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At first beneficiaries, then victims?

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Noriyuki Kowata is seen on a temporary visit to his home in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Futaba, one of two towns that the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant straddles, on Sept, 25, 2018. His yard and vegetable garden were covered in overgrown grass and other vegetation.
 
October 29, 2018
FUTABA, Fukushima — It was late September, and the heat of summer had finally begun to ease. Norikiyo Kowata, 77, was on a temporary visit to his home here, whose screen doors were tattered, having been exposed to the elements for over seven years. His garden, where he used to grow vegetables like butterbur sprouts and myoga ginger, showed signs of having been trampled on by wild hogs.
Ninety-six percent of Futaba — one of two towns straddled by the stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Station — is designated by the central government as “areas to which return will be difficult.” Even though Kowata prepares himself mentally, seeing his house in an increasingly dilapidated state every time he visits is hard: “It’s disheartening.”
After the March 2011 disaster broke out at the nearby nuclear station, the entire town was forced to evacuate. Kowata moved from one place to another, including Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, where the Futaba Municipal Government set up shop temporarily, and where a branch of the municipal government still exists. In the summer of 2012, Kowata bought a used single-family home in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Iwaki, where he has since been living with his 70-year-old wife, Mineko. Prior to the nuclear crisis, the couple enjoyed walking in the mountains close to their home in Futaba to forage for mushrooms and wild vegetables. Now that they can no longer do that, their only emotional crutch is their pet dog.
Kowata’s hope to someday return to his hometown faded as he accrued more and more years as an evacuee. Now, a strong sense of resignation has taken over. There are plans to demolish his home in Futaba soon. “I’m old now. It’s sad, of course, since it’s where I lived for 70 years.”
After the onset of the nuclear disaster, along with the growing momentum of the anti-nuclear movement, was criticism for the national government and power companies that had long been building nuclear power plants in regional areas. The common trope was that people living in regional areas who had complied with national policy were now being forced from their homes. Kowata, too, wanted the people of Tokyo — for whom the Fukushima plant was primarily generating electricity — to look that fact straight in the eye. But when he thought about the benefits that he reaped from the nuclear power station, being told he was “sacrificed” for the sake of the big city and the central government didn’t feel quite true.
The Fukushima prefectural towns of Futaba and Okuma decided to host the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 1961, in the midst of Japan’s rapid economic growth. The central government’s desire to meet the increasing electricity demands of the Tokyo metropolitan area came together with the desire of a regional area that did not want to be left behind in the high-speed economic growth that the country was undergoing. As a result, six massive structures spanning the two towns were built.
The region’s industrial framework, in which residents farmed in the warmer months and became migrant workers elsewhere in the winters, underwent a radical transformation. Following graduation from high school, Kowata had been working in Tokyo as a conductor in the subway system. But he returned to his hometown once the nuclear plant was built, and became a regular employee at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) in 1971, when the nuclear plant began its operations.
“The pay was good, as were the benefits,” Kowata recalled. “It felt like a big company.” He worked for TEPCO and its affiliates until the age of 65.
Municipal governments that host nuclear power plants are given large amounts of money in subsidies based on the Three Power Source Development Laws. At its peak, the Futaba Municipal Government received over 1 billion yen per year, and nuclear plant-related income, including fixed property tax, enriched town coffers. This allowed for the construction of public facilities and other infrastructure.
“Nuclear power plants are monsters,” Kowata said. “I bet there’s no other mechanism out there that brings that much money and employment to a depopulated area.”
There were some people who warned of the risks of nuclear power. In 1972, some residents launched a Futaba region anti-nuke alliance. However, confronted by the very palpable benefits of the nuclear plant, the movement faded.
In 1991, the Futaba Town Assembly unanimously voted for the additional construction of the No. 7 and No. 8 reactors at the plant. The town’s expenditures were ballooning, due to the cost of maintaining and managing public facilities it had built with subsidies it received from the central government for hosting the nuclear power plant. So in seeking even more of that “nuclear power plant money,” Futaba became more proactive in promoting the national government’s nuclear policy.
Futaba’s mayor at the time was the late Tadao Iwamoto, who served for five terms, four years each, starting in 1985. He was a former prefectural assembly member from the Socialist Party who at one time served as the head of an anti-nuke alliance. But after he became the mayor of Futaba, he promoted community building that assumed coexistence with nuclear power plants.
To his former comrades, this seemed like a sellout, but his son, Hisato Iwamoto, 61, who is the vice-speaker of the Futaba town assembly, argues that nothing had changed, in that his father continued efforts to work for the happiness of the townspeople and for the Futaba region. Hisato said he remembers his father yelling at news reports on the nuclear disaster that were being aired on television in the gymnasium that the family had evacuated to in the Fukushima prefectural city of Minamisoma in March 2011: “What are they doing!” His father subsequently said not a word about the nuclear plant, and died just four months later due to illness at the age of 82.
Akira Kawate, who was formerly a bureaucrat at the Ministry of Home Affairs, the predecessor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, and subsequently served as Fukushima Prefecture’s deputy governor from 1999 to 2006, looked back on the proposed construction of the No. 7 and No. 8 reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. “The prefectural government’s view was that we shouldn’t keep relying on nuclear reactors,” he said. The prefecture, however, was unable to come up with any specific economic revitalization measures to replace nuclear power plants. The additional reactors were never built. Then, in 2011, disaster struck.
Kawate, who now serves as an executive director of a nationwide federation promoting the independence of depopulated regions, understands the obstacles of implementing depopulation countermeasures. “It’s very difficult for municipal governments that have neither the money nor the manpower to be independent. With the exception of Tokyo, all communities must be dependent on the central government, though the extent to which they are may vary,” he said. But, he continued, “There are various ways to think about the relationship between regional areas and the central government, whether it’s the regional areas that are being sacrificed, or they’re the ones shrewdly taking advantage of the central government. It’s OK to have a shrewd outlook on life. It liberates you from emotional subordination.”
Aside from the noise of heavy machinery, the town of Futaba is quiet. Little by little, homes are being torn down and new infrastructure is being built. The plan is to make about 55 hectares of land surrounding JR Futaba Station livable again as a specially designated reconstruction and revitalization zone. If all goes well, evacuation orders for the area will be lifted around the spring of 2022.
If people do not return to the town, however, there will be no town revival. The 7,140 people who lived here at the time the nuclear disaster began are now scattered everywhere, and as of late August this year, 4,074 lived within Fukushima Prefecture, and 2,818 lived outside the prefecture as evacuees. According to a survey of Futaba residents and others conducted in fall of last year, 60 percent of the 1,564 households that responded said that they had “decided not to return.”
Ever since the onset of the nuclear crisis, former TEPCO employee Kowata has been questioning himself over and over again. The nuclear power plant had allowed him to work in his hometown and provide for his family. But if it hadn’t been for the nuclear power plant, the disaster would not have occurred. “I carry a weight on my shoulders.”
Kowata has given up hope on returning to his home in Futaba, but he wants to remain involved in his hometown. His residence registry is still there. “I want to live a long life, and watch what happens to this town,” he says, hopefully.
(Japanese original by Yukinao Kin, Osaka Cultural News Department)
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November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

3/11 survivors may struggle to repay loans

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Many people in areas of Japan hit by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami worry that they may have trouble repaying loans extended by local governments to help in rebuilding their lives.
 
Municipalities can lend up to 31,000 dollars to each household affected by disasters.
 
The Cabinet Office says that as of the end of October, municipalities have lent some 460 million dollars in over 29,000 cases related to the March 11th disaster.
 
Three prefectures were hit hardest by the disaster. Households in Miyagi were lent the most at about 360 million dollars. Fukushima came next at roughly 52 million dollars and those in Iwate received some 24.6 million dollars.
 
As of the end of October, nearly 90 percent of planned public housing units for disaster survivors had been completed in the 3 prefectures.
 
But pensioners and people whose income has dropped since the disaster worry about their ability to pay off the loans. Repayment periods began this month.
 
Many people used the lending system after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake in western Japan. Roughly 27.5 million dollars in loans have not been repaid in Kobe City.

 

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

The Politics of Invisibility: Fukushima, 6 years after 3.11

Yesterday, the event “The Politics of Invisibility: Fukushima, 6 years after 3.11” (INFO) was held at the University of British Columbia with sponsorship from the Centre for Japanese Research.  I was honoured to present at the conference, which was organized by Geography Professor David Edgington.  I had the honour of presenting here two years ago also at the invitation of Dr. Edgington.

Split into two sessions, the lunchtime workshop began with Dr. Edgington’s presentation “A day out in Fukushima: Reflections on a field trip to the Dai-chi Nuclear Power Plant” focused on his recent experience touring the crippled facility complete with photographs from inside the plant.  Dr. Matsui, Professor of Law, presented his talk “Restarting Nuclear Power Plants in Japan After the Fukushima Disaster”, which focused on law, policy and public opinion regarding nuclear power in Japan following the meltdown.

In the evening, there was a screening of the work-in-progress of my documentary “Sezaruwoenai” (“Unavoidable”, working title), which eventually will be the 3rd film in my series about young people living in Fukushima, following “In the Grey Zone” (2012) and “A2-B-C” (2013).  It was a rare and extremely meaningful experience for me to share this work-in-progress, and the feedback I received from this study session held at the university will stay with me as I move forward in thinking about the direction I will take with the film.

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photo courtesy Savannah Li

At the lunchtime presentation preceding the screening, Dr. Edgington had asked me to focus on the plight of the so-called “voluntary evacuees” who are facing tough decisions as financial support for them is being terminated at the end of this month.  In addition to sharing about the press conference for which I served as the MC in January (INFO), I had decided the best way to for the audience to understand the situation for these families was through their own words.  I asked Noriko Matsumoto, who I had first met at the press conference, and another young mother who wished to remain anonymous (and whom I had met through one of the mothers who appeared in my documentary “A2-B-C”) to write statements about how they would be affected by the termination of financial support for those who had chosen to leave Fukushima with their children.

Their statements, translated by Anthony Davis, are in full below:

March 1, 2017
Noriko Matsumoto (evacuated to Kawasaki with her children)

Today, the lead article in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper stated that on March 31 or April 1, evacuation orders will be lifted for some areas within 20 kilometers of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant—the towns of Namie, Kawamata, Iitate, and Tomioka.

Why do the Japanese and Fukushima prefectural governments not give us the right of evacuation, instead attempting to return even children to these areas where the level of radiation is still high?

I am so angry and sad that it is difficult for me to express it in words. However, once this happens, evacuees like us from outside of the restricted zone will find it harder to obtain the right of evacuation, which is a matter of human rights. How can we help people in a position of weakness, and those who care for children or disabled persons?

I feel a deep sadness at the foolishness of Japan, where only the affluent ever hold power, and the weak are discarded.

I want to protect the children somehow, with accurate information! I hope for the support of many people to this end.
Translation: Anthony Davis, Kobe, Japan, March 2017

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March 4, 2017
Mother who evacuated with her children to Niigata (wishes to remain anonymous)

The background to my deciding to voluntarily evacuate (with my children) came after I comprehensively evaluated the incidents which I describe below.

At the time of the accident, I learnt that, previously, the radiation dose limit for the general public was stipulated by law as one millisievert in a year (or 0.23 microsievert per hour).

Before the nuclear power plant accident, the radiation level in Fukushima city was 0.03 microsievert per hour. Immediately following the 2011 accident, even inside homes, the level was 0.6 microsievert (approximately 20 times the normal level), and outside, the level was commonly 2 microsievert or higher (some 66 times the normal level). This amounts to levels far in excess of one millisievert per year. I thought that this was abnormal (and a violation of law).

On April 19, 2011, in Fukushima prefecture, the level at which children were permitted to engage in outdoor activities was changed to 20 millisievert a year, or 3.8 microsievert per hour. Thus, the former standard of 1 millisievert per year was raised to 20 times that level.

In May, the Board of Education issued notice limiting the outdoor activities of elementary, junior high, and high school students to a maximum of three hours per day.

On April 29, Toshiso Kosako, advisor to the Cabinet Office, held a press conference announcing his resignation in protest against the height of the levels. In tears, he stated the following:

It is very rare even among the occupationally exposed persons to be exposed to radiation levels even near to 20mSv per year. I cannot possibly accept such a level to be applied to babies, infants and primary school students, not only from my scholarly viewpoint but also from my humanistic beliefs.”

The press repeatedly reported the government’s explanation that “the levels would not have an immediate effect on the human body or on health.”

Meanwhile, amid a confusion of various other information, I resolved to evacuate from Date city to Niigata, wanting to take care of my children in a safe environment in peace of mind. Now, Fukushima prefecture has started to discard evacuees, under the banner of “Acceleration of Reconstruction.”

In June 2015, Fukushima prefecture announced that it would stop providing rental housing for voluntary evacuees at the end of March 2017. The provision of free housing for voluntary evacuees will end.

Five years ago, when I voluntarily evacuated from Fukushima prefecture to Niigata, I had to start from zero. Many people were kind in their support, including local people I met, and those at my children’s school. But with the upcoming changes, the livelihood which I have finally built up after five years will be taken from me, and I will be deprived of my right to evacuation.

In Fukushima, decontamination of residential grounds has reduced radiation levels from the post-accident levels, and a false sense of security is spreading, even though radiation has not reached pre-accident levels.

With its eyes set on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Japan is lifting the evacuation orders and discontinuing compensation, and it is firming up policy to end housing support for voluntary evacuees. I strongly resent that Japan is gradually cutting financial housing support, and forcing people into poverty, after which they are encouraged to return home and are then abandoned. Rather than the proclamation which Prime Minister Abe made for the Olympics that everything is “under control,” I want to convey a message to him of “One for all, all for one.”

I want Prime Minister Abe to retract his statement, and instead, I want him to tell the world that support will continue “One for all, all for one,” for all of the people who suffered so much from the disaster, while TEPCO was said to be “under control.”

People who were previously under evacuation orders were known as compulsory evacuees. The term “voluntary evacuation” is widely used. However, this is in no way voluntary evacuation. Using the term “voluntary evacuation” in contrast to “compulsory evacuation” implies that people made a choice of their own volition, therefore the term which should be used is “evacuation from areas outside of areas designated under evacuation orders.” Voluntary evacuees from outside of designated areas are being forcibly returned home, or forcibly evicted.

I want to tell the whole world that this is what is really occurring in Fukushima now.
Translation: Anthony Davis, Kobe, Japan, March 2017

http://ianthomasash.blogspot.fr/2017/03/the-politics-of-invisibility-fukushima.html

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | 1 Comment

Japanese People Shun Fukushima Survivors While Doctors Refuse Them Care

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Those who do not fit the norm, for whatever reason no matter how abusive,

are outcasts. 

In retrospect, societal norms throughout history have sometimes become fatally irresponsible. When it comes to popular movements and health trends, humanity has had its share of shameful events stamped forever into the history books. While working in Vienna General Hospital’s first obstetrical clinic, where doctors’ wards had three times the mortality of midwives’ wards, Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis proposed the novel idea of hand washing in 1847. Despite various publications of results where hand washing reduced mortality from 35% to below 1%, Semmelweis’s observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected. After his discovery, Semmelweis was committed to an insane asylum and promptly beaten to death by guards. As horrific as these visions and events can sometimes be, they continue to be played out in today’s society partially due to public ignorance, corruption, conflicts of interest and imbedded norms.

The world is rapidly approaching the five year anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in human history. The triple meltdown at the Fukushima daiichi nuclear power plant has seen shameful omissions by global leaders and officials at every level. To compound matters, Japanese survivors are forced to submit to a complicit medical community bordering on anti-human. While the solutions to the widespread nuclear contamination are few, media blackouts, government directives and purposefully omitted medical reporting has made things exponentially worse. Over the last five years, the situation on the ground in Japan had deteriorated to shocking levels as abuse and trauma towards the survivors has become intolerable.

Even before the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan endured another nuclear disaster as a testing ground for the US military’s new nuclear arsenal on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The numbers of Japanese civilians killed were estimated at around 226,000, roughly half of the deaths occurred on the first day. After the initial detonation of the two nuclear bombs, both Japanese cities endured a legacy of radiation damage and human suffering for decades after. Tomiko Matsumoto, a resident of Hiroshima and survivor of the bombing described the abuse and trauma she endured by her society:

I was shocked because I was discriminated against by Hiroshima people. We lived together in the same place and Hiroshima people know what happened but they discriminated against each other. ..I was shocked.

There were so many different kinds of discrimination. People said that girls who survived the bomb shouldn’t get married. Also they refused to hire the survivors, not only because of the scars, but because they were so weak. Survivors did not have 100 percent energy.”

There was a survivor’s certificate and medical treatment was free. But the other people were jealous. Jealous people, mentally discriminated. So, I didn’t want to show the health book sometimes, so I paid. Some of the people, even though they had the health book, were afraid of discrimination, so they didn’t even apply for the health book. They thought discrimination was worse than paying for health care.”

A similar scene is playing out today in Japan as residents of the Fukushima prefecture, who survived triple nuclear meltdowns, are forced to endure similar conditions over half a century later. Fairewinds Energy Education director and former nuclear executive Arnie Gunderson is currently embarked on a speaking tour of Japan as their population continues to search for the truth about nuclear risks and the reality of life in affected areas of Japan after the 2011 disaster. Many Fukushima prefecture residents are still displaced and living in resettlement communities as their city sits as a radioactive ghost town. Visiting one such resettlement community, Gunderson had this to say:

Today I went to a resettlement community. There were 22 women who met us, out of 66 families who live in this resettlement community. They stood up and said my name is…and I’m in 6A…my name is…and I’m in 11B and that’s how they define themselves by the little cubicle they live in — it’s very sad.”

Speaking with the unofficial, interim mayor of the resettlement community, she told Gunderson

After the disaster at Fukushima, her hair fell out, she got a bloody nose and her body was speckled with hives and boils and the doctor told her it was stress…and she believes him. It was absolutely amazing. We explained to her that those area all symptoms of radiation [poisoning] and she should have that looked into. She really felt her doctor had her best interests at heart and she was not going to pursue it.

Speaking about how Japanese officials handled this resettlement community’s (and others?) health education after the disaster, Gunderson reported:

They [the 22 women who met with Gunderson] told us that we were the first people in five years to come to them and talk to them about radiation. They had nobody in five years of their exile had ever talked to them about radiation before…Which was another terribly sad moment.

When asked if the women felt isolated from the rest of Japan they described to Gunderson the following:

Some of them had changed their license plates so that they’re not in Fukushima anymore — so their license plates show they’re from another location. When they drive back into Fukushima, people realize that they’re natives and deliberately scratch their cars…deliberately scratch their cars because they are traitors. Then we had the opposite hold true that the people that didn’t change their plates and when they left Fukushima and went to other areas, people deliberately scratched their cars because they were from Fukushima.”

Gunderson summed up the information he received by saying, “The pubic’s animosity is directed toward the people of Fukushima Prefecture as if they somehow caused the nuclear disaster.

When it comes to health decisions, the medical community and political class has polarized the conversation into an “either-or” “us vs. them” mentality. Reckless lawmaking and biased reported has only driven the Japanese public further down this slippery slope. In many countries, the public watched as medical dogma and ideology captured healthcare, which in turn began to direct policy and law. Many societies beyond Japan are now facing difficult choices as the free expression of health preservation and medical choice has fallen into a dangerous grey area. Oscillating between authoritative legal action, medical discrimination and public abuse, society’s norms appear to be rapidly heading down the wrong road. Untold damage and traumas are unfolding as governments hide information and quietly omit vital data further fueling the fire. Alternative media and the work of those in medicine with true integrity and compassion have herculean tasks awaiting them as they work to change a historically dangerous narrative attempting to root.

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | 3 Comments

How Officials and Popular Academics Have Responded to Disaster Victims

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On Fukushima Prefecture and Hiroshi Kainuma: How Officials and Popular Academics Have Responded to Disaster Victims in the Wake of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident
By Toshinori Shishido
日本語の原文『東京電力福島原子力発電所事故発生前後から現在までの、福島県庁と開沼博氏達による被災者への対応』
1. About the author
I worked as a full-time teacher at a public high school in Fukushima for about twenty-five-and-a-half years, until July 31, 2011. During the first four years of my career, I taught at Futaba High School in Futaba-machi, home to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Naturally, I have heard stories about the harsh working conditions of nuclear workers. For example, in a certain area of the power plant, working for 10 minutes would exceed the legal maximum daily radiation exposure limit. So each shift was officially recorded as 10 minutes even though their actual worked shift was 8 hours. The workers would primarily wipe water leaking from the piping surrounding the nuclear reactor. When workers died of illnesses like cancer, their families received unusually high amounts of cash as lump-sum payments, while actual workmen’s compensation insurance was not provided.
At the time of the 2011 nuclear accident, I was living in a city 53 kilometers (33 miles) away from the power plant with my wife and two children. I was working at a public school 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the plant.
After the accident, on the evening of March 15, 2011, the maximum airborne radioactive levels of 23 microsievert/hour was detected in Fukushima City, where I worked. Outside the school the following day, however, the annual school acceptance announcements were held as scheduled. Several faculty, including myself, met with the principal to insist that usual outdoor announcement be cancelled as to avoid having young students exposed to radiation–but the announcement event was forced outdoors.  The principal cited  reasons such as, “the Fukushima Prefecture office strongly supports the outdoor plan” and he “had no choice as the school principal.”
From April 2011 on, aside from the prohibition of outdoor gym classes, neither my school nor the Fukushima Board of Education took any measures to prevent further radiation exposure for students. The school had students practice club activities outdoors as usual. Indoor club athletes were made to run outdoors as well, without any protective measure against radiation exposure. Despite the standard practice, measures such as gargling, washing hands, changing clothes, and showering weren’t deemed necessary for students when returning from outdoor activities. Since I had some knowledge about radiation exposure, I advised the students to take caution to remove potential contamination whenever possible. However, in response to my giving the students advice to prevent radioactive materials from entering the building, I had been cautioned by the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education, in the form of official “guidance” which forbids me to even talk about radiation and nuclear power plants to the students. Given that I was officially barred from protecting students from radiation exposure, I decided to make my move: along with my family, I evacuated my hometown and relocated to Sapporo city in Hokkaido. We were supported by staff and Toru Konno at the Hokkaido Prefectural government who led the way through the interference by Fukushima Prefecture, and Sapporo City, as well as by the support of the people at the NPO Musubiba. Once we evacuated, we found out about a financial system by Fukushima Prefecture which supports voluntary evacuees from the areas outside of the officially restricted zone (though it only approved applications from evacuees pre-December 2012; those who evacuated thereafter would not be financially supported).
I have been teaching part-time in Hokkaido. Since finding out that within the public school system the Fukushima Prefecture Board of Education can intervene to oversee public high school relocation anywhere, I have been teaching at private schools only. Aside from my part-time job, I have been involved in a nuclear power plant damages lawsuit as a plaintiff as well as a member of the refugee organization.

1. Fukushima Prefectural Government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident
The reactors at the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, especially Unit 1 and Unit 2, were delivered and installed from the US after the US manufacturer finished all of their construction. As for Units 3, 4, 5, and 6 the Japanese manufacturer added their own “improvements” to the original structure.
I will try to avoid a lengthy explanation. TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant frequently had accidents immediately after beginning operation and the nuclear workers’ exposure levels amounted to twice to ten times the average exposure dose at other nuclear plants. Furthermore, TEPCO kept a lot of serious accidents hidden from Fukushima Prefecture and the Japanese government. TEPCO proposed using Unit 3 for so-called pluthermal power generation, utilizing fuel which can contain weapons-grade plutonium in order to reduce the plutonium surplus in Japan. Eisaku Sato, then-governor of Fukushima, strongly objected to the proposal.The Japanese government arrested and convicted Governor Sato on bribery charges with the amount of the bribe recognized as “zero yen.” They drove him to resign, then elected Yuhei Sato as the new governor. As described above, neither the Fukushima governor nor the organization called the Fukushima Prefectural Government had power over TEPCO.

2. Nuclear accident and the Fukushima Prefectural Government
March 11, 2011, when a massive earthquake hit a wide area including Fukushima Prefecture, the building of the Fukushima prefectural office (which had been planned to function as a Disaster Response Headquarters) was damaged in the earthquake. The headquarters were set up in a small building next to the main office building to serve temporary functions. The prefectural government has never publicized records of proceedings and documents from over 20 meetings in the beginning. From the 25th meeting, they finally began keeping records of proceedings.
At the time, the temporary disaster response headquarters was believed to have had little to no communication lines, and had reportedly only two satellite mobile phones. Although the communication infrastructure began to be rebuilt gradually, what was happening then still remains largely unknown. There has been no official investigation into the correspondence between the local governments, the central government and TEPCO, and no evacuation orders to the local communities.
As far as public record goes, the only time Fukushima Governor issued an announcement in the first week was on the evening of March 14th. “Follow the instructions and  do not panic,””High school entrance announcements will be held as planned on March 16th,”— these two lines were broadcast repeatedly throughout local media.
From another angle, the recordings of the TEPCO video conference shows that Fukushima Prefecture requested TEPCO make a public announcement saying “the explosion in the Unit 3 at Fukushima Daiichi will not cause health damage.” Appalled by the request, thinking they “couldn’t say such an irresponsible thing,” TEPCO decided to “ask the central government to suppress Fukushima Prefecture,”—as evidently recorded during the video conference.
However Fukushima Prefecture repeatedly expressed that in the “Nakadōri” region—which includes the prefectural capitol, Fukushima City, and the commercially and industrially flourishing Koriyama City—there would be zero risk of health damage from radiation.
There has been a use of protective measures like wearing long-sleeves and masks for school children, which may have been a globally familiar sight through media reports. However this was not a recommendation or an order issued by Fukushima Prefecture, but rather a result of demands from local PTAs to boards of education in individual school districts.
Towards the end of March 2011, right before the school year resumed, the Fukushima governor was seen out in local grocery stores saying “Fukushima today is business as usual,” in which he began a campaign to “dispel harmful rumors” about local agricultural produce being contaminated by radiation. The governor also opposed widening the evacuation zone beyond the 20km radius of the nuclear power plant, and has repeatedly made remarks to avoid increasing the number of evacuees from outside the official evacuation zone.
As a result, aside from two local Fukushima newspapers, NHK, and four private television networks in addition to NHK Radio and Radio Fukushima, there was little to no mention of messages from outside Fukushima offering free housings and support networks for voluntary evacuees. Fukushima Prefecture also prohibited the use of not only public conference centers, but private facilities for hosting “counseling room” for evacuation as well. People around me practically had no knowledge of local autonomous support groups offering evacuation support. I have heard numerous times that “there is no evacuation order from outside the prefecture, meaning we have been abandoned.” In fact, it was Fukushima Prefecture who had been interfering with such efforts to reach our community.
Hiroshi Kainuma, “the Sociologist”
In 2011, an author from Fukushima became renowned after publishing the book “Fukushima’ theory–the birth of a nuclear village,” based on a thesis he wrote as a sociology student at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Sciences. His name is Hiroshi Kaiuma, born in Iwaki City, Fukushima, and graduated from the University of Tokyo Literature department at the age of 25 and advanced to the graduate program. I must note that this is difficult to grasp if you are not well-connected within Fukushima. But in short, Iwaki City, where Mr. Kainuma was born and raised, has very little connection to the Futaba district which hosts TEPCO’s power plant. In terms of large-scale trading areas, while the Futaba district is part of the Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture trade area, Iwaki City would be part of Mito City in Ibaraki Prefecture. In any case, Mr. Kainuma did not have strong connections to the Fukushima Prefectural government prior to March 11th, 2011.
Since the meltdown, however, he has somehow become “the Fukushima spokesperson who speaks about Fukushima on TV and radio.”
Additionally, I have written several critiques of his writings, one of which can be found on the following link (in Japanese): “Personal note on “‘Fukushima’ theory–the birth of a nuclear village’” http://togetter.com/li/815862

4. Hiroshi Kainuma and the Fukushima Prefectural Government
After 3.11, his master’s thesis was published in books and he began to be featured in various media, including an appearance as a commentator on the popular evening program “Hodo Station (News Station).” We must note that the content of his remarks have been consistent—such as, “The acceptance of nuclear power plant by local communities was necessary for the regions’ survival”; “Those outside of Fukushima protesting against nuclear energy do not understand the reality of nuclear-hosting communities.” His views and comments on the anti-nuclear movement have been antagonistic from the beginning, for example, “People who oppose nuclear energy are rubbing local communities the wrong way.”
Mr. Kainuma currently holds the title of Junior Researcher of the Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization, but at the same time he is a PhD student at the University of Tokyo. While it would be appropriate to call him a sociology researcher, I feel it’s an overestimation to refer to him as a sociologist.
Currently the gist of Mr. Kainuma’s speech is towards the “recovery of Fukushima in visible forms” and its target audience is outside Fukushima Prefecture. While many others have in fact been referring to “bags” jammed with contaminated waste—seen everywhere and impossible to be ignored upon entering Fukushima—Mr. Kainuma continues to emphasize the “ordinary Fukushima” without mentioning the bags.
I see the previous governor of Fukushima, Yuhei Sato, in Mr. Kainuma in many ways, like in his seeming lack of experience interacting with people in temporary housings immediately following the meltdowns, or with shelter residents still living with much confusion and inconveniences as a result of the disaster.
Even the current Fukushima governor does not seem to have made too many visits to temporary shelters during or after elections.
To those who evacuated Fukushima to outer prefectures like myself, the Prefecture kept even more distance. By principle, they never made any official inspection visits to meet the evacuees. There is a notable lack of inspection visits not only in remote areas such as Hokkaido, but also in places like Yamagata and Niigata which are adjacent to Fukushima Prefecture.
In the wake of the disaster, though there was housing support for those who evacuated the areas outside of Fukushima as well, such efforts have gradually died down—as of March 2016, state subsidies for housing would be available only for evacuees who are from Fukushima. In addition, the housing subsidy program for those who evacuated the non-restricted zone will end in March 2017. However, there is no housing program for returning residents to Fukushima even if they decide to move back there.
Starting March 2017, voluntary evacuees still living in outer prefectures need to choose one of the three following choices:
1) Return home to Fukushima while paying out-of-pocket for most of the expenses associated with the move and your life thereafter. 2) Continue living outside Fukushima while relinquishing your rights to access resources as a disaster victim 3) Upon proving your need for financial assistance, receive housing subsidies for up to 2 years to live in privately-owned housing.
The reason for this policy change was credited to correspondence between the Minister of Environment and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, a non-governmental agency to provide scientific grounds for nuclear policy. The Minister of Envirnoment asked the NRA if “it is considered desirable to evacuate the areas that don’t have restrictions” to which the NRA answered, ”these areas are no longer fit to be evacuated.” It should be noted that there was no legal ground for this correspondence to be treated as official; how this exchange was reviewed and by whom is unknown.
Based on this document issued by the NRA, the Japanese government made a Cabinet decision to largely reduce support for evacuees through the Nuclear Accident Child Victim’s Support Law.
Following this decision, Fukushima Prefecture also determined its policy would end support for the voluntary evacuees from non-restricted areas.
Hiroshi Kainuma is working from an assumed role to justify such policy of Fukushima Prefecture, utilizing his position as a so-called sociologist. Even if he has ideas and views that differ from Fukushima Prefecture’s policy, he does not speak about them on media or at talk events.
For instance, when Mr. Kainuma was relatively unknown before 3.11, he had reportedly interviewed local anti-nuclear activists. Another instance tells us that although he had met and interviewed several people who have moved voluntarily out of the non-restricted areas, he proceeds to ignore the voices and opinions of them as though they had never existed.
Last year, nuclear reactors in Japan started resuming operation. Mr. Kainuma has not been seen or heard expressing opposition to it. Neither Fukushima Prefecture nor the Prefectural Assembly expresses any intentions to oppose nuclear restorations.
5. The current presence of “Hiroshi Kainuma”
Through the circumstances described above, Hiroshi Kainuma is working so as to be portrayed by the media as a Fukushima Prefecture spokesperson, intent on selling “business-as-usual” appeal and depicting a Fukushima that “overcame a nuclear disaster.”
Meanwhile, and quite unfortunately, many Fukushima residents agree with his words and actions. Just as there are many people hoping to forget the scars from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, there are many who explicitly “do not evacuate,” comprising an overwhelming majority of the Fukushima population and wishing to forget and move past the disaster and nuclear crisis.
Here we have an academic scholar who speaks for us and to those who are outside Fukushima as well, saying to leave the nuclear disaster in the past.
Thus, this concludes the significance of Hiroshi Kainuma’s existence today.

(Translation by Sloths Against Nuclear State)
Source : https://jfissures.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/on-fukushima-prefecture-and-hiroshi-kainuma/

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