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TEPCO-USNRC Knew Fukushima Was A Triple Meltdown (Units 1,2,3) Almost Immediately; Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool Believed Failed

Mining Awareness +

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Photo of the 4 Fukushima Daiichi Reactors on Idaho National (Nuclear) Lab, INL, web site.

US NOAA model of dispersion, showing that it blew offshore and was mostly impacting North America: http://sos.noaa.gov/Datasets/dataset.php?id=332 Fukushima has continued to discharge radioactive materials into the air, and water, as even admitted by TEPCO last year. They probably wait until the wind is blowing offshore to vent.

According to the Japan Times, as of March 14, 2011, TEPCO “estimated that 55 percent of the fuel rod assemblies of the reactor No. 1 and 25 percent of those at reactor No. 3 were “damaged,” based on the levels of radiation detected, …” See article here: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/02/24/national/tepco-admits-initial-assessments-fukushima-meltdowns-wrong/ Unit 2 meltdown was confirmed by 2014, by Muon scans: http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2015/3/23/1372742/-Second-Total-Meltdown-Confirmed-by-Muon-Scans-at-Fukushima However, it was apparently known almost immediately, according to US NRC documents.

The new news, as of Feb. 24, appears to be that TEPCO admitted to…

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February 26, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

February 26 Energy News

geoharvey

Opinion:

The Myth About Renewable Energy Subsidies • Ever hear the story that renewable energy can’t compete without a subsidy? You hear it all the time from the fossil fuel industry. And the renewables’ response? Take away fossil fuel subsidies; they’d be glad to compete on level terms. [CleanTechnica]

Cumulative historic federal subsidies. Cumulative historic federal subsidies.

Science and Technology:

¶ Greenpeace Japan announced it is conducting an underwater investigation into radiation contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean. The survey will be conducted from a Japanese research vessel using a one-of-a-kind Remotely Operated Vehicle. [Dominican Today]

World:

¶ Mainstream Renewable Power has grid-connected and started commissioning turbines at its 80-MW Noupoort wind farm in the Northern Cape of South Africa. This ZAR1.9 billion ($121.6 million) project is expected to start supplying electricity to the national grid by July 2016. [reNews]

First turbine at Noupoort wind farm (Mainstream) First turbine…

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February 26, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Japan restarts fourth atomic reactor since 2012 moratorium

Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama No. 4 reactor in Fukui Prefecture on Friday became the nation’s fourth to be restarted since 2012 and the first to burn MOX, a mixed-oxide fuel that contains plutonium.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Kepco President Makoto Yagi said safety would remain the top priority and that the utility would continue to promote safety standards beyond what was legally required.

The startup came nearly a week after a radioactive water leak was discovered at the reactor’s auxiliary building on Feb. 20. Kepco halted restart preparations while it repaired the leak, saying it did not pose a danger to the environment.

The utility said earlier this week the leak was caused by a loose pipe valve and could be repaired without affecting the restart schedule, which called for rebooting the unit by the end of this month.

Under Kepco’s schedule for the restart process, the No. 4 reactor is expected to start generating electricity by Monday afternoon and reach full power a few days later. Once the Nuclear Regulation Authority gives final approval, and assuming there are no last-minute technical problems, the plan is to have it back online and selling electricity from late March, just before the end of fiscal 2015.

The restart of Takahama No. 4 comes about a month after the nuclear power plant’s No. 3 reactor was restarted. Along with two reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant, which went back online last August, they comprise the four reactors that have been restarted since beefed-up nuclear safety standards took effect in 2012.

In addition to No. 3 and No. 4, which are at least 30 years old, Kepco also wants to restart Takahama Nos. 1 and 2, both of which are over 40. It hopes to run them for up to two decades. Despite concerns about the increased probability of accidents at the aged plants, their restart moved a step closer to reality on Wednesday, when the NRA said additional safety systems Kepco installed to extend the reactors’ life spans met its standards.

The next step will be soliciting public comment, and then further permission from the NRA is required for what would be the first-ever extensions in Japan of reactors over 40 years old.

Before that happens, Kepco will seek final permission from the mayor of Takahama and the governor of Fukui Prefecture for the restart, which could be a lengthy process. The utility may also find itself forced to deal with public and political concerns in surrounding Kansai prefectures like Shiga and Kyoto, where safety concerns about the aged reactors are strong.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/02/26/national/japan-restarts-fourth-atomic-reactor-since-2012-moratorium/#.VtC5r-bzN_l

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

2015 census 1st to confirm national population decline / Fukushima Pref. sees 5.7% fall since 2010

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According to preliminary figures of a simplified 2015 census released Friday, Japan’s population dropped to 127.11 million — the first confirmed census decline since the government started conducting such surveys in 1920.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said the latest census shows that Japan’s population as of Oct. 1, 2015, was 127,110,047. This represents a decline of 947,305, or 0.7 percent, since the last census conducted in 2010. In the 2015 census, men accounted for 61,829,237 of the population, and women 65,280,810.

The population of Fukushima Prefecture, where many residents are still being forced to live away from home due to damage caused to their hometowns by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, decreased by 115,458, a 5.7 percent decline from the last census. The two other prefectures hit hardest by the disaster — Iwate and Miyagi — also saw population declines.

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The ministry had estimated that the nation’s population had been declining for four straight years since 2011. The latest results are the first confirmation via a census that the national population has gone down since the government began conducting them.

A ministry official said Japan’s population decline seems to be largely due to the natural factor of deaths outnumbering births. The government conducts a census every five years, and this is the first since the 2011 disaster.

Out of 47 prefectures nationwide, populations declined in 39, including Hokkaido and Aomori. Of the three prefectures hit hardest by the disaster, Miyagi’s population dropped by 13,950, or 0.6 percent; and Iwate’s by 50,333, or 3.8 percent. The decline in Miyagi Prefecture was small, probably due to the inflow of people working on reconstruction projects. The population increased in eight prefectures, including Okinawa, Tokyo and Aichi.

The census found the number of households in the country was a record high 53,403,226, but the average number of people per household was a record low of 2.38.

A large-scale census is conducted every 10 years, and a simplified census is carried out every five years after a large census. The 2015 census was a simplified one.

Disparity seen widening

The vote-value gap between the most and least populated single-seat constituencies of the House of Representatives is estimated to widen to 2.334-to-1, according to trial calculations based on preliminary figures from the latest census released Friday.

This represents an expansion of the disparity from 1.998-to-1 calculated based on the 2010 census.

Selected for comparison were Tokyo Constituency No. 1, which has the largest population per its lower house member, and Miyagi Constituency No. 5, which has the lowest such ratio.

The disparity when compared to the least-populated constituency is estimated to expand to 2-to-1 or more in 37 electoral districts.

The law on the establishment of the Council on the House of Representatives Electoral Districts calls for limiting the gap to less than 2-to-1.

Since 2011, the Supreme Court has ruled that three lower house elections, conducted when a national disparity of more than 2-to-1 existed, were held in a “state of unconstitutionality.”

A research council on the lower house electoral system also demanded that the gap be brought to within 2-to-1. The council is an advisory panel to the lower house speaker.

Up 9, down 15

The allocated number of seats in the lower house will increase by a total of nine across five prefectures, but one seat will be eliminated in each of 15 prefectures, according to an estimate made by The Yomiuri Shimbun based on the latest census results and using the Adams’ method, which is recommended by an advisory panel to the House of Representatives speaker.

Under the current allocation of lower house seats, vote-value disparities between prefectures are 1.885-to-1 or less. But if the increase of nine seats with a reduction of 15 seats is realized, the disparities will drop to 1.668-to-1 and remain lower than the current figure for a while, even if populations in prefectures change in the future.

Though the Democratic Party of Japan, Komeito, the Japan Innovation Party and others intend to accept a report made by the advisory panel recommending the Adams’ method, the Liberal Democratic Party is wary of introducing it. The LDP says vote-value disparities should initially be dealt with by trimming six seats and not adding any.

However, according to an estimate based on the latest census results made with the LDP reform plan to eliminate six seats, one seat each will be eliminated in six prefectures — Aomori, Iwate, Mie, Nara, Kumamoto and Kagoshima. But the largest vote-value disparity between prefectures will remain unchanged at 1.885-to-1. This might require complicated changes to the demarcation of electoral districts, observers said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already expressed his desire to enact a bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law and other legislation by the end of the current Diet session.

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Five years on, Fukushima still faces contamination crisis: environmentalists

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Crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan.

Fish market vendor Satoshi Nakano knows which fish caught in the radiation tainted sea off the Fukushima coast should be kept away from dinner tables.

Yet five years after the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl there is still no consensus on the true extent of the damage – exacerbating consumer fears about what is safe to eat.

Environmentalists are at odds with authorities, warning the huge amounts of radiation that seeped into coastal waters after a powerful tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, could cause problems for decades.

The Japanese government is confident it has stemmed the flow of radioactive water into the ocean, but campaigners insist contaminated ground water has continued to seep into the Pacific Ocean, and the situation needs further investigation.

“It was the single largest release of radioactivity to the marine environment in history,” Greenpeace nuclear expert Shaun Burnie said on the deck of the campaign group’s flagship Rainbow Warrior, which has sailed in to support a three-week marine survey of the area the environmental watchdog is conducting.

Fukushima is facing an “enormous nuclear water crisis,” Burnie warned.

He added: “The whole idea that this accident happened five years ago and that Fukushima and Japan have moved on is completely wrong.”

Existing contamination means fishermen are banned from operating within a 20-km radius from the plant.

Although there are no figures for attitudes on seafood alone, the latest official survey by the government’s Consumer Affairs Agency showed in September that more than 17 per cent of Japanese are reluctant to eat food from Fukushima.

Nakano knows it’s best for business to carefully consider the type of seafood he sells, in the hope it will quell consumer fears.

“High levels of radioactivity are usually detected in fish that move little and stick to the seabed. I am not an expert, but I think those kinds of fish suck up the dirt of the ocean floor,” he said from his hometown of Onahama by the sea.

