From Hiroshima/Nagasaki to Fukushima

From the September-October 2012 issue of News & Letters:

From Hiroshima/Nagasaki to Fukushima

Evanston, Ill.—On Aug. 5 a unique and wonderful commemoration related the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan. Titled “Hiroshima commemoration presentation: From Hiroshima to Fukushima,” it was sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), North Shore Peace Initiative and Chicago Peace Coalition.

Dr. Norma Field of the University of Chicago’s Japanese Studies department spoke of anxious feelings among many of being caught off guard by nuclear disaster because of deployment of nuclear weapons and nuclear accidents. She reminded us that the first nuclear chain reaction was set off at the University of Chicago. Before Hiroshima, 155 scientists in the Manhattan Project presented a petition to President Harry Truman asking that the U.S. not use the A-bomb unless the Japanese were told of the effects of an atomic bombing and the terms of surrender were not accepted.

Dr. Field introduced Yamada Yasuteru, a retired metals engineer and founder of the Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima (SVCF). SVCF was formed for volunteers to “work at Fukushima Daiichi to reduce radiation doses for younger workers.” Younger workers are more vulnerable to radiation, while older workers will probably die from something else first. Younger workers also risk the health of their future offspring.

Mr. Yamada told of the known damage and the uncertainties at Fukushima. Reactors 1 through 3 are stable for now, but if another earthquake hits before the 40 to 50 years it will take to clean up and repair those reactors, that stability is in peril. Suspicion is strong that things are still very bad at Reactor 4. He presented tasks that should be done to clean up and repair the reactors as well as preventive measures that should be taken. The Japanese government has said it would be fine for SVCF people to enter the reactors and work, but Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) refused.

Mr. Yamada asked us to write to the federal government asking them to persuade the Japanese government to carry out SVCF proposed tasks: independent from TEPCO, employ worldwide expertise, including Three Mile Island and Chernobyl engineers and scientists; integrated project management; bring in an international inspection team. TEPCO has too much power and is hiding things to protect its own business interests. I have already written a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

—E.B.

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