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Small and Medium Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) – cost estimates, and what they cost to build

SMR cost estimates, and costs of SMRs under construction, Nuclear Monitor Issue:  #872-873 4777 07/03/2019Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

Costs of SMRs under construction construction costs for Russia’s floating nuclear power plant (with two 35-MW ice-breaker-type reactors) have increased more than four-fold and now equate to over US$10 billion / gigawatt (GW) (US$740 million / 70 MW).1 A 2016 OECD Nuclear Energy Agency report said that electricity produced by the plant is expected to cost about US$200/MWh, with the high cost due to large staffing requirements, high fuel costs, and resources required to maintain the barge and coastal infrastructure.2

Little credible information is available on the cost of China’s demonstration 2×250 MW high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). If the demonstration reactor is completed and successfully operated, China reportedly plans to upscale the design to 655 MW (three modules feeding one turbine, total 655 MW) and to build these reactors in pairs with a total capacity of about 1,200 MW (so much for the small-is-beautiful SMR rhetoric). According to the World Nuclear Association, China’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology at Tsinghua University expects the cost of a 655 MWe HTGR to be 15-20% more than the cost of a conventional 600 MWe PWR.3

A 2016 report said that the estimated construction cost of China’s demonstration HTGR is about US$5,000/kW ‒ about twice the initial cost estimates.4 Cost increases have arisen from higher material and component costs, increases in labor costs, and increased costs associated with project delays.4 The World Nuclear Association states that the cost of the demonstration HTGR is US$6,000/kW.5

The CAREM (Central Argentina de Elementos Modulares) SMR under construction in Argentina illustrates the gap between SMR rhetoric and reality. Argentina’s Undersecretary of Nuclear Energy, Julián Gadano, said in 2016 that the world market for SMRs is in the tens of billions of dollars and that Argentina could capture 20% of the market with its CAREM technology.6 But cost estimates have ballooned: Continue reading

March 25, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Global nuclear lobby desperate to market an array of non existent Small and Medium Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

IAEA Showcases Global Coordination on Small, Medium Sized or Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) IAEA, October 2018   Vienna, Austria The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) expanding international coordination on the safe and secure development and deployment of small, medium sized or modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) has come into focus with new publications and expert meetings on these emerging technologies.

Significant advances have been made in recent years on SMRs, some of which will use pre-fabricated systems and components to shorten construction schedules and offer greater flexibility and affordability than traditional nuclear power plants. Some 50 SMR concepts are at various stages of development around the world, with commercial operations expected to begin in the coming years.

Following an IAEA meeting in September on SMR design and technology, energy experts from around Europe gathered at the Agency’s Vienna headquarters for a workshop earlier this month to discuss infrastructure, economic and finance aspects of SMRs. The meetings are part of an ongoing SMR project involving the IAEA Departments of Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Safety and Security and Technical Cooperation. In addition, representatives of regulatory authorities and other stakeholders also met this month at the IAEA’s SMR Regulators’ Forum, which exchanges experiences on SMR regulatory reviews.

Many IAEA Member States are interested in the development and deployment of SMRs as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said IAEA Deputy Director General Mikhail Chudakov, Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. “The IAEA’s flurry of recent activities on SMRs is part of our efforts to respond to Member State requests for assistance on this exciting emerging technology.”

The IAEA recently released two new publications on SMRs: Deployment Indicators for Small Modular Reactors, which provides Member States with a methodology for evaluating the potential deployment of SMRs in their national energy systems; and an updated edition of Advances in Small Modular Reactor Technology Developments, which provides a concise overview of the latest status of SMR designs around the world and is intended as a supplement to the IAEA’s Advanced Reactor Information System (ARIS)…….

October 16, 2018 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster | Leave a comment

This Will Still Be True Tomorrow: “Fukushima Ain’t Got the Time for Olympic Games”: Two Texts on Nuclear Disaster and Pandemic

Muto Ruiko

Introduced and translated by Norma Field


The fear of being forgotten that haunts the victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster set in quickly in the months following March 11, 2011. The Tokyo Olympics, touted as the “Recovery Olympics,” has served as a powerful vehicle for accelerating amnesia, on the one hand justifying the rushed reopening of restricted zones and other decisions of convenience, on the other, programming moments highlighting Fukushima in the Games. As preparations for the latter, especially the torch relay, reached fever pitch, the novel coronavirus intervened to force an abrupt postponement. It also disrupted ongoing and special events planned for the ninth 3.11 anniversary. The essay below elaborates on that context as an introduction to two texts by Muto Ruiko, head of the citizens’ group whose efforts led to the only criminal trial to emerge from the Fukushima disaster. The first, a speech anticipating the torch relay, outlines what the Olympics asks us to forget about Fukushima; the second is a reflection on living under two emergency declarations, the first nuclear, the second, COVID-19.

Key words: Olympics; Fukushima; torch relay; COVID-19; coronavirus; Dentsu; activism; Muto Ruiko

Prologue from an Ever-Shifting Present

Everybody has experienced, from childhood on, time crawling and time galloping, or time simply standing still, against the indifferent tic-toc of the clock. For much of the world, there is now a recent remote past—before the pandemic—and a present of bottomless uncertainty. But time continues to move unevenly in the new present, marked by unpredictable drama, as in the case of a tweetstorm that forced Abe Shinzo’s government to shelve a bill extending the retirement age of prosecutors, or by unexpected power, as in the global fury unleashed by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. The former, exploiting the attractive anonymity afforded by Twitter, punctuated years of quiescence following the demonstrations provoked by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, when tens of thousands of Japanese were willing to show their faces in protest. The latter seems the logical culmination of only the most recent instances of police brutality hurled before our eyes by the unabated racism and structural inequality prevailing in the U.S. Although the Japanese instance has been related to the coronavirus, the U.S. case is indisputably magnified by the overwhelming disparity in COVID-19 suffering, whether in numbers of death, the preponderance of minorities in the under-compensated, risk-burdened ranks of essential workers, and the economic nightmare, owing to job insecurity and paucity of savings, produced by the pandemic, such that “logical” now has the force of “inevitable.” And yet, is so remarkable as to also seem unpredictable.

As one recent remote past is replaced by another, we cannot forget that the issues thrust upon us by each of these recent pasts have hardly been resolved. Even as they momentarily recede from the foreground, they constitute a cumulative, living—and therefore, shifting—seismic force upon our present. This is the spirit motivating the following examination of the Tokyo Olympics and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, meant to serve as an introduction to two reflections by Muto Ruiko, head of the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. The first was delivered in anticipation of the 2020 Olympic torch relay to be kicked off in Fukushima; the second, written in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency declaration. 


1No time for Olympics: Azuma Sports Park, Fukushima City
March 1, 2020.


A Dream Vehicle for Amnesia

In the early spring months of 2020 in the northern hemisphere, the grim march of infection numbers was punctuated by reports of miraculous sightings, some true, others false: swans (false) and fish (true) in the lagoons of Venice; or blue sky in New Delhi. It felt as if decades of devoted action, joined in recent years by youth from the world over demanding that the earth be habitable for them, were being mocked. As if only a pandemic could bring about conditions seemingly more hospitable to life forms even as livelihood for many threatened to imperil health or simply vanish.2

In Japan, as if to scoff at the concerted efforts to protest that fabulous exercise in deceit called the “Recovery Olympics,” postponement of the games was abruptly announced on March 23, 2019, a scant four months in advance of the opening, when the torch—dubbed the “Flame of Recovery”—had already begun its triumphal progress3 in northern Japan. Does this mean that the effort expended in opposing the Olympics was wasted? The question is rhetorical, of course. In the coming months and years, we will need to reflect on the political, socioeconomic, and experiential impact of the assaults brought on by two kinds of invisible agents, radionuclides and a pandemic-causing virus. But for now, let us pause over the actions of antinuclear activists confronting the convergence of Covid-19 and the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

There is nothing bold about claiming that a major design of the games was to put paid to the 2011 triple disaster, most especially, the nuclear disaster. That objective is trumpeted in the official moniker, the “Recovery Olympics” (or in the even less merchandise-friendly translation of fukko, “Reconstruction”). It is still worth remarking how quickly those wheels were set in motion—the goal announced and declared achieved in virtually the same breath, as in Prime Minister Abe’s “under control” statement before the International Olympics Committee in Buenos Aires, a claim at which even TEPCO would demur shortly after it was made. That was September 2013. But the domestic selection of Tokyo as Japan’s candidate city had taken place on July 16, 2011, an indecent four months after the terrifying explosions. Only one month earlier, the Japanese government had admitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency that the molten fuel in reactors 1-3 had suffered a “melt-through” and not a mere “meltdown.” The daunting physical trials posed by the Fukushima Daiichi plant generated correspondingly difficult administrative challenges for Kan Naoto’s Democratic Party government. In late April, University of Tokyo professor Kosako Toshiso, hitherto a reliable government expert testifying against A-bomb survivors pressing for recognition, resigned as special cabinet adviser in a tearful press conference: as a scholar and from the standpoint of his “own humanism,” he could not condone raising the annual exposure rate for workers from 100 millisieverts (mSv)/yr to 250, or from 1 mSv/yr to 20 for primary school playgrounds in Fukushima.4 How could anyone in a position of responsibility have had the spare time to be plotting an Olympic bid during that period? 


2And in any case, I absolutely cannot inflict such a fate on my own children”
Special cabinet adviser Kosako Toshiso announcing his resignation at press conference
April 29, 2011.

A quick review suggests it was more a case of who was sufficiently determined to press on with pre-existing ambitions in the face of a catastrophe. Right-wing, nationalist politician Ishihara Shintaro, then Governor of Tokyo, had felt thwarted by the loss of the 2016 games to Rio de Janeiro.5 With strong encouragement from former prime minister Mori Yoshio (who would become head of the 2020 organizing committee), Ishihara declared that Tokyo would bid again once he was reelected on April 11. On that same day, Matsui Kazumi, a Hiroshima mayoral candidate opposed to that city’s Olympic bid, was elected, and in short order, withdrew the city from the running, leaving Tokyo as the de facto candidate from Japan.6 Ishihara, speaking in Tokyo on July 16, 2011, “passionatelyproclaimed the purpose of the “Recovery Olympics” (fukko gorin) to be the demonstration of Japan’s recovery from the 2011 disaster. By the end of 2011, a pet scheme opportunistically harnessed to the disaster by conservative politicians had won support across party lines. Noda Yoshihiko, who succeeded Kan as prime minister even or especially as the latter showed himself susceptible to public sentiment favoring de-nuclearization, declared that the Fukushima plant had successfully entered a “cold shutdown” on December 6. (See timeline here.) 

3Preparing for official 2020 Tokyo bid:
Governor Ishihara Shintaro with Jacques Rogge, IOC chair
July 2, 2011.

With hindsight—and not much of that—it is easy to grasp that the disaster and the 2020 Games were a match made in Olympic heaven. Without this bit of serendipity, the 2020 bid might have floundered in search of a convincing brand. (The mission of the failed 2016 bid was “Uniting Our Worlds.”) In the coming months and years, one worthy goal or another was accentuated for Tokyo 2020, but Recovery has been the mainstay.7 The serendipity has proven to be priceless because the promotion-proclamation of recovery, regardless of cost to people, the environment, and even government credibility, was the guiding principle behind managing the disaster from the start, as reflected in the watchwords of “ties that bind” (kizuna), “recovery/reconstruction/revitalization” (fukko), and “reputational harm” (fuhyo higai). This triplet of key words—two carrots of hope, one stick of warning—has managed to police Fukushima discourse to the present day: who would resist the call for solidarity in the hope of recovery? Or impede recovery by expressing worries about food safety? The expression of anxiety, whether on the part of mothers who stayed on or Tokyo consumers, is susceptible to the charge of causing “reputational harm,” which can further be seen as participating in discrimination against Fukushima.8 Redefining evacuation zones, ever so narrowly defined from the start, along with assistance cutoff, began as early as September 30, 2011, well before the Olympics were secured, but convenient markers of recovery gained tacit and explicit reinforcement as soon as the Olympics appeared on the horizon.9

True to the adage that a good offense is the best defense, Fukushima itself was assigned a prominent role: to host the opening matches in baseball and softball, and perhaps even more significantly, to serve as the starting point of the torch relay.10 In other words, the intractable nuclear disaster, which had often taken a back seat to the earthquake and especially, the dramatic tsunami in invocations of the “triple” disaster, was to be featured front and center, albeit momentarily, in the form of its erasure: Fukushima would be displayed to the world as having recovered. And to further drive home the point, J-Village, the former national soccer training center that served as the frontline base for operations for Fukushima Daiichi (workers lodged, vehicles washed, protective gear donned and disposed of) from March 15, 2011, was selected for the start of the torch relay. Not surprisingly, despite extensive efforts to clean up and beautify—including having local elementary students planting grass seedlings—radioactive hot spots continue to turn up.11


4Getting ready for the Olympics in Fukushima
Children at work on turf seedlings at J-Village
May 8, 2018.

The Astonishing Journey of the Torch

By February, the crescendo of 2020 Olympics preparation in Fukushima took on a manic quality before descending into a surreal sublime and finally, sputtering into silence. Day one of the torch relay was to take runners through areas close to the plant. Futaba, one of two adjacent towns hosting the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, its entire population still under mandatory evacuation, was not on the original route. With a partial lifting scheduled for March 4, the organizing committee decided on February 13 to respond to the wishes of the prefecture and rearranged the schedule to include Futaba. This would, said the grateful mayor, “light the flame of hope in our hearts and become a boost for recovery.” On March 14, the severed sections of the Joban train line that connected this portion of Fukushima with Tokyo were reconnected for the first time in nine years. Some gathered to cheer on the platforms, despite the fact that not much of the land beyond the station was accessible, for most of the town was still designated as “difficult-to-return-to” in the tactful—that is to say, strategically obfuscating—parlance of Fukushima disaster management.12 The plan was to have the flame, carried in a lantern and accompanied by runners, transported by train to newly reconstructed Futaba Station as part of the relay on March 26. 

Back in the metropolitan region, in the meanwhile, the number of people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama testing positive for the novel coronavirus shot up from 10 to 700 between February 4 and 28. With the Abe regime clearly hell-bent on holding the Olympics as scheduled, local organizers scrambled to stay one step ahead of the virus. They could not bring themselves to relinquish plans for displaying the torch in the three disaster-hit prefectures prior to the relay, not to say the relay itself. Whatever the precautionary advice, nothing like social distancing was on display as people flocked to see the “Flame of Recovery” at its various resting places. Most provocative, though, was the flame’s journey on the local Sanriku Railway in Iwate Prefecture. Secured in a lantern, it was placed between facing seats before a window, through which the “coastal townscape of recovery proceeding apace spread before the eye.”13 Passengers had been excluded, but the lantern could be viewed at key stops, where people gathered to welcome and then send off the flame.


5Lantern transported on Sanriku Railway from Miyako to Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture March 22, 2020—two days before postponement announced. Source


6Lantern transported from Kamaishi to Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture on SL Ginga [Milky Way], inspired by the work of Iwate-born writer Miyazawa Kenji March 22, 2020. Source

Even as this frenzied prelude unfolded, anxiety mounted as to whether the torch relay itself could in fact take place. On March 17, it was announced that the relay would be held, but without the ceremonies planned at stopping points. Spectators would be permitted as long as they “avoided” overcrowding, though one resident expressed disappointment: she had thoughtthe sight of overflowing crowds would symbolize recovery.” In less than a week, on March 23, this plan was replaced by a new proposal: a torch relay with no spectators—and no runners. The flame would be driven around Fukushima Prefecture, stripped even of the romance of rail travel. The following day, however, the other shoe dropped: the Games were to be postponed until 2021, and the 2020 torch relay canceled altogether. Ever resilient, organizers put the flame on display at J-Village for a month beginning April 2, with the hope that it could tour other parts of the country in the interest of “revitalization.” This, too, came to naught within the space of one week, with the Prime Minister’s declaration of a state of emergency.14

It could be taken for parody, this frenzy over the torch relay. The Olympics were meant to be a magic wand waving a spanking new post-disaster world into existence. As those prospects began to dim, the flame burned ever more brightly. The fuel? Greed. Pride. A yearning for fantasy in the midst of a dubious recovery, and an appetite for exploiting it. And the apparent means to do so. Or deciding that the means existed, despite mounting cost overruns.15

Recently, it was reported that the Foreign Ministry was directing $22 million to AI monitoring of overseas coverage of Japan’s pandemic response—as if this were more a “PR challenge than a profound public health crisis” (Kingston 2020). Perhaps this mode is even more far-reaching than we cynically, or more neutrally, abstractly, imagine. About one year ago, Taakurataa, a remarkable little magazine published in Nagano Prefecture, managed, through tenacious use of Japan’s version of freedom-of-information requests, to discover that in the seven years between 2011 and 2018, the central government and Fukushima Prefecture had paid $224 million to the PR firm Dentsu. The Environment Ministry was by far the greatest customer, using approximately half that budget for Dentsu’s services in the campaign to inform the public about its decontamination and debris cleanup efforts. The guidelines were to make people feel “safe and secure” (anshin anzen) again, “bring people back to their home towns,” and “have citizens recover pride in their hometowns.” A study group was created, consisting of staff from the prefectural forestry and fishery division as well as newspaper and TV marketing divisions, not to purvey a message, but in order to monitor twitter users and identify those who could be classified as “sources of reputation harm,” “supporters of the right-to-evacuate trial,” or simply “noise,” if they said anything that would dampen enthusiasm for Fukushima agricultural products.16 It is hard to avoid the conclusion that a marketing firm had been appointed a principal actor, with potential censorship power, in deciding Fukushima policy. And of course, that same firm is a major player in Tokyo 2020: Dentsu Inc. is the Games’s official marketing agency

A briefly revealed, quickly forgotten detail about the Olympics-Dentsu chain of operations makes Fukushima seem a minor, though useful, link in that chain: a former Dentsu executive and member of the organizing committee disclosed, a few days after postponement was announced, that he had played a key role in securing the support of an African Olympics power-broker now under investigation by French prosecutors. He, Takahashi Haruyuki—still on the organizing committee—had been paid $8.2 million by the Japanese bidding committee, which presumably had some relation to the $46,500 the bidding committee paid to Seiko Watch. Seiko watches and digital cameras, said Takahashi, were “cheap,” and common sense dictated that “You don’t go empty-handed.” Dentsu’s contracts for Fukushima recovery—as known to date—come to seem almost reasonable, at $224 million over seven years, or $32 million per year. Takahashi singly was paid one-quarter of that to procure the Recovery Olympics. 

Perhaps this is all unsurprising—a version of normal operating procedure most of the time for certain strata of the world. If so, then here, as in countless other instances, we need to make the modest yet seemingly immense effort to refresh our capacity for surprise. And anger. That there is so much profit to be made in doing anything but genuinely contribute to Fukushima remediation, to in fact, profit by diverting attention and burying the disaster, as if “nothing had happened,”17 should rouse us all, in solidarity both with the few who sustain the struggle and with those who gave up long ago, too exhausted from maintaining daily life to keep insisting not only that something had happened, but that it was still happening. Some of the struggle-weary were likely in the throngs greeting the arrival of the flame from Greece, or taking selfies with the lantern-encased flame. And as astonishing as it seems, there is already a new generation of children who were infants or unborn in 2011 now grown old enough to enjoy a spectacle touting the recovery of their region, their pleasure untainted by responsible education about the long-term impact of a nuclear disaster.18 Their parents may have welcomed the chance to banish recurring reminders of the disaster: reports of the re-dispersal of radionuclides and especially conspicuous, images of decontamination waste bags unmoored in the flooding brought on by Typhoon Hagibis; or the agonizingly protracted, risky dismantling of a highly contaminated vent stack at the Fukushima Daiichi plant itself; or the Olympic plans themselves putting hot spots back in the news.19 Bread and circuses is the bright side of the coin whose other face is expert exhortation to accept living amid decontamination waste for the foreseeable future: “Why would other prefectures want to accept waste that you yourselves don’t want?”—exhortation sweetened by the assurance that Fukushima contamination is not, for the most part, harmful. Anxiety, after all, is a matter of the mind/spirit (fuan wa kokoro no mondai).20


7Radiation instruction for the very young: “Let’s block beta particles with ‘scissors’!”  Fukushima Prefectural Centre for Environmental Creation, Community Relations Wing – July, 2018

It was back in June of 2019, an eternity before Covid-19 would appear on anybody’s horizon, that the torch relay route was announced, omitting Futaba. Was that omission owing to the last, frayed shred of realist perception, in view of the fact that the town was still off limits to the entire population? As Kowata Masumi, councilor of Okuma, the other town hosting the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and one of the painfully few elected officials in Fukushima willing to address radioactive contamination, observed, “National Route 6 still has high radiation levels. There are places where hardly any residents have returned, and conditions are not suitable for people running or cheering from the roadside.” Voicing the common complaint that the Olympics were deflecting workers and materials from Fukushima, she told Our Planet-TV, “They seem to have turned the idea of recovery on its head.” Any legitimacy accruing to the commonsensical had long ago been extinguished in the fever dream of the Olympics. 

Protest and Pandemic

It’s all Olympics all the time,” said emails from Fukushima. But as February wore on, with the drumbeat of news from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the novel coronavirus became an ominous competitor for attention. Emails began to say, “It’s exactly the same. Deny it’s happening. Don’t test. Find experts who’ll support that policy.” And rather sooner than later, “Is anyone taking responsibility?”21 If COVID-19 cast a shadow on Olympic plans, it also was a challenge for groups long opposed to the games. This was the run-up period for the 9th anniversary of March 11, a difficult time for survivors and a crucial occasion for them and antinuclear activists to remind the rest of the country of what had happened and how much remained unresolved, with some hardships predictably aggravated, rather than alleviated, through the passage of time. Anguished discussions took place about canceling or proceeding with activities that had already consumed months of painstaking preparation. Sharing with other progressives a deep-seated antagonism to the Abe administration, activists were reluctant to relinquish the platform of the anniversary occasion, given already fading public interest exacerbated by the Olympics. Wouldn’t cancellation have a ripple effect on other organizations? Wouldn’t the government exploit this to apply pressure for “voluntary restraint” (jishuku)22 across a range of activities? At the same time, wasn’t the desire to safeguard health at the heart of the antinuclear movement? Was it appropriate for those who had made the agonizing choice to leave, not just Fukushima and immediately adjacent areas but the Tokyo region as well, to put themselves along with others at risk of exposure? If a valued keynote speaker were willing to appear remotely, were the organizers obliged to follow through? What were the ethics of putting one’s body on the line in these circumstances?23

Anniversary events, large and small, were postponed or canceled outright. One of the largest had been planned by FoE Japan (Friends of the Earth). Although not exclusively dedicated to the nuclear issue, it has been a leader in the field since 2011, remarkable for the depth of on-the-ground work underlying its educational and watchdog activities. Besides issuing its own carefully researched public comments, FoE has taken initiative to hold public-comment writing workshops, so that citizens unaccustomed to expressing themselves in this medium—never mind on such topics as evaluation of the Rokkasho reprocessing facility or the release of contaminated water into the Pacific—could be empowered to participate. In 2019, it launched an ambitious “Make Seeable(mieruka) project to contest the Olympics-accelerated obliteration of traces of the disaster, whether the number and circumstances of evacuees, the disposition of contaminated soil issuing from “decontamination,” or health effects. The March 2020 symposium would have brought together workers from Fukushima, a liquidator from Chernobyl, evacuees, physicians and scholars, a physician and energy specialists from Germany, for presentations in Tokyo followed by two venues in Fukushima.24 In April, as part of the “Make Seeable” project, FoE Japan planned to send young people to a workshop in Germany where they could network with youth from France and Belarus as well as Germany. This, too, was not to be. Here, as elsewhere in the world, the novel coronavirus, itself as invisible as radionuclides, asserted its power in unmistakably visible fashion—revealing what had been obscured and providing opportunities for new concealment in the process.

The days of “voluntary restraint” from activity, without economic support to speak of, have imposed hardships, predictably severe for the most vulnerable. They have also intensified antinuclear activists’ sense of urgency: not only have they witnessed the power of the coronavirus to swiftly and therefore visibly impact all sectors of society, but they soon came to realize that it provided cover to proceed with activities they strenuously opposed, such as paving the way for dumping “treated” water from the damaged reactors into the Pacific.25 On another front, court dates for the approximately thirty Fukushima-related cases winding their way through jurisdictions around the country have been postponed or even cancelled, eliminating a precious occasion for plaintiffs, lawyers, and citizen supporters to rally at the courthouse and hold press conferences—for themselves, for all of us who should care, and for the judges, who need to know that there is still a caring public. One of the most active and inclusive groups of plaintiffs (both mandatory and “voluntary” evacuees, from within and without Fukushima) seeking compensation, their attorneys, and supporters centered in the Osaka area put together a composite video message to fill the lacuna, reminding us of their goalssecuring normal lives, the right to evacuate, and a safe future—and giving us a glimpse of how nuclear evacuees are experiencing the coronavirus. The video format also reveals the still differing degrees of visibility participants feel able to tolerate—from full face, full name to full face but first/assumed name only to voice only.

With the pressure of the Olympics removed for the moment,26 these groups are having to grapple with the coronavirus as they continue to address the consequences of the nuclear disaster.


From Olympics to Pandemic: Two texts by Muto Ruiko

Muto Ruiko, who was propelled to antinuclear activism by the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, captured the nation’s attention with a breathtaking speech at the first “Sayonara Nukes” rally in Tokyo in September of 2011.27 She became head of the Complainants for Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, which, against all odds, led to the only criminal proceeding—against three former TEPCO executives—to result from the disaster.28 She is a respected leader, vital to many of the activities referred to above and more. The first text below, “Fukushima ain’t got the time for Olympic Games” is a speech delivered at Azuma Sports Park in Fukushima City on March 1, 2020, just as storm clouds were gathering for the Olympics-pandemic collision. It was an action jointly organized by HidanrenFukushima Gempatsu Jiko Higaisha Dantai Renrakukai (Liaison of Fukushima Nuclear Accident Victims’ Groups) and Datsugempatsu Fukushima Nettowaku (Fukushima Denuclearization Network). It is translated here with permission from Muto Ruiko; the original may be found here. The second is a reflection from May on the two overlapping emergency declarations: the nuclear emergency, issued March 11, 2011, at 19:03 and as yet unrescinded;29 and the novel coronavirus emergency, declared on April 7, 2020, and rescinded in stages, by locale and region, between May 14 and May 25, 2020. The second piece was written before the coronavirus emergency declaration was lifted, for the newsletter of Tomeyo! Tokai Daini Gempatsu Shutoken Renrakukai (Shut it down! Liaison of Citizens from the Metropolitan Prefectures Seeking to Close Unit 2 of the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant).30 The piece, from Nyusu No. 4 (June 2020) is translated here with their permission.

8Muto Ruiko outside Tokyo District Court on the morning of September 19, 2019, before the judgement. (Photo by N. Field)

Fukushima Ain’t Got the Time for Olympic Games

With the risks of the coronavirus in mind, we went back-and-forth about whether to proceed with this action, but considering that it would take place outdoors, that it wouldn’t involve large numbers, and that we would be equipped with face masks and alcohol, we managed to arrive at the decision to go through with our plans.


Nine years since the nuclear accident, the Olympics and the torch relay now dominate the news and the whole atmosphere of Fukushima Prefecture. 


Night and day, athletes are giving their all to prepare for the Olympics. 

Middle-schoolers have hitched their dreams to the torch relay and are eager to run. 

And probably, there are people looking forward to watching the relay and the ball games. 


Then why must we take this kind of action? 

Because we think this is no time to be hosting an Olympics in Fukushima. 


Have on-site conditions been stabilized since the accident?

Is the contaminated water under control?

How many workers have had to climb the vent stack to dismantle it?

Have victims been properly compensated?

Have their lives been restored?

Has industry returned to pre-accident levels?

Will these Olympics truly contribute to recovery?


Is it certain that neither athletes nor residents will be subject to radiation exposure?

With problems piling up one after the other, the people of Fukushima, both the ones living here and the ones who’ve left, are desperately trying to live their lives. 

There isn’t a single person who doesn’t wish for a true recovery from the disaster. 

In Fukushima today, what is it that we should be prioritizing first and foremost?

Stupendous sums of money are being poured into the Olympics and the torch relay. Multiple problems, hidden by the Olympics, are receding from view. We are worried about what will be left once the Olympics are finished.

It’s not the Fukushima that looks recovered on the surface that we want to make known. It’s the true conditions we want the world to know, about the cumulative problems that can’t be solved in nine short years—the suffering and the struggle caused by the harms of the nuclear disaster.

Then let us today, all together, proclaim heartily, “Fukushima ain’t got the time for Olympic Games!”


Life Under Two Emergency Declarations

In Fukushima, the “declaration of a state of emergency” issued with the spread of the novel coronavirus was superimposed on a “declaration of a nuclear emergency situation” that has never been rescinded. For victims of the nuclear accident, this occasion calls up many memories of that experience: staying indoors; wearing a mask; searching frantically for information; fighting the mounting tide of anxiety. In the early days of the contagion, we felt terribly oppressed, psychologically. 

But gradually, it became possible to see that there were commonalities and differences between the nuclear accident and the spread of the coronavirus. Fearing that people would panic, the government concealed the truth. It limited testing as much as possible, and without disclosing accurate case numbers, made them seem trivial. Ad hoc measures led to the sacrifice of the most vulnerable. Expert opinion was distorted to suit political power. Taking advantage of the disaster, opportunistic capitalist ventures rose to press their interests. These are some of the commonalities.

Some of the differences are the speed with which the infection has spread, making it more readily graspable; the dispersal of the afflicted in large numbers throughout Japan; and large-scale citizen protest prompted by the government’s coercive actions with little regard for laws and statutory authority, such as the sudden request for school closures or the proposal for revision of the Public Prosecutor’s Office Act.

After the nuclear accident, we anticipated a transformation in values, in worldview. It turns out that such a wish is not readily granted. Maybe this time—we can’t help hoping. But, in a world where more chemical substances are added to the environment by the day, where climate change is intensifying, it is possible that the next emergency is already waiting in the wings. Rather than tossing and turning between hope and despair, we need to work hard, together, to gain clarity on what we should prioritize for protection in the event of such an emergency. Otherwise, we run the risk of letting our fear and sense of oppression invite the heavy hand of authority.

Eventually, the state of emergency occasioned by the coronavirus threat is likely be lifted, although questions about appropriateness of timing and extent will remain. But how long will the “declaration of a nuclear emergency situation” remain in effect, imposing on people annual exposure levels up to 20 millisieverts per year, or leaving behind waste with levels of radioactivity 80 times pre-disaster levels? In the shadow of the coronavirus, problems that demand resolution are accumulating, while opportunistic measures are advanced, such as the use of the torch relay to trumpet Fukushima recovery, or the release of contaminated-ALPS-treated water into the environment.

Living under a double state of emergency, I have come to hold, more than ever, that we must commit ourselves in earnest to the following simple task: “to learn the truth and to help each other.” Failing that, it will be difficult for us humans, along with other living things, to survive on this planet. 


10March 1, 2020. Source



The original wording, “Fukushima wa orimpikku dogo de nee,” which quoted a senior citizen from a township hard hit by the nuclear disaster, has been adopted by many activists. My translation used in this article, “Fukushima ain’t got the time for Olympic Games” is an attempt to suggest the flavor in English.


Although the extent to which air quality has improved is debatable. See, for instance, NPR (May 19, 2020).


The imperial allusion is intended. See note 12, below.


20 Millisieverts for Children and Kosako Toshiso’s Resignation (APJ-Japan Focus, December 31, 2012). It has been standard for most countries to follow the recommendations of the International Commission for Radiological Protection (ICRP): 20 mSv/yr for occupational exposure (averaged over a 5-year period, not to exceed 50 mSv in any given year), 1 mSv/yr for the general public. See Japanese government site providing a Comparison between ICRP Recommendations and Domestic Laws and Regulations. These standards are subject to fierce contention worldwide, from both those who find them too protective and those who find them inadequate. The Japanese government has made 20 mSv/yr the de facto threshold for reopening restricted areas. See discussion in Jobin, The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and Civil Actions as a Social Movement (APJ-Japan Focus, May 1, 2020).


On Ishihara and the Olympics, especially with respect to overlapping aspects of 1964 and 2020, see Tagsold (APJ Japan Focus, March 1, 2020).


In 2009 Hiroshima City and Nagasaki City submitted a single bid for summer 2020, appealing to the principle of promoting peace that, after all, constituted a cornerstone of “Olympism.” The mayors of the two cities linked the bid to the goal of nuclear abolition by 2020 (Asahi Shimbun, October 10, 2009), but the plan failed to make headway against the one-city rule. The Hiroshima-Nagasaki bid was not necessarily supported by hibakusha, as exemplified by the trenchant criticism, utterly applicable to Fukushima, of Yamada Hirotami (age 78), then Secretary-General of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council (Nagasaki Gembaku Hisaisha Kyogikai): “If the Games were to be held in Nagasaki, it would be an enormous technical and financial burden. […]They say that holding the Olympics in the cities where the atomic bombs were dropped means lots of people coming from all over the world, and that would raise awareness about nuclear abolition, but I think it would just detract. During the 1964 Olympics, even here in Nagasaki, everybody was swept up. How many gold medals did we get—that sort of thing was all that anyone could talk about. In that kind of frenzy, any interest in nuclear abolition goes out the window. [As with previous Olympics] there’s the risk of getting distracted by commercial priorities. […] There’s an atmosphere that makes it hard to voice opposition when they say that the Olympics are for the cause of spreading peace, but we need to discuss this rationally. […]The activism of Japanese hibakusha has gained the respect of NGOs around the world. We’re not about performance” (Nagasaki Shimbun, October 24, 2009). The Olympic-nuclear connection is worthy of examination in its own right, beginning with the striking use of Hiroshima in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. There, the runner of the last leg of the torch relay, the one to light the cauldron, was Sakai Yoshinori, born on August 6, 1945 to be sure, but in Hiroshima Prefecture, not City. That fact was conveniently overlooked, and he was quickly dubbed “Atomic Boy.” Perhaps this was an initial source of ambivalence (Tokyo Shimbun, June 3, 2020), but he became a lifelong believer in spreading the message of peace through the Olympics (Withnews, September 10, 2014).


On the challenges of branding Tokyo 2020, see Kingston (APJ Japan Focus, February 15, 2020). Kingston has edited two special collections on the Olympics, here and here.


A position elaborated in a collection with the title, Shiawase ni naru tame no “Fukushima sabetsu” ron (2018) (Discourse on “anti-Fukushima discrimination”: For our happiness). “Real harm(jitsugai) is sometimes used to contest the widespread use of “reputational harm.”


See Fukushima Prefectural maps of zone changes here.


The addition of baseball and softball was finalized in August of 2016 though both sports have been dropped from the roster for Paris 2024. Azuma Stadium in Fukushima City was approved in January of 2017. The decision to start the torch relay in Fukushima came more than a year later, in August of 2018. Only one baseball game, in contrast to six softball matches, have been scheduled for Azuma Stadium. Olympic softball is a women’s sport, cautioning us to keep in mind research showing radiation exposure resulting in disproportionately greater harm to women and girls than to men and boys. See Gender and Radiation Impact Project.


On March 23, 3030—the day before postponement of the Games was announced—TEPCO held a press conference at which it disclosed that, in accordance with its own standards, it had returned J-Village to its owner foundation without first decontaminating it (Okada, Toyo Keizai, March 27, 2020). Subsequent disclosures, both through TEPCO’s press conferences and responses to Toyo Keizai magazine’s freedom-of-information filings, have revealed additional egregious transgressions, such as TEPCO’s storing radioactive waste exceeding 8000Bq/kg on J-Village grounds and the prefecture’s demanding that TEPCO not disclose the location of such storage (Okada, Toyo Keizai, June 23, 2020). See Shaun Burnie’s “Radiation Disinformation and Human Rights Violations at the Heart of Fukushima and the Olympic Games” (APJ-Japan Focus, March 1, 2020).


See celebratory account in Hirai and Watabe, The Mainichi, March 14, 2020, and a more guarded one by McCurry, The Guardian, March 4, 2020.


The positioning of the lantern makes it seem as if this passage were written from the viewpoint of the flame (Yomiuri Shimbun, March 22, 2020). The extraordinary treatment accorded the flame, the rhapsodic attribution of hope made real, invokes the journeys—progresses—of Emperor Hirohito through the war-devasted country.


See Kingston, PM Abe’s Floundering Pandemic Leadership (APJ-Japan Focus, May 1, 2020) on the consequences of action delayed for the sake of the Olympics.


Reports of cost overruns have been predictably common, with the postponement now adding a hefty $2.7 billion according to the organizing committee.


See report on the first disclosures by Taakurataa by Our Planet-TV 2019. As for bringing “people back to their home towns,” the meagerness of such assistance as was provided beleaguered evacuees, both “mandatory” and “voluntary,” has also served as a powerful inducement to return. Late in 2019, Fukushima Prefecture doubled rents and threatened legal action (Our Planet-TV, August 29, 2019 and Taminokoe Shimbun, November 30, 2019). The Prefecture has taken four households to court even as their conditions have become further straightened because of the pandemic and associated loss of income (Hidanren, March 27, 2020).


A phrase often repeated in Fukushima. See Ogawa, “As If Nothing Had Occurred: Anti-Tokyo Olympics Protests and Concern Over Radiation Exposure(APJ-Japan Focus, March 1, 2020).


In March of 2018, the Reconstruction Agency issued a 30-page pamphlet titled “Hoshasen no honto” [The truth about radiation] for widespread circulation through other government agencies, events within Fukushima and elsewhere, PTA gatherings, etc. True to the mission of the authoring agency, it argues in multiple ways that harmful health effects have not been shown to have resulted from the nuclear disaster. The text may be found here. In October of 2018, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry issued revised editions of supplementary readers, “Hoshasen fukudokuhon,” for elementary and middle/high school levels. These may be found with the 2014 versions here. The Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) critically reviews both sets of documents here (2019).


On the redispersal of radionuclides following weather events, see Burnie, Radioactivity on the move 2020: Recontamination and weather-related effects in Fukushima (Greenpeace International, March 9, 2020). Specifically with respect to the Olymics, see Burnie, Fukushima and the 2020 Olympics (Greenpeace International, February 5, 2020). Arnie Gundersen writes of the sampling trip he and Marco Kaltofen (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) took in 2017: “When the Olympic torch route and Olympic stadium samples were tested, we found samples of dirt in Fukushima’s Olympic Baseball Stadium that were highly radioactive, registering 6,000 Bq/kg of Cesium, which is 3,000 times more radioactive than dirt in the US. We also found that simple parking lot radiation levels were 50-times higher there than here in the US[emphasis in original]. Atomic Balm Part 1: Prime Minister Abe Uses the Tokyo Olympics as Snake Oil Cure for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Meltdowns (Fairewinds Energy Education, March 1, 2019).


Tanaka Shunichi, former head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority and now reconstruction adviser to Iitate Village in lecture at Fukushima City on September 18, 2019. Quotations taken from Fukushima Minpos lavish report, “Fukko arata na kyokumen e” (November 1, 2020). Much like a school teacher chastening and encouraging his pupils, Tanaka—himself only recently in a position of responsibility for government nuclear policy—directs the people of Fukushima to forget the promise by the central government to remove decontamination waste from the prefecture in thirty years’ time. This was, after all, their “own” waste. The article reports that 85% of the overflow audience of 2800 responded they were satisfied by the contents of the lecture. Only one critical respondent is quoted by the paper, to the effect that a promise by the government is a promise. The photo of the audience in rapt attention as they are being “given courage,” as one respondent puts it, to, in effect, embrace their victimization is haunting.


Personal emails. An immediate example of the “don’t test” approach is the prefectural survey of pediatric thyroid cancer. See Aihara, Follow Up on Thyroid Cancer! Patient Group Voices Opposition to Scaling Down the Fukushima Prefectural Health Survey (APJ-Japan Focus, January 15, 2017).


Government measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus have taken the form of “requests” (yosei) for “voluntary restraint,” or jishuku. See, for example, Japan Declared a Coronavirus Emergency. Is It Too Late? (New York Times, April 7, 2020.) The extent to which jishuku can lead to mutual policing and censorship will be familiar to those remembering the long final illness of Emperor Hirohito from late 1988-early 89.


These are examples of issues raised on a listserv focused on evacuees and their supporters.


For the original program, see here. For written and video messages from presenters, see here. The video messages of those who have stayed and those who have left are short, but informative and moving. Two are now available in multiple languages: former dairy farmer Hasegawa Kenichi here and evacuee Kanno Mizue here. See FoE’s informative statement in English released for the 9th anniversary here.


Contaminated water leaks have been a persistent issue for TEPCO, whether contaminated groundwater escaping from the basements of the reactor buildings and underground tunnels containing cables and pipes (Radioactive Water Leaks from Fukushima: What We Know (Scientific American, August 13, 2013) or from storage tanks (Fukushima daiichi gempatsu: Konodo osensui ga tanku kara moreru (NHK News Web, October 7, 2016). The difference now is that TEPCO is attempting to make contaminated water release the explicit solution to ever-accumulating storage tanks. “Treated water” (shorisui), the compliant media now call it, having cast aside the earlier designation of “contaminated water” (osensui). In 2018, TEPCO itself admitted that the ALPS filtration system had failed to remove, not just tritium, but other radionuclides at levels exceeding allowable limits in 80% of the contaminated water store in the forest of tanks. FoE Japan uses the term “ALPS-treated contaminated water” (ALPS shori osensui) and has taken a leadership role in public-comment workshops. See its summary of remaining radionuclides and the circumstances of TEPCO’s admission here.


See, for example, The Tokyo Olympics Are 14 Months Away. Is That Enough Time (New York Times, May 20, 2020). Just recently, Takahashi Haruyuki—he of the Seiko cameras as bargain bribes—became the first official to suggest that further postponement was possible, but that cancellation had absolutely to be avoided (Nikkan Sports, June 16, 2020).


See, for example, Yamaguchi and Muto, Muto Ruiko and the Movement of Fukushima Residents to Pursue Criminal Charges against Tepco Executives and Government (APJ-Japan Focus, July 1, 2012); Field, From Fukushima: To Despair Properly, To Find the Next Step (APJ-Japan Focus, September 1, 2016); Hirano and Muto, “We need to recognize this hopeless sight…. To recognize that this horrible crime is what our country is doing to us”: Interview with Muto Ruiko (APJ-Japan Focus, September 1, 2016).


For an authoritative account of the criminal trial and district court ruling, see Johnson, Fukurai, and Hirayama, Reflections on the TEPCO Trial: Prosecution and Acquittal after Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown (APJ-Japan Focus, January 15, 2020). On the significance of Fukushima-related trials, Jobin, The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and Civil Actions as a Social Movement (APJ-Japan Focus, May 1, 2020). For statements by 50 complainants, Field and Mizenko, Fukushima Radiation: Will You Still Say No Crime Was Committed? (Kinyobi, 2015).


See also former Kyoto University nuclear engineer Koide Hiroaki’s views on the Olympics and the nuclear emergency declaration in The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and the Tokyo Olympics (APJ-Japan Focus, March 1, 2019).


For a general account of the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant, see here. Tatsuya Murakami, who was mayor of Tokai Village at the time of the JCO criticality accident and took personal initiative to evacuate the residents, has been a leading voice in opposing nuclear restarts. TEPCO, on life-support with taxpayer money after the Fukushima disaster, has committed to supporting the aging Tokai No. 2 plant to the tune of $2 billion (The Asahi Shimbun, October 29, 2019).

July 10, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Small modular nuclear reactors fraught with problems

‘Many issues’ with modular nuclear reactors says environmental lawyer 
Jordan Gill
· CBC News ·Dec 03, 2019   Modular nuclear reactors may not be a cure for the nation’s carbon woes, an environmental lawyer said in reaction to an idea floated by three premiers.

Theresa McClenaghan, executive director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, said the technology surrounding small reactors has numerous pitfalls, especially when compared with other renewable energy technology.

This comes after New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Ontario Premier Doug Ford agreed to work together to develop the technology……..

The premiers say the smaller reactors would help Canada reach its carbon reduction targets but McClenaghan, legal counsel for the environmental group, disagrees

“I don’t think it is the answer,” said McClenaghan. “I don’t think it’s a viable solution to climate change.”

McClenaghan said the technology behind modular reactors is still in the development stage and needs years of work before it can be used on a wide scale.

“There are many issues still with the technology,” said McClenaghan. “And for climate change, the risks are so pervasive and the time scale is so short that we need to deploy the solutions we already know about like renewables and conservation.”

Waste, security concerns: lawyer

While nuclear power is considered a low-carbon method of producing electricity, McClenaghan said the waste that it creates brings its own environmental concerns.

“You’re still creating radioactive waste,” said McClenaghan.

“We don’t even have a solution to nuclear fuel waste yet in Canada and the existing plans are not taking into account these possibilities.”

McClenanghan believes there are national security risks with the plan as well.

She said having more reactors, especially if they’re in rural areas, means there’s a greater chance that waste or fuel from the reactors could be stolen for nefarious purposes.

“You’d be scattering radioactive materials, potentially attractive to diversion, much further across the country,” said the environmental lawyer.

June 27, 2020 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

USA financing nuclear projects abroad – but what if Small Nuclear Reactors are a flop?

Daily on Energy, presented by API: Inside the new US policy on financing nuclear abroad, Washington Examiner, by Josh Siegel, Energy and Environment Reporter & Abby Smith, Energy and Environment Reporter | June 22, 2020 

INSIDE NEW POLICY ON FINANCING NUCLEAR ABROADThe U.S. International Development Finance Corporation mostly had small nuclear reactors in mind when it proposed this month lifting its ban on funding nuclear projects overseas. But a senior official from the DFC – a greatly expanded successor to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation – says the agency also envisions select situations for funding traditional large reactors, despite recent projects being delayed or canceled by cost overruns……..

The official cited a move by Congress a year after lawmakers passed the BUILD Act in 2018, which authorized the DFC, that called on the U.S. government to support energy diversification projects in Europe as a counter to Russia’s “energy dominance.”

It’s worth noting that some European Union member states, like Germany, are strongly anti-nuclear. Nuclear plant construction is currently underway in only three EU member states — Finland, France and Slovakia — according to the World Nuclear Association).
Opening the door for SMRs: Small modular nuclear reactors, meanwhile, are still under development and a decade or so from becoming widely operational. This has critics of the DFC’s move questioning the timing of it. The DFC official countered the new policy puts the U.S. in the game with China and Russia, which are already aggressively promoting their advanced nuclear technologies in developing countries……..
the policy shift commits DFC to nothing if small reactors end up being a flop. The DFC met with small reactor developers such as NuScale, an Oregon-based company seeking to be the first to have its license approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that were pushing for the agency to change its policy……

The DFC offers direct equity financing, loans, and political risk insurance, while Ex-Im can only offer credit or lending. The DFC has a total investment limit of $60 billion, amounting to about a $1 billion maximum per project, the official said.

He acknowledged the DFC does not have in-house expertise on nuclear power at the moment, but he said it’s not uncommon for the young agency to work with independent engineers and experts from other agencies to assess financing opportunities.

“I am not aware we have anyone on staff who has built a nuclear power plant,” the official said. “What we do have is very strong policies and procedures and frameworks to look at big complicated projects.”

June 23, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics international, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

South Africa- financially ruinous coal and nuclear power proposals – will muck up post-Covid-19 recovery

New coal and nuclear power proposals undermine prospects of a post-Covid-19 economic recovery, Daily Maverick, By Anton Eberhard• 17 June 2020  

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s attachment to ‘clean coal’ and new nuclear as immediate options for a post-Covid-19 economic recovery would be comical if they were not financially ruinous. Their fixation on these non-competitive, non-commercial technologies is now wasting scarce public resources.

South Africa is beginning to see the consequences of an energy ministry trapped in the past, beholden to interest groups and oblivious to global innovations in energy technologies and markets. Submissions by the minister and his energy department to Parliament in the past month reveal an economically disastrous commitment to policy, procurement and investment options that have no hope of contributing to our post-Covid-19 economic recovery.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) in its strategic and economic plans is promoting the role of nuclear energy (mainly small modular reactors) and clean coal (with carbon capture and storage), but these technologies are neither price competitive nor, in the case of small nuclear, are they currently commercially available.

In a presentation to Parliament on 26 May 2020, Minister Gwede Mantashe proposed several medium-term (6-12 month) interventions in response to the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. …….

In the same presentation, the minister proposed a number of interventions (also 6-12 months) to enhance electricity supply security, including acceleration of a nuclear build programme, conversion of Eskom’s diesel-fired turbines to gas and the building of a new oil refinery. None of these, of course, can be accomplished within a year and it’s highly unlikely that even contracts for these projects will be placed any time soon, if ever. Implementation of South Africa’s IRP electricity plan, which identifies wind, solar and storage as the next least-cost options to ensure electricity supply security, was evidently not regarded as a priority although – almost as an afterthought – it was offered as a long-term option.

Over the past weekend, DMRE launched a Request for Information (RFI) to commence preparations for a nuclear build programme. Of course, an RFI is non-binding (unlike a Request for Proposals, RFP, in a competitive tender or auction) and participants are perversely incentivised to put forward unrealistically attractive offers and prices which they’ll probably seek to alter when contracts are negotiated. In short, an RFI is not particularly helpful unless you don’t know what you’re doing and want technology and service providers to shape your procurement.

The minister has now appointed a new board chairperson, the retired nuclear chief officer of Eskom, an ex-British navy nuclear submariner, someone who continues, on social media, to rubbish renewable energy alternatives.

The minister has also entertained plans for expanded investment at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA), despite the institution recording unprecedented financial losses. ……..

It’s time for a reality check. No country or private company currently offers commercially proven exports of land-based, small modular nuclear reactors. South Africa tried to develop one – the pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR) – but after spending more than R20-billion (in today’s money), the programme was closed after a decade without even a pilot demonstration plant being built.  …….. Clean coal is also a mirage. ……..

June 18, 2020 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

This week in nuclear and climate news

News is, by its nature, all about bad stuff. Whatever is normal, reasonable, decent,  is ordinary, and just not news, – a fact that we need to remind ourselves of, in these uncertain Covid-19 days.  There’s a lot of good will for changing society’s trajectory towards ruining our planet.  Half of the Earth’s ice-free land is still free from human impactPost-pandemic packages could green up our energy systems for environmental and economic benefit.   Some seemingly small ideas can have surprisingly large successes – for example, fast-growing mini-forests springing up in Europe are helping the climate.

Another bit of good news –  Elders Around the World in Their 80s, 90s, and 100s Are Bouncing Back From Virus – and Sharing Advice.

Our existential threat – our extinction.

Cloud studies indicate that global heating may be more alarming than anticipated.  Global heating to bring more frequent, more extreme, ocean waves.  Seeking ways to remove carbon from the air.

The last major treaty for nuclear weapons control now hangs in the balance.



TAIWAN. Taiwan green groups urge Japan not to discharge radioactive water.

FRANCE. Fire on French submarine – luckily its nuclear reactor, nuclear fuel, had been removed for overhaul Risk of fire on a nuclear submarine. France’s lucky escape, due to reactor being removed for overhaul. French nuclear watchdog demands EDF fix faults at 5 reactors.

RUSSIA. Russia: commentary on its nuclear deterrence principles.

EUROPE. Radioactive cloud over Europe in 2017 came from a civilian nuclear reactor.

INDIA. India will follow with nuclear weapons testing, if USA resumes testing.

UK. Investigative journalism – Will Sellafields nuclear waste waft to Ireland? Or waft somewhere else?    Why doesn’t debt-ridden EDF cut its losses and close its uneconomic UK nuclear reactorsSellafield waste will stay on site after 2021, Cumbria County Council agrees.  Grave climate risks to Sizewell C nuclear project – all too close to the sea.

NORTH KOREA. North Korea Vows to Boost Nuclear Program, Saying U.S. Diplomacy Failed.

SOUTH AFRICA.  South African activists threaten to sue over nuclear plan.

CANADA. Canada’s proposed radioactive waste disposal rules are weak and industry-friendly.  Delay to community vote on nuclear waste dump for South Bruce, Ontario.

ARMENIA. Armenia Rejects Russian Funding For Nuclear Plant Upgrade.

BELGIUM. Wallonia rejects nuclear waste disposal suggestion.

LUXEMBOURG. Greenpeace Luxembourg Protests against Belgian Nuclear WasteNo feasible solution found between Belgium and Luxembourg on nuclear waste disposal.

BRAZIL. Brazil government approves plan to complete third nuclear plant.

AUSTRALIA. Australia’s govt rushes nuclear waste Bill through Lower House, but this story is not over.All Users

June 15, 2020 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

This week’s nuclear and climate news

Going back to “normal”? But “normal” IS the problem. The world waits, to see how the plans of nations to get over , recover, from the pandemic period are actually going  to work.  Not too well, in some cases.  New Zealand shines.

The nuclear lobby is enthusiastically promoting itself as a saviour in helping deal with the pandemic. Does anyone believe this spin? Meanwhile nuclear nations, led by USA, turn to a renewed burst of spending on nuclear weapons.

Time to transfer funds from weapons to making vaccines.

The world is sleepwalking toward a period free of nuclear arms control.

New report calls out banks that make nuclear weapons investments.

Loophole in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): small military nuclear reactors lack safeguards.

Species are becoming extinct at an accelerating rate.

The most effective leader in the world – Jacinda Adern,  Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Some bits of good news – For the First Time, U.S. Renewable Energy Surpasses Coal Every Day For An Entire Month. Coronavirus Cooking Survey’ Finds That People Are Eating Healthier and Wasting Less


UK. Climate Experts Predict ‘Grim Future’ For Nuclear Power . UK’s Sizewell nuclear plan in doubt, due to cost and China’s involvement?  China is reconsidering building nuclear reactors in Britain.  Deep concern over environmental  cost of planned Sizewell C nuclear station.  Caring about Cancer? A UK and Irish perspective. Most UK pension providers are investing in nuclear weapons companies.   Choosing nuclear narrows future energy choices.

FRANCE. Huge police squadron paid by nuclear industry to monitor residents of Bure.  French state-controlled utility EDF has to inspect valve leaks at Flamanville, Taishan, Finland nuclear sites. EDF terminates nuclear electricity supply contracts.  High rate of cancers among Mururoa nuclear veterans’ families.  France goes back to its restrictive nuclear compensation law affecting Polynesian nuclear test survivors.

RUSSIARussian city Severodvinsk, (near site of nuclear accident) sealed off due to Covid-19. Russia will now allow use of atomic weapons against non-nuclear strike.   Anti–nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals. The Mayak nuclear reprocessing plant: Rosatom’s dirty face- and the courageous opposition. Uranium mining protests in Russia.  Activists, despite government oppression, campaign for decommissioning of Russia’s aging nuclear reactorsNuclear submarine accidents contaminating Russia’s Far East.

INDIA. Nuclear power plants in the path of oncoming Cyclone Nisarga.

GERMANY.  German Parliament in debate on basing of nuclear weapons.  Discussion on Poland, Germany hosting nuclear weapons.

CZECH REPUBLIC. Czech Fiscal Council warns on the long-term risk of financing a new nuclear reactor.

IRAN. Iran challenges Donald Trump to return to nuclear deal.

NORTH KOREA. Kim Jong Un unlikely to use nuclear weapons – an alternative leader of N Korea might be worse.

ITALY. Latina plant, the last of Italy’s 4 nuclear power stations to be dismantled.

EUROPE.  The European Union plus France, Germany and the UK “deeply regret” US decision on Iran sanctions.   Desperate nuclear lobby tries to con the European Commission with its bogus claim about climate solving.

CHINA. China’s nuclear power ambitions face delays, waste problems, and the growing success of renewables.

ISRAEL. Nuclear Weapons: The Reason Why Even Iran Fears Israel.

AUSTRALIA. Australia’s nuclear-free, anti-uranium movement adapts to this pandemic period – presenting a series of webinars – “Yellowcake Country“.


June 8, 2020 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and Civil Actions as a Social Movement

By Paul Jobin1

Abstract: In addition to a citizen initiative to launch a criminal lawsuit against Tepco and Japanese state executives over their responsibility for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, more than thirty collective civil actions have been launched across the country. Thus far, thirteen verdicts have been handed down, with a large majority of courts ruling against Tepco and the state. Despite disappointingly small amounts of compensation, these verdicts carry important sociological significance as they challenge the government’s efforts to restart nuclear power plants. This article provides an overview and typology of the lawsuits, showing that these civil actions build on a legacy of social movements organized by networks of lawyers and activists.

Keywords: Fukushima, Collective Lawsuits, Nuclear Disaster, Social Movements, Compensation


Like the many industrial disasters that have marked the history of modern and contemporary Japan, the nuclear disaster of March 2011 resulted in much litigation. By the ninth anniversary of the catastrophe in 2020, nearly four hundred individual civil actions, and at least thirty known cases of collective civil actions, along with two collective administrative lawsuits, have been launched across the country. The total number of plaintiffs exceeds twelve thousand. Thirteen district courts have already handed down judgments, a large majority of them in favor of the plaintiffs against the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) and the Japanese state. The cases are now pending in appeal.

There has been no shortage of literature devoted to the politics of disaster redress since Fukushima, from such perspectives as political science, sociology, and scientific studies (e.g. Hasegawa 2011, Fujigaki et al 2015, Kimura 2016, Mullins, Nakano et al 2016, and Aldrich 2019, Polleri 2019). But despite interest in the various social mobilizations that arose in the aftermath of the disaster, thus far, with the exception of newspaper articles, there has been very little analysis of the collective civil actions seeking compensation or of related fundamental issues.

In addition to these civil actions (minji soshō), a group of 15,000 Fukushima citizens sought criminal prosecution of the state and Tepco for the nuclear disaster as early as 2012. The prosecutors reduced the number of defendants from twenty to three, all top Tepco executives. In its September 2019 verdict, the Tokyo District Court concluded that there was insufficient evidence to convict them. The case is now pending on appeal with little chance of a reversed verdict. In a recent Asia-Pacific Journal article on the case and one of the rare in-depth analyses of such lawsuits, Johnson, Fukurai and Hirayama (2020) concluded: “The trial and the criminal processes that preceded it revealed many facts that are proving useful to plaintiffs in their ongoing civil lawsuits with Tepco and the Japanese government.”

This essay endorses this conclusion and provides an overview of the civil action lawsuits. The civil cases have made it possible to mobilize Fukushima victims to pose critical questions about the role of the state in the decisions that provoked the nuclear disaster as well as to challenge subsequent state policies. Following existing scholarship on the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the literature on Japanese law and society, I draw on interviews with representatives of plaintiffs’ groups and first-hand documents they provided. I highlight the difficulties in the process of litigation, and emphasize that despite the low amounts of compensation, the Fukushima lawsuits are significant for contemporary Japan, as well as for other lawsuits over industrial and techno-scientific damage elsewhere. I show that these legal initiatives build on a legacy of collective lawsuits that have developed in Japan over the last 50 years. The next two sections introduce important points about the legal and political contexts.

01Plaintiffs meeting after a court meeting (at Osaka City Central Public Hall), 23 May 2019. Courtesy of Akiko Morimatsu


1. The Legal Context

For a long time, discussion in the English-language literature on litigations in Japan has focused on the relatively low rate of legal battles (in particular compared to the U.S.), and cultural or institutional barriers as the main possible causes for this. In a seminal essay, Japanese legal sociologist Kawashima Takeyoshi (1963) posited that rather than judicial decisions based on universal standards, Japanese people had a cultural preference for informal mechanisms of dispute resolution. Kawashima nevertheless expected that Japanese society would become more litigious as modernization progressed. The question of modernity aside, this prophecy proved true as the rate of litigation significantly increased, especially in the 1990s.

Previously, many Japanese academics had drawn on Kawashima’s culturalist argument, without attending to his view that litigation was likely to increase with modernization. The result was a legal version of the Nihonjinron thesis on the Japanese, i.e., an emphasis on culturally homogenous Japanese valuing consensus and harmony, hence a propensity to eschew litigation. This fantasy was broken by Frank Upham’s groundbreaking article on the four big pollution lawsuits (1976; see also Upham 1987, 2005), and John Haley’s essay, “The myth of the reluctant litigant” (1978), which analyzed statistics that included the evolution from late Meiji to the mid-1970s shifts in the number of judges, public procurators and private attorneys, as well as the percentage of successful applicants to the national law examination. Haley’s article has often been taken to show that access to Japanese courts was consciously restricted in a variety of ways, such as keeping the number of legal professionals low (see also Haley 1982, 1991).

However, this claim of low access to the judiciary is no longer relevant. Ginsburg and Hoetker (2006) have shown that, thanks to an expansion in the Japanese bar and more streamlined procedures for accessing the judiciary and launching a suit, from 1986 to 2001 civil litigation increased by approximately one third, although most of that increase was concentrated in urban prefectures, particularly Tokyo. Foote (2014: 174-180) further shows that several important reforms have improved the legal environment for those seeking redress. First, the amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure in 1996 and the Information Disclosure Act (enacted in 1999) have expanded civil access to government information, which is crucial for social movements. Second, the Justice System Reform Council, which was launched in 1999, initiated a reshuffle of the entire judiciary. The changes included greater flexibility and quicker procedures for cases involving many victims, as well as new provisions of legal assistance, and various efforts to increase both the size and quality of the legal profession.

As a result of these reforms, the number of judges and prosecutors increased from, respectively, 2,143 and 1,363 in 1999, to 2,774 and 1,976 in 2019, while the number of lawyers jumped from 16,731 to 41,118 (Nichibenren 2019). The number of lawyers did not reach the target of 50,000 by 2018, as announced in the final report that the Justice System Reform Council released in 2001 (Ginsburg and Hoetker: 38). But it is worth noting that in the meantime, the female to male ratio has more than doubled for lawyers (from 8.4 to 18.8%) and prosecutors (from 8.4 to 25%), with women making up 26.7% of all judges (ratio not given for 1999). These changes contrast sharply with the persistent glass ceilings that women continue to face in other professions.2

Consequently, if we follow Foote (2014: 180), we can assume that although the reforms remain incomplete, and they do not guarantee success in litigation, they have facilitated access to the judiciary and the work of Japanese “cause lawyers.”3 The following sections will explore the relevance of these developments to the civil actions launched by the victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.


2. The Political Context of Lawsuits

The independence of the Japanese judiciary has been the subject of a long and heated debate, especially when compared to its American counterpart (Haley 1998, Johnson 2002, Johnson 2002, Upham 2005, Ramseyer and Rasmusen 2003). A discussion of the topic goes beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, for the problem at issue here, the Fukushima litigations necessarily have political implications, even though they may not be explicitly stated in the lawsuits’ objectives. Unlike former Prime Ministers Kan Naoto and Koizumi Jun’ichirō, who have become staunch opponents of nuclear energy, Prime Minister Abe Shinzō has expressed a desire to restart as many nuclear power plants as possible. Regardless of what electricity generation will look like in the future, Japan will have to deal with the legacy of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown. According to the government, it will take at least another thirty or forty years to repair the entire site (Keizai sangyōshō 2019), or up to 200 years according to other estimates (Perry 2015). Robots have been used to inspect the damaged reactors, but the extremely high radiation levels have rendered them useless for cleanup operations (McCurry 2017).

The 2020 Olympic Games—now postponed due to COVID-19—have been presented to the Fukushima region as an opportunity to restore national confidence and revive economic growth. The aura of positivism associated with the Olympic Games casts a modest veil over the tremendous tasks to be accomplished at Fukushima Daiichi for the next 40 years at the very least (Jobin 2019). Meanwhile, Fukushima Daiichi and its surroundings have become a huge storage area for radioactive waste. National government spokespersons understate the risk of irradiation in the Fukushima region and subsequent impacts on Japan’s food supply (Kimura 2016). A basic problem is that under the neoliberal premise of self-responsibility (jiko sekinin), the burden of recovery tends to be placed on the victims themselves or on the most vulnerable, who are forced to show their “resilience” (Scoccimaro 2016, Ribault 2019, Asanuma-Brice 2020, Polleri 2019, Topçu 2019, Kojima forthcoming).

A central issue in Fukushima civil actions is the displacement caused by the nuclear disaster and the persistent radiation background. According to state data, such as those published by the Japan Reconstruction Agency, the nuclear disaster itself caused the evacuation of about 164,000 people from the evacuation zones and adjacent areas, including mandatory and voluntary evacuation, before gradually decreasing to about 79,000 people (Xuan Bien Do 2019). At the end of March 2017, the government cut public aid to 27,000 people displaced by the disaster; although the government would like to pretend that everything is back to normal, only ten per cent of evacuees have returned to their abandoned homes, the majority of them being over 60 years old (Pataud-Célerier 2019).

On 11 March 2020, nine years after the nuclear disaster, the front page of the Asahi Shimbun deplored the lack of interest in the issue, even among the inhabitants of Fukushima themselves (Kikuchi 2020). In one photo showing rescue workers paying tribute to their colleagues who died in the 2011 earthquake, they are wearing masks, not to prevent radiation, but COVID-19.

Through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) launched by the state, victims can seek compensation for damages that Tepco does not recognize (Kojima 2017). The goal for Tepco and the state is to reduce the number of legal battles. But this system has not eliminated frustration. While the total number of plaintiffs is a tiny fraction of all whose lives have been disrupted by the disaster, their action is nevertheless a thorn in Abe’s side. The head of another plaintiffs’ group explains that the fear of being relegated to the ranks of “abandoned people” (kimin) has served as motivation to sue the state and Tepco (Maeda Akira, in Maeda et al. 2019: 63). One of our interviewees adds:

Prime Minister Abe and his government have sent many signals that his ultimate goal is to eliminate the number of official victims of the nuclear disaster before 2020. We are a burden and a stain on the landscape of the Olympics.”4

In the eyes of leaders of the citizen that initiated the criminal lawsuit, as well as for all of the plaintiffs involved in the collective civil actions, the September 2019 verdict was enormously unjust and influenced by the political context (Johnson et al. 2020). Many had hoped that punishment would send a strong signal to Abe’s pro-nuclear government. Accordingly, although there will likely be a protracted multi-year battle to the Supreme Court, the nationwide collective civil lawsuits can be understood as a means to secure redress and to halt the pace of nuclear restarts.


3. Plaintiffs’ Mobiles and Court Decisions

All of the plaintiffs for the collective civil actions seek compensation either from Tepco (4 cases), or from both Tepco and the state (27 cases), specifically for material damages, such as the loss of a home or business, and related consequences, such as psychological distress. Table 1 in Notes presents an overview of the cases.

As of 30 March 2020, thirteen judgments had been handed down. The judges found Tepco liable in twelve cases, while in eight cases, both Tepco and the state were found liable and ordered to pay compensation to the plaintiffs. There was only one case (Yamagata, 17 December 2019) in which the judges dismissed the claims against Tepco and the state. This was a blow to the nationwide movement. Yet, the battle goes on in appeal.

The time between filing complaints and reaching judgments is four to six years. Although this may seem long, it is approximately the national average for this kind of case. However, eighteen other cases are still pending at the district level. Despite the precarious condition of the people displaced by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the courts do not accelerate the process. Furthermore, Tepco and the state have appealed all of the judgments against them. In light of precedent cases, such as the collective lawsuits for victims of the atomic bomb, the Minamata disease or asbestos, the Fukushima-related lawsuits will probably continue over several years, if not one or more decades.

There are two main categories of lawsuits: one focuses on the restoration of a safe—radiation-free—living environment in Fukushima; the other stresses the right to start a new life elsewhere, assuming that it will probably be decades until the danger of radiation is eliminated. In the first type of lawsuit, the plaintiffs have declared the goal of safe return to their lost land, as summed up in slogans such as “Give our previous lives back!” (moto no seikatsu o kaese; Table 1.3), “Give our source of work back, give our region back” (nariwai o kaese, chiiki o kaese, alternatively, “Back to normal!” genjō kaifuku, Table 1.4 and 1.9), “Living in Odaka!” (1.26) and “Give our hometown Tsushima back” (1.28). These cases have 6,489 plaintiffs, over half the total number of plaintiffs in the nationwide coalition. The remaining 5,920 plaintiffs in 26 cases launched by displaced people all over the country, from Hokkaidō to Kyūshū, claim financial support to seek refuge away from radiation (hinan no kenri), regardless of the government’s claims of safety.5

Despite these different perspectives—eliminating radiation in Fukushima or pursuing the right to live elsewhere—the collective civil actions share common goals. Attorney Kurozawa Tomohiro, head of the plaintiffs’ group in the Kanagawa lawsuit (Table 1.16 and Table 2.8), emphasizes three main motivations (Maeda et al. 2019: 7-24). The first is to prove Tepco and the state’s responsibility given the appalling lack of preventive measures against earthquake and tsunami, which were the causes of the nuclear disaster. Evidence for this argument, which was presented in the criminal lawsuit, has been central to several civil actions. The second goal is to challenge the compensation criteria set by the state and Tepco for the people displaced by the disaster. The third goal is to challenge the standards of radiation protection that the state has used thus far to define territories at risk. The last two goals are specific to the civil actions.

Relevant to compensation standards is the fact that all of the plaintiffs were driven from their homes by the disaster, a situation that identifies them as refugees (hinansha) under international standards. Although the plaintiffs include forced evacuees (kyōsei hinansha), the state has classified the majority as “voluntary evacuees” (jishu hinansha). The Japanese government distinguishes between those who lived in the evacuation zones, and those who lived outside the zones. The government classifies departures of house outside the evacuation zones as “voluntary,” as if their departures were a matter of personal convenience, regardless of the increased risk of radioactive exposure (Kojima 2017). Consequently, many people have been excluded from the compensation plan launched by Tepco and the state; only children, pregnant women and a few other exceptions have been eligible to apply for small amounts of compensation in the case of those who lived outside the evacuation zones. Furthermore, this compensation plan ended in March 2017, leaving many people in difficult economic straits. Judges continue to use the compensation plan’s standards as their point of reference (Table 2 in Notes).

Crucial in the debates are assessments of the consequences of “low doses” of radiation exposure. The Linear No-Threshold (LNT) model posits the lack of a safety threshold below 100 millisieverts (mSv) or even below 20 mSv; this model is now backed by a strong consensus in the international scientific community, as well as among experts in Japan. But turning these assessments into legal standards for public health is another story. Japanese official judgment remains that the policy target for the annual maximum exposure is 1 mSv. In practice, the post-311 Japanese state has used 20 mSv as the safety threshold for radiation exposure and disregarded evidence of the consequences of the higher threshold (Jobin 2013b, Shirai 2015, Hirakawa 2015, Kimura 2016, Ribault 2019). According to physician Sakiyama Hisako, who has testified in three lawsuits at the plaintiffs’ request (Chiba, Kyoto, Tokyo), the experts backing Tepco and the state cannot argue against the LNT’s conclusions, but they have nevertheless tried to mitigate the consequences of those conclusions, as if the risks between 1 and 20 mSv were negligible, effectively ignoring a large body of recent epidemiological surveys showing evidence to the contrary: that exposure to dosages between 1 and 20 mSv led to increased risk of cancer and DNA damage (Sakiyama in Maeda et al 2019: 41-56, see also Leuraut et al. 2015, Richardson et al. 2015). In addition to the civil actions, two collective administrative lawsuits have also been launched against the state, focusing on the problem of radiation standards (in Table 1, cases 31 and 32). By contesting the safety threshold of 20 mSv, these lawsuits all call into question the territorial zoning set in the wake of the disaster and thereafter gradually reduced, making fewer people eligible for compensation.


4. Small Compensation

Thus far, with the exception of a recent verdict in Yamagata (December 2019), the courts have ruled against Tepco in twelve cases, with the state being found liable in eight cases. For a social movement, this is an impressive result. However, when it comes to compensation, the disappointment runs deep. Let us look at some examples.

One of the first court decisions was handed down in February 2016, and it was not for a collective case, but involved a family that had left Koriyama City (Fukushima Prefecture). Although Koriyama is located outside the official evacuation zone, the court took into account the fact that its inhabitants were exposed to a level of background radiation exceeding official safety standards. Since the mother had been pregnant and the family already had a young child, they decided to move to Kyoto. The father, who was in his forties, had been running a restaurant in Koriyama, and tried to start a new business in Kyoto, but faced with difficulties, he fell into depression. He then sued Tepco for post-traumatic stress disorder, and the Kyoto District Court ordered the company to pay him 30 million yen (about US$269,000) in compensation.6 Although this amount is probably far from sufficient to compensate his loss, it was a relatively large settlement compared to the amounts granted in the collective cases (see Table 2). For instance, two years later, when the same Kyoto court ruled that Tepco and the state owed compensation to a group of 110 plaintiffs or 58 households, including 2 households of forced evacuees and 49 households of voluntary evacuees (Table 1.17, and Table 2.6), the amounts were considerably lower: 600,000 yen for children of voluntary evacuees, and 300,000 yen for the adults (respectively US$5,400 and US$2,690).

The first decision in a collective suit came in March 2017 from the Maebashi District Court (Kikuchi 2017; see Tables 1.12, 2.1). The plaintiffs included both forced and voluntary refugees, most of whom had left homes located less than 30 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi (Soeda 2017: 101; and documents provided by Gensoren). This court was the first to recognize the responsibility of both the company and the state. After reviewing expert testimony and conducting on-site inspections, the judges ruled that Tepco and the state authorities had, as far back as 2002, been clearly aware of the risk that the nuclear reactors’ cooling system could be destroyed by a large tsunami. This was an important decision that has since set a crucial precedent (Soeda 2017: 110-118). Even so, the plaintiffs were dismayed by the low amounts of compensation set by the judges. The families who had fled from official evacuation zones were to receive up to a maximum of 5 million yen, about US$45,000, unless they had already received the baseline payment of 1.8 million yen from the state and Tepco’s compensation plan, in which case they would receive a premium of less than 3.2 million yen (about US$34,000). Obviously, these amounts were a small fraction of the damages people had suffered as a result of the loss of their home and livelihood.

A few months later, in September 2017, the Chiba District Court ordered Tepco to pay compensation in a similar range (Tables 1.7, 2.2). Moreover, the judges did not deem the state responsible. The third decision, in October 2017, was for the largest group of plaintiffs (nariwai o kaese, Tables 1.4, 2.3), and reaffirmed both Tepco and the state’s responsibility, but rejected the claims of one fourth of the plaintiffs and delivered insultingly low compensation premiums to the rest (between US$270 and 1,800). In March 2018, a Tokyo court delivered a relatively higher level of compensation for voluntary evacuees (Tables 1.5, 2.5), and this verdict was the only one to explicitly endorse the LNT model of radiation risk.

Even more than a strictly economic measure of the damage, the plaintiffs oppose a strictly economic measure of the value of their homeland. This is especially explicit in the testimonies of those involved in lawsuits with slogans such as “Give us back our hometown” (Nariwai o kaese… bengodan 2014). As Laura Centemeri (2015) explains, in many issues of environmental justice around the world, the environment is often perceived as such a constitutive part of a person and his/her community, that if it is affected by massive industrial pollution, compensation for “a loss of enjoyment” of the area does not mean much for the victim and his/her affected community. The loss resists general valuation because “things and persons are constituted as unique spatio-temporal particulars” (Centemeri 2015: 314).

In the Fukushima lawsuits, the plaintiffs express this sentiment as the “loss of homeland” (furusato no sōshitsu), i.e. the disappearance of one’s place in life, its common history and specific culture. As Yokemoto Masafumi, an expert summoned to the Iwaki branch of the Fukushima court, has pointed out, the “loss of homeland” is something unprecedented in the history of Japan (Soeda 2017: 119-122, see also Yokemoto 2016). The plaintiffs’ lawyers therefore advanced a broader understanding of the nuclear disaster’s consequences, which are difficult to convert into money. However, the amounts eventually set by the judges are so small, especially for those who lived outside the official high-risk zones, that they cannot provide any moral comfort (Maeda et al 2019: 13-19, 67-69). Moreover, Fassert and Hasegawa (2019: 115) observed: “gap in compensation payment, which is in reality the financial assistance for evacuation, has triggered jealousy, tension and division among the affected residents, leaving profound scars in the communities.”

In the large majority of these collective actions plaintiffs have sued both Tepco and the state. The latter carries special meaning. Research on the Japanese judiciary shows that judges constitute a portion of a state bureaucracy with strong discipline and esprit de corps, which enables them to maintain some distance from the government and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). They are nevertheless deeply influenced by the dominant political culture (Upham 2005: 454, cf. Haley 1998, Johnson 2002, Ramseyer and Rasmusen 2003). Based on these findings, we can posit that the decision to sue both Tepco and the state might have prevented the judges from setting higher levels of compensation. But as the lawyers have argued, the state had a fundamental responsibility in developing a nuclear program in a highly seismic country, so there was no question of not suing the state (Kawai 2012, and Att. Nakano Tomoki in Nariwai o kaese… bengodan 2014: 50-64).


5. The Criminal Suit: A Driving Force?

The collective lawsuits’ stance on this issue shares similarities with that of the criminal lawsuit. As Frank Upham has pointed out (1976), in collective lawsuits, such as industrial pollution litigation, plaintiffs and their lawyers cannot restrict themselves to a strict calculation of the value of material or human damage; they aspire to an ethical judgment that has political consequences, if only to prevent similar tragedies. In civil actions, the defendant’s fault must nevertheless be converted into money, which in some cases, have a tendency to attenuate the ethical dimensions of the charge (Jobin 2013a). Criminal lawsuits offer a means of counterbalancing such outcomes.

However, criminal lawsuits against those responsible for industrial disasters are extremely rare, not only in Japan, but worldwide. The most spectacular case was in Italy, with a lawsuit involving more than six thousand plaintiffs against the two presidents of the asbestos company Eternit; after convictions from the district and appeal courts of Turin, the case was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome (Marichalar 2019). In France, similar proceedings initiated by asbestos victims have been dragging on for years. In Japan, the 1988 conviction of two Chisso company executives for their responsibility in the 1960s Minamata disease epidemic was, for the victims, too little, too late (Togashi 1995, Jobin 2014).

In this national and global context, the criminal lawsuit backed by over a group of 15,000 Fukushima residents, usually known as Gensodan,7 is exceptional. The core members behind the lawsuit’s early momentum are a team of fifty citizens who, since the mid-1980s, have been fighting against the conspicuous presence of nuclear power plants in Fukushima. When the nuclear disaster occurred in March 2011, they were planning a protest against the ten-year extension of Fukushima Daiichi’s nuclear reactor.8

The criminal lawsuit has been, legally speaking, far more demanding than a civil action, so it is not surprising that it took more than five years before the first hearing was set in July 2017 (Johnson et al 2020). However, for the Gensodan, the slowness of the criminal proceedings and the many obstacles throughout the entire process are the product of obvious political influence. Not only was the case abruptly transferred from the jurisdiction of Fukushima to Tokyo, but also, once the hearings began, the judges exhibited a hostile attitude toward the plaintiffs who attended the hearings:

The controls were stricter than those for the trial of Aum Shinrikyo, as if we were potential terrorists! Inside the court, although there were 90 seats, only twenty of us could enter the court, by drawing lots. The other seats were supposed to serve for the defendants and the media, but most of them were left empty. […] You know, during court hearings, it’s sometimes natural to react, isn’t it? For example, when we heard the shocking revelations of earthquake expert Shimazaki Kunihiko, some of us couldn’t help but murmur in surprise.9 Yet it was almost like a whisper, it was not loud at all. But the judge overreacted, threatening to clear the room!”10

Japan’s prosecution rate is relatively low. On the other hand, according to Johnson (2002: 216-218), when it comes to verdicts, the conviction rate is so high that the average Japanese prosecutor sees an acquittal only once every 13 years. The acquittal in September 2019 was therefore extremely unusual. Moreover, the judges’ convictions closely resembled those of the ruling LDP and Abe cabinet.

For the Gensodan, another development that signaled the judges’ probable bias was the case of former Tepco employee Yamashita Kazuhiko, who was responsible for taking measures to prevent extensive damages from a tsunami. In a statement read during a court hearing, Yamashita said that in 2008, the three Tepco executives had been informed of the risk of a wave up to 15.7 meters, slightly above the 15.5-meter wave that hit the reactors in March 2011 (Osumi 2019). But in July 2008, although they had initially approved safety measures to handle the risk, the executives put the blueprint aside out of fear that it would provoke local antinuclear protest.

This was such decisive testimony that the Gensodan had expected Yamashita to be at the top of the list of 21 potential subpoena witnesses. But Yamashita was never called to testify. According to the Gensodan, the judges had probably ruled out his participation for fear that he would reiterate his criticisms against the government in the case against Tepco’s top executives. Yamashita had, after all, publicly challenged Prime Minister Abe’s declaration in September 2013, when the latter had sought to reassure the Olympic Committee that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi was “under control.”11

Johnson et al. (2020) posit that, given the recent history of criminal proceedings in Japan, it is highly unlikely that this judgment will be overturned by appeal. However, as the authors also point out, and as the lawyers’ testimonies in the civil actions tend to show (e.g. Maeda et al. 2019), the hearings conducted at the criminal court of Tokyo have brought important evidence to light, which have proved useful in the collective civil lawsuits. The criminal lawsuit can thus be understood as a driving force behind the collective civil actions. However, the collective lawsuits should not be misunderstood as simply relying on the criminal lawsuit; on the contrary, these suits advance one of the key initial goals: suing the state.12

Although targeting the state entails many difficulties, the plaintiffs and lawyers in most of the collective civil actions clearly thought it worth the effort.13 In the criminal case, the initial goal was to prosecute twenty state and Tepco executives, but the prosecutors eventually reduced the number of defendants to three top executives from Tepco. Gensodan members were frustrated by this development. They nevertheless proceeded because the three executives were not subordinate scapegoats, but key actors, such as former chairman Katsumata Tsunehisa, familiarly nicknamed “the emperor” (“Katsumata Ten’nō”) among his staff.14 At the same time, the fundamental question of the state’s responsibility for the nuclear disaster was excluded from the court proceedings. With the absence of state defendants in the criminal court, the collective civil lawsuits have therefore brought critical questions about the role of the state before and after the nuclear disaster back into focus.

02Plaintiffs on the way to Osaka Court, 30 July 2015. Courtesy of Akiko Morimatsu


6. Collective Lawsuits: A Legacy of Movements

It has often been pointed out that, compared to the United States, legal recourse is not widely pursued in Japan. There is, however, much evidence to the contrary. Before the Fukushima lawsuits, a large number of collective lawsuits was launched by victims of industrial pollution (kōgai soshō).

To name just a few, social movements against industrial pollution date back to the Meiji period, with the most famous case being the Ashio copper mine (Walker 2010, Stolz 2014, Pitteloud 2019). But it was only after World War II that anti-pollution movements really began to take a more systematic judicial approach, most famously in the seminal “big four” trials (yondai kōgaibyō saiban) for the Minamata disease in Kyushu and Niigata, the itai itai cadmium poisoning in Toyama, and the Yokkaichi asthma. These lawsuits ran from 1967 to 1973 (e.g. Upham 1987, Togashi 1995, George 2001, Jobin 2006, Shimabayashi 2010, Nichibenren 2010).

Thereafter, from the mid-1970s through the 1990s, the Japanese Communist Party launched several lawsuits for victims of air pollution near industrial zones such as Kawasaki or Kitakyushu; these suits involved large groups of plaintiffs, up to seven hundred (e.g. Nichibenren 2010, Jobin 2006). Furthermore, since the mid-2000s, numerous environmental and occupational lawsuits have been launched by victims of asbestos use (Nichibenren 2010, Awaji et al 2012, Mori et al 2012, Jobin 2013a), victims of karōshi or death by overwork (North 2014), and patients of Hansen’s disease and hepatitis C (Arrington 2016). Around the same time, atomic bomb survivors also launched lawsuits against the state (Hasegawa 2010, Genbaku-shō nintei shūdan 2011, Tōkyō genbaku-shō nintei shūdan 2012).

These cases form an extensive repertoire of collective action (Tilly 2006), which is unfortunately, almost unknown in the mainstream literature in English on social movements.15 While books written by lawyers tend to emphasize the positive results achieved through these struggles (e.g. Nichibenren 2010, Shimabayashi 2010), other works have highlighted the tensions that occasionally arose between lawyers and activists, unions and environmental groups, etc. (Upham 1987, George 2001, Jobin 2006). As a whole, the literature on this history provides a rich catalog of legal and organizational tactics, which can be mobilized in all sorts of collective lawsuits (for a manual, e.g. Koga 2009).

Japan’s collective civil actions (dantai soshō) fill the same basic function as American class actions in mass tort cases: to provide redress for victims of harm. However, the motivations of lawyers who bring these suits often differ. American lawyers who represent plaintiffs in mass tort cases can be rewarded with huge attorneys’ fees when they are successful. In the U.S., financial incentives for lawyers explain, for instance, the hundreds of thousands of asbestos litigations; as highlighted by Jasanoff and Perese (2003), this business-oriented use of law and the judiciary blocks or delays legislation change and public policy reform. The upside of such legal culture, however, is that it can generally deliver much higher compensation to the victims.

In contrast, as indicated in the Fukushima civil actions, compensation awards granted by Japanese courts tend to be small; accordingly, fees for plaintiffs’ attorneys are also small. As noted by Steinhoff (2014: 4), “the Japanese Civil Code does not allow for punitive damages, and there are no juries to make unpredictable awards, so lawyers do not undertake civil lawsuits on a contingency fee basis in hopes of winning big settlements.” Foote (2014: 173) further argues that in Japan, despite pro bono “cause lawyers” and a large network of supporters to help defray the costs of legal battles, these costs, together with the lack of a class action mechanism, constitute a significant barrier to accessing the court. The advantage of this situation is that such hurdles compel social movements to seek changes through legislation and public policy even more vigorously.

Since compensation in Japan is generally low, lawyers are often motivated by more political factors from the outset, particularly by their links with the political left (Upham 1987, George 2001, Jobin 2006, Steinhoff et al. 2014). Many lawyers are members (or closely associated with) the Japanese Communist Party (Nihon kyōsantō) or of the legacies of the Socialist Party, such as the Social Democratic Party and the former left wing of the Democratic Party (Minshutō), later renamed the Constitutional Democratic Party (Rikken minshutō). Currently, in the Diet, these are all minority parties facing the impregnable fortress of the Liberal Democratic Party, but socially and in the media landscape, they are active and influential.

An important factor to take into account is the lengthy wait time for rulings to be handed down. The larger the number of lawsuits, the longer the wait period, which seems to grow longer with each litigation, as well as effects of the movement overall: when a battle ends, another one starts. The case of the Minamata disease lawsuits is particularly striking. Including the first cases filed in the 1960s, there have been some thirty collective action suits, not only against the polluting companies Chisso (in Kyushu) and Showa Denko (in Niigata), but also against the state; these cases were mainly initiated by the tens of thousands of people left out of the compensation system (Togashi 1995, Jobin 2014). In March 2011, shortly after the disaster in Fukushima, several courts were still issuing decisions on collective cases about Minamata disease. As a whole, these thirty or so Minamata lawsuits have been in the courts for over fifty years.

There was an equivalent number of lawsuits within ten years of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown. We might therefore wonder if, compared to cases in previous decades, Fukushima reflects a more frequent and systematic recourse to the judiciary, as well as what contributed to this change. Does it mean a ‘legal turn’ generated by the antinuclear movement? I posit that the faster launch of Fukushima lawsuits builds on a legacy of lawsuits conceived as social movements, driven by a nationwide network of activists and lawyers. Furthermore, although antinuclear sentiment is an important component, this movement cannot be attributed to that alone, as its ideological scope is much larger.

In Fukushima, despite the increase of thyroid diseases, lawsuits seeking medical compensation have yet to appear. Even so, the ongoing civil actions exhibit similarities with the collective actions that developed around, among others, the legal battles fought by atomic bomb victims. Beginning in Nagoya in March 2003, and taking cues from numerous individual suits, a total of twenty-two collective lawsuits were filed against the government, contesting its narrow certification criteria for symptoms of atomic illness. Most courts ruled in favor of the victims, and the supporting evidence was published after March 2011, anticipating the legal needs of victims from Fukushima (Hasegawa 2010, Genbaku-shō nintei shūdan 2011, Tōkyō genbaku-shō nintei shūdan 2012).

Furthermore, since the late 1970s, small unions, labor activists and nuclear watchdog groups (such as the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center) have launched two dozen lawsuits and engaged in administrative battles over leukemia and other serious illnesses contracted by nuclear plant workers (Jobin 2011, 2013bc, Iida 2016). Shortly after 11 March 2011, these groups urged Tepco and the government to provide proper protection equipment for cleanup workers at Fukushima Daiichi and across the region. Since 2016, they have supported a former cleanup worker who sued Tepco after working at Fukushima Daiichi and being diagnosed with leukemia. The worker’s accumulated radiation exposure was 19.78 mSv, slightly below the maximum annual legal amount of 20 mSv, but high enough to apply for compensation for occupational cancer (Jobin 2019). His lawsuit has gone through 15 hearings thus far; given the controversy over the risks of exposure to radiation doses below 20 msv, the outcome has important significance for the collective lawsuits launched by Fukushima evacuees.16

Another resource for the Fukushima lawsuits is the numerous litigations that antinuclear activists have launched in a bid to prevent or shut down nuclear power plants. These battles also began in the late 1970s. Since then, attorney Yuichi Kaido (2011), a leader of that movement, has counted a total of sixteen administrative and civil actions across the country as among the most important in furthering the movement’s goals. Unfortunately, before the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the plaintiffs lost all of their cases in the district courts, and the ten cases that had reached the Supreme Court were also all dismissed. There were only two temporary victories in the high court: one over reactor number 2 at the Shika Nuclear Power Plant in Ishikawa Prefecture, and the other over the sodium-cooled fast reactor Monju in Fukui Prefecture, which resulted in a technical failure at a total cost of one trillion yen. Given that the risk of earthquakes and tsunami had been central issues in these lawsuits, Kaido (2011) argues that the Japanese judiciary, and the Supreme Court in particular, holds an important share of responsibility in not preventing the Fukushima nuclear disaster (see also Isomura and Yamaguchi 2016).

In comparison, the lawsuits that were launched after March 2011 opposing the government’s plans to re-start the nuclear plants have met with greater success. As early as July 2011, a group of 170 lawyers, under the leadership of veteran lawyers such as Kaido and Hiroyuki Kawai, gathered together to prepare legal requests for “provisional measures to suspend operation” (unten sashitome karishobun). With the exception of four nuclear power plants (Higashidōri, Onagawa, Fukushima Daiichi and Daini, this ambitious initiative accounted for nuclear reactors all over the country. Although a court ruling to suspend operation has no coercive power on the electricity companies operating the plants, it nevertheless sends them a warning that is amplified in the media. A good example was the decision, in April 2015, of the Fukui District Court against the re-start of the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant’s number three and four reactors. (Kawai 2015)

Last but not least, lawyers, activists and victim groups invested in the legacy of industrial pollution lawsuits have, since the Minamata disease cases, sent messages of solidarity to the victims of Fukushima, as well as a willingness to share their decades of experience struggling against the state and polluting industries (Genbaku-shō nintei soshō Kumamoto bengodan 2011, 2012).

All of these legal battles have developed a culture that legitimizes the lawsuit as a social movement (soshō undō). Such movements usually begin with local initiatives, before eventually converging into one or two nationwide alliances. This social movement of Fukushima lawsuits clearly involves a political dimension, but it does not necessarily mean a partisan fight. In the past, these alliances frequently divided between the socialists and communists (such as the Gensuikin and Gensuikyō in the case of the anti-nuclear movements and the hibakusha). Although tensions remain between the remaining networks and their associates in the Diet, the disappearance of the Japan Socialist Party in the mid-1990s gradually overcame this divide. Accordingly, the thirty ongoing collective civil actions have launched a national coalition, Gensoren,17 which links to the JCP, as well as the Reiwa Shinsengumi, founded by former councilor Yamamoto Tarō. Gensoren also maintains regular contact with Gensodan, the group that initiated the criminal lawsuit, and which has greater political affinity with the successors of the former socialist party.18


7. Conclusion

The civil actions launched by the victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster draw on a long and varied line of collective actions. First among these are the lawsuits opposing the extension or re-activation of nuclear reactors after 2011. In addition to expected antinuclear lawsuits, Japan has also benefitted from a movement to recognize the health hazards suffered by nuclear plant workers across the country. Likewise, the collective lawsuits to challenge the state’s narrow criteria for atomic bomb symptoms have served as another source of mobilization. To this catalogue of lawsuits over nuclear energy and the effects of radiation, the movements were fueled by a long list of collective lawsuits launched by victims of industrial pollution, particularly those of the Minamata disease.

Moreover, the civil actions launched after March 2011 developed a network of solidarity with citizen initiatives for a criminal lawsuit against the state and Tepco executives. Although there was similar prosecution of the individuals responsible for Minamata disease in the 1980s, and although the verdict did condemn two Chisso executives, for the victims it was too little, too late. But in the case of the Fukushima lawsuits, despite the acquittal, the criminal lawsuit initiated a dynamic that continues to fuel the nationwide movement of collective civil actions. In turn, the citizens’ group behind the criminal lawsuit reinforces the civil actions. This is because, beyond the issue of compensation inherent in civil actions, the majority of these lawsuits have chosen to sue not only Tepco, but also the state.

The low amounts of compensation set by the judges thus far constitute a major obstacle to recognition of the state’s responsibility for the Fukushima disaster. In particular, it is puzzling that an individual family can receive an amount of compensation much higher than that for collective lawsuits. Further research is needed to compare the levels of compensation set for the collective suits and the individual cases.

This essay has offered an evaluation of the significance of collective lawsuits in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with a focus on civil actions. The plaintiffs’ claims could be further evaluated in light of more detailed analyses of the networks of lawyers, activists, political parties, unions, and citizen groups in other lawsuits. To better assess the evolution of this lawsuit-driven movement, it would be helpful to have a close analysis of the motivations at work among the plaintiffs; for example, to what extent do the low levels of compensation affect the plaintiffs’ assessment of the suits and their movement?

Another important issue for further research deals with the socio-political impact of these lawsuits. In Law and Social Change in Postwar Japan (1987), Frank Upham described the Japanese model of law and litigation as judge-centered and governed by what he called “bureaucratic informalism,” i.e., a coalition involving the bureaucracy, the Liberal Democratic Party, and big business.19 As Upham argued, in spite of that stable coalition of conservative elites, grassroots collective litigations like the 1970s “Big Four” anti-pollution lawsuits, have been important factors behind social change in Japan. Three decades after Upham’s assessment, a long economic recession and a nuclear disaster have not destroyed the coalition between the LDP and the bureaucracy. It remains to be seen whether the cataclysmic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on economy and society will shake that coalition, or will stimulate social movements in new ways.

As Cleveland (2014: 516 et seq.) noted, in the aftermath of 3.11, “for a moment, it seemed that Japanese politics was in the midst of fundamental social change, with a flowering of activism and civil society engagement.” On 15 March 2011, through their courageous decision to stand against top Tepco executives, the nuclear bureaucracy, and LDP politicians, Prime Minister Kan Naoto and Fukushima Daiichi plant manager Yoshida Masao saved Japan from a complete loss of control that might have otherwise led to a nationwide disaster. With thousands of workers on the front, they saved Japan from a Godzilla-like scenario. Soon after however, voters rejected Kan and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) to reinstall the LDP. Ironically, it was the LDP that had promoted Japan’s nuclear power program since the 1960s, but it was the DPJ that paid for their mistakes. Since its creation in 1955, the LDP has always ruled the Diet and the government, except for very brief periods such as the socialist coalition of 1994-1996 and the DPJ cabinets of 2010-2012. In that same timeframe, the LDP’s main opponent, the Japan Socialist Party, and thereafter the Democratic Party of Japan, have disappeared, while their legacy, the Constitutional Democratic Party, is a mere shadow of the past opposition party. In other words, the LDP is one of the most stable government parties in postwar liberal democracies, and it owes much of that stability to its alliance with the bureaucracy and big business.

The flip side of that political stability has been stagnation for several legal issues such as the persistence of the death penalty and the “substitute prison” system (daiyō kangoku).20 Moreover, over the last thirty years, the political hegemony of the LDP has been conducive to a right-wing turn on several social issues, such as amnesia over wartime crimes and the increasing virulence of xenophobic groups (Kingston 2016, Nakano 2016, Postel-Vinay 2017, Gaku et al 2017). Besides, despite superficial political slogans, gender equity has made little progress, with the remarkable exception of legal professions. This aspect would be worth further attention in future research on Fukushima lawsuits and other social movements engaged in legal battles.

Although the Fukushima lawsuits have not fundamentally challenged the LDP’s thus far unchallengeable position, the nation-wide movement of legal battles launched by the victims of the Fukushima disaster has blocked the government’s ability to re-start its nuclear reactors. As emphasized by Steinhoff et al (2014), and as can be observed in the Fukushima criminal case, a defeat in the courts does not necessarily mean a defeat for the social movement as a whole. At the very least, a collective lawsuit may contribute to publicizing the cause, and it often energizes supporters. The contrary may also be true: a victory in court is no guarantee that the movement will achieve its goals or that it will contribute to policy reform and social change. Further research on the civil actions should pay careful attention to both aspects, and more generally speaking, to the diversity of scenarios and paths.

Moreover, the ninth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has been marked by another emergency: the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of which will impinge heavily on all the issues discussed here. The beginnings of criticism that have already arisen from civil society against Abe’s government for its lack of appropriate response invites comparison with the opposition stirred by the movement growing out of Fukushima (Asanuma-Brice 2020).21 As the virus spreads throughout Japan, its social and political impact may impinge directly on all the movements and forces discussed here, in ways that we cannot yet gauge.



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Topçu, Sezin. 2013. “Chernobyl Empowerment: Exporting ‘Participatory Governance’ to Contaminated Territories.” In Toxicants, Health and Regulation since 1945, edited by Soraya Boudia and Nathalie Jas, London: Pickering and Chatto, pp.135-58.

Tōkyō genbaku-shō nintei shūdan soshō o kiroku suru kai 東京原爆症認定集団訴訟を記録する会 (Collective Lawsuits for the Recognition of Atomic Bomb Symptoms: Tokyo Records Association). 2012. Genbaku-shō nintei soshō ga akiraka ni shita koto ― hibaku-sha to tomoni nani o kachitotta ka 原爆症認定訴訟が明らかにしたこと―被爆者とともに何を勝ち取ったか (What the lawsuits for the recognition of atomic bombs symptoms reveal and what we have gained with the hibakusha). Tokyo: Akebi Shobō あけび書房.

Upham, Frank. 1976. “Litigation and Moral Consciousness in Japan: An Interpretive Analysis of Four Japanese Pollution Suits.” Law & Society Review. Vol.10, No. 4, pp.579-619.

Upham, Frank. 1987. Law and Social Change in Postwar Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Upham, Frank. 2005. “Political Lackeys or Faithful Public Servants? Two Views of the Japanese Judiciary.” Law & Social Inquiry. Vol.30, No. 2, pp.421-455

Walker, Brett. 2010. Toxic Archipelago: a history of industrial disease in Japan. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Xuan Bien Do. 2019. “Fukushima Nuclear Disaster displacement: How far people moved and determinants of evacuation destinations.” International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Vol.33, pp.235–252.

Yamaguchi, Tomomi and Muto Ruiko 2012. “Muto Ruiko and the Movement of Fukushima Residents to Pursue Criminal Charges against TEPCO Executives and Government Officials.” The Asia-Pacific Journal. Vol. 10, Issue 27, No. 2.

Yokemoto, Masafumi 除本理史. 2016. Kōgai kara Fukushima o kangaeru: Chiiki no saisei o mezashite 公害から福島を考えるー地域の再生を目指して (Considering Fukushima From the Perspective of Industrial Pollution: Toward Regional Regeneration). Tokyo: Iwanami.



This article benefitted from an invitation and a research grant from the French Research Institute on Japan at Maison Franco-Japonaise, Tokyo. Acknowledgments are due to Rémi Scoccimarro and Anne Gonon, Kojima Rina, the plaintiffs and other informants who agreed to be interviewed, and the participants in the seminar held at Maison Franco-Japonaise, Tokyo, 16 November 2019, for stimulating remarks on an early draft. Thanks are due to the two reviewers for their precious input, and to Joelle Tapas and Mark Selden who kindly edited this article.


Despite very high scores for health and education, the numbers of Japanese women in politics and among executive managers in business remain very low. When the World Economic Forum published its first Global Gender Gap Report in 2006, Japan ranked 79th out of 115 countries, a rather disappointing performance for the world’s second largest economy at the time. In the latest report in 2020, not only has Japan not improved, but it also remains in the bottom forty at 121st out of 153 countries (in the meantime, South Korea has bypassed Japan).


The notion of “cause lawyer” refers to the work of Austin Sarat and Stuart Scheingold (e.g. Sarat and Scheinghold 2006).


Interview with Morimatsu Akiko, head of the plaintiffs’ group for the lawsuit launched in Osaka (Table 1.16), 14 November 2019, Osaka.




Jishu hinan: Tōden ni hajimete no baishō meirei” (Voluntary evacuees: First ruling orders compensation from Tepco), Mainichi Shimbun, 18 February 2016.


Gensodan 原訴団 stands for Fukushima genpatsu kokuso dan 福島原発告訴団.


Yamaguchi and Muto 2012, and my interview with Muto Ruiko, head of Gensodan, Tokyo, 12 November 2019.


A professor at Tokyo University, who has served as the president of the Seismological Society of Japan, Shimahashi explained to the judges that there had been a complete lack of response from Tepco and the government when in 2002, the highest committee of earthquake experts sent a clear warning about the high risk of seismic and tsunami activity at Fukushima Daiichi. During the court hearings, Shimahashi expressed remorse for not having pursued the issue. These hearings were conducted on 9 and 25 May 2018. Recording was not allowed, but for a transcription of hand-written notes, see Gensodan’s website here.


Interview with Muto Ruiko, Tokyo, 12 November 2019.




Separate interviews with representatives of Gensoren and Gensodan, Tokyo, November 2019.


Interview with Kamoshita Yuya, head of the plaintiffs’ group of the Tokyo lawsuit (Table 1.5), Tokyo, 12 November 2019.


Interview with Muto Ruiko, Tokyo, 12 November 2019.


Japan is rarely discussed in the mainstream, English-language literature on social movements such as the Political Opportunity Structure and Resource Mobilization theories by leading authors such as Charles Tilly, Sidney Tarrow and Doug McAdam. For an application of these theories to the Japanese context, see Arrington 2016.


Interview with Iida Katsuyasu, Tokyo, 13 November 2019.


Nuclear Plant Victims Litigation Plaintiffs National Liaison Committee (also known as Gensoren, from the abbreviation of its Japanese name: Genpatsu higaisha soshō genkokudan zenkoku renrakukai原発被害者訴訟原告団全国連絡会). The liaison office is based in Tokyo. The current president is Kamoshita Yuya, who is also the head of the plaintiffs’ group for the main Tokyo lawsuit (Table 1.5). Source here.


Separate interviews with representatives of Gensoren and Gensodan, Tokyo, November 2019.


As Upham (1987: 17) described it: “Central to that model is the elite attempt to retain some measure of control over the processes of social conflict and change. The vehicle for that control is a skilled bureaucracy, itself one branch of Japan’s tripartite elite coalition, which has a long history of active intervention in Japanese society. But social control, even the indirect control favored by the Japanese government since the Tokugawa Period, is extremely difficult in democratic societies. Japan enjoys not only representative government but also a high degree of social and economic mobility, a vigorous and irreverent press, and an independent and respected judiciary and private bar.”


Prior to indictment, Japanese police routinely ask criminal judges to keep suspects in substitute detention (daiyo kangoku), and judges rarely refuse. This practice allows Japanese police to detain suspects in police cells for up to 23 days (sometimes over months). It is supposed to facilitate investigations. But the frequent result is a forced signed confession, which the judges use to accelerate indictment. The United Nations Human Rights Committee and the UN’s Committee on Torture have argued that extended detention enables abusive interrogation methods. Critics denounced the practice as pre-trial punishment that partly explains why the indictment rate is so high in Japan. (Croydon 2016, see also Johnson 2002, Neil 2008, Repeta 2009)


On April 12, young workers protested in Tokyo against the lack of appropriate labor measures from the government. 要請するなら補償しろ!デモ in 渋谷 – 2020.4.12.







Sources: Unless otherwise mentioned, this synthesis is mainly based on printed documents provided by Gensoren (Tokyo, 12 November 2019). Additional information was collected from several news sites, and Gensoren; The Japan Bar Association (日本弁護士連合会), Lawyers’ White Book (弁護士白書) 2019, p.141; The Kyoto Lawsuit Plaintiffs Group, Overview of the Nationwide Lawsuits [Seeking] Compensation for the Nuclear Power Plant [Disaster] (全国原発賠償訴訟一覧), 2018; Niigata Lawyers’ Group 新潟県弁護団, 2013; Friends Of the Earth, Japan, Minamisoma 20 mSv, November 2019; Children Away from Radiation Exposure 子ども脱被ばく裁判のブログ.




Source: Printed documents provided by Gensōren, Tokyo, 12 November 2019; Maeda et al 2019: 8-10, 69.

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

The week in climate and nuclear news

While we are preoccupied with the pandemic, global heating is not going away. Climate Change Made 2019 The Warmest Year On Record. Eleven of 12 hottest years have occurred since 2000, new climate report warns. What happens after coronavirus will determine our climate‘s future.

Coronavirus illustrates the unsafety of nuclear facilities. In the USA , and presumably in Russia and other countries, too, nuclear power stations have to be refuelled, a process that involves many hundreds of workers – a real problem for “social distancing”.   Compare that situation with solar and wind power plants, where the fuel is delivered directly, all by itself – requiring no transport, no armies of workers.

That, and other considerations, such as astronomic costs, do not deter the American government, locked as it is in the embrace of the nuclear lobby.  Now they are coming straight out with the admission, or perhaps the boast, that new nuclear reactors are essential for the nuclear weapons industry. I am sure that it is the same in Russia.

A bit of good news –  For the First Time in 240 Years, White-Tailed Eagles Spotted Flying Over England

To save the planet, cultural, social and political transformation is essential; new technologies only part of the answer.  Arctic marine life threatened as a result of Alaskan sea ice disappearing.   International climate ministers meet to discuss green recovery post COVID-19European Solar Generation Breaks Records, As Coronavirus Shutdowns Reduce Air Pollution.

Animals in radiation zones are not doing well.

Occupational Radiation Exposure: Serious Risks and Safety Solutions.

Animals in radiation zones are not doing well.

ARCTIC.  North pole soon to be ice free in summer .


NORTH KOREA South Korea’s government dismissed rumours about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un being gravely ill. Expert reveals ‘power struggle’ for ‘control of nuclear weapons and military’. Kim Jong Un Mystery Grows on Reports of Train, Medical Team. North Korea already has its nuclear arsenal. even if Kim should die..

JAPAN.  Tsunami could overtake Fukushima Daiichi’s seawall.   Buildings around Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in poor condition, unsafe.  Friends of the Earth and Peace Boat launch video series about Fukushima evacuees.

UKRAINE. Ukraine Continues Fighting Fires Near Defunct Chernobyl Nuclear Plant.

UK. UK govt again to try “astronomically expensive” plutonium reprocessing nuclear reactors . The end of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel has left an expensive UK plutonium stockpile with no peaceful use.   Under cover of Coronavirus constraints, EDF could speed application for £14 billion Sizewell nuclear reactor build, without pubic consultation.

INDIA. A dire need  to closely scrutinize  Indian procurement and export practices in defense and nuclear deals. .

TAIWAN. Taiwan environmentalists mark Chernobyl nuclear disaster anniversary, call for renewables not nuclear.

CANADA.  Canada on verge of investing in plutonium.

FRANCE. France’s nuclear company EDF in spiralling debt crisis.    Fitch downgrades EDF’s Outlook to Negative.   EDF nuclear power company looks to a profitable future in small-scale, distributed RENEWABLE energy.   France: The Forgotten Nuclear Power That Could Kill Billions of People.

RUSSIA. Russia dumps its plans for costly huge Nuclear Destroyer and supersized Frigate Programs. Russia building 69,700-ton nuclear powered icebreakers to keep the Northern Sea Route navigable year round.

FINLAND. Latest delay…/latest-delay-in-olkiluoto-nuclear-fuel-loadings-leads-to-fitch-revising-outlook-to-negativen Olkiluoto nuclear fuel loadings leads to Fitch revising outlook to negative.

AUSTRALIA. Australian govt’s devious ploy to further dispossess the Bangarla Aboriginal people. South Australia’s $27.9 billion food, wine and tourism markets endangered by Kimba nuclear waste dump plan.

April 28, 2020 Posted by | Christina's notes | 1 Comment

UK govt again to try “astronomically expensive” plutonium reprocessing nuclear reactors

Westminster relaunches plutonium reactors despite ‘disastrous’ experience, The National, 26 April, 20 By Rob Edwards  This article was brought to you by The Ferret.

THE UK Government is trying to resurrect plutonium-powered reactors despite abandoning a multi-billion bid to make them work in Scotland.

Documents released by the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) under freedom of information law reveal that fast reactors, which can burn and breed plutonium, are among “advanced nuclear technologies” being backed by UK ministers.

Two experimental fast reactors were built and tested at a cost of £4 billion over four decades at Dounreay in Caithness. But the programme was closed in 1994 as uneconomic after a series of accidents and leaks.

Now ONR has been funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in London to boost its capacity to regulate new designs of fast reactors, along with other advanced nuclear technologies.

Campaigners have condemned the moves to rehabilitate plutonium as a nuclear fuel as “astronomically expensive”, “disastrous” and “mind-boggling”. They point out that it can be made into nuclear bombs and is highly toxic – and the UK has 140 tonnes of it…….

ONR released 23 documents about advanced nuclear technologies in response to a freedom of information request by Dr David Lowry, a London-based research fellow at the US Institute for Resource and Security Studies. They include redacted minutes and notes of meetings from 2019 discussing fast reactors, and are being published by The Ferret.

One note of a meeting in November 2019 shows that ONR attempted to access a huge database on fast reactors maintained by the UK Government’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) in Warrington, Cheshire…..

Two companies have so far won funding under this heading to help develop fast reactors that can burn plutonium. The US power company, Westinghouse, is proposing lead-cooled fast reactors, while another US company called Advanced Reactor Concepts wants to build sodium-cooled fast reactors.

In November 2019 BEIS also announced an £18 million grant to a consortium led by reactor manufacturer, Rolls Royce, to develop a “small modular reactor designed and manufactured in the UK capable of producing cost effective electricity”.

According to Dr Lowry, fast reactors would require building a plutonium fuel fabrication plant. Such plants are “astronomically expensive” and have proved “technical and financial disasters” in the past, he said.

“Any such fabrication plant would be an inevitable target for terrorists wanting to create spectacular iconic disruption of such a high profile plutonium plant, with devastating human health and environmental hazards.”

Lowry was originally told by ONR that it held no documents on advanced nuclear technologies. As well as redacting the 23 documents that have now been released, the nuclear safety regulator is withholding a further 13 documents as commercially confidential – a claim that Lowry dismissed as “fatuous nonsense”.

THE veteran nuclear critic and respected author, Walt Patterson, argued that no fast reactor programme in the world had worked since the 1950s. Even if it did, it would take “centuries” to burn the UK’s 140 tonne plutonium stockpile, and create more radioactive waste with nowhere to go, he said.

“Extraordinary – they never learn do they? I remain perpetually gobsmacked at the lobbying power of the nuclear obsessives,” he told The Ferret. “The mind continue to boggle.”

The Edinburgh-based nuclear consultant, Pete Roche, suggested that renewable energy was the cheapest and most sustainable solution to climate change. “The UK Government seems to be planning some kind of low carbon dystopia with nuclear reactors getting smaller, some of which at least will be fuelled by plutonium,” he said.

“The idea of weapons-useable plutonium fuel being transported on our roads should send shivers down the spine of security experts and emergency planners.”

Another nuclear expert and critic, Dr Ian Fairlie, described BEIS’s renewed interest in fast reactors as problematic. “Experience with them over many years in the US, Russia, France and the UK has shown them to be disastrous and a waste of taxpayers’ money,” he said.

This is not the view taken by the UK Nuclear Industry Association, which brings together nuclear companies. It wants to see the UK’s plutonium being used in reactors rather than disposed of as waste……

“The Scottish Government remains opposed to new nuclear power plants in Scotland,” a spokesperson told The Ferret. “The Scottish Government believes our long term energy needs can be met without the need for new nuclear capacity.”

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy did not respond to repeated requests to comment.

April 26, 2020 Posted by | - plutonium, Reference, reprocessing, UK | Leave a comment

Earth Day 2020: Climate change would be small fry compared to nuclear war  

Earth Day 2020: Climate change would be small fry compared to nuclear war  

21.04.2020 – Abolition 2000, On this Earth Day 2020, members of the Abolition 2000 coodinating committee and others have written a statement in support of the need to address the triple threats facing humanity today: climate change, global pandemics and nuclear devastation.  The statement is open for signatories by anyone who would like to endorse it.  It highlights the fact that although climate change is a huge threat to human civilization given that a tipping point could be reached at any time, and covid-19 is killing thousands of people every day, a nuclear war has the capability to destroy civilization in a matter of days.

Addressing the threats to Planetary Survival

Earth Day 2020 sign on statement from members of the Abolition 2000 global network to eliminate nuclear weapons

The year 2020 marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day[i] and finds the planet facing existential threats like never before in human history.

The threat from climate change is manifesting itself more and more strongly as the years go by through extreme weather events, forest fires on a vast scale, the bleaching of coral reefs, and receding glaciers, among others.  This year also sees the world facing a pandemic which, as we speak, is costing thousands of lives every day and seems likely to have an impact on our civilization for years, if not decades to come.

Alongside these threats to human existence, however, is the lesser-considered, but more dangerous threat from nuclear disaster, and in this context we recall that the year 2020 also marks the 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing an estimated 500,000 people either through immediate incineration by the blast or subsequent death over the following months and years from agonising radiation poisoning[ii]. 2020 also marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” by putting in place the common security mechanisms to achieve this. Unfortunately, the end of the 2nd World War also kicked off a race for nations to develop nuclear technology that has the possibility to inflict a more devastating blow to the planet in 10 days than climate change will have in 100 years.

Today, some 14,000 nuclear weapons – most of which are vastly more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki – continue to pose an intolerable threat to humanity as identified by Atomic Scientists who judge the planet to be a symbolic 100 seconds to midnight on their doomsday clock[iii]. These weapons, thousands of which can be launched within minutes of the order being given, are in the hands of sometimes erratic leaders who cannot be trusted to put the wellbeing of the planet ahead of their own domestic agendas.  Research published in 2013 by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War concludes that up to 2 billion people would be at risk of starvation in a nuclear conflict consisting of the use of only 100 nuclear warheads[iv], and evidence from the ICRC showed that there is no capacity to provide humanitarian assistance in the case of nuclear bombs used in populated areas[v], either.

In addition, the over 400 nuclear power stations distributed all over the planet are capable of poisoning the entire planet with toxic radioactive waste that needs to be stored safely for 250,000 years.  Each one of these stations is an accident waiting to happen and a potential terrorist threat.  Over the last 50 years in which Earth Day has been marked, we have seen dramatic accidents at reactors in Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima.  At the time of writing, forest fires around Chernobyl are cause for concern as they approach the reactor location, and the fires themselves are re-releasing into the atmosphere the radioactive material previously absorbed by trees and other plants since the reactor exploded[vi].

Colonised and indigenous peoples have, in the large part, borne the brunt of nuclear devastation – from the mining of uranium and the testing of nuclear weapons on indigenous peoples land, to the dumping, storage and transport of plutonium and nuclear wastes, and the theft of land for nuclear infrastructure.[vii]

On this Earth Day, as the world faces the triple threats of climate change, virus pandemic and nuclear oblivion, we call on all people of good faith around the world to come together and construct the foundations of a new world: a world without nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, a sustainable world in which the land, oceans, atmosphere, glaciers, wildernesses, flora and fauna in all its diversity can recover, and an equitable world with an economic system that provides a dignified life for all the planet’s inhabitants.

An essential part of this new world will be better implementation of the UN Charter prohibition on war and the utilisation of diplomacy and law to resolve international disputes. It will also require redirection of military spending towards human security, the elimination of nuclear weapons, the rapid phasing out of nuclear power, and a turn to clean, safe renewable energy sources.[viii][ix]

As a species, we have the capability of doing this, and the current global crisis is the wake-up call we need in order to make a better world for all.

We, the undersigned, are ready to do our part.  Who is with us?

Click here to add your name to the list of signatories

Click here to view the full list of signatories


 The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

April 23, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment | Leave a comment

Climate and nuclear news – week to 13 April

With the whole world in the grip of anxiety about coronavirus, and preoccupied with responding to the pandemic, climate scientists and activists ponder the opportunity to develop a green economy when it is over.  And indeed, the global climate, and the world’s biodiversity are right now benefiting from the lockdown response.  But, alas, the signs are already there, that, in recovering from the health crisis, governments are more likely to promote polluting industries and consumer spending, and to relax environmental safeguards. It’s too early to tell.

As for the nuclear lobby, it continues to battle bravely on, with propaganda about nuclear’s role in diagnosing COVID 19, and with promoting small nuclear reactors. Despite the nuclear industry’s present urgent problem with Coronavirus and staffing– or perhaps because of this, it is heavily promoting “clean”, “safe”, “cheap” nuclear power to Africa.

A bit of good news – Reports Find Social Restrictions Are Working to Curb New COVID-19 Cases From Italy to Seattle

The coronavirus pandemic, like other global catastrophes, reveals the limitations of nationalism.

Climate change could cause sudden biodiversity losses worldwide.

Ordinary people can beat the nuclear establishment: it’s been done before.

New START treaty must be extended, a U.S. – Russia nuclear arms race an intolerable threat to the whole world.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation in a Deadlock.

Nuclear fusion, too hot, too costly? And not ready before 2050.

UKRAINE. Chernobyl wildfires now ‘close’ to exploded nuclear reactor.  What is causing the Chernobyl Wildfires? Year on Year, mostly in the Summer. Fukushima forests future? CRIIRAD monitoring Kiev nuclear risk of Chernobyl radioactive plumes #Strontium90 #Plutonium #Cesium137/134.  Satellite Imagery of Chernobyl Fires April 8 and 9 2020 – NASA.  Ukrainian firefighters continue to struggle with Chernobyl are fires, amid radiation fears. As at 5 April, radiation levels in Chernobyl area were 16 times above normal, due to forest fires.   The unsafety of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors: Ukrainian Association of Veterans of Atomic Energy and Industry fear “another Chernobyl”.


UK. Who has the UK nuclear button while Johnson is ill? No comment.    David Lowry: Covid-19 spread shows up vulnerability at heart of nuclear programmes. With coronavirus problem, Hinkley Point C nuclear project should be paused.  Sellafield nuclear construction stalled – pause in construction extended to April 27. Call to stop construction at Hinkley Point C nuclear project, due to coronavirus risk.

More delay in planning application for UK’s Wylfa Newydd nuclear project.  Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) call for more stringent safety measures, and the closure of EDF’s old nuclear reactors.     Microbes in nuclear fuel ponds slow down the decommissioning process. University boffins discuss the eternal problem of nuclear wastes.  U.S. taxpayers might cough up for a private company’s new “Small Nuclear” space travel gimmick.

JAPAN. To help future generations, Fukushima mothers have become radiation scientists’.

SOUTH KOREA. The Carbon Brief Profile: South Korea.

INDIA. India’s dangerous nuclear triad.

BOSNIA. Bosnia might need international arbitration over Croatia’s nuclear waste dump plan near the border.

PAKISTAN. Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons, even defensively used, could usher in a larger nuclear war.

RUSSIA. Russia wants to extend New START nuclear weapons treaty, but the U.S. has not revealed its plans.  Russia gambles on safety and cost, in extending life of fast breeder reactor.

BANGLADESH. Russia evacuates some employees from Bangladesh nuclear site.

VIETNAM. 277,700 Vietnamese support “Appeal of the Hibakusha “ – call to eliminate nuclear weapons.

SWEDEN.  Sweden’s wind power on the way to putting nuclear out of business.

ISRAEL. USA has helped Israel to develop a mighty armory of nuclear missiles.

April 13, 2020 Posted by | Christina's notes | 1 Comment

The week in climate and nuclear news

Yes, I know, it’s bad form to be writing about anything but the virus. But here goes, anyway.  As to climate change,  the current dread of the coronavirus feels awfully like a familiar version of the anxiety that many of us have felt about the climate crisis. There’s a bit of a silver lining, in that global greenhouse has emissions have dropped.

The pandemic, and its consequence – social isolation, have  stalled industry, and are expected to wipe out global growth in renewables deployment in 2020.

The nuclear industry has put a bold face on it, claiming that construction of huge new reactor stations are essential, so that workers at UK’s Hinkley Point C build, and USA’s giant Vogtle nuclear build  can count as “essential” so the building programmes can stay on track.  But, even more remarkable, the USA nuclear industry uses coronavirus to gouge $billions of tax-payer money.

Anyway, what should we do about this truly awful global situation?  I can think only of Voltaire’s famous advice – given by his fictional character Candide – “we must go and work our garden.”

A bit of good news – Chinese Company Ships Crates of Masks to Italy , Covered in Italian Poetry: We Are ‘Leaves of the Same Tree’


A major scorecard gives the health of Australia’s environment less than 1 out of 10.  With the pandemic, and the bushfires, we now must strengthen the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).  Webinar: Yeelirrie – A Case for Environmental Law Reform .

Action on Covid19 gives a lesson for action on climate change.

Pandemic brings a danger that is unique to the nuclear industryNuclear security must not be forgotten, even in times of pandemic.

With all eyes on pandemic, Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty still needs attention.

Nuclear waste disposal: Why the case for deep boreholes is … full of holes.

How will the IAEA spin the mind-boggling costs of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)?


UK. Call to suspend all contractor work at Hinkley new nuclear site, because of Covid19.  EDF, French company building Hinkley Point power station, shifts workers’ costs to UK govt.  Government under pressure to suspend non-essential construction work (such as building nuclear plants) Hinkley nuclear construction work continues, while rest of UK is in lockdown. UK and Fench govts consider nuclear construction as “essential”, so can remain open.

RUSSIA. Entire crew of nuclear submarine in coronavirus quarantine.  Moscow preparing highway though nuclear waste site, despite protests.


BELARUS. Belarus to swap gas dependence on Moscow for nuclear dependence on Moscow .

TURKEY. British small nuclear reactors to help Turkey to get nuclear weapons?

March 30, 2020 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

Coronavirus brings a big problem for nuclear reactors’ scheduled outages: the industry demands special exemptions

Covid 19 threatens outages scheduled at 97% of U.S. nuclear plants in 2020

by Sonal Patel, powermag­.com, 27 Mar 20

Challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. nuclear industry has asked the Trump administration to ensure nuclear workers, suppliers, and vendors will have access to nuclear plants and personal protective equipment (PPE) during the 2020 spring and fall refueling outage seasons and beyond. All but two of the nation’s nuclear plants had scheduled planned outages this year, work that the generators consider crucial to keep the lights on.

In a March 20 letter to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) President and CEO Maria Korsnick noted nuclear reactors have a “unique requirement” to load a fresh batch of fuel once every 18 to 24 months. The event necessitates a shut down for two to four weeks during which intense work occurs, including critical maintenance.

Each plant typically brings in several hundred specialized workers for this work over a typical period of 30-60 days, which includes activities in advance of and following the outage. These workers typically stay in hotels or board with local families, and eat in restaurants,” Korsnick wrote. In the course of performing outages and in routine operations, nuclear plant workers also use PPE and supplies for radiological protection. As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies, the industry will also require medical PPE and supplies to minimize its spread, she said.  Continue reading

March 28, 2020 Posted by | health, politics, safety | Leave a comment