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Survey: 52% in Fukushima see progress toward recovery

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February 28, 2019
 
A combined 52 percent of respondents said either some or much progress had been made toward recovery in the prefecture. In contrast, only 7 percent gave those responses in the 2012 survey while the figure rose to 36 percent in the 2016 survey.
A combined 44 percent said little or no progress had been made toward recovery, according to the latest survey, the ninth one conducted.
Asked when they think their lives will return to pre-disaster conditions, 56 percent said “beyond 20 years.” Half of the residents who said some or much progress had been made toward recovery gave this response.
A combined 60 percent of respondents said they were very much or somewhat concerned about the effects of radioactive materials released by the triple meltdown.
Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they felt the general public’s interest over victims of the nuclear disaster was weakening.
 
Sixty-one percent of respondents were against the government’s plan to use contaminated soil with low levels of radiation for public works projects in Fukushima Prefecture. Only 27 percent of respondents supported that move.
Seventy-three percent of female respondents opposed the use of the contaminated soil, compared with 49 percent of men.
 
Asked about a plan to dilute the contaminated water and release it into the ocean, 65 percent of respondents were opposed, a slight decrease from the 67 percent who objected in last year’s survey.
Only 19 percent supported the release of diluted water to the ocean, unchanged from last year’s survey.
A combined 87 percent of respondents said they were greatly or somewhat concerned that the release of the diluted water would create negative publicity for Fukushima seafood and produce.
Moreover, 65 percent of Fukushima respondents said lessons from the nuclear disaster have not been reflected in the central government’s nuclear energy policy. Only 16 percent said the lessons were being used effectively in nuclear policy.
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

‘Reconstruction Olympics’ theme said not to have gathered momentum

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Azuma Stadium in the city of Fukushima in March 2017, will host the baseball and softball competitions during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Feb 27, 2019
AOMORI – Half of 42 municipalities in northeastern Japan hit by a massive earthquake in 2011 said the public is not fully aware of the government’s efforts to showcase the region’s recovery from the disaster through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a Kyodo News survey showed Wednesday.
The heads of 21 local governments in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures said in the survey that the “reconstruction Olympics” theme has yet to fully catch on among the public.
Asked whether the slogan has gained public attention, two mayors said “it has not” while 19 mayors said “it mostly has not.” Eighteen said “it has a little” and two said “it has.” The remaining municipality — the Fukushima city of Soma — did not answer.
“The phrase ‘reconstruction Olympics’ was thought up but no substantial progress has been made and the affected areas feel left behind,” said an official of the town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture. “We have limited manpower and cannot spare personnel for Olympic events.”
“The sporting event will be held under the banner of the ‘reconstruction Olympics’ but venues are centered on Tokyo,” said an official of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture.
Asked what they expect from the Tokyo Games in a multiple-choice question, the biggest group, of 36 mayors, picked “promoting our progress toward recovery,” while 20 mayors, mainly from Fukushima, chose “overcoming reputational damage.”
“We want to use the Olympics as a chance to regain sales channels for our farm products,” said an official of the Fukushima town of Namie.
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fierce opposition to recycling radioactive soil from Fukushima

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Radiation-contaminated soil is kept temporarily in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, before being moved to an intermediate storage facility
February 26, 2019
How to dispose of mountains of soil contaminated by radiation from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster poses a massive headache for the central government.
Officials had long insisted that contaminated surface soil removed after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant would eventually be stored outside of Fukushima Prefecture.
According to one estimate, the total volume of such soil will reach 14 million cubic meters by fiscal 2021. Local entities outside of Fukushima are understandably hesitant about serving as host to such vast quantities of possibly hazardous dirt.
Officials in Tokyo are now hoping to sway local governments to act as hosts by proposing reuse of the contaminated soil for public works projects under certain conditions.
One requirement would be that soil radiation levels below 8,000 becquerels per kilogram, the standard used by the government in classifying whether the waste material requires special treatment, could be used for various construction projects.
This poses a dilemma for Fukushima Prefecture, which fears local residents will be stuck with the problem despite repeated pledges by the government to move all contaminated soil from the prefecture.
Work got under way four years ago to move contaminated soil to intermediate storage facilities in Fukushima Prefecture. As of Feb. 19, the volume of soil transported to those facilities totaled 2.35 million cubic meters.
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Post-disaster recovery of Fukushima folk dances lags without return of evacuees

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The Sanbiki Shishi-mai, or “Three lion dance,” is performed by local children for the first time in eight years at Yasaka Shrine in the Yamakiya district of Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture, on Oct. 7, 2018.
February 26, 2019
FUKUSHIMA — A recent survey found that activities for 80 folk performing arts, including kagura and nenbutsu odori dancing, which were suspended after the 2011 disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 15 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture had resumed.
Thirty percent of such arts were having trouble continuing, with some having suspended activities again or being forced to change or cut back on performances, according to the survey by Minzoku Geino o Keishosuru Fukushima no Kai, a Koriyama-based nonprofit organization that supports folk performing arts in the prefecture.
“Without both passionate skilled leaders and sympathetic companions, performances won’t last long even if they resume,” a specialist said.
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Teaching about radiation after Fukushima

Figure-2-1024x768.jpgAn interactive model at the Decontamination Info Plaza in the city of Fukushima allows visitors to “decontaminate” a house and yard.

At the entrance to the Fukushima Prefectural Centre for Environmental Creation, a friendly hippopotamus-like mascot welcomes visitors while accepting hugs from children. Buzzing with young families, this government-sponsored scientific hub was created to explain the phenomenon of radiation to the population of Fukushima, the victims of the eponymous 2011 nuclear disaster.
 
Inside the main annex, an interactive model explains how external radiation exposure can be lowered. Visitors are encouraged to increase their distance from a radiation-emitting device while making use of shielding, thereby lowering their overall exposure. In another corner, children are learning about the radioactive isotopes released during the disaster, although representations of these perils are anything but threatening. Using posters and comic books, radionuclides such as plutonium‑239 and cesium‑137 are represented as adorable anthropomorphic figures. Each radionuclide has its own characteristics, such as pronounced eyebrows or a distinctive hairstyle. There is no discussion about how exposure to these radionuclides can cause serious bodily harm—an increased risk of cancer, for example.
 
In the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdowns, which triggered a released of radioactive pollutants, the Japanese state initially decided to increase the mandatory evacuation trigger from 1 millisievert of radiation exposure per year to 20 millisieverts per year. In other words, the public was forced to accept a new threshold of safety. While this policy caused much scientific and public controversy, 20 millisieverts per year remains the benchmark for what is considered safe in Fukushima. Places like the Centre for Environmental Creation downplay the controversy of a raised threshold of exposure.
 
Situated in the town of Miharu and opened in July 2016, the center was established by the prefecture of Fukushima, with the financial support of the Japanese government, to conduct research and provide education on radioactive contamination. The center is one of several government-sponsored revitalization projects aimed at rebuilding the trust of people living in Fukushima. Mostly visited by young families, it represents a new approach to risk communication. As a technical advisor explained to me, this approach aims to “deepen the understanding of children about radiation” by allowing visitors to experience information firsthand through interactive games, fun activities, and cute presentations.
 
Past efforts to present nuclear science in appealing ways have often blended education with propaganda. The 1957 Disney TV episode Our Friend the Atom is a perfect example of this. What are the dangers of resorting to such forms of explanations in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster? In 2015 and 2017, I spent a total of 14 months in Japan examining the public’s interactive experience at state-sponsored centers and public activities that explain radiation. I found that while the information on radiation is easy to understand, many aspects of its hazards are carefully concealed. In particular, the government’s educational approach shifts the post-Fukushima Japanese public’s attention away from manmade danger and toward a vision of naturalness, technological amusement, and scientific amazement. In doing so, this approach downplays the risk inherent to residual radioactivity in Fukushima.
 
The naturalness of radiation. One way to neutralize the perceived harmfulness of radiation is to make the phenomenon appear as natural as possible, by emphasizing the radioactivity coming from natural sources. At the Centre for Environmental Creation, one of the most popular attractions is an enormous spherical theater, where visitors are bombarded with sounds and images in a 360-degree multisensory experience that describes radiation as a natural part of daily life. “It can be found everywhere! From the sun’s ray to the mineral in the earth,” claims the theater’s narrator. “Without radiation, no life would exist on Earth!” After these explanations, an enormous Boeing passes above theatergoers’ heads in the cinematic sky, and the amount of radiation exposure received during an intercontinental flight is said to be higher than the level of radiation found in Fukushima. Their necks strained upward, visitors mumble words of apparent relief.
 
What the theater fails to explain, however, is that there is nothing natural about the radioactive isotopes released during the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and that background radiation has little to do with the hazards of breathing or swallowing fission products—which are not rays, but dust-like particles. For instance, strontium 90, if inhaled or ingested, mimics calcium to enter an individual’s bone marrow and cause lifelong radiation exposure. This exposure can cause mutations in living cells—a permanent alteration that can lead to cancers, genetic problems, or immune disorders.
 
It’s all fun and games. Information about radiation is often promoted through an enjoyable experience that conceals disturbing aspects of the phenomenon. In front of a giant interactive screen, for example, children can move their bodies to “block” radiation. By selecting the proper material, they can block either radioactive alpha particles, beta particles, or gamma rays. They pretend that their bodies are thick metal plates used to hamper harmful external exposure. By doing so, they collect points, and at the end of the game, the child with the highest score wins.
 
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In an interactive game at the Fukushima Prefectural Centre for Environmental Creation, participants use their body movements to “block” radioactive rays or particles
 
By transforming radiation protection into a game that focuses on blocking external radiation, children do not learn of the risk of internal contamination from radioactive particles such as cesium 137, which was released in significant amounts by the Fukushima disaster. If internalized, cesium 137 gets distributed throughout the body, irradiating soft tissues such as muscles and ovaries. And because the children’s game blocks radiation in “real time,” there is no mention of any delayed health effects of radiation exposure, such as potential harmful genetic changes.
 
At the Decontamination Info Plaza, the government promotes similar activities. Situated in the city of Fukushima, the Plaza was established in January 2012 as a joint program between the prefecture of Fukushima and Japan’s Ministry of the Environment. The Plaza’s purpose is to provide information about radiation in general, as well as explanations about monitoring methods, workshops on decontamination, and advice on contaminated sites. Basic information about radiation is presented to the public in a very accessible, visual, and interactive form.
 
For example, an interactive model helps younger visitors understand the process of decontamination. The model consists of a miniature house in a transparent plastic box filled with small white and red balls. The white balls represent uncontaminated soil; the red balls stand for radioactive pollutants and are found on the house rooftop and in the soil. With a toy shovel, visitors can pick up the red balls and dispose of them in a plastic container, isolating them from the rest of the environment. By playing with the toy shovels and trying to “successfully” get rid of the radioactive pollutants, decontamination acquires a tangibility that feels like a safe game. Children do not have to put on protective suits before separating the balls, and there is no recognition that the decontamination process presents health hazards from radiation, either from external or internal exposure.
 
Radiation is our friend! A third way to downplay the perception of radiation danger is to link radiation with the wonders of science and technology. This was particularly apparent during an April 2016 open house organized by the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, Japan’s leading radiological institute, which is situated in Chiba, east of Tokyo. Titled “I Want to Know More! What Can You Do with Radiation?” the public fair was a popular event at which visitors could see the institute’s research facilities, the latest PET scan technology for medical imaging, and the cyclotrons used in nuclear medicine to produce radioisotopes. A special elevator led down to the Heavy Ion Medical Accelerator, situated in an impressive subterranean facility.
 
As I walked through the underground maze of this metallic behemoth, it became apparent that families were overcome by the scale of the apparatus. Indeed, as one parent said to his child, “It looks like a spaceship, right?” At this institute, manmade radiation was effectively linked to technologies that sustain life. For instance, the open house showed how the radiation-related devices at the institute produce particle therapies to treat cancer.
 
While there was nothing inaccurate about the center’s explanations of radiation as a medical treatment, the information presented was unrelated to the dangers faced during a nuclear disaster. If visitors wanted to hear more about such risks, they had to visit the station called “Impact of Fukushima.” The small station was, however, much less appealing than the other venues. It consisted of four small posters that focused on the decontamination process without explaining the adverse health effects of exposure to manmade radioisotopes. Children were much more interested in learning about the giant particle accelerators. Radiation was emphasized as a useful agent that could penetrate the body and kill harmful tumors, as was demonstrated on medical dummies during the event. In the end, by heavily framing radiation information around a beacon of technological wonder, the public opening day glossed over the danger of radioactive contamination and selectively amplified the beneficial aspects of radiation.
 
Education vs. propaganda. In interviews that I conducted with officials and technical advisors employed at the aforementioned places, I was told that Fukushima is afflicted by “harmful rumors” surrounding the real extent of radiation harm and that this misunderstanding stems from public ignorance of radiological science. It is in this context that government-sanctioned approaches aim to provide “basic information” that will help citizens fear radiation in an “appropriate way,” thereby creating an environment in which people feel they can safely return to Fukushima. While this is a worthy endeavor, the government’s approach emphasizes specific understandings of radioactivity that overshadow the particular risks introduced by manmade radioactive pollutants resulting from a nuclear accident.
 
Ultimately, I have doubts about these education programs. They are selective in their nature, making only certain aspects of radiation tangible through their public activities, while rarely explaining in detail the dangers of adverse health effects linked with residual radioactivity. From my viewpoint, their purpose seems to be dual: While they aim to shed light on the phenomenon of radiation, they are also covertly looking to defuse the threat of widespread societal unrest, to reclaim political control and economic stability, and to pacify a fearful public—and in ways that are perhaps more beneficial to the state than to affected individuals.
 
In a community where dangerous residual radioactivity has become a public everyday concern, coming to grips with serious contamination requires more education than ever before. The important word here is education. Not state propaganda disguised as education. There is a fine line between these two, but it is a line that needs to be clearly drawn. While Japanese state approaches are innovative in their interactivity and freedom from jargon, they are less so in their content.
 
I strongly agree that the existence of state-sponsored educational programs is better than to simply ignore radioactive risk. But mobilizing specific explanations that downplay the real risk faced by citizens is not sustainable. Doing so will reproduce the ignorance, secrecy, and values that led to this disaster. Public well-being, democracy, and science cannot thrive in such context. An unbiased effort to educate people about the specific hazards of radioactive contamination, and correct misunderstandings about the risk of radiation exposure, does not have to be delivered in a dry and clinical manner. It can be as fun and engaging as anything the Japanese centers, exhibits, and public days are already doing.
 
There is one scene from my time in Japan that I cannot forget: the unadulterated smile of the happy child who had won the contest of blocking radiation. While the kid had learned much about radiation, he had learned little about the complexity of radiation hazards. I could not help thinking of Major Kong straddling the bomb in the film Dr. Strangelove, enjoying the nuclear ride without thinking about it too much, shouting “Yee Haw!” at the top of his lungs.
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Fukushima Speaks’ Explores Lives of Survivors

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February 25, 2019
On Saturday, March 9, from 1 to 5 p.m., the Fukushima Support Committee will host the North America premiere of “Fukushima Speaks,” a compelling feature-length documentary by award-winning director and independent journalist Toshikuni Doi.
The screening will take place at Art Share Los Angeles, 801 E. 4th Pl. in L.A’s Arts District.
“It is not enough for a journalist to report facts and news of what is happening, but rather it is the journalist’s duty to expose the ‘human’ underneath it all,” Doi stated. “If we fail to shed light on [universal themes]and just succeed in reporting on facts and news, to the audience, it will come across as just a matter that is happening somewhere far away, unrelated to them.”
Four years in the making, Doi has created a heart-wrenching look into the lives of Japanese residents whose lives were devastated by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Haunting images and video footage of the aftermath are reinforced by 14 personal stories of despair, guilt, and outrage.
“I lost the cornerstone of my life,” Yoko Watanabe, a self-evacuee, said in her interview. “I was determined to bury myself in Katsurao village. That was taken away from me. The reason to live, volunteering, everything was taken away from me in a flash. Now I don’t know anymore what I live for. I wonder if I am really needed in this life, and I don’t know anymore.”
The suffering of Fukushima survivors continue to this day. While the mourning of lost life is obvious, the film also explores the dire realities that are often overlooked: the loss of livelihoods due to the contamination of land and ocean, the life-threatening risks caused by radiation exposure, the emotional turmoil of families being torn apart by the decision to stay or evacuate, and the discrimination that residents now face because they are from Fukushima.
Another self-evacuee, Hikaru Hoshi, expressed indignation: “They want to blame it on us and say it was our responsibility. Whether to leave or stay…. I do not allow them to shift the burden of the accident of enormous scale to individual choices/individual responsibilities…. We lived in the area that needed to be evacuated right away. That fact was concealed from us, and some of us left on our own, or like me, some did not have time to think it through but left anyway. I felt outraged that this country was putting us against each other. The root of the matter lies somewhere else.”
Doi pointed out the urgency of releasing this documentary: “Eight years since the accident, ‘Fukushima’ is being made into the thing of the past,” he said. “As more people focus on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the victims are silenced and their suffering is hidden away behind the news of ‘revitalization.’ However, the wounds of the victims whose lives have been destroyed by the accident are still raw.”
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

North Korea alleges ‘nuclear weaponization’ by Japan as Trump-Kim summit draws near

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Televisions at an electronics store in Tokyo display a news broadcast about a North Korean missile launch in November 2017.
Feb 25, 2019
In a commentary published Saturday in the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling party criticized what it claimed were “voices for the revision of the constitution and increased military spending and nuclear weaponization” from within the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Japan, the only country to have endured a nuclear attack, has long maintained that it adheres to its three nonnuclear principles of not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons. However, the government admitted in 2010 that previous administrations had lied to the public for decades about atomic weapons, after a government-appointed panel confirmed the existence of secret Cold War-era agreements allowing the U.S. to bring them into the country.
Japan has ramped up military spending and the acquisition of sophisticated weapons in recent years, spending around 1 percent of its gross domestic product on the Self-Defense Forces — which, given the size of its economy, makes it one of the world’s biggest military spenders.
Experts say Japan, with its civilian nuclear program, fissile materials and existing weaponization technology, could probably develop a small arsenal of nuclear devices within a year if there was motivation to do so.
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima wild boar leather baby shoes?

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Date goes whole hog into boar leather business in Fukushima
[Translated by the Japan Times]Wild boar leather is said to breathe well and resist chafing. It is used in Date, Fukushima Prefecture, to make products like babies’ first walking shoes because it is soft and fits well.
 
The wild boar are captured by local hunters, and their skin goes through radiation testing before and after tanning to confirm safety.
 
The corporation initially wanted to sell the meat, but they had to give up on the idea because eating wild boar caught in the area was banned after the 2011 core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
 
They came up with the idea of developing leather products after learning about a company in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward that tans wild animal hides. After repeated talks with representatives from the local tourism industry, the corporation began selling leather products in April 2015. It currently employs seven staffers and 16 artisans for the project.
 
As the government continues to ban shipments of wild animal meat from the region due to radiation concerns, the boar population is growing and causing serious crop damage. Over 1,800 of them have been captured in the city in the six years since the meltdowns.
 
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | , , | Leave a comment

Eight years after Fukushima nuclear meltdown, workers still facing radiation risk

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Workers at the Fukushima plant still don’t know how long they have to stay behind cleaning up the mess from the 2011 nuclear meltdown.
February 22, 2019
TEPCO officials recently said to Akahata that high-risk zones in the Fukushima Daiichi plant have become smaller and that now workers do not need to wear a full-face mask and a protective suit in 96 percent of the plant premises. This is because the level of radioactive materials in the air has decreased as a larger area of the site is now covered with concrete, according to officials. At the crippled nuclear power plant, the number of workers coping with the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear accident, though, is still more than 4,000 per day.
However, the hidden reality regarding contamination risks seems to differ from the impression the utility wanted to create by citing the figure “96 percent.” In a recently published survey of Fukushima workers conducted by TEPCO, of the respondents who are anxious about their exposure to radiation, nearly half feared that their health would be damaged in the future. In another question in the same survey, more than 40 percent were concerned about working at the nuclear power plant.
The most common reason for their concern was that they have no idea how long they need to work at the plant because it is unclear how much work remains to be done. They are also worried about the risk of radiation-induced health damage in the future with no guarantee of a stable income. Without a worker-friendly environment, the decommissioning of the crippled reactors will be extremely time-consuming.
The storage of radiation-contaminated water is another major issue. Around 100-150 tons of polluted water is produced every day at the plant, which means that a 1,000-ton tank is filled up in seven to ten days. Currently, around 1.1 million tons of radioactive water are stored on the plant premises, but under TEPCO’s plan, the maximum planned storage capacity is only 1.37 million tons.
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | 1 Comment