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Rogue nuclear regulator/former NRC chair Jaczko spills the nuclear beans on Fukushima, reactor “safety,” nuclear politics

Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator – Gregory Jaczko, former Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, spills the beans and his guts.

January 12, 2022

  • Greg Jaczko, the former Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has published an explosive new book: Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator.  (NOTE:  Link is to Amazon, but we recommend you order it through your local independent book store.) In it, he gets honest with the American people about the dangers of nuclear technology, which he labels “failed,” “dangerous,” “not reliable.”  He particularly comes down against nuclear as having any part in mitigating the problems of climate change/global warming.  In this extended Nuclear Hotseat interview, Jaczko brings us inside the NRC’s response to Fukushima, the “precipice” on which nuclear safety balances, his own growing doubts about how safe nuclear reactors are in the United States, and how, ultimately, it was that concern with safety that probably brought him down.  Originally recorded on January 10, 2019, just after his book was published.
  • Jaczko Nixes Nukes” – A Backgrounder on Greg Jaczko’s book and the issues he addresses from Dr. Gordon Edwards of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

January 14, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima town prepares for return of residents

Jan. 4, 2022

Tuesday marked the first business day of 2022 in Japan. Officials in Fukushima Prefecture’s Futaba Town are planning to welcome residents back later this year.

The town’s residents have not returned since an accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant forced them to evacuate. Part of the plant is located in the town. The accident occurred in March 2011. Futaba is the only municipality that evacuees have not returned to. The town had a population of about 7,000 before the disaster.

After years of decontamination efforts, the residents are expected to be allowed to return to some areas, starting in June.

Futaba Town officials held a ceremony on Tuesday to mark the first day of the year. The event took place at a town office in Iwaki City. Iwaki is located about 60 kilometers south of the center of Futaba Town.

Futaba Town Mayor Izawa Shiro told about 40 officials that this is going to be a very busy year, as the residents are expected to return.

Izawa said he will be on the frontlines of the town’s reconstruction efforts. He also asked the officials to join him.

Beginning on January 20, residents will be permitted to stay overnight in the town, in order to start preparing for their return. The evacuation order is expected to be lifted in June.

January 6, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Naoto Matsumura Guardian Of Fukushima in TokyoPop March 2022

December 27, 2021

TokyoPop is to translate and publish the French manga series Guardian Of Fukushima by Naoto Matsumura for Free Comic Book Day in May, as well as the rest of TokyoPop’s March 2022.

March 11th, 2011: a massive earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a devastating tsunami which, in turn, destroyed the three core reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. This tragedy cost almost 20,000 lives and devastated countless more, including Naoto Matsumura, a farmer ordered to evacuate from the deadly radiation zone. Unwilling to abandon his beloved animals, Matsumura chose to return home to his farm, and to fight for the beauty of life. This powerful graphic novel from France intertwines Matsumura’s story of human resilience and compassion with the compelling mythology of Japanese folk tales.

Naoto, the guardian of Fukushima : life before everything else

What have we learned from Fukushima? A place name, chilling images, official lies galore and the terrible idea that once again Nature was stronger than man’s gamble. Against the speeches claiming that nuclear energy is safe and that the accidents of the past cannot happen again, reality imposed itself, forcing the authorities to lose face and admit that the core of three reactors of the Fukushima-Daiichi plant had melted. And that it will probably take thirty or forty years to put an end to the consequences of the disaster. Based on the true story of Naoto Matsumura, Fabien Grolleau and Ewen Blain revisit the events not from the point of view of death, but from the point of view of the life that follows its course beyond the collapse.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster is still very much in the memory. Even if the media attention has since shifted elsewhere, even if the real long-term consequences on underwater radiation, on living species, local and distant, is yet to be established, the terror has not yet faded from the collective memory. An earthquake, a tsunami whose waves rise higher than the specifications provided to the engineers in charge of the design of the plant, and here is that human know-how is transformed into evil genius…

Several graphic stories have already addressed the catastrophic aspect of the event, including a brilliant reportage drawn from the inside by a mangaka hired as a worker to decontaminate the site of Fukushima-Daiichi (At the heart of Fukushima, by Kazuto Tatsuta published in three volumes by Kana from 2016), the project here focuses less on the terrible events and their consequences than on the character who gives its title to the album.

Naoto Matsumuru was not an opponent of nuclear power. On the contrary, like most Japanese people, he believed in the miracle of atomic electricity, proclaimed green and safe by its operators and the governments that, as in France, make themselves the standard-bearers of a cause that is beyond them and of which they only perceive the economic and strategic interests.

It is the reality that opened his eyes by force: living near the power plant, farmer by profession, he endured the seismic shocks, then saw with his own eyes the consequences of the earthquake on the sea and on human constructions. Forced to flee and take refuge outside the contaminated zone, he discovers that he has become, in the eyes of his own family, a plague victim, contaminated by radiation…

Rather than flee further, he chooses to return to his farm and, without waiting for the State or Tepco, the company that manages the plant, to take care of him, he decides to take care of the animals abandoned on the spot. Where radiation makes life impossible, Naoto has decided to defend it no matter what the cost, risking his own existence to look after dogs, cats, ostriches and many cows left abandoned by humans… A foolish bet, which was not a bet at all. Naoto, as we can see in the plates of this book, which is more solar than nuclear, has simply chosen life at all costs rather than death by fire.

Through this astonishing journey, out of the ordinary in the true sense of the word, Fabien Grolleau tells us a tale of resilience and courage, in a particularly hostile environment. This story, which moves away from comic book reporting to become pure fiction at times, illustrates more effectively than many alarmist statements the power of an act of resistance and the strength of a testimony at the level of a human being in the face of a very abstract media narrative.

Today, Naoto is a first-hand witness to the horrors not of nuclear power itself, but of its deplorable management by men. He has become an active activist: he has come to Europe to support those who are still opposed to the forced march of nuclear power in defiance of the major health risks, especially at Fessenheim.

With Naoto, the guardian of Fukushima, Ewen Blain signs his first album as a comic book artist. Still a little stiff at times, especially in the first few panels, his line is nevertheless not lacking in accuracy to give substance to this story where Japanese fantasy tales and the fury of supernatural beings are mixed with a more documentary account. Blain seems to take an infectious pleasure in drawing the oriental monsters and the nature that is unleashed. A nice summary of what Fukushima is.

In short, this album that manages to give rise to optimism and to illustrate bravery in the heart of the disaster is a nice success.

The guardian of Fukushima, a soft and tender comic book to tell the horror of the drama

Naoto Matsumura lived through the tragedy of Fukushima, on March 11, 2011. He saw the abandoned lands, the devastated nature, the dead animals. Fabien Grolleau and Ewen Blain tell his story, that of a Japanese man running a peaceful farm, where everything changed overnight. They tell the story of the tragedy, of course, but above all of the life that was maintained there and that Naoto preserved despite the catastrophe.

Naoto is a soft and tender comic book to tell children the horror of the Fukushima disaster.

Fabien Grolleau takes this true story of Naoto Matsumura “the most irradiated man in Japan” who refused to be evacuated from his farm to save his animals, and all the others abandoned after the tsunami that ravaged the nuclear plant.

Ewen Blain’s drawings immerse us in the peaceful, luminous Japanese nature. We walk in it, we even feel it thanks to the evocation of the legends that embody it. The Tsunami is no longer a tsunami but the dragon Ruyjin who is angry. The radioactive cloud has become the terrible demon Akashita, who sees everything and sneaks around. The contemplative is transformed into an animated beast, furious, devastating to the extent of the drama of March 11, 2011, where Fukushima has become a second Chernobyl.

The lively line, the clear colors, contrast with the rather simple dialogues, which only give more power to the drama lived by hundreds of thousands of Japanese that day.

Naoto Matsumura really exists. He is well. When he is not on his farm taking care of his animals, he travels the world to make his anger heard against nuclear power.

December 30, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to Get Ruling in July over March 2011 Meltdowns

In a little-publicized civil trial, shareholders sued TEPCO’s executives for their roles in the 2011 nuclear disaster. The trio was also brought up on criminal charges for the same negligence issues. This civil trial seeks to compensate shareholders for their losses when TEPCO’s stock tanked after the disaster. The court has heard arguments and will have a verdict around July of 2022. The shareholders are seeking 22 trillion yen, about $194 billion USD.

December 1, 2021

Tokyo, Dec. 1 (Jiji Press)–A ruling on a shareholder derivative lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. over the March 2011 nuclear accident at its Fukushima No. 1 power plant will be handed down on July 13 next year.

In the lawsuit, shareholders are demanding that TEPCO pay 22 trillion yen in damages to take responsibility for the alleged failure of five former executives, including former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 81, to take countermeasures against tsunami.

Oral proceedings at Tokyo District Court were concluded on Tuesday, more than nine years since the lawsuit was instituted, marking a milestone in the civil suit with demand for the highest-ever compensation in Japan.

During Tuesday’s hearing, shareholders once again pointed to negligence on the part of the five former TEPCO executives over the nuclear accident at the power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. An unprecedented triple meltdown accident occurred after the plant was struck by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequently triggered huge tsunami.

Shareholders claim that TEPCO could have predicted the tsunami and taken precautions against flooding, on the basis of long-term assessments by a government committee noting the possibility of an 8.0-magnitude-class massive quake along the Japan Trench in the Pacific, including off the coast of Fukushima.

December 7, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear crisis evacuees face unresolved issues 10 years on

Almost 10 years on from a devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan and triggered one of the worst nuclear disasters in history, Seiichi Nakate still has not returned home.

He is just one of around 30,000 evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture who remained scattered around the country as of February this year, according to government data.

Photo taken Oct. 22, 2017 shows makeshift housing in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, built for evacuees from Futaba, a town co-hosting the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

March 5, 2021

And while the numbers — including those who voluntarily fled without an evacuation order — have halved from their peak of 62,831 in March 2012, many of the issues facing evacuees remain unresolved.

Nakate, who was living in the prefectural capital of Fukushima when the earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, said the disaster had “pulled the rug out from under” him and left him feeling like he was “fading away.”

While the city was not designated for forced evacuations after the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant some 60 kilometers away, concerns over radiation led Nakate and his wife to decide two weeks later that she and their two children should move to western Japan while he stayed on in the city.

It was not until around a year and a half later that the family finally started living together again, setting up home in Sapporo, the capital of Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido, where they still remain.

Nakate, 60, currently co-heads Hinan no Kenri, a Hokkaido-based group fighting for the rights of Fukushima evacuees throughout Japan.

The movement was established in 2015 amid government efforts to promote the return of people to Fukushima — a drive that he says was conducted without consideration to the needs and desires of evacuees.

“It had been more than four years since the accident, and the central and local governments were moving forward with lifting evacuation orders, ending compensation, and promoting the return of evacuees as if ignoring our existence and will,” Nakate said.

His organization has a variety of demands for the central government, the foremost being a survey of the actual situation of evacuees, which he believes it has deliberately avoided doing so far.

Critics say the figures compiled by the central government do not accurately reflect reality as they are based on a system under which evacuees voluntarily register themselves as such with their new municipalities of residence.

In December last year, the Fukushima government, using central government data, reported that there were around 36,000 evacuees across Japan, including those within the prefecture. But the total reported by individual local municipalities in Fukushima added up to more than 67,000.

The picture is complicated by the fact that there is no consistency in how municipalities count their evacuees, with some continuing to list all the people who were registered as residents at the time of the disaster.

Nakate also highlighted that economic disparities among evacuees appear to be widening, in part due to “the narrow scope of compensation and the lack of government support.” For example, evacuees who fled from areas without evacuation orders were not eligible for any compensation in terms of rent.

And while some evacuees have fully settled into their new homes, others have been compelled to resettle in the crisis-hit prefecture due to financial difficulties, often caused by family members living separately, he says.

One of the “most pressing issues” his organization is dealing with is trouble over the termination of a scheme financed by Fukushima Prefecture for evacuees to live in vacant units of housing complexes for government workers in other parts of Japan.

The housing was initially offered for free but this arrangement expired in March 2017 for those who fled without an evacuation order, with the accommodation then offered for a maximum of two more years if normal rent was paid.

But some families, claiming financial difficulties, have decided to stay put. The Fukushima government, which had shouldered the rent, demanded in 2019 twice the normal rent as damages and filed a suit last year against four families still living in a Tokyo condominium for bureaucrats.

Yayoi Haraguchi, a sociology professor at Ibaraki University and head of nonprofit organization Fuainet:

Yayoi Haraguchi, a sociology professor at Ibaraki University, said that while most Fukushima evacuees have settled into a rhythm, issues such as poverty, unemployment, a sense of alienation, and mental distress have continued over the past decade.

“It may look like things are alright, but many unseen issues lie under the surface,” said Haraguchi, 48, who also heads Fuainet, a local nonprofit organization providing support to Fukushima evacuees in Ibaraki, northeast of Tokyo.

Haraguchi said she has encountered evacuees in their 20s to 40s who have fallen into depression or become social recluses after they were unable to find a job. Yet others are struggling financially despite having received government compensation for a period of time.

“A study by Fukushima Medical University Hospital showed that those who evacuated to outside Fukushima Prefecture were more likely to suffer from mental issues than those who had evacuated to somewhere within the prefecture,” she said.

While the initial evacuations were often hurried, many of those remaining outside the prefecture have since moved in search of a better life, she said, often choosing to settle in Ibaraki Prefecture bordering Fukushima to its south.

Part of Ibaraki’s appeal to evacuees, she explained, is its cheaper cost of living compared to Tokyo and relatively mild climate.

Post-disaster evacuations were also not limited to Fukushima, with some residents of Tokyo — located about 200 kilometers away from the crippled nuclear power plant — choosing to leave the capital, and even the country, due to their perceptions of how the radiation contamination could affect their health.

Freelance journalist and translator Mari Takenouchi, now based in Okinawa:

Freelance journalist and translator Mari Takenouchi, who has long held strong antinuclear views, fled from Tokyo to Okinawa with her infant son just days after the disaster. She says she picked the southern island prefecture as it is one of the few places in Japan free of nuclear power plants.

“If (the government) doesn’t shut down its nuclear power plants, it is dangerous to live in mainland Japan,” she said. “Japan is on the border of four (tectonic) plates, and 20 percent of the world’s major earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater occur here.”

Since moving to Okinawa, the 54-year-old has worked to create greater awareness about the effects of radiation on children and fetuses. “The situation after the Fukushima accident has not become better, but worse. Considering the occasional earthquakes, all of us are still at great risk,” she said.

Kaori Nagatsuka, a former Tokyo resident who moved to Malaysia with her two children after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis:

Kaori Nagatsuka, 52, another former resident of Tokyo, moved to Malaysia with her 9-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son in March 2012, also due to concerns over her children’s health.

Shortly after moving to Penang, Nagatsuka assisted other evacuees who were considering migrating outside of Japan by letting them stay in her home and volunteering to show them around potential schools for their children.

“There were quite a lot of people who wanted to emigrate in consideration of their children’s health but in the end couldn’t for various reasons,” said Nagatsuka, who now works for a local Malaysian company as a travel and education consultant.

Nagatsuka said she chose Malaysia due to its lower cost of living compared to other countries and relative proximity to Japan. But despite her husband remaining in Tokyo due to work, she has not returned home even once since leaving.

The family meets on occasion in either Malaysia or Taiwan, where their daughter, now 19, currently studies. And while her children are free to choose where they want to live in the future, Nagatsuka says she personally has taken a liking to Malaysia and has no plans to return to Japan.

“If I return to Japan, my children will likely come and visit me and that worries me because I think it could damage their health,” she said. “I raised my children with an aim that they could live in any country and I fulfilled my goal, so I’m glad I came here.”

March 23, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , | Leave a comment

I hate those Fukushima disaster anniversaries!

March 11, 2021

For the last ten years, every year, we have the same circus. For one or two weeks the mainstream media comes out with their anniversary articles, over and over repeating the same old songs, old facts, avoiding the really important issues. Along with this the antinuclear divas once a year prerorate their polished spiels basking in their little moment of glory, releasing their pieces on their dot.orgs. while asking for more donations.

In the meantime not much has changed. The ‘decommissioning’ work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is a neverending story despite all their nice PR technical blablabla, ignoring the fact that the technology necessary to complete the decommissioning has yet to be invented. At 30 Sieverts level of radiation anyone would get fried within 5 minutes, even their costly robots can’t hold their breath very long.

TEPCO is already gradually releasing partially filtered radioactive water, water still containing radioactive material, into our oceans, our environment. Further, it is their intention to dump all the partially contaminated, radioactive water currently stored in over 1,000 tanks into the sea. The only unknown is exactly when they’ll be able to push it thru.

Despite a few court victories, the victims still have not been properly, sufficiently compensated for all their losses and suffering. People on location are still stuck living in an environment with high levels of radiation, levels the government deems acceptable, thresholds higher than the international standards for nuclear plant workers!

The Japanese government and the nuclear lobby are still orchestrating the denial of threats, of facts, the denial of health risks for the population, campaigning for the evacuees to return.

The Fukushima disaster and its tragic consequences are still hurting the local population. Ten years is NOTHING in terms of radioactive contamination. Contamination that is there to stay. Ongoing… every day.

F these anniversaries!

March 11, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , | Leave a comment

Emperor’s evacuation to Kyoto weighed after Fukushima nuclear disaster

January 2, 2021

The government led by the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan unofficially proposed that then Emperor Akihito evacuate to Kyoto or somewhere further in the west from Tokyo immediately after the start of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, a former administration official has said.

However, the Imperial Household Agency flatly dismissed the idea, saying there was “no way” the emperor would do it at a time when people were not evacuating from Tokyo, leading to the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan to give up the proposal.

Then-Emperor Akihito speaks to an evacuee in May 2011 in Fukushima Prefecture, which hosts the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station that was crippled in the earthquake-tsunami catastrophe of the same year.

Several former senior officials at the prime minister’s office separately said the then DPJ administration also briefly considered evacuating Prince Hisahito, the son of Crown Prince Fumihito and Crown Princess Kiko, from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Prince Hisahito became second in line to the throne when his uncle, Emperor Naruhito, ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne in May 2019. The prince was 4 years old when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant suffered core meltdowns following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.

Former Emperor Akihito stepped down from the throne on April 30, 2019, becoming the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in around 200 years, his eldest son succeeding him the following day.

Kan, a House of Representatives member now belonging to the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, admitted he was “thinking in my head” of evacuating the emperor at the time but denied he had conveyed the idea to the then emperor or suggested it to someone else.

However, according to the former Kan administration official, at Kan’s request he unofficially asked Shingo Haketa, then chief of the Imperial Household Agency, via a mediator whether Emperor Akihito would agree to evacuate from the Imperial Palace, possibly to the Kyoto Imperial Palace in the ancient capital in western Japan.

A former agency official said he remembers the agency turned down the proposal.

Asked whether the agency actually conveyed the evacuation proposal to the emperor, he said “maybe, but only after” saying no to the administration.

The Kan administration also treated Prince Hisahito’s evacuation as among items that should be considered in case of a spike in Tokyo’s radiation levels, but eventually decided not to formally consider it, according to the former senior officials at the prime minister’s office.

On March 11, 2011, the six-reactor plant on the Pacific coast was flooded by tsunami waves exceeding 10 meters triggered by the magnitude 9.0 quake, causing the reactor cooling systems to lose their power supply.

The Nos. 1 to 3 reactors subsequently suffered core meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 units. Around 160,000 people were evacuated at one point in the nuclear disaster with a severity level rated on a par with the 1986 Chernobyl accident at maximum 7 on an international scale.

Yutaka Kawashima, who was the agency’s grand chamberlain at the time, wrote in a magazine article shortly after the triple disaster, “It is utterly inconceivable for his majesty to abandon the people of Tokyo and leave Tokyo,” as rumors had circulated about the emperor escaping the capital.

On March 16, 2011, five days after the quake and tsunami, Emperor Akihito said in an unprecedented video message he was hurt by the devastation caused by the disaster and expressed hope the people of Japan would overcome the challenges they faced by caring for each other.

He and his wife then Empress Michiko also voluntarily cut electricity at their residence in Tokyo for two hours daily as they wanted to share the hardship experienced by the people under the power rationing measure taken by electric companies, the agency said at the time.

In parts of Tokyo and its vicinity, rolling blackouts were implemented in the face of substantial power shortages stemming from the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture. Areas in central Tokyo hosting government offices, parliament and the Imperial Palace were excluded from the measure.

January 9, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s Olympic makeover: Will the ‘cursed’ area be safe from radioactivity in time for Games?


By: Constantin SIMON | Aruna POPURI | Ryusuke MURATA

In a year’s time, the Olympic Games, dubbed the “reconstruction Olympics”, should allow Japan to move on from the Fukushima tragedy. The region, a symbol of the 2011 disaster, has officially been cleaned up but many problems remain, such as radioactivity and “forbidden cities”. Over the course of several months, our reporters followed the daily lives of the inhabitants of this “cursed” region.

In recent months, Japanese authorities have been working hard to finish rebuilding the Fukushima region in time for the Summer Games. This huge reconstruction and decontamination project is never-ending and is expected to cost nearly €250 billion.

Although the work undertaken over the past 10 years is colossal and the region is partly rebuilt, it’s still not free from radioactivity. The NGO Greenpeace has detected radioactive hotspots near the Olympic facilities. And at the Fukushima power plant, Tepco engineers continue to

battle against radioactive leaks. They also face new issues such as contaminated water, which is accumulating at the site and poses a new-fangled problem for Japan. Our reporters were able to visit the notorious nuclear power plant.

They bring us a chronicle of daily life in Fukushima, with residents determined to revive their stricken region.

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

This Will Still Be True Tomorrow: “Fukushima Ain’t Got the Time for Olympic Games”: Two Texts on Nuclear Disaster and Pandemic

Muto Ruiko

Introduced and translated by Norma Field


The fear of being forgotten that haunts the victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster set in quickly in the months following March 11, 2011. The Tokyo Olympics, touted as the “Recovery Olympics,” has served as a powerful vehicle for accelerating amnesia, on the one hand justifying the rushed reopening of restricted zones and other decisions of convenience, on the other, programming moments highlighting Fukushima in the Games. As preparations for the latter, especially the torch relay, reached fever pitch, the novel coronavirus intervened to force an abrupt postponement. It also disrupted ongoing and special events planned for the ninth 3.11 anniversary. The essay below elaborates on that context as an introduction to two texts by Muto Ruiko, head of the citizens’ group whose efforts led to the only criminal trial to emerge from the Fukushima disaster. The first, a speech anticipating the torch relay, outlines what the Olympics asks us to forget about Fukushima; the second is a reflection on living under two emergency declarations, the first nuclear, the second, COVID-19.

Key words: Olympics; Fukushima; torch relay; COVID-19; coronavirus; Dentsu; activism; Muto Ruiko

Prologue from an Ever-Shifting Present

Everybody has experienced, from childhood on, time crawling and time galloping, or time simply standing still, against the indifferent tic-toc of the clock. For much of the world, there is now a recent remote past—before the pandemic—and a present of bottomless uncertainty. But time continues to move unevenly in the new present, marked by unpredictable drama, as in the case of a tweetstorm that forced Abe Shinzo’s government to shelve a bill extending the retirement age of prosecutors, or by unexpected power, as in the global fury unleashed by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. The former, exploiting the attractive anonymity afforded by Twitter, punctuated years of quiescence following the demonstrations provoked by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, when tens of thousands of Japanese were willing to show their faces in protest. The latter seems the logical culmination of only the most recent instances of police brutality hurled before our eyes by the unabated racism and structural inequality prevailing in the U.S. Although the Japanese instance has been related to the coronavirus, the U.S. case is indisputably magnified by the overwhelming disparity in COVID-19 suffering, whether in numbers of death, the preponderance of minorities in the under-compensated, risk-burdened ranks of essential workers, and the economic nightmare, owing to job insecurity and paucity of savings, produced by the pandemic, such that “logical” now has the force of “inevitable.” And yet, is so remarkable as to also seem unpredictable.

As one recent remote past is replaced by another, we cannot forget that the issues thrust upon us by each of these recent pasts have hardly been resolved. Even as they momentarily recede from the foreground, they constitute a cumulative, living—and therefore, shifting—seismic force upon our present. This is the spirit motivating the following examination of the Tokyo Olympics and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, meant to serve as an introduction to two reflections by Muto Ruiko, head of the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. The first was delivered in anticipation of the 2020 Olympic torch relay to be kicked off in Fukushima; the second, written in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency declaration. 


1No time for Olympics: Azuma Sports Park, Fukushima City
March 1, 2020.


A Dream Vehicle for Amnesia

In the early spring months of 2020 in the northern hemisphere, the grim march of infection numbers was punctuated by reports of miraculous sightings, some true, others false: swans (false) and fish (true) in the lagoons of Venice; or blue sky in New Delhi. It felt as if decades of devoted action, joined in recent years by youth from the world over demanding that the earth be habitable for them, were being mocked. As if only a pandemic could bring about conditions seemingly more hospitable to life forms even as livelihood for many threatened to imperil health or simply vanish.2

In Japan, as if to scoff at the concerted efforts to protest that fabulous exercise in deceit called the “Recovery Olympics,” postponement of the games was abruptly announced on March 23, 2019, a scant four months in advance of the opening, when the torch—dubbed the “Flame of Recovery”—had already begun its triumphal progress3 in northern Japan. Does this mean that the effort expended in opposing the Olympics was wasted? The question is rhetorical, of course. In the coming months and years, we will need to reflect on the political, socioeconomic, and experiential impact of the assaults brought on by two kinds of invisible agents, radionuclides and a pandemic-causing virus. But for now, let us pause over the actions of antinuclear activists confronting the convergence of Covid-19 and the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

There is nothing bold about claiming that a major design of the games was to put paid to the 2011 triple disaster, most especially, the nuclear disaster. That objective is trumpeted in the official moniker, the “Recovery Olympics” (or in the even less merchandise-friendly translation of fukko, “Reconstruction”). It is still worth remarking how quickly those wheels were set in motion—the goal announced and declared achieved in virtually the same breath, as in Prime Minister Abe’s “under control” statement before the International Olympics Committee in Buenos Aires, a claim at which even TEPCO would demur shortly after it was made. That was September 2013. But the domestic selection of Tokyo as Japan’s candidate city had taken place on July 16, 2011, an indecent four months after the terrifying explosions. Only one month earlier, the Japanese government had admitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency that the molten fuel in reactors 1-3 had suffered a “melt-through” and not a mere “meltdown.” The daunting physical trials posed by the Fukushima Daiichi plant generated correspondingly difficult administrative challenges for Kan Naoto’s Democratic Party government. In late April, University of Tokyo professor Kosako Toshiso, hitherto a reliable government expert testifying against A-bomb survivors pressing for recognition, resigned as special cabinet adviser in a tearful press conference: as a scholar and from the standpoint of his “own humanism,” he could not condone raising the annual exposure rate for workers from 100 millisieverts (mSv)/yr to 250, or from 1 mSv/yr to 20 for primary school playgrounds in Fukushima.4 How could anyone in a position of responsibility have had the spare time to be plotting an Olympic bid during that period? 


2And in any case, I absolutely cannot inflict such a fate on my own children”
Special cabinet adviser Kosako Toshiso announcing his resignation at press conference
April 29, 2011.

A quick review suggests it was more a case of who was sufficiently determined to press on with pre-existing ambitions in the face of a catastrophe. Right-wing, nationalist politician Ishihara Shintaro, then Governor of Tokyo, had felt thwarted by the loss of the 2016 games to Rio de Janeiro.5 With strong encouragement from former prime minister Mori Yoshio (who would become head of the 2020 organizing committee), Ishihara declared that Tokyo would bid again once he was reelected on April 11. On that same day, Matsui Kazumi, a Hiroshima mayoral candidate opposed to that city’s Olympic bid, was elected, and in short order, withdrew the city from the running, leaving Tokyo as the de facto candidate from Japan.6 Ishihara, speaking in Tokyo on July 16, 2011, “passionatelyproclaimed the purpose of the “Recovery Olympics” (fukko gorin) to be the demonstration of Japan’s recovery from the 2011 disaster. By the end of 2011, a pet scheme opportunistically harnessed to the disaster by conservative politicians had won support across party lines. Noda Yoshihiko, who succeeded Kan as prime minister even or especially as the latter showed himself susceptible to public sentiment favoring de-nuclearization, declared that the Fukushima plant had successfully entered a “cold shutdown” on December 6. (See timeline here.) 

3Preparing for official 2020 Tokyo bid:
Governor Ishihara Shintaro with Jacques Rogge, IOC chair
July 2, 2011.

With hindsight—and not much of that—it is easy to grasp that the disaster and the 2020 Games were a match made in Olympic heaven. Without this bit of serendipity, the 2020 bid might have floundered in search of a convincing brand. (The mission of the failed 2016 bid was “Uniting Our Worlds.”) In the coming months and years, one worthy goal or another was accentuated for Tokyo 2020, but Recovery has been the mainstay.7 The serendipity has proven to be priceless because the promotion-proclamation of recovery, regardless of cost to people, the environment, and even government credibility, was the guiding principle behind managing the disaster from the start, as reflected in the watchwords of “ties that bind” (kizuna), “recovery/reconstruction/revitalization” (fukko), and “reputational harm” (fuhyo higai). This triplet of key words—two carrots of hope, one stick of warning—has managed to police Fukushima discourse to the present day: who would resist the call for solidarity in the hope of recovery? Or impede recovery by expressing worries about food safety? The expression of anxiety, whether on the part of mothers who stayed on or Tokyo consumers, is susceptible to the charge of causing “reputational harm,” which can further be seen as participating in discrimination against Fukushima.8 Redefining evacuation zones, ever so narrowly defined from the start, along with assistance cutoff, began as early as September 30, 2011, well before the Olympics were secured, but convenient markers of recovery gained tacit and explicit reinforcement as soon as the Olympics appeared on the horizon.9

True to the adage that a good offense is the best defense, Fukushima itself was assigned a prominent role: to host the opening matches in baseball and softball, and perhaps even more significantly, to serve as the starting point of the torch relay.10 In other words, the intractable nuclear disaster, which had often taken a back seat to the earthquake and especially, the dramatic tsunami in invocations of the “triple” disaster, was to be featured front and center, albeit momentarily, in the form of its erasure: Fukushima would be displayed to the world as having recovered. And to further drive home the point, J-Village, the former national soccer training center that served as the frontline base for operations for Fukushima Daiichi (workers lodged, vehicles washed, protective gear donned and disposed of) from March 15, 2011, was selected for the start of the torch relay. Not surprisingly, despite extensive efforts to clean up and beautify—including having local elementary students planting grass seedlings—radioactive hot spots continue to turn up.11


4Getting ready for the Olympics in Fukushima
Children at work on turf seedlings at J-Village
May 8, 2018.

The Astonishing Journey of the Torch

By February, the crescendo of 2020 Olympics preparation in Fukushima took on a manic quality before descending into a surreal sublime and finally, sputtering into silence. Day one of the torch relay was to take runners through areas close to the plant. Futaba, one of two adjacent towns hosting the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, its entire population still under mandatory evacuation, was not on the original route. With a partial lifting scheduled for March 4, the organizing committee decided on February 13 to respond to the wishes of the prefecture and rearranged the schedule to include Futaba. This would, said the grateful mayor, “light the flame of hope in our hearts and become a boost for recovery.” On March 14, the severed sections of the Joban train line that connected this portion of Fukushima with Tokyo were reconnected for the first time in nine years. Some gathered to cheer on the platforms, despite the fact that not much of the land beyond the station was accessible, for most of the town was still designated as “difficult-to-return-to” in the tactful—that is to say, strategically obfuscating—parlance of Fukushima disaster management.12 The plan was to have the flame, carried in a lantern and accompanied by runners, transported by train to newly reconstructed Futaba Station as part of the relay on March 26. 

Back in the metropolitan region, in the meanwhile, the number of people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama testing positive for the novel coronavirus shot up from 10 to 700 between February 4 and 28. With the Abe regime clearly hell-bent on holding the Olympics as scheduled, local organizers scrambled to stay one step ahead of the virus. They could not bring themselves to relinquish plans for displaying the torch in the three disaster-hit prefectures prior to the relay, not to say the relay itself. Whatever the precautionary advice, nothing like social distancing was on display as people flocked to see the “Flame of Recovery” at its various resting places. Most provocative, though, was the flame’s journey on the local Sanriku Railway in Iwate Prefecture. Secured in a lantern, it was placed between facing seats before a window, through which the “coastal townscape of recovery proceeding apace spread before the eye.”13 Passengers had been excluded, but the lantern could be viewed at key stops, where people gathered to welcome and then send off the flame.


5Lantern transported on Sanriku Railway from Miyako to Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture March 22, 2020—two days before postponement announced. Source


6Lantern transported from Kamaishi to Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture on SL Ginga [Milky Way], inspired by the work of Iwate-born writer Miyazawa Kenji March 22, 2020. Source

Even as this frenzied prelude unfolded, anxiety mounted as to whether the torch relay itself could in fact take place. On March 17, it was announced that the relay would be held, but without the ceremonies planned at stopping points. Spectators would be permitted as long as they “avoided” overcrowding, though one resident expressed disappointment: she had thoughtthe sight of overflowing crowds would symbolize recovery.” In less than a week, on March 23, this plan was replaced by a new proposal: a torch relay with no spectators—and no runners. The flame would be driven around Fukushima Prefecture, stripped even of the romance of rail travel. The following day, however, the other shoe dropped: the Games were to be postponed until 2021, and the 2020 torch relay canceled altogether. Ever resilient, organizers put the flame on display at J-Village for a month beginning April 2, with the hope that it could tour other parts of the country in the interest of “revitalization.” This, too, came to naught within the space of one week, with the Prime Minister’s declaration of a state of emergency.14

It could be taken for parody, this frenzy over the torch relay. The Olympics were meant to be a magic wand waving a spanking new post-disaster world into existence. As those prospects began to dim, the flame burned ever more brightly. The fuel? Greed. Pride. A yearning for fantasy in the midst of a dubious recovery, and an appetite for exploiting it. And the apparent means to do so. Or deciding that the means existed, despite mounting cost overruns.15

Recently, it was reported that the Foreign Ministry was directing $22 million to AI monitoring of overseas coverage of Japan’s pandemic response—as if this were more a “PR challenge than a profound public health crisis” (Kingston 2020). Perhaps this mode is even more far-reaching than we cynically, or more neutrally, abstractly, imagine. About one year ago, Taakurataa, a remarkable little magazine published in Nagano Prefecture, managed, through tenacious use of Japan’s version of freedom-of-information requests, to discover that in the seven years between 2011 and 2018, the central government and Fukushima Prefecture had paid $224 million to the PR firm Dentsu. The Environment Ministry was by far the greatest customer, using approximately half that budget for Dentsu’s services in the campaign to inform the public about its decontamination and debris cleanup efforts. The guidelines were to make people feel “safe and secure” (anshin anzen) again, “bring people back to their home towns,” and “have citizens recover pride in their hometowns.” A study group was created, consisting of staff from the prefectural forestry and fishery division as well as newspaper and TV marketing divisions, not to purvey a message, but in order to monitor twitter users and identify those who could be classified as “sources of reputation harm,” “supporters of the right-to-evacuate trial,” or simply “noise,” if they said anything that would dampen enthusiasm for Fukushima agricultural products.16 It is hard to avoid the conclusion that a marketing firm had been appointed a principal actor, with potential censorship power, in deciding Fukushima policy. And of course, that same firm is a major player in Tokyo 2020: Dentsu Inc. is the Games’s official marketing agency

A briefly revealed, quickly forgotten detail about the Olympics-Dentsu chain of operations makes Fukushima seem a minor, though useful, link in that chain: a former Dentsu executive and member of the organizing committee disclosed, a few days after postponement was announced, that he had played a key role in securing the support of an African Olympics power-broker now under investigation by French prosecutors. He, Takahashi Haruyuki—still on the organizing committee—had been paid $8.2 million by the Japanese bidding committee, which presumably had some relation to the $46,500 the bidding committee paid to Seiko Watch. Seiko watches and digital cameras, said Takahashi, were “cheap,” and common sense dictated that “You don’t go empty-handed.” Dentsu’s contracts for Fukushima recovery—as known to date—come to seem almost reasonable, at $224 million over seven years, or $32 million per year. Takahashi singly was paid one-quarter of that to procure the Recovery Olympics. 

Perhaps this is all unsurprising—a version of normal operating procedure most of the time for certain strata of the world. If so, then here, as in countless other instances, we need to make the modest yet seemingly immense effort to refresh our capacity for surprise. And anger. That there is so much profit to be made in doing anything but genuinely contribute to Fukushima remediation, to in fact, profit by diverting attention and burying the disaster, as if “nothing had happened,”17 should rouse us all, in solidarity both with the few who sustain the struggle and with those who gave up long ago, too exhausted from maintaining daily life to keep insisting not only that something had happened, but that it was still happening. Some of the struggle-weary were likely in the throngs greeting the arrival of the flame from Greece, or taking selfies with the lantern-encased flame. And as astonishing as it seems, there is already a new generation of children who were infants or unborn in 2011 now grown old enough to enjoy a spectacle touting the recovery of their region, their pleasure untainted by responsible education about the long-term impact of a nuclear disaster.18 Their parents may have welcomed the chance to banish recurring reminders of the disaster: reports of the re-dispersal of radionuclides and especially conspicuous, images of decontamination waste bags unmoored in the flooding brought on by Typhoon Hagibis; or the agonizingly protracted, risky dismantling of a highly contaminated vent stack at the Fukushima Daiichi plant itself; or the Olympic plans themselves putting hot spots back in the news.19 Bread and circuses is the bright side of the coin whose other face is expert exhortation to accept living amid decontamination waste for the foreseeable future: “Why would other prefectures want to accept waste that you yourselves don’t want?”—exhortation sweetened by the assurance that Fukushima contamination is not, for the most part, harmful. Anxiety, after all, is a matter of the mind/spirit (fuan wa kokoro no mondai).20


7Radiation instruction for the very young: “Let’s block beta particles with ‘scissors’!”  Fukushima Prefectural Centre for Environmental Creation, Community Relations Wing – July, 2018

It was back in June of 2019, an eternity before Covid-19 would appear on anybody’s horizon, that the torch relay route was announced, omitting Futaba. Was that omission owing to the last, frayed shred of realist perception, in view of the fact that the town was still off limits to the entire population? As Kowata Masumi, councilor of Okuma, the other town hosting the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and one of the painfully few elected officials in Fukushima willing to address radioactive contamination, observed, “National Route 6 still has high radiation levels. There are places where hardly any residents have returned, and conditions are not suitable for people running or cheering from the roadside.” Voicing the common complaint that the Olympics were deflecting workers and materials from Fukushima, she told Our Planet-TV, “They seem to have turned the idea of recovery on its head.” Any legitimacy accruing to the commonsensical had long ago been extinguished in the fever dream of the Olympics. 

Protest and Pandemic

It’s all Olympics all the time,” said emails from Fukushima. But as February wore on, with the drumbeat of news from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the novel coronavirus became an ominous competitor for attention. Emails began to say, “It’s exactly the same. Deny it’s happening. Don’t test. Find experts who’ll support that policy.” And rather sooner than later, “Is anyone taking responsibility?”21 If COVID-19 cast a shadow on Olympic plans, it also was a challenge for groups long opposed to the games. This was the run-up period for the 9th anniversary of March 11, a difficult time for survivors and a crucial occasion for them and antinuclear activists to remind the rest of the country of what had happened and how much remained unresolved, with some hardships predictably aggravated, rather than alleviated, through the passage of time. Anguished discussions took place about canceling or proceeding with activities that had already consumed months of painstaking preparation. Sharing with other progressives a deep-seated antagonism to the Abe administration, activists were reluctant to relinquish the platform of the anniversary occasion, given already fading public interest exacerbated by the Olympics. Wouldn’t cancellation have a ripple effect on other organizations? Wouldn’t the government exploit this to apply pressure for “voluntary restraint” (jishuku)22 across a range of activities? At the same time, wasn’t the desire to safeguard health at the heart of the antinuclear movement? Was it appropriate for those who had made the agonizing choice to leave, not just Fukushima and immediately adjacent areas but the Tokyo region as well, to put themselves along with others at risk of exposure? If a valued keynote speaker were willing to appear remotely, were the organizers obliged to follow through? What were the ethics of putting one’s body on the line in these circumstances?23

Anniversary events, large and small, were postponed or canceled outright. One of the largest had been planned by FoE Japan (Friends of the Earth). Although not exclusively dedicated to the nuclear issue, it has been a leader in the field since 2011, remarkable for the depth of on-the-ground work underlying its educational and watchdog activities. Besides issuing its own carefully researched public comments, FoE has taken initiative to hold public-comment writing workshops, so that citizens unaccustomed to expressing themselves in this medium—never mind on such topics as evaluation of the Rokkasho reprocessing facility or the release of contaminated water into the Pacific—could be empowered to participate. In 2019, it launched an ambitious “Make Seeable(mieruka) project to contest the Olympics-accelerated obliteration of traces of the disaster, whether the number and circumstances of evacuees, the disposition of contaminated soil issuing from “decontamination,” or health effects. The March 2020 symposium would have brought together workers from Fukushima, a liquidator from Chernobyl, evacuees, physicians and scholars, a physician and energy specialists from Germany, for presentations in Tokyo followed by two venues in Fukushima.24 In April, as part of the “Make Seeable” project, FoE Japan planned to send young people to a workshop in Germany where they could network with youth from France and Belarus as well as Germany. This, too, was not to be. Here, as elsewhere in the world, the novel coronavirus, itself as invisible as radionuclides, asserted its power in unmistakably visible fashion—revealing what had been obscured and providing opportunities for new concealment in the process.

The days of “voluntary restraint” from activity, without economic support to speak of, have imposed hardships, predictably severe for the most vulnerable. They have also intensified antinuclear activists’ sense of urgency: not only have they witnessed the power of the coronavirus to swiftly and therefore visibly impact all sectors of society, but they soon came to realize that it provided cover to proceed with activities they strenuously opposed, such as paving the way for dumping “treated” water from the damaged reactors into the Pacific.25 On another front, court dates for the approximately thirty Fukushima-related cases winding their way through jurisdictions around the country have been postponed or even cancelled, eliminating a precious occasion for plaintiffs, lawyers, and citizen supporters to rally at the courthouse and hold press conferences—for themselves, for all of us who should care, and for the judges, who need to know that there is still a caring public. One of the most active and inclusive groups of plaintiffs (both mandatory and “voluntary” evacuees, from within and without Fukushima) seeking compensation, their attorneys, and supporters centered in the Osaka area put together a composite video message to fill the lacuna, reminding us of their goalssecuring normal lives, the right to evacuate, and a safe future—and giving us a glimpse of how nuclear evacuees are experiencing the coronavirus. The video format also reveals the still differing degrees of visibility participants feel able to tolerate—from full face, full name to full face but first/assumed name only to voice only.

With the pressure of the Olympics removed for the moment,26 these groups are having to grapple with the coronavirus as they continue to address the consequences of the nuclear disaster.


From Olympics to Pandemic: Two texts by Muto Ruiko

Muto Ruiko, who was propelled to antinuclear activism by the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, captured the nation’s attention with a breathtaking speech at the first “Sayonara Nukes” rally in Tokyo in September of 2011.27 She became head of the Complainants for Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, which, against all odds, led to the only criminal proceeding—against three former TEPCO executives—to result from the disaster.28 She is a respected leader, vital to many of the activities referred to above and more. The first text below, “Fukushima ain’t got the time for Olympic Games” is a speech delivered at Azuma Sports Park in Fukushima City on March 1, 2020, just as storm clouds were gathering for the Olympics-pandemic collision. It was an action jointly organized by HidanrenFukushima Gempatsu Jiko Higaisha Dantai Renrakukai (Liaison of Fukushima Nuclear Accident Victims’ Groups) and Datsugempatsu Fukushima Nettowaku (Fukushima Denuclearization Network). It is translated here with permission from Muto Ruiko; the original may be found here. The second is a reflection from May on the two overlapping emergency declarations: the nuclear emergency, issued March 11, 2011, at 19:03 and as yet unrescinded;29 and the novel coronavirus emergency, declared on April 7, 2020, and rescinded in stages, by locale and region, between May 14 and May 25, 2020. The second piece was written before the coronavirus emergency declaration was lifted, for the newsletter of Tomeyo! Tokai Daini Gempatsu Shutoken Renrakukai (Shut it down! Liaison of Citizens from the Metropolitan Prefectures Seeking to Close Unit 2 of the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant).30 The piece, from Nyusu No. 4 (June 2020) is translated here with their permission.

8Muto Ruiko outside Tokyo District Court on the morning of September 19, 2019, before the judgement. (Photo by N. Field)

Fukushima Ain’t Got the Time for Olympic Games

With the risks of the coronavirus in mind, we went back-and-forth about whether to proceed with this action, but considering that it would take place outdoors, that it wouldn’t involve large numbers, and that we would be equipped with face masks and alcohol, we managed to arrive at the decision to go through with our plans.


Nine years since the nuclear accident, the Olympics and the torch relay now dominate the news and the whole atmosphere of Fukushima Prefecture. 


Night and day, athletes are giving their all to prepare for the Olympics. 

Middle-schoolers have hitched their dreams to the torch relay and are eager to run. 

And probably, there are people looking forward to watching the relay and the ball games. 


Then why must we take this kind of action? 

Because we think this is no time to be hosting an Olympics in Fukushima. 


Have on-site conditions been stabilized since the accident?

Is the contaminated water under control?

How many workers have had to climb the vent stack to dismantle it?

Have victims been properly compensated?

Have their lives been restored?

Has industry returned to pre-accident levels?

Will these Olympics truly contribute to recovery?


Is it certain that neither athletes nor residents will be subject to radiation exposure?

With problems piling up one after the other, the people of Fukushima, both the ones living here and the ones who’ve left, are desperately trying to live their lives. 

There isn’t a single person who doesn’t wish for a true recovery from the disaster. 

In Fukushima today, what is it that we should be prioritizing first and foremost?

Stupendous sums of money are being poured into the Olympics and the torch relay. Multiple problems, hidden by the Olympics, are receding from view. We are worried about what will be left once the Olympics are finished.

It’s not the Fukushima that looks recovered on the surface that we want to make known. It’s the true conditions we want the world to know, about the cumulative problems that can’t be solved in nine short years—the suffering and the struggle caused by the harms of the nuclear disaster.

Then let us today, all together, proclaim heartily, “Fukushima ain’t got the time for Olympic Games!”


Life Under Two Emergency Declarations

In Fukushima, the “declaration of a state of emergency” issued with the spread of the novel coronavirus was superimposed on a “declaration of a nuclear emergency situation” that has never been rescinded. For victims of the nuclear accident, this occasion calls up many memories of that experience: staying indoors; wearing a mask; searching frantically for information; fighting the mounting tide of anxiety. In the early days of the contagion, we felt terribly oppressed, psychologically. 

But gradually, it became possible to see that there were commonalities and differences between the nuclear accident and the spread of the coronavirus. Fearing that people would panic, the government concealed the truth. It limited testing as much as possible, and without disclosing accurate case numbers, made them seem trivial. Ad hoc measures led to the sacrifice of the most vulnerable. Expert opinion was distorted to suit political power. Taking advantage of the disaster, opportunistic capitalist ventures rose to press their interests. These are some of the commonalities.

Some of the differences are the speed with which the infection has spread, making it more readily graspable; the dispersal of the afflicted in large numbers throughout Japan; and large-scale citizen protest prompted by the government’s coercive actions with little regard for laws and statutory authority, such as the sudden request for school closures or the proposal for revision of the Public Prosecutor’s Office Act.

After the nuclear accident, we anticipated a transformation in values, in worldview. It turns out that such a wish is not readily granted. Maybe this time—we can’t help hoping. But, in a world where more chemical substances are added to the environment by the day, where climate change is intensifying, it is possible that the next emergency is already waiting in the wings. Rather than tossing and turning between hope and despair, we need to work hard, together, to gain clarity on what we should prioritize for protection in the event of such an emergency. Otherwise, we run the risk of letting our fear and sense of oppression invite the heavy hand of authority.

Eventually, the state of emergency occasioned by the coronavirus threat is likely be lifted, although questions about appropriateness of timing and extent will remain. But how long will the “declaration of a nuclear emergency situation” remain in effect, imposing on people annual exposure levels up to 20 millisieverts per year, or leaving behind waste with levels of radioactivity 80 times pre-disaster levels? In the shadow of the coronavirus, problems that demand resolution are accumulating, while opportunistic measures are advanced, such as the use of the torch relay to trumpet Fukushima recovery, or the release of contaminated-ALPS-treated water into the environment.

Living under a double state of emergency, I have come to hold, more than ever, that we must commit ourselves in earnest to the following simple task: “to learn the truth and to help each other.” Failing that, it will be difficult for us humans, along with other living things, to survive on this planet. 


10March 1, 2020. Source



The original wording, “Fukushima wa orimpikku dogo de nee,” which quoted a senior citizen from a township hard hit by the nuclear disaster, has been adopted by many activists. My translation used in this article, “Fukushima ain’t got the time for Olympic Games” is an attempt to suggest the flavor in English.


Although the extent to which air quality has improved is debatable. See, for instance, NPR (May 19, 2020).


The imperial allusion is intended. See note 12, below.


20 Millisieverts for Children and Kosako Toshiso’s Resignation (APJ-Japan Focus, December 31, 2012). It has been standard for most countries to follow the recommendations of the International Commission for Radiological Protection (ICRP): 20 mSv/yr for occupational exposure (averaged over a 5-year period, not to exceed 50 mSv in any given year), 1 mSv/yr for the general public. See Japanese government site providing a Comparison between ICRP Recommendations and Domestic Laws and Regulations. These standards are subject to fierce contention worldwide, from both those who find them too protective and those who find them inadequate. The Japanese government has made 20 mSv/yr the de facto threshold for reopening restricted areas. See discussion in Jobin, The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and Civil Actions as a Social Movement (APJ-Japan Focus, May 1, 2020).


On Ishihara and the Olympics, especially with respect to overlapping aspects of 1964 and 2020, see Tagsold (APJ Japan Focus, March 1, 2020).


In 2009 Hiroshima City and Nagasaki City submitted a single bid for summer 2020, appealing to the principle of promoting peace that, after all, constituted a cornerstone of “Olympism.” The mayors of the two cities linked the bid to the goal of nuclear abolition by 2020 (Asahi Shimbun, October 10, 2009), but the plan failed to make headway against the one-city rule. The Hiroshima-Nagasaki bid was not necessarily supported by hibakusha, as exemplified by the trenchant criticism, utterly applicable to Fukushima, of Yamada Hirotami (age 78), then Secretary-General of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council (Nagasaki Gembaku Hisaisha Kyogikai): “If the Games were to be held in Nagasaki, it would be an enormous technical and financial burden. […]They say that holding the Olympics in the cities where the atomic bombs were dropped means lots of people coming from all over the world, and that would raise awareness about nuclear abolition, but I think it would just detract. During the 1964 Olympics, even here in Nagasaki, everybody was swept up. How many gold medals did we get—that sort of thing was all that anyone could talk about. In that kind of frenzy, any interest in nuclear abolition goes out the window. [As with previous Olympics] there’s the risk of getting distracted by commercial priorities. […] There’s an atmosphere that makes it hard to voice opposition when they say that the Olympics are for the cause of spreading peace, but we need to discuss this rationally. […]The activism of Japanese hibakusha has gained the respect of NGOs around the world. We’re not about performance” (Nagasaki Shimbun, October 24, 2009). The Olympic-nuclear connection is worthy of examination in its own right, beginning with the striking use of Hiroshima in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. There, the runner of the last leg of the torch relay, the one to light the cauldron, was Sakai Yoshinori, born on August 6, 1945 to be sure, but in Hiroshima Prefecture, not City. That fact was conveniently overlooked, and he was quickly dubbed “Atomic Boy.” Perhaps this was an initial source of ambivalence (Tokyo Shimbun, June 3, 2020), but he became a lifelong believer in spreading the message of peace through the Olympics (Withnews, September 10, 2014).


On the challenges of branding Tokyo 2020, see Kingston (APJ Japan Focus, February 15, 2020). Kingston has edited two special collections on the Olympics, here and here.


A position elaborated in a collection with the title, Shiawase ni naru tame no “Fukushima sabetsu” ron (2018) (Discourse on “anti-Fukushima discrimination”: For our happiness). “Real harm(jitsugai) is sometimes used to contest the widespread use of “reputational harm.”


See Fukushima Prefectural maps of zone changes here.


The addition of baseball and softball was finalized in August of 2016 though both sports have been dropped from the roster for Paris 2024. Azuma Stadium in Fukushima City was approved in January of 2017. The decision to start the torch relay in Fukushima came more than a year later, in August of 2018. Only one baseball game, in contrast to six softball matches, have been scheduled for Azuma Stadium. Olympic softball is a women’s sport, cautioning us to keep in mind research showing radiation exposure resulting in disproportionately greater harm to women and girls than to men and boys. See Gender and Radiation Impact Project.


On March 23, 3030—the day before postponement of the Games was announced—TEPCO held a press conference at which it disclosed that, in accordance with its own standards, it had returned J-Village to its owner foundation without first decontaminating it (Okada, Toyo Keizai, March 27, 2020). Subsequent disclosures, both through TEPCO’s press conferences and responses to Toyo Keizai magazine’s freedom-of-information filings, have revealed additional egregious transgressions, such as TEPCO’s storing radioactive waste exceeding 8000Bq/kg on J-Village grounds and the prefecture’s demanding that TEPCO not disclose the location of such storage (Okada, Toyo Keizai, June 23, 2020). See Shaun Burnie’s “Radiation Disinformation and Human Rights Violations at the Heart of Fukushima and the Olympic Games” (APJ-Japan Focus, March 1, 2020).


See celebratory account in Hirai and Watabe, The Mainichi, March 14, 2020, and a more guarded one by McCurry, The Guardian, March 4, 2020.


The positioning of the lantern makes it seem as if this passage were written from the viewpoint of the flame (Yomiuri Shimbun, March 22, 2020). The extraordinary treatment accorded the flame, the rhapsodic attribution of hope made real, invokes the journeys—progresses—of Emperor Hirohito through the war-devasted country.


See Kingston, PM Abe’s Floundering Pandemic Leadership (APJ-Japan Focus, May 1, 2020) on the consequences of action delayed for the sake of the Olympics.


Reports of cost overruns have been predictably common, with the postponement now adding a hefty $2.7 billion according to the organizing committee.


See report on the first disclosures by Taakurataa by Our Planet-TV 2019. As for bringing “people back to their home towns,” the meagerness of such assistance as was provided beleaguered evacuees, both “mandatory” and “voluntary,” has also served as a powerful inducement to return. Late in 2019, Fukushima Prefecture doubled rents and threatened legal action (Our Planet-TV, August 29, 2019 and Taminokoe Shimbun, November 30, 2019). The Prefecture has taken four households to court even as their conditions have become further straightened because of the pandemic and associated loss of income (Hidanren, March 27, 2020).


A phrase often repeated in Fukushima. See Ogawa, “As If Nothing Had Occurred: Anti-Tokyo Olympics Protests and Concern Over Radiation Exposure(APJ-Japan Focus, March 1, 2020).


In March of 2018, the Reconstruction Agency issued a 30-page pamphlet titled “Hoshasen no honto” [The truth about radiation] for widespread circulation through other government agencies, events within Fukushima and elsewhere, PTA gatherings, etc. True to the mission of the authoring agency, it argues in multiple ways that harmful health effects have not been shown to have resulted from the nuclear disaster. The text may be found here. In October of 2018, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry issued revised editions of supplementary readers, “Hoshasen fukudokuhon,” for elementary and middle/high school levels. These may be found with the 2014 versions here. The Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) critically reviews both sets of documents here (2019).


On the redispersal of radionuclides following weather events, see Burnie, Radioactivity on the move 2020: Recontamination and weather-related effects in Fukushima (Greenpeace International, March 9, 2020). Specifically with respect to the Olymics, see Burnie, Fukushima and the 2020 Olympics (Greenpeace International, February 5, 2020). Arnie Gundersen writes of the sampling trip he and Marco Kaltofen (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) took in 2017: “When the Olympic torch route and Olympic stadium samples were tested, we found samples of dirt in Fukushima’s Olympic Baseball Stadium that were highly radioactive, registering 6,000 Bq/kg of Cesium, which is 3,000 times more radioactive than dirt in the US. We also found that simple parking lot radiation levels were 50-times higher there than here in the US[emphasis in original]. Atomic Balm Part 1: Prime Minister Abe Uses the Tokyo Olympics as Snake Oil Cure for the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Meltdowns (Fairewinds Energy Education, March 1, 2019).


Tanaka Shunichi, former head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority and now reconstruction adviser to Iitate Village in lecture at Fukushima City on September 18, 2019. Quotations taken from Fukushima Minpos lavish report, “Fukko arata na kyokumen e” (November 1, 2020). Much like a school teacher chastening and encouraging his pupils, Tanaka—himself only recently in a position of responsibility for government nuclear policy—directs the people of Fukushima to forget the promise by the central government to remove decontamination waste from the prefecture in thirty years’ time. This was, after all, their “own” waste. The article reports that 85% of the overflow audience of 2800 responded they were satisfied by the contents of the lecture. Only one critical respondent is quoted by the paper, to the effect that a promise by the government is a promise. The photo of the audience in rapt attention as they are being “given courage,” as one respondent puts it, to, in effect, embrace their victimization is haunting.


Personal emails. An immediate example of the “don’t test” approach is the prefectural survey of pediatric thyroid cancer. See Aihara, Follow Up on Thyroid Cancer! Patient Group Voices Opposition to Scaling Down the Fukushima Prefectural Health Survey (APJ-Japan Focus, January 15, 2017).


Government measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus have taken the form of “requests” (yosei) for “voluntary restraint,” or jishuku. See, for example, Japan Declared a Coronavirus Emergency. Is It Too Late? (New York Times, April 7, 2020.) The extent to which jishuku can lead to mutual policing and censorship will be familiar to those remembering the long final illness of Emperor Hirohito from late 1988-early 89.


These are examples of issues raised on a listserv focused on evacuees and their supporters.


For the original program, see here. For written and video messages from presenters, see here. The video messages of those who have stayed and those who have left are short, but informative and moving. Two are now available in multiple languages: former dairy farmer Hasegawa Kenichi here and evacuee Kanno Mizue here. See FoE’s informative statement in English released for the 9th anniversary here.


Contaminated water leaks have been a persistent issue for TEPCO, whether contaminated groundwater escaping from the basements of the reactor buildings and underground tunnels containing cables and pipes (Radioactive Water Leaks from Fukushima: What We Know (Scientific American, August 13, 2013) or from storage tanks (Fukushima daiichi gempatsu: Konodo osensui ga tanku kara moreru (NHK News Web, October 7, 2016). The difference now is that TEPCO is attempting to make contaminated water release the explicit solution to ever-accumulating storage tanks. “Treated water” (shorisui), the compliant media now call it, having cast aside the earlier designation of “contaminated water” (osensui). In 2018, TEPCO itself admitted that the ALPS filtration system had failed to remove, not just tritium, but other radionuclides at levels exceeding allowable limits in 80% of the contaminated water store in the forest of tanks. FoE Japan uses the term “ALPS-treated contaminated water” (ALPS shori osensui) and has taken a leadership role in public-comment workshops. See its summary of remaining radionuclides and the circumstances of TEPCO’s admission here.


See, for example, The Tokyo Olympics Are 14 Months Away. Is That Enough Time (New York Times, May 20, 2020). Just recently, Takahashi Haruyuki—he of the Seiko cameras as bargain bribes—became the first official to suggest that further postponement was possible, but that cancellation had absolutely to be avoided (Nikkan Sports, June 16, 2020).


See, for example, Yamaguchi and Muto, Muto Ruiko and the Movement of Fukushima Residents to Pursue Criminal Charges against Tepco Executives and Government (APJ-Japan Focus, July 1, 2012); Field, From Fukushima: To Despair Properly, To Find the Next Step (APJ-Japan Focus, September 1, 2016); Hirano and Muto, “We need to recognize this hopeless sight…. To recognize that this horrible crime is what our country is doing to us”: Interview with Muto Ruiko (APJ-Japan Focus, September 1, 2016).


For an authoritative account of the criminal trial and district court ruling, see Johnson, Fukurai, and Hirayama, Reflections on the TEPCO Trial: Prosecution and Acquittal after Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown (APJ-Japan Focus, January 15, 2020). On the significance of Fukushima-related trials, Jobin, The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and Civil Actions as a Social Movement (APJ-Japan Focus, May 1, 2020). For statements by 50 complainants, Field and Mizenko, Fukushima Radiation: Will You Still Say No Crime Was Committed? (Kinyobi, 2015).


See also former Kyoto University nuclear engineer Koide Hiroaki’s views on the Olympics and the nuclear emergency declaration in The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and the Tokyo Olympics (APJ-Japan Focus, March 1, 2019).


For a general account of the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant, see here. Tatsuya Murakami, who was mayor of Tokai Village at the time of the JCO criticality accident and took personal initiative to evacuate the residents, has been a leading voice in opposing nuclear restarts. TEPCO, on life-support with taxpayer money after the Fukushima disaster, has committed to supporting the aging Tokai No. 2 plant to the tune of $2 billion (The Asahi Shimbun, October 29, 2019).

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

Nine years on, Fukushima’s mental health fallout lingers

Wired Magazine ignores the reality of radiation for Fukushima residents. It’s one thing to stigmatize the mental health of those living there, but it’s an entirely different to act as though radioactivity is not, in fact, a real threat!

Beneath the obligatory ‘subsiding’ spin, there are some heroic citizen scientists at the heart of this article…
& more than mental health ‘still’ at risk

Mizue Kanno, 67, a Fukushima evacuee and anti-nuclear activist, recalls Yamashita telling an audience in Japan just eight days after the accident, “Radiation does not affect people who smile. It affects people who worry.”

His comments caused furore. “My friend and I took a photo of us smiling at the evacuation centre when he said that. And we both still got cancer,” says Kanno, pulling down her turtleneck to show a neat scar across her neck. “They took half my thyroid.”


1The road from Namie (pop. 1,238) to the Fukushima plant


If it were not illegal, Ayumi Iida would love to test a dead body. Recently, she tested a wild boar’s heart. She’s also tested the contents of her vacuum cleaner and the filter of her car’s air conditioner. Her children are so used to her scanning the material contents of their life that when she cuts the grass, her son asks, “Are you going to test that too?”

Iida, who is 35, forbids her children from entering the sea or into forests. She agonises over which foods to buy. But no matter what she does, she can’t completely protect her children from radiation. It even lurks in their urine.

“Maybe he’s being exposed through the school lunch,” she says, puzzling over why her nine-year-old son’s urine showed two-and-a-half times the concentration of caesium that hers did, when she takes such care shopping. “Or maybe it’s from the soil outside where he plays. Or is it because children have a faster metabolism, so he flushes more out? We don’t know.”

Iida is a public relations officer at Tarachine, a citizens’ lab in Fukushima, Japan, that tests for radioactive contamination released from the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Agricultural produce grown in the area is subject to government and supermarket testing, but Tarachine wants to provide people with an option to test anything, from foraged mushrooms to dust from their home. Iida tests anything unknown before feeding it to her four children. Recently, she threw out some rice she received as a present after finding its level of contamination – although 80 times lower than the government limit – unacceptably high. “My husband considered eating it ourselves, but it’s too much to cook two batches of rice for every meal. In the end we fed it to some seagulls.”

Tarachine is one of several citizen labs founded in the wake of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, which obliterated a swathe of the country’s northwest coast and killed more than 18,000 people. The wave knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggering a meltdown in three of the reactor cores and hydrogen explosions that sprayed radionuclides across the Fukushima prefecture. More than 160,000 people were forced to evacuate. A government decontamination programme has allowed evacuation orders to be lifted in many municipalities, but one zone is still off limits, with only short visits permitted.

Driven by a desire to find out precisely how much radiation there was in the environment and where, a group of volunteers launched Tarachine in Iwaki, a coastal city that escaped the worst of the radioactive plume and was not evacuated, through a crowdfunding campaign in November 2011. It is now registered as a non-profit organisation, and runs on donations.

In a windowless room controlled for temperature and humidity and dotted with screens showing graphs, two women sort and label samples, either collected by staff or sent in by the public: soil from back gardens, candied grasshoppers, seawater. In the beginning, mothers sent in litres of breastmilk. Tarachine initially charged a tenth of what a university lab would charge to make the testing accessible to as many people as possible; last year, they made it free.

To test for caesium-137, the main long-term contaminant released from the plant, staff finely chop samples and put them inside a gamma counter, a cylindrical grey machine that looks like a centrifuge. Tarachine’s machines are more accurate than the more commonly accessible measuring tools: at some public monitoring posts, shoppers can simply place their produce on top of a device to get a reading, but this can be heavily skewed by background radiation (waving a Geiger counter over food won’t give an accurate reading for the same reason). Tarachine tries to get as precise readings as possible; the lab’s machines give results to one decimal place, and they try to block out excess background radiation by placing bottles of water around the machines.

Measuring for strontium, a type of less penetrative beta radiation, is even more complicated: the food has to first be roasted to ash before being mixed with an acid and sifted. The whole process takes two to three days. Tarachine received training and advice from university radiation labs around the country, but the volunteers had to experiment with everyday food items that scientists had never tested. “There was no recipe like ‘Roast the leaf for two hours at so-and-so Celsius’, you know?” says Iida. “If it’s too burnt it’s no good. We also had to experiment with types of acid and how much of the acid to add.”

Japanese government standards for radiation are some of the most stringent in the world: the upper limit of radioactive caesium in food such as meat and vegetables is 100 becquerels per kilogram, compared with 1,250 in the European Union and 1,200 in the US (the becquerel unit measures how much ionizing radiation is released due to radioactive decay). Many supermarkets adhere to a tighter limit, proudly advertising that their produce contains less than 40 becquerels, or as few as 10. Tarachine aims for just 1 becquerel.

“How I think about it is, how much radiation was there in local rice before the accident? It was about 0.01 becquerel. So that’s what I want the standard to be,” says Iida.


2Ayumi Iida in the Tarachine radiation testing lab


Nine years on from a disaster known locally as Japan’s 9/11, victims continue to deal with the ongoing aftermath of the nuclear accident. Tsunami survivors in other prefectures are moving on. But few in Fukushima feel the crisis is anywhere close to resolved.

Some radiation experts would say women such as Iida are unduly worried about radiation – paranoid, even. Global agencies charged with creating radiation guidelines and advice – the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) — have said that radiation levels in Fukushima have been much lower than in Chernobyl and predict no discernible increase in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases as a result of the accident. Estimated internal doses, based on reconstructions, are much lower than among those affected by the 1986 Chernobyl accident, which has been attributed to comprehensive food testing and lower consumption of wild or foraged food.

The secondary effects of the disaster seem more lethal than the radiation itself: although no one was killed by the initial explosion, the hurried evacuation of hospitals and nursing homes led to 50 deaths, due to hypothermia, dehydration, and lack of support for medical problems such as renal failure. Countless people trapped in the rubble after the quake and tsunami likely died as a result of the rescue effort being called off as the radioactive plume spread. And, in the years since, a prolonged evacuation – so long that some say evacuees have more in common with refugees than disaster survivors – has been linked to suicides, heart disease and other illnesses that have caused 2,286 deaths – more than those killed by the tsunami in the prefecture. Diabetes and other lifestyle diseases have spiked alarmingly. Overstretched medical staff and social workers are suffering from burnout, insomnia and other stress disorders.

Under current international guidelines, the radiation released meant that the initial evacuation was unavoidable. And while the Japanese government has tried to move people back to evacuated areas as soon as possible by hiking the legal annual exposure limit for ordinary citizens in Fukushima from 1 millisievert per year to 20, previously the limit for nuclear plant workers, the move has enraged the public. Not only does the new limit mean some re-opened areas would be classed as uninhabitable elsewhere in Japan and the rest of the world (the ICRP recommends a public dose limit of 1 millisievert per year on top of regular background radiation levels), the government also uses it as justification for cutting off financial aid to former residents once evacuation orders are lifted. A special rapporteur from the United Nations Office of the Higher Commissioner on Human Rights has urged Japan to stop its relocation policy to protect the rights of children and women of reproductive age.

The government also raised the limit for nuclear workers from 20 millisieverts per year to 250 millisieverts, a level permitted by the IAEA for emergency situations.


3Michiko Sakai, whose husband worked at the Fukushima Daiichi plant


“It was this unthinkable level! My husband was so angry,” says Michiko Sakai, whose husband, Hiroaki Sakai, worked at the plant. He was summoned a week after the accident to go up in a crane to inspect the damage to the fourth reactor, and received a dose of radiation equivalent to half the new annual limit. He was later diagnosed with salivary gland cancer.

Some workers have been awarded compensation after Japan’s health and labour ministry recognised their leukaemia or cancer as a “work-related” health issue. The first was 41 years old, and had received an accumulated dose of 16 millisieverts — well under 100 millisieverts, the level beyond which international agencies say a statistically significant increase in cancers is observable.

“They say it’s nothing to do with the radiation. But it makes you think. My husband says we can’t know,” says Sakai. “People around him say, why don’t you sue? But he says, there’s no proof. We just can’t know.”

The precise relationship between doses of ionising radiation and their effect are the subject of fierce debate. Some scientists believe the dangers have been exaggerated, while others believe that even low doses over time may induce cancer.

After the accident, Fukushima Medical University set up the Health Management Survey, a study consisting of four parts to track the physical and mental health of the two million people who had been in Fukushima at the time of the disaster. One part is a screening for thyroid cancers among those who were children at the time of the accident, as a higher incidence of these cancers was the biggest physical health impact observed after the Chernobyl disaster. From the outset, Dr. Shunichi Yamashita, a government-appointed radiation risk management adviser who led the screening, emphasised that the survey was primarily being conducted to assuage anxiety about radiation.

To date, 186 cases of thyroid cancer among children have been found. Doctors at FMU contend that these are likely due to the “screening effect”, in which widespread testing of a population – 300,000 children, in this case – turns up diseases that would otherwise have remained undetected. They add that thyroid cancers only appeared to increase four years after the Chernobyl accident, and in Fukushima most were found in the first round of screening, with fewer diagnoses each round. The age pattern of children with tumours in Fukushima is also different to that in Chernobyl, where incidence was higher amongst younger children.

But some activists and doctors reject these explanations, arguing that doctors in the USSR missed tumours in the early years because they were diagnosed by hand rather than ultrasound. They also note that thyroid doses have only been estimated based on reconstructions, rather than actual measurements taken immediately after the accident.

Mizue Kanno, 67, a Fukushima evacuee and anti-nuclear activist, recalls Yamashita telling an audience in Japan just eight days after the accident, “Radiation does not affect people who smile. It affects people who worry.”

His comments caused furore. “My friend and I took a photo of us smiling at the evacuation centre when he said that. And we both still got cancer,” says Kanno, pulling down her turtleneck to show a neat scar across her neck. “They took half my thyroid.”

Data from Chernobyl shows that the incidence of thyroid cancers rose only in people who were exposed to high doses of radiation as children, making it unlikely that Kanno’s tumour was caused by the release at the Fukushima plant. Nonetheless, to Kanno and others, Yamashita’s remarks have become a symbol of what they perceive as the medical establishment’s callous arrogance.

In response to parents’ concerns, Tarachine opened a clinic in 2013 where anyone – even adults – could have their thyroid checked, or get a second opinion. “In Japan, everyone has a lot of respect for doctors and sees them as kind of superior, so people don’t find them very approachable and they find it hard to ask questions,” says Iida. Since radioactive iodine, which causes the thyroid tumours, has a half-life of just eight days and was fully decayed within a few months of the accident, the government screening only covers children born before the accident. Iida has had her three children born since the accident tested anyway.

“I think we just can’t know for sure,” she says. “You often hear, ‘Statistically, this number of people in Fukushima will get sick’. But mothers can’t relate to that. I have a child right in front of me, that’s who I’m concerned about.”


4Masaharu Tsubokura, a radiation specialist at the Soma Central Hospital in Fukushima


Sakai and her husband’s home in Namie was swept away in the tsunami. “Completely obliterated. There was nothing left. Only the concrete foundations,” she recalls. Because of radiation levels, it was three years before she was allowed to go back to see the devastation for herself.

By then, her family had been broken up: her husband was working at the plant and living in a company dormitory nearby, while her mother-in-law moved into temporary government housing to be close to her former neighbours. With her son at university, Sakai and her daughter moved inland to Fukushima City.

“If we had been pulled apart by a natural disaster, I think we would have been able to knit the family back together. But because of the radiation, we were separated,” Sakai says. She lost friends after her village community was scattered during the evacuation. “I had no sense of who was dead and who was alive. Even if I heard they had died [in the tsunami], I had this feeling that they’d just evacuated elsewhere. The realisation that they were dead didn’t hit.”

Some of the few community ties that remained have been aggravated by enmity over compensation money. Evacuees have even been bullied for receiving compensation – to the extent that Sakai didn’t tell her new neighbours where she was from, not wanting to invite resentment.

“What the radiation broke was my heart,” she says. “It’s not about my body being exposed. You can measure that. But the emotional pain it causes – you can’t see that.”

Indeed, the impact of the nuclear accident goes well beyond worries about the physical impact of radiation: in 2017, fewer than two per cent of callers to a mental health helpline for Fukushima evacuees touched on radiation-related concerns, in contrast to other health issues, which were discussed in 80 per cent of calls, and family issues, which came up in a third.


5The motorway exit for the site of the Fukushima Daiichi plant


The accident forced tens of thousands out of their homes, shattering communities, wrenching apart families, and robbing them of their jobs. Evacuees have lived in limbo for years, not knowing when they will be allowed to move home, or even whether they want to, given the shrunken and now inconvenient towns that await them.

“The consequences of the radiation accident is not purely about exposure to radiation. It’s also not purely psychological. It’s changes in lifestyle, family issues, changes in society, hospitals closing, stigma, bullying, money,” says Masaharu Tsubokura, a radiation specialist at Soma Central Hospital in Fukushima. “Hardly anyone here talks about radiation. Those people don’t come back.”

Those most concerned about radiation fled as far as they could, and stayed away; some even moved to Okinawa, the island prefecture south of the Japanese mainland. Some 30,000 evacuees still live outside Fukushima prefecture.

Over the past nine years, as background radiation levels fall and evacuation orders have gradually been lifted, the government has encouraged — or pressured, through the withdrawal of financial aid — people to return. But the longer it took for the evacuation orders to be lifted, the fewer people came back. Towns have been left frozen in time, and still lack supermarkets, schools, hospitals and clinics — not to mention citizens.

In Okuma, once a picturesque town of 11,500 people, curtains are blowing through broken windows. Huge, grand houses nestled into golden hillsides have been ruined with mildew, and are too contaminated to live in. There is a small patch where decontamination has beaten background radiation back enough to meet the government standard. Here, a tight cluster of grey identikit prefabs have been built for former residents. Across the road are similar units for those who work at the nuclear plant or in decontamination.

In an airy, high-ceilinged cafeteria, bearing the faintly plasticky smell of fresh construction, men in work clothes queue up with trays. “I never usually come here. There’s nowhere to meet friends,” says Masumi Kohata, a local council representative. “They’ve built a bar, but that’s only for workers — the residents are all elderly and don’t go out drinking.”

Only between around 10 to 15 per cent of former residents of towns close to the plant, like Okuma, express a desire to return, and actual returnee rates are even lower. Shrinking and ageing populations are a problem all over rural Japan, but in the towns affected by radiation, the effect is particularly acute. The nuclear accident functioned like a second, ageist tsunami: the plume dragged everyone out, but the riptide of government policy deposited only the elderly back. Those over 60 feel more intensely a traditional obligation to be close to their ancestors’ graves. Younger people tend not to come back due to a lack of work opportunities, schools for their children, or because they have settled elsewhere.


6Kazuma Yonekura, a psychiatric nurse who works at a clinic in Minamisōma


In many cases, men stayed behind for work in Fukushima while their wives and children moved elsewhere in Japan. Such stresses led to the break-up of so many marriages that a new word was coined: genpatsu-rikon, or nuclear divorce. Other families were split along generational lines as younger members moved away. Even those who evacuated inside Fukushima were often separated from their communities, leading to the disintegration of the social fabric. On average, evacuees have moved four to five times; eight moves is not unusual.

“The extended evacuation meant people couldn’t settle down and come to terms with what had happened. They didn’t know whether to make a decision to move back, or to put it off. They were – some still are – living in limbo,” says Kazuma Yonekura, a psychiatric nurse at Nagomi, a clinic in Minamisōma that is part of Kokoro No Care, a mental health organisation that has been set up in the wake of disasters since the Kobe earthquake in 1995.

Compensation money and the loss of work meant people smoked more, gambled more, and drank more; in 2014, one in five male evacuees and one in ten female evacuees in Fukushima were considered problem drinkers. Those who had lived active lives were suddenly cooped up in cramped temporary housing units; the change in lifestyle and diet, compounded by stress and inactivity, has triggered a massive rise in diabetes among the middle-aged and elderly. Some 10,000 people are considered at risk of depression.

Yonekura recalls one nuclear plant worker in his 40s who took sleeping pills with alcohol, knocking himself out for such long periods that he got bedsores. “We realised that medical treatment could only go so far,” says Yonekura, who brought the man to soup kitchens and fetched hot water from a local bathhouse when he couldn’t pay his gas bill. “Doctors can give out prescriptions, but then it’s left to people to change their lives.”

After waiting for so long, returnees often become depressed upon encountering the reality of their unrecognisable hometowns: suicides spike in towns after the evacuation orders are lifted.

The stress of seeing one’s old life wiped off the map can be equally distressing. “My friend decided to move back here and build a new house to make a fresh start,” says a waitress named Aiko Watanabe in a cafe in Tomioka. “But when she watched her old house being demolished, she had a heart attack, and died.”

Not all such deaths are included in the official count of “disaster-related deaths”, which now stands at 2,286 — compared to 469 in Iwate and 928 in Miyagi, the other two prefectures also affected by the tsunami. The nuclear accident has drastically complicated Fukushima’s recovery. Due to the scale and complexity of issues that victims still face, Kokoro No Care will continue to operate in Fukushima for 20 years in total, even though it was wound down after five years in Miyagi and Iwate.

But staff at Kokoro No Care and other relief workers, such as civil servants and medical staff, are overstretched. Three years after the disaster, nine per cent were considered at risk of suicide, and 18 per cent had symptoms of depression. “People working in support roles have too much work but they feel they can’t quit. Citizens are depending on them, but they feel stuck and can’t cope,” Yonekura says.

“That’s what the radiation accident caused. A loss of purpose. The loss of feeling at home, the feeling of being connected. There’s many people who suffered from that. And a lot of people suffered from the perception that they or their products were contaminated.”


7Masahura Maeda, a professor at Fukushima Medical University’s department of disaster psychiatry


Stigmatization is one of the reasons doctors want to quell concerns around radiation. Children and adults from Fukushima have been bullied because of where they are from; some evacuees were initially refused entry to friends or relatives’ homes because they were perceived as being a danger.

“Some friends said we were still contaminated. I wasn’t offended, I think they were right,” says Kanno. “In Osaka, I felt like a mouldy orange. You know when an orange rots in a cardboard box, it spreads the mould around? That was me… I thought a mouldy orange should stay put and not spread the contamination around.”

Some 30 per cent of people in Fukushima believe the effects of radiation exposure are hereditary, with 15 per cent of people thinking it is “very likely” – in spite of the Life Span Study tracking 86,000 survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki finding no evidence of this.

“Many people believe that these women should not get married or reproduce. That’s really worrying,” says Masaharu Maeda, a professor at Fukushima Medical University’s (FMU) Department of Disaster Psychiatry who has led the mental health response for evacuees. The stigma is even worse outside Fukushima: in one survey of 1,000 people in Tokyo in 2019, 40 per cent thought the effects would be transmitted to the next generation.

Maeda says that concern has fallen in Fukushima due to public education campaigns, pointing to a survey showing that just under a third of respondents in Fukushima now believe that effects are hereditary, down from half in 2012. But he and other doctors are worried about the small group of people – the 15 per cent – who still believe that they or their peers are genetically contaminated, despite official reassurances. In a survey of evacuees, Maeda and his colleagues were shocked to find that the biggest risk factor for “severe distress” was increased perception of risk from radiation exposure and the belief that it would affect one’s children or grandchildren.

“That’s the tricky thing about radiation,” says Koichi Tanigawa, vice president of the FMU and senior director of the Radiation Medical Science Center. “Someone’s way of thinking or what they believed [before the accident] has quite a big influence on their understanding of the issue. Scientific figures or research isn’t going to do much to change their mind.”

The full impact of the accident will take years to emerge – and even then, assessments will differ. Deaths caused by radiation-induced cancers may well be under- or overestimated, due to the difficulty of isolating radiation as a cause amidst a tangle of other lifestyle factors. Deaths from diabetes as a result of the evacuation may never be counted.

“A manmade disaster is much harder than a natural disaster,” says Maeda. He notes that after natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Kobe, it usually takes around five years for people to “recover”. One marker of this is the construction of a memorial, which allows people to begin mourning. Another is when the majority of those affected no longer consider themselves victims. “If you look at Fukushima,” Maeda says, “it’s nowhere near. The disaster is still ongoing.”




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

Federal appeals court upholds dismissal of Fukushima nuclear disaster claims



May 26, 2020

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Friday rejected an appeal brought by US servicemembers seeking damages for alleged radiation exposure from the March 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in California, aims to hold both Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and General Electric (GE) liable for radiation to which the servicemembers were allegedly exposed while assisting with the humanitarian relief effort in the region. TEPCO owns and operates the Fukushima plant; GE manufactured the plant’s reactors.

Each of the companies sought dismissal of the claims against it. Citing a Japanese statute called the Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage (Compensation Act), GE argued that only TEPCO could be held liable for the plaintiffs’ alleged injuries. TEPCO, for its part, argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case and that even if the court had jurisdiction, international comity concerns shielded TEPCO from prosecution. The district court agreed with both companies and granted their respective motions to dismiss.

In its review of the district court’s ruling, the Ninth Circuit conducted a three-part choice-of-law analysis to determine whether the Japanese Compensation Act should be applied in the instant case. First, the court observed that the Compensation Act would limit liability exclusively to TEPCO, whereas the laws of California would allow the plaintiffs to pursue claims against GE. Moving on to the next step in the analysis, the court found that both Japan and California had a legitimate interest in the application of their respective laws. The court concluded in the third part of its analysis that Japan’s interest in protecting the Japanese nuclear industry outweighed California’s interest in ensuring compensation for injured California residents. In light of this conclusion, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss the claims against GE.

Finally, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ruled that international comity concerns compelled dismissal of the remaining claims against TEPCO. Although consideration of the international comity doctrine involves several factors, the court noted in particular that the Japanese government had voiced strong opposition to continuation of the proceedings in the United States, while the US government had expressed no comparable objection to adjudication of the claims in Japan.

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

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster | Increased Thyroid Cancer in U.S.


From 2013

Almost one third of children born on the Pacific coast of  the United States are now at high risk for thyroid cancer (and a host of other cancers that will be revealed over time.) The inevitable has happened. Radioactive Cesium isotopes from the leaking nucelar reactors in Fukushima, Japan have reached our Pacific shores and are contaminating our ocean, our, soil, our air, our food supply and our born and unborn children. This is only the shadow of things to come over the decades ahead.

When DNA, our genetic material is damaged,  the beginnings of cancer are at hand. Many cancers begin 20-30 years before diagnosis. So we really will not know all of the devastating health consequences of this nuclear disaster so far from our shores for a long long time. Pay attention. Cancer rates are sure to rise.

The fetus in the uterus of pregnant women, infants and young children, because they are growing so quickly and so their cells are dividing at a high rate and thus more vulnerable to DNA damage and  are much more vulnerable to the dangers of radiation exposure. Now we are seeing the troubling results that are the tip of the iceberg. I am reprinting this disturbing post from Nation of Change, on the tangible what we know is happening to our children…Thyroid Cancer risk. Many of the fish on the Pacific Coast have Cesium in their flesh. Now are food is contaminated and radioactive as well. Pay attention, radioactivity is invisible and insidious

Third of US West Coast Children Hit with Thyroid Problems Following Fukushima By Anthony Gucciardi

Still think that the Fukushima nuclear meltdown of 2011 never affected the United States public? Young children born in the United States West Coast, right in the line of fire for radioactive isotopes, have been found to be 28 percent more likely to develop congenital hypothyroidism than infants born the year before the incident.

The study followed children born in California, Alaska, Washingto, Hawaii, and Oregon between 1 and 16 weeks after the horrific meltdown at Fukushima back in March 2011. Published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics by researchers affiliated with the Radiation and Public Health Project, the information further lends credence to previous documentation regarding the way in which radioactive fallout ended up on US soil.

The researchers explained how radioactive fallout affected the entirety of the US in varying degrees:

Fukushima fallout appeared to affect all areas of the U.S., and was especially large in some, mostly in the western part of the nation,” they wrote.

Fukushima’s Effects on The US

The findings are likely no surprise to those who have been following the effects of Fukushima closely, as back in 2011 numerous reports surfaced regarding the ways in which Fukushima’s radioactive waste had made its way to the US geography in a big way. Despite Japanese officials downplaying the incident and its real devastating health consequences, even so much as to ignore the fact that Fukushima radiation was detected in Tokyo far beyond the evacuation zone, US scientists were quick to reveal their own measurements to the scientific community.
Even more shocking is the fact that hot particles, which are highly radioactive objects, have been found at 2 out of 3 Boston monitoring stations. In a new video report, nuclear experts detail the coming health epidemic that my result from Fukushima radiation: Read more

Scientists from UC Berkeley detailed even more concerning reports following the disaster, finding the highest cesium content in topsoil for each California location was consistent. The recordings were posted online along with the date of finding:

  • Sacramento, CA Topsoil on Aug. 16, 2011: Total Cesium @ 2.737 Bq/kg
  • Oakland, CA Topsoil on Sept. 8, 2011: Total Cesium @ 2.55 Bq/kg
  • Alameda, CA Topsoil on Apr. 6, 2011: Total Cesium @ 2.52 Bq/kg
  • San Diego, CA Topsoil on June 29, 2011: Total Cesium @ 2.51 Bq/kg
  • Sonoma, CA Topsoil on Apr. 27, 2011: Total Cesium @ 2.252 Bq/kg

But the levels were nothing compared to what Marco Kaltofen, PE, of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) recorded from his research. In his report presentation, entitled  ‘Radiation Exposure to the Population in Japan After the Earthquake’, Kaltofen found samples on US soil that were 108 times greater than what UC Berkley researchers were reporting.

January 12, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

An update from Fukushima, and the challenges that remain there


Workers stack bags of soil collected during Fukushima decontamination and cleanup operations, 2011.

November 11, 2019

After more than eight years, Japan is still struggling with aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The Japanese government and nuclear industry have not solved the many technical, economic, and socio-political challenges brought on by the accident. More worrying, they continue to put special interests ahead of the public interest, exacerbating the challenges and squandering public trust. The longer these issues remain unsolved, the more difficult it will be to restore this trust.

Technical challenges. The most difficult challenge is, of course, the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. It would take too long to describe all of the technical challenges of the decommissioning operations, but two recent events are instructive of the overall difficulties.

The first is the dismantlement of the joint exhaust stack for units one and two. This stack stands 120 meters tall and is at risk of collapse because of fractures in its pillars. It was also heavily contaminated by the venting of radioactive gases during the accident. So the stack must come down, and the operation to deconstruct it must be done remotely from the stack itself to avoid exposing workers to dangerous radiation. According to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operation was supposed to be simple: cut down the top of the tower using special remote-controlled equipment, slicing pieces from the top of the chimney one by one and guiding them down by crane. Originally, the operation was supposed to start in March 2019, but TEPCO deployed an operation tower that was about three meters too short for the task, meaning it needed to rebuild the tower before starting. The cutting operation began on August 1, but the project has already faced numerous additional delays because of technical difficulties that include malfunctions of the crane, the camera on the cutting machine (which is needed to monitor the operation), the saws of the cutting machine, and both the main generator and sub-generators. The operation was supposed to finish by the end of 2019 but will now drag on until at least March 2020.

The second technical problem, which is much more serious than the first, is the management of contaminated water. The water is continuously injected into the reactors to cool the fuel debris, and then treated to remove most—though not all—of the radioactive materials. The so-called “treated water” is being stored on site and amounts to about 1.1 million tons, with several hundred tons being added every day. According to TEPCO, the total tank capacity to store treated water will be approximately 1.37 million tons by the end of 2020, but the volume of treated water will exceed storage capacity by 2022. A subcommittee of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry recommended that the treated water, which still contains tritium, should be released into the sea once the radioactive concentration is below the standard agreed beforehand. The agreed standard between TEPCO and the local fishing industry association is 1,500 becquerels per liter (Bq/l), which is far below the drinking water standard for tritium water of 10,000 Bq/l set by the World Health Organization. An additional condition of release, however, is that all other radioactive substances besides tritium must be removed below a detectable limit or in line with regulatory standards. Unfortunately, in August 2019 news outlets reported that some radioactive materials such as iodine 129 were not completely removed and that their concentration levels were above the regulatory standards.

Most recently, the super typhoon Hagibis hit the eastern part of Japan, which includes Fukushima prefecture and the area affected by the nuclear accident. TEPCO reported irregular readings from sensors monitoring water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant but did not confirm whether any radioactive water leaked into the sea. In addition, according to the Tamura city government, some bulk bags filled with soil collected from decontamination operations were swept into a river during the typhoon on October 12. The bags were among 2,667 that have been temporarily stored at a site in the city. The Ministry of the Environment later confirmed that total of 11 bags were swept away and found downstream. Thankfully, there was no evidence that any of the contaminated soil leaked out. But this wasn’t the first time an incident like this has happened. In September 2015, several hundred bags were swept downstream during flooding caused by tropical storm Etau. The recurring close calls reveal the ongoing vulnerabilities of the Fukushima and associated sites. The contaminated soil will need to be stored for at least 30 years, and the risk of possible leakage remains if a larger and stronger typhoon, or a tsunami, hits the region again.

Economic challenges. In December 2016, the Ministry of Trade, Economy, and Industry’s committee for reforming TEPCO published its latest estimate for total accident costs, including decommissioning the reactors, compensation, and decontamination of the land. The total cost was estimated at almost 22 trillion yen ($188 billion), which was twice as much as the previous estimate of 11 trillion yen ($96 billion). More recent estimates have put the figure even higher—up to 80 trillion yen ($736 billion) over 40 years.

According to the legal scheme established by the ministry, TEPCO and other nuclear utilities will pay about 20 trillion yen of the total accident costs. But now the rest (2 trillion yen) will be footed by Japanese taxpayers. The 2016 report was the first time that the Japanese government admitted that tax money would be spent for the Fukushima accident costs.

The government’s lack of transparency in agreeing to this scheme is a source of ongoing concern, not least because the taxpayer burden could balloon if total costs go up, or if the nuclear utilities cannot pay off the debt. The government has given no clear explanation why and how much tax money will be spent to cover the total accident costs. To make matters worse, the power utilities are passing on part of the accident cleanup costs to customers by increasing their electricity rates, but without disclosing the amount.

This exceptionally high cost may have influenced the future economic competitiveness of nuclear power. At present, no utility has announced plans to build new reactors or to replace existing reactors.

Socio-political challenges. On September 19, 2019, three former top executives of TEPCO were found not guilty of criminal negligence for their roles in the disaster, which resulted in the death of 44 and the injury of 13 others. The Tokyo district court ruled that it was not realistic for the former executives to have prevented the triple core meltdown because they were not able to predict all possible tsunami scenarios. This was the only criminal case so far involving TEPCO officials and, although they were found not guilty, the case revealed new facts regarding the tsunami predictions. A 2008 TEPCO internal study, based on a 2002 report by a government panel, concluded that a wave of up to 15.7 meters could hit the plant after a magnitude 8.3 earthquake, overwhelming the Fukushima site, which sits 10 meters above sea level. The findings were reported to the TEPCO executives, but they did not act to take measures against such high-tsunami scenarios. The court decision was totally unsatisfactory to the public, especially for the victims in Fukushima who were forced to leave their homes. For them, it is now clear that the accident was preventable and that no one at TEPCO will be held accountable for their lack of action to prevent it.

Although the criminal case was highly symbolic, it is not the only legal one involving TEPCO and Fukushima. More than 100,000 evacuees have filed about 30 different civil lawsuits seeking compensation from TEPCO and the government. Several district courts have ruled that TEPCO could have predicted and prevented the nuclear crisis and have awarded millions of dollars in damages to the evacuees.

TEPCO isn’t the only utility with a public relations problem. On September 27, 2019, the Kansai Electric Power Company held a press conference to disclose that 20 of its employees, including top executives, received inappropriate payments and gifts worth a total of $2.9 million from a senior local government official in Takahama, a town that hosts one of the company’s four nuclear power plants. This has become the biggest scandal since the 2011 Fukushima accident and has exposed the collusive relationship between the utility companies and local public officials as well as the connection between the utilities and local construction companies, which may have benefited from favorable contracts for necessary safety upgrades at the nuclear plants. In October, the chairman, executive vice president, and three executive directors resigned, while the president of the company stepped down from his position as the head of the powerful Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan. Although Kansai Electric Power Company planned to restart units one and two of its Takahama nuclear plant earlier this year, that plan is now on hold indefinitely.

These two recent events show that social and political problems persist even eight years after the Fukushima accident. According to the latest public polling conducted in 2018 by Japan Atomic Energy Relations Organization, a utility-sponsored pro-nuclear organization, only 6.7 percent of the public think nuclear industry organizations are trustworthy or somewhat trustworthy (a decline from 7 percent in 2017), and only 7.9 percent of the public think the government is trustworthy or somewhat trustworthy (a decline from 9.2 percent in 2017).

Lessons not learned. The ongoing technical, economic, and socio-political problems demonstrate that the nuclear power industry and the Japanese government haven’t learned their lesson from the Fukushima accident, which is that transparency is the key to public trust. It is true that the quantity of information about cleanup has increased substantially over the years. But transparency means that the utilities and the government need to disclose information that the public needs, even when it is not favorable to them. One solution, which they have so far been unwilling to accept, would be to establish a truly independent third party to oversee their activities. Lack of such an independent oversight organization is one of the main causes for not taking alternative and possibly better, more appropriate measures over the last eight years.


November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s Three Nuclear Meltdowns Are “Under Control”: That’s a Lie


by William Boardman / June 23rd, 2019

The implementation of the safe decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station is a unique complex case and expected to span several decades: the IAEA Review Team considers that it will therefore require sustained engagement with stakeholders, proper knowledge management, and benefit from broad international cooperation.

– Report by IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) Review Team, January 30, 2019

The bland language of the official IAEA report is itself a form of lying, offering the false appearance of reassurance that a catastrophic event will be safely managed “for several decades.” There is no way to know that: it is a hope, a prayer, a form of denial. The IAEA, as is its job in a sense, offers this optimism that is unsupported by the realities at Fukushima.

On April 14, 2019, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, visited the Fukushima meltdown site. According to The Asahi Shimbun’s headline, “Abe [was] pushing idea that Fukushima nuclear disaster is ‘under control’.” Abe entered the site wearing a business suit and no protective clothing to shield him from radiation. He stood on elevated ground about 100 meters from a building holding one of the melted-down reactors. He had his picture taken. He told reporters, “The decommissioning work has been making progress in earnest.” Abe’s visit lasted six minutes. This was a classic media pseudo-event, designed to be reported despite its lack of actual meaning – for all practical purposes it was another nuclear lie.

The entire Fukushima site remains radioactive at varying levels, from unsafe to lethal, depending on location. The site includes six reactors, three of them in meltdown, and at least as many fuel pools, some of which still contain fuel rods. The site has close to a thousand large storage tanks holding more than a million tons (roughly 264.5 million gallons) of radioactive wastewater.

The prime minister’s stage-managed visit placed him on a platform where the radiation level “exceeds 100 micro-sieverts per hour,” a low level but less than safe. That’s why Abe’s visit lasted only six minutes. Prolonged exposure to that level of radiation is not healthy. A year’s exposure to 100 micro-sieverts per hour would total 87,600 micro-sieverts in a year. How bad that would be is debatable. By way of illustration, even US regulations, not known for their stringency, allow American nuclear workers a maximum annual radiation exposure of 50,000 micro-sieverts.

Translation: the Prime Minister was posing in an area of dangerous radiation level and pretending it was all fine. Call it lying by photo op.

The first thing to know about the Fukushima meltdowns is that they are not even close to being over. The second thing to know about the Fukushima meltdowns is that no one really knows what’s going on, but officials routinely and falsely issue happy-talk reassurances that just aren’t true. The third thing to know about the Fukushima meltdowns is that they won’t be over for years, more likely decades, perhaps even ever.

Now, more than eight years after the triple reactor meltdown at Fukushima, the status of the three melted reactor cores remains somewhat contained but uncontrolled, with no end in sight. No one knows exactly where the melted cores are. No one has any clear idea of how to remove them or how to dispose of them safely. For the foreseeable future, the best anyone can do is keep the cores cooled with water and hope for the best. Water flowing into the reactors and cooling the cores is vital to preventing the meltdowns from re-initiating.

Clean groundwater continues to flow into the reactors. Then radioactive water flows out into the Pacific. Continuously. A frozen ice wall costing $309 million diverts much of the groundwater around the site to the Pacific Ocean. The water flow is not well measured. Some contaminated water is stored on site, but the site’s storage capacity of 1.37 million tons of radioactive water may be reached during 2020.

One proposed wastewater solution is to dilute the stored radioactive water and then dump it in the Pacific. Fukushima fishermen oppose this. Radioactivity in Fukushima fish has slowly declined since 2011, but the local fishing industry is only at 20 percent of pre-meltdown levels.

When it exists, reporting on Fukushima continues to be uneven and often shabby, buying into the official rosy view of the disaster, as The New York Times did on April 15. The day after Abe’s visit to Fukushima, the Times reported that an operation to begin removing fuel rods from a fuel pool was a “Milestone in Fukushima Nuclear Cleanup.” The Times, with remarkable incompetence, couldn’t distinguish clearly between the fuel pool and the melted reactor cores:

The operator of Japan’s ruined Fukushima nuclear power plant began removing radioactive fuel rods on Monday at one of three reactors that melted down after an earthquake and a tsunami in 2011, a major milestone in the long-delayed cleanup effort….

The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power, said in a statement that workers on Monday morning began removing the first of 566 spent and unspent fuel rods stored in a pool at the plant’s third reactor. A radiation-hardened robot had first located the melted uranium fuel inside the reactor in 2017.

That is such a botch. The fuel pool is a storage pool outside the reactor. It contains fuel rods that have NOT melted down. They could melt down if the pool loses its cooling water, but for now they’re stable. The fuel pool has nothing more to do with the melted reactor cores than proximity. The fuel pool is outside the reactor, the melted cores are somewhere near the bottom of the reactor. The melted cores are beyond any remediation for the foreseeable future. To pretend that the start of fuel rod removal is any kind of meaningful milestone while the three melted cores remain out of reach is really to distort the reality of Fukushima.

The summer Olympics are planned for Tokyo in 2020. In 2013, two years after the Fukushima meltdowns, Prime Minister Abe pitched the Tokyo site by telling the Olympic Committee in reference to Fukushima: “Let me assure you, the situation is under control.”

This was a lie.

Even now, no one knows where the melted reactor cores are precisely. One robot has made one contact so far. Radiation levels at the core are lethal. There is, as yet, no way to remove the cores safely. They think they’re going to remove the cores with robots, but the robots don’t yet exist. The disaster may not be as out of control as it was, but that’s about the best that can be honestly said, unless there’s another tsunami.

Official government statistics show pediatric cancers almost doubling since the Fukushima meltdowns of 2011. Thyroid cancers are reaching epidemic levels. The Japanese government refuses to track leukemia and other cancers. The official Fukushima death toll is more than 18,000, including 2,546 who have never been recovered. Most of Fukushima prefecture remains uninhabitable due to high radiation levels.

On March 21, 2019, Dr. Helen Caldicot offered an assessment much closer to the likely truth:

They will never, and I quote never, decommission those reactors. They will never be able to stop the water coming down from the mountains. And so, the truth be known, it’s an ongoing global radiological catastrophe which no one really is addressing in full.

The Japanese government doesn’t want to address Fukushima in full because it wants to re-start all its other nuclear power plants. TEPCO doesn’t want to address Fukushima in full because it wants to stay in business as long as the Japanese government is willing to make the company profitable with billions of dollars in bailouts. The IAEA and the rest of the nuclear industry don’t want to address Fukushima in full because they don’t want to see the over-priced, over-subsidized, and ultimately dangerous nuclear industry die from its own shortcomings. With billions of dollars at stake, who needs the truth?

June 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Voices of Fukushima power plant disaster victims strengthens call to ban nuclear energy

Two IAEA experts examine recovery work on top of Unit 4 of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 17 April 2013 as part of a mission to review Japan’s plans to decommission the facility.
June 6, 2019
[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] Japanese parish priests shared stories of suffering from victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster at an International Forum for a Nuclear-Free World held in Sendai, Japan, last week. A joint statement from the forum, due out next month, is expected to strengthen the call for a worldwide ban on nuclear energy and encourage churches to join in the campaign.
The forum, organised by the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK) – the Anglican Communion in Japan – follows the NSKKs General Synod resolution in 2012 calling for an end to nuclear power plants and activities to help the world go nuclear free.
The disaster in 2011 followed a massive earthquake and tsunami which caused a number of explosions in the town’s coastal nuclear power station and led to widespread radioactive contamination and serious health and environmental effects. The Chair of the forum’s organising committee, Kiyosumi Hasegawa, said: “We have yet to see an end to the damage done to the people and natural environment by the meltdown of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. I do think this man-made disaster will haunt countless people for years to come. We still see numerous people who wish to go back to their hometowns but are unable to. We also have people who have given up on ever going home.”
One pastor, Dr Naoya Kawakami, whose church was affected by the tsunami and is the General Secretary of the Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network, Touhoku HELP, explained how he had supported sufferers in the aftermath and heard from priests supporting the survivors. He said: “I have been more than 700 times to meet with more than 180 mothers and about 20 fathers, all of whom have seen abnormalities in their children since 2011. . . Thyroid cancer has been found in more than 273 children and many mothers are in deep anxiety.
“The more the situation worsens, the more pastors become aware of their important role. The role is to witness . . . pastors who have stayed in Fukushima with the ‘voiceless survivors’ are showing us the church as the body of Jesus’s resurrection, with wounds and weakness . . . sufferers are usually in voiceless agony and most people never hear them.”
The forum was attended by bishops, clergy and lay representatives from each diocese, together with representatives from the US-based Episcopal Church, USPG, the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, the Diocese of Taiwan, the Anglican Church of Korea, and also ecumenical guests. International experts took part, along with local clergy who shared individual stories from those directly affected by the disaster.
Keynote lecturer Prof Dr Miranda Schreurs, from the Technische Universität München in Germany, launched the forum at Tohoku Diocese’s Cathedral, Sendai Christ Church. The professor currently serves as a member of the Ethic Commission for Safe Energy Supply and significantly influenced Germany’s nuclear free energy policy. Other speakers included the Bishop of Taiwan, David Jun Hsin Lai, and Amos Kim Kisuk from the Anglican Church of Korea.
During the week delegates from outside Japan visited sites and towns near the nuclear power plant. They also visited St John’s Church Isoyama and “Inori no Ie” (House of Prayer) in Shinchi, Fukushima, to offer prayers for all the victims of the disaster.
The NSKK Partners-in-Mission Secretary, Paul Tolhurst, said the visit to Fukushima had brought home the reality of the situation for local people. “Driving past the power station and seeing the ghost town around us as the Geiger counter reading kept going up is something I won’t forget”, he said. “It was like the town time forgot – they still seem to be living the incident, while the rest of Japan has moved on.”
Arguing for an end to nuclear power, NSKK priest John Makito Aizawa said: “Both religiously and ethically, we cannot allow nuclear power plants to continue running. They produce deadly waste, which we have no way of processing into something safe.
“More than 100,000 years are necessary for the radiation of such deadly waste to diminish to the level that it was in the original uranium. This alone is a strong enough reason to prohibit nuclear power plants. Insistence on restarting nuclear power plants seems to come from the insistence on getting more and more money and profit.”
He added: “I am no scientist or engineer of nuclear power generation. I am no expert. Still, as Christians, and to live as humans, I am certain this is an issue we cannot afford to ignore.”
The forum’s statement is expected to call for a goal of conversion to renewable sources of energy and set out ways to build a network to take forward denuclearization and how the church can play its part.

June 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment