Today on The BradCast, while voters head to the polls again in several states, and as the media continue to misreport the race, at least on the Democratic side, we mark this week's 5-year anniversary since Japan's triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown struck in March of 2011. [Link to the complete show's audio is below.]
I'm joined once again on today's show by Voice of America's Steven L. Herman from Bangkok. We spoke to Herman originally on the program five years ago, just after the initial disaster(s), when he was one of the first journalists to visit the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant and the 50-mile "exclusion zone" around it, following the meltdown or near-meltdown of 4 of its 6 reactors and the mass evacuation of hundreds of thousands of nearby residents --- back when, as Japan's former Prime Minister now admits, the nation was just a "paper-thin margin" away from a total catastrophe.
"We were on the ground just 24 hours after the quake struck in Fukushima," Herman recalls today. "We got the last flight into Fukushima Prefecture and when we were boarding that flight, they were contemplating canceling [it] because of concerns about a possible meltdown of the nuclear power plant."
Herman, who was then VOA News' Northeast Asia bureau chief and is now in charge of its Bangkok bureau, recently visited Fukushima again and reports today on the continuing battle to control unstable nuclear material at the plant, the lack of a long term plan to dispose of toxic water and soil that continues to pile up (at as many as 115,000 makeshift locations around the Fukushima Prefecture!), as well as on the plight of many residents who lived near the plant and are still unable to return to their homes all of these years later, due to radiation levels.
"You have this cleanup effort that is going to last decades and cost hundreds of billions of dollars," Herman tells me. "Forty years is the official estimate, costs around $250 billion. But you talk to a lot of people who are experts in the field and they say that is a very optimistic figure, that it is going to take much longer and cost much more --- and the burden of this is being borne by the Japanese taxpayers."
"Nine million cubic meters of radioactive soil are being stored in these black bags throughout the prefecture. But there is a continuing buildup of more stored water. And one consultant I talked to, an American and former US diplomat, said Tokyo Electric Power [TEPCO] can't decide what to do with all of it, and they refuse to let any foreign experienced program management companies come and help them out with this."
There's far more important information in my detailed interview with Herman than I can possibly give justice to by sharing here in a short description, concerning the "paralysis" that both Japan and TEPCO seem to be facing in dealing with the crisis, the strained if co-dependent relationship between the two entities, the recent indictments of several top officials in charge of the plant at the time, the human toll of the cleanup both now and in the hours after the initial disaster, the restart of several other nuclear plants in the country, and the continuing concerns for the stability of the precariously crippled plant "if there were to be another huge earthquake, or a tsunami were to strike the facility again --- then you're talking about a situation of total chaos."
I think it's a must-listen interview, frankly. And it was a pleasure, if a chilling and disturbing one, to catch up with Herman, who is just a tremendous reporter, all of these years later. Please check it out in full below.
Also on today's program: More on the media misreporting of the race between Sanders and Clinton and the Democratic party's unpledged, so-called "SuperDelegates" (in this case, by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow) and, finally, some very good non-Bernie related news for voters in the great state of Vermont...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)