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Fukushima : A Symbol of Hope and Resilience in the Face of Adversity

This photo can be a symbol of hope and resilience in the face of adversity: it’s a Morning Glory, growing along the base of prefab house in a temporary evacuation centre in Miharu, Fukushima.

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Special credit & thanks to Lis Fields

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November 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Cover Up

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by Robert Hunziker

It is literally impossible for the world community to get a clear understanding of, and truth about, the Fukushima nuclear disaster. This statement is based upon The Feature article in Columbia Journalism Review (“CJR”) d/d October 25, 2016 entitled: “Sinking a Bold Foray Into Watchdog Journalism in Japan” by Martin Fackler.

The scandalous subject matter of the article is frightening to its core. Essentially, it paints a picture of upending and abolishing a 3-year attempt by one of Japan’s oldest and most liberal/intellectual newspapers, The Asahi Shimbun (circ. 6.6 mln) in its effort of “watchdog journalism” of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In the end, the newspaper’s special watchdog division suffered un-preannounced abrupt closure.

The CJR article, whether intentionally or not, is an indictment of right wing political control of media throughout the world. The story is, moreover, extraordinarily scary and of deepest concern because no sources can be counted on for accurate, truthful reporting of an incident as powerful and deadly dangerous as the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. Lest anybody in class forgets, three nuclear reactors at Fukushima Diiachi Nuclear Power Plant experienced 100% meltdown, aka The China Syndrome over five years ago.

The molten cores of those reactors melted down to a stage called corium, which is a lumpy hunk of irradiating radionuclides so deadly that robotic cameras are zapped! The radioactivity is powerful, deadly and possessed of frightening longevity, 100s of years. Again for those who missed class, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) has no idea where those masses of sizzling hot radioactive goo are today. Did they burrow into the ground? Nobody knows, but it is known that those blobs of radioactivity are extraordinarily dangerous, as in deathly, erratically spewing radioactivity “who knows where”?

Fukushima is a national/worldwide emergency that is the worst kept secret ever because everybody knows it is happening; it is current; it is alive; it is deadly; it has killed (as explained in several prior articles) and will kill many more as well as maim countless people over many decades (a description of radiation’s gruesomeness follows later on in this article).

Yet, the Abe administration is talking to Olympic officials about conducting Olympic events, like baseball, in Fukushima for Tokyo 2020. Are they nuts, going off the deep end, gone mad, out of control? After all, TEPCO readily admits (1) the Fukushima cleanup will take decades to complete, if ever completed, and (2) nobody knows the whereabouts of the worlds most deadly radioactive blobs of sizzling hot masses of death and destruction, begging the question: Why is there a Chernobyl Exclusion Zone of 1,000 square miles after one nuclear meltdown 30 years ago, but yet Fukushima, with three meltdowns, each more severe than Chernobyl, is already being repopulated? It doesn’t compute!

The short answer is the Abe administration claims the radioactivity is being cleaned up. A much longer answer eschews the Abe administration by explaining the near impossibility of cleaning up radioactivity throughout the countryside. There are, after all, independent organizations with boots on the ground in Fukushima (documented in prior articles) that tell the truth, having measured dangerous levels of radiation throughout the region where clean up crews supposedly cleaned up.

The Columbia Journalism Review article, intentionally or not, paints a picture of “journalism by government decree” in Japan, which gainsays any kind of real journalism. It’s faux journalism, kinda like reading The Daily Disneyworld Journal & Times.

Based upon the CJR article: “The hastiness of the Asahi’s retreat raised fresh doubts about whether such watchdog journalism— an inherently risky enterprise that seeks to expose and debunk, and challenge the powerful—is even possible in Japan’s big national media, which are deeply tied to the nation’s political establishment.”

Japan’s journalists belong to “press clubs,” which are exclusively restricted to the big boys (and girls) from major media outlets, where stories are hand-fed according to government officialdom, period. It is the news, period! No questions asked, and this is how Asahi got into trouble. They set up a unit of 30-journalists to tell the truth about Fukushima and along the way won awards for journalism, until it suddenly, abruptly stopped. A big mystery ensues….

According to the CJR article, “The Investigative Reporting Section [Asahi] proved an instant success, winning Japan’s top journalism award two years in a row for its exposure of official cover-ups and shoddy decontamination work around the nuclear plant.”

Furthermore, according to the CJR article: “The abrupt about-face by the Asahi, a 137-year-old newspaper with 2,400 journalists that has been postwar Japan’s liberal media flagship, was an early victory for the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which had sought to silence critical voices as it moved to roll back Japan’s postwar pacifism, and restart its nuclear industry.”

And, furthermore, the truth be told: “In Japanese journalism, scoops usually just mean learning from the ministry officials today what they intend to do tomorrow,’ says Makoto Watanabe, a former reporter in the section who quit the Asahi in March because he felt blocked from doing investigative reporting. ‘We came up with different scoops that were unwelcome in the Prime Minister’s Office.”

It comes as no surprise that Reporters Without Borders lowered Japan’s rating from 11th in 2010 (but one has to wonder how they ever got that high) to 72nd in this years annual ranking of global press freedoms, released on April 20, 2016.

Koichi Nakano, a professor of politics at Sophia University in Tokyo, says: “Emasculating the Asahi allowed Abe to impose a grim new conformity on the media world.”

When considering the awards Asahi won during its short foray into investigative journalism, like Japan’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for reporting about a gag-order on scientists after the Fukushima disaster and the government’s failure to release information about radiation to evacuating residents, now that Asahi has been forced to put a lid on “investigative journalism” and it must toe the line in “press clubs,” any and all information about the dangers or status of Fukushima are ipso facto suspect!

The world is dead silent on credible information about the world’s biggest disaster! (Which causes one to stop and think… really a lot.)

The evidence is abundantly clear that there is no trustworthy source of information about the world’s biggest nuclear disaster, and likely one of the biggest dangers to the planet in human history. However, time will tell as radiation exposure takes years to show up in the human body. It’s a silent killer but cumulates over time. Fukushima radiation goes on and on, but nobody knows what to do. To say the situation is scandalous is such a gross understatement that it is difficult to take it as seriously as it really should be taken. But, it is scandalous, not just in Japan but for the entire planet.

After all, consider this, 30 years after the fact, horribly deformed Chernobyl Children are found in over 300 asylums in the Belarus backwoods deep in the countryside. Equally as bad but maybe more odious, as of today, Chernobyl radiation (since 1986) is already affecting 2nd generation kids.

According to USA Today, Chernobyl’s Legacy: Kids With Bodies Ravaged by Disaster, April 17, 2016: “There are 2,397,863 people registered with Ukraine’s health ministry to receive ongoing Chernobyl-related health care. Of these, 453,391 are children — none born at the time of the accident. Their parents were children in 1986. These children have a range of illnesses: respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, eye diseases, blood diseases, cancer, congenital malformations, genetic abnormalities, trauma.”

It’s taken 30 years for the world, via an article in USA Today, to begin to understand how devastating, over decades, not over a few years, radiation exposure is to people. It is a silent killer that cumulates in the body over time and passes from generation to generation to generation, endless destruction that cannot be stopped!

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/31/fukushima-cover-up/

 

October 31, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

To Censor Fukushima, Japanese Government Emasculated Watchdog Journalism

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Members of the media, wearing white protective suits and masks, walk after they receive a briefing from Tokyo Electric Power Co. employees during a tour of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on February 10, 2016.

It seemed like compelling journalism: a major investigative story published by The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second largest daily newspaper, about workers fleeing the Fukushima nuclear plant against orders.

It was the work of a special investigative section that had been launched with much fanfare to regain readers’ trust after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011, when the Asahi and other media were criticized for initially repeating the official line that the government had everything safely under control.

The team had been producing award winning journalism for three years, but the story on the workers would be the last for some of its ace reporters. And its publication in May 2014 would come to mark the demise of one of the most serious efforts in recent memory by a major Japanese news organization to embrace a more independent approach to journalism.

The hastiness of the Asahi’s retreat raised fresh doubts about whether such watchdog journalism—an inherently risky enterprise that seeks to expose and debunk, and challenge the powerful—is even possible in Japan’s big national media, which are deeply tied to the nation’s political establishment.

The editors at Asahi, considered the “quality paper” favored by intellectuals, knew the culture they were facing, but they saw the public disillusionment in Japan that followed the nuclear plant disaster as the opportunity launch a bold experiment to reframe journalism.

No more pooches

On the sixth floor of its hulking headquarters overlooking Tokyo’s celebrated fish market, the newspaper in October 2011 hand-picked 30 journalists to create a desk dedicated to investigative reporting, something relatively rare in a country whose big national media favor cozy ties with officials via so-called press clubs. The clubs are exclusive groups of journalists, usually restricted to those from major newspapers and broadcasters, who are stationed within government ministries and agencies, ostensibly to keep a close eye on authority. In reality, the clubs end up doing the opposite, turning the journalists into uncritical conduits for information and narratives put forth by government officials, whose mindset the journalists often end up sharing.

The choice to head of the new section was unusual: Takaaki Yorimitsu, a gruff, gravelly-voiced outsider who was not a career employee of the elitist Asahi, and had been head-hunted from a smaller regional newspaper for his investigative prowess. Yorimitsu set an iconoclastic tone by taping a sign to the newsroom door declaring “Datsu Pochi Sengen,” or “No More Pooches Proclamation”—a vow that his reporters would no longer be kept pets of the press clubs, but true journalistic watchdogs.

The Investigative Reporting Section proved an instant success, winning Japan’s top journalism award two years in a row for its exposure of official coverups and shoddy decontamination work around the nuclear plant.

The new section gave reporters a broad mandate to range across the Asahi’s rigid internal silos in search of topics, while also holding to higher journalistic standards, such as requiring using the names of people quoted in stories instead of the pseudonyms common in Japanese journalism.

The Investigative Reporting Section proved an instant success, winning Japan’s top journalism award two years in a row for its exposure of official coverups and shoddy decontamination work around the nuclear plant, which was crippled when a huge earthquake and tsunami knocked out vital cooling systems. The section’s feistier journalism offered hope of attracting younger readers at a time when the 7 million-reader Asahi and Japan’s other national dailies, the world’s largest newspapers by circulation, were starting to feel the pinch from declining sales.

The Asahi Shimbun believes such investigative reporting is indispensable,” the newspaper’s president at the time, Tadakazu Kimura, declared in an annual report in 2012. The new investigative section “does not rely on information obtained from press clubs, but rather conducts its own steadfast investigations that require real determination.”

That is why it was all the more jarring when, just two years later, the Asahi abruptly retreated from this foray into watchdog reporting. In September 2014, the newspaper retracted the story it had published in May about workers fleeing the Fukushima plant against orders, punishing reporters and editors responsible for the story, slashing the size of the new section’s staff and forcing the resignation of Kimura, who had supported the investigative push.

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IITATE, JAPAN – MAY 23: No entry sign in the contaminated area after the daiichi nuclear power plant irradiation, fukushima prefecture, iitate, Japan on May 23, 2016 in Iitate, Japan.

A newspaper-appointed committee of outside experts later declared that the article, which the Asahi had trumpeted as a historic scoop, was flawed because journalists had demonstrated “an excessive sense of mission that they ‘must monitor authority.’”

While the section was not closed down altogether, its output of major investigative articles dropped sharply as the remaining journalists were barred from writing about Fukushima.

Emasculating the Asahi

The abrupt about-face by the Asahi, a 137-year-old newspaper with 2,400 journalists that has been postwar Japan’s liberal media flagship, was was an early victory for the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which had sought to silence critical voices as it moved to roll back Japan’s postwar pacifism, and restart its nuclear industry.

In Japanese journalism, scoops usually just mean learning from the ministry officials today what they intend to do tomorrow,” said Makoto Watanabe, a former reporter in the section who quit the Asahi in March because he felt blocked from doing investigative reporting. “We came up with different scoops that were unwelcome in the Prime Minister’s Office.”

Abe and his supporters on the nationalistic right seized on missteps by the Asahi in its coverage of Fukushima and sensitive issues of World War II-era history to launch a withering barrage of criticism that the paper seemed unable to withstand. The taming of the Asahi set off a domino-like series of moves by major newspapers and television networks to remove outspoken commentators and newscasters.

Political interference in the media was one reason cited by Reporters Without Borders in lowering Japan from 11th in 2010 to 72nd out of 180 nations in this year’s annual ranking of global press freedoms, released on April 20, 2016.

Emasculating the Asahi allowed Abe to impose a grim new conformity on the media world,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor of politics at Sophia University in Tokyo and a leading critic of the administration on press freedom issues. “Other media know that once Asahi gave in, they were exposed and could be next. So they gagged themselves.”

But government pressure fails to fully explain the Asahi’s retreat. Some Asahi reporters and media scholars say the government was able to exploit weaknesses within Japanese journalism itself, particularly its lack of professional solidarity and its emphasis on access-driven reporting. At the Asahi’s weakest moment, other big national newspapers lined up to bash it, essentially doing the administration’s dirty work, while also making blatant efforts to poach readers to shore up their declining circulations.

The knockout blow, however, came from within the Asahi itself, as reporters in other, more established sections turned against the upstart investigative journalists. The new section’s more adversarial approach to journalism had earned it wide resentment for threatening the exclusive access—enjoyed by the Asahi as part of the mainstream media—to the administration and the powerful central ministries that govern Japan.

Media scholars say reporters in elite national newspapers like the Asahi have a weak sense of professional identity; most did not attend journalism school and spend their entire careers within the same company. Until recently, a job at a national daily was seen as a safe career bet rather than a calling, as the Asahi and its competitors offered salaries and lifetime job guarantees similar to banks and automakers.

This result is that many Japanese journalists are unable to resist pressures that officials can put on them via the press clubs. Journalists who are deemed overly critical or who write about unapproved topics can find themselves barred from briefings given to other club members. This is a potent sanction when careers can be broken for missing a scoop that appeared in rival newspapers. This is what some Asahi journalists in the press clubs say happened to them as the Investigative Section angered government officials with its critical stories.

When the chips were down, they saw themselves as elite company employees, not journalists,” said Yorimitsu, who after the Fukushima article’s retraction was reassigned to a Saturday supplement where he writes entertainment features.

Unable to weather the storm

It was a bitter reversal for a section that had been launched with high expectations just three years before. Yorimitsu described the new section as the newspaper’s first venture into what he called true investigative journalism. He said that while the Asahi had assembled teams in the past that it called “investigative,” this usually meant being freed from the demands of daily reporting to take deeper dives into scandals and social issues. He said the new section was different because his journalists not only gathered facts, they used them to build counter narratives that challenged versions of events put forward by authorities.

Until 2014, the newspaper was very enthusiastic about giving us the time and freedom to expose the misdeeds in Fukushima, and tell our own stories about what had happened,” recalled Yorimitsu. “We were telling the stories that the authorities didn’t want us to tell.”

Yorimitsu had been hired in 2008 in to take charge of a smaller investigative team that the Asahi had created in 2006, when it was first starting to feel the pinch from the Internet. From a peak of 8.4 million copies sold daily in 1997, the Asahi’s circulation had slipped below 8 million by 2006, according to the Japan Audit Bureau of Circulations. (By late 2015, it had dropped to 6.6 million.) The team of 10 reporters was an experimental effort to win readers. “We realized that in the Net era, independent, investigative journalism was the only way for a newspaper to survive,” said Hidetoshi Sotooka, a former managing editor who created the original team.

However, it was not until Fukushima, Japan’s biggest national trauma since its World War II defeat in 1945, that the newspaper wholeheartedly embraced the effort, tripling the number of journalists and elevating it to a full-fledged section, putting it on par organizationally with other, more established parts of the paper.

Under Yorimitsu, the section’s crowning achievement was an investigative series called “The Promethean Trap,” a play on the atomic industry’s early promise of becoming a second fire from heaven like the one stolen by Prometheus in Greek mythology. The series, which appeared daily beginning in October 2011, won The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association Prize, Japan’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, in 2012 for its reporting on such provocative topics as a gag-order placed on scientists after the nuclear accident, and the government’s failure to release information about radiation to evacuating residents. The series spawned some larger investigative spin-offs, including an exposé of corner-cutting in Japan’s multi-billion dollar radiation cleanup, which won the prize in 2013.

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OKUMA, JAPAN – FEBRUARY 25: A TEPCO employee uses a radiation monitor as they show a member of the media a destroyed reactor at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on February 25, 2016 in Okuma, Japan. Five years on, the decontamination and decommissioning process at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continues on February 25, 2016 in Okuma, Japan. March 11, 2016 marks the fifth anniversary of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami which claimed the lives of 15,894, and the subsequent damage to the reactors at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant causing the nuclear disaster which still forces 99,750 people to live as evacuees away from contaminated areas.

These were promising accomplishments for a new section, but they also led to resentment in other parts of the newspaper, where the investigative team was increasingly viewed as prima donnas, and Yorimitsu’s “no more pooches” proclamation as an arrogant dismissal of other sections’ work.

At the same time, the Investigative Section also was making powerful enemies outside the newspaper by exposing problems at Fukushima. This became particularly apparent after the pro-nuclear Abe administration took office in December 2012, when other media started to cut back on articles about the nuclear accident.

We were being told that the Prime Minister’s Office disliked our stories and wanted them stopped,” Watanabe recalled, “but we thought we could weather the storm.”

They may have been able to if the new section had not given its opponents an opening to strike. But on May 20, 2014, running under the banner headline “Violating Plant Manager Orders, 90 Percent of Workers Evacuated Fukushima Daiichi,” the front-page article made the explosive claim that at the peak of the crisis, workers had fled the nuclear plant in violation of orders to remain from plant manager, Masao Yoshida. The article challenged the dominant narrative of the manager leading a heroic battle to contain the meltdowns and thus save Japan.

The reporters behind the story, Hideaki Kimura and Tomomi Miyazaki, had obtained a transcript of testimony that Yoshida gave to government investigators before his death from cancer in 2013. The 400-plus-page document, drawn from 28 hours of spoken testimony by Yoshida, had been kept secret from the public in the Prime Minister’s Office. Unearthing the testimony was an investigative coup, which the Asahi unabashedly played up in ad campaigns. It might have stayed that way, had not the Asahi opened up the floodgates of public criticism by clumsily setting off a completely unrelated controversy about its past coverage of one of East Asia’s most emotional issues.

That uproar began on Aug. 5, 2014  when the Asahi suddenly announced in a front-page article that it was retracting more than a dozen stories published in the 1980s and early 1990s about “comfort women” forced to work in wartime Japanese military brothels. The newspaper was belatedly admitting what historians knew: that a Japanese war veteran quoted in the articles, Seiji Yoshida, had fabricated his claims of having forcibly rounded up more than 1,000 Korean women.

The comfort women retractions appeared to be an attempt by the Asahi to preempt critics in the administration by coming clean about a decades-old problem. Instead, the move backfired, giving the revisionist right ammunition to attack the Asahi. The public pillorying, led by Abe himself, who said the reporting “has caused great damage to Japan’s image,” grew so intense that the magazine of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan ran a cover story: “Sink the Asahi!”

It was at the peak of this maelstrom, when the Asahi was on the ropes, that criticism of its Fukushima scoop erupted. In late August, the Sankei Shimbun and the Yomiuri Shimbun, both pro-Abe newspapers on the right, obtained copies of Yoshida’s secret testimony, and wrote reports challenging the version of events put forth by the Asahi. “Asahi Report of ‘Evacuating Against Orders’ At Odds With Yoshida Testimony,” the Yomiuri, the world’s largest newspaper with 9 million readers, declared in a front-page headline Aug. 30. Other media, including the liberal Mainichi Shimbun, followed with similar efforts to discredit the Asahi.

According to these stories, the Asahi’s epic scoop had gotten it wrong by implying that the plant workers had knowingly ignored Yoshida’s orders. The newly obtained copies of his testimony showed that his orders had failed to reach the workers in the confusion. The other newspapers accused the Asahi of again sullying Japan’s reputation, by inaccurately portraying the brave Fukushima workers as cowards. (Whether the Asahi got the story wrong is debatable, since its article never actually stated that workers knowingly violated Yoshida’s orders; however, it did fail to include the manager’s statement that his orders had not been properly relayed—an omission that could lead readers to draw the wrong conclusion.)

The fact that two pro-Abe newspapers had suddenly and in quick succession obtained copies of the Yoshida transcript led to widespread suspicions, never proven, that the Prime Minister’s Office leaked the documents to use against the Asahi. True or not, the newspapers seemed willing to serve the purposes of the administration, perhaps to improve their access to information, or to avoid suffering a similar fate as the Asahi.

The other papers also saw the Asahi’s woes as a chance to steal readers. The Yomiuri stuffed glossy brochures in the mailboxes of Asahi subscribers, blasting it for tarnishing Japan’s honor, while praising the Yomiuri’s coverage of the comfort women. This attempt to poach readers ultimately backfired as both newspapers lost circulation.

Rather than stand together to resist government pressure, they allowed themselves to be used as instruments of political pressure,” said Jiro Yamaguchi, a political scientist at Tokyo’s Hosei University.

Despite peer pressure, Asahi journalists say the newspaper initially intended to defend its Fukushima scoop, going so far as to draw up a lengthy rebuttal that was to have run on page one in early September. As late as Sept. 1, Seiichi  Ichikawa, the head of the Investigative Section at the time, told his reporters that the newspaper was ready to fight back. “The government is coming after the Special Investigative Section,” Ichikawa said in a pep talk to his team, according to Watanabe and others who were present. “The Asahi will not give in.”

The Asahi’s decision to punish its own journalists will discourage others from taking the same risks inherent in investigative reporting.

The rebuttal was never published. Instead, President Kimura surprised many of his own reporters with a sudden about face, announcing at a press conference on Sept. 11 that he was retracting the Fukushima-Yoshida article. Reporters say the newspaper’s resolve to defend the piece crumbled when journalists within the newspaper began an internal revolt against the article and the section that produced it.

This was compounded by a sense of panic that gripped the newspaper, as declines in readership and advertising accelerated markedly after the scandals. Fearing for the Asahi’s survival, many reporters chose to sacrifice investigative journalism as a means to mollify detractors, say media scholars and some Asahi journalists, including Yorimitsu.

The Asahi’s official line is that the story was too flawed to defend. The paper’s new president, Masataka Watanabe, continues to talk about the importance of investigative journalism, and some current and former Asahi journalists say investigative reporting will make a comeback.

However, scholars and former section reporters say the setback was too severe. They say the Asahi’s decision to punish its own journalists will discourage others from taking the same risks inherent in investigative reporting. Worse, they said the Asahi seemed to lapse back into the old, access-driven ways of Japan’s mainstream journalism. “The Asahi retreated from its experiment in risky, high-quality journalism, back into the safety of the press clubs,” said Tatsuro Hanada, a professor of journalism at Waseda University in Tokyo. Hanada was so dismayed by the Asahi’s retreat that he established Japan’s first university-based center for investigative journalism at Waseda this year. “It makes me think that the days of Japan’s huge national newspapers may be numbered.”

http://www.cjr.org/the_feature/asahi_shimbun_japan_journalism.php

October 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

About Fukushima

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If in 2010 there was one birth and one death every 28 seconds in Japon, beginning 2014 there was one death every 25 seconds and a birth every 31 seconds: a differential of 2 seconds per year, this seems little yet it is significantly faster than in Ukraine.

Fukushima is much more severe, because there were 4 reactors instead of one, and the reactor 3 was using plutonium MOX, with at proximity a dense population. If the wind was favorable three days out of 4, it was also unfavorable 1 day out of 4.

http://www.lesechos.fr/02/01/2014/lesechos.fr/0203217883972_japon—baisse-sans-precedent-de-la-population-en-2013.htm

 

The first 6 months of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in 2011, Tepco and the Japanese government were putting a lid on informations inside Japan, then gradually that omerta was broken by the people sharing informations on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.

 

However, a language barrier remained. As of today there is a lot of informations in japanese circulated inside Japan, about radiation and contamination, about health issues, etc. Unfortunately those informations are not getting translated from japanese to english, due to the shortage of capable translators. As a result almost none of those important informations are getting outside of Japan reaching the outside world to teach the people everywhere the scale of the disaster and how it affects all those people lives.

 

The only informations coming out in english are those in the articles of the Japanese main stream media which are strongly under government influence when not just plain censorship, therefore publishing very sanitized informations, and the Western main stream media which are either under the nuclear lobby financial influence, or lacking the indepth details.

 

Not to mention the nonsense sensationalism of some of the American websites or Youtubers, produced only to increase visitors traffic and donations, which deals only in hyperboles, exaggerations, when not just plain lunacy.

 

The overall result is that we have an ongoing nuclear catastrophe now for 5 years and half, affecting millions of people on location in Japan, which outside of Japan most of the people are not aware, as it had not happened, was not happening.

 

The two main reasons being:

1. The sanitizing of information by the main stream media owned by the same financial interests which own the nuclear industry.

2. The language barrier which hinders the real facts, the real details to spread out of Japan.

 

And thanks to the continuous ignorance about the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe, us not being capable to learn from it, its human tragedy, its harmful consequences to health and environment, it is like the whole world is ready for another new nuclear catastrophe, accepting it to come.

 

Why can’t we learn from our mistakes…

 

I wish to thank here Mochizuki Cheshire Iori of the Fukushima diary blog, Nancy Foust of Fukuleaks, and Pierre Fetet of the Fukushima blog, for their efforts year after year during the past 5 years and half to inform about Fukushima, those persons have accomplished an  excellent and tremendous job, with integrity and no nonsense. My respect to you.

http://fukushima-diary.com/

http://www.fukuleaks.org/web/

http://www.fukushima-blog.com/

 

October 11, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | 1 Comment

77.2 Billion Dollars in Public Funds Sought for Post-Fukushima Disaster Costs

They were telling us that nuclear energy was safe and cheap….

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8 trillion yen in public funds sought for post-Fukushima disaster costs

The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) has informally asked the government to inject some 8 trillion yen in public funds into efforts for nuclear damage compensation and decontamination work in areas around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it has been learned.

The FEPC has drawn up a report stating that an extra 8 trillion yen is estimated to be necessary even after Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and other major utilities shoulder the planned amount of costs for dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, and has informally requested that the government foot the surplus amount. The government has heretofore taken the position that nuclear plant operators should bear the costs for nuclear damage compensation and decontamination work in principle. It is therefore expected to approach the request with caution.

The costs for Fukushima disaster damage compensation and decontamination work are funded under the following steps: the state issues cashable government compensation bonds to the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. (NDF), a government-authorized corporation; TEPCO then receives necessary funds from the NDF and spends them on nuclear damage compensation and decontamination work; the NDF then receives due contributions from TEPCO and other major utilities and pays back the funds to the state.

Among the contributions made by power companies to the NDF, funds for nuclear damage compensation are shouldered by TEPCO and other major utilities, and the funds for decontamination work are covered by profits on the sale of TEPCO shares held by the NDF, while the funds for building interim storage facilities for radioactive waste are covered by revenues from the tax on the promotion of power resources development.

In 2013, the government estimated that nuclear damage compensation would cost 5.4 trillion yen, while decontamination work would require 2.5 trillion yen and construction costs for temporary storage facilities for radioactive waste and other expenses would need 1.1 trillion yen. The total amounts to be granted to the NDF were estimated at a maximum 9 trillion yen.

However, the FEPC now forecasts that damage compensation would cost 2.6 trillion yen more at 8 trillion yen and the decontamination expenses 4.5 trillion yen more at 7 trillion yen, according to sources familiar with the matter. Furthermore, the FEPC forecasts that profits on the sale of TEPCO shares would be 1 trillion yen less than the initial estimate due to a fall in the stock prices, bringing the total fund shortages to 8.1 trillion yen.

Major utilities fear that they would ultimately be forced to shoulder the additional burden as the enormous costs for decontamination work cannot be covered by profits on the sale of TEPCO shares.

The FEPC has unofficially asked that the government foot the extra amount of costs necessary for nuclear damage compensation and decontamination work on the grounds that the business environment for major utilities has deteriorated amid the stalled reactivation of nuclear reactors that have been left idle since the Fukushima disaster and the intensifying competition among power companies following the liberalization of the electricity retail market this past spring.

While TEPCO has forked out 2 trillion yen for the decommissioning of disaster-stricken reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, several trillion yen extra is projected to be necessary to cover the expenses. In July, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. asked for government assistance in covering the expenses for reactor decommissioning at the plant and other efforts. The FEPC’s recent request to the government, meanwhile, does not include financial assistance for reactor decommissioning.

The government is poised to discuss the costs for Fukushima disaster damage compensation and reactor decommissioning at a panel on TEPCO reform and Fukushima No. 1 plant issues to be convened on Oct. 5, where the FEPC’s request is likely to be deliberated on.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161004/p2a/00m/0na/017000c

October 5, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Reassessing the 3.11 Disaster and the Future of Nuclear Power in Japan: An Interview with Former Prime Minister Kan Naoto

Interview by Vincenzo Capodici, Introduction by Shaun Burnie, Translation by Richard Minear

Introduction

For more than two decades, the global nuclear industry has attempted to frame the debate on nuclear power within the context of climate change: nuclear power is better than any of the alternatives. So the argument went. Ambitious nuclear expansion plans inthe United States and Japan, two of the largest existing markets, and the growth of nuclear power in China appeared to show—superficially at least—that the technology had a future. At least in terms of political rhetoric and media perception, it appeared to be a winning argument. Then came March 11, 2011. Those most determined to promote nuclear power even cited the Fukushima Daiichi accident as a reason for expanding nuclear power: impacts were low, no one died, radiation levels are not a risk. So claimeda handful of commentators in the international (particularly English-language) media.

However,from the start of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11 2011,the harsh reality of nuclear power was exposed to billions of people across the planet, and in particular to the population of Japan, including the more than 160,000 people displaced by the disaster, many of whom are still unable to return to their homes, and scores of millions more threatened had worst case scenarios occurred. One authoritative voice that has been central to exposing the myth-making of the nuclear industry and its supporters has been that of KanNaoto, Prime Minister in 2011. His conversion from promoter to stern critic may be simple to understand, but it is no less commendable for its bravery. When the survival of half the society you are elected to serve and protect is threatened by a technology that is essentially an expensive way to boil water, then something is clearly wrong. Japan avoided societal destruction thanks in large part to the dedication of workers at the crippled nuclear plant, but also to the intervention of Kan and his staff, and to luck. Had it not been for a leaking pipe into the cooling pool of Unit 4 that maintained sufficient water levels, the highly irradiated spent fuel in the pool, including the entire core only recently removed from the reactor core, would have been exposed, releasing an amount of radioactivity far in excess of that released from the other three reactors. The cascade of subsequent events would have meant total loss of control of the other reactors, including their spent fuel pools and requiring massive evacuation extending throughout metropolitan Tokyo, as Prime Minister Kan feared. That three former Prime Ministers of Japan are not just opposed to nuclear power but actively campaigning against it is unprecedented in global politics and is evidence of the scale of the threat that Fukushima posed to tens of millions ofJapanese.

The reality is thatin terms of electricity share and relative to renewable energy,nuclear power has been in decline globally for two decades.Since the FukushimaDaiichiaccident, this decline has only increased in pace. The nuclear industry knew full well that nuclear power could not be scaled up to the level required to make a serious impact on global emissions. But that was never the point. The industry adopted the climate-change argument as a survival strategy: to ensure extending the life of existing aging reactors and make possible the addition of some new nuclear capacity in the coming decades—sufficient at least to allow a core nuclear industrial infrastructure to survive to mid-century.The dream was to survive to mid-century, when limitless energy would be realized by the deployment of commercial plutonium fast-breeder reactors and other generation IV designs. It was always a myth, but it had a commercial and strategic rationale for the power companies, nuclear suppliers and their political allies.

The basis for the Fukushima Daiichi accident began long before March 11th 2011, when decisions were made to build and operate reactors in a nation almost uniquely vulnerable to major seismic events. More than five years on, the accident continues with a legacy that will stretch over the decades. Preventing the next catastrophic accident in Japan is now a passion of the former Prime Minister, joining as he has the majority of the people of Japan determined to transition to a society based on renewable energy. He is surely correct that the end of nuclear power in Japan is possible. The utilities remain in crisis, with only three reactors operating, and legal challenges have been launched across the nation. No matter what policy the government chooses, the basis for Japan’s entire nuclear fuel cycle policy, which is based on plutonium separation at Rokkasho-mura and its use in the Monju reactor and its fantasy successor reactors, is in a worse state than ever before. But as KanNaotoknows better than most, this is an industry entrenched within the establishment and still wields enormous influence. Its end is not guaranteed. Determination and dedication will be needed to defeat it. Fortunately, the Japanese people have these in abundance. SB

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The Interview

Q: What is your central message?

Kan: Up until the accident at the Fukushima reactor, I too was confident that since Japanese technology is of high quality, no Chernobyl-like event was possible.

But in fact when I came face to face with Fukushima, I learned I was completely mistaken. I learned first and foremost that we stood on the brink of disaster: had the incident spread only slightly, half the territory of Japan, half the area of metropolitan Tokyo would have been irradiated and 50,000,000 people would have had to evacuate.

Half one’s country would be irradiated, nearly half of the population would have to flee: to the extent it’s conceivable, only defeat in major war is comparable.

That the risk was so enormous: that is what in the first place I want all of you, all the Japanese, all the world’s people to realize.

Q: You yourself are a physicist, yet you don’t believe in the first analysis that people can handle nuclear power? Don’t you believe that there are technical advances and that in the end it will be safe to use?

Kan: As a rule, all technologies involve risk. For example, automobiles have accidents; airplanes, too. But the scale of the risk if an accident happens affects the question whether or not to use that technology. You compare the plus of using it and on the other hand the minus of not using it. We learned that with nuclear reactors, the Fukushima nuclear reactors, the risk was such that 50,000,000 people nearly had to evacuate. Moreover, if we had not used nuclear reactors—in fact, after the incident, there was a period of about two years when we didn’t use nuclear power and there was no great impact on the public welfare, nor any economic impact either. So when you take these factors as a whole into account, in a broad sense there is no plus to using nuclear power. That is my judgment.

One more thing. In the matter of the difference between nuclear power and other technologies, controlling the radiation is in the final analysis extremely difficult.

For example, plutonium emits radiation for a long time. Its half-life is 24,000 years, so because nuclear waste contains plutonium—in its disposal, even if you let it sit and don’t use it—its half-life is 24,000 years, in effect forever. So it’s a very difficult technology to use—an additional point I want to make.

Q: It figured a bit ago in the lecture by Professor Prasser, that in third-generation reactors, risk can be avoided. What is your response?

Kan: It’s as Professor Khwostowa said: we’ve said that even with many nuclear reactors, an event inside a reactor like the Fukushima nuclear accident or a Chernobyl-sized event would occur only once in a million years; but in fact, in the past sixty years, we’ve had Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima. Professor Prasser says it’s getting gradually safer, but in fact accidents have happened with greater frequency and on a larger scale than was foreseen. So partial improvements are possible, as Professor Prasser says, but saying that doesn’t mean that accidents won’t happen. Equipment causes accidents, but so do humans.

Q: Today it’s five years after Fukushima. What is the situation in Japan today? We hear that there are plans beginning in 2018 to return the refugees to their homes. To what extent is the clean-up complete?

Kan: Let me describe conditions on site at Fukushima. Reactors #1, #2, #3 melted down, and the melted nuclear fuel still sits in the containment vessel; every day they introduce water to cool it. Radioactivity in the vessel of #2, they say, is 70 sieverts—not microsieverts or millisieverts, 70 sieverts. If humans approach a site that is radiating 70 sieverts, they die within five minutes. That situation has held ever since: that’s the current situation.

Moreover, the water they introduce leaves the containment vessel and is said to be recirculated, but in fact it mixes with groundwater, and some flows into the ocean. Prime Minister Abe used the words “under control,” but Japanese experts, including me, consider it not under control if part is flowing into the ocean. All the experts see it this way.

As for the area outside the site, more than 100,000 people have fled the Fukushima area.

So now the government is pushing residential decontamination and beyond that the decontamination of agricultural land.

Even if you decontaminate the soil, it’s only a temporary or partial reduction in radioactivity; in very many cases cesium comes down from the mountains, it returns.

The Fukushima prefectural government and the government say that certain of the areas where decontamination has been completed are habitable, so people have until 2018 to return; moreover, beyond that date, they won’t give aid to the people who have fled. But I and others think there’s still danger and that the support should be continued at the same level for people who conclude on their own that it’s still dangerous—that’s what we’re saying.

Given the conditions on site and the conditions of those who have fled, you simply can’t say that the clean-up is complete.

Q: Since the Fukushima accident, you have become a strong advocate of getting rid of nuclear reactors; yet in the end, the Abe regime came to power, and it is going in the opposite direction: three reactors are now in operation. As you see this happening, are you angry?

Kan: Clearly what Prime Minister Abe is trying to do—his nuclear reactor policy or energy policy—is mistaken. I am strongly opposed to current policy.

But are things moving steadily backward? Three reactors are indeed in operation. However, phrase it differently: only three are in operation. Why only three? Most—more than half the people—are still resisting strongly. From now on, if it should come to new nuclear plants, say, or to extending the licenses of existing nuclear plants, popular opposition is extremely strong, so that won’t be at all easy. In that sense, Japan’s situation today is a very harsh opposition—a tug of war—between the Abe government, intent on retrogression, and the people, who are heading toward abolishing nuclear reactors.

Two of Prime Minister Abe’s closest advisors are opposed to his policy on nuclear power.

One is his wife. The other is former Prime Minister Koizumi, who promoted him.

Q: Last question: please talk about the possibility that within ten years Japan will do away with nuclear power.

Kan: In the long run, it will disappear gradually. But if you ask whether it will disappear in the next ten years, I can’t say. For example, even in my own party opinion is divided; some hope to do away with it in the 2030s. So I can’t say whether it will disappear completely in the next ten years, but taking the long view, it will surely be gone, for example, by the year 2050 or 2070. The most important reason is economic. It has become clear that compared with other forms of energy, the cost of nuclear energy is high.

Q: Thank you.

http://apjjf.org/2016/18/Capodici.html

September 23, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

In Fukushima, A Bitter Legacy Of Radiation, Trauma and Fear

Five years after the nuclear power plant meltdown, a journey through the Fukushima evacuation zone reveals some high levels of radiation and an overriding sense of fear. For many, the psychological damage is far more profound than the health effects.

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A radiation monitoring station alongside a road in Namie, Japan.

Japan’s Highway 114 may not be the most famous road in the world. It doesn’t have the cachet of Route 66 or the Pan-American Highway. But it does have one claim to fame. It passes through what for the past five years has been one of the most radioactive landscapes on the planet – heading southeast from the Japanese city of Fukushima to the stricken nuclear power plant, Fukushima Daiichi, through the forested mountains where much of the fallout from the meltdown at the plant in March 2011 fell to earth.

It is a largely empty highway now, winding through abandoned villages and past overgrown rice paddy fields. For two days in August, I traveled its length to assess the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in the company of Baba Isao, an assemblyman who represents the town of Namie, located just three miles from the power plant and one of four major towns that remain evacuated.

At times, the radiation levels seemed scarily high – still too high for permanent occupation. But radiation was just the start. More worrying, I discovered, was the psychological and political fallout from the accident. While the radiation – most of it now from caesium-137, a radioactive isotope with a half-life of 30 years – is decaying, dispersing, or being cleaned up, it is far from clear that this wider trauma has yet peaked. Fukushima is going to be in rehab for decades.

I began my journey with Baba, a small bustling man of 72 years, at Kawamata, a town on Highway 114 that is a gateway to the mountains beyond. These mountains are where the fallout was greatest, and the forests that cover most of their slopes have retained the most radioactivity. The mountains make up most of the government-designated “red zone,” where radiation doses exceed 50 millisieverts a year and which are likely to remain uninhabited for many years.

A second “yellow zone” has doses of 20-50 millisieverts, where returning may soon be possible; and a third “green zone,” with less than 20 millisieverts, is deemed safe to live in, and an organized return is under way or planned. Zones are re-categorized as radioactivity decays and hotspots are decontaminated.

To check progress, I took with me a Geiger counter that measured gamma radiation, the main source of radiation for anyone not eating contaminated food.

Beyond Kawamata, the road was largely empty and houses sat abandoned and overgrown. There was no cellphone signal. At first, houses we measured at the roadside had radiation doses equivalent to only around 2 millisieverts per year, a tenth of the government threshold for reoccupation. But within minutes, as we climbed into the mountains, radiation increased as we moved from green to yellow to red zones.

 

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A map tracing Japan’s Highway 114 through the Fukushima evacuation zone

Despite the radiation, wildlife is thriving in the absence of people, Baba said. There are elk, wolves, lynx, monkeys, and bears in the mountains. “Nature here is beautiful,” he said, “but we can’t fish or collect bamboo shoots or eat the mountain vegetables that people used to harvest from the forests.”

We stopped by an abandoned gas station in Tsushima, a village in the lee of Mount Hiyama, where wild boar had excavated the soil right by a vending machine that appeared remarkably intact. The bright-red digital display on an official Geiger counter read the equivalent of 21 millisieverts per year, just above the limit for human habitation.

The day after the disaster at the power plant began, 1,400 people from Namie came to Tsushima after being ordered to evacuate. “I was among them,” said Baba. “We had no information. People were just told to come. When we arrived, we went to the village police station and found that the police there were in full protective clothing against the radiation. They said it was a precaution in case they had to go to the power plant, but they had obviously been told that something serious was going on that the population hadn’t been told. That’s when our suspicion about the honesty of the authorities began.”

Tsushima has since become an unofficial shrine to the disaster. In the window of an abandoned shop are posters with bitter, ironic messages, some directed at the nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power: “Thanks to TEPCO, we can shed tears at our temporary housing,” read one. “Thanks to TEPCO, we can play pachinko.” But one, in English, just said, “I shall return.”

Back on Highway 114, a car stopped, and a woman got out. Konno Hidiko was driving to Namie – day trips are allowed, but overnight stays banned – to clean her parents’ former house and tidy an ancestral grave before relatives visited during an upcoming religious holiday. “My parents are dead now, but I still clean their house,” she said. “There are mice inside and wild boar have been in. We won’t ever return to live there. But we might build a new house there one day.”

Further along, Baba stopped the car and walked up a path swathed in vegetation. “This is my house,” he said suddenly, pointing to a barely visible building. It was shuttered. But I noticed laundry still hanging to dry in an upstairs window. On a tour of the grounds, Baba showed me his plum trees. “The fruit is too dangerous to eat now, and we can’t drink the water from the well, either.” We found a shed where he and his schoolteacher wife once kept cattle, and a former hay shed where he stored old election banners.

 

 

 

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Baba Isao approaches his abandoned house in Namie.

 

I checked my meter. It read 26 millisieverts per year in the hay shed, but shot up to an alarming 80 in undergrowth outside. That was four times the safe level for habitation. No wonder Baba had no plans to return. “I am just the son of a farmer. I wonder who has a right to destroy our home and my livelihood,” he mused bitterly. “Please tell the world: No Nukes.”

At his local post office, an official monitor by the road measured 56 millisieverts. Mine agreed, but when we pointed it close to a sprig of moss pushing through the tarmac, it went off the scale. “They measured 500 millisieverts here last week,” Baba said. “Moss accumulates radioactivity.”

As we drove on, the roadside was now marked every few kilometers by massive pyramids of black plastic bags, containing radioactive soil that had been stripped from roadside edges, paddy fields, and house gardens as part of government efforts to decontaminate the land. An estimated 3 million bags, all neatly tagged, now await final disposal at facilities planned along the coast. But the task of transporting the soil is so huge that the authorities are building a new road so trucks can bypass the scenic mountain villages along Highway 114.

Through a checkpoint we came at last to Namie town. Just before my visit, major media such as The Guardian and CNN had published images of the town by a photographer who claimed to have gained secret, unauthorized entry to the “ghost town.” He posed in his images wearing a gas mask to show how dangerous it was.

My visit to the town had required a request in advance, via Baba, but no subterfuge. And I found Namie a surprisingly busy “ghost town.” Nobody is yet allowed to live there. But some 4,000 people work there every day, repairing the railway line and roads, building new houses, and knocking down quake-damaged shops, preparing for the planned return of its citizens in April 2017.

There was plenty of earthquake damage, and vegetation pushed through cracks in the roads and the pavement in the front yards. Black bags were everywhere. But the traffic lights functioned, and drivers obeyed them; there was a 7-Eleven and the vending machines had Coke in them. Nobody wore protective clothing or masks. My biggest safety concern was not radiation, but the news, conveyed over the town’s public address system on the afternoon I was there, that a bear had been spotted in the suburbs.

Despite its proximity to the power plant, average radiation levels in the town were down to around 2 millisieverts per year in Namie – lower, in fact, than I recorded in Fukushima City, which was never evacuated.

“I have no idea how many people will come back,” said Baba. “They have a lot of misgivings because of the radioactive contamination. And I think their fears are totally justified. It is totally unthinkable for me to return to my old place, so I cannot encourage them to return to theirs.” He quoted a survey of the town’s 21,000 former residents showing that only 18 percent wanted to come back. That sounded similar to nearby Naraha town, where only a fifth returned after the all-clear was given last year.

 

 

 

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A deserted street in Namie in early 2016.

People especially feared for their children. The biggest concern was reports of an epidemic of thyroid cancer among children exposed to radioactive iodine in the days after the accident. An ultrasound screening program had found an apparent 30-fold increase in cysts, nodules, and some cancers in children’s thyroid glands. It had made headline news.

But at the Fukushima Medical University, doctors and medical researchers insisted that radiation doses were far too low to pose a serious cancer risk, not least because contaminated foodstuffs that could have harbored the iodine were rapidly withdrawn from sale. Ken Nollet, an American who is director of radiation health at the university, insists that the apparent epidemic was evidence only of better searching for disease. He told me a Korean screening study using the same techniques on a non-exposed population found similar rates to those in Fukushima’s contaminated zone.

Thanks to the rapid, if chaotic, evacuation of the area after the power plant began its meltdown, and the controls of foodstuffs, doctors say they believe there are unlikely to be many, if any, deaths among the public from radiation from the Fukushima accident. “A few members of the public got a CT scan’s worth of radiation; almost nobody received more than the dose from a barium meal,” said Nollet.

But there have been deaths nonetheless. Some 60 old people died as a direct result of the evacuation, including several who died of hunger after being left behind, said a doctor at Soma hospital, Sae Ochi. And depression remains widespread among evacuees, she says. There have been around 85 suicides linked to its after-effects. “It’s post-traumatic stress,” said Masaharu Maeda at Fukushima Medical University. “People with very negative views about the risks of radiation are more likely to be depressed. It’s a vicious circle.”

Some doctors told me that while the initial evacuation was necessary, the failure to plan a swift return as radiation levels fell had been disastrous. Apart from a few high-dose areas in the mountains, the psychological risks of staying away exceed the radiological risks of coming back. But the confusion has contributed to a serious loss of trust among the public for medical, as well as nuclear, authorities. “When we try to explain the situation,” says Nollet, “we are seen as complicit in nuclear power.”

It seems increasingly unlikely that the majority of families will return to the abandoned towns as the official all-clear is given. As we drove back from Namie, I dropped in on a group of old women living in an evacuation camp outside Kawamata. One told me they wanted to return to their old homes, but that “most young people simply won’t go back. They fear for their children, but also they have moved on in their lives, with new jobs and their children in new schools.”

And maybe that is not a bad thing. At a kindergarten in Soma City, just outside the exclusion zone, teachers told me that, away from the fear of radiation, there was a baby boom going on there. The crop of new students this year was the largest since the accident.

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/fukushima_bitter_legacy_of_radiation_trauma_fear/3035/

 

September 20, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We need to recognize this hopeless sight…. To recognize that this horrible crime is what our country is doing to us”: Interview with Mutō Ruiko

Mutō Ruiko interviewed by Katsuya Hirano

Translation by Ryoko Nishijima

Transcription by Akiko Anson

Mutō Ruiko is a long-time antinuclear activist based in Fukushima. She represents 1,324 Fukushima residents who filed a criminal complaint in June 2012 pressing charges against TEPCO executives and government officials. In July 2015, an inquest committee decided that three former executives of TEPCO merited indictment, clearing the way for a criminal trial. This marked an unprecedented development in the history of criminal justice in Japan since indictment against the nuclear industry had never been granted in the country. On August 26, 2015, I visited Mutō in Miharumachi, Fukushima to hear about her activism, understanding of the Fukushima situations, and view of ecological issues on a global scale. Norma Field, a close friend of Mutō and a scholar who has been working on Fukushima issues since 2011, contributes an accompanying essay that puts this interview into a critical perspective. For details about the content of the criminal complaint and Mutō’s background, see Yamaguchi Tomomi and Mutō Ruiko, “Muto Ruiko and the Movement of Fukushima Residents to Pursue Criminal Charges against Tepco Executives and Government Officials” in the Asia-Pacific Journal (Link). (K.H.)

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 Mutō Ruiko

How the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Came into Being

Hirano: Thank you very much for agreeing to an interview today. Ms. Mutō, you represent the organization, The Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, which has sought criminal indictment of those deemed responsible for the disaster. A few days ago, an inquest committee decided that three former executives of TEPCO should be indictment, clearing the way for a criminal trial.2 First, could you explain how the Complainants group was formed?

Mutō: Concerning The Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster… I actually knew nothing about nuclear power plants until the Chernobyl accident. After that, I realized how dangerous nuclear power could be, and became deeply involved in the anti-nuclear movement. Before, there was a small group in Fukushima called “Fukushima Network for the Abolition of Nuclear Power,” which continued its activities on a smaller scale. After the accident in Fukushima, I had the opportunity to reunite with some members of this group.

We held two workshops to discuss things we could do as a group experienced in anti-nuclear activism. Many young people with children had evacuated outside the prefecture after the accident. It was at this moment when the link between those who evacuated and those who remained was getting weaker that I felt the urgent necessity to somehow find a way to reconnect.

We had planned a major event on March 26th and 27th, 2011, but the accident occurred two weeks before the date we had originally set. Everyone had evacuated and left. On March 26th, Saeko Uno-san from Kyoto – maybe she was in Kyushu at the time – suggested we hold a simultaneous press conference from each of the places we had evacuated.3 “Let’s tell the world about our difficult circumstances from wherever we are,” she said. Through this event we gradually came to realize how the evacuees were living their lives. Eventually, after several events and study camps, in January 2012, we came up with two goals: to pursue accountability, and to set up some form of official record like the hibakusha techō, a booklet that certifies one’s radiation exposure. You know about the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law. That took 12 years to become effective after the bomb was dropped, but we wanted to act more swiftly to establish such legal protection, and we wanted to follow the example of the Chernobyl laws.4 We weren’t actually able to accomplish much since we were only a small group with 20 members or so, but at least we identified two goals for the future.

In January 2012, we consulted with Mr. Kawai, the lawyer with whom we work now. At first, Kawai-san seemed to find our aims rather unrealistic. Soon, a writer named Hirose Takashi and Akashi Shōjiro, along with lawyer Yasuda Yukuo, filed a criminal complaint and wrote a book about it.5 We invited those three to our study group to discuss whether we could also attempt to file for criminal prosecution. Around 100 people gathered and there was great momentum to take this action. In March 2012, the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution was officially inaugurated.

Hirano: The Fukushima nuclear power plant (NPP) had various problems even before the accident in 2011. In 1989, for example, there was a massive accident at Plant 2 Reactor Unit 3, where the circulation pump for sending coolant water into the reactor was broken, and the reactor was off line for almost two years. Mutō-san, you had already organized the Fukushima Network for the Abolition of Nuclear Power in 1988, and for over 20 years demanded that TEPCO investigate the cause of the problem in order to prevent future accidents. How did TEPCO respond to you back in those days?

Mutō: The damage at Reactor 3 occurred at the end of the year in 1989. The alarm went off and sounded continuously for about a week through the New Year holidays. At first I had no idea what was going on, but it turned out to be a serious problem. The recirculation pump was fractured – it is called the guillotine break – and, had it gone wrong, would have led to a terrible disaster. After this incident, many people in Tokyo who participated as consumers in the anti-nuclear movement came to support us, like Higashii Rei who is in Shizuoka right now, and Oga Ayaka who ended up moving to Fukushima – I think she had just graduated from high school back then. Many people from various backgrounds came and our movement gained a lot of momentum.

TEPCO had covered up the fact that the sirens had been going off for a week. This incident already reveals their tendency to hide the truth. When they were going to resume operation, we held a referendum about whether local residents were for or against restarting the reactor. We visited residents individually and handed out flyers discussing the dangers. We went on an all-female hunger strike, and there were others who set up a tent and started something like an Occupy action. We tried many different things, but we weren’t able to stop them.

Around that time, we began negotiation meetings with TEPCO. Each month, we would go to places like the service halls in Fukushima Plants 1 or 2; the publicity people from the plants would come over and answer our questions, and we would hand them documents listing our demands. We continued this monthly negotiation for 20 years until the accident occurred. Resuming this activity after two years of hiatus following the accident, I noticed that TEPCO’s corporate culture essentially remains the same (laughter). Even now, once a month, we hold negotiations with TEPCO for about three hours and end up almost feeling sick.

Hirano: What sort of attitude do they display during those three hours?

Mutō: Well, you might say they’re obsequious, or—they act as if they’re truly sorry, but when we start pressing for details, they fly into a rage.

Hirano: They get mad at you? (laughter) Wow.

Mutō: Yes, they get angry. Basically, they have no awareness that they’re the perpetrators. They think that they’re the victims.

Hirano: Why the victims?

Mutō: Of course they realize that TEPCO is the one that caused the accident. But from their perspective, they probably feel that it was the tsunami that brought about this unfortunate situation and they were frantically doing their best, so why should they be getting such complaints?

The predisposition of the organization might be something like “We’re not doing anything wrong, we’re the ones with the highest technology and proper understanding of the situation, which ordinary citizens can’t grasp.” Of course they won’t say this directly to our face, but this is what it feels like.

Hirano: They brush you off with condescension. The gap between citizens and experts is unavoidable because ordinary people are ignorant and uneducated.

Mutō: I always sense that. Sometimes we just can’t take it anymore and feel like bursting out, “This is too much!” “We are the victims! You brought this on us, don’t you understand!?” Maybe this is too grandiose, but I think we have an opportunity to rethink what “development” means. They believe that certain sacrifices are inevitable. Using nuclear power to generate electricity requires sacrifice on a fundamental level, right? But is it really okay for us to keep thinking that certain sacrifices are necessary for the sake of development and economic outcomes? We need to revisit this question. This is a human rights issue.

Developmentalism and Sacrifice, Education and Victimhood

Hirano: So from your perspective, at the core of the nuclear power plant issue, as you just mentioned, is the idea of developmentalism (hattenshugi/発展主義). The nuclear power plant is the ultimate outcome, in the most disfigured form, of an idea that prioritizes development, that a society will and should continue to maximize wealth at the expense of certain peoples or communities. Is this how you feel?

Mutō: Yes, that is the very symbol of a nuclear power plant. Especially, the idea of “necessary sacrifice” is embedded in a structure of discrimination against those who are sacrificed. The nuclear accident revealed the structural problem in which those subjected to discrimination have been exposed to a stupendous amount of danger for the benefit of big corporations or those who live in the city. However, this danger has been concealed with the power of money and the safety myth, and even after the accident, when people have become victims, they are hindered from recognizing themselves as such. Being a victim means that you must make a conscious effort to become aware of your victimhood. Otherwise, you become numb, or are made to become numb, to the fact that you have been subjected to something very unreasonable. I think that is one of the main issues.

I often feel like shouting out, is it really okay if we end up just crying ourselves to sleep? I know everybody’s concerned about life and livelihood, and that a lot of energy is taken up there, and that there’re important things we want to protect. But the way in which people are constantly being discriminated against, exploited, and faced with outrageous situations in this social structure—if we don’t gain self-awareness of these things, it’s going to be difficult to change them from our end. So I think it’s extremely important to be conscious of our victimhood. Then, as we gain consciousness of our victimhood, I think we start seeing our own participation in victimization, which also needs to be examined.

Hirano: I could not agree more. In your book From Fukushima to You you wrote, “We have been molded into citizens who do not speak out – citizens who have had to lock up their anger.” You also mentioned this point during the “Goodbye Nuclear Power: Gathering of 50,000.” As someone who has long been part of the field of education, do you think this difficulty in recognizing one’s victimhood is somehow related to Japan’s educational system?

Mutō: Previously, I had been teaching at a school for people with disabilities. My connection with them has had a big influence on me. It is obvious that they have been socially oppressed for their disabilities. Yet, those who are mentally challenged, for example, are in a very difficult position to point this out and try to change the situation with their own hands, though of course, there are many who have bravely fought for it.

Also, facing these disabled students as a teacher, you find yourself in a position of power in the school – inside the classroom, you are the authority figure (laughter). Of course, it was fun spending time with the children, and there was a lot I learned from them. There were many things I couldn’t handle on my own. But to be a teacher in a school is to be in an awfully powerful position, and you look down from on high. I’ve always felt uneasy being in that position. I’m not very smart so I can’t express this feeling with the right words, but I’ve always wondered, what is this structure? There are certain wonderful aspects of education, but when you think about how schools came into being, you have to think one of its purposes is to produce people conveniently suited for the needs of the nation, to mold citizens convenient for society.

Hirano: Especially compulsory education.

Fear and Deception, Despair and Accuracy

Hirano: In your speech at the Gathering of 50,000, you said, “After half a year has passed [since the accident], it has gradually become clear that the truth is concealed. The State does not protect its citizens. The accident has not ended. Fukushima residents will be turned into the subjects of nuclear experimentation. A stupendous amount of nuclear waste will be left. There exists a force bent on promoting nuclear power despite the sacrifice already made. We have been abandoned.”6 Unfortunately, it seems like these words accurately foretold what would soon become reality. It has been four years since the accident, but the situation has not changed.

Mutō: No it hasn’t. I feel a sense of shock over how reality has become exactly as I depicted. Why did I write this at the time? But it is true I already had this feeling then. Sometimes I wonder if I should have written this sort of thing. But you are right. What I said has become true. It might actually be worse.

Radioactive contamination and exposure is a frightening, serious issue. That is a fact, so I don’t want people to look away, but at the same time, I don’t want this to be a movement purely motivated by fear. I want us to choose a different route, to bring imagination to the movement.

Hirano: You have repeatedly made the point that you do not wish it to be a movement motivated by fear. Can you elaborate?

Mutō: Well, radiation is indeed terrifying, but I think emotions like fear and anger are something we don’t really want to see in ourselves. “Legitimate anger” is a necessary part of our emotion. Yet, you suffer greatly when beset by emotions like anger and fear, right? It is hard to watch others feeling angry. I am the type of person who can’t really deal with those who are livid or speak aggressively. I myself am not very hot-tempered. I am not good at giving in to my feelings and letting my anger explode, even if harsh words come to mind. There are good and bad sides to this, but I can’t endure the pain of experiencing such anger. That’s why I want so much to be calm.

In my speech, I described the people in Fukushima as “the ogres of the Northeast quietly burning their anger.” I put a lot of thought into the word choice of “quietly.” Of course, anger is very important, and you have to be angry, but I want that anger to be calm. Now, people tell me that we can’t be so “quiet” with our anger, and I think to myself, that’s not exactly what I mean (laughter). But everyone can interpret it differently, I think (laughter). So, yes, I want to stay calm and look intently at reality. Even despair. I want to take on despair, too, and despair properly. It’s by looking at it squarely that I want to go about finding the next step.

Hirano: You want to calmly accept despair as despair. Otherwise, you cannot find the next step or discover new hope. Is this what you mean?

Muto: I think humans can’t go on living without hope. But we need to acknowledge this hopeless sight before us. This is what our nation is doing. Our anger and sadness will deepen and mature. That can give birth to the prospect of a future. Everybody’s different, I know, but for me, I am a person who wants to know (laughter). I just want to know the truth.

Hirano: I see. You want to have a clear idea of the situation, even if it is an absolutely hopeless one.

Mutō: Yes. Of course, I do feel angry and sad. But I really hate the feeling that there are things I don’t know (laughter). That is a strong desire in me.

But there is no way I can have a full understanding of the truth about everything, and frankly, I can’t hold too many things in my mind anymore. There is just too much information, so it’s a somewhat painful task. But there’s a lot of information that I don’t need to know, so maybe it’s a question of the ability to sift through information. I want to know before I act.

Hirano: As an activist in the position of leading a movement, has your experience led you to think that it’s extremely important to stay calm, and to speak and act based on a firm grasp of the facts?

Mutō: I do understand that in some cases it is also important to let your emotions show. But if you only pick up and transmit the incorrect, most sensational parts, there are lots of people who will gladly seize on them [for their sensational effects]. But if in fact, what you’re saying is a bit inaccurate, or includes many problematic issues, you’re likely to get tripped up. But at the same time, because so much is concealed, some details, what looks like fake information, might turn out to be true. It’s crucial to be able to make those distinctions. I guess I hate the feeling of being manipulated.

So if possible, I prefer to speak only after I’ve looked into an issue carefully. I have a lot of concerns regarding health threats, and certain things are showing up that make me wonder, but I feel it’s still early to talk about them yet.

Hirano: Are there examples from here in Miharu-machi (三春町)?

Mutō: Yes. For a long time I’ve maintained the position that while I do have concerns about health issues, I can’t speak to them. Starting around this year, however, many people around me in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s have died. Just this year, eight or nine people whom I know died. Half of those were sudden deaths, like heart attack. According to surveys, Fukushima is now ranked at the top in all of Japan for heart disease. It was fifth in the nation until 2011 so there was quite a lot of cardiac disease to begin with. But to be at the top in the whole country after 2011. I can’t help thinking there might be some connection.

Hirano: What do you think about the responsibility of those scholars receiving government patronage who came to Fukushima right after the accident and defended the safety myth? In your first Complaint, they (Yamashita Shunichi, Kamiya Kenji, Komura Noboru) were included, right?7 

Muto: Yes.

Hirano: So they came here and claimed that it was safe even after the accident. They spread the safety myth: “100 mSv is fine. Under 10 mSv/hour, it’s safe to play outside.” When some people raised concerns about health, they would respond with irresponsible and irrational arguments like “If you worry too much, you really will get exposed.” How do you think their presence affected the residents of Fukushima?

Mutō: Oh it was massive. It certainly played a huge role in providing a strong sense of security. It was March of 2011 when these people came. They had already done a seminar in Iwaki city at the end of March. After that, they went around the cities with high radiation levels like Iitate village, Fukushima city, and Date city. On May 3rd, I went to a talk by Yamashita Shunichi (then at Nagasaki University) in Nihonmatsu city (二本松市). There were already some people who weren’t feeling just right. So there was a suggestion passed around various mailing lists that we wear something yellow if we weren’t feeling well. So I went with a yellow bandana.

During that talk on May 3rd, Sasaki Michinori – he is from the local temple in Nihonmatsu, the husband of Sasaki Ruri, who appears in Hitomi Kamanaka’s documentary film “Little voices of Fukushima” – asked a question of Yamashita-san. “Would you bring your own grandchildren here and let them play in the sand box at a daycare center in Nihonmatsu?” Then he answered, “Of course I would. I’ll bring them.” I thought, wow. I hoped he wouldn’t actually bring his grandchildren there (laughter). After that, one after another, people wearing some yellow item asked him questions. In the end, he was sent off to applause from the whole room. An acquaintance who was a schoolteacher happened to be sitting next to me. She said, “That was a great talk.” But I still remember the last words he said. When many people criticized him, he lost it. He said “I am Japanese. I follow what my country has decided.” That was his final remark. Many people thought this comment was wonderful. In March, while I was still away, having evacuated, people would call and tell me about this professor who was giving lectures in Fukushima, appearing on radio and TV many times, and that the local paper wrote up a Q&A article using his words. “Apparently this scholar is a second-generation hibakusha (被爆者—those exposed to radiation) from Nagasaki, and a doctor who went to Chernobyl.” This is how he gained trust.

I think more people have come to realize the truth now, but I think everyone trusted him a lot.

Hirano: I see. Because they are all worried, they tend to be drawn to those who say the words they want to hear.

Mutō: Yes. So I personally find it very hard to forgive them, especially these three people. Extremely unforgivable, and that is why we included them in the complaint. However, as expected, it is extremely difficult to prove the correlation between radiation and health issues.

That’s why I thought that it was necessary to collect a lot of data in order to be able to pursue their crime effectively, but I was also afraid the statute of limitations might run out in the meanwhile. It’s hard to balance these factors. I am not sure what I should do.

Hirano: So if you had the data to prove the correlation between health and radiation, you would want to pursue the responsibility of these scholars once again.8

Mutō: Yes, yes I do, of course. I really want to. However, this has become an impossible task for just us. I hope more complainant groups will form, especially involving those in the medical profession, so these three can be indicted.

Hirano: So professionals are reluctant to participate in the movement?

Mutō: I wonder. Within Fukushima, it seems it would be very difficult to defy the Prefectural Medical University. The Fukushima Medical Association might be developing a sense of crisis about radiation exposure. But, I don’t really know how things are in the medical world.

Hirano: I feel that the most prominent example of official irresponsibility can be seen in the return home policy. What do you think?

Mutō: The return policy started at the end of 2011, and the elimination of the relocation zones was among the many things that occurred under this policy. For example, Route 6 opened last September. At its closest point, this national road is only 1.5 km away from the power plant. Anyone can pass by there, even children. Some data show that the radiation level measures 4-7 mSv even inside the car.

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The red colored part of Route 6 was opened to the public. It is only 1.5 km away from the power plant, and cut through the areas designated in beige as uninhabitable for now. (picture provided by Mutō Ruiko)

Hirano: Inside the car.

Mutō: Yes, inside. The levels get higher if you get out of the car.

Hirano: You shouldn’t get out of the car, shouldn’t even open a window.

Mutō: Right. There are barricades all along the expressway, and police are standing guard in some places. These policemen are all being exposed to radiation.

This March, the Jōban Expressway was declared complete and opened to traffic. They didn’t have this section completed before the accident. They hadn’t been making progress. It was only after the accident that they proceeded with the construction. There’s an electronic bulletin board that says “Today’s Radiation Level: 5.5 mSv.” It was about 4.9 the other day. I haven’t passed by there yet. I don’t even want to go on Route 6. Here’s a poster that a friend brought back from the service area. “Connecting thoughts, connecting smiles,” the tagline says, with children smiling with their faces outside the car window. It is horrific, like wartime promotion of using your hands to catch mere bombs.9

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Hirano: Wow. Once it reaches this level of dishonesty and manipulation, it is nothing but propaganda.

Mutō: It is indeed propaganda. These things are actually happening in Fukushima and other affected regions.

The poster that declares the road is complete and opened to traffic. It says “connecting thoughts, connecting smiles.” In some areas of Route 6 that are close to the Fukushima Daiichi, people are advised not to open the windows while driving. The poster promotes the completely opposite view. When I drove on Route 6 this summer (2016), most cars I encountered were trucks, vans, and cars used for decontamination and reconstruction works. (photo provided by Mutō Ruiko)

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Area where some police officers and construction workers remain active on Route 6. The radiation level is 5.5 mSv. (2015). When I drove through the Tomioka-machi area near the Fukushima Daiichi this summer (2016), a bulletin board indicated 4.8 mSy. (photo provided by Mutō Ruiko)

Gender and Activism

Hirano: Let me switch to a slightly different topic. In your involvement with activism, you have always placed emphasis on the power of women, pursuing a shape of activism that makes use of feminine sensibilities. Could you elaborate on this point?

Muto: Yes. This sentiment is rather intuitive. When we filed the complaint the first time, we originally named 33 people, only one of whom was a woman, someone from the Ministry of Education. I think that it’s mostly men who are responsible for shaping this nuclear society. For a long time, men were in the position of nation-building. In a way, those who were on the frontline of the postwar economic boom were all male. They were forced into such competitive positions.

Those deeply embedded in that kind of world have difficulties shifting their perspectives when social values must change. I think these men are “worn out,” so to speak.

It’s true that women took part in creating that society as well, but I think women may still have some energy left. In that sense, I think they might have a set of values different from those of the society we’ve had. It sounds simple when put into words. During my involvement with the earlier anti-nuclear movement in Fukushima, or the one at Rokkasho village, there were many moments where I found myself working with other women and feeling at ease.10

Hirano: Is it because you were able to empathize with each other and share many things in common?

Mutō: Yes. It was like, “Hey, what do you think of this, do you think we should do it?” “Oh that sounds good.” Teamwork felt so easy in such an atmosphere. Certainly, there was a lot of painstaking work to be done, like writing texts. We would do that, but generally, we didn’t have to discuss much. I really liked how we could proceed under empathic consensus.

Hirano: What kind of values and sentiments were you able to share the most? For example, was it something like “The nuclear issue is immediately relevant to our lives and livelihood,” or “What concerns our children must be our highest priority,” or “It is dangerous to live with only economic development in mind?”

Mutō: Well…I can only say how “comfy” (rakuchin/楽チン) it was. The basic line is that, first of all, what’s important are those things that immediately affect our everyday lives.

Hirano: Ah, the feelings and sensibility of the everyday. Not some grand theories about the state or unions, but the sensibility of a living being, rooted in the mundane.

Mutō: Yes, well those things might actually become more directly tied to things like life, the earth, and the universe. So instead of being caught up in petty discussions, we could rely on our instinctive senses about what we feel is important. I appreciated that kind of atmosphere.

Hirano: I see. On the contrary, when you work with, or negotiate with, other men, do you face moments where things don’t work well? Are there things you cannot seem to communicate well or feel uneasy about?

Mutō: Well, not all men are like that, and I try to work with them (laughter). But there are moments where it feels more difficult to communicate. Demonstrating power relations for example. I feel a little sad about that. If they cannot agree on something, they are not satisfied until they defeat the other side. In a situation where you could just say, no that’s it, they have to keep pressing the point. Also they always argue about who does what (laughter). To me, it feels like a waste of energy to argue about such power dynamics and different stances.

Hirano: Related to your earlier comment, perhaps men felt as if they had discovered the meaning of life when working hard as a “soldier” for corporations or government bureaucracies, especially after the post-war economic boom. Such an ethic continues to burden them, even when they are working for organizations like anti-establishment unions. As a result, it has become difficult to liberate their imaginations and social relationships. They’re unable to hold more flexible, multidimensional values or ideas that lead away from common sense.

Mutō: Right. In a way, I feel sorry for them. For us, our student years (1970s) coincided with the Women’s Liberation era. Feminism is a more recent term, but that kind of sentiment already existed. We breathed that air, although we didn’t quite know what exactly it was about. On the most basic level, a sense of equality and the idea that women are fun and strong and smart, have always been present inside me.

Hirano: Is that something you strongly felt when you were young, perhaps during your college years?

Mutō: Perhaps. During college, I shared an apartment with a girl with whom I got along. At that time, many girls came to visit us. Everyday, our place was filled with a sense of sisterhood. I had a boyfriend too, but I found it more interesting spending time with those girls. It was fun.

So everyone in general – and this remains the same today – women can do household chores, right? Some men are good at it too nowadays; my current partner can do household tasks much better than myself. It’s so easy to work with someone who has those skills. For example, even when organizing a simple get together, everyone ends up doing just the right task without having to meticulously decide each person’s role. “She did the cooking, so I’ll do the cleaning.” Things operate so naturally.

When we did an all-female camp at Rokkasho village, the men got upset about limiting the participants to women (laughter). When we told the old guys in the village that it was a women’s camp, he asked me when were we holding the “real” camp. No, this was the real one (laughter).

Hirano: (laughter). Things may have changed now, but it was such a division of labor between male and female that constructed the post-war society. Men were the breadwinners who fought outside and brought back money. Women did the mundane household tasks like laundry. Men have come a long way without having to deal with “everyday survival” so to speak, merely living as someone belonging to a company or organization, they have lost the experience and knowledge of living a life as a single individual. For this reason, their values and actions are also bound to the so-called “common sense” of the larger society and organization.

So when they burst into your activist group, things get more complicated (laughter).

Mutō: It just makes for extra work. We have to spell it all out—ok you do this, you do that (laughter). It’s like, I don’t have time for educating you (laughter). You know, these issues should already be behind us after all these years of anti-nuclear movements, from decades before the accident. Yet, there are still a lot of small things that strike us. For example, even when planning for this one meeting, they make comments like, “The MC should be a woman.” Huh? “Better have the statement read by a woman, too. Oh, but the opening remarks should come from a guy” (laughter). These are probably problems that they’re totally unaware of, that we’ve been aware of all along.

You might think that because teachers enjoy equal pay, sexism is not a very big issue, but this is not necessarily true. Take the division of labor, for example. Schoolteachers must take on administrative tasks, which are divided into different sections, such as research, administration, school lunch and health. The sections that women chair are always health and lunch. Always. All the schools were like that. Also, accounting. Even when there are two teachers in the same classroom, it is always the female one that does the accounting. I wondered why it was like that. I really thought, wow the education world isn’t any better.

Hirano: So this kind of discriminatory structure that has supported a systemic division of labor has reached the unconscious level. The most troublesome case is when a man who claims to be “progressive” ends up embodying that kind of view (laughter).

Mutō: Yes, yes, yes that is true (laughter).

Hirano: So including all those points, you can work with women more casually and communicate easily with a shared female sensibility.

Mutō: Yes. But that can also be said about the younger generation. They may be feeling something about our generation’s unconscious structure of discrimination. It is really important for people with different sensibilities to try something new in a different form. It doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of criticism. We can all learn new ways to think and act.

Tricks and Traps of Words

Hirano: Allow me to switch topics here. Terms like “Reconstruction”(fukkō/復興) “Reputational damage” (fūhyō higai/風評被害) “Hang in there” (gambare/頑張れ) and “Friendship” (kizuna/) – these words were everywhere, especially after the quake, and we still see them today all over the place. What do you think about the influence of these words and the meanings they have come to represent in society?

Mutō: Right. “Friendship” “Hang in there” “Reconstruction” “Reputational damage.” For example, there is one episode about reputational damage. I went to Minamata last month and learned that middle school students from Minamata came to Fukushima.11 Apparently, the students learned about radiation and found out that the food in Fukushima was safe. However, they discovered, that consumers were not buying the products at all because of the damaged reputation. “So, let’s send them to Minamata, and let’s have our school lunch at Minamata using made-in-Fukushima products,” the middle schooler proposed. Such a shocking thing could happen. I could not believe what I heard. “What?!” I said.

I met a mother who wanted to address this issue at the PTA. She told me that some adults in Minamata supported the idea, saying, “What a wonderful idea by a middle school student. Let’s all do it!” She asked me how she could argue against them. I said, yes this is a problem.

Of course, there are some Fukushima products that are safe, but there is no need to send them all the way to Minamata where they already have safe food. Nor would there be a guarantee that only safe things would be sent. “Reputational damage” is meant to refer to damage caused by false rumors stirred up about something without any basis whatsoever, but in the case of Fukushima, it’s not just some fabricated rumor. Some products actually show high levels of radiation contamination. I was so shocked about how this kind of thing could possibly happen.

I heard that this school lunch project is undergoing some difficulties right now due to the extra costs required for air shipment. I really hope the project will fall through. In other news, my friend at Minamata sent me a newspaper article about middle school students who baked a dessert using Fukushima products and won a patisserie contest. “In hopes for helping out the reconstruction of Fukushima,” they claimed.

Well, words like “Friendship” have cleverly taken advantage of people’s pure, or not-so-pure, feelings of sympathy. Their willingness to help has been exploited.

For me, the term “reconstruction” entails an environment where everyone can truly feel safe, their livelihood fully recovered. This is what reconstruction means in a true sense, not simply bouncing back to old habits like a shape-memory alloy. Reconstruction is a word that has been constantly redefined. The rhetoric of helping others was also used in the sense that, “It’s unfair to let Fukushima deal all by itself with contaminated rubble, so other places should share the burden.” With regard to the disparity between regions accepting contaminated rubble, the word “Friendship” was deliberately misused. I think it is disgusting. These words can move people’s hearts so easily, but they don’t accurately reflect the reality. These words carry a considerable burden of guilt. These things can be divisive. Many traps lie in Fukushima, so I try not to get caught in them.

Hirano: One of those traps which you mentioned is a misplaced morality and sense of righteousness: “As a true Japanese, we should do certain things in order to root for Fukushima.” You could call this the contemporary ideology of national morality. What other kinds of “traps” are there that provoke division among the people?

Mutō: Hmm, perhaps things like geographic division. They created areas called the Specific Areas Recommended for Evacuation. This produced disparities such as one side of the road being so designated while the other side wasn’t.

The issue of compensation is very big as well. Just yesterday, my friend who works at the agricultural coop visited me. She is this perfectly moral citizen. She says that people in the Restricted Areas are receiving tons of money, which they use to play pachinko and eat good food. Isn’t that a bit unfair since they are the ones who benefited from the nuclear power plant in the first place? They lost their houses too, but still. These financial matters gradually divide people from each other. For example, those of us living around this area were able to receive 80,000 yen (laughter). But people in Aizu Wakamatsu (会津若松) only received 40,000 yen. Dividing the areas incrementally based on the amount of compensation or differentiating places qualifying for compensation also becomes one of the traps that give rise to antagonism. But complaints about unfairness shouldn’t be made toward the individuals, they should be directed toward the government or TEPCO. If you have also suffered damage, you could take legal action. It’s easy to be mistaken about where to direct our accusations.

Hirano: So people feel envious towards those who receive more money. You can no longer converse with those whom you used to know as a friend or neighbor, just because they drew a line between you two.

Mutō: Yes, right right. That also happens. Another factor concerning radiation—this is partly a problem of those on the receiving end—is the safety myth, the safety propaganda that keeps flowing in. I think everyone more or less feels anxious. Those who have children especially worry about the future of their own children and damage to the health of the future generation. If they are told that it is safe, then of course they want to believe it, right? They don’t want to dwell upon this issue any longer because it is troublesome, tiring, and heartbreaking. For them, people who continue to worry become a nuisance – these irritating people who continue to say blasphemous things they would rather not hear.

Those in the primary sector, who are working hard to get their sales back to normal, feel that people who still worry about radiation are obstructing the path of reconstruction. This is another way the local population continues to be divided. If there were a legitimate form of compensation, like providing them with land to allow them to restart farming elsewhere, maybe they wouldn’t have to fall into that trap.

On the one hand, there are intentionally created divisions. On the other hand, distances deepen because of the weakness and insecurity fundamental to human nature, such as feelings of envy towards people who are doing better than you (laughter). These two are easily tied together. The government spreads the “safety myth” by exploiting this tendency. I believe that such strategically well-planned operations might have been inspired by how Chernobyl was handled.

Hirano: This is rule by division.

Mutō: Yes. I think they are good at this method.

I have a friend in Rwanda. I was teaching her Japanese when she was in Japan a bit before the civil war. She went back to Rwanda, but she evacuated to Japan again when the war broke out. When I asked her about the civil war, she told me that even though it is often understood as an ethnic war, that was not really the case. It was the status system created under Belgian rule.

Those who were originally of a single ethnicity were divided into three tribes, with those having a certain number of cows designated as one group, those with fewer another group, and those living in the forests yet a third. Only the highest group was hired under colonial rule, so when Belgium left, a dispute broke out. Hearing this story I realized how instituting divisions is tightly linked to governance. I thought, perhaps the same thing happens everywhere in the world.

Hirano: Those who benefit from the current administration are afraid of people turning against them in solidarity.

Mutō: Yes.

Hirano: Inevitably, money gets in the way.

Mutō: Yes, it is human nature to succumb to money (laughter). Alas, they get caught up in it.

Hirano: Do you feel that kind of pressure during your involvement with the anti-nuclear movement and effort to have criminal charges brought against TEPCO and government officials. As the trial unfolds, you may face realities which you don’t want to be reminded of. You may end up shedding light on truths which not only the government or TEPCO, but also the residents of Fukushima, don’t want to know. Would emotions erupt concerning why they need to face these difficult realities after all these years? Facts will come out that are disagreeable not only to the government and Tepco, but to Fukushima residents, too. Is it possible that emotions will be stirred up, about why people need to confront such painful truths at this point?

Mutō: Hmm, that might be true. For one, I want those who suffered damage to participate. Since the victims are limited, I am currently talking with the surviving families of the Futaba hospital. Fifty elderly patients died during and after evacuation. The doctors and nurses of the Hospital could not find evacuation sites equipped with appropriate facilities during the evacuation. The elderly patients died of dehydration, stress, and the lack of intravenous drip after over 14 hours of road trip. In many cases however, they tell me they would like to be left alone. “We’ve been compensated, there has been a settlement, and we don’t want to be involved any further.” For one thing, I’ve wanted the victim-participation model to be adopted. Since who counts as a victim has been delimited, we’re now in discussion with such parties as the bereaved families from Futaba Hospital. Please leave us alone, some of them say. The compensation issue is over, we’ve settled, and we don’t want to be involved any more.

There’s that, but also the fact that after the decision to indict, opening the path for a trial, the first attacks came from the mass media. They focused on the fact that of the nine cases where a Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution decided in favor of indictment, only two led to a guilty verdict. That’s the message they wanted to spread. Even articles written in the spirit of welcoming the indictment and the truths that might come out were apt to end up with such pessimistic observation. Other articles were skeptical from start to finish.

Hirano: One of the big goals of the trial is, as you mentioned, putting an end to the system of irresponsibility that is prevalent throughout this nation.

Mutō: That hope is definitely present. I don’t know if we can put an end to it completely, but it is important to call attention to this system of irresponsibility. I do believe that our action can be meaningful in leading us closer to the truth, and we sincerely think that the same tragedy should never be repeated again. In order to achieve that, the victims have our own responsibility. My political involvement with this issue is driven by a sense of obligation.

Since I don’t think that our activities can resolve every problem, we must incorporate different approaches and different movements – we need a variety of complaints and lawsuits. I would be much happier if we received messages of support, “We will take action as well, let’s fight together.”

Hirano: The first goal is to shed light on the irresponsibility of nuclear policy over time.

Mutō: Yes. Despite the numerous warnings or suggestions they had received concerning problems inherent in the Fukushima NPP, they failed to take necessary actions. They could have, but they didn’t. That caused the current situation. Even after the accident occurred, as we have seen, the irresponsibility continues, right? I doubt that anyone would take responsibility if anything happens at Sendai NPP.12

Hirano: Yes. For example, if a company causes environmental pollution, there will be a compulsory investigation in which the corporation’s legal responsibility will be investigated. Yet for some reason, it seems as if the nuclear industry functions mysteriously outside legal obligations.

Mutō: Right. That may be the power of “national policy,” but we can’t let them get away with it, can we? (laughter)

Hirano: As long as you claim to be a society under the rule of law, one who commits a crime must be tried. You are demanding what’s only commonsense, that they adhere to the law. But, both the nuclear power accident and the state of war expose the aporia wherein the law that is created by the state, can also be suspended in circumstances deemed exceptional by that state. “National policy” is a magic word that can normalize such an exceptional state. The perpetrators do not get tried and the victims are abandoned.

Mutō: Yes, that’s right. The law looks like it’s meant to apply to all people, but I’ve come to feel from my experience that it’s deliberately manipulated. But if you’re going to say that this is a country governed by the rule of law, and that this is a democratic society, then if, at the very least, people aren’t held responsible for what they’ve done, there’s no way to protect human rights. I think it’s important to hang on to the consciousness that states of exception shouldn’t be allowed.

I also think that it is not enough to merely pursue the legal responsibility of TEPCO or the government. I think each one of us was responsible. As discussed earlier, we have conveniently enjoyed our civilized society. We didn’t try to imagine what was behind the electric outlet. We are guilty of lack of imagination.

Hirano: You have insisted upon the impossibility of reconstruction in a true sense. If this is the case, then what kind of compensation do you believe to be appropriate for Fukushima residents? For example, do you think the government should have secured new land and homes for people who live in Fukushima (or other people who live in places with high radiation areas like Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Miyagi)? Should TEPCO have distributed resources in order to support people’s new lives?

Mutō: I think new land and housing should have been provided. Financial assistance for relocation should also have been provided.

The arbitrary return policy, legislated only to put an easy end to the accident while keeping the compensation price cheap, imposed a false sense of safety on people and unnecessarily exposed them to radiation. In other words, the government is telling them to give up and put up with the situation. The future is unpredictable due to their inconsistent attitude.

Hirano: The other day, when the committee for the inquest of prosecution called for indictment, you had a press conference under the banner of “citizens’ justice.”

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Mutō holds the banner of “citizens’ justice.”

Mutō: (laughter) In fact, I don’t really care for the word “justice.” (laughter) Mostly, it’s not used in a good sense, is it? It sounds like self-legitimation. Of course, it was meant to be a wonderful word. I wasn’t crazy about it, but everybody else was saying this was the way to go, so I just said, all right.

Hirano: But the way it came through on the screen, it felt good. They’re using the word “justice” in the way it should be used …. Good for them for talking about the issue in this way, I thought. The state just speaks using its own logic, right? The logic of the state and the logic of citizens, the way they look at things or the way things look to them—they’re totally different, I think. And you were talking about that clearly as a matter of justice. That’s what made me feel good, watching the press conference.

Mutō: Is that right? (laughter) I felt it was embarrassing. (laughter) But, if you think how citizens decided that indictment was appropriate where the prosecutors had not, you begin to see the difference, the gap between them. You referred to the difference between how the state sees things and how citizens see them, and I think that’s exactly right. What’s commonsensical for me isn’t so for the state, and the opposite might be true, too. I have to think that it’s not good to have this much discrepancy between the two.

Hirano: The government’s reasoning comes through clearly from the major media outlets, but citizens do not have the chance to retort, “No, we don’t see it that way,” or, “Your logic to me seems like a form of violence.” I believe there should be more space where these clashing views can be aired in public, on equal footing, so to speak.

Mutō: Yes. With regard to Fukushima, there have been dozens of negotiations with the government in many places. Yet, we really can’t hold an actual conversation with them, perhaps because government spokespeople are especially cautious on such occasions. We just end up talking past each other. In response to our questions, they say something that is completely irrelevant.

Do you know what they started doing recently? They send officials who are from Fukushima.

And then, before the negotiation begins, they say things like, “My family grave is also in Nihonmatsu,” “It has only been three months since I joined the Ministry of Environment, I’m from Fukushima.” They let some 23-year-old do this kind of job. They do disgusting things like that.

Hirano: Well, that is also a form of division. They can’t say no to their boss either since they started working there just recently.

Mutō: Yes. But I think that they must also feel a great deal of sadness facing other people from Fukushima. I think it is kind of disgusting.

Practicing Non-violence: Guerrilla Theater, Greenham Common, Rokkasho Village

Hirano: Could you talk a little about non-violence? Why do you place non-violence at the core of your activism?

Mutō: Let’s see. I first learned about the concept of “non-violent direct action” when a person called Agi Yukio, who wrote a book – what was the title – something about non-violence and direct action (note: Hiboryoku tore-ningu: Shakai wo jibun wo hiraku tameni, 1984) – held a workshop about non-violence training. This was about 30 years ago, right when we were doing the movement opposing Fukushima plants 2 and 3 in 1988. In Yokohama, there was a group called the “hi-boryokudan,” the non-violence gang. These people from the non-violence gang were the instructors for our non-violence training session.

I was wondering what it was all about when I went. First, we did an icebreaker to get to know each other. Then they taught us about “guerilla theater.” In guerilla theater, we produce a short skit, act it out in the middle of the street, and leave the scene right away.

There is a place called the “Bakugenjin village” which is like a hippie commune in Kawauchi village – my friends are there – and we put this guerilla theater into practice when we did a workshop retreat there. The village is close to Tomioka-machi, where they have Fukushiima 2-3. There was a service center for TEPCO, sort of like a building to promote nuclear power plants. It is shaped like a beautiful castle, and children would go and learn about the control rod inside a nuclear reactor or a whole-body counter – they even had things like that back then, a device that measures your internal radioactive level. We decided to storm into that facility singing anti-nuclear songs, perform a short skit, and run out. That was the plan.

Hirano: Oh I see, guerilla. In recent years they call it flash mob (laughter)

Mutō: So we actually went and did the skit. And then we came back. That was so fun (laughter). Afterwards, when I participated in the Rokkasho village movement, a lady named Kondo Kazuko showed a documentary film about a peace camp at a US military base called Greenham Common in the UK, where women camped for 19 years. Eventually the Greenham Common base closed down.13 It was a film called Carry Greenham Home. It was so interesting, how all women surrounded the base.

The women made their case through non-violent action. I was curious how they actually made it work. There’s a gate at the base that locks protesters out. When the women protest, the military shuts the gate. The activists thought, if they’re going to close the doors, why not try locking it? So they padlocked the gate from outside while the guards were not looking. In the morning, the guards were dumbfounded to find out the gate wouldn’t open, and try to cut the padlock open but to no avail. So eventually, they end up breaking down the gate. In an ironic turn of events, they themselves end up destroying the very gates that had prevented the protestors from coming in.

It was fascinating to watch. I found it intriguing to learn that non-violence does not simply indicate the absence of violent methods. Instead, it uses your ideas, body, and a sense of humor.

I’m not very good at public speaking, really, and I’m actually quite bad at writing as well. I don’t want to write or speak if I don’t need to. With “non-violent direct action,” you can become part of the action just by quietly being there. Your presence itself becomes a form of resistance. I thought that was great.

When we did the women’s camp at Rokkasho village, we decided to take non-violent direction action. We were going to lie on the ground and stop the trucks carrying radioactive materials. During the planning, I realized that non-violent action is not just one act, but includes a lot of elements like building relations with your friends and rethinking your lifestyle. At the camp, we made time to listen to each other’s personal histories and share our sufferings. Together we made a song for signaling to each other and we went to the beach to practice it. Everyday, we would cook food, eat, and clean up as a group while dividing the labor. This was really fun. It was the right kind of activity for me.

Also, because we chose direct action, there were limits to what we could do. We were only able to stop the trucks for 50 minutes. But then again, we did stop them for 50 minutes, and that gave us a sense of accomplishment. It was meaningful to realize that we were not completely powerless, and that we could take action in order to change the situation, however slightly.

Of course, this is not enough. Nothing can be solved just by doing this kind of thing. You have non-violent direct action, you have legal battles, you have protests and negotiations with the government, which might then lead to policy recommendations or elections resulting in representatives who’ll speak up. You need a variety of such activities. I think it’s good if we each participate in whatever we’re good at.

Hirano: I see. Listening to your story, I feel like you know how to enjoy life and cherish its moments. I mean, it must be hard standing at the frontlines and fighting like this. Very difficult. As you said earlier, you’ll be crushed if anger is your main driving source, and fear would not sustain you for very long. Even in that condition, you manage to enjoy life to the fullest and carefully build human relationship, always with a sense of humor. You are perhaps a kind of person who can do that naturally and flexibly.

Mutō: (laughter)

Hirano: Do you think that kind of attitude is important?

Mutō: Ah, yes, I do.

Hirano: For activism too.

Mutō: Yes, it’s too hard otherwise. It’s a lot of work (laughter). I think that maybe humans, no matter what the situation, can still appreciate a moment of beauty, fun, and delicious food. In whatever hardship you may be facing, you’ll probably still get hungry, too. I want to create something fun and beautiful like that.

Right after the nuclear accident, I was completely devastated. I like music, I can’t play any instrument but I really love it. Especially, I like the sound of the guitar. It has always been my morning routine to choose one CD and listen to it while drinking coffee. But after the accident, I wasn’t able to do that at all. I didn’t feel like listening to music. I just couldn’t.

Hirano: How long did that condition continue?

Mutō: About a year and a half to two years.

Hirano: That long.

Mutō: Yes, it was very hard. I couldn’t open up my heart, perhaps. But slowly I was able to listen again. There was a time when Lee Jeongmi, a zainichi Korean singer, came to Fukushima and sang a song for all the women in Fukushima. I think that might have been the turning point. Gradually, I felt like listening to music once more.

I think that things like art and sensibility are very important to political activism. This includes, for example, singing together with everyone, thinking about what clothes to wear, or what colorful protest signs to make for the demonstration.

Back when I was in Rokkasho village, there was a ship that showed up with high-level radioactive waste. There was a long fence by the port, and we tied colorful ribbons there. Also, right outside the nuclear fuel cycle at the reprocessing plant in Rokkasho village, there is a triple-layered wall. There is a fence on the outside, then a lot of cement sticks in the middle, then another fence inside. In that space in the middle, we threw in balls of dirt with flower seeds in them. When we went there the following year, flowers were blooming. Don’t you think that is kind of nice?

Hirano: That’s very nice.

Mutō: I don’t know if I can call it “art,” but I think these kinds of things are quite important.

Hirano: Yes. It sends out a message. It’s quite impressive that you could let flowers bloom at a place like that. You speak directly to people’s hearts and point out the issue from its very core.

Mutō: Yes. For the record, it wasn’t me who came up with this idea. Someone else had the idea and we all decided to do it. I thought it was quite wonderful.

But after the nuclear accident actually occurred, we were no longer able to take direct action at the actual site of Fukushima NPP. Sometimes we would do it at Koriyama or Fukushima, but we still wear masks. We all risk our own health to protest. We’re always wondering if we should be going that far.

In the fall of 2011 when 100 women surrounded the police station in Tokyo, we later found out that the radiation level was in fact quite high around there as well. But we all knitted a rope with colorful yarns and surrounded the area. I went around the premise, dancing. I want to continue engaging in those activities.

Hirano: You are saying that in Fukushima, it is difficult to carry out those fun activities where you speak to people’s emotions and express your thoughts?

Mutō: Yes. It’s hard to do it inside Fukushima. The other day, as we saw in the pictures earlier, we did a Hidanren (Gempatsu Jiko Higaisha Dantai Renrakukai, or the Liaison Council of Victims of the Nuclear Disaster) protest. Most of the participants were elderly people, demonstrating in sweltering weather, 38.6 degrees Celsius. I was so afraid they were going to collapse. The demonstration lasted about 40 minutes, but I thought to myself, wow, we are really putting our lives on the line (laughter).

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Hidanren march. (photo provided by Mutō Ruiko)

Why Kirara?

Hirano: (laughter). I also want to ask about Kirara, your home that was also a café until 3.11. Why and how did this begin?
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Kirara in winter (photo provided by Mutō Ruiko)

Mutō: I used to work at a school, but before I started up Kirara, I had many opportunities to reflect upon my own life in the course of the anti-nuke movement. As I questioned my lifestyle, I wanted to start cultivating mountainside land.

I went to a university called Wako University, in the age of the hippie movement. There was a countercultural trend to resist the society of convenience. I was only an observer at that time, but after I joined the anti-nuclear movement, I met people who were trying to conserve energy, using as little electricity as possible, and build their own house. It really made me want to live like that.

There was a mountain I inherited when my father passed away. It was just a wild mountain with nothing, but my partner and I decided to cultivate it. We started out with one mattock and slowly opened up a small plot of land. We built a lodge there. I wanted to live there without bringing many unnecessary things from outside, so we only had a lamp and a wood stove. We didn’t have electricity.

We lived like that for a few years, and it was just incredibly interesting to me. Soon, I didn’t want to continue teaching at school. Well, other things happened, and I eventually decided to quit my job. I had to think about what I was going to do after that, so I started looking for work I could do at home. Perhaps a café or a shop, I thought. So I used the land cultivated at the bottom of the mountain and built the structure for Kirara using my retirement money. That’s how it happened.

I wanted to use that space to hold study events about the energy problem, or set up an information corner about the nuclear power plant. I also wanted to plan live music events that would include discussions about modern technology and civilization. I made Kirara in order to create a space to transmit that kind of information.

Hirano: I see. Could you talk a little about your view of modern civilization?

Mutō: (laughter) I can’t really talk about modern civilization, but when I first learned about the existence of a TV, it was – how old was I – about when I was in elementary school, or sometime before that. My point is, when I was little, I didn’t have a TV or a refrigerator or a washing machine.

I’m 62 years old right now, but my lifestyle changed drastically within the past 60 years. It has really become convenient. But I wonder about the heat in summer, whether summer used to be this hot in the past. Of course we did feel hot since we didn’t have an air conditioner, but summer wasn’t as uncomfortably hot as right now.

In the meantime, many things were invented like a drier to dry your hair, or a pot that constantly provides hot water. Consumption of electricity thus greatly increased. People kept buying those devices, thinking they were convenient, but I started wondering if we were buying things that we really wanted. Such consumerism is related to things like how the “trending color” of a decade from now has already been decided, or the “10 principles of consumption” made by Dentsu (電通). I think the bullet train is convenient, but I wonder if we really need the “linear” (magnetic-levitation) cars. We used to be able to have a good time traveling without the bullet train, as long as we could take the time. But once you start using it, there is no going back. You use the extra time you saved on something else. People become busier and busier.

There is a picture book called “The Little House” (by Virginia Lee Burton).14 It was the first picture book we had in my house – someone had given it to my older sister as a gift. It is a story about a little house in the countryside that suffers the constant transformation of its surroundings. In the end, the little house is taken away to the countryside once again and lives happily ever after. But when you think about it, that story leaves behind the issues of the city. The little house went back, but the city just keeps on growing like that? After I grew up, I realized that that part hasn’t been solved in that story.

Hirano: I see, that’s true. I used to read that book all the time to my daughter when she was younger. The little house gets to move back to the countryside and regain its happiness, but I never thought about how it leaves behind the issue of the city. That’s a new perspective to reading that book. It becomes all the more real when you bring in the issue of the nuclear power plant into the picture, doesn’t it?

Mutō: Yes, yes.

Hirano: In order to support the material prosperity of the booming city, you need to build the nuclear power plant next to the little house that should have been happy in the countryside.

Mutō: Yes. I really identified with the story as my own. In the countryside I tried to build an ideal life, using natural energy like solar power, eating food from the mountains, farming on our own. The life I had was supposed to be as far away as possible from nuclear energy, while in reality, it was only 45km away. It destroyed everything about the way of life I had built. You can clearly see that story from the framework of the picture book.

Hirano: I see. You could get a little cynical and say that there is no longer a place where the little house can take refuge. No matter where you evacuate, there is no place on earth that is completely free of contamination. Modernity gave birth to that kind of civilization.

Mutō: Right. This really isn’t a problem of Fukushima. It is an issue for each living person on the face of the earth. I want people to know about the actuality of damage in Fukushima. I believe there is much to be learned from it, whether about the environment, the structure of discrimination prevailing in society, or what happens in people’s minds.

Since there are so many issues embedded in this problem, we as a species must learn many things from it. Especially with this nuclear accident, Chernobyl as well, we involved the lives of so many non-human species. I think that is a crime, or rather, a massive catastrophe.

Hirano: Yes. One of the reasons I visited Iitate village two years ago was to talk to farmers who could not sacrifice their horses or cows because they were part of the family.15 Animals can’t express themselves. All they can do is get sick from radiation and die. If they survive, the government will order them slaughtered. The dairy farmers were suffering. They also said that weird things were happening with wild animals they encountered.

Mutō: Yes. From their point of view, I’m sure it was a disaster out of nowhere. The wild boars must have thought, what in the world is this? (laughter)

Hirano: Right, just for human desire for more profit and convenience of life.

Mutō: I think they would wonder why their species had to suffer like this (laughter). They might not, but this is something we humans must think, us the perpetrators.

Hirano: Thank you very much for your time.

I would like to thank Ms. Mutō Ruiko for agreeing to do this interview. My sincere thanks extend to Norma Field who kindly reviewed and edited the interview and wrote the excellent introductory essay. Akiko Anson and Ryoko Nishijima made possible the publication of the interview by transcribing or translating it. I am grateful to both of them.

Related articles

Oguma Eiji, A New Wave Against the Rock: New social movements in Japan since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown
•Yagasaki Katsuma, Internal Exposure Concealed: The True State of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident
•Robert Stolz, Nuclear Disasters: A Much Greater Event Has Already Taken Place
•Katsuya Hirano and Hirotaka Kasai, “The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster is a Serious Crime”: Interview with Koide Hiroaki
Arkadiusz Podniesiński, Fukushima: The View From Ground Zero
•David McNeill and Androniki Christodoulou, Inside Fukushima’s Potemkin Village: Naraha
•Noriko Manabe, Noriko Manabe, Music in Japanese Antinuclear Demonstrations: The Evolution of a Contentious Performance Model,” The Asia-Pacific Journal 11, no. 42.3 (October 2013)

Notes

1

The title was taken from my email correspondence with Mutō of August 27th, 2015. She goes on to say, “it deepens our anger and sadness, and then allows them to mature; only after that will the perspective for a future be born, I believe.” She repeats this point in the interview.

2

For more updated information about the legal case, see Norma Field, “To Despair Properly.”

3

Uno moved to Fukushima in 1999. She began to participate in the Fukushima network for the abolition of nuclear power plants in 2010. She became the chairperson of the association for the abolition of nuclear power plants, which was founded to demand the termination of nuclear reactors that were in operation for 40 years in Fukushima. Immediately after 3.11, she and her family evacuated from Fukushima, first moving to Kyushu and then settling in Kyoto. She continues to be active in various anti-nuclear and 3.11 related movements, working together with Mutō. She authored Mewo Korashimasho, Mienai Hōshanō ni (Let’s look closely, the invisible radiation). She and Nakasatomi Satomi, her spouse and a constitutional scholar, organizes a monthly study group at a café in Shintanabe, Kyoto, with locals and evacuees from Fukushima to share experiences and knowledge.

4

The Chernobyl NPP accident of 1986 led to the formation of the environmental rights movement and development of citizens’ rights to environmental information, which eventually resulted in laws of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia in the 1990s. Based on these laws, some legal scholars argue for the development of national and international law that will further ensure environmental human rights and processes of rehabilitation of ecological systems. In the case of Fukushima Daiichi, under the existing Abe government, debates leading to the installation of such laws protecting human and environmental rights have been absent.

5

In July 2011, Hirose Takashi, a writer, and Akagi Shōjirō filed a criminal complaint against Tepco executives who underestimated the seriousness of the nuclear disaster and mislead the public, and the scientists who denied any correlation between the nuclear disaster and illnesses such as thyroid cancer and heart attack by spreading the myth about the nonexistence of the danger of radioactive exposure. Hirose and Akagi also insisted that the disaster caused many deaths based on the fact that there were some farmers who took their lives out of despair and a number of elderly patients who lost their lives during the evacuation from hospitals. They expressed their concerns about the detrimental effects of radioactive exposure on Fukushima children who had been misled by Tepco and nuclear scientists working for the company and the government to remain for several months in areas heavily affected by radiation from Fukushima Daiichi after March 11.

6

For Mutō’s whole speech, see speech and the youtube video.

7

As a radiation risk management adviser appointed by Fukushima prefecture after March 11, Yamashita lectured numerous times on radiation mainly in the prefecture. He claimed that radiation exposure of 100 mSv/yr was safe by arguing that when people were exposed to radiation does of 100mSV or more, the possibility of getting cancer increased only to one in ten-thousand people. He also reiterated that the radiation dose was equivalent to that of receiving 10 times the dose of one CT scan. Since CT scans are used for medical diagnosis on a regular basis, he argued, there is no danger involved in the Fukushima case. He made himself infamous and a focus of public criticism by stating that radiation affects only those who are concerned about its effects, but “not those who live with smiles”; adding that those who like to drink are rarely affected by radiation. He continues to serve as the advisor at Fukushima Medical University to this day.

8

Concerned scientists such as Koide Hiroaki have been advocating the necessity of carrying out thorough epidemiological studies. But the existing government under the Abe administration and TEPCO have shown no interest in conducting or sponsoring such research.

9

In 1941, Nippon Polydor released a song called “bakudan kurai wa tede ukeyo” (use your hands to catch mere bombs), state propaganda contributed by Eguchi Yoshi (music) and Fujita Masato (lyrics).

10

10 Rokkasho (六ヶ所村) is a village in Kamikita District of northeastern Aomori Prefecture in the Tōhoku region of northern Japan. As of September 2015, the village had an estimated population of 10,726. Since the 1970s villagers of Rokkasho and environmentalists opposed plans to operate Japan’s first large commercial plutonium plant in the village by focusing on the threat of a large-scale release of radioactivity. The facility in full operation is designed to separate as much as 8 tons of plutonium each year from spent reactor fuel from Japan’s domestic nuclear reactors. As of 2006 Japan owned approximately 45 tons of separated plutonium. Construction and testing of the facility were completed in 2013, and the site was intended to begin operating in October 2013; however this was delayed by new safety regulations. In December 2013 JNFL announced the plant would be ready for operation in October 2014. In 2015, the start of the reprocessing plant was postponed again, this time to as late as September 2018. Since 1993 US$ 20 billion has been invested in the project, nearly triple the original estimate. A 2011 estimate put the cost at US$27.5 billion. Consumers Union of Japan together with 596 organizations and groups participated in a parade on 27 January 2008 in central Tokyo opposing the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. Over 810,000 signatures were collected and handed in to the government on 28 January 2008. Representatives of the protesters, which include fishery associations, consumer cooperatives and surfer groups, handed the petition to the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

11

Minamata disease was first discovered in Minamata city in Kumamoto prefecture, Japan, in 1956. It was caused by the release of methylmercury in the industrial wastewater from the Chisso Corporation‘s chemical factory, which continued from 1932 to 1968. This highly toxic chemical bioaccumulated in shellfish and fish in Minamata Bay and the Shiranui Sea, which, when eaten by the local populace, resulted in mercury poisoning. While cat, dog, pig, and human deaths continued for 36 years, the government and company did little to prevent the pollution. The animal effects were severe enough in cats that they came to be named as having “dancing cat fever”. As of March 2001, 2,265 victims had been officially recognized as having Minamata disease (1,784 of whom had died) and over 10,000 had received financial compensation from Chisso. By 2004, Chisso Corporation had paid $86 million in compensation, and in the same year was ordered to clean up its contamination. On March 29, 2010, a settlement was reached to compensate as-yet uncertified victims

12

The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant is located in the city of Satsumasendai in Kagoshima Prefecture. The Kyūshū Electric Power Company owns and operates it. The plant, like all other nuclear power plants in Japan, suspended operation since the nationwide shutdown in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. However, despite nation-wide protests, it was the first plant to be restarted on August 11, 2015.

13

Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp was a peace camp established to protest siting of nuclear weapons at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, England. The camp began in September 1981 after a Welsh group, Women for Life on Earth, arrived at Greenham to protest against the decision of the British government to allow cruise missiles to be based there. The first blockade of the base occurred in May 1982 with 250 women protesting, during which 34 arrests were made. The camp was active for 19 years and disbanded in 2000.

14

The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton, is a story about a Little House that originally lived in the country, but as the years go by the countryside transforms into an urban city. What was once green grass and natural surroundings turned into large skyscrapers and loud train stations. The Little House grew shabbier and shabbier with each passing day. Soon enough, the Little House disliked living in a developing city, and “returned home” to the countryside.

15

Iitate is located outside the nominal 30 kilometres (19 miles) radiation exclusion zone of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Japanese government initially announced that it was safe for the residents to remain in the village after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on 30 March 2011. Many people in the nearby towns and villages in the radiation exclusion zone evacuated to Iitata, being misled to believe in the area’s safety. However, as a result of wind patterns following the disaster, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, its operational criteria for evacuation were exceeded in Iitate. On 22 April 2011, a more than a month later, the entire population (over 6,000 people) of the village was ordered to evacuate by the government. In early June about 1,500 residents still remained, but by August only about 120 residents, mostly elderly, continued to live there. In 2012, according to an official survey, some 1,743 former residents began experiencing growing frustration and instability due to the nuclear crisis and an inability to return to the lives they had lived before the disaster. The Iitate case represents many tragic cases in which Fukushima residents were not only forced to move several times but also exposed to radiation for a substantial period of time as a result of the Japanese government’s utter lack of evacuation planning and Tepco’s cover-up of vital information about the scale of the crisis. Many children and their parents who are the victims of radioactive exposure continue to live with anxiety and fear. Kamanaka Hitomi’s documentary “Little Voices from Fukushima” (2015) follows their stories.

Source : http://apjjf.org/2016/17/Hirano.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Problems persist at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear reactors

Five years after the second-worst nuclear accident in history, contaminated water is still hampering efforts to gain control of the site. Local residents are reluctant to return to their homes. Julian Ryall reports.

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Five years after the second-worst nuclear accident in history, contaminated water is still hampering efforts to gain control of the site. Local residents are reluctant to return to their homes. Julian Ryall reports.

It has been five years and five months since three of the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant were crippled by the biggest earthquake and tsunami to strike Japan in living memory. Work continues at the site to clean up the radioactivity that escaped into the atmosphere and to regain control of the reactors.

In its press releases, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) insists that steps taken since the accident are slowly but surely having an effect. But not everyone accepts their assurances – or those of the wider nuclear industry as it seeks public support to restart reactors across the country that have been mothballed since March 2011.

“There are numerous problems that are all interconnected, but one of the biggest that we are facing at the moment is the highly contaminated water that is being stored in huge steel tanks at the site,” Aileen Mioko-Smith, an anti-nuclear activist with Kyoto-based Green Action Japan, told DW.

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TEPCO insists that steps taken since the accident are slowly but surely having an effect

“They are running out of space at the site to put these tanks, the water that is being generated on a daily basis means they have to keep constructing more, and the ones that are not welded have a history of leaking,” she said.

‘Ticking time bomb’

“The situation with contaminated water at the site is a ticking time bomb and they don’t seem to know what they can do – other than to construct more tanks,” said Mioko-Smith.

Environmental groups are calling for TEPCO and Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which oversees the industry here, to come up with a clear plan of action so that they do not simply run out of space and believe there is no option but to release contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.

TEPCO confirmed earlier this month that an estimated 10,000 tons of radioactive water had collected in underground trenches around the buildings that house reactors one, two, three and four. That was in addition to about 60,000 tons of water that had flooded the basement of the reactor and turbine buildings, according to an official at TEPCO.

“It is accumulating because around 100 tons of water are injected every day in order to keep the reactors in units one, two and three cool,” the official told DW. “But we are also seeing about 150 tons of ground water seeping into those same areas each day.”

While a portion of this water is being treated to remove the radioactivity, the sheer amount of water at the site makes it impossible to keep up with what is required, hence the need for storage tanks.

A panel of experts that is advising the NRA has also declared the effort to construct a frozen wall of earth around the four reactors to stop additional ground water leaking into the site to be a failure.

Frozen wall plan ‘failing’

“The plan to block ground water with a frozen wall of earth is failing,” Yoshinori Kitsuaka, a professor of engineering at Tokyo Metropolitan University and a member of the panel, said in a report. “They need to come up with another solution.”

The TEPCO spokesperson disputes the suggestion that the 34.5 billion yen (307 million euros) ice wall scheme has failed.

“We are still in the process of freezing the entire length of the wall,” the official said. “We started on the side closest to the ocean and now we are moving to the rest of the perimeter on the landward side, but we have to make sure that water levels remain constant so that contaminated water does not flow out from the area around the reactors. There are seven sections of the ice wall that are not frozen yet and we believe we will see the effects after we have completed the whole process.”

These developments have largely failed to arouse the interest of the Japanese media or the public, who have been living with the consequences of the disaster since 2011, although one recent announcement did make the news.

On August 20, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare confirmed that it would provide compensation to a man who developed leukemia after taking part in emergency decontamination efforts at Fukushima immediately after the disaster struck.

The ministry recognized that the man, who is in his 50s but who has not been named, developed cancer due to exposure to radiation at the site, where he worked between April 2011 and January 2015.

The ministry is considering the cases of five additional workers who have applied for compensation to cover their health costs, while a former worker at the site was granted financial assistance in October of last year after contracting leukemia.

‘Making best efforts’

The TEPCO spokesperson says the company is “making its best efforts” to move the recovery process forward to the point at which the final procedure – removing the melted fuel debris from within the reactors – can be achieved. The scale of that problem remains huge, however, as it has never been attempted before.

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Work continues at the site to clean up the radioactivity

“We anticipate that it will take 30 to 40 years to reach that point as we are trying to do all the clean-up work at the same time as developing the technology to remove the fuel debris,” the official said.

Yet at the same time, the national government is effectively forcing people who were evacuated from their homes close to the plant to return, saying that radioactivity levels are within permissible limits and that housing subsidies and other payments that they have been receiving while unable to work will be terminated.

“Many of these people – especially those with children – do not want to go back to areas that they have been told are safe,” said Mioko-Smith, adding that there was a lack of trust in the government’s promises.

“They feel that everything is being driven by the upcoming Olympic Games and that the government has to live up to its promise to the world that everything will be back to normal by 2020 and the Tokyo Games,” she said.

http://m.dw.com/en/problems-persist-at-japans-crippled-fukushima-nuclear-reactors/a-19510555

August 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Public cost of Fukushima nuclear accident cleanup topped ¥4.2 trillion as of end of March

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Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 plant topped ¥4.2 trillion by the end of fiscal 2015, it was learned Sunday.

The cumulative total at the end of last March, including costs for radioactive decontamination, reactor decommissioning and compensation payments to affected people and organizations, translate into about ¥33,000 per capita.

The public financial burden is expected to increase, with Tepco seeking further government assistance.

Jiji Press scrutinized the government’s special-account budgets through fiscal 2015 for the reconstruction of areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It summed up the amounts of executed budgets related to the nuclear disaster and additional electricity rates consumers and businesses were charged by Tepco and seven other regional power utilities to help finance compensation payments, among other costs.

According to the study, a total of ¥2.34 trillion was disbursed for decontamination of affected areas, disposal of contaminated waste and an interim storage facility for tainted soil. The expense was shouldered by the government, mainly through affiliated Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp.

The costs for decontamination and tainted waste disposal will eventually be financed by the proceeds from the sale of Tepco shares held by the government-backed organization. The government guaranteed the loans provided by banks for the acquisition of Tepco shares, and if the lending becomes irrecoverable due to weakness of the Tepco stock price, tax revenue will be used to repay the loans.

The government estimates the proceeds from Tepco share sale at ¥2.5 trillion, but to generate the estimated gain, the Tepco stock price needs to trade at around ¥1,050, up sharply from current market levels of some ¥360.

In addition, the Environment Ministry expects that the cumulative total of decontamination and related costs could surpass the estimated share proceeds by the March 2017 end of the current fiscal year.

A total of ¥1.1 trillion will be used from the energy special account to finance the costs related to the interim storage facility for contaminated soil. The account mostly consists of revenue of the tax for the promotion of power resources development, which is included in electricity bills.

Elsewhere, the government spent ¥1.38 trillion on projects including the decommissioning of reactors at the disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, checks on food for radioactive contamination and building a research and development facility.

Tepco and six other power utilities charged their customers at least ¥327 billion in electricity rate hikes after Japan’s worst-ever nuclear accident. Moreover, consumers paid ¥219.3 billion or more for Tepco, chiefly to finance the maintenance of equipment to clean up radioactive water at the plant and the operation of call centers to deal with inquiries about compensation payments.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/08/28/national/public-cost-fukushima-nuclear-accident-cleanup-topped-%C2%A54-2-trillion-end-march/#.V8MWHTXKO-c

August 28, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | 1 Comment

Inside Fukushima’s Time Bomb

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Five years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster many residents are still living in a radioactive nightmare.

Bubbling streams, lush forests, cherry blossoms in full bloom – Japan’s north is stunningly picturesque.

But nature’s beauty hides a lethal secret – dangerous levels of radiation contaminate this area, fall-out from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Five years after the twin catastrophes of the tsunami and nuclear meltdown, villages sit silent and empty.

Thousands of workers still toil to clean up the radioactive material but it could be decades before their work is finished.

As Japan continues to suffer the toxic aftermath of one of its worst ever disasters, 101 East reveals that the countryside may never again be safe.

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101east/2016/08/fukushima-time-bomb-160824122108827.html

 

August 26, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima System Failure Case Study ( NASA )

the NAIIC concluded that “the disaster was man-made and the result of collusion between government, the regulators and TEPCO, and a lack of governance by said parties,” citing that the organizational and regulatory systems supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions. Regulators served TEPCO’s business interests through tailored regulation and weak enforcement.“(NASA)

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NASA Failure Studies [Comments added in brackets]:
October 2015 Volume 8 Issue 7

PROXIMATE CAUSE

• Loss of electricity and backup power left the Fukushima complex crippled and unable to adequately cool the reactors

UNDERLYING ISSUES

• Disregard of Regulations

• Poor Safety History

• Lack of Response to Natural Disaster Concerns

AFTERMATH

• Recommendation pertaining to the creation of a permanent committee to deal with issues regarding nuclear power in order to supervise regulators and provide security to the public.

The Great Wave of Reform The Prophetic Fallacy of the Fukushima Daiichi Meltdown

March 11, 2011, off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, Japan: At 14:46 (2:46 p.m.) Japan Standard Time (JST) a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred 43 miles east of the Oshika Peninsula. The undersea megathrust earthquake shifted the mainland of Japan an estimated 8 feet east and deviated Earth’s axis by estimates between 4 to 10 inches. The Great East Japan Earthquake generated massive tsunami waves that peaked at heights of 133 feet and travelled up to 6 miles into areas of mainland Japan… The disaster also triggered the second Level 7 International Nuclear Event (after Chernobyl) in history — the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Background

The Fukushima Daiichi Catastrophe

Analysis of the safety history of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex reveals a catastrophic failure of prediction on behalf of the plant’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) management. How could planners overlook the tsunami?

Hazards of Predicting the Future

In 1958, Arthur C. Clarke, already recognized for major contributions to the fields of rocketry and space flight, began writing a series of magazine essays that were later combined and published in 1962 as Profiles of the Future; a lexicon of universal scientific possibilities.

The book’s introductory essay, “Hazards of Prophecy, ” concerned itself with the two traps of assumptions: “failures of nerve” and “failures of imagination. ”

Failure of the imagination manifests when presently known facts are respected but vital truths are still unknown, and the possibility of the unknown (the unknown unknowns) is not confessed.

Failure of nerve, the more common fallacy (noted by Clarke), “occurs when given all the relevant facts the would-be prophet cannot see that they point to an inescapable conclusion. ”

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What happened

The seismic activity of the Great East Japan Earthquake forced the emergency shut-down feature on reactors 1, 2 and 3. Off-site electricity to the power plant was also disrupted by the tremors and backup power was tapped from a 66kV transmission line from the Tohoku Electric Power Company Network. However, the back-up line failed to power reactor 1 due to a mismatched circuit connection.

Beginning at 15:37 (3:17 p.m.) JST, the peak tsunami waves broke upon Japan and flooded and destroyed the emergency diesel generators at the Fukushima complex. Seawater cooling pumps and electric wiring system for the DC power supply for reactors 1, 2 and 4 failed shortly after. All power was effectively lost except for emergency diesel generator power to reactor 6. The tsunami also destroyed vehicles, heavy equipment and many installations.

Without power, the operators at the complex worked tirelessly to monitor and cool the overheating reactors, at one point salvaging car batteries from destroyed vehicles to power necessary equipment. Hydrogen explosions from emptying coolant reservoirs led to interruptions in the recovery operations, which failed when the Unit 2 reactor suppression chamber failed and discharged radioactive material.

Proximate cause

The loss of electric power after flooding made it difficult to effectively cool down the reactors in a timely manner. Cooling operations and observing reactor temperatures were heavily dependent on electricity for coolant injection and depressurization of the reactor and reactor containers, and removal of decay heat at the final heat sink. Lack of access due to the disaster obstructed the delivery of necessities like alternative seawater injection via fire trucks“.
[Note: Loss of cooling made it impossible to cool the reactors, not difficult.]

Underlying issues

The Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), formed on Oct. 30, 2011 to investigate the direct and indirect causes of the Fukushima accident, was the first independent commission created in the history of Japan’s constitutional government. In its legal investigation, the NAIIC concluded that “the disaster was man-made and the result of collusion between government, the regulators and TEPCO, and a lack of governance by said parties,” citing that the organizational and regulatory systems supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions. Regulators served TEPCO’s business interests through tailored regulation and weak enforcement.

Disregard of Regulations

The 1967 constructions plans for the Fukushima Daiichi isolation condenser deviated from the original reactor plans submitted to the government in 1966. The changes were not reported in violation of regulation. TEPCO’s configuration control was scrutinized in February 2012 by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). NISA requested explanation by March 12, 2012; however, TEPCO, unable to supply an official explanation, only speculated on why the change occurred.” [1966 to 2012 is how many years? FORTY-SIX YEARS.]

In 2002, employees of General Electric (GE), the contractor responsible for designing the reactor, reported to the Japanese government that TEPCO injected air into the containment vessel of Fukushima reactor Number 1 to artificially lower the rate of a leak. The resulting scandal, in addition to a fuel leak at Fukushima Daini, forced TEPCO to temporarily shut down all 17 reactors. Falsified safety records and inspections in conjunction with the number 1 unit dating back to 1989 were revealed by other GE employees. Contractors admitted to falsifying reports at the request of TEPCO. The exposure led to numerous resignations of senior TEPCO executives and more disclosures of previously unreported issues, some of which imply that GE ignored warnings of major design failings from members of its contract staff (who later resigned in protest of negligence) in 1976.

Poor Safety History

On Dec. 29, 2011, TEPCO officials admitted to events occurring in 1991” [TEN YEARS LATER AND AFTER THE START OF THE FUKUSHIMA DISASTER IN MARCH], “where one of two backup generators for Number 1 failed after it was flooded with seawater leaking into the turbine building from a corroded seawater cooling pipe. Superiors were informed about the accident, and of the possibility that a tsunami could inflict similar damage to the generators in the turbine-buildings near the sea. In lieu of moving the generators to higher ground, TEPCO installed leak-proof doors in the generator rooms. After the event, the Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission stated its intent to enforce the installation of additional power supplies and that it would modify safety guidelines for future nuclear plant designs.

According to the NAIIC, regulators and TEPCO were aware of the risk that a total loss of electricity at Fukushima Daiichi would occur if flooding from a tsunami were to reach the level of the site since 2006, and that they were doubly aware of a risk of reactor core damage from loss of seawater pumps in the case of tsunami waves over 10 meters high. The NISA understood the TEPCO had not taken any protective or mitigating measures, but did not provide instructions to TEPCO to do so.

Lack of Response to Natural Disaster Concerns

A 2008 study performed by TEPCO’s nuclear supervisory department concluded that there was an immediate need for improved seawater flooding protection. The study additionally mentioned the possible threat of tsunami waves over 10 meters tall. TEPCO headquarters officials dismissed the perceived risk as unrealistic; concluding that, even when presented with historical data, there was a failure to imagine that such conditions would recur.

Concerns from outside of Japan came from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the abilities of Japan’s nuclear plants to withstand seismic activity; citing that an earthquake of a 7.0 or higher magnitude posed a serious threat at a 2008 G8 Nuclear Safety and Security Group assembly.

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[They pose the biggest risk to the Pacific,where Japan has continued to dump or let leak large amounts of the radioactive water.]

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On Oct. 2, 2011, the Japanese government released a report from TEPCO to NISA that proved TEPCO was aware of the possibility that the plant could be hit by a tsunami with waves far higher than the 5.7 meters which the plant was designed to withstand. The 2008 simulations based on the destruction caused by the 1896 earthquake in this area, revealed the likelihood of waves between 8.4 and 10.2 meters capable of flooding the site.

Further studies by scientists and an examination of the plant’s tsunami resistance measures were not planned by TEPCO before April 2011, and no mitigation was planned before October 2012“.
[THIS IS WHAT THE US NRC DOES – THEY ALLOW THE UTILITIES TO PUT OFF IMPLEMENTATION OF SAFETY MEASURES FOR MONTHS OR SOMETIMES YEARS, EVEN POST FUKUSHIMA. AND THEY ACTIVELY FIND WAYS TO HELP UTILITIES AVOID HAVING TO EVER IMPLEMENT THEM.]

TEPCO stated that the company did not feel the need to take prompt action on the estimates, which were still tentative calculations in the research stage. An official of NISA said that these results should have been made public by TEPCO, and that the firm should have taken measures right away; however, NISA believed these actions should have been taken on by the operator and not demanded by regulators. NAIIC viewed this a tacit consent on behalf of NISA to allow for a delay in TEPCO’s planned work. After the tsunami, a TEPCO spokesman conceded that TEPCO would have been better prepared if it had taken the study seriously and reinforcement of its reactor houses.

In contrast, the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant protective dike was raised to 6.1 meters after simulations showed the possibility of higher than expected tsunami waves. Even unfinished at the time of the March 11, 2011, tsunami, the dike protected two seawater pumps and emergency diesel generators and allowed for the reactor to be kept in cold shutdown even though external power was lost.

Aftermath

The Nuclear Safety Commission Chairman told a parliamentary inquiry in February 2012 that, “Japan’s atomic safety rules are inferior to global standards and left the country unprepared for the Fukushima nuclear disaster last March.” There were flaws in, and lax enforcement of, the safety rules governing Japanese nuclear power companies, and this included insufficient protection against tsunamis.

The NAIIC made a recommendation pertaining to the creation of a permanent committee to deal with issues regarding nuclear power in order to supervise regulators and provide security to the public. The committee should be responsible for conducting regular investigations and explanatory hearings of regulatory agencies, academics and stakeholders and for establishing an advisory body to stay abreast of industry and government dealings.

The new regulatory body must be independent from the chain of command of the government, operators, and politics; transparent in decision making processes to the national government and exclude involvement of stakeholders in decision making; and technically proficient in nuclear technology.

The NAIIC also made recommendations pertaining to the reforming of nuclear energy laws to adhere to global standards, including the monitoring of operators and backfit of outdated reactors.

Many other organizations and think tanks have suggested possible corrective actions and future improvements after the disaster. Some of the actions relate to failure management such as having at least one diesel generator, fuel, and related switch gear isolated at high elevation or in a waterproof room (or both) to preserve onsite AC power in an emergency. Emergency response organizations could also maintain diesel generators or gas turbine generators that could be rapidly transported to a site to restore power.

[This doesn’t work if the diesel generator fails to start. Whereas Waterford Nuclear Power Station near New Orleans ran off of generators for a week post-Katrina, it appears to have had one or both diesel generators inoperable (2013, 2015) or potentially so (2014: in the event of heavy rain) for at least 3 years (2013, 2014, 2015) in a row, including 2014 and 2015 hurricane seasons. At least one of the defective parts was from Japanese Toshiba-owned Westinghouse. See more below. The US backup response allows 24 hrs for backup equipment to arrive, which may be too late. For Katrina they brought in extra generators and fuel ahead of time.]

Regulators could demand more on-site personnel to have independent and timely sources of information and the ability to influence the owner/ operator behavior during the accident. Current spent fuel pools could be retrofitted with passive cooling systems that can survive the initiating external event.

Relevance to Nasa

Fukushima-Daiichi planners used of a narrow slice of historical environmental data when estimating the risk of external initiating event which contributed to a failure of imagination that a tsunami beyond the design basis of the Fukushima-Daiichi break wall could happen again. Beyond the multiple failures on behalf of TEPCO and Japanese nuclear regulatory agencies, the critical question remains of when to draw the line — when safe is safe enough — in the design basis process.

Teams with diverse viewpoints and broad, deep experience can overcome individual cognitive biases that can carve a path toward failure of imagination from the very beginning. Additionally, policy checks and balances on teams, such as NASA technical and safety requirements, are only as effective as the accountability behind them and depend upon how well both operators and regulators understand the technical basis behind such requirements.

Sometimes the rationale behind a requirement stems from the context surrounding a failure. If the rationale (the context) is lost to history, it can rob a team of the technical argument (and nerve) to defend safety margins…

harder to overcome is the instance when a regulator itself places public safety below the business interests of a powerful industry. Safety hazards needing thorough mitigation can be perceived instead as business problems that demand efficiencies” (By NASA-Steve Lilley – See References below info on Waterford, etc.; emphasis and comments in brackets added; things which made the point less clear; and seriously dim-witted or BS statements by Mr. Lilley were removed and replaced with …. Original found here: https://nsc.nasa.gov/SFCS/SystemFailureCaseStudyFile/Download/606 )

Re Waterford Nuclear Power Station backup generator; Toshiba owns Westinghouse:
PART 21 – WESTINGHOUSE TYPE KIR-60 CURRENT TRANSFORMER
The following is excerpted from LER 2015-007 submitted by the licensee:
“On October 9, 2015, Waterford 3 received information from the external evaluation concerning the Generator Differential Current Transformer. The evaluation concluded that a manufacturing defect internal to the current transformer was the cause of the failure. On October 22, 2015, engineering evaluation determined the manufacturing defect could create a substantial safety hazard, as defined in 10 CFR 21, and provided the site vice president information of the defect the same day. Additional information identified in the report is as follows:
“Constructor – Westinghouse Type KIR-60 current transformer, style 7524A01 Gi6, serial number 28218571; Defect and safety hazard – There were voids found in the insulation, and the thickness of the insulation material around the fault area appeared reduced when compared to the other areas of the current transformer. There is only one transformer of this type remaining installed in the plant. Scheduled replacement is no later than November 15, 2015.
http://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1530/ML15303A004.pdf

Another Diesel Generator failure: “General Electric CR1 05X300 auxiliary contactor. The auxiliary contactor was manufactured by General Electric Company and supplied by Nuclear Logistic, Incorporated, as an auxiliary part of a General Electric CR305 contactor.
http://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1219/ML12199A222.pdf GE is approximately half owned by Japan’s Hitachi. (In the US it’s GE-Hitachi at 60/40 and in Japan it’s Hitachi GE at 60/40 ownership.)

Both Emergency Diesel Generators at Waterford Steam Electric Station, Unit 3 (Waterford 3) were declared inoperable in the peak of Hurricane Season
On August 26, 2015, both Emergency Diesel Generators at Waterford Steam Electric Station, Unit 3 (Waterford 3) were declared inoperable, causing entry into Technical Specification 3.8.1.1 action f.
https://adamswebsearch2.nrc.gov/webSearch2/view?AccessionNumber=ML15296A464
Waterford 3… is receiving additional NRC oversight based on … a violation issued March 31, 2014, for failing to ensure the operability of an exhaust fan in a room housing the plant’s emergency diesel generators.http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2014/14-019.iv.pdf (Found here: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/nuclear-safety-failure-open-house-re-killona-waterford-nuclear-reactor-in-louisiana/ ) See: http://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1325/ML13254A168.pdf

Yet another problem found in late Hurricane Season: “During a walkdown of the Emergency Diesel Generator Feed Tank A and B vent lines on October 22, 2014, an NRC Component Design Basis Inspection inspector identified corrosion on the Emergency Diesel Generator Feed Tank A and B vent lines where the vent lines pass through the roof. A visual inspection was performed and revealed that the corrosion had created through wall holes that could allow water into both the train A and B Emergency Diesel Generator Feed Tanks.

Follow up analysis has determined that some rainfall amount less than the postulated Probable Maximum Precipitation event could have resulted in water intrusion into the Emergency Diesel Generator A and B Feed Tanks that exceeds the 0.1 percent water content allowed by the vendor technical manual. This could have potentially affected the operability of both the A and B Train Emergency Diesel Generator Feed Tanks and subsequently both trains of the Emergency Diesel Generators. It is unknown how long this corrosion has existed. Compensatory measures were put in place to prevent water ingress should a large rainfall event occur.

This condition is reportable under the following criteria: 10 CFR 50.73(a)(2)(i)(B), 10 CFR 50.73(a)(2)(v)(D), and 10 CFR 50.73(a)(vii)“.http://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1435/ML14352A449.pdf

During and After Hurricane Katrina Waterford Nuclear Reactor ran for a week or more on diesel generators. https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/nuclear-safety-failure-open-house-re-killona-waterford-nuclear-reactor-in-louisiana/

Another example at another nuclear power station: “For instance, although the reactors were supposed to have back-up electric power in case the main electricity source was disrupted, there were many occasions in which both the emergency diesel generator and the emergency gas turbine were down, but officials kept operating the reactor. That meant a critical safety measure needed to insure that the reactor would be kept cool and not suffer a meltdown was not in place in the event of an emergency, officials of the regulatory agency said. http://www.nytimes.com/1997/12/11/nyregion/government-fine-on-nuclear-plant-is-largest-ever.html

NASA References:
“References

Acton, James M.; Mark Hibbs. Why Fukushima Was Preventable. The Carnegie Papers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. March 2012.

Buongiorno, J.; R. Ballinger; M. Driscoll; B. Forget; C. Forsberg; M. Golay; M. Kazimi; N. Todreas; J. Yanch. Technical Lessons Learned from the Fukushima- Daichii Accident and Possible Corrective Actions for the Nuclear Industry: An Initial Evaluation. Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. July 26, 2011.

Caldwell, Cindy. Reflections on Sensemaking at Fukushima Daiichi. Highly Reliable Performance: Office of C o rporate S a fety A n alysis, D e partment of Energy. September 10, 2012. http://hsshpi.wordpress. com/2012/09/10/ reflections-on-sensemaking-at-fukushima-daiichi/, accessed June 5, 2013.

Fukushima Daiichi: Two Years On: Photo Essay. IAEA. March 11, 2013. https://www.iaea. org/newscenter/multimedia/photoessays/fukushima-daiichi-two-years, accessed May 5, 2015.

Hultman, Nathan. Fukushima and he Global “Nuclear Renaissance. ” Brookings Institute March. March 14, 2011. http://www.brookings. edu/ research/opinions/2011/03/14-japan-nuclear-hultman, accessed July 1, 2013.

Kuroda, Hiroyuki. Lessons Learned from the TEPCO Nuclear Power Scandal. Tokyo Electric Power Company. March 27, 2004.

TEPCO, Reports on the reflection of the changes in the connection method of the drain pipe in Isolation Condenser in Unit 1at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to the re-circulating system, March 12, 2012.

SYSTEM FAILURE CASE STUDY
Responsible NASA Official: Steve Lilley steve.k.lilley@nasa.gov
This is an internal NASA safety awareness training document based on information available in the public domain. The findings, proximate causes, and contributing factors identified in this case study do not necessarily represent those of the Agency. Sections of this case study were derived from multiple sources listed under Ref-erences. Any misrepresentation or improper use of source material is unintentional. Visit nsc.nasa.gov/SFCS to read this and other case studies online or to subscribe to the Monthly Safety e-Message.
https://nsc.nasa.gov/SFCS/SystemFailureCaseStudyFile/Download/606

In the original but excluded because it doesn’t add much: “Figure 2. Workers in protective clothing and masks outside the Emergency Response Centre, the main control hub at the Fukushima Dai-ichi site. Source: IAEA

https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2016/07/16/fukushima-system-failure-case-study-nasa/

July 18, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Interactive Map of Cesium in Japan by citizen’s monitoring project.

As you may see the contamination is well spread all along the eastern coast of Japan, the highest contamination found of course in the Fukushima prefecture.

But also numerous hot spots are found in the two prefectures above Fukushima prefecture, the Iwate and Miyagi prefectures,  and also near Tokyo in the Ibaraki, Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba prefectures.

The contamination is concentrated in the two eastern regions of Japan: the Tohoku region in  the north-east, and the Kanto region in the east. It is less pronounced once you leave the eastern part of Japan going towards the central regions of nearby Chubu and distant Kansai.

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regions

 

http://www.minnanods.net/soil/pref17_colored/map17.html

July 18, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Makers of Fukushima reactor not liable: court

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TOKYO – A Japanese court on Wednesday turned down a class-action lawsuit seeking damages from nuclear plant makers Toshiba, Hitachi and GE over the Fukushima meltdown disaster, the plaintiffs, one of the companies and a report said.

About 3,800 claimants in the suit, hailing from Japan and 32 other countries including the United States, Germany and South Korea, had sought largely symbolic compensation from the nuclear power plant manufacturers.

Under Japanese liability law, nuclear plant providers are usually exempt from damage claims in the event of an accident, leaving operators to face legal action.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers, however, had argued that that violated constitutional protections on the pursuit of happy, wholesome and cultured livelihoods.

But the Tokyo District Court ruled that the law “is not unconstitutional”, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs.

“We knew it was difficult to win under the current legal system in Japan, but it’s clearly wrong that nuclear (plant) manufacturers don’t have to bear any responsibility for an accident,” Masao Imaizumi, 73, one of the plaintiffs, told AFP.

“If they are spared responsibility, it could lead to disregard for product quality,” he said, adding that the plaintiffs will appeal.

Toshiba welcomed the decision.

“The company recognises the verdict as an appropriate ruling handed out by the court,” it said in a statement.

Hitachi and GE’s Japan office could not be reached for comment.

Japan’s Jiji Press also reported that the suit was rejected.

The suit — which sought just 100 yen (96 US cents) per claimant — was the first to be brought against nuclear power-plant suppliers over the accident, Akihiro Shima, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said previously.

The suit was first filed in January 2014 with just over 1,000 claimants, but more joined and the number nearly quadrupled.

The plaintiffs had alleged that the companies failed to make necessary safety updates to the Fukushima reactors, swamped on 11 March 2011 by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake-sparked tsunami that lead to the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Embattled plant operator Tokyo Electric Power is already facing massive lawsuits and compensation costs.

https://www.enca.com/world/makers-of-fukushima-reactor-not-liable-court

July 13, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Myth: Pacific Genocide

The latest video from Goddard

 

I have always been opposed to the minimalist lies of the pro-nuke spinners aiming to trivialize the Fukushima ongoing catastrophe but I have always been opposed also to the exaggerated claims of the sensationalists feeding their fear hungry gullible fans with much nonsense.

Like the sharp edge of a razor is that path, so the wise say—hard to tread and difficult to cross.

I always also said that the sensationalists with their exaggerated claims provide the fodder to be later used against us anti-nukers to suppress our rightful concerns in the eyes of the general public.

I have always been opposed to the sensationalization of Fukushima, the “Pacific is dying from Fukushima”, high-pitched drama on internet played by some websites, bloggers, Youtubers, the same ones that Goddard is now quoting in this video: Enenews, Natural News, Info Wars, Kevin Blanch and others.

There are many things causing the North American Pacific coastline ecocide at the same time, it is  a convergence of many factors. These pre-date Fukushima.

That said I do believe that there should be wide scale fish testing, not just due to Fukushima but to the long term radioactive contamination of the Pacific. But having that happen, having it done properly and without it being hijacked by vested interests is extremely difficult. Why there should be wide scale fish testing is to determine the range of contamination among fish and where the high readings pop up to try to better understand where and what species are showing up with high readings and also what are the real averages being seen. Again, a big undertaking that can easily be hijacked making it meaningless.

The main danger is for the people living in eastern Japan, which has been contaminated at various degrees depending on the locations. The contaminated food, which when constantly consumed, even at a low level of contamination, will certainly have mid-term and long-term harmful consequences on the health of the people.

Another danger is the danger of radiation contaminated food products exported from Japan oversea to other countries with more lax radiation control and regulations, where people will buy them and consume them unknowingly of their contamination. As an example, in 2013 some tuna fish imported from the Philippines which was radiation contaminated was found sold in a supermarket in Switzerland. Of course that Philippines tuna had been contaminated by radioactive nanoparticles coming from Fukushima Daiichi in nearby Japan, and not from Diablo Canyon in far-away California.

To expose the false exaggerated claims, the sensationalism and the sensationalists, still does not change nor remove the fact that Fukushima contamination is spreading slowly but surely into our environment, and therefore there should be more measures and controls made to protect the people from possibly present radioactive contamination. As our governments are more busy protecting the financial interests than the people health, concerned citizens should organize themselves in local radwatch groups, to learn and to practice radiation measuring, in their surrounding environment and in their food, so as to protect themselves.

To resume: the Pacific ocean is not dying from Fukushima, but Fukushima radioactive contamination is slowly but surely, continously spreading into our environment, to slowly bioaccumulate and to affect the food chain.

That said, the biggest risks are still for the Fukushima people  who are being left on location to live everyday with omnipresent radiation and contamination.

 

 

July 8, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment