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Five Years on and the Fukushima Crisis Is Far From Over

Five Years on and the Fukushima Crisis Is Far From Over

Shaun Burnie

Scotland is over 9,000 km from Japan, but there’s something the two countries have in common. Along the Scottish coastline, buried in riverbeds, and mixed into the Irish Sea, you can find significant radioactive contamination coming from the other side of the world. Yes, radioactive contamination. All the way from Japan.


Having worked on environmental issues associated with uranium leachate mining to proposed “permanent” radioactive waste repositories–Yucca Mountain, in particular–I discovered a unique form of cognitive dissonance in the nuclear industry. The people who populate the power producing side are able to adapt to what is best described as the nuclear true believer religion even though they are aware of the grotesque horrors which are always threatening. As Upton Sinclair penned, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Those in the fossil fuel, banking, and pharmaceutical industries, to name a few, are not far behind the nuke kooks.


How bizarre that nuclear waste is spread to other parts of the world on purpose. To contaminate the Irish Sea or any other body of water with nuclear waste from elsewhere is an abomination in and of itself but one compounded by corporate denial and greed. To be sure they will have been told that the low level radiation is kept at supposedly safe levels. Meanwhile were some other toxin or poison to be diluted and dumped into the ocean people would rightly be asking why dump your poison here?

The nuclear industry has become enured to considerations of the danger posed by radiation. As the author quoted Sinclair… Their paychecks make them dismiss the dangers presented.

You have to wonder how long we can continue this massive assault on our environment whether from dumping nuclear waste or chemical toxins or adding billions of tons of extra carbon extracted from the earth to our atmosphere?

We are so numerous that anything we do gets done in huge quantities. This casual attitude towards contaminating a body of water with radiation stems from way back when (actually only a few decades) there were only half as many of us on the planet. Much of the way we do things are from the days when our modern technological world became economically unified after WW2. Old ways of doing things surprised us by becoming old much faster than we ever thought they would. We over fish the way we always did but now there are twice as many of us and we fish with vastly more efficient means. Yet we pretend that has no effect. We dump into dying oceans and blather about the economic benefits to a few people that come from continuing the practice even though we are seeing the decline of vitality in our oceans. Plankton is dying in huge quantities - 1/4 less than normal amounts. Dead Zones - truly vast areas hundreds and thousands of miles in size exist in all our seas.

We are like addicts who can’t stop poisoning ourselves all the while claiming that we could stop anytime we wanted to.


I didn’t help to stop Yucca Mountain, as my particular research efforts did not uncover significant problems. Located in the ruined lands of the Nevada Test Site, there are compelling arguments to bury waste there. As a matter of fact, the first time I climbed the mountain I surveyed the (nuclear tests) pock-marked landscape and mused to my colleagues “this looks like a good place for nuclear waste, let’s have lunch.” Until Harry Reid loses his power in the Senate, no real discussion regarding Yucca Mountain will appear in public.