Almost 67 years ago, President Harry Truman ushered in the nuclear age with a boast and a bunch of lies. On the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, they are more deadly than ever.
In his first official statements about the bombing of Hiroshima, Truman carefully focused on his admiration of the bomb. It was a "marvelous" achievement that "harnessed the basic power of the universe." It was a lifesaver, he would say repeatedly, which prevented as many as a million American casualties (a claim his speechwriter, McGeorge Bundy, later admitted to pulling out of the air).
And to ensure that no ugly images of death or radiation poisoning sullied our "greatest scientific gamble," nor our pride in winning it, the U.S. government confiscated video and photos of the atomic bomb destruction and classified information. The War Department put Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter William L. Laurence on its payroll to deny the "lie" of radiation-related deaths, even as he was warned, while in Hiroshima, to be sure to wear heavy shoes.
One year into the still-unfolding disaster in Fukushima, Truman's spin on nuclear power as "marvelous" and "life-saving" still shape our nuclear landscape. Japan -- the government of the country that suffered the bomb -- has developed its own version of Truman's lies. Bad news comes neatly packaged with the now-familiar assurance that there is "no immediate threat to human health." You've seen it everywhere. The air, the water, the soil, the spinach, the tea, the fish, the beef, the rain on the East Coast of the United States etc. -- all testing with increased levels of radiation. In many cases, higher than what used to be considered safe. And yet, there is not only no immediate threat to human health; too often the response is... to stop testing.
Recently, I did a quick rundown about some of the lies, some of the safety issues, some of the consequences, of the Fukushima disaster, which was published and distributed by the Progressive Media Project. One can only include so much in 600 words.
As March 11 approaches, there is a blossoming of reports and statements about the Fukushima disaster one year ago. The lies continue. The American Nuclear Society's report, for example, released yesterday observed that American nuclear plants are safe, and that "the off-site health consequences" of the Fukushima meltdown "may ultimately be minimal." This, despite the fact that, an Associated Press investigation in June found that three quarters of the U.S. nuclear plants were leaking radioactive tritium. The Fukushima reactors are still leaking in the air and water. Even as we are assured that the ocean will simply dilute the radiation, TEPCO plans to "contain" the radioactivity in the nearby bay by cementing it over with 73,000 square meters of cement. Computer models of radioactive plumes and tangible tsunami trash show it currently approaching the northern Hawaiian islands (Midway); indeed the trash has been spotted.
As I have learned from the survivors of Hiroshima, the consequences of Fukushima may not be understood for decades, but they will still be felt. Whether it is dubbed "high" or "minimal" by the latest report, the inevitable and chronic contamination making its way through our shared environment (and compounding the unacknowledged fallout of more than 2050 nuclear tests and accidents since 1945) will take its perhaps-not-immediate toll on human bodies.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the leaders of the Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb, knew this. He is famously reported to have said directly to President Truman, "We have blood on our hands." To which Truman famously responded, "Don't worry, it will come out in the wash." But radiation cannot be washed away, not even whitewashed as Harry Truman may once have wished. No matter how many new reports there will be on this anniversary, the facts remain the same. Nuclear power is far dirtier and far deadlier than anything man has ever created. It must be stopped.
(For a list of sources where you can read more about the facts in this article and the Progressive Media Project editorial, please visit my website.)