nuclear towers
© n/a
At 2:46 pm on a Friday afternoon in March last year, residents in the prefecture of Fukushima in Japan were jolted by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake centered off the Pacific coast at a depth of approx 15 miles. Almost immediately, three of the six reactors which were in operation at that moment in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant - located on the eastern shore of Honshu Island - automatically shut down as a result of the shaking.

The plant automatically switched to its backup diesel-fueled generators to supply the uninterrupted electric power required to keep the plant's reactors cooled. Approximately one hour later, a 46 foot tall tsunami wave swept over the seawall between the Fukushima plant and the Pacific Ocean, flooding and disabling the backup generators and washing away their fuel tanks. The seawall had been designed to withstand a 19 foot wave and was considered sufficient to protect the plant from the worst possible tsunami that could ever happen.

We know now that within days, fuel rods in three of the reactors melted and breached the reactor containment structures designed to keep radioactive material from escaping into the environment, though nothing of the sort was revealed at the time. We are still not certain how much airborne radioactive contamination escaped.

There were violent explosions and multiple fires at the plant which some observers now indicate were far more serious than how they were initially portrayed. There were, and continue to be, unspecified large releases of extremely contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean, but no data on what the results of that might be. It took several months for TEPCO, the Japanese utility company running the plant, to publicly admit the severity of the accident. There have been repeated 'explanations' that downplayed, understated or outright ignored the risks to the public and hid the reality of what was actually happening at any given time.

fukushima reactor 4
© TEPCODamage to Reactor 4 at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
It has primarily been due to the efforts of whistle-blowers, anti-nuclear watchdogs and private citizens that we have been able to see any data at all which shows where radioactive contamination released at Fukushima has travelled and consequently who may be affected. Prevailing winds after the event carried radioactive particles across the Pacific and around the Northern Hemisphere.

It took only days for contamination to spread thousands of miles. The major media, when reporting on it at all, simply refuse to present this as though it is anything to be concerned about. When reports of elevated Cesium-137 levels in pasture grass and milk in US West Coast areas began to appear and people began to become concerned about their safety, we learned that very little monitoring was even being done. What happened instead is that the US government agency charged with environmental safety simply raised the 'allowable' amount.

Very recently a disturbing preliminary report has appeared which indicates a pattern consistent with that seen in the aftermath of the Chenobyl nuclear disaster. According to this report, published in the International Journal of Health Services:
The multiple nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima plants beginning on March 11, 2011, are releasing large amounts of airborne radioactivity that has spread throughout Japan and to other nations; thus, studies of contamination and health hazards are merited. In the United States, Fukushima fallout arrived just six days after the earthquake, tsunami, and meltdowns. Some samples of radioactivity in precipitation, air, water, and milk, taken by the U.S. government, showed levels hundreds of times above normal; however, the small number of samples prohibits any credible analysis of temporal trends and spatial comparisons.

U.S. health officials report weekly deaths by age in 122 cities, about 25 to 35 percent of the national total. Deaths rose 4.46 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the 14 weeks after the arrival of Japanese fallout, compared with a 2.34 percent increase in the prior 14 weeks. The number of infant deaths after Fukushima rose 1.80 percent, compared with a previous 8.37 percent decrease. Projecting these figures for the entire United States yields 13,983 total deaths and 822 infant deaths in excess of the expected.

These preliminary data need to be followed up, especially in the light of similar preliminary U.S. mortality findings for the four months after Chernobyl fallout arrived in 1986, which approximated final figures. We recently reported on an unusual rise in infant deaths in the northwestern United States for the 10-week period following the arrival of the airborne radioactive plume from the meltdowns at the Fukushima plants in northern Japan. This result suggested that radiation from Japan may have harmed Americans, thus meriting more research.
What happened and continues to happen at Fukushima is just the latest incident in the history of accidental or intentional radiation exposure as a consequence of the development, testing and use of nuclear technologies. For the past 70 years or so, people all around the world have been repeatedly exposed to radioactive contamination in varying degrees, sometimes dangerously and often without knowing it.

fukushima fallout map
The accident in Japan demonstrates that even where so-called safety precautions are observed, things can happen which will cause them to fail miserably. Indeed, given the need for some of these precautions in nuclear plants to last for tens of thousands of years, it is certain that at some time they will. But Fukushima is just the tip of an iceberg that has been floating around us, growing in size and largely unnoticed since World War II.

Why do we use nuclear technology for electrical power generation? It is without doubt the most dangerous way to boil water ever devised. In 2007, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported there were 439 nuclear power reactors in operation in the world, operating in 31 countries. Currently nuclear power provides approximately 15.7% of the world's electricity. Are the terrible risks involved with nuclear power really worth it?

Nuke station in Cumbria
© AlamyThe Sellafield nuclear power plant in Cumbria
We've been told that these plants are necessary, that the technology - though potentially dangerous - is safe, under control, 'clean' and the only viable alternative to coal and other fossil fuels for generating electrical power for the world. A closer look, however, shows a history of lies and obfuscation coming from every part of the industry - corporations, governments, the agencies charged with regulation and the media. What we have seen (and not seen) in the Fukushima disaster is typical of all things nuclear.

The public is not provided with accurate data, the major media downplay or ignore the dangers and those who control the technology essentially demand that we trust them. And it has been this way from the start. A technology which utilizes and pollutes such incredibly toxic substances, which cannot be seen, smelled or detected without specialized equipment, is a dangerous thing to be controlled by monopolies which put profit before peoples' health. Fukushima is the worst industrial accident in human history, is still an ongoing disaster and nine months later accurate data about its effects is all but missing from the pages of the world's major media.

What Are the Dangers?

If you do a Google search on the biological consequences of radiation exposure, you will be hard-pressed to find information not coming from within the nuclear establishment itself. Much information is given about one-time exposure at different doses, 'safe' doses and risk factors. Comparisons are made between common medical devices which deliver low dose radiation and what constitutes a lethal dose.

Firefighters suiting up at Chernobyl
© Igor Kostin, Sygma/CorbisFirefighters suiting up at Chernobyl, 1986.
The idea that any dose at all may be unsafe is missing. It is rarely mentioned that many of us may have been exposed to unknown quantities of radioactive material through weapons testing, accidents and leaks at power plants or waste sites, nor that we continue to live with risk of exposure at any time, virtually anywhere. Check out this time-lapse video which shows all the known nuclear explosions around the world since 1945 to get an idea of the scale of contamination from just this one source. These tests put vast quantities of radioactive material into the environment. Some of it is still around and will remain hazardous for the next 500,000 years.

In 1957 the United Nations created the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to promote nuclear power and somehow regulate it and make it safe at the same time. It is a fox guarding the henhouse type of arrangement, and it's global in scope. Two years later an agreement was signed which prevents the World Health Organization from publishing ANY research on biological effects from radiation exposure without consulting with the IAEA first. This might explain the Google results above. This arrangement also produced a report from IAEA which concluded just 4,000 people died from the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, considered the worst until Fukushima, in 1986. According to this report from Greenpeace in 2006, the real number may be closer to several hundred thousand. And there are others who put the number even higher.

Chris Busby, a British scientist who has attracted a great deal of criticism from the nuclear establishment for his 'controversial' ideas on the health effects of radiation (essentially that there is no 'safe' dose) says:
What you have to know, is that the UN organisations on radiation and health are compromised in favour of the nuclear military complex, which was busy testing hydrogen bombs in the atmosphere at the time of the agreement and releasing all the Strontium, Caesium, Uranium and plutonium and other stuff that was to become the cause of the current and increasing cancer epidemic. The last thing they wanted was the doctors and epidemiologists stopping their fun. The IAEA and the World Health Organisation (WHO) signed an agreement in 1959 to remove all research into the issue from the doctors of the WHO, to the atom scientists, the physicists of the IAEA: this agreement is still in force..... There is a huge gap between the picture painted by the UN, the IAEA, the ICRP and the real world. And the real world is increasingly being studied and reports are being published in the scientific literature: but none of the authorities responsible for looking after the public take any notice of this evidence.
The late Dr. John Gofman was the first Director of the Biomedical Research Division of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory from 1963-65, involved with the Manhattan Project which developed the first nuclear bombs, and a co-discoverer of Uranium-232, Plutonium-232, Uranium-233, and Plutonium-233, as well as slow and fast neutron fissionability of Uranium-233. His work helped create the first atomic bombs. He was a true insider who began his career as a proponent of nuclear technology and over time came to the conclusion that the technology was too hazardous to use. The following is from an interview with Dr. Gofman in the book Nuclear Witnesses, Insiders Speak Out
early waste disposal
© National ArchivesNuclear workers dispose of waste in the 1950's at Hanford, WA.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission maintained there was a "safe threshold" of radiation below which no health effects could be detected. This so-called safe threshold provided the justification for exposing American servicemen to atomic bomb tests, for permitting workers in nuclear plants to receive a yearly dose of radiation, and for operating nuclear power plants which released radioactivity to the environment and exposed the general population even during normal operation. But in the 1960s evidence began to come in from around the world--from the atomic bomb survivors, from some people in Britain who had received medical radiation --with estimates of the numbers of cancers occurring per unit of radiation. Gofman and Tamplin assembled these figures and concluded that there was no evidence for the AEC's so-called safe threshold of radiation. In fact, they estimated that the cancer risk of radiation was roughly twenty times as bad as the most pessimistic estimate previously made.

When Gofman was invited to be a featured speaker at the Institute for Electrical, Electronic Engineers meeting (IEEE) in October 1969, he and Tamplin decided to present a paper on the true effects of radiation "So we gave this paper, and said two things. One, there would be twenty times as many cancers per unit of radiation as anyone had predicted before, and two, we could find no evidence of a safe amount of radiation - you should assume it's proportional to dose all the way up and down the dose scale." The paper did not attract much public attention, only a small article in the San Francisco Chronicle and nothing in the national press.
In his own book, Poisoned Power, Dr. Gofman describes the effects of radiation on human biology:
To grasp the significance of the physical harm done to human beings by radiation, it is not necessary to understand exactly what happens in body cells which are irradiated. But we will explain, in several sentences, what is known of these events, in case you may need this information for a debate on nuclear power plants. The terminology may be unfamiliar.

The various kinds of radiation delivered to human cells (from beta rays, x-rays, gamma rays or alpha particles) are commonly referred to as ionizing radiation, or radiation which separates or changes into ions. The name is appropriate because the high speed electrons (beta rays) passing through living tissue actually rip negatively charged electrons from atoms, leaving positively charged ions.

Such electrons in turn ionize other atoms until finally all the initial energy of the high speed electron is dissipated. Such electrons originate in the nucleus of the unstable, radioactive atom. When emitted, they travel with enormous speeds, some having speeds approaching the speed of light. Many such electrons have enough energy to break 100,000 chemical bonds between atoms.

Nuclear fission diagram
© Boy Scouts orgNuclear fission diagram from the Boy Scouts Handbook.
X-rays and gamma rays, by one or another mechanism, set electrons in motion in tissue. Once this is done, all the events which occur are similar to those produced by an original beta ray. Alpha particles also ionize atoms in their path, setting electrons in motion which cause further ionization. This disruptive action, producing electrically charged ions, is a major, but not the only, way such radiations injure tissues. Many chemical bonds between atoms are shattered in addition to the ionization produced. This is an important additional damage mechanism.

For our purposes, such disruptive actions of ionizing radiation can best be regarded simply as a massive, non-specific disorganization or injury of biological cells and tissues. Biological cells are remarkably organized accumulations of chemical substances, arranged into myriad types of sub-structural entities within the cells. The beauty of such organization can only be marveled at when revealed under the high magnifications of such instruments as the electron microscope or the electron scanning microscope.

In stark contrast, there is hardly anything specific or orderly about the ripping of chemical bonds or of electrons out of atoms. Rather, this represents disorganization and disruption. Perhaps a reasonable analogy would be the effect of jagged pieces of shrapnel passing through tissues. One hardly expects nature's architecture to be improved by the disruptive action of shrapnel or ionizing radiation. Instead, we can anticipate varying degrees of damage of the delicate internal cellular architecture.

If the damage is catastrophic, the cell which has experienced the radiation injury dies. If less than that, the cell can go on living, though wounded, for a long time. Not only can wounded cells go on living, they can divide, and reproduce new cells. Unfortunately, these new cells might carry the injury sustained by the irradiated cell from which they originate.

In many body tissues, the loss of a certain number of cells due to radiation damage can be tolerated because remaining, uninjured cells can divide and still maintain the necessary number of functioning tissue cells. Cells that are not injured too badly can carry on their usual function in the body, perhaps at less than optimum performance.

Non-fatal injury to the cells of certain human tissues may be far, far more dangerous to the person than the outright, immediate death of the cell would be. These non-fatal injuries are especially hazardous because, within a period of years, a single cell injured in this way has the potential to initiate a cancer or a leukemia.
In the words of long-time anti-nuke activist, Dr. Helen Caldicott:
20,000-pound canisters
© WCSWaste Control Specialists bury some of the 3,700, 20,000-pound canisters of radioactive byproduct material from the Fernald uranium processing plant in Fernald, Ohio.
Nuclear power, apart from nuclear war, is the greatest medical threat posed to life on this planet. In fact, 95% of the total nuclear waste in the United States has been generated by nuclear power plants. Nuclear waste will last for 500,000 years, and there is no safe means to prevent these radioactive elements from entering and concentrating in the food chain.

These elements, which are tasteless, odorless and invisible, are highly carcinogenic and mutagenic. Over time, they will induce epidemics of cancer and leukemia. This is particularly true for children, who are 10 to 20 times more radiosensitive than adults, and are therefore much more susceptible to cancer. The nuclear waste will also induce epidemics of genetic diseases and congenital abnormalities in humans (as well as in animals and plants) for the rest of time. This is rather like a process of random compulsory genetic engineering.
The nuclear industry has been busy for over 65 years mining and refining uranium and manufacturing plutonium. Every nuclear plant has been generating radioactive waste over its entire lifespan. Since there is no safe and effective way to dispose of this stuff, most of it is sitting around still, mostly at the plant sites themselves or on big government land reserves like the one at Hanford in Washington State.

More very dangerous material is in cooling ponds where water is continuously pumped through to keep it from melting or undergoing a dangerous critical event like some suspect happened at Fukushima. It seems an unimaginable act of wishful thinking to presume the power for these pumps will remain on and uninterrupted for the next 100,000 years or more. The most critical part of 'safety' involving all radioactive materials is the ability to keep it 'contained' and prevent it from entering into the environment.

This issue is further described in Nuclear Witnesses, Insiders Speak Out:
Many people think nuclear power is so complicated it requires discussion at a high level of technicality. That's pure nonsense. Because the issue is simple and straightforward.

There are only two things about nuclear power that you need to know. One, why do you want nuclear power? So you can boil water. That's all it does. It boils water. And any way of boiling water will give you steam to turn turbines. That's the useful part.

The other thing to know is, it creates a mountain of radioactivity, and I mean a mountain: astronomical quantities of strontium-90 and cesium-137 and plutonium--toxic substances that will last--strontium-90 and cesium for 300 to 600 years, plutonium for 250,000 to 500,000 years--and still be deadly toxic. And the whole thing about nuclear power is this simple: can you or can't you keep it all contained? If you can't, then you're creating a human disaster.
Because nuclear fuel and waste is so incredibly toxic and dangerous to all forms of life, every step in the cycle of nuclear power has huge potential danger. To actually even make this stuff is arguably one of the stupidest, most short-sighted things humans have ever done. In fact, plutonium and enriched uranium weren't initially made for nuclear power plants at all, but to create the most powerful, most destructive weapons on earth.

The Gadget
© Nuclear Weapon Archive'The Gadget'- the first nuclear weapon tested.
A Brief Nuclear History

The events which led to using nuclear energy for generating electrical power began shortly after the discovery, early in the 20th century, that radium and other radioactive elements released tremendous amounts of energy. Experimentation in this field using uranium led to the discovery in 1938 of the "fission" process, in which a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction could be produced. Once this scientific breakthrough was confirmed in 1939, scientists in many countries began to petition their governments to fund and support further research.

The successful experiment also prompted several leading physicists, including Albert Einstein, to compose and send a letter to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 2, 1939, warning him of the potential use of this discovery in making a new type of bomb, and encouraging him to accelerate funding and research in order to figure out how to do it 'before the Nazis do.'

Einstein would later regret this. "If I had known that the Germans would not succeed in constructing the atom bomb, I never would have moved a finger." He stressed that "we helped in creating this new weapon in order to prevent the enemies of mankind from achieving it ahead of us, which, given the mentality of the Nazis, would have meant inconceivable destruction and the enslavement of the rest of the world."

The D-Reactor at Hanford
© Nuclear Weapon ArchiveThe D-Reactor at Hanford, where large-scale production of plutonium began in 1944.
But, he went on, in 1945, "physicists find themselves in a position not unlike that of Alfred Nobel," the inventor of TNT, who "in order to atone for this, in order to relieve his human conscience, he instituted his awards for the promotion of peace and for achievement of peace. Today, the physicists who participated in forging the most formidable and dangerous weapon of all times are harassed by an equal feeling of responsibility, not to say guilt."

"Since I do not foresee that atomic energy is to be a great boon for a long time, I have to say that for the present time it is a menace," Einstein declared.1

Nevertheless, the letter from the physicists was instrumental in getting the nuclear project moving into high gear. According to Wikipedia,
At a meeting between President Roosevelt, Vannevar Bush and Vice President Henry A. Wallace on 9 October 1941, the President approved the atomic program. To control it, he created a Top Policy Group consisting of himself - although he never attended a meeting - Wallace, Bush, Conant, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and the Chief of Staff of the Army, General George Marshall. Roosevelt chose the Army to run the project rather than the Navy, as the Army had the most experience with management of large-scale construction projects. He also agreed to coordinate the effort with that of the British, and on 11 October he sent a message to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, suggesting that they correspond on atomic matters.
It is significant to note that at this point in time, all major research being conducted in the field of nuclear energy was being conducted under the supervision and control of government and military, the sole purpose being the development of a nuclear weapon. From its beginning, the technology, skills and know-how necessary for the development of nuclear power is the same as that developed for nuclear weapons.

little boy
© USAF'Little Boy', the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
The first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, was built at the University of Chicago in the United States, where the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was successfully initiated on Dec. 2nd, 1942. Once this milestone had been achieved, further research and development continued under the highly secretive organization of the Manhattan Project, which involved many different avenues of research being conducted at many different sites around the United States. Many major universities and large corporations received significant funding to participate, including Union Carbide, DuPont, General Electric, Westinghouse and the University of California.

Among many lines of research pursued by the Manhattan project were several different potential designs aimed at producing a functional nuclear weapon. By 1945 this research had cost $2 billion (in 1945 dollars) and employed 600,000 people. Two different bomb designs became actual weapons. The first was a "gun-type" fission bomb which used enriched uranium-235, a naturally occuring element which required intensive industrial processing and concentration to become suitable for use in a nuclear weapon. This was the simplest and most dangerously unstable design and was used in the bomb called "Little Boy" which was the first to be dropped on Hiroshima on Aug 6, 1945, killing 100,000 people and injuring an equal number, many of whom died later.

Fat Man
© Nuclear Weapon Archive'Fat Man', the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.
The second was a much more complicated "implosion" design using plutonium, a by-product of nuclear fission produced in nuclear reactors. It resulted in the bomb called "Fat Man" which was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug 9, 1945, killing 39,000 and injuring 25,000. The Monsanto Company provided a key component which allowed this bomb design to succeed. It is of interest to note that the first design was considered theoretically highly likely to work and was not exploded in a test before being used in Japan. The plutonium design was tested once on July 16, 1945- the Trinity test at Alamogordo Air Force Base in New Mexico. The shock wave was felt 100 miles away and the mushroom cloud reached 7.5 miles in height. A cover story was released to the concerned public that an ammunition dump had exploded.

With the nuclear devastation in Japan came the end of the World War which had been the reason for the Manhattan Project. Karl Grossman, in Cover Up describes what happened next:
By the end of the war, many of the people and corporations involved in the wartime program didn't want to see it over and their contracts ended...

Nuclear test explosion Operations Castle- Romeo
© Nuclear Weapon ArchiveNuclear test explosion Operations Castle- Romeo at Bikini Atoll in 1954.
Create a government office for anything, give a corporation a contract for anything-even a wartime exigency-and a vested interest is created. And the Manhattan Project created an extraordinary far-ranging complex of vested interests-a technological empire of precedent-setting proportion.

But how could this technological complex be perpetuated? Atomic bombs aren't things that easily lend themselves to commercial spin-off. In the first nuclear reactors lay the clue. They had been built at Hanford to turn uranium into plutonium for bombs-and as a by-product gave off heat. The theory: modify these devices to use their heat to boil water to make steam to turn a turbine to make electricity. It's a hell of a way to boil water. As Arnory Lovins has put it, like "cutting butter with a chain saw."

But it was a way to keep the machinery going, to let the army of people and the giant corporations involved in the Manhattan Project continue. It's as if a way to set off a monsoon was devised during the war and afterwards those with a vested interest in monsoon-making would try to peddle it: monsoons for peace. They'd wash a city clean, the would-be monsoon-manufacturers would say. Out of the atomic bomb thus came "atoms for peace." But the notion had to be peddled cleverly to win public acceptance.

The enormous risks had to be hidden. During the war, as a matter of wartime censorship, the Manhattan Project had gained a great deal of experience at concealing the truth and manipulating the public...

The first atomic bomb was detonated in a blast stirring cities and towns through America's southwest, and there was no difficulty in "managing" the news about it. This continues in the story of nuclear power to the present day. Managing information flow, intimidating and quashing press inquiry, not letting the citizenry know what's going on through the heavy use of public relations techniques would mushroom like the cloud from that first blast. Indeed, considering the lethal effects involved, its threat to the survival of life, a broad cover up has been central to the nuclear undertaking, in order that it might continue.
The political vehicle permitting the Manhattan Project's work to go on and expand was the Atomic Energy Act of 1946.

Crossroads Baker test
© Nuclear Weapon ArchiveCrossroads Baker test at Bikini Atoll, 1946, the 5th nuclear explosion in mankind's history.
From wikipedia:
In 1953, US President Dwight Eisenhower gave his "Atoms for Peace" speech at the United Nations, emphasizing the need to develop "peaceful" uses of nuclear power quickly. This was followed by the 1954 Amendments to the Atomic Energy Act which allowed rapid declassification of U.S. reactor technology and encouraged development by the private sector.
"Atoms for Peace", Monoploy and Corporate Profit

By 1954 all the ingredients required to push forward with the development of nuclear technology were at hand. The race was on for governments of the major world powers to invest in, build and stockpile what were now the most powerful weapons in existence. And using the same processes, research and infrastructure, some of the most powerful corporations in the world had a new energy-producing technology to develop and exploit for profit.

The military loved the idea, as each power plant was a source for plutonium, used in making more nuclear weapons, and a commercial nuclear industry could help hide and justify the huge expenses involved. When utility companies in the US balked at the fact that no insurers were willing to insure against the risk of a nuclear accident, the US Congress passed the Price-Anderson Act, which limited the liability of any nuclear plant accident, no matter how expensive or severe, to $560 million dollars, with the government picking up the first $500 million. There is a 'nuclear clause' in all insurance policies in the US, and that is why. Feeling safer yet?

Soon after, the oil companies got involved and began buying up uranium mines and reserves and building processing, milling and refining facilities. Before long, an interlocking monopoly consisting of some of the largest, most powerful corporations in the world completely dominated and controlled all phases of the nuclear industry, from mining and producing the fuel to building the reactors. Reactors were sold or practically given away all around the world to spread the monopoly's reach. Huge government subsidies were often involved.

Licorne French thermonuclear test
© Pierre J./French ArmyFrance's Licorne thermonuclear test in French Polynesia, 1970.
Companies such as Westinghouse, Exxon, General Electric, Halliburton, and Bechtel all developed and continue to have huge interests in the nuclear energy industry. What is evident from even this short list is that these same corporations are major defense contractors, involved in the production of weapons and military technology as well. And we haven't even touched on the relationships the Too-Big-To-Fail banks have with these companies and the utilities that mange nuclear plants. Equally insidious are the connections these same companies have with major media. Many of these companies are interlocked, meaning that some of the members of a corporation's board of directors also sit on the boards of other companies with complementary or related interests.

Here's a short sampling Grossman put together 20 years ago to give you the idea. Obviously things have changed since then - today they're much worse - but this shows the extent of the problem that has been with us for some time:
  • Newspaper corporate directors who are also directors of companies in the nuclear business include:

    Clark M. Clifford, director Knight-Ridder Newspapers and PMU Petroleum

    Wilmot R. Craig, director of The Gannett Company and Rochester Gas &Electric

    James E. Webb, Gannett and Kerr-McGee; Thomas G. Ayers, director of The Tribune Corp. (which publishes The Chicago Tribune and The New York Daily News) and Commonwealth Edison and Breeder Reactor Corp.

    Walter B. Gerken, The Times Mirror Company (which publishes The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The Dallas Times Herald) and Southern California Edison

    William J. Casey, Capital Cities Communications and the Long Island Lighting Company- before becoming C.I.A. chief in the Reagan administration.
  • The Media Institute in a study of how much time the three TV networks devoted to news about nuclear power on their evening newscasts between 1968 and 1979, found that it came to one quarter of one per cent of the time available for news-an average of less than four seconds for each twenty-two minute newscast.
  • Westinghouse, as "Group W" (Westinghouse Broadcasting Cornpany), itself owns five television stations (the limit set by the Federal Communications Commission)-WBZ-TV in Boston, WJZ-TV in Baitimore, KYW-TV in Philadelphia, KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh and KPIX-TV in San Francisco, and numerous radio stations including three all-news stations, WINS in New York, KYW in Philadelphia and KFWB in Los Angeles. It also syndicates P.M. Magazine, the nation's major nightly TV news magazine. It purchased the Teleprompter Corp. in 1981 in the largest merger in cable TV history. And it is currently involved with ABC in establishing a round-the-clock cable TV news service.
  • General Electric owns three TV stations-WNGE-TV in Nashville, WRGB-TV in Schenectady, KOA-TV in Denver, and several radio stations. G.E. has been involved in arrangements to buy up the TV and radio stations owned by Cox Communications. This would have been the largest merger in broadcast history.
  • Both Westinghouse and G.E. are major sponsors of broadcast programming. An example of how G.E. will not tolerate anything critical about nuclear power on programming it is connected with occurred in March 1979 when a G.E. sponsored Barbara Walters Special (an interview with Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden and a clip from The China Syndrome) was to air. G.E. dropped its sponsorship of the Special, it said, "because it contains material that could cause undue public concern about nuclear power."
  • The People's Almanac No. 2 declares "control of the corporations that run the television networks and major sources of printed news is particularly important, because the news media influence the population as a whole. The top twenty-five newspapers that also own TV stations, book publishers, etc., have more than half of the daily newspaper circulation. Not only are most of the TV stations in the country associated with three media-conglomerate networks, but major banks hold controlling interests in each one. For instance, the trust departments of eleven banks hold a total of 38% of the stock in CBS; Chase Manhattan Bank, which holds 14% of CBS stock, also has substantial holdings in ABC and RCA, the parent of NBC." Those who control "media corporations do not dictate the news, but they place important constraints upon news managers and reporters."
  • The staff of the House Subcommittee on Domestic Finance wrote a report in 1968 on corporate interlocks in the U.S. These typical pages from the two-volume, 1,945 page report (the size of a telephone book) show the board interlocks and/or stock ownership by First National City Bank in Westinghouse, G.E., twenty-one electric utilities and nine major publishing companies.
Anyone still wondering why accurate data about the Fukushima nuclear accident is missing or difficult to get? Or why data for follow-up studies on health effects is so difficult for researchers to obtain? The 'interlocking directorates' are pervasive. It is a terribly effective mechanism to enforce power, monopoly and control and is present today in almost every arena where corporations operate, together with policy organizations, think-tanks, media, governments and educational institutions.

Workers at Fukushima
© McClatchyWorkers at Fukushima wearing protective gear.
In all things nuclear and radioactive, this arrangement conspires to keep the public unaware of the hazards around them from radioactive materials. Accordingly, the public is largely unaware of how many serious accidents and radioactive releases have already taken place over the past 60 years or how many people have developed cancers or died as a result. The actual number of human lives affected is very likely many times that of any official count.

The public is also woefully unaware of the hazard taking place from Fukushima right now. There is a great difference between the 'official' pronouncements, which say the plant is in 'cold shut-down', and the reports of whistle-blowers and journalists who are taking a closer look at reality. A Japanese freelance journalist, Tomohiko Suzuki, who spent a month working as a laborer at the Fukushima plant, says "Absolutely no progress is being made" towards the final resolution of the crisis. He documented sloppy repair work, unconcern about workers' radiation exposure and a drastically reduced budget for doing anything effective to stem the ongoing crisis.

Authors of a report published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Dec. 21, 2011, 'Public Health Fallout from Japanese Quake', said in an interview:
A "culture of cover up" and inadequate cleanup efforts have combined to leave Japanese people exposed to "unconscionable" health risks nine months after last year's meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, health experts say. Although the Japanese government has declared the plant virtually stable, some experts are calling for evacuation of people from a wider area, which they say is contaminated with radioactive fallout.

Radioactive waste in trench
© US Dept of EnergyRadioactive waste in trench at Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the 1950's.
International authorities have urged Japan to expand the exclusion zone aroundthe plant to 80 kilometres but the government has instead opted to "define the problem out of existence" by raising the permissible level of radiation exposure for members of the public to 20 millisieverts per year, considerably higher than the international standard of one millisievert per year, Gould adds.

This "arbitrary increase" in the maximum permissible dose of radiation is an "unconscionable" failure of government, contends Ruff.

"Subject a class of 30 children to 20 millisieverts of radiation for five years and you're talking an increased risk of cancer to the order of about 1 in 30, which is completely unacceptable. I'm not aware of any other government in recent decades that's been willing to accept such a high level of radiation-related risk for its population."

"It's very difficult to persuade people that the level [of exposure set by the government] is okay," Tatara told delegates to the meeting. He declined requests for an interview.The Japanese government is essentially contending that the higher dose is "not dangerous," explains Hefland. "However, since the accident, it's become clear the Japanese government was lying through its teeth, doing everything it possible could to minimize public concern, even when that meant denying the public information needed to make informed decisions, and probably still is."
This should serve to illustrate the danger we all share. Nuclear technology is extremely dangerous. While it might be theoretically possible for it to be handled in a way that would make it tolerably safe to use, the industry's failure to disclose the truth does not inspire confidence. What we see repeatedly is that those who manage and regulate the technology ultimately place profit ahead of human health.

Radioactive waste in trench
© n/aRadioactive waste in trench, awaiting burial.
Nuclear engineer and watchdog Arnie Gundersen, an invaluable source of reality-based information since the Fukushima disaster began, said in a recent interview that nuclear power can be made safe, but not at a competitive price:
[Interviewer] With air transport, it's incredibly safe. Could nuclear power ever reach that level of safety?

[Gundersen] I have a friend who says that nuclear can be safe or it can be cheap, but it can't be both.

It boils down to money. If you want to make nuclear safe, it gets to the point where it's so costly you don't want to build the power plant anyway ... especially now with plummeting renewable costs.

So can you make a nuclear reactor safe? Yes. Can it also at the same time compete with renewables, which are, of course, higher [priced] than natural gas? And the answer is no.

Wall Street is demanding federal loan guarantees for this and of course we already subsidized Price-Anderson insurance. So Wall Street won't spend the money to build it, and won't insure it.
I doubt that it could ever in fact be made safe. Given that the geological record absolutely guarantees Earth will see multiple planetary-wide cataclysmic events during the half-life of nuclear waste products (up to half a million years), we can take it to the bank that we have already contaminated the planet on a massive scale - if not now, then we'll see the fruits at some time in the future. Maybe even the very near future.

Fukushima has the potential to bring the hazards of the nuclear industry into the public eye once again, like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island did for a time in the past. However, the severity of the accident is being minimized and obscured like past events have been. For the people of Fukushima who will never be able to return to their irradiated homes, or will see themselves or their loved ones develop cancers and die, the reality of the risks of nuclear energy is inescapable. For the people of the United States and elsewhere who have been affected, the connection might not be made at all unless accurate information is made available. The industry and those who 'regulate' it will resist this, if history is any indication.

Possibly the only good thing that could come of the disaster in Japan is the opportunity it has given the rest of us to recognize that the risks and potential for harm from nuclear energy are not just something happening over there in Fukushima. They exist right now for everyone.

[1] Einstein quotes from various sources as collected in Cover Up, by Karl Grossman.


The following books about nuclear energy, radiation and related history and issues can be found online for free:

Killing Our Own, The Disaster of America's Experience with Atomic Radiation, Harvey Wasserman & Norman Solomon, 1982
Secret Fallout, Ernest Sternglass, 1981
Cover Up, Karl Grossman, 3rd Edition 2011
Poisoned Power, John W. Gofman, Ph.D., M.D. and Arthur R. Tamplin, Ph.D., 1979