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SIX YEARS AFTER: TEPCO’s ‘casino in desert’ looms in evacuated Fukushima town

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The lights of 750 housing units for Tokyo Electric Power Co. employees shine in the foreground in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, as the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant glimmers in the back.

OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–As Kazutoshi Mabuchi drove down a mountain road here in the darkness, carefully avoiding a wild boar crossing his path, a cluster of orange-lit housing units suddenly came into view under the night sky.

These dwellings accommodate about 750 employees of Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which Okuma co-hosts.

It looks like a casino that popped up in the desert out of nowhere,” said Mabuchi, 71, as he patrolled the town.

Mabuchi could see a cafeteria where some TEPCO employees were dining while watching TV.

All 11,000 residents of Okuma were forced to evacuate after the nuclear disaster unfolded at the plant, triggered by the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The town has been almost entirely empty since, with 96 percent of it designated as a “difficult-to-return zone” due to the high radiation levels. That means it is unknown if and when the evacuees will ever be able to return to their former homes to live. Barricades are put up on the roads as well as in front of the houses in the zone to prevent entry.

The TEPCO housing units are located in Okuma’s Ogawara district, which is excluded from the difficult-to-return zone. Classified as a restricted residence area due to relatively lower doses of radiation compared with most parts of the town, evacuees can visit Ogawara freely, but they cannot stay overnight.

Mabuchi is from Ogawara, and he, like all the other 360 people in the district, is still evacuated.

He drives four and a half hours each week to Okuma from Chiba Prefecture, where he moved to live with his daughter’s family after the triple meltdown. He and two others work on a shift to patrol Okuma for three days, a task commissioned by the town government since the autumn of 2012.

Local officials hope to get the residence restriction designation for Osuma lifted by March 2019 by carrying out extensive decontamination operations there.

But it remains unclear whether evacuees will return even if the area’s radiation readings drop enough to allow it to be habitable again.

A survey by the town shows that only one in three former residents is willing to return. The damaged roofs of the houses in the district remain covered with plastic sheets. Rice paddies and fields are strewn with numerous traces of holes dug up by wild boars.

Construction of the TEPCO housing units in Ogawara began in October 2015. The government granted a permit to the utility as a special case, saying the company is the “essential party in leading the recovery and rebuilding efforts” in Fukushima Prefecture.

The 750 single-person units were all occupied by the end of 2016 after TEPCO workers began moving in to them last July.

The utility says in its literature that the company “expects its employees residing there to contribute to rebuilding the town and reassurance of the people.”

In addition to our objective of grappling with the decommissioning process squarely, we wanted to make visible our determination to help the rebuilding of local communities,” said Yoshiyuki Ishizaki, head of the company’s Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters, about the housing project.

Many of the employees are shuttled by bus between the sprawling nuclear complex and their units, wearing the same uniform and eating the same food.

It is like we are on a conveyer belt, and our houses are part of the plant,” said one of the employees living there, referring to the absence of signs of a normal life, such as children playing on the ground and parents hurrying back home from their workplace.

There were more than 10 TEPCO dorms along the coastal area of Fukushima Prefecture before the nuclear disaster, which struck 40 years after the plant’s first reactor went online.

Locals affectionately called the occupants of the dorms “Toden-san” (TEPCO-san) before the accident. TEPCO employees were active participants in local events, such as cleanup efforts on holidays, sports meets and festivals, to fit in with their host communities.

With the nuclear accident, however, that community life completely disappeared.

I am not going to return to Ogawara to live,” Mabuchi said while taking a break from the patrol.

He had his house razed in January. But he has carried on with the patrol for his neighbors’ sake.

I am hoping that the town will continue to exist just for the people who want to go back home,” he said.

As the sky clouded over, the only lights visible in the dark came from the lights in the TEPCO lodgings.

This is no longer Ogawara,” he said, and slid into his car.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703100075.html

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March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 1 Comment

SIX YEARS AFTER: Aftershocks at more than twice usual quake rate since 2011 event

Temblors thought to be aftershocks of the Great East Japan Earthquake have rocked the Tohoku and Kanto regions at more than twice the pre-3/11 rate in the past year, according to the government’s Earthquake Research Committee.

Figures released by the committee on March 9 showed that 368 magnitude-4 or higher earthquakes occurred over the past year. That is more than double the number that occurred in 10 years before the 2011 disaster, when an annual average of 136 was recorded.

Seismic activity still remains high and impacts wide areas,” said Naoshi Hirata, head of the committee and professor of seismology at the University of Tokyo’s Earthquake Research Institute.

It is still more likely that earthquakes that can cause significant damage will occur. So be prepared and keep your guard up.”

According to the committee, 5,383 magnitude-4 or higher temblors occurred in the year immediately following the magnitude-9 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Although the frequency has decreased since then, between 245 and 368 quakes have occurred annually over the last three years.

Furthermore, magnitude-7 or higher major tremors have occurred once every year since 2011, except in 2015.

March 11 marks the sixth anniversary of the quake and the tsunami, which triggered a triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703100058.html

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to use ‘fishing gear-like’ robot to hunt for melted fuel at Fukushima nuke plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said it will send a fishing gear-like robot into the nuclear fuel containment vessel of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant’s No. 1 reactor on March 14 to examine the state of melted nuclear fuel.
This will be the power company’s latest in a series of attempts to find and examine nuclear fuel at the plant using robots. TEPCO plans to spend four days on the search in hopes of ascertaining the state of the fuel for the first time. The melted fuel is believed to be in the bottom of the containment vessel, where radioactively contaminated water has accumulated.

The rod-shaped robot measuring about 70 centimeters long will travel through the water inside the vessel after being dropped in on a cable — like fishing — through a gap in scaffolding at the site.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170310/p2a/00m/0na/003000c

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

40% of local leaders doubt 3.11 disaster area recovery by 2020 due to Fukushima crisis

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Many trucks are seen engaged in land redevelopment work in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, on March 9, 2017.

About 40 percent of 42 local leaders along the coasts of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures doubt their areas will recover from the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Games due to the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis, a Mainichi Shimbun survey shows.

A large majority of the pessimistic local chiefs represent cities, towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture where many residents were forced to evacuate following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The survey results show that these municipalities have yet to recover from the meltdowns.

The central government has categorized a five-year period from fiscal 2011 as an intensive recovery period, and another five-year period from fiscal 2016 as a recovery and building period. It plans to spend as much as 32 trillion yen over a 10-year period ending in fiscal 2020 to complete recovery operations and abolish the Reconstruction Agency. It aims to support Fukushima and other disaster-stricken prefectures, but has no clear budget provision.

The Mainichi Shimbun received written responses from all 12 city, town and village mayors it queried in Iwate Prefecture, and from all 15 mayors queried in each of Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

While only two municipal chiefs in Iwate and one in Miyagi did not anticipate an end to recovery efforts by fiscal 2020, 13 local leaders in Fukushima Prefecture — including those in evacuation zones — shared this view. Only the Shinchi town mayor replied that recovery will be possible by fiscal 2020, while the mayor of Soma said he did not know.

Many local leaders in Fukushima Prefecture say they do not expect recovery operations to be completed by fiscal 2020 due to negative effects from the nuclear disaster. The town of Namie says it does not anticipate an end to recovery operations in three years, pointing out that the recovery speeds in areas hit by tsunami versus the nuclear disaster are obviously different.

The town of Futaba, 96 percent of which is designated as a difficult-to-return zone, says post-disaster restoration has not even started. Kawauchi village, which has already seen its evacuation order lifted, laments that its population is set to drop drastically due to a very low birthrate and a rapidly aging citizenry.

Rikuzentakata and Otsuchi in Iwate, and Yamamoto in Miyagi, responded that they are unlikely to witness a full recovery by fiscal 2020. Rikuzentakata explained that its new city hall isn’t scheduled to be completed until fiscal 2021. The town of Otsuchi cited a delay in a land redevelopment project and other reasons. The town of Yamamoto said that community formation at mass relocation sites and psychological recovery take a long time.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170310/p2a/00m/0na/007000c

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to conduct robotic probe of No.1 reactor next week Tuesday

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TEPCO to conduct robotic probe of No.1 reactor

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it will send a remote-controlled probe into the crippled No.1 reactor next week.

Tokyo Electric Power Company said on Thursday a robot equipped with a camera and dosimeter will be inserted into the containment vessel of the reactor, beginning on Tuesday.

The 4-day probe is part of the utility’s effort to remove melted nuclear fuel from the 3 reactors at the plant that experienced meltdowns following the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11th, 2011.

TEPCO believes the fuel penetrated the No. 1 reactor’s pressure vessel and has remained at the bottom of the containment vessel as fuel debris.

The robot is 70 centimeters long and about 10 centimeters wide. It will enter the containment vessel through a pipe.

The plan is to lower the camera and dosimeters attached to cables at 5 locations into contaminated water at the bottom, which is about 2 meters deep.

TEPCO officials say that even if the water is too murky to capture images, data from the dosimeter will help them assess the condition and extent of the debris.

They say it will be a delicate operation, citing the possibility that the robot may get stuck in piping or on other structures and become irretrievable.

The latest probe follows a robotic survey into the No.2 reactor earlier this year.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170310_10/

TEPCO to examine inside of Fukushima No. 1 reactor Tues. with robot

The operator of the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said Thursday it will attempt to examine the inside of the No. 1 reactor next Tuesday using a remote-controlled robot.

The move follows a botched attempt by another self-propelled robot to take a look inside the No. 2 reactor, which also melted down. That robot became unable to move when it encountered debris and eventually could not be retrieved.

These are the first attempts by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to examine the insides of the wrecked reactors since the nuclear disaster triggered by a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011.

http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2017/03/462752.html

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Govt. to lift more Fukushima evacuation orders

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The Japanese government is set to lift evacuation orders in 2 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, issued after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The government will hold a joint meeting between the reconstruction taskforce and the nuclear disaster task force on Friday. On Saturday, it will be 6 years since the earthquake and tsunami.

Participants will decide on whether to lift an evacuation order in part of Namie town on March 31st and a portion of Tomioka on April 1st.

Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the government issued evacuation orders for 11 municipalities in the prefecture and has since gradually lifted them.

With the latest measure, the orders will be in effect only in no-entry zones with high radiation levels as well as part of the towns of Futaba and Okuma that co-host the nuclear plant.

About 1,150 square kilometers were initially subject to the government evacuation order. That number is now expected to shrink to about 369.

The central government hopes to continue decontamination work and infrastructure projects in some no-entry zones. It says it wants to create a hub for reconstruction by the end of fiscal 2021, where residents and decontamination workers will live.

But the government faces challenges in rebuilding communities as an increasing number of people, mainly the young, say they don’t want to return to their hometowns even if evacuation orders are lifted.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170310_09/

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees ‘pressured’ to return to contaminated homes, says Greenpeace

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Even though radiation levels in a village near the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster still exceed international guidelines, its evacuated residents are being coerced to return, according to a Greenpeace report.

Residents from the Japanese ghost village of Iitate will be allowed to return to their former homes at the end of March – the first time since they were forced to flee the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. That’s the date the Japanese government has set to lift evacuation orders.

But according to environmental organization Greenpeace, it’s uncertain whether many will want to. Greenpeace says tests it has carried out on homes in Iitate show that despite decontamination, radiation levels are still dangerously high – but that’s not stopping the Japanese governmenment from pressuring evacuees from returning, under threat of losing financial support.

Those who refuse to go back to their former homes, and are dependent on the Japanese government’s financial help, are faced with a dilemma. After a year from when an area is declared safe again to live in, evacuated residents will see their compensation payments terminated by the government.

Radiation ‘comparable with Chernobyl’

The nuclear disaster led to more than 160,000 people being evacuated and displaced from their homes. Of these, many tens of thousands are still living in temporary accommodation six years on.

The village of Iitate, lying northwest of the destroyed reactors at Fukushima Daiichi power plantand from which 6,000 citizens had to be evacuated, was one of the most heavily contaminated following the nuclear disaster.

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Government employees monitor radiation at a day-care center in Iitate in 2011

Around 75 per cent of Iitate is mountainous forest, an integral part of residents’ lives before the nuclear accident.

But according to Greenpeace’s report, published on Tuesday, radiation levels in these woods are “comparable to the current levels within the Chernobyl 30km exclusion zone – an area that more than 30 years after the accident remains formally closed to habitation.”

Put another way, Greenpeace said that in 2017, there clearly remains a radiological emergency within Iitate – defining emergency thus: “If these radiation levels were measured in a nuclear facility, not Iitate, prompt action would be required by the authorities to mitigate serious adverse consequences for human health and safety, property or the environment.”

The environmental organization says decontamination efforts have primarily focused on the areas immediately around peoples’ homes, in agricultural fields and in 20-meter strips along public roads.

But these efforts ended up generating millions of tons of nuclear waste – these now lie at thousands of locations across the prefecture, but they haven’t reduced the level of radiation in Iitate “to levels that are safe,” says Greenpeace.

‘Normalizing’ nuclear disaster?

The organization has accused the Japanese government of trying “to normalize a nuclear disaster, creating the myth that just years after the widespread radioactive contamination caused by the nuclear accident of 11 March 2011, people’s lives and communities can be restored and reclaimed.

“By doing so, it hopes, over time, to overcome public resistance to nuclear power.”

Greenpeace also lambasted the government for leaving unanswered what it calls a critical question for those trying to decide whether to return or not: what radiation dose will they be subjected to, not just in one year but over decades or a lifetime?

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Greenpeace says Japan’s government wants to restore public confidence in nuclear power at the cost of harming residents

“Until now the Japanese government has exclusively focused on annual radiation exposure and not the potential radiation dose rates returning citizens could potentially face over their entire lifetime,” says Greenpeace.

Greenpeace, which has been monitoring Iitate since 2011, carried out its latest survey in November 2016

It found that the average radiation dose range for Iitate beginning from March 2017 over a 70-year lifetime was between 39 millisieverts (mSv) and 183mSv – and that’s not including natural radiation exposure expected over a lifetime, or the exposure received in the days, weeks and months following the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

That exceeds yearly guidelines set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) when added up over a 70-year period – it puts the maximum recommended radiation exposure at 1mSv annually.

Greenpeace says: “The highly complex radiological emergency situation in Iitate, and with a high degree of uncertainty and unknown risks, means that there is no return to normal in Iitate, Fukushima prefecture.”

It has called on the Japanese government to cease its return policy, and to provide full financial support to evacuees, and “allow citizens to decide whether to return or relocate free from duress and financial coercion.”

According to Greenpeace, “for the more than 6,000 citizens of Iitate, this is a time of uncertainty and anxiety.”

Heinz Smital, nuclear physicist and radiation expert at Greenpeace Germany, and part of the team taking measurements at Iitate, told DW the residents were faced with a very difficult situation.

“If you decide to live elsewhere [and not return to Iitate], then you don’t have money, you’re sometimes not welcomed in another area so you are forced to leave, because people say, ‘you’re not going back but you could go back,'” he said. “But for people who go back, they have contaminated land, so how can they use the fields for agriculture?”

He urged the Japanese government to more involve those affected in the decision-making process and not try to give an impression that things are “going back to normal.”

“It’s a violation of human rights to force people into such a situation because they haven’t done anything wrong, it’s the operator of the power plant responsible for the damage it caused,” said Smital.

“It’s very clear that there’s very serious damage to the property and the lifestyle of the people but the government doesn’t care about this.”

http://m.dw.com/en/fukushima-nuclear-disaster-evacuees-pressured-to-return-to-contaminated-homes-says-greenpeace/a-37639353

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown and Thyroid Cancer in Children

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Alexander Bay, Chapman University – Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown and Thyroid Cancer in Children

Is there a link between the Fukushima nuclear meltdown and cancer?

Alexander Bay, associate professor in the department of history at Chapman University, looks into the link between the radiation and thyroid cancer among children.

When I began teaching at Chapman University in August 2006, I had an established research trajectory focusing on the history of public health in Japan. My first book, Beriberi in Modern Japan, published in December, 2012, by the University of Rochester Press as part of the Rochester Studies in Medical History, grew out of my Stanford PhD dissertation. I produced an initial articulation of this project for the refereed journal Japan Review: Journal of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies. My article, “Beriberi, Military Medicine, and Medical Authority in Prewar Japan,” appeared in the fall 2008 issue. I spent the 2008-2009 academic year in Japan during which a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellowship funded further research for and the writing of my book. In addition to journal articles and book monographs, I have presented original research at the annual meetings of the Association for Asian Studies, the History of Science Society, East Asian Science, Technology and Society, and the Japan Society for the History of Medicine. I have also written book reviews for The Pacific Circle, the Journal of the Japanese Society for the History of Medicine, First World War Studies, East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal, and The Journal of Asian Studies, and have acted as an peer reviewer for East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal.

During the summer of 2010, I began initial work on second project concerning the history of the environmental impact on digestive system disorders. I presented early versions of this study at the Association for Asian Studies annual meeting, the Science, Technology, and Medicine in East Asia: Policy, Practice, and Implications in a Global Context conferencAlex Bay kickboxinge at The Ohio State University and at a University of North Carolina Asian Studies Program lecture series in 2011. Based on these conference presentations and academic talks, an editor of Historia Scientiarum, the English-language journal for the History of Science Society of Japan, asked me to contribute to a special issue dedicated to the history of Japanese medical history. The editor now has my article draft. I received a summer 2012 Travel/Research Grant from the D. Kim Foundation for the History of Science in East Asia to further research this topic. Tentatively entitled Nation from the Bottom Up: Disease, Toilets and Waste Management in Modern Japan, this project concerns the history of environmental hygiene and digestive-system diseases including dysentery, typhoid fever, hemorrhoids and parasite-diseases like schistosomiasis as well as the technology of waste-management in Japan from 1900 to 1980.

After the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami induced triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai’ichi Nuclear Power Plant, Fukushima Prefecture began a Health Survey to test the thyroid glands of children under 18. The survey uncovered a large number of thyroid abnormalities. At present, there are 1,819 cases of childhood thyroid abnormality in Fukushima prefecture alone. As of 2016, there are 166 cases of thyroid cancer detected through cytology. Medical statistics suggest that this is an unnatural deviation from the baseline of 1 or 2 in one million. The Health Survey; however, argues that these new cases are the result of a “screening effect:” Because the Health Survey is actively checking children, it is finding more cases that fall within the baseline numbers for thyroid cancer. The take-home message is that there is no causal link between the Fukushima meltdowns, the amount of radiation released and these cancers.

The history of how the tobacco industry constructed ignorance concerning the link between smoking and cancer helps highlight the Japanese government’s campaign to spread doubt and uncertainty about the health effects of radiation and childhood cancer.

Studies sympathetic to the nuclear-power industry often excluded data on the health effects concerning non-human subjects. This discourse resonates with language used by the tobacco industry to cast doubt and uncertainty over the discussion of the health effects of smoking: Animal experiments cannot prove that smoking caused cancer because they do not reflect the human condition. The Survey noted in 2014 that the accident produced no reactions in tissue despite numerous peer-reviewed studies showing that artificial radiation from Fukushima caused genetic damage in butterfly species. Scientific research; however, has shown that even low-dose exposure increases the risks of cancer. We are unfortunately seeing effects of this in the children of Fukushima Prefecture.

https://academicminute.org/2017/03/alexander-bay-chapman-university-fukushima-nuclear-meltdown-and-thyroid-cancer-in-children/

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

They want you to think the Fukushima nuclear disaster is over. But it’s still with us.

Six years ago, over 15,000 people perished and tens of thousands of people’s lives changed forever. Northeastern Japan was hit by a massive earthquake, followed by an enormous tsunami that wiped out coastal towns one after another. Then, in the days that followed came the horrifying news: the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors went into meltdown.

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A satellite image shows damage at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant

The disaster is still with us.

Nuclear survivors continue to live with fear for their families’ health and with uncertainty about their future. Women are bearing the greatest brunt. They continue to grapple with unanswered questions, unable to relieve a deeply held sense of anger and injustice.

Over the past six years, starting just two weeks after the beginning of this nuclear disaster, Greenpeace conducted radiation surveys in the contaminated region. The latest survey gathered data in and around selected houses in Iitate village, located 30-50 km from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant [1]. In some homes, residents would receive a radiation dose equivalent to getting a chest x-ray every week. And that’s assuming they stay in the limited decontaminated areas, as 76% of the total area of Iitate has not been touched and remains highly contaminated

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Greenpeace documentation of radioactive decontamination work in Iitate district, Japan.

Despite this, the government, headed by Shinzo Abe, intends to lift evacuation orders from the village and other areas in March and April 2017; and one year later terminate compensation for families from those areas. It will also cancel housing support for those who evacuated outside designated zones. For those dependent on this support, it could mean being forced to return.

Women and children are the hardest hit by the nuclear disaster. They are physically more vulnerable to impacts of the disaster and radiation exposure. Evacuation broke up communities and families, depriving women and children of social networks and sources of support and protection. Together with a yawning wage gap (Japan has the third highest gender income disparity in the most recent OECD ranking), female evacuees – especially single mothers with dependent children – face far higher poverty risk than men.

Despite, or because of the adversity, women are the greatest hope for transformative change. Though women are politically and economically marginalised, they have been at the forefront of demanding change from the government and the nuclear industry.

Mothers from Fukushima and elsewhere are standing up against the paternalistic government policies and decisions, to protect their children and to secure a nuclear-free future for the next generations. They are leading anti-nuclear movements by organising sit-ins in front of the government offices, spearheading legal challenges and testifying in court, and joining together to fight for  their rights.

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A mother of three, Akiyo Suzuki and her family evacuated to Hokkaido for a month following the 11 March disaster. The family lives in Watari, a district in Fukushima City. When the nuclear disaster occurred she found it hard to find clear information about the dangers from the accident, and discovered great differences on the internet compared with newspapers and television.

Let’s stand up with women at the forefront of anti-nuclear struggle. Let’s fight for their rights and future together.

Yuko Yoneda is the Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan

[1] Amounting to a lifetime exposure of between 39 mSv and 183 mSv over 70 years starting from March 2017. This number excludes the very high doses the people of Iitate received in the immediate aftermath of the disaster as a result of an extremely delayed evacuation. Though Greenpeace had called for evacuation of Iitate on 27 March 2011 due to the very high levels our team found there, the evacuation did not begin until 22 April 2011 and extended into June.  

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction/fukushima-nuclear-disaster-still-with-us/blog/58917/#.WMI7r_8X9Ds.facebook

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

The Politics of Invisibility: Fukushima, 6 years after 3.11

Yesterday, the event “The Politics of Invisibility: Fukushima, 6 years after 3.11” (INFO) was held at the University of British Columbia with sponsorship from the Centre for Japanese Research.  I was honoured to present at the conference, which was organized by Geography Professor David Edgington.  I had the honour of presenting here two years ago also at the invitation of Dr. Edgington.

Split into two sessions, the lunchtime workshop began with Dr. Edgington’s presentation “A day out in Fukushima: Reflections on a field trip to the Dai-chi Nuclear Power Plant” focused on his recent experience touring the crippled facility complete with photographs from inside the plant.  Dr. Matsui, Professor of Law, presented his talk “Restarting Nuclear Power Plants in Japan After the Fukushima Disaster”, which focused on law, policy and public opinion regarding nuclear power in Japan following the meltdown.

In the evening, there was a screening of the work-in-progress of my documentary “Sezaruwoenai” (“Unavoidable”, working title), which eventually will be the 3rd film in my series about young people living in Fukushima, following “In the Grey Zone” (2012) and “A2-B-C” (2013).  It was a rare and extremely meaningful experience for me to share this work-in-progress, and the feedback I received from this study session held at the university will stay with me as I move forward in thinking about the direction I will take with the film.

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photo courtesy Savannah Li

At the lunchtime presentation preceding the screening, Dr. Edgington had asked me to focus on the plight of the so-called “voluntary evacuees” who are facing tough decisions as financial support for them is being terminated at the end of this month.  In addition to sharing about the press conference for which I served as the MC in January (INFO), I had decided the best way to for the audience to understand the situation for these families was through their own words.  I asked Noriko Matsumoto, who I had first met at the press conference, and another young mother who wished to remain anonymous (and whom I had met through one of the mothers who appeared in my documentary “A2-B-C”) to write statements about how they would be affected by the termination of financial support for those who had chosen to leave Fukushima with their children.

Their statements, translated by Anthony Davis, are in full below:

March 1, 2017
Noriko Matsumoto (evacuated to Kawasaki with her children)

Today, the lead article in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper stated that on March 31 or April 1, evacuation orders will be lifted for some areas within 20 kilometers of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant—the towns of Namie, Kawamata, Iitate, and Tomioka.

Why do the Japanese and Fukushima prefectural governments not give us the right of evacuation, instead attempting to return even children to these areas where the level of radiation is still high?

I am so angry and sad that it is difficult for me to express it in words. However, once this happens, evacuees like us from outside of the restricted zone will find it harder to obtain the right of evacuation, which is a matter of human rights. How can we help people in a position of weakness, and those who care for children or disabled persons?

I feel a deep sadness at the foolishness of Japan, where only the affluent ever hold power, and the weak are discarded.

I want to protect the children somehow, with accurate information! I hope for the support of many people to this end.
Translation: Anthony Davis, Kobe, Japan, March 2017

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March 4, 2017
Mother who evacuated with her children to Niigata (wishes to remain anonymous)

The background to my deciding to voluntarily evacuate (with my children) came after I comprehensively evaluated the incidents which I describe below.

At the time of the accident, I learnt that, previously, the radiation dose limit for the general public was stipulated by law as one millisievert in a year (or 0.23 microsievert per hour).

Before the nuclear power plant accident, the radiation level in Fukushima city was 0.03 microsievert per hour. Immediately following the 2011 accident, even inside homes, the level was 0.6 microsievert (approximately 20 times the normal level), and outside, the level was commonly 2 microsievert or higher (some 66 times the normal level). This amounts to levels far in excess of one millisievert per year. I thought that this was abnormal (and a violation of law).

On April 19, 2011, in Fukushima prefecture, the level at which children were permitted to engage in outdoor activities was changed to 20 millisievert a year, or 3.8 microsievert per hour. Thus, the former standard of 1 millisievert per year was raised to 20 times that level.

In May, the Board of Education issued notice limiting the outdoor activities of elementary, junior high, and high school students to a maximum of three hours per day.

On April 29, Toshiso Kosako, advisor to the Cabinet Office, held a press conference announcing his resignation in protest against the height of the levels. In tears, he stated the following:

It is very rare even among the occupationally exposed persons to be exposed to radiation levels even near to 20mSv per year. I cannot possibly accept such a level to be applied to babies, infants and primary school students, not only from my scholarly viewpoint but also from my humanistic beliefs.”

The press repeatedly reported the government’s explanation that “the levels would not have an immediate effect on the human body or on health.”

Meanwhile, amid a confusion of various other information, I resolved to evacuate from Date city to Niigata, wanting to take care of my children in a safe environment in peace of mind. Now, Fukushima prefecture has started to discard evacuees, under the banner of “Acceleration of Reconstruction.”

In June 2015, Fukushima prefecture announced that it would stop providing rental housing for voluntary evacuees at the end of March 2017. The provision of free housing for voluntary evacuees will end.

Five years ago, when I voluntarily evacuated from Fukushima prefecture to Niigata, I had to start from zero. Many people were kind in their support, including local people I met, and those at my children’s school. But with the upcoming changes, the livelihood which I have finally built up after five years will be taken from me, and I will be deprived of my right to evacuation.

In Fukushima, decontamination of residential grounds has reduced radiation levels from the post-accident levels, and a false sense of security is spreading, even though radiation has not reached pre-accident levels.

With its eyes set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan is lifting the evacuation orders and discontinuing compensation, and it is firming up policy to end housing support for voluntary evacuees. I strongly resent that Japan is gradually cutting financial housing support, and forcing people into poverty, after which they are encouraged to return home and are then abandoned. Rather than the proclamation which Prime Minister Abe made for the Olympics that everything is “under control,” I want to convey a message to him of “One for all, all for one.”

I want Prime Minister Abe to retract his statement, and instead, I want him to tell the world that support will continue “One for all, all for one,” for all of the people who suffered so much from the disaster, while TEPCO was said to be “under control.”

People who were previously under evacuation orders were known as compulsory evacuees. The term “voluntary evacuation” is widely used. However, this is in no way voluntary evacuation. Using the term “voluntary evacuation” in contrast to “compulsory evacuation” implies that people made a choice of their own volition, therefore the term which should be used is “evacuation from areas outside of areas designated under evacuation orders.” Voluntary evacuees from outside of designated areas are being forcibly returned home, or forcibly evicted.

I want to tell the whole world that this is what is really occurring in Fukushima now.
Translation: Anthony Davis, Kobe, Japan, March 2017

http://ianthomasash.blogspot.fr/2017/03/the-politics-of-invisibility-fukushima.html

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 1 Comment

Radiation Spikes At Fukushima

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Juan Carlos Lentijo of the International Atomic Energy Agency looks at tanks holding contaminated water and the Unit 4 and Unit 3 reactor buildings during a February 2015 tour of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Almost six years after a tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the facility’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) faces overwhelming problems to clean up the site. Tepco now reports radiation in reactor 2 that would kill a worker in thirty seconds, and even destroys robots. Arjun Makhijani, the President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and host Steve Curwood discuss the implications of this new report and the challenges of cleanup.

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Arjun Makhijani is the President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.

Transcript

CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood.

Six years after an earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated Fukushima, Japan and led to the meltdown of three nuclear power reactors there on the coast, radiation levels have reached a staggering 530 sieverts an hour, many times higher than any previous reading. Tepco, the plant’s operator, claims that radiation is not leaking outside reactor number two, site of these readings, but concedes there’s a hole in the grating beneath the vessel that contains melted radioactive fuel.

Joining us now to explain what it all means is Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Welcome back to Living on Earth Arjun.

MAKHIJANI: Thank you, Steve. Glad to be back.

CURWOOD: So, this report from TEPCO seems serious, maybe even ominous. What what exactly is going on?

MAKHIJANI: Well, they are exploring the molten core of the reactor in reactor number two with robots, and the robot called Scorpion went farther into the bottom of the reactor in an area called “the pedestal” on which the reactor kind of sits and measured much higher levels of radiation than before. The highest level was 73 Sieverts per hour before and this time they measured a radiation level more than seven times higher. It doesn’t mean it’s going up. It just was in a new area of the molten core that had not been measured before.

CURWOOD: Still, it sounds to me like it’s problematic, that six years after this meltdown there’s such a high reading.

MAKHIJANI: It is a very high reading; they may encounter even higher readings. The difficulty with this high reading is that the prospect that workers can actually go there, even all suited up, becomes more and more remote. Robots are going to have to do all this work – That was mostly foreseen – but the radiation levels are so high that even robots cannot survive for very long. So now they’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and redesign robots that can survive longer or figure out how to do the work faster, and it’s going to be more costly and more complicated to decommission the site.

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The lid of Unit 4’s Primary Containment Vessel lies close to the reactor building. The reactor was shut down for maintenance at the time of the accident.

CURWOOD: Remind us, Arjun, please, of the human impact of this kind of radiation. What’s toxic to humans?

MAKHIJANI: Right. So, if you get high levels of radiation in a short period of time, four Sieverts is a lethal dose for about half the people within two months. So, in 530 Sieverts per hour would give you a lethal dose in less than 30 seconds.

CURWOOD: Wow.

MAKHIJANI: So, it’s a very, very, very high level of radiation. That’s why people cannot go into the reactor and work there. That’s not the end of the bad news, but that’s quite a bit of it.

CURWOOD: OK. All right, there is more bad news. I’m sitting down. Tell me.

MAKHIJANI: Yes, so the bottom of the reactor under the reactor there is a grating and then under the grating there’s the concrete floor, and what this robot discovered — It was supposed to go around the grating and survey the whole area, but it couldn’t because a piece of the grating was deformed and broken. So, now it appears that some of the molten fuel may have gone through the grating and maybe onto the concrete floor. We don’t know because even robotic surveys are now difficult, and a high radiation turns into heat, so the whole environment around the molten fuel is thermally very hot, and so whether it is going through the concrete, whether it is under the concrete, I don’t know that we have a good grip on that issue.

CURWOOD: So, Arjun, what’s going on with the reactors one and three? There have been published reports that TEPCO, Tokyo Electric Power Company that has these reactors, hasn’t really taken a good look at those reactors. What do you know?

MAKHIJANI: Well, they have to develop the robots, and I think that developing them, by looking at reactor two, and they’re finding these surprises, radiation levels much higher than previously measured. It shouldn’t actually be unanticipated. The big surprise here was that a part of the grating was gone, and so that the molten fuel would possibly have gone through the grating. So, I think similar surprises will await reactors one and three because each meltdown will have a different geometry.

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Storing contaminated water in tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi site presents an ongoing risk, says Makhijani.

URWOOD: So, now what about the decay products here? We’re starting with the Uranium family, but we wind up with Cesium and Strontium – Strontium 90. What risk is there of Strontium 90 getting into groundwater there?

MAKHIJANI: Yeah, so the peculiar thing about a nuclear reaction is the initial fuel, Uranium, is not very radioactive. It’s radioactive but you can hold the uranium fuel pellets in your hand without getting a high dose of radiation. After it’s gone through the nuclear reaction – Fission, that’s what generates the energy – the fission products which result from splitting the Uranium atom are much more radioactive than Uranium, and Strontium 90 and Cesium 137 are two of the products that last for quite a long time, half-life 30 years, and are quite toxic. So, Strontium 90 is specially a problem when it comes in to contact with water. It’s mobilized by water. It behaves like calcium, so if it gets into like sea water and get into the fish, the bones of the fish, or human beings, of course, it gets into the bone marrow and bone surface, increases the risk of cancer, leukemia. So it’s a pretty nasty substance, and Strontium 90 has been contacted with water. You know, rainwater goes and contacts the molten fuel. Groundwater may be contacting the molten fuel. So, we have had Strontium 90 contamination and discharges into the ocean. They also collect the water. They’ve got about more than 1,000 tanks of contaminated water stored at the Fukushima site. By my rough estimate may be about 100 million gallons of contaminated water is being stored there.

CURWOOD: What happens if there’s an earthquake?

MAKHIJANI: That’s exactly right. So about a week into the accident, I sent a suggestion to the Japan Atomic Energy Commission that they should buy a supertanker, put the contaminated water into the supertanker, and send it off elsewhere for processing. They do have a site in the north of Japan which was supposed to be for plutonium separation, but it could be used to support the cleanup of Fukushima. But they rejected that proposal more than once and decided to build these tanks instead. They have a decontamination process on-site, and there are a very vast number of plastic bags on the site filled with contaminated soil. Nobody wants the stuff and nobody knows what’s going to happen with it.

CURWOOD: It’s six years after the original meltdown. How much of a disaster is Fukushima today?

MAKHIJANI: Well, Fukushima is possibly the longest running, continuous industrial disaster in history. It has not stopped because the risks are still there. This is going to take decades to decommission the site, and then what is going to happen with all this highly radioactive waste, ‘specially the molten fuel? Nobody knows.

CURWOOD: Arjun Makhijani is President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Thanks for taking time with us today, Arjun.

MAKHIJANI: So good to be back with you, Steve.

http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=17-P13-00007&segmentID=6

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | , , , , | Leave a comment

Julian Assange speaks on CIA proliferation of virus tech #Vault7

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WikiLeaks Press Conference on Vault 7, Year Zero and the CIA. The press conference was streamed earlier on Persiscope, this is a direct rip of that stream.

 

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Roaming, Radioactive Boars Slow Return of Japan’s Nuclear Refugees

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A wild boar is seen at a residential area in an evacuation zone near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Namie town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 1, 2017.

The ongoing scourge of Japan’s Fukushima — radiation — is now roaming the disaster-hit area on four legs.

Hundreds of radioactive wild boars moved into deserted towns after the nuclear crisis.

Now they scour the empty streets and overgrown backyards of the Namie town for food, an unexpected nuisance for those returning home six years after the meltdown.

Namie and another town, Tomioka, are within the 20 kilometer exclusion zone from the Fukushima plant and set to partly reopen for nuclear refugees this month.

But the boars have been known to attack people.

Local authorities are hiring teams of hunters to clear out the uninvited guests.

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Shoichiro Sakamoto, head of Tomioka Town’s animal control hunters group, patrols at a residential area in an evacuation zone near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture

 

After people left, their ecosystem changed,” said local hunter Shoichi Sakamoto. “They began coming down from the mountains and now they aren’t going back. They found plenty of food, and no one will come after them. This is their new home now.”

Since last April 300 animals have reportedly been caught just in Tomioka.

The boars have been destroying local farms and eating plants contaminated with radiation.

Some of the boars tested by the government showed levels of radioactive material 130 times above Japan’s safety standards.

Five towns in Fukushima have partially reopened since the disaster so far.

But three weeks before the evacuation order is to be lifted in Tomioka, the average radiation level is still well above Japan’s goal. Homes are still damaged or abandoned, and the streets are littered with bags of radioactive waste.

http://www.voanews.com/a/radioactive-boars-japan-nuclear-refugees/3756664.html

 

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Tomorrow we stand at Springfields, the birthplace of the nuclear nightmare, to Remember Fukushima

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Dear Friends,   Tomorrow, March 11th, is the sixth anniversary of the ongoing Fukushima disaster in Japan.  Members of Radiation Free Lakeland invite people to join us in a vigil outside the Springfields nuclear fuel plant in Preston at 2.30pm March 11th (just 5 miles from the PNR frack site).  We will be at Kirkham railway station at 2.00 for car shares to the site.

Springfields was the worlds first nuclear fuel manufacturer and makes nuclear fuel (and converts uranium) for many countries worldwide including Japan.  We believe it is no accident that Springfields and Toshiba/Westinghouse’s key role in Fukushima (and Windscale and other nuclear catastrophes) goes well under the radar.  That silence takes a lot of effort from vested interests.   We hope that people can join us and be silent no longer.  Tomorrow we stand at the birthplace of the nuclear nightmare.  We stand in solidarity with people all over…

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March 10, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

March 10 Energy News

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Opinion:

¶ “What Is Wrong In Washington?” • Under the Donald Trump administration, the United States is like a train, running at high speed down a track, against a signal, on a collision course on climate change. The person at the throttle, blinded by incompetent arrogance of his advisers, is making every indication of increasing speed. [CleanTechnica]

Train wreck (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

¶ “Toshiba US nuclear power unit liquidation may flare into diplomatic dustup” • Toshiba is considering bankruptcy protection for Westinghouse in an apparent bid to eliminate risks of losses by canceling unfavorable contracts. But the US government guaranteed $8.3 billion in loans for Westinghouse reactors at Vogtle. [The Mainichi]

Science and Technology:

¶ Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is seeing an unprecedented second straight year of mass coral bleaching, scientists said March 10, warning many species would struggle to fully recover. The 2,300-km (1,400-mile)…

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March 10, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment