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Contractors siphoned 1.6 million yen off pay of Vietnamese trainees sent to Fukushima

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TOKYO — Construction firms skimmed roughly 1.6 million yen off the danger allowances of three Vietnamese technical trainees they sent to do cleanup work in the Fukushima nuclear disaster area over a period of seven months, the Environment Ministry announced on April 12.
The ministry punished four firms over the finding, including the construction firm “Creation” in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, and a prime contractor. The firms were suspended from participating in bidding for public projects for one month from April 13.
According to the Environment Ministry, Creation skimmed up to 4,600 yen per day off trainees’ danger allowances from September to December 2016, and March to May 2017, when they were working at home demolition sites in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture.
(Japanese original by Kazuhiro Igarashi, Science & Environment News Department)
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April 16, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima doctor visits elderly patients dressed as period drama characters

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Hiroaki Shinmura is seen dressed as Zenigata Heiji, a period drama character, visiting the home of a 91-year-old patient in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 8, 2018. A nurse, right, is also wearing a period costume.
 
IWAKI, Fukushima — A hospital director here has taken to visiting elderly patients dressed as period drama characters in an attempt to cheer them up.
Hiroaki Shinmura, 50, head of Tokiwakai Joban Hospital, tends to dress as the Zenigata Heiji character, an Edo-period policeman, when he makes his visits, but is happy to switch to other characters such as Toyama no Kin-san and Mito Komon in response to patients’ requests.
Female nurses also dress up and accompany Shinmura, as he tries to fulfill his dream of creating a community in which “elderly people would like to live.”
The prefectural city of Iwaki was heavily affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. In the aftermath of the disaster, water and electricity at Joban Hospital stopped running, putting the hospital under immense pressure. The number of dialysis patients at the hospital, which was about 700, was the largest in Fukushima Prefecture at the time.
A few years later, around 2015, Shinmura kicked off his costumed home visits, which he conducts once a month.
In one of his more recent visits, he went to the Iwaki home of a woman in her 80s, dressed as Zenigata Heiji and carrying the appropriate props — bringing a smile to the woman’s face as she greeted him at the door.
“How’s your condition?” Shinmura asked the woman. “The color of your face is healthy,” he told the woman’s husband, who jokingly replied, “The afterlife is full up. Apparently they don’t want us yet,” adding, “Your visits somehow manage to cheer us up.”
In the aftermath of 3.11, it became impossible to provide dialysis to patients at Joban Hospital, each of whom required the treatment three times a week. Shinmura took action and asked the Fukushima Prefectural Government as well as medical institutions across the prefecture to help out. However, the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster had put the entire prefecture in a state of confusion, prompting Shinmura to seek help in other prefectures. In the end, institutions and local governments in Tokyo, Chiba and Niigata prefectures accepted the dialysis patients and their relatives, and all the patients were saved.
The sight of the relieved patients was a turning point in Shinmura’s life. “I came to realize that life is transient and that infrastructure, which I previously considered to be very robust, is in fact fragile. It made me think that if there’s anything that can be done now, I should do it immediately.”
In late March 2011, Shinmura returned to Joban Hospital and examined a considerable number of patients including those who had evacuated from their homes following the power plant disaster. He noticed that there was a sadness and lack of vitality in the patients’ expressions. The number of patients with mobility issues increased, perhaps due to a reluctance to venture outside because of radiation fears, raising demand for home visits.
However, he noticed that visiting patients’ homes in white coats was not conducive to frank conversation, because it felt like they were at the hospital. Then one day, Shinmura had a “eureka” moment. He appeared in a period costume for an event for inpatients, who seemed delighted by the sight, and Shinmura slapped his knee, saying, “This is it!”
The realization prompted him to purchase kimonos, wigs and props from a firm specializing in stage costumes. He then got into character and discovered that visiting elderly patients’ homes dressed as Zenigata Heiji put the patients at ease and led to them talking about events in their daily lives. It also helped Shinmura understand his patients’ concerns, joys and lifestyle habits.
Around New Year’s, Shinmura tends to dress as the god of wealth, Daikokusama. When plum flowers blossom, he goes for Mito Komon and when cherry blossoms emerge, he opts for Toyama no Kin-san. In total, there are no fewer than 50 characters in his repertoire, which includes fairytale characters such as Kintaro.
In the aftermath of the Kumamoto Earthquake, in April 2016, Shinmura sent backup staff to clinics in the city of Kumamoto, partly to repay his gratitude for the support he received for his dialysis patients after the 3.11 disaster.
Even as this interview is taking place, Shinmura is on his way to do another home visit dressed in character. “Take care,” say hospital staff members and patients with a smile, as he heads for another period drama-style visit.
(Japanese original by Shinichi Kurita, Tokyo Regional News Department)

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

Tepco Staffer Testifies in Court that Tepco Executives Put Off Tsunami Measures at Fukushima Plant

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In this March 11, 2011 photo provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co., a tsunami is seen just after striking the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant breakwater.
TEPCO staffer testifies execs put off tsunami measures at Fukushima plant
April 11, 2018
TOKYO — A Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) employee testified in court here on April 10 that company executives decided to postpone tsunami prevention measures at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant despite an assessment warning that a massive wave could hit the power station.
Three former TEPCO executives including former Vice President Sakae Muto, 67, are on trial for professional negligence causing death and injury over the Fukushima nuclear crisis triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The TEPCO employee’s statements at the trial’s fifth hearing were in line with the arguments of the court-appointed attorney acting for the prosecution.
Since 2007, the male employee had been part of an internal assessment group tasked with estimating the maximum height of tsunami which could strike the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The group commissioned a TEPCO-affiliated company to estimate the size of potential tsunami, based on a long-term assessment made by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion that a massive wave could be generated by a quake in the Japan Trench, including off Fukushima Prefecture. In 2008, the TEPCO subsidiary reported that tsunami as tall as 15.7 meters could hit the plant.
In the trial, the employee stated, “I thought that TEPCO should take the assessment into consideration in taking (earthquake and tsunami) countermeasures, as the assessment was supported by prominent seismologists.” He said he was so confident that the utility would take action that he emailed another working group at the company, “There will definitely be major renovations at the Fukushima No. 1 and other plants.”
When the employee reported the assessment result to Muto, the then vice president gave him instructions that could be interpreted as an order to prepare to build a levee. However, the employee testified that Muto later shifted policy and called for an investigation into whether the long-term tsunami risk assessment is correct rather than taking tsunami countermeasures.
“I thought they (TEPCO) would consider taking tsunami prevention measures, but they changed policy unexpectedly and I lost heart,” the employee told the court.
Along with Muto, former TEPCO President Tsunehisa Katsumata and Vice President Ichiro Takekuro were slapped with mandatory indictments in February 2016 after a decision by the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution. Since the trial’s first public hearing, the court-appointed lawyers for the prosecution have claimed that the executives put off tsunami countermeasures even though TEPCO staff tasked with estimating the maximum height of tsunami that could strike the Fukushima plant endeavored to address the threat. The defendants have argued that they did not put off the countermeasures.
(Japanese original by Ebo Ishiyama, City News Department, and Ei Okada, Science & Environment News Department)
 
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The 2011 tsunami damaged pumps at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
TEPCO worker: Boss scrapped tsunami wall for Fukushima plant
April 11, 2018
An employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co. testified in court that his boss abruptly ended preparations in 2008 to build a seawall to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant from a towering tsunami.
“It was unexpected,” the employee said of former TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto’s instructions during a hearing at the Tokyo District Court on April 10. “I was so disheartened that I have no recollection of what followed afterward at the meeting.”
Muto, 67, was deputy chief of the company’s nuclear power and plant siting division at the time.
He, along with Tsunehisa Katsumata, former TEPCO chairman, and Ichiro Takekuro, former TEPCO vice president, are now standing trial on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
To prove negligence, prosecutors are trying to show that the top executives could have predicted the size of the tsunami that swamped the plant on March 11, 2011, resulting in the most serious nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The employee was a member of a team tasked with compiling steps against tsunami at the earthquake countermeasures center that the utility set up in November 2007.
He reported directly to Muto.
According to the employee, TEPCO was considering additional safeguards on the instructions of the then Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency for all nuclear plant operators to review their anti-earthquake measures.
The group weighed its options based on a long-term assessment of the probability of major earthquakes released by the science ministry’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002.
The assessment pointed out that Fukushima Prefecture could be hit by a major tsunami.
Some experts were skeptical about the assessment, given that there were no archives showing a towering tsunami ever striking the area.
But the employee told the court, “Members of the group reached a consensus that we should incorporate the long-term assessment” in devising countermeasures.
The group asked a TEPCO subsidiary to conduct a study on the maximum height of a tsunami on the basis of the assessment.
The subsidiary in March 2008 informed the group that a tsunami of “a maximum 15.7 meters” could hit the Fukushima plant.
The group reported that number to Muto in June that year.
Based on Muto’s instructions, the group studied procedures on obtaining a permit to build a seawall to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, according to the employee.
But in July, Muto, without giving an explanation, told the group at a meeting that TEPCO will not adopt the 15.7-meter estimate, the employee said.
He said Muto’s decision stunned group members who had believed the company was moving to reinforce the plant.
The tsunami that caused the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant reached 15.5 meters.
But Muto and the two others on trial have pleaded not guilty, arguing that the 15.7-meter prediction was “nothing more than one estimate.”
Why the TEPCO management dropped the tsunami prediction will be the focus of future hearings.
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 three should be indicted.
Their trial began in June last year. Lawyers are acting as prosecutors in the case.
(This story was compiled from reports by Mikiharu Sugiura, Takuya Kitazawa and Senior Staff Writer Eisuke Sasaki.)

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

Soil contamination data of East Japan.

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Everybody’s data site has examined each data collected by citizens all over Eastern Japan making efforts to verify each given data by taking measures over and over again, so as to publish reliable and verified soil contamination measures, thus revealing the country’s real radiation hidden numbers.
Http://data.minnanods.net/maps/zoommap/

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

Korea Appeals World Trade Organization Ruling on Imports from Fukushima

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Korea Appeals WTO Ruling on Imports from Fukushima
April 10, 2018
The government has appealed a World Trade Organization ruling that accused Korea of violating trade regulations by banning imports of seafood from Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture, which was the site of a massive nuclear power plant meltdown in 2011.
“The nuclear fallout persists in Japan, and the ruling is problematic since it’s our job to make sure the food Koreans eat is safe,” a government spokesman said Monday.
In February of this year, the WTO ruled in favor of Japan, which has demanded Korea lift the ban.
Korea banned imports from the region in 2011, just after a massive earthquake there resulted in the nuclear meltdown. Japan sued Korea at the WTO in 2015.
South Korea appeals WTO ruling against import ban on Japanese seafood
April 10, 2018
South Korea has appealed a World Trade Organization ruling against its restrictions on the import of seafood from eight Japanese prefectures following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The government had earlier vowed to fight the ruling to safeguard public health and safety while keeping the ban in place. Seoul announced its appeal on Monday.
 
In the ruling, announced Feb. 22, the WTO’s dispute settlement panel said the ban was inconsistent with the global trade body’s rules against “arbitrarily or unjustifiably” discriminating against another country, recommending that South Korea take corrective action.
The panel also said a South Korean requirement that Japanese exporters of all marine products submit certificates of inspection if small amounts of radioactive cesium or iodine are detected is an effective barrier to fair trade.
The decision came more than two years after Japan filed a complaint in 2015 over the South Korean ban, claiming it was not based on scientific grounds.
In Tokyo, fisheries minister Ken Saito expressed regret on Tuesday over South Korea’s appeal, telling a news conference it was “extremely regrettable.”
He also said Japan will properly address the matter so that its claims will be accepted by the WTO’s appellate body. In addition, Tokyo will urge Seoul to swiftly lift the ban, Saito said.
Following the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, South Korea initially imposed a partial ban on imports of marine products from the eight prefectures due to fears of radioactive contamination.
In September 2013, Seoul expanded the restrictions to bar all fishery products from the eight prefectures and strengthened import regulations.
The eight prefectures are Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba.

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima export ban maintained by Hong Kong

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April 10, 2018
Seven years after a tsunami wiped out the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, causing widespread radiation contamination in a largely agricultural region, the Fukushima prefecture continues to struggle in getting crucial overseas markets to accept its produce.
This is despite a charm offensive that saw japanese foreign minister Taro Kono visiting Hong-Kong last weekend for the first time in 21 years to lobby chief executive Carrie Lam to lift a ban on imports from Fukushima and its surrounding region.
Hong-Kong which accounts for a quarter of Japan’s food export trade, is among the 55 countries that have blocked shipments from Fukushima since the 2011 disaster.
Facing resistance
The trip did not go the way Tokyo planned, with Lam expressing her reluctance to reopen trade.
“She emphasized that it is incumbent upon the government to safeguard public health and hence effective measures must be in place to ensure food safety and to maintain public confidence,” a statement issued by Lam’s office read.
The visit came shortly after South Korea announced it would maintain a blanket ban on imports from north-eastern Japan, even though the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled this as “arbitrary and unjustifiable” discriminatory measures.
Korea’s trade ministry stated in March that it would appeal the WTO decision, which is equivalent to a court ruling.
“Despite this ruling, the current import ban will remain in force, and the government will make its utmost efforts to ensure radiation-contaminated food does not reach the dinner table,” it said in a strongly-worded statement, ahead of a likely appeal.
Radiation safe?
Meanwhile a Fukushima flatfish festival in Bangkok was forced to cancel amid pressure from consumer goods watchdogs over radioactive contamination.
According to japanese officials, food from the affected area is safe, with no radiation having been detected in rice since 2015. In January, a safety panel announced that contamination inspections would be phased out in favor of random spot checks, to bring rice in line with the current procedure for fruits and vegetables.
This position is backed up by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, whose director-general publicly ate sweets made from pears and apples grown in Fukushima at an event in Tokyo last May to publicize the safety of produce in the affected area.
“We don’t see any reason to raise concern about the safety of food,” Jose Graziano Da Silva said at the time.
Just a year after the nuclear incident japanese authorities began adopting the strictest radiation standards of any country in the world by lowering the accepted level of contamination by half.
But persuading prime export markets that Fukushima food is safe is proving to be tremendously difficult.

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Study: Interest on TEPCO loans to cost taxpayers 218 billion yen

“An estimated 218.2 billion yen ($2.06 billion) of taxpayers’ money will be needed to cover the interest on loans extended to Tokyo Electric Power Co. to deal with the Fukushima nuclear disaster.”
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April 10, 2018
An estimated 218.2 billion yen ($2.06 billion) of taxpayers’ money will be needed to cover the interest on loans extended to Tokyo Electric Power Co. to deal with the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The Board of Audit said TEPCO will require a maximum of 34 years to pay off loans totaling 13.5 trillion yen that were provided by financial institutions through the government.
The prediction was made based on an interest rate of 0.1 percent, but the rate could rise.
“The financial burden might increase,” a Board of Audit official said.
The government borrows funds from financial institutions and provides them to TEPCO effectively as interest-free loans via the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. Through the arrangement, the utility can pay compensation to evacuees of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and cover costs for decontamination and other procedures.
The ceiling for those funds was 9 trillion yen in 2013, but the limit was raised to 13.5 trillion yen by 2016.
Profits from TEPCO’s sales of its shares, as well as electricity fees collected by power companies across Japan, will be used to pay back the huge debt. But all interest payments will be covered with taxpayers’ money when the government repays the loans.
The Board of Audit estimates the TEPCO shares will be sold over a period from 19 to 34 years.
If the stock price rises, the loans will be repaid earlier, but a lower share price could lead to a delay in repayment.
During the repayment period, the government will have to pay 143.9 billion yen to 218.2 billion yen in interest, according to the forecast.
Another prediction put the amount of interest between 131.8 billion yen and 202.0 billion yen.
The Board of Audit in 2015 estimated the interest would total 126.4 billion yen.

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Loading of fuel assemblies begins at Oi plant’s No. 4 reactor

The No. 4 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture is due to be restarted in mid-May.
Kansai Electric Power Co. has started work to load nuclear fuel into reactor 4 at its Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.
The operation, which started Sunday, to place 193 uranium fuel assemblies in the reactor is to be completed by Wednesday. Kansai Electric aims to restart the reactor sometime in mid-May.
According to the company, the fuel-loading work started at 10 a.m. using a crane and containers. The operation will continue around the clock.
Reactors 3 and 4 at the Oi plant cleared Nuclear Regulation Authority screenings last year under strict new standards introduced after the March 2011 crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Preparations have been underway to bring the Oi facility’s reactor 3, which was reactivated March 14, into commercial operations mode. Unless any problems are detected in an NRA inspection, the reactor will start commercial operations as early as Tuesday.

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Japan is the ideal country for nuclear plants…

A series of earthquakes, including a M6.1 intense one, hit Shimane, the prefecture holds 3 reactors in Shimane Nuclear Power Plant.
Dear friends (especially non-Japanese folks) can you imagine the life like that shivers always run through your body when you experience, or even just hear an earthquake? Because you know every single jolt possibly cause meltdown in some of 53 reactors scattered around all over your country??
But simple facts: the pro-nuke masses, politicians and enterprises are all majorities here, and remaining reactors are ready to restart in few years.
And FYI, 30% of the major earthquakes in the world happen in the Japanese Archipelago.
Lately a remarkable number of tourists (approx. 3 times larger than 2010) are visiting Japan, and the government and the JP media welcome this phenomena as ‘inbound prosperity.’ And the Olympics is coming in 2020.
Everyone is welcome to come to Japan, but I kindly (and sarcastically) recommend you to prepare yourself with a gas mask, and some potassium Iodide tablets if you dare to visit this shaking islands.
 
April 9, 2018
M6.1 quake hits western Japan’s Shimane, 5 injured
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A collapsed torii gate of Karita Shrine is blocking a street in Oda, Shimane Prefecture, on April 9, 2018.
 
TOKYO (Kyodo) — A magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit the western Japanese prefecture of Shimane early Monday, injuring five people, while also causing a partial blackout and disrupting water supply in the hardest-hit city of Oda.
The quake occurred at 1:32 a.m. at a depth of 12 kilometers, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. It registered upper 5 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7.
Four people were injured in Oda including a 17-year-old boy who fell from his bed at home, local officials said. A woman in her 70s in the adjacent city of Izumo injured her leg, also after falling from her bed.
Some 100 households lost tap water and 50 households electricity in Oda. A Self-Defense Forces unit has been dispatched to assist in water supply to the area based on a request by the prefectural government.
Damage to some buildings and cracks in roads were also confirmed. In Oda, an entrance gate at a Shinto shrine was destroyed and homes were damaged, forcing more than 100 people to evacuate at one point.
No abnormalities were found at the Shimane nuclear power plant, its operator Chugoku Electric Power Co. said.
Isamu Yamashita, an 81-year-old man who evacuated to an elementary school in Oda, said, “When the quake hit, I couldn’t stand on my own and had to hold on to a column. I still cannot return home because I am scared of possible aftershocks.”
A hospital in the city was forced to stop most of its outpatient services after a pipe in a water storage tank was damaged. The hospital received emergency water supply from the city to serve its inpatients.
West Japan Railway Co. halted some express trains in the region but road traffic was unaffected, according to the Japan Road Traffic Information Center.
In Shimane, a magnitude 5.1 quake struck in 1963 just two hours before a magnitude 5.0 quake hit some 10 to 20 km from the epicenter of the latest quake.
 
 
Earthquake cracks streets, leaves 5 injured in Japan
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This photo released by the Shimane Nichinichi Shimbun via Jiji Press on April 9, 2018 shows the tarmac along a street damaged by a earthquake in the city of Ohda, Shimane prefecture.
 
TOKYO — A strong earthquake hit western Japan early Monday, cracking streets, cutting water and power to a number of homes and injuring five people. The Meteorological Agency said the magnitude 6.1 quake struck 7 miles underground near Ohda city, about 480 miles west of Tokyo.
 
Five people sustained injuries, but most of them were minor and not life-threatening, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.
 
The quake also rattled nearby Izumo, home to one of Japan’s most important Shinto shrines. No damage was reported at the shrine.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said roads were cracked in some locations, while more than 1,000 households lost water supplies and dozens of homes were without electricity.
 
Local officials said dozens of trains in the region were delayed or suspended.
 
There was no danger of a tsunami.

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Naoto Kan gets a closeup view of nuclear France

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The former Japanese PM visits Flamanville and La Hague, and draws 400 locals to an inspiring evening event in Normandy, France
April 8, 2018 By Linda Pentz Gunter
Most of the time you don’t see former leaders of major world powers trudging along windy clifftops as they listen to anti-nuclear activists hold forth. That is why I find the odyssey of former Japanese Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, ever more extraordinary. For a handful of years now he has been traveling around the world speaking out in favor of an end to the use of nuclear power. And he has been talking to us.
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Naoto Kan visits a windswept Normandy beach from which you can see the Flamanville nuclear site as well as the La Hague reprocessing facility.
Kan of course was the Prime Minister in power at the time of the Fukushima nuclear disaster which struck on March 11, 2011. For all the mistakes and naiveté swirling at the time, Kan made one monumentally important decision. He picked up the phone and countermanded Tepco’s decision to pull its workforce out of the stricken Fukushim-Daiichi nuclear site.
 
That saved countless lives and likely the entire country. Untended, the reactors would have melted down and released a radioactive inventory that would have forced the abandonment of the neighboring Fukushima-Daiini nuclear plant. That in turn would have melted and the resulting cascading accident could have led to the evacuation of Tokyo. As Kan says in every speech, losing Tokyo would have been the end of Japan.
 
Unlike many such statesmen, however, Kan does not limit his addresses to august institutions. He gets down in the weeds with the grassroots. And perhaps never before as much so as during his mid-March visit to France.
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Naoto Kan is interviewed during his visit with anti-nuclear activists in Flamanville, France.
Kan was in Normandy, France at the same time that its president, Emmanuel Macron, was promoting his country’s deeply flawed EPR reactors in India, an irony that was not lost on his audience. His visit was hosted by two of the leading anti-nuclear organizations in the region — CRILAN and Collectif anti-nucléaire Ouest.
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Naoto Kan with CRILAN’s Didier Anger, one of France’s best known anti-nuclear activists.
Kan came right to Flamanville, the site of the French “flagship” EPR, the very one Macron was flogging in India. Flamanville 3, now fast approaching hot testing, has become a disaster of epic proportions in which nothing has gone right, from a faulty concrete pour for the foundation to the flawed forging of essential safety components. It is massively over-budget and years behind schedule.
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At least 400 people packed an evening event featuring Naoto Kan.
Kan’s Normandy itinerary included a public event that drew 400 people along with a press conference. But he also walked the talk, literally, visiting the beach where the first occupations occurred against the first two Flamanville reactors; a site where activists planted granite headstones in memory of the “unknown irradiated”; and the La Hague reprocessing site. After learning about the latter, Kan vowed to campaign to stop the opening of the long in the works Rokkasho reprocessing facility in Japan.
 

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Downplaying: Hokkaido METI bureau requested changes to nuclear energy part of high school lecture

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The image on the left shows a March 2011 hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant originally used in the lecture materials, while the image on the right shows the materials after alterations had been made, adding photos of disasters from other energy sources alongside the hydrogen explosion photo.
 
SAPPORO — High-ranking officials from the local bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) requested that an assistant professor change an October 2017 lecture to high school students pointing out the dangers of nuclear power, it has been learned.
 
“We will review our operations so as not to cause misunderstandings,” stated industry minister Hiroshige Seko regarding the request by the Hokkaido Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry.
 
The lecture at Hokkaido Niseko High School in the prefectural town of Niseko was on energy issues. The school had been chosen by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, an industry ministry-affiliated body, as a model for energy education last academic year, and the lecture by Hokkaido University assistant professor Sadamu Yamagata was supported by a government grant.
 
According to multiple sources close to the matter, Yamagata sent his lecture materials to the school beforehand to be printed, and the school handed the documents over to METI’s Hokkaido bureau at the latter’s request. Two high-ranking officials from the bureau then visited Yamagata and requested that he make changes to a section of the materials explaining the dangers and costs of nuclear power, illustrated with a photo of the aftermath of a hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
 
The officials told Yamagata that this was “only one perspective” and that called it “impression manipulation.”
 
Yamagata added the statement, “natural energy is not necessarily 100 percent safe” along with a photo of a collapsed windmill, but did not comply with the request to change the section about nuclear energy.
 
“I found it uncomfortable that (the request for changes) was focused on nuclear power,” Yamagata told the Mainichi Shimbun. Hokkaido Niseko High School principal Noboru Baba said, “The lecture content was good. I don’t know if there was intrusion (by the ministry) into education.” However, residents who were aware of what had happened view the flow of events as meddling by the government in education, and the Niseko Municipal Government has held three meetings to explain the situation to locals.
Industry minister Seko told a post-Cabinet meeting news conference on April 6, “It’s common sense that the government takes responsibility for the content of an agency-commissioned program, but with the focus (by the bureau officials) only on nuclear energy, misunderstandings can arise easily.”
 
The incident comes on the heels of criticism of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for pressuring the Nagoya Municipal Board of Education by requesting a report about a lecture given by former vice minister of education Kihei Maekawa.
 
But how should the Hokkaido case be understood? The class taught by Maekawa was set up by the school and the Nagoya education board, completely independently of the central government. On the other hand, the Hokkaido case was funded by a central government grant, and Japan’s stance has so far been that funding gives related government bodies a say in how the monies are used.
 
The Hokkaido bureau’s Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Department denied intervening, telling the Mainichi, “The purpose was to show both the merits and demerits of all types of energy sources, and if the lecture had hypothetically been extremely critical of natural energy resources, the same request for alternations would have been made. If only the shortcomings of nuclear energy are presented while ignoring the benefits, that is a problem.”
 
However, experts are critical. Hokkaido University emeritus professor Yoichi Anezaki said, “The case of the education ministry requesting a report of Maekawa’s class was also problematic, but in this case with the industry ministry, which plays a key role in nuclear power policies, requesting that a section pointing out the issues with nuclear energy be changed, it’s an intrusion into education by authority and is much worse. It’s tantamount to censorship.”
 
“The belief that just because the government provided the grant, it means that it can have its say on the content of education doesn’t make sense,” said Kyoto University of Art and Design professor and former education ministry bureaucrat Ken Terawaki. “If we allow for this, then it means that it’s fine for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Ministry of Defense the necessity of military affairs in the classroom. Intrusion into education is a serious matter.”
 

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Few return to Fukushima schools after evacuation lifted

Fourteen public elementary and junior high schools in five municipalities near the Fukushima Daiichi NPP reopened their doors in April for the first time in seven years, but only 135 youngsters showed up. The figure represents just 3 percent of the 4,000 or so children who were enrolled at 21 local schools prior to the disaster…
Those municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted refurbished school buildings and constructed new swimming pools and gymnasiums to attract more children…
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Three first-graders gather at their classroom on April 6 in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, after a ceremony welcoming them to the elementary school.
 
Near-empty classrooms marked the start of the new academic year in municipalities where evacuation orders dating from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster were recently lifted.
 
Fourteen public elementary and junior high schools in five municipalities reopened their doors in April for the first time in seven years, but only 135 youngsters showed up.
 
The figure represents just 3 percent of the 4,000 or so children who were enrolled at 21 local schools prior to the disaster.
The low return rate highlights the daunting task for officials trying to revitalize local communities, given fears that an absence of children offers only murky prospects of survival.
 
Municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted refurbished school buildings and constructed new swimming polls and gymnasiums to attract more children.
 
Schools reopened in Namie, Tomioka, Iitate and the Yamakiya district of Kawamata, where evacuation orders were lifted in spring 2017 with the exception of difficult-to-return zones, as well as in Katsurao, where most of the village was deemed safe to return to in 2016.
 
Those municipalities had set up temporary schools at locations where many residents evacuated.
 
After the lifting of the evacuation orders, the percentage of residents who have returned to their former communities range from 3.5 percent in Namie to 33.9 percent in Kawamata.
Most of the returnees are senior citizens.
 
Younger residents apparently are reluctant to return due to lingering concerns about radiation and also because many have made a fresh start in the areas where they moved to after the disaster.
 

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Contractor skimmed pay of Vietnamese trainees doing Fukushima cleanup work

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TOKYO — A construction firm siphoned off the danger allowances of Vietnamese technical trainees it sent to do cleanup work in the Fukushima nuclear disaster area, the Environment Ministry announced on April 6.
 
The firm, which assigned the technical trainees to radioactive decontamination and home demolition work, used false wage records in explaining that the allowances had been paid. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is investigating the firm for suspected violations of the Labor Standards Act.
 
The foreign trainee system is intended to bring foreign workers from developing countries to Japan to learn technical skills.
 
The Environment Ministry has confirmed that the construction firm skimmed off the trainees’ danger allowances in 2016 and 2017, when they worked at a demolition site in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture.
 
One of the trainees spoke about the pay-skimming at a news conference on March 14 this year. However, the construction firm had given Environment Ministry investigators the falsified wage records, and Environment Minister Masaharu Nakagawa stated on March 27 that the danger allowances had been paid.
 

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Arbitration ends for Fukushima damages claim

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April 6, 2018
A government body has given up trying to arbitrate between Tokyo Electric Power Company and more than 15,000 people seeking higher monthly compensation for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
 
It was the largest arbitration case involving the nuclear accident.
 
Namie Town in Fukushima Prefecture filed a petition with the Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center in 2013, on behalf of residents who were forced to evacuate after the disaster.
 
More than 15,000, or about 70 percent of the town’s population, signed the petition to demand more compensation from TEPCO, the operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
 
TEPCO’s monthly payment for each Namie resident was calculated at 100,000 yen, or about 934 dollars.
In March 2014, the dispute resolution center offered an arbitration plan that called for raising this amount by 50 percent. The town agreed to accept it.
 
But TEPCO maintains that increasing the compensation would have a significant impact on other evacuees. The center has repeatedly asked the utility to accept the plan.
 
On Friday, the dispute resolution center told the town of its decision to end the arbitration process.
 
The claimants are expected to consider whether to file a lawsuit against TEPCO. The town says more than 800 of the claimants are now dead.

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Seven years later: Contradictory responses to Fukushima

Nuclear safety is an oxymore, shut them all down!
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On March 11, 2011, the one-two punch from the Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami wave it triggered left workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan powerless to prevent three reactors from melting down. In March 2017, the Japan Center for Economic Research estimated that the cleanup cost could range from $470 billion to $658 billion.
The conclusions Japanese and U.S. institutions made about why the Fukushima facility was so vulnerable to such an accident were strikingly similar. The commission created by Japan’s National Diet concluded that its “root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions.”
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee that investigated the accident similarly concluded “that regulatory agencies were not independent and were subject to regulatory capture.” According to the NAS report, regulatory capture is “the processes by which regulated entities manipulate regulators to put their interests ahead of public interests.” It found that the plant’s owner “manipulated the cozy relationship with the regulators to take the teeth out of regulations.”
 
In response to the accident, Japan established an agency, the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The NRA is not a clone of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), but it clearly is patterned after the U.S. agency, adopting many of its principles and policies to safeguard public health and safety.
Now, in an odd nuclear safety yin and yang, while Japan’s NRA strives to beef up its role as an effective, independent regulator, the NRC is backsliding towards becoming a cozy captive enforcing toothless regulations.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the NRC upgraded nuclear plant security. The upgrades included increasing the frequency of “force-on-force” tests, which determine whether security staff can thwart an assault on a plant. A team of mock intruders visited each operating nuclear plant at least once every three years and simulated four sabotage attempts against the plant’s gates, guards and guns.
The force-on-force tests either demonstrated security was sufficient or identified weaknesses for correction before actual intruders could exploit them. But plant owners complained about the cost, so the NRC has reduced the number of force-on-force exercises from four to one and is even considering allowing the plant owners to conduct the tests themselves.
Plant owners also complain about the high cost of NRC safety inspections and have targeted some of the NRC’s most important inspections, such as of fire protection measures, for replacement with self-assessments.
Nuclear dentistry last year involving the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona removed teeth from regulatory requirements. One of the two backup emergency power supplies for Palo Verde’s Unit 3 reactor blew up during a test. The plant’s NRC license allowed the reactor to continue operating for as long as 10 days with its backup power capability diminished. The repairs would take considerably longer than 10 days, however, so the plant owner asked the NRC for permission to continue operating for as long as 62 days. Despite the fact that NRC safety protocols prevent the agency from even considering requests for longer than 14 days, the NRC not only considered it, it granted it.
Granting the request also contradicted a formal agreement between the NRC and industry limiting how long a reactor can operate with less than the minimum amount of safety equipment specified in its operating license to 30 days. The agreement termed the 30-day limit a safety backstop, but it did not stop the agency from allowing the Palo Verde reactor to operate unsafely for twice that long.
It is admirable that the new Japanese nuclear power regulator is seeking to improve its safety oversight capability. But it is unfathomable that in the United States, the NRC is retreating from the regulatory front. There’s no doubt that uncompromising, effective regulation is not cheap. But Fukushima reminded the world of what was already well-known — that ineffective safety oversight can cost far more.
Americans deserve — and need — the nuclear regulator toward which Japan is striving.

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment