The Media Reports Untruths With no Verification, Leading Japan Down a Mistaken Path

Seiji Fuji

The damage from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident was a man-made calamity by the DPJ government

 On October 7, the front page of the Sankei Shimbun Morning Edition contained an article entitled, “Fukushima Nuclear Power Station Reparations and Decontamination Expenses Increased by Eight Trillion Yen: Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) to Submit National Expenditure Request.” It read:

The FEPC, which is composed of major power companies, released preliminary calculations on October 6 indicating that the amount of money required for reparations and decontamination after the accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station would total roughly eight trillion yen more than the initial plan. These calculations take into account factors such as the inflated reparations expenses. FEPC plans to ask for government expenditures to cover the excess portion.
TEPCO will receive funds from the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF), a corporation approved by the national government, to pay for reparations and decontamination. TEPCO and other major corporations will pay their share of reparations to the NDF. The NDF will allot profit on sales of its TEPCO stock to pay for decontamination.
The current prediction is 5.4 trillion yen for reparations and 2.5 trillion yen for decontamination. In the preliminary calculations, reparations have been increased by 2.6 trillion yen to a total of eight trillion yen and decontamination by 4.5 trillion yen to a total of seven trillion yen. Moreover, TEPCO’s stock is slumping and a downturn of one trillion yen is expected for the profit on sales. It is possible that the total will be more than 8.1 trillion yen.

 However, I think the actual expenses will be even higher.
 The Great East Japan Earthquake was of course a natural disaster, but I think we can say the damage from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident was a man-made calamity created by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government. The Naoto Kan administration, which was in power at that time, must first be blamed for the fact that Prime Minister Kan took a helicopter to observe the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station directly after the earthquake because he had a little knowledge about nuclear power. There was concern about exposing the prime minister to radiation, so the venting – which should have been performed at an appropriate timing – was delayed, causing hydrogen explosions at Units 1, 3, and 4 that blew the roofs off. The incident unfolded as follows. All electrical power was lost, cutting off coolant to the reactors. The temperatures inside the reactors soared, reducing the zirconium on the fuel rods and producing large amounts of hydrogen. This hydrogen and steam should have been vented outside, but there was no power and so venting was delayed. Hydrogen filled the buildings and the hydrogen concentration rose, resulting in explosions. Hindsight shows that, if the vents couldn’t be opened right away, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) could have brought helicopters and used guns or other tools to open holes from the outside to quickly release the hydrogen before it reached a concentration that would explode. The fear felt by citizens reached its height due to these explosions.
 The next problem was the evacuation orders. An order was issued right after the earthquake at 8:50 p.m. on March 11 to evacuate citizens within two kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. This range was changed to three kilometers at 9:23 p.m. on the same day and 10 kilometers on the following day (March 12). Including the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station, four evacuation orders were issued. The situation was very confusing, and the evacuation zones were finally set within 20 kilometers of Fukushima Daiichi and eight kilometers of Fukushima Daini. However, at this stage the evacuation zones were concentric circles with no consideration of wind direction, so some people were actually evacuated to areas with higher radiation doses and exposed needlessly. Afterwards, an evacuation standard was established according to a cumulative dose of 20 millisieverts per year, which was problematic because it resulted in many people being forcibly evacuated. Some of the people who were made to evacuate were elderly or hospitalized for serious illnesses. They were evacuated on regular buses rather than ambulances, and many people lost their lives in disaster-related deaths. There would have been no physical effects if people stayed for one week, two weeks, or even longer in regions with an annual dose of 20 or 100 millisieverts. I believe the government should have calmly taken infallible measures and ensured sufficient time to protect these sick and elderly people during the evacuations, without being panicked or flustered. Instead, it cordoned off the 20-kilometer zone around the nuclear power station – which was not based on medical evidence – and did not allow any people, things, or relief supplies to enter. It ordered all gas stations and convenience stores to close, so people could not travel by car and ended up running away in a greater panic. This was certainly a man-made calamity.

Enormous amounts of taxes are required because of the excessive decontamination standard

 The DPJ’s minimum standard for decontamination is one millisievert above 1.4 millisieverts, the average yearly amount of background radiation in Japan. This is much too low considering the worldwide average background radiation, which is 2.4 millisieverts. I wrote as follows in my essay in the May 2012 issue of Apple Town:

Throughout the world there are places such as Ramsar in Iran where the yearly average amount of natural radiation exceeds 10 millisieverts, as well as places with large amounts like Guarapari, Brazil, where the average amount is 5.5 millisieverts per year. Yet people live healthfully in these places, and I have never heard that decontamination was performed at Hiroshima or Nagasaki in the past. Despite the existence of such places, the government’s decontamination standard of one millisievert – according to the worldwide average – is much too low and totally ignores considerations of cost or time. In the future it is likely that we will be subjected to astronomical amounts of taxes in order to cover the expense of this decontamination.

 As described in the Sankei Shimbun article I quoted from, enormous amounts of taxes are in the process of being imposed to pay for this decontamination, just as I feared.
 Kan also halted operations at the Chubu Electric Power Company’s Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant with no legal basis, causing ripple effects that resulted in all of Japan’s nuclear power plants being shut down. Japan is paying excess oil charges to the tune of four trillion yen a year to make up for this with thermal power generation. During the five years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, roughly 20 trillion yen has been expended to maintain electric power. These costs are borne by the citizens. I think it is safe to say that the hydrogen explosions, disaster-related deaths, high decontamination expenses, extra tax burden, and loss of national wealth are all part of the DPJ’s man-made calamity. If the DPJ handled the disaster in an appropriate way, all of these could have been avoided.
 The United States also had a hand in stirring up fear about nuclear power. The U.S. Armed Forces started Operation Tomodachi right after the earthquake to aid the people affected by the disaster, including dispatching the USS Ronald Regan, an aircraft carrier. The media frequently broadcast videos of helicopters being decontaminated on the aircraft carrier after returning from the disaster-struck areas, which spread fear of radiation from Japan across the world. Even today, no announcements have been made about which helicopters were exposed to exactly how much radiation. This concern about radiation, fanned by the U.S. Armed Forces, was also directed to rubble from the disaster areas and storage areas for contaminated objects. Radioactive waste, even if it contains a negligible amount of radiation, is being kept in interim storage facilities and the final disposal sites have yet to be determined. The process of re-starting Japan’s nuclear power plants is also moving very slowly. During this time, major oil companies in the U.S. and other countries are increasing their exports to Japan and making huge profits. Shale oil development has been prosperous since the 1990s, transforming the U.S. from an oil importer to an exporter. However, this resulted in surplus oil across the world, and the major oil companies were searching for parties with significant demand for this oil. I think Japan was taken in by strategic information spread by the U.S., France, China, and other nuclear states saying that Tokyo was in danger. They made people scared of radiation and even inspired many of them to flee Japan. Now, Japan’s nuclear plants are all shut down and it has no choice but to purchase oil.
 When setting safety standards, attaching too much importance to safety results in extreme numerical values and enormous costs. One theory says that weak radiation around 20 millisieverts may conversely reduce the risk of cancer with long exposure. Regarding low radiation doses, the one thing we know from research on people exposed to radiation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that lifetime cumulative exposure of 100 millisieverts increases the risk of dying from cancer by just 0.5%. We do not know the impacts of lower doses. In contrast, the increase from smoking is 320 times that level, from drinking three alcoholic beverages a day is 320 times, and from obesity is 244 times. It seems safe to say that 100 millisieverts of exposure a year has almost no effect on the human body. If we rethought the evacuation and decontamination policies, people could probably return to most regions at this point. For instance, if there are still places in the evacuation zone where people are living with over 100 millisieverts per year, then decontamination should be focused on those regions alone.

Toyosu is safer than Tsukiji, which was built more than 80 years ago

 Every day, the mass media is talking about the issue of the new Toyosu market. This problem originates with an official announcement by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on the fact that monitoring spaces are located in the basements of the buildings, which differs from the proposal by the expert committee, and the fact that the ground hasn’t been raised as explained by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. I do believe the disparity between the government’s past explanations and actual circumstances is a problem, but I think these monitoring spaces will be useful. If the land had been raised, there would be no way to check for or deal with underground water pollution. These monitoring spaces will make it easy to constantly confirm the underground water and other factors and respond to the pollution. I believe this is why the government personnel and design and construction companies decided to build the monitoring spaces. People are in an uproar, saying that Koike should punish everyone involved including those who have already retired. Koike has raised her fist, but it is not clear to me where she intends for it to land.
 Past inspections indicated that underground water at the new Toyosu market does not exceed the environmental standard. However, the September 29 inspection showed amounts of benzene and arsenic values exceeding the environmental standard, which the media has reported on as a major incident. Yet this environmental standard is for drinking water; there is no plan to collect and use underground water as drinking or cleaning water at the new market, and these amounts slightly over the standard value will not harm humans. Besides, let us consider the conditions at the market in Tsukiji. More than 80 years have passed since that market was built, so there are significant concerns with whether the buildings can withstand earthquakes. The market is not sufficiently cleaned, which has resulted in rats, and one certainly cannot say it is a hygienic environment. There is no comparison – Toyosu is much safer than Tsukiji. However, the turmoil has made it unclear when the move to the new market will take place, and large amounts of money are being spent for daily maintenance of the Toyosu market. The Japanese environmental standard is very strict, and potable water must be at a level that poses no health risks when drunk at the level of two liters per day for 70 years. This is the national standard, yet the local government has enforced an even stricter standard purporting to “provide peace of mind to the citizens.” This translates to expenses paid for by taxes. This issue regarding the new Toyosu market is just like the man-made evacuation and decontamination calamity after the nuclear accident in Fukushima. Many citizens feel a totally needless sense of anxiety due to the actions of the national and local governments and irresponsible media reports, which are not founded on scientific proof.

We need an agency to monitor the media, the so-called “Fourth Estate”

 We are in the age of “post-truth politics,” mistaken government in which falsehoods are promoted as if they are true with no verification. We must have more perspective and think calmly about the health impacts of the new Toyosu market. Even if the underground water is above the environmental standard, it will not be used for drinking or cleaning. If the media encourages the public to demand “safety” in a hysterical way, huge amounts of money will likely be needed to resolve this unease. Rather than being constantly manipulated by the media, citizens must think and judge for themselves.
 The examples of the government taking mistaken actions because of the media are too numerous to mention. After the First Sino-Japanese War, China paid 200 million taels (around one trillion yen in today’s currency) to Japan as a war indemnity and also ceded Taiwan according to the Treaty of Shimonoseki. In contrast, the newspapers after the Russo-Japanese War did not clearly state that Japan had won a narrow victory; they instigated the citizens to believe that the lack of reparations or other benefits in the Treaty of Portsmouth was unfavorable for Japan. This led to the Hibiya incendiary incident. As a result, Minister for Foreign Affairs Jutaro Komura was extremely afraid of citizen revolts. He called off the memorandum for joint Japanese-American management of the South Manchuria Railway, which had been agreed upon by Prime Minister Taro Katsura and E. H. Harriman, an American railroad executive. This was despite Harriman’s purchase of five million dollars of war bonds to help pay for the Russo-Japanese War. This angered the Jewish people and led to War Plan Orange and was also an underlying cause for the war between Japan and the U.S. The mass media is referred to as the “Fourth Estate” and monitors the power of the state, but I think we also need an agency to monitor the media.
 Just like the period immediately after the Russo-Japanese War, in Japan today there is great potential for mistaken policies to be enacted according to incorrect news reports. History has proved that democracy is a better system than communism, yet it not an absolutely perfect system because the mass media can guide the public opinion in mistaken directions. To what degree does democracy allow for freedom? I think we may have reached the point when we must think about how to limit this exaggerated freedom of speech.

Abe was correct in refusing to send another letter of apology

 Japan and South Korea reached an agreement on the comfort women issue last year. Based on this, a foundation to assist the former comfort women, established by the South Korean government, requested a letter of apology from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe refused, saying he would not consider it. South Korea endlessly insists on the fabricated story that 200,000 women were transported and forced into prostitution. This is a clear falsehood since no newspaper articles from that time reported on revolts by Korean people. It is true that prostitutes (women working in military brothels) existed there and in all countries. According to this agreement, Abe reluctantly declared his heartfelt apology and remorse according to the request of American President Barack Obama, who wanted to deploy a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile (THAAD) battery in South Korea and bring the thoroughly pro-Chinese South Korean President Park Geun-hye onto the American side. Japan was required to provide one billion yen to the foundation created by the South Korean government. This provided a final and irreversible resolution to the issue, and the one billion yen was actually paid at the end of August. Asking for the letter of apology – an additional condition – was a breach of promise. Up until now Japan would probably have acquiesced to smooth over the situation, but history shows this has only resulted in increased demands from the other party. I think Abe responded in a pragmatic manner.
 The Nanking Massacre is also fabricated history. The Japanese Army had strict military discipline at that time; a soldier that killed even one unarmed civilian would have been court-martialed and punished, but there are no records of this happening during the occupation of Nanking. One hundred thousand members of the Chinese Kuomintang army had assembled on the banks of the Yangtze River to flee from Nanking.

Among this army there were many soldiers who killed each other in struggles over the few boats, and many others who died by drowning when they attempted to escape on rafts. An attempt was made to free prisoners of war, who had been apprehended for purposefully setting fire to lodging houses, by putting them in boats and sending them to the other side. The Chinese soldiers on the northern bank began firing. The Japanese Army mistakenly believed it was the target of these shots, and chaos ensued. Roughly 2,000 prisoners began rioting, so the Japanese side also had to use guns. (See the October 16 issue of the Sankei Shimbun)

 Not a single record has been discovered of the systematic killing of unarmed civilians or soldiers who became prisoners of war through combat (the so-called “Nanking Massacre”). General Iwane Matsui was found guilty at the Tokyo Trials and executed for this fictitious massacre. After World War II, the American army of occupation taught false history like the Nanking Massacre according to the War Guilt Information Program, by which it brainwashed Japanese people and implanted a sense of atonement. Just like the occupation army imposed the Press Code that still exists today, this sense of guilt is still strongly felt by many Japanese people. We must teach Japanese people the true history so they can regain pride in their home country.
 Together with a sense of atonement, the U.S. also imposed the Constitution of Japan. Now that forces in favor of constitutional reform have gained two thirds of the seats in the recent House of Councillors election, they should start the constitutional change process as soon as possible in the aim of enacting a decent, independent constitution. There is no consensus among these people about what parts to revise, so they should start only with the clearly bizarre portions such as the preamble that would easily gain the consensus of the citizens. This would make the citizens understand that constitutional change is possible. I believe the second revision should be more drastic, including Article 9.

October 17 (Monday), 11:00 p.m.