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Work on Fukushima plant, halted during 2016 G7 summit, to continue during Tokyo Olympics

jhlkùWorkers are seen near storage tanks for radioactive water at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan January 15, 2020. Picture taken January 15, 2020

March 4, 2020

TOKYO (Reuters) – Decommissioning work at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power station, halted during a G7 summit in Japan in 2016, will not stop during this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, the plant operator said.

There are about a third fewer workers now – 4,000 compared with 6,000 in 2016 – which makes the decision to keep working easier, said Akira Ono, Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco) chief decommissioning officer.

When I was the plant manager, I suspended operations at the time of the Ise-Shima summit. But the situation is totally different now,” Ono told Reuters in an interview.

Although the coronavirus outbreak – which has sickened more than 1,000 Japanese – has disrupted supply chains, there has been no shortage of protective gear at the plant, he added. Workers must wear special clothing to protect them from residual radiation in some parts of the facility.

There was a time when coverall supply became quite tight … But after talking with various sources, we are now sure that we can procure what we need,” Ono said in the interview conducted on Tuesday but embargoed till Wednesday.

A powerful earthquake and tsunami hit eastern Japan in March 2011 and knocked out cooling systems at Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, triggering the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Since then, the operator has been working to clean up the damage and contain any spread of radiation.

For the last nine years, Tepco has been pouring water over melted reactor cores to keep them cool. Nearly 1.2 million tonnes of tainted water, enough to fill 480 Olympic-sized swimming pools, is stored at the plant. The company treats the water to remove most radioactive material.

A government panel reviewing potential disposal methods has recommended releasing the water into the sea after dilution. Local residents, fishermen in particular, strongly oppose the ocean discharge.

Ono said that the plant will likely run out of tank space by summer 2022.

The time is getting near,” Ono said, referring to a decision on the disposal method. “We are cutting it very close.”

Japanese trade and industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said last month the government would decide after hearing opinions from people in local communities and others, without committing to a deadline.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-disaster-fukushima/work-on-fukushima-plant-halted-during-2016-g7-summit-to-continue-during-tokyo-olympics-idUSKBN20R0ZJ

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

The Coronavirus Exposes Why the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Should Be Canceled

The Tokyo Olympics were already unsafe. Now, they’re even more so.

 

hhjmmùPeople walk across a pedestrian crossing near the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building adorned with signs promoting the 2020 Olympics.

March 4, 2020

Can anime become prophecy? The 1988 Japanese anime classic Akira predicted that Tokyo would host the 2020 Olympics. One scene featured a billboard reading “147 Days Until the Games”—directly beneath it someone scrawled in graffiti, “Just cancel it!” Here we are roughly 140 days ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, and the cancellation—or postponement—of the Games is a real possibility, because of the emergence of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus.

As Stanford University professor Yvonne Maldonado put it, with the Olympics, “You bring a lot of people together, and then you ship them back all over the world: That’s the perfect way to transmit.” The infectious disease specialist added, “If you really want to disseminate a disease, that would be the way to do it.”

At least one member of the International Olympic Committee, Dick Pound of Canada, seems to agree. In an interview with the Associated Press, he set off alarm bells, stating that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) probably needs to decide whether to press ahead with the Tokyo Games by the end of May. “In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?’” Postponing the Games—an idea posed by Seiko Hashimoto, Japan’s Olympic minister this week—is now an open possibility, but also unrealistic, as doing so would interfere with the US college and NFL fall football schedule. Given the billions that NBC has plunged into the Olympics—the network forked over $4.4 billion in 2011 for broadcasting rights through 2020 and then a whopping $7.7 billion for the Games running through 2032—its insistence would almost certainly be that the Games must go on, short of a global pandemic.

In truth, though, the Games should have been canceled well ahead of the coronavirus outbreak, especially if Olympic organizers and their allies in Japan’s government cared about public health. Tokyo organizers have branded the Olympics the “Recovery Games,” replete with “recovery monuments” to honor the triple-whammy earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. They even created a bizarre graphic (pictured below) that depicts a circle of appreciation, with “the disaster-affected areas” offering support for the Olympic athletes, which will “cheer up” the world. “The world,” in turn, will express gratitude, which will “cheer up” the disaster-affected areas. (The graphic was available on this website until today.)

hlùùùùGraphic of “the disaster-affected areas” that will “cheer up” the world, which was available on Tokyo 2020’s website until today.

 

This, of course, is pure-grade PR gibberish. We visited Fukushima in July 2019 and spoke with locals who were livid that Fukushima was being used as an Olympic prop. We saw “black pyramids” comprised of large plastic bags of radiation-drenched soil. We saw abandoned homes and businesses that surely could have used the billions that are being funneled into the Games—some $26 billion, according to a government audit, despite the fact that the original price tag for the Tokyo Olympics was $7.3 billion.

Instead of material support, Olympic honchos have offered Fukushima residents mere symbolism: The Olympic torch relay will kick off in Fukushima next month, despite the fact that Greenpeace recently uncovered radiation hot spots along the torch relay route. Olympic bigwigs have also scheduled baseball and softball games in Fukushima Prefecture. In short, the “Recovery Games” moniker amounts to a cruel joke. As Satoko Itani, a professor of sport, gender, and sexuality studies at Kansai University, told us, “This Olympics is literally taking the money, workers, and cranes away from the areas where they are needed most.”

The coronavirus may well benefit elected officials with an authoritarian streak, as public health crises can be a recipe for free-range autocracy. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long demonstrated a “disturbing authoritarian pattern,” as Bloomberg News referred to it. And he has also shown an alarming capacity to lie to get what he wants. Shinzo Abe has been adamant that there is no need to postpone the Tokyo Games, but there’s a “prime minister who cried wolf” dynamic at play here. After all, back in 2013 when Tokyo was bidding on the Olympics, he told voting members of the IOC who were jittery about Fukushima that the situation was “under control” even though it clearly wasn’t. For many, when they hear Abe and other officials saying that the coronavirus will not affect the Olympics, they hear the resounding echo of previous empty promises.

It must be noted that even if they cancel the Tokyo Games, the damage has already been done. Everyday people have been displaced for Olympic facilities and that cannot be rolled back. Workers have set up infrastructure in Fukushima and their exposure to radiation has already taken place.

What about relocating the Games to a previous host? Shaun Bailey, a candidate running for mayor of London, suggested transferring the Olympics there, but many of the 2012 venues are gone and residents are now living in the apartments that previously made up the Olympic Village. Rio, host of the 2016 Olympics is an obvious no-go, with venues in various states of dilapidation and the country mired in a right-wing hatescape that does not even vaguely chime with the lofty principles enshrined in the Olympic Charter. And cariocas—Rio’s residents—have little interest in the Olympics’ returning to town. The IOC left a bitter taste in Rio, when it said it was unwilling to help them pay off a few bills left in the Games’ wake.

As for the economic damage that canceling the Olympics could do to Japan, one could argue that the harm has been done. In addition to the displacements, the Olympics have already granted huge giveaways of land to the developers who are building the Athletes Village and that will not change because of a virus—or even a cancellation. The writing is on the wall: There is ample reason to cancel these Olympics for the good of Japan. The coronavirus only lays those reasons bare.

https://www.thenation.com/article/society/coronavirus-tokyo-2020-olympics/

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan lifts evacuation order for town hit by Fukushima disaster

Futaba to reopen for start of Olympic torch relay after being deserted for nine years

3448The entrance of Futaba town, which has been empty since the leak at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.

 

March 4, 2020

Japan has lifted an evacuation order for parts of a town in the shadow of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, weeks before the area is to host the start of the Olympic torch relay.

Futaba, 2.4 miles (4km) west of the plant, has been almost deserted since the nuclear meltdown nine years ago, while other areas in the region have mounted a partial recovery after the government declared them safe for residents.

The start of the relay’s Japan leg at the end of the month is supposed to showcase Fukushima’s recovery from the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, but some residents say their home towns may never return to normal.

Futaba’s 7,000 residents were forced to evacuate after the March 2011 disaster, which was triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people along Japan’s north-east coast.

The reopening of a 1.5 sq mile area of Futaba means reconstruction workers can stay in accommodation near the railway station, but residents will not be able to return for another two years, when its water supply and other infrastructure will have been restored, according to local officials.

They will be able to enter and leave for short visits without going through security, and will no longer need to wear protective clothing, but will not be allowed to stay overnight.

While the coronavirus outbreak has prompted speculation that the Olympics could be cancelled or postponed, Japan’s government is keen to promote Tokyo 2020 as proof that the region, including Fukushima, has recovered from the triple disaster.

I’m overwhelmed with emotion as we finally bring part of our town operations back to our home town,” said Futaba’s mayor, Shiro Izawa. “I pledge to push forward with our recovery and reconstruction.”

The domestic leg of the torch relay is due to begin on 26 March at J-Village, a football training complex that functioned for years as a logistics hub for crews working to control and decommission the damaged nuclear plant 12 miles away.

Although organisers have said the route is subject to change, the torch is scheduled to pass through Futaba later the same day, before being taken through other parts of Fukushima prefecture over the following two days.

 

3128A guard opens the gate to the town in Futaba.

In addition to building excitement across the country ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games and promoting the Olympic values, the Olympic torch relay aims to demonstrate solidarity with the regions still recovering from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami,” the organisers said last month.

More than 160,000 people were forced to flee their homes during the Fukushima meltdown. Many have decided not to return, despite government reassurances on safety, and many of those who have returned are older residents.

Futaba is no exception, with just 10% of residents saying they intend to return. Some, particularly those with young children, are concerned about radiation levels, while others have built new lives elsewhere.

Yuji Onuma, a Futaba resident, said recent work to repair streets and decontaminate the town centre was designed to give the world a false impression before the Olympic torch relay.

I wish they wouldn’t hold the relay here,” Onuma told Reuters. Pointing at workers repaving a road expected to be on the relay route, he added: “Their number one aim is to show people how much we’ve recovered. I don’t think people will understand anything by just seeing cleaned-up tracts of land.”

Radiation readings in the air taken in February near Futaba’s railway station were around 0.28 microsieverts per hour, higher than the government-set target of 0.23 microsieverts an hour.

Another part of the town had a reading of 4.64 microsieverts per hour on the same day, meaning a person would reach the annual exposure upper limit of 1 millisievert, recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, in just nine days.

The torch is due to pass through the village of Iitate the following day, but campaigners this week described the relay as inappropriate and warned they had found radiation “hotspots” in the village.

In a survey of 69 locations along and around the proposed relay route, the grassroots group the Radioactivity Monitoring Centre for Citizens said it had found 44 sites with radioactive levels above 0.23 microsieverts per hour, including one “severe hotspot” of 0.85 microsieverts per hour along the torch relay route.

The discovery of hotspots near J-Village by Greenpeace Japan at the end of last year prompted the environment ministry and the nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, to perform extra decontamination work.

While some independent monitors have said the discovery of isolated hotspots does not present an accurate picture of the overall situation in Fukushima, Nobuyoshi Ito, an Iitate farmer, said the civic group’s findings cast doubts on government claims that decontamination work had been a success.

Radiation exposure for runners passing along the route may not be very high, but the overall situation in places like Iitate is severe,” Ito said. “Levels are several times to as many as 20 times higher in the village than they were before the disaster, and people who moved back have to put up with that 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Of Iitate’s pre-disaster population of 6,100, only 1,200 people have returned, Ito said. “The small number of people coming means that the nuclear disaster is not over yet. The truth is that full recovery from a nuclear disaster like this is just not possible.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/04/japan-lifts-evacuation-order-futaba-town-fukushima-disaster?CMP=share_btn_fb&fbclid=IwAR0L6-CAj0LYlEtKWrdeQF_bim4qUZIp_iEvbtV4uxlW4MnwIeSy6T8_CAk

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Aoki, Ito and Nakamura: “Radioactive Hotspots along Olympic Torch Relay Route

Kazumasa Aoki: Vice President, Radioactivity Monitoring Center for Citizen / Nobuyoshi Ito: Iitate Village Resident / Jun Nakamura: Co-Chairman, Fukuichi Area Environmental Radiation Monitoring Project

Thanks to FCCJ for this interview and also for restoring bilingual format.   Thanks also for an excellent translation by Mary Joyce, whose contribution is often unmentioned.  Although the Covid-19 and Fukushima disaster appear  unrelated, I see parallel relationship.   Abe’s Japanese government tends to hide the truth as if the politicians believe in the three monkeys carved in Nikko Shrine.   See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil.   The government’s reluctance to measure and publish the soil contamination at Fukushima is analogous to that of their reluctance to conduct PCR test to grasp the real spread of the corona virus.  I used to use a term “Okami to Hitsuji (sheep)”  to describe the relationship between Japanese government and the docile citizens.  Making a reference to the above observations, however, it is more like “Okami to Hatsuka Nezumi (white mice)”   because people are used as a subject of a massive  Bio-Medical experiments.  I do not know any other countries, in which the government can get away with their misconducts of this magnitude. However, I see some hope by listening to the three gentlemen who gave the interview.  They speak the facts in much better Japanese  than the  average Japanese politicians.  Thanks again to FCCJ to shed a light on the  news, which would be buried otherwise.

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Coronavirus: Tokyo 2020 Olympics could be postponed?

_111116261_seikohashimotogettySeiko Hashimoto says Tokyo 2020 organisers are “doing all we can” to make sure the Games go ahead as planned

 

Coronavirus: Tokyo 2020 could be postponed to end of year – Japan’s Olympic minister

March 3, 2020

Japan’s Olympic minister says the Tokyo 2020 Games could be postponed from the summer until later in the year amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

In a response to a question in Japan’s parliament, Seiko Hashimoto said Tokyo’s contract with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) “calls for the Games to be held within 2020”.

She added that “could be interpreted as allowing a postponement”.

The Games are due to be held from 24 July to 9 August.

“We are doing all we can to ensure that the Games go ahead as planned,” Hashimoto added.

Under the hosting agreement the right to cancel the Games remains with the IOC.

IOC president Thomas Bach says his organisation remains “very confident with regard the success” of the Games in Tokyo.

“I would like to encourage all the athletes to continue their preparations with great confidence and full steam,” added the German.

A number of high-profile sporting events have already been cancelled or postponed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, including the World Athletics Indoor Athletics Championships and the Chinese Grand Prix, which was scheduled for 19 April.

Coronavirus, which originated in China, has spread to more than 60 countries and claimed more than 3,000 lives so far.

The IOC executive board met in Lausanne, Switzerland on Tuesday and in a statement “expressed its full commitment to the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 taking place from 24 July to 9 August”.

It said a “joint task force” was started in mid-February, involving the IOC, Tokyo 2020 organisers, the host city of Tokyo, the government of Japan and the World Health Organization.

The executive board added that it “appreciates and supports the measures being taken, which constitute an important part of Tokyo’s plans to host safe and secure Games”.

“We will continue to support the athletes and their NOCs with regular updates of information, which we will provide,” Bach added.

https://www.bbc.com/sport/olympics/51717839?fbclid=IwAR0MyXnh6SsIUO4eS608oAVV-G2h8SEK_uCgOQUChaYqkt-tOaVpallL-sQ

ca-times.brightspotcdn.comThe Olympic rings outside the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, where leaders discussed the Tokyo Games and the threat of the coronavirus outbreak

Japanese official raises possibility of postponing 2020 Summer Olympics

March 3, 2020

Even as Olympic leaders reiterated their confidence that the coronavirus outbreak will not force the cancellation of the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Games, a Japanese official suggested the host city has a contractual right to postpone the competition until the end of the year.

The dueling pronouncements came Tuesday as the International Olympic Committee’s executive board convened for a regularly scheduled meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. Board members devoted much of the day to discussions on the matter.

We remain very confident with regard to the success of these Olympic Games,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

Half a world away, a question in the Japanese parliament prompted that country’s Olympic minister to discuss nuances of the contract that all host cities must sign when they are awarded the Games.

The IOC has the right to cancel the Games only if they are not held during 2020,” Seiko Hashimoto told parliament, according to the Associated Press. “This can be interpreted to mean the Games can be postponed as long as they are held during the calendar year.”

Hashimoto added that officials “are making the utmost effort so that we don’t have to face that situation.”

Since the COVID-19 virus was detected in China late last year, more than 92,000 people have been infected and 3,100 have died worldwide. Still, as of early Tuesday, the World Health Organization had yet to classify the outbreak as a pandemic because it has severely affected only a handful of countries.

Some health experts have questioned the wisdom of holding any mass public gathering in light of the outbreak; others have said it is too early to make any such decisions,

The modern Olympics have been canceled only three times, during the first and second World Wars. In other instances, they have endured through various concerns, including the spread of the Zika virus around the time of the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

This time, there is concern because the coronavirus has caused events such as international soccer games and a major car race to be postponed, moved or canceled.

Tokyo is expecting more than 10,000 athletes and an estimated 600,000 tourists from around the globe. Organizers have devoted billions of dollars to venue construction and other preparations but would likely have insurance to cover cancellation for unforeseeable reasons.

American broadcasters said Tuesday they also would be covered in case of cancellation.

We try to anticipate for big events what might happen so that we’re protected there, and we also have insurance for any expenses we make,” Comcast chairman Brian Roberts, adding: “We’re optimistic the Olympics are going to happen.”

As for postponement, any date later this year or into 2021 could conflict with world championships and other competitions already scheduled. There is an additional, historical perspective.

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 was relatively light when it first appeared during the winter and spring. But after a dormant summer, it returned with greater force in the fall, ultimately infecting as many as 500-million people and killing 20 million to 50 million worldwide.

Last month, the IOC formed a task force that includes representatives from the WHO, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and the Japanese government.

Of course we will continue this regular consultation with this joint task force to be able to address any developments which may occur,” Bach said.

Olympic leaders dismissed suggestions of a postponement, repeating their expectation that the Tokyo Games will begin as scheduled on July 24.

You can come up with all sorts of speculation, all sorts of doomsday scenarios,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters. “We would prefer to stick to the advice from the experts.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2020-03-03/japanese-official-raises-possibility-of-postponing-2020-summer-olympics?fbclid=IwAR3SNdXKFHwR4k0LN5ogBk0SPp7w4cLSUl1sSfaoTDxkowTQrJYIJrPf6Yo

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

In Fukushima, Olympic torch relay faces cool welcome from nuclear evacuees

kkml

March 2, 2020

FUTABA, Japan (Reuters) – Dressed in protective plastic coveralls and white booties, Yuji Onuma stood in front of the row of derelict buildings that included his house, and sighed as he surveyed his old neighborhood.

On the once-bustling main street, reddish weeds poked out of cracked pavements in front of abandoned shops with caved-in walls and crumbling roofs. Nearby, thousands of black plastic bags filled with irradiated soil were stacked in a former rice field.

It’s like visiting a graveyard,” he said.

Onuma, 43, was back in his hometown of Futaba to check on his house, less than 4 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which suffered a triple meltdown in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami, leaking radiation across the region.

The authorities say it will be two more years before evacuees can live here again, an eternity for people who have been in temporary housing for nine years. But given the lingering radiation here, Onuma says he has decided not to move back with his wife and two young sons.

Most of his neighbors have moved on, abandoning their houses and renting smaller apartments in nearby cities or settling elsewhere in Japan.

Given the problems Futaba still faces, many evacuees are chafing over the government’s efforts to showcase the town as a shining example of Fukushima’s reconstruction for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

While there has been speculation that the global spread of the coronavirus that emerged in China last month might force the cancellation of the Olympics, Japanese officials have said they are confident the Games will go ahead.

The Olympic torch relay will take place in Fukushima in late March – although possibly in shortened form as a result of the coronavirus, Olympic organizers say – and will pass through Futaba. In preparation, construction crews have been hard at work repairing streets and decontaminating the center of town.

I wish they wouldn’t hold the relay here,” said Onuma. He pointed to workers repaving the road outside the train station, where the torch runners are likely to pass. “Their number one aim is to show people how much we’ve recovered.”

He said he hoped that the torch relay would also pass through the overgrown and ghostly parts of the town, to convey everything that the 7,100 residents uprooted of Futaba lost as a result of the accident.

I don’t think people will understand anything by just seeing cleaned-up tracts of land.”

UNDER CONTROL”

In 2013, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was pitching Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Games to International Olympic Committee members, he declared that the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant was “under control”.

The Games have been billed as the “Reconstruction Olympics” – an opportunity to laud Japan’s massive effort to rebuild the country’s northeastern region, ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami, as well as the meltdowns at the nuclear plant owned by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

After the disaster, the government created a new ministry to handle reconstruction efforts and pledged 32 trillion yen ($286.8 billion) in funding to rebuild affected areas.

 

kkmùùYuji Onuma, an evacuee from Futaba Town near tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, walks next to a collapsed shop on the street in Futaba Town, inside the exclusion zone around the plant, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan February 20, 2020.

 

Signs of the reconstruction efforts are everywhere near the plant: new roads have been built, apartment blocks for evacuee families have sprouted up, and an imposing tsunami wall now runs along the coastline. An army of workers commutes to the wrecked plant every day to decommission the reactors.

In March, just days before the Olympic relay is scheduled to be held across Fukushima, Japan will partially ease a restriction order for Futaba, the last town that remains off-limits for residents to return.

This means that residents like Onuma will be able to freely come and go from the town without passing through security or changing into protective clothing. Evacuees will still not be able to stay in their homes overnight.

After a few years bouncing between relatives’ homes and temporary apartments, Onuma decided to build a new house in Ibaraki, a nearby prefecture. His two sons are already enrolled in kindergarten and primary school there.

You feel a sense of despair,” said Onuma. “Our whole life was here and we were just about to start our new life with our children.”

When Onuma was 12, he won a local competition to come up with a catchphrase promoting atomic energy. His words, “Nuclear Energy for a Brighter Future” was painted on an arch that welcomed visitors to Futaba.

After the nuclear meltdowns, the sign was removed against Onuma’s objections.

It feels like they’re whitewashing the history of this town,” said Onuma, who now installs solar panels for a living.

The organizing committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

 

BACK BURNER”

Other residents and community leaders in nearby towns say the Olympics may have actually hindered the region’s recovery.

Yasushi Niitsuma, a 60-year-old restaurant owner in Namie, said the Olympics stalled local reconstruction projects because of surging demand and costs to secure workers and materials ahead of the games in Tokyo.

We need to wait two years, three years to have a house built because of the lack of craftsmen,” said Niitsuma. “We are being put on the back burner.”

Fukushima’s agriculture and fisheries industries have also been devastated.

I was astonished by the “under control” comment made in a pitch to win the Olympic Games,” said Takayuki Yanai, who directs a fisheries co-op in Iwaki, 50 kilometers south of the nuclear plant, referring to Abe’s statement.

People in Fukushima have the impression that reconstruction was used as a bait to win the Olympic Games.”

A government panel recently recommended discharging contaminated water held at the Fukushima plant to the sea, which Yanai expects to further hurt what remains of the area’s fisheries industry.

At a recent news conference, Reconstruction Minister Kazunori Tanaka responded to a question from Reuters about criticism from Fukushima evacuees.

We will work together with relevant prefectures, municipalities and various organizations so that people in the region can take a positive view,” he said, referring to the Olympics.

Local officials also say they are making progress for the return of residents to Futaba.

Unlike Chernobyl, we are aiming to go back and live there,” Futaba Mayor Shirou Izawa said in an interview, calling the partial lifting of the evacuation order a sign of “major progress”.

There were a lot of misunderstandings about the radiation levels in the town, including the safety of produce and fish from Fukushima, Izawa said.

It would be great if such misunderstanding is dispelled even a little bit,” he said.

Radiation readings in the air taken in February near Futaba’s train station were around 0.28 microsieverts per hour, still approximately eight times the measurement taken on the same day in central Tokyo.

Another area in Futaba had a reading of 4.64 microsieverts per hour on the same day, meaning a person would reach the annual exposure upper limit of 1 millisievert, recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, in just nine days.

Despite the official assurances, it’s hard to miss the signs of devastation and decay around town.

The block where Takahisa Ogawa’s house once stood is now just a row of overgrown lots, littered with concrete debris. A small statue of a stone frog is all that remains of his garden, which is also scattered with wild boar droppings.

He finally demolished his house last year after he failed to convince his wife and two sons to return to live in Futaba.

Ogawa doubts any of his childhood friends and neighbors would ever return to the town.

I’ve passed the stage where I’m angry and I’m resigned,” he said.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2020-futaba-insight/in-fukushima-olympic-torch-relay-faces-cool-welcome-from-nuclear-evacuees-idUSKBN20P03M?fbclid=IwAR0G7Exv5bLjdYCHCdmV5PA7L15qoZ3KpCScZIa8F8_TU9AAzNBvSW9aKvE

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Radiation Disinformation and Human Rights Violations at the Heart of Fukushima and the Olympic Games

1582692548_34Azuma Stadium and Arakawa River, Fukushima City, Christian Aslund/Greenpeace, October 2019

March 1, 2020

Shaun Burnie

Abstract: In the run up to the 2020 summer Olympics / Paralympics, multiple violations of the human rights of citizens and workers impacted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster persist. UN human rights experts have continued to challenge the Abe government over its record. Ignoring basic scientific principles of radiation protection, the government is deliberately distorting reality on actual contamination, the limited effectiveness and scope of decontamination and risks in Fukushima prefecture. Abe’s disinformation narrative on Fukushima is aimed at erasing the image of Fukushima as the location of one of the world’s nuclear disasters, and, by so doing, reviving the prospects for the nation’s nuclear industry. There remains a window in the coming months for a wider understanding of the complex reality in Fukushima, the ongoing radiological conditions and impacts, and the struggle of tens of thousands of evacuees and workers to secure their legal rights. 


Ever since the start of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011, many of the issues concerning the rights of evacuees (particularly women and children), citizens, and workers have been raised by United Nations human rights bodies and experts. One of the earliest and most comprehensive was the 2012 Mission Report of Special Rapporteur (SR) Anand Grover. (OHCR 2013) Eight years later, and in the run up to Japan hosting the 2020 summer Olympics / Paralympics, the violations of citizens’ and workers’ rights continue. 

The Abe government has framed the games as the reconstruction Olympics, with a near explicit aim of erasing the image of Fukushima as the location of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters. During the games themselves, Abe may achieve his objective (at least temporarily) as there is almost no prospect that the wider context of an ongoing radiological emergency will be reported. It’s all about the games and Abe’s disinformation narrative on Fukushima is about to go into hyperdrive. But in the run up to the opening of the Olympics there is a window of opportunity for a wider understanding of the complex reality in Fukushima, the ongoing radiological impact and the struggle of tens of thousands of evacuees and workers to secure their legal rights.

Taking their lead from Grover, during the last two years UN Special Rapporteurs have extended the depth and range of issues they have raised with the Abe government. This escalation of intervention by the Special Rapporteurs (SR) has not been well received by the Japanese government. Official country visits by these leading experts in their fields, despite multiple requests sent from the UN in Geneva, remain blocked by the Abe government. A visit to Japan by a UN human rights SR to investigate the conditions for Fukushima citizens and workers impacted by the nuclear disaster would directly challenge Abe’s Fukushima whitewash strategy and it’s not going to happen in the year of the reconstruction games.

One of the central issues raised by the United Nations is the higher radiation exposure limit set for Fukushima citizens. As a consequence of the widespread contamination resulting from the reactor meltdowns, in particular from radio-cesium, large areas of Fukushima prefecture exceeded the 1milliSievert per year (mSv/y) recommended maximum dose limit for the public. Given the half-life of cesium-137 is 30 years, there is no prospect that in many of the evacuated areas of Fukushima dose rates would return to pre 3/11 levels for several decades and longer. By revising the upper limit to 20mSv/y, and dismissing radiation risks at that level, the government proceeded with lifting evacuation orders for some of the most contaminated areas of Fukushima, including the towns of Namie and Iitate.

There is no scientific basis for the Japanese government to dismiss low dose radiation risks. Dr David Richardson, co-author of the world’s largest cohort studies on leukemia risk from low dose radiation exposure (Lancet 2015), has recently stated that five years exposure at 20mSv a year would confer about a 30% excess risk of fatal leukemia.(HBO 2020) The Japanese government is well aware of the risks from low dose radiation – not least as it was one of the funders of the 2015 INWORKS study which found an increase in leukemia rates amongst nuclear workers with annual exposure in the range of 3-5mSv/y.

Adding to the pressure from the international community over the Abe government’s Fukushima policies, a human rights Special Rapporteur at the UN General Assembly in October 2018 warned that, “The recommendation to lower acceptable levels of exposure back to 1 mSv/yr was proposed by the Government of Germany and the Government of Japan ‘accepted to follow up’ on it, according to the UN database. However…the recommendation is not being implemented. Japan has a duty to prevent and minimize childhood exposure to radiation.” (OHCHRa 2018). The Rapporteur, Baskut Tuncak, further stated that “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Japan is a Party, contains a clear obligation on States to respect, protect and fulfill the right of the child to life, to maximum development and to the highest attainable standard of health, taking their best interests into account. This requires State parties such as Japan to prevent and minimize avoidable exposure to radiation and other hazardous substances…(and that) Japan should provide full details as to how its policy decisions in relation to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, including the lifting of evacuation orders and the setting of radiation limits at 20mSv/y, are not in contravention of the guiding principles of the Convention, including the best interests of the child…The combination of the Government’s decision to lift evacuation orders and the prefectural authorities’ decision to cease the provision of housing subsidies, places a large number of self-evacuees under immense pressure to return.”(OHCHRa 2018)

In conclusion, Baskut stated that, “The gradual lifting of evacuation orders has created enormous strains on people whose lives have already been affected by the worst nuclear disaster of this century. Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the Government previously considered safe.”

Yet, for the Japanese government there is no acknowledgement that their policies are in violation of the basic human rights their citizens are entitled to have respected. According to Japan’s Foreign Ministry, “Lifting of the evacuation order is a measure to make return possible for those who prefer to return, and not a measure to force evacuees to return…the decision of the evacuees as to whether to return to their original places to live or not is entirely up to them. The GoJ does not force them to return nor put any pressure on them to do so…”(MOFA 2018)

The radiological conditions in Fukushima are highly complex and varied but the Abe government has no intention of explaining this reality in the year of the Olympics. Expect to hear a lot more of the distorted and wholly inaccurate propaganda as stated by Reconstruction Minister Watanabe Hiromichi, when he recently told HBO TV, “With the exception of areas deemed difficult to return we have decontaminated the entire area.”(HBO 2020)

At least seventy percent of Fukushima is mountainous forest, and with the exception of a few meters along roads there has been no decontamination during the past nine years. Perhaps the largest nuclear decontamination program in history has succeeding in generating 16 million tons of nuclear waste soil(Greenpeace 2017), while failing to decontaminate the majority of the contaminated land and exposing tens of thousands of poorly trained workers to radiation (OHCHRb) at a cost of US$28 billion (as of FY2018). The contaminated forests remain a long-term source for radio-cesium, including for downstream migration and recontamination. (Ulrich 2016)

When my colleagues and I at Greenpeace surveyed the J-Village sports complex in October 2019, we were not expecting to find radiation hot spots at over 72 micro-Sieverts per hour – equal to over 1750 times background levels pre 3/11. We notified the Environment Ministry as well as domestic and international Olympic Committees.(Greenpeace 2019a) Although, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was ordered to remove this contamination in early December (TEPCO 2019), two weeks later we still measured hotspots in the public areas of J-Village.(Greenpeace 2019b) The chosen location for the start of the Olympic Torch route, the J-Village, lies 20km south of Fukushima Daiichi and in an area considered to have relatively low contamination. From our observations, decontamination has been conducted in this area during the last nine years – yet there are levels of radiation that would be declared an emergency requiring urgent action if inside a nuclear facility. They have yet to be explained by the government. This clearly does not match with Minister Watanabe’s claim that “we have decontaminated the entire area”, but just as legal obligations to uphold the domestic and international human rights of their citizens are of little concern to the Tokyo government, the radioactive reality of Fukushima can be airbrushed out of existence. The Olympics as seen by Abe provide the perfect platform to advance further its Fukushima nuclear disaster disinformation campaign on the people of Japan and beyond.

The underlying motive for Abe’s Fukushima Olympic strategy is to promote a nuclear renaissance. He and many of his colleagues in the Liberal Democratic Party are nostalgic for the pre-3/11 situation when commercial reactors generated nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity.(Schneider 2019) Compared to 2011, when 54 reactors were available, today only nine reactors have returned to operation (with three of these shutdown due to maintenance and legal challenges), and the industry remains in crisis. Despite passing some of the nuclear regulator safety requirements, (McCurry 2017) TEPCO’s prospects for restarting two of its reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant remain uncertain. The majority of the citizens of Niigata prefecture, which hosts the seven reactor site, remain strongly opposed to any operations, not least due to the major seismic risks to the safety of the reactors.(Ryall 2017) The causes and consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been a major factor in framing the thinking of Niigata citizens and this extends throughout Japan where utilities are struggling to restart reactors. The triple reactor meltdown really was a defining moment for public opinion regarding nuclear energy in Japan. Resetting this mindset for Abe, by pretending conditions in Fukushima have returned to normal and welcoming the world’s elite athletes to the largest sporting event on the planet is one way to blot out images of explosions sending radioactive plumes spewing from damaged reactors, abandoned towns and hazmat suits. In the short-term Fukushima will receive a positive makeover this summer, but a resumption of large- scale nuclear generation in Japan remains unlikely. The industry is aiming to operate 30-35 reactors by 2030, but a combination of unresolvable safety issues, legal challenges, an aging reactor fleet, and the dire financials of utilities will block this scenario. (Burnie 2016, Mainichi 2020, Schneider 2019, Nikkei 2020). In this sense, Abe’s strategy is doomed to failure and there is no sign that the Japanese public can be persuaded to support nuclear energy. Meanwhile, the human rights violations of tens of thousands of evacuees and decontamination workers will continue.

 

References

Burnie, Shaun, 2016. TEPCO Prosecution: A Sign That Japan’s Nuclear Industry Is in Free Fall”, The Diplomat, 4 March 2016.

Greenpeace, 2017. Nuclear Waste Crisis In Fukushima Decontamination Program”, December 2017.

Greenpeace, 2019a. High levels of radiation observed at J-Village in Fukushima Prefecture”, Letter to Mr. Shinjiro Koizumi Minister Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan, 18 November.

Greenpeace, 2019b. J-Village still contaminated – major uncertainties over decontamination and Olympic torch route”, 17 December.

HBO, Fukushima” Real Sports 274, January 2020.

The Lancet, 2015. Ionizing radiation and risk of death from leukemia and lymphoma in radiation- monitored workers (INWORKS): an international cohort study”, Klervi Leuraud, David B Richardson, Elisabeth Cardis, Robert D Daniels, Michael Gillies, Jacqueline A O’Hagan, Ghassan B Hamra, Richard Haylock, Dominique Laurier, Monika Moissonnier, Mary K Schubauer-Berigan, Isabelle Thierry-Chef, Ausrele Kesminiene, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Public Health England’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (PHE-CRCE), University of North Carolina (UNC), Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Drexel University – School of Public Health, Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), CIBER- BBN, IRSN laboratory Ionizing Radiation Epidemiology Laboratory (LEPID), Lancet Haematol, 22 June.

Mainichi Shimbun, 2020. Plaintiffs, supporters rejoice over court’s decision to suspend Ehime nuclear reactor”, Misa Koyama and Akari Terouchi, Hiroshima Bureau, and Yongho Lee, Fukuyama Bureau, 18 January 2020.

McCurry, Justin, 2017. Fukushima operator can restart nuclear reactors at world’s biggest plant”, The Guardian, 4 October 2017.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2018. “Response from the Government of Japan to the Joint Communication by the United Nations Human Rights Council”, MOFA, 6 November.

Nikkei, 2020. “TEPCO lending troubles Japanese banks Climate change risks cannot be ignored”, Jun Watanabe, 14 February.

OHCHR, 2013.Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”, Anand Grover Addendum Mission to Japan (15 – 26 November 2012), A/HRC/23/41/Add.3 Distr.: General 2 May 2013

OHCHR, 2018a, Japan must halt returns to Fukushima, radiation remains a concern, says UN rights expert”, 25 October.

OHCHR, 2018b,Human rights and the protection of workers from exposure to toxic substances.”

Ryall, Julian, 2017.”Japan’s TEPCO nuclear plant restarts fear of new Fukushima” Deutche Welle, 5 October.

Schneider, Mycle, ed., 2019. “World Nuclear Status Report 2019”, 27 September.

TEPCO, 2019. “Decontamination work at vicinity of J-Village”, 4 December.

Ulrich, Kendra, 2016. “Radiation Reloaded: Ecological Impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident 5 years later”, Greenpeace Japan.

 

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March 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

As If Nothing Had Occurred: Anti-Tokyo Olympics Protests and Concern Over Radiation Exposure

March 1, 2020

Akihiro Ogawa

Abstract: This paper argues the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has raised people’s awareness of concerns over radiation exposure as a form of social movement. One example is the Shinjuku demonstration, organized by the Network to Evacuate People from Radiation, which constantly advocates for protecting children from continuing radiation exposure. The group raised the issue that Olympic torch would pass through municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture where several high-level radiation hot spots are confirmed. Furthermore, concerns over radiation exposure have been also generating a grassroots movement to create the Chernobyl Law in Japan. This paper documents the emerging movement across the country, led by the Citizens’ Action for Fukushima Justice.

 

The Shinjuku Demonstration

Anti-Olympic sentiment has been embedded in the ongoing anti-nuclear movements, particularly since the announcement that Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics in September 2013.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo touched on the Fukushima problem in Tokyo’s final presentation for the Olympic bid in Buenos Aires, asserting that the government would never put Tokyo in harm’s way, stating, “[s]ome may have concerns about Fukushima. Let me assure you, the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo” (Kantei 2013).

The Japanese government pressed home the message of using the Olympics as a force in its reconstruction efforts from the March 11 disaster.

“The Olympics preparations are proceeding as if nothing had occurred,” said Okada Toshiko, one of the leaders of the Shinjuku Demo. The rally has been organized by the Network to Evacuate People from Radiation (Datsu hibaku jitsugen netto) – a loose citizens’ network calling attention to potential radiation exposure.

Okada told me that “the Friday Demonstrations in Kantei-mae in front of the Prime Minister’s Office are only focused on one issue – objection to restarting nuclear power plants, continuously shouting ‘Don’t re-start nuclear power plants.’ That is important. However, I wanted to get more attention about protecting children from continuing radiation exposure.”

She added, “I am not protesting the Olympics itself. I am objecting to hosting the Olympics while hiding such radiation exposure.”

The Shinjuku Demonstration was initiated by members who supported the Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial (Fukushima shūdan sokai saiban), which sued for the evacuation of children from Koriyama city, which had been deemed safe for habitation. On June 24, 2011, just three months after the March 11 disaster, 14 children at elementary schools and junior-high schools filed a lawsuit against Koriyama city, resorting to a court of law and demanding their right to study in a safe environment. The suit was filed against the city seeking an injunction against compulsory education activities in a radiation-contaminated environment of over 1 millisieverts (mSv) per year. The Koriyama Branch of the Fukushima District Court, however, dismissed the case on December 16, 2011. As this decision was completely unacceptable, the plaintiffs (the representatives of the 14 children) filed a formal objection at the end of 2011 before the Sendai High Court. On April 24, 2013, the Sendai High Court ruled to reject an appeal. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit argued that Koriyama city had the legal responsibility to evacuate the elementary- and junior-high-school students. Meanwhile, the court acknowledged that radiation in Koriyama city exceeded levels deemed safe prior to the disaster, but that the government shouldered no responsibility for evacuating the schools as demanded, in effect, telling people to leave at their own discretion if they were worried. However, voluntary evacuees from outside the evacuation area were not statistically classified as evacuees and were not covered by the victim support system.

The Network to Evacuate People from Radiation organized the first demonstration in February 2013 in Shinjuku and has repeated it twice a year since then. At the 13th rally, on November 9, 2019, demonstrators once again declared their concern regarding radiation exposure. The main message of the demonstration flyer (see Figure 1) is that the demonstrators will not allow the government to act as if no severe nuclear accident had occurred, and that there are ineradicable realities and violations of human rights caused by the Fukushima disaster.

 

Ogawa1Figure 1: Flyer for Shinjuku Demo on November 9, 2019

© Network to Evacuate People from Radiation (Datsu hibaku jitsugen netto) and Tetsuya Chiba

One participant protesting against the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, claimed that it was horrible that according to the current plan, the Olympic torch will pass through municipalities on the national route 6, that were heavily affected by the March 11 disaster. Those are areas in which several high-level radiation hot spots are confirmed and are designated as difficult-to-return zones (kikan konnan kuiki) by the national government. When passing through the area, cars are not even allowed to open the windows. She pointed out that despite this, the torch relay will be run by local junior and senior high school students. Furthermore, she objected to an optimistic comment aired by the state-run NHK television that people living near national route 6 wanted the world to know about Fukushima’s recovery as the children run the torch relay.

In late June 2019, I visited Hamadori, the coastal area in eastern Fukushima Prefecture where the torch relay is planned. I dropped by J-Village, a soccer-training center used as an emergency response hub for Fukushima plant workers. It was fully reopened on April 20, 2019 for the first time in eight years. This place will be the starting point for the relay on March 26, 2020 that will also pass through Okuma, a host town of the nuclear plant, where the government lifted an evacuation order on April 10, 2019. The lifting of the evacuation order at the stroke of midnight was the first of its kind for a host town of the nuclear plant, which straddles the towns of Okuma and Futaba. Meanwhile, Fukushima city, which is just 50 kms away from the ruins of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, will host Olympic baseball and softball competitions.

I had the impression that the area was far from recovery, however. The radiation dosimeter in the parking lot at J-Village read 0.120 microsieverts (µSv) per hour (see Figure 2). This figure was indeed under 0.23 µSv per hour, the official Japanese government’s decontamination threshold. However, during my fieldwork, I found that people do not trust the measurement, saying that the official measurements need to be treated with caution since the authorities have a vested interest in downplaying radiation dose levels. In fact, in December 2019, Greenpeace Japan revealed that the radiation levels around J-Village Stadium were as high as 71 µSv per hour at surface level. This is 1,775 times higher than the 0.04 µSv per hour prior to the Fukushima Daiichi triple reactor meltdown in 2011. These facts had never been released by the government (Greenpeace 2019).

 

Ogawa2Figure 2: Radiation dosimeter at J-Village, a photo taken by the author, June 24, 2019

Greenpeace Japan sent a letter to Japan’s Environmental Minister Koizumi Shinjiro, demanding immediate decontamination measures and an assurance that the public will not be exposed to radiation hot spots during the Olympics and Paralympics events at J-Village. At about the same time, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) Germany (IPPNW Germany 2019), issued a statement on the radiation risk, arguing that the Olympic Games should not be used to distract from the fate of the people affected by the reactor meltdown but rather to make sure their needs, worries, and demands are properly addressed. They are trying to do just that with their campaign “Tokyo 2020 – The Radioactive Olympics.” Dr. Alex Rosen, chairman of the German IPPNW, explained in the press release: “We are concerned about the health consequences of radioactive contamination, especially for people with increased vulnerability toward radiation, such as pregnant women and children.” (IPPNW European Affiliates 2019)

 

Toward Creating a “Chernobyl Law” in Japan

Social movements in Japan have entered a new phase since 2011 following the March 11 disaster (Ogawa 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018, forthcoming [2020a]). Social movements are change-orientated political formations, and I have been also observing that people are becoming more strategic in their efforts to drive social change. Instead of just protesting the government’s nuclear policy, or demanding that the government abandon nuclear power plants, ordinary citizens are taking specific actions to change their lives. One example is a grassroots initiative across Japan constructing renewable energy or mostly solar panels as it is relatively easy to set up the panels (see Ogawa forthcoming [2020b]). People have started building self-sufficient, sustainable lives by their own efforts.

I have also observed another initiative to make change, a social movement organized by the Citizens’ Action for Fukushima Justice, in co-ordination with the Network to Evacuate People from Radiation. Citizens who are concerned about radiation exposure have focused their efforts on the eventual creation of a Japanese version of the “Chernobyl Law.” The Chernobyl Law was promulgated in 1991, five years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, by three republics of the former Soviet Union – Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus – to help the people affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It was aimed at protecting the lives and health of citizens affected by radiation exposure, and indeed was the first law in the world that explicitly covered the universal human right to life of people affected by a radiation disaster. This law guaranteed the right to evacuation for the residents living in the areas contaminated by radiation, while providing social security to the people living in the areas to which the evacuation orders were issued. Under the Chernobyl Law, areas in which the amount of contamination is more than 1 millisievert per year were designated as areas covered by the right of relocation. It included help with finding a job, accommodation, medical treatment, and securing food supplies. Meanwhile, the Japanese government raised the dose limit for radiation exposure from 1 millisievert to 20 millisievert per year after the Fukushima disaster on April 19, 2011 (MEXT 2011), and the government still maintains the same standard.

Yanagihara Toshio, a lawyer who previously represented the plaintiffs at the Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial, has been leading this Japanese effort to enact the “Chernobyl Law in Japan.” Yanagihara told me that the Tokyo Olympics would be a great chance to raise awareness of concerns over radiation exposure. He even expects that pressures or criticism over radiation exposure by foreign countries might be effective in Japan. “The Tokyo Olympics would be a stepping-stone where everyone realizes the necessity of the Chernobyl Law in Japan, as the Seoul Olympics paved the way to building democracy in South Korea.”

As the first step to institutionalize the Chernobyl Law in Japan, Yanagihara and other members proposed the creation of a series of local ordinances on the rights to evacuation across the country. He refers to the previous experience of grassroots support for the national Information Disclosure Law. This law was a product of the cumulative efforts made by the citizens across the country – they requested their municipal and prefectural governments to create a local ordinance on information disclosure, members of the councils discussed the request, and then enacted the local ordinances promoting freedom of information. Originally, this started in 1982 in Kanayama-machi, a small rural town in Yamagata Prefecture, and then spread in 1983 to Saitama and Kanagawa Prefectures. Other prefectures and municipalities soon followed suit. This citizens’ movement eventually led to the promulgation of the Information Disclosure Law at the national level in 1999 that was enacted in April 2001.

The Citizens’ Action for Fukushima Justice prepared the template for a draft proposal of a local ordinance, which people can use as a model.

Chernobyl Law in Japan (excerpt)

Preamble: The State cannot escape liability unconditionally for a radiological disaster.
The State assumes responsibility not only for compensating for the damage suffered by the radiation disaster but also for fulfilling people’s right to relocation. As a result, due to the enforcement of this ordinance, we claim that the expenses expended by the municipality of [subject to insert the name here] should originally be borne by the government, and the government has a duty to amend the law.

Article 1 (Purpose): The purpose is to protect the lives, health, and livelihood of citizens from nuclear accidents and radiation disasters.

Article 2 (Principal): The municipality of [subject to insert the name here] guarantees the right of relocation, the right to evacuation, and the right to sound health of the victims of the nuclear accident.

Article 5 (Consideration for vulnerable people): Care must be taken to protect the lives and health of radiologically sensitive fetuses and children.

Article 8 (Classification of radioactively contaminated areas): Areas with an annual additional exposure of 0.5 msv/year or more are defined as areas with enhanced radiation management. Areas with an annual additional exposure of 1 msv/year or more are designated as relocation-rights areas.

Article 11 (Right to choose relocation): If people in a contaminated area chose to relocate or evacuate, the rights guaranteed these residents by the municipality include payment of moving expenses, housing compensation, and employment support at the relocation destination; loss compensation for real estate, household goods, and products (including marine products) from the original relocation source; free medical supplies, 70% coverage of medical examination and recuperation expenses, issuance of a victim’s notebook, and pension benefits.

Article 12 (Right to choose to remain): If people choose to remain and not evacuate, the municipality guarantees free medical treatment, free medical supplies, 70% coverage of medical examinations and recuperation expenses, compensation for loss of contaminated products (including seafood), issuance of a victim’s notebook, and pension benefits. The article also requires the municipality to establish a radioactive food control section to inspect radioactive food and tap water for contamination in order to prevent unnecessary radiation exposure.

Some local initiatives calling for the creation of a Japanese Chernobyl Law have actually started. Ise city, Mie Prefecture in central Japan, was the first city to take such a step. Ueno Masami, director of the Fukushima-Iseshima Association (https://fukushima-iseshima.jimdofree.com/), an NPO group supporting recuperation for children from Fukushima, put out a call for co-operation on July 8, 2017 on the group’s website to enact a Japanese Chernobyl Law. The call was originally in Japanese, and an English version is available here on their website.

Ueno and her group campaigned for a local ordinance that protects the health and safety of people from radiation exposure. In August 2019, the group started taking action and they got approval from the mayor of Ise city to bring the issue to the council. However, in order to make it actually happen, the group needed to increase the number of municipal council members who agree or collect a certain number of signatures (or 1/50th of the municipal population of 18+ years) in a designated period (one month) to bring the agenda to the municipal assembly to formally discuss. The group chose the latter method, but only collected 64 percent of the required numbers during the one-month period and their bid was not successful. This seemed primarily due to insufficient preparation, and the group did not get enough attention. Undeterred, they will begin collecting signatures again in March 2020.

As of January 2020, discussions have also started in some local municipalities such as Chofu (Tokyo), Koriyama (Fukushima), and Kiyose (Tokyo). As we come closer to the date of the Tokyo Olympics, we need to keep an eye on the developments in these municipalities regarding local campaigns for a Japanese Chernobyl Law. Updates will be available at the Citizens’ Action for Fukushima Justice website.

 

 

 

References

Greenpeace Japan 2019. High-level radiation hot spots found at J-Village, the starting point of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay. Last accessed on January 28, 2020

IPPNW Germany. 2019. Doctors’ prescription for the Tokyo Olympics. Last accessed on January 28, 2020

IPPNW European Affiliates. 2019. Tokyo 2020 – The Radioactive Olympics. Last accessed on January 28, 2020

Kantei (Prime Minister’s Office of Japan) 2013. A Script of Prime Minister Abe’s September 2013 Speech to the International Olympic Committee in Buenos Aires. Last accessed on January 28, 2020

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). 2011. 福島県内の学校の校舎・校庭等の利用判断における暫定的考え方について [On a provisional idea about the usage of school buildings and grounds in Fukushima Prefecture]. Last accessed on January 28, 2020

Ogawa, Akihiro. 2013. Young Precariat at the Forefront: Anti-Nuclear Rallies in Post-Fukushima Japan. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 14(2): 317–326.

Ogawa, Akihiro. 2014. The Right to Evacuation: The Self-Determined Future of Post-Fukushima Japan. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 15(4): 648–658.

Ogawa, Akihiro. 2016. Japan’s Awakening Protest Movement. Invited article by the Asian Studies Association of Australia.

Ogawa, Akihiro. 2018. Security Paradigms and Social Movements: The Changing Nature of Japanese Peace Activism. Asian Journal of Social Science 46(6): 725–747

Ogawa, Akihiro. Forthcoming [2020a]. フクシマ発で核を考える:国境を越えて連帯する「反核世界社会フォーラム」. 後藤康夫, 後藤宣代編 『21世紀の新しい社会運動とフクシマ 』東京:八朔社 [Thinking about the nuclear from Fukushima: anti-nuclear world social forums which connect people beyond national boarders. In New social movements in the 21st Century and Fukushima, Yasuo Goto and Nobuyo Goto, eds. Tokyo: Hassakusha]

Ogawa, Akihiro. Forthcoming [2020b]. “Community Power”: Renewable Energy Policy and Production in Post Fukushima Japan. In New Frontiers in Japanese Studies. Akihiro Ogawa and Philip Seaton, eds. London; New York: Routledge.

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March 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and the Tokyo Olympics

2020_1

March 1, 2020

Koide Hiroaki

Translation, with notes and references, by Norma Field

Abstract: The Olympic games have always been used to display national might. In recent years, they have become tools for businesses, especially construction companies, which create, and then destroy, large public structures, leading to a colossally wasteful society from which they derive stupendous profit. What is important now is to give relief to those who continue to suffer from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and at the very least, to protect children, who are blameless, from exposure. Casting sidelong glances at the vast numbers of victims, the perpetrators, including TEPCO, government officials, scholars, and the media, have utterly failed to take responsibility.

 

What was the Fukushima Nuclear Accident?

On March 11, 20011, the Tokyo Electric Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was assaulted by a severe earthquake and tsunami, leading to a total power outage. Experts had been agreed that total outage would be the likeliest cause of a catastrophic incident. And just as anticipated, the reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant suffered meltdowns and released enormous quantities of radioactive materials into the surrounding environment. According to the report submitted by the Japanese government to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), this accident released 1.5×1016 becquerels (Bq) of cesium 137 into the atmosphere—the equivalent of 168 Hiroshima bombs. One Hiroshima bomb’s worth of radioactivity is already terrifying, but we have the Japanese government acknowledging that the Fukushima disaster released 168 times the radioactivity of that explosion into the atmosphere (Japanese Government, 2011; METI, 2011; UNSCEAR, 2000).

The cores of reactors 1, 2, and 3 melted down. The amount of cesium 137 contained in those cores adds up to 7×1017 Bq, or 8000 Hiroshima bombs’ worth. Of that total, the amount released into the atmosphere was the equivalent of 168 bombs, and combined with releases into the sea, the total release of cesium 137 into the environment to date must be approximately equivalent to 1000 Hiroshima bombs. In other words, most of the radioactive material in those cores remains in the damaged reactor buildings. If the cores were to melt any further, there would be more releases into the environment. It is in order to prevent this that even now, nearly 8 years after the accident, water continues to be aimed by guesswork in the direction where the cores might be located. And because of this, several hundred tons of contaminated waste water are accumulating each day. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has constructed over 1000 tanks on site to store this water, but the total volume now exceeds one million tons. Space is limited, and there is a limit as well to the number of tanks that can be constructed. TEPCO will be compelled to release these waters into the sea in the near future.

 

Obstacles to containing the disaster

Of course, the greatest priority is to secure the melted cores in as safe a condition as possible, but even with the passage of nearly eight years, neither their location nor their condition has been ascertained.1 The reason is that it is impossible to access those sites. Had this accident occurred at a thermal power plant, the problem would have been simple. In the beginning, there might have been fires burning over several days, but once they died down, it would have been possible to go to the site, investigate, repair, and restart operations. But in the case of a nuclear power plant, anyone approaching the site would die. The government and TEPCO have attempted to send in robots, but robots do not stand up well to radiation. The reason is that once their microchips are exposed, their programs get rewritten. Accordingly, almost all the robots sent in to date have failed to return.

Toward the end of January 2017, TEPCO inserted a device resembling a remote-controlled endoscope into the concrete platform (pedestal) under the reactor pressure vessel. A large hole that had opened up in the steel scaffolding used by workers during maintenance, located directly under the pressure vessel, made it possible to ascertain the following: the fuel core had melted through the pressure vessel and fallen further down. The investigation yielded something even more important, however. For human beings, exposure to 8 sieverts (Sv) will result in certain death. The area directly under the pressure vessel measured 20 Sv/hour, but along the way, levels as high as 530 or 650 Sv were detected. These measurements, moreover, were found not inside the cylindrical pedestal, but between the wall of the pedestal and the wall of the containment structure. TEPCO and the government had scripted a scenario wherein most of the melted core had been deposited, dumpling-like, inside the pedestal, to be retrieved and sealed inside a containment structure in the course of 30-40 years. According to this scenario, the conclusion of this process would signify the achievement of containment. In reality, however, the melted nuclear fuel had flowed out of the pedestal and scattered all around. Forced to rewrite their “roadmap,” the government and TEPCO began talking about making an opening on the side of the containment structure through which the melted fuel could be grasped and removed. That, however, is an impossibility. It would entail severe worker exposure.

From the beginning, I have maintained that the only option is to construct a sarcophagus, as was done at the Chernobyl site in the former Soviet Union. That sarcophagus deteriorated to such an extent in 30 years’ time as to require coverage by a second sarcophagus, put in place in November 2016. The second sarcophagus is expected to last for 100 years. We do not yet know what measures will be available at that point. No one who is alive today can expect to see the containment of the Chernobyl disaster. All the more so in the case of Fukushima: the containment of this disaster will not have been achieved even after all who are alive today have died. Moreover, even if it were hypothetically possible to seal the molten core inside the containment structure, that will not mean that the radioactivity will have vanished. Indeed, it would be necessary to protect any such structure for hundreds of thousands to a million years.

 

Declaration of a Nuclear Emergency: The human consequences

Tragedy continues to unfold in the environs of the plant. On the day of the disaster, the government issued a Declaration of a Nuclear Emergency, and mandatory evacuation zones were expanded, beginning at 3 kilometers from the plant, then 10, then 20. Residents in those areas had to leave their homes, taking only what they could carry. Livestock and pets were abandoned. That is not all. Iitate Village, located 40-50 kilometers away from Fukushima Daiichi, received no warnings or instructions immediately after the accident, but one month later, on the grounds of extreme contamination, the entire village was ordered to evacuate.

What do we mean when we talk about happiness? For many people, happiness likely supposes uneventful days, one unfolding after the other, in the company of family, friends, neighbors, lovers. This is what was ruptured, one day, without warning. Evacuees first went to centers, such as gymnasiums, then to cramped temporary housing, then to “reconstruction” housing or public housing temporarily “declared” to be evacuee quarters. Family members with shared lives until then were scattered apart. Their livelihood destroyed, people have been taking their own lives out of despair.

This is not all. Even outside the mandatory evacuation zones, there emerged vast contaminated areas that by all rights should have been designated “radiation control zones.” These are areas where only radiation workers, those who earn their living by handling radiation, are permitted entry. And even those workers, once they enter a control zone, are not permitted to drink water or eat food. Naturally, it is forbidden to sleep. There are no toilets. The government, on the grounds that an emergency situation prevails, has scrapped the usual regulations and abandoned several million people to live in contaminated areas. These people, including infants, drink the water, eat, and sleep in those areas. They have of course been burdened with the risks associated with exposure. And thus abandoned, they are all surely subject to anxiety. Some, seeking to avoid exposure, gave up their jobs and evacuated with their entire families. Others, wishing to protect at least their children from exposure, have split up, with fathers staying behind to pursue their jobs in contaminated areas and mothers leaving with their children. But this has damaged household stability and wrecked family relationships. Staying in contaminated areas hurts the body, but evacuation crushes the soul. These abandoned people have been living in anguish every day for nearly eight years.

On top of this, in March of 2017, the government instructed those it had once ordered to leave, or those who had left of their own volition, to return to those contaminated areas so long as the radiation levels did not exceed 20 millisieverts/year (mSv). The housing assistance it had offered these people, however unsatisfactory, was terminated. This has inevitably meant that some people are forced to return. In Fukushima today, reconstruction is considered the highest priority. If people feel no choice but to live there, then of course, reconstruction becomes desirable. They cannot tolerate living in fear day after day. They would like to forget about the contamination, and fortunately or not, radioactivity is invisible. The central and local governments take active measures to make them forget. Anyone voicing concern or referring to contamination is subject to criticism: they are obstructing reconstruction.

20 mSv per year is the level of exposure permitted only for radiation workers, such as I once was. It is hard to forgive the fact that this level is now being imposed on people who derive no benefit from exposure. Moreover, infants and children, who are especially sensitive to radiation, have no responsibility for the recklessness of Japanese nuclear policy, let alone for the Fukushima disaster. It is not permissible to apply occupational levels of exposure to them. The government of Japan, however, says nothing can be done given the Declaration of a Nuclear Emergency. We can understand an emergency lasting for one day, a whole week, one month, or depending on the circumstances, even for one year. But in fact, the Declaration of a Nuclear Emergency has not been rescinded even after nearly eight years have passed. The government is eager to make people forget about the Fukushima disaster. Media have fallen silent. Most Japanese have been driven to forget that conditions are such that make it impossible to rescind the Declaration even while the regulations that should prevail have been scrapped. The principal culprit in radioactive contamination is cesium 137, with a half-life of 30 years. Even after the passage of 100 years, it will have diminished by only one-tenth. In point of fact, even after 100 years, Japan will be in a state of nuclear emergency.

 

The Olympic games in a state of nuclear emergency and the crimes of the Japanese nation

The Olympic games have always been used to display national might. In recent years, they have become tools for businesses, especially construction companies, which create, and then destroy, large public structures, leading to a colossally wasteful society from which they derive stupendous profit. What is important now is for the state to mobilize all its resources so that the Declaration of a Nuclear Emergency can be rescinded as soon as possible. The priority should be to give relief to those who continue to suffer from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and at the very least, to protect children, who are blameless, from exposure. The greater the risks facing a society, the more those in power seek to avert peoples’ eyes. The mass media will try to whip up Olympic fever, and there will come a time when those who oppose the Olympics will be denounced as traitors. So it was during World War II: the media broadcast only the proclamations from Imperial Headquarters, and virtually all citizens cooperated in the war effort. The more you thought yourself an upstanding Japanese, the more likely you were to condemn your fellow citizens as traitors. If, however, this is a country that chooses to prioritize the Olympic games over the blameless citizens it has abandoned, then I shall gladly become a traitor.

The Fukushima disaster will proceed in 100-year increments, freighted with enormous tragedies. Casting sidelong glances at the vast numbers of victims, the perpetrators, including TEPCO, government officials, scholars, and the media, have utterly failed to take responsibility. Not a single one has been punished.2 Taking advantage of this, they are trying to restart the reactors that are currently stopped and to export them overseas. The Tokyo Olympics will take place in a state of nuclear emergency. Those countries and people who participate will, on the one hand, themselves risk exposure, and, on the other, become accomplices to the crimes of this nation.

 

23 August 2018

 

 

References

Japanese Government. (2011). “Discharge of Radioactive Materials to the Environment,” Report of the Japanese Government to the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety: The Accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations. June.

Johnson, D.T., Fukurai, Hiroshi, & Hirayama, M. (2020). “Reflections on the TEPCO Trial: Prosecution and Acquittal after Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown.” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. June 15.

METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, 2011). “News Release: Tokyo Denryoku Kabushikigaisha Fukushima Daiichi Genshiryoku Hatsudensho oyobi Hiroshima ni tōka sareta genshibakudan kara hōshutsu sareta hōshaseibusshitsu ni kansuru shisan ni tsuite”[On the estimates of radioactive materials discharged by Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima]; “Kaiseki de taishō to shita kikan de no taikichū e no hōshaseibusshitsu no hōshutsuryō no shisanchi (Bq)” [Estimates derived by calculation for radioactive materials discharged into the atmosphere during the period in question], “Hiroshima gembaku de no taikichū e no hōshaseibusshitsu no hōshutsuryō no shisanchi (Bq)” [Estimates of radioactive materials discharged into the atmosphere by the Hiroshima atomic bomb (Bq)]. August 26.

New York Times. (2019). “Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Trial Ends with Acquittals of 3 Executives.” September 19.

UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, 2000). Annex C, “Exposures to the Public from Man-made Sources of Radiation,” Sources and Effects of Ionizing Radiation.

World Nuclear News. (2019). “Tepco makes contact with melted fuel in Unit 2.” February 13.

Notes

1

On February 13, 2019, TEPCO released photos showing first contact with melted fuel debris in unit 2 (World Nuclear News, 2019).

2

There are currently more than 30 civil cases winding their way through the courts, but only one criminal proceeding in Tokyo District Court, with three former TEPCO executives as defendants, charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury. All three were acquitted on September 19, 2019 (New York Times, 2019; Johnson et al., 2020). The decision has been appealed.

https://apjjf.org/2020/5/Koide.html

March 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Japan to close temporary all schools nationwide to control spread of virus

hkjkmùPrime Minister Shinzo Abe announces the government’s plan to ask all schools in Japan to cancel classes from March 2 until spring break amid the spread of the new coronavirus in the country, during a meeting of the coronavirus task force headquarters at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, on Feb. 27, 2020.

Abe asks all schools in Japan to temporarily close over coronavirus

February 27, 2020

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday the government will request all elementary, junior high and high schools in Japan to close from Monday until the end of a spring break through early April amid concern over the spread of the new coronavirus.

In a meeting of a government task force to fight the virus, Abe cited “children’s health and safety” as the top priority and said the measure, which also includes schools for special needs education across Japan, is intended to better cope with a risk of infection to be generated by students and teachers spending long hours together.

Abe also asked schools to take the best possible steps to prevent infection, such as minimizing the number of participants, if they are to hold entrance exams and graduation ceremonies in the coming weeks.

Japan’s school year ends in March and a new academic year typically starts in early April.

Abe announced the measure as opposition parties have stepped up criticism of his administration for not responding quickly enough, with the number of confirmed COVID-19 patients continuing to rise in Japan and the end of the outbreak of the China-originated, pneumonia-causing virus not yet in sight.

The number of confirmed infections in Japan topped 900 on Thursday, including over 700 from the Diamond Princess, a virus-hit cruise ship docked in Yokohama near Tokyo.

Given that schoolchildren are expected to stay home in the coming weeks, Abe requested that government agencies and companies allow workers to take days off so they can spend more time with their families.

Nursery schools will be excluded from the nationwide closure request, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Abe also instructed the government to “prepare necessary legislation to curb the spread of infections and minimize the impact on the lives of people as well as the economy.”

Meanwhile, some schoolteachers expressed concern about the prime minister’s request as they have to adjust class and event schedules.

“A one-month closure is unheard of and its impact will be significant,” said a teacher at a public elementary school in Tokyo.

“I’m in the middle of discussions with my colleagues on how to determine grades for students and distribute them,” he said.

Abe’s announcement came as a number of schools have already decided to close or scale down their activities.

Earlier Thursday, the Osaka city government said it will temporarily close all city-run elementary and junior high schools, and kindergartens from the following day through March 13 amid the coronavirus outbreak.

It will diminish the scale of graduation ceremonies scheduled during the closure period by limiting the number of participants and shortening program hours as well, according to the most populated city in Japan outside the Tokyo metropolitan area.

“We will conduct a simultaneous shutdown to ensure safety and prevent expansion of infections,” Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui said at a meeting with senior city officials.

During the closure, schools will gather information on health conditions of students from parents and report to the education board if they find any concerns.

In Tokyo, Ochanomizu University said the state-run institution will close affiliated kindergarten, elementary school, and junior and senior high schools from Friday for about a month until early April, following a spring break.

Prince Hisahito, the 13-year-old nephew of Emperor Naruhito, attends the junior high school affiliated with the university.

“I believe it’s an unprecedented closure for such an extended period of time,” a university official said.

Similarly, most of the 1,600 elementary and junior high schools on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido were already closed Thursday for a week.

The action came a day after the Hokkaido board of education urged local authorities to temporarily close all public and private elementary and junior high schools in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

Machiko Inari, a 40-year-old resident of Hakodate, said she will take a week off to look after her daughter, a fifth-grader, and son, a kindergarten student.

“Although it will affect my work and co-workers, it’s better if it reduces the risk of infection for children as the disease is still relatively unknown,” she said.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200227/p2g/00m/0na/101000c?fbclid=IwAR0qLSuKf8CkSUrIoz6JaZTdjusHkho-FH4xFWD30Gwx7PxRQI_Duemc7UI

jhkjmùùJapan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, speaks during a meeting of a task force on the new coronavirus at his official residence in Tokyo Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. Abe was asking all elementary, middle and high schools to remain shut until spring holidays begin in late March.

Japan to close schools nationwide to control spread of virus

February 27, 2020

TOKYO — Japan will close schools nationwide to help control the spread of the new virus, the government announced Thursday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked all elementary, middle and high schools to remain shut until spring holidays begin in late March.

The measure affects 12.8 million students at 34,847 schools nationwide, the education ministry said.

It does not affect DODEA schools for now, said Todd Schlitz, the DODEA-Pacific chief of staff.

Abe’s announcement came hours after several local governments announced their own decisions to suspend classes.

“The coming week or two is an extremely important time,” Abe said. “This is to prioritize the health and safety of the children and take precautions to avoid the risk of possible large-scale infections for many children and teachers who gather and spend hours together every day.”

The decision comes amid growing concern about the rise in the number of untraceable cases of the virus in northern Japan and elsewhere. Japan now has more than 890 cases, including 705 from a quarantined cruise ship. An eighth death from the virus was confirmed Thursday in Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, now considered a site of growing cluster.

Officials in the northernmost main island of Hokkaido said they were closing all 1,600 elementary and middle schools. Hokkaido now has 54 confirmed cases, the largest in in the country outside the cruise ship.

The emergency school closures come as schools were busy preparing for graduation ceremonies at the end of the school year. Koizumi primary school Vice Principal Norinobu Sawada said the decision to suspend classes was unavoidable.

“The most important thing is to prevent infections, so there aren’t many other options,” he said.

https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/japan-to-close-schools-nationwide-to-control-spread-of-virus-1.620472?fbclid=IwAR0d9U0Njl2jOMWT3ZSN3QKp-JNP-M0tNjeVGFtqpgndawNcASVMiOf72o8

March 2, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Rise in COVID-19 cases in Japan prompts 9 countries to restrict travel to and from Japan

A significant uptick in COVID-19 cases across Japan has triggered a flurry of advisories worldwide about travel to the country, with at least nine governments calling on their citizens to refrain from nonessential visits or to exercise increased caution during trips.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi confirmed Friday that the nine countries — Israel, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Samoa, Tonga, Micronesia, Kiribati, Bhutan and South Korea — had issued warnings against travel to Japan, one of the nations hit hardest by the new coronavirus epidemic.

 

n-alerts-a-20200225-870x571Health minister Katsunobu Kato (second from right) attends a meeting of infectious disease experts held Monday at the ministry to discuss measures to tackle the new coronavirus outbreak in Japan

Rise in COVID-19 cases in Japan prompts travel advisory revisions

Feb 24, 2020

A significant uptick in COVID-19 cases across Japan has triggered a flurry of advisories worldwide about travel to the country, with at least nine governments calling on their citizens to refrain from nonessential visits or to exercise increased caution during trips.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi confirmed Friday that the nine countries — Israel, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Samoa, Tonga, Micronesia, Kiribati, Bhutan and South Korea — had issued warnings against travel to Japan, one of the nations hit hardest by the new coronavirus epidemic.

On its official website, the Samoan government strongly recommends that all persons intending to travel to China and any country affected by the coronavirus “postpone their travel arrangements unless necessary.” Samoa also warned that Japanese passport-holders must self-quarantine for at least 14 days at their point of departure, and must undergo medical clearance within three days prior to their trip to Samoa.

Thai media outlets have widely reported that the country’s Public Health Ministry is advising Thais planning to visit Japan to postpone their trips. The Thai government said the coronavirus outbreaks in Japan and Singapore had reached “the third stage” in which a growing number of infected residents have no record of contact with Chinese people or any history of traveling to China, where the virus is thought to have originated.

Israel’s safety measures follow reports that two Israelis were found to have contracted the virus after they were evacuated from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama Port, where they had spent around two weeks under quarantine.

About 10 Israelis were aboard the ship. Israel was one of about a dozen countries that arranged chartered flights to bring their citizens home last week, in an emergency measure aimed at protecting the evacuees from the virus.

All the evacuees had boarded the charter planes on condition that they tested negative for COVID-19. But at least 14 Americans, six Australians, four U.K. nationals and two Israelis have tested positive so far after returning home from Japan.

On Sunday, after the viral infections were confirmed in the evacuees from the Diamond Princess, Israel announced its entry ban for Japanese travelers and residents of Japan who had visited Japan or South Korea 14 days prior to their arrival, effective from Monday.

Micronesia has also barred direct entry for people from Japan.

Until last weekend, the Diamond Princess remained the biggest COVID-19 cluster outside of China with nearly 700 people found to have developed symptoms of COVID-19 or been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes the disease.

On Monday, the total number of 763 cases reported in South Korea, which is struggling to contain a snowballing coronavirus outbreak of its own, surpassed that of the Diamond Princess.

But with 149 cases reported within Japan as of Monday evening the nationwide total including those from the ship was brought to 840, prompting other governments to upgrade their health advisories concerning travel to the nation.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has also issued a low-level travel advisory for Japan, warning of “sustained community spread” of the virus across the country through unknown routes of transmission.

In its notice, the CDC suggested older adults and those with chronic medical conditions — who may be at higher risk from severe disease — should discuss their plans with a health care provider and consider postponing nonessential travel. They also warned Americans considering trips to Japan of possible travel delays, quarantine and extremely expensive medical costs if they are suspected to have become infected with the virus.

Australia has also adjusted its advice for Japan. The Australian Government announced Sunday on Twitter that it recommends Australians exercise a high degree of caution in Japan due to an increased risk of sustained local transmission of the new coronavirus.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/02/24/national/japan-covid-19-travel-advisories/#.Xlf7OEpCeUl

hjjlkmùA tea ceremony is held during an ume-viewing festival at Kitano Tenmangu shrine in Kyoto, western Japan, on Feb. 25, 2020.

7 countries restrict entry from Japan to thwart new virus spread

February 25, 2020

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Seven countries have restricted entry to Japanese nationals and those traveling from Japan in an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Tuesday.

The countries are Israel, Samoa, Micronesia, Kiribati, Comoros, Tuvalu, and the Solomon Islands, Motegi said at a news conference.

The virus, which originated in China and causes a disease known as COVID-19, has spread across the globe infecting more than 78,000 people. There are over 800 confirmed cases of infection in Japan, with many from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama.

Japan has asked Israel to remove the travel restrictions, and briefed each country about Tokyo’s fight against the virus outbreak.

Motegi asked people to check the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s website before making travel plans.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200225/p2g/00m/0na/069000c?fbclid=IwAR12dFKxr49FfRcYfvEYrwsMflKd13BtUkmhSd6DPeYGjaEDoDztfE1ecuY

 

March 2, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Could the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Be a Victim of COVID-19?

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February 20, 2020

In a promotional video featuring Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, as well as fans of different nationalities, the organizing committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games revealed on Feb. 17 the event’s official motto: United by Emotion.

Yet if there’s one emotion linking the world today, it might be fear. The COVID-19 outbreak shows little sign of weakening. As of Feb. 19, the disease has infected more than 75,000, killed 2,014 and prompted over 50 countries and territories to close their borders to arrivals from China. The “devil” virus, as Chinese President Xi Jinping has called it, has already surpassed the combined death toll of SARS and MERS and lies on the cusp of becoming a pandemic that spreads around the globe. The next few weeks will determine whether containment efforts can prevent COVID-19 becoming the “black swan event” that Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang has warned may derail the global economy.

The economic repercussions already look severe. According to analysis by research firm Capital Economics, COVID-19 will cost the world economy over $280 billion in the first quarter of this year, meaning that global GDP will not grow from one quarter to the next for the first time since 2009. China’s growth is expected to slow to 4.5% over the same period. Some 5 million companies have Chinese suppliers, according to data company Dun & Bradstreet, and all are under threat from slashed manufacturing capacity.

Korean automaker Hyundai has shut its huge factory in Ulsan due to a shortage of parts. Apple has told investors it will fail to meet quarterly revenue targets and warned of global “iPhone supply shortages” from the shutting of Chinese factories. The slowdown may also undermine U.S. plans to massively boost exports of agricultural goods, energy and services to China, hampering any potential recovery in farming communities and the Rust Belt.

Travel in and around the region has ebbed significantly. Some 21 airlines have cancelled all flights to mainland China. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific has cut 40% of network capacity and asked 27,000 employees to take unpaid leave to help it stay afloat. Events from the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens to K-Pop concerts have been cancelled or postponed.

Now, speculation is mounting about one of the year’s biggest events due to take place directly in the orbit of the outbreak—the 2020 Olympic Games, which are to be held in Tokyo beginning July 24. Japan has the second highest rate of COVID-19 infections after China, with 695 people testing positive for the virus, most of them on a cruise ship docked at the city of Yokohama. Yet the Olympics torch relay is due to begin next month and traverse to all of Japan’s 47 prefectures over 121 days, coinciding with its popular cherry blossom bloom.

The chill on visitor numbers across Asia already risk making the Games a subdued affair. Japan received 9.6 million visitors from China in 2019, accounting for a third of foreign tourist expenditure, but Chinese arrivals have virtually ceased since the outbreak. According to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, Tokyo 2020 organizing committee chief executive Toshiro Muto said on Feb.5 he was “extremely worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the Games.”

Officials have since closed ranks as speculation about the Games has increased. Organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori insisted Feb. 13, “we are not considering a cancelation or postponement of the Games—let me make that clear.” As he spoke, some 3,700 people remained quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise liner, anchored less than two miles from Yokohama Baseball stadium, a key Tokyo 2020 venue. (Those uninfected were scheduled for release beginning Feb. 19.)

Four days later, the city canceled the Tokyo Marathon due to take place on March 1 for all except elite runners. Dick Pound, a former Olympian swimmer and member of the International Olympic Committee, told TIME the organisation was monitoring the situation closely but said no one was talking about relocation or cancelation with five months still to go. “If there’s a legitimate pandemic that is potentially a lot more lethal than normal illnesses of flu, that’s when you need to start thinking about it. But not at this stage.”

Mori’s confidence is in line with projections that COVID-19 will fade during warmer and more humid summer months, as SARS did in 2003. But it’s still not clear why SARS declined as temperatures rose. Some coronavirus strains—like MERS—thrive in the heat, says Prof. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota. The theory of COVID-19’s summer regress is simply “based on wishful thinking,” he says. “There is no data to support it.”

It’s hard to overstate the economic impact on Japan were the Olympics forced to be canceled or relocated. The investment surrounding the event is staggering; the Games are set to cost $25 billion, according to latest predictions, nearly four times the original estimate. According to hospitality research firm CBRE Hotels, 80,000 hotel rooms were forecast to open across Japan’s nine major cities between 2019 and 2021. Tokyo’s Okura hotel reopened in September after a $1 billion renovation. In May, national carrier Japan Airlines is due to launch a low cost subsidiary, Zipair Tokyo, at a cost of around $200 million, to meet increased demand surrounding the Olympics. It will be based at Tokyo Narita International Airport, which is currently undergoing an expansion to nearly double capacity. (Tokyo’s other main airport, Haneda, is also due to boost capacity by 70%.)

The coronavirus is already keeping international visitors away beyond China. Capital Economics research suggests tourism arrivals in Japan will fall by 40% this quarter due to COVID-19, knocking off 0.4 percentage points from growth. The U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization forecasts that Japan could lose $1.29 billion in tourism revenue over the same period. Koichiro Takahara, CEO of Tokyo-based ride-sharing app nearMe, says he fears the Olympics could get cancelled if the outbreak worsens. That, he says, “would have a big impact on my business, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.”

It would also impose a political cost on Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Already, his insistence during the bidding process that radiation from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown would be tackled has been called out after Greenpeace found radiation hotspots in December near where the Olympic torch relay will pass. Similar assurances that COVID-19 will not disrupt the Games will be treated with skepticism, says Jules Boykoff, a politics professor at Pacific University, Oregon who studies the Olympics and played soccer for Team USA. “For many, when they hear Abe and other officials saying that COVID-19 will not affect the Olympics, they hear the unmistakable ring of previous empty promises.”

But it’s unclear what a Plan B might look like. Simon Chadwick, professor of the Eurasian Sport Industry at France’s Emlyon business School, suggests a networked event held across different countries is a more likely alternative. (The 2020 UEFA European Soccer Championships and 2022 Commonwealth Games are slated for such a format.) Yet there will be considerable resistance from sponsors and broadcasters who have already ploughed vast resources into securing rights deals and promotional activities. NBC alone spent $1.4 billion on broadcasting rights for Tokyo 2020. In this regard, both host and business interests will be furiously resisting any deviation. “The Japanese government is surely lobbying the IOC hard as it seeks to protect its multitude of investments,” says Chadwick.

That might explain an apparent unwillingness to address the uncertainty. Asked what contingency plans were in place for moving or postponing the Games, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government told TIME, “We cannot provide a definitive answer to a hypothetical situation.” Yet as the virus spreads its tendrils further into the Asia region, the risks are only becoming more tangible

https://time.com/5786657/tokyo-olympics-coronavirus-asia-china/?fbclid=IwAR34KxB2bZoXlN1s8vBhoDGADn_iN8dQRzUoEOrWPTxZZj0MEqmF8yfsgTA

February 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Survey finds most Japanese do not want to attend live Olympic or Paralympic events

Tokyo Virus Q and APeople pass a countdown clock for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo last Tuesday. Most Japanese have no desire to attend Olympic or Paralympic events, according to a recent Jiji Press poll.

Feb 23, 2020

Fewer than 40 percent of Japanese want to watch live Tokyo Olympic or Paralympic events at venues, a recent Jiji Press opinion poll found.

According to the survey, 9.2 percent of those questioned said they definitely want to watch the Olympic or Paralympic opening or closing ceremonies or competitions at event venues, while 27.4 percent want to attend such events only if possible.

The total figure of 36.7 percent is down from 37.1 percent in July last year, the last time the survey covered the subject, and 45.6 percent in 2018.

As many as 62.8 percent said they do not want to attend such events. The figure includes 23.2 percent who said they do not want to watch any live events and 39.5 percent who do not want to attend them so much.

Asked about reasons, with multiple answers allowed, 70.0 percent said they will be satisfied with watching different events via television broadcasts and other types of coverage, 38.5 percent said event venues are too far away to travel to and 22.0 percent said they are worried about heatstroke and other problems due to expected high temperatures during the games.

The low level of interest in attending live events is also believed to reflect concerns over the growing coronavirus outbreak.

Regarding Olympic and Paralympic tickets, only 1.3 percent said they had won tickets in the lottery.

The largest group, or 69.6 percent, said they do not plan to buy tickets, followed by 15.8 percent who did not join the lottery and have not decided whether they will buy them in the future and 5.6 percent who did not enter the lottery and have not yet decided what they are planning to do.

Also, 4.7 percent said they did not apply for the lottery but want to buy tickets, while 2.4 percent said they entered the lottery but failed to win so they want to purchase tickets.

On issues of concern about the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the largest proportion or respondents, at 39.9 percent, cited concern over transportation inconveniences that may result from traffic jams and congestion.

Some 38.0 percent said costs for the Tokyo Games may increase, causing more taxpayers’ money to be used to finance the event, while 37.2 percent are worried that Japan may be targeted by criminals or terrorists.

The interview-based survey was conducted on 2,000 people aged 18 or older across Japan for four days through Feb. 9. Valid responses were collected from 61.1 percent of those questioned.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/02/23/national/japanese-live-olympics-paralympics-survey/?fbclid=IwAR0AG7zGQ0XnUcyBpiCmGl4CesIMU1fC0A2iF45FyJUlpqQ024CT-Mpn2Ug#.XlJM1UpCeUk

February 23, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Delays Olympic Volunteer Training Because of Virus

Olympics Tokyo Virus Test Events
In this Feb. 2, 2020, file photo, two logo for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, are displayed at a grand opening ceremony of the Ariake Arena, in Tokyo.
February 21, 2020
TOKYO – While again stating there are no plans to cancel or delay the Tokyo Olympics, local organizers postponed training sessions for volunteers on Friday for at least two months because of the virus outbreak spreading from China.
About 80,000 people are needed at the Olympics to provide free work which the IOC calls “key support to ensure the success of the games.”
Tokyo organizers said the postponed sessions are “part of efforts to prevent the spread of infection of the novel coronavirus.”
Training will be postponed until May or later, organizers said on their website. More than 200,000 people applied to be volunteers, with about one-third from outside Japan.
The Olympics are scheduled to run from July 24-Aug. 9.
The International Olympic Committee, local organizers and the World Health Organization have repeatedly said there is no current need to put the games in doubt.
The virus, known as COVID-19, has caused the deaths of about 2,250 people since it emerged in the Chinese city Wuhan late last year. Up to Friday, three deaths and more than 700 cases — most from a quarantined cruise ship docked in Tokyo Bay — had been reported in Japan.
“There are no considerations of canceling the games nor will the postponements of these (training) activities have an impact on the overall games preparation,” Tokyo organizers said.
Still, plans for some Olympic-related promotions and preparation could change.
“In accordance with the government’s policy for preventing the spread of infectious diseases, we will also evaluate the immediate need for each games-related event on a case by case basis,” organizers said.

February 23, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Replace Tokyo by London as Host of 2020 Olympics

London Seems Ready to Replace Tokyo as Host of 2020 Olympics

Feb 20, 2020

London, Feb. 19 (Jiji Press)–Two major candidates in the London mayoral election in May suggested Wednesday that the city is ready to host the 2020 Summer Olympics if Tokyo is forced to give up hosting the Games due to a possible epidemic of the new coronavirus in Japan.

London, which hosted the 2012 Games, “can host the Olympics in 2020,” Conservative challenger Shaun Bailey said on Twitter.

“We have the infrastructure and the experience. And due to the coronavirus outbreak, the world might need us to step up,” Bailey said.

“As Mayor, I will make sure London is ready to answer the call and host the Olympics again,” he said.

Local newspaper City A.M. reported a comment by a spokesman for Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan that London will do its best in the unlikely event that it be required, although everyone is working toward the success of the Tokyo Games.

https://www.nippon.com/en/news/yjj2020022000480/london-seems-ready-to-replace-tokyo-as-host-of-2020-olympics.html

tokyo-2020John Coates, chairman of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games coordination committee (left), and Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori

Tokyo Olympics have no ‘Plan B’ for coronavirus, organizers say

February 14, 2020

There is no “Plan B” for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if the event is affected by the coronavirus outbreak in nearby China, organizers said.

There’s no case for any contingency plans or canceling the Games or moving the Games,” John Coates, head of an International Olympics Committee inspection team, said at a press conference in Tokyo Thursday.

Coates, who had just wrapped up a two-day trip to investigate possible risks, said the World Health Organization has advised him that a back-up plan isn’t necessary.

He added that the starting date of July 24 “remains on track.”

The rapidly spreading virus has infected nearly 64,000 people worldwide and claimed the lives of 1,400 people, with only one fatality reported in Japan.

At the press event, elected officials were also asked if there are any “organizational changes” planned for rolling out the games in light of the virus.

This stage, no. We are not thinking of any such possibility,” said Yoshiro Mori, a former Japanese prime minister who is heading the Olympic planning committee.

But outside experts warned that coronavirus-related health risks to Japan are hard to predict.

There is no guarantee that the outbreak will come to an end before the Olympics because we have no scientific basis to be able to say that,” Shigeru Omi, a former regional director of the WHO.

We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan.”

https://nypost.com/2020/02/14/tokyo-olympics-have-no-plan-b-for-coronavirus-organizers-say/

February 23, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment