Vladimir Slivyak from the Russian NGO EcoDefense and Harvey Wasserman, an American senior editor and columnist discuss the horrendous situation in Japan where over 48 per cent of some 360,000 young people have recently been identified as suffering from pre-cancerous thyroid abnormalities.
39 months after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, only now are the Japanese authorities getting round to organising extensive health checks. Despite the fact that incidences of cancer are up about 40 times, Japan’s prime minister is to attempting to restart his country’s nuclear programme. The general worldwide trend seems to be in favour of replacing nuclear power with renewable energy, according to Vladimir Slivyak. According to this point of view, prime minister Shinzo Abe’s nuclear programme can be seen as an anomaly rather than a movement, however not everybody agrees.
How accurate is the research carried out by Japanese authorities?
Harvey Wasserman: Very accurate. The Fukushima Medical University is a private institution but it gets Government money. It is one of the few independent agencies that’s been looking into the health effects of the Fukushima accident. One thing the nuclear power industry has been very good at over the past decades, is not studying the health impacts of nuclear power.
And in this case we have an independent institution which is gathering data. The study has been involving somewhat more than 400 000 local children. And there have been results that have come in from about a quarter of million. We’ve had a 40 times the normal thyroid cancer death rate and a 40 times the normal or thereabout thyroid abnormality rate; cysts and tumors and other problems with the thyroid among children. And that number of going up, as you would expect, because the Iodine that came out of Fukushima affected people, but the effects continue to spread out over time and we expect the situation to get worse.
Has there been a press clampdown on information surrounding children’s’ cancer rates? As far as I can see, over the last 8-12 months there’s been hardly anything at all about this in any of the mainstream press all over the world.
Harvey Wasserman: Right, it is actually the corporate press that is refusing to cover this. There has been some coverage among the websites, like the one I edit – nukefree.org, and especially now, after net neutrality goes away, this coverage won’t get anywhere. The reality is that the corporate media has clamped down entire on this.
And, of course, in Japan, with the support of the American Government, the very pro-nuclear Shinzo Abe regime has passed a State Secrets Act, where you are actually in jeopardy for your health and safety if you publish facts about the damage from Fukushima.
So, this is a serious situation. And we know that the Soviet Union and the old Soviet Union states – Belarus and Ukraine – have not been particularly forthcoming about what was happening either. The corporate nuclear industry with its power within the corporate media does a very good job of suppressing the health data that shows the damage and, of course, the denials are automatic and extremely well-funded.
And I gather that the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation is issuing reports which also seem to downplay, or not mention at all, the problems connected with the humans after the Fukushima accident.
Harvey Wasserman: No, the UN is actually a very pro-nuclear organization. You have the UN and the IAEA which actually promote nuclear power and they have an agreement with the World Health Organization, where the promoters of the nuclear power at the UN sensor any finding about Fukushima and other nuclear accident.
Last November 7th I presented with a grassroots organization 150 000 signatures to the UN, to Ban Ki-moon – the Secretary General – asking that a world body take over the situation at Fukushima and deal with the ongoing disaster. And we have never got a response. 150 000 signatures personally delivered to Ban Ki-moon’s office and no response whatsoever.
Why are some governments planning to restart nuclear reactors?
Harvey Wasserman: What is happening now is that the effects of the Fukushima accident have really been felt in Japan, and the people have responded by forcing to shutdown 54 reactors in Japan.
The Daily Mail has just published an article that the Prime Minister of Japan has revealed the new basic energy plan that will push to bring the country’s 48 reactors back on line, if they pass certain safety tests. Isn’t this the same thing as saying – forget about this problem, we are going back into nuclear power in a big way?
Harvey Wasserman: Shinzo Abe – the current Prime Minister of Japan – he actually ran for office pledging to curtail nuclear power, and then, of course, turned around and betrayed that promise. And so, he is pushing nuclear power right now and we know that this is a problem.
Vladimir Slivyak: One thing I have to mention is that through the last decade the share of nuclear power was not growing. And actually, if you take Europe, the share of nuclear power was dropping. And on the world-wide level nuclear power is generating less and less electricity, especially after Fukushima.
I wouldn’t say that there is a very good prospective for nuclear power worldwide. Of course, they are trying to fight back. Of course, nuclear power industry is trying to push Japan to restart their reactors. You know that there are big companies demanding from the governments to provide them with cheaper electricity that would be from renewable sources of energy, they say.
But still, in the end, what we see is that the share of nuclear power is dropping. Most of the reactors across the world are getting too old and in the visible future will be shut down. I wouldn’t say that nuclear power has such a good chance for development.
Harvey Wasserman: Let me point out that what is happening in Germany is extremely important. Vladimir is exactly right. But the model now that is coming out of Germany, is that the decision has been made to completely replace nuclear energy as well as, ultimately, fossil fuels with renewable energy. And we are in the midst of a huge technological revolution where green renewable power – wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, biofuels and all that stuff – has become extremely cost-effective and cheaper than nuclear, and even cheaper than coal.
Would you agree that it is basically too expensive to reopen these reactors in Japan?
Vladimir Slivyak: When you calculate all the costs associated with the nuclear power, you understand that it is way-way expensive, especially talking about storing nuclear wastes for thousands of years ahead. Also, of course, it depends on the economic system in a specific country, but, basically, the nuclear power industry doesn’t pay for the harm it produces and is using really high subsidies to sell their energy cheap. So, I would say we really have to work for identifying a fair price for different types of energy. And once there is a fair and real price, where all the costs are calculated, then we can see what is expensive and what is not.