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As Fukushima residents return, some see hope in nuclear tourism

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Posters promoting fukushima sightseeing at the Fukushima prefectural government office in Fukushima city
June 21, 2018
FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) – On a cold day in February, Takuto Okamoto guided his first tour group to a sight few outsiders had witnessed in person: the construction cranes looming over Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Seven years after a deadly tsunami ripped through the Tokyo Electric Power (9501.T) plant, Okamoto and other tour organisers are bringing curious sightseers to the region as residents who fled the nuclear catastrophe trickle back.
Many returnees hope tourism will help resuscitate their towns and ease radiation fears.
But some worry about drawing a line under a disaster whose impact will be felt far into the future. The cleanup, including the removal of melted uranium fuel, may take four decades and cost several billion U.S. dollars a year.
“The disaster happened and the issue now is how people rebuild their lives,” Okamoto said after his group stopped in Tomioka, 10 kilometres (6.21 miles) south of the nuclear plant. He wants to bring groups twice a week, compared with only twice a month now.
Electronic signs on the highway to Tomioka showed radiation around 100 times normal background levels, as Okamoto’s passengers peered out tour bus windows at the cranes poking above Fukushima Daiichi.
tourists from Philippines & tour guide Takuto Okamoto, Futaba town, May 17 2018.jpg
Tourists from Philippines and tour guide Takuto Okamoto, Futaba town, May 17 2018
“For me, it’s more for bragging rights, to be perfectly honest,” said Louie Ching, 33, a Filipino programmer. Ching, two other Filipinos and a Japanese man who visited Chernobyl last year each paid 23,000 yen ($208.75) for a day trip from Tokyo.
 
NAMIE
The group had earlier wandered around Namie, a town 4 kilometres north of the plant to which residents began returning last year after authorities lifted restrictions. So far, only about 700 of 21,000 people are back – a ratio similar to that of other ghost towns near the nuclear site.
Former residents Mitsuru Watanabe, 80, and his wife Rumeko, 79, have no plans to return. They were only in town to clear out their shuttered restaurant before it is demolished, and they chatted with tourists while they worked.
“We used to pull in around 100 million yen a year,” Mitsuru said as he invited the tourists inside. A 2011 calendar hung on the wall, and unfilled orders from the evacuation day remained on a whiteboard in the kitchen.
“We want people to come. They can go home and tell other people about us,” Mitsuru said among the dusty tables.
 
Okamoto’s group later visited the nearby coastline, where the tsunami killed hundreds of people. Abandoned rice paddies, a few derelict houses that withstood the wave and the gutted Ukedo elementary school are all that remain.
It’s here, behind a new sea wall at the edge of the restricted radiation zone, that Fukushima Prefecture plans to build a memorial park and 5,200-square-metre (56,000-square-foot) archive centre with video displays and exhibits about the quake, tsunami and nuclear calamity.
LURING TOURISTS
“It will be a starting point for visitors,” Kazuhiro Ono, the prefecture’s deputy director for tourism, said of the centre. The Japan Tourism Agency will fund the project, Ono added.
Ono wants tourists to come to Fukushima, particularly foreigners, who have so far steered clear. Overseas visitors spent more than 70 million days in Japan last year, triple the number in 2011. About 94,000 of those were in Fukushima.
Tokyo Electric will provide material for the archive, although the final budget for the project has yet to be finalised, he said.
“Some people have suggested a barbecue area or a promenade,” said Hidezo Sato, a former seed merchant in Namie who leads a residents’ group. A “1” sticker on the radiation metre around his neck identified him as being the first to return to the town.
Slideshow (21 Images)
“If people come to brag about getting close to the plant, that can’t be helped, but at least they’ll come,” Sato said. The archive will help ease radiation fears, he added.
SPECTACLE
Standing outside a farmhouse as workmen refurbished it so her family could return, Mayumi Matsumoto, 54, said she was uneasy about the park and archive.
“We haven’t gotten to the bottom of what happened at the plant, and now is not the time,” she said.
Matsumoto had come back for a day to host a rice-planting event for about 40 university students. Later they toured Namie on two buses, including a stop at scaffolding near the planned memorial park site to view Fukushima Daiichi’s cranes.
Matsumoto described her feelings toward Tokyo Electric as “complicated,” because it is responsible for the disaster but also helped her family cope its aftermath. One of her sons works for the utility and has faced abuse from angry locals, she added.
“It’s good that people want to come to Namie, but not if they just want to get close to the nuclear plant. I don’t want it to become a spectacle,” Matsumoto said.
Okamoto is not the only guide offering tours in the area, although visits of any kind remain rare. He said he hoped his clients would come away with more than a few photographs.
“If people can see for themselves the damage caused by tsunami and nuclear plant, they will understand that we need to stop it from happening again,” said Okamoto, who attended university in a neighbouring prefecture. “So far, we haven’t come across any opposition from the local people.”
($1 = 110.1800 yen)
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June 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Route 114 to Namie is No Route 66!

