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Radioactive soil plan casts shadow over Fukushima village

Keiko Shigihara used to make pickles out of flower petals from a cherry tree at her former home in Fukushima Prefecture.

Sep 11, 2020

Keiko Shigihara, 58, soaks up the summer sun as she looks over her property in the village of Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture, from where she evacuated after the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The land where her home used to be is now an empty lot. Cherry trees and oak trees are the only things left.

Shigihara remembers the days when she used to make homemade salted cherry blossoms and rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves.

“It’s sad but there’s nothing to be done now except look forward,” said Shigihara, who evacuated to the city of Fukushima after the calamity.

Iitate’s Nagadoro administrative district, where her home was located, was designated a no-go zone due to its high radiation levels. But the Environment Ministry later designated the district as an area where radiation-tainted soil removed as part of the decontamination process would be reused to fill the land for farming.

The project is slated to begin by March 2021.

Shigihara was born in the town of Futaba, which is located on the coastline of Fukushima Prefecture — one of the areas hardest hit during the 2011 earthquake.

After graduating from high school in Futaba, she met Yoshiyuki, now 59, a native of Iitate, and the two married. She moved into his home, where her in-laws also lived, in Nagadoro in 1988 and helped out with farming. She raised her two daughters there, too.

The Nagadoro district, which is located in the southern part of the village, is a well-preserved area surrounded by mountains.

Different types of fish can be found in the nearby Hiso River, and Shigihara often made meals with fresh vegetables grown in the fields or plucked from the mountainsides.

“I bet you’re glad you married someone living in Iitate,” Shigihara’s late father-in-law used to say.

That peaceful lifestyle was upended in 2011. Life in evacuation, bleak as it was, continued for years, and the family did not know if they could ever return or what would happen to their home.

But, at the end of 2016, the government said, out of the blue, that it was planning to bury the contaminated soil to create arable land.

“Contaminated soil was supposed to be taken to an intermediate storage facility” where it’s preserved safely, Shigihara said. She was worried whether it was safe to bury it in the ground.

Naturally, the plan drew concern from local residents.

Deliberation between the central government, the village and its residents spanned a year.

Local residents were worried about whether it was possible for people to live there again if they were to go ahead with the project, or that a damaging reputation would haunt agricultural products harvested there.

But the government pressed on, saying it will be an experimental case to reuse contaminated soil in local areas. The government ensured it would also closely monitor radiation levels in the air and conduct tests to make sure the produce is safe.

In the end, locals gave in and the project was given the green light in November 2017.

In April 2018, 186 hectares of the Nagadoro administrative district’s 1,080 hectares were designated for the project. The village of Iitate proposed in May to lift evacuation orders.

At the end of last year, Shigihara’s cherished home was demolished for the plan. Watching it be torn down would have been too painful, so she waited to return until after it was done.

“Anything to help my hometown recover,” she said.

Fresh produce is being cultivated nearby and experiments have been conducted to plant crops on contaminated soil without adding a layer of uncontaminated soil.

In the long wait for Nagadoro’s residents to return home, the clock has finally begun moving again.

This section features topics and issues covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the prefecture’s largest newspaper. The original article was published Aug

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/09/11/national/iitate-fukushima-contaminated-soil/

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

Fukushima Has Turned These Grandparents Into Avid Radiation Testers

Takenori Kobayashi (left) and his wife Tomoko Kobayashi bring soil samples into what they refer to as a “grandma and grandpa lab” to test it for radiation, in Fukushima prefectures

September 11, 2020

Takenori Kobayashi lugs a garbage bag full of soil across a parking lot to an unmarked office. His wife, Tomoko, holds the door to a tiny work space with lab equipment and computers set up. On the edge of Fukushima’s former nuclear exclusion zone, this is the place the couple likes to call their “grandma and grandpa lab.”

It started as a makeshift operation in the city of Minamisoma the year after the 2011 nuclear disaster, when people — mostly elderly — returned to the area and were worried about high radiation levels in their food and soil.

“We’ve given up hope that our children and grandchildren will come back to live here,” Tomoko, 67, says. Most young people decided to start lives elsewhere rather than return, not wanting to take the risks with radiation. “But in order for them to come back and visit us,” she continues, “we need to know everything is safe. So we test it all.”

Citizen science like this flourished in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster in 2011, when a tsunami triggered explosions at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The wind carried radioactive material for miles, covering whole towns and neighborhoods with dangerous, yet invisible, particles. For weeks after the disaster, information was scarce and trust in the Japanese government plummeted. And now, almost a decade later, wide arrays of residents have taken it upon themselves to collect radiation data — from mothers worried about their kids to surfers monitoring beaches to individuals with Geiger counters in their homes — to help regain a sense of control.

Tomoko measures soil into a container that will go through a donated gamma counter, a big cylindrical machine that measures radioactive particles.

Inside the lab, the Kobayashis pair get to work. One measures out soil into small containers, the other starts labeling — so coordinated and practiced, it’s almost like a dance. They put the samples through a donated gamma counter, a big cylindrical machine that measures radioactive particles. Today, they’re testing soil from a nearby farm.

A handful of other residents help run the lab, and throughout the years, experts from nearby universities have come to teach them all about the different equipment and radiation science.

“All the grandparents here are radiation professionals now,” Takenori, 71, says with a smile.

Before the disaster, he was an accountant, and Tomoko helped run a nearby inn that has been in her family for generations. When the disaster happened, they were forced to evacuate for five years. But when they were allowed to come back home in 2016, they reopened the inn — and learned everything they could about radiation.

“We never thought we’d be doing this. What normal person would expect this?” says Tomoko with a chuckle. “But anyone who faces this kind of situation has to become a scientist to survive.”

Tomoko and Takenori were forced to evacuate Minamisoma after the disaster, but after five years, they returned to reopen Tomoko’s family inn.

Takenori points to colorful radiation maps of the area hanging on the wall. The couple made them, along with a team of volunteers, using donated Geiger counters — hand-held devices used to measure radiation — over the past few years as more neighborhoods reopened to the public.

“It is important for us to visualize the invisible,” he says. “We needed to see it.”

The maps show that Fukushima’s radiation levels are decreasing, because of both natural decay of particles and large-scale Japanese government decontamination efforts. But there are still a lot of hot spots — places where radiation is worryingly high. The authorities have tried to ease concerns, testing food in supermarkets and setting up radiation monitors in public parks, outside train stations or flashing along highways, but trust in the government is still extremely low. Many residents say they still feel best collecting information themselves.

Maps hang on the wall of the lab where the Kobayashis do radiation testing. The maps, one part of their work, were created by a team of volunteers who took air measurements. The maps show that the radiation levels in Fukushima are decreasing.

One of the original citizen data operations in Fukushima is called Safecast. The nonprofit organization formed in the immediate days after the disaster, when it became clear that accurate radiation information was not available. Safecast started building and distributing radiation monitors in Fukushima, and then putting all the data online for public use.

Now, nearly a decade later, Safecast has hundreds of devices in the area around the Daiichi nuclear power plant, with dozens of local residents helping to take hundreds of readings a day. There’s even one hanging in the Kobayashis’ inn.

“We found that simply allowing people to take measurements themselves, and have a way to compare it to government data was really important for their peace of mind, for their sense of agency,” says Azby Brown, the lead researcher at Safecast.

Azby Brown is the lead researcher at Safecast, an organization that formed in the immediate days after the disaster. It builds and distributes radiation monitors in Fukushima, and puts all the data online for public use.

Part of the reason people want to collect data themselves and compare it is because even after more information became available, it was often contradictory. The United Nations and the International Commission on Radiological Protection have published reports saying that radiation risks in Fukushima are low. Other organizations, like Greenpeace, dispute those findings. The Japanese government insists that the areas being reopened are safe. But many are quick to point out that the government raised the legal limit of radiation exposure in this part of Fukushima prefecture after the disaster — meaning that many of these areas wouldn’t necessarily be considered safe in other parts of Japan or the world.

Brown says that giving people the ability to collect and understand their own data can help them ease their anxiety and make decisions based on their personal comfort.

People stand near the ocean in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, commemorating the ninth anniversary of the tsunami and nuclear disaster.

“Some people will look at the data and say, ‘Oh my God, I’m leaving,’ ” Brown says. “Other people will say, ‘Oh, you know, it’s not as bad as I feared, maybe I’ll stay.’ And yet others will say, ‘Well, it’s pretty bad, but now at least I know what I’m facing and I know how hard it’s going to be.’ “

That last option is ultimately how the Kobayashis felt when they decided to come back after their neighborhood was reopened in 2016. By that point, Tomoko had gotten a Geiger counter. She remembers how empowering it felt to know and understand the reading. It was low enough for the pair, something they both felt comfortable with.

“I was so relieved,” she says, “I knew I could come home.”

But now, Tomoko says, a new invisible threat has her worried — the coronavirus. She says a lot of the anxiety everyone is feeling now reminds her of how she felt back in 2011. She has stocked up the inn with cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and cloth face masks. But the travel sector has plummeted during the pandemic.

Tomoko stands at the inn in Fukushima prefecture that has been in her family for generations.

“Radiation is a bit similar to the virus,” she says sitting at the kitchen table of her inn. “It doesn’t have any smell, you can’t feel it, you can’t see it.”

Tomoko says she is, of course, aware that the two are very different, but the parallels have been striking to her. She remembers back in March and April, when she saw cities like London and New York looking abandoned and empty on TV. It reminded her of the towns in Fukushima, right after the disaster. It brought back a lot, she says.

