FUKUSHIMA :  The Emperors New Clothes

by Christopher Arcus
copyright 2011

"Street Scene In Japan" watercolor by Erik Kaye, copyright 2011,


NOTE: It has been 2 1/2 months since the Tsnumai in Japan and the resultant disaster in Fukishima. There appears to have been a news blackout about  the ongoing events and implications of the disaster at Fukishima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan and how it affects not only Japan but also most of the world (most especially  the northern hemisphere — given the prevailing wind currents). Chris Arcus has been following the story, which despite the blackout in the normal news outlets, continues to unfold with implications that are important for all of us to pay attention to — most especially for children and  pregnant women and anyone with precarious health. See the helpful suggestions below plus links  at the bottom of the article for updated information. –Bea Garth, editor


     Everyone has by now heard of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

Many large explosions have rocked the facility, and smoke and steam have spewed continuously since. Three reactors have melted nuclear fuel into a deadly hot lava. Of six reactors at the facility, three were in operation at the time of the quake and tsunami.  At unit four, the spent fuel pool went dry and a fire started. Emergency workers and military have fought to contain the disaster, pouring water from helicopters and fire trucks. Emergency supplies and equipment have been brought in from around the world. Special one of a kind equipment with a long arm for pumping concrete have been imported to pump water from a distance. Several times, workers had to evacuate the zone to avoid radiation and because of frequent aftershocks. At unit 2, experts believe containment has been breached. Attempts at flooding the reactor have failed. Water poured in flows out into trenches which leak deadly radiation into the ocean.

Levels of radioactive Iodine 131 and Cesium have been locally excessive and have contaminated food stocks and rainwater around the world. 150,000 residents have evacuated the area, and there have been seven deaths and several injuries at the nuclear facilities.

Currently, it is virtually impossible to acquire a consumer level Geiger counter anywhere in the world. Potassium Iodide tablets are sold out. Yet it has taken a month for Japanese officials to admit that the disaster at Fukushima is at the same level as Chernobyl despite the fact that it is obvious to almost everyone else in the world.

Meanwhile, the government of Japan, as well as many other  governments around the world, are downplaying the effects of the disaster. Despite recommendations from the IAEA and the US, Japanese disaster evacuation zones were a mere 20km, (12 miles) from the nuclear power plants. The US recommended 50 miles (80 km) evacuation zone for US citizens.

In a speech in the US, the president tried to calm fears, declaring that current levels of radiation are safe —  despite statistics showing that radiation exceeds existing allowable levels by many times in rainwater, in seaweed, in fruits and vegetables, and most importantly, in milk.

During past nuclear atmospheric tests, cows were removed from fields and milk was dumped because downwind fallout contaminated the milk. This time, there are few warnings or recommendations given to the public to guard health and no milk removed despite high levels of  Iodine 131 contamination in many parts of the US such as San Francisco,  Hawaii, Idaho, and Arizona. In a rare case, officials of  Virginia gave recommendations against drinking rainwater.

The fact is, there is no safe level of radiation. All amounts of radiation are damaging to the human body.  Governments only set legally allowable levels of radiation, not health levels.

Under normal operation, nuclear power plants must routinely vent radiation. In the past, the NRC has set nuclear power plant radiation levels based on the amount of venting they needed to operate economically, not on public health. The rationale is the value of the energy versus the costs of the lives lost. {breast cancer}

Meanwhile,  in the aftermath of Fukushima, the EPA has attempted to quietly increase the allowable levels of radiation, sometimes by extreme amounts, to “allow” the levels of radiation after Fukushima.

The truth is, there are many big lies of Nuclear Power. Like global warming, there is a cadre of deniers who insist radiation is harmless or perhaps even beneficial and that the only alternative for the future is nuclear energy, despite its poor record. So let us enumerate and debunk the myths.


1)  Its below back  ground radiation levels There is no safe level of radiation, all radiation is harmful. The EPA recommends limiting exposure to diagnostic X-rays and naturally occurring radon gas. This contradicts acceptance of more radiation.
2)  I can get that much exposure from a chest X ray or an airplane flight. See 1
3) The amount of radiation in (milk) (drinking water) (rainwater) is OK because, 2 Radiation is poison.  Outside your body is one thing. Inside is another.  Radiation damage is inversely proportional to distance cubed. That means that it is millions of times deadlier when it is in your body right next to your cells. Pro nukes are fond of stating that alpha radiation can be blocked by clothing and skin. Comparing radiation outside your body to radiation you inhale or swallow is misleading. Also, a Geiger counter can measure radiation outside. Measuring radiation inside the  body is much more difficult.
Nuclear accidents are highly unlikely In a little over 60 years we have had numerous major accidents at nuclear reactors and at nuclear waste facilities, not to mention intentional releases.
How bad could it be? One little nuclear meltdown and your whole day is ruined. More like your lifetime, your grandchildren’s lifetime, ….. Nuclear contamination lasts longer than human civilisation, from thousands to millions of years. Large areas of the Ukraine and central Russia are permanently nuclear ghost zones for thousands of years. Add the area around Fukushima to that list.

But we just gotta have nukes cuz:

Global Warming Nuclear energy is too small and  too slow to affect Nuclear energy is only about 5% of energy use.  Most energy is from liquid fuels used for transportation and heating processes for buildings and industry. Electrical energy is only about 20% of the total energy and Nuclear power is on average 20% or less of electrical energy..Nuclear power takes decades to be permitted and built at great cost. Carbon is generated in mining and enriching uranium. Nobody knows how much carbon will be released disposing of nuclear waste. The existing nuclear reactors are old. 40% of existing reactors must be decommissioned in the next 20 years due to age. Not enough reactors can be built to replace those older reactors..Why trade thousands of years of  global contamination for thousands of years of global warming? What’s the point? The earth is ruined either way. Nuclear is not green.
for civilization, standard of living the myth that standard of living is tied to energy use has been around since the 70s. The idea is that the wasteful consumption in the US is necessary. Unfortunately, this little canard never dies. Back then it was used to encourage wastefulness. Since then, the incandescent light-bulb has been obsoleted and fuel economy standards have increased. No one has claimed that GDP or standard of living has suffered due to these have they?
its more reliable The PR says nuclear is operated at 85% capacity. The truth is, it is seldom over 70%. In Japan, nukes were down for 2 years due to a scandal over fudged record keeping. Many nuke plants are aging, quite a few over 40 years old. As they age, they become less reliable, and less efficient.
its baseline energy Baseline energy is an artificial concept that arose because it is difficult to throttle the amount of energy from conventional power-plants. They are either “on” or “off”. Energy demand has a daily demand with peaks during the day and lows at night. That is why demand metering creates low energy costs at night. Having power-plants in use for short times  during the day to fill peaks is wasteful of capital and resources. Wind, solar, tidal, wave power, etc. have characteristics that match those of energy demand.
wind, solar, etc. are too unreliable Offshore wind energy operated continuously in Northern Japan during the earthquake and tsunami. Far from delicate, distributed energy sources like wind are robust. The chances of an entire windfarm losing hundreds of windmills is low. During a recent powerful storm in Texas, conventional power was knocked out, but wind energy helped stabilize the grid.

 What Can I do?

1. Don’t drink milk.

          Fukushima continues spewing radiation. Radiation levels are still high; they are not dropping. Radioactive Iodine 131, Cesium 137, and Strontium 90 from Japan blows across the Pacific Ocean like invisible smoke, bringing contamination down to the grass, vegetation, and soil.  Plants absorb the rainwater. Cows and animals eat the vegetation and accumulate and concentrate it in their bodies. This concentration from background levels is called bioaccumulation, making it unhealthy.  Cows concentrate radioactive Iodine in their milk.  Large fish and animals  at the  highest levels of the food chain concentrate radiation the most. The chief concerns are Iodine 131, Cesium 137, and Strontium 90. Iodine 131 goes to your thyroid and stays there, causing thyroid cancer and hypothyroidism. Cesium accumulates in muscle and body tissue causing breast and other cancers. Cesium is eliminated from the body by sweating and normal pathways eliminating sodium and potassium. Strontium 90 is deposited permanently in the body in the bones and bone marrow causing bone cancer and leukemia. Plutonium can be breathed into the lungs or ingested causing cancer.

2. Don’t drink rainwater. 

3. Get informed:

4. Spread the word.

Categories: social and political commentry by Chris Arcus

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