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Fukushima nuclear waste decision also a human rights issue

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By Baskut Tuncak

July 8, 2020

In a matter of weeks, the government of Japan will have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world how much it values protecting human rights and the environment and to meet its international obligations.

In the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, myself and other U.N. special rapporteurs consistently raised concerns about the approaches taken by the government of Japan. We have been concerned that raising of “acceptable limits” of radiation exposure to urge resettlement violated the government’s human rights obligations to children.

We have been concerned of the possible exploitation of migrants and the poor for radioactive decontamination work. Our most recent concern is how the government used the COVID-19 crisis to dramatically accelerate its timeline for deciding whether to dump radioactive wastewater accumulating at Fukushima Daiichi in the ocean.

Setting aside the duties incumbent on Japan to consult and protect under international law, it saddens me to think that a country that has suffered the horrors of being the only country on which not one but two nuclear bombs were dropped during war, would continue on a such a path in dealing with the radioactive aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

 

kjlkmùBaskut Tuncak

 

Releasing the toxic wastewater collected from the Fukushima nuclear plant would be, without question, a terrible blow to the livelihood of local fishermen. Regardless of the health and environmental risks, the reputational damage would be irreparable, an invisible and permanent scar upon local seafood. No amount of money can replace the loss of culture and dignity that accompany this traditional way of life for these communities.

The communities of Fukushima, so devastated by the tragic events of March 11, 2011, have in recent weeks expressed their concerns and opposition to the discharge of the contaminated water into their environment. It is their human right to an environment that allows for living a life in dignity, to enjoy their culture, and to not be exposed deliberately to additional radioactive contamination. Those rights should be fully respected and not be disregarded by the government in Tokyo.

The discharge of nuclear waste to the ocean could damage Japan’s international relations. Neighboring countries are already concerned about the release of large volumes of radioactive tritium and other contaminants in the wastewater.

Japan has a duty under international law to prevent transboundary environmental harm. More specifically, under the London Convention, Japan has an obligation to take precaution with the respect to the dumping of waste in the ocean. Given the scientific uncertainty of the health and environmental impacts of exposure to low-level radiation, the disposal of this wastewater would be completely inconsistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of this law.

Indigenous peoples have an internationally recognized right to free, prior and informed consent. This includes the disposal of waste in their waters and actions that may contaminate their food. No matter how small the Japanese government believes this contamination will be of their water and food, there is an unquestionable obligation to consult with potentially affected indigenous peoples that it has not met.

The Japanese government has not, and cannot, assure itself of meaningful consultations as required under international human rights law during the current pandemic. There is no justification for such a dramatically accelerated timeline for decision making during the covid-19 crisis. Japan has the physical space to store wastewater for many years.

I have reported annually to the U.N. Human Rights Council for the past six years. Whether the topic was on child rights or worker’s rights, in nearly each and every one of those discussion at the United Nations, the situation of Fukushima Daiichi is raised by concerned observers for the world to hear. Intervening organizations have pleaded year-after-year for the Japanese government to extend an invitation to visit so I can offer recommendations to improve the situation. I regret that my mandate is coming to an end without such an opportunity despite my repeated requests to visit and assess the situation.

The disaster of 2011 cannot be undone. However, Japan still has an opportunity to minimize the damage. In my view, there are grave risks to the livelihoods of fishermen in Japan and also to its international reputation. Again, I urge the Japanese government to think twice about its legacy: as a true champion of human rights and the environment, or not.

(Baskut Tuncak has served as U.N. special rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes since 2014.)

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/07/1145e5b3970f-opinion-fukushima-nuclear-waste-decision-also-a-human-rights-issue.html?fbclid=IwAR25F0Q5qzhv3G0MB6vHUMRRMs2fxNWyDJQswvFq_vfxFmcG_s_eELqDNFI

 

 

July 10, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

From July 2011: Fukushima plant site originally was a hill safe from tsunami

nn20110713a2aGround zero: Bulldozers (top) take the top off a 35-meter bluff to prepare the site for the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in the late 1960s in this image taken from the documentary “Reimei” (“Dawn”). Left: The construction site is seen after the leveling work. Right: An excavated area where the emergency diesel generators were installed is seen at the construction site.

 

Jul 13, 2011

The March 11 monster tsunami that hit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant destroyed the critical backup power system and triggered the meltdown of hundreds of fuel rods in reactors 1, 2 and 3.

Video of the appalling damage and reactor building explosions led many — from regular people to nuclear and quake experts — to ask: Why wasn’t the coastal nuclear plant built in a location safe from all tsunami threats?

Katsumi Naganuma, 70, a former worker at Tokyo Electric Power Co., feels particular guilt because he knows that a 35-meter-high bluff overlooking the Pacific was shaved down to build the plant closer to sea level more than 40 years ago.

Tepco, assuming tsunami 3.1 meters or higher would never hit the coast, reduced the bluff by some 25 meters and erected the plant on artificially prepared ground only 10 meters above sea level.

When I see the situation now, I feel it was wrong to clear that much of the hill away,” said Naganuma, who worked at Tepco’s local office preparing for the construction in the late 1960s.

If they did not dig the ground down that much, we would not have faced this situation. (The nuclear disaster) would not have happened,” he said.

Naganuma, like thousands of other local residents, has been forced to evacuate from his home close to the crippled plant as it continues to spew radioactive materials.

Recent interviews and past documents examined by The Japan Times show it was Tepco’s decision to cut away the bluff so the nuclear complex could be built on low ground, leaving it vulnerable to massive tsunami like the one that struck on March 11.

Tepco dug another 14 meters below the surface to create basement floors, including those for the turbine buildings, where the emergency diesel generators were installed.

The tsunami easily flooded the compound and knocked out the power systems, including those for running the critical reactor core coolant equipment. The meltdowns became inevitable.

But Tepco is not the only one to blame. Like the utility, nuclear regulators and seismologists in the 1960s all believed a major earthquake and massive tsunami would never hit the plant, documents and records show.

In the past 700 years, Fukushima suffered almost no noteworthy damage from earthquakes except in the Aizu area (in current Fukushima Prefecture),” concluded a 1966 report attached to the application form that Tepco submitted to the government to seek approval for building the first reactor at the plant.

Thus the site can be described as an area of low-seismicity, even compared with all the other areas of the country,” the paper concluded, with little mention of the tsunami threat.

The paper was based on earlier research by seismologists and was approved by the government, which gave the green light to build reactor 1.In designing the Fukushima No. 1 plant in the 1960s, Tepco estimated the maximum possible tsunami would be only up to 3.1 meters.

In 2002, however, following recommendations from quake experts at the Japan Society of Civil Engineering, Tepco modified the facilities, so they could withstand tsunami of up to 5.7 meters. This was also approved by the regulators.

During a recent interview with The Japan Times, Masatoshi Toyota, 88, former senior vice president of Tepco, said one of the reasons the utility lowered the bluff was to build the base of the reactors directly on solid bedrock to mitigate any earthquake threat.

Toyota was a key executive who was involved in the Fukushima No. 1 plant construction.

It is actually common practice to build primary nuclear plant facilities directly on bedrock because of the temblor factor.

Toyota also cited two other reasons for Tepco clearing away the bluff — seawater pumps used to provide coolant water needed to be set up on the ground up to 10 meters from the sea, and extremely heavy equipment, including the 500-ton reator pressure vessels, were expected to be brought in by boat.

In fact, Tepco decided to build the plant on low ground based on a cost-benefit calculation of the operating costs of the seawater pumps, according to two research papers separately written by senior Tepco engineers in the 1960s.

If the seawater pumps were placed on high ground, their operating costs would be accordingly higher.

We decided to build the plant at ground level after comparing the ground construction costs and operating costs of the circulation water pumps,” wrote Hiroshi Kaburaki, then deputy head of the Tepco’s construction office at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, in the January 1969 edition of Hatsuden Suiryoku, a technical magazine on power plants.

Still, Tepco believed ground level was “high enough to sufficiently secure safety against tsunami and typhoon waves,” wrote Seiji Saeki, then civil engineering section head of Tepco’s construction office, in his research paper published in October 1967.

Engineers at Tohoku Electric Power Co., on the other hand, had a different take on the tsunami threat when the Onagawa nuclear plant was built in Miyagi Prefecture in the 1980s.

Like Fukushima, the plant was built along the Tohoku coast and was hit by tsunami as high as 13 meters on March 11.

Before building the plant, Tohoku Electric, examining historic records of tsunami reported in the region, conducted computer simulations and concluded the local coast could face tsumani of up to 9.1 meters.

Tohoku Electric had set the construction ground level at 14.8 meters above sea level — which barely spared the Onagawa plant from major damage from 13-meter-high tsunami that hit in March.

Former Tepco worker Naganuma said many locals now feel they have been duped by Tepco’s long-running propaganda on the safety of its nuclear facilities, despite the huge economic benefits the plant brought to his hometown of Okuma, which hosts the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Before construction of the plant, the coastal area was a barren, little-populated highland dubbed the “Tibet of Fukushima.” At the time, most local residents eked out a living in agriculture, and needed to go out of town as seasonal migrant workers during winter.

But the plant brought stable jobs, tax revenues and other big money projects to the local economy.

I couldn’t feel happier because I was able to receive a monthly salary and didn’t need to go away from home to work,” Naganuma said, adding he had “never expected (such a disaster) would occur.”

Naganuma said many local residents now feel badly betrayed by the nuclear plant.

But I think now more and more people (nationwide) have started feeling that way after March 11,” he said.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2011/07/13/national/fukushima-plant-site-originally-was-a-hill-safe-from-tsunami/?fbclid=IwAR1gUSb_FX7xxxDu_1pOAz-wKSoitARkas-dRnQ6ApBw1-Ohur1FAlGUsOM#.XwGbmefgqUk
From July

July 10, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima 50 film review: drama about nuclear workers’ sacrifice following 2011 earthquake lacks punch

bbA still from Fukushima 50 (category IIA; Japanese) starring Koichi Sato and Ken Watanabe and directed by Setsuro Wakamatsu.

 

22 Jun, 2020

  • Ken Watanabe as Fukushima nuclear power plant superintendent, and Koichi Sato as shift supervisor, lead the battle to avert a meltdown after earthquake, tsunami
  • Blow-by-blow account of the real-life aftermath of the 2011 disaster in Japan loses much of its drama by refusing to point fingers or demonise decision-makers

 

2.5/5 stars

The first mainstream film to dramatise the lives of frontline workers who dealt with the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Setsuro Wakamatsu’s Fukushima 50 is an earnest, if somewhat toothless, celebration of those who risked everything to avert a reactor meltdown.

Ken Watanabe and Koichi Sato headline this big-budget adaptation of Ryusho Kadota’s non-fiction book, On the Brink: The Inside Story of Fukushima Daiichi.

The film wastes no time setting up characters or pre-existing relationships, opening with the explosive underwater earthquake off the Tohoku coast of northeast Japan on March 11, 2011. The initial impact triggered an automatic shutdown of the Fukushima Daiichi power station’s nuclear fission reactors. The subsequent tsunami swept over the power plant’s coastal defence walls, flooded the main buildings and knocked out the backup generators responsible for cooling the reactor cores.

Facing an imminent meltdown, plant superintendent Masao Yoshida (Watanabe) and shift supervisor Toshio Isaki (Sato) spearhead a daring, potentially suicidal effort to cool the reactors using seawater, while fending off contradictory, face-saving orders from their superiors at Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) and the Japanese government.

In the nine years since the disaster, the Japanese film industry has broached the disaster’s aftermath numerous times, in films from Sion Sono’s uncharacteristically sombre A Land of Hope, to the allegorical 2016 blockbuster

Shin Godzilla

. The eponymous beast of the latter film has been the stand-in for national life-or-death reckonings since the dawn of the atomic era, but that film also took time to expose, and ultimately champion, the country’s multi-tiered bureaucratic leadership.

 

jjjlmKoichi Sato in a still from Fukushima 50.

 

Fukushima 50, and Kadota’s impressively researched book, give blow-by-blow accounts of the disaster and the courageous sacrifices made by those who chose not to evacuate, but stay behind and ensure the nation’s safety. However, arriving in the wake of HBO’s much lauded and dramatically superior miniseries Chernobyl, about the 1986 nuclear disaster in Ukraine, Wakamatsu’s film feels lightweight, and the obstinate heads of Tepco a pushover compared to the Soviet Union’s fearsome Central Committee.

The film functions best as a memorial to Masao Yoshida, the only plant worker to have his real name used, whose willingness to go against his superiors ultimately prevented a far larger disaster, only for him to succumb to an unrelated bout of cancer in 2013. The film’s reluctance to point fingers, or demonise those responsible, saps much of the drama from this true-life tale of selfless heroism.

https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/entertainment/article/3090106/fukushima-50-film-review-drama-about-nuclear-workers

June 22, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Protective sheet positioned at damaged reactor

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June 12, 2020

The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has released footage showing part of the time-consuming steps needed to remove nuclear fuel from a pool at its No.1 reactor.

In the video, workers used remote-controlled tools to place a wide sheet over the surface of the pool. The radiation level there remains high.

Tokyo Electric Power Company has been engaged in removing debris from the upper part of the reactor building where the pool is located. The debris was caused by an explosion during the 2011 nuclear accident.

The sheet is meant to protect the pool and 392 nuclear fuel assemblies still inside from further damage that could result from the possible falling of debris or large machinery.

The six-by-eleven meter sheet is inflatable to a thickness of 50 centimeters. It will be filled with cement to increase its strength.

The operator plans to begin clearing the debris from around the pool by the end of the month, as soon as the sheet’s cement has solidified.

The operator plans to start removing the fuel from the pool of the No.1 reactor in fiscal 2027. Similar work at the No.2 reactor will start in fiscal 2024. Fuel removal from the pool at the No.3 reactor will be completed by fiscal 2020. The removal work is finished at the No.4 reactor.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200612_02/?fbclid=IwAR0aZXia773hoajuSLTJZO3GyZTSggWHrQ6yXEnSqzT7p9K8zkg7YGiQ33s

 

June 22, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Rods can be removed from No. 2 reactor at Fukushima plant, Tepco says

”R—¿ã‚ðˆÚ“®‚·‚郍ƒ{ƒbƒgA remotely operated underwater robot casts light over nuclear fuel rods inside the fuel pool of the No.2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Jun 11, 2020

Fukushima – Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (Tepco) found no obstacles Wednesday to its planned removal of radioactive fuel rods from a spent fuel pool at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, the firm has said.

Tepco confirmed the findings after starting its first internal probe of the No. 2 reactor since the 2011 disaster. The investigation is expected to continue through Friday.

Using a remotely operated underwater robot to photograph the interior of the pool, submerged fuel rods and their storage racks were checked for any damage. A total of 615 spent and unspent fuel rods are stored in the pool.

White sediment was discovered on the aluminum alloy racks. It is believed to have formed from a reaction between aluminum and elements in sea water, which was injected into the pool to cool the nuclear fuel during the disaster.

Similar sediment was found in the reactor pools at units No. 3 and No. 4, from which fuel rods have already been removed, but according to Tepco it did not affect the process.

Similar to the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, the No. 2 reactor suffered a core meltdown after it temporarily lost its cooling function in its spent fuel pool, but there was no hydrogen explosion at the building.

Because of that, the pool is thought to be free of debris and in a relatively stable condition.

High radiation levels on the top floor of the reactor building, where the fuel rods are located, have delayed cleanup efforts.

But progress in decontamination efforts has now enabled remote inspections to be carried out.

A new facility complete with a crane and equipment to lift out the fuel rods will be built on the south side of the No. 2 nuclear reactor building. The removal process is slated to begin sometime between fiscal 2024 and 2026.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/06/11/national/fuel-rods-fukushima-no-2/#.XuJIOufgqUk

June 22, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Tepco completes survey of Fukushima Daiichi 2 fuel pool

FD-2-used-fuel-pool-survey-June-2020-(Tepco)_1The ROV surveys the used fuel pool of Fukushima Daiichi unit 2 (Image: Tepco)

11 June 2020

There are no obstacles to the removal of assemblies from the used fuel storage pool of unit 2 at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said today after completing an initial survey of the pool. Removal of the assemblies is scheduled to begin fiscal year 2024.

Similar to the reactors at units 1 and 3, unit 2’s reactor suffered a core meltdown after it temporarily lost its cooling functions, but the reactor building – which also houses the fuel storage pool – was spared a hydrogen explosion.

Using a submersible remotely-operated vehicle to investigate the fuel pool, Tepco concluded there was no damage to the fuel assemblies or the storage rack they are held in. It did, however, discover sand-like sediment at the bottom of the pool.

The utility said images captured during the pool’s survey will be used for designing equipment to be used in the removal of the fuel assemblies. It plans to start removing the 587 fuel assemblies from the unit’s used fuel pool between fiscal year 2024 (ending March 2025) and fiscal year 2026 (ending March 2027).

Dose levels on the operating floor of unit 2 are high, thereby making it difficult to access. Tepco has, however, already made progress with the clean-up of equipment, etc. that remains on the operating floor, providing access to the area near the storage pool.

It plans to complete the removal of all fuel assemblies from Fukushima Daiichi units 1-6 during 2031.

https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Tepco-completes-survey-of-Fukushima-Daiichi-2-fuel

 

June 22, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

U.N. experts urge Japan not to rush discharge of radioactive water and not ignore human rights obligations on nuclear waste disposal

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June 9, 2020

U.N. experts urge Japan not to rush discharge of radioactive water

Four United Nations human rights experts on Tuesday urged the Japanese government against rushing to discharge radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea until consultations are made with affected communities and neighboring countries.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Government of Japan has accelerated its timeline for the release of radioactive wastewater into the ocean without time or opportunity for meaningful consultations,” the experts said in a press release.

The experts are imploring the government to delay its decision on releasing the radioactive water until after the coronavirus pandemic has been contained, so proper attention can be dedicated to the issue.

The concern was raised as public consultations on the release of the plant’s wastewater have been accelerated, and opinions will be solicited by next Monday. Such consultations were initially scheduled until after the now-postponed Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Japan is considering ways to safely dispose of the water contaminated with radioactive materials, including releasing it into the Pacific Ocean and evaporating it. Tanks used to store the water are expected to be filled by summer 2022.

The experts — U.N. special rapporteurs respectively on hazardous wastes, rights to food, rights to assembly and association, and rights of indigenous people — took note of credible indications that the postponement of the games sped up the government’s decision-making process.

With the pandemic also preventing in-depth consultations with relevant stakeholders, the rapporteurs called on the Japanese government to give “proper space and opportunity for consultations on the disposal of nuclear waste that will likely affect people and peoples both inside and outside of Japan.”

“COVID-19 must be not be used as a sleight of hand to distract from decisions that will have profound implications for people and the planet for generations to come,” they said, raising the alarm that a discharge will pose a grave threat to the livelihoods of local fishermen.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/06/6f6afd14d6a4-un-experts-urge-japan-not-to-rush-discharge-of-radioactive-water.html

 

Fukushima: Japan must not ignore human rights obligations on nuclear waste disposal – UN experts

GENEVA (9 June 2020) – UN human rights experts* today urged the Japanese Government to delay any decision on the ocean-dumping of nuclear waste water from the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi until after the COVID-19 crisis has passed and proper international consultations can be held.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Government of Japan has accelerated its timeline for the release of radioactive waste water into the ocean without time or opportunity for meaningful consultations,” the independent experts said. Credible sources indicate the postponement of the 2020 Olympics enabled the Government’s new decision-making process for release of the waste.

They said the Government’s short extension for the current public consultation was grossly insufficient while COVID-19 measures limited opportunities for input from all affected communities in Japan, as well as those in neighbouring countries, including indigenous peoples.

“COVID-19 must be not be used as a sleight of hand to distract from decisions that will have profound implications for people and the planet for generations to come,” the experts said. “There will be grave impacts on the livelihood of local Japanese fisher folk, but also the human rights of people and peoples outside of Japan.”

They said there was no need for hasty decisions because adequate space was available for additional storage tanks to increase capacity, and the public consultation originally was not expected to be held until after the 2020 Olympics.

“We call on the government of Japan to give proper space and opportunity for consultations on the disposal of nuclear waste that will likely affect people and peoples both inside and outside of Japan. We further call on the Government of Japan to respect the right of indigenous peoples to free prior and informed consent and to respect their right to assemble and associate to form such a consent.”

The experts have communicated their concerns to the Government of Japan. UN experts have previously raised concerns over the increase of exposure levels to radiation deemed “acceptable” for the general public, and for the use of vulnerable workers in efforts to clean up after the nuclear disaster.

ENDS

*The experts: Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; Mr. Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and Mr. José Francisco Calí Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25940&LangID=E

 

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s radioactive water problem

Water should be stored at nuclear site, not dumped in the Pacific

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By Linda Pentz Gunter

We are republishing this story this week, as the Japanese government is now threatening the imminent dumping of the radiologically contaminated water, stored at the Fukushima nuclear site, into the Pacific Ocean. The article below provides the background on this issue and the alternative choices. Our Japanese activist friends are urging us all to sign onto their petitions — there is one for groups to sign and one for individuals — asking the Japanese government not to dump 1.2 million cubic meters of radioactive water into the ocean. Japan civil society groups and Fukushima fishing unions are strongly opposed to this needless ocean discharge. Groups please sign here. Individuals please sign here.

Original article, published September 15, 2019, follows:

Last week, Japan’s then environment minister, Yoshiaki Harada, made news with a pronouncement that wasn’t news. The storage tanks at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site, filled with radioactive water, were reaching capacity. By 2022 there would be no room for more tanks on the present site. Japan would then have to dump the radioactive water stored in the tanks into the Pacific Ocean, he said.

Although likely unrelated to those remarks, a day later, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dispatched 19 of his cabinet ministers, including Harada. Harada was replaced as environment minister by rising star, Shinjiro Koizumi, the son of former primer minister, Junichiro Koizumi. Both father and son are opposed to nuclear energy, and on his first day in office, the younger Koizumi told reporters that he believed Japan should end its use of nuclear energy and close its nuclear power plants.

01Shinjiro Koizumi, Japan’s new environment minister, says Japan should cease using nuclear power.

I would like to study how we scrap them, not how to retain them,” Reuters reported him saying. This is a surprising position from someone inside the fervently pro-nuclear Abe government and it remains to be seen whether he will be allowed to translate his position into policy.

Dumping Fukushima Daiichi’s accumulated radioactive water has long been the plan proposed by Tepco, the site owner. Fukushima fishermen, along with some scientists and a number of NGOs from around the world, continue to object.

We addressed this issue briefly on a recent TRT broadcast (see video below).

Cooling water is needed at the Fukushima site because, when Units 1, 2 and 3 lost power, they also lost the flow of reactor coolant, causing their cores to overheat. The fuel rods then melted, and molten fuel dripped down and burned through the pressure vessels, pooling in the primary containment vessels. Units 1, 3 and 4 also suffered hydrogen explosions. Each day, about 200 metric tons of cooling water is used to keep the three melted cores cool, lest they once more go critical. Eventually the water becomes too radioactive and thermally hot to be re-used, and must be discarded and stored in the tanks.

As Greenpeace International (GPI) explained in remarks and questions submitted during a consultative meeting held by the International Maritime Organization in August 2019:

“Since 2011, in order to cool the molten cores in the Tokyo Electric Power Company Fukushima Daiichi reactor units 1-3, water is continuously pumped through the damaged Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs) and circulated through reactor buildings, turbine buildings, the Process Main Building and the “High Temperature Incinerator Building”  and water treatment systems.

“As a result, the past eight years has seen a relentless increase in the volume of radioactive contaminated water accumulating on site. As of 4 July 2019, the total amount of contaminated water held in 939 storage tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant (units 1-4) was 1,145,694 m3 (tonnes). The majority of this, 1,041,710 m3, is contaminated processed water. In the year to April 2019, approximately 180 m3/day of water was being circulated into the RPVs of units 1-3.”

In addition to the cooling water, the tanks also house water that has run down from the nearby mountains, at a rate of about 100 tons each day. This water flows onto the site and seeps into the reactor buildings. There, it becomes radioactively contaminated and also must be collected and stored, to prevent it from flowing on down into the sea.

The water tank crisis is just one of multiple and complex problems at the Fukushima Daiichi site, including the eventual need to extract the molten fuel debris from inside the stricken reactors. Decommissioning cannot begin until the water storage tanks are removed.

Tepco has tried to mitigate the radioactive water problem in a number of ways. The infamous $320 million ice wall was an attempt to freeze and block inflow, but has had mixed results and has worked only intermittently. Wells were dug to try to divert the runoff water so it does not pick up contamination. The ice wall has reportedly reduced the flow of groundwater somewhat, but only down from 500 tons a day to about 100 tons.

In anticipation of dumping the tank water into the Pacific Ocean, Tepco has deployed an Advanced Liquid Processing System that the company claims can remove 62 isotopes from the water — all except tritium, which is radioactive hydrogen and therefore cannot be filtered out of water. (Tritium is routinely discharged by operating commercial nuclear power plants).

jkhijkTepco’s “Land-side Impermeable Wall” (Frozen soil wall).

 

But, like the ice wall, the filtration system has also been plagued by malfunctions. According to GPI, Tepco admitted only last year that the system had “failed to reduce radioactivity to levels below the regulatory limit permissible for ocean disposal” in at least 80% of the tanks’ inventory. Indeed, said GPI, “the levels of Strontium-90 are more than 100 times the regulatory standard according to TEPCO, with levels at 20,000 times above regulations in some tanks.”

The plan to dump the water has raised the ire of South Korea, whose fish stocks would likely also be contaminated. And it has introduced the question of whether such a move is a violation of The Conventions of the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as was raised in a joint written statement by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and Greenpeace International, before the UN Human Rights Council currently in session.

So what else could or should Tepco do, if not dump the water offshore and into the ocean? A wide consensus amongst scientific, environmental and human rights groups is that on-site storage for the indefinite future is the only acceptable option, while research must continue into possible ways to extract all of the radioactive content, including tritium.

Meanwhile, a panel of experts says it will examine a number of additional but equally problematic choices, broadly condensed into four options (each with some variations — to  dilute or not to dilute etc):

  • Ground (geosphere) injection (which could bring the isotopes in contact with groundwater);
  • Vapor release (which could infiltrate weather patterns and return as fallout);
  • Releasing it as hydrogen (it would still contain tritium gas); and
  • Solidification followed by underground burial (for which no safe, permanent storage environment has yet been found, least of all in earthquake-prone Japan).

Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds, recommends a chemical injection processes (drilling mud) — also used by the oil industry — to stop the flow of water onto the site entirely. But he says Japan has never considered this option. GPI contends that Japan has never seriously researched any of the alternatives, sticking to the ocean dumping plan, the cheapest and fastest “fix.”

All of this mess is of course an inevitable outcome of the choice to use nuclear power in the first place. Even without an accident, no safe, permanent storage solution has been found for the high-level radioactive waste produced through daily operation of commercial nuclear power plants, never mind as the result of an accident.

According to Dr. M.V. Ramana, by far the best solution is to continue to store the radioactive water, even if that means moving some of the storage tanks to other locations to make more room for new ones at the nuclear site. The decision to dump the water, Ramana says, is in line with Abe’s attempts to whitewash the scene before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and claim, as he has publicly in the past, that everything at Fukushima is “under control.” (Baseball and softball games will be played in Fukushima Prefecture and the torch relay will start there, all in an effort to pretend there are no dangerous nuclear after-effects remaining in the area.)

“The reason that they keep saying they need to release it is because they might have to move some of this offsite and that goes against the Abe government’s interest in creating the perception that Fukushima is a closed chapter,” Ramana wrote in an email. “So it is a political decision rather than a technical one.”

As with all things nuclear, there are diverging views on the likely impact to the marine environment and to human health, from dumping Fukushima’s radioactive water into the ocean. These run the gamut from “a little tritium won’t hurt you” to “the Pacific Ocean is dead thanks to Fukushima” — both of which are wildly untrue. (Tritium can bind organically inside the body, irradiating that person or animal from within. The many problems in the Pacific began long before Fukushima and are likely caused by numerous compounding factors, including warming and pollution, with Fukushima adding to the existing woes.)

kjjmkThe effect on deep sea creatures of radioactive ocean dumping could be long-lasting.

 

What is fact, however, is that scientists have found not only the presence of isotopes such as cesium in fish they tested, but also in ocean floor sediment. This latter has the potential to serve as a more long-term source of contamination up the food chain.

But it is also important to remember that if this radioactive water is dumped, it is not an isolated event. Radioactive contamination in our oceans is already widespread, a result of years of atmospheric atomic tests. As was reported earlier this year, scientists studying deep-sea amphipods, retrieved from some of the deepest trenches in the ocean — including the Mariana Trench which reaches 36,000 feet below sea-level and is deeper than Mount Everest is high — detected elevated levels of carbon-14 in these creatures.

“The levels closely matched abundances found near the surface of the ocean, where the amount of carbon-14 is higher than usual thanks to nuclear bomb tests conducted more than half a century ago,” reported Smithsonian Magazine.

Weidong Sun, co-author of the resulting study, told Smithsonian Magazine that “Biologically, [ocean] trenches are taken to be the most pristine habitats on Earth”.

How chilling, then, to realize that our radioactive irresponsibility has reached the lowest depths, affecting creatures far removed from our rash behaviors.

Consequently, the decision by the Japanese government to release yet more radioactive contamination into our oceans must be viewed not as a one-off act of desperation, but as a contribution to cumulative contamination. This, added to the twin tragedies of climate crisis-induced ocean warming and plastics and chemicals pollution, renders it one more crime committed on the oceans, ourselves and all living things. And it reinforces the imperative to neither continue nor increase our reckless use of nuclear power as an electricity source.

Fukushima’s radioactive water problem

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Why the Japanese government’s plan to dump radioactive water into the ocean needs to be stopped.

Linda Pentz Gunter
 
This week on The Update: Why the Japanese government’s plan to dump radioactive water into the ocean needs to be stopped.
The Japanese government is one again threatening to start dumping the radioactive water currently stored in tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site, into the ocean.
Please sign the petition urging them not to do this.

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Tracing Individual Perceptions of Media Credibility in Post-3.11 Japan

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Sonja Petrovic

Abstract

The 3.11 disaster revealed many shortcomings in Japan’s mass media organisations and government, the most prominent arguably being the poor handling of the disaster by central government and TEPCO, including miscommunication and delays in releasing accurate data on the dispersal of radioactive materials. The lack of transparency in mass media coverage of the nuclear meltdown and levels of radiation resulted in growing distrust among the public, who turned to online sources and social media to confirm or challenge information provided by the mass media.

Based on in-depth interviews with 38 Japanese individuals, this study explores individual perceptions of media credibility in a disaster context and in the present, elaborating how changes in trust in media intersects with the changes and dynamics in media use and how the 3.11 disaster continues to influence media use and perceptions of credibility today. The main findings of the study suggest that in the wake of the unprecedented national disaster, Japanese media users moved from using traditional mass media as their sole source of news to a personalised, inter-media environment which integrates both online and traditional modes of communication without replacing traditional media players. This further facilitated the practice of seeking and evaluating information and media credibility through new media forms of connectivity such as social media platforms and news websites.

Keywords: 3.11 disaster, communication gap, inter-media environment, mass media, media credibility, social media

 

Information needs and communication gaps

The 3.11 disaster in Japan is the epitome of an unforeseen, catastrophic and intrinsically disruptive event. On 11 March 2011, the northeast coast of Japan was struck by a powerful earthquake, which caused a chain-reaction of events: a devastating tsunami, continuous aftershocks and tremors, and damage to nuclear reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, resulting in nuclear meltdown and considerable dispersion of radioactive materials into the environment. In all phases of the disaster, Japan’s media played a crucial role in how people communicated and coped with a complex catastrophe. Nine years after 3.11, social recovery, reconstruction in disaster-stricken areas and delays in decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, which could take decades, remain ongoing concerns for Japanese public.

Trust is a critical component of disaster communication, and it is often tested in situations such as natural disaster and crisis (Mehta, Bruns, & Newton, 2017), where citizens’ demand for credible information increases. The exposure to inconsistent news and media reports can significantly alter people’s perceptions of media credibility (Gaziano & McGrath, 1987). Furthermore, in a disaster situation, the fragility of media is exposed (Endo, 2013) and people seek different ways to find the information they need and look for trusted media sources to reduce uncertainty and ambiguity (Lachlan et al., 2014a). During crises and natural disasters, many people rely on Twitter for its ease of access, timely updates and real-time information, and ability to identify users’ specific needs and concerns. However, despite social media’s critical role in communicating risk and disaster response, their fast and immediate dissemination comes with the risk of incomplete, misleading or inaccurate information. Another reason for questioning social media credibility is the shifting role of “gatekeepers” from producers to consumers (Westerman et al., 2014), which is why many people seek information from official and checked sources (Lin et al., 2016).

The 3.11 disaster was both a “natural” and a “man-made” disaster (Kingston, 2012). This overlap between natural and complex disaster setting, with high levels of uncertainty, amplified the critical need for credible, up-to-date and timely information on rapidly evolving events necessary for effective disaster management. Within the complex 3.11 media landscape, social media served as a new information tool and an essential medium for up-to-date, real-time news when other communication systems were not working, even as television remained a widely used medium in the first moments of the disaster (Jung, 2012).1 However, the complexity of what came to be known as the “Triple Disaster,” especially the nuclear meltdowns and the diffusion of radioactive materials, altered this significantly. The opaque nature of mass media reports and the communication gap between local and central government alongside contradictory announcements by Tokyo Electric Power Company (herein TEPCO)2 and media institutions, and the contradictory or insufficient information from the government, contributed to profound public distrust towards government and mainstream media institutions (Funabashi & Kitazawa, 2012; Hobson, 2015). Delivering information to the general public about levels of radiation was especially problematic shortly after the explosion in the nuclear plant. The inability of government, TEPCO, and national media to accurately communicate information and educate the public (Hobson, 2015) subsequently created confusion among citizens who, without prior knowledge on the levels of radiation, could not understand whether the reported levels of radiation were dangerous or not, or whether and how best to leave the area. This study has been driven by data collected from participants highlighting the lack of transparency in mass media coverage of the meltdown and levels of radiation, which led many to turn to alternative sources of information as the disaster was unfolding and to connect with a variety of sources and communities. In this context, individual perceptions of media credibility and confidence in Japanese media were significantly shaped and reconfigured by the 3.11 disaster and its changing media environment.

The erosion of public trust in Japan 

In the years following the 3.11 disaster, Japanese people have been expressing declining levels of trust in media institutions and government. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, public distrust at the global level is on the rise, with 20 out of 28 countries polled being categorised as ‘distrusters.’ The survey from Edelman shows that Japan belongs to the category of ‘distrusters’ with continuously low levels of institutional trust; the most recent report shows 32 percent for media and 37 percent for the government (see Table 1.1.). Japanese trust in social institutions, including NGOs, media, government and business institutions is 11 percent lower than the global average in 28 countries surveyed, 37 percent versus 48 percent, placing Japan at the bottom of the list as the world’s least trustful, after US (43 percent), Germany (41 percent), Australia (40 percent), Canada (49 percent), and UK (39 percent). The report also shows overall distrust in both mass media and social media in Japan, with an insignificant gap of 4 percent between trust in journalism (41 percent) and social media platforms (37 percent). Thus, it is necessary to highlight factors that led to such low media credibility in Japan.

Table 1.1. Trust in media and government institutions in Japan 2010–2018

02Source: 2010-2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report

 

According to the World Press Freedom Index reports released in the period 2010–2018, it is evident that media freedom in Japan has been on the decline since 2012. With regard to the changes in ranking over eight consecutive years, Japan fell from being 11th on the list in 2010, to ranking 67th in 2018 (see Table 1.2.). From the time of 11 March 2011, there have been significant developments and changes in Japan’s government and political landscape, which also affected media institutions. Ever since the current Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s administration took office in 2012, media freedom in Japan has been declining (see Table 1.2.).

Table 1.2. World Press Index Report 2010–2018: Japan

01Source: World Press Freedom Index 2010-2018, Reporters Without Borders

 

According to the media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, Abe’s administration poses a threat to media independence by its interference in the editorial policies of Japan’s public broadcasting service, and its dismissal of journalist reports that are critical of the ruling party, taking little account of the citizens’ right to information. Since the State Secrecy Law was launched in Japan in 2013, “investigative journalism has declined in Japan, as the government became legally entitled to designate sensitive information (such as national defense and Fukushima-related issues) as state secrets. The public’s right to information has become restricted.” (Oishi & Hamada, 2019, p.116).

Numerous studies of the 3.11 disaster raise pressing issues in Japanese journalism including mass media’s heavy dependence on government, thereby lacking independent and critical perspective in coverage of the disaster (Galbraith & Karlin, 2016; Gill, Slater, & Steger, 2013; Kingston, 2012; McNeill, 2013). After 3.11, due to the closed kisha club system,3 in which only professional journalists affiliated with the government are permitted to attend press conferences, freelance and foreign journalists faced many discriminatory measures taken by TEPCO and the Japanese government. They were prevented from attending press conferences and denied access to direct information (Segawa, 2011). Similarly, Pacchioli (2013) highlights the difficulty in understanding the risks and overall severity of the disaster because of lack of government explanation of the issues, while Friedman (2011) discusses the problem of a shortage of specialist reporters with technical knowledge about nuclear disaster and radiation risks. The lack of communication from the government’s side led to the promotion of the view in mass media that the situation in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant was stable and under control (McCarthy, 2014, p. 185). Concerning this, McNeill (2014) argues that mass media sanitised news on the disaster to suppress panic and maintain a good image of the state, by limiting and often suppressing investigative reporting, to broadcast homogenised content. Furthermore, some studies argue that NHK did not report on nuclear disaster thoroughly, despite being the only television station with nuclear specialists among its journalists. Instead, it relied on TEPCO and government information sources, rather than utilising the expertise of independent sources (Ito, 2012; Yamakoshi, 2015). Although the focus of this study is Japan, a recent comparative analysis shows that Japan is not unique in respect to low media credibility and decreased trust in social institutions and media. Nancy Snow (2017) draws parallels between the post-3.11 Japan under the Abe administration and the post-9/11 propaganda and opinion control by the Bush administration to show how governments utilize manipulative media and public relations strategies to control opinion and rhetoric in times of national crises and wars.

Previous research has shown that levels of trust in media have significantly decreased since the 3.11 disaster (Aldrich, 2012; Newman, Fletcher, Levy, & Nielsen, 2016). A recent study by the Disaster and Media Research Group is one of the first attempts to assess the media’s lessons learned from media coverage of the Great East Japan Earthquake through qualitative in-depth interviews with representatives from Japanese mainstream national media outlets (Okumura, N., Hayashi, K., Igarashi, K., & Tanaka, A., 2019). The extant studies on the 3.11 disaster focus predominantly on questions of how and why media lacks credibility, and the general lessons learned after 3.11 with regard to trust in government institutions and mainstream media, utilizing different types of data, but rarely examining users’ perceptions of media credibility in the context of the 3.11 disaster and the present day. This makes invaluable investigation of individual media experiences through voices of media users in the context of the complex, inter-media environment that emerged with the 3.11 disaster. This study explores this issue through qualitative analysis of individual trust in mass media and social media concerning the 3.11 disaster and the present day.4

Furthermore, in addition to experiences gained by media executives and general surveys about trust levels in Japan, knowledge of how media users trust different media platforms and sources may have implications for how these media will evolve to better support disaster communication in the future. Having in mind that people heavily rely on media in the time of disasters and crises for timely and reliable information and that there is an anticipated risk of another major inland earthquake in the Tokyo metropolitan area, it is essential to utilise lessons learned from both sides, media representatives and media users, to prepare for future disasters.

 

Research Methodology

This study employs a qualitative approach to develop an in-depth understanding of changes and dynamics in participants’ media use in the context of the 3.11 disaster. Open-ended, in-depth interviews were designed to prompt individual participants to reflect on their experiences, convey opinions and provide insight into specific matters (Creswell, 2013). Analyses of the individual experiences with using media garnered from the interviews is positioned within the context of the immediate 3.11 disaster and the point of reflection, thus enabling us to understand the dynamics of the individual’s media usage.

Having in mind that the aim of this study is not to seek statistical generalisability, a snowball sampling method was used to select participants for the study. During two-months-long fieldwork in Tokyo,5 I interviewed 38 Japanese nationals, who were recruited by utilising my professional connections to reach some of the first participants, who subsequently provided referrals for further interviews. Drawing on the notion that the small sample size in qualitative research enhances data richness and a variety of participants (Moser & Korstjens, 2018), I intentionally selected participants differing in age (25–59), who could provide diverse perspectives on media use and credibility. Participants represented a wide range of occupations including managers, office workers, freelancers, consultants, dentists, students, professors and others. Table 1.3. shows basic demographic information about the interviewees, along with a brief overview of their main source of news during 3.11 disaster.

In the recruitment process, I avoided interviewing participants from the Tohoku region as it was directly affected by the triple disaster, and participants’ media usage patterns were disrupted and limited by the severity of the disaster, loss of electricity, evacuation and displacement. Further, digital engagement of people in the severely affected region was limited due to demographics and geography (Slater, Nishimura, & Kindstrand, 2012). I spoke to participants living in Tokyo, the neighbouring cities of Kawasaki, Yokohama, Saitama and surrounding areas who were less affected by the earthquake and tsunami than people on the north coast of Japan, but who could still feel the effects of the disaster, such as infrastructure disruptions, food and water shortages, electricity outages, mobile network failure and many others. Commuter trains, subways and bullet trains were all shut down due to the earthquake. Phone signals were mostly dead, preventing calls and messages from getting through for hours after the earthquake, so people formed lines in front of public phone booths. However, internet services were available in the areas with undamaged infrastructure, so people in Tokyo were able to use email, Skype, Line, Facebook or Twitter to establish contact with family and friends. Many Tokyo residents remain fearful about the impact of the nuclear disaster, as there were several hot spots with high levels of radioactive caesium in the metropolitan Tokyo area (Oishi & Hamada, 2019, p.114)

As the study uses the case of the 3.11 disaster to examine individual perceptions of media credibility, by looking at individuals’ recounting of media habits and experiences in using different media forms: TV, newspapers and online media (social media, news websites), the main population of interest for the study is media users who lived in a densely populated urban environment in Japan at the time of the 3.11 disaster, and who actively used some or all the above-mentioned media forms. As shown in Table 1.3, most participants whom I interviewed are residents of Tokyo, the city with the highest population density in Japan (Statistics Bureau of Japan, 2019).6 Extensive reliance on a Tokyo sample allows for an adequate investigation of individual attitudes and perceptions of trust in a media-saturated environment and exploration of variations in individual media use in high-density urban environments, and is driven by the notion that Tokyo is the city with Japan’s highest rate of mobile phone subscription, the highest mobile Internet penetration (63.3 percent), and second highest Internet penetration rate (71.9 percent) (Slater et al., 2012, p. 98). Given their heavy use of text messaging and internet, mobile phones play a significant role in the dissemination of news and disaster-related information in Japan. This is consistent with the research aim of reaching Japanese individuals, who can provide evidence of their changing notions of trust and current attitudes towards diverse media forms, including new digital technologies and platforms.

Table 1.3. Basic demographic information about participants (name, gender, age, city/region where participants resided during 3.11 and at the time of interviews) and the media platforms that they used in the three main phases of the 3.11 disaster

05

04

03Note: In the ‘Media Use’ column, media sources are listed in the order of their importance to the participant as an information source in the immediate aftermath of the 3.11 disaster

 

This article aims to trace changes and dynamics in the individual’s media use in relation to shifting levels of trust in media, in the context of post 3.11 Japan, through participants’ retrospective reconstruction of their past experiences. To do this, I first examine participants’ perceptions of the credibility of media they utilised in the context of the immediate and aftermath phases of 3.11, to understand the implications their perceptions have for shifts and changes in their media use habits. Then, I examine participants’ current perceptions of media they use and changes in general information seeking. The comparison of the immediate phase with the present-day phase revea;s how participants’ notions of media credibility fluctuate and intersect with everyday media use, and why participants assign higher credibility to certain media forms.

 

Rethinking media credibility and changing media use

Familiarity, gatekeeping and live images

The primary source of news for most participants immediately after the 3.11 earthquake was television, often complemented with social media and news websites, but occasionally used as a sole source of news. More than half of the total number of interviewed participants (38), recount using TV as their first source of news. Familiarity is one of the main reasons why it is considered highly credible, and most participants referred to TV as a common medium to which they turn in an emergency such as a natural disaster. The term “shūkan” (habit) was used to explain this. For example, one of the interviewees, Shinji,7 perceives TV as the primary medium for obtaining crucial information in a time of natural disaster:

“At least it is my habit to first turn on NHK, and if there is an earthquake, it has become customary to watch NHK. For now, it seems that many Japanese people have this habit of turning to NHK.”8

Another participant, Atsushi, similarly assumes that many people turned to NHK for the first news on the disaster: “The primary source of information for most people at that time was probably TV.”9

The notion of NHK as a familiar source of news in a time of emergency such as the 3.11 disaster, comes from the established role of NHK as official public institution mandated to report on major national events including disasters and safety warnings and designated to contribute to disaster prevention and crisis management through its broadcasts. In addition to broadcasting national events, NHK has long been established as a national medium, providing a wide range of news at fixed times as well as well researched features. NHK significantly underpins the habitual use of TV in Japan (Yoshimi, 2003). The centrality of NHK in delivering timely and accurate news on the disaster as it unfolded strengthened participants’ high levels of trust in the public broadcaster. In contrast, commercial broadcasters are only moderately trusted due to their perceived sensationalism and imbalance in reporting. In the context of 3.11, the focus of commercial broadcasters was primarily on sensationalist reporting which could bring higher ratings, such as screening high-impact images of the earthquake and rescue operations (Tanaka, 2013). NHK, as a public institution mandated to disaster prevention, focused more on keeping the public informed about safety measures, tsunami warnings, evacuation sites, to protect lives and property and help people in the disaster area (Tanaka, 2013).

In this way, besides prompt and balanced coverage of the 3.11 disaster, participants like Shinji and Atsushi refer to NHK as a habitual source for the first news and updates, which indicate that participants’ perception of NHK as credible comes from a positive personal experience and trust earned over many years.

Another overarching theme emerging from the interviews is that participants express confidence in the credibility of traditional mass media sources over social media due to the gatekeeping process through which information is filtered for publication and broadcasting (Newman & Fletcher, 2017). In explaining the reason behind the preference for television as a source of information during the 3.11 disaster, Chieko compares TV and social media (Facebook):

Of course, Facebook provides information, but precisely because it is Facebook, I do not know whether the information is accurate or not because it is written by individuals. It is good as a communication tool, but I am not sure if it is appropriate for information dissemination. That is why I trust TV… The information dissemination is at least based on pre-established rules, so in such cases, I can probably trust it.10

Some participants, like Sana, refer to the free flow of personally posted information found on various social media platforms, which significantly separates social media from traditional mass media forms in terms of source credibility:

“Because something that’s posted and shared on social media differs depending on the individual’s perspective and feelings, I think mass media is more reliable for confirming the facts without involving emotions.”11

While social media is considered useful for collecting local and personal information, more than half of participants associate the credibility of news with professionally produced information that is filtered, verified, accurate, clearly communicated and fair. This corresponds to professional integrity and work of media producers, journalists, and reporters, particularly from NHK and mainstream press. The convenience of and open access to social media means that the diffusion of rumours is more rapid than in traditional mass media. This can cause significant confusion, as was the case with the rumour tweets about the chemically contaminated rain that circulated in the wake of the great 2011 earthquake (Takayasu et al., 2015). In the disaster context, rumours on Twitter often contained ambiguous information and private opinions about various topics concerning safety and danger that induced anxiety or calls to action. When tweets with such content are retweeted, rumours spread (Umejima, Miyabe, Aramaki, & Nadamoto, 2011). Participants like Yoshi associate the credibility of news with professionally produced information and the gatekeeping process, which is essential to prevent rumours and misinformation:

“In terms of social media, after all, there is a flow of rumours, because there is no filtering… social media is not bad, but its negative side is indeed spreading rumours.”12

Similarly, Ryota discusses social media credibility referring to the information coming from unofficial sources, which are more likely to circulate opinionated and biased information and cause confusion:

So there are heaps of individual opinions there, and people with different standpoints have different opinions, but because it is not organised, there are too many extreme opinions…13

Keeping in mind the problem of rumours and the absence of gatekeepers in social media to check the accuracy and quality of information, it is evident that participants have more confidence in mass media sources, television and newspapers than in social media. This is because they perceive TV, particularly NHK, as official sources of news, less open to manipulation, at least when it comes to facts obtained through live broadcast.

Besides familiarity, the power of visuals, raw videos and moving images was essential for perceiving television as a highly reliable medium (McLuhan, 1964). This is evident from the repetitiveness in the use of the word: “eizō” (映像) when participants explain their preference for television in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear explosion. The word “eizō” is translated as “video image” or “screen image.” It was concurrently used across participants of varying ages, in the context of reliance on television and confidence in television’s credibility.

One of the interviewed participants, Fuji, explains she mainly watched television for its live coverage of the evolving disaster, and the constant flow of information which she can easily access on TV. More importantly, Fuji notes that her preference for television during the 3.11 disaster over other media forms comes from the perspective that video can best capture the real nature of a disaster. As an example, she mentions live footage of a helicopter flying over the Fukushima nuclear plant shortly after the explosion on 17 March 2011, which helped her understand the situation immediately after the nuclear disaster:

“Yes, I thought it was reliable. A video image does not lie. Rather than saying I believe it or not, I have to accept that video image is a fact. It is not that I can trust what people in the company are saying, but I took it as a fact because the person is in position to say that this kind of thing occurred in the nuclear power plant.”14

The helicopter footage was mentioned by other participants, like Takuya as one of the more effective ways to understand the evolving nuclear disaster:

The good side of television is still video image, isn’t it? Real-time… Horrible images are coming in real-time…15

As Takuya’s statement shows, live, closeup images of a hydrogen explosion and later of the helicopter dropping water on the nuclear plant, helped people visualise the disaster and understand its scope. The vividness of video images was often contrasted with a photograph, when discussing the role of TV in the immediate phase of the 3.11 disaster.

For example, when I asked Hana if she trusted TV during the 3.11 disaster, she explained: “It was quite like a movie, how can I say… flowing, because the media conveyed what was happening, and not the instant picture.16 In case of such a complex disaster as 3.11, it is these “moving” video images and the immediacy of broadcast that gave participants the confidence to make sense of information overload and believe that what they are seeing is a true representation of the situation unfolding. Döveling et al. (2011) argue that the visual proximity of the camera can convey the emotional tone of a disaster, thereby reducing the uncertainty and perception of media as unreliable, or only moderately credible. Live performance and images on the TV screen are perceived as more “convincing” than text on something which has already happened, and the familiarity with events comes from the “reality effect” which live television facilitates (Gripsrud, 1999).

Immediately after the 3.11 earthquake, a live video stream from the disaster area was continuously broadcast in a small square at the top of the screen, while the main TV screen showed news commentators and presenters speaking in the studio. The continuous flow of disaster news enabled participants to visualise the disaster and evaluate live news as highly credible. As one participant, Ryota, explains:

“I found it reliable because there was a real-time video stream as soon as the earthquake happened. One good thing was that close, real-time information was continuously appearing.”ʼ17

These examples suggest that there was no suspicion of immediate live TV broadcast of the disaster, and no particular suspicion of newspaper and other media platforms at that time. Participants’ scepticism in news arose later, in the aftermath of the 3.11 nuclear disaster, including suspicion of government statements in TV broadcasts and print publications. Further, participants’ confidence in news and the high levels of trust come from the notion that the moving image and audio-visual material show actual information through the simultaneous reception of the same news and the sense of witnessing the disaster as it happened.

 

Growing scepticism and selective media use

Following the 3.11 nuclear disaster, participants report a lack of trust in television and/or newspaper reports, stemming from the overall perception that the nuclear disaster was poorly covered and that unbalanced, partial, inconsistent reports and media censorship, were caused by the media’s affiliations with the government and kisha clubs. Indeed, the reporting, or lack thereof, of the nuclear meltdown was the main trigger for a strong distrust towards mass media including NHK. Participants mainly refer to the lack of impartial coverage of the nuclear disaster, the poorly communicated information on levels of radiation, the censoring of information on the nuclear meltdown, and the propaganda that the situation is under control. For example, Atsushi, who was following TV news immediately after the great earthquake and tsunami, explains that it was hard for him to understand the news after the nuclear disaster: “I watched TV, but I didn’t understand anything. It has been explained, but with a long explanation, I didn’t understand the meaning at all…”18

While participants generally agree that television delivered useful, real-time, factual information on the earthquake and tsunami, their suspicions arose after the 3.11 nuclear disaster. Kenjiro used television as his primary source of news on the 3.11 disaster, perceiving NHK as extremely useful for its instant and live updates in the immediate aftermath of earthquake and tsunami. However, after the explosion at the nuclear plant, Kenjiro complemented television watching with internet and international media sources, because he felt that Japanese mass media was hiding critical information on the radiation levels and overall risks of the nuclear disaster:

In the foreign media there was like a map showing where radioactive substances would be dispersed given the wind direction, but I wonder why Japanese media did not do the same. I think I lost confidence in Japanese media after that. Information was given in foreign media… Japanese media did not release information… everyone was really worried.19

Although Kenjiro felt that NHK was neutral in covering the necessary information on the earthquake and tsunami, without the sensationalist dimension found on some commercial TV stations, he is convinced that the Japanese mass media, including NHK, did not utilise the SPEEDI system20 to release accurate data on radiation levels, which could help people evacuate to safe areas. He concludes that the Japanese mass media failed to release critical data and fulfil their responsibility to provide detailed, unbiased and independent coverage of the disaster. This made him question its reliability and turn to alternative sources—international media and the internet:

The power of the state suppresses mass media …, media is being watched carefully. If you report on something unwanted, you will be dismissed. There is no independence, which is dangerous.21

Scepticism towards mediated information and gradual loss of trust and growing disappointment in Japanese mass media was also voiced by other participants, who felt that accurate and critical information was not adequately communicated to the public. Negative responses towards repetitive and biased coverage of the disaster led to participants’ perception of mass media as only moderately reliable. Kensuke, who was following TV news from the start of the triple disaster, became sceptical of the mass media, due to repetitive and biased coverage:

I didn’t trust information about the nuclear power plant. It seemed to be controlled. The bad thing was…there was a lot of anxiety about the nuclear plant, and I don’t know which side of the story I received… (continues in English) (they exaggerated news on nuclear disaster, treating nuclear disaster as a political issue… I feel they didn’t show the truth; the mass media has a position like left and right wing … mass media belongs to the government side, it shows good news, people doing their job).22

Consequently, participants’ shifting perceptions of media credibility led to changing media use with utilisation of online media sources to complement mass media use due to uncertainty and gradual loss of trust in mass media.

The changing role of social media in the context of the 3.11 disaster is seen in its potential to provide new visual representations of the calamitous national disaster, with user-generated videos and images that could help viewers gain alternative knowledge of events as they unfold. In some cases, growing distrust towards mass media institutions resulted in higher social trust and/or increasing utilisation of different (online) sources which can provide critical information on radiation or nuclear disaster not provided by mass media. In such an environment, where participants feel that they cannot rely on mass media sources, especially at the time of the 3.11 nuclear disaster, social media provided some with an alternative channel which offered multiple views and perspectives on matters of life and death. In this sense, participants like Atsushi, perceive social media and the internet as a vital tool for safety and security. He notes that: “At that time, there was Facebook and it was really useful.23

This notion of social media as alternative source of information is especially prominent in Hideki’s reference to 2channel,24 an online bulletin-board service, which helped him evaluate the accuracy of local information by comparing other users’ comments and reactions, as they offer a broad range of alternatives and views about his local community in Fukushima:

Many people have comments about the people of Fukushima prefecture. They had comments which never appeared in the news, such as that people in Fukushima are exposed to radiation every day and that the food there is contaminated and cannot be eaten…That was what other people were thinking… I used 2channel to find out what other people think.25

Takuya started utilising Facebook to circulate information on radiation levels in his hometown in Saitama, a city located about 18 miles north of central Tokyo, that he measured himself with a Geiger counter. He says that Japanese mass media is biased and strongly linked to political parties and sponsored by advertising agencies, which significantly affects its impartiality and the neutrality of its content. Therefore, Takuya found it necessary to check information on different sources and decide which is credible, as he notes: “There is nothing that can be done.”26 This phrase “shōganai,” was used by another participant. Daichi, who felt sceptical about the news in media after the nuclear explosion:

TV was the most…I watched TV all the time. I was a bit suspicious, in particular, I was thinking whether the (situation in) Fukushima nuclear power plant was true. I didn’t really know if what was said on TV was true, I didn’t know if it was safe, if I needed to evacuate or if I shouldn’t go outside.”27

For Daichi, the most significant impact of mass media (particularly TV) was its unbalanced coverage of the disaster, which he found to be overwhelming, saying that he could not have a calm attitude towards media TV broadcast of the disaster, but like Takuya concluded that nothing could be done about it:

At that time, because I wasn’t calm, I couldn’t take a calm attitude towards the media. I watched TV, shocked, and there was nothing much to look at…There’s nothing that can be done about the media.”28

The phrase “shōganai” reflects the view that Japanese mass media is unlikely to re-think the focus of reporting and broadcast and provide fair and balanced coverage, which is free of government and corporate (TEPCO) influence, especially in a time of disaster when there is much negative content. The use of shōganai indicates that Takuya and Daichi resigned themselves to the limitations of traditional mass media, and that making radical changes in their media consumption patterns is beyond their control. However, the following section offers personal accounts of media utilization and opinions across wide range of age groups, as an evidence of progressive changes in the traditionally established patterns of media use in the aftermath of 3.11.

 

Building trust through inter-media use

The changing levels of trust in mass media and general scepticism concerning news in the wake of the nuclear disaster had significant implications for the participants’ approach to media use and reliance on media. Within Japan’s broader mediascape, a new inter-media environment emerged in the aftermath of the 3.11 disaster. Inter-mediality is defined as the interconnectedness of social media and traditional mass media, in which their role and influence develop in a complementary manner (Endo, 2013, p. 5). Inter-media use among participants in a wide range of age groups, from their 20s to their 50s, was caused by participants’ sceptical attitude towards the credibility of mass media and online media, as they incorporated both traditional and social media to evaluate news content and develop independent judgment. Within this new inter-media environment, the generational divide is gradually decreasing, as younger participants in their 20s and 30s increasingly migrate to new digital platforms for news, and older participants in their 40s and 50s slowly gravitate to online media as a back-up and additional source of news.

The first significant change in participants media use triggered by the 3.11 disaster is the reliance on cross-media use or combination of older and newer media for better evaluation of credibility, accuracy and up-to-date information. A minority of participants who find social media to be moderately credible are those who used social media as their primary source of news during 3.11, for real-time updates and facts or for checking on what their friends were talking about, to verify credibility of information. For example, besides watching television at work immediately after the quake, Toshi (age group 20-29) utilised a variety of official sources on Twitter. As he did not have a TV at home, Toshi accessed breaking news and mass media reports on the earthquake on Twitter, for its immediate and real-time nature and ability to provide instant updates and deliver accurate reports on earthquake intensity and aftershocks. Reflecting on 3.11, Toshi explains that he only trusted immediate, real-time reports on earthquake and tsunami, which he accessed on Twitter. He noticed changes in the way he used Twitter to continuously access updates and news from trusted news media sources on earthquake intensity, aftershocks and other critical information:

Twitter use, as I thought, has increased, and I looked at it for a long time…because it is fast and information immediately comes in…When the earthquake happened, I immediately looked at Twitter and saw that the earthquake was at that seismic intensity and that something absolutely terrible had happened…29

Toshi relied on cross-media use to access credible and verified information and facts about the earthquake, which could help him realise the severity of the disaster, indicating new media trends in Japan, as mass media use extended to digital platforms. Similarly, Hideki (male, 20-29), who was in Fukushima at the time of 3.11, started checking YouTube for real-time footage posted by other users, useful for understanding the situation and providing alternative sources of information on the complex disaster. Hideki positively acknowledges the real-time feature of this social media platform:

I started using YouTube videos to sort out what happened at that time. Since many people took videos with cameras from various places, I could find out what I did not know, so I started watching videos on YouTube. I think social media is really useful…After all, I think it is useful because we could receive information from social media when the TV station was damaged and couldn’t broadcast… 30

In this case, user-generated and real-time videos of the disaster coming from “back-up” sources (other social media users) helped Hideki gain alternative information on the disaster and evaluate accuracy by comparing different sources. Furthermore, these unofficial communication channels, regarded as “backchannels” (Sutton et al., 2008, p. 625) served as a vital source of information, rather than merely an alternative source of information, for participants who could not access TV news.

However, the need for information was not the only reason for participants’ reliance on online sources. I have argued elsewhere that, in the context of the 3.11 disaster, social media platforms served as a space where individuals can experience and express closeness in time of crisis, creating and maintaining new forms of affective communities in digital space through a combination of user consumption and production of media content (see Petrovic, 2019, p. 92). Another reason for participants’ reliance on social media, which emerged from interviews, is the familiarity of sources in online and offline space. Participants explain that they put their trust in the comments and feedback provided by their friends, or same-community users, as a guide to what is relevant and credible. People believe that interactivity around information facilitates their understanding of the reliability of stories, as others offer feedback and alternatives (Newman & Fletcher, 2017). The discussion and sharing of news among friends or more generally among other social media users’ help participants understand the severity of the situation and realise whether the information is a fact or a rumour. After watching dramatic news reports, due to information overload, participants explained that they found it necessary to confirm what they had seen on television with others, and share information about earthquake intensity, the scope of the disaster and many other concerns. This could help them cope with uncertainty and anxiety. For example, Mayumi (30-39) recalls that she discussed the news from TV with friends and family, to understand the complexity of the disaster:

Even if it was said to be confusing, earthquake, tsunami, nuclear power plant… the opinion of friends and family was very valuable… well, the next week it was really quite difficult (to watch), just watching that, but because there was no other choice I turned on the TV and watched it.”ʼʼ31

Most participants who were living in Tokyo at the time of 3.11 felt that Tokyo was in danger of being directly affected by radiation. Furthermore, the safety of food and water became real issues for Tokyo residents with the passage of time and concerns about radiation. All participants note that immediately after watching the news about the nuclear plant, they discussed the information they gathered from the media, either among family, friends and neighbours or in the digital community of users who follow the same news or join the same online groups, as a guide to establish reliable information. The main concerns discussed in online or offline space were related to the nuclear plant: the seriousness of the disaster, the location of safe zones, radiation effects, and the safety of food and water due to radiation. When I asked Ryota (male, 50-59) whether he discussed disaster news with friends and others, he explained:

We talked about the damage, and whether we could help in any way, and how the nuclear disaster would end… and because there was a story on radiation, where should we go and which food and vegetables are unsafe…32

Similarly, Saki (30-39) explains that even though she did not join any online groups or post information on social media, she was actively involved in a discussion with friends and family about the rumours and contradictory information on radiation effects they heard on TV:

“We talked about the accuracy of information and what to believe. In particular, information about the radiation is completely different depending on the medium and each day. I think about this even today. After all, I think it is controlled and that someone controls it. Especially TV…”33

Another participant, Hana (40-49), who was in Osaka, talked to her friends from Malaysia who followed the same broadcast, discussing the difference between international and Japanese mass media coverage. After that discussion, Hana found it challenging to decide which coverage was more reliable:

At that time, a friend living in Malaysia told me that the way of reporting is very different in Japan and overseas. In Japan, it is fragmented due to such damage, but there is no such thing abroad, it is quite different…I wonder which one is better…34

These participants’ responses indicate that they turned to their friends, family or community of media users to establish what news is reliable and relevant. This demonstrates how discussing information with their immediate community of audience members or social media users contributed to the formulation of perceptions and evaluation of media credibility.

In the context of 3.11, participants conclude that trust comes from comparing multiple sources in the emerging inter-media environment and relying on personal judgment to determine its credibility. This indicates that the complexity of the 3.11 disaster triggered a combined media use in the form of inter-media, integrating both old and new media technologies to critically analyse and evaluate news content and develop independent judgment. These findings suggest an overall understanding that television is more professional and competent than online media in delivering accurate and reliable news, as participants tend to seek information from official and checked sources, still having confidence in the professional integrity of journalism and live broadcasts above the random sources and unregulated flow of information on social media. At the same time, findings of the study show that in the inter-media environment that emerged with the 3.11 disaster, the interplay of traditional mass media and online media spheres facilitates the evaluation of media credibility and development of personal opinion.

 

Present-day notions of trust in media

The 3.11 disaster altered some participants’ views towards media and government institutions, changing perceptions of media credibility, which consequently led to changes in media use, mainly concerning the inclusion of online media, social media and news websites within one’s media routine. Sixteen participants recall using online media, social media or news websites, during and shortly after the 3.11 disaster. Interviews show a significant increase in participants who use online media, from 16 to 31, thereby showing that at the time of interviews, six years after the 3.11 disaster, online media, social media and news websites were afforded a similar level of importance as traditional mass media in participants’ everyday media use.

Familiarity with the source is an essential factor in how respondents perceive the credibility of online media. Post 3.11, participants still tend to communicate with friends and people they already know, which gives them more confidence to regard the information that comes from familiar sources as credible. As one of the lessons learned from the 3.11 disaster, participants explain they became more cautious when accessing information posted by unknown sources and random individuals, as they perceived it as running a higher risk of being misinformation, a poor-quality message or fake news. For example, discussing his post 3.11 media orientation and news consumption, Takashi (age group 20-29) explains that if he is not familiar with the person who posted information, he cannot find it credible, because there is a risk of misinformation or rumours. He goes on to explain that:

Since there are times when I don’t know the source on social media, it might be a rumour On mass media, I try only to listen to facts.35

Similarly, Hiroshi (30-39) who often uses Twitter, tend to communicate with people he already knows, which gives him more confidence to regard the information that comes from familiar sources, or in the case of his explanation below, Twitter influencers, as credible to some extent:

There are many people on Twitter. There are some you can trust, and others that you definitely cannot. Some of them are acting as influencers, and what they say and the things they introduce, they’ve checked them out to a certain extent, so they have a track record. Rather than saying whether I can trust Twitter or not, there are people whom I can trust, so Twitter is suitable for making direct contact with them.36

Therefore, Hiroshi and Takashi’s responses indicate that reliability depends not on the medium itself, but on the source. For example, familiarity with the source leads to credibility, in the case of family and friends. Sources of information that have a “track record” (jisseki) or that are “factual” (jijitsu) are also considered trustworthy.

Social media is still perceived as less credible than mass media, without significant changes in participants’ levels of trust since the 3.11 disaster. Low trust in social media still comes from a perception of biased, incomplete, misleading or inaccurate information, caused by its unregulated flow of information, immediacy and unchecked sources. Although many believe that social media can to some extent overcome or complement mass media shortcomings, social media is still seen as less credible than television and newspapers. The minority of participants (three) who still turn to TV as their only source of news, refer to the habitual use and familiarity of an established pattern of television watching.

As mentioned earlier in the article, Kenjiro (50-59) believes there is a strong link between Japanese mass media and the government and maintains that greater independence in reporting is essential. Due to the poor television coverage of the 3.11 nuclear disaster, he said he lost trust in Japanese mass media, including NHK and commercial broadcasters. However, years after the disaster, because of his long-established habit of watching television, Kenjiro still perceives it is the most reliable medium for news. He especially credits NHK for its factual reports, but also mentions that there are times when some issues and events are not reported:

TV watching has become a habit because the latest news is delivered at a fixed time. I don’t think that is all, but I trust NHK to some extent. However, I think there are times when some things are not reported.37

One of the rare younger participants who choose mass media forms over social media, like Michiko (female, 20-29) and Miyuki (female, 20-29) both make a note that their perception of traditional mass media (television and newspaper) as credible, comes from habitual use:

Miyuki: “I’ve watched it (TV) ever since I was little, so there is no need to doubt it.”38

Michiko: “I think newspaper is the most reliable media. When I was a child, I think my parents have taught me to read newspapers, and reading newspaper became ordinary…39

These comments indicate that changing media habits in terms of incorporating social media in their accustomed media environment becomes difficult for three participants whose media habits still tied to traditional media and news that comes on TV at a scheduled time, or gets delivered directly to their home.

Most participants seem to agree that the major media outlets, such as NHK television news and national dailies such as the Asahi and Yomiuri, separate fact from fiction, but there are mixed opinions about whether such outlets are critical and transparent enough due to their tight link with political parties. When discussing their preference for online and international media sources, Toshi (male, 20-29), Kaori (female, 50-59) and Haruna (50-59) refer to a lack of critical coverage and transparency, as the primary reason for not trusting these sources. One of their comments was:

Toshi: “It is difficult…I don’t trust it at all. I think that Japanese media has not done much of the critical articles in journalism, and I know the world’s press ranking, I know it is low in Japan…40

After the nuclear disaster, Atsushi (male, 40-49) started doubting news from mass media, realising it is biased and controlled, without providing alternative views and reliable information. For Atsushi, media bias that emerged post 3.11 nuclear disaster is the main reason for his distrust in mass media or as he explicitly says a few times in the interview: “I hardly ever watch TV or read newspapers because it is full of lies!41

When it comes to media bias, the problem of political and institutional bias comes into consideration when discussing the credibility of Japanese mass media. Another participant, Wataru (male, 40-49), explains that his main decision to cancel his subscription to the Asahi and Yomiuri Shimbun comes from the view that major Japanese newspapers are tightly linked with political parties, and that this has significantly affected the coverage of 3.11 nuclear disaster.

Although there is a consensus that mass media forms provide verified and general information, online media sources are also thought to offer different perspectives on events, thereby suggesting that trust comes from a combination of multiple sources. One participant, Mei (female, 20-29), talks about how she views the information provided by mass media and online media as being different. She explains that mass media delivers official information at the macro level, while online media, especially social media, offers individual perspectives and opinions, which she sees as micro-level information. Mei stresses the importance of comparing both sources to see different viewpoints. Although she thinks Japanese mass media is not biased, she does say that it is essential to decide for yourself which source you will trust. In a similar way, Sana (female, 20-29) drew this comparison to highlight the importance of personal judgement in evaluating news content and the credibility of sources:

After all, I think that mass media have high reliability because many people put effort into it and information is organised to some extent. On the other hand, because there are all kinds of people put together, information on social media is fast, but I think that it is necessary to judge whether it is reliable information by yourself.42

In this way, participants’ comments suggest gradual changes in their media usage patterns, but more importantly, development in communication and civil society in Japan, where the user feels increasingly empowered to question, challenge and confirm the credibility from multiple media forms and sources. This opposes to the previously discussed notion of “shōganai,” as participants refuse to accept traditional modes of communication as their sole source of news and favour sifting through and evaluating information from diverse platforms and relying on critical thinking and personal judgement.

Six years on from the 3.11 disaster,43 fewer than ten percent of those interviewed rely on online and/or social media as a news source and trust them to deliver reliable and quality news. This group of participants in their 30s or 40s use curated (matome) websites as their primary source of news because they provide both sides of any issue, and rarely follow news on traditional mass media, due to the view that the information is biased and only partially reliable. Participants generally agree that the reliability depends on the source, especially when it comes to online media, and they make a clear distinction between random individual posts on social media platforms and news circulated on curated websites like Yahoo News and NewsPicks. Curated news websites aggregate top news stories from major media outlets, providing in-depth information and allowing users to leave comments on news articles.

Interviews show that more trust is placed in news portals and curated (matome) websites than on social media, as all 13 participants who use them express high or partial trust and confidence, due to an overall feeling that the adopted news content from major news outlets is more credible than the individually posted information. Figures also show that low credibility is registered only among participants who use social media, with 18 of them who perceive social media as not credible at all and 6 participants who partially trust it. Within the broad category of online media, curated (matome) websites are perceived as more trustworthy than social media platforms, because they enable users to express their opinions, provide additional information, and think about each issue through comments provided by other users, which significantly contributes to the information validation process. Eiji (male, 30-39) uses both social media (Facebook) and news websites, but for credible news, he entirely relies on curated (matome) websites, particularly NewsPicks.44 The main reason behind his preference for NewsPicks is the ability it affords him to see news of his interest in one place, but more importantly to read other users’ comments on articles, which facilitate Eiji’s judgment of whether the news is credible.

Similarly, Naoko (female, 30-39) first referred to NewsPicks when explaining which media form she enjoys the most: “There is NewsPicks, where there is various news and where various people and experts comment on news… I think that is very interesting, so I read the news.”45

She continues to explain that she regularly uses NewsPicks, because she can see the comments of other people who frequently access news of similar interest, which helps her realise there are different perspectives on the story:

Since it sometimes happens that I don’t know which information and news alone is right on NewsPicks, it is fun to be able to see news and how various people are watching it.46

In other words, Naoko checks NewsPicks not only for its news content, but to read other users’ comments and feedback on the news and compare information to decide what is reliable. The awareness of other users who share the same present and experience of the 3.11 disaster gives the user more confidence that rumours and fake news will be quickly corrected, and in the veracity of stories checked through other users’ feedback and comments. More importantly, the interactive nature of online news portals enables participants to gain more comprehensive experience and general perception of news, drawing on other users’ insights and different viewpoints to form their own opinion and evaluate media credibility. This suggests that aligning with a community of users who comment on curated news significantly contributes to their higher evaluation of its credibility. Furthermore, the increasing use of and reliance on digital news websites, complementing or coexisting with traditional mass media in inter-media environment which emerged with the 3.11 disaster, highlights that the internet in post-3.11 Japan, in addition to traditional mass media, plays a significant role in shaping public opinion.

Among thirteen participants who partially trust online media, ten of them belong to the 40–49 and 50–59 age groups and believe they can trust curated (matome) websites and get quick updates on information in their areas of interest. This group of participants still uses traditional mass media such as television or printed newspapers as a part of their media routine, complementing it with online news sources. When I asked Ryota (male, 50-59) to talk about his media use today and main source of information, he explained: “I use internet as much as TV. After watching it (news) on TV, I often check it again on the internet.47 He concludes that the careful selection of news is critical, which clearly explains why he uses both the Internet and television in his regular media routine. Participants’ combined media use is driven by the notion that they cannot rely on any medium entirely, but through comparing traditional and new digital sources, they can receive different perspectives and evaluate medium credibility.

Comparatively, participants’ low trust in online media mainly comes from the participants’ general view that information on social media comes from different individual sources, often agenda driven, biased with personal feelings and sometimes too opinionated to be perceived as credible. Figures also show that the age of participants with low levels of trust in social media ranges from the 20s to the 50s. Thus, findings suggest there is a general awareness among participants that social media is not a credible news source.

 

Conclusion

Based on in-depth interviews, this article aimed to examine how Japanese media users perceive media credibility within the new inter-media environment that emerged in the aftermath of the 3.11 disaster. As my study demonstrates, where online and traditional modes of communication converge and intersect, individual notions of trust guide their engagement with different media platforms and information sources. This was highlighted as individuals began to question the credibility of television news coverage of the disaster amidst claims of bias and lack of critical reporting. While 26 participants mainly used television immediately after the earthquake and tsunami, sixteen people turned to online media in the wake of disaster, utilising different social media platforms or/and curated matome websites in combination with TV to search for supplementary information, and found the new media space also offered alternative sources of knowledge on the 3.11 nuclear disaster. Trust in online media comes from the new visuality facilitated by user-generated images and real-time videos of the disaster, which helped participants gain alternative knowledge on the disaster, and a means of comparing different media sources. Whereas trust in the television image comes from habitual engagement with the NHK live news in a time of emergency, with 26 participants describing television as highly or partially credible, confidence in online media stems from familiarity with its sources. That is, participants explain they put their trust in the comments and feedback provided by their family, friends, or same-community users, as a guide to what is relevant and credible. However, the number of participants who trust online media is comparably low, with only three participants who explain they find social media or news websites to be credible source of news.

The 3.11 disaster exposed many issues concerning Japanese mass media: bias, lack of investigative reporting (Gill et al., 2013; Kingston, 2012; McNeill, 2014), the cartelised media system (Freeman, 2000) and others. Participants’ responses show that the 3.11 disaster did not trigger radical changes in their media use, as the increasing use of online sources, have not replaced the traditional mass media. Even though recent statistics show low levels of trust in media institutions in Japan (Edelman Trust Barometer Report 2018), participants trust television more than online media due to belief in the authenticity of traditional news formats. High levels of trust and reliance on television come from the familiarity and habit of television watching, and the sense of liveness and immediacy provided by NHK. This is further buoyed by confidence in professionally produced and regulated news, fact-checking and sourcing, as opposed to the unregulated flow of information on social media. However, in a time of national emergency and mediatised disaster when bias and lack of critical reporting are highlighted, participants turn to online media in search of diverse perspectives and alternative views. In these more volatile times, but also as time calms a bit post-3.11 disaster, these new media patterns remain intact as participants actively turn to a combination of older and newer media platforms and demonstrate personalised media use. In this study, as one of the main effects of the “triple” disaster on overall perceptions of media credibility, we see Japanese media users who are no longer confined to traditional media systems, but are predominantly active, media-literate, inquisitive, and critical media consumers, who are motivated to use new digital media, search for news and navigate their way through complex media environment. They rely on personal judgment in alignment with a familiar community of audience and users to evaluate media credibility. This has implications for our understanding of “trust” in news sources in the inter-media environment. I argue that trust comes from combined media use, in other words, the interplay of traditional and new modes of communication which facilitate an individual’s evaluation of media credibility and guide his/her media engagement.

The participants’ combined media use is almost evenly spread across four different age groups, suggesting that people of varying ages (20–59) are slowly embracing and adjusting to the new inter-media environment. Japanese media society is moving towards more community-oriented online communication, where the digital divide between older and younger generations slowly decreases. Since 3.11, younger generations—those in their 20s and 30s—have migrated to digital platforms and increasingly come to use online sources, while older generations—aged 40–49 and 50–59—recognised the significance and affordances of different online media, mainly matome websites and social media platforms, which they slowly incorporated into their media routine as one of the news sources. The increasing use of and confidence in matome websites, such as NewsPicks and YahooNews, show that the internet in Japan, in addition to traditional mass media, plays a significant role in shaping public opinion. The examples of the changing dominance of traditional mass media and new media competition, presented in this paper, is an evidence of a general change in Japan, where after 3.11 people of different age groups utilise new platforms to evaluate traditional media sources, as a guidance for challenging media credibility. With the rise of online media and the individual’s routine exposure to an abundance of opinions and information, the inter-media environment is becoming more complex and less controllable, in terms of its reliability and transparency of sources. Participants’ experiences with using media in a disaster context demonstrate a great need for balanced reporting on a disaster, which in their opinion should be informational, affective, and more critical, to increase levels of trust in mass media. Considering that the mass media cross-ownership and lack of diversity in reporting made a significant impact on national media framing of 3.11 disaster and public perceptions of media credibility, it would be worth further unpacking individual perceptions of the credibility of different Japanese broadcasters, public and commercial, and newspapers (local, regional, national). This could be one avenue for further research.

Moving forward, having in mind the impact of perceptions of media credibility on individuals’ media habits, our aim should be to examine how, alongside rapid changes in new media technologies and developments in the interplay of old and new media forms, both online and traditional mass media will evolve and reshape news habits and attitudes and contribute to disaster communication.

 

 

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Sutton, J. N., Palen, L., & Shklovski, I. (2008, May). Backchannels on the front lines: emergency uses of social media in the 2007 Southern California wildfires. Paper presented at the Fifth International, ISCRAM Conference, Boulder, CO.

Takayasu, M., Sato, K., Sano, Y., Yamada, K., Miura, W., & Takayasu, H. (2015). Rumor diffusion and convergence during the 3.11 earthquake: A Twitter case study. PLoS one, 10(4).

Tanaka, T. (2013). NHK’s Disaster Coverage and Public Value from Below: Analyzing the TV Coverage of the Great East Japan Disaster. Keio Communication Review, 35, 91–104

Umejima, A., Miyabe, M., Aramaki, E., & Nadamoto, A. (2011). Tendency of Rumor and Correction Re-tweet on the Twitter during Disasters. IPSJ SIG Notes, 4, 1–6.

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Notes

1In a survey conducted by Nomura Research Institute in 2011, the majority of respondents (80.5 percent) found NHK television to be the most reliable source of information after the earthquake (Jung, 2012).

2TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.): Japanese electric utility holding company that operates the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. TEPCO bears the primary responsibility for the incompetent handling of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, which happened on 11 March 2011, due to its failure to meet basic safety requirements in risk assessment.

3Also known as “information cartels” (Freeman, 2000), because of the cartelisation process that results from the institutionalisation of the close relationship between official news sources and reporters, kisha clubs are the primary mechanism for news gathering in Japan. They are described as an institution that contributes to a deficit of critical reporting (Kuga, 2016) by controlling and regulating the information flow.

4The study conceptualises the 3.11 disaster as three interrelated events: earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. It differentiates between three main phases of the 3.11 disaster for the purposes of analysis: the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami (11 March 2011), the immediate aftermath of nuclear explosion (12 and 14 March 2011) and the timing of the interviews in the period August–December 2017, which I refer to below as “present day,” or six years after the immediate aftermath.

5The fieldwork extended from August to December 2017

6Statistics Bureau of Japan, Statistical Handbook of Japan, 2019. Accessed on 25th March 2020.

7All names of participants cited in this paper are pseudonyms.

8はじめにNHKをつけてるなんか少なくとも僕の習慣ではあって、地震があったらNHKそれは一つの習慣になって、たぶん多くの日本人はその習慣を持ってるん?じゃないか、とりあえずNHK。All translations are the author’s except where noted.

9テレビを見て、全部テレビを見て、初めてすごいことになって気づいて。主な情報源は多分日本人はほとんどテレビ、あの時は。

10もちろん、Facebookは情報発信するけど、Facebookこそ正しい情報かどうかわからない、各個人が書いて発しているから。連絡でもツールとしていい、だけど、情報発信としては適切かどうかわからない。だから、テレビはある程度… 一応ルールに基づいた情報発信されているもので、ああいう場合では多分信頼できたとそれしか信じることができない

11ソーシャルメディアは結構その人個人の視点とか思いによって、共有されるものは変わってしまうので、もう少しフラットに事実を確認するためはマスメディアの方が信頼できるかなと思います。

12ソーシャルメディアというと、やっぱりデマが流れてくる、そこはフィルターかからないので…メディアが悪いんじゃないんですけど、そういうマイナスの側面はやっぱりどうしてもデマ

13個人の意見が山ほどのかってて色んな立場の人が違った意見でいうから、それがいいとこあるけど、整理がつかなくなっちゃうので、過激な意見もすごく多くて言い過ぎて …

14はい、信頼できると思いました。映像には、嘘はない。信じてるかどうかというよりは、映像としては事実を伝えてるん、そのでてくる、その会社の人たちがいってることが信頼できるかということではなくて、この人がこういうことを言う立場いている、原発でこういうことが起きてるって、ヘリコプターからのぶんとかはそれは事実として、受け止めました。

15テレビのいいところはやはり映像ですよね、リアルタイム。結構リアルタイムで恐ろしい映像は入ってくる。

16それはムービー結構、なんていう、ながれて、あのう瞬間的なお写真じゃなくて、実際に動いているものをメディア伝えられたので。

17起きた時はリアルタイムの映像が流れてくるので、そのことについては信頼できると思ってました。一つはいいところはリアルタイムの近い情報がどんどん出てきたこと。

18テレビは見てたけど全然わからなかった。説明してるけど 、長い説明をしながら全く意味が分からない。

19そこで外国のメディアにはあのう… 風向きで放射線物質の飛んでる… こう予想図みたるのが出てるのに、どうしての日本のメディアはあれを出さないのか。あとに、日本のメディアに信頼を失ったと思います。外国のメディアは出してる情報…日本のメディアは出してない情報… 皆本当に不安でした。

20A computer system utilised during a nuclear disaster to predict dispersions of radioactive substances and help people evacuate to safe areas. The government and mass media in Japan did not make use of SPEEDI, which consequently led to an absence of accurate information available to the public and people evacuating to places with high levels of radiation.

21マスメディアは国家権力によって抑えられっちゃう… だいぶそのコントロールされているよりは睨まれている。望まないような報道すると、首切られるよね。独立性はないよね。それは非常に危ないですよね。

22原発の情報、テレビのはあまり信用してなかった。なんかコントロールされているようにみえてました。あとね悪いところはもういっちょうね…原発に関して、不安は多いニュースでした、それはどっちの話の話面受ける受けた、わからない…

23その時に、Facebook があったから、すごいに役に立って。

242channel (Japanese: 2ちゃんねる) is an anonymous online Japanese textboard community that was established in 1999.

25福島県人に対してのいろんな人がコメント持ってるんですね。あの人たちが被放射線されているんですが、あそこの食べ物おせんされていてたべれないですとか、決してこうニュースで取り上げられないようなコメントが持ってるね…それがほかの人どう考えるか…他者がどう思ってるかっていう、知るために2channelを使った。

26メディアはしょうがないね

27テレビが一番…ずっとテレビつけってた。ちょっと疑ったね、特に福島の原発は本当かなと思ってみてた。安全なのか、避難した方がいいか、外に出ないほうがいいとか、あまりテレビで言ってることは本当かどうかわからなかった。

28その時に、自分の冷静じゃなかったから、メディアに冷静な態度取れなかった。テレビを見て、ショックなって、あまり冷静見てあまりなかった。もうちょっと落ち着いてね。メディアはしょうがない。

29Twitterやっぱ、増えましたよね、見るしか長い見るし…速いからですね。すぐに入るから情報…震災起きたとって、あの震災はその震度、おおきな地震、その時は絶対やばい起きて、すぐTwitterみるし…

30あの時何があったのかっていうのを整理、自分でするためにYouTubeの動画を活用するようになりましたね。いろんな人がビデオカメラでいろんな場所でとってるので、自分が知らなかったことを知れたりするので、YouTubeの動画をみたりするようになりましたね。

31わかりにくいといわれても私たちも地震、津波、原発… 友人と家族すごく貴重の意見として… 次の週にさすがすごいつらくなってきたっていうか、そればかりを見てて、ほかのチョイスがなかったので、テレビつけるそれみたいな、 …

32被害の状況だったりとか、なにかサポートができないだろうかとか、発電所の話はどうやって結末… どこに逃げたらいいのか、あとは放射線の話があったので、どこの食べ物、野菜はだめだ…

33情報のその正確さとか、何を信じるかみたいな話し合った。特に放射能の情報各メディアによっても、各その日によっても全然違って、今でもどうなのかなって思います。やっぱ、コントロールして、だれかがコントロールしてるって思います。特にテレビ…

34その当時、マレーシアに住んでいる友達がいたんですけど、映像のほう、報道の仕方が日本と海外やっぱり違う…日本って、そういうひがいがあってモザイクかかるんです、でも海外そういうものがない、けっこうまなあたりにする、ちがう。それがどっちがいいのかなあ…

35ソーシャルメディアはソースがよくわからないこととかがあるので、うわさぐらいなっているできてます。マスメディアのほうが…マスメディアはマスメディアで事実しか聞かないようにしています。

36Twitterのなかでいろんなひとがいて、中には信頼できる人もいれば、全然そうじゃないものもあるとおもう。中には、本当にinfluencerとして活動していて、彼らのいうこと、紹介する情報はある程度とってやるからの、っていうふうな実勢の人もいるから…だから、Twitterが信頼できるかどうかというよりは、Twitterのなかで信頼できる人もいるので、そういう人とダイレクトにつながるにはTwitterが適している。

37決まった時間に一番新しい時間ニュースをやってくれるので、習慣になってますね。それがすべてだとは思いませんけど、やっぱある程度NHKは信頼して、でも報道されないこともあるんとおもいます。

38小っちゃい時は見てるから、あまり疑うことはない。

39新聞は一番信頼できるというメディアだと考えていて…子供のころ、多分両親も新聞を読みなさいっていう風に教育してきたし、新聞を読むのが当たり前となった。

40難しいとこです、僕はあまり信用しない… そのジャーナリズムとかメディアで日本のメディアってあまりその批判的な記事をちゃんと出来ていないと思ってて、その世界の報道ランキングってあるじゃないですか、知っています、日本で低いんですよ.

41テレビと新聞ほとんど見ないです。うそだから。

42マスメディアはやっぱりいろんな人の手がかかって、情報が整理され、ある程度整理されて、発信されているので信頼度が高く、信頼度が高いなと思っています。一方、ソーシャルメディアはやっぱりいろんな人が合わせるので情報はすごく速いんですけど、ちゃんと信頼できる情報かどうかっていうのは自分で判断しないといけないという風に思っています

43The interviews with participants were conducted in the period August–December 2017

44NewsPicks was launched in Japan in 2013 as a social media outlet, created with a subscription-based model, featuring reporting from its own and Japanese media outlets, as well as international publications. As a curated news platform, NewsPicks allows users to gather news related to the topics of their interest and share articles along with their opinions, which are followed by discussion threads. One of the unique features of NewsPicks is that the user cannot interact with other users or reply to their comments but can only comment on a news article. In this way, each article has a stream of thoughts and immediate reactions of everyone who is reading the news story, which provides a variety of different opinions

45NewsPicksっていうのがあって、そこには色んな色んなニュースとかニュースに対して色んな人がコメントをつける名人とか…それはすごく面白いなと思って、読んでます。

46NewsPicksは情報、ニュースだけでは何が正しいかわからないこともあったりするのでそれをいろんな人たちがどういう風に見てるかみたいなのはニュースと一緒に見れるのが面白かったですよ。

47テレビ、インタネット同じぐらいですね。テレビで見た後、インタネットでもう一回調べることが多いからです。

https://apjjf.org/2020/10/Petrovic.html

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan green groups urge Japan not to discharge radioactive water

kjmlmlA coalition of environmental protection groups chants slogan in front of the Taipei office of Japan’s de facto embassy in Taiwan, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, on May 13, 2020

 

May 14, 2020

TAIPEI (Kyodo) — A coalition of environmental protection groups in Taiwan on Wednesday urged the Japanese government to refrain from releasing radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

Chanting the slogan “No to dumping radioactive water into the ocean,” representatives of the organization presented a petition to the Taipei office of Japan’s de facto embassy in Taiwan, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, in the morning.

National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform spokeswoman Tsuei Su-hsin emphasized that they did not come to protest, but rather to urge the Japanese government to refrain from making decisions to cut costs at the expense of the environment.

“There are safer and more sustainable alternatives,” Tsuei said.

The Japanese government and the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant at the time are currently considering ways to safely dispose of the more than 1 million tons of water contaminated with radioactive materials after being used to cool the melted fuel cores at the plant.

A decision needs to be made soon as space for storing the water, which has been treated but is still contaminated with low-toxicity radioactive tritium, is fast running out.

Methods being discussed include releasing the water into the Pacific Ocean and evaporating it, both of which the government says will have minimal effect on human health.

A panel of experts advising the government on a disposal method has recommended releasing it into the ocean. The government is soliciting opinions from the public before it makes a decision in the summer. Based on past practice, it is likely to accept the recommendation.

Tsai Ya-ying, an activist and lawyer of the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, said as Japan is a signatory of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is obligated to take all measures within the Convention that are necessary to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from any source.

Discharging the water into the ocean could amount to a violation of the Convention, she said.

Liu Jyh-jian, president of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, urged the Japanese government to make a decision that is friendly to both the environment and to mankind.

He added that if the tritium enters the food chain, it is bound to cause harm to humans in the long run.

Tsai Chung-yueh, deputy secretary general of Citizen of the Earth, voiced concern that the Japanese government may be too preoccupied with fighting COVID-19 to make a decision that is environmentally sustainable.

The contaminated water is increasing by about 170 tons per day. Space is expected to run out by summer 2022.

Local Japanese fishermen and residents have expressed concerns about releasing the water on food and the environment.

Widespread concerns remain as well, with many countries and regions still restricting imports of Japanese agricultural and fishery products in the wake of the 2011 disaster that was triggered by a major earthquake and tsunami.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200513/p2g/00m/0in/112000c

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Tepco prepares to survey Fukushima Daiichi unit 2 fuel pool

ROV-operation-training-May-2020-(Tepco)A worker receives training on using the submersible ROV

14 May 2020

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has carried out training in the operation of a submersible remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that will be used to investigate the used fuel pool of unit 2 at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The investigation is scheduled to begin in mid-June.

The company said it plans to start removing the 587 fuel assemblies from the unit’s used fuel pool between fiscal year 2024 (ending March 2025) and fiscal year 2026 (ending March 2027). “However, prior to commencing fuel removal, we must first ascertain whether or not there are any obstructions above the fuel or inside the cask pit, and we must also ascertain the condition of the skimmer surge tank,” Tepco said.

Dose levels on the operating floor of unit 2 are high thereby making it difficult to access, Tepco noted. It has yet to conduct an internal investigation of the unit’s used fuel pool, but it has made progress with the cleanup of equipment, etc. that remains on the operating floor and it is now possible to access the area near the storage pool. Tepco has also now deemed it possible to safely install investigation equipment.

Tepco held training sessions at the Fukushima robot test field in Minami-Soma City for eight employees between 13 and 15 May on operation of the submersible ROV. It says the design of equipment for the removal of the fuel from unit 2’s storage pool will be reviewed according to the results of the investigation.

https://world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Tepco-readies-to-survey-Fukushima-Daiichi-unit-2-f

 

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan groups reject Japan plan to dump radioactive wastewater

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May 13, 2020

Taipei, May 13 (CNA) About 20 environmental protection groups on Wednesday delivered a petition to the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, expressing opposition to the discharge of radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.

Roughly 1.2 million metric tons of contaminated water remains from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit the plant on March 11, 2011, destroying key cooling functions and causing a huge leakage of radiation.

The wastewater contains approximately 880 trillion becquerels of tritium, a hydrogen isotope that experts say poses a relatively low risk to human health.

The Japanese government is currently soliciting public opinion on wastewater treatment until June 15, after which it will decide what to do with the contaminated water. One of the options is dumping it into the ocean.

“We learned Japan is considering discharging wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi plant into the ocean. The plan will cause radioactive contamination to marine ecology. We were astonished to learn this and resolutely oppose it,” the Taiwanese groups said in their petition.

The groups said they were not there to protest but to appeal to the Japanese government to listen to neighboring countries and not to make the wrong decision.

Currently, 2,000 groups and individuals around the world have signed a petition opposing discharging the wastewater into the sea, while about 20 groups in Taiwan submitted a petition to the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, said Tsui Shu-hsin (崔愫欣), General Secretary of anti-nuclear organization Green Citizens’ Action Alliance.

If Japan goes ahead with such a plan, the Taiwanese groups do not rule out holding protests, Tsui said.

Releasing the wastewater into the sea is not the only option, Tsui said, adding that it could also be put into larger storage tanks by consolidating the sludge or soil particles, though that would be more expensive.

Although discharging the wastewater into the ocean is the cheapest approach, “We resolutely oppose using this treatment method,” Tsui said.

Despite the fact that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., (TEPCO) has installed filtration systems to remove radioactive isotopes strontium-90 and caesium-137, it cannot remove tritium residue in the wastewater, while 70 percent of the water still contains the radioactive elements strontium-90 and caesium-137.

As such, dumping the wastewater into the ocean, could cause enormous damage to the marine environment, said Tsai Ya-ying (蔡雅瀅), a lawyer affiliated with the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association.

Japan, a signatory country of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, should adopt all necessary measures to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment in accordance with Article 194 of the convention. It also needs to ensure other countries do not suffer from the effects of environmental damage caused by contamination, Tsai noted.

She called on Japan to reject the possibility of dumping radioactive wastewater into the sea to avoid adversely impacting neighboring countries and hurting good relations between Taiwan and Japan.

https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202005130011

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Korean navy to study impact of Fukushima Daiichi’s radioactive water leak

optimizeA Tokyo Electric Power official wearing protective gear stands in front of Advanced Liquid Processing Systems during a press tour at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in this Nov. 12, 2014, photo.

 

Navy to study impact on radioactive water leak by Japan

May 12, 2020

By Kang Seung-woo

The Navy announced, Tuesday, plans to study the effects of radioactive water on its operations in an apparent countermeasure against Japan’s alleged plan to dump the contaminated water from its Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

While many domestic and international environment groups have studied the possible water release by Japan, this is the first time that the Korean military has decided to investigate the issue, although it remains cautious about specifying Japan is the target country for the study.

According to a notice posted on the government’s procurement system site, the Navy plans to commission research into the potential impact of radioactive water within its operational areas on its maritime operations and ways to stably carry out missions.

The Navy said the 30 million-won ($24,000) research project is scheduled to run until Nov. 30.

“We recognize the growing possibility of radiation-contaminated water being released into our operational areas, and international environmental organizations have warned that if a neighboring country dumps radioactive water into the ocean, it would reach the East Sea within a year,” a Navy officer said.

The officer added that there have been no studies on how radioactive water would affect the environment where naval operations are carried out, and so an advanced investigation is required in order for the Navy to conduct practical and realistic operations.

“Given that seawater is used for living purposes and cooling for equipment, we need to research the impact of radioactive water,” the officer said.

The envisaged research comes as Japan has reportedly been preparing to discharge contaminated water from the power plant, devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, into the ocean. More than 1.1 million tons of radioactive water are reportedly being stored in 977 temporary holding 977 tanks at the power plant in Fukushima.

In February, Greenpeace said a group of experts in Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry had recommended discharging the contaminated water into the ocean as a final means to get rid of it.

In relation to the plan, the Japanese government has held events to gather opinions from local residents and experts on dumping radioactive water into the Pacific, which were seen as procedural ahead of releasing the contaminated water.

However, the Navy said its study was not targeting Japan, adding that it was meant to devise detailed guidelines and a response manual to radioactive-contaminated water in general.

The possibility of Tokyo discharging the water into the sea was raised last year after Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at the German branch of Greenpeace, warned in August that Japan could dump over 1 million tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific.

Since then, Japanese government officials have begun to openly discuss the issue. They say almost all the radioactivity has been removed from the water except for tritium, claiming this metal was relatively nonhazardous ― something experts disagree with, noting it can cause cancer and fetal deformities.

Yoshiaki Harada, a former Japanese environment minister, said last year that there was no other option but to dilute the contaminated water by pumping it into the ocean in order to dispose of it.

In response, the Korean foreign ministry summoned Tomofumi Nishinaga, a minister for economic affairs at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, to convey the government’s concern on the possible disposal of contaminated water. It also sent letters to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to express concern over the environmental impact of the possible water release and call for joint countermeasures from the international community.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2020/05/181_289418.html

hjlkmThe Navy plans to look into possible impact of radioactive contaminated water on its operations, officials said Tuesday, amid concerns over Japan’s planned release of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

 

Navy to assess impact of radioactive water on its operations amid Fukushima concerns

May 12, 2020

The Navy plans to look into possible impact of radioactive contaminated water on its operations, officials said Tuesday, amid concerns over Japan’s planned release of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

Japan has been preparing to release contaminated water from the power plant devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 into the ocean. More than 1.1 million tons of tainted water is reportedly in temporary storage at the Fukushima plant.

According to the notice of a bid posted on the government’s procurement system site, the Navy plans to commission research into potential impacts of radioactive water within operational areas on its maritime operations and ways to stably carry out missions.

“We’ve seen a growing possibility of contaminated water being released into our operational areas and we need to assess its impact on the health of our sailors and military hardware, among others,” a Navy official said.

It is the first time that the Navy has taken steps to look into the Fukushima case, though it did not specifically mention the Japan case in its plan to commission the research.

“The planned study is meant to devise detailed guidelines and response manuals in general terms,” the officer said. (Yonhap)


Japan has been preparing to release contaminated water from the power plant devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 into the ocean. More than 1.1 million tons of tainted water is reportedly in temporary storage at the Fukushima plant.

According to the notice of a bid posted on the government’s procurement system site, the Navy plans to commission research into potential impacts of radioactive water within operational areas on its maritime operations and ways to stably carry out missions.

“We’ve seen a growing possibility of contaminated water being released into our operational areas and we need to assess its impact on the health of our sailors and military hardware, among others,” a Navy official said.

It is the first time that the Navy has taken steps to look into the Fukushima case, though it did not specifically mention the Japan case in its plan to commission the research.

“The planned study is meant to devise detailed guidelines and response manuals in general terms,” the officer said. (Yonhap)

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2020/05/371_289385.html

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Daiichi contaminated exhaust stack disassembled

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Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Contaminated Exhaust Chimney Disassembled

April 30, 2020

The disassembly work on the radioactively contaminated exhaust chimney of the Fukushima nuclear power plant is finally complete after 9 months of work. But the complete decontamination of the plant is expected to take decades.

https://www.nippon.com/en/news/ntv20200430001/fukushima-nuclear-power-plant-contaminated-exhaust-chimney-disassembled.html?fbclid=IwAR0d2x1abJgzILGy6YyppKEhraIyiPcQ0PnfTEvmQP-AVo8LwaDMWIZIxa4

 

Contaminated exhaust stack at Fukushima plant finally cut in half

jlkklmùmA contaminated exhaust stack at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, is dismantled on April 29.

 

April 30, 2020

OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–Work to dismantle the upper half of an exhaust stack at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant finished on April 29, the first time a structure highly contaminated by radiation was dismantled at the plant.

The chimney, which is 120 meters tall and about 3 meters in diameter, was used for the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors of the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

On the morning of April 29, workers spent an hour to lower sliced parts of the stack to the ground from a height of about 60 meters. With its upper half removed, the chimney now stands 59 meters high.

I think there are still many things left that local companies can do,” said Isamu Okai, 52, a board member of local construction company Able Co., which carried out the work. “We want to continue our involvement in the decommissioning of the plant by making use of the expertise we gained from the dismantling work.”

When the nuclear disaster occurred at the plant in March 2011, vapor containing highly radioactive substances was released through the stack. But it raised concerns that the unstable chimney could collapse.

During the dismantling project, which started in August, workers remotely operated cutting equipment hoisted by a huge crane to reduce their exposure to radiation. They carried out the operation at a remote control room set up in a large remodeled bus on a hill about 200 meters from the site.

They faced many problems during the project. Rotary blades attached to the equipment wore out faster than expected, and telecommunications between the equipment and the control room frequently disconnected. The work had to be suspended every time a problem occurred.

As a result, it took a month to slice the uppermost part of the stack, which is about 2 meters high and weighs around 4 tons. That work was initially planned to be completed in a day.

In December, the rotary blades stopped working, forcing workers to be lifted on a gondola to slice the stack with an electric power tool at about 110 meters above the ground.

The work, however, went smoothly from the middle stage of the project. Workers replaced the blades with more durable ones and improved the way they sliced the stack as well as the stability of telecommunications.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13339580

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment