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Forests affected by Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident

November 22, 2020

Forestry was once a thriving industry in Fukushima – until the 2011 nuclear disaster struck. More than 70 percent of the prefecture is covered with trees, but large areas have been abandoned or neglected.

“It’s regrettable. I didn’t even imagine things were so bad,” says forester Akimoto Kimio, who visited a plantation in Tomioka, about 10 kilometers away from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Ever since an earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple meltdown at the facility, the forest has been abandoned. Some of its most prized pine trees, more than 50 years old, have died.

Akimoto, 72, heads a local forestry cooperative that was relocated elsewhere in the prefecture following the nuclear accident. But after nine years and eight months, it returned to Tomioka on November 4.

Akimoto Kimio, the head of the Futaba district forestry cooperative.

The forestry cooperative ships timber and manages maintenance, such as thinning out trees. Akimoto oversees about 2,000 hectares, 60 percent of which is in areas subject to an evacuation order due to high radiation levels.

His cooperative used to have 20 workers. At one point, the number dwindled to just two. Akimoto has worked hard to keep it afloat, negotiating with the central government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company on decontamination work and compensation. He believes forest preservation will one day help to ensure evacuated residents can return.

Unattended areas of woodland can pose various risks, including fires. A contaminated forest would be particularly hazardous in the event of a landslide, because the mud flow is likely to contain radioactive substances.

n 2017, a forest fire near Tomioka burned down trees on a 75-hectare-plot. It took 11 days to extinguish.

“Our mission is to take good care of our hometown forests and enhance the surrounding environment,” says Akimoto on the day his cooperative returned to Tomioka.

“We will help lay the groundwork to ensure residents can return worry-free. We hope many will come home.”

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/backstories/1383/

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

In Rural Fukushima, ‘The Border Between Monkeys And Humans Has Blurred’

Shuichi Kanno, 79, walks in front of his home at dusk. Kanno has been dealing with hordes of macaque monkeys in his neighborhood in Japan. They frequently wake him up as they climb over his roof in the early morning hours.

September 10, 2020

Shuichi Kanno rips tape off the top of a large cardboard box at his house in the mountains in Fukushima prefecture in Japan. He opens the box and rustles around to pull out pack after pack of long, thin Roman candle fireworks. The words “Animal Exterminating Firework” are written in Japanese on the side of each canister.

Kanno has been battling hordes of macaque monkeys that have encroached upon his neighborhood in a rural area of Minamisoma. These fireworks are his main deterrent — not to cause the monkeys any physical harm, but to scare them away with a loud bang. That is, until they regain their confidence and come back a few days later, which they do like clockwork, Kanno says.

Kanno stacks fireworks on his coffee table to distribute to neighbors. The fireworks make a loud noise meant to scare, not injure, the monkeys.

“In the early morning while I’m sleeping, just when I’m about to wake up, I hear the noise,” the 79-year-old says in Japanese as he stacks the fireworks on his living room table. “The sound of the monkeys running around on the roof, getting into the gardens, eating all my food. I have to fight them.”

Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated this area nine years ago, fleeing plumes of radioactive material after three reactors exploded at the Daiichi nuclear power plant, one of the most serious nuclear disasters in history. Whole towns and neighborhoods like Kanno’s were left empty of human life for years — and, much like Chernobyl, nature started to reclaim the space. Plants poke through sidewalks and buildings, while wild boar, raccoons and foxes roam the streets. But in recent years, many evacuation orders have lifted and people have started to return, meaning humans and animals are having to figure out new ways to coexist — or not.

A macaque monkey in a tree in Fukushima prefecture. After the 2011 nuclear disaster, towns and neighborhoods in Fukushima were left devoid of humans for years, and nature started to reclaim the space.

“The monkeys never used to come here, but after the disaster, the border between monkeys and humans has blurred,” Kanno explains. “The houses were empty, but the gardens were still growing — plums, pears, chestnuts, persimmons. It was a wonderland for monkeys, an all-you-can-eat buffet. And they remembered that.”

His neighborhood is on the very edge of the evacuation area, relatively far from Daiichi. People stayed away for only a few years, but by the time they came back, the monkeys had become comfortable. And, Kanno points out, half the houses are still empty and only older people came back. They just don’t have the numbers they need to win the battle against the monkeys without backup.

From left: Shuichi Kanno, Shigeko Hoshino, Hiroyuki Shima and Hachiro Endo are neighbors who moved back to Fukushima after the nuclear disaster and who get regular visits from monkeys that eat fruits and vegetables from their gardens.

That is where the fireworks come in, subsidized by the local government after residents complained. The governments here have provided several different kinds of tools, such as wild boar traps and electric fences for farmers, to help communities with animal problems.

Yuriko Kanno, 75, Shuichi’s wife, comes into the living room, looks at the pile of fireworks and laughs. “I’ve been worried that this village is going to become like that movie, the monkey planet one,” she says, referring to Planet of the Apes. “I’ve seen it — it could happen!”

She walks away giggling. Shuichi Kanno is laughing too. The monkeys are annoying, yes, but they’re also a source of entertainment for the aging residents, he concedes.

Yuriko Kanno, 75, is amused by the battle between her husband and the monkeys.

“Look, I think they’re cute. I would absolutely never hurt them,” he says. “None of this is their fault. It’s nuclear power’s fault. It’s the fault of humans.”

Shuichi Kanno is a leader in the neighborhood, and he’s in charge of distributing the fireworks to any of his neighbors who want them. The neighbors all have to sign an agreement saying they understand the dangers and — most importantly, he says — that they will not hurt any animals.

He loads the fireworks into the trunk of his car and drives down forest roads from house to house, dropping off packs of fireworks at every stop. As he drives, he points to all the natural beauty in the area. The nuclear disaster didn’t just change his relationship with monkeys, he says.

“I loved hiking, and foraging for wild vegetables, finding wild mushrooms. But now it’s so dangerous,” Kanno explains, referring to the high levels of radioactive cesium still present in the dense forests here. “We can’t have a relationship with nature anymore. It’s gone.”

Kanno drives his truck down a main road in his neighborhood, chasing monkeys that he saw scampering around his house not long ago.

He pulls up to the house of Hachiro Endo, 77, whose family has been in the area for generations. The home has a beautiful garden in front and long strands of drying persimmons hanging in the garage.

Endo is delighted by the delivery. He has gone through his entire stockpile protecting his garden. “I’m alert all the time,” Endo sighs. “The monkeys, they’ve taken over my life.”

He says he remembers a time when he was little and his grandfather tried to lure the monkeys down from the mountains into the village, hoping to boost tourism to the area by becoming a monkey town. He was never successful — the macaques were too afraid of humans to come down and stay.

“If only he could see it now,” he says with a laugh.

A troop of monkeys scampers across a road in Fukushima prefecture.

A few days later, Kanno is out on monkey patrol. He has just seen a troop of monkeys running from his house out into the neighborhood. He’s wearing knee-high rubber boots, a bright orange jacket and a baseball cap while clutching a firework in one hand and the steering wheel of his pickup truck in the other.

He drives slowly, leaning forward to scan the hills as he goes. And then suddenly, he slams on his brakes.

“There they are!” he shouts, pointing behind a shed. Dozens of monkeys are jumping toward the forest, scrambling up trees and crawling up the hillside.

He jumps out of the truck and pulls the firework from underneath his jacket, loading it onto a kind of stick so he can hold it far away. He lights the fuse and smiles, pointing it toward the hill.

Kanno grins after shooting off a firework to scare off monkeys that were roaming through the neighborhood.

Three loud booms echo through the trees. The monkeys scatter. Kanno bursts into a grin, giggling. Then he runs to every house nearby, making sure his neighbors know that he just saved their gardens from almost certain devastation.

“They won’t be back tomorrow!” Kanno calls, waving the spent firework, giddy with excitement. “I won today!”

But even as he says that he loads a fresh firework and tucks it into his coat. The monkeys will be back, and the battle will continue.

October 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Mr Sugeno Seiji, farming organically in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture

September 11, 2020

Through the nuclear power plant disaster, Mr Sugeno reaffirmed the values of farming. His words leave a strong impression: “The nuclear plant stole our hometowns, they create divisions. This must not be repeated.” “We people of Fukushima need to share our story. To change lifestyles, to change policies. To stand up to the government, to farm our fields, this is want we want to continue to do.”

September 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Many Fukushima evacuees die away from home

September 9, 2020

NHK has learned that more than 2,600 people have died over the ensuing years after being evacuated from their hometowns following the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011.

NHK contacted local governments in Fukushima Prefecture and found that at least 2,670 people, about 10 percent of the original population, had died as of August. More than 26,500 people lived in seven municipalities near the plant. Where they lived have been designated no-entry zones for nearly nine and a half years because radiation levels remain high.

By municipality, 895 people from Okuma Town have died, 792 from Futaba Town, 576 from Namie Town, 362 from Tomioka Town, 32 from Iitate Village, 12 from Katsurao Village, and one from Minamisoma City.

The Japanese government is conducting decontamination work and rebuilding infrastructure in some areas with the aim to allow residents to return in two or three years.

But there is no concrete plan to make other parts, or 92 percent of the no-entry zone, habitable again, despite the strong hope of residents to return home.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200909_06/

September 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Billing Olympics as ‘pandemic recovery games’ unfeasible: ex-Fukushima mayor

jkjFormer Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai is seen talking to the Mainichi Shimbun in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 3, 2020

 

August 5, 2020

MINAMISOMA, Fukushima — Katsunobu Sakurai, former mayor of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, who was in office during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, firmly stated during a recent interview with the Mainichi Shimbun that it is unfeasible to dub the Tokyo Olympics a “sign of humanity’s triumph over the novel coronavirus,” as suggested by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Sakurai, who was born in the city of Minamisoma himself, served two terms as mayor for his hometown between 2010 and 2018. Sakurai was picked as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2011 following the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The following is an excerpt of Sakurai’s remarks to the Mainichi Shimbun on July 3.

* * * * *

Following the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke of holding next year’s Olympics as a “sign of humanity’s triumph over the novel coronavirus.” Up until now, the prime minister may have thought that presenting the event with the title “disaster recovery” from the Great East Japan Earthquake would gather worldwide attention, but now he is trying to replace this slogan amid the global spread of the novel coronavirus. However, the concept of a “recovery Olympics,” let alone a “coronavirus Olympics” has no chance of success.

jllkmkFormer Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai is seen talking to the Mainichi Shimbun in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 3, 2020.

 

The torch relay for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which was eventually canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak, was just a performance put on for show. The relay was set to start at the J-Village national soccer training center in Fukushima Prefecture, which was used as a base to handle the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (after the Great East Japan Earthquake). However, the relay route was limited to areas that have been tidied up, and did not show the real nature of the disaster-hit areas. “Recovery” means restoring an environment to a state where people can return. At the very least, if residents have returned and can once again live in a state similar to before the disaster, this may be called a recovery. But the government is trying to show how far the recovery has progressed, when in fact there is much left to be achieved.

There is also talk that flowers grown in the disaster-stricken areas will be used for victory bouquets awarded to Olympic medalists, but would this actually help boost the recovery overall? In Fukushima Prefecture, baseball and softball matches for the Olympic Games are to be held in the prefectural Azuma ballpark in the suburbs of the city of Fukushima, but this site has almost no connection to the coastal areas of the prefecture (that were damaged in the tsunami following the magnitude-9.0 temblor). It appears that it is nothing more than a performance (by the Japanese government).

No matter how much you tout the games as a sign of recovery, the overall picture of only Tokyo prospering while the recovery of the disaster-hit areas in the Tohoku region remains undone will not change. I’ve been to Tokyo many times, and saw that there were more crane trucks at the construction site of the athletes’ village than in the disaster-hit areas. It was obvious at a glance where the national government was placing its resources.

It’s not that I am disapproving of the Olympics itself. It is a festivity celebrating peace, and I am aware that Japan had been long active in its bid to host the games. However, it doesn’t make sense when you start calling it a “recovery Olympics.” The inconsistency becomes clear when labeling the games an event “contributing to the recovery of the disaster-hit areas.”

During the Japan’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics, Prime Minister Abe described the polluted water generated by the nuclear disaster as being “under control,” and then Tokyo Games bid committee chairman Tsunekazu Takeda called Tokyo “safe,” as it is 250 kilometers away from Fukushima. Don’t these very statements run counter to a “recovery Olympics”?

At the time, I was confronted by an elderly resident of my city who asked, “It’s a dangerous place here, isn’t it? Why don’t you let us live in Tokyo?” A “recovery Olympics” should by nature be something that residents of the disaster-stricken areas can feel good about holding, but the authorities’ perceptions are inconsistent with those in such areas.

If a “recovery Olympics” in the true sense of the term is to be held, it will by restoring the coastal regions of disaster-hit areas to a state capable of hosting the events, such as marathons.

During the 2019 Rugby World Cup, matches were held in the city of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, in northeastern Japan, (an area also hit hard by the tsunami) as a way to underscore the recovery. This must have been a large source of emotional strength for local residents. However, Fukushima Prefecture still has zones that people cannot even enter. It just doesn’t seem like it is in any condition to hold the Olympics. I can only presume that the large impact of the nuclear disaster is still being underestimated.

The Japanese government has prepared for the Olympics while upholding the “disaster recovery” label, even though a recovery is far from reality. It is superficial to declare a recovery with no actual progress. The government is now talking of an Olympics that could be a sign of humanity’s triumph over the pandemic, but vaccines have not yet been put into practical use, and the world has not yet been freed from the risk of infection. There is no chance of success by trying to box in reality to meet the labels the government upholds. The idea of a “coronavirus Olympics” may also likely end as a mere fantasy.

(Original Japanese interview by Jun Kaneko, City News Department)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200805/p2a/00m/0na/003000c

 

August 7, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Experts propose two methods to scrap Daiichi plant

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July 26, 2020

Japanese atomic energy experts have proposed two ways to decommission the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The Atomic Energy Society of Japan floated the two methods in a report.

One proposal is to dismantle and remove all parts of the reactor buildings and leave the site vacant. The other is to dismantle and remove parts of the reactor buildings that are above ground and leave behind the underground structures.

The experts say each method has been studied in the United States and European countries.

They say amounts of radioactive waste to be generated during decommissioning work will vary significantly, depending on when the dismantling of reactor buildings begins — namely, starting to dismantle contaminated buildings soon or waiting a certain period for their radiation levels to drop.

A decommissioning timeline released by the Japanese government and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, shows the scrapping process will be completed by 2051. But the plan is unclear on how the reactor buildings will be decommissioned.

Miyano Hiroshi, a member of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, says it will be difficult to draw a conclusion from various arguments on how to decommission the plant. But he adds discussions are important and that he hopes the society’s report will contribute to the debate.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200726_14/?fbclid=IwAR135prg8cmB7Yw5kdFWbeCitGEIWkPqIxi6Hgryx-PV-2HwN9ksZKld7CU

August 3, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Robots in Fukushima monitor cucumber production in IT-farming joint project

np_file_25710-870x653Katsumi Hashimoto (left) president of the Fukushima Seed Center, talks about how he teamed up with two other technology companies to make cucumber farming less labor intensive.

Jul 24, 2020

Three ventures from the IT and farming industries have started testing methods to produce cucumbers with less human labor in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, in the hope that it will reinvigorate the agriculture industry suffering from a worsening labor shortage, including a lack of successors.

Two technology companies, Benefic Co. and MK tech, have teamed up with Fukushima Seed Center and established a project team called Smart Agri Fukushima.

The team created a 1,300-square-meter testing greenhouse, planted 2,000 cucumbers and is monitoring temperatures, humidity and carbon dioxide among other data remotely using robots. The team has already shipped 1.6 tons of produce to a local agricultural cooperative, with a plan to expand the greenhouse to 1 hectare, or eight times the current scale, in the next five years.

In developing robots to monitor the cucumbers, Benefic will be in charge of its software while MK tech will manufacture the hardware. In the greenhouse, cucumbers are produced through a unique hanging method, which makes it easier for robots to monitor the produce, rather than the usual method which is to cut the plant at a certain height.

According to the seed center, the Sukagawa area, well-known for cucumbers, has been struggling for years with a shortage of labor, causing farmers to automate the farming process to make it more attractive to younger people. In the future, they hope to spread the smart farming method nationwide.

We want to protect cucumber farming by making the fields less labor intensive,” said Katsumi Hashimoto, president of the seed center.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/07/24/national/robots-farming-fukushima/

August 3, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

New hotel boom in Fukushima capitalizing on reconstruction

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July 13, 2020

Areas close to the site of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster might seem like the least likely prospect for a hotel construction boom, but as the region slowly begins to recover, demand for places to stay is at a premium.

Hotel operators are not expecting to cater to people with a morbid fascination for the facility that went into a triple meltdown following the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, but to accommodate those involved in reconstruction projects, and later, business travelers and other visitors.

Coastal areas of Fukushima Prefecture were the first to experience a rush in new hotel construction, mainly facilities offering 100 or so rooms.

This fall, the wave of hotel openings will even extend to Futaba, a town that hosts the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Over the past nine years since the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, hotels have mostly been occupied by construction workers.

However, hotel operators are expecting a more diverse clientele to develop in the future.

Hotel Futabanomori, located in the town of Namie about nine kilometers north of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, is expected to open on July 15.

The hotel has 95 rooms, most of them singles that cost 6,500 yen ($ 61) a night, including taxes, or 9,000 yen with breakfast and supper thrown in.

It is situated not far from the No. 6 national road that rumbles for much of the day with heavy trucks going to and from construction sites.

An evacuation order was lifted in the central part of the town in March 2017. Currently about 1,400 people live there, which accounts for less than 10 percent of the pre-disaster population.

But new businesses are moving into the town. In March, top-level facilities for research and development of robots and hydrogen production were established in Namie as a part of a national project.

Takashi Shiga, the 47-year-old president of Hotel Futabanomori, said he hopes his hotel will create an opportunity for residents to “get together with relatives and old classmates who left their hometown and moved far away back to return to Namie.”

He also said he wanted the hotel to provide workers involved in reconstruction projects “with a sense of comfort.”

Prior to the disaster, towns near the nuclear power plants used to be dotted with small inns and hotels catering to beachgoers, surfers and workers at nuclear and thermal power plants.

After the disaster, residents within a 20-km radius of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were ordered to evacuate.

Hirono town, located about 20 km south of the facility, offered the main venue for places to stay for workers involved in cleanup, decontamination and reconstruction projects.

I received so many phone calls from workers desperately looking for a place to lie down and get some sleep,” said Minoru Yoshida, 64, who runs an inn called Iwasawaso in Hirono.

Yoshida evacuated to Tokyo temporarily immediately after the disaster. But within two months, he started taking in guests.

Parts of Iwasawaso were damaged by the earthquake, but Yoshida opened his own home, which was adjacent to the inn and emerged unscathed, to let guests stay.

He also turned a banquet room in the inn into a space for workers to spend the night.

In 2016, Yoshida built a business hotel with 102 rooms, Hotel Ocean Iwasawa, nearby.

Prior to the disaster, he managed two buildings with 83 rooms. Now, he manages four buildings with 211 rooms.

An average of 150 to 200 guests stay at his properties each day.

This is my hometown. That’s why I want it to be rebuilt,” Yoshida said. “I wanted to help these people who came here to work for the rebuilding by letting them stay.”

In Futaba town, where the No. 1 nuclear power plant is located, a new business hotel with 134 rooms, “ARM Futaba,” is slated to open this fall.

In March, an evacuation order was lifted for 4.7 percent of the town.

A new museum dedicated to explaining the damage from the March 2011 disaster and the lessons learned from it is also slated to open in the town this fall.

Expectations remain high that former residents will start returning two years from now to live in Futaba.

Arm System, a Hokkaido-based company that manages the new hotel, hopes that evacuees from the town will stay at the property during temporary homecoming visits.

Industrial complexes are also under construction in the area.

We expect strong demand from business travelers and museum visitors and foresee a sustainable business in the future,” a company representative said.

Tomioka town, about 10 km south of the nuclear power plant, along with surrounding areas, has witnessed a rise in new apartment buildings for single people and company dormitories since April 2017, when the evacuation order was lifted.

In October that year, Tomioka Hotel with 69 rooms was opened by eight residents who ran food and clothing stores in the town.

The hotel has maintained an average 70 percent occupancy rate since then. Most of the guests were engineers and businesspeople visiting the town for reconstruction projects from the Tokyo metropolitan area.

But Tsukasa Watanabe, the 61-year-old president of the hotel, admitted to “feeling nervous about the future,” citing the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic that caused visits by business travelers to dry up.

The hotel has relied on a central government subsidy that supports two-thirds of a hotel construction fee, and other initiatives.

But we can’t just continue to rely on such (support),” said Watanabe, who desperately feels the need to come up with a strategy to bolster his hotel’s competitiveness.

Kota Kawasaki, an associate professor of town planning at Fukushima University, noted that the trend of hotel occupancy by construction workers had reached its peak more or less.

“Competition among hotels will increase from now on,” he said. “Each hotel will have to devise more strategic management skills to stay in business.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13541099

July 16, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Rally opposes proposal for Fukushima radioactive wastewater

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July 12, 2020

Dozens of young people in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture have rallied against a government panel’s proposal on how to dispose of radioactive wastewater stored at the crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant.

About 50 people, including fisheries workers, marched through Koriyama City on Sunday.

The demonstration was organized by a group of Fukushima residents in their 20s and 30s, who said detrimental rumors about the prefecture may circulate if the wastewater is disposed of improperly.

Group representative Sato Taiga said a survey shows that most respondents do not know about the issue. He added that he hopes the group’s activities will raise awareness among people, including the younger generation.

Water used to cool molten nuclear fuel from the 2011 accident at the plant has most of the radioactive materials removed before being stored in tanks. But the treated water still contains tritium and some other radioactive substances.

The amount stored has reached some 1.2 million tons. The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, expects to reach capacity around the summer of 2022.

In February, a government panel compiled a report that says a realistic solution is releasing the wastewater into the sea or air after diluting it in compliance with environmental and other standards.

The government is in the process of hearing opinions from local governments and relevant organizations before making its final decision on how to dispose of the treated water.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200713_04/

July 16, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Video Testimonies from Fukushima in 7 Languages: “We want to protect the ocean of Fukushima, for the future of the fishing industry”

 

July 11, 2020

Peace Boat has cooperated with the environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Japan (FoE Japan) to launch the next in their series of video testimonies of the current situation in Fukushima in various languages.

Nine years have passed since the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disaster, and the damage continues to be incurred. Although this disaster is still ongoing, efforts are made to render this invisible. FoE Japan has conducted video interviews with evacuees, dairy farmers, fishermen and other community members in order to make the ongoing impacts more known as part of the “Fukushima Mieruka Project.”

The next multilingual installment in this series includes interviews with fishermen from Fukushima, who have been pushed back and forth by the policies of the Japanese Government and TEPCO, and who hold great concerns for their future. These are being released simultaneously in English, French, Spanish, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Korean and German, as well as Japanese.

The fishermen interviewed told us that they are still struggling to sell their fish due to the impacts of the nuclear accident. They are working to restore confidence step by step, by conducting efforts such as test operations and radiation monitoring themselves. However, the Japanese Government and TEPCO have launched a plan to discharge large amounts of radioactive contaminated materials generated at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, including tritium, into the ocean.
“From now, our worry is the problems for successors. If an unexpected fish is found in the future, the young generation will really suffer, those in the fishing industry. Really. It’s a life-or-death matter.”

Please listen to the voices of concern and anger of the Fukushima fishermen (12mins 31 sec).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSVu_52u7z8&feature=emb_logo

Click on the name of each language to watch the clip on Youtube:

See here for a Q&A of more information on Japanese government plans to release contaminated water into the ocean here.

Sign the petition demanding that contaminated water being stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station NOT be discharged into the sea, and instead stored on land and solidified via change.org here

https://peaceboat.org/english/news/fukushima-fishermen

July 16, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

A housewife will run as candidate for Iwaki City Election 2020: “I want to protect Iwaki’s children”

[Iwaki City Election 2020] “I want to protect Iwaki’s children” A housewife who has continued to measure radioactivity decides to run for a bid.

 

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Translated by Hervé Courtois

June 11, 2020


A housewife working on the nuclear accident problem that has been going on since 2011 will run for the Iwaki City election in September. She continues to measure air doses and soil radioactive pollution to protect children from exposure risks, and decided to take the first challenge to reflect the voices of life-saving mothers in municipal administration.

I can’t vote for the nuclear accident, and I can’t do what I want to do in Corona, but I want all of Iwaki’s children to grow healthy and quickly. For that, I must do what I can do now. I am aiming for a win. The voting and voting is September 13th.

[“Pollution is still ongoing”]
Mrs. Saori Suzuki (51) = Hirashita Hirakubo, Iwaki City = is preparing for her candidacy.
Born in Osaka. Lived in Osaka until the age of 2 and moved to Tokyo and Saitama when his father moved. After getting married, she started living in Iwaki. She lives with her husband, a daughter in the second year of college, and a son in the third year of high school. She ‘s been living in Iwaki  for more than 20 years.


After all, the turning point was the nuclear accident in March 2011. Until then, she had only served as chairman of the PTA at a school where children attended. Active as a member of “Mothers’ Association Pursuing Initial Exposure to Iwaki”. While running a cram school, she continues to measure air dose and soil pollution density in schools and kindergartens.

“At that time, the children were in the 4th and the 2nd grades of elementary school. According to the location of the school, it could exceed 3μSv/h depending on the location. After continuing the measuring, the nuclear accident was not over, pollution was still continuing. I want all the children in Iwaki City to grow up in good health, not just their own children. It is the foundation of society to grow healthy both physically and mentally. Don’t sacrifice children for the sake of adults.”


In April 2018, when a plan to remove monitoring posts (real-time dosimetry system) installed in front of stations and schools emerged, a request form was submitted to Mayor Toshio Shimizu with the mothers in the city. In the request form, 1) that the residents have the right to decide whether or not the MP are not required 2) Do not remove until the decommissioning work is completed 3) Do not hold future scheduled inhabitants briefings on the premise of removal ─ I asked the mayor of Shimizu to appeal to the government, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission finally withdrew the blank plan.

9 years have passed since the nuclear accident. Neither the government nor the Fukushima Prefecture will say anything about the exposure risk in areas where evacuation orders were not issued, they were only saying that the air dose had dropped significantly.


However, Mrs. Suzuki says from the experience that she continues to measure, “The air dose and soil pollution are different. Even if the air dose is low, the soil below it is often heavily contaminated with radioactivity. Even if the air dose is low, we cannot rest assured that it is impossible to completely restore the condition before the nuclear accident, but I think adults must continue to make efforts to approach it.” ..


The issue of nuclear accident and radiation exposure risk is said to be “not a vote”, and has not been the issue of elections in Fukushima. “I’m afraid to raise the issue of radioactive pollution and exposure to the front. I think I’m tired of thinking, but I don’t want to ignore that problem,” she said. In the third leaflet, she wrote, “Radioactivity problem after the nuclear accident.”


After the nuclear accident, when Iwaki City, which used rice produced in Hokkaido for school lunch, announced a policy to switch to rice produced in Iwaki, she joined the opposition movement. The LDP-affiliated city council welcomed “Promote rice consumption expansion and local production for local consumption” and “Dispel rumor and save local farmers”, but Suzuki signed the voice of a mother concerned about internal radiation Or submitted a request form to the city. Eventually, she heard a voice saying, “Do you disturb the reconstruction?” It is said that the farmers also strongly blamed her.


“I was asked what would happen to farmers. I was talking about compensation, but… I was accused directly over the phone. I also received an email. I hope you guys leave.”
Still, she did not stop activities to protect children from radioactive materials. She couldn’t stop.

[“Increase in women councilors”]

Joined the Constitutional Democratic Party. Run as an official candidate. Although I thought about running as non-affiliated candidate, the winning line in the previous 2016 city council election was 2300 votes. An unnamed newcomer without an organization has high hurdles. “I can’t pursue an ideal society without being elected and not joining parliament,” says Suzuki.

“I think some people have different opinions, but I don’t have experience or an organization. I still need a backup. Local people said, “If you can run from the LDP, you will win easily.” ” If you can not say what you want to say, there is no point in winning.”

There is also a desire to increase the number of women  councilorss.
“My dad’s eyes and mother’s eyes are different. Mothers give birth. The way they think about life is different from men. I don’t mean which is wrong, which is unavoidable.
So, I think the ideal society is for men and women to complement each other’s deficiencies. The same applies to the city council. It’s useless if for men and women alone.”.

“We also worked hard in last year’s 10/12 flood damage. The whole city was in hell. Many households use septic tanks, and sewage as well as muddy water entered the houses. Moved for the stunned residents. Fortunately, my home was not flooded, so I cleaned the flooded public hall with a high pressure washer. With that as the “support base,” we began distributing relief supplies.”

“It was natural that we needed human resources and supplies, but in fact, it was not the only thing that the victims needed. In cooperation with the government and the Council of Social Welfare, we have established a tea-only corner where you can talk about anything even if you are complaining. It’s important to have a cup of tea and take a break. That’s why I can do my best again. As with the nuclear accident, flood damage has not ended.

▽Is less than 3 months until the notification date. I can’t move as expected due to coronal blight, and I get impatient. If there were no problems with the new coronavirus, we would have held a lot of tea talks and mini gatherings, but… We plan to open an office in July, so I will do my best to prepare.”

━ Can a new wind be blown into Iwaki City Council 10 years after the nuclear accident? The voting and voting is September 13th.
http://taminokoeshimbun.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-453.html?fbclid=IwAR35D2tekyzMhLNvqCwspfNpN_U65JzTx46Q2ovtPsrubxfiRl7s5J1wqOc

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

Japan extends 2011 disaster recovery agency’s work by 10 years

June 5, 2020

Japan’s parliament approved Friday a 10-year extension to the lifespan of the government agency overseeing reconstruction of the area devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

The Reconstruction Agency will now continue to promote recovery in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima, and provide support to residents there and in other northeastern regions, until March 2031. The agency said there were still more than 46,000 displaced residents as of March 11, the ninth anniversary of the triple disaster.

However, the scope of tax breaks and other special deregulatory measures will be scaled down, and resources allocated more selectively to areas where rebuilding efforts are still under way, and to businesses struggling to overcome public fears and false rumors about radiation.

jjkA man prays at a beach in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 11, 2020, the ninth anniversary of the 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster in northeastern Japan.

 

Government grants for infrastructure rebuilding will be terminated at the end of the current fiscal year to March 2021, as reconstruction of roads and houses is deemed to be sufficiently complete.

The agency will continue to be headed by a full-time minister, and its budget will remain separate from the general account. Reconstruction bonds, which help finance rebuilding, will continue to be issued by the government.

Under the basic policy on 2011 quake disaster reconstruction, approved by the Cabinet in December, the government aims to complete recovery in hard-hit Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi prefectures in northeastern Japan in the five fiscal years through March 2026, while sustaining support for nuclear disaster-stricken areas.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/06/e6d2ac524db0-japan-extends-2011-disaster-recovery-agencys-work-by-10-years.html

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

Evacuation orders to be lifted even before radiation purged

hjhkllDecontamination work continues in a part of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, prior to the lifting of an evacuation order in April 2017.

June 3, 2020

The government is planning to create new rules to allow the lifting of evacuation orders in areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster before they are thoroughly decontaminated, according to sources.

The move comes in response to requests by local municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture. But it also reflects the slow pace of the decontamination process, now in its ninth year following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Evacuation orders were issued for wide areas in the prefecture after the nuclear crisis triggered by the earthquake and tsunami disaster. They remain in place for seven municipalities classified as difficult-to-return zones because radiation levels remain high.

Government officials are still mulling how to best proceed with the new option. Lifting the evacuation orders would come with certain conditions. For example, the area in question would not be used for residential purposes and the municipal government would have to first decide that decontamination is not necessary.

The central government pledged to take responsibility for decontaminating areas before allowing residents to return to their homes.

This new proposal would be the first exception created to the procedures for the lifting of evacuation orders.

Officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear power industry, along with the Environment Ministry and the Reconstruction Agency, have all agreed to allow lifting evacuation orders for areas where decontamination is not complete, the sources said.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority will be tasked with issuing safety recommendations for lifting the orders in areas not yet purged of radioactive materials. The government headquarters that deals with the aftermath of the nuclear disaster is expected to then approve the change as early as this summer.

Evacuation orders were issued for areas where annual airborne radiation readings were higher than 20 millisieverts.

Currently, there are three main conditions that must be met before lifting the orders: annual airborne radiation levels must fall under 20 millisieverts; restoration of social infrastructure, such as the water supply, as well as decontamination, must have progressed to a reasonable degree; and sufficient discussions on the matter with the local municipal government need to have first taken place.

The revision would leave those conditions untouched and introduce a new option to allow for speeding up the process to lift the orders.

New conditions, still being discussed, would be established for areas where natural reductions in radioactive materials led to radiation levels falling under 20 millisieverts.

The evacuation order could be lifted in places not yet fully decontaminated if no residents or workers will live in that area in the future and if the local municipal government requests lifting the order.

Another condition being considered is whether municipal governments have plans for using the area, such as building parks or distribution warehouses.

Under the new proposal, the municipal government would be allowed to decide if it will require full decontamination before the evacuation order is lifted.

The central government began considering the new option after the village of Iitate submitted a request in February.

The village is located about 40 kilometers northwest of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The Nagadoro district in the southern part of the village is still classified as a difficult-to-return zone. The village government asked that the evacuation order be lifted for that entire district in 2023.

Under the central government’s plan, 17 percent of that district is designated as a special zone for reconstruction. Decontamination efforts would be concentrated on that zone to allow the evacuation order to be lifted in 2023.

But with more than 80 percent of the district still under an evacuation order, and with no foreseeable date for completing the cleanup of radioactive materials there, village officials worried that partially lifting the order would drive a new wedge into what had long been a single community.

Village government officials want to construct a park in the remaining area to serve as symbol of the community’s unity.

Village officials also confirmed with the 11 households located in the area outside the special zone that they had no intention of returning to their homes, even if the evacuation order is lifted. Central government officials also learned that radiation levels for much of the Nagadoro district have fallen under 20 millisieverts.

Just like Iitate, other municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture will likely also face difficult choices. Like the Nagadoro district, other municipalities have also seen radiation levels fall under 20 millisieverts.

The slow pace of the decontamination process until now has led many evacuees to decide to remain where they are, rather than return to their homes.

Even in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, only about 20 percent of residents had returned as of April.

Central government officials also acknowledge that the importance of decontamination has waned over the years, since relatively few residents have returned–even after the huge amounts of money spent to make communities habitable again.

About 3 trillion yen ($28 billion) has been spent on decontamination efforts to date.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13426557

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

Fukushima fish market in former no-go zone reopens in Namie

np_file_4790Women handle fish at the Ukedo wholesale fish market on Wednesday in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.

 

April 10, 2020

Namie, Fukushima Pref. – A fish market in the Pacific coastal town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, has reopened for the first time since it was devastated by the massive tsunami and nuclear disaster in March 2011.

The Ukedo regional wholesale market, which reopened Wednesday, was the first market to resume operations in an area formerly designated as a no-go zone following the unprecedented triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The market was filled with the energetic voices of fishermen and middlemen as it hosted its first auction in about nine years.

Nine years were long, and I’m so happy I’m in tears,” said Ichiro Takano, director of the local fishermen’s cooperative.

Sales are lower than usual due to the effects of the novel coronavirus, but I’ve been waiting for the market to reopen,” said Keiji Sato, a 73-year-old fisherman from the nearby city of Minamisoma.

Flounders and anglerfish brought to the market were quickly delivered to large-scale local supermarkets.

I hope that having people in the town eat fresh fish will contribute to revitalizing the region,” a market official said.

Prior to the reopening, fishermen operating in the region brought their catches to a market in Soma, also in the prefecture.

Some 20 small fishing boats affiliated with Namie and nearby ports are expected to bring their catches to the Ukedo market from now on, raising hopes of a boost in catch volumes and an increase in fish consumption in areas struck by the 2011 disasters.

Facilities in the Ukedo fishing port and market were swept away by the tsunami, and residents were forced to evacuate due to the nuclear accident.

The evacuation order was lifted in spring 2017 and construction of renewed port and market buildings was completed in October last year.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/04/10/national/fukushima-fish-market-namie/#.XpCN55ngqUk

April 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima mothers record radiation for future generations

np_file_4946-870x580A member of Mothers’ Radiation Lab Fukushima cuts green tops off of turnips to measure their radiation level in a lab in Iwaki

 

April 10, 2020

Iwaki, Fukushima Pref. – A group of more than 10 mothers set up a citizen-led laboratory to monitor radiation levels in Fukushima communities only months after a massive earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at a nuclear power plant in the prefecture nine years ago.

Since the foundation of the institute on Nov. 13, 2011, it has been recording and disclosing radiation data on foodstuffs and soil it collected or were brought in by people from different parts of the prefecture, as well as seawater off the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

If the risks of nuclear power had been thoroughly verified by the previous generations, I think the disaster would not have happened,” Kaori Suzuki, 54, an executive of Mothers’ Radiation Lab Fukushima, based in Iwaki, said in a recent interview.

But since it did occur, what we must do now is record our measurements and changes in the environment so we won’t make the same mistake,” said Suzuki, one of the founding members. “Passing down something that will be useful when major decisions must be made is the only thing we can do.”

The laboratory of 18 staff members, many of them mothers who mostly had no prior experience in measuring radiation, have trained themselves with support from scientists, and they now gauge levels of cesium 134, cesium 137, tritium and strontium 90 with five types of machines.

Samples they have measured include dust in vacuum cleaners, vegetables grown in home gardens, seasonal mushrooms picked in mountains and soil gathered in parks.

They have occasionally detected radiation above safety levels, and reports the lab releases every month on its website have specified which machine is used and other details for each outcome to make their activities as transparent as possible.

Their efforts have made academic contributions as well, with their measuring methods and results published in scientific journals such as Applied Radiation and Isotopes in 2016.

Suzuki said they started the initiative out of desperation to protect their children.

We had to measure and eat. It was a matter of life and death,” the mother of two said.

As of April 6, 468 people in Iwaki, about 50 kilometers south of the crippled Fukushima plant, had died as a result of the events of March 2011, while more than 20,000 remained evacuated in and outside the city.

Noriko Tanaka, 40, who joined the group in May 2018, said studying radiation levels has changed how she perceives the environment around her.

You don’t need to fear everything, randomly. Rather than worrying about everything and being stressed out by that, measuring and seeing the data make you relieved to find that some things are safer than you presumed,” Tanaka said.

On the other hand, if you find a highly contaminated spot, for example, in a park where you thought it was safe to play, you can take precautionary measures,” she said.

Tanaka, who after the disaster temporarily fled from Iwaki to her husband’s home in Saitama Prefecture, found out during the evacuation that the couple were expecting their first child.

She had hoped to stay there or relocate elsewhere for safety, but with some family members not recognizing risks, her family eventually returned to Iwaki. Her husband was working at her family’s electrical construction firm, expecting orders for reconstruction in areas devastated by the March 11, 2011, triple disaster.

At that time, the common atmosphere was like, ‘Do we need to go that far?’ I was pregnant and couldn’t live on my own. I couldn’t choose that. I had no choice but to be in Iwaki,” she said.

As time goes by, Tanaka has found that fewer people are discussing radiation effects.

The number of samples brought in by citizens last year was 1,573, up 131 from the year before, but it is showing a decreasing trend overall compared to years before, according to the lab.

The Olympic Games are coming, and there are fewer media reports on radiation levels than before,” she said.

Officials have dubbed the Tokyo Summer Games the “Reconstruction Olympics,” with the hope of showcasing the country’s recovery from the 2011 catastrophe.

Because of that concept, the starting point of the Japan leg of the torch relay for the Olympics, which were recently put off for a year to the summer of 2021 due to the global coronavirus pandemic, was a soccer training center in Fukushima Prefecture that served as a front-line base in the battle against the nuclear disaster.

Tanaka said logging accurate data and keeping them publicly available are all the more important. “To protect children, having information is essential in deciding what to eat or where to go,” she said, adding that judgments based on correct data will also prevent any discrimination.

Recalling that she lined up outside a supermarket for an hour with her children on March 13, 2011, Ai Kimura, who has two daughters, said, “Even now, sometimes I’m hit by remorse about my ignorance on radiation at that time.”

A couple of years later, Kimura, a member of the lab since March 2014, said she became even more insensitive to possible health risks after seeing her neighbors begin drying clothes and blankets outside, or having their children not wear masks.

But when I joined the lab and started taking measurements, I was stunned that some showed high levels of radioactive contamination,” the 40-year-old said. “I was depressed. What have I done to my children because of my ignorance? … I think there are many mothers (who blame themselves) like me.”

Kimura said she feels that the fears people have toward the new coronavirus are similar to those toward radiation, as they are both invisible.

Everyone forgets about (radiation) because its effects in 10 or 20 years are uncertain, unlike the new coronavirus that shows pneumonia-like symptoms in a couple of weeks,” she said. “I realized again that people in affected areas like us have been living every day with the same feelings toward the coronavirus pandemic.”

It’s exhausting,” she said, adding her daughters must have had a hard time as she made them do things differently from their friends, such as wearing masks. “But I felt I was not wrong when my daughter said to me recently, ‘I was being protected by you, mom.’”

In addition to conducting surveys on radiation readings in the environment and food items, the lab in May 2017 opened a clinic with a full-time doctor to provide free medical checkups on internal exposure.

I think it’s necessary to keep checking children’s health as they grow up, rather than drawing a conclusion saying there won’t be any problem with this level of radiation exposure,” said Misao Fujita, 58, a doctor who is a native of Tochigi Prefecture.

Fujita said the amount of radiation exposure dosage and risks of health damage differ among children even if they live in the same area, depending on such factors as their location and behavior in the days after the nuclear disaster, whether they evacuated and what they eat now.

Those who underwent Fujita’s medical checkups when they were children include a woman who now takes her own child to the clinic, in addition to a number of young decontamination workers.

The nuclear disaster is something that’s carried on to coming generations. That’s what we have left,” Fujita said. “We must also not forget that about 30,000 people are still unable to return to their hometowns in the prefecture. The disaster isn’t over yet.”

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/04/10/national/social-issues/fukushima-mothers-record-radiation/#.XpCN1ZngqUk

April 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment