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Now that the government has turned to promoting nuclear power, I would like you to see a photo book published that tells the history of opposition to the construction of the Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant. Valuable data that survived the disaster

After the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Muneyoshi Abe (right), a resident of Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture, held a banner saying, “Let Fukushima be a lesson to us all. Muneyoshi Abe (right) holds up a flag with the slogan “Oppose Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant” (from the photo book “50 Years in the Town of Nuclear Power Plants”).

December 22, 2022
 A photo book titled “50 Years in the Town of Nuclear Power Plants: Thinking about the Future from Onagawa” was published to document the struggle to stop the construction of Tohoku Electric Power Company’s Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant (Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture, and Ishinomaki City). While the Kishida administration has been pushing for nuclear power, Mikiko Abe, 70, the editor of the book and a member of the Onagawa Town Council, says, “I would like people to come into contact with the faces and thoughts of the local residents who have been fighting for half a century against nuclear power plants. (Norio Noro)

 The plan to build a nuclear power plant in Onagawa was announced in 1968, and the struggle against the plant by fishermen and others began. Mr. Abe returned to his hometown after graduating from Chuo University in 1975 and joined in the struggle led by his father, Muneyoshi, who ran a shipping agent. He was outraged when he saw police riot police raising their shields and beating him, and began filming with a camera.

In September 1976, women in kappo-gowns marching in a demonstration at the “Three Towns United to Absolutely Stop Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant” rally held in Onagawa (from the photo collection “50 Years in the Town of Nuclear Power Plants”).

Residents blocking an overnight bus carrying supporters to the prefectural government’s “nuclear power plant briefing,” a demonstration at sea on a fishing boat, and a request to protest Tohoku Electric Power Company…. Standing on the frontlines of the struggle, the film records their thoughts and actions in defense of “the sea is life.
 In 1977, the Onagawa Fisheries Cooperative Association passed a resolution at an extraordinary general meeting to invite nuclear power plants to Onagawa. While opponents were celebrating when the only thing reported outside was the “rejection of the abandonment of fishing rights,” which had been decided at the same time, Mr. Abe took a picture of himself shouting, “We passed a resolution to invite the nuclear power plant, so don’t shout ‘Hooray!
 Construction of Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 began in 1979, and commercial operation began in 1984. In 2008, when the opposition to the plant continued, a town official asked Mr. Abe to preserve the photos he had taken, saying, “The struggle against the plant is part of Onagawa’s history, so I want to preserve it.

Mikiko Abe

However, her house and the town hall were hit by the tsunami in the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, and her precious photos and CDs were lost. However, she was lucky enough to find the data on a CD she had given to an acquaintance in Sendai City, which was left on the computer of another friend. Teiji Wada, 70, a native of the town and the head of the publishing company Ichiyo-sha (Kita-ku, Tokyo), and others have been working together to compile a photo collection.
 The book contains approximately 340 photographs, including those taken by Mr. Abe in the 1970s, when the struggle was fierce. The book also includes testimonies from fishermen and others who describe the situation at that time, the Great East Japan Earthquake, and other events.

On April 26, after the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Mr. Abe stood with Mr. Soetsu at the site of their debris-strewn home. That day marked the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in the former Soviet Union. On the momohiki that had washed ashore, he wrote “Let Fukushima be a lesson to you? and “All nuclear reactors must be decommissioned! and “All nuclear power plants must be decommissioned! Muneyoshi passed away in 2012 at the age of 86, following in his father’s footsteps.
 The Kishida administration has announced a shift in nuclear power policy to promote nuclear power for the first time since the Fukushima accident. Furthermore, the administration has been touting nuclear power as a decarbonizing and effective countermeasure to global warming.
 Mr. Abe said, “The large amount of wastewater emitted from nuclear power plants is 7 degrees higher than the temperature of seawater, and this will contribute to global warming. Decommissioning or building new reactors requires enormous amounts of energy and increases carbon dioxide emissions. How will radioactive waste be disposed of and managed? I hope that people will see the origin of the struggle against nuclear power and deepen their understanding of the need for nuclear power plant phase-out,” he said.

Photo book “50 Years in the Town of Nuclear Power Plants” looks back on the struggle against the construction of the Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant.

The photo book is A4 size, 136 pages, 2,200 yen. Ichiyo-sha Publishing Co.


January 5, 2023 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

A book titled “Fukushima Daiichi NPP Accident Nakadori Litigation” (published by Sakuhinsha, Inc.).

The book is a compilation of the eight years leading up to the victory against TEPCO. “I hope the younger generation will read it so that it will not fade away.

November 27, 2022
A book titled “Fukushima Daiichi NPP Accident Nakadori Litigation” (published by Sakuhinsha, Inc.) summarizes the history of the lawsuit by 52 men and women of the “Nakadori ni Ikiru Kai” (represented by Fumiko Hirai) living in Fukushima City and Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture, who claimed they suffered psychological damages from the nuclear accident and sought payment of approximately 100 million yen from TEPCO (in March this year, the plaintiffs were declared winners by the Supreme Court). On March 26, the plaintiffs gathered in Fukushima City for a party to celebrate the publication of the book and to express their gratitude. The book is based on the plaintiffs’ tearful statements, which they rewrote and reworked many times to complete the book, and is filled with the history of their claims of emotional distress caused by the risk of radiation exposure and radioactive contamination. One of the plaintiffs said, “I hope the younger generation will read this book. One of the plaintiffs said, “I really want the younger generation to read this book. I hope the younger generation will read this book so that the nuclear accident will not fade away.

[“For Your Later Use”].
 The completed book is 472 pages in a 466-size format. It consists mainly of statements submitted by the plaintiffs to the Fukushima District Court along with their complaint, and includes a chronology of events since March 2014, the complaint, a statement of opinion (excerpts) requesting termination through settlement, and a summary of the appeal trial decision (Sendai High Court, January 2021). The book is as thick as a dictionary and not inexpensive, but it is truly a compilation of the “Nakadori Ikiru Kai” (Association for the Living of Nakadori). The book will be available in bookstores from the 30th of this month.
 Hiroko Sato, one of the plaintiffs, writes in her introduction, “This book is a compilation of the experiences of the ‘Nakadori Ikiru Kai’ (Association for Living in Nakadori).
 This book is a record of our fight in court to prevent people from saying that there was no damage caused by radiation from the nuclear accident, because we wrote statements about our grief, suffering, and anxiety caused by the accident.
 The 20 plaintiffs who gathered for the first time in many years on that day also commented that they could not read the statements without tears.
 I joined the trial because I thought it was important for ordinary housewives to speak out. The reality was harsh, and the process of writing the statements was especially difficult. There were times when I thought about quitting because it was so hard. When I read the book again, I could not read it without tears, because it describes everyone so nakedly, and I wondered how each and every one of them had suffered so much.
 I was surprised to see how much each and every one of you had suffered. I think this book is about that. We will not pretend that what happened did not happen. We will not put a lid on the painful feelings we had. That was important.
 I want the younger generation to read this book. I want the younger generation to read this book. I want them to understand that when an accident occurs at a nuclear power plant, it is so difficult and changes the lives of so many people. I want them to read this book so that they will not let the accident fade away.
 The psychological damage caused by low-dose radiation exposure continues to this day. We hope that many people will become aware of our lawsuit, which has caused us great emotional distress as a result of the nuclear accident, and that they will change their minds about restarting nuclear power plants. I believe this book has that kind of power. I am proud to be one of the main characters in this book.”
 I am proud to be one of the main characters in this book. I am glad that it became a book. It is good timing to publish the book at a time when the government is trying to restart the nuclear power plants.

We will not be forgotten.
 Fumiko Hirai (Fukushima City), who has been leading the way as the representative of the association, reiterated her thoughts at the time she started preparing for the trial, “If we keep quiet, it will be pretended that it never happened. Ritsuko Ueki (Fukushima City), who played a central role in the sponsorship, proudly stated, “The main characters of this book are the plaintiffs. Her husband Shozo, who had fought with her as a plaintiff, suddenly became ill in July and passed away in August. Although the shock still brings tears to her eyes, Ms. Hirai and the plaintiffs were united to the end.
 Two other plaintiffs who attended the publication commemoration also lost their husbands.
 One of the plaintiffs had not told her husband that she was participating in the trial.
 She said, “I didn’t tell my husband because I thought he wouldn’t get the message. I thought he wouldn’t understand, so I didn’t tell my husband.
 Another plaintiff lost her husband last December. She shed tears, saying, “My husband always said to me, ‘Do your best.
 I don’t know how many tears I shed during the long, long process of the trial. Some were tears of joy. No, there were more tears of frustration.
There were more tears of frustration. Lawyers for TEPCO denied all of the plaintiffs’ claims, dismissing them as having no health or psychological damage caused by radioactive contamination. In his ruling, however, Hisaoki Kobayashi, the presiding judge of the Sendai High Court, took a swipe at TEPCO, stating that “it can be said that the plaintiffs were actually exposed to radiation far exceeding conventional assumptions,” and that “the fear and anxiety [about radiation exposure] is not something as light as the ‘vague sense of anxiety’ claimed by the appellant [TEPCO]. The court stated in its decision that “the fear and anxiety of radiation exposure is not as light as the ‘vague sense of anxiety’ claimed by the appellant (TEPCO).
 Attorney Kichitaro Nomura, who represented the plaintiffs in winning the lawsuit, said in front of the plaintiffs, “From the time I filed the lawsuit, I had been thinking that I would like to publish a book after this lawsuit was concluded in a good way. Everyone followed my lead. I am deeply moved by the results of their efforts to write statements and to overcome the questioning of the plaintiffs. I am deeply moved. This was a major trial in my career as a lawyer. The hurdle is high, but if you read the contents of the book, I think you will find something that will resonate with you. He then introduced a comment from Professor Kageura Kyo of the University of Tokyo. He said that he had asked Professor Kageura to comment on the obi, but he was unable to do so due to poor health.
 He said, “Be aware of the fact that it is ‘my’ own damage. I think this is an extremely important point, not only in litigation, but also as a sovereign in a democratic society. In that respect, I thought this lawsuit was very important in that it was not only a victory against TEPCO, but also in that the individual dignity confirmed in the lawsuit led to a reaffirmation of our existence as sovereigns in a democratic society more generally.
 I think the lawsuit was a confirmation of the principle that all citizens are respected as individuals at all levels, including the fact that Mr. Nomura was the only lawyer against the five TEPCO lawyers, and one of the concrete ways to realize that principle.

TEPCO rejected the settlement recommendation.
 Preparation for this lawsuit began in the spring of 2014; it was filed against TEPCO in Fukushima District Court on April 22, 2016.
 The plaintiffs were 1) initially exposed to radiation due to the spread of radioactive materials following the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in March 2011, 2) faced with the decision of whether or not to evacuate to avoid exposure to radiation, 3) unable to take appropriate measures to prevent exposure to radiation due to lack of timely and accurate information from TEPCO, 4) family division and separation caused by the voluntary evacuation, and 5) the future health problems of their children and grandchildren. (6) A sense of loss regarding their garden and vegetable garden after the decontamination process.
 The first oral argument was held in August 2016, and the plaintiffs themselves began questioning in February 2018.
 In December 2019, the Fukushima District Court recommended a settlement at the request of the plaintiffs, but TEPCO refused. After stating that “it is reasonable,” the amount of the approved amount was calculated in consideration of the individual circumstances of each plaintiff. The court ordered TEPCO to pay between 22,000 yen and 286,000 yen (a total of 1,234,000 yen) to 50 of the 52 plaintiffs.
 The plaintiffs accepted the judgment, but TEPCO appealed. The appeal hearing at the Sendai High Court will conclude with the first oral argument in September 2020. In January 2021, the High Court ruled that “as in the original trial, the plaintiffs’ legally protected rights were infringed upon with regard to the mental distress they suffered from March 11, 2011, the date of the accident, to December 31 of the same year, exceeding the acceptable limit of social life, and that they incurred increased living expenses during the above period. The court ordered TEPCO to pay compensation, stating that “it is reasonable to award compensation in the amount of 300,000 yen, taking into consideration the fact that the plaintiffs’ living expenses increased during the above-mentioned period. 
 TEPCO filed a “petition for appeal and acceptance of appeal” to the Supreme Court, but in March of this year, the third Petty Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously decided by five judges that “the case will not be accepted as an appeal hearing. The decision of the Sendai High Court, which recognized the plaintiffs’ emotional damages, became final. The decision came after eight years, including the period of preparation prior to the filing of the lawsuit, and eleven years since the nuclear accident occurred.

December 4, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Citizens’ group in Fukushima puts out radiation map in English

nov 3 2019.jpgThe cover of “Citizens’ Radiation Data Map of Japan” (Provided by Minna-No Data Site)

November 3, 2019

FUKUSHIMA—A citizens’ group here has released an English radiation-level map for eastern Japan created with input from 4,000 volunteers in response to requests from abroad ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

“We want people outside Japan to understand the reality of radioactive contamination following the nuclear accident,” said Nahoko Nakamura, a representative of Minna-No Data Site (Everyone’s Data Site), which published the map.

The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant experienced a triple meltdown in March 2011 after a tsunami knocked out its cooling systems during the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Titled “Citizens’ Radiation Data Map of Japan,” the 16-page booklet summarizes the content of the original Japanese map, released in November last year. It also shows projected declines in radiation levels by 2041.

The Japanese version was based on results of land contamination surveys conducted over three years at the request of Everyone’s Data Site.

About 4,000 volunteers took soil samples at 3,400 locations in 17 prefectures in eastern Japan, including Fukushima and Tokyo, and measured radiation levels. The map was compiled with advice from experts.

The group raised 6.23 million yen ($57,500) from 1,288 individuals through a crowdfunding campaign. So far, 15,000 copies have been sold.

Nakamura said the group decided to produce an English version after it received inquiries about the Japanese map from researchers and others overseas in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics.

Everyone’s Data Site spent about four months creating the English map, working through e-mail and online chats with five volunteer translators overseas, including an American and a Canadian.

The English edition sells for 500 yen, excluding tax. For more information, contact Everyone’s Data Site at (

November 4, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment




September 19, 2019

This booklet shows the actual amount of radioactive contamination caused by the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, as revealed by Japanese citizen scientists.

[ Table of Contents ]

Page 2 – 3: Why Measure in Becquerels?
Page 4 – 5: What is the East Japan Soil Becquerel Measurement Project?
Page 6 – 7: 2011 Radioactivity Map of 17 Prefectures in Eastern Japan
Page 8: 2020 Cesium Contamination Map
Page 9: 2010 Radioactivity Level Before the Fukushima Accident
Page 10 – 11: Estimate of Radioactive Cesium Contamination Over 100 Years
Page 12: What is Minna-no Data Site?
Page 13: Minna-no Data Site Measurement Accuracy Control
Page 14 – 15: Minna-no Data Site Participating Measurement Laboratories
Page 16: Glossary, Credits, and Acknowledgments


Oversized book
500 yen (tax exclude)


This booklet shows the actual amount of radioactive contamination caused by the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, as revealed by Japanese citizen scientists.
In the aftermath of the accident, citizens around Japan began to question the Japanese government’s initial radiation exposure assessment, the scope of their radioactivity measuring, and their method of information disclosure. With the aim of reducing citizen exposure to radiation, we established Minna-no Data Site, an independent nonprofit network of radioactivity measuring laboratories, to conduct extensive food measurements and release this information to the public.

More specifically, over a three-year period starting from October 2014, we measured the concentration of radioactivity (cesium 134 and cesium 137) in the soil (in Bq/kg) as part of the “East Japan Soil Becquerel Measurement Project” and publicized the results online as a collection of maps.

According to legislation enacted five years after the Chernobyl accident, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus were responsible for measuring both air dosage (μSv/h) and soil concentration (Bq/m2).
And using these measurements, the authorities were required to establish criteria for relocation and compensation.
The Chernobyl legislation guarantees relocation and recuperation rights to residents from areas where the exposure dose was estimated to be above 1mSv/year.
In contrast, after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, soil measurements were more or less not conducted outside of Fukushima Prefecture, and the government has only published estimated numbers of the deposition amount of radioactive cesium and the air dose rate one meter above the ground. The soil concentration figures released by the government are nothing more than estimates, and because the method of display was just an approximation, it is impossible to correctly ascertain the actual amount of contamination
in areas where citizens actually live.

In order to address this unsatisfactory state of affairs, we solicited the cooperation of citizens from around the country to help us carry out this soil measurement project in an attempt to
fully grasp the total amount of radioactive fallout which fell on eastern Japan (excluding Hokkaido) as a result of the triple
meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP.

As a result of this investigation, we determined that the radioactive contamination was by no means limited to Fukushima Prefecture and that one hundred years from now there will still be several highly-contaminated areas where humans should not live.

Now, eight years after the accident, not only has the government yet to establish a criterion for radioactive concentration in the soil, but the authorities are continuing to enforce the policy of compelling people to return to their homes if the air dose rate goes below 20 mSv/year.
Seen from the standpoint of international standards of public health and radiological protection we cannot turn a blind eye to this unacceptable situation. With the Summer Olympics and Paralympics scheduled to be held in Tokyo in 2020, we decided to publish this booklet in order to respond to questions and concerns from people around the world about the current
state of radiation contamination in Japan.

This book is a digest version of our bestselling Japanese book, Illustration: 17 Prefecture Radioactivity Map & Close Analysis which was self-published in November 2018, and was awarded the Japan Congress of Journalists Prize in July 2019.

With the publication of this English booklet, we are hopingto inform people around the world about the actual amount of contamination in Japan, and at the same time, we are calling on the Japanese government to correct the following two problems:

With regards to the clearance rule for radioactive materials, prior to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident if the level of radioactivity was more than 100 Bq/kg there was a strict storage obligation.
However, with regards to radioactive contaminants derived from the Fukushima accident, the government is permitting anything less than 8,000 Bq/kg to be incinerated or disposed of as ordinary waste; an irresponsible policy which leads to the unnecessary spread of radioactive materials.
We are calling on the Japanese government to correct this double standard and are demanding a return to the preaccident clearance level of 100 Bq/kg.
Also, with regards to soil contamination, we are asking the government to not rely simply on the air radiation dose (sieverts) as they have been doing up until now. Instead, we are calling on them to guarantee appropriate rights of evacuation and compensation that meet international standards based on zone classification depending on the soil concentration
of radioactive material.

The Japanese government has not yet cancelled the nuclear power accident state of emergency declaration, which was enacted on March 11th, 2011.
Based on this declaration, the public dose limit was raised from 1mSv/year to 20 mSv/year and the government is forcefully requiring evacuees to return to their homes in areas where the dose limit does not exceed 20 mSv/year.
We are calling on the authorities to abolish the 20mSv standard repatriation policy and to return to the pre-accident public standard annual dose limit of 1mSv.

Minna-no Data Site
September 2019
Citizens’ Radiation Data Map of Japan Digest Edition Project Team

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Novellas express anger after Fukushima disaster

sacred cesium and isa's deluge“Sacred Cesium Ground and Isa’s Deluge: Two Novellas of Japan’s 3/11 Disaster,” by Yusuke Kimura, translated by Doug Slaymaker (Columbia University Press, 2019, 176 pages, $60 hardcover, $20 paperback)

May 2, 2019
TOKYO >> An anger directed toward Tokyo underlies Yusuke Kimura’s two novellas, “Sacred Cesium Ground” and “Isa’s Deluge.” Born from a keen sense of abandonment felt by the Tohoku region in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, and the subsequent nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, this anger plays out across stories exploring the post-disaster relationships between humans and animals.
The protagonist in “Sacred Cesium Ground” is a woman who travels to Fukushima Prefecture to volunteer at the Fortress of Hope, a farm where cattle irradiated by the Fukushima No. 1 power plant meltdown are tended to despite a government order to kill them.
Based on the story of a real post-Fukushima ranch, the novella carries with it a weight of research born from the author’s own volunteering, though it proves ultimately unsatisfying, never quite reaching the moment of reinvention that the lead character hints at throughout.
“Isa’s Deluge” is the more readable of the two, with a flow and pacing that draws in the reader. Shortlisted for the Mishima Yukio Prize after it was first published in 2012, it follows a family of fishermen who relate the story of their uncle Isa and his “deluge” of pain and depression, an allegory of the 3/11 tsunami.
Both novellas highlight peripheral voices in the post-3/11 period and ultimately return time and again to that tension between a “sacrificial” Tohoku and an all-powerful capital. These perspectives are those not frequently heard and challenge the widespread narrative of an ever-dominant Tokyo.

May 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

A book “Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists: The Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima”

By Kimura Aya Hirata (August 2016)
Following the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 2011 many concerned citizens—particularly mothers—were unconvinced by the Japanese government’s assurances that the country’s food supply was safe. They took matters into their own hands, collecting their own scientific data that revealed radiation-contaminated food. In Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists Aya Hirata Kimura shows how, instead of being praised for their concern about their communities’ health and safety, they faced stiff social sanctions, which dismissed their results by attributing them to the work of irrational and rumor-spreading women who lacked scientific knowledge. These citizen scientists were unsuccessful at gaining political traction, as they were constrained by neoliberal and traditional gender ideologies that dictated how private citizens—especially women—should act. By highlighting the challenges these citizen scientists faced, Kimura provides insights into the complicated relationship between science, foodways, gender, and politics in post-Fukushima Japan and beyond.
About The Author(s)
Aya Hirata Kimura is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and the author of Hidden Hunger: Gender and Politics of Smarter Foods.

November 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning from Fukushima



Edited by:

ISBN (print): 9781760461393

ISBN (online): 9781760461409

Publication date: September 2017

Imprint: ANU Press



Learning from Fukushima began as a project to respond in a helpful way to the March 2011 triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown) in north-eastern Japan. It evolved into a collaborative and comprehensive investigation of whether nuclear power was a realistic energy option for East Asia, especially for the 10 member-countries of ASEAN, none of which currently has an operational nuclear power plant. We address all the questions that a country must ask in considering the possibility of nuclear power, including cost of construction, staffing, regulation and liability, decommissioning, disposal of nuclear waste, and the impact on climate change. The authors are physicists, engineers, biologists, a public health physician, and international relations specialists. Each author presents the results of their work.

Download for free :

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

‘Yoshida’s Dilemma: One Man’s Struggle to Avert Nuclear Catastrophe’: But for him, Fukushima could have been much worse


Hero: Masao Yoshida disregarded orders to abandon the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The actions of him and his team are credited with averting further disaster.

Disaster response, even at its most heroic, can fall to people who would rather be somewhere else.

So it was for Masao Yoshida, who, while helming the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant during the disaster in 2011, gave the groan, “Why does this happen on my shift?”

But in some ways Yoshida, an industry veteran of 32 years, was the right man to handle the crisis. His leadership during those days on the edge, at times in defiance of orders from the top of the utility that employed him, is at the center of Rob Gilhooly’s new book “Yoshida’s Dilemma: One Man’s Struggle to Avert Nuclear Catastrophe.”

Gilhooly writes from the eye of the storm, putting the reader in the plant’s control room with almost claustrophobic immediacy. One of his challenges was to render the emergency in real-time. How much can prose, moving forward in measured steps, convey a lethal technology unraveling in extremis? How do you convey the breakdown of machinery without getting mired in technical detail?

“It was difficult,” says Gilhooly, who spent almost four years researching and writing the book. “What struck me about the plant workers — it sounded like complete chaos. My decision was not to make it sound orderly. I wanted it to appear chaotic, without the writing becoming chaotic itself. I tore my hair out over the technical details, because I wanted the book to be readable.”

In the end, the book is a cumulative experience — an intense ride that rewards endurance. Gilhooly weaves in the history of nuclear energy in Japan, interviews with experts and re-created conversations among the plant workers.

“Yoshida was a straight talker from Osaka — a larger-than-life personality,” says Gilhooly, who interviewed the superintendent off the record. “He was different from the other superintendents, more prepared to stick his neck out. He was sharper, more bloody-minded. When tipping his hat to authority, he may have done so with a quietly raised middle finger.”

This attitude might have saved lives, when, after a hydrogen blast at the No. 1 plant, Tepco HQ in Tokyo ordered staff to evacuate. Yoshida knew that the executives had little idea of what was actually happening at the plant. Going behind the backs of his superiors, he contacted then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, insisting that leaving the plant would be reckless. The utility also ordered that seawater not be pumped through the reactor as coolant, since that would render it useless for energy generation in the future. Exposed to life-threatening levels of radiation, Yoshida and his team defied the order, scrambling to cool the overheating reactor with seawater.

The desperate move worked. The team managed to cool the reactor, and later the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, which was authorized by the Diet, concluded in its report that “(Yoshida’s) disregard for corporate instructions was possibly the only reason that the reactor cores didn’t explode.”

In Western media coverage of the Fukushima disaster, much was made of Japanese groupthink. A culturally ingrained obedience and a reluctance to question authority was blamed in part for the disaster. Still, the responses vary, and some staff put safety concerns over company loyalty.

“I didn’t want to editorialize,” says Gilhooly, who writes with a calm, thoughtful voice, avoiding the temptation of melodrama. “But yes, Yoshida — and others — refuted the stereotype that was used to explain parts of the disaster.”

Gilhooly is talking to a Japanese publisher, but thinks a translated version may prove difficult: His sources spoke freely about the events at the plant assuming the interviews wouldn’t be published in Japanese. Still, Gilhooly, who takes a stand in the book against using nuclear energy, hopes to fuel the ongoing debate in his adopted home.

“I just wanted to know the truth,” he says. “There is a discussion that needs to happen about nuclear power — about disaster un-preparedness in Japan. I wanted to contribute to that argument. It’s six years on and already we are airbrushing some things out.”

The book points out the gulf between rural Fukushima and the large cities consuming the energy it produced. Gilhooly talked to Atsufumi Yoshizawa, Yoshida’s deputy at the plant, who recalled the first home leave with his boss, a month after the disaster:

“Tokyo was … as though nothing had happened. They were selling things as usual, women were walking around with high heels and makeup as usual, while we didn’t even have our own clothes (which had been contaminated). I remember thinking, ‘What the hell is this? How can it be so different?’ I realized just how useless it would be to try and explain the situation at the plant to these people, what we had been through and the fear we had faced.”

It is a punch in the gut, then, to read about Yoshida’s death from esophageal cancer at age 58, just two years after his exposure to radiation. It’s one of the many elements of the Fukushima crisis that stirs anger, demanding a change that honors the lessons and sacrifice.

Gilhooly points out that, unlike Yoshida in the stricken plant, Japan has the chance to make positive choices about the future, choices that should be informed by the suffering in Fukushima.

“We should think more about how we use energy,” he concludes. “There are things we can do better, with small changes in lifestyle.”



May 1, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization?


Summary of the book:

The Fukushima nuclear power plant explosions and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings are intimately connected events, bound together across time by a nuclear will to power that holds little regard for life itself. In Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization? contributors document and explore diverse dispossession effects stemming from this nuclear will to power, including market distortions, radiation damage to personal property, wrecked livelihoods, and transgenerational mutations potentially eroding human health and happiness. Liberal democratic capitalism is itself disclosed as vulnerable to the corrupting influences of the nuclear will to power. Contributors contend that denuclearization stands as the only viable path forward capable of freeing humans from the catastrophic risks engineered into global nuclear networks. They conclude that the choice of dispossession or denuclearization through the pursuit of alternative technologies will determine human survival across the twenty-first century.

Contributing editors to Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization? are Majia Nadesan, Antony Boys, Andrew McKillop and Richard Wilcox. Harvey Wasserman, Christopher Busby, Paul Langley, Adam Broinowski, Christian Lystbaek, and The Fukushima Five have also contributed chapters. Cover artwork by William Banzai7.

Proceeds from the book:

Proceeds from the book will be donated to the Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial Team, a team of lawyers who are fighting in the courts in northern Japan to have children in Koriyama City, quite badly contaminated with radiation after the March 11, 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, evacuated to safe areas at government expense. Please see: (English)

The group also has a (Japanese) Facebook page:

We very much hope that you will consider purchasing and reading the book, firstly for the insights it may give you into the significance of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and also to make a donation toward this important trial to help evacuate children to safer areas.

In fact, the group has now decided to link up with the Matsumoto Fund Boarding School Project for Fukushima Kids in order to take practical action to evacuate children from contaminated areas of Fukushima. Please see an English explanation a

Electronic copy:

Print copy:

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Yoshida’s Dilemma: if it wasn’t for one man, it could have been much worse

March 11, 2011. A magnitude 9 earthquake rocks Japan and triggers a mega-tsunami that kills thousands of people. It also knocks out the power at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and triggers one of the worst nuclear accidents in history.
If it wasn’t for one man, it could have been much worse. 
“Rob Gilhooly has written what is probably the most comprehensive English-language account yet of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.  Gilhooly is among the best-informed foreign reporters on this issue in Japan, having travelled to Fukushima several dozen times since being one of the first journalists to arrive in the prefecture on a freezing night in March 2011.  He gives the story of Masao Yoshida, perhaps the key figure in the disaster, all the detail, sympathy and pathos it demands.  His remarkable pictures throughout the book are a bonus.  Highly recommended. “
— David McNeil, The Economist.
“A powerful synthesis of the technical and the personal, Gilhooly succeeds in conveying the events of March 2011, its aftermath and the dramatic impact on the people of Fukushima and wider Japan. Six years after the start of the accident, Yoshida’s Dilemma is a necessary reminder of how through the actions of heroic individuals and luck Japan avoided an even greater catastrophe.”  
— S. David  Freeman, former Tennessee Valley Authority chairman, engineer, energy expert and author of Energy: The New Era and Winning Our Energy Independence
“As one of the few journalists to have covered the Fukushima story from the very start, Rob Gilhooly is perfectly placed to discuss the disaster’s causes and aftermath, and its wider ramifications for the future of nuclear power. From the chaotic scenes as the plant went into triple meltdown, to the plight of evacuated residents and Japan’s long and troubled relationship with atomic energy, Gilhooly combines fine story-telling with journalistic integrity to produce a book that is admirably free of hyperbole.” 
— Justin McCurry, The Guardian.
In Yoshida’s Dilemma, Rob Gilhooly, a long-term resident of Japan who has worked extensively as a journalist and photojournalist, has assembled a wealth of material, ranging from the reminiscences of the then Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, to the stories of those who worked to save the nation from disaster when the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. 
This real-life thriller concentrates on Masao Yoshida, the director of the plant, who inspired his “troops” to risk their lives as they battled the invisible enemy of radiation, but also tells of those living nearby, who were forced to give up their homes and lifestyles which had been enjoyed by their families for generations, as power companies and bureaucrats dithered and obscured the facts surrounding the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
While Gilhooly is careful not to take sides in the pro- and anti-nuclear power debate, the almost inescapable conclusion is that nuclear power is a highly dangerous technology – maybe even too dangerous to be employed using the current Japanese business model, where the “nuclear village” shuts out criticism, and even knowledge, of its often dangerous operational practices and decisions. Yoshida’s Dilemma provides a wake-up call to other nations with nuclear power, whether or not they are subject to the kind of natural disaster that destroyed Fukushima, and a must-read introduction to the way in which such technology is managed and promoted, not only in Japan, but in other countries.
Main areas covered:
– The story of the nuclear crisis, as experienced by the workers at the nuclear plant, the firefighters and other emergency units who battled to bring the melting reactors under control and officials in Tokyo, such as then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, charged with responding to the disasters  
– The impact of the crisis on residents and their evacuation from their homes near the plant
– US response, including efforts by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to cooperate with TEPCO and Japan’s nuclear watchdog, the NISA 
– Historical and cultural perspectives on nuclear power in Japan, including the launch of the Atoms For Peace expo and other efforts by the nuclear energy lobby, sometimes referred to as the “nuclear power village,” to win over the Japanese public   
– Insights from experts about technical aspects of the nuclear accident
– A look at what might have happened had the worse-case scenario played out
– Anti-nuclear protests, including efforts by communities housing nuclear facilities to prevent those facilities from being re-started
– The real cost of the disasters, including the financial burden and the health impacts uncovered 
–  An examination of the true cost of nuclear power, which was widely promoted in the US and Japan as being “too cheap to meter” 
– The future of nuclear power in Japan and nuclear power’s position in a country often perceived as being resource-poor
– The future of new energies in Japan and the nation’s increasing reliance on coal-fired power stations

April 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Food contamination fears after 3/11 make the invisible visible



Radiation brain” was a pun that made the social media circuit after March 11, 2011, deriding people whose brains () had become unduly contaminated with fears about radiation after the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. They had, people claimed, “radiation brains” (hoshanō), a kind of soft-minded hysteria that made them figures of fun but also figures of potential danger to society and the economy. Their lack of confidence in government regulation of foodstuffs, people argued, became the source of harmful rumors that hurt farmers and dairy producers in disaster-affected areas. Such citizens, usually mothers in charge of providing meals for their children, were reckless in their caution.

Aya Hirata Kimura, a sociologist and professor of women’s studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, presents case studies of mothers with such anxieties and examines citizens grappling with post-Fukushima food safety concerns in “Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists: The Gender Politics of Food Contamination After Fukushima.” Kimura does not make claims about the extent of actual dangers to the food supply, but she does argue that the reality of the post-disaster threat is far from certain. The government, in other words, may be right about the limited health risks posed by irradiated produce, dairy, and meat; but skepticism on the part of citizens is a rational, rather than a hysterical, response. She also examines the various constraints that made many citizens — mothers, in particular — turn to scientific activities such as running citizen radiation-measuring organizations rather than engaging in out-and-out criticism of government and industry responses to safety concerns.

Immediately after the disaster, many expected a surge of specifically anti-nuclear political activism in Japan, and indeed protests and demonstrations flourished in the spring and summer of 2011. However, just five years on from the worst nuclear disaster in decades, political activism remains a fringe activity. Part of what interested Kimura was why citizens seemed to be “more concerned than outraged.” As she noted recently, “so many seem to be perplexed why Japan, after the major nuclear accident, has not seen transformative politics.” Her book offers some answers to that question.

Kimura makes the point that avoiding confrontational politics and direct dissent is not, as is often claimed, a characteristic particular to Japanese culture. It’s a characteristic particular to neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is one of the key concepts that guides Kimura’s analysis, and she traces how the neoliberal shift to limited government, rule of the free market, and individualism has determined what kinds of demands citizens in post-Fukushima Japan can make of their government. In a neoliberal society, the government is no longer responsible for ensuring citizens’ rights to safety, economic factors rule in cost-benefit analyses and the good neoliberal citizen is willing to take on individual risk and make individual choices, while they are less willing to act collectively.

Alongside neoliberalism, Kimura introduces us to the concepts of scientism and post-feminism. Scientism indicates a tendency in which science holds authority in society to determine the “reality” of controversial and uncertain situations, although culture and society influence the creation and application of science itself. Post-feminism is the idea that systematic oppression of women has been eliminated and collective feminist activism is no longer necessary, since motivated individual women can empower themselves.

An example of how these three larger forces of neoliberalism, scientism and post-feminism play out in post-3/11 society and constrain citizen activism is the case of fūryōhigai, or harmful rumors. The term “fūryōhigai” apparently originated in the 1980s, and indicated a decline in seafood sales because of nuclear reactor accidents. After agricultural producers in areas near the distressed Fukushima No. 1 plant suffered economic losses, the term gained new currency and shifted blame onto concerned consumers, particularly “radiation brain” moms, and away from government and business interests. The prioritization of economic recovery and the individual consumer’s responsibility to participate in this effort reflected neoliberal priorities. The view of scientism insisted on the scientific authority of nuclear experts, although many of those experts had an interest in promoting nuclear power, and the science of post-Fukushima health impacts remains contested. Contradictory demands placed women at the center of controversies about food safety as mothers responsible for the health of their families but also as targets of gendered stereotypes of women as particularly unscientific and irrational, while the post-feminist social context deterred them from making collective political demands of the powers that be.

The role these three ideologies play in Kimura’s analysis might put off a nonacademic reader, but Kimura employs them to make the power dynamics to which we are all subject visible, much as her citizen scientists labor to make the invisible threat of radiation visible. Speaking about her book, Kimura noted that “all these ‘-isms’ tend to be normalized and taken for granted.” So scientism, for example, makes science’s objective authority something that is taken for granted in spite of the fact that science is shaped by social forces. Kimura works to make the ideologies of neoliberalism, scientism and post-feminism visible, because “invisibility is at the crux of their power. The more they are named, the less they can masquerade as apolitical.” Just because we cannot see these forces does not mean that they do not impact our world, and they are very real in their consequences for potential political activism.

Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists, by Aya Hirata Kimura. 224 pages Duke University Press.


Workers at a consumer safety center in the city of Fukushima prepare to conduct radiation checks in March 2012 on vegetables brought in by residents

February 5, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment