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Gov’t says 70% of land suitable for nuclear waste disposal

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The Japanese government unveiled Friday a map indicating potential deep-underground disposal sites for high-level radioactive nuclear waste, identifying some 70% of the country’s land as suitable.

Based on the map, the government is expected to ask multiple municipalities to accept researchers looking into whether those areas can host sites to dispose of waste left by nuclear power generation. But the process promises to be both difficult and complicated amid public concerns over nuclear safety following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The nationwide map showed that up to 900 municipalities, or half of the country total, encompass coastal areas deemed “favorable.” Areas near active faults, volcanoes and potential drilling sites such as around oil fields are considered unsuitable.

For permanent disposal, high-level radioactive waste, produced as a result of the process of extracting uranium and plutonium from spent fuel, must be stored more than 300 meters underground so that it cannot impact human lives or the environment.

The government will store the waste in vitrified canisters for up to some 100,000 years until the waste’s radioactivity decreases.

As of March, some 18,000 tons of spent fuel existed in Japan with the figure set to increase as more nuclear plants resume operation. When spent fuel that has already been reprocessed is included, Japan will have to deal with about 25,000 such canisters.

The map, illustrated in four different colors based on levels of the suitability of geological conditions, was posted on the website of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Energy minister Hiroshige Seko said Friday that the unveiling of the colored map is an “extremely important step toward the realization of the final disposal but also the first step of a long road.”

Taking the map as an opportunity, “we hope to have communications (with municipalities) nationwide and earn the understanding of the public,” he said.

“It scientifically and objectively shows nationwide conditions, but it is not something with which we will seek municipalities’ decisions on whether to accept a disposal site,” Seko said.

Areas near active faults, volcanoes and oil fields which are potential drilling sites are deemed unsuitable because of “presumed unfavorable characteristics” and colored in orange and silver.

Areas other than those are classified as possessing “relatively high potential” and colored in light green.

Among the potential areas, zones within 20 kilometers of a coastline, around 30 percent of total land, are deemed especially favorable in terms of waste transportation and colored in green.

The map has also colored as suitable a part of Fukushima Prefecture, where reconstruction efforts are underway from the 2011 massive earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

But Seko said the government has no plans at this stage to burden the prefecture additionally with the issue of disposal of high-level radioactive waste.

The minister also indicated that Aomori Prefecture in northeastern Japan, home to a facility to reprocess nuclear fuel, is exempt as the prefectural government and state have agreed not to construct a nuclear waste disposal facility there.

Japan, like many other countries with nuclear plants, is struggling to find a permanent geological disposal repository, while Finland and Sweden are the only countries worldwide to have decided on final disposal sites.

A process to find local governments willing to host a final repository site started in 2002 in Japan, but little progress was made due mainly to opposition from local residents.

In 2015, the government decided to choose candidate sites suitable on scientific grounds for building a permanent storage facility, rather than waiting for municipalities to offer to host such a site.

The government aims to construct a site that can house more than 40,000 canisters, with estimated costs amounting to 3.7 trillion yen ($33 billion).

https://japantoday.com/category/national/update1-gov%27t-says-70-of-land-suitable-for-nuclear-waste-disposal#.WXxbhcFJL1A.twitter

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July 31, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

METI Releases Map of Suitable Nuclear Waste Disposal Sites

To be clear ! No place is ‘suitable’ for storing nuke waste, never was, never will be…

Even more in Japan where you can hardly find land without an active fault beneath it, 2000 plus earthquakes per year. Not counting the volcanoes.

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Japan Releases Map of Areas Suitable for Nuclear Waste Disposal

Japan released a map identifying areas of the country suitable for nuclear waste disposal as part of a broader plan to figure out what to do with roughly 18,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste.

The map highlights areas that aren’t near fault lines, volcanoes or ground where temperatures are high — thus making them highly likely to be adequate for storing the so-called high-level radioactive waste consisting primarily of used fuel from nuclear facilities.

The map will be used to begin determining the ideal location to store the waste 300 meters (984 feet) underground, according to Hirokazu Kobayashi, director of radioactive waste management at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. More than 1,500 of Japan’s 1,800 municipalities have areas suitable for storing nuclear waste, he added.

The map’s release “is the first step on the long road toward disposing of the nation’s highly radioactive nuclear waste,” METI minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters in Tokyo on Friday.

Before storage, the fuel would be reprocessed at facilities designed to separate usable uranium from high-level waste. Construction of the nation’s first large-scale reprocessing plant at the Rokkasho complex in northern Japan is expected to finish in the first half of the next fiscal year.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-28/japan-releases-map-of-areas-suitable-for-nuclear-waste-disposal

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METI maps out suitable nuclear waste disposal sites

The government on Friday unveiled a nationwide map of potential disposal sites for high-level nuclear waste that identifies coastal areas as “favorable” and those near active faults as unsuitable.

Based on the map, the government is expected to ask the municipalities involved to let researchers study whether sites on their land can host atomic waste disposal sites.

But the process promises to be both difficult and complicated as public concern lingers over the safety of nuclear power since the triple core meltdown in Fukushima Prefecture in March 2011.

The map, illustrated in four colors indicating the suitability of geological conditions, was posted on the website of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Energy minister Hiroshige Seko said earlier Friday that the unveiling of the map is an “important step toward bringing about final disposal sites, but also the first step on a long road.”

We hope to communicate (with municipalities) nationwide and win over the public,” he said.

The map is not something with which we will seek municipalities’ decisions on whether to accept a disposal site,” Seko said.

To permanently dispose of high-level nuclear waste, it must be stored at a repository more than 300 meters underground so it cannot harm human life or the environment.

The map identifies about 70 percent of Japan as suitable for hosting nuclear dumps. Up to 900 municipalities, or half of the nation’s total, encompass coastal areas deemed favorable for permanent waste storage.

Areas near active faults, volcanoes and oil fields, which are potential drilling sites, are deemed unsuitable because of “presumed unfavorable characteristics,” and hence colored in orange and silver on the map.

The other areas are classified as possessing “relatively high potential” and colored in light green.

Among the potential areas, zones that are within 20 km (12 miles) of the coastline are deemed especially favorable in terms of waste transportation and colored in green. The ministry formulated the classification standards in April.

Parts of giant Fukushima Prefecture, where decontamination and recovery efforts remain underway from the mega-quake, tsunami and triple core meltdown of March 2011, are also suitable, according to the map. But Seko said the government has no plans at this stage to impose an additional burden on the prefecture.

Seko also signaled that Aomori Prefecture, which hosts a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility, is exempt from the hunt because the prefectural government and the state have agreed not to build a nuclear waste disposal facility there.

Japan, like many other countries with nuclear power plants, is struggling to find a permanent geological site suitable for hosting a disposal repository. Finland and Sweden are the only countries worldwide to have picked final disposal sites.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/07/28/national/meti-posts-map-potential-nuclear-waste-disposal-sites/?utm_source=Daily+News+Updates&utm_campaign=477c1bb388-Sunday_email_updates29_07_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c5a6080d40-477c1bb388-332835557#.WXtmQ63MynZ

July 31, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan map showing potential nuclear waste disposal sites to be released

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Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko on July 18 announced the forthcoming release of a map showing the most appropriate areas in Japan to bury high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.
Speaking to reporters following a Cabinet meeting on July 18, Seko said the “scientific property map” would be released as early as this month.
“Providing the map is the first step in the long path toward achieving final disposal,” Seko said. He added that an informal decision had been made to hold explanatory meetings across Japan after the release of the map.
The map will divide Japan into four colors designating the suitability of various areas for permanently storing highly radioactive waste.
Areas that are within 15 kilometers of a volcano, that are near an active fault, or that are bountiful in mineral resources, will be “presumed to have undesirable properties” and be excluded from the list of possible sites.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Shigeaki Koga, Former METI Bureaucrat: Speaking Truth to Power

 

June 5, 2017

Shigeaki Koga: Author of “Nihon Chusu no Kyobo”.

Speaking Truth to Power including Fukushima nuclear disaster

July 14, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO may struggle to find partners due to Fukushima decommissioning costs

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Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko, right front, speaks at a meeting of the ministry’s expert panel on reform of TEPCO and issues related to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Nov. 15, 2016.

Naomi Hirose, president of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), presented a proposal to reform the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry’s expert panel on Nov. 15.
Under the proposal submitted by Hirose on the reform of TEPCO and issues related to the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, TEPCO is to collaborate with other power companies in the areas of nuclear power generation and energy transmission and distribution in an effort to boost its earning power. But if other major utilities were to work with TEPCO on a nuclear power project, questions would be raised about how to split risks such as decommissioning costs for the crippled Fukushima plant among companies concerned. Such being the case, TEPCO will likely have difficulty finding partners.

Hirose attended the closed-door expert committee meeting as an observer. Committee chairman Kunio Ito (specially-appointed professor at Hitotsubashi University) and a senior industry ministry official revealed the details of Hirose’s reform proposal at a news conference after the panel meeting.

According to details revealed at the news conference, Hirose proposed to step up TEPCO’s cooperation with other power companies on its nuclear power business including the areas of safety measures, joint technological development and overseas business operations. The industry ministry had already proposed at an expert panel meeting that TEPCO spin off its nuclear business into a subsidiary and collaborate with other utilities, among other moves. TEPCO is expected to incorporate these plans into the “New Comprehensive Special Business Plan” that is set to be revised early next year in line with discussions at expert panel meetings.

Under the current New Comprehensive Special Business Plan, TEPCO assumes reactivation of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant as a source of earnings to be used to rebuild itself. But there are no prospects of the power plant being reactivated as the governor of Niigata Prefecture, which hosts the nuclear facility, is taking a cautious stance toward reactivation. The industry ministry wants to secure understanding of a plan to reactivate the nuclear power plant by improving the creditworthiness of TEPCO’s nuclear business through collaboration with other utilities. But because there is a possibility of other power companies being forced to shoulder the costs of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima plant, it remains unclear whether TEPCO will be able to cooperate with those utilities as envisioned.

A member of the expert panel was quoted as saying at the meeting, “A proper alliance cannot be formed unless ways of shutting off the risks (for possible alliance partners) are considered. Hirose also proposed that TEPCO work with other firms in the area of power generation and transmission, as well as jointly procure materials with other firms.

As for the costs of decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which are expected to exceed the initial estimate by several trillion yen, and expenses for paying compensation to nuclear disaster victims, the expert panel confirmed plans for TEPCO to minimize financial burdens on the public through management efforts. An expert panel member was quoted as saying at the Nov. 15 meeting, “If TEPCO’s liability is defined as limited, the general public will see the move as relief measures for TEPCO. We should carefully consider public opinion.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161116/p2a/00m/0na/008000c

November 16, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Ministry Devises Crafty Finance Scheme Favoring Nuclear Power

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The industry ministry, the supposed champion of electricity market deregulation, is making a move that runs counter to the principles of reform by giving preferential treatment to nuclear power.

A proposal by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry would force new electricity suppliers that have entered the market in response to its liberalization to shoulder part of the costs of decommissioning the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The plan was submitted to an expert council discussing the issue.

The ministry, which regulates the power industry, has already presented a plan to make such new utilities bear part of the costs of decommissioning aging reactors at other nuclear power plants.

The power market reform, which was expanded this spring to cover retail electricity sales as well, is designed to abolish the regional monopolies of established utilities, thereby encouraging new entries into the market.

It is also aimed at lowering electricity rates by separating the operations of power plants and transmission grids to promote fair competition.

The ministry cannot claim it is working for fair competition if it is now creating rules that force new electricity providers that have nothing to do with any nuclear power plant or the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster to pay part of the decommissioning bills.

In its attempt to get new utilities involved in the financing plan, the ministry is targeting the fees they pay to use the power transmission lines operated by established utilities.

The total cost of decommissioning the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant is estimated at several trillion yen.

The ministry has stressed its intention to protect the public from the huge financial burden. It has promised to make Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima plant, pay for the work by saving necessary funds through streamlining its operations.

But the ministry has proposed a new system to use the money saved from more efficient power grid operations primarily to cover decommissioning costs.

The current rule requires major utilities to lower the charges they impose on smaller power suppliers using their transmission lines when higher efficiency lifts their profits. But the proposed system would exempt the big power companies from the rule when they spend the money saved on decommissioning reactors.

The ministry seems to be trying to convince the public that this approach would not increase the financial burden on consumers because it doesn’t involve price hikes.

But this idea raises some questions that cannot be overlooked.

The costs of decommissioning reactors are by nature expenses related to power generation. But the ministry’s proposal would transfer part of the expenses to the operations of transmission lines.

As a result, new power suppliers using TEPCO’s transmission cables would have to pay higher fees.

Subscribers to such new utilities would also have to shoulder part of the burden. In particular, the envisioned system would be totally unacceptable for consumers who have switched to new power providers to avoid using electricity generated by nuclear plants.

The ministry appears to be targeting an “easy source” of revenue. The charges on using transmission lines are not highly visible to general consumers.

The ministry’s plan to use power transmission charges as a source of funds to decommission reactors is a crafty scheme to give preferential treatment to nuclear power. Its aim is to ensure nuclear plants will not lose their cost competitiveness against other electricity sources like thermal power generation.

For many years, both the government and established utilities have been emphasizing that atomic energy is a low-cost source of electricity.

They are grossly irresponsible and insincere if they are trying to impose part of the inevitable cost burden of decommissioning reactors on competitors.

The ministry should rethink the idea from the viewpoint of the basic principles of market deregulation.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611080049.html

November 8, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Industry ministry unveils plan to split nuclear power division from TEPCO

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The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is planning to spin off Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Holdings Inc.’s nuclear power generation division and aim for an alliance between the new subsidiary and another power company.

The ministry unveiled the plan at an Oct. 25 meeting of an expert panel on reform of TEPCO and issues related to the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The possibility has emerged that realignment of the major utilities’ nuclear power divisions will be led by the government as the planned reactivation of idled nuclear reactors has stalled.

As part of TEPCO reforms this past April, the company’s thermal power, power retail and power transmission and distribution divisions were transformed into subsidiaries and placed under the umbrella of the newly established TEPCO Holdings.

However, TEPCO Holdings has retained its nuclear power division because the company needs to decommission the crippled Fukushima nuclear complex and pay compensation to victims of the nuclear disaster, which broke out in March 2011.

Under the ministry’s plan, a subsidiary would be set up to take over TEPCO’s nuclear power business, excluding the Fukushima No. 1 plant, with an eye to forming an alliance between the new firm and another major utility.

The costs of decommissioning the crippled power station’s reactors are likely to far surpass the initial estimate. The ministry released a revised projection at the Oct. 25 expert panel meeting stating that the annual decommissioning bill will likely balloon from the current 80 billion yen into the hundreds of billions, due to work to remove melted nuclear fuel from the reactors and other factors.

The panel discussed TEPCO reforms to raise funds to cover the massive expense of dealing with the accident, such as compensation payments and decontamination of areas tainted with radioactive substances emanating from the nuclear disaster, plus decommissioning.

The committee is aiming to increase TEPCO’s profitability by promoting the realignment of the firm’s nuclear power division and other cost-cutting efforts.

TEPCO set up a joint venture, JERA Co., with Chubu Electric Power Co. in April 2015 to gradually integrate their thermal power station fuel procurement and overseas power generation divisions. TEPCO has also formed a business tie-up with SoftBank Group Corp. to bundle electricity and communications device contracts.

The industry ministry furthermore proposed that TEPCO’s power transmission and distribution subsidiary, which is highly profitable thanks to a large number of customers in the Tokyo metropolitan area, strengthen its alliances with other utilities.

The expert committee is poised to work out the details of a plan to spin off TEPCO’s nuclear power division and how the subsidiary should join hands with other companies. The panel will draw up a draft of its proposals possibly by the end of this year, and incorporate the recommendations in TEPCO’s corporate rehabilitation plan to be released next year.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161026/p2a/00m/0na/004000c

October 29, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Anti-nuclear Power Protest Tents in Tokyo Removed

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Japanese officials led a predawn raid on August 21st to forcibly remove the protracted anti-nuclear power sit-in protest in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) headquarters in central Tokyo. At around 3.30 a.m., some 100 security guards and court officials descended on the so-called “No Nukes Plaza,” a collection of tents that had occupied a corner of land in front of METI in government district of Kasumigaseki since September 11th, 2011.

It had been the longest surviving example of Japan’s post-Fukushima protest movement. The weekly Friday night vigils outside the nearby prime minister’s residence have also continued, albeit with far fewer participant numbers than their peak in 2012, when tens of thousands were gathering in Kasumigaseki.

The protest tents were started by veteran left-wing activists from Japan’s postwar period, though it was supported by a younger generation of activists. It soon achieved a significant level of international attention and mainstream press coverage. The “plaza” evolved into a polestar for the movement, hosting talks, film screenings, and other events that strove to keep the debate over nuclear power in the public eye. One of the tents was even turned into a de facto art museum with Fukushima-inspired exhibits.

The administration of Yoshihiko Noda of the Democratic Party of Japan (now the Democratic Party) left the tents alone, but following the return to power of Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party in late 2012, the government made it a priority to remove the protesters. In 2013, the government filed for the removal of the tents, which were manned 24 hours a day by activists. After this was approved by the courts, the activists appealed, claiming it was tantamount to suppressing freedom of speech and the right to free assembly, which is protected by the Constitution of Japan. The court also ordered the protesters to pay a daily fee of over \20,000 (approx. $200) for using government land.

In addition to the authorities, the protesters also attracted enemies from Japan’s ultra-nationalists. Beginning soon after they were erected, the tents were subject to regular attacks by right-wing activists and groups, including one as recently as the weekend before the eviction.

In July, the Supreme Court upheld the earlier ruling that the tents could be removed, meaning the protestors were out of legal options and effectively on borrowed time. METI officials no doubt deliberately chose the early morning to enforce the eviction so as to circumvent any resistance: the protesters were supported by a number of leftist activists known for aggressive hate speech counter-protests and who could be mobilized quickly.

When officials came to dismantle the tents, five activists were reportedly inside but were powerless to stop the proceedings, which took around 90 minutes. By Sunday morning, the tents were completely removed and the area where they previously stood was fenced off. Erecting any new tents was now impossible, but activists have vowed to continue their protest by sitting on chairs and standing at the same corner. Police initially blockaded even the sidewalks for some of Sunday, in fear of a backlash from the activists, though did relent and allow demonstrators to return to the site of their protest. One activist was arrested following a confrontation with police but was later released.

The anti-nuclear protest tents came to be seen as one of the pivotal aspects of the post-Fukushima movement, which blamed METI and the government for the crisis. Occupying the site was arguably just a symbolic gesture, but nonetheless an important one for Japan, where public land is strictly controlled and police and private security are quick to pounce on people who squat. No one else dared to do this kind of protest: the Friday night vigils pack up and go home at 8 p.m., and likewise the student group SEALDs, which generated much press coverage last year for its protests against the government’s controversial security legislation, was orderly and even praised for picking up trash after its demonstrations at Kasumigaseki.

As such, the tents were a renegade and unrepentant presence in the protest culture of Japan, and a constant reminder that the problems of Fukushima have still not been resolved even more than five years after the disaster.

The timing of the removal is also significant. It came shortly before the fifth anniversary of the sit-in, as well as during protests over the restarting of a reactor at Ikata Nuclear Power Plant. Unrest currently continues in Okinawa, too, as demonstrators clash daily with hundreds of riot police protecting the construction of new United States military helipads in the jungle near Takae.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/09/09/anti-nuclear-power-protest-tents-in-tokyo-removed/

September 9, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-nuclear power protest tents forcibly removed from outside ministry

Yesterday I wrote a long-ish post about last weekend’s attack on the anti-nuclear power protest tents that have occupied a corner of land outside the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in Kasumigaseki since 2011. I included some of the history of the tents and resistance against the orders calling for their removal. After the Supreme Court rejected the activists’ final appeal in late July, the end seemed nigh and it seems I jumped the gun.

The post about last week’s incident swiftly became obsolete when around 100 security guards and court officials arrived at the tents in the early hours of today, August 21st. Starting at 3.30 a.m. on the 1,807th day of the sit-in, it took all of 90 minutes for them to remove the tents, placards and other materials that were the signs of a five-year protest movement. There were apparently some five activists staying at the tents overnight but they could do nothing to prevent the removal.

 

The choice of the early morning to enforce the eviction was surely a deliberate one to avoid trouble with protestors. If it had been during the daytime, the activists could have quickly mobilised dozens, maybe even hundreds, of supporters, as we saw at last weekend’s incident. Earlier on August 21st, police and security guards completely barricaded the corner of the street in a show of force in case there was an ugly response from activists.

Today there was also a demonstration by a hate group in Kawaguchi City, on the outskirts of Tokyo, which consumed the manpower of the counter-protest group C.R.A.C., who otherwise may have rallied activists to the ministry.

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Ironically, I had been planning to go see the tents today, since I knew it might be my last chance. In the end, I missed my opportunity. Nonetheless I went to see the aftermath and found a mood that was muted yet resilient. There were no more tents; the iconic facade of the site was gone, replaced by large fences obstructing any new tents from being erected. But still there were some 15 protestors sitting on chairs, banners unfurled on the pavement and flags stuck into the hedges. A couple of activists were banging a drum. There was a police presence, of course: a few officers and some riot police vans. A random rightist was spewing forth anger at the protestors from the street while being physically held back by police officers. You can just about see him in the right of the photograph below.

 

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Earlier an activist had been arrested and was being held at a police station in Marunouchi, and many of others had gone there to call for his or her release. By chance, Masami Yoshizawa from Kibō no Bokujō (Farm of Hope) was also in the area, driving around a car with a fake cow on a trailer. He has previously brought actual diseased cattle to Tokyo in an attempt to remind bureaucrats of the continuing plight of Fukushima.

The activists told me that they would be continuing the protest at the site, only no longer with tents. Alternatively known in English as the Occupy Tents, Anti-Nuclear Occupy Tent, No Nukes Plaza or Tent Plaza, the central structures are now gone but the idea of the “plaza” survives.

However, Japan’s relatively harsh rules on public assembly may make it harder for protestors to gather at the location in greater numbers for events like they used to, since now they will literally just be standing or sitting on the street. In theory, any public demonstration is required to be registered with police in advance.

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In my post on August 20th, I wrote that “the fury of Fukushima lives on in Kasumigaseki”. Was that too optimistic? We shall see.

WILLIAM ANDREWS

https://throwoutyourbooks.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/anti-nuclear-power-protest-tents-forcibly-removed-ministry/

August 21, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-nuclear activists’ tents forcibly removed from economy ministry premises after yearslong battle

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Police stand guard as Tokyo District Court officials remove tents built by anti-nuclear activists in the Kasumigaseki district of the capital at 3:59 a.m. Sunday

Tokyo District Court officials on Sunday removed activists’ tents on the economy ministry’s premises nearly five years after they were erected by anti-nuclear campaigners protesting the government’s handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The removal of the three tents — which took place before daybreak Sunday — came after the government asked the court to enforce its order to dismantle the site.

Handed down in February 2015, the order was upheld by the Tokyo High Court last October. It became final after the Supreme Court in July rejected an appeal filed by the two anti-nuclear campaigners.

The three tents were set up in September 2011 on a roughly 50-sq. meter plot of land at the economy ministry, which oversees the nuclear power industry.

The site had been used as a base to conduct anti-nuclear activities outside the ministry after the March 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, with activists uploading live video footage online, staging a hunger strike and forming human chains.

The forcible removal by court officials took place in the early hours of Sunday, a time when there were few passers-by.

About 10 citizens, including some who were staying in the tents overnight, protested as officials fenced off the encampment and blocked the road around the premises before dismantling the tents.

The government is pushing through the reactivation of nuclear power plants without taking responsibility (for the Fukushima crisis),” said a 53-year-old company employee who had been staying in one of the tents on Saturdays since the first one was erected in September 2011.

We will carry on with our protests,” he added.

In its ruling last year, the Tokyo District Court also ordered the activists to pay roughly ¥21,000 ($209) per day in fees for using the land for as long as they remained at the site. The unpaid amount has now totaled more than ¥30 million.

The district court said that while it “understands the campaigners’ compelling motive to join anti-nuclear activities after the atomic accident” that affected many people, they “do not have special rights to use the land” belonging to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in the capital.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/08/21/national/anti-nuclear-activists-tents-forcibly-removed-economy-ministry-premises-yearslong-battle/#.V7lanmXH87R

August 21, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-nuclear power protest tents in Tokyo attacked by far-right group

On August 14th, members of Japan’s ultra Right targeted the anti-nuclear power protest tents that have stood for nearly five years outside the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in Kasumigaseki, the government district in central Tokyo.

The “attack”, as it was swiftly dubbed by those on the Left, happened perhaps deliberately on the day before the annual anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the Pacific War that always turns Yasukuni Shrine into something of a pantomime of militarist cosplay.

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It is unclear to me if this was a co-ordinated action between several groups or individuals, but online reports claim that the racist hate group Zaitokukai was the main organiser. The perpetrators of the attack seemed to attempt to surround the tents with flags and banners. The hot summer day then quickly became more heated as supporters rallied to protect the tents, and police struggled to keep the two groups on opposing sides of the street while vehicles decorated with nationalist slogans drove into the fray. The anti-tent demonstrators included at least one man wearing a war-time military costume, just as can always be seen at Yasukuni on August 15th.

Japan’s far Right has diversified in recent years, now encompassing netizens who vent nationalist anger online (the so-called netto uyoku), hate speech groups like Zaitokukai who particularly target Korean communities, and sundry protestors who march against the recent territorial incursions by China and Japan’s other neighhours. The customary black vans of the traditional uyoku are no longer the only icons of rightist groups, nor does this emerging demographic necessarily belong to the New Right or minzoku-ha that developed out of the student movement. (In fact, elements of the New Right and other nationalists also added their voices to the anti-nuclear power movement.) The hate groups and xenophobic activists view any kind of leftist, liberal or anti-government movement as an enemy of Japan, hence they have attacked protests against nuclear power or the state security bills. Shall we call it the New New Right?

The incident comes at time of renewed tensions between the state and citizens due to the ongoing clashes at Takae in Okinawa over helipad construction, which has seen hundreds of riot police despatched from the mainland to maintain order among local and visiting protestors. While the scale of that movement is still relatively small, the situation is not dissimilar to what happened during the construction of Narita Airport in the 1960s and 1970s.

This is far from the first time the tents have attracted far-right attention, including hate activists like Shusei Sakurda. Rightists damaged and attempted to disrupt the tents as earlier as 2011, which has led the anti-nuclear protestors to develop a network of supporters that can be mobilised to guard and protect the tents. As can see from the video, this is very successful as a defence strategy. The attack on August 14th was met by a vigorous counter-protest of self-professed “anti-fascists” from the movement which has also become a prominent feature of protest culture in Japan over the past few years in response to the way the ultra-nationalists have evolved. These counter-protestors strive to outnumber and drown out the noise of right-wing or hate groups’ street actions, and do not shy away from engaging directly in physical confrontations. The activists are at times as aggressive as the hate groups and others they picket, prompting a greater police presence to keep the two sides apart.

This video was made by Rio Akiyama, a freelance photographer and film-maker who spends his days crisscrossing the country to cover counter-protests and other social movements. The work of Akiyama is mirrored by that of Rody Shimazaki, a punk-turned-photographer who has also documented the 2015 security bills protests and the hate speech counter-protests. Both Shimazaki and Akiyama have published photo-books in recent months, adding to the post-Fukushima discourse with (carefully curated) versions of the protest movements.

The protest tents were first erected on September 11th, 2011, shortly after the much-publicised hunger strike at Kasumigaseki, and around the time that the anti-nuclear power movement really began to pick up momentum. The organisers themselves use the name “Tento Hiroba” (Tent Plaza), and in English “Anti-Nuclear Occupy Tent”. It has been called the Occupy Tents, or the “tent village”. The concurrent timing is coincidental, but we might dare to christen it “Occupy Kasumigaseki”, though the contexts and aims of the tents are far removed from what went on at Wall Street in those heady anti-capitalist days of late 2011.

What is the significance of the Occupy Tents? The motley structures function as a listening post; a gathering place for demonstrators, talks, music, video screenings, and information exchange. One of the tents is now a free art museum featuring work by the likes of 281_Anti Nuke. The corner where they stand is one of the symbols of the movement, along with the art of Yoshitomo Nara that was used prolifically on placards at the major rallies.

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The tents have also become a kind of protest commons: a shared place for various stakeholders in the diverse anti-nuclear power protest movement to come together and exchange views. It occupies land that is public yet also government (not mutually exclusive concepts), and forces the issue of Fukushima and nuclear power to stay in the public domain even as the the Friday night vigils in front of the Kantei (prime minister’s official residence) have dwindled. That is not to say they have stopped: they continue resiliently every week, though the numbers of participants are far lower than their remarkable peak in 2012. But Tent Plaza is certainly the most materially resonant site of the movement, since the Friday night vigils are by their nature transient and shifting in scale and exact location.

In this way, the tents form a permanent platform for discourse, a “plaza” in a very real sense — a rare thing in Japan, where public land is often tightly controlled and managed. Kasumigaseki, in particular, is not amenable to assemblies, where demonstrators are not allowed to occupy the roads and are forced to gather on the snaking pavements in the district. Tent Plaza repudiates this topographical restraint and replaces it with a micro Tokyo version of Speakers’ Corner.

In addition to the ongoing crusade against nuclear power, the tents have also served as a locus for other anti-government causes, such as the protests against the state security bills last year. In one memorable episode, Buddhist monks gathered at the tents in 2015 to pray for the so-called “war bills” to be rejected.

If the unquestionably partisan Japan Atomic Industrial Forum is to believed, “members of a shadowy coalition of primarily far-left groups have continuously occupied [the tents], displaying signs criticising national nuclear policy and proclaiming the site a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement”. “Shadowy” or not, the people associated with the tents are not simply drawn from the rank’s of Japan’s far Left. There are indeed activists with long experience in radical groups. (For example, Shinzaburō Iwamoto is one of the people involved and this seems to be the same person who was part of a faction of Chūkaku-ha forced out in 2006.) But the nature of the protest is much more genial than the dogmatic tactics of the far Left, and, as we saw, a lot of its grassroots support now comes from the younger hate speech counter-protestors as opposed to the more established radical Left.

Here is someone explaining how she got involved in helping at the tents, as recorded by the Voices of Protest Japan project.

I wanted to do something as one who lives in metropolitan area. Though I did not participate from the beginning, I participated in Fukushima women’s group and did a sit-in. Also I started to visit here two or three days when I heard that Fukushima women were coming after the hunger strike done by five young people in front of METI. Then Japan’s women group continued the movement for ten more days. I didn’t participate for the whole thing but little bit. After that, the men at the first tent built the second tent when a hundred of Fukushima women were coming to the tent. But because of lack of participants after this movement, the tent was always closed when I came. In the same year, March of 2012, I started to come when I heard that they needed member for Saturday shift. So I started to go to that shift and also began to come for Thursday. Then I came for every other week rotating with another person. And now, I come for Thursday shift.

Just as the Wall Street occupiers were hounded out of Zuccotti Park, so too does the Japanese state want these pesky Kasumigaseki squatters gone. METI has been attempting to have the tents forcibly removed since 2014, though the orders have been challenged by protestors in the courts. Amidst the anti-nuke paraphernalia, the tents are also ostensibly fenced off by railings hung with signs informing the world that this is state land. In late July, the Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling the the tents must be removed and the occupiers pay a vast sum for “using” public land (around ¥20,000 for every day the tents have been there). The tents are effectively on borrowed (and expensive) time, though the state knows that any clumsy eviction could result in violence.

On September 11th, the tents are celebrating their anniversary with a “9.11 Anger Festival”. The fury of Fukushima lives on in Kasumigaseki.

WILLIAM ANDREWS

https://throwoutyourbooks.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/anti-nuclear-power-meti-protest-tents-tokyo-attack-far-right-group/

August 21, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese Government Wins in Supreme Court: Tents of Anti-Nuclear Groups Next to METI Ministry Building to Be Forcibly Removed

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On July 28, Japan’s Supreme Court handed down its ruling in a case filed originally by the national government over tents pitched by anti-nuclear groups outside buildings of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. It upheld an earlier order that the groups evacuate and pay for their use of the land.

The court’s petty bench, led by Judge Naoto Ohtani, rejected an appeal made by members of the groups against a lower court ruling. The Tokyo District Court is expected to carry out the forcible removal of the tents upon the request of the government, though members of the groups are expected to resist.

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The three tents were erected almost five years ago—in September and October 2011—at the north corner of the premises of METI in a space along the sidewalk. Since then, members of a shadowy coalition of primarily far-left groups have continuously occupied them, displaying signs criticizing national nuclear policy and proclaiming the site a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement.

The groups had argued that setting up the tents fell within the concept of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, and that the suit by the government was an attempt to interfere with the expression of opinion in violation of that. The Tokyo District Court ruled in the first instance that the government’s filing of the suit was a proper part of managing national property and not unjust, and that it did not interfere with the expression of the same opinions by other means. The Tokyo High Court affirmed that in the second instance.

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The ruling includes an order that two defendants of the groups pay about JPY21,000 (USD206 at USD1 = JPY102) per day for use of the land, for a total of nearly JPY40 million (USD392,000) for the five-year period, plus interest.

http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/japanese-government-wins-in-supreme-court-tents-of-anti-nuclear-groups-next-to-meti-ministry-building-to-be-forcibly-removed/

August 7, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

State minister rules out sarcophagus option

 

 

Japan’s state minister for industry has ruled out the option of sealing off disabled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant with a Chernobyl-style sarcophagus.

Yosuke Takagi met Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori in Tokyo on Friday.

Uchibori said he was shocked to hear the word “sarcophagus” and called the option unacceptable.

Two days earlier, a government body charged with decommissioning the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company mentioned the sarcophagus method for the first time.

The body said it remained committed to removing fuel debris from the reactors that suffered meltdowns in the March 2011 accident. But it presented a technical report that left room for entombing the reactors in a massive metal and concrete structure.

Responding to Uchibori, Takagi said the government has no intention of using such an option, and that completing the decommissioning process is the top priority.

Takagi said the government’s policy is to stand by the people of Fukushima, and that his ministry has told the decommissioning body to rewrite its technical report.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160715_27/

 

July 17, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment