August 2, 2014
Whenever the anniversary of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki (H/N) bombings approaches, the Japanese Press posts numerous articles about them. Since 3/11/11, most Press outlets bring the Fukushima accident into the mix. In the process they reinforce and underscore the Hiroshima Syndrome. This year, a new approach emerges.
The Hiroshima Syndrome is a strong aversion to, if not mortal fear of, nuclear power plants due to confusion between reactors and bombs. Reactors and nuclear weapons are extremely different; in fact, it is impossible for a nuclear power plant reactor to experience a nuclear detonation. Why? Nuke plants use fuel that is nearly 20 times too dilute to be used in a bomb. But, this is not the only point of confusion. Many nuclear-averse people believe the atmospheric releases from nuclear plants, including those from nuke accidents, are the same as bomb fallout. But, the differences between the two are as significant as the dissimilarities between reactors and bombs. (For a more detailed breakdown on these two roots of the Hiroshima Syndrome, see “The Uranium Explosive Myth” and “Confusion about Fallout” in the left-hand menu)
The Hiroshima Syndrome is not uncommon in Japan, infecting much of the public. An informal survey run for me by a friend in Japan covering more than 150 persons, showed that 2/3 did not know the differences between reactors and bombs. The Syndrome also seems to taint most of the Japanese Press outlets and builds the biases found in their reporting. Late in 2012, the Asahi Shimbun polled 50 news outlets in Japan and 47 admitted they were antinuclear, with more than half admitting to the perceived connection between Fukushima and H/N as a reason. Seemingly unaware of the above-mentioned differences, most Japanese news media treat reactors and bombs as if they are literally one-and-same. There have been numerous articles on the impending H/N anniversary, and most admix the Fukushima accident with the H/N.
In this instance, an editorial from Japan Times is selected as an example. (1) Right from the start, the headline underscores nuclear confusion, Fukushima disaster colors A-bomb anniversaries. The sub-head tells us of a new confusion being added to the mix; Parallels can be drawn between control of information during Occupation and today. The intent is to make parallels between actual post-H/N confidentiality and unabashed assumptions concerning Fukushima informational flow.
Japan’s new secrecy policy has been used to allege covering up information relative to Fukushima Daiichi. There is a kernel of truth to this. The government’s policy includes the security measures at all Japanese nukes in order to keep sensitive information from falling into the hands of terrorists. However, many news outlets have posted articles where antinuclear activists and politicians allege that the new policy allows the government to withhold the “truth” about the impact of the accident, alleging a sumptuous buffet of supposed health problems….many of which are not medically connected to any level of radiation exposure. Many of these allegations are based on exaggerations and embellishments that stagger the mind. The reality is quite different. But, this does not dissuade the Times from trying to make the connection between Fukushima and H/N.
After WWII, America invoked what was essentially a top-secret tag to all things associated with nuclear weapons. In addition, some American military officials tried to downplay the effects of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. For example, in September 1945, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves “announced to the press that if any Japanese had died from exposure to radiation, ‘the number was very small.’ . . . Vegetation was growing in Hiroshima, and radiation levels were so low, ‘you could live there forever.’ ” (1) Obviously, paranoiac secrecy and misinformation were not uncommon with respect to American interests. It seems the Times’ uses Groves’ statement correctly.
However, immediately following the Grove’s reference, we find, “Skip ahead to 2011: Dr. Shunichi Yamashita, the head of Fukushima Medical University, makes controversial remarks suggesting that an exposure limit of 100 millisieverts per year is acceptable. The comments, which made international headlines, were contested. Referring to the remarks, The Japan Times’ Eric Johnston wrote, “According to a 2006 study by the U.S. National Academy of Science, an exposure of 20 millisieverts will produce 2,270 cancer cases per 1 million people annually.” This is supposed to show that Fukushima secrecy is as severe as that which occurred after Hiroshima/Nagasaki. Actually, it is trying to combine apples and oranges. Dr. Shunichi’s statement is based on scientific evidence. On the other hand, there is no actual evidence of negative health effects below 100 mSv/year exposure with humans. The NAS study extrapolates from much larger exposures and derives the 20 mSv/2,270 cancers per million number based on the severely flawed and contentious Linear/No Threshold notion. Thus, the Times’ attempt to make a Fukushima and H/N parallel crumbles.
To make matters worse, the above is immediately followed by, “Jump to spring 2014: On April 14, the Mainichi Shimbun reports that in an effort to collect data on internal radiation exposure, the Foreign Ministry sent an email to municipalities that ‘suggested the data could be used to play down the radiation effects from the disaster.’ The data was to be used by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but ‘the email suggested that the IAEA report is expected to evaluate radiation exposure among residents at lower levels than reports by other international organizations.’” How does this relate to a possible connection between Fukushima and Hiroshima/Nagasaki? Your guess is as good as mine. I can’t find even a most-distant connection. Also, the Times is cherry-picking from an Email posting. Cherry-picking an Email posting? That’s stooping extremely low!
Undaunted, the Times sinks lower into the confabulatory abyss. During U.S. post-war occupation, many doctors and researchers in Japan found it difficult to get involved in the H/N aftermath. They faced a lack of funds, American Occupation-based restrictions, being required by the Allied authorities to translate all reports into English, and not having access to autopsy data. Censorship of reports written by Japanese researchers was not uncommon, and many reports that did make it through the restrictions suffered years of delay before seeing the light of day. The Times tries to connect this to Fukushima by referencing assumptions made by Japan’s most anti-nuclear news outlets, alleging government attempts to stop medical research with respect to Fukushima. These allegations are entirely vacuous. To connect speculative Fukushima newspaper reporting with actual H/N historical evidence is disinformation at its worst.
Finally, The Times tries to connect suppression of anti-atomic bomb protests after WWII with the speculative notion that the new state’s secrecy law will cause the same thing to happen with respect to Fukushima protests. This is a bold-faced fabrication. There is nothing in the law even remotely referring to antinuclear protests. Attempting to draw a parallel between what actually happened seventy years ago with something that is not happening now is morally corrupt. To add insult to their fantasy, the Times cites Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University. He says, “You find a similar power with the Japanese government as existed during the U.S. Occupation. Self-censorship will become more prevalent. Journalists will censor themselves before asking questions. The activists who try to find out information about the nuclear industry may get in trouble, they may not, but they’ll worry about what they otherwise wouldn’t.” In other words, fear that the secrecy law might someday be used to dissuade protests could keep demonstrators from demonstrating. If this sounds circular…it is! I wonder how many college professors the Times’ had to canvas to find one who fit their agenda.
The attempt to confuse Fukushima with Hiroshima/Nagasaki is clear. Millions of Japanese, and millions-more around the world, are already confused about reactors and bombs. The effects of not knowing the differences between reactors and bombs are considerable, and has caused severe psychological damage. By trying to add to the existing confusion by making unfathomably specious parallels between post-H/N secrecy and Fukushima, based on assumptions completely alien to Japan’s new sate’s secrets law, can only make the negative psychological impact of the Hiroshima Syndrome worse than it already is.