Fukushima, Year 5, and Counting...
It has been an enraging and often saddening five years to watch all of this play out from here in Japan. If Fukushima has underscored anything over these past five years, it is the supreme lesson for countries on how not to handle a nuclear catastrophe. Both the operator of the crippled nuclear power plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and the government of Japan have failed in so many ways to effectively deal with the situation at Fukushima and the failures just seem to keep piling up.
Where do things stand with Fukushima after five years? The outlook is grim at best:
Evacuees — Exact numbers are hard to come by but according to one estimate, around 165,000 Fukushima residents fled their homes immediately after the disaster. Of those, more than 97,000 residents have not yet returned home despite the government’s ongoing push to get them moving back again. The evacuees are living in temporary shelters, with relatives in other parts of Japan, or simply on their own in places that are not familiar to them. The evacuees seem to be unmoved by the continuous assurances of the government that radiation levels are low enough now for them to go back home. Plans are also afoot for the Japanese government to begin cutting off social welfare support for immediate victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Decommissioning — The uranium fuel in three of Fukushima’s six reactors had melted down in the accident, and the resulting explosions blew open the roofs of three reactor buildings. This released radioactive cesium, iodine and other fission elements over the sea and land around the Fukushima plant. Water was poured into the damaged reactor buildings using fire hoses, and the highly radioactive water flowed directly into the Pacific Ocean. So, sea, sky and land have all been hit hard by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
TEPCO has managed to clean up the Fukushima accident site to some degree by capping the exposed roofs, removing the spent fuel from a damaged reactor and putting experimental “ice walls” in the ground to block the flow of groundwater that was washing contamination from the site into the Pacific Ocean. TEPCO is still pumping massive amounts of water through the highly radioactive and overheated reactor buildings, and collecting as much of that water as possible and storing the water on site in about 1,000 tanks. But the available space for those tanks is running out and there is a big question of what will be done when the space is gone — not to mention the problem of contaminated water leaking from some of those storage tanks.
The biggest problem, however, remains the issue of how to locate the molten nuclear fuel and other debris at the site that melted down in the accident — and how to get it out of there eventually. The core remains so radioactive and so hot today, five years after the initial meltdown, that no human can go near it; efforts to use robots to do the job have not been wholly successful either.
Conservative estimates place the full decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant as being completed some time around the year 2060, well beyond most of our lifetimes. As for the molten nuclear fuel at the Fukushima site, prospects for that being completely removed by the expected date of 2020, four years from now, are looking increasingly slim. But if it can be accomplished, it will be just in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics to be hosted in Tokyo.
Olympics — The world’s most populated city, Tokyo, is located just 240 kilometers (150 miles) from the Fukushima nuclear accident site. Plans are underway for some of the Olympic-related facilities to be based in areas around Fukushima Prefecture where the government insists radiation levels are no longer a problem. One Japanese government minister even recently announced his hope that some of the actual Olympic sporting events will be held in Fukushima. Whether or not Olympic athletes from around the world, like Japanese evacuees, will have a problem with spending time in the Fukushima area remains to be seen.
Decontamination — The cleanup of evacuated areas around the Fukushima accident site has not gone smoothly either. Massive amounts of radioactive topsoil and other solid waste resulting from the disaster needed to be gathered and hauled away from homes, schools, streets and playgrounds in the evacuation zone, which extends about 50 kilometers or so northwest of the Fukushima accident site.
The result: millions of big garbage bags full of contaminated soil and debris. For now, those garbage bags are being stored out in the open and near roadsides in neatly arranged piles, exposed to the elements. A permanent storage area for all this contaminated waste has not yet been found; most Japanese residents in the area do not want such a radioactive storage site anywhere near their backyards. As if that were not bad enough, about 800 bags of radioactive waste got carried off by a typhoon in 2015 and were deposited miles away by river currents. Hundreds more of the bags of contaminated waste reportedly went missing and unaccounted for in the typhoon.
Court cases — There has been no shortage of lawsuits of various kinds against TEPCO and the government since the Fukushima accident, mostly by citizens directly affected by the Fukushima nuclear accident and the resulting evacuation. But perhaps the most significant of the court cases since then was the indictment in late February 2016 of three former TEPCO officials for failing to take the proper safety measures that might have prevented the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. The indictments, initially rejected by prosecutors, were forced through by a civilian judicial panel, marking the first time that TEPCO officials were held legally responsible for the Fukushima nuclear accident. The trial is expected to start sometime in 2017 and the three indicted officials will most likely plead not guilty.
Operation Tomodachi — One lawsuit against TEPCO that has received comparatively less exposure in Japan’s news media is one filed by U.S. military personnel involved in disaster relief efforts and humanitarian assistance to Japan soon after the 2011 nuclear accident in Japan. As part of that effort, dubbed “Operation Tomodachi” (tomodachi being the Japanese word for “friend”), U.S. sailors aboard the battleship USS Ronald Reagan, situated off the coast of Fukushima, were exposed to high levels of radiation that were carried by the wind out to sea.
Some of those U.S. sailors eventually filed a lawsuit against TEPCO, claiming that radiation from Fukushima has caused them severe health problems, including cancers, tumors and brain defects. As of 2015, the number of U.S. sailors who had joined the class-action lawsuit against TEPCO stood at around 200. TEPCO has denied any responsibility for the sailors’ health issues, and the Pentagon, for its part, has also dismissed any link between the sailors’ health problems and the Fukushima nuclear accident. The lawsuit continues making its way through the legal system in the U.S. as of this writing.
Health impacts — The impact of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the health of people and nature in Japan has been a subject of great concern as well. Some studies of the effects of radiation from the Fukushima accident have found symptoms of radiation effects in Japanese forests where fallout from Fukushima was spread through the air, including genetic defects in some birds, insects, plants and trees.
The health effects on humans have been a lot more controversial: Some studies in and outside Japan have linked a rise in cancer rates with Fukushima, while other studies — including one by the United Nations — have downplayed the radiation effects from Fukushima on people.
One fact that seems to be beyond dispute at this point is a detectable rise in thyroid cancer rates among Japanese children from the Fukushima area. That cancer rate is certain to keep rising in the future as the radiation symptoms appear more clearly. But for now, there is a hesitancy — some say due to official pressure from the authorities — for medical doctors in Japan to make a clear and decisive link between Fukushima and human health effects.
So, that is where we stand with Fukushima after five saddening, enraging years: still taking the first steps on a road that will continue on long after most of us reading this are dead and gone.
The tragedy of Fukushima will, for all the progress made in dealing with it so far, be passed on to the next generation and the next and the next down the line. It will become their problem to deal with, and if future generations someday look back to 2011 and harshly blame us for what we have done to this planet, they will be fully within their rights to do so.
Fukushima has been nothing less than a crime against humanity, against nature, and indeed, a crime against the perpetuation of life itself. And no apologies or excuses on our parts will ever change that.
Where is the People’s Tribunal on Fukushima?
I sat transfixed in the audience of a public hall in the downtown Japanese city of Kyoto, astonished that such a scene was playing out right before me. On stage there were prosecuting attorneys representing the public, defense attorneys representing the three leaders on trial and a procession of witnesses — including some Iraqi exiles who had come all the way to Japan just to testify about the tragedy befalling their country. (text here • photos here)
The news media in Japan, in what little coverage they gave of this event, called it a “mock trial” since there was no real power of subpoena, no real court in session, and of course, the three leaders — Bush, Blair and Koizumi — were not in attendance and were being judged in absentia.
But the “International Criminal Tribunal for Iraq”, as it was officially known, was not “mocking” anything. On the contrary, it was demonstrating something very powerful: that ordinary citizens in the nations of the world are not helpless and not voiceless when it comes to a crime of international proportions, as the invasion of Iraq most certainly was. Since the United Nations or the legal systems of the wealthiest nations would not dare to try world leaders for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, the citizens themselves would do it. This was “people power” in the flesh.
On a global level, a series of public sessions of a “World Tribunal on Iraq” (WTI) were held in several cities around the globe, with the Kyoto tribunal being just one part of that movement. At the end of it all, indictments against the U.S. and British governments were handed down, and the tribunal proceedings were collected and compiled in a book that was published in 2008. The final judgment of the WTI: Bush and Blair — guilty as charged of war crimes and of crimes against humanity.
Now in 2015, four years after the earthquake/tsunami that hit Japan, resulting in arguably the worst nuclear accident of all time, I look at the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident and wonder: What aren’t we doing the same thing with Fukushima that we did with Iraq? Where is the people’s tribunal on Fukushima?
If the people of the world could rise up in righteous anger and seek justice for the illegal invasion and occupation of sovereign nations, like they did with Iraq and Afghanistan, then surely we could do the same thing for the planet as a whole. After all, there is not one part of this globe that hasn’t been untouched by the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. The initial accident spewed radioactive fallout into the air over Japan that has been scattered by the four winds, and for most of these past four years, thousands of tons of highly radioactive groundwater and/or wastewater have been flowing into the Pacific Ocean and carried around the globe by the tides and currents.
If environmental damage of that magnitude is not a crime against humanity and nature, then I don’t know what is.
The company operating the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has, from the beginning, lied to and deceived both the Japanese public and the international community as to the severity of the accident. Thousands of Japanese evacuees from the affected areas around Fukushima still live in temporary housing, facing the reality that they may never get to go home again. The cleanup of affected areas is moving very slowly and it was recently announced by the government that it may take another half-century or so to fully decommission the crippled Fukushima plant.
In other words, the Fukushima crisis will continue long after most of us are dead and gone, and will be passed off to the next generation to deal with. The environmental damage caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident is permanent — lasting, at least, for as long as human life will exist on this planet.
And yet, as of today, the Japanese courts have rejected the notion of holding any one public official (or any other official) responsible for the nuclear catastrophe that is Fukushima.
Enough is enough. I say we, as ordinary working people of good conscience, now start thinking and talking about how we might organize a series of public hearings in the cities of the world that will do for Planet Earth what the public tribunals did for the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan just a few years ago: seek the truth, gather credible evidence, compile testimony for the public record and, most importantly, hold leaders in both the public and private sectors accountable.
The World Tribunal on Iraq hearings, in particular, can give us a reliable blueprint to go by in planning something similar for a Fukushima-related tribunal. Scientists from various countries and fields of specialty could be called to testify as to the actual facts and data relating to Fukushima, and nuclear whistleblowers would be encouraged to come forward with as much legal protection as could be afforded them.
Citizen evacuees in Japan could share their personal stories of suffering, and farmers in Japan and various other countries could testify to the environmental damage and tainting of food supplies due to Fukushima. Doctors and patients both inside and outside Japan could testify to the rising radiation levels and cancer rates since Fukushima. And marine biologists could testify as to the relation, if any, between the abnormally high levels of radioactive waste in the Pacific Ocean and cases in recent months of unprecedented mass beachings of sea mammals and dying off of ocean-based species here in Japan and in various regions of the world.
Officials of TEPCO, the Japanese government, the United States government (which sold Japan the nuclear technology in the first place) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — the global nuclear industry’s promotional arm — would be summoned to testify. This would be for real, not as some sort of media gimmick.
Truth and accountability to the people of the world: that would be the mandate of such a “World Tribunal on Fukushima” (WTF) or whatever you want to call it. If we can all do it for Iraq, then surely we can do it for the Earth, the common mother of us all, and for the future generations to follow us.
I, for one, would be willing to donate every spare moment I have for the rest of my days to see something like this become a reality where Fukushima is concerned. It is that important to me.
It’s time that we stopped waiting around for the truth to come down from on high about Fukushima, and started using what power we do have as citizens, individually and collectively, to really deal with this continuing crisis of environmental devastation and public deception. Will we stand together on this and move forward with some kind of citizens’ tribunal on Fukushima before any more damage is done?
You know what I think. And if your own answer to that question is “yes”, then I stand with you. Let it begin here and now — a people’s tribunal on Fukushima in which we all have a voice.
The True Face of TEPCO
But recently we have been getting a close-up look at just how arrogant the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has been in dealing with the Japanese public — and indeed the world — in this post-Fukushima age we now live in.
If there were any doubts before about TEPCO’s true face and motivations regarding the Fukushima nuclear crisis, consider some of these more recent Japanese news reports about what TEPCO is really up to and what its real priorities are:
• A story in the Mainichi newspaper a few months back revealed that in September 2011, six months after the Fukushima accident, TEPCO began making compensation payments as ordered by the Japanese government to residents in the Fukushima area who were directly affected by the nuclear accident. However, a month later, TEPCO ordered its own employees who lived in that area not to submit any such claims for compensation for the time being. Many of those TEPCO employees who did as they were told have not received one yen in compensation from the company since then.
• TEPCO announced in February that it would bypass Japanese government guidelines and stop paying any compensation to local Fukushima-area residents whose ability to work has been affected by the Fukushima accident. Starting in early 2015, such persons will no longer receive a single yen in compensation from TEPCO. The company cited an “improvement in the employment climate” of Japan generally as the reason behind the compensation cut-off.
• It was reported just this week that since 2011, TEPCO has rejected more than 20 claims for compensation by its own employees, refusing to reach any kind of out-of-court settlement. And what does the TEPCO workers’ union plan to do about that? Not a thing. “Because compensation is an issue to be handled by individuals, the union has no plans to negotiate with the company,” the union said.
• Only last month, about 100 contracted laborers who had been working for TEPCO demonstrated outside the company’s headquarters in downtown Tokyo. These are workers who were recruited by outside labor agents (and no doubt by Japanese mafia syndicates as well) to do highly dangerous work at the crippled Fukushima plant with few meaningful safety precautions and no extra monetary allowance. They claimed they were cheated by both the labor agents and TEPCO.
• And if we look a little farther back in time, we see that just a few months ago in late 2013, TEPCO refused to reimburse the government’s Environment Ministry for the more than 30 billion yen spent on decontaminating land in the Fukushima area that had been covered by radioactive fallout from the nuclear accident. The Japanese government, for its part, seemed to be going along with TEPCO’s haughty refusal to compensate Japanese taxpayers for the whole Fukushima nuclear mess.
Human resources are supposed to be a company’s most valuable asset and human citizens most definitely are what make governments work. But what happens when those very institutions turn their backs on the people who work for them and who pay taxes to public agencies to protect them? Fukushima, among many other things, has showed us some very ugly answers to such questions.
The true face of TEPCO is the face of the nuclear power industry as whole, both within and outside of Japan: the face of an arrogant, closed, almost evil profit-making system that seems drunk on its own power to make and break lives — a system that could not give a damn about human loss, human injury or human sacrifice.
There are laws on the books to prosecute and punish individual citizens for contaminating or polluting the local environment in their communities. Is it not time that we did the same to institutions like TEPCO, whose pollution has damaged the Earth’s environment possibly permanently? I, for one, would like to see these kinds of arrogant institutions and officials put on trial to directly face their accusers — the whole human race.
‘No One Will Ever Know’
☢☢☢ DANGER: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING FUKUSHIMA, YEAR 3.
HIGH RADIATION RISK AHEAD. ☢☢☢
I got a phone call one day from my boss, an overweight, middle-aged publisher of a small, weekly newspaper in my town in southern California, to go to a nearby hospital and interview some person for a story. The guy had something to say about some kind of nuclear accident, my boss said, look into it.
A young cub reporter in my early 20s, fresh to the scene and always hungry for a scoop, I called the man at the hospital and made an appointment. It was circa 1980-1981, and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania in 1979 was still a hot news topic in the United States. A nationwide grassroots anti-nuclear movement was then being born. I was curious about what the man at the hospital wanted to talk about.
On the Case
So, on the day I packed my tape recorder and notebook and set off for the hospital. My idea was to just listen to what he had to say, see if there was a story there. Sometimes it happened that when you interviewed somebody, there was no real news story at all; they just wanted to get their name and face into our fledgling little community newspaper. Sometimes a story could turn out to be a big waste of a reporter’s time.
I asked for the room number at the hospital front desk, found it and slowly entered. I looked around and saw a few beds with patients in them, wondering which person was the one I was supposed to talk to. Then, a patient sitting upright and propped up by pillows caught my eye, looking as if he had been expecting me. I walked over and, at his invitation, pulled up a chair next to his bed and nightstand. We went through the usual greetings and polite chatter. I got out my notebook, and he started to tell me his story.
He had been a worker at a nuclear power plant on the northeast U.S.-Canadian border, he said, and one day the power plant had had a major accident. The plant came within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear meltdown, he said.
The word “meltdown” was then being talked about in the U.S., thanks in great part to the popularity of the Hollywood film The China Syndrome — which, by pure coincidence, had been showing in theaters a couple weeks before the actual Three Mile Island accident occurred. The movie portrayed in detail the very same kind of accident that did happen soon after at TMI. The movie also portrayed how the news media were used to both promote nuclear power and also to cover up its very real dangers to the public.
I jotted down scattered notes and listened attentively to the hospital patient as he talked. He was dark-haired, slightly balding, maybe in his mid-40s, gaunt and a bit pale. He had hospital tubes sticking in him and hanging off his hospital bed. He spoke almost monotonously, showing little emotion, keeping his voice low as if he did not want to be overheard by the other patients in the room. He seemed to be cautious and a bit wary of me. He was clearly very ill.
A meltdown? Was it a full meltdown? I asked. No, he replied, but it came very close to being one. The nuclear power plant workers managed to get it under control at the last moment. If it had been a full meltdown, he said, it would have been a cataclysmic disaster and people living in that region in both Canada and the United States would have been helpless to escape the radioactive cloud covering their cities.
Even though the workers had saved the plant from a full meltdown, he said, lots of radiation had been still released from the plant into the atmosphere. It was still out there floating around. Some workers at the plant, in trying to save it from exploding, had also received heavy doses of radiation to their bodies. He was one of them.
Incredulous at what I was hearing and stumbling for words, I asked him, “How long do you think it will take before the public finds out about it?” The man laughed for the first and only time in the interview, apparently at my naiveté. His exact words were: “No one will ever know”. The U.S. and Canadian governments, he said, would make sure of that.
So the two governments knew about it? Sure, he said, they knew everything; they had been briefed about it immediately after the accident. But the two governments were colluding to make sure the information never got out to the public. And so far, he said, they had been successful.
Now I understood why I was there and why he wanted to talk.
We talked a while and, sensing he was becoming fatigued, I politely excused myself, thanking him for his time. We agreed to meet again in the near future. Most definitely, there was a big story here and I had so many questions that I still wanted to ask him.
Questions like: Exactly how had the accident happened, step by step? Why was he in a hospital on the opposite of the United States, far from where his nuclear plant had been located? (I wasn’t sure at that point whether he was a Canadian or U.S. citizen.) What medical condition was he suffering from and would he be recovering soon? What happened to his other co-workers at the plant? Were they sick too? Exactly what steps were being taken to cover this up by the two governments? And most importantly, why was he taking such a big risk to talk about this? Was he worried about his own personal safety?
I walked out of that hospital kind of shaken, but frankly, also excited. This had to be a Big One, the kind of story every young reporter dreams of getting and having published so that the public could know the truth and do something about it (Watergate then being a recent example). I looked forward to talking with the man again and hopefully getting his story out, even if it was in a small way through a local community newspaper like ours.
Off the Story
But it was not to be. I got another phone call from my boss at the newspaper a few days later. Forget the story about the guy at the hospital, he said, we’ve got another story for you. Work on this other one instead.
Still young and green and not wanting to make waves, I followed the editorial order. I never heard anything further about the man at the hospital and I never met him again.
But my mind was racing with questions: Why the sudden removal from the story that the publisher himself had thought was so important in the first place? After all, he was a typical Republican Party type; did this kind of potentially explosive story somehow offend his patriotic, right-wing sensibilities? Was my big story being killed before it ever saw the light of day? Or was it that the man at the hospital was too sick to talk any more? Or had he already died? And I also considered another distant possibility: Had the man at the hospital been found out as talking to the press and then somehow “neutralized” as a way of keeping him quiet? After all, Karen Silkwood, another U.S. nuclear power plant worker, had died under similar circumstances just a few years before.
I never knew what happened to the man at the hospital. And I regretted later on that I hadn’t at least questioned or challenged my boss at the paper about pulling me off the story. If I had been sneaky enough, I could even have gone back to the hospital on my own and continued pursuing the story as a freelancer and given the story to some other paper. But at the time, I did have a sense of loyalty to the small weekly newspaper that was giving me my first real job in journalism (at no pay, mind you), so I moved on as I was told.
Many years later — long after I had left the small newspaper, gone on to journalism school at university and entered the corporate media world — I found out that my former boss at that paper had been exposed by the local press as being involved in a plagiarism scam that ended up financially ruining him, breaking up his marriage and, later on, presumably contributing to his death at a relatively young age. It was a big disappointment to learn about it, but in the end I had little empathy for him. He had broken all the rules of honest journalism and paid the price for it.
But whatever things that former boss of mine did wrong (and there apparently many), one thing he did do right was this: sending me to the hospital that day to interview that dying nuclear power plant worker, for that was the story that went on to change my life and teach me a valuable firsthand lesson about not letting the story of a victim, any victim, just die in silence.
By the time the Chernobyl accident occurred in April 1986, I was myself an editor-in-chief of a small weekly community newspaper in central California and recalled the words of that nuclear plant worker at the hospital some years before. And many more years on, when the Fukushima nuclear accident happened in March 2011 and it was clear that a cover-up by the authorities here in Japan was well underway, the words came back to me again full-flush: “No one will ever know”.
The one nuclear-related news story of mine that never made into print was the one story of my career in journalism that has haunted me ever since. I’ve never forgotten that man at the hospital more than three decades ago and I don’t suppose I ever will.
I haven’t yet been to the Fukushima area to cover the scene, mostly out of respect for the victims and the media invasion they faced immediately after the accident. But when I eventually do make it to Fukushima, I’ll bring with me the memory of a dying nuclear plant worker in the U.S. and his desire to tell the truth, and make it real. I want to make sure not only that someone knows but that everyone knows — and that suppressing the truth, however it happens, will not be tolerated.
But most of all, I want to make sure that people’s wishes to tell the truth about what nuclear power has done to them and to the world will never, ever be in vain.
REMINDER: YOU ARE STILL IN FUKUSHIMA, YEAR 3.
NOT TO WORRY. NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW.
HAVE A NICE DAY.
‘On the Road to Fukushima’
The nuclear power plant meltdown at Fukushima, Japan on 11 March 2011 immediately raised a lot of questions in the Japanese and overseas press that focused on the urgency of the accident: How serious is it? What levels of radiation are being released? What precautions should people take in protecting themselves? What measures are being taken to contain the crisis?, and so on.
But as time went on, I found that there was one pressing question that the news media in Japan, in particular, seemed to be missing altogether: How did we get here?
I set out to find the answer to that question as the central focus of my chapter for the Project Censored book. Why? Because I strongly felt that if we all were going to understand what was happening at that very moment at Fukushima, and if were to understand the likely course this catastrophe would take in the future, then we would first need to understand the past. We would need to know the historical road that Japan had taken, from the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima back in 1945, all the way up to Fukushima more than 65 years later.
And so the essay I researched and wrote became “On the Road to Fukushima: The Unreported Story Behind Japan’s Nuclear-Media-Industrial Complex” — a history so full of information, covered-up facts and unreported truths that it seemed amazing even to me that such a history had not been compiled before in the news media, at least not in one place at one time.
But then again, it shouldn’t have been too surprising, since central to the history of Fukushima had been the media establishment’s role in both countries in promoting nuclear power and the “peaceful use” of atomic energy during the Cold War period following World War II. And as we all know, the news media can be kind of shy, shall we say, about reporting the dubious things that go on right within news companies and inside the news industry as a whole.
I am proud to announce that Project Censored, recognizing the critical problem of increasing censorship of media and nuclear power issues in Japan, has just republished my contributed chapter “On the Road to Fukushima” in its entirety on the Project Censored website.
That “Road to Fukushima” chapter now on the Web is preceded by a brief update/introduction by me on the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis and related press censorship issues here in Japan. You can link to both the update and the main story here.
I encourage you, first, to read both the Fukushima update and the main essay itself, if you are interested in gaining an understanding of how we got to this point at Fukushima, and why. At the same time, I also encourage you to support the important work of the nonprofit organization Project Censored by purchasing the original CENSORED 2013 book in which this Fukushima essay appeared, since there are so many other important related “censored” stories covered in the book as well. You can buy the CENSORED 2013 book here, if you so wish.
Hats off to all the good folks at Project Censored — and at the New York-based Seven Stories Press, the company that prints and distributes the yearly CENSORED books — for carrying on the torch of press freedom and for standing up for our shared right to know things that those in authority would rather keep hidden from us. In these critical times, we all have a role to play in fighting the good fight by doing whatever we can, whenever we can, in demanding to know the truth and in sharing that truth with many others.
I welcome your comments (below), whether for or against the “On the Road to Fukushima” chapter, and look forward to the chance of further extending this important discussion with readers here on this website and beyond.
Fukushima and Censorship 福島と検閲
興奮している理由は、本書に初めて、「On the Road to Fukushima: The Unreported Story Behind Japan’s Nuclear-Media-Industrial Complex」 というタイトルで寄稿したからです。私の寄稿は、日本のニュース・メディアの検閲に関する広範囲な問題と、2011年3月の福島原発事故に関するものです。
The most exciting news these past few months for me has been the recent release of the book CENSORED 2013: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-12, the latest edition of a book that is published every year by Seven Stories Press in New York. The book is compiled and organized by the media watch group Project Censored, based in northern California.
It’s exciting because I have contributed, for the first time, a new chapter to this book, titled “On the Road to Fukushima: The Unreported Story Behind Japan’s Nuclear-Media-Industrial Complex”. My chapter concerns the broad issue of news media censorship in Japan and the Fukushima nuclear accident of March 2011.
We all know the about the “military-industrial complex” in the United States and elsewhere: that close partnership between the sectors of military and industry that is responsible for the constant state of warfare that the U.S. finds itself in. I came up with the phrase “nuclear-media-industrial complex” to best describe that close relationship in Japan between the sectors of nuclear power, the media and industry in general. They are more closely linked than most of us know.
Using online newspaper archives, old printed editions of magazines, some out-of-print books and various other sources, I set out to retrace and summarize the forgotten history behind nuclear power and the news media in Japan that helped pave the way for the nuclear accident at Fukushima.
I focus in the chapter on the crucial role that Japan’s most powerful media mogul, the late Matsutaro Shoriki (former head of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper and NTV television network) played in securing nuclear power in Japan. I also cover the role of the Japanese “kisha (reporters’) club” system that acts as a self-censoring filter for much of the truth behind the political and corporate “centers of power” that the public in Japan is never informed about.
If you haven’t already read my chapter in the new CENSORED 2013 book, then I guarantee that you’re in for a few surprises. I encourage you to order your copy of the book today and find out more than you ever wanted to know about Fukushima and media censorship. By buying your copy of the book, you will also be supporting the important work of monitoring the news media in the U.S. and other countries that Project Censored has been doing for more than 30 years.
And from me personally: Thank you to all the folks at Project Censored and Seven Stories Press who put so much of their time and effort, year after year, to continuing fighting the good fight against media censorship in society. We will never know the truth if we don’t pursue it and fight for it.