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TEPCO cancels robotic probe of reactor 1



The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has cancelled Tuesday’s operation to send a remote-controlled probe into the crippled No.1 reactor.

Tokyo Electric Power Company began preparations in the morning to send the robot into the containment vessel of the reactor to monitor melted nuclear fuel.

But the company called off the attempt after images on a camera placed outside of the containment vessel to monitor the robot could not be seen on screens in the control room.

The company plans to investigate the cause of the problem and try again on Wednesday or later.


March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

No Return to Normal in Fukushima


Just 6 years ago Fukushima was struck by a deadly earthquake, and then a nuclear disaster. For the survivors, there’s been no return to normal.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Pref. Governor Irked at Abe’s Omission During 3/11 Memorial Speech


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech at a government-sponsored memorial event on March 11 for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami six years ago.

Fukushima Pref. governor criticizes Abe’s 3/11 memorial speech

FUKUSHIMA — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been criticized by the governor of Fukushima Prefecture for not using the term “nuclear accident” during his speech at a Great East Japan Earthquake memorial service in Tokyo, on March 11.

Masao Uchibori, who has been governor of Fukushima Prefecture since 2014, expressed his criticism of Abe during a news conference on March 13. Specifically, Uchibori stated, “To Fukushima residents, it felt strange that Abe left the phrase ‘nuclear accident’ out of his speech. One must not ignore important terms such as ‘nuclear plant accident’ or ‘nuclear disaster'” when referring to what has happened in Fukushima.

The government-sponsored memorial service for the Great East Japan Earthquake, which Abe spoke at on March 11 2017, has taken place every year since 2012. Until last year, Abe spoke about the “nuclear accident” during his speeches.

Uchibori also pointed out during the news conference that, “There has been considerable damage as a result of the nuclear accident, which is globally unprecedented in terms of its brutality. The repercussions of the accident are still having an impact today, not something of the past.”

SIX YEARS AFTER: Fukushima governor irked at omission in Abe’s speech

FUKUSHIMA–Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori expressed his frustration at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s failure to mention the nuclear accident in Fukushima during a speech on March 11 on the sixth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

“This is an accident that does not exist in the past tense, but in the present progressive form,” Uchibori said at a regularly scheduled news conference on March 13. “It is not possible to avoid using the important and significant terms of the nuclear plant accident or nuclear power disaster.”

He added that the prime minister’s failure to use such terms in a memorial event speech to remember the victims of the March 11, 2011, disasters left Fukushima residents with a sense of discomfort.

“Fukushima Prefecture has experienced enormous damage from a terrible nuclear accident that is unprecedented in the world,” Uchibori said in the news conference.

While Abe did not mention the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was triggered by the earthquake and tsunami, he did not forget the prefecture completely in his speech at the National Theater in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.

“I feel that the rebuilding process in Fukushima has entered a new stage with the lifting of evacuation orders for various parts of the prefecture,” Abe said.

The government-sponsored event has been held annually on March 11 since 2012. Abe has spoken at the commemorations from 2013 until 2016 and mentioned the fact that many Fukushima residents could not return to their hometowns due to the nuclear accident.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Daiichi reactor cooling system untested



An emergency cooling system for the No.1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was set at a mode that was difficult to start for nearly 30 years until 2010.

The No.1 reactor was the first of the 3 reactors at the plant to melt down in the 2011 accident.

The isolation condenser system was automatically activated after the massive earthquake 6 years ago, and operators used it to cool down the reactor.

However, they failed to make full use of it, and misjudged its operating status after power was lost in the tsunami.
The subsequent meltdown of the No.1 reactor caused a hydrogen explosion.

NHK interviewed officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company and requested the disclosure of information. NHK found that the setting of the emergency cooling system was changed in 1981 to make it difficult to start.

The isolation condenser is supposed to switch on automatically when the pressure inside the reactor rises for some reason. But its settings were altered so that another device for reducing internal pressure would start first.

There is no record of the isolation condenser being used for nearly 30 years, even when problems occurred.

Safety measures were reviewed the year before the 2011 accident, and the cooling system was reset to make it easy to start.

However, it was never actually tested before the 2011 accident.

The utility says it cannot confirm why the setting was changed in 1981 as there are no records, and it was not tested because there was a risk of a radioactive leak if the system became damaged.

The company says employees were told about the isolation condenser in their training courses.

Hosei University Professor Hiroshi Miyano says people cannot use such a device without experience, and this may have been a factor behind the scale of the accident. He says safety equipment testing and training should be reviewed at other nuclear plants.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

A Fukushima Survivor’s Story – Setsuko Kida


Japanese activist Setsuko Kida – who lost her home, her land, and her former life to radioactive pollution from the Fukushima triple meltdown – tells how she overcame personal tragedy and trauma to become an outspoken international advocate for radiation refugee rights.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

24,000 evacuees not counted by Fukushima govt.

march 13, 2017 evacuates.jpg


NHK has learned that the Fukushima prefectural government’s estimate of the current number of evacuees from the 2011 disaster is about 24,000 less than the figure calculated by local municipalities.

Earlier this month, officials said about 80,000 people were still living in shelters because of the tsunami and nuclear accident.

This includes 17,781 residents of 5 municipalities around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant who were evacuated to other parts of the prefecture.

But NHK’s survey found 42,030 people had left these municipalities — about 24,249 more than the prefectural government’s figure.

Officials from the 5 municipalities say their estimate includes all the people who evacuated to other parts of the prefecture, but the Fukushima government’s calculation excludes those who moved into public housing or acquired new homes in other areas of the prefecture.

A visiting associate professor at Fukushima University, Kazuhiko Amano, says many residents still dream of returning to their hometowns even after they have found a place to live.

He says surveys should also cover the type of housing and whether evacuees are living normal lives. He says the prefectural government’s counting method may underestimate the number of people who actually need support.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Radiation, What Prospects for Humanity : a Conversation with Helen Caldicott


Do not go to Japan. Do not under any circumstances take your children to Japan, because you don’t know what you’re eating and where the food is sourced…

And the Japanese are trying now to export their radioactive food to London and elsewhere. Taiwan has refused to receive it. But, it’s dangerous and it’s going to continue to be dangerous for the rest of time. It’s sad.Dr. Helen Caldicott (from this week’s interview.)



Length (59:09)

Click to download audio (MP3 format)

Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear educator and former nuclear industry senior vice president, has referred to it as “the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind.” [1]

Six years ago this week, a tsunami, triggered by a category 9.0 earthquake, slammed into the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility on the north east coast of the Japanese island of Honshu. The natural disaster resulted in the failure of systems keeping the reactor cores and spent fuel rods cool, leading to core meltdowns in three of the plant’s reactors, as well as damage from consequent hydrogen explosions. [2]

Enormous quantities of radioactive particles were released into the atmosphere and the water table leading to the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 170,000 people in the vicinity of the plant were immediately evacuated.

The World Health Organization downplayed the health risks from the catastrophe, concluding in their 2013 Health Risk Assessment from the nuclear accident that the risks of contracting certain cancers in certain sex and age groups were only “somewhat elevated.” The report also concluded “no discernable increase in health risks from the Fukushima event is expected outside Japan.” [3]

Nevertheless, a health management survey examining 38,000 children in Fukushima found three children diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The natural incidence is one in one million. [4]

Further, a December 2011 peer-reviewed report in the International Journal of Health Sciences found that in the 14 weeks immediately following the event, there were 14,000 excess deaths in the United States connected with radio-active fall-out from the Fukushima meltdowns. [5]

 The Japanese government has been so successful in its efforts to assuage the concerns of the wider public that Prime Minister Abe was able to secure Tokyo as the site for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games! As of this month, the Abe government ends its housing subsidies to people evacuated from the area proximate to the nuclear facility, forcing those fearful of the lingering radiation to fend for themselves abroad. [6][7]

The nuclear accident may have profound consequences for all humanity, and possibly all life on Earth, yet the severity of the situation doesn’t seem to merit major headlines.

On this, the sixth anniversary of the start of the Fukushima crisis, we spend the hour with world renowned nuclear watchdog, Dr. Helen Caldicott.

 In this interview, conducted and recorded on International Women’s Day, Dr. Caldicott talks about the high radiation reading recently recorded at Unit 2, efforts to contain the radioactive water spilling out of the facility, projected health risks from the cesium, tritium, strontium and other isotopes spewing from the site and much, much more. Caldicott also extends the discussion to talk about Canada’s role in nuclear proliferation and the threats posed by the new Trump Administration and Cold War atmosphere in which it is situated.

 Dr. Helen Caldicott is a physician and co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility. She is a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, the recipient of the 2003 Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, and author or editor of several books including Nuclear Madness: What You Can Do (1979), If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Heal The Earth (1992)The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military-Industrial Complex(2001), and Crisis Without End -The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe (2014). She is currently the president of the Helen Caldicott Foundation ( Her latest book, Sleepwalking to Armaggedon: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation will be available in bookstores in July, 2017.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | 1 Comment

Six Years Of Fukushima: Six Lessons

It has been six years since the term Fukushima has become synonymous with the multiple meltdowns of reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Here are six lessons that may be learnt from what happened then and since then.


The first lesson is that severe accidents at nuclear plants and other facilities are not one-time events and dealing with just the damaged structures, let alone the radioactive contamination of the environment, from such accidents can take decades. Fukushima, as Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research phrased it, is, “possibly the longest running, continuous industrial disaster in history”. The recent discovery of high levels of radiation within Unit 2—so high that even robotic cameras cannot operate in that environment for long —serve as a reminder of the complexity of the ongoing effort to deal with the meltdowns in the reactors. Indeed, as Safecast, an organization that has pioneered citizens’ monitoring of radiation levels in the aftermath of the accidents, pointed out “The process of removing melted fuel debris from the damaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi is expected to take decades, and these recent findings remind us once again that TEPCO has little grounds for optimism about the challenges of this massive and technically unprecedented project”. The early expectation offered by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that it would start removing the melted fuel from these reactors by 2021 is almost certainly not going to materialize.

The second, and related, lesson is that the impacts on the people who lived near a nuclear accident site are also long lived. There are still tens of thousands of people who were evacuated from the areas near Fukushima who are yet to return to their homes. The Japanese government, of course, would like to reduce this number as soon as possible, both for financial reasons, and to affect how people view the situation in Japan, especially as the 2020 Olympics are coming up. It is lifting the restrictions for people to move back to areas that were contaminated, but with the proviso that it would stop housing subsidies for the evacuees. As a result, people are forced to move back to areas with relatively high radiation levels.

A third lesson is that human beings are not the only ones affected by the accident. When the inhabitants of the areas around Fukushima were evacuated, they were not told that the move was for a long period, and they were not allowed to take their pets. As a result, dogs and cats and cows and so on were all left behind. Many of these starved to death but some animals are still alive, trapped in the exclusion zone. There are, fortunately, some volunteers who have saved hundreds of animals from the area. Studies have revealed deleterious effects on a range of birds as well, barn swallows for example. The forested regions around Fukushima have also been badly affected, as was the case in Chernobyl, and forest fires have become an additional source of risk for radioactive releases.

A fourth lesson is that the accident could have easily been worse and only luck prevented much greater levels of land contamination and human population impacts. Because of the direction of the wind during the worst phase of the accident, most of the radioactive materials released went over the Pacific Ocean. Another fortuitous occurrence was at the water filled pool that contained the irradiated spent fuel from Unit 4 of the Fukushima Daiichi. Because this Unit had been shut down, all of its fuel was inside the pool and generated the most heat, leading to the pool’s water to start boiling. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has modeled what happened there and found that the water levels had come close to below the top of the fuel rods. But “accidental” water leakage from the reactor fortuitously prevented pool water levels from dropping so low. Had the tops of the fuel rods been exposed to air, there could have been a fire leading to the release of large quantities of radionuclides. On 25 March 2011, Shunsuke Kondo, the chairman of Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission, told Prime Minister Naoto Kan that a fire in pool 4 could require compulsory relocations out to 110−170 kilometres from the reactor site and voluntary relocations out to 200–250 kilometres. In other words, even the population of Tokyo might have been forced to relocate—a logistical and human nightmare.

A fifth lesson is that institutions that profit from nuclear energy continue to seek to build and operate reactors, even if there are obvious risks from doing so. This is the case in Japan, where companies like the Kansai Electric Power Company and the Kyushu Electric Power Company have applied and received permission to restart reactors that were shut down after the meltdowns in Fukushima. In turn, this is because nuclear establishments have underestimated, and continue to underestimate, the likelihood and severity of possible accidents. The reactor restarts in Japan were rationalized using various arguments that do not hold up to scrutiny, including assumptions that the reactors to be restarted were safe and the chances of an initiating event, such as an earthquake, were too small to be considered seriously. Concerns of the local communities were dismissed as inconsequential. As multiple polls have shown, a majority of the Japanese public are opposed to such restarts. a testimony to the undemocratic nature of decision making when it comes to nuclear matters.

A sixth lesson is that although the country has been generating only a tiny fraction of the nuclear electricity it used to generate, the lights still continue to shine in Japan. In 2016, nuclear power provided only about 2 percent of all the electricity in the country in comparison to 29.2 percent in 2010, the year before the accident started. Not only that, starting with the fiscal year 2015 (Japan’s fiscal year is from April 1 to March 31), Japan’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have fallen below the levels in FY 2011. After an initial spike, emissions have been declining since FY2013, mainly because of “decreased electricity consumption and the improvement of carbon intensity in power generation”. The latter, in turn, is because of an increasing fraction of renewable energy in electricity generation.

Although proponents of nuclear power may not admit it, the technology comes with an inherent risk of severe accidents. Such accidents can impact people, animals, birds, and plants living in wide swaths of areas around nuclear facilities. These impacts can also last for decades. Finally, it is by no means inevitable that carbon dioxide emissions must increase when reactors are shut down.

M V Ramana is Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Only 6% of Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Compensation Paid by TEPCO



The operator of the crippled nuclear complex in Fukushima Prefecture has only paid 6 percent of the compensation sought by municipalities in connection with the 2011 nuclear crisis, according to a recent prefectural tally.

The delay in payments to the 12 municipalities, designated by the government as evacuation zones, highlights the continuing challenge to their reconstruction efforts six years after the nuclear disaster, triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.

The tally found that Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. had by the end of 2016 paid around 2.6 billion yen ($22.5 million) of the 43.3 billion yen demanded by the 12 local governments.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

The illusion of normality at Fukushima

Six years after it suffered a nuclear meltdown, Fukushima appears to have returned to a semblance of normalcy. But there is still a long way to go in terms of cleaning up the site. Martin Fritz reports.



A filter mask covering the mouth and nose, a headscarf, a helmet, gloves and two layers of socks – they constitute the protective gear that must be worn by any ordinary visitor to the Fukushima nuclear power station. 

Only a few workers now have to wear face masks and hazmat suits, since most of the ground at the site has been sealed with concrete.

“The radiation is now as low as in the Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district,” Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) manager Yuichi Okamura assured a group of journalists during their recent visit to the plant.

But the illusion of normality evaporates as soon as the visitors get off their bus and stand within sight of the reactors, with dosimeters indicating radiation levels of around 160 to 170 microsieverts per hour – nearly 2,000 times above what is considered safe.

“We cannot stay here for long,” warns Okamura.

On the surface, it appears that much has changed in Fukushima since the disaster struck six years ago. The clean-up work has evidently made progress.

But the sight of skeletal steel frames, torn walls and broken pipes immediately reminds one of the 17-meter-high tsunami which flooded the facility six years ago and brought its reactors to a complete standstill.

It’s expected to take 30 to 40 years to completely clean up the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which was hit by the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl following a magnitude-9 earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. The operation is likely to carry a hefty price tag, with Japanese officials recently estimating it to cost around $189 billion in total.

Today, with 6,000 workers employed, the nuclear power plant is Japan’s largest and most expensive construction site – and it will remain so for decades. “We’re struggling with four problems,” says TEPCO manager Okamura: “Reducing the radiation at the site, stopping the influx of groundwater, retrieving the spent fuel rods and removing the molten nuclear fuel.”

Black lumps in the reactor containment

Progress in these areas, however, is slow. For instance, workers are erecting scaffolding around the collapsed roof of reactor No 1, but it will likely take four more years for the debris there to be cleared away. Only then can the almost 400 old fuel rods be retrieved from the reactor’s holding basin.

In the adjacent reactor No 2, the blue exterior still remains intact. Workers in hazmat suits can be seen walking on a new metal platform halfway up the reactor building.  But behind the wall lies a nuclear nightmare. A robot sent into the reactor in January found highly dangerous black lumps of leaked fuel on a platform in the outer reactor containment.

“There is now fatally high radiation in that part,” says Okamura.

The engineer quickly turns to reactor No 3, where the progress is more obvious. A hydrogen explosion had turned the reactor’s roof into a tangle of bent metal. It took years of work to dismantle this steel scrap and remove the rubble. “Now we’re building a new roof with an integrated hoisting crane,” says Okamura proudly.

“From next year, we would finally be able to close in on the nearly 600 burnt fuel rods,” he noted. But unlike in reactor No 4, the clean-up must be undertaken remotely as the radiation is so strong that people can only stay there for a few minutes. As a result, the construction of the lifting device has already been delayed by several years. 

Unclear conditions

The situation at the reactors raises doubts about the optimism shared by Japanese officials with regard to the orderly decommissioning of the plant. At the next stop, Okamura shows the control center of the underground ice wall that was built to prevent groundwater from leaking into the reactor basements and mixing with radioactive coolant water.

Since its construction, it has managed to reduce the amount of groundwater flowing into the reactor basements. But five sections of the wall have had to be kept open to prevent water inside the reactor basements from rising and flowing out too rapidly.

Despite all these adversities, the Japanese government and TEPCO are planning to decide as early as this summer how to remove the molten nuclear fuel from the reactors.

Even Shunji Uchida, the Fukushima Daiichi plant manager, couldn’t hide his skepticism from the visiting journalists. “Robots and cameras have already provided us with valuable pictures,” says Uchida, adding: “But it is still unclear what is really going on inside.”

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Singapore keeping in place Fukushima food import curbs, six years after disaster


Signs at Cold Storage supermarket in 2011 clarifying that food imports are from safe regions in Japan, and are tested by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore.

TOKYO – Singapore is keeping in place curbs on food imports from Fukushima, which six years ago on Saturday (March 11) was hit by an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has told The Straits Times.

This is despite the authority having announced a review on easing curbs in January last year, and Japan’s repeated insistence that its strict food safety standards already exceed international requirements.

Japan’s reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura had said last month that it was “irrational” to restrict the import of Japanese food products that are sold on the market, lobbying countries and regions to lift their food bans on imports from the disaster-hit regions.

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck under the Pacific Ocean at 2.46pm local time (1.46pm in Singapore), triggering a 10m wall of water that ravaged the north-east Japanese coast. It crippled the Fukushima No. 1 power station, causing meltdowns in three of its reactors.

The AVA did not explicitly address the reasons it has opted to retain the curbs, but a spokesman told The Straits Times on Saturday that the authority “periodically reviews food import conditions to ensure food safety for our consumers, without unnecessarily impeding trade”.

Last year’s review came as Agriculture Minister Hiroshi Moriyama requested Singapore ease its restrictions during a meeting with National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. During their talks, Mr Moriyama noted that the European Union had begun to relax its regulations on Japanese food imports.

The AVA banned the import of some food products from 11 prefectures after the incident, but some of these restrictions were lifted in 2014, after “an inspection and comprehensive risk assessment of food from Japan”.

However, curbs on seafood and other produce from several areas remain in place.

Singapore does not allow the import of seafood, agricultural produce and forest products – including wild berries, wild mushrooms and wild boar meat – from areas in Fukushima prefecture where agriculture remains banned, or within a 20km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Meanwhile, seafood and forest-gathered or harvested products from prefectures neighbouring Fukushima – namely Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma – still require pre-export tests, the AVA added.

“All food products from Japan still require a certificate of origin to identify the prefecture of origin of the food product,” the AVA spokesman said on Saturday, adding that it will continue to closely monitor food imports from Japan to ensure that they comply with Singapore’s food safety requirements.

She added that current imports from Fukushima prefecture are “insignificant” and accounted for less than 0.1 per cent of total food imports worldwide last year.

Mr Imamura had said last month that 21 countries have lifted the bans while many countries and regions have “significantly relaxed” the restrictions.

He told a news conference: “Japan carries out an inspection of radioactive substances according to the world’s strictest level of standard limits based on scientific evidence. Only foods that have passed the inspection are circulated on the market. Of course, exported foods are subject to the same strict inspection process.”

But the easing of food import curbs from Fukushima remains a deeply political issue in several territories. In Taiwan, a public hearing over whether the territory should ease its ban last December was scuppered by rioting.

Mr Imamura stressed that Japanese standards, which specify general foods containing radioactive substances of 100 becquerel (Bq) or higher per 1 kg should not be sold, “are extremely strict compared to those in the European Union or the United States, or the international Codex standard”.

He said: “Last year, no rice, vegetables and fruits, livestock products, cultivated mushrooms, or seafood products grown in Fukushima prefecture were detected to have exceeded standard limits.”

He added that inspections on rice grown in Fukushima prefecture are done for “all bags of rice, not only samples”, and that in 2015 and 2016, no bags of rice exceeded the standard limit.

As for seafood, no items have exceeded the standard limits since April 2015, he said.

“It is irrational to restrict the import of Japanese food products that are sold on the market, which have passed very strict inspection,” he said. “We would like the authorities in each country and region to see these scientific and objective facts.”

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 1 Comment

Six years after outbreak of crisis, Fukushima nuclear workers continue to face slander, discrimination: survey



Workers at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants have faced prolonged periods of stress after suffering slander and discrimination in the six years since the triple reactor meltdown at the No. 1 plant in March 2011, a university survey has found.

Over 10 percent of workers at the plants were slandered or discriminated against after the calamity, and many continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, including flashbacks and sleep disorders, the survey found.

The survey covered 1,417 employees for Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. who worked at the No. 1 and No. 2 plants at the time of the disaster.

Of them, 181 people, or 12.8 percent, were slandered or suffered discrimination, according to the survey, which was conducted by a team that included Takeshi Tanigawa, a professor at Juntendo University’s Graduate School of Medicine in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward.

Just after the nuclear crisis erupted, the workers had a rate of post-traumatic stress disorder 5.7 times higher than other Tepco employees. Even three years later, the rate remained 3.7 times higher.

Taniguchi said anger at Tepco should not be directed at its employees, since they are also part of the reconstruction effort in the Tohoku region. The government, he added, should also support efforts to protect the physical and mental health of Tepco workers involved in the reactors’ decommissioning.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Decontamination work in Fukushima Pref. far from finished business



FUKUSHIMA — With six years having passed since the onset of the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the government’s decontamination plan in this prefecture is fast approaching the end of its first phase at the end of March.
As a consequence of the decontamination project — and the fact that radioactive material decays over time — radiation levels in Fukushima Prefecture have declined to some extent.

However, in certain areas of the prefecture, radiation levels continue to be high, and the issue of what to do with decontamination waste still needs to be tackled. The government does plan to carry out decontamination work in the neglected “difficult-to-return” evacuation zones in fiscal 2017, but local residents are skeptical that the end is near.

To date, the Environment Ministry has carried out decontamination work in 11 municipalities across the prefecture subject to evacuation orders. However, no decontamination has been done yet in the “difficult-to-return” zones. In other municipalities, where the radiation dose is 0.23 microsieverts per hour or higher, decontamination work has been performed by the relevant local government office.

Initially, the central government-led decontamination was supposed to finish in March 2014, but this was pushed back to March 2017, owing to delays related to makeshift storage sites for contaminated soil. The Environment Ministry plans to finish its decontamination work by the end of March 2017, after which it plans to move the contaminated soil to interim storage facilities.

In areas where the central government is in charge of decontamination, “follow-up” decontamination will also take place in the event that radiation levels do not drop enough, in the hope that residents will eventually be able to return home. Conversely, there will be no follow-up in cases where decontamination is being handled by a local authority, making local residents anxious.

Nevertheless, there are a few spots where follow-up decontamination has taken place in addition to the work in the 11 municipalities overseen by the government. There are nine such spots in total, and they are all in the city of Soma. The Soma Municipal Government initially intended to conduct decontamination in about 30 locations across the city, but this was eventually reduced to nine locations, owing to radiation level-related criteria for follow-up decontamination as instructed by the Environment Ministry.

A Soma Municipal Government representative stated, “Radiation levels are particularly high in forests here, and it is unknown what the future impact of this might be. I want to have a system set up whereby decontamination can be easily conducted again in the future, as necessary.” (By Hanayo Kuno, Science & Environment News Department, Kazuhisa Soneda, Fukushima Bureau, Makoto Ogawa, News Layout Center, and Yohei Kanno, Visual Group)

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Divisions still haunt residents of Fukushima on 6th anniversary

Some experiences are so horrific that it seems almost impossible to find sufficient words to describe how they affected people.

Certainly, that is the case with the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami disaster that led to the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

That is probably why some people in the disaster areas resort to composing short poems based on the traditional “tanka” format to express the emotion that overwhelm them.

One resident composed this poignant poem on his thoughts about being forced to leave his ancestral home: “I’m now leaving/ My home with anger/ Though I had done/ Nothing wrong.”

The late Kenichi Tanigawa, a leading postwar folklorist and poet, compiled a collection of 130 or so tanka poems written by people caught up in the events of March 11, 2011. The anthology, titled “Kanashimi no Umi” (Sea of sorrow), was published in 2012, the year before he died.

On this sixth anniversary of the disaster, there are still disturbing signs of complicated, multi-layered divisions tormenting people in Fukushima Prefecture. Around 80,000 people from the prefecture, where the crippled nuclear power plant is located, are still living as evacuees. Divisions have emerged between people from Fukushima and those outside the prefecture as well as between evacuees and other residents of the prefecture and even among evacuees themselves.

A survey of Fukushima Prefecture residents at the end of February by The Asahi Shimbun and Fukushima Broadcasting Co., a local television broadcaster, found that 30 percent of the respondents said they had faced discrimination simply because they are residents of the prefecture.

One evacuee wrote a poem to vent his feelings about this: “Don’t come close to me/ So I won’t catch your radiation/ a child says/ To a kid from an evacuated area.”

It is depressing to know that the false rumors behind these cruel words are still circulating.


It is impossible to discuss the situation in Fukushima Prefecture without referring to such topics as nuclear power plants, radiation, decontamination, evacuation and compensation.

These are issues that sorely test the knowledge and thinking of the talker.

It is widely believed that the problems facing Fukushima are complicated and intractable. Many people feel intimidated by the difficulty of the problems.

This is the “wall” that sociologist Hiroshi Kainuma pointed out two years ago, and it still exists.

This spring, evacuation orders for wide stretches of coastal areas in the prefecture will be lifted, allowing some 32,000 people to return home. But there is still no prospect of a homecoming for 24,000 others.

At the same time, housing aid for people who voluntarily left their homes in the prefecture will be terminated.

Some Fukushima residents will finally return home, while others are opting not to. Still others can’t return even if they want to.

As differences in the positions and decisions of evacuees have surfaced afresh, some families are becoming targets of malicious rumors fueled in part by disgruntlement about different amounts of compensation paid to victims.

An investigation by Takuya Tsujiuchi, a researcher at Waseda University, has found that stress levels among Fukushima evacuees currently living in the Tokyo metropolitan area have taken an upturn this year.


This nation’s postwar history has witnessed many similar divisions and attempts to heal them.

Look at the Minamata disease problem, for instance.

The city in Kumamoto Prefecture is known for Minamata disease, a neurological syndrome caused by mercury poisoning blamed on contaminated wastewater discharged into Minamata Bay from a Chisso Corp. chemical plant.

The public health disaster engendered bitter antagonism between victims and other citizens. Some victims became targets of verbal abuse. They were called “fake patients” and accused of having a “palace built on weird disease.”

But the abusers also faced discrimination once they left the city simply because they were from Minamata.

Tanigawa, who traveled across the nation for folklore research, was born in Minamata.

Only people born and raised in Minamata can understand the cutting pain we feel when we say, ‘I’m from Minamata of Minamata disease,’ when asked, ‘Where are you from?” he once said.

Tanigawa probably felt strong sympathy for the sorrow of Fukushima evacuees who only say they are from the Tohoku region since they can’t bring themselves to disclose they are from Fukushima.

Some two decades ago, Minamata’s municipal government started a program to re-establish ties among citizens as a way to heal divisions.

The local government named the program “moyai naoshi” (re-mooring) to indicate that is was an attempt to build fresh ties between people like tying boats with ropes.

The program was designed to provide experiences that help bring citizens together for tasks such as separating rubbish for ecological disposal and planting trees to create forests.

What is vital is for people to have dialogue while accepting differences in their opinions,” says Masazumi Yoshii, who was the city’s mayor when the effort started.

The program still has a long way to go before achieving its goal. Sixty-one years since Minamata disease was officially recognized, there are still unfounded rumors about Minamata disease.

In January, an elementary school student from another town in Kumamoto Prefecture said, “I can catch Minamata disease” after a sports match with a team from Minamata.

Even desperate efforts by citizens cannot easily solve the problem,” says Masami Ogata, who heads a group of Minamata disease “storytellers,” or Minamata disease survivors who volunteer to talk about their experiences at the Minamata Disease Municipal Museum.

All we can do is to face what is happening now and tackle problems one at a time,” Ogata says. “That’s our message from Minamata.”


Through his life, Tanigawa, the folklorist, loved the islands of Okinawa. The southern island prefecture has also been suffering from divisions because of the heavy presence of U.S. military bases there.

The prefecture, which occupies only 0.6 percent of national land, is host to 71 percent of all facilities exclusively used by the U.S. military in Japan.

Against this backdrop, residents of the prefecture have been divided over related issues, such as “peace” versus “economy.”

The cultural climates of different parts of the nation are attractive in their own unique ways.

Tanigawa, who knew that well, didn’t like arguments focused exclusively on the key problems facing specific regions, such as nuclear power plants for Fukushima and U.S. bases for Okinawa, even if they are driven by a sense of justice and a desire to support the regions.

Outside supporters “are only interested in ‘Minamata of Minamata disease,’” he said. That, he pointed out, has created a situation where Minamata itself, with all its diverse aspects, has been forgotten. His words should be taken very seriously.

One-sided arguments on problems facing Fukushima that ignore the actual feelings and thoughts of local residents cannot draw the attention of people who regard the issues as too complicated and intractable.

As a result, the burden of dealing with problems that should be of concern to the entire nation will continue to be shouldered only by specific regions.

This is a warning that the media should also take seriously.

A woman expressed her yearning for Fukushima before the disasters struck: “I don’t want to see/ Fukushima known worldwide/ I just long for/ the tranquil region Fukushima once was.”

The reconstruction of coastal areas in Fukushima Prefecture has just begun.

The rest of the nation should stand ready to offer support and sympathy to the local communities to help them go through the long, arduous process.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear businesses have seen a serious shortage of human resources since the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant


At a Tokyo job fair for the atomic energy industry on March 4, Kenta Kakitani, a graduate student at the University of Tokyo, hopes to some day become a nuclear plant design engineer.

But Kakitani may be a rare breed in Japan, where nuclear businesses have seen a serious shortage of new talent since the March 11, 2011, meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

It seems that the nuclear power industry has lost much of its popularity because it is seen as in decline and is suffering a negative image from having to decommission crippled reactors,” said Kakitani, 24, who majors in nuclear engineering.

According to education ministry data, 298 students entered departments related to nuclear power study in fiscal 2015, a slight decline from 317 in fiscal 2010.

Kakitani said that although the number may not have declined drastically, many talented students are majoring in the fields of artificial intelligence and aerospace engineering instead of nuclear engineering.

The turnout at the job fair reflects the nuclear power industry’s fall from grace.

In fiscal 2010, 1,903 students attended a nuclear industry job event. In fiscal 2015, only 337 showed up. This year’s tally won’t be known until after a job fair in Osaka on Saturday.

Demand in the industry for graduate talent, however, is on the rise. Firms participating in the job fair, including big names like Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd., rose from 34 in fiscal 2012 to 59 in fiscal 2016, organizers said.

But recent news that scandal-hit Toshiba is scaling back its atomic business isn’t helping to attract graduates.

Akio Takahashi, president of the nonprofit group Japan Atomic Industrial Forum Inc. (JAIF), which organized the Tokyo job fair, worries that Japan will not have enough nuclear engineers even though it will take several decades to decommission Fukushima No. 1.

It will be problematic if we run short of manpower,” said Takahashi.

Since the meltdown calamity struck, nuclear plants have faced stricter safety standards. Reactors are now required to be equipped with dozens of additional safety features to defend against various situations, including meltdowns, tsunami and terrorism.

Nuclear plant operators have had to come up with new reactor designs and deal with mountains of paperwork for submission to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, Japan’s nuclear watchdog, which has final authority over whether a reactor can be restarted under the new safety standards.

Japan Atomic Power Company, which runs reactors in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, and in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, plans to hire about 30 rookie engineers in April 2018.

After the Fukushima incident, nuclear power faced strong criticism. However, talking to the students today, I felt that more of them are interested in nuclear power,” said a JAPC official at the job fair.

The situation is more serious at the NRA, which assesses and inspects nuclear plants. The NRA, which also set up a booth at the job fair to lure prospective students, hasn’t made it a secret that it lacks enough competent staff to verify whether reactors are up to the safety standards.

The industry also believes nuclear engineering students are not receiving enough training.

Following the Fukushima meltdowns, research reactors, which, like their commercial counterparts have suspended operations, must clear the new safety standards before they can be restarted. For now they are idle.

Over the past two to three years, students have graduated without engaging in the basic experiments that are of utmost importance in studying nuclear power,” said Keiko Kito, a JAIF staffer who is also a member of the Japan Nuclear Human Resource Development Network (JN-HRD Net). “They may need to study further after research reactors are reactivated at universities.”

The network consists of schools, companies and government organizations, including the education and industry ministries.

Education ministry official Ryosuke Murayama noted that research reactors were necessary to nurture students who can develop and operate nuclear plants, but would not help those seeking to experiment with ways to decommission reactors.

One of the experiments considered necessary in the basic research associated with the decommissioning of plants involves the secular change in fuel debris. Honestly, it doesn’t require research reactors,” said Murayama.

Murayama is in charge of the ministry’s program to decommission Fukushima No. 1, offering budgets to schools and corporations if their research disciplines are considered effective.

The ministry also earmarked about ¥60 million a year until 2019 for a Fukushima University program aimed at educating students and training working-level technicians for decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Starting in April, roughly 20 students enrolled in the program are set to visit Fukushima No. 1 as part of extracurricular study.

Fukushima University President Katsumi Nakai reportedly plans to offer similar opportunities to students outside the program, such as those studying psychology or risk communications, starting in 2018.

The education ministry, in cooperation with other organizations, including JN-HRD Net, formed a working group in 2015 to look into the human resources needs of the country’s nuclear power industry, according to a report published in 2016.

Decommissioning will take decades,” said Murayama of the education ministry. “We hope to develop human resources in various fields. Other than those with traditional nuclear engineering backgrounds, we may want people from the fields of robotics, chemistry and even civil engineering.”

But whether the government effort will bear fruit remains to be seen.

Of the students who attended the job fair, those majoring in other disciplines besides nuclear energy, including in electrical and electronic engineering and liberal arts, were in sharp decline.

Less than 50 liberal arts students showed up at the event in fiscal 2015, down from over 250 in fiscal 2010, according to JAIF.

Moreover, a JAIF staffer said the decline in liberal arts students showed the lack of popularity of the nuclear power industry.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment