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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

New School Opens in Nuclear Crisis-Hit Fukushima Village

Sacrificing the youth in the simulacre of a return to normalty…

 

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Iitate, Fukushima Pref., April 5 (Jiji Press)–A new school offering nine-year compulsory education opened on Sunday in a northeastern Japan village affected by the country’s worst nuclear accident nine years ago.

Iitate Hope Village Academy is the first facility for compulsory schooling launched in a former no-go zone set up after the unprecedented triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The institution in the village of Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture aims to improve the quality of education by integrating school functions after the number of students fell sharply due to an exodus of residents following the nuclear accident. The academy, run by the government of the village, will provide education programs for elementary and junior high schools.

An opening ceremony, held on Sunday, was attended by 50 of the 65 students and some 150 guardians and guests. While taking measures, such as wearing face masks, to prevent infection with the novel coronavirus that is raging across the country, participants sang the school song written by poet Madoka Mayuzumi and composed by singer Kosetsu Minami.

“As a top-grade student, I’m ready to lead younger students,” Ryosuke Watanabe, 14, said, receiving the new school flag at the ceremony.

https://www.nippon.com/en/news/yjj2020040500153/new-school-opens-in-nuclear-crisis-hit-fukushima-village.html

April 6, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Study: Cesium levels in fish in Fukushima lakes, rivers differ

hklmThe Otagawa river, which runs through Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, and elsewhere, was surveyed for cesium levels in fish following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Provided by the National Institute for Environmental Studies)

 

March 27, 2020

A team of scientists discovered that radioactive cesium released from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accumulates in freshwater fish differently in lakes and rivers.

How easily cesium is taken into bodies is determined by what the fish consume in lakes, although factors associated with water quality–such as the ratio of mud particles–are more important for those inhabiting rivers, according to the researchers.

The findings are expected to help predict the cesium concentration in aquatic creatures more accurately even when all of them are not examined individually, the researchers from the National Institute for Environmental Studies said.

The discovery could be used for estimating how the cesium level has lessened in each fish species,” said Yumiko Ishii, a senior researcher at the institution’s Fukushima Branch.

Higher radioactive cesium levels are reported in freshwater fish than those in the ocean in regions contaminated by the nuclear accident that started to unfold at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant in March 2011 following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

While cesium remains mainly in the flesh, how the substance is ingested differs greatly depending on the species, habitat and other elements.

Sweetfish, char, landlocked salmon, carp and other species are still banned from shipping in certain areas, even nine years after the nuclear accident.

The research team studied how cesium accumulated in different species in areas of Fukushima Prefecture, targeting 30 kinds of fish in lakes Hayamako, Inawashiroko and Akimotoko as well as the Udagawa, Manogawa, Niidagawa, Otagawa and Abukumagawa rivers two to four years after the accident.

The results revealed that cesium levels could change in lakes if the fish consume differing foods. Higher readings were measured for landlocked salmon, char and other creatures preying on small fish, likely because cesium becomes concentrated in their bodies by eating tiny creatures.

On the other hand, the kinds of food they consume do not affect the cesium concentration in fish species living in rivers.

The findings showed cesium accumulates more easily when the water contains a smaller amount of tiny mud particles and carcasses of living creatures. The higher the ratio of those particles, the lower the cesium level becomes.

The researchers said the reason is apparently that cesium in water is absorbed into those particles, making it difficult for cesium to remain in the fish bodies as the substance is discharged in the particles through feces.

Meanwhile, higher cesium levels were detected for larger species both in lakes and rivers.

The discovery has been published in the international magazine Journal of Environmental Radioactivity at: (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0265931X1830715X).

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13188720?fbclid=IwAR2fFLnJup-lrp-uzD6XA9_iXMs5zc1wFj5kN4Ugk-o1GM0hAqxuAGWb9yo

 

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

State funds to be juggled to cover cleanup costs from Fukushima

okuma storage facilityInterim storage facilities for radioactive waste from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster are shown in the foreground in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture. Seen in the background is the nuclear complex.

 

March 18, 2020

The government has moved to revise a law to allow for the diversion of budgetary funds set aside for the promotion of renewable energy to help cover ballooning costs related to the storage of radioactive waste produced during cleanup work after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Tax revenues appropriated for renewable-related projects are not permitted to be used for nuclear power programs under the special account law, which governs budgets allocated for specific purposes.

Earlier this month, however, the government submitted a bill to the Diet to revise the law to make the diversion of funds legal. It plans to enact the legislation during the current Diet session and put the revised law into force in April 2021.