Greenpeace is surveying waters near the Fukushima plant, dredging up sediment from the ocean floor to check both for radiation “hotspots” as well as places that are not contaminated.

On Monday, the Rainbow Warrior sailed within a 1.6km of the Fukushima coast as part of the project – the third such test it’s conducted but the closest to the plant since the nuclear accident.

Researchers on Tuesday sent down a remote-controlled vehicle attached with a camera and scoop, in order to take samples from the seabed, which will then be analysed in independent laboratories in Japan and France.

“It’s very important [to see] where is more contaminated and where is less or even almost not contaminated,” Greenpeace’s Jan Vande Putte said, stressing the importance of such findings for the fishing industry.

Local fishermen have put coastal catches on the market after thorough testing, which includes placing certain specimens seen as high risk through radiation screening – a programme Greenpeace lauds as one of the most advanced in the world.

The tests make sure no fish containing more than half of the government safety standard for radiation goes onto the market.

The 2011 disaster was caused by a magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast which then sparked a massive tsunami that swamped cooling systems and triggered reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, run by operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO).

Today, about 1,000 huge tanks for storing contaminated water occupy large parts of the site, but as 400 tonnes of groundwater a day flows into the damaged reactor buildings, many more will be needed.

TEPCO have said they are taking measures to stop water flowing into the site, including building an underground wall, freezing the land itself and siphoning underground water.

The government too insist the situation is under control.

“The impact of the contaminated water is completely contained inside the port of the Fukushima plant,” Tsuyoshi Takagi, the Cabinet minister in charge of disaster reconstruction, told reporters on Tuesday.

But Greenpeace’s Burnie says stopping the groundwater flow is crucial to protecting the region.

“What impact is this having on the local ecology and the marine life, which is going on over years, decades?”, Burnie asked.

He added: “We can come back in 50 years and still be talking about radiological problems” at the nuclear plant as well as along the coast, he said.

http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/1917069/five-years-fukushima-still-faces-contamination-crisis

 

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Storage site of contaminated soil generated by decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture, home of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi complex

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima plant begins testing waste incinerators

 

”The operator says it expects to burn up to 14 tons of waste per day. But the resulting ash will have a higher concentration of radioactive materials than the waste has before it is burned.”

 

Fukushima plant begins testing waste incinerators
The operator of Fukushima Daiichi has begun testing an incinerator facility at the damaged nuclear power plant. The facility will be used for burning used protective gear and other waste produced during the decommissioning of the plant’s reactors.

Tokyo Electric Power Company initially planned to start testing the two incinerators at the facility on February 10th. But a water leak forced a delay.

Workers on Thursday began testing one of the incinerators, which had been repaired.

At the end of last year, there were about 66,000 cubic meters of waste being stored at the plant after nearly five years of decommissioning work following the March 2011 accident. That is enough to fill more than 100 swimming pools 25 meters in length.
The incinerators are expected to reduce the volume of waste by about 90 percent. The waste includes used disposable protective gear, clothing, sheets, cardboard and timber.

The operator says it expects to burn up to 14 tons of waste per day. But the resulting ash will have a higher concentration of radioactive materials than the waste has before it is burned.

TEPCO says filters installed in the smokestack will prevent the release of radioactive substances. The ash will be stored in drums inside a secure building.

Tokyo Electric Power said it will dispose of some four tons of waste in Thursday’s test. It said it will start testing the other incinerator on Sunday.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160225_25/

TEPCO begins burning radiation-tainted work clothes at Fukushima plant
OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–Tokyo Electric Power Co. has started to incinerate the thousands of boxes of lightly contaminated waste, including clothing used by workers, at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to reduce the amount of tainted waste on the site.
TEPCO, the plant operator, fired up a special on-site incinerator on Feb. 25 to burn protective suits, gloves, socks and other work clothes worn by plant workers that became contaminated with low-level radiation.
The operation will reduce the amount of tainted work clothing accumulating at the plant during decommissioning operations since the nuclear disaster unfurled in March 2011. The garments cannot be processed outside the plant due to the radiation.
The clothing being incinerated are items with the lowest levels of contamination that have been stored in tens of thousands of 1 cubic-meter special boxes. The number of containers reached 66,000 at the end of last year.
The incinerator is equipped with two types of filters that can reduce the radioactive levels of the exhaust air to less than one-millionth, while reducing the capacity of the waste to about 2 percent.
The incinerator can burn a maximum of 14 tons of items per day when it is operated to capacity for 24 hours. The ash residue will be stored in metallic barrels on the plant compound.
The incineration project was authorized by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in July 2014. TEPCO began operational tests of the incinerator using untainted waste last fall.
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201602260071

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | 1 Comment

3 ex-TEPCO execs to be indicted Mon. over Fukushima nuclear disaster

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Tsunehisa Katsumata, Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto (from left to right)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. will be indicted Monday for allegedly failing to take measures to prevent the tsunami-triggered crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, a lawyer in charge of the case said Friday.

The three, who will face charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury, are Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, chairman of TEPCO at the time, and two former vice presidents — Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69.

Prosecutors decided not to indict the three in September 2013, but the decision was overturned in July 2015 by an independent committee of citizens that mandated the three be charged on the grounds they were able to foresee the risks of a major tsunami prior to the disaster.

Source close to the matter said the three will be indicted without being taken into custody.

But the trial to look into the criminal responsibility of the then key TEPCO figures is unlikely to start by the end of the year, as preparations to sort out evidence and points of issues apparently require a considerable amount of time, they said.

At the six-reactor plant located on the Pacific coast, tsunamis triggered by the massive earthquake on March 11, 2011, flooded power supply facilities and crippled reactor cooling systems. The Nos. 1 to 3 reactors suffered fuel meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing the No. 1, 3 and 4 units.

The Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution has said the former executives received a report by June 2009 that the plant could be hit by tsunami as high as 15.7 meters and that they “failed to take pre-emptive measures knowing the risk of a major tsunami.”

It also blamed the three for the injuries of 13 people, including Self-Defense Forces members, when hydrogen explosions occurred at the plant and the death of 44 hospital patients who evacuated amid harsh conditions.

A group of Fukushima citizens and other people filed a criminal complaint in 2012 against dozens of government and TEPCO officials over their responsibility in connection with what became one of the world’s worst nuclear crises.

But as prosecutors decided not to file charges on them, including then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the group narrowed down its target and asked the committee to examine whether the prosecutors’ decision was appropriate.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160226/p2a/00m/0na/005000c

See also:

http://www.voanews.com/content/utility-former-bosses-to-be-indicted-for-negligence-in-fukushima-meltdowns/3209110.html

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ20160226008

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160226_23/

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-nuclear-prosecution-idUSKCN0Q50FJ20150731

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Plaintiffs
http://www.save-children-from-radiation.org/pages/legal-actions/

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima towns grudgingly realize survival again depends on TEPCO

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Workers dismantle a tank that once contained water contaminated with radiation in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.

Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa was taken aback when the president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. paid a visit in early January.
Izawa has been working out of a temporary government office in the town of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, since the disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant forced all residents to evacuate Futaba in 2011.
“Have you perhaps forgotten that TEPCO is the perpetrator that has driven Futaba into the situation it finds itself?” Izawa grumbled at TEPCO President Naomi Hirose. “I am beyond furious.”
But within minutes, Izawa was peppering Hirose with requests to rebuild life in his community.
Residents and government leaders around the still stricken nuclear plant continue to vilify the plant’s operator, but they are increasingly aware that economic survival depends largely on the very entity that turned their communities upside down.
Before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami caused the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the host and surrounding communities depended largely on nuclear power plants for government subsidies and employment.
They are resigned to having again depend on TEPCO for the billions of yen that will be sunk into the prefecture for work to decommission the reactors at the utility’s No. 1 plant as well as its No. 2 plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
Every day, about 7,000 workers pass through the gates of the Fukushima No. 1 plant for the decommissioning process that is expected to take decades to complete.
Some say the nuclear plant has been a source of income than crosses generations.
A 61-year-old man who was part of the team that constructed the No. 6 reactor at the plant now dismantles tanks that once contained radiation-contaminated water there.
“The nuclear plant remains unchanged as a stable workplace from before the accident,” he said.
His father was also involved in construction of the nuclear plant, which started operating in 1971.
After the 2011 disaster, relatives beseeched the man to cut all ties with the plant. But he has no intention of ending his work there.
The effects of the accident indeed sparked anger and distrust of TEPCO and nuclear power in general.
The Fukushima prefectural government decided to end its dependence on nuclear plants and supply all electricity through renewable energy sources. It has asked for the decommissioning of all reactors in the prefecture.
However, the prefectural government faces the difficult task of revitalizing the local economy because about 70,000 residents remain in evacuation close to five years after the accident.
Decommissioning work is now one of the only realistic large-scale options to support the local economy.
The central and prefectural governments are placing high hopes on research and development related to decommissioning the reactors.
In September 2015, after the evacuation order was lifted for the town of Naraha, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency built a facility in the municipality to conduct experiments on remote-control use of robots in the decommissioning work.
An international joint research center is planned for Tomioka, which lies immediately north of Naraha.
“Community development will not proceed unless there is a core structure,” a government source said. “It would be perfectly all right if money was injected through the decommissioning business.”
TEPCO has been constructing bases for decommissioning work in municipalities where evacuation orders are still in place.
In Okuma, a community that co-hosts the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, TEPCO has built a facility to prepare 2,000 meals a day for workers at the plant. There are also plans to construct dormitories that can house 750 employees.
By the end of March, TEPCO’s Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters, now based at the J-Village training center about 20 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 plant, will move to Tomioka.
“It is the responsibility of the central and other governments as well as TEPCO to create a situation where those who want to return can do so,” said Yoshiyuki Ishizaki, chief of the headquarters.
Kazuyuki Shima, 37, who has lived in temporary housing in Iwaki since evacuating from Okuma, believes that creating jobs will lead to a revitalized local community.
He now works at the TEPCO facility that prepares meals for workers.
“If people gather for decommissioning, the restart of supermarkets and hospitals will also be accelerated,” Shima said. “That will make it easier for local residents to return. If that happens, I believe this community will not be forgotten.”
At the same time, the decommissioning plans have led to unusual demographics.
Often, the number of workers involved in decommissioning exceeds the number of residents who have returned to their homes.
That is the case in Hirono, a town within a 30-kilometer radius of the Fukushima No. 1 plant. The town also has nearly twice as many men as women.
To prevent housing facilities from sprouting up all over the town, the local government plans to adopt an ordinance requiring prior notification of construction plans of such buildings.
About 1,300 workers involved in decommissioning and decontamination work around the plant now reside in Naraha, about triple the number of residents who have returned home.
The Naraha town government is encouraging the construction of housing for the workers at a golf course away from the residential area.
“Residents might be concerned about the large number of strangers in their community and will be hesitant about returning home,” a high-ranking town official said.
In Mayor Izawa’s deserted town of Futaba, there are no signs of when residents can return home.
After lambasting the TEPCO president, Izawa asked for help in persuading companies involved in decommissioning R&D to build offices in Futaba.
“I do feel the contradiction, and I am in quite a dilemma,” Izawa said. “But without that, can a local government that never had any other major industry ever think of surviving?”
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/recovery/AJ201602260069

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO gives unconvincing excuse for delay in meltdown declaration

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, said Feb. 24 that it could have declared the reactor meltdowns at the plant much earlier than it did.
The utility said it discovered a guideline in its operational manual that would have allowed it to announce core meltdowns only three days after the plant was struck by the tsunami in 2011 instead of the two months it actually took.
In a Feb. 24 news conference, a TEPCO official said the manual had been discovered for the first time earlier in February.
But the company’s explanations about the delay in announcing the meltdowns, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, and the recent “discovery” of the document are by no means convincing.
TEPCO initially maintained that the reactors suffered “core damage,” a condition in which nuclear fuel inside a reactor core is damaged, rather than a “meltdown.” It did not admit that meltdowns had occurred in the three reactors until late May 2011, more than two months later.
The utility claimed it had taken so long to acknowledge the meltdowns because there was “no basis” for making the judgment.
But this claim has proved false. At that time, TEPCO was suspected of concealing facts to make the accident look less serious than it actually was. The latest revelations revive such suspicions.
In a statement on Feb. 24, Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida called on TEPCO to conduct a thorough internal investigation to uncover the “truth behind its concealment of meltdowns,” including determining who gave the instructions.
Niigata Prefecture is home to TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which the company aims to restart. Izumida has every right to make the demand.
Even more baffling is the “discovery” of the manual nearly five years after the nuclear crisis broke out.
Back then, core meltdowns were clearly defined as nuclear emergencies under the nuclear disaster special measures law. Given that TEPCO has been very sensitive to the question of whether trouble at a nuclear power plant, no matter how minor, should be reported to the government, it is hard to believe that the company failed to remember the standard concerning meltdowns.
It is clearly impossible to directly confirm whether a core meltdown is taking place during a severe nuclear accident.
That’s apparently the reason why TEPCO established a clear criterion for a nuclear meltdown that required the company to declare a meltdown when damage to a reactor core exceeds 5 percent.
When a nuclear accident occurs, only the operator of the nuclear plant has access to detailed data about what is happening. Both the government and news media depend on information provided by the plant operator for related policy decisions and news coverage.
A utility’s failure to swiftly offer accurate information about the situation could cause the government to make misguided policy decisions and the media to distribute incorrect reports about the accident.
TEPCO’s report on its investigation into the nuclear disaster, released in 2012, defended the company’s use of the term “core damage.” The report argued that the company had tried to provide accurate information about the conditions of the reactors based on available data by avoiding the term “core meltdown” because there was no clear and widely shared definition of the term.
It cannot be said that TEPCO provided the entire picture of what happened based on exhaustive and effective efforts to identify all the factors involved.
The company’s guideline concerning core meltdowns was “discovered” during an in-house investigation into how the utility responded to the Fukushima nuclear crisis. That investigation was conducted at the request of a technical committee of the Niigata prefectural government.
The prefecture called for a fresh inquiry in connection with TEPCO’s plan to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.
TEPCO has said it will look into how it failed to notice the existence of the guideline through a probe involving outsiders.
The utility should determine who should be held accountable for that failure.
The company also needs to offer convincing answers to such questions as how it will prevent a recurrence and whether problems with its corporate culture played a role. Otherwise, its efforts to regain public trust are destined to fail.
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ201602260057

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Extending life of nuclear reactors should not be left solely up to utilities

Japan’s nuclear regulator has endorsed the safety of two reactors that have been in service for more than four decades.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) announced on Feb. 24 that the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture meet the new safety standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The NRA’s verdict has opened the door to an extension of the operating lives of the aging reactors to up to 60 years, one of Kansai Electric’s key goals for its nuclear power generation.
A revision to a law following the catastrophic accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has set the legal life of nuclear reactors at 40 years. But one extension by up to 20 years is allowed with NRA approval.
To extend the operational lives of the two reactors, the operator must receive several approvals from the NRA. If the NRA decides that the reactors have fulfilled all the related criteria, this will become the first case of an extension of the legal life of reactors under the new system.
The 40-year limit was introduced by the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan, which was in power when the nuclear disaster occurred, to demonstrate its commitment to weaning Japan from its dependence on atomic energy. It was aimed at ensuring a steady phasing out of nuclear power generation through the decommissioning of aging reactors.
The provision for an extension of the life span was added in response to concerns about possible power shortages due to insufficient capacity.
But no specific rules have been set with regard to what kind of circumstances should justify permitting extended operations.
What is vital for electric utilities is the economic viability of their nuclear power plants. Five small reactors that are not sufficiently cost-effective under the 40-year limit on operations have been set for retirement.
Of the remaining 43 reactors, 18 units have been in service for more than 30 years. Utilities will apply for permission to run aging reactors beyond the 40-year legal life span if it makes economic sense. Some applications for a longer license have already been filed with the NRA.
If an extension of the legal life of reactors is approved one after another, the 40-year limit could become meaningless.
With such decisions, we are concerned that the government’s nuclear energy policy and the energy future of this nation are being defined under the initiative of electric utilities focused on generating profits.
Where is the political will that transcends the profit equations of power suppliers?
If aging reactors are allowed to exceed the 40-year life span in rapid succession, the disturbing safety risk posed by a thick cluster of reactors in Fukui Prefecture will not be reduced.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly pledged to reduce Japan’s dependence on nuclear energy as much as possible. The government should make it clear that an extension can be made as an exception.
Before the harrowing nuclear accident, there was no legal life for nuclear reactors. Initially, electric power companies said the operational life of their reactors was around 30 to 40 years.
Later, the former nuclear regulator, which has been replaced by the NRA, introduced a system that allowed utilities to operate reactors for up to 60 years if they submit maintenance plans every 10 years after the 30th year of service. The regulator cited progress in analysis technology as the reason for extending operational licenses for reactors.
The previous government’s decision to replace this system with the new 40-year rule reflected its will to phase out nuclear power generation in this nation.
Immediately after assuming the post, NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka was skeptical about extending the life of reactors, saying it was “considerably difficult.”
In assessing the safety measures Kansai Electric has taken for the reactors at the Takahama plant, however, the NRA has given the green light to the utility’s plan to cover electric cables with a fire-resistant sheet where it is difficult to replace them with flame-retardant cables.
The NRA’s move has greatly encouraged utilities seeking to gain permission to run reactors past the 40-year limit because this has been a major technical obstacle to meeting the safety standards.
In his policy speech at the beginning of the current Diet session in January, Abe made no reference to nuclear power generation. Does this indicate that the government will not do anything to stop the growing trend toward longer-term reactor operations?
If so, the government will act against both the past words of the prime minister concerning the issue and the wishes of many Japanese to see their nation free from nuclear energy.
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ201602250031

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Upcoming Tokyo photo exhibition to convey scars of 2011 quake disaster

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This 2013 photo shows radioactive materials on a slipper from the Fukushima Prefecture town of Namie, which was evacuated after the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster. The white spots in the photo indicate the presence of radioactive cesium and other materials, visualized on large-format film after the slipper was exposed to it for two months. (Photo by Takashi Morizumi)

A photo exhibition on the theme of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake will be held in Tokyo beginning on March 1, and will aim to convey the scars left by the disaster ahead of its fifth anniversary on March 11.

About 100 photos taken by 39 photographers will be on display during the exhibit, which will be held at the Bengoshi Kaikan building in Chiyoda Ward.

Specifically, photos featuring Fukushima Prefecture will provide visitors with opportunities to think about the matter of how to recover from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster.

The exhibition, which is being put together by organizations including the Tokyo Bar Association, will run through March 10, except for March 6, when it will be closed. Admission is free.

A gathering for disaster evacuees will be held at the same building on March 5. For more information, call the Tokyo Bar Association at 03-3581-2251.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160225/p2a/00m/0na/021000c

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior Back to Fukushima

Five years ago the Rainbow Warrior was in Fukushima and now we’re back to test the mess from the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Nearly a 100,000 people STILL can’t return back to their homes…It’s time to end this nuclear nightmare. Let’s switch on renewable

Five years on, Greenpeace assessing marine contamination off Fukushima
ONAHAMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Fish market vendor Satoshi Nakano thinks he knows which fish caught in the radiation-tainted sea off the Fukushima coast should be kept away from dinner tables.
Yet five years after the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl there is still no consensus on the true extent of the damage — exacerbating consumer fears about what is safe to eat.
Environmentalists are at odds with authorities, warning that the huge amounts of radiation that seeped into coastal waters after the disaster in 2011 could cause problems for decades.
The government is confident it has stemmed the flow of radioactive water, but campaigners insist contaminated ground water has continued to seep into the Pacific Ocean, and the situation needs further investigation.
“It was the single largest release of radioactivity to the marine environment in history,” Greenpeace nuclear expert Shaun Burnie said, speaking aboard the campaign group’s Rainbow Warrior ship, which has sailed in to support a three-week marine survey of the area the environmental watchdog is conducting.
Fukushima is facing an “enormous nuclear water crisis,” Burnie said.
“The whole idea that this accident happened five years ago and that Fukushima and Japan have moved on is completely wrong.”
Fishermen are banned from operating only within 20 kilometers of the plant.
Although there are no figures for attitudes on seafood alone, the latest official survey by the government’s Consumer Affairs Agency showed in September that more than 17 percent of Japanese are reluctant to eat food from Fukushima.
Nakano knows it is best for business to consider carefully the type of seafood he sells, in the hope it will quell consumer fears.
“High levels of radioactivity are usually detected in fish that move little and stick to the seabed. I am not an expert, but I think those kinds of fish suck up the dirt of the ocean floor,” he said in his coastal hometown of Onahama.
Greenpeace is surveying waters near the Fukushima plant, dredging up sediment from the ocean floor to check both for radiation hot spots as well as places that are not contaminated.
On Monday, the Rainbow Warrior sailed within 1.6 kilometers of the Fukushima coast as part of the project — the third such test it has conducted, but the closest to the plant since the nuclear accident.
Researchers Tuesday sent down a remote-controlled vehicle attached with a camera and scoop in order to take samples from the seabed, which will then be analyzed in independent laboratories in Japan and France.
“It’s very important (to see) where is more contaminated and where is less or even almost not contaminated,” Greenpeace’s Jan Vande Putte said, stressing the importance of such findings for the fishing industry.
Local fishermen have put coastal catches on the market after thorough testing, which includes placing certain specimens seen as high risk through radiation screening — a program Greenpeace lauds as one of the most advanced in the world.
The tests make sure no fish containing more than half of the government safety standard for radiation goes onto the market.
The 2011 disaster was caused by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast, which sparked a massive tsunami that swamped cooling systems and triggered reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, run by operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Today, about 1,000 huge tanks for storing contaminated water occupy large parts of the site, but as 400 tons of groundwater a day flows into the damaged reactor buildings, many more will be needed.
Tepco’s measures to reduce the water influx include building an underground wall, freezing the land itself and siphoning underground water.
The government, too, insists the situation is under control.
“The impact of the contaminated water is completely contained inside the port of the Fukushima plant,” Tsuyoshi Takagi, the Cabinet minister in charge of disaster reconstruction, told reporters on Tuesday.
But Greenpeace’s Burnie says stopping the groundwater flow is crucial to protecting the region.
“What impact is this having on the local ecology and the marine life, which is going on over years, decades?” Burnie asked.
“We can come back in 50 years and still be talking about radiological problems” at the nuclear plant as well as along the coast, he said.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/02/26/national/five-years-greenpeace-assessing-marine-contamination-off-fukushima/#.VtBtWObzN_l

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO discovers after 5 years that it could have quickly declared Fukushima plant meltdown

Nearly five years later, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Feb. 24 that it has discovered a guideline in its operational manual that would have allowed it to announce meltdowns in the nuclear disaster in only days instead of the two months it actually took.
TEPCO apologized for failing to be aware for such a long time of the guideline on how to declare meltdowns at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
While the utility announced that reactor cores had been damaged at the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors by March 14 and at the No. 2 reactor by March 15, it did not admit that meltdowns had occurred in the three reactors until May 2011.
Based on its “nuclear disaster countermeasures manual,” which was revised 11 months before the disaster, the utility could have instead declared meltdowns at the three reactors by those dates, it said.
“We sincerely apologize for failing to confirm the presence of the guideline in the manual for five years,” a TEPCO spokesperson said Feb. 24.
The company will conduct an internal investigation to determine why it failed to promptly determine and announce meltdowns based on the manual.
In the few days after the Fukushima crisis unfurled, core meltdowns at the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors dispersed a large amount of radioactive materials into the environment.
Video footage of TEPCO’s in-house teleconferences around the time show that company executives recognized the possibility of meltdowns at the reactors from the early stages of the crisis.
But the company maintained that the reactors suffered “core damage,” a condition in which nuclear fuel inside a reactor core is damaged, rather than a “meltdown” at news conferences and in its announcements. In May it officially acknowledged that meltdowns had occurred.
The utility has explained that the delay was caused by the lack of a basis to assess meltdowns in the wake of an accident.
Early on May 14, 2011, TEPCO confirmed that the No. 3 unit had suffered damage to 30 percent of its reactor core and 55 percent of the No. 1 reactor’s core was damaged, based on rising radiation levels inside reactor containment vessels. It also determined that 35 percent of the No. 2 reactor’s core was damaged on the evening of May 15.
The newly discovered guideline in the disaster countermeasures manual, which was revised in April 2010, stipulates that the company should declare a meltdown when damage to a reactor core exceeds 5 percent, TEPCO officials said.
Company officials failed to announce the meltdowns because they were unaware of the guideline in the manual, according to TEPCO.
The existence of such a standard was confirmed earlier this month during an in-house investigation into how the utility responded to the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
The investigation is being conducted at the request of Niigata Prefecture where TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which the company aims to restart, is located.
In a statement on Feb. 24, Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida called on TEPCO to conduct a thorough internal investigation to uncover the “truth behind its concealment of meltdowns,” including determining who gave instructions.
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201602250043

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Japan: Amid Population Collapse, Fukushima Families Falling Apart

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Given the option of leaving their hometowns or risking radiation poisoning five years ago, families living near the Fukushima radiation disaster are falling apart, facing divorce, suicide, and cancer. The breakdown of Fukushima families comes as Japan faces a dwindling population it continues to struggle to replenish.

Mothers desperate to save their children from cancer or other side effects of radiation poisoning have been forced to choose between their husbands and their children, an in-depth report in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun notes. Many men stayed in the radiation-affected areas, unable to find jobs elsewhere. The mothers who moved as far from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as they could afford say they made the decision to save their children from radiation, but have lost their husbands and families.

One woman tells the Asahi Shimbun that her husband mailed her divorce papers in 2014 after she fled the area in 2011. “I cannot send money to my family whom I cannot see,” he said in a letter. She has not told her two children their parents are divorced. She made the choice to risk her marriage, she said, because she “could not trust the data released by the central government.” She laments, “My family has collapsed.”

Residents of Fukushima were forced to evacuate the area after a March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The plant’s operators expect it to take up to 40 years for the site to be fully safe and usable again.

The new Asahi profile of Fukushima mothers reflects similar fears the Japan Times found in speaking to others who had fled and refuse to trust the government’s assurances that their hometowns are safe. In September 2015, the newspaper spoke to mothers who said on the condition of anonymity that their families – especially their husbands’ families – were pressuring them to risk exposing their children to radiation to keep families together. “Consciously or subconsciously, women are aware of the role we are expected to play in a family. After the earthquake and nuclear disaster, however, everything changed. … I can’t live up to those expectations any more, and society judges me,” a woman identified with the pseudonym Yukiko said. “Some were accused of abandoning or running away from their families, particularly those they married into. Relatives labeled the wives disloyal and overly sensitive,” The Japan Times noted of others who fled. Those judged harshest are the ones fleeing areas for which the government issued only a voluntary evacuation order.

Those who stayed face the opposite fear. “Sometimes when I’m alone in the house, I start to cry, imagining the future of my children,” a woman identified as Hiroko said. “I fear my children may become sick, and the ones who I love most will hold a grudge against me for failing to protect them. That is my biggest fear.”

Those who fled to neighboring towns fear radiation so much they refuse to allow their children to eat food they know has been produced in any part of Fukushima prefecture. The Asahi report highlights one mother who sends her 11-year-old to school with a specially made bento box, refusing to allow the school to feed her Fukushima-produced rice and vegetables. The girl has been bullied as a result, her mother mocked for being “neurotic.” A school official noted that other mothers make their children “wear surgical masks when they participate in footraces during outdoor school athletic meets.”

Asahi estimates that 70,000 people remain prohibited from returning home due to the Fukushima disaster, and another 18,000 have voluntarily chosen not to return.

Those who stay must live with the fear of radiation and the absence of those who do not return. Officials have marked a surge in suicides directly tied to the Fukushima disaster. Asahi reported in December 2015 that police confirmed 19 suicides in 2015 related to the disaster, up from 15 in 2014. A total of 154 people are believed to have resorted to suicide as a result of the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

Masaharu Maeda, a professor of disaster psychiatry at Fukushima Medical University, says torn families can account for many of these suicides and a significant rise in depression and other psychological problems in these communities. “The elderly may return to their homes, but the generation who are still raising children do not return, meaning families are torn apart,” he noted.

In one of the most prominent suicide cases related to Fukushima, a 102-year-old man hung himself after being told he would have to evacuate his home in 2011. The family sued the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), which runs the plant, for 60 million yen ($485,000).

Mothers who fear radiation poisoning have been vindicated by a number of tragedies following the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. Doctors in the region have found that children living in the area are 20 to 50 times more likely to develop thyroid cancer. The government confirmed the first cancer case related to the plant’s collapse in October 2015, a former nuclear plant worker who was diagnosed with leukemia.

The combination of family collapse and surging cancer cases is threatening an already dwindling Japanese population. Japanese officials have estimated that the population will diminish from 100 million to 80 million by 2065, leaving the nation without a reliable workforce. While some legislators have suggested making immigration to Japan easier, most appear reluctant to take that avenue. Raising the native birth rate would require significant cultural changes, many speculate, because of a Japanese work culture that pushes women to forego family life if they intend to keep their careers. Twenty percent of young mothers report experiencing harassment in the workplace, and many who wish to be mothers are encouraged to avoid pregnancy or abort.

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/02/24/five-years-after-fukushima-families-remain-torn-apart-by-evacuation/

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Great Fukushima Cover-Up

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 criticizedIitate’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 perspectiveand 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 Shimbunreported. “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.”

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/02/24/the-great-fukushima-cover-up/

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | 1 Comment