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Japan restarts another reactor

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TOKYO: A Japanese utility Wednesday switched on a nuclear reactor, the latest to come back in service despite deep public opposition in the aftermath of the Fukushima crisis.

Japan shut down all of its dozens of reactors after a powerful earthquake in March 2011 spawned a huge tsunami that led to meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing the world’s worst such accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

But only a handful of reactors have come back online due to public opposition and as legal cases work their way through the courts.

On Wednesday, Kansai Electric Power (KEPCO) restarted the No 4 reactor at the Takahama nuclear plant after a court in March cleared the move.

The latest restart at the plant in Fukui prefecture, some 350 kilometers (215 miles) west of Tokyo, came after court battles that lasted more than a year during which a district court near Fukui ordered KEPCO to suspend operations.

The Fukui government, where the nuclear industry is a major employer, approved the reactor’s restart but concerned residents in neighboring Shiga prefecture asked their local court to stop the move.

The region’s appeals court in Osaka finally ruled in March that KEPCO could restart two of the four reactors at Takahama.

Shigeki Iwane, KEPCO president, announced the restart in a statement.

“We will… carefully continue our work with discipline and regard safety as the priority,” he said.

Shiga governor Taizo Mikazuki voiced frustration and urged the national government to reduce its reliance on nuclear power, saying his prefecture would be greatly impacted in the event of an accident.

He said the environment was not right for a restart.

“Local residents hold profound anxiety about nuclear plants,” he said in a written statement.

“The government should change the current energy policy that relies on nuclear plants at the earliest possible time,” he said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has steadily promoted nuclear energy, calling it essential to powering the world’s third-largest economy.

https://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/World/2017/May-17/406167-japan-restarts-another-reactor.ashx

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May 17, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Resident demands city of Fukushima take action after alleged decontamination fraud

fake decontamination may 16 2017.jpgCut bamboo pieces are arranged on a forest floor to make the location appear to have been a bamboo forest, for which companies involved in radiation decontamination work can charge more money.

FUKUSHIMA – A resident of the city of Fukushima filed a complaint Monday demanding the municipality seek the return of ¥12 million from a company that is alleged to have padded its bills for radiation decontamination work by submitting fake photos of bamboo forests, for which cleanup costs are higher.

The city admitted last week that the defunct company — part of a consortium — falsely reported that it worked on a project to clean up radioactive materials from a 2,500-sq.-meter bamboo forest in the city, located about 60 km northwest of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

According to the city, the fee for decontamination work in a normal forest is some ¥500 per sq. meter, but it can rise tenfold for work in bamboo forest where trees are much more difficult to fell.

The company, which closed its doors in March, is alleged to have placed already cut bamboo pieces into the ground on a slope of a hill to make it look like work in a bamboo forest had been completed. It then submitted photos of the site to the consortium.

The legitimacy of disbursement of taxpayers’ money to radiation decontamination work and the city’s ability to check it have come into question,” the attorney for the male complainant said.

A whistleblower notified the city of the alleged wrongdoing in November, according to a city official.

The man who filed the complaint criticized the city for having failed to take action even after it learned of the allegation. The city is considering filing a criminal charge against the company.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/16/national/resident-demands-city-fukushima-take-action-alleged-decontamination-fraud/

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Secretive move by Australian government, to develop Generation IV nuclear reactors?

Submission to:  Inquiry: The Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession. by Noel Wauchope, 24 April 2017

First of all, I find it very strange that this agreement has been signed up to in advance, not by any elected representative of the Australian Parliament, but by Dr Adi Patterson CEO of the Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, apparently pre-empting the results of this Inquiry!

I find it disturbing that this Inquiry is being held without any public information or discussion. Are we to assume that the decision to join this “Charter” is being taken without prior public knowledge?

It is a pretty momentous decision. According to the World Nuclear Association the 2005 Framework agreement “formally commits them (signatories) to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.”

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 currently prohibits the development of nuclear power in Australia. Nuclear power cannot be approved under either the EPBC Act or the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998.  These prohibitions are, as I understand it,  supported by all major parties in Australia?

This would be an extraordinary step for Australia to take, especially in the light of the recent South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (NFCRC) pro-nuclear Royal Commission, which, while recommending South Australia for an international nuclear waste dump, nevertheless stated that

The recent conclusion of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), which issued updated projections for fast reactor and innovative systems in January 2014, suggests the most advanced system will start a demonstration phase (which involves completing the detailed design of a prototype system and undertaking its licensing, construction and operation) in about 2021. The demonstration phase is expected to last at least 10 years and each system demonstrated will require funding of several billion US dollars. As a result, the earliest possible date for the commercial operation of fast reactor and other innovative reactor designs is 2031. This timeframe is subject to significant project, technical and funding risk. It extends by six years a similar assessment undertaken by GIF in 2002. This means that such designs could not realistically be ready for commercial deployment in South Australia or elsewhere before the late 2030s, and possibly later.”

This was hardly a ringing endorsement of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

The South Australian Citizens Jury, Community Consultations, numerous economists, and the S.A. Liberal Party all rejected that nuclear waste plan, as not economically viable.  A huge amount of preparation was done by the NFCRC in investigating the phases of the nuclear Fuel Cycle (more accurately Chain) to arrive at their rather negative view of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

That makes it all the more extraordinary that the Australian government would be willing to sign up so quickly to ANSTO’s request that Australia put resources into these untested, and so far, non-existent nuclear technologies.

I hope that the Committee is aware of the present financial troubles of the giant nuclear corporations, such as AREVA, Toshiba, and Westinghouse Electric. Nuclear power is turning out to be a financial liability wherever it is not funded by the tax-payer, (as in China and Russia). (1)

The World Nuclear Association describes the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) as countries for whom nuclear energy is significant now or seen as vital in the future. Australia’s situation in no way fits these criteria.

Nuclear energy is not significant now in Australia, and even the NRCRC nuclear proponents do not see it as vital for Australia’s future. It is almost laughable, that right now, renewable energy systems are taking off in Australia – both as large solar and wind farms, and as a huge increase in small decentralised systems such as home and business solar panel installations.

That’s where Australia should be putting its resources of human energy, talent, and funding.

The claims made by the nuclear lobby, ANSTO and some politicians, notably Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop, about Generation Iv nuclear reactors, do not stand up to scrutiny:

Non proliferation “-   Furthering Australia’s non-proliferation and nuclear safety objectives.” The well-known claim that a “conventional” nuclear bomb cannot be made from these new types of reactor, might be true, to a certain extent. However, IFRs and other plutonium-based nuclear power concepts fail the WMD proliferation test, i.e. they can too easily be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The use of thorium as a nuclear fuel doesn’t solve the WMD proliferation problem. Irradiation of thorium (indirectly) produces uranium-233, a fissile material which can be used in nuclear weapons.  These materials can be used to make a “dirty bomb” – irradiating a city or other target.  They would require the same expensive security measures that apply with conventional nuclear reactors.

If the purpose in joining the GIF is to strengthen non-proliferation and safety – why is ANSTO the implementing agent not the Australia Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office?

Solving nuclear waste problem? Claims that these new nuclear reactors will solve the problem of nuclear wastes are turning out to be spurious. For example, Nuclear energy startup Transatomic Power has backed away from bold claims for its advanced reactor technology after an informal review by MIT professors highlighted serious errors in the company’s calculations. (2) Even at the best of times, the “new nuclear” lobby admits that their Gen IV reactors will produce highly toxic radioactive wastes, requiring security for up to 300 years.
The Integral Fast Reactor is called “integral” because it would process used reactor fuel on-site, separating plutonium (a weapons explosive) and other long-lived radioactive isotopes from the used fuel, to be fed back into the reactor. It essentially converts long-lived waste into shorter lived waste. This waste would still remain dangerous for a minimum of 200 years (provided it is not contaminated with high level waste products), so we are still left with a waste problem that spans generations. (3)

Climate change. The claim that new nuclear power will solve climate change is spurious. This ignores life-cycle CO2 emissions

Nuclear energy is not zero carbon.

Emissions from nuclear will increase significantly over the next few decades as high grade ore is depleted, and increasing amounts of fossil fuels are required to access, mine and mill low-grade ore.

To stay below the 2 degrees of global warming that climate scientists widely agree is necessary to avert catastrophic consequences for humans and physical systems, we need to significantly reduce our emissions by 2050, and to do this we need to start this decade. Nuclear is a slow technology:

The “Generation IV” demonstration plants projected for 2030-2040 will be too late, and there is no guarantee the pilots will be successful.

Nuclear Economics. For “a time when significant expansion in nuclear power production is underway” – this is a laughable falsehood. In reality, nuclear power economics are in a state of crisis, most notably in America, but it is a world-wide slowdown. (4)

The vagueness of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) agreement is a worry. Australia is to formally commit to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.  Surely Australia is not going to sign up to this, without any detail on what kind of research, what kind of reactor, what amount of funding we would be committing to the GIF.

And all this without any public discussion!

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/11/toshiba-losses-uk-moorside-nuclear-plant-westinghouse
  2.  https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603731/nuclear-energy- startup-transatomic-backtracks-on-key-promises/
  3. https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4555
  4.  http://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-industry-crisis-29735/

May 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Fulfilling duties to Fukushima must top list in TEPCO reform

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A new plan has recently been worked out for rehabilitating Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), the embattled operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The plan is centered on a bold management reform for enhancing the utility’s earning capacity so it can cover the ballooning expenses related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, including the payment of damages and the cost of scrapping the hobbled nuclear reactors.

TEPCO obviously has the duty to fulfill its responsibility to the people and communities affected by the disaster. But the plan has set profit targets that are anything but easy to achieve, and some of the components of the plan appear unlikely to be realizable any time soon.

There is a need to continue reviewing the plan so it will not end up as simply pie in the sky.

TEPCO came under de facto government ownership after it could no longer keep operating on its own as a result of the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. The utility has since been paying damages and otherwise dealing with the aftermath of the disaster while receiving aid in various forms under government supervision.

It was learned late last year that post-disaster processing would cost twice as much as the previous estimate. The government worked out a framework, wherein about 16 trillion yen ($141 billion), out of the total expense of some 22 trillion yen, would be covered either by TEPCO or with profits from the sale of the government’s share in TEPCO.

The rehabilitation plan, which was revised in response thereto, envisages that TEPCO can come up with 500 billion yen in necessary expenses annually over the coming three decades. It also sets the goal of substantially increasing TEPCO’s profits.

Many questions linger, however.

A restart of the idled Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is expected to be the key instrument for TEPCO’s turnaround, is unlikely to be feasible any time soon. The governor of Niigata Prefecture and others are growing increasingly distrustful of TEPCO, as it recently came to light that the company had failed to inform the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority that one key building on the nuclear plant site is not sufficiently anti-seismic.

The first order of business is to take thorough safety measures. TEPCO should come up with ways for generating the necessary financial resources without relying on a restart of the nuclear plant.

The centerpiece of new measures for enhancing TEPCO’s earning capacity is a prospective reorganization of its operations along segment lines, such as in the field of power transmission and distribution and in nuclear power operations, which would also involve other utilities. That apparently came against the backdrop of the industry ministry’s hopes that TEPCO’s realignment will trigger a reform of the entire energy industry.

Other major electric utilities, however, are wary of the risk of having to play a part in TEPCO’s response to the nuclear disaster. It therefore remains uncertain whether the reorganization will actually take place as envisaged.

The framework for sharing the burdens of post-disaster processing, which the government has worked out as a precondition for the new plan, is in the first place ridden with problems.

The framework envisages that new entrants to the power supply market, who operate no nuclear reactors, will also have to pay part of the disaster response costs. Critics continue to argue such a plan is about passing the bill on to irrelevant parties.

The 4 trillion yen in radioactive cleanup fees are designated for being covered by profits on the sale of TEPCO shares. But that plan could fail unless TEPCO’s earnings were to expand and its share price were to grow significantly.

Using taxpayers’ money to fill the hole would then emerge as a realistic option.

TEPCO was allowed to stay afloat at the expense of taxpayers on the sole grounds that it bears heavy responsibility to the people and communities affected by the Fukushima disaster.

The government would have to take another step forward if TEPCO were unable to fulfill that responsibility. That would also fuel the argument for dismantling the embattled utility.

TEPCO is expected to soon make a fresh start under a reshuffled management. The utility and the government should not forget about the exacting eyes of the public.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705150018.html

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Mayors near Hamaoka nuclear plant say wider consensus needed for reactor restarts

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The Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, idled for five years and now guarded by a 22-meter-tall tsunami wall, is seen on May 12, 2016. Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, is seen in the background.

Seven heads of 11 Shizuoka Prefecture municipalities located within a 30-kilometer radius of Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant said in a recent Mainichi Shimbun survey that they believe restarting the currently idled nuclear reactors requires agreement from not only the host prefecture and host city but also other municipalities around the plant.

As May 14 marks the sixth year after the Hamaoka nuclear plant suspended operations upon a request from the then government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the Mainichi Shimbun surveyed the Shizuoka Prefecture governor and mayors of 11 prefectural municipalities in the “Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone” (UPZ) around the plant. UPZs cover areas within a radius of 30 kilometers of a nuclear plant.

While no legal framework has been set up regarding the scope of municipal consensus necessary to restart operations at a nuclear station, requests have been growing for a broader agreement among municipalities — not just the host prefecture and host municipality — in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu, who is running for re-election in the gubernatorial race scheduled for June, has argued for the need to hold a referendum over the restart of the Hamaoka plant and has expressed a positive view of involving the 11 mayors in decisions regarding the matter. Consequently, the issue could become a key point in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

The Mainichi asked Gov. Kawakatsu and 11 municipal mayors in a multiple-choice form about the scope of local consensus over the Hamaoka plant restart. Five mayors said agreement from all 11 municipalities in the UPZ was necessary, one favored gaining consensus from four municipalities located within a 10-kilometer radius of the plant and another mayor wanted agreement from all municipalities in Shizuoka Prefecture. The mayor of Omaezaki, the host city of the Hamaoka plant, said restarting the idled nuclear plant only required the city’s agreement.

Shigeki Nishihara, the mayor of Makinohara, neighboring Omaezaki, said consensus from municipalities in the UPZ was necessary. He commented that local governments (in that area) “have a responsibility to secure their residents’ safety.” Meanwhile, Yasuo Ota, the mayor of the town of Mori, who picked “agreement from all municipalities in Shizuoka Prefecture” to restart the Hamaoka plant, told the Mainichi, “It is necessary to hear broad opinions when it comes to gaining consensus over nuclear power as a national energy policy.”

While the remaining four mayors checked “other” in the survey, most of them expressed their view of involving the national government in deciding the scope of local consensus.

Gov. Kawakatsu stressed that it is not an appropriate time to make a decision over the scope of local consensus and repeated that a referendum over the issue of the Hamaoka plant is necessary from the standpoint of popular sovereignty.

No local government heads surveyed were actually in favor of restarting the Hamaoka nuclear plant, even under right conditions such as with approved safety measures. Three city mayors said they were against restarting the plant. Seven local government chiefs chose “other” in the question, while the remaining two said they “cannot judge at the moment.”

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s screening process of the Hamaoka nuclear plant has been prolonged as the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors being screened are the same “boiling-water type” reactors as the ones at the devastated Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Furthermore, the estimated maximum ground motion at the Hamaoka nuclear station is likely to be raised because it is located directly above the hypocenter of a potential Nankai Trough megaquake.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170513/p2a/00m/0na/013000c

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

In Fukushima, a land where few return

The evacuation orders for most of the village of Iitate have been lifted. But where are the people?

1.jpgThe build-up of contaminated bags is slowly changing the landscape of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture.

IITATE, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Some day when I have done what I set out to do, I’ll return home one of these days, where the mountains are green, my old country home, where the waters are clear, my old country home.

— “Furusato,” Tatsuyuki Takano

A cherry tree is blooming in the spring sunshine outside the home of Masaaki Sakai but there is nobody to see it. The house is empty and boarded up. Weeds poke through the ground. All around are telltale signs of wild boar, which descend from the mountains to root and forage in the fields. Soon, the 60-year-old farmhouse Sakai shared with his mother and grandmother will be demolished.

I don’t feel especially sad,” Sakai says. “We have rebuilt our lives elsewhere. I can come back and look around — just not live here.”

A few hundred meters away the road is blocked and a beeping dosimeter begins nagging at the bucolic peace. The reading here is a shade over 1 microsievert per hour — a fraction of what it was when Sakai’s family fled in 2011.

The radiation goes up and down, depending on the weather, Sakai says. In gullies and cracks in the road, and up in the trees, it soars. With almost everyone gone, the monkeys who live in the forests have grown bolder, stopping to stare at the odd car that appears instead of fleeing, as they used to.

A cluster of 20 small hamlets spread over 230 square kilometers, Iitate was undone by a quirk of the weather in the days that followed the nuclear accident in March 2011. Wind carried radioactive particles from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which is located about 45 kilometers away, that fell in rain and snow on the night of March 15, 2011. After more than a month of indecision, during which the villagers lived with some of the highest radiation recorded in the disaster (the reading outside the village office on the evening of March 15 was a startling 44.7 microsieverts per hour), the government ordered them to leave.

Now, the government says it is safe to go back. With great fanfare, all but the still heavily contaminated south of Iitate, Nagadoro, was reopened on March 31.

2.jpgA radiation monitoring post is installed in the village of Iitate on March 27, ahead of the lifting of an evacuation order for most areas of the village. The post bears the message ‘Welcome home.’

The reopening fulfills a pledge made by Mayor Norio Kanno: Iitate was the first local authority in Fukushima Prefecture to set a date for ending evacuation in 2012, when the mayor promised to reboot the village in five years. The village has a new sports ground, convenience store and udon restaurant. A clinic sees patients twice a week. All that’s missing is people.

Waiting to meet Kanno in the government offices of Iitate, the eye falls on a book displayed in the reception: “The Most Beautiful Villages in Japan.” Listed at No. 12 is the beloved rolling patchwork of forests, hills and fields the mayor has governed for more than two decades — population 6,300, famous for its neat terraces of rice and vegetables, its industrious organic farmers, its wild mushrooms and the black wagyu cow that has taken the name of the area.

The description in the book is mocked by reality outside. The fields are mostly bald, shorn of vegetation in a Promethean attempt to decontaminate it of the radiation that fell six years ago. There is not a cow or a farmer in sight. Tractors sit idle in the fields. The local schools are empty. As for the population, the only part of the village that looks busy is the home for the elderly across the road from Kanno’s office.

3.jpgA school sits deserted in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, in April.

The village will never return to how it used to be before the disaster,” Kanno says, “but it may develop in a different way.”

Recovery has started, Kanno says, wondering whether returnees will be able to start building a village they like.

Who knows? Maybe one day that may help bring back evacuees or newcomers,” Kanno says. “Life doesn’t improve if you remain pessimistic.”

Even for those who have permanently left, he adds, “it doesn’t mean that their furusato can just disappear.”

The pull of the furusato (hometown) is exceptionally strong in Japan, says Tom Gill, a British anthropologist who has written extensively about Iitate.

Yearning for it “is expressed in countless sentimental ballads,” Gill says. “One particular song, simply titled ‘Furusato,’ has been sung by children attending state schools in Japan since 1914.”

The appeal has persisted despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that the rural/urban imbalance in Japan is more skewed than in any other developed nation, Gill says; just 10 percent of the nation’s population live in the country.

This may partly explain the extraordinary efforts to bring east Fukushima back to life. By one study, more than ¥2.34 trillion has been spent decontaminating an area roughly half the size of Rhode Island.

There has been no official talk of abandoning it. Indeed, any suggestion otherwise could be controversial: When industry minister Yoshio Hachiro called the abandoned communities “towns of death” in September 2011, the subsequent outrage forced him to quit a week later.

Instead, the area was divided into three zones with awkward euphemisms to suggest just the opposite: Communities with annual radiation measuring 20 millisieverts or less (the typical worldwide limit for workers in nuclear plants) are “being prepared for lifting of evacuation order,” districts of 20-50 millisieverts per year are “no-residence zones” and the most heavily contaminated areas of 50 millisieverts or more per year, such as Nagadoro, are “difficult-to-return.”

In September 2015, Naraha, which is located 15 kilometers south of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, became the first town in the prefecture to completely lift the evacuation order imposed after the triple meltdown. Naraha has a publicly built shopping street, a new factory making lithium batteries, a kindergarten and a secondary school.

A team of decontamination workers has been sent to every house — in some cases several times. Of the pre-disaster 7,400 residents, about 1,500 mainly elderly people have returned, the local government says, although that figure is likely inflated.

In Iitate, the cost of decontamination works out at about ¥200 million per household. That, and the passage of time, has dramatically reduced radiation in many areas to below 20 millisieverts a year. However, Kanno says, the cleanup extends to only 20 meters around each house, and three-quarters of the village is forested mountains. In windy weather, radioactive elements are blown back onto the fields and homes.

All that money, and for what?” asks Nobuyoshi Itoh, a farmer and critic of the mayor. “Would you bring children here and let them roam in the fields and forests?”

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Nobuyoshi Itoh walks through a forest by his land in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture.

Itoh opted to stay in one of the more heavily toxic parts of the village after everyone fled, with little apparent ill effect, although he says his immune system has weakened.

One of the reasons why Iitate was such a pleasant place to live before the nuclear crisis, he recalls, was its unofficial barter system. “Most people here never bought vegetables; they grew them,” he says. “I would bring someone potatoes and they would give me eggs. That’s gone now.”

At most, he says, a few hundred people are back — but they’re invariably older or retired.

They alone will not sustain the village,” Itoh says. “Who will drive them around or look after them when they are sick?”

As the depth of the disaster facing Iitate became clear, local people began to squabble among themselves. Some were barely scraping a living and wanted to leave, although saying so out loud — abandoning the furusato — was often difficult. Many joined lawsuits against the government.

Even before disaster struck, the village had lost a third of its population since 1970 as its young folk relocated to the cities, mirroring the hollowing-out of rural areas across the country. Some wanted to shift the entire village elsewhere, but Kanno wouldn’t hear of it.

Compensation could be a considerable incentive. In addition to ¥100,000 a month to cover the “mental anguish” of being torn from their old lives, there was extra money for people with houses or farms. A five-year lump sum was worth ¥6 million per person — twice that for Nagadoro. One researcher estimates a rough figure of ¥50 million for the average household, sufficient to leave behind the uncertainties and worries of Iitate and buy a house a few dozen miles away, close enough to return for work or to the village’s cool, tranquil summers.

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Masaaki Sakai stands outside his home in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture.

Many have already done so. Though nobody knows the true figure, the local talk is that perhaps half of the villagers have permanently left. Surveys suggest fewer than 30 percent want to return, and even less in the case of Nagadoro.

Yoshitomo Shigihara, head of the Nagadoro hamlet, says many families made their decision some time ago. His grandchildren, he says, should not have to live in such a place.

It’s our job to protect them,” Shigihara says. He lives in the city of Fukushima but returns roughly every 10 days to inspect his house and weed the land.

Even with so much money spent, Shigihara doubts whether it will bring many of his friends or relatives back. At 70 years of age, he is not sure that he even wants to return, he says.

I sometimes get upset thinking about it, but I can’t talk with anyone in Fukushima, even my family, because we often end up quarreling,” he says. “People try to feel out whether the others are receiving benefits, what they are getting or how much they received in compensation. It’s very stressful to talk to anyone in Iitate. I’m starting to hate myself because I end up treating others badly out of frustration.”

Kanno has won six elections since 1996 and has overseen every step of Iitate’s painful rehabilitation, navigating between the anger and despair of his constituents and the official response to the disaster from the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (Tepco), operator of the crippled nuclear plant.

6.jpgGround Self-Defense Force members decontaminate areas tainted with radioactive substances in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, in December 2011.

He wants more money to complete decontamination work (the government claims it is finished), repair roads and infrastructure. Returnees need financial support, he says. However, it is time, he believes, to end the monthly compensation, which, in his view, induces dependency.

If people keep saying that life is hard, they will not be able to recover,” he says. “What we need is support for livelihoods.”

A new system gives seed money to people who voluntarily come back to start businesses or farms.

We don’t want to give the impression that we are influencing people’s decisions or forcing them to return,” the mayor says, using the phrase “kokoro ni fumikomu,” which literally means “to step into hearts.”

Yet, next year, thousands of Iitate evacuees will face a choice: Go back or lose the money that has helped sustain them elsewhere for six years. Evacuation from areas exposed to less than 20 millisieverts per year will be regarded as “voluntary” under the official compensation scheme.

This dilemma was expressed with unusual starkness last month by Masahiro Imamura, the now sacked minister in charge of reconstructing Tohoku. Pressed by a freelance reporter, Imamura tetchily said it was up to the evacuees themselves — their “own responsibility, their own choice” — whether or not to return.

The comment touched a nerve. The government is forcing people to go back, some argued, employing a form of economic blackmail, or worse, kimin seisaku — abandoning them to their fate.

Itoh is angry at the resettlement. For him, politics drives the haste to put the disaster behind.

It’s inhuman to make people go back to this,” he says. Like the physical damage of radiation, he says, the psychological damage is also invisible: “A lot of people are suffering in silence.”

Itoh believes the government wants to show that the problems of nuclear power can be overcome so it can switch the nation’s idling nuclear reactors back on. Just four are in operation while the fate of 42 others remains in political and legal limbo. Public opinion remains opposed to their restart.

Many people began with high hopes in Iitate but have gradually grown distrustful of the village government, says Kenichi Hasegawa, a farmer who wrote a book titled “Genpatsu ni Furusato o Ubawarete” (“Fukushima’s Stolen Lives”) in 2012. Right from the start, he says, the mayor desperately tried to hide the shocking radiation outside his office.

Villagers have started losing interest,” Hasegawa says.

Meetings called by the mayor are poorly attended.

But they hold meetings anyway,” Hasegawa says, “just to say they did.”

Kanno rejects talk of defeatism. A tourist shop is expected to open in August that will attract people to the area, he says. Some villagers are paving entrances to their houses, using money from the reconstruction budget. As for radiation, everyone “has their own idea” about its effects. The lifting of the evacuation is only the start.

Itoh says he once trusted public officials but those days are long gone. By trying to save the village, he says, the mayor may in fact be killing it.

7.jpgBags filled with contaminated waste sit in a field in the village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, in March 2016.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/13/national/social-issues/fukushima-land-return/

 

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

As I See It: Six years later, no time for TEPCO personnel squabbles

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Former Hitachi Ltd. chairman Takashi Kawamura, left, who will take the post of the next chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., and Tomoaki Kobayakawa, who has been tapped to be the next TEPCO Holdings president, are pictured here in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on April 3, 2017.

Six years since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima nuclear plant, the utility still faces massive challenges. And yet, what I’ve come to see through my reporting is that efforts meant to help revitalize the company’s finances in order to secure the funds needed to bring the nuclear crisis under control and compensate victims, have been overshadowed by petty feuds over personnel appointments between executives dispatched by the central government — which effectively owns the company — and dyed-in-the-wool TEPCO employees. Rebuilding TEPCO will be impossible if such squabbles are not put to rest.

In March of this year, TEPCO announced an outline of its revitalization plans, with a restructuring of its nuclear power business as a central pillar, as well as a reshuffling of executive personnel. According to the announcement, chairman Fumio Sudo, 76, will be replaced by Takashi Kawamura, 77, the previous chairman at Hitachi Ltd., and president Naomi Hirose, 64, will be replaced by 53-year-old board director Tomoaki Kobayakawa.

After the nuclear crisis began in March 2011, TEPCO was effectively nationalized. The plan has been for TEPCO to increase its earning power by rebuilding its finances under the central government’s management, so that it could secure the funds necessary to decommission the reactors at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and compensate victims of the disaster.

With the nationalization of TEPCO, the government swept the utility clean of all its old executives and in addition to placing bureaucrats from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on the company’s board, in 2014 it put Sudo, formerly of major steel corporation JFE Holdings, in the position of TEPCO chairman. However, when Sudo, with the backing of the government, implemented cost-cutting measures, grumblings were heard within the company that Sudo was seeking too many results too fast and that staff evaluations were changing too dramatically. Sudo’s clashes with TEPCO president Hirose, who had worked up the ranks and was initially considered pro-reform, grew increasingly serious.

There was an incident in the spring of 2016 that could be considered a prelude to current conflicts. Sudo and METI, unhappy with the fact that Hirose would not cut his ties with former management, tried to re-appoint him to the post of deputy chairman. Hirose resisted and, according to multiple sources involved with TEPCO, was able to get the support of a former TEPCO executive who had close ties with the prime minister’s office. As a result, Hirose stayed in his post as company president, but his relationship with Sudo deteriorated beyond the point of repair. “It wasn’t uncommon for the two to criticize each other openly at management meetings,” a senior TEPCO official said.

At the end of 2016, METI announced that the amount of money necessary to deal with the nuclear crisis would be about 21.5 trillion yen, almost twice the amount of an earlier estimate. Because of the need to secure more funds, the government set up an expert panel, which then offered “recommendations” to TEPCO on how to rebuild its finances. When it was revealed that “the passing of authority down to the next generation” was one of the pieces of advice offered by the panel, industry insiders saw it as another government attempt at bringing Hirose down from his post, a source close to the case said.

Hirose is said to have resisted strongly to such renewed efforts. However, Sudo vowed that he would step down if Hirose did, forcing Hirose to bow to the pressure to resign. Some in the electric power industry have described the latest personnel reshuffle a “tie” in that both “camps” made concessions, but discontent is already spreading among career TEPCO employees. According to a senior TEPCO official, new executives, including Kobayakawa and the new president of a subsidiary company, are “all drinking buddies of outside board members who are former METI bureaucrats.”

TEPCO can’t afford to waste time on personnel feuds. In order to come up with the money needed to bring the troubled reactors under control, TEPCO must earn 500 billion yen per year for the next 30 years. The amount goes up further when taking into account the funds needed for capital investment. Meanwhile, TEPCO’s consolidated financial results for fiscal 2016 stood at just 258.6 billion yen in operating income.

TEPCO’s outline of its latest reorganization plan shows that it is aiming to raise earning power by realigning its various businesses, such as nuclear power, as well as the transmission and distribution of power, with other utilities. However, this plan is a carbon copy of the recommendations given by the government-established expert panel. Some long-time TEPCO employees have said the company only included the recommendation into its reorganization plan because the government has been on its back to do so, and that because other utilities will find no benefit to them in restructuring with TEPCO, the plan will never come to fruition. If people in the company remain this divided, TEPCO will never be able to follow through with rigorous reforms.

If TEPCO drops the ball on management reform and is unable to come up with the money it needs, it could lead to further burdens on the public in the form of higher electricity prices. TEPCO, under normal circumstances, would have gone under following the onset nuclear disaster. So if things go further south, not just the utility, but the central government, which allowed the utility to survive by pumping 1 trillion yen from national coffers into the company, will be held accountable.

Kawamura, who will be appointed TEPCO’s new chairman at the company’s general meeting of shareholders in late June, has the experience of having accomplished Hitachi’s v-shaped turnaround through fundamental management reforms. While his appointment was initiated by the government, many TEPCO employees welcome Kawamura’s pending appointment. The latest personnel change may be the last chance for TEPCO and the government to put its differences aside toward the goal of rebuilding the troubled power company.

Looking back at the latest personnel power struggle, a senior TEPCO official said, “I’m embarrassed when asked if any of the people involved (in the debacle) had ‘our responsibility toward Fukushima’ in mind.” The government and TEPCO must not forget its responsibility toward the victims of the nuclear disaster. If they focused on the fact that there are people out there whose peaceful lives in their beloved hometowns were taken away from them, they could refrain from feuds over personnel appointments. (By Daisuke Oka, Business News Department)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170512/p2a/00m/0na/014000c

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Diet OK’s bill for Fukushima reconstruction

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Diet enacted Friday a bill aimed at accelerating the state-led reconstruction of Fukushima Prefecture from the nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which hit particularly hard the Tohoku region.

The bill to revise the special law on rebuilding the prefecture was approved by a majority vote chiefly by lawmakers of the ruling coalition and the leading opposition Democratic Party at the day’s plenary meeting of the House of Councillors.

Under the revised law, state funds will be used to decontaminate desingated districts in no-go zones, where entry is banned in principle due to the high-level fallout from the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The central government will intensively conduct the decontamination work and infrastructure projects in the designated districts so it can lift its evacuation order there in five years.

Previously, the government took the stance of making TEPCO pay the decontamination costs. But it decided to shoulder decontamination costs as far as the specified districts are involved.

The revised law also stipulates state support for local governments’ efforts to prevent bullying of school children fleeing from Fukushima to other prefectures, in the wake of such harassment happening in various parts of the country.

http://www.the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003694412

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima mulls criminal complaint over fake forest decontamination work

FUKUSHIMA — The municipal government here is considering filing a criminal complaint against parties concerned for allegedly fabricating bamboo forest decontamination work to receive 10 times the normal compensation, it has been learned.

jkmlmùù.jpgOne of the photos that a subcontractor submitted to the city shows a worker carrying a cut bamboo tree. This photo was used multiple times in work reports to make it appear as if the scene was from several different decontamination work sites.

City-commissioned decontamination work was conducted in this city’s Matsukawamachi district after the area was contaminated with radioactive materials emanating from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster. While about 500 yen per square meter is paid to decontaminate forests in affected areas, the reward shoots up to around 5,100 yen per square meter if bamboo forests are involved as it is necessary to cut thick bamboo groves before starting decontamination work.

According to the Fukushima Municipal Government, now-defunct Zerutech Tohoku, a third-tier subcontractor of a joint venture that undertook the decontamination work, fabricated photos to be attached to decontamination work reports as if bamboo trees were felled for the work. The reports were submitted to the city by way of the joint venture, based on which unduly higher amounts of compensation were paid to the organization.

hhkjjllm.jpgShort pieces of bamboo are seen sticking out from the ground in one of the photos that a subcontractor submitted to the city to make it look like bamboo trees had been felled.

 

The joint venture comprised three construction firms based in the city of Fukushima — Hikari Construction Co., Komata Construction Co. and Noko Kensetsu Co. The consortium undertook work to decontaminate areas totaling 185,000 square meters located within 20 meters from residential districts and farmland between September 2014 and March 2016, and received a total of some 620 million yen from the city, according to officials of the city’s decontamination work planning division.

The third-tier subcontractor in question, which was based in the prefectural city of Nihonmatsu, is accused of placing short pieces of bamboo in the ground and photographing them to make it appear as if bamboo trees were felled for decontamination work. The company also fabricated a photograph in which a worker is seen carrying a cut bamboo tree, and used the photo multiple times in work reports by making it appear as though the scene was from several different work sites.

The municipal government uncovered the misconduct in November last year following whistleblowing from a source close to the case, and has since been questioning joint venture officials.

“It was difficult to detect the deliberate falsifications because we checked the work based on papers,” said Takashi Tsuchida, head of the city’s decontamination work planning division.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170511/p2a/00m/0na/018000c

 

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fire crews finally extinguish Fukushima blaze in no-go zone as officials battle “radiation rumors”

The official line is don’t you worry about radiation, it is only radiation rumors!!!

n-fukufire-a-20170512-870x650Ground Self-Defense Force personnel work on putting out fire in a forest in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture on May 4

 

FUKUSHIMA – A wildfire near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has finally been extinguished after a 12-day battle waged by firefighters and Self-Defense Force troops in special protective gear left 75 hectares of tainted forest scorched, and local officials scrambling to quash radiation rumors.

The wildfire, which was started by lightning, broke out in the town of Namie on April 29 and spread to the adjacent town of Futaba, which co-hosts the meltdown-hit power plant. It was declared extinguished on Wednesday.

Since the area has been a no-go zone since the March 2011 nuclear crisis, residents are basically banned from returning to large portions of the two irradiated towns.

A local task force said that no one was injured by the wildfire and that there has been no significant change in radiation readings.

Because a large swath of the area scorched hadn’t been decontaminated yet, firefighters donned protective gear in addition to goggles, masks and water tanks. They took turns battling the blaze in two-hour shifts to avoid heatstroke.

Ground Self-Defense Force troops and fire authorities mobilized close to 5,000 people while nine municipalities, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, provided helicopters.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government denied online rumors saying the fire was releasing radioactive material into the air from trees and other plant life that absorbed fallout from the power plant, which also lies partly in the town of Okuma. It published data on its website showing no significant change in radiation readings.

We will let people not only in the prefecture, but also in other parts of Japan know about the accurate information,” a prefectural official said.

The Kii Minpo, a newspaper based in Wakayama Prefecture, said in its May 2 edition that once a fire occurs in a highly contaminated forest, “radioactive substances are said to spread the way pollen scatters,” explaining how radiation can get blown into the air.

The publisher said it received around 30 complaints, including one from a farmer in Fukushima, who criticized the evening daily for allegedly spreading an unsubstantiated rumor.

The daily issued an apology a week later in its Tuesday edition.

We caused trouble by making a large number of people worried,” it said.

Atsushi Kawamoto, head of the news division, said that while story may have caused some people anxiety, the newspaper will continue to report on matters of interest to its readers.

That there’s public concern about the spread of radiation is true,” Kawamoto said.

On Tuesday, reconstruction minister Masayoshi Yoshino emphasized that unspecified radiation readings have been unchanged since before the fire.

We will provide accurate and objective information,” he said.

Commenting on the fact that there are no fire crews in the no-go zone, Yoshino said the Reconstruction Agency will consider what kind of support it can offer there the next time a major fire breaks out.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/11/national/fire-crews-finally-extinguish-fukushima-blaze-no-go-zone-officials-battle-radiation-rumors/

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima village farmers plant rice for 1st time since nuclear disaster

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Farmers have begun planting rice in a village in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, for the first time since the 2011 nuclear disaster contaminated the soil with radiation, leading to forced evacuations.

Eight farms in the village of Iitate plan to resume rice-growing this year in a combined area of about 7 hectares, the Japan Times reported. That area is significantly smaller than the 690 hectares available to farmers before the Fukushima disaster.

It marks the first time since the area was evacuated that farmers have been able to plant rice for commercial sales. Evacuation orders were lifted at the end of March for parts of the village.

The farmers will conduct radiation tests on the rice before shipping it to retailers. However, no rice grown in Iitate has shown radioactivity levels beyond the safety standard since experimental planting began in 2012.

Meanwhile, the government also took steps to encourage evacuees to return to the area on Wednesday, with an upper house committee passing a bill aimed at boosting governmental support so that displaced individuals can return to their homes earlier than planned.

The bill, which is expected to soon be passed by the upper house plenary session, will allow the government to fund more infrastructure rebuilding in the area, including roads and removing radioactive substances.

Also on Wednesday, the mayor of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to introduce an advanced medical care system in the city, which is located north of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Minamisoma is also developing a system which will give residents access to doctors online, in an effort to quell health concerns.

In March 2011, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, making it the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986.

https://www.rt.com/news/387907-rice-farmers-fukushima-nuclear/

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Tepco Looks Beyond Fukushima Daiichi, Seeks Build Partners

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Tokyo Electric and Power Company, owner of the Fukushima Daiichi generating station that suffered a triple-reactor meltdown after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, said Thursday that is was seeking partners to help re-establish itself in the nuclear power business.

The partnership would focus on building two light-water nuclear reactors at the Higashidori nuclear power station in the Aomori Prefecture, the Japan Times reported.

Tepco, while facing massive expenses on Fukushima Daiichi clean up and decommissioning, is hoping to increase revenues through partnerships in both electricity generation and power grid operations, the Times said.

Tepco is currently supported by the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp., a government-sponsored organization that is a significant shareholder in Tepco. Tepco and the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. together submitted Tepco’s plan for partnerships for a state review.

The Higashidori plant is already the site of one reactor, owned by the Tohuku Electric Power Company. Tepco has plans to build two more reactors at the same site.

http://nuclearstreet.com/nuclear_power_industry_news/b/nuclear_power_news/archive/2017/05/11/tepco-looks-beyond-fukushima-daiichi_2c00_-seeks-build-partners-051102

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Diet Bill Requires Tepco to Create Fund for Decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi

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Japan passes bill requiring TEPCO to save money for decommissioning Fukushima plant

TOKYO, May 10 (Xinhua) — Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. will be required to raise funds for the decommissioning of the crisis-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant following the passing of a bill in parliament on Wednesday.

Under the law revised with the passage of the newly-passed bill, the government-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. will be involved in the decommissioning of the stricken plant in a bid for the government to assert more control over the utility hemorrhaging its profits.

The cost of decommissioning the facility that went through multiple meltdowns in the wake of an earthquake-triggered tsunami knocking out its key cooling functions in March 2011 has surged from previous estimates of 2 trillion yen (17.56 billion U.S. dollars) to 8 trillion yen (70.24 billion U.S. dollars) and a state panel has called for funds to be raised without affecting the embattled utility’s performance.

The government forecasts that the plant’s decommissioning work, as well as compensation payouts and costs related to ongoing decontamination work, will amount to some 21.5 trillion yen (188.77 billion U.S. dollars) in total.

The new bill will require TEPCO, under the supervision of the government-backed organization, to set aside an annual sum each business year to be approved by the industry minister.

The amount eyed by the industry ministry required each year to be banked by the utility is around 300 billion yen for a period of 30 years.

The use of reserve funds for decommissioning work will also have to be signed off by the industry minister under the new scheme.

Private think tanks have put estimates for decommissioning the plant at being far higher than the government’s estimates.

TEPCO is also eyeing the restarting of four of its seven reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant in Niigata Prefecture from April 2019 as means to secure more finances.

The local governor, however, is skeptical about the reactors going back online.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-05/10/c_136272026.htm

Tepco mandated to create fund for scrapping Fukushima plant

The Diet passed a bill Wednesday requiring Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to put aside extra funds to decommission its crisis-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant, as the state seeks to gain more financial control over the utility.

Under the revised law, the state-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. will also be involved in the decommissioning process.

Currently, Tepco has been using profits to pay for scrapping the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which was destroyed after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple meltdown.

The revised law is expected to take effect later this year. With the estimated cost of the decommissioning work already surging to ¥8 trillion from the previously forecast ¥2 trillion, a government panel has called for setting up a funding system that is not dependent on the company’s financial health.

The government projects the total cost to deal with the Fukushima nuclear disaster will reach ¥21.5 trillion, including decommissioning costs, compensation and decontamination work.

Under the new program, the state-backed organization will decide on the amount Tepco should store away each business year and the industry minister must approve it.

The utility must also formulate a financial plan and obtain the minister’s approval when it uses the reserve fund for its decommissioning work.

The new law will strengthen the monitoring power of authorities as well, enabling the industry ministry and the organization to conduct on-site inspections to check whether Tepco is putting aside the money.

The government has a major say in the utility’s operations after acquiring 50.1 percent of the company’s voting rights. Tepco faces huge compensation payments and decommissioning costs among other problems due to the 2011 disaster.

The industry ministry has projected roughly ¥300 billion will be needed annually for the next 30 years to complete the scrapping of the power plant, which involves the difficult procedure of extracting nuclear debris.

The costs could grow further. A study by a Tokyo-based private think tank has shown the bill for the decommissioning could balloon to between ¥11 trillion and ¥32 trillion assuming materials from the No. 1 to 3 reactors, which suffered core meltdowns, need to be specially treated for radioactive waste.

The Japan Center for Economic Research estimated the total cost of managing the disaster could reach ¥70 trillion, more than three times the government calculation.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/10/national/tepco-mandated-create-fund-scrapping-fukushima-plant/

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima village begins sowing rice for first time since nuclear crisis

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A farmer plants rice at a paddy for commercial sale in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, on Wednesday for the first time since the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011. In the forefront is a sign warning against an electric fence set up for wild boars.

FUKUSHIMA – Rice planting for commercial sales began on Wednesday in a village in Fukushima Prefecture for the first time since the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

A total of eight farms in Iitate plan to resume growing rice this year in a combined area of about 7 hectares after evacuation orders were lifted at the end of March for large parts of the village.

With much of the area contaminated by radiation following the nuclear crisis, the total arable area has shrunk from around 690 hectares before the disaster, according to the village.

The farmers will conduct radiation tests before shipping their rice. No rice grown in the village has shown levels of radioactivity exceeding the safety standard since experimental rice planting began in 2012.

(I feel) comfortable. We want to get back even a step closer to the village of six years ago,” said Shoichi Takahashi, 64, while working a rice planting machine.

The municipality has supported farming efforts, including installing electric fences around the area to protect the rice fields from wild boar and working the soil after decontamination.

Measures to encourage evacuees to return to Fukushima are also slowly underway.

On Wednesday, an Upper House committee passed a bill aimed at boosting government support so evacuees can return to their homes earlier in areas which are off-limits in principle in the wake of the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns.

The Upper House plenary session is expected to clear the bill soon, allowing the government to fund more infrastructure rebuilding such as roads and get rid of radioactive substances in the area.

The bill already cleared the House of Representatives on April 14 but deliberations in the upper chamber stalled after Masahiro Imamura, who served as reconstruction minister, sparked outrage following a series of gaffes and ultimately resigned on April 26.

Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday to help introduce an advanced medical care system in the city north of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Sakurai made the plea during his meeting with Abe at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The evacuation order was lifted last July in one part of the city but medical institutions and clinics had been on the decline even before the natural disasters and nuclear crisis.

In a bid to ease residents’ health concerns, the city office is developing a system where residents have access to doctors online.

Goichiro Toyoda, head of Medley Inc., which provides the remote medical care system, asked the government to revise regulations to allow a broader reach for the program.

Abe said he will do his best.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/10/national/fukushima-village-begins-sowing-rice-first-time-since-nuclear-crisis/

 

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Multiple wildfires hit Tohoku, approaching near residential areas

9 may 2017

A wildfire continues to burn in a mountain forest in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, on the morning of May 9, 2017.

Helicopters were dispatched to the Iwate Prefecture city of Kamaishi and the Fukushima Prefecture town of Namie on the morning of May 9 as wildfires continue to spread in those areas. Particularly in Kamaishi, a fire apparently came within roughly 300 meters to the closest residential community as of the morning of the same day.

A total of 12 helicopters dispatched from the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) as well as the Iwate, Aomori and Akita prefectural governments started dumping water over mountain forests in the Heita district of Kamaishi at around 5 a.m. An evacuation order has been issued for nearby areas, and as of 10:30 a.m., 71 people had evacuated from their homes. According to the Kamaishi Municipal Government, an area approximately 400 hectares in size has burned down.

Meanwhile, the wildfire in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, has been burning for over 10 days, and the SDF and Fukushima Prefectural Government have continued efforts to put out the fire.

At the same time, a fire that started in the prefectural town of Aizubange, which burned down eight buildings on May 8 and spread to a nearby forest, was put out on the morning of May 9. The local fire department said a man was cooking wild vegetables in front of his house and rice straw caught on fire.

Meanwhile, Miyagi Prefectural Police detected traces of a bonfire near a forest believed to be the source of the wildfire on May 8 in the prefectural city of Kurihara. The fire burned down roughly 5 hectares, including 11 buildings.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the air on the Pacific side of the Tohoku region has been very dry, with less than 10 percent of an average year’s rainfall recorded over the 10-day period through May 8.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170509/p2a/00m/0na/019000c

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment