Thursday, April 21, 2016

Christian Reflections on the Fukushima Disaster

On March 11, 2011, a nuclear disaster occurred in Fukushima, Japan. On December 26, 2014, Katsuya Hirano and Hirotaka Kasai interviewed Koide Hiroaki, a retired nuclear engineer, about that disaster and its aftermath. That interview was published as “‘The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster is a Serious Crime,’” by The Asia Pacific Journal on March 16, 2016.

Background. The first nuclear power reactor in Japan started generating electricity in 1966. Since then a total of 58 nuclear power reactors have been built in Japan. Six of these were built at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant between 1971 and 1978.
On March 11, 2011, an earthquake and resulting tsunami caused equipment failures at the Fukushima Daiichi plant that led to three nuclear reactor meltdowns. These meltdowns, in turn, led to a release of radioactive contaminants which continues to this day. These radioactive contaminants will cause cancers, leukemia, and other illnesses in an unimaginably large number of human beings and other creatures.
Koide believes that nuclear power plants should never have been built in Japan. The electricity generated from all of them together will never compensate for the disease and death that will be caused by the catastrophic release of radioactive contaminants in Fukushima.
As Christians and churches, we would do well to reflect on why we have 438 nuclear power reactors in the world today with 67 more under construction. We shouldn’t have.
Biblical context. From Genesis 1, we learn that Yahweh created Earth as he did to serve as the perfect context for us as humans to live in. By respecting the life-protecting limitations of that context, we humans would best enjoy a relationship of truth, freedom, love, and vitality with Yahweh, one another, and the rest of creation.
One of these life-protecting limitations was the total amount of available energy. We best protect the vitality of creation by living primarily within the limits of the solar energy income which Yahweh makes available to us through daily sunshine. He also provides us with the limited solar energy savings stored in trees and other plants. We rightly make use of these limited savings when we harvest trees and other plants in ecologically sustainable ways.
Contaminated history. Since about 1750 we humans have chosen to seriously trespass the life-protecting energy limits of creation. That’s when we decided to wholly abandon ourselves to Vulcan, god of technology, by building for him a Global Technological System (GTS) at the expense of ourselves and the rest of creation. That GTS has required our increasing exploitation of all available sources of energy savings—especially coal, oil, and eventually nuclear power.
But Vulcan is one of six gods of Olympianity: the religion of power. He is bent on power which is based on falsehoods and leads through indifference to the well-being of others and ends in death. His fellow gods include Jupiter (god of politics) and Pluto (god of money). They always work together to reward their most devoted human minions with technological, political, and financial power no matter how many others get hurt.
The Fukushima disaster illustrates how we as humans have devoted ourselves to Jupiter, Vulcan, and Pluto with catastrophic results.
One rule followed by all worshipers of Vulcan (god of technology): if it can be done, it must be done. If a nuclear reactor can be built to generate electricity, it must be built. The risk to human beings and the rest of creation doesn’t matter. This same religious logic is used by Olympians to justify, construct, and use nuclear weapons.
One rule followed by all worshipers of Pluto (god of money): if a lot of money can be made doing it, do it. Leaders of many different corporations imagined large profits coming from building nuclear power plants as well as selling the electricity generated by them. This desire for large profits took precedence over the desire to protect millions from the risk of illness and death.
As Christians and churches, we must ask ourselves: back in the 50s and 60s, did we question the construction of nuclear power plants on the basis of the biblical witness to Jesus Christ? How about nuclear weapons? Do we question either today? Jesus still frees us today to reject both.
Disastrous emergency response. Koide criticized the emergency response of government to the Fukushima catastrophe as disastrous itself. Following the explosion which removed the roof over Reactor 1, he believes the government should have evacuated everyone within 80 km of the reactor. That never happened. Employees of the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO, owner of the plant) had never imagined that the disaster which struck Fukushima could ever happen. Immediately after the unimaginable happened anyway, the people responsible for coordinating the emergency response ran away. The area to be evacuated started too small, expanded too slowly, and stopped too soon. Notification of the public and evacuation of people took far too long.
The six gods trick us humans into doing their will by lying to us and by bribing us to lie to others. In the case of nuclear power plants, they wickedly got us to believe that nuclear power plants would be perfectly safe under normal conditions, backup systems would be in place to protect us under unusual circumstances and, even if the worst happened, the government would take care of us. None of that was true.
As Christians and churches, we must ask ourselves: in what ways do we still wrongly believe that Jupiter, Vulcan, or Pluto will save us from the destructive consequences of our devotion to them? In what ways do we look to them, and their human minions, as our saviors rather than to Jesus Christ?
False information. Koide pointed out that, immediately following the Fukushima disaster, pro-nuclear experts on TV underestimated the seriousness of the disaster. The government soon forbade experts to publicly express their personal opinions. After that, experts interviewed on TV said what they had been told to say by government and corporate leaders. Alternative news sources broadcasting contrary opinions were shut down. Nuclear experts continuing to ask critical questions were labelled unpatriotic and criminal.
All of this is typical of the ways the Olympians gods and their human minions work. The truth gets falsified by being minimized. Then it gets denied. Then those not denying it get silenced. Then those not silent get criminalized.
There are some unpleasant truths in all of this for us. Government and corporate leaders, and those who are subject to their control, lie to us when it is useful for them to do so. We cannot rely on government spokespeople or the corporate media of communication to provide us with information which is accurate, comprehensive, and timely enough for us to make informed decisions even about issues of life and death. Finally, if we question conventional Olympian opinion as established by the corporate media, then life might get more complicated for us too.
Rejection of the rule of law. Koide informed us that, since the Fukushima disaster, the government has raised the legal limit of allowable radiation exposure for political, not scientific, reasons.
The government has also failed to evacuate up to 10 million people from what, according to its own rules, it should have legally declared to be a “radioactivity management area.” The radioactive contamination those people continue to be exposed to causes cancers, leukemia, and other illnesses. The government has failed so far to fund the studies needed to identify the rates of these diseases among those 10 million. This allows it to continue to deny that any danger exists. This despite a known rate of thyroid cancer similar to that of the people near Chernobyl after its similar disaster.
As Christians and churches, we strangely persist in affirming the false Olympian beliefs that people in positions of power speak the truth, care about our well-being, and respect the law. Today, whether we live in the US, Canada, Europe, or Japan, we also fail to realize that we no longer live in functional democracies. What we have, rather, is plutocracies (rule by the richest or those most rewarded by Pluto) if not kleptocracies (governments “characterized by rampant greed and corruption,” American Heritage Dictionary). As his disciples, Jesus calls us to recognize this and, with him, to imagine some distinctly Christian responses.
Avoidance of responsibility. Koide rightly believes in personal responsibility, so he’d like to see some people held responsible and others act responsibly. The government and TEPCO need to test, for radioactive contamination, the food grown by the farmers in the Fukushima region that they’ve abandoned. Then the people in the government and at TEPCO responsible for the ongoing Fukushima disaster should buy and eat the food grown by these farmers. Those responsible for any human injury, illness, or death of humans resulting from disaster should be prosecuted. We must shut down and never restart existing nuclear reactors as too dangerous: obviously we have no way of imagining or responding to nightmare scenarios and there’s no throwing radioactive contaminants away or safe way to contain them.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.