Japanese fear authorities hide ugly truth about nuclear risks

The Japanese government is starting radiation checkups for more than two million people living near the crippled Fukushima plant. But many citizens of the country fear those in charge prefer face-saving public ignorance to life-saving knowledge.

Thousands of Japanese recently took to the streets of Tokyo to protest against nuclear energy. In a culture that is generally non-confrontational and obedient, it is a serious sign of discontent.

“After this crisis, it is true that the people are more conscious and we need to take advantage of it. This is the first time since World War II that the Japanese people have no trust in the government,” independent journalist Hiroaki Idaka told RT.

Iwaki, a coastal city devastated by the earthquake, the tsunami and on the edge of the radiation exclusion zone, is starting on the long road to recovery. But the people living there say the government is not doing enough.

“The city hall of Iwaki City, they say different things, and the prefecture they say different things.  The government, they say different things. Are they all not together? Are they all part of the country?” Seigi Kanari, an Iwaki City resident wonders.

But some believe it is too early to tell what the real dangers of this situation are. Scientists know that large doses of radiation given in one blast is a significant health threat, but they say there is not enough information about long-term exposure to lower doses of radiation and the types of damage it can do.

“If you check air here for radiation level, then you check debris, then you check water, you will get different values. Because it is so close and it is so changing that you can hardly say, but it by far exceeds what a normal person would have per year,” explains radiation biologist Oleg Gusyev.

One of the frightening things about this situation is that there are no concrete clear boundaries that can guarantee your safety. The RT crew tried to go a little bit closer to the 20-kilometer expulsion zone, but was escorted out by a police officer and a TEPCO official. The area just outside the boundary is supposed to be safe, but the radiation levels there are still between seven and ten times higher than normal

Whether from misinformation or misunderstanding, the people who live in the affected areas do not always take the proper precautions. RT correspondent Sean Thomas says he saw a volunteer cleaning-up toxic radioactive hotspots with hardly any protection at all. Some say the problem is compounded by government propaganda accentuating the benefits while neglecting to inform about the dangers of nuclear waste.

“The first thing the government should do is let the citizens know the real cost of nuclear energy. Until now the priority has been to profit from energy. The PR machine of the government has been emphasizing the benefit of nuclear energy and the citizens have been brainwashed to believe in it,” ecological economist Yoshihiko Wada said.

Now in the wake of an international crisis, there are allegations that the government and the power companies have worked out a deal to help each other, and that the media has been bought off.

“The TV channels need the money from advertisements and the nuclear energy companies pay a lot off. Without this money they cannot survive, and for that reason they have shut up about the situation. The newspapers have this problem as well,” says Hiroaki Idaka.

If true, such a policy keeps the important information hidden from the people, saving face for those in charge.