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Fukushima’s dead zone: the abandoned towns

five years on, an area 12 miles around the plant remains a dead zone, abandoned and uninhabited.

wastes-bags-Fukushima-14At intervals beside the roads, heaped up in huge piles, lie half a million black plastic bags containing radioactive topsoil, scraped off the surface of the land in an effort to persuade farmers to start work here again.

Some of the dead zone will never return to life. Futaba, the closest town to the plant, will probably be turned into a radioactive waste dump.

thousands of workers are now being bussed in to the cleanup effort at the power station, the radioactive fuel rods which melted down are all still there. Even after five years, radiation levels inside the reactor buildings are still too high for workers to enter, making it hard to even plan the task that needs to be done, let alone carry it out.

Fukushima: Inside the dead zone where the legacy of nuclear disaster still rulesFive years since a tsunami led to disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, Andrew Gilligan explores the ghost towns left in its wake, Telegraph UK,  By , in Fukushima, video by Julian Simmonds, additional editing by Charlotte Krol  06 Mar 2016

 On the main shopping street of Japan’s nuclear ghost town, only the grass growing through the tarmac, and the rust on the parked cars, tells you the tsunami and earthquake happened five years ago, not yesterday.
abandoned town Namie

Along the rest of the country’s blasted east coast, the wreckage has been at least cleared away, even if not much has yet been put in its place. But in Futaba, time stopped on the night of 11 March 2011, when those residents who’d survived the giant wave fled, as they thought, for their lives from something even more frightening.

The buildings which collapsed in the earthquake have simply been left – rubble, roof tiles and all. The ceremonial torii gate of the Shinto shrine is lying exactly where it fell, on its side jutting out into the street. But most of the town is physically intact. It was just abandoned, and clearly in a very great hurry…..

As Japan’s prime minister at the time, Nato Kan, told The Telegraph in an interview published on Saturday, the country came within a “paper-thin margin” of a disaster requiring the evacuation of 50 million people. What did happen was bad enough. Inside the plant, a skeleton staff – the so-called “Fukushima 50” – battled to avert total catastrophe, reading emergency manuals by torchlight and at one stage asking workers to bring their car batteries to power the crippled cooling systems.

Outside, there was mass panic, with compulsory evacuation for 400,000 local residents and much of the rest of northern Japan cramming roads and railway stations to get out, too. In the end, the worst was avoided, with seawater pumped to cool the reactors and not a single immediate death from radiation exposure.

But five years on, an area 12 miles around the plant remains a dead zone, abandoned and uninhabited. You can still go there. Anyone can drive on the main road, route 6, which runs through it. Even this is an eerie experience. As well as the traffic signs, route 6 has geiger counters above the carriageway, displaying the radiation readout in the same way that others display roadworks information.

Most of the buildings here are wrecked or empty, too: an entire wall of the Segaworld games arcade has been ripped off, showing all the machines still inside. The side turnings, to get into the hearts of the towns, are blocked and mostly guarded, accessible only with passes (or, as we did, by finding an unguarded one and slipping through.)

At intervals beside the roads, heaped up in huge piles, lie half a million black plastic bags containing radioactive topsoil, scraped off the surface of the land in an effort to persuade farmers to start work here again.

Some of the dead zone will never return to life. Futaba, the closest town to the plant, will probably be turned into a radioactive waste dump. But six months ago, a few miles to the south, the authorities declared that Naraha, another town in the evacuation area, was now safe and everyone should come back.

It was hailed as the first stage in the area’s return to normality. Virtually nobody is buying. Before the disaster, Naraha had a population of 7,000. But for now, poisoned as much by mistrust of the government as by radioactivity, the place remains almost as spectral as Futaba.

“Once it’s dark, there’s only about ten houses with lights on,” said Nawasaki Yoshihiro, who was repairing the tsunami damage at his lovely traditional Japanese home opposite Tatsuma railway station. “You see wild boar running about the streets. I’m fixing this up because my parents kept pestering me not to waste the house. But even we are only here until 6 o’clock.”…….

In the station car park, dozens of commuters’ bikes give an appearance of normality. But look closer, and their chains are rusty, their tyres flat. “They have been there since 2011,” says Mr Yoshihiro. “The owners are probably dead.” Up the street, there are lights in a supermarket, a bright plastic sign above the door. But go up to the door, and you realise the place is some sort of government office, not a supermarket at all. It’s the perfect symbol of this nuclear Potemkin village.

Twenty miles further to the south, in the provincial centre of Iwaki, we find the reason why so few want to return. It’s the twice-yearly “update session” for residents of one of the temporary resettlement camps where much of Naraha’s population – and at least 20,000 other people from the radiation area alone – still live, five years on……….

From the audience, Yoshitaka Matsumoto, a local farmer, is politely angry: “You should fight the government, stop them bullying people,” he tells the mayor. Afterwards, he tells us that contamination of the water is people’s main concern. “The water comes from the taps, but it comes from a reservoir which has radioactive mud at the bottom,” he says. “The people who are back in Naraha now, they buy their drinking water from the shop, but they still have to wash in the tapwater.”…….

Though thousands of workers are now being bussed in to the cleanup effort at the power station, the radioactive fuel rods which melted down are all still there. Even after five years, radiation levels inside the reactor buildings are still too high for workers to enter, making it hard to even plan the task that needs to be done, let alone carry it out.

Around 300 to 400 tons of contaminated water is generated every day as groundwater flows into the plant filled with radioactive debris. To contain the tainted water, TEPCO, the plant’s operator pumps up the water and stores it in tanks, adding a new tank every three to four days.

There are now 1,000 tanks, containing 750,000 tons of contaminated water. “If I may put this in terms of mountain climbing, we’ve just passed the first waystation on a mountain of 10 stations,” said Akira Ono, head of the Fukushima plant, last month. The full cleanup, he admitted, may take as long as 40 years.

Back in Futaba, a banner has been erected protesting against the removal of the “nuclear power, our bright future” sign. “Save the sign, remember our folly,” it says. “Preserve it as a negative legacy.”

In truth, in Japan’s radioactive disaster zone, the reminders of the folly and the memorials of the disaster are everywhere inescapable.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/12182635/Return-to-Fukushima.html

 

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March 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016, Japan, social effects | Leave a comment

Eerie situation at Futaba – abandoned town in Fukushima prefecture

Fukushima: Five years on from nuclear meltdown locals still in the dark about future, ABC News, By Rachel Mealey 6 Mar 16 The town of Futaba lies six kilometres from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

There is an eerie feeling there. Shoes sit in the doorway of houses, as they do in houses across Japan — neatly placed together, waiting for feet to walk them out the door.

Bicycles rest against fences — waiting for the next journey………

Yuji Ohnuma ‘s slogan, “Nuclear Energy: The Energy of a Bright Future” won the day (competition years ago for pro nuclear slogan) .

Mr Ohnuma recalls being very proud when the billboard was erected — it stretched across the road on the way to the train station — seen by all who passed under it.

But now the bright future he foresaw has been ripped away. Council workers peeled the words off the billboard in December last year.

Mr Ohnuma campaigned for the sign to remain where it was — to serve as an ironic reminder to future generations of the dangers of nuclear power. But in a nation that has heavily invested in atomic energy, the billboard was not ironic — it was embarrassing.

The ABC filmed an interview with Mr Ohnuma under his sign on February 27 — the outline of the words could still be seen.

Last week on March 3, the entire structure was demolished.

The town is a chaotic mess and lives are in ruin — yet this job was given immediate priority.

“Nuclear energy has taken away my dream and my life and the bright future has become a catastrophe for us. I had a vision that my children would some day graduate from the same school as me, but all my plans are destroyed and there are no future prospects,” Mr Ohnuma said.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-06/fukushima-five-year-anniversay/7218734

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016, Japan, social effects | Leave a comment

Very few return to “re-opened” town in Fukushima

Japan’s nuclear refugees face bleak return five years after Fukushima, Yahoo News, By Minami FunakoshNARAHA (Reuters) 3 Mar 16, – Tokuo Hayakawa carries a dosimeter around with him at his 600-year-old temple in Naraha, the first town in the Fukushima “exclusion zone” to fully reopen since Japan’s March 2011 catastrophe. Badges declaring “No to nuclear power” adorn his black Buddhist robe.

(For a video of ‘Fukushima refugees face a bleak return home’ click http://www.reuters.tv/Bus/2016/03/03/inside-fukushima-s-first-town-to-reopen)

Hayakawa is one of the few residents to return to this agricultural town since it began welcoming back nuclear refugees five months ago.

The town, at the edge of a 20-km (12.5 mile) evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, was supposed to be a model of reconstruction.

Only 440 of Naraha’s pre-disaster population 8,042 have returned – nearly 70 percent of them over 60.

“This region will definitely go extinct,” said the 76-year-old Hayakawa.

He says he can’t grow food because he fears the rice paddies are still contaminated. Large plastic bags filled with radioactive topsoil and detritus dot the abandoned fields.

With few rituals to perform at the temple, Hayakawa devotes his energies campaigning against nuclear power in Japan. Its 54 reactors supplied over 30 percent of the nation’s energy needs before the disaster.

Today, only three units are back in operation after a long shutdown following the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima. Others are looking to restart.

“I can’t tell my grandson to be my heir,” said Hayakawa, pointing at a photo of his now-teenaged grandson entering the temple in a full protective suit after the disaster. “Reviving this town is impossible,” he said. “I came back to see it to its death.”

That is bound to disappoint Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Rebuilding Naraha and other towns in the devastated northeast, he says, is crucial to reviving Japan.

Tokyo pledged 26.3 trillion ($232 billion) over five years to rebuild the disaster area and will allocate another 6 trillion for the next five years.

VANISHING TOWN………

No children were in sight at Naraha’s main park overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a recent morning. Several elderly residents were at the boardwalk gazing at hundreds of bags stuffed with radioactive waste.

In fact, the bags are a common sight around town: in the woods, by the ocean, on abandoned rice fields.

Little feels normal in Naraha. Many homes damaged in the disaster have been abandoned. Most of the town’s population consists of workers. They are helping to shut down Tokyo Electric Power Co’s <9501.T> Daiichi reactors or working on decontamination projects around town.

Other workers are building a new sea wall, 8.7 meters high, along a nearly 2 km stretch of Naraha’s coast, similar to other sea walls under construction in the northeast……..

Back at his Buddhist temple, part of which he has turned into an office for his anti-nuclear campaign, Hayakawa called the idea Naraha could be a model of reconstruction “a big fat lie”.

“There’s no reconstructing and no returning to how it used to be before (March 11). The government knows this, too. A ‘model case’? That’s just words.” http://news.yahoo.com/japans-nuclear-refugees-face-bleak-return-five-years-064635977–finance.html

March 4, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016, Japan, social effects | 1 Comment

The social toll on Fukushima families

For some Fukushima mothers, protecting children from radiation comes at heavy price, Asahi Shimbun February 23, 2016 Three-and-a-half years after fleeing to central Japan, a mother received a package from her husband who had opted to remain at their home in Fukushima Prefecture despite the nuclear disaster.

From Tamura, about 35 kilometers west of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the father sent snacks for the couple’s two children. The cardboard box also contained divorce papers.

“I cannot send money to my family whom I cannot see,” the husband told his wife.

She still refused to return home.

Thanks to decontamination work, radiation levels have fallen around the nuclear plant since the triple meltdown caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. And families are returning to their hometowns, trying to resume normal lives.

But many mothers, distrustful of the government’s safety assurances, still harbor fears that radiation will affect the health of their children. As a result of these concerns, families are being torn apart, friendships have ended, and a social divide remains wide in Fukushima communities.

Around 70,000 people are still not allowed to return to their homes located in evacuation zones designated by the central government. And an estimated 18,000 people from Fukushima Prefecture whose homes were outside those zones remain living in evacuation………..

Sung Woncheol, a professor of sociology at Chukyo University, and others have conducted surveys on mothers whose children were 1 to 2 years old when the nuclear disaster started. The mothers live in Fukushima city and eight other municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture.

Of the 1,200 mothers who responded to the survey in 2015, 50 percent said they had concerns about child-rearing in Fukushima Prefecture.

Nearly 30 percent said they avoid or try to avoid using food products from Fukushima Prefecture, compared with more than 80 percent six months after the disaster.

But for some mothers, the passage of nearly five years since the disaster unfolded has not erased their fears of radiation.

The 36-year-old mother who received the divorce papers from her husband in autumn 2014 continues to live with her children in the central Japan city to which she had no previous connection.

A month after the nuclear disaster, she fled with her then 1-year-old son and her daughter, 10, from their home, even though it was not located in an evacuation zone.

She said she left Fukushima Prefecture because she “could not trust the data released by the central government.”……..http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201602230068

February 29, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016, Japan, social effects | Leave a comment

Cover-up of radiation effects makes Fukushima victims’ lives even worse

see-no-evilThere is absolutely no negative discussion of radiation exposure in the mainstream media, to the point where journalists risk being fired if they discuss radiation exposure in their articles, and even liberal newspapers refuse to print articles discussing this topic.

The Taboo Of Radiation Exposure In Japan: The Social Effects Of Fukushima, flag-japanActivist Post,  By Erin O’Flaherty, 11 Dec 15  It is understood that radiation is physically harmful to those who are exposed to it. However, it is also harmful on a social level. Those who become exposed to radiation form a new class within society, one that is discriminated against and even feared by many ordinary people. This has certainly been the case with the Fukushima nuclear incident. This discrimination is worsened by the government and mainstream media’s treatment of the incident. This essay will discuss the social effects of the Fukushima incident by comparing it with the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It will also explain how the media play into this discrimination and attempt to understand why Japanese society is reacting in such a way. Continue reading

December 12, 2015 Posted by | Japan, social effects | Leave a comment

Uranium industry in Niger from AREVA to Chinese companies

the Chinese-operated uranium mine is one of the most opaque business endeavours in Niger
“The nuclear industry itself really works as an oligopoly,” says Yi-Chong Xu, an expert in China’s nuclear policy at Australia’s Griffith University. “In every segment, it’s controlled by only 3 or 4 companies.”
Communities close to uranium sites in northern Niger generally haven’t derived a substantial or obvious advantage from them.
“There isn’t any benefit for the population who lives here,” “They’re just afraid of the contamination.”
uranium-oreOne uranium mine in Niger says a lot about China’s huge nuclear-power ambitions, Business Insider, 25 Oct 15,  ARMIN ROSEN “………the ambitions of the nuclear powers in Niger are still playing out today as Niger’s remote and inhospitable northern desert environment contains the world’s fifth-largest recoverable uranium reserves, some 7% of the global total.

The ore must be extracted and then milled into yellowcake in distant pockets of the Saharan wastes, where it’s then sent on a multi-day truck convoy to the port of Cotonou, in Benin, some 1,900 kilometers (1,180 miles) away………Those mines are operated by Areva, a nuclear-energy-services company that is 70% owned by France, the colonial power that ruled Niger between the 1890s and 1960…….
plans to begin large-scale mining at Imouraren are now on hold because of the worldwide plunge in uranium prices that followed the Fukushima incident and the resulting shutdown of Japan’s 43 commercial nuclear reactors…….

A fourth mine, in a place called Azelik, near the mostly ethnic Tuareg city of In’gall, is currently much smaller than the other three sites.

Like Imouraren, it’s currently shuttered as a partial result of the uranium price dip. But because of its ownership and a checkered recent history, it’s an instructive guide to the future of Niger’s uranium and the global nuclear energy industry at large.

Niger’s Azelik uranium mine, owned and operated by Chinese companies, is at the geographic and economic fringes of a continent-wide wave of Chinese investment, goods, and people. Continue reading

October 26, 2015 Posted by | Niger, opposition to nuclear, politics, social effects, Uranium | Leave a comment

Afraid about radiation, but afraid to speak out: Fukushima mothers

chld-Japan-medicalReluctant to speak, Fukushima moms admit fear of radiation, pressure from families, Japan Times, BY , 29 Sept 15 STAFF WRITER To stay or to flee. Mothers in Fukushima Prefecture had to make harsh decisions for their families after the nuclear disaster of March 2011. More than four years on, they still have to.

Those who remain there live in constant fear for their children’s health. But choosing to flee opened them to accusations of being bad wives who abandoned their relatives, community and husbands tied to jobs.

It is a no-win situation for those who face the decision to stay or go, because they may be unable to live up to the ideal of a ryosai kenbo (good wife, wise mother).

“Consciously or subconsciously, women are aware of the role we are expected to play in a family. After the earthquake and nuclear disaster, however, everything changed,” said Yukiko (not her real name), a mother and voluntary evacuee in her 30s. “I can’t live up to those expectations any more, and society judges me.”

All women interviewed for this story spoke on condition of anonymity.

As the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant began to play out, Tokyo Electric Power Co. established a 20-km no-go zone around the site, outside of which the government said conditions were safe. Many did not believe the assertion.

Yuriko, a woman in her 70s who lives in the city of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, believes the zone restrictions divided the community.

“Some people trusted the government’s word and continued to live here, but others couldn’t stand living every day in fear and moved out,” Yuriko said. “Nobody knew what to believe and communities have fallen apart.”

The fear of radiation, rumors and media reports about the safety of local food prompted many mothers just outside the no-go zone to evacuate voluntarily for the sake of their children’s health. Some moved to neighboring prefectures, including Iwate and Miyagi, and others made the great leap south to Tokyo.

“To be honest, I didn’t have much knowledge about the nuclear reactors in Fukushima. But I did know how deadly high exposures of radiation could be,” said Yuko, in her 30s, who has a 6-year-old daughter. “I evacuated to Tokyo within a week of the disaster. My husband stayed in Fukushima, but I was determined to leave to prioritize the safety of my daughter.”

In many cases, voluntary evacuees like Yuko are mothers who fled with their children while their husbands remained in Fukushima to work………….. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/09/29/national/social-issues/reluctant-speak-fukushima-moms-admit-fear-radiation-pressure-families/#.VgsUZOyqpHx

September 30, 2015 Posted by | Fukushima 2015, Japan, social effects | Leave a comment

One living witness to the history of Hiroshima bombing survivors

Survivor Koko Kondo shares horror of Hiroshima’s ground zero by: YUKA HAYASHI The Wall Street Journal August 06, 2015 Every year, Koko Tanimoto Kondo tours her hometown carrying the tiny, tattered pink tunic she wore on the day, 70 years ago, she and her family survived the world’s first atomic bombing.On storytelling tours around the August 6 anniversary, Ms Kondo, who was eights months old when the bomb hit, tells ­students about the devastation that destroyed her home and haunted her for decades.She recalls when her American fiance abandoned her days before their wedding because his relatives thought radiation ­exposure had made her unable to bear children.

She shares the humiliation she felt as a teenager, standing naked on a stage while doctors and ­scientists scrutinised her for signs of radiation’s long-term effects on the body.

She offers tales of ordinary Americans who sent food and built homes for the victims, and continued for decades after the war to send cheques on birthdays to sons and daughters of Hiroshima connected through “moral adoption”.Ms Kondo’s father, Kiyoshi Tanimoto, was a US-educated minister at a church in Japan. When Hersey visited Hiroshima in the spring of 1946, Tanimoto shared with him a detailed ­account of the horror and chaos he witnessed. In the book, Tanimoto is described as passing by “rank on rank of the burned and bleeding”, scurrying to find water for dying victims, and removing a dead body from a rowboat to carry those who were still alive, after apologising to the dead man for doing so.

Ms Kondo and her mother were buried under the parsonage of her father’s church. Her ­mother managed to hoist her out of the rubble after chipping away at “a chink of light” that they could eventually fit through. When Tanimoto was reunited with his wife and baby, he was “so tired that nothing could surprise him”. Hersey wrote in his ­account, which first appeared in the New Yorkermagazine in ­August 1946, a year after Hiroshima and Nagasaki became the first and only cities in history to experience a nuclear bombing………..

Ms Kondo shows the visitors where her father’s church stood before it collapsed, burying her under the rubble. She takes them to the river her father crossed in a rowboat to carry victims, some grotesquely burned, to escape the devastation. They go to the Red Cross Hospital, where thousands went for refuge. Ms Kondo’s brief appearance in the book Hiroshima, by journalist John Hersey, set her on a path to become a messenger from ground zero. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/wall-street-journal/survivor-koko-kondo-shares-horror-of-hiroshimas-ground-zero/story-fnay3ubk-1227471529950?from=public_rss&utm_source=The%20Australian&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=editorial

August 7, 2015 Posted by | Japan, social effects, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The effects of radiation have haunted the lives of atomic bomb survivors.

The A-bombs fell / Specter of radiation lingers on  , Japan News, , August 04, 2015, August 04, 2015 The Yomiuri ShimbunThis is the second installment in a series. “……….When hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) need treatment due to malignant tumors, leukemia, cardiac infarcts and other ailments, they may be officially recognized as having radiation sickness. This entitles them to a special monthly medical allowance of about ¥140,000, which is provided by the government apart from medical costs.

However, there are certain requirements for receiving the allowance, such as how far they were from Ground Zero when they were exposed. There were a total of 183,519 holders of special hibakusha health-care certificates for the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as of the end of March, but only 4.8 percent of them, or 8,749, were recognized as having radiation sickness………..

Poverty and discrimination

The effects of radiation have haunted the lives of atomic bomb survivors.

Hiroshima baby

“Just as I expected.” So thought a 72-year-old woman in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, when she was diagnosed with malignant lymphoma at a hospital nine years ago.

Her older brother and sister, both hibakusha, died from cancer after the war. The woman was the youngest of seven siblings, a boy and six girls. She experienced the bombing when she was 2 years old, in Ushita-Honmachi, now Higashi Ward, in the city of Hiroshima, about 2.5 kilometers from the blast center.

Looking for her brother and sisters, she entered the central area of the city while being carried by her mother for several days.

Her mother died eight months later, probably as a result of that exposure, while her father also died from a disease. The woman was adopted by another family, but three years later, her brother, who was also exposed to the Hiroshima bombing and had reached the age of 17, took her back……..

The woman was recognized as having radiation sickness in 2009. However, a neighbor told her, “You’re lucky to be a recipient” of the special monthly medical allowance. These words were very painful and in May this year, she refused to accept the money.

She wants people to know about her suffering but does not want them to know that she is hibakusha. This spring, a shadow was also found in her pancreas.

“My family was devastated, and I suffered from poverty and discrimination. My life is bound to the atomic bomb. I want to be freed from this,” she said in a trembling voice http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002331263

 

August 5, 2015 Posted by | history, Japan, radiation, social effects | Leave a comment

Concerns of mothers and children in Fukushima

Oshidori, MakoMako Oshidori in Düsseldorf “The Hidden Truth about Fukushima”, Fukushima Voice version 2E 28 May 2014 “…….. Next, I would like to talk about mothers in Fukushima. These mothers (and fathers) live in Iwaki City, Fukushima. They are active on school lunch issues. Currently, Fukushima produce isn’t selling well due to suspected contamination. So the prefectural policy is to encourage the use of Fukushima produce in school lunches, in an attempt to appeal its safety. As a large municipality, Iwaki City had been purchasing produce from distant prefectures instead of Fukushima produce, but after the accident, the policy changed to use Fukushima produce in school lunches in order to appeal safety of Fukushima produce by showing it’s safe enough to give to children.
They are collecting signatures for a petition to oppose the use of Fukushima produce in school lunches. Some say stricter radiation testing (in food used in school lunches) could help, but the mothers claim that currently in Japan only cesium is measured and they have no idea if there is any strontium. They oppose the use of Fukushima produce in school lunches for fear of finding out, ten-plus years down the road, that there was actually plutonium in the food that children ate.
Their concern is not so much if it’s safe or not, but it should not be a scientific issue but an ethical issue to use children as a way of appealing for safety. However, currently, about 70% of the municipalities within Fukushima Prefecture use Fukushima produce to children in school lunches as a way of appealing for safety. These mothers constitute a minority group, and therefore, they are pressured and harassed. They are told to leave Fukushima if they are worried about the contamination. I investigated details of these harassments, but I have been asked not to write about it and disseminate it. It’s because they are afraid the harassment might worsen once it becomes clear which specific harassments bother them.
This is a photo [in original] from the October 2012 Fukushima visit with Mr. Nesterenko, the director of BELRAD Institute in Belarus. The most surprising moment for him came when he took measurements in this area of Oguni Elementary School.
It says 27.6 μSv/h. He asked me then if all the students had evacuated. I said they were in class as we spoke. He said the radiation level qualified for immediate mandatory evacuation in Belarus. He told me that he thought Japan was a wealthy country but that he was apparently wrong. At the time, some Date City government workers happened to come by, so I told them there was a spot with a very high radiation level. They told me they already knew about it. This spot has really a very high radiation level, but the inside of the elementary school has been decontaminated and deemed safe. However, Mr. Nesterenko kept asking what it was that they meant by saying it was safe inside as there is no air filter for school buildings and air from the high radiation spot still flows inside. I was shown by the mothers the radiation level for the spot was 179 μSv/h in September 2012, which was a month before our visit. The principle of the school sent a letter to families stating everything was okay because the radiation level came down to 3.9 μSv/h after decontamination.
The mother who showed me the letter said she wanted the children evacuated immediately with the radiation level of 179 μSv/h. However, the evacuation never happened and the school remained in normal operation, so her family evacuated voluntarily at their own expense. During my 2012 visit there, out of 200 families at this school, only 2 families were concerned about radiation exposure. Now those 2 families moved away. Even after the move, they are constantly talking about they don’t know if they are just crazy, worried about nothing, or if it’s actually dangerous.
waste-bags-Fukushima

By the way, the current measure to deal with areas contaminated with a high level of radioactive material is to remove the soil, put it in bags, and place them in an empty lot. It’s not just Fukushima Prefecture. Neighboring prefectures in eastern Japan, such as Ibaraki Prefecture, Gunma Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture and Iwate Prefecture also have a lot of areas with contamination where people live. They decontaminate, put the soil in bags, and stack them in an empty lot. By the way, these bags look small, but each bag actually weighs 1 ton. It’s rather large. ……

Translation by @YuriHiranuma http://fukushimavoice-eng2.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/mako-oshidori-in-dusseldorf-hidden.html

March 28, 2015 Posted by | children, Japan, social effects, women | 1 Comment

The nuclear terror motivations of extremists of Salafi jihadists and of White Supremacists

elephant-terror-in-roomBreak-In at Y-12 How a handful of pacifists and nuns exposed the vulnerability of America’s nuclear-weapons sites .New Yorker, BY ERIC SCHLOSSER , 9 March 15 “…….After considering the threat of nuclear terrorism for many years, William C. Potter, the director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and Gary Ackerman, the director of the Unconventional Weapons and Technology Division, at the University of Maryland, outlined some of the motives that could drive a terrorist group to obtain a nuclear weapon. The group might hope to create mass anxiety or mass casualties. It might want to deter attacks by a state with nuclear weapons. It might want to destroy a large area belonging to an adversary. It might want the prestige that nuclear weapons seem to confer, the status of being a world power. And it might seek to fulfill a religious goal. Groups that have an apocalyptic outlook—that believe “an irremediably corrupt world must be purged to make way for a utopian future,” that celebrate violence as a means of achieving those aims—could be especially drawn to nuclear weapons, Potter and Ackerman found. Today, the number of those groups seems to be multiplying.

“The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it,” Osama bin Laden declared in 1998. Al Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has said that his mood won’t improve until America vanishes. And he quoted, with approval, a radical imam’s view that using a nuclear weapon against the United States would be sanctified by God: “If a bomb were dropped on them, destroying ten million of them and burning as much of their land as they have burned of Muslim land, that would be permissible without any need to mention any other proof.”

The Salafi jihadist world view promoted by Al Qaeda stresses the religious duty to purify corrupt states through violence, drive out infidels, and create a new caliphate—a perfect state in which religious and political leadership will be merged. Seth G. Jones, the director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, estimates that there are about fifty Salafi jihadist groups worldwide. They focus primarily on local struggles, battling the “near enemy,” not the “far enemy”: the United States. The groups most likely to commit terrorist acts on American soil are Al Qaeda, its offshoot Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). None have thus far engaged in nuclear terrorism, preferring more conventional and reliable forms of violence.

Salafi jihadists aren’t the only millenarian group that might be drawn to nuclear weapons. During the early nineties, the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) attempted to buy nuclear weapons in Russia, purchased land in Australia to mine for uranium, and sought technical assistance from scientists at Moscow’s leading institute for nuclear research…….
White supremacists in the United States have also fantasized about using nuclear weapons to purify society. Before Timothy McVeigh destroyed Oklahoma City’s federal building with a truck bomb, in 1995, he travelled the country selling copies of “The Turner Diaries,” a 1978 novel long considered the bible of the white-power movement. It features a protagonist who flies a plane carrying a nuclear weapon into the Pentagon, committing suicide in order to destroy Washington, D.C. In the book’s “happy” ending, white patriots use nuclear weapons stolen from Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, to annihilate inferior races throughout the world. Although the threat of Islamic terrorism has received a great deal of media attention, since 9/11 more people have been killed in the United States by American extremists than by foreign jihadists……….http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/09/break-in-at-y-12?mbid=social_twitter

 

March 7, 2015 Posted by | psychology - mental health, safety, social effects | Leave a comment

Japan’s communities deeply divided over move to restart nuclear reactors

see-this.wayMove to switch Japan’s nuclear reactors back on divides communities Australian Broadcasting Corporation VIDEO  Broadcast: 12/12/2014 Reporter: Matthew Carney

Switching Japan’s nuclear reactors back on is top of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s agenda if he wins another term but the idea is unpopular and deeply divides communities.

Transcript

SABRA LANE, PRESENTER: Four years on from one of the world’s nuclear disasters, the meltdown at Fukushima, Japan is on the verge of a historic move to switch its mothballed nuclear reactors back on. The move is deeply controversial, as 120,000 Japanese have still not been able to return to their homes and there are serious doubts the site can ever be contaminated. The issue will be front and centre when Japan goes to the polls this weekend, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems assured of winning a third term in power. North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney travelled to remote southern Japan where the first nuclear reactor will be flicked back on and he found communities deeply divided.

MATTHEW CARNEY, REPORTER: In one of the holiest sites in southern Japan, the monks are sending out a warning to the world. . Nearby, the Sendai nuclear reactors are about to be turned back on. The industry was shut down after the Fukushima disaster.

HIROAKI MURAI, BUDDHIST MONK, CHINKOKU TEMPLE (voiceover translation): If a second accident happens, it will be a catastrophe. Most areas of Japan will become unliveable. Restart of the reactors is unthinkable.

MATTHEW CARNEY: For more than 2,000 years, pilgrims have been coming to this holy mountain to seek clarity and purity. But now it faces another immediate threat, a waste facility has been built at the base of the mountain. The local government says no nuclear waste will be stored here. For the head monk, it’s a step way too far.

HIROAKI MURAI (voiceover translation): This is wrong. Religion and belief are indispensable. They’re about to turn this sacred mountain into a nuclear dump site. For what? Money? We’ve lost any sense of what’s valuable……….http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2014/s4148034.htm

December 13, 2014 Posted by | Japan, social effects | Leave a comment

120,000 Fukushima nuclear evacuees still displaced, 3 years after

Fukushima nuclear disaster: three years on 120,000 evacuees remain uprooted

Japan’s 2011 plant meltdown has torn apart close families, leaving elderly relatives isolated and villages uninhabited  in Fukushima The Guardian, Thursday 11 September 2014  More than three years after Japan‘s Fukushima nuclear disaster more than 120,000 people from the region are living in nuclear limbo with once close-knit families forced to live apart.

Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday gave the green light for two nuclear reactors at Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai plant in south-west Japan to restart, but communities are anxious over the safety aspects. The nuclear industry in Japan has been mothballed since the meltdown.

At a temporary housing complex in Fukushima prefecture one resident, Iiko Kanno, said she now spends her days reading, growing vegetables and counting the days until she is reunited with her grandchildren. As with many of her neighbours, Kanno’s family has been torn apart by the nuclear meltdown, which happened in March 2011…….

A survey conducted this year by the prefectural government found that almost half of the households forced to evacuate were living apart, while almost 70% had relatives suffering from physical and mental health problems.

  • Of the total, 48.9% of households said family members were living in two or more locations. Of that number, 58.6% said relatives who had once lived together had been scattered across three or more sites.

    In the same survey, 67.5% of households said they had relatives who were showing signs of physical or psychological distress. More than half of those afflicted said they had lost interest in activities they once enjoyed or that they had trouble sleeping.

    Kanno’s plight is typical of many Fukushima families who lived together in large rural homes before the disaster………

  • So far only a few hundred people from two districts on the eastern edge of the evacuation zone have been given permission to return permanently……
  • “The nuclear accident turned everything upside down,” she said. “Even if the evacuation order is lifted, no young people or children will go back. We have asked everyone – the village office, decontamination workers, environment ministry bureaucrats – when it will be safe to return. But no one can give us an answer.” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/10/fukushima-nuclear-disaster-japan-three-years-families-uprooted

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Fukushima 2014, Japan, social effects | Leave a comment

How the victims of nuclear radiation simply become socially invisible

HibakushaThe Radiation That Makes People Invisible: A Global Hibakusha Perspective Robert Jacobs The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 30, No. 1, August 3, 2014.

Radiation makes people invisible. We know that exposure to radiation can be deleterious to one’s health; can cause sickness and even death when received in high doses. But it does more. People who have been exposed to radiation, or even those who suspect that they have been exposed to radiation, including those who never experience radiation-related illnesses, may find that their lives are forever changed – that they have assumed a kind of second class citizenship. They may find that their relationships to their families, to their communities, to their hometowns, to their traditional diets and even traditional knowledge systems have been broken. They often spend the remainder of their lives wishing that they could go back, that things would become normal. They slowly realize that they have become expendable and that their government and even their society is no longer invested in their wellbeing.

As a historian of the social and cultural aspects of nuclear technologies, I have spent years working in radiation-affected communities around the world. Many of these people have experienced exposure to radiation from nuclear weapons testing, from nuclear weapons production, from nuclear power plant accidents, from nuclear power production or storage, or, like the people in the community where I live, Hiroshima, from being subjected to direct nuclear attack. For the last five years I have been working with Dr. Mick Broderick of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia on the Global Hibakusha Project. We have been working with victims in radiation-affected communities all around the world. Our research has revealed a powerful continuity to the experience of radiation exposure across a broad range of cultures, geographies, and populations. About half way between beginning this study and today the triple disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant occurred in Japan. One of the most distressing things (among so many) since this crisis began is to hear people, often people in positions of political power and influence, say that the future for those affected by the nuclear disaster is uncertain. I wish that it were so, but actually, deep historical precedents suggest that the future for the people who lived near the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns is predictable.

Here I will outline some continuities in the experiences of radiation-affected people. Most of the following also holds true for people who merely suspect that they have been exposed to radiation, even if they never suffer any health effects. Many have already become a part of the experiences of those affected by the Fukushima disaster. There are, of course, many differences and specificities to each community, but there is also profound continuity……..

Conclusion–Radiation makes people invisible. It makes them second class citizens who no longer have the expectation of being treated with dignity by their government, by those overseeing nuclear facilities near them, by the military and nuclear industry engaged in practices that expose people to radiation, and often by their new neighbors when they become refugees. People exposed to radiation often lose their homes, at times permanently, either through forced removal or through contamination that makes living in them dangerous. They lose their livelihoods, their diets, their communities, and their traditions. They can lose the knowledge base that connects them to their land and insures their wellbeing.

Radiation can cause health problems and death, and even when it doesn’t it can cause anxiety and uncertainty that can become crippling. Often those exposed to radiation are blamed for all of the problems that follow their exposures. After a nuclear disaster we count the victims in terms of those who died but they are only a small fraction of the people who are truly victimized by the event. Countless more suffer the destruction of their communities, their families, and their wellbeing. The full scale of devastation that a nuclear disaster wreaks is unknowable.

The lives of those exposed to radiation, or those in areas affected by radiation but uncertain about their exposure, will never be the same. As Natalia Manzurova, one of the “liquidators” at Chernobyl said in an interview published two months after the Fukushima triple meltdowns: “Their lives will be divided into two parts: before and after Fukushima. They’ll worry about their health and their children’s health. The government will probably say there was not that much radiation and that it didn’t harm them. And the government will probably not compensate them for all that they’ve lost. What they lost can’t be calculated.”10

(This article is expanded from an article originally published on the SimplyInfowebsite. Original can be seen here)

Robert Jacobs is an associate professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute of Hiroshima City University in Japan and an Asia-Pacific Journal Associate. He is the author of The Dragon’s Tail: Americans Face the Atomic Age (2010), the editor of Filling the Hole in the Nuclear Future: Art and Popular Culture Respond to the Bomb (2010), and co-editor of Images of Rupture in Civilization Between East and West: The Iconography of Auschwitz and Hiroshima in Eastern European Arts and Media (2012). His book, The Dragon’s Tail, is available in a Japanese language edition by Gaifu. apanese language edition by Gaifu. He is the principal investigator of the Global Hibakusha Project.  http://japanfocus.org/-Robert-Jacobs/4157

August 4, 2014 Posted by | 2 WORLD, social effects | 1 Comment

Discrimination against the victims of nuclear radiation

radiation-warningThe Radiation That Makes People Invisible: A Global Hibakusha Perspective Robert Jacobs The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 30, No. 1, August 3, 2014.

“…………Discrimination– People who may have been exposed to radiation often experience discrimination in their new homes and may become social pariahs. We first saw this dynamic with the hibakusha in Hiroshima and Nagasaki who found it very difficult to find marriage partners, since prospective spouses feared they would have malformed children, and found it difficult to find jobs since employers assumed that they would be chronically sick. Hibakusha children, moreover, often become the targets of bullying. It became very common to attempt to hide the fact that one’s family had been among those exposed to radiation.6

Many people are familiar with the story of Sadako who died at the age of twelve after being exposed to radiation from the nuclear attack on Hiroshima ten years earlier. Sasaki Sadako folded paper cranes in accordance with a Japanese tradition that someone who folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted a wish. Sadako’s story has become well known and children around the world fold paper cranes when they learn her story, many of which are sent to Hiroshima. While Sadako has become a symbol of the innocence of so many hibakusha, her father tried to hide this fact so that his family would not suffer discrimination and was upset that his daughter had become so famously afflicted.

Children whose families evacuated from Fukushima prefecture after the triple meltdowns at Tepco’s nuclear power plant frequently became victims of bullying at their new schools. Cars with Fukushima license plates were scratched when parked in other prefectures. Often this is the result of the natural fear of contamination that is associated with people exposed to a poison. In the Marshall Islands those who were evacuated from Rongelap and other atolls that became unlivable after being blanketed with radioactive fallout from the US Bravo test in 1954 have had to live as refugees on other atolls for several generations now, with no prospect of return home. The Marshall Islands have a very small amount of livable land and so being moved to atolls that traditionally belonged to others left them with no access to good soil and good locations for fishing and storing boats. They have had to live by the good graces of their new hosts, and endure being seen as interlopers.

Becoming medical subjects– Many people who have been exposed to radiation then become the subjects of medical studies, often with no information about the medical tests to which they are subjected, and frequently without provision of treatment by those conducting the tests. Hibakusha of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki became medical subjects of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission during the American occupation of Japan after World War Two. This study has continued to this day under the now jointly administered US-Japan Radiation Effects Research Foundation. In the early days of the study Japanese hibakusha had no choice about being subjected to the medical exams. An American military jeep would appear in front of their homes and they had to go in for an examination, whether it was a good time or not. Not only did they receive no information about the results of their tests but the US government provided no treatment.7 This has happened in many radiation-affected communities.

In 1966 a US nuclear bomber blew up in midair and the debris fell on the small village of Palomares, Spain. Four H-bombs fell from the plane, one into the sea, and three onto the small village. None exploded but two broke open and contaminated part of the town with plutonium and other radionuclides. To this day some of the residents of Palomares are taken to Madrid each year for a medical examination as the effects of exposure on their health is tracked. They have never been given any of the results of the tests nor informed if any illnesses they develop were related to their exposures. They are subjects, not participants in the gathering and assessing of the effects of radiation on their bodies. There is no doubt that such studies contribute data to scientific understanding of the health consequences of radiation exposures (the data itself is contentious for reasons cited below)8, however for those from whom the information is gathered, being studied but not informed reduces one’s sense of integrity and agency in one’s health maintenance. Many Pacific islanders exposed to radiation by the nuclear tests of the US, the UK and France had such experiences where they were examined and then sent off with no access to the results and no medical follow-up. Many report feeling as if the data had been harvested from them and at their expense.

Anxiety– Often those exposed to radiation are told that they have nothing to worry about. Their anxieties are belittled. Radiation is a very abstract and difficult thing to understand. It is imperceptible – tasteless, odorless, invisible – adding to uncertainty that people feel about whether they were exposed, how much they were exposed to, and whether they and their loved ones will suffer any health effects. The dismissal of their anxieties by medical and governmental authorities only compounds their anxiety. When other members of their community develop health problems, such as thyroid cancer and other illnesses years later it can cast a pall over their own sense of wellbeing for the rest of their lives.

Every time that they run a fever, every time that they experience stomach pains, nosebleeds, and other common ailments, this anxiety rears up and they think – this is it, it’s finally got me. These fears extend to their parents, their children and other loved ones. Every fever that a child runs triggers fears that one’s child will die. Sadako was healthy for nine years following her exposure to radiation when she was two years old in Hiroshima, then one day her neck suddenly began to swell and she was soon diagnosed with leukemia. This is the nightmare world that the parents of children exposed to radiation, or who even simply suspect radiation exposure, experience on a daily basis. Every ailment can rip them apart.

Radiophobia and blaming the victim– Since it is often the case that who is and isn’t exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, especially to internalized alpha emitting particles, is unknown, large numbers of people near a radiological incident of some kind worry about their health and the health of loved ones. Among this group, some have been exposed and some have not. The uncertainty is part of the trauma. Often, as is currently the case for the people of FukushimaNorthern Japan, all of these people are dismissed as having undue fear of radiation, and are often told that their health problems are simply the result of their own anxieties. In some cases that may be true, but it is beside the point.

For those who have experienced a nuclear catastrophe, who may have been removed from their homes and communities and lost those bonds and support systems, who are uncertain as to whether each flu or stomach ache is the harbinger of the end, and who cannot be certain that contamination from hard to find alpha emitting particles is still possible when their children play in the park, anxiety is the natural response. Regardless of whether it causes acute health problems, forces outside of their control have upended their lives. They now must live a life of uncertainty and often experience discrimination. Of course they are going to suffer from the anxiety that this situation produces. To blame them for this is to blame the victims and is a further form of traumatization.9……….http://japanfocus.org/-Robert-Jacobs/4157

 

August 4, 2014 Posted by | 2 WORLD, psychology - mental health, Reference, social effects | 2 Comments