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Japan Beyond TragedyCopyright © 2013 Chase Morsey, Jr

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 1492740721

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

Prefectures.

May they grow up to be healthy and strong.

and

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

matter.

~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.

~ Unknown

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

Japan.

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

Australia.

“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

everything.”

“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

hills.

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

around.

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

upstairs shower.

“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.

Please enjoy!

Vindal Vandakoff

Japanese Beyond Tragedy