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Strong earthquake shakes Osaka: Officials in neighboring Fukui Prefecture say all 15 nuclear reactors are still functioning

Strong earthquake shakes Osaka
All but 1 or 2 of these are supposedly shut down since 3-11.
Just before 8 am local time a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck northern Osaka. It’s categorized as a six-minus on a scale of zero to seven on Japan’s seismic intensity scale.
No tsunami warning has been issued.
Hyogo, Kyoto, Shiga, Nara are also affected.
At least 5 people were injured and have been transferred to hospital.
Officials in neighboring Fukui Prefecture say they’ve checked all the 15 nuclear reactors there, both online and offline, and no problems have been found.
Shinkansen bullet train service has been halted.
Local train services in the region have also been affected.
The 3 airports in the region temporarily halted operations but have just resumed.
Some areas in Osaka are reportedly experiencing power shortages.
A viewer has posted a photo showing water gushing from a cracked pipe along the Yodo River in Osaka Prefecture in the city of Takatsuki.
He said the water is still flowing from the pipe.
Senior government officials are gathering for an emergency meeting at the Prime Minister’s office.
Japanese Self-Defense Force fighter jets and helicopters are heading to the area to gather information.
 
At least three people killed, several injured after strong earthquake rattles Osaka area
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Elementary school students in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, evacuate to the school yard Monday morning after a magnitude 5.9 quake hit the Kansai region.
 
OSAKA – One of the most powerful earthquakes to rock the Kansai region in decades struck Osaka and neighboring prefectures Monday morning, leaving at least three people dead and a number of others injured.
The earthquake, measuring magnitude 6.1 and a lower 6 on the Japanese seismic scale of 7, hit at 7:58 a.m. and occurred at a depth of about 13 km in the northern part of Osaka Prefecture, the Meteorological Agency said. No tsunami warning was issued.
A 9-year-old girl in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, was confirmed dead after being struck when a wall surrounding a swimming pool fell on her as she walked by. Also in the prefecture, a man in his 80s from Ibaraki died after he was crushed by a bookshelf at his home, according to the Osaka Prefectural Government.
 
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People get off a train in Osaka’s Kita Ward Monday morning after West Japan Railway Co. and other railways suspended operations following a major earthquake.
 
NHK also said an 80-year-old man in the city of Osaka died after being hit by a falling wall, while a number of other people were also feared dead.
A number of injuries and dozens of fires were reported from Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto and Mie prefectures, according to local police and city authorities.
A water pipe under a road in Takatsuki burst and flooded the area, according to police.
Disaster management minister Hachiro Okonogi said people were reportedly trapped under a collapsed building. Authorities were working to confirm the details.
According to police and rescuers, two people were trapped in an elevator at a train station in Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture. More people were believed to be stranded in elevators in apartment buildings, they said.
The weather agency issued a warning against landslides, adding that people should be cautious about possible aftershocks for a few days.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, speaking in Tokyo, said the government was not aware of any reports of damage to nuclear power plants near Osaka, such as the Takahama and Oi plants in Fukui Prefecture.
Suga said that, following instructions issued by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the government set up an emergency task force to gather information about the situation. The government vowed to “do its utmost” to extend disaster-relief efforts and help with reconstruction, as well as provide the public with relevant information.
There is no immediate plan at the moment to open evacuation centers or supply food or drinking water to affected areas, Suga said, adding that the government has not so far received any request for Self-Defense Forces personnel to be dispatched.
The top government spokesman also urged residents in the hardest-hit areas, including the cities of Takatsuki, Hirakata and Ibaraki in Osaka Prefecture, to “stay calm” and be vigilant against “strong” aftershocks, which he said could be as strong as a lower 6 on the Japanese scale, over the next week or so.
A senior government official, meanwhile, expressed guarded optimism that damage due to Monday morning’s quake is unlikely to too widespread, citing what appears to be the “localized” nature of the quake and swift power recovery.
More than 60 bullet trains were canceled during the morning, and some expressways were also closed. Both Kansai International and Kobe airport temporarily closed but resumed operations after confirming that there was no structural damage to the facilities.
In Osaka Prefecture, power was restored after the quake left about 170,800 homes and buildings without electricity for several hours.
Osaka Gas said it turned off gas supplies to 108,000 households. Kansai Electric Power Co., meanwhile, said its nuclear plants in Fukui Prefecture were operating normally.
No abnormalities were reported at the Takahama, Mihama and Oi nuclear plants in the prefecture, according to Kepco.
The quake left many commuters stranded at stations or on streets during the morning rush hour after it disrupted shinkansen and other rail operations in western and central Japan.
The Tokaido Shinkansen Line connecting Osaka with Tokyo came to a halt in both directions shortly after the quake. As of 10 a.m., the section between Nagoya and Osaka remained closed.
A Japan Times staff member aboard a Tokyo-bound shinkansen said his train had stopped shortly before reaching Kakegawa Station in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Onboard announcements said safety checks following a quake-linked power outage between Tokyo and Odawara stations had led to the Tokyo-bound stoppage.
In a quake with an intensity of lower 6, it is difficult to remain standing and unsecured furniture may move or topple over, according to the meteorological agency.
Although its magnitude was relatively weak, the quake is believed to have triggered high-intensity tremors because of its shallow epicenter.
In the deadly 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake in the region, which had a magnitude of 7.3 and recorded 7 on the seismic intensity scale, 6,434 people were killed.
It was the latest in a string of quakes over the last few days. A magnitude 4.6 quake hit southern Gunma Prefecture on Sunday, and a magnitude 4.5 temblor struck Chiba Prefecture on Saturday.
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June 18, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | 1 Comment

FUKUSHIMA UPDATE: KNOWLEDGE, DISCRIMINATION, AND SYMBOLIC REDUCTION

LINK TO PETITION

ISSUE

On March 20th, 2018 the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) announced plans to remove approximately 2,400, or 66%, of the 3,600 radiation monitoring posts in Fukushima prefecture by March 2021.[1] This was announced as part of an effort to refocus government radiation monitoring on the evacuation zone.

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Explanatory image on March 23, 2018 materials issued by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Pink dots represent real-time radiation dose monitoring posts; shaded areas bounded in green represent areas where evacuation orders have been lifted; red and yellow areas represent areas where they are still in effect.

Note on Evacuation Zones

 

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Non-mandatory evacuees” refers to people who evacuated from outside zone B (shaded yellow). The national government, Fukushima prefecture, and TEPCO have recognized non-mandatory evacuees from 23 municipalities in the prefecture.[2] All other non-mandatory evacuees do not qualify for state aid. For maps providing an overview of fallout, see the following: ① Soil contamination levels: see the most recent map from the Eastern Japan Soil Contamination Project (EN) (日本語); Chernobyl comparison map (EN);[3] ② Atmospheric radiation levels: see radiation plume maps created by Yukio Hayakawa (9/11/2011; 2/1/2013) and the Safecast tile map.

Mandatory evacuees” refers to people who evacuated from zone B. State-mandated evacuation happened in waves. Evacuation from Iitate village, Katsurao village, northern Namie town, and part of Kawamata town was not mandatory until May 2011. Areas only shaded yellow were told to prepare to evacuate—they were not mandated to evacuate by the national government, but may have been advised to do so by their municipal government. Evacuation orders have been lifted for all areas within zone B besides areas 1-3. As evacuation orders have been lifted and aid to evacuees from these areas has been cut off, some evacuees find themselves in a state of unrecognized displacement similar to that experienced by non-mandatory evacuees.

 

Note on Radiation Monitoring System in Fukushima Prefecture

 

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Like other mass exposure events,[4] the Fukushima nuclear disaster has been characterized by the delayed release of information, the falsification or inadequate collection of data, underestimating the scale of damage, and the coordinated production of pseudoscientific misinformation.[5] The government has sought to maintain its control of the ensuing struggle over health, wages, and welfare by controlling information and paternalistically discrediting forms of knowledge or evidence that threaten its narrative. Slashing monitoring post infrastructure is another development in this pattern: it further consolidates the government’s position as the only entity with the right to know what radiation levels are, and the only entity acknowledged as being capable of assessing the circumstances, while displacing risks onto the public by symbolically shrinking the scale of the disaster.

Plans to remove these 2,400 monitoring posts are part of a broader reduction in government measures to address the nuclear disaster. Not unlike the 2008 bailout of American finance capital, the Japanese government has chosen to bail out TEPCO and pass on the risks and consequences of the nuclear disaster onto the public.[6]Health. In April 2016, residents were given the choice to opt out of the the Fukushima prefectural health survey (県民健康調査)—the only large-scale study being conducted on the health effects of the disaster.[7] Though framed as an implementation of informed consent, antinuclear groups have voiced concerns that this is part of “self-responsibility” (自己責任) discourse, which has framed reductions in government protections and services as protecting residents’ freedom of choice.[8] In December 2016, a member of the Oversight Committee for the survey suddenly proposed adding an external international oversight committee to the survey to “deepen prefectural residents’ understanding.” This followed a convention of experts from international agencies such as the ICRP, UNSCEAR, and WHO in Fukushima city, and appeared to be a request to implement their recommendations to reduce the scale of the survey and strengthen their oversight of it.[9] These organizations have played key roles in downplaying the health consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.[10]Housing. In March 2017, Fukushima prefecture cut off housing subsidies to non-mandatory evacuees—the only form of government support they were offered, and even then only to evacuees from Fukushima prefecture.[11] Many non-mandatory evacuees are barely making ends meet from a combination of mortgages on the homes they left behind, doubled rents for family members living separately, and gender-based employment discrimination affecting evacuee women, who are reported to constitute 60% of non-mandatory evacuees.[12] A month after housing aid was cut off, the Reconstruction Agency stopped counting non-mandatory evacuees in evacuee statistics, making the full scale and consequences of displacement from the nuclear disaster more difficult to assess.[13] Aid to mandatory evacuees from areas where evacuation orders were lifted were cut off just one year later, in March 2018.[14] Both non-mandatory and mandatory evacuees have reported being sued for remaining in evacuation housing.[15]Wages. In January 2018, citing improved working conditions, TEPCO announced that from April, risk allowances (危険手当) paid to contractors for decommissioning work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant would be reduced by as much as 50 percent.[16] It has subsequently been reported that workers are receiving risk allowances as meager as 3000 yen (30 USD) per day.[17] As numerous reports have documented, these allowances are mostly skimmed off by general contractors and their direct subcontractors, who then hire further subcontractors to do the actual work.[18] In this instance, it appears that the reduction in risk allowances has been passed off onto workers. There are also concerns that TEPCO’s assertion that “working conditions have improved” at Fukushima Daiichi will lead to justifying the use of lighter protective gear—in other words, that workers will be paid less to work in more dangerous conditions.[19]

EXPLANATIONS

The NRA has provided several justifications for its plans to reduce radiation monitoring infrastructure in Fukushima prefecture:

  1. Radiation levels are generally low and stable, and decontamination and recovery are progressing, so there is little need to continue radiation monitoring on a large scale.[20]
  2. The reduction of the real-time radiation dose monitoring system will be part of an effort to refocus attention on the recovery of areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, and removed monitoring posts “will be used for such things as fulfilling requests for monitoring posts by municipalities” in such areas.[21]
  3. The national government will discontinue its recovery budget in March 2021.[22]

SCARCITY NARRATIVES

Monitoring Posts Will Not Be Relocated

When explaining the shift to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency on March 20th, 2018, Matsuji Takeyama (head of the Monitoring Information Division) emphasized that there would still be a need for radiation monitoring at key “key recovery points” (fukkō kyoten) in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted. However, when he was asked by another committee member how many monitoring posts would be appropriate, he replied that there is no specific goal. Rather, it would be up to municipal governments to request that monitoring posts be placed around schools or public locations.[23] FOIA requests and negotiations with the NRA by the Citizens’ Group for Continued Radiation Monitoring (CGCRM) have revealed that there are currently no such requests. This suggests that rather than redistributing existing infrastructure to suit new community needs, the NRA plans to refocus radiation monitoring on the Fukushima coast simply by eliminating most publicly accessible monitoring infrastructure in the rest of the prefecture.

Costs

According to the Monitoring and Information Division (監視情報課) of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, annual maintenance costs for the real-time radiation dose monitoring system total 500 million yen.[24] Most maintenance costs are due to repairs. Though English-language news reports on the subject have led with discussion of 4,000 monitoring post malfunctions, this number appears to refer to initial adjustments made when the monitoring posts were first installed.[25] The total cost of all radiation monitoring activities is approximately 1 billion yen annually, and mostly comes out of the environmental radiation measuring agency budget (環境放射線測定等庁費). By comparison, the Reconstruction Agency’s 2018 budget allotts 5 billion yen to support tourism (観光復興関連事業), 69 billion yen to build key recovery spots in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted (特定復興再生拠点整備事業), and 209 billion yen on recovery roads (復興道路・復興支援道路の整備).[26] The Reconstruction Agency (復興庁) has allotted a total of 1.6 trillion yen for recovery efforts in 2018. Costs to maintain the real-time radiation dose monitoring system amount to 0.03% of that budget.

THE POLITICS OF RADIATION MAPS

Averaging Unevenness

In materials for its February 10, 2016 meeting, the NRA demonstrates the stability of low radiation levels by averaging data from all real-time radiation monitoring posts in a given area, the smallest of which is 475 square miles (1,200km2). This is supplemented by displaying the monthly averages for one real-time monitoring post from each area. However, one cannot assume that residents spend equal amounts of time in hotspots and areas with lower fallout levels, nor that they regularly commute across a 475 square-mile area. Everyday life happens on a smaller scale.[27] Furthermore, it is unclear why one monitoring post is being used to represent levels for regions where radiation levels can vary from 0.08~0.8µSv/hr, or even in areas with a range of 0.06~0.23µSv/hr.

 

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Dark blue = 0.05µSv/hr; blue = 0.1µSv/hr; teal = 0.15µSv/hr; lavender = 0.3µSv/hr. Based on data presented by NRA to demonstrate that radiation levels are low and stable. Areas with evacuation orders are outlined in red. This map uses the same color key as the Safecast map below.

Safecast Map (May 18, 2018):

 

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The regions featured in the NRA-based map above were superimposed on a recent Safecast map, which are made by crowd-sourcing data from standardized portable radiation monitors that volunteers install on cars. Areas outside the Fukushima border were lightened for clarity.

While the Safecast map documents significant variation in air dose rates, especially in central Fukushima and Tochigi prefecture, there is often significant variation at smaller scales as well. This 2017 map of Hobara town, Date city has readings ranging from 0.09~0.35µSv/hr (0.5~1.8mSv/yr).

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Above the Limit

There are also many places outside of the mandatory evacuation zone where radiation levels are higher than the government standard of 0.23µSv/hr.[28] One resident of Hobara town, Date city stated that radiation levels in the neighborhood have remained at 0.3µSv/hr.[29] We can also see from the Safecast map that radiation levels above the post-disaster standard of 0.23µSv/hr are not limited to Fukushima prefecture, nor are air dose rates above the 1991 Chernobyl law standard of 1 mSv/year (2.74µSv/day = 0.19µSv/yr).[30] One should also note that the devices used to create these maps only measure gamma radiation, and moreover do not account for internal radiation exposure from inhalation and consumption of radioactive food. Cesium-137, Cs-134, Strontium-90, Iodine-131, and Plutonium isotopes emit beta particles in addition to gamma radiation, and Plutonium also emits alpha particles. These are especially damaging when they get inside the body, as they emit intense radiation until the isotope leaves the body (anywhere from a few days to several years, depending on the isotope).

A map compiled by the Eastern Japan Soil Contamination Project suggests that soil contamination levels across the fallout area, especially in Fukushima, Tochigi, Gunma, Miyagi, and Chiba prefectures, remain high. Greenpeace also reports that despite decontamination, Iitate village and Namie town continue to have radiation levels well above the government standard.

Stability

According to TEPCO, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continues to release 91,000 Becquerels of radiation per hour (as of April 25, 2018). Though plant decommissioning is scheduled to end in 40 years, officials have admitted that decommissioning at that pace is not feasible, with some estimating that it could take as long as 200 years before radiation levels subside enough to allow work to progress.[31] So long as decommissioning is not complete, the risk of another monumental atmospheric release of radiation remains a possibility.[32]

The routine way in which the government has continued to hide information and leave residents to be exposed to radiation during accidents was explained well by Ms. Wada, a resident of Harano area:

During the nuclear accident, residents were exposed to serious levels of radiation because SPEEDI data was kept from us. I think there has been no trace of regret or change about this from the national government. And there have been frequent accidents at the Monju plant, and there was the JCO accident [1999]. TEPCO has also hidden problems many times. We don’t know how often because of what has not been made public. And during such incidents, every time, there has been a pattern where information has been hidden from residents and they have been exposed to radiation.

Explosions have happened at incinerators (焼却炉). At incinerators burning [radioactive] waste from decontamination. There was an explosion [at such a facility] in Samegawa village. A resident has testified that the radiation levels of the monitoring post nearby increased, but they were not able to document any evidence, so the matter was left unsettled. And at the incinerator in Tomioka town, a small fire broke out. There were issues in Warabidaira in Iitate village, and [the facility there] has been stopped for 5 months. At an intermediate treatment facility in Kōriyama city, a fire broke out in the storage area for highly contaminated materials. It was quite a scene, but that time, too, residents were not told anything. One person was working in their field right next to it. I negotiated with the Ministry of Environment [concerning this matter] multiple times, but not a single warning was issued. In Namie town, Minamisōma city, and Date city, there have been wildfires. In those instances as well, residents were not notified. There are also disabled persons who cannot hear, and who need to check [circumstances] with their eyes. So I think the monitoring posts are absolutely necessary.

[…] You have said that after removing the monitoring posts, you would like to have an exchange with residents and decide what to do, but over the course of these events we have unfortunately had to learn that if something happens, the government will not protect us. How are we supposed to believe you?[33]

WHOSE RIGHT TO KNOW: GOVERNMENT PATERNALISM

Because radiation is imperceptible to the five senses, insofar as people are driven into remaining in the fallout zone,[34] maps can be important sources of information for reducing exposure levels. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. It is cumulative, and the probability of developing an illness directly increases with every increase in exposure.[35] Insofar as the government continues to coerce residents to return or remain in the fallout zone, the public needs accessible information on their condition in real-time. As Terumi Kataoka from CGCRM said in an interview, “Why is our right to know being taken away when we are being forced to be exposed to radiation?”[36]

Matsuji Takeyama, head of the Monitoring Information Division[37] of the NRA, has explained the purpose of the real-time monitoring system:

Rather than assessing the situation, the main purpose of the system is for people who are living there to instantly see and understand [radiation levels in the area]. So I believe that moving forward, it is not necessary to have so many [real-time radiation dose monitoring posts].[38]

He assumed a similar stance in April 16, 2018 negotiations with CGCRM:

The reason we are removing [the monitoring posts] is because the radiation levels have stabilized enough. That is speaking scientifically. […] However, we understand that you are worried, and, uh, I think it is a question of emotions. I think there is unease, so… In principle, where [radiation levels are] low, [the monitoring posts] serve no purpose—are not necessary, but we will ultimately decide after listening to your opinions. […] We explained our policy. We will make the final decision after talking with municipal governments.

(A mother who evacuated from Iwaki city provided a good counterargument):

[…] The first thing I would like to say is that you have been using the words, “scientifically, scientifically,” but [saying that something is] “low enough” is not scientific, right? To what is it “low enough” in comparison? If you want to speak of science, then that means continuously comparing the [current] radiation levels to pre-accident levels. […] I don’t think [radiation levels] are stable by any means, or that they are the level they were before. […] That is why I have continued to evacuate with my children. I don’t think you should use the unscientific phrase, “low enough,” and I can’t believe that you plan to remove [the monitoring posts] because “[radiation levels] are stable” even though circumstances are still completely different from pre-accident conditions. Also, you said, “[we will hold] explanatory meetings [with residents] moving forward.” You said, “[you will] get [residents] to understand.” I have been to many explanatory meetings until now, but I always had the bitter experience of having [a policy] forced on me because “it’s already been decided.” Please listen to the voices of those who have been directly affected—to us and the municipalities.

Takeyama’s statement suggests that residents’ efforts to understand their own environmental circumstances do not count as assessments—that they are neither agentive nor important. His statement assumes that the very action of seeing and interpreting radiation levels in one’s immediate surroundings is not a way that residents assess the situation in which they are living. It furthermore suggests that he does not value residents’ right to access information about potentially harmful circumstances in which they are living. He presumes that the only entity capable of making assessments is the NRA, and not the people who are living with the consequences of government and corporate negligence. Such paternalism was also present at other points during the negotiations, where Takeyama repeatedly offered lukewarm acknowledgements of residents’ statements while emphasizing that “scientifically” speaking, radiation levels were “stable and low” and that the NRA would abide by its removal policy.

Woman from Kōriyama city:

I believe this has been explained several times already, but phrases such as, “prefectural residents should understand correctly to prevent unnecessary worry,” appear 20 times in these materials. So then I think, what are we? I am concerned that we are being taken as prefectural residents who do not “understand correctly” and are “unnecessarily worried.” What do you think about this point?

Matsuji Takeyama:

I don’t particularly think that it is strange that you feel worried. Of course, the radiation levels have decreased from high levels, but I understand that you are worried. […]

This dismissiveness follows a trend present since the disaster’s inception, where a coordinated effort by the Cabinet; Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology; the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare; Fukushima prefecture; TEPCO; mass media; and appointed intellectuals has dismissed residents’ insistence on their right to knowledge and information by characterizing them as “hysterical,” “spreading harmful rumors,” “emotional,” and “subjective.”[39] Thus, while post-disaster government pamphlets about radiation emphasized the public’s need to “learn correctly,”[40] the presentation of evidence that contradicts its narrative of safety has been characterized as “harmful rumor.” For these government bodies, “knowledge” seems to mean feeling reassured that the circumstances residents are being coerced into are tolerable, not harmful. As scholars such as Ann Kimura have pointed out, the misogynistic idea that women are incapable of rational thought—not to mention the idea that rationalism constitutes the only valid form of thought—have been instrumental in the “harmful rumor” discourse.

Women have resisted such narratives by validating different emotional responses to radioactive fallout and emphasizing the logical nature of such feelings. For example, during negotiations Terumi Kataoka stated:

In other words, decommissioning is not over—it’s just begun—and moreover, the declaration of nuclear emergency (原子炉緊急事態宣言) still hasn’t been lifted. And yet in spite of this, why do you have to do something unreasonable, something illogical? Why do you have to take the monitoring posts from our daily lives? This is the voice of residents. Additionally, there have been many negotiations with the national government and prefectural government until now, but the thing that is absolutely different about this one is that, starting with Fukushima prefecture, municipal governments from the prefecture are saying that it is too sudden, or that they do not want [the removal]. These kinds of things are really being voiced here [pointing to NRA report]. So in spite of all of that, why are you lining up only these same explanations, that you want to get rid of residents’ “unnecessary anxiety” (無用な不安), or to [have us] “understand correctly” (正しく理解してもらう)? I really don’t understand it. I absolutely don’t understand it. Is it strange for us to feel uneasy? The nuclear accident that was supposed to never occur, happened. It is natural to feel uneasy. I think it is strange not to be worried about that. We have been living in this kind of circumstance every day for seven years. And yet you are going to take away the monitoring posts that we look at wondering, “What is the situation like today?” We do not understand this at all.

 

Government Reassurance

The NRA has reassured residents opposed to the removal of monitoring posts by pointing out that it has a separate radiation monitoring system for emergency situations (consisting of 51 monitoring posts), and that it will take appropriate steps in the event of an emergency. However, these monitoring posts do not visually display their data. The 3,000 real-time radiation monitors and the 600 portable radiation monitors in the prefecture are the only meters that display their readings. Yumi Chiba (CGCRM) has expressed that the NRA’s emergency plan is unrealistic:

As people who have experienced the panic of that time [during the nuclear meltdown], I cannot express how distant the portable radiation monitoring posts—placed every 5km—are for us. You said that we could borrow portable devices [i.e. geiger counters] [in the event of an emergency], but having experienced such a situation before, we can tell you that should such a situation arise, it is not going to be possible for us to run into town hall [to ask for a geiger counter]. That is the reality.

 

Why Trust Government Radiation Monitoring Posts?

Prior to the NRA’s announcement, the sentiment that the government radiation monitoring system was untrustworthy was widespread among evacuees and those with antinuclear sentiments. Several studies were conducted confirming that government monitoring posts were systematically displaying figures 40%-60% lower than readings that could be taken with geiger counters.[41] In some cases, monitoring posts were installed with sheets of iron under them, effectively preventing gamma rays from the soil (the main source of radiation) from being measured. In other cases, the immediate surroundings of monitoring posts were decontaminated.[42] Much like the prefectural health survey, the radiation monitoring system is both flawed and the only solution that the government appears willing to offer. Even as both instruments produce the appearance of safety and a gradual decline in the disaster’s effects, their reduction would further expand the realm of unknowns, making it increasingly difficult to establish when potentially harmful incidents occur, their consequences, and who is responsible.

SYMBOLIC REDUCTION

Chernobyl did not simply disappear; it was extinguished in waves as a result of particular types of framing that set the health effects of the fallout outside the scope of immediate concern. Before that, the greatest public salience of Chernobyl did not begin until about three years after the accident, a period of great political transformation only two years before the collapse of the Soviet Union” —Olga Kuchinskaya, The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects, p.66.

Underestimating the scope and consequences of radiation fallout has been a consistent characteristic of the nuclear industry and associated research on the health effects of radiation exposure. In particular, the similarities between the reductions taking place in Japan and the Belarussian government’s management of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster are striking.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the newly formed Belarus implemented fairly comprehensive measures to address the consequences of the nuclear disaster. However, these measures ended up costing a full 20% of the national budget. In 1993, a special working group was formed to revise its policies.[43] Soon after, government measures to address the disasters’ consequences began to shrink, and began to emphasize economic recovery. The government declared an end to emergency measures and said that residents needed to learn to live with radiation.[44] It changed the criteria for determining radiation doses, so that instead of being measured, they were estimated through controversial and non-transparent techniques. Areas where average doses were estimated to be under 1 mSv/year lost their social protections, and had no additional protective measures.[45] After 1996, the area deemed contaminated enough to matter was gradually shrunk through changes in evaluative criteria.[46] In 2003, a presidential decree relocated all Chernobyl-related institutions to Gomel on the premise that research should be concentrated “in the most affected area.”[47] This resulted in a drastic reduction in personnel (from 165 to 75 faculty), and the loss of continuity in data collection and analysis, making it difficult to more fully assess the impacts of the disaster.

As sociologist Olga Kuchinskaya notes, infrastructures and practices created to address the effects of radiation often come to stand in for the presence of radiation itself. She writes, “Administrative practices meant to mitigate various effects of radioactive contamination thus come to constitute the visibility of the problem of radioactive contamination; they become the signs of the contamination.”[48]

It seems likely that removing two-thirds of the public radiation monitoring infrastructure in Fukushima prefecture will be instrumental in reshaping the landscape into one where radioactive fallout is not an active concern. Now that many of the bags of radioactive soil that were scattered across the prefecture have been transferred to storage facilities, the radiation monitoring posts are the primary reminder in the landscape that radioactive fallout is still present, and that the stability of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is far from guaranteed. The radiation monitoring posts thus also play an important symbolic role, and this drastic reduction would mean another premature reframing of the disaster as coming to a neat close.

CONCERNING “HARMFUL RUMOR”

The author does not intend to suggest that residents in the fallout zone, especially in Fukushima prefecture, have not been stigmatized, discriminated against, or that people in primary industries have not suffered from consumer politics in the wake of the nuclear disaster. In fact, the systematic prevalence of bullying has been an important force pushing evacuees back to more dangerous areas, along with government and academic gaslighting and reductions in aid. The question is why bullying and stigmatization is so prevalent. How are people taught to feel about radiation exposure, and how are they directed to act upon those feelings?

Making discussion of radiation exposure a taboo subject turns it into something shameful and something to fear. It also turns the blatantly obvious fact that the government has allowed some people to be exposed to more radiation than others—illustrated, for example, by the April 2011 notice to schools in Fukushima prefecture that it would consider 20 mSv/year of exposure admissible there, while the standard for the rest of the country remained 1 mSv/year[49]—into an issue of “self-responsibility” for which victims can be blamed. In other words, the government itself quickly assumed a discriminatory stance in its post-disaster measures, and then turned dissent against that discrimination into a taboo subject by declaring it “harmful rumor” and then spreading misinformation about radiation. It is not difficult to infer that this enforces an unspoken understanding that those who resist discrimination from the state (by evacuating, for example) should be punished. And this is in fact what is happening. School children who bullied their classmates for wearing masks or otherwise protecting themselves from internal radiation exposure were often reported saying, “You think you’re the only one who gets to be spared? (お前だけ助かる気か?)” “Culture of poverty”-type narratives of mandatory evacuees mismanaging compensation money also stem from the logic that they have not experienced any form of structural discrimination. We need to think more about how the atmosphere created by government policies and narratives spread by the media relates to widespread bullying and stigmatization of evacuees.

Bullying also seems undoubtedly tied up with eugenicism. The forced sterilization of the disabled is still legal, though there is more public outcry against it recently, and transgender people are required to undergo sterilization to gain legal recognition.[50] Many women are worried they will face marriage discrimination for having been exposed to radiation—in other words, that they will be refused marriage because other people do not want to risk having a disabled child.[51]

CONCLUSION

As the Fukushima nuclear disaster progresses, unevenness, the systematic production of ignorance and uncertainty, and the connections between containment and discrimination remain central issues. From the standpoint of care work, it seems clear that we need to think much more deeply about who is vulnerable and what we can do to make sure their dignity is respected. Even while the Japanese government and “nuclear village” have done serious damage in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, mainstream antinuclear narratives mostly ignore nuclear workers, farmers, fishermen, woodcutters, working-class women, and they fail to offer serious answers about how to create a national economy that does not require the destruction of rural communities, making them vulnerable to toxic facilities.

Liberal antinuclear feminisms have played a critical role in resistance to these trends. They have created discourses that emphasize validation of emotional/experiential truths, articulated evacuation as a human right, created community-controlled radiation monitoring technology, and created mental and physical health care through support groups and a vast network of volunteer-based recuperation camps.[52] These efforts have created space to struggle against the Japanese state’s maneuvers to pretend that the effects of the nuclear disaster have been safely contained within administrative boundaries. Most notably, widespread mobilization by women, especially mothers, led to the passing of the Disaster Victims’ Support Act (被災者支援法) in 2012, though it was subsequently mostly gutted.[53]

We need to keep thinking about how these feminisms can connect with nuclear labor organizing and social movements by people in primary industries who have been disenfranchised by “modernizing” economic policies, to create a more transformative antinuclear politics.

TIMELINE

August 2, 2011: Plans for radiation monitoring announced. Real-time radiation dose monitoring system is included in these plans: “establish a real-time radiation monitoring system, installing integrated dosimeters able to send data in schools, parks, etc. in Fukushima prefecture.”[54] 

February 21, 2012: MEXT radiation mapping webpage, based on data from the “real-time radiation monitoring system,” comes online. There are 2,700 monitoring posts comprising the real-time monitoring system at this time.[55]

December 2013: An additional 336 real-time radiation monitoring posts and 33 portable monitoring posts installed in coastal Fukushima.[56]

October 6, 2015: the Nuclear Regulation Authority (原子力規制委員会) instructs the Nuclear Regulation Agency (原子力規制庁) to issue a summary of radiation monitoring activities since the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011, and to make necessary revisions to the monitoring system.[57]

Early 2016: 38 monitoring posts transferred from relatively low-level radiation areas to (presumably) the former evacuation zone.

February 10, 2016: The Nuclear Regulation Agency reported back to the NRA about the monitoring results and their subsequent revisions to the monitoring system.

March 2017: 39 monitoring posts removed from across the prefecture. The NRA has yet to clarify whether they have been reinstalled elsewhere, as residents were informed they would be.[58]

December 2017: the  Nuclear Regulation Agency solicited opinions from municipal governments on the revisions.

March 20, 2018: the NRA announced its plans to revise the monitoring system.

April 2018: Citizens’ Group for Continued Radiation Monitoring established. They deliver letters with demands to the mayors of Kōriyama, Fukushima city, Iwaki city (April), Date city, Aizuwakamatsu city, Miharu town, and Shirakawa city (May).

April 16, 2018: CGCRM delivers letter with demands to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

<July 13, 2018: CGCRM plans to deliver further demands to the Nuclear Regulation Authority>


[1]Matsuji Takeyama, head of the Monitoring Information Division of the NRA, specifies that real-time radiation monitoring posts displaying radiation levels of less than 0.23µSv/hr will be removed, and states that there are approximately 2,400 such monitoring posts. See http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000224599.pdf. Portable monitoring posts have a distribution of one post per 10km in the westernmost Aizu region, one post per 5km in other regions, and 80 posts near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. See http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000139313.pdf, p.1.

[2]http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/shingi/chousa/kaihatu/016/shiryo/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2012/02/23/1317043_4_1.pdf

[3] You can find more information on this project here (EN), and an explanation of what the different radiation levels mean here (日本語).

[4] C.f. the Flint water crisis (see as well this report); the Bhopal disaster (1984; what some call the world’s worst industrial disaster, which took place in India); Church Rock (1979; the largest radioactive disaster in the United States); the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986).

[5] For delayed release of information, see SPEEDI issues and TEPCO’s confirmation that it covered up the meltdown of three reactors. For falsification, see discussions of radiation exposure records for nuclear workers. For an overview of inadequate data collection and misinformation, see Piers Williamson’s comprehensive article on thyroid cancer screenings by Fukushima Medical University and p.44-7 in the 2017 report, Genpatsu Zero Shakai e no Michi: Datsu Genshiryoku Seisaku no Jitsugen no Tame Ni. As this pertains to decontamination and decommissioning workers, see Hibaku Rōdō wo Kangaeru Nettowāku, Josen Rōdō, p.56-7; Genpatsu Jiko to Hibaku Rōdō.

[6]Special Report – Inside Tepco’s Bailout: Japan Inc Saves Its OwnReuters, 5/23/2011. For more on the 2008 financial crisis, c.f. We All Fall Down: the American Mortgage Crisis (2009); Elvin Wyly, C. S. Ponder, Pierson Nettling, Bosco Ho, Sophie Ellen Fung, Zachary Liebowitz, and Dan Hammel, “New Racial Meanings of Housing in America.” American Quarterly 64(3) 2012: 571-604.

[7] 坂本充孝「子の甲状腺検査/縮小は是か/6年目の被災地/うずまく議論」東京新聞 1/7/2017. See also 鈴木博喜 「【県民健康調査】「県民の理解深めたい」。星座長が第三者委の設置を提案。背景に日本財団の提言、検査体制縮小の布石か~甲状腺ガンは9人増えて183人に」民の声新聞 12/28/2016.

[8] C.f.甲状腺検査のあり方」検討はじまる〜国際がん研究機関Our Planet TV 10/25/2017; 53回 甲状腺検査縮小求める「県民の声」なしDays Japan 10/20/2016.

[9] 坂本充孝「子の甲状腺検査/縮小は是か/6年目の被災地/うずまく議論」東京新聞 1/7/2017. See (English) (日本語) for convention participants.

[10] http://taminokoeshimbun.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-99.html; http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/feature/tohokujisin/fukushima_report/list/CK2017011702000158.html. For the role of ICRP, UNSCEAR, WHO in the underestimation of health effects from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, see Kuchinskaya, The Politics of Invisibility, p.117-126; Alexey Nesterenko, Vassily Nesterenko, and Alexey Yablokov, “Chapter II. Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe for Public Health,” in Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 2009. Vassily Nesterenko was the former head of the Institute of Nuclear Energy, and former chief designer of mobile nuclear power plant Pamir (Kuchinskaya, p.109).

[11] Non-mandatory evacuees eligible for aid from Fukushima prefecture must be from one of the 23 designated “voluntary evacuee etc. target areas” (自主的避難等対象区域) in Fukushima prefecture, ranging as far west as Tenei village.

[12] C.f. the 2015 Waseda Institute of Medical Anthropology (早稲田大学災害復興医療人類学研究所) and NHK survey of 11,377 mandatory and non-mandatory evacuee households. Based on responses from 622 non-mandatory households, 60% of non-mandatory evacuees are women, and tend to be in their 30s and 40s (戸田典樹 『福島原発事故・漂流する自主避難者たち』東京:明石書店, 2016, p.28-34). See also Tokyo metropolitan government report on current issues faced by non-mandatory evacuees in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

[13] http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708280053.html

[14] http://www.cnic.jp/english/?p=3855

[15] For non-mandatory evacuees, c.f. Tami no Koe blog by independent journalist Suzuki Hiroki (http://taminokoeshimbun.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-236.html) and the Cooperation Center for 3.11 (https://www.change.org/p/原発事故避難者の強制立ち退きに反対します). Information on mandatory evacuee lawsuits was relayed from Hirono town representative Abe Kenichi, personal communication.

[16] Katayama Natsuko, 東電、4月から敷地の95%対象福島第一作業員 労務単価下げ「危険手当」 半減にも「これ以上なら通常工事水準に, Tokyo shimbun, 1/22/2018.

[17] Workers are also now required to pay for subpar meals at company cafeterias, while they have been effectively barred from bringing their own hot lunches. Katayama Natsuko, “Taigū dondon waruku naru,” Fukushima Sagyōin Nisshi, June 2, 2018,  http://38300902.at.webry.info/201806/article_4.html

[18] C.f. 原子力資料情報室「被ばく労働を考えるネットワーク」の取り組みと「被曝労働者春闘」統一行動 4/1/2014 (English); 渡辺博之「現場からの報告」前掲『検証原発労働』P.52-63; 被ばく労働ネットワーク『原発事故と被曝労働』東京:三一書房, 2012. See especially 高木和美 『原発被曝労働者の労働・生活実態分析―原発林立地域・若狭における聴き取り調査から』明石書店, 2017 for the most comprehensive study of the Japanese nuclear labor system thus far. For English reports, c.f. “Nuclear Workers Kept in Dark on Fukushima Hazard PayReuters, 10/8/2014.

[19] 片山夏子「東電、4月から敷地の95%対象 – 福島第一作業員 労務単価下げ – 「危険手当」 半減にも – 「これ以上なら通常工事水準に」」東京新聞 1/22/2018.

[20] 原子力規制委員会「リアルタイム線量測定システムの配置の見直しについて(案)」3/20/2018.

[21] 今後、住民の帰還が見込まれる地域の復興に重点を 置くためにも、撤去したリアルタイム線量測定システムは、モニタリングポストの設置要望のある避難指示・解除区域市町村への移設などに活用します。(“リアルタイム線量測定システムの配置の見直しについて”,http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000224088.pdf )

[22] C.f. “Radiation Monitors In Fukushima Broken, Malfunction 4,000 Times,” The Mainichi, 5/20/2018.

[23] His full response:「原発からの事故の監視というより、むしろ汚染の状況について、汚染したもの、の土地においてどのくらいの線量のレベルなのかっていうことを常に住民の方が見るというものが目的なんですけれども、2400台くらいが対象ですので、それをまあ、移すわけですけれども、幾つが適正かというのは実はあんまりないと思っています。つまりこれは、学校とかですね、または人が集まるようなところに自治体の要望に応じて設置して行きたいと考えていますので、ちょっとまあ、これから帰還困難区域等も復興拠点を中心にだんだん進展して行くと思いますので、それに応じて適切に設置をして行くということになるのではないかと思います。」https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGL8ehkXa48

[24] http://taminokoeshimbun.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-237.html

[25] Personal communication, June 12, 2018. See “Radiation Monitors in Fukushima Broken, Malfunction 4,000 Times” for statistics.

[26] http://www.reconstruction.go.jp/topics/main-cat8/sub-cat8-3/2912_1shiropanpoint.pdf

[27] See Yabu Shiro, “Radiation Exposure is Unequal” for early discussion of the unevenness of radioactive fallout.

[28] The government formula uses the Japanese national average background radiation rate of 0.04µSv/hr in its formula, and assumes 8 hours of outdoor exposure and 12 hours of indoor exposure in a wooden building, which is assumed to reduce the exposure rate to 40% of the outdoor rate. The Japanese government calculated the hourly rate of 0.23µSv/hr as a rate of exposure that results in an additional 1 mSv/year beyond exposure to background radiation. To keep total exposure levels under the international standard of 1 mSv/year, by these calculations, the limit would be 0.19µSv/hr.

[29] See map for Hobara town, Date city. For more recent readings, you can zoom into the area on the Safecast Tilemap. Both maps show radiation levels ranging from 0.09~0.35µSv/hr.

[30] Calculated using the Japanese government formula, assuming residents are living in wood buildings. This does not account for the exposure levels of the homeless, nor for people who work outdoors, such as farmers, woodcutters, construction workers, traffic directors, deliverymen, security guards, etc.

[31] Richard Lloyd Parry, “Japan Faces 200 Year Wait For Fukushima Clean Up.” Times of London, 5/28/2015.

[32] See esp. reporting by Oshidori Mako on the fractured exhaust stack (排気筒) on reactor 2. Though there have been reports on the progression of fractures since the 2011 meltdown, the tower’s extremely high radiation levels (2 Sv/hr as of 2015, which is enough to kill someone instantly) have prevented workers from dismantling it. There are concerns that it could release high levels of radiation into the atmosphere should it collapse. TEPCO has announced that it will cut the tower into pieces and remove it.

[33] Transcribed from recording of April 16, 2018 negotiations between CGCRM and NRA. All subsequent transcribed statements are from the same unless otherwise indicated.

[34] In addition to the reduction of government aid, bullying and discrimination may be a large factor in returning evacuees. A survey of evacuee households conducted by Asahi newspaper and Professor Imai (Fukushima University) has found that 62% experienced bullying in the places to which they evacuated. This is corroborated by stories from personal interviews with evacuees. Many Okuma residents who have evacuated to Niigata prefecture, Iwaki city, and elsewhere hide their origins due to bullying. Some residents have also returned to coastal Fukushima because of bullying by residents of the places to which they evacuated.

[35] The “linear no-threshold hypothesis” has been accepted in international scientific communities. For a brief review of low-level radiation exposure and increased cancer mortality, see低線量電離放射線被ばくのリスクに関する二本松宣言」『科学』87(3): 253-4. For another brief review in English, see Sakiyama Hisako, “What Was Clarified By The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission? Focusing On Low-level Radiation Exposure Risk” Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center, and “Protecting Children Against Radiation: Japanese Citizens Take Radiation Protection into Their Own HandsAsia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 9(25.1) 2011. (日本語). See also the National Academy of Sciences (2016) Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR-VII – Phase 2. Washington, D.C. Public Summary, p.10.

[36] May 22, 2018. 「被ばくさせられているのに、なんで知る権利を取るの?」

[37]  監視情報課

[38] 3/20/18 video. 「状況把握というよりは、そこに生活されている方がパッと見て分かるっていうのが特徴なので、それほど台数的には今後多くはないのではないかと思います。」

[39] 神経質、風評被害、感情的、個人的な意見・主観的

[40] 正しく知る・理解する

[41] C.f. 2012 reportback from  Iitate and Namie from Professor Hasegawa (Gunma University), who reported that the monitoring posts only shows 24% to 39% of the actual radiation levels; a similar 2012 report ; and systematic surveys conducted by Greenpeace.

[42] See (日本語) or Safecast’s comprehensive blog posts on these debates (Part 1) (Part 2) for an overview.

[43] Olga Kuchinskaya, The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995, p.105.

[44] Ibid., 106.

[45] Ibid., 106.

[46] Ibid., 107.

[47] Ibid., 145.

[48] Ibid., 31-2.

[49] http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/saigaijohou/syousai/1305173.htm

[50] Human Rights Watch, “Japan Forces Sterilization on Transgender People: Government Shouldn’t Require Surgery for Rights Protection” 11/29/2017. Human Rights Watch states, “the procedure [to gain legal recognition of their gender] is discriminatory, requiring applicants to be single and without children under 20, undergo a psychiatric evaluation to receive a diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID), and be sterilized.”

[51] C.f. http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/Global/japan/pdf/Uequal-impact-en.pdf

[52] C.f. evacuee statements compiled in 東日本大震災避難者の会「3.11避難者の声:当事者自身がアーカイブ」Thanks & Dream, 2017; 疋田香澄『保養ルポ』 forthcoming; David Slater, Rika Morioka, Haruka Danzuka “Micro-politics of Radiation: Young Mothers Looking for a Voice in Post-3.11 Fukushima” Critical Asian Studies 46:3 (2014): 485-508.

[53] The full name is, Act Concerning The Promotion Of Measures To Provide Living Support To The Victims, Including The Children Who Were Affected By The Tepco Nuclear Accident In Order To Protect And Support Their Lives. http://www.foejapan.org/energy/fukushima/pdf/170620_mitsuta.pdf, p.4. See here for English translation of the act.

[54] 「福島県内の学校等、公園等にデータ転送機能を備えた積算線量計を整備し、リアルタイム放射線監視システムを構築する」http://radioactivity.nsr.go.jp/ja/contents/1000/117/24/1001_082410_2.pdf

[55] 「文科省がネットで福島の線量公開」産経新聞 2/22/2012.

[56] http://radioactivity.nsr.go.jp/ja/contents/9000/8646/24/203_20140109.pdf

[57] 昨年11月25日及び先月6日に開催された原子力規制委員会において、東電福島第一原発事故から5年が経過しようとする中で、モニタリングについてこれまでの取組を整理し、必要な見直しを行うよう原子力規制庁に指示があった。http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000139313.pdf

[58] Phone call by CGCRM to Fukushima prefecture Office of Radiation Monitoring (福島県放射線監視室) on April 13, 2018.


PARTIAL TRANSCRIPTION from NEGOTIATIONS WITH NUCLEAR REGULATORY AGENCY (APRIL 16, 2018)

4/16/18 規制委員会交渉(一部記録)

 

Source : https://jfissures.wordpress.com/2018/06/14/fukushima-monitoring-post/

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to decommission Fukushima Daini plant

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Tokyo Electric Power Company has revealed a plan to consider decommissioning all the reactors at its Fukushima Daini nuclear plant.
 
It is located about 12 kilometers south of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which was critically damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. All 4 reactors at the Daini plant have been halted since the disaster.
 
TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa informed Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori of the plan at the prefectural government office on Thursday.
 
Kobayakawa noted that there have been negative rumors about Fukushima, and many evacuees are still unable to return home.
 
He told Uchibori his company has decided that keeping the Daini plant idle would hamper the reconstruction efforts in the prefecture.
 
The Fukushima prefectural assembly had adopted a petition to scrap the reactors at the Daini plant.
The municipal assemblies in Tomioka and Naraha, the towns that host the facility, have adopted a similar demand. The governor has repeatedly asked TEPCO and the central government in Tokyo to arrange the early decommissioning of the plant.
 
The utility, however, had refrained from saying clearly whether it would decommission the plant, citing the need to consider the government’s energy policies and the business environment.
 
TEPCO is now expected to scrap all 10 reactors in Fukushima Prefecture — 6 at the Daiichi plant and 4 at the Daini plant.

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Film on one man’s agony due to 2011 disaster wins key award

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Takayuki Ueno continues his search for his eldest son Kotaro and other missing people in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture.
 
June 13, 2018
A documentary about a farmer’s years-long quest to retrieve the bodies of four family members killed in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster has won an award that honors a slain journalist.
The Mika Yamamoto International Journalist Award was presented to Chiaki Kasai in Tokyo on May 26 for her “Life–Another Story of Fukushima,” which was completed last year.
The prize was established to perpetuate the spirit of video journalist Mika Yamamoto, who died while covering the civil war in Syria in 2012.
Kasai’s 115-minute documentary charts the struggles of 45-year-old Takayuki Ueno as he tries to rise from the depths of despair over the loss of his two children as well as his parents, who were swept away by tsunami generated by the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake.
Kasai’s story takes place in Fukushima Prefecture, where the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant went into a triple meltdown when the facility’s cooling system was knocked out in the quake and tsunami. It takes place over a number of years.
Ueno lived in the city of Minami-Soma, which was hard-hit by the tsunami.
Ueno had just begun searching for his loved ones when hydrogen explosions rocked the nuclear plant, just 22 kilometers away.
Despite radioactive substances spewing from the stricken plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., Ueno refused to evacuate. No police or Self-Defense Forces members were coming to rescue him or others stranded in the area.
Ueno found the body of his 8-year-old daughter Erika caked in mud and carried her to a makeshift morgue.
He, along with volunteers, still searches for the body of his son Kotaro, 3, as well as others swept away by the tsunami.
At the time, Kasai, 43, worked for a Hamamatsu-based TV station. She spent the best part of five and a half years documenting Ueno’s life. She completed the project in January 2017, and it was first shown the following May.
Six months after the disaster, Kasai visited Fukushima Prefecture, where she heard about Ueno’s family tragedy and realized that many people were unable to search for missing family members because of the nuclear accident.
“I was disappointed with myself,” Kasai said. “I asked myself what we were doing when we fussed about whether or not we should venture several kilometers nearer to the plant.”
Kasai quit the TV station in 2015 so she could devote herself to the documentary and spend more time visiting devastated areas.
Yamamoto, the journalist who perished in a gun battle while covering the fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo, had made a name for herself covering Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones around the world. She was 43 when she died.
The award was established in 2013 as a way to encourage news gathering on people living in conflict or impoverished areas to raise awareness of their plight.
The award is given to journalists who cover people living in extreme conditions. Each award-winning work to date was a record of a conflict being waged away from Japan.
“Wars and disasters. There are people who hang in there, no matter what unreasonable things are thrown at them in life.
(Kasai’s) approach to taking time to present her story honestly and in a respectful manner overlapped with Yamamoto’s footsteps,” said Akihiro Nonaka, head of Asia Press International, who served as a member of the award’s selection committee, explaining the decision to choose a work themed on disaster this year.
One scene in the documentary shows Ueno weeping and muttering that he “can’t remember” the sound of his children’s voices.
He later confesses that he is “scared” to see his eldest daughter’s classmates all grown up. Still, encouraged by how his 6-year-old second daughter Sarii, who was born in 2011, is managing, Ueno tries to stay on top of things while continuing to search for his missing loved ones.
A scene toward the end of the film shows Erika’s former classmates dressed in their junior high school uniforms visit Ueno’s home to pray in front of the family’s Buddhist altar. Ueno and his wife Kiho, 41, see the girls off as they leave, soft smiles creasing the couple’s faces. The title of the film clearly resonates with the audience.
Learning that she had won the award, Kasai expressed sadness rather than happiness as Yamamoto is no longer alive, recalling that they once shared a meal together.
“I feel like she gave me a supportive push to keep telling the world what happened in Fukushima,” she said.
Ueno commented that he hoped the documentary would serve as a warning not to allow a similar event to occur again.

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June 18, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Mayor of Namie to resign due to illness

Tamotsu Baba mayor of the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture on Wednesday submitted his resignation due to illness. He is 69 years old. Although the details of his illness is not written in the following article, a Japanese media reports that he has been hospitalized for cancer treatment. Namie is located very close to the Fukushima Daiichi, and was within the evacuation zone until the end of March of 2017, when Baba decided the lifting of evacuation advisories given to Namie residents, except for heavily contaminated areas.
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June 13, 2018
NAMIE, Fukushima (Jiji Press) — Tamotsu Baba, mayor of the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture on Wednesday submitted his resignation due to illness.
After obtaining approval from the town assembly on the same day, the 69-year-old mayor will leave office as of June 30.
Baba has been hospitalized on and off since December last year.
First elected mayor of Namie in 2007, Baba is currently serving his third term.
He spearheaded the town’s efforts to cope with the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which mainly rocked the Tohoku northeastern region, and the subsequent nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Namie is located next to the towns of Okuma and Futaba, home to the disaster-crippled nuclear plant.
At the end of March last year, Baba decided the lifting of evacuation advisories given to Namie residents, except for heavily contaminated areas.
The town is asking TEPCO to increase the amount of compensation paid to its some 15,000 citizens
 
The following article by NHK reports that Mayor Baba has been hospitalized to get cancer treatment. He had stomach cancer and had surgery in 2014.

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Imperial couple complete final Fukushima trip of their reign

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Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko talk to fishing industry workers at a wholesale market in the Haragama district of Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 11.
June 12, 2018
FUKUSHIMA–Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on June 11 closed out their last trip to this disaster-stricken prefecture ahead of next year’s abdication.
Even though Michiko was under the weather for some of the time, the couple honored all their commitments during the three-day visit, Imperial Household Agency officials said.
Michiko suffered a fever during the night of June 10 as the journey from Tokyo to northeastern Japan tired her out.
In the morning of June 11, her temperature was 38.1 degrees, but not wanting to let anyone down, she performed all duties as scheduled.
Michiko’s fever gradually receded while cool weather and rain continued throughout the day.
Although the main event in the imperial couple’s diary was to attend an annual national tree-planting festival, visits to areas damaged in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami were also on the program for all three days. Large crowds turned out to welcome them.
The couple’s car took them from Koriyama to Iwaki and Minami-Soma in the prefecture, covering about 280 kilometers over the three days.
After offering white chrysanthemums at a cenotaph in the Haragama district of Soma to commemorate victims, the emperor and empress watched workers sort greenlings at the local wholesale fish market.
Market activities were suspended after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant seven years ago. The market has been revived on a trial basis while checks on radiation levels continue.
The imperial couple, concerned about the economic losses the market had sustained due to lingering concerns about radiation, bought flatfish and Sakhalin surf clams caught off Soma, according to the agency.

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

The Reality of Fukushima Radiation Pollution Exposure

From Kennichi Abe

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“When people nationwide will know about the reality of radiation pollution exposure after 3.11, there are no people who will come to Fukushima prefecture.
There is no report as to the fact that it can be dangerous. There is no news in Fukushima except that it doesn’t matter.”

June 13, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

LDP-backed candidate wins governor’s race in Niigata

A candidate backed by the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party won the Niigata gubernatorial election June 10. TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the Niigata prefecture is the largest nuclear power plant in the world. In December 2017, the Nuclear Regulation Authority completed its major safety screenings of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant.
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Hideyo Hanazumi, a candidate backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, celebrates his election victory in Niigata on June 10.
 
June 11, 2018
NIIGATA–A candidate backed by the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party won the Niigata gubernatorial election June 10, but he remained unclear on whether he would approve the restart of Japan’s largest nuclear power plant.
Hideyo Hanazumi, 60, former vice commandant of the Japan Coast Guard, defeated two other candidates, including Chikako Ikeda, 57, a former Niigata prefectural assemblywoman who was supported by five opposition parties.
The election was held to replace Ryuichi Yoneyama, 50, who resigned in April over a sex scandal.
Yoneyama had shown a cautious stance toward approving the resumption of operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture.
In December 2017, the Nuclear Regulation Authority completed its major safety screenings of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant. That shifted the focus on whether the Niigata prefectural government and the two municipal governments of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa would give their consent to bring the reactors online.
However, Yoneyama said he first wanted to find the cause of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Hanazumi, who also received support from Komeito, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, took a cautious stance on the reactor restarts during the campaign.
When his victory became certain on the night of June 10, Hanazumi said: “I will firmly maintain the (prefectural government’s) work (of looking into the cause of the Fukushima accident). Based on the results of the work, I will make a judgment as the leader (of Niigata Prefecture).”
He also referred to the possibility of holding another election when he decides on whether to approve the reactor restarts.
Hanazumi, who was vice governor of Niigata Prefecture from 2013 to 2015, garnered 546,670 votes, compared with 509,568 for Ikeda, who was backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Democratic Party for the People, the Japanese Communist Party, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party.
Another candidate, Satoshi Annaka, 40, a former Gosen city assemblyman, received 45,628 ballots.
Voter turnout was 58.25 percent, up 5.2 points from 53.05 percent in the previous gubernatorial election held in 2016.
During the campaign, Hanazumi kept a distance from the Abe administration and the LDP as criticism mounted against the prime minister over scandals related to school operators Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution.
Ikeda had also pledged to take over Yoneyama’s work concerning the Fukushima disaster, and she blasted the Abe administration for its pro-nuclear stance.
However, she was unable to effectively differentiate herself from Hanazumi over the restarts at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
In Tokyo, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai told reporters that Hanazumi’s victory is good news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempt to seek a third term in the LDP presidential election in autumn.
“It’s certain that favorable winds have begun blowing,” Nikai said.

June 13, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Imperial couple pass evacuation zone 5.8 km from Fukushima plant

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A car carrying Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko runs on National Road No. 6 in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 10. Bags containing radioactive soil are piled up along the road.
 
FUKUSHIMA–Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko passed through a “difficult-to-return zone” near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on June 10 on their last visit to the disaster area before abdication.
The car carrying the imperial couple was running on an expressway from Iwaki to Minami-Soma in Fukushima Prefecture when it slowed down at a point 5.8 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, according to the chamberlain of the Imperial Household Agency.
An Imperial Guard official accompanying the couple explained the location of the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Although the nuclear plant could not be seen through the rainy weather, Akihito and Michiko looked toward its direction without saying a word.
After leaving the expressway, the car ran on National Road No. 6, which is lined on both sides with bags filled with radioactive soil and debris. The couple apparently saw them from inside the vehicle.
The emperor and empress attended a national tree-planting festival held in the prefecture on that day.
On the night of June 9, the couple watched hula girls’ dances at the Spa Resort Hawaiians in Iwaki where they stayed.
The resort was shut down because of damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011.
The hula girls lost their place to dance, but they toured Japan and became a symbol of reconstruction from the disaster.
Rie Igari, who had led the dancing team for four years, served as a guide for the imperial couple.
With Akihito and Michiko frequently clapping, the hula girls performed dances to three songs, including “Hana wa Saku” (Flowers bloom), a song designed to support rebuilding efforts.
“The emperor and the empress repeatedly visited Fukushima (Prefecture) after the disaster, and their visits promoted reconstruction,” said Haruna Suzuki, captain of the dance team. “Without ever forgetting our feelings of gratitude, we will continue to work to help reconstruction.”

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June 13, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Returnee Fukushima farmers offer taste of rice cultivation in hopes of revitalization

Sustaining the hope of recovery despite the radioactive contamination risk
 
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University students covered in mud plant rice saplings in a drained paddy in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 19, 2018.
 
June 10, 2018
FUKUSHIMA — University students and others from around Japan are coming to the farming villages of Fukushima Prefecture where evacuation orders from the 2011 nuclear disaster have been lifted, experiencing rice planting and interacting with local residents who are facing a difficult recovery and population decline.
Organized by local municipal governments and residents, the visits by people from outside the region affected by the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster are providing inspiration to farmers, who have seen less than 20 percent of the pre-disaster farmland planted, and few inheritors to carry on the region’s farming industry.
The laughter echoed over the idle farmland of the Sakata district in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, as university students and other participants planted rice by hand in a drained paddy on May 19.
“Everyone looks like they’re having fun,” said Namie resident and farmer Kiyoto Matsumoto, 79, with a smile. “Watching them is pretty enjoyable.”
Students started coming to Namie to experience rice planting two years ago. The idea of the event was to have them learn about the current conditions in areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, and to link the awareness with the revitalization of the region. On that day, roughly 60 students worked up a sweat in the mud of the rice paddies. The students can also take part in the harvest of the crops and sell the rice at a local festival held in the town in November.
“I really got a feel for how hard farmers work, and I also learned about the lack of successors to take over the farms and other issues,” said an 18-year-old first-timer, a student at Waseda University in Tokyo. Matsumoto hopes that “the young people (who participate) will be able to feel something through experiencing agricultural work.”
In areas where the 2011 evacuation order has been lifted, rice production has once again become possible. The Fukushima Prefectural Government has been testing all rice produced within the prefecture, and there have been no cases where the rice exceeded the standard limit of the radioactive material cesium from 2015-2017. Still, even after the evacuation order was lifted, residents have not been returning to their pre-disaster homes, and with the added influence of an aging population and a lack of successors, there are few farmers who have taken up rice cultivation again. Of the farmland across the five villages and towns of Tomioka, Namie, Iitate, Katsurao and Naraha, the Odaka Ward of the city of Minamisoma and the Yamakiya district of the town of Kawamata, for which evacuation orders were lifted between 2015 and 2017, only between less than 1 percent to 14 percent of the pre-disaster farmland was in use this spring.
In the village of Iitate, 73-year-old farmer Masao Aita also held a rice-planting event on May 19 for adults and students alike that attracted 32 participants. Aita and his wife just returned to the village the month before. The couple had given up on cultivating rice out of concern that they would not be able to sell what they had produced, and planned to plant the fields with tulips and other flowers. However, they were approached by a volunteer group. The group recommended the rice cultivation event.
Aita plans to send the harvested rice to each of the participants and have them give it a taste. “If people from the outside come visit the village, then it is bound to spark something eventually,” he said.
(Japanese original by Shuji Ozaki, Fukushima Bureau)

June 13, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO employee dies working inside Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant

The employee working inside the power plant began vomiting suddenly Wednesday morning, and was declared dead in the afternoon
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June 7, 2018
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A worker involved in the clean-up and maintenance of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, died suddenly on Wednesday June 6, according to local media.
 
A 50 year-old male employee of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was working on dismantling scaffolding within the damaged nuclear plant when he began vomiting inside his protective suit at approximately 10:40 a.m.
 
He reportedly continued to work until a second round of vomiting began around 12:45 p.m, which caused him to collapse.
 
He was immediately rushed out of the radioactive zone to a nearby hospital, but was unresponsive. Doctors declared him dead at 4:00 p.m.
 
Liberty Times reports that the man was wearing the proper protective clothing, and that there had been no signs of illness or problems during the pre-work check. However, TEPCO did report that the man had suffered from an unspecified medical condition prior to his employment with the company.
 
The man had been employed to work at the facility since March 2016. 
 
On March 11, 2011, a catastrophic tsunami struck the northeast coast of Honshu, Japan, resulting in the failure of the Fukushima nuclear fuel storage facilities. The radioactive fallout from the incident has been a continual concern for the Japanese government and global safety and energy organizations. TEPCO has been tasked with cleaning up and managing the hazardous facility. 

June 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | 3 Comments

Study: Cesium from Fukushima flowed to Tokyo Bay for 5 years

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A photograph taken from an Asahi Shimbun helicopter shows the Edogawa river emptying into Tokyo Bay.
 
June 7, 2018
Radioactive cesium from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant continued to flow into Tokyo Bay for five years after the disaster unfolded in March 2011, according to a researcher.
Hideo Yamazaki, a former professor of environmental analysis at Kinki University, led the study on hazardous materials that spewed from the nuclear plant after it was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
Five months after disaster caused the triple meltdown at the plant, Yamazaki detected 20,100 becquerels of cesium per square meter in mud collected at the mouth of the Kyu-Edogawa river, which empties into Tokyo Bay.
In July 2016, the study team detected a maximum 104,000 becquerels of cesium per square meter from mud collected in the same area of the bay, Yamazaki said.
He said cesium released in the early stages of the Fukushima disaster remained on the ground upstream of the river, such as in Chiba Prefecture. The radioactive substances were eventually washed into the river and carried to Tokyo Bay, where they accumulated in the mud, he said.
On a per kilogram basis, the maximum level of radioactivity of cesium detected in mud that was dried in the July 2016 study was 350 becquerels.
The government says soil with 8,000 becquerels or lower of radioactive cesium per kilogram can be used in road construction and other purposes.
The amount of radioactive cesium in fish in Tokyo remains lower than 100 becquerels per kilogram, the national safety standard for consumption.

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan asks Philippines to lift ban on Fukushima products

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June 6, 2018,
The Japanese government is asking the Philippines to lift the restrictions it imposed on the importation of agricultural and other food products coming from areas affected by the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi, Special Advisor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and in charge of promoting the export of Japanese agricultural products, relayed this message to the Philippine government during a three-day official visit in Manila last week.
In his meeting with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, Miyakoshi noted that the European Union has already lifted some regulations on certain products that include agricultural and fisheries, “based on comprehensive scientific data and analyses.”
Citing the increasing demand for consumption of Japanese products in the country, the government of Japan is eyeing a total of JY1 trillion (PhP47 billion) annual exports to the Philippines until the end of 2019.
In a statement, the Japanese Embassy in Manila said both the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) are working on several policies related to export promotion in order to facilitate the freer flow of Japanese products to the Philippines.
At the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Manila last November, Prime Minister Abe also asked the countries in the region to consider accepting imports of food from the affected areas, noting that sufficient time had passed since the earthquake and the food are widely considered safe.
In the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear incident triggered by the earthquake-borne tsunami in the eastern coast of Japan, many countries, including the Philippines, introduced restrictions on agricultural and other food products from areas near the Fukushima power plant.
Some countries and regions have since then eased the restrictions following widespread clean-up and decontamination conducted by Japan.
Alongside with the discussion on the lifting of restrictions of products from Fukushima and nearby prefectures, Miyakoshi also discussed with Pinol the updates on rice production and harvest in the Philippines and Japan, as well as the possible infusion of Japanese development assistance in these areas.
Miyakoshi, together with Ambassador Koji Haneda, also held a meeting with representatives of Japanese companies doing business in the Philippines to discuss ways to further promote exports of Japanese agricultural products.
“Miyakoshi underscored the importance of this matter to Japan, and that the Japanese Government is now exerting its best efforts to increase export in the nearest future,” the Embassy said in the statement.

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

PART 2: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?

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DOES THE PUBLIC HAVE A SAY?

For their part, representatives of the government and TEPCO I have spoken with invariably stress how important it is to them to reach understand and agreement with all stakeholders, the Fukushima fisheries coops in particular, and to respond to their concerns in the decision-making process. They say they are fully prepared to accommodate the fishermen’s desires regarding the quantity and timing of releases, how they will be monitored, and how to adjust the release parameters in response to what is found after the system begins operation. And although when I point out that concern is not limited to fishermen in Fukushima, but that coops in Miyagi and Iwate, as well as Ibaragi and Chiba also consider themselves stakeholders, and that in fact residents internationally along the entire Pacific rim have already expressed concern, officials voice agreement but cannot point to any concrete efforts to communicate with or include anyone outside of Fukushima or the Tokyo power centers. In the same way, the concerns of major food distributors such as supermarket chains, who ultimately make the decision whether or not to purchase and sell Fukushima marine products nationwide, do not seem to be being addressed.

Shuji Okuda, METI’s Director for Decommissioning and Contaminated Water Management, Nuclear Accident Response Office, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, stressed that no decision has yet been made which of the five options for dealing with the tritiated water detailed in the 2016 Task Force report will be chosen. In other words, although TEPCO, government ministries, and stakeholders are proceeding as if it’s a done deal, no-one with decision-making power has yet made a decision. “It will be a decision of the Japanese Government as a whole,” Okuda explains, “not one made by any single agency. And it will be based on ample discussions with all stakeholders.” Since the release of the Task Force Report in 2016, METI has been discussing the social impacts quite a lot, he noted. They are particularly concerned about “damaging rumors”- fuhyo higai – that will result from any tritiated water release, and have been discussing how to counter them. He continues, “Because the risks have been demonstrated to be very low, it’s less a question of safety, and more one of potential public reaction and reputational damage. We plan to hold further discussions with stakeholders and the general public to increase understanding.” Regarding international communication efforts, he points to English-language materials and reports the ministry releases, but says that since any impacts will involve primarily Japanese local area, information dissemination overseas is limited to experts, administrative officials and some media.”

METI recently announced that meetings will be held where the public can hear explanations of proposed solutions and comment on them. The Subcommittee on Handling Water Treated by the Polynuclide Removal Facility is one of several Japanese government committees organized by METI tasked with formulating a response to the problem of the radioactive water. The planned public sessions were announced at its eighth meeting, on Friday, May 18th. This is a step in the right direction, and is long overdue. Nevertheless it may well be a case of “too little, too late.”

METI, Subcommittee on handling water treated by the polynuclide removal facility, 8th meeting May 18, 2018 (Report regarding upcoming public hearings on tritiated water problem – in Japanese)

Good public communication about the release plan, the ocean science it involves, and what the expected risks are and why, cannot by themselves guarantee public acceptance. But this kind of communication is essential, particularly with such a globally contentious and high-profile issue like releasing radiation into the ocean. The public needs to know the environmental effects, health effects, how it will be monitored, what transparency measures are in place, what the process for adjustment and revision will be. Almost two years have elapsed since the Tritiated Water task Force released its recommendations, and a broad and energetic stakeholder engagement and information effort should have been ongoing since then. But such efforts are now only in the planning stage. It seems that METI and other ministries have been paralyzed, faced with taking responsibility for a politically damaging decision, forced to acknowledge that they support the plan but unable to take concrete steps to implement it or prepare the public. TEPCO, while it accepts its responsibility for the decision, seeks full government support, including robust public communication efforts. It seems extremely unlikely to act without a clear government decision in favor of the release and stipulating its timing. We should be prepared for the government to remain paralyzed until the last possible moment, when crisis is imminent, and then to announce a decision suddenly, justifying it by saying that time has run out and that it “can’t be helped.” As a colleague pointed out, this is, unfortunately, the Kasumigaseki way.*

When asked what the official position of TEPCO was regarding the plan to release the water, Kohta Seto of TEPCO’s Communication Development, Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination and Decommissioning Engineering Company, replied, “We recognize that comprehensive examination of technical and social factors is ongoing currently at the national subcommittee. Our response policy will be made in consultation with the government and related stakeholders based on the subcommittee’s discussions.” This echoes METI’s assertion that no decision has actually been made. But in fact the Tritiated Water Task Force, the subcommittee referred to, has been dormant for over a year, and any further recommendations will come from the higher-level METI Contaminated Water Countermeasures Committee and from the NRA.

Others at TEPCO have acknowledged that the company feels ultimately responsible, and is confronted with a decision that could further damage others. Takahiro Kimoto, General Manager, Nuclear Power & Plant Siting Division, Fukushima Daiichi D&D Engineering Company, notes that under the existing plan and at the current rate, by 2020 there will be no more space to store additional tritiated water onsite at Daiichi. Constructing the dilution facilities and pipelines that the release would require is expected to require almost a year of preparation after any decision is made. At the current rate, that means the “go” signal must be given by early 2019 at the latest. Though TEPCO expects that measures such as the frozen wall and subdrain pumps will continue to reduce the amount of treated water that needs to be stored, nevertheless they recognize that there is a narrowing window for decision and action. The company has no plans to try to obtain land offsite to further expand tank space, which could provide an additional margin of time. Though feasible technically and cost-wise, this would be a stopgap measure that merely delays the decision to deal with the tritium more permanently by the other means already being considered. Kimoto explained that the company does not want to act independently. “The policies can’t and shouldn’t be determined by TEPCO alone, but we continue discussing the available options with government and other stakeholders. How much to empty the tanks, how that should be done to minimize environmental consequences, how to maintain trust and transparency, who we need to engage with on this matter, these are all issues we seek stakeholder engagement on. These discussions are taking a long time, but we consider them essential.” Put bluntly, TEPCO knows they will be the bad guys in this scenario no matter what, and prefer to have as broad support as possible.

TRANSPARENCY

I initially approached this issue as one of transparency and the need to include a broadly-defined base of stakeholders in the decision-making process and subsequent monitoring of the results. That has been experience of SAFECAST, which prioritizes transparency and impartiality, and tries to get as many people involved in environmental monitoring and decision-making as possible, with unprecedented positive results. We have seen similar benefits where citizen groups in Japan monitor food and their own environments, and seek and often gain a vital voice in decisions that affect them. The Fukushima fisheries coops, TEPCO, and METI all said they would welcome transparent, independent, ongoing third-party monitoring of seawater and marine life if and when the tritiated is released. TEPCO and METI say they understand the need for transparency, and are prepared to change their institutional cultures in order to better accommodate it. Okuda of METI observed, “Having accurate data available to the public won’t by itself ensure adequate understanding, but in the end it is essential.”

Based on many conversations, however, I’m not sure enough people in these organizations fully grasp what true transparency means. Dr. Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who has been monitoring Fukushima radiation effects in the ocean since immediately after the start of the disaster, started a very effective crowdsourced program to monitor radiation in the Pacific Ocean along the North American coast. He has long complained of the difficulty of getting adequate access to ocean zones close to Daiichi for scientific research. Regarding the need for transparency and independent monitoring he says, “When I talk about independent monitoring, I don’t mean JAEA or IAEA, or other big government-connected institutions, but universities, NGO’s, and other independent research labs.” He adds, “Even before the decision to release the water is made, someone should get a detailed accounting for what is in each tank for all of the radionuclides of concern, not just that they are below detection (using high thresholds), as the large volume of water means even seemingly small amounts add up. This needs to be independent of TEPCO or whoever is in charge of dumping.”

Buesseler and others share my opinion that robust and effective communication is essential, not to persuade the public that official plans are acceptable, but to better equip them to participate in the debate in an informed way, and to push back where they feel it is necessary. More effort should be made in communicating in general, and this requires a better-educated and more scientifically literate public, which means ongoing efforts that begin years before crisis renders it necessary. Independent groups should be involved in interpreting data and presenting the results in a way which does not damage their independence. It may be necessary to set funds for this aside where they cannot be controlled by government or industry. In the case of the tritiated water at Daiichi, though this kind of transparency and engagement will be essential, it will need to be accompanied by appropriate communication efforts. Those responsible for this should not underestimate the challenge or think it can effectively be rolled out in a short period of time.

According to METI, the content, location, and timing of the upcoming public sessions will be discussed at the next subcommitee meeting in July. People unable to attend in person will be able to submit comments and questions via email. Though hastily-planned events could possibly be held before the end of this year, it seems likely they will need to happen in 2019, bumping up against the decision deadline. While some fishermen are likely to attend, the cooperatives themselves will likely refuse. This situation requires the actual involvement of citizens in the decision making process, but it is difficult to find instances of that actually happening in Fukushima since the accident in 2011. At the central government level in particular, it has almost always been DAD — “Decide, Announce, Defend.” Government planners must think seriously about how prevent this from becoming just another clumsy photo-op, a fig leaf that will allow the government to claim it has adequately consulted the public.

A FINAL WORD

Regardless of whether one trusts scientific opinion or TEPCO, the tritiated water cannot be left in the tanks at Daiichi indefinitely, and releasing it to the ocean, though not without risk, is the least objectionable of the available options. As it stands now, given the depth of public mistrust and the nature of misinformation in our current era, the situation is ripe for the maximum misunderstanding and negative social impact to occur if and when this tritiated water is finally released. Unfortunately, I think we should be prepared for things to be done the “Kasumigaseki way,” with much insincere hand-wringing and expressions of regret. There will be negative social impact no matter what, but unless responsible government officials step up soon, own the decision, and ensure that public engagement is genuine, broad, and effective, these negative impacts will be unnecessarily magnified.

* Kasumigaseki is the part of Tokyo where central government functions are located.  It’s similar to Capitol Hill.

Azby Brown

Azby Brown is Safecast’s lead researcher and primary author of the Safecast Report. A widely published authority in the fields of design, architecture, and the environment, he has lived in Japan for over 30 years, and founded the KIT Future Design Institute in 2003. He joined Safecast in mid-2011, and frequently represents the group at international expert conferences.

https://blog.safecast.org/2018/06/part-2-radioactive-water-at-fukushima-daiichi-what-should-be-done/

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

PART 1: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?

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850,000 TONS

Of all the conflicts and consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi NPP disaster, the contaminated water issue is one of the most complicated, contentious, and potentially long-term. It’s a multifaceted problem ultimately rooted in the influx of groundwater into the damaged reactor buildings. A large volume of water is pumped into and out of the damaged reactors each day to keep them cool. This is treated to remove salt and most radionuclides and recirculated back into the reactors. If there were no additional water leaking into the reactor basements, this could function as an essentially closed loop. But a volume equal to the additional groundwater inflow needs to be removed from recirculation. It too is treated to remove all radionuclides except tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen known as H-3, and is being stored in the now familiar rows of tanks onsite at Daiichi. A partially effective underground dam of frozen earth, together with a system of subdrain pumps, has reduced the volume necessary to be removed from about 400 cubic meters per day to about 150-200 cubic meters (though appreciably more when it rains heavily). About 850 large tanks now hold 850,000 tons of tritiated water, and TEPCO says that it will run out of space to store additional water onsite by 2020, so something must be done soon. As far back as 2014, the IAEA recommended a controlled release of this water to the ocean as the safest course of action, and Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Agency (NRA) has made similar recommendations. A Tritiated Water Task Force convened by METI in 2013 examined five options in detail, including evaporating it and releasing it into the atmosphere, releasing it into the atmosphere as hydrogen gas, injecting it into deep geologic strata, storing it underground, and diluting it and discharging it into the ocean. For reasons of cost, available technology, time required, and safety, in its final report issued in June, 2016, the task force concluded that ocean discharge was the least objectionable approach. TEPCO has made it clear that this is its preference as well, and in July of last year Takashi Kawamura, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc., said publicly that the decision to release the tritiated water had already been made. Many people were alarmed, particularly Fukushima fishermen who expected to be consulted, and the company backpedalled immediately. So far no decision has been officially announced. The reason for the delay in the decision is the very reasonable expectation of a strong public backlash. Meanwhile the window for the decision to be made is rapidly closing.

METI Tritiated Water Task Force Report, June 2016 (English version)

Preliminary Summary Report: IAEA International Peer Review Mission On Mid-And-Long-Term Roadmap Towards The Decommissioning Of Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units 1-4
(Third Mission), Feb. 2015

Japan Times: Regulator urges Tepco to release treated radioactive water from damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea, Jan. 11, 2018

Japan Times: Fukushima’s tritiated water to be dumped into sea, TEPCO chief says, July 14, 2017

TEPCO: Response to the article about the release of tritiated water into the ocean, July 14, 2017

Asahi Shimbun: New TEPCO executives tripping over their tongues, July 20, 2017

 

OPPOSITION

The strongest and most meaningful opposition comes from Fukushima’s fisheries cooperatives, which have suffered tremendously due to the disaster. Not only were their ports and fishing fleets destroyed by the tsunami, but the market for their fish collapsed after the sale of 44 marine species was prohibited by the Japanese government in 2011 due to radioactive contamination. The public seems largely unaware that in the years since the bans were initiated, the percentage of Fukushima marine products exceeding the 100 Bq/kg allowable level of radioactive cesium has decreased rapidly, and has actually been zero since 2015. People are right to be skeptical of this, perhaps, but it has been confirmed by official testing, by independent researchers, and by testing done by independent citizen groups. Testing is done for each marine variety on a fishing ground-by-fishing ground basis, and as they have gradually been demonstrated to meet the requirements, 34 of the 44 initially banned seafood varieties have been allowed back on the market. Thanks to incrementally improving consumer confidence, the market for Fukushima seafood has slowly improved. The Fukushima fisheries coops justifiably fear that if the tritiated water is released to the ocean, the resulting consumer backlash will totally destroy their livelihoods once again.

Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations

Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF): Results of the monitoring on radioactivity level in fisheries products: Summary of Monitoring on fishery products (As of Mar. 31, 2018)

METI has jurisdiction over contaminated water releases from nuclear reactors like Daiichi because it is responsible for overseeing energy production systems as a whole, including accident consequences. The NRA, which is part of the Environment Ministry, has specific jurisdiction for nuclear power, and its evaluations and guidance are also important. But ultimately the decision of whether or not to release the tritiated water is TEPCO’s. A company spokesman explained to me recently that government guidelines and recommendations are taken very seriously, and that the company goes to great lengths to meet government expectations. But ultimately these recommendations are non-binding. TEPCO hopes to get the green light from METI and the NRA, and all of them have been delaying their decisions in the hopes that the approval of the fisheries coops can be obtained as well.

On the face of it, this hope is not totally unfounded, as there is an important precedent. The fisheries coops have been approving the release of water from two specific sources onsite at Daiichi for several years. One is a bypass system uphill of the reactors that intercepts groundwater before it reaches the reactor area. The other is a subdrain system that pumps water from the area around the reactors. In both cases, the water has relatively low levels of radioactive contamination, and is treated to remove radionuclides and then tested by TEPCO and third-parties (JAEA and the Japan Chemical Analysis Center). If the radioactivity is lower than TEPCO’s self-imposed target levels of 1 Bq/L each for Cs137 and Cs134, 5 Bq/L for Gross beta (including strontium), and 1500 Bq/L for tritium — all of which are many times lower than the limits for drinking water set by the WHO — the fisheries coops agree to its release. This agreement has been in place since 2014 for the bypass water, and since 2015 for the subdrain water. It appears to have been functioning smoothly, with over 350,000 tons of bypass water and about 500,000 tons of subdrain water released so far. The participation of third-parties in the monitoring has been the key to gaining trust in the measurements.

TEPCO – Water Discharge Criteria for Groundwater Bypass, February 3, 2014

TEPCO – Groundwater pump-up by Subdrain or Groundwater drain

WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE

The tritium in the tanks at Daiichi is much more radioactive than the subdrain or bypass water, however. The concentration levels of tritium in the tanks ranges from about 0.5 to 4 million Bq/L, a total of about 0.76 PBq (trillion Bq) in all. No decision has been made about how much is likely to be released per day, but technical and cost estimates have been based on 400 cubic meters (tons) per day, roughly equal to the maximum daily inflow of groundwater. It is expected that releases would continue for about five years. Under the scenarios being discussed, the water would be diluted to 60,000 Bq/L before being released to the ocean. This number alone seems alarming, but is the concentration level that has been legally allowed to be released from Japanese nuclear power plants and reprocessing facilities such as Tokaimura for decades. The science regarding what is likely to happen to the tritium in terms of dispersal by ocean currents and effects on fish and other biota is fairly well understood, primarily because of decades of monitoring done in Japan and near similar facilities abroad, such as Sellafield in the UK and LaHague in France. Data from the French government shows that the LaHague reprocessing plant releases about 12PBq (12 trillion Bq) per year, and the maximum concentration of tritium in the surrounding ocean has been about 7Bq/L. This means that the amount released yearly from LaHague is over 12 times the total being stored at Daiichi, and the daily release rate is over 20,000 times that expected in Fukushima. Dr. Jota Kanda, a professor at the Department of Ocean Sciences, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, observed that the dispersal and further dilution of tritium is rapid, and says, “Based on what we’ve seen at La Hague, it seems likely that under the ocean release scenario being considered now, tritium concentrations in the ocean off Fukushima will not exceed a few Bq/L and will likely remain close to the background level.” Globally, the background levels of tritium in water currently range between 1 and 4 Bq/L, which includes 0.1 to 0.6 Bq/L that is naturally-occurring and more than doubled by tritium remaining from nuclear testing. In oceans, tritium concentration levels at the surface are around 0.1 to 0.2 Bq/L. For comparison, naturally occurring tritium in rainwater in Japan between 1980-1995 was between 0.5- 1.5 Bq/L, and prior to 2011 in Fukushima rivers and tap water was generally between 0.5-1.5 Bq/L. In the US, the EPA standard for tritium in drinking water is 740 Bq/liter, while the EU imposes a limit of 100Bq/L.

Fujita et al, Environmental Tritium in the Vicinity of Tokai Reprocessing Plant. Journal of Nuclear Science and Technology, 44:11, 1474-1480

Matsuura, et al, Levels of tritium concentration in the environmental samples around JAERI TOKAI. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, Articles, Vol. 197, No. 2 (1995)295-307

METI Task Force Report supplement: About the physical properties of tritium,
Yamanishi Toshihiko, 2013

LaHague tritium release data, cited in METI Task Force Report supplement, p6

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII): A survey of tritium in Irish seawater, July 2013

IRSN factsheet: Tritium and the environment

Michio Aoyama: Long-term behavior of 137Cs and 3H activities from TEPCO Fukushima NPP1 accident in the coastal region off Fukushima, Japan. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, 2018

Tsumune et al: Distribution of oceanic 137Cs from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant simulated numerically by a regional ocean model. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 111 (2012) 100-108

Povinec, et al, Cesium, iodine and tritium in NW Pacific waters – a comparison of the Fukushima impact with global fallout. Biogeosciences Discuss., 10, 6377–6416, 2013

Dr. Kanda further explains that biological organisms such as fish have different concentration factors for different radionuclides. When the ambient level of Cs137 in seawater is 1 Bq/L, for instance, some fish species may show values approaching 100 Bq/kg. But for tritium (H3) the ratio is 1:1, and 1 Bq/L in seawater will result in 1Bq/kg in fish. Again, at La Hague, which has had a much higher release of tritium for decades, the concentrations in marine wildlife near the point of release between 1997-2006 has ranged from 4.0 – 19.0 Bq/kg, with a mean of 11.1 Bq/kg. Using this as a guideline, Kanda estimates that even with an ongoing release of 60,000 Bq/L of tritium offshore of Daiichi, the fish a short distance away are unlikely to exceed 1 Bq/kg. This can, and must be, confirmed by conscientious monitoring.

What about health effects to humans? Though the release from Daiichi would be many times smaller than what is ongoing from LaHague or Sellafield, and the levels in the ocean after release seem likely to be close to that in normal rivers and rainwater, it is understandable that people would be concerned about risk. The scientific consensus is that tritium presents a much lower risk than radionuclides such as radioactive cesium, radioactive iodine, or strontium. This is reflected in allowable limits in drinking water which are generally tens or hundreds of times higher for tritium than for these others, ranging from 100 Bq/L in the European Union, 740 Bq/L in the US, 7000 Bq/L in Canada, 30,000 Bq/L in Finland, and 76,103 Bq/L in Australia. The WHO limit for tritium in drinking water is 10,000 Bq/L. Allowable limits in food have in most cases not been established. While these limits reflect a general scientific consensus that tritium presents a very low risk, the wide range of official values suggests scientific uncertainty about how it actually affects the human body.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC): Standards and Guidelines for Tritium in Drinking Water, 2008

SCIENTIFIC UNCERTAINTY

Because in its most common form, known as HTO, tritiated water behaves almost identically to water, it is eliminated from the human body with a biological half-life of 10 days, the same as for water. But when it is incorporated into living things or organic matter, a fraction of it binds with organic molecules to become organically bound tritium, known as OBT. In this form it can stay in the body for years, and its risks, while assumed to be fairly low, are not fully understood. Dr. Ian Fairlie, a UK-based researcher who has published widely on the risks of tritium exposure, believes that current guidelines underestimate the nuclide’s true risk. Fairlie points out that there is a long-running controversy among experts regarding the risks of OBT, which many believe are higher than official guidelines currently recognize. Many official agencies, like France’s IRSN, have issued reports that recognize these uncertainties, and Fairlie believes that the research findings indicate that the dose from OBT should be increased by a factor of 5 compared to HTO.

Fairlie: Tritium: Comments on Annex C of UNSCEAR 2016 Report, March 14, 2017

IRSN factsheet: Tritium and the environment

In the ocean release scenarios being considered in Fukushima, Fairlie agrees that there will be high levels of dilution. Nevertheless, as the tritium disperses, he says, “It will be found throughout the entire ocean food chain.” The ICRP suggests that 3% of the tritium metabolized from water by marine life becomes potentially riskier OBT, while the IAEA estimates the fraction at 50%. IRSN and others caution that the biological exchange of tritium and other aspects of its action in organisms, such as the effects of exposure on embryos and foetuses, is incomplete. The METI Tritiated Water Task Force report of June 2016 explains that, “When standard values pertaining to radioactive material in food were established [in Japan] in 2012, it was concluded that “it is difficult to conceive of the concentration of tritium in food reaching a dose that would require attention.” This must not be assumed to be the case. Any estimate of risks to humans from tritium exposure should take the uncertainties as well as the possibility of higher risk from OBT fully into account. That said, the roughly 1Bq/kg maximum expected by experts to be found in fish off Fukushima after release is roughly from 100 to 70,000 times lower than drinking water limits around the world. Assuming that 3%-50% of that 1 Bq/kg is OBT, with a potentially higher risk factor, the human exposure risks from this scenario nevertheless appear to be extremely low, close to those of normal background radiation. The Japanese Gov’t is arguing that it is negligible.

FUKUSHIMA FISHERIES COOPS

TEPCO, METI, and other government bodies which share the mandate for dealing with contaminated water from Fukushima Daiichi believe there is no scientific reason to prevent releasing the tritiated water into the Pacific. For them, the largest stumbling bock is the lack of approval from the Fukushima fisheries cooperatives. As described above, these coops agreed to other releases of treated water from Daiichi as long as it’s compliance with safety regulations could be independently confirmed. Since the science indicates similarly minimal risk from releasing the water from the tanks after considerable dilution, what is their objection now? “We are totally opposed to the planned release,” explained Mr Takaaki Sawada of the Iwaki Office of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, known as FS Gyoren. “It’s not a question of money or compensation,” he continued, “nor of any level of concentration we might accept as safe. There aren’t any conditions we would set, saying ‘If you satisfy these conditions then we will agree.’ We do not think it should be our responsibility to decide whether or not to release it. That entire discussion is inappropriate.”

Over the course of our long conversation, Sawada frankly acknowledged that the scientific consensus indicates very low risk if the water is released. “It’s not a question of scientific understanding,” he said. “We understand that tritiated water is released from other nuclear power plants in Japan and around the world. But we think it will be impossible for the public in general to understand why tritium is considered low risk, and expect there will be a large new backlash against Fukushima marine products no matter how scientifically it is explained.” I pointed out that the coops agreed to the release of the subdrain and bypass water from Daiichi, and asked what was different about this. He pointed out that in those cases, the water is pumped out before it is contaminated, and the public seems to understand that the contamination levels are already very low.

Fisheries coops, or kumai, are organized at each fishing port, of which there are 14 in Fukushima, only 2 of which, in Soma and Iwaki, are now operating commercially. The Fukushima coops have a total of about 1400 members at present. FS Gyoren is a prefectural federation, or rengo kumiai, that exists to facilitate communication and cooperation among the individual coops. There is a national rengo kumiai as well, called Zengyoren. These are not companies, and are not top-down organizations. Rather, each local port kumiai maintains independence. And though in meetings with Tepco or the government FS Gyoren communicates the concerns of members based on the kumai’s own meetings, no real full consensus has been reached regarding the proposed releases. It is a difficult situation with many possibilities for dissatisfaction and dissent. As an outside observer, I expected that some trust-building conditions, such as more transparent and conscientious monitoring, or further limits to the concentration and quantities released, could be satisfied which would allow the coops to agree to the ocean discharge. But now I think they won’t budge, particularly after TEPCO chairman Kawamura’s surprise announcement last summer that the decision had already been made without their approval. The kumiai will, I think, force the decision to be made against their strong opposition. I think they’re right that Japanese society is primed for a large backlash against Fukushima seafood no matter what the science and measurement shows.

Azby Brown

Azby Brown is Safecast’s lead researcher and primary author of the Safecast Report. A widely published authority in the fields of design, architecture, and the environment, he has lived in Japan for over 30 years, and founded the KIT Future Design Institute in 2003. He joined Safecast in mid-2011, and frequently represents the group at international expert conferences.

https://blog.safecast.org/2018/06/part-1-radioactive-water-at-fukushima-daiichi-what-should-be-done/

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment