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As Japan Tries Out Immigration, Migrant Workers Complain Of Exploitation

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An employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co. works at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant to decontaminate the area after the 2011 nuclear meltdown. A Vietnamese laborer in Japan on a training program says he was also put to work cleaning up the site, but with inadequate gear.
January 15, 2019
The wind howls and snow drifts around a house in Koriyama, in northeastern Japan’s Fukushima prefecture. The town is inland from Fukushima’s coastal areas that were devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown.
Inside the home, several Vietnamese laborers prepare dinner. The house is a shelter, run by local Catholics, for foreign workers who are experiencing problems in Japan.
One of the workers is surnamed Nguyen. He came to Japan in 2015 as part of a government program for technical trainees. He asked to use only his last name, as he doesn’t want his family in Vietnam to know what he’s been through.
He says he paid the equivalent of about $9,200 to a Vietnamese broker and signed a contract with a private construction company in Koriyama, Japan, to get on-the-job training as a rebar worker.
“I expected to come to a country more developed, clean and civilized than my own,” he recalls. “In my mind, Japan had many good things, and I wanted to learn professional skills to take home.”
 
Instead, he says he was ordered to do jobs such as removing radiation-contaminated soil from land around the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
“We were deceived,” Nguyen says, referring both to himself, and technical trainees in general.
He would not identify the company by name so as to avoid undermining negotiations he and a workers union are holding with the firm to get compensation.
He says the company issued him gloves and a mask, but not the kind of gear that would protect him against radiation. He did receive a radiation detector to wear, but only before safety inspectors paid a visit. He complained to the company, which ignored him.
Complicating matters, he had borrowed money from a bank and family members in Vietnam to pay the broker who helped him get to Japan.
“I wanted to sue my company, but I didn’t know how,” Nguyen explains. “I didn’t speak Japanese, or understand Japan’s legal system. So all I could do was be patient, and keep working to pay off the debt.”
Technical trainees like Nguyen now account for about 20 percent of the 1.3 million foreign laborers in Japan, according to government data cited by local media.
The Japanese government intends to bring in 345,000 more foreign workers in the next five years, to staff sectors including restaurants, construction, agriculture and nursing. Many will come from nations such as China, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Japan has both the world’s third-largest economy, and fastest-aging population. It also faces an acute labor shortage. Now, it is doing something previously unthinkable: allowing immigration — even as its prime minister denies it.
But advocates for the foreign workers warn that without an overhaul of the technical training program, many of the newcomers could be subjected to the same sort of exploitation Nguyen says he has experienced. Critics equate the training program with “slavery,” and deride it as the creation of labor without a labor force.
Most trainees are paid below minimum wage. They die of work-related causes at twice Japan’s overall rate, according to an analysis of government data by The Japan Times.
The problem of labor brokers using debt to enslave would-be immigrants is an element in human trafficking in many countries around the world.
The Japanese government has promised to crack down on unscrupulous brokers, establish 100 “consultation centers” where trainees can report abuses, increase Japanese language training for enrollees and generally strengthen oversight of the program.
But the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report for 2018 says that, so far, Japan has failed to prevent brokers from holding technical trainees in “debt bondage,” and sometimes the authorities arrest trainees who escape from “exploitative conditions,” instead of helping and protecting them.
Many conservative opponents of immigration would prefer that foreign workers don’t stay in Japan after finishing the program.
Speaking before the Diet, Japan’s parliament, in October, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied that the country is opening its door to immigration.
“We are not considering adopting a so-called immigration policy,” he insisted. “To cope with the labor shortage, we will expand the current system to accept foreign workers in special fields. We will accept foreign human resources that are skilled and work-ready, but only for a limited time.”
Japan’s parliament, which is controlled by the ruling right-wing Liberal Democratic Party, passed Abe’s plan last month.
Shiro Sasaki, secretary-general of the Zentoitsu Workers Union, which represents some of the foreign workers, rejects Abe’s argument, and adds that Japan’s government is not facing up to the reality of immigration.
“Abe’s definition of an immigrant is someone who lives in Japan long-term, with family,” he says. “But by international standards, the trainees are immigrants. In this sense we can say that Japan is already an immigrant society.”
Sasaki says that opening Japan’s door to immigrants even a tiny crack is better than tricking them into coming.
He says Japan has never experienced mass immigration in modern times, and it has failed to assimilate those few immigrants it has taken in. He sees the whole issue as a test of character for this island nation.
“Japan has never been able to examine itself and define itself in terms of diversity,” he argues. “Now we must live with diversity, and every single Japanese person must think about it.”
Then again, Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo, argues that Abe may have no choice but to reform by stealth.
“Immigration is unfortunately not popular even in countries like the U.S. … which historically have been nations that have been built on immigration. So obviously he’s not going to say: ‘Vote for me, I will bring in 10 million foreigners.'”
Many analysts compare the technical training program to Germany’s gastarbeiter or guest worker program of the 1950s-70s. It too took in laborers from poorer neighboring countries — particularly Turkey — but tried to limit workers’ stay in order to prevent immigration. But the cost of hiring and training temporary workers was too high.
Many workers stayed on, paving the way for Germany to see itself as a de facto immigration nation.
Current trainees like Nguyen may be eligible to remain in the country for up to five years on a new class of visas.
But Nguyen says that without decent pay and a chance to learn new skills, he has no interest in staying on.
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January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | 2 Comments

Russian nuclear firm wins contracts to clean up Fukushima

Already announced quite a few times by the Russian press over the past few years but nothing took place…Is this time for real or just another of such empty self-promoting announcements?
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Workers, wearing protective suits and masks, are seen near the No. 3 and No.4 reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
14 Jan, 2019
Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom will help Japan in handling the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant (NPP) and will be engaged in the nuclear control plan, according to the company’s CEO Aleksey Likhachev.
“We have been engaged by Japan to implement the nuclear accident management plan at the Fukushima NPP. We have won two tenders and are going ahead,” Likhachev told Russia-24 news channel.
In September 2017, Rosatom’s First Deputy CEO Kirill Komarov said that Rosatom offered their Japanese counterparts assistance in cleaning up at the Fukushima NPP and in decommissioning other unsafe nuclear power plants.
That followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that Russia and Japan will start joint efforts to clean up after the accident.
The decommissioning of the wrecked Fukushima reactors could take several decades and cost $200 billion. Japan plans to restart 16 out of the 45 Fukushima-type reactors, while the others will be mothballed. The country intends to reduce the share of nuclear energy from 29 percent in 2011 to 21-22 percent by 2030.
The accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant occurred in March 2011 when a massive tsunami triggered by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake overwhelmed the reactor cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan. It caused reactor meltdowns, releasing radiation in the most dangerous nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

January 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen sulfide present in Fukushima contaminated water tanks

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January 7, 2019
Mako Oshidori reported from a recent TEPCO press conference that the company has admitted to finding hydrogen sulfide in some of the contaminated water tanks at Fukushima Daiichi.
 
The instances of hydrogen sulfide was found in newer welded tanks in the G3 tank farm in August.
TEPCO found levels up to 50 ppm in some of the tanks.
If it oxidizes to sulfuric acid it can corrode steel and concrete storage equipment including the water tanks.
 
TEPCO claims that the cause of the hydrogen sulfide gas was due to anaerobic bacterial decomposition. Hydrogen sulfide gas is a corrosion concern for the contaminated water tanks.
 
This is a problem from a human health standpoint for workers in the area. TEPCO cites a level of at least 50 ppm. They do not report the exact concentrations over 50 ppm. Health effects can happen at doses lower than 50 ppm. As exposure doses increase so do the health dangers. High concentrations can cause rapid death. With tanks creating this gas byproduct the risk exists of a worker accidentally coming in contact with a concentrated amount of this gas. Workers in the tank farms do not wear respirators, only paper particle filtration masks.
 
TEPCO stated they would continue to investigate the conditions in the on site tanks for gas and corrosion.
 

January 9, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

The After Fukushima and Japan’s Declining Birthrate, Japan’s Demographics a National Crisis

From Chris Busby:
Japan’s birth rate was declining but gradually, as was the Belarus birthrate. The rate at which it was declining was low. Then after Fukushima it fell of the cliff.
I made this graph from Japan vital statistics data on the web.
In 2005 it was 8.32. So there is a sharp fall in the rate after Fukushima. Same thing happened in Belarus after Chernobyl. Look at the Bandashevsky’s after Chernobyl birth rate graph.
It was expected What I am saying is that the fall in birthrate in Japan is a Fukushima effect in the same way as the fall in birthrate in Belrus was a Chernobyl effect.

chernobyl & fukushima birthrates

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Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe describes demographics as a national crisis
Japan suffered its biggest population decline on record this year, according to new figures that underline the country’s losing battle to raise its birth rate.
The number of births fell to its lowest since records began more than a century ago, the health and welfare ministry said, soon after parliament approved an immigration bill that will pave the way for the arrival of hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers to address the worst labour shortage in decades.
The ministry estimated 921,000 babies will have been born by the end of 2018 – 25,000 fewer than last year and the lowest number since comparable records began in 1899. It is also the third year in a row the number of births has been below one million.
Combined with the estimated number of deaths this year – a postwar high of 1.37 million – the natural decline of Japan’s population by 448,000 is the biggest ever.
The data suggests the government will struggle to reach its goal of raising the birth rate – the average number of children a woman has during her lifetime – to 1.8 by April 2026. The current birth rate stands at 1.43, well below the 2.07 required to keep the population stable.
Crisis
The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has described Japan’s demographics as a national crisis and promised to increase childcare places and introduce other measures to encourage couples to have more children.
But the number of children on waiting lists for state-funded daycare increased for the third year in a row last year, raising doubts over his plans to provide a place for every child by April 2020.
Japanese people have an impressive life expectancy – 87.2 years for women and 81.01 years for men – which experts attribute to regular medical examinations, universal healthcare coverage and, among older generations, a preference for Japan’s traditional low-fat diet.
But the growing population of older people is expected to place unprecedented strain on health and welfare services in the decades to come. Some of those costs will be met by a controversial rise in the consumption (sales) tax, from 8 per cent to 10 per cent, next October.
Earlier this year the government said 26.1 million – or just over 20 per cent of the total population of 126.7 million – were aged 70 and over.
The number of centenarians, meanwhile, had risen to 69,785 as of September this year, with women making up 88% of the total.
Japan has the highest proportion of older people – or those aged 65 and over – in the world, followed by Italy, Portugal and Germany.
The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo estimated that more than 35 per cent of Japanese will be aged 65 or over by 2040.
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January 7, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Is Fukushima Daiichi’s Continuous Stream of Contaminated Radioactive Water in the Kuroshio Current Causing Strange Disjuncture Between Warming Water and Land Temperatures in Alaska and Bering Sea

I came across this article from Majia Nadesan on Majia’s Blog, which I find interesting and which I would like to share with you here.
Majia Nadesan is the author of “Fukushima and the Privatization of Risk”, an excellent book about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. https://www.palgrave.com/br/book/9781137343116
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Strange Disjuncture Between Warming Water and Land Temperatures in Alaska and Bering Sea
Friday, December 28, 2018
I couldn’t help but think of the effect of Fukushima Daiichi’s continuous stream of contaminated radioactive water in the Kuroshio Current when I read this article about a disjuncture between warming seas and cooler land temperatures in the Arctic region:
 
Robert Lee Hotz (2018, December 22-23 Weekend edition). Warming seas send waves through U.S. fishing. The Wall Street Journal, A1, A10.
Fishermen and marine scientists who study Alaska fisheries are used to natural variations in ocean circulation patterns. But starting in 2000, warm and cool spells lasted longer, federal weather records show. Temperatures rose to records and plnuged to bitter lows.
In 2016, St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea registered its warmest year on record, 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit above average. Last year, spring and summer temperatures across the Arctic generally were cooler, but the annual average surface temperature was the second highest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual Arctic Report and the Alaska Climate Research Center at the University of Alaska. 
“That was highly unusual and was not something we had ever seen in the Bering Sea before,” says Janet Duffy-Anderson who helps monitor the commercial fishery for the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle…. 
This year, the winter ice that normally coves the northern Bering Sea never formed…
 
 
I recall describing my concerns about the Kuroshio current in 2015 (here) in response to this article in the New York Times:
The Pacific Ocean Becomes a Caldron, The New York Times, By JOHN SCHWARTZ NOV. 2, 2015 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/03/science/global-warming-pacific-ocean-el-nino-blob.html?emc=edit_th_20151103&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=32962000 ….
There has been considerable debate whether radioactive elements in sea water from Fukushima are sufficient in concentration to raise the sea temperature, particularly in comparison to previous nuclear assaults from atmospheric testing and dumping.
 
I don’t know the answer to this question but the ongoing flood of contaminated water and the worsening environmental conditions and animal mortality events since 3-11 have made me wonder….
 
 
 
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
 
Here is an excerpt from my book Crisis Communication, Liberal Democracy and Ecological Sustainability published in 2016 by Lexington Press on Fukushima’s radioactive water problem: 
 
 
Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Problem 
Fukushima’s radioactive water problem is unprecedented. TEPCO requires an endless stream of workers to manage contaminated water, which presents significant long-term challenges in addition to those posed by removing melted fuel from damaged reactors and spent fuel pools: 
 
The situation, however, remains very complex, with the increasing amount of contaminated water posing a short-term challenge that must be resolved in a sustainable manner. The need to remove highly radioactive spent fuel, including damaged fuel and fuel debris, from the reactors that suffered meltdowns poses a huge long-term challenge.[i] 
 
Contaminated water production at the Daiichi site poses long-term risks to the Pacific eco-system. 
 
Damage by the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and explosions problematized delivery of cooling water to melted fuel in reactors and spent fuel pools.
 
The plant manager resorted to using ocean water to cool melted fuel, a course of action that TEPCO officials had decided against, but was deployed as a desperate measure to halt uncontained nuclear fission in reactors and spent fuel pools.
 
Water used to cool fuel could not be recaptured, resulting in highly radioactive water contaminating the aquifer and Pacific Ocean.
 
Fukushima’s plant manager, Masao Yoshida, estimated that the level of radioactivity in the water flowing directly into the sea during the early days of the disaster exceeded 1,000 millisieverts.[ii]
 
Kyodo news reported on March 26, 2011 that “Levels of radioactive materials soaring in sea near nuke plant” citing data provided by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency that found radioactive Iodine-131 in seawater sampled 300 meters south of plant, at a concentration 1,250.8 times the legal limit.[iii]
 
Dr. Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts measured levels of radioactive cesium in the ocean off of Fukushima at 100,000 Becquerels per cubic meter in early April of 2011.[iv] Buesseler reported in a 2013 presentation at MIT that prior to Fukushima, the Pacific Ocean measured ½ to 2 Becquerels per liter of cesium.[v] 
 
The French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) declared Fukushima as the world’s worst nuclear contamination event ever for the ocean, reporting that from 21 March to 27 July, 27.1 petaBecquerels of Cesium-137 contaminated the ocean.[vi] Remember that one petaBecquerel is equivalent to a million billion Becquerels, or 10^15.[vii]
 
Cesium, among other radionuclides, is water-soluble and was likely transported across the Pacific Ocean by the Kuroshio Current,[viii] a fast moving current that every second carries approximately 50 million tons of sea water past Japan’s southeast coast.[ix] Relatively few figures are available for radioisotope contamination other than cesium.
 
A study of Iodine-129 levels in samples collected in June 2011 from the Western Pacific Ocean measured almost three orders of magnitude higher than pre-Fukushima background levels.[x]
 
A separate study published in Environmental Science Technology in 2012 reported that radiostrontium levels in surface seawater persisted through 2011 and were in some areas comparable, to or even higher, than those measured for Cesium-137 in December of 2011.[xi] 
 
TEPCO has tried a variety of approaches to containing the contaminated water. During the summer of 2011, TEPCO installed concrete panels designed to seal water intakes of units 1 through 4 in order to prevent contaminated water from reaching the ocean.
 
In October 2011, TEPCO installed a steel water shield wall between the units and the ocean. TEPCO subsequently created a groundwater bypass system to reroute fresh water from flowing into the site and restored and improved its drainage system.
 
TEPCO has also worked on creating an ice wall that would prevent highly contaminated water in the basement of the wrecked reactors from flowing into the sea.[xii] All of these efforts have failed to prevent ongoing contamination of the Pacific Ocean. 
 
In 2013, Prime Minister Abe promised the government would take “firm measures” to address water contamination at Fukushima Daiichi.[xiii] Yet, two years later in 2015, TEPCO still injects hundreds of tons of water into demolished reactor buildings 1-4 to cool uncontained melted fuel.[xiv]
 
TEPCO simultaneously pumps hundreds of tons of contaminated water out from the ruined reactor buildings, but its efforts to keep up with water saturation have been stymied by the sheer volume of ground water inundating the site, largely from an underground river running at about 1,000 tons daily, with TEPCO announcing that approximately 400 tons of that penetrates reactor buildings 1 – 4. [xv]
 
Water saturation from the underground river and TEPCO’s injections contribute to ground liquefaction, which poses direct risks to the reactor buildings and common spent fuel pool. Contaminated ground water is also flowing into the ocean.[xvi] 
 
In February of 2015, TEPCO admitted that radioactive water from unit 2 had been flowing unfiltered into the ocean since May 2014.[xvii] Local fisherman who had given consent for TEPCO to dump uncontaminated ground water were outraged, but Yuji Moriyama, a TEPCO spokesman stated “the utility did not disclose the information because there is no evidence of environmental impact.”
 
The water contained 29,400 Becquerels of radioactive cesium per liter and an additional 52,000 Becquerels of beta-emitting radionuclides, such as Strontium-90. 
 
Strontium levels in sea and ground water may actually rise over time, if the conditions modeled in two German risk studies apply to Fukushima. 
 
The “German Risk Study, Phase B” found that a core meltdown accident could result in complete failures of all structural containment, causing melted fuel to exit the reactor foundation within five days and that ground water leaching would occur even in the absence of a full melt-through situation.[xviii]
 
A second German risk analysis, “Dispersion of Radionuclides and Radiation Exposure after Leaching by Groundwater of a Solidified Core-Concrete Melt,” found that even in the event of an intact building foundation, passing groundwater would be in direct contact with fuel, causing leaching of fission products. [xix]
 
The study predicted concentrations of Strontium-90 in river water would spike relatively suddenly, but maintain extraordinarily high levels of contamination for years, with “the highest radionuclide concentration of approx. 1010 Bq/m3 is reached by Sr-90 after some 5000 days.”
 
The study’s experimental conditions are roughly similar to Daiichi’s site conditions, including groundwater emptying into an adjacent river, whereas Daiichi is physically situated above an underground river emptying into the sea. 
 
Ground water contamination has also been rising steadily at the Daiichi site, especially since the summer of 2013.[xx] TEPCO reported that samples from the well between the ocean and unit 1 measuring a record 5 million Becquerels per liter of radioactive Strontium-90 alone in July 2013.[xxi]
 
In January 27, 2015, TEPCO measured 31,000,000 Bq/m3 of Strontium-90 in boring well nearest unit 2, a level which was more than 10 percent more than reported in December of 2014.[xxii] By February of 2015, TEPCO was reporting even higher levels of Strontium-90 in the same location, with the highest sample measured at 590,000,000 Bq/m3 of Strontium-90.[xxiii]
 
The spiking strontium levels are consistent with the predictions of the German melt-through scenario. 
 
TEPCO has also detected increased radionuclide contamination in the Fukushima port. On June 19, 2015 TEPCO’s reported that it had detected Strontium-90 measuring 1,000,000 Bq/m3 in two locations in Fukushima Daiichi’s port located near the water intake for reactors 3 and 4, exceeding the previous reported high of 700,000 Bq/m3.[xxiv]
 
The highest Strontium level measured in Fukushima’s port jumped still more in data reported in July 17, 2015 to 1,500,000 Bq/m3.[xxv] 
 
TEPCO is also facing severe problems filtering and storing the contaminated water it does pump out from the ground and ruined buildings. In May of 2013 The Asahi Shimbun reported the TEPCO was going to begin dumping groundwater at the Daiichi site because its storage capacities for contaminated water were nearly exhausted. [xxvi]
 
There was considerable resistance from local fisherman because TEPCO lacked the capacity to remove Strontium-90 from captured water and even the filtered water was quite contaminated. At that time in 2013, filtered water measured 710 million Becquerels per liter while unfiltered water was reported as twice as radioactive, from tritium and strontium. TEPCO was not able to eliminate Strontium until the fall of 2014.[xxvii]
 
In 2015 the NRA approved a plan to allow TEPCO to dump decontaminated groundwater into the sea if the water registered less than 1 Becquerel per liter of cesium, less than 3 Becquerels per liter of beta emitters such as Strontium-90, and 1,500 Becquerels per liter of tritium.[xxviii]
 
TEPCO has attempted to store as much water as possible but press releases and news coverage addressing water storage at the plant suggest that official announcements of dumped water are the tip of a larger deluge….
 
 
 
[i] IAEA Team Completed Third Review of Japan’s Plans to Decommission Fukushima Daiichi,” IAEA (February 17, 2015), https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/iaea-team-completed-third-review-japans-plans-decommission-fukushima. 
 
[ii] T. Sugimoto and H. Kimura (1 December 2012) ‘TEPCO Failed to Respond to Dire Warning of Radioactive Water Leaks at Fukushima’, The Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201212010037, date accessed 2 December 2012. 
 
[iii] “Levels of radioactive materials soaring in sea near nuke plant” Kyodo (March 26, 2011). http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2011/03/81163.html 
 
[iv] Cited in H. Tabuchi (25 June 2012) ‘Fears Accompany Fishermen in Japanese Disaster Region’, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/26/world/asia/fears-accompany-fishermen-in-japanese-disaster-region.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120626, date accessed 26 June 2012. 
 
[v] Buesseler, K. (2013, October 24). Japan’s continuing nuclear nightmare: Experts discuss Fukushima and its aftereffects. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for International Studies. Available http://techtv.mit.edu/collections/mit-cis/videos/26614-japan-s-continuing-nuclear-nightmare. 
 
[vi] ‘Fukushima Nuclear Pollution in Sea was World’s Worst: French Institute’ (28 October 2011), Japan Today, http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/fukushima-nuclear-pollution-in-sea-was-worlds-worst-french-institute, date accessed 29 October 2011. 
 
[vii] ‘Fukushima Disaster Produces World’s Worst Nuclear Sea Pollution’, (28 October 2011), The Maritime Executive, http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/fukushima-disaster-produces-world-s-worst-nuclear-sea-pollution, date accessed 29 October 2011. 
 
