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Evacuation order may be lifted in part of Fukushima ‘difficult-to-return’ zone

May 13, 2022

Officials in Japan plan to lift an evacuation order for part of the area designated as a “difficult-to-return” zone in Fukushima Prefecture due to high radiation levels from the 2011 nuclear accident.

An evacuation order remains in place for the Noyuki district, which covers about 20 percent of Katsurao Village.

Authorities aim to lift the order in about six percent of the district, which has received preferential treatment for decontamination work and infrastructure projects.

Sources say a briefing for residents about the result of the rebuilding work is scheduled for Sunday, after a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The sources say officials from the central and prefectural governments and the village are making arrangements to lift the order on June 5 at the earliest.

It would be the first case in which people will be able to return to their homes in a “difficult-to-return” zone. Katsurao Village officials say eight people from four households are hoping to return to the area.

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima farm products still dealing with negative image

Toshio Watanabe, seen here in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 8, grows rice on an approximately 20-hectare farm.

April 24, 2022

NIHONMATSU, Fukushima Prefecture–Rice farmer Toshio Watanabe felt strongly embarrassed when he saw the estimate for the selling price of rice to be harvested in 2022.

Farm products of Fukushima Prefecture faced consumer pullback and canceled orders following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster of 2011.

“People drive a hard bargain against rice from Fukushima Prefecture, which they buy only at lower prices than products of other prefectures, even for the same quality and taste,” said Watanabe, who farms in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture.

“We could have put up a good fight if only it had not been for the nuclear disaster. As things stand now, however, we have ended up as the sole loser.”

More than 11 years on, farmers like Watanabe and the public sector in this northeastern prefecture still continue to struggle with lingering reverberations of the effects of negative publicity due to radiation fears.


A document distributed by a local farming association in late February said this year’s rice crop is likely to sell at only 9,500 yen ($77) per 60 kilograms, falling below the 10,000-yen mark for the second straight year.

A rice farmer risks posting a deficit when the take-home selling price is less than 10,000 yen per 60 kg, considering the current production cost of nearly 9,000 yen per 60 kg.

Farmers will likely have to endure difficulties this year like they did in 2021, when rice prices dropped sharply due to a general oversupply and weak demand in the restaurant industry.

Rice harvested in Fukushima Prefecture disappeared from many supermarket shelves following the nuclear disaster, as consumers avoided Fukushima labels due to radiation fears.

More than 11 years on, rice grown in the prefecture has seen its market ratings always stuck in the lower reaches, with trading prices hovering below the national average.

Rice of the Koshihikari variety from the Nakadori (central strip) area of Fukushima Prefecture, which contains Nihonmatsu, was being traded at 11,047 yen per 60 kg, down 17 percent year on year, according to a preliminary report on the “direct trading prices” of rice harvested in 2021, which the farm ministry released in February.

The average price of all brands from all areas of Japan stood at 12,944 yen per 60 kg, down only 11 percent from the previous year. That means the gap has only spread.


Apart from rice, peaches, grapes and other farm products, which face harsh competition from rivals grown in other prefectures, have also seen, over the past several years, their market trading prices remain stuck nearly 10 percent below the national average.

“Dealers from other prefectures sometimes decline to take products of Fukushima Prefecture when there is too much of products from a good harvest,” said the president of a wholesaler based in the prefectural capital of Fukushima that has dealt in fruits and vegetables from the prefecture for more than 50 years.

“Negative publicity effects remain deep-rooted overseas,” said Koji Furuyama, a 46-year-old farmer who grows peaches and apples in the prefectural capital.

Furuyama has aggressively been venturing into overseas markets. In 2017, for example, he exported peaches to a department store in Thailand.

Following the nuclear disaster, however, food products from Fukushima Prefecture came under embargoes and other import restrictions by 55 nations and regions of the world, 14 of which continue to impose restrictions of some kind or another. 

The central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, have decided to release treated contaminated water from the plant into the ocean.

The water release, which will start as early as spring next year, could cause additional negative publicity effects, Furuyama said.

By comparison, effects of the negative public image are seldom perceptible these days in food items for which product differentiation is feasible, such as by supplying the items in large amounts when there are few shipments of rival products from other prefectures.

Figures of the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market show that vegetables from Fukushima Prefecture, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, have been priced above the national average over the past several years.

Consumers are coming to show more understanding toward the prefecture’s food products.

In a survey conducted by the Consumer Affairs Agency in February 2022, only 6.5 percent of the respondents said they hesitate to buy food products from Fukushima Prefecture for fear of radiation. The percentage is the lowest ever and is below the 10-percent mark for the second straight year.


The government of Fukushima Prefecture has so far allocated large chunks of post-disaster rebuilding budgets for campaigns against negative publicity and for sales promotion.

A centerpiece of the latest years, among other things, is a program for promoting sales on major online marketplaces operated by Inc., Rakuten Group Inc. and Yahoo Japan Corp. Dentsu East Japan Inc., an ad agency, has been commissioned to operate the project.

In fiscal 2020, the program earned proceeds of about 3.4 billion yen, a record since the project started in fiscal 2017, although more than 500 million yen was spent on subsidizing the initial costs for sellers on the marketplaces and issuing discount coupons worth 10 to 30 percent.

In fiscal 2021, the prefectural government project earned sales of more than 2.6 billion yen on a consignment budget of only 360 million yen.

That is not bad in terms of cost-effectiveness. However, that is tempered by the fact that marketing efforts that rely on coupons do not necessarily help empower the production areas, and no information is provided to sellers that would allow them to analyze what kind of customers purchased which products.

“This program is premised on the availability of the post-disaster rebuilding budgets,” said an official in charge of the project. “It is certainly not sustainable.”

“Fukushima Prefecture’s products stuck in low price ranges would need to venture into new markets other than the existing ones, but such a venture can seldom be achieved through public relation efforts of the public sector and an ad agency alone,” said Ryota Koyama, a professor of agricultural economics with Fukushima University.

He added: “More money should be spent on production areas to support efforts for improving breeds and the equipment.”

May 1, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima farmers’ efforts serve to undo TEPCO’s damage

Mobilization of Fukushima farmers. Credit: Fukushima Farmers Federation

April 19, 2022
About Fukushima farmers’ compensation, here is the Tweet thread posted by Mako Oshidori (see note at bottom) translated by us :

“The financial compensation given to farmers after the nuclear accident is designed so that the difference between sales before and after the accident is paid to them as compensation for ‘image damage.

Farmers are developing their own varieties, developing their own sales networks, and conducting experiments to limit the transfer of cesium from the soil to the vegetables.
As a result of all these efforts, when sales returned to pre-accident levels, the compensation became zero.
“Thus, our efforts serve to cancel the damage caused by TEPCO!”

2) Cesium in the soil is still present, so “this is not just an image problem, but real damage.”
Members of the Fukushima Farmers Federation continue to renew their demands for “radiation protection policy for farmers.”

It is TEPCO that benefits from the effects of the slogan “Eating Fukushima products for solidarity” which leads to reducing the amount of compensation received by farmers.
Moreover, if a farmer does not continue to operate in Fukushima, there will be no compensation.

3) Farmers in Fukushima have been trying to find a way to prevent the transfer of cesium from the soil to the crops.
In the years immediately following the accident, vegetables from neighboring counties have been found to have higher levels of cesium than those from Fukushima.

There are still agricultural lands with surface contamination above the standard of the radiation control zone defined by the Ordinance on the Prevention of Radiation Risks.
Negotiations for the establishment of the radiation protection policy for farmers are continuing this year.

The couple Mako and Ken OSHIDORI are known in Japan as manzaishi (comedy duo in the style of folk storytellers). As soon as the Fukushima nuclear accident began in March 2011, Mako decided to attend TEPCO press conferences in order to access information that was dramatically missing from the media. With the help of Ken, her husband and work partner, she became a freelance journalist, one of the most knowledgeable on the Fukushima issue, and feared as such by TEPCO.

April 23, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , | Leave a comment

New research institute to open near Fukushima plant next year

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a meeting of the Reconstruction Promotion Council at the prime minister’s office on March 29.

April 17, 2022

The area devastated by the Fukushima nuclear accident will host an international research and education institute in April next year, which would significantly boost the population around the crippled nuclear power plant.

Hundreds of researchers are expected to work on five areas, including energy, robotics for reactor decommissioning, and agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

The government’s Reconstruction Promotion Council, presided over by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, decided on the outline of the organization on March 29.

The institute will be located in the eastern part of Fukushima Prefecture known as Hamadori as part of the reconstruction efforts from the 2011 nuclear accident.

The government will finalize the site by September after consulting with local officials and residents, but the facility will likely be built around Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, sources said.

The project cost, however, remains unclear.

The institute will have dozens of employees when it opens.

The organization will provide investments and technical assistance to startups and other enterprises to create local jobs, while it will work with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to nurture human resources.

An estimate presented by the Reconstruction Agency at an expert meeting in May 2020 shows the local population will increase 30 to 40 percent due to the migration of some 5,000 people in connection with the institute.

Some have questioned whether the institute is needed, given that many existing national research and development centers are already studying similar topics.

In response, researchers working on selected subjects, such as radioactive materials, at the prefectural offices of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology and the National Institute for Environmental Studies will be redeployed to the new center together with related research equipment and facilities.

Discussions will also begin over consolidation of another robot research facility set up by the industry ministry and the prefecture into the institute.

April 23, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Don’t discharge contaminated water into the sea! Nationwide simultaneous standing in Iwaki

April 13, 2022
On April 13, 2021, one year after the government decided on the disposal of contaminated water stored in tanks from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, in violation of its promise to the fishing industry that no disposal would take place without the understanding of all concerned parties, and ignoring the opposition and cautious opinions of 70% of the local government councils in Fukushima Prefecture and the opposition of many Fukushima residents One year has passed. 
 On April 13, “April 13 National Simultaneous Standing in Iwaki Against Discharge of Contaminated Water from Nuclear Power Plants into the Sea” was held near the entrance intersection of Aquamarine Fukushima at Onahama Port in Iwaki City.
 Since last June, we have been calling for a monthly standing on the 13th of every month, “Don’t pollute the sea any more! Citizens’ Council”, which has been calling for standing on the 13th every month since June last year, started the event after noon with the slogan “Protect our hometown oceans! Protect our fisheries! Protect our children!” From 12:30 p.m., about 20 participants spoke against the discharge of contaminated water into the ocean from their respective standpoints.
 Mr. Oda, the co-chairperson of the event, said, “One year has passed since the government’s decision on April 13 to discharge contaminated water into the ocean, so let’s not pollute the sea any more! He reported on the release of the “Appeal” and the citizens’ groups’ online joint press conference, and appealed, “We will continue to raise our voices to protect our precious daily lives. Mr. Yoneyama of the Citizens’ Council also spoke with the Citizens’ Circle to Monitor Nuclear Regulations, FoE Japan, an international environmental NGO, and Don’t Pollute the Sea Anymore! The report was based on the “Submission of a written request and negotiations with TEPCO and the government demanding the cessation of the discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant” held on March 29 by four organizations: the Citizens’ Council of Japan, the Kansai Liaison Conference for the Evacuation Plan, and the Kansai Liaison Conference for the Evacuation Plan. The speaker appealed to the audience. Prefectural Councilor Furuichi also reported on how the Fukushima Prefectural Assembly continued to review the “petition for a cautious response to the application for prior consent regarding the ALPS process water discharge facility” submitted to the assembly, and stressed the significance of citizens’ continued opposition activities. Mr. Yuzuru Suzuki, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo and former director of the Fisheries Experiment Station, also spoke about what would happen to fish if tritium and other contaminated water were to be released, saying that they are currently in the process of collecting data before the release of water. He expressed his determination that even if the release of contaminated water were to be forced, he would continue marine research to clarify the effects of radiation and force the cancellation of the project. After this, citizens continued to demonstrate their will by making one appeal after another.
 The public comment on the draft review report will be held once the review meeting for the “Application for Approval of Changes to the Implementation Plan” for the basic design of the “ALPS process water” dilution and discharge system and related facilities, which TEPCO applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority at the end of last year, is completed on March 15. After that, if Fukushima Prefecture, Okuma Town, and Futaba Town give their approval to the “Request for Prior Approval,” construction will begin in June.
 The oceans of our hometown, the oceans of Japan, and the oceans of the world must not be further polluted by radiation.
 Let’s not allow the construction of the discharge facility to start in June, and let’s spread our voices of opposition and our standing circle across the country and the world like a ripple to a giant wave in order to stop the discharge of radioactive materials one year later.
 On May 13, together with standing, we will prepare and call for an action to demand the halt of the start of construction of the discharge facility.
 Let us all protect the oceans of our hometown, the oceans of Japan, and the oceans of the world.

April 17, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Contaminated soil piles up in vast Fukushima cleanup project

March 18, 2022

More than a decade of decontamination efforts around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has allowed thousands of evacuees to return home. But there are still some areas off limits due to the radiation levels. And as contaminated soil piles up, former residents are wondering when, or if, they will go back.

The cleanup work started soon after the nuclear accident in March 2011. The nuclear disaster discharged radioactive particles across Fukushima and neighboring prefectures. More than 70 percent of Fukushima’s municipalities were registering radiation levels above the national safety standard. Decontamination was key to making the region safe again and reviving local industries.

Workers have been removing radioactive topsoil, grass, trees, and building materials. The scale and expense of the project is vast. The Japanese government has already spent more than $43 billion on decontamination efforts.

Decontamination work started soon after the nuclear accident.

Storage facility worries residents

The contaminated soil and waste was piling up in residential areas and hindering reconstruction efforts, so the government decided to build temporary storage facilities on land stretching across the towns of Futaba and Okuma which host the nuclear plant. It occupies a 1,600-hectare site—nearly five times the size of New York’s Central Park.

Large amounts of contaminated soil and waste are brought in daily to the interim storage facility.

Since 2015, about 1,000 trucks have been arriving daily and dumping around 7,000 bags of soil. The Environment Ministry says workers have moved almost 13 million cubic meters of it so far.

The government introduced a law requiring the soil to be moved out of Fukushima Prefecture by 2045. But the people of Fukushima, especially those who used to live near the site, are worried it will become a permanent fixture.

“There is concern that this will become a final disposal site, but I understand that it’s inevitable that people will have to accept it,” says an 84-year-old man who once lived on the site. “I don’t think I will be alive in 30 years, but I want them to put my land back the way it was.”

Promising research

In a bid to reduce the overall amount of waste, crews are sorting the material at the facility to separate what can be burned. It is hoped that some of the soil can be reused.

Technology is being developed to allow the re-use of contaminated soil.

The Environment Ministry is looking at whether it can use the soil to grow vegetables or build roads. Research on food cultivation in the area has found radiation levels below official standards.

So far, the research has been limited to one district of Fukushima. The Environment Ministry is planning to commission further studies aim to help people understand what’s possible and, most importantly, what’s safe.

A final disposal site

The biggest challenge for the national government is to find suitable land outside of Fukushima for final disposal. Officials have been running a public awareness campaign to try to find support for a location. So far, no municipality has volunteered to be the host.

Despite the lack of progress, the government is adamant it remains committed to its deadline.

“We have promised the local government we will dispose of the waste outside the prefecture by March 2045,” says Environment Ministry official Hattori Hiroshi. “Since it is required by law, we will fulfill the promise. Of course, we are fully aware of the voices of concern from local people.”

High radiation zones remain

Officials say the project to transfer contaminated soil to an interim storage site will be largely completed by the end of this month, but in parts of Fukushima—including the towns of Futaba and Okuma—the radiation levels are relatively high and full-scale decontamination work has not yet begun. And more than 30,000 people still are not able to return their homes.

Barricades are set up around a “difficult-to-return” zone.

Not one of the former residents of Futaba has returned to live there full-time. Local officials are hoping to allow some back in June for the first time. But an official survey found that more than 60 percent of the former residents have no intention of returning. Only about one in ten said they want to return. Almost a quarter of respondents say they haven’t made their minds up yet.

Many of the evacuees have already restarted their lives elsewhere. The central and local governments are hoping they can attract new residents to the area and are offering $17,000 to anyone who makes the move.

But for those former residents undecided about returning, safety concerns are paramount. They want to know if the decontamination work will be completed and the soil will be moved. They also want more clarity about the decommissioning work at the crippled plant. The government has promised that will be completed by 2051 at the latest, but details are scant.

March 20, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Contaminated soil from nuclear power plant, destination yet to be determined…

March 12, 2022

Seven years have passed since the operation of the interim storage facilities that surround TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant began. The delivery of contaminated soil from the decontamination of the nuclear accident is expected to be almost completed by the end of this month, except for that from the difficult-to-return zone. Although Fukushima Prefecture has legislated that the contaminated soil must be removed from the prefecture by 2045, the destination of the soil has yet to be decided.

After the nuclear accident, more than 17 million cubic meters of contaminated soil and waste from decontamination in Fukushima Prefecture have been generated. Because it is unrealistic to dispose of such a large amount of waste, the government hopes to reuse the contaminated soil, which has a relatively low concentration of radioactive materials, as a “resource” for public works projects and agricultural land. The target is soil with a level of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram or less, which currently accounts for three-fourths of the total. Furthermore, it is estimated that up to 97% of the material will be reusable by the year 45 due to natural attenuation and other factors.

 However, at this point, only a little less than 1 million cubic meters will be used for a demonstration project in Iitate Village, Iitate Prefecture, to demonstrate the use of agricultural land. It would be nice if it could be used for large-scale public works projects such as port reclamation, but in this day and age, there is no need,” said a Ministry of the Environment official.

Eleven years after the earthquake, there is not even a clear destination for the contaminated soil. Residents are expected to protest if attempts are made to reuse the soil, and zero governors have responded that they would be willing to accept it. In municipalities that do not have interim storage facilities, the contaminated soil is “stored on-site” and can be found in residential areas in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Survey of 46 prefectural governors: Zero governors responded that they were “willing to accept” the waste.

 It is not easy to gain the understanding of residents. In 2006, the Japanese government planned to use the contaminated soil for a demonstration project to widen an expressway in Minamisoma City. However, local residents protested one after another, saying that it was the same as final disposal and that their crops would be damaged by harmful rumors, and in March of last year, the government informed the residents of its decision to abandon the project.

 The residents of the area were not happy with the decision.

March 16, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Man who shot famed tsunami video turned lens on Fukushima’s future

Takashi Hokoi, right, and Yuichi Harada talk amid cherry trees on March 6 in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.

March 15, 2022

NAMIE, Fukushima — The schoolyard of an elementary school is empty of children, with only rusted playground equipment left on the barren soil. An elderly man looks wistfully around the shrine with cherry blossoms in full bloom.

“During cherry blossom season, children used to come here on field trips,” he says.

It is a scene from a 2016 documentary that chronicled the lives of people in Fukushima Prefecture affected by the March 2011 disaster in the context of the cherry blossom viewing season.

Titled “Fukushima Sakura Kiko” (Fukushima cherry blossom travel story), it was filmed in the spring of 2015 in the Odaka district of Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, by Takashi Hokoi, a former NHK news cameraman who currently is pursuing a career as an artist based in Fukushima.

The Odaka district, about 15 kilometers north of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, was still under an evacuation order at the time.

Seven years have passed since Hokoi, now 37, shot the documentary.

“I can hear the sound of a lawn mower,” Hokoi said with a slight smile when he revisited the district earlier this month.

With the evacuation order lifted, there are signs of life again, such as windows with open curtains. He knows that many people have not yet returned, but it is a welcome change.

The documentary was widely shown when it was released. However, Hokoi has a much more well-known video to his name, one that was circulated all over the world.

It was also one of the reasons that Hokoi left the world of journalism.

A foaming tsunami wave powers upstream in a river and floods the Sendai Plain. Houses and cars are instantly swallowed up by the wall of water.

The scene was broadcast live from an NHK helicopter at about 3:50 p.m. on March 11, 2011. Recording the destruction was Hokoi, who was in his first year as a cameraman.

Hokoi was working for the NHK Fukushima broadcasting station. He was at Sendai Airport on the day of the disaster. From an NHK helicopter, he was dumbstruck by the scene below and aimed his camera to the ground.

Tsunami waves crashed over main roads and swirled around, and houses were washed away or on fire. As he tried to come to grips with the reality-defying scene, one thought pervaded his mind: There must be people in those houses, in those cars.

The shocking video was given an award by the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association in September 2011. But Hokoi felt guilty receiving such praise. “All I did was escape to a safe place and film what I was told to,” he thought.

In 2013, NHK spoke to him about a transfer. But he decided to resign, and remained in Fukushima. He had a sense of guilt about leaving the disaster-hit area just two years after shooting such scenes and seeing its future as somebody else’s problem.

After leaving NHK, the idea for the documentary featuring cherry blossoms and people in Fukushima Prefecture came to him, all because of one person he had known.

Yuichi Harada was the third-generation owner of a clock shop and chairman of a local chamber of commerce and industry in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture. In 2014, while Hokoi was planning to create a video about the disaster at the request of his university, Harada guided him around the town, which was still under evacuation orders.

Harada, now 72, had evacuated to the city of Nihonmatsu to the west, where he organized a community of displaced Namie residents and negotiated with TEPCO over compensation. All the while, he also continued tending to cherry trees along a river in Namie with other volunteers.

“If someone returns to the town and the cherry trees in bloom bring back memories, it might change how they feel,” Harada said.

That really hit home for Hokoi, that someone who had lost their beloved hometown could be so optimistic, believing that one day it would return.

Hokoi decided to depict present-day Fukushima through cherry blossoms, the symbol of spring and hope.

Since this spring, Hokoi has been working on a sequel to “Sakura Kiko.” He is motivated because, while interest in Fukushima Prefecture may be fading, the situation there is now more complicated.

Harada continues to look after the cherry trees today. As people could not return to Namie, he was never able to restart his business, and his store was torn down about six years ago.

The evacuation order for his hometown has since been lifted, but Harada has given up on ever returning to Namie. He thinks about moving to Ibaraki Prefecture, where his eldest daughter lives, but his mother, now in her 90s, wants him to stay in Nihonmatsu.

“Life is hard, isn’t it?” Harada said with a sad smile as he gazed at the cherry trees with Hokoi.

The strength of our desires does not necessarily make them come true. That is the harsh reality of disasters. “I want to continue following the lives of people in Fukushima Prefecture and try to find what reconstruction really means,” Hokoi said.

He will continue to face the disaster head-on.


■ Evacuation orders

Soon after the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, the government designated an area within a 20-kilometer radius as a “warning zones” (evacuation order zones).

Areas outside that zone experiencing high levels of radiation were designated as “planned evacuation zones,” and the government demanded that residents in both zones evacuate.

The range of evacuation orders as of April 2012 extended to all or part of 11 municipalities, but that number has since decreased to the present-day seven.

Within those seven municipalities are areas designated as “difficult-to-return zones,” some of which are being developed as key reconstruction bases to provide a foothold for returning residents.

March 16, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Years without forestry education as Fukushima decontamination falls short

Mar 14, 2022

The March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant caused serious damage to forests in the surrounding areas. Even now, 11 years after the accident, little has been done to decontaminate them.

In some areas, projects are underway to restore the satoyama, areas of mountain forest maintained by residents of adjacent communities, but the airborne radiation levels in those areas are still not low enough that children can safely enter, according to a local community leader.

One such area is the Yamakiya district in the town of Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture. Walking trails in the Daini Oyako no Mori forest are covered by snow, and sunny slopes are lined with zelkova trees.

Yellow and pink vinyl wrapped around the trees indicates the year they were planted by local elementary school students. At the end of March, it will be five years since the evacuation order for the Yamakiya district was lifted. But even now, the voices of children have not returned to the mountains.

In 2016, satoyama restoration projects were launched in the prefecture to improve the forest environment. Decontamination, reforestation and radiation monitoring were carried out in an integrated manner in the mountain and forest areas that had been used by residents.

The projects have been carried out based on the comprehensive forest restoration policy for Fukushima Prefecture, which was compiled jointly by the Reconstruction Agency, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and the Environment Ministry. A total of approximately 800 hectares in 14 municipalities were selected as model areas, including forest parks and walking trails, where fallen leaves and other sediment was removed and thinned.

Toshio Hirono looks at a sign noting a commemorative tree planting by Yamakiya Elementary School’s forestry club at the entrance of Daini Oyako no Mori forest in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture.

In the past, the forestry club of Yamakiya Elementary School was active in Daini Oyako no Mori. But since the nuclear accident, the forest had not been cared for and was in a dilapidated state — with thickets growing over the planted zelkova trees.

The town and the local residents chose Daini Oyako no Mori as a site for the project in order to revive the area as a site where children could study forestry. The project was launched in December 2016, prior to the planned lifting of the evacuation order for Yamakiya district at the end of March 2017.

The project covers an area of about 2 hectares. In fiscal years 2016 and 2017, planted cedar and zelkova trees were thinned and cleared, and trees that had fallen due to snow were removed. Logs were spread on slopes as a measure to control topsoil runoff.

Decontamination work was conducted in fiscal 2018. Leaves and branches that had fallen to the ground and other accumulated organic matter were removed in areas covering 5,595 square meters of the forest, including an open square and walking trails. The zelkova trees could die if their surfaces were stripped, so the work focused on clearing the grass and thickets.

Comparing the radiation levels in September 2018, before the decontamination work, and in November the same year, after the work, the average radiation level in the open square had been reduced by 22%, to 0.69 microsievert per hour. Based on the result, the central government concluded that “the decontamination work contributed to creating an environment ready for the resumption of forest study activities.”

However, even after the decontamination process, the airborne radiation levels were far from the central government’s long-term target of 0.23 microsieverts per hour. At some monitoring points, radiation levels exceeded 1 microsievert per hour.

“The area is not ready for children to go back,” said Toshio Hirono, 71, leader of the Yamakiya Elementary School’s forestry club.

Residents are demanding that the forest, where children once enjoyed the greenery, be restored to its original state.

The forestry club, which did its main work in Daini Oyako no Mori, was known both within and outside of the prefecture for its progressive activities that took advantage of the abundant natural resources. At the entrance of the forest, a signboard notes a commemorative tree planting by the group to mark a national commendation they received.

Children belonged to the group in the fourth through sixth grade, and their activities were diverse. They processed thinned cedar trees to create a walking path in their school’s front yard, built bridges over a river and moat in nearby mountains and made a mallet by hand for pounding rice cakes. They learned about the importance of nature by collecting mushrooms and tara buds, and eating rice cakes kneaded with burdock leaves.

These activities came to a halt after the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant. Before the accident, Yamakiya Elementary School had 30 to 40 children. But the number of children decreased due to the establishment of an evacuation zone, and the school has been closed since fiscal 2019.

“If it hadn’t been for the nuclear accident, there would have been so much more I wanted to do,” said Hirono.

Hirono has been serving as the third leader of the group for about 20 years, without a chance to pass on his position to a successor due to the suspension of its activities. He feels that although Daini Oyako no Mori has been decontaminated, the level of radiation has not gone down enough.

“If there is even a slight concern, we cannot allow our children to go into the mountains,” he said with a sigh.

Even after the model project ended, Hirono continues to voluntarily clear the undergrowth along the walking trails every fall. He understands that decontaminating all the forests in the town will not be easy, but believes that unless the radiation levels in the surrounding areas of Daini Oyako no Mori are lowered, residents will not be reassured.

“It is the central government’s responsibility to decontaminate until the residents are satisfied,” he said.

March 16, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Radiation still hitting flora, fauna in forests in Fukushima

Radiation levels in mountain forests in Fukushima Prefecture remain relatively high compared with residential areas that have undergone decontamination work. The photo was taken in Namie in the prefecture in December. (Keitaro Fukuchi)

March 11, 2022

SENDAI—On a chilly night in early February, Masatoshi Suzuki hauled a black plastic bag containing four macaque carcasses into his lab at Tohoku University.

The monkeys were killed as agricultural pests, but for researchers like Suzuki, the animals are invaluable specimens to determine the effects of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Nearly 11 years after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, questions remain over the extent of damage to animals and plants caused by the radioactive substances released in the accident.

Suzuki, who specializes in radiobiology, hopes his studies will provide clues on the possible impact of the radiation on humans.

He and his colleagues have studied 709 macaques in Fukushima Prefecture since 2012. Of all the wild species available for study in the contaminated areas, macaques are most similar to humans.

Masatoshi Suzuki, a researcher of radiobiology, at his lab at Tohoku University in Sendai on Feb. 8 (Keitaro Fukuchi)

The four dead macaques were given to Suzuki by farmers who destroyed the animals several hours earlier in Namie, a town that lies about 4 kilometers from the crippled nuclear plant. Parts of Namie are still off-limit due to high radiation levels.

Other primates used in the studies have come from off-limit areas in Minami-Soma, a city north of the nuclear plant, and elsewhere in the prefecture.

The researchers dissect the carcasses to determine if the livers, lungs, thyroid glands and muscle tissues were affected by radiation from the nuclear accident.

Deformations in plant lice and fir trees have been reported since the nuclear disaster started.

But Suzuki said he has seen no credible reports of such physical abnormalities in wild animals, including macaques, as well as domestic livestock.

However, damage might be occurring at the cellular level in the animals.

Background radiation levels in most of the mountain forests in Fukushima and neighboring prefectures are higher than those in residential areas, which have undergone decontamination procedures.

In the nature-filled areas that have not been decontaminated, macaques continue to be exposed to radioactive materials while feeding on polluted fruits and other food sources.

According to Suzuki’s studies, the muscles showed the highest concentration of radioactive cesium among all of the macaques’ organs.

The average radioactivity level in the thigh muscles was about 40,000 becquerels per macaque captured in Namie in fiscal 2013.

In fiscal 2018, the figure was down to about 20,000 becquerels per macaque.

The researchers found that macaques exposed to higher radiation doses had slightly fewer blood-producing cells in bone marrow compared with the animals with lower exposure readings. The nuclear accident may have compromised some macaques’ ability to make blood.

The researchers used the density of radioactive cesium in the macaques’ muscles and in soil at areas where they were captured to calculate the level of radiation doses the animals were exposed to both internally and externally.

Suzuki also said they detected chromosomal abnormalities resulting from radiation damage to genes.

He said radiation exposure can increase the stress level in one organ, but the same dose could have the opposite effect in a different organ. One possible reason for this is that the animal’s defense system was galvanized to curb stress levels following exposure.

Suzuki emphasized the need to continue monitoring macaques and other animals to determine the impact from prolonged radiation exposure.

“So far, we have discovered no significant health hazards in the individual macaques studied,” he said. “But they continue to display changes in their cells and organs, albeit minor ones. We do not know what these changes will translate into in the long run.”


A study by other scientists showed that radioactive cesium from the nuclear accident could be traveling through food chains in the environment.

“If we can track down the movement of radioactive cesium in the food chain, the findings would show us its cycling mechanism in the ecosystem,” said Sota Tanaka, a researcher of radioecology at Akita Prefectural University.

He believes that studying the cycling mechanism of cesium will help to predict its long-term movement and lead to improved use of resources in mountain forests and the rebuilding of agriculture in contaminated areas.

Joint research by Tanaka and Taro Adachi, professor of applied entomology at the Tokyo University of Agriculture, found that radioactivity levels have decreased year after year in rice-field grasshoppers in Iitate, a village west of the stricken nuclear plant that still has some off-limit areas.

In 2016, all of the grasshoppers monitored had radioactivity readings below 100 becquerels per kilogram.

But garden web spiders in Iitate showed a wide range of readings from one year to the next. Their radioactivity levels were actually higher in 2015 than in 2014.

In 2016, one spider had a reading of more than 300 becquerels per kilogram.

Radioactive cesium remains on the ground even after rainfalls.

Plants rarely absorb cesium through their roots, but can become contaminated by falling cesium particles. And the researchers believe the cesium levels in grasshoppers have dropped steadily because they feed on the leaves of living plants.

As for the spiders, they are eating bugs that have high cesium levels because they feed on contaminated dead leaves mixed with contaminated soil, according to Tanaka.

That may be why the eight-legged predators are showing higher radioactivity readings than the grasshoppers, he said.

Their study also found that earthworms had radioactivity levels higher than those for the grasshoppers and spiders, likely because they are eating contaminated soil and withered leaves.

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

Japan to finish radioactive soil transfer to interim storage site

“Finished” is only government propaganda, reality differs!
With radioactive waste being kept “temporarily” at 830 locations in six municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, stuck in limbo with no early prospect of being shipped to interim storage facilities ahead of a government-set deadline. The volume of contaminated soil and other radioactive materials awaiting shipment totals 8,460 cubic meters.

The interim storage site for radioactive waste and the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant

Mar 13, 2022

Fukushima – The government is set to complete by March 31 work on transferring radioactive soil collected from areas polluted by the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture to an interim storage facility as part of the decontamination effort.

The facility, straddling the Fukushima towns of Futaba and Okuma, surrounds Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the site of the triple meltdown that followed a massive earthquake and tsunami 11 years ago.

Under the law, such soil will be transferred to a permanent disposal site outside the prefecture by 2045. The final site has yet to be decided, however.

Since the amount of soil is massive, the Environment Ministry is planning to use some of it for public works and other projects across the country.

“We’ll reach a major juncture” by completing the transfer, a senior ministry official said. “From now on, we’d like to foster people’s understanding on the reuse (of the soil).”

The 1,600-hectare interim storage site, about the same size as Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, is slated to hold about 14 million cubic meters of soil collected through decontamination work.

Since 2015, such soil collected from around Fukushima has been taken to the site after being stored at temporary storage facilities.

Over 1,800 local landowners, including residents of the towns, cooperated with the central government to secure land to establish the storage facility, mainly by selling their properties to the state.

Many landowners “made tough decisions to give up their properties for the sake of reconstruction,” Okuma Mayor Jun Yoshida said. “Many were my acquaintances, including friends from school, the person who arranged my marriage and workers at the town office,” Yoshida added.

The ministry plans to use only soil with relatively low levels of radioactive concentrations for public works, farmland and other purposes. It hopes that three-fourths of the total will be reused.

A demonstration project to grow flowers and vegetables on farmland using such soil has already started in the Nagadoro district in the Fukushima village of Iitate.

Meanwhile, projects to utilize the soil for road construction have been scrapped due to opposition from local residents in the cities of Nihonmatsu and Minamisoma, both in Fukushima Prefecture.

In May last year, the ministry started holding meetings to discuss the recycling of such soil with the general public to win wider understanding. Such events took place in Tokyo and the city of Nagoya.

The next session is scheduled to be held in the city of Fukuoka this month.

Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa stressed that electricity generated by the Fukushima No. 1 plant had been consumed in the greater Tokyo area. Reuse of soil collected through decontamination work “will not proceed unless people who benefited (from the Fukushima plant) understand that fact,” he said.

“It is difficult for people living far from Fukushima to empathize” with those having to deal with tainted soil, said Hiroshi Kainuma, associate professor at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies.

Kainuma said the government should proceed while checking constantly whether its communication with the public on the issue is appropriate.

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

11 years on: Fukushima governor wants all evacuation orders to be lifted

Mar 11, 2022

Fukushima – The government should lift all evacuation orders issued after the March 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture, Gov. Masao Uchibori said in an interview.

Uchibori welcomed the central government’s pledge to ensure that all evacuees from the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant may return home by the end of the decade, if they wish.

“However, there are many challenges such as handling land and housing of residents who do not intend to return, and working out details of decontamination methods,” Uchibori said Monday.

“The situation differs by area. We will urge the central government to carefully listen to the intentions of each municipality and act in a responsible way to lift evacuation orders in all difficult-to-return areas and reconstruct such zones,” he said.

When asked about the central government’s plan to release treated radioactive water from the nuclear plant into the ocean, he said that he will urge the government to carefully give explanations to all people concerned and to give out more information to prevent any more harmful rumors.

“There are opinions in Japan and abroad opposing the water release and calling for the careful handling of the matter,” he said.

On the handling of contaminated soil from Fukushima, Uchibori said that it is the central government’s obligation to move it out of the prefecture for final disposal by 2045.

On last summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics dubbed the “Reconstruction Games,” the governor said that the event became a legacy although there were some restrictions.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was different from what we had imagined, but the prefecture’s products, such as peaches, were highly evaluated by people related to the Games,” he said.

“By utilizing the connections we gained at the Games, we will work to expand exchanges through sports, such as by hosting large-scale events and having children and athletes interact with each other.”

“We also want to further share Fukushima’s attractiveness both domestically and internationally through exchanges,” he added.

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Radioactive waste stuck at 830 sites with nowhere to go

A temporary storage site for contaminated soil resulting from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The bags of radioactive waste are due to be shipped to an interim storage facility. The photo was taken in February.

March 3, 2022

Vast quantities of topsoil collected during decontamination work after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster are stuck in limbo at hundreds of sites with no early prospect of being shipped to interim storage facilities ahead of a government-set deadline.

The soil is being kept “temporarily” at 830 locations in six municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture.

The city of Koriyama has 582 sites containing about 6,000 cubic meters of waste, followed by Fukushima with about 2,000 cubic meters at 200 locations.

Significant delays are expected in shipping the soil even though the government had planned to complete the operation by the end of this month as required by law.

The volume of contaminated soil and other radioactive materials awaiting shipment totals 8,460 cubic meters, which is the equivalent of 130 trucks each weighing 10 tons.

A key reason for the delay is that new houses were built on land where contaminated soil was buried as negotiations over storage sites in many communities dragged on. This accounts for about 50 percent of the cases cited by municipalities in a survey by the prefectural government last September.

About 30 percent of cases resulted from the refusal of landowners to bear the transportation costs, while about 10 percent are due to an inability by the authorities to contact the landowners.

As time passed, ownership of land tracts changed due to sales transactions and inheritance issues. Some landowners had no idea their plots contained radioactive material.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, shouldered the cost of the cleanup.

But the owners of the homes in question are obliged to pick up the tab for relocating so that the buried waste can be removed, according to the Environment Ministry.

Officials in the six local governments said the radiation levels at the 830 sites pose no health hazard as the readings were below 0.23 microsieverts per hour, the threshold for the need to decontaminate.

Decontamination work in affected communities in the prefecture wound up by March 2018.

The waste from those operations is required by law to be shipped outside the prefecture for final disposal by 2045.

Until then, the interim storage facility is all that is available.

The central government and Fukushima prefectural authorities have been locked in talks for the past 18 months on what to do with contaminated soil that cannot be moved any time soon.

The Environment Ministry called on local governments to continue managing contaminated soil that is deemed difficult to move in line with a directive issued in December 2020 that made it their responsibility.

The special measures law concerning the handling of radioactive materials stipulates that municipalities, which oversaw the cleanup, are responsible for managing the contaminated materials.

But the ministry’s directive upset local governments, which operate with limited manpower and funds.

Officials with the Fukushima and Sukagawa city governments held informal talks with the ministry last October to request that the central government collect, manage and transport the contaminated soil.

“We cannot manage these sites forever as the number of our employees is dwindling,” one official said.

Kencho Kawatsu, who chairs a committee with oversight for the environmental safety of the interim storage facility, underlined the need for the central and Fukushima prefectural governments to share in the responsibility for managing the temporary storage sites with municipalities.

“If the radioactive soil is scattered, it could fuel rumors that prove harmful to Fukushima municipalities,” said Kawatsu, a guest professor of environmental policy and radiation science at Fukushima University.

He suggested centralizing data on the issue to prevent such an occurrence.

March 4, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

The status of the interim storage facility for storing waste from decontamination is disclosed

February 22, 2022

On the 22nd, the progress of the interim storage facility for the waste from the decontamination of Fukushima Prefecture was shown to the press.
The delivery of waste from areas other than the difficult-to-return areas will be almost finished next month.

The Ministry of the Environment is storing decontamination waste from Fukushima Prefecture in an interim storage facility located in Okuma and Futaba towns, and the site was opened to the press on the 22nd.
One of the storage sites for soil from the decontamination process is 15 meters high and 900,000 cubic meters of soil is being piled up.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, 92% of the 1,400 cubic meters of decontamination waste generated in areas other than the difficult-to-return areas had been brought in as of November last year, and the Ministry expects to finish bringing in almost all of it by the end of next month.

In addition, waste generated in the areas where decontamination is being carried out in preparation for the lifting of evacuation orders will continue to be delivered.

It has been decided that the final disposal of the waste will be outside of Fukushima Prefecture by 2045, and the Ministry of the Environment hopes to reuse the soil from the decontamination for public projects.

Mr. Masanori Shoko, deputy director of the Fukushima Regional Environment Office, said, “It is important to gain nationwide understanding for the reuse of the soil, and we have been holding dialogue meetings, but we feel that the understanding of the younger generation is an issue. We would like to continue our efforts so that they will be interested in the final disposal outside of the prefecture.

February 28, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

46% of school lunches use ingredients from Fukushima Prefecture, the highest rate since 2010

February 10, 2022

The percentage of prefectural food ingredients used in school lunches in Fukushima Prefecture this year was 46.0% (up 1.8 points from the previous year), the highest since 2010, before the Great East Japan Earthquake. The prefecture’s Board of Education has been supporting the prefecture’s dietary education. The prefectural board of education attributes the increase to efforts to increase opportunities to use the prefecture’s food, including the provision of the “Fukushima Health Support Menu” designed by a company that supports dietary education. The prefectural board of education announced the results on September 9.

 The graph below shows the rate of utilization. In fiscal 2012, the year following the earthquake and the nuclear accident, the percentage dropped to 18.3% due to concerns about radioactive materials, but it has been on a recovery trend since then.

 The utilization rate by region is as shown in the table below. The utilization rate by region is as shown in [Table]. Minamiaizu has the highest rate at 59.1%, which is due to the direct provision of foodstuffs in cooperation with farmers. The prefectural board of education hopes to expand the good practice to the entire prefecture.

 In terms of food items, beans were the most popular at 66.5%, due to the fact that they can be easily incorporated into side dishes and soups as tofu and natto. Rice and other grains accounted for 63.9%, followed by fruits at 54.2%.

 The survey was conducted at a total of 280 facilities, including public schools, municipal community kitchens, and prefectural schools that provide complete school lunches, and looked at the percentage of prefectural food ingredients in the food items used in a daily school lunch over a total of 10 days from June 14 to 18 and November 15 to 19 last year.

February 23, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment