Sachiko Sato recounts the difficulties of living with radioactive contamination; the rifts it causes among families, the extreme measures needed to avoid health impacts, the difficulties in finding a new life, job, and friends in the wake of relocation. Here.
Until the Fukushima accident, Japan had 55 operating nuclear reactors as well as enrichment and reprocessing plants which had suffered a series of deadly accidents at its nuclear facilities resulting in the deaths of workers and releases of radioactivity into the environment and surrounding communities. Since the Fukushima disaster, there is growing opposition against re-opening those reactors closed for maintenance.
A heartbreaking BBC News Asia video focuses on Ayaka, a young girl who lost her grandfather and home to the tsunami in Fukushima Prefecture on March 11, 2011, and whose life is now circumscribed by radiation precautions that limit her freedom to play outdoors. This, despite now living beyond the arbitrarily small 12.4 mile (20 km) "Dead Zone" around the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Her father bought a Ukrainian radiation monitor on the internet, which he uses to check background levels before he lets Ayaka play on the parking lot for at most 30 minutes, only on weekends. She's not allowed to play on the grass, or near trees or surface water, because the radiation levels are higher there. Ayaka also wears a face mask on her way to school, and a personal radiation monitor to track her exposures. Ayaka reads from her diary entry from March 13, 2011, in which she expresses her fear of the invisible radioactivity around her. Writing helped her deal with her emotions -- she was afraid to express her fears directly to her father or grandmother.
On March 1st, the Thom Hartmann Show hosted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps to discuss a Common Dreams article reporting that estimates of how much hazardous radioactive Cesium has escaped the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex have doubled -- again. This is the third major doubling of estimates since the catastrophe began. (Kevin's interview is from minute 30:30 to minute 38:20).
Thom also asked Kevin what a becquerel is, to give some understanding and perspective on the "mind-boggling" estimate that 40,000 trillion (or 40 quadrillion) becquerels of radioactive Cesium have escaped into the environment from Fukushima Daiichi. A becquerel is a unit of measurement of radioactivity, equal to one disintegration per second. A becquerel is the SI (International System of Units) derived unit used to measure the rate of radioactive decay. When the nucleus of an atom emits nucleons (protons and/or neutrons) and is thereby transformed into a different nucleus, decay has occurred. A decay rate of one becquerel for a given quantity means there is one such atomic transformation per second. The unit of measurement is named after Antoine Henri Becquerel (1852-1908), the French physicist who discovered the photographic action of the rays spontaneously emitted by uranium salts, and so instigated the study of radioactivity. His work led to the discovery of radium by Marie and Pierre Curie, with whom he shared the 1903 Nobel Prize for physics. As Kevin said during the interview, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has affirmed for decades that any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how small, carries a health risk of cancer. Thus, 40 quadrillion becquerels of radioactivity represent that many rolls of the dice, or rounds of radioactive Russian roulette, for people and other living things living downwind, downstream, and up the food chain.
Yoichi Funabashi and Kay Kitazawa are chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, and staff director of the Foundation's Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident, respectively. They have published an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) entitled "Fukushima in review: A complex disaster, a disastrous response." It's an overview of a 400 page study on the lessons to be learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe, first reported by the New York Times on Feb. 27. The BAS abstract reads:
"On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The emerging crisis at the plant was complex, and, to make matters worse, it was exacerbated by communication gaps between the government and the nuclear industry. An independent investigation panel, established by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, reviewed how the government, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), and other relevant actors responded. In this article, the panel's program director writes about their findings and how these players were thoroughly unprepared on almost every level for the cascading nuclear disaster. This lack of preparation was caused, in part, by a public myth of "absolute safety" that nuclear power proponents had nurtured over decades and was aggravated by dysfunction within and between government agencies and Tepco, particularly in regard to political leadership and crisis management. The investigation also found that the tsunami that began the nuclear disaster could and should have been anticipated and that ambiguity about the roles of public and private institutions in such a crisis was a factor in the poor response at Fukushima."
The article announces that the full report, in Japanese only, would be released at the end of Feb. However, the English translation will not be ready until sometime this summer.