Court overturns injunction on Takahama nuclear plant http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703280059.html March 28, 2017 Kansai Electric Power Co. won a major victory in its bid to restart the Takahama nuclear plant on March 28, with the Osaka High Court overturning a lower court’s unprecedented injunction to shut down the plant in operation.
The decision came after the Osaka-based utility had appealed the Otsu District Court’s March 2016 ruling, in which it was ordered to suspend operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the plant in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture.
In the ruling on March 28, the high court sided with Kansai Electric, which argued that its reactors met the regulatory requirements instituted in 2013 by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
With the decision, Kansai Electric, which relies on nuclear energy more than many other utilities, is expected to begin procedures to restart the Takahama plant.
In the injunction, the district court in Shiga Prefecture concluded that merely fulfilling the new NRA requirements is not enough to secure safety at the plant, saying they were set when the investigation into the 2011 Fukushima disaster was only halfway complete.
The lower court also said a thorough survey of geological faults around the Takahama plant has yet to be conducted, and that Kansai Electric’s claim that its reactors have a sufficient safety cushion to withstand the largest tremors projected there is doubtful.
Kansai Electric countered that the new requirements fully incorporate lessons learned from the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant by obliging operators to prepare for a more powerful earthquake, tsunami and other natural phenomenon that could trigger an accident.
The court challenge was filed by a group of 29 residents in Shiga Prefecture, which shares a border with Fukui Prefecture, in January 2015. The injunction marked the first time a court in Japan had ordered an operating reactor to be taken offline.
The Takahama reactors site is under 3 miles from Kyoto-fu, 36 miles (58K) from the cultural heritage sites in the ancient capital of Kyoto and closer to the region’s supply of fresh water, Lake Biwa.
Takahama reactors may soon restart after court overturns injunction
Plaintiffs hold banners in front of the Osaka High Court on Tuesday expressing disappointment after the court ruled in favor Kansai Electric over the restart of two Takahama reactors.
OSAKA – The Osaka High Court overturned Tuesday an injunction issued against the restart of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama facility in Fukui Prefecture, paving the way for them to be switched back on.
The landmark injunction issued by the Otsu District Court in Shiga Prefecture in March last year cited safety concerns for preventing the reactors from restarting even though they were judged to have met new safety regulations set after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear crisis.
While the injunction had been a temporary victory for the plaintiffs in Shiga, some had predicted the Osaka High Court would adhere to a more narrow technical view of nuclear safety.
In his ruling, Judge Ikuo Yamashita said the plaintiffs had the responsibility to prove allegations of any specific dangers that would result in restarting the plant, which the judge ruled they had not.
Part of the plaintiffs’ claim relied on the alleged inadequacy of current evacuation plans in the event of an accident. Therefore, starting up the Takahama reactors, located about 60 km from the city of Kyoto, posed a significant risk, they argued.
Yamashita ruled that measures were being taken in Fukui and that official attitudes and efforts had been proactive, so he could not accept the plaintiffs’ claims.
“Kepco showed proof that they drew up emergency response measures based on the largest scale earthquake and tsunami,” the judge ruled. “The judge’s decision is extremely regrettable,”It’s clear with the decision that no progress has been made in terms of learning the lessons of March 11, 2011,” Kenichi Ido, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said after the verdict was announced. “The attitude of the courts hasn’t changed at all since the Fukushima accident. In particular, the evacuation plans aren’t really being taken into consideration by the courts.”
Yoshinori Tsuji, one of the chief plaintiffs, said: “In America and South Korea, the courts are defying the presidents of both countries. But in Japan, the courts — which were ignoring the wishes of the people to stop nuclear power before March 11, 2011 — fail to reflect on what happened then. The courts follow the wishes of the nuclear power lobby and the government.”
Kansai electric officials welcomed the decision, saying at a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Osaka the utility would move towards preparing to restart, although they did not say when the reactors were expected to go back online.
“With safety as the top priority, the period for restarts is not yet set,” Kepco president Shigeki Iwane said. He added that once the restarts took place, the firm would move to reduce electricity prices.
In Kansai region, reaction to the court’s verdict was mixed. Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, a strong supporter of nuclear power, was relieved with the decision, saying it was a return to a reasonable and correct decision by the court system.
But in neighboring Shiga prefecture, Gov. Taizo Mikazuki said that, given more immediate concerns Japan’s nuclear power industry faces, including spent fuel storage and decommissioning of old reactors, it was the wrong environment to approve reactor restarts. Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada emphasized that the utmost had to be done to ensure safety.
Higher court backs restart of halted Takahama reactors
The No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant, from left to right, are pictured in this photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, on June 15, 2016.
OSAKA (Kyodo) — A Japanese high court on Tuesday revoked a lower court order to halt two nuclear reactors at the Takahama plant in central Japan, accepting an appeal by Kansai Electric Power Co. against the first injunction ever issued in the country to shut operating reactors.
But it is unlikely that the operation of other nuclear reactors in Japan will be resumed soon due to pending legal matters, analysts say.
The decision, made by the Osaka High Court, legally allows Kansai Electric to resume operating the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the nuclear power plant on the Sea of Japan coast in Fukui Prefecture. The two reactors have been idled for around a year.
The higher court said that quake-resistance standards were not overestimated under tougher regulations set following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and that necessary measures have been taken to prevent significant damage of the reactor core.
The latest decision bodes well for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which has been promoting the restart of nuclear reactors in a bid to bolster the economy by cutting the cost of fossil fuels and exporting nuclear technology abroad.
Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said at a press conference in Tokyo, “We want Kansai Electric to put top priority on safety and make every effort to obtain understanding from the local government and others involved.”
Kansai Electric President Shigeki Iwane said at a news conference in Osaka that his company has yet to decide when to restart the operation of Takahama’s Nos. 3 and 4 reactors, pledging to “make safety our top priority.”
Iwane also expressed eagerness to push down electric charges as soon as possible after the resumption of the two reactors.
A group of residents in neighboring Shiga Prefecture who won the landmark injunction from the Otsu District Court in March last year are expected to consider countermeasures, including filing a special appeal with the Supreme Court.
Amid widespread concern about the safety of nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns, the residents in Shiga filed a request with the district court in January 2015, seeking an order halting the two reactors at the plant.
On March 9, 2016, the district court ordered operation of the two nuclear reactors to be halted, casting doubts about the utility’s safety measures and Japan’s post-Fukushima nuclear regulations set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
Last July, Kansai Electric filed an appeal against a district court decision rejecting its request to suspend the injunction order.
In Tuesday’s decision, the Osaka High Court determined that the post-Fukushima safety measures were “not unreasonable” because they were devised on the basis of the “latest scientific and technical knowledge” that reflects lessons learned from the nuclear disaster.
The utility has criticized the injunction, claiming it was not an objective judgment based on scientific knowledge. It also says the injunction is costing the utility 200 million to 300 million yen ($1.8 million to $2.7 million) more per day to generate power from other fuel.
Kansai Electric removed nuclear fuel from the Takahama reactors between August and September last year given the prolonged court battle.
As of Tuesday, only three of Japan’s 42 commercial reactors nationwide are now operating — the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, and the No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan, according to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
On Thursday, the Hiroshima District Court is set to rule on an appeal filed to halt the operation of the No.3 reactor at the Ikata power plant, the first ruling since it resumed operations in August last year.
The Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant
Japan court rules in favor of restart of Kansai Elec’s Takahama reactors
A Japanese high court on Tuesday overturned a lower court’s order to shut two reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power, a company spokesman said, potentially ending a drawn-out legal battle and helping the utility to cut fuel costs.
The decision, while positive for Kansai Electric, is not likely to speed the broader process of getting reactors back online nationally after the Fukushima nuclear disaster of six years ago, said a former advisor to the government and others.
“The future of nuclear power is still uncertain. The decision does not mean that the courts will give a ‘yes’ to other legal cases. Political uncertainty remains strong, too,” said Tatsujiro Suzuki, a former vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, a government body.
The Osaka High Court overturned the first court-ordered shutdown of an operating nuclear plant in Japan. The lower court had decided last year in favor of residents living near the Takahama atomic station west of Tokyo after they had petitioned for the reactors at the plant to be shut.
Kansai Electric, Japan’s most nuclear-reliant utility before the disaster, estimates it will save 7 billion yen ($63 million) per month in fuel once it restarts both reactors.
The restart schedule for the reactors, however, is still uncertain because the utility has been conducting safety checks requested by local authorities after a large crane toppled onto another reactor building at the site due to strong winds in January, a Kansai Electric spokesman said earlier.
There are four reactors at the Takahama plant, with the earlier court order covering the two newest ones.
The company released a profit forecast after the verdict on Tuesday saying it estimates net income of 133 billion yen ($1.2 billion) in the year through March 31, 2017.
The Kansai case was one of many going through the courts after the Japanese public turned away from nuclear power following the Fukushima meltdowns of 2011, the world’s worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl in 1986.
Just three out of Japan’s 42 operable reactors are running and the pace of restarts has been protracted despite strong support from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which is keen to restore a power source that provided about a third of electricity supply before the Fukushima disaster.
Residents have lodged injunctions against nuclear plants across Japan and lower courts have been increasingly siding with them on safety concerns.
Contentious verdicts are usually overturned by higher courts, where judges tend to be more attuned to government policy, judicial experts say.
“We are going to win some and we are going to lose some, but the political and social situation is such that unstable prospects for restarts are here to stay,” Aileen Mioko Smith, an advisor to the plaintiffs and a co-plaintiff in other lawsuits, told Reuters by phone from Osaka.
There are more than 30 cases going through Japan’s courts in which communities are seeking to stop reactors from operating, she said.
Kansai Electric shares had ended trading before the court decision was released. They closed 0.3 percent higher on Tuesday at 1,283 yen, while the broader market rose more than 1 percent.
A survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima has called for the creation of a new global treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
Toshiki Fujimori spoke in New York on Sunday at a meeting of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The NGO group held the meeting ahead of the start of UN negotiations on a legally binding international nuclear ban treaty.
Fujimori experienced the bombing when he was 16 months old. He is scheduled to speak on the first day of the UN negotiations.
Fujimori expressed hope for the talks, which he referred to as an attempt to draw up a treaty that has yet to arrive due to strong pressure from nuclear powers.
He said the voices of atomic bomb survivors and their numerous supporters have spurred momentum to ban the weapons. He said such voices remind the world of the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, which cause indiscriminate mass destruction of human life and inflict radiation on survivors.
He stressed that while their exposure problems are at different stages, each of the 170,000 survivors still alive in Japan has a cross to bear until death.
He urged people to listen to the cries of survivors and move a step forward toward achieving a world free of nuclear weapons
PARIS (Kyodo) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Francois Hollande on Monday confirmed bilateral cooperation in the research of the commercial use of nuclear power as well as in security.
The two countries agreed on joint research on a French-led fast reactor development project called ASTRID, an acronym for Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration.
As the leaders met, Japanese industry minister Hiroshige Seko, who is accompanying Abe, and French environment minister Segolene Royal signed a nuclear power cooperation agreement, stating that they will work together on nuclear fuel cycle and fast reactor development.
France aims to start the operation of ASTRID in the 2030s.
Abe and Hollande also attended a signing ceremony on a deal in which Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. will each acquire a 5 percent stake in a nuclear fuel reprocessing joint venture to be established by French atomic energy company Areva.
In the sphere of security, Abe revealed to reporters after the talks with Hollande that Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces will jointly conduct naval exercises with France, the United States and Britain.
The Japanese premier welcomed the “significant” agreement on the exercises to be held in the Asia-Pacific region, including off Guam in the Western Pacific, apparently in view of China’s expansionary maritime activities.
The Japanese leader said he and Hollande shared a view that the Indian and Pacific oceans are international public goods and need to be maintained as free and open areas.
Abe said a French training squadron, including a helicopter carrier, will visit Japan in late April.
On regional issues, Abe strongly condemned North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, while Hollande expressed Paris’ support for Tokyo on the matter.
It was the 10th and final meeting between Abe and Hollande as the latter is not running in France’s upcoming presidential election. The first round of the election is in April followed by a potential runoff vote in May.
As for economic issues, Abe and Hollande agreed on the importance of promoting free trade amid the threat of rising protectionism across the world following the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
They affirmed cooperation for the early signing of the free trade agreement between Japan and the European Union.
Abe expressed Japan’s support for “a strong Europe” to be maintained even after Britain’s forthcoming exit from the bloc.
“Japan and Europe must fly the flag of free trade high, together with the United States,” Abe said.
Hollande said the Japan-France relationship can be further strengthened.
France’s election is one of a series in Europe this year in which public unease about immigration and the functions of the European Union have fuelled speculation voters could pick populist candidates over the current political establishment.
Abe arrived in Paris on Monday after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Hanover. He is scheduled to meet European Council President Donald Tusk and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni before returning to Japan on Wednesday.
Toshiba revealed last month that it will likely post a $4.4 billion loss because its U.S. subsidiary, Westinghouse Electric, has written off $6.3 billion from work on four new nuclear reactors in Waynesboro, Georgia and Fairfield County, South Carolina.
The Georgia plant is three years behind scheduled and $3 billion over budget. The South Carolina reactors are several years behind schedules and $2.4 billion over budget.
Toshiba’s stock price has fallen from 475.20 yen a share in December to a recent low of 178 yen. Ratings agencies have slashed Toshiba’s credit ratings and warn of an imminent default on the company’s bonds because there are likely more budget over-runs ahead at both facilities.
“The current financial strain on Westinghouse and Toshiba could lead to higher completion costs and further delays,” Fitch Rating Service reported.
And the Japanese government is in no mood to bail Toshiba out.
“Fiscal pressure rose last week as the Japanese government said it was not considering supporting Toshiba and the company missed, for the second time, a reporting deadline for its audited third quarter results,” the Fitch note added. “Its application to delay its results until April 11 was approved, but it remains at risk of being de-listed for failure to meet the requirements of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.”
Analysts at Standard & Poor’s were no less pessimistic.
“Absent unanticipated, significantly favorable changes in the issuer’s circumstances, we see a rising likelihood Toshiba will become unable to fulfill its financial obligations in a timely manner or will undertake a debt restructuring we classify as distressed in the next six months,” S&P wrote.
The Georgia and South Carolina plants were supposed to prove that nuclear power is viable in the United States. Westinghouse touts the AP1000 PWR reactor as the most advanced available based on licensed technology.
The nuclear energy industry is lobbying governments around the world to build more plants because they release no greenhouse gases and supply a steady supply of energy no matter the weather conditions. When it comes to operating costs, nuclear power is cheap.
The capital expenses, though, are huge. And if it weren’t for a regulated electricity market, there is no way these two nuclear power plants could compete with natural gas, wind and coal in a competitive electricity market like we have in Texas.
Reports emerged Tuesday that Toshiba is considering a prepackaged bankruptcy with Westinghouse’s creditors. The $500 million deal would keep Westinghouse operating until the debt is restructured.
This follows on the heels of reports that Toshiba wants out of the nuclear business altogether.
There are over 60 nuclear reactors under construction around the world. In many places they will make economic sense, while in others, they are government vanity projects.
As attractive as it might seem, though, new nuclear power plants still haven’t shown that they’re economic in the United States, and the dire status of Toshiba and Westinghouse is proof.
Japanese schoolchildren hold first nuclear war evacuation drill amid fears Kim Jong-un will unleash salvo of missiles after rocket tests. Sirens blared and loudspeakers broadcast warnings in Japan’s first civilian missile evacuation amid fears of imminent North Korean attack Sun, By Patrick Knox 20th March 2017,
A gang leader says he effectively controls several companies involved in rebuilding projects in the Tohoku region.
A company has been busy dispatching temporary workers for the Herculean task of rebuilding lives in the disaster-hit Tohoku region. But the company’s most important job for survival is to conceal any evidence of its true, sinister nature.
“This is a company I established,” said the leader of a gang affiliated with an organized crime syndicate based in western Japan. “I made sure that no signs of any possible association with yakuza organizations were left.”
Although the National Police Agency has tried to prevent gangsters from cashing in on the triple disaster that struck in March 2011, yakuza groups appear to be thriving in the Tohoku region and extending their reach.
Their companies not only dispatch workers and lease heavy machinery, but they are also involved in more traditional services, such as providing prostitutes and dealing drugs, with workers at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and other sites as potential targets.
Police say there is little they can do to shut down the yakuza activities.
The gang leader’s company, which was set up in a city in the Kanto region last December with a start-up cost of 5 million yen ($45,000), appears innocent on the surface.
The president named on company’s registry has no ties with organized crime, and the true leader and members of his family and group are not listed as directors.
The gang leader said he also has effective control over other companies that send workers to contractors involved in an array of projects, including decontaminating areas or dismantling abandoned houses.
“I make millions of yen a month, including about 100,000 yen per contractor and siphoning from workers’ daily allowances,” the gang leader proudly said.
Twenty days after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11, 2011, triggering the nuclear disaster, the NPA directed all prefectural police departments to keep gangsters away from the reconstruction projects.
Similar requests were made to the construction industry, Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the nuclear plant, government ministries and agencies and local authorities.
But a number of yakuza organizations are now behind the companies involved in the rebuilding projects.
In some cases, they gain control of legitimate but cash-strapped companies by providing funds.
One crime syndicate reportedly advises umbrella groups on “how to set up a company by keeping others from becoming suspicious.”
Police officials dealing with crime syndicates acknowledge that it is “practically impossible” to thoroughly check for possible ties between subcontractors and gangster organizations.
In some cases, a single project is outsourced to more than 10 subcontractors.
“All we can do is check whether individuals connected to underground groups are listed in the registration papers,” a police official said.
Police say they can confirm a yakuza connection only after they scrutinize the company directors’ circle of friends and acquaintances and other relevant data.
Although anti-yakuza ordinances are believed to be depleting the finances of mobsters around Japan, the crime syndicates are systematically running operations in the Tohoku region as if it’s business as usual.
One leader of an underground group said he was ordered by its parent organization “not to lag behind others” in exploiting potentially lucrative projects.
After the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the parent organization began asking all groups under its umbrella to give “regular reports” about rental agents of heavy machinery, dump trucks and other equipment indispensable in rebuilding projects on their turfs.
The move was apparently designed to prepare for the day when they needed to quickly obtain as much machinery as possible.
That day arrived on March 11, 2011.
“There is a huge demand for such equipment in a disaster,” a former senior member of a gang group said. “We can lease it at our asking price.”
Crime organizations have also seen a potentially lucrative market in the predominantly male work force at the Fukushima nuclear plant and other reconstruction projects in the Tohoku region.
“I came to Fukushima to have fun as an adult,” said an entry, presumably by a female, on a dating site for men. “I am looking for somebody I can meet in Nihonmatsu,” said another, referring to a city in Fukushima Prefecture.
The website, set up by the head of a gangster organization in the Kanto region, targets workers at the stricken nuclear plant and elsewhere.
The gang leader said he takes women who have experience in the sex industry to disaster-stricken areas in his car and stays there for several days.
He sends the women to love hotels or the clients’ vehicles, depending on the customers’ requests. One encounter costs about 30,000 yen, he said, adding that 60 percent goes to the woman while he pockets the remainder.
“I am in fierce competition with other underground groups in this line of business,” he said. “But I can earn at least 3 million yen a month.”
Drug deals are also said to be at play in the disaster zone.
“I have seen and heard about the use and deals in stimulant drugs at the plant,” recalled the leader of a gang group based in eastern Japan who works at the Fukushima nuclear complex.
He was assigned to the plant just after a hydrogen explosion took place there.
TEPCO and Fukushima prefectural police said they are not aware of any drug use at the plant.
However, a plant worker in his 30s died at a hospital in August 2015 after he complained of sickness on a bus taking him from the nuclear plant.
He turned out to be a gang member, according to police. His urine sample showed possible signs of stimulant drug use, but his cause of death was not determined.
Between 2011 and 2016, police have busted underground groups involved in rebuilding projects in 101 cases.
Fraud accounted for 54 cases. They were primarily gangsters pretending to collect donations for disaster victims or mobsters involved in illicit borrowing.
Twenty-five cases concerned dispatches of workers to assignments that they were not allowed to perform.
In one case, a senior member of a group affiliated with the Sumiyoshi-kai, one of the largest crime syndicates in the nation, was arrested in May 2012 on suspicion of illegally sending workers to the Fukushima plant. Police uncovered that the mobster received about 40 million yen between 2009 and 2011 by sending workers to nuclear plants and thermal power plants across the country.
A Kyoto University team has developed a new camera to visualize radioactive hotspots
Extraordinary decontamination efforts are underway in areas affected by the 2011 nuclear accidents in Japan. The creation of total radioactivity maps is essential for thorough cleanup, but the most common methods, according to Kyoto University’s Toru Tanimori, do not ‘see’ enough ground-level radiation.
“The best methods we have currently are labor intensive, and to measure surface radiation accurately,” he says, “complex analysis is needed.”
In their latest work published in Scientific Reports, Tanimori and his group explain how gamma-ray imaging spectroscopy is more versatile and robust, resulting in a clearer image.
“We constructed an Electron Tracking Compton Camera (ETCC) to detect nuclear gamma rays quantitatively. Typically this is used to study radiation from space, but we have shown that it can also measure contamination, such as at Fukushima.”
The imaging revealed what Tanimori calls “micro hot spots” around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, even in regions that had already been considered decontaminated. In fact, the cleaning in some regions appeared to be far less than what could be measured by other means.
Current methods for measuring gamma rays do not reliably pinpoint the source of the radiation. According to Tanimori, “radiation sources including distant galaxies can disrupt the measurements.”
The key to creating a clear image is taking a color image including the direction and energy of all gamma rays emitted in the vicinity.
“Quantitative imaging produces a surface radioactivity distribution that can be converted to show dosage on the ground,” says Tanimori. “The ETCC makes true images of the gamma rays based on proper geometrical optics.”
This distribution can then be used to relatively easily measure ground dosage levels, showing that most gamma rays scatter and spread in the air, putting decontamination efforts at risk.
“Our ETCC will make it easier to respond to nuclear emergencies,” continues Tanimori. “Using it, we can detect where and how radiation is being released. This will not only help decontamination, but also the eventual dismantling of nuclear reactors.”
Protesters stage a rally in front of the prime minister’s office in Tokyo on Tuesday as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet approved an anti-conspiracy bill
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved Tuesday a controversial bill that would revise the organized crime law so authorities can crack down on individuals and organizations who conspire to engage in serious criminal activity.
The conspiracy charges apply to groups of two or more people, where at least one person procures funds, supplies or surveys a location in preparation for committing a crime. Efforts to maintain or expand organized crime groups would also be punished, while reduced penalties would be considered for those who turn themselves in before a crime is carried out.
The government is pushing to enact the revised bill during the ordinary Diet session through mid-June, but strong objections by opposition parties are expected amid concern that the law may be used against civic groups.
The backlash against the measure has been a persistent hurdle in passing the anti-conspiracy law, which the government has attempted and failed to enact three times in the past, as it targeted “groups” in general.
The bill needs to be passed to ensure necessary counterterrorism measures are in place before the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, according to the government. It is also a prerequisite to ratify the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which was adopted by member states in 2000 and took effect in 2003.
“It is an urgent necessity for the government to ratify the treaty to promote international cooperation on counter-terrorism,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Tuesday, adding Japan is the only country among the Group of Seven nations that has not signed the treaty.
Suga also said the targets of the new bill would be strictly applied to terrorists and other organized crime syndicates, not ordinary citizens.
Some opposition parties and the Tokyo Bar Association denounced the revisions, which they say would still allow the possibility of government overreach and retaliation against civic groups.
“The conspiracy bill goes against the basic principles of our country’s criminal code and the legal system,” Motoji Kobayashi, president of the Tokyo Bar Association, said in a statement in January. “It threatens the function of protecting human rights.”
The government previously included 676 crimes in its original draft, but has narrowed that number down to 277 in the revised bill.
Yukio Yamashita, an attorney and member of the association, warned that 277 crimes are still too many and noted some are unnecessary.
For example, a person using forged stamps or competing in a motor boat race without a license would be subject to punishment under the revised bill, Yamashita said in a seminar held earlier in March.
Meanwhile, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations claims that only a limited number of countries, such as Norway, have newly enacted anti-conspiracy laws for the purpose of ratifying the U.N. treaty, which was adopted to crack down on organized cross-border crimes such as human trafficking, narcotics trading and money laundering.
Japan’s Diet approved the treaty in 2013, but was unable to ratify it without a law covering criminal conspiracy.
As of December, 187 countries and regions have signed the treaty.
On Feb. 25, against a clear sky, fishing boats bearing colorful banners used to signal a rich haul returned to their home port of Ukedo in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture. Cheers erupted as the boats, which had taken refuge in Minamisoma in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear crisis, made their way home for the first time in six years.
The Soma-Futaba fishing cooperative will soon resume fishing for konago (young lancefish), after the heads of fishing co-ops in the prefecture approved the start of experimental fishing operations 10 to 20 km from the meltdown-hit Fukushima No. 1 power plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.
Despite the steady recovery moves, however, local fishermen are not optimistic because their industry still faces “concern” that radioactive fish could tarnish their reputation.
Fukushima No. 1 currently has 950,000 tons of radioactive water in storage that has been desalinated and filtered to remove some of the radioactive elements, but the volume is increasing at a pace of 150,000 tons a year.
Of the 950,000 tons, 750,000 were further treated with the Advanced Liquid Processing System, to remove most of the remaining isotopes. But even ALPS cannot remove tritium, and this has the fishing industry concerned that water tainted with tritium could ultimately be released into the ocean.
The debate over what to do about the tainted water has turned into a standoff. The central government set up a committee in September to discuss disposal and studied five options, including ocean release, underground burial and air release. But the committee could not agree on any of them because all had the potential to damage the reputation of Fukushima’s seafood.
Hiroshige Seko, head of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has jurisdiction over the issue but appears reluctant to bring the debate to a rapid conclusion.
“We have not decided on the schedule, including when to conclude (the debate),” he said in a recent interview with the Fukushima Minpo.
Tritium is a common byproduct of normal nuclear power plant operations. Its release into the ocean is permitted worldwide as long as the concentration doesn’t exceed certain levels. In Japan, the legal threshold for tritium release is 60,000 becquerels per 1 liter.
Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has said “there is no solution than ocean release” for the tritium generated at Fukushima No. 1, noting that if the concentration is within legal limits, the government should go ahead with the release. Officials at related international institutions have expressed similar views.
But the prefectural association of fishing cooperatives remains opposed, worried that an ocean release could further damage the image of Fukushima’s fish and seafood.
A fisherman from Onahama in the city of Iwaki said, “The move could lead to a loss of trust in the prefecture’s seafood, which the fishermen have worked hard to build.”
On the other hand, if the disposal debate goes unresolved, the amount of tainted water at Fukushima No. 1 will continue to rise and delay the decommissioning of the plant.
Tepco has said it “will decide (on the fate of the water) in a responsible manner by watching the government debate and weighing the opinions of local residents.”
The fishery industry is watching how the central government balances the two jobs of revitalizing the industry and handling tritium-tainted water — and how it can thoroughly explain the decision in ways people both in Japan and abroad can understand, without leaving it entirely up to Tepco.
Spotlight: Fury sparked in Japan as companies found duping foreign refugees into decontamination work in Fukushima 2017-03-17 TOKYO, March 17 (Xinhua)— “Such scams are a shame to Japan,” said a reporter from Tokyo Metropolitan Television Broadcasting Corp., referring to a recently-exposed scandal involving labor dispatch agencies duping foreign refugees into doing decontamination work in Fukushima.Various local media have exposed recently that some Japanese companies have swindled foreign refugees into doing decontamination work in Fukushima with empty promises that such work might help extend their visas to stay in Japan.
Fifty-year-old Hosein Moni and 42-year-old Hosein Deroaru from Bangladesh were both caught in such a scam, according to a recent report by the Chunichi Shimbun, one of the largest newspapers in Japan.
The two came to Japan in 2013 seeking to be recognized as political refugees. In Japan, foreigners are given temporary permission to stay for up to six months at one application before they are recognized as refugees and given status as residents.
According to government data, the number of refugees actually afforded recognition as refugees in Japan is disproportionately low among developed nations, while the numbers of those applying for refugee status has been rapidly increasing in recent years in Japan.
The government received some 5,000 such applications in 2014, but only 11 were granted refugee status, according to the data.
Moni and Deroaru were told by a so-called labor dispatch agency in Nagoya that they could do decontamination work in exchange for an extension of their visa.
The two, knowing little Japanese and trying to seize every opportunity they could, accepted the job and worked in Fukushima for three months in 2015.
But when they finished their work and went to the local immigration bureau to extend their stay, they were told by officers there that they knew nothing about such a policy.
They later found out that the construction company that had hired them had changed its company name, and its Fukushima branch had closed.
Half of the 20 workers that they had worked with in Fukushima were foreigners, many of whom had been applying for refugee status in Japan, the pair later recalled. Their work mainly involved clearing away contaminated soil with spades, and while they were at work might well have been affected by high levels of radiation. “The radiation detectors we brought with us kept sounding alarms, which was rather scary,” they were quoted as saying.
The incident, after been exposed by local media, also caused a splash on social network sites. Many Japanese netizens felt indignant that such scams were happening in their homeland…….
Most of the foreign workers could hardly speak Japanese. As anti-radiation brochures provided by the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), were only available in Japanese or English, many of the workers could not understand it, Ishikawa was quoted as saying.
The foreign workers, to some extent, saved the contractors and TEPCO by pushing forward the decommissioning work of the nuclear plant, remarked the report…..http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-03/17/c_136137295.htm
Fukushima Daiichi is still the world’s largest bleeding sore http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/2017-03-17t000000/fukushima-daiichi-still-worlds-largest-bleeding-sore, Penney Kome March 17, 2017 Six years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami ruined four nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, urgently needed clean up is still stalled.
Despite the $188 billion cost (and counting), engineers haven’t even been able to build a robot that can survive radiation inside the plant long enough to send back images of the inferno. Apparently nothing that moves can operate in such a hot and radioactive environment — much less a human, who would be dead seconds.
We do know that fuel in at least two out of three of the reactors melted right through the reactor floors. Time Magazine reported in 2011, “that means that…the fuel itself lies in a clump — either at the bottom of the pressure vessel, or in the basement below or possibly even outside the containment building. Engineers don’t know for sure…” Fuel rods won’t explode, but they can burn if exposed to air, producing massive clouds of radioactive smoke.
On February 13, 2017, muon tomography images offered a slightly clearer picture, but not much more hopeful. TEPCO learned that radiation levels at reactor number two were actually emitting about 530 sieverts, not 73 sieverts, as they had expected. Administered to a human, a one sievert dose causes acute radiation poisoning, and a 10 sievert dose is fatal.
Although the disaster is local, the toxins travel. Unlike other environmental disaster areas (e.g. Love Canal) Fukushima Daiichi sheds toxins daily — widely — because every day TEPCO pours 400 tons of water over the fuel rods to keep them from overheating.
More than 962,000 tons of contaminated water are now stored on site. Last fall, TEPCO poured 300 million tons of it into the Pacific Ocean, into currents that reach the North American West Coast. After the 2011 earthquake, the tsunami wave and the wind spread contamination broadly across the Fukushima prefecture.
Unlike Russia, Japan doesn’t have enough land to be able to sequester the damaged plants and leave them alone for centuries — the half-life of some radioactive isotopes — even if reactor number two was stabilized, which it is not.
Instead, the Japanese government evacuated people and conducted massive decontamination programs, scraping and replacing the top two inches of soil, leaving 9,000,000 bags of contaminated soil all around the area. Now it is urging 100,000 displaced citizens to return to their cleaned up villages. Not everybody is convinced that the land is safe.
Greenpeace Japan noted on March 11, “this year will be the first time that some of the more heavily contaminated areas...are being opened up for resettlement….despite radiation still far exceeding long-term targets in places where decontamination work has been done.
“Levels in nearby forests are comparable to the current levels within Chernobyl’s 30 kilometre exclusion zone, which, more than 30 years after the accident, remains formally closed to habitation…”
Greenpeace measured radiation across the village of Iitate (population 6,000) which is 75 per cent forest, and found high levels of contamination even in areas that had been officially decontaminated. Packs of radioactive wild boars are patrolling the empty village.
Fukushima has become one of the largest of the global nuclear sacrifice zones, such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, which have afflicted the world since 1930. That’s when uranium refining started in Hanford, Montana, which eventually provided fuel for the first atomic weapons.
These days, the whole town of Hanford is a toxic waste supersite, containing some 55 million gallons of some of the world’s most dangerous radioactive wastes. The entire congressional delegation for the area has petitioned President Trump to give top priority to Hanford clean-up funding, despite the staggering $2 billion cost annually for 30 or 40 years.
Nuclear power plants have an operating life of about 30 to 50 years. Most existing plants were built in the 1970s, before anybody actually had plans for how to de-commission them. However, Reuters reported in 2011, that along with its 104 operating commercial nuclear power plants, the US also had 23 plants in the process of being de-commissioned, at a cost of $500 million to $1 billion each, including 10 that had been “completely cleaned up.”
Seven of the remaining 13 reactors are in SAFSTOR — shut down, under guard, but still holding nuclear materials. In Canada, Quebec’s Gentilly-2 nuclear power plant and units 2 and 3 of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, Pickering, Ontario, are already in safe storage — essentially no-human-zones although not permanently sacrificed.
However, Fukushima Daiichi is different from other sacrifice zones because of the ongoing seething nuclear reaction in reactor number two, and because (unlike other zones where habitation is forbidden) Prime Minister Abe’s government wants people to live there.
PM Abe’s government and some media reports downplay radiation’s potentially horrifying effects on humans and babies not yet born. Public relations campaigns label former residents (mostly women, mostly mothers) who resist returning to the ostensibly decontaminated land as neurotically “radiophobic,” even though 174 children in Fukushima prefecture have been diagnosed with — or are suspected of having — thyroid cancer since the nuclear meltdown.
Meanwhile, as evidence emerges that TEPCO has lied about how serious the crisis is, radiation leaks into the Pacific Ocean and the world’s airshed, and one melted-down plant at Fukushima Daiichi threatens to burst into a catastrophic nuclear fire.
“For the global nuclear industry, the Fukushima disaster is an historic — if not fatal — setback,” said Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. He introduced a draft copy of Worldwatch’s 2011 World Nuclear Industry Status Report.
Among other points, the report noted that every single nuclear power plant under construction in the world was chosen by central planners. Not one faced any competition from local markets or alternatives. And even during the nuclear binge building years, only 41 per cent of the approved power plants ever achieved operating status. Major delays and massive cost overruns were the rule.
In the foreword, Amory Lovins wrote that “long before Fukushima, nuclear power was dying of an incurable attack of market forces.” Wind and solar devices now offer more flexibility at half the price or less.
Indeed, Lovins said, “just as computing no longer needs mainframes, electricity no longer needs giant power plants.” Instead, the Pentagon prefers to rely on a variety of mass-produced generators networked in microgrids,” for resilience. So could the public.
More troubling, though, Lovins noted that the accident “vaporized” TEPCO’s balance sheet. “A 2007 earthquake had cost the company perhaps $20 billion; this one could cost it $100 plus billion. TEPCO is now broke and is becoming, in whatever form, a ward of the state.”
If the company is “a ward of the state,” that means its liabilities are too. Yet Japan’s government seems determined to repopulate Fukushima prefecture even as the doomed reactors overheat in the distance. Volunteer organizations like Greenpeace have to provide radioactivity monitoring for local air, water, soil and food.
On the other hand, what affects one nation affects us all. There has to be some point where the public stands up and says, “no more sacrifice zones!” The ongoing Fukushima Daiichi tragedy cries out for the United Nations to step in, take charge, and direct all the world’s best minds and resources to containing the disaster and rescuing the people who live there.
Court: State and TEPCO must compensate
A court in Japan has ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company to pay damages to evacuees of the 2011 nuclear accident.
The ruling is the first among similar suits filed across the country to order compensation.
137 evacuees mainly living in Gunma Prefecture northwest of Tokyo, filed the suit. They were seeking damages for emotional distress suffered after losing their livelihoods.
Court decision expected in Fukushima damages suit
A district court in eastern Japan will announce its decision Friday on a damages lawsuit filed by evacuees of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident against the state and Tokyo Electric Power Company.
137 people, mainly evacuees living in Gunma Prefecture, filed the suit with the Maebashi District Court, seeking compensation worth about 13 million dollars. The ruling will be the first damages suit of its kind in Japan.
The plaintiffs include those who fled evacuation zones and other parts of Fukushima Prefecture after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They say they suffered emotional distress after losing their livelihoods. They are seeking about 97,000 dollars each.
The points of contention include whether the Japanese government and plant operator TEPCO could have foreseen the major tsunami and prevented the damage, as well as whether the compensation TEPCO is paying evacuees is appropriate.
The plaintiffs claim the tsunami was predictable, citing a 2002 prediction of a massive earthquake by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion.
But the government and TEPCO say many researchers voiced differing views, and an installation of tide embankments based on the prediction would not have prevented the damage.
The plaintiffs say the compensation they received is insufficient. The government and TEPCO say it is appropriate.
More than 12,000 people have filed similar suits in 18 prefectures.
Fukushima to host Tokyo Olympics events to help recovery from nuclear disaster
Some baseball and softball events will be held about 70km from nuclear power plant that suffered triple meltdown in 2011, Guardian, Justin McCurry , 17 Mar 17, Fukushima has been chosen to host baseball and softball matches at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, organisers said on Friday, a move they hope will boost the region’s recovery from the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
Azuma baseball stadium, about 70km north-west of the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, will host at least one baseball game – possibly the opening match – and one or more softball fixtures, according to Yoshiro Mori, the 2020 organising committee president.
“By hosting Olympic baseball and softball events, Fukushima will have a great platform to show the world the extent of its recovery in the 10 years since the disaster,” Mori said in a statement……
Mori said the “fantastic idea” to hold baseball and softball matches in the affected area had originated in a meeting between the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, in October last year.
Two months later, however, the IOC initially declined to add Azuma to the main baseball venue in Yokohama.
Riccardo Fraccari, the president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation, welcomed the IOC’s change of heart, describing it as a “great step” that would to “inspire hope and highlight the regeneration in Fukushima”…..
The Fukushima prefectural government has offered to cover the costs of the refurbishment and renovation work needed to bring the 30,000-seat stadium up to Olympic standards, according to organisers……
No evacuation order has ever been in place in the part of Fukushima prefecture where the baseball stadium is located. The Azuma sports park complex served as an evacuation centre for people fleeing radiation caused by the triple meltdown triggered by a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.
Nuclear power officials in Japan insist the 40-year effort to decommission Fukushima Daiichi, including the storage of nuclear waste, will not affect people visiting the region to attend Olympics events………https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/17/fukushima-to-host-tokyo-olympics-events-to-help-recovery-from-nuclear-disaster