- One more case of suspected thyroid cancer was diagnosed by cytology since the last report.
- No additional surgeries since the last report: the number of confirmed cancer cases remains at 145 (101 in the first round and 44 in the second round)
- Total number of confirmed/suspected thyroid cancer diagnosed (excluding a single case of benign tumor) is 184 (115 in the first round and 69 in the second round)
- The second round screening data is still not final (confirmatory examination still ongoing).
- Thyroid Examination Evaluation Subcommittee will be convened in May or June 2017 to evaluate the results of the second round screening.
On February 20, 2017, less than two months since the last report, the 26th Oversight Committee for Fukushima Health Management Survey convened in Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture. Among other information, the Oversight Committee released the latest results (as of December 31, 2016) of the second and third rounds of the Thyroid Ultrasound Examination (TUE). Official English translation of the results will be posted here. The narrative below presents basic facts of TUE and its current results in perspective, including information covered during the committee meeting and the subsequent press conference.
As of December 31, 2016, there is only 1 more case with cancer or suspicion of cancer from the second round, making a grand total of 184 (185 including the single case of post-surgically confirmed benign nodule) for the first and second round screening results combined. The number of surgically confirmed cancer cases, excluding the aforementioned case of benign nodule, did not change from the previous report (101 from the first round and 44 from the second round), and the remaining 38 (14 from the first round and 24 from the second round) continue to be under observation.
The second round screening (the first Full-Scale screening) was originally scheduled to be conducted from April 2014 through March 2016, and the primary examination (with the participation rate of 70.9% and the progress rate of 100.0%), is essentially complete. But the confirmatory examination (with the participation rate of 79.5% and the progress rate of 95.0%) is still ongoing.
The third round screening (the second Full-Scale Screening) began on May 1, 2016 and is scheduled to run through March 2018–the end of Fiscal Year 2018. As of December 31, 2016, 87,217 out of the survey population of 336,623 residents have participated in the ongoing primary examination at the participation rate of 25.9%. The confirmatory examination began on October 1, 2016, with the participation rate of 29.6% so far.
Full-Scale Screening (first and second)
To be conducted every 2 years until age 20 and every 5 years after age 20, the Full-Scale screening began with the second round screening (the first Full-Scale Screening) in April 2014, including those who were born in the first year after the accident. There are 381,282 eligible individuals born between April 2, 1992 and April 1, 2012. As of December 31, 2016, 270,489 actually participated in the primary examination.
The participation rate remained the same as 3 months earlier at 70.9% but lower than 81.7% from the first round screening. Results of the primary examination have been finalized in 270,468 participants, and 2,226 (increased by 4 since the last Oversight Committee meeting) turned out to require the confirmatory examination.
The confirmatory examination is still ongoing for the second round. Of 2,226 requiring the confirmatory examination, 1,770 have participated at the participation rate of 79.5% (increased from the previous 75.8% but still lower than 92.8% from the first round screening). So far 1,681 have received final results including 95 that underwent fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) which revealed 69 cases suspicious for cancer.
Confirmation of thyroid cancer requires pathological examination of the resected thyroid tissue obtained during surgery. There has been no additional surgical case since the last reporting. As of December 31, 2016, 44 underwent surgery and 43 were confirmed to have papillary thyroid cancer. One remaining case was confirmed to have “other thyroid cancer” according to the classification in the seventh revision of Japan’s unique thyroid cancer diagnostic guidelines. A specific diagnosis was not revealed, but it has been reported as a differentiated thyroid cancer that is not known to be related to radiation exposure and it is allegedly neither poorly differentiated thyroid cancer nor medullary cancer.
The third round screening or the second Full-Scale Screening has covered 87,217 or 25.9% of the survey population of 336,623. The primary examination results have been finalized in 71,083 or 81.5% of the participants, revealing 483 to require the confirmatory examination. Results of the confirmatory examination have been finalized in 64 of 143 (29.6%) that have been examined. FNAC was conducted in one person with a negative result: No cancer case has been diagnosed from the third round as of now.
Conducted every 2 years up to age 20, the TUE transitions at age 25 to milestone screenings to be conducted every 5 years. Some residents are beginning to participate in the age 25 milestone screening, and if they have never participated in the TUE, their milestone screening results will be added to the second round screening results. Thus the number of the second round screening participants is expected to increase even though the screening period technically ended in March 2016.
However, the third round screening survey population excludes the age 25 milestone screening participants: their results will be tallied up separately.
Also in some cases, confirmatory examinations from the second and third rounds might be simultaneously ongoing, or there could be significant delays in conducting confirmatory examinations due to logistical issues such as the lack of manpower. A two-year screening period originally designed for subsequent rounds of the Full-Scale Screening is essentially spread over a longer time period, overlapping with the next round of screening. A precise interpretation of results from each round of screening might be nearly impossible.
A newly diagnosed case in the second round
In the second round, only 1 case was newly diagnosed by FNAC with suspicion of cancer. It is a female from Koriyama-City who was 17 years old at the time of the March 2011 disaster. Her first round screening result was A1.
Prior diagnostic status of the cases newly diagnosed with cancer in the second round
Of 69 total cases suspected or confirmed with cancer in the second round, 32 were A1, 31 were A2, and 5 were B in the first round. One remaining case never underwent the first round screening (no information such as age, sex or place or residence, is available regarding this case).
Thirty-two cases that were A1 in the first round, by definition, had no ultrasound findings of cysts or nodules, whereas 7 of 31 cases that were previously diagnosed as A2 had nodules with the remaining 24 being cysts. All 5 cases that were previously diagnosed as B were nodules, and at least 2 of them had undergone the confirmatory examination in the first round.
This means 56 (32 “A1” and 24 “A2 cysts”)of 69 cases had no nodules detected by ultrasound in the first round which could have developed into cancer. This is 81% of the second round cases suspected or confirmed with cancer. It has been speculated by some that these 56 cases were new onset since the first round, suggesting the cancer began to form in 2 to 3 years after the first round screening, conflicting with the common notion that thyroid cancer in general is slow growing.
Akira Ohtsuru, the head of the TUE, explained that even though some of the small nodules are very easy to detect by ultrasound, exceptions arise when 1) the border of the lesion is ambiguous, 2) the density of the lesion is so low that it blends into the normal tissue, or 3) the lesion resembles the normal tissue. Thus, it is not because the nodules newly formed since the first round screening, but because the nodules were simply not detected even though they were there, that cases which previously had no nodules are now being diagnosed with cancer. Ohtsuru said that when such previously undetected nodules become relatively large enough to become detectable by ultrasound, they might look as if they suddenly appeared. Ohtsuru added that nodules that have already been detected by ultrasound do not to appear to grow very rapidly in general.
This is a better, more legitimate explanation than the previous ones he offered that stated the nodules were present in the first round albeit invisible. However, 56 out of 69 cases seem like a lot to be explained by this.
An issue of the female to male ratio
The female to male ratio of cancer cases warrants a special attention. For thyroid cancer, the female to male ratio is nearly 1:1 in the very young, but it is known to increase with age and decrease with radiation exposure. (See below Slide 2 in this post for more information). In the second round, the female to male ratio has been ranging from 1.19:1 to 1.44:1 overall, but the FY2015 municipalities have consistently shown a higher number of males than females with the most recent female to male ratio of 0.7:1.
What Ohtsuru said about the the female to male ratio boils down to the following:
The female to male ratio for thyroid cancer is influenced by the reason for diagnosis and the age. When the confirmatory examination of the second round screening is completed, the data will be analyzed by adjusting for age and participation rates by sex. The female to male ratio in Japan’s cancer registry data, including all ages, is around 3:1, but it used to be bigger at 4:1 or 6:1 in the 1980’s and earlier. In Fukushima, the TUE was conducted in asymptomatic youth around puberty–a different condition than the cancer registry. Yet even in the cancer registry, the female to male ratio tends to be close to 1:1 up to the puberty. Autopsy data of occult thyroid cancer in individuals who died of causes other than thyroid cancer show the female to male ratio of 1:1 or smaller (more males) in adults. This fact indicates that thyroid cancer screening would yield the female to male ratio close to 1:1 even in adults. Thus, it is scientifically expected that thyroid cancer screening in general leads to a smaller female to male ratio.
He is claiming that thyroid cancer diagnosed by cancer screening before becoming symptomatic–as opposed to symptomatic thyroid cancer diagnosed clinically–is expected to show the female to male ratio near 1:1 or smaller, i.e., as many males are diagnosed as females, or more males are diagnosed than females.
To say the least, calling extrapolation from autopsy data to screening “scientific” seems a bit of a stretch. Furthermore, Ohtsuru’s claim does not add up scientifically. South Korea, where active screening increased the incidence of thyroid cancer, did not observe a smaller female to male ratio as shown in the table of thyroid cancer incidence by sex and age group compiled from Ahn et al. (2016). It is obvious the female incidence is much higher than the male incidence without actually calculating the ratio.
Thyroid cancer incidence by sex and age group per 100,000
in the 16 administrative regions in Korea
Compiled from Supplementary Tables 2 & 3 in Ahn et al. (2016) Thyroid Cancer Screening in South Korea Increases Detection of Papillary Cancers with No Impact on Other Subtypes or Thyroid Cancer Mortality (link)
Furthermore, Ohtsuru’s claim that the female to male ratio tends to be close to 1:1 up to the puberty in the cancer registry is not corroborated by the actual data. The table below was compiled from the National estimates of cancer incidence based on cancer registries. The number of thyroid cancer cases for each sex was listed side-by-side for each year and age group. Then a total from 2000 to 2012 was tallied for each sex and age group to obtain the female to male ratio, because the number of cases varies from year to year. Even without knowing exactly which age range Ohtsuru meant by “up to the puberty,” it is clear that the female to male ratio is not at all close to 1:1.
The number of thyroid cancer cases by sex and age group from 2000 to 2012
Compiled from the National estimates of cancer incidence based on cancer registries in Japan (link)
According to this study, the female to male ratio peaks at puberty and declines with age, as excerpted below:
The increased F:M ratio in thyroid cancer incidence does not remain static with age. Female predominance peaks at puberty. […] This pattern occurs as the thyroid cancer incidence begins to increase at an earlier age in females than in males, leading to a rise in the F:M ratio. The ratio starts to decline as the male incidence rate begins to increase and, concurrently, the rate of increase in female incidence rate slows down. The steady decrease in F:M ratio with age continues, and the peak male rate does not occur until between 65 and 69 years of age, compared with the earlier peak female rate between 45 and 49 years of age, just before the mean age of menopause at 50 years.
An issue of the participation rate
The primary examination participation rate of 70.9% in the second round screening is lower than 81.7% in the first round. Most notable is the participation rate of the oldest age group: 52.7% for ages 16-18 (age at exposure) in the first round plummeted to 25.7% for ages 18-22 (age at examination) in the second round. It is 6.6% for ages 18-24 (age at examination) for the ongoing third round so far.
Younger age groups in school have maintained pretty high participation rates thanks to the school-based screening. The older age group often leave the prefecture for college or jobs, and it becomes increasingly difficult to get them to participate, especially with their interests fading in their busy lives.
The status of the new third-party committee
The “international, third-party, neutral, scientific, up-to-date and evidence-based” expert committee proposed by Chairman Hokuto Hoshi at the last committee meeting is being discussed at the prefectural level in consultation with the central government. The prefectural official admitted that the plan was to establish an independent entity that will offer, from a neutral standpoint, latest knowledge of thyroid cancer needed by the Oversight Committee.
A committee member Tamami Umeda from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare elaborated on her vision of the third-party committee as an entity to review and organize the latest clinical and epidemiological knowledge and studies. It would be separate from the Thyroid Examination Evaluation Subcommittee that is intended to evaluate and analyze the status of the TUE, including the evaluation of radiation effects. (Note: In reality, the Thyroid Examination Evaluation Subcommittee has been far from being effective in analyzing the TUE data due to lack of information released by Fukushima Medical University on the premise of protecting personal clinical data).
Explaining that international organizations frequently separate a scientific review process from discussions relating to policy making in order to maintain neutrality, Umeda said she thought a similar process might be useful for the Fukushima Health Management Survey. This comment drew questions from committee members as well as the press about the status of the Oversight Committee itself: Is it a policy-making body? Is it not scientific enough?
It would make more sense to invite experts to join the Thyroid Examination Evaluation Subcommittee to incorporate knowledge gained from the latest research on thyroid cancer. Why it has to be an “international” committee is unclear other than to say that it was recommended by the Organizing Committee of 5th International Expert Symposium in Fukushima on Radiation and Health, including Shunichi Yamashita. A former chair to the Oversight Committee, Yamashita resigned from the position in March 2013 amid controversies surrounding “secret meetings.” Although no longer involved with the Oversight Committee, he has maintained ties with the Survey as Founding Senior Director of the Radiation Medical Science Center for the Fukushima Health Management Survey, the Office of International Cooperation for the Survey.
Prices of agricultural products and foodstuffs from Fukushima Prefecture declined after the nuclear plant accident in March 2011, and almost six years later, have yet to recover to pre-disaster levels.
Now the government is seeking to ascertain why these items are still being sold at lower prices, suspecting that wholesalers are deliberately underpricing products being shipped from the prefecture.
The Reconstruction Agency will survey wholesalers’ purchase prices of Fukushima-made food products, according to sources.
The agency believes crops and other items grown in the prefecture are being undersold because of the negative effects of groundless rumors stemming from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The latest decision is aimed at preventing the spread of those rumors.
The agency’s plan is expected to be included in a draft revision of the Law on Special Measures for the Reconstruction and Revitalization of Fukushima, to be submitted during the current Diet session.
Since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, triggered the nuclear accident, Fukushima-made foodstuffs have been shipped only after their radioactivity levels are confirmed to be below safety standards.
The levels for those agricultural and other products typically fall below detectable levels, meaning most foodstuffs from Fukushima Prefecture are completely safe to eat.
Despite the fact, trading prices of rice and beef produced in the prefecture are still nearly 10 percent lower than national averages, according to the agency.
The agency suspects that the prices have not recovered to their pre-disaster levels not only because consumers tend to avoid Fukushima-made articles, but also because they are “purchased at unreasonably low rates” at the time of shipping.
When prices to wholesalers of food products grown in the prefecture are lower than pre-disaster rates, farmers can be compensated for the difference by Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
“Some wholesalers may knock down the price, misusing the compensation system,” said a source at the Reconstruction Agency.
To prevent the abuse of the compensation system, the special measures law will be amended to include a plan to conduct “a survey to make clear why they (Fukushima-made products) are suffering from sluggish sales.”
Based on the revised law, the agency will survey the prices farmers are selling their crops for to wholesalers, how much consumers are paying for the agricultural products and other trading prices of foodstuffs from Fukushima Prefecture.
After identifying the reason for the lower prices, the agency will offer instructions and advice to wholesalers and other related parties.
Members of the media take in the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday.
OKUMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – While a recent investigation found what may be melted nuclear fuel rods in reactor No. 2 containment vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, that information isn’t nearly enough to devise an effective method for removing it, the chief of the plant told reporters during a media tour Thursday.
“We put in cameras and robots and obtained valuable images, though they were partial . . . but it’s still unclear what is really going on there,” said Shunji Uchida, who became chief of the crippled plant last July. “We first need to know the situation of the debris.”
Last month, the utility inserted a 10.5-meter rod with a camera on its tip into a hole in the No. 2 reactor’s primary containment vessel and discovered black lumps sticking to the grating directly underneath the suspended pressure vessel, which holds the core.
Tepco claims it is still unsure whether the lumps are really melted fuel that burned through the bottom of the pressure vessel. Although it is still years away from actually trying to remove the fuel, Tepco, the government and related parties are planning to decide on a basic strategy this summer and go into more detail next year.
Uchida described last month’s surveillance operation as “just peeking.”
Engineers are playing with the idea of refilling the primary containment vessel with water during debris cleanup operations to reduce the intensity of the radiation, but since the PCV was probably damaged during the meltdown crisis in March 2011, the water that’s being pumped in 24/7 to keep the fuel cool is just leaking back out.
According to past analyses, some of the melted fuel rods penetrated the pressure vessel and fell into the containment vessel surrounding it after the March 11 quake and tsunami caused a station blackout at the plant, crippling all cooling functions.
NIIGATA, Japan (Kyodo) — Smoke emerged at a service building of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture on Thursday but it quickly halted after a firefighting effort by workers, its operator said.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said there was no radiation leak in the incident. The utility has not identified the cause of the incident.
The plant operator confirmed smoke coming out around 3:25 p.m. from a locker room inside the service building, located near the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant. The building is not a radiation controlled area, according to the company.
The two reactors on the Sea of Japan coast are being screened by the Nuclear Regulation Authority as TEPCO is seeking to resume their operation after they were halted following the 2011 nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, also operated by TEPCO.
The governor of Kagoshima in western Japan is expected to approve the continued operation of a nuclear plant in the prefecture. Experts have found no irregularities at the facility following last year’s strong earthquakes.
Governor Satoshi Mitazono had called for the operation of the Sendai nuclear plant to be suspended after a series of earthquakes centered in nearby Kumamoto Prefecture.
He noted public concern and also asked for an inspection of the plant.
Kyushu Electric Power Company officials rejected his call to halt operations, but they carried out a special inspection. They say they found the quakes caused no abnormalities.
Last Thursday, an expert panel set up by the prefecture also reported that the quakes left no effects on the plant.
Mitazono said on Wednesday that there is currently no need for strong measures against the plant. He said he will remain vigilant if troubles arise.
There were mixed reactions to Mitazono’s decision.
A man in his 70s says the governor may have found that he cannot prevail over the central government in his anti-nuclear battle. He says there was no other choice but to continue operating the plant.
A woman in her 30s says she wanted the governor to stick to the anti-nuclear policy he pledged in the campaign.
She says she wants him to ensure that Kagoshima is a place where children will be able to live safely, now and in the future.
Japan is located in the seismically active zone and that is where more than 10% of all earthquakes in the world. The ideal place to build many nuclear plants if you have a death wish!!!
16 locations in Kanto, Chugoku, Kyushu added to list of ‘major active faults’
The government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion held a task-force meeting on Feb. 21 and decided to add 16 locations in the Kanto, Chugoku, and Kyushu regions to the list of “major active faults” that could cause heavy damage.
The decision is expected to help with regional disaster prevention efforts as the newly listed active faults will be subject to priority research to be conducted by the government and other relevant entities. The latest addition has brought the total number of locations listed as “major active faults” across the country to 113.
Detailed research had been conducted in the three regions ahead of other areas since 2013 to check the possibility of earthquakes occurring in each of the three regions. The number of major active faults could increase further as the headquarters is also planning to conduct similar research in other regions.
The newly added major active faults include: the Minobu fault straddling Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures; the Okubo fault in Gunma and Tochigi prefectures; the Shikano-Yoshioka fault in Tottori Prefecture; the Saga plain northern fault zone; and the Midorikawa fault zone in Kumamoto Prefecture. The Shinji fault, that stretches from east to west about 2 kilometers south of Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane Nuclear Power Plant in Matsue, was also added to the list.
Since the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the headquarters had designated active faults with high seismicity stretching at least 20 kilometers that could cause earthquakes with a magnitude of 7 or higher as major active faults.
However, in response to a series of major tremors such as the 2004 Chuetsu earthquakes caused by faults that had not been listed as major active faults, the headquarters has conducted survey research on active faults including non-listed faults. As a result, even some of those faults that were considered to fall short of meeting the criteria for being called major active faults have been added to the list.
Kojin Wada, an official of the Earthquake and Disaster-Reduction Research Division at the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, said, “We expect that the general public’s awareness of regional active faults is going to rise (with the latest addition to the list).”
This Week’s Featured Interview:
- Dr. Helen Caldicott on why Fukushima will never be able to be cleaned up; the devastating health impacts of radiation; and why the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are a really really bad idea.
- Dr. Caldicott Links:
KGO Radio: Host Pat Thurston recently interviewed Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer for Fairewinds Energy Education on KGO radio to discuss the latest challenging news from Japan about the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power reactor including the high levels of radiation emanating from the reactors, all the failed robotic expeditions, where we should go from here, as well as how ongoing radioactive releases from the Fukushima Daiichi site may be impacting the west coast of the United States.
BBC Newsday: BBC Radio interviewed nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen to discuss TEPCO’s attempts to send a special robot into Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #2 in Japan to investigate the obstacles in the way of TEPCO’s progress determining the location and condition of the atomic fuel. Unfortunately even this specially designed robot failed in its attempt to clear the path for additional investigations as the nuclear radioactivity was so high, it shut down the robots before they could complete their mission.
Enviro News: The astronomical radiation readings at Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #2 of 530 Sv/hr complicate the already complex task of decommissioning the plant. These levels are so radioactive that a human would be dead within a minute of exposure and specially designed robots can only survive for about 2 hours. Fairewinds chief engineer Arnie Gundersen says that the best solution would be to entomb the reactors, similar to the sarcophagus entombing Chernobyl, for at least 100-years, otherwise the radiation level that workers would be exposed to is simply too dangerous.
Read the whole article here
Are the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi over? The answer is no. Made all the more prevalent a year out from it’s initial release by the recent robotic expeditions into Reactor #2 which gave us a clearer picture on just how deadly the radiation levels are, watch Chief Engineer and nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen inform viewers on what’s going on at the Japanese nuclear meltdown site, Fukushima Daiichi. As the Japanese government and utility owner Tokyo Electric Power Company push for the quick decommissioning and dismantling of this man-made disaster, the press and scientists need to ask, “Why is the Ukrainian government waiting at least 100 years to attempt to decommission Chernobyl, while the Japanese Government and TEPCO claim that Fukushima Daiichi will be decommissioned and dismantled during the next 30 years?”
Like so many big government + big business controversies, the answer has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics and money. To understand Fukushima Daiichi, you need to follow the money.
Even though radiation levels in a village near the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster still exceed international guidelines, its evacuated residents are being coerced to return, according to a Greenpeace report.
Residents from the Japanese ghost village of Iitate will be allowed to return to their former homes at the end of March – the first time since they were forced to flee the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. That’s the date the Japanese government has set to lift evacuation orders.
But according to environmental organization Greenpeace, it’s uncertain whether many will want to. Greenpeace says tests it has carried out on homes in Iitate show that despite decontamination, radiation levels are still dangerously high – but that’s not stopping the Japanese governmenment from pressuring evacuees from returning, under threat of losing financial support.
Those who refuse to go back to their former homes, and are dependent on the Japanese government’s financial help, are faced with a dilemma. After a year from when an area is declared safe again to live in, evacuated residents will see their compensation payments terminated by the government.
Radiation ‘comparable with Chernobyl’
The nuclear disaster led to more than 160,000 people being evacuated and displaced from their homes. Of these, many tens of thousands are still living in temporary accommodation six years on.
The village of Iitate, lying northwest of the destroyed reactors at Fukushima Daiichi power plantand from which 6,000 citizens had to be evacuated, was one of the most heavily contaminated following the nuclear disaster.
Government employees monitor radiation at a day-care center in Iitate in 2011
Around 75 per cent of Iitate is mountainous forest, an integral part of residents’ lives before the nuclear accident.
But according to Greenpeace’s report, published on Tuesday, radiation levels in these woods are “comparable to the current levels within the Chernobyl 30km exclusion zone – an area that more than 30 years after the accident remains formally closed to habitation.”
Put another way, Greenpeace said that in 2017, there clearly remains a radiological emergency within Iitate – defining emergency thus: “If these radiation levels were measured in a nuclear facility, not Iitate, prompt action would be required by the authorities to mitigate serious adverse consequences for human health and safety, property or the environment.”
The environmental organization says decontamination efforts have primarily focused on the areas immediately around peoples’ homes, in agricultural fields and in 20-meter strips along public roads.
But these efforts ended up generating millions of tons of nuclear waste – these now lie at thousands of locations across the prefecture, but they haven’t reduced the level of radiation in Iitate “to levels that are safe,” says Greenpeace.
‘Normalizing’ nuclear disaster?
The organization has accused the Japanese government of trying “to normalize a nuclear disaster, creating the myth that just years after the widespread radioactive contamination caused by the nuclear accident of 11 March 2011, people’s lives and communities can be restored and reclaimed.
“By doing so, it hopes, over time, to overcome public resistance to nuclear power.”
Greenpeace also lambasted the government for leaving unanswered what it calls a critical question for those trying to decide whether to return or not: what radiation dose will they be subjected to, not just in one year but over decades or a lifetime?
Greenpeace says Japan’s government wants to restore public confidence in nuclear power at the cost of harming residents
“Until now the Japanese government has exclusively focused on annual radiation exposure and not the potential radiation dose rates returning citizens could potentially face over their entire lifetime,” says Greenpeace.
Greenpeace, which has been monitoring Iitate since 2011, carried out its latest survey in November 2016
It found that the average radiation dose range for Iitate beginning from March 2017 over a 70-year lifetime was between 39 millisieverts (mSv) and 183mSv – and that’s not including natural radiation exposure expected over a lifetime, or the exposure received in the days, weeks and months following the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
That exceeds yearly guidelines set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) when added up over a 70-year period – it puts the maximum recommended radiation exposure at 1mSv annually.
Greenpeace says: “The highly complex radiological emergency situation in Iitate, and with a high degree of uncertainty and unknown risks, means that there is no return to normal in Iitate, Fukushima prefecture.”
It has called on the Japanese government to cease its return policy, and to provide full financial support to evacuees, and “allow citizens to decide whether to return or relocate free from duress and financial coercion.”
According to Greenpeace, “for the more than 6,000 citizens of Iitate, this is a time of uncertainty and anxiety.”
Heinz Smital, nuclear physicist and radiation expert at Greenpeace Germany, and part of the team taking measurements at Iitate, told DW the residents were faced with a very difficult situation.
“If you decide to live elsewhere [and not return to Iitate], then you don’t have money, you’re sometimes not welcomed in another area so you are forced to leave, because people say, ‘you’re not going back but you could go back,'” he said. “But for people who go back, they have contaminated land, so how can they use the fields for agriculture?”
He urged the Japanese government to more involve those affected in the decision-making process and not try to give an impression that things are “going back to normal.”
“It’s a violation of human rights to force people into such a situation because they haven’t done anything wrong, it’s the operator of the power plant responsible for the damage it caused,” said Smital.
“It’s very clear that there’s very serious damage to the property and the lifestyle of the people but the government doesn’t care about this.”
Disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima remind the world how dangerous nuclear power is. But right now, the nuclear industry is trying to downplay the risks of a nuclear disaster. In Fukushima radiation exposure is still a very real threat despite failed “decontamination”.
The Japanese government is set to lift evacuation orders in heavily contaminated areas around Fukushima. It will cut compensation and housing support to survivors, who are still struggling six years later.
Their basic rights to health, housing, and environment are being violated. The government is desperately trying to minimize the disaster at the expense of survivors in an attempt to revive the dying nuclear industry and suffocate other cleaner energy sources. We must say no!
Sign now to demand the government provides fair compensation, housing support, and is fully transparent about the radiation risks.
We’ll deliver your signature to the Prime Minister so he hears the global wave of resistance against nuclear!
High radiation risks in Fukushima village as government prepares to lift evacuation order – Greenpeace
A recent Greenpeace Japan led survey team found radiation dose rates at houses in the village of Iitate well above long-term government targets, with annual and lifetime exposure levels posing a long-term risk to citizens who may return. Evacuation orders will be lifted for Iitate no later than 31 March 2017, to be followed one year later by the termination of compensation payments.
“The relatively high radiation values, both inside and outside houses, show an unacceptable radiation risk for citizens if they were to return to Iitate. For citizens returning to their irradiated homes they are at risk of receiving radiation equivalent to one chest X-ray every week. This is not normal or acceptable,” said Ai Kashiwagi, energy campaigner with Greenpeace Japan .
As Japan nears the six years from beginning of the nuclear disaster, the Japanese government last week confirmed that it has not yet conducted any assessments of lifetime exposure risks for citizens if they were to return to Iitate.
The Greenpeace Japan survey results are based on thousands of real-time scanning measurements, including of houses spread over the Iitate region. This data was then used to calculate a weighted average around the houses, which were then computed to give annual exposure rates and over a lifetime of 70 years, taking into account radioactive isotope decay. The survey work also included soil sampling with analysis in an independent laboratory in Tokyo, the measurement of radiation hot spots and the recovery of personal dose badges that had been installed in two houses in February 2016.
For lifetime exposure due to external cesium radiation exposure, the dose range has been calculated, at between 39 mSv and 183 mSv, depending on either 8 or 12 hours per day spent outdoors, for citizens living at the houses over a 70 year period beginning in March 2017 . Among the thousands of points Greenpeace Japan measured for each house, nearly all the radiation readings showed that the levels were far higher than the government’s long term decontamination target of 0.23µSv/h, which would give a dose of 1 mSv/yr.
The weighted average levels measured outside the house of Iitate citizen Toru Anzai was 0.7µSv/h, which would equal 2.5 mSv per year; even more concerning in addition, was the dose badges inside the house showed values in the range between 5.1 to 10.4mSv per year raising questions over the reliability of government estimates .
These levels far exceed the 1 mSv annual maximum limit recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)  , yet the decontamination program is being declared complete for the area that will have its evacuation order lifted next month.
“The government is not basing its policies on science or in the interest of protecting public health. It has failed to provide estimates of lifetime exposure rates for Iitate’s citizens, nor considered how re-contamination from forests will pose a threat for decades to come,” said Jan Vande Putte, radiation specialist with Greenpeace Belgium.
“The Abe government is attempting to create a false reality that six years after the start of the Fukushima Daiichi accident life is returning to normal. In the real world of today, and for decades to come, there is and will be nothing normal about the emergency radiological situation in Iitate,” said Vande Putte.
Greenpeace is demanding that the Japanese government provide full financial support to survivors, so that they are not forced to return for economic reasons. It must take measures to reduce radiation exposure to the absolute minimum to protect public health and allow citizens to decide whether to return or relocate free from duress and financial coercion.
Greenpeace has launched a public petition in solidarity in defense of human rights of Fukushima survivors.
Notes to Editors:
The report can be accessed here: “No Return to Normal”.
Photo and video is available here.
 X-ray dose rates range depend on multiple factors, including the equipment used and the patient. A typical dose per chest X-ray would be 0.05mSv, which if given each week would be 2.6 mSv over a year.
 These figures do not include natural radiation exposures expected over a lifetime, nor does it include the external and internal doses received during the days and weeks following the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. In the case of many citizens of Iitate, evacuation was both delayed and complex, the early-stage external radiation exposure estimated for the 1,812 villagers where estimations of external radiation dose average 7 mSv, with the highest being 23.5 mSv according to Imanaka. Internal exposure from consumption of contaminated food products is also not included.
 The government estimates that levels of radiation inside houses is 60 percent less than outside due to the shielding effect of the building. The Greenpeace results raise the possibility that this is not a reliable basis for estimating dose levels in houses.
 ICRP recommendations for the public, sets the maximum recommended dose for areas that are not affected by a nuclear accident at 1 mSv a year. However, the Japanese government set a condition that it is acceptable for the public to receive up to 20 mSv per year in Iitate, as a response to an emergency right after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
KOBE (Kyodo) — A part-time teacher at Kwansei Gakuin University made a comment ridiculing a student from nuclear disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture in 2014, saying that she might glow in the dark because of her supposed exposure to radiation, the western Japan university said Tuesday.
The remark was made by an English-language teacher, identified as a foreign national in his 40s, according to the university in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture. He later explained that it was supposed to be a joke.
The university said the teacher received a three-month pay cut dated last Friday as the university regards his comment as discriminatory and “inconsiderate to people affected by” the March 11, 2011, quake and tsunami disaster, which led to a crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Although the pay cut will be applied from March as a formality, the university will not renew the teacher’s contract when it expires at the end of March in line with the teacher’s request.
During his English class sometime around October or November 2014, the teacher asked the student, who had entered the university in April that year, where she was from. After her answer, the teacher turned off the lights and said he thought she would glow.
The student, who is in her 20s, found it “difficult” to attend classes after the incident, the university said.
After she learned the university had opened a harassment counseling center in April last year, the student sought advice about the incident.
“We would like to apologize to the student and people affected by the disaster,” Shoichi Ito, vice president of the university, said in a statement, adding the school will make sure that such incidents will not occur again.
Disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura told reporters the same day the incident was “very regrettable” and “really intolerable.”
Tepco uses the RISER quadcopter drone to visually map gamma radiation in the unit 3 turbine building. The RISER quadcopter drone is equipped with GPS, HD cameras and the N-Visage 3D gamma radiation detector which produces color images of radiation. It has a small size 3d gamma camera.
The N-Visage 3D gamma radiation detector technology has been used previously to examine the refueling floor of unit 2 and some other areas of the reactor buildings.
The RISER quadcopter drone has a maximum radiation resistance of 10 mSv/hr so it won’t be used into the more dangerous areas of the site.
To expose children to possible radioactive nanoparticles without any protection just for the sake of propaganda to show that everything is safe and back to normal in Fukushima is irresponsible and criminal! All in the name of the recovery and reconstruction campaign organized by the Japanese government to welcome all the tourists to come to “clean” beautiful Japan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics! Olympics to which Fukushima produce will be used to prepare the meals fed to the visiting athletes! All in the name of promotion and economic reconstruction! Alternate facts, total denial of reality being substituted to real facts and dangers. A total insanity!
A former soccer training facility close to Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant has been used as a staging point for recovery work since the 2011 nuclear disaster, but that’s about to change.
Temporary dormitories for workers stand where there used to be a soccer field at the facility, called J-Village. The area is filled with memories for Shigenari Akashi, who worked as a coach for a junior youth team there for more than 10 years.
“National tournament finals used to be held here. Children from all over the country would practice hard, aspiring to play here,” Akashi says.
J-Village was Japan’s first national soccer training center. It opened in 1997 and over the years saw more than a million visitors. The complex was even used to train the national teams of Japan and Argentina.
But the nuclear disaster changed everything. The facility is just 20 kilometers from the plant, so Tokyo Electric Power Company rented it to set up an operational base for containing the accident.
“I was in shock and at a loss for words when I saw the Self-Defense Forces’ tanks here, and the gravel laid on the natural turf for the parking lot,” says Akashi.
At the end of last year, the moment he had been waiting for finally arrived as TEPCO began work to return the facility to its original form.
Fukushima Prefecture has even bigger plans — tt wants to build Japan’s first “all-weather soccer field” at the site. Part of the facility is scheduled to open in the summer of 2018.
The Japan Football Association has given the project its full support. The Japanese national team will use the new J-Village as its training base for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
But there are bigger challenges than rebuilding. There are fears over radiation levels — in some areas they’re still higher than international standards recommend. So the J-Village operator has a plan.
“The construction work will focus on largely replacing the soil, a technique we expect will reduce radiation levels more than usual decontamination methods,” says Eiji Ueda, who is executive vice president at the facility. “We can emphasize how safe it is by hosting national teams from Japan or perhaps abroad for training.”
A town near J-Village was evacuated because of the disaster. Residents got the green light to move back a year and a half ago but few have returned as most of the evacuees still live in a neighboring city.
Akashi and his co-workers have been giving soccer classes for children, including some who lived near J-Village. But there are mixed feelings about playing there again.
“I want to use the new J-Village, but I live far away now, so it will be hard to go there very often,” says a boy at the facility.
“We still have the lingering memory of it being used as the staging ground for decommissioning work,” says one father.
For Akashi, he’s got a specific goal in mind.
“In reviving J-Village, we want to give back local people a gathering place and their sense of pride. We believe this will also help to revive Fukushima as a whole,” he says.
The clock on the J-Village scoreboard is stopped at 2:46 p.m., the moment the earthquake struck. The deep rift created over the last 6 years will need to be filled so that the clock can move forward once more.
The Japanese government is set to lift evacuation orders in heavily contaminated areas around Fukushima. It will cut compensation and housing support to survivors, who are still struggling six years later.
Their basic rights to health, housing, and environment are being violated. The government is desperately trying to minimize the disaster at the expense of survivors in an attempt to revive the dying nuclear industry and suffocate other cleaner energy sources. We must say no!
Greenpeace has just published report on the Fukushima disaster entitled “No return to normal”. They made a study of the potential doses of the inhabitants who would return to the evacuated areas, with a focus on Iitate-mura. http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/Global/japan/pdf/NRN_FINweb4.pdf
The report is based on many on-site measurements and makes lifetime dose assessments. It should be noted that the samples were taken by the citizen laboratory Chikurin, founded with the support of the ACRO. http://chikurin.org/
The authorities planned to lift the evacuation order at the end of March in Iitaté-mura, except in areas classified as difficult return zones, as well as in the Yamakiya district of Kawamata. Compensation will stop within one year. This concerns more than 6,000 people in Iitate who are facing a dilemma, as in all the other contaminated territories.
Greenpeace recalls that decontamination concerns only areas close to dwellings and cultivated fields and that forest covers 75% of this mountainous area. Even in areas where decontamination work has been carried out, the doses remain high. Greenpeace carried out measurements of soil contamination and dose in 7 dwellings to estimate the exposure for people who would return. This varies between 39 and 183 mSv over 70 years from March 2017. This may exceed the limit of 1 mSv / year which is the dose limit in normal time and the total dose of 100 mSv from which the Japanese authorities admit that there is an increased risk of cancer. The doses taken at the beginning of the disaster are not taken into account in this calculation.
In its calculations, the government estimates that the dose rate is reduced by 60% in homes due to the screening effect of the walls. But the measurements made by Greenpeace in a house show that the reduction in exposure is not as strong.
Translation Hervé Courtois
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