Tag Archives: Fukushima Daiichi

12/4/2011 Los Angeles Times: Japan's 'nuclear gypsies' face radioactive peril at power plants

Japan’s ‘nuclear gypsies’ face radioactive peril at power plants Unskilled contractors make up most of the workforce and face higher doses of radiation than utility employees at Fukushima and other nuclear power plants in Japan. By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, December 4, 2011: Namie, Japan— Kazuo Okawa’s luckless career as a “nuclear gypsy” began one night at a poker game. The year was 1992, and jobs were scarce in this farming town in the shadow of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. An unemployed Okawa gambled and drank a lot. He was dealing cards when a stranger made him an offer: manage a crew of unskilled workers at the nearby plant. “Just gather a team of young guys and show up at the front gate; I’ll tell you what to do,” instructed the man, who Okawa later learned was a recruiter for a local job subcontracting firm. Okawa didn’t know the first thing about nuclear power, but he figured, what could go wrong?

He became what’s known in Japan as a “jumper” or “nuclear gypsy” for the way he moved among various nuclear plants. But the nickname that Okawa disliked most was burakumin, a derisive label for those who worked the thankless jobs
he and others performed.

Such unskilled contractors exist at the bottom rung of the nation’s employment ladder, subjecting themselves to perilous doses of radioactivity.

Solicited from day labor sites across the country, many contractors are told little of the task ahead.

“The recruiters call out their windows that they have two days of work; it’s not unlike the way migrant farm workers are hired in the U.S.,” said Kim Kearfott, a nuclear engineer and radiation health expert at the University of Michigan.

“Many are given their training en route to the plant. They’re told: ‘Oh, by the way, we’re going to Fukushima. If you don’t like it, you can get off the truck right now.’ There’s no such thing as informed consent, like you would have
in a human medical experiment,” she said.

After an earthquake-triggered tsunami deluged the Fukushima plant in March, a disaster that cascaded into reactor core meltdowns, activists are calling for better government regulation of what they call the nuclear industry’s dirtiest
secret.

For decades, they say, atomic plants have maintained a two-tiered workforce: one made up of highly paid and well-trained utility employees, and another of contractors with less training and fewer health benefits.

Last year, 88% of the 83,000 workers at the nation’s 18 commercial nuclear power plants were contract workers, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, a government regulator.

A study by the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a Tokyo-based watchdog group, found that contractors last year accounted for 96% of the harmful radiation absorbed by workers at the nation’s nuclear power plants.

Temporary workers at the Fukushima plant in 2010 also faced radiation levels 16 times higher than did employees of the plant’s owner-operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., because contractors are called in for the most dangerous work, according to the government’s industrial safety agency.

“This job is a death sentence, performed by workers who aren’t being given information about the dangers they face,” said Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute and author of the book “The Lie of Nuclear Power.”

Okawa, who was off work from the plant the day of the tsunami, immediately quit the job and the “suicidal work” he performed there: mopping up leaks of radioactive water, wiping down “hot” equipment and filling drums with contaminated nuclear waste.

He described an unofficial pecking order at most nuclear plants among contractors, with the greenest workers often assigned the most dangerous jobs until they got enough experience to question the work or a newer worker came along.

“In the beginning, you get a little training; they show you how to use your tools,” said Okawa, 56. “But then you’re left to work with radiation you can’t see, smell or taste. If you think about it, you imagine it might be killing you.
But you don’t want to think about it.”

Okawa, a small man with powerfully built hands, said contractors knew they faced layoff once they reached exposure limits, so many switched off dosimeters and other radiation measuring devices.

“Guys needed the work, so they cut corners,” he said. “The plant bosses knew it but looked the other way.”

Now the Fukushima plant needs its temporary workers more than ever, to help Tokyo Electric Power Co. engineers shut down the stricken reactors for good. The “gypsies” are being paid salaries several times higher than before the accident, says Okawa, who says he was offered $650 a day to return to work at Fukushima after the reactor meltdowns there.

On a recent day, hundreds of contractors milled about an abandoned soccer complex near the Fukushima plant that Tokyo Electric Power Co., known as Tepco, has transformed into a nuclear-worker locker room and debriefing center. Men waited in line to pick up dosimeters and disposed of dirty clothes from a just-completed shift. Buses packed with blank-faced workers ran continuously between the center, known as J-Village, and the plant a few miles away.

Tepco defended its worker training, which “includes basic knowledge of protection against radiation, such as how to manage radiation doses or how to put on and take off protective suits and other equipment,” said Mayumi Yoshida, who works in the utility’s corporate communications office.

But nuclear experts point to what they call a lax safety culture that downplays the risk of radiation exposure. “What’s troubling is that both the utilities and the government are saying there isn’t a problem, while we know the doses these workers are being subjected to [are] quite high,” said Kristin Shrader-Frechette, a professor of radiobiology and philosophy at Notre Dame University.

After the Fukushima disaster, the government raised the annual limit for allowable radiation exposure from 200 millisieverts to 250 for nuclear plant workers, Shrader-Frechette said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation has warned that exposure to just 30 millisieverts a year can cause cancer. “The government is allowing workers to receive more than seven times that amount,” she said.

Tepco says it monitors radiation absorption rates among workers, who are not allowed to exceed government-set limits.

Since the start of Japan’s nuclear boom in the 1970s, utilities have relied on temporary workers for maintenance and plant repair jobs, while providing little follow-up health training, activists say.

“Typically, these workers are only told of the dose they get from an individual or daily exposure, not the cumulative dose over the time they work at a particular plant,” said Shrader-Frechette. “As they move from job to job, nobody is asking questions about their repeated high doses at different sites. We’re calling for a nuclear dosage tracking system in Japan and other nations.”

Activists say utilities rely on a network of contractors, subcontractors and sub-subcontractors to supply those who work for short periods, absorb a maximum of radiation and are then let go.

Hiroyuki Watanabe, a city councilman in Iwaki, just south of the Fukushima plant, said past medical tests on plant contractors who had become sick did not produce a definite link to radiation exposure. Still, he thinks the utilities
should be more forthright about the dangers such workers face.

“It’s wrong to prey on the poor who need to feed their families,” he said. “They’re considered disposable, and that’s immoral.”

No matter what people called him, Okawa is proud of the work he performed for his nation’s nuclear industry. He labored among teams of men who every day faced incredible risks without complaint.

