There are mornings that are difficult. This is one of them. I have been trying to foolishly avoid the news on Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant. I have been deliberately not reading the news on Japan daily, limiting myself to reading a bit every few days instead. Today, it can’t be avoided: The Japanese government has finally agreed with what scientists have been claiming for a month: Fukushima disaster now on a par with Chernobyl
From the Guardian: “Japan yesterday raised its assessment of the Fukushima plant accident to the same level as history’s worst nuclear crisis, admitting that “large volumes” of radioactive substances are being released in the surrounding area.
A total of 29 deaths are attributed to immediate lethal doses of radiation at the facility in the former Soviet Union, as well as thousands of cancer-linked deaths from long-term exposure. Official UN figures put the death toll from the Chernobyl disaster at 9,000. Greenpeace and other groups say it is as high as 200,000.
AP (picture to the right) The shattered remains of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine after the explosion 25 years ago this month
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, admitted yesterday, however, that with engineers still battling to bring the plant under control, “Our concern is that it could eventually exceed Chernobyl.” Some experts were taking that startling statement as a warning that discharges from the plant may be higher than admitted.
In a press conference, the Agency said their calculations showed that between 370,000 and 630,000 terabecquerels (a trillion becquerels) of radioactive materials have been spewed out of the plant – as much as one-tenth of the total contained in its damaged reactors.”
Karl Grossman and others have been advocating raising the emergency level as a first step for weeks. Professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, Grossman is author of Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power and Power Crazy. He said today: “Finally, the Japanese government is acknowledging a little reality. But the sad fact is that the Fukushima disaster is beyond a level seven disaster, it’s off the books. You have multiple reactors and cooling pools.
(Read his excellent article “Fukushima Nuclear Disaster at One Month: The Explosion of Nukespeak” to see how Orwellian language has seeped into discussions of nuclear radiation and risk assessment.)
As horrific – and yes, horrific – as the situation is, many scientists argue that the Japanese government should have been more forthright from the start. It was akin to a Chernobyl disaster from the start.
ALEXEY V. YABLOKOV, JANETTE D. SHERMAN, MD
Yablokov is senior co-author and Sherman is consulting editor of Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009. The book is the most in-depth study of the Chernobyl disaster. They said today: “It is possible for the Fukushima nuclear problem to be much worse then Chernobyl for the following reasons: There was about 30 tons of nuclear fuel at Chernobyl, while there is close to 60 tons at Fukushima. There is the additional [factor] of MOX fuel at Fukushima. There are many more people at Fukushima and a much more dense population in that part of Japan. We still don’t know the final outcome.” They warn that the risks of contamination to much of the northern hemisphere is still real.
Helen Caldicott, a medical doctor and long-standing activist against nuclear power, had also been writing and speaking out this catastrophe. She wrote against the distortions propagated by nuclear-activists slow to realize the truth.
“How nuclear apologists mislead the world over radiation. George Monbiot and others at best misinform and at worst distort evidence of the dangers of atomic energy
Soon after the Fukushima accident last month, I stated publicly that a nuclear event of this size and catastrophic potential could present a medical problem of very large dimensions. Events have proven this observation to be true despite the nuclear industry’s campaign about the “minimal” health effects of so-called low-level radiation. That billions of its dollars are at stake if the Fukushima event causes the “nuclear renaissance” to slow down appears to be evident from the industry’s attacks on its critics, even in the face of an unresolved and escalating disaster at the reactor complex at Fukushima.”
Her article deserves to be read in full.
What is also important is to broaden the discussion. The choice is not between nuclear power and fossil fuel for our energy consumption. The choice is between destruction of our lives and our environment or renewable energy + decreased consumption.