By Karl Grossman
“The Fukushima Disaster, The Hidden Side of the Story” is a just-released film documentary, a powerful, moving, information-full film that is superbly made. Directed and edited by Philippe Carillo, it is among the strongest ever made on the deadly dangers of nuclear technology.
It begins with the words in 1961 of U.S. President John F. Kennedy: “Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by an accident, or miscalculation or by madness.”
It then goes to the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plants in Japan after they were struck by a tsunami. Their back-up diesel generators were kicked in but “did not run for long,” notes the documentary. That led to three of the six plants exploding—and there’s video of this—“releasing an unpreceded amount of nuclear radiation into the air.”
“Fukushima is the world’s largest ever industrial catastrophe,” says Professor John Keane of the University of Sydney in Australia. He says there was no emergency plan and, as to the owner of Fukushima, Tokyo Electric Power Company, with the accident its CEO “for five nights and days…locked himself inside his office.”
Meanwhile, from TEPCO, there was “only good news” with two Japanese government agencies also “involved in the cover-up”—the Nuclear Industry Safety Agency and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
“Japanese media was ordered to censor information. The Japanese government failed to protect its people,” the documentary relates.
Yumi Kikuchi of Fukushima, since a leader of the Fukushima Kids Project, recalls: “On TV, they said that ‘it’s under control’ and they kept saying that for two months. The nuclear power plant had already melted and even exploded but they never admitted the meltdown until May. So, people in Fukushima during that time were severely exposed to radiation.”
Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer and now a principal of Fairewinds Energy Education in Burlington, Vermont, speaks of being told by Naoto Kan, the prime minister of Japan at the time of the accident, that “our existence as a sovereign nation was at stake because of the disaster at Fukushima Daichi.”
Kan then appears in documentary and speaks of “manmade” links to the disaster.
The documentary tells how Kan, following the accident, became “an advocate against nuclear power….ordered all nuclear power plants in Japan to shut down for safety” and for the nation “to move into renewable energy.”
But, subsequently, “a nuclear advocate,” Shinzo Abe, became Japan’s prime minister.
Yoichi Shimatsu, a former Japan Times journalist, appears in the film and speaks of “the cruelty, the cynicism of this government.” He speaks of how in the accident’s aftermath, “nearly every member of Parliament and leaders of the major political parties” along with corporate executives, “moved their relatives out of Japan”
He says “Shanghai is the largest Japanese community outside Japan now…while these same people” had been “telling the people of Fukushima go home, 10 kilometers from Fukushima, go home it’s safe, while their families are overseas in Los Angeles, in Paris, in London and in Shanghai.”
“If it’s safe, why they left?” asks Kikuchi. “They tell us it’s safe to live in
Fukushima, and to eat Fukushima food to support Fukushima people. There’s a campaign by Japanese government…and people believe it.”
Gundersen says: “At Fukushima Daichi, the world is already seeing deaths from cancer related to the disaster…There’ll be many more over time.” He adds that there’s been a “huge increase in thyroid cancer in the surrounding population.”
“Unfortunately,” he goes on, “the Japanese government is not telling us al the evidence. There’s a lot of pressure on the scientists and the medical community to distort the evidence so there’s no blowback against nuclear power.”
There is a section in the documentary on the impacts of radioactivity which includes Dr. Helen Caldicott, former president of Physician for Social Responsibility, discussing the impacts of radiation on the body and how it causes cancer. She states: “There is no safe level of radiation. I repeat, there is no safe level of radiation. Each dose of radiation is cumulative and adds to your risk of getting cancer and that’s absolutely documented in the medical literature.”
“The nuclear industry says, well, there are ‘safe doses’ of radiation and even says a little bit of radiation is good for you and that is called the theory of hormesis,” notes Dr. Caldicott. “They lie and they lie and they lie.”
Maggie Gundersen, who was a reporter and then a public relations representative for the nuclear industry and, like her husband Arnie became an opponent of nuclear power, speaks of how nuclear power derives from the World War II Manhattan Project program to develop atomic weapons and post-war so-called “Atoms for Peace” push.
Gundersen says in becoming a nuclear industry spokesperson, “the things I was taught weren’t true.” The notion, for example, that what is called a containment at a nuclear plant is untrue because radioactivity “escapes every day as a nuclear power plant operates” and in a “calamity” is released massively.
As to economics, she cited the claim decades ago that nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter.” The president of Fairewinds Energy Education, she says: “Atomic power is now the most expensive power there is on the planet. It is not feasible. It never has been.” Regarding the radioactive waste produced by nuclear power, she says “there is literally no technology to do that…It does not exist.”
As to international oversight, the documentary presents the final version of a “Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation” issued in 2014 which finds that the radiation doses from Fukushima “to the general public during the first year and estimated for their lifetimes are generally low or very low….The most important effect is on mental and social well-being.”
Shimatsu says it is not only in Japan but on an international level that the consequences of radioactive exposure have been completely minimized or denied. “We are all seeing a global political agreement centered in the UN organizations, tie IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], the World Health Organization…All the international agencies are whitewashing what is happening in Fukushima. We take dosimeters and Geiger counters in there, we see a much different story,” he says.
In Germany, says Maggie Gunderson, “the politicians chose” to do a study to “substantiate” that no health impacts “happened around nuclear power plants….But what they found was the radiation releases cause significant numbers of childhood leukemia.” A summary of that 2008 study comes on the screen. The U.S. followed up on that research, she says, but recently “the [U.S.] Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was not going to do that study,” that “it doesn’t have enough funding; it had to shut it down.” She said the real reason was that it was producing “data they don’t want to make public.”
Beyond the airborne releases of radiation after the Fukushima accident, now, says the documentary, there is the growing threat of radioactivity through water that has and still is leaking from the plants as well as more than a million tons of radioactive water stored in a thousand tanks built at the plant site. After the accident, TEPCO released 300,000 tons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Now there is no land for more tanks, so the Japanese government, the documentary relates, has decided that starting this year to dump massive amounts of radioactive water over a 30-year period into the Pacific.
Arnie Gundersen speaks of the cliché that “the solution to pollution is dilution,” but with the radiation from Fukushima being sent into the Pacific, there will be “bio-accumulation”—with vegetation absorbing radiation, little fish eating that vegetation and intensifying it and bigger fish eating the smaller fish and further bio-accumulating the radioactivity. Already, tuna off California have been found with radiation traced to Fukushima. With this planned further, and yet greater dispersal, thousands of people “in the Pacific basin will die from radiation,” he says.
Andrew Napuat, a member of the Parliament of the nation of Vanuatu, an 83 island archipelago in the Pacific, says in the documentary: “We have the right to say no to the Japan solution. We can’t let them jeopardize our sustenance and livelihood.” Vanuatu along with 13 other countries has signed and ratified the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty.
As the documentary nears its end, Arnie Gundersen says that considering the meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania in 1979, the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine in 1986, and now the three Fukushima meltdowns in 2011, there has been “a meltdown every seven years roughly.” He says: “Essentially, once every decade the world needs to know that there might be an atomic meltdown somewhere.” And, he adds, the “nuclear industry is saying they want would like to build as many as 5,000 new nuclear power plants.” (There are 440 in the world today.)
Meanwhile, he says, “renewable power is no longer alternative power. It’s on our doorstep. It’s here now and it works and it’s cheaper than nuclear.” The cost of producing energy from wind, he says, is three cents a kilowatt hour, for solar five cents, and for new nuclear power plants 15 cents. Nuclear “makes no nuclear economic sense.”
Maggie Gundersen says, with tears in her eyes: “I’m a woman and I feel it’s inherent for us as women to protect our children our grandchildren, and it’s our job now to raise our voices and have this madness stop.”
Philippe Carillo, from France, who worked for 14 years in Hollywood and who since 2017 has lived in Vanuatu, has worked on several major TV documentary projects for the BBC, 20th Century Fox and French National TV as well as doing independent productions. He says he made “The Fukushima Disaster, The Hidden Side of the Story” to “expose the nuclear industry and its lies.” His previous award-winning documentary, “Inside the Garbage of the World,” has made changes regarding the use of plastic.
“The Fukushima Disaster, The Hidden Side of the Story” can be viewed at Amazon, Apple TV, iTunes, Google Play and Vimeo on demand. Links are:
Apple TV: https://tv.apple.com/us/movie/the-fukushima-disaster/umc.cmc.3rfome5kj2hfpo2q9fwx5u0y0 Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/placeholder_title/dp/B0B8TLPZ9K/ref=sr_1_1
Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/Fukushima-Disaster-Yoichi-Shimatsu/dp/B0B8TLSRN4/ref=sr_1_1 Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/movies/details?id=vehqb5ex L8.P&sticky_source_country=US&gl=US&hl=en&pli=1
Video on demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/thefukushimadisaster
Also, extra footage and interviews not in the film are at www.exposurefilmstrust.com