Japan’s Radioactive Potemkin Village: The Government’s Double-Dealing Data

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Real radiation levels at Nihonmatsu: 2.17 microsieverts per hour.
All Photos copyrighted property of Richard Wilcox, 2014. Usage permission granted.

“The plane to Lisbon, you would like to be on it. 
Why, what’s in Lisbon? 
To get back to America. I’ve often speculated why you don’t return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Did you run off with the Senator’s wife? I like to think that you killed a man, it’s the romantic in me.
It’s a combination of all three. 
And what in Heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca? 
My health, I came to Casablanca for the waters. 
The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert. 
I was misinformed.” 
– Reins & Bogart, Casablanca (1942)

I stand to be corrected but what I recently witnessed first hand and face to face in the city of Nihonmatsu can be interpreted as nothing other than scientific fraud and blatant misrepresentation of the facts on the part of the Japanese government regarding gamma radiation levels, leading to the early deaths of tens of thousands of residents (1). I visited a large nuclear refugee camp in a beautiful location near Nihonmatsu, a modest sized city just outside the evacuation zone of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant No. 1 (FNPP#1) disaster site (2).

Nihonmatsu is a typical mid-sized city in the near region of the FNPP#1 that was heavily doused with radiation from the triple meltdowns that occurred in March of 2011. Due to wind direction, the southern side of the plant did not receive nearly as much as in the northwest (3). Last summer I traveled within just a few kilometers of the FNPP#1 from the south, but readings never exceeded 0.5 microsieverts per hour (mcr sv pr hr). (Consider that 0.1 mcr sv pr hr is roughly an average dose received by a person in a normal environment).

0.5 mcr sv pr hr is an unsettlingly high dose but not nearly as high as what I experienced in Nihonmatsu where the average dose is over 2 mcr pr hr. Depending on how long one spends out of doors (farmers and children at play), that is as high as 19 millisieverts per year, barely under the official limit of 20 per year. Previous to the 3/11 nuclear disaster the Japanese government set the safe limit of exposure for the public at one millisievert per year.

The housing facility sits on a bluff that used to be a baseball field,
and enjoys a beautiful view of surrounding farming villages and a mountain range.

 

Japan’s Potemkin Village approach to dealing with radiation. The government monitoring station at Nihonmatsu gives an accurate reading of 0.143 microsieverts per hour, but the area immediately around it has been decontaminated. This factoid about supposed low radiation being the norm when it is not is then widely published by the government and media.

The government-installed radiation detector is a large machine that stands in front of the main office of the temporary housing facility that our volunteer group visited.

In my case the reading I got near the official geiger counter was similar, but as the head of the facility, Mr. Honda explained to us, that is because the government decontaminates the area where the machine stands.

That said, the levels did fluctuate up and down quite a bit, but averaged 0.14 mcr sv pr hr during the few hours I was there.

Walking around the compound the air and ground readings I took varied wildly between 1 to over 2 mcr sv pr hr.

In the meantime, since the facility is considered “temporary housing” it has never been decontaminated. Permanent residencies in Nihommatsu are given priority due to the limited decontamination workforce and funding. How ironic given that Prime Minister Abe can afford to lavish taxpayer subsidies into the pockets of the extravagant Olympics boondogglers (4). I wonder how the luxurious quarters for the athletes who will spend just a few days in Tokyo in 2020 will compare to what Nihonmatsu residents have had to endure for years? These latter folks don’t matter because they are just Disposable Human Garbage (DHG) compared to the corporate cash-cow athletes. See: Lance Armstrong.

The Honda Interview

On March 29, 2014, my colleague, Chiho Takahashi, and I interviewed Mr. Honda, Chairman of the Adachi temporary housing facility, the largest such facility in Nihonmatsu.

Mild mannered, kind and brave Mr. Honda: “People are angry because the government has lied to them and is not resolving the situation in an honest and forthright manner.”

Q: How many people live in this temporary housing facility?

A: There are 238 families, 538 people, 67 elderly people of them live alone. And there are 70 children (elementary school, junior high school, high school) in Adachi temporary housing. Five school buses visit this facility daily to take children to schools. Children endure much stress because they are shipped off to far away schools and separated from their friends.

The cramped quarters of Adachi temporary housing facility.

 


A boy happily skateboards in the warm afternoon light, enjoying the spring thaw.

Q: How many temporary housing facilities for evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear disaster zone exist in Nihonmatsu city?

A: 11, and this is the largest facility. There are many other facilities for nuclear and tsunami evacuees in various places in the region.

Q: What do you think about compensation from TEPCO after the accident?

A: It is not enough. TEPCO gave us 1,200,000 yen per person for a year (under 12,000 USD). We received 6,000,000 yen per person for five years. We cannot really afford to move to another place. We were self-sufficient in Namie, but now we have to buy food.

We do not have to pay money for rent, but we have to pay for fuel and light expenses. In Namie, where we were forced to evacuate from due to Tepco and the Japanese government’s negligence, we lived happy lives before 3.11. But now, although we strongly desire to return home, the high level of radiation prevents us from doing so.

Q: What is the situation of the home’s people were forced to evacuate from?

A: Namie town residents can return and visit for about four hours, about three times a month to clean their homes, do rodent prevention and so on. In Namie average readings are 6 to 7 mcr sv pr hr and as high as 35. These numbers vastly exceed the current 20 millisieverts per year legal limit, yet temp housing residents make regular visits to their homes to do upkeep and scare the mice away.

Many people in the region lost their families and relatives due to the tsunami, but we were prevented from searching for them at the time because of the extreme radiation. This is almost too painful to speak of.

Q: Why has the temporary housing facility not been decontaminated?

A: There is a shortage of workers to carry out decontamination operations because no one wants to do dangerous work like this, where they will be exposed to high levels of radiation. So naturally, just as with the FNPP#1 decommissioning, there is a shortage of workers. It will take about 3 years from now to decontaminate this area. Moreover, because our housing is “temporary,” priority is given to local permanent residential areas. In Nihonmatsu people have gardens in radioactive soil. Although we used to worry about radiation in the food, people no longer worry about eating such food because it is cheap and accessible.

Fukushima receives high levels of snowfall during the winter, snow mounds remain in late March.

Q: How do you think the situation could be improved?

A: Though three years have passed since 3.11, no drastic measures have improved the situation. We sometimes think about holding a rally or demonstration in order to get more public attention, but it is difficult to carry out such action. One improvement is that in two years the residents here will be able to relocate to a “public restoration housing.” Although it is also in Nihonmatsu and is the small, cramped size of temporary housing we now live in, some of amenities are better. For example, there is less chance of water pipes freezing up in the winter in the new housing.

Q: Do you expect the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 to have a positive influence on Fukushima?

A: No, I don’t. Kobe City was rebuilt in only three years after the major Hanshin earthquake in 1995. But here we are three years later and Fukushima is still in a miserable state. While the Olympics are enriching some economic players in Tokyo, it is unknown whether that will really help us out up here in Fukushima and Tohoku.

After the interview, the gracious Mr. Honda bought all of the volunteers a can of coffee from the vending machine for our trip back home.

Contaminated Habitat

And yet the convenience store in town had decontaminated their parking lot because they have the funds and means to do so. I think Mr. Honda and the residents should protest more loudly, but they are in a tricky situation and fear losing their housing allowance if they complain.

I talked to a decontamination worker who confirmed my hypothesis and told me that 2 mcr sv pr hr is the norm in the area this distance from FNPP#1. He told me Koriyama often has levels as high as 2 mcr sv pr hr and that decontamination only reduces levels of radiation by half.

Not only are residents in Fukushima enduring the legacy of the original accident, but significant amounts of radiation continue to be emitted into the atmosphere and ocean every day from the NFPP#1 disaster zone (5). In fact, the entire “decontamination process” is contentious given it simply pushes radiation from one place to another, but never really gets rid of it.

The government claims that levels in this region are vastly lower, so who is telling the truth– Mr. Honda and the decontamination worker I met– or the government? (6). The MEXT website claims levels at various locations inside the evacuation zone are 0.2 up to 0.5, but if they are measuring in the way I directly observed, by decontaminating the area directly surrounding the dosimeter, this would explain the low levels.

There is a history of tomfoolery involving radiation measurements including a recent scandal with the government (7; 8). Now they are trying to force residents back into the Death Zone by withholding crucial data (9; 10). Local governments are so worried about depopulation they are offering pregnant women free housing if they move back. As one expert noted, there is a “[n]ew residential support plan for evacuees from outside Fukushima — this mainly focuses on the pregnant women and the children. If the pregnant women or children decide to go back to Fukushima, Fukushima Prefecture will offer a new, very good house without payment. And this kind of policy they introduce means that the local government wants the people back to their area. So this is not a very good situation for the women’s and children’s health” (11).

Incredibly, “[t]he radiation dose limit of Fukushima schools and kindergartens is 3.8” mcr sv pr hr based on the assumption that children will not spend more than 8 hours per day out of doors (12). In one case a film crew reported in 2012 that they experienced 5 millisieverts per hour as they drove through the evacuation zone (13). That’s a lifetime dose in just one day and undoubtedly such hotspots abound in the area.

Plume Of Doom

Government malfeasance regarding the nuclear crisis is beyond the pale, criminal, diabolically evil, in fact. Was it stupidity, bureaucratic intransigence or an intentional plan to genocide the population that kept the government from protecting people at the time of the accident?

As scholar Kyle Cleveland notes in an important research paper which covers “Radiation Plume Politics and the SPEEDI disaster”:

“Despite having elaborate evacuation plans that previously had been coordinated with TEPCO, Baba Tomatsu, the mayor of Namie, initially learned of the nuclear disaster by watching it on TV and was bitterly resentful of the lack of consideration that put his village at risk: There was no coordination with the Japanese Government. Nothing. Baba Tomatsu: ‘They didn’t tell us where to evacuate. Nothing. Namie machi did everything by ourselves. And, disappointingly, because we didn’t hear anything from the government ­ no advisories ­ we used anything that we had—school buses and such—to move people out of the area. People’s cars were destroyed by the tsunami so we placed those people in those buses. At that time, the people who had ways to evacuate had already evacuated, to Miyagi, or Yamagata prefecture. So the 21,000 population were all scattered like a bee’s hive. Because we had no information we were unwittingly evacuating to an area where the radiation level was high so I’m very worried about the people’s health. I feel pain in my heart but also rage over the poor actions of the government… It’s not nice language but I still think it was an act of murder. What were they thinking when it came to the people’s dignity and lives? I doubt that they even thought about our existence’ ” (14).

Many people have fled Fukushima specifically to protect their children’s health (15). Of course, Fukushima prefecture was not the only place to be doused with radiation. One researcher found that highly radioactive hot particles emitted from the accident landed 300 miles from the FNPP#1 and that people not only in Japan, but even in North America were breathing these particles into their lungs for a month after the accident (16).

Can You Trust The Government?

According to the Japanese government official website, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (17), gamma radiation in Tokyo is just 0.034 microsieverts per hour (mcr sv pr hr) (18; 19). This reading is taken 22 meters above the ground, in Shinjuku, a main hub of urban Tokyo. As luck would have it, I live not far from there and took a reading out my window several stories up in my apartment building and it regularly reads 0.13 mcr sv pr hr. According to the government chart, an estimated reading of 0.061 mcr sv pr hr is given for one meter above ground level. I measured one meter above ground where I live and the reading was 0.12 mcr sv pr hr.

What accounts for the noticeable discrepancy? Could it be the equipment or the location of measurement? The government chart gives an average reading for the ENTIRE CITY OF TOKYO, of 0.061, as if that is remotely accurate. I believe the government and authorities use two main tactics:

1. The place measurement monitoring devices high above the ground where it won’t read the worst radiation which naturally settles on the ground or in ditches;
2. They scrub and decontaminate the area in the immediate vicinity of the monitoring device in order to create a lower reading.

It could also be that tampering with the way devices are calibrated in order to get lower readings, or manipulating published data could occur, but I have no personal proof of these speculations.

Much of the problem with radiation science promoted by the nuclear establishment and their minions is that they limit the factors involved in their methodology and avoid the precautionary principle when drawing conclusions. In other words: don’t worry, be happy (even if your mitochondrial DNA is being damaged).

After the Fukushima accident I personally measured my kid’s school grounds. My readings were consistently higher what was reported by the school who simply measured above the ground in order to avoid the worst radiation.

When I was in the midwest in the US in March, I took outdoor readings above and on the ground that measured between 0.08 to 0.13 mcr sv pr hr. We now live in a manmade radioactively contaminated world due to above ground nuclear tests, nuclear power plant emissions, and nuclear accidents, in addition to natural background radiation from the sun or soil.

What I have witnessed first hand in Nihonmatsu is scientific fraud and misrepresentation of the facts. This is verified by my own dosimeter readings, and by the testimony of both Mr. Honda, the head of the temporary housing facility, and the experienced construction and decontamination worker who I talked with.

Sending People Back To The Death Zone

Japan has coordinated its big push to force residents back into the Death Zone with the cheerful news from the UN that there is “no increase in Fukushima cancer rates” due to radiation (20). While some residents are homesick and want to return, many are wary of returning due to radiation dangers (21).

The excellent website Simply Info summarizes the gist of a recent UN report which fallaciously claims there will be no cancers from Fukushima:

UNSCEAR uses the fact that cancer can not be traced back to an origin to explain away any potential cancers from the Fukushima disaster. This tactic is well known among the tobacco and asbestos industries.

The source of the data used by UNSCEAR is primarily the IAEA, TEPCO and the Japanese government. Anyone who has been following events in Fukushima knows none of these sources are considered unbiased or accurate. Much dispute about the validity of the data from these entities exists. All of the data from other sources is ignored by UNSCEAR” (22).

A number of studies question the safety of both low and high radiation levels as well as the validity of the UN’s risk assessment model (23; 24; 25; 26; 27; 28).

Irrefutable proof of harm to living organisms from radiation are shown in studies that have already found innumerable forms of damage to wildlife in both Chernobyl, over a quarter a century ago, and in Fukushima today (29; 30). Birds of a feather in the nuclear age drop dead together (31).

A Volunteer Speaks

My colleague, Chiho Takahashi, a student at Tsuda College, recently wrote of her experiences as a volunteer to support the folks at the Adachi temporary housing facility:

In November of 2012, I went to the Adachi temporary housing in Nihonmatsu for the first time. Almost all of the children that participated in our event were shorter than me, my height is 148 cm. But as I visited periodically during the next year and a half I noticed the children growing in height. In that way I could measure the passage of time and see that the victims’ lives were not “temporary” at all but taking place over a long period.

Children who were first grade students of elementary school became third grade students. Children who were first grade students of junior high school became high schoolers. I asked myself, ‘do you think that it is a temporary life?’ I could not think so.

In February of 2013 I had an experience where an elderly man let me into his house at the Adachi temporary housing. He lives in the house all alone. I went up his steps into his small quarters. There are four rooms in the house: kitchen, living room, bed room and bath. He showed me into the living room where there was a kotatsu (Japanese foot warmer) and suggested that I warm myself in the kotatsu because it was very cold that day. We talked for about 30 minutes in afternoon and he told me about his children and grandchildren but he rarely sees them because they live in Tokyo and Miyagi prefectures. He was proud that he had done forestry and farming work using his big truck before he was forced to move to Nihonmatsu from Namie town because of the 3.11. disaster. Since then, he has lost everything and has nothing to do every day but drink in broad daylight. There were some bottles of rice wine and potato liquor on the table in the living room.

When I was heard his sad story I could only say to him that ‘that’s too bad.’ Although I felt I was not useful to him I tell people this story to people in Tokyo so they will know what a hard life it is in the temporary housing of Nihonmatsu.

I want many people to know the experience which I saw and heard and felt in Tohoku. I can’t carry out expensive projects like government, but I have always felt that I should try to do important things with my precious friends even if they might seem ‘small.’ In this way, maybe I can inspire more people from Tokyo to assist the refugees of the Tohoku and Fukushima disasters, even if it is just one person at a time. Our small volunteer made the singular effort to go to Nihonmatsu to assist the temporary housing residents, so too if each person made a small but sincere effort it might create a larger effect.”

* Richard Wilcox is a Tokyo-based teacher and writer who holds a Ph.D. in environmental studies and is a regular contributor to the world’s leading website exposing the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Rense.com. He is also a contributor to Activist Post. His radio interviews and articles are archived at http://wilcoxrb99.wordpress.com and he can be reached by email for radio or internet podcast interviews to discuss the Fukushima crisis at wilcoxrb2013@gmail.com.

You can see all references for the article here.

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Contributed by Richard Wilcox of rense.com.

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