[viii] Pascal Bailly Du Bois, Pierre Garreau, Philippe Laguionie, Irene Korsakissok (2014) Comparison between modelling and measurement of marine dispersion, environmental half-time and 137Cs inventories after the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Ocean Dynamics, 64(3), 361. 
 
[ix] R. A. Barkley, The Kuroshio Current,” Science Journal (March 1970), 54-60, http://swfsc.noaa.gov/publications/CR/1973/7302.PDF. 
 
[x] S. Tumey, T. Guilderson, T. Brown, T. Broek, K. Buesseler, “Input of Iodine-129 into the western pacific ocean resulting from the Fukushima Nuclear Event,” Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, 296 (2013): 957–962. 10.1007/s10967-012-2217-9 
 
[xi] P. Povinec, K. Hirose, and M. Aoyama (18 September 2012) ‘Radiostrontium in the Western North Pacific: Characteristics, Behavior, and the Fukushima Impact’, Environmental Science & Technology, 46.18, 10356–10363. 
 
[xii] Nuclear Energy Institute. What is the status of radioactive water treatment at the site? (no date) http://www.nei.org/Issues-Policy/Safety-Security/Fukushima-Recovery/Radioactive-Water. 
 
[xiii] Mari Yamaguchi AP “Japanese government to help halt nuke leak,” The Spokesman (August 8, 2013). Retrieved 4 May 2014: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/aug/08/japanese-government-to-help-halt-nuke-leak/. 
 
[xiv] R. Yoshida (21 May 2013) ‘Fukushima No. 1 Can’t Keep its Head above Tainted Water’, Japan Times, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/05/21/reference/fukushima-no-1-cant-keep-its-head-above-tainted-water/#.UZpke8oQNX9, date accessed 21 May 2013. 
 
[xv] Nagata, K. (2013, August 20). TEPCO yet to track groundwater paths. Liquefaction threat adds to Fukushima ills. The Japan Times. Available http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/08/20/national/tepco-yet-to-track-groundwater-paths/#.U2XHpF7K3yi 
 
[xvi] Nagata, K. (2014, March 6). Solving Fukushima water problem a long, hard slog. The Japan Times. Available http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/06/national/solving-fukushima-water-problem-a-long-hard-slog/#.U2XIE17K3yh 
 
[xvii] Fisheries ‘shocked’ at silence over water leak at wrecked Fukushima No. 1 plant,” Japan times (February 25, 2015) http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/02/25/national/tepco-admits-failed-disclose-cesium-tainted-water-leaks-since-april/#.VPOfiOHWyDl 
 
[xviii] Gesellschaft fur Reaktorsicherheit (GRS) Deutsche Risikikostudie Kernkraftwerke, Phase B Report GRS-89 cited in Bayer, A., Al-Omari, I., & Tromm, W. (1989). Dispersion of radionuclides and radiation exposure after leaching by groundwater of a solidified core-concrete (No. KFK-4512). Available http://www.irpa.net/irpa8/cdrom/VOL.1/M1_97.PDF. 
 
[xix] Bayer, A., Al-Omari, I., & Tromm, W. (1989). Dispersion of radionuclides and radiation exposure after leaching by groundwater of a solidified core-concrete (No. KFK-4512). Available http://www.irpa.net/irpa8/cdrom/VOL.1/M1_97.PDF 
 
[xx] “TEPCO Announced Record Cesium Level Found in Groundwater Beneath Fukushima Levee” The Asahi Shimbun (February 14, 2014): http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201402140041). The article said that cesium found in groundwater under a coastal levee near unit 1 spiked from 76,000 Becquerels per liter on February 12, 2014 to 130,000 Becquerels per liter on February 13, reaching the highest level of cesium ever detected at that location. 
 
[xxi] Record strontium-90 level in Fukushima groundwater sample last July. (2014, February 7). The Japan Times. Available http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/07/national/record-strontium-90-level-in-fukushima-groundwater-sample-last-july/#.U2XIw17K3yh. 
 
[xxii] Iori Mochizuki, “31,000,000 Bqm3 Strontium 90 Measured Nearest Boring Well Reactor 2,” Fukushima Diary (January 2015) http://fukushima-diary.com/2015/01/31000000-bqm3-strontium-90-measured-nearest-boring-well-reactor-2). TEPCO document available: http://www.tepco.co.jp/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2015/images/2tb-east_15012701-j.pdf 
 
[xxiii] Iori Mochizuki (Fukushima Diary 590,000,000 Bq/m3 of Strontium-90 measured from groundwater of Reactor 2 seaside). 
 
[xxiv] Lori Mochizuki, “1,000,000 Bq/m3 of Sr-90 detected in seawater of Fukushima plant port / Highest in recorded history,” Fukushima Diary (June 20, 2015) http://fukushima-diary.com/2015/06/1000000-bqm3-of-sr-90-detected-in-seawater-of-fukushima-plant-port-highest-in-recorded-history/ and TEPCO document http://www.tepco.co.jp/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2015/images/2tb-east_15061901-j.pdf. 
 
[xxv] Iori Mochizuki, “Highest Strontium-90 density detected in seawater of Fukushima plant port / 1,500,000 Bq/m3,” Fukushima Dairy (July 18, 2015). http://fukushima-diary.com/2015/07/highest-strontium-90-density-detected-in-seawater-of-fukushima-plant-port-1500000-bqm3/ TEPCO document available here: http://www.tepco.co.jp/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2015/images/2tb-east_15071701-j.pdf 
 
[xxvi] S. Kimura (6 April 2013) ‘120 Tons of Contaminated Water Leaks at Fukushima Nuclear Plant’, The Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201304060038, date accessed 7 April 2013. 
 
[xxvii] Yoshida ‘Fukushima No. 1 Can’t Keep its Head Above Tainted Water’. 
 
[xxviii] NRA signs off on TEPCO plan to release decontaminated groundwater into sea January 22, 2015 http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201501220054). 
 
Source: Majia’s Blog

January 7, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

A Multifaceted Fukushima—Trauma and Memory in Ōnobu Pelican’s Kiruannya and U-ko

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By Barbara Geilhorn
 
Abstract
Focusing on Ōnobu Pelican’s play Kiruannya and U-ko-san (2011), this article analyzes documentary theater from the area afflicted by the triple disaster of March 11, 2011. Kiruannya and U-ko provides a rich tapestry of the multiple and often contradictory features of Fukushima Prefecture in the aftermath of the Fukushima calamity, weaving a dense fabric of fictional material, newspaper clippings, and reality. I show that Ōnobu’s play opposes national discourses of a spatially limited disaster, and that it offers keen insights into the highly ambivalent and emotional landscape of those residents of Northern Japan, whose homeland was turned into a disaster zone and/or radioactive wasteland after 3.11.
 
 
 
Introduction
 This article provides a close reading of Kiruannya to U-ko-san (Kiruannya and U-ko, 2011), a documentary play by the playwright and director Ōnobu Pelican (b. 1975)1, which received high acclaim in Japan. Ōnobu lived in Minamisōma, a city heavily affected by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami, located 25 km north of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.2 Parts of the city were evacuated because of radiation, and many of the evacuees have still not returned to their homes. In the meantime, authorities have successively lifted evacuation orders (excluding the “difficult-to-return” zones, kikan konnan kuiki), to allow for the alleged return to normal in the disaster zone.3
 
 
In the first months after the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear catastrophe, Ōnobu felt an urgent need to address the painful experiences of people affected, and decided to make these experiences the topic of his new play.4 This article examines the potentialities of documentary theater as a medium for processing trauma in post-disaster Tōhoku, and analyzes how Kiruannya and U-ko engages in the cultural work of transforming individual suffering into collective memory.5 Documentary plays enact negotiations between reality, its image, and its interpretation, and can thereby open up new approaches to one’s own reality, as Janelle Reinelt has argued.6 In her study on documentary theater, Carol Martin created a list of the functions of documentary plays.7 The following are particularly relevant in the context of this article: “1. To create additional historical accounts; 2. To reconstruct an event; 3. To intermingle autobiography with history.” In other words, besides helping people to overcome trauma, documentaries have the potential to trigger critical engagement and activism.8 I will return to this later.
 
 
In this article, I argue that the playwright constructs a narrative countering images of ‘Fukushima’ as a region of destruction and despair, one that can only be characterized by the disaster and its aftermath. He does this without neglecting contentious issues around the nuclear catastrophe or uncritically supporting slogans for quick recovery. While a critical stance is not rare for theater responding to the Fukushima calamity, Kiruannya and U-ko is unusual in addressing so many conflicting dimensions in response to the disaster. As I show in detail below, Ōnobu’s play allows those immediately affected to construct and re-experience trauma as a first step in assimilating these stressful events. At the same time, the narration addresses those living far away and invites them to relate emotionally to the traumatic experiences addressed. Kiruannya and U-ko criticizes the promotion of economic growth at the expense of the local population’s livelihoods, and leaves sufficient room for them to mourn for what is lost.
 
 
 
A multifaceted Fukushima – Conflicting images of the beloved homeland
Kiruannya and U-ko premiered at the Subterranean Theater in Tokyo in June 2011,9 directed by the author and performed by his troupe Manrui Toriking Ichiza (Loaded Bases Bird King Troupe),10 which shifted its base of activities from Minamisōma to Fukushima City due to the calamity. After the Tokyo premiere, the play was presented in other Japanese cities.11 Kiruannya and U-ko was discussed positively in national theater journals and nominated as “play of the month” by the renowned Performing Arts Network. Subsequently, Ōnobu gained visibility on the Tokyo theater scene, becoming a frequent guest in panel discussions on Japanese theater after 3.11, as well as a participant in round table discussions addressing the Fukushima calamity.
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Ōnobu Pelican Kiruannya and U-ko (Courtesy of Akai Yasuhiro)
 
 
Kiruannya and U-ko centers on the ambivalent emotions of people living in the areas affected by the tsunami and/or the nuclear exclusion zone in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, and provides an account of Fukushima Prefecture’s history, beginning in 2011 and going back to the beginnings of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 1970. The play is a collage of newspaper article readings and quotes from literary texts bound together by a fictive narrative of two women and a man searching for a woman called U-ko. However, each of the three figures in the play, called Man, Woman 1, and Woman 2, seem to be looking for a different person: a childhood friend, an acquaintance met on the World Wide Web, or the chef of a bistro. Her name is written with the U in romanization and the latter half in a Chinese character, but is pronounced Yūko. U-ko lives in a town where the newspaper deliveryman Kiruannya scatters clippings from old newspapers all over town. The nickname, a combination of kiru (cut, kill) and annya (older brother; Fukushima dialectal word for a friendly male who is older than the speaker), refers to this very activity. I will come back to the relevance of both names later.
 
 
The repetitive character of these episodes evokes flashbacks experienced by individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The play evokes the return of a repressed trauma experienced by those who were searching for family members, friends, and acquaintances in the aftermath of the disaster, often unsuccessfully. The term ‘trauma’ refers to an experience of extreme intensity that overstrains the coping capabilities of an individual and causes lasting damage to his/her self-conception. However, what is perceived as a traumatic experience is not the event itself, but the persisting re-experiencing of it.12 A traumatic experience is thus temporally and spatially separated from the triggering event (latency). The ‘embodied’ memory is not directly accessible and cannot be narrativized.13 Narrativizing the dreadful events, and allowing viewers to re-experience and construct their trauma is a major task of the play.
 
 
Ōnobu’s stage design and effects are minimalist. The stage is completely covered by newspaper clippings and is dominated by the model of a village hanging at its center, symbolizing the town where the newspaper deliveryman Kiruannya and U-ko, the person sought in the play, live. Although the two figures are central to the play, they do not appear on stage. Classical music, including famous pieces such as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, set the contemplative tone of the play. Although Kiruannya and U-ko consists largely of characters quoting newspapers and literary material, it is not a static performance. As the man and the two women move around the village model at center stage, the tempo of the figures’ movements and speech increases with their growing despair and desperation, generating a spiral of dynamism. The actors are moving around frantically, calling out U-ko’s name, as well as the dates and places where she was last seen or lost. The affective dimension of the calamity becomes tangible even to audience members who lack direct experience of the dreadful events. The play invites the audience to actively connect with the emotions triggered by the disaster, and hence stimulates them to engage with the trauma. In some audience members, this might be the starting point for re-thinking their own stance towards the use of nuclear power or their private energy consumption.
 
 
 
Ōnobu Pelican Kiruannya and U-ko, revised version (Courtesy of Akai Yasuhiro)
The actors alternatively read newspaper clippings about a person named U-ko that are scattered across the stage. They start in January 2011, and proceed in chronological order. When the man calls out the date of March 11, the review of everyday local events is suddenly interrupted by an Early Earthquake Warning siren evoking haunting memories of the calamity in actors and audiences alike, including the anxiety and uncertainty caused by the numerous aftershocks that lasted for weeks. In his review of the play, Masaki Hiroyuki (b. 1964), the Tokyo-based former editor-in-chief of the journal Theatre Arts (Shiatā Ātsu), writes about his involuntary reactions to the sound of the Early Earthquake Warning, and the shock that gripped his body when he saw the play about six months after the catastrophe.14 When the three actors resume reading the newspaper clippings, they refer to the disaster. Again, it is U-ko who is the protagonist, and who represents the local people’s various reactions and behaviors, such as an evacuee taking neighbors out of the radiation zone in her bus, a mayor encouraging villagers to return and get involved in reconstruction, and a woman complaining to the visiting prime minister about living conditions in temporary shelters. When the actors finally read out the Fukushima Police Department’s list of missing people whose bodies were identified, again, all of them are named U-ko. It becomes ever more uncertain who U-ko is, and if she ever existed at all.
 
 
The quest to find U-ko invites the audience to relive the fraught days after 3.11 as people desperately searched for missing relatives and friends. By making the dominant color of the stage, including the performers’ clothing, white, Ōnobu opens up a wide space for imagination. What is presented on stage is not limited to a specific historical time or geographic place such as “Fukushima.” Audiences are encouraged to imagine themselves in the position of the two women and the man in their search for U-ko. Her name is telling: while U can be read as referring to the unknown, the name’s Japanese pronunciation also suggests the English personal pronoun “you.” Moreover, Yūko is a very common Japanese female name, which can be written with a number of different Chinese characters. U-ko represents the countless people who are still missing to this day, and gives the nameless victims an identity. At the same time, U-ko stands for everywoman: she reminds us that everyone could find themselves in her situation. Thus, in Kiruannya and U-ko, which was first conceived to be performed in front of a Tokyo audience, Ōnobu is invested in the cultural work of creating an imagined community affected by the calamity that is not limited to those living in the immediate disaster zones. Differentiating between individual and collective trauma, Alexander and Breese argue that “for collectivities […] it is a matter of symbolic construction and framing, of creating a narrative and moving along from there. A ‘we’ must be constructed via narrative and coding, and it is this collective identity that experiences and confronts the danger.”15 Events have to be expressed and constructed as trauma to be perceived as such by a group of people. By actively inviting audiences far removed from Tōhoku to imagine themselves in the position of those directly affected, Ōnobu counters national narratives of 3.11 as a geographically limited disaster and a short-term recovery.
 
 
A number of times, the quest to find U-ko is interrupted by readings of citations from local literature, which are distributed among the three actors and establish a new level of involvement with issues related to 3.11. The first reading cites the entire Episode 99 of Tōno monogatari (The Legends of Tōno),16 a record of folk legends that were orally transmitted through the generations in the Tōno region, which is located near the Pacific coast of Iwate Prefecture, one of the areas most severely affected by the triple disaster. Yanagita Kunio (1875–1962), the founder of Japanese folklore studies, collected these legends based on the memory of the Tōno native Sasaki Kizen (or Kyōseki, 1886–1933). The resulting book is a rewriting of local oral history into a literary work that addresses a national audience and engages with the problems of Japanese collective identity in the modern world. Subsequently, Tōno as described in the legends became the canonical representative of the Japanese homeland (furusato)17 in the collective imagination.
 
 
Episode 99 relates the story of Kitagawa Fukuji, who lost his wife and one of his children in the devastating tsunami of 1896. Living in a temporary shelter with his surviving children, he got up one moonlit night and encountered the ghost of his dead wife. While crying about the loss of her children, Kitagawa’s wife also reports that she has found a new partner. Although Tōno monogatari relates the very basic facts of the event fleetingly, it nevertheless succeeds in conveying the emotional vividness of the protagonist. This is even more the case if one reads episode 99 in the context of the Fukushima calamity. Mirroring the situation of recent disaster victims who lost close family members, the text conjures up accounts of wandering spirits of people who died in the tsunami.18 Describing the encounter between the living and the dead, and at the same time hinting at the possibility of finding peace in the afterlife, the scene reveals what survivors of the triple disaster might long for. For those not directly affected, the episode is also deeply disturbing, thereby emotionally drawing spectators far removed from Tōhoku into the play and inviting them to imagine the process of mourning experienced by survivors. Moreover, by adding a passage pertaining to a local disaster from an account from over one hundred years ago, Ōnobu links 3.11 to the past, emphasizing the fact that Northern Japan has a long and tragic history of devastating tsunami disasters, and questioning the unpredictability (sōteigai)19 of the nuclear disaster as frequently claimed to obscure the human responsibility for the Fukushima meltdowns. Tōno and Tōno monogatari, both epitomizing the Japanese homeland, again highlight the relevance of the tragic events beyond the spatially limited confines of the disaster area.
 
 
Kiruannya and U-ko draws a multifaceted picture of Fukushima Prefecture before and after the devastating events via the reading of extracts, not all of which mention the topic of disaster, from various kinds of sources – quoting well-known literary works, as well as local newspaper reports.20 The information mined for the performance mainly deals with local events and politics: agricultural reports, coverage of local sports and cultural happenings, and crime reports. The broad variety of topics is needed, not only to paint a full picture of the locale before the disaster, but also to contrast with the chronological record of significant occurrences in the history of the region’s nuclear power industry – a history that is intertwined in the local reportage. For a post-3.11 audience, the latter stand out against the majority of rather trivial local events. The play traces the prefecture’s development into one of the country’s major energy suppliers, without omitting the attempts of Japan’s most powerful utility and the operator of Fukushima Daiichi, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), to cover up problems in Fukushima’s nuclear reactors.
 
 
Ōnobu also provides information on the region’s overall development, such as the opening of new train routes or school buildings, highlighting the fact that the high-risk technology of the nuclear industry was established in the region to trigger economic growth in a rural, less developed and sparsely populated area. This also hints at the fact that locals might have willingly accepted the dangers of nuclear power in favor of jobs and socio-economic development, which became a source of ambivalence and tension after the disaster. Locals may still be reluctant to criticize the nuclear industry for causing the calamity, since their livelihoods depended on the nuclear plant. What is more, criticizing the use of nuclear power would entail a re-evaluation of their own involvement.
 
 
Kiruannya and U-ko addresses the whole complexity of problems that led to the Fukushima calamity. As the theater critic Masaki has done, the play can be interpreted as showing the author’s embitterment, perhaps even an accusation, towards the inhabitants of Tokyo for heaping the risks in meeting the capital’s energy needs onto the people of Fukushima Prefecture. Certainly, Ōnobu criticizes what has been called gisei no shisutemu (“sacrificial system”)21: companies and policyholders assigning the tremendous risks of nuclear energy to peripheral regions such as northern Japan, whose safety and future are jeopardized for the benefit of the metropolitan center. However, I would suggest a more complex reading of the narrative. Besides taking a critical stance towards parties responsible for the development of the nuclear energy industry in Tokyo and Fukushima Prefecture, the play draws a positive, even affectionate image of Onobu’s home province, with its abundant natural and attractive cultural heritage. For example, the performance touches on the establishment of Oze National Park in 2007, which stretches across Fukushima, Gunma, Niigata and Tochigi Prefectures, and the Sōma Nōmaoi, a designated cultural treasure of Japan, which involves an annual horse race organized by three shrines in Fukushima Prefecture, where the participating riders wear historical costumes. Ōnobu joins other local artists and cultural initiatives such as Wagō Ryōichi and Project Fukushima!22 in an effort to counterbalance post-disaster images of Northern Japan that reduced the afflicted areas to mere disaster zones. Both aim at countering the stigmatization, which reinforces the already existing marginalization of the aging, rural prefecture of Fukushima. However, Ōnobu goes one step further. Via commentary on local politics, festivals and landscape, Ōnobu provides insight into the complex emotional state of the local people: traumatized by loss and bereavement, affected residents are torn between charges against those responsible in the capital, self-accusations, and the love of and pride in their homeland.
 
 
While the Japanese government and the nuclear power industry have targeted such remote, less developed areas that depend on the jobs and subsidies brought by hosting nuclear facilities, local people assented and accepted the dangers of nuclear energy in exchange for jobs and modest prosperity.23 Although national stakeholders pushed nuclear power forward by emphasizing its safety (anzen shinwa), it must be assumed that there was a certain level of willing ignorance on the part of the local community. Having said that, we also have to consider that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a strong anti-nuclear power movement to mobilize citizens did not exist in rural Japan or, indeed, almost anywhere in the world. Now, as a consequence of the nuclear disaster, the homes and livelihoods of numerous people, as well as many of the region’s natural and cultural assets, which were important components of local identity, are lost and might never be regained. The readings of newspaper excerpts intertwined in the play provide local reportage highlighting all these aspects. Kiruannya can be read as the very embodiment of the calamity: kiru, written in the katakana syllabary writing system, hints at two possible Chinese characters, meaning ‘cut’ or ‘kill’, thereby evoking associations comparable for a Western audience to the Grim Reaper wandering about town to collect the dead.24 Spreading the clippings all over town, he also symbolizes the ceaseless process of coming to terms with the complex emotional state of affected residents, as well as the flashbacks related to the experience of trauma.
 
 
Ōnobu highlights the beauty and value of what has been lost, when using the following two poems, which are emotionally charged representations of Fukushima Prefecture, in his play. Fukushima-ken Futaba-gun Kawauchi-mura (Kawauchi Village in Futaba District, Fukushima Prefecture),25 by the Fukushima-born poet Kusano Shimpei (1903–1988),26 presents an idyllic picture of life in the countryside with rich wildlife and a vibrant community, all the while emphasizing the uniqueness of the village. By making the poet’s reed hut and second home a place of exile and retreat from the noisy life of the city, Kawauchi-mura is imagined as an alternative to living in the city. When the poet imagines himself to be back there one day after temporarily leaving for Tokyo, theater audiences are painfully reminded that returning home will no longer be possible for many people displaced by the Fukushima calamity.
 
 
The second poem quoted in Ōnobu’s play, Juka no Futari (Two People Under A Tree), by the well-known poet, sculptor, and painter Takamura Kōtarō (1883–1956),27 strikes a similar chord to Kusano Shimpei’s text. Juka no Futari is a hymn to Fukushima’s natural beauty. The beauty of Mount Atatara and the glistening of the River Abukuma are invoked several times through the poem, acting as a refrain and setting the scene. Takamura links his praise of the region with the treasured memories of his late wife Chieko (1886–1938), a Fukushima-born painter and poet herself, who died from tuberculosis after a long-term mental illness. In the context of Kiruannya and U-ko, the poem, written on March 11, 1923, gains a new meaning. Besides evoking the calamity by the very date of its composition, the inscription of the poem into the performance triggers associations of the survivors’ emotional distress from outliving family members and/or friends lost in the disaster. At the same time, the poem mourns the fact that places deeply linked to the private memories of people living in the afflicted areas are now polluted by radiation for the foreseeable future.28
 
 
Kiruannya and U-ko was not performed in Fukushima City until November 2012, nearly a year and a half after its premiere in Tokyo. At a symposium called the Earthquake Disaster and Theatre: Asking for a New Paradigm for Theatre, held on October 8, 2012 in the Za Kōenji theater in Tokyo,29 Ōnobu talked of his hesitation about staging the play in his home prefecture, and expressed his concerns about finding a different approach to the disaster – particularly, one that takes into account the emotional distress of affected people, without glossing over contentious issues.30 He voiced his concerns that the play might be criticised for contributing to fūhyō higai,31 harmful, unfounded rumors, allegedly spread about affected areas in the aftermath of the disaster. Fūhyō higai is a highly controversial issue persistent in public discourse on the Fukushima calamity. On the one hand, rumors arise when reliable information is unavailable in the event of disaster, and reports on wide areas made virtually uninhabitable by radiation constitute both a substantially pragmatic and emotional burden for locals. However, allegations of fūhyō higai became a powerful tool in the hands of pro-nuclear pressure groups, including the Abe government, to silence critical voices warning of the risks of nuclear power and especially the risks to those returning to the contaminated land.
 
 
In this kind of environment, the danger of self-censorship in the arts is very real. However, experiences in the course of rehearsals made Ōnobu change his mind and present the play in Fukushima City. What initially proved to be emotionally challenging for the troupe, since many people from their immediate environment had died or were forced to live in contaminated places, evolved into a way to overcome emotional distress. The troupe’s experience of emotional healing (iyashi) lent impetus to the idea of performances with the aim of inducing a similar process in local audiences.32 Shows in Fukushima in 2012 were well received with emotional responses.33 Ōnobu was confronted with hardly any of the reproaches of fūhyō higai (harmful rumors) that were voiced so readily in the aftermath of the disaster. A major reason might have been that his play does not overlook the locals’ strong bond to their native land.
 
 
 
‘Fukushima’: progress and disaster
In winter 2013, about two and a half years after its Tokyo debut, Kiruannya and U-ko was restaged in Tokyo and Shizuoka in a slightly revised version under the direction of Akai Yasuhiro (b. 1972).34 The Fukushima City native was the director and head of the Tokyo-based theater Subterranean, where the original and revised versions of the play premiered. In the new version, the original text remains largely unchanged. The only difference was the inclusion of a “woman from 1970,” who makes her appearance in an exaggeratedly happy march to the tune of Minami Haruo’s Sekai no kuni kara konnichiwa (Hello From the Nations of the World), the official theme song of the Osaka Expo of the same year. The song sets the naïvely positive atmosphere of the short scene. The design of the woman’s dress (she wore a white T-shirt with red vertical patterns down both sides of the front and a golden party hat) was reminiscent of Okamoto Tarō’s (1911–1996) Taiyō no Tō (Tower of the Sun), one of the most famous works by the avant-garde painter and sculptor, and the symbol of Expo 70. Part of the Osaka Expo’s central festival plaza, the Tower of the Sun was a representation of the past (lower part), present (middle part), and future (the face) of humankind.35 Consequently, her dress identifies the “woman from 1970” as a personification of the year of the first World’s Fair held in an Asian country and hints at her being a link between past, present, and future in the play. I will return to the latter aspect shortly. Besides Okamoto, numerous other writers, artists and architects participated in shaping the image of the Expo, which was a “locus of both collaborative and contending ideas about the future.”36 “Progress and Harmony for Mankind” (Jinrui no shinpo to chōwa), the theme of the exposition, included praise of nuclear power as a new technology that was supposed to bring about a bright future for the whole world.37
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Ōnobu Pelican Kiruannya and U-ko (Courtesy of Akai Yasuhiro)
 
 
Marching in time to Minami Haruo’s song and providing a cheerful picture of the Expo’s opening ceremony, the woman in search of the future arrives in the town where U-ko and Kiruannya live. However, she does not interact with the characters searching for U-ko, preferring to observe the events that unfold on stage. The “woman from 1970” reads excerpts from the official record of the two Osaka Expo time capsules buried adjacent to Osaka castle, containing 2,098 objects “representing the achievements of our civilization and the everyday experience of the Japanese people,”38 which are to be excavated in 5,000 years. What was once a proud symbol of the cultural and technological advancement of humankind has turned into an icon of the long-term nuclear legacy after 3.11. The woman in the Osaka Expo’s dress quotes at length from a letter by a schoolboy addressed to people 5,000 years in the future. To contemporary ears post-2011, the letter reads like a science fiction fantasy; an idealistic enthusiasm for future potentialities carried to the extreme.
 
 
Short episodes featuring the “woman from 1970” are repeatedly interspersed in the play. She seems to pop up like an unpleasant memory of the careless acceptance of the risks of nuclear power that cannot be suppressed. Akai emphasized her role as a startling intruder by means of lighting. She sits on a little platform in the corner of the stage, occupying the spotlight when quoting from the Expo’s official records. Her naïve cheerfulness is in sharp contrast to the growing despair of the characters in their quest to find U-ko, which underlines the absurdity of her lines. Thus, the “woman from 1970” embodies the naïve faith in science and technology, and is a spirit haunting the future that had been imagined so brightly by her generation.39 Furthermore, by handing over the three literary texts examined above for her fellow actors to quote, she visibly acts as a mediator between different periods of time and hints at how Kiruannya and U-ko integrates the Fukushima disaster into a wider historical frame.
 
 
However, the play casts doubt on whether humankind will be able to learn the lessons of the past. In 1970, man-made disasters such as the Minamata disease were common knowledge. Yet attitudes towards science and technology – specifically as having the answers to all of life’s challenges – have changed little over the last four decades. Moreover, the problems and dangers of nuclear power are not resolved yet. It is only a matter of time until the next nuclear disaster occurs in some part of the world. Akai intended to highlight this universal aspect of Kiruannya and U-ko. Unlike the original, the revised play was performed by a cast of Tokyo actors and a Korean actress, whose role was to provide Korean language; she read the history of four decades of Fukushima Prefecture mentioned above, and Japanese subtitles were provided. By employing the Korean actress, Akai aimed at moving further away from the local focus of the play, and universalizing its subject.40 The problems and risks connected to the use of nuclear power do not end with the Fukushima calamity. Akai wanted to hint at the fact that a similar calamity is not unlikely to happen in one of Japan’s neighboring countries using nuclear energy. Thus, through the combined efforts of the playwright and the new director, the global dimensions of the play, together with the criticism of humankind’s blind faith in technology and science, become more explicit.
 
 
On the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima calamity, the new version of the play was performed in translation in Munich by the German-Japanese theater collective EnGawa, under the directorship of Satō Otone.41 Although an original production in its own right, Kiruannya to U-ko-san – Bruder Sense und Frau U (Kiruannya and U-ko – Brother Scythe and Mrs. U)42 owes many staging details to the Japanese version. Performed in German with only a very few lines recited in Japanese, it likewise highlighted the global dimension of the issues touched upon in the play. The troupe’s cross-cultural performance is also reflected in the title of the play, which keeps the Japanese original with the German translation. As the Munich performance demonstrates, Kiruannya and U-ko has the potential to be shown internationally.
 
 
 
Conclusion
Weaving a dense fabric of fictional material, newspaper clippings and reality, Kiruannya and U-ko provides a rich tapestry of the multiple and often contradictory features of Fukushima Prefecture in the aftermath of the triple disaster. Ōnobu’s play offers keen insights into the simultaneous ambivalence and highly emotional landscape of those residents of Northern Japan, whose homeland was turned into a disaster zone and/or radioactive wasteland after 3.11. Although the numerous cross-references to local issues or literary quotes make the play particularly rewarding for a local or a Japanese audience, it can nevertheless be appreciated by international spectators, as the Munich performance has shown.
 
 
Kiruannya and U-ko works at two overlapping symbolic levels: one level offers local audiences a temporary space to process individual trauma, and experience emotional healing. Interweaving autobiography with history, the play encourages audiences to reconstruct the terrible events, a major function of documentary theater, as Carol Martin has outlined. The other level creates an alternative reading of the calamity, and constructs a narrative resisting the dominant image of Fukushima as a nuclear wasteland and as a geographically limited disaster. Kiruannya and U-ko integrates the March 11 disaster into the larger historical context of Northern Japan as a region known for devastating tsunami disasters, as well as into the establishment of the nuclear industry in Japan, and points to the shared responsibility of national and local stakeholders. The play moves viewers beyond the temporally and spatially limited confines of the disaster to integrate audiences into an imagined collective of people traumatized by this calamity that has its origins far beyond the borders of those areas immediately affected. Opposing national discourses of a disaster limited to a particular area, Ōnobu engages in transforming individual trauma into collective memory, thereby involving the diverse perspectives of Fukushima residents.
 
 
 
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Ōnobu Pelican and Akai Yasuhiro for providing me with DVD material, a recording of the performances, and photos. I am much obliged to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for providing me with the funding to conduct research in Japan. I also thank the reviewers for their insightful and helpful suggestions.
 
 
 
Notes
1
Ōnobu P. Kiruannya to U-ko-san. Shiata Ātsu 48, 2011, pp. 121–138. See also Performing Arts Network (The Japan Foundation). Play of the Month. Kiruannya and U-ko. Pelican Onobu [online] (March 30, 2012). Available here, accessed: July 19, 2018.
2
For further detail on the situation on site, see, for example, McNeill, D. and Quintana, M. Mission Impossible. What Future Fukushima? The Asia-Pacific Journal, 11 (39), 1 [online] (September 30, 2013). Available from here, accessed: October 12, 2018. McNeill and Lucy Birmingham show how local people dealt with the earthquake, tsunami, and following nuclear disaster. McNeill, D. and Birmingham, L. Meltdown: On the Front Lines of Japan’s 3.11 Disaster. The Asia-Pacific Journal, 9 (19), 2 [online] (May 9, 2011). Available here, accessed: October 12, 2018.
3
Fukushima Prefecture provides up-to-date information on the transition process, accessed: October 12, 2018.
4
Sakate Y., et al. Shinpojiumu shinsai to engeki: Atarashii engeki paradaimu o motomete (Tokushū shinsai to engeki). Shiatā Ātsu 53, 2012, pp. 5–6.
5
See DiNitto, R. Narrating the Cultural Trauma of 3.11: The Debris of Post-Fukushima Literature and Film. Japan Forum, 26 (3), 2014, pp. 340–360 for a revealing study of these issues in the context of literature.
6
Reinelt, J. The Promise of Documentary. In: A. Forsyth and C. Megson, eds. Get Real: Documentary Theatre Past and Present. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, pp. 9–11 and pp. 22–24.
7
Martin, C. Bodies of Evidence. TDR (The Drama Review) 50 (3) (T 191), 2006, pp. 12–13.
8
In some cases, the political dimension of documentaries becomes more explicit in film, as in the work of Kamanaka Hitomi. In a recent interview with Hirano Katsuya, she raises similar issues to the ones I will discuss here. However, the scope of her work goes far beyond the realm of the risks of nuclear power. Kamanaka H. and Hirano K. Fukushima, Media, Democracy: The Promise of Documentary Film. The Asia-Pacific Journal, 16 (16), 3 [online] (August 15, 2018). Available here, accessed: October 12, 2018. See also the accompanying essay by Margherita Long.
Long, M. Japan’s 3.11 Nuclear Disaster and the State of Exception: Notes on Kamanaka’s Interview and Two Recent Films. The Asia-Pacific Journal, 16 (16), 4 [online] (August 15, 2018). Available from: https://apjjf.org/2018/16/Long.html, accessed: October 12, 2018.
9
On June 25 and 26 as part of the SENTIVAL! at atelier SENTIO festival. See the trailer here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
10
Ōnobu founded the troupe in 1996 when he was a student at Fukushima University. In January 2015, Manrui Toriking Ichiza was renamed Shia Torie (THEA TRiE). See the troupe’s homepage, accessed: June 19, 2018.
11
Kiruannya and U-ko was then performed in Sendai (September 17 and 18, 2011) and Yokohama (September 24 and 25, 2011), followed by readings in Aomori (January 21, 2012), Kitakyūshū (March 10, 2012) and Fukushima City (November 17 and 18, 2012).
12
Nünning, A., ed. Metzler-Lexikon Literatur- und Kulturtheorie: Ansätze, Personen, Grundbegriffe. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2008, p. 728.
13
In her influential rereading of Freud, Caruth describes this paradoxical nature of traumatic experience as follows: “Trauma is not locatable in the simple violent or original event in an individual’s past, but rather in the way its very unassimilated nature – the way it was precisely not known in the first instance – returns to haunt the survivor later on.” Caruth, C. Trauma: Explorations in memory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1995, pp. 3–4.
14
Masaki H. Sabuterenian purodyūsu ‘Kiruannya to U-ko-san’ [online]. Wonderland, 2014. Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
15
Alexander, J. C. and Breese, E. B. On Social Suffering and Its Cultural Construction. In: R. Eyermen, J. C. Alexander, and E. B. Breese, eds. Narrating Trauma: On the Impact of Collective Suffering. Boulder and London: Paradigm Publishers, 2011, pp. xii–xiii.
16
Yanagita K. Tōno monogatari. Yanagita Kunioshū. Nihon kindai bungaku taikei (NKBT) 45, 1973, pp. 299–300. Tōkyō: Kadokawa shoten. References to the Tōno monogatari also appear in some literary works on the Fukushima calamity. See the forthcoming book DiNitto, R. Fukushima Fiction: The Literary Landscape of Japan’s Triple Disaster. University of Hawaii Press, 2019.
17
Ivy, M. Discourses of the vanishing. Modernity, phantasm, Japan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995, p. 100.
18
Parry, R. L. Ghosts of the Tsunami. London Review of Books [online], 36 (3), February 6, 2014, 1–11. Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
19
For a critical discussion of the alleged unpredictability of the Fukushima disaster, see Samuels, R. 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013, pp. 35–39.
20
Sources are the Fukushima Minpō Shinbun and Fukushima Min’yū Shinbun.
21
Takahashi, T. Gisei no shisutemu – Fukushima, Okinawa. Tokyo: Shūeisha, 2012. For an in-depth analysis of another play invested in this issue see Geilhorn, B. Local Theatre Responding to a Global Issue – 3/11 seen from Japan’s Periphery. Japan Review 31, 2017, pp. 123–139. Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
22
Iwata-Weickgenannt, K. Precarity Beyond 3/11 or ‘Living Fukushima’: Power, Politics, and Space in Wagō Ryōichi’s Poetry of Disaster. In: K. Iwata-Weickgenannt and R. Rosenbaum, eds. Visions of Precarity in Japanese Popular Culture and Literature. London and New York: Routledge, 2015, pp. 187–211. See also the project’s homepage, accessed: June 19, 2018. 
23
Aldrich, D. Networks of Power. Institutions and Local Residents in Post-Tōhoku Japan. In: J. Kingston, ed. Natural Disaster and Nuclear Crisis in Japan. Response and Recovery after Japan’s 3/11. London and New York: Routledge, 2012, pp. 127–139.
24
This is why Otone Sato chose Kiruannya to U-ko-san – Bruder Sense und Frau U (Kiruannya and U-ko – Brother Scythe and Mrs. U) as the title for the German version of the play, which I will briefly touch upon later.
25
Kawauchi-mura is situated in the 20–30 km zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. While the town was initially subject to mandatory evacuation, it is part of the area that was eventually opened up by authorities. These details are not made explicit to the audience, but will be known to locals.
26
Kusano Shimpei, born in Kamiogawa (Fukushima Prefecture) is one of the major Japanese poets of the twentieth century and particularly known for his lyric poems about nature.
27
Takamura K. Chieko shō. Tōkyō: Shinchōsha, 1967, pp. 65–67. Takamura Kotaro was an outstanding poet of his time and, among others, crucial to the establishment of shintaishi (new style of poetry that was no longer limited to the combination of verse of five or seven syllables common in traditional poetry) in the vernacular language. Two People Under A Tree is part of his most prominent collection of poems, Chieko shō (a selection of writings on Chieko, first published in 1941), which comprises works from the very beginning of their relationship until well after Chieko’s death. For an English translation, see here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
28
The area referred to in this poem is situated outside the mandatory evacuation zones. However, it remains to be seen what long-term effects the radiation exposure will have on residents.
29
Sakate et al., pp. 4–23.
30
Sakate et al., p. 18.
31
For a close reading of Okada Toshiki’s play Genzaichi (Current Location), which addresses the problem of fūhyō higai in a fictionalized form, see Geilhorn, B. Challenging Reality with Fiction – Imagining Alternative Readings of Japanese Society in Post-Fukushima Theatre, in B. Geilhorn and K. Iwata-Weickgenannt, eds. Negotiating Disaster: ‘Fukushima’ and the Arts. London and New York: Routledge, 2017, pp. 162–176.
32
Sakate et al., p. 22.
33
Ōnobu P. E-mail correspondence with the author, November 20, 2015.
34
From November 29 to December 3 at Sabuterenian in Tokyo and on December 5 and 6 at Atorie Mirume in Shizuoka. For further information, see the theater’s homepage, accessed: June 19, 2018.
35
See here, accessed: June 19, 2018, for an image and further details.
36
Gardner, W. O. The 1970 Osaka Expo and/as Science Fiction. Review of Japanese Culture and Society 23, Expo ’70 and Japanese Art: Dissonant Voices, 2011, p. 28. [online] Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
37
To be sure, organizers were absolutely aware of the numerous problems around the globe and the Expo’s exaggeratedly positive mode did not escape criticism and ridicule from contemporaries, as Gardner has shown. But critical voices were mitigated and pushed to the margins (see Gardner, p. 38).
38
Panasonic, 2010. Time Capsule Expo ’70. A gift to the people of the future from the people of the present day… [online]. Available from: http://panasonic.net/history/timecapsule, accessed: June 19, 2018. In the list of contents you can find a Plutonium timekeeper, Radioactive carbon C14, Plutonium Pu239, which is used for the production of nuclear weapons, and scientific reports for the future, including one on atomic science, but also records of the atomic bombings. Obviously, the people responsible did not realize the conflict between the remembrance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the promotion of nuclear technology for energy supply.
39
Interestingly, Okada Toshiki’s Unable to See, which was shown at The World is Not Fair – The Great World’s Fair 2012 festival in Berlin, also employs references to the Osaka Expo in what was one of his first attempts to address the Fukushima calamity on stage. However, as a satirical piece displaying strong irony and sarcasm, it is very different in character. For more details, see Geilhorn, Challenging Reality.
40
Masaki, Sabuterenian purodyūsu.
41
The theater collective was formed on the occasion of the Fukushima calamity and has presented related performances on its anniversary since 2012.
42
Ōnobu P. Bruder Sense und Frau U [online]. Aus dem Japanischen von Otone Sato. Munich: Teatralize.company, 2014. Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018. The play was staged between March 13 and 15, 2015, and included a talk after the performance (on March 14) with the director and the following Japanese guests: Nishidō Kōjin (renowned Japanese theater critic and president of the International Association of Theatre Critics), Takahashi Shinya (theater specialist and professor of German studies at Chūō University, Tokyo) and Akai Yasuhiro. The performance was part of a cultural event lasting several days.
For further details, see Leucht, S. Neuanfang unter Kirschblüten. Vor vier Jahren havarierte im japanischen Fukushima das Kernkraftwerk. Zwei Veranstaltungen erinnern im I-Camp an die Katastrophe und weisen in die Zukunft. Süddeutsche Zeitung (Bayern – Kultur), March 11, 2015 and EnGawa. Kiruannya to U-ko-san – Bruder Sense und Frau U. EnGawa [online]. Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018. See the trailer.
 
 
Source: The Asia-Pacific Journal

January 2, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Prosecutors demand 5-year prison terms for Tepco’s ex-bosses for Fukushima nuclear disaster

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Prosecutors say TEPCO leaders should have known the risks a tsunami could pose to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which sits along Japan’s eastern coast. Here, the Unit 3 reactor is seen this past summer, amid storage tanks of radiation-contaminated water.
Executives In Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Deserve 5-Year Prison Terms, Prosecutors Say
December 26, 2018
The former chairman and two vice presidents of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. should spend five years in prison over the 2011 flooding and meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japanese prosecutors say, accusing the executives of failing to prevent a foreseeable catastrophe.
Prosecutors say the TEPCO executives didn’t do enough to protect the nuclear plant, despite being told in 2002 that the Fukushima facility was vulnerable to a tsunami. In March of 2011, it suffered meltdowns at three of its reactors, along with powerful hydrogen explosions.
“It was easy to safeguard the plant against tsunami, but they kept operating the plant heedlessly,” prosecutors said on Wednesday, according to The Asahi Shimbun. “That led to the deaths of many people.”
Former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78; former Vice President Ichiro Takekuro, 72; and former Vice President Sakae Muto, 68, face charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury. Muto and Takekuro once led the utility’s nuclear division. All three have pleaded not guilty in Tokyo District Court, saying they could not have predicted the tsunami.
The stricken plant triggered mandatory evacuations for thousands of people. Prosecutors attribute 44 deaths to the incident, including a number of hospital patients who were forced to leave their facilities.
The sentencing recommendation came as prosecutors made their closing arguments on Wednesday, more than two years after the executives were initially indicted.
The next step in the case will see a lawyer for victims and their families speak in court on Thursday. But it won’t be until March of 2019 that defense lawyers will deliver their closing arguments, according to Japan’s NHK News.
Hinting at what the defense’s argument might be, NHK cites the prosecutors saying, “the former executives later claimed that they had not been informed, and that the executives put all the blame on their subordinates.”
The case has taken a twisting journey to arrive at this point. In two instances, public prosecutors opted not to seek indictments against the three TEPCO executives. But an independent citizen’s panel disagreed, and in early 2016, prosecutors in the case — all court-appointed lawyers — secured indictments against the three former TEPCO leaders.
Both TEPCO and the Japanese government lost a class-action lawsuit in late 2017, when a court found that officials had not prepared enough for potential disaster at the Fukushima power plant. In that case, the Fukushima district court ordered payments totaling nearly $4.5 million to about 3,800 plaintiffs.
All told, around 19,000 people are estimated to have died in eastern Japan’s triple disaster that included a powerful earthquake off the coast of Tohoku, a devastating tsunami, and the worst nuclear meltdown since the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986.
In September, Japan’s government announced the first death due to radiation that was released at the Fukushima plant.
The region is still sharply feeling the results of the calamity. As of late November, more than 30,000 people who fled the area had still not returned, Kyodo News reports.
 
 
 
Jail term demanded for ex-bosses over Fukushima nuclear crisis
The charges are the only ones to have stemmed from the tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns at the plant that set off the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986
December 26, 2018
DANGEROUS. A staff member of the Tokyo Electric Power Company measures radiation levels between reactor unit 2 and unit 3 (Rear) at the tsunami-crippled Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture.
TOKYO, Japan – A 5-year jail term was sought for 3 former executives at the company operating Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, media reported Wednesday, December 26, the only people to face criminal charges over the 2011 meltdowns.
Former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro are charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury, and have pleaded not guilty.
They are the only charges to have stemmed from the tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns at the plant that set off the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
Attorneys, who are exceptionally acting as prosecutors in the trial, said the 3 executives were aware of data indicating the nuclear plant risked being hit by a tsunami with waves exceeding 15 meters (52 feet) – enough to trigger power loss and cause severe accidents.
“They should have halted operations at the nuclear plant” until the company finished anti-tsunami measures, including construction of a breakwater, the prosecutors told Tokyo District Court, according to Jiji Press.
Katsumata, 78, has said during the trial he could not have predicted the towering waves that pummelled Japan’s northeast coast and swamped reactors in March 2011.
The disaster forced tens of thousands to evacuate their homes near the plant. Many are still living in other parts of Japan, unable or unwilling to go back home as fears over radiation persist.
The charges against the ex-bosses are linked to the deaths of more than 40 hospitalized patients who were hastily evacuated from the Fukushima area and later died.
Prosecutors had twice refused to press charges, citing insufficient evidence and little chance of conviction.
But a judicial review panel composed of ordinary citizens ruled in 2015 that the trio should be put on special trial in which designated attorneys accuse defendants and demand a penalty.
Waves as high as 14 meters swamped the reactors’ cooling systems in March 2011 after a 9.0 magnitude tremor.
Although the quake-tsunami disaster left some 18,500 people dead or missing, the Fukushima accident itself is not officially recorded as having directly killed anyone.
A parliamentary report a year after the disaster said Fukushima was a man-made crisis caused by Japan’s culture of “reflexive obedience.”

December 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 2 Comments

5-year prison terms sought for former TEPCO executives

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Five-year jail terms are being sought for former Tepco executives Tsunehisa Katsumata (left), Ichiro Takekuro (middle) and Sakae Muto for their alleged failure to prevent the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns in 2011.
5-year prison terms sought for former TEPCO executives
December 26, 2018
Prosecutors on Dec. 26 demanded five-year prison terms for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the disaster caused by a tsunami slamming into the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“It was easy to safeguard the plant against tsunami, but they kept operating the plant heedlessly,” the prosecution said at the trial at the Tokyo District Court. “That led to the deaths of many people.”
Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, former chairman of TEPCO, Sakae Muto, 68, former vice president, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, former vice president, are standing trial on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury in connection to the triple meltdown at the plant in 2011.
According to the prosecution, the failure of the three to take countermeasures against tsunami led to the deaths of 44 people and the injuries of many others.
Many of them were hospital patients who were forced to evacuate when the nuclear crisis unfolded.
The defendants have all pleaded innocent. They said they had no way of predicting a tsunami of the height that inundated the Fukushima plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
Prosecutors had dropped the case against the three, but they were mandatorily indicted by an inquest of prosecution committee comprising ordinary citizens.
Lawyers are acting as prosecutors in the trial.
Shozaburo Ishida of the prosecution side said if a nuclear accident occurs, it results in an irreparable situation in which radioactive materials are spread.
He said the three defendants, who were in the utility’s top management at the time of the Fukushima disaster, should be held responsible because they failed to pay close attention to the safety of the plant.
The prosecution accused the three of “postponing” anti-tsunami measures despite learning that an in-house analysis showed that a tsunami of up to 15.7 meters in height could hit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The plant sits on land 10 meters above sea level.
According to the prosecution, the three gave the nod to anti-tsunami measures in 2008 based on a government assessment report about the probability of earthquakes striking Japan.
However, they stalled in taking the necessary steps, the prosecution said.
During the trial, the defendants denied the credibility of the government’s long-term assessment report.
They also said “15.7 meters” was a preliminary figure, and that asking the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to evaluate the appropriateness of TEPCO’s projection does not amount to “postponing” anti-tsunami measures.
5-year prison terms sought for 3 ex-TEPCO execs over nuclear disaster
December 26, 2018
TOKYO — Five-year prison terms were sought for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) on Dec. 26 over a nuclear disaster at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northeastern Japan in 2011.
A court-appointed lawyer who indicted the three — Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, former chairman of TEPCO; Ichiro Takekuro, 72, former vice president; and Sakae Muto, 68, another former vice president — demanded the punishments at a Tokyo District Court hearing.
Prosecutors had abandoned indicting the three former TEPCO executives. However, after a prosecution inquest panel comprising those selected from among members of the general public deemed twice that they deserve indictment, a court-appointed lawyer indicted them in accordance with the Act on Committee for Inquest of Prosecution.
The lawyer said the defendants’ failure to take measures to prevent tsunami caused the accident.
“Even though the defendants were the top-ranking executives of a nuclear plant operator, they failed to do what they should have done, continued to operate the nuclear plant and caused the deaths of many people,” the lawyer said. “If they had obtained necessary information on possible massive tsunami on their own authority and taken appropriate measures, they could have prevented the serious accident.”
Katsumata, Takekuro and Muto are charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the March 2011 nuclear accident. Specifically, they are accused of neglecting to take preventive measures while being aware that a massive tsunami could cause an accident at the plant, forcing patients at Futaba Hospital in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma to take shelter for a long time and causing 44 of them to die.
The key point of contention during the trial is whether the three defendants could have predicted the accident before tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake crashed into the plant.
In 2008, TEPCO estimated that tsunami waves as high as 15.7 meters could hit the Fukushima Daiichi complex based on a long-term evaluation by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion. Nevertheless, the company stopped short of taking countermeasures against such massive tsunami at the plant.
Muto had been briefed of the estimate, but chose to put countermeasures on hold because the company asked experts to re-examine the long-term evaluation.
With regard to this, the court-appointed lawyer pointed out that they delayed countermeasures even though they could have predicted the disaster.
The three defendants argued that they took “appropriate procedures,” and that “it’s only natural that we asked experts to examine the evaluation.”
 
Five-year jail terms sought for ex-Tepco executives over Fukushima nuclear crisis
Dec 26, 2018
Five-year prison terms were sought Wednesday for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. for their alleged failure to prevent the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
At the Tokyo District Court, court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors said if the three had collected information properly and prepared necessary safety measures it would have been possible to predict the massive tsunami and prevent the disaster.
Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, chairman of the company at the time of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, and Sakae Muto, 68, both former vice presidents, have pleaded not guilty, arguing the tsunami was unforeseeable and the disaster would have occurred even if they had implemented preventive measures.
A final hearing for the defense will be held next March.
The court-appointed lawyers said it was clear from earlier testimony that the utility had been informed by one of its subsidiaries in 2008 that a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters could hit the plant, but it did not immediately take preventive steps.
“(Muto) prioritized avoiding suspension of the power plant and put off the problem,” one of the lawyers said.
The three were charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury by the court-appointed lawyers in 2016 after an independent panel of citizens mandated they be indicted.
The independent panel’s decision came after Tokyo prosecutors twice decided against charging the three.
The former executives have been indicted for the deaths of 44 people, including patients forced to evacuate from a hospital, as well as injuries suffered by 13 people, including Self-Defense Force members, resulting from hydrogen explosions at the plant.
A total of 34 hearings have been held since last June, during which 21 witnesses, ranging from current and former Tepco officials to earthquake and tsunami experts, were questioned.
On March 11, 2011, the six-reactor plant located on the Pacific coast was flooded by tsunami waves triggered by a massive quake, causing the reactor cooling systems to lose their power supply. The Nos. 1 to 3 reactors subsequently suffered fuel meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing the No. 1, 3 and 4 units.
As a result of the nuclear crisis, the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, around 160,000 people were evacuated at one stage. More than 30,000 of them were still displaced as of late November.

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

Radiation-soaked Fukushima town REOPENS to visitors 7 years after meltdown

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December 16, 2018
The town next to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Planet that suffered a devastating meltdown in 2011 has reopened.
Futaba – on the Fukushima Prefecture – was turned into a ghost town after a huge tsunami swamped the nuclear reactors, triggering a massive radiation leak.
But authorities are now planning on reopening the town – despite warnings of worryingly high levels of radiation.
Shortly after the meltdown, all of Futaba was closed off after critical levels above 50 millisieverts of radiation were recorded.
Those hoping to travel there will need to apply for permission to enter before they will be allowed past a checkpoint
It is thought the town could be rebuilt and ready for evacuees to move back in by 2022 provided it reaches government-set safe levels of contamination by the end of the year.
Officials want radiation levels to be below 1 millisievert for people to live there again.
Photographs taken in the last few years of the areas surrounding Fukushima show something out of a post-apocalyptic war zone.
Last year, shocking images emerged of radioactive boars roaming around several towns in the evacuation zone.

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

Tepco-linked firm employee’s thyroid cancer caused by work after Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, labor ministry admits

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Officials work last month in the main control room of the crippled No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tepco.
 
December 13, 2018
The labor ministry said Wednesday that the thyroid cancer of a male worker, exposed to radiation after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, has been recognized as a work-related disease.
Following the decision by a labor ministry panel of experts, the labor standards inspection office of Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, reached the conclusion on Monday.
The man in his 50s became the sixth person to be granted a workers’ accident compensation insurance payment over cancer caused by the March 2011 nuclear disaster at the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. He is the second person to be compensated due to thyroid cancer.
According to the ministry, the man, an employee of a Tepco-related company, was taking part in post-accident emergency work at the Fukushima plant that included a power recovery operation. He had worked at several nuclear plants for some 11 years since November 1993.
Of his cumulative radiation dose of about 108 millisieverts, he received 100 millisieverts after the meltdown.
The man applied for the insurance payment in August 2017, two months after he was diagnosed with cancer.
A total of 16 workers have requested such payments due to cancer they say was caused by the nuclear accident. Five have had their requests turned down while another five cases are still pending.

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

Tepco as nuclear educator?

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TEPCO Decommissioning Archive Center in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, will educate the public on the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the ongoing decommissioning work.
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 TEPCO Decommissioning Archive Center in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, which opens Nov. 30, will educate the public on the measures being taken to deal with radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
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 TEPCO Decommissioning Archive Center shows the central control rooms of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors when the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was crippled by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Fukushima nuclear-disaster museum opens
November 29, 2018
FUKUSHIMA, Japan – A facility that exhibits information about the 2011 crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and provides updates about the current condition of decommissioning work opens on Friday in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture.
The company unveiled the TEPCO Decommissioning Archive Center to media Wednesday. The renovated two-story building, which has an about 1,900 square-meter space for exhibitions, formerly housed the company’s “Energy Museum,” which was used for public relations activities for its nuclear plant.
A large screen on the first floor shows video footage of the latest conditions inside the plant, explaining the process of the decommissioning work. A model of a robot designed to remove nuclear fuel debris from the plant is also exhibited.
On the second floor, visitors can use an augmented reality device to learn about the 11-day period from when the earthquake struck to the restoration of power. The center also introduces recreated video footage of the central control room of the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at the time of the accident as well as interviews with five TEPCO employees who dealt with the crisis.
 
TEPCO center in Fukushima educates public on nuke disaster
November 29, 2018
TOMIOKA, Fukushima Prefecture–Tokyo Electric Power Co. will open a center here on Nov. 30 to educate the public about the 2011 nuclear disaster and the ongoing decommissioning process in a facility that formerly promoted nuclear power.
In a video for visitors, TEPCO apologizes for the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, saying, “We fully realized that the faith we placed in the safety (of nuclear power) meant nothing but our arrogance and overconfidence.”
The company said TEPCO Decommissioning Archive Center is also meant for its own employees.
TEPCO renovated the two-story building of about 1,900 square meters, which formerly served as a public relations facility for nuclear power before closing after the nuclear accident.
The center will feature exhibitions in two parts, based on the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which was crippled by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
The first floor is themed on the status of the current decommissioning work.
It has 11 sections, including an exhibition of the equipment that workers wear, and introduces measures to deal with contaminated water at the plant using projection mapping, which projects images onto models.
“We want visitors to understand the decommissioning process, if even just a little bit,” said Yasushi Shimazu, director of the center.
The second floor, which has 10 sections, shows the memories and lessons from the disaster. It includes sections showing images of the central control rooms at the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant and explanations of the events that unfolded over the 11 days between the quake and restoration of power to the plant through use of augmented reality technology.
In the first-floor theater hall, visitors can watch an eight-minute video introducing the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the nuclear disaster and TEPCO’s responses. It ends with the apology for having placed too much faith in the safety of nuclear power.
The center, which is located along National Road No. 6 between the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants, is expected to welcome 20,000 visitors a year.
Admission is free. It is open daily between 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is closed on the third Sundays of the month and for the year-end and New Year holidays.
TEPCO educational facility opens in Fukushima Pref.
November 29, 2018
FUKUSHIMA — A facility that exhibits information about the 2011 crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and provides updates about the current condition of decommissioning work opens on Friday in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture.
The company unveiled the TEPCO Decommissioning Archive Center to media Wednesday. The renovated two-story building, which has an about 1,900 square-meter space for exhibitions, formerly housed the company’s “Energy Museum,” which was used for public relations activities for its nuclear plant.
A large screen on the first floor shows video footage of the latest conditions inside the plant, explaining the process of the decommissioning work. A model of a robot designed to remove nuclear fuel debris from the plant is also exhibited.
On the second floor, visitors can use an augmented reality device to learn about the 11-day period from when the earthquake struck to the restoration of power. The center also introduces recreated video footage of the central control room of the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at the time of the accident as well as interviews with five TEPCO employees who dealt with the crisis

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

Spatial pattern of plutonium and radiocaesium contamination released during the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster

November 14, 2018

Abstract
Plutonium and radiocaesium are hazardous contaminants released by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (FDNPP) disaster and their distribution in the environment requires careful characterisation using isotopic information. Comprehensive spatial survey of 134Cs and 137Cs has been conducted on a regular basis since the accident, but the dataset for 135Cs/137Cs atom ratios and trace isotopic analysis of Pu remains limited because of analytical challenges. We have developed a combined chemical procedure to separate Pu and Cs for isotopic analysis of environmental samples from contaminated catchments. Ultra-trace analyses reveal a FDNPP Pu signature in environmental samples, some from further afield than previously reported. For two samples, we attribute the dominant source of Pu to Reactor Unit 3. We review the mechanisms responsible for an emergent spatial pattern in 134,135Cs/137Cs in areas northwest (high 134Cs/137Cs, low 135Cs/137Cs) and southwest (low 134Cs/137Cs, high 135Cs/137Cs) of FDNPP. Several samples exhibit consistent 134,135Cs/137Cs values that are significantly different from those deposited on plant specimens collected in previous works. A complex spatial pattern of Pu and Cs isotopic signature is apparent. To confidently attribute the sources of mixed fallout material, future studies must focus on analysis of individual FDNPP-derived particles.

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3.jpgIsoscapes of 134, 135, 137Cs and 239, 240Pu for part of the Fukushima prefecture surrounding FDNPP. The green marker is used to highlight an anomalous 240Pu/239Pu atom ratio of 0.64. R1, R2 and R3 correspond to ORIGEN estimated isotope ratio values for Reactor Units 1, 2 and 3, respectively27. SW indicates the mean value for the Cs isotope ratios measured to the southwest of FDNPP by Snow et al.19. 240Pu/239Pu atom ratio for Northern Hemisphere integrated global fallout is denoted by NHF28.

Read more at:
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-34302-0?fbclid=IwAR3I0oIwIHCCpSin5H3amNyt1ZZ_9kEe1hC6PrI3jLFAo20duwAGqWBL-Ck

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

Meet the robots looking for fuel after Fukushima’s Daiichi nuclear disaster

 

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November 20, 2018
Chernobyl remains the world’s worst nuclear disaster in terms of lives lost, but the worst radioactive mess the world has ever dealt with is in Fukushima, Japan. Seven years after the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan led to a massive meltdown in the Daiichi Power Plant, Lesley Stahl reports on a clean-up effort that looks like a science fiction film. Her story on how one-of-a-kind robots are being designed for the decades-long task will be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT on CBS.
The earthquake struck March 11, 2011, causing several huge tsunami waves that swamped Daiichi, cutting power to the seaside facility’s cooling pumps. Three reactors melted down, creating up to 3,000 tons of deadly radioactive fuel and debris that lays in the plant’s ruins. Finding it and containing it safely will be a historic task says nuclear engineer Lake Barrett. “This is a unique situation here. It’s never happened in human history. It’s a challenge we’ve never had before,” he tells Stahl. Barrett oversaw the cleanup of the Three Mile Island partial meltdown in 1979, the worst nuclear accident at a power plant in the U.S. He is also a consultant on the Daiichi project.
Daiichi can’t be encased in concrete, like Chernobyl, says Barrett, because the potential for another earthquake or tsunami that could compromise the structure is too high. Humans can’t get near the material; it will remain deadly for thousands of years. Authorities hope specially designed robots will find, remove and secure the toxic material in special containment vessels. But it could take 50 years and cost an estimated $200 billion.
There are four-legged robots, some that climb stairs and even robots that can swim into reactors flooded with water. They’re equipped with 3-D scanners, sensors and cameras that map the terrain, measure radiation levels and look for the deadly material.
The Japanese government set up a research facility nearby to develop and test the robots. Some have been deployed in what amounts to experimentation at this early stage, says Barrett. One robot is called the Scorpion for its ability to raise its camera-carrying tail. It struck debris and became stuck only ten feet into its $100 million mission. Says Barrett, “You learn more from failure sometimes than you do from success.”
Other early versions of robots died quick deaths, too, their cameras and operating systems fried by the intense radiation. It’s a slow and steady project, says Barrett, that he is confident will get done, but not in his lifetime, nor those of many others involved. The task has been compared to putting a man on the Moon. “It’s even a bigger project in my view. But there’s a will here to clean this up as there was a will to put a man on the moon,” says Barrett.
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/meet-the-robots-looking-for-fuel-after-fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-disaster-60-minutes/?fbclid=IwAR2HOYGGI3CPHy9OfjkruiMPvck4aPS32uRj4wwlIkLXlR1pywR6gJf8ryo

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November 25, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Ken Watanabe to Star in Film About Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

I ‘d like to know who are this movie producers, who are financing it…. Will it be straightforward or will it be just another spinned piece???
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November 19, 2018
‘Fukushima 50’ will tell the story of the workers who stayed at the power plant after a massive tsunami had knocked out its cooling systems.
Ken Watanabe will star as the head of the crisis-hit Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Fukushima 50, from Japan’s Kadokawa Corporation and directed by Setsuro Wakamatsu.
Watanabe will play Masao Yoshida, the superintendent of the plant who was on duty when it was swamped by a tsunami that followed a massive earthquake in Japan’s northeast on March 11, 2011, knocking out the cooling systems. Yoshida ignored orders by his bosses at Tokyo Electric Power Co. and pumped seawater into the overheating reactors, likely preventing a worse disaster.
The following year, Yoshida was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and died in July 2013 at age 58.
The crewmembers at the plant who stayed on to try and prevent the meltdown of three reactors at the nuclear power station were lauded in the international media as the “Fukushima 50.”
Appearing alongside Watanabe will be veteran actor Koichi Sato, who in his 106th career role will play the shift supervisor at the time of the disaster. The film is based on the book On the Brink: The Inside Story of Fukushima Daiichi by Ryusho Kadota.
“I had promised to Koichi that I would play any role in his next film,” said Watanabe. “However, this was a challenging film to be a part of when the people of Fukushima are still suffering such loss and devastation. My hope is that, along with the wonderful cast and Wakamatsu directing, we will make a film that shows the intensity and bravery of these people that prevented a tragedy of epic proportions.”
Said Wakamatsu: “The Fukushima accident shook not only the people of Japan but also around the world. This film is about the power plant workers on the front line who faced an unprecedented crisis and risked their lives to save their families, their hometown and avert a disaster of global magnitude.”
Shooting on the film is set to begin at the end of November, with a release scheduled for 2020.
https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ken-watanabe-star-is-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-film-1162835?fbclid=IwAR1xjr4TVEoSr2Lkbkne9Eh3TVHf127L80HUME1Ip9J3dRb7DA-y0sPi8Zg

November 25, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Daiichi control room revealed 7 yrs after meltdowns

 

ssff.jpgThis photo taken on Nov. 15, 2018 shows the inside of the main control room of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

 

November 19, 2018
FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) — Time seemed to have stopped inside the main control room for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s crippled Nos. 3 and 4 reactors — that is how Kyodo News reporters felt when they recently became the first journalists to enter the facility since the 2011 nuclear meltdowns there.
The control room’s interior has been left almost untouched since the disaster. Handwriting was found on the wall near an instrument that used to measure the No. 3 reactor’s water levels, showing the urgency faced by some 10 workers there at the time of the crisis.
“We don’t write (on the wall) under a normal situation, so it indicates it was an emergency,” said an official of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
The nuclear crisis was triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that flooded the facility on the Pacific Coast of Japan on March 11, 2011.
The No. 3 reactor suffered a fuel meltdown and a hydrogen explosion, while the No. 4 reactor, which did not have nuclear fuel inside, also exploded due to a hydrogen inflow from the nearby reactor.
In February 2014, TEPCO showed the media the control room for the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors, which also suffered meltdowns, but had kept the control room for the Nos. 3 and 4 closed due to high levels of radiation in the area.
Radiation levels inside the control room for Nos. 3 and 4, whose floor is now covered by special sheets, was 6 microsieverts per hour, which contrasts with 0.037 microsievert per hour in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward on Sunday.
The room, which now has only a few lights, is no longer in use as its functions have been transferred to a quake-resistant building.
Following the crisis, which equaled the severity of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, some 160,000 people were evacuated and more than 40,000 remained displaced as of late September.
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20181119/p2g/00m/0dm/065000c?fbclid=IwAR0KsoEOYkuQbzeAYYhC6TBM5NHDaMpv0fnA8yyvaHtbHLD22CF-hVnQAcA

November 25, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment