power – strom und macht

Japan’s Anti Nuclear Protest


Susanne Gerber

Tens of thousands of people protested against nuclear power outside Japan’s parliament on Sunday, the same day a proponent of using renewable energy to replace nuclear following the Fukushima disaster was defeated in a local election. The protesters, including old-age pensioners, pressed up against a wall of steel thrown up around the parliament building shouting, „We don’t need nuclear power“ and other slogans. On the main avenue leading to the assembly, the crowd broke through the barriers and spilled onto the streets, forcing the police to bring in reinforcements and deploy armored buses to buttress the main parliament gate. The protest came as results from rural Yamaguchi showed that Tetsunari Iida, an advocate of renewable energy to replace nuclear power, lost his bid to become governor to a rival backed by the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which promoted nuclear power during its decades in power, Kyodo news agency reported, citing exit polls. Iida, who wants Japan to exit nuclear power by 2020, had promised to revitalize Yamaguchi’s economy with renewable energy projects and opposed a project by Chubu Electric Power Co to build a new nuclear plant in the town of Kaminoseki. Energy policy has become a major headache for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who less than a year in office is battling to hold his Democratic Party together before a general election due next year but which could come sooner. Weekly protests outside Noda’s office have grown in size in recent months, with ordinary salary workers and mothers with children joining the crowds. On Sunday, the protesters – holding candles as darkness fell on the hot summer day – took their demonstration to parliament. Chanting „oppose restarts“, they pressed against steel barriers erected around the parliament building, where thousands of police were deployed to keep the peace. Many of the crowd had marched past the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co, the company at the heart of the worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. „We are here to oppose nuclear power, which is simply too dangerous,“ Hiroko Yamada, an elderly woman from Saitama prefecture near Tokyo, said. „(Noda) isn’t listening to us. He only listens to companies and Yonekura,“ she said, referring to Hiromasa Yonekura, the chairman of Japan’s biggest business lobby. An upset victory by Iida, 53, would have added to Noda’s woes as the government tries to decide on an energy portfolio to replace a 2010 program that would have boosted nuclear power’s share of electricity supply to more than half by 2030. Still, Iida’s support from volunteers in the conservative stronghold bodes ill for the Democrats and the LDP, support for which has failed to benefit greatly from Noda’s woes, Kyodo said in an analysis of the local vote. „The brave battle by Iida, who sought a change in energy policy, can be said to be proof the popular call to exit nuclear power has spread even to Yamaguchi,“ the news agency said. Noda, who approved the restart of two idled reactors this month, has said he would decide on a new medium-term energy plan in August, although media reports over the weekend said that decision could be delayed. Experts have proposed three options: zero nuclear power as soon as possible, a 15 percent atomic share of electricity by 2030, or 20-25 percent by the same date compared to almost 30 percent before the Fukushima disaster. Under pressure from businesses worried about stable electricity supply, Noda has been thought to be leaning toward 15 percent, which would require all of Japan’s 50 reactors to resume operations before gradually closing older units. The growing anti-nuclear movement, however, may make that choice difficult, some experts said. Multiple inquiries into the March 11, 2011 nuclear crisis, in which a huge quake-induced tsunami devastated the Fukushima plant, causing meltdowns and forcing mass evacuations, have underscored the failure by authorities and utilities to adopt strict safety steps or disaster response plans.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg and Aaron Scheldrick; Editing by Joseph Radford and Michael Roddy)



Filed under: Fukushima, Resistance

Fukushima as Manufactured Disaster


Susanne Gerber


They may not live in castles anymore, but the glass-plated skyscrapers that
tower over the great cities of the world, in faceless anonymity, still
signify the imperious domain of the ruling elite. It is from these places,
not the featureless depths of the earth’s roiling crust, which were the
decisive cause of the triple nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima-Daiichi
plant on 11th March 2011.

An independent report <>  by the Fukushima Nuclear
Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), the first independent
investigation committee authorized by the Japanese Diet (parliament) in its
66 year history, was released to both houses of the Diet on July 5. The
chairman of the report begins with zero equivocation as to the ultimate
cause of the nuclear meltdowns, which are still preventing tens of thousands
of people from returning to their homes; returns that for many, are likely
never to come:

„THE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI of March 11, 2011 were natural disasters of a
magnitude that shocked the entire world. Although triggered by these
cataclysmic events, the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear
Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster. It was a profoundly
manmade disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.
And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human

How could such a „profoundly manmade disaster“ have come to pass? A
multitude of errors, „willful negligence“, and a „reluctance to question
authority“ led to nuclear power becoming „an unstoppable force, immune to
scrutiny by civil society. Its regulation was entrusted to the same
government bureaucracy responsible for its promotion.“ It sounds all too
eerily familiar to anyone who has spent time investigating the US nuclear
regulatory body, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the collusion between
the NRC and US nuclear corporations.

In a line that must indubitably stoke the anger and sorrow of all those made
homeless, all those who have lost their livelihoods and all those tens of
thousands more who now are left to agonize over radioactive contamination
for themselves and their children for decades to come, the report states,
„The direct causes of the accident were all foreseeable prior to March 11,

In other words, contrary to all the talk about „an unforeseeable event“ from
governments around the world and nuclear apologists of the left and right,
the nuclear meltdowns, with all their untold and long-term consequences for
the physical and mental health of the people of the region, were entirely
preventable if the corporation which operated the plants, TEPCO, or the
government bodies charged with regulating the nuclear industry, NISA and
METI, had taken the appropriate safety precautions:

„The operator (TEPCO), the regulatory bodies (NISA and NSC) and the
government body promoting the nuclear power industry (METI), all failed to
correctly develop the most basic safety requirements-such as assessing the
probability of damage, preparing for containing collateral damage from such
a disaster, and developing evacuation plans for the public in the case of a
serious radiation release.“

The report notes that these organizations had known of the inability of the
reactors to withstand such an earthquake and tsunami since 2006. It
recommends across the board, substantive reforms to all aspects of nuclear
regulation, the operation of the plants, the legal framework within which
they operate and the emergency response, evacuation and disaster
preparedness plans, all of which were found wanting.

It warns that these must not be cosmetic name changes or simply shifts of
personnel but a root and branch reordering of priorities and fundamental
reforms as government regulators and the corporation as organizations all
failed to protect the public, as is their legal duty:

„There were many opportunities for NISA, NSC and TEPCO to take measures that
would have prevented the accident, but they did not do so. They either
intentionally postponed putting safety measures in place, or made decisions
based on their organization’s self interest- not in the interest of public

In an echo of the BP Gulf oil spill of 2010, where it was found that BP had
no viable emergency response plan, „TEPCO’s manual for emergency response to
a severe accident was completely ineffective, and the measures it specified
did not function.“ In yet another similarity with the BP disaster, where US
government regulators were found to be having sex and drug parties with BP
officials, the report speaks of „a cozy relationship between the operators,
the regulators and academic scholars that can only be described as totally

However, fundamental reform to the nuclear industry, and TEPCO in
particular, is looking less likely without a further outpouring of national
protest the like of which Japan has not seen in decades. This is because
TEPCO is a giant corporation
ower-of-tepco.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1>  with a stranglehold on electricity
production and much else through various related companies which allow the

„Thanks to a virtual monopoly and a murky electricity pricing system, it has
become one of the biggest sources of loosely regulated cash for politicians,
bureaucrats and businessmen, who have repaid Tepco with unquestioning
support and with the type of lax oversight that contributed to the nuclear

TEPCO had net income (i.e. profits) of $1.7 billion in 2009 through its
corporate affiliates and ownership of 192 electricity plants that produce up
to one third of the electricity in Japan. Overall, Japanese people pay twice
as much for electricity as do those in the US. TEPCO is, therefore, in the
current neoliberal jargon justifying yet more daylight robbery through
ongoing bank bailouts, apparently another corporation „too big to fail“.
Amazingly, TEPCO is pushing to restart some of its own reactors despite the
widely held belief, now well documented in the government’s independent
report, that the corporation was largely to blame. Meanwhile, TEPCO, in its
own report on the accident exonerated itself
onerates-itself-in-report.html?_r=2&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y> , citing instead
the size of the tsunami and government blunders as the
causes of the meltdowns.

Conversely, not to mention much more believably, the authors of the NAIIC
report conclude that the accident was „manmade“:

„The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of
collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of
governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to
be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was
clearly „manmade.“

Some people, a lot of people, should be going to jail. Betrayal of the
people and their right to be free of radioactive contamination, particularly
a people that has already suffered the horror of atomic weapons used against
its civilian population, is unconscionable. What could have driven these
decisions taken by so many people in all these different organizations? Led
them to behave in such a criminally irresponsible manner?

Ultimately, we get to the heart of the matter: „As the nuclear power
business became less profitable over the years, TEPCO’s management began to
put more emphasis on cost cutting and increasing Japan’s reliance on nuclear

Put another way, the decisions taken were dictated by the prime directive of
capitalism: make profit at all costs, grow by any means necessary. Cut
whatever corners you need to, bribe and cajole whoever is necessary,
denigrate and belittle those who oppose you; there is no higher power to
which you will answer other than the God of Profit. This is the iron law of
capital accumulation.

The consequences of those decisions, taken in the faraway, plush boardrooms
of the nuclear corporations, and the lack of credible government information
since the disaster, have now created the fear of the people
lth-fears> , the disbanding of families, and the destruction of their
livelihoods in Fukushima prefecture:

„They continue to face grave concerns, including the health effects of
radiation exposure, displacement, the dissolution of families, disruption of
their lives and lifestyles and the contamination of vast areas of the
environment. There is no foreseeable end to the decontamination and
restoration activities that are essential for rebuilding communities.“

What an utterly appalling way to make electricity. No foreseeable end to
decontamination and restoration activities. Even without considering the
issue of nuclear waste, the staggering cost of building and operating
nuclear plants, or the umbilical cord that indelibly connects the nuclear
power industry to the nuclear weapons and defense industry, can anyone
honestly say that as a highly technological society, we have no better
alternatives to generating electricity than operating nuclear power

The response by the people of Japan has been tremendous and inspiring. Tens
of thousands
tm_content=FullStory#s365125&title=Japan_Anti_Nuclear>  have regularly
picketed government and corporate offices to prevent the restart of
reactors, 7.5 million people have signed a petition against the restarting
of any of the 54 idled reactors which have been kept shuttered due to this
massive and unprecedented outpouring of activism, organizing and anger. A
new anti-nuclear movement is being born from below. As of May, the people of
Japan celebrated the shut-down of the last of the 54 Japanese reactors, even
as there were no power cuts. Our power defeated the nuclear power! People’s
joy was short-lived however. Despite the „setback“ of the Fukushima nuclear
disaster – which should now surely be described at the very least as a
disaster-waiting-to-happen, nuclear corporations are not throwing in the
towel and admitting that nuclear power has got to go.

Through a carefully orchestrated media campaign of fear-mongering based on
the threat of power cuts and government announcements about the dangers a
lack of electricity pose to Japan’s fragile economy, they have managed to
successfully argue for the restart of reactors in the western industrial
region around Osaka. In a rare televised appeal
estart-of-2-nuclear-reactors.html?hpw>  to the Japanese public, the new
Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, who is entirely pro-nuclear, made the case
for the necessary restarts.
Description: Description: Description:

However, in another new piece of evidence that should halt all talk all
restarts, the NAIIC report notes that it cannot say whether the earthquake
itself – not the tsunami – was partly responsible for the reactor meltdowns.
This finding invalidates the „stress tests“ that the nuclear plants have
undergone to prove that they are safe to operate because those tests were
based on the assumption that it was only the tsunami, not the earthquake,
which caused the structural problems and loss of power at the plant.

Meanwhile, a separate government panel of experts has declared that, based
on what happened with the tsunami from the March 11th earthquake, 34m, or
112 feet high tsunamis are possible
isk> along the Pacific coast. Every single one of the 54 Japanese nuclear
reactors is situated along the coast!

The tsunami that overwhelmed the Fukushima-Daiichi plant, and swept away
entire villages in the area, causing 19,000 deaths, was 14m (45 feet) high,
less than half what is predicted as now possible. A 2003 report had put the
maximum that had to be planned for at 20m (60 feet) but clearly a 14m wave
can overwhelm coastal defenses and inundate nuclear plants such as at
Fukushima-Daiichi, which had only anticipated and prepared for a 6m (20
foot) high wave – especially if they have already been compromised by the
preceding earthquake. The only rational answer is to permanently shut down
all the reactors, break apart and dismantle the nuclear corporations as
threats to public health, take further measures to conserve electricity and
speed up the program of building the infrastructure necessary for a clean
energy economy.

However, there are a few broader conclusions to draw from this report and
the litany of similar cases of accidents such as the BP spill where the
corporate drive for profit is like an unstoppable tsunami rationalizing all
manner of health and safety evasions and cutbacks.

Firstly, this is not about a few bad apples or irresponsible, corrupt
people. This is about how capitalism operates. How else does one explain the
need for every single area of capital accumulation – from the nuclear
industry, to oil and gas, to pharmaceuticals to food production – to have
independent regulators preventing the corporations from doing what they are
primed to do: make profit at all costs? If the regulators are in the pockets
of the corporations that bestride the planet as unaccountable behemoths with
their colossal economies, often larger than most individual states, all hell
breaks loose.

Second, whatever those deluded environmentalists who are pro-nuclear think,
there is no scenario in which a sane person can be pro-nuclear when the nuke
plants are operating within a social system that has no ethical, social,
ecological or moral concerns and drives the individuals who run the system
into immoral actions. The only thing crazier than boiling water by splitting
atoms is boiling water by splitting atoms in a social system driven by

Five years ago the great leftist social and ecological thinker and activist
Barry Commoner was asked in a
New York Times interview whether the environmentalists who have now turned
to nuclear power as an answer to global warming had a point. To which he

„No. This is a good example of shortsighted environmentalism. It
superficially makes sense to say, „Here’s a way of producing energy without
carbon dioxide.“ But every activity that increases the amount of
radioactivity to which we are exposed is idiotic. There has to be a
life-and-death reason to do it. I mean, we haven’t solved the problem of
waste yet. We still have used fuel sitting all over the place. I think the
fact that some people who have established a reputation as environmentalists
have adopted this is appalling.“

Third, within capitalism, there are certain essential economic activities
which need to be thought of as they were before the acceleration of
capitalist orthodoxy of deregulation and privatization that occurred with
the birth of neoliberalism 30 years ago. Before the drive for privatization
that necessitated the evisceration of the organized power of the working
class, as the balance of class forces were forcibly tilted toward the
corporations and away from us.

Activities where we are not seen as customers for a commodity that we buy
from a for-profit corporation, but rather as citizens, with a right to a
service from the government that we elect to represent our interests.

Examples of such essential services are the provision of education, access
to water, healthcare, a pension, public transportation – the most basic
attributes for a productive and healthy life and a functioning society. But
this idea must also extend to the provision of electricity. Not just because
it is fundamental to the way we live, but, just as importantly, for
ecological reasons.

We need to conserve electricity and energy use in general and set up systems
to ensure that there is a nationally organized program to do so. However,
that will never happen with electricity production when the utilities are
privately owned. Private electric utilities make more money the more
electricity they sell us. So, having consumers use less would be
counter-productive and irrational from a corporate perspective. If they’re
regulated and offered incentives to sell us less, they just charge more for
each individual unit and pass the costs on. Furthermore, corporations are
always going to spend as little as they can get away with on infrastructure,
safety and maintenance, as illustrated to a horrific extent by the nuclear
catastrophe in Japan.

Electricity should be a service that is publically provided, not a commodity
to be bought. In other words, we need to re-nationalize the electricity grid
and see it as an opportunity to build a new energy infrastructure, one that
is efficient and has at its heart energy conservation based around
alternative sources of energy. Not outdated, dirty, and dangerous 19th and
20th century technologies such as coal, oil, gas or uranium but clean,
renewable – and safe – wind, solar and geothermal sources. Energy sources
that Japan and United States, have in great abundance.

It’s crystal clear however, that without an organized mass movement from
below that unites social and ecological issues together into a single
movement for jobs, sustainability and justice, one that tilts the balance of
social power back in our favor, as the Japanese people are attempting right
now, those changes will not happen. Absent the building of such a movement,
we will eventually be left living on an irradiated cinder of a planet where
they sell us hazmat suits at inflated prices from the safety of their
glittering corporate towers.

In India, there is a titanic struggle going on between people organized
under the banner of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and
the Indian government. The Indian state is determined, despite Fukushima, to
increase its reliance on nuclear power tenfold, so that it represents 25% of
electricity production. This in a country where almost half the population,
400 million people, lack access to electricity and decades old Indian wind
turbines produce twice as much electricity as current Indian nuclear plants
that have already received billions of dollars in funding. If these wind
turbines alone were upgraded, let along building more modern ones or taking
advantage of the plentiful solar energy that India basks in, they could
supply a much larger segment of electricity and obviate the need for the
nuclear plants.

Due to the growth and persistence of the Indian activists struggle, the
state is becoming increasingly violent, dispatching thousands of troops to
put down protests. The response by PMANE and the anti-nuclear activists
to state violence and intimidation as they fight to protect themselves from
the calamity of building more nuclear plants deserves to be quoted at some

„The day after the Tamil Nadu state by-elections last March. Chief Minister
Selvi J. Jayalalithaa suddenly reversed her earlier decision to support the
protesters, dispatching at least 6,000 police and paramilitary to the
region. For three days, the government prevented essential supplies –
including tankers of water and milk – from reaching the PMANE base in
Idinthikarai, a coastal village about two kilometers from the Koodankulam
reactors. But nearby fishing communities sympathized with the protesters at
Idinthikarai and sent in boats of supplies for them. In an unprecedented
display of solidarity, traditional local women also took to boats to reach
the village. Residents blocked roads en masse, preventing police from
arresting the movement’s coordinators.“

This is the kind of heroic solidarity actions and mass movement we need to
build in the United States and in every part of the globe.

But finally, if the system really is pathological in its operation, as I
would argue it is, then the only solution is to uproot it in its entirety
and replace it with something that we can jointly and collectively create; a
social and economic system that places people and the planet before profit.

Ultimately, a system where there is no profit, where we cooperate to
democratically plan out what we need to produce and how we’re going to
produce it with, to use Marx’s words, the „least possible expenditure of
energy“. The stepping stones along the path to that fundamental
transformation require the building of a mass social and ecological justice
movement that fights for real reforms as outlined above, beginning with the
abandonment of the destructive and costly insanity of nuclear power and the
eradication of fossil fuel derived energy that is destabilizing global
climate. But a movement that simultaneously aims for a revolutionary
reordering of power.

Power to the People, Not the Corporations!

Chris Williams is a professor in the Dept of Chemistry & Physical Science,
Pace University and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist
Ecological Crisis
(Haymarket Books, 2010)

see also

Filed under: Fukushima, Politics, Reflection, Resistance

This is a Call to All the Women of Japan and the World!

Susanne Gerber


This is a call to all the women of Japan and the world!

Follow in the footsteps of Fukushima’s Women!
Nationwide call to action! Join us now!
“It’s about time we break the silence!”
Women across the nation will take a stand and sit in protest!
Dates and place for the sit-in in front of METI, Tokyo
Place: Kasumigaseki, in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade
and Industry (METI)
Address: 1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo
One minute walk from Kasumigaseki Station (Exit A12a), Tokyo Metro
Date: October 30 to November 5
★ Please come when you can, for lunch time, after work, for a day, for a
★ Or you may just visit us and chat with us. You are most welcome!
September 22, as Prime Minister Noda declared he would “raise Japan’s safety of
nuclear power generation to the highest level in the world” at the U.N. meeting on
nuclear safety in New York, women demonstrated outside the United Nations protesting,
“How dare you talk about nuclear safety when you cannot even protect the children of
Fukushima! Do not let the suffering of Fukushima’s people go to waste. Stop the world’s
nuclear power plants!” On the flight home, we said to each other, “We should follow in
the footsteps of the Fukushima women and gather women from across the nation to
stage a sit-in!” In spite of fact the fact the Fukushima accident is ongoing and high levels of radiation
are found in Fukushima, on September 30th the Japanese government lifted evacuation
orders in the Emergency Evacuation Preparation Zone. On October 3rd, a citizen’s

group-initiated study of 130 Fukushima children, a follow-up of an initial study
conducted this past summer, found 10 children (7.7%) with signs of change in their
thyroid functions requiring additional follow-up. In response Fukushima women have
rallied, saying,
“We shall not abandon children in this war zone drenched in invisible
“We will no longer tolerate nuclear power!”
We have heard their call and we
too, have decided to take a stand.
★ Give all children the right to evacuate!
★ Stop restart of nuclear power plants across Japan and let us live in security
✧ We are gathering fellow supporters
✧ Do not forget rain/cold protection as well as something to sit on
✧ We also welcome those who can contribute their spirit of solidarity in the cause or
those wishing to donate for participant transportation fees
Donations received at: Shut Tomari
*Japan Post Bank, postal transfer account: 02720-5-79991, donate to “Onna
Suwarikomi” (“Women’ Sit-in”)
*Japan Post Bank, regular savings deposit:
From a Japan Post Bank account 19050 15998721 “Onna Suwarikomi” ( “Women’Sit-in”)
From other banks: 908-908-1599872 “Onna Suwarikomi” ( “Women’ Sit-in”)
Tel: +81-90-2695-1937 (Izumi)
*If you wish to join the action, send a message to:
*For information on 27-29th Sep sit in organized by Fukushima Women, please check

Women calling for the sit-in (to date: October 11th)
Kaori Izumi, Shut Tomari, Fukushima no Kodomotachi wo Mamoru Kai Hokkaido (Group
to Protect Fukushima Children Hokkaido) (Hokkaido)
Taka Yamaguchi, Shimin Jichi wo Tsukuru Kai (Group for the Creation of Citizen
Self-Governance), Fukushima no Kodomotachi wo Mamoru Kai Hokkaido (Group to
Protect Fukushima Children Hokkaido)
Sayaka Funada-Classen, Associate Professor Tokyo University of Foreign Language,
Mom & Children Rescue Fukushima (Tokyo)
Kanna Mitsuta, FoE Japan (Tokyo)
Aileen Mioko Smith, Green Action (Kyoto)
Yuko Yatabe, Nadja no Fukushima Shien (Nadja’s Support for Fukushima) (Ibaraki)
Masako Yonekawa, Associate Professor Utsunomiya University, Mom & Children
Rescue Fukushima (Tochigi)
Supporters (to date: October11th)
Teruko Yoshitake Director, All Japan Women Calling for No-Nukes (Tokyo)
Kazue Suzuki, Greenpeace Japan (Tokyo)
Kiyoko Shimada, Osaka Citizens against the Mihama, Oi and Takahama Nuclear Power
Plants (Mihama-nno-Kai) (Osaka)
Eri Watanabe, FoE Japan (Tokyo)
Akiko Yoshida, FoE Japan (Tokyo)
Kumiko Sakamoto, Associate Professor, Faculty of International Studies Utsunomiya
University, Mom & Children Rescue Fukushima (Tochigi)
Yukiko Anzai, Organic farmer (Yoichi, Hokkaido)
Masuyo Tokita, Professor Emeritus, Hokkaido University (Hokkaido)
Yoshiko Kobayashi, “Know Pluthermal” Shiribeshi Citizen’s Network (Kyowa-cho,
Risa Tokunaga, Lecturer,Keisen Women’s College, Tokyo University for Foreign
Languages (Tokyo)
Hatumi Ishimaru, Gennkai Nuclear Power Station Pluthermal Lawsuit Group
Akiko Ueno, Hisen Iburi (Sobetsu,Hokkaido)
Masayo Matsura, Women Who Fear Nuclear Power (Wakayama)
Yukie Tokura, Stop! Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant (Shizuoka)
Yasuko Yamaguchi, Fuemin Women’s Democratic Journal (Tokyo)
Yui Kimura, No-Nukes・Topco Shareholders Movement (Tokyo)
Shigeko Ogiso, Good Bye Kashiwazaki Kariha Nuclear Power Station

Chieko Hotta,Tomoko Tomizuka, Makiko Okamoto, Naoko Ogura,Toshiko Kobayashi,
Sae Mizukami, Akiko Oono, Yuriko Tani, Hiroko Ishigami

Filed under: Fukushima, Resistance

Women of Fukushima

Susanne Gerber


Women from Fukushima at a sit-in in Tokyo

Yesterday close to two hundred women from Fukushima began a three-day sit-in outside the Tokyo office of Japan’s Ministry of Economy calling for the evacuation of children from areas with high radiation levels and the permanent shut down of nuclear reactors in Japan currently switched off. Their peaceful protest is a powerful – almost radical – act in a country where standing up for something can often mean ostracism from one’s community. These are not women who regularly participate in civil protest. These are mothers who fear for their children’s safety and future. These are grandmothers separated from their families. The fact that they have put their own lives and families on hold for these three days reflects the harrowing situation these women and their families have found themselves in since the nuclear disaster. The responsibilities of these women have only grown since the nuclear meltdown completely disrupted their lives. One of the women protesting, Ms. Saeko Uno, fled Fukushima with her 4-year daughter just hours after the earthquake struck Japan on March 11. She is now living in another city, but her husband can’t give up his job in Fukushima and has to commute back and forth between the two cities. She is frustrated by the separation that has been forced on her family by the disaster. Ms. Uno came to the protest to tell the world that Fukushima doesn’t need nuclear power. In Fukushima, many victims of nuclear radiation are not recognised by the government as having an official right to evacuate the area. This injustice is another issue that has brought Ms. Uno and dozens of other women to Tokyo to protest. The women come from all backgrounds. They are young and old (including an 86-year-old woman), teachers and farmers. During the sit-in they will knit a long woolen chain together, a symbol for them of connecting themselves in one circle. They are calling on women from all over Japan and the rest of the world to join them, beginning on October 30th. Some of the women have been protesting against the Fukushima nuclear plant for years – long before the earthquake and tsunami. Others have joined the cause after the radiation began to affect their families, their children. Most of all, Ms. Uno explains, they want to connect with each other and – amongst the despair that has brought them together – find hope.

Filed under: Fukushima, Politics, Reflection, Resistance

Resistance and Dialogue

Susanne Gerber


Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action Kyoto speaks with Mark Selden in New York about recent developments in Fukushima and the US tour by anti-nuclear activists from Fukushima and other parts of Japan.

“75% of Fukushima’s 300,000 children are going to schools that are so contaminated they would be radiation control areas in nuclear plants where individuals under 18 are not legally allowed.  The Japanese government won’t evacuate people unless radiation levels are four times what triggered evacuation in Chernobyl,” The Fukushima earthquake tsunami nuclear power meltdown of March 11 opened the way for a far-reaching debate in Japan, the US and globally that could lead to rethinking the risks of radiation, the viability of nuclear power, and even to its elimination in some countries. When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the UN would convene a high-level meeting on nuclear energy and security, Aileen Mioko Smith was meeting in Hokkaido with Izumi Kaori of Stop Tomari, the citizens group campaigning to prevent reopening of the dangerous nuclear power plant. They decided on the spot: “We’ve got to go to Washington and New York to tell the world about the urgent threat of nuclear contamination unleashed by the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown, the special danger to children, the lies told by the nuclear power industry and the Japanese government, and the urgent need to close the world’s most dangerous nuclear power plants.” Together with organic farmers Sato Sachiko of Fukushima and her two children, Anzai Sachiko, an organic farmer near Tomari, and Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear who visited Fukushima, they have carried the urgent message that nuclear power plants must be closed in light of the disasters from Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. And that the Fukushima disaster presents an extraordinary opportunity to halt nuclear power not only in Germany and Italy where governments have taken prompt action, but in Japan, the United States and elsewhere. Arriving in Washington on the six month anniversary of the March 11 Fukushima Daiichi meltdown, they have addressed the National Press Club, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the United Nations Human Rights Commission, as well as participating in an action at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant just 38 miles north of New York City. Their central messages to the American and to the Japanese people:

• Save the children of Fukushima and Northeast Japan

• End nuclear power everywhere drawing on the lessons of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima

• Asylum for Fukushima refugees: help both in Japan and abroad.

• UN stop promoting nuclear power.

Given American and global concern about the Fukushima disaster and the future of nuclear power, they were able to gain attention in Washington. Media ranging from CNN as well as NHK and Kyodo News of Japan carried the messages they delivered first to the National Press Club and subsequently to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission where they also received briefings on nuclear safety. The latter was particularly important since the NRC had called on all US citizens living within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to leave. The Japanese government concerned about the costs of evacuating Fukushima city limited its evacuation to 20 kilometers with only additional evacuation of areas with expected annual dose of radiation of 20 millisievert or higher, including some hot spots outside that limit .  In Chernobyl, citizens living in areas contaminated between 1 and 5 mSv/year received government aid if they wished to resettle. Precisely the cavalier attitude of the Japanese government, above all its decision to risk the health of infants and children by limiting evacuation to 20 kilometers, has led campaigners to call for learning from the people of Fukushima, not the Japanese government. And its corollary, pointedly expressed by organic farmer Sato Sachiko: “the lesson is that once it happens, it’s too big for anyone to deal with. The only solution is to prevent it from happening by closing nuclear power plants.”  In August, the Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation, Green Action and four other Japanese NGOs submitted a report to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights describing the Japanese government’s violation of the human rights of Fukushima children and urging the UN come to Japan to investigate the situation.

In New York City they carried their message to the United Nations and demonstrated in Dag Hammerskjold Plaza. As Japan’s Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko emerged from his speech on nuclear safety and security, where he stated his expectation that Japan would complete cold shutdown of all the reactors that continue to spew radiation into the air and sea, Sato Sachiko, who was addressing a rally outside shouted: “Save the children! You must not lie to the world about things getting better. How can you talk about safe nuclear power when the Japanese government can’t even protect the children of Fukushima!” The group’s next stop was the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant just 36 miles from New York City. “When we met with US officials,” Ms Sato commented, “they said they would learn from the lessons of Fukushima. They talked about taking necessary measures out to 50 miles in the event of disaster. But now that I’ve been here, I realize that there is no possible evacuation plan for the 20 million people within 50 miles of the Indian Point plant.

As the Japanese delegates pointed out, the most urgent issue concerns the 300,000 children of Fukushima, above all those living in radiation hot spots both in Fukushima and beyond. The heart of the matter is the Japanese government’s evacuation policy. Following the meltdown, Japan established a twenty-kilometer evacuation zone from the plant, evacuating approximately 36,000 people out of Fukushima’s total population of just over 2 million. Including those who evacuated within the prefecture but outside the twenty kilometer zone, the number is still only a little larger than ten percent of the 400,000 plus evacuated from Chernobyl after the 1986 disaster which turned 2,000 villages into ghost towns. [See Fujioka Atsushi, Understanding the Ongoing Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima: A “Two-Headed Dragon” Descends into the Earth’s Biosphere.] To minimize the number of evacuees, the Japanese government arbitrarily raised the permissible level of annual radiation exposure from one millisievert to twenty mSv, a figure that is being applied not only to adults but to infants and pregnant women, those most vulnerable to radiation. By contrast, following Chernobyl, the Russian and Belorussian states evacuated everyone in localities with five mSv. A quarter of a century later, the evacuated areas remain uninhabitable, a prospect that could confront Fukushima if recent official projections prove accurate. How high a radiation level is twenty mSv/year? The Japanese government has legally compensated Japanese nuclear power plant workers who contracted cancer from as low as 5.2mSv exposure and higher. Now a substantially higher level of supposed safety (20 mSv) is to be applied to citizens, including infants and children in Japan.  Indeed, the Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT), choosing a strategy of reassurance over one of protection, produced a guide for teachers and parents in Fukushima which claimed that “weak” radiation doses such as 250 mSv over a number of years will have no health effects, and increased cancer risk was not recognized with cumulative doses of under 100 mSv. [Say Peace Project, Protecting Children Against Radiation: Japanese Citizens Take Radiation Protection into Their Own Hands.”] Much of the discussion of the risk of radiation has centered on cancer. That is indeed an important concern. But the effects of cancer are played out over decades and it is frequently difficult to conclusively pinpoint the cause. What have been the short-term health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns? “With the Japanese government in general, and the Fukushima medical establishment in particular providing no comprehensive statistical health data, indeed, insisting that there are no health concerns, it is presently necessary to rely on evidence provided by Fukushima residents,” Smith explains. “These include numerous examples provided by parents who have challenged MEXT and Fukushima authorities demanding evacuation for the children. For example, there have been numerous reports of serious nose bleeding and of diarrhea that cannot be stopped . . . and not just in children. There have also been numerous examples of symptoms of atopic skin diseases and asthma getting worse after the accident.” We know, moreover, that the immediate effects of the Chernobyl disaster included elevated levels of numerous diseases including heart disease as well as birth normalities and stillbirths. [See introduction to Chris Busby, “Fukushima Children at Risk of Heart Disease.”] While the people of Fukushima and Japan’s Northeast face serious problems of health, evacuation, and long-term economic disaster, the potential for positive change in the wake of the multiple disasters and especially the Fukushima meltdown now exists.  Today just 11 of Japan’s nuclear power plants are operating and those that are closed require stress tests before they can reopen. [Note: Following the interview, one more plant was closed pending testing. This presently leaves just 10 in operation.] Since March 11 just one of the closed plants, the dangerous plant at Tomari in Hokkaido has reopened, and it is the subject of an active campaign to Stop Tomari. Most important, the entire public dialogue has shifted with growing criticism of nuclear power and support for rapid development of renewable energy in the wake of passage of a renewable energy law which establishes a Feed-in Tariff system requiring power companies to purchase locally produced energy. Moreover, Japanese capital, led by businessman Son Masayoshi, has awakened to the potential of renewable energy as the next major frontier for Japanese industry. Finally, the fact that Japan succeeded in conserving energy to avert a serious power shortage with the majority of its nuclear plants closed makes clear the possibility for moving beyond nuclear power to renewable energy in future.

Aileen Mioko Smith, Executive Director, Green Action based in Kyoto, has been working to eliminate Japan’s nuclear power reactors since 1983. See this link for updates on the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant earthquake and tsunami crisis. This interview was conducted in New York City on September 24, 2011. Smith is co-author with W. Eugene Smith of Minamata: Words and Photographs.

Filed under: Consequences, Fukushima, Politics, Reflection, Resistance

The Worst Possible Scenario

Susanne Gerber


Remember the guy who pointed his finger at the Fuku I Livecam and later announced his intentions in not-so-comprehensible English? Here’s a rough translation of his reasons why he did what he did from the original Japanese, which I hope is a bit more clear. His concerns are very legitimate, but to this day I haven’t seen any news of TEPCO or the government looking into them other than superficial lip service that they will do so. He says he pointed his finger not only at TEPCO and the government, but also to the viewers who would watch the video, live or recorded, on the Internet, and to himself who would watch it on his smartphone.

„I would like to request that TEPCO and the government improve in a tangible way how they contract work to subcontractors and how they monitor the employment situation. As has been much reported, some workers have been forced to work here by the outlaw element [i.e. „yakuza“ or the Japanese mafia]. Such workers are disguised as being employed by legitimate contractors but have to accept an unfair or severe employment conditions. Sometimes even the legitimate contractors who post recruitment information at employment Offices don’t know who their workers‘ true contractors are. The excessive multi-layered subcontracting leads to various problems such as lower wages, no insurance, and no contract document, as has been reported. In addition, I would like to share a few stories from my own experience. At the inn where I stayed, there were days when I could not sleep during the daytime before my nighttime shift, because my roommates‘ work shifts are different. Before work, the workers had to fill in the form to declare their health condition. On one of such sleep-starved days, I honestly declared that I had slept for 4 hours. But while I was looking away, one of my seniors rewrote it to 6 hours. I assume it was because workers who were not capable of managing their own health would put a bad face on the company. There is another problem. Even if we only worked for the prescribed hours, we had to spend huge amount of extra time taking care of the newcomers and registering them. Therefore, we sometimes ended up working or driving a car with only 1 or 2 hours of sleep. The subcontractors are competing with each other for more work and trying to show how much they could do even if they have to strain their workers a little. The contractors would benefit from the low-cost, high-efficiency work. However, by the very nature of the whole setup, minor troubles or problems will not be reported to the higher hierarchy. They are causing negative effects everywhere, and I am worried that they might eventually lead to a serious accident. Even if the TEPCO people were asked about subcontractors and workers at the press conference, all they could answer might be „we will investigate the matter“ or „we will ask our affiliate companies not to do such things.“ And they probably would not receive any meaningful reports anyway. The more mult-layered the subcontracting structure becomes, inconvenient facts get filtered out as the report goes from one layer to the layer above. It is not just the matter of subcontractors not reporting the situation. I don’t think this problem will be solved if they hold individual workers or individual affiliate companies accountable. Threatening the subcontractors will not result in safety. This is the lesson we must learn from the JR Fukuchiyama-Line’s derailment accident in 2005. The plant workers are in a weak position. They should be liberated from the severe situation where they have to hide their overwork. They are already overwhelmed by their sense of mission to put an end to this catastrophe for the sake of many people. They should not be burdened with additional pressure in the forms of bad working conditions and employment insecurity. I believe this problem should be addressed comprehensively as a problem of the employment system at the plant as a whole. I wish TEPCO would employ all workers directly, but if that is impossible, how about at least keeping complete track of all the workers‘ contract conditions by making all the subcontractors issue written contract documents? (I myself did not get any contract document.)
How about examining such contract documents and checking whether proper wages and insurance coverage are guaranteed, whether enough number of stand-by workers are reserved, and how work shifts, number of workers, and holidays are scheduled? The original purpose of subcontracting is to have the subcontractors carry out the specialized tasks that the parent company doesn’t have expertise on; the subcontracting should not be about skirting responsibility by dumping the normal management work on the subcontractors. There’s no predicting the final outcome, but I consider the current situation at the plant as one that has somehow managed to escape the worst possible scenario. I think it is important at the site of such an accident to prevent human errors caused by insufficient care about management work and workers. At the plant site, many cheering messages from children, posters, banners, faxes, photocopies of emails, strings of „thousand origami cranes“ from all over the country are displayed on the walls. Please make sure those voices will not turn into the voices that impose harsh self-sacrifice on the workers. Also, the fact that I was able to carry out my action without being stopped shows anyone who is dissatisfied with the current situation can go inside and do whatever he wants. I don’t think this can be prevented by strengthening security or strictly controlling the workers. I believe a much better way is to improve employment conditions to a decent level so that no worker gets frustrated. I personally would like the press to continue to gather information on the working conditions at the nuclear plant and ask about it at the press conference.“

Filed under: Consequences, Fukushima, Resistance

Safecast – an Alternative Use of Data

Susanne Gerber


Safecast is a global project working to empower people with data, primarily by building a sensor network and enabling people to both contribute and freely use the data we collect. Articles are contributed by volunteers, all opinions expressed are those of the author and should not be taken as official statements from Safecast.

  1. We get the data from other companies and individuals. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the data or the reliability of a source.
  2. The units of measurement for radiation are not commonly understood outside of the scientific community. There are several different ways to express radiation measurements and converting between the types isn’t something we feel we ought to be doing, as we may introduce errors or interpretations.
  3. The devices used to gather radiation readings vary in capabilities and quality. Some devices do not measure certain forms of radiation. Devices require calibration for accuracy, and we do not know whether the data reported to us is coming from a properly calibrated source.

Interested in helping?

Filed under: Fukushima, Radiation, Research, Resistance

Radiation Effects on Health: Protect the Children of Fukushima

Susanne Gerber



Kodama Tatsuhiko

Professor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo

Head, Radioisotope Center, the University of Tokyo

Talk at the July 27, 2011 meeting of the Committee on Welfare and Labor of the House of Representatives

I am Kodama, head of the Radioisotope Center, the University of Tokyo. I was astonished on March 15th.

The radioisotope centers of the University of Tokyo at twenty-seven locations are responsible for protection against radiation and conducting decontamination work. As a physician of internal medicine, I have been involved for scores of years in decontamination, among other locations, at radiation facilities of the University of Tokyo Hospital.

On March 15, as you may see in this diagram, we first experienced a radiation dose of 5 μSv (micro Sievert) per hour at Tōkai-mura in Ibaraki prefecture and immediately reported to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology by way of the “Article Ten Report” in accordance with the standard set under the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency’s “Special Law Relating to Measures against Nuclear Disasters.” After that a radiation dose above 0.5 μSv was measured in Tokyo. This was transient, the dose going down quickly. Next, on March 22, it rained in Tokyo bringing down radioactive materials with a dose of around 0.2 μSv, and this, with those particles staying in the soil, seems to be the cause of the high dose until today.

Shinjuku, Tokyo

2011.7.27 Kodama Tatsuhiko, Committee on Welfare and Labor of the House of Representatives

The numbers in the left column indicate microsievert per hour figures. The amount peaks on March 15 and drops sharply by March 19.



At that point, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano commented that, “for the time being there is not much worry concerning health.” I thought that in fact the situation would turn out to be disastrous. The reason is that the current law relating to prevention of radiation poisoning is based on the idea of handling a small amount of high radiation dosage.

In that case, the total dose is not much of an issue; rather, the density of radiation in each individual is the focus. However, following the recent accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, 5 μSv within 100 kilometers and 0.5 μSv within 200 kilometers from the complex were recorded. And as all of you know now, radiation reached further beyond to affect Ashigara and Shizuoka tea leaves.

When we examine radiation poisoning, we look at the entire amount. TEPCO and the government have never clearly reported on the total amount of radiation doses resulting from the Fukushima nuclear accident. When we calculate on the basis of the knowledge available at our Radioisotope Center, in terms of the quantity of heat, the equivalent of 29.6 Hiroshima a-bombs leaked. Converted to uranium, an amount equivalent to 20 Hiroshima a-bombs is estimated to have leaked.

What is further dreadful is that, according to what we know so far, when we compare the amount of radiation that remained after the a-bomb and that of radiation from the nuclear plant, that of the former goes down to one-thousandth after one year whereas radioactive contaminants of the latter are reduced to only one-tenth.

In other words, in thinking about the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, the first premise is that, as in the case of Chernobyl, an amount of radiation equivalent to tens of a-bombs was released and far greater contamination remains afterward compared with the a-bomb.

A rough estimate based on the amount of heat released from the Fukushima nuclear plant

If such is the case—we work in the field of systems biology, which focuses on complex interactions in biological systems—where the total amount is low, it suffices to look at the density of radiation in an individual. Not so where the total amount is gigantic. We are talking about particles here. Spread of particles belongs to the field of non-linear science, which is the most difficult area in hydrodynamics calculations. In other words, when nuclear fuel, which can be compared to sand grains embedded in something like synthetic resin, melts down and leaks out, a large amount of ultrafine particles is released.

When particles are released, what will happen? The problem of rice straw that recently surfaced is exactly that. For example, the figure was 57,000 Bq/kg (becquerels per kilogram) in Fujiwara in Iwate; 17,000 in Ōsaki in Miyagi; 106,000 in Minami-Sōma in Fukushima; 97,000 in Shirakawa also in Fukushima; 64,000 in Iwate. The figures never hew to concentric circles. How much falls and where depends upon the weather at that time and whether the material has absorbed, for example, water.

I have been making the 700 kilometer trip to Minami-Sōma every week—the Radioisotope Center of the University of Tokyo has so far carried out decontamination work seven times. When we first went to Minami-Sōma, there was only one NaI counter. On March 19, when the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry reportedly issued an official notice [including instruction to use only fodder stored indoors], food, water, and gasoline were about to be exhausted in Minami-Sōma. Its mayor’s heartfelt SOS appeal posted on March 24 is widely known.

If a single notice is sent out in that kind of situation, no one will either see it or know of it. That rice straw was in such a dangerous condition was totally unknown to farmers. Starting on the day they learned about it in late March, farmers have been buying fodder from overseas, bearing the cost of hundreds of thousand yen, and further, they have switched the water for cows to the same underground water that they themselves use.

Then, as we see it, what must be done first is guarantee that thorough measurement is conducted in contaminated areas. When we went to Minami-Sōma in late May, the story was that they had only one detector as mentioned earlier, but in reality twenty personal dosimeters had arrived from the US army. However, the Board of Education at city hall had difficulty understanding the accompanying English manual. When we showed them how to use the equipment, they started using those twenty detectors for the first time. Such is the situation at the actual place.

Inspection of food has been talked about. Instead of the germanium counter, a far larger number of imaging-based semiconductor detectors have now been produced. Why doesn’t the government try to use them everywhere, providing funds to make them available throughout the country? The fact that no such thing whatsoever has been done after three months fills my entire being with anger.

Second. Since the time of Prime Minister Obuchi (1998-2000), I have been responsible for the Cabinet Office’s antibody preparations. The 3 billion yen support for most advanced research goes toward the cure of cancer with antibiotic medicine to which isotopes are added. In other words my job is to feed isotopes into the human body. Thus, the issue of internal exposure to radiation is central to my research.

So I would like to explain how internal exposure occurs. The greatest problem of internal exposure is cancer. Cancer occurs from a breakage of DNA. As you know, DNA is normally in double spiraling strands. When it is in this form, it is quite stable. When molecular division occurs, this double helix structure comes apart to form two separate strands, which double themselves, and ends in a four-strand structure. It is extremely dangerous during this mutation process.

The top part of this diagram shows that DNA in the normal double helix structure is stable, but that at a mutation stage, it is vulnerable if hit by radiation especially in cells of fetuses, children, hair, white blood cells, and outer skin of internal organs. The bottom left shows the normal double helix DNA situation. When hit by radiation, it may develop a polyp or a benign tumor. In 10 to 30 years, however, with the presence of another factor, cancer may occur.

For this reason, with pregnant women, fetuses, and young children, all at stages of active growth, radiation poisoning can be extremely dangerous. Further, in the case of adults, parts of the body where growth is active—hair, blood, and surface skin of the intestines, whose cells actively split and multiply—are the first places to be attacked. Now let me discuss examples we know from concrete occurrences when isotopes are injected into the body.

In reality, the mutation of a single gene does not lead to cancer. After the first attack of radiation, another separate factor can contribute to cancerous mutation. This concerns such factors as driver mutation and passenger mutation. Please consult the reference materials attached at the end of the handout.

First, the most widely known is the α (alpha) ray. I was stunned to hear of a University of Tokyo professor who claims that it’s safe to drink plutonium, but the α-ray is the most dangerous. Doctors specializing in the liver such as myself are thoroughly familiar with what is called Thorotrast liver damage. In short, internal exposure has generally been talked about in terms of such-and-such levels of μSv, but that is totally meaningless. I-131 concentrates in the thyroid gland. Thorotrast gathers in the liver. Cesium gathers in the outer skin of the urinal tract and bladder. Unless these concentration points in the body are taken into consideration, it is totally meaningless no matter how many times the whole-body scan is performed.

In the case of Thorotrast, we have small figures here and I would like you to look at larger figures later, but at any rate it is a “contrast medium” used in Germany starting in 1890. Since around 1930, it was used in Japan as well. But it has come to be known that cancer of the liver generates after 20 or 30 years in 25 to 30 percent of the cases in which Thorotrast was administered.

The reason that it takes 20 years before a first episode occurs is this. First, the α-ray nuclide—and Thorotrast is an α-ray nuclide—harms nearby cells. What is damaged most severely is the gene called P53. At present we know the entire sequence of genomes through genetic science, and we also know that the sequence of the genomes of one individual differs from that of another in approximately 3 million places. Thus, handling all humans in the same way is quite meaningless today. When we observe the internal radioactive syndrome from the perspective of “personalized medicine,” it is important to observe which particular genes are hit and what mutations are occurring.

In the case of Thorotrast, it is proven that the P53 gene is hit during the first stage. It then takes 20 to 30 years for the succeeding secondary and tertiary mutations to occur, resulting in cancer of the liver and leukemia.

Next, I-131. As you know, iodine concentrates in the thyroid gland. Concentration occurs in small children as they characteristically develop the gland in their growth period. However, when a Ukrainian scholar pointed out in 1991 that “cancer in the thyroid gland is occurring frequently,” Japanese and American researchers contributed articles to Nature claiming that “a causal relationship remains unclear.” The reason is that a lack of data preceding 1986 (when the Chernobyl meltdown occurred) made it impossible to establish statistical significance.

However, as Professor Nagataki mentioned earlier, statistical significance became clear 20 years later. What was clarified 20 years later was that occurrences of children’s thyroid cancer in and around Chernobyl began in 1986, and after peaking in 1995, disappeared in 2004. This provided evidence of the causal relationship even without data from the past. Thus, epidemiological evidence is extremely hard, and in most cases, proof is impossible until all episodes finish running their course.


Diagram 1: Percentage of thyroid cancer in Belarus

Occurrences among 100,000 people (A “Chernobyl 20 Years” international conference report. Courtesy of Dr. Y. Demedchik.)
Solid line: children (ages 0 to 14)
Dotted line: adolescents (ages 15 to 18)
Broken line: young adults (ages 19 to 34)

Thus, a totally different approach is needed for “protecting children,” which is our task. What is being done now is this. Professor Fukushima Akiharu of the state-run Japan Bioassay Research Center observes the effects of chemical substances on the human body. He has been examining matter that collects in the urinal tract in Chernobyl. In consultation with Ukrainian doctors, he and his colleagues collected over 500 cases of operations for prostatic hyperplasia, non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate. In a prostate operation, some bladder tissue also comes off. Examination of this clarified that the mutation of P53 had markedly increased in the highly contaminated area, though the amount of radiation in urine is very small—6 Bq/l— in that area. Moreover, it was found to be in the precancerous state of a malignant kind. In our view, MAP kinase (Mitogen-activated protein kinases) called P38 and a signal called NF-κB (nuclear factor-kappa B, or nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells in full) are activated, resulting in inflammation of the bladder. It has been reported that cancer is already present in the outer skin in a large percentage of cases.


 The levels of cesium 137 in the urine of patients who underwent prostatectomy in and around Chernobyl

2011.7.27 Kodama Tatsuhiko, Committee on Welfare and Labor of the House of Representatives

What shocked me was that, as already reported, 2 to 13 Bq of cesium was measured in the mother’s milk in seven individuals.

Please turn to the next page. Our Radioisotope Center has been sending researchers weekly on a 700 kilometer trip, usually four people at a time, to Minami-Sōma to cooperate with decontamination efforts. What is happening in Minami-Sōma is just as you see. The definition [of the danger zone] such as 20 kilometers or 30 kilometers, is totally meaningless. It’s absolutely useless unless you make minute measurements from kindergarten to kindergarten. At present, 1,700 Minami-Sōma children are being bused to areas between 20 to 30 kilometers, but in fact, in central Minami-Sōma facing the sea, the radioactive dose at seventy percent of the schools is relatively low. And yet children are forced to travel daily by school bus, and at a cost of one million yen, to schools closer to Iidate-mura, located 30 kilometers from the power plant. Please stop this immediately.

The greatest hurdle now is that the country does not guarantee compensation except in cases of forced evacuation, as President Shimizu of TEPCO and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kaieda stated at a recent House of Councilors’ committee meeting. Please separate the two issues. Please immediately separate the demarcation issue for compensation problems from the issue of children.

I beg you to do your utmost to protect children.

Another thing I would like to request from the viewpoint of those working at the actual site is, to distinguish between decontamination related to urgent evacuation and officially defined decontamination. We have been engaged to a fair extent in decontamination related to urgent evacuation. For example, see the foot of the slide shown in this diagram. This is where small children put their hands down [at the bottom of a slide]. Each time that rain pours on the slide, the dose is concentrated. The measurement differs between the right and left sides. Where the average dose is 1 μ, we observe a measurement over 10 μ. We must hasten to conduct decontamination in such areas.

When a building, foliage, and an entire area are all contaminated, even if you wash contaminants away from one place, it is extremely difficult to handle the totality. In seriously performing decontamination, you need to take into consideration how problematic the situation is and how much it will cost. Let me use the example of the cadmium poisoning disease that frequently occurred from the 1910s to the early 1970s in Fuchū-machi (now Toyama city) in Toyama prefecture. The cadmium-contaminated area was approximately 3,000 hectares. Currently 800 billion yen in public funds is allocated for decontamination of up to 1,500 hectares in Toyama. If the area turns out to be 1,000 times greater, how much public funds will have to be invested? Thus, I would like to make the following urgent suggestions.

First, please, as national policy, radically improve inspection of food, soil, and water with the use of the newest and most powerful equipment available in Japan that employs imaging, and systematically eliminate environmental radioactivity. By now, semi-conductor imaging is simple. Introduce the use of the newest tools equipped with imaging and other capabilities. This is totally possible with today’s Japanese scientific technology.

Second, please urgently establish a new law to reduce children’s exposure to radiation. What I am currently doing is illegal on every count. The current law on prevention of radiation poisoning defines the radiation doses and nuclides that can be handled by different facilities. Our Radioisotope Center mobilizes its 27 branch centers to support Minami-Sōma, but many of these branches have not obtained permission to use cesium. It is also illegal to carry cesium-contaminated materials by car. However, because we cannot hand over high dose materials to mothers and teachers, in our decontamination work we bring everything back to Tokyo packed in oil drums. Reception of such things is illegal—completely illegal.

For leaving this situation intact, the Diet is to be blamed. Throughout Japan, many institutions, for example isotope centers at state universities, own germanium counters and the newest detectors. With these organizations fettered [by law], how can the nation maximize its effort to protect children? This reflects the Diet’s total indolence.

Third, please assemble, as national policy, the technologies for decontaminating soil and the power of the private sector. For example, chemical makers like Toray and Kurita, radioactive decontamination equipment makers like Chiyoda TechnoAce and Attox, and firms like Takenaka Corporation, have a variety of knowhow about decontamination. Assemble these potentials and immediately build a decontamination research center at the actual site. It may require tens of trillions of yen of public funds. At present, I am seriously concerned that this develop into interest-driven public enterprise. Given the national financial situation, there is not a moment to spare. The question is how to really decontaminate. When 70,000 people are uprooted from their homes, what on earth is the Diet doing?

This is all for now.

*This translation is based on the original YouTube version posted on the Peace Philosophy Centre site with a helpful transcript. The images are based on the handout materials shared by Kodama Akihiko:


Recommended citation: Kodama Tatsuhiko, Radiation Effects on Health: Protect the Children of Fukushima, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 32 No 4, August 8, 2011

Filed under: Danger, Radiation, Reflection, Research, Resistance

Helen Caldicott

Susanne Gerber


The single most articulate and passionate advocate of citizen action to remedy the nuclear and environmental crises, Dr Helen Caldicott, has devoted the last 38 years to an international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age and the necessary changes in human behavior to stop environmental destruction.

Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1938, Dr Caldicott received her medical degree from the University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She founded the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at the Adelaide Children’sHospital in 1975 and subsequently was an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and on the staff of the Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Boston, Mass., until 1980 when she resigned to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war. In 1971, Dr Caldicott played a major role in Australia’s opposition to French atmospheric nuclear testing in the Pacific; in 1975 she worked with the Australian trade unions to educate their members about the medical dangers of the nuclear fuel cycle, with particular reference to uranium mining. While living in the United States from 1977 to 1986, she co-founded the Physicians for Social Responsibility, an organization of 23,000 doctors committed to educating their colleagues about the dangers of nuclear power, nuclear weapons and nuclear war. On trips abroad she helped start similar medical organizations in many other countries. The international umbrella group (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. She also founded the Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND) in the US in 1980. Returning to Australia in 1987, Dr Caldicott ran for Federal Parliament as an independent. Defeating Charles Blunt, leader of the National Party, through preferential voting she ultimately lost the election by 600 votes out of 70,000 cast. She moved back to the United States in 1995, lecturing at the New School for Social Research on the Media, Global Politics and the Environment, hosting a weekly radio talk show on WBAI (Pacifica), and becoming the Founding President of the STAR (Standing for Truth About Radiation) Foundation. Dr Caldicott has received many prizes and awards for her work, including the Lannan Foundation’s 2003 Prize for Cultural Freedom and 21 honorary doctoral degrees, and she was personally nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Linus Pauling – himself a Nobel Laureate. The Smithsonian has named Dr Caldicott as one of the most influential women of the 20th Century. She has written for numerous publications and has authored seven books, Nuclear Madness, Missile Envy, If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Heal the Earth (1992, W.W. Norton) and A Desperate Passion: An Autobiography (1996, W.W. Norton; published as A Passionate Life in Australia by Random House), The New Nuclear Danger: George Bush’s Military Industrial Complex (2001, The New Press in the US, UK and UK; Scribe Publishing in Australia and New Zealand; Lemniscaat Publishers in The Netherlands; and Hugendubel Verlag in Germany), Nuclear Power is Not the Answer (2006, The New Press in the US, UK and UK; Melbourne University Press in Australia) and War In Heaven (March 2007). Dr. Caldicott’s most recent book is the revised and updated If You Love This Planet (March 2009).She also has been the subject of several films, including Eight Minutes to Midnight, nominated for an Academy Award in 1981, If You Love This Planet, which won the Academy Award for best documentary in 1982, and Helen’s War: portrait of a dissident, recipient of the Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Direction (Documentary) 2004, and the Sydney Film Festival Dendy Award for Best Documentary in 2004. Dr Caldicott currently divides her time between Australia and the US where she lectures widely. She founded the US-based Nuclear Policy Research Institute (NPRI), which evolved into Beyond Nuclear. Currently, Dr Caldicott is President of The Helen Caldicott Foundation/, an educational outreach project that informs people of the dangers of nuclear power and weapons. The mission of the Foundation is education to action, and the promotion of a nuclear energy and weapons free, renewable energy powered, world. Dr Caldicott can be heard discussing urgent planetary survival issues on her weekly radio show If You Love This Planet, and is the Founder and Spokesperson for People for a Nuclear-Free Australia, established to represent the millions of Australians who uphold the strong belief that there should be no uranium mining, nuclear power plants or foreign nuclear waste in Australia. Dr Caldicott is also a member of the International Scientific Advisory Board advising José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain.

Filed under: Fukushima, Research, Resistance