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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.
https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/05/02/news/novellas-express-anger-after-fukushima-disaster/?fbclid=IwAR362Oqn0duTDDCRh0Ta6AIklIq8ippMFC1PbBVUp2bN2v4NupNVg1YS_9I

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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”

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By Kimura Aya Hirata (August 2016)
Description
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

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Edited by:

ISBN (print): 9781760461393

ISBN (online): 9781760461409

Publication date: September 2017

Imprint: ANU Press

DOI: 

http://dx.doi.org/10.22459/LF.09.2017

Disciplines:

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.

http://press.anu.edu.au/publications/learning-fukushima

Download for free : http://press.anu.edu.au/node/3873/download

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

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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.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2017/04/29/books/book-reviews/yoshidas-dilemma-one-mans-struggle-avert-nuclear-catastrophe-fukushima-much-worse/

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

Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization?

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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:

http://www.fukushima-sokai.net/ (English)

The group also has a (Japanese) Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/fukushimasokai

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

http://www.kodomoryugaku-matsumoto.net/?page_id=614

Electronic copy: http://www.lulu.com/shop/nadesan-boys-mckillop-wilcox/fukushima-dispossession-or-denuclearization/ebook/product-21800492.html

Print copy: http://www.lulu.com/shop/nadesanboysmckillopwilcox-editors/fukushima-dispossession-or-denuclearization/paperback/product-21798972.html

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

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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

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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.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2017/02/04/books/book-reviews/radiation-brain-moms-citizen-scientists-aya-hirata-kimura-224-pages/#.WJZl1fLraM8

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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