The global nuclear industry and its allies in government are making a desperate effort to cover up the consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. "The big lie flies high," comments Kevin Kamps of the organization Beyond Nuclear.
Not only is this nuclear establishment seeking to make it look like the Fukushima catastrophe has not happened--going so far as to claim that there will be "no health effects" as a result of it--but it is moving forward on a "nuclear renaissance," its scheme to build more nuclear plants.
Indeed, next week in Washington, a two-day "Special Summit on New Nuclear Energy" will be held involving major manufacturers of nuclear power plants--including General Electric, the manufacturer of the Fukushima plants--and U.S. government officials.
Although since Fukushima, Germany, Switzerland and Italy and other nations have turned away from nuclear power for a commitment instead to safe, clean, renewable energy such as solar and wind, the Obama administration is continuing its insistence on nuclear power.
Will the nuclear establishment be able to get away with telling what, indeed, would be one of the most outrageous Big Lies of all time--that no one will die as a result of Fukushima?
Will it be able to continue its new nuclear push despite the catastrophe?
Nearly 100 days after the Fukushima disaster began, with radiation still streaming from the plants, with its owners, TEPCO, now admitting that meltdowns did occur at its plants, that releases have been twice as much as it announced earlier, with deadly radioactivity from Fukushima spreading worldwide, and with some countries now changing course and saying no to nuclear power, while others stick with it, a nuclear crossroads has arrived.
"No health effects are expected among the Japanese people as a result of the events at Fukushima," the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry trade group, flatly declared in a statement issued at a press conference in Washington last week.
"They're lying," says Dr. Janette Sherman, a toxicologist and contributing editor of the book Chernobyl: The Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment" published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009. Using medical data from between 1986 and 2004, its authors, a team of European scientists, determines that 985,000 people died worldwide from the radioactivity discharged from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The Fukushima disaster will have a comparable toll, expects Dr. Sherman, who has conducted research into the consequences of radiation for decades. "People living closest to the plants who receive the biggest doses will get sick sooner. Those who are farther away and receive lesser doses will get sick at a slower rate," she says.
"We've known about radioactive isotopes for decades," says Dr. Sherman. "I worked for the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1950s and we knew about the effects then. To ignore the biology is to our peril. This is not new science. Cesium-137 goes to soft tissue. Strontium-90 goes to the bones and teeth. Iodine-131 goes to the thyroid gland." All have been released in large amounts in the Fukushima disaster since it began on March 11.
There will inevitably be cancer and other illnesses--as well as genetic effects--as a result of the substantial discharges of radioactivity released from Fukushima, says Dr. Sherman. "People in Japan will be the most impacted but the radiation has been spreading worldwide and will impact life worldwide."
The American Nuclear Society, made up of what its website says are "professionals" in the nuclear field, is also deep in the Fukushima denial camp. "Radiation risks to people living in Japan are very low, and no public ill effects are expected from the Fukushima incident," it declares on its website. As to the U.S., the Illinois-based organization adds: "There is no health risk of radiation from the Fukushima incident to people in the United States."
Acknowledging that "radiation from Fukushima has been detected within the United States," the American Nuclear Society asserts that's because we are able to detect very small amounts of radiation. Through the use of extremely sensitive equipment, U.S. laboratories have been able to detect very minute quantities of radioactive isotopes in air, precipitation, milk, and drinking water due to the Fukushima incident"The radiation from Fukushima, though detectable, is nowhere near the level of public health concern."
Says Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, "The absurd belief that no one will be harmed by Fukushima is perhaps the strongest evidence of the pattern of deception and denial by nuclear officials in industry and government."
The World Health Organization has added its voice to the denial group. "For anyone outside Japan there is currently no health risk from radiation leaking from the nuclear power plant," Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman, has insisted. "We know that there have been measurements in maybe up to about 30 countries [and] these measurements are miniscule, often below levels of background radiation"and they do not constitute a public health risk."