Blogpost by Greg McNevin – October 23, 2012 at 9:0
Last week, three Greenpeace radiation-monitoring teams took to the streets of Fukushima City and the heavily contaminated region of Iitate to again record and assess contamination threats.
Like earlier trips, we noticed decreased exposure rates in a few areas, but many hotspots remain throughout heavily populated Fukushima City. What is more concerning, however, is the official government radiation monitoring stations that have appeared throughout the city.
Earlier this month The Association for Citizens and Scientists Concerned About Internal Radiation Exposures raised concerns that the Japanese government was manipulating radiation readings with these official monitoring stations.
The story was familiar to us, as in March this year, while conducting radiation checks in a park in the suburb of Watari, we came across a newly installed official radiation monitoring post. This station showed a relatively low level of contamination when compared to levels we had measured previously, however, it was placed smack in the middle of a small area that had been clearly decontaminated. New soil had replaced the old, but as soon as you stepped off the cleaned area the levels of contamination rose sharply, and remained much higher throughout the park – with the exception of around the official monitoring post itself.
We had only measured this one post on that visit, and given it had only been recently installed we had hoped this would mark the start of a new initiative by the authorities to comprehensively decontaminate populated areas, and do more to keep the public informed of radiation risks.
Unfortunately, we have now found that this is not the case.
Between October 16 and 19, Greenpeace checked 40 monitoring posts throughout Fukushima city. For 75% of them, the radiation readings close to the posts were lower than readings for their immediate surroundings. Contamination levels within 25 metres of the posts were up to six times higher than at the posts themselves.
The authorities claim they do not intend these monitoring posts to be misleading, stating that they publish information about which areas around the posts have been decontaminated. However, for the people living in the areas and anyone passing by, they certainly give the impression that contamination levels are lower than what they may be just a few metres from the posts.
Not only that, the decontamination work remains patchy. The authorities have taken care of the low hanging fruit such as some public parks and school yards, but our teams found that many hotspots remain throughout the communities, and little is being done to clean them up.
We saw only a few groups of cleanup workers in Fukushima City in the week we were there. By contrast, we saw many decontamination workers in the Iitate region. This is a mountainous, heavily forested area, and it is very complicated to remove all contamination from the environment. Even if the workers are successful in cleaning houses and workplaces, the risk of recontamination is high, with every gust of wind, rain storm, or spring snow melt bringing new concentrations of radiation down from the hills. To say the authorities are optimistic is an understatement. All they can currently offer to the broken communities of Iitate is false hope.
On this trip we interviewed six former residents of Iitate, and what they all have in common is a distinct mistrust of official information, and little confidence in the Government’s ability to fix the radioactive contamination problems they live with every day. There is a palpable sense of loss, and while it is clear that people would love nothing more than to return and rebuild their lives, many know in their hearts that life as they knew it is gone. With their houses, workplaces and fields contaminated and communities scattered, they are now seeking closure and fair compensation so they can start anew elsewhere.
We also spoke with local government authorities who lamented that they were hamstrung by a lack of funding, a lack of manpower, and a lack of direction and engagement from the national government.
This not only again highlights the Japanese Government’s relentless underplaying of both the seriousness and scope of this nuclear disaster, but it also once again speaks to its inability to put the health and safety of its people before politics. It has wasted funding from the Fukushima reconstruction budget on whaling as plant workers went without proper health checks. Now it is wasting resources and time decontaminating empty rural areas in a misguided attempt to repopulate evacuated areas, when people are still at risk right in Fukushima City.
The government is still pretending it has everything under control when it clearly doesn’t, and unfortunately there is no easy way out. All it can do is admit the reality of this situation and give it the attention it deserves.
Only then can it give the people the information they need to protect themselves.
Only then can it provide proper compensation to those that have had their lives upended, so they can come to terms with this tragedy and move on.
Only then can it truly understand that nuclear power has been a curse, not a blessing for Japan, and make the right decisions for its future.
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What is being practiced here by Japanese authorities is the same monitoring deception perfected carried out by the nuclear authorities since the 1940s.
Specifically in relation to Australia, Dr Roger Cross has placed in the public arena documents and testimony from the 1950s which prove that authorities deliberately suppressed high levels of nuclear fallout across Northern Australia – detected by a uranium prospector and a military radiation detection instrument repair and calibration facility – and denied by the government of the day. Secrecy provisions were imposed and later the Minter of Supply admitted it would have cost him his job had the media not been controlled in the matter (Dr R Cross, Peter Butt, “Silent Storm” http://www.abc.net.au/aplacetothink/html/silent.htm Of course, Cross’ work relies heavily on Australian National Archive and Royal Commission documentation, documentation which he presented to the public in the 21 century as a reminder.
Further, Hedley Marston’s contribution to breaking the suppression of radioactive fallout data is cover by Cross.
The biography of Marston explains the story this way : “In 1955 Marston agreed, with alacrity, to assist the British in their research into the biological effects of radiation caused by atomic-bomb testing in Australia. His task was to study the radioactive iodine uptake in sheep and cattle. From monitoring the fall-out due to the tests in 1956 on the Monte Bello Islands and at Maralinga, South Australia, he quickly realized that the Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee was under-reporting the extent of the contamination of Australia, and dismissing the associated risks. Marston claimed that the third test (11 October) at Maralinga had contaminated Adelaide. When the A.W.T.S.C. did not acknowledge such contamination in its press release, he mounted a bitter attack on Sir Leslie Martin and (Sir) Ernest Titterton, the two principal physicists on the committee.
The major thrust of Marston’s argument was that radioactive iodine found in the thyroids of animals indicated the presence in the food chain of radioactive strontium which would endanger the health of humans, particularly children. His anger led him, uncharacteristically, to make this claim without recourse to empirical evidence. At that time he was the only senior Australian scientist who adopted a hostile attitude towards the British tests. In many private letters on this subject, and in official reports, he claimed that his countrymen were being hoodwinked, and that the A.W.T.S.C. lacked competence and integrity. The controversy went close to ruining his health, threatened his position of influence in the Australian scientific community, and converted him from an Anglophile to an Anglophobe.
The Australian National University awarded Marston a D.Sc., honoris causa, in 1957; he was A.N.Z.A.A.S.’s Mueller medallist in 1958; and the University of Adelaide conferred a D.Sc., ad eundem gradum, on him in 1959. ..” http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/marston-hedley-ralph-11066 Australian National University Biography of Hedley Marston. The sources cited by the Australian National University in the Marston biography are:
J. R. McClelland, Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia (Canb, 1985)
Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, vol 13, 1967, p 267
Records of the Australian Academy of Science, vol 1, no 2, Dec 1967, p 73
R. T. Cross, ‘Falling Out Over Adelaide’ (manuscript, privately held)
Marston papers (National Archives of Australia and National Library of Australia and Australian Academy of Science Library)
Oliphant papers (University of Adelaide Library)
The same information as that presented by the Australian National University is confirmed by the Australian CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is Australia’s national science agency) at http://www.csiropedia.csiro.au/display/CSIROpedia/Marston,+Hedley+Ralph
Dr Jim Green reviews Cross’ book Fallout: Hedley Marston and the British Bomb Tests in Australia
By Roger Cross Wakefield Press, 2001 187pp, $24.95 (pb) in detail at http://foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/britbombs/marston The story of the suppression of information by the nuclear cabal in the 1950s would be eerie in similarity to the suppression and deliberate understating of fallout Japan if the modus operandi developed over decades were not seen as an attempt, during the atomic test era, to “normalize” fallout in preparation for the reactor age.
Thus what is happening in Japan is the normal modus operandi for nuclear authorities as established by history since 1925.
The role of independent monitoring remains crucially important given the decades long history of lies proven in the documents held in archives around the world. There is no basis for public trust in nuclear authorities.