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Is Fukushima Safe for the Olympics?

A recent visit suggests that the repercussions of the 2011 nuclear disaster aren’t over.
The New National Stadium at sunset, Tokyo
July 25, 2019
The 2020 Olympic torch relay will commence in Fukushima: a place more often associated with a 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster than international sports. That’s no accident: the location is meant to convey a narrative of recovery, and the idea that Fukushima is a safe place to visit, live–and of course, do business. Olympic baseball and softball games, also to be held in Fukushima just 55 miles from the meltdown, are meant to hammer the message of these “Recovery Olympics,” as Tokyo 2020 organizers have branded them, home
But after a visit to Fukushima, their claims seem questionable at best. In fact, the entire setup is a profoundly cynical act of “post-truth” politics. Fukushima is not yet safe, and no amount of sunny rhetoric from Olympic bigwigs as well as Japanese politicians, can make it so.
We traveled to Fukushima on a bus full of journalists, filmmakers, and activists from around the world. We were accompanied by professor Fujita Yasumoto who carried a dosimeter, a device that charts the levels of radiation. With two hours to drive before hitting Fukushima, his dosimeter read 0.04; anything above 0.23, he told us, was unsafe. The needle jumped further as we approached the nuclear plants and attendant cleanup operations. Outside the Decommissioning Archive Center, it moved into unsafe territory with a 0.46 reading before spiking to a truly alarming 3.77 as we approached Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor, one of three that melted down. The Olympic torch run is currently scheduled to pass through some of these high-contamination areas.
As we entered Fukushima, we started to see what looked like black Hefty garbage bags, filled with radioactive topsoil that had been scraped up by workers, most of whom, we are told, travel great distances to Fukushima to work. Thousands of these bags—which locals call “black pyramids”—are piled on top of one another, but the toiling workers aren’t wearing hazmat suits. Some of the piles of bags have vegetation popping out. The sight of the plants poking through the toxic muck could be taken as a sign of hope, but, for others, they’re a portent of danger, raising fears that the wind will blow the most contaminated parts of the topsoil into the less radiated parts of the city.
No one here we met is buying Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s line from 2013 when he tried to assuage the concerns of voters at the International Olympic Committee by telling them that things in Fukushima were “under control.” Hiroko Aihara, an independent journalist based in Fukushima, said to us, “The government has pushed propaganda over truth. This has people in Japan divided as to how serious it is. But for the people who live here, the crisis and the cleanup and contamination continue.”
The scientific studies about how safe Fukishima are at the moment are in great dispute. National travel guides put the area that is unsafe at only 3 percent of the prefecture. However, as Scientific American wrote, “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.”
We also spoke with Masumi Kowata. She is a remarkable individual, and the only woman on the 12-person Okuma Town municipal council in Fukushima. She is also the only person on the council who is speaking out on the dangers of nuclear power. Kawata was living in Fukushima when Abe made his grand pronouncement. She said, “Things were absolutely not ‘under control’ and nothing is over yet. The nuclear radiation is still very high. Only one small section is being cleaned. The wider region is still an evacuation zone. There is still radiation in the area. Meanwhile, we’re [hosting] the Olympics.”
The cynicism of branding this “the Recovery Olympics” can also be seen in the streets of Fukushima. Numerous people are still displaced and living outside the prefecture; they’re in the tens of thousands, although the exact total has not been determined. Whatever the number, there is no question that the part of the prefecture surrounding the nuclear meltdown feels empty. In a country with a remarkable lack of dilapidated buildings, they conspicuously blot the landscape in Fukushima. What was destroyed by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown hasn’t been rebuilt. Many businesses also have been “abandoned by owner,” an all-purpose explanation for the state of things. Both homes and businesses—with the crumbling signs for the titans of Japanese corporate culture—Sony, Mitsubishi and Honda—sit vacant.
Despite this bleak scene, Kowata somehow brims with fighting energy. “The local people have come to me and told me to tell the world what is actually happening,” she said. “That’s where I get my strength. There are people getting sick. There are people who are dying from stress. The world needs to know.”

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima fishing port reopens 8 yrs after disaster

July 26, 2019
TOMIOKA, Fukushima (Jiji Press) — A fishing port in the town of Tomioka in Fukushima Prefecture reopened Friday, more than eight years after it was closed due to the March 2011 powerful earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent nuclear accident.
With its reopening, all 10 disaster-hit fishing ports in the prefecture have now become accessible by ships.
Five fishing boats flying flags signifying good catches arrived at the port on the day, and they were welcomed by people concerned.
While noting that false information about radiation persists, Kanji Tachiya, head of a local fishery cooperative, said at a ceremony to mark the port’s reopening, “We’ll try to revitalize the fishery industry as early as possible by appealing safety and security.”
Tomioka Mayor Koichi Miyamoto indicated his hope that the fishery industry will play a leading role in the postdisaster reconstruction.
Before the 2011 disaster, the Tomioka port was known for good landings of expensive fish such as flatfish, but many related facilities were heavily damaged by the quake and tsunami.
In addition, entry to the port area was restricted due to an evacuation order issued by the Japanese government following the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The evacuation order was lifted in April 2017, and work to build and repair seawalls, and fishing facilities and equipment was completed by March this year.
According to the Tomioka town government, eight local fishing boats that have been evacuated to ports in the city of Iwaki and the town of Namie, both in Fukushima, are set to return to the Tomioka port.
In 2012, Fukushima fishers started trial operations in which the amount of catches is reduced and fish that passes radiation tests is put on sale.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Sailors Ask 9th Circ. To Revive $1B Fukushima GE, Tepco Suit



Law360 (July 25, 2019, 7:27 PM EDT) — U.S. sailors who allegedly suffered radiation injuries during their response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster urged the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday to revive their $1 billion lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. and General Electric Co., arguing it belongs in California federal court, not Japan.
Nothing substantial has changed since the district court and the Ninth Circuit previously decided that the claims against Tepco could stay in U.S. courts, the sailors said. And the lower court should have allowed discovery and further briefing before determining that Japanese law should apply to the claims against GE, the sailors argued.

“There is no ‘new’ development after years of litigating this case, other than the fact that the Japanese government changed its mind about where these claims ought to be litigated and what law should control,” the sailors said of the claims against Tepco. “With all due respect to the district court, nothing has changed except for the court’s willingness to revisit the issue of international comity and decide to punt this case to Japan.”

The sailors’ suit, originally filed in 2012 and amended three times since, is one of at least two suits lodged against Tepco and GE over the sailors’ Fukushima-related radiation exposure. It was filed on behalf of a proposed class of more than 70,000 U.S. citizens who were potentially exposed to the radiation.

The district court previously refused to dismiss the proposed class action against Tepco on the company’s claims that U.S. courts lacked jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit upheld that decision in June 2017, saying that either the international comity doctrine — which allows a court to dismiss a case when another country has a strong interest in handling the claims and can adequately do so — or the political question doctrine could be used as a reason to dismiss the sailors’ lawsuit once the case progresses and more facts come to light.

GE and Tepco sought the dismissal in April 2018 and in March, U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino said Japan has an overriding interest in applying its own laws in cases related to the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, which happened in Japan and primarily affected Japanese citizens.

“In sum, after balancing the impairments and reviewing the relevant case law, the court is persuaded that Japan’s interests would be ‘more impaired’ [than California’s] if its law was not applied to this matter,” Judge Sammartino wrote.

In its bid for revival Wednesday, the sailors split their arguments into claims related to Tepco and claims related to GE, which was added as a defendant more recently.

In the lead-up to the Ninth Circuit’s previous decision to keep the claims against Tepco alive, the Japanese government filed an amicus brief stating that it wants the claims to be handled in Japan, the sailors explained Wednesday.

“The U.S. government’s position, however, did not change, nor have the interests of any of the parties — most especially not those of the 239 plaintiffs,” the sailors said. “Thus, there is no ‘new’ development after years of litigating this case, other than the fact that the Japanese government changed its mind about where these claims ought to be litigated and what law should control.”

Judge Sammartino dismissed the claims against Tepco without prejudice to their being filed in Japan but the sailors asked the Ninth Circuit to keep them in California.

The judge dismissed the claims against GE with prejudice, however, finding that Japan’s Compensation Act, rather than U.S. law, applies in this case and that under such a law, the claims cannot survive. The sailors agreed that the claims against GE would be dead under the Compensation Act but said the law should not have been applied in the first place.

“California has an overwhelming interest in seeing that this case remains here and GE continue as a party-defendant, subject to the laws of California regarding liability for its wrongdoing,” the sailors said. “Allowing the lesser interests of Japan to trump those of California will allow GE to escape, scot-free.”

They argued that discovery and further briefing could clarify numerous aspects of the case and answer questions of venue and choice-of-law.

“Questions regarding the breakdown in operational responsibilities at FNPP, including the role GE played in the plant’s operation and maintenance, might be critical,” they said. “In addition, discovery could shed light on exactly what information Tepco had about the incoming U.S. naval vessels that carried plaintiffs to the area, when it had that information, and what were the details regarding the dissemination of that information.”

Another suit, valued at $5 billion, addressed issues outlined by 157 plaintiffs, including estates, spouses and children of personnel who have since died from what the suit claimed were radiation-based illnesses. Both suits were filed by a legal team that includes former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and his daughter Cate Edwards, who is based in the Edwards Kirby firm’s San Diego office.

However, Judge Sammartino dismissed that suit in January 2018. She said her court can’t exercise personal jurisdiction over Tepco because its alleged actions aren’t sufficiently tied to California and that federal courts didn’t have jurisdiction over GE because there’s no evidence of any other plaintiffs outside California.

The plaintiffs are represented by John R. Edwards and Catharine E. Edwards of Edwards Kirby LLP, and Charles A. Bonner, A. Cabral Bonner and Paul C. Garner of the Law Offices of Bonner & Bonner.

Tepco is represented by Gregory P. Stone, Daniel P. Collins, Hailyn J. Chen, Kyle W. Mach and Bryan H. Heckenlively of Munger Tolles & Olson LLP.

GE is represented by David J. Weiner, Sally L. Pei and Michael D. Schissel of Arnold & Porter.

The case is Cooper et al. v. Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc., case number 19-55295, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Asahi’s ‘Fukushima beer’ launch invites South Korea scorn

A retail outlet posts a notice stating that it is neither selling nor buying Japanese products amid signs of the spreading of a boycott campaign, in Seoul, South Korea.
July 25 (UPI) — Japanese beer company Asahi is at the center of a growing controversy in South Korea, following Asahi’s decision to sell beer using ingredients from Fukushima.
Regional newspaper Fukushima Minpo and other news services reported Thursday Asahi’s plant in Fukushima launched a limited edition beer, made from rice in the area not far from the nuclear disaster zone.
Asahi’s new beer began to be available on shelves on Tuesday in grocery chains and convenience stores in Fukushima Prefecture, and are being marketed as “Asahi Super Dry Fukushima Factory Limited Edition” beer, according to reports. Product labels reportedly read, “Pride of Fukushima.”
The beer launch comes at a time when Japan and South Korea are locked in a trade dispute, following a Japanese decision to restrict exports of key chemicals used in manufacturing South Korean tech products.
South Korean activists have called for the boycott of Japanese beverages, including beer.
News of Asahi’s limited beer drew public criticism in Korea, the Korea Times reported Thursday.
Online South Korean commenters derided the product launch, calling it “radiation marketing.” Others raised fears of contamination at the beer plant.
Tokyo Electric Power has previously struggled to contain the growing volume of contaminated water from damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima site.
In 2017, about 100 to 400 tons of contaminated water was being generated daily because of continued flow of groundwater from outside the site. Radioactive contamination may have been leaking from Japan’s paralyzed nuclear plant in Fukushima, and the water could have been seeping out for months.
Clean up work remains unfinished in the region.
The Yomiuri Shimbun reported Thursday the Japanese government has decided to begin the removal of nuclear debris at reactor No. 2 in Fukushima, but work won’t begin until 2021.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

17 years needed to send treated Fukushima water into sea: expert

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station’s forest of water storage tanks is seen in July 2018 from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter in Fukushima Prefecture.
July 25, 2019 (Mainichi Japan)
TOKYO — A new estimate claims it will take around 17 years to send treated radioactive water, which is currently stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station site as a consequence of the 2011 nuclear disaster, into the sea.
The figures came from calculations by Hiroshi Miyano, visiting professor in nuclear engineering at Hosei University, and head of the investigative committee on the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station at the Atomic Energy Society of Japan.
While the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry intends to resume discussions on the methods for disposal of treated water at a subcommittee of experts as early as next month, Miyano called for his estimate to be utilized in calm and quick discussions on the issue.
Miyano drew his attention to auxiliary cooling seawater pumps based on the premises of the nuclear power station, which was severely damaged by the March 2011 earthquakes and tsunamis and the subsequent meltdown they caused.
There are three operational pumps each at the No. 5 and 6 reactors, which are for pumping up seawater to cool apparatus at the nuclear plant. They can individually process 1,800 metric tons of water per hour at the No. 5 reactor, and 2,800 tons of water per hour at the No. 6 reactor.
At nuclear plants across the country, radioactive water containing tritium, which is difficult to remove, is released after being diluted to contain 60,000 becquerels or less of radioactive substances per liter of water, in accordance with criteria set under the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors.
At the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, where decommissioning work is underway, however, stricter standards are being applied, with water such as rainwater accumulated in trenches outside reactor buildings released after being diluted to contain less than 1,500 becquerels of radioactive substances per liter of water.
At present, the nuclear power station site is host to over 950 storage tanks, which together hold more than 1.05 million tons of treated water containing tritium. Were the stricter rules on dilution to be applied, the treated water would amount to some 699 million tons.
The calculations by Miyano were based on the pumps at the No. 5 and 6 reactors working alternately but without interruption for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Under such conditions, it is expected that all of the water would be released after about 17 years and 4 months.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is investigating a range of potential disposal methods, from releasing the water into the sea, to vaporizing the liquid or storing it for an extended period of time.
In 2016, the ministry came up with an estimate that releasing the water into the sea would take somewhere between 7 years and one month and 7 years and four months, using different preconditions from those employed by Miyano.
Miyano said, “At some point the tanks will deteriorate. This estimate is ultimately just one example, and it could change depending on conditions. But it does show that processing the water is going to take a long time. It’s time to have a calm discussion.”

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima village hit by 2011 meltdowns starts raising dairy calves again

Hopefully that milk from these local dairy farms will NOT end up in school lunch…

A dairy calf is led off a truck in the village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 16, 2019.
July 25, 2019
IITATE, Fukushima — Local farmers have resumed raising dairy calves for the first time in over eight years in this village that was hit by radiation following the March 2011 meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
Feliz Latte, a dairy company jointly managed by five farmers who were forced to evacuate from areas hit by the nuclear disaster, transported its 22 calves aged 8 months to a cowshed operated by a village-run company on July 16.
The dairy company was established in the city of Fukushima using subsidies from the national and prefectural governments to promote reconstruction in the area following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the meltdowns.
The firm plans to raise the calves in the village until they reach 22 months old and then move them to its farm in the city of Fukushima.
Prior to the disaster, the village had a total of 12 dairy farmers who used to raise about 240 dairy cattle. However, all of the farmers evacuated from Iitate due to the disaster. The evacuation order was lifted in 2017 for most parts of the village.
Kazumasa Tanaka, 48, president of Feliz Latte, said, “I hope to help the reconstruction by creating an environment where young people can easily engage in dairy farming when they return to the village.”

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Opponents want Olympic money used to rebuild Fukushima

What sense does it make to rebuild Fukushima if it means to condamn the people to live with radiation, radiation which ain’t gonna be decontaminated by any means but is there to stay.…
To not forget that the first step of the Japanese government deceitful campaign was DECONTAMINATION, to fool the people to believe that their place could be decontaminated so that they could go back to their life of the pre-nuclear disaster.
The second part of the Japanese government deceitful campaign was RECONSTRUCTION, that people need to help to reconstruct the Fukushima economy, to clean the name of Fukushima prefecture in the mind of the Japanese public and of the foreign public, to push and sell the local contaminated produce under the pretense that low level of contamination is safe and acceptable, that to buy and consume Fukushima is every Japanese citizen’s patriotic duty, solidarity, to help rebuild the Fukushima prefecture’s economy.
DECONTAMINATION and RECONSTRUCTION are both parts of the same deceitful campaign, a campaign denying the realaity of the omnipresent radiation’s health risks, soothing the people’s fears with lies and denial, to make them to accept and to stay living with high level of radiation in a fully contaminated environment. The Japanese government’s priority being the economics and not its people safety and health.
Anti-Olympic advocates, including those from the United States and France, gather in Tokyo on July 23.
July 24, 2019
A group of Japanese and foreigners who oppose the Tokyo Olympics said they want to block the holding of the sporting extravaganza they see as wasteful and destructive.
In a news conference in Tokyo on July 23, the opponents, including scholars, said that the Olympics will destroy the local economy and be a hotbed for corruption.
The opponents included Jules Boykoff, professor of political science at Pacific University, Oregon, who was formerly on the U.S. Olympic soccer team.
On July 22, they visited Fukushima Prefecture, hit hard by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident.
Based on the inspection, they said that the Japanese government should use money for reconstruction efforts rather than the Olympics.
The opponents also included Misako Ichimura, 48, a member of “Hangorin no Kai” (Anti-Olympics group).
She said that homeless people were evicted for the construction of the new National Stadium and that people living in Tokyo metropolitan government-run apartments were forced to vacate them.
Ichimura raised an “anti-Olympic torch” that had been passed down by people campaigning against the Olympics.
“We want to terminate the Olympics,” she said.
A woman from Los Angeles, which will host the 2028 Summer Olympics, said the Olympics benefit a small number of major companies that receive money that should be used to support the homeless.
South Korean Park Eun-seon, who was watching the news conference, said that after the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the business environment for local restaurants and hotels there deteriorated.
“I want Japanese to share our experiences. I want them not to repeat the same mistakes,” she said.
Hangorin no Kai plans to hold a demonstration with others in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward on July 24 as part of its international events to oppose the Olympics.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics are showing the nightmare waiting for L.A. in 2028

July 23, 2019
TOKYO — Something unprecedented is happening this week in Japan. Activists from around the world are convening for the first-ever transnational anti-Olympics summit. Tokyo protest groups have teamed up with those from recent host cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Pyeongchang, South Korea, and future hosts, including Los Angeles. The summit coincides with the one-year mark before the Tokyo Summer Olympics open on July 24, 2020.
These days, anti-Games campaigns pop up like activist jack-in-the-boxes. Los Angeles wouldn’t have become a U.S. candidate city (and upcoming host) were it not for anti-Games activists who forced Boston’s mayor to back out of that city’s 2024 host contract. Three other bids (Hamburg, Germany; Budapest, Hungary; and Rome) for the 2024 Games were also scuppered after persistent local protests. Feeling the pinch, the International Olympic Committee doled out two Olympics simultaneously, to Paris for 2024, and Los Angeles for 2028.
A handful of negative effects inevitably follow the Games and account for the rise of anti-Olympic activism: overspending, militarization of police, citizen displacement, greenwashing and corruption. Rio de Janeiro, Sochi and even Beijing, with its now derelict venues, are all prime examples of the Games’ grotesque downsides.
The Tokyo Olympics, sold as the most “innovative” ever, are already replicating the usual problems. Start with costs: The original price tag of the 2020 Games, $7.3 billion, has more than tripled.
Tokyo organizers have branded the Games the “recovery Olympics,” in a nod to the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and resulting Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown. Survivors and hard-hit communities are still struggling to rebuild. That reality, says Satoko Itani, a professor of sport, gender and sexuality studies at Kansai University, makes the recovery tagline “ironic” at best. “This Olympics,” Itani said, “is literally taking the money, workers, and cranes away from the areas where they are needed most.”
The Games have also sent thousands into the streets in Japan to protest threats to their civil liberties. In 2017, Japanese legislators rammed anti-terrorism legislation through the parliament, justified by the need to protect the Olympics. The legislation added hundreds of new crimes to the books, including offenses such as sit-ins to oppose the construction of new apartment buildings. The U.N. special rapporteur on the right to privacy said Japan’s government had used fear to push through “defective” legislation.
As if to underline privacy concerns, at every Tokyo Olympic venue, visitors will be subjected to facial recognition systems. This despite the concerns that facial recognition software peddles racial bias. Its acceptance at the Games nudges Japan down a surveillance-state slippery slope.
The Olympics are notorious for displacing everyday residents and Tokyo is no exception. We interviewed a woman in her 60s here who was displaced by the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and has been displaced again for the 2020 Games. She wouldn’t speak on the record because she fears retribution, and although it won’t undo what has happened to her, she has joined the opposition. “In order to challenge the Olympics the community has to unite and fight,” she told us.
As to greenwashing, the Tokyo Games will showcase Fukushima prefecture, where the torch relay will begin and where baseball and softball games will be played. “It’s fine for athletes and spectators to go to Fukushima for a couple of days,” said Aileen Mioko-Smith with Green Action Japan when the venues were announced. “But the Japanese government is using [the Olympics] to claim that everything is back to normal and that the evacuees should go … home.” The government has also increased what it considers to be acceptable radiation levels from 1 millisievert a year to 20, which it claims presents a far lower cancer rate than smoking or obesity.
The final factor that accompanies most Olympic Games is corruption. (Remember Salt Lake City?) Allegations have already surfaced in Tokyo. Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda resigned in March after being included in an ongoing bribery investigation related to securing the 2020 Games. Takeda, who also resigned from the IOC, maintains his innocence. French authorities are looking into $2 million paid by the Tokyo committee to a Singapore-based company implicated in international athletics graft.
City by city, recent Olympics have proved to be plagued by a democracy deficit. Politicians, developers and construction magnates hype bids for the Games with little or no citizen input. And yet the impact on a city of hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors, athletes, media and officials has long-lasting implications for the residents. Even the IOC appears to understand the need for reform. Responding to IOC President Thomas Bach’s concern that the Olympic bidding process creates “too many losers,” the IOC suggested last month that future bidders be asked to hold a referendum before being considered.
Fifteen anti-Games activists from Los Angeles are among those participating in the summit this week (the biggest contingent of any from outside Japan). They have to hope a new referendum rule will crack open the question of whether Angelenos can still stop the 2028 Games. The city’s Olympic Committee, and its cheerleader Mayor Eric Garcetti, brush off recent history when they swat at criticism of their “winning” bid. If voters had a chance to weigh in, would they do the same?

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Mothers’ group in Kyoto hosts Fukushima preschoolers, parents for retreat

July 23, 2019
A mothers’ group in Kyoto will host a three-week retreat program starting in October for kindergarten children and their parents in Fukushima Prefecture, where a massive earthquake in 2011 triggered a devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The group “Minna sora no shita,” or Minasora, started its retreat program in 2017. Even eight years after the disaster, many Fukushima residents fear the radiation effect and hope to join the program, according to the group.
During the program through Nov. 2, the children will attend Rakusai-Hanazono Kindergarten in Kyoto’s Nishikyo ward.
The group also plans to facilitate exchanges between mothers in Kyoto and those visiting from Fukushima, as well as host a lecture by a doctor who has examined children in Belarus since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Rie Hayashi, 41, who heads Minasora, said parents she met in Fukushima in May expressed worries over the situation of their hometowns that are still in recovery.
One of them told Hayashi that they still cannot dry laundry outside, apparently in reference to concerns of radioactive contamination, while another lamented that not a single day goes by without seeing waste from decontamination works piled up all around them, Hayashi said.
“I’ve treasured words from a mom who told me that the experience of joining the program has become an amulet in her heart,” Hayashi said. 
To minimize the financial burden on participants from Fukushima, Minasora covers most of their expenses for the program, including transportation and lodging.
As Minasora is a voluntary group of mothers, however, its activities rely on subsidies and donations. While it has decided to go ahead with this year’s program, securing funding remains a major challenge.
“We appreciate even a small help,” Hayashi said.
In addition to donations, the group is also looking for individuals or organizations that could provide suitable lodging for the visiting families, Hayashi said.
The Kyoto Shimbun

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Anti-Olympics groups want more attention put on event’s downfalls

July 23, 2019
Anti-Olympics groups on Tuesday called for the end to the quadrennial international sports event, highlighting the situation surrounding Japan’s disaster-struck Fukushima and its connection to the games, as well as the overall displacement of residents within host cities.
With only a year left before the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games begin, members of the group, speaking at a press conference in Tokyo, argued the games were detrimental to those who were the most vulnerable, and the influx of money has not been used in places where it is necessary.
(Misako Ichimura)
The press conference was held by former professional athlete and academic Jules Boykoff, Misako Ichimura, a member of an anti-Tokyo Olympics group and Anne Orchier, a member of a group opposing the 2028 Los Angeles games.
Ichimura, of Hangorin no kai NoOlympics 2020, emphasized the negative impact the upcoming Olympics has had on residents, including how about 230 households were told in 2012 to move out of their homes after authorities decided to tear down the Toei Kasumigaoka apartment bloc in central Tokyo, to make way for a new stadium.
She also touched on the plight of people in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima, which was devastated by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters.
“The Tokyo Olympics are trying to demonstrate that the ongoing issues in Fukushima have already been resolved, but those affected by the disasters are still suffering,” she said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
Boykoff, who traveled to the prefecture on Monday and met with local officials, agreed with Ichimura’s sentiments, calling the visit “one of the most intense experiences of my life.”
Boykoff said he learned from a local politician during his trip that reconstruction efforts have been slow and nuclear radiation levels in some areas in the northeastern region remain high.
“To return to Tokyo afterward and see all the money plunged into the Olympics while people still suffer in Fukushima was mind-blowing for me,” he said.
Ichimura also mentioned how dangerous the extreme heat, commonly associated with summers in Tokyo, has been on laborers and likely will be on athletes during the games.
“Three construction workers have already passed away on-site, and there have been a series of accidents as well as cases of heatstroke,” she said. “Tokyo summers will pose a serious health risk to many people if the Olympics are held in such extreme conditions.”
Weather-related concerns have been mounting, especially after a record-breaking heatwave hit Japan’s capital last summer, with an area near Tokyo seeing the temperature soar to 41.1 C.
Although the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will begin in a year, Ichimura has vowed to continue the fight against the status quo.
“We will not stay quiet as long as (the Olympics) continue to be held throughout the world, whether that is a year before (the event), a day before, or even after it’s begun,” she said.
Individuals against the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics have also rallied in support, citing the U.S. city’s growing homeless population.
Homelessness rose 16 percent in 2018 in Los Angeles, with at least 60,000 people being without a home on any given night, according to Orchier, an organizing member of NoOlympics LA.
“They are not bulldozing mansions to build luxury hotels or stadiums, they’re going after the most vulnerable,” she said, echoing Ichimura’s plea.
Furthermore, a study conducted by her group showed that while 45 percent of the city’s residents were opposed to the 2028 Olympics, 51 percent were moderately or extremely concerned about the impact it would have on homelessness.
“Serious grievances churn beneath the surface of the Olympics, and they absolutely deserve our collective attention,” Boykoff said.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

The 2020 Olympics Are Likely to Be a Disaster

After spending a day with Tokyo’s anti-Olympics organizers, it was clear why they are angry about the 2020 Olympics—and that they are ready to fight.
Members of the group Okotowari Olympics 2020 protest outside the Japan Sport Olympic Square.
July 22, 2019
By Dave Zirin and Jules Boykoff
At first glance, this must appear to be the politest anti-Olympics movement imaginable. The group fighting against the games is known as Okotowari Olympics 2020, or No Thanks Olympics 2020. However, after spending a day among them, it is clear that the honchos in the Japanese Olympic Committee should be worried. These organizers are feisty, whip-smart, and their goal is nothing short of preventing next year’s Olympics from landing in Tokyo. Their concerns are based on the recent history of what happens to a city after the Olympics descend: debt, displacement, and hyper-militarization. For them, it is also a question of priorities.
In the words of one organizer, Tomiko, “People are still suffering from [the earthquake and Fukushima nuclear meltdown of] 2011. The government needs to spend money to help those still suffering, not on the Olympics.”
This group of activists and agitators spent the day taking a disparate group of three dozen people—many from past or future Olympic cities—on a tour of Olympic building projects already underway. By the time they were finished, it was very clear why they were protesting.
Akio Yoshida, who, like several of the Okotowari organizers, cut her teeth doing work in solidarity with Tokyo’s large homeless population, said, “The displacement already happening will just move more people from their homes. All Olympics discriminate. Some people are prioritized. Others are disregarded.” After touring future Olympic sites, we could all see who the winners will be: well-connected developers, construction magnates, and security barons. Meanwhile, the working poor and houseless will be left out.
We saw a body of water slated for open-water swimming, with bacteria levels dangerous to the human touch. We saw a baseball stadium, the home of the famed Yakult Swallows, that will be demolished, only to be rebuilt a block away to meet the specifications of the Olympics. We saw public spaces such as a youth aquatic center that will be shut down to make way for Olympic sports, while young people will have to spend next summer with their noses pressed against the glass. We saw a beautifully designed, massive public stadium that was built only for volleyball and will be handed over after the Olympics to a private business concern. The stadium cost $300,000,000.
Around Tokyo, we saw public spaces clogged with construction that fenced out everyday people. One public area that was typically buzzing with baseball was off-limits, while bulldozers constructed an Olympic track venue. It’s deeply ironic that a traditional location for amateur athletes to train will be demolished for Olympic facilities. As one organizer said, “What is the point of the Olympics if they will actually serve to stifle amateur sports?”
Atsumi Masazumi, who lives in the neighborhood around the new National Stadium, told us, “The area I was proud of is being changed for the worse by the Olympics. It’s sneaky to use the Games to change the building codes. It’s horrible.” He stressed that he loves sports but doesn’t love what the Olympics are doing to his city.
We also traveled to the Odaiba Marine Park, the future location of Olympic swimming and the triathlon. But the beach was fenced off from the public. Signs pegged to posts around the perimeter of the area informed passersby that the beach would be closed from July 1 through September 6 in order to hold an Olympics-related event. Again, spaces meant for the public were being cordoned off because of the Olympics.
We saw all this while walking in a typical Tokyo summer’s stifling humidity, a reminder of the kind of temperatures that outdoor athletes will have to face next year.
We didn’t just walk and tour. In a quick-fire action at Japan Sport Olympic Square, the activists unfurled two banners reading “Olympics Kill the Poor” and “Reverse the 2020 Tokyo Olympics” and posed for a photo in front of the Olympic rings. Jittery security guards on the scene treated the two banners as if they were Molotov cocktails in the making, desperately shepherding activists away from the vicinity.
Satoko Itani, a professor of sport and gender studies at Kansai University, told us that the Olympics-induced state of exception we saw in motion all around us was “not only about the Olympics, but what happens afterwards.” It is the concern of “what happens afterwards” that activists will spend the next year fighting. This week is meant to kick off those actions, with symposiums, demonstrations, and rallies. If today is any indication, they will be organized in a way that everyone involved is crystal clear that the stakes for Tokyo could not be higher.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | 1 Comment

Beach in Fukushima Prefecture reopens for first time since 2011 disasters

Children play in the sea at Kitaizumi Beach in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Saturday.
July 20, 2019
MINAMISOMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Kitaizumi Beach in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, reopened Saturday after it was closed following the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident.
After it opened, the beach was filled with the noise of cheering children.
“I was relieved to see the beach crowded with people,” said Saki Yamaki, a 29-year-old Minamisoma resident, who visited the beach with members of her family.
“I couldn’t swim well because the waves were high, but I really enjoyed (my visit),” said Kazuto, Yamaki’s 8-year-old son.
“Seeing the sea makes me feel calm, and the sounds of waves help me forget negative things,” a woman in her 60s who lost a relative in the tsunami. said. “I hope the number of visitors will recover to the pre-disaster level,” said the woman, who also lives in Minamisoma.
Areas of the ocean offshore are well-known surfing spots, and the Japan Pro Surfing Association hosted a surfing competition the same day.
“To dispel harmful rumors (about radiation), we’ve tried to make the beach the safest one in Japan,” said Masahiro Nishizawa, a 49-year-old Minamisoma citizen who played a central role in planning the competition and in work to make the beach safe for people to visit.
“We hope to hold an international surfing competition here in the future,” he added.
A beach volleyball event was also held on Kitaizumi Beach.
Preparations for the beach’s reopening included the construction of a seawall and a public park.
Tests carried out by the Fukushima Prefectural Government in May confirmed that the amount of radiation in the air and the quality of water at the beach were the same as was recorded before the disasters.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to decommission all four reactors at Fukushima Daini

The No. 4 reactor building stands at Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holding’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power station in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, in July 2012
Tepco to decommission reactors at Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant
July 20, 2019
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. will formally decide to decommission the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant after informing the prefecture’s governor of its policy as early as this month, a company source has said.
Excluding the nearby No. 1 plant, which was crippled by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, it is the first time that the utility has decided to decommission a nuclear facility, the source said Friday.
The decommissioning of all four reactors at the No. 2 plant will likely require more than 40 years and cost an estimated ¥280 billion ($2.6 billion), the source added. If realized, all 10 reactors in Fukushima Prefecture will be scrapped.
Tepco now believes that it can secure funds to cover costs for the decommissioning and necessary workers, sources said.
The company will submit a specific decommissioning plan to the Nuclear Regulation Authority by the end of March 2020, according to the sources.
Closure of the No. 1 plant, which suffered core meltdowns at three of its six reactors, has already been decided.
After telling Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori about the policy, it could be formally approved at a Tepco board meeting scheduled for the end of this month, the source said.
The No. 2 complex was also hit by tsunami waves in the 2011 disaster and temporarily lost reactor cooling functions. But unlike the No. 1 plant, it escaped meltdowns.
Since the disaster, firms operating 21 nuclear reactors in the nation, including those at the No. 2 plant, have decided to decommission the facilities.
If the decision is approved by the board, the Tokyo-based utility’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture will become its only nuclear complex.
In June last year, Tepco President Tomoaki Kobayakawa told the governor that the company is leaning toward scrapping all four reactors at the No. 2 plant. A project team was later formed at the utility and looked into whether that is possible, according to the source.
The prefecture has demanded the utility scrap the reactors, saying their existence would hamper its reconstruction efforts.
Tepco to retire remaining reactors in Fukushima
Decommissioning is expected to take 40 years and cost $2.5bn
Tepco plans to authorize the decommissioning of all four Fukushima Daini reactors this month, a project estimated to cost $2.5 billion.
July 20, 2019
TOKYO — Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings will scrap the four Fukushima Prefecture reactors that escaped damage in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, moving to decommission all of the nuclear power plants the public utility owns in the disaster-stricken region.
The shutdown of the Fukushima Daini plant, which is located just 12km away from the Daiichi Plant crippled by fuel meltdowns, will be formally authorized at the company’s board meeting at the end of the month. This marks the first decision by the utility, known as Tepco, to decommission nuclear reactors apart from the Daiichi facilities. 
Costs for decommissioning Fukushima Daini are estimated to exceed 270 billion yen ($2.5 billion). While Tepco’s reserves are not enough to cover them, the government adopted new accounting rules allowing operators to spread a large loss from decommissioning over multiple years. The company also believes it has secured enough people with necessary expertise to move forward. 
Tepco soon will inform Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori of its decision. The utility intends to submit the decommissioning plan to Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority by March next year. 
The decision means all 10 reactors in Fukushima will be scrapped. The Daini reactors will be decommissioned in roughly 40 years, sharing the same timetable as the Daiichi site. Tepco owns one other nuclear plant, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility in Niigata Prefecture.
The Daini plant, where each reactor produced 1.1 gigawatts of power, served the Tokyo area for about three decades. Japan’s central government sought to restart the complex but faced withering opposition from local residents in Fukushima.
Including the Fukushima Daini facilities, a total of 21 reactors across Japan are now slated for decommissioning. Recent additions include two units at the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture and one reactor at the Onagawa facility in Miyagi Prefecture.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Growing foreign resident population in Fukushima Prefecture now numbers more than 14,000, says new report

According to a census report released earlier this month, there were 14,047 foreign nationals living in Fukushima Prefecture as of the beginning of this year.
July 19, 2019
Reflecting a nationwide trend of an increasing number of foreign residents in Japan, Fukushima Prefecture is also seeing its foreign community expand.
According to a census report released earlier this month, there were 14,047 foreign nationals living in Fukushima Prefecture as of the beginning of this year — an increase of 1,263 from the same point in the previous year.
Compared to 2013, when the survey of foreign nationals registering their residency began, the number of foreign nationals in Fukushima has increased by 154 percent. The trend is especially evident in urban areas like Koriyama, Iwaki and the city of Fukushima. As of Jan. 1 Koriyama logged the highest number of foreign residents, with 2,682 — an increase of 205 from the previous year. Iwaki came next, with 2,541 foreigners, and the city of Fukushima was home to 1,925.
As the foreign community continues to expand, the prefecture is tasked with building an environment in which they feel welcome and supported. “With the central government’s policy of increasing the number of foreign laborers, we’re seeing more technical intern trainees working in places like factories,” an Iwaki official said.
The number of foreign laborers — including technical trainee interns — is growing nationwide, and Fukushima Prefecture is no exception. According to the Fukushima Labor Bureau the number of foreign laborers in the prefecture has tripled, from 2,493 in 2011 to 8,130 in 2018.
As the population and availability of workers both continue to dwindle in the prefecture, the need for residents to coexist with foreign laborers is growing.
“The foreigner laborers who work in our town are members of the community and a vital source of labor,” said the chairperson of a supervising body at the Hanawa Chamber of Commerce, in the town of Hanawa in Fukushima Prefecture. The chamber was authorized by the government to take on responsibility for hosting foreign laborers. Opportunities to study Japanese are also being considered as a way to better welcome foreign nationals, whose labor could lead to a revitalization of the region.
According to the Japan Student Services Organization, the number of foreign exchange students in Fukushima Prefecture was about 2.5 times higher in 2018 than in 2012, with the number jumping from 302 to 776.
For foreign nationals living away from their home countries, administrative support is essential. “For those who can’t speak Japanese well, it’s crucial for there to be systems in place to help with communication,” said Chung Hyunsil, a 58-year-old South Korea-born Fukushima resident who serves as the director of a nonprofit called Fukukan Net.
Taking such ne
eds into account, the prefecture is seeking to improve its consultation services. Its plan includes expanding accessibility at the Fukushima International Association from seven languages to 11 by the end of the year, and using social media to promote events and community-building in different languages as well.
Fukushima Prefecture’s International Affairs Division aims to “explore the needs of foreign nationals while building an environment in which they can live comfortably.”
This section features topics and issues from Fukushima covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on July 11.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to decommission Fukushima Daini nuclear plant

July 19, 2019
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. will formally decide to decommission the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant after informing the prefecture’s governor of its policy as early as this month, a company source said Friday.
Excluding the nearby Daiichi, crippled by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, it is the first time that the utility, also known as TEPCO, has decided to decommission a nuclear plant.
The decommissioning of all four nuclear reactors at Daini will likely require more than 40 years and some 280 billion yen ($2.6 billion) in costs, the source said. If realized, all 10 nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture will be scrapped.
Closure of the Daiichi plant, which suffered core meltdowns at three of its six reactors, has already been decided.
After telling Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori about the policy, it may be formally approved at a TEPCO board meeting, scheduled at the end of this month, the source said.
The Daini complex was also hit by tsunami waves in the 2011 disaster and temporarily lost reactor cooling functions. But unlike the Daiichi plant, it escaped meltdowns.
Since the disaster, the decommissioning in Japan of 21 nuclear reactors, including those at Daini, has been decided.
For the Tokyo-headquartered power company, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture will be its only nuclear complex.
In June last year, TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa told the governor that the company is leaning toward scrapping all four reactors at the Daini plant. A project team was later formed at the utility and looked into whether that is possible, according to the source.
The prefecture has demanded the utility scrap the reactors, saying their existence would hamper its reconstruction efforts.

July 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment