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Fukushima, the impossible return to the villages of the former evacuation zone: the example of Iitate

Translation Sean Arclight
The commune of Iitate, in the department of Fukushima, was hard hit by the fallout from the disaster of March 2011. Deserted by the inhabitants after the evacuation order, it bears the aftermath of the accident and several years of abandonment. While authorities encourage return and abolish aid to refugees, former residents are afraid to return to an environment where radioactivity remains above international standards.
Summary
From the same author, see also on Géoconfluences: Cécile Asanuma-Brice, “The nuclear migrants”, October 2017. http://geoconfluences.ens-lyon.fr/informations-scientifiques/dossiers-regionaux/japon/un-autre-regard/migrants-du-nucleaire
The Tohoku disaster, which was accompanied by an unprecedented industrial disaster with the explosion of the Fukushima daiichi power station on March 11, 2011, has not finished generating debate and tensions over the proposed solutions for the management of the protection of the inhabitants. The situation is complex, mixing international and national industrial interests, the need for local revitalization and health and social management. The inhabitants are torn between the desire for an impossible return, the policies of resilience constrained [1] and the difficult resettlement in their new host community (Asanuma-Brice, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017).
In this article, we propose to make an initial assessment of the situation in Iitate, an old village evacuated after the disaster, reopened to housing in 2017, and whose former residents saw the public financial aid suspended at the shelter in April 2018.
1. The village of Iitate: between ocean and mountain
The department of Fukushima is crossed by two large mountain ranges: Ousanmiyaku, the longest mountain range in Japan, which crosses the main island from Aomori Prefecture to the north, ending in the south of Tochigi, and Abukumakochi (commonly known as Abukumasanchi) stretching from south of Miyagi to the north of Ibaraki Department. These two rocky mountain ranges cut the territory into three zones: in the west the region of Aizu, in the center Nakadôri and in the east, the area of ​​Hamadôri which runs along the coast to extend to the Pacific (figure 1 ).
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Figure 1. Localization of Iitate in Hamadôri Region and Fukushima Prefecture
Iitate is located northwest of Hamadôri, on the emerged part of the Pacific Plate. The inhabited area is engulfed in the heart of the Abukumakochi Mountains, whose highest point on the perimeter of the community is Mount Hanatsukaya (918.5 meters). The population was approximately 6,000 at the time of the accident. The forests that cover almost the entire territory (Figure 2) are rich in a variety of trees: ginkgo biloba, keyaki (Zelvoka serrata), fir, beech, harigiri (kaopanax pictus, a thorn), osmanthus, oaks … In addition to the forest (75% of the forest area of ​​which about 50% is state-owned), the territory of the commune was mainly devoted to agriculture (8% of meadows for raising beef, known as “black beef”, 6.2% of rice fields, 4.9% of fields, the remaining 7% are scattered in various activities [source: http://iitate-madei.com/village01.html%5D ).
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Figure 2. A forest environment about 40 kilometers from the Fukushima daiichi power station
The location of the urbanized areas within the basins between each mountain has made them particularly vulnerable to the deposits of isotopes carried by the winds coming from the Fukushima dai ichi plant (Asanuma-Brice, Libération, 2018).
The municipality is thus at the extreme north-west of the torch of contamination, the winds carrying the cloud laden with nuclear material having rushed into it. As the radioactive cloud flew over the area on March 14th, the snow deposited contamination on the ground, soiling for many years a lush nature.
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Figure 3. Radiation doses and prohibited area after the disaster
In 2011, a few months after the readjustment of the evacuation zone first demarcated in a semi-circle of 20 km around the power plant (Figure 3), the village of Iitate is finally evacuated as well as all the communes on which the radioactive cloud had fallen (Figure 4). If since 2016 the evacuation order had been pushed back under the pressure of the inhabitants, it has been effective since March 2017. In April 2018, the financial aid to the shelter allocated to the former inhabitants of the village are abolished. Since 2014, the government had opted for a risk communication budget to influence refugees on their return. The government and international institutions maintain the argument of too high a cost that would be linked to a shelter policy (Asanuma-Brice, 2014).
Iitate-Fukushima-carte4.png
Figure 4. Status of prohibition lifts in the area, situation in 2018
This decision is not without arousing the confusion of scientists specialized in nuclear physics who believe that it is still much too early to take such measures. This is particularly the case of Professor Imanaka Tetsuji, a professor at the Nuclear Experimentation Center at Kyôto University, or Kôji Itonaga, a professor in the Department of Biological Resources at Nihondaigaku University in Tokyo. Both of them presented the results of their expertise at the Iisora ​​symposium, which was held in Fukushima on 17 February 2018 by former village residents and researchers of various persuasions to discuss the relevance or otherwise of this decision (figure 5).
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Figure 5. Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018
Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018 – Professor Imanaka (Kyota University Nuclear Experiment Center) presents his results: “Is 20 msv an acceptable safety rate? “. Photo: Cécile Asanuma-Brice
2. Did the decontamination work?
In the village of Iitate, the situation is still far from settled. The multiple decontamination campaigns have not been able to overcome the radioactivity rate, which is still equivalent to 10 times the pre-accident standard for measurements made around dwellings, and 20 times for measurements taken in the mountains. In August 2017, a measurement campaign carried out by Professor Itonaga’s team (University of Japan / Nihondaigaku) ​​on 8 houses in the village revealed rates ranging between 0.15 and 0.4 microsievert / h for measurements made on the floor, and 0.23 to 0.78 microsievert / h for measurements made near the ceiling of dwellings. In 2014, the rates were considerably higher, up to 2 microsievert / hour depending on the case. There is therefore a drop, but nevertheless deemed insufficient by the two teachers to allow the return to housing, especially as outside homes, rates recorded are flying quickly. The average measured on the ground is 0.65 microsievert / h, that made at 1 meter from the ground is 0.59 microsievert / h. These houses surrounded by forest suffer the effects of surrounding vegetation that can not be decontaminated. These houses paradoxically become victims of their natural environment, polluted for many years to come. Rainfall following steep gradients carries isotopes to valleys where dwellings are located which in turn see the increased contamination rate despite repeated waves of decontamination.
On the sample taken, Professor Itonaga (Figure 6) estimates that it will take another fifty years before the average level of environmental irradiation returns to 1 msv / year, a rate internationally defined as acceptable for the population [2]. In addition, this rate of acceptability has been increased to 20 msv / year, the municipality being part of the perimeter classified as a state of emergency. The removal of the evacuation order is therefore decided in the state by the administration which, while recognizing the instability of the environment still classified “emergency zone”, forced, by removing subsidies to the shelter and by closing temporary housing estates, residents return to live in areas still contaminated.
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Figure 6. Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018
Iisora ​​Symposium in Fukushima, February 17, 2018 – Professor Itonaga (Department of Biological Resources, Nihondaigaku University, Tokyo) leads the debate with the speakers of the day, composed of scientists and former residents of the village of Iitate. Photo: Cécile Asanuma-Brice
In 2017, the authorities declared that they wanted to recycle all the waste below 8,000 Bq / kg, although the norm before the accident was 100 Bq / kg, in road works. Nevertheless, the radioactivity levels measured in the Iitate region are more than twice this threshold, with peaks of up to 40 000 Bq / kg for the measurement of only cesium 134 and 137 in the surrounding mountains. In June 2017, measurements on the sap of trees in the mountains adjacent to the dwellings revealed levels of 143 298 Bq / kg (by association of the measurement of 2 cesium 134 and 137) for an oak tree and 39 185 Bq / kg for the sap of a cherry tree (see Box 1).
Although the contamination is disparate and mobile depending on precipitation, and the decontamination is momentarily effective on a lot of soil for which 15 cm of surface soil replaced by healthy soil had been scraped off, the half-life of cesium 137 being thirty years, it seems difficult to consider a decline in the general rate of radiation irradiation before the end of this period.
 Radioactivity, becquerels, cesium, what are we talking about?
The becquerel per gram (or per kilogram) characterizes the overall content of radioactive elements. Cesium 134 and 137 are the two main nuclides dispersed in the environment after the explosion of the Fukushima plant. It is found in large quantities and potentially far from the plant. Other nuclides such as plutonium or strontium are also present, but in smaller quantities and mainly within a hundred kilometers around the plant because these particles are heavier. The half-life of cesium is 30 years on average. However, “cesium is an alkali metal. For the human body, it strongly resembles potassium. But the body contains significant amounts of potassium, it is essential to humans […]. And for this reason, when the cesium is released into the environment, the body considers it as it does with the alkali metal potassium, that is to say, it integrates and accumulates in our body. “*
* Hirano, Kasai, 2016, extract translated from Japanese by Robert Stolz and English by Geoconfluences
 
3. The village of Iitate, an impossible return?
The village of Iitate which extends over 230 km² had already begun its demographic decline before the evacuation, from 9 385 inhabitants in 1970 to 6 209 in 2010 (Figure 7). It is only composed of 41 people according to the authorities in 2015. In 2018, part of the population returned to live in these territories, unable to pay rent elsewhere without subsidies from the state, and today about 700 people who returned to live in the village.
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Figure 7. Communal population of the village of Iitate 1970-2015
Of the initial pre-disaster population, 4,934 persons [3] in 2,032 households fled to the interior of Fukushima Prefecture, with the vast majority in Fukushima itself (3,174 people) ( Figure 9). Only 297 persons, divided into 156 households, migrated out of the department, mainly to the Tokyo area (Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Tokyo departments, see Figure 8). A total of 90% of the population has moved in seven years while 546 people in 288 households plan to return to the village. For the latter, the breakdown by household shows that they are almost exclusively couples without children, the size of these households being 1.9 persons. They are preparing to enter an ecosystem mainly composed of forests, formerly anthropized, but left abandoned for 7 years. Thus, the rice fields formerly in activity would require a colossal work to be rehabilitated. The forests themselves are no longer maintained and nature has regained its rights in the vast majority of the territory.
Iitate-refugies-hors-dept-Fukushima
Iitate-refugies-selon-destination
Figures 8 and 9. Destination of refugees from the village of Iitate
The lifting of benefits in April 2018 led, for most of the elderly without resources, to a forced return to a deserted region. Of the 4,934 people who sought refuge within the department, 384 of them, divided into 233 households, were housed in seven temporary housing sites that were being closed. 363 persons (174 households) were rehoused in public housing, or 8% of the total, 1,053 (550 households) are relocated to private sector housing rented by the public services, and the 49%, made up of 3,119 people in 1,060 households, is hosted by parents. 15 single people are in retirement homes.
In December 2017, a survey conducted by Professor Itonaga’s laboratory of 52 households totaling 195 people revealed the main trends in residents’ intentions regarding the return policy (Figure 10).
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Figure 10. Decisions of residents about their return and their house in Iitate.
These statistics show that of the 28.9% of households that decided to return, 11.1% of households do so to comply with the order of the administrative authorities, but 17.8% because they can not to assume their daily lives elsewhere without the help of the allowances. 20% of these households, despite the financial strain they are in, will not return, and 46.7% have not yet decided in December 2017.
The results of the multiple-choice questionnaire concerning the types of housing within the village of Iitate for the inhabitants who returned to live in the village show that while 25% of these 17 households were able to renovate their former home, 25% will preserve it in its current state, and 12.5% ​​do not plan to rebuild it, for lack of physical and / or financial means. However, most buildings were made with natural materials and therefore perishable (wood structure, tatami, etc.). Japan is under the influence of a humid sub-continental climate in summer, which results in the simultaneous recording of high heat with a very high level of humidity. A monsoon season (May-June) precedes two typhoon seasons that sweep the archipelago in June and September, producing very high rainfall and generating regular floods. All these reasons make frequent renovation of buildings necessary. These buildings, which have been vacant for seven years, are for the most part in an advanced state of disrepair. In addition, animals have reconquered these spaces long uninhabited. Houses ravaged by wild boars or cattle, come to discover the places, are not rare. We can therefore assume that in the 37.5% of households that will preserve their habitat in the current state, a good part will live in precarious and unstable conditions.
The main reason (68.9%) for which the inhabitants do not wish to return to their village is the fact of having to live without the proximity of their children and grandchildren who, as for them, will not return.
A significant part of the former inhabitants justifies their decision of no return by the refusal to live in a territory where mountains and forests are still contaminated (64.4%). Forests covering more than 70% of the town, this point is important and can not be easily resolved. The same percentage of people (about 65%) are reluctant to return because of the renewal of nature on the village. Among other things, there is the overabundance of wild animals that have regained their rights over these territories [4].
For 62.2% of them, the absence of shops, hospitals and other daily services are at the origin of their decision of no return.
53.3% believe that the level of ambient radioactivity is still too high to consider returning to live in their village. 51.1% mention the impossibility of having an agricultural activity, 51.1% are worried about future health effects. A similarly large number of inhabitants, 46.7% will not return because of the presence of sacks of contaminated soil strewn on the territory of the municipality. Secondary reasons (below 40%) relate to the inability to consume mushrooms and other mountain plants, the absence of neighbors and the breakdown of community links. For some residents of Iitate, it’s simply “inhuman to get people to find that” (McNeill & Matsumoto, 2017).
4. What are the inhabitants’ demands?
The question of whether the government or TEPCO took responsibility for the accident led the residents to form associations to defend their rights in court. Nevertheless, these approaches are parallel and do not respond to situations of resettlement forced by the authorities. We list below some points regularly mentioned by the inhabitants during our field surveys:
it would be desirable for the authorities to recognize the difficulty of maintaining the right of residence in municipalities where the rate of contamination remains high due to “long-term industrial pollution”. Thus, for the inhabitants who wish to return, allowances should be put in place in order to allow the renovation of their habitat, as well as the decontamination works which are imposed at regular rate.
a constant and free health monitoring of the re-entrant populations
frequent radioactivity measurements, not only atmospheric, but also plants and other consumer products.
for those who decide to live outside the municipality: help and support should be established to ensure, if not possession, in any case the rental of a secure property in the place as well as job search support for people of working age. For people who are no longer able to work, a grant must be awarded to them to enable them to support their daily lives.
the problems relating to simultaneous membership of two separate communes due to the duplication of the place of settlement also remain to be resolved. This generates questions relating to the payment of local taxes, the right to vote as well as various everyday documents (driver’s license, administrative point of attachment for any employment procedure, etc.).
a recurring problem is the presence of radioactive waste in the territory that participates in maintaining a high level of ambient radioactivity. The need to create adapted legislative rules recognizing the damage caused by the obligation to live in a territory affected by an industrial disaster and to obtain the appropriate compensation.
Conclusion
The removal of the evacuation order in the contaminated areas of Fukushima prefecture plunges the population into the deepest disarray. The impossible choices that the inhabitants have been facing for seven years now lead them too many times to turn to the ultimate exit: suicide.
On March 3, 2018, the local newspaper, Fukushima Minpo wrote: “In the heart of the shelter, more than 2,211 people died from reasons directly attributable to the stress of the shelter.” The most affected municipalities are Minamisôma (507 people), Namie (414) Tomioka (410 people), Futaba (147 people), in other words, the communes whose population was evacuated without support for a possible reintegration in their place of residence. ‘Home. The number of deaths in question here exceeds those attributable to the natural disaster (tsunami or earthquake). Of a total of 4,040 inhabitants of Fukushima County who lost their lives for reasons directly related to the disaster, 1,605 (39.7%) people died as a result of the natural disaster and 2,211 (54.7%) because of the mismanagement of the shelter.
The suicide of these people is attributable to the stress of the forced return policies, the prolongation of the accommodation for seven years in temporary housing (whereas this period is limited to four years in the law), the maintenance in the hope of a possible return of people, often elderly, who are confronted with a deplorable reality of the environment in which they return nevertheless, for not being able to assume their life elsewhere.
On February 21, 2018 national and local newspapers dedicated theirs to the suicide of a 102-year-old man from the village of Iitate. ” Oh ! I think I lived too long, “were the last words of Mr. Okubo, a farmer of Iitate like so many others.
To complete:

 

From the same author:
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice : (2018) « L’être en son milieu, du rapport humain-objet-milieu au Japon comme ailleurs sur la planète », Libération, 11 juin 2018,
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2017) “Atomic Fission and Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown: When politics prevails over scientific proof”, in Christophe Thouny and Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto (eds.), Planetary Atmospheres and Urban Society After Fukushima, Palgrave McMillian.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice, « Les migrants du nucléaire », Géoconfluences, octobre 2017.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2016). La mémoire de l’oubli, une forme de résistance à la résilience, publication des actes du colloque « Après le désastre, réponses commémoratives et culturelles », Éditions de l’Université de Tôkyô (en français).
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2016) Franckushima, rédaction de la Préface et chapitres, Direction Géraud Bournet, L’utopiquant.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2015) « De la vulnérabilité à la résilience, réflexions sur la protection en cas de désastre extrême : Le cas de la gestion des conséquences de l’explosion d’une centrale nucléaire à Fukushima », Revue Raison Publique, no. « Au-delà du risque Care, capacités et résistance en situation de désastre », Sandra Laugier, Solange Chavel, Marie Gaille (dir.)
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2015) « À Fukushima, la population est dans une situation inextricable », CNRS Le Journal, mars 2015.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2014) « La légende Fukushima », Libération, septembre 2014.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2013) « Fukushima, une démocratie en souffrance », Revue Outre terre, mars 2013.
  • Cécile Asanuma-Brice (2012) « Les politiques publiques du logement face à la catastrophe du 11 mars », in C. Lévy, T. Ribault, numéro spécial de la revue EBISU de la Maison franco-japonaise n° 47, juin 2012.
Autres articles de l’auteure à consulter ici :

https://cnrs.academia.edu/C%C3%A9cileAsanumaBrice 

 

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October 16, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

FUKUSHIMA UPDATE: KNOWLEDGE, DISCRIMINATION, AND SYMBOLIC REDUCTION

LINK TO PETITION

ISSUE

On March 20th, 2018 the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) announced plans to remove approximately 2,400, or 66%, of the 3,600 radiation monitoring posts in Fukushima prefecture by March 2021.[1] This was announced as part of an effort to refocus government radiation monitoring on the evacuation zone.

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Explanatory image on March 23, 2018 materials issued by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Pink dots represent real-time radiation dose monitoring posts; shaded areas bounded in green represent areas where evacuation orders have been lifted; red and yellow areas represent areas where they are still in effect.

Note on Evacuation Zones

 

Evacuation Zones june 14 2018.jpg

 

Non-mandatory evacuees” refers to people who evacuated from outside zone B (shaded yellow). The national government, Fukushima prefecture, and TEPCO have recognized non-mandatory evacuees from 23 municipalities in the prefecture.[2] All other non-mandatory evacuees do not qualify for state aid. For maps providing an overview of fallout, see the following: ① Soil contamination levels: see the most recent map from the Eastern Japan Soil Contamination Project (EN) (日本語); Chernobyl comparison map (EN);[3] ② Atmospheric radiation levels: see radiation plume maps created by Yukio Hayakawa (9/11/2011; 2/1/2013) and the Safecast tile map.

Mandatory evacuees” refers to people who evacuated from zone B. State-mandated evacuation happened in waves. Evacuation from Iitate village, Katsurao village, northern Namie town, and part of Kawamata town was not mandatory until May 2011. Areas only shaded yellow were told to prepare to evacuate—they were not mandated to evacuate by the national government, but may have been advised to do so by their municipal government. Evacuation orders have been lifted for all areas within zone B besides areas 1-3. As evacuation orders have been lifted and aid to evacuees from these areas has been cut off, some evacuees find themselves in a state of unrecognized displacement similar to that experienced by non-mandatory evacuees.

 

Note on Radiation Monitoring System in Fukushima Prefecture

 

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Like other mass exposure events,[4] the Fukushima nuclear disaster has been characterized by the delayed release of information, the falsification or inadequate collection of data, underestimating the scale of damage, and the coordinated production of pseudoscientific misinformation.[5] The government has sought to maintain its control of the ensuing struggle over health, wages, and welfare by controlling information and paternalistically discrediting forms of knowledge or evidence that threaten its narrative. Slashing monitoring post infrastructure is another development in this pattern: it further consolidates the government’s position as the only entity with the right to know what radiation levels are, and the only entity acknowledged as being capable of assessing the circumstances, while displacing risks onto the public by symbolically shrinking the scale of the disaster.

Plans to remove these 2,400 monitoring posts are part of a broader reduction in government measures to address the nuclear disaster. Not unlike the 2008 bailout of American finance capital, the Japanese government has chosen to bail out TEPCO and pass on the risks and consequences of the nuclear disaster onto the public.[6]Health. In April 2016, residents were given the choice to opt out of the the Fukushima prefectural health survey (県民健康調査)—the only large-scale study being conducted on the health effects of the disaster.[7] Though framed as an implementation of informed consent, antinuclear groups have voiced concerns that this is part of “self-responsibility” (自己責任) discourse, which has framed reductions in government protections and services as protecting residents’ freedom of choice.[8] In December 2016, a member of the Oversight Committee for the survey suddenly proposed adding an external international oversight committee to the survey to “deepen prefectural residents’ understanding.” This followed a convention of experts from international agencies such as the ICRP, UNSCEAR, and WHO in Fukushima city, and appeared to be a request to implement their recommendations to reduce the scale of the survey and strengthen their oversight of it.[9] These organizations have played key roles in downplaying the health consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.[10]Housing. In March 2017, Fukushima prefecture cut off housing subsidies to non-mandatory evacuees—the only form of government support they were offered, and even then only to evacuees from Fukushima prefecture.[11] Many non-mandatory evacuees are barely making ends meet from a combination of mortgages on the homes they left behind, doubled rents for family members living separately, and gender-based employment discrimination affecting evacuee women, who are reported to constitute 60% of non-mandatory evacuees.[12] A month after housing aid was cut off, the Reconstruction Agency stopped counting non-mandatory evacuees in evacuee statistics, making the full scale and consequences of displacement from the nuclear disaster more difficult to assess.[13] Aid to mandatory evacuees from areas where evacuation orders were lifted were cut off just one year later, in March 2018.[14] Both non-mandatory and mandatory evacuees have reported being sued for remaining in evacuation housing.[15]Wages. In January 2018, citing improved working conditions, TEPCO announced that from April, risk allowances (危険手当) paid to contractors for decommissioning work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant would be reduced by as much as 50 percent.[16] It has subsequently been reported that workers are receiving risk allowances as meager as 3000 yen (30 USD) per day.[17] As numerous reports have documented, these allowances are mostly skimmed off by general contractors and their direct subcontractors, who then hire further subcontractors to do the actual work.[18] In this instance, it appears that the reduction in risk allowances has been passed off onto workers. There are also concerns that TEPCO’s assertion that “working conditions have improved” at Fukushima Daiichi will lead to justifying the use of lighter protective gear—in other words, that workers will be paid less to work in more dangerous conditions.[19]

EXPLANATIONS

The NRA has provided several justifications for its plans to reduce radiation monitoring infrastructure in Fukushima prefecture:

  1. Radiation levels are generally low and stable, and decontamination and recovery are progressing, so there is little need to continue radiation monitoring on a large scale.[20]
  2. The reduction of the real-time radiation dose monitoring system will be part of an effort to refocus attention on the recovery of areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, and removed monitoring posts “will be used for such things as fulfilling requests for monitoring posts by municipalities” in such areas.[21]
  3. The national government will discontinue its recovery budget in March 2021.[22]

SCARCITY NARRATIVES

Monitoring Posts Will Not Be Relocated

When explaining the shift to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency on March 20th, 2018, Matsuji Takeyama (head of the Monitoring Information Division) emphasized that there would still be a need for radiation monitoring at key “key recovery points” (fukkō kyoten) in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted. However, when he was asked by another committee member how many monitoring posts would be appropriate, he replied that there is no specific goal. Rather, it would be up to municipal governments to request that monitoring posts be placed around schools or public locations.[23] FOIA requests and negotiations with the NRA by the Citizens’ Group for Continued Radiation Monitoring (CGCRM) have revealed that there are currently no such requests. This suggests that rather than redistributing existing infrastructure to suit new community needs, the NRA plans to refocus radiation monitoring on the Fukushima coast simply by eliminating most publicly accessible monitoring infrastructure in the rest of the prefecture.

Costs

According to the Monitoring and Information Division (監視情報課) of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, annual maintenance costs for the real-time radiation dose monitoring system total 500 million yen.[24] Most maintenance costs are due to repairs. Though English-language news reports on the subject have led with discussion of 4,000 monitoring post malfunctions, this number appears to refer to initial adjustments made when the monitoring posts were first installed.[25] The total cost of all radiation monitoring activities is approximately 1 billion yen annually, and mostly comes out of the environmental radiation measuring agency budget (環境放射線測定等庁費). By comparison, the Reconstruction Agency’s 2018 budget allotts 5 billion yen to support tourism (観光復興関連事業), 69 billion yen to build key recovery spots in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted (特定復興再生拠点整備事業), and 209 billion yen on recovery roads (復興道路・復興支援道路の整備).[26] The Reconstruction Agency (復興庁) has allotted a total of 1.6 trillion yen for recovery efforts in 2018. Costs to maintain the real-time radiation dose monitoring system amount to 0.03% of that budget.

THE POLITICS OF RADIATION MAPS

Averaging Unevenness

In materials for its February 10, 2016 meeting, the NRA demonstrates the stability of low radiation levels by averaging data from all real-time radiation monitoring posts in a given area, the smallest of which is 475 square miles (1,200km2). This is supplemented by displaying the monthly averages for one real-time monitoring post from each area. However, one cannot assume that residents spend equal amounts of time in hotspots and areas with lower fallout levels, nor that they regularly commute across a 475 square-mile area. Everyday life happens on a smaller scale.[27] Furthermore, it is unclear why one monitoring post is being used to represent levels for regions where radiation levels can vary from 0.08~0.8µSv/hr, or even in areas with a range of 0.06~0.23µSv/hr.

 

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Dark blue = 0.05µSv/hr; blue = 0.1µSv/hr; teal = 0.15µSv/hr; lavender = 0.3µSv/hr. Based on data presented by NRA to demonstrate that radiation levels are low and stable. Areas with evacuation orders are outlined in red. This map uses the same color key as the Safecast map below.

Safecast Map (May 18, 2018):

 

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The regions featured in the NRA-based map above were superimposed on a recent Safecast map, which are made by crowd-sourcing data from standardized portable radiation monitors that volunteers install on cars. Areas outside the Fukushima border were lightened for clarity.

While the Safecast map documents significant variation in air dose rates, especially in central Fukushima and Tochigi prefecture, there is often significant variation at smaller scales as well. This 2017 map of Hobara town, Date city has readings ranging from 0.09~0.35µSv/hr (0.5~1.8mSv/yr).

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Above the Limit

There are also many places outside of the mandatory evacuation zone where radiation levels are higher than the government standard of 0.23µSv/hr.[28] One resident of Hobara town, Date city stated that radiation levels in the neighborhood have remained at 0.3µSv/hr.[29] We can also see from the Safecast map that radiation levels above the post-disaster standard of 0.23µSv/hr are not limited to Fukushima prefecture, nor are air dose rates above the 1991 Chernobyl law standard of 1 mSv/year (2.74µSv/day = 0.19µSv/yr).[30] One should also note that the devices used to create these maps only measure gamma radiation, and moreover do not account for internal radiation exposure from inhalation and consumption of radioactive food. Cesium-137, Cs-134, Strontium-90, Iodine-131, and Plutonium isotopes emit beta particles in addition to gamma radiation, and Plutonium also emits alpha particles. These are especially damaging when they get inside the body, as they emit intense radiation until the isotope leaves the body (anywhere from a few days to several years, depending on the isotope).

A map compiled by the Eastern Japan Soil Contamination Project suggests that soil contamination levels across the fallout area, especially in Fukushima, Tochigi, Gunma, Miyagi, and Chiba prefectures, remain high. Greenpeace also reports that despite decontamination, Iitate village and Namie town continue to have radiation levels well above the government standard.

Stability

According to TEPCO, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continues to release 91,000 Becquerels of radiation per hour (as of April 25, 2018). Though plant decommissioning is scheduled to end in 40 years, officials have admitted that decommissioning at that pace is not feasible, with some estimating that it could take as long as 200 years before radiation levels subside enough to allow work to progress.[31] So long as decommissioning is not complete, the risk of another monumental atmospheric release of radiation remains a possibility.[32]

The routine way in which the government has continued to hide information and leave residents to be exposed to radiation during accidents was explained well by Ms. Wada, a resident of Harano area:

During the nuclear accident, residents were exposed to serious levels of radiation because SPEEDI data was kept from us. I think there has been no trace of regret or change about this from the national government. And there have been frequent accidents at the Monju plant, and there was the JCO accident [1999]. TEPCO has also hidden problems many times. We don’t know how often because of what has not been made public. And during such incidents, every time, there has been a pattern where information has been hidden from residents and they have been exposed to radiation.

Explosions have happened at incinerators (焼却炉). At incinerators burning [radioactive] waste from decontamination. There was an explosion [at such a facility] in Samegawa village. A resident has testified that the radiation levels of the monitoring post nearby increased, but they were not able to document any evidence, so the matter was left unsettled. And at the incinerator in Tomioka town, a small fire broke out. There were issues in Warabidaira in Iitate village, and [the facility there] has been stopped for 5 months. At an intermediate treatment facility in Kōriyama city, a fire broke out in the storage area for highly contaminated materials. It was quite a scene, but that time, too, residents were not told anything. One person was working in their field right next to it. I negotiated with the Ministry of Environment [concerning this matter] multiple times, but not a single warning was issued. In Namie town, Minamisōma city, and Date city, there have been wildfires. In those instances as well, residents were not notified. There are also disabled persons who cannot hear, and who need to check [circumstances] with their eyes. So I think the monitoring posts are absolutely necessary.

[…] You have said that after removing the monitoring posts, you would like to have an exchange with residents and decide what to do, but over the course of these events we have unfortunately had to learn that if something happens, the government will not protect us. How are we supposed to believe you?[33]

WHOSE RIGHT TO KNOW: GOVERNMENT PATERNALISM

Because radiation is imperceptible to the five senses, insofar as people are driven into remaining in the fallout zone,[34] maps can be important sources of information for reducing exposure levels. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. It is cumulative, and the probability of developing an illness directly increases with every increase in exposure.[35] Insofar as the government continues to coerce residents to return or remain in the fallout zone, the public needs accessible information on their condition in real-time. As Terumi Kataoka from CGCRM said in an interview, “Why is our right to know being taken away when we are being forced to be exposed to radiation?”[36]

Matsuji Takeyama, head of the Monitoring Information Division[37] of the NRA, has explained the purpose of the real-time monitoring system:

Rather than assessing the situation, the main purpose of the system is for people who are living there to instantly see and understand [radiation levels in the area]. So I believe that moving forward, it is not necessary to have so many [real-time radiation dose monitoring posts].[38]

He assumed a similar stance in April 16, 2018 negotiations with CGCRM:

The reason we are removing [the monitoring posts] is because the radiation levels have stabilized enough. That is speaking scientifically. […] However, we understand that you are worried, and, uh, I think it is a question of emotions. I think there is unease, so… In principle, where [radiation levels are] low, [the monitoring posts] serve no purpose—are not necessary, but we will ultimately decide after listening to your opinions. […] We explained our policy. We will make the final decision after talking with municipal governments.

(A mother who evacuated from Iwaki city provided a good counterargument):

[…] The first thing I would like to say is that you have been using the words, “scientifically, scientifically,” but [saying that something is] “low enough” is not scientific, right? To what is it “low enough” in comparison? If you want to speak of science, then that means continuously comparing the [current] radiation levels to pre-accident levels. […] I don’t think [radiation levels] are stable by any means, or that they are the level they were before. […] That is why I have continued to evacuate with my children. I don’t think you should use the unscientific phrase, “low enough,” and I can’t believe that you plan to remove [the monitoring posts] because “[radiation levels] are stable” even though circumstances are still completely different from pre-accident conditions. Also, you said, “[we will hold] explanatory meetings [with residents] moving forward.” You said, “[you will] get [residents] to understand.” I have been to many explanatory meetings until now, but I always had the bitter experience of having [a policy] forced on me because “it’s already been decided.” Please listen to the voices of those who have been directly affected—to us and the municipalities.

Takeyama’s statement suggests that residents’ efforts to understand their own environmental circumstances do not count as assessments—that they are neither agentive nor important. His statement assumes that the very action of seeing and interpreting radiation levels in one’s immediate surroundings is not a way that residents assess the situation in which they are living. It furthermore suggests that he does not value residents’ right to access information about potentially harmful circumstances in which they are living. He presumes that the only entity capable of making assessments is the NRA, and not the people who are living with the consequences of government and corporate negligence. Such paternalism was also present at other points during the negotiations, where Takeyama repeatedly offered lukewarm acknowledgements of residents’ statements while emphasizing that “scientifically” speaking, radiation levels were “stable and low” and that the NRA would abide by its removal policy.

Woman from Kōriyama city:

I believe this has been explained several times already, but phrases such as, “prefectural residents should understand correctly to prevent unnecessary worry,” appear 20 times in these materials. So then I think, what are we? I am concerned that we are being taken as prefectural residents who do not “understand correctly” and are “unnecessarily worried.” What do you think about this point?

Matsuji Takeyama:

I don’t particularly think that it is strange that you feel worried. Of course, the radiation levels have decreased from high levels, but I understand that you are worried. […]

This dismissiveness follows a trend present since the disaster’s inception, where a coordinated effort by the Cabinet; Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology; the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare; Fukushima prefecture; TEPCO; mass media; and appointed intellectuals has dismissed residents’ insistence on their right to knowledge and information by characterizing them as “hysterical,” “spreading harmful rumors,” “emotional,” and “subjective.”[39] Thus, while post-disaster government pamphlets about radiation emphasized the public’s need to “learn correctly,”[40] the presentation of evidence that contradicts its narrative of safety has been characterized as “harmful rumor.” For these government bodies, “knowledge” seems to mean feeling reassured that the circumstances residents are being coerced into are tolerable, not harmful. As scholars such as Ann Kimura have pointed out, the misogynistic idea that women are incapable of rational thought—not to mention the idea that rationalism constitutes the only valid form of thought—have been instrumental in the “harmful rumor” discourse.

Women have resisted such narratives by validating different emotional responses to radioactive fallout and emphasizing the logical nature of such feelings. For example, during negotiations Terumi Kataoka stated:

In other words, decommissioning is not over—it’s just begun—and moreover, the declaration of nuclear emergency (原子炉緊急事態宣言) still hasn’t been lifted. And yet in spite of this, why do you have to do something unreasonable, something illogical? Why do you have to take the monitoring posts from our daily lives? This is the voice of residents. Additionally, there have been many negotiations with the national government and prefectural government until now, but the thing that is absolutely different about this one is that, starting with Fukushima prefecture, municipal governments from the prefecture are saying that it is too sudden, or that they do not want [the removal]. These kinds of things are really being voiced here [pointing to NRA report]. So in spite of all of that, why are you lining up only these same explanations, that you want to get rid of residents’ “unnecessary anxiety” (無用な不安), or to [have us] “understand correctly” (正しく理解してもらう)? I really don’t understand it. I absolutely don’t understand it. Is it strange for us to feel uneasy? The nuclear accident that was supposed to never occur, happened. It is natural to feel uneasy. I think it is strange not to be worried about that. We have been living in this kind of circumstance every day for seven years. And yet you are going to take away the monitoring posts that we look at wondering, “What is the situation like today?” We do not understand this at all.

 

Government Reassurance

The NRA has reassured residents opposed to the removal of monitoring posts by pointing out that it has a separate radiation monitoring system for emergency situations (consisting of 51 monitoring posts), and that it will take appropriate steps in the event of an emergency. However, these monitoring posts do not visually display their data. The 3,000 real-time radiation monitors and the 600 portable radiation monitors in the prefecture are the only meters that display their readings. Yumi Chiba (CGCRM) has expressed that the NRA’s emergency plan is unrealistic:

As people who have experienced the panic of that time [during the nuclear meltdown], I cannot express how distant the portable radiation monitoring posts—placed every 5km—are for us. You said that we could borrow portable devices [i.e. geiger counters] [in the event of an emergency], but having experienced such a situation before, we can tell you that should such a situation arise, it is not going to be possible for us to run into town hall [to ask for a geiger counter]. That is the reality.

 

Why Trust Government Radiation Monitoring Posts?

Prior to the NRA’s announcement, the sentiment that the government radiation monitoring system was untrustworthy was widespread among evacuees and those with antinuclear sentiments. Several studies were conducted confirming that government monitoring posts were systematically displaying figures 40%-60% lower than readings that could be taken with geiger counters.[41] In some cases, monitoring posts were installed with sheets of iron under them, effectively preventing gamma rays from the soil (the main source of radiation) from being measured. In other cases, the immediate surroundings of monitoring posts were decontaminated.[42] Much like the prefectural health survey, the radiation monitoring system is both flawed and the only solution that the government appears willing to offer. Even as both instruments produce the appearance of safety and a gradual decline in the disaster’s effects, their reduction would further expand the realm of unknowns, making it increasingly difficult to establish when potentially harmful incidents occur, their consequences, and who is responsible.

SYMBOLIC REDUCTION

Chernobyl did not simply disappear; it was extinguished in waves as a result of particular types of framing that set the health effects of the fallout outside the scope of immediate concern. Before that, the greatest public salience of Chernobyl did not begin until about three years after the accident, a period of great political transformation only two years before the collapse of the Soviet Union” —Olga Kuchinskaya, The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects, p.66.

Underestimating the scope and consequences of radiation fallout has been a consistent characteristic of the nuclear industry and associated research on the health effects of radiation exposure. In particular, the similarities between the reductions taking place in Japan and the Belarussian government’s management of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster are striking.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the newly formed Belarus implemented fairly comprehensive measures to address the consequences of the nuclear disaster. However, these measures ended up costing a full 20% of the national budget. In 1993, a special working group was formed to revise its policies.[43] Soon after, government measures to address the disasters’ consequences began to shrink, and began to emphasize economic recovery. The government declared an end to emergency measures and said that residents needed to learn to live with radiation.[44] It changed the criteria for determining radiation doses, so that instead of being measured, they were estimated through controversial and non-transparent techniques. Areas where average doses were estimated to be under 1 mSv/year lost their social protections, and had no additional protective measures.[45] After 1996, the area deemed contaminated enough to matter was gradually shrunk through changes in evaluative criteria.[46] In 2003, a presidential decree relocated all Chernobyl-related institutions to Gomel on the premise that research should be concentrated “in the most affected area.”[47] This resulted in a drastic reduction in personnel (from 165 to 75 faculty), and the loss of continuity in data collection and analysis, making it difficult to more fully assess the impacts of the disaster.

As sociologist Olga Kuchinskaya notes, infrastructures and practices created to address the effects of radiation often come to stand in for the presence of radiation itself. She writes, “Administrative practices meant to mitigate various effects of radioactive contamination thus come to constitute the visibility of the problem of radioactive contamination; they become the signs of the contamination.”[48]

It seems likely that removing two-thirds of the public radiation monitoring infrastructure in Fukushima prefecture will be instrumental in reshaping the landscape into one where radioactive fallout is not an active concern. Now that many of the bags of radioactive soil that were scattered across the prefecture have been transferred to storage facilities, the radiation monitoring posts are the primary reminder in the landscape that radioactive fallout is still present, and that the stability of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is far from guaranteed. The radiation monitoring posts thus also play an important symbolic role, and this drastic reduction would mean another premature reframing of the disaster as coming to a neat close.

CONCERNING “HARMFUL RUMOR”

The author does not intend to suggest that residents in the fallout zone, especially in Fukushima prefecture, have not been stigmatized, discriminated against, or that people in primary industries have not suffered from consumer politics in the wake of the nuclear disaster. In fact, the systematic prevalence of bullying has been an important force pushing evacuees back to more dangerous areas, along with government and academic gaslighting and reductions in aid. The question is why bullying and stigmatization is so prevalent. How are people taught to feel about radiation exposure, and how are they directed to act upon those feelings?

Making discussion of radiation exposure a taboo subject turns it into something shameful and something to fear. It also turns the blatantly obvious fact that the government has allowed some people to be exposed to more radiation than others—illustrated, for example, by the April 2011 notice to schools in Fukushima prefecture that it would consider 20 mSv/year of exposure admissible there, while the standard for the rest of the country remained 1 mSv/year[49]—into an issue of “self-responsibility” for which victims can be blamed. In other words, the government itself quickly assumed a discriminatory stance in its post-disaster measures, and then turned dissent against that discrimination into a taboo subject by declaring it “harmful rumor” and then spreading misinformation about radiation. It is not difficult to infer that this enforces an unspoken understanding that those who resist discrimination from the state (by evacuating, for example) should be punished. And this is in fact what is happening. School children who bullied their classmates for wearing masks or otherwise protecting themselves from internal radiation exposure were often reported saying, “You think you’re the only one who gets to be spared? (お前だけ助かる気か?)” “Culture of poverty”-type narratives of mandatory evacuees mismanaging compensation money also stem from the logic that they have not experienced any form of structural discrimination. We need to think more about how the atmosphere created by government policies and narratives spread by the media relates to widespread bullying and stigmatization of evacuees.

Bullying also seems undoubtedly tied up with eugenicism. The forced sterilization of the disabled is still legal, though there is more public outcry against it recently, and transgender people are required to undergo sterilization to gain legal recognition.[50] Many women are worried they will face marriage discrimination for having been exposed to radiation—in other words, that they will be refused marriage because other people do not want to risk having a disabled child.[51]

CONCLUSION

As the Fukushima nuclear disaster progresses, unevenness, the systematic production of ignorance and uncertainty, and the connections between containment and discrimination remain central issues. From the standpoint of care work, it seems clear that we need to think much more deeply about who is vulnerable and what we can do to make sure their dignity is respected. Even while the Japanese government and “nuclear village” have done serious damage in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, mainstream antinuclear narratives mostly ignore nuclear workers, farmers, fishermen, woodcutters, working-class women, and they fail to offer serious answers about how to create a national economy that does not require the destruction of rural communities, making them vulnerable to toxic facilities.

Liberal antinuclear feminisms have played a critical role in resistance to these trends. They have created discourses that emphasize validation of emotional/experiential truths, articulated evacuation as a human right, created community-controlled radiation monitoring technology, and created mental and physical health care through support groups and a vast network of volunteer-based recuperation camps.[52] These efforts have created space to struggle against the Japanese state’s maneuvers to pretend that the effects of the nuclear disaster have been safely contained within administrative boundaries. Most notably, widespread mobilization by women, especially mothers, led to the passing of the Disaster Victims’ Support Act (被災者支援法) in 2012, though it was subsequently mostly gutted.[53]

We need to keep thinking about how these feminisms can connect with nuclear labor organizing and social movements by people in primary industries who have been disenfranchised by “modernizing” economic policies, to create a more transformative antinuclear politics.

TIMELINE

August 2, 2011: Plans for radiation monitoring announced. Real-time radiation dose monitoring system is included in these plans: “establish a real-time radiation monitoring system, installing integrated dosimeters able to send data in schools, parks, etc. in Fukushima prefecture.”[54] 

February 21, 2012: MEXT radiation mapping webpage, based on data from the “real-time radiation monitoring system,” comes online. There are 2,700 monitoring posts comprising the real-time monitoring system at this time.[55]

December 2013: An additional 336 real-time radiation monitoring posts and 33 portable monitoring posts installed in coastal Fukushima.[56]

October 6, 2015: the Nuclear Regulation Authority (原子力規制委員会) instructs the Nuclear Regulation Agency (原子力規制庁) to issue a summary of radiation monitoring activities since the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011, and to make necessary revisions to the monitoring system.[57]

Early 2016: 38 monitoring posts transferred from relatively low-level radiation areas to (presumably) the former evacuation zone.

February 10, 2016: The Nuclear Regulation Agency reported back to the NRA about the monitoring results and their subsequent revisions to the monitoring system.

March 2017: 39 monitoring posts removed from across the prefecture. The NRA has yet to clarify whether they have been reinstalled elsewhere, as residents were informed they would be.[58]

December 2017: the  Nuclear Regulation Agency solicited opinions from municipal governments on the revisions.

March 20, 2018: the NRA announced its plans to revise the monitoring system.

April 2018: Citizens’ Group for Continued Radiation Monitoring established. They deliver letters with demands to the mayors of Kōriyama, Fukushima city, Iwaki city (April), Date city, Aizuwakamatsu city, Miharu town, and Shirakawa city (May).

April 16, 2018: CGCRM delivers letter with demands to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

<July 13, 2018: CGCRM plans to deliver further demands to the Nuclear Regulation Authority>


[1]Matsuji Takeyama, head of the Monitoring Information Division of the NRA, specifies that real-time radiation monitoring posts displaying radiation levels of less than 0.23µSv/hr will be removed, and states that there are approximately 2,400 such monitoring posts. See http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000224599.pdf. Portable monitoring posts have a distribution of one post per 10km in the westernmost Aizu region, one post per 5km in other regions, and 80 posts near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. See http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000139313.pdf, p.1.

[2]http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/shingi/chousa/kaihatu/016/shiryo/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2012/02/23/1317043_4_1.pdf

[3] You can find more information on this project here (EN), and an explanation of what the different radiation levels mean here (日本語).

[4] C.f. the Flint water crisis (see as well this report); the Bhopal disaster (1984; what some call the world’s worst industrial disaster, which took place in India); Church Rock (1979; the largest radioactive disaster in the United States); the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986).

[5] For delayed release of information, see SPEEDI issues and TEPCO’s confirmation that it covered up the meltdown of three reactors. For falsification, see discussions of radiation exposure records for nuclear workers. For an overview of inadequate data collection and misinformation, see Piers Williamson’s comprehensive article on thyroid cancer screenings by Fukushima Medical University and p.44-7 in the 2017 report, Genpatsu Zero Shakai e no Michi: Datsu Genshiryoku Seisaku no Jitsugen no Tame Ni. As this pertains to decontamination and decommissioning workers, see Hibaku Rōdō wo Kangaeru Nettowāku, Josen Rōdō, p.56-7; Genpatsu Jiko to Hibaku Rōdō.

[6]Special Report – Inside Tepco’s Bailout: Japan Inc Saves Its OwnReuters, 5/23/2011. For more on the 2008 financial crisis, c.f. We All Fall Down: the American Mortgage Crisis (2009); Elvin Wyly, C. S. Ponder, Pierson Nettling, Bosco Ho, Sophie Ellen Fung, Zachary Liebowitz, and Dan Hammel, “New Racial Meanings of Housing in America.” American Quarterly 64(3) 2012: 571-604.

[7] 坂本充孝「子の甲状腺検査/縮小は是か/6年目の被災地/うずまく議論」東京新聞 1/7/2017. See also 鈴木博喜 「【県民健康調査】「県民の理解深めたい」。星座長が第三者委の設置を提案。背景に日本財団の提言、検査体制縮小の布石か~甲状腺ガンは9人増えて183人に」民の声新聞 12/28/2016.

[8] C.f.甲状腺検査のあり方」検討はじまる〜国際がん研究機関Our Planet TV 10/25/2017; 53回 甲状腺検査縮小求める「県民の声」なしDays Japan 10/20/2016.

[9] 坂本充孝「子の甲状腺検査/縮小は是か/6年目の被災地/うずまく議論」東京新聞 1/7/2017. See (English) (日本語) for convention participants.

[10] http://taminokoeshimbun.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-99.html; http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/feature/tohokujisin/fukushima_report/list/CK2017011702000158.html. For the role of ICRP, UNSCEAR, WHO in the underestimation of health effects from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, see Kuchinskaya, The Politics of Invisibility, p.117-126; Alexey Nesterenko, Vassily Nesterenko, and Alexey Yablokov, “Chapter II. Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe for Public Health,” in Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 2009. Vassily Nesterenko was the former head of the Institute of Nuclear Energy, and former chief designer of mobile nuclear power plant Pamir (Kuchinskaya, p.109).

[11] Non-mandatory evacuees eligible for aid from Fukushima prefecture must be from one of the 23 designated “voluntary evacuee etc. target areas” (自主的避難等対象区域) in Fukushima prefecture, ranging as far west as Tenei village.

[12] C.f. the 2015 Waseda Institute of Medical Anthropology (早稲田大学災害復興医療人類学研究所) and NHK survey of 11,377 mandatory and non-mandatory evacuee households. Based on responses from 622 non-mandatory households, 60% of non-mandatory evacuees are women, and tend to be in their 30s and 40s (戸田典樹 『福島原発事故・漂流する自主避難者たち』東京:明石書店, 2016, p.28-34). See also Tokyo metropolitan government report on current issues faced by non-mandatory evacuees in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

[13] http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708280053.html

[14] http://www.cnic.jp/english/?p=3855

[15] For non-mandatory evacuees, c.f. Tami no Koe blog by independent journalist Suzuki Hiroki (http://taminokoeshimbun.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-236.html) and the Cooperation Center for 3.11 (https://www.change.org/p/原発事故避難者の強制立ち退きに反対します). Information on mandatory evacuee lawsuits was relayed from Hirono town representative Abe Kenichi, personal communication.

[16] Katayama Natsuko, 東電、4月から敷地の95%対象福島第一作業員 労務単価下げ「危険手当」 半減にも「これ以上なら通常工事水準に, Tokyo shimbun, 1/22/2018.

[17] Workers are also now required to pay for subpar meals at company cafeterias, while they have been effectively barred from bringing their own hot lunches. Katayama Natsuko, “Taigū dondon waruku naru,” Fukushima Sagyōin Nisshi, June 2, 2018,  http://38300902.at.webry.info/201806/article_4.html

[18] C.f. 原子力資料情報室「被ばく労働を考えるネットワーク」の取り組みと「被曝労働者春闘」統一行動 4/1/2014 (English); 渡辺博之「現場からの報告」前掲『検証原発労働』P.52-63; 被ばく労働ネットワーク『原発事故と被曝労働』東京:三一書房, 2012. See especially 高木和美 『原発被曝労働者の労働・生活実態分析―原発林立地域・若狭における聴き取り調査から』明石書店, 2017 for the most comprehensive study of the Japanese nuclear labor system thus far. For English reports, c.f. “Nuclear Workers Kept in Dark on Fukushima Hazard PayReuters, 10/8/2014.

[19] 片山夏子「東電、4月から敷地の95%対象 – 福島第一作業員 労務単価下げ – 「危険手当」 半減にも – 「これ以上なら通常工事水準に」」東京新聞 1/22/2018.

[20] 原子力規制委員会「リアルタイム線量測定システムの配置の見直しについて(案)」3/20/2018.

[21] 今後、住民の帰還が見込まれる地域の復興に重点を 置くためにも、撤去したリアルタイム線量測定システムは、モニタリングポストの設置要望のある避難指示・解除区域市町村への移設などに活用します。(“リアルタイム線量測定システムの配置の見直しについて”,http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000224088.pdf )

[22] C.f. “Radiation Monitors In Fukushima Broken, Malfunction 4,000 Times,” The Mainichi, 5/20/2018.

[23] His full response:「原発からの事故の監視というより、むしろ汚染の状況について、汚染したもの、の土地においてどのくらいの線量のレベルなのかっていうことを常に住民の方が見るというものが目的なんですけれども、2400台くらいが対象ですので、それをまあ、移すわけですけれども、幾つが適正かというのは実はあんまりないと思っています。つまりこれは、学校とかですね、または人が集まるようなところに自治体の要望に応じて設置して行きたいと考えていますので、ちょっとまあ、これから帰還困難区域等も復興拠点を中心にだんだん進展して行くと思いますので、それに応じて適切に設置をして行くということになるのではないかと思います。」https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGL8ehkXa48

[24] http://taminokoeshimbun.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-237.html

[25] Personal communication, June 12, 2018. See “Radiation Monitors in Fukushima Broken, Malfunction 4,000 Times” for statistics.

[26] http://www.reconstruction.go.jp/topics/main-cat8/sub-cat8-3/2912_1shiropanpoint.pdf

[27] See Yabu Shiro, “Radiation Exposure is Unequal” for early discussion of the unevenness of radioactive fallout.

[28] The government formula uses the Japanese national average background radiation rate of 0.04µSv/hr in its formula, and assumes 8 hours of outdoor exposure and 12 hours of indoor exposure in a wooden building, which is assumed to reduce the exposure rate to 40% of the outdoor rate. The Japanese government calculated the hourly rate of 0.23µSv/hr as a rate of exposure that results in an additional 1 mSv/year beyond exposure to background radiation. To keep total exposure levels under the international standard of 1 mSv/year, by these calculations, the limit would be 0.19µSv/hr.

[29] See map for Hobara town, Date city. For more recent readings, you can zoom into the area on the Safecast Tilemap. Both maps show radiation levels ranging from 0.09~0.35µSv/hr.

[30] Calculated using the Japanese government formula, assuming residents are living in wood buildings. This does not account for the exposure levels of the homeless, nor for people who work outdoors, such as farmers, woodcutters, construction workers, traffic directors, deliverymen, security guards, etc.

[31] Richard Lloyd Parry, “Japan Faces 200 Year Wait For Fukushima Clean Up.” Times of London, 5/28/2015.

[32] See esp. reporting by Oshidori Mako on the fractured exhaust stack (排気筒) on reactor 2. Though there have been reports on the progression of fractures since the 2011 meltdown, the tower’s extremely high radiation levels (2 Sv/hr as of 2015, which is enough to kill someone instantly) have prevented workers from dismantling it. There are concerns that it could release high levels of radiation into the atmosphere should it collapse. TEPCO has announced that it will cut the tower into pieces and remove it.

[33] Transcribed from recording of April 16, 2018 negotiations between CGCRM and NRA. All subsequent transcribed statements are from the same unless otherwise indicated.

[34] In addition to the reduction of government aid, bullying and discrimination may be a large factor in returning evacuees. A survey of evacuee households conducted by Asahi newspaper and Professor Imai (Fukushima University) has found that 62% experienced bullying in the places to which they evacuated. This is corroborated by stories from personal interviews with evacuees. Many Okuma residents who have evacuated to Niigata prefecture, Iwaki city, and elsewhere hide their origins due to bullying. Some residents have also returned to coastal Fukushima because of bullying by residents of the places to which they evacuated.

[35] The “linear no-threshold hypothesis” has been accepted in international scientific communities. For a brief review of low-level radiation exposure and increased cancer mortality, see低線量電離放射線被ばくのリスクに関する二本松宣言」『科学』87(3): 253-4. For another brief review in English, see Sakiyama Hisako, “What Was Clarified By The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission? Focusing On Low-level Radiation Exposure Risk” Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center, and “Protecting Children Against Radiation: Japanese Citizens Take Radiation Protection into Their Own HandsAsia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus 9(25.1) 2011. (日本語). See also the National Academy of Sciences (2016) Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR-VII – Phase 2. Washington, D.C. Public Summary, p.10.

[36] May 22, 2018. 「被ばくさせられているのに、なんで知る権利を取るの?」

[37]  監視情報課

[38] 3/20/18 video. 「状況把握というよりは、そこに生活されている方がパッと見て分かるっていうのが特徴なので、それほど台数的には今後多くはないのではないかと思います。」

[39] 神経質、風評被害、感情的、個人的な意見・主観的

[40] 正しく知る・理解する

[41] C.f. 2012 reportback from  Iitate and Namie from Professor Hasegawa (Gunma University), who reported that the monitoring posts only shows 24% to 39% of the actual radiation levels; a similar 2012 report ; and systematic surveys conducted by Greenpeace.

[42] See (日本語) or Safecast’s comprehensive blog posts on these debates (Part 1) (Part 2) for an overview.

[43] Olga Kuchinskaya, The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995, p.105.

[44] Ibid., 106.

[45] Ibid., 106.

[46] Ibid., 107.

[47] Ibid., 145.

[48] Ibid., 31-2.

[49] http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/saigaijohou/syousai/1305173.htm

[50] Human Rights Watch, “Japan Forces Sterilization on Transgender People: Government Shouldn’t Require Surgery for Rights Protection” 11/29/2017. Human Rights Watch states, “the procedure [to gain legal recognition of their gender] is discriminatory, requiring applicants to be single and without children under 20, undergo a psychiatric evaluation to receive a diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID), and be sterilized.”

[51] C.f. http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/Global/japan/pdf/Uequal-impact-en.pdf

[52] C.f. evacuee statements compiled in 東日本大震災避難者の会「3.11避難者の声:当事者自身がアーカイブ」Thanks & Dream, 2017; 疋田香澄『保養ルポ』 forthcoming; David Slater, Rika Morioka, Haruka Danzuka “Micro-politics of Radiation: Young Mothers Looking for a Voice in Post-3.11 Fukushima” Critical Asian Studies 46:3 (2014): 485-508.

[53] The full name is, Act Concerning The Promotion Of Measures To Provide Living Support To The Victims, Including The Children Who Were Affected By The Tepco Nuclear Accident In Order To Protect And Support Their Lives. http://www.foejapan.org/energy/fukushima/pdf/170620_mitsuta.pdf, p.4. See here for English translation of the act.

[54] 「福島県内の学校等、公園等にデータ転送機能を備えた積算線量計を整備し、リアルタイム放射線監視システムを構築する」http://radioactivity.nsr.go.jp/ja/contents/1000/117/24/1001_082410_2.pdf

[55] 「文科省がネットで福島の線量公開」産経新聞 2/22/2012.

[56] http://radioactivity.nsr.go.jp/ja/contents/9000/8646/24/203_20140109.pdf

[57] 昨年11月25日及び先月6日に開催された原子力規制委員会において、東電福島第一原発事故から5年が経過しようとする中で、モニタリングについてこれまでの取組を整理し、必要な見直しを行うよう原子力規制庁に指示があった。http://www.nsr.go.jp/data/000139313.pdf

[58] Phone call by CGCRM to Fukushima prefecture Office of Radiation Monitoring (福島県放射線監視室) on April 13, 2018.


PARTIAL TRANSCRIPTION from NEGOTIATIONS WITH NUCLEAR REGULATORY AGENCY (APRIL 16, 2018)

4/16/18 規制委員会交渉(一部記録)

 

Source : https://jfissures.wordpress.com/2018/06/14/fukushima-monitoring-post/

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 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

Government Decides to Lift Evacuation Orders for Three Municipalities

3 villes

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