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Ex-TEPCO VP apologizes but denies being told of need for tsunami steps

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Former Tokyo Electric Power Co. Vice President Sakae Muto.

Ex-TEPCO VP apologizes as defendant questioning begins in Fukushima nuclear disaster trial

October 16, 2018
TOKYO — A former vice president of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) apologized on Oct. 16 during court questioning of three ex-TEPCO top officials indicted on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Defendant Sakae Muto, 68, said, “To the many people who lost their lives, their family members or those who were forced to evacuate their homes, I have caused you great pain that cannot be expressed in words, and I extend my deepest apologies. I am very sorry about what happened.”
The questioning of Muto at the Tokyo District Court over the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in northern Japan is scheduled to continue until the evening, with plans to resume on Oct. 17.
The other former executives indicted in the criminal trial are 78-year-old former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice president Ichiro Takekuro, 72. This trial marks the first time that the three top officials will be questioned in detail in a court of law about their responsibility for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
According to the indictment, while the three were aware of the possibility of a large tsunami hitting the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Plant, they neglected to take countermeasures, leading to the March 2011 accident. As a result, they are thought to have caused the deaths of 44 patients who had to evacuate from Futaba Hospital in the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, near the power plant for a long period of time due to the accident, among other charges.
At the first hearing of the trial in June 2017, Muto said, “Looking back now, there was no way of predicting that such an accident could occur. I do not believe we are responsible.” The other two defendants are also maintaining their innocence in the matter.
Former vice president Takekuro will be questioned on Oct. 19, followed by former chairman Katsumata on Oct. 20.
(Japanese original by Masanori Makita, City News Department, and Mirai Nagira, Science & Environment News Department)
 
 
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Sakae Muto, former vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., in January

Ex-TEPCO exec denies being told of need for tsunami steps

October 16, 2018
A former vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. refused to take any responsibility for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, testifying in court Oct. 16 that he was never made aware of the possibility of destructive tsunami striking the facility and, therefore, did not authorize countermeasures.
Sakae Muto, 68, is on trial on a charge of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the March 2011 catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, along with Tsunehisa Katsumata, a former TEPCO chairman, and Ichiro Takekuro, another former TEPCO vice president.
Towering tsunami generated by the Great East Japan Earthquake inundated the coastal complex, knocking out cooling systems and triggering a triple meltdown.
Muto denied in the Tokyo District Court that he and the two other top executives once gave the green light for countermeasures against a powerful tsunami three years before the disaster occurred.
“We were never notified that such a thing could happen,” Muto stated.
To prove negligence, prosecutors must show that top executives could have reasonably predicted the scale of the tsunami that swamped the plant, setting off the most serious nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Muto’s testimony followed oral statements given in a previous court hearing by Kazuhiko Yamashita, head of TEPCO’s center tasked with compiling anti-earthquake measures.
In the statetments, Yamashita said he notified Muto, Katsumata and Takekuro in a February 2008 meeting that the height of a powerful tsunami predicted to hit the site would be at least 7.7 meters.
Yamashita’s team arrived at the figure using a simplified calculation based on the long-term assessment of the probability of major earthquakes released by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002.
Yamashita said in his statements that he took it that the three executives understood his team’s projection was based on a government assessment and that they approved taking anti-tsunami measures.
Yamashita’s statements were made to prosecutors between 2012 and 2014, when he was under investigation in connection with the nuclear disaster. The court accepted them as evidence.
A TEPCO subsidiary’s civil engineering team came up with a figure of 15.7 meters after conducting a more detailed study.
The update was conveyed to TEPCO executives in June that year. But Muto, who was deputy chief of the company’s nuclear power and plant siting division, instructed subordinates the following month to shelve the anti-tsunami measures, according to witnesses who testified in previous hearings.
Asked about the February meeting, Muto denied that he was notified destructive tsunami could strike, or safety steps were required.
“No such topics were raised during the meeting,” he stated.
Muto also characterized the meeting that included Katsumata and Takekuro as “not one to make a decision as an organization, but one to share information.”
With regard to the projection of 15.7 meters, Muto said, “I was briefed that the (government’s) long-term assessment is not credible and thought that no new scientific expertise was available.”
He also rejected suggestions that he postponed taking anti-tsunami measures.
“I simply thought it would be difficult to come up with a design for a strong sea wall straight away,” he said.
Asked whether it was possible that his division alone was empowered to halt plant operations in anticipation of encroaching danger, he emphatically denied this was so.
He said a decision of such gravity is “too weighty in terms of business management that the nuclear power and plant siting division’s decision alone cannot make it happen.”
Muto went on to state: “It would have been necessary for the division to consult with not only many divisions and sections of our company, but also other utilities and central and local governments and explain to them the grounds and the need to halt operations.”
He started his testimony by offering a “deep apology” for causing “trouble beyond description” to people affected by the nuclear disaster.
The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant’s reactor buildings sit on elevated land 10 meters above sea level. The tsunami spawned by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake reached 15.5 meters around the reactor buildings, according to traces left there.
Prosecutors had initially declined to press charges against the three former executives, citing insufficient evidence. However, a committee for the inquest of prosecution twice concluded that the trio should be indicted.
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October 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Temporal changes in 137Cs concentrations in fish, sediments, and seawater off Fukushima Japan

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Demersal fish live and feed on or near the bottom of seas or lakes (the demersal zone). They occupy the sea floors and lake beds, which usually consist of mud, sand, gravel or rocks. In coastal waters they are found on or near the continental shelf, and in deep waters they are found on or near the continental slope or along the continental rise. They are not generally found in the deepest waters, such as abyssal depths or on the abyssal plain, but they can be found around seamounts and islands. The word demersal comes from the Latin demergere, which means to sink.
 
Demersal fish consist of Benthic fish and benthopelagic fish, they are bottom feeders. They can be contrasted with pelagic fish which live and feed away from the bottom in the open water column. Demersal fish fillets contain little fish oil (one to four percent), whereas pelagic fish can contain up to 30 percent.[not verified in body]
 
Benthic fish, sometimes called groundfish, are denser than water, so they can rest on the sea floor. They either lie-and-wait as ambush predators, maybe covering themselves with sand or otherwise camouflaging themselves, or move actively over the bottom in search for food. Benthic fish which can bury themselves include dragonets, flatfish and stingrays.
 
Benthopelagic fish inhabit the water just above the bottom, feeding on benthos and zooplankton. Most demersal fish are benthopelagic.

 

October 15, 2018
Abstract
We analyzed publicly-available data of Fukushima 137Cs concentrations in coastal fish, in surface and bottom waters, and in surface marine sediments and found that within the first year of the accident pelagic fish lost 137Cs at much faster rates (mean of ~1.3% d-1) than benthic fish (mean of ~0.1% d-1), with benthopelagic fish having intermediate loss rates (mean of ~0.2% d-1). The loss rates of 137Cs in benthic fish were more comparable to the decline of 137Cs concentrations in sediments (0.03% d-1), and the declines in pelagic fish were more comparable to the declines in seawater. Retention patterns of 137Cs in pelagic fish were comparable to that in laboratory studies of fish in which there were no sustained 137Cs sources, whereas the benthopelagic and benthic fish species retained 137Cs to a greater extent, consistent with the idea that there is a sustained additional 137Cs source for these fish. These field data, based on 13,511 data points in which 137Cs was above the detection limit, are consistent with conclusions from laboratory experiments that demonstrate that benthic fish can acquire 137Cs from sediments, primarily through benthic invertebrates that contribute to the diet of these fish.

October 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Whether tsunami predictable, damage avoidable focus of TEPCO nuclear disaster trial

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The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) headquarters building in the capital’s Chiyoda Ward is seen from Shiodome City Center in Tokyo’s Minato Ward in this file photo taken on Aug. 24, 2011.
 
October 15, 2018
TOKYO — The criminal trial of three top former Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) officials indicted on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster will reach a climax as the defendants will begin to answer questions from prosecutors and their defense lawyers on Oct. 16.
They will face these two focal questions: Was it possible for them to predict the massive tsunami that triggered the triple core meltdowns at the TEPCO plant in the northeastern Japan prefecture of Fukushima, and was the damage from the natural disaster avoidable?
The three former TEPCO executives to undergo questioning are former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto. All of them essentially answered no to those two questions in the opening session of the trial in June last year; that they could not foresee the tsunami, and therefore have no criminal responsibility for the damage caused by the natural disaster leading to the nuclear accident.
This unusual trial took several years to come to the Tokyo District Court as prosecutors’ two refusals to indict the three ex-executives were overridden each time by the committee for the inquest of prosecution. As a result, the defendants were forcibly indicted by lawyers serving as prosecutors.
The trial’s eight months of cross examinations of various witnesses that ended on Oct. 3 gave rise to the view that the former management essentially postponed taking sufficient countermeasures against the level of tsunami that hit the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Station on March 11, 2011 out of cost considerations.
The gushing seawater sent to the Fukushima shore by the Great East Japan Earthquake halted diesel power generators at the plant, making it impossible to cool down the nuclear fuel cores that melted down to the ground and resulted in the release of a massive amount of radioactive materials into the surrounding environment. This nuclear disaster forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents around the plant, and many of them are still unable to return to their homes seven years after the incident.
— ‘Management first, countermeasures second’?
In the 24th session of the trial on Sept. 5, an affidavit given to the prosecution by a former top TEPCO official in charge of tsunami countermeasures was read out: “Our business environment was deteriorating because of the Niigata Chuetsu offshore earthquake of 2007 that halted the Kashiwazaki-Kariha nuclear power station, and we wanted to prevent the Fukushima No. 1 plant from stopping by all means.”
The statement said that the former management once decided to introduce measures to protect against possible tsunami damage but decided to postpone them after finding out that they were more costly than expected, implying that managerial decisions were behind the delay.
Earlier, all TEPCO tsunami countermeasure officials who testified before the court had agreed that such steps must be taken in response to a 2002 government estimate that “a massive tsunami could occur off the Fukushima coast.” Their testimonies, however, did not explain why the process was delayed.
According to the affidavit, the three defendants including Katsumata approved countermeasures at a top-level TEPCO meeting in February 2008 after a report was presented to the meeting that an estimated wave 7.7 meters high or more could hit the Fukushima facility. But more detailed calculations showed that the potential maximum height would be 15.7 meters, and it was reported to Muto, the former vice president, that it was now estimated to cost tens of billions of yen and take more than four years to complete the countermeasures. Following this estimate, Muto decided to ask experts to re-evaluate the reliability of the 2002 government estimate, effectively shelving steps to mitigate damage from tsunami.
Implementing tsunami countermeasures could mean a halt to the Fukushima nuclear plant as construction work could not be completed in time. If that was the case, it was better to work behind closed doors and influence regulators so that they would clear the facility as safe, according to the testimony by a former tsunami countermeasure official presented in September this year.
If the management really postponed measures to curb tsunami damage as explained in the affidavit that would fit with the argument by the prosecution — as highlighted by designated lawyers in the special trial. Another focal point of the trial would be how the three defendants would explain this point.
Moreover, it is still not clear what Katsumata, the then chairman, and Takekuro, another vice president back then, were thinking about the results of tsunami damage estimates reported to the February 2008 meeting. The level of involvement by these two defendants is also a highlight of the questioning session starting Oct. 16.
According to the 2002 government estimate, there was a 20 percent chance that a magnitude-8 earthquake could occur along the Japan Trench off the northeastern Japan coast of Sanriku and the eastern coast of Boso during the next 30 years. Fukushima lies alongside this area, which triggered three major tremblers that caused massive tsunami during the past 400 years as shown in historical records.
Professor Fumihiko Imamura of Tohoku University, a tsunami dynamics specialist, questioned the validity of the government evaluation during the trial saying, “It cannot be ignored but has many issues,” siding with the three defendants. But professor emeritus Kunihiko Shimazaki of the University of Tokyo, a seismologist who headed an expert panel that compiled the 2002 estimate, testified that the panel’s conclusion didn’t face any objections from panel members. “It was a consensus conclusion. The (2011 nuclear) accident could have been avoided if countermeasures were taken according to the long-term evaluation,” Shimzaki said. His testimony indicated the defendants failed to act properly.
In class action damages suits filed by evacuees from the 2011 nuclear accident and others, five district courts have ruled that the massive tsunami that triggered the core meltdowns could have been foreseen based on the 2002 estimate. But criminal trials require stronger proof and sometimes end with different conclusions than civil suits.
Meanwhile, about the question of whether the damage caused by the tsunami was avoidable, a former TEPCO employee at the time of the nuclear disaster said in the trial that “damage from tsunami could not be prevented even if countermeasures were taken.” The superior of the employee testified that “countermeasures, if implemented, could be too late, but I think something could have been done.”
A former employee of the Japan Atomic Power Co. testified that his company constructed soil embankments around its Tokai No. 2 nuclear power station in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture to the south of Fukushima, to fend off a tsunami to a height of 12.2 meters. This measure was based on the 2002 government estimate, and the facility was spared of damage from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The prosecution argues that such a measure would have prevented the Fukushima nuclear facility from causing the devastating damage.
(Japanese original by Ei Okada, Science & Environment News Department, and Masanori Makita, City News Department)

October 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese media pushing Fukushima rice as ‘safe to eat’

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A Honnoriya staff member displays rice balls at the company’s Tokyo Station outlet. Honnoriya offers rice balls made with the Aizu Koshihikari brand from Fukushima Prefecture.

After 16 years, Fukushima’s Aizu Koshihikari still the brand of choice for popular Tokyo rice ball shop

 
Oct 14, 2018
A popular rice ball shop stands near Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Central Gate, drawing long lines of customers waiting to buy products made with rice from Aizu, Fukushima Prefecture, known for remaining soft with a touch of sweetness even when it gets cold.
As it takes less than a minute to make the rice balls, customers don’t have to wait long at Honnoriya, a rice ball chain operated by JR East Food Business Co.
From actors, athletes and comedians to politicians and culinary maestros, many say they are fans of the rice balls. After it was featured on the popular TBS television show “Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai” (“The World Unknown to Matsuko”), a rush of traffic swarmed Honnoriya’s website, temporarily shutting it down.
Sadafumi Yamagiwa, president of JR East Food, said the secret of the chain’s popularity is the quality of the rice — Koshihikari rice produced in Fukushima’s Aizu region.
“It’s because the rice tastes good. The Aizu Koshihikari rice is chewy, making it different from other rice,” Yamagiwa said.
The firm uses Aizu Koshihikari in all of its 13 outlets located in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba. At the main shop in Tokyo, around 7,000 rice balls are sold on busy days. In fiscal 2017, a total of 252 tons of rice were consumed at its 13 stores.
Since Honnoriya opened its first outlet at Tokyo Station in March 2002, it has continued to use Koshihikari brand. Despite having been awarded the top “special A” ranking by the Japan Grain Inspection Association, Aizu Koshihikari is cheap compared with other varieties produced in different regions, Yamagiwa said.
Following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, many consumers avoided produce from the prefecture. The company also received many inquiries about the safety of the rice, and employee opinions differed over which brand should be used.
But as blanket radiation checks conducted on Fukushima-grown rice found no radioactive material, such concern gradually eased, Yamagiwa said.
He stressed that the company has been using Aizu Koshihikari solely for the reason that it tastes good. “It’s not like we’ve been using the rice to support the disaster-hit regions,” he said.
Each year, the company chooses a rice brand after comparing the tastes of different varieties produced in different parts of the country.
For the past 16 years, there has been no rice that surpassed Koshihikari produced in Aizu, Yamagiwa said, meaning that Aizu Koshihikari has consistently won the internal competition every single year.
This section features topics and issues from Fukushima covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on Sept. 30.

October 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima, the impossible return to the villages of the former evacuation zone: the example of Iitate

Translation Sean Arclight
The commune of Iitate, in the department of Fukushima, was hard hit by the fallout from the disaster of March 2011. Deserted by the inhabitants after the evacuation order, it bears the aftermath of the accident and several years of abandonment. While authorities encourage return and abolish aid to refugees, former residents are afraid to return to an environment where radioactivity remains above international standards.
Summary
From the same author, see also on Géoconfluences: Cécile Asanuma-Brice, “The nuclear migrants”, October 2017. http://geoconfluences.ens-lyon.fr/informations-scientifiques/dossiers-regionaux/japon/un-autre-regard/migrants-du-nucleaire
The Tohoku disaster, which was accompanied by an unprecedented industrial disaster with the explosion of the Fukushima daiichi power station on March 11, 2011, has not finished generating debate and tensions over the proposed solutions for the management of the protection of the inhabitants. The situation is complex, mixing international and national industrial interests, the need for local revitalization and health and social management. The inhabitants are torn between the desire for an impossible return, the policies of resilience constrained [1] and the difficult resettlement in their new host community (Asanuma-Brice, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017).
In this article, we propose to make an initial assessment of the situation in Iitate, an old village evacuated after the disaster, reopened to housing in 2017, and whose former residents saw the public financial aid suspended at the shelter in April 2018.
1. The village of Iitate: between ocean and mountain
The department of Fukushima is crossed by two large mountain ranges: Ousanmiyaku, the longest mountain range in Japan, which crosses the main island from Aomori Prefecture to the north, ending in the south of Tochigi, and Abukumakochi (commonly known as Abukumasanchi) stretching from south of Miyagi to the north of Ibaraki Department. These two rocky mountain ranges cut the territory into three zones: in the west the region of Aizu, in the center Nakadôri and in the east, the area of ​​Hamadôri which runs along the coast to extend to the Pacific (figure 1 ).
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Figure 1. Localization of Iitate in Hamadôri Region and Fukushima Prefecture
Iitate is located northwest of Hamadôri, on the emerged part of the Pacific Plate. The inhabited area is engulfed in the heart of the Abukumakochi Mountains, whose highest point on the perimeter of the community is Mount Hanatsukaya (918.5 meters). The population was approximately 6,000 at the time of the accident. The forests that cover almost the entire territory (Figure 2) are rich in a variety of trees: ginkgo biloba, keyaki (Zelvoka serrata), fir, beech, harigiri (kaopanax pictus, a thorn), osmanthus, oaks … In addition to the forest (75% of the forest area of ​​which about 50% is state-owned), the territory of the commune was mainly devoted to agriculture (8% of meadows for raising beef, known as “black beef”, 6.2% of rice fields, 4.9% of fields, the remaining 7% are scattered in various activities [source: http://iitate-madei.com/village01.html%5D ).
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Figure 2. A forest environment about 40 kilometers from the Fukushima daiichi power station
The location of the urbanized areas within the basins between each mountain has made them particularly vulnerable to the deposits of isotopes carried by the winds coming from the Fukushima dai ichi plant (Asanuma-Brice, Libération, 2018).
The municipality is thus at the extreme north-west of the torch of contamination, the winds carrying the cloud laden with nuclear material having rushed into it. As the radioactive cloud flew over the area on March 14th, the snow deposited contamination on the ground, soiling for many years a lush nature.
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Figure 3. Radiation doses and prohibited area after the disaster
In 2011, a few months after the readjustment of the evacuation zone first demarcated in a semi-circle of 20 km around the power plant (Figure 3), the village of Iitate is finally evacuated as well as all the communes on which the radioactive cloud had fallen (Figure 4). If since 2016 the evacuation order had been pushed back under the pressure of the inhabitants, it has been effective since March 2017. In April 2018, the financial aid to the shelter allocated to the former inhabitants of the village are abolished. Since 2014, the government had opted for a risk communication budget to influence refugees on their return. The government and international institutions maintain the argument of too high a cost that would be linked to a shelter policy (Asanuma-Brice, 2014).
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Figure 4. Status of prohibition lifts in the area, situation in 2018
This decision is not without arousing the confusion of scientists specialized in nuclear physics who believe that it is still much too early to take such measures. This is particularly the case of Professor Imanaka Tetsuji, a professor at the Nuclear Experimentation Center at Kyôto University, or Kôji Itonaga, a professor in the Department of Biological Resources at Nihondaigaku University in Tokyo. Both of them presented the results of their expertise at the Iisora ​​symposium, which was held in Fukushima on 17 February 2018 by former village residents and researchers of various persuasions to discuss the relevance or otherwise of this decision (figure 5).
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Figure 5. Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018
Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018 – Professor Imanaka (Kyota University Nuclear Experiment Center) presents his results: “Is 20 msv an acceptable safety rate? “. Photo: Cécile Asanuma-Brice
2. Did the decontamination work?
In the village of Iitate, the situation is still far from settled. The multiple decontamination campaigns have not been able to overcome the radioactivity rate, which is still equivalent to 10 times the pre-accident standard for measurements made around dwellings, and 20 times for measurements taken in the mountains. In August 2017, a measurement campaign carried out by Professor Itonaga’s team (University of Japan / Nihondaigaku) ​​on 8 houses in the village revealed rates ranging between 0.15 and 0.4 microsievert / h for measurements made on the floor, and 0.23 to 0.78 microsievert / h for measurements made near the ceiling of dwellings. In 2014, the rates were considerably higher, up to 2 microsievert / hour depending on the case. There is therefore a drop, but nevertheless deemed insufficient by the two teachers to allow the return to housing, especially as outside homes, rates recorded are flying quickly. The average measured on the ground is 0.65 microsievert / h, that made at 1 meter from the ground is 0.59 microsievert / h. These houses surrounded by forest suffer the effects of surrounding vegetation that can not be decontaminated. These houses paradoxically become victims of their natural environment, polluted for many years to come. Rainfall following steep gradients carries isotopes to valleys where dwellings are located which in turn see the increased contamination rate despite repeated waves of decontamination.
On the sample taken, Professor Itonaga (Figure 6) estimates that it will take another fifty years before the average level of environmental irradiation returns to 1 msv / year, a rate internationally defined as acceptable for the population [2]. In addition, this rate of acceptability has been increased to 20 msv / year, the municipality being part of the perimeter classified as a state of emergency. The removal of the evacuation order is therefore decided in the state by the administration which, while recognizing the instability of the environment still classified “emergency zone”, forced, by removing subsidies to the shelter and by closing temporary housing estates, residents return to live in areas still contaminated.
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Figure 6. Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018
Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018 – Professor Itonaga (Department of Biological Resources, Nihondaigaku University, Tokyo) leads the debate with the speakers of the day, composed of scientists and former residents of the village of Iitate. Photo: Cécile Asanuma-Brice
In 2017, the authorities declared that they wanted to recycle all the waste below 8,000 Bq / kg, although the norm before the accident was 100 Bq / kg, in road works. Nevertheless, the radioactivity levels measured in the Iitate region are more than twice this threshold, with peaks of up to 40 000 Bq / kg for the measurement of only cesium 134 and 137 in the surrounding mountains. In June 2017, measurements on the sap of trees in the mountains adjacent to the dwellings revealed levels of 143 298 Bq / kg (by association of the measurement of 2 cesium 134 and 137) for an oak tree and 39 185 Bq / kg for the sap of a cherry tree (see Box 1).
Although the contamination is disparate and mobile depending on precipitation, and the decontamination is momentarily effective on a lot of soil for which 15 cm of surface soil replaced by healthy soil had been scraped off, the half-life of cesium 137 being thirty years, it seems difficult to consider a decline in the general rate of radiation irradiation before the end of this period.
 Radioactivity, becquerels, cesium, what are we talking about?
The becquerel per gram (or per kilogram) characterizes the overall content of radioactive elements. Cesium 134 and 137 are the two main nuclides dispersed in the environment after the explosion of the Fukushima plant. It is found in large quantities and potentially far from the plant. Other nuclides such as plutonium or strontium are also present, but in smaller quantities and mainly within a hundred kilometers around the plant because these particles are heavier. The half-life of cesium is 30 years on average. However, “cesium is an alkali metal. For the human body, it strongly resembles potassium. But the body contains significant amounts of potassium, it is essential to humans […]. And for this reason, when the cesium is released into the environment, the body considers it as it does with the alkali metal potassium, that is to say, it integrates and accumulates in our body. “*
* Hirano, Kasai, 2016, extract translated from Japanese by Robert Stolz and English by Geoconfluences
 
3. The village of Iitate, an impossible return?
The village of Iitate which extends over 230 km² had already begun its demographic decline before the evacuation, from 9 385 inhabitants in 1970 to 6 209 in 2010 (Figure 7). It is only composed of 41 people according to the authorities in 2015. In 2018, part of the population returned to live in these territories, unable to pay rent elsewhere without subsidies from the state, and today about 700 people who returned to live in the village.
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Figure 7. Communal population of the village of Iitate 1970-2015
Of the initial pre-disaster population, 4,934 persons [3] in 2,032 households fled to the interior of Fukushima Prefecture, with the vast majority in Fukushima itself (3,174 people) ( Figure 9). Only 297 persons, divided into 156 households, migrated out of the department, mainly to the Tokyo area (Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Tokyo departments, see Figure 8). A total of 90% of the population has moved in seven years while 546 people in 288 households plan to return to the village. For the latter, the breakdown by household shows that they are almost exclusively couples without children, the size of these households being 1.9 persons. They are preparing to enter an ecosystem mainly composed of forests, formerly anthropized, but left abandoned for 7 years. Thus, the rice fields formerly in activity would require a colossal work to be rehabilitated. The forests themselves are no longer maintained and nature has regained its rights in the vast majority of the territory.
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Figures 8 and 9. Destination of refugees from the village of Iitate
The lifting of benefits in April 2018 led, for most of the elderly without resources, to a forced return to a deserted region. Of the 4,934 people who sought refuge within the department, 384 of them, divided into 233 households, were housed in seven temporary housing sites that were being closed. 363 persons (174 households) were rehoused in public housing, or 8% of the total, 1,053 (550 households) are relocated to private sector housing rented by the public services, and the 49%, made up of 3,119 people in 1,060 households, is hosted by parents. 15 single people are in retirement homes.
In December 2017, a survey conducted by Professor Itonaga’s laboratory of 52 households totaling 195 people revealed the main trends in residents’ intentions regarding the return policy (Figure 10).
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Figure 10. Decisions of residents about their return and their house in Iitate.
These statistics show that of the 28.9% of households that decided to return, 11.1% of households do so to comply with the order of the administrative authorities, but 17.8% because they can not to assume their daily lives elsewhere without the help of the allowances. 20% of these households, despite the financial strain they are in, will not return, and 46.7% have not yet decided in December 2017.
The results of the multiple-choice questionnaire concerning the types of housing within the village of Iitate for the inhabitants who returned to live in the village show that while 25% of these 17 households were able to renovate their former home, 25% will preserve it in its current state, and 12.5% ​​do not plan to rebuild it, for lack of physical and / or financial means. However, most buildings were made with natural materials and therefore perishable (wood structure, tatami, etc.). Japan is under the influence of a humid sub-continental climate in summer, which results in the simultaneous recording of high heat with a very high level of humidity. A monsoon season (May-June) precedes two typhoon seasons that sweep the archipelago in June and September, producing very high rainfall and generating regular floods. All these reasons make frequent renovation of buildings necessary. These buildings, which have been vacant for seven years, are for the most part in an advanced state of disrepair. In addition, animals have reconquered these spaces long uninhabited. Houses ravaged by wild boars or cattle, come to discover the places, are not rare. We can therefore assume that in the 37.5% of households that will preserve their habitat in the current state, a good part will live in precarious and unstable conditions.
The main reason (68.9%) for which the inhabitants do not wish to return to their village is the fact of having to live without the proximity of their children and grandchildren who, as for them, will not return.
A significant part of the former inhabitants justifies their decision of no return by the refusal to live in a territory where mountains and forests are still contaminated (64.4%). Forests covering more than 70% of the town, this point is important and can not be easily resolved. The same percentage of people (about 65%) are reluctant to return because of the renewal of nature on the village. Among other things, there is the overabundance of wild animals that have regained their rights over these territories [4].
For 62.2% of them, the absence of shops, hospitals and other daily services are at the origin of their decision of no return.
53.3% believe that the level of ambient radioactivity is still too high to consider returning to live in their village. 51.1% mention the impossibility of having an agricultural activity, 51.1% are worried about future health effects. A similarly large number of inhabitants, 46.7% will not return because of the presence of sacks of contaminated soil strewn on the territory of the municipality. Secondary reasons (below 40%) relate to the inability to consume mushrooms and other mountain plants, the absence of neighbors and the breakdown of community links. For some residents of Iitate, it’s simply “inhuman to get people to find that” (McNeill & Matsumoto, 2017).
4. What are the inhabitants’ demands?
The question of whether the government or TEPCO took responsibility for the accident led the residents to form associations to defend their rights in court. Nevertheless, these approaches are parallel and do not respond to situations of resettlement forced by the authorities. We list below some points regularly mentioned by the inhabitants during our field surveys:
it would be desirable for the authorities to recognize the difficulty of maintaining the right of residence in municipalities where the rate of contamination remains high due to “long-term industrial pollution”. Thus, for the inhabitants who wish to return, allowances should be put in place in order to allow the renovation of their habitat, as well as the decontamination works which are imposed at regular rate.
a constant and free health monitoring of the re-entrant populations
frequent radioactivity measurements, not only atmospheric, but also plants and other consumer products.
for those who decide to live outside the municipality: help and support should be established to ensure, if not possession, in any case the rental of a secure property in the place as well as job search support for people of working age. For people who are no longer able to work, a grant must be awarded to them to enable them to support their daily lives.
the problems relating to simultaneous membership of two separate communes due to the duplication of the place of settlement also remain to be resolved. This generates questions relating to the payment of local taxes, the right to vote as well as various everyday documents (driver’s license, administrative point of attachment for any employment procedure, etc.).
a recurring problem is the presence of radioactive waste in the territory that participates in maintaining a high level of ambient radioactivity. The need to create adapted legislative rules recognizing the damage caused by the obligation to live in a territory affected by an industrial disaster and to obtain the appropriate compensation.
Conclusion
The removal of the evacuation order in the contaminated areas of Fukushima prefecture plunges the population into the deepest disarray. The impossible choices that the inhabitants have been facing for seven years now lead them too many times to turn to the ultimate exit: suicide.
On March 3, 2018, the local newspaper, Fukushima Minpo wrote: “In the heart of the shelter, more than 2,211 people died from reasons directly attributable to the stress of the shelter.” The most affected municipalities are Minamisôma (507 people), Namie (414) Tomioka (410 people), Futaba (147 people), in other words, the communes whose population was evacuated without support for a possible reintegration in their place of residence. ‘Home. The number of deaths in question here exceeds those attributable to the natural disaster (tsunami or earthquake). Of a total of 4,040 inhabitants of Fukushima County who lost their lives for reasons directly related to the disaster, 1,605 (39.7%) people died as a result of the natural disaster and 2,211 (54.7%) because of the mismanagement of the shelter.
The suicide of these people is attributable to the stress of the forced return policies, the prolongation of the accommodation for seven years in temporary housing (whereas this period is limited to four years in the law), the maintenance in the hope of a possible return of people, often elderly, who are confronted with a deplorable reality of the environment in which they return nevertheless, for not being able to assume their life elsewhere.
On February 21, 2018 national and local newspapers dedicated theirs to the suicide of a 102-year-old man from the village of Iitate. ” Oh ! I think I lived too long, “were the last words of Mr. Okubo, a farmer of Iitate like so many others.
To complete:

 

From the same author:
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice : (2018) « L’être en son milieu, du rapport humain-objet-milieu au Japon comme ailleurs sur la planète », Libération, 11 juin 2018,
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2017) “Atomic Fission and Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown: When politics prevails over scientific proof”, in Christophe Thouny and Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto (eds.), Planetary Atmospheres and Urban Society After Fukushima, Palgrave McMillian.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice, « Les migrants du nucléaire », Géoconfluences, octobre 2017.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2016). La mémoire de l’oubli, une forme de résistance à la résilience, publication des actes du colloque « Après le désastre, réponses commémoratives et culturelles », Éditions de l’Université de Tôkyô (en français).
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2016) Franckushima, rédaction de la Préface et chapitres, Direction Géraud Bournet, L’utopiquant.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2015) « De la vulnérabilité à la résilience, réflexions sur la protection en cas de désastre extrême : Le cas de la gestion des conséquences de l’explosion d’une centrale nucléaire à Fukushima », Revue Raison Publique, no. « Au-delà du risque Care, capacités et résistance en situation de désastre », Sandra Laugier, Solange Chavel, Marie Gaille (dir.)
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2015) « À Fukushima, la population est dans une situation inextricable », CNRS Le Journal, mars 2015.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2014) « La légende Fukushima », Libération, septembre 2014.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2013) « Fukushima, une démocratie en souffrance », Revue Outre terre, mars 2013.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2012) « Les politiques publiques du logement face à la catastrophe du 11 mars », in C. Lévy, T. Ribault, numéro spécial de la revue EBISU de la Maison franco-japonaise n° 47, juin 2012.
Autres articles de l’auteure à consulter ici :

https://cnrs.academia.edu/C%C3%A9cileAsanumaBrice 

 

October 16, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

A First: Medical Data Obtained from Minami-soma Municipal General Hospital in Fukushima

Sean Arclight commenting: “Health statistics from Minamisoma Municipal General Hospital seems to prove cancers and other health issues are on the rise in Fukushima.
In Japan there are new laws to stop medical staff releasing data on health effects that may be caused by the nuclear disaster. This new controvertial law (against the supposed new open transparency purported by the nuclear industry post Fukushima disaster) was enacted in late 2013 and threatens to imprison or give huge fines to medical staff. This makes verification difficult.
These statisitcs are for a relatively small area covered by the Minamisoma General Hospital within the Fukushima Prefecture.
As we now have the statistics we can challenge the authorities to deny or confirm the figures. If they deny the figures and later it comes to light, then at least we will have someone to hold responsible and to question further. This is the best we can do with whistleblowers from Japans health workers and it is important to publish the claims as we are doing here.
There has been a long fight over health issues caused by radiation and toxicity from the destroyed nuclear plant. The authorities have constantly denied “rumours” of nosebleeds, skin rashes and childrens Thyroid cancers over the past 7 years or so. Some of these “rumours” are slowly being proven true and the nuclear industry also has co-opted the psychological effects, blaming the victims weakness and ignorance instead of the psychological effects of trauma caused by the huge industrial accident and its consequences.
A recent UN report has highlighted how corporations often play down any physical and mental health issues caused by these sorts of industrial contamination, writing off any direct links to toxicity and mental health especuially.
Another report has highlighted that micro particles (thought to be harmless until around 10 years ago) can penetrate the blood brain Barrier and we can anticipate some mental impacts from these toxins entering the very sensitive brain tissues.
The new UN report has highlighted that Fukushima decontamination workers and the local communities concerns are often ignored and should be taken into account instead.
Also, many of the workers at the plant may fall outside regular health checks into the future because of the nature of their contracts and the illegal practises of contractors that has been present in japan for many decades. Thus, skewing the actual health effects to workers toiling in such contaminated environments.”
Minamisōma is about 25 kilometres (16 miles) north of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, the site of the nuclear accident that followed the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Much of the city lies within the 30 kilometer mandated evacuation zone near the plant, and thus most of the residents were forced to leave.
In March 2012, the city was divided into three zones: in the first, people were free to go in and out but not allowed to stay overnight; in the second, access was limited to short visits; and in the third area, all entry was forbidden because of elevated radiation levels that were not expected to go down within five years after the accident.
On April 15, 2012 some of people of Minamisōma were able to return to their homes when the evacuation zone was reduced from 30 kilometers to 20 kilometers from the reactors, with the exception of a wide area on the western border of the city with the town of Namiie. At the time the evacuation order was lifted the centre of city was still scattered with ruins and lacked electricity and running water, while schools and hospitals remained closed.
On July 12, 2016 the evacuation order was lifted for all areas of the city except the western border region with Namiie; this permitted all of the remaining evacuees (with the exception of one household) to return home. In August of the same year, elementary schools and junior high schools, which has been closed since 2011, were allowed to reopen.
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The lawyer Ken’ichi IDO got these data from a member of the Minami-soma municipal council who himself obtained these data from the Minamisoma municipal hospital.
Ken’ichi IDO’s group of lawyers intend to submit the data to the court as evidence for the ongoing trial, “Trial to get the children out of the irradiation “(Kodomo datsu hibaku saiban).
We were worried that Fukushima might be a Chernobyl, which sparked health damage to residents. However, the country and Fukushima prefecture did not have a health investigation except for pediatric thyroid cancer.
At this time, Mr. Kōichi Oyama, a member of the Minami- Soma City Council, obtained data from the Minami-soma municipal general hospital.
“The shocking data came out: when year 2010 and year 2017 year were compared, there were 29 times more of adult thyroid cancer, 10.8 times more of leukemia, 4.2 times more of lung cancer, 4 times more of pediatric cancer, 3.98 times more of pneumonia, 3.97 times of myocardial infarction, 3.92 times more of liver cancer, 2.99 times more of large intestine cancer, 2.27 times more of stomach cancer, and 3.52 times more of stroke.
There is not a lot of data for sure, but it is necessary to be careful to short-circuited the entire hospital data. We should also consider the effects of closed-down medical institutions, reducing population, aging of residents, and physical fatigue and mental stress, accompanied by a tsunami or nuclear accident.
However, the number of patients in the hospital was compared, 70,878 people in fiscal year 2010, and in fiscal year 2017 they did not increase. Population over 65 years old in Minami-soma city in 2010 was 18,809, and in 2017 it was 18,452, and it has not increased.
Stress also seems to have been more serious in the early days, but the number of patients continues to be consistent for these 7 years.
We are planning to submit this evidence on the date of our oral argumentation in court (October 16) in order to raise this important medical issue.”
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Source: Ken’ichi IDO

October 13, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | 1 Comment

The Mayor of Nowhere: Former cattleman runs campaign to revitalize Namie, Fukushima

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October 5, 2018
On the last Friday in July 2018, a car with speakers mounted on the roof pulled up to the TEPCO headquarters near Hibiya Park. At a little past 5pm, the utility’s employees began streaming out of the building and, as they glided through the automatic doors, recognition flashed over their faces. As they turned toward the Shinbashi nightlife district, the office workers shot sour looks at the man in the blue-and-yellow sash, who stood in front of the car.
“You should take responsibility. How can you just walk by? You are polluting Fukushima’s waters,” he yelled into a microphone, blasting the company for its actions since the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Masami Yoshizawa was running for mayor of Namie, one of the seven cities, towns and villages surrounding the damaged power plant that remain under partial evacuation orders. As part of his campaign, he’d come to TEPCO to deliver a letter outlining his plans to take the company to court for damages and to demand the utility cancel plans to release tons of radiation-contaminated water into the Pacific.
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Yoshizawa had spoken in front of the headquarters before. The first time was in the days following the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Back then, he’d held out as long as he could on his ranch, 14 kilometers from the power plant. Once it became clear that his herd of 328 Japanese beef cows had lost all their value — the animals had been worth over ¥450 million before they were exposed to the radiation released from the plant — he decided to go to Tokyo to make his voice heard. After driving down, he walked into the scrum of police and news vans that surrounded the TEPCO headquarters and demanded to speak with someone from the company. Though the police seized him by the arms, he didn’t give up until a representative from the utility eventually agreed to listen to his complaint.
After returning to Fukushima, he started visiting his ranch to feed his animals, unwilling to let them starve. Eventually, he decided to ignore the mandatory evacuation order and began living on his land again. In his youth, he’d been part of the Japanese student movement and this experience informed him as he poured his energy into the anti-nuclear campaign: he hauled his irradiated cattle down to the Ministry of Agriculture and made impassioned speeches in Shibuya and Sendai, attempting to raise awareness of the plight of farmers and ranchers around Fukushima Daiichi. His land, which he renamed the Ranch of Hope, became a hub for activists and environmentally-minded volunteers, who came to support him and help take care of the cows.
Then in June of this year, Tamotsu Baba, Namie’s three-term mayor, resigned. He had stomach cancer and, two weeks after stepping down, he passed away in a hospital in Fukushima City. A special election was scheduled for August 5 and Yoshizawa declared his intention to run.
He withdrew his membership from the Japanese Communist Party and created his own group, the Organization for a Hopeful Namie, though his politics retained a radical tinge. He promised to force TEPCO to increase damage payments by 50 percent and to support local farmers by using the town’s contaminated fields to grow rice for use in ethanol. He railed against the Abe administration’s plan to hold the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and decried the sunnier visions of the recovery effort: in his view, no more than half the town’s residents would ever return. “As a town, Namie is finished,” he often said during his speech, suggesting that the population would dip below 10,000. “In the future, Namie will be a village.”
In some ways, Yoshizawa’s policy positions were less important than his stance toward the recovery effort. Of the 17,791 officially registered residents, only 777 have returned to live in the few dozen square kilometers where the evacuation order has been lifted; thus, being mayor of Namie effectively means being the leader of a town that exists mostly on paper. More than anything, the election was a way of gauging the mood of the voters, most of whom had been evacuated from their home for over seven years.
This was a point Yoshizawa stressed to the TEPCO employees, who were heading out of the office to enjoy their Premium Friday: “We can’t go home! You have houses to return to, places to work. But we can’t return to Namie. Our town is ruined, our lives are crushed.”
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The following day, Yoshizawa campaigned in his home prefecture. After the evacuation, Namie’s residents had been dispersed across the prefecture, with the bulk winding up in Fukushima City, Nihonmatsu, Koriyama and Minamisoma. Evacuees initially lived in hastily constructed temporary housing, but facing the prolonged recovery effort ahead, the prefectural government built “recovery homes” — apartments and blocks of single-family houses — and is now moving the nuclear refugees into these units.
Late in the afternoon, Yoshizawa’s car pulled up to a series of oblong three-story buildings. He stepped out, placed a plastic milk crate upside-down on the sidewalk, and stood on it as he launched into his stump speech.
Three volunteers working for his campaign watched for anyone who stepped outside to listen to him or who happened to be crossing the parking lot as he spoke. If they spotted a potential voter, the volunteers sprinted to them — even if this involved several flights of stairs — and handed them a flyer, asking for their vote.
As Yoshizawa’s rhetoric echoed through one corner of the apartment complex, a white van pulled up to the opposite corner, and a man with a bullhorn got out. Kazuhiro Yoshida had been the head of the former mayor’s support group and was Yoshizawa’s only opponent in the election. Like Yoshizawa, he was deeply tanned, with rough features and a straightforward manner. But unlike his rival, Yoshida’s message was one of continuity: the handpicked successor of the previous mayor, with connections to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, he promised to press forward with the recovery plans, such as they were. He spoke optimistically about reconstructing Namie and rebuilding a local economy based on agriculture and fishing.
Yoshida’s quasi-incumbent status was confirmed by the sparse nature of his campaign. He had no flyers or banners, not even a business card to hand out to inquiring media-types. No volunteers flanked him, and, if you removed the references to disaster and recovery, his policy proposals could’ve been meant for any struggling town in Tohoku: create a safe and secure environment, support the elderly and so on.
These contrasts were not lost on the handful of voters who spilled out of the apartment blocks to listen to campaign speeches. One former store owner in her 60s planned on voting for Yoshida, and was realistic about the future: “I think I won’t ever go back… Still, I want them to make a town where it’s easy to live again.” A middle-aged man from the coastal district of Ukedo said his vote wasn’t decided, but that the most important thing for him was stability.
Meanwhile, many of Yoshizawa’s voters were more inclined toward extremes of optimism or despair. Yoko Konno, who had owned a salon in Namie’s Gogendo district, wasn’t planning to move back, as her children had relocated and she needed to be near a hospital so she could get treatment for her heart condition: “There’s no one left in Namie.” By contrast, Shiba, the head of the residents’ association in a different public housing block, said, “I want to go back. We need to make a new plan though.”
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Yoshizawa’s volunteers were a collection of journalists, animal lovers and activists. The campaign was a kind of traveling, temporary family, and, as with any middle-class Japanese household, lunchtime was likely to find them in a family restaurant, as was the case two days before the election, when they stopped at a tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) place in a residential neighborhood of Koriyama.
Most of the team was drawn from Ranch of Hope volunteers, like Masakane Kinomura, a photographer for the Asia Press Front, who had first learned about Masami Yoshizawa and the Ranch of Hope through a fellow journalist. He pointed across the table with his chopsticks at a volunteer named Monguchi, “I was coming back from the ranch and she picked me up in her taxi in Tokyo.”
She brushed a braid of dyed red hair behind her shoulder. “When I picked him up, I thought he was just some tired middle-aged man. But then the way he talked about caring for these 300 cows. I couldn’t see his face, but I could tell he was a good person.”
Originally from Osaka, she had never volunteered until the Kumamoto earthquake damaged her grandmother’s house. After her first experience, she wanted to do more to help, but Kyushu was too far. She had always loved animals — a quality which helped her connect with pet-owning voters — and the chance to be close to the cattle led her to the Ranch of Hope.
Next to Monguchi was Ohamazaki, an outside political consultant and the only paid member of the campaign staff. With the sleeves of his dress shirt rolled up and his tie pulled away from his collar, he exuded a sense of business. “I’ve worked with the Liberal Democrats, Communists, Independents. Over 200 elections.” With his help, he believed Yoshizawa could win as many as six in ten voters, though turnout would be low. In the previous mayoral election, over half of Namie’s residents had voted, but he believed the percentage would fall in the summer’s election. “People have moved here and there, so it’ll be closer to 40 percent.”
On this point, Ohamazaki proved right, as 43 percent of residents went to the polls. However, the result of the election would fall against his client, with 80 percent of voters opting for the stability offered by Kazuhiro Yoshida. Despite all they’ve been through (or perhaps because of it) Namie’s voters weren’t interested in a new, more confrontational approach. In some ways, the story of this mayoral election in the exclusion zone, echoes one of the problems facing the Japanese political left as a whole: an inability to show voters — even those who are disenchanted with the status quo — how a narrative of resistance and change will impact their lives for the better.
In the weeks since the election, Masami Yoshizawa has returned to his ranch, where he herds his irradiated cattle over the green hills of Fukushima. Namie Town heads into its eighth year of recovery, its future suspended in uncertainty, with no end in sight.
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October 13, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Residents in Miyagi file suit to block burning of radiation-tainted waste from Fukushima nuclear disaster

Each Fukushima municipality has one incinerator ongoing (18 if I remember well), trying to reduce the volume of accumulated contaminated debris and soil by incineration,but through it continuing nanoparticles air dispersion as it is highly unprobable that those incinerators filters fully block their release..
11 oct 2018 suit against incineration Miyagi pref.
Plaintiffs hold a sign stating their opposition to the burning of radiation-tainted waste as they head to the Sendai District Court to file a lawsuit on Thursday.
Oct 11, 2018
SENDAI – Residents in Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture, filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to prevent a local public association from burning radiation-tainted waste generated by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Osaki, located about 120 kilometers north of the city of Fukushima, has been keeping some 6,000 tons of tainted grass and rice straw containing radioactive substances in excess of state standards, and the association in charge of waste disposal is scheduled to start burning it from Monday.
The residents filed the suit with the Sendai District Court in the hope of suspending the ¥21.6 million budget for the incineration, claiming the association failed to keep an agreement that it would alleviate residents’ concerns.
“The agreement was a strong message that we would protect the environment for future generations,” said 79-year-old Tadaetsu Abe, who is leading the plaintiffs. “The public administration has ignored the residents’ wishes.”
The association, called the Osaki Area Integrated Administration of a Large Region Office Work Association, declined to comment, saying it has not seen the plaintiffs’ claim.
The Fukushima No. 1 power plant, hit by a major earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, suffered three core meltdowns and spewed radioactive material into the air, contaminating wide areas of the prefecture.
The waste stored in Osaki contains radioactive substances of up to 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. Each municipality is responsible for radioactive waste disposal.
Some 170 residents opposed to the incineration requested an audit of the city’s budget on the waste disposal, but it was rejected as of Sept. 13.

October 12, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear plant owner apologizes for still-radioactive water

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TOKYO (Reuters) – The owner of the Fukushima nuclear plant, destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami more than seven years ago, said water treated at the site still contains radioactive materials that for years it has insisted had been removed.
 
Storage tanks for contaminated water are seen through a window of a building at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan, February 23, 2017.
 
The admission by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) could ruin its chances of releasing the water into the ocean, a move the nuclear regulator says is safe but which local fishermen oppose.
Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics more than five years ago, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declaring that Fukushima was “under control” in his final pitch to the International Olympic Committee.
The nearly one million tonnes of stored water at the wrecked plant, enough to fill about 500 Olympic swimming pools, still contained detectable levels of potentially harmful radioactive particles, Tepco told a government committee on Oct. 1.
Tepco apologized to the committee under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is looking into ways to dispose of the water.
A spokesman at Tepco confirmed the findings and the apology.
 
A 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami in March 2011 triggered meltdowns at three of the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s six reactors, spewing radiation into the air, soil and ocean and forcing 160,000 residents to flee, many of whom have not returned.
It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.
Hundreds of deaths have been attributed to the chaos of evacuations during the crisis and to the hardship and trauma refugees have experienced since then, but the government only last month acknowledged for the first time that one worker at the plant had died from radiation exposure.
Documents on the government committee’s website show that of 890,000 tonnes of water held at Fukushima, 750,000 tonnes, or 84 percent, contain higher concentrations of radioactive materials than legal limits allow.
In 65,000 tonnes of treated water, the levels of radioactive materials are more than 100 times government safety levels.
Radioactive readings of one of those isotopes, strontium-90, considered dangerous to human health, were detected at 600,000 becquerels per liter in some tanks, 20,000 times the legal limit.
Tepco has for years insisted that its purification processes remove strontium and 61 other radioactive elements from the contaminated water but leaves tritium, a mildly radioactive element that is difficult to separate from water.
 
Tritium is regularly released after dilution in normally operating nuclear plants.
“We will filter the water in the tanks one more time to bring the levels to below regulatory limits before release into the ocean if a decision is made to do so,” the Tepco spokesman said.
The water build-up has come about because Tepco must pour water over the three reactors to keep the melted uranium fuel at a safe temperature.
Groundwater flowing from the hills above the plant enters the reactor basements, where it mixes with highly radioactive debris. That gets pumped out and treated before being stored in tanks that are fast filling up.
And a costly “ice wall” is failing to keep groundwater from entering the basements, a Reuters analysis of the Tepco data showed earlier this year.
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The groundwater seepage has delayed Tepco’s clean-up and may undermine the entire decommissioning process.
Nearby residents, particularly fishermen, oppose ocean releases of the treated water because they fear it will keep consumers from buying Fukushima products.
Many countries, including South Korea and China, still have restrictions on produce from Fukushima and neighboring areas.

October 12, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO bungles it again in dealing with Fukushima tainted water

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Rows of tanks store water contaminated by radioactive materials at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant
 
October 9, 2018
Disturbing new revelations about increasing amounts of radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have undoubtedly further darkened the already dim prospects for solving this tricky and complicated challenge.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the nuclear plant destroyed by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, has said the filtering system to decontaminate the polluted water, known as ALPS (advanced liquid processing system), has failed to remove such radioactive elements as strontium 90 and radioactive iodine.
On Sept. 28, the utility acknowledged that about 80 percent of the water in storage tanks for ALPS-treated water on the plant premises exceeded government standards for radioactive materials.
TEPCO previously claimed that the ALPS system could remove all radioactive elements except for tritium, a mildly radioactive isotope of hydrogen.
But the fact is that of the 890,000 tons of water treated by the ALPS system and stored in the tanks, about 750,000 tons contain higher concentrations of radioactive materials than levels permitted by the safety regulations for release into the ocean.
In 65,000 tons of treated water, the levels of strontium 90 are more than 100 times the safety standards, according to TEPCO. The levels are as high as 20,000 times the standards in some tanks.
In explaining the reasons for this failure, TEPCO pointed to problems with the ALPS system shortly after it was first installed. The utility also reduced the frequency of the replacement of absorbents for removing radioactive materials to keep the system running as long as possible.
The company had long known these facts, but was less than eager to share them with the public.
TEPCO says it has disclosed the data on its website. But it is virtually impossible for an uninformed third-party information seeker to detect such problems in the massive reams of data.
The company deserves to be criticized for having deliberately concealed these inconvenient facts.
The utility reported the facts to an industry ministry subcommittee dealing with the problem of radioactive water and apologized. It appears that the company is not yet fully aware of its responsibility to solve this problem as the operator of the plant where an unprecedented nuclear accident occurred.
The ministry, for its part, should be held accountable for its failure to ensure appropriate disclosure of the information by TEPCO. The subcommittee should be faulted for concentrating its attention almost exclusively on tritium.
Tackling this formidable challenge requires debate from a broad perspective based on diverse information.
This point has been underscored afresh by the latest revelations.
The consequent radical changes in the basic assumptions concerning the problem of radioactive water have brought the process of figuring out a workable way to deal with the challenge back to square one.
TEPCO plans to treat the contaminated water with the ALPS system again to lower the levels of radioactive materials below the safety standards.
This approach, however, is expected to make the water treatment process far costlier and more time-consuming than originally expected, possibly affecting the entire project to decommission the crippled reactors at the plant.
The biggest blow comes from the serious damage the revelations have caused to TEPCO’s already strained relationship with local communities.
To build a broad consensus on how to cope with the problem, the government and the utility should work together to ensure timely and adequate information disclosure and set up opportunities for dialogue with local residents.
A system should also be created to promote a national conversation on this issue.
The tanks to store treated water is expected to be filled to capacity by around 2020, according to the government.
But no time limit should be set for debate on the problem. There is no shortcut to a solution.

October 12, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

S. Korean activists demand Japan not dump Fukushima’s radioactive water into the sea

October 8, 2018
SEOUL, Oct. 8 (Yonhap) — South Korean environmental groups on Monday urged Japan to reverse its recent decision to release radioactive water that has accumulated in the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea after treatment.
Korea Radioactive Watch, the Korean Federation For Environmental Movement and other civic groups held a joint news conference in Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul, denouncing the decision by the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. to discharge Fukushima’s contaminated water into the ocean as “unacceptable.”
 
   “A release of Fukushima’s radioactive, contaminated water will threaten the safety of the waters of South Korea and other neighboring nations that share the Pacific Ocean, as well as the waters in the vicinity of Fukushima,” the activist groups said.
 
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South Korean environmental activists hold a rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Oct. 8, 2018, to protest against Japan’s decision to release the Fukushima nuclear plant’s radioactive, contaminated water into the sea.
 
In March 2011, a major earthquake and a subsequent tsunami triggered a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
The South Korean groups went on to argue that cost reduction appears to be the main reason for Japan’s push to discharge Fukushima’s radioactive water into the sea without checking its contamination condition.
“The Japanese government should disclose all information related to Fukushima’s radioactive water and listen to the opinions of its neighboring countries about how to dispose of the contaminated water. The South Korean government should sternly protest to Japan and take aggressive countermeasures,” the groups said.
They also insisted that water contaminated by high concentrations of radioactive materials collected around the Fukushima plant buildings after the 2011 accident and that the amount is estimated to reach about 940,000 tons.

October 8, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

An insider’s perspective on Fukushima and everything that came after

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Ars chats with Naomi Hirose, who became TEPCO’s CEO after the Fukushima meltdown.
Naomi Hirose, vice chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO).
 
October 5, 2018
The meltdown of the reactors at Fukushima Daichi has changed how many people view the risks of nuclear power, causing countries around the world to revise their plans for further construction and revisit the safety regulations for existing plants. The disaster also gave the world a first-hand view of the challenges of managing accidents in the absence of a functional infrastructure and the costs when those accidents occur in a densely populated, fully developed nation.
Earlier this week, New York’s Japan Society hosted a man with a unique perspective on all of this. Naomi Hirose was an executive at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) when the meltdown occurred, and he became its CEO while he was struggling to get the recovery under control. Ars attended Hirose’s presentation and had the opportunity to interview him. Because the two discussions partly overlapped, we’ll include information from both below.
The accident and safety
During his presentation, Hirose noted that the epicenter of 2011’s Tōhoku earthquake was only 180 kilometers from Fukushima. But initially, safety protocols kicked in; called a scram, the protocols led to control rods being inserted into the reactors to shut down the nuclear reactions and bring the plant to a halt. Since this had happened previously in response to earthquakes, Hirose said people were feeling confident the situation was under control.
But the earthquake itself had damaged the power lines that fed the plant, leaving it reliant on internal power to run the cooling pumps. And the source of that power was swept away when the tsunami generated by the quake inundated all six of the reactors on the site. This left the plant unable to cool its reactors; several melted down, and the hydrogen they generated ultimately led to explosions that wrecked the buildings that housed them. Hirose suggests that these explosions were likely sparked as things shifted and fell due to aftershocks.
This has led countries around the world to tighten their rules regarding backup equipment and to re-evaluate the infrastructure they assumed would be available to help manage the accident. We also got a chance to ask Hirose about how he viewed the risks of nuclear power after this experience:
We learned that safety culture is very important. We saw that we were probably a little arrogant. We spent a huge amount of money to improve the safety of that plant before the accident. We thought that this was enough. We learned that you never think this is enough. We have to learn many things from all over the world. 9/11 could be some lessons for nuclear power stations—it’s not just nuclear accidents in other countries, everything could be a lesson.
So we learn: “Do not stop improving the safety.” This is a technical matter, a scientific matter, and we can make these risks as small as possible.
Re-establishing control
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, what had gone wrong in some of the reactors wasn’t even clear; contaminated groundwater was a massive issue, and a substantial exclusion zone forced the evacuation of thousands of residents nearby. Just to do anything on the site required huge amounts of safety gear.
“[In the] first several years, we didn’t have a really clear plan, because it’s troubleshooting,” Hirose told Ars. “Many, many things took place, so we had to settle down these things. Now the condition of the plant is very stable.”
With the stability, one of the first steps chosen was to remove spent fuel, which was stored in elevated tanks in the reactor buildings. Reactor four shut down when the earthquake struck, and more than 1,500 fuel rods have since been safely removed. At reactor three, rubble covering the spent fuel pool has been cleared, and a new roof incorporating a crane has been built, paving the way to remove the spent fuel there.
But the melted-down reactors pose a much larger challenge. “We don’t know exactly the condition of the debris, so we developed several different types of robotics and let them go into the reactor building,” Hirose told Ars. “Now the robotics are taking movies, collecting all the data—temperature, radioactivity. Now we are planning how to attack, how to go to those debris. So maybe it takes a few more years; it depends on analyzing the situation.”
Meanwhile, decontamination work and time have reduced the onsite risk so that workers only need to wear exposure-tracking badges. The area of the exclusion zone with above-background radiation levels has also shrunk considerably.
“There are only two towns left in the evacuation zone—it’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller,” Hirose said during our interview. “Even those two towns—they are planning to develop a new city hall, new spaces for commercial [activity]. Since it’s been 7.5 years already, all the people will not come back. Kids start going to school in the places they went. Each has different situations. But we’d like to have those towns available for everybody. Still, those two towns are prohibited to come back, but we’d like to have that situation cleared.”
Bearing the costs
None of this comes cheaply. When we were discussing risks, Hirose acknowledged, “Once there is a serious accident, the costs of these things is enormous. And we understood that, and everybody realized that.”
But who carries that cost? In the US, the government steps in once costs exceed $12.6 billion. That’s not the case for TEPCO. “Japanese law—it’s called nuclear damage compensation law—clarified that no matter what the size of the damages, it’s singly the nuclear operator that has all the responsibility without fault. So even if we did [make any] mistake, the operator has to pay. The Price-Anderson Act in the US stipulates the limit in the damage. Maybe we need that kind of limit. It’s been discussed in Japan, and it’s a really difficult point.”
(“I mean, we had the accident, so maybe we shouldn’t say anything about this,” he said at this point.)
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, this pushed TEPCO’s finances to a very bad place. Once the site stabilized, so did the costs, but they remain enormous. During his public discussion, Hirose said that they’re running at about $5 billion a year, and that’s expected to continue for 30 years. “We’ve made enough for the past three years, but we have to do it for 27 more,” Hirose told the audience. That will fundamentally limit the actions the company can take for the next several decades.
Japan’s future
What’s that energy economy going to look like? Prior to Fukushima, Hirose was a big advocate of increasing electrification of energy use. He brought that up in our discussion as well.
Electrification definitely will expand—like electric vehicles and heat-pump technology. Those things are much, much more efficient compared to combustion engines or conventional heating systems. Electric vehicles are very efficient, so they don’t use a lot of electricity. Based on our calculations, even if all the automobiles turn into electric vehicles in the Tokyo area, our demand for electricity only goes up 15 percent or so. So it’s not a big, big potential transition.
And still, the total energy consumption would decline very, very much, because we don’t use any gasoline. And if that electricity is provided by renewables or nuclear, carbon dioxide would decrease dramatically. I think electrification is one of the things that will decrease the total demand for energy. It’s just how to generate that amount of electricity, which depends on if it’s nuclear, solar, wind… Electrification and decarbonization are the two key things.
Any increased demand due to electrification, however, will take place against a general decline in energy use in Japan. While already a very efficient society, the Japanese managed to curtail energy use even further as all of the country’s nuclear plants were shut down in the wake of Fukushima. “Have you been to Tokyo? Shops are very bright, very, um, shining with lights. It’s gorgeous—maybe you need sunglasses,” Hirose suggested. “But people started thinking that maybe that was too much.”
Critically, what might have been temporary measures have produced what appear to be permanent changes. “The consumption of electricity has not come back yet,” Hirose told Ars. “Maybe it never will, because the population of Japan is declining. I don’t know if in the long term the demand for electricity goes up.”
Still, the country will need to continue to produce electricity while decarbonizing its grid to meet international agreements. And the government’s plans for doing so include continued use of nuclear power. “The Japanese government set a target: 20-22 percent is generated by nuclear in 2030,” Hirose said. “In order to keep this number, we need to develop new nuclear power. So far, all the electric power companies and operators focus on the restart of the already existing nuclear power plants. Everybody is not in the mood to build a new one, because they are busy handling the restart of the existing plants.”
If the new plants are ever built, Japan will get the chance to see if it can avoid the massive cost overruns that have plagued projects elsewhere.
But that’s a very large if, and during Hirose’s presentation, an audience member pointed out that more than 60 percent of the Japanese population would like to see the country eliminate nuclear power. Other low-carbon sources, however, face significant hurdles in Japan. “Solar is very popular. Wind is possible, particularly offshore wind. But the Japanese Sea suddenly becomes deep, so it’s not like Northern Europe,” Hirose told Ars. “It’s a little technically difficult. Geothermal is very possible. Unfortunately, all the possible places are in national parks or hot-spring towns, so there aren’t many good places. But technically, it’s possible.”
All of which leaves Japan’s long-term energy future unsettled. But, in the immediate future, attention will remain on the restart of the existing nuclear power plants and the identification of the melted fuel on the floor of the remaining reactors.

October 8, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

South Korean Prime Minister Expresses Concern about Tokyo’s Plan to Release Fukushima Nuclear Plant Radioactive Water

PM Lee calls for prudent decision by Japan on water from Fukushima plant

Seoul’s Prime Minister expressed serious concerns over reports that Japan is planning to dump water into the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear power plant which was badly damaged seven years ago.
In Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Lee Nak-yon noted that 80 percent of the water from the plant has been deemed by the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, to be too contaminated to be released.
However, TEPCO adds, the water has been treated.
The PM urged Japan to make a prudent decision, and instructed the relevant South Korean ministries to convey the government’s position on the matter.
He stressed the ocean does not belong to any one country, but a resource to be shared by the world, and that dumping such water would have a big impact on the marine environment.
 

Seoul to Express Concern over Tokyo’s Plan to Release Fukushima Plant Water

South Korea plans to deliver its concern over media reports the Japanese government is mulling releasing treated water from a nuclear plant damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
An official of Seoul’s Foreign Ministry revealed the plan to reporters on Tuesday, saying that given the influences of radiation-related issues and public sensitivity to them, it’s a legitimate concern for South Korea as a neighboring country.
The official said the government will seize a proper opportunity to deliver its concern to the Japanese government and seek cooperation to address the issue.
The move comes after reports emerged that the Japanese government might release water at one of the Fukushima nuclear power plants after purifying it. However, the Japanese media reported more than 80 percent of the purified water still contains radioactive elements.

October 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

WATCH OUT: Japan is pushing exports of its Fukushima ‘s radiation contaminated sake to other countries

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Free Fukushima “sake” tasting events in NYC.

Japan’s No.1 Sake Fukushima
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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).
 
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Fukushima Trade Promotion Council
Organizer of Japan’s No.1 Fukushima SAKE –Free Tasting
USA Inquiries
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Office: 103 Second Avenue, Suite 2D New York, NY 10003 USA
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According to the following article (of Dec. 2017), “the United States topped the list of export destinations (of Fukushima sake) with 76.9 kl, accounting for 48% of the total, followed by Canada with 10.6 kl (7%) and Hong Kong with 9.4 kl (6%).” http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=871

October 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 1 Comment

Fukushima Daiichi’s “treated” liquid waste too radioactive to be dumped into the Pacific ocean

They have lied for all those years years to the people from who they needed the permission before any dumping ( fishermen associations, local government, etc.) that all radionuclides had been filtered out, that it was only tritiated water. We have to wonder what is forcing them suddenly to admit this.

The Associated Press reported from a TEPCO press conference held late last week that treated water TEPCO has been trying to dump in the Pacific ocean is not safe to dump.
“much of the radioactive water stored at the plant isn’t clean enough and needs further treatment if it is to be released into the ocean.”
“TEPCO said Friday that studies found the water still contains other elements, including radioactive iodine, cesium and strontium. It said more than 80 percent of the 900,000 tons of water stored in large, densely packed tanks contains radioactivity exceeding limits for release into the environment.”
There is no transparent system of accountability for this stored water. Reporting of the levels of contamination and what isotopes are in what types of stored water are almost non existent.

Fukushima cooling water too radioactive to release

Tokyo Electric Power Company has admitted that much of the water stored at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had not been treated completely enough for release into the environment.
How to dispose of an ever-increasing amount of radioactive water at the plant is a big issue. The contaminated water is generated daily in the process of cooling the damaged reactors.
Before being stored in tanks at the plant, the water undergoes treatment that is supposed to get rid of all radioactive substances but tritium. Tritium is difficult to remove.
One of the disposal ideas is to release the water still containing tritium into the sea.
But many at a public hearing in August opposed to the plan. Some people pointed that the water in question also contains other radioactive elements.
At a meeting of experts in Tokyo on Monday, the utility officials reported that as of August, there was 890,000 tons of such water at the plant.
They said they suspect that more than 80 percent of the water contained not only tritium but also other radioactive substances, such as iodine and strontium, and that their levels exceeded the limits for release into the environment.
A senior Tokyo Electric official apologized, saying his company was too focused on the issue of tritium and failed to provide a full explanation.

October 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment