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Evacuation of Okuma Town Lifted, a First in a Town where Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is Located

July 1, 2022
 At 9:00 a.m. on July 30, the evacuation order was lifted in Okuma Town, one of the hard-to-return zones still restricted due to radioactive contamination caused by the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (Okuma and Futaba Towns, Fukushima Prefecture). Eleven years and three months have passed since the accident, and this is the first time that people have been able to live in the difficult-to-return zone in the municipality where the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is located. The town is moving forward with the attraction of companies related to the decommissioning of the plant and the construction of housing, but it is not clear how many people will be able to live in the area.
 The reconstruction site is mainly located in the residential area around Ono Station on the JR Joban Line and covers approximately 860 hectares, or 10% of the town’s land area. At the time of the nuclear accident, more than half of the population (11,505) lived there. Even now, approximately 5,900 people are registered residents, accounting for 60% of the total. The town has set a target of 2,600 residents in five years.
 Mayor Atsushi Yoshida said at a crime prevention patrol ceremony held in front of Ono Station, “It takes time to get back to the bustling town we once were. We have finally made a start.
 In April 2019, the evacuation order will be lifted in the southwestern part of Okuma Town, where about 380 residents are now living after the entire town was forced to evacuate due to the nuclear accident.

Specified Reconstruction and Revitalization Zone (Reconstruction base): A zone designated by the government after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident as a “difficult-to-return zone” with high radiation levels, where government funds are being used to decontaminate the area in advance to enable residents to resume their lives. Of the seven municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture that remain in the difficult-to-return zones, six, with the exception of Minamisoma City, are located in these zones. The reconstruction base in Katsurao Village was lifted on June 12. The base in Futaba-cho, where the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is located, is expected to be lifted in July or later.

◆There are many issues to be addressed, and the future will be tough.
 In Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture, where the evacuation order has been lifted, there are still some areas that have not been fully decontaminated, and some houses that have not been demolished and decontaminated yet. The situation remains inconvenient with no stores or hospitals, and residents who wish to return to their homes said, “There are a lot of issues. The future will be tough,” said one resident.
 About 6 km southwest of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Mitsuhide Ikeda, 61, a part-time farmer, keeps 17 head of cattle in his pasture. On March 30, while feeding his cows with his wife Mikiko (64), Ikeda said, “I am happy to be able to go back to my home freely. I hope to resume livestock farming someday and also produce rice, vegetables, and fruits to show that it is possible to grow food in the area that was once a hard-to-return zone.

Mitsuhide Ikeda, who said he wants to return to livestock farming in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 30.

Eleven years ago, on the morning of March 12, Ikeda and his wife refused to dispose of their cattle, even after the sudden evacuation, saying, “We cannot take away the lives of our cows, our precious family members who have supported our lives. Once they caught the cows that had fled, they continued to care for them while commuting from Hirono Town, Fukushima Prefecture, where they had evacuated from, about 25 km south of the town.
 Two years ago, he built an office where he can sleep on the site of his former home adjacent to the pasture, but even after the evacuation order was lifted, he continues to commute from Hirono Town. Even after the decontamination of his property, he found areas where the radiation level was 15 microsieverts per hour, well above the government’s long-term target of 0.23 microsieverts per hour, and had to have the area re-decontaminated. There were many such places throughout the neighborhood. Mitsuhide said, “The government could have bought up all the areas with high radiation levels and not decontaminated them.
 Mikiko does not want to live in Okuma because “shopping is inconvenient. Mitsuhide also said, “There is no one around for hundreds of meters, so when something happens, there is no one to shout out. It would be difficult to live there right now,” he spilled. Still, he is determined to fulfill his desire to be a cattle breeder on his ancestral land.

◆It’s just a transit point
 A woman, 60, who evacuated to Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, feels that the lifting of the evacuation order is “just a passing point. After her house was placed in a recovery center, she asked the town what would happen to her house after the evacuation order was lifted, but she did not know.
 I couldn’t see what was going to happen to the town,” said the woman. Her house has been demolished, but the surrounding area has been ransacked by burglars and animals, and there are still buildings that have not been decontaminated. I like Okuma because I can feel the four seasons and smell the grass being cut,” she said. But even if I was told I could go home, I would not be able to lead a settled life in a place where the living environment is not well maintained.”
 The woman would like to build a house and live with her husband if the town’s environment is improved, but she cannot make up her mind right now. In a survey of residents’ intentions, 20% said they could not decide whether or not to return, but these people are the most likely candidates to come back. If we don’t take good care of them, they won’t come back.


July 3, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Nuclear Power Plants in 2022

June 29, 2022

As of June 2022, 10 nuclear reactors at six power stations have been given the go-ahead to restart in Japan but only 4 reactors are currently in operation. Despite local governments agreeing to restart the reactors, some have not yet become operational due to the time required to implement safety measures and complete other construction work.

Prior to the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, 54 nuclear reactors were in operation in Japan, supplying approximately 30% of the country’s electric power. However, the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was a drastic blow to nuclear power’s reputation, leading to increased distrust and unease toward the energy source.

As of June 2022, only 10 reactors have been restarted with local approval at the following six power stations: Ōi, Takahama, and Mihama (Kansai Electric Power Company), Genkai and Sendai (Kyūshū Electric Power Company), and Ikata (Shikoku Electric Power Company). These plants based in western Japan all use pressurized water reactors, which are different from the boiling water reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Boiling water reactors at the Onagawa (Tōhoku Electric Power Company), Kashiwazaki-Kariwa (Tokyo Electric Power Company), Tōkai Daini (Japan Atomic Power Company), and Shimane (Chūgoku Electric Power Company) nuclear power stations have all been approved under the new regulatory standards, but none have received the green light to restart.

In total, 21 nuclear reactors have been decommissioned since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Nuclear Power Plants: Major Developments Since the Great East Japan Earthquake

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Shimane Nuclear Power Plant, operated by Chūgoku Electric Power Company. © Pixta.)

July 3, 2022 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Britain to lift import restriction on food products from Fukushima

Politics prevailing over health risk

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands as they meet in Schloss Elmau, southern Germany, on June 28, 2022.

June 28, 2022

MUNICH (Kyodo) — Britain on Wednesday will lift import restrictions on some Japanese food products imposed in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“I’m delighted that tomorrow, finally, we are able to have Fukushima-origin products all over the shops in the U.K.,” Johnson said at the outset of the meeting.

Kishida expressed his appreciation for the British decision, coming after his visit to Britain in May when the leaders discussed the issue. The British government had promised to remove the restrictions by the end of June.

Kishida and Johnson met on the fringes of a Group of Seven leaders’ summit in southern Germany.

July 3, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

UK to lift import restrictions on food from Fukushima

Remaining curbs on food imports imposed after 2011 nuclear disaster to be scrapped

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Tesco and Waitrose have said they have no immediate plans to sell Fukushima produce.

June 29, 2022

Food from Fukushima will be freely available in the UK from Wednesday, weeks after Boris Johnson snacked on popcorn from the Japanese prefecture hit by a triple nuclear meltdown in March 2011.

Britain restricted Fukushima imports after the disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, but has gradually lifted them, even as other countries limit or ban produce from the region.

Johnson confirmed that the remaining restrictions would end on Wednesday in a meeting the previous day with the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, on the fringes of the G7 summit in Germany.

Johnson told Kishida that UK-Japan relations were going from “strength to strength”.

“Two great island democracies, united in our values, determined to stand up together against autocracies and the dangers of drifting backwards in the world, but also wanting to do more together on technology, on security, on trade, and of course I’m delighted that tomorrow – finally – we are able to have Fukushima-origin products all over the shops in the UK,” he said.

The supermarket chains Tesco and Waitrose have said they have no immediate plans to sell Fukushima produce. Instead, many of the items will be available at Japanese restaurants and specialist Japanese stores in England, Scotland and Wales.

The restrictions will remain in place in Northern Ireland, which is subject to European Union rules on food and drink from Fukushima and other prefectures affected by the accident 11 years ago.

The scrapping of the restrictions was made possible after the UK Food Standards Agency dropped a limit of 100 becquerels – a measure of radioactivity – per kilogram contained in Japanese food.

“Our risk assessment shows that removing the 100 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) maximum level of radiocaesium for food imported from Japan to the UK would result in a negligible increase in dose and any associated risk to UK consumers,” the FSA said in a report late last year.

The Fukushima prefectural government says that, post-disaster, its food safety standards are among the most stringent in the world. The government-set upper limit for radioactive caesium in ordinary foodstuffs, such as meat and vegetables, is 100 becquerels per kilogram, compared with 1,250Bq/kg in the EU and 1,200Bq/kg in the US.

The lifting of restrictions will affect 23 food products, such as mushrooms, which previously needed to carry proof that they had been tested for radioactive material, according to Nikkei Asia.

The Japanese government said it “welcomes the fact that the UK government reached this decision based on scientific evidence, as it will support the reconstruction of the affected areas”.

It added that it would “continue to work towards the early lifting of the remaining import restrictions in the EU and other countries and regions”. China, Russia, South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan and several other countries still impose import restrictions.

Johnson first sampled Fukushima produce in 2017 when, as foreign secretary, he swigged a can of peach juice given to him by his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, declaring it “Yum”.

July 3, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Disaster-hit Tohoku residents unimpressed by ‘recovery Olympics,’ survey shows

Members of the 2011 Women’s World Cup-winning Japan soccer team run at the start of the Tokyo Olympic torch relay at the J-Village soccer training center in Fukushima Prefecture on March 25, 2021 | KYODO

June 28, 2022

The Tokyo Olympics, promoted as a way to improve the plight of areas devastated by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, left residents of northeastern Japan largely unimpressed, a survey buried in a government report revealed Tuesday.

The survey was included as part of a government report on the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. It went over the entire endeavor, from the bid stage to its realization during a pandemic with virtually no fans, and all but ignored the controversy surrounding the design and cost of the national stadium.

The survey by Japan’s Reconstruction Agency in November asked if people were “grateful for the reconstruction support, or believed the Olympics sent a message to the world that reconstruction is taking place.”

Only 29.8% of the 4,000 people in the survey answered that question by saying either “I really think so” or “I think so.” A total of 38.8% answered “I don’t think it did much” or “I don’t think so.”

Asked their opinion about the best thing from the Olympics, 20.7% said, “events held in the disaster-hit region,” while 11.1% answered, “the torch relay.” The answer “nothing in particular” was selected by 39.6%.

The survey asked 1,000 residents each from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures and from Tokyo. The results were not published in the main body of the report but in the attached reference materials.

The main report focused on positives: how Fukushima-produced hydrogen was used in the torch relay, and how the athletes village served food from the disaster-hit region.

The Olympics, the government report proclaimed, “showed the world how recovery is being accomplished and how we are tackling the issues that promote reconstruction.”

Regarding the Olympics’ centerpiece, the National Stadium, the report was remarkably vague. The original stadium design bid, by the late Zaha Hadid, was the most prominent price tag in a huge bill that would need to be paid to host the Olympics.

To remedy that, organizers re-opened the bidding, delaying its construction for a year, and preventing it from hosting 2019 Rugby World Cup matches.

The report’s only comment on what was just one of the organizers’ first stumbling blocks was, “The related cost became larger than originally planned.”

July 3, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Japan OKs return to nuclear plant host town for 1st time in 11 yrs

Photo taken June 16, 2022, shows a zone in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, specified as a reconstruction and revitalization base, where an evacuation order will be lifted at 9 a.m. June 30. (Kyodo)

June 28, 2022

The government decided Tuesday to lift an evacuation order on part of a town hosting a crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, allowing residents to return home for good this week for the first time since the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Restrictions in a zone specified as a reconstruction and revitalization base in Okuma will be lifted at 9 a.m. Thursday, the first such case for a municipality hosting Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan.

“Ending restrictions on an area, which used to be downtown (Okuma) before the disaster, will be a significant first step in reconstruction,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda said.

“We will create an environment where residents can return home without worries,” Hagiuda said at a press conference.

Restrictions in the specified reconstruction and revitalization base zone of the town of Futaba, which also hosts the Fukushima Daiichi plant, are also expected to end soon.

Okuma will be the second municipality in Fukushima Prefecture, after the village of Katsurao, to see people coming back to an area once designated as difficult to return to due to high levels of radiation.

Restrictions in part of the village were lifted on June 12.

With decontamination work reducing radiation levels and infrastructure being prepared in Okuma, restrictions will end in the 8.6-square-kilometer area that was once the center of the town.

Residents have been able to stay overnight in the area since December in preparation for their full-scale return.

A total of 5,888 people in 2,233 households, accounting for about 60 percent of the town population, were registered as residents of the area as of Monday, according to the Okuma town government.

Three other municipalities where residents are still not allowed to return — Tomioka, Namie and Iitate — are expected to see restrictions lifted around next spring.

July 3, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Govt. to lift evacuation order for part of Fukushima’s Okuma Town

June 28, 2022

The Japanese government has officially decided to lift its evacuation order in part of Fukushima Prefecture’s Okuma Town.

About 60 percent of Okuma Town was designated as a “difficult-to-return” zone after the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The plant is located in the town.

The evacuation order will be lifted in about 20 percent of Okuma Town’s “difficult-to-return” zone on Thursday. The decision was made on Tuesday.

The government decontaminated the area after it was designated as a special zone for reconstruction and revitalization.

The area will be the second “difficult-to-return” zone that residents can go back to.

The government made a similar decision for part of Katsurao Village earlier this month. Katsurao Village is located near the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

July 3, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

New Chairman of All Fishermen’s Federation “firmly opposed” to discharge of treated water The person who agreed to an interview at METI was… a retired counselor, not a minister

Masanobu Sakamoto, chairman of All Fisheries Federation of Japan (AFFJ), hands the resolution to Akira Matsunaga (right), a counselor at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

June 27, 2022
Masanobu Sakamoto, chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (ZENYOREN), visited the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on June 27 for the first time since becoming chairman, and handed a special resolution to Akira Matsunaga, counselor at METI, stating “firm opposition” to the ocean discharge of water contaminated from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (Okuma-cho and Futaba-cho, Fukushima Prefecture), which is mainly radioactive tritium, after purification and treatment.
 Sakamoto is the chairman of the Chiba Prefectural Fisheries Federation, and was recently appointed chairman of the All Fisheries Federation at its general meeting on March 23. Meanwhile, Mr. Matsunaga, who responded to the letter, is a former director general of the Japan Patent Office who was involved in post-nuclear power plant reconstruction at the Cabinet Office and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, but retired at the end of March this year to become a part-time counselor.
 According to METI, the meeting with Minister Koichi Hagiuda did not take place because he could not adjust his schedule in time. Immediately after the interview, the ministry monitor showing Hagiuda’s schedule was marked “meeting.
 Sakamoto said at the meeting, “Regardless of the replacement of the chairman, we will remain opposed to the proposal,” and called for the creation of a fund for the continuation of the fishing industry, such as support for fuel costs for fishing boats, in addition to the fund for reputational damage measures and other measures budgeted by the government.
 Mr. Matsunaga said, “The entire ministry will work together to present effective and concrete measures.
 After the meeting, Mr. Sakamoto responded to media interviews, saying, “Eleven years ago, when the accident occurred in Chiba Prefecture, I myself suffered from severe reputational damage. Based on my own experience, I cannot condone (the release of radioactive materials into the ocean). As for not being able to meet with Mr. Hagiuda, he said, “Naturally, I would like to meet with the minister as soon as possible and convey my thoughts directly to him. (Kenta Onozawa)

Contaminated water generated when cooling water injected into reactors No. 1 through No. 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant comes into contact with nuclear fuel debris that melted down in the accident and mixes with groundwater and rainwater that has flowed into the buildings. Tritium, a radioactive substance that cannot be removed, remains in concentrations exceeding the national discharge standard. In April 2021, the government decided to discharge the treated water into the ocean by the spring of 2011. TEPCO is proceeding with a plan to use a large amount of seawater to dilute the tritium concentration to less than 1/40th of the discharge standard and discharge the water into the sea.

July 3, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

All fishermen’s federation “opposition to discharge will remain unchanged” Special resolution on treated water from nuclear power plant

June 23, 2022
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (ZENYOREN) held an ordinary general meeting in Tokyo on June 23, and unanimously adopted a special resolution stating that it remains “firmly opposed” to the ocean discharge of treated water from TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This is the third resolution opposing the ocean discharge.
 The resolution pointed out that the government’s April response to a request from the Federation of Fishermen’s Associations at the time of the decision to discharge nuclear fuel into the ocean lacked specific measures to explain the situation to fishermen and the public, or to deal with harmful rumors. He stressed, “We demand that the government provide careful and sincere explanations and effective concrete measures to gain the understanding of the public.
 Vice President Masanobu Sakamoto, who was elected as the new president at the general meeting, stated at the press conference that “ocean discharge is a matter of life and death for fishermen.

July 3, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment