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REPORT FROM TOKAIMURA -One Year After the Accident-2000年に書いたJCO事故の報告
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
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
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
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 ona 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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!!
PETITION ADDRESSED TO GE, WESTING HOUSING, HITACHI, TOSHIBA,
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.