While the U.S. media has been occupied with Anthony Weiner, the Republican presidential candidates and Bristol Palin’s memoir, coverage of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster has practially fallen off the map. Poor mainstream media coverage of Japan’s now months-long struggle to gain control over the Fukushima disaster has deprived Americans of crucial information about the risks of nuclear power following natural disasters. After a few weeks of covering the early aftermath of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, the U.S. media moved on, leaving behind the crisis at Fukushima which continues to unfold. U.S. politicians, like Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, have made disappointing and misleading statements about the relative safety of nuclear power and have vowed to stick by our nuclear program, while other countries, like Germany and Italy, have taken serious steps to address the obvious risks of nuclear power — risks that the Fukushima disaster made painfully evident, at least to the rest of the world.
News outlets in other countries have been paying attention to Fukushima, though, and a relative few in this country have as well. A June 16, 2011 Al Jazeera English article titled, “Fukushima: It’s much worse than you think,” quotes a high-level former nuclear industry executive, Arnold Gunderson, who called Fukushima nohting less than “the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind.” Twenty nuclear cores have been exposed at Fukushima, Gunderson points out, saying along with the site’s many spent-fuel pools, this gives Fukushima 20 times the release potential of Chernobyl.
For Americans who think “out of sight, out of mind” or “it can’t happen here” when it comes to Fukishima and its ramifications, think again. Janette Sherman, M.D., an internal medicine specialist, and Joseph Magano, an epidemiologist with the Radiation and Public Health Project research group, noticed a 35% jump in infant mortality in eight northwestern U.S. cities located within 500 miles of the Pacific coast since the Fukushima meltdown. They wrote an essay, published by CounterPunch, suggesting there may be a link between the statistic and the Fukushima disaster. They cited similar problems with infant mortality among people who were exposed to nuclear fallout from Chernobyl. Sherman and Magano urge that steps be taken to measure the levels of radioactive isotopes in the environment of the Pacific northwest, and in the bodies of people in these areas, to determine if nuclear fallout from Fukushima could, in fact, be related to the spike in infant mortality.