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Japan’s independent English language newsletter, analysing nuclear issues, is struggling to survive

Japan NPO on nuke power issues struggling to retain English newsletter

September 27, 2021 (Mainichi Japan    TOKYO (Kyodo) — A citizens’ organization in Japan that publishes independent analysis in English on nuclear power issues is struggling financially, threatening its ability to remain the major source of specialized public information on Japan’s nuclear industry for an international audience.

The Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center based in Tokyo has published the free bimonthly English newsletter Nuke Info Tokyo since 1987 but is having to crowdfund to keep publishing amid financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The nonprofit organization, which also produces a monthly newsletter in Japanese for a domestic audience, had previously financed the cost of the English publication by holding paid seminars at which it also solicited donations and sold books, as well as collecting membership fees.

But it has been unable to hold the events since early 2020 when coronavirus infections began to impact Japan, Hajime Matsukubo, CNIC secretary general, told Kyodo News.

Membership — already in decline — has also dropped further amid the pandemic and its effect on the economy, he said.

“Membership decreased by about 100 last year alone under the coronavirus outbreaks and (membership) is around 2,100 now,” Matsukubo said, admitting the decline in membership also owed to a waning of public interest in nuclear issues in recent years.

…………. Philip White, a former editor of Nuke Info Tokyo, wrote that he fielded calls around the clock from the foreign media by referring to the archived English-language articles at the time of the disaster.

“The international media was hungry for critical information to counter the sanitized version offered by the government and the nuclear industry. Our English website offered clearly referenced Nuke Info Tokyo articles,” he wrote……………

Matsukubo argues that the government and electric power companies operating nuclear plants tend to withhold information, not just when accidents occur but also in normal times.

Although the government has said the Fukushima plant is under control, it is uncertain how many more years it will take to deal with over a million tons of treated radioactive water from the plant and decommission damaged reactors.

The government continues to deem nuclear power a major energy source, although, since 2014, it has said it aims to decrease its reliance on such power.

Running the English newsletter, staffed by Stronell, four freelance translators, and an editor who is also co-director of the group, costs around 1.5 million yen ($13,700) per year. While the translators used to work voluntarily, CNIC started to pay them in 2009 — though they receive half or less than the market rate.

At this time, the newsletter, which had been printed and mailed to readers with a postage fee charged only to readers in Japan, was made available for free online. Several hundred readers regularly refer to the newsletter, among them journalists, NGO staff, and academics.

Another co-director of CNIC, Hideyuki Ban, said that researchers worldwide have quoted Nuke Info Tokyo in their work.

“Nuke Info Tokyo is the only newsletter in English that specializes in the situation of nuclear power in Japan and has covered a wide range of issues from citizens’ standpoints for decades,” Ban said.

CNIC was founded in 1975 by scientists, including the late Jinzaburo Takagi, a nuclear chemist who began his career in the nuclear industry but later voiced concerns about atomic power……..

To coincide with the policy discussion, CNIC held a virtual seminar on Friday to draw attention to the issues and help people make up their minds on the right policy for Japan.

Stronell said she hopes to run an article on the seminar given by experts in the newsletter.

“I think the most important thing is having independent experts’ information on nuclear power accidents like Fukushima and other problems to let people make decisions about their own health and future,” Stronell said. “And so for us to continue to do this, and that’s what the crowdfunding project is about, any support is very much appreciated.”

October 1, 2021 - Posted by | Japan, media

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