March 10, 2012
Commemorating Fukushima One Year Later

Dr. Bob Gould Reports on His Trip to Hong Kong and the Future of Nuclear Power.

I was invited to represent PSR and IPPNW as a featured speaker in “Cracking the Nuclear Labyrinth,” an international forum commemorating the anniversary of the Fukushima Daiitchi nuclear disaster. The conference was held at the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on March 10. About 120 people attended the all-day conference, which was organized by a number of local organizations opposed to plans for expanding nuclear power in Asia, including Hong Kong Alliance Against Nukes and their leader, Dr. Man Si Wai, of the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The conference featured a keynote address by Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, along with representatives of Taiwan’s Green Citizen’s Action Alliance and local trade union representatives. Also present were Japanese individuals who related eye-witness accounts of the devastation wrought by the Fukushima events, the widespread contamination of food, and the extensive cover-up by Japanese authorities. The Japanese representatives included the popular writer Lill Liu, a former correspondent for the China Times, whom I was often paired with in various speaking engagements during my visit, and who has written a number of recent books on Fukushima and the dangers of nuclear power, such as “We Cannot Afford a Nuclear Disaster,” and “Last Words from the Nuclear Plant Worker.”

In my own address at the conference “Environmental and Public Health Impacts of Nuclear Power,” I covered a number of issues related to the current nuclear “renaissance,” including how health issues related to nuclear power have been hidden from the public, and how alternative and sustainable forms of energy, including conservation/efficiency measures, can better meet the energy and environmental challenges posed by global warming than expanding nuclear power. Following my presentation, German journalist and author Wolfgang Pomrehn spoke about the relevant lessons from the German anti-nuclear movement, which has resulted in the current halt to the nuclear power program in Germany and neighboring European countries. Some of the speakers also participated in a press conference dealing with various aspects of the “Tragedy of Fukushima.”

On March 9th, the day before the “Labyrinth” conference, my hosts had organized a “Nuclear Concern Day” at Chinese University in Hong Kong, which began with a press conference including Lill Liu, Man Si Wai, and myself. I had a lengthy interview with an independent mainland Chinese TV station. Later in the day, as an invited lecturer, I gave a talk at the university entitled “Protecting Generations at Risk: PSR’s Opposition to Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power” for a special forum entitled “Reflections on a Nuclear-Powered Asia,” which covered PSR and IPPNW’s long-standing work in this arena. In the evening, I had a filmed interview at the Hong Kong Readers bookstore in the Mongkok neighborhood of Kowloon during which I was able to engage the expert participation of Dr. Gordon Edwards, who happened to be in the audience, to deepen our discussion about the significant health, ethical and moral issues related to the promotion of nuclear power throughout Asia.

On March 11, the anniversary of the disaster in Fukushima, many of the conference attendees participated in a rally of about 100 people at Kowloon Park near the famous Kowloon mosque. In addition to speaking at the demonstration, Dr. Gordon Edwards and I were both interviewed by Reuters journalists. Afterwards, we marched through the hub of the working class and shopping districts of Kowloon en route to a final rally at the headquarters of Hong Kong Power and Light where many speakers, including myself, called for an end to the use of nuclear power and for investing instead in alternative technologies.

Overall, for me this was a very exciting and eye-opening trip regarding the implications of the push for nuclear power in Asia, and I was deeply impressed by the resistance of groups throughout the region galvanized by the still-unfolding disaster of Fukushima. It was a great to make such solid connections with the courageous regional activists, by sharing the perspective of PSR/IPPNW physicians on the manifold public and environmental health issues incorporated in the current nuclear “renaissance.” As such, I am looking forward to continued collaborative work so integral in developing a global movement adequate to ending all dangers inherent in the nuclear power-weapons continuum.

My experience in Hong Kong also underscored for me how disturbing it is that our own government has stopped regular monitoring of radiation emissions from the Fukushima meltdown, at a time when sporadic reports of significant levels of radioactive materials in food in Japan and even in western North America have surfaced. To fully protect our public health, we need EPA and other relevant government agencies to immediately institute regular monitoring of our food and water, and to provide information to public health agencies so that clear guidelines can be given to physicians to communicate with patients who are appropriately concerned about the safety of our food and water, particularly in regard to the potential impacts on the health of our children. Moreover, we in PSR need to redouble our efforts to phase out nuclear power, starting with the shutdown of reactors that share the vulnerabilities of the Fukushima plant designs, and those, such as Diablo Canyon and San Onofre, that are astride active earthquake fault zones. For more information, please check out the new report prepared by colleagues in National PSR in time for the recent anniversary of Fukushima.