Archive for the ‘– social issues’ Category

Harm done to people by the Fukushima evacuation, but radiation was still the root cause of all this

April 5, 2021

The Lancet 6th March 2021, “The evacuation was the biggest risk factor in impacting health”, said Masaharu Tsubokura, an expert in radiation health management at Fukushima Medical University. “But [the evacuation] was inevitable, so I’m not saying that it was the wrong choice”, he added. He describes the tsunami-hit region of northeast Japan as a case study in the myriad health issues arising from natural disasters—an interplay between non-communicable diseases, the effect on mental and physical health of sudden upheaval, family separation, and the struggle to provide nursing care in ageing communities that hold little appeal for younger people, including health-care staff, who are worried about radiation and lack of job opportunities.

The evacuation was the most effective way to reduce exposure, Tsubokura said, but added that it had also had the biggest effect on mid-term and long-term health outcomes by exacerbating chronic and non-communicable diseases, notably diabetes, obesity, and impaired bone health and motor function. “Some might say that medically, these are not related to radiation”, he said, “but I would say that in the secondary sense, everything has a connection to radiation”. Evacuees with the financial means fanned out across Japan, with some seeking refuge as far away as Okinawa, more than 1000 miles to the south. Many others moved to temporary housing or found rented accommodation in parts of Fukushima that were considered a safe distance from the stricken plant. Following a ¥2·9 trillion (£19 billion) operation to remove millions of cubic metres of contaminated topsoil from areas near private homes, schools, and other essential public buildings, the government began lifting evacuation orders in 2015. Yet even now, several neighbourhoods located near Fukushima Daiichi remain no-go zones because of radiation levels above 20 mSv a year—the maximum exposure recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. Japan raised acceptable levels of radiation for Fukushima residents to 20 mSv per year from 1 mSv per year, although the country insists that 1 mSv remains the long-term goal. Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, and Ian Fairlie, an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment, are among those who have challenged the IAEA’s conclusion, pointing to the lack of comprehensive exposure data from the initial days of the crisis.

Burnie and Fairlie cite a 2019 study led by Hidehiko Yamamoto of Osaka Red Cross Hospital that concludes “the radiation contamination due to the Fukushima nuclear power plant accidents is positively associated with the thyroidcancer detection rate in children and adolescents. This corroborates previous studies providing evidence for a causal relation between nuclear accidents and the subsequent occurrence of thyroid cancer”. Burnie said, “The extent to which the current thyroid rates are due to radiation exposure is not proven. However, given the uncertainties, including dose data, it is not credible to dismiss an association between iodine exposure and the higher incidence of thyroid cancer. The authorities need to continue screening and prioritise other physical and mental health issuesarising from displacement and evacuation, as well as monitor people who have returned”.

Belarus’ forgotten children – victims of Chernobyl’s nuclear radiation

August 18, 2019

Kevin Barry in Chernobyl: ‘Misha is an example of what happens when a country is on its knees’  Irish Examiner, August 05, 2019 

In 2000 the Irish Examiner sent Kevin Barry, now longlisted for the Booker Prize for his novel Night Boat to Tangier, to Chernobyl. Here we reproduce what he reported

Misha photographed by Eugene Kolzov at the No 1 orphanage in Minsk.Misha, aged seven, [on original] is the victim of not one but many sicknesses. His physical disorders, as can be plainly seen, are many and various.

But Misha is the victim of another ailment too, a kind of compassion deficiency.

Chernobyl isn’t fashionable these days, it’s been around so long now. April 26, 1986 seems a long time in the way-distant past. After the initial blurt of paranoia and charitable outreach, the fickle gaze of public interest quickly flicked from the incident at Reactor No 4 to fresher horrors.

Misha, then, has been shuffled way back in the compassion pack. He has fallen behind the other ravaged children who sombrely people the planet’s trouble spots, in places like Mozambique and Ethiopia.

He’s competing with Rwanda and Chechnya. And it’s beginning to tell Misha’s illness is a direct consequence of the Chernobyl explosion.

The radioactive danger in Belarus is not so much in the air now as in the food chain. Professor Yuri Bandashevsky, a dissident scientist, told the Irish Examiner this week that the mutations caused by radiation in children like Misha have by now entered the gene pool and thus the effects of the ‘86 explosion can stretch to infinity.

After criticising the state’s alleged misspending of research money for Chernobyl, Professor Bandashevsky recently found himself banged up in jail for five months, bound at the feet.

Which isn’t the sort of thing that bodes well for the likes of Misha. Some aid continues to filter through. This week, a convoy run by the Chernobyl Children’s Project has been on a drive through Belarus, dispensing almost £2 million in food and medicines.

One of the institutions the orphanage supports is Novinki, a children’s asylum on the outskirts of Minsk. Such is its Dickensian squalor, its actual existence was long denied by the state. This is where you’ll find little Misha.

Project leader Adi Roche says she has known the child since he was a baby, but has been stunned at his deterioration since she last visited in December.

After finding him emaciated and dying this week, the project has placed a Dublin nurse and a local Chernobyl nurse on 24-hour care alert with Misha, an attempt to make whatever is left of his life as painless as possible

“We don’t know how long Misha will live, or if he will live, but we are morally obliged to do everything in our power to attempt saving his life,” said Ms Roche last night.

“‘He is not the only child in Belarus suffering as horrifically as this. he’s just one of many.” she added. “‘These children are the victims of 14 years of neglect by the international community.”’

Many children in Belarus consigned to mental asylums have no mentaI handicap. “All orphaned children with any kind of disability are put into mental asylums if they live beyond the age of four,” she said.

Meanwhile, staffed by1,000 workers, the Chernobyl plant continues operate a couple of kilometres inside the Ukraine border.

The authorities say it will close this year. The concrete sarcophagus built to contain contamination from the reactor has 200 holes and counting.

Orphans of the nuclear age

Kevin Barry, in Chernobyl, finds a land and its people scarred by a disaster from which they may never recover.

Chernobyl at this time of year is beautiful, the borderlands of the Ukraine and Belarus a pastoral and idyllic place. Vast swardes of rich woodland are full of babbling brooks and twittering songbirds, every way you turn, there’s a postcard vista to please even the most jaded eyes.

The locals, however, are edgy. The President of Belarus, Alaksandr Lukashenko — aka ‘Batska’ (‘The Father’) — has decreed that the farmlands here–abouts are now safe to plant and he’s threatening to fly overhead and make sure the workers are toiling.

If not, he says, there will be trouble. Big trouble.

The notion of Batska in an airplane is enough to prompt sleepless nights for those who remain in the Purple Zone, the area most contaminated by the accident in 1986 at Smelter No 4 of the nuclear plant that lies inside the Ukranian border.

In a tragedy of happenstance, because there was a stiff northerly gusting that day, Belarus took the brunt of the damage and because radioactivity is most lethal when it attacks developing human systems, children have borne most of the pain.

But for these children, the most serious ailment is not the thyroid cancer or the leukaemia or the heart trouble or the kidney failure or the various disorders of colon and spleen prompted by Chernobyl.

The greatest danger is the compassion-fatigue. 1986 seems a long time ago now and the incident at Smelter No 4 is no longer swaddled in the necessary event-glamour or crisis-chatter.

When the evening news is an atrocity exhibition, when daily there are hellish dispatches from Mozambique, Ethiopia and Chechnya, the Belarussians fall ever further back in the line.

The foreign correspondents have long since moved on elsewhere. The story of a child developing thyroid cancer over a period of years doesn’t conform neatly with the sound-byte culture.

By this stage, the Belarussians have had enough. A condition of mass denial exists in the country and a native of the village Solchechy in the Purple Zone says that up to around 1993, everybody fretted and freaked out but then they decided, well, to hell with it.

“The mess got to be too much,” she says.

We don’t think about it now. Life is life and we try to get on with it.

This is easier said than done in Belarus. The country’s economy is shot — agriculture was its mainstay and since Chernobyl, the income from farming has been negligible. Almost 30% of the country’s annual turnover goes to the clean-up operation.

Belarus remains the most Soviet of states. There are thickly-piled layers bureaucracy and this tangle of demented protocol regulations and petty restrictions is amorphic, constantly shape-shifting.

The natives have had to develop a stoic acceptance of a hard frustrating life……..

Radiation effects on the “downwinders” and others close to nuclear weapons tests

August 18, 2019

The fallout of uncertainty in nuclear test communities  

For downwinders of bomb testing, plans for compensation to redress past harms makes for tricky politics.   Aria Alamalhodaei Aug. 2, 2019,   The atomic bomb was born in the desert. In the early hours of July 16, 1945, after a spate of bad weather, a 20-kiloton plutonium-based nuke referred to as “the gadget” detonated near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Firsthand testimonies of the test, codenamed Trinity, converge on the uncanny axis of awe and dread. The Manhattan Project’s Chief of Field Operations, General Thomas Farrell, wrote that “the strong, sustained, awesome roar … warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous.”

The bomb produced a massive cloud column that drifted in several directions, dusting large swaths of the surrounding region with radioactive snow – fallout that settled on buildings, plants, and animals, and that continued to permeate the air as invisible particulate in the weeks and months that followed. Five years later, the Nevada Test Site was established to continue the work that Trinity set alight.
Although the mushroom cloud became the icon of American nuclear activity in the 20th century, the harms of these bombs did not fade with their dimming fireballs. No group in the U.S. understands this better than the downwinders, communities throughout the American Southwest and beyond who were exposed to the fallout of the military’s domestic nuclear test program.
In 1990, the U.S. government passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which provided financial remuneration to downwinders who had contracted cancer or other illnesses linked to radiation exposure. (The law also provided compensation for certain on-site test participants and uranium miners.) As of April 2018, the program had awarded more than $2.2 billion to some 34,370 claimants.
As the law was written, however, only downwinders in specific counties in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada were eligible for compensation. Even residents of New Mexico, the site of the Trinity test, were excluded. Since the law was passed, studies and fallout reconstructions have suggested that the health impacts of the nuclear tests likely extend to areas as far away as Idaho, Montana and Guam. Residents in those far-flung locales have provided vivid testimonies of glowing duststrange maladies befalling livestock, and cancer clusters ravaging whole families.
For more than a decade, civic groups have lobbied lawmakers, unsuccessfully, to open RECA to a broader population of downwinders. That Congress has so far balked at those proposals is a testament to many factors; legislative decisions are informed not only by science but by moral and political calculus. But lawmakers’ inability to come to terms on who suffered, and on who deserves reparations for that suffering, points to a little discussed weak spot of modern politics: its uneasy relationship with uncertainty.
RECA’S COMPACT DELIMITATION OF “affected areas” was based on dose estimates produced by the Department of Energy’s Off-Site Radiation Exposure Review Project — a complicated calculation that drew from atmospheric transport models, reconstructions of fallout patterns, and reports of dosimeters and other radiation recorders. The bill was amended once, in 2000, to include a larger population of uranium workers and to expand the time frame, eligible diseases, and geographic locations covered. Two years later, in response to a congressional mandate, the Health Resources and Services Administration commissioned the National Research Council (NRC) to review the RECA program and determine if additional populations should be covered. Their final report was published in 2005. Based in part on mortality and disease-incidence data on atomic bomb survivors in Japan, uranium miners in the U.S., and Utah schoolchildren exposed to fallout from the Nevada Test Site, the committee concluded that in most cases involving downwinders who had been excluded from RECA, “it is unlikely that exposure to radiation from fallout was a substantial cause to developing cancer.”
But radiation epidemiology is a science of uncertainty, and tracing a person’s illness to a single exposure event can be challenging even in seemingly clear-cut cases. Although high doses of radiation are known to lead to disease and death, the effects of lower doses are far less predictable. Moreover, an individual’s radiation dose — the amount of radiation that he or she internalizes — depends on the person’s age, sex, diet, and pre-existing risk factors; weather conditions; and the characteristics of the nuclear event itself. Extrapolating results from one nuclear event to another, as the NRC study did, is bound to introduce some error.
Consider the Trinity test, which has been consistently ignored by lawmakers. According to the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment (LAHDRA), conducted in 2010 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, previous efforts to determine exposures from Trinity ignored the specific characteristics that distinguished it from all other subsequent tests. Unlike tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site, the Trinity “gadget” detonated only 100 feet from the ground. At this height, more organic material would’ve been swept into the explosion and returned to the earth as fallout. Another compounding factor was the relative inefficiency of the device. Of the 13 pounds of fissile material contained in the device, only about 2.6 pounds exploded; the rest was dispersed into the environment, where it remained radioactive.
The LAHDRA report also faulted previous studies for failing to adequately account for internal exposure, caused by the inhalation or ingestion of radioactive material. Research shows that internal exposure is significantly more harmful to the human body than the external exposure that occurs, say, when X-rays or other high-energy radiation penetrate the skin. Internal dosages are influenced by occupation, diet, local environment, and other sociodemographic factors. Any assessment that does not account for those factors is incomplete. And, according to the LAHDRA report, no assessment has properly accounted for the internal radiation dosages experienced by residents near the Trinity site. 
In the case of the Trinity test, there’s reason to believe that sociodemographic factors would have been significant. During the 1940s, New Mexican communities were largely agrarian; most people were farmers or ranchers who grew their food, hunted and fished, and drank water collected from cisterns or holding ponds. If those sources were contaminated, residents would likely have been at an increased risk for radiation-linked illnesses.
LAST SUMMER, MEMBERS OF THE NEW MEXICO community organization Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC), along with representatives from the Navajo Nation, argued in a Senate Judiciary hearing for amending RECA. Stated TBDC co-founder Tina Cordova, “The New Mexico downwinders are the collateral damage that resulted from the development and testing of the first atomic bomb.” 
Their appeals appear to have fallen on receptive ears. This March, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. Senators, including New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, reintroduced Senate Bill 947 (S. 947), “Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2019.” It is the most recent in a long line of bills that attempt to expand the RECA’s coverage. Among other changes, it seeks coverage for downwinders in New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Guam. A companion was introduced in the House in July.

Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is currently conducting a three-phase study on the diet and lifestyles of mid-century New Mexicans. The models generated in this study may help scientists draw firmer links between present day cancer cases and the Trinity test. In an email, NCI spokesperson Michael Levin confirmed that the results of the study are anticipated to be published in late 2019.

Like other epidemiological studies of its size, the NCI’s study has been expensive to run and frustratingly time-intensive. And time is precisely what many downwinders feel they don’t have. More than 70 years has passed since the Trinity test. Many downwinders have passed away or are battling cancers and other diseases. Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to demonstrate that a disease was caused by nuclear fallout rather than, say, cigarettes or bad luck.

The government, meanwhile, plods along at its own pace, unconstrained by the length of a single lifetime or the distressing span between a diagnosis and its terminal conclusion. In response to a news article about S.947 posted to the Idaho Downwinders public Facebook page, one commenter wrote, “The government are just waiting for all of us to die off so they won’t have to be bothered with it.”
In its 2005 review of the RECA law, the National Research Council stated that, although scientific recommendations were meant to inform policy, the “attendant policy decisions must come from the larger body of citizenry” and “applying this new scientific knowledge may require additional societal value-based decisions.” This is particularly true of probability-based information on cancer epidemiology. When there is simply not enough data available to definitively estimate risk, the question of compensating the citizens who live in the long shadow of the nuclear testing era becomes a moral one: How much uncertainty can we stand?

Completely ignored in nuclear summit talks – the forgotten North Korean victims of 1945 atomic bombs

October 9, 2018

Trump–Kim: an agenda for forgotten nuclear victims, ps:// Interpreter, BY Lauren Richardson, @Lauren_ANU  14 June 18

Like most Korea observers, in the lead-up to the Trump–Kim summit I have been inundated with questions from journalists and friends alike. Does Kim Jong-un have any actual intention to denuclearise? Would Donald Trump settle for anything less than complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament (CVID) of North Korea’s nuclear program? Will North Korea’s human rights abuses be on the agenda? And, in that vein, will Trump raise the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens?

There is, however, one question that no one is asking. And it is a crucial one.

What about the North Korean A-bomb victims, the only survivors of the US nuclear attacks on Japan, who have never had recourse to monetary redress? Will they be on the summit agenda?

The absence of this question in the summit discussions is unsurprising. North Koreans are the forgotten victims of the atomic bombs and represent a gap in global memory of nuclear issues. It is not commonly known that when the US dropped atomic bombs over Nagasaki and Hiroshima in August 1945, roughly 10% of the victims of these attacks were of Korean descent.

Koreans were residing in the A-bomb target cities in large numbers under colonial auspices: in many cases they had been brought there against their will, forced to perform labour in Japan’s military industrial factories.

And it is a virtually unknown fact that when Koreans were repatriated to their newly divided homeland in the years following Japan’s surrender, approximately 2000 of the A-bomb survivors wound up north of the 38th parallel, suffering from the unrelenting effects of the radiation blast. Many of them are still alive and ailing today. In a further twist of fate, owing to the lack of diplomatic relations between Pyongyang and Tokyo, North Korean victims were precluded from financial assistance provided by the Japanese government to overseas A-bomb survivors, including South Koreans, in later decades. This was premised on a belief that “the money would likely never reach them”.

The plight of the North Koreans would never have come to light at all were it not for an activist named Lee Sil-gun. I have sat with Lee in Hiroshima on a number of occasions to interview him about his advocacy efforts. He was born in Japan in 1929 to Korean parents, and became an atomic bomb victim by virtue of exposure to residual radiation in Hiroshima.

In the post-war years, as the plight of A-bomb victims became politicised in Japan and the redress movement launched by South Korean victims gradually gained traction, he was dismayed to find that the voiceless North Koreans had been left out of the discourse:

I knew that there were victims in the North because I farewelled them at the port when they were shipped off from Japan after the Second World War.

Lee began embarking on annual visits to Pyongyang in the 1990s in an attempt to reach out to the victims there. He was supported in this endeavour by a small group of dedicated Japanese anti-nuclear activists.

They found the North Koreans in a terrible predicament: without recourse to adequate medical care, the victims were resorting to various primitive methods to treat their radiation-related maladies. They were burning sulphur, for instance, and using the smoke to sterilise recurrent wounds.

On discovering this, Lee and his supporters arranged a dispatch of Japanese medical practitioners to the DPRK to train local doctors in the treatment of A-bomb illness; they then organised a converse delegation of victims and doctors from North Korea to Japan, to respectively undergo treatment and be familiarised with advanced medical equipment.

North Korean officials were appreciative of and inspired by Lee’s efforts, and in 1997 issued him with an astonishing request. They asked Lee if he would organise a photo exhibition in North Korea depicting the destructive impact of nuclear weapons. Lee happily obliged, and this exhibit came to fruition two years later: 77 photos were displayed in the Grand People’s Study House in central Pyongyang from 13–18 August 1999.

I found a newspaper article about this event in an archive in Seoul. When I asked Lee how he managed to pull it off, he became choked with emotion. Through tears, he said:

I went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and asked if I could borrow some of their posters and photos. At first they were reluctant, but eventually they let them have them for a month. I was so happy.

Four reasons make plain why this issue should be part of the Trump–Kim summit and any ongoing US–DPRK talks.

First, for Trump to acknowledge North Korea’s long-ailing A-bomb victims would be the best way to set the scene for talks on denuclearisation. Consider Barack Obama’s playbook, for instance. When he made an historic visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in 2016, paying homage to the nuclear victims, it did wonders for US–Japan relations. Paying tribute to the North Korean victims at the summit would serve to frame the negotiations in such a way that Pyongyang was not the only party with adverse nuclear potential at the table.

Second, the issue of North Korean A-bomb victims would be a reminder that the devastating potential of nuclear weapons is embedded in the memory of North Korea. This should factor into Trump’s strategic calculus of Kim’s intentions for his nuclear program.

To be sure, Kim is young and did not experience first-hand the turmoil in Northeast in the aftermath of the US atomic bombings. But his grandfather did. And his own father permitted the efforts of activists from Japan to advocate on behalf of North Korean A-bomb victims – the same victims that live among Kim Jong-un’s populace today. Thus, if Trump does not manage to achieve the grand CVID bargain that he hopes for at the summit, he shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that Kim intends to use his nukes in the near future.

Third, any settlement regarding the “denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula should reasonably entail the establishment of a specialist treatment facility for A-bomb victims in the North. Two years ago, I visited a nursing home that offers round-the-clock treatment to the South Korean victims in Hapcheon County; the patients reported to me that they were still having tiny shards of glass surgically removed from their faces all these decades down the track.

While I don’t wish to suggest that the South Koreans are better off – in fact, they are still suffering immensely – the North Koreans have been left without any such facility. If the 1945 chapter of nuclear history has still not been settled, how can we expect to settle the current one with North Korea?

Lastly, raising the North Korean A-bomb victims issue would serve as a stark reminder at the summit that there is still only one government that has deployed nuclear weapons in conflict, and it is not Pyongyang. To the contrary, (the now) North and South Koreans were the collateral damage of that historic conflict, and many are still awaiting redress.

* This piece is based on a forthcoming journal article.

Conditions for Residents of Post-3.11 Radiation-Affected Areas Japan

April 2, 2018

Informal Labour, Local Citizens and the Tokyo Electric Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Crisis: Responses to Neoliberal Disaster Management. ANU, Adam Broinowski, 7 Nov 17, “…..Conditions for Residents of Post-3.11 Radiation-Affected Areas

For roughly 30 years, the exclusion zone around Chernobyl has been set at 30 kilometres. Between 1 and 5 mSv/y is the assisted evacuation level and mandatory evacuation is 5 mSv/y and above. Unlike the approach adopted for Chernobyl, which was to achieve containment (a sarcophagus was built in eight months) and permanent resettlement of 350,000 people, the government and TEPCO have adopted a ‘dilution’ approach—to widely disperse and redistribute (‘share’) radioactive materials and waste and decontaminate residential areas. To date, this has permitted the permanent release through venting, dumping and incinerating of radioactive materials into the air, land, water and sea, and circulation in the food chain and recycled materials on a daily basis since March 2011.

Over the first few days at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, severity (International Nuclear Event Scale) levels were steadily raised from level 3 to level 5 to level 7, and the mandatory evacuation zone was gradually expanded from 10 to 30 kilometres. On 16 March 2011, readings in Aizu-Wakamatsu Middle School (100 kilometres from FDNPS) in Fukushima Prefecture returned 2.57 microSv/h (microsieverts per hour),27 and Kōriyama (60 kilometres) recordings returned 3.6–3.9 microSv/h. Inside people’s homes in Kōriyama, levels were between 1.5 and 2.0 microSv/h and 8.2 microSv/h in the downpipes.28 This data was made public only three months later. On 6 April, schools in Fukushima Prefecture were reopened. As the boundaries, legal limits and information were gradually altered, populations were urged to return to work. At the same time the legal safety level for mandatory evacuation for the public (radiation safety level 1972) was raised from 1 to 20 mSv/y,29 based on a cumulative 100 mSv dose averaged over five years, suddenly shifting the parameters for ‘low-level’ radiation and designating the general public with the level previously designated to nuclear workers.

The US Government advised a mandatory evacuation zone of 50 miles (80 kilometres). Several nations’ embassies in Tokyo evacuated their staff. Of roughly 2 million in Fukushima Prefecture, about 80,000 people from 11 municipalities were ordered to evacuate while another 80,000 evacuated voluntarily. By late 2015, about 118,862 remained evacuated.30 Sixty thousand of these people live in temporary housing and many lacked basic needs. There were many evacuees who sought public housing who have been turned away.31 There are additional evacuees affected by the earthquakes and tsunami who come from other prefectures (including parts of Miyagi and Ibaraki), some of whom were also affected by radiation exposure.

The situation in many villages within contaminated areas signifies how government policies have further exposed a wide range of people—farmers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, factory workers, mothers (as reproductive workers), school students, local public servants—to conditions informal workers have long had to endure. In several cases (i.e. Iitate, Minami Soma, Namie), the notification of residents of radiation danger was delayed and potassium iodide pills were not distributed. Similarly, data on weather patterns and distribution gathered by the SPEEDI monitoring system32 was suppressed. These populations were not adequately informed of what the dose readings meant in terms of health risk. When people did seek measurement and treatment for their likely exposures, hospitals and other institutions with the requisite measuring technologies refused to measure them, as it was deemed ‘there was no reason for internal contamination and so there was no reason to measure’.33 These people unwittingly became hibakusha (被曝者), broadly defined as victims of radiation exposure.

Even though the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster has caused near-permanent pollution, the conflation of the radiation problem with tsunami and earthquake destruction to be managed as a single large-scale ‘clean-up’, reconstruction and revitalisation operation as instituted by the National Resilience Council 2013 has occluded the materiality of radiation.

Informal workers on ‘decontamination projects’ washed down public buildings and homes and scraped up and replaced soil and sludge contaminated at levels found for example at between 84,000–446,000 Becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) in Kōriyama (60 km from Fukushima Daiichi).34 They also collected waste that included radioactive debris, uniforms and tools. The organic waste is stored on government-purchased land in black industrial bags piled in large walls and mounds to create a sort of buffer zone on town margins and in areas determined as long-term irradiated zones.35 Other contaminated waste is burned in newly constructed incinerators in towns nearest the plant (such as Futaba, Okuma, Naraha, Tamura, Tomioka, with more planned) in addition to the incineration already underway in major cities since 3.11, even while evacuees are being compelled to return to some of them (Tamura, Kawauchi, Naraha) where evacuation orders have been lifted. In addition, in June 2016 the Ministry of the Environment approved radioactive soil of up to 8,000 Bq/kg to be reused in national public works. Although stipulated to be used for roads and barriers (such as sea walls) under a layer of non-contaminated materials, there is concern that these will corrode over time leading to recirculation in the environment.

As compensation schemes are contingent upon where evacuees come from (whether these are areas where there are plans to lift evacuation orders, areas pending decontamination in the shorter term, or those deemed difficult to return to), those mandatory evacuees without property have received on average 100,000 yen per month while voluntary evacuees have received 60,000 yen per month, even if radiation levels in their residential areas were high.

The return to towns that received over 50 mSv/y (Futaba, Namie, Okuma) remains unlikely for decades, but if evacuees do return to other villages, they risk lifetime re-exposures of up to 20 mSv/y. In late 2015, Iitate village, for example, was divided into Areas 1 and 2, which are being prepared for repopulation (54,000 people), and Area 3, which so far remains out of bounds. Although the topsoil contaminated with Caesium was stripped and replaced (i.e. returning 0.6 microSv/h) and its houses and roads were washed down, 96 per cent of Iitate remained at 1 microSv/h. As Iitate is 75 per cent forest, which trapped a large stock of contamination, the land re-concentrates through radiation circulation (hence, quickly returned to 2.6 microSv/h).36 If the majority in Iitate, who are primarily agricultural workers, can no longer harvest vegetables, rice, wild mushrooms and vegetables (sansai 山菜) or burn wood for heat, and their houses are re-irradiated, then only the semi-autonomous elderly are likely to return. By August 2015, less than 10 per cent of roughly 14,000 eligible had applied for temporary return.37

So-called ‘decontamination’ and ‘remediation’ has been deployed to justify redefining evacuation boundaries and lifting evacuation orders so as to cut compensation payments. Following the 37th National Emergency Response Headquarters meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office in June 2015 in which the Prime Minister decreed that ‘evacuees must return to their hometowns as quickly as possible and start new lives’,38 in late August 2015 evacuees were told if they chose to return home they would receive a one-off payment of 100,000 yen per household. If they did not, once evacuation orders had been lifted, ‘free rent’ (yachin hojo 家賃補助) for voluntary evacuees would be cut by March 2017 at the very latest.39 Further, the government announced its intention to partially lift the restriction on the ‘difficult-to-return zone’ by 2022 so as to counteract the negative image of the area and its produce.40 Without alternative income, and with a significant housing shortage due to the restriction of new public housing, many have been and will be forced to return to contaminated areas, to endure radiation exposure without compensation. If only the elderly return, there will be few prospects for young families in such towns where there is little local business and infrastructure, and public facilities and housing are in disrepair.

In Naraha, between May and August 2015, ambient readings in populated areas officially determined as ‘low or moderate’ returned 0.3–0.7 microSv/h and soil samples returned 26,480–52,500 Bq/kg of Caesium 137 and 134 combined (and 18,700 Bq/kg in the town’s water reservoir).41 While the majority of former residents are more likely to either pull down their houses and sell the land or maintain their homes as vacationers, there is additional private and state pressure to industrialise these former idylls as ‘reconstruction hubs’. As part of the ‘Innovation Coast’ plan, for example, 1,000 irregular workers have resided on the town’s outskirts as they built a giant research facility (estimated cost: 85 billion yen) to train hundreds of workers in reactor simulations and use of specialised robots. As industry colonises and transforms such towns, the pressing concern of unmitigated radiation levels in soil, forests and water, whether from distribution or recirculation, remains due to the long-lived decay and harmful effects of these radionuclides.

Similarly, in the effort to stimulate business, highways (Route 6) and train lines (Jōban line) passing directly through the (former) evacuation zone were reopened in 2015, although traffic must still travel with closed windows at the time of writing. Regular users of these corridors such as railway and transport workers and irregular nuclear workers accumulate higher doses from regular exposure while radioactive particles attached to vehicles are dispersed beyond contaminated areas. Clearly, a containment and permanent resettlement approach has been deemed untenable in the belief it would disrupt economic productivity levels. As one high school student insightfully observed, ‘Sensei … If they [really wanted to turn] Fukushima into an evacuation zone they’d have to block the Route 4 highway, Tōhoku expressway and Shinkansen’.42 Nevertheless, in lieu of overall reconstruction costs less conservatively estimated at half a trillion dollars, it may have been cheaper in the longer term to adopt permanent resettlement, education, health treatment and work creation strategies……

Nagasaki nuclear bomb survivor warns America and North Korea, calls for negotiation

March 31, 2018

It kills slowly, painfully’: Nagasaki atomic explosion survivor has a message for US, North Korea

Nobu Hanaoka was only 8-months-old when the US dropped Fat Man — a Plutonium bomb — on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Sep 25, 2017  HT Correspondent  Hindustan Times, New Delhi 

“Does he have all five fingers?” This was a Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor’s first question to the doctor when his son was born.Nobu Hanaoka, 73, says he was relieved when the doctor replied that his son was in perfect health. “I had hoped that the radiation did not affect the child,” Hanaoka told Al Jazeera.

Hanaoka was only eight months old when the US dropped ‘Fat Man’ — a Plutonium bomb — on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, killing about 74,000 people. Three days before, ‘Little Boy’ — the first-ever atomic bomb, dropped on Hiroshima — had claimed 140,000 lives.

Hanaoka — clad in a simple, grey coat, has a message for the United States and North Korea as tensions escalate between the two countries over the possibility of a nuclear war.

“This is the kind of weapon that doesn’t just kill. It kills indiscriminately. It kills slowly and painfully.”

“And it shouldn’t be allowed on the surface of the Earth,” the survivor says after a pause.

“We were not even in the city of Nagasaki. We were outside. And yet the radiation that came from the bombing went far beyond the city limits,” Hanaoka said, before explaining the three ways an atomic bomb can kill.

Hanaoka’s mother and sister died due to radiation when he was six, he says, adding that he overheard the doctor telling his father the boy wouldn’t live to see his 10th birthday. “So I knew that I was not going to live long,” Hanaoka says in the video.

The atomic bomb survivor says he was always concerned for his health and feared he was dying when he got a simple cold. He also had survivor’s guilt, a mental condition in which a person feels remorse for surviving a traumatic event when others did not. “Why did my sister and mother, who were wonderful people… beautiful and smart and gentle, and they had to die.”

“And yet, I, who am not unworthy, am still alive?”

“I want all nations to come together and start finding a way of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether,” Hanaoka tells Al Jazeera after warning that there will be millions of casualties if either the US or North Korea is attacked with radioactive weapons.

North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho told the United Nations General Assembly last week that targeting the US mainland with its rockets was inevitable after “Mr Evil President” Donald Trump called Pyongyang’s leader a “rocket man” on a suicide mission.

Trump, too, dialled up the rhetoric against North Korea over the weekend, warning Ho that he and its leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer” as Pyongyang staged a major anti-US rally.

The North had threatened to “sink” Japan into the sea and fired two missiles over the northern island of Hokkaido in the space of less than a month. Pyongyang said this month it had carried out an underground test on a hydrogen bomb estimated to be 16 times the size of the US bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. It was its sixth and largest nuclear test.

Survivors of Hiroshima-Nagasaki — the only two nuclear attacks in the history of mankind — warned of the threat of atomic weapons in a photo essay by the Time magazine last month. It quoted another survivor Fujio Torikoshi (86) as saying all he wanted was to forget the bombing. “We cannot continue to sacrifice precious lives to warfare. All I can do is pray – earnestly, relentlessly – for world peace.”

Effects of lead pollution on the brain

March 20, 2016

an astonishing body of evidence. We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level. Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century……

 It’s the only hypothesis that persuasively explains both the rise of crime in the ’60s and ’70s and its fall beginning in the ’90s.

A second study found that high exposure to lead during childhood was linked to a permanent loss of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain associated with aggression control as well as what psychologists call “executive functions”: emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility.

highly-recommendedLEAD – America’s real criminal element. Mother Jones, By Kevin Drum, February 16    “…………IN 1994, RICK NEVIN WAS A CONSULTANT working for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development on the costs and benefits of removing lead paint from old houses. This has been a topic of intense study because of the growing body of research linking lead exposure in small children with a whole raft of complications later in life, including lower IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.

But as Nevin was working on that assignment, his client suggested they might be missing something. A recent study had suggested a link between childhood lead exposure and juvenile delinquency later on. Maybe reducing lead exposure had an effect on violent crime too?

That tip took Nevin in a different direction. The biggest source of lead in the postwar era, it turns out, wasn’t paint. It was leaded gasoline. And if you chart the rise and fall of atmospheric lead caused by the rise and fall of leaded gasoline consumption, you get a pretty simple upside-down U: Lead emissions from tailpipes rose steadily from the early ’40s through the early ’70s, nearly quadrupling over that period. Then, as unleaded gasoline began to replace leaded gasoline, emissions plummeted.

Gasoline lead may explain as much as 90 percent of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century.

Intriguingly, violent crime rates followed the same upside-down U pattern. The only thing different was the time period: Crime rates rose dramatically in the ’60s through the ’80s, and then began dropping steadily starting in the early ’90s. The two curves looked eerily identical, but were offset by about 20 years.

So Nevin dove in further, digging up detailed data on lead emissions and crime rates to see if the similarity of the curves was as good as it seemed. It turned out to be even better: In a 2000 paper (PDF) he concluded that if you add a lag time of 23 years, lead emissions from automobiles explain 90 percent of the variation in violent crime in America. Toddlers who ingested high levels of lead in the ’40s and ’50s really were more likely to become violent criminals in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

And with that we have our molecule: tetraethyl lead, the gasoline additive invented by General Motors in the 1920s to prevent knocking and pinging in high-performance engines. As auto sales boomed after World War II, and drivers in powerful new cars increasingly asked service station attendants to “fill ‘er up with ethyl,” they were unwittingly creating a crime wave two decades later.

It was an exciting conjecture, and it prompted an immediate wave of…nothing. Nevin’s paper was almost completely ignored, and in one sense it’s easy to see why—Nevin is an economist, not a criminologist, and his paper was published in Environmental Research, not a journal with a big readership in the criminology community. What’s more, a single correlation between two curves isn’t all that impressive, econometrically speaking. Sales of vinyl LPs rose in the postwar period too, and then declined in the ’80s and ’90s. Lots of things follow a pattern like that. So no matter how good the fit, if you only have a single correlation it might just be a coincidence. You need to do something more to establish causality.

As it turns out, however, a few hundred miles north someone was doing just that. In the late ’90s, Jessica Wolpaw Reyes was a graduate student at Harvard casting around for a dissertation topic that eventually became a study she published in 2007 as a public health policy professor at Amherst. “I learned about lead because I was pregnant and living in old housing in Harvard Square,” she told me, and after attending a talk where future Freakonomicsstar Levitt outlined his abortion/crime theory, she started thinking about lead and crime. Although the association seemed plausible, she wanted to find out whether increased lead exposure caused increases in crime. But how?

The answer, it turned out, involved “several months of cold calling” to find lead emissions data at the state level. During the ’70s and ’80s, the introduction of the catalytic converter, combined with increasingly stringent Environmental Protection Agency rules, steadily reduced the amount of leaded gasoline used in America, but Reyes discovered that this reduction wasn’t uniform. In fact, use of leaded gasoline varied widely among states, and this gave Reyes the opening she needed. If childhood lead exposure really did produce criminal behavior in adults, you’d expect that in states where consumption of leaded gasoline declined slowly, crime would decline slowly too. Conversely, in states where it declined quickly, crime would decline quickly. And that’s exactly what she found.

Meanwhile, Nevin had kept busy as well, and in 2007 he published a new paper looking at crime trends around the world (PDF). This way, he could make sure the close match he’d found between the lead curve and the crime curve wasn’t just a coincidence. Sure, maybe the real culprit in the United States was something else happening at the exact same time, but what are the odds of that same something happening at several different times in severaldifferent countries?

Nevin collected lead data and crime data for Australia and found a close match. Ditto for Canada. And Great Britain and Finland and France and Italy and New Zealand and West Germany. Every time, the two curves fit each other astonishingly well. When I spoke to Nevin about this, I asked him if he had ever found a country that didn’t fit the theory. “No,” he replied. “Not one.”

Just this year, Tulane University researcher Howard Mielke published a paperwith demographer Sammy Zahran on the correlation of lead and crime at the city level. They studied six US cities that had both good crime data and good lead data going back to the ’50s, and they found a good fit in every single one. In fact, Mielke has even studied lead concentrations at the neighborhood level in New Orleans and shared his maps with the local police. “When they overlay them with crime maps,” he told me, “they realize they match up.”

Put all this together and you have an astonishing body of evidence. We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level. Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century……

It’s the only hypothesis that persuasively explains both the rise of crime in the ’60s and ’70s and its fall beginning in the ’90s. Two other theories—the baby boom demographic bulge and the drug explosion of the ’60s—at least have the potential to explain both, but neither one fully fits the known data. Only gasoline lead, with its dramatic rise and fall following World War II, can explain the equally dramatic rise and fall in violent crime.

IF ECONOMETRIC STUDIES WERE ALL THERE were to the story of lead, you’d be justified in remaining skeptical no matter how good the statistics look. Even when researchers do their best—controlling for economic growth, welfare payments, race, income, education level, and everything else they can think of—it’s always possible that something they haven’t thought of is still lurking in the background. But there’s another reason to take the lead hypothesis seriously, and it might be the most compelling one of all: Neurological research is demonstrating that lead’s effects are even more appalling, more permanent, and appear at far lower levels than we ever thought. For starters, it turns out that childhood lead exposure at nearly any level can seriously and permanently reduce IQ. Blood lead levels are measured in micrograms per deciliter, and levels once believed safe—65 μg/dL, then 25, then 15, then 10—are now known to cause serious damage. The EPA now says flatly that there is “no demonstrated safe concentration of lead in blood,” and it turns out that even levels under 10 μg/dL can reduce IQ by as much as seven points. An estimated 2.5 percent of children nationwide have lead levels above 5 μg/dL.

But we now know that lead’s effects go far beyond just IQ. Not only does lead promote apoptosis, or cell death, in the brain, but the element is also chemically similar to calcium. When it settles in cerebral tissue, it prevents calcium ions from doing their job, something that causes physical damage to the developing brain that persists into adulthood.

Only in the last few years have we begun to understand exactly what effects this has. A team of researchers at the University of Cincinnati has been following a group of 300 children for more than 30 years and recently performed a series of MRI scans that highlighted the neurological differences between subjects who had high and low exposure to lead during early childhood.

One set of scans found that lead exposure is linked to production of the brain’s white matter—primarily a substance called myelin, which forms an insulating sheath around the connections between neurons. Lead exposure degrades both the formation and structure of myelin, and when this happens, says Kim Dietrich, one of the leaders of the imaging studies, “neurons are not communicating effectively.” Put simply, the network connections within the brain become both slower and less coordinated.

A second study found that high exposure to lead during childhood was linked to a permanent loss of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex—a part of the brain associated with aggression control as well as what psychologists call “executive functions”: emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility. One way to understand this, says Kim Cecil, another member of the Cincinnati team, is that lead affects precisely the areas of the brain “that make us most human.”

So lead is a double whammy: It impairs specific parts of the brain responsible for executive functions and it impairs the communication channels between these parts of the brain. For children like the ones in the Cincinnati study, who were mostly inner-city kids with plenty of strikes against them already, lead exposure was, in Cecil’s words, an “additional kick in the gut.” And one more thing: Although both sexes are affected by lead, the neurological impact turns out to be greater among boys than girls.

Other recent studies link even minuscule blood lead levels with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Even at concentrations well below those usually considered safe—levels still common today—lead increases the odds of kids developing ADHD.

In other words, as Reyes summarized the evidence in her paper, even moderately high levels of lead exposure are associated with aggressivity, impulsivity, ADHD, and lower IQ. And right there, you’ve practically defined the profile of a violent young offender.

Needless to say, not every child exposed to lead is destined for a life of crime. Everyone over the age of 40 was probably exposed to too much lead during childhood, and most of us suffered nothing more than a few points of IQ loss. But there were plenty of kids already on the margin, and millions of those kids were pushed over the edge from being merely slow or disruptive to becoming part of a nationwide epidemic of violent crime……….

Impact of Jaitapur nuclear project on community and environment

March 20, 2016

France Peddles Unsafe Nuclear Reactors to India, Drawing Protest 29 January 2016  By Kumar Sundaram, Truthout | News Analysis “………the concerns of the local community in Jaitapur go beyond the cost of the project. Jaitapur is located in the stunningly beautiful Konkan region, replete with verdant plateaus, magical mountains and undulating hills, lagoons, creeks, the open sea and infinite greenery. The NPCIL has labeled nearly 65 percent of the land as “barren,” despite the fact that Konkan is one of the world’s 10 “biodiversity hotspots,” sheltering over 5,000 species of flowering plants, 139 of mammals, 508 of birds and 179 of amphibians, including 325 globally threatened species.

Altogether, the nuclear park would jeopardize the livelihoods of 40,000 people. The annual turnover of Jaitapur’s fishing villages is about $2.2 million. In Nate Village alone, there are 200 big trawlers and 250 small boats. Nearly 6,000 people depend directly on fishing and over 10,000 are dependent on ancillary activities.

The community is apprehensive that the elaborate security arrangements around the project would block the fisherfolks’ use of the two creeks of Jaitapur and Vijaydurg. The fish population will also be affected since the nuclear plant would release a massive 52 billion liters of hot water into the Arabian Sea daily, raising the local sea temperature by 5 to 7 degrees Celsius.

Jaitapur has highly fertile land, which produces rice and other cereals, and arguably the world’s most famous mango, the Alphonso. Cashews, coconuts, kokum, betel nuts, pineapples and other fruits are found in abundance. The land is also quite productive in terms of its use for cattle-grazing and rain-fed agriculture.

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) for Jaitapur, conducted by the government-run National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), did not even look into the crucial aspects of radiological releases, decommissioning and nuclear waste, besides summarily neglecting the vital issues of ecosystems and livelihoods, terrestrial ecosystems and farming, mangrove forests and the fragile marine ecology and fisheries in the region.

NEERI admits it does not have any expertise in radiation-related issues and it just mentioned in its report that all the stipulations of the government’s nuclear regulator would be followed. The then-minister for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, had himself termed these EIA assessments a joke. Even that environmental clearance, granted on 35 absurdly weak conditions, was given only for a period of five years, which lapsed as of November 2015. Citizens groups and independent experts have demanded a fresh EIA in place of an extension………

The mental health toll, and discrimination effects, for victims of a nuclear catastrophe

February 2, 2015

When life becomes a shadow – after nuclear catastrophe, Ecologist Robert Jacobs 8th April 2014  “……Discrimination

People who may have been exposed to radiation usually experience discrimination in their new homes and often become social pariahs. We first saw this dynamic with the hibakushain Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

They found it very difficult to find marriage partners since prospective spouses feared they would have malformed children, found it difficult to find jobs since employers assumed that they would be sick more often, and often become the targets of bullying. It became very common to hide the fact that one’s family had been among those exposed to radiation.

Many people are familiar with the story of Sadako Sasaki who died at the age of twelve after being exposed to radiation from the nuclear attack on Hiroshima ten years earlier.

Sadako folded paper cranes in accordance with a Japanese tradition that someone who folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted a wish. Sadako’s story has become well known and children around the world fold paper cranes when they learn her story, many of which are sent here to Hiroshima.

While Sadako has become a symbol of the innocence of so many hibakusha who were victims of the nuclear attack, her father tried to hide this fact so that his family would not suffer discrimination and was upset that his daughter had become so famously afflicted.

Fukushima victims bullied

Children whose families evacuated from Fukushima prefecture after the triple meltdowns at Fukushima found themselves the victims of bullying at their new schools. Cars with Fukushima license plates were scratched when parked in other prefectures.

Often this is the result of the natural fear of contamination that is associated with people exposed to a poison. In the Marshall Islands those who were evacuated from Rongelap and other atolls that became unlivable after being blanketed with radioactive fallout from the Bravo test in 1954 have had to live as refugees on other peoples atolls for several generations now.

The Marshall Islands have a very small amount of livable land and so being moved to atolls that traditionally belonged to others left them with no access to good soil and good locations for fishing and storing boats. They have had to live by the good graces of their new hosts, and endure being seen as interlopers.Becoming medical subjects – or ‘objects’?

Many people who have been exposed to radiation then become the subjects of medical studies, often with no information about the medical tests to which they are subjected.

For example Hibakusha of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki became medical subjects of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission during the American occupation of Japan after World War Two.

This study has continued to this day under the now jointly US-Japan operated Radiation Effects Research Foundation. In the early days of the study Japanese hibakusha had no choice about being subjected to the medical exams.

An American military jeep would appear in front of their homes and they had to go in for an examination, whether it was a good time or not. They were not given information about the results of their tests. This has happened in many radiation-affected communities.

In 1966 a US nuclear bomber blew up in midair and its debris fell on the small village of Palomares, Spain. Four H-bombs fell from the plane, one into the sea, and three onto the small village. None exploded but two broke open and contaminated part of the town with plutonium and other radionuclides.

To this day some of the residents of Palomares are taken to Madrid each year for a medical examination as the effects of exposure on their health is tracked.

They have never been given any of the results of the tests nor informed if any illnesses they develop were related to their exposures. They are subjects, not participants in the gathering and assessing of the effects of radiation on their bodies.

There is no doubt that such studies contribute data to our understanding of the health consequences of radiation exposures (the data itself is contentious for reasons that I won’t go into here), however for those from whom the information is gathered, being studied but not informed reduces ones sense of integrity and agency in one’s own health maintenance.

Many Pacific islanders exposed to radiation by the nuclear tests of the US, the UK and France had such experiences where they were examined and then sent off with no access to the results. Many report feeling as if the data had been harvested from them.

Anxieties belittled

Often the first thing that those exposed to radiation are told is that they have nothing to worry about. Their anxieties are belittled.

Radiation is a very abstract and difficult thing to understand. It is imperceptible – tasteless, odorless, invisible – adding to uncertainty that people feel about whether they were exposed, how much they were exposed to, and whether they and their loved one’s will suffer any health effects.

The dismissal of their anxieties by medical and governmental authorities only compounds their anxiety. When other members of their community develop health problems, such as thyroid cancer and other illnesses years later it can cast a pall over their own sense of wellbeing for the rest of their lives.

Every time that they run a fever, every time that they experience pain in their stomachs, nosebleeds, and other common ailments this anxiety rears up and they think – this is it, it’s finally got me. These fears extend to their parents, their children and other loved ones. Every fever that their child runs triggers horrible fears that their child will die.

Sadako was healthy for nine years following her exposure to radiation when she was two years old in Hiroshima. Then suddenly her neck began to swell and she was soon diagnosed with leukemia. This is the nightmare world that the parents of children exposed to radiation experience on a daily basis. Every ailment can rip them apart.

Radiophobia and ‘blaming the victim’ Radiophobia and ‘blaming the victim’

Iit is often the case that who is and isn’t exposed to radiation, especially to internalized alpha emitting particles, is unknown. So large numbers of people near a nuclear detonation, a nuclear production plant, a nuclear power plant accident, a uranium mining location and countless other sources of exposure to radiation worry about their health and the health of their loved ones.

Among this group, some have been exposed and some have not. The uncertainty is part of the trauma. Often, as is currently the case for the people of Northern Japan, all of these people are dismissed as having undue fear of radiation, and are often told that their health problems are the result of their own anxieties. In some cases that may well be true but it is beside the point.

For those who have experienced some radiological catastrophe – who may have been removed from their homes and communities and lost those bonds and support systems, who are uncertain as to whether each flu or stomach ache is the harbinger of the end, and who cannot be certain that contamination from hard to find alpha emitting particles is still possible when their children play in the park – anxiety is the natural response.

Even if it does cause health problems, it is not their fault: forces outside of their control have upended their lives and they now must live a life of uncertainty and often experience discrimination.

Of course they are going to suffer from the anxiety that this situation produces. To blame them for this is to blame the victims in the situation and is a further form of traumatization.

Their lives will be divided in two parts – before, and after

Radiation makes people invisible. It makes them second class citizens who no longer have the expectation of being treated with dignity by their government, by those overseeing nuclear facilities near to them, by the military and nuclear industry engaged in practices that expose people to radiation, and often by their new neighbors when they become refugees.

People exposed to radiation often lose their homes, either through forced removal or through contamination that makes living in them dangerous.

They lose their livelihoods, their diets, their communities, and their traditions. They can lose the knowledge base that connects them to their land and insures their wellbeing.

Radiation can cause health problems and death, and even when it doesn’t it can cause devastating anxiety and uncertainty that can become crippling. Often those exposed to radiation are blamed for all of the problems that follow their exposures.

After a nuclear disaster we count the victims in terms of those who died – but they are only a small fraction of the people who are truly victimized by the event. Countless more suffer the destruction of their communities, their families, and their wellbeing. The devastation that a nuclear disaster truly wreaks is unknowable.

The lives of those exposed to radiation, or those in areas affected by radiation but uncertain about their exposures, will never be the same. As Natalia Manzurova, one of the ‘liquidators’ at Chernobyl said in an interview published two months after the Fukushima triple meltdowns:

“Their lives will be divided into two parts: before and after Fukushima. They’ll worry about their health and their children’s health. The government will probably say there was not that much radiation and that it didn’t harm them. And the government will probably not compensate them for all that they’ve lost. What they lost can’t be calculated.”

Radiation victims of a nuclear catastrophe become “un-persons”

February 2, 2015

When life becomes a shadow – after nuclear catastrophe, Ecologist Robert Jacobs 8th April 2014 Those caught up in nuclear disasters suffer many times over, writes Robert Jacobs. Ill-health and early death aside, they are also cut off from their former communities, identities and family life, and the victims of social and medical discrimination. Radiation makes people invisible. We know that exposure to radiation can be deleterious to one’s health; can cause sickness or even death when received in high doses.

But it does more. People who have been exposed to radiation, or even those who suspect that they have been exposed to radiation that never experience radiation related illnesses may find that their lives are forever changed – that they have assumed a kind of second class citizenship.

They may find that their relationship to their families, to their communities, to their hometowns, to their traditional diets and even traditional knowledge systems have become broken. They often spend the remainder of their lives wishing that they could go back, that things would become normal.


They slowly realize that they have become expendable and that their government and even their society is no longer invested in their wellbeing.

As a historian of the social and cultural aspects of nuclear technologies I have spent years working in radiation-affected communities around the world.

Many of these people have experienced exposure to radiation from nuclear weapon testing, from nuclear weapon production, from nuclear power plant accidents, from nuclear power production or storage, or, like the people in the community that I live, in Hiroshima, from being subjected to direct nuclear attack.

For the last five years I have been working with Dr. Mick Broderick of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia on the Global Hibakusha Project. We have been working in radiation-affected communities all around the world. In our research we have found a powerful continuity to the experience of radiation exposure across a broad range of cultures, geographies, and populations.

Fukushima – the victims’ future is all too predictable

About half way between beginning this study and this present moment the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi happened here in Japan.

One of the most distressing things (among so many) since this crisis began is to hear so many people, often people in positions of political power and influence say that the future for those affected by the nuclear disaster is uncertain.

I wish that it were so, but there is actually a deep historical precedence that suggests that the future for the people of Tohoku is predictable.

In this short article I will outline some continuities to the experiences of radiation-affected people. Most of the following is also true for people who merely suspect that they have been exposed to radiation, even if they never suffer any health effects.

Many have already become a part of the experiences of those affected by the Fukushima disaster. There are, of course, many differences and specificities to each community, but there is also much community……..