Saturday, November 12, 2011

Japan Gov't Forcing Radiated Food on School Children

One would think that the government of a nation that experienced firsthand the biological horrors of nuclear radiation from atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be vigilant in protecting their people from this past year’s nuclear power plant meltdowns.

Instead, in the Fukushima region, they are forcing schoolchildren to consume radiated milk and rice as an act of “patriotism,” and publicly shaming those who, in obedience to their parents, refuse.

As reported by Ruthie Iida, an American teacher in Japan,

“Many mothers, mistrustful of food safety standards (food is simply labeled “safe”, and the exact level of radiation does not appear on produce ) would prefer their children to eat box lunches from home, made from foods carefully chosen ( preferably from faraway prefectures ) and carefully prepared….Teachers in Fukushima, however, insist that their students eat the school lunches (made with locally-grown produce) to show their loyalty to the prefecture. Children are torn between their mothers’ wishes and their fear of humiliation and punishment. This sounds hard to believe, but it’s been reported in various blog sites…and was unanimously confirmed by the Fukushima mothers that I met on Sunday. Worse yet, one mother reported that students who refuse to eat school lunches are now bullied by their peers as well as berated by their teachers.”
Kanagawa Notebook

A video of Japanese Parliamentary budget hearings from Sept 29 with English subtitles confirms this report:

Meltdown history

The Japanese Government’s response to the meltdowns at Fukushima following the horrific earthquakes and tsunami in March of this year has been permeated by missteps, conflicting reports, and the white-washing of safety issues, going back to the early days of the disaster.

After the March 11, 2011 earthquake, the Fukushima Daiichi power plant site was inundated by a 49-foot high tsunami wave. The connection to the electrical grid was broken, as the Tsunami destroyed the connecting power lines. With the loss of power, the nuclear reactors could not be cooled, and began to overheat.

The disaster was not unforeseeable.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex had been at the center of a 2002 falsified-records scandal, including serious unreported safety issues and inspections that were overdue by more than a decade. The scandal led to the resignations of number of senior executives of the plant’s parent company, TEPCO. In a document released by Wikileaks, it was revealed that in the wake of the scandal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conveyed grave concerns about the ability of Japan's nuclear plants to withstand seismic activity. At the same time, the Japanese government was opposing a Japanese Court order to close a nuclear plant in the west part of the country over doubts about its ability to withstand an earthquake.

Just five weeks ago, the Japanese Government released an internal TEPCO report admitting that TEPCO knew that the plant could not withstand a tsunami as low as 18 feet, and, that based on previous seismic activity, they knew such a tsunami was highly possible.

Radioactive measurements throughout Fukushima, and a Government in Denial

Following the March 2011 tsunami, reactors 1, 2 and 3 experienced full meltdown and multiple fires broke out at Reactor 4. Fuel rods stored in pools in each reactor building began to overheat as water levels in the pools dropped, and radioactivity releases led to the evacuation of people in a 12 mile radius around the plant. The government would later admit that dangerous levels of radioactive Cesium were actually being measured up to 30 miles away from the plant. Measurements taken by the Japanese science ministry and education ministry showed Cesium levels high enough to force the issue: food grown in the area was banned from sale, and tap water was deemed unsafe for children.

It was estimated by New Scientist that the initial daily release of Cesium from Fukushima was of the same magnitude as those from Chernobyl in 1986. And yet, Japanese government officials initially assessed the accident as only a “Level 4” on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), which runs from 1-7. Other international agencies challenged Japan, and the government grudgingly raised the level to a 5. Finally, pressured by scientists from around the world who determined it will take decades to clean up the radiation in the Fukushima region, the government finally admitted that its emergency was at the maximum level of 7. Article, UK Daily Mail

Government changes children’s exposure standards

As explained by physician Carolyn Roy-Bornstein,

“Children are at greater risk of the dangers of radiation for many reasons. Their minute volumes, or the amount of air they breathe in one minute, are greater than adults, causing them greater exposure to radioactive gases. They also live and breathe closer to the ground and therefore closer to nuclear fallout as it settles to earth. Radioactive Iodine is readily transmitted to human breast milk. (Cesium has been detected in the breast milk of seven women in the Fukushima area.) Cow’s milk also becomes quickly contaminated when radioactive materials settle onto grazing fields.”
(Carolyn Roy-Bornstein)

[Blogger's note: In July, over 100 cows raised 60 miles from the Fukushima site were fed Cesium-laced hay, and were sold at market for consumption. While the “safe limit” of Cesium is pegged at 500 bcq/kg, the hay registered at 97,000 bcq/km. The pollen from Cedar trees some 27 miles from the site measured at 175,000 bcq/km]

Prior to the Fukushima accident, the acceptable limit of exposure for children to Cesium was 1 millisievert (mSv) per year. As the accident unfolded, the Fukushima prefecture was directed to change that standard to 20 mSv per year, the same dose allowable for adult workers at nuclear power plants. Physicians for Social Responsibility issued a statement calling the move "unconscionable." Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama, head of the Radioisotope Center at the University of Tokyo, testified on July 27th before the Japanese Committee on Welfare and Labor that the uranium leak from the Fukushima Daiichi plant amounted to the equivalent of 20 Hiroshima atomic bombs. He further testified that he was frustrated in his work, as his team was told that the government could only provide him with a single Geiger counter. Further investigation showed that the US Army donated 20 such Geiger counters, which were withheld from him and kept in storage.

First, irradiated Milk forced on children; Now, Rice

Normally, radioactive Cesium washes out of the body relatively quickly in sweat and urine. But rather than being comforting, this becomes disturbing when one realizes that 8 months after the disaster, Japanese women continue to evidence Cesium in their breastmilk - suggesting that they are ingesting Cesium at a greater rate than their bodies can excrete it.

Cesium does, in fact, readily accumulate in food: in particular, it remains in concentrated form in plant and mushroom tissues, and an accumulation of cesium in water bodies has been a high concern since it was noted after the Chernobyl disaster. (Smith, Jim T.; Beresford, Nicholas A.. Chernobyl: Catastrophe and Consequences. Berlin: Springer. ISBN 3-540-23866-2.) Experiments with dogs showed that a single dose of 140 MBq/kg of caesium is lethal within three weeks, while smaller amounts cause infertility and cancer. (Redman, H. C.; McClellan, R. O.; Jones, R. K.; Boecker, B. B.; Chiffelle, T. L.; Pickrell, J. A.; Rypka, E. W. (1972). "Toxicity of 137-CsCl in the Beagle. Early Biological Effects")

It is all the more outrageous, then, that in order to compensate Fukushima rice farmers, government officials are buying rice from this toxic area and foisting it upon school children – in spite of the fact that USA Today reports elevated levels of Cesium in rice as far as 30 miles from the Fukushima site. Starting this Tuesday, Koriyama City schools will start using this year’s locally-grown rice in the city in all school lunches. This is a region where 500,000 bcq/kg of radioactive cesium was found in the rice hay. (Reminder: the ‘safe’ level of consumption is 500 bcq/kg)

Response by the Japanese People

As teacher Ruthie Iida so poignantly writes,

“…Fukushima families that managed to survive the quake and tsunami intact have been torn apart by circumstance and necessity; children have spent nearly eight months already living apart from their fathers. Women that I talked to said that even families who have stayed together in Fukushima are often divided in their thinking, with mothers hoping to evacuate and fathers wanting to stick it out. I watched an NHK special last week on a small company in Fukushima run by a group of men who have been friends since childhood; they have evacuated their wives and children and are staying on in Fukushima to keep their company going. This seems to be a common pattern, with men choosing financial stability and loyalty to the workplace rather than taking the risk of starting fresh with their families. Either choice is a hard one, and residents of Fukushima City are on their own, with no financial assistance from the central government (they are outside of the evacuation zone), and the situation complicated by community ties to the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

As Saeko told me, “I wish I had more friends working with me to halt the spread of the nuclear industry, but so many in Fukushima work for the company itself, or have connections.”

There is tension between husbands and wives, tension among friends, tension between teachers and students, and tension among students. It’s obvious by now that the central government is unable and unwilling to take responsibility for the chaos that has ensued since the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi. They are busy making plans to build and sell new, improved nuclear reactors in third-world, energy-starved countries. One mother that I spoke with recalled her own incredulity when she realized that families in her city had literally been abandoned by the government.

”Is there anyone at all that you trust in the Prime Minister’s cabinet?” I asked.

Saeko and her friends looked at each other and agreed, “No, no-one. “

Following the pattern established at Occupy Wall Street, growing numbers of Japanese women are coming together and demanding a more honest, effective, and empathetic response from the Japanese Government. Their demands are simple and clear:

- Provide government assistance for the evacuation of children from Fukushima. The ‘official’ evacuation zone is only 12 miles, while serious radiation is being found three times that distance from the plants. Thousands of families, bearing mortgages and having no relatives in other regions, feel trapped and forgotten.

- Keep the TEPCO nuclear power plants off-line.

And if the Japanese government’s treatment of its own children has not been poor enough, they are about to go global with irresponsibility: to bail out Japan's fisheries, there is now a government effort to export canned fish with excessive levels of Cesium to third-world countries. The unbelievable video footage, via a French news service with English subtitles, is embedded below:

And it doesnt stop at fish; it includes crops from Fukushima:

What Can You Do?

Pressure the Japanese Government to swallow its stiff-necked pride, admit the extent of the catastrophe taking place, and cease forcing toxic food on its own and the world’s children in the name of national pride. Contact these men and express your outrage:

Ambassador of Japan to the United States 
2520 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202-238-6700

Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations

H.E. Mr. Tsuneo NISHIDA
Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary
Permanent Representative of Japan
to the United Nations


H.E. Mr. Kazuo Kodama
Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan
to the United Nations


H.E. Mr. Jun Yamazaki

866 U.N. Plaza, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10017
Tel: (212) 223-4300


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