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Fukushima – Invisible Fallout documentary from CRIIRAD March 2020

Screenshot from 2020-03-11 16-41-06

Nuclear disasters like those of Chernobyl and Fukushima cause massive releases of radioactive substances to the environment and lasting contamination of large areas. They are accompanied by lies about the severity of the contamination and the extent of the health risks. The manipulations are all the easier since the radioactivity cannot be seen. Given its aging nuclear fleet, France is particularly affected by nuclear risks.

Written and produced by the association CRIIRAD (Independent Research and Information Commission on RADioactivity) and directed by Cris Ubermann, the film “Invisibles Retombées” is based on the missions carried out by the CRIIRAD laboratory in Japan, to make this invisible radioactivity palpable and the consequences for the populations affected by the fallout. It reports on meetings with residents of contaminated areas and measurements of radiation levels carried out alongside them.

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March 11, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Renewable energy push for Fukushima

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Japan, renewable | Leave a comment

Fukushima Anniversary SPECIAL: Voices From Japan 2020 – Tokyo Shimbun Reporter Takeshi Yamakawa

NH-455-EnglishCautionSigns-980x602@2xSigns outside the Fukushima Exclusion Zone.  In 2019, total of 26 English caution signs were placed in 12 places in exclusion zones to prevent foreigners from trespassing in radioactive areas. YouTubers and the Netflix show “Dark Tourism” have trespassed in high radiation areas and illegally entered shops and homes, prompting the local authorities to post signage in English.
(Photo courtesy of U. G. Kaneko)


March 6, 2020

Nuclear Hotseat Voices from Japan: #Fukushima 9th Anniversary SPECIAL. Interview with Takeshi Yamakawa from the Tokyo Shimbun #Nuclear Power Reporting Team; first-hand impressions of the Exclusion Zone from Voices from Japan investigative reporter Yuji Kaneko; and commentary by co-producer Beverly Findlay-Kaneko. Produced and hosted by Libbe HaLevy.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

Contaminated water at nuclear plant still an issue ahead of Tokyo Olympics


March 10, 2020

Work to deal with contaminated water at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant continues as the Olympic Games approach.

Inside a giant decontamination facility at the destroyed plant, workers in hazmat suits monitor radioactive water pumped from three damaged reactors.

The decontamination process is a key element of a contentious debate over what should be done with the nearly 1.2 million tons of still-radioactive water being closely watched by governments and organisations around the world ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, says it needs to free up space as work to decommission the damaged reactors approaches a critical phase.

It is widely expected that Tepco will gradually release the water into the nearby ocean following a government decision allowing it to do so.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

Radioactivity on the move 2020: Recontamination and weather-related effects in Fukushima


9 March 2020

Tokyo, Japan – Greenpeace Japan’s latest extensive radiation survey

has found evidence of recontamination caused by 2019’s Typhoon 19 (Hagibis) and Typhoon 21 (Bualoi), which released radioactive caesium from the forested mountains of Fukushima Prefecture. 

The survey, which was conducted over three weeks in October and November of 2019, observed concentrated radiation levels throughout Fukushima Prefecture. These localised areas were where radioactivity was observed at higher levels than in previous years, as well as a reduction in levels in some areas, and recontamination elsewhere. 

The survey identified high-level hotspots throughout Fukushima Prefecture, including in Fukushima City. This ongoing and complex radiological emergency in parts of Fukushima Prefecture runs directly counter to the narrative of the Japanese government which continues to push its propaganda of normalization in Fukushima and the effectiveness of its massive decontamination program.

Typhoons no. 19 & 21 deposited large volumes of rain across Japan, including in Fukushima Prefecture. In recent years, scientists have been reporting the effect of heavy rainfall leading to increased migration of radioactivity from mountainous forests through the river systems. 

The results of our 2019 radiation survey demonstrate the complex and persistent nature of radionuclide mobilization and recontamination in areas of Fukushima Prefecture. The mountainous forest regions of Fukushima prefecture, which have never been decontaminated, will continue to be long-term sources of recontamination. The findings from our recent radiation survey definitively disprove the myth of a ‘return to normal’ in parts of Fukushima.” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Japan.

The main findings of the Greenpeace Japan investigation include:

  • Hotspots measured in all areas surveyed; including Okuma, Naraha (J-Village), as well in Fukushima City.
  • Significant variations in radiation levels from previous years in certain zones that cannot be explained by radioactive decay. 
  • Likely remobilization of radioactivity in the soil and weather-related effects resulting from heavy rainfall was also identified in the reopened area of Iitate, with significant changes in radiation levels comparing across the five year period for which we have data.
  • Along the Takase river in the newly reopened area of Namie, and where the government claims it is safe to live, 99% of radiation levels averaged 0.8 μSv/h with a maximum of 1.7 μSv/h, with 99% exceeded the government’s long-term decontamination target of 0.23 μSv/h measured at 1 meter and were twenty (20) times higher than pre-2011 levels.
  • In a period of four hours, the survey team identified forty-six (46) hot spots in the around Fukushima City central station, eleven of which equaled or exceeded the Japanese government decontamination long term target of 0.23 μSv/h measured at 1 meter; including observed levels of radiation that 137 times higher than the background radiation levels measured in the Fukushima environment prior to the 2011 nuclear disaster. 
  • In an area close to a former school and kindergarten in the reopened area of Namie, annual dose rates would be between 10-20 mSv based on the Japanese government methodology and between 17-33 mSv based on sustained exposure over a full year; which are between 10 and 33 times above the international recommended maximum exposure for the public.
  • Near the new town hall in the newly reopened area of Okuma, and within a few hundred meters of the planned Olympic torch route, radiation hotspots were measured to be of 1.5 µSv/h at 1 meter and 2.5 µSv/h at 10cm (62 times above the background levels of 0.04 µSv/h before the nuclear accident in March 2011).
  • The evidence from earlier typhoons and resulting data strongly suggest that there was a substantial increase in downstream contamination from October 2019. Greenpeace intends to return later this year to further investigate and substantiate the hypothesis of major weathering effects in Fukushima.

The radiation hotspots we found in public areas along the pavements and streets of central Fukushima City, including tens of meters from the entrance to the Shinkansen train line to Tokyo, highlight the ongoing scale of the nuclear disaster in 2011. The hotspots we found are at a level that they would require a special license to be transported and in the category of Dangerous Goods. The government is using the Olympics as a platform to communicate the myth that everything has returned to normal in Fukushima. They falsely claim that radiation has either been decontaminated or is under control. Our radiation survey clearly shows that the government propaganda is not true.” said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist of Greenpeace Germany.

Mizue Kanno, a resident of Namie who cooperated on the Greenpeace radiation survey said, “I hope the world knows the real situation in Fukushima. Radioactivity is washing down from the mountains due to heavy rain and flowing into the decontaminated areas. The radiation levels found around my house are higher than ever before. Once a nuclear accident happens, it looks like this, and soon we are going to have the Olympics and pretend that everything is okay. It’s not. ”



Full report in English, here

Photos and videos, here

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | 1 Comment

The price of staying


March 9, 2020

Evacuation was not mandatory for these now suffering Fukushima victims

By Akemi Shima

This is a statement of opinion that I,  a resident of the city of Date, Fukushima Prefecture, presented to the Tokyo Regional Court as part of an on-going lawsuit.

We had the desire to raise our children in an environment close to nature and enriching. That’s why we moved from Fukushima City to buy land in the town of Date, where we currently live, to build a house. Loan repayments were heavy but, we lived simply and we were happy.

Eight years after the construction of our house, on March 11, 2011 the accident of the power plant occurred, and our family life was turned upside down. My husband and I were 42 years old, my son was in elementary school 4th grade (12 years old) and my daughter was in elementary school 3rd grade (10 years old).

At that time, I had no knowledge about nuclear or radioactive substances. If I had had some knowledge in this area, by running away from it we probably could have avoided being irradiated. I am burdened by this regret. Without any financial leeway, with my sick children and my parents who are here, I could not resolve myself to get away from Date.

From the 11th of March all life lines were cut and I had to go to the water stations where I took the children. To find food we had to walk outside sometimes soaked in the rain. After several days as we still had no water, we had to go to the town hall to use the toilet, where the water was not cut. It was then that I saw a group of people dressed in white protective suits entering the town hall. We thought that they were probably coming to help the victims of the tsunami. But now, I understand that the radioactive pollution was such that protections were necessary and we, without suspecting anything, were exposed.

It was the time for the graduation ceremonies at the elementary school and we went there on foot. I think the information we were given was false and because of that we were irradiated. At the time I was convinced that if we were really in any danger, the state would warn us. I later learned that the doses of radioactivity in the air after the accident were 27 to 32 μSv (micro sieverts) per hour. There was no instruction about any restriction to go outdoors. And that is extremely serious.

In June 2011, I went to the funeral of my husband’s grandmother. I took my children with me. On the way we noticed that the radiation level was very high and that inside the car the dosimeter showed in some places 1.5 micro-sievert per hour. The officials of that area had asked the nearby residents to not cause problems even if the radioactivity was high. From what I heard, the reconstruction vehicles had to be able to continue to use that road. Likewise, the Shinkansen bullet train and the Tohoku highway were not to be closed for these reasons. Despite a level that exceeded the allowable dose limits, instead of being alerted to the dangers, we were assured that we were safe.

The risk of this exposure was not communicated to us. In June 2011 my son had so many heavy nosebleeds that his sheets were all red. The children with the same symptoms were so numerous that we received a notice containing recommendations through the school’s “health letter”. During a medical examination at the school, my son was found to have a heart abnormality and had to be monitored by a holter. My son, who was 12 at the time of the accident, was also suffering from atopic dermatitis. During the school spring break he had to be hospitalized after his symptoms worsened. Today we still cannot identify the symptoms that cause him to suffer.

One year after the accident, my daughter complained of pain in her right leg. In the hospital, an extra-osseous osteoma was diagnosed and she had to undergo bone excision the following year. In her first year of junior high school in the winter term, she could not get up in the morning. She had orthostatic dysfunction. In agreement with her we decided that she would go to school three times a week in a system with flexible hours.

My husband’s favorite hobby was fishing, but since the nuclear accident, it’s now out of question to go to the sea or to the river.

Before the accident, we were growing flowers in our garden and we also had a vegetable garden. In the summer, we had family barbecues and we would put up a tent so the kids could sleep outside. Now it’s absolutely impossible.


date-map-2Date is about 60 kilometers from the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.

In this highly contaminated environment today, cell DNA would be severely damaged. In addition, the effects of exposure we have already experienced are indelible even if we move now. Whenever I think that children are particularly vulnerable to radiation, my heart is torn apart. As a parent, as an adult, it is heartbreaking and unbearable.

I am also concerned about the current situation of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. My daily routine is to watch out for natural disasters such as earthquakes and to check the condition of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Because today I will not hesitate to evacuate. I changed my job so I could get to my kids quickly if necessary. I had to give up a full time job and it is financially difficult, but the priority is to be able to leave quickly at any time. After verifying all sorts of information, I realized that the government’s announcements were different from reality.

Living in a radioactive environment requires you to be vigilant tirelessly, whether for shopping, eating, or drinking water, and evaluate the situation yourself to make choices. We had to make up our minds to accept an abnormal lifestyle so that we could continue to live on a daily basis.

Whatever I do, all pleasure has disappeared from my life. I discovered that there were some hotspots of more than 10 μSv per hour near my home on the way to my children’s school. I reported it to the town hall, but they did not do anything. The reason given is that there is no temporary storage to store it. I had to remove the contaminated soil myself and I stored it in my garden. The city of Date decided on its own decontamination policy and also introduced a standard of 5mSv per year at the end of 2011.

In my case I wanted to reduce the radioactive pollution as soon as possible and I decontaminated my garden myself. The city encouraged people to decontaminate on their own. I did it too. And that represented 144 bags. The following year I did again. The radioactive debris bags resulting from the decontamination until March 2014 remained in my garden for two years, and were then taken to the temporary storage area.


shima-gardenAkemi Shima had to decontaminate her own radioactive garden.

But since then, the other decontamination bags have not been accepted and are still in my garden. So we do not want to go there anymore. The contamination of our carport amounted to 520 000 Bq (becquerels) 5 years ago, with 5 μSv / h, but it did not fit the criteria required for cleaning. Decontamination only includes the ground around the home, but the roof and the gutters are not supported. As a result, we can not leave our Velux windows open.

Claiming to be concerned about the health of the inhabitants, the town of Date provided all residents with dosimeters. We were then invited to undergo examinations, during which our data was collected. Without the authorization of the residents, this data has been entrusted to external researchers who have written reports. These reports have been prepared on the basis of personal information obtained illegally, and furthermore falsification of the data is suspected.

Based on inaccurate data the report concluded that even at doses of 0.6 to 1 μSv / h per hour in the air, the individual dose received would be less than 1 mSv (millisievert) per year and therefore it was not necessary to decontaminate. This is an underestimation of exposure, and clearly a violation of human rights against the population. This case is still ongoing.

In this same region, leukaemias and rare cancers of the bile ducts are appearing. I cannot help thinking that before the accident it did not exist.

Even today, while the state of nuclear emergency is still official, this abnormal situation has become our daily life. I fear that the “reconstruction” advocated by the state, violates the fundamental rights of residents and that this unacceptable life is now considered normal. Our lives are at a standstill.

This suffering will continue. My deepest wish is that through this lawsuit, the responsibility of the State and Tepco that caused the accident be recognized.”


March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

The half lives of the abandoned


March 9, 2020

Daily life in Fukushima’s radioactive environment

By Cindy Folkers

Whatever I do, all pleasure has disappeared from my life…we are living with a narrow range of activities.” 

Akemi Shima was a resident of Date (duh-tay) City when the reactors at Fukushima exploded, spewing radioactive particles into the air, across the land, and into the waters. (She tells her story in her own words this week as well. See here.)

Her family had moved there years earlier to live closer to nature. It was supposed to be healthy. But for residents of Date City, still blanketed nine years later by radioactive contamination, the struggle for protection of health continues amid accusations of scientific error, betrayal and abandonment.

Shima, now 50, has been living through these accusations and her children’s health issues, while trying to keep her family safe in a contaminated land that has caused fractures within her community. Her experience is not only shared by other victims of Fukushima, but is a cautionary tale for any communities that have nuclear reactors in their midst. We share pieces of her story here for the first time in English.

The victims have been unable to talk about the damage. … I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to be dismissed… Let me say that something is wrong.”

Instead of establishing mandatory evacuation zones based on contamination level, the government of Japan limited mandatory evacuation to 20 km from the destroyed reactors. Date City had highly contaminated areas but was 60 km away. Therefore, the residents were left to their fate as the City, under direction from the national government, had decided to recommend specific “spots” for evacuation. “Spots” actually meant individual houses and the recommendation to evacuate was based on a number of inconsistent and confusing criteria. This caused division among residents because a “recommended spot” (house) was eligible for evacuation aid, while a house that was often next door received none.


fukuevacEvacuation map. Pink area denotes “difficult to return” zones, dots where evacuation orders have been lifted.

While only areas exceeding 20 mSv/year were under recommended evacuation and supposedly only for households with children, in reality exceptions were made. Shima’s family did not evacuate at first because they were not ordered to and she was told her house was safe. It was only later she realized that the workers who came to her town hall wearing white protective suits – while she and her children wore regular clothes and took no precautions – were shielding themselves from radioactivity.

Shima ultimately decided she couldn’t voluntarily relocate because of the medical and familial bonds she had in the community. For those who stayed – like Shima – little warning was given about the need to, or how to, protect against radioactivity. Even after measuring levels that were higher than normal, government officials told residents they were safe and they shouldn’t make trouble.

“…from fall to winter, one week out of every month, all the skin on [my son’s] body turned reddish black; he couldn’t move, and had to stay in bed.  He repeatedly experienced having his skin peel off, heal, [and] then peel off again. That continued for approximately 3 years [after the catastrophe began]. Sometimes, he ended up being hospitalized.”

Shima’s son and daughter had eczema, a common skin condition for children in Japan. It worsened considerably soon after the catastrophe. Her son suffered symptoms associated with radiation exposure, including heavy nosebleeds. Nosebleeds were so widespread among Date City’s children that recommendations for treating them were featured in a school health newsletter.

Even though evacuation recommendations were lifted about one year later for certain areas in Date City, many people were hesitant to return to the contaminated zone. The issue of resettlement had not been resolved and studies of human health remained controversial.

Beginning in August 2012, residents in Date City were issued badges to measure their radiation doses and invited to undergo examinations. They were told this was because the town wanted to monitor their health. However, outside researchers published studies using residents’ badge data without their knowledge or permission – a violation of ethical guidelines for human subject research. These studies became mired in distrust, bad science and charges of scientific misconduct.


shin-ichi_kurokawaShin-ichi Kurokawa, professor emeritus of The High Energy Accelerator Research Organization.

Akemi Shima participated in the badge study, and noticed some scientifically questionable practices and assumptions that were later detailed in a paper she co-authored with Shin-ichi Kurokawa, Professor Emeritus of The High Energy Accelerator Research Organization.

In 2019, the University of Tokyo and Fukushima Medical University cleared their researchers — the authors of the controversial badge data studies — of scientific misconduct, a charge requiring intent. However, scientific inconsistencies, mathematical miscalculations and concerns over invalid conclusions remain.

During my [first] three years in Fukushima, I stopped accepting certain words… ‘Kizuna’, ‘Reconstruction’, and ‘Reputational damage’.  In the process of reconstruction and prevention of reputational damage, even the truth has become invisible, and what has happened is just as if it had never happened.” 

Kizuna or “ties that bind” is a phrase mobilized by the Japanese government from the earliest days of the disaster to claim that inquiries about radiation harm will hurt the community and therefore people should remain quiet, no matter the suffering.

To rebuild life in Date City, the prefectural government, at the urging of the national government and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), attempted to enshrine the reckless notion of “rehabilitation” – the idea that one can live with radioactive contamination and that health and recovery responsibilities reside with individuals and communities, not industry or government. Adopting a “rehabilitation/recovery” regime mandates that residents’ concerns about health impacts and continuing exposure are downplayed or brushed aside altogether, even by institutions that should be trustworthy.

A year after the nuclear catastrophe began, Shima’s daughter, already under periodic heart monitoring for an unrelated childhood condition which had now passed, had a benign bone tumor removed from her leg. Her daughter had trouble getting up in the morning and was diagnosed with a condition related to chronic fatigue syndrome. At this time, Shima also had her children examined by Fukushima Prefecture as part of the Fukushima Health Management Survey established by Fukushima Medical University to track health after the catastrophe began. When the prefecture examined Shima’s 11-year old daughter she was told there were no abnormalities. However, after a second examination, doctors from a different clinic found two thyroid cysts. Her 13-year old son had one cyst detected by the prefecture, but upon the second screening, also at a different facility, two were found.

Other families tell of inconsistent test results between Fukushima Prefecture exams and those conducted at other institutions. Shima relates how examinations varied at the different institutions with the prefecture examination taking a few seconds to a few minutes while the second clinic took more than 10 minutes. Such a short time will miss lesions that could lead to cancers, according to a doctor at the clinic who performed the reexaminations. The prefectural clinics authorized by FMU to conduct exams refuse to hand over personal medical data to the patient without a cumbersome request system and payment for materials reproduction, further stoking mistrust among exposed inhabitants.

Additionally, prefecture experts claim that thyroid cancers after Chernobyl didn’t appear until four or five years after exposure. They therefore conclude the circumstances will be the same for Fukushima, despite what appear to be increases in metastatic thyroid cancers. Shima has noticed the appearance of other rare types of cancers as well that are not receiving the attention that thyroid cancer has.

Responsibility for the nuclear accident is neglected, and everything else is “self-responsibility”. “I know well…[t]he limits of decontamination.” 

Akemi Shima and other residents feel abandoned; first because they were told it was safe to stay; and now because they are largely left with responsibility for cleaning up TEPCO’s radioactive legacy. If Date City residents want levels lower than 5 mSv/year, they have to do the cleanup themselves; despite the ICRP recommended 1 mSv per year level; and despite levels below 4 mSv being associated with increases in childhood cancers and impairment of neural development during pregnancy.

Living in a radioactive environment requires you to be vigilant tirelessly, whether for shopping, eating, or drinking water, and evaluate the situation yourself to make choices. We had to make up our minds to accept an abnormal lifestyle so that we could continue to live our daily lives.”

Shima points out that even if short-lived radiocesium has completely decayed, the level of radioactivity is still 10 times what it was before the catastrophe. It will likely remain so for generations, as demonstrated by the radiological contamination from Chernobyl. Shima relates how even higher doses are dismissed by officials. They claim that those areas are passed through, not lived in. But these officials do not account for children playing in those areas.

I believe that we were tossed in all directions and set against one another, so that the victims themselves would be unable to discuss the harm.” “Our lives are at a standstill. This suffering will continue.”

International radiation committees and national regulatory bodies are establishing recommendations that will make living with increased radiation exposure from nuclear disasters seem okay. In Japan, staying silent is encouraged. In the wake of the ongoing Fukushima disaster, the government of Japan has raised the radiation exposure limit from the ICRP-recommended 1 mSv per year to 20mSv per year. Japan has also been cutting payments to Fukushima refugees in a bid to force them to resettle the contaminated areas they initially left; and ICRP has hosted dialogues across the country (one was held in Date City) encouraging residents to live with radiation rather than leave, claiming such action is “resilient” and community-minded (kizuna).

International radiation committees are claiming health examinations of children cause stress and should only be conducted for thyroid exposures at certain doses. These doses are higher than those associated with disease. Despite claiming that living in a radioactive environment is extremely difficult, ICRP still encourages it.

In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency has released guidance allowing much larger environmental doses of man-made radiation with very little assurance when the exposures will cease. Women and children are not spared.

Living with radioactive contamination divides communities into those that want to raise awareness of the danger radioactivity poses, and those who do not want to discuss it for fear of social discrimination and ostracization. Akemi Shima’s lived experience, and her public testimonies about it, should serve as a warning to anyone living with a nuclear reactor in their midst.

The author would like to thank Norma Field, professor emerita, University of Chicago, for help with content, translation and communication.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

A message from Mr. Sumio Konno, a former nuclear engineer in Japan.

[ Voices from Japan: 9 years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster ] 2020 March video project by Manhattan Project for a Nuclear-Free World English subtitle by John Baldwin, Karen Rogers, Mari Inoue, Rachel Clark, Stephan Ready, Tarak Kauff, Tony Sahara, Yoko Chase

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | 1 Comment

Soil from decontamination work kept in communities


March 8, 2020

Nine years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, more than half of the waste created by decontamination work is still kept near residents’ homes.

About 14 million cubic meters of soil and vegetation has been collected in clean-up operations in areas affected by the nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture, except for heavily contaminated off-limit areas.

The environment ministry plans to transfer all such waste to intermediate storage facilities near the crippled nuclear power plant by March 2022.

As of the end of February, only about 6.3 million cubic meters, or around 45 percent of the total waste, had been transferred to the facilities.

The rest was stored at school compounds, parks, and temporary storage sites.

Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi told reporters on Friday that the waste needs to be removed from the locations as quickly as possible so that local residents can feel secure.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

What ‘Fukushima 50’ can teach us about crises

p18-schilling-fukushima50-b-20200308-870x580A scene from “Fukushima 50” the recent film adaptation of “On the Brink : The Inside Story of Fukushima Daiichi.”

March 7, 2020

After the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, much of the foreign press focused on what it dubbed the “Fukushima 50” — a small band of workers whose life-or-death actions prevented a catastrophic meltdown.

Author Ryusho Kadota interviewed many of these frontline workers (which he found to number 69, not 50). He also spoke with Fukushima No. 1 plant manager Masao Yoshida, who headed the emergency response team, and former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who took an active — and controversial — role in the government’s reaction to the disaster.

Based on his reporting, Kadota wrote the 2012 nonfiction novel “Shi no Fuchi o Mita Otoko,” published in translation as “On the Brink: The Inside Story of Fukushima Daiichi.” Filled with drama, such as the desperate struggle of workers to open plant vents to avoid radiation-spewing explosions, “On the Brink” has since become a feature film, “Fukushima 50,” that stars Ken Watanabe as Yoshida.

In a recent interview at the Tokyo headquarters of publisher Kadokawa, Kadota says he told the filmmakers to “adapt (the book) freely.”

In fact, when I first read the script, I told them that there wasn’t enough drama in it,” Kadota says. “I wanted them to add more.”

The film departs from the book most notably in the matter of names: The only character with the name of a real person is Watanabe’s Yoshida.

The book (in Japanese) is quite long — 400-some pages — and the movie is only two hours, so they made composite characters out of two or three actual people,” Kadota explains. “But Yoshida, I thought, should be Yoshida. And the film as a whole is close to the truth.”


Ryusho Kadota . Satoko Kawasaki .Inside scoop: Following the 3/11 triple disaster, author Ryusho Kadota interviewed many of the frontline workers at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, whose life-or-death actions prevented an even greater catastrophe.

And the truth, as the film graphically illustrates, is that Japan came terrifyingly close to nuclear apocalypse, narrowly averted by the heroic efforts of frontline workers, as well as Yoshida’s decision to ignore orders from officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant’s owner, to stop cooling the reactors with seawater. They were concerned about damage to the reactors, but with nothing else to adequately cool them, Yoshida knew it was either seawater — or a Chernobyl-like disaster.

Domestic media, Kadota says, were less aggressive than their foreign counterparts in ferreting out the facts.

They didn’t report on what was actually happening,” he says.

Instead, he says, domestic coverage became divided into two camps, with one bashing nuclear power and other supporting it. The bashers, he says, “didn’t know what was going on inside (the plant) — and that motivated me. I knew I had to find out. I’m not in one camp or the other. I believe our mission as journalists is to report the truth, wherever it leads.”

To this end, Kadota spent 16 months interviewing more than 90 subjects. His conclusion: “Japan is what it is today because they were successful in opening the vents in the No. 1 plant. If they hadn’t succeeded, we would be doing this interview in Osaka. You wouldn’t be able to live in eastern Japan — the middle third of the country.”

The reason for that success, Kadota believes, is that workers were willing to risk their lives to save the plant — and their communities.

Some similarities are apparent with the situation in Japan at present, as doctors, nurses and other medical workers are battling the novel coronavirus. The government has come under criticism for its response to the crisis, as had Kan and Tepco in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

I have to write a book about this crisis as well,” Kadota says. “The government’s response has been terrible, just as it was back then.”

He refers to the passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, who became infected in large numbers after government health officials decided to enforce an onboard quarantine.

I feel sorry for them,” Kadota says. “The way they were treated was problematic to say the least.”

He mentions infectious disease specialist Kentaro Iwata, whose video about his inspection of conditions aboard the Diamond Princess went viral after he posted it online on Feb. 18 (he has since deleted the upload).

(Iwata) said he wasn’t afraid when he dealt with Ebola in Africa because protective measures there were perfect, but he was deathly afraid aboard the Diamond Princess because it was so chaotic,” Kadota says. “I can totally relate to that.”

But Kadota is most angry, he says, at what he describes as “Japan’s lack of a national security mind-set.”

Yoshida knew he had to cool the reactors with seawater to protect the lives of the Japanese people and avoid the destruction of eastern Japan,” Kadota says. “But the Prime Minister’s Office didn’t see it that way.” A Tepco adviser to Kan told Yoshida to stop injecting seawater into the reactor, since the prime minister was concerned that seawater might cause the melted fuel rods to resume criticality. Kan later denied interfering with Yoshida’s decision to cool the reactors with seawater.

We have much the same situation now,” Kadota says. “We have (Prime Minsiter Shinzo) Abe, not someone like Masao Yoshida, as prime minister.

The prime minister’s most important duty is to protect the citizens of the nation,” Kadota says. “That’s first and foremost. But some people forget that.”

One who does have that sense, Kadota notes, is Masahisa Sato, an outspoken member of the Upper House and a former state minister for foreign affairs.

He’s been saying from the start of this that Japan should prohibit entry to anyone from China,” Kadota says. “And I’ve been saying it myself.”

Kadota also says Japan needs an equivalent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. government agency in charge of public health.

They have a staff of 14,000 with a national mission to keep infections from spreading,” he says. “Japan has nothing like it.”

What it does have now, he notes, is a shortage of face masks and other supplies for protection against the coronavirus.

Yesterday I retweeted a post from a friend who said someone had sneezed on his neck in a crowded train,” Kadota says. “What can you do? You can’t get rid of the crowded trains and you can’t find masks anywhere in the city. So people are on crowded trains, morning after morning.

Doesn’t all this make you angry?” he asks. I tell him it does.

However, the big takeaway from “On the Brink” is not that Japanese officialdom has an enraging habit of bumbling in major disasters; it’s that heroes do exist here and can make a huge, life-saving difference, especially if officialdom supports them rather than stymies them. Kadota has yet to find many heroes in the current crisis, but he’s only just begun.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | 1 Comment

Japan may have to cancel the Olympics

Covid-19 could scupper Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s pet project



March 7, 2020

IF BANYAN HAD to choose one country in which to ride out a pandemic, it would surely be Japan. Early 19th-century woodblock prints of bathing testify to Japan’s old and admirable cult of cleanliness. Modern Japanese have for years been quick to don a face mask at the first sniffle, out of consideration for others. And the population responds swiftly to public messaging.

Hygiene measures advocated against covid-19 since mid-January emphasise frequent washing of hands. This has surely helped slow the spread of the coronavirus, especially given that of Japan’s 1,035 covid-19 cases and 12 deaths, most are associated with a cruise ship held for weeks off Yokohoma. One striking and positive side-effect is already apparent: unlike in Europe or America, doctors report sharp falls in cases of ordinary flu, not only compared with previous years but also with the first part of the winter. Given that 3,300 deaths were attributed to flu in Japan in 2018, the good hygiene inculcated in recent months may well have saved far more lives than covid-19 has claimed.

For all that, social strains have shown in recent days. In Tokyo scuffles have broken out in queues for facemasks outside pharmacies. Panic-buying of toilet paper has left shelves bare. A photograph of toilet rolls in a public lavatory chained to their dispenser with a bicycle lock has done the rounds. While hardly “Lord of the Flies”, it is all highly unusual in such a well-behaved country.

Blame a squall of doubt over the government of the usually assertive prime minister, Abe Shinzo. His problems seem, precisely, to have begun with the cruise ship, the Diamond Princess. When cases of covid-19, contracted overseas, became clear among the 3,700 people aboard, measures to isolate them failed badly. The vessel was, as one passenger put it, a floating petri dish, as the number of infected soared to over 700, with seven deaths. Extraordinarily, crew were eventually let ashore from the infected vessel, and Japanese passengers allowed to return home on public transport, with no further quarantine measures.

When it comes to bumbling crisis management, Japan has form. After the Kobe earthquake in 1995, yakuza (gangsters) set up soup kitchens, so slow was government help to arrive. Bureaucratic disarray ruled in the Diamond Princess’s handling, too. European ambassadors with nationals aboard complained they did not know who in the government to call. Fans wondered whether Mr Abe, invisible during the crisis, had lost his touch. His hitherto unassailable poll ratings fell sharply.

To contain the damage to his reputation as well as the coronavirus, on February 27th Mr Abe took the initiative, telling all schools to close until April. Preparing for the worst, he rushed through legislation this week allowing a state of emergency to be declared. And he unveiled an emergency spending package.

The assertive Abe, then, is back. So much so that questions are growing about what expert advice, if any, he drew on for his schools decision. New social stresses will surely emerge, not least for working mothers (it never seems to be fathers) who must now drum up weeks of day-time childcare. “The government does not grasp what it’s like to raise children,” one mother complains.

The government claims that Japan will return to normal in April. That seems implausible. A state visit by China’s president, Xi Jinping, which was supposed to put the two countries’ listing relationship on an even keel, has already been postponed. There is little political cost to Mr Abe—after all, nationalists who backed his rise to power had been grumbling about his hosting the Chinese dictator.

Much more rides on the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. Mr Abe intends them to foster the patriotism whose absence among ordinary Japanese he laments. He wants the games to make Japan seem open, global and even multicultural. And, though vastly over budget, they are to crown the prime minister’s seven-year rule.

To cancel the games would generate not only disappointment among ordinary Japanese but anger at the wasted expense they have already had to bear. But a pandemic would take the decision out of his hands—not least, says Nakano Koichi of Sophia University, because the Olympic village would be “a cruise ship on land”. Bet on a postponement of the games at the very least, and on a long delay before the prime minister’s popularity shines again.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | 1 Comment

Will coronavirus cancel the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?

March 6, 2020

Games on? Or Games over?

It would be one of the biggest sports news stories ever.

The postponement – or cancellation – of the world’s greatest sporting mega-event because of coronavirus would be unprecedented in peacetime.

The 2020 Olympics are due to take place in Tokyo from 24 July to 9 August – here are some of the key questions as the Olympic movement faces up to unchartered territory.

What is the latest in Japan?

There is inevitably mounting concern; Japan’s proximity to China where the outbreak began, the postponement of Tokyo 2020 volunteer training, the restrictions placed on last weekend’s Tokyo marathon where only elite runners were allowed to participate, the suspension of J-League matches and other sports events, and the country’s closure of schools.

The Asia Sevens rugby tournament, which was due to be a pre-Games test event held in Tokyo next month, was cancelled on Wednesday.

The news came just as International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach was facing the media in Lausanne, after a two-day executive board meeting.

Tokyo 2020 organisers had also agreed to scale back the torch relay in response to coronavirus, with the lighting of the flame due to take place in Greece next week.

Japan’s Olympics minister broke ranks on Tuesday, saying that Tokyo’s contract with the IOC allowed for the Games to be postponed until later this year.

What has the IOC said?


_111157138_bach_gettyPresident Thomas Bach says the IOC remains ‘fully committed’ to Tokyo 2020

At the news conference on the banks of Lake Geneva, Bach fended off a barrage of questions about whether the Olympics could be delayed.

The admission 24 hours earlier from Japan’s Olympics minister perhaps forced Bach into a hastily arranged and unscheduled statement, in which he tried to make clear his confidence the event would proceed as planned, and urged athletes to prepare “full steam”.

At his news conference the following day, Bach struck an even more defiant tone.

He denied having a ‘Plan B’, refused to be drawn on when any decision could be made and remarkably insisted that the words “cancellation” and “postponement” were not even mentioned during the meeting.

The president did admit to a “challenge” when it came to the cancelling of some qualifying events, as has the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), which has also said qualification criteria will be reviewed as a result.

In a letter to athletes on Thursday, Bach seemed to reveal a little more realism, admitting the coronavirus was “a major concern for all of us” and was “a major subject of discussion” at the executive board meeting.

When asked what exactly his confidence was based on, Bach referred to the guidance the IOC is receiving from the World Health Organisation, part of a dedicated task-force that is now in regular dialogue, without explaining what that advice actually was.

Why no ‘Plan B’?

Bach’s reassuring messaging will no doubt be welcomed by many in Japan, the Olympic movement, its stakeholders, and many athletes.

But some may wonder whether the president is in denial. Or merely delaying the inevitable. Others will ask if it is irresponsible or naive not to have a contingency plan.

The reality is the IOC almost certainly does have a ‘Plan B’. Insiders explain that it always does for unforeseen events at the Olympics, ranging from terrorism and war to natural disasters and boycotts.

As Bach – a man who never gives the impression of panicking – explained in Lausanne, he has been faced with challenges ahead of previous Games before – from the Zika virus and Russia’s state-sponsored doping scandal before Rio 2016, to the threat of nuclear war on the Korean peninsular in the build-up to Pyeongchang 2018.

So perhaps his calm exterior should not come as too great a surprise. The IOC operates in something of a bubble after all, and will not be pushed into an expression of alarm just because some in the outside world expects it.

Perhaps this is wise. This crisis comes with the IOC facing a challenge to persuade cities to bid to host Games at the best of times. Bach is hardly going to rush into cancelling or delaying Tokyo 2020 – and perhaps in doing so deter other cities from bidding in the future – until it becomes absolutely necessary.

Why no decision yet?


_111157140_olympics_coronavirus_getty2The 2020 Olympics are due to run from 24 July to 9 August

Firstly, because it may be premature. If the Games were being held now, it is hard to see how it could proceed as planned given the current approach of the Japanese authorities to mass gatherings and thousands of athletes in close proximity to each other in the village. But if, as many hope, the outbreak peaks, and then eases in the summer months, then it would be Games on.

And secondly, if the IOC were to publicly countenance a delay or cancellation, it would almost certainly have a detrimental effect, harming sales of tickets and hospitality packages, worrying athletes, and harming the all-important broadcast and sponsorship partners who ultimately bankroll the Olympic movement.

The only exception to this stance so far has come from long-serving IOC member Dick Pound, who last week admitted a decision to cancel could be made as late as May.

Ultimately, the situation is fluid and developing all the time, and just because Bach is confident now, it does not mean the situation will not change. So his words should be viewed with that in mind.

Who decides?

Under the heading ‘Termination’, clause 66 of the official Tokyo 2020 host city contract gives the IOC the authority to “withdraw the Games from the city” in the event of war (as happened in 1916, 1940 and 1944), civil disorder or boycott, or if the organisation believes that the safety of participants would be threatened “for any reason whatsoever”.

Significantly perhaps, the document states the IOC can also terminate if the Games do not take place in 2020. There is no reference to postponement.

The IOC then, is in control. But ultimately it will act on the advice of the experts at the World Health Organisation – and the Japanese government.

And with so much at stake, until they tell the IOC that to proceed would be irresponsible, expect the show of confidence to be maintained for as long as possible.

Could there be a short delay?

The distinct sense I picked up in Lausanne this week was that the kind of short-term three to four-month delay mooted by Japan’s Olympic Minister is highly unlikely. In fact, almost impossible.

It would certainly be very difficult trying to fit an autumn or winter Games into an already crowded sporting calendar, with so many other international events planned years in advance and potentially impacted.

Under a deal agreed four years ago, more than 5,000 apartments in the athletes’ village are due to be sold to private residents after the Paralympics, so it is unclear whether it would even be possible to accommodate 11,000 competitors and thousands more support staff at a later date in the event of a postponement. The availability of hotel rooms and volunteers would be uncertain.

The IOC’s most important live broadcast partner NBC – which has just announced it has sold a record £970m of advertising for Tokyo 2020 – may also take a dim view of the prospect of the Games clashing with the professional US basketball and NFL seasons, with the obvious negative knock-on effect that would have on audiences.

What are the other options?

  • Stage the Games without fans and behind closed doors, as suggested this week by British Cycling performance director Stephen Park.

Intriguingly, this suggestion was not ruled out by a senior IOC insider when it was put to him in Lausanne as a possible worst-case scenario this week, and the medical directors of international federations have been consulted on their thoughts about this option.

It would make for a strange and diminished Olympic experience of course. TV cameras would be told to focus on the athletes, rather than the empty seats. The Tokyo authorities would have to refund the cost of millions of tickets, at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds.

But at least the athletes would get to compete. And the IOC would have honoured its commitment to its broadcast partners to stage the event. In Japan, as elsewhere in the world, sports like baseball and sumo wrestling are currently being staged behind closed doors. Could this be the authorities preparing for and learning about how to handle such an approach later in the year? Is Plan B already being rehearsed?

  • Delay it by a whole year.
  • Try to re-locate the event elsewhere.
  • Or cancel it altogether, which as Pound suggested last week, actually feels like the most likely outcome in the event the outbreak prevents the Games taking place as planned.

That may seem unthinkable. The impact would be hard to quantify, But interestingly, it may not be as cataclysmic to the IOC as you may imagine.

The host city contract states that in the event of a cancellation, the local organising committee “waive any claim and right to any form of indemnity, damages or other compensation or remedy of any kind”. So Tokyo could not sue the IOC for damages.

The IOC has built up reserves of about £700m in case a Games is lost, and which would enable it to still support international sports federations and national Olympic committees.

The IOC is thought to have spent about £20m on insurance to cover most of the £800m investment it pumps into each summer Olympics.

On the assumption that its policy covers diseases like coronavirus, the IOC could claim for lost income.

Who would be the biggest losers in the event of cancellation?

The insurance industry, which would suddenly face hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of claims from broadcasters, advertisers, sponsors, hotels, and of course the local organisers themselves, all trying to claw back some of the losses they would incur.

Japan, which may have insurance for lost ticket sales, but would be unable to reclaim the estimated £10bn it has spent on infrastructure and preparation for the Games over the past seven years as it tries to use the event as a means of kickstarting a recovery from the 2011 Tohoku disaster. And it is too late to scale back now. The investment has been made. The loss in tourism revenue would also be a major blow to the country’s struggling economy.

And finally the athletes, men and women who have spent years dreaming of and training for the Games. For many, Tokyo will be their only chance of experiencing the Olympics.

When one considers just how much is at stake, perhaps it is no surprise that Bach seems so reluctant to even contemplate the suggestion of a delay or cancellation, and is in no rush to take a decision before he needs to.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | 1 Comment

Film lauding Japan’s Fukushima heroes warns against complacency


March 6, 2020

TOKYO (Reuters) – As aftershocks rock the Fukushima nuclear plant, a small band of workers defy their bosses to stay on and fight to stop an even bigger disaster from irradiating a wide swathe of Japan.

The scene is from a movie that opened on Friday – “Fukushima 50”, which tells the true story of the hours after a quake and tsunami set off meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors on March 11, 2011.

Almost nine years to the day after that disaster, its depiction of individual heroism in the face of official bungling and overwhelming catastrophe has struck a chord with early viewers.

“I don’t think I’ve ever started crying so quickly during a movie. Partly that’s because I had flashbacks,” said a commenter called “n_n” on Yahoo’s movie review page.

Much has moved in on Japan since Fukushima, the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Authorities are now fighting another emergency, the spread of the new coronavirus. They are also pressing on with plans for the 2020 Olympics, which is due to kick off with a torch relay starting at Fukushima in three weeks’ time.

But, nine years on, workers in protective suits are still removing radioactive material from Fukushima’s reactors, and the film’s scenes – mixed in with news footage from the time – still pack an emotional punch.

“It sucked me right in within the first 10 minutes. The tension didn’t let up for the rest of the movie, and I was struck by the incompetence of the then-government,” wrote another Yahoo commentator, calling themselves “wan”.


“Nobody in the country knew any of this was going on while it was happening. I was really surprised and moved,” said Yoshinori, a 56-year-old photographer, out for a noon showing of the film in Tokyo with his wife.

“Everybody in Japan should see this,” he added. “I think memories of that disaster are fading. I came to make sure I kept them fresh.”

“The Fukushima Fifty” was the name given to the group of workers and engineers who stayed behind after the tsunami knocked out the power and cooling systems at the plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO).

Led by Masao Yoshida – portrayed in the film by Ken Watanabe, one of the stars of “The Last Samurai” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” – they began running seawater into the reactors as an emergency cooling measure.

When their bosses back at TEPCO headquarters ordered them to stop, Yoshida ignored the order – rescinded hours later – and kept going.

He is shown yelling at his bosses during video conferences – scenes that Watanabe said were based on accounts from Yoshida’s colleagues. The engineer died in 2013 from esophageal cancer, aged just 58.

When I made the film ‘Letters from Iwo Jima,’ I felt that Japan isn’t very good at learning lessons from the past,” Watanabe told a news conference after filming finished last year, referring to the Clint Eastwood film depicting the World War Two battle.

“I feel the same way about Fukushima,” he added.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Reporters Without Borders urges Japan to stop pressuring the media on Fukushima-related topics


March 6, 2020

As Japan commemorates the 9th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the authorities to let journalists freely report on the topic.

On Wednesday, March 11th, Japan will commemorate the 9th anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident, the worst atomic disaster after Chernobyl, caused by a tsunami and collectively resulting in 18,500 dead and missing, 160,000 evacuees and a continuous release of massive amounts of radioactive materials until today. Since the accident, the media have consistently encountered pressure and censorship attempts when trying to investigate the topic.


Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the Japanese authorities to ensure that the media can freely report on the Fukushima-related topics and requests a full access for all journalists, including foreign correspondents and freelancers, to the contaminated sites and to all raw data available.


It is essential for the public to access independent information on the accurate radiation levels,” says Cédric Alviani, RSF’s East Asia bureau head. “The government is currently encouraging the remaining evacuees to settle back to the contaminated areas, but it must be fully transparent on the health hazard residents would be exposed to.”


Many Japanese journalists denounce heavy self-censorship in the media, which they attribute to the government and nuclear lobby’s efforts at concealing information seen as giving a “negative image” of Japan and hindering the preparation of the 2020 Olympic Games, set in Tokyo this summer.


A senior TV reporter who formerly worked for a major news program and wishes to remain anonymous recalls “intense pressure from the government and advertisers” to discourage his team from reporting on the long-term effects of the radioactive substances released by the plant. “We even heard of phone calls from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet asking our management to move some journalists they disliked to another department.”


In 2014, the board of daily newspaper The Asahi Shimbun even had to make a public apology for having published an article pointing out that 90% of the nuclear plant’s employees were offsite during the accident, drawing the government’s ire. The authors, award winning journalists Hideaki Kimura and Tomomi Miyazaki, were transferred to a non-writing section and later forced to resign.


Martin Fackler, who served as the New York Times Tokyo bureau chief from 2009 to 2015, considers that the authorities “clearly lack transparency” and believes that the Asahi Shimbun’s retraction case “successfully deterred other big media from investigating Fukushima-related stories.”


UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression David Kaye has expressed serious concerns about freedom of the press in Japan in 2017, and noted a further erosion in 2019.


Japan ranked 67th out of 180 in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

9 Years On: Fukushima N-Plant Lawsuits Await High Court Rulings


March 6, 2020

Tokyo, March 6 (Jiji Press)–High courts in Japan are hearing a series of damages lawsuits filed by evacuees from the country’s unprecedented nuclear accident that occurred in Fukushima Prefecture nine years ago.

The focal point is how the courts will assess the liability of the Japanese government, which has been flatly denying its responsibility over the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The plant suffered a triple reactor meltdown after being hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, forcing many residents to evacuate.

So far, six of 10 district courts found the government responsible for the nuclear accident, while the other four did not recognize government liability.

Key issues are whether the government was able to predict the huge tsunami and was able to avert the catastrophe by taking preventive measures.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment