On Third Anniversary of Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, Radiation Continues to Threaten Pacific Ocean

Posted March 12, 2014

MP3 Interview with Harvey Wasserman, author and environmental activist, conducted by Scott Harris


March 11th marked the third anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan’s coastline, killing more than 15,000 people and leaving 300,000 homeless. The earthquake also triggered the triple meltdown and four explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power complex located near the epicenter of the tremor. Since the tsunami destroyed the nuclear reactor’s back up cooling systems there have been continuing leaks of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.

Contaminated water is being stored in 1,200 tanks located on the Fukushima site, but they are prone to leaks. While the Tokyo Electric Company and Japanese government are expecting a 30- to 40-year timeframe to decommission the failed reactors, they say their urgent mission is to dispose of the contaminated water, the most likely option being a release of the stored radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, scientists say as many as 20 trillion becquerels of cesium 137, 10 trillion becquerels of strontium 90 and 40 trillion becquerels of tritium were released into the Pacific Ocean. Scientists further predict that radiation from the Fukushima reactors will reach the waters off the U.S. West Coast sometime in April.

On the eve of the third anniversary of the earthquake and nuclear disaster thousands of Japanese citizens protested Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to reopen some of the nation’s 48 nuclear plants that were closed down in 2011. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with author and environmental activist Harvey Wasserman, who examines the continuing danger of the radiation leaks at Fukushima and the threat to human health and the ecosystem posed by the global nuclear power industry.

HARVEY WASSERMAN: As soon as there’s a nuclear reaction at Chernobyl, at Three Mile Island, if there’s a bomb test in the South Pacific, or in Nevada, even in Hiroshima or Nagasaki – now it’s Fukushima — the response is instant, and immediate and automatic. And it’s always the same thing, “not enough radiation came out to harm anybody." Now you have all the apologists who have no idea how much radiation escaped from Fukushima, what kind it is, where it’s gone, who will be impacted. What we do know for sure, and there’s one thing we know for sure, is that there is NO safe dose of radiation. There is NO number that you can assign to a dose of radiation that you can prove to be perfectly harmless.

This is especially important when it comes to pregnant women, because it was shown in 1956 (by Dr. Alex Stewart) that X-raying pregnant women led to a doubled childhood leukemia rate among their offspring. She was attacked as you might expect and fought for 30 years, and finally the medical profession had to concede and come around, so we do not X-ray pregnant women. We also wear a bib when we go in a dentist’s office and the X-ray technician leaves the room.

And unfortunately, we can’t “leave the room” in this case. It’s the planet earth.

And so Fukushima has spewed out a gargantuan, and continues to spew out gargantuan quantities of radiation. We do know that it will be arriving in the water on the West Coast sometime this summer. This is detectable cesium that can only be coming from Fukushima and it is not harmless.

So those of us who like to go to the beach are going to have to face a decision. Why should we have to face this kind of decision in the year 2014, when commercial nuclear powers and economic catastrophe ... the only people who make money on nuclear power are large corporations. They’re completely corporate controlled and there's no really effective control on the part of the public. And even as was seen at Fukushima where Tepco was turning the cleanup into a huge profit center.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Harvey, I know you’ve been tracking public opinion in Japan as regards to the plan by the Japanese prime minister to restart these nuclear power plants, the 48 nuclear power plants that were shut down after the tsunami, and after the Fukushima disaster. There have been very large demonstrations against nuclear power across Japan in these intervening few years. What can you tell us about public opinion in Japan right now? Are people supportive of the government plan to restart these nuclear plants?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: No. Actually not. The polls show a very strong majority in opposition to reopening nuclear plants in Japan. You know, you have essentially a fascist government there now that has come in with American support, which is pushing the reopening of the reactors and is pushing to prevent the public from knowing what is going on, spending huge amounts of money on public relations, “manufacturing” consent as Noam Chomsky would say, and denying the science that shows that there are dangers to the public — and in fact, there has been a spike in thyroid abnormalities. You know this is a very, very ugly situation.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What is the situation with seafood that is fished out of the Pacific Ocean? Tuna, for instance, migrate around some of the currents that bring the waters near Fukushima up towards the Aleutian Islands and down the West Coast. Is there anybody or any agency measuring the potential radiation in seafood that’s sold in U.S. markets?

HARVEY WASSERMAN: Not that I know of. There was some testing done on tuna in southern California and every tuna they tested showed radiation from Fukushima. And it is traceable; there are some isotopes of cesium and tritium and some other elements that are clearly related to the disaster.

So, seafood has become problematic, but there’s no one giving you a hard number. And I don’t think that’s an accident. The radiation is pouring into the Pacific, and we don’t know, there’s no studies on the long-term health impact on starfish and sea lions, or soybeans and salmon, you know, and other species. Nobody has those numbers, and so when these people tell you that, you know, the amounts are too small to harm anything, there’s no data that show that. And so these denials are completely commercial-based.

The one good piece of news is that solar energy is proceeding, green powers, renewable sufficiency, conservation, these technologies have exploded in a good way, so that renewables are much much cheaper than nuclear, much cheaper than much of the fossil fuel energy now — they are terrified of renewables.

But this revolution is happening, and we can’t make “events” come fast enough. The most important thing we can do to save this planet is to shut the nuclear reactors as soon as possible. And before the next Fukushima, for god sakes.

Harvey Wasserman is editor at NukeFree.org and author of “Solartopia, Our Green Powered Earth.” Find links to Wasserman’s articles and more information on the Fukushima disaster on Nukefree.org/ as well as Solartopia.org for information on “Solartopia, Our Green Powered Earth."

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