This would be the first time for a revenue source earmarked for a specific expenditure to be diverted to a different purpose.

But the revision bill is likely to draw criticism from the public as it concerns the divisive issue of nuclear power and raises further questions about the government’ longstanding insistence that nuclear power is an inexpensive energy source.

Energy-related expenditures are booked under the government’s special account, separately from the general account.

These expenditures are grouped into more categories, such as one for nuclear energy and another for renewable energy sources.

About 300 billion yen ($2.78 billion) a year is allocated for programs associated with nuclear energy, including grants to local governments hosting nuclear power plants, while 800 billion yen or so is set aside to promote renewable energy, energy saving efforts and ensuring a stable energy supply.

Revenues for nuclear energy-related programs are collected under the promotion of power resources development tax, which are levied on electricity rates. Those for renewables are collected from businesses importing petroleum and coal under the petroleum and coal tax.

They are project-specific tax revenues, meaning they cannot be used for other purposes. The amount of those budgets remains at similar levels each year. 

The government’s move was prompted by runaway costs to process a vast volume of contaminated waste due to the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and maintain them in interim storage facilities in Fukushima Prefecture.

The government decided to shoulder some of the costs to help Tokyo Electric Power Co, operator of the stricken plant, and gained Cabinet approval to do so in December 2013.

Since fiscal 2014, it has set aside about 35 billion yen annually for the interim storage facilities. The funds come from revenues earmarked for nuclear energy-related projects in the special account.

But expenditures concerning the storage facilities are running a lot higher than initially envisaged.

An estimate released in late 2016 by the Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry showed that the project will eventually cost 1.6 trillion yen, compared with an initial projection of 1.1 trillion yen.

The government has allocated an additional 12 billion yen annually for the storage facility project since fiscal 2017.

Government officials say the price tag could further increase in coming years, likely leaving the government with scant financial resources to cover the project.

The revision bill has a clause stipulating that funds diverted to nuclear energy-related programs must eventually be returned to renewable energy project-specific tax revenues.

But it remains unclear if the clause will ease objections from opponents of nuclear energy, even if the fund diversion is a temporary measure.

Yoshikazu Miki, former president of Aoyama Gakuin University and a specialist of the tax system in Japan, called on the government to justify its proposed fund diversion by providing a full explanation of the issue.

A special account budget has rarely been scrutinized during Diet debate, unlike the general account,” Miki said. “The revision bill requires special attention as it is related to a nuclear power plant. Some members of the public may raise objections to the revision. The government needs to explain the matter to taxpayers to defend its need to act in this way.” 

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13225190

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

JR East’s Joban Line fully reopens after nine long years following Fukushima disaster

b-tohoku-a-20200315-870x541A train stops at Ono Station on the Joban Line in the town of Okuma, near the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, on Saturday as the long-suspended train line connecting Tokyo and Miyagi Prefecture fully resumes service.

 

Mar 14, 2020

FUKUSHIMA – After nine long years, service on the Joban Line is fully back on track.

The reopening of a 20.8 kilometer stretch between Tomioka and Namie near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant means that all Tohoku train lines have now completely reopened following the March 2011 triple disaster.

While some anticipate that the improvement of public transport in disaster-hit areas along Fukushima Prefecture’s Pacific coast will lead to an increase in visitors and regional revitalization, others say the impact will be limited as cars remain the mode of transportation of choice for most residents.

Prior to reopening, JR East had offered bus services for the closed section of the Joban Line, a 344-kilometer route that connects Tokyo and Miyagi Prefecture.

Nine JR and private railway lines took more than a year to reopen following the disaster, according to the transport ministry.

The Rias Line, operated by Sanriku Railway Co., had been repaired following the 2011 disaster but was again damaged by Typhoon Hagibis last October.

With services fully resumed, limited express trains linking Tokyo with Sendai, the capital of Miyagi, will make three round-trips per day.

Among the five stations along the recently reopened section, three are in the towns of Futaba and Okuma, which host the crippled plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., as well as Tomioka.

The three municipalities had been designated by the government as a no-go zone due to high radiation levels. The entry ban was gradually lifted in Okuma and Tomioka and the restrictions for areas near the stations in the three towns were newly removed earlier this month.

As of March 1, only 1,943 people reside in Okuma and Tomioka, while no one lives in Futaba. The three towns had a combined population of around 34,000 prior to the disaster.

Repair work on the damaged stretch of the Joban Line was long-delayed as most of it was located in a zone marked as having high levels of radiation, JR East said.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/03/14/business/corporate-business/jr-east-joban-line-reopen-fukushima-disaster/#.Xm0J8XJCeUk

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Starting the Olympic torch relay in Fukushima should remind us of the dangers of nuclear power

FILES-OLY-2020-TOKYO-JPN-JAPAN-NUCLEAR-FUKUSHIMAA woman protests against the Olympics and the government’s nuclear energy policy Feb. 29 in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, where the Olympic torch relay begins this month.

March 13, 2020

VANCOUVER – If the Tokyo Olympics are held on schedule, thousands of athletes will soon come to Japan. Considering the multiple reactors that melted down there nine years ago, in March 2011, the government’s decision to start the ceremonial torch relay in Fukushima Prefecture seems a bit odd, to say the least.

While radiation levels may have declined since 2011, there are still hot spots in the prefecture, including near the sports complex where the torch relay will begin and along the relay route. The persistence of this contamination, and the economic fallout of the reactor accidents, should remind us of the hazardous nature of nuclear power.

Simultaneously, changes in the economics of alternative sources of energy in the last decade invite us to reconsider how countries, including Japan, should generate electricity in the future.

Japan is not alone in having experienced severe nuclear accidents. The 1986 Chernobyl accident also contaminated very large areas in Ukraine and Belarus. As in Japan, many people had to be evacuated; about 116,000, according to the 2000 report of the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Many of them never did return; 34 years after the accident, thousands of square kilometers remain closed off to human inhabitation.

Events such as these are, naturally, traumatic and result in people viewing nuclear power as a risky technology. In turn, that view has led to persistent and widespread public opposition around the world.

This is evident in Japan too, where opinion polls show overwhelming opposition to the government’s plans to restart nuclear plants that have been shut down. One poll from February 2019 found 56 percent of respondents were opposed to, with only 32 percent in favor of, resuming nuclear operations. Other polls show significant local opposition, one example coming out of Miyagi Prefecture. Even the Japan Atomic Energy Relations Organization, which aims to promote nuclear power, finds that only 17.3 percent prefer nuclear energy, with much larger majorities preferring solar, wind and hydro power.

There is also the immense cost of cleaning up after such accidents. Estimates for the Fukushima disaster range from nearly $200 billion to over $600 billion. In 2013, France’s nuclear safety institute estimated that a similar accident in France could end up costing $580 billion. In Japan, just the cost of bringing old nuclear power plants into compliance with post-Fukushima safety regulations has been estimated at $44.2 billion.

Even in the absence of accidents and additional safety features, nuclear power is already very expensive. For the United States, the Wall Street firm Lazard estimates an average cost of $155 per megawatt-hour of nuclear electricity, more than three times the corresponding estimates of around $40 per MWh each for wind and solar energy. The latter costs have declined by around 70 to 90 percent in the last 10 years. In the face of the high costs of nuclear power — economic, environmental and public health — and overwhelming public opposition, it is puzzling that the government would persist in trying to restart nuclear power plants.

To explain his support for the technology, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claims that the country cannot do without nuclear power, especially in view of climate change concerns. The claim about the necessity of nuclear power makes little sense. Since 2011, the country has been generating only a fraction of the nuclear electricity it used to generate, and yet the lights have not gone off. Further, starting in 2015, Japan’s total greenhouse gas emissions have fallen below the levels in 2011, because of “reduced energy consumption” and the increase in “low-carbon electricity.” The latter, in turn, is because of an increasing fraction of renewable energy in electricity generation, a factor that could play an important role in the future.

Some, including the Global Energy Network Institute and a group of analysts led by Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson, argue that Japan could be 100 percent powered by renewable energy. Regardless of whether Japan reaches that goal, there is little doubt that Japan could be expanding renewable energy, and that increased reliance on renewables makes economic and environmental sense.

Instead, the Abe government seems to be involved in lowering incentives for the development of solar energy, and promoting nuclear power. Efforts by Abe to support the failing and flailing nuclear sector in Japan are indicative of the significant political power wielded by the “nuclear village,” the network of power companies, regulators, bureaucrats and researchers that controls nuclear and energy policy.

Moreover, Abenomics involves exports of nuclear components and technology, as well as conventional arms, as an important component. So far, despite many trips by Abe to various countries, Japan has yet to export any reactors in the last decade; a project with the most likely client, Turkey, collapsed because of high costs.

This suggests one possible explanation: Perhaps Abe realizes that before exporting nuclear reactors, he first has to shore up the domestic nuclear industry and prove that Japan has fully recovered from the 2011 nuclear disaster. But is that worth the risk?

Restarting nuclear reactors or constructing new ones, should that ever happen, only increases the likelihood of more nuclear accidents in the future and raises the costs of electricity. Regardless of who we cheer for at the Olympic Games, nuclear power does not deserve our applause.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2020/03/13/commentary/japan-commentary/starting-olympic-torch-relay-fukushima-remind-us-dangers-nuclear-power/?fbclid=IwAR3x4IaqlQwkdqMwg816C3CaL95O40DpbRcG6UTRbDRDm3qc63R0HvH5Cq0#.Xmx7IXJCeUl

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Nine years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster: back to normal towards a bright future?

Translated by Hervé Courtois

 

1

 

Episode 1: radioactivity, return to the abnormal

March 9, 2020

A look back at the ninth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster – following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. Today in Fukushima, the authorities are encouraging the return of refugees, without much success.

 

2The restaurant “Atom Sushi” in Tomioka, one year after the reopening of the village, has still not reopened.

 

The decontamination works will last more than 40 years but around the power plant, the exclusion zone is “only” 341 km², and the roads and villages formerly condemned are reopened one after the other by the authorities – anxious to a return to normal.

 

3Everywhere in the town of Fukushima, 80km from the power plant, they try to make people forget bad memories and make tourists coming back.

 

Except that villages like Iitate about fifty kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are still hopelessly empty.

 

4In the countryside near IItate, monitors are present everywhere in the landscape measuring radioactivity in microsieverts per hour.

 

How do we live there? The sociologist Cécile Asanuma-Brice, a researcher at the CNRS has been returning to the area every month for nine years. Ito-san travels the region with a Geiger counter and a shoulder strap dosimeter. Because as soon as we move away from the main axes, the future suddenly looks less bright.

 

5Nobuyoshi Ito returned to live in the previously evacuated area and collects data on environmental contamination

 

Episode 2: living with radioactivity

 

6Mr. Ito is always equipped with his dosimeter, to record the radioactivity accumulated in the reopened area.

 

Authorities are talking about a return to normal, and residents must get used to living with radioactivity. There are only two villages left in the 340 km² that are still too radioactive. Stations will be reopened in decontaminated pockets within these areas, but they will be fully automated to avoid irradiation of employees.

 

7Throughout the city of Fukushima, signs display the countdown of the days before the opening of the Olympic Games

 

And the Olympic flame will leave at the end of the month from the J village, about twenty kilometers from the power plant, and will even pass right by it – but according to a timed route to avoid too much exposure.
Everywhere they want to send the message that the page has been turned: “Forget the radiation, and think about the bright future of the Olympic Games”.

 

8

 

Except that to the rare refugees (no more than 20%) who returned to live in the reopened areas, it is something else that is been asked: to learn to live with radiation, on a daily basis.

 

9In the region, everywhere, radioactivity detectors are omnipresent, to reassure the population.

 

To get used to be living with a radioactivity detector. This is why the company Tepco, responsible for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, now speaks of “revitalizing” the area rather than about a return: it is because it had to be admitted that the original inhabitants would not return there.

 

10At Tepco’s headquarters in Tokyo, the company was nationalized after the disaster and announces 30 to 40 years of decontamination work.

 

Episode 3: Fukushima nine years later, it is impossible to turn the page

 

11On the Johoban highway that crosses the Fukushima area, an unbroken line of trucks transports radioactive waste to a disposal center. The soil measured at less than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram will be scattered everywhere.

 

March 11, 2020, 9 years to the day of the Fukushima disaster. And if the country has recovered from the magnitude 9.1 earthquake and tsunami that caused nearly 20,000 deaths, the area around the nuclear power plant is a wound that is far from being closed.

 

12Along the Tohoku coast, a tsunami-proof wall blocks the horizon

 

The radioactivity is still there and the evacuated residents still do not return. More than 44,000 refugees are still missing even though. Despite the radiation that will be there to last, the authorities want at all costs to use the Olympics this summer as an opportunity to turn the page on this regrettable incident. And that’s kind of the message that Tepco wants to give, when it opened a few months ago in Tomioka, a brand new information center, an interactive museum located 10km from the nuclear plant, to tell its version of the story. And necessarily, their version of the story is a little biased.

 

13In Tomioka, Tepco has just opened a museum to tell its side of the story and highlight all its efforts to revitalize the area.

 

No more than 20% of the evacuees returned to live near the plant, and almost exclusively elderly people like Ms. Kimiko. 9 years later, we are still far from the revitalization of Fukushima.

 

14Mrs. Kimiko returned to live in Tomioka 10km from the nuclear plant three years ago, she no longer recognizes her environment.

 

Episode 4: mothers of Fukushima

Nine years after the earthquake, the nuclear disaster is not over. Many are not content with orders to return to normal, given the abnormality of daily life around Fukushima – punctuated by radioactivity measures and prohibited areas. And even outside this perimeter, many associations mainly led by women and mothers, act daily for more transparency.

 

15Kaoru Konta is a medical doctor, she detects thyroid cancer.

 

For example, the MamaBecq, with a “Becq” like Becquerel, who inspect schoolyards with their Geiger counters. Or the Happy Island association, which organizes free screening for thyroid cancer in children. Happy Island is a funny name for such association, but you know how to say “happy island” in Japanese? “Fukushima”.

 

16Marie Suzuki is president of the association “Happy Island”

 

https://www.franceinter.fr/environnement/neuf-ans-apres-la-catastrophe-nucleaire-de-fukushima-retour-a-la-normale-vers-un-avenir-radieux?fbclid=IwAR3bm-4JHogTKj5a9ECW8en4e7X1g2WK4fsVlHo5F5N2o7IlcZOAlZvlIsQ

 

 

 

 

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

Radioactivity on the move 2020: Recontamination and weather-related effects in Fukushima

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9 March 2020

Tokyo, Japan – Greenpeace Japan’s latest extensive radiation survey

has found evidence of recontamination caused by 2019’s Typhoon 19 (Hagibis) and Typhoon 21 (Bualoi), which released radioactive caesium from the forested mountains of Fukushima Prefecture. 

The survey, which was conducted over three weeks in October and November of 2019, observed concentrated radiation levels throughout Fukushima Prefecture. These localised areas were where radioactivity was observed at higher levels than in previous years, as well as a reduction in levels in some areas, and recontamination elsewhere. 

The survey identified high-level hotspots throughout Fukushima Prefecture, including in Fukushima City. This ongoing and complex radiological emergency in parts of Fukushima Prefecture runs directly counter to the narrative of the Japanese government which continues to push its propaganda of normalization in Fukushima and the effectiveness of its massive decontamination program.

Typhoons no. 19 & 21 deposited large volumes of rain across Japan, including in Fukushima Prefecture. In recent years, scientists have been reporting the effect of heavy rainfall leading to increased migration of radioactivity from mountainous forests through the river systems. 

The results of our 2019 radiation survey demonstrate the complex and persistent nature of radionuclide mobilization and recontamination in areas of Fukushima Prefecture. The mountainous forest regions of Fukushima prefecture, which have never been decontaminated, will continue to be long-term sources of recontamination. The findings from our recent radiation survey definitively disprove the myth of a ‘return to normal’ in parts of Fukushima.” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Japan.

The main findings of the Greenpeace Japan investigation include:

  • Hotspots measured in all areas surveyed; including Okuma, Naraha (J-Village), as well in Fukushima City.
  • Significant variations in radiation levels from previous years in certain zones that cannot be explained by radioactive decay. 
  • Likely remobilization of radioactivity in the soil and weather-related effects resulting from heavy rainfall was also identified in the reopened area of Iitate, with significant changes in radiation levels comparing across the five year period for which we have data.
  • Along the Takase river in the newly reopened area of Namie, and where the government claims it is safe to live, 99% of radiation levels averaged 0.8 μSv/h with a maximum of 1.7 μSv/h, with 99% exceeded the government’s long-term decontamination target of 0.23 μSv/h measured at 1 meter and were twenty (20) times higher than pre-2011 levels.
  • In a period of four hours, the survey team identified forty-six (46) hot spots in the around Fukushima City central station, eleven of which equaled or exceeded the Japanese government decontamination long term target of 0.23 μSv/h measured at 1 meter; including observed levels of radiation that 137 times higher than the background radiation levels measured in the Fukushima environment prior to the 2011 nuclear disaster. 
  • In an area close to a former school and kindergarten in the reopened area of Namie, annual dose rates would be between 10-20 mSv based on the Japanese government methodology and between 17-33 mSv based on sustained exposure over a full year; which are between 10 and 33 times above the international recommended maximum exposure for the public.
  • Near the new town hall in the newly reopened area of Okuma, and within a few hundred meters of the planned Olympic torch route, radiation hotspots were measured to be of 1.5 µSv/h at 1 meter and 2.5 µSv/h at 10cm (62 times above the background levels of 0.04 µSv/h before the nuclear accident in March 2011).
  • The evidence from earlier typhoons and resulting data strongly suggest that there was a substantial increase in downstream contamination from October 2019. Greenpeace intends to return later this year to further investigate and substantiate the hypothesis of major weathering effects in Fukushima.

The radiation hotspots we found in public areas along the pavements and streets of central Fukushima City, including tens of meters from the entrance to the Shinkansen train line to Tokyo, highlight the ongoing scale of the nuclear disaster in 2011. The hotspots we found are at a level that they would require a special license to be transported and in the category of Dangerous Goods. The government is using the Olympics as a platform to communicate the myth that everything has returned to normal in Fukushima. They falsely claim that radiation has either been decontaminated or is under control. Our radiation survey clearly shows that the government propaganda is not true.” said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist of Greenpeace Germany.

Mizue Kanno, a resident of Namie who cooperated on the Greenpeace radiation survey said, “I hope the world knows the real situation in Fukushima. Radioactivity is washing down from the mountains due to heavy rain and flowing into the decontaminated areas. The radiation levels found around my house are higher than ever before. Once a nuclear accident happens, it looks like this, and soon we are going to have the Olympics and pretend that everything is okay. It’s not. ”

ENDS

Notes:

Full report in English, here


Photos and videos, here

https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/29250/radioactivity-on-the-move-2020/

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | 1 Comment

Soil from decontamination work kept in communities

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March 8, 2020

Nine years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, more than half of the waste created by decontamination work is still kept near residents’ homes.

About 14 million cubic meters of soil and vegetation has been collected in clean-up operations in areas affected by the nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture, except for heavily contaminated off-limit areas.

The environment ministry plans to transfer all such waste to intermediate storage facilities near the crippled nuclear power plant by March 2022.

As of the end of February, only about 6.3 million cubic meters, or around 45 percent of the total waste, had been transferred to the facilities.

The rest was stored at school compounds, parks, and temporary storage sites.

Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi told reporters on Friday that the waste needs to be removed from the locations as quickly as possible so that local residents can feel secure.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200308_02/

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

Japan lifts evacuation order for town hit by Fukushima disaster

Futaba to reopen for start of Olympic torch relay after being deserted for nine years

3448The entrance of Futaba town, which has been empty since the leak at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.

 

March 4, 2020

Japan has lifted an evacuation order for parts of a town in the shadow of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, weeks before the area is to host the start of the Olympic torch relay.

Futaba, 2.4 miles (4km) west of the plant, has been almost deserted since the nuclear meltdown nine years ago, while other areas in the region have mounted a partial recovery after the government declared them safe for residents.

The start of the relay’s Japan leg at the end of the month is supposed to showcase Fukushima’s recovery from the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, but some residents say their home towns may never return to normal.

Futaba’s 7,000 residents were forced to evacuate after the March 2011 disaster, which was triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people along Japan’s north-east coast.

The reopening of a 1.5 sq mile area of Futaba means reconstruction workers can stay in accommodation near the railway station, but residents will not be able to return for another two years, when its water supply and other infrastructure will have been restored, according to local officials.

They will be able to enter and leave for short visits without going through security, and will no longer need to wear protective clothing, but will not be allowed to stay overnight.

While the coronavirus outbreak has prompted speculation that the Olympics could be cancelled or postponed, Japan’s government is keen to promote Tokyo 2020 as proof that the region, including Fukushima, has recovered from the triple disaster.

I’m overwhelmed with emotion as we finally bring part of our town operations back to our home town,” said Futaba’s mayor, Shiro Izawa. “I pledge to push forward with our recovery and reconstruction.”

The domestic leg of the torch relay is due to begin on 26 March at J-Village, a football training complex that functioned for years as a logistics hub for crews working to control and decommission the damaged nuclear plant 12 miles away.

Although organisers have said the route is subject to change, the torch is scheduled to pass through Futaba later the same day, before being taken through other parts of Fukushima prefecture over the following two days.

 

3128A guard opens the gate to the town in Futaba.

In addition to building excitement across the country ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games and promoting the Olympic values, the Olympic torch relay aims to demonstrate solidarity with the regions still recovering from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami,” the organisers said last month.

More than 160,000 people were forced to flee their homes during the Fukushima meltdown. Many have decided not to return, despite government reassurances on safety, and many of those who have returned are older residents.

Futaba is no exception, with just 10% of residents saying they intend to return. Some, particularly those with young children, are concerned about radiation levels, while others have built new lives elsewhere.

Yuji Onuma, a Futaba resident, said recent work to repair streets and decontaminate the town centre was designed to give the world a false impression before the Olympic torch relay.

I wish they wouldn’t hold the relay here,” Onuma told Reuters. Pointing at workers repaving a road expected to be on the relay route, he added: “Their number one aim is to show people how much we’ve recovered. I don’t think people will understand anything by just seeing cleaned-up tracts of land.”

Radiation readings in the air taken in February near Futaba’s railway station were around 0.28 microsieverts per hour, higher than the government-set target of 0.23 microsieverts an hour.

Another part of the town had a reading of 4.64 microsieverts per hour on the same day, meaning a person would reach the annual exposure upper limit of 1 millisievert, recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, in just nine days.

The torch is due to pass through the village of Iitate the following day, but campaigners this week described the relay as inappropriate and warned they had found radiation “hotspots” in the village.

In a survey of 69 locations along and around the proposed relay route, the grassroots group the Radioactivity Monitoring Centre for Citizens said it had found 44 sites with radioactive levels above 0.23 microsieverts per hour, including one “severe hotspot” of 0.85 microsieverts per hour along the torch relay route.

The discovery of hotspots near J-Village by Greenpeace Japan at the end of last year prompted the environment ministry and the nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, to perform extra decontamination work.

While some independent monitors have said the discovery of isolated hotspots does not present an accurate picture of the overall situation in Fukushima, Nobuyoshi Ito, an Iitate farmer, said the civic group’s findings cast doubts on government claims that decontamination work had been a success.

Radiation exposure for runners passing along the route may not be very high, but the overall situation in places like Iitate is severe,” Ito said. “Levels are several times to as many as 20 times higher in the village than they were before the disaster, and people who moved back have to put up with that 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Of Iitate’s pre-disaster population of 6,100, only 1,200 people have returned, Ito said. “The small number of people coming means that the nuclear disaster is not over yet. The truth is that full recovery from a nuclear disaster like this is just not possible.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/04/japan-lifts-evacuation-order-futaba-town-fukushima-disaster?CMP=share_btn_fb&fbclid=IwAR0L6-CAj0LYlEtKWrdeQF_bim4qUZIp_iEvbtV4uxlW4MnwIeSy6T8_CAk

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

In Fukushima, Olympic torch relay faces cool welcome from nuclear evacuees

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March 2, 2020

FUTABA, Japan (Reuters) – Dressed in protective plastic coveralls and white booties, Yuji Onuma stood in front of the row of derelict buildings that included his house, and sighed as he surveyed his old neighborhood.

On the once-bustling main street, reddish weeds poked out of cracked pavements in front of abandoned shops with caved-in walls and crumbling roofs. Nearby, thousands of black plastic bags filled with irradiated soil were stacked in a former rice field.

It’s like visiting a graveyard,” he said.

Onuma, 43, was back in his hometown of Futaba to check on his house, less than 4 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which suffered a triple meltdown in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami, leaking radiation across the region.

The authorities say it will be two more years before evacuees can live here again, an eternity for people who have been in temporary housing for nine years. But given the lingering radiation here, Onuma says he has decided not to move back with his wife and two young sons.

Most of his neighbors have moved on, abandoning their houses and renting smaller apartments in nearby cities or settling elsewhere in Japan.

Given the problems Futaba still faces, many evacuees are chafing over the government’s efforts to showcase the town as a shining example of Fukushima’s reconstruction for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

While there has been speculation that the global spread of the coronavirus that emerged in China last month might force the cancellation of the Olympics, Japanese officials have said they are confident the Games will go ahead.

The Olympic torch relay will take place in Fukushima in late March – although possibly in shortened form as a result of the coronavirus, Olympic organizers say – and will pass through Futaba. In preparation, construction crews have been hard at work repairing streets and decontaminating the center of town.

I wish they wouldn’t hold the relay here,” said Onuma. He pointed to workers repaving the road outside the train station, where the torch runners are likely to pass. “Their number one aim is to show people how much we’ve recovered.”

He said he hoped that the torch relay would also pass through the overgrown and ghostly parts of the town, to convey everything that the 7,100 residents uprooted of Futaba lost as a result of the accident.

I don’t think people will understand anything by just seeing cleaned-up tracts of land.”

UNDER CONTROL”

In 2013, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was pitching Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Games to International Olympic Committee members, he declared that the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant was “under control”.

The Games have been billed as the “Reconstruction Olympics” – an opportunity to laud Japan’s massive effort to rebuild the country’s northeastern region, ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami, as well as the meltdowns at the nuclear plant owned by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

After the disaster, the government created a new ministry to handle reconstruction efforts and pledged 32 trillion yen ($286.8 billion) in funding to rebuild affected areas.

 

kkmùùYuji Onuma, an evacuee from Futaba Town near tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, walks next to a collapsed shop on the street in Futaba Town, inside the exclusion zone around the plant, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan February 20, 2020.

 

Signs of the reconstruction efforts are everywhere near the plant: new roads have been built, apartment blocks for evacuee families have sprouted up, and an imposing tsunami wall now runs along the coastline. An army of workers commutes to the wrecked plant every day to decommission the reactors.

In March, just days before the Olympic relay is scheduled to be held across Fukushima, Japan will partially ease a restriction order for Futaba, the last town that remains off-limits for residents to return.

This means that residents like Onuma will be able to freely come and go from the town without passing through security or changing into protective clothing. Evacuees will still not be able to stay in their homes overnight.

After a few years bouncing between relatives’ homes and temporary apartments, Onuma decided to build a new house in Ibaraki, a nearby prefecture. His two sons are already enrolled in kindergarten and primary school there.

You feel a sense of despair,” said Onuma. “Our whole life was here and we were just about to start our new life with our children.”

When Onuma was 12, he won a local competition to come up with a catchphrase promoting atomic energy. His words, “Nuclear Energy for a Brighter Future” was painted on an arch that welcomed visitors to Futaba.

After the nuclear meltdowns, the sign was removed against Onuma’s objections.

It feels like they’re whitewashing the history of this town,” said Onuma, who now installs solar panels for a living.

The organizing committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

 

BACK BURNER”

Other residents and community leaders in nearby towns say the Olympics may have actually hindered the region’s recovery.

Yasushi Niitsuma, a 60-year-old restaurant owner in Namie, said the Olympics stalled local reconstruction projects because of surging demand and costs to secure workers and materials ahead of the games in Tokyo.

We need to wait two years, three years to have a house built because of the lack of craftsmen,” said Niitsuma. “We are being put on the back burner.”

Fukushima’s agriculture and fisheries industries have also been devastated.

I was astonished by the “under control” comment made in a pitch to win the Olympic Games,” said Takayuki Yanai, who directs a fisheries co-op in Iwaki, 50 kilometers south of the nuclear plant, referring to Abe’s statement.

People in Fukushima have the impression that reconstruction was used as a bait to win the Olympic Games.”

A government panel recently recommended discharging contaminated water held at the Fukushima plant to the sea, which Yanai expects to further hurt what remains of the area’s fisheries industry.

At a recent news conference, Reconstruction Minister Kazunori Tanaka responded to a question from Reuters about criticism from Fukushima evacuees.

We will work together with relevant prefectures, municipalities and various organizations so that people in the region can take a positive view,” he said, referring to the Olympics.

Local officials also say they are making progress for the return of residents to Futaba.

Unlike Chernobyl, we are aiming to go back and live there,” Futaba Mayor Shirou Izawa said in an interview, calling the partial lifting of the evacuation order a sign of “major progress”.

There were a lot of misunderstandings about the radiation levels in the town, including the safety of produce and fish from Fukushima, Izawa said.

It would be great if such misunderstanding is dispelled even a little bit,” he said.

Radiation readings in the air taken in February near Futaba’s train station were around 0.28 microsieverts per hour, still approximately eight times the measurement taken on the same day in central Tokyo.

Another area in Futaba had a reading of 4.64 microsieverts per hour on the same day, meaning a person would reach the annual exposure upper limit of 1 millisievert, recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, in just nine days.

Despite the official assurances, it’s hard to miss the signs of devastation and decay around town.

The block where Takahisa Ogawa’s house once stood is now just a row of overgrown lots, littered with concrete debris. A small statue of a stone frog is all that remains of his garden, which is also scattered with wild boar droppings.

He finally demolished his house last year after he failed to convince his wife and two sons to return to live in Futaba.

Ogawa doubts any of his childhood friends and neighbors would ever return to the town.

I’ve passed the stage where I’m angry and I’m resigned,” he said.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2020-futaba-insight/in-fukushima-olympic-torch-relay-faces-cool-welcome-from-nuclear-evacuees-idUSKBN20P03M?fbclid=IwAR0G7Exv5bLjdYCHCdmV5PA7L15qoZ3KpCScZIa8F8_TU9AAzNBvSW9aKvE

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , , | Leave a comment