Japan Beyond TragedyCopyright © 2013 Chase Morsey, Jr
All rights reserved.
ISBN 13: XXXXX
Library of Congress Control Number: XXXXX (If applicable)
LCCN Imprint Name: City and State (If applicable)
This book is dedicated to the children of Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate
May they grow up to be healthy and strong.
The Japanese youth.
You have the greatest opportunity with your advanced technology
to lead the world with new, clean alternative energy.
World catastrophe waiting to happen
In July 2012, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) announced that
the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was still emitting 10,000,000
becquerels (Bq) of radiation per hour. The Number Four reactor building
is leaning precariously to one side and could collapse if there is another
earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5. If this happens, the spent fuel pool in
the Number Four reactor building will run dry and catch fire, releasing
around 50 times more radiation than Chernobyl. This will be a world
catastrophe and will affect the lives of every person on this planet. The
Japanese government, despite knowing these facts and contrary to strong
public opposition, had the audacity to restart two nuclear reactors at the Oi
plant two months prior to this announcement. Fukushima is not just a
Japanese problem but a world problem and should be dealt with by the
international community, not by a company and a government that
continuously hides the truth from the public. In August 2013, TEPCO
announced that 300 tonnes of radioactive water was escaping into the
Pacific Ocean every day.
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
~ George Orwell
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that
~Martin Luther King
Earthquakes and tsunamis have the power to damage a nation.
Nuclear energy has the power to destroy a whole country.
~ Vindal Vandakoff
Reality is usually ridiculed and illusion easily accepted.
On March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m. a catastrophic event took place, changing the lives of
millions of Japanese.
This set the cogs in motion that would forever change the world.
A word from the author
I was sitting in my study in Japan on March 11, 2011, at 2:46 p.m. preparing another
book campaign for my recent book Zeron: The Awakening, which had just reached
eighteenth on Amazon’s Science Fiction Best Sellers list. I live in Hitachiota, Ibaraki
Prefecture, which is located about one hundred kilometers north of Tokyo and about 120
kilometers south of the Fukushima nuclear plant. My wife, her mother, and my twenty-
year-old daughter, who was on leave from university, were at home.
“Daddy, earthquake!” shouted my daughter from downstairs.
“What?” I called back.
“An earthquake’s going to hit in thirty seconds,” she shouted back. She didn’t
seem to be too concerned, and neither was I, as earthquakes are a common part of life in
But then the rumble started, and the ground began to shake.
“Sounds like it’ll be a big one!” I called back casually.
And then the mountains thundered, and the house shook violently.
“Get outside!” I yelled, bolting from my study and racing down the stairs. I had
been in enough earthquakes to know this was going to be a huge one.
The next wave of seismic energy hit like a sledgehammer, and the whole house
lifted off its foundations.
My wife and daughter were trying to help my mother-in-law out of the house. I
grabbed her and carried her outside. The air boomed and the ground shook as if it was
going to tear apart. We clung to the side of the house to stay on our feet. I looked at waves
crashing out of the swimming pool. The cedar trees swayed precariously as if they were
about to snap in half.
“Get into the yard!” I shouted, carrying my terrified mother-in-law.
Shock wave after shock wave tore through the ground, and we were barely able
to stay on our feet. Another wave of energy hit, and we all stumbled backward. I lost my
grip on my mother-in-law, and she crashed to ground. The earth jolted again, and we were
sent sprawling across the lawn. Then it was gone, and an eerie silence befell us.
The Great Eastern Earthquake registered a magnitude of 9.1, and it was the first
of the thousands of earthquakes that would jolt Japan over the next year. We had seventy
earthquakes above 4.5 from 2:46 p.m. to midnight, many of them registering magnitudes
of 6 to 7.9, and that’s not counting the countless smaller ones below 4.5. The next day we
had one hundred and seventy—about one every four minutes.
Electricity was out, so I went to my car and turned on the radio. What I heard
made the blood drain from my face and an icy chill run up my spine. Tsunami warning
after tsunami warning was being broadcasted—twenty meters high for Iwate Prefecture,
time of impact twenty-five minutes; fifteen meters high for Miyagi Prefecture, time of
impact twenty minutes; fifteen meters high for Fukushima Prefecture, time of impact thirty
minutes; six meters high for Ibaraki, impact thirty-five minutes.
“Jesus Christ!” I exclaimed.
“They’re saying to evacuate from lowland and rivers,” my daughter shouted.
“Minakawa lives next to the river,” I said at once. I took out my mobile phone
and punched in the number; amazingly I got through.
“The tsunami is going to come up the river. You need to get out,” I said in
Japanese as calmly as I could.
Mrs. Minakawa wasn’t talking coherently, and I could hear her daughter and
grandchild’s cries in the background.
“You need to get out,” I repeated. But I only got a confused answer that I could
make no sense of.
I jumped in my four-wheel drive and sped down the dirt track and then swung
right onto the sealed road. The more I descended the more damage I saw; stone walls
around most houses had fallen over, old farmhouses had collapsed, and tiles littered the
road. The most severe damage was on the low farmland where the soil was soft. I had to
cross a river to get to Minakawa’s house, and I calculated I still had at least twenty
minutes. I slowed and checked the way was clear and then sped across the bridge and
turned left onto a side street. In front a barn had toppled over onto the road. I managed to
squeeze my car around it, but there was house collapsed across the road blocking my
way. I reversed back up and swung into a narrow lane, put my car in four-wheel drive,
and drove across some farmland and back out onto the road.
Mrs. Minakawa was standing outside her house with some bedding and clothes;
most of the stone walls around her house had fallen onto the road, and the barn had
collapsed onto her car. “Where’s your daughter?” I asked.
“She’s at the evacuation area,” she replied.
“Get in! I’ll take you there,” I said, throwing her bedding into the back.
We drove through several narrow lanes and came to the evacuation area. Her
daughter was in her car, nursing her baby, her face ashen, expressing disbelief.
“Come up to my house and stay tonight,” I offered.
Mrs. Minakawa nodded, switched the bedding to her daughter’s car, and got in.
We headed to the main road, but there was a traffic jam, so we turned around. I
told them I was going to get some firewood from my friend and would see them up at my
house; they agreed.
Just before I got to the river, my mobile phone rang. “Hai, moshi moshi, ” I said.
“Daddy! Are you OK?” came the panicked voice of my younger daughter in
“We’re all fine,” I replied.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“I’m just coming back from Minakawa’s. She needed some help.”
“They’re showing footage of the tsunami on TV now; it looks like the wave out
of the book The Perfect Storm, and it’s going up the rivers.”
I swallowed hard and sped across the bridge.
“Stay away from the rivers,” she said.
“That’s exactly where I am,” I answered, regretting the words as soon as they
left my mouth.
“Get out of there!” she screamed. “It’s going up the rivers and destroying
“I’ll call you back,” I said and hung up.
I continued to my friends Mr. and Mrs. Fujii’s house. When I arrived I saw that
Mr. Fujii’s mother was sitting in the car with a blanket around her. I asked him what she
was doing, and he told me she was too scared to go back into the house. His mother spent
the next few nights, like so many other people, in the car. The Fujiis made me some
coffee, and we sat and talked for a while as the tremors rattled the house every few
minutes. He then generously gave me some firewood, and I headed back down the hill. I
stopped near the bottom and scanned the farmland for any sign of the approaching
tsunami; there was none, and I quickly drove down and then back up into the safety of the
That night we sat around the wood burner while my wife played the guitar; we
had no idea what destruction the tsunami had caused, nor that the Fukushima nuclear plant
had lost all power and the six reactors were on the brink of meltdown.
The next morning my American friend Mike came around to get some water, as I
was not connected to town water but instead piped it down from a creek 500 meters up
the hill. That’s when I found out that the reactor in Fukushima had gone critical. I was
worried but not alarmed as I knew, or, more to the point, was led to believe, the Japanese
nuclear industry had the best safety record in the world.
Later that day I drove down to Tokai village, about twenty minutes away, to
check on my office. It had half collapsed, so I salvaged the computer and some important
documents and went back home.
I heard nothing about the explosion at the Fukushima plant until the next day; we
immediately fled to Tokyo and then to the island of Shikoku about 900 kilometers south.
As we headed south the next two reactors blew up, and to my absolute bafflement the
Japanese government and TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) who owned and ran
the reactors, kept insisting there was nothing to worry about and that everything was OK.
Things are definitely not OK when three nuclear reactors blow up.
I decided to ring an old friend who had been a manager of a nuclear plant in
Japan. His response was absolutely bizarre. He told me that everything was fine and that
there was nothing to worry about and that he himself was out on his roof replacing some
broken tiles. He then went on to lecture me that fleeing such a long distance increased my
risk of having a serious accident and that I would be much safer if I had stayed at home in
Ibaraki. I hung up the phone and said, “Yeah right.” I have never again talked to him, nor
intend to talk to him.
I then rang a friend in America who works in the nuclear industry. His response
was quite different; he said to get as far south as I could or leave the country. He told me
not to even think of returning home until the radiation level had dropped. Even then I
should only make a quick visit because if one of the reactors ‘burps,’ as he put it, I
wouldn’t want to be downwind, as there would be some pretty lethal particles flying
Ironically, my first job when I came to Japan twenty-seven years ago was as an
English teacher at a nuclear power plant. What is even more ironical is that it was at
Japan’s very first nuclear plant in Tokai village (Tokaimura). That reactor has now been
decommissioned, but the Number Two reactor is still operating. The Number Two reactor
only just survived the same fate as the reactors in Fukushima: three of the four emergency
generators were flooded by the tsunami—the remaining one just enough to save the day
by keeping the reactor cool. They had just recently raised the height of part of the tsunami
wall and were in the process of relocating the backup generators to high ground.
When I said Tokai village, some of you may have thought you’ve heard that
name. Yes, you’re right. It was home to the JCO (Japan Nuclear Fuel Conversion
Company) nuclear accident in 1999. In 1999, workers at a uranium reprocessing plant
operated by JCO were filling a precipitation tank with uranium enriched to 18 percent
with a radioisotope known as U-235. The workers who lacked proper training accidently
added sixteen kilograms instead of the permitted 2.4 kilograms, and this initiated a
criticality. It continued for twenty hours before it could be stopped. Two workers died
shortly after being exposed to massive amounts of radiation.
I remember the day well. I was about to go to my office in Tokaimura at about
three in the afternoon when my wife called out that there was a leak.
“I thought the plumber had fixed it,” I said, thinking she was talking about the
“No, not the shower. Some nuclear facility in Tokai,” she replied.
I switched the TV on and watched reporters with Geiger counters measuring the
radiation. “Ring the village office and find out what is happening,” I told my wife.
She rang and they said everything was OK—nothing to worry about. They even
said it was safe for children to play outside.
I immediately assumed they were lying, as TV news reporters in Tokai were
registering high levels of radiation on their Geiger counters. I rang my office and told the
staff to go home. I told them to take a route in the opposite direction the wind was
blowing. I then evacuated my family to an area fifty kilometers to the west. That night the
government established a ten-kilometer, no-go zone.
The next day I decided to go north to a friend’s house—and this is where it gets
really bizarre. We went north to Fukushima Prefecture to a town called Tomioka. Take a
wild guess what lies a few kilometers down the road on the coast? That’s correct, the
Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants. Actually, my friend Mr. Yamada,
who I believe now lives in the southern island of Kyushu, made a joke the first night. He
said, laughing, that we had evacuated to his town, but imagine if the power station nearby
blew up while we were there. We had a good laugh at the time.
So, I have been caught up in two nuclear accidents, and what do I find so similar
about the two? The cover-ups, the lies, and the irresponsible handling of the accidents by
both the government and the companies involved. According to independent and private
sources, this blatant mismanagement has led to millions of people unnecessarily exposed
to dangerous levels of radiation.
It seems the Japanese government, NISA (Nuclear and Industrial Safety
Agency), and TEPCO can act entirely by themselves—above the law.
Conservative estimates predict about one million people will die in the next
twenty to thirty years owing to radiation exposure from Fukushima.
What I find interesting is that no one has been arrested for negligence. Actually,
the blame has not been pinned on any individuals. I wouldn’t point the finger of blame at
the plant workers but at the TEPCO officials who knew that this type of accident could
occur and did nothing to prepare for it.
On the contrary, I would glorify the men known as the Fukushima Fifty for
preventing a much larger crisis from occurring—a crisis that would have affected the
whole world with much more dire consequences.
Although I have written this book as a fiction title, what went on in Japan during
the day of the earthquake and days after is based on facts and interviews with the
survivors. My wife and I took supplies to the town of Otsuchi four weeks after the
tsunami, and what we witnessed is beyond words. We have been back several times since
and truly admire the strength of the Japanese peoples’ spirit. The book unveils what the
Japanese people went through and are still going through as well as what happened at the
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. I point out that the nuclear industry worldwide is driven
by profit and has deliberately covered up safety issues.
A recently released independent report, which condemns the gross mishandling
of the nuclear accident, cites TEPCO’s refusal to allow any of its workers to be
interviewed. I wonder why?
And tell me why the supermarkets are stocked with imported vegetables, meat,
and seafood and people are buying bottled mineral water by the box? Everything is OK;
there is nothing to worry about. Seems the public do not believe as the government would
like them to.
Japanese Beyond Tragedy