You are here

Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster - A personal story about the next 100 years of human history

Tony Boys's picture

A version written with simpler HTML than this first version can be found here. It was re-written by Tony Boys, because some site visitors from South America could not read this original article. A copy can also be found here at . - Ed.

At 2:20 pm I got fed up with the translation I was working on so I saved it and then backed it up on a USB flash drive. Then I browsed through some daily newsletters I receive on the Internet, saving a few of the articles I thought were useful. The last time stamp was 2:38. I was about to shut down the PC when I noticed that my mp3 player was still recharging, so decided to leave it on and do something else. That was when I felt the first tremors…"All the reactors are screwed and we are looking at the very worst situation right now. Even on the BBC those mysterious water puddles the TEPCO guys paddled in have 10,000 times the radiation levels. 10,000. That means the core reactor is leaking. The zirconium cladding tubes of the spent fuel rods are also cracked like broken egg shells. Reactor 3 with the MOX uranium and plutonium is responsible for the now much higher radiation levels (8 times last week - which was bad enough in itself).Vast tracts of northern Japan, including Tokyo and as far south as Osaka are going to be uninhabitable. Hokkaido may be ok, but too cold to support life without adequate cheap fuel."

Note: Story was copied to here /node/2411 from /node/2407 in an attempt to overcome a formatting problem which caused the left and right columns to disappear or be pushed down the page. Although it first seemed to solve the problem, the problem now seems to have returned. - Ed, 29 Mar 11.

See also Filmed interview with Tony Boys 27 March 2011

The room shook violently! It seemed to be vibrating violently at about five shakes a second and then at the same time shunting back and forth in an east-west direction about once a second. Books and CDs began to fall off shelves. It seemed to be going on for a very long time and gaining in intensity as it did. I was hanging on to my PC! I went into the adjoining room to see where my wife (Chisato) was. She was hanging onto the Buddhist altar and the TV! She was OK, so I went back to my room and made sure the PC didn’t fall off the desk. The electricity had already gone. The room was still shaking very violently. I began to wonder if the house was going to collapse. I was very, very frightened. After a few more minutes the shaking became less violent and eventually stopped. Five or six minutes in all, I think.

Where I live is Hitachi Omiya City, northern Ibaraki, about 120 km north of Tokyo on the Pacific coast and about 20 km inland from Hitachi City. Quite a long way south from the epicentre of the M9.0 earthquake that struck northeast Japan at 2:46 pm on March 11, 2011.

We were lucky. None of our bookshelves fell over (they are either built-in or secured by plates which are screwed up tightly to the ceiling). A few glasses and pieces of crockery broke. The bread-baking machine fell off its perch and was obviously broken beyond repair. Big deal. No electricity, no water.

[1. Damaged roofs of houses nearby. Mostly the curved tiles of the ridges have shaken loose.]

Taking a look outside it was immediately obvious that the roofs of houses with nice Japanese roof tiles had been damaged. Thick stone walls had also collapsed. We later found out that further north whole cities, towns and villages had been ‘wiped out.’ You’ve probably seen the pictures. Very, very sad, but I do not want to go into that here.#1 [If you comment, ask questions, ask for more detail, or if you want to add more information as a comment, can you please quote the number at the end of the paragraph, if appropriate.]

[2. The wind up radio, the tiny lamp and the Days Japan magazine with the now familiar sight of Fukushima No.1 Power Station. See below.]

Chisato eventually managed to find a tiny alcohol lamp, some candles, and a ‘wind up’ radio that doubled as a cell phone recharger. Fantastic. Our most important equipment for the two days before electricity was restored. For water, we were able to get fairly clean water for washing from the well at Chisato’s mother’s house, less than one km away. The water is usually pumped to a tap by an electrical pump, but that was not working, so she had taken off the lid and set up a rope and bucket. 15 and 20 litre water containers that Chisato had stored away for just such an eventuality were brought out and so we were able to get water back to the house using my ‘light truck.’

[3. Light truck.]

For potable water, we used the local (about 1.5 km away) spring. Lots of other people, of course, had had the same idea, so it was necessary to queue. Since this is a rural area, there is food around. No problem. It is early spring here; cold, but not unbearably so. Nice when the sun shines. Gasoline looked like it was going to be a problem, but our three cars (my light truck and my son and daughter’s two small cars) had been filled up during the previous week, so, again, lucky.#2

[4. Closeup of the spring. Note the funnel and other utensils hanging on the branch. These were brought by a neighbour for everyone's use. They're still there.]

[5. The spring. Once water supplies were resumed, about a week after the earthquake, things went back to normal here. The blue sheet and chain over the concrete structure on the left are a permanent feature.]

[6. The back of the wind up radio showing the dynamo handle extended. Essentially the same principle as a nuclear power station, but using a different power source and therefore not nearly so dangerous.]

The Disaster at Fukushima No.1 Power Station

Lamp-lit dinners with the wind-up radio. That’s when we heard about Fukushima No.1 Power Station. At first it seemed that one or perhaps two reactors had been affected. Later, as you know, four (1-4) of the six reactors at that site experienced serious problems, and as I write these have not been stabilised. The other two (5 and 6) experienced some problems, but were stabilised later, when they were connected to an external power line.#3

Until March 11, Japan had 54 commercial nuclear reactors operating, 15 of which are situated along the Pacific coast between Ibaraki and Aomori Prefectures. Fukushima No.1 and No.2 Power Stations, about ten km from each other, had a total of ten reactors. None of the nine reactors in power stations other than Fukushima No.1 experienced serious problems in shutting down after the earthquake. The Tokai reactor, only about 20 km from here, had to start up its backup diesel-powered cooling pumps in order to cool the reactor. It is not clear if the control rods were properly inserted into the reactor core to shut the reactor down when the earthquake struck.#4

Please see these pages for descriptions of emergency shutdown measures at nuclear power stations.
Scram - emergency insertion of control rods into the reactor core
ECCS - Emergency Core Cooling System

My first reaction was one of horror. Several Chernobyls simultaneously? Thankfully, it does not seem to be that serious, more like a quadruple Three Mile Island (one of them being a plutonium-burning ‘pluthermal’ reactor), and that is quite serious enough. Since the story is not over yet, it may still get even more serious. Two days after the earthquake, just before the electricity service was resumed, I bumped into one of Chisato’s relatives as I was taking our dog for a walk. Since there is a nuclear power station near here, people naturally have friends who have worked in the stations up and down the coast, and know about the realities of the reactors and so on. He’s obviously in the loop. He had quite a serious story to tell about the problems at Fukushima No.1. These are unconfirmed statements, so you, like me, should take them with a large pinch of salt. 1) When the earthquake struck, the control rods did not enter the reactors properly. 2) The diesel fuel had been taken out of the diesel generator that runs the emergency backup cooling pumps. 3) The power station is being run by subcontractors of subcontractors.#5

Let’s look at these in turn. 1) When a (serious) earthquake tremor is perceived, the control rods are supposed to be inserted into the reactor core. From the links above, this happens in about four seconds. It’s still not clear to me what actually happened at Fukushima No.1 reactors 1-3 (4 was down for maintenance so there were no fuel rods in the core). It seems that the control rods did not insert correctly, but it is not certain whether that was because of the strength of the earthquake or because of mismanagement, poor maintenance and so on. 2) In any case, if the control rods failed to enter the reactor core(s), the emergency core cooling system (ECCS) should have then kicked in to cool the reactors. It has now been revealed in the media (e.g. on NHK TV news programmes) that “the diesel generator started but very soon stopped for lack of fuel.” Personally, I prefer to think that fuel in the tank(s) had been used when checking if the generator(s) and pump(s) were in working order or not, and then no one thought to top up the tank again (over several years?) rather than to believe that the fuel had actually been removed for some reason, but we will have to wait and see if the committee that eventually investigates the accident will come up with an answer. 3) We have always been told that nuclear power is safe, and some of the reasons often cited are ‘superior Japanese technology’ and ‘superior Japanese management capabilities.’ When someone tells me that a power station is ‘being run’ by subcontractors of subcontractors, I am a bit sceptical about what that actually means. Does this refer to people in the control room? I hope not. Does it refer to the people who are doing maintenance and repair? Almost certainly, but under whose supervision is this carried out? Perhaps we will have some answers from the committee of investigation.#6

Looking at the daily newsletters I read – Energy Daily and Terra Daily - this article about the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was included in the March 21 issue: Days before quake, plant operator admitted oversight. I’ll just quote one small part: …inspections, which are voluntary, did not cover other devices related to cooling systems including water pump motors and diesel generators. It’s obvious from the article that TEPCO’s mismanagement of nuclear power stations has been going on for a long time. Many Japanese are well aware of this. Other examples can be found on the pages of the website of the Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo, which has an English nuclear safety page where you can find such articles as "Not Again": Yet Another TEPCO Scandal. Ten Japanese power companies, covering all regions of Japan except Okinawa, have commercial nuclear power stations. TEPCO seems to have more ‘problems’ than others, though it is well known that some of the other power companies also have quite serious ‘problems.’ This article is also worth a look: The moment nuclear plant chief WEPT as Japanese finally admit that radiation leak is serious enough to kill people.#7

On the next day (March 22), this article was carried by the Terra Daily: Japan nuke plant ‘was crippled by 14-metre tsunami’. I want to quote this article a little, because it seems to have a direct bearing on the facts of the accident.

The monster tsunami which left a Japanese nuclear power plant on the brink of meltdown measured at least 14 metres (46 feet) high, the plant's operator said Tuesday


The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) had earlier estimated the height of the wave at 10 metres at its Fukushima No. 1 plant, some 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

A massive 9.0-magnitude quake on March 11 triggered colossal waves along the country's Pacific coast, crippling the plant's cooling systems and prompting emergency operations to prevent fuel rods from melting and spewing radioactive material.

“Now we estimate the height at more than 14 metres. We have found traces of the tsunami at such elevations," TEPCO spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said, adding that the wave was 14 metres high when it passed through the plant's parking area.

A tsunami can surge to an elevation higher than its height at the time when it hits shore, Japanese media noted.

First TEPCO is saying that the tsunami was estimated at 10m. Then they say “traces” of the tsunami were found at elevations (above sea level?) of 14m. The article appears to suggest that the tsunami was responsible for crippling the plant’s cooling systems, but makes no mention of the lack of fuel in the diesel generator. A local (Mito Broadcasting Station) NHK news programme I saw mentioned that at Kitaibaraki City the height of the tsunami was 6.3 m above sea level. This was very nicely shown with reference to a level ‘tide mark’ on the side of a building at the top of the beach, probably somewhere around 36 deg. 47’ 45.00” N, 140 deg. 45’ 28.00” E, if you like to look at Google Earth. About 110 km further south in Ibaraki Prefecture the tsunami was reckoned to be 4.8 to 4.9 m (around Kashima). Fukushima No.1 Power Station is about 75 km north of Kitaibaraki City. You can see the power station at 37 deg. 25’ 18.30” N, 141 deg. 02’ 00.30” E. The coastline is quite smooth here, not like the ria coast further north, where the tsunami caused really horrific damage. Perhaps when the investigative committee does its work we’ll find out what “traces” of tsunami are.#8

[7. Tokyo Newspaper, 24 March 2011, Front page. Headline on right says, "Radioactive material in capital's water system. Ingestion restraint for infants." Pictures and caption to left: High school students at the high school baseball tournament in Osaka holding up placards saying "Gambaro! Nippon" - Pull out all the stops! Japan. Lower centre article: Headlines - "Nuclear power station airlock doors left wide open. Rush for the exits following the earthquake" - This article is the lead for the one below on p.2 of the newspaper.]

[8. Long eyewitness article on p.2. The headline says, "Shouts and screams in the dark". Below, the daily update on the situation at the four troubled reactors at Fukushima No.1 Power Station.]

I was also wondering how much time passed between the earthquake and the arrival of the tsunami. I found a pretty good answer for that in the 24 March edition of the Tokyo Newspaper. A long article gives eyewitness accounts of the scenes inside reactors 1, 4 and 5 just after the earthquake occurred. A repair worker in reactor 1 managed to escape from the reactor building in about five minutes. (Except for small emergency lights it was completely dark inside the building and many people were rushing for the exits at the same time.) Once outside, a friend called to him, “Quick, there’ll be a tsunami coming!” They ran about one km to higher ground near the west gate. The tsunami came about 30 minutes after that, so we can reckon 40 to 45 minutes between the earthquake occurring and the tsunami arriving. Since the external electricity supply had also stopped (no lighting inside the buildings) that meant 40 minutes when the diesel generator should have been running.#9

[9. Long article on pp.18 and 19. Headlines on right (p.18) - "Accident at Fukushima power station was 'within foreseen circumstances", "The excuse of 'beyond foreseen circumstances'", "Tsunamis and earthquakes already discussed in parliament". Headlines on left (p.19) - "Lessons not learned = 'man-made' disaster", The reality of the collapse of the 'safety myth'", "Time to choose whether to allow (nuclear power) or not".]

Another long article on pages 18 and 19 of the same issue of the Tokyo Newspaper, shows how, despite TEPCO’s claim that the earthquake and tsunami had been “beyond foreseen circumstances,” possible earthquake and tsunami scenarios and power station preparedness had been discussed in parliamentary committees, and the Director of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency had stated in an answer to a question about large tsunamis damaging the cooling system that, “Supplementary water systems would be brought into operation to remove decay heat from the nuclear reactor.” The newspaper concludes that the disaster was therefore not a natural one, but a man-made disaster.#10

While clearing up some of the books and magazines that had fallen off the shelves during the earthquake Chisato found a September 1988 issue of a Japanese magazine called Days Japan. The cover has a large picture of Mr Gorbachev and his wife waving as they board a plane and in large letters at the foot of the page “Nuclear Reactor Explosion X Day.” (See photo 2) The article, including title and ending runs for 16 pages and is mostly about Fukushima No.1 Power Plant, and especially the design problems of reactor 4. Twenty-two years and 6 months later…#11

What’s happening now?

As I write this on March 26, NHK news is telling everyone that today is the 40th anniversary of the date in 1971 of the startup of reactor 1 at Fukushima No.1 Power Station. Not much to celebrate. The four reactors are still not under control. Some of the most informative and revealing articles I have read about the unfolding disaster are on a site suggested to me by a British friend now living in Kyushu, in the south of Japan; The Automatic Earth. If you scroll down the page, you will see Troubled Plant Had High Rate of Problems, Records Show, by Andrew Morse - Wall Street Journal and Japan Raises Possibility of Breach in Reactor Vessel, by Hiroko Tabuchi, Keith Bradsher And David Jolly - New York Times. Concerning reactor 3, the pluthermal one, this latter article had the following to say.

A senior nuclear executive who insisted on anonymity but has broad contacts in Japan said that there was a long vertical crack running down the side of the reactor vessel itself. The crack runs down below the water level in the reactor and has been leaking fluids and gases, he said.

The severity of the radiation burns to the injured workers are consistent with contamination by water that had been in contact with damaged fuel rods, the executive said.

"There is a definite, definite crack in the vessel — it’s up and down and it’s large," he said. "The problem with cracks is they do not get smaller." (Bold and italic as in original)

Totally horrifying. The article makes it clear that it will be at least two more weeks before the reactor is fully under control, and that decommissioning will be a big, big headache for TEPCO and the Japanese government. The radiation problem will be with us for months to come, probably years. IF they get the reactors under control.#12

Nuclear power is an extremely dangerous technology. So dangerous that we really shouldn’t be doing it. A well-known organic farmer who lives in Ibaraki Prefecture, Mr Jiro Kakei, has said, “Technologies progress through failure, but nuclear power is a technology that does not allow for failure.” That pretty well sums it up. People who do not live near nuclear power stations and do not hear of the problems they have may feel that nuclear power is OK as long as there are no serious accidents. However, the routine day-to-day running of nuclear power stations involves significant human suffering. The repair worker mentioned a few paragraphs above was a young man employed by a plumbing company in Tsu City, Mie Prefecture, about halfway between Nagoya and Nara. After returning to his flat in Tsu a week after the earthquake, with no savings and little hope of finding a job in Japan’s current recession, he said, “If I’m told to go to another nuclear power station, I might go.” He also said, “Those who say nuclear power stations are safe are in places a long way from the actual sites.” Maintenance and repair work in nuclear power stations involves people putting their lives on the line. They are frequently day-wage labourers who have few alternative opportunities to make money. In other words, they are only doing the work because they are desperate. Besides the fact that these relatively unskilled people are doing work society expects to be done perfectly, how can we condone the fact that anyone at all is having to do this work? It probably cannot be done in any way that does not adversely affect the worker’s human rights. We’ve known this for a long time, at least since the 1970s, but it does not prevent power companies from building and operating nuclear power stations. #13

The Future

What’s the worst case scenario for Japan? As I began to write this today, my friend in Kyushu sent me this message:

All the reactors are screwed and we are looking at the very worst situation right now. Even on the BBC those mysterious water puddles the TEPCO guys paddled in have 10,000 times the radiation levels. 10,000. That means the core reactor is leaking. The zirconium cladding tubes of the spent fuel rods are also cracked like broken egg shells. Reactor 3 with the MOX uranium and plutonium is responsible for the now much higher radiation levels (8 times last week - which was bad enough in itself).

Vast tracts of northern Japan, including Tokyo and as far south as Osaka are going to be uninhabitable. Hokkaido may be ok, but too cold to support life without adequate cheap fuel.

This is also how we get the die off. Japan will become half a country and Fukuoka the emergency capital. Population decimated by cancer. The Fukushima complex will have to be sarcophagized - it should already have been done by now.

Japan unable to feed herself presently as it is, is heading for a real shocker. It’s not hard to imagine. Best rice, water and sake are from the north. All that will be gone like the spinach and milk - all down the drain and into the sea killing the fish and other creatures.

We have been lied to every step of the way by TEPCO and the government. Why? In order to save the stock market and a possible world financial crash. They also didn't want to cause (necessary IMO) mass panic.

Mephistopholes is a-calling. The bargain is up and Faust is as good as dead. Our time in the sun was rapid and brief - how typically Japanese - like the ephemeral sakura.

I don’t think it's this bad yet, but it could happen. If it does, this is the last you will hear from me.

It is now abundantly clear to many, many people around the world that ‘we’ (humankind) are approaching planetary limits. The factors inherent in the very systematic and complex problem of population, food and energy – farmland area, rising population, economic development causing larger numbers of people to eat more animal protein, falling availability of or higher prices for energy that is converted into fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural materials or used as fuel for agricultural machinery (or used to produce agricultural machinery) – is steadily, and not too slowly, moving towards an unavoidable chicane. At some point in time we have to say ‘no’ to the current system of placing economic growth and economic development above all priorities, and to placing money values and considerations above all others. The alternative to saying ‘no, let’s change the way we do things’ is general systemic crash or collapse. I don’t mean in a few decades in the future – the crash is already here, it just doesn’t make itself apparent everywhere in the world at the same time. (We still haven’t recovered from one of the warning signals, the financial crisis of 2007-2008.) #14

I believe that now is one of those points in time when we have an opportunity to say ‘no’ to the current system, the current mind-set, and start to move toward wherever we need to go, want to go, during the rest of this century. And I think the first step on this path is to say ‘no’ to nuclear power. Now. Yesterday I also read tim’s article Questions That Continue To Bedevil Me. I was surprised because he said basically the same thing. tim wrote:

I came to the realization that saving the environment was not a juggling act between causes and factors that demand equal attention, but more like a golf game. In golf, you don't begin by trying to figure out how best to sink the ball in 18 holes, by dispersing your attention to all of them simultaneously. You focus on the first hole. Without sinking the ball in the first hole, all other holes are irrelevant. In terms of environmental degradation, achieving a sustainable population level is that first hole.

Sorry, tim, I think we need to stop nuclear power first. Or perhaps stopping nuclear power is the first ‘stroke’ in the game rather than the first ‘hole.’#15

 For about 20 years I have been researching population, food and resource problems, and since 1998 specifically Japan’s food and energy problem. (See Food and Energy in Japan -- How will Japan feed itself in the 21st century? [please scroll down to see the link]) For a long time I have been saying that the coming energy crisis (See: Sheila Newman, ed., The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Edition, Pluto Press, 2008) will mean serious food shortages for Japan. Some people agree, some don’t. Whatever the energy equation may be, and however the associated food crisis may or may not occur, because of the problems of nuclear power described above I decided yesterday (March 25) to try to organize a ‘campaign,’ the aim of which is:

To see that no new nuclear power stations (or reactors) are built in Japan (or any other country) and that all reactors now running are phased out when their lifetime (stated at the time of construction) is up – or by some relatively close date, say 2020. In the meantime, nuclear power stations should be run as safely and as humanely as possible.

Here’s the small print: In principle, all other nuclear facilities and research centers [for medical applications, fast-breeders, reprocessing plants, nuclear fission research and so on] should also be phased out under the same time schedule as the commercial nuclear reactors. However, it may be felt that some of this should be maintained. That will be something for people at the time to decide.

I hope to try to get as many people as possible, all over the world as well as in Japan, to join in this campaign, or to join with others who have already organized a similar campaign and who basically share the same aim.

What will happen when we try to stop nuclear power? Some people are going to scream, No, no, you can’t do that, because when oil runs out we won’t be able to maintain our economy. There are at least two problems with this. Briefly, nuclear power requires oil (or other fossil fuels) to for many of its operations. Think of mining and refining uranium ores, enrichment, fabrication of fuel rods, construction of reactors, all the transportation that involves, decommissioning of reactors and storage or disposal of nuclear waste, and so on without oil. Difficult, to say the least. Secondly, in the same way that ‘we’ passed over the conventional oil peak (world peak volume extraction of conventional crude oil, often known as peak oil) in 2006 (finally admitted by the IEA last November) the peak of uranium extraction is now thought to be sometime before 2030 for reasonably assured resources or in the early 2040s for reasonably assured resources + inferred resources below US$130/KgU, at current rate of consumption. Roughly 30 years later than peak oil. (Uranium Resources and Nuclear Energy, Energy Watch Group, December 2006, see graph on p.5, ) In other words, nuclear power will never provide the energy that fossil fuels have up to now, and the more we try to do that the more dangerous it will be and the sooner the resource will ‘run out.’ #16

So, if we think of saying ‘no’ to nuclear power, we have to think about the future of energy. That will mean that we will have to think about the future of the economy, jobs, money, how we get our food, and just about everything else, and that leads on to what kind of society we want to live in – what kind of society we want to create for the future, the future we hope our grandchildren and great grandchildren will enjoy in the 22nd century. As I said above, we are going to have to think about these things sometime soon anyway; think about how to step back from the brink. The alternative to not making that choice now, or soon, is some form of general social collapse almost everywhere, but especially in the advanced industrial countries, where people have been lulled into thinking (by the present system) that the current arrangements of economic growth can go on forever.#17

What I would like to ask you, please, to do

Let’s assume the current crisis at Fukushima No.1 Power Station is going to be ‘solved’ – well, reasonably well. Let’s not go back to sleep. What can I ask you to do? (1) Can you please comment below if you have something you have to say to me and to everyone else who may drop in to read this page, or if you have a question you want to ask me. (2) Or please just leave a short message of support as a comment if you agree with what I have said and the 'campaign' above. (3) Please support the Citizen's Nuclear Information Center ( by going to their English support page, or send a message of support to any to any other organization you may know that is campaigning against nuclear power. (4) If you think it’s worth the time of day, please ask your friends to read this, comment, and make some small gesture of support too. (5) Please link this article from other blogsites, Facebook, Twitter and/or any other SNS sites you use. (6) Please also ask every Japanese person you know to read it. If they want to write to me in Japanese, please encourage them to do so. (7) Please suggest to, Care2 petitionsite and other campaigning and petition sites and organizations that they list this ‘campign’ on their websites. (8) Please let me know what else I can do to reach more people. (9) But let’s all, together, take the first step away from insanity and towards taking back our lives by saying ‘no’ to nuclear power, all over the world, not just in Japan. Say "No to nukes!" #18

Image icon windups2.jpg41.01 KB
Image icon houses2.jpg34.54 KB
Image icon lts2.jpg70.74 KB
Image icon mags2.jpg47.43 KB
Image icon p1s2.jpg57.13 KB
Image icon p1819s2.jpg46.05 KB
Image icon springcls2.jpg82.69 KB
Image icon springfars2.jpg85.78 KB


Thanks Tony, a very good write-up of extraordinary events. I am worried about the farmers in the region. I visited Ibaraki Prefecture with a team from UK Soil Association earlier in March and we saw some beautiful farms. They must be going through extreme hardships right now.

Here is an appeal from Japan Organic Agriculture Association:

Urgent Appeal to Decommission All Nuclear Reactors
We have gathered here in Echizen City, Fukui Prefecture, Japan to hold the 39th Annual Rally and General Meeting of the Japanese Organic Agriculture Association with “Organic agriculture for sustaining life” as our theme.

We regard organic farming as the basic principle of life.

However, it has become painfully clear that nuclear power generation is the direct opposite of the basic principle of life. Nuclear power and all living things, including human life, cannot coexist. Thus we hereby appeal for the immediate discontinuation of nuclear power development and the decommissioning of all nuclear power plants.

Adopted at the General Meeting on March 13, 2011
Japan Organic Agriculture Association (NPO)

Please read more over at

Why haven't they sarcophagized the reactors? Are they hoping to rehabilitate and reuse them?

It is interesting that TEPCO apologized a couple days ago for accidentally exposing three of their workers to highly radioactive water.
Why haven't they apologized for poisoning one of the most beautiful prefectures in Japan? Is it because to apologize would be to admit responsibility? Are they angling to claim that the entire nuclear accident was an act of God?

Tony Boys's picture

Yes, indeed. TEPCO has already said that Fukushima No.1 Power Station will never run again, but its unclear whether they include reactors 5 & 6 in that. And where is the president of TEPCO? I don't think we've seen him in the newspapers or on TV since the earthquake. Of course, they are going to try to avoid responsibility for this and carry on as 'normal'. I am saying (in this article) 'no, this is the end!' But are you thinking of staying where you are now??

I want to say to anyone who's reading that Brad and his family live about halfway between where I am and the Fukushima No.1 Power Station, so their situation is far worse than ours!

Subject was: Real Facts

Ed. The author of the following comment has supplied a very out-of-date resource. The simple explanation he or she refers us to was last updated on 14 March, with a comment that radiation levels were increasing but it was not known to what level. Here is the unhelpful comment I am criticising:

Stop scaremongering and read some real facts.

The out-of-date article, referred to above is: Fukushima Nuclear Accident – a simple and accurate explanation posted on 13 Mar 11. The opening paragraph of that article is:

Along with reliable sources such as the IAEA and WNN updates, there is an incredible amount of misinformation and hyperbole flying around the internet and media right now about the Fukushima nuclear reactor situation. In the BNC post Discussion Thread – Japanese nuclear reactors and the 11 March 2011 earthquake (and in the many comments that attend the top post), a lot of technical detail is provided, as well as regular updates. But what about a layman’s summary? How do most people get a grasp on what is happening, why, and what the consequences will be?

   - Ed

Tony, what can one say? It is a tragedy beyond tragedies, but I do not need to tell you that as you are living it, living in amongst the horror, the fear, the bravery, the despair and are seeing it first hand. Not as we on TV, or in the newspapers. We hear of the truly amazing stories of the communities working together to try and make life a little more tolerable, our hearts go out to you, and we hope you get through this and return home safely, but no doubt you will stay to help, may your God be with you in this time of great need.

Tony, you have succinctly voiced my own feelings held for many years about the use of nuclear energy for power generation. It is something we must do without not just for our own sakes but for future generations who follow us. If nothing else good comes out of Fukushima at least it has yet again demonstrated to the world the cost to human life and our planet when accidents occur at nuclear facilities. Sadly I fear that there will always be those that put profit and convenience ahead of our concerns and more nuclear facilities will be built using the excuse that we now know better, our designs will be far safer, it could not happen here, etc.

Having visited Japan many times in my working life I can only trust that you and my Japanese friends met over those years will come through this dark cloud and once again see the sun rising over your beautiful country.

Hello Tony, thanks for your articles.

TEPCO's poor and surface management is appearing.
I found an article on Mainichi Shinbun on the 26 March concerning the earthquake “Jogan” hit to Miyagi in 869, more than 1000 years ago, that it might be Magnitude 8 or more. (Please see:

[Unfortunately, Japanese does not display correctly. I will try to translate the quote Yoko-san wanted to insert here into English and paste it in. Tony]

The Council of the Ministry of Economy in 2009, it was pointed out the possibility of recurrence of earthquakes from the analysis of about 1100 years ago to TEPCO. So whole nuclear management system, is so bad..

Besides, in these days during the battle to solve the Fukushima accidents, an report - I want you to know what nuclear power is about” written in 1996 by ex-nuclear plant worker are reading on internet. Did you read it?
If not, please read :

Someone is discussing on his blog about his detail errors but he had known the situation and he mentioned about Fukushima N°1 plant. He was worried also for this plant...

But I think there is little point debating where or not they are the mistakes or the distractions, the problem is that there is nuclear and that our society depends on nuclear power. The accident means that no one expects so called accident. As you mentioned My Jiro Kakei “Technologies progress through failure, but the nuclear power is a technology does not allow for failure.” I agree.

Also nuclear is reasonably not the solution, both from an economic and an energetic point of view beyond the social one. I think that we need certainly "proved" to be the alternative. This does not mean simply to promote alternative energy but create the alternate system and society. And we surely should work to create self-sufficiency society from individual level to country level.

As we look, the victim need food and water not money. The present economy system is NOT the priority to live. The priority to live is to have the clean nature and environment. The people CAN live if they have CLEAN sun, rain, air and earth.

After this earthquake, I communicated to my family how to do for eventual survival life: Solar Cooking, Drinking rain water, Programming the garden and conserving the food etc. But in this situation of contamination, we cannot do anything...

Tony, I have some questions. You propose enter 2020. It’s for preparing time?
And one technical question, how many years do we need to cool the used fuel? Does cooling the plutonium need more than 20,000 years, doesn’t it?

If yes, will we need the electrical and oil(will be more and more expensive) energy to maintain the plants for the same years to survive us…The plant architecture will be broken before uranium’s and plutonium’s decomposition…

thanks tony

Tony Boys's picture

Thanks for your comment, Yoko! I am sorry the Japanese does not show properly - I thought it would (we have done it before on candobetter - perhaps admin can figure it out).

Yes, I have read the long article by Mr. Hirai and I think it is very true and very scary! If others want to read it I can post a link here:

Mr. Hirai's report

It's in Japanese. Very briefly, Mr. Hirai (who died not long after he wrote this report in 1996) was an expert pipefitter who worked on many nuclear power projects in Japan over a span of about 20 years. In the report, he explains how it is almost totally impossible (from his point of view as a pipefitter) to build and maintain nuclear power stations safely. It's a huge condemnation of everything that the power companies and everyone else involved want us to believe is safe about nuclear power.

You asked me two questions. About 2020, I'm not sure what you are asking me, but if you are asking if I am suggesting the phasing out of nuclear power in Japan by 2020, then that's right, but it's only a suggestion, not a rigid 'demand'. Could be earlier, could be later, it depends on many factors. If you are asking me if the period from now to 2020 is the time for preparation (to a new energy 'regime'), yes, I think that is so, and I think the time to start was yesterday. Given the current situation with oil and other fossil fuel resources, I think the nine years between now and 2020 should be a time of adjustment and rethinking about energy, and therefore about the whole of the economy and society. But we must start now, or very soon!

You also asked about plutonium, perhaps with reference to what is happening at reactor 3 at Fukushima No.1. For the half-life (time till decay radiation reaches half of the original) of plutonium, please see the chart at Wikipedia - Plutonium. The half-life of Pu239 is 24,000 years. I think that's what you are saying. Yes, somehow it will have to be managed for a very long time! I don't know how. But this has always been one of the so far unsolved problems of nuclear power - what to do with the spent fuel. Japan still doesn't have an answer, nor does any other country as far as I know. What does that say for the future? What does that say for people who haven't thought about the future?

Thanks for that insight into what this nuclear disaster it is like for Japanese society. Since facts are so hard to come by, I certainly don't want to contradict anything you have written, but I should like to add some details here and there.

Firstly,when a nuclear reactor shuts down properly, it doesn't go 'cold' straight away. The temperature in the core drops slowly, and it is still generating several MW of heat hours after shutdown. This requires a large amount of water still to be pumped through the system for days afterwards.

The first line of defence for pumping, if the grid electricity is unavailable, is batteries, which bridge the gap before the diesel generators can take over. I haven't heard that this did not occur, but of course the batteries have a limited amount of charge.

It seems likely that the diesel generators would have started up before the tsunami arrived, and were then swamped and rendered inoperable.

Saffo on California Earthquake Readiness
, March 15
on suggests the whole landscape dropped during the quake, " ... the 16-foot-high tsunami barriers for the Fukushima nuclear power plant, were lowered 3 feet by the earthquake. The barriers needed to be twice as high to avoid flooding of the facility."

Another unanswered question is whether the fresh water supply failed during the quake or soon after. It was extraordinary that the emergency pumps brought in were switched to saltwater so soon in the problem. Many observers thought that there was no possibility of restarting the reactors as soon as that happened, and the salt would likely make corrosion of the fuel rod tubes and the reactor vessel much more likely.

This underlines the main thing wrong with nuclear reactors - they are not 'fail safe', because they still need complex technology to keep working even after a shutdown. Even the cold reactors #4, #5 and #6, had problems with keeping the spent fuel rod ponds cool. In the case of #4, the rods boiled their water dry and the resulting hydrogen gas blew the top off the building, exposing the rods to the air.

I am not sure that the MOX fuel (a mixture of Uranium and Plutonium oxides) in #3 poses any greater risk than ordinary Uranium oxide fuel. The 24,000 year half-life of Plutonium is considerably shorter than that of U-235, but that is its decay half-life, and what we are really worried about is its fission rate when melted into a pool. The radiation given off by fissioning is vastly more than that given of by decay.

The damage to the local environment will be largely from the mid-range half-life isotopes, because their effects will last a lifetime. The two worst ones are Caesium-137 and Strontium-90, because Caesium mimics Potassium and is taken up by plants, herbivores and carnivores, and Strontium mimics Calcium and is incorporated into bones and teeth. Iodine-133 has a short half-life, making it very radioactive, but soon dissipated. Caesium and Strontium have half-lives of about 30 years, so will still be 10% present in a century.

I suspect the contaminated land will have to be quarantined for at least a century. Since it is impossible to quarantine the sea, there will have to be a permanent check on all fish, crustaceans, seaweed.

Please don't let me stop you from campaigning against nuclear power, but I think you understand that it is the economic growth paradigm that is the problem that needs to be overcome, as it is the driving force for more power, not less.

Tony Boys's picture

Dave - Thank you very much for your comment and for your very appropriate information.

What you say in your last three lines is correct. What I am trying to say in the article and to do by appealing to people to say 'no to nukes' is that renouncing nuclear power is the first step to changing what we have been doing, and what has ruled our lives, for at least the last century - the economic growth paradigm. The fact of simply thinking about phasing out nuclear power forces us to review the whole energy situation and by extension how society is run and the direction in which we are heading. I'm asking people to take this first step on the way to changing society at this point, now that it has become abundantly clear that nuclear power is simply too dangerous to use to generate electricity. I'll join with anyone who agrees with this general idea and I hope many, many people who have not realised it before, but will perhaps wake up when they see this disaster in Japan, will join in and add their voices to the chorus of 'no to nukes'.

Dear Tony-san,

Regarding TEPCO, if it’s possible to separate the influence of the nuclear disaster from the earthquake. I believe TEPCO should compensate us for the nuclear disaster instead of Japanese government. However TEPCO would not have the ability to do it, they may not have even an intention to do so though... Thus they will understand how much thing responsibility of the own company is.

Let us work together for Ibaraki, collaborate for Japan, and take action for the world.

Maybe what Tony says is true, but the following link puts Fukoshima in perspective.

Radiation Dose Chart at

Editor's comment: As an example, the chart shows that the radiation dose from a medical procedure, for example a Chest CT scan, is 5.8 milliSieverts (mSv), whilst in 2010, a radiation dose from standing on the grounds of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, which melted down in 1986 could be 6 mSv (although I couldn't find any figures showing actual or estimated exposures during the meltdown itself). Many of the sample doses are smaller than that. The maximum external dose from the Three Mile Island partial core meltdown is shown as 1 mSv. The exposure from natural Potassium in the body over one year is shown as 390 microSieverts (or 0.39 mSv). The exposure from a Chest X-ray is 20 microSieverts (or 0.02 mSv). One could interpret from this chart that the potential radiation exposure from nuclear accidents is comparable to some radiation exposures that many people already find acceptable. However, Tony and other residents of Japan are in fear for their very lives from the nuclear disaster. If the worst does not happen, a large number of Japanese are almost certain to suffer adverse health effects as a consequence of their exposure. I would like to know if the chart contains any figures for current or potential radiation doses from the nuclear disaster. If it does not yet include those exposures, that would be a good addition.

The sources for the Radiation Dose chart on that site are:
   - Ed;

Tony Boys's picture

Certainly, as you will see in the YouTube video

I am alive and well as of 28 March. I may be receiving more or less the equivalent of several X-rays a day or week; even doctors say it is not a good idea to have too many X-rays taken. But what I am trying to say in the article is that the situation at Fukushima No.1 is not yet stabilised and this represents a threat to the lives of millions of people in northern Japan, including Tokyo. I find this an unacceptable threat to my, my family's and everyone else's lives. It may still happen. I don't think we will be in the clear for at least another week. Why should anyone, anywhere, have to live with the idea that a catastrophic accident such as this could happen at anytime? They should not. Therefore, I say let's stop trying to harness nuclear power. It's just too dangerous. You and other people may not agree with me. That's fine. You are entitled to your opinion and I respect that. But if we live in a democratic society the decision will in the end be determined by the majority. If the majority want to join me and others who share the belief that nuclear power is too dangerous then I hope you will do us the honour of respecting that. Thanks for your comment and take care.

Hi Tony, thanks for your reply

I have to say that, if my career hadn't taken me into the airlines, I was determined to work within a nuclear power station; having said that, you have to trust me in that I caused a real stink asking difficult questions about nuclear waste whilst visiting Wylfa power station a few years ago.

As has been pointed out within this very interesting debate, it is all about supply vs demand. I agree that nuclear power is not a panacea, but in terms of footprint/carbon output, it is excellent. So really, it comes down to a balanced risk. Having lived within the line-of-sight of a nuclear power station (Hinkley Point) I have accepted that there is a certain element of risk living close to such a plant, but part of the UK's answer against nuclear power was to effectively put a plug on the Bristol Channel. Ecologically, this would have been a disaster & whilst nuclear power (even now) needs to move on, in terms of handling its waste, I believe that until nuclear fusion comes online, it is the future.

Tony Boys's picture

Hi Nick, thanks for your comment.

Well, here again, we are sure not to agree (though we can agree to disagree) because neither supply and demand nor footprint/carbon output are of great concern here, except to say that the 'footprint' of Fukushima No.1 Power Plant is now unacceptably large. What I am saying in the article, and what many forward-looking people are also saying, is that this is the time when we should start to consider moving towards a 'low-energy' society. The main reason for this is that fossil fuel resources are becoming scarce and expensive and within the next decade will become more so, perhaps until they are prohibitively expensive for most people, i.e. effectively unavailable. At that point, I believe it will be very difficult to run nuclear power, for the reason I have described simply in the article. Further, if fossil energy use declines (as it must) over the coming decades (20-30 years) then the human footprint on the Earth and carbon output will be reduced. Concerning what you say about supply and demand, it is not always necessary that supply matches demand, or that we should always make the greatest effort to see that it does. Sometimes we may have to say that supply just won't meet demand and therefore demand will have to be reduced. (In the current world, demand for crude oil is high but is adjusted to the supply by increasing the price, and so the price is now around US$100 per barrel where it was less than US$20 per barrel only about ten or eleven years ago.)

I think also there are many people who feel as I do that nuclear power is just too dangerous to be acceptable any further and that existing nuclear power stations should be shut down at an appropriate time, e.g. when they reach their originally stated lifetime or when they are shown to be too dangerous to continue. If we have to 'suffer' because of the lack of energy to run the current economy, then we will have to change our lifestyles. It's not necessarily a bad thing. If you want to know why, I think I should explain it in another comment because it's a little off the topic here and will take too long. Maybe I should write an new article about that. Basically, moving to the low-energy society need not necessarily be all downsides.

I have stated in my video on YouTube (the link is at the top of this page, I think) that I believe the fast-breeder reactor and nuclear fusion to be, in practical terms, 'technical impossibilities.' I did not reach this conclusion as a result of writing this paper two or three days ago. I have been researching energy problems since about 1989. When I wrote what is currently my most detailed paper around 2000 I came to the same conclusion there. Nuclear fusion is too dangerous (just as nuclear fission is) and will never be a commercial option for the generation of electricity. That's my personal conclusion after looking at the facts of the technology (my background is in chemical technology). It will be interesting to see if you are right or I am right. I don't think nuclear fusion has a future and I will continue to say 'no to nukes!' until I am fully satisfied that there is no danger from them, which may mean that they are all shut down. Everyone is entitled to say I am wrong; I do not fear criticism. I hope we will be able to continue this debate in its current spirit. Thanks, Nick, and take care.

I met Tony in Japan, like 30 years ago, when I was a graduate student at Tsukuba University, Ibaraki. Tony was then already concerned about nuclear power and its possible dangers for all kinds of life on Earth, and I remember talking with him about the trip we made (along with Professor Fukuchi Takao and other Senseis from Tsukuba, plus 30 graduate students), on ken-gaku, to see a new nuclear power plant, I can't remember its name, in the Tohoku region. We also went off to visit the Tsuruga* nuclear power plant on the other shore of Japan, in Fukui prefecture. We were also taken near Fukui to see another power plant. But this one was not a nuke, but a dam and its related electric power-generating facilities. The main purpose of this trip was, of course, showing to foreign students the wonders of development in Japan. The wonders for the owners of these large concerns who take everything into account when they build them, but the welfare of the Japanese people, who unlike us, South Americans or Europeans, used to resort to popular protest and demonstrations against what we used to regard as harmful for all.

In the group traveling to see these technological wonders, there were students from the US, Europe, Australia, but as expected, at least 20 of us came from third world countries. The second purpose of this Fukuchi Sensei-organized trip was to defuse the anti-nuke sentiment some students, from many countries, but particularly from the US, Europe and Australia had vented, because of the Three Mile Island accident that had occurred in the US only a couple of years back, in 1980, and the distrust ALL of us harbored against nuclear energy, after we saw the success awareness-raising film "The China Syndrome" had had all over the world. This film, produced by then young Hollywood potentate Michael Douglas, with environment-conscious, anti-war militant Jane Fonda as main actress, mirrored a nuclear accident caused mainly by oversights and irresponsible contractors who did not comply with construction regulations and specifications. The film was made in 1979, and as a prophecy, it also depicted, closely, what would happen almost a year later in Three Mile Island. Since then, many of us are VERY skeptical about nuke power pacific uses and distrust government's and public sector's spokesmen who claim atomic power is safer and more efficient than any other source of power, for "the progress of human kind". The "Fukushima Incident" as those very people may call it, if NOTHING MORE TERRIBLE happens in the days to come, should be, as a matter of fact, the last incident to be allowed to occur by the people of this planet. We must call everyone to respond against nuclear power, by joining an international movement against it and pressure governments to promote research and development of other harmless forms of energy. In Colombia, president Santos, who is not exactly a saint, after the Fukushima accident, called on Venezuela’s president to call off his plans to build a nuclear plant somewhere nearby. We Colombians thank that gesture of peace from our neighbor. But we must not let these decisions in the hands of politicians. We have to stand up for the right to live peacefully, everywhere, without such terrible death threats from nukes.

*Some years later, when we were living in Tokyo, there was a major mismanagement incident at the Tsuruga plant. The Japanese got to learn from the media, at that time, that this plant used sea water to cool its reactors, that the Tsuruga’s after-cooling- water returned to the sea, penetrated the ocean making a wide strip, almost a couple of kilometers away from the shore, where the water temperature was much higher, and of course, there were no traces of life at all (in the whole water strip).

Tony Boys's picture

Thank you Gustavo! So long since we've met - so sorry - perhaps I should go and live in Colombia!!

The trip you mention, I think it was actually to Fukushima No.1 Power Station! I remember very well going there one time. We all went by bus past the area where I now live and then on up the coast to the Oshika Peninsula in Miyagi Pref. Thank you so much for your comment and for saying that we have to stand up for our right to live peacefully and safely! Love to you and your family!

Indeed, what's happening right now at Fukushima should be seen in the context of a global society which is geared towards expanding economic growth at all costs, with little concern for the damaged planet being left in its wake. The stated goal of our present consumer economy is to "make life better," but it's not difficult to see how undermining the life-support systems we all depend on – the air, the sea, the land – is in fact making life worse. It's time to consider shifting society away from the current paradigm, based as it is on unlimited economic growth and the resulting ecological devastation, a growing gap between rich and poor both within and between countries, and a deteriorating quality of life in terms of both our ability to provide everyone with the basic necessities of life and to create rich and meaningful lives for ourselves, towards a more sustainable and sane economy, which emphasizes ecological sustainability, egalitarian participation in society, and genuine quality of life. Tony's initiative is a good start in this direction.

Tony Boys's picture

Thanks for your comment, Richard.

In Japan now, people are saying that in the future modern Japanese history will be divided up as follows:

1. 1868 - the Meiji Restoration
2. 1945 - Defeat in World War II
3. 2.46 pm 11 March 2011 - the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

I think this shows that at least a section of the Japanese population thinks that we are now in a paradigm shift situation.

By the way, I should mention to all who are reading that Richard Evanoff is the author of the fine book

Bioregionalism and Global Ethics – A Transactional Approach to Achieving Ecological Sustainability, Social Justice, and Human Well-being, Routledge, 2011

I have read and written a review of this book, which is available for all who wish to read it - but rather than that, please read the book itself!

Thanks again, Richard, and let's say 'No to nukes' as we move towards the paradigm shift.

Subject was: Thanks

Thanks for this article Tony. I've put it on my Facebook, maybe some people will have a look ;)
Take care and good luck!
You have my support!

Konbannha, Tony-san

I definitely support your campaign. People says this nuclear power plant disaster is a man-made disaster and TEPCO has to be accused, but all mankind has to be accused more or less, for he or she connived at the construction of those plants. It's the time to say NO, No More Nuclear Power Plants on the Earth!! I'm going to let my friends know about your article and campaign.

I graduated from PSU in 1968. The main campus of Penn State is not very far from Harrisburg.
Harrisburg is near Three Miles Island! I still keep in touch with my college friends in Pa.and NY State. They are very much concerning of the current situation in Japan.

Your description of what the earthquake brought in Hitachiohmiya will give my friends accurate information of what I have encountered for I'm also a resident of the same city.

I know few young organic farmers in Northern Ibaraki, they are also concerning of this nuclear plant disaster. I'll tell them to visit the site,, as well.

Hoping the aftershocks of the Great earthquake settles soon and the plant situation improve surely even if it is step by step.

Subject was: Totally agree with your article.

Thailand has long wanted to construct its own nuclear power plant. It was included in the Power Development Plan 2010 (PDF, 2.4 MB - Ed) which said that we should build nuclear power plants with the production capacity of 5,000 megawatts. But luckily that there are so many criticisms and objections over this project. Since we are in doubts over its benefits and its safety.

It seems to me that the situation of nuclear power plant in Japan has given us a good answer whether we should have it or not. I guess the answer is self-explanatory in this case.

Tony Boys's picture

Sawatdee Khun Jeaby! Khorp khun maak thii phim comment thii website nii na khrap!

Thank you so much for your comment, Khun Jeaby!

You are so right. If anything good comes out of this current nuclear disaster it will be that people around the world realize that nuclear power is too dangerous to operate! If Thailand wants to build 5,000 MW of nuclear power, that will mean 4 or 5 of the largest nuclear reactors now running (about 1,380 MW per reactor). Since nuclear reactors require a lot of water, they will probably have to be built in the beautiful south of Thailand or to the east of Bangkok along the beautiful coastline near Cambodia (I don't think the Cambodians will be very happy). I believe the people of Thailand will now reject this policy as being close to madness. Please ask all your friends to say 'No to nukes!' and to pass it on till everyone in Thailand is saying 'No to nukes!' Khit waa sanuk maak na khrap! Khor hai chork dii, Khun Jeaby!

I agree with your campaign Tony, we should opt to phase out nuclear plants – thank you for all the hard work ! To be honest, I don’t know what to believe, but in setting a vision for the future, I have no reason to disagree. The world wouldn’t be the same without someone like you; I really hope this catches on.

Best, Kazuki