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“The Silent Voices”: what is really to be living within the Fukushima disaster

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This Sunday, December 4th, 2016, I was invited to the premiere of a documentary film, produced by a couple, Lucas Rue, the french husband, and his Japanese wife Chiho Sato, from Fukushima.

Their documentary film titled “Les voies silencieuses” (The silent voices) in my humble opinion is definitely the best documentary film I have seen about the Fukushima catastrophe.

First because this documentary was made, written, directed by someone who is native of Fukushima. Only a person from Fukushima could penetrate in such manner the social fabric of the Fukushima people, to bring out the inner perspective of what the Fukushima people are living right now. An outsider, Japanese not from Fukushima or a foreigner could never penetrate the intimacy, the reserve of the people in such manner that Chiho Sato did.

Second, this film exposes very well the left unsaid things and the paradoxes in which the population of Fukushima is forced to live.
This film will help many people to better understand the dilemma in which these people live, bringing this living perspective from the inside that was really lacking, which is quite difficult to be understood by those who are not living it, living in it.

They are working right now to produce the english version to be soon screened. This Fukushima documentary is a must, to not be missed, to be absolutely watched by the many. I am also convinced that this documentary film will become THE film of Fukushima, and will win certainly some trophies for its excellency.

Thank you to both Lucas Rue and Chiho Sato for this absolutely excellent, quite unique documentary about Fukushima.

December 5, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | 1 Comment

Shame on TEPCO For Taking Kids into Fukushima Exclusion Zone for Damage Control Campaign

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On November 18, 2016, Tokyo Electric Power Company, a.k.a. TECPCO, took a group of 13 students wearing dosimeters from Fukushima High School into the exclusion zone around the hobbled Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant for an educational tour. It is the opinion of the EnviroNews World News Editorial Board that this is unacceptable, and should not happen again until all radiation is cleaned up at the site.

The Asahi Shimbun reported, “It was the first tour by youngsters since the disaster as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. had deemed the radiation risk was too high.”

To be clear, epidemiology and medical science have firmly established there is no “safe” amount of radiation to be exposed to — period — end of story. With each subsequent exposure, no matter how small, the bombarded organism experiences an increase in cancer risk.

Knowing that science has firmly established that there is no “safe” limit of radiation to be exposed to, it is the opinion of the EnviroNews World News Editorial Board that TEPCO should be ashamed of itself for taking a class of high school students into the still radioactive exclusion zone around the crippled power plant as part of what has been a continuous damage control campaign since the accident’s inception. Furthermore, TEPCO should apologize to the families, and commit publicly to not take any more children into the exclusion zone until all radioactivity has been removed.

FUKUSHIMA’S EXCLUSION ZONE: STILL A VERY DANGEROUS PLACE

The exclusion zone around the demolished Fukushima Daiichi power plant is a dangerous place. But when a person goes there, the invisible dangers that lurk don’t threaten to kill or maim right away — the hazardous radioactive rays and particles around Fukushima threaten to kill or harm them at some point years down the road — and those same radioactive exposures can also predispose and mutate their unborn children and grandchildren with birth defects, disease and cancer.

The gestation period of cancers from radiation ranges from as low as four years, to as high as fifty years or more. If an 80-year-old person is exposed to radioactivity, it is likely that other causes, either natural or unnatural, will lead to their demise before maladies caused by radiation will. However, for a very young person subjected to radioactivity, this is not the case, and for this reason, again, TEPCO should be ashamed of itself for taking children who may want to later have children themselves, into the exclusion zone for a publicity stunt. A physical trip to the location is not necessary to educate youth about the Fukushima accident, or nuclear power in general. To make a physical trip to the site with children is highly irresponsible. Less risky means of education must be used instead.

TEPCO AND JAPAN’S CONTINUOUS DAMAGE CONTROL CAMPAIGN

To suggest that TEPCO has been engaging in a continuous campaign of damage control and coverup is not a stretch at all. Earlier this year, TEPCO finally confessed publicly that it lied to the press and the entire world immediately following the meltdowns, downplaying the severity, and not admitting full meltdowns had occurred until several months later, when in fact, the company knew within hours that meltdowns were underway. This blatant lie put many thousands at risk and hampered evacuation strategies. Shortly after the company’s admission, former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, and two former Vice Presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro were indicted for “professional negligence resulting in deaths and injury.”

Japan as a country, also has a serious PR problem with the ongoing Fukushima crisis — and that PR issue translates into economic problems, hence, Japan has done anything possible to slap a happy face on the disaster from the get-go.

Though it’s possible to display many examples of this, the country’s fervent and costly effort to host the 2020 Olympics, despite many concerns about Fukushima from the international community, may be the grandest. Japan has done much to stifle and stymie the voices of anti-nuclear protestors, while maintaining everything is “under control” at the rubbled plant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is the opinion of the EnviroNews World News Editorial Board that TEPCO, and the Japanese government, should come fully clean, relinquish their pridefulness, and engage the international community for help in the cleanup effort.

FUKUSHIMA: A SPEWING NUCLEAR DRAGON STILL ON THE LOOSE

To be clear on another point: the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi is in no way under control — quite the opposite. It is still out of control in many regards. For example, the radioactive waste water pileup problem at Fukushima is beyond critical, as over 1,100 massive storage tanks have engulfed nearly the entire area, filling the crumpled nuke site to the brim with deadly radioactive water. The operator has on multiple occasions had to discharge large amounts of tainted H2O out to sea. Secondly on this point is the fact that deadly uranium and plutonium contaminated water have been leaching into the ocean from under the reactor buildings on a continuous basis due to groundwater seepage.

Japan is a country that has been torn to shreds by radiation poisoning, possibly more than any other. Furthermore, Japan is one of only a couple dozen or so nations on earth suffering population decline, but scarily, Japan’s population is starting to contract at an alarming speed due to a low birth rate. The last thing organizations need to be doing is risking the genetic integrity and fertility of Japan’s youths by taking them to nuclear meltdown ground zeros. TEPCO should hang its head in front of the media, apologize, and agree to engage in no further publicity stunts that endanger the country’s children.

NUCLEAR COMPANIES SHOULD BE LIMITED, OR KEPT OUT OF SCHOOL-BASED NUCLEAR EDUCATION ENTIRELY

On another relevant topic, EnviroNews has long taken issue with nuclear companies being invited to participate in the educational process on nuclear issues, as our research has shown that children’s opinions are easily swayed when “educated” on the topic by nuclear companies. Many of the campaigns we’ve seen represent borderline indoctrination on the pros of nuclear power, while typically failing to mention catastrophes and the practically boundless risks and uncleaned waste sites still plaguing the planet today. Teachers and administrators should use more discretion on a topic as controversial as nuclear, and recognize that the industry’s propaganda campaigns know no boundaries.

One of many examples of these industry-driven “nukewashing” campaigns was witnessed by EnviroNews when EnergySolutions, a nuclear waste disposal company stationed in Utah, “educated” a class of students in Salt Lake City about the “benefits” of radiation. Before the event around three-quarters of the class was opposed to nuclear energy, but when surveyed again after EnergySolutions was finished, around three-quarters of the students had changed their stance to a pro-nuclear position. Naturally, the teacher failed to bring in an educator from any anti-nuclear groups who would paint a different picture entirely. Sadly, the U.S. Government, via the Department of Energy (DOE), has also gotten involved in the nukewashing with a curriculum based program called, the Harnessed Atom.

With that stated, it is the further opinion of the EnviroNews World News Editorial Board that nuclear companies should be kept out of the educational process on nuclear issues entirely — or at least limited to situations where anti-nuke organizations are allowed to present opposing views on the dangers and downsides of nuclear simultaneously.

“The tour made me realize that we should arm ourselves with accurate information if we want to change people’s perceptions of Fukushima as a scary place,” said Keika Kobiyama, a first-year student in the Fukushima High School tour group. Sadly Keika, the leaking radioactive nightmare at Fukushima Daiichi is still a very “scary place,” and should be recognized as such — and if TEPCO told you otherwise, the company is, well, full of radioactive crap. 

http://www.environews.tv/world-news/editorial-shame-tepco-taking-kids-fukushima-exclusion-zone-damage-control-campaign/

 

 

 

November 28, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Evacuees Still Unable to Go Home Over 5 Years after Earthquake, Nuclear Accident

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Over five-and-a-half years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 and the subsequent nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Since then, big disasters have occurred in several other areas around the world, and in Japan the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes also caused great damage. So, the term “disaster area” does not always evoke specific images of Tohoku or Fukushima for many of us in Japan today. However, a large number of disaster victims continues to suffer from the disaster in Tohoku, especially by the nuclear accident in Fukushima. The hard times for disaster victims haven’t ended yet. We report here on the latest situation in the Tohoku and Fukushima districts so as not to forget their ongoing suffering.

The losses from the Great East Japan Earthquake as of March 10, 2016, were officially reported as follows: 18,455 people dead or still missing (not including deaths related to injuries after the earthquake); 400,326 houses or buildings either completely destroyed or half destroyed. By prefecture in the most seriously affected areas in the Tohoku region, the death tolls are 4,673, 9,541, and 1,613, in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima, respectively.

The estimated number of evacuees was approximately 470,000 at the peak, but 144,471 people were still living as refugees as of February 12, 2016.

Looking at the data of estimated populations of communities in the disaster-hit areas, comparing the population as of March 1, 2011 (before the disaster) and the most recent population, we see that the severely affected communities in Iwate and Miyagi have lost about one third of their populations. In Fukushima, several communities show “minus 100%” as the change of their population. Those ones are communities in the areas affected by the nuclear accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, where the evacuation order has not yet been lifted even today.

On a chart showing the timeline of evacuation orders issued right after the disaster, we see that areas ordered to evacuate were rapidly increasing one by one, while in the middle of all this, another explosion occurred at the reactor No.3. The timeline shows how the evacuation-ordered areas expanded.

Later, the government designated three evacuation zones based on international basic safety standards on radiation exposure. We can see on a map two significant evacuation zones: the Evacuation Order Zone (Warning Zone) — within a 20-kilometer radius from Fukushima Daiichi — and the Emergency Evacuation Preparation Zone — within a 20-30 kilometer radius. And we also see one more evacuation zone on the map, the Planned Evacuation Zone — a large zone including part of the 20-30-kilometer radius zone and extending to areas outside of a 30-kilometer radius, which is the area into which the wind was blowing when the plant exploded — meaning large amounts of radioactive materials were carried into the area by wind.

At the same time, Emergency Evacuation Preparation Zones were also designated where the cumulative dose during the year after the nuclear accident was predicted to exceed 20 millisieverts (mSv) depending on wind direction and geography. The zones were also called “hot spots,” and an evacuation advisory was issued to their residents.

Later on, the categories of evacuation zones were revised as follows:

  1. Zones where evacuation orders were ready to be lifted (where it was confirmed that the annual cumulative dose of radiation will definitely be 20 mSv or less). People could go home temporarily (staying overnight prohibited) to prepare to return completely, and resume some operations such as hospitals, welfare facilities, shops, and farming.
  2. Zones in which the residents were not permitted to live (where the annual cumulative dose of radiation was expected to be 20 mSv or more and where residents were ordered to remain evacuated in order to reduce the risk of radiation exposure). People could temporarily return home and pass through the areas along main roads to repair infrastructure.
  3. Zones where it was expected that the residents would have difficulties in returning for a long time (where the annual cumulative dose of radiation was expected not to be less than 20 mSv in five years and the current cumulative dose of radiation per year was 50 mSv or more). People were legally required to evacuate from the area.

As seen in the zone map showing evacuation orders, many areas are still designated today as “difficult-to-return” zones.

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Let’s look specifically at the status of Fukushima Prefecture. Before May 2012, the total number of evacuees was 164,655. As of March 2013, the number from zones with evacuation orders and other areas was about 109,000. Looking at the updates in July 2016, 89,319 people in Fukushima are still living as evacuees . Also, Tomioka, Futaba, and some other Fukushima towns and local governments located in evacuation zones have moved their administrative functions both inside and outside of the prefecture.

Besides the number of deaths related directly to disaster-caused injuries in Fukushima Prefecture, the number of disaster-related deaths is still increasing, due to mental shock and physical conditions at shelters, such as poor hygiene and cold. Japan’s Reconstruction Agency recognized 459 people in Iwate Prefecture, 920 in Miyagi, and 2,038 in Fukushima as qualifying for payment of condolence money for disaster-related deaths. These numbers surpass the deaths directly caused by the earthquakes and tsunami.

The Tokyo Shimbun, a regional newspaper covering eastern Japan, gathered statistics on the deaths tied to the nuclear accident by asking municipalities in Fukushima to read through application forms for condolence money to find out the number of people that died from worsened physical conditions due to the stress of evacuation from the nuclear accident. The company wrote in its newspaper on March 6, 2016, “We interviewed municipal governments in Fukushima Prefecture and found that at least 1,368 people had died in connection with the nuclear accident, just from the numbers that could be confirmed.” The disaster-related death toll confirmed by each municipal government amounted to 2,028 as of March 4, 2016. It states that 67% of the disaster-related deaths are considered to be nuclear-related deaths.

According to statistics gathered by the Cabinet Office on the number of annual suicides related to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear plant accident, the number in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures is approaching zero, while it is still increasing in Fukushima.

Victims of nuclear accident face multiple difficulties, as shown below.

  • Loss of daily living
  • Loss of ways to earn a living
  • Loss of community
  • Forced to make own decisions whether to evacuate or not, and personally accept all risks that entail (people whose homes are outside of designated mandatory evacuation zones)
  • Divorce, family breakdown, and separation of generations due to differences of opinion among family members
  • A second mortgage to pay at the place of temporary evacuation
  • Discrimination or bullying at place of temporary evacuation
  • Not knowing when they can return home
  • Uncertain about safety of returning home even after evacuation order is lifted
  • Unable to rebuild community because many people have rebuilt their own lives (employment, human relations) at their place of temporary evacuation, and leaving mainly the elderly to return home.

Before the disaster, the nuclear power plants in Fukushima were generating power to send the electricity mainly to the Tokyo metropolitan area, not for local use. The nuclear accident forced people to leave their hometowns, and they are still not allowed to return to some areas. Even if the evacuation directive is lifted, evacuees will be unable to escape their anxieties about whether or not their homes are safe, and this situation continues to bring sorrow and hardship to the evacuees.

Even in this situation, Japan continues to approve the restart of nuclear power plants, some with operating permits for more than 40 years, despite the fact that the ruined plants have not yet been cleaned up, compensation for the accident is still not complete, and many people are still forced to live away from their hometowns. Each of us needs to think about the seriousness of nuclear accidents and the responsibilities that come with using nuclear power.

http://www.japanfs.org/sp/en/news/archives/news_id035681.html

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

Fukushima Radiation is not safe

A repost of a December 2011 video from  Goddard’s Journal

 

Studies cited in order presented:
National Academy of Sciences Low-Dose Radiation Report
http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11340&page=R1
Data tables used, 12D-1 and 12D-2:
http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11340&page=311
http://www.nap.edu/openbook/030909156X/gifmid/311.gif
How to scale that data to unique exposure scenarios, Annex 12D, Example 1:
http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11340&page=310

15-country study of nuclear-worker cancer risk
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17388693
Table 5 shown is from Part II of the study
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17388694
http://iangoddard.com/15countries_Part2_Table5.png

Jacob et al. (2009) meta-analysis of nuclear-worker studies
http://oem.bmj.com/content/66/12/789.full.pdf
Editorial on Jacob et al. quoted
http://oem.bmj.com/content/66/12/785.extract

Chromosomal translocations are associated with cancer
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3152359/

Boffetta et al. (2007) more chromoHarm entails more cancer
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17071846

Bhatti et al. (2010) meta-analysis of chromosomal damage
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3075914/

# Addendum #

Since I posted this video, the ‘Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ published a special edition on low-dose radiation, the lead article of which matches and thereby corroborates the case I present in this video. It also covers additional research and nuclear-industry efforts to derail scientific investigation of radiation risks http://bos.sagepub.com/content/68/3/10.full.pdf

Some friends created PDF files of this video available here

In English

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5qUOl0_hAfneW9rWmJ0akNMZEk/edit

In Japanese

https://docs.google.co

November 24, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Earthquake: Social Aftershocks of Fukushima Disaster are Still Being Felt

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A fishing boat washed inland by the 2011 Tsunami next to a shrine inside the Fukushima nuclear exclusion zone.

At 5.59am local time on November 22, Fukushima was hit by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, triggering a tsunami warning. For residents in the same region of Japan devastated by the major 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and its tsunami, the threat of a renewed disaster was very real.

The tsunami warning was lifted a few hours later, and the earthquake was later declared a long-term aftershock from the larger quake five years ago. But for people still coming to terms with that disaster and its aftermath, this new earthquake will severely test their resilience once again.

On March 11 2011, the 9.0 magnitude earthquake created a 15-metre tsunami that inundated the Fukushima Daiichi (Fukushima I) nuclear power station. Power was disabled to three reactors, which caused a serious nuclear accident as cooling systems failed. Large quantities of radiation were immediately released into the environment and approximately 100,000 people were evacuated.

The long-term social consequences of the original Fukushima Daiichi accident have been broad and far-reaching. Perception of risk, the likelihood of exposure to danger, has been at the heart of social controversy after the 2011 disaster. Radiation is invisible, and it is challenging to understand or percieve a threat that can only be detected by specialist scientific equipment. Often women and children are hit the hardest by this, regardless of socioeconomic status.

The concept of Fūhyōhigai, or the “harmful rumour”, was initially used by the media and local government to dismiss local women’s concerns about radiation exposure as weak and unscientific. However, this led to a cultural shift by women known as Fukushima’s “radiation brain moms”, who purchased monitoring equipment and took matters into their own hands, forming citizen radiation monitoring organisations (CRMOs).

By forming these groups of resistance, self-help and support, women rejected their culture’s social norms of obedience and subservience, that could have suppressed them from cultivating outrage over injustice and inequality. Participation in CRMOs has decreased over time, as the social memory of Fukushima Daiichi fades, but citizen science initiatives such as Safecast still provide useful information to many.

The recent earthquake temporarily halted the cooling system at the nearby Fukushima Daini (Fukushima II) reactor, and so there is likely to be a resurgence in monitoring, and a reunion of these support networks. Regardless of what happens now, there has already been a positive seismic shift in attitudes by both the government and scientists toward concerned mothers and community monitoring.

Living in ‘temporary’ permanence

Many impacts of the 2011 disaster have been hidden away in the private spaces of everyday life, with the tragedy putting enormous strain on family relations. Not only were thousands of families displaced from their homes, evacuation has meant the separation of family groups.

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Two girls play on a swing next to a radiation monitor and their temporary housing in Minamisōma, Fukushima prefecture.

Where once three generations could live together in Fukushima’s close-knit rural villages, relocation to cramped prefabricated temporary housing has meant many are forced to live apart. Today, five years after the disaster, 174,000 people are still displaced in a state of “temporary” permanence. Disconnection from the familiarity of place and family, as well as the constant worry about radiation risk, even threatens marital relationships. “Atomic divorce” (Genpatsu rikon) is on the rise, with disagreements on radiation safety, or whether to relocate back to territory now deemed “decontaminated”. News of the recent earthquake will doubtless have jogged memories and resurfaced hidden tensions.

The Japanese government is gradually declaring sections of the 20km nuclear exclusion zone safe and habitable. Despite this, the desire to move back to previously contaminated land has been underwhelming. For example, four months after Naraha Town was declared safe in September last year, only 6% of former inhabitants decided to move home to one of Fukushima’s many atomic “ghost towns”.

In the town of Minamisōma, on the northern edge of the exclusion zone, thousands of mothers and children have refused to return, despite societal pressure not to “betray” their home communities.

Nuclear uncertainty

While Japan’s tsunami warning system worked well, there is still considerable uncertainty surrounding the consequences and likelihood of a further natural hazard causing a nuclear accident in Japan.

The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident had already permanently changed the Japanese nuclear landscape. The government has undergone a process of gradual nuclear decommissioning since October 2011, and Fukushima Daaichi and Dai-ni no longer produce energy. Yet, Japan is still heavily reliant on nuclear energy and since 2015 has restarted two of its nuclear reactors, with 24 other reactors in the process of restart approvals.

While social resilience to emergencies has improved since 2011 in Japan, the social aftershocks of Fukushima Daaichi are ongoing. Though many advances have been made that emancipate vulnerable populations and provide increased connectivity, it remains to be seen how much these new technologies and attitudes have improved social resilience and reduced the likelihood of anxiety within the community of Fukushima.

http://theconversation.com/japan-earthquake-social-aftershocks-of-fukushima-disaster-are-still-being-felt-69241?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+November+23+2016+-+6153&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+November+23+2016+-+6153+CID_024bb0c94bf6d40a12017353049b25cd&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=is+being+tested

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November 24, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: A Second Chernobyl?

By Arkadiusz Podniesiński

With an introduction by David McNeill

Waiting for the Future in Fukushima

As the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster approaches, the area around the hulking corpse of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant continues to exude a horrible fascination. Arkadiusz Podniesinski is one of thousands of photographers and journalists drawn there since the crisis began in March 2011. In 2015 his first photo report from the area attracted millions of views around the world.

Podniesinski brought to Japan his experience of chronicling the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear accident in Chernobyl, which he first visited in 2008. It was, he noted, people, not technology that was responsible for both disasters. Japanese politicians, he adds, are offended by comparisons with Chernobyl. Still, rarely for a foreign report on Fukushima, his work was picked up by Japanese television (on the liberal channel TBS), suggesting there is a hunger for this comparative perspective.

Podniesinski’s first trip strengthened his belief in the “catastrophic consequences of nuclear disasters.” Apart from the suffering caused by the disruption of so many lives (160,000 people remain homeless or displaced), there is the struggle to return contaminated cities and towns to a state where people can live in them again. Billions of dollars have already been spent on this cleanup and much more is to come: The latest rehabilitation plan by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. puts the total bill for compensation alone at 7.08 trillion yen, or nearly $60 billion.

Thirty years after Chernobyl’s reactor exploded, Ukrainians have long come to terms with the tragedy that befell them, he writes. The dead and injured have been forgotten. A 2-billion-Euro sarcophagus covering the damaged reactor is nearly complete. The media returns to the story only on major anniversaries. What, he wonders, will become of Fukushima? Last year, Naraha became the first town in Fukushima Prefecture to completely lift an evacuation order imposed after the triple meltdown. But despite rebuilding much of the town’s infrastructure and spending millions of dollars to reduce radiation, the local authorities have persuaded only a small number of people to permanently return there.

Radiation is only part of the problem, of course. “The evacuees worry about the lack of schools, hospitals and shops,” says Podniesinski. “About the public infrastructure, which has not been sufficiently rebuilt. It must be adapted to the needs of older people, who, after the departure of so many young people from the zone, will now be the majority. However, the evacuees are most afraid of loneliness, as few of their family members, friends and neighbors have decided to return.”

The sense of life suspended, of waiting for the future to arrive, resonates in Tomioka, once home to nearly 16,000 people, now a ghost town. Podniesinski arrives just as its famous cheery blossoms bloom, but there is nobody to see them. The irony of fate, he writes, means that this Japanese symbol of new, nascent life blooms in contaminated and lifeless streets. “Will the city and its residents be reborn? Undoubtedly, the last word shall belong to them alone.” DM

Fukushima: A Second Chernobyl?

Exactly a year has passed since my first visit to Fukushima. A visit which strengthened my belief of how catastrophic the consequences of nuclear disasters can be. A visit that also highlighted how great the human and financial efforts to return contaminated and destroyed cities to a state suitable for re-habitation can be.

The report on the Fukushima zone through the eyes of a person who knows and regularly visits Chernobyl received a great deal of interest in the international community. Viewed several million times and soon picked up by traditional media around the world, it became for a moment the most important topic on Fukushima. I was most pleased, however, by the news that the coverage also reached Japan, where it not only caused quite a stir (more on that another time) but also made me realise just how miniscule Japanese knowledge about the current situation in Fukushima is.

As a result, over the last year I started to go to Fukushima more often than to Chernobyl. This is hardly surprising for another reason. 30 years have passed since the Chernobyl disaster, so the majority of Ukrainians have long since come to terms with the tragedy. The dead and injured have been forgotten. The same is true for media interest, which is only revived on the occasion of the round, 30th anniversary of the disaster. In addition, after nearly 10 years and 2 billion euros, work on the new sarcophagus is finally coming to an end, and soon a storage site for radioactive waste and a 227-ha radiological biosphere reserve will be established.

Will the decommissioning of the power plant in Fukushima also take 30 years and end with the construction of a sarcophagus? Will the contaminated and deserted towns located around the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi power plant be called ghost towns and resemble Chernobyl’s Pripyat? Finally, will Fukushima become a popular place for dark tourism like Chernobyl and be visited by thousands of tourists every year?

I Never Want to Return Alone

The Japanese, particularly politicians and officials, do not like and are even offended by comparisons between Fukushima and Chernobyl. It is, however, difficult not to do so when analogies are visible everywhere. While the fact that the direct causes of the disasters are different, the result is almost identical. A tragedy for the hundreds of thousands of evacuated residents, hundreds of thousands of hectares of land contaminated, and decades of time and billions of dollars devoted to eliminating the results of the disaster. And the first cases of thyroid cancer.

The situation in Fukushima resembles a fight against time or a test of strength. The government has devoted billions of dollars to decontaminating the area and restoring residents to their homes. They must hurry before the residents completely lose hope or the desire to return. Before the houses collapse or people are too old to return to. In addition, the authorities soon intend to stop the compensation paid to residents, which according to many of them will be an even more effective “encouragement” for them to return. Deprived of financial support, many residents will have no other choice but to return. Many young families are not waiting for any government assistance. They decided long ago to leave in search of a new life free of radioactive isotopes. They will surely never return.

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Landfill bags with contaminated soil in Tomioka

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Decontamination of personal possessions

But radiation is not the only problem that the authorities must worry about. The evacuated residents worry about the lack of schools, hospitals and shops. About the public infrastructure, which has not been sufficiently rebuilt. It must be adapted to the needs of older people, who, after the departure of so many young people from the zone, will now be the majority. However, the evacuees are most afraid of loneliness, as few of their family members, friends and neighbours have decided to return.

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Deserted streets in the town of Okuma, closest to the destroyed power plant

Can the authorities manage to convince the residents to return? Has critical mass been exceeded, after which evacuees will learn from others and return? The authorities are doing everything they can to convince residents that the sites are safe for people. They open towns, roads and railway stations one after another. Unfortunately, despite this, residents still do not want to return. A recent survey confirms that there is a huge gap between the government’s current policies and the will of the affected residents. Only 17.8% want to return, 31.5% are unsure and 48% never intend to return.

It Became Chernobyl Here

During my first visit to Fukushima, I met Naoto Matsumura, who defied official bans and returned to the closed zone to take care of the animals abandoned there by farmers fleeing radiation. Matsumura has taken in hundreds of animals, saving them from inevitable death by starvation or at the hands of the merciless officials forcing farmers to agree to kill them. Thanks to his courage and sacrifice, Matsumura soon became known as the Guardian of Fukushima’s Animals.

Matsumura was not able to help all of the animals, however. According to the farmer, a third of them died of thirst, unable to break free of the metal beams in barns, wooden fences or ordinary kennels. Matsumura took me to one such place.

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Naoto Matsumura on an abandoned farm

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Not all appreciate Matsumura’s sacrifice and courage. Many people believe that helping these animals, which sooner or later would have ended up on a plate, is not worth the risk the farmer is exposing himself to. Matsumura always has the same answer for them – there is a fundamental difference between killing animals for food and killing animals who are no longer needed due to radiation.

Cow Terrorist

I also returned to Masami Yoshizawa, who like Naoto Matsumura decided to illegally return to the closed zone to take care of the abandoned animals. Shortly after the disaster, some of the farmer’s cows began to develop mysterious white spots on their skin. According to Yoshizawa, they are the result of radioactive contamination and the consumption of radioactive feed.

Yoshizawa’s farm is located 14 km from the destroyed power plant. From this distance, the buildings of the plant are not visible, but its chimneys can be seen. And, as Yoshizawa says – one could also see [and hear] explosions in the power plant as well as radioactive clouds that soon pass over his farm. Consequently, nearly half of the nearly 20,000 inhabitants of the town of Namie were evacuated to Tsushima, located high in the nearby mountains. But soon people began to flee from there when it turned out that the wind blowing in that direction contaminated the area even more. As a result of the radioactive contamination in Fukushima, a new generation known as the hibakusha has arisen. Up to now, this name was only given to people who were victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now this concept has also been applied to victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. As Yoshizawa says – of the 120 surveyed hibakusha, he ranks third in Namie in terms of the amount of radiation doses received.

Defying the completely ignorant authorities, Yoshizawa quickly became a professional activist and his cows got a new mission – they became protestors. And, soon after, he brought one of them in front of the Ministry of Agriculture’s building, demanding that research be undertaken to explain why white spots have appeared on the animals’ skins after the disaster. Yoshizawa says, “I protested [by] bringing a bit of Fukushima to Tokyo. May the cows and I become living proof of the disaster, and the farm a chronicle telling the story of the Fukushima disaster.”

When protesting against the construction and re-starting of subsequent nuclear power plants, Yoshizawa does not bring his cows along anymore. Instead, he has a car festooned with banners that pulls behind it a small trailer with a metal model of a cow. “I have a strong voice and can scream louder than die-hard right wingers!” explains Yoshizawa. “I’m a cowboy, a cow terrorist, a kamikaze!” he adds in a loud voice, presenting an example of his capabilities. “We are not advocating violence, we don’t kill people, we are not aggressive. We are political terrorists,” he concludes calmly. And after a moment, he invites us to a real protest. The occasion of the planned opening of the railway station is to be attended by Prime Minister Sinzo Abe himself.

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Yoshizawa on his Farm of Hope. The slogans on the auto read “Solidarity and ready to die” and “TEPCO, government: we demand compensation for our injustices!”

The protest goes peacefully indeed. Yoshizawa first drives round the city to which the Prime Minister is soon to arrive. Driving his car, he shouts into the microphone, “When a fire broke out in the reactors, TEPCO employees fled. The fire was extinguished by the young men of the Japanese Self-Defence Forces. Why were you not able to control the power plant you built?” He continued immediately, “Today the Prime Minister is coming here. Let’s get up and greet Abe. Let’s show Abe not only the beautifully prepared railway station, let him also see the dark side of the city. For 40 years, we supplied electricity to Tokyo. Our region only could support Japan’s economic development. And now we suffer. Tales about the safety of nuclear power plants are a thing of the past,” Yoshizawa concludes. When the moment of the Prime Minister’s arrival approaches and the crowds grow larger, policemen and the Prime Minister’s security detail approach the farmer. They order him to take down his banners and leave the site. Yoshizawa obeys, but carries out their commands without haste. As if deliberately trying to prolong their presence, hoping to have time to meet and “greet” the Prime Minister.

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Yoshizawa talks with the police

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Yoshizawa leaves the square under police escort, which wants to make sure that the farmer will leave the city

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaving the railway station

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No-go Zones

As always, a major part of my trip to Fukushima is devoted to visits to no-go zones. Obtaining permission to enter and photograph the interior is still difficult and very time-consuming. However, it is nothing compared to the search for owners of the abandoned properties, persuade them to come, show their houses and discuss the tragic past.

Sometimes, however, it’s different. Such as in the case of Tatsuo and Kazue Kogure, who with the help of Japanese television agreed to take me to Tomioka, where they ran a small but popular bar. It was not only a place to eat and drink sake, but also to sing karaoke with the bar’s owners.

Unfortunately the city, and with it the bar, stood in the way of the radioactive cloud and had to be closed. Earlier, I saw many similar bars and restaurants. Overgrown, smelly, full of mould, debris and scattered items. This place, however, is different. It is distinguished by its owners, who despite age and the tragedy they experienced, did not give up and opened a new bar outside the radioactive zone. Mr and Mrs Kogure not only showed me the abandoned bar, but also invited me to their new one.

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Kazue Kogure inside their abandoned bar in Tomioka

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Tatsuo and Kazue Kogure in their new bar in Iwaki

What is unusual and extremely gratifying is the fact that the couple’s efforts to continue the family business are also supported by regular customers from the previous bar. “It’s thanks to their help that we could start all over again,” Kazue Kogure acknowledges. She immediately adds, “By opening the bar again we also wanted to be an example to other evacuated residents. To show that it’s possible.”

The Scale of the Disaster Shocked Us

I also visit the former fire station located in the closed zone in Tomioka. Due to the nuclear power plant neighbouring the city, the firefighters working here were regularly trained in case of a variety of emergencies. I am accompanied by Naoto Suzuki, a firefighter who served here before the disaster. In the middle of the firehouse, my attention is drawn to a large blackboard. “That’s the task scheduler for March 2011,” the firefighter explains. “On 11 March, the day of the disaster, we had nothing planned, but,” he adds with an ironic smile, “the day before we had a training session on responding to radioactive contamination. We practised how to save irradiated people and how to use dosimeters and conduct decontamination.”

Unfortunately, the reality shocked even the firefighters, who had to cope with tasks they had never practised. For example, with cooling the reactors. Even the repeatedly practised evacuation procedures for the residents were often ineffective and resulted in the opposite of the desired effect. It turned out that the data from SPEEDI (System for Predicting Environmental Emergency Dose Information), whose tasks included forecasting the spread of radioactive substances, was useless and did not reach the local authorities. As a result, many residents were evacuated for more contaminated sites and unnecessarily endangered by the additional dose of radiation.

The monthly work schedule at the fire station in Tomioka (no-go zone). Firefighter Naoto Suzuki shows the training session on how to help people exposed to radiation planned for the day before the disaster. A committee meeting to provide information in the event of a fire in the nuclear reactors was planned for 14 March.

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Firefighters’ dispatch. Local firefighting tasks in Tomioka were managed from here.

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In the spring of this year, thanks to the help and support of many people, particularly the local authorities, evacuated residents and even a monk, I was also able to see many interesting places mostly located in the closed zones in Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba and Namie. Although five years have passed since the disaster, most of them still remain closed and many valuable objects can still be found there. Due to this, I have decided not to publish information that could aid in locating them.

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Overturned shelves of rental video shop

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Temple

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Izakaya Bar

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Restaurant

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Swimming pool complex

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Main pool

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Children’s bikes in the courtyard of the kindergarten

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Supermarket

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SEGA arcade

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Hospital

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Clothing factory

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Gym

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Pachinko arcade

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Kindergarten. The dosimeter reading here is 9.3 uSv/h.

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Children’s school bags

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School

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School library

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Nighttime police patrol

Hope

Ending my series of travels around Fukushima, I return to Tomioka to see the thing for which the city is most famous and its residents most proud – one of the longest and oldest cherry blossom tunnels in Japan. For the residents of Tomioka, cherry trees have always been something more than just a well-known tourist attraction or the historic symbol of the town. Not only did they admire the aesthetic attributes of the flowers, but they were also part of their lives, organised festivals, meetings and the topic of family conversations.

The natural beauty and powerful symbolism as well as their constant presence in Japanese arts have made cherry trees become an icon of Japanese cultural identity. They signal the arrival of spring, the time for renewal and the emergence of new life. In the spiritual sense, they remind us of how beautiful, yet tragically short and fragile, life is – just like the blooming cherry blossoms that fall from the tree after just a few days.

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Entrance gate to the closed zone in Tomioka

The nuclear irony of fate meant that this Japanese symbol of new, nascent life today blooms in the contaminated and lifeless streets of Tomioka. Will the city and its residents be reborn, along with the cherry trees blossoming in solitude and silence? Undoubtedly, the last word shall belong to them alone.

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Main street with flowering cherry trees

http://apjjf.org/2016/21/Podniesinski.html

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

Fukushima Disaster’s Victims

I decided to translate this particular article because this article for a change talks about the Fukushima disaster victims and in details how their everyday lives have been affected.
In most of the Fukushima related articles from websites and mainstream media, the writers usually focus on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and its technical failures, about its continuous leaking into the Pacific ocean etc. but somehow they almost always forget to talk about the plight of the victims, the victims who are at the forefront of this tragedy.

August 12, 2016

Article written by Evelyne Genoulaz, from a lecture given by Kurumi Sugita,

translated by Dun Renard.

Source : Fukushima Blog de Pierre Fetet http://www.fukushima-blog.com/2016/08/fukushima-les-vies-sinistrees.html

March 11, 2016, Kurumi Sugita, social anthropologist researcher and founding president of the association “Our Far Neighbors 3.11”, gave a lecture entitled “Fukushima disaster’s lives” in the Nature and Environment House (MNEI) in Grenoble, Isere, an inaugural lecture for the commemoration of the “Chernobyl, Fukushima disasters”.

The speaker outlined the concrete and current situation of the victims of the Fukushima disaster, particularly on health issues. Attached to Japan, committed, Kurumi monitored the situation of 60 affected people, for several years, visiting each once a year to collect field data for her associative actions. It is the project “DILEM”, “Displaced and Undecided Left to Themselves”, from the nuclear accident in Japan – the life course and geographical trajectory of the victims outside of the official evacuation zone.

I offer a written return of this conference, courtesy of Kurumi who also was kind enough to add data to date on her return from Japan in June 2016.
Evelyne Genoulaz

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I. The contaminated territories

After the disaster the authorities declared a state of emergency and to this day Japan is still “under that declaration of a nuclear emergency state (genshiryoku kinkyu Jitai sengen).” But over time, the zoning of the contaminated territories has been increasingly reduced by the authorities, as shows the chronological overview on these maps (METI).

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II. The return policy

Starting this month of March 2016, in fact, many areas were “open”. The return to TOMIOKA is programmed by authorities after April 2017; OKUMA partially in 2018. Only FUTABA is labeled “no projection”. Do note that zoning maps were delineated at the beginning of the disaster zoning by concentric circles, while the radioactivity is deposited in “leopard spots” and today, programmed to be returned to areas are gradually getting geographically closer to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant even though these areas are dangerous!

The government is preparing to lift the evacuation order at 20 mSv / year, and areas from 20 to 50 mSv / year will enter the opening schedule after spring 2017 establishing strategic points for reconstruction ( fukkô Kyoten).

To speak only of Iitate, which was the most beautiful village in Japan, its mayor is in favor of return, but today the situation there is poignant: it was decontaminated up to 20 meters of the houses, but as it is surrounded by mountains and forests, the radioactivity will remain dangerous …

Measures delegated to individuals

The control measurement of environmental radioactivity will now be based on the individual rather than on space. Thus, everyone is invited to measure himself or herself, to measure what is consumed, so that if the individual is contaminated it will only be blamed upon his or her own negligence!

The absurd and arbitrary at work in the calculation of dose rates

Official figures on the geographical contamination, dose rates displayed, are using a biased calculation.

Usually to measure in the field a dose rate, we get a figure in mSv / h then multiply it by 24 (hours) x 365 (days) to obtain the annual rate. But this is not the calculation undertaken by the authorities.

The authorities makes first a difference between the level of contamination on one hand inside the housing, and on the other hand on the outside. They decided to consider that an individual spends only 8 hours outside. It is also estimated (official rules) that “the radiation inside a building is reduced to 40% of the radiation reading outside.”

Yet, in Minamisoma for example, studies have shown that the contamination inside was at best 10% lower than the outside, sometimes even worse inside!

That is to say that the authorities uses a biased calculation that ultimately determines if we take an example, a dose rate of 20 mSv / year whereas the actually measured dose rate is 33 mSv / year!

Residents who did not evacuate are distressed because they now know fear, for example those of Naraha who no longer recognize their city because it has changed since the disaster: vandalism, insecurity soon as night falls, since it is now black in the streets, some girls were abused …

Furthermore, Naraha is a coastal town with a seaside road and all night – especially at night – they hear the noise of the incessant and disturbing road traffic of the trucks loaded with radioactive waste, without knowing precisely what is carried …

What motivates the return policy? According to Kurumi Sugita, in view of the Olympic Games coming to Japan in 2020, the government pursues a staistics dependent objective: it comes to lowering the numbers! If the evacuees or the self-evacuees leave the “assisted housing”, they are no longer counted as “evacuees”….

III. Works and Waste

The whole territory of Fukushima Prefecture today is littered with waste bags. Everywhere, at the turn of any road you’ll encounters mountains of waste bags, sometimes piled up so high! It is a sorry sight for the residents. And space lacks where to store them, so much that the authorities have even created dumps that they call “temporary intermediary storage areas! “

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A “temporary intermediary storage area” in Iitate

A row of uncontaminated sandbags is added around the perimeter of the “square” of the most contaminated bags, so as to reduce the number of the dose rate!

As of March 2016, there were no less than 10 million bags and 128,000 temporary dumpsites in Fukushima Prefecture. Waste bags are omnipresent, despite the residents’ distress; near schools, and even in people’s gardens.

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Contaminated waste bags at someone’s house

Short of sufficient storage space, the authorities are forcing residents to an intolerable alternative: if the resident does not want to store the waste on his property, it is his right. But in this case it will not be decontaminated! The resident requesting “decontamination intervention” must keep the waste on his property! This is why we see here and there, everywhere in fact, bags near buildings or in private homes.

Waste incineration

According to the “Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law” (Genshiro tô kiseihô), the recycling threshold of “nuclear waste” is 100 Bq / kg. However, on June 30, 2016, the Ministry of Environment has officially decided to “reuse” waste below 8000 Bq / kg (1).

In practical terms, this waste will be used in public works, covered by cement and land in order to lower the ambient radioactivity.

In order to “reduce the volume” of waste, “temporary incinerators” were built to incinerate nuclear waste and to “vaporize” cesium.

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Map of Fukushima prefecture showing the nuclear waste processing establishments locations (shizai-ka center) – Legend: the icons differentiate the various incinerators; red = in operation – blue = under construction – gray / yellow = planned – gray = operation completed

Everywhere on village outskirts there are incinerators of which people know nothing! They often operate at night for two to three months and then everything stops. People wonder what is being burned… Not to mention a rumor about a secret experimentation center where much more contaminated waste would be burned…

Even more frightening, waste processing plants …

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At the “Environmental Design Centre”, a poster about the revolving furnace” which decontaminates waste, debris, soil, etc, transforming them into cement”.

For example, the Warabidaira waste processing plant located in the village of Iitate or the Environment Creation Center (Kankyô Sôzô Center) opened in July 2016 in the town of Miharu, treat contaminated waste (ashes above 100 000 Bq/kg) and contaminated soil coming from land decontamination work.

Now these last two categories are not covered by the Waste Management Law (1) so they have no constraints associated with their treatment… To reduce their volume and to make them … “recyclable”!

In addition, these establishments are registered as “research institutes” and, as such, they are exempt from the building permit application commonly mandated in the framework of the waste management law!

We see inconsistencies and even contradictions between laws. We have already seen the contradiction between the limit of 100 Bq / kg set by the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law and the 8000 Bq / kg recently adopted by the Ministry of Environment.

IV. Residents, displaced and returned

Citizen radiation measuring. Mothers, and also dads, explore the everyday environment to identify hot spots so as to modify if necessary the route recommended for children, for example “the way to school” (as in Japan all children walk single file).

For that purpose associations use “hot spot finders”. Well aware of the health risk to which children are exposed, they attach sensors connected to GPS on their strollers to walk routes and the way to school or to explore parks.

That system is well thought out: it is a vertical rod 1 meter long that leaves the ground and consists of a measuring device at 10 cm from the ground, another one at 50 cm, and a third at 1 meter to take into account the different sizes of children. If a hot spot is located, others are warned of its location and the children are required to change their route, and authorities are asked to decontaminate. For parents, this work is endless …

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Hot spot finders

People organize citizen actions thru Internet. These independent citizen online databases are many,

and one of them is even translated into English since November 2014. It is the “Minna no Data”: ambient radioactivity measures, soil measurements, food analyzes (2).

http://en.minnanods.net/

Some associations’ logos:

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V. Protest actions

The trial against the three former TEPCO executives which began in spring 2016 is the first criminal trial to take place; it could last ten years …

However, in Fukushima Prefecture, there are many other trials at different levels also taking place. For example, in March 2016, a lawsuit was initiated by 200 parents brought against the Fukushima Prefecture, to “get children out of contaminated areas.” People protest to have the “thresholds” lowered. In their opinion the issue of “thresholds” go beyond the strict framework of Japan. They fear that the thresholds of Japan will end up being generalized overseas, which is highlighted in some of the maps captions eg “against the generalization and the externalization of the 20 mSv / year threshold”. Some victims require, as after Hiroshima, “an irradiation book” (personal records) to be used for their access to treatment.

Radiation free health holiday

To send children on a health holiday is now more and more difficult, because people tend to believe that the disaster is already over therefore requests for help have become complicated.

In the city of Fukushima, for example, referring to the nuclear disaster is now taboo …

VI. Social and family catastrophe

It causes “conflicts” among neighbors (one example, one person’s place is decontaminated while its adjoining neighbor’s place is not), between beneficiaries and others, between the displaced and the residents of the hosting location (there are misunderstandings on the issue of compensations; the self-evacuated are not receiving any compensation, but the hosting city locals think they are).

So today many prefer to return their evacuated Fukushima resident card and acquire the resident card of their hosting town (in Japon you are résident of the village from which you keep the residence card) so as to “turn the page” because they can no longer bear to be called “evacuees”. They want to integrate into the community where they moved. Only older people remain unswervingly committed to their original residence; it is mostly the elderly who intend to return.

In many families of the Fukushima Prefecture men stayed by necessity to keep their jobs to provide for their families, while mothers with children evacuated to put them out of danger; but as time has passed, more than five years already, many families have disintegrated… The father visiting the family rarely, often for lack of resources, the marriage falling apart, resulting in many divorces and suicides.

Women are showing remarkable energy, they are on all fronts, openly, and even heavily involved in actions and trials, so that even the articles of the so-called “feminine” press today are often dealing with topics related to the nuclear disaster. Young women in particular are very active in the protests and rallies. This is a significant change in Japanese society.

 (1) Waste Management and Public Cleansing Law, Haikibutsu no shori oyobi seisô ni kansuru hôritsu, law N°137 from 1970, last amendment in 2001 https://www.env.go.jp/en/laws/recycle/01.pdf

Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law (Genshiro tô kiseihô).

“Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors” (kakugenryô busshitsu,kakunenryô busshitsu oyobi genshiro no kisei ni kansuru hôritsu)

law N°166 from 1957(2) –

English translation of Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law.

http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/law/detail/?id=1941&vm=03&re=01

(2) – Minna no Data Site (MDS)http://en.minnanods.net/

_____________________

After his lecture, I asked a simple question to Kurumi Sugita:

Why has she founded the association « Nos Voisins Lointains 3.11 » (“Our Distant Neighbors 3.11”)? …

In France, where lives Kurumi, several Japanese associations exchange about the disaster.

But Kurumi Sugita founded on January 8, 2013 in Lyon, the association « Nos voisins lointains 3-11 » also to inform the French and francophones who do not read Japanese.

The website of the association publishes valuable and moving testimonies, translated into French.

Thanks to donations, the association helps concretely, as much as possible, some affected families in Japan. 

 

To know more

The website of Kurumi Sugita’s association:

http://nosvoisins311.wix.com/voisins311-france

You may find the victims testimonies on her Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/Nos-Voisins-Lointains-311_Les-paroles-des-sinistr%C3%A9s-nucl%C3%A9aires-1610794892522102/

And general informations on the Fukushima nuclear disaster:

https://www.facebook.com/Nos-Voisins-Lointains-311-555557711144167/

August 16, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World in Danger

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How does the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown disaster show the enormous risk potential for the continued operation of the Diablo Canyon atomic reactor?

Filmed by Ecological Options Network (EON) at Point Reyes Station in California, Fairewinds Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen presents A World in Danger.

This presentation from the 2015 California speaking tour precedes a panel discussion “Tell All” between chief engineer Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds founder and president Maggie Gundersen, and EON co-directors Jim Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan. The follow-up conversation can be found here. 

EMCEE: (:47) I want to begin with a quote by that celebrated and famous American philosopher, W. C. Fields, who once said, “There comes a time in human events when we must seize the bull by the tail and stare the situation squarely in the face.” And that’s what we’re going to do tonight. So Arnie Gundersen, please take it away. (applause)

AG: The thing I’d like to talk about, and Tim alluded to it, is how the nuclear industry has so successfully framed this argument on nuclear. There’s a book Don’t Think of an Elephant. What’s the first thing you think of – it’s an elephant. And the person who frames the argument usually wins the argument. We wind up being labeled as anti-nuclear this’s or that’s. We never call them pro-nuclear zealots. They’ve been able to frame the argument.

Here’s an example. What’s wrong with this sentence – The Fukushima accident happened on March 11, 2011. (F: Accident) Accident. That’s one – there’s actually three, but the first – (F: It’s still happening) Yes. It’s still happening.

When the nuclear industry talks about Fukushima in the past tense, the fact of the matter is that it’s still bleeding into the Pacific and it will take 100 years and a half a trillion dollars to clean up but they want you to think it’s over. So (1) is it’s still happening; (2) is the world accident.

An accident is when you’re driving down the road and an owl flies in front of you and hits your window and takes you out. That’s an accident. You couldn’t foresee it. But the DIET commission – DIET is their parliament – has said this is not an accident. This was man-made. This was profoundly man-made. Engineers knew it for 40 years. So the wick on this time bomb was lit in 1967 when they started building it. And it happened to have exploded in 2011, but the accident was not an accident. It was a man-made disaster.

So I try to remove that from my vocabulary but it’s so ingrained because I was an engineer and I would bet everybody would call it an accident. It’s ingrained. It’s not an accident; it’s a disaster. And the last one is – I said the Fukushima accident.

Fukushima is a wonderful prefecture and they would much rather we call it Fukushima Daiichi, which stands for the first nuclear site at Fukushima, and then down the road about 6 miles is Fukushima Daini. It’s sort of like having the California accident. It means something to the people in Fukushima Prefecture that the disaster be properly phrased as the Daiichi accident.

Anyway, let’s get on with the show here. There’s four points I’d like to talk about.

The first is that nuclear accidents happen a lot more frequently than our regulators – (F: Nuclear events) – nuclear disasters – okay, there we go. Nuclear events happen a lot more frequently than our regulators would like you to know and that our politicians would like you to know and the nuclear industry would like you to know.

The second is that as time goes by, these disasters have been getting worse, not less worse.

The third one is, as bad as Fukushima Daiichi was, we’re lucky because it could have been much, much worse.

And the fourth, and it really hits here in California and the West Coast, is that radiation knows no borders.

So in my lifetime – here’s what I looked like right out of college – look at that tie, looks like I had a rug on or something – so that guy was brighter than the one who’s standing here, but probably was a little less wise. So I’d like to say that my wisdom might have increased but perhaps my intellect decayed a little bit. But over our joint career of 40-some-odd years, here’s what’s happened.

We’ve had a partial meltdown at Three Mile Island. We’ve had a complete meltdown at Chernobyl. We’ve had a complete meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi unit 1, a complete meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi unit 2, and a complete meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi unit 3.

So in those 35 years from TMI to today, we’ve had 5 meltdowns. So if you take 35 and divide by 5, this is not rocket science – you get 7. About once every 7 years, about once a decade, you’re going to have a meltdown. That’s what history shows.

But yet, the regulators and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear industry have been telling the political leaders that the chance of an accident is one in a million.

So if you take a million and divide that by 400 nuclear reactors, you get an accident – you get a disaster occurring about once every 2,500 years.

Well, history is telling us it’s once in 7 and yet regulators are basing their decision-making process on once in 2,500 years.

So this is an example how the argument has been distorted by the nuclear industry and, unfortunately, dramatically affects our Congressmen. Who in Congress would allow Diablo to run if they thought it was going to melt down in 7 years?

So the first point here is that policymakers are in one world and the real world data is in another. So the second issue is that accidents have become worse – disasters have become worse – I caught myself.

The first one is TMI. It was a partial meltdown, sort of like being partially pregnant. The team that took this picture – it’s an interesting story to talk about the mindset of nuclear power – they ran it about a year after the accident – the disaster – by the time I’m done here I’ll get this right. About a year after the disaster, they put a camera in from the top of the reactor. This is a true story from the people that were on that crew. They went down however many meters until where the reactor core should have been and they didn’t see it. So they pulled the camera up and said something’s wrong with our measurement. And they re-measured the wire and they put it back in a second time. And they didn’t see it. And they still pulled it back out again and said something’s wrong with our measurement. The core’s got to be there. They put it down a third time and they didn’t see it. And it was the third time that the person in charge of that said oh, my God, we have a meltdown.

Two years after with huge radiation releases and the psyche of the nuclear industry was such that they wouldn’t admit to themselves they had a meltdown until this picture came out.

So the consequences are not just in meltdowns. They’re also in casualties. If you go up on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s website, no one was hurt at Three Mile Island. And of course, the industry says that, too. This is Dr. Steve Wing. And the white line that runs diagonally through that from the – from here to there – that’s the Susquehanna River. This is Three Mile Island. And what Steve was able to do was look at the demographic data of lung cancer deaths 10 years after the accident. And he showed clearly that lung cancers in the river valley were awful compared to lung cancers on the hillsides. Why is that? When the accident happened, when the disaster happened, when the meltdown happened, there was a temperature inversion that day and it kept the radiation in the valley. Now the nuclear industry won’t admit this and Steve’s taken a lot of flack over it, but in fact this is what the data says. People did die after TMI.

This is a picture of the remnants of the nuclear core at Chernobyl. It’s called the elephant’s foot. It was taken by a robot about a year after the accident and – after the disaster, after the meltdown – and this elephant’s foot is so radioactive that if it were up here, we’d all be dead in about 2 minutes. That’s how much radiation is coming off that elephant’s foot right now. But we had a picture of what Three Mile Island looked like and we had a picture of what Chernobyl looked like within two years of the accident – disaster.

The next slide – first we all know that Europe was highly contaminated as a result of the meltdown at Chernobyl. Dr. Alexey Yablokov calculated that over a million people died from the radiation releases. The International Atomic Energy Agency says about 40 died. There’s a big difference there. (10:54)

So now let’s move on to Fukushima Daiichi. Where’s the cores? Nobody knows. We’re five years into this process and we don’t even have a picture of where those nuclear cores are. So the trend has been from a partial meltdown to a complete meltdown to three complete meltdowns and we don’t – the radiation levels are so high in that building that we can’t find those nuclear cores yet.

Next slide. This is a real quick sequence. This is from left to right, this is Fukushima Daiichi unit 1 – it’s already exploded – 2, 3, 4. I want you to keep an eye on 3 – that’s this one right here. Next slide. This can’t happen. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, you can’t have a hydrogen explosion and you can’t have a detonation shockwave at a nuclear power plant. So don’t worry. What you see here didn’t happen.

And the example is – Diablo Canyon can’t withstand this. And so what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says is that this event cannot happen. So therefore, Diablo Canyon can continue to operate. Well, that little slide here shows the initial burst of the explosion – the detonation shockwave. And the rest after that is ballistic. It just takes the roof off the building. But don’t worry, this can’t happen at Diablo Canyon.

I’m going to click it 21 times. (12:36 to 13:04) That’s not a detonation shockwave. There’s not a containment in the world that can withstand a detonation shockwave. So the regulator’s solution is to assume that a detonation shockwave can’t happen.

The next slide is another problem that the regulators have managed to corral. And that’s that containments don’t leak. That’s the dome at both Diablo and at San Onofre – that thing that looks like a half a hemisphere. That’s the containment dome. And I was discussing this – I was invited to talk to the advisory committee on reactor safeguards – the 17 wise men that guide the Nuclear Regulatory Commission back in 2010, four months before Fukushima Daiichi. And I was arguing that containments do leak and that they need to change their regulations, especially on a new reactor.

After that, the next month, NRC staff – 4,000 staff members wrote a position paper to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and they said we assume the containment leak rate is zero.

So what happens here, this is an infrared picture of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 and it’s almost a month after the nuclear accident. The disaster. The big blob is the fuel pool which is boiling and mixing with air and you can see – there’s only a couple words on here that are in English – but it’s about 62 degrees centigrade, but that means it was about 130 degrees in the gases that are coming off. That was a big deal and it was also doing the same thing at unit 4 and in every other one. The fuel pools were boiling. But that’s not the key here. See that little dot right there? It says 128 degrees centigrade. What that means is that’s about 250 degrees. Remember, water boils at 212 at atmospheric conditions. What that tells me is that the containment was leaking like a sieve. There’s no containment integrity at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3.

This is another one of those issues that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission pushed aside. There’s a telecoms between NRC and people in Tokyo and they estimate the containment was leaking at 300 percent per day.

If that number was applied to Diablo Canyon it would have to shut down immediately because the accident analysis – I can use it because it’s an NRC term – this says that they only assume a tenth of a percent per day. So this is another example of how the industry pushes the argument.

The next piece is a piece of nuclear fuel. This is in a scanning electron microscope and it was done by Marco Kaltofen at Worcester Polytechnic. The fascinating part of this was this was found 300 miles away from Fukushima Daiichi. So an accident/disaster doesn’t end at the site boundary. This is 300 miles away and if it’s on the – this was picked up in a vacuum cleaner bag. If it’s on the vacuum cleaner bags, it’s in your lungs because you’re breathing in whatever winds up on the floor. Next slide – these are car air filters. Each one of those black dots is a hot particle. If you look really carefully, we had a great slide projector – actually, we have one hot particle on a car air filter in Seattle – but the Fukushima City ones are obviously the worst. And a car breathes in just about what a person breathes in. So that the – God help us when these people get out 10 or 15 years and we start to see an increased incidence of lung cancer like Steve Wing discovered at TMI. But according to the NRC, TMI didn’t happen, either.

Okay. The last one in this series – Fairewinds asked for children’s shoes. And we got 7 pairs of shoes from Fukushima Daiichi and we compared them with 7 pairs of shoes in the United States. And basically, the shoes on the right are – that’s the lower limit of detection – that’s the best the instrument can do. The shoes of the U.S. kids are squeaky clean. And the shoes of the Japanese kids are loaded with cesium. Well, what do kids do? They tie their shoes, put their hands in their mouth and it’s all over the place in Japan.

So the second conclusion is that we went from a partial meltdown to a complete meltdown to three complete meltdowns. And the consequences are getting worse and the accident frequency is shortening. That’s not a good trend. And it’s actually going to get worse as these plants get older.

Diablo is now 30-plus years old in operating years, but it actually was designed in the 60’s and they built the reactor backward and things like that, that slowed down the construction. But we’re looking at a 1960’s technology with 1960’s concrete and as things get old, they all break down. My body keeps telling me. So conclusion number two is that disaster frequency – I’m sorry – disaster severity is increasing.

So the third piece of this revolves around the key piece of nuclear power that no one wants you to know about. Now we all know that when an uranium atom splits in half, it gives off lots of energy. That’s what makes nuclear power so cool and that’s what makes nuclear bombs explode. Take uranium, split it in half and you get lots of energy. If it stopped there, we wouldn’t have problem at Daiichi. But it doesn’t stop there, and this is what they don’t tell you about. That the explosion in the middle – the nuclear chain reaction in the middle – only gives off 93 percent of the heat. The other 7 percent comes from these pieces that are left over – that piece and that piece. They remain physically hot and radioactively hot for hundreds of years. (19:41)

So when Fukushima Daiichi had been safely shut down, it stopped the chain reaction. There were no new uranium atoms splitting. But the pieces left behind were still churning out 7 percent of the problem. 7 percent doesn’t sound like a whole heck of a lot except that – let’s look at Daiichi unit 2 – that was 4 million horsepower. 7 percent of 4 million is 270,000 horsepower of heat that it had to get rid of, and the nuclear core is only 12 x 12 x 12. So think about 270,000 horses in a space 12 x 12 x 12 and you’ve got to get rid of that heat and you can’t.

What happened at Daiichi was that – you all heard that the wave came in and knocked out the diesels and because the diesels couldn’t run there wasn’t cooling water. That’s true, but even if the diesels were on top of the Empire State Building, Daiichi still would have had a meltdown, and this is why.

Right along the water is a pile or rubble, and those are the cooling pumps that were designed to take away that quarter of a million horsepower from each reactor. The wave destroyed the cooling pumps. We call that the loss of the ultimate heat sink – LOUHS. So it doesn’t matter – and people will say well, at Diablo the reactor building is at 80 or 90 feet. Cooling pumps are at the water. So if a tsunami were to come, it’s not going to hit the building but it’s going to knock out the pumps along the water.

And the nuclear industry has phrased the problem as we don’t have a problem with Diablo because we’re way up on the cliff. The pumps aren’t up on the cliff because if they were, they couldn’t pump the water. The pumps are down at the water, and that’s a critical problem that was never addressed.

So on this issue, Fukushima could have been much worse. When the tsunami hit, it knocked out almost all the pumps. One pump survived at Daiichi, a couple down the road at Daini. But there were 14 nuclear power plants that lost their cooling water. 14 nuclear power plants lost their cooling water, which meant that – and of the diesels, there were 37 diesels – 24 failed to start. They only had 12 diesels to cool 14 nuclear power plants. And had it been just a hair worse, we would not have had 3 meltdowns like at Daiichi; we would have had 14. And that’s not a problem that can take out Japan. That’s the kind of problem that takes out the northern hemisphere. So the issue of luck plays an important piece of this.

So Daiichi could have been much worse. It was a complete technical failure. Every single system that was designed to work didn’t. And we owe our life in this hemisphere to the courage of a couple hundred Japanese workers on the site. And so courage is critical to this. The plant manager was highly respected by the people and when he stayed, they stayed. So I always dedicate my speeches to these couple hundred people – we call them the Fukushima Fifty. There was probably more than 50 but less than 200 people that stayed behind and now are getting leukemia as a results.

So that’s number one. The other piece is luck. When this accident happened – when this disaster happened, the wind was blowing out to sea about 80 percent of the time. Now had the wind been going the other way, as it does during some seasons in Japan, Japan would have been cut in half by the radiation releases just from those three nuclear reactors. You would have had northern Japan, southern Japan and this uninhabited belt in the middle.

So luck is that the wind was blowing in the right direction. The other piece of luck was that it happened during the day. There was 1,000 people at Daiichi on that Friday, including all the key managers. If it had happened 12 hours later in the middle of the night, there was 100 people there and no key managers. And the infrastructure for them to get into work was gone. It’s not like they could hop in the car and drive in to rescue the place. They could not have gotten there because the infrastructure had been destroyed. So were it not for a couple hundred courageous people and the luck of a 12-hour difference of when that earthquake and tsunami hit, this disaster at Daiichi would have taken out the country of Japan and highly contaminated the northern hemisphere as well.

This is Naoto Kan’s comment about the accident. Kan was the prime minister at the time of the accident, and he said “Our existence as a sovereign nation was at stake.” This parallels what Gorbachev said in his memoires. Gorbachev claims that the Soviet Union collapsed not because of Perestroika, but because of Chernobyl. So the two prime ministers who lived through this – one democratically elected, and one a communist leader – both came to the same conclusion, that this is a technology that is capable of destroying a country overnight. Unlike all the other things we live with, nuclear power can destroy the fabric of a country overnight.

So next slide – is nuclear power too big to fail? That would be the image I think you get when you look at this robust structure. But in fact, we’ve seen now three times, at Daiichi 1, Daiichi 2 and Daiichi 3 that that’s false. I like to say it this way. Sooner or later in any foolproof system, the fools are going to exceed the proofs.

So now last piece here is what does this mean for California and the west coast? It does mean that radiation knows no borders. It doesn’t stop at – it’s a Japanese accident and the radiation says oops, I’ve got to go back over the line and return to Japan. No. We’re all in this together. Radiation knows no borders.

What I was able to do is put together this little piece here that sort of explains the impact on California better than anything else I’ve seen. The meltdown at Daiichi caused 400 tons of water per day to be released into the Pacific. TEPCO’s frantically catching it in all these tanks. Those blue things and silver things. They weren’t there when the plant was built but they were building about a tank every two or three days trying to frantically catch this water, yet 400 tons a day was going into the Pacific. What does that mean? That’s the equivalent of 25,000 tractor loads of radioactive liquid being pumped into the Pacific. And it hasn’t stopped. That’s just in the first four years. Well, let’s talk about what that means. Should you be worried living in California?

And I’ll use this block as an example. The block is 10 x 10 x 10. So 10 x 10 x 10 – there’s 1,000 pieces in that block. Well, when I went to school, we were told dilution is the solution to pollution. And I think that the Daiichi issue is showing that we all live in a world that’s awfully small to dilute.

So let’s take a look at that first big block that’s 10 by 10 by 10. So let’s say each piece of that means a rem. A REM is a unit – Roentgen equivalent man – it’s a unit of radiation. You can think in Sieverts – 1,000 rem is 10 Sieverts. I grew up with REM so we’ll deal with REM. A thousand REM – if I gave you a block – here’s your block of a thousand REM – you’re dead in an hour. So now let’s take a tenth of that. Let’s split the block into 100. So now this is 10 by 10 by 1. So this is a block of 100 REM. So if I gave out 100 REM, 100 REM to the first 10 people here, one of the 10 of you would die of cancer. And we call this the linear no-threshold radiation theory. And what it means is, I keep cutting that block. I never get to the point where there’s some de minimus dose that we don’t have to worry about. Someone will get cancer from that radiation. So we’ve gone to 100 REM. One out of ten people exposed to 100 REM will die of cancer. So let’s go down – now we’re 10 – so 1 by 1 – so this is 10 REM. And if I spread that out to everybody in the room, there would be an increase of – one of you would get a cancer from that radiation. But what’s happening here, and I think you can see what the public policy people are counting on, is that statistically, about 40 percent of Americans die of cancer anyway. So to pick up that one extra person out of the 40 is epidemiologically really difficult. So the more it gets diluted, the less likely you are to know who’s going to die of cancer. But you can be sure that someone will.

And the last slide goes the same way. So as radiation gets diluted, it doesn’t mean that it hits some de minimus level and everybody’s safe. So when they talk about the fish in the Pacific are safe, really that’s not true. But what’s happening is there’s about 2 billion people in the Pacific and there’s a whole heck of a lot of these 10 by 10 by 10 cubes being thrown into the Pacific. So what you’re doing is you’ve got the cancer incidence down so it’s extraordinarily difficult for an epidemiologist to detect it in a population. But that there’ll be thousands and tens of thousands of cancers, you can count on. We just don’t know who. But is Fukushima causing cancers in the Pacific Basin? Absolutely.

So when I hear public health officials saying well, that fish only has 10 Becquerels so therefore, it’s safe to eat, it’s really not what they should be saying. That fish has 10 Becquerels so if you get cancer we won’t be able to prove it came from Fukushima. That’s the real way the statement should be made. So should you be worried? Personally, I’ve made the decision not to eat fish from the Pacific until my regulators measure the fish and tell me what’s in it. That’s a personal decision and there are people who are eating the fish.

There’s an issue called bioaccumulation which dilution is not related to. So as this radiation moves out into the environment, it gets picked up by the seaweed. We’ve already seen concentrations in the seaweed. Then the critters that eat the seaweed get even more. It’s almost like mercury and tuna – you know how it works its way up the food chain. And we will see over time increased concentrations of radiation at the top of the food chain – the salmon, the shark, the tuna, etc. So this issue of dilution is the solution to pollution only assumes that it’s in the water and it’s not bioaccumulating, which makes the problem even worse.

All right, well, thank you. As we say on our little button here: Radiation knows no borders. (32:33 Request to go back to a slide) What’s happening there is the concentration of radiation near Daiichi was large, but then as it moves out into the Pacific over time, it dilutes. But the same number of atoms are at play. So what you’re seeing in the Pacific now is the center of the Pacific is relatively uncontaminated compared to the Aleutian Islands down to Vancouver and down the California coast. And that will continue to move south until it gets to about the equator and starts to spin around again. But the source is not decaying. Ken Buesseler (33:18) and I have disagreements but one of the things I absolutely agree with Ken on is that the concentrations in the Pacific clearly show that the plant is continuing to bleed into the Pacific. If it had been a one-shot deal – if it happened in the first month and then was solved, we wouldn’t see this problem right now. So the fact Fukushima is continuing to bleed into the Pacific is I think one of the key issues at Woods Hole – who was very first to identify it – my hat’s off to them.

http://www.fairewinds.org/nuclear-energy-education//world-in-danger

 

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

Fukushima evacuees made to feel small if they don’t return

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Makiko Sekine tends flowers at a public housing unit for disaster survivors in Kawauchi, Fukushima Prefecture, with her husband, Hiroshi, on June 14. That day, the evacuation order was lifted for parts of the village, including the couple’s home district of Kainosaka.

KAWAUCHI, Fukushima Prefecture–In a rush of sorts, evacuation orders are being lifted from municipalities of this northeastern prefecture that were affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The order was lifted for part of the village of Katsurao on June 12, followed by an area of Kawauchi village on June 14. It will be lifted for a section of Minami-Soma city on July 12.

The central government has decided to have all evacuation orders lifted by March next year, except for in “difficult-to-return” zones where radiation levels remain elevated.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, having toured Katsurao and Kawauchi on June 3, said, “I want to make sure that the livelihood of the communities, as well as family and community ties, is revived as soon as possible.”

Having covered news in Fukushima Prefecture for four years, I cannot believe that everything is so rosy simply because evacuation orders are being lifted.

It is certainly good news that disaster-affected areas are becoming freely accessible again, but I know that some residents are being left behind in the process.

Hiroshi Sekine, 88, and his wife, Makiko, 81, a couple I have known for three years, are from the Kainosaka district of Kawauchi, where the evacuation order has been lifted.

They moved there from the neighboring city of Iwaki in 1959, five years before the first Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.

Deep within the mountains far from the center of the village, the couple reclaimed wasteland and turned it into farmland. They raised four children.

The Sekines, who now live in a public housing unit for disaster survivors elsewhere in Kawauchi, said they are not returning home.

Before the nuclear disaster, Kainosaka, home to 13 households, functioned as a small “community” where people helped out each other.

After five years spent in evacuation, the couple no longer have the energy to restart life in their inconveniently situated home district.

Even if they returned, they would be unable to sustain their life because nobody else is going back to Kainosaka.

“The lifting of the evacuation order is about deregulation,” a central government official told the Sekines. “It is up to you to decide whether you are going back or not.”

Once the evacuation order is lifted, however, the couple’s status switches from “those being forced by the central government into evacuation” to “those choosing to remain in evacuation despite having the option of returning.”

This new status will oblige them to feel apologetic, wary of what others may think of them.

The lifting of evacuation orders scheduled through next spring will allow around 46,000 people to return to their homes.

But many communities, like the Kainosaka district, will never be like what they were before.

How can we prevent people like the Sekines from being made to feel small because the evacuation order has been lifted? That is a complicated question about moral dignity, which cannot be solved with cash.

The Law on Special Measures for the Reconstruction and Revitalization of Fukushima was enacted a year after the onset of the nuclear disaster.

The law designates only “people who have been evacuated from zones under evacuation orders” and “people who have moved back to zones where evacuation orders have been lifted” as those entitled to coverage under the central government’s measures for “ensuring stability.”

When the law was enacted, nobody expected the cleanup of radioactive substances to take so long that it would delay the lifting of the evacuation orders, and that so many residents would choose not to return home after the orders are lifted, a central government official said.

The Sekines will be obliged to continue to live a life different from the one they had before the disaster.

I think people like the Sekines should be given the clearly defined status of “evacuees” by, for example, legally guaranteeing them the right to remain in evacuation.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201606270009.html

June 27, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Thirty children diagnosed with thyroid cancer in Fukushima nuclear crisis survey

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A survey begun in April 2014 to check the impacts of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis has found that 30 children have so far been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 27 are suspected of having the disease, a prefectural government panel said on Monday.

Most of them were thought to be problem free when their thyroid glands were checked during the first round of the survey conducted over a three-year period through March 2014.

The first survey covered about 300,000 children who were under the age of 18 and living in the northeastern Japan prefecture when the nuclear plant disaster was triggered by a huge earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011.

The number of children diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the second round was up from 16 as reported at the previous panel meeting in February.

Hokuto Hoshi, head of the panel and a senior member of the Fukushima Medical Association, maintained his earlier view of the correlation between the cancer figures and radiation, saying based on expertise acquired so far, it is “unlikely” that the disease was caused by radiation exposure.

But Hoshi said: “Concerns have been growing among Fukushima residents with the increase in the number of cancer patients. We’d like to further conduct an in-depth study.”

When the results of the first and the ongoing second round of the heath survey are combined, the number of children diagnosed with thyroid cancer totals 131 and 41 are suspected of having it.

According to the Fukushima Medical University and other entities involved in the health checks, the 57 children in the second round of the survey either confirmed or suspected to have thyroid cancer were age 5 to 18 at the time of the triple reactor meltdown and the sizes of their tumours ranged from 5.3mm to 35.6mm.

The examiners were able to estimate how much external radiation exposure 31 of those children had over the four months immediately after the catastrophe, with the maximum being 2.1 millisieverts. Eleven children were exposed to less than 1 millisievert.

http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/1967509/thirty-children-diagnosed-thyroid-cancer-fukushima-nuclear

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

Fukushima: Worse Than a Disaster

Disasters can be cleaned up.

Naohiro Masuda, TEPCO Chief of Decommissioning at Fukushima Diiachi Nuclear Power Plant, finally publicly “officially” announced that 600 tons of hot molten core, or corium, is missing (Fukushima Nuclear Plant Operator Says 600 Tons of Melted Fuels is Missing, Epoch Times, May 24, 2016).

Now what?

According to Gregory Jaczko, former head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), it is not likely the fuel will ever be recovered: “Nobody really knows where the fuel is at this point, and this fuel is still very radioactive and will be for a long time.”

A big part of the problem is that nobody has experience with a Fukushima-type meltdown, which now appears to be 100% meltdown, possibly burrowed into the ground, but nobody really knows for sure.

What’s next is like a trip into The Twilight Zone.

“The absolutely uncontrollable fission of the melted nuclear fuel assemblies continue somewhere under the remains of the station. ’It’s important to find it as soon as possible,’ acknowledged Masuda, admitting that Japan does not yet possess the technology to extract the melted uranium fuel,” (600 Tons of Melted Radioactive Fukushima Fuel Still Not Found, Clean-Up Chief Reveals, RT, May 24, 2016).

Nuclear fission is when atoms split apart into smaller atoms. With nuclear bombs, fission must happen extremely quickly to charge a large explosion whereas, in a nuclear reactor, fission must happen very slowly to make heat, which, in turn, is used to boil water to make steam to turn a turbine to generate electricity.

Eventually, by rubbing two sticks together, one can boil water, but modern-day society doesn’t have the patience, which means accepting risks leaps and bounds beyond rubbing two sticks together. Welcome to an altered world.

Even if Masuda’s cleanup crew find the missing 600 tons, which is so highly radioactive that workers cannot even get close enough to inspect the immediate areas, then they need to construct, out-of-midair, the technology to extract it, and then what? It’s guesswork. It’s what modern-day society has been reduced to, guesswork. Toss out rubbing two sticks together and build monstrous behemoths for billions to boil water, and when it goes wrong, guess what to do next. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, to start with, nobody knows what to do when all hell breaks loose.

They do not have the technology to extract it!

In 1986, Russian teams of workers found the melted corium of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s reactor core in the facility’s lowest level. Whilst “frying 30 workers” along the way, they contained it just enough to prevent burrowing into the ground, maybe.

During containment work at Chernobyl, a makeshift robotic camera managed to actually photograph the monster, the melted core, nicknamed “the Elephant’s Foot.” Thirty years after the fact, the “Elephant’s Foot” is still lethal.

By way of comparing/contrasting Chernobyl and Fukushima, extraordinarily high radiation zaps and destroys robots at first sight when sent into Fukushima’s containment vessels. It’s kinda like the Daleks in Doctor Who.

Whereas, thirty years after the fact, Chernobyl seems to have found a solution to the elephant’s foot menace to society, but as for Fukushima, they must first locate 600 tons of hot stuff. That may be an impossible task. Then what?

“Thirty years after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, there’s still a significant threat of radiation from the crumbling remains of Reactor 4. But an innovative, €1.5 billion super-structure is being built to prevent further releases, giving an elegant engineering solution to one of the ugliest disasters known to man,” Claire Corkhill, PhD, University of Sheffield, New Tomb Will Make Chernobyl Site Safe for 100 Years, Phys.Org, April 22, 2016.

As it happens, the older collapsing sarcophagus for Chernobyl is being replaced by a brand new enormous steel frame: “Thanks to the sarcophagus, up to 80% of the original radioactive material left after the meltdown remains in the reactor. If it were to collapse, some of the melted core, a lava-like material called corium, could be ejected into the surrounding area in a dust cloud, as a mixture of highly radioactive vapour and tiny particles blown in the wind. The key substances in this mixture are iodine-131, which has been linked to thyroid cancer, and cesium-137, which can be absorbed into the body, with effects ranging from radiation sickness to death depending on the quantity inhaled or ingested,” Ibid

“The Elephant’s Foot could be the most dangerous piece of waste in the world,” (Chernobyl’s Hot Mess, “the Elephant’s Foot,” is Still Lethal, Nautilus, Science Connect, Dec. 4, 2013). It’s a highly charged radioactive massive hunk of goo that will not die or waste away. This could be a Doctor Who script, par excellence! Therein exist the soft underbelly, the vulnerability, and the risks of using nuclear power to boil water, or alternatively, the sun and wind could be used. They’re not radioactive and still much faster than rubbing two sticks together.

Fukushima is three times (3x) Chernobyl, maybe more; however, in Fukushima’s case there’s a distinct possibility that its white-hot sizzling corium has already started burrowing into Earth. Thereafter, let your imagination run wild because nobody has any idea of how that ends, if ever!

But, Einstein knew. Here’s a famous Einstein quote: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophes.”

We’re finally there!

Gregory Jackzo, former head of the NRC, ponders the security of nuclear power: “You have to now accept that in all nuclear power plants, wherever they are in the world … that you can have this kind of a very catastrophic accident, and you can release a significant amount of radiation and have a decade long cleanup effort on your hands” (Epoch Times).

Looking ahead a few years, the question remains: Where will the sizzling white-hot melted corium be when the Tokyo Olympics arrive in 2020?

Nobody knows!

Still, Prime Minister Abe told the Olympic selection committee that Fukushima was “under control.”

“This debate has dogged him since his Sept. 7 speech to the International Olympic Committee, when he said the nuclear disaster is “under control.” The next day, Tokyo won hosting rights for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games,” (Tsuyoshi Inajjma and Yuriy Humber, Abe Olympic Speech On Fukushima Contradicts Nuclear Plant Design, Bloomberg, Oct. 23, 2013).

“French authorities are investigating payments worth around $2m to a company linked to the son of former world athletics chief Lamine Diack over alleged connections to Japan’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games,” (Tokyo Olympics Bid Questioned as Prosecutors Probe $2M Payouts, The Financial Times, May 12, 2016).

Japan won the right to host the 2020 Olympics with a bid to spend $5 billion, which is suspiciously small, especially in an historical context. For the record, rival Istanbul’s bid was almost $20 billion, a much more realistic commitment for such a momentous worldly event.

Thusly, with mucho “balls-in-the-air,” one has to wonder if PM Abe’s infamous secrecy law will click into play, in other words, is there any way it can impede investigations? After all, the law allows any Japanese politician to put an offender behind bars for 10 years for breaking state secrets, which are (very embarrassingly) whatever the accuser claims to be “secretive.” After all, prima facie, between Fukushima and the Olympics, there could be a lot of secretive stuff going on behind the scenes.

Japan’s state secrecy law Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets (SDS) Act No. 108 of 2013 passed on the heels of the Fukushima meltdown, is very similar to Japan’s harsh Public Peace and Order Controls of WWII (a real doozy). According to Act No. 108, the “act of leaking itself” is bad enough for prosecution, regardless of what, how, or why. Absolutely, if someone “leaks,” they’re going to “the can.”

Susumu Murakoshi, president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations dissents: “The law should be abolished because it jeopardizes democracy and the people’s right to know,” Abe’s Secrets Law Undermines Japan’s Democracy, The Japan Times, Dec. 13, 2014.

The Japan Times needs to fact-check the definition of democracy.

Fukushima: Worse Than a Disaster

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Woman breaks silence among Fukushima thyroid cancer patients

“I want everyone, all the children, to go to the hospital and get screened. They think it’s too much trouble, and there are no risks, and they don’t go,” the woman said in a recent interview in Fukushima. “My cancer was detected early, and I learned that was important.”

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In this Saturday, May 28, 2016 photo, a young woman, who requested anonymity because of fears about harassment, speaks to The Associated Press in a town in Fukushima prefecture, northeast of Tokyo. She is among 173 people diagnosed with thyroid cancer in Japan’s Fukushima, but she’s the first to speak to media more than five years after the nuclear disaster there. That near-silence highlights the fear Fukushima thyroid-cancer patients have about being the “nail that sticks out,” and thus gets hammered.

KORIYAMA, Japan (AP) — She’s 21, has thyroid cancer, and wants people in her prefecture in northeastern Japan to get screened for it. That statement might not seem provocative, but her prefecture is Fukushima, and of the 173 young people with confirmed or suspected cases since the 2011 nuclear meltdowns there, she is the first to speak out.

That near-silence highlights the fear Fukushima thyroid-cancer patients have about being the “nail that sticks out,” and thus gets hammered.

The thyroid-cancer rate in the northern Japanese prefecture is many times higher than what is generally found, particularly among children, but the Japanese government says more cases are popping up because of rigorous screening, not the radiation that spewed from Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant.

To be seen as challenging that view carries consequences in this rigidly harmony-oriented society. Even just having cancer that might be related to radiation carries a stigma in the only country to be hit with atomic bombs.

“There aren’t many people like me who will openly speak out,” said the young woman, who requested anonymity because of fears about harassment. “That’s why I’m speaking out so others can feel the same. I can speak out because I’m the kind of person who believes things will be OK.”

She has a quick disarming smile and silky black hair. She wears flip-flops. She speaks passionately about her new job as a nursery school teacher. But she also has deep fears: Will she be able to get married? Will her children be healthy?

She suffers from the only disease that the medical community, including the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, has acknowledged is clearly related to the radioactive iodine that spewed into the surrounding areas after the only nuclear disaster worse than Fukushima’s, the 1986 explosion and fire at Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Though international reviews of Fukushima have predicted that cancer rates will not rise as a result of the meltdowns there, some researchers believe the prefecture’s high thyroid-cancer rate is related to the accident.

The government has ordered medical testing of the 380,000 people who were 18 years or under and in Fukushima prefecture at the time of the March 2011 tsunami and quake that sank three reactors into meltdowns. About 38 percent have yet to be screened, and the number is a whopping 75 percent for those who are now between the ages of 18 and 21.

The young woman said she came forward because she wants to help other patients, especially children, who may be afraid and confused. She doesn’t know whether her sickness was caused by the nuclear accident, but plans to get checked for other possible sicknesses, such as uterine cancer, just to be safe.

“I want everyone, all the children, to go to the hospital and get screened. They think it’s too much trouble, and there are no risks, and they don’t go,” the woman said in a recent interview in Fukushima. “My cancer was detected early, and I learned that was important.”

Thyroid cancer is among the most curable cancers, though some patients need medication for the rest of their lives, and all need regular checkups.

The young woman had one cancerous thyroid removed, and does not need medication except for painkillers. But she has become prone to hormonal imbalance and gets tired more easily. She used to be a star athlete, and snowboarding remains a hobby.

A barely discernible tiny scar is on her neck, like a pale kiss mark or scratch. She was hospitalized for nearly two weeks, but she was itching to get out. It really hurt then, but there is no pain now, she said with a smile.

“My ability to bounce right back is my trademark,” she said. “I’m always able to keep going.”

She was mainly worried about her parents, especially her mother, who cried when she found out her daughter had cancer. Her two older siblings also were screened but were fine.

Many Japanese have deep fears about genetic abnormalities caused by radiation. Many, especially older people, assume all cancers are fatal, and even the young woman did herself until her doctors explained her sickness to her.

The young woman said her former boyfriend’s family had expressed reservations about their relationship because of her sickness. She has a new boyfriend now, a member of Japan’s military, and he understands about her sickness, she said happily.

A support group for thyroid cancer patients was set up earlier this year. The group, which includes lawyers and medical doctors, has refused all media requests for interviews with the handful of families that have joined, saying that kind of attention may be dangerous.

When the group held a news conference in Tokyo in March, it connected by live video feed with two fathers with children with thyroid cancer, but their faces were not shown, to disguise their identities. They criticized the treatment their children received and said they’re not certain the government is right in saying the cancer and the nuclear meltdowns are unrelated.

Hiroyuki Kawai, a lawyer who also advises the group, believes patients should file Japan’s equivalent of a class-action lawsuit, demanding compensation, but he acknowledged more time will be needed for any legal action.

“The patients are divided. They need to unite, and they need to talk with each other,” he told AP in a recent interview.

The committee of doctors and other experts carrying out the screening of youngsters in Fukushima for thyroid cancer periodically update the numbers of cases found, and they have been steadily climbing.

In a news conference this week, they stuck to the view the cases weren’t related to radiation. Most disturbing was a cancer found in a child who was just 5 years old in 2011, the youngest case found so far. But the experts brushed it off, saying one wasn’t a significant number.

“It is hard to think there is any relationship,” with radiation, said Hokuto Hoshi, a medical doctor who heads the committee.

Shinsyuu Hida, a photographer from Fukushima and an adviser to the patients’ group, said fears are great not only about speaking out but also about cancer and radiation.

He said that when a little girl who lives in Fukushima once asked him if she would ever be able to get married, because of the stigma attached to radiation, he was lost for an answer and wept afterward.

“They feel alone. They can’t even tell their relatives,” Hida said of the patients. “They feel they can’t tell anyone. They felt they were not allowed to ask questions.”

The woman who spoke to AP also expressed her views on video for a film in the works by independent American filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash.

She counts herself lucky. About 18,000 people were killed in the tsunami, and many more lost their homes to the natural disaster and the subsequent nuclear accident, but her family’s home was unscathed.

When asked how she feels about nuclear power, she replied quietly that Japan doesn’t need nuclear plants. Without them, she added, maybe she would not have gotten sick.

___

Ash’s video interview:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLpmdZYCRIZfvTtTE1sbY3ynaGsfDYmNWn

Source: http://bigstory.ap.org/2311e999708d48c491efde5154514ef9

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Government Decides to Lift Evacuation Orders for Three Municipalities

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Government Decides to Lift Evacuation Orders for Three Municipalities

On May 31, the Japanese government’s nuclear emergency response headquarters decided to lift three evacuation orders in Fukushima Prefecture, as follows: Katsurao Village on June 12, Kawauchi Village on June 14, and Minamisoma City on July 12.

The evacuation order for Kawauchi Village had been partially lifted on October 1, 2014, and the recent decision completes the process there.

In Minamisoma City, the section of the JR Joban Line between Haranomachi Station and Odaka Station, which is still unusable because of the evacuation order, is expected to be reopened after the lifting of the order for the town on July 12.

The basic policy for Fukushima’s reconstruction, approved at a Cabinet meeting in March, said that the government would speed up the establishment of an environment so as to lift all evacuation orders by March 2017 at the latest.

However, that still excludes those areas designated as places “where residents will not be able to return home for a long time.”

http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/government-decides-to-lift-evacuation-orders-for-three-municipalities/

Abe visits villages in Fukushima

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says his government will lead efforts to revive communities in Fukushima, including areas where radiation levels remain prohibitively high.

Abe on Friday inspected the villages of Kawauchi and Katsurao near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Evacuation orders for parts of the 2 villages are due to be lifted in mid-June.

In Katsurao, former residents asked the prime minister to support people who plan to return and resume farming and other businesses.

Abe told them that the desire to revive the hometown is the driving force for reconstruction. He promised to do his best to restore community ties and vitality.

Abe told reporters the government plans to present ideas by the summer for restoring heavily-contaminated areas declared unfit for return.

He said it will be a long process, but that his government is determined to see it through.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160603_39/

feb 19, 2016

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

How the Advertising Giant Dentsu Dominates Japanese Media Presentation on Nuclear Power?

Does the advertising giant Dentsu pull the strings of the Japanese media?

By Mathieu Gaulène

Sachie Mizohata, Translation from French and Introduction

Original French article in INA Global

Japanese translation by Uchida Tatsuru (see May 15, 2016)

Introduction: How the Advertising Giant Dentsu Dominates Japanese Media Presentation on Nuclear Power?

French journalist Mathieu Gaulène describes the business practices of Dentsu and its competitor Hakuhodo, the biggest and the second biggest advertising companies of Japan respectively. Specifically, it examines how their close relations to the media and the nuclear industry play out in the wake of the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. Focusing Dentsu, Gaulène discusses how the marketing and public relations (PR) giant has dominated major media which large advertising contracts from the nuclear industry. The article is particularly timely as Dentsu unveils its deep ties to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid and the Panama Papers. Regrettably, however, with rare exceptions, there is little media coverage of the influence of Dentsu in mainstream Japanese newspapers and magazines.

According to the author, a partial translation of the French original was made by Kazparis (username), and quickly received more than 70,000 views on Twitter. Then, Uchida Tatsuru, a specialist in French literature, and HACK & SOCIETAS published two other Japanese translations. Soon after, Tokyo Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun published long articles about Dentsu. SN

Summary

Dentsu, the fifth largest communication group in the world, holds a large share of the Japanese advertising market, which impacts media freedom in Japan. This is particularly true in relation to the nuclear power industry.

– Dentsu and information on nuclear power

– Indirect pressures on press journalists

– The 2016 comeback of nuclear advertisements and the resignations of TV journalists

The moment remains famous. On the eve of Japan’s Upper House elections, former actor Yamamoto Taro, an anti-nuclear power candidate supported by no party, campaigned on Twitter to win an upper house seat in the Diet. Censored by the media, the young candidate, famous for his verve, had mainly campaigned against nuclear power, but he also called out the big media, accusing it of being in the pay of sponsors and thus of electric companies and of systematically censoring critical information on nuclear power.

A television channel granted him an interview at the end of a program, but only after presenting a journalist to defend his profession. On screen, the young senator was given only one minute to respond. “I will take a simple example. Food can now hold up to 100 becquerels per kilogram; that means even just via eating we are irradiated. It is never said on television… ” Yamamoto had to stop. The ending jingle started, and the presenter at the studio announced, bantering, that the show was over, before launching an advertising page.

The video, which was available online for 3 years, was removed on May 16, 2016 shortly after the publication of this article.

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Yamamoto Taro on NHK, 21 July 2013

Advertisements in Japan are literally everywhere: a veritable hell of posters or screens in trains and stations, giant posters on buildings, bearers of advertising placards or lorries with huge posters and loud PA systems in the streets: even advertising displays mounted atop urinals in some restaurants. In this advertising empire, the media are no exception. In the press, naturally, as in France, major companies pay for full page advertisements. But, above all in television. An entertainment show generally starts with the announcement of sponsors, and is interrupted every five minutes by numerous short advertising spots, where we often find the same sponsors. There is virtually no time for thinking, most TV channels offer programs close to the world of pachinko: garish colors, constant noise, and frat humor even of the most vulgar kind.

In this immense television arena, advertising is orchestrated by one of the global giants, Dentsu, the 5th communication group in the world and the number one ad agency. With its rival Hakuhodo, 2nd in the archipelago, the two agencies nicknamed “Denpaku,” combine advertising, public relations, media monitoring, crisis management for the largest Japanese and foreign companies, the local authorities, political parties or the government. Together they hold nearly 70% of the market. A true empire that some accuse of ruling the roost in the Japanese media.

A figure allows sizing up Dentsu’s reach: in 2015, the group secured nearly 7 billion euros in revenue, second only to the French Publicis with 9.6 billion euros during the same period. Most of its business is in TV advertisements. For example, Dentsu has created a commercial series for Softbank for almost ten years: the famous “Shirato” family characterized by a white dog as the father; an American black actor as the older brother; and Tommy Lee Jones as a housekeeper.

In July 2013, the group expanded internationally by acquiring the British Aegis for 3.7 billion euros to establish the Dentsu Aegis Network in London. This international network, consisting of ten advertising agencies in more than 140 countries, allowed the Japanese to beef up their activities, particularly in digital marketing, and to secure a position in the international market which accounts for more than half of its total global business (54.3% in 2015). Dentsu employs 47,000 people worldwide, including 7,000 in Japan.

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Dentsu and information on nuclear power

Dentsu headquarters, Shiodome

Located in the business district of Shiodome, not far from Nippon TV, Fuji TV and the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the Dentsu tower dominates the skyline with its imposing beauty. Designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, its gentle curves and perfect glass walls soothe the eye. Inside the building, Mr. Kannan Shusaku, communications director of the group, receives us, all smiles for a visit of the site. The ground floor is filled with contemporary art, like a white chessboard by Yoko Ono. From there, a noria of lifts takes employees towards different floors and rigorously separates departments. The group’s customers are the top 5 in each industry, and “everything is done so that employees working for competing enterprises never meet each other.” Mr. Kannan assures us. Dentsu obviously prizes transparency, but is its image that stainless?

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Honma Ryu, Dentsu and Nuclear Coverage

In a book published in 2012, Honma Ryu looked into some of Dentsu’s backstage, and its tight control over the media, especially on behalf of one of its major clients: Tokyo Electric Power Company, Tepco. Honma is not alien to advertising circles; he worked for 18 years at number 2, Hakuhodo, then after one year imprisonment for fraud, he began writing, first about his prison experience, then about his years of advertising and the methods he used to coax the media. In 2012, his book Dentsu and Nuclear Coverage became a bestseller within a few months, despite almost universal media blackout.

Honma meticulously described the mechanisms by which Dentsu, the inevitable intermediary, implicitly imposes on media what can or cannot be written on nuclear power, and under what conditions. “Dentsu occupies a special position since the agency holds 80% of the market for nuclear advertising in Japan,” he reminded us during an interview in a coffee shop at Ueno Station. In 2010, in this huge advertising market, Tepco, a regional firm, indeed ranked 10th in terms of advertising expenses, next to power plant manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. That year, on the eve of the Fukushima accident, Tepco had spent more than 2 million euros on advertising. The overall advertising expenses of the 10 regional electrical power companies amounted to 7 million euros.

For decades, especially since the 1990s when public opinion began to become critical of nuclear power following several accidents, Tepco and other power companies stepped up commercials and advertorials in the press.

On television, the advertisements can be enough in themselves to overwhelm criticism. Big groups often sponsor TV programs, talk shows or series for an entire season. Sometimes, entire documentaries are produced by Denjiren, [the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC)], a key player in the nuclear lobby, to promote the industry. Any dissenting voice is unwelcome for fear of losing sponsors. After Fukushima, Yamamoto Taro paid the price; appearing regularly on TV as a tarento [talent] until then when he suddenly became persona non grata on TV and even in cinema for having expressed opposition to nuclear power. This is hardly new since the great figures of the anti-nuclear movement, best-selling authors such as Hirose Takashi or Koide Hiroaki are almost never invited to appear on TV, especially after the Fukushima accident. This “control by media” denounced by Honma Ryu obviously is not limited to the nuclear power industry. Thus, he reminds us of the case of the millions of Toyota vehicle recalls due to a defective accelerator pedal. It was necessary to wait until the Toyota CEO apologized to the U.S. Congress before that affair really appeared in the Japanese press. “No doubt the advertising agency had succeeded until then in preserving the image of its client, but when the scandal became too big and was in the public eye abroad, the media had no choice but to reveal the affair” he states. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that apart from some programs such as “Hodo Station” on TV Asahi, which provide good quality information, sometimes being critical of the government, most TV news in Japan rarely address subjects that can offend one or another group, relaying communications from the government without critically stepping back, and not introducing international news except when the subject involves Japanese citizens.

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Momii Katsuto apologizing at Lower House Budget Committee session, 13 January 2016

Amid all these private media groups, only NHK escapes this advertising empire and can claim to be independent, receiving its funding directly from viewers. Alas, the situation at NHK is even more disastrous, its president Momii Katsuto having said without embarrassment on several occasions that the chain had to be the spokesman for the Abe government. In a recent statement before 200 retired NHK employees, he even seemingly acknowledged having ordered NHK journalists to confine broadcasts to reassuring communiqués from the authorities about Kyushu earthquakes and potential risks they pose to nuclear plants and instructing them not to interview independent experts.

Indirect pressures on the press

What about the press? Dentsu has long had a special relationship with the two news agencies Kyodo News and Jiji Press: the three entities formed a single information group before the war. If information in the press is more difficult to control, Dentsu not only advertises, but provides after-sales customer service — media monitoring, advice on crisis management, and indirect pressure on newspapers.

Whereas in France, the acquisition of media companies by large industrial groups is the prelude to direct pressure, in Japan pressure comes via advertising agencies that act as true ambassadors for the groups. “I know very well how this happens, as Honma Ryu amusingly relates, I did the same thing when I was at Hakuhodo. If an incident occurs in a factory or a plant and the press reports it, Dentsu directly intervenes and visits the business department of the newspaper in question.” Things are done in the “Japanese” way. “We ask them politely to try to speak less about the case, not to put the article on the front page, or to publish it in the evening paper which is less read.” Such messages are directly transmitted by the business staff of the journal to top management.

Journalists will never know, but the next day their article will be relegated to the inside pages, or sometimes simply not published, or, for example, claiming lack of space. But, suspicions are numerous, and, Honma reports, after the publication of his book, many journalists came to see him confirming cases of censorship. Advertisements of nuclear power are mainly distributed in weekly and daily newspapers. Since the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, they stopped; but for Dentsu, a profitable new business emerged: promoting agricultural products from Fukushima. Since 2011, with the participation of star singers, Fukushima Prefecture has never skimped on promoting its peaches, rice, or tomatoes, with slogans like “Fukushima Pride” or “Fukushima is well!”

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“Fukushima Pride”

All this thanks to the help of Dentsu and Dentsu Public Relations (PR). “Dentsu PR also works for the METI [Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry],” explains Ms. Fujii Kyoko, Director of communications at Dentsu PR. “We organized free tours of Tohoku for foreign journalists, such as Thai and Malaysian journalists, to show that the region is recovering from the disaster.” And to expunge the surrounding radioactivity?

Dentsu thus occupies a very special position in the promotion of nuclear power, beside Tepco but also the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), both clients of the advertising company. Under these conditions, can Dentsu not be considered to actively underwrite the “nuclear village”? To this question, Mr. Kannan Shusaku, who received us in his office at the top of the Dentsu tower, answered without beating around the bush. “We have no power to influence the media and we do not practice politics.” Yet when asked why Dentsu is a member of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF), the main organization of nuclear lobbying, along with Japanese electric utility companies and EDF [Electricity of France, Électricité de France], Mr. Kannan became more circumspect. “I do not know this association… Really, are you sure?” he replied, slightly annoyed, before reaching for his smartphone. “Oh, yes, we are members. But, you know we are members of many associations. People ask us to send someone and sign, that’s all.” Apparently unconvinced by his own argument, he finally found a getaway and suddenly exclaimed: “You see, Hakuhodo is also a member!” obviously happy about not being the only one enlisted in the lobby.

The 2016 comeback of nuclear advertisements and resignations of TV journalists

For Honma Ryu, this is a sign of a resumption of promotion activities of nuclear power. “Hakuhodo has actually been a member of the JAIF for two years,” he explained, after the Fukushima accident. Obviously, having been sidelined for several decades from this gold mine of nuclear advertisements, the rival agency wants to restore its share in the promotion of nuclear power in the post-Fukushima era. These ads had, however, completely disappeared since the accident on March 11, 2011. After a final full page apology in the press and broadcast on television by Tepco, the plant operators and manufacturers had chosen to keep a low profile, not broadcasting advertisements on nuclear power for five years.

But, although plant restarts have been hindered by dozens of lawsuits, some victorious as in Takahama, and the general population has generally been reluctant to see resumption of reactors, promoting nuclear power has again become intense. After restarting one plant in 2015, 2016 is the year of a discreet comeback for nuclear advertisements. These appear in the press and on local television of the prefectures with power stations. Honma Ryu reports that since February 2016, full-page advertisements have been published in Fukui Shimbun by the Kansai Electric Power Company, where the Takahama plant was closed a month after its restart due to a lawsuit filed by citizens. Tepco advertisements for restarting Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have also appeared in the Niigata Nippo and on local television in a particular context: the current governor is firmly anti-nuclear and opposes any restart, but elections will be held by the end of this year when his term ends. This resurgence of Tepco nuclear advertising, however, has raised the ire of Niigata citizens, especially refugees from Fukushima who have launched a petition to stop them.

The message of all of these advertisements is identical, revealing the hand of Dentsu behind the scenes. Electric companies promise to make every effort to ensure the safety of power plants, while photographs highlight the plight of nuclear workers who are often poor and sometimes dependent on jobs in the nuclear industry. According to Honma Ryu, these advertisements are certainly only the tip of the iceberg. They are part of a campaign to closely monitor all information published on nuclear power, as well as the quasi-guarantee that local newspapers will limit the voice of opponents.

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Furutachi Ichiro on “Hodo Station”

In a report on press freedom released in April 2016, Reporters Without Borders ranked Japan 72nd, behind Hungary and Tanzania. Six years ago, it ranked 11th. Visiting Tokyo, a United Nations rapporteur alerted the country to the growing pressures on Japanese journalists who work for private media or NHK. This is because of increasing government pressure, exacerbated by the entry into force in the past year of a law on state secrets, including nuclear related matters. A law with vague outlines threatens journalists with imprisonment for disclosing “secret” information. A sign of the times is that three television journalists known for their independence announced their resignation at the beginning of the year. Among them is Furutachi Ichiro, presenter of “Hodo Station,” which, according to Honma Ryu, was targeted by Dentsu for several years because of his critical views on nuclear power and the Abe administration. No doubt Dentsu, privileged ambassador of the largest industrial groups, will continue to play its role in the great media lockdown ongoing in Japan.

http://apjjf.org/2016/11/Gaulene.html

 

June 4, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese gov’t withheld report on Chernobyl disaster’s health effects

The Japanese government has withheld an investigative report it compiled on health effects from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe despite spending 50 million yen on the survey in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it has been learned.

The government’s investigation into the aftereffects of the Chernobyl disaster began in November 2012 — the year after the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant — under the then Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led administration, and was completed in March 2013 after the Liberal Democratic Party returned to power.

The investigative report denies local documents that confirmed far more serious health hazards from the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union than those recognized by international organizations. An expert familiar with information disclosure points out that the report “should be publicized as a resource for verification from a critical point of view, considering that public money was spent on it” amid sharply divided opinions over nuclear power in Japan.

The investigation was budgeted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and was commissioned to a Tokyo-based consulting firm funded by power companies. A committee set up to evaluate the survey results was chaired by Nagasaki University professor emeritus Shigenobu Nagataki, who formerly served as chairman of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation. The investigative team primarily examined and assessed two local reports — “Twenty-five years after the Chernobyl accident: Safety for the future” and “Chernobyl: Consequences of the catastrophe for people and the environment.”

The “Safety for the future” report, which was compiled by Ukraine’s Ministry of Emergencies in 2011, points out that the ratio of healthy workers dealing with post-disaster work in Chernobyl plunged from 67.6 percent in 1988 to 5.4 percent in 2008. The latter report, which was put together by local researchers in 2009, estimates that a total of 985,000 people died from the effects of the Chernobyl disaster between April 1986 and December 2004 after their constant exposure to radiation following the disaster triggered cancer, heart and vein disorders and other ailments.

Both reports claim far more serious health hazards than those recognized by international organs, and gained much public attention here in Japan after the reports were highly publicized in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

The Japanese government report’s assessment panel examined the two reports with regard to 124 parts concerning blood and lymphatic disorders and analyzed whether radiation dose assessments were carried out where radiation exposure was linked to health damage. The committee also conducted an on-site investigation and concluded that it couldn’t find any resources with which they could determine the relationship between exposure doses and health damage, based on scientific grounds.

Subsequently, the science ministry department that was in charge of the survey was moved to the secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) in April 2013, and the Japanese government’s report was not released. The NRA secretariat eventually placed the report in the National Diet Library by way of the Environment Ministry.

Nagataki told the Mainichi Shimbun, “After we filed the investigation report with the science ministry, the ministry department in charge was shifted to the NRA secretariat, leaving us no clues as to what has become of the report. I felt uncomfortable when I heard the report was kept at the National Diet Library, but I also thought it would be inappropriate for us to demand that the report be released.”

A source close to the government told the Mainichi, “The investigation was decided upon under the DPJ administration, and we had to use up the budget. As the government changed hands, we had no intention of proactively publicizing the report.” Another government insider said, “Nondisclosure of the report was also intended to avoid causing fear among people in Fukushima. It was also aimed at preventing harmful rumors.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160604/p2a/00m/0na/006000c

June 4, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment