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Abe makes sales pitch for Fukushima sake at Davos

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other Japanese officials toast with sake produced in Fukushima Prefecture during the Japan Night event in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.
Jan 24, 2019
DAVOS, SWITZERLAND – On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a sales pitch for sake produced in Fukushima Prefecture.
At the Japan Night event in Davos, Abe advertised Yamato no Kokoro, produced in Fukushima’s Aizuwakamatsu from rice that his wife, Akie, grew in Yamaguchi Prefecture, where his electoral home district is located.
In the past, it would have been unthinkable for a sake brewer in the Aizu region to use rice from Choshu — now Yamaguchi — Abe said in a speech, noting that the Aizu and Choshu domains fought against each other in a civil war amid the 1868 Meiji Restoration.
Yamato no Kokoro is a symbol of peace, he said.
“I hope you’ll enjoy Japanese food and sake, the strongest of the country’s soft powers, and visit Japan to enjoy the real stuff,” Abe said.
The prime minister was making an appearance at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting for the first time in five years. Abe made a speech at the Davos conference and stressed the need to promote free trade.
He returned to Japan on Thursday evening.
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January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO failed to spot leak of contaminated water

 
 
Like they always say… “there is no impact on the environment.”
 
January 24, 2019
 
Tokyo Electric Power Company says it has determined that water containing radioactive substances leaked from a tank at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant for more than two years. The company says there is no impact on the environment.
 
The utility says workers discovered water from an unknown source in an underground tunnel on January 10th at the plant.
 
The reactor complex was heavily damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
 
Officials later found that the water level of a nearby tank had dropped since around November 2016. They say about 300 tons of water leaked from the tank.
 
The officials say the water contained 120,000 becquerels of tritium per liter. That is twice the allowable level for the release of contaminated water at a nuclear plant operating normally.
 
The officials report that the tritium level of the water found in the tunnel was below the standard.
 
They believe the water flowed into the turbine building for the number four reactor through pipes.
 
The officials say the tank’s water level declined by about 1.7 meters during the period, but measurements conducted four times each day failed to detect the tiny difference from the previous check.
 
The company will now work to uncover the cause.
 

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima soccer facility to fully reopen in April after 2011 crisis

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This July 28, 2018 file photo shows the football stadium at J-Village, a national training center in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture
January 23, 2019
FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — A soccer facility in Fukushima Prefecture that was used as an operational base for dealing with the 2011 nuclear crisis will fully reopen on April 20 with new natural turf pitches, its operator said Wednesday.
The J-Village, Japan’s first national soccer training center, located some 20 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, served until November 2016 as a base for crisis response, accommodating thousands of workers engaged in disaster cleanup efforts.
The facility, seen as the symbol of reconstruction of the disaster-affected area, partially resumed operations in July 2018, with the opening of its main stadium, restaurants, a hotel and a conference center.
A new train station nearby named after the facility will also start operations on April 20, according to its operator East Japan Railway Co., known as JR East.
The new station, set up between the existing Kido and Hirono stations on the Joban Line, will be used only when there is a major event held at the J-Village and its vicinity.
The Joban Line still remains partially out of service due to the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. JR East is seeking to fully resume operations on the line by the end of March 2020.
The J-Village, built and donated to Fukushima Prefecture by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., opened in 1997.
It has played host to a number of different sports and will be the Japan soccer teams’ official training camp prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear regulator: nuclear is dangerous, a failed technology, not a safe bet for combating climate change

“Jaczko headed the NRC from 2009 to 2012 under former President Barack Obama. During his tenure, he oversaw several of nuclear’s worst battles and disasters, including Yucca Mountain, the proposed nuclear waste depository, and the Fukushima meltdown in Japan. He writes that what he witnessed was an agency overpowered by the agenda of the nuclear industry. Decisions were based on politics, not safety or the public’s best interests. After witnessing several close calls with plants and the aftermath of Fukushima, he’s come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as safe nuclear power.”

 

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Former NRC head disagrees with Bill Gates, says nuclear not a safe bet for combating climate change

How much do you think about nuclear power?
 
If you’re like most Americans, the answer is likely “not often.” Unless you work in the industry, you don’t hear too much about nuclear power these days, as Big Oil and coal face off against solar and wind.
 
The former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wants to change that. In his latest book, Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator, Dr. Gregory Jaczko says that we not only should be thinking more about the consequences of nuclear power, we should be way more concerned about it than we are.
 
The former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wants to change that. In his latest book, Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator, Dr. Gregory Jaczko says that we not only should be thinking more about the consequences of nuclear power, we should be way more concerned about it than we are.
 
Jaczko headed the NRC from 2009 to 2012 under former President Barack Obama. During his tenure, he oversaw several of nuclear’s worst battles and disasters, including Yucca Mountain, the proposed nuclear waste depository, and the Fukushima meltdown in Japan. He writes that what he witnessed was an agency overpowered by the agenda of the nuclear industry. Decisions were based on politics, not safety or the public’s best interests. After witnessing several close calls with plants and the aftermath of Fukushima, he’s come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as safe nuclear power.
 
Why did you decide to write a book?
 
I’d had a unique experience. I learned a lot in the job about the process of how nuclear power plants are regulated. I think it’s important for people to understand the influence that the industry has, that Congress has, and these are lessons that are true in any safety-sensitive industry.
 
The more pressing issue for me right now has developed the last couple years, and it’s the recognition that a lot of people are turning to nuclear as the savior of climate change. I have two kids and I’m extremely worried about climate change, but I’m even more worried that nuclear is a solution that people are pushing.
 
It’s a bad solution. It’s not the cheapest, and it’s a very expensive way to reduce carbon. And it’s an unreliable partner for climate change. You can have accidents and that can shut down plants, and that comes with all the environmental issues with nuclear itself.
 
That brings us to Bill Gates’ end of 2018 letter, in which he says that nuclear is essential for combating climate change.
 
Yeah, I think I actually saw that article, and I worry because I do think the history of nuclear technology shows that it’s not reliable. If you look today at the cheapest ways to generate electricity, it’s solar, it’s wind, it’s geothermal. These methods are a lot cheaper and only getting cheaper.
 
The biggest argument against them is the dispatch problem — you can’t always have them when you want them, but battery storage is also rapidly dropping in price. I look at those kinds of stories, and I scratch my head. I don’t really understand where those new nuclear technologies are coming from. His [Gates/TerraPower’s] technology is unproven and at least one decade, if not more realistically two, out, and they’re strategizing based on tech from China, and because of Trump policies they had to pull back on that project.
 
It’s not there. It’s not a solution. That’s just putting our head in the sand.
 
You are now working in renewable energy projects yourself?
 
I started in the offshore wind space about three or four years ago. Lo and behold, last month, three companies each bid $135 million just for the right to build offshore wind farms off Massachusetts. They think they can produce that power at almost competitive wholesale electricity prices. Even three years ago, we were not predicting that.
 
What’s happening in that clean energy space is dramatic. The tech is advancing so fast and the cost reductions are happening so fast, that’s really where the input should be going.
 
Why do you think Bill Gates and others are still pursuing nuclear?
 
Well, I’ve never met Bill Gates, and I would certainly ask him if we met [laughs].
 
I started my career as a scientist, and there are a lot of technical features to nuclear that make it very attractive. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to come up with better nuclear fission technology, but it’s not going to combat climate change. In the short term, we could work on better nuclear, but if it comes to spending money on nuclear or other renewable energy sources, it would make more sense to invest in the other.
 
We have one of the biggest examples in Fukushima [2011], and my experiences dealing with the accident there. One by one, the Japanese shut down all their nuclear power plants, and you have a country of the Kyoto Protocol with very aggressive climate goals, and they hinged on this fleet of nuclear reactors. And you have one accident, and all this human suffering aside, and this technology has torn apart your goals for climate change.
 
There was certainly the immediate harm, but you’ve damaged your longer-term goals for saving the planet. Their carbon went up as they had to turn to all these dirty fossil fuels, and now they’ve started to come down. And they’ve done a tremendous amount since in energy efficiency. If they’d one this 20 years ago, they wouldn’t be in that situation today.
 
Before stepping into the role, did you have any idea how messy politics in the agency were?
 
I spent time working on the Hill for a congressman and a senator, and I’d had my taste for politics always as a staffer. There is always a difference between a staffer and principal. When I became chairman I was the principal. Then I realized the power that was at stake, the influence that was at stake, and the stakes were so high, it was going to be intense.
 
The nuclear power industry is tens of billions, and electrical utilities are some of the most powerful in the country. My first encounter with [Obama’s chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel, it was a very direct communication style, and it certainly made an impression on me. I realized what was at stake then, all the idealistic aspirations I hoped I maintained were going to run up against some practical and political powers.
 
I was trying to strike balance between public safety and the industries that operate. It was a delicate balance. The Fukushima accident is when I crossed that threshold that my job was foremost health and public safety and that was it. If we weren’t going to do it, who was? And the accident really galvanized that for me.
 
How do you see the future of nuclear power progressing under the Trump administration?
 
Well the thing the president has tried to do the most, coupled with the strategy to keep coal plants operating, has been comparable. He hasn’t gotten as much attention to subsidize nuclear power plants, and thankfully those efforts have been unsuccessful because I think those are mistakes.
 
Coal plants and nuclear plants are just too expensive to operate, and the focus has been on preserving them, but they’re being replaced by solar, wind, some gas, which is not ideal but I think other technologies will catch up and replace gas.
 
To me, the best thing anybody can do in the government, despite what the president says about climate change, is to just stay out of it. In many parts of the country, the market is doing the right thing. In many cases, the right pocketbook approach is the environmental approach. This is one place where the government needs to step out of the way and let the market take over.
 
Knowing what you know now, would you have still taken the job?
 
Absolutely. It was a great privilege to have the job. There was one moment when I was sitting across from my counterpart in Japan [during the Fukushima aftermath], and we both looked at each other and realized that we were both relatively young [around 40]. In that moment, I knew there was a reason we were there, if for no other reason than I could relate to this individual.
 
It was a great experience. It was hard, but at the end of the day, I got up knowing what I was doing and why I was doing it, and I was doing something to help people. And those jobs don’t come often.
 
 
Other interviews of Greg Jaczko to watch and to listen to:

“Nuclear: Dangerous, A Failed Technology” – Former Nuke Regulatory Chief Greg Jaczko Goes Rogue

Greg Jaczko, the former Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has published an explosive new book: Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator.  In it, he gets honest with the American people about the dangers of nuclear technology, which he labels “failed,” “dangerous,” “not reliable.”  He particularly comes down against nuclear as having any part in mitigating the problems of climate change/global warming.  In this extended Nuclear Hotseat interview, Jaczko brings us inside the NRC’s response to Fukushima, the “precipice” on which nuclear safety balances, his own growing doubts about how safe nuclear reactors are in the United States, and how, ultimately, it was that concern with safety that probably brought him down.

Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator

Gregory Jaczko recounted his time with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for which he served as chair from 2009-2012.

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan Night reception to serve a selection of Gold Prize-winning sake

Promotion of Fukushima Prefecture’s sake by the Japanese government in total denial of  the Fukushima radiation contamination existing health harmful risk!!!
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Various sake brands from Fukushima Prefecture have won the Gold Prize at the prestigious Annual Japan Sake Awards 2018
Jan 22, 2019
Six kinds of Fukushima Prefecture’s sake will be served to complete the feast at the annual Japan Night reception during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019 — one of the events that VIPs from around the world attending the conference look forward to the most.
Fukushima, as one of the major rice-producing prefectures in Japan, is known for its flavorful sake, which relies heavily on the stable harvesting of quality rice.
At the Annual Japan Sake Awards 2018, one of the most prestigious sake competitions that dates back to 1911, Fukushima had 19 brands of sake take home the Gold Prize. Out of 850 entries submitted from across Japan, 232 were awarded the Gold Prize, and Fukushima, together with Hyogo Prefecture, topped the list of Gold Prizes by prefecture.
Fukushima has been the prefecture to win the most Gold Prizes for six consecutive years, marking a record since 1956 when records were first kept. It was also a product of Fukushima, the Okunomatsu Adatara Ginjo 2017 made by Okunomatsu Sake Brewery, a venerable sake manufacturer established in 1716, that was selected as the winner of the Champion Sake Award in the International Wine Challenge (IWC) 2018, out of a record number of 1,639 candidates in the sake category.
The Okunomatsu Adatara Ginjo, comprising a clean, fresh and balanced taste that has been highly evaluated internationally, will be served at the Japan Night event.
The brewery stands on the premises of about 12,000 square meters, almost as large as a baseball field, at the foot of Mount Adatara. Its sake is made using the mountain’s fresh subsoil water.
Five other sake brands to be served at the Japan Night include the Gold Ninki Junmai Daiginjo by Ninki Shuzo; Momo no Namida by Yamatogawa Brewery; Sparkling Toyokuni by Toyokuni Brewery; Issho Seishun Bessen Daiginjo by Akebono Brewery; and Aizu-miyaizumi Junmaishu by Miyaizumi-meijo.
The Gold Ninki Junmai Daiginjo has already gained international recognition after being served at the Nobel NightCap 2012, the final festivity of the Nobel Week organized by students. Ninkishuzo, located in Fukushima’s city of Nihonmatsu, takes pride in making sake through the traditional method of using wooden tools and Japanese-style pots. The local rice they use is well-suited for making sake because of the wide range of temperatures.
Momo no Namida (tears of a peach) is a liqueur made of locally produced peach juice and sake.
Fukushima is one of the major peach-producing areas in Japan. Peach orchards that were not able to deliver their peaches to customers across Japan in the spring of 2011 after the nuclear incident following the Great East Japan Earthquake inspired the liqueur, which overflows with a fresh peach scent.
Sparkling Toyokuni is the only sparkling sake to be served at the event. Taking a bronze medal at the 2017 IWC, its bubbly fruitiness is perfect for toasting. Toyokuni Brewery, established in 1862 in the town of Aizubange in the central part of Fukushima, sticks to the traditional funashibori (slow pressing) method without using a compressor.
Issho Seishun Bessen Daiginjo is one of the brands that won last year’s Gold Prize at the Annual Japan Sake Awards. With a name that can be translated as “youth for life,” it presents a light and fresh sweetness with a pleasant aroma.
Aizu-miyaizumi Junmaishu took first prize among the 456 entries of the Junmaishu category in the Sake Competition 2018, another large-scale sake competition that started in 2012. Junmaishu refers to a kind of sake made only with rice, rice koji (malted rice) and water with no added alcohol. It is often favored by sake lovers who enjoy the scent and taste of rice in their sake.

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Greenpeace slams Japan’s plan to dump radioactive Fukushima water into the ocean

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22 January, 2019
The decision by the government and the tsunami-devastated plant’s operator to release contaminated water into the Pacific was ‘driven by short-term cost-cutting’, a new study has found
Greenpeace has slammed a plan by the Japanese government and an electric utility company to release into the ocean highly radioactive water from the tsunami-devastated Fukushima Daiichi power plant, saying in a new report the decision was “driven by short-term cost-cutting”.
Released on Tuesday, the Greenpeace study condemns the decision taken after the disaster to not develop technology that could remove radioactivity from the groundwater, which continues to seep into the basement levels of three of the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima.
An estimated 1.09 million tonnes of water are presently stored in more than 900 tanks at the plant, which was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, with up to 4,000 tonnes added every week.
The decision by the government and the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), to avoid developing the relevant technology “was motivated by short-term cost-cutting, not protection of the Pacific Ocean environment and of the health and livelihoods of communities along the Fukushima coast”, said Kazue Suzuki, campaigner on energy issues for Greenpeace Japan.
“We have raised the water crisis with the UN International Maritime Organisation and firmly stand with local communities, especially fisheries, who are strongly opposed to any plans to discharge contaminated water into their fishing grounds.”
The backlash against the plan jointly put forward by the government and Tepco began late last year after the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) held public hearings in Tokyo and Fukushima designed to convince local people that releasing the water into the ocean would have no impact on marine or human life.
Anti-nuclear and environmental groups had obtained data leaked from government sources, however, that showed that the water was still contaminated, triggering public anger. Tepco was forced to admit late last year that its efforts to reduce radioactive material – known as radionuclides – in the water had failed.
The company had previously claimed that advanced processes had reduced cancer-causing contaminants such as strontium-90, iodine-129 and ruthenium-106 in the water to non-detectible levels.
Despite the much-vaunted Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) plant at Fukushima, Tepco has confirmed that levels of strontium-90, for example, are more than 100 times above legally permitted levels in 65,000 tonnes of water that have already been through the ALPS system.
n one of the hearings, Tatsuhiko Sato, a resident of Naraha who only returned to his home last spring because of contamination from the nuclear accident, accused Tepco of “not gathering all the data” and failing to adequately investigate reports that dangerous levels of radionuclides were still in the water after it was treated.
Local fishermen used the public hearing to express their “strong opposition” to plans to release the water, with one, Tetsu Nozaki, pointing out that while levels of radiation in locally caught fish and shellfish have been at or below normal levels for the past three years, releasing contaminated water would “deal a fatal blow” to the local fishing industry.
There has also been anger in some nearby countries, with environmental groups demonstrating in Seoul in November and Korea Radioactive Watch declaring that releasing the water “will threaten the waters of South Korea and other neighbouring nations”.
The issue was also part of a referendum held in Taiwan in November, with voters asked whether the government should maintain the ban on imports of food and products from areas of Japan that were most seriously affected by radiation from the disaster.
Japan’s trade ministry, however, still refuses to rule out the possibility that the water will be poured into the Pacific.
“We have established a committee to discuss the treatment of the water that is presently being stored and those discussions are still going on,” Shinji Hirai, director of the ministry’s Nuclear Accident Response Office, told the Post.
“There are five proposals being discussed, including releasing the water into the ocean or storing it underground, and we have not set a deadline for the committee to reach a decision.”
He declined to comment on the findings of the Greenpeace report.
But others have welcomed the new study, with Caitlin Stronell, spokeswoman for the Tokyo-based Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre, also expressing opposition to plans to dump the water into the ocean.
“There needs to be a lot of consultations before any decision is reached on what to do and it cannot simply be the government making an arbitrary decision,” she said. “The whole story of the Fukushima disaster has been one of lies and half-truths from the authorities and it is very hard to trust anyone in Tepco or the government on this issue.
“People’s opinions have been completely disregarded in the rush by the government to tell us how everything is just fine and we believe the people from the region, those who have lost the most, cannot be overlooked or neglected.”
The Greenpeace report concludes that the water crisis at the plant will remain unresolved for the foreseeable future – and that the only viable option to safeguard local communities and the environment is to continue to store the water.
“The Japanese government and Tepco set an objective of ‘solving’ the radioactive water crisis by 2020 – that was never credible,” said Shaun Burnie, a nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany.
“The reality is that there is no end to the water crisis at Fukushima, a crisis compounded by poor decision-making by both Tepco and the government. Discharging into the Pacific is the worst option and must be ruled out.”

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Technical failures increase risk of contaminated Fukushima water discharge into Pacific – Greenpeace

The nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant contin
by Greenpeace International
22 January 2019
Tokyo, 22 January 2019 – The nuclear water crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has been compounded by multiple technical failures and flawed decision making driven by short term cost cutting by the Japanese government and TEPCO, a new Greenpeace Germany analysis concludes.
The report details how plans to discharge over 1 million tonnes of highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean was proposed by the same Government task force that ignored alternative options that would have avoided threatening further contamination of the ocean.
“The decision not to develop water processing technology that could remove radioactive tritium was motivated by short term cost cutting not protection of the Pacific ocean environment or the health and livelihoods of communities along the Fukushima coast,” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan. “We have raised the water crisis with the UN International Maritime Organization and firmly stand with local communities, especially fisheries, who are strongly opposed to any plans to discharge contaminated water into their fishing grounds.”
The report concludes that the water crisis remains unresolved, and will be for the foreseeable future. The only viable option to protect the environment and the communities along the Fukushima coast being long term storage for the contaminated water.
The discharge option for water containing high levels of radioactive tritium was recommended as least cost by the Government’s Tritiated Water Task Force and promoted by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). The Task Force concluded in 2016 that “sea discharge would cost 3.4 billion yen (US$30 million) and take seven years and four months to complete. It concluded that this was cheapest and quickest of the five methods.” However, technical proposals for removing tritium were submitted to the same Government Task Force by multiple nuclear companies with estimated costs ranging from US$2-US$20 billion to US$50-US$180 billion depending on the technology used. These were dismissed as not viable but without detailed technical consideration.
TEPCO has claimed since 2013 that its ALPS technology would reduce radioactivity levels “to lower than the permissible level for discharge.” However, in September 2018 TEPCO admitted that the processing of over 800,000 tons of contaminated water in 1000 storage tanks, including strontium, had failed to remove radioactivity to below regulatory limits, including for strontium-90, a bone seeking radionuclide that causes cancer. TEPCO knew of the failure of the technology from 2013. The Greenpeace report details technical problems with the ALPS system.
The Fukushima Daiichi site, due its location, is subject to massive groundwater contamination which TEPCO has also failed to stop. Each week an additional 2-4000 tonnes of contaminated water is added to the storage tanks.
“The Japanese government and TEPCO set an objective of ‘solving’ the radioactive water crisis by 2020 – that was never credible. TEPCO has finally admitted that its ALPS technology has failed to reduce levels of strontium, and other hazardous radioactivity, to below regulatory limits,” said Shaun Burnie, nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany.
“The reality is there is no end to the water crisis at Fukushima, a crisis compounded by poor decision making by both TEPCO and the government. Discharging into the Pacific is the worst option and must be ruled out. The only viable option, and it’s not without risks, is the long term storage of this water in robust steel tanks over at least the next century, and the parallel development of water processing technology.”
Greenpeace offices are calling on the government and TEPCO to urgently reassess options for the long term management of highly contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi. Paramount in any future decision making should be the protection of the environment and the interests of the those in the front line – the communities and fishing industries of Fukushima’s Pacific coast.
END
Photos and video can be accessed here
Notes:
“TEPCO Water Crisis” briefing can be accessed  here
Contact:
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist, Greenpeace Germany, sburnie@greenpeace.org – +49 151 6432 0548
Greenpeace International Press Desk, pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org, phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Girl, 11, exposed to high radiation levels after 2011 nuclear disaster

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Children don face masks, hats and long-sleeve shirts to limit radiation exposure in Fukushima after the 2011 nuclear disaster.
January 22, 2019
An 11-year-old girl who evacuated from the town of Futaba after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was likely exposed to radiation levels near the government-set standard, despite assurances that no children were exposed to such high doses.
The girl is said to have been exposed to a radiation dose of about 100 millisieverts, the threshold for enhanced risk of cancer, following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The previously undisclosed case, which was reported to The National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) after the disaster, contradicts the central government’s statement that “there has been no confirmed cases of children exposed to radiation doses of 100 millisieverts or higher.”
According to the NIRS, the case was not disclosed at the time because the institute considered that the estimate was based on information from the site using a simple monitoring instrument and that the figures were not calculated precisely.
The Fukushima Prefecture town of Futaba co-hosts, along with Okuma, the crippled nuclear plant, which was inundated by massive waves triggered by the megaquake on March 11, 2011.
On around March 17, 2011, a radiological technician of the Fukushima prefectural government office engaged in radiation check-up tests on residents detected 50,000 to 70,000 cpm of radiation when checking the girl’s thyroid gland using a radiation monitoring device at a gym in Koriyama, according to the NIRS and other sources.
Cpm, or counts per minute, is a measurement of radiation emitted per minute from radioactive substances detected by such a device.
No documents regarding the case remain, but the figures were conveyed to a team from Tokushima University that traveled to the site to provide support for the tests.
The team estimated that the radiation level in the girl’s thyroid gland was likely a dozen kilobecquerels on the assumption that all the radioactive substances were absorbed by her thyroid gland and reported the estimated figures to the NIRS.
A becquerel is a measurement unit that indicates the ability of a radioactive material to emit radiation, or the intensity of radioactivity.
A sievert, in contrast, is a unit that focuses on the effects of radiation on human health.
The NIRS shared the information on the case among its staff members and left memos indicating the dose that the girl may have been exposed to a radiation dose of around 100 millisieverts.
Children are said to be particularly vulnerable to thyroid gland cancer due to radiation exposure.
In March 2011, a government survey of 1,080 children in the three municipalities of Iwaki, Kawamata and Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture found a maximum level of 35 millisieverts of exposure, far lower than the 100-millisievert standard.

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Japan’s plans to sell nuclear plants overseas derailed

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Jan 20, 2019
With the decision by Hitachi Ltd. to “freeze” its plan to build two nuclear power reactors in the United Kingdom, all of the overseas nuclear power plant projects pursued by Japanese firms — with the backing of the government seeking to promote export of nuclear power technology as a key pillar of its efforts to boost infrastructure sales in overseas markets — have now effectively been derailed. Hitachi cited its judgments on the “economic rationality” of the U.K. project as the reason for halting the plan — an allusion to the declining profitability of the nuclear power business due chiefly to the surging cost of safety investments in the wake of the 2011 meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holding’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long taken the initiative to promote the overseas sale of Japanese nuclear power plants through top-level diplomacy. However, the nuclear power plant business cannot be a part of the nation’s growth strategy if its business feasibility is in doubt. The government and related industries need to face up to the situation surrounding the nuclear power business — which continues to face difficulties domestically as well — and reassess the way forward.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster, triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, has radically changed the global nuclear power market landscape. The cost of nuclear power, which had been promoted as a relatively inexpensive and “clean” source of energy that does not emit carbon dioxide, spiked as additional safety investments inflated plant expenses.
The cost of Hitachi’s project to build the two reactors in Anglesey, Wales, which began in 2012, has ballooned from the initial estimate of ¥2 trillion to ¥3 trillion. Another project pursued by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to build four reactors in Turkey has also been hampered by the swelling cost — which reportedly shot up from an initially estimated ¥2.1 trillion to ¥5 trillion. Toshiba Corp. has pulled out from the overseas nuclear power business after the huge losses incurred by its subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co. in its nuclear power plant projects in the United States.
Even with a spike in plant construction costs, the nuclear power business would make economic sense if the expected earnings surpass the investments. But Hitachi reportedly decided to halt the U.K. project after it became clear that even with public support from the British government it could not possibly realize profits. The economic competitiveness of nuclear power has also been blunted by the sharp expansion of renewable energy such as solar and wind power after the Fukushima nuclear accident and its plummeting costs — although Japan lags far behind other major economies in this respect.
Behind the government’s drive to promote the sale of nuclear power plants overseas has been the domestic market’s bleak business prospects. While the government and the power industry have pushed for restarting the nation’s nuclear power plants idled in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, once they have cleared the tightened plant safety standards, only nine reactors at five plants have been put back online. The additional costs of safety investments required under the new Nuclear Regulation Authority standards to make the plants more resilient to natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami — estimated to range from ¥100 billion to ¥200 billion for each reactor — have prompted power companies to decide to decommission 23 aging reactors so far (including the six at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant).
As popular opposition in Japan remains strong against reactivating the idled plants, there is no prospect that the construction of new plants will be approved in the foreseeable future. The drive to promote the export of nuclear power plants may have been intended to make up for the loss of demand in the domestic market. But earlier plans for Japanese makers to build plants in Lithuania and Vietnam were canceled, while a civil nuclear cooperation pact signed with India in 2016 — which was aimed at paving the way for Japanese nuclear plant exports to the country — has not resulted in any deal. Along with Hitachi’s decision to halt the U.K. project, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is reportedly set to abandon its plan in Turkey.
Even without construction of new plants, there will be demand for maintaining Japan’s existing nuclear power plants, and for decommissioning its aging plants. What to do with the spent nuclear fuel and the high-level radioactive wastes from the plants will also be among the challenges that confront Japan’s nuclear power business. There will be plenty of work for the industry, and it will be crucial to develop and maintain the technology and manpower to deal with the tasks.

January 25, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

China, Fukushima and inflatable poop: how Taiwan got frozen out of Asia’s biggest trade deal

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19 January, 2019
The eleven members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will be meeting for the first time since it came into force at the end of last year
Taiwan’s entry has been blocked by China and clashes with the US and Japan over food imports, experts say
Taiwan will be looking on enviously as trade officials meet in Tokyo this weekend to discuss expanding one of the world’s largest free trade agreements (FTA).
The eleven members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will be meeting for the first time since it came into force at the end of last year.
And while many potential new entrants – including Colombia, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand – are high on the agenda, Taiwan faces an uphill struggle for admission.
Its diplomatic stand-off with China has left it frozen out of most multilateral organisations. The fact that many nations refuse to recognise its nationhood means it does not have a seat at the United Nations, for instance.
Many suspect that Beijing is also blocking its membership in the CPTPP, which consists of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, and which the Taiwanese government is desperate to join.
China’s influence also means Taiwan has struggled to sign FTAs with other countries, despite being a relatively open economy, compared to some of those under consideration in the CPTPP.
“They are – by far – the most prepared, and even adjusted their domestic laws for intellectual property to match CPTPP rules already,” said Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre, a free market lobby group.
Taiwan currently has only a handful of free trade deals, with mainly peripheral economies: Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, New Zealand, Paraguay and Singapore.
Most of those were signed when it was under the rule of the Kuomintang (KMT) and so on friendlier terms with China.
“Taiwan has been struggling to conclude some FTAs for many years because China’s good at blocking them at the diplomatic level,” said John Marrett, Asia analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“If Taiwan joined, it would be the signatory in most dire need of joining. Many of those involved have deals with one third or one half of the other nations already under their belt in bilateral or multilateral terms,” he said.
“The impetus is not as strong as for Taiwan. It’s a massive deal for Taiwan, so you can understand why they’ve put so much effort into this, and they’re ready to go. But they’ve got this massive issue of China blocking its entry,” Parrett added.
Compare that with Hong Kong, which is likely to conclude an FTA with the Asean group of 10 nations this year, is negotiating with the Pacific Alliance (Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru), and which already has deals with Australia and New Zealand.
“Whether it is in the benefit of Hong Kong to enter into the CPTPP because it does not have an FTA or plan to forge an FTA with Canada [the only CPTPP country it has yet to negotiate with] maybe we have other priorities,” said Louis Chan, assistant principal economist at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
The Taiwanese premier, Lai Ching-te told local media last year that the difficulties facing Taiwan’s accession are “completely because of China’s political obstacles”.
This view was confirmed by former Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop, who told Fairfax Media that China had blocked a potential FTA between Australia and Taiwan.
“The Chinese government made it clear to me that circumstances had changed between Taiwan and mainland China and that China would not look favourably on Australia seeking to pursue an FTA with Taiwan,” she said.
For a new country to join the CPTPP, all the member nations must agree. For a small nation such as Brunei, one of the CPTPP-11, it may be difficult to face down any pressure from Beijing.
In an email exchange, Andrés Rebolledo a trade economist who, until last year, served as the energy minister of Chile, told the South China Morning Post that “in a scenario in which these economies [Hong Kong and Taiwan] request to enter, the member countries of CPTPP-11 should also consider the impact on their relationship with China”.
However, China is not the only hurdle facing Taiwan in joining the world’s third largest trade deal, which is being gradually ratified by its member states, with Vietnam the latest to pass it into law.
When the US dumped the original Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after Donald Trump’s election, there were hopes that it might lower the barriers to entry for Taiwan.
The two countries have clashed repeatedly on trade and investment negotiations, particularly over agriculture.
Taiwan (along with other Asian nations) banned US beef imports after traces of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE – also known as “Mad Cow Disease”) were found in American cattle.
The ban was lifted in 2016, but US pork remains under an embargo, due to the use of ractopamine, an additive commonly fed to US livestock. The bans have angered generations of US trade officials, who have found negotiating with their Taiwanese counterparts challenging, but it looks unlikely that Taiwan will budge on pork.
One US trade delegation was greeted in Taiwan by protesting farmers, brandishing a big inflatable poop, said a former trade negotiator, speaking on background.
“The farmers control trade policy and Taiwan has very crazy farmers just like Korea, Japan, the US and the EU,” the official recalled.
The US’ exit made Japan the most significant economy in the CPTPP, but it has also clashed with Taiwan over agricultural products.
In November, Taiwan voted in a referendum to uphold a ban on food imports from the areas around the Fukushima nuclear plant site, infuriating the Japanese government.
The Japanese foreign minister said the results were “extremely disappointing”, and it’s expected that this could also hold up Taiwan’s progress toward joining the CPTPP.
Such “trade irritants” are viewed as “standard operating procedure” in Taiwan by the US source.
A Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told local press this week that the government will be watching the Tokyo round closely.
“We are continuing our talks with Tokyo to convince them that the food ban issue and Taiwan’s inclusion in the CPTPP should be discussed separately,” they said.
But all the signs suggest that for the foreseeable future, Taiwan will continue to look on from the outside.

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hitachi boss just like proverbial general fighting the last war

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A new nuclear power plant planned by Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd., a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd., would have been situated on the island of Anglesey in Wales
January 19, 2019
“Generals always fight the last war” is an aphorism meaning that military leaders tend to draw upon their experiences from the previous war when planning a new strategy.
Their strategy is doomed to failure because of their inability to keep up with the times by staying abreast of technological renovations and exploring new types of warfare.
Their counterparts seem to exist in present-day Japan.
Trying to “fight the last war,” such individuals are to be found among nuclear plant manufacturers as well as within the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Apparently, they cannot forget the good old 2000s, the era of global “Nuclear Renaissance.”
Memories of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl were starting to fade into oblivion then, and that helped revive nuclear plant construction. And with the nuclear industry becoming energized in various countries, Japan was determined to grab a share of the pie, and both the public and private sectors joined forces to push nuclear plant export.
And unbelievably, they keep this up even after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.
Did they believe the Fukushima disaster would have little impact on the rest of the world?
They were utterly wrong, of course. Nuclear plant construction costs skyrocketed due to reinforced safety standards.
One after another, export projects were aborted. A Hitachi project in Britain was frozen. Losses amounting to 300 billion yen wiped out the bulk of annual profit.
It is hard to believe that Japanese industry and the government, which bear grave responsibility for the Fukushima disaster, could have been so oblivious to change.
Or could it be that they were simply unable to think straight because they could not find a business they could sell to the rest of the world?
Hitachi Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi is also chairman of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation). At a recent news conference, Nakanishi created a stir by strongly advocating restarts of off-line nuclear reactors.
Is he growing frustrated and impatient over stalled exports? He obviously is totally out of touch with Japanese public opinion that has grown sensitive to the risks inherent in nuclear power generation.
I am convinced Nakanishi is the proverbial general who keeps fighting the last war.

January 20, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Instead of compensating victims, TEPCO compete now into gas business

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Via Bruce Brinkman
 
“In a warm place, people gather.” TEPCO advertises its gas business to move against rival Tokyo Gas, which can also now compete to provide electricity following market liberalization. Instead of compensating victims, evacuees, and all those with radiologically contaminated property, *this* is how they use their taxpayer subsidies — in addition to enriching investors (who would have gone broke without state intervention).
Read also:
Japan’s power monopolies take first steps toward competition
Wed, 31 Oct 2012
 
Tokyo Gas takes aim at TEPCO with household electricity prices
December 25, 2015
 
Japan’s Power Monopolies Face Major Reform Jolt
March 31,2016
 
Which Tokyo Electric Company is Cheapest? (And How to Change Providers)
November 2, 2016
 
TEPCO Energy Partner to offer up to 8% cheaper gas rate from July
May 10, 2017

January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Koizumi says Japan must say ‘no’ to nuclear energy

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Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi speaks about his zero nuclear power proposal during a Dec. 12 interview in Tokyo.
January 17, 2019
When he was prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi championed the use of atomic power to generate electricity.
Then the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster struck, triggering a crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
Koizumi, in office from 2001 to 2006, and widely regarded as one of Japan’s most popular postwar leaders, started reading up on the nuclear issue, and had a change of heart.
Koizumi, 76, published his first book by his own hand titled “Genpatsu Zero Yareba Dekiru” (We can abolish all nuclear plants if we try) in December. It is available from Ohta Publishing Co.
In it, he lambasts consumers for lacking a sense of crisis and simply believing a serious accident like the Fukushima disaster will never happen again in Japan during their lifetime.
In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Koizumi said it was “a lie” to claim that nuclear power is “safe, low-cost and clean,” although that is precisely what he espoused when he held the reins of power.
* * *
Excerpts from the interview follow.
Question: An opinion poll by The Asahi Shimbun in February 2018 showed that 61 percent of people oppose the restart of idle nuclear reactors, and yet, reactors are successively being brought back online. What is your view about this?
Koizumi: Many people still support the zero nuclear power generation policy. When I teamed up with Morihiro Hosokawa, (a former prime minister), who ran for the Tokyo governor’s election (in 2014), to call for abolition of nuclear power facilities, voters on the streets showed a positive reaction.
But now many people do not realize how dangerous nuclear reactors are. They probably believe a nuclear accident will never occur again while they live because of all the attention that has been paid to safety since the Fukushima crisis.
However, in the 2012 report compiled by the government’s panel to investigate causes of the disaster, the panel’s chair said, “Things that are possible happen. Things that are thought not possible also happen.”
In other words, there are no totally safe technologies.
Q: Many people seemingly believe that they have no choice but to accept nuclear power because it costs less than other types of electricity generation and electricity rates are cheaper. Do you agree?
A: The argument is doubtful. Nuclear power is relatively cheap just because the government covers part of the costs. Nuclear plants cannot be operated without assistance from the government. Private financial institutions would not extend loans to operators of nuclear facilities if the state did not provide guarantees.
Were it not for governmental support and taxpayers’ money, nuclear power would be more expensive than other kinds of energy.
Renewable energy (such as solar and wind power) currently accounts for 15 percent of total power production in Japan. The percentage is much higher than before the Fukushima crisis. Even if costs slightly increase, citizens would accept the zero nuclear policy.
Q: Is it really possible to replace all the nuclear reactors with other sorts of power plants?
A: No reactors were operated for two years after the Fukushima disaster. But no power shortages were reported during the period. That means Japan can do without nuclear plants. It is a fact.
Q: During your tenure as prime minister (between 2001 and 2006), it emerged in 2002 that Tokyo Electric Power Co. had concealed problems at its nuclear facilities. Didn’t that cause you to lose your trust in nuclear power even then?
A: No. Power supply is important and the risk of power failures could damage the economy. It was then said to be difficult to replace (nuclear plants that produced) 30 percent of the nation’s electricity needs with other power sources.
As there were few facilities to generate power based on renewables at the time, I believed nuclear reactors were essential. I simply trusted the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which said “nuclear energy is safe, low-cost and clean.”
But that was a big lie.
Although some people argued “nuclear plants are dangerous” even before the Fukushima crisis, I was deceived by the ministry and did not take their words seriously.
I did some soul-searching and decided I ought to spread the word that Japan can do without nuclear plants.
Q: You said “deceived.” Are you working to rectify your past mistake?
A: Yes. I am touring across Japan as I am keen to share my thoughts with many people.
Q: The issue of nuclear plants and their safety has hardly featured in recent national election campaigns. What’s your take on this?
A: The construction of a nuclear reactor is estimated at 1 trillion yen ($9.28 billion) now. Building reactors requires many materials, so many companies are involved in the nuclear power business.
Many tiny, small and midsize companies benefit from nuclear plants. Many of them insist that abolishing nuclear power would throw people out of work.
Some labor unions that support opposition parties are engaged in the nuclear power generation industry, though the (main opposition) Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan says it is in favor of the zero nuclear power policy.
Q: What do you think is important in realizing a nuclear-free society?
A: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insists nuclear plants are essential, so many lawmakers remain silent about the issue. But there are lawmakers even in the (ruling) Liberal Democratic Party who support the zero nuclear power policy.
If Abe declares the state will abolish all nuclear plants, the situation will drastically change. Both ruling and opposition parties can cooperate over the issue.
Why hasn’t the government set dream-inspiring goals to promote solar, wind and geothermal power generation?
Q: Could you explain the words in your book that “it is regrettable and irritating that I was deceived”?
A: When meeting with Abe, I always tell him, “Be careful not to be deceived by the economy ministry.” But he just smiles a wry smile and does not argue back.
He should not miss the current political opportunity that he has the upper hand (to change the government’s conventional nuclear energy policy).
Q: Do you talk with your son and Lower House lawmaker Shinjiro Koizumi about the issue of nuclear plants?
A: He knows my opinion all too well. He is still young, so he should do what he wants after gaining power.
(This article is based on an interview by Asahi Shimbun Staff Writer Takashi Arichika.)

January 20, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Residents Return Despite Radiation

Evacuees now fear Abe’s determination to put the Daiichi accident behind the nation is jeopardizing public health, especially among children, who are more susceptible. Lifting most evacuations has also ended subsidies for evacuees, forcing many to return despite lingering questions.
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Hiroshi Ueki moved far from the damaged Fukushima power plant and vowed to never return. He now grows grapes in a different region of Japan.
 
Japanese government presses resettlement of Fukushima evacuees back into areas still too radioactive with largest health risks falling on infants, young children and pregnant women.
 
When the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant began spewing radioactive particles after it was clobbered by a tsunami in March 2011Kaori Sakuma fled. She bundled her infant and toddler into a car and left her husband and family in Koriyama, 44 miles west of the ruptured facility. “The truth is, I ran away,” she says. Confronting gas shortages and snarled roads, she transported her children 560 miles away to Hokkaido, about as far as she could get.
 
Radiation from the fuming plant spread over tile-roofed towns and rice paddies across an area the size of Connecticut. The meltdown 150 miles north of Tokyo drove more than 200,000 people out of the region. Most believed they were fleeing for their lives. Now, almost eight years after the accident, the government has lifted most evacuation orders. Nearly 122,000 people have been allowed to return to communities where weeds have overtaken parking lots. Most are elderly, relieved to be resuming their lives. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is determined to end all evacuations by 2020, when Japan will host the Olympic Summer Games. The events will include baseball and softball competitions in Fukushima City, a mere 55 miles from the ruined reactors.
 
Around 35,000 other citizens still wait to return, but they and many others throughout northeastern Japan worry all of this is too soon. Radiation, which is generally linked to cancer, in some places continues to measure at least 5 millisieverts (mSv) a year beyond natural background radiation, five times the added level Japan had recommended for the general public prior to the incident. In certain spots radioactivity is as high as 20 mSv, the maximum exposure recommended by international safety experts for nuclear power workers.
 
In its haste to address the emergency, two months after the accident the Japanese government raised the allowable exposure from 1 mSv annually, an international benchmark, to 20 mSv. Evacuees now fear Abe’s determination to put the Daiichi accident behind the nation is jeopardizing public health, especially among children, who are more susceptible. Lifting most evacuations has also ended subsidies for evacuees, forcing many to return despite lingering questions.
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Kaori Sakuma, from Koriyama, evacuated her two young sons more than 500 miles from the Fukushima accident. She reluctantly brought them back after the government raised the allowable radiation limits for communities, but she does not trust the government’s radiation readings.
 
As more people inside and outside the country absorb the radiation data, Japanese officials are confronting a collapse of public confidence. Before the accident residents in Japan (and the U.S.) were living with background radiation that averaged 3.1 mSv a year,most of it emanating naturally from the ground and space. In Japan and the U.S. many residents experience an additional 3.1 mSv annually, due mostly to medical testing. But the anxiety of Fukushima residents facing even higher levels is palpable. If the government is going to fully restore lives and livelihoods, it needs to regain their trust, says nuclear engineer Tatsujiro Suzuki, a professor at Nagasaki University and former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission. That, he says, should include respecting international safety standards for radiation and lowering the allowable level at least to 5 mSv, although he acknowledges “even 5 mSv is too high for children.”
Running Away from Radioactivity
 
The tsunami that followed the magnitude 9.0 offshore Tohoku earthquake slammed a 40-foot wall of seawater onto Japan’s northeastern coast. The whole event killed more than 15,000 people. The water surge at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Daiichi plant led to meltdowns at three reactors.
 
Government officials ordered evacuations in areas called “difficult to return” zones, where radiation was above 50 mSv, enough to cause skin cancer. They quickly added areas between 20 and 50 mSv, then those below 20 mSv. Evacuations continued for months as Japan struggled to find housing for a large population exposed to radioactive iodine 131, cesium 134 and cesium 137. In May 2012 officials reported relocating 164,865 people. Another 26,600 people living outside the evacuation zones left voluntarily, according to Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a Tokyo-based organization opposed to the nuclear industry.
 
The evacuations did not go well. Evacuees, many elderly and frail, were moved repeatedly without any plans in place, says Jan Beyea, a physicist with Consulting in the Public Interest who worked on a 2014 U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report about the accident. Disrupted medical care and the trauma of moving were fatal to nearly 2,000 people, according to the World Nuclear Association. Many of those who survived reportedly suffer from alcoholism and clinical depression.
 
As radiation levels declined, the government began allowing evacuees home—one town at a time. By May 2013, coastal communities such as Minamisoma, 25 miles north of Daiichi, were reopening ramen shops, and trains resumed their scheduled runs despite a dearth of customers.
 
Shuzo Sasaki, 56, was one of the first evacuees to return to neighboring Odaka, a quiet seaside village. The long-time employee of Fukushima Prefecture (prefectures are equivalent to states) directs Real Fukushima, a government-sponsored organization providing tours as communities rebuild. In Odaka, where radiation plumes streamed overhead but dropped relatively few radioactive atoms on the ground, levels have stabilized at 1.26 mSv per year, well within the safe range. Today a few rice paddies are productive, with round bales of rice straw drying in the sun. Most, however, are vacant. The market for Fukushima rice is poor, even from farms where contaminated soil has been removed. Some paddies sport solar panels. Many are no longer farmed, instead covered with some of the 16 million bags of contaminated soil removed from other sites.
 
Less than a quarter of Odaka’s 12,800 residentshave returned. Most are over 60, says Sasaki, who wears a starched white shirt and dark blue suit. Some people have found new lives elsewhere; many are afraid to return. “Young people with families—they don’t believe the government radiation measurements,” he says.
 
Concern about children is one of the most controversial issues. When officials raised the allowable level of radiation to 20 mSv, including in schools, it was under the guise of giving people a measure of normalcy. But the May 2011decision became a flash point for opponents of the government’s handling of the accident. They were furious children would be subjected to the maximum radiation allowed for nuclear workers, spending day after day in buildings that increased their cancer risk to one in 200 people.
 
Sakuma was one of those who returned to Koriyama, from her outpost in Hokkaido. She did not want her young children to touch contaminated soil or water along their walk to school, so she carried them both on her small back. “We all want our kids to play in the dirt and pick flowers but I was afraid. We all were,” says Sakuma, now 46.
radioactive soil
Bags of radioactive soil, scraped from certain rice farms, are stored on other farmland.
 
Lack of Public Trust
 
In the year after the accident Koriyama was one of 12 communities where the ongoing radiation rate measured between 3 and 5 mSv above background, but the town had not been evacuated. Today’s levels have stabilized at 1.5 mSv, but doubts remain. Skeptical of the government’s readings, Shigeru Otake, 49, takes his own. A slim man who wears a Dollar Store rope belt to give him “strength like a samurai,” he says he has measured radiation spikes at 15 mSv in Koriyama, where his family has lived for generations. Sakuma walks her sons, now eight and 10 years old, to school past a government monitoring post that she claims reads six times lower than her own dosimeter does.
 
Misgivings about government assurances of safety drove Hiroshi Ueki, 48, to move his family to Nagano Prefecture, where he is now growing “the best grapes in the world.” His parents stayed behind in Fukushima Prefecture. Ueki says he will never move back. “The prime minister says the accident is over but I won’t ever feel safe until the Daiichi plant itself is finally shut down. That will take 100 years.”
 
In spite of these concerns, Japan has continued to showcase repatriation as a barometer of progress toward recovery. By April 2017, the government had lifted all evacuations except for the most contaminated places closest to Daiichi. That decision also ended rent-free housing provided to people who were forced to leave as well as to some 26,600 people like Ueki who vacated voluntarily. Left without the $1,000 monthly subsidy provided by Tokyo Electric Company, some people have been forced to return home despite their safety concerns.* They have no other economic options, says Hajime Matsukubo, general manager of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center. Some 16,000 people who refuse to return have been financially abandoned, according to the center.
 
It is unclear if such fear is justified. The danger to people chronically exposed to low levels of radiation is the subject of ongoing scientific debate. “It’s not a bright line where we can say this dose rate is going to kill you,” says Kathryn Higley, a nuclear science professor at Oregon State University.
 
Scientists generally agree on a few basics: The risks of getting leukemia or other cancers are higher for children than adults, and the risks for everyone increase significantly with exposure above 100 mSv annually. Various national agencies have set 20 mSv per year as a maximum for occupational exposure. Public exposure should be no more than 1 mSv per year above background levels, according to the International Commission for Radiological Protection. That raises questions about Japan’s 2011 emergency declaration of 20 mSv per year as the allowable exposure. Five years after the 1986 explosions at Chernobyl, Ukrainian officials lowered the allowable level to 5 mSv per year. Japanese officials note there have been no reported deaths from radiation exposure.
 
The public perception is that the Daiichi nuclear accident continues to pose health risks and, significantly, nuclear power is not safe. More than 80 percent of the Japanese public wants to phase it out, according to an October 2018 study by Suzuki, the former Japan Atomic Energy commissioner. He calls the erosion of public trust “the most unfortunate impact of the accident.”
 
Sakuma, the Koriyama mother, is using the Daiichi accident as a lesson in radical civic involvement. She intends to keep her sons in Koriyama despite radiation concerns. “I want them to grow up here so they can learn what the government does. I want them to tell other people about how it is to live with radiation,” she says. “This accident is not over.”
 

January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO’s refusal to settle money talks prompts center to bow out

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Masakazu Suzuki, 68, head of the group of plaintiffs that filed a damage compensation lawsuit with the Fukushima District Court against Tokyo Electric Power Co. in November 2018, stands in a garden of his home in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, on Dec. 17.
January 15, 2019
A government body set up to mediate in compensation disputes with Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the 2011 nuclear disaster is throwing in the towel because of the plant operator’s repeated refusal to play ball with aggrieved residents.
Officials of the Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center complained that TEPCO, operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, keeps rejecting settlement proposals offered in an alternative dispute resolution process.
The center discontinued trying to offer assistance in 19 cases in 2018 and another one on Jan. 10, affecting 17,000 residents in total.
If the center discontinues its mediation work, residents will have no recourse but to file lawsuits, which take time and money to resolve.
The center was set up in September 2011 to quickly settle disputes between TEPCO and residents who are unhappy with the amounts of compensation offered by the company based on the government’s guidelines.
When residents applied to the center for higher levels of compensation, lawyers working as mediators listened to what they and TEPCO had to say to draw up settlement proposals.
Residents and TEPCO are not legally obliged to accept the proposals.
As a result, some residents resorted to filing lawsuits because they got no joy from TEPCO.
Between 2013 and 2017, the center discontinued mediation work on 72 cases, all of which concerned TEPCO employees or their family members.
The 19 cases that were discontinued last year and the one last week had been mainly brought by groups, each of which consisted of more than 100 residents.
The largest group comprised 16,000 or so residents of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.
Immediately after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant in 2011, all of the town’s residents were ordered to evacuate to other municipalities.
In March 2014, the center offered to add 50,000 yen ($460) to compensation amounts ranging from 100,000 yen to 120,000 yen a month that were offered to each of the 16,000 residents by TEPCO under the government’s guidelines.
It also offered an additional 30,000 yen if any residents were aged 75 or older.
However, TEPCO rejected the proposal, prompting the center to abandon its mediation efforts in the case last April.
Some of the residents filed a lawsuit with the Fukushima District Court in November.
With regard to cases involving groups of residents, the center continued to urge TEPCO to accept its settlement proposals for several years.
As the company kept turning a blind eye to the requests, the center began to discontinue its mediation efforts in those cases from last year.
In its management reconstruction plan, TEPCO says that it will respect settlement proposals made by the center.
However, Masafumi Yokemoto, a professor of environmental policies at Osaka City University, believes it is doubtful that TEPCO will make good on that pledge.
“If TEPCO agrees to offer compensation amounts that exceed the government’s guidelines, people in other areas could also seek increased compensation amounts,” he said.
A TEPCO representative, meantime, said that as settlements (with residents) are closed and individual procedures, “we will refrain from expressing our opinions.”

January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment