“No one died” implies a cruel hierarchy

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Haniwa – tomb figures, Saitama, C6th, Tokyo National Museum of Art, Tokyo, 217 km south west of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant

Advocates of nuclear power frequently say that “no one died” as a result of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. They mean that, unlike the tsunami and earthquake which killed at least 15,894 people, with a further 2,562 people still missing, no one was killed as a result of exposure to radiation.

Even if it were true that no one died, this is a cruel, disrespectful thing to say as it denies the importance and severity of the profound suffering and illness [1] which are undeniably a direct result of the nuclear disaster.

Is it right to place death above suffering in a hierarchy like this? Surely either consequence is unacceptable and should not be compared. Any person with any empathy who has experienced or witnessed excruciating, protracted illness, physical or mental, will understand this.

Many scientists remain concerned about what the future holds for those who were – and who continue to be – exposed to radioactivity from inside the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. There are already 183 cases of confirmed and suspected thyroid cancer among 381,282 people who were under 18 in 2011 [2]. This is equivalent to an incidence of 511 per million people. Prior to 2011, the incidence of thyroid cancer in Japan among this age group was 1-3 per million.

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Linking Fukushima with Chernobyl, 3a! Koriyama, Koriyama City, Fukushima, 60 km west of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant

The brightly coloured things for children at 3a Koriyama! Family Club contrast with the materials on the the walls above.

A teatowel from Belarus, the country most severely contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. After 31 years this catastrophe continues to unfold [3] with devastating health and environmental consequences. In Belarus and Ukraine, radiogenic illnesses and birth defects continue to arise in over 453,000 children born of parents who were themselves children in 1986 [4].

Next to the teatowel, a reproduction of a grim painting of a mother and child, by Wakana, conveys a terrible suffering and vulnerability.

 


[1] “Between 2011 and 2014, nearly 2,000 Japanese citizens, including many old people, died as the result of illness or suicides connected with the evacuations … [which were] necessary to avoid large radiation exposures from the radioactive fallout carried by the plumes”.

Dr Ian Fairlie, ‘Summing The Health Effects of the Fukushima Nuclear disaster,’ 2015, http://www.ianfairlie.org/news/summing-the-health-effects-of-the-fukushima-nuclear-disaster/

[2] 183 confirmed and suspected thyroid cancers:

http://fukushimavoice-eng2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/fukushima-thyroid-examination-december.html

And at least one further case of thyroid cancer confirmed but not reported: http://www.apnewsarchive.com/2017/A-child-diagnosed-with-thyroid-cancer-after-the-Fukushima-nuclear-accident-is-missing-from-government-checkup-records-an-aid-group-says-raising-questions-about-the-thoroughness-and-tra/id-fe042c9dc43448669bb661521353ce71

[3] Kim Hjelmgaard, USA Today, ‘Exiled Scientist: Chernobyl Is Not Finished, It Has Only Just Begun,https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/04/17/nuclear-exile-chernobyl-30th-anniversary/82896510/

[4] Dr Ian Fairlie, TORCH-2016 [The Other Report on Chernobyl]: An Independent Scientific Evaluation of The Health-related Effects of The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster: https://www.global2000.at/sites/global/files/GLOBAL_TORCH%202016_rz_WEB_KORR.pdflsummary of the report and link here: http://www.ianfairlie.org/news/30-years-after-chernobyl/