nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Nuclear-Climate News – week to 14 April

On the surface, not much seems to be happening in nuclear news. Tensions between Pakistan and India have pulled back from the brink.  USA and North Korea remain at a nuclear stalemate, while South Korea tries for moderate progress. The mainstream media continues to regurgitate nuclear lobby propaganda about solving climate change, especially by developing small nuclear reactors.

The optimistic picture that’s often given of Chernobyl’s supposed recovery from the 1986 nuclear catastrophe has been thoroughly contradicted, as three new books reveal.  Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future by Kate Brown– details the dedicated research done in Belarus and Ukraine, on radiation effects, and draws attention to the pervasive and growing effects of ionising radiation, globally.  Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster– by Adam Higginbotham  describes the course of the disaster and investigates  the propaganda, secrecy, and myths that have obscured the truth on its effects. Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe– by Serhii Plokhy dramatically reconstructs the meltdown, and condemns the  USSR’s bureaucratic dysfunction, censorship, secrecy and mismanagement that preceded the disaster, and hindered the Soviet’s response to it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRu-Xs4U2r4All point to the danger of ionising radiation to the world, as nuclear activities continue, and the radioactive wastes accumulate.

Once again the twin threats of climate change and ionising radiation come together. As glaciers melt, ionising radiation, (from nuclear bomb testing) is released from ice surface sediments. Good news : how we could get (almost) all our energy from the sun by 2050.

The Threat of Nuclear War Is Still With Us,

Police drag Julian Assange from Embassy.  –Extradition of Julian Assange must be opposed. USA govt wants to silence all reports of govt atrocities.  Wikileaks has won many awards for fine journalism.  What Does Julian Assange’s Arrest Mean for Journalists?

EUROPE. Youth climate change protests across Europe.

JAPAN.

PAKISTAN. PAKISTAN’S Prime Minister Imran Khan issues warning on conflict with India, the nuclear danger. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFU_ez_naak&t=9s

USA. 

CANADA. SNC-Lavalin nuclear contracts at risk if it’s convicted.

CHINA. China opens fourth border crossing with North Korea, complete with radiation detectors.

FRANCE, The Flamanville EPR risks a new delay , catastrophic for EDF.

FINLAND. Finland’s Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor – another delay after delays.

AUSTRALIA  Prime Minister  Scott Morrison says “no special help” Opposition leader Bill Shorten pleads ignorance of the matter.  ‘He uncovered war crimes’: Greens leader urges government  to protect Julian Assange, an Australian citizen.

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April 14, 2019 Posted by | Christina's notes, Nigeria | 2 Comments

South Korea ban on Fukushima seafood divides Seoul, Tokyo

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Japanese seafood from Fukushima is banned in South Korea.
April 12, 2019
April 12 (UPI) — South Korea welcomed — while Japan condemned — a World Trade Organization decision to uphold a South Korea ban on Japanese seafood originating from the Fukushima nuclear disaster zone.
Japan is criticizing the decision despite evidence the product is not widely consumed or avoided entirely by Japanese consumers.
“Even though the ruling did not acknowledge that South Korea’s measures comply with the WTO rules, it is extremely regrettable that Japan’s argument was not approved,” Tokyo’s foreign ministry said Friday, after the WTO’s highest court overturned a judgment from 2018. The verdict is final, according to Kyodo and other Japanese news services.
In Seoul, the ruling Democratic Party welcomed the WTO decision. Party spokesman Lee Hae-sik said in statement the verdict reflects the current administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to “actively defend the nation’s health and food safety” and described the outcome as a “diplomatic victory,” South Korean news service News 1 reported Friday.
Lee also said the ban on imports of seafood originating from the eight prefectures of Japan’s Tohoku region, which are “at risk” due to the nuclear accidents at Fukushima plants, will be sustained.
Following the WTO verdict, Japan is turning its attention to the specialized United Nations agency.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga suggested Tokyo will “cooperate closely with the United States” on WTO reform in order to “maintain and strengthen the multilateral trading system.”
But the United States also has partial bans in place against Fukushima products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to monitor the public health risks due to radionuclide contamination and has placed an “import alert” on select Japanese products.
In Japanese fish markets in Tokyo, products labeled “Fukushima region” do not sell well and frequently at below market prices, South Korea television network MBC reported from Japan.
The seafood is not in demand despite safety screenings, according to the report.

April 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to start removing fuel at Fukushima’s No. 3 reactor

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Workers lower the last part of a semi-cylindrical covering on top of the No. 3 reactor building.
April 12, 2019
The operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will start removing nuclear fuel from the No. 3 reactor as early as next week through equipment controlled remotely due to high radiation levels inside the building.
This will mark Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s first attempt to remove spent fuel from one of the three reactors that experienced a meltdown during the 2011 nuclear accident.
All spent fuel has already been removed from the No. 4 reactor.
TEPCO workers will use remote control to remove nuclear fuel assemblies kept in the pool on the upper floors of the No. 3 reactor building.
Utility officials acknowledge that the process will not be easy, as they have no experience conducting such a dangerous task remotely.
The 566 nuclear fuel assemblies in the storage pool will be removed under a plan expected to take two years to complete.
TEPCO wants to remove the assemblies as quickly as possible owing to concerns that another major earthquake or tsunami could further damage the reactor building and equipment. The No. 3 reactor will also serve as a test case for eventually removing spent nuclear fuel from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactor buildings.
Under the plan, workers will be stationed in a control room about 500 meters from the reactor building and use remote control equipment while observing the process through monitors.
Each nuclear fuel assembly will be lifted and transferred to a special transport container that can hold up to seven such assemblies in water. The container will then be carried out of the reactor building by crane, which will then lower the container outside of the building to a trailer about 30 meters below at ground level.
As a hydrogen explosion blew off the roof of the No. 3 reactor building in the wake of the 2011 nuclear accident, a semi-cylindrical copper covering has been placed over the building to prevent radioactive materials from spreading when the spent nuclear fuel is being removed.
All 1,535 nuclear fuel assemblies at the No. 4 reactor building were removed by the end of 2014. Radiation levels were comparatively low so workers could enter the building to work on the removal.
A TEPCO official in charge of the process called the removal at the No. 4 reactor “normal operating procedures,” but admitted that remote control operations added a new dimension of difficulty.
The utility has experienced problems with the crane and other equipment to be used at the No. 3 reactor.
Under TEPCO’s plan compiled shortly after the nuclear accident, all spent nuclear fuel was to have been removed from all four reactors by the end of fiscal 2021.
“We do not believe the process will proceed with zero problems,” said Akira Ono, president of the Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination and Decommissioning Engineering Co.
The work at the No. 3 reactor will serve as a model for a similar process planned for the No. 1 and No. 2 reactor buildings to start in fiscal 2023.
Government and TEPCO officials have said they will consider a detailed plan for removing spent nuclear fuel from those two buildings after reviewing the work done at the No. 3 reactor building.
The two other reactor buildings present different hurdles for workers.
The top floor of the No. 1 reactor building is covered with debris from a collapsed ceiling and damaged crane, the removal of which has proved difficult. Workers have also confirmed that the lid on top of the containment vessel has shifted, meaning radiation levels inside the building are likely even higher than in the No. 3 reactor building.
It thus remains to be seen if the same equipment to be used for the No. 3 reactor can be used for the No. 1 building. To prevent leaking of radioactive materials, the lid for the containment vessel will first have to be moved back into place.
While the No. 2 reactor building did not suffer major structural damage, large amounts of radioactive materials are believed to be trapped inside the building, meaning radiation levels are also very high there.
The level at the top floor is so high that any worker remaining there for one hour would quickly exceed the annual radiation exposure level. After decontamination, the upper part of the No. 2 reactor building will have to be taken apart to remove the spent fuel. However, this poses the major problem of preventing the spewing of radioactive materials during that process.
“To be honest, it will be difficult to say that no problems will emerge that will force a change in plans,” said Toyoshi Fuketa, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

April 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | 1 Comment

Japan pitches safety of food from Fukushima and Tohoku in wake of WTO ruling for South Korea

