(cite from Mainichi Shinbun)

(Mainichi Japan) May 6, 2011
Disastrous pattern of academic-gov't collusion must not be allowed to continue


I am struck with a sense of deja vu as the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant continues.

National policy founded on a thirst for economic growth that has put the interests of industry first, and actions taken by politicians who have only lent their ears to experts whose views support their goals, has caused much irreparable damage over the years.

If this destructive chain of action is not stopped, we are bound to face further tragedy.

A group of 16 pro-nuclear scientists led by a former president of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan (AESJ) and former members of the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) of Japan held a press conference on April 1.

In it, they said that the amount of radioactive material stored in the reactors at the Fukushima plant far exceeds that which was stored at Chernobyl, and that even if we are to avoid immediate dangers, the Fukushima plant would require close monitoring for many years to come.

These remarks, which were coming not from anti-nuclear activists but from pro-nuclear experts, were evidence that nuclear energy proponents were finally acknowledging the seriousness of the current situation.


It was 14 years ago that Kobe University professor emeritus and seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi wrote a paper warning of the possibility of a nuclear accident, like the current one, triggered by a massive quake or tsunami.

In the May issue of the monthly magazine Sekai, Ishibashi mentions how NSC Chair Haruki Madarame and Toshisho Kosako -- a radiation expert and professor at the University of Tokyo who resigned from his post as a senior nuclear advisor to the government on April 30 over the government's handling of the crisis -- reacted to his paper at the time.

According to Ishibashi, Madarame disputed the various concerns that were raised, and characterized Ishibashi as a nuclear layperson, saying, "We've never heard of Ishibashi at the AESJ."

Kosako also lambasted Ishibashi's claims, saying, "There is absolutely no possibility of massive amounts of radiation being released... When publishing papers, it is common for academics to be cautious about covering subjects on which they lack expertise.

In his paper, Ishibashi makes unfounded statements about a topic outside his specialty."

There are countless examples of seals of approval given to scientists' views that support the implementation of government policy, while those challenging the government are dismissed and silenced.

Take the case of Minamata disease. In 1956, a research team at Kumamoto University determined that the disease afflicting local residents was caused by ingesting heavy metals that had accumulated in seafood from Minamata Bay.
Three years later, a research team at the then Ministry of Welfare compiled a report concluding that the disease was caused by eating seafood tainted with methylmercury.

The government, however, citing scientists who offered various theories on the cause of the disease, including spoiled fish, refused to acknowledge that environmental pollution was the culprit.

This allowed chemical company Chisso Corp.'s acetaldehyde factory to continue releasing toxic effluvia into local waters, while Minamata Bay area residents continued to eat poisoned fish, giving rise to an explosion of Minamata Disease patients.

In 1965, a similar factory operated by Showa Denko Corp. in Niigata Prefecture caused a "second Minamata Disease crisis."

The government officially admitted in September 1968 that the disease was caused by methylmercury, but by then factories similar to the ones in Kumamoto and Niigata were already obsolete and out of operation. In other words, Minamata disease was recognized as the cause of the tragedy only after industry no longer had any use for the factories emitting the toxins.

The time when asbestos contamination was making headlines all over the country fits the same pattern.
The Environment Ministry appointed an academic to chair an asbestos health hazard committee -- an academic found later to have served as an advisor to the Japan Asbestos Association for 13 years, during which time he'd questioned restrictions on asbestos use in a promotional video.
He subsequently stepped down from the committee post.

It was also not too far in the past that major public works projects such as the construction of a small dam at the mouth of the Nagara River and the Isahaya Bay reclamation project were promoted by the government citing backing of experts who claimed the environmental impacts of such projects would be "minimal," only to see major destruction being wreaked on the ecosystem.

The crisis we currently face with the Fukushima power plant is the direct result of the collusive relationship between industry, government and academia.


Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a science journalist and former nuclear engineer, points out in Sekai that based on data of the Fukushima plant's water levels and pressure, it is possible the No. 1 reactor lost its coolant due to quake damage to pipes in the pressure vessel.

Tanaka also speculates that the reason for the explosion at the No. 2 reactor after hydrogen accumulated near the pressure suppression pool at the bottom of the reactor building -- despite the gas being lighter than oxygen -- is that hydrogen leaked into the pool through pressure-suppression pipes, and was released through cracks in the pool caused by the quake, eventually reacting with surrounding oxygen.

In other words, Tanaka believes the nuclear reactor had suffered major damage even before the tsunami hit.

While nothing has been done to verify or dispel such possibilities, there already have been murmurs within the industrial community that Japanese nuclear power plants will be safe as long as anti-tsunami measures are implemented.

Are we going to maintain our dependence on nuclear energy?

Are we going to stop the nuclear reactors beginning with the riskiest ones, or get rid of them all at once?

It is time for every Japanese citizen to ask themselves these questions and take action.

By now, we know all too well how dangerous it is to leave these questions to government.

(By Kensei Fukuoka, Kyushu News Department)
毎日新聞 2011年5月3日 東京朝刊

by kiyoshimat | 2011-05-07 10:08 | 英字新聞

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