The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey. Benjamin K. Sovacool

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Reassessing the safety of nuclear power. Wheatley

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

September 20 Energy News



¶ “Oil Investment Crash Could Continue For Another Year” Investment in upstream operations in the oil and gas industry shrank by a quarter last year and is expected to continue to shrink this year by another 24%. Next year the trend could continue, for the longest investment decline period in the history of the industry. []

Offshore oil rig Offshore oil rig

¶ “The Energy Policies Of The 2016 US Presidential Candidates” There has been increasing attention on the energy policies of the candidates. Here is a summary produced by identifying and comparing the energy policies of the two candidates based on their published positions and their public statements. [CleanTechnica]


¶ The price of solar PV continues to fall. On Monday, a new record low of 2.42¢/kWh was set in a tender for a large solar park in Abu Dhabi, not by an industry outlier but by…

View original post 758 more words


September 20, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Giant Gravity Waves Smashed Key Atmospheric Clock During Winter of 2016 — Possible Climate Change Link


Two [climate change] effects [of Arctic warming] are identified … : 1) weakened zonal winds, and 2) increased [Rossby] wave amplitude. These effects are particularly evident in autumn and winter consistent with sea-ice loss… Slower progression of upper-level waves would cause associated weather patterns in mid-latitudes to be more persistent, which may lead to an increased probability of extreme weather events — Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes, Dr. Jennifer Francis and Dr. Stephen Vavrus, Geophysical Research Letters (emphasis added)

The recent disruption in the quasi-biennial oscillation was not predicted, not even one month ahead. — Dr. Scott Osprey

This unexpected disruption to the climate system switches the cycling of the quasi-biennial oscillation forever. — Professor Adam Scaife

scientists believe that the quasi-biennial oscillation could become more susceptible to similar disruptions as the climate warms. — (emphasis added)



View original post 1,104 more words

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bríd Smith TD attacks Government inaction on Sellafield risks

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

September 19 Energy News


Science and Technology:

¶ When a boat pitches in waves, it creates inertial energy. The EU-funded SeaKERS project developed tools to harness this renewable energy for charging yacht batteries. The project team is now planning to commercialize its invention. In the past, onboard generators have often been large, loud, polluting, unreliable. [The Maritime Executive]

Yacht club Yacht club

¶ Scientists are a step closer to using Australia’s iconic gum trees to develop low-carbon renewable jet and missile fuel. Dr Carsten Kulheim from The Australian National University says renewable fuels that could power commercial airplanes were limited and expensive, but a solution could be growing all around us. [Gizmodo Australia]


¶ European renewables investor Luxcara has acquired the 111.2-MW Egersund wind farm in Norway from Norsk Vind Energi. The wind farm will feature 33 Senvion turbines and will be commissioned in August 2017. The site is considered to…

View original post 616 more words

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Underground Water Now Surfacing in Fukushima Daiichi




With Typhoon N°16 heavy rain, underground water level reaches ground surface at Fukushima Daiichi.

With the heavy rain associated with the approach of typhoon No. 16, Tepco announced that the underground water level of the sea side of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant area is now at ground level.

There is a possibility that contaminated groundwater has flowed into the sea mixed with the rain.

TEPCO plans soon to analyze the surface of the water and the seawater.

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | 1 Comment

Reconstruct ‘difficult-to-return zones’ in keeping with residents’ wishes



In consideration of the feelings of evacuees who want to return home, it is important to promptly present a specific picture of how towns affected by the nuclear disaster will be reconstructed.

Regarding the “difficult-to-return zones” designated following the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the government has announced a policy of designating priority areas and carrying out full-scale decontamination work there starting next fiscal year.

Entry remains strictly restricted for the difficult-to-return zones, where the yearly dose of radiation was higher than 50 millisieverts as of March 2012. This is the first time for the government to announce a policy of allowing evacuees to eventually return home in the zones.

The zones spread over seven municipalities around the Fukushima plant, including the towns of Okuma, Futaba and Namie.

The latest policy is characterized by the government establishing “reconstruction bases” that center around town offices and railway stations, and drawing up development plans exclusively for the base areas. The government will implement the development of infrastructure, including roads, concurrently with the decontamination work. It aims to lift the evacuation orders for residents in the year 2022, making it possible for evacuees to return home.

To decontaminate the entire area within the difficult-to-return zones will require a sizable amount of money. It is an appropriate measure to move ahead with the decontamination work by narrowing down the target area from the viewpoint of pursuing efficiency.

In areas where the radiation dose is relatively low, namely areas where residence is restricted and where preparations are being made for the lifting of evacuation orders, evacuation orders have already been rescinded for five municipalities. Another four municipalities have also taken such measures as allowing residents to return home for long-term stays, with the aim of lifting the evacuation orders next spring.

Limited progress in returns

However, in areas where evacuation orders have already been lifted, there has not been as much progress in residents’ return as was hoped. Even in the town of Naraha, for which evacuation orders were lifted last autumn and which is considered a model case for residents’ return, only about 10 percent of residents have come back.

There has not been sufficient development of bases closely linked to people’s daily life, such as medical institutions and commercial facilities. This can be a primary factor in evacuees’ reluctance to return home. Younger generations also have strong concerns about their jobs and their children’s education following their return.

Even if residents of the difficult-to-return zones were able to return, that would be six years from now. It would be difficult for residents to plan for their daily life.

At the moment, matters such as where the reconstruction bases can be located and the details of development plans have yet to be decided. It is important to show residents early on how their hometowns would be reconstructed, so as to fulfill evacuees’ wishes of returning home.

Many evacuees have given up on returning home and rebuilt their lives within or outside Fukushima Prefecture. According to a survey taken last year by the Reconstruction Agency, only 11 percent of evacuees from Okuma and 13 percent of those from Futaba — the towns straddled by the plant — said they want to return home.

How should towns be reconstructed to induce evacuees to consider returning? Each municipality is urged to carefully take up the wishes of evacuees and reflect them in the development plans.

As Fukushima’s reconstruction progresses, the government needs to continue doing its utmost in assisting the prefecture so as not to have the difficult-to-return zones become “left-behind areas.”

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

Monju fast-breeder reactor operator insiders say project is a failure: survey


The Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is pictured in this file photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter on Oct. 7, 2015

Employees of the operator of the troubled Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, which the government may decommission, say that the reactor is a failure or criticize the project in other ways, according to a labor union survey.

A survey conducted by one of the labor unions representing workers at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), the results of which the Mainichi Shimbun has obtained, shows that over half of the respondents said the government should consider decommissioning the trouble-plagued reactor.

The JAEA was founded in 2005 through a merger between the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) and the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. (PNC). There are two labor unions within the JAEA — the Japan Atomic Energy Labor Union (JAELU) comprised mainly of those who worked at PNC and Genken Roso mainly representing those employed by JNC.

Genken Roso conducted the latest survey on all 234 members between December last year and January this year after the Nuclear Regulation Authority advised the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology last November to consider replacing JAEA with another body as the operator of the Monju reactor. Of its members, 71 responded. The respondents do not include workers at Monju since the union does not have a branch in Tsuruga.

JAEA employs some 3,130 workers across the country, of whom about 380 work at the Tsuruga business headquarters that supervises Monju.

According to the results of the survey obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun, some respondents wrote critical views in the survey’s section in which they were asked to freely express their opinions on Monju.

“It’s questionable to continue to use a massive amount of money for the reactor,” one of them said.

“Monju is a failure. The reactor should be shut down after reviewing the project,” another wrote.

“Fast-breeder reactors require extremely difficult technology, and it’s difficult to commercialize such a project,” a further respondent said.

One other employee insisted that the project should be split from the JAEA.

When asked about the future of Monju, 57.7 percent said the government should consider decommissioning the reactor while only 8.5 percent said the project should be continued under the supervision of the JAEA.

Moreover, 71.8 percent replied that they do not think the JAEA has become an organization that has never betrayed the trust of the public as a result of reforms following revelations in 2012 that the group omitted check-ups on about 10,000 items in the Monju reactor.

An official of the Genken Roso union said, “Since the response rate is low, the outcome doesn’t represent the opinions of all members.”

However, Fumiya Tanabe, who previously served as a senior researcher at the JAEA, pointed out that the results of the survey shows the true opinions of employees.

“The outcome shows workers’ real feelings. They are also probably dissatisfied with the current situation of the organization, in which an annual 20 billion yen in taxpayers’ money is injected into the idled Monju while sufficient funds can’t be spent on other research projects,” said Tanabe.

The JAELU’s Tsuruga branch, which has 240 members, has conducted a similar survey but has withheld its results.

Commenting on the outcome of the Genken Roso survey, a JAELU official said, “Employees’ enthusiasm to work hard for the future of Japan remains unchanged.”

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

Panel to examine options for wrecked Fukushima plant

A panel of experts will discuss reforms at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., including the costly plans to scrap its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Industry minister Hiroshige Seko said Tuesday.

The costs of decommissioning the plant, ravaged by the 2011 triple meltdown, is expected to far exceed the initial estimate of ¥2 trillion, prompting the government to review its financial aid to the utility with the help of the private sector.

The government-appointed panel will meet for the first time in early October and draft proposals by year-end, Seko said, as Tepco plans to revise its business plan, compiled in 2014, possibly early next year.

Members of the panel include Akio Mimura, head of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and other senior officials of major business groups. Tepco President Naomi Hirose will also join as an observer.

The utility’s business has been pressured by the costs of cleaning up contaminated areas and compensating those affected by the accident.

The growing costs of scrapping the plant as well as increased competition in the sector led the company to seek fresh government assistance in July.

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

S. Korea imports 400 tons of Fukushima goods


SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) — South Korea has imported over 400 tons of foods grown with radiation exposure in Fukushima, Japan, over the past six years, a South Korean opposition lawmaker said Monday, despite local consumers’ worries over contamination.

A total of 407 tons of goods from the region were brought into the country, said Choi Do-ja of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, citing data of the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) submitted to the National Assembly.

A devastating earthquake off the east coast of Japan and a subsequent tsunami in 2011 led to the meltdown of nuclear reactors there, sparking worries among South Korean consumers that Japanese-produced goods, especially fishery products, have been contaminated with radiation.

By products, processed fishery goods stood as the top product with 233 tons, followed by mixed products with 51 tons and candy with 41 tons, the data showed.

The South Korean government currently sends back unsafe products from the region after screening them for cesium and iodine.

“Our people think that the government should more sternly limit imported foods from Japan despite the Seoul government’s stance that food from Fukushima is relatively safe following strict quarantine,” Choi said.

Despite the increased exports, industry watchers said the public anxiety over Japanese fishery goods still exists. In 2015, local authorities rounded up owners of 70 stores that deceived consumers on the origins of Japanese fishery products.

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

High-level Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms of the Residents in Fukushima Temporary Housing: Bio-psycho-social lmpacts by Nuclear Power Plant Disaster



Takuya Tsujiuchi, Kumiko Komaki, Takahiro lwagaki, Kazutaka Masuda, Maya Yamaguchi, Chikako Fukuda, Noriko Ishikawa, Ryuhei Mochida, Takaya Kojima, Koichi Negayama, Atsushi Ogihara, Hiroaki Kumano

Backgrounds: Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster occurred following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11,2011. It bears comparison with the incident in Chernobyl in 1986 in the degree of radiological contamination to the surrounding environment.164,218 residents were displaced losing their home-land by this serious incident, of which 97,321 were relocated to other regions within the Fukushima prefecture, and 57,135 residents were relocated to other prefectures. The evacuees from Fukushima can be considered the largest number of internally displaced persons’ or ‘domestic refugees’ in Japan after the world war two.

Objective:This study investigated the scale of post-traumatic stress(PTS)symptoms in the evacuees as of two years after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. It also tried to identify the impact of bio-psycho-social factors related to PTS symptoms.

Samples and methods:Questionnaire survey was conducted by Waseda University and Japan Broadcasting Corporation(NHK). 2,425 households living at temporary housings within Fukushima prefecture were asked to answer the Impact of Event Scale-Revised(IES-R)and the self-report questionnaires that we generated in order to evaluate the damage by the disaster in relation to several bio-psycho-social factors in refugee lives. There were 745 replies(the cooperation rate;30.7%),of which 661 were analyzed. Besides, multiple logistic regression analysis was performed to examine several bio-psycho-social factors as predictors for probable PTSD.

Results:High level PTS symptoms were found. The mean score of IES-R was 34.20±20.56, and 62.56%were over 24/25 cut-off point determined as broadly defined PTSD which means high-risk presence of probable PTSD. The significant differences by chi-square test of high-risk subjects were found among economic difficulty (P=.000), concerns about compensation (p=.000), lost jobs (p=.023), unsatisfying housing (p=.025), unsatisfying environment around temporary housing (p=.000), having chronic disease (p=.003), aggravation of chronic disease (p=.000), affection of new disease (p=.000), lack of necessary information (p=.000), family split-up (prO31), and lack of acquaintance support (p=.000). By the result of multiple logistic regression analysis, the significant predictors of probable PTSD were economic difficulty (OR:2.34,95%CI:1.30-4.24), concerns about compensation (OR:4.16,95% CI 1.26-13.76), aggravation of chronic disease  (OR:2.94,95%CI:1.63-5.30), affection of new disease (OR:2.20,95%CI:1.21-3.99), and lack of acquaintance support (OR:1.92,95%CI:1.07-3.42).

Conclusion:The findings revealed that there is a high-risk presence of probable PTSD strongly related to a number of bio-psycho-social factors due to the nuclear power plant disaster and its consequent evacuation. Our findings underscore the specific characteristics of the nuclear disaster as man-made disaster. Since the socio-economic problems such as compensation and reparation have not been solved, it is suggested that prolonged uncertainty regarding the insufficient salvation of the evacuees might account for the high-level PTS symptoms.

(Received August 9,2015;accepted January 9,2016)

High-level Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms of the Residents in Fukushima Temporary Housing: Bio-psycho-social lmpacts by Nuclear Power Plant Disaster (PDF 10.4MB)

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

Fukushima unveils grand plan for alternative energy transmission line networks




A public-private sector consortium tasked with promoting alternative energy in Fukushima Prefecture will start building new power transmission networks next fiscal year.

The consortium, made up of central government agencies, the Fukushima Prefectural Government and electric power companies, met on Sept. 7. It formulated a plan to make the prefecture staggered by 2011 mega-quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster a pioneer in clean energy.

The prefecture has announced plans to create two new wind power generation zones.

The coastal zone, which is close to Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, encompasses the cities and towns of Minamisoma, Namie, Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka, Naraha and Hirono.

The other is the inland Fukushima Abukuma zone, covering Tamura and the villages of Kawauchi and Katsurao. Together, the zones are expected to be among the biggest bases for wind power in Japan.

But due to the lack of power transmission lines in the mountains of Abukuma, operators have dragged their feet on the project.

According to the plan, private-sector companies, as well as Tepco and Tohoku Electric Power Co., will set up a new company tasked with building, maintaining and running power transmission lines. Construction will be financed by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which has requested ¥10 billion for the project in fiscal 2017 budget.

The METI subsidy is expected to make it easier for private-sector firms to join the project, as they will not have to make huge capital investments. It is also hoped the project will generate new industries and jobs.

Fukushima Prefecture will start to study the areas where new power lines can be built, with plans to begin construction in fiscal 2017.

The transmission lines will be used to send both wind and solar power by connecting four power generation facilities in the Hama-dori coastal area and the Abukuma mountains with a transformer substation in the town of Tomioka.

The power generated will be used not only in Fukushima, but also in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The consortium hopes to start transmitting power by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The total length of the transmission lines is projected to be around 100 km, most of which will be buried under roads. The project will also use existing transmission lines that connect Tepco’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant with the transformer substation.

The prefecture, which plans to have renewable energy sources cover all its energy needs by 2040, as opposed to around 20 percent as of 2009, is surveying the best sites for wind power production.

The prefecture plans to pick the operators for the wind project in the Abukuma area at the end of this fiscal year. But it has yet to find firms willing to participate in the coastal project.

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

In Fukushima, A Bitter Legacy Of Radiation, Trauma and Fear

Five years after the nuclear power plant meltdown, a journey through the Fukushima evacuation zone reveals some high levels of radiation and an overriding sense of fear. For many, the psychological damage is far more profound than the health effects.


A radiation monitoring station alongside a road in Namie, Japan.

Japan’s Highway 114 may not be the most famous road in the world. It doesn’t have the cachet of Route 66 or the Pan-American Highway. But it does have one claim to fame. It passes through what for the past five years has been one of the most radioactive landscapes on the planet – heading southeast from the Japanese city of Fukushima to the stricken nuclear power plant, Fukushima Daiichi, through the forested mountains where much of the fallout from the meltdown at the plant in March 2011 fell to earth.

It is a largely empty highway now, winding through abandoned villages and past overgrown rice paddy fields. For two days in August, I traveled its length to assess the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in the company of Baba Isao, an assemblyman who represents the town of Namie, located just three miles from the power plant and one of four major towns that remain evacuated.

At times, the radiation levels seemed scarily high – still too high for permanent occupation. But radiation was just the start. More worrying, I discovered, was the psychological and political fallout from the accident. While the radiation – most of it now from caesium-137, a radioactive isotope with a half-life of 30 years – is decaying, dispersing, or being cleaned up, it is far from clear that this wider trauma has yet peaked. Fukushima is going to be in rehab for decades.

I began my journey with Baba, a small bustling man of 72 years, at Kawamata, a town on Highway 114 that is a gateway to the mountains beyond. These mountains are where the fallout was greatest, and the forests that cover most of their slopes have retained the most radioactivity. The mountains make up most of the government-designated “red zone,” where radiation doses exceed 50 millisieverts a year and which are likely to remain uninhabited for many years.

A second “yellow zone” has doses of 20-50 millisieverts, where returning may soon be possible; and a third “green zone,” with less than 20 millisieverts, is deemed safe to live in, and an organized return is under way or planned. Zones are re-categorized as radioactivity decays and hotspots are decontaminated.

To check progress, I took with me a Geiger counter that measured gamma radiation, the main source of radiation for anyone not eating contaminated food.

Beyond Kawamata, the road was largely empty and houses sat abandoned and overgrown. There was no cellphone signal. At first, houses we measured at the roadside had radiation doses equivalent to only around 2 millisieverts per year, a tenth of the government threshold for reoccupation. But within minutes, as we climbed into the mountains, radiation increased as we moved from green to yellow to red zones.


A map tracing Japan's Highway 114 through the Fukushima evacuation zone.jpg

A map tracing Japan’s Highway 114 through the Fukushima evacuation zone

Despite the radiation, wildlife is thriving in the absence of people, Baba said. There are elk, wolves, lynx, monkeys, and bears in the mountains. “Nature here is beautiful,” he said, “but we can’t fish or collect bamboo shoots or eat the mountain vegetables that people used to harvest from the forests.”

We stopped by an abandoned gas station in Tsushima, a village in the lee of Mount Hiyama, where wild boar had excavated the soil right by a vending machine that appeared remarkably intact. The bright-red digital display on an official Geiger counter read the equivalent of 21 millisieverts per year, just above the limit for human habitation.

The day after the disaster at the power plant began, 1,400 people from Namie came to Tsushima after being ordered to evacuate. “I was among them,” said Baba. “We had no information. People were just told to come. When we arrived, we went to the village police station and found that the police there were in full protective clothing against the radiation. They said it was a precaution in case they had to go to the power plant, but they had obviously been told that something serious was going on that the population hadn’t been told. That’s when our suspicion about the honesty of the authorities began.”

Tsushima has since become an unofficial shrine to the disaster. In the window of an abandoned shop are posters with bitter, ironic messages, some directed at the nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power: “Thanks to TEPCO, we can shed tears at our temporary housing,” read one. “Thanks to TEPCO, we can play pachinko.” But one, in English, just said, “I shall return.”

Back on Highway 114, a car stopped, and a woman got out. Konno Hidiko was driving to Namie – day trips are allowed, but overnight stays banned – to clean her parents’ former house and tidy an ancestral grave before relatives visited during an upcoming religious holiday. “My parents are dead now, but I still clean their house,” she said. “There are mice inside and wild boar have been in. We won’t ever return to live there. But we might build a new house there one day.”

Further along, Baba stopped the car and walked up a path swathed in vegetation. “This is my house,” he said suddenly, pointing to a barely visible building. It was shuttered. But I noticed laundry still hanging to dry in an upstairs window. On a tour of the grounds, Baba showed me his plum trees. “The fruit is too dangerous to eat now, and we can’t drink the water from the well, either.” We found a shed where he and his schoolteacher wife once kept cattle, and a former hay shed where he stored old election banners.





Baba Isao approaches his abandoned house in Namie.


I checked my meter. It read 26 millisieverts per year in the hay shed, but shot up to an alarming 80 in undergrowth outside. That was four times the safe level for habitation. No wonder Baba had no plans to return. “I am just the son of a farmer. I wonder who has a right to destroy our home and my livelihood,” he mused bitterly. “Please tell the world: No Nukes.”

At his local post office, an official monitor by the road measured 56 millisieverts. Mine agreed, but when we pointed it close to a sprig of moss pushing through the tarmac, it went off the scale. “They measured 500 millisieverts here last week,” Baba said. “Moss accumulates radioactivity.”

As we drove on, the roadside was now marked every few kilometers by massive pyramids of black plastic bags, containing radioactive soil that had been stripped from roadside edges, paddy fields, and house gardens as part of government efforts to decontaminate the land. An estimated 3 million bags, all neatly tagged, now await final disposal at facilities planned along the coast. But the task of transporting the soil is so huge that the authorities are building a new road so trucks can bypass the scenic mountain villages along Highway 114.

Through a checkpoint we came at last to Namie town. Just before my visit, major media such as The Guardian and CNN had published images of the town by a photographer who claimed to have gained secret, unauthorized entry to the “ghost town.” He posed in his images wearing a gas mask to show how dangerous it was.

My visit to the town had required a request in advance, via Baba, but no subterfuge. And I found Namie a surprisingly busy “ghost town.” Nobody is yet allowed to live there. But some 4,000 people work there every day, repairing the railway line and roads, building new houses, and knocking down quake-damaged shops, preparing for the planned return of its citizens in April 2017.

There was plenty of earthquake damage, and vegetation pushed through cracks in the roads and the pavement in the front yards. Black bags were everywhere. But the traffic lights functioned, and drivers obeyed them; there was a 7-Eleven and the vending machines had Coke in them. Nobody wore protective clothing or masks. My biggest safety concern was not radiation, but the news, conveyed over the town’s public address system on the afternoon I was there, that a bear had been spotted in the suburbs.

Despite its proximity to the power plant, average radiation levels in the town were down to around 2 millisieverts per year in Namie – lower, in fact, than I recorded in Fukushima City, which was never evacuated.

“I have no idea how many people will come back,” said Baba. “They have a lot of misgivings because of the radioactive contamination. And I think their fears are totally justified. It is totally unthinkable for me to return to my old place, so I cannot encourage them to return to theirs.” He quoted a survey of the town’s 21,000 former residents showing that only 18 percent wanted to come back. That sounded similar to nearby Naraha town, where only a fifth returned after the all-clear was given last year.





A deserted street in Namie in early 2016.

People especially feared for their children. The biggest concern was reports of an epidemic of thyroid cancer among children exposed to radioactive iodine in the days after the accident. An ultrasound screening program had found an apparent 30-fold increase in cysts, nodules, and some cancers in children’s thyroid glands. It had made headline news.

But at the Fukushima Medical University, doctors and medical researchers insisted that radiation doses were far too low to pose a serious cancer risk, not least because contaminated foodstuffs that could have harbored the iodine were rapidly withdrawn from sale. Ken Nollet, an American who is director of radiation health at the university, insists that the apparent epidemic was evidence only of better searching for disease. He told me a Korean screening study using the same techniques on a non-exposed population found similar rates to those in Fukushima’s contaminated zone.

Thanks to the rapid, if chaotic, evacuation of the area after the power plant began its meltdown, and the controls of foodstuffs, doctors say they believe there are unlikely to be many, if any, deaths among the public from radiation from the Fukushima accident. “A few members of the public got a CT scan’s worth of radiation; almost nobody received more than the dose from a barium meal,” said Nollet.

But there have been deaths nonetheless. Some 60 old people died as a direct result of the evacuation, including several who died of hunger after being left behind, said a doctor at Soma hospital, Sae Ochi. And depression remains widespread among evacuees, she says. There have been around 85 suicides linked to its after-effects. “It’s post-traumatic stress,” said Masaharu Maeda at Fukushima Medical University. “People with very negative views about the risks of radiation are more likely to be depressed. It’s a vicious circle.”

Some doctors told me that while the initial evacuation was necessary, the failure to plan a swift return as radiation levels fell had been disastrous. Apart from a few high-dose areas in the mountains, the psychological risks of staying away exceed the radiological risks of coming back. But the confusion has contributed to a serious loss of trust among the public for medical, as well as nuclear, authorities. “When we try to explain the situation,” says Nollet, “we are seen as complicit in nuclear power.”

It seems increasingly unlikely that the majority of families will return to the abandoned towns as the official all-clear is given. As we drove back from Namie, I dropped in on a group of old women living in an evacuation camp outside Kawamata. One told me they wanted to return to their old homes, but that “most young people simply won’t go back. They fear for their children, but also they have moved on in their lives, with new jobs and their children in new schools.”

And maybe that is not a bad thing. At a kindergarten in Soma City, just outside the exclusion zone, teachers told me that, away from the fear of radiation, there was a baby boom going on there. The crop of new students this year was the largest since the accident.


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