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NRA suggests Tepco to give up removing molten fuel from Fukushima plant


On 2/19/2016, Fuketa, a committee member of NRA (Nuclear Regulation Authority) visited Fukushima plant and commented it needs to be considered if it is the best option to remove the molten fuel or not. He also suggested to remove a part of molten fuel to solidify the rest.

He added it depends on the research result.

The government of Japan and Tepco had been planning to remove the molten fuel at least from Reactor 1, 2 and 3 however it has not even been known where the molten fuel is accumulated.


February 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | 1 Comment

For some Fukushima mothers, protecting children from radiation comes at heavy price


Residents who were evacuated from Okuma and three other towns in Fukushima Prefecture attend an event at a public housing facility in Iwaki to help them assimilate into the community on Feb. 19.


Three-and-a-half years after fleeing to central Japan, a mother received a package from her husband who had opted to remain at their home in Fukushima Prefecture despite the nuclear disaster.
From Tamura, about 35 kilometers west of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the father sent snacks for the couple’s two children. The cardboard box also contained divorce papers.
“I cannot send money to my family whom I cannot see,” the husband told his wife.
She still refused to return home.
Thanks to decontamination work, radiation levels have fallen around the nuclear plant since the triple meltdown caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. And families are returning to their hometowns, trying to resume normal lives.
But many mothers, distrustful of the government’s safety assurances, still harbor fears that radiation will affect the health of their children. As a result of these concerns, families are being torn apart, friendships have ended, and a social divide remains wide in Fukushima communities.
Around 70,000 people are still not allowed to return to their homes located in evacuation zones designated by the central government. And an estimated 18,000 people from Fukushima Prefecture whose homes were outside those zones remain living in evacuation.
The government is pushing for Fukushima residents to return home and trying to counter false rumors about the nuclear disaster.
More families in Fukushima Prefecture are willing to buy food produced in the prefecture–but not all.
A 40-year-old mother who once lived on the coast of Fukushima Prefecture and moved farther inland to Koriyama said she still fears for the health of her 11-year-old daughter.
Her classmates started serving “kyushoku” school lunches containing Fukushima rice and vegetables that passed the screening for radioactive materials. But the fifth-grader has instead eaten from a bento lunch box prepared by her mother.
The daughter says that eating her own lunch led to teasing from her classmates. She heard one of them say behind her back: “You aren’t eating kyushoku. Are you neurotic?”
She does not talk to that classmate anymore, although they used to be friends.
“I now feel a bit more at ease even when I am different from other students,” the daughter said.
Her mother expressed concerns about her daughter’s social life, but protecting her child’s health takes precedence.
“My daughter may fall ill sometime,” the mother said. “I feel almost overwhelmed by such a fear.”
An official of the Fukushima prefectural board of education said a certain number of students act differently from other students because of health concerns over radiation.
“Although the number is limited, some students bring bento to their schools,” the official said. “Some students wear surgical masks when they participate in footraces during outdoor school athletic meets.
“The feelings toward radiation vary from person to person, so we cannot force them (to behave in the same way as other students).”
Sung Woncheol, a professor of sociology at Chukyo University, and others have conducted surveys on mothers whose children were 1 to 2 years old when the nuclear disaster started. The mothers live in Fukushima city and eight other municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture.
Of the 1,200 mothers who responded to the survey in 2015, 50 percent said they had concerns about child-rearing in Fukushima Prefecture.
Nearly 30 percent said they avoid or try to avoid using food products from Fukushima Prefecture, compared with more than 80 percent six months after the disaster.
But for some mothers, the passage of nearly five years since the disaster unfolded has not erased their fears of radiation.
The 36-year-old mother who received the divorce papers from her husband in autumn 2014 continues to live with her children in the central Japan city to which she had no previous connection.
A month after the nuclear disaster, she fled with her then 1-year-old son and her daughter, 10, from their home, even though it was not located in an evacuation zone.
She said she left Fukushima Prefecture because she “could not trust the data released by the central government.”
The mother still has not told her children that their parents are divorced.
“I believe I could protect the health of my children,” the woman said. “But my family has collapsed.”

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wasteful spending in Tohoku

Along the beaches of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, which used to boast popular resorts, a colossal seawall is nearing completion, measuring 14.7 meters high, 9 meters thick at the base and 5 km long. This is but one of many wasteful construction projects being carried out under the pretext of rebuilding the areas in northern Japan devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Almost five years after the disasters, there are many projects under way that waste huge sums of taxpayer money and benefit only a handful of construction firms and individuals who have sold their land to make way for such ventures. As if by coincidence, law enforcement authorities have taken action over bid rigging among paving companies involved in expressway construction.
Why is such a huge seawall being built in an area of Kesennuma that is mostly rice paddies? A local source confides it is because municipal assembly members, local powerful figures and those close to them sold the land to the central government at a high price. An estimated ¥2.5 billion is said to have been paid by the government to the property owners for the otherwise worthless land on which the seawall is being built.
The total cost for building the 5-km seawall was initially set at ¥23 billion but has now ballooned to ¥36 billion. This is but a small portion of an overall coastal seawall construction project stretching over 400 km in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the total cost of which is budgeted at ¥1 trillion.
As of last fall, only 17 percent of the project had been completed. Even though more than 80 percent of it can still be canceled, neither the central government nor the prefectural and municipal governments have any intention of suspending the project.
Another wasteful reconstruction scheme relates to relocating tsunami victims to higher ground. One such project being pushed by the city of Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, envisages developing a hillside area to accommodate 450 houses. But the cost for the land redevelopment alone is ¥40 billion, or some ¥100 million per house — a figure that befits only the most luxurious residential area.
Even if this project is completed, there are many people who initially welcomed the plan but have found it impossible to build their own house in the area. This is because, according to a member of an association of tsunami victims, the cost to build a house has gone up 50 percent from the initial estimate of ¥15 million.
The Miyagi Prefectural Government, meanwhile, is building 15,000 houses under a seven-year, ¥180 billion plan. As of the end of last year, about half had been completed. But 16 of the 21 municipalities where those houses were built are plagued with vacancies since many of the more than 20,0000 quake victims currently living in rent-free temporary housing facilities are refusing to move into these permanent houses. As construction work continues on the remaining 7,000-plus houses, the vacancy rate is bound to increase, rendering it foolish to put any more money into the project.
A total of ¥3.5 trillion in public money is to be poured into areas devastated by the quake and tsunami to build housing facilities or to move people to higher ground. But the results of this spending spree are characterized by huge seawalls resembling prison walls, redeveloped highland areas where only a small number of houses have been built and housing with high vacancy rates.
Another sector in which public money is being wasted is road construction. Many plans for new roads, which had been submitted before the 2011 disasters, are now resurfacing as if to ride on the coattails of the massive reconstruction projects.
One example is a 100-km road to connect the inland city of Morioka and the coastal city of Miyako, both in Iwate Prefecture. Local residents had clamored in vain for the new road for more than two decades. After the disasters, however, money was suddenly allocated for the road, ostensibly for the purpose of securing emergency transport.
Similarly, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is pushing a new coastal “reconstruction highway” linking Miyagi and Aomori prefectures.
Such reconstruction projects have brought big benefits to many players in the construction industry — and not just major general contractors but also smaller regional firms. Hashimototen Co., for one, has grown rapidly in the post-earthquake years to become the second-largest contractor in Miyagi Prefecture in terms of completed construction projects, thanks to its close connection with a powerful Liberal Democratic Party Lower House member — Akihiro Nishumura, a former vice minister of reconstruction — and other LDP lawmakers.
A suspicion has reportedly arisen that Hashimototen conspired with third-ranking Maruhon Gumi Corp. to split a pair of tunnel contracts so that each could build one for about ¥1 billion.
Major general contractors are also suspected of collusion. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, Hazama Corp. and Maeda Corp., both of which have footholds in the Tohoku region, won many contracts for debris removal. According to a local construction industry insider, this prompted leading general contractors to ask LDP lawmakers to coordinate construction orders for reconstruction projects.
As if to prove that notion, contracts for huge reconstruction projects have all been won by majors like Kajima Corp., Shimizu Corp. and Taisei Corp. Local firms that have been chosen as subcontractors by the majors have prospered so much that their executives are buying expensive cars like Mercedes to reduce their tax payments, says an insider close to a major general contractor.
The very root of this and other unethical conduct in the tsunami-hit areas appears to lie in the staggering ¥26 trillion to be spent by the central government in the first five years following the disasters. If the local governments are not required to bear any cost, it is logical that they won’t worry if the money is going to waste.
Last year, the Reconstruction Agency sought to oblige the prefectures and municipalities to bear part of the cost but faced bitter opposition and was criticized for “bullying the disaster victims.” In the end, it was decided that they will shoulder no more than 3 percent of the total spending. For example, the construction cost of the Sanriku Expressway linking Sendai with Miyako will be wholly shouldered by the central government. A member of the Miyagi Prefectural Assembly, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the ¥26 trillion has “spoiled” the three prefectures hit hardest by the disasters — Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate.
The situation in Fukushima Prefecture is complicated by the nuclear crisis, which forced residents near the affected power plant to flee. Even though the evacuation order was lifted last September for the town of Naraha, more than 2,000 former residents had not returned as of Jan. 14, choosing instead to remain in the city of Iwaki.
Currently they are receiving monthly compensation of ¥100,000. A local newspaper reporter said that many of those continuing to remain in temporary housing units are likely to become public welfare recipients after they have used up the compensation money.
It is true that there are local residents who are still suffering from the effects of the March 2011 disasters. But now that five years will soon have passed, attention should not be turned away from the reality of the devastated areas. Continuing to lavish funds on the victimized areas will only result in money collected from taxpayers from all over the country disappearing into the dark — a world that has nothing to do with reconstruction in the true sense of the word.

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | | Leave a comment

Labor shortage hampering Japan’s post tsunami recovery

Tokyo, Feb 24 (EFE).- A growing labor shortage in northeastern Japan, which was struck by the 2011 tsunami, is hampering the economic recovery of the region five years after the tragedy, said an academic from a leading university of the region.
More than 45 percent of the companies in the area that were surveyed, reported a shortage of personnel, said Satoru Masuda, Professor of Regional Planning at the Tohoku University and President of the Research Center for Earthquake Restoration, at a press conference in Tokyo.
This is a 2.2 percent jump over 2014 and 66 percent higher than that reflected in the 2012 survey, a year after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which struck the northeastern coast of the archipelago and left over 18,000 people dead and missing.
The sectors most affected by this include fishing, which was decimated by the catastrophe, and the retail sector.
According to Masuda, the retail sector has been greatly affected by the progressive decline in population in the three worst-affected prefectures (Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima), from where almost 90,000 people (more than 6 percent of the population) have fled since 2011.
Almost all the people who fled the region immediately after the tsunami and accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant decided not to return and this has hugely affected the retail sector, Masuda explained.
The problem, he added, is that many traders staying in temporary facilities the government allocated them to keep this sector alive, are not being able to get funding to reopen their businesses.
If they leave, many residents’ well-being will be affected and they will end up following their footsteps, he concluded.
The data provided by Masuda also shows the construction sector, which led the region’s recovery, peaked in 2013, and even though it is still better off than other sectors, has already begun to decline.

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | 1 Comment

Less protective gear at Fukushima Daiichi

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant plans to make it easier for workers engaged in decommissioning efforts nearly 5 years after the accident. They will gradually be able to work without wearing protective gear or gloves in areas with low radiation.

NHK has learned that Tokyo Electric Power Company is to introduce the new measure early next month for about 90 percent of the facility.

Radiation readings near the ground in these areas were 5 microsieverts per hour or less as of December. The figures went down after the operator removed contaminated soil and paved the surface.

TEPCO will increase in stages the number of workers wearing only regular work clothing.

The utility now requires each worker to wear protective gear and 2 pairs of gloves. This is preventing them from moving around smoothly and from carrying out precision work.

The policy will continue for people working near the reactor buildings and around tanks that contain highly radioactive water.

TEPCO plans to notify workers and tighten controls so that they do not approach these areas without wearing protective gear.

February 25, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment