The Nuclear Challenge (6): 70 Years After Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Fukushima and Beyond

30 Aug

 

The terrifying nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011 associated with the reactor meltdowns, hydrogen explosion, and release of radioactivity at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor complex was an anguishing complement to the awful collective memories of the Japanese people arising from the atomic attacks seven decades ago. We can only wonder about the lingering effects on the Japanese national psyche of being twice so severely victimized by the diabolical power of the atom?

 

Fukushima was an exemplary tragedy of this new century, exhibiting the destructive force of nature in lethal interaction with the Promethean embrace of nuclear technology, a gigantic earthquake causing oceanic fury in the form of a massive tsunami engulfing Fukushima and surrounding areas, and causing the terrible nuclear accident, with its long-lasting harmful effects. And it could have been worse. Had the winds been blowing in the direction of Tokyo as many as 30 million people would have been exposed to high density radiation, causing severe harm and immeasurably great anxieties as well as increasing the incidence of cancer, infant mortality, and genetic defects.

 

According to recent assessments, an estimated 2,000 persons died due to the disruptive effects of the accident among the 160,000 evacuated from Fukushima to avoid further exposure to the high radiation levels, occasioning an upsurge of suicides and a range of serious mental disorders, including many victims of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD) and thyroid cancer, fears of contaminated food, and projections of 5,000 eventual fatal cancers. [For details see Ian Fairlie, “Fukushima: Thousands Have Already Died: Thousands More Will Die,” Counterpunch, August 20, 2015] The economic damage resulting from these events, including the lengthy and costly cleanup, are estimated at between $300 and $500 billion. There was also evidence that the management of Fukushima Daiichi, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) bears significant responsibility for what has been called a ‘human-induced catastrophe’ due to ‘regulatory capture’ (the Japanese government adopting the corporate outlook rather than protecting the public) that produced corruption, collusion, and nepotism, which undermined compliance with safety standards. Whether these failures were responsible for causing the disaster, or more plausibly, the inability to contain the damage, remains contested.

 

Naoto Kan, the Japanese prime minister in 2011 reacted to the Fukushima by opposing any further reliance on nuclear power to meet Japanese energy needs.

Mikhail Gorbachev, who had been the Soviet leader at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in 1986, the only comparable event to Fukushima, also expressed his subsequent opposition to nuclear energy. Yet, the dominant official reactions in Japan are consistent with the presuppositions built into the political consciousness of modernity as shaped by neoliberal capitalism: no matter what, don’t depart from the path of capital efficiency; trust always in the self-corrective capacities of technology; and stress the social costs of alternatives, especially if small-scale, local, and capital non-intensive.

 

The current Japanese leadership under the conservative prime minister Shinzō Abe favors reopening nuclear plants in Japan, which had been shut down, as soon as they are approved as having adopted revised safety measures and procedures, and indeed announces plans to rely on nuclear power for 20-22% of the country’s energy needs by 2030. This policy is based on studies that conclude that nuclear power is cheaper than all other energy sources and ignores the opposition of the majority of the Japanese public to future reliance on nuclear power. As with decisions pertaining to nuclear weaponry, the determination of policy on nuclear power reflects the priorities of political and economic elites rather than the preferences of the affected society or the weight of morality and public opinion, not only in Japan, but worldwide, a gigantic gap in democratic political practice.

 

Prior to Fukushima there was a growing enthusiasm for nuclear power as a partial antidote to global warming. A widely publicized MIT/Harvard study in 2003 (“The Future of Nuclear Energy”) concluded that “the nuclear option should be retained precisely because it is an important carbon-free source of power.” This conclusion was reached after a decent interval had passed since the impact of the Chernobyl disaster, and memories of the American accident at Three Mile Island (1979) had faded, and supposedly improved safety procedures would were installed to ensure the avoidance of such future mishaps. Surrounding nuclear energy since its inception has been a variety of debates about whether the release of low-level radiation causes damage to human health. There are also serious economic and safety issues associated with the absence of any permanently reliable manner of disposing of nuclear waste, which has been accumulating over the years.

 

Further in the background is the linkage between the proclaimed benefits of nuclear energy as juxtaposed against the dangers associated with the existence of nuclear weapons. This distinction was central to the double bargain stuck in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (1970), as outlined in Article IV:

“1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.

  1. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also co-operate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.”

 

In effect, the deceptive double bargain is this as operative in 2015: first, all but the nine weapons states are expected to forego nuclear weapons in exchange for one broken promise (Article VI’s obligatory commitment to seek nuclear disarmament along with a more ambitious outreach to general demilitarization) and secondly, a snare and delusion (Article IV as the sorcerer’s apprentice dangerously luring governments to seek and enjoys the benefits of nuclear energy without any appreciation or recognition of its ominous dark sides). As the recent diplomacy with Iran has memorably illustrated, this supposedly unrestricted availability and accessibility of nuclear power is manipulated by geopolitical forces. The justificiation for this manipulationis the unavoidable connections between the energy side of the nuclear equation and the weapons side. What is more apparent, and contrary to the language of Article IV, is the discriminatory ways in which access to supposedly peaceful uses of nuclear energy and its technology has been implemented. Countries such as Germany and Japan have long had the technologies and stockpiles of enrichment that Iran is prohibited from possessing.

 

Against this background, it would seem that several conclusions follow:

–for Japan, already disproportionately victimized by the onset of the nuclear age, seems to be imprudently and immorally ignoring the opposition of its own citizenry, and planning a future increased reliance on nuclear technology to meet its energy needs;

–one way of signaling a serious intention to shift from the existing managerial approach to nuclear weapons and nuclear power would be to phase out reliance on nuclear energy as Germany did unilaterally at considerable cost in reaction to Fukushima on the basis of enlightened self-interest;

–there seems to be no way that deep nuclear disarmament can occur as a result of international diplomacy without a parallel process that involves phasing out the nuclear energy option for all countries;

–the Article IV approach in the NPT context misleadingly posits nuclear energy, and related technology transfer, as a partial reward for renouncing the right to acquire nuclear weaponry rather tempting non-nuclear states to accept an additional high risk burden;

–there can be no persuasive and durable normative distinction drawn between the permissibility of nuclear power and impermissibility of nuclear weaponry; a convincing moral, political, and legal repudiation of nuclearism should encompass both the weaponry and the energy dimensions of nuclear capabilities .

13 Responses to “The Nuclear Challenge (6): 70 Years After Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Fukushima and Beyond”

  1. rediscover911com August 30, 2015 at 6:28 am #

    March 10, 2010, exactly one year to the day prior to the ‘earthquake’ and tsunami, Japan issued this statement: http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/announce/2010/3/0311_01.html

    “The Government of Japan deplores the decisions of the Government of Israel to give permission for the construction of 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem in addition to 112 units in West Bank just after the Israeli and Palestinian leadership’s acceptance of the start of indirect talks. The Government of Japan does not recognize any act that prejudges the final status of Jerusalem and the territories in the pre-1967 borders. Japan demands that the plans should not be implemented. ”

    “The Government of Japan continues to request strongly that both parties will act in a way that enhances mutual confidence. Japan sincerely hopes that the indirect talks in the peace process will swiftly develop into the resumption of direct talks between the two parties.”

    There are three other ‘coincidences’ which provide a basis for investigating the earthquake and tsunami as having been man-made, HAARP, SBX-1, MAGNA DSP, STUXNET, gun-type nukes, and a number of other piece parts to the puzzle lead me to conclude that Japan was severely punished for its openly expressed viewpoints about Israel and its proxy, the U.S.

    See Jim Stone’s research and ReDiscover911.com

  2. rediscover911com August 30, 2015 at 6:29 am #

    March 10, 2010, exactly one year to the day prior to the ‘earthquake’ and tsunami, Japan issued this statement: http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/announce/2010/3/0311_01.html

    “The Government of Japan deplores the decisions of the Government of Israel to give permission for the construction of 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem in addition to 112 units in West Bank just after the Israeli and Palestinian leadership’s acceptance of the start of indirect talks. The Government of Japan does not recognize any act that prejudges the final status of Jerusalem and the territories in the pre-1967 borders. Japan demands that the plans should not be implemented. ”

    “The Government of Japan continues to request strongly that both parties will act in a way that enhances mutual confidence. Japan sincerely hopes that the indirect talks in the peace process will swiftly develop into the resumption of direct talks between the two parties.”

    There are three other ‘coincidences’ which provide a basis for investigating the earthquake and tsunami as having been man-made, HAARP, SBX-1, MAGNA DSP, STUXNET, gun-type nukes, and a number of other piece parts to the puzzle lead me to conclude that Japan was severely punished for its openly expressed viewpoints about Israel and its proxy, the U.S.

    See Jim Stone’s investigative reports about Fukushima.

    • Gene Schulman August 30, 2015 at 8:44 am #

      Why did you find it necessary to post this comment twice? For emphasis? Your conspiracy theory about Israel’s possible role in the Fukushima disaster is difficult enough to read only once.

      Can you provide a link to Jim Stone’s reports?

    • Kata Fisher August 30, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

      I do not feel good about this because of the earth quakes that are of different strengths. Also, man-made agents could be lost anywhere.

    • Laurie Knightly September 1, 2015 at 9:48 am #

      Rediscover; It’s doubtful that many people could evaluate the science or degree of compelling motivation on the part of Israel suggested here. Valid, however, is that Stuxnet did damage the nuclear installation in Iran, Israel has bombed foreign reactors, and that these systems are dangerous and vulnerable beyond comprehension. Fukishima should have been enough for that realization and it is not beyond reason to consider that technology could be used to instigate an extreme disaster or that there are people willing/ eager to do so for evil/hypocritical/power-mad/vengeance, strategic, etc reasons.

      Jim Stone’s pictorial reports are easy to access. Not easy to comprehend. In our present world, suspicion, however, is justified/deserved. I’m assuming that your double entry above was just a glitch by you or them. Some of us have been unable to get comment notice so there are some problems here.

    • rehmat1 September 1, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

      Canadian daily The Globe And Mail reported on July 5, 2012 that a recent Japanese parliamentary panel has claimed that the nuclear accident at Fukushima was “man-made disaster” and not only due to tsunami.

      “It is clear that this accident was a man-made disaster. Governments, regulatory authorities and Tokyo Electric Power lacked a sense of responsibility to protect people’s lives and society,” the Diet’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission said on Thursday.

      In February 2010, Japan offered to enrich uranium for the Islamic Republic. Soon thereafter, an Israeli firm by the name Magna BSP, headed by Haim Siboni, secured a contract to run security at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Last year, Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that Magna BSP was providing security for the nuclear plant prior to the disaster. In 2010, the firm installed security system “which included cameras and a warning system, enabling the facilitiy’s security staff to monitor anyone attempting to trespass onto the site or damage the parameter fence. The security system was designed to guard the plant against any hostile elements seeking to seize radioactive material to use in a terrorist attack,” reported Ha’aretz.

      Former NSA analyst and freelance journalist, Jim Stone, argues that there was no mag 9.0 earthquake. The Tsunami was caused by nuclear bombs in the Sea and the Fukushima explosion and meltdown was by mini-nukes hidden in cameras installed by the Israeli security firm. The motive: to punish Japan for offering to enrich Iranian uranium and straying from Illuminati (mostly Jewish) dictat. Watch a video below.

      Since releasing his report and making several radio appearances to support it, Jim Stone, who was planning to convert to Judaism, has been harassed, threatened, unlawfully detained, and is currently facing prison time on completely trumped-up charges.

      http://rehmat1.com/2012/07/07/israel-and-fukushima-nuclear-disaster/

      • Kata Fisher September 1, 2015 at 7:50 pm #

        A note:

        It said “This video does not exist”. Do you have another one. I would like to understand what he said.

      • Laurie Knightly September 2, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

        Rehmati: I didn’t see any accusations of sabotage in the commission reports. They did cite both flawed prep and response, however. ‘Man-made disaster’ from omission not commission. Have I missed something?

        In my area, we have the Hanford nuclear mess which Scientific American described as too dangerous for a cleanup process. A review of this alone, should be enough to convince the public about going nuclear – neither weapons nor energy. You can’t dispose of the waste – end of discussion.

  3. Beau Oolayforos August 30, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

    Dear Professor Falk,
    Thanks for the good news that Germany has shown the way by phasing out nuclear power. ‘At considerable cost’ – possibly, but only in the short term – their enlightened self-interest will pay dividends as time goes on, for themselves and as an example to the world; while the multinational corporatocracy fights the movement tooth & nail.

  4. Laurie Knightly September 1, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    There’s considerable merit in a review of the WW2 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One should also review the atrocities of the Japanese, however, with more than casual reference. In my own life was a survivor of the Bataan March and a prisoner of Japan who had his toenails removed. The men conscripted for that war are then and now unduly trivialized. There is no cruelty nor weapon in existence that the Japanese or Germans would have been unwilling to use against their adversaries. If either Germany or Japan had possessed atomic weaponry, we would have a much more sordid history today. In the hands of dictators, emperors, and the like, there is no latitude. It is often remarked that the Japanese were ready to capitulate, but was that trustworthy? Had the Japanese earned such a dangerous trust? Too much would have rested on the good will of the dedicated partner of yet unsurrendered Germany.

    Also, I have displayed, in front of recruitment centers, pictures of American soldiers who had IED’s blown up in their faces and bodies torn apart. Many parts of the world still live with this danger long after the wars end. The US, moreover, has not signed into either the cluster bomb nor land mine treaty. There must be a sinister reason for this. We still have a large supply of chemical weapons albeit being destroyed. And we have foreign prisoners who have been tortured and are still held without charge – plus assassinations of groups by drones. The US is currently responsible for considerable death and destruction in the world – administered under false pretenses and producing nothing but more war.

    Yes, a reminder about the repercussions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has considerable merit as reason to eliminate such weaponry – if that is possible. But it should rest there – without speculation and moral/legal judgment formed by present thinking and event isolation. What is more worthy of study/judgment is the empire building of European countries that preceded that war and justifiably enraged the seemingly less powerful nations. And now the US is in that same position.

  5. rehmat1 September 3, 2015 at 9:20 am #

    Laurie Knightly – did you check Globe and Mail archives? I can assure you the newspaper is not owned by Iran’s Press TV.

    However, I never have a problem with people who prefer to live in their self-built sewage.

    BTW. Dr. Falk, kiddo for signing petition for Alison Weir’s “Freedom of Press” like Charlie Hebdo.

    https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1oyHWpfZtMvDez5XThztcbRMbgzQqMnCibkVk4Rjh3Hw/viewform

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