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April 12, 2019
Japan will seek to reassure other countries about the safety of food produced in areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, officials said Friday, after the World Trade Organization supported South Korea’s import ban on some Japanese seafood.
Fishermen in Tohoku, the region hit hardest by the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that triggered the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, expressed disappointment with the WTO’s decision, saying their catches clear strict safety checks before shipment.
The WTO “maintained factual findings that Japanese food products are scientifically safe and satisfy safety standards in South Korea,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press briefing.
“We will continue to ask South Korea and other countries to lift or ease import restrictions based on scientific evidence,” the top government spokesman said.
Japan has taken a series of steps over the years, such as screening food products for radioactive substances before shipment, to alleviate safety concerns.
“It’s been eight years since the nuclear accident. Does it mean that it’s still early (for the ban to be lifted) by global standards?” asked a frustrated Norio Takahashi, a 59-year-old fisherman from Fukushima.
In Iwate Prefecture, Mikio Morishita, 69, who runs a fish processing company, pointed to the difficulty of regaining consumer trust.
“Although food products (from the disaster-hit areas) are safe, we have yet to dispel bad perceptions (among consumers). The ruling is unfortunate because it suggests the world does not have a positive image” of items from Fukushima and its vicinity, Morishita said.
Japan has been promoting its agricultural and seafood exports, which have been growing in recent years and reached ¥906.8 billion ($8.1 billion) in 2018, putting the government’s target of ¥1 trillion for this year in sight.
By holding baseball and soccer games in the disaster-hit region, Japan hopes to present the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 as a symbol of reconstruction.
“I will promote the high quality of food products (in the disaster-hit areas),” Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki said at a news conference held just a day after he was reappointed to his role.
The WTO’s appellate body for dispute settlement on Thursday ruled in favor of South Korea’s import ban on fishery products from Fukushima and seven other prefectures, reversing an earlier decision.
Thursday’s ruling is final as the appellate body is the highest authority in the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism.
Due to fears of radioactive contamination, South Korea expanded its initial ban to include all fishery products from Fukushima and the seven other prefectures in 2013.
A total of 54 countries and regions introduced import restrictions following the meltdowns. The number has since declined, but South Korea is among 23 that are keeping the restrictions in place, according to the Japanese government.

April 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Seoul welcomes WTO’s ruling on Fukushima seafood ban

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Japanese newspapers report about the World Trade Organization’s decision in favor of Korea’s import restrictions on Japanese seafood. Yonhap
April 12, 2019
South Korea on Friday welcomed the World Trade Organization’s decision to rule in favor of Seoul’s import restrictions on Japanese seafood in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and said it would keep the ban in place going forward.
 
The WTO appellate body overturned several points of the 2018 verdict earlier in the day, saying the Seoul government’s measures are not unfair trade restrictions and do not fall into the category of arbitrary discrimination.
 
The appellate body, however, sided with Japan on one point, saying that Seoul has not provided enough information to Tokyo in terms of the import ban measures.
 
“The government has been making all-out efforts to follow the principle of making the health and safety of the people a priority, and the government highly appraises the WTO’s decision,” the Ministry of Trade, Investment and Energy said in a statement.
 
The South Korean government said it hopes that there would be no further trade dispute with Japan.
 
In 2015, Japan officially lodged a complaint at the WTO to challenge South Korea’s import bans and additional testing requirements on fish caught after 2013. Tokyo argued that radioactive levels of its fishery product were lower than those from a number of other nations.
 
The WTO’s dispute settlement body ruled in favor of Japan in February 2018.
 
South Korea has been placing import restrictions on 28 kinds of fish caught from eight prefectures near Fukushima since the nuclear power plant accident.
 
The South Korean government said it will keep the existing import ban on all seafood from the eight prefectures. All Japanese seafood companies will be required to hand in safety certificates when any traces of radiation are found, it added.
 
About 50 countries have maintained bans on imports since the nuclear disaster, but Japan has complained to the WTO about only one country — South Korea.
 
“Currently, 19 more countries have implemented an import ban (on Japanese seafood) at different levels,” said Yoon Chang-yul, the head of the social policy coordination office under the Office for Government Policy Coordination.
 
South Korea, meanwhile, has been replacing its imports of Japanese pollack and mackerel with supplies from Russia and Norway respectively, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said.
 
“In the past, (South Korea) imported around 20,000 to 40,000 tons of pollack and mackerel from Japan. Now the volume is below 3,000 tons,” an official from the ocean ministry said.
 
“It is a sovereign country’s right to implement an appropriate level of protection,” an official from the ministry said. “All countries have different standards, and they cannot be judged under the same standard. The Fukushima crisis broke out in a neighboring country, and we needed to review our protection level in a more strict and thorough manner.” (Yonhap)

April 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Yoshitaka Sakurada resigns as Olympics minister

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11 April 2019
Japan’s Olympics Minister Yoshitaka Sakurada has resigned over comments that offended people affected by a huge tsunami and earthquake in 2011.
At a fund-raising event, he suggested that backing the governing LDP member of parliament for the region was more important than its economic revival.
It is not the first time Mr Sakurada has been forced to apologise.
He said in February that he was disappointed by a Japanese swimmer’s leukaemia diagnosis.
He said he was worried that medal favourite Rikako Ikee’s illness might dampen enthusiasm for next year’s Olympics.
Mr Sakurada also admitted last year to never having used a computer, despite being Japan’s cyber security minister.
After accepting Mr Sakurada’s resignation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologised for appointing him.
“I deeply apologise for his remark to the people in the disaster-hit areas,” said Mr Abe.
The 2011 tsunami left more than 20,000 dead and caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Shunichi Suzuki, who had been Olympics minister before Mr Sakurada was appointed last October, will return to the post.
In February Mr Sakurada had to make another apology, after arriving three minutes late to a parliamentary meeting.
Opposition MPs said his poor timekeeping showed disrespect for his office and boycotted a meeting of the budget committee for five hours in protest.
He also came under fire in 2016 for describing so-called comfort women forced to provide sexual services to Japanese war-time troops as “professional prostitutes”.

April 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Local firm to take on hazardous demolition at Fukushima plant

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A crane and equipment used for training to demolish an exhaust stack in Hirono, Fukushima Prefecture
April 11, 2019
OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–Work will soon start at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to demolish a 120-meter-tall exhaust stack that has kept workers at bay due to high radiation levels.
Given the hazardous nature of the project, Able Co., the local company that will undertake the task, will use remote controlled equipment deployed on a 750-ton crane to “slice” through the upper half of the structure.
The work will begin in May at the earliest and is expected to take up to six months. It is regarded as a crucial phase in the decommissioning process of the plant’s reactors.
The exhaust stack was badly damaged in a hydrogen explosion caused by the nuclear accident following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
A 2015 survey showed radiation levels of 2 sieverts per hour around the stack, sufficient to kill anybody who spends more than a few hours in the area.
Able, originally headquartered just 2 kilometers from the nuclear plant, put together a special squad for training last autumn.
There are four exhaust stacks at the plant designed to ventilate reactor buildings.
The stack to be demolished is situated between the No. 1 and No. 2 reactor buildings. Its upper part was damaged when the No. 1 reactor building blew up on March 12, 2011.
The inside and outside of the stack were heavily contaminated because Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the plant, used it to release highly radioactive gases to lower pressure inside the reactor during the nuclear crisis.
Some parts of the exhaust stack are badly compromised. The Nuclear Regulation Authority noted that the structure would pose a danger if it fell.
TEPCO asked Able, which has been involved in regular reactor checkups and piping work at the nuclear plant, to demolish it. Able developed special equipment to cut the upper part of the exhaust stack with a rotary cutter.
At one point, the company considered using a hydraulic or laser cutter, but decided not to for fear of increasing the volume of radioactive water or triggering a fire.
“We are a construction company, so we concentrated on combining technologies to deal with the issue, not producing equipment from scratch,” said Tetsuo Sato, 45, leader of the on-site project team.
The demolition equipment will be manipulated remotely from a control room in a converted bus.
One fear is that strong gusts of winds could affect the operation. Workers will operate the equipment by watching images captured by 160 cameras mounted on and around the device.
Able has switched its headquarters to Hirono, also in Fukushima Prefecture, as a temporary measure. About 70 percent of its 200-strong work force hails from the prefecture.
The exterior of the bus is festooned with messages by children of employees, such as, “Be careful” and “Operate safely.”
“We, as a local company, want to bring back peace of mind to residents by completing this task successfully,” said Isamu Okai, 51, who oversees the demolition project.

April 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Japan nuclear fallout: Okuma residents encouraged home

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April 10, 2019
Eight years after a triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, part of nearby Okuma has been declared safe for residents to return. But there has been no rush to go home as radiation levels remain high.
The evacuation order for parts of Okuma was lifted by the Japanese government on Wednesday.
But just 367 of the town’s pre-2011 population of 10,341 have registered to go home, according to local media reports in Japan.
Okuma sits alongside the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and 40% of the town has been declared safe for a permanent return. But a survey last year found only 12.5% of former residents wanted to do so.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to attend a ceremony in Okuma on Sunday to mark the occasion. But the government has been accused of promoting the return of residents to showcase safety ahead of the Tokyo Olympics next summer.
“This is a major milestone for the town,” Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said in a written statement. “But this is not the goal, but a start toward the lifting of the evacuation order for the entire town.”
Lingering radiation
There are plans to open a new town hall in May to encourage more people to go back to their town which was devastated by the earthquake, tsunami and triple meltdown at the plant in March 2011. But the town center near the main train station remains closed due to high radiation levels which exceed the annual exposure limit. There will be no functioning hospital for another two years.
Much of Okuma still records high radiation levels and is off-limits. All of nearby Futaba remains closed, with the former 40,000 residents unable to return home. In a report from an investigation published last month, environmental campaign group Greenpeace said “radiation levels remain too high for the safe return of thousands of Japanese citizen evacuees.”
Reluctance to return
The government lifted the evacuation order for much of neighboring Tomioka two years ago. But only 10% of Tomioka’s population has so far returned. Some 339 square kilometers (131 square miles) of the area around the plant are designated unsafe. 
Fears of exposure to radiation remain high among former residents, especially those with children. In its report, Greenpeace accused the government of failure: “In the case of workers and children, who are in the frontline of hazards resulting from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the Japanese government continues to ignore international radioprotection recommendations.”
Part of the Okuma is being used to store millions of cubic meters of toxic soil collected during the decontanimation operation. Authorities say it will be removed by 2045 but no alternative storage site has yet been found.
In all, 160,000 people were evacuated out of the area when three of Fukushima’s six reactors went into meltdown, leading to radiation leaks.

April 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Unclear debris map casts shadow over decommissioning of Fukushima plant

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Pebble-like sediment believed to be nuclear fuel debris is lifted by a special device inside the No. 2 reactor containment vessel at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
April 9, 2019
TOKYO — The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are set to launch full-scale probes of the inside of the No. 1 through No. 3 reactors at the disaster-stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station this fiscal year, in an attempt to determine which reactor to work on first to remove fuel debris — a critical step for decommissioning the facility.
However, the interior of the No. 2 reactor, which is most likely to be the first to go through the debris removal process, has turned out to be different from what had originally been expected, underscoring the difficulties entailing the removal work. Since many companies are involved in the process, how to pass down the know-how acquired over the course of the more than 30 year-decommissioning process also poses a challenge.
“At present, it is difficult to clearly say we are going to remove all fuel debris,” said Akira Ono, who leads the decommissioning project, at a regular press conference by TEPCO on March 28, while noting that the utility will not back down from its ultimate goal of full debris removal.
If TEPCO fails to take out all debris from the nuclear plant, the very premise for dismantling the facility and returning the plot to its original state will be undermined. Such a scenario would adversely affect the disaster recovery plans envisaged by the national government and the Fukushima Prefectural Government. While awareness about the difficulty of debris removal has been shared among concerned parties, the actual dismal situation had not been recognized until TEPCO conducted the first debris survey at the No. 2 reactor on Feb. 13.
In that survey, a remotely controlled special device that was injected into the No. 2 reactor’s containment vessel succeeded in lifting portions of sediment accumulated at the bottom, which were believed to be fuel debris. Officials involved were relieved because they “had been worried the material would not move at all,” according to Ono.
The radiation level of the material, measured at a distance of some 30 centimeters, was 7.6 sieverts per hour, far less than anticipated. If the sediment contained a good portion of nuclear fuel, the radiation doses ought to have been several hundred sieverts per hour, even eight years after the 2011 nuclear meltdowns.
This finding suggested that the sediment that TEPCO came in contact with in the survey was not the main nuclear fuel debris it was looking for. Many speculate that the surface of the sediment may mainly consist of metals including cladding tubes that used to cover nuclear fuels.
The question now is whether fuel debris exists beneath the surface of the sediment or if nuclear fuel still remains within the reactor pressure vessel, or even somewhere else. There are currently no prospects for TEPCO to ascertain an accurate distributions of debris.
The material that was lifted in the survey mostly comprised pebble-like sediment, weighing less than 1 kilogram in total. Meanwhile, fuel debris generated in the core meltdowns is estimated to total 237 metric tons at the No. 2 reactor alone and a combined 880 tons at the No. 1 through No. 3 reactors.
At the No. 2 reactor, TEPCO will conduct a more detailed survey on debris possibly in the latter half of this fiscal year and attempt to collect small amounts of samples. At the No. 1 reactor, several apparatus including a robot submarine will be used to launch a full-scale survey inside the reactor to try to collect debris this fiscal year. As for the No. 3 reactor, the power company is apparently planning to prioritize removal of spent fuel, as related devices have gone through a series of glitches.
Unlike the other reactors, the No. 2 reactor did not suffer a hydrogen explosion in the 2011 disaster. Therefore, the No. 2 reactor remains the primary candidate for the first full-scale debris removal work, which is hoped to start in 2021.
With regard to the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, the utility has yet to be able to reach materials appearing to be debris. The decommissioning of the nuclear plant is scheduled to be completed in 2051, a full 40 years after the triple meltdowns, but a concrete path toward that goal is not yet in sight.
“We have no choice but to remove whichever debris we can,” said a senior official with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Naoyuki Takaki, professor of nuclear engineering at Tokyo City University, commented, “There could ultimately be a decision to stop debris removal after pulling out as much debris as possible. In that case, we would have no option but to consider building a sarcophagus like the one at the Chernobyl nuclear plant.”

April 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Government must help rebuild Fukushima evacuees’ lives

 
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In this May 20, 2015, file photo, a Fukushima evacuee in her thirties is living in Tokyo with her two children. Her husband chose to stay in Fukushima for work.
 
April 8, 2019
Eight years on since the nuclear disaster, there are still many evacuees living away from their homes in other parts of the nation, unable to return to their communities after the catastrophic accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
But the situations of these Fukushima evacuees have been fading into the fog of obscurity over time.
The central government and the Fukushima prefectural government should step up their flagging efforts to grasp the realities of their life as evacuees and help them rebuild their destroyed livelihoods.
Some 40,000 former residents of areas around the nuclear plant still live away from their homes, either within or outside Fukushima Prefecture, according to statistics compiled by the Reconstruction Agency and the prefectural government. The figure is one-quarter of its peak level.
But the statistics have been criticized for failing to give a true picture of the problem.
Critics say the data is distorted by questionable government criteria for recognizing evacuees. They point out that the prefecture stopped treating people living in makeshift housing as evacuees when it terminated providing such temporary housing for free.
In many of the municipalities in areas close to the stricken nuclear plant, most local residents have not returned even after the evacuation order was lifted.
There are also people who have “voluntarily” fled their communities even though they were not in evacuation areas.
It is believed that the number of people who regard themselves as “evacuees” is far larger than 40,000. But nobody knows exactly how many.
Many Fukushima evacuees have opted not to return to their former communities after the evacuation order was lifted for various reasons. Some have already purchased new houses while living away from their homes, while others don’t want to force their children to change their schools.
Many others are hesitating to return or wavering about what to do because of concerns about the living conditions in affected areas and possible safety risks, especially radiation.
After years of living away from home, many evacuees are also struggling with problems such as reduced incomes, the difficulties of finding jobs, deteriorating health and isolation.
Some are suffering from poverty, anxiety about losing their housing due to the termination of public financial support and physical and mental illness.
The plights of these evacuees have been only partially made known by surveys of host local governments and support groups.
The government’s response to the problem has been grossly insufficient. The government conducted a survey of Fukushima evacuees last year, but it only covered former residents of areas subject to an evacuation order or other disaster response administrative action.
The government should try to see the entire and accurate picture of the problem including the situations of “voluntary evacuees” to understand what kind of support and systems are needed.
The most pressing issue for evacuees at the moment is housing. The Fukushima prefectural government and some local municipalities discontinued at the end of March most of their programs to provide free housing to evacuees from the areas where the evacuation order has been lifted as well as housing support for voluntary evacuees.
As a result, dozens of families have been left without housing. The local governments should take a more flexible stance in making such decisions. They should, for example, allow evacuees struggling with serious problems such as diseases to live in their current homes under the same conditions.
Behind the moves to cut housing support to evacuees is the policy of the central and prefectural governments of placing the top priority on encouraging them to return home.
While policy efforts to make it easier for evacuees to return to their homes are important, this policy is clearly out of tune with the realities of evacuees. These victims have come from a wide range of areas and already spent many years away from their homes.
Instead of imposing certain time frames for ending their life as evacuees, the authorities should readjust their support programs for evacuees so that they can receive effective help for any of the three options: returning to their hometowns, continuing to live as evacuees and settling down in their current communities.
The Reconstruction Agency has a particularly important role to play. Even though it often stresses its commitment to supporting evacuees and the central government’s leading role in helping these people, the agency has actually left most of the heavy lifting to the prefectural government.
The agency should take more specific actions to fulfill its responsibility to support victims of the nuclear accident that match its words.

April 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | | Leave a comment