The Fukushima Gyre

by SHEPHERD BLISS

“Nuclear Free Zone” reads the comforting, official sign at the corner of Highway 116 and Lynch. It welcomes people coming into Sebastopol from the south.

“What’s a nuclear free zone?” 8-year-old William recently asked his mother, Lynda Williams, who teaches physics at Santa Rosa Junior College. One of Sebastopol’s many anti-nuke activists, she took it as a teaching moment and explained the sign’s meaning.

Unfortunately, nuclear radiation is heading toward the West Coast from Fukushima, Japan. How safe are we? What can we do?

An unprecedented triple disaster hit Fukushima in March, 2011—earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns. The earthquake and tsunami were short-lived catastrophes; 20,000 people were killed and 90,000 lost their homes. However, the crisis at Fukushima is not over and potentially more devastating. Physician Carol Wolman, M.D., recently wrote that “a damaged nuclear facility is like a wounded beast—exceedingly dangerous and hard to control.”

A dozen people from the new Fukushima Response group recently met at Sebastopol’s Grange. They decided to organize three summer educational forums. Women from the Fukushima Mothers Delegation, eyewitnesses to the catastrophe, will visit the West County in mid-July. They recently staged a Die-In, now on youtube. The new hour-long documentary “Fukushima Never Again” will also be shown. The film exposes the cover-up by the Japanese government and TEPCO, a company that runs nuclear power plants.

Dr. Wolman, a long-time researcher on nuclear risks, will make a public presentation at the Grange on July 29. A retired engineer from Japan touring the U.S. to promote the Fukushima cleanup, Yastel Yamada, will join her.

The organizers and their expert consultants are concerned that people have not been adequately informed of the dangers of radioactive contamination reaching us. “We have a choice,” writes psychiatrist Dr. Wolman. “We can deny the imminent threat posed by the damaged reactors, or we can unite and work together…to defuse the danger.”

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon visited Fukushima this April. He is “pushing for faster action” to avoid radioactive plumes of nuclear waste reaching his state, according to the May 26 New York Times. Sen. Wyden is especially concerned with a pool of radioactive cesium sitting on top of the damaged reactor building # 4. He concluded that it poses “an extraordinary and continuing risk.” Dr. Wolman writes that another earthquake could topple that fuel pool and lead to “an unquenchable fire which would spew out 9 times as much radiation as Chernobyl.”

Kyoto University’s Professor Hiroaki Koide, who worked as a fuel engineer at Fukushima in the l990s, shares her concerns. “The No. 4 reactor is visibly damaged and in a fragile state. Any radioactive release could be huge,” he told the Times.

Another earthquake–and there have been hundreds in the region since March of 2011–could ignite that pool and create a horrendous radioactive fire that could not be extinguished by water. Fukushima Response advocates stabilizing that hazardous pond.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government continues to maintain that the problem has been contained. However, according to a June 8 Times article, “Some current and former government officials admitted that Japanese authorities engaged in a pattern of withholding damaging information and denying facts of the nuclear disaster.” The officials were apparently concerned that it could lead to public panic.

On June 17, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced restarting two of Japan’s 50 workable reactors, all of which have been offline since the March, 2011, catastrophe. A majority of the Japanese public objects to restarting them.

How concerned should we be in Sonoma County? “Here in California, we are directly in the path of winds and ocean currents coming from Japan,” writes Dr. Wolman. “The Japanese government seems more intent on reassuring people than on accelerating the cleanup…We must mobilize public support to force this quick change.”

More information: fukushimaresponse.org or Gabriella Randazzo at gabriellarandazzo@gmail.com and (707) 888-0923.

Shepherd Bliss farms in Sebastopol, teaches college, and can be reached at 3sb@comcast.net.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire