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

7 april 2018
The image on the left shows a March 2011 hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant originally used in the lecture materials, while the image on the right shows the materials after alterations had been made, adding photos of disasters from other energy sources alongside the hydrogen explosion photo.
 
SAPPORO — High-ranking officials from the local bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) requested that an assistant professor change an October 2017 lecture to high school students pointing out the dangers of nuclear power, it has been learned.
 
“We will review our operations so as not to cause misunderstandings,” stated industry minister Hiroshige Seko regarding the request by the Hokkaido Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry.
 
The lecture at Hokkaido Niseko High School in the prefectural town of Niseko was on energy issues. The school had been chosen by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, an industry ministry-affiliated body, as a model for energy education last academic year, and the lecture by Hokkaido University assistant professor Sadamu Yamagata was supported by a government grant.
 
According to multiple sources close to the matter, Yamagata sent his lecture materials to the school beforehand to be printed, and the school handed the documents over to METI’s Hokkaido bureau at the latter’s request. Two high-ranking officials from the bureau then visited Yamagata and requested that he make changes to a section of the materials explaining the dangers and costs of nuclear power, illustrated with a photo of the aftermath of a hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
 
The officials told Yamagata that this was “only one perspective” and that called it “impression manipulation.”
 
Yamagata added the statement, “natural energy is not necessarily 100 percent safe” along with a photo of a collapsed windmill, but did not comply with the request to change the section about nuclear energy.
 
“I found it uncomfortable that (the request for changes) was focused on nuclear power,” Yamagata told the Mainichi Shimbun. Hokkaido Niseko High School principal Noboru Baba said, “The lecture content was good. I don’t know if there was intrusion (by the ministry) into education.” However, residents who were aware of what had happened view the flow of events as meddling by the government in education, and the Niseko Municipal Government has held three meetings to explain the situation to locals.
Industry minister Seko told a post-Cabinet meeting news conference on April 6, “It’s common sense that the government takes responsibility for the content of an agency-commissioned program, but with the focus (by the bureau officials) only on nuclear energy, misunderstandings can arise easily.”
 
The incident comes on the heels of criticism of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for pressuring the Nagoya Municipal Board of Education by requesting a report about a lecture given by former vice minister of education Kihei Maekawa.
 
But how should the Hokkaido case be understood? The class taught by Maekawa was set up by the school and the Nagoya education board, completely independently of the central government. On the other hand, the Hokkaido case was funded by a central government grant, and Japan’s stance has so far been that funding gives related government bodies a say in how the monies are used.
 
The Hokkaido bureau’s Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Department denied intervening, telling the Mainichi, “The purpose was to show both the merits and demerits of all types of energy sources, and if the lecture had hypothetically been extremely critical of natural energy resources, the same request for alternations would have been made. If only the shortcomings of nuclear energy are presented while ignoring the benefits, that is a problem.”
 
However, experts are critical. Hokkaido University emeritus professor Yoichi Anezaki said, “The case of the education ministry requesting a report of Maekawa’s class was also problematic, but in this case with the industry ministry, which plays a key role in nuclear power policies, requesting that a section pointing out the issues with nuclear energy be changed, it’s an intrusion into education by authority and is much worse. It’s tantamount to censorship.”
 
“The belief that just because the government provided the grant, it means that it can have its say on the content of education doesn’t make sense,” said Kyoto University of Art and Design professor and former education ministry bureaucrat Ken Terawaki. “If we allow for this, then it means that it’s fine for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Ministry of Defense the necessity of military affairs in the classroom. Intrusion into education is a serious matter.”
 
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April 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Few return to Fukushima schools after evacuation lifted

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

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

Contractor skimmed pay of Vietnamese trainees doing Fukushima cleanup work

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

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

Arbitration ends for Fukushima damages claim

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

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

Seven years later: Contradictory responses to Fukushima

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

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

Total tally for Fukushima decommission is $75 billion

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April 2, 2018
The decommissioning of the Fukushima nuclear power plant will cost an annual $2 billion (220 billion yen) until 2021, an unnamed source told the Japan Times.
 
Half of the money will be used to tackle the radioactive water buildup at the site of the plant and for removing radioactive fuel from the fuel pools. A small amount of funds will be used to research ways of retreating melted fuel from the reactors that got damaged during the 2011 tsunami disaster.
 
The $6 billion for the three years is only part of the total estimated cost for taking Fukushima out of operation.
 
The total decommissioning tally came in at $75 billion (8 trillion yen), as estimated by the specially set up Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp (NDF). That’s four times more than the initial estimate of the costs around the NPP’s decommissioning.
 
Now the operator of Fukushima, Tepco, and the NDF are due to submit their financial plan for the facility to the government for approval by the energy industry minister.
 
In addition to the $6 billion allocated for the cleanup, Tepco will spend another $1.88 billion (200 billion yen) on preparing to start extracting the melted fuel from the three damaged reactors. This seems to be the biggest challenge for the cleanup efforts because of the still high radiation levels as well as technical difficulties.
 
Tepco is still reeling from the effects of the 2011 tsunami and resulting nuclear meltdown. Around 15,000 people died in March 2011, when a magnitude-9 quake caused a deadly tsunami and erased the coastline in the area of the nuclear power plant.
 
At the end of 2016, the Japanese government revised upwards the total costs of the disaster to $192 billion (21.5 trillion yen), stepping up pressure on Tepco to clean up its act and implement urgent reforms to its safety procedures.
 

April 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | 2 Comments

Fukushima Jitters

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April 2, 2018
by Robert Hunziker
Fukushima is full of nasty surprises, similar to John Carpenter’s classic film The Thing (1982), which held audiences to the edge of their seats in anticipation of creepy monsters leaping out from “somebody, anybody, nobody knows for sure,” but unlike Hollywood films, Fukushima’s consequences are real and dire and deathly. It’s an on-going horror show that just won’t quit.
Only recently, a team of international researchers, including a group of scientists from the University of Manchester/UK and Kyushu University/Japan made a startling discovery. Within the nuclear exclusion zone in paddy soils and at an aquaculture center located several miles from the nuclear plant, the research team found cesium-rich micro-particles.
Evidently, the radioactive debris was blown into the environment during the initial meltdowns and accompanying hydrogen blasts. Accordingly, the environmental impact of radiation fallout may last much longer than previously expected. (Source: New Evidence of Nuclear Fuel Releases Found at Fukushima, University of Manchester, Phys.org, Feb. 28, 2018)
According to Dr. Gareth Law, senior lecturer in Analytical Radiochemistry at the University of Manchester: “Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside the nuclear exclusion zone. Whilst it is extremely difficult to get samples from such an inhospitable environment, further work will enhance our understanding….” Ibid.
Their discovery dispels the long-held view that the initial explosion only emitted gaseous radionuclides. Now, it is clear that solid particles with very long-lived radionuclides were emitted. The research team did not discuss the likely impact, as more analysis is necessary before drawing conclusions.
Decidedly, they’d best hurry up, as the Olympics are scheduled for 2020.
Still, this discovery smacks in the face the government’s and TEPCO’s statements about successful cleanup efforts and pressuring prior residents to return to homes in the exclusion zones.
In another recent development, lethal levels of radiation have unexpectedly popped up in leaks at the nuclear plant facility, as explained in an article by Jeff Farrell: Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Lethal Levels of Radiation Detected in Leak Seven Years After Plant Meltdown in Japan, Independent/UK, Feb. 2, 2018.
TEPCO has discovered lethal levels of radiation leaking around the facilities, radiation that would kill a person within one-hour of exposure. Even though this is not entirely a surprise with 100% total meltdowns and tons of radioactive corium sizzling wildly underneath, irradiating like crazy. This is why radioactive water continues flowing into the Pacific Ocean, necessitated to cool white-hot sizzling corium. Nobody knows what the long-term effect will be for the ocean, but guaranteed, it cannot be good.
Furthermore and distressingly, Mycle Schneider of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report claims, “TEPCO does not have a clue” to decommissioning the plant. That’s not comforting, knowing that mistakes could circumnavigate the planet much worse than the current flow of radioactive water into the Pacific, thus turning into a global catastrophe of unspeakable proportions.
After all, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the country has 100,000 earthquakes every year. Who knows what can happen to rickety broken down nuclear reactors in a country that slip slides so easily, so readily, so often, totally unpredictably.
According to Schneider: “It’s a disaster of unseen proportions.” The radiation leaks, coupled with inappropriate storage of radioactive waste has global consequences. Schneider is aghast at the sloppiness and ignorance of TEPCO, in charge of handling the disaster.
“This is an area of the planet that gets hit by tornadoes and all kinds of heavy weather patterns, which is a problem. When you have waste stored above ground in inappropriate ways, it can get washed out and you can get contamination all over the place… This can get problematic anytime, if it contaminates the ocean there is no local contamination, the ocean is global, so anything that goes into the ocean goes to everyone… It needs to be clear that this problem is not gone; this is not just a local problem. It’s a very major thing.” (Schneider)
And remarkably, the Olympics are coming to Tokyo and Fukushima in 2020.
For the world’s best and clearest understanding of the power and imposing danger inherent with nuclear power, the following is a spectacular power point demonstration that discusses the ABCs of nuclear power: The Age of Nuclear Waste, From Fukushima to Indian Point, prepared for the Fukushima anniversary on March 11, 2017 by Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., president Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Resp0nsibiliy. It’s the best-ever most important-ever description of nuclear power, the process, and inherent dangers.
See a list of 211 man-made radionuclides (p.59 of the power point) contained in irradiated nuclear fuel, not found in nature, which should be a big tipoff of potential dangers inherent with irradiated isotopes… umm, not part of nature!
Gordon Edwards discusses the nuclear waste “word game” as follows: (1) Clean-up is moving nuclear waste from one place to another;(2) Decontamination is collecting and repacking, but not eliminating; (3) Nuclear Waste Disposal is abandoning nuclear waste “somewhere.” In short, there is no such thing as “getting rid of nuclear radiation waste.”
According to The Age of Nuclear Waste, From Fukushima to Indian Point, it’s impossible to dispose of nuclear waste!
Postscript: “It would be irresponsible and morally wrong to commit future generations to the consequences of fission power… unless it has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that at least one method exist for the safe isolation of these wastes….” Sir Brian Flowers, UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, London, 1976.

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

Seven years on, radioactive water at Fukushima plant still flowing into ocean, study finds

Fukushima Daiichi still leaking radioactivity into Pacific Ocean. That expensive Ice wall turned out to be a slushy. Keep trying. Better yet, shut down before meltdown.

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Fukushima Daiichi still leaking radioactivity into Pacific Ocean. That expensive Ice wall turned out to be a slushy. Keep trying. Better yet, shut down before meltdown.
More than seven years after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, radioactive water is continuing to flow into the Pacific Ocean from the crippled No. 1 plant at a rate of around 2 billion becquerels a day, a study has found.
The amount of leaking cesium 137 has decreased from some 30 billion becquerels in 2013, Michio Aoyama, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Radioactivity at Fukushima University, said in his study, which was presented Wednesday at an academic conference in Osaka.
The study said the concentration of radiation — 0.02 becquerel per liter of seawater found in samples collected near a coastal town 8 km south of the No. 1 plant — is at a level that does not affect the local fishing industry.
The radioactive water is generated in a process to cool melted nuclear fuel at three damaged reactors at the complex. The reactors experienced core meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“It can be assumed that there is a path from the complex to the ocean” through which contaminated water flows, Aoyama said.
The water accumulates in the basements of the buildings at the site after being used to cool the melted fuel.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the Fukushima complex, has been trying to prevent contaminated water from increasing within the facilities by building an underground ice wall in an effort to block ground water. It has also built a seawall aimed at preventing contaminated water from entering the ocean.

April 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 2 Comments

Russia lifts bans on Japanese seafood

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March 27, 2018
Russia lifts bans on Japanese seafood
The Russian government has eased import restrictions on Japanese seafood. It imposed bans after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster on concerns of radioactive contamination.
Russia’s quarantine-control authorities say they have approved imports from 6 prefectures in regions around the Fukushima power plant.
The have also lifted a ban on seafood from Fukushima Prefecture. That’s on the condition the products carry an additional document that certifies they are free of contamination.
The Russian officials say their decision takes into account reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency and data from Japan’s monitoring of radioactive materials.
 
Russia lifts Japan seafood ban adopted after Fukushima crisis
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Russia has lifted its ban on Japanese seafood imports adopted in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster due to concerns over radioactive contamination.
Moscow’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance on Friday approved seafood imports from six prefectures in northeastern and eastern Japan — Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Chiba and Niigata.
It also said the country would accept products from Fukushima Prefecture that are accompanied by documentation showing they are free of contamination.
The move should give a boost to Japan’s fishing industry, which has faced international concern over the impact on marine life of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
Russia banned fishery imports from over 200 companies in April of that year, before allowing products from Aomori Prefecture in July 2015.
According to Japan’s Fisheries Agency, more than 20 countries and regions, including China and South Korea as well as the European Union, still ban or partially ban imports of Japanese seafood products.

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

Hong Kong will not lift post-Fukushima ban on some Japanese food

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In meeting with Tokyo’s foreign minister, Chief Executive Carrie Lam says restrictions will stay in place for now, while government reaffirms commitment to enforcing sanctions against North Korea
 
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Sunday rejected for the time being Tokyo’s official request that the city lift restrictions on Japanese food imports brought in after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, citing public safety.
 
The chief executive also reaffirmed that the city had been strictly enforcing sanctions against North Korea, during her meeting at Government House with Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono, as he wrapped up his two-day visit to Hong Kong on Sunday.
 
Lam expressed her reluctance to lift the food ban, after Kono raised the possibility during the meeting.
 
In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Hong Kong banned the import of fresh produce and milk from the prefecture and the four neighbouring prefectures, while conducting targeted radiation testing on fresh produce from the rest of Japan.
 
“She emphasised that it is incumbent upon the [government] to safeguard public health and hence effective measures must be in place to ensure food safety and to maintain public confidence,” a statement issued by Lam’s office read.
 
“Under this premise, the Food and Health Bureau will maintain communication with the Japanese authorities to review the latest situation and adopt appropriate measures in relation to the import ban.”
 
Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said her department had been in touch with Japan’s agriculture ministry over the ban and that “food safety is the primary concern”.
 
Kono was the first Japanese foreign minister to visit Hong Kong for bilateral matters since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, according to the Japanese foreign ministry. Earlier on Sunday, he visited the Aeon department store in Tai Koo, where he tasted food from Aizu in Fukushima, including rice, sake and ramen – exempted from the ban because they are not fresh produce.
 
“It is scientifically proven it is very safe and those people from Hong Kong who come to Japan [are] already eating spinach and cucumbers from Fukushima. And I think Hong Kong people who have been to Japanese restaurants have eaten Fukushima vegetables and fruit,” Kono told NowTV. 
“I would like to tell the Hong Kong people to come to Japan and enjoy the food in Japan.”
 
The city’s importers and legislators earlier urged Lam to be cautious about Tokyo’s request to lift restrictions on Japanese food imports, saying the government had to make sure all imports would not be contaminated with radiation.
 
Hong Kong is the largest export destination of Japanese agricultural, forestry and fishery products.
 
The two officials’ exchange came ahead of a North-South summit on the Korean peninsula next month, and US President Donald Trump’s possible meeting with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un before the end of May.
 
UN reports in recent weeks said Hong Kong companies were being used as fronts for North Korean businesses, to help it circumvent UN sanctions. Last month the US slapped sanctions on nine companies outside North Korea that were working on Pyongyang’s behalf. Two were based in mainland China and five in Hong Kong.
 
Lam took the opportunity to say her government was following the sanctions.
 
“Mrs Lam also reiterated to Mr Kono that Hong Kong has all along been strictly implementing the sanction measures decided by the United Nations Security Council on North Korea, and that Hong Kong will stay highly vigilant about activities and suspected cases that may violate the sanctions,” the statement read.
 
According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, both sides affirmed their collaboration in preventing North Korea from evading the sanctions. This was in response to incident in which a Hong Kong-registered tanker was found to have secretly transferred oil to a North Korean vessel in international waters last year.
 

March 26, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Intensive campaign from Japanese diplomats to push other countries to lift their ban on Japanese contaminated produce

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Japan requests Hong Kong to lift ban on food from Fukushima, vicinity
March 25, 2018
HONG KONG (Kyodo) — Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Sunday and requested the territory lift a ban on imports of agricultural products from Japanese prefectures near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
 
Hong Kong has banned imports of fruit and vegetables from Fukushima Prefecture and four surrounding prefectures, citing the nuclear disaster at the plant triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
 
The Japanese government hopes to enhance economic ties with the territory by paving the way for Hong Kong to lift the import ban. Tokyo also hopes Hong Kong’s action would lead China to relax similar restrictions, as Beijing has banned food imports from 10 Japanese prefectures.
 
Kono and Lam also affirmed cooperation in preventing North Korea from evading sanctions through ship-to-ship cargo transfers in international waters.
 
A Hong Kong-flagged vessel is believed to have secretly transferred oil to a North Korean vessel in October in a ship-to-ship transfer prohibited by the U.N. Security Council.
 
It is the first time in 21 years that a Japanese foreign minister has visited Hong Kong apart from international conferences. During their meeting, Kono and Lam also agreed to accelerate cooperation on tourism.
 

March 25, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima disaster interest payments to be shouldered by taxpayers now estimated to US$ 29,3 billion, up 58% from previous estimate

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Workers are flanked by bags of radioactive debris along a road in the town of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, In July 2016.
Estimated cost of Fukushima disaster might balloon to ¥218 billion
March 24, 2018
In more bad news for taxpayers, the Board of Audit says the cost of the Fukushima nuclear disaster could balloon to ¥218.2 billion, up 58 percent from the previous estimate of ¥126.4 billion.
The board released the latest estimate Friday in light of the government’s adoption of a Cabinet decision in December 2016 to raise the upper limit on financial assistance for Tokyo Electric to ¥13.5 trillion from ¥9 trillion.
The government is borrowing funds from financial institutions for delivery to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. through a public-private body to help it deal with compensation and other costs related to the triple core meltdown in March 2011.
The principal of the funds will be repaid from contributions by Tepco and other power companies to the body, called Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp., and from proceeds from the sale of Tepco shares it owns.
But the interest payments will be shouldered by taxpayers.
According to the latest estimate, if Tepco uses up the ¥13.5 trillion assistance limit, it will take 17 to 34 years for the government to finish repaying the funds, and interest payments will balloon to between ¥131.8 billion and ¥218.2 billion.

March 25, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Reactor at Saga’s Genkai nuclear plant back online after seven-year hiatus

To have a nuclear plant running in an earthquake prone area is equivalent already to a death wish. To have that nuclear plant running on MOX is equivalent to a double death wish.
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A protester holds up a sign saying ‘Let’s create a society without nuclear power plants!’ in front of the Genkai plant in Genkai, Saga Prefecture, on Friday as its No. 3 reactor was put back online.
 
SAGA – A nuclear reactor at the Genkai power plant in Saga Prefecture resumed operation Friday for the first time in over seven years, despite lingering concerns from residents about evacuation plans from nearby islets in the event of a serious accident.
 
Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s No. 3 unit at the plant was halted for a regular inspection in December 2010, three months before a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
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The reactor cleared a safety screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in January 2017 under stricter, post-Fukushima crisis regulations and was later approved for reactivation by the Genkai Municipal Government and Saga Prefectural Government. It became the seventh reactor in the nation to restart under the tougher regulations.
 
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which views nuclear power as an “important base-load power source,” is promoting the restart of reactors considered safe by the regulator.
 
Local residents, particularly those living on 17 islands within 30 kilometers of the Genkai plant, are concerned about how to evacuate in the event of an accident, as there are no bridges connecting the islets with the main island of Kyushu.
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Industry minister Hiroshige Seko welcomed the resumption saying, “(The restart) holds significance from the point of promoting so-called pluthermal power generation and recycling nuclear fuel.”
 
The Genkai plant’s No. 3 reactor generates power using mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, which is created from plutonium and uranium extracted from spent fuel.
 
Early Friday, a group of about 100 citizens gathered in front of the Genkai plant, protesting against the resumption and calling for the shutdown of all nuclear plants in Japan.
 
Chuji Nakayama, a 70-year-old man who lives on Iki Island in Nagasaki Prefecture, within a roughly 30-km radius of the plant, expressed anger, saying, “How can islanders escape if an accident occurs?”
 
Kenichi Arakawa, the deputy chief of an anti-nuclear group who lives in Munakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, said, “An accident could deprive nearby residents of everything in their lives. We should not operate a nuclear plant that threatens our lives.”
 
In contrast, a 70-year-old man from the town of Genkai said, “The town will finally become vibrant again because the nuclear plant helped set up roads and create jobs while bringing in more people.”
 
Kyushu Electric plans to start commercial operation of the No. 3 unit in late April. It is the third reactor reactivated by the utility, following the Nos. 1 and 2 units at the Sendai complex in Kagoshima Prefecture, which came back online in 2015.
 
The operator also plans to restart the No. 4 unit at the Genkai plant in May, after that unit passed an NRA safety assessment in January 2017.
 
Nuclear reactor in southwestern Japan back online after 7-yr hiatus

March 25, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima governor ‘pushes safety of prefecture’s food’ on Europe tour

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Attendants of a reception held at the Japanese Embassy in London on Thursday are served sake from Fukushima Prefecture.
 
LONDON – Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori on Thursday kicked off a tour of Britain and France with the goal of publicizing the safety of food from the prefecture.
In London, Uchibori met with officials of British importing companies to promote Fukushima products and develop sales channels.
 
He also paid a courtesy call to Mark Field, the United Kingdom’s minister of state for Asia and the Pacific. Uchibori told Field that the people of Fukushima are profoundly grateful for the warm, generous support received from Britain since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Before the meeting, Field enjoyed dried peaches from Fukushima given by the governor.
 
During a Thursday evening reception at the Japanese Embassy in London, some 200 Japanese and British guests tasted foods and drinks from Fukushima, including the prefecture’s specialty Ten no Tsubu rice dishes with wagyu, locally brewed sake and peach juice.
 
Uchibori’s tour was planned after the European Union in December lifted its restrictions on imports of some foods from Japan, including rice grown in Fukushima. The restrictions were imposed due to concerns over radioactive contamination from the nuclear disaster.
 

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

45 Lawsuits in Fukushima District Courts

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A group of plaintiffs walk in front of Fukushima District Court in October 2017. The secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority will increase its number of legal staff from this spring to deal with lawsuits.
Japan’s nuclear regulator to hire more legal staff to respond to Fukushima-related lawsuits
 
Japan’s nuclear regulator will increase its number of legal staff from this spring to deal with lawsuits related to the Fukushima crisis, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.
 
The secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority will increase the number of staff at an office in charge of litigation to 22 in the fiscal year starting in April from the current 17. In fiscal 2012, when the body was launched, it only had five employees, the source said.
 
The secretariat said it was handling a total of 45 lawsuits as of March 1, of which 29 had been filed by over 10,000 plaintiffs nationwide including evacuees and victims of the Fukushima accident who are seeking damages from the state.
 
Among those 29 lawsuits, four of the five district courts that have already handed down rulings ordered the state to pay damages to the plaintiffs, rejecting the state’s claim that the accident “could not be foreseen.”
 
A lawyer representing the plaintiffs has criticized the expansion move, saying the state should not insist on fighting the lawsuits.
Izutaro Managi, a member of a lawyers’ group representing some 3,800 evacuees and accident victims in a lawsuit seeking damages from the state and the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, said, “The aim of the authority’s secretariat is to strengthen the state’s claim that it is not liable for causing the accident.”
“The state should rather reflect on the accident and accept its responsibility,” he said.
 
In addition to lawsuits related to the Fukushima evacuees and victims, the secretariat is also handling lawsuits filed by residents seeking to halt operations at nuclear plants or the construction of new ones.
 
New lawsuits could also be filed in the future as more nuclear power plants clear safety assessments by the authority to resume operations. Currently, 14 reactors at seven nuclear power plants have passed screenings under stricter regulations imposed after the Fukushima crisis triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
 

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment