The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 12. 2013    

March 25, 2013    
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This is a special issue on Japan's 3.11 earthquake-tsunami-meltdown. It features Roger Witherspoon's two part article on Operation Tomadachi, the Fukushima Rescue Mission which documents the fact that American sailors were subjected to dangerous levels of radiation. for lying about the radiation released and endangering their lives. Many now face life-threatening diseases for which the US Navy provides no compensation or support following their active duty service.  Gavan McCormack and David McNeill/Greenpeace offer two comprehensive perspectives on 3.11 and its aftermath, including the 20,000 who lost their lives in the tsunami and the hundreds of thousands of refugees, many of whom will never return home, and the policies adopted by the Japanese government and Tepco with respect to the future of the Fukushima region and Japan's energy policies.

From this week selected articles will be made available on Kindle, including all of this week's selections and several recent articles. If you are interested in Kindle availability, please drop us a line to let us know at

Our home page has a category Featured Articles. This will take you to the most widely read articles of recent times and over our decade of publication. Check it out.

What have been the most widely read articles at APJ? To find out, click on "Top Ten Articles" at the top of the home page, for the top articles of the last month, last year, last five years and last decade.

Our home page has a number of important features. There is a powerful search engine that permits search by author, title, and keyword, found in top left of the home page. For most purposes, author's surname or a keyword entered in Title is most useful. Another is a regularly updated guide to the more than 100 articles we have published on the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power meltdown which is transforming Japanese politics and society, and is reshaping issues of nuclear power and energy policy in that nation and globally. Articles are arranged topically. In addition, we have added a guide to some of the most important, and liveliest, online and print sources on 3.11 including blogs and websites.  Second, the list of articles now indicates all those available in Japanese translation or original, as well as other languages.

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Roger Witherspoon, Fukushima Rescue Mission Lasting Legacy: Radioactive Contamination of Americans (Part I)

Who are the victims of Japan's great 3.11 earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown? This journal has documented the heavy price paid by the more than 20,000 who died in the tsunami, the hundreds of thousands driven from their homes by the combination of tsunami and meltdown, and the nuclear workers who have fought to bring the radiation at the Tepco plants under control at risk of their lives. Roger Witherspoon extends this analysis to the US servicemen and women of Operation Tomodachi who were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation with little preparation or protection. And in many cases with no access to medical care after completing their terms of service. Some of them are now suing Tepco for lying to the US government and Navy in a hope of recovering damages and treatment, as described and documented below. This is the first of two major articles on their plight and their fight. Asia-Pacific Journal

Roger Witherspoon has spent more than 40 years working in all forms of the media as a journalist, author, educator, and public relations specialist. Along the way, he has written extensively on state and national politics, foreign affairs, finance, defense, civil rights, constitutional law, health, the environment, and energy.

Recommended Citation: Roger Witherspoon, "Fukushima Rescue Mission Lasting Legacy: Radioactive Contamination of Americans," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 11, No. 4. March 18, 2013.


Read More. . .


Roger Witherspoon, A Lasting Legacy of the Fukushima Rescue Mission: Cat and Mouse with a Nuclear Ghost  (Part II)

For several days, the winds from the destroyed nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi crashed head on into the myth of the radioactive plume.


It is the most enduring falsehood of commercial nuclear power, promoted heavily by both the industry and its watchdog, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is a myth with two conflicting premises:

  • Radioactive gases spewing from a stricken reactor or spent fuel pool have an inherent property which holds them in a tight, thin stream which prevents widespread contamination.
  • At 10 miles the plume disperses like steam from a teapot, leaving traces that are either too small to measure or are so minute as to be "below regulatory concern."

The contradiction between being tightly bound and widely dispersed is never challenged. It was most clearly enunciated at a public hearing April 8, 2002, in White Plains, New York, on the evacuation plans for the two Indian Point reactors, located about 30 miles north of Manhattan, owned by Entergy Corp. There was no dissent from NRC officials as Entergy's Larry Gottlieb said, glibly, "the easiest way to avoid a radioactive plume is to cross the street.

"It's kind of like someone pointing a gun at you and all you have to do is step to the left or right to get out of the pathway of the bullet. That's all you have to do."

During the frenetic first week after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the infrastructure of Japan's northeast coast, killed some 20,000 people, rendered hundreds of thousands homeless, and set four of the six Fukushima Daiichi reactors on an irrevocable path to meltdowns, officials from the U.S. Departments of Defense, State, and Energy, as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission clung to the notion that the situation was manageable as long as the "plume" held true to the myth and blew out to sea.



Recommended citation: Roger Witherspoon, "A Lasting Legacy of the Fukushima Rescue Mission: Cat and Mouse with a Nuclear Ghost," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 12, No. 1. March 25, 2013.

 Read More. . .  

Gavan McCormack, Fukushima: An Assessment of the Quake, Tsunami and Nuclear Meltdown

It is just over two years since Japan's quake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. It was Japan's 3rd nuclear catastrophe, at level 7 highest on the scale and on a par with Chernobyl, although, unlike Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was self-inflicted. The triple event left 20,000 dead, 315,000 refugees, and a devastated swathe of productive farm and fish country and its towns and villages that will take decades, at least, to recover.


Today, the Government of Japan tends to refer to the "Great East Japan Earthquake," preferring to focus on the quake and tsunami rather than the meltdown, as if it were some inexplicable act of god. It talks of its policies for economic revival, reconstruction and crisis management, but little of the nuclear crisis.


The triple catastrophe is often referred to as "soteigai" (unimaginable) but we now know was not the case. The Diet committee that investigated the accident pointed out last year that the disaster was structural, man-made, brought about by the failings of the power company and of the national government. Even before Fukushima, the nuclear industry was known for data falsification and fabrication, the duping of safety inspectors, the belittling of risk and the failure to report criticality incidents and emergency shut-downs. Directly and indirectly, politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, lawyers, media groups, academics also collaborated, constituting in sum the so-called "nuclear village." "Japan's nuclear industry became, as one critic put it, "a black hole of criminal malfeasance, incompetence, and corruption."  


At Fukushima, where a hydrogen explosion blew the roof off reactor four days after the quake, 1,535 irradiated fuel rods remain stored on its 5th floor. They still cannot be removed, so water must continue to be poured, some of it inevitably finding its way into the surrounding soil and sea.  (Yomiuri Shimbun 8 March). One fish caught in the nearly seas in late February was found to have 5,100 times the safe limit of caesium (Kyodo 2 March). A 3,000-stong workforce struggles to stabilize and dismantle the plant. Its work will take at least 30 years.


The what, the why, and the aftermath of 3.11.

Gavan McCormack is an emeritus professor at Australian National University, a coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, and a co-author, with Satoko Oka Norimatsu, of Resistant Islands - Okinawa Versus Japan and the United States (Rowman and Littlefield, 2012; Japanese edition now available from Horitsu Bunkasha).

Posted on March 24, 2013.


Two years after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered the planet's worst's nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, journalists are still often asked: is the crisis over?  One plausible reply might be that it has just begun.


While the threat of another catastrophic release of radiation has receded, perhaps for good, the long, complex struggle to safely remove nuclear fuel from the reactor basements of the Fukushima Daiichi plant is still in its early stages.   Reactors still seep radiation, although at a rate of 10 million Becquerel per hour for cesium versus about 800 trillion right after the disaster, according to Reuters. The level outside reactor 3 is 1,710 microsieverts an hour, enough to quickly induce radiation sickness.   But radiation around the complex has fallen by about 40 percent in the last year, says operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).


Plant manager Takahashi Takeshi has again predicted that safely dismantling the six-reactor facility will take up to 40 years.  "Radiation levels at units one, two and three are very high and the cause of that is the fuel that has melted inside the reactors," he said during a rare media tour of the plant on March 6. "Radiation levels within the buildings are all very high, although the level at Unit 4 is lower."  He insisted that the ruined No. 4 reactor building, containing 1,530 highly toxic fuel rods, would withstand another earthquake, despite doomsday predictions by some.


David McNeill introduces a Green Peace video on 3.11 and its aftermath.

Dr David McNeill is the Japan correspondent for The Chronicle of Higher Education and writes for The Independent and Irish Times newspapers. He covered the nuclear disaster for all three publications, has been to Fukushima ten times since 11 March 2011, and has written the book Strong in the Rain (with Lucy Birmingham) about the disasters. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal coordinator.

Posted on March 24, 2013.


 Read More. . .