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Former Fukushima teacher blogs to inspire students while fighting off cancer

xOct 19, 2014
The former vice principal of a junior high school in Fukushima Prefecture has been encouraging his former students by blogging while undergoing 11 years of treatment for cancer.Yuki Sanbonsugi, 55, who fled to Koriyama after his hometown, Futaba, was evacuated to escape the radiation from the core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, became a junior high school teacher in 1981, after graduating from Senshu University.He has taught classes in Iitate, Iwaki, Minamisoma, Katsurao, Namie and Tomioka — villages, towns and cities all close to the No. 1 power plant.

Eleven years ago, when he was vice principal of Tomioka Dai-ichi Junior High School, he was diagnosed with malignant lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, and decided to quit to concentrate on treatment.

Although he could not return to teaching, he gave lectures at schools and community centers to convey his thoughts on the importance of life.

In March 2011, the nuclear crisis forced Sanbonsugi to flee to several places in the prefecture, including the town of Furudono and the cities of Aizuwakamatsu and Koriyama, and even to Hokkaido.

Despite his hardships, he kept thinking about all the students he had taught. He was worried they might be in the throes of despair with their futures still unclear 3½ years into the nuclear crisis, or on the verge of giving up on returning to their hometowns.

“I want to support former students who are living as evacuees as much as I can,” said Sanbonsugi, who avidly updates his blog.

“Rather than grieving over what you cannot do, just simply do something you can do. Then, quietly wait for spring to come,” he recently wrote.

Hidefumi Sanpei, 35, one of his former students, works for the Tomioka Municipal Government, which ordered a full evacuation in light of the Fukushima No. 1 meltdowns. As an official in charge of residential support, he helps evacuees deal with their worries and sometimes gets a tongue-lashing in the process.

As an evacuee himself supporting a wife and two children in new surroundings, Sanpei often got fed up with the work and his longing for his hometown.

He said Sanbonsugi’s blog gives him the courage to move forward. One phrase he always keeps in mind is: “Under the same sky, each one of us is living life to the fullest.”

Natsumi Yoshida, 33, who was one of Sanbonsugi’s students at Katsurao Junior High School, now teaches at a special needs school attached to Fukushima University. When the village of Katsurao was forced to evacuate, her former classmates were scattered all over the country.

Yoshida said she hopes to convey to her students a message she read in Sanbonsugi’s blog: “Planting seeds of kindness on the hearts of each and every one of us.”

This section, appearing every third Monday, focuses on topics and issues covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on Oct. 4.

Source: Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/10/19/national/former-fukushima-teacher-blogs-to-inspire-students-while-fighting-off-cancer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=former-fukushima-teacher-blogs-to-inspire-students-while-fighting-off-cancer

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October 19, 2014 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

With nuclear plant idled, townsfolk in better position to chart future course

AJ201410180015M Onagawa town assembly member Mikiko Abe stands against the backdrop

of Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa nuclear power plant.

October 18, 2014

POINT OF VIEW/ Mikiko Abe:

ONAGAWA, Miyagi Prefecture–As an opponent of atomic energy, I have watched this town for more than four decades–from before Tohoku Electric Power Co. began constructing the Onagawa nuclear power plant here.

It is my hope that our town can stand on its own without the massive subsidies associated with the installation of nuclear reactors and fixed asset taxes paid by the power utility. It’s not about asking if we can revert to that state of things. I believe we have to do it now.

I live in temporary housing because my home was swept away by the tsunami generated by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

I was elected to the town assembly eight months after the March 2011 disaster, which claimed the lives of some of my fellow activists. In the hope of conveying their anti-nuclear message to younger generations, I ran in the assembly election as an independent candidate.

The disaster left nearly 10 percent of Onagawa’s 10,000 population dead or missing, and nearly 90 percent of homes here were damaged. Some residents believe that a restart of the nuclear plant is essential for rebuilding the town.

Around 1970, when the Onagawa plant had yet to be built, local fishermen banded together to express opposition to the nuclear facility. Thousands took part in a protest rally held near the seashore. About 10 buses, each with 50 seats, arrived from a neighboring town to join it.

But Tohoku Electric began approaching nuclear opponents and secured agreement to engage in small talk from some people. They included, for example, owners of large fishing vessels that operated far from coastal waters. They had large crew and held senior positions in the local fishermen’s union.

There is no significant opposition movement in Onagawa now.

I studied at a university in Tokyo after I graduated from senior high school. I took an interest in the issue of Minamata disease (caused by mercury pollution) and joined a sit-in outside the head office of Chisso Corp., the chemical company responsible for the pollution. I thought the economy was being put ahead of humans–the same picture that applies to atomic power generation.

After I graduated in 1975 and returned home, I found my community polarized between nuclear opponents and proponents. I was told that residents living along the same seashore had been so estranged that they no longer even spoke to each other when they attended funerals of people in the other camp.

The opposition movement gradually cooled its heels after the fishermen’s union decided to accept financial compensation, and after construction of the No. 1 reactor of the Onagawa nuclear plant began in 1979.

Some people had relatives working for the nuclear plant, while others supplied food to the plant workers.

They could no longer openly state they were opposed, even if they felt differently in their hearts.

A sense of resignation gradually spread. In the words of Tohoku Electric: “We obtained their understanding through persistent dialogue.”

The Onagawa nuclear plant now has three reactors.

The Great East Japan Earthquake damaged part of the power supply systems at the Onagawa plant, although it was spared from being swamped directly by the tsunami triggered by the March 11, 2011, quake.

I was driving a car in the neighboring city of Ishinomaki at the time. I returned home in the evening after being caught in a traffic jam and found it had been swept away by the tsunami. I lived for some time on the second floor of a relative’s home, whose ground floor had been flooded. I listened to news about the Fukushima nuclear disaster on the radio, but somehow, the situation at the Onagawa nuclear plant never crossed my mind.

Tohoku Electric has been boasting that the Onagawa nuclear plant “withstood the quake and tsunami.” I have also been told that a gymnasium on the grounds of the plant served as an evacuation shelter for more than 300 residents for three months. Some inhabitants are thankful for that.

But I later learned that the plant grounds lay only 80 centimeters above the towering tsunami, which measured 13 meters in height, and only one of the five external power supply systems survived without damage. Perhaps it was a matter of sheer chance that a serious accident was avoided.

The town government has so far received 21 billion yen ($195 million) in subsidies associated with the installation of nuclear reactors. This is in line with three laws governing the siting of nuclear power plants. The town also has a huge revenue source as a result of fixed asset taxes paid by Tohoku Electric. Sumptuous facilities that exceed our means have popped up one after another.

In looking to the future and making decisions about the town’s finances, a key consideration is whether we should bank on cash revenue from a future restart of the Onagawa nuclear plant.

When I attended a debate session in the assembly, I raised an objection to a young man who called for community development based on coexistence with the nuclear plant. Nobody presented follow-up opinions. And that was the last time the nuclear plant issue was raised. It remains difficult to this day to speak your mind.

But some people have begun reflecting on the future of the nuclear plant, even though they don’t speak out. The president of a company that does business with the nuclear plant once blurted out, when he was alone with me, “We cannot rely on the nuclear plant forever.”

Three of the 12 members of the Onagawa town assembly are opposed to the nuclear plant. Some of the other nine are taking a wait-and-see attitude and are less than wholeheartedly pro-nuclear.

I believe that, with the nuclear plant idled in the wake of the quake and tsunami disaster, now is a good opportunity for the townspeople to discuss their own future among themselves.

* * *

Mikiko Abe, 62, operates a liquor shop and a shipping agency, which markets fish caught from outside Onagawa, with her parents. Abe has one son and four daughters.

(This article is based on an interview by Ryoma Komiyama.)

Source: Asahi Shimbun

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/opinion/AJ201410180014

 

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Sendai reactors vulnerable to eruptions, state-picked volcanologist warns

xOctober 18th, 2014 | ◆
Toshitsugu Fujii, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo
A prominent volcanologist disputed regulators’ conclusion that two nuclear reactors are safe from a volcanic eruption in the next few decades, saying Friday that such a prediction is impossible.

A cauldron eruption at one of several volcanoes surrounding the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture could not only hit the reactors, but also cause a nationwide disaster, said Toshitsugu Fujii, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo who heads a state-commissioned panel on eruption prediction.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority last month said two Sendai reactors fulfilled tougher safety requirements set after the 2011 Fukushima crisis began.

The NRA ruled out a major eruption over the next 30 years until the reactors reach the end of their usable life span.

The surprise eruption of Mount Ontake on the border of Gifu and Nagano prefectures on Sept. 27 has renewed concerns about the volcanoes in the region.

“It is simply impossible to predict an eruption over the next 30 to 40 years,” Fujii said. “The level of predictability is extremely limited.”

He said eruptions can only be predicted in hours or days, at best.

Studies have shown that pyroclastic flow from an eruption 90,000 years ago at one of the volcanoes near the Sendai plant reached as far as 145 km (90 miles) away, Fujii said.

He said that a pyroclastic flow from Mount Sakurajima, an active volcano that is part of the larger Aira cauldron, could easily hit the nuclear plant, which is only 40 km (25 miles) away.

Heavy ash falling from an eruption would make it impossible to reach the plant, and could also affect many parts of the country, including Tokyo, he said. Many nuclear power plants could also be affected in western Japan.

The Sendai reactors are the first to pass the safety checks, which added resistance to volcanic eruption as part of the new evaluation.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to restart any viable reactors deemed safe, saying nuclear power is stable and relatively cheap compared to other energy sources and key to Japan’s recovery. Ironically, the utilities, many of which operate atomic plants, are revolting against the feed-in tariff system — for producing a solar energy glut.

Kyushu Electric Power Co., which runs the Sendai plant, promised steps to ensure worker access in up to 15 cm (6 inches) of ash and a monitoring system to detect changes in volcanic activity.

It also promised to transfer fuel rods to safer areas ahead of time if eruption signs are detected — a time-consuming process experts say is unrealistic.

Fujii said 10 cm (4 inches) of ash will render any vehicle except tanks virtually inoperable. Power lines would be cut by the weight of the ash, causing blackouts that could shut reactor cooling systems.

Only after approving the reactors’ safety did the NRA establish a volcano panel to discuss eruptions and countermeasures.

Fujii, a member of that panel, said experts are opposed to the NRA’s views.

Even though a catastrophic eruption might occur only once in 10,000 years, the likelihood of one cannot be ruled out either, he said.

“Scientifically, they’re not safe,” he said of the Sendai reactors. “If they still need to be restarted despite the uncertainties and risks that remain, it’s for political reasons, not because they’re safe, and you should be honest about that.”

Source: Japan Times

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/10/18/national/science-health/reactor-safety-near-japans-volcanoes-disputed-by-prominent-expert/#.VEJynq0cSM8

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Japan | , , | 2 Comments

Higher Fukushima Radiation Levels Triggered by Typhoons

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MOSCOW, October 18 (RIA Novosti), Ekaterina Blinova – Radiation levels at Japan’s notorious Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant jumped after the plant was hit earlier this month by two typhoons: Phanfone and Vongfong.

“The back-to-back weather disturbance typhoons Vongfong and Phanfone had triggered the elevated radiation quantities at the plant,” writes the International Business Times, citing NHK, Japan’s state-run media outlet.

According to Japan’s JIJI agency, levels of cesium, a radioactive isotope that causes cancer, are three times higher than their previously registered rates and are currently 251,000 becquerels per liter, while levels of tritium, another dangerous isotope, have grown as  high as 150,000 becquerels.

Tepco’s (Tokyo Electric Power Co.) spokesperson emphasized that heavy rainfall triggered by Typhoon Phanfone had apparently impacted Fukushima’s groundwater.

“In addition, materials that emit beta rays, such as strontium-90, which causes bone cancer, also shattered records with a reading of 1.2 million becquerels,” JIJI agency pointed out, adding that the wells that groundwater samples had been taken from were located close to the nuclear plant’s port in the Pacific.

Asahi Shimbun underscores that Tepco’s task of decontaminating all the radioactive water stored at the Fukushima No. 1 plant by the end of this fiscal year will be “increasingly difficult” to accomplish.

“According to a Tepco estimate made in February, the amount of highly contaminated water should have been reduced to 300,000 tons  by about now, but the water cleaning procedure is currently a month behind the original schedule,” the media outlet stresses.

Asahi Shimbun reveals that another problem is that the groundwater flow into the plant’s reactor building is increasing the amount of highly radioactive water by 400 tons a day. Although the corporation claims that it has succeed in reducing the influx by 130 tons a day due to its various counter-measures and its “underground water bypass project,” these estimations have not been verified, the media source notes. The ambitious water-decontamination plans have yet to be completed and it remains to be seen when Tepco will be able to accomplish its task.

Source: RIA Novosti

http://en.ria.ru/society/20141018/194266755/Higher-Fukushima-Radiation-Levels-Triggered-By-Typhoons.html

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Japan | , , | 1 Comment

Fukushima radiation nearing West Coast

-salbrd07-29-2014statesman1a00320140728imgsal0729-oceanradiat11October 17, 2014

Radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster is approaching the West Coast, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is reporting.

A sample taken Aug. 2 about 1,200 kilometers west of Vancouver, B.C. tested positive for Cesium 134, the Fukushima “fingerprint” of Fukushima.

It also showed higher-than-background levels of Cesium 137, another Fukushima isotope that already is present in the world’s oceans from nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s.

The sample is the first of about 40 offshore test results that will be made public next month, said Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at Woods Hole.

Further results, which Buesseler will release at a conference Nov. 13, will show offshore Fukushima radiation down the coast into California, he said, including some samples that are closer to shore.

Buesseler emphasized that the radiation is at very low levels that aren’t expected to harm human health or the environment.

“I’m not concerned,” he said.

And no samples from West Coast shorelines have found Fukushima radiation.

“There is definitely offshore Fukushima cesium now,” Buesseler said. “It’s not on the beaches, but it’s offshore.”

Massive amounts of contaminated water were released from Fukushima following a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Radioactive water has continued to leak and be released from the complex.

No state or federal agency is testing Pacific waters for radiation from the crippled Japanese nuclear plant.

So earlier this year Buesseler launched a crowdfunded effort to collect surf samples to be tested at his lab in Massachusetts.

Processing was completed on about 30 of those samples, from the Bering Strait to San Diego, including one from Oregon. More samples are awaiting testing

Then, last summer, the captain of a research vessel out of Moss Landing Marine Lab in California offered to collect offshore samples down the entire coast in conjunction with other research work he was doing.

Buesseler said he hesitated at first, because analyzing those samples would cost about $30,000 his lab didn’t have.

“We decided to send him the containers anyway,” Buesseler said.

Buesseler was able to use a $12,000 donation from U.K.-based Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics to begin processing the samples.

He’s still looking for funding to make up the difference.

The Aug. 2 sample is the project’s first to identify Fukushima radiation.

The sample was collected at a depth of 25 meters.

It showed levels of cesium 134, the Fukushima fingerprint, at 2.2 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3).

Levels of cesium 137 were 3.9 Bq/m3. Background levels range between 1 and 2 Bq/m3.

Scientist expect the radiation to reach West Coast beaches this year or next year.

Source:  Tracy Loew, Statesman Journal 

 http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/tech/science/environment/2014/10/17/fukushima-radiation-nearing-west-coast/17437081/

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Japan’s timid coverage of Fukushima led this news anchor to revolt — and he’s not alone

10457117185_a04dac16fe_kFormer NHK anchor Jun Hori speaks at a TEDx event in Kyoto, Japan,

about opening Japanese journalism to non-traditional sources.

October 17, 2014

No one is telling Shiga Kamematsu the truth.

It’s been three-and-a-half years since 83-year-old Kamematsu left his home, with its rice patties, vegetable fields and 10 cows, fleeing the disaster at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. He still can’t go back.

When will it be ready for people again? No one seems to know — or be interested in telling him. “I can’t take my land with me,” he says, “so I don’t know what to do. I can’t see ahead.”

Kamematsu is one of about 80,000 people in Japan still officially displaced by the nuclear crisis. Questions remain about radiation levels, the clean-up process and when residents can return home. Yasuhiko Tajima, a professor of media studies at Tokyo’s Sophia University, says many Japanese are frustrated by what they see as a lack of information.

Japanese journalists did what Tajima calls “announcement journalism” in reporting on the crisis. He says they were reporting the press releases of big companies and the people in power. And he’s not the only one who thinks so.

“I am a newscaster, but I couldn’t tell the true story on my news program,” says Jun Hori, a former anchor for NHK, the Japanese state broadcaster.

Hori says the network restricted what he and other journalists could say about Fukushima and moved more slowly than foreign media to report on the disaster and how far radiation was spreading. The attitude in the newsroom was not to question official information

“I was on the ground in Fukushima, and a lot of people kept asking me, why didn’t you tell us earlier about what is happening?” Hori says.

Out of frustration, Hori started tweeting uncensored coverage. “I got a huge response,” he says, “but then my superiors said the NHK was getting complaints from politicians about what I was saying. They told me I had to stop.”

Hori eventually quit the NHK and started his own website for citizen journalism — 8-Bit news. He says Fukushima showed people in Japan that they had to be proactive about getting information. Anyone can submit videos and news content to his site.

“Until now, the Japanese thought someone was doing it: companies, the government, someone,” Hori says. “But once you peeled back the cover, you saw that nobody was doing it.”

That’s backed up by outside observers as well: Japan has dropped 31 places since 2011 in a World Press Freedom ranking compiled by the group Reporters Without Borders. The group cites “a lack of transparency and almost zero respect for access to information on subjects directly or indirectly related to Fukushima.”

In a statement, NHK said it covered the event accurately and promptly reported a meltdown. It did not address claims that it faced outside pressure from politicians to restrict Hori’s Twitter account.

Hori’s 8-Bit is part of wave of new media launched since Fukushima, spanning everything from blogs and social media to documentaries. Yasumi Iwakami started one of the first efforts. He took live streaming video of press conferences and other coverage and loaded them up to a site called the Independent Web Journal.

“We just kept the cameras running all the time,” Iwakami says. “Even during the breaks at press conferences. We interviewed everyone we could.”

If you want to say something clearly and directly in Japan, Iwakami says, it takes a lot of effort. You have to do something drastic — like start a streaming news site run on donations. “That’s very crazy!” he says.

It is a big change from Japan’s traditional media, says Benjamin Ismail, head of the Asia-Pacific desk for Reporters Without Borders. He says that in covering Fukushima, self-censorship was a big issue.

“Some of the journalists really believed they had a duty not to create a global panic,” Ismail says, “and therefore they had to withhold some of the information they obtained.”

Ismail hopes Japan’s alternative media can gain steam, especially because there’s not much time to act. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is moving ahead on restarting the nuclear industry, and the first reactors are projected to be back online by next year.

Sources:

1. PRI’s The world

http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-10-16/frustrated-japans-coverage-fukushima-crisis-japanese-news-anchor-started 

2. “Newsroom revolution” — empowering the people: Jun Hori at TEDxKyoto 2013 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dg8whKEQYPg#t=45

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment