DAPHNE WYSHAM, HOST, EARTHBEAT: Welcome to Earthbeat on The Real News Network. I’m Daphne Wysham. Today we’re speaking with a member of the Japanese Parliament, Kuniko Tanioka. Thanks for joining us on The Real News.
KUNIKO TANIOKA, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, JAPAN: Thank you.
WYSHAM: So we have a situation that still is not under control at the Fukushima nuclear reactors. We have reactors one, two, three, and four that are in different stages of crisis. First of all, I wonder if you can give us the latest news that you know about these different reactors in terms of what could go wrong still in the future.
TANIOKA: Well, number one reactor, if we can install the, like, regular cooling system, it’s going to be okay. And number two, the suppression pool of the reactor is damaged, and that’s where the, like, highest radioactivity particles are leaking, and is a very serious condition, because no person can go in. And also, the third, well, like, we were very worried about it, because it has mixed material of, like, uranium and the plutonium, what we call MOX, and because once the plutonium gets out, it’s really, like, tens of thousands of years they’re going to persist. But now it’s starting to come under control, if we can just stop the leakage of some of the water. And number four, it doesn’t have any material in the reactor, because they were under surveillance at the moment of the earthquake. However, like, there are so many used rods in the water pool, which is upstairs of the building, that if, like, we are shaken more by the earthquakes–well, by the way, that we had 16,000 earthquakes since the first big one, so the ground is really shaken a lot. So, like, we do not know how strong the ground is at the moment where the buildings are standing.
WYSHAM: Do you feel that the information that’s being shared with you as a member of Parliament has been accurate, up-to-date, honest, by those in charge of handling the response to this nuclear accident?
TANIOKA: Good question. Yes and no, because, like, if we are just asking, like, on a regular basis, we never get, like, a clear answer. But, you know, there is always in the political field ways to get closer to the real answer. So we’ve been trying very hard to get the answer eventually.
WYSHAM: Now, when the category 7 was put in place for the Fukushima disaster, how did you find out about that?
TANIOKA: Well, I read it in a newspaper.
WYSHAM: You read it in a newspaper. So nobody informed you beforehand. You actually heard it when everybody else heard it, even though you’re in charge of one of the ministries that is overseeing science for the entire country of Japan.
TANIOKA: Well, it was too bad. I was furious. And I asked one of the ministers [incompr.] why, like, they were hiding the news from us, and the minister said that, well, I only knew the night before.
WYSHAM: So it’s almost as though they’re treating the adults like children and the children like adults, giving the children the exposure to high levels of radiation, even for adults, and not giving them the kind of information that they should be to adults, especially elected officials.
TANIOKA: Yes. And, well, it’s true. But at the same time, the way they were treating the ordinary public was not good at all, either. It seemed as if the Japanese media was assisting the hiding of the government and the TEPCO by introducing all those [incompr.] who are said to be the specialists, saying, oh, the thing’s under control, oh, this is nothing, or, you know, it is not so serious, you know, keep saying it for the–in the first few weeks.
WYSHAM: And why is that? Why is the Japanese media being so cooperative in keeping information from getting out freely? Because, you know, you think the media’s there to expose the truth. They’re supposed to be providing that information to the public.
TANIOKA: Maybe because media is the part of the what you call business circle, and media has many sponsors who they don’t want to get furious.
WYSHAM: Including the nuclear industry?
TANIOKA: Yes, of course.
WYSHAM: Has it always been that way, or has it gotten more that way in recent years?
TANIOKA: Well, it’s difficult to say, but it was a gradual thing.
WYSHAM: So these protests that we see pictures of on the streets, or demonstrations where parents are bringing radioactive dirt to–in protest, is that sort of thing ending up on Japanese television?
TANIOKA: Well, yes, a little, bit by bit, yes.
WYSHAM: So there is some acknowledgement that the Japanese public is not too happy with the way this is being handled.
TANIOKA: Well, see, like, when they are actually resisting the government, media tend to show it. But if they are resisting the act of the big industry, they are more hesitant and reserved.
WYSHAM: And who actually is doing the radiological testing for the government?
TANIOKA: Well, the testing is done by the Agency of Science and Technology, which comes under the Ministry of Education. And–but it is assist by the nuclear regulatory committee, and then, like, this body releases it to the public.
WYSHAM: So it sort of goes through a filter of the nuclear regulatory body of Japan before it’s released to the public.
TANIOKA: You can say that.
WYSHAM: And in that process, is some information withheld? Or is it simply downplayed? Or what do you mean by it’s assessed?
TANIOKA: Well, assessing means that things become vague. And also, probably, they say they don’t want to be misunderstood. When, like, they have the–that is used as excuse to hide some of the things. But you see, they say that if we show everything, people get confused.
WYSHAM: Do you feel that it’s important to share this information not only with the people of Japan but with the people of the world?
TANIOKA: Of course it is.
WYSHAM: And how can that be done under the current circumstances?
TANIOKA: Well, for your showing the interest in what is happening in Japan and what is happening to this biosphere and what is happening to the children of, like, every country, including US.
WYSHAM: Do you feel that the decisions that were made to dump that very radioactive water into the ocean, do you think those were made perhaps too quickly, without enough contemplation of the impacts that this would have over the long term?
TANIOKA: Definitely. Japan’s government was lacking. The quality of the act of releasing so much radioactive water to the ocean, for one thing, it is impolite not to ask any neighbors. Secondly, once it’s discharged, you cannot retrieve it back. There is no way. And thirdly, this only planet is not only belonging to our generation, but, you know, we have to share it with the future generation. So this singular act of releasing the water is going to reflect so many different lives, including the human ones. But when I was in the Fukushima the second week of this accident–and I could not really feel the radioactivity, of course. I could not hear it, I could not see it, I could not smell it. But, however, when I was looking at the little sparrows on the trees going from one branch to another, all the sudden I realized this little sparrow is also radioactive now. And, you know, what have we done, as human beings, to, you know, put these innocent animals get so much, like, radioactive, or the fish, or the flowers? So, you know, this, we are responsible for that to happen, and we have to realize it, and we have to tell the world how sorry we are that we’ve done it in this way.
WYSHAM: Well, thanks for joining us today, Kuniko Tanioka, member of the Japanese Parliament. And thank you for watching The Real News. I’m Daphne Wysham.
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