nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

The current state of my hometown…” Residents of the Tsushima area measured radiation levels by themselves as evidence in court (Fukushima Prefecture)

May 10, 2022

Residents of the Tsushima area in the hard-to-return zone in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, have begun measuring radiation levels throughout the area in connection with a lawsuit against the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company.

On the first day of the trial, at 10:00 a.m. on October 10, approximately 10 residents gathered in the Tsushima area, which is in the difficult-to-return zone, to confirm the method and location of the measurements.

Measurements will be taken by dividing the entire Tsushima area into 28 sections of 2 km square, and installing dosimeters in each section. The dosimeters will be placed mainly in areas that have not been decontaminated, and many of these areas are covered with trees and grass.

According to the plaintiffs, this is believed to be the first time such measurements have been made in a class action lawsuit involving a nuclear accident.

Hidenori Konno, leader of the plaintiffs, said, “What we are appealing to the court of appeals is to ‘give back our hometown. In order to do so, we have to come up with concrete evidence of the situation in the Tsushima area…”

Hidenori Konno, the leader of the plaintiffs’ group, said at the meeting on April 4 that he intends to submit the results of the measurements as evidence in the trial.

Although a portion of the Tsushima area has been designated as a restoration site and is being decontaminated, the outlook for more than 90% of the other areas has yet to be determined.

Mr. Konno said, “At the very least, decontamination will restore the environment to near normalcy. In fact, the radiation dose has decreased so much after 12 years. We would like to use the data to prove that we can do it, especially in areas close to our homes.”

The installation work is scheduled to continue until the 15th, and the samples will be collected and analyzed three weeks later.

https://newsdig.tbs.co.jp/articles/tuf/42288?display=1

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Man who shot famed tsunami video turned lens on Fukushima’s future

Takashi Hokoi, right, and Yuichi Harada talk amid cherry trees on March 6 in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.

March 15, 2022

NAMIE, Fukushima — The schoolyard of an elementary school is empty of children, with only rusted playground equipment left on the barren soil. An elderly man looks wistfully around the shrine with cherry blossoms in full bloom.

“During cherry blossom season, children used to come here on field trips,” he says.

It is a scene from a 2016 documentary that chronicled the lives of people in Fukushima Prefecture affected by the March 2011 disaster in the context of the cherry blossom viewing season.

Titled “Fukushima Sakura Kiko” (Fukushima cherry blossom travel story), it was filmed in the spring of 2015 in the Odaka district of Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, by Takashi Hokoi, a former NHK news cameraman who currently is pursuing a career as an artist based in Fukushima.

The Odaka district, about 15 kilometers north of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, was still under an evacuation order at the time.

Seven years have passed since Hokoi, now 37, shot the documentary.

“I can hear the sound of a lawn mower,” Hokoi said with a slight smile when he revisited the district earlier this month.

With the evacuation order lifted, there are signs of life again, such as windows with open curtains. He knows that many people have not yet returned, but it is a welcome change.

The documentary was widely shown when it was released. However, Hokoi has a much more well-known video to his name, one that was circulated all over the world.

It was also one of the reasons that Hokoi left the world of journalism.

A foaming tsunami wave powers upstream in a river and floods the Sendai Plain. Houses and cars are instantly swallowed up by the wall of water.

The scene was broadcast live from an NHK helicopter at about 3:50 p.m. on March 11, 2011. Recording the destruction was Hokoi, who was in his first year as a cameraman.

Hokoi was working for the NHK Fukushima broadcasting station. He was at Sendai Airport on the day of the disaster. From an NHK helicopter, he was dumbstruck by the scene below and aimed his camera to the ground.

Tsunami waves crashed over main roads and swirled around, and houses were washed away or on fire. As he tried to come to grips with the reality-defying scene, one thought pervaded his mind: There must be people in those houses, in those cars.

The shocking video was given an award by the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association in September 2011. But Hokoi felt guilty receiving such praise. “All I did was escape to a safe place and film what I was told to,” he thought.

In 2013, NHK spoke to him about a transfer. But he decided to resign, and remained in Fukushima. He had a sense of guilt about leaving the disaster-hit area just two years after shooting such scenes and seeing its future as somebody else’s problem.

After leaving NHK, the idea for the documentary featuring cherry blossoms and people in Fukushima Prefecture came to him, all because of one person he had known.

Yuichi Harada was the third-generation owner of a clock shop and chairman of a local chamber of commerce and industry in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture. In 2014, while Hokoi was planning to create a video about the disaster at the request of his university, Harada guided him around the town, which was still under evacuation orders.

Harada, now 72, had evacuated to the city of Nihonmatsu to the west, where he organized a community of displaced Namie residents and negotiated with TEPCO over compensation. All the while, he also continued tending to cherry trees along a river in Namie with other volunteers.

“If someone returns to the town and the cherry trees in bloom bring back memories, it might change how they feel,” Harada said.

That really hit home for Hokoi, that someone who had lost their beloved hometown could be so optimistic, believing that one day it would return.

Hokoi decided to depict present-day Fukushima through cherry blossoms, the symbol of spring and hope.

Since this spring, Hokoi has been working on a sequel to “Sakura Kiko.” He is motivated because, while interest in Fukushima Prefecture may be fading, the situation there is now more complicated.

Harada continues to look after the cherry trees today. As people could not return to Namie, he was never able to restart his business, and his store was torn down about six years ago.

The evacuation order for his hometown has since been lifted, but Harada has given up on ever returning to Namie. He thinks about moving to Ibaraki Prefecture, where his eldest daughter lives, but his mother, now in her 90s, wants him to stay in Nihonmatsu.

“Life is hard, isn’t it?” Harada said with a sad smile as he gazed at the cherry trees with Hokoi.

The strength of our desires does not necessarily make them come true. That is the harsh reality of disasters. “I want to continue following the lives of people in Fukushima Prefecture and try to find what reconstruction really means,” Hokoi said.

He will continue to face the disaster head-on.

 

■ Evacuation orders

Soon after the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, the government designated an area within a 20-kilometer radius as a “warning zones” (evacuation order zones).

Areas outside that zone experiencing high levels of radiation were designated as “planned evacuation zones,” and the government demanded that residents in both zones evacuate.

The range of evacuation orders as of April 2012 extended to all or part of 11 municipalities, but that number has since decreased to the present-day seven.

Within those seven municipalities are areas designated as “difficult-to-return zones,” some of which are being developed as key reconstruction bases to provide a foothold for returning residents.

https://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0008356289

March 16, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

11 years after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, residents angered by the retreat from decontamination of the entire area: “It is only natural to clean up the mess and return it.

February 19, 2022
 It will soon be 11 years since the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Many people who have left their homes in areas where it is difficult to return are still uncertain about their future. Last year, the government announced a new policy to decontaminate only the areas around the homes of those who wish to return to their homes in areas where the lifting of evacuation orders was not foreseeable. This is a step backward from the previous policy of decontaminating the entire area, and the residents are angry, saying, “They won’t decontaminate unless we decide to return? (Natsuko Katayama)

In August 2021, the government decided to partially lift the evacuation order for the remaining difficult-to-return areas in seven cities, towns, and villages in Fukushima Prefecture by decontaminating homes and roads by 2029 in response to requests from people who want to return to their homes and live there. The government plans to begin decontamination in fiscal 2024, but has yet to decide what to do with the homes and land of those who do not wish to return. The “designated recovery and revitalization zone,” where decontamination was prioritized within the zone, accounts for only about 8% of the area that is difficult to return to.

The grass around the house grows into trees, and the surrounding fields are filled with thick-trunked willows and kaya (November 18, 2021). At Hatsuke, Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture

The trees around our house and in the fields have grown so thick that we can’t do anything about them… Every time Kazuo Kubota, 70, and his wife Taiko, 66, who have been living as evacuees in Fukushima City, return to their home in the difficult-to-return area of Namie Town in Fukushima Prefecture, they sigh.
 Their house is located in the Hatsuki district of Tsushima, Namie Town, about 30 kilometers northwest of the nuclear power plant. The fields are overgrown with trees that can grow up to three meters high. We can’t even cut the kaya with a sickle anymore,” said Kazuo. The plastic greenhouse for leaf tobacco is now just a skeleton, with thick branches sticking up from below. His house was also ransacked by wild boars and other animals, and he gave up clearing it.

The leaf tobacco workshop was overgrown with ivy and there was no place to step.

 Still, Taiko feels relieved when she returns to Hatsuke. Surrounded by nature, she feels the four seasons. Horseradish grows in the stream beside my house, and salamanders live there. I want to return here as soon as possible.
 He hopes to have the area around his house decontaminated and the house demolished, the land cleared, and the house rebuilt so that he and Kazuo’s mother, Tsuya (95), can return to the area together.
 If we could have lived in Hatsuke, our family would have been much closer,” said Taiko. Before the nuclear accident, the family used to go everywhere together, but after the evacuation, they were separated.

The kitchen is a mess of stuff and animal feces.

Tsuya, who used to work in the fields early in the morning and take care of her favorite flowers, began to stay at home more and more often and developed dementia. The family became increasingly strained and quarrelsome. With no one to talk to about her care, Taiko developed alopecia areata and continued to go to the hospital.
 In the same town of Tsushima, there is a “Specific Reconstruction and Regeneration Center Area (Reconstruction Center)” where decontamination is being carried out ahead of time, covering 1.6% of the total area of Tsushima. On the other hand, Hatsuke, located to the west of the Reconstruction Center, has relatively low levels of radiation, but has not been decontaminated except along the main road.
 When Taiko sees places in Namie that have been decontaminated over and over again, she feels her guts boil over.
 If the area had been decontaminated even once, I would have been motivated to do my best,” she said. Why is it that all other areas are decontaminated before being sent home, but the hard-to-return area, which has the highest radiation dose, is not decontaminated until the residents decide to return?

His eldest son is said to be saying, “I want to start a farm in Hatsuke after I finish raising my child. However, there is a strong concern that decontamination limited to the living areas of those who wish to return to the area will result in “unevenness” and many contaminated areas will remain.
 That is why Kazuo is so angry. “I still want to go back here. My parents cultivated this land and passed it down to me. I want to leave it to the next generation. If we pollute the land, it is only natural to clean it up and return it.”
 ”Eleven years have passed. I want to go home. I want to go home. I’ll do whatever I can to return to Hatsuke and die,” Tsuya said, but then he said, “I’ve given up. I’ve given up.”
 Taiko said as if she were praying. “I don’t know how long we will be able to move. I want the decontamination work to be done as soon as possible.”

https://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/161254?fbclid=IwAR1uxzg0lKenZIqG_0ZRGfiZWib5AWPNUUBE82VIgRNFnt5-gC727aRL6QA

February 20, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Nearest fishing port to Fukushima nuclear plant reopens

Political decisions made irrespective of the danger to people health, mainly for financial reasons in total denial of the hard facts.

Nov. 20, 2021

FUKUSHIMA – A ceremony was held Saturday to mark the resumption of operations at the fishing port nearest to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant stricken by the 2011 quake and tsunami disaster in northeastern Japan.

With the completion of reconstruction of Ukedo Port situated around 7 kilometers north of the nuclear plant, all 10 ports in Fukushima Prefecture that suffered damage in the quake disaster have been restored.

“It is a big step forward for the town” of Namie where the port is located, Mayor Kazuhiro Yoshida said at the ceremony, which was postponed from earlier in the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The seawalls and quays of the port were severely damaged in the disaster, but as the area was in the no-entry zone where radiation levels remained high following the nuclear plant meltdowns no reconstruction work took place until October 2013.

Reconstruction was completed in March and the port is already in operation.

After the disaster, fishermen in Fukushima conducted trial operations off the prefecture’s coast before starting preparations earlier this year for full-fledged fishing.

Among the disaster-hit prefectures in the northeast, reconstruction of all 31 fishing ports run by Iwate Prefecture was finished in August 2019, while 18 out of 27 ports operated by Miyagi Prefecture were rebuilt by March.

https://japantoday.com/category/national/ceremony-held-to-mark-restart-of-nearest-port-to-fukushima-reactor

November 21, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima resident still can’t return home 10 years after nuclear disaster

Yasuko Sasaki is seen at her house in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 1, 2021.

March 3, 2021

FUKUSHIMA — Yasuko Sasaki’s house lies just 30 kilometers away from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, where a meltdown took place following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. On Feb. 1, Sasaki temporarily returned to clean up leaves that had fallen on the grave at the back of the property.

Once a month, the 66-year-old visits her house in the Tsushima district in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Namie from the prefectural village of Otama — 50 kilometers away — where she is currently evacuated to. It has been almost 10 years since she became unable to live at her own residence.

Due to high radiation levels, Tsushima was designated a “difficult to return” zone, where restrictions for entering are in place, and people are barred from living there. Homes without their owners living in them have been ransacked by wild animals. While Sasaki has been away, wild animals chewed up stuffed turtle and bird specimens kept at her house. She continues to clean her house so that she “can return at any time.”

In the grave are the bones of her husband Kenji, who died of illness at age 57 in February 2011, just before the disaster struck the area, her youngest son Shinji, who passed away at 21 due to cancer in August the same year, and her parents-in-law. Sasaki was born in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, and married her husband and moved to the Tsushima district when she was 33. The couple raised their two children in the house, using mountain stream water in everyday life and boiling the bath with firewood.

“The memories that I have of spending time together with my family are here and only here. I want to come home while I can move my body,” Sasaki explained. A calendar at her house still shows March 2011, when the earthquake and tsunami hit.

The Reconstruction Design Council in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, an advisory panel to the prime minister, deemed that “recovery from the devastating disaster will not be completed until Fukushima soil recovers.” The government has set up Specified Reconstruction and Revitalization Bases within difficult-to-return zones and is carrying out decontamination work and developing infrastructure so that people can reside in the area once again. It aims to lift evacuation orders for the bases in between 2022 and 2023.

However, the areas designated as reconstruction bases are limited. In the Tsushima district, a 153-hectare space surrounding the town hall’s Tsushima branch is designated — just 1.6% of the whole district. Of the 532 households in the district at the time of the disaster, 80% including Sasaki’s house are not included in the reconstruction base area, and there are no prospects for these people to be able to return to their homes.

Sasaki said, “Everything’s still the same, even 10 years after the (nuclear) disaster. I wonder for how many more years I’ll have to continue cleaning (my house).”

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20210302/p2a/00m/0na/012000c

March 6, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Ex-classmates reunite at school abandoned after Fukushima disaster

Old friends Nozomi Kaminagakura (L) and Mari Yamamoto hug each other in a schoolyard before parting on Jan. 9, 2021

Jan 24, 2021

Namie – “Take care. Let’s meet again,” Nozomi Kaminagakura and Mari Yamamoto said repeatedly as they hugged in a corner of a weed-strewn schoolyard in the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture that is still partly under an evacuation order.

The friends were neighbors until they were forced to leave their hometown when they were in the fourth grade because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.

They smiled for most of the day when they visited Namie in January but became tearful as they were about to part. Wearing kimono, they had attended a coming-of-age ceremony in the town earlier in the day.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, seats at the ceremony were spaced apart and the participants only took off their face masks for the commemorative photograph. There was no reunion party afterward.

Former classmates visit Karino Elementary School

Eleven former classmates along with their families visited the abandoned building of Karino Elementary School, which is set to be demolished.

In contrast to the bleak schoolyard, the young adults were cheerful as they shared stories of their school days and took photos.

Their parents also looked delighted to see them enjoying their reunion.

“Where do you live now?” they asked one another. One even asked, “Do you really remember me?”

It was their first return to the school together since the disaster forced all the residents of the town to evacuate.

“We were separated without any time to prepare,” one of them said.

Former classmates take a photo in the schoolyard. As many as 11 of them gathered for the first time in almost a decade

Kaminagakura, now a university student in Sendai in adjacent Miyagi Prefecture, said the area where she and Yamamoto used to lived remains basically off limits because radiation levels are still high.

Affectionately calling each other “Non-chan” and “Mari-chan,” they played almost every day back then, at a nearby river in the summer and sledding on a hill in the winter.

“I never thought we’d be unable to see each other,” Kaminagakura said, adding she had expected to return to the town after a short time.

“It’s not the Namie I knew,” she said.

At the school, however, she was able to freely converse with her former classmates, even after such a long time. “I was glad they haven’t changed.”

Minori Yoshida, who attends a technical school in Yokohama, near Tokyo, was forced to evacuate in the midst of moving to her new home in the town. The house remains vacant.

“I feel at ease whenever I come to Namie,” said Yoshida, who was visiting for the first time in three years with her family, who now live in the city of Fukushima.

When asked why she feels so, Yoshida said, “Because it is in the countryside? I have mixed feelings though, looking at the scenery now.”

About her friends from Namie, she said, “They are special to me.”

The 11 young adults stand side-by-side for a group photo in front of a school building to be demolished.

It might be the last time the former classmates could gather at the school before its demolition. They took a group photo in front of the school building.

A banner placed on the three-story building’s balcony read, “Forever in the hearts of Karino pupils. Thank you, Karino Elementary School.”

The 11 former classmates were slow to leave, even though the sun was setting, and kept repeating, “Take care. Let’s meet again.”

Nozomi Kaminagakura (L) and Mari Yamamoto in kimono pose in the schoolyard.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2021/01/adea7d939fd4-feature-ex-classmates-reunite-at-school-abandoned-after-fukushima-disaster.html?fbclid=IwAR25P5T1dY0WWM4XnJR9rnflDH_IoukuUKArhqP_B2vsvbBARgdMyvabeu8

January 30, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima fish market in former no-go zone reopens in Namie

np_file_4790Women handle fish at the Ukedo wholesale fish market on Wednesday in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.

 

April 10, 2020

Namie, Fukushima Pref. – A fish market in the Pacific coastal town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, has reopened for the first time since it was devastated by the massive tsunami and nuclear disaster in March 2011.

The Ukedo regional wholesale market, which reopened Wednesday, was the first market to resume operations in an area formerly designated as a no-go zone following the unprecedented triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The market was filled with the energetic voices of fishermen and middlemen as it hosted its first auction in about nine years.

Nine years were long, and I’m so happy I’m in tears,” said Ichiro Takano, director of the local fishermen’s cooperative.

Sales are lower than usual due to the effects of the novel coronavirus, but I’ve been waiting for the market to reopen,” said Keiji Sato, a 73-year-old fisherman from the nearby city of Minamisoma.

Flounders and anglerfish brought to the market were quickly delivered to large-scale local supermarkets.

I hope that having people in the town eat fresh fish will contribute to revitalizing the region,” a market official said.

Prior to the reopening, fishermen operating in the region brought their catches to a market in Soma, also in the prefecture.

Some 20 small fishing boats affiliated with Namie and nearby ports are expected to bring their catches to the Ukedo market from now on, raising hopes of a boost in catch volumes and an increase in fish consumption in areas struck by the 2011 disasters.

Facilities in the Ukedo fishing port and market were swept away by the tsunami, and residents were forced to evacuate due to the nuclear accident.

The evacuation order was lifted in spring 2017 and construction of renewed port and market buildings was completed in October last year.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/04/10/national/fukushima-fish-market-namie/#.XpCN55ngqUk

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

Supermarket opens in Fukushima’s Namie town

20190714_14_705459_L.jpg
July 14, 2019
A supermarket has opened in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, which was devastated by the nuclear disaster in 2011. It is the first supermarket to operate in the town since the accident. Evacuation orders were partially lifted two years ago.
Major supermarket chain Aeon opened the new outlet in Namie Town on Sunday, drawing many shoppers.
The town now has just over 1,000 residents. That is about five percent of the population before the disaster.
The store stocked items including sake produced by a brewer who was forced to relocate because of the disaster, as well as seafood hauled in at a port nearby.
One shopper said she used to have to travel more than 30 minutes for shopping, and if she bought ice cream it melted on the way home.
Store manager Shunsuke Nihongi said he hopes to support those who have returned to the town and will choose the stock according to their requests.

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

A Fukushima Ghost Town Seeks Rebirth Through Renewable Energy

im-88860.jpg
Construction of a hydrogen power plant near Namie is nearly complete
 
July 12, 2019
NAMIE, Japan—Fukushima prefecture, a place synonymous in many minds with nuclear meltdown, is trying to reinvent itself as a hub for renewable energy.
 
One symbol is just outside Namie, less than five miles from the nuclear-power plant devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. At the end of a winding road through miles of barren land, construction is nearing completion on one of the world’s largest hydrogen plants.
 
The government hopes to show that hydrogen, a hard-to-handle fuel that hasn’t been used for large-scale power generation, can supplement intermittent solar and wind power.
 
“Namie has suffered due to nuclear energy,” said Naka Shimizu, its head of industry promotion. “Today, Namie is using renewable energy to stand up again and begin re-creating itself.”
 
There is still a long road ahead. Fukushima prefecture relies on government funding and subsidies for its revival plan. Even under optimistic scenarios, turning hydrogen into an everyday energy source could take decades.
 
In a region prone to earthquakes, Mr. Shimizu said, some citizens are concerned about the construction of a hydrogen plant. During the 2011 disaster, a hydrogen explosion damaged the roof and walls of one of the reactors.
 
Small amounts of liquid hydrogen can be explosive when combined with air, and only a slim amount of energy is required to ignite it. Namie officials said every precaution is being taken to prevent hydrogen leaks. The plant will be equipped with detectors that immediately halt operations if a leak is detected.
 
Until 2017, Namie was abandoned because of its exposure to radiation. Weeds grew through cracks in the pavement and shop windows were boarded up. When radiation levels were deemed safe, people were allowed to return. But the town’s population, about 1,000, is only 5% of its predisaster level.
 
Few shops or homes illuminate the streets at night. On the main road, the darkness is broken by the glow of streetlights that run on used electric-car batteries charged during the day by solar power.
 
“Nuclear energy harmed this region, but in many ways we were indebted to it. People in this area supported families on the money it provided,” said Kenichi Konno, head of planning in Namie. The Fukushima nuclear plant employed many of Namie’s residents and supported its local businesses, officials there said.
By 2040, Fukushima aims to cover 100% of its energy demand with non-nuclear renewable energy. Since 2011, the prefecture’s generating capacity from renewable energy, excluding large-scale hydropower, has more than quadrupled. More than a gigawatt of solar-energy capacity has been added—the equivalent of more than three million solar panels—while other projects are under way in offshore wind power and geothermal energy.
 
The problem, especially with solar panels, is the unreliable nature of the electricity they generate. While batteries can store electricity for use at night, the cost is so high that even some in the green-energy camp say 100% renewable energy isn’t realistic for now.
 
That is where the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy
The facility, which Namie officials estimate will require total operating costs of more than $90 million in public funds, is set to begin test operations over the next few months and enter full operation by July 2020.
 
Whether or not hydrogen is counted as a renewable energy depends on the source of energy used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The Fukushima plant runs mostly on solar energy from an on-site field of solar panels, but also draws on energy from the grid.
 
The Namie plant aims to ship hydrogen south to Tokyo to power the Olympic athletes’ village at the 2020 Summer Games. It will also produce hydrogen for fuel-cell buses and vehicles. The eight hydrogen tanks on site could fill 240 vehicles like the Toyota Mirai that run on hydrogen, Namie officials estimate. The Toyota Mirai has a range of 312 miles per tank.
 
Fukushima hopes to follow the lead of Japan’s port city of Kobe, which built a thriving biomedical industry after an earthquake and fires left parts of the city in ruins in 1995. Some economists say there is a tendency for regions that suffered major disasters to grow more quickly over the long term, perhaps because the disasters spur greater investment in new technologies.
 
Fukushima is “ahead of the curve in the transition to renewable energy in Japan,” said Daniel Brenden, an analyst at Fitch Ratings. “The grass-roots energy movement you see in Fukushima—changing the perspective of how electricity can be generated—that really sets in motion the transition that you have seen in places like Germany.”
 
Still, the transition is costly for Japan’s taxpayers. Solar-power producers nationwide sell output at above-market prices to electric companies, which pass their costs onto consumers. That is adding some $22 billion to electricity bills in the current fiscal year, according to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
 
In the absence of significant nuclear power, Japan is relying heavily on coal. It is following in the footsteps of Germany, which pledged to shut its nuclear plants by 2022 in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Although it has rapidly built out wind and solar power, Germany has largely fallen back on coal to fill gaps in alternative energy sources.
 
On weekdays, Namie buzzes with some 1,000 workers brought in to build the hydrogen plant. One recent weekday night, a few of them gathered at a restaurant in town serving Namie yakisoba, a stir-fried noodle dish for which the town is known. Shop owners say they close on weekends when the workers return home.
 
“A time will come when the country stops providing subsidies,” said Aoi Ogawa, a manager at the Japan Industrial Location Center who advises companies on relocating to Fukushima. “But if facilities and new technologies keep growing as they have, we hope to see cities rebuild around them. The goal isn’t just to return to predisaster levels, it’s to come back better.”

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

‘We were driven out’: Fukushima’s radioactive legacy

MBBHR4RGHMI6TNNUDUMN7N5QQQ.jpg
In March 2017, the government lifted its evacuation order for the center of Namie.
“This is the worst time, the most painful period.” For the people of Namie and other towns near the Fukushima plant, the pain is sharpened by the way the Japanese government is trying to move beyond the tragedy, to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a symbol of hope and recovery, a sign that life can return to normal after a disaster of this magnitude.
If we give up, we would lose our town, and as mayor, I will work with all my heart to prevent that.” But many residents say the central government is being heavy-handed in its attempts to persuade people to return, failing to support residents’ efforts to build new communities in places like Nihonmatsu, and then ending compensation payments within a year of evacuation orders being lifted.
In other towns around the nuclear plant, people have complained that arbitrarily decided compensation payouts — more for people deemed to have been in radiation-affected zones, far less for tsunami victims, nothing for people just a mile outside the zone most affected — have divided communities and caused resentment and friction.
“This is a place desperate to attract people to return, but this reduces our attractiveness for young people,” said Riken Komatsu in the fishing port of Onahama, who is working to rebuild a sense of community and raise awareness about problems with the reconstruction effort.
The biggest tragedy now is the high rate of suicides.” Kazuhiro Yoshida, the embattled mayor of Namie, said fears about radiation are not the only reason people aren’t returning; many complain the deserted town lacks amenities.
“The scale of the problem is clearly not something the government wants to communicate to the Japanese people, and that’s driving the whole issue of the return of evacuees,” said Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace.
It says radiation levels in parts of Namie where evacuation orders have been lifted will remain well above international maximum safety recommendations for many decades, raising the risks of leukemia and other cancers to “unjustifiable levels,” especially for children.
In the rural areas around the town, radiation levels are much higher and could remain unsafe for people beyond the end of this century, Greenpeace concluded in a 2018 report. Greenpeace has been taking thousands of radiation readings for years in the towns around the Fukushima nuclear plant.
“The idea that an industrial accident closes off an area of Japan, with its limited habitable land, for generations and longer — that would just remind the public why they are right to be opposed to nuclear power.”
Four-fifths of Namie’s geographical area is mountain and forest, impossible to decontaminate, still deemed unsafe to return.
When it rains, the radioactive cesium in the mountains flows into rivers and underground water sources close to the town.
Komatsu says reconstruction has been imposed from above, a problem he says reflects, in a broader sense, what Japan is like.
Today, Namie’s former residents are scattered across all but one of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
“For the past eight years, we have seen the destruction of the area, the destruction of the community, and it will be difficult to bring people back,” he said.
With young people moving away, the elderly, who already feel the loss of Namie most acutely, find themselves even more alone.
Now, the damage is more severe because young people are not returning. The elderly who come back feel pessimism and depression.
Six Olympic softball games and a baseball game will be staged in Fukushima, the prefecture’s bustling and radiation-free capital city, and the Olympic torch relay will start from here.

February 11, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO and state slapped with new lawsuit over nuclear crisis

sdggfhf.jpgPlaintiffs in the lawsuit against TEPCO and the government gather in front of the Fukushima District Court in Fukushima on Nov 27.

November 28, 2018

FUKUSHIMA–Dismayed at a breakdown in talks for compensation, residents of the disaster-stricken town of Namie filed a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the central government for damages stemming from the nuclear accident here in March 2011.
The plaintiffs are seeking 1.3 billion yen ($11.4 million) in financial redress.
The entire town was evacuated in the aftermath of a triple core meltdown at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
The lawsuit was filed at the Fukushima District Court on Nov. 27 after five years of negotiations between the town and TEPCO collapsed in April over the utility’s refusal to meet demands for more compensation.
According to court papers, 109 plaintiffs of 49 households are seeking 12.1 million yen in individual compensation.
They stated that the nuclear accident destroyed their community and forced them to live as evacuees for a prolonged period.
TEPCO, under guidelines established by the central government, has been paying 100,000 yen a month to each resident forced to evacuate.
However, town officials argued that the figure was painfully low and should be increased to compensate for psychological suffering caused by the disaster.
In May 2013, the Namie municipal authorities, acting on behalf of residents, asked the nuclear damage claim dispute resolution center, an organization established by the central government in response to the Fukushima disaster, to mediate in the dispute.
About 15,000 residents, more than 70 percent of the town’s population, signed a petition for the mediation in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process at the center.
In March of 2014, an ADR proposal called for the monthly compensation to be uniformly increased by 50,000 yen.
The town accepted the offer but TEPCO rejected it, citing potential unfairness to others who had been compensated. In April, the center discontinued the reconciliation process.
Pointing out that TEPCO had reneged on its promise to “respect ADR reconciliation proposals,” the plaintiffs argued that the utility should pay for betraying the trust of residents.
An additional 2,000 or so townsfolk are planning to join the lawsuit.
In a statement, TEPCO said, “We will listen to the plaintiffs’ requests and complaints in detail and respond sincerely.”
Not only were the lives of residents turned upside down by the nuclear disaster, but more than 180 perished in the tsunami that engulfed the town.
Although the evacuation order was lifted for some parts of the town at the end of March 2017, entry to most of the area remains prohibited.
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201811280053.html?fbclid=IwAR1O0aNAvKOkAVVRm2UH44C6RT88xLhOntskaKyVvL3VSZmDlYSd7SMC1Vs

November 30, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 2 Comments

The Mayor of Nowhere: Former cattleman runs campaign to revitalize Namie, Fukushima

1
October 5, 2018
On the last Friday in July 2018, a car with speakers mounted on the roof pulled up to the TEPCO headquarters near Hibiya Park. At a little past 5pm, the utility’s employees began streaming out of the building and, as they glided through the automatic doors, recognition flashed over their faces. As they turned toward the Shinbashi nightlife district, the office workers shot sour looks at the man in the blue-and-yellow sash, who stood in front of the car.
“You should take responsibility. How can you just walk by? You are polluting Fukushima’s waters,” he yelled into a microphone, blasting the company for its actions since the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Masami Yoshizawa was running for mayor of Namie, one of the seven cities, towns and villages surrounding the damaged power plant that remain under partial evacuation orders. As part of his campaign, he’d come to TEPCO to deliver a letter outlining his plans to take the company to court for damages and to demand the utility cancel plans to release tons of radiation-contaminated water into the Pacific.
2
Yoshizawa had spoken in front of the headquarters before. The first time was in the days following the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Back then, he’d held out as long as he could on his ranch, 14 kilometers from the power plant. Once it became clear that his herd of 328 Japanese beef cows had lost all their value — the animals had been worth over ¥450 million before they were exposed to the radiation released from the plant — he decided to go to Tokyo to make his voice heard. After driving down, he walked into the scrum of police and news vans that surrounded the TEPCO headquarters and demanded to speak with someone from the company. Though the police seized him by the arms, he didn’t give up until a representative from the utility eventually agreed to listen to his complaint.
After returning to Fukushima, he started visiting his ranch to feed his animals, unwilling to let them starve. Eventually, he decided to ignore the mandatory evacuation order and began living on his land again. In his youth, he’d been part of the Japanese student movement and this experience informed him as he poured his energy into the anti-nuclear campaign: he hauled his irradiated cattle down to the Ministry of Agriculture and made impassioned speeches in Shibuya and Sendai, attempting to raise awareness of the plight of farmers and ranchers around Fukushima Daiichi. His land, which he renamed the Ranch of Hope, became a hub for activists and environmentally-minded volunteers, who came to support him and help take care of the cows.
Then in June of this year, Tamotsu Baba, Namie’s three-term mayor, resigned. He had stomach cancer and, two weeks after stepping down, he passed away in a hospital in Fukushima City. A special election was scheduled for August 5 and Yoshizawa declared his intention to run.
He withdrew his membership from the Japanese Communist Party and created his own group, the Organization for a Hopeful Namie, though his politics retained a radical tinge. He promised to force TEPCO to increase damage payments by 50 percent and to support local farmers by using the town’s contaminated fields to grow rice for use in ethanol. He railed against the Abe administration’s plan to hold the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and decried the sunnier visions of the recovery effort: in his view, no more than half the town’s residents would ever return. “As a town, Namie is finished,” he often said during his speech, suggesting that the population would dip below 10,000. “In the future, Namie will be a village.”
In some ways, Yoshizawa’s policy positions were less important than his stance toward the recovery effort. Of the 17,791 officially registered residents, only 777 have returned to live in the few dozen square kilometers where the evacuation order has been lifted; thus, being mayor of Namie effectively means being the leader of a town that exists mostly on paper. More than anything, the election was a way of gauging the mood of the voters, most of whom had been evacuated from their home for over seven years.
This was a point Yoshizawa stressed to the TEPCO employees, who were heading out of the office to enjoy their Premium Friday: “We can’t go home! You have houses to return to, places to work. But we can’t return to Namie. Our town is ruined, our lives are crushed.”
3
The following day, Yoshizawa campaigned in his home prefecture. After the evacuation, Namie’s residents had been dispersed across the prefecture, with the bulk winding up in Fukushima City, Nihonmatsu, Koriyama and Minamisoma. Evacuees initially lived in hastily constructed temporary housing, but facing the prolonged recovery effort ahead, the prefectural government built “recovery homes” — apartments and blocks of single-family houses — and is now moving the nuclear refugees into these units.
Late in the afternoon, Yoshizawa’s car pulled up to a series of oblong three-story buildings. He stepped out, placed a plastic milk crate upside-down on the sidewalk, and stood on it as he launched into his stump speech.
Three volunteers working for his campaign watched for anyone who stepped outside to listen to him or who happened to be crossing the parking lot as he spoke. If they spotted a potential voter, the volunteers sprinted to them — even if this involved several flights of stairs — and handed them a flyer, asking for their vote.
As Yoshizawa’s rhetoric echoed through one corner of the apartment complex, a white van pulled up to the opposite corner, and a man with a bullhorn got out. Kazuhiro Yoshida had been the head of the former mayor’s support group and was Yoshizawa’s only opponent in the election. Like Yoshizawa, he was deeply tanned, with rough features and a straightforward manner. But unlike his rival, Yoshida’s message was one of continuity: the handpicked successor of the previous mayor, with connections to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, he promised to press forward with the recovery plans, such as they were. He spoke optimistically about reconstructing Namie and rebuilding a local economy based on agriculture and fishing.
Yoshida’s quasi-incumbent status was confirmed by the sparse nature of his campaign. He had no flyers or banners, not even a business card to hand out to inquiring media-types. No volunteers flanked him, and, if you removed the references to disaster and recovery, his policy proposals could’ve been meant for any struggling town in Tohoku: create a safe and secure environment, support the elderly and so on.
These contrasts were not lost on the handful of voters who spilled out of the apartment blocks to listen to campaign speeches. One former store owner in her 60s planned on voting for Yoshida, and was realistic about the future: “I think I won’t ever go back… Still, I want them to make a town where it’s easy to live again.” A middle-aged man from the coastal district of Ukedo said his vote wasn’t decided, but that the most important thing for him was stability.
Meanwhile, many of Yoshizawa’s voters were more inclined toward extremes of optimism or despair. Yoko Konno, who had owned a salon in Namie’s Gogendo district, wasn’t planning to move back, as her children had relocated and she needed to be near a hospital so she could get treatment for her heart condition: “There’s no one left in Namie.” By contrast, Shiba, the head of the residents’ association in a different public housing block, said, “I want to go back. We need to make a new plan though.”
4
Yoshizawa’s volunteers were a collection of journalists, animal lovers and activists. The campaign was a kind of traveling, temporary family, and, as with any middle-class Japanese household, lunchtime was likely to find them in a family restaurant, as was the case two days before the election, when they stopped at a tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) place in a residential neighborhood of Koriyama.
Most of the team was drawn from Ranch of Hope volunteers, like Masakane Kinomura, a photographer for the Asia Press Front, who had first learned about Masami Yoshizawa and the Ranch of Hope through a fellow journalist. He pointed across the table with his chopsticks at a volunteer named Monguchi, “I was coming back from the ranch and she picked me up in her taxi in Tokyo.”
She brushed a braid of dyed red hair behind her shoulder. “When I picked him up, I thought he was just some tired middle-aged man. But then the way he talked about caring for these 300 cows. I couldn’t see his face, but I could tell he was a good person.”
Originally from Osaka, she had never volunteered until the Kumamoto earthquake damaged her grandmother’s house. After her first experience, she wanted to do more to help, but Kyushu was too far. She had always loved animals — a quality which helped her connect with pet-owning voters — and the chance to be close to the cattle led her to the Ranch of Hope.
Next to Monguchi was Ohamazaki, an outside political consultant and the only paid member of the campaign staff. With the sleeves of his dress shirt rolled up and his tie pulled away from his collar, he exuded a sense of business. “I’ve worked with the Liberal Democrats, Communists, Independents. Over 200 elections.” With his help, he believed Yoshizawa could win as many as six in ten voters, though turnout would be low. In the previous mayoral election, over half of Namie’s residents had voted, but he believed the percentage would fall in the summer’s election. “People have moved here and there, so it’ll be closer to 40 percent.”
On this point, Ohamazaki proved right, as 43 percent of residents went to the polls. However, the result of the election would fall against his client, with 80 percent of voters opting for the stability offered by Kazuhiro Yoshida. Despite all they’ve been through (or perhaps because of it) Namie’s voters weren’t interested in a new, more confrontational approach. In some ways, the story of this mayoral election in the exclusion zone, echoes one of the problems facing the Japanese political left as a whole: an inability to show voters — even those who are disenchanted with the status quo — how a narrative of resistance and change will impact their lives for the better.
In the weeks since the election, Masami Yoshizawa has returned to his ranch, where he herds his irradiated cattle over the green hills of Fukushima. Namie Town heads into its eighth year of recovery, its future suspended in uncertainty, with no end in sight.
5

October 13, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Mayor of Namie, near shuttered Fukushima nuclear plant, dies at 69

serveimage.jpg
Jun 27, 2018
FUKUSHIMA – Tamotsu Baba, mayor of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture, died at hospital in the city of Fukushima on Wednesday. He was 69.
First elected mayor of Namie in 2007, Baba was in his third term. He submitted his resignation earlier this month due to illness and was set to leave office on Saturday.
Baba spearheaded the town’s efforts to cope with the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which badly affected the Tohoku region, and the subsequent nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Namie is located next to the towns of Okuma and Futaba, home to the disaster-crippled nuclear plant.
At the end of March last year, Baba decided on lifting evacuation advisories for Namie residents, except for areas that were recognized as heavily contaminated.

July 1, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Route 114 to Namie is No Route 66!

35864520_830136463852837_5482498720819838976_n.jpg
Even after lifting the ban on R114 last September, the route leading to Namie, a town near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, radiation remains very high.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Mayor of Namie to resign due to illness

Tamotsu Baba mayor of the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture on Wednesday submitted his resignation due to illness. He is 69 years old. Although the details of his illness is not written in the following article, a Japanese media reports that he has been hospitalized for cancer treatment. Namie is located very close to the Fukushima Daiichi, and was within the evacuation zone until the end of March of 2017, when Baba decided the lifting of evacuation advisories given to Namie residents, except for heavily contaminated areas.
s1.reutersmedia.net.jpg
June 13, 2018
NAMIE, Fukushima (Jiji Press) — Tamotsu Baba, mayor of the town of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture on Wednesday submitted his resignation due to illness.
After obtaining approval from the town assembly on the same day, the 69-year-old mayor will leave office as of June 30.
Baba has been hospitalized on and off since December last year.
First elected mayor of Namie in 2007, Baba is currently serving his third term.
He spearheaded the town’s efforts to cope with the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which mainly rocked the Tohoku northeastern region, and the subsequent nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Namie is located next to the towns of Okuma and Futaba, home to the disaster-crippled nuclear plant.
At the end of March last year, Baba decided the lifting of evacuation advisories given to Namie residents, except for heavily contaminated areas.
The town is asking TEPCO to increase the amount of compensation paid to its some 15,000 citizens
 
The following article by NHK reports that Mayor Baba has been hospitalized to get cancer treatment. He had stomach cancer and had surgery in 2014.

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment