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Fukushima: Detecting Radiation at Japan’s 2021 Olympic Venues

November 2, 2020

Fairewinds ongoing scientific research with Dr. Marco Kaltofen of WPI has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in the Journal of Environmental Engineering Science. As soon as the Journal of Environmental Engineering Science has an online preprint link available, Fairewinds will release details and a link to the publication.

Fairewinds ongoing Japan Project in this peer-reviewed journal article included samples from Fairewinds’ 4th Japan Trip in September 2017.  Fairewinds Energy Education sponsored chief engineer Arnie Gundersen and Dr. Kaltofen for two weeks in Japan to meet with community volunteer citizen scientists, who were conducting sampling and submitted that data for scientific review by Fairewinds and Dr. Kaltofen at WPI. During his three previous trips to Japan, Mr. Gundersen taught citizen scientists how to sample dust for radiological analysis. Fairewinds Energy Education and WPI students have been collecting and testing samples from citizen science volunteers and our crews from Olympic & Paralympic venues and host communities in Greater Tokyo & Fukushima Prefecture.

This unique project tracks the divergent releases of beta versus alpha-contamination in Northern Japan and potential radiation exposures to visitors and athletes at the upcoming 2021 Games that Japan’s government has named the Recovery Olympics. 

Fairewinds is incredibly grateful to Leon and Rosa Cloder, our host in Tokyo Dr. H. M. Homma, and Steve Leeper (the Founding Partner & Vice President of the Peace, Education, Art, Communication (PEAC) Institute Nonprofit) for hosting us. Our special thanks to Fairewinds other friends in Japan for their hard work and support that made this project possible. We would not have been able to conduct the scientific work we do without the individual donors and foundations who have consistently donated to support Fairewinds travel expenses to Japan and any associated project costs. Good Science takes patience, time, and money.

With the acceptance of this journal article for publication, Fairewinds Energy Education continues the scientific journal research work it began in 2011. The publication of Radioactively-hot particles detected in dusts and soils from Northern Japan by combination of gamma spectrometry, autoradiography, and SEM/EDS analysis and implications in radiation risk assessment in ‘Science of the Total Environment (STOTEN)’ was co-authored by Dr. Marco Kaltofen, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education. That Journal article detailed the analysis of radioactively hot particles collected in Japan following the Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdowns. [Full Report here]

In his ongoing scientific work, Dr. Marco Kaltofen has also researched and is the author of Microanalysis of Particle-Based Uranium, Thorium, and Plutonium in Nuclear Workers’ House Dust published by Environmental Engineering Science Journal Vol. 36, No. 2, February 4, 2019. This peer-reviewed journal article describes how X-ray techniques can detect exotic dust particles containing radioactive matter, thus allowing any analyst to remotely detect nano- and micro-scale traces of the radioactive fuels unique to specific types of weaponization activity. The method firmly distinguishes between natural uranium work, uranium enrichment, fission weapon development, and even three-stage advanced fusion weapons used for MIRV’d delivery systems. 

https://www.fairewinds.org/demystify/fukushima-detecting-radiation-at-japans-2021-olympic-venues

November 15, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima ‘blank spaces’ in limbo, left out of decontamination plan

A September 2009 photo shows the home of Takashi Asano in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture. The house is now a wreck with a damaged roof and is accessible to wild animals.

Oct 16, 2020

It was back in the autumn of 2011. Wind blowing from the Pacific Ocean was cutting through the golden rice fields.

Takashi Asano, 67, who had evacuated from the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture following the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster, had returned temporarily to his home.

When Asano was gazing at the paddy fields behind his former home from afar, it looked like the field was full of rice ready to be harvested.

“Why would that be when I haven’t planted rice,” wondered Asano, who had evacuated to Aizuwakamatsu in the prefecture after the disaster.

When he went closer, he noticed the plants had yellow tips belonging to Canadian goldenrods, an invasive foreign plant. In his absence, the plants had already begun to take over the fields.

The area where his home is located had been designated a no-go zone. It was excluded from the area designated by the government where it plans to decontaminate and either rebuild it for future use or make it a storage facility for radioactive waste such as soil by the spring of 2023.

Therefore, local residents call the area the “blank-space district,” in reference to the uncolored space on the government map for reconstruction. With no decontamination projects in the pipeline, locals can’t make any plans for the future.

At Asano’s home, rain has seeped through damaged roof, and there are signs that wild boars have found their way inside. He returns once a year to pay respects at family graves but each time it is difficult to see what remains of his home.

“I don’t want to see it. When I leave, I tell myself not to look back,” he said.

Nearly 10 years have elapsed since Asano was forced to evacuate. Nothing seems to represent the passage of time more than the deteriorating fields and homes.

Before the disaster, Asano had been growing rice and vegetables while working at a chemical factory. He had his two-story home constructed in 1986, with a garage and a shed for farming tools.

Construction fees had been paid off and retirement was just around the corner. After he retired, Asano intended to continue as a contract worker, but plans of a comfortable retirement were shattered by the disaster in 2011.

Two years ago, he considered tearing his house down. When he contacted the municipal government, they referred him to a contractor for the work, only to be turned down.

“We can’t work on projects in the blank-space district,” the contractor said.

Demolition and decontamination efforts were underway in other parts of the town the government has designated areas for reconstruction. However, in the blank-space district contractors are turning down requests for demolition since the government’s plans are still unclear.

“The house is no longer livable,” Asano said. “Buildings are being torn down in other parts of the town, so I don’t understand why I can’t have mine torn down, too.”

The central government announced it would secure about ¥1.6 trillion for a five-year recovery plan from fiscal 2021. About ¥1.1 trillion of that will be allocated for Fukushima Prefecture, separately from which ¥100 billion will be funneled into efforts targeting no-go zones located outside of the designated recovery zones. But specific details on what to do with those places have yet to be mapped out.

Entry restrictions have been loosened in parts of the recovery zones in Okuma, allowing some residents to begin rebuilding their homes.

In those areas, residents have the right to decide whether to return or live elsewhere. But Asano and others living in the surrounding area don’t yet have the freedom to choose their future.

“The government hasn’t made it clear what it plans to do over the next 20 or 30 years,” Asano said. “People who want to return and people who have given up — everybody is stuck.”

The disjointed dismantling of restrictions within and near recovery zones continues to invite frustration.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/10/16/national/fukushima-blank-spaces-decontamination-limbo/

October 18, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Olympic torch relay to start on March 25, 2021 in Fukushima

Same time same place next year …The relay will start from the J-Village soccer training center and last for 121 days while traversing all of Japan’s 47 prefectures. The previous schedule for each region was maintained aside from a one-day adjustment to fit next year’s calendar.

September 28, 2020

The Tokyo Olympic torch relay will start on March 25 in Fukushima Prefecture, Tokyo Games organizers said Monday, in keeping with the plan that was developed prior to the games’ one-year postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The relay will start from the J-Village soccer training center and last for 121 days while traversing all of Japan’s 47 prefectures. The previous schedule for each region was maintained aside from a one-day adjustment to fit next year’s calendar.

The Olympics are slated to open on July 23 next summer followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24.

Approximately 10,000 runners who had already been selected will be given priority for the nationwide relay. Organizers said they will stick with the local routes and events that were already planned in principle but may make future adjustments according to the status of each region.

The Paralympic torch relay will be held in August.

Athens Olympics women’s marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (L) receives the Tokyo Olympics flame from first runner Anna Korakaki, the 2016 Rio Games shooting gold medalist, in the torch relay in Olympia, Greece, on March 12, 2020.

Organizers had been seeking to shorten the torch relay schedule in order to reduce swelling costs caused by the games’ delay but abandoned the idea after receiving strong disapproval from local governments already banking on the event.

As a result, only reducing the size of the vehicle convoys, staff and pageantry of some of the events connected to the relay are under review as potential areas for cost cutting and streamlining the games.

The Olympic flame was lit earlier this year at the site of ancient Olympia in Greece and arrived in Japan four days before the games were postponed on March 24.

The flame has remained in the host country since and is currently on public display at the Japan Olympic Museum near the main stadium for the games in central Tokyo until Nov. 1.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/09/788bfdb51e62-breaking-news-tokyo-olympic-torch-relay-to-start-on-march-25-in-fukushima.html?fbclid=IwAR0YFM0I_pemfgYyVryoYJwvt4OQPvWK6Eq8oYpHWdvyDJwPEL0kmdpNIYM

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Don’t criticize government or TEPCO, guides in Fukushima told

A guide gives a demonstration talk at a preview event held on Sept. 5 at the Fukushima memorial museum.

A Fukushima memorial museum staff member presents a talk on Sept. 20 when the facility opened.

The Fukushima memorial museum in Futaba is devoted to passing on the lessons from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

September 23, 2020

Tour guides are bristling at instructions not to criticize the central government or Tokyo Electric Power Co. when speaking to visitors at a recently opened memorial museum to the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The instructions have left some Fukushima residents who signed up to be guides feeling perplexed and sparked anger in others.

The museum in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, opened on Sept. 20 with the objective of passing on to visitors the lessons learned from the nuclear disaster triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

It was constructed by the Fukushima prefectural government in the town of Futaba, which co-hosts the nuclear plant. Evacuation orders issued for residents following the disaster were recently partially lifted.

About 150 items chosen from the 240,000 or so materials collected from around the nation are on display at the facility operated by the Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework Promotion Organization. The central government effectively paid for the 5.3 billion yen ($50 million) that went into completing it.

The museum has 29 registered guides who either survived the 2011 disaster or underwent a training program for the work. They rotate on a daily basis and talk to visitors about their experiences, which include how they lived while living as evacuees and losing their homes in the tsunami.

Each session lasts for a maximum one hour and the guide is paid 3,500 yen for each session.

Training sessions were held in July and August for the guides in which a manual was distributed that included wording to avoid “criticizing or defaming specific organizations, individuals or other facilities.”

One question raised was what to say if a visitor asked what the guide felt about TEPCO’s responsibility, according to several guides who took part in the training sessions.

The guides were told to not directly respond to such questions, but to leave the matter up to facility staff who would be sitting in on the sessions.

Each guide was also asked to write down a script of what they intended to say. The draft was checked and revised by facility staff.

The guides were also told that if they did criticize a specific organization, their talks would be stopped immediately and they would be dismissed as a registered guide.

The manual also included instructions to contact and consult with facility staff if the script was to be changed or if the guide was contacted by media representatives for an interview.

With regard to the manual and instructions, one guide said, “While defamation is out of the question, I think it is wrong that as a victim I am unable to criticize the central government or TEPCO, which is responsible for the damage.”

A second guide had the script revised after pointing out the responsibility of the central government and TEPCO.

Another speculated that the Fukushima prefectural government was not trying to ruffle feathers since the central government had paid for the facility.

“I suffered psychological anguish from TEPCO and I’m also angry with the central government,” one tour guide said.

“To me, that is the truth. The facility has asked us to speak the truth so it is not in a position to say ‘Don’t say such things.’ I will quit as a guide if expressing my feelings is considered being critical.”

A prefectural government official admitted that the central government and TEPCO would be covered by the “specific organizations” clause in the manual.

“We believe it is not appropriate to criticize a third party such as the central government, TEPCO or the Fukushima prefectural government in a public facility,” said another prefectural government official now on the facility staff.

Committees set up by the Diet and central government to investigate the cause of the Fukushima nuclear disaster issued reports that called it a “man-made disaster” and said TEPCO never considered the possibility that the Fukushima plant would lose all electric power sources in the event of an earthquake or tsunami because it stuck to a baseless myth that the plant was safe.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13752941?fbclid=IwAR34yixcczj5IYUQ3CNrfustGO0EbHo2SY3Hi2TUMGY1Gc2nrOKAdE-IGXw

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

Lifting Fukushima evacuation orders without decontamination should be limited

September 16, 2020

A new system in which evacuation orders can be lifted in “difficult-to-return” zones in Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan without the national government decontaminating the zones will be set up, indicating a turnabout in the state’s recovery policy for the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station crisis.

Since the onset of the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima nuclear plant, the recovery policy had been premised on decontamination.

