• About one-fourth of the evacuees from the zones surrounding Fukushima Daiichi say they will never go home. Fuminori Tanba, an associate professor at Fukushima University, sent questionnaires to 28,184
    households in September and 13,463 (47.8 %) responded. 26.9 percent said they have no intention of going home. The three major reasons are a belief that decontamination is not possible (83%), lack of trust in the government standards (66%) and doubts about bringing the crippled power complex under control (62%). (Mainichi Shimbun)

The above demonstrates core problems endemic to the situation, two of which can be attributed to official Japanese indifference toward radiological education prior to Fukushima, and one issue regularly reinforced by the news media.

For more than three decades, there was no effort on the part of the Japanese government and academic community to educate the public on the realities of radiation. Nation-wide radiological ignorance plays a critical role in delaying decontamination efforts, and unnecessarily expands the areas of decontamination. Fear of radiation now determines national standards, not sound scientific data. When reasonable standards were first set, a loud outcry ensued causing the government to capitulate and lower the limits to soothe fears. This has back-fired because of the belief that there is no safe level of radiation exposure and that any tiny exposure will cause cancers. The old adage says ignorance is bliss, but radiation ignorance is misery.

With the second problem, decades of over-confident government assurances in nuclear safety set the stage for public distrust, and Fukushima unleashed it. The public immediately believed the government lied to them. But, the issue soon worsened. Because of a severe lack of full disclosure on the part of Naoto Kan’s government concerning Fukushima (he had control of all information flow beginning March 12), the public’s skepticism relative to press statements deteriorated. When unpopular standards were lowered to pacify public fears, it only amplified skepticism. What seems to be the case is what determines public opinion, and it seems the Japanese government cannot be trusted.

The last problem concerns the news media. Technically, the accident at Fukushima has been effectively under control for more than a month. RPV temperatures, pressures, and cooling water flows have stabilized. Radiological releases have dwindled to the point where airborne detection beyond the plant’s property boundary is sporadic, and always below national limits. Unit #1 has been effectively enclosed and work progresses on doing the same with units 3 & 4. Waste water decontamination is running smoothly. These and numerous other points of evidence should make one point abundantly clear…Fukushima is under control and has been for quite some time. But, in every article about Fukushima carried in Japanese newspapers, the public is told the situation is not under control. Why is the news media doing this? Part of the problem is reporter radiological ignorance common to the entire nation, to be sure. Some airborne material still wafts from units 3 & 4, but because the units used to describe the releases are miniscule in nature, the numbers reported seem gigantic. Big numbers scare people. But, an even greater reason is the Japanese Press has realized keeping the public on edge about nuclear energy is good for business. Japan’s public fears radiation. Projecting the idea that Fukushima could still spawn huge amounts of contamination keeps nuclear anxieties at a peak. Plus, the constant referrals to Hiroshima and comparisons to Chernobyl only exacerbates national angst, keeping the issue at the top of the charts as a news media money-maker.

Other updates…

  • A power-assisted exoskeleton suit, carrying tungsten-based radiation shielding, has been created for the workers at Fukushima Daiichi. The suit has been developed by Cyberdyne, Inc. (not the Terminator bad guys). The exoskeleton will boost a worker’s strength and increase stamina, with enough body shielding to drop exposure levels by 50%. Its batteries can last up to 90 minutes. The suit is converted from technology first developed for people with physical difficulties. The suit weighs about 33 lbs., but the power-assist functions make this weight relatively easy to endure. Whether or not TEPCO will use this technology remains to be seen. (JAIF)
  • 85% of the 90 candidates running for office in Fukushima say they want all Prefecture nukes  ecommissioned. This includes the undamaged and fully-functional units 5&6 at Daiichi and units 1 through 4 at Daini. (Yomiuri Shimbun) Are they jumping on a convenient public opinion bandwagon? Of course.