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Even after lifting the ban on R114 last September, the route leading to Namie, a town near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, radiation remains very high.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Prefecture Announced More than 200 Malignant or Suspected Children Thyroid Cancer

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June 15, 2018
The total number of children who have been diagnosed with or suspected of thyroid cancer has reached 204, Fukushima prefectural investigative commission announced recently.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Japanese Citizens Reject Government Plan to Use Soil Contaminated by Fukushima

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June 18, 2018
Japanese residents are fighting a government proposal to use soil contaminated with radiation from the area of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant for agriculture and road construction.
On June 3, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment released the outline of its plan to use soil contaminated by the nuclear accident that occured in March 2011 after a tsunami caused the facility’s power supply and emergency generators to fail. As a result of the power failure, meltdowns occurred in three reactors, resulting in the release of radioactive material. 
In 2011 after the accident, Japan enacted a law that allows the government to use contaminated waste from the Fukushima site for public purposes, Osamu Inoue, environmental law partner at Ushijima & Partners in Tokyo, recently told Bloomberg BNA.
According to the ministry’s plan, the contaminated soil will be used to grow horticultural crops in Fukushima Prefecture that won’t be consumed by humans. In a similar plan released in 2017, the ministry also suggested that contaminated soil be used for road construction.
However, the use of contaminated soil for road construction and agriculture has been heavily criticized by residents living in close proximity to the project locations with safety concerns.
“Pollutants contained in crops will surely pollute air, water and soil, thereby contaminating food to be consumed by human beings,” Kazuki Kumamoto, professor emeritus at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo, told Bloomberg Environment. Kumamoto also noted that contaminated crops could release radiation into the environment.
According to Kumamoto, because contaminated soil isn’t considered nuclear waste under Japanese law, it doesn’t have to be treated by special facilities. While the International Atomic Energy Agency’s standard for contamination radioactive waste that needs to be treated by special facilities is 100 becquerels per kilogram, the Japanese limit is much higher, at 8,000 becquerels per kilogram for nuclear waste and soil.
“The relaxed benchmark is one factor triggering safety concerns among residents,” Nagasaki told Bloomberg Environment earlier this month. 
“The government is saying that the contaminated soil will be covered by materials such as concrete, effectively reducing radiation levels, but many residents near the reuse projects aren’t convinced,” he added.
In addition, more than 2,300 property owners in the areas where the projects are expected to take place are declining government offers to sell their land because they don’t believe they are being compensated appropriately, Yoshiharu Monma, chairman of the Association of Landowners in Fukushima Prefecture, recently told Bloomberg. According to Monma, the government is only agreeing to compensate property owners for half of what the land was worth before the 2011 disaster if the land is to be used for interim storage facilities.
“This is totally unfair and, as much as the landowners are willing to sell their land to facilitate the government’s decontamination plans, they won’t do so until the government fixes such compensation discrepancies,” Monma noted.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Trouble-hit nuclear reactor in southwestern Japan resumes operations

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In this Nov. 6, 2016 file photo, from left, the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant are seen from a Mainichi helicopter in Saga Prefecture
 
 
June 16, 2018
FUKUOKA (Kyodo) — A nuclear reactor at a trouble-hit complex in southwestern Japan restarted operations Saturday for the first time in more than six and a half years amid lingering safety concerns.
The No. 4 unit at the Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture is the fourth reactor of operator Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s to go back online and the ninth nationwide under stricter safety rules implemented after the Fukushima crisis in 2011. The utility aims to generate and supply electricity from Wednesday and start commercial operations in mid-July.
The restart sparked local protests, with around 100 people gathering in front of the plant.
Hajime Aoki, an 80-year-old farmer living about 6 kilometers away from the plant, said, “Everyone knows that nuclear plants are dangerous. If I think about the Fukushima nuclear accident, I certainly cannot agree to this.”
Recognizing the opposition of the local residents, Saga Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi promised to deal with the issue seriously, while Michiaki Uriu, president of Kyushu Electric, separately said the plant’s operation will proceed by taking into account “safety as a top priority.”
At the same time, there were some residents who said that while they were worried about plant safety, they also saw the economic benefits to having such plants in the area.
The restart comes after the Genkai complex has been mired in troubles. In May, pumps installed to control the circulation of cooling water at the No. 4 unit suffered malfunctions, following a steam leak from a pipe at the No. 3 reactor just a week after it was reactivated in March.
Kyushu Electric estimates cost savings of 11 billion yen ($100 million) per month due to the restarts of the No. 3-4 units at Genkai, as this will reduce its reliance on thermal power generation.
The No. 4 unit, which began undergoing a regular checkup in December 2011, won approval for restart by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in January 2017 under the tougher rules implemented after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi complex, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
Some local residents opposed to the Genkai plant’s operation question the validity of safety standards and cite the risk of volcanic eruptions in the region. The Saga District Court rejected in March a request for an injunction to suspend the plant’s restart.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Blowback Over Japanese Plan to Reuse Tainted Soil From Fukushima

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June 14, 2018
By Brian Yap
Japan’s plan to reuse soil contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant accident for agriculture is sparking something of its own nuclear reaction.
Residents and other critics don’t want any part of it.
“Pollutants contained in crops will surely pollute air, water and soil, thereby contaminating food to be consumed by human beings,” Kazuki Kumamoto, professor emeritus at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo told Bloomberg Environment. Contaminated crops “could trigger the release of radiation.”
The Ministry of the Environment released its latest plan June 3 for reusing the soil as part of a decontamination project associated with the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. The accident occurred after a tsunami disabled the facility’s power supply and caused its emergency generators to fail, leading to meltdowns in three reactors, hydrogen-air explosions, and the release of radioactive material.
The ministry’s plan calls for using the soil to develop farmland in Fukushima Prefecture for horticultural crops that won’t be consumed by humans, the June 3 document said. It builds on the ministry’s 2017 plan to use the contaminated soil for road construction.
Japan enacted a law in 2011 to respond to the Fukushima accident that provides for post-disaster measures and enables the government to reuse contaminated waste for public works and other purposes, with roads themselves being disposal sites, Osamu Inoue, environmental law partner at Ushijima & Partners in Tokyo, told Bloomberg BNA.
Safety issues
The reuse projects for road construction and agricultural land have met heavy opposition from residents living close to where such projects have been planned, according to Akira Nagasaki, environmental law partner at City-Yuwa Partners in Tokyo.
Key among their concerns are the changes Japan made to its benchmark.
Contaminated soil isn’t classified as nuclear waste under the law and therefore isn’t required to be treated by special facilities, Kumamoto said. That’s because Japan relaxed its benchmark, based on one set by the International Atomic Energy Agency, for determining at what level of contamination radioactive waste must be treated and disposed using more protective measures.
The international agency standard is 100 becquerel, a measure of radioactivity, per kilogram. Japan revised its limit to 8,000 becquerel per kilogram for nuclear waste and soil, exempting a greater amount of contaminated soil from strict treatment requirements and allowing it to be reused for public works projects and agricultural land.
 
“The relaxed benchmark is one factor triggering safety concerns among residents,” Nagasaki told Bloomberg Environment June 8. He added that the government has been promoting its plan to put contaminated soil back to earth, which seems contrary to the former process of removing it.
“The government is saying that the contaminated soil will be covered by materials such as concrete, effectively reducing radiation levels, but many residents near the reuse projects aren’t convinced,” he said.
The government’s original scheme set in 2012, Kumamoto said, was to have the contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture completely cleaned up in 30 years, with the tainted soil that had been temporarily stored offsite moved to interim storage facilities near the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Plant.
Thirty-six of the prefecture’s 59 cities and townships are included in the government’s decontamination plan, environment ministry statistics show. Contaminated soil temporarily stored outside the areas closest to the Fukushima No. 1 plant was supposed to have been moved to interim storage facilities on land nearest the nuclear site by 2015 and kept there for 30 years.
Unfair Compensation
Another concern is how the government plans to compensate the owners of the land where these sites would be located.
Most of the more than 2,300 property owners in the area have refused to sell their land to the government for the storage sites because they don’t think they’re being fairly compensated, said Yoshiharu Monma, chairman of the Association of Landowners in Fukushima Prefecture.
The government agreed to compensate the owners for what the land was worth before the 2011 disaster if that property was to be used for the temporary storage sites, Monma said. But if the land has been designated for interim storage facilities, the government will only pay half of its value before the disaster.
“This is totally unfair and, as much as the landowners are willing to sell their land to facilitate the government’s decontamination plans, they won’t do so until the government fixes such compensation discrepancies,” Monma added.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran wants USA to return to the nuclear accord, among other demands to improve relations

Iran lists demands for improving relations with US  https://apnews.com/a8b233a5c521437c81f736bdbe55e04f

21 June 18, TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has announced a list of 15 demands for improving relations with the United States, including a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear accord, in response to a similar list of demands made by Washington last month.

In an article in a state-owned newspaper Thursday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on the U.S. to stop providing arms to the “invaders of Yemen,” referring to Saudi Arabia, and to drop its opposition to the nuclear disarmament of Israel.

The article came in response to demands laid out in May by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called for a wholesale change in Iran’s military and regional policies, threatening the “strongest sanctions in history” if it refused. The U.S. withdrew from the landmark nuclear agreement with world powers earlier that month.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Donald Trump says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had committed to destroy a western North Korea missile site: USA names it

U.S. identifies North Korea missile test site it says Kim committed to destroy , Matt Spetalnick, 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) 21June 18- The missile engine test site that President Donald Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had committed to destroy is a major facility in the western part of the country that has been used for testing engines for long-range missiles, according to a U.S. official.

Trump told reporters after their June 12 summit that Kim had pledged to dismantle one of his missile installations, which would be North Korea’s most concrete concession at the landmark meeting in Singapore.

However, the president at the time did not name the site.

A U.S. official identified it on Wednesday as the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, saying North Korea “has used this site to test liquid-propellant engines for its long-range ballistic missiles.”

Pyongyang has said its missiles can reach the United States.

Chairman Kim promised that North Korea would destroy a missile engine test stand soon,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

There was no immediate word on the exact timetable, and North Korea has not publicly confirmed that Kim made such a commitment.

CBS News was the first to identify the site, which is the newest of North Korea’s known major missile testing facilities.

Although Trump has hailed the Singapore summit as a success, skeptics have questioned whether he achieved anything, given that Pyongyang, which has rejected unilateral nuclear disarmament, appeared to make no new tangible commitments in a joint written declaration.

The U.S.-based North Korea monitoring group 38 North said in an analysis at the end of last week there had been no sign of any activity toward dismantling Sohae or any other missile test site.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Movements grow to ban humanity’s ultimate threat – nuclear weapons

Nuclear Weapons Pose the Ultimate Threat to Mankind, A growing number of movements are dedicated to making sure they’re banned. The Nation By Betsy Taylor , 21 June 18

June 22, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, opposition to nuclear, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Time For Israel To Drop Nuclear Ambiguity

Time for Israel to Drop Nuclear Ambiguity  https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-time-for-israel-to-drop-nuclear-ambiguity-1.6198606 Today, almost 50 years after the original Richard Nixon-Golda Meir understandings, Israel’s nuclear capability – declared or not – is a solid fact recognized by all, Avner Cohen, Jun 21, 2018  

Today, Almost 50 Years After The Original Richard Nixon-Golda Meir Understandings, Israel’s Nuclear Capability – Declared Or Not – Is A Solid Fact Recognized By All

In September 1969, When Meir Made Her First Visit To The U.S. As Prime Minister, She Reached An Array Of Understandings With Nixon That Removed Any Dispute Over The Nuclear Issue From The Agenda Between The Two Countries. The Understandings Concluded A Decade Of Cat-And-Mouse Between Them On This Issue.

Per The Understandings, The United States Accepts Israel’s Unique Nuclear Status, Will Not Press It To Join The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Pact And Will Defend It In International Forums. For Its Part, Israel Will Continue To Refer To Its Nuclear Capability As If Hidden; It Will Continue To Assert That It Will Not Be The First In The Region To Introduce A Nuclear Weapon.

The Nixon-Meir Understandings Were A Practical Arrangement That Solved Concrete Problems Weighing On Relations Between The Countries At The Time. The U.S. Already Knew That Israel Had Crossed Or Was Crossing The Nuclear Threshold, It Knew That Its Own Policy Of Trying To Stop This Had Failed, And It Recognized That It Had To Adjust Its Attitude Given The New Reality.

The U.S. Needed The Understandings So It Could Deliver Phantom Jets To Israel, And The Delivery Began That Same Month, After Negotiations The Year Before Over The Sale Had Involved A Harsh Confrontation Over The Nuclear Issue. Also, It Was Necessary To End The Yearly Visits By American Nuclear Inspectors To Dimona; By 1969, The Americans Realized They Couldn’t Reverse The New Nuclear Reality And That The Only Way To Minimize The Damage Was To Keep It Hidden.

Today, Almost 50 Years After The Original Understandings, Israel’s Nuclear Capability – Declared Or Not – Is A Solid Fact Recognized By All. Paradoxically, The Leaders Of This Nuclear Power Still Feel That They Need A Presidential Piece Of Paper To Confirm This.

Entous’ Revelations Illustrate Yet Again How Outdated The Nuclear Ambiguity Policy Is, Including The Israeli Ploy Whereby It’s Permissible For Anything To Be Written About Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal As Long As It’s Attributed To “Foreign Sources.” The Time Has Come For The Israeli Nuclear Issue To Be Handled Differently, Both At Home And Abroad. The Time Has Come For Post-Ambiguity.

The Writer Is A Professor Of Nonproliferation And Terrorism Studies At The Middlebury Institute Of International Studies.

 

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Israel, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Continued delays and overspending at the Sellafield nuclear waste clean-up site

Herald 20th June 2018 , Decommissioning the nuclear site at Sellafield faces continued delays and an overspend of up to £913 million, according to an official report. The National Audit Office (NAO) said the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) had improved its performance in delivering major projects at the site in Cumbria. But work is still predicted to be late and to cost more than originally expected, said the spending watchdog. The NDA’s nine major projects were expected to cost an additional 60% of their budget at the design stage in 2015, but this has been reduced to 29%, said the NAO. While this was a substantial improvement, it was still a forecast overspend of
£913 million.

The NAO reported that three projects were cancelled when £586 million had already been spent on them after the NDA said it had
found a better way of delivering the work. It said Sellafield Limited has achieved £470 million in efficiency savings, but added that neither the NDA nor the company knows their make-up and admit that a proportion does not represent genuine efficiency savings.

“The strategic decisions the NDA takes around prioritising activity at Sellafield could be profoundly changed and improved by a better, more evidence-based assessment of these constraints. “The NAO has found that the role of the NDA is unclear and this could put at risk the progress we are now seeing at Sellafield,” the report said. “The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s
governance of the NDA is complex and not working as well as it should to support improvements at Sellafield.
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16301638.Watchdog_warns_of_delays_and___900m_overspend_in_Sellafield_decommissioning/

June 22, 2018 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment