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Attorneys Implore Judge to Keep Sailors’ Fukushima Case in U.S.

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November 14, 2018
SAN DIEGO (CN) – Former Senator John Edwards and his co-counsel implored a federal judge Wednesday not to dismiss claims from U.S. service members who say they were exposed to radiation while aboard U.S. ships sent to render aid after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima, Japan.
“We have 500 sailors who are badly hurt and some of them are dead. We have not been able to ask them a single question under oath … at the end of the day these folks just want their day in court,” Edwards told U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino.
But Sammartino said at the beginning of the nearly three-hour court hearing she was inclined to dimiss the claims against Tokyo Electric Power Co. – or TEPCO – and General Electric for lack of personal jurisdiction.
U.S. sailors filed a class action in the Southern District of California in 2012 claiming radiation they were exposed to following the meltdown of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan while aboard U.S. vessels on a humanitarian mission has caused cancer, brain tumors, birth defects in their children and other rare health problems. Some have even died, according to their attorneys.
If U.S. courts dismiss the two related cases – Cooper et al. v. TEPCO et al. and Bartel et al. v. Tokyo Electric Power Company Inc. et al. – the sailors could bring their claims in Japan under its Compensation for Nuclear Damage Act.
Sammartino did clarify throughout the hearing that she would not waste her or the attorneys’ time by holding a court hearing if she wasn’t going to consider their arguments.
Class attorney Charles Bonner of Sausalito, California implored the judge not to dismiss the litigation, noting that attorneys have not been able to conduct discovery in the case, and that the defendants’ motions to dismiss were “based on legal arguments,” not facts.
Bonner suggested class counsel needed to obtain contracts between GE, which designed and helped to maintain the nuclear reactors for 40 years in Fukushima, and TEPCO, which operated the plant. Bonner said the contracts likely contain a choice-of-law provision that would indicate whether the parties would agree to litigate in the U.S. or Japan.
“Our sailors have already been here five years. They need some resolution in this court,” Bonner said.
TEPCO attorney Gregory Stone of Munger Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles said the case has seen new developments in the few years since Sammartino found it should not be dismissed – a decision affirmed by the Ninth Circuit.
Those new developments include three times as many cases filed in Japan over the nuclear meltdown, which Stone said “demonstrates the Japanese interest in resolving these claims.”
TEPCO has paid 8.163 trillion yen, or $76 billion – one percent of Japan’s total GDP – to resolve claims stemming from the disaster, “a huge amount of money for a government to designate to one incident,” Stone said.
General Electric attorney Michael Schissel of Arnold & Porter in New York told Sammartino Japan’s interest would be most impaired if its laws were not applied to the litigation and that a contract between GE and TEPCO over choice of law “would be completely irrelevant to the government’s interest in having its laws apply.”
If Japanese law is applied to the case, GE would be dismissed.
Edwards again reiterated the class’ desire to begin discovery, saying what they’ve pleaded so far “is what we have read in the newspaper and saw in the news.”
Edwards suggested if the Southern District of California dismissed the cases, the sailors wouldn’t “go to Japan and hire Japanese lawyers.”
Bonner buoyed Edwards’ point, noting a declaration from Japanese lawyers who said the class would not get a fair trial in Japan, where no jury would decide the case’s merits.
“If they want to be fair, let’s have a settlement conference before your honor – the Japanese lawyers representing TEPCO are here,” Bonner said, gesturing to the lawyers in the room.
Stone recognized the recent Veteran’s Day holiday by thanking the handful of service member-plaintiffs present before noting while the “injuries they suffered are unfortunate and regrettable … we don’t think they can prove it.”
Stone also pointed out that the Department of Defense, United Nations and World Health Organization had looked into the health claims on radiation exposure and found the radiation was too low to cause the claimed injuries.
Sammartino took the matter under submission and indicated that she will issue a written ruling.
https://www.courthousenews.com/attorneys-implore-judge-to-keep-sailors-fukushima-case-in-u-s/?fbclid=IwAR3Bhh7MyS0PYcQaa1fqNAGd4agqYnQ7hGF_musSukQCk-s12lx3f_m38vU

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November 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

IAEA urges Japan to reach decision soon on handling of radioactive water at crippled Fukushima nuke plant

n-iaea-a-20181115-870x521The growing number of tanks storing radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 plant can be seen in February.

 

 

November 14, 2018
The growing number of tanks storing radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 plant can be seen in February.
A team of nuclear experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency urged Japan this week to reach a decision quickly on what to do with treated water that contains low toxicity radioactive tritium, which is accumulating at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
“We advised the Japanese government that … (a) decision should be taken very rapidly for the disposition path for water which is stored in these tanks,” said Christophe Xerri, leader of the 13-member team, on Tuesday following a nine-day review of progress on scrapping the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The facility was damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“There is space limitation, so some solution has to be decided and implemented,” Xerri said, adding that the volume of treated water containing tritium in tanks is expected to reach the planned capacity within the “coming three to four years.”
As of last Thursday around 970,000 tons of tritium-containing water was stored on the premises of the plant, according to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
The government has studied options for the tritium-containing water, including releasing it into the sea, as it is regarded as not harmful to humans.
The tainted water has been stored in tanks after being produced as a byproduct of cooling the plant’s reactors, which suffered core meltdowns following the 2011 disaster.
But local fishermen and residents have expressed concern about discharging the water, fearing the potential impact on food.
“Controlled discharge to the sea is something which is applied in many nuclear facilities, so it’s not something which is new,” Xerri said.
“Our review was not to advise the Japanese government on one solution or another one,” he added.
“It is up to the Japanese government to decide — in engaging with stakeholders, of course — on the option Japan wants to implement,” he said.
Toyoshi Fuketa, who heads the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has described discharging the water into the sea as the “only” solution.
Tepco has been running the Advanced Liquid Processing System, said to be capable of removing almost all radioactive materials from the toxic water except tritium.
It was the fourth such review conducted by a team of experts from the Vienna-based agency, following two in 2013 and one in 2015.
The IAEA will issue its final report by the end of January 2019.
Xerri said his team was impressed by the progress that has been made at the plant since the previous review, including the full operation of a frozen soil wall around the reactors that has reduced the volume of groundwater that enters the reactor buildings.
But he acknowledged many challenges in the decommissioning process, which is set to take “30 to 40 years or even more,” including the removal of melted fuel from the reactors — seen as the hardest part.
When asked about the possibility of discarding the fuel — the location and volume of which remaining within the reactors is yet to be grasped due to high levels of radiation — Xerri said, “We don’t have enough information to tell you yes or no.”
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/14/national/iaea-urges-japan-make-decision-treated-radioactive-water-crippled-fukushima-nuke-plant/?fbclid=IwAR10h4F1walNk1hOujMjrwNbnuqm7xhkl4Ri91mmLZ6pk-igVMa-TYXvOdE#.W-2FBPZFzIW

November 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Tepco to temporarily stop injecting water at Fukushima reactor

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November 9, 2018

Tepco to temporarily stop injecting water at Fukushima reactor
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant plans to temporarily stop injecting water into one of its damaged reactors to test the cooling of fuel debris.
Tokyo Electric Power Company announced it will conduct the 7-hour test at the No.2 reactor as early as March next year.
The unit is one of 3 in the 6-reactor facility that suffered a meltdown after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The damaged reactors contain a mixture of molten nuclear fuel and structural parts.
TEPCO officials say water injections keep temperatures stable in the 3 reactors at around 30 degrees Celsius.
The planned experiment is aimed at checking how the debris is being cooled. It will be the first time to halt water injections into the reactor since they were stabilized after the accident.
TEPCO’s assessment says the reactor temperature would rise by around 5 degrees per hour if injections were halted by accident. But it says the rise will be limited to about 0.2 degrees per hour when natural heat radiation is taken into account.
TEPCO officials say they will begin cutting back on water injections by around half to 1.5 tons per hour for about a week as early as in January, before halting them completely in March after checking the results.
TEPCO estimates the 7-hour stoppage may raise the reactor temperature by about 1.4 degrees but says water injections will resume if the temperature rises more than 15 degrees.
Company officials say they want to assess changes in the temperature so they can use the data in future emergency cases, including earthquakes and tsunamis.
https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20181109_10/

November 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Japanese business group decries Taiwan’s continued ban on Japanese food imports in wake of 3/11

 

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November 10, 2018
TAIPEI – The Japanese business community in Taipei on Friday lamented over Taiwan’s continued ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures imposed in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In its annual white paper, the Taipei branch of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the Japanese business community in Taipei is disappointed that the issue has been manipulated into a “political problem.”
“We are deeply disappointed and think it’s extremely dangerous that the (Taiwan) government continues the ban without any support of scientific evidence,” it said.
The local Japanese chamber, with 471 member companies, urged the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen to make a “cool-headed judgment based on conscience to avoid undermining sound Japan-Taiwan relations.”
It also called on the Taiwan government to re-examine the ban based on scientific evidence. As of August, the Taiwan government had conducted inspections on more than 125,000 units of food products imported from Japan since March 15, 2011, with none exceeding the legal limits for radiation, it pointed out.
Other countries and regions such as the United States, Hong Kong and Singapore have relaxed restrictions on food imports from Fukushima Prefecture and other affected areas, it added.
The World Trade Organization has ruled that Taiwan’s continued import ban on seafood from Fukushima and other parts of Japan as “arbitrarily and unjustifiably” discriminatory measures. China and Japan are also in talks about easing the ban, it said.
The Tsai government proposed easing the ban after coming to power in May 2016, only to back away when the main opposition Kuomintang questioned the new government’s ability to ensure the safety of the imported products.
Kuomintang has initiated a referendum seeking to maintain the ban. The initiative, along with nine others on other issues, will be put to a vote in conjunction with the nationwide local elections on Nov. 24.
National Development Council Minister Chen Mei-ling, who accepted the chamber’s policy proposal Friday, said the Taiwan government must complete all necessary safety assessments and communications with the public before it considers adjusting the policy.
“Then it’ll be just waiting for the right time to lift the ban,” she said.
Despite the absence of diplomatic ties, which were severed in 1972, the unofficial relationship between Taiwan and Japan has remained robust.
Japan is Taiwan’s third-largest trading partner after China, including Hong Kong, while Taiwan is Japan’s fourth-largest trading partner.
Bilateral trade totaled $62.7 billion last year, up about 4 percent from the previous year. Japanese investment in Taiwan last year also increased more than 84 percent from the previous year to $649 million.
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/10/national/japanese-business-group-decries-taiwans-continued-ban-japanese-food-imports-wake-3-11/#.W-b_kfZFzIU

November 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Abe, IOC chief to visit Fukushima venue for 2020 Olympics

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November 5, 2018
TOKYO – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach plan to visit the venue in Fukushima for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics later this month, a government source said Sunday.
With a “reconstruction Olympics” being one of the fundamental themes of the Summer Games, the government hopes the visit planned for Nov 24 will increase momentum toward the recovery of the country’s northeastern region, devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Bach will visit Japan to attend a two-day general assembly meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees starting Nov 28, followed by an IOC Executive Board session, both to be held in Tokyo.
The Olympic torch relay will start in Fukushima Prefecture on March 26, 2020, with the flame scheduled to be lit in the ancient Greek city of Olympia on March 12 the same year, a day after the ninth anniversary of the 2011 disaster.
The city of Fukushima will host six softball games including a match played by the Japan team on July 22 as the first event of the Olympic Games.
https://japantoday.com/category/politics/abe-ioc-chief-to-visit-fukushima-venue-for-2020-olympics

November 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Radioactive water threatens Fukushima fishery’s fragile gains

 

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November 4, 2018
Plant operator plans to dump contaminated water into the ocean
TOKYO — Since a catastrophic nuclear accident seven years ago, Fukushima fishermen have made painstaking efforts to rebuild their livelihood, assiduously testing the radioactivity levels of their catches to ensure safety. Now, rapidly accumulating wastewater from the crippled power plant is again threatening this hard-won business recovery.
Faced with the prospect that there will be no more space to store tanks containing radioactive water leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings and the Japanese government are considering diluting the water and dumping it into the ocean.
Even though Fukushima’s fishery has been recovering, the haul throughout the entire prefecture amounted to about 3,300 tons last year, just 10% of the average prior to the 2011 disaster. And even reaching there has not been easy.
Fish markets in the prefecture now house testing rooms filled with equipment. Staff members mince seafood caught every morning to screen for radioactivity. Such painstaking efforts gradually enabled fishermen to return to the sea, with all fishing and farming operations resuming in February this year.
But the trend could reverse if the government goes through with plans to release nuclear wastewater into the sea.
Tepco has been cooling down the molten fuel cores by pumping water into the ruined reactors. The tainted water is later taken out and treated, but the system in place does not filter out tritium, a radioactive hydrogen isotope.
The tritium-laced water is currently stored in tanks within the premises of Fukushima Daiichi, but space is due to run out within five years.
Tritium occurs naturally and is present in rainwater in the atmosphere. The chemical is not known to accumulate within living things, and it is assumed that it can be safely released in the ocean if properly diluted. Nuclear plants in France and elsewhere normally empty treated tritium wastewater into the sea.
Resolving the wastewater issue is a key step in achieving a sustainable fishing revival in Fukushima, according to Shuji Okuda, an official in charge of decommissioning and wastewater management at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
“I understand that we should cooperate for revival,” one Fukushima fisher said.
“But I’m afraid of the damage to our reputation,” this fisher said. “I don’t want them to dump anything into the ocean.”
The waters off the coast of Fukushima teem with about 200 species of fish and shellfish, such as flounder, saury and surf clam.
Despite such abundant marine resources, demand for Fukushima seafood has yet to fully recover. At Tokyo’s Toyosu market, wholesale prices for fish caught in the prefecture sell for about 30% cheaper than product from neighboring areas, according to a major wholesaler. Some distributors do not stock up on the prefecture’s seafood for fear of driving away customers.
Before the nuclear accident, fishing boats from other prefectures would visit Fukushima harbors. Now, “they have all but vanished,” said a representative at the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations.
Japan’s trading partners are slowly normalizing restrictions on Fukushima exports — Russia lifted its remaining ban in March. But despite the scientific verification of safety, many localities still block Fukushima marine products.
In turn, domestic lobbying groups are resisting plans to discharge nuclear wastewater into the ocean — at least not until there is consensus at home and abroad that the practice is safe. “As a national representative of fishers, we oppose it,” said JF Zengyoren, the nationwide federation of fishing cooperatives.
“The reputational risk is still at hand,” said Tetsuji Suzuki, managing director at the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations.
“Revival should come after disaster recovery,” Suzuki said.
https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Radioactive-water-threatens-Fukushima-fishery-s-fragile-gains

November 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 1 Comment

Taiwan: COA, KMT official present opposing views of Japanese food ban

It is odd that only mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea are maintaining the Japanese food ban to protect their population from radiation contaminated food, while ours pass deals with the Japanese gouvernment and even letting them to promote it in special trade shows sponsored by the japanese embassies….
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Taipei, Nov. 3 (CNA) A Council of Agriculture (COA) official and a former Taipei mayor argued the merits Saturday of lifting a ban on imports of food from parts of Japan affected by a nuclear plant disaster in March 2011 ahead of a referendum on the issue later this month.
The two separately argued their positions on the issue in prepared presentations, with COA deputy chief Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) saying Taiwan’s inspection rules for food imports would keep the public safe if the ban were lifted.
But former Taipei mayor and opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who proposed the referendum, said the radioactive substances that still exist in the affected areas in Japan pose a potential threat to consumers and Taiwan’s food safety.
The referendum question, one of 10 up for a vote on Nov. 24, will ask voters: “Do you agree the government should maintain the ban on imports of agricultural products and food from areas in Japan affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster on March 11, 2011, including Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures?”
In arguing the government’s position that the ban should be lifted, Chen said Taiwan has embraced stricter standards than other countries for inspecting food items that could be contaminated by radioactive substances.
The inspection process in Taiwan is transparent, meaning that the government can assure the public that Japanese food allowed to be put on store shelves is 100 percent safe, he said.
Hau argued that the radiation leaks from the Fukushima power plant has damaged the soil, water and the general environment in the area, and if radionuclides such as cesium and strontium affect fish or other agricultural items in Japan, the impact will be felt for a long time.
Once people in Taiwan consume these tainted food items, Hau said, it will be like ingesting poison, in effect posing a risk to food safety in Taiwan.
In particular, Hau said, Taiwan is geographically close to Japan and Taiwanese like to eat Japanese food, meaning the government should have a zero tolerance policy for food safety and continue to ban food and agricultural product imports from the radiation-affected areas.
Taiwan imposed the ban on food imports from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures on March 25, 2011, two weeks after the Fukushima nuclear power plant was battered by a major earthquake and tsunami.
It soon suffered a nuclear meltdown that led to large amounts of radioactive substances being spewed into the environment.
Hau said the public has the right to be free of potential scares from eating contaminated Japanese food resulting from the nuclear disaster.
Chen argued, however, that many countries such as the United States, Singapore and South Korea and countries in Europe have opted to closely monitor high contamination risks related to food imports from Japan rather than continuing to impose a complete ban.
In other words, those countries allow the sale of foods from the radiation-affected areas in Japan if they are determined to be safe through inspections, the official said.
According to Chen, Taiwan and China are the only countries in the world to maintain a complete ban on foods from these parts of Japan, and he said Taiwan should adopt pragmatic measures on the issue.
The Democratic Progressive Party government, which has traditionally had close ties with Japan, has tried to lift the ban since taking power in May 2016 but has yet to succeed because of popular resistance.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

So who will foot the bill if another nuclear disaster strikes Japan?

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From left: The No. 1 to No. 4 reactors of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in May 2012
November 1, 2018
The government is trying to wriggle out of overhauling the way compensation should be paid out for damages caused by a nuclear accident.
A working group of the government’s Atomic Energy Commission had been considering ways to bolster the system, including raising the amount of losses covered by insurance, but failed to produce a formal proposal. The commission apparently failed to obtain support for these ideas from the electric power and insurance industries.
The panel started reviewing the system in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Nearly eight years have passed since the catastrophic triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, yet serious problems and flaws remain unaddressed with the current system. The government clearly has no intention of tackling them anytime soon.
The Abe administration and the power industry are pushing to restart offline reactors, which is a very irresponsible move.
The current system for compensation requires operators of nuclear plants to sign contracts with both private-sector insurers and the government to finance payouts related to nuclear accidents.
But these contracts are good for only up to 120 billion yen ($1.06 billion) per nuclear plant. This is way too small, given that compensation payments related to the Fukushima disaster have already surpassed 8 trillion yen.
In the case of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima facility, it quickly became clear that the company could not raise the necessary funds on its own. This prospect prompted the government to create a makeshift program to support such payouts.
Under this system, the government first pays compensation and then recovers the money over a period of decades from TEPCO and other major electric utilities.
The government’s rationale is that utilities must work together to fork up funding for the system in light of the massive sums required. This system is supposed to swing into action if another major nuclear accident occurs.
But it is hard to claim that a system based on mutual aid among competitors is sustainable, given the growing competition due to the liberalization of the power retail market.
It is time to find an answer to the weighty, complicated question of how the financial burden of preparing for nuclear accidents and paying compensation for losses should be shared among electric power companies, their stakeholders and the government.
Operators of nuclear power plants have an obligation to provide against nuclear emergencies.
As a first step, insurance coverage for accident-caused losses should be sharply raised.
The government needs to continue working with related industries to work out a specific plan.
It should also consider how to deal with the prospect of a power company going under in the event of a serious accident. If such a thing were to happen, the government would probably have to play the leading role in paying compensation. But it would still need to get the shareholders and financial institutions involved to cough up their fair share of the burden.
Increased insurance premiums paid by major electric utilities could cause electricity bills to rise. But it would help make more accurate assessments of the real costs of nuclear power generation, which both the government and the power industry have claimed to be lower than those of alternative energy sources.
At the root of the troubled history of policy efforts to address the issue of compensation is the ambiguous nature of the government’s nuclear power policy. This is borne out by the way it took the initiative in promoting nuclear power plants operated by private-sector companies.
Should nuclear power generation continue despite the potential risks and social costs? If another severe nuclear accident occurs, who should take the responsibility for dealing with the aftermath and in what ways?
These are just some of the fundamental questions about nuclear power policy raised by the need to revamp the compensation system.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Ex-TEPCO Executive Downplays Role in Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown

Three TEPCO leaders are on trial for allegedly delaying tsunami preparation measures.
 
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TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, center, Vice President Takashi Fujimoto, second from left, Sakae Muto, second from right, and others bow before a news conference at the company’s head office in Tokyo, Japan (March 30, 2011).
October 31, 2018
Prosecutors at Tokyo Metropolitan District Court continue to piece together the timeline that led Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to hold off on securing the plant against its worst-case tsunami scenario.
Despite TEPCO staff being assigned to calculate the extent of the tsunami threat, their findings were ignored. Top TEPCO officials are now fighting criminal negligence charges for allegedly neglecting tsunami prevention initiatives.
Experts say the impact of the devastating tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011, triggering the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, could have been prevented if sufficient countermeasures were taken. The lengthy criminal trial finished its 32nd session in late October, revealing contradictions in the managerial awareness of the long-term tsunami risks and a controversial shift in the company attitude toward installing appropriate measures.
Former CEO Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, and former Executive Vice Presidents Sakae Muto, 68, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, were indicted two years ago on charges of professional negligence resulting in death. All three have pleaded not guilty based on the uncertainty of predicting an “unthinkable” earthquake, which could occur once every thousand years.
Muto bowed his head in front of the judge and offered an apology to those who lost their lives, their families, and those forced to evacuate. From the outset, his initial apology seemed like an admission of responsibility. But it didn’t take long for Muto to maintain his innocence, saying he didn’t recall being briefed on a destructive earthquake or the need for new safety steps.
However, the cross-examination of witnesses at previous court sessions exposed holes in Muta’s pre-hearing affidavit and his statements made in court. TEPCO official Kazuhiko Yamashita, in charge of anti-earthquake measures at the time, gave evidence saying all three officials joined an imperial court meeting in February 2008, where they acknowledged the prediction of a 7.7-meter high tsunami and instructed the building of a 10-meter seawall. The meeting is said to have stressed that new tsunami measures were needed at Fukushima Nuclear Plant based on the long-term evaluation of the country and a hard copy of the report was also distributed to officials. However, in Muto’s affidavit, he originally claimed there was “absolutely no report” and vehemently denied tsunami countermeasures for Fukushima Nuclear Plant were a topic of discussion in the meeting,
An unexpected policy shift away from tsunami preparedness materialized when the TEPCO civil engineering team recalculated the tsunami height risk to 15.7 meters. The team reported the findings to Muto in June the same year. Rather than accelerating earthquake resistance plans, however, as construction proposals ballooned from original estimates and with the risk of unwanted attention on the nuclear power plant’s safety prospects, Yamashita says he was given orders by Muto to scrap the plans. Muto then consulted the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to reassess the findings for a second opinion.
Muto explained in court that he was uncertain of the report’s credibility and that it was natural to gather information on the many aspects he couldn’t make sense of. He repeatedly denied that the move indicated a desire to postpone new safety measures but said it stemmed from lack of alternatives. According to Muto, he didn’t have authority to make decisions over the company in that way.
The Great Eastern Earthquake of March 2011 knocked out power supplies and damaged back up generators, causing vital cooling systems at the nuclear plan to fail. Three reactor cores overheated and began to leak radiation. Seven years on, some 40,000 residents who were forced to flee their homes in Fukushima prefecture are still unable to return to their houses, which have fallen to ruin in the no-go zone. The ongoing trial, propelled largely by a group of Fukushima plaintiffs, offers a small chance at gaining closure and much needed background into the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tsunami Couldn’t Have Been Foreseen, Says Fukushima Plant Operator’s Ex-Chaiman

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30.10.2018
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Tsunehisa Katsumata said in court on Tuesday that a devastating tsunami that led to the 2011 accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant could not have been predicted, NHK reported.
During the hearing, the former TEPCO chairman said that he was briefed in 2009 on the possibility of a tsunami by a TEPCO official who sounded very skeptical, adding that he believed in the quality of work of the Nuclear Power and Plant Siting Division and did not doubt existing safety measures, the NHK broadcaster reported.
Katsumata and ex-vice presidents of TEPCO Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto were accused of professional negligence resulting in death and injury, but all of them denied the charges.
The prosecutors argued that the top management was fully responsible for ensuring security at the nuclear plant, the broadcaster added.
The court hearings will proceed with statements by the families of those whose deaths are linked to the nuclear accident.
In March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude offshore earthquake triggered a 46-foot tsunami that led to the accident and shutdown of the plant. The accident is considered to be the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Tepco apologizes over inappropriate hashtag for image of crippled Fukushima plant

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A post from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s official Twitter account, seen here, attracted criticism for insensitivity over the Fukushima nuclear disaster
 
Oct 30, 2018
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. has apologized after sharing on social media an image from inside its crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant together with a hashtag that means “fascination with factories.”
After the post attracted a lot of negative attention on the power company’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts, a Tepco official said Monday it had been intended to “give a better understanding to the younger generation” of its operations.
But the firm admitted that its social media post had “lacked consideration.”
The term employed in the hashtag, kōjōmoe, has come into use in recent years with a rise in the number of people enjoying views of factories and plants.
However, the utility’s post, which said “Unit4 Spent Fuel Pool at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station” along with the hashtag, drew a rush of comments such as “Don’t you feel sorry for the nuclear accident?” and “Don’t make a fool of victims” affected by the reactor core meltdowns at the power station following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
It is not the first time that the major power company has been rebuked for being insensitive to public feelings toward the Fukushima crisis, which was the most severe since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Earlier this year, Tepco halted its sale of file folders with photos showing the current conditions of the Fukushima No. 1 complex, following public criticism.
The folders, offered in a set of three for ¥300, had pictures of the nuclear complex’s No. 1 to No. 4 reactors.
The utility had sold them at two convenience stores on the premises of the complex after people involved in work to scrap the plant asked the utility to sell souvenirs.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

At first beneficiaries, then victims?

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Noriyuki Kowata is seen on a temporary visit to his home in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Futaba, one of two towns that the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant straddles, on Sept, 25, 2018. His yard and vegetable garden were covered in overgrown grass and other vegetation.
 
October 29, 2018
FUTABA, Fukushima — It was late September, and the heat of summer had finally begun to ease. Norikiyo Kowata, 77, was on a temporary visit to his home here, whose screen doors were tattered, having been exposed to the elements for over seven years. His garden, where he used to grow vegetables like butterbur sprouts and myoga ginger, showed signs of having been trampled on by wild hogs.
Ninety-six percent of Futaba — one of two towns straddled by the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Station — is designated by the central government as “areas to which return will be difficult.” Even though Kowata prepares himself mentally, seeing his house in an increasingly dilapidated state every time he visits is hard: “It’s disheartening.”
After the March 2011 disaster broke out at the nearby nuclear station, the entire town was forced to evacuate. Kowata moved from one place to another, including Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, where the Futaba Municipal Government set up shop temporarily, and where a branch of the municipal government still exists. In the summer of 2012, Kowata bought a used single-family home in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki, where he has since been living with his 70-year-old wife, Mineko. Prior to the nuclear crisis, the couple enjoyed walking in the mountains close to their home in Futaba to forage for mushrooms and wild vegetables. Now that they can no longer do that, their only emotional crutch is their pet dog.
Kowata’s hope to someday return to his hometown faded as he accrued more and more years as an evacuee. Now, a strong sense of resignation has taken over. There are plans to demolish his home in Futaba soon. “I’m old now. It’s sad, of course, since it’s where I lived for 70 years.”
After the onset of the nuclear disaster, along with the growing momentum of the anti-nuclear movement, was criticism for the national government and power companies that had long been building nuclear power plants in regional areas. The common trope was that people living in regional areas who had complied with national policy were now being forced from their homes. Kowata, too, wanted the people of Tokyo — for whom the Fukushima plant was primarily generating electricity — to look that fact straight in the eye. But when he thought about the benefits that he reaped from the nuclear power station, being told he was “sacrificed” for the sake of the big city and the central government didn’t feel quite true.
The Fukushima prefectural towns of Futaba and Okuma decided to host the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 1961, in the midst of Japan’s rapid economic growth. The central government’s desire to meet the increasing electricity demands of the Tokyo metropolitan area came together with the desire of a regional area that did not want to be left behind in the high-speed economic growth that the country was undergoing. As a result, six massive structures spanning the two towns were built.
The region’s industrial framework, in which residents farmed in the warmer months and became migrant workers elsewhere in the winters, underwent a radical transformation. Following graduation from high school, Kowata had been working in Tokyo as a conductor in the subway system. But he returned to his hometown once the nuclear plant was built, and became a regular employee at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) in 1971, when the nuclear plant began its operations.
“The pay was good, as were the benefits,” Kowata recalled. “It felt like a big company.” He worked for TEPCO and its affiliates until the age of 65.
Municipal governments that host nuclear power plants are given large amounts of money in subsidies based on the Three Power Source Development Laws. At its peak, the Futaba Municipal Government received over 1 billion yen per year, and nuclear plant-related income, including fixed property tax, enriched town coffers. This allowed for the construction of public facilities and other infrastructure.
“Nuclear power plants are monsters,” Kowata said. “I bet there’s no other mechanism out there that brings that much money and employment to a depopulated area.”
There were some people who warned of the risks of nuclear power. In 1972, some residents launched a Futaba region anti-nuke alliance. However, confronted by the very palpable benefits of the nuclear plant, the movement faded.
In 1991, the Futaba Town Assembly unanimously voted for the additional construction of the No. 7 and No. 8 reactors at the plant. The town’s expenditures were ballooning, due to the cost of maintaining and managing public facilities it had built with subsidies it received from the central government for hosting the nuclear power plant. So in seeking even more of that “nuclear power plant money,” Futaba became more proactive in promoting the national government’s nuclear policy.
Futaba’s mayor at the time was the late Tadao Iwamoto, who served for five terms, four years each, starting in 1985. He was a former prefectural assembly member from the Socialist Party who at one time served as the head of an anti-nuke alliance. But after he became the mayor of Futaba, he promoted community building that assumed coexistence with nuclear power plants.
To his former comrades, this seemed like a sellout, but his son, Hisato Iwamoto, 61, who is the vice-speaker of the Futaba town assembly, argues that nothing had changed, in that his father continued efforts to work for the happiness of the townspeople and for the Futaba region. Hisato said he remembers his father yelling at news reports on the nuclear disaster that were being aired on television in the gymnasium that the family had evacuated to in the Fukushima prefectural city of Minamisoma in March 2011: “What are they doing!” His father subsequently said not a word about the nuclear plant, and died just four months later due to illness at the age of 82.
Akira Kawate, who was formerly a bureaucrat at the Ministry of Home Affairs, the predecessor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, and subsequently served as Fukushima Prefecture’s deputy governor from 1999 to 2006, looked back on the proposed construction of the No. 7 and No. 8 reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. “The prefectural government’s view was that we shouldn’t keep relying on nuclear reactors,” he said. The prefecture, however, was unable to come up with any specific economic revitalization measures to replace nuclear power plants. The additional reactors were never built. Then, in 2011, disaster struck.
Kawate, who now serves as an executive director of a nationwide federation promoting the independence of depopulated regions, understands the obstacles of implementing depopulation countermeasures. “It’s very difficult for municipal governments that have neither the money nor the manpower to be independent. With the exception of Tokyo, all communities must be dependent on the central government, though the extent to which they are may vary,” he said. But, he continued, “There are various ways to think about the relationship between regional areas and the central government, whether it’s the regional areas that are being sacrificed, or they’re the ones shrewdly taking advantage of the central government. It’s OK to have a shrewd outlook on life. It liberates you from emotional subordination.”
Aside from the noise of heavy machinery, the town of Futaba is quiet. Little by little, homes are being torn down and new infrastructure is being built. The plan is to make about 55 hectares of land surrounding JR Futaba Station livable again as a specially designated reconstruction and revitalization zone. If all goes well, evacuation orders for the area will be lifted around the spring of 2022.
If people do not return to the town, however, there will be no town revival. The 7,140 people who lived here at the time the nuclear disaster began are now scattered everywhere, and as of late August this year, 4,074 lived within Fukushima Prefecture, and 2,818 lived outside the prefecture as evacuees. According to a survey of Futaba residents and others conducted in fall of last year, 60 percent of the 1,564 households that responded said that they had “decided not to return.”
Ever since the onset of the nuclear crisis, former TEPCO employee Kowata has been questioning himself over and over again. The nuclear power plant had allowed him to work in his hometown and provide for his family. But if it hadn’t been for the nuclear power plant, the disaster would not have occurred. “I carry a weight on my shoulders.”
Kowata has given up hope on returning to his home in Futaba, but he wants to remain involved in his hometown. His residence registry is still there. “I want to live a long life, and watch what happens to this town,” he says, hopefully.
(Japanese original by Yukinao Kin, Osaka Cultural News Department)

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Gov. Masao Uchibori beats three rivals to secure re-election in Fukushima

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Incumbent Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori receives flowers at his election office in the city of Fukushima on Sunday evening as vote counts suggest he has secured a second-term victory in the gubernatorial election held earlier in the day.
Oct 29, 2018
FUKUSHIMA – Incumbent Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori secured another four-year term in a gubernatorial election Sunday, beating three challengers.
Throughout the election campaign, the 54-year-old governor, who was in his first term, enjoyed a comfortable lead over the other candidates — Jun Kanayama, 78, a self-employed worker, Sho Takahashi, 30, the owner of an IT company, and Kazushi Machida, 42, prefectural chairman of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP).
While all four candidates ran as independents, Uchibori received support from the ruling and opposition parties, except for the JCP.
The prefecture, where there are about 1.6 million eligible voters, is still on the road to recovery following nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, which were triggered by the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
During the campaign, Uchibori pledged further efforts to rebuild local communities and promote the return of residents who have moved out of the prefecture due to the disasters, although many voters voiced concerns about the candidates proposing few specific measures to help residents recover from the devastation.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Japan Post to begin test deliveries using drones in Fukushima next month

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Oct 27, 2018
Japan Post Co. has said that it will begin to test drone deliveries between two post offices in Fukushima Prefecture next month.
The transport ministry on Friday approved an application by the company for flying a drone without an operator watching the airborne device or an assistant who monitors its movements.
In past test flights, operators flew drones with assistants checking the movements of the devices by eye. This time, flights will be conducted without such an assistant for the first time.
The mail delivery arm of Japan Post Holdings Co. is expected to start the test flights early next month.
“It’s a big step toward realizing delivery services using cutting-edge technologies,” parent company President Masatsugu Nagato told a news conference Friday.
The test deliveries will be conducted between a post office in the city of Minamisoma and another in the town of Namie, about 9 km apart.
Packages of documents weighing up to 2 kg will be transported to their destinations in about 10 minutes. The postal group aims to put the service into commercial use mainly in remote rural areas.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s government refuses UN call to stop returning evacuees to irradiated areas of Fukushima

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Japan rejects UN call to stop returns to Fukushima

 
Japan’s government lifted its standard for the acceptable level of radiation to 20 millisieverts per year from 1 millisievert after the Fukushima disaster
 
27 Oct 2018
Japan’s government on Friday (Oct 26) rejected calls from a UN rights expert to halt the return of women and children to areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster over radiation fears.
UN special rapporteur Baskut Tuncak on Thursday warned that people felt they were “being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the government previously considered safe.”
In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s government lifted its standard for the acceptable level of radiation to 20 millisieverts per year from 1 millisievert.
It has been urged to revise that level back down again, but has rejected calls to do so, a decision Tuncak called “deeply troubling.”
“Japan has a duty to prevent and minimise childhood exposure to radiation,” he said.
But Japan’s government rejected the criticism, saying Tuncak’s comments were based on “one-sided information and could fan unnecessary fears about Fukushima,” a foreign ministry official told AFP.
Japan’s government has gradually lifted evacuation orders on large parts of the areas affected by the disaster, which occurred when a massive tsunami sent reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant into meltdown in March 2011.
But other areas remain under evacuation orders because of continued high levels of radiation.
Japan’s government has pushed hard to return affected areas to normal, but has faced criticism that what it refers to as “safe” radiation levels are not in line with international standards.
Around 12,000 people who fled their homes for fear of radiation have filed dozens of lawsuits against the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the stricken nuclear plant.
The Fukushima disaster was the worst since Chernobyl in 1986, though there has only been one death linked to it. More than 18,000 people were killed or left missing in the tsunami that prompted the meltdown.

October 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment