Passing through an airport lounge en route back from teaching a Permaculture Design Course in Europe, we were captivated by CNN reporting, along with Atlantic dolphins’ worst beaching year by a factor of 7 and the discovery of a giant, horned sea creature resembling Cecil the Sea Dragon washed up on a Spanish beach, that Fukushima had just surpassed Chernobyl in radiation severity. In fact, if the smell of rotting dolphins and sea dragons is keeping you away from the beaches, you can now get the kind of suntan that would end nuclear workers’ careers in just 1 hour by visiting the Japanese Riviera. What CNN omitted to say, among many significant points of public interest, is that the radiation will only keep going up.
What seems amazing is that anyone still assumes the 2011 accident, like the present economic malaise, is over, or ever will be. Both of these unnatural phenomena are still in their earliest stages, will soon become progressively worse, and are paradigm-shifting events. Fuke threatens the entire Pacific fishing industry, not the least Japan’s, will rival Falujah for birth defects in that Prefecture, and is rendering a vast land area unsafe for habitation, including a huge chunk of Tokyo’s already precarious breadbasket.
It is game over for nuclear power. As Arnie Gundersen, nuclear engineer for Fairewinds, told Dr. Helen Caldicott in a June interview Fukushima was for the nuclear industry forty good years and one bad day. But it was one day they could not afford to have. Gunderson said they kept saying, “’As long as there’s no earthquake, it’ll be okay.’ But that’s a big if where you’re sort of counting on an earthquake not occurring is a country that’s prone to earthquakes.”
Fuke’s problem de jour has to do with its shifting foundations. That entire Pacific side of Japan dropped 3 feet seaward during the March 11, 2011 event. Seawater is now pouring into the reactor buildings at the rate of 400 tons per day. Says Gunderson, “The net effect is we’ve got pieces of nuclear fuel, small powdery nuclear fuel, mixing in on the floors of these buildings that are now getting large quantities of radioactive water. So you have two choices: you can either stop the water from going in; or you can stop the [water] from going out.” TEPCO, after long procrastination, opted to do the latter and has filled 1000 steel tanks with corrosive radioactive seawater. None of the tanks is seismically qualified and leaks are now in evidence. Water in puddles outside steel and sandbag barriers surrounding the tank farm 5 football fields up from the shore cherps 100 milliSieverts per hour – enough to give a repair worker her year’s allowed dose every 20 minutes and retire her from permanent employment in about an hour.
TEPCO acknowledges that 75% of the seawater flowing into the plant — 300 tons per day — flows back into the Pacific. They’ve set Fuke on the wash cycle. This past week, South Korea asked Japanese officials to explain how the leaks will affect Pacific ecosystems, especially theirs. Asiana Airlines, South Korea's second-biggest carrier, announced it is suspending flights between Seoul and Fukushima. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a (literally) entrenched supporter of nuclear energy, says he has lost confidence in TEPCO’s ability to deal with the crisis and promised more government money to prop up the stock value of the company, and to pay more human fodder to jump in and stanch the leaking dikes and build trenches. Finally, it comes back to discount rates, doesn’t it? They are discounting the genetic heritage of Japanese children expected to be born centuries from now in order to salvage a Disneyesque science fiction fantasy of the 1950s: power too cheap to meter.
The response of the Obama Administration in this regard is predictably spineless. The President, afraid of offending the dumber and dumberer US Congress, sitting like Humpty-Dumpty on the wall of Big Nuke, acceded to presidential heir-apparent Hillary Clinton’s pressure, while Secretary of State, to order suspension of monitoring of radiation along the West Coast, six weeks post-accident and shortly after EPA stations confirmed the detection of Fuke fallout in precipitation, drinking water and milk.
Following a meeting between Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, Clinton agreed to fight “rumors and reputation damage” that might harm Japan’s place in the international seafood industry. Shortly thereafter, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced they were suspending tests of seafood, saying, “FDA and NOAA do not anticipate contamination of living marine resources in U.S. waters at this time. For this reason, sampling of U.S. harvested seafood is not currently planned.”
The agencies went on to explain:
“During that time needed for a fish contaminated by radiation in Japan to migrate, be caught and reach the market, the level of short‐lived radionuclides such as I‐131 would drop significantly through natural radioactive decay.”... which neatly finesses the point that ongoing seawater releases, coming from destroyed reactor cores, contain much greater proportions of long-lived radionuclides, such as U-238 and transuranics, than short-lived, largely airborne contaminants seemingly lifted from emergency evacuation planning manuals.
So what is the anti-Obama Congress busy doing about this choice nugget of scandal? Opposing health care and immigration. What is the President doing? Jawboning about lowering student loan interest rates. It is what has been described as the A-frame of two party politics — each side props up the other by agreeing to argue on inconsequential matters while starving important matters of any media oxygen.
Joseph Mangano, executive director of the nonprofit Radiation and Public Health Project, said "a cocktail of more than 100 radioactive chemicals" from the Fukushima reactors presents hazards when the material is ingested into the body through the food chain or by breathing tainted air. Potential health risks include birth defects and thyroid cancer, he said. In March, 2013, the organization published a report indicating that the number of West Coast babies born with a condition called hypothyroidism — underactive thyroid glands — rose by 28 percent within nine months of the Fukushima disaster compared with the previous year. The thyroid is especially sensitive to radioiodine. Mangano said that the American Medical Association has already called for the testing of all fish sold in the U.S. for radiation contamination, but that the FDA has so far resisted. The USDA has also resisted testing imported Japanese foods, despite citizen monitoring showing high gamma counts (5x background) in organic matcha green tea, among other products.
If the suppression of testing was intended to save the Japanese economy, it is a dismal failure. There is a cancer on that economy, just as there is on the Eurozone and the Fed. It will not respond to radiation therapy.
And while we are passing through airports, the subject of these ridiculous security whole-body scanners comes back. Why are so many people still sending their innocent children through these death rays? These devices are now banned in Europe where the dangers have been thoroughly scientifically documented, and they were supposed to have been removed in the US, but for the court order being flouted by the Obama TSA. They remain in service at many US airports. If enough people simply opted for pat-down, these child-killers would be gone tomorrow. How about going to cafepress.com and ordering little stickies you can wear on your lapel — “To Avoid Cancer I OPTED OUT. Did you?”
And now, deep sigh, it also seems like we have to opt out of Japanese green tea.