Yet his scariest work had nothing to do with radioactive exposure. “I stood atop a building once, seeing the danger with my own eyes,” Okawa said. “That’s the way many guys felt about radioactivity: You had to see the danger to fear it. We never saw it.”

11/11/2011 Mystery Radiation Detected 'Across Europe'

11/11/2011 Mystery Radiation Detected ‘Across Europe’ by Lee Ferran: The hunt is on for the source of low level radiation detected in the atmosphere “across Europe” over the past weeks, nuclear officials said today. Trace amounts of iodine-131, a type of radiation created during the operation of nuclear reactors or in the detonation of a nuclear weapon, were detected as early as three weeks ago by Austrian authorities and then two weeks ago by the Czech Republic’s State Office for Nuclear Safety. Today the International Atomic Energy Agency released a statement revealing similar detections had been made “in other locations across Europe.”

The IAEA said the current levels of iodine-131 are far too low to warrant a public health risk, but the agency still does not know the origin of the apparent leak and an official with the agency would not say where else it has been detected. Considering iodine-131 has a radioactive decay half-life of about eight days, continued detection means the leak occurred over a period of several days at least and is possibly ongoing.

The IAEA said it does not believe the radiation was left over from the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in March and the Czech Republic’s State Office for Nuclear Safety said it was unlikely to have been caused by an incident at any nuclear plant’s core. A meltdown there, the Czech agency said, would have released several other radioactive isotopes in addition to iodine-131.

The IAEA has been unable to determine from which country the radiation is emanating, and both Czech and Austrian officials said it was unlikely their countries were the source. Austrian officials said in a statement that a study of the dispersal cloud indicated the radiation is most likely coming from somewhere in southeastern Europe.

In addition to nuclear plants, iodine-131 is used in many hospitals and by radiopharmacutical manufacturers as it can be used to help treat thyroid problems in small doses.

“Anywhere spent nuclear fuel is handled, there is a chance that… iodine-131 will escape into the environment,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says on its website.

10/25/2011 Fallout forensics hike radiation toll: Global data on Fukushima challenge Japanese estimates

The Fukushima accident led to mass evacuations from nearby towns such as Minamisoma. AP Photo/S. Ponomarev: 10/25/2011 Fallout forensics hike radiation toll Published online: Global data on Fukushima challenge Japanese estimates. The disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March released far more radiation than the Japanese government has claimed. So concludes a study that combines radioactivity data from across the globe to estimate the scale and fate of emissions from the shattered plant.

The disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March released far more radiation than the Japanese government has claimed. So concludes a study1 that combines radioactivity data from across the globe to estimate the scale and fate of emissions from the shattered plant.

The study also suggests that, contrary to government claims, pools used to store spent nuclear fuel played a significant part in the release of the long-lived environmental contaminant caesium-137, which could have been prevented by prompt action. The analysis has been posted online for open peer review by the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Andreas Stohl, an atmospheric scientist with the Norwegian Institute for Air Research in Kjeller, who led the research, believes that the analysis is the most comprehensive effort yet to understand how much radiation was released from Fukushima Daiichi. “It’s a very valuable contribution,” says Lars-Erik De Geer, an atmospheric modeller with the Swedish Defense Research Agency in Stockholm, who was not involved with the study.

The reconstruction relies on data from dozens of radiation monitoring stations in Japan and around the world. Many are part of a global network to watch for tests of nuclear weapons that is run by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna. The scientists added data from independent stations in Canada, Japan and Europe, and then combined those with large European and American caches of global meteorological data.

Stohl cautions that the resulting model is far from perfect. Measurements were scarce in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima accident, and some monitoring posts were too contaminated by radioactivity to provide reliable data. More importantly, exactly what happened inside the reactors — a crucial part of understanding what they emitted — remains a mystery that may never be solved. “If you look at the estimates for Chernobyl, you still have a large uncertainty 25 years later,” says Stohl.

Nevertheless, the study provides a sweeping view of the accident. “They really took a global view and used all the data available,” says De Geer.

Challenging numbers

Japanese investigators had already developed a detailed timeline of events following the 11 March earthquake that precipitated the disaster. Hours after the quake rocked the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, the tsunami arrived, knocking out crucial diesel back-up generators designed to cool the reactors in an emergency. Within days, the three reactors operating at the time of the accident overheated and released hydrogen gas, leading to massive explosions. Radioactive fuel recently removed from a fourth reactor was being held in a storage pool at the time of the quake, and on 14 March the pool overheated, possibly sparking fires in the building over the next few days.

But accounting for the radiation that came from the plants has proved much harder than reconstructing this chain of events. The latest report from the Japanese government, published in June, says that the plant released 1.5 × 1016 bequerels of caesium-137, an isotope with a 30-year half-life that is responsible for most of the long-term contamination from the plant2. A far larger amount of xenon-133, 1.1 × 1019 Bq, was released, according to official government estimates.

The new study challenges those numbers. On the basis of its reconstructions, the team claims that the accident released around 1.7 × 1019 Bq of xenon-133, greater than the estimated total radioactive release of 1.4 × 1019 Bq from Chernobyl. The fact that three reactors exploded in the Fukushima accident accounts for the huge xenon tally, says De Geer.

Xenon-133 does not pose serious health risks because it is not absorbed by the body or the environment. Caesium-137 fallout, however, is a much greater concern because it will linger in the environment for decades. The new model shows that Fukushima released 3.5 × 1016 Bq caesium-137, roughly twice the official government figure, and half the release from Chernobyl. The higher number is obviously worrying, says De Geer, although ongoing ground surveys are the only way to truly establish the public-health risk.

Stohl believes that the discrepancy between the team’s results and those of the Japanese government can be partly explained by the larger data set used. Japanese estimates rely primarily on data from monitoring posts inside Japan3, which never recorded the large quantities of radioactivity that blew out over the Pacific Ocean, and eventually reached North America and Europe. “Taking account of the radiation that has drifted out to the Pacific is essential for getting a real picture of the size and character of the accident,” says Tomoya Yamauchi, a radiation physicist at Kobe University who has been measuring radioisotope contamination in soil around Fukushima.

Stohl adds that he is sympathetic to the Japanese teams responsible for the official estimate. “They wanted to get something out quickly,” he says. The differences between the two studies may seem large, notes Yukio Hayakawa, a volcanologist at Gunma University who has also modelled the accident, but uncertainties in the models mean that the estimates are actually quite similar.

The new analysis also claims that the spent fuel being stored in the unit 4 pool emitted copious quantities of caesium-137. Japanese officials have maintained that virtually no radioactivity leaked from the pool. Yet Stohl’s model clearly shows that dousing the pool with water caused the plant’s caesium-137 emissions to drop markedly (see ‘Radiation crisis’). The finding implies that much of the fallout could have been prevented by flooding the pool earlier.

The Japanese authorities continue to maintain that the spent fuel was not a significant source of contamination, because the pool itself did not seem to suffer major damage. “I think the release from unit 4 is not important,” says Masamichi Chino, a scientist with the Japanese Atomic Energy Authority in Ibaraki, who helped to develop the Japanese official estimate. But De Geer says the new analysis implicating the fuel pool “looks convincing”.

The latest analysis also presents evidence that xenon-133 began to vent from Fukushima Daiichi immediately after the quake, and before the tsunami swamped the area. This implies that even without the devastating flood, the earthquake alone was sufficient to cause damage at the plant.

The Japanese government’s report has already acknowledged that the shaking at Fukushima Daiichi exceeded the plant’s design specifications. Anti-nuclear activists have long been concerned that the government has failed to adequately address geological hazards when licensing nuclear plants (see Nature 448, 392–393; 2007), and the whiff of xenon could prompt a major rethink of reactor safety assessments, says Yamauchi.

The model also shows that the accident could easily have had a much more devastating impact on the people of Tokyo. In the first days after the accident the wind was blowing out to sea, but on the afternoon of 14 March it turned back towards shore, bringing clouds of radioactive caesium-137 over a huge swathe of the country (see ‘Radioisotope reconstruction’). Where precipitation fell, along the country’s central mountain ranges and to the northwest of the plant, higher levels of radioactivity were later recorded in the soil; thankfully, the capital and other densely populated areas had dry weather. “There was a period when quite a high concentration went over Tokyo, but it didn’t rain,” says Stohl. “It could have been much worse.”

Additional reporting by David Cyranoski and Rina Nozawa.

10/8/2011 The Economist: Radiation in Japan Hot spots and blind spots – The mounting human costs of Japan’s nuclear disaster

10/8/2011 The Economist: Radiation in Japan Hot spots and blind spots – The mounting human costs of Japan’s nuclear disaster: CREST the hill into the village of Iitate, and the reading on a radiation dosimeter surges eightfold—even with the car windows shut. “Don’t worry, I’ve been coming here for months and I’m still alive,” chuckles Chohei Sato, chief of the village council, as he rolls down the window and inhales cheerfully. He pulls off the road, gets out of the car and buries the dosimeter in the grass. The reading doubles again.

Iitate is located 45km (28 miles) from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant hit by a tsunami on March 11th this year. In the mountains above the town, the forests are turning the colour of autumn. But their beauty is deceptive. Every time a gust of wind blows, Mr Sato says it shakes invisible particles of radioactive caesium off the trees and showers them over the village. Radiation levels in the hills are so high that villagers dare not go near them. Mr Sato cannot bury his father’s bones, which he keeps in an urn in his abandoned farmhouse, because of the dangers of going up the hill to the graveyard.

Iitate had the misfortune to be caught by a wind that carried radioactive particles (including plutonium) much farther than anybody initially expected after the nuclear disaster. Almost all the 6,000 residents have been evacuated, albeit belatedly, because it took the government months to decide that some villages outside a 30km radius of the plant warranted special attention. Now it offers an extreme example of how difficult it will be to recover from the disaster.

That is mainly because of the enormous spread of radiation. Recently the government said it needed to clear about 2,419 square kilometres of contaminated soil—an area larger than greater Tokyo—that received an annual radiation dose of at least five millisieverts, or over 0.5 microsieverts an hour. That covered an area far beyond the official 30km restriction zone (see map). Besides pressure- hosing urban areas, this would involve removing about 5cm of topsoil from local farms as well as all the dead leaves in caesium-laden forests.

However, Iitate’s experience suggests the government may be underestimating the task. Villagers have removed 5cm of topsoil from one patch of land, but because radioactive particles continue to blow from the surrounding trees, the level of radiation remains high—about one microsievert an hour—even if lower than in nearby areas. Without cutting down the forests, Mr Sato reckons there will be a permanent risk of contamination. So far, nobody has any idea where any contaminated soil will be dumped.

The second problem is children’s health. On September 30th the government lifted an evacuation advisory warning to communities within a 20-30km radius of the plant. The aim was partly to show that the authorities were steadily bringing the crippled reactors under control.

But these areas are still riddled with radiation hot spots, including schools and public parks, which will need to be cleaned before public confidence is restored. Parents say they are particularly concerned about bringing their children back because the health effects of radiation on the young are so unclear. What is more, caesium particles tend to lurk in the grass, which means radiation is more of a risk at toddler height than for adults. In Iitate, Mihori Takahashi, a mother of two, “believes only half of what the doctors say” and says she never wants to bring her children back. That, in itself, may be a curse. “The revival of this town depends on the children returning,” says Mr Sato.

And even if people return, Mr Sato worries how they will make a living. These are farming villages, but it will take years to remove the stigma attached to food grown in Fukushima, he reckons. He is furious with Tokyo Electric Power, operator of the plant, for failing to acknowledge the long-term impacts of the disaster. He says it is a way of scrimping on compensation payouts.

One way to help overcome these problems would be to persuade people to accept relaxed safety standards. A government panel is due to propose lifting the advisory dose limit above one millisievert per year. This week in Tokyo, Wade Allison, a physics professor at Oxford University, argued that Japan’s dose limit could safely be raised to 100 millisieverts, based on current health statistics. Outside Mr Sato’s house, however, a reading of the equivalent of 150 millisieverts a year left your correspondent strangely reluctant to inhale.

9/8/2011 Guardian UK: Japan disaster: Fukushima residents return to visit their homes

9/8/2011 Guardian UK: Japan disaster: Fukushima residents return to visit their homes: Six months after radiation leaks from the nuclear plant led to their evacuation, residents of nearby towns briefly return by Justin McCurry in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture: Takashige Kowata thought he was prepared for the worst when he opened the door to his house for the first time in six months. But the trauma of seeing his family home abandoned amid the panic of a nuclear meltdown was compounded when he noticed a broken bathroom window.

“It looks like we have been burgled,” the 63-year-old says, still too shaken to establish what is missing. “I can’t believe that someone is capable of stealing from the victims of a disaster.”

