Today, human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger gave symbolic leadership to a global protest in support of a network of thousands of Japanese mothers who are campaigning to save the children of Japan from radiation resulting from the Fukushima catastrophe.
The mothers have organised a global petition based on the letter, with hand-ins at Japanese consulates and embassies worldwide. Cities participating include London, New Delhi, New York City, Washington DC and San Francisco. The letter appeals to the Japanese government to protect the children of Japan by evacuating them from highly radioactive areas. The mothers’ network argues that since the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, small children have been tested and found to be contaminated with radiation.
The mothers are demanding that the Japanese Government evacuates these children, rather than raising the limits of exposure. The letter also addresses the spread of radioactive contamination through the shipping and burning of contaminated rubble throughout Japan. The protest follows the release of two academic reports this month which find that the radiation fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident is bigger than that reported by the Japanese government and up to 30 times the amount stated by TEPCO.
We arranged the hand-in in advance with the Japanese Embassy in Piccadilly, London, and one of the officials had agreed to have a meeting with Bianca to discuss the issue. But an hour beforehand, we had a call from the Embassy saying this wasn’t possible after all. Anyway, Bianca handed the letter over at the door instead. For those of you interested in the detail of the matter, Bianca’s letter is below. Our thanks to Bianca for taking on this issue.
His Excellency Mr Hayashi
Ambassador of Japan
2nd November 2011
I am writing this letter in support of the thousands of mothers across Japan, who continue to live in fear of the devastating consequences resulting from the tsunami of March 11th 2011. Those who have signed the petition throughout the world and I believe that the Japanese Government’s policies could heighten the adverse consequences of the already catastrophic impact of the tsunami and resulting radiation exposure. An almost certain rise in cancer rates for millions of people is the best case scenario from the continued leakage from Fukushima Daiichi reactors No. 1, 2, 3, and 4.
I would like to convey to you the concern of the thousands of mothers and those who have signed the petition, and to appeal to the Japanese government to do everything in its power to limit the radioactive exposure of the population, by meeting the following demands.
- The dangerous radioactive rubble at Fukushima Power Plants and the other areas around should be left at the site of the disaster.
- Efforts must be focused on ending the ongoing fires at the plant, and people should be evacuated from the immediate area in accordance with radiation levels set before March 11th.
- Policies to increase allowable radiation levels must be overturned to pre-disaster levels. Today the Japanese government is systematically spreading radioactive material, publicly hosting events to eat food from Fukushima as a patriotic act, raising the radiation safe standard for food and rubble alike. For example in Japan today food reading 499 bq/kg can be legally distributed in the market without any label for consumers. Similarly, it has twice raised allowable levels of radiation for rubble which will now be shipped across the country to be burned and dumped into the ocean at locations including Tokyo Bay.
We are deeply concerned that an already tragic event will turn into a devastating environmental disaster with international reach. The Japanese Environmental Ministry estimates 23.82 million tons of rubble resulted from the March disaster in the coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. This rubble is one of many obstacles that Japanese people are facing, because they must remove the rubble in order to rebuild their lives. If the rubble piled up everywhere were not a big enough problem for the government, there is the added fact that much of this rubble contains radioactive material from the nuclear spill. Tokyo’s local government officially accepted 1,000 tons of rubble from Iwate, and they will transport the debris on trains and burn it and use the ashes as landfill in Tokyo Bay starting at the end of October 2011. Iwate Prefectural government estimates indicate that the rubble contains 133 bq/kg of radioactive material. This would have been illegal before March but the Japanese Government changed the safety level for rubble from 100 bq/kg to 8000 bq/kg in July 2011, then again to 10,000 bq/kg in October. Tokyo officials announced that they will accept 500,000 tons of rubble in total. In the same Iwate prefecture, On August 12th, 2011, 1130 bq/kg readings were detected on firewood (on surface bark) , and the Kyoto local authority who was going to burn it for a popular religious event decided not to do so because of the contamination.
It is difficult to accurately speculate about the consequences of these government actions, but no one can deny that a huge environmental gamble is being waged. The problem is not restricted to the Tokyo area, which is geographically near the impacted areas. The governor of Tokyo stated that he hopes this would encourage other local authorities to accept rubble. The Minister of the Environment, Mr. Hosono, said in a September 4, 2011 press conference that “it is the consideration of the national government [or as Japan as the nation] to share the pain of Fukushima with everyone [or everywhere] in Japan,” reiterating his intention to create a final processing facility outside Fukushima Prefecture for debris and dirt from near the nuclear accident to be burned. If many other local governments in Japan decide to follow Tokyo’s lead it will cause areas where are not yet directly impacted by the radioactive spill to contaminate their local soil and water.
I respectfully urge you to discourage the Japanese government from spreading, burning and dumping rubble from contaminated areas. It should be left on site and people should be evacuated from those areas according to the standards in place before March 11th. Thousands of mothers throughout Japan and I fear that, if the Japanese government proceeds with these policies, the fate of present and future generations will be at stake. It is our hope that the appropriate action will be taken to prevent a tragic outcome.
I thank Your Excellency in advance for your kind attention to this matter.
Founder and Chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation