I keep searching for writing on our current and growing global nuclear dilemma that stirs the soul the way Jonathan Schell’s 1982 book Fate of the Earth, first serialized in the New Yorker in the Fall and Winter of 1981-82, stirred so many into motion that the Nuclear Freeze Movement was born and drew (if I recall correctly) one million people to the streets of New York City, only months later, on June 12th, 1982.
I remember being astonished and thrilled, when I began to read Schell’s sonorous, funeral, reverential text. At last! At last! someone who understands, who feels the horror that lies just beneath the surface of everyday life! Thanks to this one man from afar, I no longer felt alone.
My early conscious awareness of the nuclear horror had snuffed out joy in my childhood, had isolated me from others as a young adult until I was 39, when my world changed. That’s when Jonathan Schell named the horror, and did so from within his own trembling heart and soul, and the world woke up.
And eventually, went back to sleep.
I have yet to discover such poetic, stirring prose in response to our situation since March 11, 2011, when Fukushima blew. For over two years now, I have yet to read the essay or see the youtube video, or overhear the conversation, or repeat the meme, that unites and ignites the collective soul fire needed now. I wonder why. Is there no way to access our souls in a debased, virtual world of reality shows? Are the many distractions we seek and find so compelling that we don’t notice our probable fate, not to mention reflect on what might be our glorious destiny, should we choose, as a species, to awaken?
But no, no. I cannot be the only one. There must be many people — most people — who experience the same blurry mass of futility and dread that, increasingly, any Fukushima news stirs within. I’m 70 years old. Who cares if I die of radiation in 20 years. I certainly don’t. Indeed, I’m shocked that we have made it this far, with thousands of aging nuclear missiles still triggered and ready to fly. But my kids? And my grandkids? And their children?
I am so grateful that young parents, even conscious parents who recognize the increasingly dire state of our sorry world, despite clear and present danger of all kinds — no, not “danger,” that is not nearly strong enough; let’s call it emergency, one long species and planetary emergency —I am so grateful that these beautiful young men and women continue to get pregnant, give birth, love; that they continue to nurture new life into this world, despite all odds. I know that whoever are the precious infants coming in to this “The Hunger Games” scenario now, their souls have agreed to their mission, whatever it is.
In the interim, this serious, no holds barred piece from Gary Stamper, with a nudge from Helen Caldicott — one of the original nuclear activists, she who was first to use the phrase “this beautiful Earth” in a public speech — will have to do.
August 24, 2013
by Gary Stamper
collapsingintoconsciousness, with a pointer from Keith
Dr. Helen Caldicott, a heroic defender our world from the nuclear power threat, former Nobel Peace Prize nominee, author, and nuclear activist, says we don’t love our children enough. If we did, she says, we’d put an end to coal burning plants and nuclear power. As she bluntly puts it, ” The planet’s in the intensive care unit, critically, acutely ill, and now we are all physicians to a dying planet.” She urges, “Let the data sink in and then get off your couches to save the planet for your children.”
(click here to see infographic)
The outspoken activist says she has three messages: One is that “we are in dire danger from global warming and that unless we pull our socks up and stop burning coal and stop driving our SUV’s around doing five miles to the gallon and stop fracking and natural gas, we’re doomed. Two, close down your reactors, because if one of them blows, man, you’re all gone. Three, get to work to […] abolish 97% of the weapons on the planet, between Russia and America. You can do that. The Russians are ready. What’s holding it up is your generals, who are really pathological in the Pentagon. One of them said, ‘If you get rid of our nuclear weapons, man, that’s threatening the family jewels,’ and that says it all, in a nutshell.” (pun intended)
And speaking of the family jewels, when did so many of us get so cowardly and lazy?
Most everything I’m going to talk about in this article will be in the context of Fukushima, but it also applies to climate change, growing totalitarianism, employment, abundance, economics, and even relationship. It all gets down to we can do better, and if we’re going to get through this — whatever that means — we have to do better, and we’ll have to do it together. No one is coming to rescue us. It’s time for the human race to grow up into species adulthood.
So let’s start with Fukushima as the context.
The World Nuclear Association
In June of 2011, just four months after the tragedy of Fukushima, The World Nuclear Association sponsored what was called the Rosatom’s Third International Forum. The website npsglobal.org – the Nonproliferation for Global Security Foundation – featured an article called The Fukushima Mistake: The Challenge of Responding Wisely. The article began by stating:
Over the past decade, many nations around the world reviewed their energy and environment policies and came inexorably to the same conclusion. For reasons of energy independence and environmental responsibility, they determined that nuclear power must play a central role in their national energy strategies for the 21st Century.
Recent events at Fukushima now compel us to assess three questions:
What have we learned from Fukushima? How should the custodians of nuclear power — in both government and industry — respond? Has Fukushima fundamentally altered the prospect of an expanded worldwide use of nuclear power?
In the next section of this article, I’m going to lay out these assessments and then deconstruct them. We have the benefit of time and hindsight. My comments and replies are in italics.
From the article, a sub-title: “What We Have Learned Thus Far”
“A starting point is to define Fukushima. Although the terms “nuclear disaster” and “nuclear tragedy” are commonly applied, there is reason to resist such usage. When 24,000 Japanese citizens have been killed by an enormous earthquake and a resulting tsunami which combined into one of the great calamities in that nation’s history, does it not seem a gross abuse of language to label as a disaster an occurrence incidental to that calamity which has not in itself produced a single fatality?”
CIC: It took 3 years before the first deaths showed up at Chernobyl…the World Nuclear Association surely knows this, and according to them, Chernobyl was a far worse disaster…something many experts are now disputing
“It is certainly true that some 100,000 people are likely to be delayed for a year in returning to the evacuation zone near the plant to begin rebuilding from the rubble of earthquake-tsunami destruction.”
CIC: We’re now at 2 ½ years later, and we now know that people will never be able to return to the site
The article says this is precautionary policy, and calls it a severe inconvenience“wrongly labeled as a disaster.”
This either shows how little the industry understands the dangers nuclear power presents, a total lack of incompetence and caring, or that they simply lie to save their necks and the industry… one more reason why you KNOW we can’t trust what industry and government6 officials are telling us.
“Certainly Fukushima was an “accident” — as that word applies to unplanned, unexpected events with undesirable results. But “accident” suggests operational error, as occurred at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. At Fukushima, we have witnessed instead the results of a fundamental error in design — arising from a failure of Japanese scientists, regulators” —
CIC: Don’t forget GE who built it and the three engineers who resigned because they said the plant wasn’t safe. An Accident? This is malfeasance at best, and GE, the scientists, and the regulators should all be criminally charged, with millions, perhaps — billions of people’s lives at stake.
— “and operators to properly imagine worst-case threats and to protect the reactors’ back-up cooling capabilities against such threats. An alternative is to choose the word “mistake”, while recognizing that the word “disaster” certainly applies to the event’s economic impact on Tepco and to its wide public impact on perceptions of nuclear power.”
CIC: Un-freaking believable how they are trying to mitigate what’s happened and their responsibility
“Whether we choose to call it an accident, a mistake, or a disaster, Fukushima has been educational” –
CIC: Extreme sarcastic reply warranted…”
— “primarily in reinforcing several truths we knew already about nuclear power and about the public and policy context that surround its use. Because of Fukushima, these truths are even clearer now:
1) Inevitability of Nuclear Events: First, nuclear accidents happen.
CIC: Hear that, folks?…Nuclear Accidents happen…this shows complete callousness and disregard for the millions of peoples’ lives that are affected by these “accidents.” The article states:
“We should never have confidence that we can succeed absolutely in this quest, and we should never expect the public to believe that we have.”
CIC: Well, the good news is that they’ve convinced more and more of us that at least that much is true! This is exactly why we should close down nuclear plants and never build another one. The risks are simply too big.
and continues: “We must expect, and must concede, that human beings made mistakes, individually and collectively; and our aim must be to ensure, and explain persuasively, that even worst-case nuclear events are both exceedingly low in probability and increasingly small in consequence as nuclear technology continues to advance. Right now, most people, even non-nuclear scientists, assume that nuclear power carries the low probability of a highly harmful event. For those who believe in nuclear energy, the journey will be steeply uphill so long as that belief remains widespread. To repeat, we must establish technically, and explain convincingly, that nuclear events are both increasingly low in probability and increasingly low in consequence. That will be true and must be presented believably.
2. “The Universal Necessity of Reliable Backup Cooling”
CIC: While this statement is certainly true, it goes on to claim the reactors were “shut down.” It states:
“It bears emphasis that the entire Japanese reactor fleet has repeatedly passed the test of shutting down successfully in response to past earthquakes, and did so again in March during the largest earthquake in Japanese history.”
CIC: Another lie. Initially, both the Japanese government and TEPCO lied about the melting down status of the plant, and refused to evacuate anyone. They only issued evacuation orders much later down the road, when it was impossible to cover it up anymore, and these evacuations were expanded over time, from 3, to 10 and then finally to 20 kilometers.
Tepco later said the meltdown of reactors 2 & 3 were not as big of a deal as the one suffered at reactor 1, mostly because the reactors were covered in water and so didn’t threaten the compound…let’s see…that’s not one, but 3 reactors melted down at Fukushima
This covering up and denying bad news involving anything radioactive is standard operating procedure during any nuclear plant incident, melt down, or other radiation involving accident. This same cover-up happened at TMI, Chernobyl and all other nuclear accidents. The people in charge are ALWAYS cover up and deny everything initially, despite massive amounts of radiation coming out and exposing millions of people to that radiation.
3. “The Essential Safety of Nuclear Power: Third, despite widespread impressions to the contrary, Fukushima underscores the essential safety of nuclear power. At Fukushima, three operating reactors and one recently shut-down, ranging in age from 33 to 40 years, were assaulted first by the worst earthquake in Japan’s history. Its effect was devastating on the Fukushima locale, wiping out towns, power supplies, and hundreds of lives from among the friends, colleagues and families of those working at the power plant. One hour later, amidst this physical chaos and human tragedy, a gigantic tsunami flooded the plant’s backup diesel generators, which through mistaken planning were ill-equipped to survive it.”
CIC: There’s that pesky “mistaken Planning” thingy again…Oh, it’s OK…it’s just mistaken planning…You know…Sometimes sarcasm is all one has left.
4. “Media Frenzy is Today’s Norm”
CIC: Yes, that left-wing media knee-jerk journalism that’s only interested in savaging nuclear power…
5. “Weak Support Where Nuclear is an Ideological Issue: A fifth reality underscored by Fukushima is the bizarre weakness of support for nuclear power in a few technologically advanced European countries. The Swiss cabinet has initiated a nuclear phase-out. Italy has shelved plans to reintroduce nuclear energy in the only country ever to abandon it. And the German coalition has now begun a nuclear shut-down that will render Germany less energy independent.”
CIC: The lack of support by the public is bizarre? And…Gasp! NOT.…energy …independence???? No-o-o-o-o-…..How are we supposed to make money if nations and people are energy independent?
6: “Solidity of Support in Many Key Nations”
CIC: By the power structure, not the people…Hey, but what do the people know? The people can’t be trusted to know what’s best for them…
7. “Thinness of Public Understanding: … public understanding of nuclear power in many countries remains thin and readily susceptible to misimpression. Fukushima has undoubtedly produced a decline in public confidence in nuclear power in countries around the world, amidst a widespread impression that Japan’s natural catastrophe was seriously compounded by a manmade disaster. Once again we have learned that “radiation” ranks high as one of the most potent and evocative words in any language.
CIC: Duh…are you bozos really that naïve or just greedy and power hungry? Wait, don’t answer that.
and I love this next one…
8: “Continuing Power of the Chernobyl Myth: A closely related truth, vividly underscored by media coverage of Fukushima, is that the myth of Chernobyl retains a powerful hold on public consciousness and remains a main journalistic reference point with respect to the perceived dangers of nuclear power. I refer to the “myth” of Chernobyl because radiation fatalities from Chernobyl are strictly limited — to several dozen persons severely irradiated while fighting the reactor fire (the so-called “liquidators”) and to a small number of public persons in the Chernobyl vicinity, statistically thought to be 16 in number, who should be assumed to have died from thyroid cancer caused by radioactive iodine emitted by the burning reactor.“
CIC: Not even correct at the time this conference was held 4 months after the meltdowns. According to comprehensive new research from an article from March 2013 on the Global Research website, the current death toll (it’s still climbing, you see)… shows that that almost one million people have died in the toxic aftermath of Chernobyl.
This should be a wake-up call to people all over the world to petition their governments to put a halt to the current industry-driven “nuclear renaissance.’ Aided by a corrupt IAEA, the world has been subjected to a massive cover-up and deception about the true damages caused by Chernobyl.”
Further worsening the situation has been “the collusive agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organization in which the WHO is precluded from publishing any research on radiation effects without consultation with the IAEA.” WHO, the public health arm of the UN, has supported the IAEA’s claim that 4,000 have died as a result of the accident.
The potential harm from Fukushima is much, much worse.
9: “Nuclear Economics Remain Paramount: A final truth, underscored as we contemplate the potential worldwide policy and regulatory response to Fukushima, is that the economics of nuclear power remain crucial to its future. We all know that, compared to other major power technologies, nuclear is expensive to build and cheap to operate. It therefore requires an investment decision based on confidence in long-term amortization.”
CIC: Yes, and that includes keeping nuclear power plants operating long past their expiration dates. “Do not boil water after”…
The website Smartplanet has a 2012 article by David Worthington that states, “There is some dissent among nuclear experts despite the NRC’s assurances. The Associated Press recently uncovered that safety regulations have been deemed “unnecessarily conservative” by the NRC, and engineers have manipulated tests to allow for faulty equipment to remain in compliance “without peril.” Meaning, there’s problems, but no immediate threats that would cause critical systems to fail. The problems arise from America’s aging nuclear infrastructure, where plants are operating decades past their intended life spans.
There are a total of 104 nuclear plants in the U.S today, according to NRC data. 61 were recently given another 20 years [beyond their initial 40-year limit operating licenses] to operate. New York’s Indian Point power plant is one of many reactors in the U.S. that could be operating decades past its intended lifespan.
What’s the Current Status of Fukushima?
Paul Gunter director of the reactor oversight project at Beyond Nuclear: Indications are right now that the reactor structures themselves have been breached. This horrifying news is beginning to be picked up by some of the edgier mainstream news, like salon.com.
It’s very likely that some of the radioactive material — the melted cores — have moved into the earth, and that Fukushima is beyond containment right now.
I think that’s the tragedy that we see unfolding as Fukushima’s radioactive water crisis — to say nothing of the plumes — is only beginning.
In the thick of the 1970s Arab oil embargo, President Nixon said there’d be 1000 such reactors in the US by the year 2000. As of today, there are 100. Four have shut here this year. Citizen activism has put the “nuclear renaissance” into full retreat.
Just two of 54 reactors now operate in Japan, where Fukushima has joined Chernobyl and Three Mile Island in permanently scarring us all. (Although Japan is trying get the others back online…Its citizens are saying “no.”)
Germany is shutting its entire fleet and switching to renewables. France, once the poster child for the global reactor industry, is following suit. South Korea has just shut three due to fraudulent safety procedures. Massive demonstrations rage against reactors being built in India. Only the Koreans, Chinese and Russians remain at all serious about pushing ahead with this tragic technology.
As of early this year, Southern California Edison’s path to a re-start at San Onofre seemed as clear as any to be expected by a traditional atomic tyrannosaur. But with help from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator-to-be Ed Markey (D-MA), a powerful citizen uprising stopped it dead.
So did the terrifying incompetence and greed that has defined the nuclear industry from the days of Nixon and before.
San Onofre Unit One shut in the 1990s due largely to steam generator problems. In the early 2000s, Units 2 & 3 needed new steam generators of their own. In the usual grasp for more profits, Edison chose untested, unlicensed new designs. But they failed. And the whole world was watching. In the wake of Fukushima, two more leaky tsunami-zone reactors surrounded by earthquake faults were massively unwelcome.
So a well-organized non-violent core of local, state and national activists and organizations rose up to stop the madness.
At Vermont Yankee, Indian Point, Seabrook, Davis-Besse and dozens of other reactors around the US and world, parallel opposition is escalating.
Make no mistake — this double victory at San Onofre is a falling domino. Had the public not fought back, those reactors would have been “fixed” at public expense.
Today, they are dead.
Does all of this scare you? Good…you should be scared. This is serious stuff, life-threatening stuff and you need to know about it unless you’re evolving into an ostrich.
How serious? Even the mainstream media is beginning to expose the depth of the Fukushima cover-up. From ENENEWS:
BBC News, Aug 22, 2013: The “worsening situation” at Fukushima has prompted a former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland to call for the withdrawal of Tokyo’s Olympic bid. In a letter to the UN secretary general, Mitsuhei Murata says the official radiation figures published by Tepco cannot be trusted. He says he is extremely worried about the lack of a sense of crisis in Japan and abroad.
Time, Aug 22, 2013: “It’s time we faced the danger, ” said Takashi Hirose, a writer shocked by the under-reported radiation levels he found on recent trip into the evacuation zone. So many terrible things are not being reported in the news.”
BBC News, Aug 22, 2013: Fukushima leak is ‘much worse than we were led to believe.’ Nuclear expert Mycle Schneider has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated. […] He says water is leaking out all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels. […] some nuclear experts are concerned that the problem is a good deal worse than either Tepco or the Japanese government are willing to admit.
Irish Times, Aug 21, 2013: Cover-up [….] Many experts believe Japan’s government continues to underestimate the cost and complexity of the decommissioning, and that Tepco has been systematically covering up problems.
Bloomberg, Aug 21, 2013: At least one commissioner at the regulator questioned the accuracy of data being released by operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) and whether the incident had been fully reported. […] “This INES evaluation is based on the 300-ton leak, but I really wonder if we can trust data provided by Tepco,” Toyoshi Fuketa, a commissioner at the NRA, said at a meeting in Tokyo today. “I really wonder if we should judge based on Tepco’s data.”
Last, fallout researcher Christina Consolo told RT News, “What could potentially happen is the contents of the pool could burn and/or explode, and the entire structure sustain further damage or collapse. This chain reaction process could be self-sustaining and go on for a long time. This is the apocalyptic scenario in a nutshell.”
What Can I do?
So what is our personal responsibility for Fukushima, the other nuclear reactors in the US and around the world? What has happened to citizen activism? It’s alive and well but needs more mass so a tipping point can be created. Nuclear anything is an old-paradigm system, literally the culmination of patriarchal thinking that needs to be replaced with new paradigm thinking and action.
First, we all need to take responsibility for ourselves.
- We need to get informed. Stop paying attention to corporate owned mainstream news and the usual “what-ever-deniers.” They have no interest whatsoever in you being informed, and in fact, they’re happier with you paying attention to sensationalism and being in the dark about things that matter. That’s one of the ways they control us.
- Join one of many local, national, and international anti-nuclear groups: The public “perceives nuclear power as a very risky technology” and, around the world, nuclear energy has declined in popularity since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Anti-nuclear critics see nuclear power as a dangerous, expensive way to boil water to generate electricity.
- Pressure the government to listen to its citizens. Right now, it is money that’s talking and it speaks very loudly. Write letter after letter, email after email to make sure your voice is heard. Attend town council meetings and make sure they understand how many are against Nuclear Power Plants. Keep putting up your signs. Work to end the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that gives corporations unlimited power.
- Spread the word, organize: Talk with family and friends and brainstorm what a group of you can do to contribute to the fight against nuclear power. Make sure to spread the facts and knowledge you have learned on to others who may not know.
- Find a way to take advantage of alternative energy sources: Learn about geothermal, dry steam and flash stream energy plants, whole house generators that can run on bio-mass, hydroelectric. Learn about insulation, decreasing your energy use, passive solar, switch to renewables.
- Demand to know the truth: Insist that governments get in there and try to ascertain what’s going on and if we can stop what’s happening at Fukushima.
- Help put an end to corporate welfare: Warren Buffet looked at nuclear power and could not figure out how to make money with it. If he cannot do this, how can the average person justify putting taxpayer money into it? Welfare is for people who need a helping hand, not so corporations can make money.After the Fukushima accident, TEPCO lost all insurance coverage for all nuclear power plants, so the Japanese government (taxpaying citizens) took over the risk and payment for the consequences of short term, profit motivated corporate planning. This happens after EVERY accident.The profit goes to the 1% corporate CEO’s, but the financial risk ALWAYS stays with the public. In the case of Fukushima, it is estimated that it will cost up to TEN TRILLION to clean up, and pay all damages…
If it can be cleaned up, and really?…We don’t know if it can, because we’re not being given the information we need to know where we stand. So one of the things we’ve got to do is to stop being so damned independent. On some levels, that’s great, but for the really big things like climate, economics, politics, energy — and even nuclear Power — we’ve got to move into a new paradigm — because all these systems are collapsing, and they are collapsing because they no longer serve us and who we are — and the sooner we realize they are going away, the sooner we can begin moving into healing the wound of separation that’s behind all of our modern problems.
These systems — money for example — create separation. With our current system of money, whether it’s fiat or asset-backed currency, you can’t win unless someone else loses, so separation is created.
And we have to call it out. When nuclear power is not serving us, we have to call it out, to bring that failure into the light, because it’s the light that kills the pathogens. And whether it’s politics, environment, energy, whatever, it’s why sociopaths want to keep us in the dark…but bottom line…you can step out of the dark by taking responsibility for yourselves and your communities. Stop supporting nuclear energy, stop supporting a food system that’s making us sick, stop supporting a news system that’s keeping us clueless and ignorant, stop supporting a money system that’s making us poor…it’s time for us to step into our natural birthright as both an intellectual and a spiritual being…that’s part of healing the wound of separation that has been our way for the last 6,000 years. The “Wound of Separation” is a big tent metaphor for all of the shadows within us that create the me/you paradigm…the big shadow that encompasses all of the little shadows that keep us from realizing that we’re all connected…that we’re one…and we’re many…we’re both…but we’ve rejected the many in favor of the individual…it’s not that the individual needs to go away, it’s that we need to remember that, yes, we’re individuals, but we’re connected, too…ONE. One Humanity, one planet, and maybe one chance to survive what’s coming at us. It’s the same wound that creates the pathologically rich and the dying poor.
Last, we must do the work to heal a system that no longer supports life on the planet. Nuclear Power, and the corrupt system that promotes and propagates it, are both part of the last dying vestiges of a dying 6,000 year-old patriarchal system that no longer serves humanity. It’s time to step into a paradigm that supports life on the planet.
We cannot do this by ourselves. We can’t change these broken down and sick paradigms by ourselves. We can only do that together. Heal the wounds of separation…join with each other…find what breaks your heart and find others who share that pain and do what you need to do to change it. This is it, folks…the ninth inning. There is no over time. Once we’re done, we’re done. Do what you need to do or lose it all.
As Dr. Helen Caldicott says, “Let the data sink in and then get off your couches to save the planet for your children.”