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‘99% effective’ Fukushima ice wall fails to seal off crippled nuclear plant

« TEPCO has been repeatedly facing criticism for handling of the Fukushima crisis which occurred after a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to a meltdown of reactors at the facility in March 2011.

The company has admitted that it did not act properly during the disaster, confessing in February that it announced the nuclear meltdowns far too late. It also stated in a 2012 report that it downplayed safety risks caused by the incident, out of fear that additional measures would lead to a shutdown of the plant and further fuel public anxiety and anti-nuclear campaigns. »



An “almost” watertight ice wall built around the Fukushima nuclear plant in a bid to prevent groundwater from entering the site has, quite predictably, proven to be not good enough, with Japan’s nuclear watchdog now urging TEPCO to find a better solution.

An expert panel with the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority examined the latest TEPCO report this week to assess how far and how successfully the project had been implemented, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reports. The members of the panel concluded that the ice wall was not working and a new plan was necessary to prevent groundwater getting mixed up with radioactive substances. 

The plan to block groundwater with a frozen wall of earth is failing,” said Yoshinori Kitsutaka, a panel member and a professor of engineering at Tokyo Metropolitan University.

They need to come up with another solution, even if they keep going forward with the plan.”

In March, construction company Kajima Corp. began building the frozen wall of earth around the four damaged nuclear reactors and has completed most of the 1.5-km (1 mile) barrier. TEPCO hoped that the frozen earth barrier would thwart most of the groundwater from reaching the plant and divert it into the ocean instead. However, little or no success was recorded in the wall’s ability to block the groundwater during the five-month-period. The amount of groundwater reaching the plant has not changed after the wall was built, experts said.

The problem is said to lie in the wall’s gaps, or parts where the barrier is not frozen. According to TEPCO, 99 percent of their thermometer readings showed that the wall’s temperatures are at or below the freezing point, meaning the wall is mostly solid. However, a remaining one percent of the readings showed temperatures above the freezing point, which means the wall is not solid at those parts.

Those constitute a mere one percent of the 820-meter-long barrier, but these sections, where the earth is not frozen, are enough to ruin the entire project as they were found in areas with high levels of groundwater concentration.

TEPCO however believes that the unfrozen sections can be fixed if coated with concrete.

In April a chief architect of the project said that gaps in the wall and rainfall will still allow for water to creep into the facility and reach the damaged nuclear reactors, which will in turn create as much as 50 tons of contaminated water each day.

It’s not zero,” Yuichi Okamura, a general manager at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said referring to the amount of groundwater flowing into the plant. “It’s a vicious cycle, like a cat-and-mouse game…we have come up against many unexpected problems.”

Fukushima ice wall won’t stop radioactive groundwater from seeping out – chief architect

RT (@RT_com) April 29, 2016

TEPCO has been repeatedly facing criticism for handling of the Fukushima crisis which occurred after a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to a meltdown of reactors at the facility in March 2011.

The company has admitted that it did not act properly during the disaster, confessing in February that it announced the nuclear meltdowns far too late. It also stated in a 2012 report that it downplayed safety risks caused by the incident, out of fear that additional measures would lead to a shutdown of the plant and further fuel public anxiety and anti-nuclear campaigns.

Despite the ongoing problems encountered following the meltdowns, TEPCO has set 2020 as the goal for ending the plant’s water problem – an aim which critics say is far too optimistic. The problem of water contamination is just one of many surrounding the dismantling and containing of the Fukushima plant debris which is estimated to take at least 40 years.


August 20, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Worker’s leukemia deemed result of his work at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant granted compensation


Workers in protective gear at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in February

Man’s leukemia deemed result of his work at Fukushima plant

The labor ministry said a man who developed leukemia by helping in clean-up efforts at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is entitled to work-related compensation.

It marks the second such case since the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare recognized that the cancer was due to exposure to radiation at the facility and said the government will cover his medical expenses.

The ministry said Aug. 19 that the man, who is in his 50s, was involved in removing debris and repairing machinery that handled radioactive water at the plant between April 2011, a month after the triple meltdown triggered by the earthquake and tsunami disaster, and January 2015.

His accumulative radiation exposure was 54.4 millisieverts.

The man worked for a contractor with Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the nuclear complex.

He was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2015, and filed application for worker’s accident compensation at the Fukushima Labor Standards Inspection Office, a regional branch of the ministry.

Under the ministry’s guidelines, eligibility for work-related compensation in such cases is granted if leukemia is diagnosed after the person worked for more than a year in an assignment which resulted in an annual dose of more than 5 millisieverts.

The ministry’s decision to grant compensation in this case came after a panel of experts offered their opinions on the matter.

The ministry is scrutinizing the cases of five other former workers at the plant who have applied for compensation.

Compensation in such cases was first granted last October after a man in his early 40s was diagnosed with leukemia in January 2014. He was exposed to 16 millisieverts of radiation while he worked at the plant between 2012 and 2013.

Applications for the work-related compensation as a result of the Fukushima disaster are expected to increase in coming years, experts say.

According to TEPCO, those who had annual does of more than 5 millisieverts of radiation during fiscal 2015 numbered 4,952.

Fukushima worker with cancer granted compensation

Japan’s labor ministry has certified that a former worker at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is eligible for compensation for developing leukemia.
The man in his 50s had worked at the plant for nearly 4 years since April 2011, soon after the compound suffered a meltdown.
The ministry says the man was in charge of mechanical repairs at the plant. It says he developed leukemia in January last year, and applied for workers’ compensation.
Ministry officials say the man’s radiation exposure has reached 54.4 millisieverts, and that they found no other plausible causes except his work.
He is the 2nd person to be awarded compensation in connection with the accident, following a case last October involving another man with leukemia.
In all, 14 nuclear plant workers in Japan have been granted compensation for work-related cancer.
About 47,000 people have worked at the Fukushima plant in the 5 years since the accident.

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Panel: TEPCO’s ‘ice wall’ failing at Fukushima nuclear plant


Devices to freeze the earth are set up on the southern side of the No. 4 reactor building at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture in 2014.

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s “frozen wall of earth” has failed to prevent groundwater from entering the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and the utility needs a new plan to address the problem, experts said.

An expert panel with the Nuclear Regulation Authority received a report from TEPCO on the current state of the project on Aug. 18. The experts said the ice wall project, almost in its fifth month, has shown little or no success.

The plan to block groundwater with a frozen wall of earth is failing,” said panel member Yoshinori Kitsutaka, a professor of engineering at Tokyo Metropolitan University. “They need to come up with another solution, even if they keep going forward with the plan.”

One big problem hampering work at the nuclear plant, which was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011, has been the tons of groundwater entering the buildings housing the No. 1 through No. 4 reactors every day.

The water becomes contaminated with radioactive materials within the reactor buildings.

TEPCO’s plan was to create a frozen wall of earth around the reactor buildings to divert the groundwater away from the plant and into the ocean.

The company started freezing the ground on March 31, and the project’s budget was 34.5 billion yen ($344 million) in taxpayer money as of the end of May.

But the amount of groundwater pumped from the ocean side of the frozen wall has shown little change from when there was no icy earth wall.

TEPCO’s report said 99 percent of thermometer readings on the 820-meter-long stretch showed temperatures of freezing or lower, suggesting the underground wall was frozen solid at those points.

However, the remaining 1 percent of the readings above freezing were in areas with high levels of groundwater concentration.

A 99-percent success rate may sound impressive, but much like dams, airlocks and Tupperware, TEPCO’s ice wall is failing if it is not 100-percent watertight.

The utility said the unfrozen sections could be reinforced with an injection of concrete.

The panel asked the utility submit calculations estimating the amount of groundwater that can be blocked if water is pumped before it reaches the frozen wall.

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo 2020 Games prep beset with problems

Tokyo Olympics 2020.jpg

“Some officials even suggested they were hoping Fukushima prefecture could host the first rounds of softball and baseball, which have been added to the program for the 2020 Olympics.

The northeastern prefecture hosts the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station which suffered a triple meltdown in March 2011 after it was hit by an earthquake and resulting tsunami.

About 100,000 residents have still been unable to return home because of radioactive contamination near the complex.”

Tokyo’s preparations for the 2020 Games have been beset by problems from soaring costs to a stadium designed without the Olympic cauldron.

In less than four years, the final torch bearer will light the cauldron in the opening ceremony to start the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

But where was the cauldron in the newly selected design for the Olympic main stadium, Japanese officials asked in March.

It was just the latest in a series of controversies involving Tokyo’s second Olympics.

Tokyo organising committee president Yoshiro Mori blamed the new main stadium operator, the Japan Sports Council, and then-sports minister Hiroshi Hase for the missing cauldron.

“It would make no sense not to think about the cauldron if the stadium was getting built for the Olympic Games,” Mori said.

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, whose proposal was picked in December as the new design for the venue, said the placement of the cauldron was not even on the agenda during the bidding.

His design has spectators’ stands covered by wooden materials, therefore there are concerns that a cauldron in the stadium could infringe the country’s Fire Service Act.

But Kuma has tried to allay such concerns, saying there’s no need to worry as he is considering various methods to install it.

Kuma’s design was adopted after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided in July 2015 to abandon the initial design by late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid amid a public outcry over its surging cost.

The Japanese architect’s plan indicates a total construction cost of Y149 billion ($A1.94 billion), far below the estimated Y252 billion for the controversial scrapped design by Hadid, which almost doubled from an initially projected Y130 billion.

Kuma’s office says the construction will start in December and it will be completed in November 2019, two months earlier than the deadline imposed by the International Olympic Committee, seven months before the opening of the 32nd Olympics.

The changes, however, will make it impossible to use the new stadium for the rugby World Cup in the (northern) autumn of 2019 as scheduled.

Japan also withdrew its original Tokyo Olympics logo a year ago after its designer Kenjiro Sano was accused of copying it.

A Belgian designer sued the IOC, saying the logo was similar to one of his works produced for a theatre in Belgium.

The new official emblem was picked in April.

More than three years ago, then-candidate city Tokyo promised a compact Olympics with most venues close to the centre of the Japanese capital. That was a main selling point to win the bid to host the 2020 Games against Istanbul and Madrid.

Tokyo, however, backed down on such promises as some venues have moved out of the Japanese capital.

Some officials even suggested they were hoping Fukushima prefecture could host the first rounds of softball and baseball, which have been added to the program for the 2020 Olympics.

The northeastern prefecture hosts the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station which suffered a triple meltdown in March 2011 after it was hit by an earthquake and resulting tsunami.

About 100,000 residents have still been unable to return home because of radioactive contamination near the complex.

The organising committee has been criticised for soaring costs.

Former defence minister Yuriko Koike became governor of Tokyo in a landslide victory in late July, the first woman to head the Japanese capital. A ruling Liberal Democratic Party MP who speaks fluent Arabic and English, she has pledged to review the ballooning costs of the 2020 Games.

Koike is in Rio de Janeiro to attend the closing ceremony to accept the Olympic flag as a representative of the next host city.

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

‘Hibakusha’ talks scrapped after Nagasaki bomb threat


NAGASAKI–A bomb threat against schools in Nagasaki Prefecture prompted the cancellation of peace-promotion events featuring “hibakusha” atomic bomb survivors sharing their horrific experiences in World War II.

We decided to call off an event, giving top priority to the safety of participants,” said an official with the Kita-Kyushu municipal government in Fukuoka Prefecture, also on the southern main island of Kyushu.

An e-mail sent in late July to the Nagasaki prefectural government said elementary and junior high schools would be blown up on Aug. 10 or Aug. 11. No reason was given for the threat.

The Kita-Kyushu government had organized a one-day bus tour to Nagasaki for 270 elementary and junior high school students, as well as their parents, as part of a peace-promotion program.

The initial itinerary included a visit to Shiroyama Elementary School to listen to the accounts of hibakusha on Aug. 9, the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city.

The school is near ground zero, and many of its students and teachers were killed in the blast on Aug. 9, 1945.

But tour organizers dropped the visit to the school from the schedule after Shiroyama Elementary School had informed them of the bomb threat.

The scrapped visit to the school gave the tour participants more time to spend at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and the site of the hypocenter. In the morning, they visited a civic hall in Nagasaki to watch a live broadcast of a ceremony for atomic bomb victims held at Nagasaki Peace Park.

A group of 15 students ranging from elementary to high school age, also from Kita-Kyushu, canceled an event to hear the atomic bomb survivors’ accounts scheduled for Aug. 10 at Shiroyama Elementary School and elsewhere in light of the bomb threat.

The group visited Nagasaki from Aug. 8 to take part in a peace forum for young people.

The Nagasaki prefectural board of education had urged elementary and junior high schools to refrain from activities on Aug. 10-11. Those days passed without incident in the city.

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Promoted Fukushima Tourism Booming


Fukushima Attracts 50 Million Tourists Annually for the First Time Since the Nuclear Disaster

Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture has hit a tourism milestone, drawing in more than 50 million visitors in the past year, according to data released by the Fukushima Prefectural Government.

The prefecture drew in a total of 50.31 million tourists, making it the first time this annual threshold has been achieved since the nuclear disaster of 2011.

According to the The Japan Times, the area has seen a recovery of close to 90 percent since then, which officials in the region contribute to several factors.



Last year, Fukushima officials launched the “Fukushima Destination Campaign,” tapping into the country’s transportation resources to offering railway deals and promotions.

Officials pointed to the opening of the section between the Tomioka and Namie interchanges on the Jōban Expressway last March as a key player in the surge of visitors in eastern Fukushima last year, which was up 59.9 percent from 2014.

The opening of new leisure facilities and a re-emergence of the area’s famous hot springs is also helping draw in visitors.

Above all, the data found that travelers were most drawn to the prefecture’s natural sights, with destinations like the Bandai-kogen highlands drawing in a total of 2.18 million visitors last year.


August 20, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Footholds Should Be Built in Fukushima No-Go Zone: LDP Team


Tokyo, Aug. 17 (Jiji Press)–Reconstruction footholds should be set up in the no-go zone heavily contaminated by the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan, a Liberal Democratic Party team proposed Wednesday.

The footholds should be used for decontamination work and infrastructure development so that evacuation orders for residents of the zone will be lifted in around five years, said the ruling party’s Headquarters for Accelerating Reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

At a general meeting, the headquarters broadly agreed on a draft outline of the party’s planned sixth reconstruction proposal for areas damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent reactor meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The government plans to remove all evacuation advisories in municipalities affected by the nuclear accident by the end of March 2017, excluding in the no-go zone where radiation levels are still too high for local residents to return home anytime soon.

The LDP will submit the proposal to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this month, after finalizing it through discussions with its coalition partner, Komeito.

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Japan? The racism of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings

“Were he alive today, Dr. King would still be using the ‘unarmed truth’ to warn that we stand at the very precipice of the hell of thermonuclear self-immolation … We must transform the world power struggle from the nuclear arms race to a creative contest to harness man’s genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all.”


How the US saw the Japanese people in 1942

As we remember the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this month 71 years ago, we have largely forgotten the racist propaganda that made it possible, writes LINDA PENZ GUNTER. We have likewise sanitised history to exclude the voices of African Americans who loudly protested the use of nuclear weapons, connecting them to American colonialism abroad and racism at home.

This month 71 years ago, the US cropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6 and 9 respectively.

‘Racism’ is probably not the first word that springs to mind as we reflect on these terrible events, and their immediate and ongoign aftermath.

But according to a fascinating book by Vincent J. Intondi, published last year and entitled African Americans Against the Bomb, it was the recognition of those bombings as an act of racism that drew African Americans into the nuclear disarmament movement and future wars that kept them there.

As Intondi explains in his introduction, “Black activists’ fear that race played a role in the decision to use atomic bombs only increased when the United States threatened to use nuclear weapons in Korea in the 1950s and in Vietnam a decade later.”

This singling out of non-white enemies for the use or threat of atomic weapons drew African Americans not only into the nuclear abolition movement, Intondi contends, but into a form of social activism that connected many issues of civil and human rights on a global, rather than national scale.

The black anti-nuclear campaign: airbrushed out of history

“Since 1945, black activists had made the case that nuclear weapons, colonialism, and the black freedom struggle were connected”, writes Intondi.

African Americans recognized colonialism “From the United States’ obtaining uranium from the Belgian-controlled Congo to France’s testing a nuclear weapon in the Sahara”, Intondi writes. It was the use and continued testing of the atomic bomb, “that motivated many in the black community to continue to fight for peace and equality as part of a global struggle for human rights.”

Those who joined the struggle against nuclear weapons included Martin Luther King, Jr., of course, but also W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson and many others. Yet it is rarely their faces that are evoked when there is discussion of the Ban the Bomb marches or, later, the rise of SANE/Freeze.

Perhaps no one better embodied that clear understanding of the link between the struggle for peace and justice and the arms race than Bayard Rustin, posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 by President Obama.

Yet despite Rustin’s outspoken role for peace and disarmament, the word ‘nuclear’ never appears in his Wikipedia biography. Rustin’s leadership in the anti-nuclear movement, like that of many of his fellow African Americans, has vanished from the history books. But not from Intondi’s.

Dehumanising an entire people

The debate about whether the US was justified in dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki persists today. The most widely accepted – but ferociously challenged – argument in favor is that it was necessary to force the surrender of Japan and thus end World War II.

But the underpinnings of racism are glaringly obvious. Intondi quotes poet Langston Hughes asking the question voiced by many others; why did the United States not drop the atomic bomb on Germany or Italy?

The answer can be found in the appalling and vitriolic anti-Japanese sentiment Intondi cites, whipped up to dehumanize an entire population. This includes the illustrious Time magazine which declared that “The ordinary unreasoning Jap is ignorant. Perhaps he is human. Nothing … indicates it.”

Clearly, these were slurs with which the African American community were all too familiar. It enabled them to empathize with the innocent victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and, more broadly, with those around the world oppressed by colonialism.

Consequently, according to Intondi, the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan was viewed through a very different lens by the African American community than by white America. Du Bois recognized immediately what the legacy of Hiroshima and Nagaski would be. It would lead, he warned, to a corporate conspiracy of profiteering that would impact the working people of the US the most severely.

“Big business wants war to keep your mind off social reform”, Intondi quotes Du Bois as saying at a 1950 Harlem press conference. “It would rather spend your taxes for atom bombs than for schools because in this way it makes more money.”

All we are saying, is give peace a chance

Today, the US is still spending far more on atomic weapons than schools. The Obama administration announced a $1 trillion spending plan over the next 30 years to “upgrade and refurbish” nuclear weapons. (Recently, an Obama spokesman hinted that the president may seek to considerably reduce that bill before leaving office.)

But the voices of African Americans like Robeson, Du Bois, Dorothy Height, Dick Gregory and others are no longer leading the nuclear disarmament movement. Today’s nuclear abolition crowd is largely white, progressive and almost entirely grey-haired.

Why did they disappear? Many African Americans in the anti-nuclear movement of the 1950s and ’60s were firmly on the Left, some members of, or fellow travelers with, the Communist Party. The McCarthy witch hunts and general Red baiting, forced a retreat on all fronts, including among some African Americans, Intondi suggests.

Some hung on for a while. Twenty years after King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, at an August 1983 anniversary march, the official platform still proclaimed the importance of nuclear disarmament, as Intondi quotes in his book:

“Were he alive today, Dr. King would still be using the ‘unarmed truth’ to warn that we stand at the very precipice of the hell of thermonuclear self-immolation … We must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the nuclear arms race to a creative contest to harness man’s genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all … We call upon the American public to turn the arms race into a ‘peace race’ utilizing the existent and evolving movements in the United States as its foundations.”

Black lives matter!

But the peace was never run. Prosperity did not come for many, especially in the African American community. Anti-nuclear activism did finally persuade President Reagan to change course, but nuclear weapons were not abolished in the US or in any country that already possessed them. Others like Israel, India and Pakistan, developed them.

The notion that nuclear weapons were ‘necessary’, or a ‘deterrent’, despite the protests and all evidence to the contrary, held sway then and continues to do so today.

Many others have abandoned the cause as well. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are now 71 years in the past, and even though we face the ever-present threat of instant annihilation by the accidental or deliberate use of nuclear weapons, the sense and understanding of this persistent threat has subsided.

For the African American community, priorities changed. Although segregation came off the statute books, it persisted. Opportunities for African Americans grew, but not enough, and for too few. Huge swaths of the population continued to languish in ghettoized neglect. There were periodic explosions – the riots of Watts, Newark, Washington – but not enough action to bring the community fully out of poverty and discrimination.

A fundamental grasp of the depths of racism by the non-black community in the US was never achieved. This led to the misunderstanding of meaning and intent behind the Black Lives Matter movement, the absence of that tiny word ‘also’ leading to criticism, amendment and even hostility.

Recognising the contribution of African Americans

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a decision that could be made because the US government and its propaganda team seared into the collective American psyche the idea that the Japanese people were, as US General Joseph Stilwell said at the time and most vilely, “bowlegged cockroaches”. The US press, as we have seen from the Time quote, were right behind him.

Then the photos began to emerge – of burned children with their skin hanging off; of bodies charred or even vaporized; of the agonizing deaths from radiation sickness. And there was Sadaki Sasaki and the 1,000 origami peace cranes she folded before her death at 12 from leukemia ten years after the bomb was dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima.

Those images galvanized a movement. But they also evoked recognition and empathy among thousands of African Americans who saw the racism for what it was and provided the motivation for their substantial but largely unheralded contribution to the nuclear abolition movement.


Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear, a Takoma Park, MD environmental advocacy group.

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

World in Danger by Arnie Gundersen

How does the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown disaster show the enormous risk potential for the continued operation of the Diablo Canyon atomic reactor? Filmed by Ecological Options Network (EON) at Point Reyes Station in California, Fairewinds Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen presents A World in Danger. This presentation from the 2015 California speaking tour precedes a panel discussion “Tell All” between chief engineer Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds founder and president Maggie Gundersen, and EON co-directors Jim Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan. The follow-up conversation can be found here.

Thanks to Ecological Options Network (EON) for producing the video.

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Nuclear | , | Leave a comment

Former town mayor recalls town referendum that booted plans for nuclear plant


NIIGATA – Residents of the town of Maki, Niigata Prefecture, made the right decision 20 years ago, according to Takaaki Sasaguchi.

The town was Japan’s first ever to hold a referendum over a plan to build a nuclear power plant and firmly knocked it down.

I’m proud that we opened our future through the referendum,” the former town mayor, 68, said in an interview. “Our choice not to allow a nuclear plant to be built in our town was not wrong.”

Maki no longer exists as a discrete entity as it has since been absorbed into the city of Niigata.

But memories run strong of what people power achieved, and in light of the Fukushima disaster what it may have prevented.

In 1971, Tohoku Electric Power Co. unveiled plans to construct a nuclear plant in the town. The facility was to generate electricity from a central 825,000-kw reactor of boiling-water design.

But as land appropriation and other work got underway, opposition strengthened.

Sasaguchi and his colleagues set up a group aimed at holding a referendum so that residents could decide for themselves.

He was elected mayor in January 1996, and the Maki government then established a municipal ordinance for a referendum.

Referendum day was Aug. 4 that year, and 12,478 residents voted against the plan. Those in favor totaled 7,904.

Voter turnout was 88.29 percent in Japan’s first local referendum over a nuclear power station.

Following the result, Mayor Sasaguchi decided to reject the nuclear plant construction, and a plot of land that the town owned within the proposed site was sold off to residents who had opposed the plans.

Those in favor of the plant sued, but in December 2003 they lost the case and later that month Tohoku Electric threw in the towel.

Sasaguchi accuses Japan’s government of not encouraging respect for local voices back then.

A pro-nuclear push made it difficult for Maki residents to speak up.

The most important thing in the referendum was that residents showed their intentions and made a choice,” Sasaguchi recalls.

The referendum result drew heavy media coverage, and the town was praised for choosing the democratic process.

Sasaguchi says it also brought the town together.

I think Maki residents probably wanted to bring their town, which had been upset by the nuclear project, back to being a normal community,” he said.

The town was merged into the city of Niigata in 2005, and the referendum began to be forgotten.

However, the March 2011 nuclear crisis in neighboring Fukushima Prefecture reminded ex-Maki residents of the significance of their vote back in 2006.

They told Sasaguchi the same tragedy could have happened to them if they had allowed a nuclear plant to be built.

Meanwhile, Sasaguchi notes that Tokyo Electric Power Co. has filed for Nuclear Regulation Authority safety checks for two of the seven reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station in Niigata Prefecture.

Even if the NRA endorses the safety, the issue of the nuclear waste disposal site remains unresolved,” he said.

The central government still has not identified a long-term disposal site for high-level waste.

The Japanese government should put into force a policy that doesn’t depend on nuclear power plants as soon as possible,” he said.


August 20, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Interview with professor Robert Jacobs: Must say no to a war more


by Uzaemonnaotsuka Toukai, Editorial Writer

People in Hiroshima, which marked the 71st anniversary of the atomic bombing, have still evaluated the visit by U.S. President Barack Obama highly. Meanwhile, there is still a long way to go to realize the abolition of nuclear weapons in international society. The Chugoku Shimbun interviewed Robert Jacobs, 56, a professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University, about how we can fill the gap between real politics and the desire of people in the A-bombed cities. Mr. Jacobs has been living in Hiroshima for 11 years, and is familiar with American public opinion and pop culture concerning nuclear issues.

I have heard your own experiences as a child is the point of origin that has driven you to continue your research activity in the A-bombed Hiroshima.
When I was an elementary school student in Chicago, U.S., I went through a training similar to “Duck and Cover” every month. In the training, I practiced what to do when a nuclear weapon exploded. After my teacher told the students that a tremendous flash happened, we ducked on the floor all at once. I was scared, because I thought I was going to die soon. From 1950s to 1960s, conducting such a training was quite popular at schools in the U.S. As I couldn’t stop thinking about horrors of nuclear war, I read a lot of books on nuclear weapons. Then, I took part in the antinuclear movement in my teens, and I developed a strong belief that nuclear weapons must be eliminated. So, I think it was inevitable for me to come to Hiroshima.

What is your main research theme at the Hiroshima Peace Institute?
I have been studying how horrible results have been wrought by the development and testing of nuclear weapons, and how American and world culture and society have been affected by them. In addition, through a project titled “Global Hibakusha Project,” I have been investigating an initiative to connect the nuclear victims throughout the world. In the project, young people in Republic of the Marshall Islands, a nation which was involved in a U.S. hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll, and several other countries have been developed as memory keepers. They have also been interacting with the youth in Hiroshima via Skype, an internet video and also in person workshops.

As an American, what did you think about President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima?
It was a historic event. The U.S. media also reported it very positively. However, from my perspective, I am disappointed that he didn’t mention anything about a concrete path towards the abolition of nuclear weapons, including how American nuclear policy would be changed.

You mean a world without nuclear weapons cannot be realized soon.
Hiroshima has two significances to the U.S. While Hiroshima is known as a tragic city in the U.S. because of the atomic bombing, the U.S. used Hiroshima as an excuse to increase its nuclear arsenal during a cold war era. In those days, the U.S. government aroused its citizens’ sense of fear that the U.S. must have much more nuclear weapons than the former Soviet Union to not end up being like “Hiroshima.” Now, against a backdrop of a threat by the militant group known as the Islamic State, the nuclear weapons have gained prominent attention again. It could be a shocking fact to people in the A-bombed cities, but it’s still strongly believed in the U.S. that the nuclear weapons are necessary because of the tragedy, which occurred in Hiroshima.

Even if President Obama visited Hiroshima, the public opinion in the U.S. hasn’t been changed so much, has it?
In Japan, some people say that President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima has advanced a movement towards nuclear abolition. But I am afraid they may be too optimistic. Many Americans still believe they should maintain the option to keep nuclear weapons though they do also want to abolish them. It’s the same logic as the one for gun ownership: many U.S. households have a gun because they believe it might be necessary sometime in the future, although not everyone wants to use it.

If things are not changed, do you think a desire of people in Hiroshima to abolish nuclear weapons won’t take root in the nuclear nations?
You have to be more aware that a barrier to nuclear abolition, which the A-bombed cities should take focus on, is quite enormous. Even if a U.S. president advocates abolition of nuclear weapons, the real politics and military system won’t change so easily. The bottleneck is a giant military industry that has the power to influence the world of politics, and public opinion believing in nuclear deterrent force. I think just appealing for the inhumanity of nuclear weapons is not enough to fight against them.

Could you elaborate on it more?
I believe you should rather make an appeal based on the extensive moral framework of the whole society. As the living standard of the middle-class has declined in the U.S., more and more people have become pessimistic about their future. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is planning to spend a trillion dollars (about 100 trillion yen) for upgrading nuclear weapons over the next three decades. Is it acceptable to sacrifice living standard of people for such spending? Shouldn’t education and medical services be more prioritized than military affairs? Taking these perspectives into account, it’s important to appeal to international opinion opposing wars and military powers. If people in the A-bombed cities can collaborate with those working on these issues in the world, I believe you can generate a much bigger wave than now.


Robert Jacobs
Born in Chicago, the United States, Mr. Jacobs obtained a doctor’s degree at the University of Illinois, and came to Hiroshima in 2005 to serve as an instructor for the Hiroshima Peace Research Institute. He assumed his current post from this year. Studying history as his major, he has been researching the history and culture of nuclear technologies and nuclear victims. He has written books including “The Dragon’s Tail: Americans Face the Atomic Age.”

(Originally published on August 8, 2016)

August 20, 2016 Posted by | Nuclear | , , | Leave a comment

UN Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament snubbed by nuclear weapons nations

world-nuclear-weapons-freeUN panel seeks push toward nuclear disarmament, WP, By Jameytext-relevant
Keaten | AP August 19 

 GENEVA — A majority of countries on a U.N.-mandated panel on Friday called on the U.N. General Assembly to consider launching multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament, voting in a process that has been boycotted by the world’s nuclear-armed powers.
Thai ambassador Thani Thongthakdi, who chaired the Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament, hailed a “strong signal” but said many countries would have preferred consensus among voting members on an agreement that will have little impact unless nuclear powers are also on board.The panel voted 68 to 22, with 13 abstentions, on Friday on a broad-ranging text that among other things recommends that the General Assembly take up efforts toward launching multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament at its next meeting.

Nuclear-armed powers including Russia, China and the United States have rejected the process. Japan, which is sensitive about nuclear issues after experiencing two atomic bomb strikes in World War II, abstained from the vote……

Alyn Ware, who coordinates the advocacy group Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, said the working group was split in two camps: A “hard- line” faction favoring a treaty that calls for the abolition for nuclear weapons right now, and another preferring “incremental measures.”

Ware called the vote a “good thing,” but said the countries that support a treaty will now face a tough task of convincing nuclear-armed nations to join the process.

“If you just have a treaty adopted by non-nuclear states, the nuclear weapons states and allies could ignore it,” he said, calling for pressure on nuclear-armed powers to adopt “no first use” policies, move toward banning use, cut their arsenals and “give up the idea that you have security by threatening to blow up others.”

In the United States, the Obama administration has been considering instituting a “no first use” policy before Obama leaves office, but has faced criticism in Congress and beyond and isn’t expected to move quickly to institute it.

August 20, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Hinkley Point’s nuclear weapons connection

peaceful-nukeHinkley’s Hidden History , 18 Aug 2016 Morning Star 
With the government decision over the new reactor at Hinkley postponed, text-relevantnuclear historian DAVID LOWRY reveals how the British nuclear power and weapons programmes were born together – and have yet to be separated  
THE first nuclear power plant on the Hinkley Point site in Somerset was built in the 1960s.

At the time, the United States, was intimately involved in the planning. Why was this?

The first public hint is to be found in a statement by the Ministry of Defence on June 17 1958 on “the production of plutonium suitable for weapons in the new [nuclear] power stations programme as an insurance against future defence needs” in Britain’s first-generation magnox reactor.

By chance, on the same day, France’s president Charles de Gaulle authorised a nuclear test to be held early the next year.

The site chosen was the Reganne oasis 700km south of Colomb Bechar in the Sahara Desert of Algeria.

France also used a magnox-style reactor at Chinon in the Loire Valley to make the plutonium explosives.

A week later in the British Parliament, Labour’s Roy Mason asked why the government had “decided to modify atomic power stations, primarily planned for peaceful purposes, to produce high-grade plutonium for war weapons” and “to what extent this will interfere with the atomic power programme?”

He was informed by paymaster general Reginald Maudling: “At the request of the government, the Central Electricity Generating Board has agreed to a small modification in the design of Hinkley Point and of the next two stations in its programme so as to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted should the need arise…….

The headline story in the Bridgwater Mercury, serving the community around Hinkley was: “MILITARY PLUTONIUM To be manufactured at Hinkley.”

The article explained: “An ingenious method has been designed for changing the plant without reducing the output of electricity.”

The CND was reported to be critical, describing this as a “distressing step,” insisting: “The government is obsessed with a nuclear militarism which seems insane.”

Sadly, with the blinkered push to replace Trident today, not much seems to have changed in the 55 years since……

on July 3 1958, Britain and the US signed a detailed agreement on co-operation on nuclear weapons development, after several months of congressional hearings in Washington DC — but, significantly, with no oversight whatsoever in Parliament.

As this formed the basis, within a mere five years, for Britain obtaining the Polaris nuclear WMD system from the US, and some 20-odd years later for Britain to buy US Trident WMD, the failure of Parliament to at least appraise the security merits of this bilateral atomic arrangement was unconscionable……

Following further detailed negotiations, the Ango-American Mutual Defense Agreement on Atomic Energy matters (defence is spelled with an “s” even in the British version of the treaty, demonstrating the origin of the drafts), to give it its full treaty title, was amended on May 7 1959, to permit the exchange of nuclear explosive material for military purposes.
The Times science correspondent wrote on May 8 1959 under the headline: “Production of weapons at short notice” that “the most important technical fact behind the agreement is that of civil grade — such as will be produced in British civil nuclear power stations — can now be used in weapons.”……

And so it may be seen that Britain’s first civil nuclear programme was used as a source of nuclear explosive plutonium for the US military, with Hinkley Point A the prime provider.
Two decades later, Wales national daily, the Western Mail, reported on October 8 1984 that the largest magnox reactor in Britain, at Wylfa on Anglesey, had also been used to provide plutonium for the military.

Plutonium from both reactors went into the British military stockpile of nuclear explosives and could well still be part of the British Trident warhead stockpile today.

Subsequent research by the Scientists Against Nuclear Arms, published in the prestigious science weekly journal Nature, has demonstrated that around 6,700kg of plutonium was shipped to the US under the military exchange agreement, which stipulates explicitly that the material must be used for military purposes by the recipient country.

To put this quantity into context, a nuclear warhead contains around 5kg of plutonium so this is a very significant quantity.

What would Iran and North Korea make of this deliberate intermixing of civil and military nuclear programmes by one of the nuclear weapons superpowers which leads the criticisms of them for allegedly doing this very thing today?

Dr David Lowry is senior research fellow at the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

August 20, 2016 Posted by | history, Reference, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Britain dithers about Hinkley nuclear project, Beijing decries ‘China-phobia

text Hinkley cancelledflag-UKflag-ChinaBeijing decries ‘China-phobia’ after Britain cools on Hinkley Point nuclear deal
China’s official news agency says postponment of new plant is groundless and warns Britain would be foolish to turn down stronger trade ties after EU exit 
, Guardian, 19 Aug 16, Britain would be foolish to turn its back on the “golden era” of relations with China, Beijing’s official news agency has claimed, dismissing concerns over Chinese involvement in the Hinkley Point nuclear project as “China-phobia”.

Since becoming Prime Minister last month Theresa May has stepped back from David Cameron and George Osborne’s energetic and controversial courtship of China, infuriating Beijing by postponing a final decision on the approval of the proposed £18bn ($23.5bn) nuclear power station.

In a letter to Chinese president Xi Jinping this week, May said she looked forward to “strengthening cooperation with China on trade and business and on global issues” and confirmed she would attend the G20 summit being hosted by the Chinese city of Hangzhou on 4-5 September……

In an article for the Conservative Home website,  May’s influential joint chief-of-staff, Nick Timothy, claimed Beijing was using economic opportunities to buy Britain’s silence over human rights abuses and said it was “baffling” that China would be allowed to play a role in such sensitive sectors as energy and communications……..

the Communist party controlled news agency, Xinhua,  hinted that future commercial opportunities with China would depend on approval of the Hinkley Point project, a final decision on which is now scheduled for the autumn…….

Earlier this month Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK, said ties between the two nations had reached a “crucial historical juncture” in the wake of the Hinkley Point postponement.

August 20, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment