I write as an attorney and alliance mediator. My client is the volatile situation at Fukushima. The following is a Blueprint for Collective Action.
1. The catastrophe of Fukushima continues to unfold, affecting all of us. The protagonists--TEPCO, the Japanese and U.S. governments, and the general public- appear to be in such fear and denial that collectively we have entered a state of trance, of helplessness, resignation, and lassitude.
2. The spark that will awaken us is our grasp that collectively we have right to know. We possess a fundamental human right to be informed and to inform ourselves of the life threatening risks to our health, our well being, and our planet.
3. Assigning blame will not produce breakthroughs. By working together and aligning our highest creative powers, we can learn to devise solutions and carry them out effectively.
4. Fukushima offers the world a unique opportunity for a shift in consciousness.
Problem Statement--Systems Breakdown/Sea of Ignorance
Fukushima may be a "wicked" problem--in other words, a problem so multifaceted and complex it can never be "solved." I don't accept this premise. The first step is to analyze its diverse components.
Existing harms--A significant number of containment workers and surrounding villagers were initially exposed to radiation. An indeterminate number of people will face an increased risk of cancer and other adverse health effects. Many will experience additional stress knowing that they will likely contract cancer and other life-threatening illnesses during their lifetimes as a result of their exposure. The local fishing industry has been ruined; the damages to the local and international environment are likely great but have not been measured, and are likely not easily assessed. An effective effort has not been mobilized to provide the best available medical care to people who have already been exposed, or continue to be exposed to potentially harmful levels of radiation. Can we find a cure before they become ill? Are there preventative measures that these people can take to reduce their risks? Even the knowledge that help is on its way may reduce their stress. There appears to be no known cure to prevent cancers after exposure to large doses of radiation. In this arena the victims are alone. In the swirl of politics around the nuclear facilities, we have largely forgotten them.
Worsening Situation--The situation worsens every month. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has just announced that it has been discharging radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean for the past 2 ? years. One water sample from a trench near Reactor 2 contained 750 million becquerels of cesium 134 and 1.6 billion becquerels of cesium 137 per liter. These quantities are millions of times higher than the Japanese government's regulatory limits. The water table around Fukushima has also been penetrated with radioactive material.
Failure to Monitor/Failure to Act--The Japanese authorities it seems are only taking readings of gamma radiation but not consistently monitoring radioactive alpha or beta particles. Public officials not only in Japan but also outside Japan are demurring. For example, it is unclear whether the U.S. Department of Agriculture is implementing special testing of seafood products coming from Japan. The State of Hawaii has been unwilling to conduct a full investigation and make its findings public even though debris from Fukushima is washing up on Hawaii's beaches.
Prevention--TEPCO is not taking adequate measures to stop its discharges.
Clean up--The Asahi Shimbun reports that 60% of funds which have been officially earmarked for decontamination and clean up are being withheld.
Systems Breakdown--There are even deeper challenges. As the Yale sociologist Charles Perrow describes, when "tightly coupled" systems are overwrought (here the "system" is not only the nuclear reactors, but the closely linked ecological, economic, financial, and human psychological systems), it will take very little to "tip" the delicate balance. This could result in multiplying effects that are vastly more destructive than the precipitating cause. For example, one writer conjectures that the continuing mixture of radioactive tritium and deuterium in the presence of released plutonium could trigger another blast even more powerful than the original explosion at Reactor 3. An important technical question which nuclear physicists must confirm is: What is the threshold? If the fuel rods come in close enough proximity and there is enough fuel present, fission will begin to occur and heat is generated. If the reaction is not moderated by water, boron, or graphite rods that absorb neutrons, a chain reaction may become uncontrollable. This was the concern of Russian scientists dealing with Chernobyl. What if there is another earthquake in this earthquake-prone area? Might it provide the precipitating cause? What planning is under way to deal with this contingency?
Sea of Ignorance--The most deeply disabling problem presented by Fukushima is the collective sense of fear, denial, helplessness, and hopelessness. Most people in Japan are resigned to the calamity. Nothing can be done. Outside of Japan most of us want to believe that Fukushima is a local Japanese problem. Few, if any of us, have the facts. Virtually no one has a beam on what will come.