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Lessons from Fukushima – Australia must prevent fuelling more Fukushimas

The calamity at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, following the tragic earthquake and tsunami on March 11, confirms 25 years after Chernobyl that claims of safe nuclear power are false.

Three reactors and several spent fuel pools at Fukushima Daiichi are still releasing large amounts of radioactive materials. There is no end in sight. Seabed, air and soil samples taken in the region have recorded alarming radiation levels, hundreds of times higher than previously detected in and around Fukushima. Radiation from Fukushima has spread to Korea, China, Russia, Europe, the USA and Australia. It is now clear that both the electricity company, TEPCO, and the Japanese authorities have been and remain incapable of taking necessary steps to prevent a nuclear disaster, and of responding appropriately to the ongoing crisis. There was:

  •  suppression and concealment by the Japanese authorities on the full extent of the disaster and hence of the associated short- and long-term dangers in Japan and abroad. We now know that it is a level 7 (worst possible) nuclear event – considered by experts to be the worst nuclear disaster in history, and that within days of the earthquake and tsunami the nuclear fuel had melted down and through the containment structure.
  •  a mandatory evacuation zone instituted by the Government that was limited to a meager radius of 20 km, against other recommendations of at least 80km;
  •  continued inaction by the Japanese Government contrary to widespread demands to fully monitor and release the contamination data needed to protect the public in the immediate area and beyond; the result of this lack of information has been that large numbers of people at risk have not evacuated, nor have they had the opportunity to take other measures for their protection.
  •  alarming increases to 20mSv per year (20 times higher than the normal level) in the level of ‘safe’ radiation exposure permitted for children in schools in Fukushima Prefecture, equivalent to the recognised dose for inducing leukemia in nuclear power plant workers. Most alarmingly, this ignores the higher sensitivity to radiation of children compared to adults, and ignores other sources of radiation to which the children have also been exposed.

The nuclear power industry, inextricably linked as it is with the nuclear arms industry, has for half a century exerted extraordinary influence over Governmental and international policies, laws and treaties across the globe. Nuclear development depends for its success on discriminatory social structures. Land and water is contaminated by uranium mining and nuclear reactors, labourers are exposed to dangerously high levels of radiation. Residents are also similarly affected, with inadequate safeguards against exposure to radiation. Nuclear waste is forced onto marginalised, disadvantaged or remote communities who do not have the resources to resist. Nuclear development always exploits and exposes socially marginal people.

As the Japanese are now experiencing, nuclear power is not simply a threat to the natural environment and to human health, particularly of the socially disadvantaged in the first instance. It is also a threat to human rights and democracy. People may be forcibly removed from their homes and lands, forcibly exposed to radiation (knowingly or unknowingly), and unable to access accurate information about the full impacts of nuclear development or nuclear accidents on them. Once nuclear disaster occurs, they are robbed of their freedom to live as normal, and they will not be compensated for their losses.

Until now uranium from Australia has yielded profits within Australia without regard to the associated costs and risks. It fuels the nuclear chain worldwide, including TEPCO and other nuclear facilities in Japan.

The Australian Government must now accept responsibility for what becomes of the uranium it mines and exports. In the aftermath of events in Fukushima, Australia has a special responsibility to the people of Japan and elsewhere suffering from exposure to Australian uranium.

Rikiya Adachi

Greens Japan

Resolution on the Fukushima Disaster

Adopted by The Australian Greens National Council  July 10th, 2011

The following resolution was agreed after Namiho Matsumoto and Rikiya Adachi from Greens Japan addressed the meeting.

We, Australian Greens and Greens Japan, call on people around the world:

  1. to put pressure on the Japanese Government and on TEPCO to gather and release all relevant information, including raw data, and to return the exposure limit back to the normal level so that people, especially those who are physically and socially vulnerable, can be saved.

We call on the Japanese Government to:

  1. Immediately evacuate people, especially children and expectant mothers, from highly radioactive contaminated areas.
  2. Strengthen the monitoring of radioactive contamination of air, soil, water, foods and the sea, and make the information, including raw data, publicly available;
  3. Enable the ongoing monitoring and recording, free of charge, of external/internal radiation exposure history of all people in affected areas. Measures to achieve this include the widespread distribution, free of charge, of integrating dosimeters, as well as the use of Whole Body Counters, blood, mother’s milk and urine analysis.
  4. Allow international experts and organisations to fully participate in the search for and implementation of the best means possible of responding to the crisis.
  5. Establish a special institution for the treatment of nuclear waste;
  6. Abandon nuclear energy, by:
    1. Not restarting nuclear power plants closed down under the regular inspection regime;
    2. Closing down all nuclear power plants currently operating;
    3. Decommissioning all nuclear power plants in Japan;
  7.  Declare Japan a nuclear-free country, including of commercial use.

We call on the Australian Government to resolve that it must prevent fuelling more Fukushimas by:

  1. Declaring a moratorium on uranium mining and export, following many governments around the world that are pausing to reflect on the merits and risks of nuclear power;
  2. Ceasing negotiation of any new bilateral uranium and nuclear related treaties;
  3. Rehabilitating uranium mine sites, isolating contaminated tailings from the environment and initiating long-term stewardship arrangements;
  4. Registering all past and current radiation workers on the National Dose Register;
  5. Conducting long term follow up health studies on occupationally exposed workers and their families;
  6. Restoring full rights to all people violated or disadvantaged by uranium mining in Australia, including Aboriginal communities;
  7.  Planning, preparing and implementing a transition from a fossil economy to a renewable future.

We call on all governments to:

  1. Cease nuclear power development, towards a complete phase out;
  2. Intensify research into the safe treatment of nuclear waste;
  3. Create a new, independent institution of scientific and other experts, charged with the responsibility of protecting people and environments from radioactive contamination.

07/21/2011 – 12:00


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