Fukushima Reactors Are a "Ticking Time Bomb," Japanese Govt in Denial
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AMY GOODMAN: Should people be concerned about any food that says "From Japan"?
DR. MICHIO KAKU: Not from Japan. But remember, in the area, the sea, we’re talking about levels that are millions of times beyond legal levels found right there. However, as you start to get out further, radiation levels drop rather considerably.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk about policy in this country. I mean, we are now seeing happening in Japan this horrific event. Japan was the target of the dawn of the Nuclear Age, right?
DR. MICHIO KAKU: Mm-hmm.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Your own family mirrors the history of the Nuclear Age. Can you talk just briefly about that, before we talk about current U.S. policy?
DR. MICHIO KAKU: Yeah, first of all, I have relatives in Tokyo, and they’re wondering about evacuation. In fact, some of my relatives have already evacuated from Tokyo. They have little children. And radiation has already appeared in the drinking water in Tokyo. And so, people are wondering, you know, especially for young children, for pregnant women, should they leave. People are voting with their feet now. A lot of people are voluntarily evacuating from Tokyo, because they simply don’t believe the statements of the utility, which have consistently lowballed all the estimates of radiation damage.
AMY GOODMAN: And, though, in the past, in terms of your own family’s history, your parents, being interned in the Japanese American internment camps?
DR. MICHIO KAKU: That’s right. In California, my parents were interned in the relocation camps from 1942 to 1946, four years where they were put essentially behind barbed wire and machine guns, under the supervision of the United States military.
AMY GOODMAN: And yet, you became a nuclear physicist, interestingly enough, and you worked with the people who made the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan.
DR. MICHIO KAKU: Yeah. In fact, my high school adviser was Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb. And he arranged for me to get a scholarship to Harvard, in fact, and that began my career as a nuclear scientist. And Edward Teller, of course, wanted me to work on the Star Wars program. He put a lot of pressure and said, "Look, we’ll give you fellowships, scholarships. Go to Los Alamos National Laboratory, Livermore National Laboratory. Design hydrogen bombs." But I said no. I said, "I cannot see my expertise being used to advance the cause of war."
AMY GOODMAN: And you’ve been very outspoken when it comes to nuclear power in the United States. This, of course, has raised major issues about nuclear power plants around the world, many countries saying they’re not moving forward. President Obama is taking the opposite position. He really is very much the nuclear renaissance man. He is talking about a nuclear renaissance and has not backed off, in fact reiterated, saying this will not stop us from building the first nuclear power plants in, what, decades.
DR. MICHIO KAKU: Well, there’s something called a Faustian bargain. Faust was this mythical figure who sold his soul to the devil for unlimited power. Now, the Japanese government has thrown the dice with a Faustian bargain. Japan has very little fossil fuel reserves, no hydroelectric power to speak of, and so they went nuclear. However, in the United States, we’re now poised, at this key juncture in history, where the government has to decide whether to go to the next generation of reactors. These are the so-called gas-cooled pebble bed reactors, which are safer than the current design, but they still melt down. The proponents of this new renaissance say that you can go out to dinner and basically have a leisurely conversation even as your reactor melts down. But it still melts. That’s the bottom line.