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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

 

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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

Japanese government to send staff to disaster-hit Fukushima towns to help restart farming production

n-fukushima-a-20190904-870x599.jpg
Yoshiyuki Takahashi(left), the head of an agriculture promotion association in Fukuoka Prefecture, examines vegetables produced in the prefecture at a grocery in Tokyo’s Minato Ward in March
Sep 3, 2019
The agriculture ministry said Tuesday it will send officials to 12 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture that were hit by the 2011 nuclear disaster to help farmers there resume agricultural production.
From April 2020, one official will be stationed in each of the 12 municipalities near Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, including the facility’s two host towns.
The ministry officials will create teams with prefectural government and local agricultural cooperatives officials.
The teams will hold discussions with local farmland owners and farmers hoping to expand their operations in order to devise and implement farming resumption plans.
The ministry hopes to consolidate abandoned parcels of farmland in cooperation with local agriculture-related organizations and start large-scale farming there using advanced equipment.
Due to the nuclear disaster, farming had been stopped on a total of 17,298 hectares of land in the 12 municipalities. As of the end of March 2018, farming had resumed on 4,345 hectares, only a fourth of the total.

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

Hatoyama says ‘radioactive contamination not under control’

optimize.jpgFormer Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama speaks during an exclusive interview with The Korea Times at the newspaper’s headquarters in Seoul, Thursday.

 

September 2, 2019

The Japanese government has tried to convince the world with an extensive propaganda campaign to claim any persisting dangers from the Fukushima nuclear disaster are under control ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Recently, concerns have been mounting among the South Korean government and international environmental groups such as Greenpeace about reports of Japan’s plan to release radioactive water into the sea off the coast of Fukushima. Korean political parties have also taken issue with the possible radioactive contamination of food that will be provided to athletes at the Olympics. Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama showed concern about the Shinzo Abe administration’s handling of the radioactive water situation and called for urgent action for the reconstruction of Fukushima. The following are edited questions and answers from The Korea Times interview with the former Japanese leader. ― ED.

Former Japanese PM slams Abe over economic retaliation against Seoul

Q. The deteriorating relations between South Korea and Japan created by the forced labor issue has expanded to economic and security areas. How do you interpret the current relations between the two countries?

A. I express deep regret that Japan-South Korea relations are in such a difficult situation. Japan and South Korea had been learning from each other in their long history and were able to build trust. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula, and this caused a great deal of pain for Koreans. As one of the Japanese people, I am very sorry that this historical issue has led to a deteriorating relationship between Seoul and Tokyo.

Q. Japan’s Abe administration appears to consider the current disputes between South Korea and Japan as a matter of trust. Meanwhile, President Moon Jae-in said South Korea will join hands with Japan if it chooses dialogue. However, Seoul decided not to extend the military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan. The two countries seem to be taking hawkish stances against each other. What makes the two think differently?

A. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula in the past. As a result, Korea was divided into two. During the process, Japan made people on the peninsula suffer. I think [the differences in the stances between Seoul and Japan are] rooted in history. Japan says that the current problems were settled in the bilateral treaty made in 1965. The problem is that the [individual] rights to seek compensation are not settled in the agreement. The Japanese government had the understanding in the past that individuals can demand compensation. In 1991, Shunji Yanai, then director of the treaty bureau at Japan’s foreign ministry, made it clear during a parliamentary session that the treaty did put an end to the right to demand compensation between countries. He said it did not apply to individuals’ final and complete compensation. I think this is the official stance of Japan. But it seems the current Abe administration is reversing its stance. Because the current government started saying that the problem has been solved, it became a matter of trust. I think Japan’s side should not say such a thing and should face the reality of history with a humble mind.

Q. On Aug. 28, Japan implemented the removal of South Korea from its whitelist of trusted trading partners. Why do you think the Japanese government removed Seoul from its list? And is this appropriate?

A. In conclusion, it is not appropriate. The Japanese government claims that it is not relevant to the forced labor issue
and it is about security issues. It says it tried to ask South Korea to improve its control of traded goods, but it ended up removing Seoul as South Korea did not respond to Japan’s request while claiming that its measures are not trade restrictions or embargos. But I think South Korea relates the removal to the forced labor issue. The Japanese government may think the problem was solved already, but the South’s Supreme Court made such a ruling. I think it is valid to think that the emotional issue led to the removal.

I asked [the government] about it, but it didn’t give me an answer claiming it cannot say anything. If it was a matter of controlling trade, Japan should have continued to strongly ask South Korea to improve its system between officials, rather than removing the country at this time. I assume that there would have been some orders from the Prime Minister’s Office of Japan in an apparent response to the South’s court ruling. I think the measure should be lifted.

Q. The United States government is likely pressuring South Korea to cancel the decision to end the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and have meaningful dialogues between South Korea and Japan. If Seoul and Tokyo continue to take strong measures against each other, what will happen to security in the East Asia region?

A. I think, since last year, the political situation on the Korean Peninsula is heading toward peace. The Japanese government should join hands to create peace with the two Koreas and with the U.S. and North Korea. The GSOMIA has its meaning when the North continues to develop its nuclear missiles. But when peace is around with Pyongyang, it may be necessary to reconsider the meaning of keeping it. I heard that the necessity of the GSOMIA for Japan and the U.S. is to cope with China. In that sense, the GSOMIA is still necessary. It might be necessary for both Seoul and Tokyo to extend the pact with the mediation of the U.S. in a way to restore trust. If the U.S. agrees [with the cancellation of Japan’s removal of South Korea from its whitelist and the South’s extension of the GSOMIA], there is a possibility Japan would add Seoul in the whitelist again.

Q. Some claim Japan’s pressure against South Korea is to raise Abe’s support rating. Actually, Abe appears to be gaining popularity through it. He also openly talks about his ambition for the revision of the Constitution, which is gaining a lot of attention in South Korea. Do you think Abe really wants to revise the Constitution? Or is this part of his ambition to restore militarism?

A. I am not Abe. So I would not be able to tell what he really thinks. But what I can say is Japanese people, especially young people, don’t know history. And the young people have no memory that Japan made its growth amid its slump for several decades. Facing South Korea and China which are making strong remarks, people prefer a politician who makes likewise remarks such as “I will make Japan stronger.” It is true that the world is shifting to the right and nationalism is gaining power. Prime Minister Abe is good at promoting it. But I don’t think the situation will make it easier to revise the Constitution. Of course, Japan is on its way to be able to start a war. But as some half of Japanese oppose the idea of the revision, it would be difficult for Abe, who is gaining support by claiming it, to push for it.

Q. The liberal governments run by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) put their efforts into improving relations between the two countries and succeeded to a certain extent. But with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) back in power, the relations deteriorated. How do you think Abe positions South Korea in diplomatic relations?

A. The DPJ wanted to rule the country with liberal philosophy. In particular, it wanted to establish more trust with such neighboring countries as China and South Korea. And it also tried to make more Asia-centered policies and diplomacy rather than prioritizing the U.S.; this approach also existed in the LDP as well. But along with the collapse of the Tanaka faction, led by former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, the so-called liberal politicians inside the LDP became a minority, meaning fewer people criticize Abe. Abe is cleverly using the media by building good relationships with them. And the Japanese media don’t criticize the government’s rightward drift or nationalism. Abe cannot resolve the problems of Japanese abductees by North Korean spies and establish diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea unless he builds a better relationship with South Korea. I cannot clearly see the government’s relationship roadmap with the South.

Q. There are rising concerns over the Fukushima nuclear issue before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. According to Greenpeace, the Japanese government hopes to release more than 1 million tons of highly radioactive water into the sea off the coast of Fukushima. Do you have any comments on that?

A. I strongly suspected the situation that Japan was able to host the Olympics after Abe claimed that the radioactive contamination issue is under control by his government. But it is not under control. Releasing the massive amount of contaminated water sparked a big debate [in Japan]. However, Japanese media and the government try not to speak about it. I’m extremely worried as the date of the Olympics approaches, which is somewhat natural to do so. Athletes who participate in the games should not be contaminated by radioactivity. I’m one of the people who have long insisted that the government should spend more money on the reconstruction of Fukushima rather than into the Olympics.

Q. Some people in the LDP may have started to raise their voices against the Abe administration. I read that Rep. Shigeru Ishiba, a member of the LDP and Japan’s House of Representatives, wrote “There are many problems created by the fact that Japan didn’t take responsibility for the war after being defeated in the past and those are surfacing now.” Many Japanese citizens participate in campaigns to criticize the government. Do you think these moves can spread to the change of the current administration? Do you have any idea to achieve cooperation between the two countries at any level?

A. I respect Ishiba for speaking out critically on the government’s policies, including the whitelist issue. It is very difficult for anyone to directly criticize the party or the Prime Minister’s Office of Japan other than popular politicians under the single-member constituency as it is related to securing the recommendation from the party for elections. Moreover, the media is controlled by the office, self-examining for the government.

But I think there are many people behind who potentially don’t agree with what Abe is doing. The increase of the number of LDP seats does not necessarily mean it did well and gained popularity; it’s because the opposition parties have split up. Therefore, the most important thing is that the grassroots and the private sector should unite and communicate with the Korean people through social media. It is important in democracy to take various actions to make changes in policies. In this context, it is important to create opportunities in which experts from Japan and South Korea work together to raise voices against the Abe administration.

Q. Any more comments?

A. I hope the situation would come that both Japanese and Korean people can learn from each other as they did in the past for a long time. In order to do so, I think when Japanese citizens can show that they understand the aggressor should remain humble and keep making an apology until the victim can forgive, Korean people can understand Japanese people. Right now, what we need is to make efforts between private sectors of the two countries and not to hate each other even though both governments are not in a good time.
https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2019/09/356_274905.html

 

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

Theater puts human face on nuclear crisis, life in Trump era

nn,tgv.jpgDai Matsuoka of the Japanese butoh dance troupe Sankai Juku performs in “Falling Out.”

August 29, 2019

Six dancers silently toss black garbage bags across the stage as images of the areas around a crippled nuclear power plant scroll over a large screen.

Whenever a survivor of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered a triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, begins to speak on screen, the dancers imitate the individual’s gestures to emphasize his or her words.

The filmed interviews with those who experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake and its consequences form the heart of “Falling Out,” a theatrical production featured at the inaugural CrossCurrents Festival, held this spring in Washington, D.C.

The festival was the brainchild of Georgetown University’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, whose goal is to “humanize global politics through performance.”

Other productions showcased at the festival centered on such topics as the global refugee crisis, climate change, and the rise of polarization.

(The productions) engage with issues that are important to people and present them in a very powerful way through some form of narrative,” said Cynthia Schneider, a professor of diplomacy at the university and a co-founder of the Lab. “Each performance provides a deeper context than one might read from news reports.”

Falling Out” is a collaboration between Phantom Limb Co., a New York-based multimedia theatrical production company that works with marionette puppetry, and Dai Matsuoka of the Japanese butoh dance troupe Sankai Juku.

The black bags onstage are symbols of prolonged recovery efforts, representing bags containing soil and other debris contaminated with radioactive materials that remain scattered in Fukushima Prefecture more than eight years after the nuclear accident.

I was surprised at how little had actually happened in the recovery process,” said Jessica Grindstaff, artistic director of Phantom Limb, who spent three months in the Tohoku region in 2018 to interview residents and film footage of the devastated areas.

The spirits of the people that I met with were strong and beautiful … but in terms of infrastructure and logistics, very little had changed since the tsunami. There was no real clear plan on how to rebuild the city.”

The butoh dancers interact with life-size puppets throughout the play to complement the stories of the survivors, representing their loss and life after the disaster.

Matsuoka, one of the performers in “Falling Out,” told The Asahi Shimbun that in butoh performances, the dancer’s body is used as an empty vessel to hold an artistic message.

Grindstaff said “Falling Out” shows that environmental and nuclear issues impact and connect all of humanity.

It doesn’t just belong to Japan,” she said. “These are global issues, and we all need to start thinking about what role we play.”

BRINGING ARTISTS, POLICYMAKERS TOGETHER

The Chibok Girls: Our Story,” another production presented at the CrossCurrents Festival, is based on interviews with the survivors of the 2014 Boko Haram kidnappings of schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria.

The play was written by Nigerian playwright Wole Oguntokun, and the second act is comprised of 20 monologues about specific incidents based on the survivors’ accounts, punctuated by drumbeats from a supporting percussionist onstage.

Schneider, who founded the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics in 2012 with theater artist Derek Goldman, said the Lab seeks to engage policymakers, artists and audiences, drawing on its strategic base in the nation’s capital.

We find that artists and policymakers really enjoy this engagement together,” said Schneider, U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands from 1998 to 2001. “The Lab is about bringing those two sides that are usually kept apart together so they can learn from each other and audiences can learn as well.”

After a performance of “The Chibok Girls,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, offered reflections from her tenure, such as the Nigerian government’s long-standing denial of the kidnappings, during a talk-back session with the audience.

People seem really hungry for the kind of substantial, rich, wide-ranging, inter-disciplinary conversations that we have at our events,” Schneider said. “People really want something more than just go to a play and leave or go to a play and hear the playwright talk about how they made that play.”

Falling Out” has sparked conversations in different ways.

Phantom Limb created a Memory Telephone as a chance for audience members to share their thoughts on “love, water, nature and loss,” either in person or over voicemail. The company puts a mix of the voice recordings together and plays it in the theater while audiences wait for a subsequent performance to begin.

I’ve spoken to people about the experience, and they’ve all said that they felt that they were a part of the show, a part of the story,” Grindstaff said. “It’s really easy to read the newspapers and detach from everything you see, but if you can get people to emotionally feel connected, then I think that’s one thing … we can do together to start (taking action).”

Audience members approached her to discuss ways to use the arts to start dialogues on nuclear power, both with the public and international organizations such as the United Nations.

The kinds of conversations that happened and are continuing to happen were very productive,” Grindstaff said. “It actually felt like it was starting bigger conversations that could potentially start to create change.”

PARTICIPATING IN PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics has also served as a catalyst for conversations through its own play, “I Pledge Allegiance,” which Schneider says was “very much provoked by what Trump has been doing.”

Devika Ranjan, an Indian-American Georgetown alumna from the class of 2017, developed it at the Lab during her senior year to explore what it meant to be young immigrants and people of color who grew up during the period between the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the era of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The presence of racism and imperialism in the city was so tangible,” Ranjan said, looking back on the time period after the 2016 presidential election that she spent in Washington, D.C. “Hate crimes started happening on campus, and people were openly harassed … it was a really difficult way to leave D.C.”

Ranjan and four of her classmates created a series of vignettes drawing from their own personal stories, their ancestors’ experiences of coming to the United States and interviews with young immigrants both on and off the Georgetown campus.

Premiering at the World Theater Congress in Segovia, Spain, in July 2017, “I Pledge Allegiance” has since toured the United States. Whether the cast performed the play domestically or internationally, the members found that audiences could relate to the ideas of exclusion and underrepresentation.

The play is an evolving production, influenced both by the cast’s conversations with audience members after each show, as well as by their own developing personal and societal understandings of the Trump administration.

Ranjan, who spoke in a telephone interview from London, described “I Pledge Allegiance” as a “continual call and response.”

We listen to what the audience has to say, and we offer our own feedback and thoughts and then take those things into account in the next development of (the play),” she said.

In a striking moment of the play, the performers, who have considered their national identities and their connections with the Pledge of Allegiance, invite audience members to stand and participate in the pledge.

Many audience members look to each other for reinforcement when they are suddenly called on to consider what the pledge means to them. While some stand after others stand, others remain seated and put their hand over their heart, according to Ranjan.

This instance of active participation in the play allows audience members to connect with the performers and their perspectives, often provoking conversations during the play’s talk-back sessions.

Falling Out,” “The Chibok Girls” and “I Pledge Allegiance” are all testimonial in nature, built from the voices of the people who experienced the featured events, and place reality front and center for audiences to experience.

None of these stories have definitive conclusions.

The recovery efforts in Japan’s Tohoku region are still ongoing. According to Human Rights Watch, 112 of the Chibok girls were still missing as of April 2019, five years after they were kidnapped. And Americans are grappling with the implications of the Trump administration’s constantly changing immigration policies.

These are not isolated stories but are part of the collective human experience.

The idea of humanizing global politics through the power of performance has remained and if anything been reaffirmed when we see how effective it is,” Schneider said.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201908290018.html?fbclid=IwAR28ktvEWPDGgDOF2Q6VF39VKN_qLDFOzShrJXMxEeqIx1Othas4hbtZhUo

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

South Korea concerned over food safety at Olympics with events slated for Fukushima

Talks to take place over food provision at Tokyo Games
Fukushima to host baseball and softball games next year
5568.jpg
The Fukushima Azuma baseball stadium will used during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
August 22, 2019
South Korea is considering making its own arrangements to feed its athletes at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, citing concerns over the safety of food from Fukushima, media reports said.
In addition, South Korean sports authorities have requested that international groups be permitted to monitor radiation levels during the 2020 Games.
Food safety concerns in South Korea have grown since Fukushima city was chosen to host six softball games and one baseball game next summer. Fukushima prefecture will also be the location for the start of the domestic leg of the Olympic torch relay, beginning next March.
Tokyo Olympics organisers said South Korea’s National Olympic Committee had sent a letter expressing concern at the possibility of produce grown in Fukushima prefecture being served to athletes in the Olympic village.
“Nothing is more important than safety. We will seek consultations with the International Olympic Committee and others to secure our athletes’ safety and ensure that the Tokyo Olympics will be held in a safe environment,” the South Korean sports minister, Park Yang-woo, said this week, according to Yonhap news agency.
Seoul’s concerns come amid an escalating dispute with Tokyo over South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines before and during the second world war, when the Korean peninsula was a Japanese colony.
The dispute has affected trade and cultural exchanges, while figures released this week show that the number of South Korean tourists visiting Japan fell by 7.6% year on year last month – its lowest level for almost a year – according to the Japan National Tourism Organisation.
Bloomberg reported that the Korea Sport and Olympic Committee is to request international organisations such as Greenpeace be allowed to monitor radiation levels at Olympic venues.
Committee officials have also drawn up plans to open a separate cafeteria exclusively for South Korean athletes to ensure that they are not served food from the region affected by radioactive fallout from the March 2011 meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The official threshold for radioactive substances in food from Fukushima is much lower than those in other parts of the world, including the European Union and the US.
All food items produced in Fukushima undergo repeated inspections to ensure their safety, according to the prefectural government.
“We are only shipping primary products which are certified to be safe through multiple inspections in each stage with cooperation among municipal and prefectural government, production areas, producers, distributors and retailers,” it says on its website.
Data from the NGO monitoring group Safecast shows that atmospheric radiation levels in Tokyo are lower than those in many other cities.
On Thursday morning, Safecast data showed levels in the Roppongi district of Tokyo stood at 0.084 microsieverts per hour, compared with 0.116 in Suwon, south of Seoul. In Fukushima city, located 45 miles west of the stricken nuclear power plant, atmospheric radiation was recorded at 0.100 microsieverts per hour.
The global average of naturally occurring background radiation is 0.17-0.39 microsieverts per hour, according to the pro-nuclear lobby group the World Nuclear Association.

September 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Oops”: Manipulated childhood cancer data hides radiation impact, harms public health protection

It is morally wrong to conceal or manipulate data! Doing so can and will “enshrine the withholding of life-enhancing or life-saving treatment for victims of radiation exposure.” It will also hinder current and future studies into the effects of radiation.

517px-Thyroid_system.png

July 19, 2019

This article relies heavily on postings at Fukushima Voice version 2e. Revelations and analysis below would be impossible without the painstaking translations and thoughtful discussion Fukushima Voice provides.

As the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe unfolded in March 2011, experts began applying lessons (some poorly learned or incomplete) from other nuclear disasters, primarily Chernobyl. After Chernobyl, it took nearly a decade for official experts to admit what data were revealing: exposure to radioiodine, one of the nuclides released from nuclear power disasters, increases thyroid cancer. Those who were children at the time of their exposure were particularly vulnerable. As radioactive clouds blanketed the areas surrounding the melting Fukushima reactors, officials were conflicted about the application of stable potassium iodide (KI) to keep radioiodine from penetrating the thyroids of members of the public.

Shunichi Yamashita, a doctor who had studied thyroid cancers in the Chernobyl-contaminated areas, expected no impact from radioiodine exposure. Reports differ, however, with some saying that Yamashita was publicly claiming no danger, while secretly telling experts he had serious concern about child thyroid cancer. He encouraged those who may have been exposed to protect themselves against radiation by being in a good mood and laughing. FMU had taken the precautionary measure of distributing KI to its staff members and their children. FMU claimed this was to cajole nervous hospital staff into staying during the initial disaster, rather than to protect their health. The staff, however, was sworn to secrecy regarding this decision. Fukushima Prefecture failed to tell FMU to administer KI to the public. FMU waited for Yamashita to inform the issue and he said taking KI was unnecessary, so many in the public were left unprotected. “Yamashita admitted that he had given incorrect information shortly after the disaster when he advised FMU not to dispense potassium iodide tablets to children.” After he had made his decision, he reportedly looked at the fallout maps and said “Oops”.

In the wake of continuing contamination threat and public concern, the Fukushima Prefectural government tasked FMU with overseeing the Fukushima Health Management Survey (FHMS) of which thyroid ultrasound examinations (TUEs) were to be a part. Oversight committees were formed to issue reports on data collected through the FHMS. Yamashita was put in charge of the FHMS, making those who had claimed there was no danger from radioiodine exposure the ones in charge of researching the results of their mistake. In fact, Yamashita has “commented that the main aim of the Health Survey is to reassure people.”

Later, when Dr. Yamashita stepped down as head of the FHMS (he remains Vice President of FMU), some claimed he was leaving not because he ran the study poorly, but because he failed to communicate properly. (Yamashita is still involved with the study – his name appearing on much of the published research ostensibly based on FMU data.) Yet from the outset, FMU has provided incomplete and misleading thyroid data from the FHMS to the oversight committees, resulting in reports that are confusing, with conclusions that even by the committee’s reckoning are unreliable. Outside researchers have also noticed this poor quality. Despite obvious shortcomings, Fukushima thyroid data are being wielded to alter the way we study radiation’s impact on thyroid, and to downplay the world-wide increases current research is revealing.

Missing and misused data

FMU is keeping some primary clinical and demographic data hidden, even from the oversight committees, despite the committees’ repeated requests that these data be shared. FMU shares analytical results that are derived from this data but these results are often manipulated – such as with comparisons to data from Chernobyl data that have been misrepresented. At the most recent press conference, June 3, 2019, committee members were asked to grade the conclusions of their report based on the information provided by FMU. They graded the report reliability at under 60%, citing lack of dose information and missing cases.

FMU has failed to report all the thyroid surgeries conducted either by it or other facilities. Since childhood thyroid cancers are rare under normal circumstances, missing even one case can skew data results. Further, FMU has changed data presentation so that it is not comparable to previously collected data. This will probably curtail current, independent, ongoing research into any connection between thyroid cancers and radiation exposure.

FMU often uses methodologies for data analysis that are unclear, illogical, and therefore unable to be explained (Makino, in publication) much less replicated. Attempts to correct some of these shortcomings have not fully succeeded. Much of the data uncertainty is only discernible to those with Japanese language skills. The datasets have never been published in their entirety in Japanese and the fact that data are missing has never been officially disclosed in English.

For any health study, the most reliable data come from comparing disease outcomes among those who were exposed to the pollutant in question (in this case radioiodine), to those who were unexposed. Having an unexposed population is especially important when it is hard to know what level people were exposed to. The amount of disease in the unexposed population is considered a baseline, or the amount that would occur in a population naturally. If the amount of a disease, such as thyroid cancer, is increased in the exposed population compared to the unexposed, the pollutant in question may be responsible.

However, FMU is insisting that they can establish thyroid cancer baseline with data collected beginning in late 2011 using exposed populations. At first, researchers said that the number of thyroid cancers discovered between late 2011 through 2013 – dubbed the first round examinations, would determine baseline cases. Researchers are now claiming that true baseline may include cases that were discovered through 2016 when the second round examination was scheduled for completion. This shifting baseline imperils reliability of thyroid data and further calls into question the methodologies of the researchers tasked with assessing health impacts of radiation.

The minimum latency for thyroid cancer, according to the World Trade Center Health Program, is 1 year (in persons under 20 years old) to 2.5 years. These latencies are based, in part, on the National Academy of Sciences findings on low-dose radiation exposure. But FMU researchers are claiming that if any thyroid cancers were discovered between 2011 and 2013 (or now 2016) these cases would not be attributed to radiation. In fact, these cases could have developed or grown faster because of Fukushima radiation exposure according to accepted latency, but FMU would consider them “normal” or “baseline”, in effect hiding the true impacts of exposure.

FMU claims that the increased cases of thyroid cancer found through TUE are probably due to overdiagnosis, implying that these cancers were “quiet” and would have remained clinically hidden had monitoring not occurred. But enough of these cancers had metastasized to other areas of the body that surgical removal was indicated (slide 12) for the vast majority of them. In the absence of screening, these cancers would have been caught later, probably requiring more aggressive treatment, leading to a decreased quality of life.

Thyroid cancer data from pre-Fukushima Japan indicates some differences with the post-Fukushima thyroid cancers in the FHMS. For instance, tumor size at removal was smaller for FHMS cases, yet invasion to other tissues was higher, indicating not only that surgical removal was necessary, but that these post-Fukushima smaller tumors could be more aggressive. The pre-Fukushima data from Japan is a very small sample size, so further research should be done. It should be noted that tumor size and invasiveness from FMU cases most closely resemble not those of pre-Fukushima Japan, but those of Belarus post Chernobyl.

Despite misused and missing data, the committee made comparisons of these data to dose estimates from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), which are based on deposition of radiocesium. But the deposition pattern of radiocesium does not necessarily mimic where radioiodine travelled, so doses using this method are full of “significant uncertainties” and should probably not be used. The irony is radioidine is a known exposure concern during the initial phase of a nuclear power catastrophe, so direct radioiodine measurements could and should have been taken. If they were taken, they should be used. This does not appear to be the case with radioiodine from Fukushima.

Mishandling of data misleads future research and jeopardizes public health

One FHMS committee member, Toru Takano, makes the highly controversial claim that thyroid cancer in children will eventually become “self-limiting” therefore, current screenings are leading to overdiagnosis and unnecessary surgery because these cancers will stop growing and not cause death. There is no scientific proof that childhood thyroid cancers will “self-limit” even after they start invading other organs. Nor is there scientific support for a subclinical pool of thyroid cancer in children, another claim made by FMU researchers. Following on the overdiagnosis trope, some are now questioning whether screening should also be curtailed because it is too psychologically damaging.

It is no surprise then, that the FHMS thyroid committees continue to debate the usefulness of screening, despite clinical indications that screenings have led to necessary surgical removal of invasive thyroid cancers. Yet international bodies like International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) are starting to recommend against systematic thyroid screening after a catastrophe like Fukushima, for fear of overdiagnosis and psychological impact. Additionally, IARC’s report, based on input from Fukushima researchers, recommends screening not begin at doses under 100-500 mGy. This despite studies showing increases of thyroid cancer as low as 25mGy for those exposed as children.

In short, Fukushima thyroid data collected and partially hidden from international researchers is being used to alter internationally accepted radiation exposure recommendations.  This is all the more ridiculous since the baseline for thyroid cancer after Fukushima uses people who were exposed to Fukushima radioiodine, rather than using unexposed children, even in the face of unknowable doses.

A revelation that pediatric thyroid cancer increased “in the US 4.43% annually from 1998 to 2013” exposes the need to screen people in the wake of nuclear catastrophes, not backpedal on that responsibility.  Researchers concluded that this was a “true increase” (not due to increased surveillance –a claim made by researchers using the Fukushima data as evidence). Such data necessitate recognition that we have been exposed to nuclear pollutants from bomb and power fallout since the 1940’s. Failing to research the impact radiation has already had on our current disease environment makes it impossible to fully understand the compounding damage caused by additional radiological catastrophes like Fukushima.

In truth, we are no longer starting from zero man-made radiation exposure, so the concept of “overdiagnosis” is skirting irrelevance since a portion of our current disease burden already comes from exposure to anthropogenic radiation exposure. Given independent data and research (which we currently lack), one could tease out what part of thyroid cancers Fukushima radioiodine is responsible for. Teasing out the role older radioiodine exposures play in background thyroid cancer levels throughout the decades is more difficult. Commenting on the pediatric thyroid study, Dr. David Goldenberg, an ENT-otolaryngologist, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine advocates for investigating “whether changes in environmental factors or lifestyle changes are driving part of this increase”. He continues: “it is our role as physicians to protect our patients from complacency and undertreatment. Explaining away thyroid cancers as being subclinical or clinically insignificant is reminiscent of days past when we told our patients: ‘don’t worry, it’s good cancer.’”

Manipulation and concealment of Fukushima thyroid data masks the true impact of radioidine exposure. But it is also beginning to influence the way we study thyroid disease overall, having implications beyond study of Fukushima or Chernobyl. Steps to curb screenings and monitoring are pernicious because they enshrine the withholding of life-enhancing or life-saving treatment for victims of radiation exposure. Further, withholding data from independent researchers will disallow any effort to replicate study conclusions made by FMU and the thyroid committees. This is politics masquerading as authoritative and independent decision-making based on science; in reality, it has no true scientific support and is an attempt to bury the story of radiation’s impact on survivors of Fukushima.

http://www.beyondnuclear.org/radiation-health-whats-new/2019/7/19/oops-manipulated-childhood-cancer-data-hides-radiation-impac.html

August 3, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

2011 Fukushima nuke disaster cesium circles Pacific in Only 1 Year

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Decommissioning works are seen continuing at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, in this image taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on Feb. 14, 2019. A multitude of treated water storage tanks can be seen behind the reactor buildings.
2011 Fukushima nuke disaster cesium takes shortcut back to Japan’s waters
 
July 8, 2019
TOKYO — Radioactive cesium released into the Pacific Ocean due to the March 2011 meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station is returning to Japanese shores via a shorter route than expected, according to a joint research initiative.
 
The findings were revealed by a team from the University of Tsukuba, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and Kanazawa University.
 
Until now, it was thought that cesium from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)-operated plant would be circulated around the Pacific by subtropical gyre currents for several decades before returning to Japanese waters. But in 2012, a year after the reactor core meltdowns, tests on seawater samples collected by the team showed increased cesium concentrations in East China Sea waters off Japan. Researchers say that the concentrations observed are too low to impact sea life.
 
The rate increased, peaking in 2014, and a year later high concentrations were also reported in the Sea of Japan. The team believes the cesium is now flowing around the Pacific Ocean again.
 
It is thought that seawater sank deeply into the sea after its density increased due to cooling by winter winds, causing the cesium to travel on a western-flowing underwater route.
 
Michio Aoyama, a visiting professor at the University of Tsukuba, said, “That the cesium would come back in such a short time was unexpected. We’ve found a previously unknown route.”
 
Senior JAMSTEC research scientist Yuichiro Kumamoto said of the project’s potential benefits, “Because it has visualized ocean circulation, the results could be used in the future for predictions on issues such as climate change.”
 
(Japanese original by Mayumi Nobuta, Science & Environment News Department)
 
Research Group: Radioactivity Attributable to Fukushima Disaster Circles Pacific in Only 1 Year
 
July 9, 2019
A Japanese research group has published data suggesting that radioactive contamination from Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster had circled the Pacific Ocean within just a year of the disaster.
 
According to the Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun on Monday, a joint Japanese university research group said radioactivity presumed to have been released from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after it was hit by a tsunami in 2011 was detected in 2012 off Japan’s coasts. 
 
If confirmed, it would mark a much faster pace than initial expectations that said it would take 20 to 30 years for the contaminated materials to return to Japan after circling the world’s largest ocean.

July 16, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: The ‘100 times normal’ radiation area outside exclusion zone – ‘Worrying!’

FUKUSHIMA investigators were left “worried” after recording radiation levels 100 times normal, leading them to suggest the exclusion zone should be increased.

 

 
 
Thu, Jul 4, 2019
 
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred after an accident at the nuclear power plant in Okuma, Japan and was the most significant nuclear incident since the devastating Chernobyl accident of 1986. The accident was started by a tsunami following the Tohoku earthquake on March 11, 2011, and while the active reactors automatically shut down, water flooded the emergency generators providing power to the coolers. The coolant loss led to three nuclear meltdowns, hydrogen-air explosions, and the release of radioactive material in units one, two and three between March 12 and 15.
 
A total of 154,000 people were evacuated from the area as a result and a 12-mile exclusion zone was put in place – later increased to 19 miles – with a roadblock being constantly guarded.
 
However, when Chernobyl researcher Yevgen visited as part of Amazon Prime’s “Radioactive Detectives” series, he was left shocked.
 
The narrator revealed in 2017: “Have the Japanese authorities determined the correct exclusion zone?
 
“The first big surprise is a completely unguarded borderline.
 
“Yevgen wants to carry out his first measurements here.
 
“He has to tell Kenzo that the radiation level exceeds the natural radiation 100 times over.
 
“The men are worried.”
 
Kenzo Hashimoto, a Japanese journalist claimed the exclusion zone needed to be increased as a result.
 
He said: “If the radiation is that high, the authorities should extend the border line even further.
 
“I don’t know exactly how the survey has been made – it seems very strange to me.
 
On July 5, 2012, the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) found that the causes of the accident had been foreseeable and that the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), had failed to meet basic safety requirements such as risk assessment.
 
TEPCO admitted for the first time on October 12, 2012, that it had failed to take stronger measures to prevent disasters for fear of inviting lawsuits or protests against its nuclear plants.
 
There are no clear plans for decommissioning the plant, but an intensive cleanup programme is expected to take at least 30 years.
 
It comes after the shocking cost of a home inside Chernobyl’s exclusion zone was revealed during Amazon Prime’s “Chernobyl’s Cafe” series.
 
The 2016 documentary detailed: “In 1986, Chernobyl city had about 13,000 inhabitants and officially today there are none.
 
“Radioactivity in the city is near to normal.
 
“Homes were abandoned immediately after the disaster, people left everything.
 
“Some have returned and have put their homes back in order, they furnished them and they live there.
 
“In these neighbourhoods, life is modest and for a few hundred Euros, you can buy a small house with a garden and enjoy the tranquillity of a true country house.
 
“A small community exists and social life is slowly growing.”
 

July 16, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Researchers Find Radioactive Particles from Fukushima or other Nuclear Disasters Could Stay in Environment, Human Lungs for Decades

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Aftermath of the Fukushima 2011 earthquake.
June 17, 2019
Q&A with Professor Rodney C. Ewing, Frank Stanton Professor in Nuclear Security and co-director at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI). Interview with Katy Gabel Chui.
Your previous research with this team helped identify the types of radioactive particles that can become airborne and were transported away from Fukushima during the 2011 nuclear disaster.
This most recent paper goes further to show how these Cesium (Cs)-rich silica particles behave in several types of fluids, including simulated human lung fluid, concluding that the particles are fully dissolved in the latter after more than 35 years. What might that mean for human health in the Fukushima area and beyond?
The first breakthrough was the recognition that such particles, a few microns in diameter, existed, a discovery by Japanese scientists at the Meteorological Research Institute, Tsukuba, in 2013. The particles are important because they were dispersed over distances of tens of kilometers and were “carriers” of highly radioactive Cs. Our team’s previous work, led by Professor Satoshi Utsunomiya, mainly focused on the characterization of the particles and their constituents at the atomic-scale and surveyed their distribution in the area away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants. Our earliest work from 2016 can be found online. A good summary of the history of the work on these cesium-rich microparticles was recently published in Scientific American.
This latest paper published in Chemosphere is the 6th in a series of papers on the Cs-rich microparticles. We describe the behavior of these particles when exposed to different types of fluids: ultra-pure water, artificial sea water and simulated lung fluid. The microparticles dissolve in all three fluids, reaching a long-term but a continuing, slow rate of release after just three days. Essentially, the calculated release rate of cesium depends on the rate of dissolution of the silica glass matrix and the initial size of the particles. In the simulated lung fluid, the particles are modelled to fully dissolve after more than 35 years.
What is the simulated lung fluid made of, and how does it work in simulation? How do you estimate 35 years?
The constituents of typical lung fluid were simply mixed to simulate its composition based on a recipe reported by previous studies. The lung fluid is different from the other solutions because it contains organic compounds and has a different chemistry, i.e., higher sodium and chlorine content. The estimates of residence time in the body assumes that the particles are inhaled and find their way to the pulmonary system. The calculation of residence time is based on assumptions about the size and composition of the microparticles, and we used the long-term release rate from the experiments. We assumed a spherical shape and a constant decrease in size as the leaching process continued. The rate can vary depending on the actual shape, internal texture, composition (such as occurrence of intrinsic Cs-phase inclusions), and precipitation of secondary phases that may form a “protective” coating on the cesium-rich microparticles (CsMPs). The rate of release was fastest in the simulated lung fluid.
The important result is to realize that the Cs-rich silica particles dissolve slowly in the environment and in the body. Essentially, the release extends for several decades.
How can nuclear energy experts and policy makers use this research to avoid future risk?
Understanding the form and composition of materials that host and disperse radionuclides is the first step in completing a careful dose calculation. Based on these results, the fraction of Cs contained in the silica particles will not be rapidly “flushed” through the environment or the body, but rather will be released over several decades.

June 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

A Theater Play: “Forgetting the Future”

Bugs, Bots, and Ghosts
Non-human theatre both provokes and comforts in a post-Fukushima world.
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The cast of Shu Matsui’s 2013 play “Forgetting the Future.”
 
BY KYOKO IWAKI
June 12, 2019
Just as, for many Americans, it is difficultto reflect on 9/11 without mass disquietude, for many Japanese 3/11 is not merely another day.
At 2:46 p.m. on March11, 2011, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami—better known today as the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster—rippled along the Northeastern coastline of the island country. This unprecedented triple attack included a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that moved Japan eight feet east, a 9.8-foot tsunami that killed over 15,000 people,and a Level-7 nuclear melt-through of three nuclear vessels.
 
This multivalent catastrophe, both natural and man-made, might be said to have created an almost complete tabula rasa. In addition to the earthquake and tsunamis,which disrupted tangible space, radiation extinguishes another intangible dimension:time. Considering that Plutonium 239 has a half-life (the period in which 50 percent of nuclides will have undergone nuclear decay) of 24,110 years, nuclear aftermaths indeed seem to defy a human conception of time.
 
Unfortunately humanity’s sense of emergency does not last for 20,000 years, for good reason: If we were to continue to dwell at length in the same level of hypertension, our nervous systems would soon collapse. That is why, in the current daily life of Japan, the repercussions of Fukushima seem invisible (unless you’re near the epicenter).
As early as September 2013, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo unabashedly declared, before the International Olympic Committee, that Fukushima is “under control,” an assurance that was probably crucial to Japan winning the 2020 Olympics. Ostensibly the country has regained its peace, yet one must never forget that this peace is only a palimpsest,resting upon a constant effort to silence anxieties.
 
If nuclear time defies human time, nuclear fallout deceives human perception. That’s why for some people in Japan (and the rest of the world), the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe was absent to begin with: out of sight, hence out of mind.
On the other hand, for others, it is omnipresent. Owing to this simultaneous absence and presence,many Japanese are impelled to broach uncharted domain—that is, they are compelled to seek a new language to aptly express their uncertainties, to rebuild collective values that could mend divided narratives, and to construct a new way of life that is not merely situated prior to but is always aligned with death. When it comes to trying new languages, values, and Lebenschauung (or views of life), theatre—with its physical presence, emotional eloquence, and fictional safeguards—naturally becomes a useful testbed.
 
Not that theatre has taken what may seem the most obvious reaction and approach: an ecocritical theatre demanding a full cessation of the 54 nuclear power plants in Japan,or a head-on political theatre rigidly questioning the legal liabilities of Tokyo ElectricPower Company. Instead a gradual yet sturdy “non-human” turn has been evident. For various reasons, theatre makers have become noticeably more attracted to cyborgs,animals, insects, and ghosts. In its most obvious renditions, human actors perform roles of anthropomorphized non-human beings. One could argue that this is just another form of the techno-animistic imagination prevalent in Japan since long before 3/11.But what must be noted here is that the rationales underpinning this turn toward the non-human have shifted in subtle yet interesting ways after Fukushima.
 
Japan is considered by many to be a trailblazer of industrial robots and futuristic imagination. From the mangas of Osamu Tezuka’s Astro Boy (1952) and MitsutruYokoyama’s Ironman 28 (1956), ideal human-robot kinships have been dreamt of by boys, girls, and many still-adolescent adults. Before 3/11, most of these robots were designed to serve humans as part of a better society, not built to supersede or replace us. In this unthinkingly human-centric register, robots were acknowledged to be essentially inferior to humans; that’s why Atom, the humanoid nine-year-old in AstroBoy, always longed to be treated like a human child.
 
Since the Fukushima catastrophe, this human-robot hierarchy has been subtly inverted. Forced to realize how easily destructible their social bonds are and how
physically vulnerable their bodies could be, many Japanese theatre makers have created androids who “act” on stage as symbols of indestructible immortality—a thing humans have yearned for half-eternally.
 
Oriza Hirata—playwright, director, leader of Seinendan (Youth group) Theatre Company, and a usual suspect in Francophone theatre festivals—is generally considered the forerunner of Japanese robot theatre. Working with Hiroshi Ishiguro, aroboticist at Osaka University, Hirata has created eight robot theatre productions,including robotic versions of Kenji Miyazawa’s Night on the Galactic Railroad (2013),Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (2014), and the Hamburg State Opera’s Stilles Meer (Silent Sea, 2016) in which a robot (Robovie-R3 by Vstone) appears as a nuclear poweplant worker. Hirata even sometimes talks about a near future in which human actors could be completely replaced by androids, reasoning, “They could act in any language; travel cheaply; never get sick; and never complain.”
 
In his post-3/11 robot theatre productions, Hirata sheds light on the concepts of immortality and integrity. In his android version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters (2012), for instance, the Fukazawa sisters live in a rural town with a formerly thriving robot industry. Their late father, a renowned robot scientist, created an android of his youngest daughter, Ikumi, before he died. (The real Ikumi seems also to have died,though we later learn that she is still alive but has become a hikikomori
—a social recluse.) While the older sisters visit their father’s grave to commemorate his death, android Ikumi refrains, because “death does not concern” her; mortality is a purely abstract concept in her mind. Meanwhile other family members seem agonized by the impending death of their community in the face of a declining birthrate, a labor shortage, and fading hope overall—an almost prophetic vision of a near-future Japan. And while they dodge the gloomy topic around the dinner table, the robot Ikumi, programmed to articulate unequivocally, can only reveal the awkward truth. Next to this logically impeccable and immortal robot, humans come to seem increasingly more fragile, flawed, and duplicitous.
 
This Three Sisters forces the post-Fukushima audience to question whether or not they,like the Fukazawa family, are hiding behind a veil of escapism; indeed they might even envy the fearless “human integrity” so well represented by the android. At the sametime, shrewd observers may begin to feel that accepting faults, fragilities, and failures might be the crux of humanity. Either way, Hirata’s Three Sisters demands that were consider what is putatively morally “human.”
 
From the outset of his career, director-playwright Shu Matsui has been questioningthe validity of several key concepts of Western humanism, including coherent logic,subjectivity, and individualism, which, in certain cases, seem to run against harmony-oriented Japanese norms. But it wasn’t until the 3/11 catastrophe that Matsui clearly imagined a non-human theatrical universe favoring collectivism over individualism,relativity over subjectivity, and affect over logic.
 
In Forgetting the Future (Mirai o wasureru, 2013), a character called Shimada Burio (the name is a spoof on the Japanese word for “embryo”) is presented as the world’s first cockroach-human hybrid. In addition to fluently speaking a human language, Burio can also talk through a Deleuzian language of “molecular vibration, chirring, buzzing,clicking, scratching, and scraping,” enabling him to go beyond the formal limits of communication that inevitably draw a boundary between the subject and the object, between me and you.
 
When facing vulnerable situations like the aftermath of 3/11, Matsui proposes that people must cease prioritizing cognitive functions, at least temporarily, to enjoy a non-linguistic and non-logical form of unity, which he calls “environmental symbiosis.” We must learn to herd with others like critters, in other words, to avoid untoward confrontations in an already calamitous situation. Indexes such as reason, subjectivity,and criticality must be reassessed, as they may be only onerous abstractions that needlessly complicate our already intractable lives.
 
Toshiki Okada, the writer-director with the theatre company called chelfitsch (a coinage meant to evoke a child attempting to say the English word “selfish”), is amongthe leading theatre artists in Japan. He initially received acclaim for voicing the uncertainties of the economically vulnerable Lost Generation in productions using“super-real” colloquial Japanese speech matched with ungainly yet eloquent body movements. In 2007 Okada ventured into the international theatre circuit when he was invited to the Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels to present Five Days in March(Sangatsu no itsuka kan).
 
Since then, though, he has expanded his theatrical vision beyond the solipsistic aesthetics of super-real Japanese. Four months after 3/11, he relocated to Kumamoto,760 miles south of Tokyo, after living in the suburbs of the metropolis for 38 years. He felt that after the disaster he could no longer “identify” himself with Tokyo, even considering the capital city “something already over, or already lost—at least for me.”His world view thus changed, Okada could not help but change the “reality” in his stagecraft.
 
If, in the pre-Fukushima years, Okada was interested in writing about present reality,after the catastrophe he became increasingly interested in fiction—or, in his own words, “alternative realities.” He also looked back to a 600-year-old theatre tradition: In trying to give voice to someone (family, friends, or neighbors) or something (like Tokyo), he adopted the structure of the dream noh (mugen noh), in which the protagonists (shite) are most often resentful or regretful dead spirits. He’s written three plays responding to the Fukushima disaster: Time’s Journey Through a Room (Heyao nagareru jikan no tabi, 2016), Current Location ( Genaichi, 2012), and Ground and Floor ( Jimen to Yuka, 2013)—a three-hander in which the protagonist is the wife of a 30-something man who now fancies another woman. Until midway through the performance, the audience does not know that the protagonist is actually dead, as she is the one narrating the proceedings, describing the minutest details of everyday life, as if to never forget the life she had led. After providing her tranquil yet unyieldingly articulate monologue, she presses her husband as to whether he remembers the same details she does.
 
The production seems to find Okada divided between narratives of remembering and forgetting. We humans could not survive a single day if we remembered all the details of the past. But for the dead, the act of forgetting implies their complete disappearance. With the many lives lost in 3/11, theatre makers have begun to feel the obligation to reconsider not only the politics of humans but also those of the dead. Okada has said that “the ghost is a great invention of humans,” a way for us to give body to our imaginations and to our struggles with the past.
 
Whether looking to the future through androids and hybrid bugs, or veering toward the past through the visions of ghosts, Japanese theatre artists are imagining a time well beyond the lifespan of a single human being. The 3/11 catastrophe may not have changed Japanese society for the better, but it has surely stirred the imaginations of theatre directors and playwrights—and audiences. The non-human turn in post-Fukushima theatre is a clear embodiment of the ways Japanese artists feel responsible for giving voice, not only to those who survived but also to the dead and the unborn.
 
Kyoko Iwaki, a scholar of Japanese modern and contemporary theatre and performance, is a researcher at Waseda University

June 17, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Comic tale of aging bar hostesses with social punch

I am surprised that this article was published on Yomiori Shimbun (Japan News), usually a pro-government media, with biased information.
This sentence must have escaped the censoring eyes of their editor.
I particularly like the: “Like Chihama, Arata comes from Fukushima Prefecture, where her parents’ home was destroyed in the Great East Japan Earthquake. Brazil in the past and contemporary Fukushima begin to look very similar, in the sense that “those affected are not told the truth.”
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June 10, 2019
This week’s manga Sono Onna Jilba (Jitterbug The Forties)
By Shinobu Arima (Shogakukan)
Arata Usui has a job dealing with customers in a major supermarket chain store when she is transferred to the stockroom, out of sight. This was inevitable, as she is already past 40 and no longer young. Still single, with no boyfriend and no savings, she lacks confidence. One day, Arata is surprised to see a help-wanted notice for bar hostesses in the entertainment quarter of town. The criteria: women 40 or older! Is this some kind of a mistake? Mustering her courage, she opens the door to the Bar Old Jack & Rose, a watering hole aimed at senior citizens in which the average age of the hostesses is 70. Mesmerized by a world completely different from her own, she begins a side job as a trainee hostess under the alias of Arara. She soon learns about the legend of Jilba, the founder and inaugural manager of the bar.
“Jitterbug The Forties” is a comedy with cheering messages for an aging society, played out by lively bar hostesses who seem almost supernatural. The story starts out in such an atmosphere, which in itself is entertaining enough. But readers are taken to a much deeper level. As the hostesses recount their pasts, an alternative postwar history emerges that we have never been told. This transforms it into a work that offers a completely different impression.
Jilba, born Chihama Hoshi, emigrated to Brazil from Fukushima Prefecture. One thing that I learned from this manga was that immediately after the end of World War II, Japanese immigrants in Brazil were divided into two groups regarding the outcome of the war. One group, the “kachi-gumi” (the victors), blindly believed the false information that Japan defeated the United States. This group far outnumbered the other group, the “make-gumi” (the defeated), which believed that Japan lost. Conflicts between the groups eventually led to terrorist attacks, and there were scams targeting immigrants hastily trying to return to “victorious” Japan. Chihama, who loses her husband and children amid the chaos, arrives alone in a Japan that is little but burned-out ruins. She gathers women in similar dire straits and opens the bar. This is the other story line told in “Jitterbug The Forties.”
Like Chihama, Arata comes from Fukushima Prefecture, where her parents’ home was destroyed in the Great East Japan Earthquake. Brazil in the past and contemporary Fukushima begin to look very similar, in the sense that “those affected are not told the truth.” Quite impressed, I realized just how much of a hard-hitting, socially aware work this actually is at its core.
Even so, “Jitterbug The Forties” never loses its balance as a comedy, impressively maintaining a cheerful disposition over five volumes right up to its conclusion. “Jilba” is Japanese-English, originating from the American social dance known as the Jitterbug. No matter how arduous your past was, sweep it away with song and dance. Regardless of your age, life is not to be thrown away. This is a masterpiece that resonates with a powerfully encouraging message to all generations.
Ishida is a Yomiuri Shimbun senior writer whose areas of expertise include manga and anime.

June 17, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Last fishing port in Fukushima to reopen

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June 4, 2019
A fishing port in Tomioka in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture is expected to reopen next month after being closed for more than eight years.
The massive earthquake and tsunami that hit eastern Japan in 2011 caused the severe Fukushima nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture.
Nine of the prefecture’s 10 fishing ports affected by the triple disaster have already reopened.
Tomioka Port is known as the main port for catching tasty flatfish and flounders.
Its wharves and breakwater were damaged by the quake and tsunami, and an evacuation order was issued for Tomioka and other fishing ports in Fukushima Prefecture.
That evacuation order was lifted in April 2017, and work has been underway to rebuild the port.
Fishing boats based at Tomioka Port were sent to other ports in the prefecture, such as Iwaki City and Namie Town. Officials say these boats are expected to return to Tomioka.
Tomioka Town and the local fisheries cooperative plan to hold a ceremony in July to celebrate the return of the fishing boats and fishers to the port.

 

June 10, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

2020 Tokyo Olympics Torch Relay Starts at the J-Village Sports Complex in Fukushima

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It’s official! The 2020 Tokyo Olympic torch relay starts at the J Village Sports Complex in Fukushima, which is just 10 miles from the crippled nuke plant.
Olympics: Tokyo 2020 torch relay route revealed, uniforms unveiled
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June 1, 2019
TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo 2020 organisers on Saturday unveiled the uniforms to be worn by 10,000 volunteer runners during the torch relay and presented further details about the route the relay will take.
Organisers said the torch will travel through all 47 of Japan’s prefectures – from Hokkaido in the north to the southern island of Okinawa – and most of the country will have the chance to see the torch with 98% percent of the population residing within an hour’s distance from the route.
The 121-day relay will begin on March 16 at the J-Village in Fukushima, which is Japanese football’s national training centre and a symbol of resilience during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed almost 16,000 people.
Games organisers have sought to stress the importance of Tokyo 2020 as the ‘reconstruction Olympics’ and it was evident in the choice of the route, which will pass through Okuma, where part of the Fukushima nuclear complex is located, and past Kumamoto Castle, which suffered heavy earthquake damage in 2016.
“It is not just about places where people can come or around landmarks, but the torch will also visit areas affected by the Great Japan Earthquake and Kumamoto Castle, recovering from the Kumamoto earthquake,” said Miho Takeda, a Tokyo 2020 committee member and five-time Olympic medallist in synchronized swimming.
“The relay will go through areas of Japan that are working hard to recover from natural disasters.”
The torch will also visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and pass Mount Fuji before arriving at the National Stadium in Tokyo on July 24 during the Olympics opening ceremony.
The runners’ uniform, designed by fashion designer Daisuke Obana, was unveiled by multiple Olympic gold medallist judoka Tadahiro Nomura.
The uniforms, which are produced in part from recycled plastic bottles, incorporate a diagonally-draped red sash similar to those used as batons in Ekiden, Japan’s famous long distance relay events.
“The torch bearer uniform is eco-friendly. Coca Cola collected plastic bottles in their company and recycled them to use them in the uniform material,” Nomura said.

June 10, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Rice planted in Fukushima town as farming trials begin

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17 May 2019
Rice has been planted in a Japanese town which hosts Fukushima’s damaged nuclear power plant eight years after residents were first evacuated.
Officials and locals in Okuma town planted several crops, including sticky rice and premium quality rice, across more than 17,000 square feet of paddy fields.
The rice planting is the latest sign of life slowly starting to return to Okuma, one of a string of so-called “ghost towns” that were immediately evacuated due to soaring radiation levels after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.
Evacuation orders for Okuma – which along with Futaba town, co-hosts nearby Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant – were lifted last month, while its municipal government building also reopened earlier this week.
New public housing for former residents displaced by the disaster is also expected to open next month, while an agricultural manual is being prepared  to encourage people to start growing crops again.
Government officials in Okuma have been monitoring radiation contamination in produce while conducting small-scale farming trials for several years, with test results reportedly showing levels below the national safety standards for food.
 
Fukushima was once famed for its high quality food produce, from peaches and grapes to rice and fish, with the region’s producers hit hard by the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Over the past eight years, the Japanese government has taken numerous steps to attempt to reassure the world that food from Fukushima is safe to eat following a regional clean-up, with rigorous radiation testing in place for all produce.
More than 50 countries introduced import restrictions in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown at the nuclear power plant, with 23 still keeping food limitations from Fukushima in place.
Last month, the Japanese government criticised a World Trade Organisation ruling that supported a continued South Korean ban on imports of a number of Japanese fishery products.
Meanwhile, locals who are slowly starting to return to the region as evacuation orders are lifted are apparently turning to increasingly inventive ways to rebuild local farming businesses.
 
One group of farmers in Hirata village, just under 28 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, who were also hit hard by the disaster, have garnered widespread attention in Japan for their unusually-flavoured habanero soft ice cream, made from locally grown chilli peppers.
Government officials are also pinning hopes on the 2020 Olympics giving local revitalisation efforts a high-profile boost, with a number of baseball and soccer games scheduled to take place in the region.

May 27, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment