Film about the nuclear disaster in Japan to screen in Santa Cruz
Picture this: a white mushroom cloud rises into the sky as orange flames flicker beneath. Fukushima, Never Again, a documentary by filmmaker/activist Steve Zeltzer, begins with this harrowing image of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant explosion last year in Japan, which followed a massive earthquake and tsunami. The nuclear accident released radiation into the air, soil and the Pacific Ocean.
“Contamination of Fukushima is being washed into the ocean and [is] going around the world, including California,” says Zeltzer. “It’s spreading out across the entire Pacific region.”
Zeltzer, who works with the group No Nukes Action Committee and the Labor Video Project, which produced the documentary, is currently on a California screening tour with a delegation of activists from Japan, including Chieko Shiina, founder of Fukushima Women Against Nuclear Disaster. The tour includes a stop in Santa Cruz on Wednesday, July 11, at the Resource Center for Nonviolence.
Shiina was an organic farmer in the Fukushima area until the nuclear meltdown, and is featured in Fukushima, Never Again. Shiina is known for organizing the “Women’s 10 Month And 10 Day Sit-In” at Occupy Tokyo. Before focusing on nuclear issues, she organized against the continued U.S. military occupation of Okinawa and the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japan.
Fukushima, Never Again aims to reveal the hidden history of Japanese nuclear power. “Most people don’t know it but the nuclear plants in Japan were built under military occupation,” explains Zeltzer, who visited Japan regularly over the past 20 years and met Shiina at a labor solidarity/anti-nuclear rally in Japan last year. (He also visited Fukushima eight months after the nuclear disaster.) He goes on to say that, after the end of World War II—and the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima—the U.S. appointed what some view as war criminals from the Japanese government to lead television propaganda efforts to convince Japanese people that nuclear power was safe. “U.S. companies like Bechtel and General Electric profited from building these nuclear plants in Japan,” says Zeltzer.
This history came full circle on March 11, 2011, when there was a 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan in an area known as the Ring of Fire. “It’s a major earthquake zone,” says Zeltzer. “Over the past 40 to 50 years, Japan has built, with the support of the U.S. government and corporations like General Electric, nuclear plants along this Ring of Fire.” Fukushima is about 150 miles from Tokyo.
The earthquake led to a tsunami that killed 20,000 people in Japan. As if to remind us all of the interconnectedness of Earth, significant damage occurred in the Santa Cruz Harbor when waves from the Japanese tsunami traveled 6,000 miles across the ocean, capsizing boats and crushing docks. Now there are reports that radiation from Fukushima is reaching the California coast.
“This is a major geological and environmental catastrophe for the world, not just Japan,” says Zeltzer. “Radioactive material is continuing to flow into rivers and the Pacific Ocean. That’s why tuna that was caught in San Diego had cesium in it—it’s directly from the meltdown of the Fukushima plant.”
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdown has raised new concerns about California’s nuclear power plants, located in earthquake zones similar to Japan’s. “One of the most dangerous plants is San Onofre,” Zeltzer says. “They just spent $650 million on four Mitsubishi steam turbines and the most recent was leaking.”
On the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, historic meetings took place between Japanese and Californian anti-nuclear activists to discuss common concerns. Zeltzer tells GT that Japanese activists brought radiation meters to California. “When they walked next to the plant at San Onofre, it was going off more than at Fukushima,” he says. “We need to examine the idea of having nuclear plants next to oceans and earthquake zones.”
In January, the unit three reactor at San Onofre was shutdown “after station operators detected a leak in a steam generator tube,” according to a website statement from Southern California Edison, the electric company that runs the plant and provides power to 14 million people across Central, coastal and Southern California. The other reactor at San Onofre, unit two, was already shutdown for scheduled maintenance. Anti-nuclear activists are now calling for a shut down of all of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States.
“The idea that you can improve nuclear plants to make them more safe is a lie,” Zeltzer says. “We don’t want a world in which you have to decontaminate nuclear dead zones, which is what Chernobyl is and what Fukushima is going to become. We need to build a mass movement to close down these plants.”
Fukushima, Never Again will be shown on Wednesday, July 11, at 7:30 p.m. at the new Resource Center for Nonviolence, 612 Ocean St. Filmmaker Steve Zeltzer will be present with Japanese activist Cheiko Shiina. The event is a fundraiser for Fukushima and California anti-nuclear groups, with a $10 suggested donation, $5 for low income, and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. See nonukesactionwrodpress.com and FukushimaNeverAgain.org. John Malkin is a local journalist, musician and radio host.
Photo Caption: Japanese anti-nuclear activist Chieko Shiina is featured in Fukushima, Never Again, the documentary that will screen in Santa Cruz on July 11. Photo by Steve Zeltzer.