As the Ides of April approaches, Japan’s national fear of a ballistic missile test out of North Korea has supplanted fear of Fukushima for the past few days. Prime Minister Noda’s task force of ministers charged with deciding whether or not to restart two of Japan’s currently idled nukes, decided to wait another day due to the Korean situation. Industry Minister Edano also postponed his journey to Fukui Prefecture to explain the Oi units #3 & 4 safety factor to dissident governors. But, the governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Yuhei Sato, chose the moment to speak out against the central government’s anticipated decision to restart the two Oi units…which are not anywhere near his political domain. (Mainichi Shimbun)
There are some serious flaws in Sato’s statements to the Press which bear comment. “The investigation into the Fukushima No. 1 plant disaster isn’t yet complete, but (the government) is already discussing restarting reactors. That is a problem,” Sato told reporters at a news conference. It doesn’t matter that former Prime Minister Kan’s de-facto moratorium on nuke operation has the nation on the verge of electrical collapse, and that the idled nukes are being replaced by old, dirty “thermal” (fossil-fueled) units that were never built to constantly run at full-capacity. It doesn’t matter that Japan’s economy is circling the drain largely due to massive increases with buying foreign oil and liquid natural gas to keep the lights on.
Undaunted, Sato makes the first of two bizarre statements, “It makes me question whether the government really understands how severe nuclear disasters are.” Outside of the three destroyed buildings at Fukushima Daiichi, where is the evidence of a disaster? The mountains of debris left by the March 11, 2011 tsunami along the coast of the Tohoku region, coupled with the nearly 20,000 people drowned by the massive wave itself, serve as testament to a true disaster. And, what supports Sato’s belief that Tokyo doesn’t have a clue? The problem in Fukushima is fear of radiation. It is radiophobia that drives the political decisions designed to soothe the public’s irrational fear of the invisible and the unknown. The disaster is psychological, and Sato is doing little more than fanning the flames of fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of his people.
The second shocking statement is, “As the nuclear disaster progresses, we hear of new incidents every day,” referring to the reports of spreading radioactive contamination and radioactive water leaks found in the Press. First, the accident at Fukushima no longer “progresses”…it has been contained since December, at the very least. In fact, one could pose a strong argument that the accident itself ended March 17, 2011, when all crippled units were sufficiently depressurized to allow cooling flow to quell the over-heated fuel cells, and spent fuel pool replenishments were occurring on a continual basis. Sato is clearly attempting to create the false notion that the accident continues to worsen. Next, where is the evidence that contamination continues to spread? Answer…there is none! Since the unit #1 enclosure was completed last fall, the releases of atmospheric radioactive particulates have been so minimal as to be no longer detectable outside the 20km no-go zone surrounding F. Daiichi. Detailed ground-based monitoring has discovered localized “hot spots” that have been there all along, but were not previously “known”. This is in no way evidence the contamination continues to spread. And lastly, the few 2012 radioactive liquid leaks have been from the large volume of decontaminated water being stored at the power complex. One…just one of the leaks has been confirmed to have reached the sea, and the concentration of Cesium was so minimal that it was below the lower limit of detection. It is not the disaster-itself that progresses, but rather Sato’s idea of a disaster that continues to progress.
A former boss once told me that appearance is everything and reality is nothing. It is also true that if something is repeated often enough, it becomes fact. Governor Sato is appealing the popular notion that Fukushima is an on-going nuclear accident, the reality of which is clearly the opposite. If Sato and other political opportunists continue to trumpet these false notions, it is very possible that fiction will effectively displace fact.