Leaks Killed Thousands
One of the anomalies from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is that releases
of radioactive isotopes throughout the Pacific Basin are far greater in
quantity than what’s indicated on the ground in northeast Japan. Reaching
across the western region of North America, into the Rockies some 10,000
km distant from Japan, the wildlife count of aquatic species, birds and
insects has been plummeting since March 2011.
Weapons-grade Plutonium unloosed
On this 7th anniversary of the Fukushima triple disaster, a video on Japanese N-weapons production in the Greater Fukushima region, produced by French environmental filmmaker Phillippe Carillo and myself, based on the disturbing findings from my dozen research visits into the 20-30 km nuclear exclusion zone is being released here at rense.com. Here the key points are summarized:
First, the meltdowns at three civilian reactors and related fires at the TEPCO Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant were not the only sources of radioactivity releases. As dangerous as it turned out to be, including the explosion of the weapons-related mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel rods inside the Toshiba-Westinghouse Reactor 3, the rate of isotope releases solely from Fukushima plant cannot account for the grandeur of scale of contaminated seawater and marine-layer moisture that’s been hitting the American shores.
Second, a much greater amount of highly enriched plutonium was released from separate nuclear disasters that occurred at four nuclear-warhead production sites:
- an underground lab inside the compound of the seaside Haramachi coal-fired plant operated by the Tohoku Electric Power Company, less than six km north of Fukushima No.1;
- the TEPCO Thermal (oil-fueled) power plant in Hirono, about 4 km south of the Fukushima No.2 nuclear plant in the Iwaki district;
- a yet-uncovered lab or processing center inside the Fukushima No.1 compound; and
- a military nuclear-weapons test site in Kitakami, near its namesake mountain range, in Iwate Prefecture, north of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures.
In addition, steady releases of heavy water have flowed out of a suspected tritium-extraction facility inside the hollow structure of the Kido Dam, in the hills west of Hirono town. According to local residents, there are several other sensitive sites in the eastern Abukuma Plateau, making the Greater Fukushima nuclear complex one of the largest and the most-advanced warhead production site in the world.
It might be noted here, though unmentioned in the video, that the military-focused nuclear program will soon be resuming at the Oma nuclear plant on the northern tip of Honshu, near the Misawa USAF base and within sight of Hakodate, Hokkaido, across the Tsugaru Strait. The remote area has no major city in the vicinity for the marketing of electricity. One of the ramifications of secret weapons development by Japan is that it compels North Korea to amass a deterrence capability, and unless the Japanese program is officially exposed and dismantled, Northeast Asia will continue to be a center of nuclear-weapons confrontation between at least five countries.
The misdirection of focusing solely on Pyongyang, of course, has not only been hypocritical, it is a massive self-deception concerning Japanese duplicity over its vaunted “Three Non-Nuclear Principles”. When its warhead-production is fully functioning again it will be merely a matter of time before a revanchist faction decides to get its revenge for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, although in the meanwhile the radioactive outflows from Fukushima are doing that task quite efficiently.
Why would a nuclear-weapons lab be positioned so close to the shoreline? Obviously for offloading US-warhead material and to transport the warheads to naval ports for loading onto submarines. In exchange for quiet cooperation in the nuclear blame game, Haramachi could also in the past have secretly supplied the DPRK with fissile materials, to create a strategic rationale for Japan’s own nuclear program.
Deadly Fallout across Minami-Soma
The Japanese government claimed that the Fukushima nuclear disaster took only a single life, the death of a nuclear worker. This grotesque deception was perpetrated to prevent an international investigation under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
At least 1,000 nuclear-weapons technicians and Self-Defense Force soldiers were killed inside the flooded Haramachi lab with no chance of escape or rescue due to the intense nuclear releases. Outdoors in the surrounding Minami-Soma district, high radioactivity levels forced the pullout of police rescue teams, abandoning many thousands of local villagers to die of a combination of radioactive fallout and freezing temperatures.
A longtime media colleague, photographer Takashi Morizumi was in that district three days into the disaster response and then a month later recounted to me: “Despite the risk to their own lives, those local policemen were begging, some with tears in their eyes, for permission to take on the risks of entering the radioactive circle to save their relatives and friends. Their morale was crushed when their appeal was rejected.”
On the edge the 20-km earliest exclusion zone, several hotspots northwest of the plan were due to nuclear materials that had been swept inland by the tsunami from the Haramachi nuclear-weapons site. In the Japanese language “hara” means a broad plain, and the stream-laced coastal plain lays flat for some distance into the interior between low hills. Due to the powerful seawater pressure, the front wave rose up the valleys (pushed from behind by tsunami force) and deposited the nuclear materials before receding. A local resident, who worked for state-run soil decontamination project, said the inland sites were left for last, being the most dangerous to health.
About 2 months later, a leak from employees at the Fukushima University Medical School Hospital indicated more than a thousand bodies in white lab coats and military uniforms were being kept inside a walk-in freezer in the hospital morgue. The cynical claim that the Fukushima nuclear disaster claimed only one life omits the deaths from the secret nuclear lab at Haramachi.
After frustrating disappointments in trying to set up soil-decontamination projects using phyto-remediation (vegetation-based absorption) techniques that I learned in the Altai mountains from a Kazakhstan expert at Chernobyl, I switched my research activity to the Hirono town region, south of Fukushima No. 2, as the only field researcher in that area of Iwaki municipality, which is a company town controlled by nuclear contractors Hitachi-GE.
Entering the southern part of the exclusion zone by bicycle to avoid radio-frequency detection that identifies cars and motorcycles, I spent a late morning on my first incursion with an evacuee, whose house had collapsed in the 311 quake. When he rested on the stones of a low embankment, he told me: “This place is known as the ‘hot corner’ because the radioactivity has always been high here.” Since Fukushima?, I asked. At the time, I was still naive about the scale of the hidden program.
“It’s been radioactive here for many decades” was his reply. “TEPCO claims this is a conventional plant but in reality nuclear work’s been going on here for decades.” It took me the remainder of the day to begin to spot the signs and tracks.
On another bike journey into the surrounding farmlands, I saw daisies bigger than my two hands put together and gladiolus stems twice my height, indicating genetic mutations causing gigantism over many generations.
Despite a massive security presence around the TEPCO oil-fueled thermal plant, and being berated once and expelled by plainclothesmen with the secret nuclear security force, I managed on several occasions into slip into the J-village soccer stadium site, where the Fukushima workers were housed. To my astonishment, most of the young works coming off-duty told be that their entire workforce was assigned to clearing nuclear waste out of the Hirono thermal plant, which confirmed the first old-timer’s claim that this was a secret nuclear production site, which means of course for N-weaponry. ‘
Indeed, behind a visual barrier of dense groves of fir trees, huge cranes were working night and day, and dump trucks roared out the gates and through the tunnels of Highway 6 to a loading dock, where waste was transferred to rail cars for outdoor storage in four inland prefectures. I could not help but feel alarmed as trucks blew off dust clouds over groups of children returning home from school. The Education Ministry had issued a nationwide order to public schools not to enroll out-of-town children so these kids were trapped on the edge of the exclusion zone. The saddest sight was to see teenage girls who had recently returned from temporary evacuation riding the local trains, with a quiet forlorn look of acceptance of their fate.
A young store clerk in the inland city of Koriyama, who recognized that I was not a government agent, disclosed: “A lot of guys from the coast moved here after the tsunami and rented the biggest apartments. They all drive around in Mercedes. All they do everyday is drink and gamble at cards. We’ve heard that each received 70 million yen ($750,000 at that time’s forex rate) from the government.”
“For what?” I asked. His answer: “Nobody knows”. Obviously, the payoffs were part of a sweetheart deal for the nuclear-weapons technicians on condition of their silence. Other than late-coming paltry “compensation” for evacuees from inside the exclusion zone, provincial and regional residents living in radioactive homes where the local economy has been impoverished by the nuclear crisis received not a single aluminum yen and zero tax breaks.
I then began tracing radioactivity levels along local lanes, following a path of high readings to the small fishing port of Hisanohama. When I asked unemployed fisherman about nuclear waste passing through their area, one old-timer told me that they had been told to stay at home when a huge pile of high-level waste was unloaded on the narrow road above the port. “Then one morning it was gone,” he said. “Where’d it go?” I asked. He shrugged.
At the other end of the port, the roadside readings were low, meaning all that high-level waste had been put on barges and towed out to sea, probably for dumping in the Philippine Trench. A seaside neighborhood with a view of boat lanes out to the Pacific had been wiped out by the tsunami, with an estimated (by neighbors) loss of more than 2,000 lives. Yet Iwaki reported only one death in a road accident during the tsunami. How blatant does it get?
Adding a element of mystery was the lack of a single survivor from that tsunami site, meaning no witnesses were left to tell tales of past secret nuclear shipments out of the little fishing port. Some of them must have been push inshore and could grab a hold on a tree or clamber up a rock. Why was there nobody left to tell the tale of how barges have occasionally been towed toward the horizon, where a line of clouds have become a permanent fixture since 311. On another day while looking at seashells bubbled up by strontium, I noticed along a cape a rectangular band of opaque white fog, one of the unique features of tritium. Soon thereafter, a shore-dwelling couple with whom I had occasionally chatted died right after the government tripled the height of the seawall.
On these incursions, I had to camp overnight in the radioactive forest areas, due to the fact that the Economy Ministry and Hitachi-GE had rented every room in Iwaki to deny accommodations for volunteers. Other than myself, none ever showed more because of NGO collaboration with the government. Locals told me not a single bottle of drinking water had been delivered to that company town during the 311 relief effort.
One sunny morning after a chilly night in the “hot” rain, I was investigating how the government was rigging radioactivity detection equipment when a group of grass-cutters approached while clearing the roadsides of radioactive weeds. Needless to say, they were stunned that I had slept outdoors. They warned me to be extremely cautious of the secret nuclear security forces because over past decades many locals who entered the mountainous areas were detained, questioned and ordered never to come back by men in brown uniforms, who were neither with the police nor from the self-defense force.
I took their warning seriously, and on many occasions carried my bicycle and gear up forested hillsides and waited under the eaves of abandoned houses until my pursuers gave up the chase. Then, a few years on, I traveled by car with filmmaker Phillippe Carillo, to a dam suspected of serving as a tritium-production facility. It was up a steep road at the edge of the Abukuma Plateau without human habitation in sight. We were soon joined by a truck, and we were obviously under surveillance. Then cars came roaring up and men in green uniforms ran to the entry doors of two towers on the dam to check if we had broken in. While they were preoccupied doing a full security check on the mystery dam, we tiptoed to the car and drove downhill as fast as possible. This drama was happening in “the middle of nowhere”. The villagers had not been jesting with me.
Beginning and End
The video closes with my bicycle journey in southwest Fukushima Province to an abandoned uranium mine run by Bund-1, a joint atomic bomb project of the Japanese militarist government and Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. A physicist at Fukushima University was the world’s first scientist to theorize the immense power of atom-splitting, and so the seed for the nuclear age was planted here, in this accursed soil.
One of the adverse aspects of the video shooting was the burn-out of so many cameras, Geiger counters and computers due to radioactivity and the consequent necessity for ever-cheaper equipment, in addition to clothing. Unfortunately many photos were blotted out by the passage of gamma rays. For example, a group portrait of mating season for golden beetles. Deep in a forest by a stream, I spotted a circle of these shiny creatures lying dead around a femme fatale.
What happened is that when the males closed in around the fertile female, the increasing radioactivity level from their bodies during the convergence killed all of them. The increase of body radioactivity levels during crowding accounts for the mystery of the sudden deaths of commuters inside the Tokyo metro system in recent years. For a survivor condemned to avoidance, and by now we’re all hibakusha, it is a path of loneliness.