On the ground in Fukushima

I am sitting in a hotel in Tokyo, after attending the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World this past weekend.  The sessions were video recorded, and was streamed in real time.  Over 100 000 people watched the streaming.  See http://npfree.jp/english/

Before the conference we were taken on a two day tour of Fukushima city and some areas nearby, and listened to local people talk about the experience, and life in and around the radiation contaminated area.  We drove through

Testing equipment at a community centre in Fukushima

evacuated areas at times, and had a geiger counter in the bus, and one taped to the outside of the bus.  The numbers fluctuated, and they read out the figures as we drove around.  It was eerie to know that we were in the bus, but gamma rays from the fall out were all around us, and passing through the bus, and our bodies, even though we seemed so enclosed and high off the ground.

In a community centre, a dairy farmer spoke to us about a collective decision by the farmers in one area to slaughter all their cows.  The milk being produced was radioactive, and they could not imagine trying to sell it to anyone.

Geiger counter showing 0.924 micro Sieverts per hour

A friend of his committed suicide after that, leaving a note apologising to his family and friends, with the last words being ‘… if only they had not built any nuclear reactors here…’.

Outside, in the snow, we measured the radioactivity at ground level, just outside the temporary housing where the evacuated people are living now. It was about 10 times higher than normal background radiation.  Later, as we drove though other areas, the reading inside the bus was over 1 micro Sievert per hour.

We also went as far as we could towards the reactors, and this is where we were stopped by police, some of whom were wearing protective clothing. Everyone wears a face mask.

There was a stream of trucks going into the zone through the roadblock.  Apparently they contained the top layer of earth from particularly sensitive places, such as school playgrounds.  This contaminated soil is being dumped inside the 20km radius zone, which has an unfortunate side effect of creating ‘hot spots’ of concentrated radiation.  No-one knows that the effect will be when the rains come and wash some of this soil into the groundwater, rivers and the sea.

Corporations such as Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsibushi have profited massively from selling components for these nuclear plants.  They continue to profit, by offering their services for the cleanup operation.  They should be liquidated, all their assets sold, and the cash given to NGOs involved in the clean up operation, who can hire the people who used to work for these corporations.  That way there will not be job losses, except perhaps for the board of directors, and corporations will think twice in future before looking to profit from this disastrously dangerous technology.

Or perhaps they should at least print the following (which is on a card in my hotel room) on the side of nuclear reactors…


For an explanation of Sieverts, see here

3 responses to “On the ground in Fukushima

  1. I love the masks. Incognito or incogito. I dont’ know, but I suppose they limit the amount of radiation you ingested by not taking in radioactive particulates, but background radioactivity? Hey, on the up side maybe you wont need a torch anymore. But seriously I cant imagine this trip has done anything for your longevity or chances of breeding.
    I hope it is worth it for the anti-nuclear lobby to expose themselves like this on everyone else’s behalf. May your selfless acts of sympathy and social justice be noted and appreciated and make a difference to the decision-makers.
    Thank you all for your efforts and keep the updates comming.

    • Do you have any idea of the aomunt of work, manpower, and planning required for a controlled demolition of a building the size of the WTC? With no one working there noticing? It takes weeks, so would have to be done in advance. Then the planes would have caused premature detonation. The Fukishima disaster is a real, present danger, though, and I hate to see it be equated with irresponsible, uneducated conspiracy theories like the WTC ‘demolition’.

  2. thanks for the read.
    I think you’re right : we should dismantle those corporations that have profited from this toxic industry. Add to your list the uranium miners (BHP, Rio Tinto to name a couple of big culprits from my corner …)
    and I too found that carrying a measuring device enriched the experience of travelling to Fukushima : http://justat.in/fuku

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