Shortly thereafter, the California Department of Public Health, on my cc list, responded with the first real information about ongoing monitoring relating to Fukushima radiation. Their PDF press release, they indicated, came about due to a number of inquiries by California citizens on this issue. I took that to mean that perhaps questioning from ordinary citizens like our activist group was getting through to the point where some answers had to be provided. Their findings -- that all was in order, with nothing to worry about, but they'd keep on top of things -- dealt mostly with monitoring from March 2011 to March 2012. Apparently, there was little if any followup monitoring.
Thankfully, a few days ago, the San Francisco Chronicle ( http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Fukushima-radiation-could-reach-Pacific-coast-by-5264277.php ) provided an updated time-line when it finally published its first self-generated article on the Japanese disaster and the expectation of radiation levels rising in the Bay Area in the next few months when radioactive Fukushima plumes make their way to the West Coast:
"Radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster has not yet reached ocean waters along the Pacific coast, but low levels of radioactive cesium from the stricken Japanese power plant could arrive by April, scientists reported Monday".
"Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., reported (at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union) that four coastal monitoring sites in California and Washington have detected no traces of radiation from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant destruction -- 'not yet,' he said during a telephone press briefing.
"Buesseler said no federal or international agencies are monitoring ocean waters from Fukushima on this side of the Pacific, so he has organized volunteer monitors at 16 sites along the California and Washington coasts and two in Hawaii to collect seawater in 20-liter specialized plastic containers and ship them by UPS to his Woods Hole laboratory."
GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS
The good news is that there is some movement as citizens, news media and public officials are starting to demand answers about Fukushima radiation. The bad news is that it's difficult to pry out documented facts from Tepco and/or the Japanese government as both continue to stonewall requests for information. (And Japan's government is talking about re-opening more than 30 nuclear reactors across Japan.)
Despite the informational blackout, the following admission came five months ago from Tepco executive-level fellow Kazuhiko Yamashsita: "I'm sorry, but we consider the situation is not under control."( http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/09/13-7 ) Another Japanese nuclear engineer, Yastel Yamada, said that Tepco is way over its head: "The cleanup job is too large for their capability." ( http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/world_news&id=9317789 )
One would hope that such statements might convince the Obama Administration and the international community in general to move toward a united front in demanding accurate information, and that a world body of nuclear experts be given the responsibility to take operational control of the melting-down reactors at Dai-ichi.
WHAT THE U.S. COULD DO
It's possible that the situation is not as dire and immediate as all that at Dai-ichi and that the radioactive meltdowns will turn out to be a localized disaster -- bad for the Japanese, better for those of us geographically distant -- with radiation levels going down as the radionuclides are diffused over the coming years in the vast ocean waters between Japan and the West Coast of North America. A Los Angeles Times article ( http://articles.latimes.com/2014/jan/12/local/la-me-west-coast-radiation-20140113 ) concluded that "radiation detected off the U.S. West Coast from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan has declined since the 2011 tsunami disaster and never approached levels that could pose a risk to human health, seafood or wildlife, scientists say," and a recent Alaska survey reported that Pacific seafood is registering no levels of radiation from Fukushima "that are of a public health concern." ( http://www.alaskajournal.com/Alaska-Journal-of-Commerce/February-Issue-3-2014/FISH-FACTOR-State-DEC-says-seafood-is-free-from-Fukishima-radiation/ )
But it's also possible, indeed maybe even more likely given the active earthquake zone off the Japanese islands, that there will be a large or medium-size earthquake near Fukushima that could help complete the meltdown at Dai-ichi. "If that were to happen," said Dr. David Suzuki, one of Canada's leading environmental scientists, "It's bye-bye Japan, and everybody on the West Coast of North America should evacuate. Now, if that's isn't terrifying, I don't know what is." Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen has called the Fukushima disaster "the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind." Nuclear physicist Michio Kaku calls Dai-ichi "a ticking time bomb." These dire descriptions and prognostications are echoed by Paul Gunter, a nuclear power-industry watchdog at Beyond Nuclear: "We have opened a door to hell that cannot be easily closed -- if ever."
Given the diametrically conflicting views of the Fukushima disaster, it's way beyond time for a full-court-press approach by the U.S. and global community to challenge what may be a whitewashed coverup, and with intensified scientific research and accurate figures and diagnosis, to get to the bottom of what's happening at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. Doing nothing is not an option. #
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in American politics and international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington State, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers ( crisispapers.org ). To comment: Email address removed .
Copyright 2014 by Bernard Weiner
First published by The Crisis Papers 3/3/2014