2013年4月22日月曜日

REPORT FROM TOKAIMURA -One Year After the Accident-2000年に書いたJCO事故の報告


 


REPORT FROM TOKAIMURA -One Year After the Accident-

 
 
Mari Takenouchi appealing from the stage on anti-nuke.
The poster shows the victim of JCO accident.


 

“I couldn’t protect my child!” a mother cried.

 

From a speech at East Asian Women’s Forum in Taipei on September 5

By Mari Takenouchi

 

In Hiroshima A-bomb explosion, 1kg of uranium 235 was burned.  But when a nuclear power plant of 1 million kW operates, as much as 3 times of uranium 235 equivalent to Hiroshima A-bomb is burned in a single day.  If one nuclear power plant continues its operation for a year, there would be radioactive products equivalent to 1000 Hiroshima bombs stored.  You can see how horrifying if a nuclear power plant has an accident.  In Chernobyl, as much as 500 times of Hiroshima bomb radiation was emitted into the air.

 

At a uranium processing plant in a company called JCO, only one mg of uranium 235 reached critical mass due to some wrong operation.  It was 10:35 am on September 30 when the accident happened. This means that a tiny nuclear power plant without any shields suddenly appeared in the middle of the village.  According to Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center, 439 people were exposed to radiation. 2 out of the 3 workers on the site have already died.  On a weekly magazine called Shukangendai, there was a photo of one of the workers who died in this April.  His condition reminded me of victims in Hiroshima.

 

At 10:36, a monitor at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute measured the heightened neutron ray, but this information was not informed to anywhere until several days later.  At 11:19, JCO told about the possibility of criticality accident to Science and Technology Agency, which told Nuclear Safety Commission at 2:30 p.m., more than 3 hours later.  Nuclear Safety Commission gave the request to residents for evacuation at 8:06 p.m., almost 10 hours after the accident took place.  You can see how slow and inefficient the government action was to this serious accident. 

 

As for the local municipality, it was better than the central government, though of course, it wasn’t sufficient enough in the view of protecting residents.  At 11:34, 1st report came from JCO to Tokaimura Municipality through phone call.  At 12:30, 2 hours after the accident, the first announcement was made to residents from the municipality. 

 

Around 2 p.m., a worker from JCO came to the Tokaimura Municipality to ask the residents within 500 meters to be evacuated.  Regardless of this emergency proposal, since Japanese central government didn’t reply at all, Tokaimura mayor had to make his own decision before the government permission and made the announcement to evacuate people within 350 meters.  He made it from 500 meters to 350 meters since if he made 500 meters, that would include the neighboring town called Naka-machi which is under a different administration and the mayor had no right to control even under this emergency.  Thus Naka-machi residents within 350 meters of the accident site were told to be evacuated at 6:40 p.m., 8 hours from the accident.

 

At 2:30 p.m., an announcement finally reached Naka-machi including one of the elementary schools near by.  This elementary school is located only 600 meters from the accident site.  Children were told to stay indoors, not to be evacuated.  For exposure of neutron rays, staying inside concrete walls does not work at all.  Instead, people had to escape as far as possible.  Some experts from NGO are saying that residents within 1 km of the site should have been evacuated after they came up with their data.

 

The government didn’t have any sense of crisis even at this time.  At 3 o’clock, the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi told the reporters, “There seemed to have been a nuclear accident in Tokaimura.  But I am too busy choosing Ministers in the Cabinet.”  At 4 p.m., the Chief Cabinet Secretary told the reporters that the accident would be no longer as serious as before. 

 

Thus, the children of the Nakamachi elementary school were told to go home after 4pm.  Coincidentally, it started raining when children were walking back home.  Most of them didn’t carry umbrellas since it was unexpected shower on  a fine day.  Children were soaked wet with rain containing radiation.

 

A mother of one of these children, now a member of Society for the Victims of Criticality Accident, told this story at Nonuke Asia Forum in Tokaimura.  She was crying at her speech.  She continued, “My son followed what was ordered from adults.  He just simply followed it.  As a mother, I could not do anything to protect him.  The government is responsible.  But at the same time, I should have been more aware of the danger.  I AM ALSO RESPONSIBLE.  I COULD NOT PROTECT MY CHILD.  I am very scared when I think of another serious accident to be repeated in the future.  I am not confident whether I can protect my child.”

 

Only 12 hours after the accident, the central government set up a full-scale special committee and told residents within 10 km of the site to stay indoors.  Since the fission reaction did not stop and neutron rays were kept emitted, 16 workers were assigned to go to the site and worked on stopping the reaction from the middle of the night until the dawn.  Of course they knew that they were going to be exposed to radiation and they actually were.

 

The reaction continued for 20 hours emitting neutron rays, gamma rays, and radioactive materials.  As for radioactive materials, to our surprise, iodine 131 to which children are very vulnerable was coming out from the ventilator of the factory for more than 2 weeks after the accident!  Nobody sealed the outlet of the ventilator until that late.   

 

By the way, the government told the residents to go back to their houses saying it was already safe only 2 days after the accident before the actual safety was proven on a substantial basis.  In fact, the government even did not try to check for safety.

 

3 days after the accident, I got the information from a NGO which told us sodium 24 was found 3 km away from the accident site.  The factory is situated in a residential area.  There are houses just outside the fence of the factory.  This implies that all the substances containing salt were being irradiated.  This means a lot of foods were irradiated, so people who went back to their home and ate something were in danger.  Even human bodies were irradiated.  Those who are affected by the radioactive rays would be exposed to radiation from inside of their bodies, which is extremely dangerous.

 

I was truly shocked to hear this information.  I phoned Nuclear Safety Committee and asked a receptionist.  The person said, “All the members are now busy in a meeting.”  Hearing this, I screamed to the phone.  “Busy!?  What are you talking about?  Protecting the residents in the accident site right now should be the top priority, isn’t it?  I am giving you the most important information and something should be done for the residents right away!  Even delayed, the residents should be warned NOW to minimize the adverse effect from irradiated materials!  Is there anything more important than this?”  Overwhelmed by my momentum, he said he would go to the meeting room to bring somebody.  However, he came back to the phone with nobody, saying “Sorry.  Nobody can be available now.”

 

I made a second phone call to Tokaimura Municipality.  I explained what was found and asked a person who are in the consulting section to do something.  He even didn’t have ears to listen to my saying.  He was being very polite all the time but didn’t understand or pretend not to understand what I was saying and replied with answers that are completely irrelevant.  I gave up after a while since I recognized it would be just a waste of time.

 

I made a third phone call to a supermarket in Tokaimura.  I knew there was a big supermaket in that area, since I was once working for the Head Office of the supermarket.  I asked a person in the food section how much distance there is from the supermarket to the accident site.  Then the person answered, “3 km.”    “3km?  Sodium 24 was found 3 km away from the site.  This means that there is a high possibility that all the foods that contain salt can be irradiated!  If people take these foods, they can be subject to internal radiation exposure.  Are you doing something for it?  Such as returning all the foods for replacement.”  He said, “No.  I was not aware of this.  In any case, I have to consult with somebody from the Head Office.”  Nothing happened at the supermarket after that. 

 

Business went on and ordinary lives went on in that area.  I understand people’s feeling who do not want to be bothered by such a grave issue.  Everybody wants to lead an ordinary life.  It is too hard to imagine a situation where people’s lives and environment are threatened by such an invisible uncontrollable source. 

 

However, ignoring the facts, trying not to see the truth would even make the things worse.  I believe we should do what we can do at the earliest possible stage even though that would bring enormous pains.  In doing this, there are no boundaries, such as the government or NGO, as private sector or public sector, organization or individuals.  Anybody who realized the danger should initiate an action.  I find out that many people, particularly public officials, do not want to take responsibilities for such heavy issues and this kind of mindset makes people blind to see what are the priorities and what kind of actions to be taken and also greatly slow down the process of actions.  In a way, we NGOs or individuals have to help them for tackling these kind of difficult and urgent problems.

 

After the accident, there are some residents who are still suffering from various kinds of illness, such as skin pain, rushes, stomach troubles, sore throat, nausea, sleep disturbances, not to mention those who were pregnant or looking after small children.  These people set up the Criticality Accident Victims Group.  However, the government declared that radioactive exposure resulting from the accident was minimal and didn’t affect residents’ health on environment. 

 

Some professors and doctors from NGO side investigated the radiation exposure level on their own by checking the neutron dose on 5 yen coins collected from residents’ houses.  Their result of total radiation exposure level was 7 times higher than that of the government’s report. 

 

As much as 9 billion yen (90 million dollar) was paid in compensation, but this mainly covered losses suffered by local industry and commerce due to the accident.  Residents’ health has been ignored. 

 

Currently, the number of A-bomb victims in Japan is more than 300,000.  And the number of nuclear power plant workers who hold the record for radiation exposure is 340,000.  Even without accidents, this many people are exposed to radiation every day. Our government is always saying, “They are safe.  They are safe.”  But if they are really safe, why do not they build them in big cities?

 

Coming from a nation that went through the catastrophes of A-bombs, I feel really sad to tell you this is the situation in Japan.  At the same time, I feel strongest need to give warning to every country is the world to prevent hazards by nuclear accidents which can cause eternal damage to lives not only now but also for the future. 

 

I heard Taiwanese’s government is using the case of Japanese nuclear policy for an excuse of building nuclear power plants in an earthquake prone country.  I am outraged to see that Japan, which went through atomic catastrophe and has the right and responsibility to fight against nuclear danger, help the spread of nuclear industry particularly in Asian region.  Now Japanese government and companies are trying to sell nuclear power plants in Asia.  This is just extraordinary.  We have to do our best efforts to prevent this. 

 

Of course, saying is not enough.  Actions are more important.  I am open to any concrete ideas and insights from anybody.  For the time being, I made a draft of petition to be forwarded to nuclear related manufacturing companies.  If you support this idea, please contact me through e-mail or fax with signature of your name or organization.

 

,

Please sign this letter.

 

Please distribute this via your networks, make it accepted by as many individuals and organizations as you can and e-mail me your agreement immediately (by the end of November for the first collection).

 

Thank you for your help in preventing possible nuclear hazards harming our health, environment, and generations to come!!

 

Sincerely,

Mari Takenouchi

 

 

PETITION ADDRESSED TO GE, WESTING HOUSING, HITACHI, TOSHIBA, MITSUBISHI

 

We the undersigned NGOs and individuals express our extreme concern that nuclear energy related technologies and products are being exported to countries in Asia, South America, and Africa, though the trend of most advanced nations which are also manufactures of nuclear power industry are phasing out of this energy resource within their own boundaries.

 

Not to mention Chernobyl, which was an unacceptable catastrophe under any circumstances, accidents do happen.  In fact, the number of accidents is increasing as more nuclear power plants are constructed all over the world and old ones are aging.  We have to prevent another nuclear related catastrophe by any means and this requires prompt and drastic actions.

 

Moreover, it is contrary to the interests of nuclear related companies to continue with their current practices.  Selling their products might bring profits for a short-term period if no accident happened in the near future, but considering the waste problems, maintenance of aging power plants and decommissioning of plants, and possible occurrence of major accidents, this industry cannot bring benefits in the future.  We believe that related companies are already well aware of this fact.   Before it becomes too late, they should seriously address the problems.

 

It is also contrary to the interests of developing countries that require sustainable, mostly decentralized, low-cost energy systems, adapted both to their needs and their use of capital, resources and labor.  Also it is feared that their limitation of structural and technical capability cannot handle nuclear facilities in a proper manner, which is the case of advanced nations as well.

 

Most of all, impact of radiation contamination is beyond generations and national boundaries, which can bring eternal suffering and damage on all living creatures and the environment.  Any shortsighted economic interests or business aspirations should not supercede the chain of lives on earth, which is unrecoverable once damaged by radioactive catastrophe.

 

Therefore, we the undersigned NGOs and individuals call upon all the nuclear related industries and companies to stop exporting their products to other nations immediately.  

 

 

Signatures:

 

NAME

ORGANISATION

FULL ADDRESS

E-MAIL

 

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