How officials and popular academics have responded to disaster victims in the wake up of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima nuclear accident
About the author
I worked as a full-time teacher at a public high school in Fukushima for about twenty-five-and-a-half years, until July 31, 2011. During the first four years of my career, I taught at Futaba High School in Futaba-machi, home to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Naturally, I have heard stories about the harsh working conditions of nuclear workers. For example, in a certain area of the power plant, working for 10 minutes would exceed the legal maximum daily radiation exposure limit. So each shift was officially recorded as 10 minutes even though their actual worked shift was 8 hours. The workers would primarily wipe water leaking from the piping surrounding the nuclear reactor. When workers died of illnesses like cancer, their families received unusually high amounts of cash as lump-sum payments, while actual workmen’s compensation insurance was not provided.
At the time of the 2011 nuclear accident, I was living in a city 53 kilometers (33 miles) away from the power plant with my wife and two children. I was working at a public school 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the plant.
After the accident, on the evening of March 15, 2011, the maximum airborne radioactive levels of 23 microsievert/hour was detected in Fukushima City, where I worked. Outside the school the following day, however, the annual school acceptance announcements were held as scheduled. Several faculty, including myself, met with the principal to insist that usual outdoor announcement be cancelled as to avoid having young students exposed to radiation–but the announcement event was forced outdoors. The principal cited reasons such as, “the Fukushima Prefecture office strongly supports the outdoor plan” and he “had no choice as the school principal.”
From April 2011 on, aside from the prohibition of outdoor gym classes, neither my school nor the Fukushima Board of Education took any measures to prevent further radiation exposure for students. The school had students practice club activities outdoors as usual. Indoor club athletes were made to run outdoors as well, without any protective measure against radiation exposure. Despite the standard practice, measures such as gargling, washing hands, changing clothes, and showering weren’t deemed necessary for students when returning from outdoor activities. Since I had some knowledge about radiation exposure, I advised the students to take caution to remove potential contamination whenever possible. However, in response to my giving the students advice to prevent radioactive materials from entering the building, I had been cautioned by the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education, in the form of official “guidance” which forbids me to even talk about radiation and nuclear power plants to the students. Given that I was officially barred from protecting students from radiation exposure, I decided to make my move: along with my family, I evacuated my hometown and relocated to Sapporo city in Hokkaido. Once we evacuated, we found out about a financial system by Fukushima Prefecture which supports voluntary evacuees from the areas outside of the officially restricted zone (though it only approved applications from evacuees pre-December 2012; those who evacuated thereafter would not be financially supported).
I have been teaching part-time in Hokkaido. Since finding out that within the public school system the Fukushima Prefecture Board of Education can intervene to oversee public high school relocation anywhere, I have been teaching at private schools only. Aside from my part-time job, I have been involved in a nuclear power plant damages lawsuit as a plaintiff as well as a member of the refugee organization.
1. Fukushima Prefectural Government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident
The reactors at the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, especially Unit 1 and Unit 2, were delivered and installed from the US after the US manufacturer finished all of their construction. As for Units 3, 4, 5, and 6 the Japanese manufacturer added their own “improvements” to the original structure.
I will try to avoid a lengthy explanation. TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant frequently had accidents immediately after beginning operation and the nuclear workers’ exposure levels amounted to twice to ten times the average exposure dose at other nuclear plants. Furthermore, TEPCO kept a lot of serious accidents hidden from Fukushima Prefecture and the Japanese government. TEPCO proposed using Unit 3 for so-called pluthermal power generation, utilizing fuel which can contain weapons-grade plutonium in order to reduce the plutonium surplus in Japan. Eisaku Sato, then-governor of Fukushima, strongly objected to the proposal.The Japanese government arrested and convicted Governor Sato on bribery charges with the amount of the bribe recognized as “zero yen.” They drove him to resign, then elected Yuhei Sato as the new governor. As described above, neither the Fukushima governor nor the organization called the Fukushima Prefectural Government had power over TEPCO.
2. Nuclear accident and the Fukushima Prefectural Government
March 11, 2011, when a massive earthquake hit a wide area including Fukushima Prefecture, the building of the Fukushima prefectural office (which had been planned to function as a Disaster Response Headquarters) was damaged in the earthquake. The headquarters were set up in a small building next to the main office building to serve temporary functions. The prefectural government has never publicized records of proceedings and documents from over 20 meetings in the beginning. From the 25th meeting, they finally began keeping records of proceedings.
At the time, the temporary disaster response headquarters was believed to have had little to no communication lines, and had reportedly only two satellite mobile phones. Although the communication infrastructure began to be rebuilt gradually, what was happening then still remains largely unknown. There has been no official investigation into the correspondence between the local governments, the central government and TEPCO, and no evacuation orders to the local communities.
As far as public record goes, the only time Fukushima Governor issued an announcement in the first week was on the evening of March 14th. “Follow the instructions and do not panic,”“High school entrance announcements will be held as planned on March 16th,”— these two lines were broadcast repeatedly throughout local media.
From another angle, the recordings of the TEPCO video conference shows that Fukushima Prefecture requested TEPCO make a public announcement saying “the explosion in the Unit 3 at Fukushima Daiichi will not cause health damage.” Appalled by the request, thinking they “couldn’t say such an irresponsible thing,” TEPCO decided to “ask the central government to suppress Fukushima Prefecture,”—as evidently recorded during the video conference.
However Fukushima Prefecture repeatedly expressed that in the “Nakadōri” region—which includes the prefectural capitol, Fukushima City, and the commercially and industrially flourishing Koriyama City—there would be zero risk of health damage from radiation.
There has been a use of protective measures like wearing long-sleeves and masks for school children, which may have been a globally familiar sight through media reports. However this was not a recommendation or an order issued by Fukushima Prefecture, but rather a result of demands from local PTAs to boards of education in individual school districts.
Towards the end of March 2011, right before the school year resumed, the Fukushima governor was seen out in local grocery stores saying “Fukushima today is business as usual,” in which he began a campaign to “dispel harmful rumors” about local agricultural produce being contaminated by radiation. The governor also opposed widening the evacuation zone beyond the 20km radius of the nuclear power plant, and has repeatedly made remarks to avoid increasing the number of evacuees from outside the official evacuation zone.
As a result, aside from two local Fukushima newspapers, NHK, and four private television networks in addition to NHK Radio and Radio Fukushima, there was little to no mention of messages from outside Fukushima offering free housings and support networks for voluntary evacuees. Fukushima Prefecture also prohibited the use of not only public conference centers, but private facilities for hosting “counseling room” for evacuation as well. People around me practically had no knowledge of local autonomous support groups offering evacuation support. I have heard numerous times that “there is no evacuation order from outside the prefecture, meaning we have been abandoned.” In fact, it was Fukushima Prefecture who had been interfering with such efforts to reach our community.
3. Hiroshi Kainuma, “the Sociologist”
In 2011, an author from Fukushima became renowned after publishing the book “Fukushima’ theory–the birth of a nuclear village,” based on a thesis he wrote as a sociology student at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Sciences. His name is Hiroshi Kaiuma, born in Iwaki City, Fukushima, and graduated from the University of Tokyo Literature department at the age of 25 and advanced to the graduate program. I must note that this is difficult to grasp if you are not well-connected within Fukushima. But in short, Iwaki City, where Mr. Kainuma was born and raised, has very little connection to the Futaba district which hosts TEPCO’s power plant. In terms of large-scale trading areas, while the Futaba district is part of the Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture trade area, Iwaki City would be part of Mito City in Ibaraki Prefecture. In any case, Mr. Kainuma did not have strong connections to the Fukushima Prefectural government prior to March 11th, 2011.
Since the meltdown, however, he has somehow become “the Fukushima spokesperson who speaks about Fukushima on TV and radio.”
Additionally, I have written several critiques of his writings, one of which can be found on the following link (in Japanese): “Personal note on “‘Fukushima’ theory–the birth of a nuclear village”
4. Hiroshi Kainuma and the Fukushima Prefectural Government
After 3.11, his master’s thesis was published in books and he began to be featured in various media, including an appearance as a commentator on the popular evening program “Hodo Station (News Station).” We must note that the content of his remarks have been consistent—such as, “The acceptance of nuclear power plant by local communities was necessary for the regions’ survival”; “Those outside of Fukushima protesting against nuclear energy do not understand the reality of nuclear-hosting communities.” His views and comments on the anti-nuclear movement have been antagonistic from the beginning, for example, “People who oppose nuclear energy are rubbing local communities the wrong way.”
Mr. Kainuma currently holds the title of Junior Researcher of the Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization, but at the same time he is a PhD student at the University of Tokyo. While it would be appropriate to call him a sociology researcher, I feel it’s an overestimation to refer to him as a sociologist.
Currently the gist of Mr. Kainuma’s speech is towards the “recovery of Fukushima in visible forms” and its target audience is outside Fukushima Prefecture. While many others have in fact been referring to “bags” jammed with contaminated waste—seen everywhere and impossible to be ignored upon entering Fukushima—Mr. Kainuma continues to emphasize the “ordinary Fukushima” without mentioning the bags.
I see the previous governor of Fukushima, Yuhei Sato, in Mr. Kainuma in many ways, like in his seeming lack of experience interacting with people in temporary housings immediately following the meltdowns, or with shelter residents still living with much confusion and inconveniences as a result of the disaster.
Even the current Fukushima governor does not seem to have made too many visits to temporary shelters during or after elections.
To those who evacuated Fukushima to outer prefectures like myself, the Prefecture kept even more distance. By principle, they never made any official inspection visits to meet the evacuees. There is a notable lack of inspection visits not only in remote areas such as Hokkaido, but also in places like Yamagata and Niigata which are adjacent to Fukushima Prefecture.
In the wake of the disaster, though there was housing support for those who evacuated the areas outside of Fukushima as well, such efforts have gradually died down—as of March 2016, state subsidies for housing would be available only for evacuees who are from Fukushima. In addition, the housing subsidy program for those who evacuated the non-restricted zone will end in March 2017. However, there is no housing program for returning residents to Fukushima even if they decide to move back there.
Starting March 2017, voluntary evacuees still living in outer prefectures need to choose one of the three following choices:
1) Return home to Fukushima while paying out-of-pocket for most of the expenses associated with the move and your life thereafter. 2) Continue living outside Fukushima while relinquishing your rights to access resources as a disaster victim 3) Upon proving your need for financial assistance, receive housing subsidies for up to 2 years to live in privately-owned housing.
The reason for this policy change was credited to correspondence between the Minister of Environment and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, a non-governmental agency to provide scientific grounds for nuclear policy. The Minister of Envirnoment asked the NRA if “it is considered desirable to evacuate the areas that don’t have restrictions” to which the NRA answered, ”these areas are no longer fit to be evacuated.” It should be noted that there was no legal ground for this correspondence to be treated as official; how this exchange was reviewed and by whom is unknown.
Based on this document issued by the NRA, the Japanese government made a Cabinet decision to largely reduce support for evacuees through the Nuclear Accident Child Victim’s Support Law.
Following this decision, Fukushima Prefecture also determined its policy would end support for the voluntary evacuees from non-restricted areas.
Hiroshi Kainuma is working from an assumed role to justify such policy of Fukushima Prefecture, utilizing his position as a so-called sociologist. Even if he has ideas and views that differ from Fukushima Prefecture’s policy, he does not speak about them on media or at talk events.
For instance, when Mr. Kainuma was relatively unknown before 3.11, he had reportedly interviewed local anti-nuclear activists. Another instance tells us that although he had met and interviewed several people who have moved voluntarily out of the non-restricted areas, he proceeds to ignore the voices and opinions of them as though they had never existed.
Last year, nuclear reactors in Japan started resuming operation. Mr. Kainuma has not been seen or heard expressing opposition to it. Neither Fukushima Prefecture nor the Prefectural Assembly expresses any intentions to oppose nuclear restorations.
5. The current presence of “Hiroshi Kainuma”
Through the circumstances described above, Hiroshi Kainuma is working so as to be portrayed by the media as a Fukushima Prefecture spokesperson, intent on selling “business-as-usual” appeal and depicting a Fukushima that “overcame a nuclear disaster.”
Meanwhile, and quite unfortunately, many Fukushima residents agree with his words and actions. Just as there are many people hoping to forget the scars from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, there are many who explicitly “do not evacuate,” comprising an overwhelming majority of the Fukushima population and wishing to forget and move past the disaster and nuclear crisis.
Here we have an academic scholar who speaks for us and to those who are outside Fukushima as well, saying to leave the nuclear disaster in the past.
Thus, this concludes the significance of Hiroshi Kainuma’s existence today.
Fukushima, Voices of Evacuees
By Toshinori Shishido
In July 2015, the Fukushima prefectural government announced its plan to terminate housing assistance for nuclear evacuees who fled areas outside of the restricted zone at the end of March 2017. It has absolutely no intention to change this policy as of this moment in February 2016.
In addition, by March 2017, the Fukushima Prefectural Office will lift evacuation orders for the entire prefecture, except for the immediate vicinity of the power plant designated the “difficult-to-return zone,” that has “equal to or greater than the external exposure dose of 50mSv/year.” (Insert: “translator’s note: the internationally recognized standard dose limit per year is 1mSv/year.) For residents who may eventually move back to these areas, the Prefectural Office has determined that it will only pay one year’s worth of compensation (1.2 million yen or US$ 10,500) per person and will terminate other special protective measures and financial incentives.
For residents of regions that have been designated as “difficult-to-return areas”, the Office has reportedly finished the payments of reparations in bulk, and is not going to make additional payments.
And for residents outside of Fukushima Prefecture, there has been almost no official support for damages from the nuclear power plant accident in the first place.
While the government has provided extremely limited housing support for very few residents from prefectures adjacent to Fukushima and for evacuees from these prefectures, it has gradually decreased the target population over time and plans to end all financial assistance for them by March 2018.
Although there is room to compensate local industries for damages, even in cases where the “Nuclear Damages Dispute Resolution Center” (or Alternative Dispute Resolution Center, ADR for short), established to bring speedy resolutions, has sought payment from Tokyo Electric Power Company, there are an increasing number of cases in which TEPCO has refused to pay. In addition, even though the ADR Center has repeatedly demanded that the Japanese government instruct TEPCO to comply with the settlements and make payments quickly, the Japanese government has not directed TEPCO to do so.
For sources related to above, please refer to:
Website of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology “About compensation for nuclear damage caused by the Tokyo Electric Power Company Fukushima nuclear power plant accident” (in Japanese)
“About the guidance on the determination regarding damages caused by Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear accident (PDF: 169KB, in Japanese)”
Website of Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Nuclear Damages Dispute Resolution Center (in Japanese)
It is clear to us that Japanese officials have neglected to work on compensation, reparation, fact-finding, clarification of causes, and information disclosure from the nuclear accident until now. Not only that, but Japanese government agencies have destroyed some official documents from immediately after the nuclear accident without even notifying the public, on the grounds that there is a “legal obligation to preserve these documents for three years”.
Thanks to the destruction of documents from early stages, it has become extremely difficult to obtain proof that there have been measures that should have been implemented immediately after the nuclear accident, and it has become difficult to investigate and prove government blunders.
On matters besides those related to the nuclear accident, both the Japanese government and the Fukushima prefectural government are promoting and activating economic activities, including capital improvement projects fueled with tax money.
As for the motorways, all of Route 6, the main national highway, has been re-opened, and all of the Joban Expressway opened in 2015, ahead of the original construction schedule, which had been planned prior to the nuclear accident.
As for the railway, Japan Railway East Japan is aiming to reopen its entire Joban Line in the summer of 2020, prior to the Tokyo Olympics.
“Recovery” can be realized on roads and railroads through ample budgeting, gathering materials, and investing labor. The same is also true for most infrastructure, such as local government offices and electricity. The exception, however, is the water supply – there is no guarantee that radioactive isotopes that have accumulated at the bottom of the lake upstream of the intake will not be mixed into the water supply.
Including the issue of water supply, the fundamental causes of the troubles related to the current “revitalization” programs come from the government and Prefecture’s attitude that ignores the wishes of the residents who are victims. If I may borrow the phrase that has been used over time, there has been no “revitalization of humans.”
In other words, why doesn’t the “revitalization” from the nuclear accident that is promoted by the Japanese national government and the Fukushima prefectural government become the “revitalization” of people? Let us return to the starting point to consider this.
The reasons I propose are two-fold.
First, both the Japanese government and the Fukushima prefectural government continue to avert their eyes from the fact that this is a nuclear disaster. They never told residents about the extremely long timeline and difficulty of managing the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. Most of the media are constantly releasing words straight from the government and Fukushima prefecture without even investigating the contents. Hence, the majority of victims have been unable to face the complexity of the issues.
While it will soon be five years since March 11, 2011, it is hard to say that authorities have correctly communicated to the public how dangerous the situation had become, not only at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini power plants under declaration of a Nuclear Emergency Situation, but also at the nearby Tokai 2 and Onagawa power plants.
Even Diet members and nuclear “scientists” have spoken unabashedly in the Diet and on television that “no problems occurred at [these] state-of-the-art nuclear power plants”, without being prompted to correct themselves. To say nothing of what happened to the ten reactors in Fukushima Prefecture and what is happening to them today, which is not even known.
On December 16, 2012, then-Prime Minister Noda used what had until then been only a scientific term, “cold shutdown,” to declare a “state of cold shutdown” in circumstances where this could not be [scientifically] declared. In other words, it was so necessary for the Japanese government to domestically fabricate the impression that “the nuclear crisis is over” that it used the term in a way not internationally recognized as a scientific concept.
And in regard to Reactors 1 to 4 at Daiichi, the government didn’t even bother making potentially realizable countermeasures an object of debate. They called issues inside the power plant “on-site” issues, implying there was little room for off-site intervention, and no projects after the “cold shutdown” declaration were deemed urgent. Naturally, we are left with no option to even ask beyond what options are available; how long these options will take to be effective or how long they will last.
Assuming this unstable situation at the power plant, it is impossible to discuss how
people’s daily existence around the accident plant [Daiichi] is possible to what distance, in what way.
The problem is not limited to within the facility. As long as we are unable to see distinctly what types of radioactive isotopes and how much they are present, at least within the vicinity of several miles off the plant, the “revitalization” planning would draw direct link from the clean up of the plant.
However, even in the areas within 10km (6.2 miles) radius of the plant where the airborne radioactive levels are relatively lower than its surroundings, the government has already decided to lift evacuation order by March of 2017.
Therefore, to those who will be living in the close proximity to the plant, the fate of the nuclear crisis is a matter of life and death. The government however insist that on-site (within plant facility) and off-site issues are two separate issues, refusing to incorporate clean-up plans into the “revitalization” roadmap.
Even if I give it extra compromise as to say the situation inside fences of the power plant is not related to “revitalization” activities, I must stress that both the government and Fukushima prefecture continue to defend an absurd stance on any potential radiological effects in the future, stating “any potential impact would be would be small enough to be unrecognizable.”
The state-led plans to proceed with human recovery as if the “disaster wasn’t a nuclear disaster” is extremely reckless, considering cases of Chernobyl nuclear accident and nuclear testings at Marshall Islands.However, the Japanese government and the Fukushima prefectural government continue to be reckless, ignoring “the people.”
My second point is that the Japanese government, the Fukushima prefecture as well as many local municipal offices have been deceiving us without a directly facing the human beings as victims and by neglecting the whereabouts of them.Essentially, when disasters and accidents bring damage, state bodies would have to desperately gather information from the first day in order to clarify the extent of the damage.
On the flip side, in regards to the victims and damages caused by the earthquake and tsunami that occurred on March 11, there have been evidences across the country that municipalities and governments put extensive efforts to grasp and understand the extent of damages as much as possible.even in municipalities where almost all of residences and even offices were damaged by the tsunami, there were attempts to understand the scale and circumstances of the damage.In places where the damages was too great for local municipalities to maintain their functions, prefectural governments cooperated trying to figure out actual damage.
However, with respect to the current nuclear accident, the government did not try to figure out scale of the damage or the actual situations of the victims.There is no way to find out the reason why they chose not to, unless you have access to confidential information by the government.
I suppose that the Japanese government and prefectural offices would have been liable for investigating the nuclear accident and not the local municipalities which didn’t have necessary human, organizational and technical resources. Yet there is no evidence of the government or prefectural offices having actively looked into the actual damages and status of evacuations caused by the nuclear contamination.
Rather, even when evacuees themselves demanded for official investigation, the authorities refused to act on their behalf and at times delayed publications of data they obtained.
I am yet to see a single governmental document on how nuclear evacuations took place. Perhaps such documents never even existed.
To my knowledge, in Japan, there has not been any official agencies or staff positions for creating and maintaining historical records of national events. Due to this, there is a serious lack of documentation that could be used as future reference. Nor the involvement of the responsible parties is ever questioned.
In fact, after writing the above paragraph I attempted to summarize evacuation processes as much as I could within my knowledge, only to find such efforts would require vast amount of writings and I would not know when I could finish such a project. Thus for the time being I would like to conclude my thesis here.
In conclusion, I will verify my points in summary.
The so-called “nuclear disaster victim assistance program” orchestrated by the Japanese government and Fukushima prefecture has been fraudulent since its inception. For the goal of their program has never been to protect the livelihood and safety of the victims and it lacked logical foundation.
By ending the inherently fraudulent assistance program, the government and Fukushima prefecture are crying out loud to the world that Fukushima has been recovered. The Fukushima prefectural government continues to actively send delegations overseas solely for the publicity purpose.
Fukushima Prefecture sends the delegations in order to round down the nuclear disaster victims and to disguise to the world the fact that the “reconstruction” they are proposing is ignoring the voices of victims.
By Linda Pentz Gunter, 20th February 2016
The Japanese were kept in the dark from the start of the Fukushima disaster about high radiation levels and their dangers to health, writes Linda Pentz Gunter. In order to proclaim the Fukushima area ‘safe’, the Government increased exposure limits to twenty times the international norm. Soon, many Fukushima refugees will be forced to return home to endure damaging levels of radiation.
Dr. Tetsunari Iida is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) in Japan.
As such, one might have expected a recent presentation he gave in the UK within the hallowed halls of the House of Commons, to have focused on Japan’s capacity to replace the electricity once generated by its now mainly shuttered nuclear power plants, with renewable energy.
But Dr lida’s passionate polemic was not about the power of the sun, but the power of propaganda. March 11, 2011 might have been the day the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. But it was also the beginning of the Great Japan Cover-Up.
On the ISEP website, Iida extols the coming of the Fourth Revolution, following on from those in agriculture, industry and IT. “This fourth revolution will be an energy revolution, a green industrial revolution, and a decentralized network revolution”, he writes.
But in person, Iida was most interested in conveying the extent to which the Japanese people were lied to before, during and after the devastating nuclear disaster at Fukushima-Daiichi, precipitated on that same fateful day and by the deadly duo of earthquake and tsunami.
“Shinzo Abe says ‘everything is under control'”, said Iida, speaking at an event hosted by Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Green Cross, and Nuclear Consulting Group in late January. It was headlined by the former Japan Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, who was at the helm when the triple disasters struck. “Yes – under the control of the media!”
A trial for Tepco like post-war Tokyo Trials
The media may have played the willing government handmaiden in reassuring the public with falsehoods, but in July 2012, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission concluded that the disaster was really no accident but “man-made”. It came about, the researchers said, as a result of “collusion” between the government, regulators and the nuclear industry, in this case, Tepco.
“There should be a Tepco trial like the post-war Tokyo Trials”, Iida said, referring to the post World War II war crimes trial in which 28 Japanese were tried, seven of whom were subsequently executed by hanging.
Hope for such accountability – without advocating hanging – is fleeting at best. In 2011, while addressing a conference in Berlin hosted by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, I suggested the Tepco officials should be sent to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, (a body the US still conveniently refuses to recognize) to answer for what clearly amounts to crimes against humanity.
The remark caused a bit of a stir and earnest questions about the mechanism by which Tepco could be brought there. Needless to say, nothing of the kind ever happened, or is likely to.
Instead, the Abe’s government’s preferred tactic is to go full out to restart reactors and move everybody back home as soon as possible, as if nothing serious had happened. Just scoop off a little topsoil, cart it away somewhere else and, Abracadabra! Everything is clean and safe again!
Normalizing radiation, a policy and now a practice
Of course radiological decontamination is not that easy. Nor is it reliable. It is more like “pushing contamination from one spot to the next”, as independent nuclear expert, Mycle Schneider describes it. And radiation does not remain obediently in one place, either.
“The mountains and forests that cannot even be vaguely decontaminated, will serve as a permanent source of new contamination, each rainfall washing out radiation and bringing it down from the mountains to the flat lands”, Schneider explained. Birds move around. Animals eat and excrete radioactive plant life. Radiation gets swept out to sea. It is a cycle with no end.
Nevertheless, efforts are underway to repopulate stricken areas, particularly in Fukushima Prefecture. It’s a policy, and now a practice, of ‘normalizing’ radiation standards, to tell people that everything is alright, when clearly, there is no medical or scientific evidence to support this. And it was an approach already firmly and institutionally in place, even on March 11, 2011 as the Fukushima disaster first struck and much of the decision-making was left to individual judgement.
“We were told that evacuating poses a greater risk than radiation,” recalls Hasegawa Kenji, a farmer from Iitate, a village situated 45 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Featured in the Vice documentary ‘Alone In The Zone’, Hasegawa criticized Iitate’s mayor for making what he called a terrible mistake.
“Even when the scientists told the mayor that Iitate was dangerous, he ignored them all. He brought in experts from around the country who preached about how safe it was here. They said we had nothing to worry about. They kept telling us that. Eventually the villagers fell for it and began to relax. And the mayor rejected the idea of evacuating even more. That’s why nobody left, even though the radiation levels were so high.”
The nuclear industry did not tell the public the truth
The confusion surrounding evacuation was so profound that, as Zhang et al. noted in a September 11, 2014 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: “Unclear evacuation instructions caused numerous residents to flee to the northwestern zone where radiation levels were even higher.”
All par for the course, said Iida. “I must emphasize, the people in the nuclear industry did not tell the public the truth and keep us informed.”
Next in the ‘normalization’ process came the decision to raise allowable radiation exposure standards to 20 millisieverts of radiation a year, up from the prior level of 2 mSv a year. The globally-accepted limit for radiation absorption is 1 mSv a year.
This meant that children were potentially being exposed to the same levels of radiation that are permitted for adult nuclear power plant workers in Europe. Some officials even argued that zones where rates were as high as 100 mSv a year should be considered ‘safe’. Writing on his blog, anti-pollution New Orleans-based attorney, Stuart Smith, observed wryly:
“Instead of taking corrective measures to protect its people, Japan has simply increased internationally recognized exposure limits. It seems that the priority – as we’ve seen in so many other industrial disasters in so many other countries – is to protect industry and limit its liability rather than to ensure the long-term health and well being of the masses. Go figure.”
The great repatriation lie
All of this set the perfect stage for the Great Repatriation Lie. “It’s the big cover-up,” Iida told his Westminster audience. “People are being told it’s quite safe to have a little [radiation] exposure.”
Indeed, at a recent conferences of prefectural governors, young people in particular were urged to return to Fukushima. “If you come to live with us in Fukushima and work there, that will facilitate its post-disaster reconstruction and help you lead a meaningful life”, said Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori.
Young people in Japan, however, appear not to be cooperating. Where evacuees are returning, the majority are senior citizens, who have less to lose from a health perspective and are more traditionally tied to the land and their ancestral burial grounds.
“They want to die where they were born and not in an unfamiliar place”, said Yoshiko Aoki, an evacuee herself who now works with others, and who also spoke at the London conference.
All of this impacts revenue from the inhabitants’ tax which constitutes 24.3% of all local tax sources and is collected by both prefectures and municipalities. It is levied on both individuals and corporations but with the bulk of revenue coming from individuals.
Senior citizens who have retired do not contribute to income tax, so the onus is on governors and mayors to lure as many working people as possible back to their towns and regions in order to effectively finance local public services.
Radioactive areas are hardest hit economically
Late last year, the Asahi Shimbun looked at tax revenues in the 42 municipalities affected by the triple 2011 disasters of earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima meltdowns.
Unsurprisingly, the areas hardest hit by radiological contamination had suffered the biggest economic blows. Those areas free from radioactive fallout could simply rebuild after the tsunami and earthquake, and had consequently recovered economically, some even to better than pre-3/11 levels.
“On the other end of the scale, Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, marked the biggest decreasing rate – 72.9 percent – in tax revenues for fiscal 2014”, the Asahi Shimbun reported. “All residents of the town near the crippled nuclear plant remain in evacuation. Although tax payments from companies increased from decontamination work and other public works projects, income taxes paid by residents and fixed asset taxes have declined.”
To return or not to return is the question of the hour – or it will be come March 2017, when the Abe government has announced it will revoke many evacuation orders. At that point, government compensation to evacuees would be lifted, putting them under financial pressure to return. Cue more confusion.
People are confronted, said Iida, with “two extreme views, either that it’s very dangerous or quite safe. So it’s very difficult to decide which is the truth and it has been left up to individuals.”
One of those towns that could be declared ‘safe’ is Tomioka, Japan’s Pripyat, formerly home to close to 16,000 people but now uninhabited.
“It’s like a human experiment, that’s how we feel,” said Aoki in London, herself a former Tomioka resident. “The Governor of Fukushima spoke about a safe Fukushima. We want it to become safe, but our thoughts and reality are not one and the same.”
Observes Kyoto University professor of nuclear physics, Koide Hiroaki, in the Vice film, who has been outspoken for decades against the continued use of nuclear energy:
“Once you enter a radiation controlled area, you aren’t supposed to drink water, let alone eat anything. The idea that somebody”, he pauses, ” … is living in a place like that is unimaginable.”
A large number of pipes and freezing equipment take up much of the space of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s refrigerator plant at the embattled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Feb. 19.
Packed with bulky silver pipes and freezing equipment, Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plant to freeze underground soil at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is ready to start chilling.
On Feb. 19, TEPCO officials showed the interior of the newly built facility, the heart of the project to reduce accumulating radioactive water at the nuclear complex.
The plan envisages a frozen soil wall built around the reactor buildings by inserting 1,568 pipes to a depth of 30 meters.
Cooling agents, which register 30 degrees below zero, will be pumped into the pipes to freeze the surrounding soil.
In theory, the flow of groundwater into the reactor buildings, which would mix with contaminated water and empty out in the sea, will be blocked.
With approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority earlier this month, the utility plans to start freezing the area facing the sea as early as March, a process expected to take about two and a half months.
In total, it will take seven to eight months to complete all the freezing of the underground soil, including the mountain side of the wall, according to TEPCO’s blueprint presented to the NRA this month.
That means that the project to build a frozen barrier will significantly lag behind the initial targeted completion date of the end of March.
US to Throw $40 Million to Iranian (X-Energy) for More Research on Dangerous, Failed Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactors, as Germany Tries to Dump its Failed Pebble Bed Spent Nuclear Fuel On America; German Experience-Contaminated Sites Prove Pebble Bed Unsafe and Unreliable
The US DOE is throwing $40 million of taxpayer money to X-Energy, a “start-up” company owned by an Iranian, about whom little can be found, for more research on the American invented and twice or thrice rejected, and dangerously failed in Germany, Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactor, even as Germany desperately tries to dump its failed Pebble Bed spent nuclear fuel on America. German experience with Pebble Bed reactors, including highly contaminated sites from Pebble Bed nuclear accidents, proves that the Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactor is unsafe and unreliable.
We would say that all of the parties involved in this should be hung upside down by their toenails, but there is great need for nuclear clean-up workers so they must be sent to clean-up Fukushima, WIPP, Savannah River Nuclear site, etc.
Germany is trying to send nuclear waste from its failed Pebble Bed reactors from a secure concrete facility in Germany…
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Nuclear Royal Commission: What’s Scarce in Kevin’s Report, Independent Australia
17 February 2016,The Scarce Report recommends South Australia being storing the world’s nuclear waste, opening the door for nuclear power generation in Australia in the future,writes Noel Wauchope.
Kevin Scarce’s Report on the “tentative findings” of the South Australian Nuclear Fuel
Chain (I mean Cycle) Royal Commission runs to 42 pages. Still, he manages to leave a few questions unanswered and, indeed, a few questions not even asked, as well as leaving a few grey areas to be brushed over in a suitably vague manner.
The major recommendation of the Report is for South Australia to make billions by importing, managing, storing and disposing of nuclear waste.
Who pays up first?
An interesting question – and grey area – is exactly who would be responsible for paying for the building of the nuclear waste facilities; for the construction of the…
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¶ 6 Reasons Al Gore Believes ‘We Will Prevail’ in Climate Fight • Al Gore admitted to the TED2016 audience in Vancouver on Wednesday, “every night on the news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.” But he maintained, “I am extremely optimistic. We are going to win this. We will prevail.” [EcoWatch]
Science and Technology:
¶ Smart microgrids provide higher reliability and more efficient operation of distributed generation assets than conventional systems. Siemens is participating in a community energy resiliency grant program in New York State and optimizing electrical generation at a Native American reservation in California. [Justmeans]
¶ Researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have found an energy storage solution that could use of waste from processing apples…
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