Our Nuclear World (GRTV Feature Report)

by | Sep 18, 2011 | Videos | 0 comments

James Corbett
18 September, 2011


An explosion at the Marcoule nuclear site in France this week has once again focused world attention on the issue of nuclear safety.

The blast, which took place in a furnace used to melt metallic waste from the plant, killed one worker and injured four, but France’s Nuclear Safety Authority was quick to stress that there had been no radiation leaks as a result of the explosion.

These assurances did little to assuage the fears of a public who are already on edge with concerns over the safety of nuclear power, however, and especially a French public who is wary of its own country’s poor safety record and proneness to hiding information on safety concerns.

The French nuclear industry is already reeling from an explosion at the Tricastin nuclear power plant in July, just days after the Nuclear Safety Authority identified 32 safety concerns at the plant, and news earlier this week that French company Areva was going to suspend its uranium conversion operations at two French plants due to a sharp drop in demand for nuclear fuel from Japan in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

Meanwhile in the United States, the recent unusual 5.9 magnitude earthquake that struck near Washington, DC temporarily shut down the North Anna nuclear power plant which was located just 20 miles from the quake’s epicenter. The plant lost power and automatically reverted to backup systems.

Despite initial official assurances that the incident was insignificant, as nuclear energy advisor Arnie Gundersen noted in a recent radio interview on WBAI, the failure of one of the emergency diesel generators at the plant is a worrying sign that the plant was tested to the limits of its design capabilities.

Meanwhile in Japan, the agriculture ministry has announced that beef shipments from Fukushima Prefecture resumed this week after two months of restrictions. The ban, which had also previously effected Iwate, Tochigi and Miyagi prefectures, was imposed on fears that the cattle hadd been contaminated with radioactive cesium.

The ministry stresses that all cattle from the region will be tested for radiation before being shipped, but failed to point out that under new “temporary safe limits” that the government has set in the wake of the disaster, Japan now has the highest legal limits for radiation in food in the world.

The limit for radioactivity in food in Japan is now as much as 20 times the international legal limits for nuclear waste, and hundreds of times those standards set for food in other countries.

Amidst government obfuscation of the true nature of the problem at Fukushima, citizen action groups are still struggling to organize and to inform the public at large about their plight.

Just this week, TEPCO infuriated Fukushima evacuees by releasing details of its compensation package for victims of the disaster. The 200-page document includes three forms that need to be filled out including one that is 56 pages long, and a 156 page explanatory booklet detailing the receipts and other records required for victims to get compensation.

“It’s outrageous,” Reiko Hachisuka, one of the evacuees seeking compensation for the incident was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. “Who would think of getting receipts when living in an evacuation shelter?”

As Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action Japan explained to Dr. Helen Caldicott on a recent edition of her radio program, If You Love This Planet, it is only through the painstaking efforts of independent, citizen action groups, that information about the true scale and scope of the Fukushima disaster is coming to light.


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