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Hitachi boss just like proverbial general fighting the last war

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A new nuclear power plant planned by Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd., a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd., would have been situated on the island of Anglesey in Wales
January 19, 2019
“Generals always fight the last war” is an aphorism meaning that military leaders tend to draw upon their experiences from the previous war when planning a new strategy.
Their strategy is doomed to failure because of their inability to keep up with the times by staying abreast of technological renovations and exploring new types of warfare.
Their counterparts seem to exist in present-day Japan.
Trying to “fight the last war,” such individuals are to be found among nuclear plant manufacturers as well as within the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Apparently, they cannot forget the good old 2000s, the era of global “Nuclear Renaissance.”
Memories of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl were starting to fade into oblivion then, and that helped revive nuclear plant construction. And with the nuclear industry becoming energized in various countries, Japan was determined to grab a share of the pie, and both the public and private sectors joined forces to push nuclear plant export.
And unbelievably, they keep this up even after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.
Did they believe the Fukushima disaster would have little impact on the rest of the world?
They were utterly wrong, of course. Nuclear plant construction costs skyrocketed due to reinforced safety standards.
One after another, export projects were aborted. A Hitachi project in Britain was frozen. Losses amounting to 300 billion yen wiped out the bulk of annual profit.
It is hard to believe that Japanese industry and the government, which bear grave responsibility for the Fukushima disaster, could have been so oblivious to change.
Or could it be that they were simply unable to think straight because they could not find a business they could sell to the rest of the world?
Hitachi Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi is also chairman of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation). At a recent news conference, Nakanishi created a stir by strongly advocating restarts of off-line nuclear reactors.
Is he growing frustrated and impatient over stalled exports? He obviously is totally out of touch with Japanese public opinion that has grown sensitive to the risks inherent in nuclear power generation.
I am convinced Nakanishi is the proverbial general who keeps fighting the last war.
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January 20, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Instead of compensating victims, TEPCO compete now into gas business

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Via Bruce Brinkman
 
“In a warm place, people gather.” TEPCO advertises its gas business to move against rival Tokyo Gas, which can also now compete to provide electricity following market liberalization. Instead of compensating victims, evacuees, and all those with radiologically contaminated property, *this* is how they use their taxpayer subsidies — in addition to enriching investors (who would have gone broke without state intervention).
Read also:
Japan’s power monopolies take first steps toward competition
Wed, 31 Oct 2012
 
Tokyo Gas takes aim at TEPCO with household electricity prices
December 25, 2015
 
Japan’s Power Monopolies Face Major Reform Jolt
March 31,2016
 
Which Tokyo Electric Company is Cheapest? (And How to Change Providers)
November 2, 2016
 
TEPCO Energy Partner to offer up to 8% cheaper gas rate from July
May 10, 2017

January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Koizumi says Japan must say ‘no’ to nuclear energy

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Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi speaks about his zero nuclear power proposal during a Dec. 12 interview in Tokyo.
January 17, 2019
When he was prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi championed the use of atomic power to generate electricity.
Then the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster struck, triggering a crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
Koizumi, in office from 2001 to 2006, and widely regarded as one of Japan’s most popular postwar leaders, started reading up on the nuclear issue, and had a change of heart.
Koizumi, 76, published his first book by his own hand titled “Genpatsu Zero Yareba Dekiru” (We can abolish all nuclear plants if we try) in December. It is available from Ohta Publishing Co.
In it, he lambasts consumers for lacking a sense of crisis and simply believing a serious accident like the Fukushima disaster will never happen again in Japan during their lifetime.
In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Koizumi said it was “a lie” to claim that nuclear power is “safe, low-cost and clean,” although that is precisely what he espoused when he held the reins of power.
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Excerpts from the interview follow.
Question: An opinion poll by The Asahi Shimbun in February 2018 showed that 61 percent of people oppose the restart of idle nuclear reactors, and yet, reactors are successively being brought back online. What is your view about this?
Koizumi: Many people still support the zero nuclear power generation policy. When I teamed up with Morihiro Hosokawa, (a former prime minister), who ran for the Tokyo governor’s election (in 2014), to call for abolition of nuclear power facilities, voters on the streets showed a positive reaction.
But now many people do not realize how dangerous nuclear reactors are. They probably believe a nuclear accident will never occur again while they live because of all the attention that has been paid to safety since the Fukushima crisis.
However, in the 2012 report compiled by the government’s panel to investigate causes of the disaster, the panel’s chair said, “Things that are possible happen. Things that are thought not possible also happen.”
In other words, there are no totally safe technologies.
Q: Many people seemingly believe that they have no choice but to accept nuclear power because it costs less than other types of electricity generation and electricity rates are cheaper. Do you agree?
A: The argument is doubtful. Nuclear power is relatively cheap just because the government covers part of the costs. Nuclear plants cannot be operated without assistance from the government. Private financial institutions would not extend loans to operators of nuclear facilities if the state did not provide guarantees.
Were it not for governmental support and taxpayers’ money, nuclear power would be more expensive than other kinds of energy.
Renewable energy (such as solar and wind power) currently accounts for 15 percent of total power production in Japan. The percentage is much higher than before the Fukushima crisis. Even if costs slightly increase, citizens would accept the zero nuclear policy.
Q: Is it really possible to replace all the nuclear reactors with other sorts of power plants?
A: No reactors were operated for two years after the Fukushima disaster. But no power shortages were reported during the period. That means Japan can do without nuclear plants. It is a fact.
Q: During your tenure as prime minister (between 2001 and 2006), it emerged in 2002 that Tokyo Electric Power Co. had concealed problems at its nuclear facilities. Didn’t that cause you to lose your trust in nuclear power even then?
A: No. Power supply is important and the risk of power failures could damage the economy. It was then said to be difficult to replace (nuclear plants that produced) 30 percent of the nation’s electricity needs with other power sources.
As there were few facilities to generate power based on renewables at the time, I believed nuclear reactors were essential. I simply trusted the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which said “nuclear energy is safe, low-cost and clean.”
But that was a big lie.
Although some people argued “nuclear plants are dangerous” even before the Fukushima crisis, I was deceived by the ministry and did not take their words seriously.
I did some soul-searching and decided I ought to spread the word that Japan can do without nuclear plants.
Q: You said “deceived.” Are you working to rectify your past mistake?
A: Yes. I am touring across Japan as I am keen to share my thoughts with many people.
Q: The issue of nuclear plants and their safety has hardly featured in recent national election campaigns. What’s your take on this?
A: The construction of a nuclear reactor is estimated at 1 trillion yen ($9.28 billion) now. Building reactors requires many materials, so many companies are involved in the nuclear power business.
Many tiny, small and midsize companies benefit from nuclear plants. Many of them insist that abolishing nuclear power would throw people out of work.
Some labor unions that support opposition parties are engaged in the nuclear power generation industry, though the (main opposition) Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan says it is in favor of the zero nuclear power policy.
Q: What do you think is important in realizing a nuclear-free society?
A: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insists nuclear plants are essential, so many lawmakers remain silent about the issue. But there are lawmakers even in the (ruling) Liberal Democratic Party who support the zero nuclear power policy.
If Abe declares the state will abolish all nuclear plants, the situation will drastically change. Both ruling and opposition parties can cooperate over the issue.
Why hasn’t the government set dream-inspiring goals to promote solar, wind and geothermal power generation?
Q: Could you explain the words in your book that “it is regrettable and irritating that I was deceived”?
A: When meeting with Abe, I always tell him, “Be careful not to be deceived by the economy ministry.” But he just smiles a wry smile and does not argue back.
He should not miss the current political opportunity that he has the upper hand (to change the government’s conventional nuclear energy policy).
Q: Do you talk with your son and Lower House lawmaker Shinjiro Koizumi about the issue of nuclear plants?
A: He knows my opinion all too well. He is still young, so he should do what he wants after gaining power.
(This article is based on an interview by Asahi Shimbun Staff Writer Takashi Arichika.)

January 20, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Residents Return Despite Radiation

Evacuees now fear Abe’s determination to put the Daiichi accident behind the nation is jeopardizing public health, especially among children, who are more susceptible. Lifting most evacuations has also ended subsidies for evacuees, forcing many to return despite lingering questions.
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Hiroshi Ueki moved far from the damaged Fukushima power plant and vowed to never return. He now grows grapes in a different region of Japan.
 
Japanese government presses resettlement of Fukushima evacuees back into areas still too radioactive with largest health risks falling on infants, young children and pregnant women.
 
When the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant began spewing radioactive particles after it was clobbered by a tsunami in March 2011Kaori Sakuma fled. She bundled her infant and toddler into a car and left her husband and family in Koriyama, 44 miles west of the ruptured facility. “The truth is, I ran away,” she says. Confronting gas shortages and snarled roads, she transported her children 560 miles away to Hokkaido, about as far as she could get.
 
Radiation from the fuming plant spread over tile-roofed towns and rice paddies across an area the size of Connecticut. The meltdown 150 miles north of Tokyo drove more than 200,000 people out of the region. Most believed they were fleeing for their lives. Now, almost eight years after the accident, the government has lifted most evacuation orders. Nearly 122,000 people have been allowed to return to communities where weeds have overtaken parking lots. Most are elderly, relieved to be resuming their lives. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is determined to end all evacuations by 2020, when Japan will host the Olympic Summer Games. The events will include baseball and softball competitions in Fukushima City, a mere 55 miles from the ruined reactors.
 
Around 35,000 other citizens still wait to return, but they and many others throughout northeastern Japan worry all of this is too soon. Radiation, which is generally linked to cancer, in some places continues to measure at least 5 millisieverts (mSv) a year beyond natural background radiation, five times the added level Japan had recommended for the general public prior to the incident. In certain spots radioactivity is as high as 20 mSv, the maximum exposure recommended by international safety experts for nuclear power workers.
 
In its haste to address the emergency, two months after the accident the Japanese government raised the allowable exposure from 1 mSv annually, an international benchmark, to 20 mSv. Evacuees now fear Abe’s determination to put the Daiichi accident behind the nation is jeopardizing public health, especially among children, who are more susceptible. Lifting most evacuations has also ended subsidies for evacuees, forcing many to return despite lingering questions.
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Kaori Sakuma, from Koriyama, evacuated her two young sons more than 500 miles from the Fukushima accident. She reluctantly brought them back after the government raised the allowable radiation limits for communities, but she does not trust the government’s radiation readings.
 
As more people inside and outside the country absorb the radiation data, Japanese officials are confronting a collapse of public confidence. Before the accident residents in Japan (and the U.S.) were living with background radiation that averaged 3.1 mSv a year,most of it emanating naturally from the ground and space. In Japan and the U.S. many residents experience an additional 3.1 mSv annually, due mostly to medical testing. But the anxiety of Fukushima residents facing even higher levels is palpable. If the government is going to fully restore lives and livelihoods, it needs to regain their trust, says nuclear engineer Tatsujiro Suzuki, a professor at Nagasaki University and former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission. That, he says, should include respecting international safety standards for radiation and lowering the allowable level at least to 5 mSv, although he acknowledges “even 5 mSv is too high for children.”
Running Away from Radioactivity
 
The tsunami that followed the magnitude 9.0 offshore Tohoku earthquake slammed a 40-foot wall of seawater onto Japan’s northeastern coast. The whole event killed more than 15,000 people. The water surge at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Daiichi plant led to meltdowns at three reactors.
 
Government officials ordered evacuations in areas called “difficult to return” zones, where radiation was above 50 mSv, enough to cause skin cancer. They quickly added areas between 20 and 50 mSv, then those below 20 mSv. Evacuations continued for months as Japan struggled to find housing for a large population exposed to radioactive iodine 131, cesium 134 and cesium 137. In May 2012 officials reported relocating 164,865 people. Another 26,600 people living outside the evacuation zones left voluntarily, according to Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a Tokyo-based organization opposed to the nuclear industry.
 
The evacuations did not go well. Evacuees, many elderly and frail, were moved repeatedly without any plans in place, says Jan Beyea, a physicist with Consulting in the Public Interest who worked on a 2014 U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report about the accident. Disrupted medical care and the trauma of moving were fatal to nearly 2,000 people, according to the World Nuclear Association. Many of those who survived reportedly suffer from alcoholism and clinical depression.
 
As radiation levels declined, the government began allowing evacuees home—one town at a time. By May 2013, coastal communities such as Minamisoma, 25 miles north of Daiichi, were reopening ramen shops, and trains resumed their scheduled runs despite a dearth of customers.
 
Shuzo Sasaki, 56, was one of the first evacuees to return to neighboring Odaka, a quiet seaside village. The long-time employee of Fukushima Prefecture (prefectures are equivalent to states) directs Real Fukushima, a government-sponsored organization providing tours as communities rebuild. In Odaka, where radiation plumes streamed overhead but dropped relatively few radioactive atoms on the ground, levels have stabilized at 1.26 mSv per year, well within the safe range. Today a few rice paddies are productive, with round bales of rice straw drying in the sun. Most, however, are vacant. The market for Fukushima rice is poor, even from farms where contaminated soil has been removed. Some paddies sport solar panels. Many are no longer farmed, instead covered with some of the 16 million bags of contaminated soil removed from other sites.
 
Less than a quarter of Odaka’s 12,800 residentshave returned. Most are over 60, says Sasaki, who wears a starched white shirt and dark blue suit. Some people have found new lives elsewhere; many are afraid to return. “Young people with families—they don’t believe the government radiation measurements,” he says.
 
Concern about children is one of the most controversial issues. When officials raised the allowable level of radiation to 20 mSv, including in schools, it was under the guise of giving people a measure of normalcy. But the May 2011decision became a flash point for opponents of the government’s handling of the accident. They were furious children would be subjected to the maximum radiation allowed for nuclear workers, spending day after day in buildings that increased their cancer risk to one in 200 people.
 
Sakuma was one of those who returned to Koriyama, from her outpost in Hokkaido. She did not want her young children to touch contaminated soil or water along their walk to school, so she carried them both on her small back. “We all want our kids to play in the dirt and pick flowers but I was afraid. We all were,” says Sakuma, now 46.
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Bags of radioactive soil, scraped from certain rice farms, are stored on other farmland.
 
Lack of Public Trust
 
In the year after the accident Koriyama was one of 12 communities where the ongoing radiation rate measured between 3 and 5 mSv above background, but the town had not been evacuated. Today’s levels have stabilized at 1.5 mSv, but doubts remain. Skeptical of the government’s readings, Shigeru Otake, 49, takes his own. A slim man who wears a Dollar Store rope belt to give him “strength like a samurai,” he says he has measured radiation spikes at 15 mSv in Koriyama, where his family has lived for generations. Sakuma walks her sons, now eight and 10 years old, to school past a government monitoring post that she claims reads six times lower than her own dosimeter does.
 
Misgivings about government assurances of safety drove Hiroshi Ueki, 48, to move his family to Nagano Prefecture, where he is now growing “the best grapes in the world.” His parents stayed behind in Fukushima Prefecture. Ueki says he will never move back. “The prime minister says the accident is over but I won’t ever feel safe until the Daiichi plant itself is finally shut down. That will take 100 years.”
 
In spite of these concerns, Japan has continued to showcase repatriation as a barometer of progress toward recovery. By April 2017, the government had lifted all evacuations except for the most contaminated places closest to Daiichi. That decision also ended rent-free housing provided to people who were forced to leave as well as to some 26,600 people like Ueki who vacated voluntarily. Left without the $1,000 monthly subsidy provided by Tokyo Electric Company, some people have been forced to return home despite their safety concerns.* They have no other economic options, says Hajime Matsukubo, general manager of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center. Some 16,000 people who refuse to return have been financially abandoned, according to the center.
 
It is unclear if such fear is justified. The danger to people chronically exposed to low levels of radiation is the subject of ongoing scientific debate. “It’s not a bright line where we can say this dose rate is going to kill you,” says Kathryn Higley, a nuclear science professor at Oregon State University.
 
Scientists generally agree on a few basics: The risks of getting leukemia or other cancers are higher for children than adults, and the risks for everyone increase significantly with exposure above 100 mSv annually. Various national agencies have set 20 mSv per year as a maximum for occupational exposure. Public exposure should be no more than 1 mSv per year above background levels, according to the International Commission for Radiological Protection. That raises questions about Japan’s 2011 emergency declaration of 20 mSv per year as the allowable exposure. Five years after the 1986 explosions at Chernobyl, Ukrainian officials lowered the allowable level to 5 mSv per year. Japanese officials note there have been no reported deaths from radiation exposure.
 
The public perception is that the Daiichi nuclear accident continues to pose health risks and, significantly, nuclear power is not safe. More than 80 percent of the Japanese public wants to phase it out, according to an October 2018 study by Suzuki, the former Japan Atomic Energy commissioner. He calls the erosion of public trust “the most unfortunate impact of the accident.”
 
Sakuma, the Koriyama mother, is using the Daiichi accident as a lesson in radical civic involvement. She intends to keep her sons in Koriyama despite radiation concerns. “I want them to grow up here so they can learn what the government does. I want them to tell other people about how it is to live with radiation,” she says. “This accident is not over.”
 

January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO’s refusal to settle money talks prompts center to bow out

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Masakazu Suzuki, 68, head of the group of plaintiffs that filed a damage compensation lawsuit with the Fukushima District Court against Tokyo Electric Power Co. in November 2018, stands in a garden of his home in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, on Dec. 17.
January 15, 2019
A government body set up to mediate in compensation disputes with Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the 2011 nuclear disaster is throwing in the towel because of the plant operator’s repeated refusal to play ball with aggrieved residents.
Officials of the Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center complained that TEPCO, operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, keeps rejecting settlement proposals offered in an alternative dispute resolution process.
The center discontinued trying to offer assistance in 19 cases in 2018 and another one on Jan. 10, affecting 17,000 residents in total.
If the center discontinues its mediation work, residents will have no recourse but to file lawsuits, which take time and money to resolve.
The center was set up in September 2011 to quickly settle disputes between TEPCO and residents who are unhappy with the amounts of compensation offered by the company based on the government’s guidelines.
When residents applied to the center for higher levels of compensation, lawyers working as mediators listened to what they and TEPCO had to say to draw up settlement proposals.
Residents and TEPCO are not legally obliged to accept the proposals.
As a result, some residents resorted to filing lawsuits because they got no joy from TEPCO.
Between 2013 and 2017, the center discontinued mediation work on 72 cases, all of which concerned TEPCO employees or their family members.
The 19 cases that were discontinued last year and the one last week had been mainly brought by groups, each of which consisted of more than 100 residents.
The largest group comprised 16,000 or so residents of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.
Immediately after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant in 2011, all of the town’s residents were ordered to evacuate to other municipalities.
In March 2014, the center offered to add 50,000 yen ($460) to compensation amounts ranging from 100,000 yen to 120,000 yen a month that were offered to each of the 16,000 residents by TEPCO under the government’s guidelines.
It also offered an additional 30,000 yen if any residents were aged 75 or older.
However, TEPCO rejected the proposal, prompting the center to abandon its mediation efforts in the case last April.
Some of the residents filed a lawsuit with the Fukushima District Court in November.
With regard to cases involving groups of residents, the center continued to urge TEPCO to accept its settlement proposals for several years.
As the company kept turning a blind eye to the requests, the center began to discontinue its mediation efforts in those cases from last year.
In its management reconstruction plan, TEPCO says that it will respect settlement proposals made by the center.
However, Masafumi Yokemoto, a professor of environmental policies at Osaka City University, believes it is doubtful that TEPCO will make good on that pledge.
“If TEPCO agrees to offer compensation amounts that exceed the government’s guidelines, people in other areas could also seek increased compensation amounts,” he said.
A TEPCO representative, meantime, said that as settlements (with residents) are closed and individual procedures, “we will refrain from expressing our opinions.”

January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

As Japan Tries Out Immigration, Migrant Workers Complain Of Exploitation

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An employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co. works at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant to decontaminate the area after the 2011 nuclear meltdown. A Vietnamese laborer in Japan on a training program says he was also put to work cleaning up the site, but with inadequate gear.
January 15, 2019
The wind howls and snow drifts around a house in Koriyama, in northeastern Japan’s Fukushima prefecture. The town is inland from Fukushima’s coastal areas that were devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown.
Inside the home, several Vietnamese laborers prepare dinner. The house is a shelter, run by local Catholics, for foreign workers who are experiencing problems in Japan.
One of the workers is surnamed Nguyen. He came to Japan in 2015 as part of a government program for technical trainees. He asked to use only his last name, as he doesn’t want his family in Vietnam to know what he’s been through.
He says he paid the equivalent of about $9,200 to a Vietnamese broker and signed a contract with a private construction company in Koriyama, Japan, to get on-the-job training as a rebar worker.
“I expected to come to a country more developed, clean and civilized than my own,” he recalls. “In my mind, Japan had many good things, and I wanted to learn professional skills to take home.”
 
Instead, he says he was ordered to do jobs such as removing radiation-contaminated soil from land around the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
“We were deceived,” Nguyen says, referring both to himself, and technical trainees in general.
He would not identify the company by name so as to avoid undermining negotiations he and a workers union are holding with the firm to get compensation.
He says the company issued him gloves and a mask, but not the kind of gear that would protect him against radiation. He did receive a radiation detector to wear, but only before safety inspectors paid a visit. He complained to the company, which ignored him.
Complicating matters, he had borrowed money from a bank and family members in Vietnam to pay the broker who helped him get to Japan.
“I wanted to sue my company, but I didn’t know how,” Nguyen explains. “I didn’t speak Japanese, or understand Japan’s legal system. So all I could do was be patient, and keep working to pay off the debt.”
Technical trainees like Nguyen now account for about 20 percent of the 1.3 million foreign laborers in Japan, according to government data cited by local media.
The Japanese government intends to bring in 345,000 more foreign workers in the next five years, to staff sectors including restaurants, construction, agriculture and nursing. Many will come from nations such as China, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Japan has both the world’s third-largest economy, and fastest-aging population. It also faces an acute labor shortage. Now, it is doing something previously unthinkable: allowing immigration — even as its prime minister denies it.
But advocates for the foreign workers warn that without an overhaul of the technical training program, many of the newcomers could be subjected to the same sort of exploitation Nguyen says he has experienced. Critics equate the training program with “slavery,” and deride it as the creation of labor without a labor force.
Most trainees are paid below minimum wage. They die of work-related causes at twice Japan’s overall rate, according to an analysis of government data by The Japan Times.
The problem of labor brokers using debt to enslave would-be immigrants is an element in human trafficking in many countries around the world.
The Japanese government has promised to crack down on unscrupulous brokers, establish 100 “consultation centers” where trainees can report abuses, increase Japanese language training for enrollees and generally strengthen oversight of the program.
But the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report for 2018 says that, so far, Japan has failed to prevent brokers from holding technical trainees in “debt bondage,” and sometimes the authorities arrest trainees who escape from “exploitative conditions,” instead of helping and protecting them.
Many conservative opponents of immigration would prefer that foreign workers don’t stay in Japan after finishing the program.
Speaking before the Diet, Japan’s parliament, in October, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied that the country is opening its door to immigration.
“We are not considering adopting a so-called immigration policy,” he insisted. “To cope with the labor shortage, we will expand the current system to accept foreign workers in special fields. We will accept foreign human resources that are skilled and work-ready, but only for a limited time.”
Japan’s parliament, which is controlled by the ruling right-wing Liberal Democratic Party, passed Abe’s plan last month.
Shiro Sasaki, secretary-general of the Zentoitsu Workers Union, which represents some of the foreign workers, rejects Abe’s argument, and adds that Japan’s government is not facing up to the reality of immigration.
“Abe’s definition of an immigrant is someone who lives in Japan long-term, with family,” he says. “But by international standards, the trainees are immigrants. In this sense we can say that Japan is already an immigrant society.”
Sasaki says that opening Japan’s door to immigrants even a tiny crack is better than tricking them into coming.
He says Japan has never experienced mass immigration in modern times, and it has failed to assimilate those few immigrants it has taken in. He sees the whole issue as a test of character for this island nation.
“Japan has never been able to examine itself and define itself in terms of diversity,” he argues. “Now we must live with diversity, and every single Japanese person must think about it.”
Then again, Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo, argues that Abe may have no choice but to reform by stealth.
“Immigration is unfortunately not popular even in countries like the U.S. … which historically have been nations that have been built on immigration. So obviously he’s not going to say: ‘Vote for me, I will bring in 10 million foreigners.'”
Many analysts compare the technical training program to Germany’s gastarbeiter or guest worker program of the 1950s-70s. It too took in laborers from poorer neighboring countries — particularly Turkey — but tried to limit workers’ stay in order to prevent immigration. But the cost of hiring and training temporary workers was too high.
Many workers stayed on, paving the way for Germany to see itself as a de facto immigration nation.
Current trainees like Nguyen may be eligible to remain in the country for up to five years on a new class of visas.
But Nguyen says that without decent pay and a chance to learn new skills, he has no interest in staying on.

January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | 2 Comments

Russian nuclear firm wins contracts to clean up Fukushima

Already announced quite a few times by the Russian press over the past few years but nothing took place…Is this time for real or just another of such empty self-promoting announcements?
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Workers, wearing protective suits and masks, are seen near the No. 3 and No.4 reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
14 Jan, 2019
Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom will help Japan in handling the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant (NPP) and will be engaged in the nuclear control plan, according to the company’s CEO Aleksey Likhachev.
“We have been engaged by Japan to implement the nuclear accident management plan at the Fukushima NPP. We have won two tenders and are going ahead,” Likhachev told Russia-24 news channel.
In September 2017, Rosatom’s First Deputy CEO Kirill Komarov said that Rosatom offered their Japanese counterparts assistance in cleaning up at the Fukushima NPP and in decommissioning other unsafe nuclear power plants.
That followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that Russia and Japan will start joint efforts to clean up after the accident.
The decommissioning of the wrecked Fukushima reactors could take several decades and cost $200 billion. Japan plans to restart 16 out of the 45 Fukushima-type reactors, while the others will be mothballed. The country intends to reduce the share of nuclear energy from 29 percent in 2011 to 21-22 percent by 2030.
The accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant occurred in March 2011 when a massive tsunami triggered by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake overwhelmed the reactor cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan. It caused reactor meltdowns, releasing radiation in the most dangerous nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Chinese residents concerned over imports of rice produced near Fukushima disaster area

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Consumers buy rice at a supermarket in Taiyuan, North China’s Shanxi Province in March, 2018
January 10, 2019
Chinese residents expressed concerns over the safety of Japanese rice produced nearby the Fukushima disaster area, after the Chinese government lifted an eight-year ban on the import of the rice. 
 
Japan’s National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (JA) on Tuesday held a ceremony at Yokohama, Japan for exporting the Niigata rice into China for the first time after the Chinese government lifted the ban on imports of rice produced in Niigata Prefecture, the Japan News reported on Wednesday.
 
China’s General Administration of Customs announced in November that it had lifted a ban on rice imports from Niigata, one of a number of prefectures neighboring Fukushima, home to the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which went into meltdown and released radioactive material in the aftermath of a tsunami in March 2011.
 
The rice will be sold before the Spring Festival, which falls on February 5, a season which will see booming demand for rice in China.
 
An official of JA said he had confidence that the rice is of high quality and safe, and could satisfy Chinese consumers. Niigata rice will have a trial sale of 500 bags totaling two tons to Shanghai, the Niigata Daily reported on Wednesday.
 
However, Chinese residents don’t seem to have much desire to buy the rice.
 
“I actually don’t care much about the production place when I buy rice, but I still won’t buy the Niigata rice out of food safety concern, and I’m more confident about the quality of the rice produced in the Northeast China,” Chinese student Lei Yue majoring in Japanese told Global Times on Thursday.
 
Varieties of Japanese rice can be seen now being sold on Taobao,  many of which are priced higher than those produced in China. 
 
A Taobao shop is selling Japanese rice for 145 yuan ($21.4) per two kilograms, almost twice the price of domestic rice. 
 
The rice is produced in Yishigawa, Japan, 400 kilometers away from Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, implying that the rice is safe. The staff added it is popular due to its good fragrance and taste and has monthly sales of 95 bags.
 
Comparatively, a Taobao shop which sells rice from Northeast China has monthly sale of more than 30,000 bags. 
 
Exports of Niigata rice were permitted after General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China issued announcement in November 2018.

January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Niigata gov’t to handle radioactive mud stored since Fukushima crisis

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January 9, 2019
NIIGATA – The Niigata prefectural government said Tuesday it will dispose of radioactive mud that has been stored since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and ask the operator of the crisis-hit plant to shoulder the costs.
The prefecture in central Japan, located about 200 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, has stored around 60,000 tons of mud containing radioactive cesium and requested Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc since 2012 to dispose of it.
But the operator has refused, saying it is not able to handle industrial waste. The disposal costs are estimated at 3 billion yen and TEPCO formally expressed its readiness to pay in December.
The level of radioactive cesium in the mud is below 8,000 becquerels per kilogram, which could be disposed of by regular landfill operations, and most of it is below 100 becquerels per kg, according to the prefecture.
The local government has stored the mud instead of disposing of it, arguing that TEPCO should take responsibility for the damage caused by fuel meltdowns at the plant triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The Niigata prefectural government has also stored the waste as some local residents were concerned about safety despite the low level of radioactive cesium.
Niigata Gov. Hideyo Hanazumi said at a press conference Tuesday it is “not realistic” to keep asking TEPCO to dispose of the mud and expressed “regret” that it had taken so long for the operator to decide how to handle the matter.
The contaminated mud, produced at an industrial water supply facility that takes in water from a river containing radioactive materials, is growing by 5,000 tons annually and the storage facility could become full later this year, according to the prefecture.
Municipalities other than Niigata have also been grappling with radioactive mud as a result of the crisis at the six-reactor Fukushima complex, with some shouldering the disposal costs.

January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Resona bans lending to those developing, making or possessing nuclear weapons

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This screen capture shows a Resona statement prohibiting lending to entities that develop, produce or possess nuclear weapons.
January 7, 2019
TOKYO — Resona Holdings Inc., a major financial group in Japan, has announced a policy of not extending loans to borrowers that are involved in the development, production or possession of nuclear weapons.
The statement, the first of its kind by a major Japanese banking institution, came amid similar moves by an increasing number of European banks and institutional investors following the adoption at the United Nations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017.
Whether other Japanese corporations will follow Resona’s action is a focus of attention for the future. There were other lenders banning loans for the production of nuclear weapons, but the Resona policy prohibits any loans to such companies even when such transactions are for non-nuclear related purposes.
The new posture was incorporated in a document titled “Efforts toward socially responsible investment and loans,” which was announced in November last year. According to the paper, Resona refuses to lend to those that are associated with the development, production or possession of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, or inhuman weaponry including antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions. Entities that can be subject to relevant restrictions or sanctions, or even those with the potential to be hit with such punitive measures, will be rejected as borrowers, the document says.
An official with Resona, which has never lent to companies making nuclear weapons, explained that the banking group decided to introduce the policy “because we thought it important for providers of funds to make such efforts toward a sustainable society.”
According to the Dutch nongovernmental organization PAX, 63 financial institutions had similar lending policies as of October 2017, an increase of nine from the previous year.
A Mainichi Shimbun poll of four Japanese mega banks — Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Mizuho Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings — as well as four major life insurance companies — Nippon, Dai-ichi, Meiji Yasuda and Sumitomo — found that all of the eight companies and groups have policies to refrain from lending and investment over inhuman weapons. Yet the entities did not specify the production of nuclear weapons as a condition to disengage from borrowers.
Officials at Sumitomo Mitsui and Mizuho replied that their companies ban loans to be used in the production of nuclear weapons, while a Mitsubishi UFJ official explained that the company is “making careful judgment in each transaction.”

January 20, 2019 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment