In 2006, the Forsmark plant in Sweden came within a few minutes of meltdown. The reaons? A loss of electrical power as was the case in 2011 in Fukushima JAPAN. The idea that a second Chernobyl
was possible upset me to the point that since Chernobyl I had made films to warn about the dangers of the atom (ANTOINE CITIZEN, RAS; NUCLEAR nothing to report, Chernobyl 4 EVER). When I finished
my last documentary in Ukraine, I was thinking of dropping the nuclear power as a topic and opening myself to other subjects, but life quickly called me back. Ten days after I finished editing
Chernobyl 4 EVER, the tsunami devastated the coast of Japan. I learned that the emergency diesel did not work in Fukushiam Daichi. I could see that a disaster would happen. And indeed, the next
day a friend told me by text message that a reactor had exploded. I followed the course of events on a daily basis, assisted by experts from Greenpeace. I learned how the official media in Japan
and other countries hardly ever touched this subject even though it is going to affect all of us for at least 10 years (see Appendix 2). I discovered how an endless vigil was held to continue to
inform global citizen.
Above all, I met Mr Shintaro YANAGI who is a 27-year-old Japanese man, who came to see the Chernobyl 4 EVER film at the European Parliament. After the screening, he expressed his feeling to me. My film had informed him about the future of Japan: "if the Ukrainians have not managed to solve the problem of reactor No. 4, what will we do with 4 reactors which still contain fuel? It will not be possible to build the sarcophagus as the area is dangerous in terms of earthquakes". Japan has no future. But as luck would have it Shintaro lives two blocks from my house. So we saw each other regularly to talk about Japan. Shintaro is incredibly concerned about his family who lives in Kanto region,
. This area has not only been affected by the earthquake, it is also now contaminated. Since the disaster, he has informed people and sought to spread the word among his
family, friends in his hometown. Unfortunately, they do not dare to know the reality...Some do not want to contact him for fear of hearing bad news from him. Shintaro is therefore face with a huge dilemma. Should we or should we not say the truth?" This is precisely the dilemma faced by the Japanese Government, which alternates between alerting the public to keep people safe (which is necessary if Japan wants to have a future) or reassuring the public to avoid panic and a total disruption of society and the economy (a short- term view).
is a geographical area
of Honshu, the largest island of Japan
Shintaro also explained why the Japanese people seem to have developed a fatalistic attitude. At the heart of Japanese culture, there is the concept of Mujo, Mujo means: "Nothing remains constant. Even thing moves." It's a little like the TA PANTA REI Mektoub of Heraclitus or the Arabs, with the difference that nature taught Japan this lesson in philosophy. Historically, the Japanese lived with earthquakes that reminded them of the impermanence of things and that led them to change their society numerous times. March 11 has certainly shaken Japan irreversibly.
Shintaro studied political science in Japan and UK and is about to do a PhD in Brussels. In addition, he worked in the European Commission, Education Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency as a trainee for 5 months in Belgium. Several Japanese groups to help children asked him to translate their website to convey their messages of distress of the world. Shintaro would like to return to Japan to see his family and to meet the people who care of the children. He wants to know exactly what the situation is and see how to help his country. He wonders about the future of citizen of Japan.
"There must be some light in this very dark tunnel!" I share his curiosity, his anguish, and his revolt. Like him, I would like to believe that Japan will take advantage of this shocking event to change and show the world a new model of society based on a fundamentally different paradigm. Who knows whether Japan might be the laboratory for a radical transformation? Who knows if what is at stake here right now does not foreshadow a solution to survive on an earth where there will be 9 billion people. The land of the rising sun cannot deal with the contamination and its consequences unless it imposes martial law or modifies its social and economic organisation by choosing a model based on more solidarity....
We reflected together, not about what film we wanted to make, but about what film needed to be made, Shintaro I arrived at a simple conclusion: the most pressing need is to address the plight of the children. Their lives are in real danger but the Japanese government refuses to admit it. Since we cannot create a magic wand that would save them from their sad reality, we must listen. It is also important to give meaning to the things that do not make sense to them, and communicate them to our children who are also asking a lot of questions. Today, the official media are already tired of Fukushima. Needless to say, few people have tried to explain what happened to our little ones. If children from outside Japan listen to Japanese children talking about their everyday lives, they will be able to understand and show compassion. This message could be painful, but told by the children, it carries with it a hope for all the children of the world who want to live and who believe that there is possibility to solve the issues.
Thus this film is not only for adults but also for the children of Japan and the entire world.
In Chernobyl 4 EVER, I deliberately put the health issue to one side because I wanted to primarily focus on the damaged reactor. This said, I nevertheless met many doctors, visited hospitals and read many reports on the effects over time of the disaster on human beings. This experience has allowed me to develop insight into what will happen in Japan. Two weeks after the accident in 1986, the Soviets had managed the feat of moving almost 250,000 people to other parts of Ukraine. Anyone living in a contaminated area of over 2 microsiverts of radiation should be moved. Today, in the city of Fukushima, the radiation level between 5 and 13 microsiverts / H (the background noise in Belgium is 0.020 microsiverts or 300 times less). In Sango, a suburb north of Tokyo, more than 900,000 bequerels were measured on the ground while a normal display does not show more than 10,000 becquerels: in other words, 90 times more than average... In Japan, more than five months after the disaster, the central government has not been taking any responsibility for citizen of Japan especially for Fukushima. If a family wants to move, it does so “at its own risk” in the words used by the authorities who continue to deny the real state of the situation. Yet, many children currently live in areas where the radioactivity goes far beyond the threshold at which the Soviet Government chose to evacuate people.
Jan Vandeputte of Greenpeace was sent to Japan in the end of March. He measured the radiation levels in the city of Fukushima and the small surrounding towns. When he returned, he told me his dismay. Jan said “it‟s terrible, you are here in a radiation suit, a mask on your face and you measure the levels of radioactivity. But next to you, children play games on the ground and roll in the dust. Besides, you know they are contaminated. You know that these children are lost”
Radioactivity affects children more than adults for several reasons. First of all, radioactivity decreases exponentially with distance. The centre of gravity of an adult is over one meter. A child‟s is between 8 and 50 cm. A child is therefore closer to the ground radiation and absorbs not two times as much radioactivity, however 2 squared or 4 times as much! Moreover, children fall, put their hands in their mouths and experience the world more directly with bodies than adults. Because of this radiation affects children much more. On the other hand, childrens‟ bodies are developing due to the fact that this exposure to radiation leads to changes that increase faster than in adults. The same external dose or absorption of radiation by the body (contamination) will have far more serious consequences. Instead of considering evacuating the children, the Japanese government is investing $ 1.2 billion in an epidemiological study which will run over 30 years, as described in this article of May 8, 2011 in Sciences et Avenir.
Scientists will launch an epidemiological study among the most ambitious ever undertaken on the effects of radiation at low doses [...] (2) The target population includes all residents of the prefecture of Fukushima, more than 2 million people. And this study will last (at last) „thirty years‟ (2). In addition „all 380,000 young people under 18 will receive an examination of the thyroid.‟ It is known that radioactive iodine emitted by the plant and inhaled can bind to the thyroid gland and that this radiation can cause eventual development of cancer. Our colleague also states that the plan was unveiled, „by the Fukushima Prefecture on July 24‟ at a special meeting. On July 25 the awarding of a budget of 1, 2 billion for public health and long term studies was announced at the national level.
Unable to act, we measure, we study.....Fukushima‟s children are guinea pigs!
The Japanese government is ignoring the future. But even today Japanese society is struggling to care for its sick and disabled citizens. Those who do not produce are seen badly in this system where performance reigns. Will Japan do the same for all the patients and the children with disabilities in the future? The issue is even more serious than this since these days the birth rate of 1.1 is one of the lowest in the world. The age structure is extremely fragile. The number of elderly people over 70 is far superior to that of students under 20.
Even before Fukushima, there was no future for Japan. What will happen if the country does not care now about the fate of her little ones? Although the problem is particularly serious in the north and the region of Fukushima in particular, it is beginning to affect other areas. Food and water are increasingly contaminated. Throughout Japan, children have begun to absorb radioactive material that will accumulate in their bodies over the years. CS 137 will weakens the heart, SR 90 will accumulate in the bone‟s iodine, the 131 released the first few days will lead quickly to cancers of the thyroid, diabetes will begin to spread thought the country, blood diseases will begin, foetuses will be affected and so on.... The picture is black, very black!
The Japanese are very aware of the consequence of Chernobyl. Japan was one of the most important donor countries and many scientists, with experience from Hiroshima and Nagasaki travelled to Ukraine to offer their experience and to help people. The media widely reported these actions. People know! And it weighs down everyday life. How can one live with this sword of Damocles? To some extent, the situation in Ukraine was easier to live with, at least until 1991 before the Soviet republic became independent and Ukraine entered a great period of famine and chaos. But is Japan today better able to deal with the consequences of the atom and all these uncertainties? It is unclear, for today‟s world is falling apart! The economic system has faltered. Will a Japan rocked by March 11 have to face a collapse of the system like the rest of the world? In this context, Fukushima could very well become the straw that breaks the camel‟s back.
And in all this turmoil, the children are there, left to chance and the invisible danger. How can we explain to them that adults have played with atoms and that game – usually quite fun and profitable – can also be irreversible. How can we tell them that their gardens will be poisonous for thousands of years? How can we ease the shapeless and contagious fear growing in them when they receive snippets of information. This undefined anxiety must weigh even more heavily since even the adults themselves do not really know where the enemy is and how to fight it. The big bad wolf is indivisible and we do not even feel its bite.......
Compare the circumstances between Fukushima and Chernobyl. In Chernobyl, reactor number four exploded while it was in power. It contained 200 tons of fuel and graphite.The thermal explosion due
to overheating of the injected water has followed a criticalityreaction- i.e. a kind of nuclear explosion that was slow, but sufficiently exothermic (heat) to sublimate the fuel – in other words,
to change from a solid to a gaseous state. For 10 days this reaction and fire that followed propelled much of the fuel into the air at high altitudes (2 km). The radioactive cloud spread fine
particles of radioactive over nearly 40% of European territory. The rain has distributed these in “leopard spots” i.e. not in a uniform manner... They are found not only in the vicinity of the
plant, but alsoin Corsica, Turkey, Sweden and so on. In Fukushima, the reactors could be shut down before the tsunami struck the coastand destroying the emergency diesel power pumps for cooling
the reactors. The residual heat is enough to melt the fuel rods if the reactors are not cooled. And that'swhat happened on three reactors in Fukushima.The bars were partially melted. For the
fourth, concerns were raised about the cooling pool, which, losing its water
level has paved the way for a fire. So the first big difference: in Chernobyl, a part of the fuel shot very high and very fast in the atmosphere and Fukushima, the disaster was slow: discharges are continuous, but rise less high.
Another difference: in Chernobyl, the plutonium came from the transformation reactions of uranium in the process of neutron absorption. In Fukushima, the No. 3 reactor containing MOX fuel is a mixture of uranium and plutonium. The situation is much worse in this respect that. At Chernobyl, there were 200 tons of fuels. In Fukushima, given the fact that four reactors were hit and that their cooling pools are involved in the accident, the quantity of fuel is much higher, especially considering that on site there is happily a pool containing 6000 spent fuel assemblies! In total on the site, is no less than 4,500 tons of uranium! It can be inferred easily from all this that if the disaster Fukushima extends over time, it will
be even worse than Chernobyl. It is surprising that in this respect safety regulators took a month before declaring Fukushima a Level accident on the scale of Ines. For my part, I thought 4 times 7 was 28...
At the edge of the ocean, the plant every day pours tons of contaminated water (including plutonium). This too is new. When you know that eating habits are based on Japanese fishing, we understand that Fukushima will not only impact on the environment and health, but also on the economy and culture of this country. We will come back to this. Another difference is that Chernobyl exploded in a communist world. Volunteers were appointed liquidators for the most part. A few weeks after the explosion, tens of thousands of troops already invaded the area to operate. The image shows the reactor ripped apart, with all these lttle ants swarming around, sacrificed on the altar of the atom.
Japan is a capitalist democracy. The workers, like all citizens, have signed contracts of insurance for their home or to their mutuality. The radiation protection rules prohibit the excess of certain limitss. You have to pay the volunteers. In short, it is not as easy to send people as it was in the USSR. It is striking that on satellite images or those relatively few who were shot at Daichi, one sees almost no-one... In this regard, I have several times asked the lobby or nuclear safety authorities of my country if they would look for volunteers in case of accident and I never received a response. I fear that this has simply not been considered. Even as we seek today to come to terms with the accident, I wonder what the long-term solutions are possible?
At Chernobyl, the Soviet workers built the sarcophagus in six months. The conditions were difficult, the building was fragile. An earthquake of 4.3 on the Richter scale would be enough to bring down the building. How, then, consider the construction of four sarcophagi that can survive at least one earthquake of 9 on the Richter scale and a tsunami wave of 23 m? This solution is unrealistic in my opinion! Another possibility would be to remove the reactor fuel and cooling pools. But again, I do not see how the Japanese can achieve this feat. As soon as you remove the water fuel rods, gamma rays and neutron flux is so intense that people in the area would die for sure in a few hours. In addition, it appears that the bridges used to transport the fuel elements are mostly damaged. Debris fell on the pools. How to proceed?
Some optimists have stated that we should proceed as was done at Three Mile Island the corium was removed years later from the bottom of the tank. They forget, it seems, that at TMI, the reactor‟s facilities for all these operations had remained intact and there was only one reactor to manage. I am all the more pessimistic about the situation in Fukushima, given that the international situation and economic is ever more fragile. After 25 years, the world is still struggling to find the necessary funds for Chernobyl. How can Japan finance these labours of Hercules? If the country collapses economically or the the international situation gets even worse, this problem may well not find any solution so that Japan could indeed fall, carrying with it the entire capitalist system as Chernobyl contributed his time to the bringing down of communism. What will the situation in a year, in 10 years? Caesium-137 may well pollute all the Japanese and U.S. agricultural land. The radio announces that the standards have been identified and, like the frog placed in a tank which is heated slowly, we will eventually get used to the unacceptable...
How to understand Fukushima?
We have to understand the situation of the nuclear crisis in Fukushima! The day after the accident of nuclear plant in Fukushima, Nicolas Sarkozy convened a crisis management group. France is in danger because public opinion may demand the withdrawal from nuclear energy, as it did after the Chernobyl disaster.
80% dependent on atomic energy, its economy is suddenly weakened, especially as EDF, AREVA, VINCI and Bouygues are developing projects more or less everywhere. Upon leaving the cabinet, Mr Besson, Minister of Energy announced that this couldbn‟t be talked about in terms of a disaster. A few days later, the government realized that it was makiong as in 1986, when the government sought to protect its energy choices by stating that the cloud had stopped at the border through the intervention of a miraculous anticyclone... A week later, France brought together the European Energy Ministers in Brussels to make a reassuring statement: stress tests would be conducted on European power plants. The results would be released in a year ... it reminds me of the G8 meetings in1997 with the remit to find a solution for changing the image of nuclear power 10 years after the disaster. There is no doubt that France and the countries involved in the revival of atomic energy will try to gain time, speculating on the fact that the public will grow tired of Fukushima.
In addition, these stress tests ignore the human factor. As I showed in the first chapter, it is essential for the safety of our plants! For my part, I cannot remain a mere spectator of this new catastrophe. I want to give it meaning. We cannot forget. We cannot either just talk about Fukushima in discussions or follow the latest videos on the Internet without doing anything. Man is a strange animal, the only one who accumulates information without necessarily using it. If a wolf breathes in the odour of a female, it‟s in order to find her. If he hears a suspicious noise, he flees. But we humans, we consume information and we do not digest it. It does not give us energy to act, so that we become increasingly heavy and anxious.
For Fukushima, to make sense and for the Japanese not to suffer for nothing, we must act at home as citizens to get out of this neurotic and deadly process. The Germans lead by example. In the aftermath of Fukushima thousands of people formed human chains surrounding plants. Citizen pressure was such that Angela Merkel herself was obliged to announce a phased withdrawal from nuclear power. However, their fight will only be meaningful if other countries mobilise too. For a Germany without power plants is still not safe from an explosion in France. Prevailing winds would result in Fessenheim contaminating the Ruhr, the economic heart of Europe...
My grandfather always told me: "My grandfather told me that "If you step in shit, it‟s no use staring at your shoe-sole. Look around you instead. Because it is close to shit that the best mushrooms grow. "Japan has stepped into a great big piece of shit. So somewhere, there must be fungi. Where? Gradually, as the rate of radioactive caesium will increase in the North of the country and in Tokyo, people are going to migrate south. There, it will become impossible to survive by clinging to a socio-economic model based on competition and profitability. The Japanese will have to invent a new art of living together. But in a few years there will be 9 billion human beings on Earth and we can not continue living like this. We will have to share power and resources essential. Japan could teach us to face this challenge.
Despite the disaster at Windscale in 1957 that polluted the northwest of England with the greatest indifference, despite TMI in 1979 in the United States, despite Chernobyl in ‟86, despite Fukushima in 2011, there are still blind people saying, „Yes, there are some dangers with nuclear, but if we phase it out we will return to the candle and that is not acceptable‟. They assume that there is no alternative and that nuclear power is essential in the fight against global warming. I would like react to this discourse. Firstly, there are alternatives. Several reports demonstrate this. Secondly, nuclear power accounts for only 3% of the energy on the planet. This sector alone cannot change the situation of CO2 in the atmosphere. Thirdly, why must we always approach the problem in terms of energy? At the outset, there is the relationship, not energy. The latter is certainly important for our survival and comfort, but the relationship between human beings is even more important. Energy cannot be an end, but a means! And it would be good to reverse the current paradigm! We do not know what impact Fukushima will have on health in the long term. Another disaster would occur (statistics show currently that the event takes place on average every 25 years!) and so it will be the end of humanity!
Moreover, assuming that the atom offers comfort and energy today means forgetting that our children will have no electricity at all. Indeed, the dismantling of the reactors will cost a fortune. Sources say we are talking about 3 to 7 billion per reactor. At Sellafield, in the northwest of England, the dismantling of a graphite gas reactor has been started and will not be finished until 2112!!! France, which has 54 reactors, is thus leaving a huge debt to the next generation. Not to mention the waste management this in itself is still unresolved. Again, Germany shows us the way. For several years it has been redirecting its energy strategy and thus giving hope to its children. But to get rid of the atom, we must have a major political upheaval. And the whole economic system has to change. Because the atom is at the centre of this system and it is unrealistic to want to phase out nuclear power without changing the society around it.
Today, decisions are essentially in the hands of the private sector. The political aspect does not have much weight because the citizen has essentially become a consumer. If we assume that nuclear power is at the outset neither good nor bad, that it's only a tool and that it all depends how it is used – because a hammer can be used to drive a nail in the wall or to kill a neighbour – citizens must realise that there is quite simply a discrepancy between the atom and the system it feeds. Suppose in fact that you are a shareholder of GDF SUEZ in Belgium and that I announce that I, Suez, am going to close a reactor and dismantle it. What do you do? You'll sell your shares because you know that the costs of such an operation will seriously eat into the profits of the company. Result, these private companies cannot accept phasing out nuclear power. They are caught in a vicious circle. Only the race ahead is conceivable. Their decision to close or prolong a reactor does not depend on scientific data, but on financial circumstances...
Denying the human, we endanger Humanity