The intruders would have committed their crime with ease: Kowata’s spacious house and garden lie about a mile from the scene of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which has turned large swaths of nearby land into an official no-go zone.

He was one of 80,000 people living within a 12-mile (20km) radius of the nuclear plant who were told to evacuate by the government in the hours after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake launched a tsunami that crashed through its protective seawall and triggered meltdown in three of its six reactors.

Kowata and more than 200 of his neighbours have been allowed to make a brief visit home to collect as many belongings as they can carry. It is a homecoming that many accept is likely to be their last.

Dressed in protective suits, masks and goggles, they have been given just two hours to survey the damage to the houses they have been barred from entering since the triple disaster struck north-east Japan on the afternoon of 11 March.

Months of radiation leaks from Fukushima Daiichi have rendered Okuma and the nearby town of Futaba uninhabitable for years, perhaps decades.

According to a recent government report, the annual cumulative radiation dose in one district of Okuma is estimated at 508.1 millisieverts, more than 500 times the acceptable yearly level and, experts believe, high enough to increase the risk of cancer.

“We’ve been told that we can’t return home because of the radiation,” says Kinuko Yamada, a 53-year-old woman who is making the trip with her husband. “I hope we can go back, but it could be 20 to 30 years before that happens. I’ll probably be dead by then.”

Radiation levels in the town are so high that decontamination could take years, or not succeed at all. Residents have so far been allowed just this one brief visit, organised by the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] and nuclear safety officials. The Guardian was the only foreign media permitted to accompany them.

Evidence of the area’s dismal place in the history of Japan’s nuclear power industry becomes visible soon after the convoy of buses passes through the police checkpoint.

All traces of ordinary life have been cast in eerie suspension: roadsides are overgrown with grass and weeds; shops and restaurants lie empty, and grand farmhouses – evacuated in the hours following the accident, when Tepco officials were considering abandoning the plant – stand quiet and deserted. Toppled walls and scattered roof tiles are reminders of the staggering force of the quake that caused the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

The only sound is the chirping of late-summer cicadas and the occasional beep of a Geiger counter. A scrawny black dog wanders into the road, sizes up his human visitors and scampers back into the woods.

And just visible above a line of trees is the roof of one of Fukushima Daiichi’s reactor buildings. As our bus drives past, radiation levels inside surge to 61 microsieverts an hour (compared to the typical Japanese average of 0.34 microsieverts).Elsewhere inside the exclusion zone, at least 1,000 cattle are roaming wild after escaping from their farm homesteads, according to local authorities. Most pets, and tens of thousands of cows, pigs and chickens have starved to death.

A few days after residents returned to their homes, police officers and firefighters resumed the search for almost 200 tsunami victims in the area still listed as missing.

Some residents are reluctant to openly criticise Tepco, a major local employer. “I never worried about the nuclear plant before the tsunami,” says one of Kowata’s neighbours, a woman in her 60s who declines to give her name.

“When we left on 11 March we thought we would be back in a week or 10 days. Then the reactor buildings started exploding and we were more cautious, but even so I never thought it would be as bad as this. The power plant put food on the table around here … I can’t find the words to describe how I feel.

“I’m going to take back some valuables and our ancestors’ spirit tablets – my parents are both dead. The earthquake left our family Buddhist altar in pieces, so I brought some flowers to place in front of it.”

Her garden, usually a blaze of colour at this time of year, is a tangle of weeds and wild grass. “I spotted a few flowers blooming among the grass,” she says. “I love flowers and told them I was sorry for not being able to look after them properly.”

Inside, the doors have come away from their hinges and the walls have been pushed up by the force of the quake. “It’s terrible,” she says. “The kind of shock from which you can never recover. I want to come back, but it might be better for my peace of mind to stop hoping.”

However, Kowata, a former local government official who witnessed the arrival of MOX (mixed oxide) nuclear fuel at Fukushima Daiichi last year, makes no attempt to hide his bitterness towards Tepco.

He has lived in this neighbourhood all his life and had only just built a new house, which he shared with four other members of his family. His father, like many other elderly tsunami survivors, died soon after being evacuated.

“I don’t know how much Tepco and the government will give us as compensation, and in any case it will take a long time to arrive,” says Kowata, who is living in rented accommodation in Aizu-Wakamatsu, a town farther inland.

“We can’t wait around for them to take action. The nuclear accident is a man-made disaster.

“The government and Tepco kept telling us that this kind of thing could not possibly happen. Tepco hasn’t changed when it comes to covering up trouble.”

Just two hours after they arrived, Okuma’s residents must board buses to take them back outside the exclusion zone to be screened for radiation.

They emerge from their homes gripping plastic bags bulging with clothes, valuables, heirlooms, children’s toys and photo albums.

Kowata gathers his belongings, walks out of his front door and turns the key one last time. “As far as I am concerned, this is the last time I will see my home,” he says. “The house itself isn’t very old … it’s a great shame.”

Halfway down the driveway he turns and fixes his gaze on the home he is leaving behind.

“I wanted to say thank you one last time. Now it’s time to move on.”

8/8/2011 NY Times: Japan Held Nuclear Data, Leaving Evacuees in Peril

8/8/2011 NY Times: Japan Held Nuclear Data, Leaving Evacuees in Peril By NORIMITSU ONISHI and MARTIN FACKLER: FUKUSHIMA, Japan — The day after a giant tsunami set off the continuing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, thousands of residents at the nearby town of Namie gathered to evacuate. Given no guidance from Tokyo, town officials led the residents north, believing that winter winds would be blowing south and carrying away any radioactive emissions. For three nights, while hydrogen explosions at four of the reactors spewed radiation into the air, they stayed in a district called Tsushima where the children played outside and some parents used water from a mountain stream to prepare rice.

The winds, in fact, had been blowing directly toward Tsushima — and town officials would learn two months later that a government computer system designed to predict the spread of radioactive releases had been showing just that. But the forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism. Japan’s political leaders at first did not know about the system and later played down the data, apparently fearful of having to significantly enlarge the evacuation zone — and acknowledge the accident’s severity.

“From the 12th to the 15th we were in a location with one of the highest levels of radiation,” said Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of Namie, which is about five miles from the nuclear plant. He and thousands from Namie now live in temporary housing in another town, Nihonmatsu. “We are extremely worried about internal exposure to radiation.” The withholding of information, he said, was akin to “murder.”

In interviews and public statements, some current and former government officials have admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster — in order, some of them said, to limit the size of costly and disruptive evacuations in land-scarce Japan and to avoid public questioning of the politically powerful nuclear industry. As the nuclear plant continues to release radiation, some of which has slipped into the nation’s food supply, public anger is growing at what many here see as an official campaign to play down the scope of the accident and the potential health risks.

Seiki Soramoto, a lawmaker and former nuclear engineer to whom Prime Minister Naoto Kan turned for advice during the crisis, blamed the government for withholding forecasts from the computer system, known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, or Speedi.

“In the end, it was the prime minister’s office that hid the Speedi data,” he said. “Because they didn’t have the knowledge to know what the data meant, and thus they did not know what to say to the public, they thought only of their own safety, and decided it was easier just not to announce it.”

In an interview, Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, dismissed accusations that political considerations had delayed the release of the early Speedi data. He said that they were not disclosed because they were incomplete and inaccurate, and that he was presented with the data for the first time only on March 23.

“And on that day, we made them public,” said Mr. Hosono, who was one of the prime minister’s closest advisers in the early days of the crisis before being named nuclear disaster minister. “As for before that, I myself am not sure. In the days before that, which were a matter of life and death for Japan as a nation, I wasn’t taking part in what was happening with Speedi.”

The computer forecasts were among many pieces of information the authorities initially withheld from the public. Meltdowns at three of Fukushima Daiichi’s six reactors went officially unacknowledged for months. In one of the most damning admissions, nuclear regulators said in early June that inspectors had found tellurium 132, which experts call telltale evidence of reactor meltdowns, a day after the tsunami — but did not tell the public for nearly three months. For months after the disaster, the government flip-flopped on the level of radiation permissible on school grounds, causing continuing confusion and anguish about the safety of schoolchildren here in Fukushima.

Too Late: The timing of many admissions — coming around late May and early June, when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency visited Japan and before Japan was scheduled to deliver a report on the accident at an I.A.E.A. conference — suggested to critics that Japan’s nuclear establishment was coming clean only because it could no longer hide the scope of the accident. On July 4, the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, a group of nuclear scholars and industry executives, said, “It is extremely regrettable that this sort of important information was not released to the public until three months after the fact, and only then in materials for a conference overseas.”

The group added that the authorities had yet to disclose information like the water level and temperature inside reactor pressure vessels that would yield a fuller picture of the damage. Other experts have said the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, have yet to reveal plant data that could shed light on whether the reactors’ cooling systems were actually knocked out solely by the 45-foot-tall tsunami, as officials have maintained, or whether damage from the earthquake also played a role, a finding that could raise doubts about the safety of other nuclear plants in a nation as seismically active as Japan.

Government officials insist that they did not knowingly imperil the public. “As a principle, the government has never acted in such a way as to sacrifice the public’s health or safety,” said Mr. Hosono, the nuclear disaster minister.

Here in the prefecture’s capital and elsewhere, workers are removing the surface soil from schoolyards contaminated with radioactive particles from the nuclear plant. Tens of thousands of children are being kept inside school buildings this hot summer, where some wear masks even though the windows are kept shut. Many will soon be wearing individual dosimeters to track their exposure to radiation.

At Elementary School No. 4 here, sixth graders were recently playing shogi and go, traditional board games, inside. Nao Miyabashi, 11, whose family fled here from Namie, said she was afraid of radiation. She tried not to get caught in the rain. She gargled and washed her hands as soon as she got home. “I want to play outside,” she said.

About 45 percent of 1,080 children in three Fukushima communities surveyed in late March tested positive for thyroid exposure to radiation, according to a recent announcement by the government, which added that the levels were too low to warrant further examination. Many experts both in and outside Japan are questioning the government’s assessment, pointing out that in Chernobyl, most of those who went on to suffer from thyroid cancer were children living near that plant at the time of the accident.

Critics inside and outside the Kan administration argue that some of the exposure could have been prevented if officials had released the data sooner.

On the evening of March 15, Mr. Kan called Mr. Soramoto, who used to design nuclear plants for Toshiba, to ask for his help in managing the escalating crisis. Mr. Soramoto formed an impromptu advisory group, which included his former professor at the University of Tokyo, Toshiso Kosako, a top Japanese expert on radiation measurement.

Mr. Kosako, who studied the Soviet response to the Chernobyl crisis, said he was stunned at how little the leaders in the prime minister’s office knew about the resources available to them. He quickly advised the chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, to use Speedi, which used measurements of radioactive releases, as well as weather and topographical data, to predict where radioactive materials could travel after being released into the atmosphere.

Speedi had been designed in the 1980s to make forecasts of radiation dispersal that, according to the prime minister’s office’s own nuclear disaster manuals, were supposed to be made available at least to local officials and rescue workers in order to guide evacuees away from radioactive plumes.

And indeed, Speedi had been churning out maps and other data hourly since the first hours after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. But the Education Ministry had not provided the data to the prime minister’s office because, it said, the information was incomplete. The tsunami had knocked out sensors at the plant: without measurements of how much radiation was actually being released by the plant, they said, it was impossible to measure how far the radioactive plume was stretching.

“Without knowing the strength of the releases, there was no way we could take responsibility if evacuations were ordered,” said Keiji Miyamoto of the Education Ministry’s nuclear safety division, which administers Speedi.

The government had initially resorted to drawing rings around the plant, evacuating everyone within a radius of first 1.9 miles, then 6.2 miles and then 12.4 miles, widening the rings as the scale of the disaster became clearer.

But even with incomplete data, Mr. Kosako said he urged the government to use Speedi by making educated guesses as to the levels of radiation release, which would have still yielded usable maps to guide evacuation plans. In fact, the ministry had done precisely that, running simulations on Speedi’s computers of radiation releases. Some of the maps clearly showed a plume of nuclear contamination extending to the northwest of the plant, beyond the areas that were initially evacuated.

However, Mr. Kosako said, the prime minister’s office refused to release the results even after it was made aware of Speedi, because officials there did not want to take responsibility for costly evacuations if their estimates were later called into question.

A wider evacuation zone would have meant uprooting hundreds of thousands of people and finding places for them to live in an already crowded country. Particularly in the early days after the earthquake, roads were blocked and trains were not running. These considerations made the government desperate to limit evacuations beyond the 80,000 people already moved from areas around the plant, as well as to avoid compensation payments to still more evacuees, according to current and former officials interviewed.

Mr. Kosako said the top advisers to the prime minister repeatedly ignored his frantic requests to make the Speedi maps public, and he resigned in April over fears that children were being exposed to dangerous radiation levels.

Some advisers to the prime minister argue that the system was not that useful in predicting the radiation plume’s direction. Shunsuke Kondo, who heads the Atomic Energy Commission, an advisory body in the Cabinet Office, said that the maps Speedi produced in the first days were inconsistent, and changed several times a day depending on wind direction.

“Why release something if it was not useful?” said Mr. Kondo, also a retired professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tokyo. “Someone on the ground in Fukushima, looking at which way the wind was blowing, would have known just as much.”

Mr. Kosako and others, however, say the Speedi maps would have been extremely useful in the hands of someone who knew how to sort through the system’s reams of data. He said the Speedi readings were so complex, and some of the predictions of the spread of radiation contamination so alarming, that three separate government agencies — the Education Ministry and the two nuclear regulators, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Nuclear Safety Commission — passed the data to one another like a hot potato, with none of them wanting to accept responsibility for its results.

In interviews, officials at the ministry and the agency each pointed fingers, saying that the other agency was responsible for Speedi. The head of the commission declined to be interviewed.

Mr. Baba, the mayor of Namie, said that if the Speedi data had been made available sooner, townspeople would have naturally chosen to flee to safer areas. “But we didn’t have the information,” he said. “That’s frustrating.”

Evacuees now staying in temporary prefabricated homes in Nihonmatsu said that, believing they were safe in Tsushima, they took few precautions. Yoko Nozawa, 70, said that because of the lack of toilets, they resorted to pits in the ground, where doses of radiation were most likely higher.

“We were in the worst place, but didn’t know it,” Ms. Nozawa said. “Children were playing outside.”

A neighbor, Hiroyuki Oto, 31, said he was working at the plant for a Tepco subcontractor at the time of the earthquake and was now in temporary lodging with his wife and three young children, after also staying in Tsushima. “The effects might emerge only years from now,” he said of the exposure to radiation. “I’m worried about my kids.”

Seeds of Mistrust: Mr. Hosono, the minister charged with dealing with the nuclear crisis, has said that certain information, including the Speedi data, had been withheld for fear of “creating a panic.” In an interview, Mr. Hosono — who now holds nearly daily news conferences with Tepco officials and nuclear regulators — said that the government had “changed its thinking” and was trying to release information as fast as possible.

Critics, as well as the increasingly skeptical public, seem unconvinced. They compare the response to the Minamata case in the 1950s, a national scandal in which bureaucrats and industry officials colluded to protect economic growth by hiding the fact that a chemical factory was releasing mercury into Minamata Bay in western Japan. The mercury led to neurological illnesses in thousands of people living in the region and was captured in wrenching photographs of stricken victims.

“If they wanted to protect people, they had to release information immediately,” said Reiko Seki, a sociologist at Rikkyo University in Tokyo and an expert on the cover-up of the Minamata case. “Despite the experience with Minamata, they didn’t release Speedi.”

In Koriyama, a city about 40 miles west of the nuclear plant, a group of parents said they had stopped believing in government reassurances and recently did something unthinkable in a conservative, rural area: they sued. Though their suit seeks to force Koriyama to relocate their children to a safer area, their real aim is to challenge the nation’s handling of evacuations and the public health crisis.

After the nuclear disaster, the government raised the legal exposure limit to radiation from one to 20 millisieverts a year for people, including children — effectively allowing them to continue living in communities from which they would have been barred under the old standard. The limit was later scaled back to one millisievert per year, but applied only to children while they were inside school buildings.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Toshio Yanagihara, said the authorities were withholding information to deflect attention from the nuclear accident’s health consequences, which will become clear only years later.

“Because the effects don’t emerge immediately, they can claim later on that cigarettes or coffee caused the cancer,” he said.

The Japanese government is considering monitoring the long-term health of Fukushima residents and taking appropriate measures in the future, said Yasuhiro Sonoda, a lawmaker and parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office. The mayor of Koriyama, Masao Hara, said he did not believe that the government’s radiation standards were unsafe. He said it was “unrealistic” to evacuate the city’s 33,000 elementary and junior high school students.

But Koriyama went further than the government’s mandates, removing the surface soil from its schools before national directives and imposing tougher inspection standards than those set by the country’s education officials.

“The Japanese people, after all, have a high level of knowledge,” the mayor said, “so I think information should be disclosed correctly and quickly so that the people can make judgments, especially the people here in Fukushima.”

Norimitsu Onishi reported from Fukushima, and Martin Fackler from Tokyo. Ken Belson and Kantaro Suzuki contributed reporting from Tokyo.

Asia Pacific Journal Japan Focus: The Truth About Nuclear Power: Japanese Nuclear Engineer Calls for Abolition

Asia Pacific Journal Japan Focus: The Truth About Nuclear Power: Japanese Nuclear Engineer Calls for Abolition by Koide Hiroaki: Introduction and translation by Sakai Yasuyuki and Norimatsu Satoko: Introduction: Koide Hiroaki began his career as a nuclear engineer forty years ago drawn to the promise of nuclear power. Quickly, however, he recognized the flaws in Japan’s nuclear power program and emerged as among the best informed of Japan’s nuclear power critic. His cogent public critique of the nuclear village earned him an honourable form of purgatory as a permanent assistant professor at Kyoto University. Koide would pay a price in career terms, continuing his painstaking research on radio nuclide measurement at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute (KURRI) in the shadows. Until 3.11.

Since the earthquake tsunami and nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, he has emerged as a powerful voice and a central figure in charting Japan’s future energy course in the wake of disaster: in scores of well attended public lectures, in daily media consultations and interviews, in his widely read posts and in three books that have helped to redefine public consciousness and official debate.

In 1968, as a freshman in the department of nuclear engineering at Tohoku University in Sendai, he believed in the potential of what he had been taught to be an inexhaustible source of energy that could solve the energy dilemmas of a resource-poor nation. But learning that a new nuclear power plant was to be built in sparsely populated Onagawa, some 50 km from the city centre where the electricity would be consumed, he reflected on the imposition of risk burden on vulnerable communities. Indeed, his Kyoto University nuclear research facility is not in the city, but on the southern edge of Osaka Prefecture, near rural Wakayama Prefecture, because of the potential danger. This socio-geographical recognition of the dangers of nuclear power and the price that would be paid by marginal communities as a result of decisions imposed by the Japanese government and the power monopolies is at the heart of his abiding critique of nuclear power.

Before March 11, Koide’s was a voice in the wilderness in a nation committed to nuclear power. Subsequently, the thousands who appear at his public appearances would convey a sense of a new pop star.

For the first time, Koide has become a fixture in the mainstream media, including newspapers and major TV stations. His new book, “Genpatsu no uso (The Lie of Nuclear Power),” is a bestseller.1 The “Unofficial Koide Hiroaki Matome,” a blog that collects daily links and video footage of Koide’s talks and appearances, is one of the most important—and popular— Fukushima-related websites.

On May 23, 2011, the Government Oversight Committee of the House of Councillors (the Upper House) invited four guests to address members of the Diet – Koide, Ishibashi Katsuhiko, a seismologist who has long warned of the reactors’ vulnerability to quakes, Goto Masashi, a former Toshiba nuclear engineer who now defies the industry, and Son Masayoshi, President of telecommunication giant Softbank and, since 3.11, an outspoken proponent of renewable energy. The unprecedented government effort to seek advice from staunch critics of nuclear power policy is indicative of fresh winds blowing at a time when the government is calling for a sharp increase in renewable energy and curbing of nuclear power and the nuclear power giants and their supporters in the bureaucracy are fighting back.

Thousands across the nation and overseas watched Koide’s criticism of the government being webcast, sharing through Twitter the excitement of seeing their best kept secret being unveiled in a grey business suit, at the centre of Japanese politics – the very centre he has exposed throughout his career. At the same time, a human chain was being formed around the building of the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) where Fukushima parents and their supporters rallied to protest against the ministry’s decision to raise the allowable radiation exposure level.2 Viewers of the two simultaneous events had one eye on the relentless Koide, and the other on teary and angry Fukushima parents.

This is Koide’s presentation: I came here today to offer my candid advice to the Japanese government and its administrators who have managed the country’s nuclear power policy to today. I entered the field of nuclear engineering with high hopes and dreams, because I believed that nuclear power was the energy source for the future. Oil and coal would be exhausted some day, but nuclear power was inexhaustible, so I thought nuclear power was the way forward. However, once I entered the field, I realized that nuclear power was actually a very poor energy source. Let me explain why.

Shown in the figure above are the remaining non-renewable energy resources on this earth. The largest deposits are of coal. It is known to exist on our planet in enormous quantities. The white square indicates the total reserves. What is known to be commercially exploitable is called proven reserves, the blue part of the square. Now look at the tiny square on the top right corner of the slide. This is the world’s total annual energy consumption. The proven reserves of coal alone can provide 60 to 70 years worth of global energy demand. If we could use the total reserve of coal, it would provide 800 years’ worth of world demand. Next to that, we have reserves of natural gas, oil, and other sources that we are not really using right now, like oil shale and tar sands.

I had thought that these fossil fuels would someday be exhausted and nuclear energy was the future, but in fact, the world’s reserve of uranium is only a fraction of that of oil, and a small percentage of that of coal. Uranium is actually a very scarce resource.

But when I say this, people in the pro-nuclear camp say that I’m wrong. They argue that what I am talking about is only the amount of fissile uranium resource, which is limited, but by converting non-fissile uranium to plutonium, we can make nuclear energy that is recyclable.

Failure of the “nuclear fuel cycle” and fast breeder reactors: Let me explain. To produce nuclear energy, we must start by mining uranium. After enrichment and processing, we burn nuclear fuel in reactors. But this itself does not make nuclear energy a source of energy. So nuclear energy proponents say we can go beyond this process and actually make nuclear energy a recyclable source of energy. By using specific reactors called fast breeder reactors (FBR), we can breed plutonium and by reprocessing it, we can complete the nuclear fuel cycle, and make plutonium a source of energy. In the end, the cycle leaves us very troublesome high-level radioactive wastes, so we must find a way to dispose of these sometime in the future. This was their scenario.

Plutonium is not a naturally-occurring substance, so they planned to use plutonium that is generated as a by-product of existing nuclear power plants, then use it in the nuclear fuel cycle in which the key technology is FBR. However, this FBR, which is the heart of this grand scheme of a nuclear fuel cycle, is actually impossible.

Now I will show you how the Japanese FBR plan was envisioned and then faltered.

In the graph shown, the horizontal axis indicates the years between 1960 and 2010, when the Long-Term Plan for Development and Utilization of Atomic Energy (the “Long-Term Plan” for short) was in place. The vertical axis covers from 1980 to 2060, indicating the target years that the Long-Term Plan projected the FBRs to be practical.

The first mention of the FBR was in the 3rd Long-Term Plan in 1968, in which they stated that the FBR would be practical by the first half of the 1980s. But they soon found this goal difficult to achieve, and in the next Long-Term Plan they revised to say that by around 1990 the FBR would succeed. Failing again, the Plan was revised five years later, they rewrote that the FBR would become practical by around the year 2000. But this again failed. In the next revision, they wrote that it would become practical by 2010. This too failed. Next, they stopped using the word “practical,” and changed the objective to “establishing systematized techniques” in the 2020s. But this again turned out to be impossible. Next, they put the goal off to 2030 for establishing systematized techniques. What happened in the next revision? When they revised the Long-Term Plan in the year 2000, they could not even show the projected year at all. And again, five years later, they revised the Long-Term Plan, this time giving an exaggerated name like the “Fundamental Principles on Atomic Energy Policy.” In this revision, the plan stated that anyhow they wanted to build the first fast breeder reactor by 2050.

Please have a look at the graph. I drew a line here to illustrate how their goal has been slipping away. Each division indicates ten years for both horizontal and vertical axes. This line means that the goal moves ahead by twenty years with the passage of every ten years. If the goal is postponed by ten years every ten years, we can never achieve it. This case is even worse. The goal is postponed by twenty years every ten years, which that tells us that we can never ever fulfill the FBR plan.

But neither the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan, which spelled out these long-term plans, nor the government, which has supported the Commission, has been held responsible, to date.

Japan has wasted more than one trillion yen only for the prototype FBR, the Monju. In terms of the present judicial system, one receives a year of imprisonment for a fraud of one hundred million yen. Then, how long a sentence should be meted out for a fraud of one trillion yen? Ten thousand years. I don’t know how many people are responsible for the Monju with the government – the Atomic Energy Commission, the Nuclear Safety Commission, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, then the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and so forth. But suppose one hundred people responsible, each should be sentenced to one hundred years in prison. This fraud is enormous, but no one has taken any responsibility for it so far. That’s the reality. It seems to me that the nuclear energy business is extremely abnormal.

Next, I would like to talk about the ongoing accident in Fukushima.

The supposedly invincible “five barriers” that failed in Fukushima

Though I think most of you are already familiar with this matter, nuclear power generation is a technology that deals with huge amounts of radioactivity. Please look at the small square at the lower left corner here. This is the amount of uranium that burned when the Hiroshima atomic bomb exploded: 800 grams. That amount, which you can easily lift by hand, burned and annihilated the city of Hiroshima.

Now, how much uranium is necessary for nuclear power generation? It requires one ton of uranium to run one nuclear power plant for one year. This gives you an idea of the enormity of the highly radioactive fission byproducts generated as a nuclear power plant operates.

A nuclear plant is a machine. It is expected that machines go wrong and cause accidents. It is we humans who operate the machine. Humans are not God. It is only natural that humans make mistakes. No matter how we wish that no accidents occur, there is always the possibility of a catastrophe. So what measures did the nuclear policymakers take to deal with the possibility of accidents? They just assumed catastrophic accidents would seldom occur. So they decided to ignore the possibility by labelling it as an “inappropriate assumption.”

Here’s how they denied the possibility of catastrophic accidents. I took this illustration from the website of Chubu Electric Power. They claim that there are multiple barriers to keep radioactivity from leaking out. The most important barrier of them all is the fourth one, the reactor containment vessel. This is a huge vessel made of steel, and they adopted the idea that this vessel can always contain radioactivity, regardless of what happens.

They claim that, according to the Guidelines in Reactor Site Evaluation, they have serious accidents, or “virtual accidents of a fairly serious kind” in mind. According to their claim, even if such an accident occurs, there is absolutely no possibility of the containment vessel, the final barrier to contain radioactivity, being breached. A radioactive leak would be impossible. Therefore, nuclear power plants are safe under any circumstance whatsoever, and any other assumption is an “inappropriate assumption.”

But a catastrophic accident has actually occurred, and is still going on. Tragic events are underway in Fukushima, as you all know. And the government’s responses to the ongoing accident have, in my view, been highly inappropriate.

The government hid information and delayed evacuation

The principle of disaster prevention should be about taking preemptive measures on the basis of a reasonable overestimation of risks in order to protect people. If it turns out to really be an overestimation so that such measures are not necessary, that is okay too, because people will not have been harmed.

However, what the Japanese government has actually been doing is the opposite: it has underestimated the risks and acted on optimistic assumptions. First, they said it was a Level 4 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale and stuck to that for a long time. Then they raised it to Level 5, but it was not until the last moment that they admitted that it was a Level 7 accident. Their response was way too late.

The government also delayed decisions in evacuation directives. First, they evacuated those within a 3 km radius, saying it was a precautionary order for the worst case scenario. Then soon after, they evacuated those within a 10 km radius, again saying this was a “just in case” measure. Then they expanded the evacuation zone to the 20 km radius, again saying that this was preparing for the worst. In fact, they were all belated, reactive measures, instead of being precautionary.

I believe disclosing accurate information is the only way to avoid panic. That way people would trust the administration and the government. However, the Japanese government acted in the opposite way. They consistently hid information, repeatedly saying that the situation was not critical. The government spent more than 10 billion yen in the last 25 years to develop the radiation dispersion simulation system called SPEEDI (the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information), but they hid the simulation results from the public and did not let local residents know the risks.

The government has also been forcing plant workers and local residents to sacrifice without making clear who is responsible. They have raised the radiation dose limit for the workers at Fukushima Daiichi. They have also raised radiation dose limits for local residents in deciding on compulsory evacuation. Are they really allowed to do such things? I find myself at a loss when I think about the true scale of the damage caused by the Fukushima Daiichi accidents.

If we apply the current Japanese law strictly, we would have to abandon an area that would be as large as the whole prefecture of Fukushima. The only way to avoid this is to raise the radiation dose limit for residents, and that would mean forcing increased radiation exposure on residents.

I think that primary industry will suffer tremendously. Agriculture and fishery among others will have difficulty selling their produce and their catch. Residents will be forced out of their homeland and their lives will be shattered.

Some say we should make TEPCO pay proper compensation. But no matter what they pay, or even if they pay to the extent that they go bankrupt, it will not be sufficient. Even if TEPCO goes bankrupt multiple times, it will not be enough. The damage from the accident will be so enormous that even the whole country of Japan going bankrupt might not pay for it. This of course is if they are really going to pay for the damage.

The seven sins of nuclear power

In closing, I would like to quote the “seven social sins” that Mahatma Gandhi warned against, and which are inscribed on his tombstone. The first is “Politics without Principle.” To those who gathered here today, I would like you to take these words deeply to heart. Gandhi’s other sins, such as “Wealth without Work,” “Pleasure without Conscience,” “Knowledge without Character,” “Commerce without Morality,” all apply to electric power companies, including TEPCO. And with “Science without Humanity,” I would challenge academia and its all-out involvement with the nation’s nuclear power policy, and that includes myself. The last one is “Worship without Sacrifice.” To those who have faith, please take these words to heart, too. Thank you very much.

Koide Hiroaki is Assistant Professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute. He is the author of Genpatsu wa iranai (We don’t need nuclear power plants), Gentosha Runessansu Shinsho, July 2011), Genpatsu no uso (The Lie of Nuclear Power), Fusosha Shinsho, June 2011, and Kakusareru genshiryoku – kaku no shinjitsu (Hidden truths of nuclear power), Soshisha, January 2011).

Sakai Yasuyuki is an engineer based in Aichi prefecture, working for one of the largest automotive parts suppliers. He studied Ecological Economics, Values & Policy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Norimatsu Satoko, a Japan Focus Coordinator, is Director of Peace Philosophy Centre. She leads youth and community members in learning issues such as Article 9, historical reconciliation in Asia, nuclear disarmament, and US military bases in Okinawa.

Recommended citation: Koide Hiroaki, “The Truth About Nuclear Power: Japanese Nuclear Engineer Calls for Abolition,” The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 31 No 5, August 1, 2011.

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Notes

1 See “In Japan, nuclear bestsellers reflect new debate,” The Washington Post with Foreign Policy, July 19, 2011.

2 See “Information sources in languages other than Japanese on the issue of Fukushima’s children and allowable radiation dosage,” Peace Philosophy Centre, May 29, 2011.