Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Bikini, Fukushima: Japan Nuked Four Times by American Technology

This post will be short so that readers can skip straight to the link below which is a long article that expresses much of what I wanted to say about my year of living dangerously in Japan. Someone wrote it better than I could, so I'm spared the work on this one.

Gayle Greene's article covers the way that research on Hiroshima and Nagasaki hibakusha (victims of radiation) was originally flawed, and subsequently misinterpreted over many decades, even though it became the 'gold standard' of studies on the health effects of radiation. Because these faults have been consistently ignored, the health effects of nuclear accidents (Chernobyl, Fukushima, downwinders of bomb test fallout) have also been misrepresented and underestimated.

Ms. Greene also explicitly states the obvious but uncomfortable truth about the Fukushima Daiichi accident: that it was the third time that Japan has been irradiated by American technology. Her only error might be in her omission of the 1954 Lucky Dragon #5 incident which actually puts the number up to four. That story is often understood as the tale of a small crew of one tuna boat that got showered in fallout from the Bravo hydrogen bomb test in the Bikini Atoll. It is falsely understood as having set off a panic that made everyone afraid to buy tuna for months afterward because of one shipload of contaminated fish, but actually the discovery of this one badly affected crew instigated monitoring of bomb test fallout for the first time, and widespread contamination was discovered on the Japanese archipelago, in the crews of many other ships, and in the entire catch coming out of the South Pacific that season. For the first time, the world got an inkling of the widespread effects of secret bomb tests that had been going on since 1946.

Some might say that American responsibility for the accident at Fukushima Daiichi is exaggerated. It certainly could have been prevented if the plant had been properly operated, but the decision to bend to American trade pressure meant that Japan chose General Electric's flawed, dangerous light water reactors that were dependent on enriched uranium. For a short time in the late 1960s Japan had the option of going with a heavy water reactor design from Canada that didn't use enriched uranium, but that's another story.

Read on:
Gayle Greene, 'Science with a Skew: The Nuclear Power Industry After Chernobyl and Fukushima,' The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 10, Issue 1 No 3, January 2, 2012.

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