Canadian Medical Association Journal: Japanese Response to Fukushima Even Worse than Communist Russian Response to Chernobyl … “The Japanese Government Was Lying Through Its Teeth”

“Unconscionable” Failure Of Government … a “Culture of Coverup”

The peer-reviewed Journal of the Canadian Medical Association – a 144 year-old national associationslammed the Japanese government for lying about Fukushima:

A “culture of coverup” and inadequate cleanup efforts have combined to leave Japanese people exposed to “unconscionable” health risks nine months after last year’s meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, health experts say.

Although the Japanese government has declared the plant virtually stable, some experts are calling for evacuation of people from a wider area, which they say is contaminated with radioactive fallout.

They’re also calling for the Japanese government to reinstate internationally-approved radiation exposure limits for members of the public and are slagging government officials for “extreme lack of transparent, timely and comprehensive communication.”


The government may soon allow some of the more than 100 000 evacuees from the area around the plant to return to their homes.


The plant is still badly damaged and leaking radiation, says Tilman Ruff, chair of the Medical Association for Prevention of Nuclear War, who visited the Fukushima prefecture in August. “There are major issues of contamination on the site. Aftershocks have been continuing and are expected to continue for many months, and some of those are quite large, potentially causing further damage to structures that are already unstable and weakened. And we know that there’s about 120 000 tons of highly contaminated water in the base of the plant, and there’s been significant and ongoing leakage into the ocean.”

The full extent of contamination across the country is even less clear, says Ira Hefland, a member of the board of directors for Physicians for Social Responsibility. “We still don’t know exactly what radiation doses people were exposed to [in the immediate aftermath of the disaster] or what ongoing doses people are being exposed to. Most of the information we’re getting at this point is a series of contradictory statements where the government assures the people that everything’s okay and private citizens doing their own radiation monitoring come up with higher readings than the government says they should be finding.”

Japanese officials in Tokyo have documented elevated levels of cesium — a radioactive material with a half-life of 30 years that can cause leukemia and other cancers — more than 200 kilometres away from the plant, equal to the levels in the 20 kilometre exclusion zone, says Robert Gould, another member of the board of directors for Physicians for Social Responsibility.

International authorities have urged Japan to expand the exclusion zone around the plant to 80 kilometres but the government has instead opted to “define the problem out of existence” by raising the permissible level of radiation exposure for members of the public to 20 millisieverts per year, considerably higher than the international standard of one millisievert per year, Gould adds.

This “arbitrary increase” in the maximum permissible dose of radiation is an “unconscionable” failure of government, contends Ruff. “Subject a class of 30 children to 20 millisieverts of radiation for five years and you’re talking an increased risk of cancer to the order of about 1 in 30, which is completely unacceptable. I’m not aware of any other government in recent decades that’s been willing to accept such a high level of radiation-related risk for its population.”

Following the 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine, “clear targets were set so that anybody anticipated to receive more than five millisieverts in a year were evacuated, no question,” Ruff explains. In areas with levels between one and five millisieverts, measures were taken to mitigate the risk of ingesting radioactive materials, including bans on local food consumption, and residents were offered the option of relocating. Exposures below one millisievert were still considered worth monitoring.

In comparison, the Japanese government has implemented a campaign to encourage the public to buy produce from the Fukushima area, Ruff added. “That response [in Chernobyl] 25 years ago in that much less technically sophisticated, much less open or democratic context, was, from a public health point of view, much more responsible than what’s being done in modern Japan this year.”

Were Japan to impose similar strictures, officials would have to evacuate some 1800 square kilometres and impose restrictions on food produced in another 11 100 square kilometres, according to estimates of the contamination presented by Dr. Kozo Tatara for the Japan Public Health Association at the American Public Health Association’s 139th annual meeting and exposition in November in Washington, District of Columbia.


The Japanese government is essentially contending that the higher dose is “not dangerous,” explains Hefland. “However, since the accident, it’s become clear the Japanese government was lying through its teeth, doing everything it possible could to minimize public concern, even when that meant denying the public information needed to make informed decisions, and probably still is.”

“It’s now clear they knew within a day or so there had been a meltdown at the plant, yet they didn’t disclose that for weeks, and only with great prodding from the outside,” Hefland adds. “And at the same moment he was assuring people there was no public health disaster, the Prime Minister now concedes that he thought Tokyo would have to be evacuated but was doing nothing to bring that about.”

Ruff similarly charges that the government has mismanaged the file and provided the public with misinformation. As an example, he cites early reports that stable iodine had been distributed to children and had worked effectively, when, “in fact, iodine wasn’t given to anyone.”

Public distrust is at a level that communities have taken cleanup and monitoring efforts into their own hands as the government response to the crisis has been “woefully inadequate” and officials have been slow to respond to public reports of radioactive hotspots, Gould says. “That’s led to the cleanup of some affected areas, but there are also reports of people scattering contaminated soil willy-nilly in forests and areas surrounding those towns.”

“In some places, you can see mounds of contaminated soil that have just been aggregated under blue tarps,” he adds.

Many other health and nuclear experts agree. See this and this.

Of course, in this culture of coverup permeating Japan and the rest of the world, Tepco is hiding information from the Japanese government, the Japanese government is trying to hide the truth from foreign government agencies such as the NRC, and other countries – like the U.S. – are hiding the truth from their own people.

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  • McTell News has obviously influenced many people in the “western arena.” It is perhaps the number one export of the U.S.

  • I’ve spent a good portion of the last year in Japan doing work related to Tohoku.

    A lot of what’s said in this article is accurate from my perspective. Unfortunately it also engages in some “government baiting” which has dubious value.

    There are some significant cultural constraints which have influenced how much the government has said and when. But it doesn’t do any good to make them the “bad guy.”

    Let’s begin by owning the problem — the Daiichi plant was created to meet the consumption demands of a modern Tokyo. “We,” the consumers in Japan and in the rest of the world who hope that buying one more thing will produce a better quality of life, caused this.

    Could the government have handled this better — of course! And it will continue to have many opportunities to practice doing it better.

    This isn’t going away. Throughout 2012 we’ll see further signs of the depths of this disaster. People in the region are still so shocked and overwhelmed that they can’t even talk with each other about what’s happened and what’s next — let alone talk with outsiders.

    What we’ve got here is perhaps the world’s biggest example of the hubris of the so-called modern world — and perhaps one that will help lead us into a more sane era.

    Beware of “easy” solutions. There’s not a single real one in sight. This is going to take time. It is going to be messy. Many people are going to die before their time.

    It’s not only a question of what needs to be done in Fukushima but the rest of the world as well. I keep seeing the pictures of reactors in California, on the seashore and right over the San Andres Fault. Perhaps Americans and our Canadian neighbors should be investing some of their indignation closer to home and examining our own situation.

    Japan needs prayers and lots of support. Since the disasters many mistakes have been made at almost every level. Everyone is learning as fast as they can. Let’s support the learning and think about how it applies to our own local contexts. Let’s not spend a lot of time pointing fingers at different culprits until we’re at least able to truly examine our own culpability here.

  • It was an e-mail from a friend which alerted me to this article. I e-mailed him my response, above, and wrote a bit more which I will also share here.

    One of my colleagues is doing a workshop called Jubunko — the child within — in Fukushima. He has people draw a line figure of themselves that’s about 3 feet tall and then draw all the different children within – the one who’s sad, the one who is hopeful, the one angry, etc. Then people talk with each other and point to the paper and talk about the children within. It’s quite powerful.

    So, yes, certainly there are children within me who have grief and frustration. The situation in Fukushima is particularly troubling to me from the perspective of the 6 years I spent on the Governor’s Nuclear Waste Board here in Washington State where we have the Hanford Nuclear Reservation which is the largest nuclear waste repository in the world. At one point we were spending $4-5 Million a day on planning. My conclusion after six years is that we really don’t have a clue what to do. Ideas and strategies come and go. There are no good ones.

    I get irritated when people shake their fingers at Japan about the nuclear mess. As our mutual friend Yuka so poignantly said at the ALIA institute last June, “the nuclear just did what we asked of it.” Einstein pointed out long ago that we can’t be part of the solution until we see how we are part of the problem. Finger pointing aside, the nuclear industry has just done what we asked for — produce power as cheaply as possible and we’ll all hope nothing bad happens.

    Certainly it could have been handled better. More importantly, the crises will continue to present itself in many perverse ways this year. We were already seeing youngsters with radiation poisoning last year and there will be more and more this year. So there’s a lot to be done.

    No place with a nuclear power plant, or a dump or waste from nuclear weapons, or a nuclear weapons dump is immune from this. We’re all at risk. And living to live with it. 150 miles from me are 188 tanks with 10 million gallons of nuclear waste each. They are on the banks of the columbia river. Many of them are slowly leaking. Imagine one airplane planted in the middle of that tank farm. Imagine one suitcase sized bomb. There goes my region…

    The Japanese Government will continue to downplay the severity. The Yakusa — Japanese Mafia — who were heavy investors in the plant will continue to downplay the severity. The international nuclear energy industry will continue to downplay the severity. Those are all givens, as far as I am concerned. My hope would be that as people inside and outside of Japan consider this tragedy they will not simply add meaningless insult to already staggering injury. To a large extent I detest the technical condemnations which offer no context. In Fukushima this is all about the lives of hundreds of thousands of ordinary, wonderful people. In the wider world this is about our relentless consumerism as we try to produce and consume our way to happiness.

    Thanks for caring!