Of the difficult-to-return zones, there are six towns and villages that serve as “recovery bases,” which are former downtown areas and other types of land that are being decontaminated so that people can live there again. But such bases comprise just 8% of all difficult-to-return zones.

The new system will permit free entry into the remaining difficult-to-return areas on the condition that no one will live there, and that people will only use them as parks and other facilities.

While complete decontamination for such areas will no longer be required, the government plans to keep the criteria that radiation levels must go down before evacuation orders for these zones can be lifted. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has agreed with this plan.

What triggered this reversal in policy is a request submitted to the government by the Fukushima prefectural village of Iitate in February. Just a portion of the village is still under evacuation orders. Iitate sought the lifting of evacuation orders for the entire zone, without insisting on the decontamination of areas outside recovery bases.

The other five towns and villages are not following suit, however. Rather, some of them have voiced concerns that the government has no prospects of decontaminating areas outside recovery bases, and will force them to follow the “Iitate model.”

The new system must be considered an exception that can only be applied when a town or village seeks its application. It must not be extended.

The government must first indicate a policy on how it will proceed with the lifting of evacuation orders of areas outside recovery bases.

This is something that local towns and villages have long been seeking from the government.

The law stipulates that pollution resulting from a nuclear incident is the responsibility of the national government. If the new policy is implemented, that responsibility will likely become blurred.

It is probably the huge expense of decontamination that is slowing down the government. There are many residents who are still torn between going back to their hometowns in Fukushima and staying elsewhere. And one reason for that is the government’s lack of clear leadership. We must not allow decisions to be postponed any longer.

Nearly a decade has passed since the onset of the disaster, and the differences in circumstances by community are increasingly standing out. In some places where the majority of the land is difficult-to-return, reconstruction and recovery have only just begun.

The national government must proceed with its recovery policy while taking into consideration the circumstances and intentions of each and every community.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200916/p2a/00m/0na/013000c

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

The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Recovery That Wasn’t

September 11, 2020

Outside of the photo friendly new train stations and town halls, the region has not seen the miracle recovery promised by Tokyo that would prove the disaster was a mere bump in the road.

Areas that were part of the worst of the fallout zone have been reopened, in many cases being used to compel evacuees to return home.

Japan’s nuclear regulator has approved reopening residential areas in the difficult to return zone without prior decontamination work.

The disaster recovery base allows a section of a town to be decontaminated and some basic services built in that location.

While communities try to reopen and recover business activity, the region near the disaster site has been designated as a storage site for contaminated soil bags from all over Japan.

This is done with the assumption that residents will eventually return and need some basic town functions in order to do so.

In order for residents to live there, they will need to wear a dosimeter, have annual exposures below 20 mSv/year and decontamination work may need to take place.

In some towns, common areas were decontaminated down to desired levels while other parts of the town remained highly contaminated.

In Iitate, part of the “difficult to return zone”, a section of the town was listed as a “disaster recovery base“.

In Futaba, one of the two towns that host the Fukushima Daiichi disaster site, trial cultivation of vegetables is taking place.

Many communities in the region remain abandoned, damaged and degrading, even as the government moves to declare them reopened.

Naraha, one of the early towns to reopen, has seen about 60% of residents return in the last five years.

Reopening metrics have been problematic in other areas already reopened.

With almost 70% of the land based fallout from the disaster deposited in forest areas, the potential for re-contamination remains high.

Decontamination work would result in re-contamination as dusts and soils migrate back in from areas not decontaminated.

The city now wants to do the decontamination work on residential properties themselves to accelerate making the area available for residency.

Futaba plans to have residents to return by 2022.

Farmland, houses and forest areas near homes would need to be decontaminated at least once to pass review.

Futaba was part of the highest radiation fallout levels after the initial disaster.

The government still holds an annual exposure level of 20 mSv/year as the threshold for reopening an area.

The local police officer for Futaba mentioned to reporters that the area may be reopened but no one can live there.

Few have returned to decontaminate residential properties, something key to having residents return.

Futaba plans to reopen the entire town by 2022.

Further north in Minamisoma residents who remain deal with wild monkeys who have moved in due to the lack of people.

In Tomioka, the eastern half of the town has been reopened since 2017.

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

“The nuclear plant took everything…”

“The nuclear plant took everything…” Kenichi Hasegawa was the local leader of Maeta District of Iitate Village, where even today mountains of bags of contaminated soil stand out. “The nuclear plant took everything. There used to be children here. When the kids were still here, we went to the hills together all the time. We picked many things, taught them all about it, it was natural. We can’t do anything like that any more. I mean, even the children are no longer here,” he says.

https://311mieruka.jp/index_en?fbclid=IwAR3zrBtrrkMhJ_gZeWTEzgt4RcTkehWePR7Q-Mzvg9fsW6Jk4Rq9vx3_snQ

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

Evacuation orders for Fukushima radioactive areas to be lifted without decontamination

kklmA gate to the Nagadoro district of the village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, is seen in this picture taken on Aug. 24, 2020. The district was designated as a “difficult-to-return” zone in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

 

August 27, 2020

TOKYO — The Japanese government is set to allow the lifting of evacuation orders for highly radioactive areas near the disaster-stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station without decontamination work on condition that residents will not resettle there.

The government on Aug. 26 disclosed the policy to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for the so-called “difficult-to-return” zones where residents have remained evacuated since the onset of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 due to high radiation doses in those areas in northeastern Japan. The NRA gave its consent to the government policy, paving the way for residents to enter areas outside the specified disaster reconstruction and revitalization base zones.

The government has heretofore made it a condition for lifting the evacuation orders that: the radiation exposure doses will not exceed 20 millisieverts per year; infrastructure necessary for daily lives is developed and sufficient decontamination work is performed; and consultations are held with local bodies and residents. The government previously designated parts of the difficult-to-return zones as disaster recovery bases, which mainly lie in areas where local residents lived, and planned to lift the evacuation orders by 2023 after decontamination work and infrastructure development.

Meanwhile, upon receiving a request from the village of Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture, the government has also been examining under which situations the evacuation directives can be lifted in areas outside the disaster recovery base areas.

At a regular meeting on Aug. 26, the government explained its line of thinking that the evacuation orders can be lifted on conditions including: the annual radiation exposure doses are confirmed to be no more than 20 millisieverts; residents’ radiation exposure doses are controlled by using personal dosimeters; and information to curb radiation exposure is provided. The government then sought the NRA’s opinion on the matter.

In response, the nuclear watchdog body evaluated the government’s new policy and offered a view that “it is in essence the same” as the current conditions for lifting the nuclear evacuation orders.

Upon receiving the NRA’s stamp of approval, the government is set to hold a meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters and formally decide on the prerequisites for removing the evacuation orders in areas outside the disaster recovery bases. Following the decision, municipal governments will look into whether to lift their evacuation orders for their local areas.

In Iitate village, the Nagadoro district has been designated as a difficult-to-return zone, dividing the village into a disaster recovery base and an area not designated as such. The Iitate Municipal Government is planning to develop a disaster restoration park in parts of a roughly 9-square-kilometer area that had few residents and falls outside the disaster recovery base, and requested the central government to allow the village to lift the evacuation order for the area at the same time as for the disaster recovery base.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200827/p2a/00m/0na/005000c

 

September 1, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Ministry to test growing veggies on cleansed soil in Fukushima

ll^^mEnvironment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, center, inspects a test project on reusing soil decontaminated following the 2011 nuclear accident on farmland in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, in February.

 

May 7, 2020

Despite strong public opposition to the proposal, the Environment Ministry will soon start a trial demonstration to confirm the safety of growing food crops in soil decontaminated following the 2011 nuclear accident.

The ministry received nearly 3,000 public comments about its proposal to revise an ordinance to enable the soil to be reused across Japan, most of which opposed the proposal.

Many people are opposed to reusing the soil, saying, “It will spread contamination.”

At a news conference on May 1, Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi acknowledged, “I strongly recognize the fact that there are people who are opposing (the reuse of decontaminated soil). We will provide detailed explanations to seek understanding for our willingness to take a step forward even if it’s just a small one.”

The project, to start by the end of May at the earliest, will be conducted in the Nagadoro district in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture. The district is designated as a “difficult-to-return” zone, where radiation levels remain high since the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The ministry is seeking to reuse decontaminated soil for public construction work and farmland development if the radiation level of the soil is below certain standards. In the last fiscal year, which ended in March, flowers and crops used to make solid fuel for biomass power generation were grown on land using the decontaminated soil.

The ministry initially planned to revise a related ordinance in April to enable the soil to be reused, saying it obtained “results that showed the soil was safe enough (to be used for growing crops).”

However, the ministry decided to postpone the revision after hearing requests from local residents who want to grow food crops as well. The ministry must check the safety of the soil once again since such crops will be intended for human consumption. The ministry will grow vegetables including tomatoes and cucumbers during the test project.

In the Nagadoro district, there is a demonstration plot of farmland that spans about 600 square meters in total. The land comprises an 800-cubic-meter embankment of soil whose radiation level is 5,000 becquerels or lower per kilogram, and the embankment is covered with uncontaminated soil that is 50 centimeters thick.

Decontaminated soil is currently stored at interim storage facilities in Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture. The law stipulates that the final disposal of the soil should be conducted outside the prefecture within 30 years from 2015, when the facilities began storing the soil.

The total amount of soil stored at such facilities is expected to reach about 14 million cubic meters, equivalent to 11 Tokyo Domes, located in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward. The ministry is considering reusing the soil to reduce the amount of soil that needs to be disposed of.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13355472

May 14, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese environment ministry found solution to counter harmful rumors

pot_terre_rad-300x233

Translated by Hervé Courtois

March 11, 2020
It is well known, there is no problem in Fukushima, the “situation is under control”, as the Japanese Prime Minister had declared to the Olympic committee. There are only harmful rumors!

Opposition to the discharge of contaminated water into the ocean: harmful rumors. Opposition to the reuse of contaminated land resulting from decontamination: harmful rumors. Low population return rate: harmful rumors.

The Japanese environment ministry has found the solution: put a potted plant with radioactive soil at its headquarters in Tokyo (source: direct link, copy). As he says, “This is one of the recycling demonstration efforts to eliminate misconception toward Fukushima.” This is one of the recycling demonstration efforts to eliminate misconception toward Fukushima.

These pots could be sold. The nuclear industry will surely be happy to offer them. It will be greener than goodies made in China. We look forward to aquariums with contaminated water from tanks …
Okay, there’s just 16 million cubic meters of earth and 1.2 million cubic meters of water to get rid like this …

Le ministère de l’environnement japonais a trouvé la solution pour lutter contre les rumeurs néfastes

March 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | 1 Comment

Radiation Disinformation and Human Rights Violations at the Heart of Fukushima and the Olympic Games

1582692548_34Azuma Stadium and Arakawa River, Fukushima City, Christian Aslund/Greenpeace, October 2019

March 1, 2020

Shaun Burnie

Abstract: In the run up to the 2020 summer Olympics / Paralympics, multiple violations of the human rights of citizens and workers impacted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster persist. UN human rights experts have continued to challenge the Abe government over its record. Ignoring basic scientific principles of radiation protection, the government is deliberately distorting reality on actual contamination, the limited effectiveness and scope of decontamination and risks in Fukushima prefecture. Abe’s disinformation narrative on Fukushima is aimed at erasing the image of Fukushima as the location of one of the world’s nuclear disasters, and, by so doing, reviving the prospects for the nation’s nuclear industry. There remains a window in the coming months for a wider understanding of the complex reality in Fukushima, the ongoing radiological conditions and impacts, and the struggle of tens of thousands of evacuees and workers to secure their legal rights. 


Ever since the start of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011, many of the issues concerning the rights of evacuees (particularly women and children), citizens, and workers have been raised by United Nations human rights bodies and experts. One of the earliest and most comprehensive was the 2012 Mission Report of Special Rapporteur (SR) Anand Grover. (OHCR 2013) Eight years later, and in the run up to Japan hosting the 2020 summer Olympics / Paralympics, the violations of citizens’ and workers’ rights continue. 

The Abe government has framed the games as the reconstruction Olympics, with a near explicit aim of erasing the image of Fukushima as the location of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters. During the games themselves, Abe may achieve his objective (at least temporarily) as there is almost no prospect that the wider context of an ongoing radiological emergency will be reported. It’s all about the games and Abe’s disinformation narrative on Fukushima is about to go into hyperdrive. But in the run up to the opening of the Olympics there is a window of opportunity for a wider understanding of the complex reality in Fukushima, the ongoing radiological impact and the struggle of tens of thousands of evacuees and workers to secure their legal rights.

Taking their lead from Grover, during the last two years UN Special Rapporteurs have extended the depth and range of issues they have raised with the Abe government. This escalation of intervention by the Special Rapporteurs (SR) has not been well received by the Japanese government. Official country visits by these leading experts in their fields, despite multiple requests sent from the UN in Geneva, remain blocked by the Abe government. A visit to Japan by a UN human rights SR to investigate the conditions for Fukushima citizens and workers impacted by the nuclear disaster would directly challenge Abe’s Fukushima whitewash strategy and it’s not going to happen in the year of the reconstruction games.

One of the central issues raised by the United Nations is the higher radiation exposure limit set for Fukushima citizens. As a consequence of the widespread contamination resulting from the reactor meltdowns, in particular from radio-cesium, large areas of Fukushima prefecture exceeded the 1milliSievert per year (mSv/y) recommended maximum dose limit for the public. Given the half-life of cesium-137 is 30 years, there is no prospect that in many of the evacuated areas of Fukushima dose rates would return to pre 3/11 levels for several decades and longer. By revising the upper limit to 20mSv/y, and dismissing radiation risks at that level, the government proceeded with lifting evacuation orders for some of the most contaminated areas of Fukushima, including the towns of Namie and Iitate.

There is no scientific basis for the Japanese government to dismiss low dose radiation risks. Dr David Richardson, co-author of the world’s largest cohort studies on leukemia risk from low dose radiation exposure (Lancet 2015), has recently stated that five years exposure at 20mSv a year would confer about a 30% excess risk of fatal leukemia.(HBO 2020) The Japanese government is well aware of the risks from low dose radiation – not least as it was one of the funders of the 2015 INWORKS study which found an increase in leukemia rates amongst nuclear workers with annual exposure in the range of 3-5mSv/y.

Adding to the pressure from the international community over the Abe government’s Fukushima policies, a human rights Special Rapporteur at the UN General Assembly in October 2018 warned that, “The recommendation to lower acceptable levels of exposure back to 1 mSv/yr was proposed by the Government of Germany and the Government of Japan ‘accepted to follow up’ on it, according to the UN database. However…the recommendation is not being implemented. Japan has a duty to prevent and minimize childhood exposure to radiation.” (OHCHRa 2018). The Rapporteur, Baskut Tuncak, further stated that “The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Japan is a Party, contains a clear obligation on States to respect, protect and fulfill the right of the child to life, to maximum development and to the highest attainable standard of health, taking their best interests into account. This requires State parties such as Japan to prevent and minimize avoidable exposure to radiation and other hazardous substances…(and that) Japan should provide full details as to how its policy decisions in relation to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, including the lifting of evacuation orders and the setting of radiation limits at 20mSv/y, are not in contravention of the guiding principles of the Convention, including the best interests of the child…The combination of the Government’s decision to lift evacuation orders and the prefectural authorities’ decision to cease the provision of housing subsidies, places a large number of self-evacuees under immense pressure to return.”(OHCHRa 2018)

In conclusion, Baskut stated that, “The gradual lifting of evacuation orders has created enormous strains on people whose lives have already been affected by the worst nuclear disaster of this century. Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the Government previously considered safe.”

Yet, for the Japanese government there is no acknowledgement that their policies are in violation of the basic human rights their citizens are entitled to have respected. According to Japan’s Foreign Ministry, “Lifting of the evacuation order is a measure to make return possible for those who prefer to return, and not a measure to force evacuees to return…the decision of the evacuees as to whether to return to their original places to live or not is entirely up to them. The GoJ does not force them to return nor put any pressure on them to do so…”(MOFA 2018)

The radiological conditions in Fukushima are highly complex and varied but the Abe government has no intention of explaining this reality in the year of the Olympics. Expect to hear a lot more of the distorted and wholly inaccurate propaganda as stated by Reconstruction Minister Watanabe Hiromichi, when he recently told HBO TV, “With the exception of areas deemed difficult to return we have decontaminated the entire area.”(HBO 2020)

At least seventy percent of Fukushima is mountainous forest, and with the exception of a few meters along roads there has been no decontamination during the past nine years. Perhaps the largest nuclear decontamination program in history has succeeding in generating 16 million tons of nuclear waste soil(Greenpeace 2017), while failing to decontaminate the majority of the contaminated land and exposing tens of thousands of poorly trained workers to radiation (OHCHRb) at a cost of US$28 billion (as of FY2018). The contaminated forests remain a long-term source for radio-cesium, including for downstream migration and recontamination. (Ulrich 2016)

When my colleagues and I at Greenpeace surveyed the J-Village sports complex in October 2019, we were not expecting to find radiation hot spots at over 72 micro-Sieverts per hour – equal to over 1750 times background levels pre 3/11. We notified the Environment Ministry as well as domestic and international Olympic Committees.(Greenpeace 2019a) Although, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was ordered to remove this contamination in early December (TEPCO 2019), two weeks later we still measured hotspots in the public areas of J-Village.(Greenpeace 2019b) The chosen location for the start of the Olympic Torch route, the J-Village, lies 20km south of Fukushima Daiichi and in an area considered to have relatively low contamination. From our observations, decontamination has been conducted in this area during the last nine years – yet there are levels of radiation that would be declared an emergency requiring urgent action if inside a nuclear facility. They have yet to be explained by the government. This clearly does not match with Minister Watanabe’s claim that “we have decontaminated the entire area”, but just as legal obligations to uphold the domestic and international human rights of their citizens are of little concern to the Tokyo government, the radioactive reality of Fukushima can be airbrushed out of existence. The Olympics as seen by Abe provide the perfect platform to advance further its Fukushima nuclear disaster disinformation campaign on the people of Japan and beyond.

The underlying motive for Abe’s Fukushima Olympic strategy is to promote a nuclear renaissance. He and many of his colleagues in the Liberal Democratic Party are nostalgic for the pre-3/11 situation when commercial reactors generated nearly 30 percent of the nation’s electricity.(Schneider 2019) Compared to 2011, when 54 reactors were available, today only nine reactors have returned to operation (with three of these shutdown due to maintenance and legal challenges), and the industry remains in crisis. Despite passing some of the nuclear regulator safety requirements, (McCurry 2017) TEPCO’s prospects for restarting two of its reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant remain uncertain. The majority of the citizens of Niigata prefecture, which hosts the seven reactor site, remain strongly opposed to any operations, not least due to the major seismic risks to the safety of the reactors.(Ryall 2017) The causes and consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been a major factor in framing the thinking of Niigata citizens and this extends throughout Japan where utilities are struggling to restart reactors. The triple reactor meltdown really was a defining moment for public opinion regarding nuclear energy in Japan. Resetting this mindset for Abe, by pretending conditions in Fukushima have returned to normal and welcoming the world’s elite athletes to the largest sporting event on the planet is one way to blot out images of explosions sending radioactive plumes spewing from damaged reactors, abandoned towns and hazmat suits. In the short-term Fukushima will receive a positive makeover this summer, but a resumption of large- scale nuclear generation in Japan remains unlikely. The industry is aiming to operate 30-35 reactors by 2030, but a combination of unresolvable safety issues, legal challenges, an aging reactor fleet, and the dire financials of utilities will block this scenario. (Burnie 2016, Mainichi 2020, Schneider 2019, Nikkei 2020). In this sense, Abe’s strategy is doomed to failure and there is no sign that the Japanese public can be persuaded to support nuclear energy. Meanwhile, the human rights violations of tens of thousands of evacuees and decontamination workers will continue.

 

References

Burnie, Shaun, 2016. TEPCO Prosecution: A Sign That Japan’s Nuclear Industry Is in Free Fall”, The Diplomat, 4 March 2016.

Greenpeace, 2017. Nuclear Waste Crisis In Fukushima Decontamination Program”, December 2017.

Greenpeace, 2019a. High levels of radiation observed at J-Village in Fukushima Prefecture”, Letter to Mr. Shinjiro Koizumi Minister Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan, 18 November.

Greenpeace, 2019b. J-Village still contaminated – major uncertainties over decontamination and Olympic torch route”, 17 December.

HBO, Fukushima” Real Sports 274, January 2020.

The Lancet, 2015. Ionizing radiation and risk of death from leukemia and lymphoma in radiation- monitored workers (INWORKS): an international cohort study”, Klervi Leuraud, David B Richardson, Elisabeth Cardis, Robert D Daniels, Michael Gillies, Jacqueline A O’Hagan, Ghassan B Hamra, Richard Haylock, Dominique Laurier, Monika Moissonnier, Mary K Schubauer-Berigan, Isabelle Thierry-Chef, Ausrele Kesminiene, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Public Health England’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (PHE-CRCE), University of North Carolina (UNC), Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Drexel University – School of Public Health, Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), CIBER- BBN, IRSN laboratory Ionizing Radiation Epidemiology Laboratory (LEPID), Lancet Haematol, 22 June.

Mainichi Shimbun, 2020. Plaintiffs, supporters rejoice over court’s decision to suspend Ehime nuclear reactor”, Misa Koyama and Akari Terouchi, Hiroshima Bureau, and Yongho Lee, Fukuyama Bureau, 18 January 2020.

McCurry, Justin, 2017. Fukushima operator can restart nuclear reactors at world’s biggest plant”, The Guardian, 4 October 2017.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2018. “Response from the Government of Japan to the Joint Communication by the United Nations Human Rights Council”, MOFA, 6 November.

Nikkei, 2020. “TEPCO lending troubles Japanese banks Climate change risks cannot be ignored”, Jun Watanabe, 14 February.

OHCHR, 2013.Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”, Anand Grover Addendum Mission to Japan (15 – 26 November 2012), A/HRC/23/41/Add.3 Distr.: General 2 May 2013

OHCHR, 2018a, Japan must halt returns to Fukushima, radiation remains a concern, says UN rights expert”, 25 October.

OHCHR, 2018b,Human rights and the protection of workers from exposure to toxic substances.”

Ryall, Julian, 2017.”Japan’s TEPCO nuclear plant restarts fear of new Fukushima” Deutche Welle, 5 October.

Schneider, Mycle, ed., 2019. “World Nuclear Status Report 2019”, 27 September.

TEPCO, 2019. “Decontamination work at vicinity of J-Village”, 4 December.

Ulrich, Kendra, 2016. “Radiation Reloaded: Ecological Impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident 5 years later”, Greenpeace Japan.

 

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

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

Radioactive food from Fukushima will be heading to UK under EU plans

The European Commission is a lobbying and bribing heaven….
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A farmer in Fukushima
26 November 2019
Radioactive food grown near the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan will be sold to British shoppers next month under controversial EU plans.
Controls over radioactivity levels in produce from Japan following the 2011 disaster are to be lifted by Brussels as part of the world’s biggest ever trade deal.
It means that British shops will soon be selling goods from the disaster-hit area including baby food, breakfast cereals, fish, crustaceans, meat and green tea. Tests in recent years have shown faint traces of radioactive substances including caesium 134 and 137.
The Japanese government has enforced a strict regime on food from the Fukushima prefecture since the accident, and scientists have deemed it perfectly safe. However senior politicians last night called for the produce to be clearly labelled so that British shoppers can choose whether to eat it.
Conservative candidate Neil Parish, who chaired the environment, food and rural affairs committee during the last Parliament, said he would challenge the government over the issue, if re-elected.
“We don’t need this trade. If the Japanese won’t eat this stuff, why should we?” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“It may well be safe according to the scientists. But I think people have a right to know exactly what they are eating. 
“All of these products should be clearly labelled. And I think one of the benefits of Brexit is that we’ll be able to look at this again in due course.”
Under the Brussels deal radiation inspection certificates will no longer be needed, apart from for certain fish products, mushrooms and wild vegetables. In exchange, the EU will be allowed to sell to Japan limitless quantities of reduced tariff French champagne, foie gras, cognac, and wine. Britain has agreed to mirror EU food regulations during the Brexit transition period, set to end in December 2020. 
It comes after Remain campaigners insisted that Britain should stay in the EU because of the bloc’s stringent food safety standards. Talks over a possible post-Brexit trade deal with the US have already been overshadowed by fears over chlorinated chicken.
The Fukushima plant was overwhelmed by tsunami waves in March 2011 in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. In the days afterward, the damaged facility spewed radiation into the air and sea, contaminating plants, soil and fish. A decades-long decommissioning process is now underway.
Since the accident Japanese consumers have turned away from Fukushima’s agricultural produce. Peaches and beef from the area suffer a price disadvantage, while rice is often used for industrial purposes.
The Japanese government insists the food is safe, and has launched a campaign to revive the fortunes of Fukushima farmers. From April 2018 to March this year, officials examined 9.21 million bags of rice, with not a single one exceeding the safe limit. However nations including South Korea, China and the US have maintained bans on produce from the area. 
French MEP Michèle Rivasi will be raising a last minute objection to the lifting of controls at the European Parliament next week. 
“If controls are lifted we will have no way of gauging how much caesium is in your rice or your lobster. Contaminated goods will swamp the European marketplace from Birmingham to Biarritz,” she said.
“At the moment 100 Becquerels of radioactivity  per kilo are permissible, even for cereals eaten by children. For baby  foods it is 50 Becquerels and should be zero.” 
A ban on the import of Fukushima rice into EU countries was lifted in 2017. A source at the Food Standards Agency said there had been “no instances of non-compliance” since then, adding it would continue to “monitor the safety” of Japanese food imports.
A spokesman from the Department of International Trade added: “Without exception, imports into the UK will meet our stringent food safety standards.”

December 2, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Slow burn: Dirt, Radiation, and Power in Fukushima

Peter Wynn Kirby

October 1, 2019

Abstract

Amid the radioactive fallout of the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and across what would come to be known as the Exclusion Zone, Japanese members of the nuclear lobby laboured to contain the political fallout of the Fukushima disaster. This article scrutinizes the profuse rhetoric over recycling as mobilized by nuclear boosters and the wider operations of circularity in waste management in Japan. Japanese leant heavily on the notion of recycling to attempt to frame the clean-up in Fukushima in more ideologically convenient terms. This led, for example, to officials trumpeting plans to ‘recycle’ over 16 million cubic metres of radioactive topsoil scraped from hundreds of square kilometres of Fukushima Prefecture, as well as efforts to achieve ‘thermal recycling’ by generating electricity from the incineration of collected irradiated vegetal matter and the large amounts of protective clothing and other material used in the ‘decontamination’ campaign. By scrutinizing this appropriation of recycling rhetoric and its leveraging across Japan’s nuclear waste management apparatus, the article exposes contradictions and distortions in contemporary Japanese policy that have considerable socio-political ramifications. 

Keywords: Nuclear waste, radiation, decontamination, ethnography, Fukushima

1Decontamination work, Nihonmatsu, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

2Radioactive soil depot, Iitate, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

Introduction

The record earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March 2011 ushered in a highly mediated disaster as Japanese grappled with the triple-meltdowns and radiation crisis at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Largely out of sight of international camera crews and probing journalists, the Japanese state and multiple municipalities embarked on the largest radiation response effort in history in an effort to restore hundreds of square kilometres1 covered in radioactive debris. This campaign saw about 70,000 Japanese workers remove over 16 million cubic metres of irradiated dirt2—scraping topsoil off roadsides, meadows, wooded areas, agricultural fields, school grounds, residential zones, shrine compounds, and parklands. Crews swept up radioactive twigs and pine cones, whittled exterior bark from tree stumps, and clipped low-lying branches in an attempt to bring radiation levels down to allow resettlement of tens of thousands of evacuees. Workers garbed in protective gear, joined by volunteers, scrubbed and hosed down streets, pavements, stairways, kerb stones, and storm drains in urban and suburban areas. They also wiped down the exterior of houses, apartments buildings, shops, schools, and other public facilities, using specially treated wipes to clean roof tiles, gutters, window sills, panes, mullions, wall cladding, and doorsteps. Wipes and protective clothing were collected for separate incineration. This campaign allowed state, prefectural, and municipal representatives to record ‘safe’ radiation measurements in areas of Fukushima’s disaster zone—a major Japanese policy priority, particularly with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon.

 

3Source: Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan; (accessed September 2019).

 

In parallel with these massive efforts to collect, or disperse, the radioactive fallout of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, the pro-nuclear Japanese state engaged in aggressive PR-management to contain Fukushima’s political fallout, working with the nuclear lobby to frame the Fukushima campaign in favourable ideological terms. The scrubbing and scraping of a huge portion of Fukushima’s land area became branded as ‘decontamination’ (josen), despite clear contradictions described below. More telling still was the appropriation of the conceit of recycling to imbue the effort to remove radioactive dirt and other abominated debris with flattering hues of eco-responsibility and resource efficiency. This article3 scrutinizes the decontamination campaign in order to highlight the numerous ways in which the nuclear lobby has leveraged recycling in Fukushima to sanitize and promote nuclear energy throughout its mobilization on the archipelago, with implications for other nuclear purlieux.

 

Chimerical recycling

After spending decades as a perennial environmental villain through the turn of the millennium,4 Japan has transformed into a country where waste issues and recycling are taken very seriously. Japanese municipalities and industries recycle the usual stacks of paper and bins of plastic bottles and glass as well as breaking down and converting about a million tonnes of large consumer appliances (e.g., refrigerators, washers, air-conditioners) a year in highly automated facilities,5 part of what has been called ‘the shredder economy’.6 Every industrial sector complies with Japan’s strict recycling regulations, meaning that all manner of e-waste, from vending machines to pachinko machines, is dismantled, crushed, shredded, and separated to extract precious metals and other materials. These and other projects contribute toward environmental objectives, but Japan’s resource-consciousness derives as much from a fixation on rationalization and efficiency, communicated via catchphrases like ‘industrial ecology’ and ‘zero-emissions’ production. Ironically, there is not much concrete, demonstrable circularity in Japanese recycling.7 Yet circular-economy rhetoric pervades Japanese officialdom. It seems that virtually every ministry white paper, urban development project and metropolitan government report trumpets its concern with sustainability.8 Due to the political ends to which recycling is mobilized in Japan, most egregiously in the radioactive spill of the Fukushima disaster zone, this circularist rhetoric merits rigorous scrutiny.

While examples of discursive overreach vis-à-vis recycling abound in contemporary Japan, the yawning gaps and slippages in Japanese circularity are most evident and striking in the official response to the Fukushima Daiichi radiation crisis, whose determined work crews and complex logistics drive an effort that has been every bit as much of a disaster, in the end, as the earthquake and tsunami that struck Tōhoku in 2011. The Japanese Ministry of the Environment and its partners have branded the Fukushima effort as ‘decontamination’; but as demonstrated below, their use of this term is highly misleading. Instead, I refer to the campaign as The Clear for two reasons. First, ‘clear’ (kuriā) is a term used by Japanese officials and others to declare completion of a project or attainment of a goal, even though its invocation is frequently based on arbitrary bureaucratic targets and massaging of data belied by conditions on the ground (literally, in this case). Next, those involved in the campaign were physically attempting to clear away the radioactive debris that had settled on a huge amount of territory; this was uneven terrain, including steep hillsides, forestland, and residential areas, that would make such a task exceedingly complex and difficult, if not impossible. By declaring ‘clear’ on 31 March 2017, Japanese officials were strongly suggesting that radiation had been cleared away, as it had been ‘on paper’ in ministry documents. Yet as demonstrated in the next section, irradiation of dirt, trees, streams, sandy littoral, and meadowlands is a maddeningly tenacious condition to attempt to reverse, and the rush to clear away Fukushima’s radiation (and burnish its sullied reputation) within a tight, arbitrary timeframe made this Herculean task even more difficult to achieve. By appropriating the terms of exalted recycling to transform these millions of tonnes of radioactive dirt into ‘resources’, the nuclear lobby arguably made promoting this task much easier and more palatable to Japanese communities.

It may be difficult to recall with the crippled Fukushima Daiichi leaking tonnes of radioactive water daily into erstwhile prime fishing grounds in the Pacific, but the conceit of recycling has long bolstered the nuclear sector. Ever since the vaunted promise of limitless energy via fission became destabilized by accumulations of radioactive waste from the 1970s, nuclear elites sought to marshal those parlous residues in a drive toward greater efficiency, as well as discursive control. High-level nuclear waste—usually spent fuel rods from reactors—entered elaborate conversion infrastructures, rationalized as ‘reprocessing’, to transform hazardous, depleted residues into puissant resources. Perhaps the most audacious of these initiatives involved Japanese plans hatched in the 1980s to transform plutonium—arguably the world’s most toxic and dangerous substance, with a half-life of 24,100 years—into the pole star of Japan’s nuclear energy production apparatus. Such a plutonium economy would use fast-breeder reactors to generate energy from the most hazardous nuclear wastes at a time when most nuclear nations were abandoning the technology as unpromising and/or too dangerous. Significantly, this fixation on plutonium developed out of Japan’s long self-perception as a resource-poor nation, a key driver of imperial Japan’s colonialist ambitions through World War II.

Japan’s idée fixe over a perceived scarcity of natural resources has had a profound influence on the nation’s development. The idea of Japan as a ‘small island nation, poor in resources’, or shigen shōkoku nippon, emerged as a powerful discourse from the early twentieth century through the Second World War.9 Japan’s 1960s nuclear policy developed directly out of muscular hydropower initiatives that spanned the trans-war period, where abundant energy resources were seen as critical to ensuring Japan would secure membership in the top rank of great nations.10 Japanese elites seized on nuclear energy as a strategic means to achieve energy independence—paradoxically, of course, while being the only nation to have suffered wartime fallout from nuclear weapons after the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As Japan developed through the 1980s into one of the world’s most pro-nuclear states,11 a powerful domestic nuclear lobby began to promote plutonium as a kind of thermodynamic elixir capable of bestowing the archipelago’s energy needs almost indefinitely. Lest this seem like casual hyperbole, consider an exhibit at the Aquatom museum complex, located near Japan’s showcase fast-breeder reactor, called Monju: ‘Japan is a poor country in natural resources … therefore Monju, a plutonium burning reactor, is necessary because plutonium can be used for thousands of years’.12

Central to this campaign was the concept of circularity. Take the logistics that underpin nuclear fuel reprocessing, which involves both elements that typify ‘recycling’ as well as hazardous externalities which belie its exalted, circularist trappings. Only by ‘closing’ the fuel cycle13 could Japan’s spent fuel residues be transformed into (and re-consecrated as) new nuclear fuel stocks. In this heady policy climate before the radiation crisis of 2011, recycling came to take on a peculiarly talismanic quality when intoned by elite institutions invested with authority and lavish funding, such as the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE). Even the mere invocation of a closed fuel cycle could conveniently rebrand spent fuel rods and other parlous nuclear residues as ‘resources’. Since these radioactive materials were therefore to be reused, and were represented by nuclear boosters as a dizzying thermodynamic bounty, the nuclear industry has largely been able to sidestep the thorny question of, for example, containing such nuclear waste in secure underground repositories—generally considered best practice, if expensive and difficult, by most major nations, with only Finland and the US testing appropriate facilities thus far.14 These so-called ‘final repositories’ for nuclear waste were, at any rate, deemed virtually impossible to establish on the archipelago. Since the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no Japanese prefecture has wanted to host such a permanent nuclear waste repository,15 partly due to the enduring, though largely dormant, stigma of radiation among Japanese after 1945. Moreover, Japan is so seismic that it would be impossible to find a subterranean location capable of remaining stable for up to 100,000 years (a verdict confirmed by an expert panel of the Science Council of Japan, convened after the Fukushima Daiichi crisis unfolded, in 2012)—and therefore the task of convincing a potential host community to accept a final repository was deemed unworkable.16

For nuclear proponents, by contrast, there is practically no such thing as ‘nuclear waste’ due to the pivotal significance of circularity to the whole rationale of nuclear energy in Japan. Radioactive material is instead viewed as resources—valuable ascribed commodities in a sprawling reprocessing apparatus. This strategic posture has furnished Japan’s nuclear sector with considerable latitude to sidestep the very notion of perilous nuclear residues, long one of the costliest and most unpopular facets of nuclear energy globally. Meanwhile, Japan possesses about 17,000 tonnes of spent fuel rods, most of which are stored on site at nuclear power stations in jam-packed pools, above ground, in a highly earthquake-prone nation.17 These pools resemble drab onsen, radioactive versions of the idyllic hot springs for which Japan is famous, though these pools are heated up not by salutary geothermal currents redolent of therapeutic minerals but by the acute radioactivity of the spent fuel rods themselves, recalling the steaming, overheated wreckage of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in the aftermath of the 2011 meltdowns.

The term ‘recycling’ imparts a sense of effortless, perhaps even endless, movement, dynamism, and highly rationalized process, particularly in the context of bold circularist discourse. But the overwhelming reality of Japan’s nuclear regime is that of relative stasis. These pools regularly hold several times as many fuel rods as any reactor, leaving them exposed, beyond standard containment, and therefore vulnerable. Once deposited, they generally lie for years, steeping in makeshift wet storage in the absence of a repository or a properly functioning fuel cycle. (And, after all, only nine of Japan’s commercial reactors are currently in operation anyway, and only a fraction are capable of burning the reprocessed fuel described above.)18 These components of chimerical recycling are sustained by a well-funded and integrated programme of spin—an ironic but appropriate circular metaphor here—along with a multitude of political capital wielded by well-placed institutional powerbrokers. Yet it remains striking how, in a nation celebrated for high-tech innovation and exacting quality control, this recycling apparatus has fallen far short of the circularist grandiloquence propagated by the sector. Most major nuclear nations have faced problems in trying to recycle, or ‘reprocess’, nuclear material—an inherently dangerous and messy set of procedures that in the process creates about 12 times more low-level and medium-level nuclear waste, by volume, than the original volume of nuclear waste that was sent for reprocessing—but Japan’s chequered history with managing nuclear externalities is notable, as explained in these pages, particularly when contrasted with Japan’s longstanding reputation for meticulous quality control and technological excellence.

Japan’s decades-long quest for a closed fuel cycle has not only been exorbitant but plagued by grave safety lapses and technical failures. Here, a few evocative examples of nuclear mismanagement suffice to convey the circularist disarray in Japan’s ‘nuclear village’. The centrepiece of the nation’s audacious plans for energy independence was the aforementioned fast-breeder reactor called Monju, located in Tsuruga on the Japan Sea. Named after the bodhisattva representing transcendent wisdom, the facility operated in a rather more mundane fashion. Completed in 1994, the plant fell offline in 1995 after a serious leak of sodium coolant ignited a major fire, causing extensive damage. A semi-governmental agency’s subsequent bungled coverup brought infamy upon the plant, its operators and regulators, and the nuclear industry generally. Monju was intended to burn, and in turn ‘breed’, plutonium from the spent fuel produced by Japan’s nuclear power stations, but repeated attempts to bring Monju back online within Japan’s aspirational nuclear fuel cycle failed. Having cost about $12.5 billion, the facility was finally slated for decommissioning in 2017 after having produced only a tiny amount of energy. Its decommissioning and dismantling are estimated to cost approximately $3.3 billion more and take until the year 2047.19

Another key component of the nuclear fuel cycle was to be Rokkasho, a sprawling reprocessing facility on a remote peninsula of Aomori Prefecture—the northernmost extremity of Japan’s main island. The Rokkasho plant, embarked upon in 1993, has never been fully operational. Nevertheless, after over $12 billion invested and a quarter century in limbo, Rokkasho has repeatedly been depicted as on the verge of activity. The plant therefore appears to serve as an expensive and unacknowledged semantic deposit on the nation’s whole programme of nuclear fuel recycling. Particularly with Monju slated for decommissioning, over the strident objections of Japan’s nuclear boosters, Rokkasho remains the most compelling symbol of Japan’s aspirations for a closed nuclear fuel cycle. Or in other words, without Rokkasho forever on the reprocessing horizon, the 17,000 tonnes of spent fuel rods languishing in cooling ponds next to Japan’s dozens of mostly idled nuclear reactors would be in danger of unfavourable re-interpretation: not as ‘resources’ to power the nation but as highly toxic and radioactive nuclear waste, a ponderous burden on the nation’s balance sheet and a damper on its circularist aspirations. Significantly, the central government’s agreement with Aomori Prefecture stipulates that no nuclear residues will continue to be stored at the facility if the nation’s reprocessing effort falters.20 This provides additional incentive to keep up appearances, even as Japan’s fuel recycling effort lies in ruins—both figuratively and in some cases literally. (For example, the decades that Rokkasho’s facilities have lain idle have taken their toll, with the vast conversion infrastructure corroding and deteriorating in numerous places due to poor maintenance inspections and general disuse.)21

Copious recycling rhetoric notwithstanding, then, a great deal of nuclear waste in Japan has simply been converted into other forms of waste. Much is left to languish at different material stages due to what might be called insufficient circularity. Without the domestic capacity to achieve its objectives, the nuclear sector has been forced to scrounge elements of this cyclical potential with the help of European allies—a makeshift, stopgap measure that will no longer be workable in any long-term sense.22 For example, of Japan’s stockpile of more than 47 tonnes of weapons-usable plutonium (enough for more than 6,000 warheads), all but 10.5 tonnes are located at reprocessing sites in the UK and France (with about 21.2 tonnes at Sellafield and about 15.5 tonnes at La Hague, respectively).23 Some of the MOX fuel rods, comprised of mixed-oxide uranium and plutonium reprocessed overseas from Japan’s spent fuel, have been burned in a handful of specially calibrated reactors in Japan, but for the most part, the overwhelming bulk of Japan’s nuclear residues remains curiously unproductive—particularly so now that most of Japan’s reactors remain offline in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns. Only through the peculiar rhetorical alchemy of recycling explained above do the piles of spent fuel rods soaking for years in pools within nuclear power station compounds take on the guise of ‘resources’. With the Rokkasho reprocessing facility forever on the verge of becoming operational, Japan’s many tonnes of spent nuclear material are thereby spared the designation of nuclear waste, a classification which would usher in a host of thorny consequences. For instance, Japan possesses far more weapons-usable plutonium than any self-respecting pacifist, no-nukes nation would normally ever dream of having.24 Imperious postwar security guarantor the United States has already signalled its displeasure with Japan’s wildly disproportionate plutonium stocks, manifest most recently via a six-month termination clause in a key bilateral civil nuclear treaty governing Japanese plutonium.25 If the nuclear lobby fails to demonstrate a more plausible justification for this vast stockpile of plutonium, Japan may encounter diplomatic and geopolitical obstacles down the road. This is particularly challenging because Japan has benefitted from a certain strategic ambiguity with regard to nuclear weapons over the years. While remaining officially pacifist and anti-nukes post-1945, Japan has nevertheless for several decades possessed more than enough technological and engineering know-how to produce nuclear weapons. It boasts a well-regarded space agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), that launches missile-like rockets into space. The military and geopolitical ramifications of Japan’s enormous plutonium stockpile have therefore certainly not been lost on prickly East Asian rivals like China and North Korea, who have long been sceptical of Japan’s reprocessing rationale, particularly with regard to plutonium.26

Chimerical recycling has bolstered Japan’s nuclear fuel-cycle strategy for a number of years, but it was only with the advent of the Fukushima Daiichi radiation crisis that more novel forms of nuclear waste materialized on the archipelago, exposing serious inadequacies in the nuclear apparatus and necessitating official response. These include the estimated 100 tonnes of radioactive water that leak into the Pacific Ocean every day from the bowels of the ruined nuclear power station, as well as the nearly 1000 giant, serried tanks of Tritium-laced water slowly filling the 350-hectare Fukushima Daiichi compound as effluent from the facility’s own filtration system—now exceeding a million tonnes in total. (Referring to the highly toxic liquid residues these tanks hold, even the environment minister himself recently stated that ‘The only option will be to drain it into the sea to dilute it’ to alleviate the ever-increasing burden of radioactive water storage there.)27 Leaving aside the wreckage of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station—itself a twisted and heterogeneous mass of nuclear waste requiring at least several more decades of highly specialised work to dismantle and segregate—the trope of recycling has been invoked to mobilize, and justify, the colossal effort to sequester and make efficient many millions of cubic metres of radioactive dirt and other debris brought on by the 3.11 disaster. Ambivalent Fukushima Prefecture has, thus, become a pivotal testing ground for the principles of circularity that have guided Japan’s nuclear sector for decades, offering a useful opportunity to interrogate the core precepts of nuclear recycling in evidence there.

 

4Decontamination work, Nihonmatsu, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

 

5Decontamination work, Nihonmatsu, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

 

6Clean’ dirt ready to spread on agricultural field cleared of radioactive soil, Tomioka, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

 

7Woman with dosimeter taking a break from decontamination work, Nihonmatsu, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

 

 

Shifting geographies of transcontamination

A crew of seven men and one woman, clad head-to-toe in helmets, face masks, protective clothing, gloves, and rubber boots wielded rakes and shovels to scrape radioactive dirt and vegetal matter from a wooded area around a local shrine in Nihonmatsu, not far from the Exclusion Zone, in autumn 2015. The crew laboured to remove enough radioactive debris to bring radiation levels back down toward levels deemed safe by the Japanese government. This involved clipping off low-lying tree branches and clearing away small bushes and undergrowth. (Elsewhere, in Iitate village, I have witnessed bark removed so aggressively from tree stumps that they had been whittled down to resemble pencil-stubs gnawed by schoolchildren.) Yet in spite of the serious nature of the job and the tragic backdrop of contaminated Fukushima against which they worked, the crew were rather grumpy. Their foreman, Nakayama-san, complained about how low their pay rate was, a paltry 720 yen per square metre compared to more desirable work around residential areas, called jutaku josen, which paid better mostly because it was calculated by weight rather than by area. Having previously worked as an insurance agent, the stalwart, outspoken Tohoku native railed against the government’s standards for calculating radiation safety, which he called too lax. ‘We’re mormotto (guinea pigs)!’, he declared, or test subjects who could be studied for decades. He and his crew worked long and hard to collect huge black bags of radioactive waste for collection as part of a campaign that was called ‘decontamination’ (josen), but they were under no illusions that the area would be free of radiation in the years to come. (Below, I describe how such workers see the decontamination effort as extremely patchy or non-existent in places, belying the campaign’s very moniker.) It also remained far from clear how the problem of radiation stored in these large black bags would ever be adequately resolved.

Japan’s Ministry of Environment announced vague plans for an Interim Storage Facility (ISF) for radioactive material in 2014, to be located in Fukushima Prefecture, with more concrete plans by 2016. The proposed site would occupy already highly radioactive terrain. Encompassing 1,600 hectares in a half-doughnut shape, the facility would literally nestle around the compound of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, perched on Fukushima’s Pacific coast at the heart of the Exclusion Zone. Though proximity to Fukushima Daiichi suggests to a reasonable layperson that the facility would hold high-level nuclear waste such as the slumped uranium fuel located below the power station’s wrecked reactors, in fact the ISF planned to store, for a time, the millions of cubic metres of radioactive soil and other biomass collected from the irradiated territory of Fukushima Prefecture since 2011.

It is central to the political culture of the reconstruction effort that Fukushima’s various storage sites for radioactive material clearly advertise their transitory nature. For seven years, about 16 million huge black bags (furekon), each about the size of a hot tub and weighing approximately a tonne when filled,28 have sat in piles scattered around the Exclusion Zone. These furekon bags are filled with radioactive topsoil scraped from the surface of most of the prefecture’s hardest-hit areas, by crews like that of Nakayama-san, and at first lie in odd, desultory heaps of perhaps two to six bags before being transported by truck to what are known as kari-kari-okiba (third-tier storage, literally ‘provisional-provisional’ depots). After a time, sometimes a year or more, workers will move these bags to further, though still provisional, second-tier storage depots (kari-okiba) located throughout the region. All these sites, clearly blazoned as temporary, keep the bags in motion just enough to sell a rationalized system, but in fact the bags still have nowhere to go. An elaborately designed Interim Storage Facility, its name similarly advertising its impermanence, exists mostly on paper in the form of a series of diagrams and renderings, as Ministry of Environment officials await cooperation of the aforementioned, tetchy absentee landowners who, since 2011, find themselves holding title to parcels of some of the most abominated land on the planet. Significantly, the ISF plan was only signed off on by the prefectural governor on the proviso that all radioactive material stored there must leave Fukushima after 30 years, at which time prefectural and central government authorities hope eventually to begin converting the land to a park. However, such a restored future green space remains far from guaranteed, as does much of the facility itself. By the end of winter 2018, only 52.8 percent of the private landowners had agreed to lease their land to the government,29 meaning that implementation of the plan is largely beyond the power of the state to guarantee. In the meantime, the overwhelming quantity of bags of irradiated material mostly move around the chimerical circle of provisional destinations, somewhat like an intermittent game of pass the parcel. While, for a time, the state could put bags of radioactive dirt almost anywhere during the decontamination process, these bags slowly aggregate in successive particular sites. These sites are generally leased from landowners and therefore generate revenue. 

All this material flux involves long concatenations of logistical steps. Moving millions of furekon bags requires trucks, and the standard Japanese truck can only hold a maximum of six of these bags. Therefore, to transport all the bags from the scattered sites where they were initially collected (gemba hokan) to the subsequent sites of formal storage—and eventually to the ISF—involves over two million truck journeys, a staggering figure.30 Moreover, according to the manufacturer, the bags are meant to last just three years and some bags must also be decanted regularly due to further routine damage, bringing even more stuttering progress. The scale and logistical complexity of The Clear has provided piecemeal work for members of local communities as well as for transplants, with some local companies subcontracted to do scraping, collection, transport, and so on. This is, however, small comfort after the radioactive defilement of hundreds of square kilometres of their home region, the decimation of Fukushima’s agricultural sector (even in relatively unaffected areas distant from the meltdowns), the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents, nearly 8 years of upheaval, and a highly uncertain future.

Improbably, authorities speak of ‘recycling’ all these millions of tonnes of dirt. The most likely scenario I have heard bruited by nuclear clear-up officials involves creating massive anti-tsunami berms along the coastline, with ‘recycled’ radioactive dirt comprising the core of these structures for many miles. Based on my decades of research on this topic in Japan,31 such a strategy is a long way away from what most Japanese associate with the term ‘recycling’. Under rosy scenarios of public use, such radioactive dirt would be sequestered safely within berms, but such strategies incur potential risks of contamination of surrounding land and coastal seas, particularly worrisome given the periodic seismic events that jolt contemporary Japan.

Yet sustainability discourse in Fukushima goes further. Ministry officials are executing their plan to incinerate all the vegetal matter collected across and around the Exclusion Zone, along with all the protective clothing (gloves, coveralls, masks, and so on) used in decontamination operations. Because Japanese incinerators generate electricity from their operations, environmental officials and partners dub this process ‘thermal recycling’. For deeply sceptical informants based in communities around the Exclusion Zone, such rhetoric often falls on deaf ears. Some Fukushima residents feel it is their duty to agitate against the environmental health excesses of this campaign, and I have witnessed the gamut of such protests, from activists banging drums on a street corner in Fukushima City to having a quiet word over tea with a local politician. For many others whose lives were turned upside down by the nuclear plant meltdowns and radiation crisis and subsequent evacuation, the emotional toll has been devastating. As one middle-aged woman put it, referring to the large black bags used for bulk transport in Fukushima, ‘The furekon are filled with our tears’.

Problematically for nuclear stakeholders, the lofty goals of the decontamination programme are undermined by the inconvenient properties of radionuclides, as well as by the uneven terrain of Fukushima itself. For there is no such thing as decontamination when dealing with radiation—there is only transcontamination. As Associate Professor Shinzō Kimura, a Dokkyō Medical University radiation health researcher working since 2011 in Fukushima, explained, ‘Radiation cannot be eliminated. It can only be transported from one place to another…. This is clearly transcontamination, with no easy solutions…. Fukushima’s “decontamination” is a complete misnomer—it’s a con perpetrated against the Japanese people’.

Fukushima’s elaborate decontamination programme is therefore, in essence, a matter of taking radioactive debris from one part of Fukushima and moving it to another part of Fukushima. More precisely, the radioactive material enters stuttered slow motion, moving periodically from one place to another, with no certain final destination. By 11 March 2019, the eighth anniversary of the radiation disaster, only about 15% of the total volume of radioactive soil (2.3 million cubic metres) had been transported to the as-yet only partially realized Interim Storage Facility, with a flotilla of trucks making about 1600 roundtrip journeys each day.32 According to the ISF plan itself, much of the nuclear waste would be on the move again in a few decades. Meanwhile, the supposed clean-up in Fukushima falls short, with too much radiation lingering in ‘decontaminated’ sites in question. Of course, true to form, Fukushima’s custodians like the Ministry of Environment have rationalized and transported a sizable amount of Fukushima’s radiation—but by no means all. After scraping up dirt and other matter, after cutting weeds and clipping low branches, workers spread a layer of ‘clean’ soil from elsewhere in order to be able to take out a Geiger counter and produce a ‘safe’ reading. In Fukushima, safety was a labile concept, with sizeable constituencies ambivalent about the aftermath of the 2011 radiation crisis. A number of the decontamination workers I interviewed and witnessed in action were sceptical that The Clear, across vast expanses of Fukushima, had been wholly successful. They had seen first hand the occasional patchiness of the work, the places where they or others had had to cut corners due to the vagaries of rigid schedules, weather, diktats from up the food-chain, and so on.33 The Japanese government claims that areas are now ‘safe’ due to Geiger counter readings, but activists and others accuse the government of putting their thumb on the scale, so to speak—taking many readings over time and throwing out the undesirable high radiation measures as “failed” tests, thereby keeping only the lower radiation readings. As dodgy as this may sound, I came across a similar tactic used by the Tokyo Waste Bureau during a successful community challenge against the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in a 1999 toxic pollution dispute. The independent scientist who had carried out the atmospheric measurements testified that government officials had warped the data he had carefully compiled, in similar fashion.34 While controversy smoulders over the decontamination effort, weary communities attempt to return to normalcy, unconvinced that the situation on the ground will get much better.

Kimura-sensei demonstrated the absurdity of The Clear, energetically sketching out a rudimentary farm on a white board in his Nihonmatsu laboratory. ‘The decontamination activities are a joke…. [They] scrape the dirt from the agricultural fields, but leave the fringes untouched. Cows then eat irradiated grass, becoming irradiated themselves, and shit radiation onto the “decontaminated” soil. This can then contaminate crops over time…. Both the plan and the implementation are a complete farce’. Radiation remains most acute in the margins, in the neglected areas between sites that have been deemed suitable for decontamination. For instance, in communities like Naraha where only about 15% of the pre-disaster population has returned and resettled in the past couple of years,35 putatively sanitized areas resemble islands and peninsulas surrounded by eddies of higher radiation, particularly in wooded and/or overgrown areas, which the ministry has relinquished to so-called ‘natural decay’. Natural decay entails simply waiting for the radiation to go down by itself, without intervention. Caesium-137, for example, has a half-life of over 30 years, which means that when the proposed ISF is to be shut down in the late 2040s, the Cs-137 in Fukushima’s soil will still be perhaps half as radioactive as when it first hit the ground—still exceeding international standards, as shown below.

Take the northern area of Tomioka Township, which is still designated a ‘difficult-to-return zone’—meaning that, on average, the area continues to emit more than 20 milliSieverts per year of radiation. (For reference, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission mandates a maximum exposure for American communities of 1 milliSievert per year over background radiation.)36 I and collaborator Toshihiro Higuchi conducted ethnographic fieldwork on The Clear, in Tomioka, before the evacuation order was lifted there on 1 April 2017. We explored derelict neighbourhoods and the desolation of its evacuated, overrun, intermittently bag-scattered terrain. We also witnessed the MOE’s clear-up of farms in the region, where they endeavoured to spread ‘clean’ dirt over fields and property to bring down radiation levels. Northern Tomioka is a patchwork of some areas that test relatively low on a Geiger counter and other zones that have radiation many times higher, like thickly wooded areas, hilly precincts, even just the overgrown areas near roadways. This reflects the maddening variation throughout the rest of Tomioka and the entire area around the Exclusion Zone. Forbidding teenagers to wander in the woods or scolding children for digging in the ground, and scraping away surface soil is far from decontamination—this is, instead, decontamination for show, decontamination that is literally superficial. Furthermore, Fukushima remains teeming with irradiated boar and deer who are heedless of the boundaries imposed by human nuclear functionaries, not to mention the multitudes of birds and other creatures who roam the area. Wild boar is a delicacy in Japan, but since Fukushima boar have been found with levels of Caesium-137 over 300 times Japan’s radiation limit for human consumption, boar have morphed from culinary treat into toxic vermin. Tomioka Town has killed many hundreds of boar in recent years, but overwhelmingly as a preventative measure, not for their meat. While Fukushima municipalities attempt to enlist greater numbers of hunters licensed to shoot boar to help control the infestation of these determined radioactive interlopers,37 for example, it is clear that this is selective decontamination by state fiat, finding little purchase on the disaster zone’s intricate non-human ecology.

Granted, one wouldn’t expect Fukushima Prefecture to advertise its radiation travails to tourist visitors and prospective investors. Nevertheless, it is ominous that government proclamations regarding revitalization of the area in and around the Exclusion Zone intone about jobs but seem geared toward a future with relatively few humans. The Fukushima Prefectural Government now promotes a plan, dubbed The Innovation Coast, that would transform the unwelcoming region into a thriving zone of high-tech innovation. Much of the development along the purportedly revitalized Innovation Coast would be directed towards a ‘robot-related industrial cluster’ and experimental zones like the Fukushima Robot Test Field.38 Both in the Robot Test Field and in other planned facilities, engineered runways and surrounding radiation-hit areas would serve as prime territory for testing aerial drones for a range of purposes in various weather conditions—which would be difficult or impossible to achieve elsewhere in relatively densely populated Japan. The planned site for the test field would link with a secluded test area about 13 kilometres due south along the coastline, located closer to Fukushima Daiichi, to coordinate test flights over the unremediated Exclusion Zone’s more or less posthuman terrain.39 Naturally, unlike Fukushima’s human residents, robots and the sometimes highly automated facilities that produce their components would be oblivious to the elevated—but to robots not debilitating—radiation levels found outside the Fukushima Daiichi facility itself. In addition, prefectural officials have suggested that the Exclusion Zone environs could play host to a range of other services that don’t require much human intervention, such as long-term archive facilities.40 

Proud long-time residents of Fukushima, for their part, see all this proposed development as a continued ‘colonization’ of their home prefecture by Tokyo41—namely, a well-worn pattern of outsiders using the zone for their own purposes, as were the original nuclear proponents who built the ill-fated Fukushima Daiichi plant in the first place. Moto, a man born and raised in Fukushima City and educated in an elite Ivy-League graduate programme, lambasted the process. ‘This has been going on for many decades. Again, we have outsiders coming into Fukushima, dictating how to use our land, how to exploit our resources. They need to take account of the wishes of the people of Fukushima, how we want Fukushima to be’.42 Moto and his family, along with neighbours, discovered in 2017 that the Fukushima City Council—facing massive radioactive waste volumes—had arbitrarily decided to use an open green area in the middle of their community as a temporary storage facility for radioactive dirt, without undergoing the usual elaborate consultation process.43 A university history professor commuting to Sendai, Moto humbly proclaims himself an ‘academic from the sticks’ (inaka) with no activist experience. Nevertheless, he proved himself an unusually capable political infighter. He quickly mobilized his extensive local contacts in Fukushima politics to shoot the proposal down within a handful of days, ensuring that the city would think twice before attempting to exploit the site again. Yet the project was subsequently moved not far away to another, less well-off neighbourhood, prompting his wife to say, ‘Yes, we are glad that the project will no longer go forward less than a hundred metres from our home, but the people who live [in the other community] are less enfranchised, less able to protest. I feel terrible…. This shouldn’t be happening. They shouldn’t be doing this to local communities in this way’. Many locals—even those who have benefited from the upsurge in clear-up work after 2011—have grown to criticize the whole project of decontamination. One notable turn of phrase, josen yori osen (‘[it’s] more pollution than decontamination’), caustically juxtaposes ‘decontamination’ (josen) with its near homophone ‘pollution’ (osen), engaging in a form of wordplay common in Japanese.

Naturally, sustainability and recycling figure in the prefecture’s Innovation Coast plan. Promotional materials invoke the circular economy of recycling Lithium-ion batteries from electrical vehicles into other energy-storage products at a newly completed facility in Fukushima; another Fukushima plant promises to produce all the hydrogen needed for fuel cells with renewable energy, and Fukushima Prefecture itself aims to derive 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2040.44 Fukushima stakeholders trumpet the putative synergies created by concentrating these industries in the region; furthermore, all design studios, factories, and staging grounds would be governed by the same strict laws on processing and converting electronic and other wastes as the rest of Japan. But despite the evocations of circularity along the planned Innovation Coast, the scheme flirts with unreality as it brushes aside radioactive threats in Fukushima. The recovering, tsunami-hit region remains at risk. The millions of tonnes of radioactive soil, the large expanses of defiled territory relegated to ‘natural decay’—these, understandably perhaps, remain downplayed in favour of the opportunities presented by a sprawling, relatively depopulated area of Japan available for experimentation with perilous drone technologies and automated systems, as well as abundant cheap land and tax incentives for newly built manufacturing sites. Zooming out from such glossy public-relations portrayals—made with an eye toward the coming 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games—demonstrates the limits of the government’s attempts at rationalization. Where nuclear waste languishes in various stages of inertia/abandonment, the circularist nuclear establishment projects a utopian system, with materials forever floating along tight, efficient loops of eco-conversion to feed a self-correcting market. All the while, the very radiation that necessitates the clear-up helps pull off the PR campaign; due to elevated radiation, the most dangerous areas outside Fukushima Daiichi remain depopulated and therefore little scrutinized. Even the radiation in marginal areas that are legally accessible tends to discourage interlopers.

To be sure, all the dreadful externalities of the triple-meltdowns in Fukushima presented here notwithstanding, there are pollutant drawbacks to other forms of energy production. Toxic air pollution and hazardous tailings associated with exploiting coal energy cause hundreds of thousands of premature deaths around the world annually45 and depredate landscapes. The same goes for other fossil fuel exploitation, such as oil and natural gas/fracking, which due to their vast scale and favourable margin have the potential to warp entire planetary regions.46 ‘Clean energy’ doesn’t get a pass, either. Production of solar panels and wind farms requires energy and material resources. Eventually, this eco-infrastructure will result in e-waste that will need to be handled responsibly. Ditto for electric cars, which, to a degree, will only be as eco as the forms of energy that charge their batteries. Yet the economies of scale triggered by nuclear calamity reach a different order of magnitude, as Fukushima demonstrates. Communities in and around the Exclusion Zone will struggle with radiation for generations, particularly near acutely irradiated areas left to ‘natural decay’. Many of the evacuated communities in Fukushima have been unsuccessful in attracting more than a small fraction of their former populations back for resettlement—usually about 15%—and the whole prefecture must grapple with the stigma of radiation that affects who buys Fukushima produce, who comes as a tourist, who decides to move to the area, and who marries their offspring. Not to mention that Japan has failed to convince its citizenry that obdurate Nuclear, Inc., has truly learned from the triple-disasters about the swift, durable ruin of large-scale radiation events from crippled nuclear facilities and the cost of shoddy management and careless quality control. Though the nuclear lobby seems largely unfazed in its push for return to the status quo ante energy strategy, the Fukushima Daiichi debacle has done rough violence to the illusion of circularity and control that the nuclear industry has propagated over decades.

Given the broad significance of circularity to Japan’s nuclear sector, it is even more striking how recent efforts to ‘recycle’ nuclear waste in public works projects and in agriculture give the lie to the eight-year circularist campaign in Fukushima. In June 2018, the MOE diverged sharply from long-articulated plans to recycle radioactive soil collected in Fukushima. In a recently published outline,47 the ministry instead set out to offload radioactive dirt in road-building and agriculture in various sites throughout Fukushima—prompting vociferous protests from community groups. For instance, along a 200-metre stretch of road in the town of Nihonmatsu, the ministry proposed to place 500 cubic metres of radioactive dirt underneath the roadway. The ministry explains that the dirt, having levels of approximately 1000 becquerels per kilogram, would be covered with ‘clean’ dirt to block the radiation—small comfort to local farmers keen to advertise their produce as free of radiation, not to mention concerned homeowners and casual passersby. (For comparison, the Japanese government maintains a radioactivity safety limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram for foodstuffs for human consumption—though no one intends to directly eat the dirt, the disparity between the levels is resonant in an agricultural area that longs to become a major food producer again.)48 Furthermore, officials intend to use radioactive dirt to grow crops within Fukushima Prefecture. According to the MOE, this ‘recycled’ soil would not, however, yield produce intended for human consumption, representing an (unsuccessful) attempt to alleviate the sharp concerns of yet more local farmers and residents.49 Under Japanese law, soil of up to 8000 becquerels per kilogram can be used for a variety of purposes, a regulatory flexibility that government stakeholders are attempting to turn, gradually, to their advantage. By contrast, the International Atomic Energy Agency maintains a standard of 100 becquerels per kilogram for material containing Caesium-137.50 Opposition to the plan from communities in Fukushima demonstrates the chasm between rosy projections generated by officialdom and what exasperated residents will tolerate. In a society broadly shaped by recycling regimes, it seems that, after 3.11, there are limits to what forms of circularity residents are willing to accept—particularly when the ‘circularity’ of Fukushima’s nuclear waste dead-ends in one’s residential neighbourhood.

 

Conclusions

The colossal scale of the clear-up in Fukushima bears perhaps inevitable comparison with other monumental human endeavours, epitomized by the much-bandied construction of the Egyptian pyramids. The mastaba-shaped waste mesas of Fukushima, comprised of serried stacks of hundreds of thousands of black furekon bags that loom over desolate areas in and around the Exclusion Zone, may not seem as visually impressive as, say, the Great Pyramid of Giza (weighing about 6 million tonnes and having a volume of approximately 2.5 million cubic metres). Yet the eight-year project of gathering up more than 16 million cubic metres of radioactive dirt, transporting it over considerable distances, and eventually constructing enormous ziggurats of furekon bags swaddled with enough tarpaulin to cover all the football pitches in the Premier League many times over does exude a somewhat Pharaonic character. Nevertheless, what is striking about The Clear in Fukushima is that this whole campaign is designed to achieve precisely the opposite result. Instead of constructing a series of monuments out of the most durable materials available, such as granite, to create a lasting memorial—as did the pharaohs—Japanese government authorities instead composed a succession of gigantic (but slowly shifting) depositories that advertise their transitory nature. The vicissitudes of weather and circumstance continue to take their toll, but the most committed destructive force that these structures will face is their very builders. Officials have guaranteed that these radioactive plateaux will be removed from Fukushima Prefecture in less than three decades. As regards the radiation therein, the government has gone to great lengths to disguise, play down, or otherwise diminish the quantity contained in these piles. Whether to line the undersides of roadways, fill mammoth berms along Fukushima’s coastline, or use in reclaimed land or other construction, nuclear officials are determined to find ways to reduce the gargantuan scale of this volume of radioactive dirt until there is virtually no remaining trace—contradicting the profuse recycling rhetoric generated in Fukushima since March 2011. What this decontamination campaign does comprise, however, is a monumental glorification of Japanese models of circularity.

Circularist discourse on recycling tends to express the conversion of residues—either explicitly or implicitly—as a seamless process, free of emissions or other externalities. Moreover, diagrams and other renderings make recycling appear not only effortless but as forever ongoing. Such exhortations of circularity become, therefore, less descriptions of a process than expressions of a worldview, one that through its banality subtly creeps into general consciousness. With both a powerful pro-nuclear lobby and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games looming on the horizon, Japanese authorities will have every incentive to make this radioactive dirt disappear in a range of inventive ways that have nothing to do with recycling. Nevertheless, a veil of circularity will help colour, and obscure, the familiar process of converting nuclear wastes into yet other forms of nuclear waste. This time-honoured exercise in nuclear PR will likely perdure alongside the current revolution in solar power, offshore windfarms, and other sustainable energy sources, many of whose rates already undercut new-build nuclear. The well-funded nuclear campaign to promote circularity in Japan will then increasingly seem like another problematic residue of the Nuclear Age, one that will endure far longer than it really should.

As demonstrated in these pages, the clear-up of the Fukushima disaster zone has itself been a disaster, partly facilitated by distorted circularist propaganda. Yet recycling rhetoric pervades the nuclear industry internationally. We live in what could be described as ‘the environmental century’, with sharp concern over climate change, planetary depredation, profligate lifestyles, and access to resources. Around the world, governments, corporations, academics, activists, and concerned citizens are attempting to decide which forms of energy show the most promise in turning our situation around. By lifting the tarpaulin on Japan’s handling of nuclear residues in Fukushima, we can begin to uncover the manifold ways in which recycling discourse is used to warp the case for nuclear in a range of nations.

 

Notes

1

T. Christoudias et al., ‘Modelling the Global Atmospheric Transport and Deposition of Radionuclides from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Accident’, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 13, 2013, pp. 1425-1438; Majia Nadesan et al, eds., Fukushima : Dispossession or Denuclearization?, [no publication city], 2014, p.103.

2

Environmental Remediation in Affected Areas’. Tokyo: Ministry of the Environment, 2019, p. 7.

3

This article received generous support via a Leverhulme Trust Project Grant (RPG-2014-224). I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the kind help and sharp insight of Dr. Toshihiro Higuchi of Georgetown University, who collaborated on some ethnographic fieldwork on which this article draws.

4

McKean, Margaret, Environmental protest and citizen politics in Japan, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981; Huddle, N., and M. Reich, Island of dreams: Environmental crisis in Japan, Cambridge, MA: Schenkman Books, 1987; Dauvergne, Peter, Shadows in the forest: Japan and the politics of timber in Southeast Asia, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997; Broadbent, Jeffrey, Environmental politics in Japan: Networks of power and protest, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998; Kerr, Alex, Dogs and demons: Tales from the dark side of Japan, New York: Hill & Wang, 2001; Avenell, Simon, Transnational Japan in the global environmental movement, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2017.

5

Shunichi Honda et al, Regional E-Waste Monitor: East and Southeast Asia, Tokyo 2016, pp. 84-89.

6

H. Kalimo et al, ‘Greening the Economy through Design Incentives’, European Energy and Environmental Law Review 21/6, 2012, p. 296.

7

For example, many Japanese manufacturers eschew recycled metal or plastic as substandard; instead, much recycled material tends to be sold overseas. See Kirby, P. W., A. Lora-Wainwright, and Y. Schulz, Leftover Lucre [manuscript in preparation].

8

A comparison of Tokyo, Japan’s largest city, with that of much-smaller Kitakyushu shows a consistent attention to recycling and sustainability in both locations (and in many other Japanese communities). Creating a Sustainable City: Tokyo’s Environmental Policy. Tokyo, 2018 See here (accessed September 2019); here (accessed September 2019); and here (accessed September 2019).

9

Eric Dinmore, ‘A Small Island Nation Poor in Resources: Natural and Human Resource Anxieties in Trans-World War II Japan’. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 2006.

10

Amano Reiko (2001). Damu to Nihon [Dams and Japan. Published in Japanese.] Tokyo: Iwanami Shinsho.; Dinmore, 2006, op. cit.

11

Martin Dusinberre, Hard Times in the Hometown, Honolulu 2012.

12

Gavan McCormack, ‘Japan as a Plutonium Superpower’, Japan Focus 5/12, 2007.

13

A nuclear fuel cycle describes a process whereby nuclear fuel rods are fabricated and then, after use, reprocessed so that some nuclear material that might otherwise have become high-level nuclear waste could instead be reused in reactors.

14

The Finnish final repository, dubbed Onkalo or ‘hiding place’ (still under construction until 2023), will be able to hold all of Finland’s high-level nuclear waste in a network of granite cavities 520 metres underground. By contrast, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) outside Carlsbad, New Mexico, holds only a portion of the USA’s transuranic waste from its weapons programs. These pilot repositories, 660 metres underground, are carved out of a gigantic subterranean salt bed and could be expanded relatively quickly—as salt-rock is far more easily excavated than granite (see here).

15

Japan’s Nuclear Waste Problem’, Japan Times, 21 January 2014; also confirmed by several Japanese environmental officials in interview between 2017-18.

16

Kō-reberu hōshasei-haikibutsu no shobun ni tsuite. [Regarding disposal of high-level radioactive waste.] Science Council of Japan, September 2012; Japan’s nuclear waste problem (Editorial). Japan Times 21 January 2014.

17

Yukari Sekiguchi, ‘Mitigating the Risks of Spent Nuclear Fuel in Japan’, CSIS Policy Perspectives, Washington, D.C. 30 March 2017, pp. 1-2, 4; ‘Japan’s 17,000 Tons of Nuclear Waste in Search of a Home’, Bloomberg 10 July 2015.

18

Nuclear Power in Japan’. World Nuclear Association. (accessed September 2019).

19

Fuel removal work starts at Japan’s Monju reactor. World Nuclear News, 2018, August 30. (accessed September 2019)

20

Confirmed in interviews with MOE officials in 2017-18.

21

Japanese nuclear fuel reprocessing plant delayed yet again: Age-related decay plagues Rokkasho project, stalled for 20 years’, Nikkei Asian Review, 23 December 2017.

22

The UK is no longer an option for reprocessing. The conversion operation at Sellafield, which grapples with dire cost overruns and its own very serious nuclear waste cleanup, has been closing out its contracts and slowly shipping reprocessed waste back to Japan. Areva, which does reprocessing in France at La Hague, has been in severe financial straits and is not nearly reliable enough a partner on which to base Japan’s future nuclear waste policy.

23

Status Report of Plutonium Management in Japan – 2017, Japan Atomic Energy Commission, Tokyo 2018.

24

Gavan McCormack, ‘Hubris Punished: Japan as a Nuclear State’, Synthesis/Regeneration 56, 2011.

25

Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy’ [civil nuclear treaty which came into force in 1988]; ‘Japan Plutonium Stockpile Fuels US Unease’, Financial Times, 25 June 2018.

26

Gavan McCormack, ‘Japan as a Plutonium Superpower’, Japan Focus 5/12, 2007.

27

Fukushima: Japan will have to dump radioactive water into Pacific, minister says’, The Guardian, 10 September 2019.

28

Each bag is designed to hold a volume of one cubic metre.

29

Environmental Remediation in Japan’, Japanese Ministry of the Environment, Tokyo 2018, p. 22.

30

Calculated and confirmed in interview (May 2018) with a Ministry of Environment official in charge of the Fukushima decontamination programme.

31

Kirby, Peter Wynn. Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011.

32

Fukushima grapples with toxic soil that no one wants’, The Guardian, 11 March 2019.

33

This is corroborated, for example, by Justin McCurry, who quotes a clear-up worker describing places where his crew was told just to sweep up the leaves on the ground to make a deadline, leaving contaminated soil behind.

34

See Peter Wynn Kirby, Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011.

35

Learning from the Lessons of 3/11, Seven Years On’, Japan Times, 9 March 2018.

36

Backgrounder on Biological Effects of Radiation’, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission factsheet, 2017. (accessed September 2019)

37

Wild boars offer challenge for homecomers in radiation-hit Fukushima’. Reuters, 9 March 2017.

38

METI and the Fukushima Prefectural Government Conclude an Agreement on the Development and Operation of Robot Testing Fields and the International Industry-Academia-Government Collaboration Facilities for Robots under the Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework’ news release, Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, 26 January 2016.

39

See here, page 7 image.

40

This was aired last year in interview with officials from the Fukushima Prefectural Government.

41

Norio Akasaka, Tōhokugaku: Wasurerareta Tōhoku [Tōhoku Studies: Forgotten Tōhoku], Tokyo, 2009.

42

See also Kainuma, Hiroshi, Fukushima-ron: Genshiryoku mura wa naze umareta no ka [Debates over Fukushima: How and Why was “The Nuclear Village” Spawned in Japan?], Tokyo: Seidosha, 2011.

43

Disposal of contaminated soil – is this only Fukushima’s problem?’ [Osendo no shobun, Fukushima dake no mondai ka?] Asahi Shimbun, 7 June 2017, p. 14.

44

Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework’, Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry PR materials, Tokyo 2018.

45

Air pollution, climate and health: the calculation is simple. World Health Organization (accessed September 2019)

46

E.g., Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

47

Basic thinking on the safe use of dirt reclaimed [from Fukushima]’, Japanese Ministry of the Environment, Tokyo 2018.

48

Nokuaki Kunii et al., ‘The Knowledge and Awareness for Radiocesium Food Monitoring after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(10):2289, 2018.

49

A pilot project in Iitate would plant flowers and energy crops in fields with a radioactive soil substrate. ‘Environmental Remediation in Affected Areas’. Tokyo: Ministry of the Environment, 2019, p. 22.

50

IAEA Safety Standards for Protecting People and the Environment: Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources: International Basic Safety Standards. Geneva: IAEA, 2014, p. 126.

Source:

https://apjjf.org/2019/19/Kirby.html

 

October 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Statement of opinion of a resident of the city of Date, Fukushima Prefecture, presented to the Tokyo Regional Court

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Via Kolin Kobayashi, translation Hervé Courtois
A poignant statement presented in the 3rd trial on the damage caused by the Fukushima accident against the State and TEPCO to the Tokyo Regional Court.
You must read.
———–
Statement of opinion of a resident of the city of Date, Fukushima Prefecture, presented to the Tokyo Regional Court
We had the desire to raise our children in an environment close to nature and enriching. That’s why we moved from Fukushima City to buy land in the town of Date, where we currently live, to build a house. Loan repayments were heavy but, we lived simply and we were happy.
Eight years after the construction of our house, on March 11, 2011 the accident of the power plant occurred, and our family life was turned upside down. My husband and I were 42 years old, my son was in elementary school 4th grade (12 years old) and my daughter was in elementary school 3rd grade (10 years old).
At that time, I had no knowledge about nuclear or radioactive substances. If I had had some knowledge in this area, by running away from it we probably could have avoided being irradiated. I am burdened by this regret. Without any financial leeway, with my sick children and my parents who are here, I could not resolve myself resolve to get away from Date.
From the 11th of March all life lines were cut and I had to go to the water stations where I took the children, to find food we had to walk outside sometimes soaked in the rain. After several days as we still had no water, we had to go to the town hall where the water was not cut to use the toilet. It was then that I saw a group of people dressed in white protective suits entering the town hall. We thought that they were probably coming to help the victims of the tsunami. But now, I understand that the radioactive pollution was such that protections were necessary and we, without suspecting anything, were exposed.
It was the time for the graduation ceremonies at the elementary school and we went there on foot. I think the information we were given was false and because of that we were irradiated. At the time I was convinced that if we really incurred danger, the state would warn us. I later learned that the doses of radioactivity in the air after the accident were 27 to 32 μSv (micro sieverts) per hour. There was no instruction about any restriction to go outdoors and it is extremely serious. And that is extremely serious.
In June 2011, I went to the funeral of my husband’s grandmother in his family. I took my children with me. On the way we noticed that the radiation level was very high and that inside the car the dosimeter showed in some places 1.5 micro-sievert per hour. The officials of that area, had asked the nearby residents to not cause problems even if the radioactivity was high. From what I heard, the reconstruction vehicles had to be able to continue to use that road. Likewise the Shinkansen bullet train and the Tohoku highway were not to be closed for these reasons. Despite a level that exceeded the allowable dose limits, instead of being alerted to the dangers, we were assured that we were safe.
The risk of this exposure was not communicated to us. In June 2011 my son had so many heavy nosebleeds, that his sheets were all red. The children with the same symptoms were so numerous that we received a notice thru the school’s “health letter” with recommendations. During a medical examination at the school, my son was found to have a heart abnormality and had to be monitored by a holter. My son, who was 12 at the time of the accident, was suffering from atopic dermatitis. After the symptoms worsened to the point of having to be hospitalized during the spring school break. Today we still can not identify the symptoms that make him suffer.
One year after the accident, my daughter complained of pain in her right leg. In the hospital, an extra-osseous osteoma was diagnosed and she had to undergo bone excision the following year. In first year junior high school from the winter she could not get up in the morning. She had orthostatic dysfunct. In agreement with her we decided that she would go to school 3 times a week in a system with flexible hours.
My husband’s favorite hobby was fishing, but since the nuclear accident, it’s now out of question to go to the sea or to the river.
Before the accident in the garden we were growing flowers and we had a vegetable garden. In the summer, we had family barbecues and we would put up a tent so the kids could sleep outside. Now it’s absolutely impossible.
In this severely contaminated environment today, cell DNA would be severely damaged. In addition, the effects of exposure we have already experienced are indelible even if we move now. Whenever I think that children are particularly vulnerable to radiation, my heart is torn apart. As a parent, as an adult, it is heartbreaking and unbearable.
I am also concerned about the current situation of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. My daily routine is to watch out for natural disasters such as earthquakes and to check the condition of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Because today I will not hesitate to evacuate. I changed my job so I could get to my kids quickly if necessary. I had to give up a full time job and it is financially difficult, but the priority is to be able to leave quickly at any time. After verifying all sorts of information, I realized that the government’s announcements were different from reality.
Living in a radioactive environment requires you to be vigilant tirelessly, whether for shopping, eating, or drinking water, and evaluate the situation yourself to make choices. We had to make up our minds to accept an abnormal lifestyle so that we could continue to live on a daily basis.
Whatever I do, all pleasure has disappeared from my life. I discovered that there were some hotspots of more than 10 μSv per hour near my home on the way to my children’s school. I reported it to the town hall, but they did not do anything. The reason given is that there is no temporary storage to store it. I had to remove the contaminated soil myself and I stored it in my garden. The city of Date decided on its own decontamination policy and also introduced a standard of 5mSv per year at the end of 2011.
In my case I wanted to reduce the radioactive pollution as soon as possible and I decontaminated my garden myself. The city encouraged people to decontaminate on their own. I did it too. And that represented 144 bags. The following year I did again. The radioactive debris bags resulting from the decontamination until March 2014 remained in my garden for 2 years, and were then taken to the temporary storage area.
But since then, the other decontamination bags have not been accepted and are still in my garden. So we do not want to go there anymore. The contamination of our carport amounted to 520 000 Bq (becquerels) 5 years ago, with 5 μSv / h, but it did not fit the criteria required for cleaning. Decontamination only includes the home ground, but the roof and the gutters are not supported. As a result, we can not leave our Velux windows opened.
The date town claiming to be concerned about the health of the inhabitants provided all residents with dosimeters. We were then invited to undergo examinations, during which our data was collected. Without the authorization of the residents, this data has been entrusted to external researchers who have written reports. These reports have been prepared on the basis of personal information obtained illegally, and furthermore falsification of the data is suspected.
Based on inaccurate data the report concluded that even at doses of 0.6 to 1 μSv / h per hour in the air, the individual dose received would be less than 1 mSv (millisievert) per year and therefore it was not necessary to decontaminate. This is an underestimation of exposure, and clearly a violation of human rights against the population. This case is still ongoing.
In this same region, leukaemias and rare cancers of the bile ducts appear. I can not help thinking that before the accident it did not exist.
Even today, while the state of nuclear emergency is still official, this abnormal situation has become our daily life. I fear that the “reconstruction” advocated by the state, violates the fundamental rights of residents and that this unacceptable life is now considered normal. Our lives are at a standstill.
This suffering will continue. My deepest wish is that through this lawsuit, the responsibility of the State and Tepco that caused the accident be recognized.

September 30, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment