At a critically dangerous moment, Japan is poised to take a giant step toward officially shrouding Fukushima in the deepest possible secrecy.
At least two petitions are being circulated in opposition (www.nukefree.org).
One is addressed to the Japanese government and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The other goes to the new US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.
The official state secrets act pushed by Abe has passed the lower house of the Japanese Diet and may pass the upper house shortly. Abe would then sign it.
But opposition within Japan is fierce. Large demonstrations have railed against the act, and the media/internet traffic is intense. The law will certainly be challenged in the courts. A national movement will follow to overturn the law and the administration that fomented it.
The bill mandates ten-year prison sentences for Japanese citizens who publicly oppose government policies having to do with “national security.” Abe is intent on stepping up Japan’s military. The bill is in part the product of increasing tensions with China. The circulation of a video of a recent naval encounter between the two powers is often cited.
But the critical issue is Fukushima, where the media’s access is already limited.
The massively dangerous, complex and expensive attempt to contain the disaster has reached a critical stage. The perilous bring-down of more than 1,300 hot fuel assemblies from a damaged pool 100 feet in the air at Unit 4 has apparently begun. More than 11,000 rods are scattered around the site, with three cores missing in the wake of four explosions. At least 300 tons of heavily contaminated radioactive water pour into the Pacific daily. Huge, flimsy tanks are poised to gush out still more with the next large earthquake.
Independent experts worldwide worry that Tokyo Electric Power, a private utility with limited resources, cannot handle the unique challenges posed by the world’s first multiple reactor meltdowns.
Reuters reports that the site’s labor force has been infiltrated by the Japanese mafia. The recent hijacking in Mexico of a truck carrying radioactive waste underscores the fear that underworld elements will have far easier access to such materials at Fukushima.
On November 7 more than 150,000 signatures asking for a global takeover of the Fukushima site were presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon by www.nukefree.org, www.moveon.org,www.rootsaction.org, the Green Shadow Cabinet and others.
Independent media organizations have been trying to cover Unit Four’s fuel rod bring-down with helicopter flyovers. But Tepco has publicly complained about it, and is likely to severely restrict coverage. The State Secrets Act would make it far easier to ban independent media from the site altogether.
The government has already arrested at least one professor whose “crime” was to criticize the practice of burning radioactive waste in the open atmosphere. He was held 20 days in jail without trial.
Activists and legal experts warn any public discussion of the Fukushima crisis will now become increasingly dangerous and limited.
By various estimates more than 20 times as much radiation has already been released at Fukushima as at Hiroshima. The rods in the suspended Unit Four fuel pool contain 14,000 times as much radiation as was released by that 1945 atomic bombing.
Calls for a takeover of the site by the world’s top engineers and scientists, with global funding to guarantee the best possible job, have thus far gone unheeded.
Shy an effective global mass movement, such pleas may soon be illegal within Japan itself.
Harvey Wasserman edits www.nukefree.org, where these Fukushima petitions are linked.