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Former mayor expresses anger at Tepco in trial over Fukushima crisis

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December 5, 2018
FUKUSHIMA – A former mayor of a city hit by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis told a court on Wednesday that he wants to express his “anger” on behalf of citizens who had to flee their homes due to the disaster and whose lives are still filled with uncertainties.
Katsunobu Sakurai, who was mayor of Minamisoma at the time the crisis erupted, testified before the Fukushima District Court in a lawsuit filed by 151 people seeking ¥3.7 billion ($32.7 million) in damages from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. They say the nuclear accident destroyed their communities due to the evacuations.
 
Sakurai was chosen among U.S. Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2011 after sharing the city’s predicament and calling for support via YouTube in the wake of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.
Following the accident, part of the city was designated as an evacuation zone where the 151 people, comprising 47 households, used to live. Most of the city is no longer subject to evacuation orders.
Sakurai said the city was forced to arrange evacuation buses on its own amid a lack of information from the central government, and that he “felt bitter and angry” after learning that the government helped arrange transportation for some other municipalities.
He also said the city’s residents are reluctant to return due to the slow progress of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“They think they might have to evacuate again,” Sakurai said.
Sakurai had been the city’s mayor until losing his seat in an election in January.
The Minamisoma residents filed the damages suit in 2015 for their losses and changes to their hometown as a result of the nuclear accident, triggered by a major earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
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December 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima evacuees forced back into unacceptably high radiation zones

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December 2, 2018
One man is advocating for their protection
By Linda Pentz Gunter
A UN Special Rapporteur who last August joined two colleagues in sounding an urgent alarm about the plight of Fukushima workers, has now roundly criticized the Japanese government for returning citizens to the Fukushima region under exposure levels 20 times higher than considered “acceptable” under international standards.
He urged the Japanese government to “halt the ongoing relocation of evacuees who are children and women of reproductive age to areas of Fukushima where radiation levels remain higher than what was considered safe or healthy before the nuclear disaster seven years ago.”
Baskut Tuncak, (pictured at top) UN Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, noted during a October 25, 2018 presentation at the UN in New York, as well at a press conference, that the Japan Government was compelling Fukushima evacuees to return to areas where “the level of acceptable exposure to radiation was raised from 1 to 20 mSv/yr, with potentially grave impacts on the rights of young children returning to or born in contaminated areas.”
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Typical housing for evacuees. 20 m2 prefab cabins, evacuation site, Miharu, Fukushima, 46 km north west of Fukushima-Daichi Nuclear Power Plant. (Photo: Lis Fields.)
 
He described exposure to toxic substances in general as “a particularly vicious form of exploitation.”
In August, Tuncak, along with Urmila Bhoola and Dainius Puras, expressed deep concern about the Fukushima “cleanup” workers, who include migrants, asylum seekers and the homeless. They feared “possible exploitation by deception regarding the risks of exposure to radiation, possible coercion into accepting hazardous working conditions because of economic hardships, and the adequacy of training and protective measures.
We are equally concerned about the impact that exposure to radiation may have on their physical and mental health.”
Now, Tuncak is urging Japan to return to the 1 millisievert a year allowable radiation exposure levels in place before the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster. 
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2011 map showing wide deposition of radioactive materials from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. (Courtesy 20 Millisieverts A Year. https://lisfields.org/20msvyear/)
 
In a revealing response to Tuncak’s presentation at the UN, the delegate from Japan claimed that 20 msv “is in conformity with the recommendation given in 2007 by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.” He also claimed that Tuncak’s press release would cause people in Fukushima to suffer “an inaccurate negative reputation” that was “further aggravating their suffering,” and that the government and people of Japan were “making effort with a view to dissipating this negative reputation and restoring life back to normal.” 
This view is deeply characteristic of the Abe government which is desperately attempting to “normalize” radiation among the population to create a public veneer that everything is as it was. This is motivated at least in part by an effort to dissipate fears about radiation exposure levels that will still be present during the 2020 Summer Olympics there, with events held not only in Tokyo but also in the Fukushima prefecture.
However, Tuncak corrected the delegate’s information, responding that:
“In 2007, the ICRP recommended deployment of “the justification principle. And one of the requests I would make for the Japanese government is to rigorously apply that principle in the case of Fukushima in terms of exposure levels, particularly by children, as well as women of reproductive age to ensure that no unnecessary radiation exposure and accompanying health risk is resulting.” Tuncak said Japan should “expeditiously implement that recommendation.”
He also reminded the delegate that “the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council last year, did issue a recommendation to lower the acceptable level of radiation back down from 20 millisieverts per year to one millisievert per year. And the concerns articulated in the press release today were concerns that the pace at which that recommendation is being implemented is far too slow, and perhaps not at all.”
During the press conference Tuncak noted that Japan is a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and that forcing evacuees back into areas contaminated to 20 mSv/yr was against the standards contained in that Convention. “We are quite concerned in particular for the health and well-being of children who may be raised or born in Fukushima,” he said.
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The Yamagata family in front of their quake-damaged pharmacy in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan April 12 2011 (VOA – S. L. Herman)
 
Earlier, Japan had sounded tacit agreement to reducing allowable exposure levels back down from 20 mSv/yr to 1 mSv/yr. But few believed they would carry this out given that it is virtually impossible to clean up severely contaminated areas in the Fukushima region back to those levels.
Bruno Chareyron, the director of the CRIIRAD lab (Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendentes sur la RADioactivité), noted in an August 17, 2018 Truthout article that:
“It is important to understand that the Fukushima disaster is actually an ongoing disaster. The radioactive particles deposited on the ground in March 2011 are still there, and in Japan, millions of people are living on territories that received significant contamination.”
Of the cleanup process, Chareyron told Truthout: “The ground and most contaminated tree leaves are removed only in the immediate vicinity of the houses, but a comprehensive decontamination is impossible.” He said in the article that the powerful gamma rays emitted by Cesium 137 could travel dozens of meters in the air. Therefore, the contaminated soil and trees located around the houses, which have not been removed, are still irradiating the inhabitants.
While the UN delegate from Japan claimed that no one was being forced to return and the decision rested with the evacuees alone, Tuncak expressed concern about coercion. “The gradual lifting of evacuation orders has created enormous strains on people whose lives have already been affected by the worst nuclear disaster of this century. Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the Government previously considered safe.”
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Recalling his efforts to protect Fukushima workers, Tuncak observed the irony that Japan had admitted that the death of a Fukushima worker from lung cancer was directly related to exposure to radiation at the stricken plant and “quite interestingly, the level of radiation that he was exposed to in the past five years was below the international community’s recommendation for acceptable exposure to radiation by workers.”
Tuncak’s report did not focus solely on Fukushima. It also included exploitation and abuse of Roma people, South Koreans exposed to a toxic commercial product and air pollution in London. During his UN presentation, he observed that “over two million workers die every year from occupational diseases, nearly one million from toxic exposures alone. Approximately 20 workers will have died, prematurely, from such exposures at work by the time I finish my opening remarks to you.”
Before addressing the plight of Fukushima evacuees, he pointed out how “exposure to toxic pollution is now estimated to be the largest source or premature death in the developing world, killing more people than HIV AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.” While noting that this problem exists to a greater or lesser degree the world over, he added that “pediatricians today describe children as born ‘pre-polluted,’ exposed to a cocktail of unquestionably toxic substances many of which have no safe levels of exposure.”
Japan’s decision to ignore pleas to halt repatriation of evacuees into high radiation exposure levels usually deemed unavoidable (but not safe) for nuclear workers, not ordinary citizens, will now tragically contribute to these numbers.
Mr. Baskut Tuncak is Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes. As a Special Rapporteur, he is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. 

December 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drone footage probably closest evacuees will get to going home

 

gugjh.jpgElementary school pupils in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, watch drone footage of their hometown of Futaba, which they are not permitted to enter due to high levels of radiation, and talk to local officials there via a satellite hookup.

 

hhjl;.jpgChildren living as evacuees are glued to images shot by a drone of their hometown of Futaba during a special presentation at their temporary campus in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on Nov. 26.

 

jklk.jpgThe children learn about decontamination work under way in Futaba via a satellite hookup during a field trip class held in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, 80 kilometers away from the hometown they were forced to abandon after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

 

November 27, 2018

IWAKI, Fukushima Prefecture–With barely no recollections of growing up in Futaba, a town rendered uninhabitable by the 2011 nuclear disaster, 11 young evacuees had a “homecoming” of sorts on Nov. 26.
The children, fourth- to sixth-graders at two public elementary schools who currently study at a temporary campus in Iwaki, 80 kilometers south of Futaba, attended a special 45-minute presentation in a school gym to watch drone footage of the area where they were born.
A satellite feed allowed the pupils to talk to local officials about efforts to decontaminate the once-bustling community.
Futaba was transformed into a ghost town by the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the earthquake and tsunami disaster. High radiation levels mean that entry still remains restricted.
The children watched aerial footage of scenic spots shot by drones on three 70-inch monitors. Beautiful images of beaches and mountains in fall colors caused them to lean forward and express amazement.
Fifth-grader, Mao Oyano, 11, who has few memories of living in Futaba as she left at the age of 3, expressed surprise at seeing “many more houses than I expected.”
The children fell silent when eerie images appeared of the wrecked nuclear plant.
Ninety-six percent of Futaba, a town that co-hosts the stricken nuclear facility, is located in a difficult-to-return zone because of high radiation levels and remains uninhabited.
Adults must receive permission to enter the area, but children under the age of 15 are not allowed access.
The children were aged between 2 and 4 when they left, and have not set foot in Futaba since then.
Prior to the disaster, Futaba had two elementary schools with 309 pupils. In spring 2014, the town opened a temporary school facility in Iwaki, a coastal city to where many Futaba residents evacuated, but the number of pupils dropped to 31.
The “homecoming” was the school’s first attempt to give the children an opportunity to ponder the tragedy that befell their hometown, according to a school official.
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201811270053.html

November 30, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Nearly 60,000 evacuees, 5,623 in temporary housing 7.5 yrs after Tohoku disaster

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A tsunami triggered by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake is seen surging inland in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, in the country’s northeast
 
September 11, 2018
Seven and a half years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake hit Japan on March 11, 2011, but nearly 60,000 people still remain in evacuation and more than 5,600 people are living in temporary housing because of the quake, devastating tsunami and the triple core meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant.
According to the government’s Reconstruction Agency, about 58,000 people still remained in evacuation as of August, although their number declined by about 15,000 during the past six months. As many as 5,623 people were living in prefabricated houses in the northeastern Japan prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, as of the end of August.
The construction of public housing for victims of the disaster is 96.5 percent complete, with 29,124 units built out of a planned 30,178 in those three prefectures as of late July. The achievement rate is 91.1 percent for Iwate and 98.4 percent for Miyagi. In Fukushima, the figure is 96.3 percent for evacuees from the nuclear accident.
Around the TEPCO nuclear power plant that spewed out a large amount of highly radioactive materials from the melted cores, 11 municipalities received evacuation orders from the central government. Although the orders were lifted in 70 percent of those areas by the spring of 2017, a total of seven cities, towns and villages still have so-called “difficult-to-return” zones with high radioactivity. Even in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, the ratio of actual to registered residents is about 20 percent.
The central government intends to phase out temporary housing in Iwate and Miyagi by fiscal 2020 when its designated reconstruction and revitalization period will end, but the timing will be delayed to fiscal 2021 or later in Fukushima. The preparation of land plots where people affected by the disaster can build their own houses is 90.6 percent complete in the three prefectures.
 
Okawa Elementary School, which was flooded by the tsunami caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, is seen in this Oct. 15, 2016 file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter.
 
As of Sept. 10, the number of those killed by the 2011 disaster stood at 15,896, and 2,536 people remained missing. The Reconstruction Agency says 3,676 people in 10 prefectures, including Tokyo, had died of causes related to the disaster, as of the end of March this year.
(Japanese original by Nobuyuki Hyakutake, Ishinomaki Local Bureau, and Toshiki Miyazaki, Fukushima Bureau)

September 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima evacuee asks for support at UN

 

 
A Japanese woman who evacuated Fukushima after the 2011 nuclear accident has called for international support at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
 
Akiko Morimatsu delivered a speech at the Council in Geneva on Monday. She moved to Osaka with her 2 children after the accident.
 
Morimatsu criticized the Japanese government for focusing only on policies that encourage former residents to return to the affected areas.
 
She called on the international community for support to protect children from further radiation exposure.
 
A Japanese official said the government will do all it can to expedite reconstruction, keeping in mind that those affected still face difficulty in their daily lives.
 
The Human Rights Council recommended last November that Japan should continue to support affected residents and voluntary evacuees, in line with requests from Germany and other member states.
 
The Japanese government says it accepts Council recommendations related to the accident. But it also says it has been providing necessary support in accordance with laws.
 

March 21, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Mother Calls at UN Rights Body Hearing for Full Implementation of “Fukushima Recommendations” by the Japanese Government

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Mother calls for full implementation of “Fukushima recommendations” at UN rights body hearing
GENEVA, March 19 (Xinhua) — The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on Monday adopted the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcome of Japan, but a mother from the Fukushima area pleaded at the hearing for the Japanese government to take measures to fully implement the “Fukushima recommendations.”
“The Japanese government has been ignoring people who want to avoid radiation,” Akiko Morimatsu, a mother, and evacuee from Koriyama in Fukushima, told the HRC.
Seven years after the meltdown of three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) after a massive earthquake hit Japan, the accident is still ongoing, as was recently admitted by Japan’s nuclear regulator, Greenpeace told the HRC.
The NGO said that its radiation investigations in Fukushima recently reported on the high levels of radiation that evacuees will be exposed to if they were to return to their homes.
It said this will pose an unacceptable risk for 40-100 years or more depending on the level of contamination.
At the UPR the Japanese government accepted UN recommendations to provide essential financial, housing and medical support for self-evacuees.
Yet in 2017 the government removed as many as 29,000 Fukushima citizens from the official record as self-evacuees and terminated housing support, said Greenpeace.
Morimatsu, is one of those who was “disappeared by the government,” said Greenpeace.
“I thank United Nation member states for defending the rights of Fukushima citizens and I call on you to continue to help all the victims and evacuees of nuclear disasters and to protect the people of Fukushima and East Japan, especially children, from radiation exposure,” said Morimatsu.
 
Fukushima evacuee asks for support at UN
A Japanese woman who evacuated Fukushima after the 2011 nuclear accident has called for international support at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Akiko Morimatsu delivered a speech at the Council in Geneva on Monday. She moved to Osaka with her 2 children after the accident.
Morimatsu criticized the Japanese government for focusing only on policies that encourage former residents to return to the affected areas.
She called on the international community for support to protect children from further radiation exposure.
A Japanese official said the government will do all it can to expedite reconstruction, keeping in mind that those affected still face difficulty in their daily lives.
The Human Rights Council recommended last November that Japan should continue to support affected residents and voluntary evacuees, in line with requests from Germany and other member states.
The Japanese government says it accepts Council recommendations related to the accident. But it also says it has been providing necessary support in accordance with laws.

March 20, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

A message from Ms. Akiko Morimatsu, an evacuee from Fukushima

Ms. Akiko Morimatsu, an evacuee from Fukushima, sent a message to citizens who live near a nuclear power plant.
“–What is the hardest thing for you, seven years after the evacuation?
 
The hardest thing is being exposed to low-level radiation. It does not cause any immediate symptoms. It has no color and no odor. It does not cause pain; you do not feel hot or itchy. If you could feel the effects of nuclear exposure, it would be lethal. In Fukushima, when you are facing a low-level radiation exposure, none of the five senses can detect it. Therefore, it’s possible to get the impression that you are not affected by radioactivity while there.
According to the logic of those who want to operate nuclear power plants, there is nothing to worry about. These people are taking advantage of the fact that we cannot see radioactivity. It’s not right. In Fukushima, we’ve started to experience cases of thyroid cancer and other health issues, including unknown illnesses.”

 

“There is a reality that many residents in Japan continue to live away from their homes to avoid radioactivity in contaminated areas due to the nuclear accident.
In this country, there are many so-called “mother-child evacuees” where mothers have evacuated without their husbands to protect their children. However, the Japanese government does not keep the accurate number nor the situation of those evacuees, and continues to promote policies to lift evacuation orders for areas near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and encourages residents to return there.
A lesson from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Fukushima is that we should not create any more nuclear disasters or nuclear victims. It is a fundamental human right to live free from radiation exposure and to have the right to health, which are directly related to people’s lives and health that needed to be respected the most.”

March 20, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

‘You’re Contaminated’: The Stigma Against Japan’s Fukushima Survivors

Mar 12 2018
A 2011 quake and tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, killing thousands and displacing more. Two ‘nuclear refugees’ explain why returning home is more complicated than it seems.
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Akiko Kamata and Keiko Owada.
 
This month marks the seventh anniversary of the triple disaster that hit the east coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, when a 9.1 magnitude quake and tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Almost 16,000 people were declared dead.
 
While the nuclear disaster is becoming a distant memory for most Japanese, for some others it is their everyday reality. Nuclear refugees and evacuees face discrimination, separation from loved ones, and in some cases, they are even forced to return to the former evacuation zone.
 
The government, worried about people getting exposed to radiation, declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the plant and uprooted close to 165,000 people. As of today, there are still 50,000 people who haven’t returned to Fukushima.
 
Keiko Owada, 66, is one of them. When I meet her in Tokyo, she refers to the Japanese capital as her home for the past seven years. That will soon change due to the government’s decision to withdraw her free housing subsidies.
 
Because decontamination work has made progress and food declared safe from radiation, it has been deemed safe to return to most villages within the evacuation zone. The same goes for Owada’s village Naraha, where the evacuation order was lifted two years ago.
 
Owada is not excited about the prospect of returning to Naraha. “Would I continue to get financial support for my apartment here in Tokyo, I would have stayed here, yes. I’ll tell you why: there is no hospital in Naraha, only a small hospital for first aid. There is no supermarket, only a small convenience store. And the reason is simple: only a few people have returned.”
 
Life as an evacuee hasn’t always been easy, Owada explains. “It wasn’t like people were treating me any different, but my neighbors never greeted me. I think it’s because of the compensation I received and the free housing. They knew I was from Fukushima, that’s why.”
 
According to Owada, some of the other evacuees in Tokyo she knows have faced harsher treatment. “I know of others whose cars were damaged on purpose because they had a Fukushima license plate. That’s why I never parked my car in the middle of the parking lot, but always in a corner, so no one could see it.”
 
If anything, Owada’s story illustrates how many evacuees continued to live in fear. Displaced from their homes, dropped in a new community—the disaster is anything but over for them.
 
As an evacuee in Tokyo, Owada went back to Fukushima on numerous occasions. She can still recall her first time back in June 2011. The town of Naraha was still a no-go-area, and she and her family only had one hour to visit. “We wore protective clothes against radiation, with only a small plastic bag for gathering some personal belongings. We had too little time, and the bag was too little for our entire family. But I can remember the smell—[there were] rats everywhere and small animals’ feces.”
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Keiko Owada.
Of course, there are things she misses about her old town, like growing vegetables and fruits on her land. But it doesn’t take away the concerns she has about the dangers of radiation exposure, despite the government’s reassurance that it is safe to live there.
 
“Even though the streets and houses are decontaminated, they didn’t even touch with mountains and forests. Radiation hasn’t been cleaned everywhere. My house is right next to the mountains, so my house might get contaminated.”
 
Akiko Kamata, 66, still remembers how she was surprised by the alarm warning for a tsunami in her village of Odaka. When I meet her at a Tokyo café, she recalls how she sheltered in Fukushima the first few weeks after the disaster. “I still remember taking my first bath after 10 days, it felt so good.”
 
When Kamata got in touch with relatives living in other parts of Japan, she was shocked to hear one sister-in-law’s initial response. “After the disaster, I wanted to flee to Chiba [a prefecture next to Tokyo], my sister-in-law picked up the telephone and told me I didn’t have to come to their house. ‘You’re contaminated,’ she told me.”
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An aerial view of damage to Sukuiso, Japan, a week after the earthquake and tsunami devastated the area.
Eventually she did manage to find a place in Chiba, the region she grew up in as a child. “People were nice to us in Chiba. But still I noticed some skepticism. After I asked the regional authorities for financial support their answer was, ‘No, people in Chiba are victims of the earthquake as well.’”
 
Kamata did receive a one-off compensation payment from TEPCO: 7 million yen per person, or just over $65,600. Her husband received a similar amount.
 
Although Kamata is thankful for the financial support, they have not been compensated for the loss of income from their family business in Odaka. “I’m thinking about calling in the help of an organization that specializes evacuees with these type of claims,” she says.
 
Kamata has decided not to return to Odaka. Her husband’s illness (he suffers from a nerve disease that makes him reliant on Kamata’s support) got worse during the evacuation. She fears that it might worsen if they move back to Fukushima.
 
As Kamata remembers what life was like back in Fukushima, she uses a handkerchief to wipe a tear from her cheek. She barely speaks to her friends anymore.
 
“The disaster divided our communities, both physically as well as mentally. People got separated. One friend of mine in Chiba is thinking about divorcing her husband. He wants her to come back to Fukushima, but she doesn’t want this. One reason is exposure to radiation, but there are more reasons, such as her child’s school and the fact that they’ve gotten used to life in Tokyo.”
 
There is one more story she would like to share, Kamata says while crying. “One friend of mine is a farmer in Odaka. She had 10 cows. They evacuated to Chiba just like me and couldn’t go back to Fukushima to feed the cows. Once they could return for the first time to check on the animals, only three of them were still alive. The others died from starvation, and they were all looking at the same direction—the road the farmers would come from to feed them.”
 

March 15, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Japanese government accepts United Nations Fukushima recommendations – current policies now must change to stop violation of evacuee human rights

March 8, 2018

Tokyo – The Japanese government has announced that it had accepted all four recommendations made at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the rights of evacuees from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. The decision is a victory for the human rights of tens of thousands of evacuees, and civil society that have been working at the UNHRC and demanding that Japan accept and comply with UN principles. The decision means that the Japanese government must immediately change its unacceptable policies, said Greenpeace. The announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was made in a formal submission to the UNHRC*.
 
Japan is to give its formal decision on 16 March at the the UNHRC Universal Periodic Review session in Geneva to recommendations made by Austria, Portugal and Mexico on the need to respect the rights of Fukushima, particularly women and children, and from Germany, which called on Japan to protect citizens from harmful radiation by dramatically reducing permitted radiation exposure.[1][2]
 
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Akiko Morimatsu, a mother and evacuee from Fukushima standing in front of MOFA with Greenpeace Japan. (c)Greenpeace
 
At an event held in Tokyo today, where two evacuee mothers, a leading lawyer representing Fukushima citizens, Human Rights Now, and Greenpeace, explained the crisis facing many survivors and the multiple violations of their rights by the government of Shinzo Abe and the implications of its decision to accept all the four UNHRC recommendations.
 
“Over the last seven years I have seen many different violation of human rights in Japan. The discrimination we are suffering as evacuees is a reflection of the attitude of the Government towards us, but we have been exercising our rights to be protected from radiation. I would like to believe the acceptance of the United Nations recommendations will be the start of a change in our society”, said Akiko Morimatsu, a mother and Fukushima evacuee from Koriyama. Next week she will leave Japan for Geneva, together with Greenpeace, where she will participate at the UNHRC session and give a statement where Japanese government will make its official acceptance of the recommendations.
 
“I cautiously welcome the Japanese government’s acceptance of the UN recommendations. The government may believe that an insincere acceptance is sufficient. They are wrong to think so – and we are determined to hold them to account to implement the necessary changes that the UN members states are demanding,” said Yuichi Kaido, a lawyer for multiple Fukushima accident lawsuits against TEPCO and the Japanese Government.
 
“We welcome the Japanese government decision to accept all the four United Nations recommendations. Now they must apply them in full and without delay. The government policy of allowing people to be exposed to high levels of radiation is incompatible with their acceptance of the 1 mSv recommendation made by Germany. They must now act immediately to change their policies in the interests of radiation protection of Fukushima citizens, particularly women and children,” said Shaun Burnie, nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany.
 
Greenpeace radiation survey results published last week showed high levels of radiation in Iitate and Namie that make it unsafe for citizens to return before mid century, and even more severe contamination in the exclusion zone of Namie. High radiation levels in Obori would mean you would reach your maximum annual exposure in 16 days.[3]
 
The lifting of evacuation orders in areas heavily contaminated by the nuclear accident, which far exceed the international standard of 1 mSv/year for the general public, raise multiple human rights issues. Housing support is due to end in March 2019 for survivors from these areas. The Japanese government also ended housing support for so-called ‘self evacuees’ from other than evacuation order zone in March 2017, and removed as many as 29,000 of these victims from official records. This amounts to economic coercion where survivors may be forced to return to the contaminated areas against their wishes due to economic pressure. This clearly contravenes multiple human rights treaties to which Japan is party.[4]
 
The briefing was held at the House of Councilors office building.Speakers were Ms. Noriko Matsumoto (Fukushima survivor); Mr. Yuichi Kaido (Lawyer for multiple Fukushima accident lawsuits against TEPCO and the Japanese Government); Ms. Kazuko Ito (Lawyer, Secretary General of Human Rights Now); Jan Vande Putte (Greenpeace Belgium, radiation protection expert) Ms. Akiko Morimatsu (Fukushima survivor).
 
 
*The announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000326823.pdf
 
 
Notes
 
[1] Universal Periodic Review (UNHRC website) http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx
 
[2] UN Human Rights Council’s Review of Japan voices serious concerns for Fukushima nuclear survivors (Greenpeace Japan press statement, 14 Nov 2017) http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/press/2017/pr2017111411/
 
[3] A dose of 4.3 micro sieverts per hour in average in Obori at 1m height, is high enough to expose someone to the maximum allowable dose of 1mSv/year in 16 days, following the Japanese government methodology.
 
[4] See Unequal Impact (Greenpeace Japan report) for details http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/press/2017/pr201703071/
Contacts:
Chisato Jono, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Japan, email: chisato.jono@greenpeace.org, mob: +81 (0) 80-6558-4446
 
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist, Greenpeace Germany, email: sburnie@greenpeace.org, mob: +81 (0)80-3694-2843 (Currently based in Japan)

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Evacuees from 2011 disaster number over 73,000

“About half of 35 affected municipalities in the 3 hardest-hit prefectures — Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima — have seen their populations drop by more than 10 percent.”
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March 7, 2018
Nearly 7 years on from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan, tens of thousands of people have yet to return to their homes.
 
Japan’s Reconstruction Agency said there were more than 73,000 evacuees as of February 13th. That’s about 50,000 fewer than the year before.
 
About 53,000 people are living in prefabricated temporary housing, municipality-funded private residences, or welfare facilities. Nearly 20,000 are staying with relatives or friends.
 
About 50,000 Fukushima residents remained evacuated as of last month, according to the agency and the prefectural government.
 
Some areas of the prefecture have been off-limits to residents since the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
 
About half of 35 affected municipalities in the 3 hardest-hit prefectures — Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima — have seen their populations drop by more than 10 percent.

 

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | | Leave a comment

Radiation Refugees and the De-Valuing of Life

Tuesday, March 6, 2018
 
We are approaching the Fukushima Daiichi’s anniversary, as the many news reports testify.
 
My brief “thematic” analysis of this year’s crop of Fukushima anniversary news stories indicates “returning home” as the dominant theme.
 
Fukushima’s refugees – both official and non-official – are inclined to be suspicious of the government’s assurances that they face no additional health risk by returning to officially de-contaminated areas.
 
Here is a particularly detailed article describing competing claims about safety:
Derrick A. Paulo & Tamal Mukherjee (2018, March 4). New cracks seven years on, as Fukushima residents urged to return home. Channel News Asia. Available, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/cnainsider/fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-radiation-residents-return-safety-9888552 (accessed March 6, 2018)
 
…The upper limit of the stated safe range in an emergency is 100 mSv/year, but some experts contend that exposure to even 20 mSv/year is too high. Former World Health Organisation regional adviser (Radiation and Public Health) Keith Baverstock said: “It could be, living in your house, the dose rate is 20 mSv/year. The dose rate outside that area that has been cleaned up can be a lot higher. So no, it isn’t safe.”
 
Cancer specialist Misao Fujita, 55, contrasted the situation in Fukushima with medical X-ray rooms, where the typical maximum amount of radiation allowed is five mSv/year – a level that hospital staff “rarely” get exposed to, he said.
The article describes efforts by 70 Fukushima families to seek justice using the court system, alleging that the government did not release Speedi information (which I’ve documented in my published books), leading to chaotic evacuations and increasing radiation exposure.
 
A Mr. Konno, a resident of Tsushima, said that his child has had “cold-like symptoms for over two years.”
 
Japan’s radiation authorities are themselves divided, with some seeing evidence of exposure in people, while others hotly denying that any relationship between disease and radiation exposure can be proven in the absence of definitive evidence of exposure level.
 
Very elevated levels of children’s thyroid cancer stand at the center of the ongoing safety debates (http://majiasblog.blogspot.com/2017/01/did-fukushima-daiichi-cause-cancer-in.html).
 
My head hurts. My heart hurts.
 
The Channel News Asia article also addresses ongoing contamination of the Pacific Ocean, which I’ve discussed frequently at this blog (most recently here: http://majiasblog.blogspot.com/2018/03/fukushima-daiichis-ongoing-assault.html). Japan’s former prime minister is quoted as saying he is confident contaminated water is flowing into the ocean:
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who was the premier when the nuclear accident happened, told Insight there is no doubt “some of the water is flowing into the (Pacific) ocean”.
Japan is not the only nation to have produced radiation refugees and to be contaminating the pacific and other large bodies of water.
 
In a recent chapter I wrote on radiation refugees I note that Pacific Islanders, whose lives and livelihoods were catastrophically changed by US atmospheric testing during the early Cold War, are still seeking redress. Here is a brief excerpt from this chapter:
For decades after WWII, legal recourse and compensation were denied to entire communities living in landscapes of risk after being exposed to atmospheric testing. 
For example, indigenous people exposed to atmospheric testing in the South Pacific Marshall Islands (1946-1955) were studied as experimental subjects by the US military, but to this day are still seeking full compensation for ongoing claims of acute health problems and property lost due to contamination. 
In 2012, Calin Georgescu, then-United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxic waste, concluded after a visit to the Marshall Islands that many communities reported feeling like “nomads” in their own country.
Nomads in their own country. I wonder if that is what Fukushima refugees feel like. I wonder how long it will be before the US has its own newly-made batch of radiation refugees.
 
 
Trump’s promise to extend the operating license of nuclear reactors by decades ensures future US radiation refugees:
Ari Natter (2018, February 21). Nuclear Reactors Could Run as Long as 80 Years Under Trump Plan. Bloomberg https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2018-02-21/nuclear-reactors-could-run-as-long-as-80-years-under-trump-plan?
Radiation refugees are among the dispossessed. Their lives have been discounted.
 
We see the discounting of the lives of the exposed when we evaluate the assumptions of the new policy toward “ADAPTATION” of people in radioactive zones being promoted by organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
 
Adaptation is occurring as governments, including the US and Japan, raise the allowable exposure level after radiological emergencies. By raising the exposure levels, governments discount the lost years of the exposed and reduce the costs and publicity damage caused by evacuation.
 
Exposures levels go up while environmental health protections are lifted.
 
Life is devalued.

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fleeing from Fukushima: a nuclear evacuation reality check

March 4, 2018
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By Dr. Ian Fairlie
(The following is an excerpt from a longer article on the subject of evacuations after severe nuclear accidents. While this section focuses on Fukushima, there are lessons here for all nuclear sites and the likely failure of “on paper” evacuation plans.)
If another severe nuclear accident, such as Windscale (in 1957), Chernobyl (1986) or Fukushima (2011) were to occur, then the most important response, in terms of preventing future cancer epidemics, is evacuation. The other main responses are shelter and stable iodine prophylaxis. Adverse health effects would primarily depend on wind direction and on the nature of the accident.  This article looks primarily at the Fukushima evacuation and its after-effects.
When the Fukushima-Daiichi, Japan nuclear disaster began on March 11, 2011, evacuations were not immediate and some were hampered by the destructive after-effects of the Tsunami and earthquake that precipitated the nuclear crisis.
Once people were evacuated, little, if any, consideration seems to have been given to how long such evacuations would last. For example, the large majority of the 160,000 people who left or were evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture are still living outside the Prefecture. Many are living in makeshift shelters such as shipping containers or prefabricated houses.
2
Deserted town of Futaba, with ironic welcome banner: “nuclear, a bright and future energy source.”
At present, the Japanese Government is attempting to force evacuees (by withdrawing state compensation) to return to less contaminated areas, with little success. Currently, seven years after the accident, an area of about 1,000 square kilometers is still subject to evacuation and no entry orders. This compares with the area of 2,700 square kilometers still evacuated and subject to no or restricted entry at Chernobyl, almost 32 years after the accident.
Experience of the Fukushima Evacuation
In 2015 and 2016, I visited Fukushima Prefecture in Japan with international study teams. These study tours were informative as they revealed information about the evacuations that differed from official accounts by TEPCO and the Japanese Government. From many discussions with local mayors, councillors, local health groups and small community groups, the following information was revealed.
3
An evacuation shelter used by Fukushima refugees.
The most common figure cited for evacuees is 160,000, of which 80,000 were evacuated by the authorities and the rest left to evacuate on their own, often on foot, cycles and carts. It took about two weeks to evacuate all parts of the initial 20 km (later 30 km) radius evacuation areas around the Fukushima reactors.
The main reason for the delays was that many roads in the Prefecture were jammed with gridlocks which sometimes lasted 24 hours a day, for several days on end on some roads. These traffic jams were partly due to the poor existing road infrastructure and partly due to many road accidents. These jams were of such severity that safety crews for the Fukushima nuclear station had to be moved in and out mostly by helicopter. All public transport by trains and buses ceased. Mobile telephone networks and the internet crashed due to massive demand.
Thousands of people either refused to leave their homelands or returned later. Older farmers often refused to leave their animals behind or be moved from their ancestral lands. In at least a dozen recorded cases, older farmers slaughtered their cow herds rather than leave them behind (dairy cows need to be milked daily): they then committed suicide themselves in several instances.
4
A cow wanders down a deserted street in Namie. (Herman, VOA).
According to Hachiya et al (2014), the disaster adversely affected the telecommunications system, water supplies, and electricity supplies including radiation monitoring systems. The local hospital system was dysfunctional; hospitals designated as radiation-emergency facilities were unable to operate because of damage from the earthquake and tsunami, and some were located within designated evacuation zones. Emergency personnel, including fire department personnel, were often asked to leave the area.
At hospitals, evacuations were sometimes carried out hurriedly with the unfortunate result that patients died due to intravenous drips being ripped out, medicaments being left behind, the absence of doctors and nurses who had left, and ambulance road accidents. Many hastily-allocated reception centres (often primary schools) were either unable or ill-equipped to deal with seriously ill patients.
Much confusion resulted when school children were being bussed home, while their parents were trying to reach schools to collect their children. Government officials, doctors, nurses, care workers, police, firepersons, ambulance drivers, emergency crews, teachers, and others faced the dilemma of whether to stay at their posts or return to look after their families. In the event, many emergency crews refused to enter evacuation zones for fear of radiation exposure.
Stable iodine was not issued to most people. Official evacuation plans were either non-existent or inadequate and, in the event, next to useless. In many cases, local mayors took the lead and ordered and supervised evacuations in their villages without waiting for orders or in defiance of them. Apparently, the higher up the administrative level, the greater the levels of indecision and lack of responsibility.
In the years after the accident, the longer-lasting effects of the evacuations have become apparent. These include family separations, marital break-ups, widespread depression, and further suicides. These are discussed in a recent publication (Morimatsu et al, 2017) which relates the sad, often eloquent, stories of the Fukushima people. They differ sharply from the accounts disseminated by TEPCO.
Deaths from evacuations at Fukushima
Official Japanese Government data reveal that nearly 2,000 people died from the effects of evacuations necessary to avoid high radiation exposures from the Fukushima disaster, including from suicides.
The uprooting to unfamiliar areas, cutting of family ties, loss of social support networks, disruption, exhaustion, poor physical conditions and disorientation resulted in many people, in particular older people, apparently losing their will to live.
The evacuations also resulted in increased levels of illnesses among evacuees such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus and dyslipidaemia, psychiatric and mental health problems, polycythaemia — a slow growing blood cancer — cardiovascular disease, liver dysfunction, and severe psychological distress.
5
Radiation dosimeter, Japan.
Increased suicide rates occurred among younger and older people following the Fukushima evacuations, but the trends are unclear. A 2014 Japanese Cabinet Office report stated that, between March 2011 and July 2014, 56 suicides in Fukushima Prefecture were linked to the nuclear accident.
Should evacuations be ordered?
The above account should not be taken as arguments against evacuations as they constitute an important dose-saving and life-saving strategy during emergencies. Instead, the toll from evacuations should be considered part of the overall toll from nuclear accidents.
In future, deaths from evacuation-related ill-heath and suicides should be included in assessments of the fatality numbers from nuclear disasters.
For example, although about 2,000 deaths occurred during and immediately after the evacuations, it can be calculated from UNSCEAR (2013) collective dose estimates that about 5,000 fatal cancers will arise from the radiation exposures at Fukushima, i.e. taking into account the evacuations. Many more fatal cancers would have occurred if the evacuations had not been carried out.
There is an acute planning dilemma here: if evacuations are carried out (even with good planning) then illnesses and deaths will undoubtedly occur. But if they are not carried out, even more people could die. In such situations, it is necessary to identify the real cause of the problem. And here it is the existence of nuclear power plants near large population centres. In such cases, consideration should be given to the early closure of the nuclear power plants, and switching to safer means of electricity generation.
Conclusions
The experiences of Japanese evacuees after Fukushima are distressing to read. Their experiences were terrible, so much so that it requires Governments of large cities with nearby nuclear power plants to reconsider their own situations and to address the question…. what would happen if radioactive fallout heavily contaminated large areas of their city and required millions of residents to leave for long periods of time, for example several decades?
And how long would evacuations need to continue…. weeks, months, years, or decades? The time length of evacuations is usually avoided in the evacuation plans seen so far. In reality, the answer would depend on cesium-137 concentrations in surface soils. The time period could be decades, as the half-life of the principal radionuclide, Cs-137, is 30 years. This raises the possibility of large cities becoming uninhabited ‘ghost’ towns like Tomioka, Okuma, Namie, Futaba, etc in Japan and Pripyat in Ukraine.
This bleak reality is hard to accept or even comprehend. However it is a matter that some governments need to address after Fukushima. It is unsurprising therefore, that after Fukushima, several major European states including Germany and Switzerland have decided to phase out their nuclear reactors.
For the full article with references, read here: http://www.ianfairlie.org/news/evacuations-severe-nuclear-accidents/
For more of Dr. Ian Fairlie’s work, please visit his website: http://www.ianfairlie.org/
Dr. Ian Fairlie is a London, UK-based independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment.

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Going home after 7 years of the accident Story of Ms Kanno

 

 
February 28, 2018
 
 
Japanese government forcing Fukushima evacuees back into radioactive areas by cutting their compensation. This Greenpeace video provides one story now seven years after the triple catastrophe.
 
Nearly seven years after the start of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, mrs. Kanno returns to her evacuated home, the highly contaminated exclusion zone of Namie, Fukushima prefecture. Includes interviews with Mrs. Kanno and Greenpeace radiation specialist Jan Vande Putte.

March 2, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

7 years on, local gov’ts face challenge in protecting 3/11 evacuees from isolation

February 26, 2018
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A disaster recovery support worker, left, listens to an evacuee on his life and worries in Taiwa, Miyagi Prefecture, on Feb. 15, 2018.
 
While March 11 marks the seventh anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami that triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, tens of thousands of people who evacuated from their hometowns in the wake of the triple disaster are yet to return. Now, local governments are facing a challenge as they make efforts to prevent evacuees scattered across Japan from becoming isolated.
As of January this year, 75,206 people were still living outside their hometowns following evacuation in the wake of the triple disaster in March 2011. Of those, 40,349 from the three prefectures hit hardest by the disaster — Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate — had left their hometowns to reside in areas outside their home prefectures. While local authorities continue to visit evacuees door-to-door, in many cases their whereabouts have become unknown.
On Feb. 15, Naokiyo Suzuki, 66, and two other disaster recovery support workers sent by the Tomioka Municipal Government in Fukushima Prefecture visited the home of 63-year-old Kazunari Sakamoto, who has evacuated from his hometown with his wife to Taiwa, Miyagi Prefecture. The workers checked whether the couple needed welfare services as they chatted with them.
“It’s hard for us to get local information on the town we used to live in, and we tend to think that we’ve been abandoned,” Sakamoto says. “I’m thankful that workers from my hometown come to check on us.”
At an apartment in the Miyagi Prefecture city of Tagajo, the support workers met with a male relative of an evacuee in her 90s to learn how she was doing. The relative told them that she fell (at the apartment) and bruised her face and said he wanted to have her moved from the current place as he was worried about the steep stairs at the building. Suzuki’s team then asked the bureau at the Fukushima Prefectural Government to handle the man’s request.
There are 34,202 Fukushima Prefecture residents who left the prefecture after the disaster and have not returned. The prefectural government has set up disaster recovery hubs in nine prefectures in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, including Tokyo, and support workers visit and meet with the evacuees. Separately, the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Tomioka and Namie continue to visit their local residents who have evacuated outside the prefecture. These local governments are utilizing the disaster recovery support workers program set up by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to cover expenditure, including the support workers’ salaries and their activity fees. The program was established with the objective of providing services to watch over the evacuees.
At the same time, differences in support measures taken by the three prefectures have become apparent. The Iwate and Miyagi prefectural governments, with 1,234 and 4,913 evacuees outside those prefectures, respectively, conduct door-to-door visits, not to check the evacuees’ lives away from their home, but rather to confirm their thoughts on returning to their home prefectures. Both prefectural governments therefore do not visit the evacuees’ homes if their will to return can be confirmed via a phone call or in writing. They explain that they have phone consultation services and other methods to respond to evacuees’ needs.
With such handling of the evacuees, some are feeling increasingly isolated. An 83-year-old woman who lives by herself at a housing complex in Saitama Prefecture after her home in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, was swept away in the tsunami says she only exchanges conversations at her doorstep with a social worker who stops by about once every two months.
“There were various things I could enjoy in Otsuchi, but there’s nothing like that here,” the woman says. She hardly goes out, except to visit the hospital and to go shopping.
A study shows that the risk of depression increases when a person does not have someone in their immediate circle to talk to. Waseda University and other organizations began a survey in October last year targeting households that have moved from Fukushima Prefecture to the Tokyo metropolitan area after the disaster. According to a midterm preliminary report, of the 356 households that responded to a question on whether members had someone to talk to when there was a problem or concern, 157 households, or 44 percent, said “no.” Of these households, 49, or 31.2 percent, said there was at least one family member suspected to have depression — about three times higher than the corresponding figure for households whose members had someone to talk to.
Among the respondents in this survey was a couple in their 50s who said they were thinking about a family suicide due to financial hardships. The husband has had a hard time finding a job and their second son stopped going to school due to bullying. They decided to “leave some kind of trace” before taking their own lives when the questionnaire arrived in the mail and they raised their voice for the first time.
Yutaka Aiko, director general of support group “Shinsai Shien (disaster support) Network Saitama” which helped out with the survey, points out that there are people who hide the fact that they are disaster evacuees from others around them. He stressed that administrative bodies need to understand evacuees’ circumstances through door-to-door visits.
The Mainichi Shimbun asked each local government that conducts door-to-door visits about the number of households they have visited and the number of families they could actually meet, and calculated the success rate. As a result, the Fukushima Prefectural Government had a 34 percent success rate and the Miyagi Prefectural Government 24 percent. Some housing units that are supposed to house evacuees show no sign of occupancy, making it difficult for local authorities to know where the evacuees are located.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

NUCLEAR MIGRANTS

By Cécile Asanuma-Brice,
Researcher in urban sociology,
Franco-Japanese Institute Tokyo UMIFRE 19-CNRS /
CLERSE Laboratory, University Lille 1-CNRS
 
Translation Hervé Courtois & Kingsley Osborn
 
The explosion of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on 11 March 2011 caused serious radioactive contamination that forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. Because this proves the impossibility of managing a nuclear accident, the refuge is not desired by the national authorities who opted for a nuclear action, nor by the international authorities. At first the authorities provided aid and shelter, but all aid was interrupted in April 2017 at the same time as the reopening of part of the former evacuation zone in order to force the migrants to return to life in the contaminated territories.
 
Chapter breakdown
– Summary
– A morning like any other
– The effects of resilience
– This new earthquake revives anger
– Despite common sense, the return to the former evacuation zone organized by the authorities takes place
– What is the real situation?
– Progress, and life: what science is entitled to question
 
 
We can not finish counting the years of what we have too quickly called the “after” Fukushima , however we might wish it, as the ‘’after’’ hour has not yet come. The situation has never stopped deteriorating. The insolvable problems are still too numerous on the nuclear plant site for one to evoke an “after” which would suggest a resolved situation allowing a new beginning. While information on the subject is scarce, and attempts to respond to a self-appeasing desire under the approval of the international authorities in charge of the issue by propagating the magic formula of “everything is fine”, in fact this is not the truth. Far from being “under control”, the management of this disaster resulting in the destruction of 40% of the prefecture’s landscape continues its course, showing every day the human inability to contain the nuclear disaster. After so many years, the corium [1] of reactors 1, 2, and 3 have still not been detected. The only information we have is that they are no longer in the tanks. More than 800 tons of highly radioactive material has escaped from its confinement to penetrate the groundwater. The position of the material cannot even be pinpointed precisely because of a high level of radioactivity preventing humans, and even robots, from approaching it. The coriums must be permanently cooled, during all these years, by more than 300 tons of water [2] which daily become contaminated in contact with the radioactive material. This highly contaminated water is in turn stored in tanks around the reactors, nearly one million cubic meters stored at present. Authorities regularly announce dumping some of the water in the sea because of the inability to store all the liquid. No solution has yet been found at this barrel of Danaides, subject to human management and its mistakes. Thus, in December 2016 the injection of cooling water into the reactor 3 was suspended inadvertently…
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Figure 1. Map of the distribution of contamination in Bq / m² (Source: Japanese Ministry of Education and Research, September 2011. Translation and adaptation: Cécile Asanuma-Brice, Géoconfluences, 2017.)
 
 
It is not without surprise that we see the ardor of international organizations, as well as the Japanese government, wanting to force home the people who fled in the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 disaster, generating waves of migrations towards the south of the country, most generally towards the urbanized zones. More than six years after the explosion of the plant, and present more than ever on this rural territory, the members of the institutions engaged in the nuclear world [3], engage in “humanitarian work” in defense of peasants at risk, praising the benefits of resilience (Asanuma-Brice, 2015), pointing out the sufferings of becoming refugee and the health consequences of the stress in the face of the disaster, while however at the same time displaying an agnostic attitude to the epidemiological results now showing more than 184 children under 18 as having to be operated on for cancer of the thyroid out of a limited sample of 270,500 people [4]. This point, taboo in political and scientific institutional circles, is nevertheless fundamental, because it is this assessment that determines the protection policies to be implemented, or not, in the event of an accident. If the explosion of a nuclear power plant and the dispersion of the isotopes it contains are not dangerous for health and for life as a whole ,then why? Why leave in the event of an explosion? Why evacuate the populations whose community life destroyed? Why spend so much money decontaminating? Why the need to create specific research centers on radio-protection since it would be useless to protect oneself from it? And finally, why use these same harmless isotopes to achieve the ultimate weapon of destruction that is brandished in the face of the world at every diplomatic tension? In short, we need to restore consistency in our discourse and analysis. If the inhabitants of Fukushima have taken refuge, or have been evacuated (even if the evacuation organized by the administration was very late) it is because there is a real danger which we all know, scientists, military and citizens.
 
Our critical position as an urbanist is to propose in this text an assessment of the migratory situation and measures developed for the control of population movements, especially through housing policies, but also through attempts to revive the local economy in Fukushima six years after the disaster. Our analysis presents the results of studies carried out on the psychological effects of policies compelling residents to return to the territories of the former evacuation zone while the situation is still unstable, and we question the motivations behind the political will to return populations to areas still contaminated.
 
For six years now, we have been going to the scene of the disaster every month to follow as closely as possible not only the protection policies or management implemented by the various administrative bodies, but also by the populations themselves. Follow-up was done by regular queries, in the form of interviews, at the various temporary housing locations, with the associations in charge of the accompaniment to the shelter or to the health follow-up, with the inhabitants, refugees or not, as national and international administrators. This also led us to participate in various workshops and symposia organized by these different actors. They took part in the international conferences that we conducted each year, embracing the most diverse themes related to this disaster.
 
At first, however, we must give back to these analyses the context that is theirs, a land, that of Japan, whose seismic environment remains restless and will continue to be so because the country is a volcanic archipelago, located at the junction between the Eurasian plate, the sub-plate called “Love” to the west, that of Okinawa and that of the Yangze (north / south), the Philippine plate to the south, the Pacific plate to the east, and the Okhotsk plate to the north. Such a location leads us to think that human temerity cannot ignore the cause of earthquakes, which won’t be stopped by political arrogance.
 
 
A morning like any other
November 22, 2016, 6 am, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo. The walls are shaking and the floor is spinning slowly, endless seconds. The commentator responsible for informing about the situation broadcasts in a repeating loop, “A tsunami is coming, run away quickly! Be sure to flee! Remember the March 2011 earthquake! Do not go to see the tides, run away to the mountains, hills or somewhere high enough to shelter yourself, run away! “.
 
With tight throats, glued on TVs that loop images of seashores on which are displayed in red capital letters, “Tsunami! Flee away! ” we become aware of the situation; a magnitude 7.3 earthquake occurred 75 km from the Fukushima shoreline, recording level 5 shocks. The vertical movements of the tectonic plates pose a risk of imminent tsunami. At 8 am, tsunamis of various heights have already reached the Tohoku shores of Chiba, measured up to 1.4 m in the port of Sendai, and 1 m in each of the two nuclear power plants at Fukushima. Because it is there that all eyes are fixed. Not without reason. About an hour after the earthquake, the cooling system of building 3 of the Fukushima Dai-ni power plant breaks down due to strong shocks, according to the authorities. We hold our breath…. An hour and a half later, to the relief of everyone, the system is reset.
 
The effects of resilience
 
[5]During the entire morning of November 22, speakers and televisions constantly order the inhabitants to take refuge, the journalists posted on the places envisaged for this purpose are, to our astonishment, surrounded by only a few people. “All the trauma came back with this earthquake. Most people could not move from home, as if paralyzed, overwhelmed by the despair of all those years when the practice of moving into shelter has remained impossible for most of us. Seniors in temporary housing turned off their television sets and acted as if nothing had happened.” (Mari Suzuki, resident of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture). The resilience advocated by the national and international authorities who participated in the management of the consequences of the 2011 nuclear accident has emerged, despite the will of the victims. The population of areas polluted by radioactivity whose land has not been retained in the evacuation zone, are for the most part in a state of advanced depression, after five years of fighting for recognition of their right to refuge remains unanswered. Additionally, the government announced the reopening of part of the still unstable evacuation zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant as of March 2017,in fact causing the cessation of payment of monthly compensation used by some to relocate elsewhere and the closure of temporary housing. This constraint to return is mentally unbearable for people who have rebuilt their lives in host communities with a more stable environment.
 
This new earthquake revives anger
 
Hiroki Suzuki, a journalist in his forties, came to the gates of the evacuation zone a few hours after the earthquake. He waves his dosimeter which displays 7.09 microsievert / hour [6], while the natural average in the region was 0.04 microsievert / hour before the accident. “Look, we are lied. Still, always lied to …’’ he exclaims, without being able to hide a rage tinged with despair. Yet it was crossing this border of the evacuation zone two days earlier, that Professor Hayano of the University of Tokyo organized an inspection trip of the works at the nuclear power plant and of the evacuation zone, accompanied by thirteen high school students dressed in their simple school uniforms, without any type of protection. The earthquake occurred just after the study trip had generated a wave of discontent among residents, as reflected on social networks. Participant in several public revitalization projects in the region is Professor Hayano, among them is the ETHOS project conducted with the collaboration of IRSN, a project today at term to teach residents to live in a contaminated environment with a view to economic rationalization of the management of the consequences of a nuclear accident. As an adept of resilience, Professor Hayano ignores the consequences of a nuclear accident, ignoring hundreds of epidemiological studies on the issue, believing that fear of radioactivity is not justified. This initiatory trip was therefore intended to show students that they were not struck by radioactivity even though they would go to areas where the irradiation was highest, and that fear should give way to managerial reason. This attitude, considered irresponsible by many colleagues, ignores the most basic knowledge of radiation protection, that radioactivity acts on the human body, not suddenly, but in a process that spans several years.
 
This episode will have marked the people’s minds, because neither the seismic situation, the level of radioactivity nor the operating status of nuclear power plants (the November 22 earthquake proved it again with a new failure of the cooling system) should not allow such political tranquility. By a correlation, since the magnitude 7.8 New Zealand earthquake of November 13, 2016, we expected a new earthquake in Japan. Not by the law of series, but according to the tectonic sequence observed in 2011, when the Japanese earthquake was preceded by the earthquake of Christchurch in New Zealand, of magnitude 6.3. This phenomenon was verified during the Kumamoto earthquake in southern Japan on Kyushu Island, April 20, 2016, also announced by an earthquake in Christchurch February 14, of magnitude 5.8. This combination of earthquakes is the result of the pressures caused by the Pacific plate common to both archipelagos.
 
Thus, if the tsunami warning was suspended on the entire area a few hours after the earthquake, the number of replicates left a heavy concern. In just over a day no less than 90 aftershocks were recorded. The earthquake of November 22, 2016, followed by a strong aftershock on November 24 of magnitude 6.1 was accompanied by a new earthquake in New Zealand of magnitude 6.3 which, according to the director of earthquake information planning, Mr. Kouji Nakamura, would predict a new class 7 earthquake in Japan in the following months.
 
Despite common sense, the return to the former evacuation zone organized by the authorities takes place
 
Mr. Nakamura’s predictions were not long in coming. On February 26, 2017, at 4.49 pm, a new earthquake of magnitude 5 shook the ground of Fukushima but nothing disturbed the decision of programmed return made in 2013, the date when the Japanese government established a large budget, split among all the ministries and intended to develop risk communication in order to influence populations about their return. In April 2017, the Japanese government reopened a part of the evacuation zone around the Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, simultaneously lifting housing aid for the refugee population. Other incentives such as tax exemption for those planning to build new homes in the area are also introduced [7]. Following imperturbably the planning developed several years upstream, which in essence is disconnected from the present situation, and to the astonishment of the international institutions responsible for managing the nuclear issue, committed to setting up a management system that allows the existence of nuclear power, the Japanese government compels the population to return to live on areas still sometimes highly contaminated, by gradually abolitshing the evacuation zone (Figure 2).
2
Figure 2. Prohibited areas and return area in Fukushima Prefecture (Source of maps: METI Translation and adaptation: Cécile Asanuma-Brice, Géoconfluences, 2017.)
 
3
Figure 3. Reopening of the village of Iitate. Authorities greet residents under a meter displaying 0, 21 microsievert / h, with the greeting used when a family member comes home: “Welcome back! (Source of the Image: Kyodo News)
In fact, public investments for reconstruction have often been pharaonic for the construction of oversized buildings for an absent population. Thus, the only municipality of Iitate will receive a budget of 1.7 billion euros for the reconstruction of various public facilities. Only 10 to 20 percent of the population has returned to most villages, despite the constraints they face.
 
A resident of the village of Iitate declared on February 19, 2017, during a conference organized in Fukushima by researchers and former inhabitants of the village: “We are told that there is no problem. Just do not go on the “hot spots”. You can not go to the mountains, nor go near the rivers, do not go to the right or to the left … How do you want us to live here ?! “. A former member of the communal council, testifies: We moved six years ago now. Why should we return to a desert village where the environment does not allow us to live freely and safely? [8].
 
What is the real situation?
 
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Figure 4. Estimated total of refugees is 39 600 person on February 2017
Source : Official data, published by Fukushima Minpo Journal on March 2017. Translation : Cécile Asanuma-Brice. Realisation : J.-B. Bouron, Géoconfluences, 2017.
 
Since most people did not register in the refugee counting database, it is difficult to establish an accurate mapping of the situation. Nevertheless, the map at the time of the facts allows us to establish trends (Asanuma-Brice, 2014). It reported 160,000 refugees by the time they were highest in May 2012.The inhabitants had mainly taken refuge in the countryside of the surrounding Prefectures (Yamagata, Niigata), as well as in the capital, Tokyo [9].
 
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Figure 5. Number of refugees in and out of Fukushima Prefecture (Source: according to official data, relayed by Fukushima Minpo newspaper, March 3, 2017. Translation-adaptation: Cécile Asanuma-Brice and Géoconfluences, 2017.)
 
Six years later, the authorities estimate this figure at 80,000 refugees, including 40,000 outside the department, and 40,000 internally displaced persons. However, the distribution has changed somewhat as the majority of refugees outside the Prefecture are now exclusively located in Tokyo and 80% of these people would be relocated to rental apartments in the public or private sector [10]. This figure does not include all persons whose refugee status has changed to that of a migrant, all those who, after six years spent outside their village, have rebuilt their lives elsewhere and have administratively registered their move to another municipality.
 
This leads us to question the relevance of the term “refugee”, because most evacuees “voluntarily” or not, have rebuilt their lives, failing to rebuild their environment, elsewhere. Six years. This corresponds to a complete school cycle, which is why most families with children no longer plan to return to live in the area. They… moved.
 
The situation is harder for the elderly. Some of them have been relocated to the 15,561 temporary housing units built inside the Prefecture. Thus those over 65 years old represent more than 40% of the people relocated in these so-called “temporary” cities. For the most part, these people had to agree to move to collective public housing built for this purpose and are, in fact, no longer included in the figures for refugees. While in July 2012, 33,016 inhabitants lived in these temporary housing, this figure drops to 12,381 in February 2017, reaching the lowest rates after April 2017. As of January 31, 2017, 3,028 public rental units of the 4,890 originally planned were built in 15 municipalities in the Prefecture (Figure 6).
 
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Figure 6. Map of dwellings built for refugees in Fukushima Prefecture (Data source: Fukushima Minpo, March 3, 2017. Translation-adaptation: Cécile Asanuma-Brice and Géoconfluences, 2017.)
 
 
Another portion of seniors lived, since the happening, in a private rental park. Renting an apartment in the city was often seen as temporary, waiting for the results of the gigantic policy of public decontamination. People have been left in hope for two years, and then the government stopped providing them with housing assistance, pretending that it is possible to return. Some reconnaissance trips to the scene are enough to awaken their conscience. The landscapes have been destroyed by decontamination, scraped soils, torn trees, sacks of contaminated soil extending as far as the eye can see in the fields. The house has deteriorated. Habitat rehabilitation companies are no longer there, nor are there any neighbors. Their children, grandchildren, have started a new life elsewhere and do not want to come back to an environment that still has high levels of contamination. It is, however, impossible for them to maintain their large farm buildings alone; empty, heavy, are these stones, like their spirits drowned in an ultimate hope forever unfulfilled. Those who try to return fall into a depressive spiral that leads to suicide for majority of them.
 
A documentary made by the NHK on January 9, 2017 tries to sound the alarm, but to no avail. Titled “And yet, I tried to live” [11], it bears witness to the end of life of these people, mostly elderly, victims of an isolation that will often be fatal to them. Professor Tsukiji [12], Waseda University, psychologist and director of the Disaster Situations Laboratory published the results of a study proving that the constraints to return on these still unstable territories would generate a consequent wave of suicides. It remains inconsequential on the planning decision-making machine that was put in place four years earlier. These human sacrifices are accepted by all in the silence of a world that continues to be nuclearized.
 
Progress, and life: what science is entitled to question
 
This brings us back to a larger reflection developed by Max Weber a century ago, who himself used the writings of Leo Tolstoy about the meaning of death in our civilized societies. According to him, death for the civilized man (Kulturmensch) cannot make sense in that the life of each individual is constitutive of an infinite process which he seeks: progress. Nobody will ever be able to reach a goal, a climax, since progress is an infinite process. In this the finite time of life is only part of its momentum. Weber connects this reflection with another that I think is fundamental to put in the agora of sciences (human or not): “Does progress “, as such, have a discernible meaning beyond the technique, so that putting oneself to its service would be a meaningful vocation? ” (Weber, 1969). This question, formulated a century ago, remains unansswered; our societies continue to multiply human sacrifices on the altar of innovation for a purpose whose existence is not on a human scale.
 
Cécile ASANUMA-BRICE
Researcher in urban sociology, Franco-Japanese Institute Tokyo UMIFRE 19-CNRS / CLERSE Laboratory, University Lille 1-CNRS
 
Notes :
[1] Corium: Technical term for the core of nuclear reactors.
[2] Data from TEPCO, January 27, 2017.
[3] IAEA: National Agency for Atomic Energy, the CEPN: Center for the Study on the Evaluation of Protection in the Nuclear Field, or the IRSN: Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety.
[4] According to the results of the sanitary committee official returns on February 20, 2017.
[5] On Resilience, refer to our article: C. Asanuma-Brice (23 November 2015) “From Vulnerability to Resilience, Reflections on Protection in the Event of Extreme Disasters”, Public Reason Review.
6] The microsievert / hour is the unit generally used to measure the impact of radioactive radiation on humans.
[7] Minpo Journal, January 18, 2017
[8] Conference on the return of the inhabitants of Iitate (Fukushima) 19.02.2017
[9] Regarding the housing policies set up after the disaster, see our article: C. Asanuma-Brice (2011), “Japanese social housing, when the notion of” public “is right,” Revue Urbanisme, Nov. 2011.
[10] Survey of March 13, 2017, Fukushima Prefecture
[11] NHK, 2017
[12] Takuya Tsujiuchi Waseda Institute of Medical Anthropology on Disaster Reconstruction, “Mental Health Impact of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Post-Traumatic Stress and Psycho-socio-economic Factors”, Fukushima Global Communication Program, working paper series, number 8, December 2015.
 
Bibliography
Scientific articles and publications
Anders Gunther, 2006, La menace nucléaire : considérations radicales sous l’âge atomique, Broché.
Arendt Hannah, 1967, Responsabilité et jugement, Poche.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 2017, “Atomic Fission and Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown: When politics prevails over scientific proof”, in Christophe Thouny et Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto (dir.), Planetary Atmospheres and Urban Society After Fukushima, Singapore, Springer Verlag, pp. 95-112.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 2016, « À Fukushima, la population est dans une situation inextricable », Le Journal du CNRS.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 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 », Université de Tokyo.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 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.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 2014, “Beyond reality: The management of migratory flows in a nuclear catastrophe by a pro-nuclear State”, The Asia-Pacific Journal, vol. 12-1, November.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 2012, « Les politiques publiques du logement face à la catastrophe du 11 mars », Ebisu, n° 47, juin.
Beck Ulrich, 2003, La société du risque, Paris, Flammarion, 521 p.
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Takuya Tsujiuchi, Maya Yamaguchi, Kazutaka Masuda, Marisa Tsuchida, Tadashi Inomata, Hiroaki Kumano, Yasushi Kikuchi, Eugene F. Augusterfer, Richard F. Mollica, 2016, High Prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms in Relation to Social Factors in Affected Population One Year after the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
Hecht Gabrielle, 2004, Le Rayonnement de la France. Énergie nucléaire et identité nationale après la seconde guerre mondiale, Paris, La Découverte.
Jonas Hans, 1979, Le principe de responsabilité, Flammarion, Champs essai.
影浦 峡(2011)3.11後の放射能「安全」報道を読み解く: 社会情報リテラシー実践講座 、岩波科学 — Kageura Kyo, 2011, Déchiffrer les rapports concernant la contamination “fiable”/”sûre” après le 3.11 : cours pratiques d’initiation au décodage de la littérature concernant l’information sociale”, édition scientifiques Iwanami [en japonais]
影浦 峡(2013)信頼の条件―原発事故をめぐることば 、岩波科学 — Kageura Kyo, 2013, Les conditions de la confiance – Les paroles autour du nucléaire, édition scientifiques Iwanami [en japonais]
Pelletier Philippe, 2012 « La guerre de Fukushima », Hérodote, 2012/3 (n° 146-147), p. 277-307.
Ribault Thierry et Ribault Nadine, 2012, Les sancuaires de l’abîme. Édition L’encyclopédie des nuisances.
Riesel René, 2008, « À propos du désastre en cours », in Catastrophisme, administration du désastre, et soumission durable, Édition L’encyclopédie des nuisances.
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Shinobu Goto (2016), “Fairness in Educational Materials on Nuclear Power and Radiation by the Japanese Government for Formal Education”, The International Journal of Sustainability Education, Volume 12, Issue 2.
Study 2007, (2015), 見捨てられた初期被曝, 岩波科学ライブラリー2015 — Study 2007, Les irradiés abandonnés de la première vague de contamination, Éditions de la Librairie scientifique d’Iwanami [en japonais]
Thébaud-Mony Annie, 2008, Travailler peut nuire gravement à votre santé. Sous-traitance des risques, mise en danger d’autrui, atteinte à la dignité…, La Découverte, 2008. Compte-rendu d’Igor Martinache dans Lectures.
Weber Max, 1963, Le savant et le politique, conférences à l’université de Munich de 1917 à 1919, Paris, Éditions 10-18.
 
Press and public publications of the author
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 2017, « Fukushima : une catastrophe sans fin », Sciences et avenir.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 2016, « Fukushima, Temps de la fin contre fin des temps », Sciences et avenir, 21 mars 2016.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 2016, « Japon : “La centrale nucléaire de Sendai réveille le traumatisme de mars 2011” », Le Monde.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 2015, « Fukushima, Bilan d’une situation sanitaire inquiétante », Médiapart, octobre 2015.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 2014, « La légende Fukushima », Libération, septembre 2014.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile et Ribault Thierry, 2013, « “Crime d’Etat” à Fukushima : “L’unique solution est la fuite” », Le Nouvel Observateur-Rue 89, juillet 2013.
Asanuma-Brice Cécile, 2011, « La réouverture contestée des écoles irradiées de Fukushima », Le Nouvel Observateur-Rue 89, Mai 2011.
 
Source :
Cécile Asanuma-Brice, « Les migrants du nucléaire », Géoconfluences, octobre 2017.

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