Fukushima 7th Anniversary

I wish I could say that a lot has happened in the last seven years with regard to Fukushima, but alas I can’t. It needed a huge international effort to try to contain the disaster. Instead we’ve had incompetence, massive political corruption and an almost complete news blackout of all things Fukushima. News does still get through, though. Here’s some of the latest, from the South China Morning post. You won’t find any reporting like this in the western media:

Cancer rates in children are sky high, radioactive rubbish is piling up and radiation levels are rising. Yet the government bails out the plant’s operator – even as it announces a profit and plans to resume seaside operations

I remember 11th March 2011 quite well. We were approaching our second season of running the house as a gite. A swimming pool would be good for business. We couldn’t afford the full works, and so went for a smallish above ground pool. The ideal place for the pool would have been in the back garden. Problem being, there were overhead power lines in the back garden, and in France by law a swimming pool has to be at least thirty metres from overhead lines. The only place we could put the pool was at the back of the house, where the remains of the old stables were. There was also a small barn adjoining the house. We decided to partially demolish the barn, using the resulting rubble to create a terrace two metres above ground level. This terrace would overlook the above ground swimming pool. The roof of the barn was in a very bad state of repair. I didn’t fancy climbing up there to demolish it so I got my fearless mate Vince to help me with the works.

While me and Vince were working at the back of the house we would listen to France Bleu, the local network, blaring out music on the radio. The news bulletins on 11th March were all about the massive Tohoku earthquake that had occurred off the coast of Japan. It was a major disaster that killed nearly 20,000 people. Then the news bulletins began talking about a nuclear power plant in Japan that had been badly damaged by the earthquake. It was the first time that I had heard the word ‘Fukushima’.

On March 14th 2011 there was a massive explosion in the Fukushima Daiichi reactor No.3 building. I watched footage of it on tv and knew that was it: there was no way that the reactor vessel could have survived an explosion of such magnitude, and reactor No.3 had been running MOX fuel, that’s recycled fuel which is incredibly radioactive. In the following days there were smaller explosions in the buildings of reactor No.1 and reactor No.4, and smoke was seen coming from the reactor No.2 building. In the event, reactors 1, 2 and 3 had gone into complete meltdown. This was a first: the human race had never faced such a situation before.

It was quite damp that March. A few weeks after the earthquake in Japan the first radioactive plumes from Fukushima began arriving in Europe. The French government advised their citizens to avoid rain water and certain vegetables. At the time me and Vince were still working at the back of the house, in the rain. Most governments tried to pretend that the Fukushima nightmare was not happening. If you want an idea of just how contaminated Japan now is see my post Corporatism, Calamity and Fukushima.

Since I’m in anecdote mode, in the Spring of 1986 a friend and I were hiking in the far north of Scotland, the stretch of coast that runs from Wick in the east to Cape Wrath in the west. This was a week or so after reactor No.4 blew-up at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. One night we camped beside a small loch near the Kyle of Tongue. I remember waking up the next morning to find the landscape littered with dead birds. There were thousands of them, mostly seagulls. That was more than 30 years ago and it’s only quite recently that the ban on sale of livestock in certain parts of the UK has been lifted (see here). Reactor No.4 at Chernobyl suffered a partial meltdown that was contained in a matter of weeks at great loss of life, and it was less than half the size of each of the three reactors at Fukushima, three reactors that are still in complete and ongoing meltdown seven years later. To make matters worse, there’s a huge amount of spent fuel stored at the Fukushima site, more than 30 years worth of it (in the nuclear industry spent fuel is stored on site because they don’t know what else to do with it).

Depressing, innit. It’s been notable that since the fifth anniversary in 2016 of the Fukushima disaster the anti-nuke community has become a lot less vocal. Usual suspects, such as ENE News and Fukushima Diary, who during those first five years were prolific, now barely publish a trickle of news about Fukushima. This is partly due to the almost total media blackout of the reality in Japan, but it’s also due to what I call ‘Fukushima fatigue’: the authorities aren’t going to do anything meaningful to alleviate the disaster, and most people either don’t care or don’t understand what’s going on. As a result many anti-nuke activists are burnt out with it all. On this seventh anniversary even hardcore anti-nukers like Dana Durnford and Kevin Blanch are beginning to despair…

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