2016: The Fukushima Disaster - a Serious Crime

Fukushima: 2011-03-11  -   2016-03-11
The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Volume 14 | Issue 6 | Number 2, March 15, 2016
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus.

“The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster is a Serious Crime”: Interview with Koide Hiroaki

Katsuya Hirano, Hirotaka Kasai

Translation by Robert Stolz
Transcription by Akiko Anson

Koide Hiroaki (66) has emerged as an influential voice and a central figure in the anti-nuclear movement since the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi of March 11, 2011. He spent his entire career as a nuclear engineer working towards the abolition of nuclear power plants. His powerful critique of the "nuclear village" and active involvement in anti-nuclear movements "earned him an honorable form of purgatory as a permanent assistant professor at Kyoto University."1 Koide retired from Kyoto University in the spring of 2015, but continues to write and act as an important voice of conscience for many who share his vision of the future free from nuclear energy and weapons. He has authored 20 books on the subject. Professor Kasai Hirotaka and I visited his office at Kyoto University's Research Reactor Institute in Kumatori, Osaka, on December 26th, 2014 for this interview. We believe that the contents of the interview, which offer new information about the degree of radioactive contamination and invaluable insight into Koide's ethical and political stance as a scientist, remain crucial for our critical reflection on ecological destruction, the violation of human rights, and individual responsibility. Professor Robert Stolz, the translator of this interview and the author of Bad Water (Duke University Press, 2015), provides a historical perspective on the interview in a separate article. KH


I The Fukushima Disaster and Government and Corporate Response

Hirano: How does the Fukushima accident compare with the bombing of Hiroshima or Chernobyl in its scale? What are the possible effects of this yet unknown exposure?
Koide: Let's start with the scale of the accident: It was a core meltdown involving the release of various kinds of radioactive material. Radioactive noble gas isotopes were also released, as were iodine, cesium, strontium, and other radioactive material. The noble gas isotopes have a short half-life and so at this stage they are all gone. Iodine, too, is gone. So now four years since the accident the materials that are still a problem are cesium-137, strontium-90, and tritium; really, it's these three.2
Now, as for the scale of the accident, I think it would be best to compare these three radionuclides. Today the main contamination of Japanese soil is the radionuclide cesium-137 [Cs-137 or 137Cs]. The ocean is largely contaminated with strontium-90 [Sr-90 or 90Sr] and tritium [T or 3H]. Right now the main culprit adding to the exposure of the people in Japan is Cs-137, so I think it's best to use Cs-137 as a standard for measuring the scale of the accident.
But we simply don't know with any precision how much Cs-137 was released. That's because all the measuring equipment was destroyed at the time of the accident. How much Cs-137 was released into the air? How much was spilled in the sea? We just don't know.

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