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Insight: Fukushima Danger


Six years after the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged central and northern Japan, the clean up at the decimated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is making slow progress. Once hailed as a cleaner route to electric power the building of new reactors has slowed in Europe but is accelerating in China. Insight looks at the high stakes world of nuclear power

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | | Leave a comment

Fukushima native replaces reconstruction minister after quake gaffe


Fukushima native replaces disaster minister after quake gaffe

Japan’s disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura resigned Wednesday, a day after saying it was “a good thing” the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan rather than the Tokyo area.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe picked Masayoshi Yoshino, a House of Representatives member from Fukushima Prefecture and the chairman of a special lower house committee on disaster reconstruction, to replace Imamura.

“I severely troubled and hurt people in (northeastern Japan),” Imamura told reporters at Abe’s office after submitting his resignation, which the prime minister accepted immediately.

“I apologize from my heart for my lack of virtue,” he added, while rejecting calls to also resign as a lawmaker.

Abe also apologized, both to the residents of areas recovering from disasters and the Japanese public as a whole, after accepting Imamura’s resignation.

Imamura made the “good thing” comment at a function in Tokyo for a faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe was also attending, on Tuesday evening. He immediately retracted the remark and apologized, but the damage was done.

The lawmaker made the remark after citing a figure of 25 trillion yen ($225 billion) for the damage to social capital and other infrastructure from the March 2011 disaster.

“It’s a good thing it was over there in the northeast. If it had been close to the greater Tokyo area, there would have been vast, enormous damage,” he said.

The disaster left 15,893 people dead and 2,553 still listed as missing, the National Police Agency said in its latest tally.

Imamura, 70, prompted calls for his resignation earlier this month when he suggested people displaced by the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the quake should fend for themselves.

A native of Saga Prefecture in Japan’s southwest, Imamura was given his post in a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.

His 68-year-old replacement Yoshino, a fellow LDP lawmaker and former senior vice environment minister, hails from Iwaki, a city in Fukushima on the Pacific coast that bore the brunt of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.


“My own home was damaged by the tsunami, and my campaign office was completely destroyed, so I think I understand better than anyone else the feelings of those affected by the disaster,” Yoshino said at his first press conference as a Cabinet minister later Wednesday.

The choice of a Fukushima local apparently reflects the administration’s desire to avoid further criticism that the reconstruction minister is unable to relate to people affected by the disaster.

Imamura’s resignation prompted the main opposition Democratic Party and three smaller opposition parties to also seek his resignation as a lawmaker.

The opposition demanded holding Diet committee sessions to pursue Abe’s responsibility in the matter.

The LDP and Democratic Party agreed Wednesday to hold such a session in the lower house on May 8. They are expected to arrange a House of Councillors committee session on May 9 or near that date.

The opposition parties had essentially threatened not to turn up for Diet deliberations until such a date was fixed.

Imamura’s resignation follows a series of blunders by Cabinet ministers and has dealt another blow to the government at a time when it is already facing issues that risk splitting public opinion.

The Diet is deliberating a bill to criminalize conspiracy to commit serious crimes, ostensibly to combat terrorism, which opponents say could result in the suppression of civil liberties.

Public sensitivity also surrounds a special bill in the works to enable the abdication of Emperor Akihito.

The string of embarrassments prompted Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, to warn last week the administration is “strikingly lacking in a sense of alertness.”

Yamaguchi spoke after LDP lawmaker Toshinao Nakagawa resigned as parliamentary vice minister of economy, trade and industry amid media reports of extramarital affairs.

The week before that, regional revitalization minister Kozo Yamamoto, another LDP lawmaker, called curators of cultural properties a “cancer” that needs to be “eradicated,” before being forced to apologize and retract the remark.

“(The administration) must take seriously the suggestions that we are becoming slack,” Abe acknowledged Wednesday in his apology over Imamura’s resignation, vowing to “win back the public’s trust.”




Disaster minister quits after quake gaffe, Fukushima rep takes over

Japan’s disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura resigned Wednesday, a day after saying it was “a good thing” the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan rather than the Tokyo area.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe picked Masayoshi Yoshino, a House of Representatives member from Fukushima Prefecture and a former senior vice environment minister, to replace Imamura.

Imamura tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday morning and the prime minister accepted it immediately.

“I severely troubled and hurt people in (northeastern Japan),” Imamura told reporters at the prime minister’s office after submitting his resignation.



“I apologize from my heart for my lack of virtue,” he added, while rejecting calls to also resign as a lawmaker.

Abe also apologized, both to the residents of areas recovering from disasters and to the Japanese public at large, after accepting Imamura’s resignation.

Imamura made the “good thing” comment at a function in Tokyo for a faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which Abe was also attending, on Tuesday evening. He immediately retracted the remark and apologized, but the damage was done.

Imamura had prompted calls for his resignation earlier this month when he suggested people displaced by the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the quake should fend for themselves.

The leader of the main opposition Democratic Party on Wednesday said Imamura’s resignation is not enough on its own.

“This brings into question Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s responsibility for having appointed (Imamura),” Renho said at a party meeting.

Abe acknowledged that this responsibility lies with him in his apology. “(The administration) must take seriously the suggestions that we are becoming slack,” Abe said, vowing to “bring back the public’s trust.”

Imamura, a native of Saga Prefecture in Japan’s southwest, was given his post in a Cabinet reshuffle in August last year.

His replacement Yoshino hails from Iwaki, a city in Fukushima on the Pacific coast that bore the brunt of damage in the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

“I have been making reconstruction my life, so I’m happy to be given a challenging post,” Yoshino told reporters at the LDP’s head office in Tokyo on Wednesday morning.

Imamura’s resignation has prompted the suspension of House of Representatives proceedings scheduled for Wednesday morning and most of the House of Councillors proceedings scheduled for Wednesday.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Utility seeks to restart two reactors in Fukui from mid-May

takahama npp.jpg

The Takahama Nuclear Power Plant’s No. 3 reactor, left, and No. 4 reactor are pictured in this file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, on June 15, 2016.

FUKUI, Japan (Kyodo) — Kansai Electric Power Co. said Tuesday it will seek to restart its two idled reactors in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan, in mid-May and early June, respectively.

Shigeki Iwane, the utility’s president, presented the plan to reboot the two units at the Takahama plant on the Sea of Japan coast when meeting with Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa.

“It is correct that (Kansai Electric Power) will take procedures to start operations,” Nishikawa told reporters after the meeting.

Kansai Electric Power will start to load nuclear fuel at the No. 4 unit later this month, eyeing the start of electricity generation in late May while aiming to reactivate the No. 3 reactor in early June after fueling the facility in mid-May, according to the schedule released by the Osaka-based company.

Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has been promoting the restart of nuclear reactors across Japan, most of the reactors remain offline amid safety concerns among residents following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

The two reactors in Takahama were brought back online in early 2016 after meeting the safety requirements introduced after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

While the No. 4 unit was shut down immediately after its restart in February last year due to a technical problem, the No. 3 reactor was forced to go offline the following month in the wake of an Otsu District Court order that resulted from a lawsuit filed by residents in neighboring Shiga Prefecture.

In March this year, the Osaka High Court struck down the lower court’s decision, making it possible for the two reactors to resume operation.

Among the four units at the Takahama plant, Japan’s nuclear regulators approved June last year the utility’s plan to extend the operation of the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors beyond the government-mandated 40-year service period.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan reconstruction minister quits after inappropriate comment on disaster zone

FILE PHOTO: Japan's State Minister in charge of Reconstruction Masahiro Imamura speaks at a news conference in Tokyo


The Japanese cabinet minister overseeing reconstruction of areas devastated by the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster resigned on Wednesday after saying it was better the disaster struck the northeastern region instead of Tokyo.

Masahiro Imamura was forced to quit after remarks he made on Tuesday at a party for ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmakers and is the latest in a spate of ruling party lawmakers in trouble for their comments or behavior.

Speaking of the costs incurred in the 9.0 earthquake that set off a massive tsunami and left nearly 20,000 dead or missing, Imamura said: “It was better that this happened in the northeast.”

The comments came just weeks after Imamura set off a furor at a news conference by disparaging people who left Fukushima out of fear after the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, then shouting at a reporter and storming out of the room.

Imamura’s comments prompted an immediate rebuke from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who apologized on his behalf. His swift resignation was seen aimed at minimizing the damage to Abe’s government, which has been accused of complacency in the absence of a viable opposition.

“It was an extremely inappropriate comment and hurtful to people in the disaster zone, an act causing the people a reconstruction minister works for to lose trust in him, ” Abe told reporters after Imamura resigned.

The subject still touches a raw nerve because regional businesses have struggled to recover and reconstruction work has been slow. Many evacuee families have also given up hope of returning to their home towns.

Shunsuke Mutai, a deputy reconstruction minister, drew fire last year after forcing a subordinate to carry him on his back so his feet could stay dry as he visited a flooded area. He quit in March on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the March 11 disaster after making a joke about the incident.

A week ago the vice minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Toshinao Nakagawa, was forced to resign from his position after news broke of an extramarital affair. He later resigned from the LDP.

Abe’s support currently hovers around 50 percent despite a series of recent scandals, including one involving a nationalist school. He has a shot at becoming Japan’s longest-serving leader after party rule chances allow him to serve a third consecutive three-year term after his current tenure ends in 2018.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Survey: 80% of voluntary Fukushima disaster evacuees outside pref. unwilling to return home


A group of evacuees offer silent prayers for earthquake and tsunami victims at an evacuation centre in Soma, Fukushima prefecture on May 11, 2011.

80% of voluntary Fukushima evacuees unwilling to return home – survey

A vast majority of Fukushima voluntary evacuees are not planning to move back to their homes out of fear of radiation despite the government declaring living conditions in the prefecture to be “good”, a new government survey has discovered.

Some 78.2 percent of “voluntary” evacuees households have no intention of returning to their previous places of residence and plan to “continue living” in the area they had evacuated to, results of a Fukushima Prefectural Government survey released on April 24 show.

Only 18.3 percent of households said they intended to move back to the Fukushima prefecture.

On their own accord, some 12,239 households left areas that were not covered by the government’s evacuations orders that were issued following the tsunami and the subsequent meltdown of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

Unlike people who were forced to relocate under evacuation orders, voluntary evacuees only received a fraction of the payment of at least 8.5 million yen ($77,300) that the government offered in compensation to mandatory evacuees.

For six years, most of them lived in other parts of Japan through government sponsored subsidies which ended in March this year after the government claimed that the “living environment (in Fukushima Prefecture) is in good order.”

Despite the official assessment, the environmentally wary refugees “still worry about radiation, and many of them have shifted the foundations of their lives to the places they’ve evacuated to,” the prefectural official in charge of the survey told Mainichi, Japan’s national daily.

Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori pledged to work closely with local governments where the evacuees’ old and new homes are located to help them.

It’s essential to respect the evacuee’s intentions” about returning home, Uchibori told reporters after the release of the survey. “However, we will work to create an environment where people can live with peace of mind, so evacuees can return home in the future.”


80% of voluntary Fukushima disaster evacuees outside pref. won’t move back: survey

FUKUSHIMA — Some 80 percent of voluntary Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees now living in other areas of Japan have no intention of returning, results of a Fukushima Prefectural Government survey released on April 24 show.

The prefecture ended a housing subsidy for voluntary evacuees at the end of March this year, stating that the “living environment (in Fukushima Prefecture) is in good order” due to ongoing decontamination work and other factors.

Voluntary evacuees “still worry about radiation, and many of them have shifted the foundations of their lives to the places they’ve evacuated to,” the prefectural official in charge of the survey said.

The survey covered 12,239 voluntary evacuee households that had been receiving the prefectural housing subsidy, of which 5,718 households had left Fukushima Prefecture. A total of 4,781 supplied answers to the prefecture regarding where they intended to live in the future, 78.2 percent of which stated that they would “continue living” in the area they had evacuated to. Another 3.5 percent stated that they would move, but not back to Fukushima Prefecture. Only 18.3 percent of respondent households said they intended to move back to the prefecture.

However, only 23.6 percent of voluntary evacuees living in Fukushima Prefecture said they would stay in their current locations, while 66.6 percent said they hope to return to their pre-disaster homes.

Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told reporters at an April 24 news conference, “It’s essential to respect the evacuees intentions” about returning home. “However, we will work to create an environment where people can live with peace of mind, so evacuees can return home in the future.”

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

The scandalous deficiency of the health scheme in Fukushima

Taro Yamamoto of the Liberal Party, member of the House of Councilors, accused the double standard of the the public radioprotection policy during his questions at the Special Commission of Reconstruction of the House of Deputies on March 21, 2017. He compared the health examination scheme introduced by Ibaraki prefecture to its population after the JCO* criticality accident to that currently available to Fukushima residents. The result shows the utter deficiency of the latter in spite of the fact that the Fukushima accident is classified as level 7, much more severe than the JCO level 4 accident.

We are publishing here the transcription of Taro Yamamoto’s questions** as well as the soil contamination map of Kashima and Haramachi districts of Minamisoma where the evacuation order was lifted in July 2016. The map is provided by the civil measurement group called “Fukuichi*** Area Environmental Radiation Monitoring Project”**** composed mainly of residents of Minamisoma which has been taking measurements of soil contamination in the vicinity of the members’ neighborhoods and in residential areas since 2012. Taro Yamamoto has already used their maps during another session of the Special Commission of Reconstruction. Let us note that in the map uploaded here, there are only two rectangles where the contamination density is lower than 40,000Bq/m2, and that for the rest of Kashima and Haramachi districts, the density is amazingly higher. As Taro Yamamoto indicated during his questions on November 18 last year, according to the Ordinance on Prevention of Ionizing Radiation Hazards a zone is called a Radiation Control Zone when the surface density is over 40,000Bq/m2. In a Radiation Control Zone, following the Ordinance, it is prohibited to drink, eat or stay overnight. Even adults are not allowed to stay more than 10 hours. To leave the zone, one has to go through a strict screening. The map shows that most of the two districts of Minamisoma city are in this situation. But it is not classified as Radiation Control Zone. On the contrary, people are told to go back there to live, including children.

minamisouma-west-0111-april 24 2017.jpg

Measurement devices : scintillation radiometers
Hitachi Aloka TCS172B
Dose rate of airborn radiation at 1 m, 50 cm, 1 cm from the ground. Unit : µSv/h
Hitachi Aloka TGS146B
Calculation of the rate of surface contamination, 1 cm from the ground. Unit : cpm
Procedure for measuring soil samples
Ram a tube in the ground (diam. : 80 mm, h : 50 mm), collect the soil and measure.
For TCS172B/TGS146B, wait for stabilisation, measure 5 times,then take the average value.
Insert ★ where the soil was collected.
Analysis device:
Canberra NaI Scintillation Detector (10 or 20 min)
According to the Ordinance on Prevention of Ionizing Radiation Hazards and Industrial Safety and Health Law, places where the effective dose reaches 1.3mSv in 3 months (approximately 0.6µSv/h of airborne radioactivity) or 40,000Bq/m2, in terms contamination density, are designated as a ‘’Radiation Control Zone’’ and public entry must be severely restricted.


Transcription of the questions of Taro Yamamoto

Taro Yamamoto

In Japanese history, except for the TEPCO Fukushima accident, are there other cases of population evacuation due to a nuclear accident?

Ÿ Government expert (Hiromu KATAYAMA)

Here is the answer. According to our understanding, as for the case of population evacuation due to a nuclear disaster in Japan, except for the cases of TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi and Daini that you pointed out, there is the case of the criticality accident of the JCO Tokai plant.


Thank you.

That was 18 years ago, on September 30, 1999. The criticality accident occurred in a uranium reprocessing facility for the experimental fast breeder reactor fuel, operated by JCO, in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture. The nuclear fission chain reaction continued for about 20 hours. The radiation went through the walls, reaching the surrounding environment. 150 people within a 350-meter radius were evacuated and the confinement recommendation was given to inhabitants and shops within a 10km radius. On the spot, since the central government delayed to react, the village mayor at the time decided to evacuate the residents upon his responsibility. This is the first case of population evacuation due to a nuclear accident in Japan. It was a severe accident where two workers died, and the rescue members as well as residents in the neighborhood area were irradiated.

Here is my question. How many people were recognized as being irradiated in this accident.

Ÿ Government expert (Hiromu KATAYAMA)

Here is the answer. According to the report dated March 2000 by the Health Management Committee established by the Nuclear Safety Commission at the time, as for the civil population, there are 7 people for who we have a real value of irradiation, and 200 people for who the dose of radiation is estimated. Among these people, 119 people received more than 1mSv either measured or estimated.


According the central government, it is 119 people. But Ibaraki prefecture, following the radio security administration of Ibaraki prefecture, reported 666 irradiated people including those who received less than 1mSv. This is more than 5 times of the figure reported by the central government. I suppose that the central government does not want to recognize as many. However, Ibaraki prefecture, recognizing that the local government caused the damaged to its population, reported this figure.

Thereafter, Ibaraki prefecture created a fund of ¥300,000,000 to allow the irradiated population or those who were in doubt to be irradiated access to a heath examination. It concerns around 500 people. Its characteristic consists of the fact that it covers those who are born in 1999, the year of the accident, until they reach 82 years old. In other words, it is conceived to assure free health exminations through their entire life.

Please look at page 2 of document A to see what kind of health examinations the neighboring population can take since the JCO accident. They are quite extensive. It has been the accepted Ibaraki prefectural policy after the JCO accident. Even cancer examinations have been added. These examinations are accessible to those who are not recognized as irradiated, and who were exposed to the additional radiation of under 1mSv. They are open to those who stayed there temporarily because of their work or school, or those who have evacuated from Ibaraki prefecture since the accident.

Please show the next Figure.

Please don’t talk about the circumstances. Please answer in terms of the accident level. In which level is the JCO accident classified? Likewise, in which level is TEPCO Fukushima nuclear plant accident classified?

Ÿ Government expert (Hiromu KATAYAMA)

Here is the answer. As for the JCO criticality accident, the Science and Technology Agency at the time evaluated the accident as level 4. Concerning the accident of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency as well as the Nuclear Safety Commission at the time evaluated the emission of radioactive substances and consequently rated the accident as level 7.


Let’s go over this again. JCO is classed as level 4, it was a level 4 accident. The TEPCO Fukushima nuclear power plant accident is a level 7 accident. With the JCO accident of level 4, with the additional radiation of 1mSv, the authority promised a lifetime access to health examinations including cancer examinations. Yet, in the case of the TEPCO Fukushima nuclear power plant accident of level 7, the population is told to return to the region when the annual dose of radioactivity becomes lower than 20mSv/year, since it is then considered as safe. The housing aid is cut, since there is no necessity of evacuation.

To those who would say that they are not comparable, I would like to ask the following. Currently, in Japan, after a nuclear accident, with 1mSv of additional irradiation, are health examinations offered free during a lifetime? With an accident of level 4, you can have lifetime free examinations including cancer examinations. Yet, with level 7 accident, there aren’t. Look here! Which of these two accidents is more severe?

What is the reason, in the case of the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi accident, not to offer free lifetime health examinations including cancer examinations with additional radiation of 1mSv? Is it because of financial reasons? Is it because it can be installed for a small number of the concerned population of Tokai village, but not in the case of TEPCO nuclear power plant accident, because there will be too many people to be examined and thus will cause financial problems, or even financial breakdown? Is it because it is not practically feasible? Is that why? Then, it is not a scientifically based judgment. This is a financially, efficiency based judgment.

After the dispersion of contamination due to the nuclear accident, Japan has adopted a new standard. It considers it normal to live an everyday life in the area if the dose of radioactivity is under 20mSv/year. The government says that it will make efforts to lower the level to 1mSv/year. Then I asked: how long does it take to lower the level of airborne radioactivity of the contaminated area to 1mSv/year? They are not even embarrassed to answer that they are not supposed to carry out such a calculation.

I asked if this was considered permissible before the accident, if it was allowed by the scientific standards before the accident. The bureaucrats’ answer was: “ this is a new challenge “. I think it is not a very elaborated approach for revitalization. It seems like the authorities have started cleaning up the damage to turn the page, to deny the accident. I suppose that there are people who say “that is not correct”. Some people might consider that the public support after the TEPCO accident is as solid as the support of the Tokai village aftermath, to make the people feel safe and secure.

Let us then see now what kind of medical support is available in Fukushima.

In the case of the Fukushima resident health investigations, only the thyroid cancer examination for those under 18 years old at the time of the accident, and a questionnaire survey for pregnant women are available to the population of Fukushima prefecture. Other than these two, health examinations are available only to those from evacuation zones. This includes a usual obesity examination offered to those over 40 years old all over Japan, plus blood tests including leukocyte fraction analysis.

Isn’t this health examination scheme too poor compared to the one of Tokai village? Besides, it is limited to those who are from the areas that have been classified as evacuation zones. In other words, if you are living in Fukushima prefecture, you can hardly have sufficient medical support, except for in limited areas. In the case of the JCO level 4 accident, one has a guarantee of a lifetime health examination at 1mSv of additional irradiation, and you still can have access to health examinations even if you are exposed to radiation under 1mSv. Yet in the case of the level 7 TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi accident, the support is so much inferior. Mr Minister, it seems to me that the difference of treatment is too much.

There are other things I would like to ask. So please give me a short answer. I think that the gap is too much. In terms of the accident level, Fukushima is more severe. But Tokai village offers a significantly more extensive support. On the other hand, the Fukushima support seems to be too feeble.

Sorry, I am running out of the time. I am going to skip that question, and go forward to other questions.

I would like to ask the following to the Minister. Who is responsible for this situation? The minimum compensation that the State and TEPCO, – who left the cause of the severe accident unattended -, should offer to the population should at least equal to the one offered in the Tokai village case. The central government should suggest it to Fukushima prefecture.

Besides, in the countries where there have been severe nuclear disasters, sanitary vacations are common practice. Their purpose is to reduce the internal irradiation. At least, we should invest in sanitary vacation programs open to the population of Fukushima prefecture.

Lastly, the end of the housing support for the auto-evacuees from the areas outside of the evacuation zones, which is in two weeks time, is the same as the order of forced return. It shouldn’t be just ‘’return’’ and ‘’should return’’. People ought to have the right to choose. The options are: remain or evacuate. In both cases, the State should give compensation and support.

Please give me your answer on the three points.

Minister (Masahiro Imamura)

You mentioned the levels. I suppose that I don’t have to answer. I think it covers different viewpoints including the accident scale.

Concerning the health problem, Fukushima prefecture is carrying out the Fukushima resident health investigation using the allocation. We have the intention to guide the prefecture to use this efficiently so that we can avoid the health hazards.

About the housing aid, as I have already answered, in spite of specific circumstances, the big majority of people have already returned to Fukushima. As for those who have not returned yet, I suppose that they have their specific situations. We will back up the prefecture to listen to them and carry out the program.

  • Chairman (Mitsuru Sakurai)

Your time is up.


Yes, I conclude.

There are more than 25,000 empty apartments for public servants in Japan. I strongly suggest that they are offered to those who would like to continue the evacuation. Please maintain the housing aid. Mr Minister, I sincerely hope you do. I count on you. Thank you very much.


* formerly Japan Nuclear Fuel Conversion Co.

** Published in Taro Yamamoto’s official site :
参議院議員山本太郎オフィシャルサイト :

Footage of the question :
質問ビデオ :

***Fukuichi is short for Fukushima Daiichi

**** Fukuichi shûhen kankyôhôshasen monitoring project

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Tests to start on radioactive soil for use in reconstruction


Bags of radioactive soil in a temporary storage site in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, will eventually be transported to an interim storage facility.

MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture–The Environment Ministry is exploring the idea of reusing tons of radioactive soil as gravel to rebuild infrastructure in this disaster-stricken prefecture and beyond.

To gauge the feasibility of the project, it will conduct tests on whether contaminated soil can be securely contained without spillage while controlling the level of radioactivity.

The experiment is being conducted in a corner of a temporary storage site in the Odaka district here, just north of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power plant.

If the tests go off without a hitch, the government is looking at reusing the soil as a construction material in recovery efforts.

Bags of soil gathered through decontamination efforts are kept at temporary storage sites around the Fukushima plant, which went into triple meltdown in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The first phase of the experiment involves 1,000 or so bags of contaminated soil that have to be sorted according to levels of concentration of radioactive cesium.

Radioactive soil with readings of about 2,000 becquerels per kilogram will be used for mock-up construction of seawalls and other structures. The soil will then be covered by fresh soil that is not contaminated.

The test will also explore practical safety management issues, including ways to prevent scattering of contaminated soil and keeping track of measurements of radioactivity of structures once they are completed.

Project workers began opening bags and sorting soil on April 24.

The volume of contaminated soil collected within Fukushima Prefecture amounted to a whopping 16 million cubic meters as of the end of January.

It will be kept at an interim storage facility that has been constructed within the jurisdiction of the towns of Futaba and Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture. Within the next 30 years, the soil is supposed to be transported outside the prefecture for final disposal.

The Environment Ministry said it hopes the tests will show that the plan to reuse radioactive soil in construction is safe. Projects under consideration include building foundations for seawalls and roads. The overall aim is to reduce the amount of soil that will need to be processed for final disposal.

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Voluntary’ evacuees torn by decision to flee from Fukushima


Those who fled Fukushima Prefecture and those who stayed after the nuclear disaster get together at a community center in the Sasaya district of the prefectural capital of Fukushima last month.

FUKUSHIMA–Facing diminishing public support and increased scorn from their hometown communities, residents who fled Fukushima Prefecture after the nuclear disaster are now struggling with self-doubts about their decision to leave.

They are called “voluntary” evacuees because they left areas that were not subject to the central government’s evacuations orders after the tsunami slammed into the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

Since then, they have faced hardships in starting new lives and finding new homes. And persistent fears over radiation continue to prevent many from returning to their hometowns in the prefecture.

When the nuclear crisis was unfolding, Nahoko Hikichi, 44, took her infant and 4-year-old child to Asahikawa, Hokkaido, leaving behind her husband in an area of Koriyama, which was not ordered to evacuate.

Hikichi pored over library books to learn more about the situation in Fukushima, but some of the books dismissed safety concerns about radiation while others warned about health hazards.

I only became more confused and worried after reading,” she said.

Hikichi said she is torn over whether she made the right choice to leave, but she added she will take no solace if her decision proves correct.

I chose to flee because I did not want any future regrets over not evacuating,” she said. “If I become convinced that my decision was sound, it would come at a time when the impact of radiation has manifested among children who stayed in the prefecture.

I am hoping for nothing like that to ever happen.”

Her husband later quit his job to join the family in Asahikawa, but his parents remain in Fukushima Prefecture.

The past month has been particularly tough on those who evacuated voluntarily since the prefectural government ended their free housing program.

At the end of March, 119 of about 12,000 households that evacuated voluntarily within or outside Fukushima Prefecture had not decided where to live, the prefectural government said on April 24.

Although prefectural officials would not disclose further details about their situation, some of the households reportedly cited financial difficulties as a reason for being unable to find new homes.

Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori pledged to work closely with local governments where the evacuees’ old and new homes are located to help them.

People forced to flee under the evacuation orders are eligible to receive at least 8.5 million yen ($77,300) in compensation.

But those who evacuated voluntarily have received a fraction of that figure, and their free housing program has ended.

In terms of rebuilding from the nuclear disaster, Tokyo is now emphasizing self-reliance among evacuees without public support or compensation.

Voluntary evacuees and their supporters have criticized this policy, but the prefectural government shares the central government’s direction.

Tokyo’s evacuation orders forced around 81,000 people to leave their homes around the nuclear plant.

Since then, the central government has been lifting the evacuation orders in an effort to have people return to their homes. In fact, the orders had been lifted for all areas by spring this year with the exception of “difficult-to-return zones,” where radiation levels remain high.

That means more than 50,000 evacuees can return to their homes.

As of last autumn, voluntary evacuees who have not returned to their original homes totaled 26,000, or 30 percent of the overall evacuee population.

Some residents who remained in the prefecture after the nuclear accident are upset by evacuees who say that Fukushima is still too dangerous to live in.

We reside in Fukushima Prefecture, and I would like them not to speak ill of the prefecture,” said a woman in her 40s who lives in the prefectural capital of Fukushima.

Efforts are under way to bridge the divide among those who remain volunteer evacuees, those who have returned to the prefecture, and residents who stayed in their communities.

A nonprofit organization opened a community center in a two-story house in Fukushima city in March 2015 to allow mothers with young children to share their daily concerns.

Some mothers wanted to know where to buy food ingredients. Others wondered if they have been overreacting to the radiation.

Many mothers who have returned to the prefecture after fleeing outside are worried about whether they will be able to restore ties with their peers who did not evacuate,” said Megumi Tomita, 47, who heads the project.

Although the NPO does not offer specific problem-solving proposals, Tomita said it is important for anxious mothers to have a venue where they can pour out their feelings.

After the community center opened, the mothers, accompanied by experts, took part in a workshop to measure radioactivity levels of foodstuffs.

They also grow vegetables in nearby fields.

The NPO compiled a booklet in spring featuring messages from 31 mothers who have returned to the prefecture after deciding to flee. Their words are directed at those who remain in evacuation.

I don’t think your choice is wrong,” said one mother.

I will give you my moral support,” another message said.

Tomita said their messages summarize a shared feeling: “Those who have evacuated voluntarily have had to make countless decisions over the past six years. The mothers who have had such experiences feel that whatever the decisions the other mothers made, they are not wrong.”

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Mothers who fled Fukushima fallout raise voices against Genkai plant restart in Saga


Mothers who fled to the Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture, to escape radiation spewed by the March 2011 core meltdowns in Fukushima Prefecture say they are concerned about the safety of the Genkai nuclear plant in neighboring Saga Prefecture.

SAGA – A group of mothers who evacuated from the Kanto region to Fukuoka Prefecture after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis is ramping up protests against efforts to restart the Genkai nuclear plant in neighboring Saga.

After meeting with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko on Saturday, Saga Gov. Yoshinori Yamaguchi is expected to approve the restart of two reactors in the town of Genkai as early as Monday.

Earlier this month, four of the moms gathered for a meeting in Itoshima in Fukuoka and discussed plans to send the city a document and an inquiry conveying their opposition.

As they racked their brains to deliver effective expressions, the meeting lasted for around six hours until their children returned home from school.

Three of the moms moved to Itoshima after becoming worried their children would be adversely affected by exposure to the fallout spewed by the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in Fukushima Prefecture in March 2011. The plant is run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

I wanted to go far away for the sake of my unborn child,” said 39-year-old Fumiyo Endo, the leader of the group.

But the place she relocated to was within 30 km of the Genkai plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co.

In March, she attended a meeting of residents to get explanations about the restart but was concerned whether safety would be ensured by sheltering indoors as instructed should an accident occur.

She also felt angry after hearing a utility official say that restarting the plant is necessary “for a stable supply of power.” She said it sounded as if the utility did not care about human lives.

But she did not decide to leave Itoshima because she wanted to keep living there, to stay close to the sea and mountains.

Another member of the group said it was important to keep resisting.

It is significant to protest against nuclear plants near the plant sites,” said photographer Nonoko Kameyama, 40.

Kameyama, a mother of three, has published a photo book of mothers hoping to bring about a society without nuclear power plants.

A day after attending the residents’ meeting, Endo and other members called the Saga Prefectural Government to urge it to reject the restart.

When asked by a prefectural official during the call what the name of their group was, they came up with an impromptu title: “Mothers Who Want to Save Children’s Lives.” Dozens of people have recently joined in response to its Facebook post.

The group has submitted petitions to Saga Gov. Yamaguchi and Itoshima Mayor Yuji Tsukigata.

Resuming operations only makes residents feel unsettled and we cannot see a bright future,” said Endo. “We want our leaders to understand such feelings.”

Yamaguchi is expected to approve the Genkai restart as early as Monday, after meeting with METI chief Seko on Saturday.

The central government has shown a strong determination to work on nuclear energy policy in a responsible manner,” Yamaguchi said Saturday, adding he wants to convey his decision “as early as possible.”

The government is pushing for reactor restarts despite the triple core meltdown at Fukushima No. 1, saying nuclear energy is Japan’s key energy source.

In January, reactor Nos. 3 and 4 at the Genkai plant passed the tougher safety requirements introduced in the wake of the Fukushima crisis. On Feb. 24, a majority of the Genkai Municipal Assembly voted in favor of restarting the plant.

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Lack of proper facilities forced disabled evacuees to move from shelter to shelter after 3/11

FUKUSHIMA – Disabled people have been forced to move to various evacuation shelters since the March 2011 calamity due mainly to the shortage of barrier-free facilities, a survey conducted by support group showed Saturday.

Among the 147 physically and mentally disabled people surveyed, mainly in Fukushima Prefecture, 118, or 80 percent, were moved at least three times, the survey said. Around 40 percent complained that their disabilities got worse.

The survey was conducted between 2015 and 2016.

Given the acute lack of availability in shelters with welfare services and functions in 2011, four people transferred a total of nine times in search of a better environment.

Only 16, or 11 percent, stayed in the first evacuation shelters they landed in, typically public gymnasiums and community halls. On average, the disabled people surveyed were moved four times.

After the meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Mieko Matsumoto, 58, moved to three evacuation shelters with her 26-year-old son, Yuta, in the space of four months.

Matsumoto said she could not feel relaxed because Yuta, who had cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair, occasionally made loud noises and she always had to be mindful of the other evacuees.

Many respondents said they faced difficulty using the toilet or when they wanted to take a bath, since the shelters were not equipped to handle wheelchair users.

In 2013, the government compiled guidelines stressing the importance of having welfare evacuation shelters and installment procedures, urging municipalities across the nation to take steps in accordance with the lessons learned from mega-quake and nuclear crisis.

But similar problems emerged after Kumamoto Earthquake rocked Kyushu last April.

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Six years later, some workers at Fukushima nuclear plant say they can do without protective gear

This article actually says that people observing from a nearby hill were exposed to only 150 microsieverts per hour. If that number is not a careless misprint, it’s actually a huge number. A person living on that hilltop would be exposed to 1,314 millisieverts per year (if I calculated correctly), way above the legal limit which was increased to 100 millisieverts per year after the accident.


Workers walk past cherry trees at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on April 14. The plant operator said visitors do not need to wear special protection gear in most parts of the premises as radiation levels have fallen.

OKUMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – At the facility on the Pacific Coast, people in casual clothes stroll under cherry trees in full bloom.

Hot meals made with local ingredients are served for ¥380 at a cafeteria. Cold drinks, snacks and sweets are available at a convenience store.

This scene is not unfolding at a popular tourist site, but at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was rocked by a magnitude-9 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Accompanied by officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., a group of reporters was given access to the power station earlier this month.

Six years have passed since the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Efforts to remove radioactive debris and to cover tainted soil with materials like mortar have helped decrease the radiation at the plant, allowing workers to wear regular uniforms at about 95 percent of the site.

Tainted water has been moved to more secure welded tanks, replacing weaker ones made of steel sheets and bolts, reducing leaks.

Visitors can overlook the four reactor buildings from a hill about 80 meters from the facility, where core meltdowns hit reactors 1, 2 and 3. Hydrogen explosions heavily damaged the buildings for units 1, 3 and 4, which have since received new facades.

On the hill, the radiation in the air was 150 microsieverts per hour, less than the amount received during a round-trip flight between Tokyo and New York. Tepco says there is no health hazard here as long as you wear masks and helmets and keep your stay short. Workers once needed to change into tightly woven clothing at the J-Village soccer training center about 20 km away before entering the Fukushima complex. But that burden has been lifted.

About 7,000 workers — 6,000 from construction, electronics and machinery companies and 1,000 from Tepco — work at the power station to deal with the aftermath of the meltdown and decommission the reactors.

Our near-term goal is to create a place where they can work without worries,” said Daisuke Hirose, a spokesman for Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Co.

There are now 400 cherry trees at the facility. Before the disaster, there were 1,200, and local residents were invited to enjoy cherry blossoms every spring, Hirose said. Now, workers walk with smiles under a tunnel of trees, greeting passers-by.

In May 2015, a nine-story rest house with meeting spaces and shower rooms opened. A convenience store was added last year.

At a 200-seat cafeteria, hot meals made with Fukushima produce are delivered from a central kitchen in the town of Okuma, about 9 km from the plant.

I used to eat cold rice balls,” a worker on a lunch break said. “Hot meals make me happy and motivate me to work.”

The plant, which stands on a 3.5-sq.-km site about 230 km northeast of Tokyo, started up in 1971.

Since the radiation has dropped sharply at the facility, about 10,000 people per year, including journalists from the United States, Europe and Asian countries, have visited. Last year, high school students dropped by.

After the two-hour tour, a dosimeter carried by a reporter showed she was exposed to only 40 microsieverts, less than the amount from a chest X-ray.

Although the working environment has certainly improved, the fate of the plant is far from clear.

Decommissioning the crippled reactors is expected to take 30 to 40 years. The utility is aiming to begin removing fuel debris from one reactor by the end of 2021, but so far it has failed to even ascertain the condition inside the reactors.

A lot of rubble remains in many of the buildings on the seaside, keeping alive fears of a quake-tsunami catastrophe like the one that struck six years ago.

A frozen underground wall has seen only limited success in preventing groundwater from flowing into the reactor and turbine buildings, regulators have said, acknowledging that the facility is still a perpetual generator of tainted water.

Tepco is also struggling to dispose of tainted waste, such as used protective garments, gloves and socks. It has burned 1,500 tons of such waste while monitoring the radiation in the smoke. It still had 70,000 cu. meters of garbage as of the end of February.

Through legislation, we are prohibited from taking radioactive contaminated garbage outside the facility even after we incinerate it. We have to continue the fight against garbage and ash,” Hirose said.

Public confidence in Tepco has been shaky in the wake of the meltdowns, and even now, nearly 80,000 residents are unable to return to their homes near the plant.

We have caused it,” Hirose said. “We have to make every effort to create a place to which people want to return. Nobody wants to live where the safety and security of workers are not ensured.”

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Incredible contamination in Namie, Fukushima


The evacuation orders of the most populated areas of Namie, Fukushima were lifted on March 31st this year.

Fukuichi area environmental radiation monitoring project” has published airborne radiation measurements map and soil surface density map. The results are simply incredible. This is far much worse than in Radiation Control Zone. Any area becomes designated as such when the total effective dose due to external radiation and that due to radioactive substances in the air is likely to exceed 1.3mSv per quarter – over a period of three months, or when the surface density is over 40,000Bq/m2. In the Radiation Control Zone, it is prohibited to drink, eat or stay overnight. Even adults are not allowed to stay more than 10 hours. To leave the zone, one has to go through a strict screening.

Namie’s radio contamination is far over these figures! And people are told to go back to these areas.

Here is the posting of “Fukuichi area environmental radiation monitoring project” in their FB page on April 20th.

We are uploading the map of airborne radiation rate map measured by GyoroGeiger, the Android supported Geiger counter, during the 38th monitoring action between 3 and 7 April 2017. Dose rate is measured at 1m from the ground.
At 56 points over 100 measuring points, the dose rate was over 1µSv/h. These points are indicated in red. The highest measure was 3.71µSv/h. Conversion to annual dose gives 32mSv. Is it allowed to make evacuees return to such areas?

namie-airborne.22 april 2017png.png
Here is the soil contamination map uploaded on April 15th. They even had to introduce 7 scales, for the contamination is so high and they couldn’t deal with the scales they were using before! It is a violation of human rights to let people live in such areas.

namie 22 april 2017

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

The Children of Fukushima Return, Six Years After the Nuclear Disaster

1Children at a nursery school this month in the hamlet of Naraha in Fukushima. The government lifted the evacuation order on the town in 2015.

NARAHA, Japan — The children returned to Naraha this spring.

For more than four years, residents were barred from this hamlet in Fukushima after an earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at a nuclear power plant north of town. When the government lifted the evacuation order in 2015, those who returned were mostly the elderly, who figured coming home was worth the residual radiation risk.

But this month, six years after the disaster, 105 students turned up at Naraha Elementary and Junior High School for the beginning of the Japanese school year.

Every morning, cafeteria workers measure the radiation in fresh ingredients used in lunches. In some grades, as few as six students take their lessons in classrooms built to accommodate as many as 30. There are not enough junior high students to field a baseball team on the new field next to the school.

Yet the return of the schoolchildren, the youngest of whom were born the year of the disaster, has been a powerful sign of renewal in this town, which is in the original 12-mile exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant.

Reopening the school “is very, very meaningful,” said Sachiko Araki, the principal of the junior high school. “A town without a school is not really a town.”

The new, $18 million two-story building has shiny blond wood floors, spacious classrooms, two science labs, a library filled with new books and a large basketball gymnasium. A balcony at the back of the building overlooks the sea.

Many emotions fueled the decisions of the families who returned to Naraha. It was always a small town, with just over 8,000 people before the disaster. So far, only one in five former residents has come home.

2The library at Naraha Elementary and Junior High School. The school was being built when the disaster hit, so workers started over, removing mounds of dirt in an effort to decontaminate the site.

A bank, post office and medical clinic are now open, but a supermarket is still under construction. Because neighborhoods have stood empty for so long, wild boars sometimes roam the streets.

With thousands of bags of contaminated soil piled high in fields around town and radiation meters posted in parking lots, the memory of the nuclear disaster is never distant.

At the Naraha school, which was being constructed when the disaster hit, workers destroyed a foundation that had just been laid and started over, removing mounds of dirt in an effort to decontaminate the site.

Today, radiation is regularly monitored on the school grounds as well as along routes to the building. The central government, based on recommendations from the International Commission on Radiological Protection, set a maximum exposure of 0.23 microsieverts an hour, a level at which there is no concrete scientific evidence of increased cancer risk. (Microsieverts measure the health effects of low levels of radiation.)

Still, some teachers say they are extra careful. Aya Kitahara, a fifth-grade teacher, said she and her colleagues had decided it was not safe to allow children to collect acorns or pine cones in the neighborhood for art projects, for fear that they would pick up small doses of radiation.

Nearby, a nursery school and day care center was built mostly with money from the nuclear plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, in 2007 and reopened this month. Keiko Hayakawa, the principal, said she was surprised that the city had pushed to bring back children before all bags of contaminated soil had been cleared from town.

We had to start and keep moving to open this facility as soon as possible,” Ms. Hayakawa said on a morning when 3- and 4- year-olds romped in a large playground, climbing a jungle gym, riding scooters and digging in a sandbox. “Otherwise, there was a fear that people might never come back.”

3A class of elementary students. In some grades, as few as six students take their lessons in classrooms built to accommodate as many as 30.

Calculations of radiation exposure are imprecise at best. They may not detect contaminated soil from rain runoff that can collect in gutters or other low-lying crevices. Risk of illness depends on many variables, including age, activities and underlying health conditions.

I don’t want to accuse anyone of being consciously disingenuous,” said Kyle Cleveland, associate professor of sociology at Temple University in Tokyo, who has written about the psychological effects of the Fukushima disaster. But government officials “have every incentive to downplay the level of risk and to put a positive spin on it.”

Reviving the towns of Fukushima is also a priority for the central government. With the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to deliver on his promise that the Fukushima cleanup effort is “under control.”

It is really up to the individuals whether they would accept the current environment or not,” said Kentaro Yanai, the superintendent of the Naraha school district. “But for us, we did the best that we could have done so far in order to reduce radiation levels.”

For young families, factors other than radiation risks weighed on the calculus of whether to return. Some longed to go back to the town that had been their home for generations, while others assumed they could afford more space in Naraha.

And as national compensation payments for evacuees are set to expire next year, some residents secured jobs working for the town government or for contractors involved in the reconstruction work. Still others are employed by Tokyo Electric, which is coordinating the huge cleanup at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Ayuka Ohwada, 29, had originally thought she and her family would stay in Iwaki, a city of about 340,000 more than 20 miles south, where many Naraha residents lived during the evacuation period. But once her parents moved back to their old home, Ms. Ohwada and her children, now 8 and 6, began visiting on weekends.

4Day care workers and children in Naraha. The town now has a bank, a post office and a medical clinic, but a supermarket is still under construction.

I started thinking that maybe the countryside is a much better environment for my children,” said Ms. Ohwada, whose parents offered her a piece of land to build a new house. Ms. Ohwada, who was employed as a convenience store clerk before landing a job at town hall, said she and her husband, who works in a nearby town at a company involved in decontamination, could never afford a stand-alone house in Iwaki.

In Naraha, the school is doing as much as it can to cushion the return for young families.

The building, which was originally designed for the junior high school, now houses two elementary schools as well. Extra counselors talk students through lingering anxieties, and the fifth- and sixth-grade classes have two teachers each. All students will receive tablet computers, and lunch and school uniforms are provided free.

Yuka Kusano, 37, said her children had grown accustomed to large classes while they were evacuated in Iwaki. But after enrolling in the Naraha school this month, she said, they benefit from individualized attention rare in Japanese schools.

Her 12-year-old daughter, Miyu, is in seventh grade with just five other classmates, and her son, Ryuya, 9, is in a fourth-grade class of 13 students.

It is really luxurious,” Ms. Kusano said. Still, with so few children in Naraha, she drives Ryuya to Iwaki on weekends so he can continue to play on a softball team.

Hints emerge of the turmoil the students have endured in the six years since the disaster. During a recent presentation for parents, one girl with thick bangs and large black glasses said she had struggled with frequent moves.

I am doing O.K.,” she said. “I just want to keep stability in my life.”

Such stability is one reason many families with young children have chosen not to return.

5Uninhabited houses in Naraha. The town numbered just over 8,000 before the disaster. So far, only a fifth of the former residents have returned.

Tsutomu Sato, a nursing home manager with three daughters, 9, 5 and 2, said the family had moved seven or eight times after being evacuated from Naraha.

I just want to build a base for my family as soon as possible,” said Mr. Sato, who bought a house in the Yumoto neighborhood of Iwaki. He said his oldest daughter cried whenever he raised the possibility of moving back to Naraha, where his parents and grandmother were restoring their house and planned to move back next year.

In exile, he maintains a fierce attachment to his hometown and has formed a volunteer group, Naranoha, to stage cultural events to bring together the diaspora of former residents around the region. He said that if his parents grew too frail to take care of themselves, he would consider moving back.

With or without the disaster, we have to make life decisions based on our circumstances,” he said.

In Naraha, the mayor, Yukiei Matsumoto, said surveys showed that just under three-quarters of former residents wanted to return eventually.

In order to clear the stigma that people have,” he said, “we are back now to show the rest of the country and the rest of the world that we are doing well.” But he acknowledged that if more young people did not return, the town had a dim future.

Kazushige Watanabe, 73, said he had come back even though his the tsunami had destroyed his home and his sons lived outside Fukushima Prefecture.

He has moved into a compact bungalow built by the city in a new subdivision in the center of the town, where he has lived alone since his wife’s death in January.

He pointed out a house around the corner where a family with three children had moved in recently. “I can hear the children’s voices,” he said. “That is very nice.”

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Where to put all the radioactive waste is now the burning issue

decommission 5 reactors 20 04 2017.jpg


The call might have been made to decommission five over-the-hill nuclear reactors, but the problem remains of where to dispose of their total 26,820 tons of radioactive waste.

The plant operators have yet to find disposal sites, and few local governments are expected to volunteer to store the waste on their properties.

The decommissioning plans for the five reactors that first went into service more than 40 years ago was green-lighted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority on April 19.

It is the first NRA approval for decommissioning since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami.

That disaster led to a new regulation putting a 40-year cap, in principle, on the operating life span of reactors.

The reactors to be decommissioned are the No. 1 reactor at Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tsuruga plant in Fukui Prefecture; the No. 1 reactor at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture; the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture; and the No. 1 reactor at Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane plant in Shimane Prefecture.

The decommissioning will be completed between fiscal 2039 and fiscal 2045 at a total cost of 178.9 billion yen ($1.64 billion), according to the utilities.

In the process, the projects are expected to produce 26,820 tons of radioactive waste–reactors and pipes included.

An additional 40,300 tons of waste, such as scrap construction material, will be handled as nonradioactive waste due to radiation doses deemed lower than the government safety limit.

Securing disposal sites for radioactive waste has proved a big headache for utilities.

About 110 tons of relatively high-level in potency radioactive waste, including control rods, are projected to pile up from the decommissioning of the No. 1 reactor at the Mihama plant.

Such waste needs to be buried underground deeper than 70 meters from the surface and managed for 100,000 years, according to the NRA’s guidelines.

In addition, the decommissioning of the same reactor will generate 2,230 tons of less toxic waste as well, including pipes and steam generators.

Under the current setup, utilities must secure disposal sites on their own.

Kansai Electric, the operator of the Mihama plant, has pledged to find a disposal site “by the time the decommissioning is completed.”

But Fukui Prefecture, which hosts that plant and others, is demanding the waste from the Mihama facility be disposed of outside its borders.

The project to dismantle the reactor and other facilities has been postponed at Japan Atomic Power’s Tokai plant in Ibaraki Prefecture because the company could not find a disposal site for the relatively high-level waste.

The decommissioning of the reactor had been under way there since before the Fukushima disaster.

The expected difficulty of securing disposal sites could jeopardize the decommissioning timetable, experts say.

Even finding a disposal site for waste that will be handled as nonradioactive has made little headway.

What is more daunting is the hunt for a place to store high-level radioactive waste that will be generated during the reprocessing of spent fuel, they said.

April 20, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Niigata governor dashes TEPCO’s hopes for reactor restarts in 2019

uguhgjkmll.jpgTokyo Electric Power Co. President Naomi Hirose, left, hands a report to Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama at the prefectural government office in Niigata on April 19.

NIIGATA–Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama said a longer period may be needed to verify safety at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, destroying Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s schedule to restart reactors there.

Yoneyama announced the possible extension of the safety-confirmation period, which he had earlier put at three or four years, at a news conference on April 19 after his meeting with TEPCO President Naomi Hirose here.

The governor said it will take time to confirm that the nuclear plant can withstand major earthquakes, especially a building that is expected to serve as the headquarters in the event of a severe accident at the site.

Only after safety is confirmed can discussions begin on restarting the nuclear plant in the prefecture, Yoneyama said.

Under TEPCO’s reconstruction plan currently being worked out, operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, one of the largest in the world, will resume in April 2019 at the earliest.

However, TEPCO needs the prefectural government’s consent to restart reactors, and Yoneyama’s words show that the utility’s plan will be impossible to achieve.

TEPCO in 2014 became aware that the headquarters building at the plant was insufficient in terms of earthquake resistance. But the company failed to disclose the shortcomings and maintained its policy of using the building as a disaster headquarters.

The deficiencies of the building came to light in February this year.

Hirose visited the Niigata prefectural government office on April 19 to explain to Yoneyama the issue of the insufficient anti-quake capabilities at the plant’s building.

He acknowledged problems in the mindset of his employees.

They had a tendency to put priority on the benefits of their own company,” Hirose told the governor.

As for the time needed to confirm safety at the nuclear plant, Yoneyama told Hirose, “The period could become longer depending on the circumstances.”

The prefectural government plans to set up a committee in June at the earliest to verify safety at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

I don’t think nuclear power plants are indispensable for the economies of Japan and Niigata Prefecture,” Yoneyama said at the news conference after his meeting with Hirose.

The reactor restarts, however, may be crucial for TEPCO’s finances.

The company needs to secure 500 billion yen (about $4.6 billion) every year for 30 years to decommission the reactors at its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and pay compensation to those who evacuated after the disaster unfolded in March 2011.

Resumed operations of two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant could provide 100 billion yen a year for TEPCO.

April 20, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment