May 17, 2012 · 0 Comments
By Michael McGehee:
A year ago last March it wasn’t just Japan that was exposed to the nightmare of modern civilization, but the whole world. When Mother Nature exposed the dangers of nuclear energy by sending an earthquake and tsunami to damage the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the fallout would go beyond Japan.
But over at the New York Times you would hardly know things are as bad as they are.
Browsing through articles from the last 30 days there were eleven on the Japanese nuclear power plant. And while the article “Japan to Nationalize Fukushima Utility” which was published on May 9 notes that, “The Fukushima Daiichi plant was heavily damaged by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, which eventually led to multiple meltdowns at the site and a huge radiation leak that forced tens of thousands from their homes,” there is nothing else mentioned on the fallout. As if the worst of the incident was evacuated homes, and the compensation of the displaced.
Other than that there is no more mention of the effects of the nuclear disaster for the thirty-day period.
What there is mention of is how there is a large public response to the central governments attempts to restart some of the plants. But this comes across as contemptous for grassroots democracy.
In “Last Reactor of 50 in Japan Is Shut Down” published on May 5, journalist Martin Fackler tells Times readers that “last year’s nuclear disaster forced the nation to at least temporarily do without atomic power for the first time in 42 years.” Fackler goes on to report that,
Desperate to avert possible power shortages this summer, the government has tried to convince the public to allow some of the reactors to be restarted. It has conducted simulated stress tests to show whether reactors can withstand the sort of immense earthquake and tsunami that knocked out the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The problem is that “the public has not accepted the tests, which were conducted largely behind closed doors,” and that, “About 300 protesters gathered Saturday in front of the Trade Ministry to celebrate the temporary shutdown of the nation’s nuclear program, and to call for a permanent end.”
Two days prior to the above article Fackler wrote a more lengthy article, “Japan’s Leaders, Pressed by Public, Fret as Nuclear Shutdown Nears,” on the struggle between the central government and local leaders backed by the public:
Japan’s leaders have made increasingly desperate attempts in recent months to avoid just such a scenario, trying to restart plants shut for routine maintenance and kept that way while they tried to convince a skittish public that the reactors were safe in the wake of last year’s nuclear catastrophe. But the government has run up against a crippling public distrust that recently found a powerful voice in local leaders who are orchestrating a rare challenge to Tokyo’s centralized power.
In discussing the efforts of a young mayor battling the central government to keep the plants closed, Fackler assures his audience that, “There is no guarantee that Mr. Hashimoto’s revolt will last past the summer, when the notion of life without nuclear power will become more real in a nation that relied on reactors to fuel its powerful postwar economy.”
Again the crisis at the Times is the energy crisis, not the environmental and health crisis that our high levels of energy consumption create.
And it’s not just Fackler’s pieces. In a Bloomberg News article published by the New York Times (“Japan’s Idling of Nuclear Plants Is Complete“) we read that,
Japan has had at least some electricity from nuclear plants since May 1970. And before last March, 50 nuclear facilities provided 30 percent of its electricity.
Now, however, the utilities powering the world’s third-biggest economy, behind China and the United States, have been forced to turn to coal, oil and gas-fired plants to keep factories, offices and households supplied with electricity.
Buying and importing those fuels is driving up costs and may lead to higher electricity bills and a further drag on an economy that has contracted in three of the past four years.
Quite simply, these articles read like propaganda put out by the nuclear industry. Because, again, the focus is on hyping concerns of an energy crisis, not our levels of consumption, or the risks nuclear energy poses to our health and the environment.
And beyond the last thirty days, that trend becomes more apparent when you do a simple query using the Times search engine. Look up “Fukushima nuclear” and you get 1,380 articles. Add the word “fallout” and it’s reduced to 143 articles.
But if you look elsewhere you find very serious concerns of fallout.
A BBC article in late March 2012 (“Probe finds high radiation in damaged Fukushima reactor“) reports that, “The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has said damage to one of the reactors is much worse than previously thought,” while also saying, “Radiation was up to 10 times the fatal dose, the highest yet recorded at the plant.”
Common Dreams reported yesterday that “Radioactive cesium measured in samples of silt taken from Tokyo Bay has increased to 1.5-13 times the amount detected in similar samples last August, according to a survey conducted by Kinki University.”
Not even a month after the disaster Forbes magazine reported that, “Radiation from Japan has been detected in drinking water in 13 more American cities, and cesium-137 has been found in American milk—in Montpelier, Vermont—for the first time since the Japan nuclear disaster began.”
A week ago Digital Journal informed its readers in an op-ed piece that,
The Fukushima facility has many fuel rods still filled with unspent fuel. If the fuel is radioactive MOX, there would be enough radiation in just one rod to kill millions of people. Worst case scenario involves the integrity and safety of the rods, which are made of low quality materials accompanied with poor maintenance. This situation means that any major earthquake could cause massive damage to the rods. Additionally, if all of the rods rupture simultaneously, this cataclysmic disaster could mean the annihilation of many life forms on planet Earth.
And in an article published in the International Journal of Health Services last December, a study found that,
Deaths rose 4.46 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the 14 weeks after the arrival of Japanese fallout, compared with a 2.34 percent increase in the prior 14 weeks. The number of infant deaths after Fukushima rose 1.80 percent, compared with a previous 8.37 percent decrease. Projecting these figures for the entire United States yields 13,983 total deaths and 822 infant deaths in excess of the expected.
The authors of the study then go on to say that, “This result suggested that radiation from Japan may have harmed Americans, thus meriting more research.”
Readers of the New York Times should be very concerned that they are getting a distorted picture of the Fukushima nuclear disaster at the “paper of record.” We should be looking into why it is that the energy concern is “all the news fit to print,” and not the environmental and health risks. Considering the powerful influence of lobbies with the media, the prospects of the nuclear energy industry influencing articles, and thus manipulating the opinions of viewers, is a serious concern. Rather than focusing on the concern of energy bills, we need a more serious and sustained focus on our consumption levels, their link to the global capitalist system, and more details on the health and environmental risks of not just nuclear energy, but a wide array of other issues relevant to our production and consumption trends. Unfortunately, the Times has come nowhere close to delivering this level of quality journalism.