New environmental health research on Japan

The new issue of the Asia-Pacific Journal:Japan Focus  includes several articles that focus on environmental health issues.

Nuclear Janitors: Contract Workers at the Fukushima Reactors and Beyond, by Gabrielle Hecht.

The hydrogen explosions at the three Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants in March 2011 launched one of the largest disasters in industrial history. A year after the Japanese government declared that the reactors were under control, experts continued to find radioactive leaks. According to TEPCO’s latest estimate, cleaning up the mess—removing fuel rods and debris, decommissioning the reactors, and decontaminating some of the surroundings—will take four decades and cost at least $125 billion.”1 Along the way, thousands of workers will be exposed annually to levels of radiation well in excess of 20 milliSieverts, the internationally recognized maximum limit for normal working conditions.

“Herbicide Stockpile” at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa: 1971 U.S. Army report on Agent Orange, by Jon Mitchell

A single sentence buried among 7000 pages of documents recently released by the Pentagon might well be the needle in the haystack that conclusively proves the U.S. military stored toxic herbicides, including Agent Orange, on Okinawa during the Vietnam War. American veterans have long claimed that large volumes of these chemicals were present on the island and hundreds of them are suffering from serious illnesses they believe were triggered by their exposure. But the U.S. government has repeatedly denied their allegations, insisting it has no records related to the issue.1

Now it seems the Pentagon’s denials might not have been entirely correct.

Okinawa’s Henoko was a “storage location” for nuclear weapons: published accounts, by Steve Rabson

According to accounts published after Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1972, nuclear weapons were stored in the northern Okinawan village of Henoko at an Army ordnance depot adjacent to the Marines’ Camp Schwab. The depot was constructed in 1959, becoming the Army’s 137th Ordnance Company (Special Weapons) and was turned over to the Marines as Camp Henoko (Ordnance Ammunition Depot) following reversion in 1972. The camp is located only a few hundred yards from the proposed site of the replacement base for the Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, which is located in the middle of densely populated Ginowan City. Newly re-instated Prime Minister Abe Shinzō has vowed to push for construction of the base, delayed more than sixteen years by local protests and despite widespread Okinawan opposition. The January 11, 2013 Japan Times reported, “The [Japanese] government may apply next month to bring in earth to fill a coastal area in [Henoko,] Okinawa where a U.S. Marine Corps air base is to be relocated, ahead of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to the United States, government reports said Thursday.”


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