“As long as you have a Geiger counter, you can detect radiation,” she says. “But with the virus, there is no Geiger counter.”

Tomoko says, like many of us, she’s eager for science to help find one.

https://www.npr.org/2020/09/11/907881531/fukushima-has-turned-these-grandparents-into-avid-radiation-testers

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

Particles from Fukushima meltdown contained plutonium

fukushima-nuclear-disaster-plutonium_1600Local residents who live around the 20km exclusion zone around the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant undergo a screening test for possible radiation at screening center on September 13, 2011 in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.

 

August 6th, 2020 Posted by Stanford

Microscopic particles emitted during the Fukushima nuclear disaster contained plutonium, according to a new study.

The microscopic radioactive particles formed inside the Fukushima reactors when the melting nuclear fuel interacted with the reactor’s structural concrete.

Nearly ten years after meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant caused a nuclear disaster, the new information about the extent and severity of the meltdown and the distribution patterns of the plutonium have broad implications for understanding the mobility of plutonium during a nuclear accident.

The study used an extraordinary array of analytical techniques in order to complete the description of the particles at the atomic-scale,” says coauthor Rod Ewing, co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University.

The researchers found that, due to loss of containment in the reactors, the particles were released into the atmosphere and many were then deposited many miles from the reactor sites.

Studies have shown that the cesium-rich microparticles, or CsMPs, are highly radioactive and primarily composed of glass (with silica from concrete) and radio-cesium (a volatile fission product formed in the reactors). But the environmental impact and their distribution is still an active subject of research and debate. The new work offers a much-needed insight into the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) meltdowns.

The study used an extraordinary array of analytical techniques in order to complete the description of the particles at the atomic-scale.

The researchers used a combination of advanced analytical techniques, including synchrotron-based micro-X-ray analysis, secondary ion mass spectrometry, and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, to find and characterize the plutonium that was present in the CsMP samples. They initially discovered incredibly small uranium-dioxide inclusions, of less than 10 nanometers in diameter, inside the CsMPs; this indicated possible inclusion of nuclear fuel inside the particles.

Detailed analysis revealed, for the first-time, that plutonium-oxide concentrates were associated with the uranium, and that the isotopic composition of the uranium and plutonium matched that calculated for the FDNPP irradiated fuel inventory.

These results strongly suggest that the nano-scale heterogeneity that is common in normal nuclear fuels is still present in the fuel debris that remains inside the site’s damaged reactors,” says geochemist Satoshi Utsunomiya of Kyushu University, who led the team.

This is important information as it tells us about the extent [and] severity of the meltdown. Further, this is important information for the eventual decommissioning of the damaged reactors and the long-term management of their wastes.”

With regards to environmental impact, Utsunomiya says, “as we already know that the CsMPs were distributed over a wide region in Japan, small amounts of plutonium were likely dispersed in the same way.”

This is important information for the eventual decommissioning of the damaged reactors and the long-term management of their wastes.

The team “will continue to experiment with the CsMPs, in an effort to better understand their long-term behavior and environmental impact,” says Gareth T. W. Law, a coauthor on the paper from the University of Helsinki. It is now clear that CsMPs are an important vector of radioactive contamination from nuclear accidents.”

While the plutonium released from the damaged reactors is low compared to that of cesium; the investigation provides crucial information for studying the associated health impact,” says coauthor Bernd Grambow of Nantes/France.

Utsunomiya emphasizes that this is a great achievement of international collaboration. “It’s been almost ten years since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima,” he says, “but research on Fukushima’s environmental impact and its decommissioning are a long way from being over.”

The paper appears in Science of the Total Environment.

Additional researchers from Kyushu University, University of Tsukuba, Tokyo Institute of Technology, National Institute of Polar Research, University of Helsinki, Paul Scherrer Institute, Diamond Light Source, and SUBATECH (IMT Atlantique, CNRS, University of Nantes) contributed to the work.

Source: Stanford University via Kyushu University

Original Study DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140539

https://www.futurity.org/fukushima-nuclear-disaster-plutonium-2417332-2/

 

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

Fallout over Fukushima fallout papers continues as two are retracted

August 4, 2020

A radiology journal has retracted two papers about the fallout from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan over concerns that the researchers used “ethically inappropriate data” from the people they studied.

The articles, which appeared in the Journal of Radiological Protection in 2017, were written by  Makoto Miyazaki, of the Department of Radiation Health Management at Fukushima Medical University, and Ryugo Hayano, a professor of physics emeritus at the University of Tokyo. As we reported, both papers were initially subject to expressions of concern last year.

The papers have been cited a total of 26 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science.

The retraction notice for “Individual external dose monitoring of all citizens of Date City by passive dosimeter 5 to 51 months after the Fukushima NPP accident (series): 1. Comparison of individual dose with ambient dose rate monitored by aircraft surveys” reads:

Following the Expression of Concern issued on this article on 11 January 2019, IOP Publishing is now retracting this article. On 4 June 2020, IOP Publishing received confirmation from the authors of 2017 J. Radiol. Prot. 37 1 (the first in a series of two research articles) that ethically inappropriate data were used in the study reported in this article. This confirmation follows an investigation into the matter by Date City Citizen’s Exposure Data Provision Investigation Committee, which finds that some subjects within the study did not consent to their data being used for research, and it is unclear whether the unconsented data was provided to the author. IOP Publishing believes that the authors were unaware of the ethical problems with this data, which was supplied by a third party. The results of this investigation are available (in Japanese) at https://www.city.fukushima-date.lg.jp/soshiki/3/41833.html (IOP Publishing and the Society for Radiological Protection take no responsibility for the content at this link).

The readers are asked to note that, as part of the article submission process, the authors of the above referenced article confirmed that the research reported in the article adhered to the Ethical Policy of IOP Publishing and the Society for Radiological Protection.

As a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), this matter has been investigated by IOP Publishing in accordance with COPE guidelines and it was decided that the article should be retracted. The authors agree with this retraction and have fully complied with all investigations.

More details are expected to be forthcoming. However, in line with COPE guidelines, we are retracting this article promptly and will update this retraction notice with more information, as necessary and as it is released.

Based on the investigation report it has also been found that there is an error in table 1 of this article. The figure relating to glass badge holders in 2014 3Q is incorrect and should be close to N = 12 011. These data were also provided to the authors by the same third party and the authors were not aware of this mistake in advance of publication of the article.

The second paper, Individual external dose monitoring of all citizens of Date City by passive dosimeter 5 to 51 months after the Fukushima NPP accident (series): II. Prediction of lifetime additional effective dose and evaluating the effect of decontamination on individual dose,” carries an identical notice (minus the error).

Miyazaki, the corresponding author of the papers, has not responded to a request for comment.

Fallout over Fukushima fallout papers continues as two are retracted

A pair of radiation exposure studies on the people of Date City have been retracted. Authors Hayano and Miyazaki retracted the 2017 papers this week after years of dispute.

By early 2019 this issue had become too big to ignore. Hayano and Miyazaki attempted to claim unintentional mistakes and later tried to blame the city. An investigation into scientific misconduct at the University of Tokyo went nowhere as the statues required intent. Both researchers continued to claim the data manipulation that took months worth of data and applied it over years, making radiation exposures look less severe, was merely a spreadsheet accident.

Some of Hayano’s other Fukushima related studies raised questions about the methodology and potential biases. A 2014 study used a whole body counter scanning machine in small children but used an unusually short scan duration that may have grossly under counted their radiation exposures.

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

Activist Professor Unveils English-language Video Warning of Tokyo Olympics Radiation Risk

July 24, 2020

SEOUL, July 24 (Korea Bizwire)Ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics scheduled to be held next year in Japan, Seo Kyung-duk, a professor at Sungshin Women’s University, unveiled on Thursday a video in English on social media such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, warning that the radiation risk still remains high in Japan.

The four-minute video focuses on highlighting the risk of being exposed to radioactive materials in Fukushima.

In 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that the radiation in Fukushima was sufficiently under control.

The video, however, claims that in the seven years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the region’s nuclear power plant and its neighboring areas still remain a dangerous radioactive area, with the radiation level of some Fukushima areas being up to 1,775 times higher than internationally recommended levels.

The video warned that the Fukushima nuclear disaster is not terminated but still underway, adding that those who want to visit the Tokyo Olympics should be careful about the risk of being exposed to radiation.

The Japanese government plans to host some Olympic games in Fukushima as well as providing ingredients and foods from Fukushima to the athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympics,” Seo said.

This move is a sign that the Japanese government only wants to use the Tokyo Olympics as a chance to herald the rebuilding of Fukushima, neglecting the region’s radiation risk.”

Lina Jang (linajang@koreabizwire.com)

http://koreabizwire.com/activist-professor-unveils-english-language-video-warning-of-tokyo-olympics-radiation-risk/165490

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

Japan grows the world’s “sweetest” peach – in Fukushima

Frankly speaking you have to be either masochist or suicidal to play Russian roulette by eating those Fukushima peaches, their sweetness should never make you forget their potential radioactive contamination. There are many other countries where to buy sweet and safe peaches from.

That said I cannot believe the nerve that this journalist has to write such a “sweet” propaganda piece. I understand that these people need to make a living, but should they not consider their moral responsability towards the people whose health might be put at risk buying and eating their potentially radiation contaminated products? All done in the name of “holy reconstruction”…. There is no such a thing as a harmless low dose in internal radiation.

eight_col_ian-baldwin-f7FwHomDgzg-unsplashFifth generation peach farmer Koji Furuyama has been striving to decontaminate Fukushima’s reputation by growing the world’s sweetest peaches.

20 July 2020

Would you buy a $7000 peach? A fruit so juicy, so sweet, so perfect you just don’t care about the sticky nectar dribbling down your face?

What if it came from Fukushima, infamous for one of the worst nuclear accidents in modern memory?

Before the disaster, peaches from the area were prized for their exceptional taste and luscious texture, but on 11 March 2011 a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered one of the world’s worst accidents of the nuclear power age.

As radiation spewed from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, tens of thousands of residents were forced to flee their homes – some never to return.

While radiation levels have slowly dissipated, an inescapable stigma remains for the people of Fukushima.

Since then, fifth generation peach farmer Koji Furuyama has been striving to decontaminate the region’s reputation by growing the world’s sweetest peaches.

“Produce in Fukushima was recognised as the world’s most worthless and dangerous,” Koji said.

“I thought of doing the complete opposite by making the world’s most delicious or sweetest peaches.”

‘The sweetness will be from an unknown world’

There is a scientific measurement which confirms the intense sweetness of Koji’s peaches.

When you bite into a peach, you might notice if it’s sweet or tart or bland. Among farmers, this is known as Degrees Brix, and it measures the fruit’s sugar content.

The higher on the Brix scale, which goes up to 40, the sweeter the fruit.

Your average supermarket peach is usually somewhere between 11 and 15 Degrees Brix.

In comparison, the Guinness World Records certified a peach grown in Kanechika, Japan as the world’s sweetest, with a sugar content of 22.2

But on the Furuyama Fruit Farm in rural Fukushima, Koji has managed to grow a peach so sweet, it came in at a mouth-watering 32 Degrees Brix.

While Koji sold that delectably sweet peach for $7000 a few years ago, he’s not done yet.

He has already grown a peach at 35, and is now setting his sights on the most perfect peach ever, aiming to achieve that elusive 40 Degrees Brix.

“The sweetness will be from an unknown world,” he vowed.

“It will be the only one in the world. To put a price on that, I have to settle at $40,000.”

This might seem like a lot of money for something that literally grows on trees, but fruit can play a very different cultural role in Japan.

A bunch of grapes the size of Ping-Pong balls just sold for about $NZ18,500 at auction in Ishikawa on 16 July.

The pricey, individually wrapped fruits sold at department stores are precious gifts given as a sign of respect or thanks.

Going to a housewarming or visiting a friend in hospital? Grab a box of giant, blemish-free, juicy strawberries.

It’s not always just an everyday snack here, and if you pick the wrong melon without checking the price tag, you can receive quite the hip-pocket surprise when you get to the checkout.

It means Japanese farmers are meticulous in their production processes and is the reason why Koji is unyieldingly striving for perfection.

The recovery from the March 2011 disaster also gives him a reason to keep going.

A peach replaces the Olympic torch

Japan’s organisers of the 2020 Olympics won their bid with a pitch highlighting how the Games would be the “recovery games”, showing off just how far Japan’s north-eastern region had come.

The region was hosting the baseball and softball events and the prefecture was to mark the beginning of the torch relay and play a big part of it.

The food grown in this area, including Koji’s peaches, are safe to eat. He was banking on the Olympic Games showing that off.

“If this becomes known worldwide, the image of Fukushima would improve and I thought I could change it. That’s why I focus on making such sweet peaches,” Koji said.

eight_col_053_1EMPERORPEACH201507168Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visit a peach farmer in Fukushima.

 

When coronavirus restrictions forced Olympics organisers to delay the torch relay, Koji still ran his leg as if the Games were going ahead. Instead of a torch, he carried a peach.

Koji holds onto hope the Games will go ahead, and Fukushima will get a chance to shine, even if it is not fully recovered.

“It’s hard to return to what it was 10 years ago, before the disaster. There are many victims who have started new lives and it’s true that it’s recovering gradually,” he said.

But once the coronavirus pandemic passes, a ‘recovery’ Olympics will take on a special meaning for everyone who survived it.

“Recovery from coronavirus will apply to people around the world,” he said.

“I think it could have a deeper meaning: recovery in [this region] and recovery from coronavirus. I am thinking in a positive way.”

Inside Fukushima’s no-go zone

Not everyone shares Koji’s optimism in Fukushima. The nuclear disaster destroyed Nobuyoshi Ito’s farming business.

He regularly visits the exclusion zones and doesn’t believe the government is surveying enough radiation hotspots.

He believes the idea of the recovery Olympics is “inappropriate”.

“Which part has recovered? When 30,000 people can return to their previous lives it’s recovery. But the government … abandoned those people,” he said.

“It’s trying to host the Olympics only with the people who have recovered.”

Around Fukushima, many of the clocks on the walls stopped ticking moments after the quake struck in 2011.

Currently, 371 square kilometres of the prefecture is a no-go zone, and parts of it will never be habitable again.

Sadao Sugishita left his home of around 70 years when the nuclear meltdown happened. He and his wife Tokuko were forced to evacuate.

Nestled in the lush green mountains, their home is in the no-go zone – inaccessible to anyone but former residents.

Every few minutes, large trucks carrying giant black bags of radioactive soil hurtle down their narrow road.

The bags sit piled up across the road from their property along with piles of rubble, a sadly iconic feature throughout this vast region.

Sugishita and his wife will never again live in their home. They’ve just agreed to tear the house down.

He doesn’t feel the prefecture has recovered.

“All our neighbours and close friends have become separate and the life in the city is completely different to the life here in the village,” he said.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/421610/japan-grows-the-world-s-sweetest-peach-in-fukushima

July 23, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Being Clear-Eyed About Citizen Science in the Age of COVID-19

1

July 15, 2020

An anthropologist explores the network of citizen monitoring capabilities that developed after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 for what they might teach all of us about such strategies for the covonavirus pandemic.

In March 2011, one of the strongest earthquakes on record struck the Fukushima Dai’ichi Nuclear Power Plant in northeastern Japan. Combined with a subsequent tsunami, the disasters triggered massive nuclear meltdowns and widespread evacuations.

On the quiet Friday afternoon of March 11, 2011, Natsuo* was working in Fukushima, the capital city of Fukushima prefecture. At 2:46 p.m., a devastating earthquake of 9.0 magnitude hit the Pacific coast of Japan, where the prefecture of Fukushima is situated. Natsuo recalled to me the sheer power of this earthquake: “The whole office shook like hell, everything began to fall from the walls. I thought to myself ‘That’s it … I’m going to die!’”

Natsuo quickly returned to her hometown of Koriyama City, unaware that the earthquake had triggered a massive tsunami, which inundated an important part of the prefectural shoreline and ultimately claimed the lives of nearly 20,000 people. On top of the initial devastation, the tsunami severely damaged the Fukushima Dai’ichi Nuclear Power Plant, in Ōkuma, Fukushima, located on the east coast of Fukushima prefecture. She later learned on TV that something “seemed wrong” with the nuclear power plant. “During that time,” she said, “I tried to get as much information as I could, but the media weren’t being clear on the situation.”

Something was indeed very wrong: The earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to core meltdowns within some of the Fukushima power plant’s nuclear reactors. This malfunction, along with other technical incidents, resulted in the atmospheric release of radioactive pollutants, which spread predominantly over the northeastern part of Japan, forcing a widespread evacuation of Fukushima residents. By March 12, the area around the power plant had been evacuated; those living and working within 20 kilometers of the radius of the plant were forced to relocate. In the days, weeks, and months following this disaster, uncertainty around the scale and extent of contamination grew swiftly—much like what we see occurring throughout the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most notably, the public grew increasingly concerned about the legitimacy of institutional experts’ ability to control and explain the risks of residual radioactivity, while citizens like Natsuo were unable to get adequate information through traditional media venues. Initially, data about radioactive contamination came sporadically and was often explained in hard-to-understand metrics by scientists who were cherry-picked by the state to send reassuring messages to citizens.

 

2Following the meltdown, school children helped sell food items to serve those who were displaced by the disaster.

Moreover, radioactive contamination was later found to be present in some food products and in school yards where children had been playing that lay beyond the official zone of evacuation. Over the ensuing months and years, the public lost confidence in the state’s response and began to take matters into their own hands, mobilizing expert practices of their own. Widespread grassroot actions led to citizen science networks in which people tracked radiation in their environment, organized learning workshops on radiation dangers, and tested food for contamination, often through local organizations or individual households.

As an anthropologist who conducted fieldwork on the Fukushima nuclear disaster between 2015 and 2017, I came to realize that citizen science can rise up to fill in the gaps of state responses toward crises, for better or for worse. As we’ve seen play out throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in various parts of the world, governance and leadership have often been confusing, mismatched, and at times utterly misleading. The case of Fukushima offers lessons about both the promises and pitfalls of citizen science and how civil society is playing an increasingly important role in managing various disasters, catastrophes, and crises.

The Geiger counter of Masayuki was not silent for long before it began to emit the distinctive “clicking” sound associated with radiation monitoring devices. The “click” grew louder in intensity as we located a hot spot, an area where the level of radiation is significantly higher than elsewhere. Masayuki dutifully noted the number provided by the device before leaving to search for another hot spot. We were standing in the Japanese village of Iitate, situated in the prefecture of Fukushima. It was common at this time for citizens to own their own Geiger counters—often purchased off the internet using international donations or made at home as DIY devices—to measure the level of radiation around them.

3Due to growing concerns about the government’s response, many citizens began purchasing Geiger counters to monitor the radiation around them.

 

When I first came to this rural village in the spring of 2016, more than five years had passed since the nuclear disaster. The forced evacuation of citizens from Fukushima and the surrounding areas had proved short-lived; by 2012, the Japanese state had already embraced a policy of repatriation to irradiated areas like Iitate village, which is where I met Masayuki and citizens like him in 2016.

Under this repatriation policy, Iitate had become a patchwork of three different safety areas, with boundaries defined by the annual level of atmospheric radiation projected to be received by residents if they remained within the zones. Citizens could only reside in “green zones,”

areas where evacuation orders were ready to be lifted. These areas were considered safe enough for all community activities, such as hiking and school events. The “yellow zones” represented areas in which citizens were still not permitted to live, and the “red zones” were areas considered off-limits to any form of entry due to their high level of radiation.

Those who had willingly returned to Iitate were typically elderly farmers for whom Iitate was one’s native land, a concept that the Japanese call furusato. As an elderly man explained to me in 2017: “It’s the place where I was born. I always wanted to come back to this place. Seeing the sun rise, seeing the moon at night. Seeing the blueness of the sky of Iitate.”

While happy to be back in their beloved region, many residents were critical of the state radiation-monitoring networks that were supposed to provide them with adequate information to allow them to live safely in the village. Indeed, state data on radiation was often provided through fixed monitoring in precise locations or through an average radiation level taken in the village. This kind of information was not practical enough for residents, who wanted to know the specific radiation levels behind their houses or in their rice paddy fields.

Likewise, official depictions of radiation levels through clear-cut chromatic zones did little to offer the citizens reassurance. As a result of the perceived limitation of state measures, residents quickly decided to track radiation themselves as a means to keep the map of their village relevant—often finding contamination that was not evident from state mapping. In the house of one farmer, I witnessed homemade models that exhibited a 3D topography of Iitate’s geographical landscape. These models had been made using 3D printers, and the level of radiation had been monitored by the citizens themselves.

In particular, the local knowledge of the geography of Iitate helped citizens to attain a level of precision that far exceeded that of the government map. Citizens soon learned that radiation doses could be higher at the bottom of a hill than farther upslope or that the woods behind one’s home, having trapped radiation, might impact the radiation level inside houses. These practices helped strengthen a community that had previously felt helpless in the face of an imperceptible radiation threat. Geiger counters became the ears and eyes of citizens like Masayuki, enabling them to make sense of and gain some semblance of control over a hazard that cannot be registered by the senses.

After the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, one of the main sources of radiation exposure stemmed from consumption of food products such as milk or wild mushrooms that had been contaminated by radioactive fallout. In an effort to make sure that this did not happen in Japan, the government took on the task of testing the food produced in Fukushima, implementing a limit to the allowable amount of radioactivity in food products.

Within months after the meltdowns, the government assured the public of the safety of its food products, encouraging citizens to consume foods sold at public fairs and other public events. However, citizens of Fukushima also consume food harvested from streams, forests, home gardens, and mountain areas—where state monitoring was largely absent or insufficient.

4The author (center) stands with two community members in front of a citizen science center.

 

Again, citizens mobilized to fill in the gaps in food testing: With the help of public donations, citizen scientists were able to purchase scintillation detectors, which are used to measure radioactive contaminants in foodstuff. Such testing enabled citizens to gain an understanding of the types of foods most prone to radioactive contamination, such as mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, citrus, sea cucumber, and seaweeds. This in turn helped people avoid eating the most risky foods. Together with state monitoring, such citizen science practices resulted in lower consumption of contaminated foods.

While such examples demonstrate the power and potential of citizen science, there are inherent political complexities involved when citizens or nongovernmental organizations step in and claim expertise in areas typically reserved for state agencies and experts. Like those entities, citizen science has its own potential pitfalls.

For one, corporate polluters or state agencies can potentially exploit citizen science, delegating the monitoring of contamination to the victims of a disaster. For instance, by the end of this year, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Agency plans to remove 80 percent of radiation monitoring posts in Fukushima, arguing that the radiation levels in many areas have stabilized themselves—owing also in part to the presence and efficiency of monitoring networks provided by citizens. This decision has been controversial, since problems of radioactive contamination persist in Fukushima. For instance, one of the main radioactive pollutants, Cesium-137, has a long lifespan and can emit radiation for nearly 300 years.

Retiring these posts will force citizen scientists to take on the burden of monitoring, shifting liability for ensuring safe living conditions onto the shoulders of the nuclear victims. In addition, the growing impact of citizen science can lead to reduced public expenditure, minimal government intervention, and risk privatization, meaning that risk becomes individual and private. Too much delegation to citizens runs the risk of creating societies where individuals have to take care of themselves in increasingly polluted environments, while interpreting complex data about controversial environmental dangers. And not every community can afford to purchase expensive monitoring devices or test food in a consistent manner.

Citizen scientists also risk reproducing forms of ignorance around certain hazards. In post-Fukushima Japan, what is meant by the “science” of citizen science is often synonymous with a tracking and monitoring agenda, where individuals resort to the very same technologies and knowledge forms used by states, nuclear lobbies, or radiological protection agencies.

Yet many anthropologists and historians have argued that what we know (and don’t know) about the extent of radiation hazards and dangers was embedded in a culture of secrecy, denial, and propaganda that was shaped by the nuclear arms race of the Cold War. Considerations over international security and political stability were often prioritized over the safety of workers or citizens who had been exposed to radiation. As a result, some of the negative effects of radiation were downplayed through different tactics.

One such tactic, which was witnessed after Fukushima, occurred through the reframing of radiation risks as simplistic and natural, unrelated to the specific risks associated with Fukushima. For instance, the government distributed pamphlets that explained that radiation naturally exists in our food, such as the potassium levels present in bananas.

Yet such information is irrelevant to the hazards of internalizing fission products from a nuclear power plant. While bananas have naturally occurring potassium, it would require eating around 20 million bananas to get radiation poisoning. On the other hand, each radionuclide released during nuclear meltdown events like Fukushima possesses specific biological signatures and presents particular risks when inhaled or ingested. During my fieldwork in Fukushima, I witnessed that this legacy of misinformation was carried on by some citizens who unwittingly replicated these propagandist forms of knowledge by making similar naturalistic or overly simplistic comparisons.

As citizen science efforts grow, it is also critical to consider to what extent citizen involvement might put individuals at risk of adverse health effects. This is a tricky question when one considers that certain members of the population, like children, are more sensitive to radiation than others. In Fukushima, some Japanese parents have understandably opted to evacuate rather than rely on citizen science, arguing that doing so would expose their children to unacceptable levels of radiation and that forcing children to be responsible for their own safety is unethical.

Citizen scientists are hardly homogeneous groups, as mothers, farmers, and urban citizens do not experience hazards and recovery in the same way. In that regard, factors such as gender, employment, and social class strongly influence why people enter citizen science, how science is mobilized, and how data about a controversial hazard ends up being interpreted. For instance, people like Natsuo have used the results gathered by citizen science to highlight the dangers of living in Fukushima, while other citizen science organizations help bring people back to their beloved region. These conflicts can result in even more fragmented communities and conflicts within and around citizen science.

5Public protests and outcries from parents increased as distrust deepened toward the government’s response to ongoing radiation pollution from the Fukushima meltdown.

 

With the continuing uncertainties, frustrations, and misinformation associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect civil society to rise up—perhaps as it did in the months and years following the Fukushima disaster. Indeed, early on in the pandemic’s spread across the U.S., there were calls for citizens to submit their COVID-19 symptoms, with the aim of tracking the rise of cases and filling in for incomplete testing at the federal and state levels in order to aid public health efforts.

Another citizen science initiative attempts to produce real-time epidemiology by enlisting individuals to use their smartphones to fight COVID-19. We have also seen a rise in 3D printing or DIY medical equipment, such as nonmedical face masks, to meet the urgent demand. The Citizen Science Association lists dozens of citizen science resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much like in Fukushima, these movements will have unintended societal implications, legal ramifications, and ethical impacts—especially as they surround issues of public health safety, patented medical technologies, or data quality and interpretation amid the surge of a novel virus replete with uncertainty.

Yet, more strikingly, citizen science perhaps best demonstrates how lay people can directly draw from their own experience and scientific tools so as to provide concrete solutions beyond the traditional top-down control measures that too often epitomize post-disaster policies. In that regard, Masayuki once angrily told me, “For us, state experts are people who have 90 percent of knowledge (shiru), but no wisdom (wakaru)!”

In Japanese, two words—shiru and wakaru—can be used for the verb “knowing.” Shiru means “to find out” or “to learn.” It implies a process of acquisition of knowledge and information. Wakaru, on the other hand, is closer to “understanding this knowledge.” Shiru comes before wakaru, and in a way, one can know but not necessarily understand. Wakaru consequently shows a greater and more personal level of comprehension often based on a given context.

For Masayuki, state institutional experts possessed shiru, but not wakaru. Having been directly affected by radioactive contamination, Masayuki strongly believed that the inhabitants of a place, the jūmin (literally, the people who resided) were best suited to manage their life in a post-Fukushima Japan.

* Pseudonyms have been used to protect people’s privacy.

https://www.sapiens.org/culture/fukushima-citizen-science/

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

J-pop group TOKIO to promote Fukushima goods in new TV commercials

They pretend that there is no radioactive contamination in Fukushima produce, they say  it is only “harmful rumors”… Would you buy this B.S. ?

 

klkmùThe image shows a poster featuring pop group TOKIO and regional goods of Fukushima Prefecture.

 

July 14, 202

FUKUSHIMA — A set of new TV commercials in which members of the pop group TOKIO promote regional goods from this northeastern Japan prefecture, with the aim to dispel harmful rumors that spread after the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, are set to go on air, according to a July 13 announcement.

Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori is optimistic about the ads, saying, “Through these wonderful commercials, we would like to share with everyone in Japan the great qualities of the prefecture’s agricultural, forest and fishery products, as well as the pride of the producers here.”

Since 2012, a year after the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s nuclear power plant, TOKIO has been promoting regional goods from Fukushima Prefecture through commercials and posters.

There are three types of commercials: one featuring group leader Shigeru Joshima with peaches, another showing Masahiro Matsuoka with tuna and one starring Taichi Kokubun with summer vegetables. Producers and children from Fukushima Prefecture appear in all three types of ads, and they present the region’s goods with comical movements and a bright smile.

The commercials will be broadcasted from July 15, not only in the prefecture but also in the Kanto region in eastern Japan and the Kansai region in western Japan.

Every summer, Gov. Uchibori travels to metropolitan areas such as Tokyo and Osaka to promote the trade of regional goods, but he has decided to suspend this year’s visits due to the effects of the novel coronavirus. Uchibori said, “Even with the restrictions, we would like to promote our agricultural products by broadcasting commercials and by other means.”

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200714/p2g/00m/0et/065000c

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

Terrawatch: unearthing snow’s ‘Fukushima layer’

klmDisappearing snow levels on China’s Qilian mountains. 

 

June 30, 2020

Chinese glaciologists have found the freeze-thaw process has concentrated discharge from the disaster

The Fukushima nuclear accident has added a distinctive signature to snow and ice across the northern hemisphere, new research published in Environmental Research Letters shows. Triggered by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan on 11 March 2011, the disaster resulted in a month-long discharge of radioactive material into the atmosphere, ocean and soil.

Feiteng Wang from the Tian Shan glaciological station in Lanzhou, China, and colleagues collected snow samples in 2011 and 2018 from a number of glaciers (spanning a distance of more than 1,200 miles (2,000km) in north-western China. They expected the Fukushima signature to have faded away by 2018, but to their surprise the freeze-thaw processing had made it more concentrated, creating a strong and lasting reference layer in the ice.

Many reference layers from the last 50 years (such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster) have melted away in recent warming events, making it difficult to date the upper layers of ice cores. “Reference layers are crucial and a prerequisite for telling the story of the ice core,” says co-author Jing Ming. “The Fukushima layer will be useful for dating ice in one or two decades when the snow transforms to ice,” he adds.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/jun/30/terrawatch-unearthing-snows-fukushima-layer

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

Invisible Fallout

criirad-slider-1

June 21, 2020

New film helps us find it, measure it and understand it

By Linda Pentz Gunter

There are many ways to teach people about radiation. But if you want to make that lesson accessible, compelling and even moving, then this film is the way to do it.

Let’s go on a journey. A journey to learn about radiation exposure from fallout after a nuclear power plant accident. We have the perfect guide. It is the independent French radiation research laboratory known as CRIIRAD, and its director, Dr. Bruno Chareyron.

The organization’s full name in French is Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendantes sur la RADioactivité, hence the acronym. In English it is translated as Commission for Independent Research and Information about RADiation.

For those not familiar with CRIIRAD, our journey begins with a little history, and so does CRIIRAD’s brilliant new 45-minute film — Invisible Fallout (Invisibles retombées is the French title), which can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube and below. The film, written and produced by CRIIRAD staff and directed by Cris Ubermann, is in French and Japanese with English subtitles.

 

When the Chernobyl nuclear disaster hit in April 1986, the French government engaged in a notorious cover-up, claiming that France “has totally escaped any radioactive fallout.” The whole thing was a lie. Five days before the government denial, Chernobyl’s radioactive cloud had covered all of France.

As Invisible Fallout recounts, after Chernobyl, it took 15 years until the French government published fallout maps of France. But the CRIIRAD laboratory, formed right after Chernobyl precisely to establish that France’s immunity was a myth, had already done the work that debunked the official line that the disaster was just a Soviet problem. French citizens not only got dosed by Chernobyl fallout, but would live in perpetual danger of a similar catastrophe at home, with a country almost 80% reliant on nuclear-generated electricity from its 58 reactors.

But Invisible Fallout does not linger long in the past. It segues quickly to the next nuclear catastrophe — the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi meltdowns in Japan — and it is there that the CRIIRAD team, led by Chareyron, take us to learn about the effects of radiation exposure from nuclear power plants.

Just sixteen days after the Fukushima disaster, Japanese citizens began to detect fallout. They desperately needed to do independent monitoring but found it hard to get their hands on Geiger counters. The downplays and cover-ups by Japanese authorities, attempting to minimize the dangers and avoid mass evacuations, meant official figures could not be trusted.

An unlikely leader stepped forward in the person of composer and artist, Wataru Iwata, who, one month after the disaster, asked CRIIRAD for Geiger counters. They sent them, along with email tutorials on radioactivity, its health risks and how to protect against them. The laboratory also prepared a series of simple, clear, instructional “emergency” videos in English, designed for non-specialists, which they put online for everyone to access. This included an instructional segment on how to use a Scintillometer, one of the dozen devices CRIIRAD had sent to the Japanese activists. 

We then get a short instructional video of our own on exactly how the Scintillometer is able to rapidly detect Gamma radiation in counts per second, and what those measurements mean. It glides into clarity for us, abetted by the smooth tones of the film’s excellent French narrator, Nicolas Planchais. We forget completely we are in class. Everything is, indeed, illuminated.

And we see Iwata taking his device into Fukushima Prefecture where he helps others measure the radiation levels. At a restaurant 55km away from the destroyed reactors, where people were going about their daily lives, he is shocked to record radiation levels that are 50 times higher than normal. In other areas, levels are 1,000 times higher.

Two months after the accident, CRIIRAD decided to show up in person, and Japan’s Citizens Radioactivity Monitoring Stations (CRMS), were born. CRIIRAD set up nine CRMS in Fukushima Prefecture and one in Tokyo.

 

mission-criirad-en-prc3a9fecture-de-fukushima-mai-juin-2011-mesures-du-niveau-de-radiation-dans-un-c3a9cole-de-la-ville-de-fukushima-criirad-bruno-chareyron-christian-courbon-ong-locale-CRIIRAD’s Bruno Chareyron (right) and Christian Courbon (kneeling) with Wataru Iwata, taking radiation measurements at a school in Fukushima City. (Photo: CRIIRAD)

 

Quickly realizing that ingestion of radioactively contaminated foodstuffs was as much of a threat as external exposure, Iwata asked for ways to measure radiation in food. This would help the people who had stayed — or who had been forced to remain — in contaminated areas to make informed choices about the food they consumed. CRIIRAD brought over a device sensitive enough to detect radiation in food, then conducted a seminar for residents of Fukushima City on on how to use it. We too, as viewers, get the tutorial.

Indeed, all of these lessons in science are subtly woven into the film, but cleverly attached to the lived experiences of real people in Japan, making it relevant and relatable.

And then, as we learn how to measure radiation levels and what they mean, we start to meet the people to whom it matters the most. We encounter a farmer who abided by the rules not to sell contaminated crops but whose family ate the food themselves so it would not go to waste. And we watch his palpable emotion as he recounts his attachment to the land and the known risks he and his family took.

CRIIRAD and its Japanese partners begin to find radioactive particles everywhere— on rooftops, in soil and vegetation, at the foot of trees, in the cracks of tarmac, even inside greenhouses.

At a school which, in denial, refused to have radiation measurements taken, Iwata is shown taking readings in the school grounds. They start at 6,000 to 7,000 counts per second, but rise to 27,000 counts per second at ground level.

The CRIIRAD team encounter what they describe as their most difficult moment when an elderly peasant farmer asks them to conduct measurements on her land just 30km away from the nuclear site. She herself was forced to evacuate, but her farm was not in the zone designated for permanent evacuation. So she came back with CRIIRAD to assess the situation. 

We watch them take measurements, then gently show the results to her. She begins to sob. Then she tells them, “Thank you for coming all this way. I was in darkness and you have brought me light.”  But, she knows she must now abandon the farm forever.

 

fukushima-farmFukushima farms were found to be contaminated. (Photo: Sek Keung Lo/Creative Commons)

 

After an interlude for another lesson, this time on gamma rays, we are back to some chilling truths about their effects. In Fukushima City, we learn that at an elementary school there, children are asked to frequently change places in class so that the same children are not always sitting by the window where the radiation levels are higher.

This prompts CRIIRAD to remind us that, “when it comes to radiation protection, there is no threshold below which it is harmless.” And they point out that the Japanese decision to raise the annual allowable radiation dose from 1mSv to 20mSv, “means accepting a risk of cancer 20 times higher, and this applies equally to children and pregnant women” for whom such doses present a far higher risk.

CRIIRAD warns that people living in the contaminated region will be exposed for decades and across vast areas. They will be exposed to external radiation from powerful gamma rays emitted by the soil and contaminated surfaces. They will be exposed through inhalation of radioactive dust suspended every time the wind blows, and by activities such as sowing crops, ploughing and construction work. And they will be exposed through eating foodstuffs cultivated on contaminated land in contaminated soil. 

But thanks to CRIIRAD, many of them will now know how to measure these levels, what they mean and how to protect themselves. It’s a lesson that’s well worth learning for all of us.

For more information, please see the CRIIRAD website, in its original French, and in English.

Headline photo: Bruno Chareyron (center) and Wataru Iwata (right) in Fukushima Prefecture, May-June 2011, in discussion with locals before taking radiation readings on their properties. (Image courtesy of CRIIRAD)

https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2020/06/21/invisible-fallout/?fbclid=IwAR0iFkKlygM1k8gKO6wQPUxb33XjjwcvJfHwiznqOuYu_DhsSUmNcJLBitg

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

The Coronavirus Exposes Why the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Should Be Canceled

The Tokyo Olympics were already unsafe. Now, they’re even more so.

 

hhjmmùPeople walk across a pedestrian crossing near the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building adorned with signs promoting the 2020 Olympics.

March 4, 2020

Can anime become prophecy? The 1988 Japanese anime classic Akira predicted that Tokyo would host the 2020 Olympics. One scene featured a billboard reading “147 Days Until the Games”—directly beneath it someone scrawled in graffiti, “Just cancel it!” Here we are roughly 140 days ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, and the cancellation—or postponement—of the Games is a real possibility, because of the emergence of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus.

As Stanford University professor Yvonne Maldonado put it, with the Olympics, “You bring a lot of people together, and then you ship them back all over the world: That’s the perfect way to transmit.” The infectious disease specialist added, “If you really want to disseminate a disease, that would be the way to do it.”

At least one member of the International Olympic Committee, Dick Pound of Canada, seems to agree. In an interview with the Associated Press, he set off alarm bells, stating that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) probably needs to decide whether to press ahead with the Tokyo Games by the end of May. “In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?’” Postponing the Games—an idea posed by Seiko Hashimoto, Japan’s Olympic minister this week—is now an open possibility, but also unrealistic, as doing so would interfere with the US college and NFL fall football schedule. Given the billions that NBC has plunged into the Olympics—the network forked over $4.4 billion in 2011 for broadcasting rights through 2020 and then a whopping $7.7 billion for the Games running through 2032—its insistence would almost certainly be that the Games must go on, short of a global pandemic.

In truth, though, the Games should have been canceled well ahead of the coronavirus outbreak, especially if Olympic organizers and their allies in Japan’s government cared about public health. Tokyo organizers have branded the Olympics the “Recovery Games,” replete with “recovery monuments” to honor the triple-whammy earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. They even created a bizarre graphic (pictured below) that depicts a circle of appreciation, with “the disaster-affected areas” offering support for the Olympic athletes, which will “cheer up” the world. “The world,” in turn, will express gratitude, which will “cheer up” the disaster-affected areas. (The graphic was available on this website until today.)

hlùùùùGraphic of “the disaster-affected areas” that will “cheer up” the world, which was available on Tokyo 2020’s website until today.

 

This, of course, is pure-grade PR gibberish. We visited Fukushima in July 2019 and spoke with locals who were livid that Fukushima was being used as an Olympic prop. We saw “black pyramids” comprised of large plastic bags of radiation-drenched soil. We saw abandoned homes and businesses that surely could have used the billions that are being funneled into the Games—some $26 billion, according to a government audit, despite the fact that the original price tag for the Tokyo Olympics was $7.3 billion.

Instead of material support, Olympic honchos have offered Fukushima residents mere symbolism: The Olympic torch relay will kick off in Fukushima next month, despite the fact that Greenpeace recently uncovered radiation hot spots along the torch relay route. Olympic bigwigs have also scheduled baseball and softball games in Fukushima Prefecture. In short, the “Recovery Games” moniker amounts to a cruel joke. As Satoko Itani, a professor of sport, gender, and sexuality studies at Kansai University, told us, “This Olympics is literally taking the money, workers, and cranes away from the areas where they are needed most.”

The coronavirus may well benefit elected officials with an authoritarian streak, as public health crises can be a recipe for free-range autocracy. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long demonstrated a “disturbing authoritarian pattern,” as Bloomberg News referred to it. And he has also shown an alarming capacity to lie to get what he wants. Shinzo Abe has been adamant that there is no need to postpone the Tokyo Games, but there’s a “prime minister who cried wolf” dynamic at play here. After all, back in 2013 when Tokyo was bidding on the Olympics, he told voting members of the IOC who were jittery about Fukushima that the situation was “under control” even though it clearly wasn’t. For many, when they hear Abe and other officials saying that the coronavirus will not affect the Olympics, they hear the resounding echo of previous empty promises.

It must be noted that even if they cancel the Tokyo Games, the damage has already been done. Everyday people have been displaced for Olympic facilities and that cannot be rolled back. Workers have set up infrastructure in Fukushima and their exposure to radiation has already taken place.

What about relocating the Games to a previous host? Shaun Bailey, a candidate running for mayor of London, suggested transferring the Olympics there, but many of the 2012 venues are gone and residents are now living in the apartments that previously made up the Olympic Village. Rio, host of the 2016 Olympics is an obvious no-go, with venues in various states of dilapidation and the country mired in a right-wing hatescape that does not even vaguely chime with the lofty principles enshrined in the Olympic Charter. And cariocas—Rio’s residents—have little interest in the Olympics’ returning to town. The IOC left a bitter taste in Rio, when it said it was unwilling to help them pay off a few bills left in the Games’ wake.

As for the economic damage that canceling the Olympics could do to Japan, one could argue that the harm has been done. In addition to the displacements, the Olympics have already granted huge giveaways of land to the developers who are building the Athletes Village and that will not change because of a virus—or even a cancellation. The writing is on the wall: There is ample reason to cancel these Olympics for the good of Japan. The coronavirus only lays those reasons bare.

https://www.thenation.com/article/society/coronavirus-tokyo-2020-olympics/

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

Aoki, Ito and Nakamura: “Radioactive Hotspots along Olympic Torch Relay Route

Kazumasa Aoki: Vice President, Radioactivity Monitoring Center for Citizen / Nobuyoshi Ito: Iitate Village Resident / Jun Nakamura: Co-Chairman, Fukuichi Area Environmental Radiation Monitoring Project

Thanks to FCCJ for this interview and also for restoring bilingual format.   Thanks also for an excellent translation by Mary Joyce, whose contribution is often unmentioned.  Although the Covid-19 and Fukushima disaster appear  unrelated, I see parallel relationship.   Abe’s Japanese government tends to hide the truth as if the politicians believe in the three monkeys carved in Nikko Shrine.   See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil.   The government’s reluctance to measure and publish the soil contamination at Fukushima is analogous to that of their reluctance to conduct PCR test to grasp the real spread of the corona virus.  I used to use a term “Okami to Hitsuji (sheep)”  to describe the relationship between Japanese government and the docile citizens.  Making a reference to the above observations, however, it is more like “Okami to Hatsuka Nezumi (white mice)”   because people are used as a subject of a massive  Bio-Medical experiments.  I do not know any other countries, in which the government can get away with their misconducts of this magnitude. However, I see some hope by listening to the three gentlemen who gave the interview.  They speak the facts in much better Japanese  than the  average Japanese politicians.  Thanks again to FCCJ to shed a light on the  news, which would be buried otherwise.

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

As If Nothing Had Occurred: Anti-Tokyo Olympics Protests and Concern Over Radiation Exposure

March 1, 2020

Akihiro Ogawa

Abstract: This paper argues the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has raised people’s awareness of concerns over radiation exposure as a form of social movement. One example is the Shinjuku demonstration, organized by the Network to Evacuate People from Radiation, which constantly advocates for protecting children from continuing radiation exposure. The group raised the issue that Olympic torch would pass through municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture where several high-level radiation hot spots are confirmed. Furthermore, concerns over radiation exposure have been also generating a grassroots movement to create the Chernobyl Law in Japan. This paper documents the emerging movement across the country, led by the Citizens’ Action for Fukushima Justice.

 

The Shinjuku Demonstration

Anti-Olympic sentiment has been embedded in the ongoing anti-nuclear movements, particularly since the announcement that Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics in September 2013.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo touched on the Fukushima problem in Tokyo’s final presentation for the Olympic bid in Buenos Aires, asserting that the government would never put Tokyo in harm’s way, stating, “[s]ome may have concerns about Fukushima. Let me assure you, the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo” (Kantei 2013).

The Japanese government pressed home the message of using the Olympics as a force in its reconstruction efforts from the March 11 disaster.

“The Olympics preparations are proceeding as if nothing had occurred,” said Okada Toshiko, one of the leaders of the Shinjuku Demo. The rally has been organized by the Network to Evacuate People from Radiation (Datsu hibaku jitsugen netto) – a loose citizens’ network calling attention to potential radiation exposure.

Okada told me that “the Friday Demonstrations in Kantei-mae in front of the Prime Minister’s Office are only focused on one issue – objection to restarting nuclear power plants, continuously shouting ‘Don’t re-start nuclear power plants.’ That is important. However, I wanted to get more attention about protecting children from continuing radiation exposure.”

She added, “I am not protesting the Olympics itself. I am objecting to hosting the Olympics while hiding such radiation exposure.”

The Shinjuku Demonstration was initiated by members who supported the Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial (Fukushima shūdan sokai saiban), which sued for the evacuation of children from Koriyama city, which had been deemed safe for habitation. On June 24, 2011, just three months after the March 11 disaster, 14 children at elementary schools and junior-high schools filed a lawsuit against Koriyama city, resorting to a court of law and demanding their right to study in a safe environment. The suit was filed against the city seeking an injunction against compulsory education activities in a radiation-contaminated environment of over 1 millisieverts (mSv) per year. The Koriyama Branch of the Fukushima District Court, however, dismissed the case on December 16, 2011. As this decision was completely unacceptable, the plaintiffs (the representatives of the 14 children) filed a formal objection at the end of 2011 before the Sendai High Court. On April 24, 2013, the Sendai High Court ruled to reject an appeal. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit argued that Koriyama city had the legal responsibility to evacuate the elementary- and junior-high-school students. Meanwhile, the court acknowledged that radiation in Koriyama city exceeded levels deemed safe prior to the disaster, but that the government shouldered no responsibility for evacuating the schools as demanded, in effect, telling people to leave at their own discretion if they were worried. However, voluntary evacuees from outside the evacuation area were not statistically classified as evacuees and were not covered by the victim support system.

The Network to Evacuate People from Radiation organized the first demonstration in February 2013 in Shinjuku and has repeated it twice a year since then. At the 13th rally, on November 9, 2019, demonstrators once again declared their concern regarding radiation exposure. The main message of the demonstration flyer (see Figure 1) is that the demonstrators will not allow the government to act as if no severe nuclear accident had occurred, and that there are ineradicable realities and violations of human rights caused by the Fukushima disaster.

 

Ogawa1Figure 1: Flyer for Shinjuku Demo on November 9, 2019

© Network to Evacuate People from Radiation (Datsu hibaku jitsugen netto) and Tetsuya Chiba

One participant protesting against the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, claimed that it was horrible that according to the current plan, the Olympic torch will pass through municipalities on the national route 6, that were heavily affected by the March 11 disaster. Those are areas in which several high-level radiation hot spots are confirmed and are designated as difficult-to-return zones (kikan konnan kuiki) by the national government. When passing through the area, cars are not even allowed to open the windows. She pointed out that despite this, the torch relay will be run by local junior and senior high school students. Furthermore, she objected to an optimistic comment aired by the state-run NHK television that people living near national route 6 wanted the world to know about Fukushima’s recovery as the children run the torch relay.

In late June 2019, I visited Hamadori, the coastal area in eastern Fukushima Prefecture where the torch relay is planned. I dropped by J-Village, a soccer-training center used as an emergency response hub for Fukushima plant workers. It was fully reopened on April 20, 2019 for the first time in eight years. This place will be the starting point for the relay on March 26, 2020 that will also pass through Okuma, a host town of the nuclear plant, where the government lifted an evacuation order on April 10, 2019. The lifting of the evacuation order at the stroke of midnight was the first of its kind for a host town of the nuclear plant, which straddles the towns of Okuma and Futaba. Meanwhile, Fukushima city, which is just 50 kms away from the ruins of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, will host Olympic baseball and softball competitions.

I had the impression that the area was far from recovery, however. The radiation dosimeter in the parking lot at J-Village read 0.120 microsieverts (µSv) per hour (see Figure 2). This figure was indeed under 0.23 µSv per hour, the official Japanese government’s decontamination threshold. However, during my fieldwork, I found that people do not trust the measurement, saying that the official measurements need to be treated with caution since the authorities have a vested interest in downplaying radiation dose levels. In fact, in December 2019, Greenpeace Japan revealed that the radiation levels around J-Village Stadium were as high as 71 µSv per hour at surface level. This is 1,775 times higher than the 0.04 µSv per hour prior to the Fukushima Daiichi triple reactor meltdown in 2011. These facts had never been released by the government (Greenpeace 2019).

 

Ogawa2Figure 2: Radiation dosimeter at J-Village, a photo taken by the author, June 24, 2019

Greenpeace Japan sent a letter to Japan’s Environmental Minister Koizumi Shinjiro, demanding immediate decontamination measures and an assurance that the public will not be exposed to radiation hot spots during the Olympics and Paralympics events at J-Village. At about the same time, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) Germany (IPPNW Germany 2019), issued a statement on the radiation risk, arguing that the Olympic Games should not be used to distract from the fate of the people affected by the reactor meltdown but rather to make sure their needs, worries, and demands are properly addressed. They are trying to do just that with their campaign “Tokyo 2020 – The Radioactive Olympics.” Dr. Alex Rosen, chairman of the German IPPNW, explained in the press release: “We are concerned about the health consequences of radioactive contamination, especially for people with increased vulnerability toward radiation, such as pregnant women and children.” (IPPNW European Affiliates 2019)

 

Toward Creating a “Chernobyl Law” in Japan

Social movements in Japan have entered a new phase since 2011 following the March 11 disaster (Ogawa 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018, forthcoming [2020a]). Social movements are change-orientated political formations, and I have been also observing that people are becoming more strategic in their efforts to drive social change. Instead of just protesting the government’s nuclear policy, or demanding that the government abandon nuclear power plants, ordinary citizens are taking specific actions to change their lives. One example is a grassroots initiative across Japan constructing renewable energy or mostly solar panels as it is relatively easy to set up the panels (see Ogawa forthcoming [2020b]). People have started building self-sufficient, sustainable lives by their own efforts.

I have also observed another initiative to make change, a social movement organized by the Citizens’ Action for Fukushima Justice, in co-ordination with the Network to Evacuate People from Radiation. Citizens who are concerned about radiation exposure have focused their efforts on the eventual creation of a Japanese version of the “Chernobyl Law.” The Chernobyl Law was promulgated in 1991, five years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, by three republics of the former Soviet Union – Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus – to help the people affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. It was aimed at protecting the lives and health of citizens affected by radiation exposure, and indeed was the first law in the world that explicitly covered the universal human right to life of people affected by a radiation disaster. This law guaranteed the right to evacuation for the residents living in the areas contaminated by radiation, while providing social security to the people living in the areas to which the evacuation orders were issued. Under the Chernobyl Law, areas in which the amount of contamination is more than 1 millisievert per year were designated as areas covered by the right of relocation. It included help with finding a job, accommodation, medical treatment, and securing food supplies. Meanwhile, the Japanese government raised the dose limit for radiation exposure from 1 millisievert to 20 millisievert per year after the Fukushima disaster on April 19, 2011 (MEXT 2011), and the government still maintains the same standard.

Yanagihara Toshio, a lawyer who previously represented the plaintiffs at the Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial, has been leading this Japanese effort to enact the “Chernobyl Law in Japan.” Yanagihara told me that the Tokyo Olympics would be a great chance to raise awareness of concerns over radiation exposure. He even expects that pressures or criticism over radiation exposure by foreign countries might be effective in Japan. “The Tokyo Olympics would be a stepping-stone where everyone realizes the necessity of the Chernobyl Law in Japan, as the Seoul Olympics paved the way to building democracy in South Korea.”

As the first step to institutionalize the Chernobyl Law in Japan, Yanagihara and other members proposed the creation of a series of local ordinances on the rights to evacuation across the country. He refers to the previous experience of grassroots support for the national Information Disclosure Law. This law was a product of the cumulative efforts made by the citizens across the country – they requested their municipal and prefectural governments to create a local ordinance on information disclosure, members of the councils discussed the request, and then enacted the local ordinances promoting freedom of information. Originally, this started in 1982 in Kanayama-machi, a small rural town in Yamagata Prefecture, and then spread in 1983 to Saitama and Kanagawa Prefectures. Other prefectures and municipalities soon followed suit. This citizens’ movement eventually led to the promulgation of the Information Disclosure Law at the national level in 1999 that was enacted in April 2001.

The Citizens’ Action for Fukushima Justice prepared the template for a draft proposal of a local ordinance, which people can use as a model.

Chernobyl Law in Japan (excerpt)

Preamble: The State cannot escape liability unconditionally for a radiological disaster.
The State assumes responsibility not only for compensating for the damage suffered by the radiation disaster but also for fulfilling people’s right to relocation. As a result, due to the enforcement of this ordinance, we claim that the expenses expended by the municipality of [subject to insert the name here] should originally be borne by the government, and the government has a duty to amend the law.

Article 1 (Purpose): The purpose is to protect the lives, health, and livelihood of citizens from nuclear accidents and radiation disasters.

Article 2 (Principal): The municipality of [subject to insert the name here] guarantees the right of relocation, the right to evacuation, and the right to sound health of the victims of the nuclear accident.

Article 5 (Consideration for vulnerable people): Care must be taken to protect the lives and health of radiologically sensitive fetuses and children.

Article 8 (Classification of radioactively contaminated areas): Areas with an annual additional exposure of 0.5 msv/year or more are defined as areas with enhanced radiation management. Areas with an annual additional exposure of 1 msv/year or more are designated as relocation-rights areas.

Article 11 (Right to choose relocation): If people in a contaminated area chose to relocate or evacuate, the rights guaranteed these residents by the municipality include payment of moving expenses, housing compensation, and employment support at the relocation destination; loss compensation for real estate, household goods, and products (including marine products) from the original relocation source; free medical supplies, 70% coverage of medical examination and recuperation expenses, issuance of a victim’s notebook, and pension benefits.

Article 12 (Right to choose to remain): If people choose to remain and not evacuate, the municipality guarantees free medical treatment, free medical supplies, 70% coverage of medical examinations and recuperation expenses, compensation for loss of contaminated products (including seafood), issuance of a victim’s notebook, and pension benefits. The article also requires the municipality to establish a radioactive food control section to inspect radioactive food and tap water for contamination in order to prevent unnecessary radiation exposure.

Some local initiatives calling for the creation of a Japanese Chernobyl Law have actually started. Ise city, Mie Prefecture in central Japan, was the first city to take such a step. Ueno Masami, director of the Fukushima-Iseshima Association (https://fukushima-iseshima.jimdofree.com/), an NPO group supporting recuperation for children from Fukushima, put out a call for co-operation on July 8, 2017 on the group’s website to enact a Japanese Chernobyl Law. The call was originally in Japanese, and an English version is available here on their website.

Ueno and her group campaigned for a local ordinance that protects the health and safety of people from radiation exposure. In August 2019, the group started taking action and they got approval from the mayor of Ise city to bring the issue to the council. However, in order to make it actually happen, the group needed to increase the number of municipal council members who agree or collect a certain number of signatures (or 1/50th of the municipal population of 18+ years) in a designated period (one month) to bring the agenda to the municipal assembly to formally discuss. The group chose the latter method, but only collected 64 percent of the required numbers during the one-month period and their bid was not successful. This seemed primarily due to insufficient preparation, and the group did not get enough attention. Undeterred, they will begin collecting signatures again in March 2020.

As of January 2020, discussions have also started in some local municipalities such as Chofu (Tokyo), Koriyama (Fukushima), and Kiyose (Tokyo). As we come closer to the date of the Tokyo Olympics, we need to keep an eye on the developments in these municipalities regarding local campaigns for a Japanese Chernobyl Law. Updates will be available at the Citizens’ Action for Fukushima Justice website.

 

 

 

References

Greenpeace Japan 2019. High-level radiation hot spots found at J-Village, the starting point of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay. Last accessed on January 28, 2020

IPPNW Germany. 2019. Doctors’ prescription for the Tokyo Olympics. Last accessed on January 28, 2020

IPPNW European Affiliates. 2019. Tokyo 2020 – The Radioactive Olympics. Last accessed on January 28, 2020

Kantei (Prime Minister’s Office of Japan) 2013. A Script of Prime Minister Abe’s September 2013 Speech to the International Olympic Committee in Buenos Aires. Last accessed on January 28, 2020

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). 2011. 福島県内の学校の校舎・校庭等の利用判断における暫定的考え方について [On a provisional idea about the usage of school buildings and grounds in Fukushima Prefecture]. Last accessed on January 28, 2020

Ogawa, Akihiro. 2013. Young Precariat at the Forefront: Anti-Nuclear Rallies in Post-Fukushima Japan. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 14(2): 317–326.

Ogawa, Akihiro. 2014. The Right to Evacuation: The Self-Determined Future of Post-Fukushima Japan. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 15(4): 648–658.

Ogawa, Akihiro. 2016. Japan’s Awakening Protest Movement. Invited article by the Asian Studies Association of Australia.

Ogawa, Akihiro. 2018. Security Paradigms and Social Movements: The Changing Nature of Japanese Peace Activism. Asian Journal of Social Science 46(6): 725–747

Ogawa, Akihiro. Forthcoming [2020a]. フクシマ発で核を考える:国境を越えて連帯する「反核世界社会フォーラム」. 後藤康夫, 後藤宣代編 『21世紀の新しい社会運動とフクシマ 』東京:八朔社 [Thinking about the nuclear from Fukushima: anti-nuclear world social forums which connect people beyond national boarders. In New social movements in the 21st Century and Fukushima, Yasuo Goto and Nobuyo Goto, eds. Tokyo: Hassakusha]

Ogawa, Akihiro. Forthcoming [2020b]. “Community Power”: Renewable Energy Policy and Production in Post Fukushima Japan. In New Frontiers in Japanese Studies. Akihiro Ogawa and Philip Seaton, eds. London; New York: Routledge.

https://apjjf.org/2020/5/Ogawa.html

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

Releasing radioactive water would further damage Fukushima’s reputation

n-sato-a-20200226-870x580Fukushima’s fishing industry was one of the prefecture’s hardest-hit sectors following the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

Feb 25, 2020

Releasing the treated radioactive water stored at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant risks further damage to the disaster-hit prefecture’s reputation and negates the nine-year effort to dispel negative perceptions about local agricultural produce, fisheries and tourism.

Although the government is considering dumping the water into the ocean, it should find a different solution and listen to the concerns of the people of Fukushima and local industries.

As the governor of Fukushima Prefecture between 2006 and 2014, I had my work cut out for me after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in March 2011.

Some of my main challenges after the disaster were securing the safety of the residents, ensuring they had access to evacuation shelters, managing the whereabouts of 160,000 evacuees scattered in and out of the prefecture and deciding on the site for interim storage of the soil and waste generated by the decontamination effort.

Determining the site was very difficult, but in the end the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which co-host the crippled nuclear power plant, honorably made the agonizing decision to accommodate it on condition that the tainted waste would be moved to a final disposal site outside of Fukushima within 30 years after the storage began.

During my term, I visited South Korea and China in 2012 to explain to local media using scientific facts that Fukushima produce is safe. I also helped arrange for several national and international conferences to be held in Fukushima Prefecture, based on the belief that coming to the prefecture and trying the local food was the best way to reassure guests that the area was safe and secure.

In December 2012, I lured an International Atomic Energy Agency meeting to the prefecture. Hundreds of nuclear specialists, ministers and other dignitaries from around the world gathered to share the lessons from the nuclear disaster and discuss the need to reinforce nuclear safety.

Today, nearly a decade after the disaster, Fukushima’s reputation is recovering — but only to a limited extent.

Although the government has prioritized ensuring security based on scientific facts, the public sense of security has yet to be restored.

Notwithstanding the central and prefectural government’s message about safety from radiation, local produce still carries cheaper price tags than those from other prefectures and the number of school trips to Fukushima has not bounced back to pre-disaster levels.

The fishing industry along the eastern coast, which the nuclear power plant faces, has taken one of the biggest hits from the negative perception of Fukushima. The prices of fish caught off the prefecture are extremely low when they are brought to Tokyo.

Fukushima is one of the major rice producers in Japan. After the disaster, officials began to check all of the prefecture’s annual output of around 10 million bags of rice for radioactive materials. The blanket testing takes a lot of effort. Even though the inspection confirms the products’ safety, they are cheaper just because they come from Fukushima.

I heard that farmers in the western region of Aizu — one of the main rice producers in the prefecture — asked the agricultural cooperative to use Aizu labels, rather than those of Fukushima, to avoid stigma. The neighborhood is located more than 100 kilometers from the area that hosts the power plant.

According to the Consumer Affairs Agency, the share of people in Tokyo and other metropolitan areas who said they hesitate to buy food products from Fukushima due to radiation contamination fears was 12.5 percent in February 2019.

The stigma from the nuclear disaster has beleaguered tourism in Aizu, which is finally showing signs of recovery. Because the name of the Fukushima nuclear power plant contains Fukushima, it gives the inevitable impression that the entire prefecture is contaminated with radiation.

Discharging water containing radioactive tritium — which cannot be removed by the current filtering technology — into the environment would only exacerbate these problems. Even though the government insists that releasing the water into the ocean is safe, some in Japan and abroad have yet to change their perceptions of Fukushima.

Gaining the understanding of local residents about the release method would be difficult. Rice farmers, for example, have suffered ever since the disaster. Their prime Koshihikari brand of rice, which was the nation’s second-most popular after Niigata’s before the disaster, used to sell out quickly.

Fukushima is a few more steps away from convincing consumers that its agriculture, forestry and fisheries products are safe and secure, so I want the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to prioritize the opinions of people in these key industries when discussing the issue of releasing the water.

When I was governor, the government and Tepco started to curb the amount of water being tainted with radioactive particles because the storage tanks, which could hold 1,000 tons of water each, filled up in just two days.

Doing so required preventing groundwater from flowing into the reactor buildings. We set up an impermeable wall of frozen soil around the reactor buildings to stem the flow of groundwater into the area, but this method did not work well at first.

So we used other approaches to divert groundwater away from the reactors. The combination of the methods reduced water flowing into the buildings from 450 tons to 130 tons a day.

But now the tanks are nearing their capacity, with Tepco estimating that they will reach that point by around the summer of 2022.

I understand that we cannot keep building storage tanks for the water. There is a limit to their capacity.

However, this dilemma calls for pooling scientific and other expertise from around the world to explore potential solutions, while building trust with local residents.

Tepco, which created the problem, and the government should take on the bulk of that task.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/02/25/national/social-issues/fukushima-radioactive-water-damage/#.XlYmt0pCeUk

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

Fukushima ‘safe’ to host Olympic torch relay: governor

jlmmmFukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori speaks to foreign media on Feb. 18, 2020, in Tokyo

February 19, 2020

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori said Tuesday the northeastern Japan prefecture, devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, is safe to host its leg of the Olympic torch relay.

With the Japanese government designating the upcoming Tokyo Games as “Reconstruction Olympics,” the torch relay in the country will kick off on March 26 at J-Village, a football training center in the prefecture that was once an operational base for dealing with the nuclear crisis. Opening matches for Olympic baseball and softball will be played in Fukushima city as well.

“Through this ‘Reconstruction Olympics,’ we would like to show how Fukushima’s reconstruction has progressed in the past nine years as the result of efforts in cooperation with the Japanese government,” the governor told a press briefing in Tokyo.

Holding the Olympic events “doesn’t mean the reconstruction has finished,” he said, adding the prefecture also suffered damage from Typhoon Hagibis, which left a trail of destruction across wide areas of Japan last fall.

The quake and tsunami disasters in northeastern Japan left more than 15,000 people dead and triggered the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl crisis. Typhoon Hagibis in October caused massive floods in Fukushima.

The safety of the torch relay route has been confirmed through constant radiation monitoring, among other measures, Uchibori said.

Late last year, Greenpeace Japan informed the Japanese government and Olympic bodies that radiation hot spots were discovered around J-Village, prompting Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, to remove the soil in the affected areas.

In the town of Naraha, one of the municipalities hosting J-Village, only about half of the residents have returned after the evacuation, according to Uchibori.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200219/p2g/00m/0na/024000c

February 23, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment