Featured image: Contaminated earth storage area within the Iitate Village evacuated zone, December 2014. Photo: Eric Schultz / EELV Fukushima via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).
Former nuclear industry senior vice president Arnie Gundersen, who managed and coordinated projects at 70 US atomic power plants, is appalled at how the Japanese government is handling the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
“The inhumanity of the Japanese government toward the Fukushima disaster refugees is appalling,” Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 45 years of nuclear power engineering experience and the author of a bestselling book in Japan about the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, told Truthout.
He explains that both the Japanese government and the atomic power industry are trying to force almost all of the people who evacuated their homes in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster to return “home” before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
This March Japan’s federal government announced the subsidies that have, up until now, been provided to Fukushima evacuees who were mandated to leave their homes are being withdrawn, which will force many of them to return to their contaminated prefecture out of financial necessity.
And it’s not just the Japanese government. The International Olympic Commission is working overtime to normalize the situation as well, even though conditions at Fukushima are anything but normal. The commission even has plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to have baseball and softball games played at Fukushima.
Gundersen believes these developments are happening so that the pro-nuclear Japanese government can claim the Fukushima disaster is “over.” However, he note,
“The disaster is not ‘over’ and ‘home’ no longer is habitable.”
His analysis of what is happening is simple.
“Big banks and large electric utilities and energy companies are putting profit before public health,” Gundersen added. “Luckily, my two young grandsons live in the US; if their parents lived instead in Fukushima Prefecture [a prefecture is similar to a state in the US], I would tell them to leave and never go back.”
Reports of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which began when a tsunami generated by Japan’s deadly earthquake in 2011 struck the nuclear plant, have been ongoing.
Seven more people who used to live in Fukushima, Japan were diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the government announced in June. This brings the number of cases of thyroid cancer of those living in the prefecture at the time the disaster began to at least 152.
While the Japanese government continues to deny any correlation between these cases and the Fukushima disaster, thyroid cancer has long since been known to be caused by radioactive iodine released during nuclear accidents like the one at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. A World Health Organization report released after the disaster started listed cancer as a possible result of the meltdown, and a 2015 study in the journal Epidemiology suggested that children exposed to Fukushima radiation were likely to develop thyroid cancer more frequently.
The 2011 disaster left 310 square miles around the plant uninhabitable, and the area’s 160,000 residents were evacuated. This April, officials began welcoming some of them back to their homes, but more than half of the evacuees in a nearby town have already said they would not return to their homes even if evacuation orders were lifted, according to a 2016 government survey.
Officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company responsible for cleaning up the disaster, announced this February they were having difficulty locating nuclear fuel debris inside one of the reactors. Radiation inside the plant continues to skyrocket to the point of causing even robots to malfunction.
Cancer cases continue to crop up among children living in towns near Fukushima.
And it’s not as if the danger is decreasing. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Earlier this year, radiation levels at the Fukushima plant were at their highest levels since the disaster began.
TEPCO said atmospheric readings of 530 sieverts an hour had been recorded in one of the reactors. The previous highest reading was 73 sieverts an hour back in 2012. A single dose of just one Sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness and nausea. Five sieverts would kill half of those exposed within one month, and a dose of 10 sieverts would be fatal to those exposed within weeks. . .