Children in Fukushima city received dosimeters at school in autumn, 2011. Image Source: Japan Resilience System.
A local lawsuit over Japanese children's exposure to Fukushima radioactive fallout has sparked the inception of a curious thing: a global online tribunal. There were signs of this phenomenon in relation to this issue in 2012, but this is a new example. Perhaps this is an Internet first. No Internet cause is complete without its Big Names. And now, the intellectual media celebrity Noam Chomsky has lent his name to the cause of evacuating children from Fukushima. Incidentally, at the Daiichi plant on 1 February 2013, radiation levels measured by the press varied between 3.5 and 1,370 microsieverts per hour (Hat tip: ENE News). Fukushima City's tap water is being bottled and sold, with the label that it is "safe and delicious."
Fukushima City tap water bottled: safe and delicious. Image Source: Fukushima Minyu.
A number of posts at the opaquely pro-alternative-energy news aggregator ENE News have been covering the impact of Fukushima fallout on Japanese children (see related videos of radiation fallout around operating schools below the jump). In this case, the stated prevalence of thyroid damage is staggering:
This report comes from the citizens' lawsuit against the city of Koriyama.... about the actual health condition of the children of Fukushima. On September 11 [2012?], the thyroid examinations found abnormalities such as nodules or cysts in 43% out of the 42,000 children tested. The numbers for girls are worse. 54% of girls from age 6 to 10 had these abnormalities, and 55% for age 11 to 15.
The people behind the 14 child plaintiffs also claim that the government has played down the dangers of Fukushima. They assert that there is a general culture of denial about Fukushima in Japan, since expressing alarm over the accident is perceived as a violation of acceptable social norms and national honour. This is a partial source: the defense's counter-arguments, data and documents are not included on the citizens' lawsuit blog.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs called on "the City of Koriyama to evacuate them so they can receive education in a safe place, with less than 1mSv/year atmospheric radiation." The plaintiffs' lawyer compares evacuation standards in Japan to conditions in Chernobyl and find Chernobyl's to have been more rigorous. Details on the court proceedings are online here and here. Supporting documents include statements on the long-term impact of Chernobyl fallout on children in Belarus. The proceedings have already been dismissed and reached an appeal stage before a higher court:
The non-profit people behind the plaintiffs in the case have set up a curious new Web initiative - a Web court of global citizens - in parallel with proceedings in the conventional Sendai court. The Web court asks Netizens (here - scroll to the bottom of the page to participate in the World Citizens' Tribunal Judgment Form) to declare their support for the plaintiffs. The results of online responses are funneled into an Web-based spreadsheet, which you can see here.On June 24, 2011, 14 children in grade school in Koriyama filed a law suit against the City of Koriyama resorting to the court of law, so-called the “last bastion of human rights”, and demanded their right to study in a safe environment. In a response, the Koriyama District Court dismissed the case on December 16, 2011. This court decision is considered to be a damning violation of human rights. It does nothing but endorses the same violation committed by the national and city governments. As this decision was considered to be completely unacceptable, the plaintiffs of 14 the children, in order to correct what is wrong, filed a formal objection at the end of 2011, which is presently pending before the Sendai High Court.
The form of this 'online tribunal' is in fact merely a glorified blog poll and petition; but the contentiousness and seriousness of the poll topic arguably elevates the symbolic significance of this medium: online poll results are labeled at the plaintiffs' site as a "Jury judgment." The idea is that online responses will on the one hand contrast alleged Japanese government cover-ups about the advisable extent of the evacuation zone and foot-dragging over paid evacuation of those who cannot afford to leave radiated areas - with global expectations about protection of citizens in the event of a local nuclear accident on the other hand.
On 31 October 2012, the lawyer employed by the plaintiffs also approached the United Nations in Geneva. The lawyer, Toshio Yanagihara, addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council, NGO Information Meeting as follows (see his statement in the first video below; I am not clear on whether the video comes from this October-November 2012 session or a different UN meeting):
Dear distinguished delegates,
Today, together with my friends, I am here to ask you to think about the people, especially the children, who are trapped in the high radiation areas in Japan after the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Today, I am hear to request you to take a significant step as the UN Human Rights Council to rescue these trapped people. They are living in the zone that has equivalent or higher level of the radiation contamination compared to the evacuated zones around the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant.
The health effects of radioactivity is well-established. As Dr. Fernex has been presented to you, the radioactivity will cause problems not only in your health, but also in the health of your descendants.
You also heard the actual suffering of the local people who had to escape to far away location in such a big hurry in Mr. Idogawa's speech. He can also talk a lot about the feelings of the evacuees and his own feeling as the leader of this group of people who had to experience extraordinary circumstances.
I characterize the response of our government with the following three key concepts. First, they have always been extremely selective in their release of necessary information. Second, they play down the effect of the accident. Third, they raised the standard of nuclear safety at their convenience.
25 years prior to the Fukushima nuclear accident, there was the Chernobyl accident. This is something the most relevant to compare with. What did we learn from the experience of Chernobyl?
When the Chernobyl accident happened, the Soviet government did not provide iodine tablets to its people. This caused thyroid cancers in children. Likewise the Japanese government did not provide with iodine tablets, either. One town even instructed to collect the tablets they once distrubuted.Now we are finding an unusually high rate of thyroid abnormalities among Fukushima children. There is already a reported case of one child who has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Japanese government changed the legal allowance of radiation exposure from 1 mSv/yr to 20 mSv/yr to prevent designation of wider mandatory evacuation zone. The same mistake had already been made by Soviet Union 25 years before in order to prevent the school children's evacuation.
The Japanese government selectively hid the crucial information in order to play down the accident. This includes the detailed simulation done by a state-of-the-art system called SPEEDI, which is based on the measurement of the data points next to each other, having the local geography and the weather condition of the time of the accident into consideration. They also repeatedly told the public that “there will be no immediate effect on health”. The Japanese government still withhold certain critical information even today.
The Yablokov-Nesterenko report based on 5,000 papers written mainly in Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian provides an analysis that more than 980,000 people lost lives as a result of the accident. The population density in Fukushima is 15 times higher than that of the regions around Chernobyl. The number of people in Fukushima in the areas with contamination levels equivalent to Chernobyl is also much larger. Therefore, it is not hard to imagine that the loss of life in Fukushima will be significantly high.
Let me take an example of Koriyama City where I am currently representing 14 children in the Collective Evacuation Trial. It is known that the children are more affected by radioactivity than adults.
Please take a look at this map of Koriyama City, which is 60km from the Nuclear Plant ... . The numbers are the airborne radiation readings and the level of soil contamination measured in August last year . The red dots on this map indicate the equivalent radiation level of mandatory evacuation zone around Chernobyl. If you apply the evacuation standard used in Chernobyl, most of the central part of the city would fall under the mandatory evacuation area, where the residents would be required to move out. It is in this level of dangerous contamination that the children remain and attend school.
As a lawyer I came up with the idea to take an action to force the local government of the city of Koriyama to evacuate the school children to the area under 1 mSv/yr airborne radiation level. The court procedure takes time, while the economic situations of the children's parents don't allow them to privately evacuate the childen. It is also reported that the children who eat the lunch from home rather than the school lunch are bullied by the peers. Furthermore, some researchers have found out that the radiation readings from the monitoring equipment set up by the government are typically half the dose of the people are exposed to. We would be very happy to share the evidence of this in case you are interested in [it].
In order to know what type of data fixing is going on, please take a look a the next picture. You see two monitoring devices side by side.
There are about 500 monitoring posts at schools and parks in Fukushima, and you see two monitoring devises next to each other like in this picture. The one on the left is the equipment currently used. The one the right was previously used and abolished by the Japanese government because the one on the right meets the international standard that was used before the Japanese government started imposing its own standard to measure the airborne radioactivity. The contract with the company that provided the machine on the right was terminated. The readings from the type of equipment on the right are up to 40% higher. This is a perfect example of how the government is trying to understate the contamination caused by the accident. The government spen[t] a huge budget cleaning the surrounding of the official monitoring posts too.
Let me now talk about the actual health condition of the children of Fukushima. On September 11 [2012?] ... thyroid examinations found abnormalities such as nodules or cysts in 43% out of 42,000 children tested. The numbers for the girls are worse. 54% of the girls from age 6 to 10 had these abnormalities, and 55% for age 11 to 15. What is more, we have discovered in September that one child had pediatric thyroid cancer. However, the government still refuses the linkage of these symptoms to the accident.
After the Fukushima disaster, the Japanese government put numbers of policies into force. After the Fukushima disaster, the Japanese government put numbers of policies into force. Apparently, they are only talking about the reconstructions of the region based on decontamination. However, it was already proven in Chernobyl that decontamination is not effective. It is almost that whenever the Japanese government mentions the word “reconstruction“, it ultimately means emprisonment of the disaster victims in the highly contaminated areas for economic reasons. Many of the recovery workers at the Fukushima Daiichi site are from Fukushima Prefecture, who have to work under numerous layers of subcontractor. It may mean an economic slavery. Of course I would certainly wish that it is a groundless fear.
The Japanese government does not assume responsibility for voluntary evacuation. This means to the residents that the government will not pay if you decide to leave. As a result of this policy, those who cannot afford to leave everything behind and start from scratch have had no choice but to remain in highly contaminated regions regardless of their wishes. The Japanese government should fulfill its moral and legal responsibilities for the evacuation of those still living in highly contaminated regions, especially, the children.
So what can we do? The answer is simple. We should immediately evacuate the people, especially the children, out of the high radiation zones. Why does it have to be done immediately? Chernobyl suffered the casualties of 980,000 people, despite its internationally accepted evacuation standard. It was not because the standard was not adequate, but rather because it was implemented 5 years after the accident. For many, it was too late. This is why we must move the children out of the radioactive contamination now!!!
I hope you now feel like joining force to protect the human rights in Fukushima. Thank you very much for your attention.
Toshio Yanagihara, a lawer from the 'Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial Team.' Video Source: Youtube.
Any precedent set by the Sendai High Court is a cause for general concern. Recall that the globe is dotted with nuclear plants which are in the 30-40 year age range and have not yet been grandfathered out. From a Nuclear Law Bulletin article on whether corporations or governments are responsible when nuclear plants have large accidents:
As of June 2011, out of 440 nuclear power plants operating in the world, approximately 81% had been in operation for more than 20 years and about 35% for more than 30 years. In OECD member countries there are at present 339 nuclear reactors in operation, of which 135 reactors (39.8% of the total number) are over 30 years old and 15 reactors (4.4% of the total number) are over 40 years old. All nuclear reactors in Finland have reached their 30th anniversary while in the United States 56% of all reactors are beyond 30. In the United Kingdom and Germany about 42% of nuclear reactors are older than 30 years while in Canada, France and Japan, the respective percentages in this age bracket amount to 22%, 34% and 30%.Would governments in North America or Europe behave any better when facing a local nuclear meltdown than the Japanese government has in the wake of this disaster? There is a grey area legally over whether corporations running the plants or governments are responsible for clean up and protection of citizens. Chernobyl is not indicative because the entire operation was government-affiliated from the beginning. TEPCO's behaviour has raised questions over how accountable a private company is to the general health of the surrounding cities, populations and environment, which are mainly government concerns. A major accident at a nuclear plant is in fact the worst possible example for a combined exercise of corporate and governmental powers; clean-ups reflect the real ways private and public worlds locally interact.
The large number of limping plants has prompted a flurry of contracts for constructing new plants in developed and developing countries. It is ironic and remarkable that the nuclear industry has never expanded more than it has in the aftermath of what will likely be deemed the worst nuclear accident in history.
Yet the need to play down Fukushima's danger may not just lie with the interests of the nuclear industry. If Japan is considerably more irradiated than has been disclosed, it could severely destabilize the strategic power balance in the Far East. Remove Japan as a major player in that region, and the picture there looks very different (some would say: catastrophically different) for several countries, not least the USA. Perhaps dismissals of Fukushima's fallout toxicity are rather like weird counter-factual declarations that the recession has been long over, when it really is not (see here and here; Hat tip: Kate Sherrod). Perhaps in some quarters, global stability right now is more important than a million cancer deaths, twenty years down the road.
As for the fledgeling World Citizens' Tribunal - which could be one of several precedents set for a radical transformation of future institutions of government - how the Web is used in the public apprehension of what is happening after a major nuclear accident is instructive to the nuclear industry, the global public and to government and other authorities. A low level media ground war is on: on other forums, Fukushima alarmists are dismissed as tin-foil-hat conspiracy theory lunatics. Nay-sayers - accused by alarmists of being nuclear industry shills - argue that Fukushima is more or less under control and relatively safe.
An example from the Internet chatter: an American woman married to a Japanese man is terrified to take her children from America and back to Tokyo, for fear of radiation fallout. Bizarrely, she consulted that venerable nuclear expert, the advice columnist at Salon.com (?). The columnist, Cary Tennis, told her that she had PTSD and her psychiatric problems were treatable. So fearing measurable amounts of radioactive fallout is now labeled a psychiatric illness? Fear of fallout certainly causes severe mental strain. Of course, this is a classic ad hominem trick. While those living in fear of radioactive fallout may indeed be traumatized, does that mean they and their fears are irrational?
Last summer, a documentary on this topic premiered at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. For In the Grey Zone (released under the Japanese title Gurei Zoun No Naka), director Ian Thomas Ash won the 2012 'Filmmaker of the Future' Award. The documentary traces the impact of Fukushima on Japanese children.
Below, some videos of decontamination and random radiation tests by concerned citizens regarding Japanese children and schools, mainly in the prefecture of Chiba, mainly filmed by the Youtuber Birdhairjp. From the videos, the areas around Fukushima which are still inhabited do not look entirely safe. Is this everywhere, or only in hot spots? Because the government and MSM cannot seem to get to the bottom of what is safe and what is not with regard to Fukushima, we are reduced to watching documentaries and scraps of evidence randomly gathered by Youtubers.
"470 Becquerels from Children's Clothes, Ex-Nuclear Power Plant Worker Reveals" (Hat tip: ENE News). Video Source: Youtube.
Children play next to adults decontaminating school yard: at Yokosuka city [270 kilometers SSW of Fukushima Daiichi] elementary school, adults shoveling 0.67 microsieverts/hr radioactive dirt during recess; city acceptable limit is 0.59 microsieverts/hr (Hat tip: ENE News). Video Source: Youtube; for the longer version of this video, go here.
"12.21 microSv/h, Tsushima jr-hi school, Cherry fallen leaves, Nov 2012." This site looks like it has been evacuated? Video Source: Youtube.
Caption for the above video: "On 24th of Nov 2012 , I measured radiation in front of Tshushima junior high school, Tshushima area of Namie, Fukushima pref. Japan. I monitored 1.85 micro Sv/h at my chest in air, in front of the school gate, 3.23 micro Sv/h at my chest in air, near a cherry tree. 12.21 on ground level, on fallen leaves of cherry trees to the school. The monitori[n]g place is 28 km from Fukushima Nuclear power plant. Residents and students of this place have been evacuated since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. The measuring instrument is made of Ukraine, ECOTEST MKS-05. Many black containers are piled up in the school yard. It seems that contaminated soil removed around this area is stuffed in them. The map shown in the video is 'Radiation counter map of the FUKUSHIMA Daiich nuclear accident' by [P]rofessor Yukio HAYAKAWA of GUNMA University."
"1.41 microSv/h, Kashiwa high school, Chiba, School road side dust, Jan 2013." Video Source: Youtube.
Caption for the above video: "On 20 Jan 2013 , I measured radiation In front of Kashiwa high school, Kashiwa city, Chiba pref. Japan. I monitored 0.19 micro Sv/h at my chest in air, 1.41 on ground level, on the school road side dust near the school gate. The monitorinig place is 200 km from Fukushima Nuclear power plant, and 35km for the center of Tokyo."
"2.08 microSv/h, Kashiwa high school, Chiba, School road side dust, Jan 2013." Video Source: Youtube.
"16.07microSv/h, Koriyama Jr-high students running road side dust, 14 Sep 2012." The videographer showed the video with a filter to protect his video and children's identities. Video Source: Youtube.
Caption for the above video: "On 14 Sep 2012, I measured radiation around Koriyama Daisan junior high school, Koriyama city, Fukushima pref. J[a]pan. I monitored 0.71 micro Sievert per ain air at chest hight, 16.07 on the ground level, on dust. Friday's after school time, students are running around the school. 16.07 microSv/h radioactive contaminated dust is just [be]side ... the running stuents. And student's chorus practice are heard in the video. The monitorinig place is 60 km from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant. Housing area of Koriyama city. Koriyama city: pop[u]lation approx 330,000. The filtering video I currently uploaded is for avoiding the situation my youtube channe[l] is going to be forced to be closed. That is why I tried to make my video "Koriyama jr students running..." being filtered b[u]t to be identified the student's individual. I am afraid some parents with the school or teachers claim that my ch[a]nnel should be closed in nominal terms of students privacy protection."
Fukushima easterly fallout trajectory (click map to enlarge): "Atmospheric back trajectories from sites where radioactive fallout was measured in NADP wet deposition samples. NOAA’s HYSPLIT model was used for this analysis." (Hat tip: ENE News). Image Source: National Atmospheric Deposition Program (USA).
What about Fukushima's impact further abroad? The primary impact, after Japan, and after the horrific water pollution of the Pacific Ocean (which will affect many neighbouring Asian countries), has come from fallout on North America, particularly the western United States, known of for its produce. You would be hard pressed to enter any grocery store in the US or Canada and not find it full of Californian produce.
American officials report on Fukushima fallout impact in USA, but downplay results. Video Source: Youtube.
Caption for the above video: "The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collaborated with the National Atmospheric Deposition Program in an effort to monitor North American precipitation samples for the presence of nuclear fallout in response to the Japan Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station incident that occurred on March 11, 2011. [...]
The study found concentrations (activity) and fallout (deposition) of radioactive iodine and radioactive cesium in significant number of samples. Detectable quantities of Iodine-131, Cesium-137, and Cesium-134 were observed at 21% of the 167 tested locations. Concentrations of I-131 detected in 5 samples ranged from 29.6 to 1090 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Concentrations of Cs-134 detected in 23 samples ranged from 0.4 to 55 pCi/L. Concentrations of Cs-137 in 33 samples ranged from 0.70 pCi/L to 39 pCi/L. Detections and measurable fallout from wet deposition was observed primarily at NADP sites located along the West Coast of the US, the central Rocky Mountain region and northern Great Plains, the central and upper Mississippi River Valley and eastern mountainous regions ranging from Virginia northward through Vermont. [...]
While the USGS does not assess human health risks from exposure to radioactive fallout, the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s RadNet confirms that radiation levels in the United States were far below the level of concern for human health impact. [...]"
Internet observers who are concerned about Fukushima fallout in the US (especially California, Arizona and Nevada) have been gathering evidence online, mainly on blogs; which of course (cough) aren't taken seriously. One blog, Uncovering Plume-Gate, reprints all the official US government documents on Fukushima that are currently available to the public; you can see the documents here, here and here.
On 11-12 March 2013, Australian anti-nuclear campaigner and physician Helen Caldicott will be hosting a symposium, The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident l, at The New York Academy of Medicine in New York City (Hat tip: Nuclear News).
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