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South Korea ban on Fukushima seafood divides Seoul, Tokyo

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Japanese seafood from Fukushima is banned in South Korea.
April 12, 2019
April 12 (UPI) — South Korea welcomed — while Japan condemned — a World Trade Organization decision to uphold a South Korea ban on Japanese seafood originating from the Fukushima nuclear disaster zone.
Japan is criticizing the decision despite evidence the product is not widely consumed or avoided entirely by Japanese consumers.
“Even though the ruling did not acknowledge that South Korea’s measures comply with the WTO rules, it is extremely regrettable that Japan’s argument was not approved,” Tokyo’s foreign ministry said Friday, after the WTO’s highest court overturned a judgment from 2018. The verdict is final, according to Kyodo and other Japanese news services.
In Seoul, the ruling Democratic Party welcomed the WTO decision. Party spokesman Lee Hae-sik said in statement the verdict reflects the current administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to “actively defend the nation’s health and food safety” and described the outcome as a “diplomatic victory,” South Korean news service News 1 reported Friday.
Lee also said the ban on imports of seafood originating from the eight prefectures of Japan’s Tohoku region, which are “at risk” due to the nuclear accidents at Fukushima plants, will be sustained.
Following the WTO verdict, Japan is turning its attention to the specialized United Nations agency.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga suggested Tokyo will “cooperate closely with the United States” on WTO reform in order to “maintain and strengthen the multilateral trading system.”
But the United States also has partial bans in place against Fukushima products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to monitor the public health risks due to radionuclide contamination and has placed an “import alert” on select Japanese products.
In Japanese fish markets in Tokyo, products labeled “Fukushima region” do not sell well and frequently at below market prices, South Korea television network MBC reported from Japan.
The seafood is not in demand despite safety screenings, according to the report.
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April 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seoul welcomes WTO’s ruling on Fukushima seafood ban

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

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

Japan’s Yoshitaka Sakurada resigns as Olympics minister

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

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

Local firm to take on hazardous demolition at Fukushima plant

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

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

Fukushima Japan nuclear fallout: Okuma residents encouraged home

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

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

Unclear debris map casts shadow over decommissioning of Fukushima plant

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

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

Government must help rebuild Fukushima evacuees’ lives

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

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

(Free Tasting) Japan’s No.1 Fukushima Sake Debut to New York

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by Fukushima Trade Promotion Council
Date and Time: Sat, April 27, 2019 – 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM EDT
Location: Union Square Wine & Spirits, 140 4th Avenue, New York, NY 10003
Fukushima’s Sake Debut to New York!
Experience the best sake in Japan, without leaving NYC!!
 
Most Gold Prizes 6 years in a row in the century-old Japan Sake Awards. “Champion Sake” in 2015 and 2018 at the International Wine Challenge. Unmatched craftsmanship and the finest taste. While famous in Japan, Fukushima sake has remained a mystery to the outside world—until now!
Enjoy a FREE tasting session of premium Fukushima sake with us. Tasting session participants will receive a 20% discount for Fukushima sake purchased during event hours (while supplies last).
You will enjoy 10 sake brands! Be the first to taste these sake in New York.
1. Tenmei Hiire Junmai – Akebono Brewery
2. Tenmei Hiire Junmai Ginjo – Akebono Brewery
3. Junmai Kokken – Kokken Brewery
4. Kokken Yume no Kaori (Tokubetsu Junmai) – Kokken Brewery
5. Yamahai Junmai Kokken – Kokken Brewery
6. Daiginjo Kokken – Kokken Brewery
7. Junmai Daiginjo – Sakaegawa Brewery
8. Chidoriashi(Honjozo) – Sakaegawa Brewery
9. Kissui Hidari Uma Junmai Daiginjo – Ariga Brewery
10. Kissui Hidari Uma Junmai Ginjo – Ariga Brewery

April 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

‘Old man squad’ ends patrols of evacuated town in Fukushima

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Hisatomo Suzuki, right, speaks after he and other members of the “old man squad” received flowers from town government officials in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 31.
April 6, 2019
OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–A team of older residents that stayed behind to patrol this town after its residents evacuated following the March 2011 nuclear crisis has completed its mission.
The “old man squad,” as its six members called themselves, ended its six-year activities on March 31 before an evacuation order is lifted for the Ogawara and Chuyashiki districts on April 10.
Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe and 30 town government officials visited the team’s base and expressed gratitude to the members.
To read more:

 

April 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Buses offer 1-day pass through ‘sakura’ tunnel in Fukushima

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Bus passengers enjoy the “somei-yoshino” cherry blossoms in the Yonomori district of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, on April 6.
April 6, 2019
TOMIOKA, Fukushima Prefecture–For decades, locals have flocked to a 2-kilometer stretch of cherry trees in the Yonomori district here for “hanami” celebrations under the blossoms.
But the tunnel of cherry blossoms has been off-limits since the March 2011 nuclear accident at the nearby Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
And while an evacuation order for about 90 percent of Tomioka was lifted in spring 2017, most of the Yonomori district still remains designated as a difficult-to-return zone because of high radiation levels.
Town officials pleaded with the central government for an exception to allow former town residents to once again enjoy the Yonomori cherry blossoms, and their wish came true on April 6.
For the one-day only occasion, buses packed with both former residents and others were allowed to navigate under the “sakura” tunnel. In the past, hanami visitors were stopped at a barrier designating the start of the difficult-to-return zone and had to gaze at the trees from that point.
… As of April 1, only 922 people, or less than 10 percent of the registered population, resided in Tomioka…
 
… The Tomioka town government has designated about 390 hectares of the difficult-to-return zone, including the Yonomori district, as a priority area for reconstruction and resuscitation. They are hoping the evacuation order will be lifted by spring 2023 if further decontamination work continues and social infrastructure is revamped.
Read more:

April 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Evacuees can return next week to parts of Okuma, host of Fukushima nuclear plant, but few likely to

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A ceremony in the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, marks the opening of the Okuma Interchange on the Joban Expressway on March 31 ahead of the partial lifting of an evacuation order for residents of the town.
April 5, 2019
The town of Okuma — which saw all of its roughly 10,000 residents evacuate after one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters, triggered by a deadly earthquake and tsunami — will allow former residents to return for the first time in eight years, the government decided. The decision was said to be based on the lower radiation levels achieved through decontamination work.
Futaba, the other town that hosts the plant, remains a no-go zone.
Despite the decision, a very small number of residents are expected to return to Okuma. As of late March, only 367 people from 138 households, or around 3.5 percent of the original population of 10,341, were registered as residents of areas where the order will be lifted.
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April 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Eight Years Later: Black Sacks and Lonely Children

As usual no mention whatsoever about the incineration of the radioactive waste by the 20 plus incinerators in activity in Fukushima Prefecture….
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Coastal towns near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are filled more with sacks of contaminated soil than with children. There are signs that this may be changing, though, as more areas are opened to returnees and new decontamination facilities come online.
I remember how the newsreader Andō Yūko, who visited Fukushima with me in 2014, got angry every time she saw a row of the 1-meter-high black sacks that hold contaminated topsoil.
“I don’t care how many times they say that it’s safe to return. The sight of these enormous sacks in the area completely puts you off.”
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Bags of collected topsoil interrupt the serenity of the Fukushima landscape.
The sacks contain earth and other contaminated material that has been removed during a decontamination process in which topsoil is sheared off. With nowhere to go, the bags, each holding around 1 metric ton of soil, have been either left on site or piled on top of one another in temporary storage areas and covered with green tarpaulins.
Not all of Fukushima Prefecture has high levels of radiation. In fact, radiation levels across the majority of the prefecture are comparable with the rest of Japan. Nonetheless, an extensive area of Fukushima, particularly communities in the northeast, near Fukushima Daiichi, was decontaminated after the accident to allay public concerns. The process has produced an endless stream of black bags, many of which have been simply left at the decontaminated sites.
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A roadside lined with black sacks.
Many people in Fukushima who I interviewed in the past told me that they disliked the ominous bags. And with no decision having been made on how the contaminated soil should ultimately be disposed of, the removal and bagging of soil only served to further increase their number.
Eight years after the accident, however, one does get the feeling that there are fewer sacks lying around. This is partly due to the construction of a medium-term storage facility, where sacks have now begun to be transported.
A Visit to the “Dark Side”
The new facility is being constructed to safely manage and store contaminated soil while it awaits final disposal. The facility straddles the towns of Ōkuma, home to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and Futaba, in an area of the exclusion zone designated uninhabitable due to its particularly high level of radiation.
I went to see one section of the facility under construction in Ōkuma. We drove past houses where the laundry hasn’t been taken in since 2011 and parking lots filled with rusty cars before arriving at a huge pit surrounded by damlike walls.
What used to be an area of houses and fields is now a gigantic concrete-lined containment area for contaminated soil. At the time of my visit in January 2019, a total of 60,000 cubic meters of soil had already been transported to the facility.
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Truckload after truckload of soil is dumped at the site.
This amount is scheduled to reach 4 million cubic meters in fiscal 2019 (ending in March 2020) and to climb as high as 12.5 million cubic meters in fiscal 2020— enough to fill the Tokyo Dome 10 times over.
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The medium-term storage facility stands on what was once woods and farmland. (January 2019, Ministry of the Environment)
While at first glance work appears to be going smoothly, many issues remain. As the “medium-term” in the facility’s name suggests, no decision has been made on where the collected soil will ultimately end up. Nor has any decision been made on how the area would be returned to its original owners when that ultimate solution is agreed upon. The effects are also beginning to be felt by locals, who speak of the noise and traffic jams caused by the constant stream of dump trucks.
My guide from the Ministry of the Environment said apologetically, “There’s a bright side and a dark side to Fukushima. Today, I’ll be showing you the dark side.”
After finishing our tour of the storage facility, the soles of our shoes were meticulously checked to make sure that they had not been contaminated. It was heartbreaking to think that it would be quite some time before this area saw any of Fukushima’s “bright side.”
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Visitors’ shoes are inspected for radiation before they can leave the site.
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April 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Unit 2; New Containment Panorama Photos

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April 1, 2019

A pair of new panoramic photos from inside Fukushima unit 2’s containment have been published. TEPCO provided the photos as part of ongoing updates on the disaster decommissioning work. The photos were stitched together from earlier containment inspection work then processed to bring out details of the photos. Also included in this report is details about the radiation and temperature readings inside containment, we explain that later in this report.

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April 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment