For the past week, NBC Nightly News has ran a fascinating story about what is happening in Japan one year after the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown hit the Island nation. While it shows a determination to go on and an ability to clean up after a national disaster far better than we have done to our Gulf Coast (Dilapidated buildings and debris are still visible for Hurricane Katrina and that was seven years ago for God's sake), the radiation issue is crippling. But Japan is still trying to move on. I wish the news was better about the nuclear plant that is still pumping out radiation, albeit at far lower levels, and endangering the Japanese people more than anything else.
The government is attempting to clean the area by first washing the radioactive dirt off the roofs and then gathering all the leaves, bushes and top soil and shipping them off into a highly radioactive wasteland where it will remain for centuries. The problem is, it's not really working. It is near impossible to scrub a city of 30,000 people, like Fukishima, clean for inhabitable living. It's great they thought to try but it's never going to work.
The Japanese government has been described by many a person as completely dysfunctional with no clear leaders or power structure. Both government and corporations have fused to become so inert that nothing ever gets done. Over regulated and under regulated,which is possible at the same time so as to really screw things up and shows a glimpse of our future as well. We have a political party refusing to do anything to help their opponents at the expense of the country and gridlock is rampant. When a crisis hits in a place like that, bad things happen. And this country is a lot bigger than Japan.
Tokyo may be done as radiation levels there have been outrageously high. Four major corporations, including Merrel Lynch and Mitsubishi have all left the city, in part due to this factor that could lead to a huge cancer spike and a major hit to their insurance plans. When lives turn into loss of profit, no corporation is staying put for long.
But what of the radiation outside of the country? A new study in the prestigious International Journal of Health Services says that 14,000 have died in the US alone sue to Fukishima. Regular readers will remember that number is not too far from earlier predictions written about on this site last year. I had said around 10,000 deaths would happen within the next year and that's pretty close to the estimated number. This number also closely mirrors the 16,500 deaths that followed the Chernobyl incident. The largest subset to die were infants, particularly on the West Coast which rose by 1.8% nationally for the fourteen weeks after the accident compared with a decrease of 8.37% for the previous fourteen.
Some claim that the amount of radiation given off wouldn't kill off that many people in such a short period of time and they are right to a certain extent. The radiation given off would have little effect on a healthy individual. However, even the smallest amount of radiation can kill someone who is small, feeble or in very bad health. It is estimated a single isotope of some of the more lethal radiation variations can kill in a short period time if the person is somehow susceptible. The biggest recipients would be, of course, small infants with no real immune system yet. With the tremendous amount of radiation that spilled out over a lengthy period of time, this number seems highly accurate given prediction made at the time.
The West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii all got a huge dose, not all of which seems to have disappeared. While radiation levels in previously hard hit places Hawaii, Alaska and Idaho have all leveled off, California is still receiving life threatening doses according to non governmental sources. The government still claims all is well but some Geiger counter testing, done on camera by locals, seems to show very high levels of radiation. Even the government admits on their website of the highest levels of radiation in milk being in the Berkley, CA area. People with small children should be very wary of milk or even water for their children as the numbers seen are really high and dangerous.
For the most part, the danger has passed. But people on the West Coast and especially Japan have much to worry about as the damned thing still hasn't bet capped yet and is still spewing radiation, again at much lower levels than a year ago. Cancer deaths will spike as this continuous radiation may doom the Japanese people. My girlfriend, who is Japanese, will not be happy about that.