainly to independent journalists in Japan to uncover and expose these facts. One of them, photographer Kenji Higuchi, had worked for decades before Fukushima, trying to tell an indifferent Japanese media and public the stories of these exploited, intimidated nuclear power plant workers and the illnesses that afflicted them after they had worked at the plants. Higuchi’s efforts to get at the truth are the focus of a short documentary film, Nuclear Ginza, broadcasted in 1995 on Britain’s Channel 4 television.58 More recently, another Japanese independent journalist, Tomohiko Suzuki, went undercover as a day laborer at the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the March 2011 accident and found that the yakuza were still recruiting day laborers to work there, with top management at the Fukushima plant—like most construction companies in Japan—not necessarily knowing (or caring) how these workers got hired there in the first place.59
The Selling of a “Miracle Man”
To be fair, the Japanese people are not the only ones who have been sold a bill of goods about nuclear power and been shielded from seeing its dark side by the media. Americans have too, and the US media role over the years is one that has to be acknowledged in this post-Fukushima age. This is most clearly seen in the US media treatment of Matsutaro Shoriki and the vital role he played in bringing US-sponsored atomic energy to Japan during the Cold War years.
In 1946, six months after the American occupation of Japan had begun, the US progressive magazine the Nation correctly noted how “Shoriki’s yellow journalism, combined with the scandalously low wages he paid his newsmen and printers, brought him rich profits, and his fervent support of aggression [in the Pacific War] won him a seat in the House of Peers and a position as Cabinet adviser.”60
Compare that with the glowing coverage a few years later by US mainstream media: Shoriki as “bitterly anti-Communist” ally to the US and Japan’s “most successful publisher,” known “among Western newsmen as the [William Randolph] ‘Hearst of Japan’” (Time magazine, 1954);61 Shoriki as “father of professional baseball in Japan” who nobly sent then–US president Eisenhower an ancient suit of Japanese armor as a show of goodwill (Washington Post, 1954);62 Shoriki as “Japan’s Mr. Atom,” a man who “has made a brilliant success of nearly everything he has tried” and who, “‘if he lives long enough . . . will make Japan one of the leading atomic powers of the world’” (New York Times Magazine, 1957);63 and Shoriki as pioneering TV network president aiming to make Japan the first country in the world to have color television (Time, 1959).64
Then there was the 1963 Time tribute to Shoriki as art connoisseur, head of his Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper’s own symphony orchestra, architect of the “Yomuiri Land” amusement park in Tokyo named for his newspaper, and all-around Man for the Millennium. The article quoted Bob Considine, a well-known columnist for the Hearst media empire in the US, who sounded almost shocked with awe: “[W]henever editors speak of the great press lords of our age, they often mention Hearst and sometimes [Canadian-British tycoon Lord] Beaverbrook. But they always mention Shoriki.”65
Just a few years earlier, this same Hearst underling and ghostwriter, Considine, had written the foreword to the American publishing industry’s own nod to Japan’s premier media baron in a 200-page book titled Shoriki: Miracle Man of Japan—A Biography. The book was published in 1957 by Exposition Press, back then a leading publisher of so-called “vanity books” that are essentially paid for by the person who is the subject of the biography—which, in this case, would have been Shoriki himself. The book was coauthored by the publishing company’s president, Edward Uhlan. A New York Times obituary would later list Shoriki: Miracle Man of Japan as one of the late Uhlan’s most noteworthy accomplishments.66
All in all, Shoriki: Miracle Man of Japan stands out as a cleverly crafted work of disinformation. It covers up Shoriki’s infamous reputation as a police bureaucrat before the Second World War, plays down his wartime role in anti-US propaganda and war-criminal imprisonment by the US after the war, and plays up his subsequent achievements in baseball, news media, and atomic energy in Japan—with a strong line of anticommunist sentiment running throughout. Newspaper, magazine, and book publishing media in the US had now weighed in with Shoriki and his crusade for a pro-America, pro-nuclear Japan, and on the whole found him to be on the right side of the cause.
Epilogue: The Road from Fukushima
When Matsutaro Shoriki died in 1969 at age eighty-four while in office as a representative of Japan’s parliament (and while still NTV network president), his obituary in the Washington Post was surprisingly sparse. Nowhere did the Post mention that Shoriki, as Japan’s first atomic energy commissioner, had been Washington’s point man on nuclear energy development after the war—indeed, he had led Japan to embrace atomic power as a prime energy resource ten years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Also missing was Shoriki’s tainted past as a former police official and as a prisoner during the US occupation of Japan. And of course, there was no mention at all of the CIA’s interest in Shoriki as an asset of the agency.67
Just a few years later in 1976, however, the late Shoriki’s name surfaced in connection with the “Lockheed scandal,” a major political scandal in Japan involving bribe money paid by the US aerospace corporation Lockheed to a former Japanese prime minister. The conservative Yomiuri newspaper denied allegations of Shoriki, its ex-president, having been a past “recipient of CIA favors” and spoke of suing for libel the American publications that carried the stories.68
If most Japanese people know or remember anything at all about the late press lord today, it is probably the “Matsutaro Shoriki Award” bestowed in Shoriki’s name every year with great fanfare to some outstanding Japanese baseball figure by NTV network and Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper—whose circulation of thirteen million readers today makes it reputedly the largest daily newspaper in the world.69 The majority of Americans know even less about Shoriki, including the fact that the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts in Boston today has a respectable chair position named after him.70 And for their part, few if any Japanese mainstream media companies in their news reporting are linking Shoriki to nuclear energy and the Fukushima accident of March 11, 2011—even though it was his influence and vision of a fully atomic-powered Japan, with firm support by the US, that had led Japan as a nation to that place.
Demands have arisen in the wake of Fukushima for Japanese government nuclear regulators and politicians to be more independent of the nuclear power industry that they are supposed to be keeping an eye on.71 But looking to the future, there is one more party that equally needs to be separated from Japan’s nuclear power establishment (or “nuclear power village,” as it’s called), and that is the Japanese press. The media in Japan, like the government regulators, have been intimate with the nation’s atomic energy club from the very start. Until the day when the Japanese news media are finally weaned off the nation’s nuclear power village, the whole truth about nuclear energy—and the corruption and great public dangers surrounding it—will continue to be mostly unseen and unknown in this country. Disengaging the Japanese press from the nuclear powers-that-be will not be easy, but it must be done.
One place to start would be to begin dismantling the Japanese kisha club system. This too will be no easy task, given the deep historical and institutional roots of the system. But if the toothless Japanese lapdog press of today is to regain the public credibility at home and abroad that it lost in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster—and if it is to earn the respect that it would deserve as a true watchdog of the people over Japan’s centers of power in the future—then it is the Japanese news media that must now take the first steps in that direction on this long and uncertain road away from Fukushima.
BRIAN COVERT is an independent journalist and author based in Kawanishi, western Japan. He has worked for United Press International news service in Japan, as staff reporter for three of Japan’s English-language daily newspapers, and as contributor to Japanese and overseas newspapers and magazines. He is currently a lecturer in the Department of Media, Journalism, and Communications at Doshisha University in Kyoto.
1. David McNeill, “Fukushima Lays Bare Japanese Media’s Ties to Top,” Japan Times, January 8, 2012, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fl20120108x3.html.
2. Five of the world’s top ten daily newspapers with the highest circulations are based in Japan. See Jochen Legewie, Japan’s Media: Inside and Outside Powerbrokers, Communications & Network Consulting Japan K.K. (Tokyo, March 2010), 3,http://www.cnc-communications.com/fileadmin/user_upload/Publications/2010_03_Japans_Media_Booklet_2nd_Ed_JL.pdf.
3. Simon Partner, Assembled in Japan: Electrical Goods and the Making of the Japanese Consumer (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 74.
4. August Kengelbacher, “Great Kanto Earthquake 1923,” http://www.japan-guide.com/a/earthquake.
5. Sonia Ryang, “The Tongue That Divided Life and Death: The 1923 Tokyo Earthquake and the Massacre of Koreans,” Japan Focus, September 3, 2007,http://www.japanfocus.org/-Sonia-Ryang/2513. For similar accounts, see also Mikiso Hane, Reflections on the Way to the Gallows: Rebel Women in Prewar Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), esp. 171, 176, 191–92; and Asahi Shimbun newspaper, “Murder of an Anarchist Recalled: Suppression of News in the Wake of the 1923 Tokyo Earthquake,” Japan Focus, November 5, 2007, http://www.japanfocus.org/-The_Asahi_Shinbun_Cultural_Research_Center-/2569.
6. Shinichi Sano, Kyokaiden: Shoriki Matsutaro to Kagemusha-tachi no Isseiki (ge) [Biography of Matsutaro Shoriki, vol. 2] (Tokyo: Bungeishunju, 2011), 442.
7. Sano, Kyokaiden: Shoriki Matsutaro to Kagemusha-tachi no Isseiki (jo) [Biography of Matsutaro Shoriki, vol. 1] (Tokyo: Bungeishunju, 2011), 217.
8. “The Press: Lord High Publisher,” Time, August 16, 1954, 74.
9. Partner, Assembled in Japan, 172.
10. Ben-Ami Shillony, Politics and Culture in Wartime Japan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), 99.
11. Sano, Kyokaiden [vol. 2], 446.
12. Partner, Assembled in Japan, 76; see also Shillony, Politics and Culture, 105.
13. “1,000 Ask Trial for Publisher,” New York Times, October 30, 1945; see also Sano, Kyokaiden [vol. 1], 438–44.
14. “Yomiuri Chairman Defends Actions in Internal Feud,” Asahi Shimbun, November 29, 2011, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/AJ201111290056b.
15. Shinsho Hanayama, The Way of Deliverance: Three Years with the Condemned Japanese War Criminals (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950), 4; see also Partner, Assembled in Japan, 73–74.
16. Hanayama, The Way of Deliverance, 5.
17. “Ruth’s Ex-Pal Held as Jap [sic] War Criminal,” Washington Post, December 6, 1945, 15.
19. United States Department of State, “Milestones 1945–1952: Korean War and Japan’s Recovery,” http://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/KoreanWar.
20. David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro, Yakuza—The Explosive Account of Japan’s Criminal Underworld (London: Futura Publications, 1987), esp. 69–71, 75–78.
21. Edward Uhlan and Dana L. Thomas, Shoriki: Miracle Man of Japan—A Biography (New York: Exposition Press, 1957), 181–82.
22. Partner, Assembled in Japan, 83.
23. Ibid., 78–79.
24. Ibid., 84.
25. Ibid., 78.
26. Ibid., 83–84.
27. Sano, Kyokaiden [vol. 2], 449; see also Partner, Assembled in Japan, 84.
28. Partner, Assembled in Japan, 84–86.
29. Edward F. Ryan, untitled article from Washington Post archives, September 22, 1954, 2.
30. “A Reactor for Japan,” Washington Post, September 23, 1954, 18.
31. “Belgium and Japan Seek 1st ‘A-for-Peace’ Power,” Washington Post, February 15, 1955, 5.
32. Sano, Kyokaiden [vol. 2], 450.
33. Ran Zwigenberg, “‘The Coming of a Second Sun’: The 1956 Atoms for Peace Exhibit in Hiroshima and Japan’s Embrace of Nuclear Power,” Japan Focus, February 6, 2012, http://japanfocus .org/-Ran-Zwigenberg/3685.
34. Robert Trumbull, “Japan Welcomes Peace Atom Show,” New York Times, November 1, 1955, 14.
35. Tetsuo Arima, Genpatsu—Shoriki—CIA [Nuclear power—Shoriki—The CIA] (Tokyo: Shinchosha, 2011), 119.
36. Japan Atomic Energy Commission, text of letter from US ambassador in Japan John M. Allison to Matsutaro Shoriki, January 13, 1956,http://www.aec.go.jp/jicst/NC/about/ugoki/geppou/V01/N01/19560510V01N01.HTML.
37. Yuki Tanaka and Peter Kuznick, “Japan, the Atomic Bomb, and the ‘Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Power,’” Japan Focus, May 2, 2011, http://www.japanfocus.org/-Yuki-TANAKA/3521. See also Zwigenberg, “‘The Coming of a Second Sun,’” Japan Focus.
38. Ran Zwigenberg, “‘The Coming of a Second Sun.’”
39. Tetsuo Arima, Nippon Terebi to CIA—Hakkutsu-sareta “Shoriki Fairu” [NTV and the CIA—The uncovered “Shoriki files”] (Tokyo: Takarajima-sha, 2011), 30.
40. Arima, Genpatsu—Shoriki—CIA, 113; see also “From Hiroshima to Fukushima: The Political Background to the Nuclear Disaster in Japan,” World Socialist Web Site, June 23, 2011, http://wsws.org/articles/2011/jun2011/fuku-j23.shtml. Quotation is retranslated into English from the Japanese original.
41. Arima, Genpatsu—Shoriki—CIA, 112.
42. National Archives and Records Administration, “Cryptonyms and Terms in Declassified CIA Files—Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Disclosure Acts,” dated June 2007, http://www.archives.gov/iwg/declassified-records/rg-263-cia-records/second-release-lexicon.pdf. Accessed on March 13, 2012.
44. Arima, Nippon Terebi to CIA, 63; see also Partner, Assembled in Japan, 86–87.
45. Arima, Genpatsu—Shoriki—CIA, 58.
46. Arima, Nippon Terebi to CIA. A copy of the document is partially displayed on the book’s front cover.
47. Arima, Genpatsu—Shoriki—CIA, 110; see also “Tsunami: Japan’s Post-Fukushima Future,” Foreign Policy, 2011, 198,http://www.foreignpolicy.com/files/tutEkfeUr4fOa3v/06282011_Tsunami.pdf.
48. Partner, Assembled in Japan, 228.
49. “Advertising Expenditure of Leading Corporations (FY 2010),” Nikkei Advertising Research Institute, http://nikkei-koken.com/surveys/survey14.html.
50. “Toden Kokoku-hi 90-oku en no Hamon” [Ripple effect of Tokyo Electric’s nine billion yen advertising expenses], Tokyo Shimbun, May 17, 2011, 26–27. The figure of nine billion yen is for 2009.
51. Translated commentary by Osamu Aoki on Asahi Newstar cable TV program Nyusu no Me [Eyes of the news], April 7, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2Ma4eWhX_U&feature=related.
52. For an overview of how the “kisha club” system works and other related issues, see Tomoomi Mori, “Japan’s News Media,” in Censored 2007: The Top 25 Censored Stories, eds. Peter Phillips and Project Censored (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006), 367–82.
53. Kanako Takahara, “Tight-lipped Tepco Lays Bare Exclusivity of Press Clubs,” Japan Times, May 3, 2011, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20110503f1.html.
55. Days Japan magazine, “Genpatsu Jiko Hodo no Kensho Shiryo” [Verified documentation of nuclear accident reporting], February 2012, 41.
56. Kenichi Asano, “BBC ni yoru Jiko Hodo” [Accident reporting by the BBC], Days Japan, February 2012, 60–61; see also “Japan Earthquake: Concerns over Nuclear Power Stations,” BBC News, March 11, 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12719707.
57. “Japan’s Desperate Nuclear Gypsies,” Al Jazeera English, June 30, 2011,http://www.aljazeera.com/video/asia/2011/06/2011630173015833205.html.
58. Nuclear Ginza, Small World Productions, Cardiff, England, 1995,http://www.smallworldtv.co.uk/public/main.cfm?m1=c_75&m2=c_2&m3=c_56&m4=e_0. A Japanese subtitled version of the film can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNq0qyQJ5xs.
59. Tomohiko Suzuki, press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Tokyo, December 15, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_lYwNyTyiU. Suzuki goes into more detail in his book Yakuza to Genpatsu [The yakuza and nuclear power] (Tokyo: Bungeishunju, 2011).
60. Andrew Roth, “Japan’s Press Revolution,” Nation, March 16, 1946, 315.
61. “The Press: Lord High Publisher,” Time, 1954, 76.
62. Herb Heft, “Baseball Men Cite Good-Will Created on Trip by Giants,” Washington Post, February 7, 1954:C2.
63. Foster Hailey, “Japan’s Mr. Atom,” New York Times Magazine, November 17, 1957, SM50.
64. “Show Business: Television Abroad—Come-On in Color,” Time, August 3, 1959, 57.
65. “The Press: Publishers—Bigger & Better than Anyone,” Time, May 24, 1963, 57–58. Emphasis in the original.
66. Edwin McDowell, “Obituaries: Edward Uhlan, 76, Founder and Leader Of Vanity Publisher,” New York Times, October 26, 1988,http://www.nytimes.com/1988/10/26/obituaries/edward-uhlan-76-founder-and-leader-of-vanity-publisher.html.
67. “Matsutaro Shoriki, 84, Dies; Publisher of Japanese Daily,” Washington Post, October 9, 1969, M10.
68. Richard Halloran, “Premier Miki Vows Lockheed Inquiry,” New York Times, April 4, 1976, 2.
69. Legewie, Japan’s Media: Inside and Outside Powerbrokers, 3.
70. ArtDaily.org, “Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Announces New Chair of Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa,” September 20, 2008, http://www.artdaily.com/index.asp?int_new=26246&int_sec=2.
71. Norimitsu Onishi and Ken Belson, “Culture of Complicity Tied to Stricken Nuclear Plant,” New York Times, April 26, 2011,http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/27/world/asia/27collusion.html?pagewanted=all.
Worldwide there has been a massive increase in cancers of all kinds since 1945.
On Monday July 16th 1945 in Alamogordo, Mexico the first ever atomic bomb was tested. The bomb was called Trinity, which by definition means three things that are closely conjoined to form one new unit. It’s also the name given to the Christian Godhead: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, but there was nothing holy about this alliance.
The success of the Trinity test allowed progression to the main event, the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.
16 hours after the Hiroshima bomb run, President Truman addressed the people of the United States, you can read his full speech here.
From July 16th 1945 to February 12th 2013, 530 nuclear devices have been air detonated, 528 tests and the two bombs dropped on Japan. 1525 underground tests have taken place during the same period.
Nuclear explosions of any kind involve the conversion of atomic mass into energy by one of two processes, nuclear fission, or nuclear fusion.
Fission releases energy by splitting uranium or plutonium atoms which creates radioactive elements.
Fusion is triggered by a fission explosion that then forces tritium or deuterium atoms to combine into larger atoms. This creates more powerful explosions than fission.
Both of these reactions create three types of radioactive debris.
- Fission products
- Activation products
- Leftover products used in constructing the bomb that are radioactive but did not react during the process.
By 1960 there wasn’t a single place on Earth left untouched by these tests. Every soil sample, every water sample and even every polar ice cap sample, arctic and antarctic, were contaminated…and there was still 50 years more testing to go to bring us to the present day, and the last test conducted by North Korea in 2013.
Simon, Bouville and Land have found that:
…both direct and indirect evidence that radioactive debris dispersed in the atmosphere from testing has adversely affected public health.
Studies have demonstrated radiation-related risks of leukemia and thyroid cancer within a decade after exposure, followed by increased risks of other solid tumors in later years. Studies of populations exposed to radioactive fallout also point to increased cancer risk as the primary late health effect of exposure. As studies of biological samples (including bone, thyroid glands and other tissues) have been undertaken, it has become increasingly clear that specific radionuclides in fallout are implicated in fallout-related cancers and other late effects.
You can read the rest of their research here.
New research published in the journal Nature Communications has found that radioactive particles from these tests are still in the stratosphere, but volcanic reactions can cause them to move lower, into the troposphere. Their findings were confirmed after the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010. Plutonium levels in the lower atmosphere increased.
At 14:46 on March 11 2011 a massive magnitude 9 earthquake shook the Honshu region of Japan. 40 minutes later a huge tsunami devastated the northeastern coast of Japan. The Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station, managed by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was for the most part destroyed.
Three of the six reactors on the site were off-line and undergoing routine maintenance, the remaining three were operational. All of the operational reactors were shut down at the time of the earthquake but external power lines were cut. The reactors need to be cooled even after shutdown, and to cool them you need power. Back-up power was started and was working until the tsunami hit. The waves reached a height of 12 meters, wiping out the ten-meter-high sea wall in front of the plant. The plant itself was designed with a maximum safety factor of 5.7 meters, well under the height of the wave.
All back-up power, and therefore cooling capacity, was wiped out an hour after the earthquake. Without any cooling, the reactors went critical, and all three suffered core meltdowns within 72 hours of the earthquake. Hydrogen released during the meltdown exploded, blowing out walls and demolishing the roofs of the buildings housing the reactors.
Estimates vary as to how much cesium was released during these explosions, but the general consensus is that at least 168 times more was emitted than was produced when Hiroshima was bombed. The event was given an International Nuclear Event Score of 7, the same as Chernobyl.
Sea water was pumped in to cool the reactors and used fuel ponds, which created over 100,000 tons of contaminated water of which 10,000 tons was released into the Pacific Ocean over the course of the first week.
In the 34 months since the Fukushima disaster there have been literally hundreds of radiation leaks and contamination issues at the plant. Radioactive debris is washing up on the West Coast of the United States, and there are reports of high radiation readings on beaches, and American sailors who assisted in the days following the quake and tsunami are finding out they have cancer.
Radioactive iodine 131 has been detected in France and radiation contamination has been detected in the southwest of the UK.
Fish die-offs are increasing, and many have been tested and proved to have ingested high amounts of radioactive isotopes. Some scientists are also linking the recent spate of animal die-offs to the radiation from Fukushima.
Just a few days ago, ‘steam’ was escaping from one of the shattered buildings; TEPCO has not commented so far.
Considering that Fukushima has released more radiation than 528 air detonation nuclear tests combined, and remembering that radiation from those tests is still affecting people around the globe to this day, the problems caused by Fukushima are going to be with us for generations.
There are 437 operative nuclear power plants worldwide, and another 68 under construction. A dozen more are at the planning stage. Are we really so hungry for electricity that we are willing to risk annihilation to get it? What’s the point if generation after generation will suffer increased cancer rates?
There has to be a better way to live…and to die.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared. Wake the flock up!
Radiation cleanup work in 11 areas in Fukushima Prefecture was scheduled to be completed by March 31 under a government plan announced in January last year, according to Kyodo. The environment ministry expects a delay in the project to the year beginning April 2016 amid opposition from locals to the setup of temporary storage facilities, Kyodo said.
A record earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 wrecked the nuclear plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), causing radioactive leaks that forced the evacuation of about 160,000 people. The government said last week it will assume decontamination costs from the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns in order to accelerate the rebuilding of the region.
Decontamination costs near the Fukushima site, 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Tokyo, are estimated at about 2.5 trillion yen ($24 billion), the government’s Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters said in a statement Dec. 20. The government plans to recover the costs through a sale of its shares in Tepco.
The environment ministry will release a revised schedule for the cleanup work soon, according to Kyodo.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gearoid Reidy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in December 2012, we wrote that it was only a matter of time before Japan’s criminal lying about the radioactive exposure in the aftermath of the Fukushima catastrophe caught up with it, as well as with countless numbers of people who would soon succumb to radiation induced cancers and other diseases. What we found surprising back then, before the full scale of the Fukushima catastrophe become clear and before even Tepco admitted that the situation is completely out of control, is that those holding Japan accountable were not its own citizens but eight US sailors who have then filed a suit against semi-nationalized energy operator TEPCO – the company which repeatedly ignored internal warnings about the ability of the Fukushima NPP to withstand an earthquake/tsunami – seeking $110 million in damages.
“Eight U.S. sailors have filed a damages suit against Tokyo Electric Power Co., claiming they were exposed to radiation and face health threats as the utility did not provide appropriate information about the Fukushima nuclear disaster while they engaged in rescue operations on board an aircraft carrier, U.S. media reported.
The plaintiffs who filed the suit at the U.S. federal court in San Diego — seeking a total of $110 million, or 9.4 billion yen, in damages — were aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan when it was involved in “Operation Tomodachi,” a disaster relief effort shortly after a big earthquake and tsunami triggered the worst nuclear accident in decades, the reports said.”
What is sad is that while everyone in the alternative media was repeatedly warning about the radiation exposure being misrepresented by both TEPCO and various Japanese ministries, it was the mainstream media that was constantly complicit in disseminating official and unofficial lies that there is nothing to fear.
One year after our report, the lies are not only catching up (and overtaking), but are ruining and dooming innocent lives. As Fox reports, dozens of US soldiers who participated in the Fukushima cleanup effort, are succumbing to numerous radiation-related illnesses, including cancer, and their only error was believing the official media lies.
When the USS Ronald Reagan responded to the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, Navy sailors including Quartermaster Maurice Enis gladly pitched in with rescue efforts.
But months later, while still serving aboard the aircraft carrier, he began to notice strange lumps all over his body. Testing revealed he’d been poisoned with radiation, and his illness would get worse. And his fiance and fellow Reagan quartermaster, Jamie Plym, who also spent several months helping near the Fukushima nuclear power plant, also began to develop frightening symptoms, including chronic bronchitis and hemorrhaging.
They and 49 other U.S. Navy members who served aboard the Reagan and sister ship the USS Essex now trace illnesses including thyroid and testicular cancers, leukemia and brain tumors to the time spent aboard the massive ship, whose desalination system pulled in seawater that was used for drinking, cooking and bathing. In a lawsuit filed against Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plaintiffs claim the power company delayed telling the U.S. Navy the tsunami had caused a nuclear meltdown, sending huge amounts of contaminated water into the sea and, ultimately, into the ship’s water system.
“At our level, we weren’t told anything,” Plym told FoxNews.com. “We were told everything was OK.” Now, Plym, Enis and dozens of others wonder if their service to their country and to Japan has left them doomed.
“I get so angry,” Plym said. “They said as long as the plume was avoided we would be fine. But we knew then that something was going to happen. Common sense tells you that the wind would blow it everywhere. You don’t need to be a nuclear scientist to figure that out.”
Why the anger though: after all everyone lied, starting with those in control, and certainly the media that supports the status quo (one must think of all those advertising dollars) constantly and repeatedly that it is simply preposterous to assume that a benevolent regime which only cares about the wealth effect (of both the US and Japan) would engage in such a vast conspiracy as to hide from the world just how destructive the fallour from Fukushima truly was (even as the fringe blogosphere was warning precisely about this day in, and day out).
But while the lies are easily explainable, what is more surprising is that the soldiers are blaming just Tepco instead of everyone in their chain of command for putting them in the line of gamma radiation fire.
San Francisco Attorney Charles Bonner,who is representing allegedly cancer-stricken sailors, initially filed a federal suit in the Southern District of California more than a year ago on behalf of a dozen sailors. The lawsuit was initially dismissed, when the court ruled that any ruling would hinge on interpreting communication between the Japanese and U.S. governments, which could violate the separation of powers. But Bonner is amending the suit to add new allegations that would fall under the court’s jurisdiction. And the number of plaintives has more than quadrupled as more service members come forward with radiation-related illnesses, he said.
“They went in to help with rescue efforts,” said Bonner, who plans to refile the suit on Jan. 6. “They did not go in prepared to deal with radiation containment.”
The plaintiffs don’t blame the U.S. Navy, which they believe acted in good faith, Bonner said. It was the plant’s operators who sat on the meltdown information during the crucial hours following the March 11, 2011 disaster, he said.
“TEPCO pursued a policy which caused rescuers, including the plaintiffs, to rush into an unsafe area which was too close to the [Fukushima nuclear power plant] that had been damaged,” Bonner charged in an April filing now being updated to add more plaintiffs. “Relying upon the misrepresentation regarding health and safety made by TEPCO, upon information and belief, the U.S. Navy was lulled into a false sense of security.
“The officers and crew of the U.S.S. Reagan (CVN-76) and other vessels believed that it was safe to operate within the waters adjacent to the FNPP, without doing the kinds of research and testing that would have verified the problems known to the defendant TEPCO at the time.”
Nathan Piekutoski, 22, who served aboard the USS Essex, which was in the same deployment as the Reagan, said sailors had no choice but to trust what they were told.
“They did say it was safe at the time,” Piekutoski said. “We had to take their word for it.”
Piekutowski says he suffered from leukemia and, while he is currently in remission, Doctors have told him that he may need a bone marrow transplant.
“Within a few months I started getting all these weird symptoms,” he recalled of the months following the disaster response. “Night sweats. Not sleeping. I started losing a lot of weight.
“It’s one of those things,” he added. “You’re angry that it happens but we had to go. It was our duty. I joined the military to help people in need.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Defense declined to comment on the pending lawsuit, but told FoxNews.com the Pentagon has been monitoring and collecting data on radiation exposure in the region.
Needless to say, the criminals at Tepco have nothing to say:
TEPCO officials did not respond to requests for comment. But a recent admission before members of the Japanese press on Dec. 12 during a meeting at the Tokyo Press Club, former Prime Minister Naoto Jan said the first meltdown occurred five hours after the tsunami, not the next day as reported at the time.
Bonner alleges that the statement means that the Japanese government knew radiation was being leaked and did not inform the U.S. Navy.
“They knew there was an active meltdown and they deliberately hid it from the public as well as the Navy,” Bonner said. “Those sailors went in there totally unaware and they were contaminated as a result.”
Plym says she is prepared to have her symptoms question in court, should the case go to trial. But with so many U.S. sailors coming forward, she believes justice will prevail.
“People will say that out lawsuit is fake and that we are doing this for money, but it’s really about getting the correct information out there,” Plym said.
And now back to a mythical reality in which insolvent governments tell the “truth” about the true, and very deplorable, state of affairs just behind the peeing facade. In the meantime, to all the sailors whose only crime was believing their criminal, corrupt superiors: our condolences.
In the age of catastrophic climate change, and two years following the horrifying meltdown of reactors at Fukushima’s nuclear power plant, we realize that both phenomena are profoundly impacting our species and the earth community.
What we don’t know with certainty is the exact extent of the damage being done.
In Alex Smith’s recent Radio Ecoshock interview with Robert Way of the University of Ottawa, Way explained that official figures greatly underestimate global heating. In his groundbreaking new paper, Way asserts that the EPA has low-balled methane emissions in the U.S. by half. Way’s findings were also published by the Guardian in a November 13 article “Global Warming Since 1997 More Than Twice As Fast As Previously Estimated.”
More recently the Japanese government has sought to pass a state secrets law that would place severe penalties on leakers of government secrets and journalists who might attempt to dig deeper than official government reports regarding the status of Fukushima.
As one who has been following updated reports on Fukushima for months, I can attest to what appears to be a dramatic decrease of coverage.
For example, only two weeks ago Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) informed the world that it would be attempting to remove some 1500 damaged fuel rods from Reactor 4 — a highly delicate and daunting task which some observers speculated could result in the breakage of rods and result in massive doses of radiation escaping.
Yet, we have heard little about how the procedure is unfolding, and overall, coverage of the state of the Fukushima plant for nearly three years has been sparse, with little attention being paid to it by mainstream media.
As with the more specific aspects of catastrophic climate change, the most significant details of the consequences of the Fukushima disaster are not available to us unless we dig deeply for them, and even then, it seems obvious that many pieces of the puzzle are just simply missing. Thus we are confronted with two issues that are probably the most life-threatening to our planet, but we sit with more unknowns than knowns. Indeed the most torturous aspect of any life-threatening situation is not knowing.
Parable of the lost dog
Recently, my friend Mike Ruppert lost his dog Rags.
During that time Mike was frantic to find his beloved companion, and all of us who love both of them were deeply pained by their separation. Where was Rags? Who knew? Mike had scoured the region where he lives but to absolutely no avail. Had Rags been devoured by coyotes, mountain lions, bears — had he been hit by a car or perhaps stolen?
For me, it’s one thing to be separated from my forever canine friend, and quite another not to know where or how he is. If he becomes ill and has to be put down, at least I know. But oh the heartache of losing a pet and not knowing where or how they are! Fortunately, Mike found his dog in a few days.
No more not knowing, but the torture of not knowing is inexplicable.
With catastrophic climate change we do know two things: We know that it is progressing with unimaginable speed, and we know that if it continues to do so, there will be few habitable places on earth by mid-century. Yet what else are we not being told? Does the silence matter? Will it make a difference ultimately?
With Fukushima, however, we know so much less. How much radiation has already been released? How much is being released every day? How much radiated water is actually being dumped into the Pacific Ocean every day? What is the actual size of the radiation plumes that are moving eastward in the Pacific toward the West Coast of North America? Specifically how are these affecting sea life and human life? What is the relationship between environmental illnesses or the incidence of cancer and Fukushima?
And the questions exacerbate and spin and swirl in our minds.
The absolute bottom line with both catastrophic climate change and the consequences of Fukushima: We simply don’t know most of the information we should know about these two horrific realities.
This is especially frustrating because industrial civilization has socialized us to know things.
Knowledge is power
All of our educational systems dictate that information, particularly accumulating as much as possible, is the brass ring. You either know or you don’t know, and if you don’t know, you are dis-empowered because, we are incessantly told, “knowledge is power.”
So in this culture, if you don’t know and can’t find out, then your best course of action is to ignore, deny, or pretend there’s nothing to know. Hence the dearth of reporting on either of the two life-threatening issues I’m addressing here. Most human beings on this planet cannot bear to know that the game may be over by mid-century or that they may develop cancer as a result of Fukushima radiation.
The paradigm of the scientific revolution, and ultimately of industrial civilization as a whole, left no room for uncertainty.
Twentieth-century physicists such as Einstein, Bohr, Planck, Schrodinger, and Heisenberg then pulled the rug out from under “certainty” with concepts such as “uncertainty,” “relativity,” and “wave mechanics.” These physicists plumbed the depths of ambiguity in the atomic particle and revealed to us the un-certainty with which it behaves. Nevertheless, tenacious attachment to certainty remained the mainstay of modern education.
From my perspective the root of modern humanity’s fundamental inner turmoil is the tension of these opposites: certainty and uncertainty. And while the study of relativity may be fun and fascinating, the mind demands answers, especially when confronted with the possibility of its own demise. When experts on nuclear radiation articulate grave concerns about the amount of radiation to which we are being exposed, we either turn a deaf ear or demand “proof.” How then is it possible to live with the uncertainty of our fate?
Our ancient ancestors had much more experience with navigating uncertainty than we have. From their perspective, the greater wisdom is not to flee uncertainty or deny it, but rather immerse ourselves in it. Verbalizing a piece of this wisdom, in her book Comfortable With Uncertainty, Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön writes that “Sticking with uncertainty is how we learn to relax in the midst of chaos, how we learn to be cool when the ground beneath us suddenly disappears.”
In other words, Pema advises us to willingly enter the uncertainty and abide there, allowing the tension, fear, sorrow, and extreme vulnerabililty.
“We practice dropping whatever story we are telling ourselves,” she says, “and lean into the emotions and the fears…We make the choice, moment by moment, to be fully here.”
Why do we do this? Because the uncertainty, the fear, the vulnerability, the grief, and yes, the seeming unfairness of it all have something to teach us about being human — about being part of, not separate from, this extraordinary planet. And they have something to teach us about connecting with our own and other species. The ultimate lesson is one of compassion: for ourselves, for other species and other humans. Compassion means that I see your darkness, and you see mine, and as a result, we can be more present with each other. “Compassion becomes real,” according to Chödrön, “when we recognize our shared humanity.”
Openness to uncertainty may also allow us to explore other ways of knowing that are neither rational nor linear, yet reveal what is so.
My friend Mike is a tracker and has learned to honor myriad methods of knowing. At his wit’s end, he called a friend who called another friend living in India who has extraordinary psychic abilities, and that friend described the area in which Mike’s dog was wandering.
Mike drove there, and voilà! Dear old Rags.
The great vanishing
Opening to uncertainty guarantees that sooner or later, the heart will open, and when it does, we get to love and be loved — in spite of our bewildering fallibility. The playing field is leveled, no one gets to be special or exempt from the suffering inherent in the human condition. We discover that we need each other despite our inordinate obsession with independence. So much of what mattered before in our prison of certainty matters so little now. Or as Chödrön summarizes it: “Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what’s going on.”
In times of extreme uncertainty such as we are currently experiencing — in times of wandering through the maze of conflicting facts and theories, one of our most trusted allies may be poetry — reading it, writing it, and reciting it to others by heart. Yes, “by heart” which is another way of saying “from the heart.” Prose is linear and more aligned with certainty whereas poetry values our uncertainty and the twists and turns of our frail human condition.
The poet Jane Hirshfield captures our predicament in “Against Certainty”:
When the cat waits in the path-hedge,
no cell of her body is not waiting…
I would like to enter the silence portion as she does.
To live amid the great vanishing as a cat must live,
one shadow fully at ease inside another.
Hirshfield gives us a priceless phrase, “the great vanishing,” which succinctly captures the fundamental essence of the time in which we live.
Clean air, pure water, unadulterated food, and 200 species per day — all vanishing.
And we along with them. Perhaps like the cat, we are all in the process of learning how to “completely disappear.” Like the cat we are waiting, but hopefully not simply to disappear. Our disappearance must serve a purpose, and in order for that to happen, we are waiting and working, waiting and loving, waiting and making amends, waiting and making the demise of other species less agonizing.
In the torture of not knowing, we are “challenged to stay in touch with the heart-throbbing quality of being alive,” says Chödrön, because “things are as bad and as good as they seem.”
This piece originally appeared on Speaking Truth to Power.
– Carolyn Baker, Transition Voice
With all the excitement about Japan’s soaring stock market (if plunging wages), crashing non-digital currency (leading to soaring energy prices), recent passage of an arbitrary secrecy bill (“Designed by Kafka & Inspired By Hitler“), and ongoing territorial spat with China, it is almost as if the Abe administration is desperately doing everything in its power, including some of the most ridiculous decisions taken by a government in recent history, to hide some key development behind the scenes. Such as this one perhaps: NHK reported today that TEPCO said radiation levels are extremely high in an area near a ventilation pipe at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. TEPCO found radiation of 25 sieverts an hour on a duct, which connects reactor buildings and the 120-meter-tall ventilation pipe.
Putting this number in context the estimated radiation level is the highest ever detected outside reactor buildings. People exposed to this level of radiation would die within 20 minutes.
The exhaust pipe in question was used to release radioactive gases following the outbreak of the accident 2 years ago.
TEPCO says radioactive substances could remain inside the pipes. Given TEPCO’s safety record, they could also leak outside of the pipes. And given the company’s “credibility” the world would be sure to learn about this… anywhere between 2 and 3 years after the fact.
In the meantime, we urge Japan to follow the bouncing, and so pleasantly distracting, Topix and Nikkei 225 balls, while sticking its head in the glow in the dark sand and completely ignore the radioactive monster in the closet.
… Which reminds us: on Thursday the following headline hit the Bloomberg tape:
- FUKUSHIMA RADIATION TO REACH U.S. COAST AT SAFE LEVEL: NRC
We are sure it is nothing, and the NRC is telling the truth.
The thousands of people who punch in every day at what is arguably the world’s most dangerous workplace are accustomed to facing risks.
But now workers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have embarked on their most precarious operation since the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns and explosions at the facility.
On Monday, select crews from Tokyo Electric Power Company began removing hundreds of highly radioactive spent fuel rods from a cooling pool inside a rickety reactor building, a job that is unprecedented in scale, and where one wrong move could have disastrous consequences.
Fuel rod quick facts
Workers at Fukushima Daiichi plan to remove more than 3,100 fuel rod assemblies from four reactor buildings.
Tokyo Electric Power Company officials say 80 of those assemblies are cracked — 70 in the reactor one building. They say holes and cracks in the damaged assemblies could cause radioactive particles to leak out.
Six teams of six workers will operate the crane to move the assemblies to the special containers. Each team can only work for two hours a day — they rotate to keep the operation moving, to minimize radiation exposure.
The amount of radioactive cesium-137 in the pool holding the fuel rod assemblies is said to be the equivalent of roughly 14,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs.
“It’s a totally different operation than removing normal fuel rods from a spent fuel pool,” Shunichi Tanaka, the chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, said recently.
“They need to be handled extremely carefully and closely monitored. You should never rush or force them out, or they may break. I’m much more worried about this than I am about contaminated water.”
TEPCO’s checkered track record
But given that TEPCO has not exactly won over the Japanese public with its handling of the catastrophe, and that the amount of radioactive cesium-137 in the pool is said to be the equivalent of roughly 14,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs, this next step is turning into a crucial test for the beleaguered utility as much as it is an engineering challenge.
Few in Japan or abroad seem convinced that TEPCO can pull this off, given the company’s checkered track record.
This is the same utility, they point out, that used false inspection reports years ago to cover up faults at Fukushima Daiichi; that dismissed warnings in 2008 that a monster tsunami could engulf the plant; that waited weeks to admit meltdowns even happened in March 2011, and that waited many months to acknowledge radioactive water is leaking into the Pacific Ocean.
It has also held back key information and stumbled from problem to problem over the past two-and-a-half years.
In fact, TEPCO has performed so poorly that a task force for Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party is recommending it be split up so that the job of decommissioning the wrecked plant would be separated from the utility’s power-generating role.
The fuel rods to be removed over the next 12 months or so are mostly in reactor four, which was offline when Fukushima Daiichi was shaken by powerful tremors and swamped by towering waves.
In the subsequent hydrogen explosions and fires, debris rained down on the large pool that holds 1,533 fuel rod assemblies —1,331 used and 202 unused. Another roughly 1,500 assemblies in the three other reactors are to be removed as well.
Workers spent months shoring up the structure and the pool, fearing another strong quake could trigger a catastrophe.
TEPCO spokesperson Tatsuhiro Yamagishi told CBC News that along with cesium-137 and cesium-134, the radioactive isotopes contained in the fuel include strontium-90, radium-226, uranium-235, and plutonium-239, which has a half-life of approximately 24,000 years.
Yamagishi admits engineers don’t know exactly how many assemblies have been damaged. The current estimate is that 80 have cracks.
“We are managing different types of risks,” he said. “We are evaluating each case right now.”
John Froats, an associate professor and nuclear engineer in residence at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, says those risks can probably be dealt with if handled carefully.
“The Fukushima Daiichi plant evolution is no doubt complicated by the plant damage and debris,” he said. “These complications can be managed by careful inspection to understand the state of systems and equipment and the fuel, and then by careful planning of the step-by-step tasks that need to be achieved.”
TEPCO workers have already removed a good amount of debris, checked some fuel rod assemblies to make sure they weren’t corroded by the seawater that was used to cool the pool in the early days of the crisis, and stabilized the building.
- Crippled Fukushima reactor to get ice wall
- Removal of fuel rods begins at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant
They’ve also successfully removed two unused rod assemblies. This week they began using the specially constructed crane to extract the fuel units one-by-one, keeping them underwater as they move them into specially-designed containers and then to another location on site.
In a corporate video on the TEPCO website, a deep-voiced narrator cheerfully runs through a simplified version of the process.
“Moving the spent fuel out of the damaged reactor building and into safe, permanent storage lays the groundwork for moving forward with cleanup and remediation of the damaged reactor building,” the video says.
In the video, TEPCO also calls the removal of the fuel rod assemblies from the reactor four building “a milestone” in the recovery of Fukushima Daiichi.
The world is watching
Certainly, it’s a key part of the decades-long decommissioning process now underway, and perhaps key to the company’s survival.
But while utility managers have no choice but to show they’re up to the task, the reality is they’re tackling a challenge none in their industry has faced before, and they’ll be carrying out the work knowing people around the world will be watching with critical eyes.
Among the critics is Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a science journalist and engineer who helped build part of reactor four at Fukushima Daiichi (and who later admitted to helping cover up a manufacturing flaw with the unit).
As he sees it, “TEPCO is a selling-electricity company, not an engineering company.
“It is quite apparent that TEPCO doesn’t have enough ability to cope with the problems in progress now. That’s why [it] has made a lot of mistakes.”
Tanaka, who calls the current state of the nuclear plant “hopeless,” says that while the utility has plenty of experience in normal fuel removal work, this job is different because of the possibility that some of the rod assemblies have been damaged.
And although TEPCO spokespersons insist their inspections and those by outside experts confirm the reinforcement of the reactor building has made it seismically sound, Tanaka maintains the structure is still vulnerable.
“I think it is very dangerous,” he says. “Furthermore, this very difficult work is going to be done in an earthquake-prone country.”
TEPCO was given permission in late summer to take on the removal of the fuel rods. But just before the operation begain U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz visited the facility to offer American help.
“The success of the cleanup also has global significance,” Moniz said. “We all have a direct interest in seeing that the next steps are taken well, efficiently and safely.”