FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Radiation Reporting

The ongoing radiation catastrophe stemming from three out-of-control nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan has taken a back seat to far graver news events of late: Michael Jackson’s doctor, fund-raising by presidential hopefuls, the World Series, and Netflix stock.

Meanwhile, reporting about the on-going disaster relentlessly repeats the minimization and trivialization of radiation risk that began March 11, with the largest earthquake in Japanese history and the unprecedented tsunami that left over 26,000 people dead or missing and 80,000 still living in shelters.

Radioactive contamination of soil, tap water, rain water, groundwater, beef, fish, vegetables, animal feed and incinerator ash are almost always said to be of little or “no immediate” danger, which helps explain why Fukushima has faded from public consciousness.

“An exposure of 100 millisieverts per year is considered the lowest level at which any increase in cancer risk is evident,” the French Press Agency reported Oct. 6. But the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s official published position on radiation risk is that, “any amount of radiation may pose some risk for causing cancer and hereditary effect, [and] … any increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk.”

Contaminated spinach and milk “do not pose an immediate health threat,” reported Giles Snyder of NPR’s Weekend Edition, April 19. Yet the National Council on Radiation Protection declares that “every increment of radiation exposure produces an incremental increase in the risk of cancer.”

“The nuclear crisis caused the worst radiation leak since Chernobyl,” the AP said Oct. 7, as if the accident were over. The same news agency said Sept. 22 that “radiation leaks continue.”

An April 11 Forbes news report grossly misstated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) official public warning about radiation. Noting that a Phoenix, Arizona drinking water sample contained 3.2 pico-curies-per-liter of radioactive iodine-131 from Fukushima, and that the EPA’s maximum contaminant level is 3.0, the writer concluded: “EPA does not consider these levels to pose a health threat.” In fact, the EPA officially warns that “there is no level below which we can say an exposure poses no risk.”

In spite of evidence of far flung and ominous levels of contamination, the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, had the nerve to tell Japan to be less conservative in its cleanup program planning. The removal of layers of topsoil is being considered by the government, but an IAEA team this month said that would be impractical. About 29 million cubic meters of surface soil, an area the size of Luxemburg, may need to be removed but, “We want the Japanese government to avoid becoming too conservative” in its cleanup plans,” IAEA inspectors said. The IAEA is chartered to work worldwide “to promote nuclear technologies,” while finding a disposal location for its mountains of radioactive waste Japan’s problem. The government recently approved “temporary” storage of millions of tons of contaminated soil and rice straw in state-owned forests.

Japan’s health minister declared Sept. 20 that the beef supply was safe and claimed that the government had improved its testing of food for radioactive contamination. In August the minister, Yoko Komiyama, lifted a ban on shipments of beef contaminated with radioactive cesium.

“The government was saying everything sold in the market was safe before the beef incident, then it turned out to be untrue,” Mariko Sano, secretary of the Tokyo-based consumer group Shufuren told the Wall St. Journal. “It’s hard to believe that now.”

John LaForge is on the Nukewatch staff and edits its Quarterly newsletter.

More articles by:

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 25, 2019
Marc Levy
All My Vexes Are in Texas
Jim Kavanagh
Avoiding Assange
Michael D. Yates
The Road Beckons
Julian Vigo
Notre Dame Shows the Unifying Force of Culture, Grenfell Reveals the Corruption of Government
Ted Rall
Democratic Refusal to Impeach Could Be Disastrous
Tracey Harris
Lessons Learned From the Tiny House Movement
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Human Flourishing (Eudaimonia): an Antidote to Extinction?
Dana Johnson
Buyer Beware: Hovercraft Ruling Deals a Major Blow to Land Conservation in Alaska
Norman Solomon
Joe Biden: Puffery vs. Reality
Jen Marlowe
The Palestine Marathon
Binoy Kampmark
Lethal Bungling: Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings
Michael Slager
“Where’s Your Plan?” Legalized Bribery and Climate Change
Jesse Jackson
Trump Plunges the US Deeper Into Forgotten Wars
George Wuerthner
BLM Grazing Decision Will Damage the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness
April 24, 2019
Susan Babbitt
Disdain and Dignity: An Old (Anti-Imperialist) Story
Adam Jonas Horowitz
Letter to the Emperor
Lawrence Davidson
A Decisive Struggle For Our Future
John Steppling
The Mandate for Israel: Keep the Arabs Down
Victor Grossman
Many Feet
Cira Pascual Marquina
The Commune is the Supreme Expression of Participatory Democracy: a Conversation with Anacaona Marin of El Panal Commune
Binoy Kampmark
Failed States and Militias: General Khalifa Haftar Moves on Tripoli
Dean Baker
Payments to Hospitals Aren’t Going to Hospital Buildings
Alvaro Huerta
Top Ten List in Defense of MEChA
Colin Todhunter
As the 2019 Indian General Election Takes Place, Are the Nation’s Farmers Being Dealt a Knock-Out Blow?
Charlie Gers
Trump’s Transgender Troops Ban is un-American and Inhumane
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Just Another Spring in Progress?
Thomas Knapp
On Obstruction, the Mueller Report is Clintonesque
Elliot Sperber
Every Truck’s a Garbage Truck
April 23, 2019
Peter Bolton
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail