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Heroism of Fukushima’s nuclear emergency workers

France Info 7th March 2021, For four days and four nights in March 2011, hundreds of workers tried, sometimes risking their lives, to contain the damage from the earthquake
and tsunami that destroyed the Japanese nuclear power plant.

”……….March 11, 2011, 3:27 p.m. The ocean begins to hit the enclosure of the nuclear power plant. A first wave about 4 meters high crashes against the dike. But ten minutes later, a wave some 15 meters high swept over Fukushima Daiichi. The doors of the turbine buildings are not watertight: the generators, electric meters and batteries are flooded. Vehicles and rubble litter the roads. Two operators who had gone to watch the machines in the basement of reactor building 4 drowned.

On the second floor of the earthquake-resistant building, all the lights go out. It’s pitch black in this windowless building. Worse, the measurement indicators no longer work. Impossible to know the temperature and the pressure inside the reactors, therefore to know if the emergency cooling systems are still functioning. However, if the water level in a reactor drops, the fuel rods heat up and can melt until they pierce the concrete enclosure and cause a major nuclear disaster.

“We were left speechless”
“At that time, it was astonishment. We were all so devastated that we were left speechless,” recalls Masao Yoshida during an audition transcribed in A story of Fukushima (PUF editions), by Franck Guarnieri and Sébastien Travadel. The scarce information is communicated to the two external crisis units which are set up 250 km away, in Tokyo. One at the headquarters of Tepco, the company that operates the plant; the other at Kantei, the residence of the Prime Minister.

The teams take action. Two solutions are being considered for cooling the reactors: using diesel engine fire pumps or fire trucks which are already on the site. In the absence of a measuring system, the employees concentrate first on Reactor 2. What they do not know is that the back-up system is operating there. The emergency is actually located in reactor 1. Around 6 p.m., its heart begins to melt inside the containment……..

The teams take action. Two solutions are being considered for cooling the reactors: using diesel engine fire pumps or fire trucks which are already on the site. In the absence of a measuring system, the employees concentrate first on Reactor 2. What they do not know is that the back-up system is operating there. The emergency is actually located in reactor 1. Around 6 p.m., its core begins to melt inside the containment.
That’s when they were most irradiated”
Among employees, fear of radiation escalates. “The state of Reactor 1 scared young people,” said Ryuta Idogawa, one of the plant’s reactor pilots, in an interview with Yuki Kobayashi, a doctoral student in science and engineering of risky activities. Despite the danger, however, it is necessary to choose men to open the valves of the reactors manually.

Around 4 am, the injection of fresh water, stored on site in the event of a problem, is finally launched into reactor 1. “When we saw water coming out of the pipe and reaching the reactor, we all yelled, ‘Yes!’ and raised our fists in the air “, tells the Telegraph * Kazuhiko Fukudome, one of the firefighters involved in the accident. Workers are constantly refueling the trucks to operate the water pump. “I think that’s when they were most irradiated,” admits Masao Yoshida.

……… “We sent men and it exploded”

March 13, 2011, 2:42 a.m. While the situation in reactor 1 appears to have stabilized, it is the turn of the reactor 3 emergency cooling system to cease functioning. New operations must be relaunched, but fatigue begins to be felt. “How long can we continue to work without ever sleeping? The answer is 36 hours. That’s the limit for all men,” said Takeyuki Inagaki, group leader at the plant, in an interview with Yuki Kobayashi. This duration has just been reached by the employees, fed on rice bars and instant noodles. Even Masao Yoshida dozes off.

However, new operations resume before sunrise. Reactor 3 must be ventilated and cooled. After a few hours of hard work amidst the debris, the workers succeed in hooking up new pumps and watering the building to prevent overheating. Several of them are exposed to doses of radioactivity greater than 100 millisieverts (mSv), according to the Japanese nuclear safety agency, or five times more than the annual dose authorized in France for employees in the sector.

March 14, 2011, 11:01 a.m. A new explosion, even more impressive than the first, resonates in the heart of the plant. “HQ! HQ! It’s terrible! We have a problem on site number 3!” shouts Masao Yoshida, in a recording of the Crisis Staff. This time, it is the reactor building 3 which is blown up because of the hydrogen. The manager has to face his decisions: “I was sorry. We weren’t sure, but we thought it would not explode right away. We sent men and it exploded,” he admits. .

“Right after the explosion, when I learned that there were about 40 missing, I really iexpected to die. myself.”

Masao Yoshida, director of the plant before a commission of inquiry.
The explosion ultimately caused no death, but a dozen injured. It also has an immediate consequence for the plant: the destruction of the emergency cooling system of reactor 2. “I think that is the moment when I hit rock bottom. I saw us all dead,” says Masao Yoshida. On this Monday morning, the teams are overwhelmed. “I will never forget that afternoon. My stomach ached as if a block of lead was left there,” recalls group leader Takeyuki Inagaki.

”I ask you to sacrifice your lives”
In the middle of the afternoon, the director begins to envisage an evacuation of the few hundred non-essential employees of the plant. He orders that coaches be ready to leave in case of further complications. But shortly before 8 p.m. the hard work of the workers paid off. The injection of sea water begins in reactor 2. Reluctant to any evacuation of the employees, the Prime Minister addresses them during a night videoconference: “I ask you to sacrifice your lives.”
March 15, 2011, 6:14 a.m. It has been four days since the disaster struck, and employees must continue their endless battle against the elements. This time, it is a leak in the enclosure of reactor 2 which causes an explosion and damages reactor 4. Luckily, the explosion does not cut off the seawater cooling system of the first three reactors. The exhausted workers managed to stabilize these time bombs and contain what could have turned out to be a much more deadly disaster.

“There is a special bond between us. I cannot express it in words. I imagine that it is the camaraderie that can be between soldiers in time of war, will tell the Guardian later * l One of the engineers, Atsufumi Yoshizawa. In our case, the enemy was the nuclear power plant. And we fought it together. ” This Tuesday, reinforcements will finally arrive from the surrounding power plants to restore power supplies and build protective structures. The closed-door hell of Fukushima Daiichi power plant workers is over.


March 8, 2021 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, Religion and ethics | Leave a comment

High court rejects bid to shut down Shikoku Electric reactor, Nov. 16  TOKYO

A high court in western Japan on Thursday rejected a lawsuit to shut down Shikoku Electric Power Co’s only operable nuclear reactor.

The Takamatsu High Court denied a legal bid by residents of Ehime prefecture to shut down the No. 3 reactor at the Ikata nuclear plant, the company said in a statement.

The 890-megawatt reactor was restarted on Oct 27 and is currently running at full capacity.

The restart followed a Hiroshima High Court in late September that lifted a 2017 injunction blocking operations at the reactor.

November 17, 2018 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, Legal | Leave a comment

Japan plans to reduce its 47.3 tons of stockpiled plutonium

IPFM 20th Aug 2018 , On 31 July 2018, Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) issued a new
policy paper, The Basic Principles on Japan’s Utilization of Plutonium,
which for the first time, stated that “Japan will reduce the size of its
plutonium stockpile.”
A similar statement was included in the new Strategic
Energy Plan (in Japanese) by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
(METI) that was adopted on 3 July by the Cabinet of the Japanese
government. Japan’s plutonium stockpile, according to the data released by
the JAEC at the same time as the new policy, is about 47.3 tons of
plutonium (as of the end of 2017), of which 36.7 tons is overseas (21.2
tons in UK and 15.5 tons in France) and 10.5 tons in Japan. The Rokkasho
reprocessing plant, with a design separation capacity of 8 tons of
plutonium per year, on which stated construction in 1993, is currently
planned to be completed in 2021. Plans call for the J-MOX plant to be
completed in 2022 to turn this plutonium into MOX fuel for light water
(LWR) nuclear power reactors.

August 24, 2018 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, - plutonium | Leave a comment

Court Decision in 137 Evacuees’ Fukushima Suit: State and TEPCO Must Compensate



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.

March 17, 2017 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Critical situation at Fukushima nuclear reactor No 2 on March 11 2011

Fukushima No. 2 scrambled to avoid same fate as sister site Fukushima No. 1  Fukushima Emergency – what can we do? by  Sep 10, 2014 

FUKUSHIMA – This is the fifth in a series on the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe based on the accounts of people who struggled to contain the crisis in its early stages. Job titles and ages are as of March 2011.

Fukushima No. 1 wasn’t the only nuclear complex facing a critical situation after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake of March 11, 2011, unleashed a monster tsunami on the coast of Tohoku.
Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 2 plant, located about 12 km south of the No. 1 plant, also saw seawater pumps and electrical equipment flooded by the tsunami, which led three of its four reactors to lose key cooling functions.
Still, the extent of the damage was less devastating than that at its sister plant and one off-site power source that remained operable provided more leeway for workers to deal with the emergency.
For No. 2 plant chief Naohiro Masuda, 53, the worst situation imaginable was to lose control of both plants at the same time.
So when he watched on television as an explosion rocked the No. 1 reactor building at the other complex on March 12, Masuda issued an order that could be seen by some as coldhearted.
“Don’t allow anyone (from Fukushima No. 1) to enter our emergency response office building,” the plant chief said.
The building houses the emergency first-aid station.
Masuda’s decision reflected his determination to keep the developments at the other site from hampering stabilization efforts at his plant.
Workers exposed to radiation or injured by the explosion were certain to be transported to Fukushima No. 2.
Masuda believed that he had to limit the radiation contamination inside his complex so as not to affect the workers’ efforts.
He told his subordinates to prepare a place away from the office building for the No. 1 workers. His decision was later criticized by some No. 1 workers, who said they felt they were treated “like garbage.”
An area to scrub away radiation contamination and an aid center were set up inside a facility next to the main gate. The plant’s gymnasium was also readied as a shelter for workers from No. 1.
By the night of March 12, everything was ready to receive the No. 1 workers. But Masuda noticed many of his own workers appeared anxious. To reassure them, he gathered them together and told them he would “make sure that you won’t end up with any health problems. Don’t worry……….

At one point Masuda asked for the head office to send 4,000 tons of water for the reactor-cooling operation. Instead, the office arranged to send a 4,000-liter water truck, possibly thinking that the request had been for drinking water.
When that happened, Masuda told his subordinates: “Don’t rely on others. Let’s do things by ourselves.”
A single misstep could have altered the fate of Fukushima No. 2. But the plant managed to keep the severity of the incident at level 3 on the international scale of nuclear accidents.
The crisis at Fukushima No. 1 was eventually rated at the maximum, level 7.
Source: Japan Times

September 11, 2014 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

On 11 March 2011 Fukushima nuclear workers were sure that they would die

Fukushima-aerial-viewHydrogen explosion left Fukushima No. 1 workers sure they would die  Fukushima Emergency what can we do ? Sep 10, 2014    FUKUSHIMA – This is the fourth in a series on the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe based on the accounts of people who struggled to contain the crisis in its early stages. Job titles and ages are as of March 2011.

Ground Self-Defense Force member Yuichi Sato was on a firetruck heading for the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant the day after it had been decimated by the March 11, 2011, tsunami — without being notified what his mission was.
That morning, the truck was in the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, where the 22-year-old was born.
He was several kilometers from his destination, but the familiar sights were gone — the walls of houses had collapsed, road surfaces were buckled and the town looked deserted.
“It was like a ghost town,” said Sato, who was part of the GSDF’s artillery regiment based in the prefecture. “I thought everyone must have rushed to escape.”
The regiment’s firefighting unit had received orders the night before to go to the nuclear plant. His squad members thought their task was to prepare for the possibility of a fire, but Sato, even though he had been told since childhood that nuclear power is safe, felt something out of the ordinary was happening.
When they arrived at the plant gates at around 7 a.m. on March 12, he was greeted by an acquaintance who works for Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Sato wondered why the Tepco employee was wearing a mask. He didn’t know at the time that the radiation level at the site was rising because a meltdown was occurring in the No. 1 reactor due to the loss of its key cooling functions.
After entering the emergency response office building, the firefighting squad was finally told what to do.
At the time, Tepco was using a single fire engine to inject water into reactor 1, but every time the truck had to return to a storage tank to be refilled, it meant halting the flow of water being sprayed into the unit.
The SDF’s firetrucks were supposed to assist in the operation.
Inside the main control room for reactors 1 and 2, workers were demoralized and exhausted after an attempt to open valves to reduce the pressure in reactor 1 ended in failure because of high radiation levels inside the reactor building.
It was imperative to open the valves to prevent a rupture of the containment vessel……….

At the main control room for reactors 1 and 2, Izawa instructed others to wear full-face masks, though no one knew yet what had happened at this point.
“I later found it was a hydrogen explosion at the building, but at the time, I thought the reactor containment vessel itself had exploded,” said Mitsuyuki Ono, 51, who was also in the room. “I thought it was all over.”
There were some 40 reactor operators in the room, but everyone was exhausted after trying to do all they could to prevent the worst.
Izawa decided to stay along with the more experienced workers, and let the others evacuate.
The roughly 10 workers who remained included Izawa, Ono and 48-year-old Kazuhiro Yoshida, whom Ono had once worked with in operating the No. 1 reactor.
Ono was wondering how he could communicate to his family what he thought might be his final moments. If he wrote anything down on paper, it would probably be incinerated if there was an explosion.
“Why don’t we take a photo at the end,” Yoshida proposed cheerfully, as if he had read Ono’s mind. Everyone seemed to liven up.
The room, which was dark due to the loss of power, was lit up with flashing cameras.
Ono, having a picture taken with Yoshida by his side, a junior operator whom he trusted and liked the most, thought: “If the radiation level rises or hot steam comes into the control room, I will probably die. But someone will find the camera some day. Then this picture will be the witness to my life.”
Source: Japan Times

September 11, 2014 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

At Fukushima nuclear emergency, safety inspectors were the first to flee

Fukushima-aerial-viewNuclear safety inspectors first to flee stricken Fukushima plant June 03, 2014 Asahi Shimbun, By SHINICHI SEKINE/ Staff Writer Safety inspectors with the government’s nuclear watchdog body were the first to flee when disaster struck the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

The exodus of Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) officials compromised communications between the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. at a critical juncture.

This unexpected turn of events shows that the government itself was not sure what role it should play in the nuclear crisis.

The plant manager, Masao Yoshida, who died last year of esophageal cancer, was questioned by the government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations several months after the accident. The Asahi Shimbun obtained a copy of his testimony.

According to his testimony, on March 15, 2011, four days after the Fukushima plant was hit by the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, 90 percent of the workers in the plant withdrew to the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant some 10 kilometers away, ignoring Yoshida’s order to remain in and around the compound of the No. 1 facility.

Before that, however, NISA inspectors fled the site immediately after the accident even though they should have stayed to assess what steps were needed to deal with the accident. They went to makeshift government headquarters set up about five kilometers from the No. 1 plant.

On March 15, the makeshift facility was transferred to Fukushima city, some 50 kilometers away. With all government safety inspectors absent from the No. 1 nuclear power plant, the government had no direct means to grasp what was happening there. As a result, it was forced to depend entirely on TEPCO for information.

But channels of communication between the government and TEPCO did not go smoothly. This chaotic situation prompted the prime minister, Naoto Kan, to go to TEPCO’s head office in Tokyo. That was the catalyst for the government and TEPCO to jointly set up headquarters in Tokyo, 230 kilometers away, to deal with the nuclear accident.

The government’s investigation committee’s reports based on Yoshida’s recall of the events highlight the withdrawal of the No. 1 plant’s workers to the No. 2 plant even though the government’s safety inspectors were the first to flee……..

June 4, 2014 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, Fukushima continuing | 1 Comment

Slow progress on decontamination of Fukushima, most of the budget still unused

Ministry fails to use 77% of Fukushima decontamination budget; TEPCO refuses to pay Asahi Shimbun, 18 Oct 13, By TAKUYA KITAZAWA/ Staff Writer The Environment Ministry has failed to use 76.6 percent, or 247.2 billion yen, of its budget to decontaminate radioactive areas around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the Board of Audit said.

Progress has been slow because opposition from local residents is making it difficult for the ministry to secure places to temporarily store the contaminated soil and debris collected in the work.

The ministry faces another problem: Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the stricken Fukushima plant, refuses to cover all the costs of the decontamination work as required under law.

The Board of Audit investigated the ministry’s budget of about 322.8 billion yen ($3.2 billion) for decontamination work for the period until March 2013, the end of fiscal 2012.

The results were released on Oct. 16………

October 18, 2013 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, environment, Japan | Leave a comment

Fukushima radiation release was made worse by operator error

Asahi: Tepco ‘failure’ may have increased Fukushima radiation release — Concern over ‘lethal levels’ escaping from ruptured containment vessel See also: NHK: “The unimaginable was happening” — Workers say part of Reactor 2 containment vessel destroyed — After alarming pressure readings, “we heard a loud bang… pressure is now zero” (VIDEO)
Title: TEPCO’s failure at math may have increased radiation release at Fukushima plant
Source: AJW by The Asahi Shimbun
Date: June 05, 2013

Workers miscalculated pressure levels inside a reactor during the early stages of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, leading to a reduction in cooling water and a possible increase in the volume of radioactive materials released.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. estimated the pressure inside the No. 2 reactor containment vessel at 400 kilopascals […]

The actual pressure was 40 kilopascals, far below the 101 kilopascals of the surrounding atmosphere, suggesting that a large amount of radioactive materials escaped from the reactor.

TEPCO later discovered the mistake but did not announce it. […]

“I think the airtightness (of the containment vessel) has not been maintained,” [Tadayuki Yokomura] said, according to a video footage of a TEPCO teleconference. […]

The difficulty in venting fueled concerns that mounting pressure could rupture the containment vessel and release lethal levels of radioactive materials.

Early on March 15, TEPCO temporarily evacuated all but the minimum required 70 or so workers from the plant compound. […]

See also: NHK: “The unimaginable was happening” — Workers say part of Reactor 2 containment vessel destroyed — After alarming pressure readings, “we heard a loud bang… pressure is now zero” (VIDEO)

June 8, 2013 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Shortage of workers at Fukushima nuclear plant resulted in high radiation exposure

Worker shortages revealed at nuclear plant after disaster   14 Jan
A manager’s calls for reinforcements to help contain a series of
crises at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power
plant were ignored, newly released TEPCO teleconference footage has

Although Masao Yoshida, then manager of the plant damaged by the March
11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, repeatedly asked TEPCO headquarters
in Tokyo to send more workers, the request was not met in a timely
manner. As a result, the plant’s workers suffered extreme fatigue and
heightened radiation exposure, the footage showed. Continue reading

January 14, 2013 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, employment, Japan | Leave a comment

Human rights in Fukushima’s ongoing radiation crisis

Watch: Immediate attention from medical experts is needed for people in contaminated areas — Fukushima is ongoing crisis (VIDEO)
 November 27th, 2012
Title: How to protect the right to health and life of citizens from radiological contamination? – Ms. Mari INOUE, Esq., Human Rights Now New York
Source: ERF2012
Date: Nov 25, 2012
Ms. Mari INOUE, Esq., Human Rights Now New York: Recommendation by [the United Nation’s investigator] Mr. Grover will not be published until next summer. So it’s a long process and both of those processes are legally non-binding.

So how are we going to protect the rights of people, especially the right to health and life of people in contaminated area, because they need immediate assistance. They need immediate attention from medical communities and civil societies, because what’s going on in Fukushima is ongoing crisis.

November 28, 2012 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Five years or more before Fukushima nuclear plant safe enough to fully investigate

 Fukushima panel told some details will take five years to learn   Washington (Platts) -William Freebairn,–7 Sep2012  Key details of how the accident at Japan’s Fukushima I nuclear plant played out have yet to be determined and may not be known for five years or more, when important parts of the plant are safer to enter, officials with the Japanese and US nuclear industries told a US National Academies review committee Thursday. Continue reading

September 10, 2012 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, Fukushima continuing, safety | Leave a comment

Early plan was for USA to drop concrete on Fukushima nuclear reactors

Former Japan Official: US army planned to entomb Fukushima reactors days after 3/11 — Given permission to use Yamagata airport  June 21st, 2012 a
By ENENews 1. There is elephant’s foot coming from reactor 4, which is produced from nuclear explosion.ormer NHK news broadcaster Hori Jun interviewed Mr. Matsuda, policy secretary of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, with summary translation by Fukushima Diary:

2. In the night of 3/14/2011, Japanese government and US army were planning to drop coolant onto Fukushima plants by airplane and cover the plants with sarcophagus.

At 10:00AM of 3/15/2011, when Kan, former Japanese prime minister was in the headquarters of Tepco, Kitazawa, Minister of Defense gave US army the permission to use Yamagata airport.


US army was planning to fly to Fukushima plants. To complete this mission, Japanese government needed to evacuate all the Tepco workers from Fukushima plants but they ended up not removing Tepco from the plant area, the plan was not realized after all.


August 17, 2012 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011 | Leave a comment

Nuclear danger very real – at Fukushima and at San Onofre

Nuclear Dread On Both Sides Of The Pacific IndyBay by Michael Steinberg Jul 14th, 2012  Nuclear problems are still growing on both sides of the Pacific, at Fukushima and San Onofre…….. Japan Ignored Ominous Signs Continue reading

July 16, 2012 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, USA | Leave a comment

It’s getting hotter in Fukushima’s supposedly “cold shutdown” nuclear plant

Rising temperatures trigger concern at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant Telegraph UK 7 Feb 12, Water temperatures at Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant have risen more than 20 degrees Celsius over the past week.  By Danielle Demetriou in Tokyo 07 Feb 2012 Concerns are growing in relation to conditions at the plant, in northeast Japan, which was declared in a state of cold shutdown in December last year. Continue reading

February 8, 2012 Posted by | - Fukushima 2011, Japan, safety | Leave a comment