It has been nearly six years since the triple-meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Two things seem symbolic of this time: the simultaneous lifting of evacuation orders for the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate and other nearby communities, and the recent glimpse of what appears to be melted nuclear fuel in the plant’s No. 2 reactor.
One is significant for all those residents who had no idea when they would be able to return to their hometowns, and the other for how much we understand of what is going on inside the stricken Fukushima No. 1 plant reactors, which until recently had been very nearly nothing. Considering how things were going before, these developments can be considered a step in the right direction.
However, if we take a cold, hard look at the situation, there are facts that must be seen as equally representative of the current reality: that the disaster has stolen so much from so many, and that real recovery will be a decades-long struggle with reconstruction and plant decommissioning.
Any visitor to the Fukushima plant will get a keen sense of how demanding the work is to dismantle its ruined reactors. The area where full face masks are required has been significantly reduced, and working conditions have certainly been improved. However, there is still no target for removing the melted nuclear fuel from the reactors — the greatest challenge to decommissioning — and no prospect for setting one.
Last month, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) inserted a “scorpion” robot into the No. 2 reactor containment vessel, and tried to steer it to a spot right under the core. However, its path was blocked by piles of dark material, and in the end the robot was unable to determine the state of the reactor’s nuclear fuel.
There are more than 800 workers at the Fukushima plant. Some have been exposed to excessive radiation due to unexpected tasks. They are barred from working inside the reactor buildings, where radiation is extremely high, and absorb higher doses just by getting near them.
Nevertheless, the state of the nuclear fuel in each reactor must be ascertained, and a plan must be devised to remove it.
The No. 1 and 3 reactors are thought to be in worse shape than the No. 2 reactor. The government and TEPCO are aiming to extract the fuel from all the reactors starting in 2021, but that is wildly optimistic. A drastic rethink of the entire decommissioning strategy and schedule — including the development of the robots that will take on much of the work — is likely needed.
The burdens placed on Japanese society by the nuclear disaster include the swelling financial cost of dealing with its aftermath.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry says that reactor decommissioning, victim compensation, decontamination and other nuclear disaster-related costs will hit 21.5 trillion yen — twice the initial estimate. However, even this figure does not include the cost of disposing of the melted nuclear fuel among other expenses, and is thus certain to rise.
We also cannot overlook the creation of a new system to charge third-party power suppliers to cover part of the compensation costs — a charge the power supply companies will pass on to their customers, thus effectively making a wide swath of Japanese society pay for TEPCO’s compensation liabilities. There are also apparently plans to implement a similar system to cover the decommissioning costs for Japan’s aged reactors.
It has been less than a year since the power supply market was opened to competition. Making not just the big utilities but also the new third-party electricity suppliers with no connection whatsoever to the nuclear power business pay for reactor decommissioning is a blow to the very heart of electricity market liberalization. The government’s insistence that “nuclear power is comparatively cheap even including accident countermeasure costs” no longer holds water.
If the government is to demand the Japanese people take on this financial burden, it must admit that the “cheap nuclear power” line doesn’t match the facts, and reroute Japan’s power generation plan to a nuclear-free future.
Looking at the harsh realities of dealing with the Fukushima nuclear disaster, we cannot consent to the ongoing string of reactor restarts. Utilities have applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to restart 26 reactors at 16 plants under standards drawn up in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima meltdowns. Just three reactors have been put back on line so far, but 12 more at six plants have or are expected to pass NRA inspections. Among them are three reactors that have been in operation for 40-plus years.
A majority of Japanese citizens are opposed to the restarts, conflicting with the government’s evident enthusiasm for getting reactors back on line despite its stated goal of reducing dependence on nuclear power.
Over the past six years, we have learned that Japan would not run short of electricity if it abandoned nuclear power. A more deeply rooted argument in favour of nuclear generation is that it is needed to combat global warming.
Certainly, replacing nuclear plants with fossil fuel-driven power generation would increase carbon dioxide emissions. It is impossible to ignore the negative effect this would have on global warming.
However, Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions have in fact begun to dip slightly even as reactor restarts remain stalled. According to the Environment Ministry, fiscal 2015 greenhouse gas emissions were down 5.2 percent from fiscal 2005 levels, and 6 percent down from 2013 levels.
Japan is obliged by international treaty to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 3.8 percent from 2005 levels by fiscal 2020. The country has already met that commitment even without nuclear power. Nevertheless, for Japan to strive for even greater reductions that it promised under the Paris Agreement, it must yet expand energy saving measures and renewable power generation.
Global investment in energy is shifting in force to renewables. According to the International Energy Agency (IAE), of the $420 billion U.S. invested in power generation in 2015, some $290 billion was put into renewables.
The prices of solar panels and wind turbines are falling fast, and offer a cheaper alternative to traditional thermal generation in an increasing number of cases.
The nuclear business is in decline in the developed world, as is evidenced by the deep troubles of Japan’s Toshiba Corp. and France’s Areva SA. At the same time, the renewable energy industry is growing by leaps and bounds.
If Japan shuts its eyes to this reality and continues to pour more of its resources into keeping nuclear power going than into renewable energy, it will likely be left behind by the rest of the world.
We have no choice but to carry the burden of the Fukushima nuclear disaster for decades to come. We will overcome this crisis, but we will need support.
To make sure we never have another nuclear disaster like the one in Fukushima, Japan should take the decision to abandon dependence on nuclear power. That would be the best support of all.
Six years on, nation gropes for viable energy policy as cleanup costs soar
This Feb. 3 photo shows the No. 3 reactor unit at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
TOKYO — Nearly six years after a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, the catastrophe still looms large over Japan’s energy policy.
Most of the country’s nuclear plants remain offline due to safety concerns. The finances of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings — the operator of the ill-fated Fukushima facility — are in a shambles. Cleanup costs continue to mount, with no ceiling in sight.
On the night of Feb. 16, footage from inside Fukushima Daiichi’s No. 2 reactor containment vessel was beamed to Tepco’s head office in Tokyo. It was captured by a robot nicknamed “scorpion,” due to the camera on the tip of its tail, which can be pointed forward a la the arachnid.
After moving forward about 2 meters, however, the robot became stuck in material deposits several centimeters thick. It was unable to approach its intended target: a spot just under the pressure vessel, where some melted nuclear fuel is suspected to have leaked through.
Tepco hopes to decide this summer how to remove melted fuel from the plant, but as things stand, simply determining the location and quantity of the debris is a challenge.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which supervises the electric power industry, estimated at the end of last year that dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster would cost 21.5 trillion yen ($190 billion). That figure, which covers decommissioning the reactors and compensating victims, is roughly double the 11 trillion yen METI estimated three years ago.
The financially strapped utility will never be able to cover the costs on its own, and its straits may well grow more dire. Many experts say the costs will rise further.
Decommissioning work alone — including the disposal of contaminated water — is now estimated at 8 trillion yen, up from an earlier projection of 2 trillion yen. If the costs continue to swell, Japan’s consumers could pay a heavy price.
Forget “cheap” energy
Meanwhile, the central government is still urging the heads of local governments to approve reactor restarts in their communities, but it has stopped using the word “cheap” to describe atomic energy.
March 11, 2017 marks 6 years since triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants and the near meltdown at numerous atomic power reactors across Japan. Even today we are still realizing the widespread impacts these meltdowns have caused for the citizens of Japan and their ongoing impact around the earth. TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company, the owner of the Fukushima Daiichi plants) still has not located the melted fuel that continues to release significant amounts of radioactive material into the ocean, and tens of thousands of Japanese citizens displaced from the Fukushima Prefecture remain without a home or permanent settlement.
As many of Fairewinds readers already know, following the Great East Japan earthquake and Tsunami that shook and destroyed a large area on the Pacific coast of Japan, a level 7 meltdown occurred at three of the six rectors at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant. As we remember the devastation caused in this event, we must also be thankful for the thousands of workers who responded promptly and sacrificed their personal safety to prevent further catastrophe at the 14 nuclear power reactors in jeopardy on March 11. As we look back, we have to learn from this disaster and remember it could have been worse.
One of the lessons from that fateful day nearly six years ago is that disaster strikes quickly, and all of us need to be prepared for the worst case scenario. As we have seen, at Fukushima and Chernobyl, atomic power meltdowns have proven too difficult and costly to handle and clean-up. What if the tsunami had hit more nuclear reactor sites, or the earthquake damage and some of the plant explosions had damaged additional reactors causing nuclear power plants up and down the coast of Japan to meltdown simultaneously?
In today’s churning political, intense environmental climate, and heavily mechanized and computerized energy production and industrial industries, we all must consider the risk of multiple simultaneous equipment failures caused by an unanticipated mechanical failure or intense natural disaster like the one we saw in Japan. As the climate changes and weather patterns become less and less predictable, we need to be prepared if another disaster were to occur.
In this Fairewinds video, Arnie Gundersen discusses the vulnerability of nuclear power plant cooling pumps alongside rivers and oceans. These cooling pumps are crucial to the operation of the backup generators at Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) that have the same design as Fukushima Daiichi; there are 23 BWR atomic reactors in the United States with vulnerabilities like those at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site. In this video Mr. Gundersen recommends that a greater level of preparedness be added to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association) International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale in order to account for atomic power situations involving multiple simultaneous equipment and/or containment system failures that may require increased international assistance and a rapid response.
Next week, Fairewinds Energy Education will discuss some new details regarding the ongoing tragedy at Fukushima Daiichi including an update on what workers still cleaning up the site and the surrounding Fukushima Prefecture are facing, the effects of the disaster on the displaced residents of Fukushima Prefecture, and the TEPCO’s current updates to locate molten fuel and contain the extensive radioactivity at the destroyed reactors.
6 years later, the catastrophe at Fukushima is still far from being resolved, still ongoing. 3 reactor core meltdowns still releasing radioactive nanoparticles into the open skies, contaminated water still leaking continuously into the Pacific ocean, plus partially decontaminated water also been dumped into the ocean.
All available information and figures controlled by Tepco and the Japanese government, with no independent party allowed to verify the veracity of the given information. A massive permanent public relations campaign of disinformation and denial, to brainwash the Japanese population and the whole world that everything is now under control and ok, denial of the radiation risks for the people health, economics being the Japanese government priority, not the population health protection. Evacuated persons coerced to return to live with high radiation in their previously evacuated townships. So that Japan would seem safe, clean and beautiful to welcome the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
If Fukushima taught us one thing it is that people should not expect the government to protect them nor corporations to be held responsible in time of nuclear disaster.
This written article is based on officially released data by Tepco and the Japanese government, therefore all the figures and claims should be therefore taken with a pinch of salt. Always keep in mind that the officially released information does not really teach us the essential about the still ongoing catastrophe and about its victims getting more abandoned than ever.
Key figures for the sixth anniversary
The main aim of the work is to secure the damaged reactors which are still threatening. In the vicinity, the dose rates are such that the attendance time must be very limited, which complicates the work. See the latest official Tepco document with dose rates. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/surveymap/images/f1-sv2-20170224-e.pdf
The reactor vessel was empty on March 11, 2011, and there was no melting of the core, but a hydrogen explosion destroyed the reactor building. Since December 2014, the reactor fuel pool has been emptied and the work is stopped.
There was a core meltdown and a hydrogen explosion destroyed the reactor building. All debris from the upper part were removed using remotely operated gear. A new building that will cover the whole and allow to empty the fuel pool is being assembled. The dose rate is so high that the work is more complex than expected and the site has fallen behind.
There was a core meltdown, but the reactor building is whole. Tepco did not begin to remove the spent fuel from the pool, but attempted to locate the corium, this mixture of molten fuel and debris, by various means. The dose rates inside the building are such that it is impossible to work on it. In the containment, record levels were observed. Even the robots that were sent there did not resist long.
There was a core meltdown and a hydrogen explosion destroyed the reactor building. This building was covered with a new structure in 2011, which was completely dismantled in November 2016. Tepco will begin to remove the debris from the upper part of the reactor and then rebuild a new structure to empty the fuel pool.
Tepco injects 72, 108 and 72 m3 of water per day into reactors 1, 2 and 3 to cool the corium.http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu17_e/images/170217e0101.pdf.
This makes a total of 252 m3 / d. This water is strongly contaminated and infiltrates into the basements of the reactor and turbine buildings where it mixes with the ground water that floods these basements.
To reduce radioactive groundwater leakage into the sea, Tepco pump water upstream before that water is contaminated by the reactors and then rejects it directly into the ocean. It has also built a barrier along the shoreline and pumped groundwater at the foot of the reactors. Part of this water is partially decontaminated and dumped into the ocean. Another part, too contaminated, is mixed with the water pumped in the basements of the reactors to be put in tanks after treatment, waiting for a better solution.
As a result, Tepco is pumping 135 m3 of contaminated water into the basements of the reactors and turbine buildings daily, in addition to the one it injects for cooling and 62 m3 of groundwater. A total of 197 m3 is accumulated daily in tanks after treatment. It is more when it is raining, or even more during the typhoons. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170213_01-e.pdfTepco
Tepco announced that it had already processed 1,730,390 m3 of contaminated water, which generated 597 m3 of radioactive sludge. Part of this is used for cooling and the rest is stored in tanks. According to the company, the stock of treated or partially treated water amounts to 937,375 cubic meters, to which must be added the 52,200 cubic meters of water in the basements of the reactor and turbine buildings. There are nearly a thousand tanks to keep this water that occupy almost the entire plant site. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu17_e/images/170217e0101.pdf
Since March 2016, Tepco has been trying to freeze the ground around the damaged reactors to reduce infiltration and dispersal of polluted water, but this is not as effective as expected. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority, the NRA, seriously doubts the effectiveness of this technique, which it now considers as secondary. It can be seen on this graph, where the drop in the volumes of water to be stored each day is not very high. The ice does not take place, where the underground currents are strongest. Official data on freezing of the ground. About half of the workers on the site are there because of the contaminated water. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170209_02-e.pdf
At the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
From March 11, 2011, to March 31, 2016, 46,956 workers were exposed to ionizing radiation at the site of Fukushima Daiichi, including 42,244 subcontracted workers. It is the subcontracted workers who take the highest doses, with an average of between 0.51 and 0.56 mSv per month between January and February 2016. It is between 0.18 and 0.22 for employees of Tepco.
On April 1, 2016, all measures were reset. Thus, 174 workers who have exceeded the dose limit will be able to return. Since that date, up to 31 December 2016, 14,643 workers have been exposed to ionizing radiation at the site of Fukushima Daiichi, of which 13,027 are subcontracted workers (89%). Subcontracted workers take the highest doses. Among them, it is not known how many were already exposed to radiation before April 1, 2016.
• While progress has been made in working conditions on the site, with the construction of a building dedicated to reception and rest, equipped with a canteen and a mini market, there are still problems thanks to cascade subcontracting.
• 3 workers had their cancer recognized as occupational disease: two leukemias and one thyroid cancer. One filed a complaint against Tepco and Kyûshû Electric. There are 15 cancers in all of these workers, including 8 cases of leukemia.
• The latest aerial mapping of radioactive pollution around the Fukushima Daiichi plant dates from 2015 and is available online on the dedicated site: http://ramap.jmc.or.jp/map/eng/
This new map shows the areas still evacuated and an average decrease of 65% of the ambient dose rate compared to what was measured in autumn 2011. The radioactive decay is responsible for a drop of 53%. The remainder is due to the leaching of soils and, in some places, to decontamination work.
• In the evacuated areas, decontamination work is officially completed, except for so-called difficult return zones. This means that decontamination has been carried out in homes and their gardens, along roads, on agricultural land and over 20 m in the forest bordering these areas. http://josen.env.go.jp/en/pdf/progressseet_progress_on_cleanup_efforts.pdf.
• In non-evacuated areas, 104 townships were affected, but with the natural decline in radioactivity, the number became now 94. A map is given on page 14 of this document. In Fukushima, 15 out of 36 municipalities have been completed.
The other prefectures concerned are Iwaté, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saïtama and Chiba. The number of townships where work was completed is on page 15 of the same document. It should be noted that a township in Tochigi prefecture has still not established a decontamination program. http://josen.env.go.jp/en/pdf/progressseet_progress_on_cleanup_efforts.pdf
• According to official data, there are 7,467,880 bags of contaminated soil from decontamination work in evacuated areas (one bag is approximately 1 m3), and in non-evacuated areas, 5,740,858 m³ of contaminated soil spread over 146,489 sites. http://josen.env.go.jp/en/pdf/progressseet_progress_on_cleanup_efforts.pdf
• For the interim storage facility, which is expected to contain approximately 22 million cubic meters of waste over 1,600 ha or 16 km2 around the Fukushima Daiichi plant for a maximum of 30 years, the government signed a contract with only 633 landowners (26.8%), for a total area of 287 ha (or 2.87 km2), or just 17.9% of the total area. The authorities want to reuse these soils when they have fallen below the limit of 8 000 Bq / kg for cesium. http://josen.env.go.jp/en/pdf/progressseet_progress_on_cleanup_efforts.pdf
• Japan conducts a census of its population every 5 years. The last two took place in 2010, just before the disaster and in 2015. As of October 1, 2015, the population of Fukushima province decreased by 5.7% compared to 2010 (115,000 fewer people) Miyagi of 0.6% and that of Iwate of 3.8%.
The population of Kawauchi, where the evacuation order was partially lifted in 2014, the population decreased by 28.3%. In Naraha, where the evacuation order was fully lifted in September 2015, the population decreased by 87.3%.
In all of Japan, the number of inhabitants decreased by 0.7% (- 947,000) in five years and was 127.11 million by 1 October 2015. The number of inhabitants increased in Tokyo (+2, 7%), Saïtama and Aïchi prefectures. The biggest decline was in Akita prefecture (-5.8%), which was not affected by the triple disaster. Fukushima prefecture has the second biggest drop, with -5.7%.
• In Fukushima, there are still officially 84,289 displaced persons, 40,405 of them residing outside the prefecture. http://www.pref.fukushima.lg.jp/uploaded/attachment/195697.pdf
• With regard to thyroid cancers: the total is 184 potential cases of which 145 are confirmed after surgery. http://fmu-global.jp/survey/the-26th-prefectural-oversight-committee-meeting-for-fukushima-health-management-survey-2/
• The number of disaster-related deaths due to worsening living conditions (worsening of the disease, suicides …) is 2,099 at Fukushima, as of 28 November 2016. http://www.pref.fukushima.lg.jp/uploaded/attachment/195697.pdf
• Of the 54 nuclear reactors operating before the nuclear disaster, 6 were partially or completely destroyed at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. 6 others, too old, were stopped definitively. So there are only 42 nuclear reactors left in Japan.
Only 26 of them have applied for restart authorization and only 12 reactors have been granted a restart authorization. Two reactors at the Sendai power station in Kagoshima prefecture generate electricity to power the grid. A third is in operation at the Ikata power station in Ehime prefecture, both in southern Japan..
• Greenpeace : No Return to Normal
Source: L’ACROnique de Fukushima
Translated by Hervé Courtois (D’un Renard)
OKUMA, Fukushima — In an attempt to minimize the risk to humans during the search for melted nuclear fuel at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, robots have also been deployed to help out with the task.
However, the robots have also encountered some problems. For instance, a Toshiba Corp. robot that was sent in to clear away deposited material inside the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor failed to clear away much material, and within approximately two hours, its camera had broken.
According to Takahiro Kimoto of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), “The radiation inside the containment vessel was so intense that the images transmitted back from a camera attached to the robot were pitch black.” This was somewhat disappointing for the team working at the No. 2 reactor because by losing their robotic “eye” inside the containment vessel, they were unable to make the progress they were hoping for.
On Feb. 16, a “scorpion robot” was sent into the containment vessel. The intention of the mission was to locate melted nuclear fuel. However, deposited materials inside the vessel meant that the robot became stuck and was unable to move any further.
In the end, images from directly underneath the nuclear reactor were obtained not from the robot, but by “human means,” on Jan. 30. By using a pipe and a camera, the team was able to confirm the presence of holes in the platform. They also discovered brown and black deposited material, which appeared to be melted nuclear fuel. Therefore, some might say that “human methods” are more effective than robots in a mission of this nature.
According to TEPCO, “This was the first probe of its kind in the world. We were able to collect sufficient data.” However, critics would argue that six years have passed since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, and yet the exact situation regarding melted nuclear fuel at the site is still unclear.
Looking ahead, further difficulties are anticipated at both the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, where in the past, there have been hydrogen explosions. This is mainly because there are several meters of contaminated water underneath the containment vessels, and the radiation levels are stronger than at the No. 2 reactor.
There are plans to insert a robot inside the No. 1 reactor in March, but a date has not yet been set for the No. 3 reactor. Satoshi Okada of the nuclear power plant maker Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, which oversees the search at the No. 1 reactor, states, “In order to deal with the problem of melted nuclear fuel, we must first ascertain exactly how and where the melted fuel has been scattered inside the reactors.”
In summer 2017, TEPCO and the government will look into ways of withdrawing the melted nuclear fuel from the site, with the aim of commencing extraction work in 2021 — exactly 10 years after the initial disaster.
The Three Mile Island Disaster in the U.S. in 1979 will provide some kind of reference for TEPCO and the government, because in that particular case, the removal of melted nuclear fuel started 11 years after the initial accident. However, the situation at Fukushima appears to be more complicated than at Three Mile Island, because in the case of the latter accident, melted nuclear fuel was retained within pressure containers. Conversely, in the case of Fukushima, some of the material has seeped through the pressure containers.
With regard to the government and TEPCO’s decommissioning work, Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka states, “It is still early to talk in such an optimistic way. At the moment, we are still feeling around in the dark.”
Time will tell as to whether the current plan for removing melted nuclear fuel from the No. 1 power plant is a realistic possibility or just a pipe dream.
Workers bring in a new water tank, right, as a replacement for an old contaminated water tank at TEPCO’s No. 1 nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture on Feb. 24, 2017
OKUMA, Fukushima — With two weeks to go until the sixth anniversary of the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant here, the Mainichi Shimbun visited the plant on Feb. 24, obtaining a first-hand view of working conditions and the persisting problem of tainted water.
The number of areas on the plant site requiring full face masks has decreased considerably, and the overall working environment has improved greatly. However, the issue of having to replace the tanks that hold radioactively contaminated water lingers.
Dealing with contaminated water requires significant manpower. According to TEPCO, about half of the approximately 6,000 people working daily at the No. 1 nuclear power plant are involved in handling contaminated water.
There are roughly 1,000 tanks of contaminated water inside the No. 1 plant site, forming a forest of containers with nowhere else to go.
A worker makes checks with a hammer on an impermeable wall near TEPCO’s No. 4 reactor in the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture on Feb. 24, 2017
During the immediate aftermath of the nuclear disaster in 2011, a considerable number of tanks known as flanges were placed within the site. However, as concerns continue to grow about contaminated water leaking from these tanks due to dilapidation, TEPCO has taken action and is working on dismantling them.
Although covering the ground at the No. 1 plant with concrete has made it possible to work in about 90 percent of the site without a protective uniform, all those working near the old tanks must wear full face masks and Tyvek suits as the tanks once held highly contaminated water. Wearing this kind of protective clothing makes the work much harder to perform — as it can be difficult to breathe — and it is physically exhausting, even in the middle of winter.
Hiroshi Abe, 55, of Shimizu Corp. — the company overseeing the dismantling work — states, “As we work toward recovery from the disaster, we want to ensure that all workers are protected from radiation exposure and injuries.”
Presently, the level of radiation in the vicinity of the buildings housing the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 reactors is high. During the Mainichi Shimbun’s visit to the site on Feb. 24, the radiation level near the No. 3 reactor was found to be more than 300 microsieverts per hour, and near the No. 2 reactor building, it was discovered to be 137.6 microsieverts per hour.
A radiation measuring device shows a reading of 137.6 microsieverts per hour near TEPCO’s No. 2 reactor in the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture on Feb. 24, 2017.
Furthermore, an “ice wall,” which was built to restrict the flow of contaminated water underground, has not been as effective as initially expected.
A spokesman for TEPCO, Takahiro Kimoto, who accompanied the Mainichi Shimbun on this visit, said, “Nearly six years have passed since the disaster. Our decommissioning work is now about to enter the main stage of extracting melted fuel.”
However, with TEPCO and the government’s decommissioning work set to continue until around 2041-2051, there is still a long way to go until they can reach the “main stage.”
KGO Radio: Host Pat Thurston recently interviewed Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer for Fairewinds Energy Education on KGO radio to discuss the latest challenging news from Japan about the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power reactor including the high levels of radiation emanating from the reactors, all the failed robotic expeditions, where we should go from here, as well as how ongoing radioactive releases from the Fukushima Daiichi site may be impacting the west coast of the United States.
BBC Newsday: BBC Radio interviewed nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen to discuss TEPCO’s attempts to send a special robot into Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #2 in Japan to investigate the obstacles in the way of TEPCO’s progress determining the location and condition of the atomic fuel. Unfortunately even this specially designed robot failed in its attempt to clear the path for additional investigations as the nuclear radioactivity was so high, it shut down the robots before they could complete their mission.
Enviro News: The astronomical radiation readings at Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #2 of 530 Sv/hr complicate the already complex task of decommissioning the plant. These levels are so radioactive that a human would be dead within a minute of exposure and specially designed robots can only survive for about 2 hours. Fairewinds chief engineer Arnie Gundersen says that the best solution would be to entomb the reactors, similar to the sarcophagus entombing Chernobyl, for at least 100-years, otherwise the radiation level that workers would be exposed to is simply too dangerous.
Read the whole article here
Are the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi over? The answer is no. Made all the more prevalent a year out from it’s initial release by the recent robotic expeditions into Reactor #2 which gave us a clearer picture on just how deadly the radiation levels are, watch Chief Engineer and nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen inform viewers on what’s going on at the Japanese nuclear meltdown site, Fukushima Daiichi. As the Japanese government and utility owner Tokyo Electric Power Company push for the quick decommissioning and dismantling of this man-made disaster, the press and scientists need to ask, “Why is the Ukrainian government waiting at least 100 years to attempt to decommission Chernobyl, while the Japanese Government and TEPCO claim that Fukushima Daiichi will be decommissioned and dismantled during the next 30 years?”
Like so many big government + big business controversies, the answer has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics and money. To understand Fukushima Daiichi, you need to follow the money.
Our Rainbow Warriors Facebook group started in 2011 as an FB group about the Fukushima catastrophe, its old name was the “Fukushima 311 Watchdogs”. In June 2012, after an exhausting first year the Fukushima 311 Watchdogsgroup was dissolved, and one month later was reborn as the Rainbow Warriors, with a broader scope of interests, environment protection, climate change etc. https://www.facebook.com/groups/277245265712386/
However the ongoing Fukushima catastrophe still remains one of our our major concerns.
The Fukushima 311 Watchdogs has survived as a community FB page:
Fukushima 311 Watchdogs https://www.facebook.com/fukushima311watchdog/
and as a blog: Fukushima 311 Watchdogs https://dunrenard.wordpress.com/
This coming March 11th will be the 6th Anniversary of the beginning of the still ongoing nuclear catastrophe. Many people have disappeared along the way since March 2011, however among those who were with us right from the beginning, the Fukushima Watchers, the Fukushima Watchdogs, some haven’t yet forgotten and are still here with us.
3.11.2017 FUKUSHIMA SIXTH ANNIVERSARY ONGOING DISASTER.
TAKE ACTION: #FUKU+6 Anniversary is happening 3.11.17 … six years since the #Fukushima nuclear meltdown and ongoing poisoning of our oceans began … our air land food water have been contaminated. #Fukushima continues to spew radioisotopes into the Pacific Ocean threatening vital marine life, ecosystems and the food chain. Japan continues to burn radioactive debris and dump it into the Pacific spreading poison into the atmosphere. Join the FUKU+6 actions and events fb page taking place worldwide. Act in solidarity, please click on this image, download it, and make it your cover pic, and help spread the word. https://www.facebook.com/groups/3.11fukushimasixthanniversaryactions/601393323403623/?ref=notif¬if_t=like¬if_id=1487640969842420
Year over year, ever since 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown grows worse and worse, an ugly testimonial to the inherent danger of generating electricity via nuclear fission, which produces isotopes, some of the most deadly poisonous elements on the face of the planet.
Fukushima Daiichi has been, and remains, one of the world’s largest experiments; i.e., what to do when all hell breaks lose aka The China Syndrome.
Scientists still don’t have all the information they need for a cleanup that the government estimates will take four decades and cost ¥8 trillion. It is not yet known if the fuel melted into or through the containment vessel’s concrete floor, and determining the fuel’s radioactivity and location is crucial to inventing the technology to remove the melted fuel.1
As it happens, “”inventing technology” is experimental stage stuff. Still, there are several knowledgeable sources that believe the corium, or melted core, will never be recovered. Then what?
According to a recent article, “Potential Global Catastrophe of the Reactor No. 2 at Fukushima Daiichi,” February 11, 2017 by Dr. Shuzo Takemoto, professor, Department of Geophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University: The Fukushima nuclear facility is a global threat on level of a major catastrophe.
Meanwhile, the Abe administration dresses up Fukushima Prefecture for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, necessitating a big fat question: Who in their right mind would hold Olympics in the neighborhood of three out-of-control nuclear meltdowns that could get worse, worse, and still worse? After all, that’s the pattern over the past 5 years; it gets worse and worse. Dismally, nobody can possibly know how much worse by 2020. Not knowing is the main concern about holding Olympics in the backyard of a nuclear disaster zone, especially as nobody knows what’s happening. Nevertheless and resolutely, according to PM Abe and the IOC, the games go on.
Along the way, it’s taken Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) nearly six years to finally get an official reading of radiation levels of the meltdown but in only one unit. Analysis of Unit #2 shows radiation levels off-the-charts at 530 Sieverts, or enough to kill within minutes, illustrative of why it is likely impossible to decommission units 1, 2, and 3. No human can withstand that exposure and given enough time, frizzled robots are as dead as a door nail.
A short-term, whole-body dose of over 10 sieverts would cause immediate illness and subsequent death within a few weeks, according to the World Nuclear Association.1
Although Fukushima’s similar to Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in some respects, where 1,000 square miles has been permanently sealed off, Fukushima’s different, as the Abe administration is already repopulating portions of Fukushima. If they don’t repopulate, how can the Olympics be held with food served from Fukushima and including events like baseball held in Fukushima Prefecture?
Without question, an old saw – what goes around comes around – rings true when it comes to radiation, and it should admonish (but it doesn’t phase ‘em) strident nuclear proponents, claiming Fukushima is an example of how safe nuclear power is “because there are so few, if any, deaths” (not true). As Chernobyl clearly demonstrates: Over time, radiation cumulates in bodily organs. For a real life example of how radiation devastates human bodies, consider this fact: 453,391 children with bodies ravaged, none born at the time of the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, today receive special healthcare because of Chernobyl radiation-related medical problems like cancer, digestive, respiratory, musculoskeletal, eye disease, blood disease, congenital malformation, and genetic abnormalities. Their parents were children in the Chernobyl zone in 1986.2
Making matters worse yet, Fukushima Daiichi sets smack dab in the middle of earthquake country, which defines the boundaries of Japan. In that regard, according to Dr. Shuzo Takemoto, professor, Department of Geophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University:
The problem of Unit 2… If it should encounter a big earth tremor, it will be destroyed and scatter the remaining nuclear fuel and its debris, making the Tokyo metropolitan area uninhabitable. The Tokyo Olympics in 2020 will then be utterly out of the question.3
Accordingly, the greater Tokyo metropolitan area remains threatened for as long as Fukushima Daiichi is out of control, which could be for generations, not years. Not only that, Gee-Whiz, what if the big one hits during the Olympics? After all, earthquakes come unannounced. Regrettably, Japan has had 564 earthquakes the past 365 days. It’s an earthquake-ridden country. Japan sits at the boundary of 4 tectonic plates shot through with faults in zigzag patterns, very lively and of even more concern, the Nankai Trough, the candidate for the big one, sits nearly directly below Tokyo. On a geological time scale, it may be due for action anytime within the next couple of decades. Fukushima Prefecture’s not that far away.
Furthermore, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex is tenuous, at best:
All four buildings were structurally damaged by the original earthquake some five years ago and by the subsequent hydrogen explosions so should there be an earthquake greater than seven on the Richter scale, it is very possible that one or more of these structures could collapse, leading to a massive release of radiation as the building falls on the molten core beneath.4
Complicating matters further, the nuclear site is located at the base of a mountain range. Almost daily, water flows from the mountain range beneath the nuclear plant, liquefying the ground, a sure-fire setup for cascading buildings when the next big one hits. For over five years now, radioactive water flowing out of the power plant into the Pacific carries isotopes like cesium 134 and cesium 137, strontium 90, tritium, plutonium americium and up to 100 more isotopes, none of which are healthy for marine or human life, quite the opposite, in fact, as those isotopes slowly cumulate, and similar to the Daleks of Doctor Who fame (BBC science fiction series, 1963-present) “Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!”
Isotopes bio-concentrate up the food chain from algae to crustaceans to small fish to big fish to bigger humans. Resultant cancer cells incubate anytime from two years to old age, leading to death. That’s what cancer does; it kills.
Still, the fact remains nobody really knows for sure how directly Fukushima Daiichi radiation affects marine life, but how could it be anything other than bad? After all, it’s a recognized fact that radiation cumulates over time; it’s tasteless, colorless, and odorless as it cumulates in the body, whether in fish or further up the food chain in humans. It travels!
An example is Cesium 137, one of the most poisonous elements on the planet. One gram of Cesium 137 the size of a dime will poison one square mile of land for hundreds of years. That’s what’s at stake at the world’s most rickety nuclear plant, and nobody can do anything about it. In fact, nobody knows what to do. They really don’t.
When faced with the prospect of not knowing what to do, why not bring on the Olympics? That’s pretty good cover for a messy situation, making it appear to hundreds of thousands of attendees, as well as the world community “all is well.” But, is it? Honestly….
The Fukushima nuclear meltdown presents a special problem for the world community. Who knows what to believe after PM Abe lied to the IOC to get the Olympics; see the following headline from Reuters News:
“Abe’s Fukushima ‘Under Control’ Pledge to Secure Olympics Was a Lie: Former PM,” Reuters, September 7, 2016.
Abe gave the assurances about safety at the Fukushima plant in his September 2013 speech to the International Olympic Committee to allay concerns about awarding the Games to Tokyo. The comment met with considerable criticism at the time… Mr. Abe’s ‘under control remark, that was a lie,’ Koizumi (former PM) now 74 and his unruly mane of hair turned white, told a news conference where he repeated his opposition to nuclear power.
As such, a very big conundrum precedes the 2020 games: How can the world community, as well as Olympians, believe anything the Abe administration says about the safety and integrity of Fukushima?
Still, the world embraces nuclear power more so than ever before as it continues to expand and grow. Sixty reactors are currently under construction in fifteen countries. In all, 160 power reactors are in the planning stage and 300 more have been proposed. Pro-Nuke-Heads claim Fukushima proves how safe nuclear power is because there are so few, if any, deaths, as to be inconsequential. That’s a boldfaced lie.
Here’s one of several independent testimonials on deaths because of Fukushima Daiichi radiation exposure (many, many, many more testimonials are highlighted in prior articles, including USS Ronald Reagan sailors on humanitarian rescue missions at the time):
It’s a real shame that the authorities hide the truth from the whole world, from the UN. We need to admit that actually many people are dying. We are not allowed to say that, but TEPCO employees also are dying. But they keep mum about it.5
- “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Kids With Bodies Ravaged by Disaster”, USA Today, April 17, 2016).
- Shuzo Takemoto, “Potential Global Catastrophe of the Reactor No. 2 at Fukushima Daiichi”, February 11, 2017.
- Helen Caldicott: “The Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown Continues Unabated”, Independent Australia, February 13, 2017.
- Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba (Fukushima Prefecture), “Fukushima Disaster: Tokyo Hides Truth as Children Die, Become Ill from Radiation – Ex-Mayor”, RT News, April 21, 2014.
By Pierre Fetet, translation Hervé Courtois
Difficult to be innovative on the subject of Fukushima. Would we have already said everything for the last six years that the catastrophe is going on?
Well, no, with the film of Linda Bendali, “From Paris to Fukushima, the secrets of a catastrophe”, the subject of the attitude of nuclear France in March 2011 had never been approached from this angle: while Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan faced with nuclear fire became anti-nuclear, the Fillon government launched the heavy artillery to counter any vehemence of debate on this subject in France.
For the french Minister of Industry, Eric Besson, it was an just incident. Nicolas Sarkozy invited himself to Japan while he was not expected, to promote nuclear in the midst of the atomic crisis. And France pretended to help Japan by sending unusable or outdated products.
Therefore a good documentary pointing both Japanese and French dysfunctions that we can see in replay here again a few days. http://pluzz.francetv.fr/videos/cellule_de_crise_,153344813.html
And a good synthesis by Arnaud Vaulerin there. http://www.liberation.fr/planete/2017/02/12/fukushima-la-bataille-de-la-france-au-nom-de-l-atome_1547304
At the beginning of the documentary, Tepco, champion of the lie and the unspoken is expressed by the voice of his spokesman Yuichi Okamura: “We never imagined that such an accident could happen. From the statistics, we calculated that the tsunami should not exceed 5 meters. Our forecasts were exceeded. “
He is then contradicted by the film director. I very much thank Linda Bendali for insisting that the report of the parliamentary inquiry commission on Fukushima gave as first conclusion that the Fukushima disaster was of human origin. Because few people understand the sequence of events and it is too often heard that “the Fukushima disaster was caused by the tsunami”.
The IRSN is always taken as an example and looks after its image. Normal, it is the official reference body. Yet I have already taken this institute several times in flagrante delicto of lie: Assurance that the evacuees would return within three months in 2011, http://fukushima.over-blog.fr/article-le-nouveau-pellerin-est-arrive-71748502.html
Assurance that there was no discharge of strontium and plutonium into Japan, http://www.fukushima-blog.com/2016/05/pourquoi-l-irsn-ment.html
Assurance that a nuclear power plant cannot explode in France … http://www.fukushima-blog.com/2016/05/pourquoi-l-irsn-ment.html
Thierry Charles even recently claimed to know where the corium is, even though Tepco itself does not know … http://www.lefigaro.fr/sciences/2017/02/10/01008-20170210ARTFIG00213–fukushima-tepco-evalue-peu-a-peu-l-ampleur-des-degats.php
In the documentary, the narrator assures that “IRSN is the first organization in the world to announce that the molten core has escaped from its confinement”. Indeed, listening to Jacques Repussard we get the impression that his institute communicated on this subject in March 2011.
However, six months after the catastrophe began, the IRSN still was writing: “It remains unclear whether molten fuel could be relocated to the bottom of the enclosure and in what quantity. “ (Communiqué of 25 August 2011) http://www.irsn.fr/FR/connaissances/Installations_nucleaires/Les-accidents-nucleaires/accident-fukushima-2011/crise-2011/impact-japon/Documents/IRSN_Seisme-Japon_25082011.pdf
No seriously. The first organization that announced the me of the three cores is Tepco, on 24 May 2011. And the IRSN announced it the next day. Previously, IRSN never wrote anything else, for reactors 1, 2 and 3, that “The injection of fresh water continues. The flow rate of the water injection is adjusted in order to ensure the cooling of the core, which remains partially depleted. “
In 2011, the first person who dared to break the omerta of the nuclear lobby is Mishio Ishikawa, founder of Japan Nuclear Technology Institute (JANTI): During a Japanese TV show on April 29, 2011, he stated that the hearts of Fukushima Daiichi reactors 1, 2 and 3 were 100% melted. http://www.fukushima-blog.com/article-les-coeurs-des-reacteurs-1-2-et-3-de-fukushima-dai-ichi-auraient-fondu-a-100-73003947.html
That’s the story, that’s how it happened. IRSN never said that before anyone. The IRSN respected the omerta on the total meltdown of the three hearts like all the actors of the nuclear world and obediently waited for Tepco to announce the reality to acquiesce, no matter what Jacques Repussard is saying now six years later.
– Naoto Kan went to the Fukushima Daiichi plant in full crisis and greatly disturbed the ongoing management of the ongoing crisis. Director Masao Yoshida was asked to explain and explain what he was doing, wasting precious time on those who tried to solve problems one by one (It was just before the explosions of No. 2 and No. 4!). The documentary suggests that Masao Yoshida was going to leave the nuclear plant with all the workers, and that through Kan’s intervention they were forced to stay. It’s not true. Tepco may have intended to leave the ship, but the plant’s director denied any plan to abandon the site.
– The documentary shows Naoto Kan kneeling before Nicolas Sarkozy. Politeness or industrial pressures? It is not known why he did not dare to counter the French nuclear VRP.
– Naoto Kan will remain for all inhabitants of evacuated areas the one who decided to raise the standard from 1 to 20 mSv / year. On the one hand, he was ready to evacuate Tokyo, but on the other he made a whole region irradiated with a very high radiation rate. Something is bizarre in these contradictory attitudes.
Pierre Pellerin, even disappeared, is still doing damages … Between the two parts of the documentary, Frédéric Boisset, editor-in-chief of Brainworks Press, presents the story of Chernobyl in this way: “In 1986, the radioactive cloud spread throughout Europe. The authorities do not have the technical means to measure the fallout, to give instructions to the French. Can we eat fruit and vegetables? Should we caulk indoors? It was to avoid this type of failure that this institute was created [the IRSN]. “
But this is not an interview taken on the spot, it is a carefully prepared text before the recording. Frédéric Boisset therefore pretends without blushing that the SCPRI of 1986, the ancestor of the IRSN, did not have the means to alert the French of the dangers of radioactivity! What an enormity! In Germany, they had the means to prohibit the sale of spinach and salads, to confine the students inside but not in France. Frédéric Boisset refeeds us the story of the Chernobyl radioactive plume that stops at the border? It is unbelievable that still in 2017 a journalist perpetuates the disinformation lie that began in 1986.
However, the IRSN, worthy successor of SCPRI, made this statement on March 15, 2011, the day when the radioactive cloud of Fukushima arrived in Tokyo: “A slight increase in ambient radioactivity in Tokyo is noted by a few measures. This elevation is not significant in terms of radiological impact. “ Pierre Pellerin would not have said better! At the same time, Olivier Isnard, an IRSN expert sent to Tokyo, advocated caulking the premises of the French embassy. Fortunately, Philippe Faure, the French ambassador to Japan, communicated to his expatriates at 10 am: “Stay in your houses, making sure to caulk them to the maximum, this effectively protects against the low-intensity radioactive elements that could pass through Tokyo. ” But at 8 pm, he changed his tone and resumed the official speech dictated by the IRSN: “The situation remains at this time quite safe in Tokyo. A very slight increase in radioactivity was recorded. It represents no danger for human health. “ 100 Bq / m3 would pose no health hazard for a radioactive cloud coming directly from a nuclear reactor? I am feeling not any more safe than in 1986 unfortunately.
One last deception. The IRSN has purposedly mistranslated the words of Masao Yoshida, director of the Fukushima Daiichi power station. Immediately after the explosion of Unit 3, the latter, distraught, called the headquarters to inform them of the situation. Tepco released this recording and the IRSN broadcasted it in a video in 2013. I do not know Japanese but I have Japanese friends who have assured me of the translation of his words. I give you both versions, that of my friends and that of the IRSN. The people knowing japanese will be able to check for themselves.
The Japanese TV version : https://youtu.be/OWCLXjEdwJM
The IRNS version : https://youtu.be/tjEHCGUx9JQ
The documentary gives another version: “HQ, HQ, it’s terrible! This is very serious ! “Yes, here HQ.” “It seems there was an explosion on reactor 3, which looks like a hydrogen explosion.” Who recommended this text to journalists? Even though Yoshida himself said “suijôki” (steam) and not “suiso” (hydrogen). The IRSN’s translation therefore censures the hypothesis put forward by the director of the nuclear plant: the steam explosion. This is normal, it is the official version of the Japanese government and the IRSN can not go against it.
The steam explosion is a taboo issue among nuclear communicators. Experts talk about it to each other, carry out studies about it, write theses about it, but never talk about it to the public because the subject of a nuclear power plant explosion is too anxiogenic. If we ever learned that a steam explosion had arrived in Fukushima, it would undermine the image of nuclear power worldwide.
In France, the political-industrial lobby has axed its communication on the control of hydrogen: All French power plants have hydrogen recombiners to avoid hydrogen explosions. But against an steam explosion, nothing can be done. When the containment vessel is full of water and the corium at 3000 ° C falls in it, it’s boom, whether in Japan or in France, whether it be a boiling water reactor or a pressurized water reactor.
In the space-time of environmental devastation announced by the Anthropocene, nuclear catastrophe is a type of “fuzzy boundaries trouble” that challenges our capacity for understanding. We know from Günther Anders that it operates in the supraliminary sphere, so large that it cannot be seen or imagined, which causes cognitive paralysis. By Ulrich Beck that produces an anthropological shock, the transformation of the consciousness of the subjects in relation to the experience of insecurity and uncertainty in the face of an invisible threat. By Svetlana Alexeivich that is characterized by vagueness and indefinition, which produces a war without enemies. And by Olga Kuchinskaya that generates a politics of invisibility regarding public knowledge of its consequences for life.
As Chernobyl before, the Fukushima disaster has reached the maximum level in the scale of accidents, when several nuclear reactors melted down 200 kilometers from the most populous metropolitan area of the planet. The dangerous radionuclides, once enclosed between concrete and steel walls, began to blend intimately with the biosphere. Before this mutant ecology, the artists have responded from the first moments. Through photography, guerrilla art, dance, video art or fiction narrative, this artistic response to the nuclear crisis has faced a double invisibility: the one of ionizing radiation and the institutional invisibility – the affirmation of the authorities that the problem “is under control”.
Taking as a theoretical framework the interdisciplinary discussion of the Anthropocene and its critical epistemologies, such Jason Moore’s Capitalocene and Donna Haraway’s Chthulucene, we investigate how artists are staying with the trouble in Fukushima. Recalibrating our sensory systems to adjust them to the contradiction and volatility of industrial advances, we explore the ability of art to construct an ontology complementary to hegemonic technoscience, one that allows us a more in-depth understanding of what nature and we humans has become in the Anthropocene.
Anti-nuclear village voice: Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi attends a press conference in Carlsbad, California, in May with former U.S. soldiers who have sued Tokyo Electric Power Co. for damage to their health they believe was caused by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The author of this column, Brian Victoria, who acted as translator for Koizumi during the trip, is seated on the left.
Dear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,
Let me first acknowledge that after four long years of silence, the Japanese government has finally taken a position regarding the lawsuit filed against Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the U.S. by more than 450 American sailors, marines and civilians who were on board the USS Reagan and accompanying military ships off the coast of Tohoku after 3/11.
These young people experienced serious health problems resulting from, they allege, radiation exposure while participating in Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. military’s humanitarian rescue mission launched in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and subsequent multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
While the Japanese government’s acknowledgement of the suit is welcome, the unconditional support it has given to Tepco is a matter of deep concern. Even now, U.S. service personnel find themselves prevented from seeking justice because Tepco, with the support of the Japanese government, is doing its utmost to ensure the case will never be heard in an American court.
The Japanese government submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 3. An amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief is one presented by a party not directly involved in the suit in the hope of influencing the outcome. The brief contains two points:
1. “The Government of Japan has developed a comprehensive system to ensure compensation for victims of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident.”
2. “Damage claims brought in tribunals outside of Japan threaten the continuing viability of the compensation system established by the Government of Japan.”
Examining the first point, if the Japanese government truly had “a comprehensive system to ensure compensation for victims,” there would be no need for the U.S. service members’ lawsuit. Yet, as you know, the Japanese government and its subsidiaries have, to date, not paid a single yen to any non-Tepco-related victim of radiation exposure from Fukushima No. 1. This includes, as of March this year, a total of 173 children from the prefecture who underwent surgery after being diagnosed with suspected thyroid cancer, 131 of whom were confirmed to have had cancer.
If the Japanese government will not admit that the suffering of its own children was caused by radiation exposure, how confident can young Americans be that the apparently radiation-induced injuries they experienced will be recognized as such, let alone compensated for, in Japan?
Further, at least seven of these previously healthy young Americans have already died and many others are too ill to travel to Japan even if they could afford to, let alone reside in this country during lengthy legal procedures, which typically take years to resolve. This is not to mention the prospect of expensive legal costs, including for court fees, hiring Japanese lawyers, translation of relevant documents, etc. And let us never forget, Prime Minister, it was the Japanese government that requested the assistance of these American military personnel.
As for the second point above, I agree the U.S. military personnel’s lawsuit threatens “the continuing viability of the compensation system established by the Government of Japan.” For example, if a U.S. court were to ascribe the plaintiffs’ illnesses to radiation exposure, how could the Japanese government continue to claim that none of the many illnesses the children and adults of Fukushima presently experience are radiation-related? The American service personnel truly serve as “the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to demonstrating the damaging effects of radiation exposure. Moreover, this canary is out of the Japanese government’s ability to control.
Let us further suppose that an American court were to award $3 million per person as compensation for the deaths, currently standing at seven, of the military personnel who were irradiated. By contrast, the Japanese government continues to deny compensation, for radiation-induced illnesses let alone deaths, to its own citizens. This would surely impact the “viability” (not to mention reputation) of the Japanese government in its ongoing denial of radiation-related injuries to non-Tepco employees.
Let me close by noting that there is one Japanese political leader who has accepted personal responsibility for the injuries inflicted on American service personnel. I refer to former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who, after meeting with injured servicemen and women in San Diego in May, initiated a fund to meet as many of the medical needs of these sailors and marines as possible.
Fortunately, thanks to the support of thousands of ordinary Japanese, he has already raised $700,000 toward his $1 million goal. With tears in his eyes, Koizumi explained that he could not ignore the suffering of hundreds of formerly healthy young Americans who willingly put themselves at risk in order to render aid to the Japanese people.
Prime Minister Abe, I call on you to end the Japanese government’s unconditional legal support of Tepco. Further, if the Japanese government has a conscience, please immediately provide medical aid and compensation to the hundreds of American victims of Operation Tomodachi.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is considering making customers of new, smaller power companies who previously used nuclear energy from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and other utilities shoulder part of the surging compensation costs for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Under the Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage, nuclear power operators must each provide 120 billion yen to be used together with money paid by TEPCO and other major utilities to the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation to provide compensation. However, the compensation bill for the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster continues to grow, and the compensation fund is expected to be left trillions of yen short.
The ministry takes the view that major utilities should have gathered more compensation funds from their customers, and it therefore plans to seek compensation funds from those who were previously in contracts with major power companies, using their nuclear energy.
A plan has surfaced to charge small-scale power companies more to deliver electricity through the power grids of major utilities, with the extra costs to be used for compensation. This and other plans will be debated on Nov. 2 at a working group of a ministry committee on energy reform. However, as some customers could face higher bills as a result, the move could trigger a public backlash.
TEPCO employee says he has depression due to overwork, seeks compensation
A 35-year-old employee handling compensation claims relating to the Fukushima nuclear disaster for Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has filed an application with the Tokyo Central Labor Standards Inspection Office seeking workers’ compensation for depression.
Tadafumi Ichii filed the application on Oct. 31, arguing that he started suffering from depression as a result of being forced to work long hours illegally. According to his application and other information, in September 2011 — six months after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis — Ichii transferred to a division tasked with handling complaints from businesses that were not satisfied with the amounts of compensation they were offered for declining sales. In February 2013, he took over the role of giving advice to about 450 TEPCO employees on whether or not to pay damages.
The man clocked 89 hours overtime in March 2013, but he stated, “My overtime working hours, if combined with unpaid overtime and take-home work, stood at 169 hours (in March).” On the morning of June 20, 2013, he could not get out of bed, and failed to show up for work that day. He then transferred to TEPCO’s branch office in Tachikawa, western Tokyo, on July 1, 2013. He frequently started being absent from the office or leaving early, suffering symptoms such as vomiting in the office’s toilet. He was diagnosed on Sept. 3, 2013, as having tendency toward depression and he took a leave of absence from the following day. He was officially diagnosed with depression in April 2014.
The man received a notice from TEPCO in October this year stating that he would be dismissed on Nov. 5 when his recuperation period was due to expire. TEPCO demanded that Ichii submit documents including a doctor’s medical certificate, if he intended to return to work. Ichii says he still suffers symptoms such as insomnia. His doctor, therefore, has judged that he requires further medical treatment, he says.
“I worked hard until I was worn out,” Ichii said at a news conference.
An official with the public relations department at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. commented, “We understand that the labor standards inspection office concerned decides on individual claims for workers’ compensation. We decline to answer questions regarding individual cases.”
According to TEPCO, work to pay compensation to local residents whose livelihoods were lost and companies whose sales dropped due to the nuclear accident started in April 2011 and is ongoing.
As of Oct. 28, there were about 2,691,000 applications and about 6.479 trillion yen had been paid for a total of about 2,515,000 applications that TEPCO had finished screening.
TEPCO worker seeks compensation over Fukushima job
A 35-year-old employee of Tokyo Electric Power Company is seeking insurance benefits, arguing that he developed depression due his work dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident.
Tadafumi Ichii spoke to reporters on Monday after filing the request for workers’ accident compensation with labor authorities.
Ichii said that, in September of 2011, he was tasked with paying redress to businesses affected by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant six months earlier.
He said he was in charge of up to 180 companies and put in nearly 170 hours of overtime a month. He added that he was caught between his bosses and his clients, and mentally driven to the edge.
The utility reportedly plans to dismiss him when his sick leave ends in early November.
Ichii said he sacrificed his health to do the job and that he cannot accept the way his employers are treating him.
Tokyo Electric Power Company said in a statement that the utility will deal with the matter sincerely when it is contacted by labor authorities.
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