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Despite Fukushima acquittals, TEPCO must do more to regain public trust

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September 20, 2019
The Tokyo District Court has acquitted three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Holdings Inc. of professional negligence causing death or injury over the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns at the utility’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
At issue was whether the three officials could have foreseen the nuclear disaster triggered by tsunamis that hit Fukushima Prefecture in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 and averted the damage. In its verdict, the court ruled out the predictability on the part of the former senior executives, who were forcibly indicted over the disaster, highlighting the huge hurdles in holding the defendants liable for the catastrophe in a criminal court.
While the ruling acknowledged that the three men were aware that massive tsunamis could strike the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant based on a report from their subordinates and through meetings, the court pointed out that the report and other information lacked sufficient grounds and were not enough to mandate them to suspend the operation of the nuclear plant to avoid an accident.
In criminal trials, defendants may be detained if found guilty, and therefore stricter fact-finding is called for than in civil trials. The reasoning that the defendants cannot be found guilty of negligence unless they could predict damage with a sense of urgency was behind the latest ruling in favor of TEPCO bosses.
The report in question pertained to the long-term evaluation of earthquake risks that the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion released in 2002. While the evaluation stated that massive tsunamis could arise off Fukushima Prefecture, the court decision ruled out the credibility of the evaluation itself.
However, the ruling does not exonerate TEPCO from its responsibility for the nuclear crisis once and for all.
The government’s fact-finding committee set up to investigate the Fukushima disaster recognized that there were composite problems on the part of the government and TEPCO. In addition, the Diet’s independent investigation commission even concluded that the nuclear disaster was a “man-made calamity.” These findings will not be overturned by the latest court decision.
In the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the then Soviet Union in 1986, the Japanese government and the country’s electric industry including TEPCO repeatedly insisted that there would be no nuclear accident in Japan. Yet decades later, the Fukushima Daiichi disaster did happen.
As a matter of course, power companies must pursue the safety of their nuclear complexes to the maximum extent in anticipation of all possible scenarios, including natural disasters. Once a nuclear accident occurs, people are driven out of their hometowns and deprived of them. More than eight years after the onset of the Fukushima crisis, over 40,000 Fukushima residents are still living as evacuees within and outside the prefecture. The price that people have to pay for nuclear disasters is way too high.
Even though the three former executives were declared innocent, TEPCO needs to continue organizational efforts to recover public trust.
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September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO acquittals spark ire: ‘People who died cannot rest in peace’

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Members of a support group for a criminal complaint over the Fukushima nuclear accident show papers on Sept. 19 in front of the Tokyo District Court that read: “All are innocent. It is an unjustified ruling.”
September 20, 2019
Bewilderment quickly turned into outrage after the Tokyo District Court absolved three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. of criminal responsibility for the 2011 nuclear accident that forced thousands of residents to flee.
Some of those affected by the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami say that their loved ones who died after evacuation orders were issued will receive no justice.
Soon after 1:15 p.m. on Sept. 19, members of a group that supports the criminal complaint against the former executives appeared in front of the district court and held up papers that read: “All are innocent. It is an unjustified ruling.”
People waiting there for the ruling roared in anger, with some muttering, “This must be a joke.”
Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, a former TEPCO chairman, Ichiro Takekuro, 73, a former vice president, and Sakae Muto, 69, also a former vice president, had received mandatory indictments on charges of professional negligence resulting in the deaths of 44 people who were forced to evacuate and the injuries of others at the start of the nuclear disaster.
They were cleared of the charges after the court ruled that they could not have realistically foreseen a disaster of such magnitude.
“As I have thought, there is a gap in common sense (between the court) and the general public,” Masakatsu Kanno, 75, said after hearing the ruling in the public gallery in the court.
Kanno was relocated from Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, a host town of the crippled nuclear plant, to Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, after the accident.
When the tsunami slammed into the nuclear plant on March 11, 2011, his father, Kenzo, was an inpatient at Futaba Hospital in Okuma. Kenzo was forced to stay in the hospital for several days.
He was later transferred to evacuation centers and hospitals, covering a total distance of 250 kilometers. In June that year, he died at the age of 99.
“Many people were forced to evacuate and are still placed in a situation in which they have no prospects of returning (to their hometowns),” Kanno said. “Don’t the top executives of TEPCO have to take responsibility?”
Mieko Okubo, 66, an evacuee who returned to her hometown of Iitate, about 40 km from the nuclear plant, in spring this year, listened to the ruling on her television.
A month after the nuclear accident unfolded, residents in Iitate were told that they will be ordered to evacuate.
Okubo at the time was living with her father-in-law, Fumio, then 102. He told her: “I don’t want to evacuate. I have lived too long.”
He later hanged himself in the home.
Okubo sued TEPCO, and a court recognized a cause-and-effect relation between the nuclear accident and Fumio’s suicide.
But in the criminal trial of the former executives, the only people indicted over the nuclear disaster, the district court acquitted them all.
“People who died cannot rest in peace. Empty feelings will remain in the hearts of the bereaved family members,” Okubo said.
Prosecutors had twice dropped the case against the three former TEPCO executives, citing a lack of evidence.
But the case went to independent judicial panels of citizens, who recommended mandatory indictments against the three. They were indicted in February 2016.
The prosecution side, citing the central government’s long-term earthquake forecast, argued that the three defendants knew that a towering tsunami could hit the plant but failed to take appropriate countermeasures.
The court questioned the credibility of the forecast.
It also said that it would have been impossible for the three defendants to take measures against all natural phenomena, including tsunami.
Lawyer Shozaburo Ishida, who played the role of a prosecutor in the trial, criticized the ruling at a news conference.
“The court said that nuclear power plants are not required to have absolute safety,” he said. “This is a ruling that took the government’s nuclear power policy into consideration.”
Ishida also took issue with the court’s reasoning.
“If an accident occurs, it is impossible to recover the original state. Is it tolerable for top executives who manage a nuclear power plant to have such a (low) level of thinking?” he said.
Ishida declined to say if he would appeal the ruling to a higher court.
“I want to think about it by examining the ruling in detail and hearing the opinions of people affected (by the nuclear accident),” he said.
Lawyer Yuichi Kaido said some good did come from the trial.
“If the trial was not held, many important pieces of evidence, such as records of meetings of TEPCO and e-mails written by its executives, would not have come to light.”
The court heard, for example, that former Chairman Katsumata had “no interest” in setting up additional safety measures at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Ruiko Muto, head of the group that filed the criminal complaint against the former TEPCO executives, expressed resentment over the ruling.
“Despite the many evidence and testimonies, why weren’t (they) found guilty? I think this ruling is wrong,” she said.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

From March 29, 2011: Special Report: Japan engineers knew tsunami could overrun plant

TEPCO’s negligence and responsibility!

Japanese engineers knew a huge tsunami could happen in 2007, but TEPCO management ignored them! Now, no legal punishment for the managers who ignored the scientific facts! Note: this article is from 2011 yet it remains relevant in light of recent events.

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Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc. (TEPCO) Vice President Sakae Muto (C) bows at a news conference at the company head office in Tokyo March 28, 2011.

 

Special Report: Japan engineers knew tsunami could overrun plant

TOKYO (Reuters) – Over the past two weeks, Japanese government officials and Tokyo Electric Power executives have repeatedly described the deadly combination of the most powerful quake in Japan’s history and the massive tsunami that followed as “soteigai,” or beyond expectations.

When Tokyo Electric President Masataka Shimizu apologized to the people of Japan for the continuing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant he called the double disaster “marvels of nature that we have never experienced before”.

But a review of company and regulatory records shows that Japan and its largest utility repeatedly downplayed dangers and ignored warnings — including a 2007 tsunami study from Tokyo Electric Power Co’s senior safety engineer.

We still have the possibilities that the tsunami height exceeds the determined design height due to the uncertainties regarding the tsunami phenomenon,” Tokyo Electric researchers said in a report reviewed by Reuters.

The research paper concluded that there was a roughly 10 percent chance that a tsunami could test or overrun the defenses of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant within a 50-year span based on the most conservative assumptions.

But Tokyo Electric did nothing to change its safety planning based on that study, which was presented at a nuclear engineering conference in Miami in July 2007.

Meanwhile, Japanese nuclear regulators clung to a model that left crucial safety decisions in the hands of the utility that ran the plant, according to regulatory records, officials and outside experts.

Among examples of the failed opportunities to prepare for disaster, Japanese nuclear regulators never demanded that Tokyo Electric reassess its fundamental assumptions about earthquake and tsunami risk for a nuclear plant built more than four decades ago. In the 1990s, officials urged but did not require that Tokyo Electric and other utilities shore up their system of plant monitoring in the event of a crisis, the record shows.

Even though Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, (NISA) one of the three government bodies charged with nuclear safety, cataloged the damage to nuclear plant vent systems from an earlier earthquake, it did not require those to be protected against future disasters or hardened against explosions.

That marked a sharp break with safety practices put in place in the United States in the 1980s after Three Mile Island, even though Japan modeled its regulation on U.S. precedents and even allowed utilities to use American disaster manuals in some cases.

Ultimately, when the wave was crashing in, everything came down to the ability of Tokyo Electric’s front-line workers to carry out disaster plans under intense pressure.

But even in normal operations, the regulatory record shows Tokyo Electric had been cited for more dangerous operator errors over the past five years than any other utility. In a separate 2008 case, it admitted that a 17-year-old worker had been hired illegally as part of a safety inspection at Fukushima Daiichi.

It’s a bit strange for me that we have officials saying this was outside expectations,” said Hideaki Shiroyama, a professor at the University of Tokyo who has studied nuclear safety policy. “Unexpected things can happen. That’s the world we live in.”

He added: “Both the regulators and TEPCO are trying to avoid responsibility.”

Najmedin Meshkati, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California, said the government’s approach of relying heavily on Tokyo Electric to do the right thing largely on its own had clearly failed.

The Japanese government is receiving some advice, but they are relying on the already badly stretched resources of TEPCO to handle this,” said Meshkati, a researcher of the Chernobyl disaster who has been critical of the company’s safety record before. “Time is not on our side.”

The revelation that Tokyo Electric had put a number to the possibility of a tsunami beyond the designed strength of its Fukushima nuclear plant comes at a time when investor confidence in the utility is in fast retreat.

Shares in the world’s largest private utility have lost almost three-fourth of their value — $30 billion — since the March 11 earthquake pushed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into crisis. Analysts see a chance the utility will be nationalized by the Japanese government in the face of mounting liability claims and growing public frustration.

AN ‘EXTREMELY LOW’ RISK

The tsunami research presented by a Tokyo Electric team led by Toshiaki Sakai came on the first day of a three-day conference in July 2007 organized by the International Conference on Nuclear Engineering.

It represented the product of several years of work at Japan’s top utility, prompted by the 2004 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra that had shaken the industry’s accepted wisdom. In that disaster, the tsunami that hit Indonesia and a dozen other countries around the Indian Ocean also flooded a nuclear power plant in southern India. That raised concerns in Tokyo about the risk to Japan’s 55 nuclear plants, many exposed to the dangerous coast in order to have quick access to water for cooling.

Tokyo Electric’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, some 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was a particular concern.

The 40-year-old nuclear complex was built near a quake zone in the Pacific that had produced earthquakes of magnitude 8 or higher four times in the past 400 years — in 1896, 1793, 1677 and then in 1611, Tokyo Electric researchers had come to understand.

Based on that history, Sakai, a senior safety manager at Tokyo Electric, and his research team applied new science to a simple question: What was the chance that an earthquake-generated wave would hit Fukushima? More pressing, what were the odds that it would be larger than the roughly 6-meter (20 feet) wall of water the plant had been designed to handle?

The tsunami that crashed through the Fukushima plant on March 11 was 14 meters high.

Sakai’s team determined the Fukushima plant was dead certain to be hit by a tsunami of one or two meters in a 50-year period. They put the risk of a wave of 6 meters or more at around 10 percent over the same time span.

In other words, Tokyo Electric scientists realized as early as 2007 that it was quite possible a giant wave would overwhelm the sea walls and other defenses at Fukushima by surpassing engineering assumptions behind the plant’s design that date back to the 1960s.

Company Vice President Sakae Muto said the utility had built its Fukushima nuclear power plant “with a margin for error” based on its assessment of the largest waves to hit the site in the past.

That would have included the magnitude 9.5 Chile earthquake in 1960 that killed 140 in Japan and generated a wave estimated at near 6 meters, roughly in line with the plans for Fukushima Daiichi a decade later.

It’s been pointed out by some that there could be a bigger tsunami than we had planned for, but my understanding of the situation is that there was no consensus among the experts,” Muto said in response to a question from Reuters.

Despite the projection by its own safety engineers that the older assumptions might be mistaken, Tokyo Electric was not breaking any Japanese nuclear safety regulation by its failure to use its new research to fortify Fukushima Daiichi, which was built on the rural Pacific coast to give it quick access to sea water and keep it away from population centers.

There are no legal requirements to re-evaluate site related (safety) features periodically,” the Japanese government said in a response to questions from the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, in 2008.

In fact, in safety guidelines issued over the past 20 years, Japanese nuclear safety regulators had all but written off the risk of a severe accident that would test the vaunted safety standards of one of their 55 nuclear reactors, a key pillar of the nation’s energy and export policies.

That has left planning for a strategy to head off runaway meltdown in the worst case scenarios to Tokyo Electric in the belief that the utility was best placed to handle any such crisis, according to published regulations.

In December 2010, for example, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission said the risk for a severe accident was “extremely low” at reactors like those in operation at Fukushima. The question of how to prepare for those scenarios would be left to utilities, the commission said.

A 1992 policy guideline by the NSC also concluded core damage at one of Japan’s reactors severe enough to release radiation would be an event with a probability of once in 185 years. So with such a limited risk of happening, the best policy, the guidelines say, is to leave emergency response planning to Tokyo electric and other plant operators.

PREVENTION NOT CURE

Over the past 20 years, nuclear operators and regulators in Europe and the United States have taken a new approach to managing risk. Rather than simple defenses against failures, researchers have examined worst-case outcomes to test their assumptions, and then required plants to make changes.

They have looked especially at the chance that a single calamity could wipe out an operator’s main defense and its backup, just as the earthquake and tsunami did when the double disaster took out the main power and backup electricity to Fukushima Daiichi.

Japanese nuclear safety regulators have been slow to embrace those changes.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), one of three government bodies with responsibility for safety policy and inspections, had published guidelines in 2005 and 2006 based on the advances in regulation elsewhere but did not insist on their application.

Since, in Japanese safety regulation, the application of risk information is scarce in experience � (the) guidelines are in trial use,” the NISA said.

Japanese regulators and Tokyo Electric instead put more emphasis on regular maintenance and programs designed to catch flaws in the components of their aging plants.

That was the thinking behind extending the life of the No. 1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi, which had been scheduled to go out of commission in February after a 40-year run.

But shutting down the reactor would have made it much more difficult for Japan to reach its target of deriving half of its total generation of electricity from nuclear power by June 2010 — or almost double its share in 2007.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) figured it could reach the target by building at least 14 new nuclear plants, and running existing plants harder and longer. Fukushima’s No. 1 reactor was given a 10-year extension after Tokyo Electric submitted a maintenance plan.

Safety regulators, who also belong to METI, did not require Tokyo Electric to rethink the fundamental safety assumptions behind the plant. The utility only had to insure the reactor’s component parts were not being worn down dangerously, according to a 2009 presentation by the utility’s senior maintenance engineer.

That kind of thinking — looking at potential problems with components without seeing the risk to the overall plant — was evident in the way that Japanese officials responded to trouble with backup generators at a nuclear reactor even before the tsunami.

On four occasions over the past four years, safety inspectors from Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were called in to review failures with backup diesel generators at nuclear plants.

In June 2007, an inspector was dispatched to Fukushima’s No. 4 reactor, where the backup generator had caught fire after a circuit breaker was installed improperly, according to the inspector’s report.

There is no need of providing feedback to other plants for the reason that no similar event could occur,” the June 2007 inspection concluded.

The installation had met its safety target. Nothing in that report or any other shows safety inspectors questioned the placement of the generators on low ground near the shore where they proved to be at highest risk for tsunami damage at Fukushima Daiichi.

GET OUT, GET OUT”

Japanese nuclear regulators have handed primary responsibility for dealing with nuclear plant emergencies to the utilities themselves. But that hinges on their ability to carry them out in an actual crisis, and the record shows that working in a nuclear reactor has been a dangerous and stressful job in Japan even under routine conditions.

Inspectors with Japan’s Nuclear Energy Safety Organization have recorded 18 safety lapses at Tokyo Electric’s 17 nuclear plants since 2005. Ten of them were attributed to mistakes by staff and repairmen.

They included failures to follow established maintenance procedures and failures to perform prescribed safety checks. Even so, Tokyo Electric was left on its own to set standards for nuclear plant staff certification, a position some IAEA officials had questioned in 2008.

In March 2004, two workers in Tokyo Electric’s Fukushima Daini plant passed out when the oxygen masks they were using – originally designed for use on an airplane – began leaking and allowed nitrogen to seep into their air supply.

The risks also appear to have made it hard to hire for key positions. In 2008, Toshiba admitted it had illegally used six employees under the age of 18 as part of a series of inspections of nuclear power plants at Tokyo Electric and Tohoku Electric. One of those minors, then aged 17, had participated in an inspection of the Fukushima Daiichi No. 5 reactor, Tokyo Electric said then.

The magnitude 9.0 quake struck on Friday afternoon of March 11 — the most powerful in Japan’s long history of them — pushed workers at the Fukushima plant to the breaking point as injuries mounted and panic took hold.

Hiroyuki Nishi, a subcontractor who had been moving scaffolding inside Reactor No. 3 when the quake hit, described a scene of chaos as a massive hook came crashing down next to him. “People were shouting ‘Get out, get out!’” Nishi said. “Everyone was screaming.”

In the pandemonium, workers pleaded to be let out, knowing a tsunami was soon to come. But Tokyo Electric supervisors appealed for calm, saying each worker had to be tested first for radiation exposure. Eventually, the supervisors relented, threw open the doors to the plant and the contractors scrambled for high ground just ahead of the tsunami.

After the wave receded, two employee were missing, apparently washed away while working on unit No. 4. Two contractors were treated for leg fractures and two others were treated for slight injuries. A ninth worker was being treated for a stroke.

In the chaos of the early response, workers did not notice when the diesel pumps at No. 2 ran out of fuel, allowing water levels to fall and fuel to become exposed and overheat. When the Fukushima plant suffered its second hydrogen blast in three days the following Monday, Tokyo electric executives only notified the prime minister’s office an hour later. Seven workers had been injured in the explosion along with four soldiers.

An enraged Prime Minister Naoto Kan pulled up to Tokyo Electric’s headquarters the next morning before dawn. “What the hell is going on?” reporters outside the closed-door discussion reported hearing Kan demand angrily of senior executives.

Errors of judgment by workers in the hot zone and errors of calculation by plant managers hampered the emergency response a full week later as some 600 soldiers and workers struggled to contain the spread of radiation.

On Thursday, two workers at Fukushima were shuttled to the hospital to be treated for potential radiation burns after wading in water in the turbine building of reactor No. 3. The workers had ignored their radiation alarms thinking they were broken.

Then Tokyo electric officials pulled workers back from an effort to pump water out of the No. 2 reactor and reported that radiation readings were 10 million times normal. They later apologized, saying that reading was wrong. The actual reading was still 100,000 times normal, Tokyo Electric said.

The government’s chief spokesman was withering in his assessment. “The radiation readings are an important part of a number of important steps we’re taking to protect safety,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters. “There is no excuse for getting them wrong.”

VENTS AND GAUGES

Although U.S. nuclear plant operators were required to install “hardened” vent systems in the 1980s after the Three Mile Island incident, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission rejected the need to require such systems in 1992, saying that should be left to the plant operators to decide.

A nuclear power plant’s vent represents one of the last resorts for operators struggling to keep a reactor from pressure that could to blow the building that houses it apart and spread radiation, which is what happened at Chernobyl 25 years ago. A hardened vent in a U.S. plant is designed to behave like the barrel on a rifle, strong enough to withstand an explosive force from within.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded in the late 1980s that the General Electric designed Mark I reactors, like those used at Fukushima, required safety modifications.

The risks they flagged, and that Tokyo did not heed, would come back to haunt Japan in the Fukushima crisis.

First, U.S. researchers concluded that a loss of power at one of the nuclear plants would be one of the “dominant contributors” to the most severe accidents. Flooding of the reactor building would worsen the risks. The NRC also required U.S. plants to install “hard pipe” after concluding the sheet-metal ducts used in Japan could make things much worse.

Venting via a sheet metal duct system could result in a reactor building hydrogen burn,” researchers said in a report published in November 2008.

In the current crisis, the failure of the more vulnerable duct vents in Fukushima’s No. 1 and No. 3 reactors may have contributed to the hydrogen explosions that blew the roof off the first and left the second a tangled hulk of steel beams in the first three days of the crisis.

The plant vents, which connect to the big smokestack-like towers, appear to have been damaged in the quake or the tsunami, one NISA official said.

Even without damage, opening the vulnerable vents in the presence of a build-up of hydrogen gas was a known danger. In the case of Fukushima, opening the vents to relieve pressure was like turning on an acetylene torch and then watching the flame “shoot back into the fuel tank,” said one expert with knowledge of Fukushima who asked not to be identified because of his commercial ties in Japan.

Tokyo Electric began venting the No. 1 reactor on March 12 just after 10 a.m. An hour earlier the pressure in the reactor was twice its designed limit. Six hours later the reactor exploded.

The same pattern held with reactor No. 3. Venting to relieve a dangerous build-up of pressure in the reactor began on March 13. A day later, the outer building – a concrete and steel shell known as the “secondary containment” — exploded.

Toshiaki Sakai, the Tokyo Electric researcher who worked on tsunami risk, also sat on a panel in 2008 that reviewed the damage to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant. In that case, Tokyo Electric safely shut down the plant, which survived a quake 2.5 times stronger than it had been designed to handle.

Sakai and the other panelists agreed that despite the successful outcome the way the ground sank and broke underground pipes needed for firefighting equipment had to be considered “a failure to fulfill expected performance”.

Japanese regulators also knew a major earthquake could damage exhaust ducts. A September 2007 review of damage at the same Tokyo Electric nuclear plant by NISA Deputy Director Akira Fukushima showed two spots where the exhaust ducts had broken.

No new standard was put in place requiring vents to be shored up against potential damage, records show.

Masashi Goto, a former nuclear engineer who has turned critical of the industry, said he believed Tokyo Electric and regulators wrongly focused on the parts of the plant that performed well in the 2007 quake, rather than the weaknesses it exposed. “I think they drew the wrong lesson,” Goto said.

The March 11 quake not only damaged the vents but also the gauges in the Fukushima Daiichi complex, which meant that Tokyo Electric was without much of the instrumentation it needed to assess the situation on the ground during the crisis.

The data we’re getting is very sketchy and makes it impossible for us to do the analysis,” said David Lochbaum, a nuclear expert and analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s hard to connect the dots when there are so few dots.”

In fact, Japan’s NSC had concluded in 1992 that it was important for nuclear plant operators to have access to key gauges and instruments even in the kind of crisis that had not happened then. But it left plans on how to implement that policy entirely to the plant operators.

In the Fukushima accident, most meters and gauges were taken out by the loss of power in the early days of the crisis.

That left a pair of workers in a white Prius to race into the plant to get radiation readings with a handheld device in the early days of the crisis, according to Tokyo Electric.

They could have used robots to go in.

Immediately after the tsunami, a French firm with nuclear expertise shipped robots for use in Fukushima, a European nuclear expert said. The robots are built to withstand high radiation.

But Japan, arguably the country with the most advanced robotics industry, stopped them from arriving in Fukishima, saying such help could only come through government channels, said the expert who asked not to be identified so as not to appear critical of Japan in a moment of crisis.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japa-nuclear-risks-idUSTRE72S2UA20110329?fbclid=IwAR0uUoVibWYaZdEf9yHYFHn0FZg0meC8PRAz4QgWyKDiLHf5RpHorTAulZI

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘No one has taken responsibility’: Fukushima victims decry nuclear bosses’ acquittal

jhjmlm.jpgPeople connected to the support group for a criminal lawsuit for the Fukushima nuclear accident are seen outside the Tokyo District Court in the capital’s Chiyoda Ward on Sept. 19, 2019. Some are holding signs that say the innocent verdict for all parties is an unjust decision.

September 20, 2019

TOKYO — On Sept. 19, the Japanese judiciary returned a verdict that there was no question of criminality relating to one of the worst nuclear accidents in history.

According to the ruling by the Tokyo District Court, the meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station could not have been foreseen, thereby acquitting three of the company’s former executives from responsibility for the disaster.

The three apologized again after the decision was handed down. But with no question now as to whether they were criminally liable for what happened in March 2011, evacuees who lost their families and communities have voiced their contempt for the ruling.

But what lessons are there from the trial on the nuclear meltdown that started off after a mandatory indictment?

The decision to acquit all three men came at 1:15 p.m. in the 104 court room, the largest at the Tokyo District Court. The former TEPCO executives stood totally still as Presiding Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi read the text of the ruling aloud. As he did, a stir broke in the gallery, with some even shouting out in shock and disbelief.

Among those watching the proceedings unfold were people who lost their families to the nuclear disaster. A 66-year-old resident of Hirono in Fukushima Prefecture tried to repress her emotions while watching the three in court.

On March 11, 2011, when the tsunamis came rushing to the nuclear power station, her parents were living in “Deauville Futaba” in the town of Okuma, a care home about 4.5 kilometers southwest of the reactors. Her father was 92, and her mother was 88.

Evacuation orders were issued, and three days later on March 14 they were rescued by Japan Self-Defense Force troops alongside other members of the care home. They then appear to have ridden a bus for about 10 hours to arrive at Iwaki Koyo High School, based in the city of Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture.

With no medical facilities on site and only mats to sleep on in the school’s gym, the evacuees began dying one by one. Her mother passed away around March 15, and her father on the night of March 16. Their daughter only learned of their death about a week later, on March 22.

The daughter was born and raised in Okuma, and her home was just about 3 kilometers from the nuclear plant. She led a close-knit life in the community. Her father worked for the town’s trash disposal facility and other places. He didn’t drink, and was a quiet, honest man. He would look forward every year to the overnight trip he and his brothers in arms in World War II would take to the monument for the fallen in the city of Aizuwakamatsu, also in Fukushima Prefecture.

Her mother was a cheerful person who loved to chat. Even at the care home, she would light up the room where she lived. “Because they were opposites, they made a good couple. They were very kind to me,” their daughter said. For Shichigosan, the annual celebration for girls aged three and seven, and boys aged five, her parents bought her a long-sleeved furisode kimono patterned with vibrant chrysanthemum. She treasures the photo they took on that day.

The daughter’s home was washed away by the tsunamis, and the area is set to host an interim storage facility for radioactive soil generated by decontamination work. The town she and her parents shared their lives in is gone, never to return. Looking for answers as to why her parents had to die, and why the accident that caused such serious damage occurred, she chose to participate in the trial as one of the victims.

At a hearing of the trial in November 2018, she said, “Didn’t TEPCO underestimate the threat from tsunamis? No one has taken responsibility for such huge damage wrought by the disaster. It’s unforgivable.”

She remains unconvinced by the not guilty ruling handed down on Sept. 19 this year. After the trial, she spoke quietly, saying, “The three of them might think ‘We were right,’ but from the victims’ points of view, they got away with the damage they caused. The ruling did not bring answers,” she added, “I can’t think of anything else right now.”

Yoshinobu Ishii, 74, of the village of Kawauchi in Fukushima Prefecture, lost his mother, Ei, then aged 91, in the midst of the evacuations. Also a resident at the Deauville Futaba care home, she died around March 14, 2011 after she too was evacuated to Iwaki Koyo High School.

She had raised Ishii and his five siblings as a single mother. “She brought us up in the midst of hardship. It’s terrible that she died alone, with none of us there to be with her,” he said, his voice heavy with regret.

But Ishii has no interest in the criminal court case. “Looking at it in hindsight, they could have taken measures to prevent the accident, but at the time no one expected such a terrible disaster to unfold.”

He spent Sept. 19 at home. “It’s important for us to make use of the lessons learned by the accident. But putting the responsibility for it on someone, that kind of talk, is pointless. After all, my mother isn’t coming back,” he said.

(Japanese original by Kenji Tatsumi and Masanori Makita, City News Department)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190920/p2a/00m/0na/007000c?fbclid=IwAR0PfkcR79gbUQtpdfSIMVAmgTj21sLDlM8XjpX4RKcms-Ss2O2FX-nV4rA#cxrecs_s

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Eight years after Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japanese court acquits trio of negligence over meltdown

This verdict certainly raised questions about the independence of the judiciary.
But the verdict, and the implication that the nuclear power operators cannot be blamed for accidents that may occur, is unlikely to help restore shaky public trust in the industry — especially in a country where earthquakes and tsunamis are common.
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September 19, 2019
TOKYO —  A Japanese court on Thursday found three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. not guilty of professional negligence over the 2011 tsunami-induced reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Former Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and two former colleagues were accused of failing to take adequate precautions to safeguard the plant against the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck the region on March 11, 2011. The disaster crippled the plant and spread radioactive contamination across a swath of northern Japan. 
The trial at Tokyo’s District Court marked the only criminal proceedings resulting from the nuclear explosions and meltdown, which forced the evacuation of more than 165,000 people. Tens of thousands are still prevented from returning because of lingering contamination.
The court also found the trio not guilty of causing the deaths of 44 elderly patients who were forcibly evacuated from hospitals. 
Government scientists had warned years earlier of a significant risk of an earthquake and tsunami along Japan’s northeastern coast, imperiling the plant. But the three men argued that they could not have predicted such a massive tsunami, an argument ultimately accepted by the court.
“It would be impossible to operate a nuclear plant if operators are obliged to predict every possibility about a tsunami and take necessary measures,” Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi said in handing down the ruling.
The Fukushima meltdown was the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union, and it caused a reevaluation of the risks of nuclear power globally, especially in Germany. 
Japan’s government shut down the country’s 50 other nuclear reactors after the disaster and imposed new safety rules. But in recent years it has reopened nine, with the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushing to restart more, partly to reduce Japan’s reliance on fossil fuels but also because the nuclear lobby retains considerable influence within the corridors of power, experts say.
Prosecution lawyers, who had sought jail sentences of five years, said they will consider whether to appeal the ruling, arguing that the verdict was influenced by the government’s policy on nuclear energy. 
“The ruling says absolute safety is not a requirement,” prosecution lawyer Shozaburo Ishida said at a news conference. “That’s unthinkable. If you believe that a nuclear accident should never happen, you wouldn’t hand down this sort of ruling.”
There was anger at the verdict outside the courtroom, where former residents of the affected area and activists had gathered. The legal action, brought by former residents, was delayed for years after prosecutors twice refused to bring a case. 
“It’s like the court is on Tepco’s side,” said Noboru Honda, a community leader who lost his home and livelihood after the disaster. He described the victims as “stunned” and “indignant” to hear the accident being described as a natural disaster and not the result of human error by Tepco officials.
“They built the plants and bear no responsibility? What about us? Our pain? We had to move nine or 10 times. Even today, families live apart, and we are living a tough life. Where can we direct our indignation?”
Greenpeace condemned the court’s decision, arguing that Japan’s legal system had failed to stand up for the rights of people affected by the meltdown.
“A guilty verdict would have been a devastating blow not just to Tepco but the Abe government and the Japanese nuclear industry. It is therefore perhaps not a surprise that the court has failed to rule based on the evidence,” Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace, said in a statement. “More than eight years after the start of this catastrophe, Tepco and the government are still avoiding being held to full account for their decades of ignoring the science of nuclear risks.” 
Efforts to restart Japan’s nuclear plants have been dogged by safety concerns, tougher regulations and local opposition around the plants, making it unlikely that the government will achieve its target for nuclear energy to supply 20 to 22 percent of the country’s power by 2030.
Muneyuki Shindo, a professor emeritus at Chiba University and critic of Japan’s nuclear regulatory oversight, said the verdict reflected “mainstream thinking” that nuclear power is here to stay despite the risks and raised questions about the independence of the judiciary.
But he said the fact that so many internal documents were revealed during the trial could make regulators more cautious about approving other restarts in future.
The court heard evidence that Tepco executives were warned between 2002 and 2008 that there was a 20 percent chance that an earthquake greater than 8-magnitude could occur off Japan’s east coast in the next three decades, potentially triggering a tsunami significantly higher than the sea wall protecting the plant. 
But the company failed to invest in measures that might have prevented the catastrophe, such as raising the height of the sea wall and installing additional emergency generators.
The 30-foot-high tsunami that followed the earthquake flooded the plant and knocked out the electric power that cooled the reactors, causing explosions and reactor meltdowns.
Executives, struggling with losses from the shutdown of another nuclear plant after an earthquake in Niigata in 2007, were accused of delaying preventive action for cost reasons, but they argued they had not acted because they had considered the warnings unreliable. 
“We once again offer our sincerest apologies for causing great trouble and worries to many people, including people in Fukushima Prefecture,” Tepco said in a statement after the ruling.
The majority-state-owned company said it was “putting all efforts” into Fukushima’s reconstruction, providing compensation for disaster-related damage and carrying out decommissioning work and decontamination. It added that it was determined to reinforce security measures at nuclear power plants.
But the verdict, and the implication that the nuclear power operators cannot be blamed for accidents that may occur, is unlikely to help restore shaky public trust in the industry — especially in a country where earthquakes and tsunamis are common.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

‘What Corporate Impunity Looks Like’: Court Acquits Tepco Executives for Role in Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Akihiro Yoshidome, an 81-year-old anti-nuclear campaigner from Tokyo, told AFP he was shocked by the court’s decision. “I had braced myself that we might not get a clean victory, but this is too awful,” Yoshidome said. “This shows Japanese courts don’t stand for people’s interest. This can’t be true.”

 

fukushima_5.jpgIchiro Takekuro, former vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), arrives at the Tokyo District Court on September 19, 2019.

September 19, 2019
A Japanese court sparked widespread outrage Thursday by acquitting three former Tepco executives accused of criminal negligence for their failure to take adequate safety measures ahead of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In 2011, a powerful earthquake off the coast of Japan caused a tsunami that severely damaged Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, unleashing tons of radioactive material and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.
Prosecutors said Tsunehisa Katsumata, Sakae Muto, and Ichiro Takekuro knew of the severe risk posed to the facility by a tsunami as early as 2008 but refused to act.
“The executives were charged with contributing to the deaths of 44 people who had been living in a hospital and nursing home near the plant and died during the hasty evacuation or soon after,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Yuichi Kaido, lawyer and anti-nuclear activist, told the New York Times that the executives “themselves had done the calculations” on the risk of a tsunami “and hid them for three years.”
“The only way to see this is the court has issued an unfair verdict,” Kaido said following the acquittal.
The court’s decision provoked a furious response from the dozens of people who rallied outside Tokyo District Court hoping the executives would be held accountable.
“I couldn’t be more angry,” a man who was forced to evacuate due to the Fukushima disaster told supporters at a rally following the verdict. “We can’t go back to our normal lives. Those who were at the top of the company at the time must be prosecuted!”
Akihiro Yoshidome, an 81-year-old anti-nuclear campaigner from Tokyo, told AFP he was shocked by the court’s decision.
“I had braced myself that we might not get a clean victory, but this is too awful,” Yoshidome said. “This shows Japanese courts don’t stand for people’s interest. This can’t be true.”

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese legal system fails the victims of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster ex-TEPCO executives found not guilty

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Tokyo, 19 September – The legal system of Japan has once again failed to stand up for the rights of tens of thousands of citizens impacted by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Greenpeace said today. The Tokyo District Court prosecutors, in the only criminal case brought by thousands of Fukushima and other Japanese citizens,(1) ruled that former CEO Tsunehisa Katsumata, and two former Executive Vice Presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, were not guilty in failing to take action that could have prevented the nuclear accident. This is despite evidence presented to the court that they were aware between 2002-2008 that there was a risk of a 15.7 meter tsunami hitting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

A guilty verdict would have been a devastating blow not just to TEPCO but the Abe government and the Japanese nuclear industry. It is therefore perhaps not a surprise that the court has failed to rule based on the evidence. More than eight years after the start of this catastrophe, TEPCO and the government are still avoiding being held to full account for their decades of ignoring the science of nuclear risks,”  said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist at Greenpeace Germany (based in Tokyo currently).

The Japanese nuclear industry continues to refuse to act on warnings of seismic hazards at their vulnerable reactor sites, not least TEPCO at its one remaining nuclear plant in Niigata.(2)

The court proceedings, which began in 2017, resulted from persistent efforts by a citizens panel to hold TEPCO to account. The court heard irrefutable evidence that TEPCO executives deliberately ignored evidence of major earthquake risks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Between 2002 and 2008, predictions of the potential of 15.7 meter tsunami were known to TEPCO. This was ten meters higher than the existing seawall at Fukushima Daiichi. TEPCO, struggling at the time with major financial losses due to the shutdown of the Kashiwazaki Kariwa reactors following the 2008 Niigata earthquake,(3) refused to invest in protective measures, including raising the seawall height and installing additional emergency generators. 

Deliberately ignoring scientific evidence of the multiple safety risks to Japanese nuclear plants was one of the principal reasons for the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It remains the default setting for the industry today. The people of Japan will be confronted with the dangerous legacy of the Fukushima accident for many decades ahead and longer, so today’s ruling, while a setback, is only part of a long road to justice for the citizens of Fukushima and Japan that will help to prevent another nuclear accident,” said Burnie

Notes:

1 – website of citizen’s support for the court case ;

https://shien-dan.org/

2 -“Technical issues of Japanese seismic evaluations from the point of global and Japanese standards”, Satoshi Sato, Greenpeace Japan, 2015 and Katsuhiko Ishibashi, Emeritus Professor at Kobe University, seismologist, member of NAIIC (the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission), presentation to Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, April 27, 2015 – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nV018TVMec

3 – TEPCO’s Atomic Delusion: Greenpeace Japan, 25 June 2018, see https://storage.googleapis.com/planet4-japan-stateless/2019/08/3d2e8976-atomic_delusion.pdf

https://www.greenpeace.org/japan/uncategorized/press-release/2019/09/19/10278/?fbclid=IwAR3qgZWPmDlUlgBux3Jtjg7sMLlRtTIjD1JcG43hqvc588VKh0LoGaVzxiw

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Former Tepco executives found not guilty of negligence

As expected the former Tepco executives were found not guilty of criminal negligence in the Fukushima nuclear disaster. That despite all the obvious, as a guilty verdict would harmed Abe’s government nuclear policy. Never mind the victims, Abe’s regime safety comes first.
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Tsunehisa Katsumata (left), former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., arrives at the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo on Thursday.
Former Tepco executives found not guilty of criminal negligence in Fukushima disaster
 
September 19, 2019
Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. were acquitted Thursday on charges of failing to prevent the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
At the Tokyo District Court, former Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, along with Ichiro Takekuro, 73, and Sakae Muto, 69, both former vice presidents, had argued they could not have foreseen the massive tsunami that crippled the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and caused core meltdowns.
All three pleaded not guilty to the charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury, arguing that the data available to them beforehand was not reliable.
The three were indicted for failing to implement tsunami countermeasures leading to the deaths of 44 people — including patients forced to evacuate from a hospital — as well as for injuries sustained by 13 people in a hydrogen explosions at the plant.
Court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors had called for five-year prison terms for the trio, claiming they would have prevented the nuclear disaster if they had fulfilled their responsibility to collect information and implement safety measures.
The three were charged in 2016 by the court-appointed lawyers after an independent panel of citizens mandated indictment.
The panel’s decision came after Tokyo prosecutors twice decided not to charge the men over the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The trial focused on whether the former executives should have foreseen the massive tsunami and prevented the accident, given that it was calculated tsunami waves of up to 15.7 meters could strike the Fukushima plant based on the government’s long-term evaluation of quake risks in 2002. The estimate was reported to Tepco in 2008.
The defense team argued the three could not have envisaged tsunami waves on the scale of those that hit the plant based on the government evaluation — which the former executives considered unreliable — and said installing coastal levees would not have prevented the disaster.
On March 11, 2011, the six-reactor plant on the Pacific coast was flooded by tsunami waves exceeding 10 meters triggered by the magnitude 9.0 quake, causing the reactor cooling systems to lose their power supply.
Reactors 1 to 3 subsequently suffered core meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the building housing the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 units. Around 160,000 people evacuated at one point.
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Women hold banners reading “Everyone is not guilty, unjust sentence” in front of Tokyo District Court in Tokyo, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo September 19, 2019
Tokyo court clears former Tepco executives of negligence over Fukushima disaster
September 19, 2019
TOKYO (Reuters) – A Tokyo court cleared on Thursday three former Tokyo Electric Power (9501.T) executives of negligence for the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the only criminal case to arise out of the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
Former Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and one-time executives Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro were all found not guilty by the Tokyo District Court.
The trial, which started in June 2017, was conducted by state-appointed lawyers after prosecutors decided not to bring charges against the executives of the company known as Tepco.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station, located about 220 km (130 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011, sparking three reactor meltdowns and prompting Japan to shut down its entire fleet of nuclear reactors.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Trial of Tepco executives over Japan’s Fukushima disaster heads to conclusion

kjkmlù.jpgThe Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, is seen in these aerial view images taken in October 2008 (top) and on February 26, 2012, in this combination photo released by Kyodo on March 7, 2012, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami

September 17, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Tokyo court will hand down a verdict later this week on whether three Tokyo Electric Power executives are liable for the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the only criminal case to arise out of the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

The trial, which started in June 2017, was conducted by state-appointed lawyers after prosecutors decided not to bring charges against the executives of the company known as Tepco.

Former Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and onetime executives Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro apologised during the first hearing at the Tokyo District Court for causing trouble to the victims and society, but pleaded not guilty.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station, located about 220 km (130 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011, sparking three reactor meltdowns and prompting Japan to shut down its entire fleet of nuclear reactors.

Lawyers acting as prosecutors said the three executives had access to data and studies anticipating the risk to the area from a tsunami exceeding 10 metres (33 feet) in height that could trigger power loss and cause a nuclear disaster.

Lawyers for the defendants, however, said the estimates were not well established, and even experts had divisive views on how the Fukushima reactors would be affected by a tsunami.

The three former Tepco (9501.T) executives are the first individuals to face criminal charges for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but a high bar for proof may prevent a conviction. Prosecutors had declined to bring charges, citing insufficient evidence, but a civilian judiciary panel twice voted to indict the executives, overruling the determination not to go to trial.

“If I were a gambling man I would certainly not bet on a conviction. The citizen-panel initiated trials do not have a good success rate,” Colin Jones, a professor at the Doshisha Law School in Kyoto, told Reuters.

“The charitable view would be that prosecutors don’t take cases unless they know they can win, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the cases they don’t want to take end up being losers,” he said.

Citizen judiciary panels, selected by lottery, are a rarely used feature of Japan’s legal system introduced after World War Two to curb bureaucratic overreach.

Indictments brought by the panels, however, have a low conviction rate. One review of eight of these cases by the Eiko Sogo Law Office found just one, equal to a 17 percent conviction rate, compared with an overall rate of 98 percent in Japan.

Japan’s government estimated in 2016 that the total cost of dismantling Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, decontaminating the affected areas, and paying compensation would amount to around $200 billion (£161.26 billion).

More than 160,000 residents fled nearby towns in the aftermath of the March 2011 tsunami as radiation from the reactor meltdowns contaminated water, food and air.

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-japan-fukushima/trial-of-tepco-executives-over-japans-fukushima-disaster-heads-to-conclusion-idUKKBN1W2168

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

“Amid invisible terror, we were witnesses”

From Mari Inoue
I would like to share a poem of Fukushima nuclear disaster by Arata MAEDA, which was published on July 18, 2011 in “Shimbun Noumin”, family farmers’ newspaper in Japan.
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“Amid invisible terror, we were witnesses”
by Arata MAEDA*
(Tanslated into English by Andrew E. Barshay)**
Assaulted by an invisible terror
Even now, after four months
We remain driven from our own birthplace, our hometown
At Level 7, with no change in the situation at all
Tens of thousands of livestock, starved to death, all of them
In the deserted villages, only the stink from their corpses
Rises into the air
Across the mountains and rivers of our home country,
Stolen away by something that will not show itself,
The seasons change, as if nothing at all had happened
There where the cuckoo cries, can it be only in our dreams
That we toil and sweat?
There, where we cannot even set foot!
Once it was by our country’s policy that we were driven to Manchuria
By our country’s defeat to commit suicide together
And abandoning our little ones, to escape back home
And now as then, this home of ours
Is smashed to bits as our country’s grand plans collapse in ruin
And this time, it’s a painless death that takes its time in coming
Yet just as on that day, isn’t it collective suicide all over again?
Isn’t it the live experiments of Unit 731 all over again?
Friends, friends, we can’t just stand here grieving and crying
Over these four months, amid invisible terror
What we have seen with our own eyes
Is the true face of terror that says: no matter
For pro it’s sake, the reactors must stay on
All right then! If that’s how it is
We’re ready to take them on, for the sake of our children and theirs
Just like the Kwantung Army before them, these bastards
hid the facts and were the irst to run from danger
And now they put on an innocent face and prattle about safety and reconstruction
No way will we let them take these lives so easily!
Oh, but friends, my friends are dead
*MAEDA Arata: member of Fukushima Farmers’ Alliance, resident of Aizumisato, Fukushima Prefecture
**Andrew E.BARSHAY: Professor, University of California at Berkeley
(The name of “friend” mentioned at the end of the poem is Hisashi Tarukawa who was an organic farmer and a member of the Japan Family Farmers Movement living in Sukagawa, Fukushima. He had devoted himself to growing organic cabbages. On March 23, 2011, he received a fax from the Fukushima local government, which requested him to forbear the shipping of cabbages contaminated by radioactivity. The next day he committed suicide by hanging himself in despair at losing his whole future.)

September 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

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

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

August 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRINGING ARTISTS, POLICYMAKERS TOGETHER

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

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

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

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

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

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

Falling Out” has sparked conversations in different ways.

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

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

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

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

PARTICIPATING IN PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

None of these stories have definitive conclusions.

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

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

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

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

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

Fukushima tragedy: The day of black snow

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Aerial view of nuclear waste storage area in the mountainous forests of Iitate, Fukushima prefecture in Japan.
August 30, 2019
Toru Anzai is a former resident of Iitate, a small village in Fukushima, Japan, and dearly missed the bamboo shoots that grew in his hometown. During autumn, the bamboo shoots would blanket the mountains that overlooked the residents’ homes in the village. The residents would climb the mountains, gather the plants, and prepare them for dinner. But ever since that tragic day, no one climbed the mountains, and the wild plants vanished from their dinner tables. For Anzai, the bamboo shoots became sad reminders of what used to be.
 
Anzai remembers the day as the “black snow” day. He heard the explosions on 12 March, 2011. Black smoke rose from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and the smell of burning iron pervaded the village. It started to rain. The rain turned into snow. The snow was black.
The black snow filled Anzai with an ominous dread, and soon, his fears became reality.
After the black snow shrouded the village, Anzai described in an interview how he started to feel throbbing pain on his skin. It was almost like being sunburned after sunbathing for too long. Both of his legs darkened then peeled in white patches. The only remedy to the peeling was applying medicinal ointment. 
Soon after, his entire body began to suffer. The headaches came, followed by shoulder pains. Then the hair loss occurred. Three months after the disaster, he left behind his home and evacuated to survive. Unfortunately, the tragedy did not end there.
Three years later, Anzai started having strokes and heart attacks. A stent was placed in his blood vessel; the tube held open his narrowed blood vessel and kept the blood flowing to his heart. With treatment, his pain somewhat subsided, but whenever Anzai visited Iitate, the pain throughout his entire body relapsed. While these symptoms have not been conclusively connected to the radiation exposure, Anzai believed that they were the realities of the black snow day. 
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Toru Anzai visting his house in Iitate, Fukushima prefecture, Japan.
 
Anzai’s temporary housing was very narrow and consisted of a living room and a bedroom. He had moved into this subsidised housing complex eight years ago. He was one of the first of the 126 families. Often, evacuees gathered around the common area and shared fond memories of their hometowns with each other. Whatever solace could be found, the evacuees found it in each other. 
Since allegedly completing the decontamination operation in Iitate, the Japanese government have been urging people to return to their village. In fact, Fukushima prefectural government had ended housing subsidies this past March, and by the end of the month, most people had left the complex. Only around ten families were still looking for a new place to live. 
Absently gazing into the dark, clouded sky, Anzai spoke bitterly. “I was kicked out of my hometown for doing nothing wrong. It was heartbreaking. Now, Iitate is polluted, and some of my neighbours have died. When the government asked me to evacuate last minute, I left. Now, they want me to go back. Back to all of the radioactive contamination. I’m so angry, but I don’t know what to do. We have repeatedly petitioned the government, but they’re not willing to listen. Our government has abandoned us.”
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Nuclear waste storage area in Iitate, Fukushima prefecture in Japan. Adopting a return to normal policy, the Japanese government undertook an unprecedented decontamination program for areas of Fukushima contaminated by the triple reactor meltdown in March 2011
 
Prior to the nuclear incident, there were about 6,300 residents in Iitate. Eight years later, only a little over 300 evacuees have returned at the government’s persistent urging. Most of the returning residents were elderly, aged 60 or older. Even counting the non-natives who had recently relocated to the village, the total figure hovered around only 900 residents. 
Iitate’s old and new residents are exposed to radioactive substances on a daily basis. The Japanese government claimed to have completed the decontamination work, but a full decontamination is impossible due to the village’s terrain. More than 70% of Iitate is forest, and unlike in the farmlands, the removal of contaminants that have fallen among the mountainous forest is nearly impossible. 
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Greenpeace nuclear expert Heinz Smital (Germany) and Florian Kasser (Switzerland) talk with Toru Anzai.
 
Each year, Greenpeace Germany conducts extensive research on Fukushima villages including Iitate. The findings confirm that the radiation exposure in these villages exceeds the established international safety standards. Anzai believes that the Japanese government is behind the forced homecoming of the Iitate residents. 
“The government hopes to publicise good news: the nuclear accident has been dealt with, and the residents have returned home. People who had no choice but to leave are now being pressured to return and put their lives on the line,” lamented Anzai.
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The destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, nearly 8 years after the accident.
 
The Japanese government hopes to release more than one million tonnes of highly radioactive water into the Fukushima coast. If the contaminated water becomes flushed into the ocean, the contamination will only add to the harm already inflicted by the Fukushima accident. Furthermore, the ocean currents will shift the radioactive materials through the surrounding waters including the Pacific Ocean. 
The industrial pollution and toxins have already caused much distress to our oceans. Discharging the Fukushima’s radioactive water will only worsen the situation, and we cannot, and should never, let this happen. 
Sean Lee is the communication lead of Greenpeace Korea. 

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

The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and Its Tragic Aftermath

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The worst nuclear accident in history

 
August 14, 2019
The three meltdowns and at least four big core explosions at the Fukushima nuclear-power plant’s six American-designed Daiichi reactors in March 2011 still constitute the world’s worst nuclear nightmare so far, surpassing even the Chernobyl #4 reactor’s explosion and meltdown of April 1986. While Chernobyl’s disaster was very quickly contained albeit at the cost of at least 30 human lives (according to Soviet sources)—by first having the stricken reactor completely buried in sand from the air and then immediately sealing it inside a sarcophagus of reinforced concrete, Fukushima’s tragedy has remained an open, festering wound to this day. A U.N. report issued in 2012 stated that at least six Fukushima workers had died since the meltdowns and the tsunami (according to a later report by the Japanese government, only one of these workers had died from radiation exposure).
The Japanese seem to have been reluctant to risk the lives of their more than 6,000 rescue workers pouring daily hundreds of tons of sea water over the fully destroyed reactors as well as the several partly damaged ones. Yet, as of 27 February 2017, the Fukushima prefecture government counted 2,129 “disaster-related deaths” in that prefecture alone. At least 1,368 among those deaths have been listed as directly “related to the nuclear power plant.” Predicted future cancer deaths due to accumulated radiation exposures in the population living near Fukushima are expected to run in the many hundreds, if not the thousands.
Obviously, the Japanese government’s wishful thinking is that the nuclear disaster would just go away if as few people as possible—both at home and especially abroad—knew about its true extent and actual severity. According to Harvey Wasserman (“14,000 Hiroshimas Still Swing in Fukushima’s Air,” The Free Press, October 9, 2013), the situation on the ground was still rather catastrophic more than two years after the disaster, because
“Massive quantities of heavily contaminated water are pouring into the Pacific Ocean, dousing workers along the way. Hundreds of huge, flimsy tanks are leaking untold tons of highly radioactive fluids. At Unit #4, more than 1300 fuel rods, with more than 400 tons of extremely radioactive material, containing potential cesium fallout comparable to 14,000 Hiroshima bombs, are stranded 100 feet in the air.”
Have we been witnessing a major local catastrophe with some perilous global repercussions that are still being concealed from the general public and the world under a veil of total government secrecy—“apparently to avoid causing ‘needless’ social panic,” in the words of Japanese research scientist Haruko Satoh (“Fukushima and the Future of Nuclear Energy in Japan: The Need for a Robust Social Contract,” ARI, June 29, 2011)? While the Russians had the excuse of having just one prior warning—namely that of the Three Mile Island’s much smaller nuclear mishap in the U.S. on March 28, 1979—the Japanese appear to have completely ignored Chernobyl’s tragic lessons while operating their Fukushima nuclear-power plant built in a highly vulnerable seismic zone in close proximity to the Pacific Ocean which is prone to massive earthquakes and tsunamis. Pointing out that
“…a vast area of land has been contaminated by radiation,” Haruko Satoh further writes that “…the nature of the on-going nuclear crisis is better understood as a man-made disaster resulting from the systemic failure of Japan’s nuclear energy regime for safety than an inevitable consequence of unforeseen forces of nature.”
In his considered opinion, Japan “has also failed to act speedily to remove and treat the accumulating contaminated soil and water” (ibid.).
As a result, according to The Guardian (“Plummeting Morale at Fukushima Daiichi as Nuclear Cleanup Takes Its Toll,” October 15, 2013), “the world’s most dangerous industrial cleanup” has been threatening not only Japan (long dubbed “America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier” in the western Pacific) but the rest of the planet as well. Will the international community finally wake up to this still on-going lethal danger that will persist for many years to come—at least until the afflicted nuclear reactors are finally cooled down? But it is not going to be an easy job since by Tokyo’s own estimates the full decommissioning of the wrecked nuclear site could take up to 40 years.
Could the 2020 Tokyo Olympics be canceled?
The Fukushima catastrophe released in the air many radioactive pollutants such as cesium-134, cesium-137, strontium-90, iodine-131, plutonium-238 and other so-called radionuclides that emit ionized (alpha and beta) particles. With lifespan exceeding hundreds of years, these radioactive pollutants will continue to pose a radiation threat for many decades to come. One eyewitness testifies about the failure of Japan’s decontamination measures (Maxime Polleri, “The Truth About Radiation in Fukushima: Despite Government Claims, Radiation From the 2011 Nuclear Disaster Is Not Gone,” The Diplomat, March 14, 2019):
“…mountains of black plastic bags, filled with contaminated soil or debris, can be seen in many parts of Fukushima…. As such, decontamination does not imply that radiation has vanished; it has simply been moved elsewhere. Yet in rural regions, where many of the bags are currently being disposed, far away from the eyes of urban dwellers, residents are still forced to live near the storage sites. Many rural residents have criticized the actual efficacy of the decontamination projects. For instance, vinyl bags are now starting to break down due to the build-up of gas released by rotten soil. Plants and flowers have also started to grow inside the bags, in the process tearing them apart. With weather factors, residual radioactivity inside the bags will eventually be scattered back into the environment.”
But with the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it is doubtful that the secretive Japanese government will ever acknowledge this threatening reality. For example, the Japanese have been silent about the current extent of radiological contamination of the seas surrounding Japan—obviously for fear that the Tokyo Olympics scheduled to be held next year may be canceled.
The Official Cover-up
In the past, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the crippled nuclear-power plant’s sole owner and operator,
“has all but admitted (that) Fukushima’s radiation leaks are spiraling out of control. In addition to the leaking water storage units that are unleashing hundred of tons of radioactive water each day, Tepco now says (that) 50% of its contaminated filtration capability has been taken offline due to corrosion. The result is that radiation leaks are escalating out of control and attempted remediation efforts are faltering” (“Fukushima in Free Fall,” NaturalNews.com, August 27, 2013).
The traditionally close-mouthed Japanese bureaucrats have been far less truthful and much more evasive about the gravity of the Fukushima nuclear crisis than the Russians ever were about their Chernobyl disaster. Only in June 2011—three whole months after the Fukushima nuclear accident—did Tokyo announce that meltdowns had actually occurred in three of the six reactors. “From day one,” the NaturalNew.com article continues,
“the Fukushima fiasco has been all about denial: Deny the leaks, shut off the radiation sensors, black out the news and fudge the science. Yet more than two years later, the denials are colliding with the laws of physics, and Tepco’s cover stories are increasingly being blown wide open.” (ibid.)
Buried under a virtual tsunami of compensation-seeking lawsuits, Tepco, “once a behemoth that virtually controlled Japan’s energy policy“ (Haruko Satoh, “Fukushima and the Future of Nuclear Energy in Japan: The Need for a Robust Social Contract,” ARI, June 29, 2011), has survived to this day as Japan’s biggest energy giant only thanks to the LDP government which seems to be more than willing and eager to bail it out. Despite the attempted cover-up by pro-nuclear Japanese cabinets and the Japanese news media alike, Japan’s own nuclear-safety watchdog—the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA)—gave Fukushima’s nuclear catastrophe the worst possible rating for radiological danger, Level 7 (“major accident”)—the same rating as the Chernobyl disaster—in accordance with the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) standards established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1990.
Showing how more than two years after the disaster the waters of the Pacific Ocean were actually “boiling” off the coast of Fukushima in what it called “a viral photo of the day,” Before It’s News (“’Boiling Sea’ Off Fukushima Viral Photo of the Day,” August 30, 2013) asked rhetorically, “…if this radiation keeps leaking, and there is no way to stop it, will boiling seas spread all the way across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast of the United States? If so, what happens then?”
How was the critically important oceanic animal and plant life affected by the radioactive contamination? Tokyo has denied that due to higher radiation levels it is dangerous to eat any fish caught by Japanese fishermen, but the government has reinstated its earlier fishing ban. Could it be that all of Japan has been poisoned? Moreover, is the whole planet going to be eventually contaminated by Fukushima’s many tons of radioactive material released into the air and sea? Again according to Harvey Wasserman,
“A worst-case cloud would eventually make Japan an uninhabitable waste-land. What it could do to the Pacific Ocean and the rest of us downwind approaches the unthinkable” (“14,000 Hiroshimas Still Swing in Fukushima’s Air,” The Free Press, October 9, 2013).
The Fukushima nuclear accident and its tragic consequences have taken place at the worse possible time for Japan, given its huge national debt (which is more than twice the size of its annual GDP) and protracted economic slump lasting now for almost three decades. Japan’s economic downturn started with the bursting of Tokyo’s stock-market and real-estate “bubbles” in the 1990s and was gravely exacerbated by the global Great Recession of 2008-2009 sparked by America’s own banking and real-estate crises. The international community should have by now pressed the U.N. Security Council to consider and adopt a binding resolution to close down Japan’s hazardous nuclear-energy industry, given the major economic, public health and public safety risks involved.
Is Japan’s nuclear industry doomed?
But Japan’s nuclear power may already be doomed, with its nuclear units being gradually taken “offline” in the wake of the Fukushima fiasco (“After Fukushima, Does Nuclear Power Have a Future?” The New York Times, October 10, 2011). In September 2013, the new Liberal Democratic Party Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the shutdown—supposedly for routine maintenance and safety checks—of its last nuclear reactor at Oi that was still working after all the other 53 operating reactors had been closed down for one reason or another. Facing pressure from the Japanese public which has turned decisively against nuclear energy, the previous Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda of the Democratic Party of Japan, had announced in September 2012 a major change in Japan’s energy policy, pledging to shut down all nuclear power for good by the 2030s, thus angering the all-powerful Japanese captains of industry.
In power since December 2012, Shinzo Abe’s LDP cabinet has been warning about the steep economic costs of pulling the plug on Japan’s nuclear energy, mainly in the form of escalating and very expensive energy imports, especially for a country which lacks fossil fuel reserves. Under tremendous pressure from the “iron triangle” community of electricity utilities, heavy industry, ministry bureaucrats and academic experts, known as the “nuclear village,” Prime Minister Shinzo has been trying to restart as many nuclear reactors as the still hostile domestic public opinion would permit him.
Following the Fukushima accident, as each Japanese nuclear reactor entered its scheduled maintenance and refueling outage, it was not returned to operation. Between September 2013 and August 2015, Japan’s entire reactor fleet was suspended from operation, leaving the country with no nuclear generation. But in 2018 Prime Minister Shinzo’s cabinet restarted five nuclear power reactors (U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Japan Has Restarted Five Nuclear Power Reactors in 2018,” November 28, 2018). He is facing a new and unexpected obstacle—the renewed and strengthened Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which had been reformed and given more regulatory powers and administrative independence after Fukushima, especially since this now independent agency has to declare any nuclear plants safe before they could restart. There is also the implacable opposition of many prefectures, towns and villages which, under the law, have a say over the reopening of any local or nearby nuclear plants (“Electricity in Japan: Power Struggle,” The Economist, September 21, 2013). In spite of the determination of the ruling LDP to keep Japan’s ailing nuclear industry alive, its days may already be numbered (Sumiko Takeuchi, “Is There a Future For Nuclear Power in Japan?” Japan Times, July 16, 2019).
Rossen Vassilev Jr. is a journalism senior at the Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

August 22, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima 2020 Olympics Nightmare: Is PM Abe Criminally Insane?

 

Jul 28th, 2019
This documentary investigates and exposes the plans of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bring the Olympics baseball games to contaminated Fukushima. Although there is over a million tons of tritium radioactive water in tanks surrounding the plan, thousands of contamined bags of waste and melted nuclear rods still in the broken plants Abe has claimed to the Olympic Committee and world that Fukushima has been decontaminated.
This 2019 documentary looks at the plans of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bring the Olympic baseball games to Fukushima during the 2020 Japan Olympic games. It interviews experts, community activists and trade unionists about the reality of Fukushima and the massive propaganda campaign to cover-up the continuing dangers and crisis.
 
PM Abe told the International Olympics Committee that Fukushima had been decontaminated but there is over 1 million tons of tritium radiocative water in tanks surrounding the broken nuclear reactors, the melted nuclear rods still remain and there are tens of thousands of bags of contaminated radioactive material spread throughout the prefecture.
 
This documentary hears from people in Japan about the reality of having the 2020 Olympics in Japan and Fukushima.
 
Additional media:
 
Toxic water level at Fukushima plant still not under control As Abe Pushes Olympics In Fukushima
In reality, however, the situation is not under control even now.
 
The Olympics, Fukushima, Capitalism & Creative Destruction
 
Olympics For Whom? Global Depression, the New Cold War, ​and the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games
 
The Super Bowl, NFL, Capitalism and Sports: The Cost, The Politics, Privatization & The Game
JPN Abe Gov Pushes 2020 Olympics To Contaminated Fukushima To Continue Cover-up
 
Fukushima Never Again
 
For additional information:
No Nukes Action
Appeal To Stop Olympics in Japan
Nuclear Olympics
WorkWeek
workweek [at] kpfa.org
Production of
Labor Video Project
 
Fukushima Radioactive Dump Site
While PM Abe says that Fukushima has been “decontaminated” there are thousands of bags of contaminated radioactive was in the prefecture of Fukushima.
 
Over 1 Million Tons Of Radioactive Water Surround Fukushima
The Abe government is trying to release 1 million tons of radioactive water with tritium into the Pacific ocean despite opposition of the fisherman and communities.
 
Fukushima Kids In

July 31, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theatre for Fukushima: voices from the silence

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July 14, 2019
The bare emotions of the Fukushima nuclear disaster as experienced by children
By Carmen Grau
Where were you and what were you doing on that fateful day, 11 March 2011?
Eight years have gone by, and the then six to eight-year-old children are now high school students who use theatre as a channel for self-expression. Through their performance, they attempt to tell the story of their home towns and cities. It is also a way for them to assimilate the experience that changed the face of an entire region.
Still Life is the name of the play performed by six girls and six boys from the Futaba Future public high school in Fukushima. Aged between 15 and 17, the parts they play are based on their own life experiences. They tell the story of what the children went through, laying bare the complex web of emotions they have been caught in till this day. It is a tangled tale of love, childhood and suicide, seen through the unadulterated eyes of young people, who were just small children when the triple disaster struck. They are the youngest and will therefore be the last generation to keep a memory of those tragic events. And it is important for them to be able to share it.
The brown colour of the sea. A uniform left behind when a school was hastily closed down following the radiation alert. A teddy bear with a broken heart and the incessant ringing of a telephone searching for missing grandparents. Lampposts swaying dangerously on a hill, while children huddle together, remembering the adults’ instructions not to be left on their own. Innocently playing in a classroom with the water and sand spilt by the earthquake and cleaning it all up before heading for safety. Sleeping in the car with all the family when not a space was left in the sports centre. Memories of an earthquake, a tsunami, of radioactivity and the fear surrounding the decontamination process.
Until she was eight, Ayumi Ota lived in Tomioka, a town that was evacuated in the aftermath of the disaster. The 16-year-old actor was inspired to join the school theatre group by her elder brother. They are both part of the cast. With her inquisitive and lively gaze, Ayumi shines in her part as the likeable classmate spurring on the others, despite her own longing for a place to which she knows she will never be able to return. She enjoyed the experience so much that she is considering joining a theatre group: “When I’m acting, it brings back what we went through, although [acting] has not been so hard for me because I want to express myself. We are all interconnected, Fukushima and Tokyo, we’re not that different.”
Seventeen-year-old Minoru Tomonaga comes from the town of Iwaki. He likes to sing and wants to study in a professional academy. He admits that his main motive for taking part in the play is a girl he likes. Minoru found the whole process much harder to handle: “My mind was on overdrive. It was like hitting a wall, because each one of us had our own experiences. It was difficult to cope with all those feelings. But I do hope that we are listened to, in this time of fake news.”
After its debut in Fukushima, in September 2018, the young actors wanted to take the play to Tokyo. Writer Miri Yu, the soul of the play, recalls how, as the performance ended and the curtain went down, the students seemed to be glued to their desks.
“They had grown attached to their roles, so they had to do it. Audiences in Tokyo hadn’t experienced the earthquake, the tsunami and nuclear accident first-hand. How the play would be received was obviously a worry, but something always gets across.”
Art and creativity as a vehicle for comfort and consolation
Miri Yu, who is also a playwright, has won a number of national literary awards, including the prestigious Akutagawa Award (1996). After a string of back-to-back, sold-out performances in Tokyo, Yu explains to Equal Times the importance of art and creation as a source of comfort and consolation.
“The play is a still life that captures the sadness of the disaster-struck children. The pain or suffering we carry deep inside eventually ends up overflowing, like water in a dam. Otherwise, the pain breaks the dam and drags you along with it. To prevent this from happening, I wanted to build a channel in which to pour all this sadness. The play is the vessel in which it is collected. Isn’t sadness what we as human beings have most in common? We all carry certain sorrows in our lives; all of us, in Tokyo too. This play emerged as a beacon of light, a source of solace for young people.”
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Children recalled yearning to play outside, but could not.
 
Kanako Saito works as an English teacher at Futaba Future High School. She is also in charge of the theatre group. This teacher, who supports her pupils and is also part of the cast, explains how theatre helps them.
“Back then, they were just small children and were unable to express themselves. Their parents shielded them from what was happening, be it from the radiation or the decision to move. They weren’t allowed to watch television and had to play indoors, never outside the house. They had no way of venting their feelings.
“Eight years on, they now have the vocabulary to express themselves. As they build the drama, they focus on how they felt, which helps in their healing process. It also helps the families who, by watching their children acting, gain a better insight into what they went through. It helps people to move on,” Saito said.
Starting over
Futaba Future High School has kept the name of the place where it had stood until radioactivity made it uninhabitable. Futaba is one of the towns nearest to the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In 2015, the school relocated to Hirono, a nearby town that was outside the danger zone. Its guiding principle is to prepare global leaders that can contribute to tackling today’s new challenges.
Following the disaster, 470,000 people – which amounts to almost the entire population of cities like Lisbon or Edinburgh – were evacuated. According to the Reconstruction Agency, a body tasked with this unprecedented mission, by February 2019, the number of evacuees had reached 51,778. Places like Namie, Tomioka, Futaba and Okuma were totally or partially evacuated. Their names resonate throughout the play, when the budding actors relive their memories.
“The experience had a strong impact on everyone. The actors, who were little children back then, have barely taken in what they went through. The coast of Fukushima has not yet been fully reconstructed. The young locals and their families continue to be faced with great hardships. They have become displaced persons, constantly being shunted from one place to the next, and even now some of these young actors are still having to live in temporary accommodation,” says Yu.
In 2017, the government lifted evacuation orders – based on the area, the radiation levels and the progress made in the decontamination process – but places like Futaba are still classed as ‘difficult return’ or uninhabitable zones.
The decontamination work has also covered farming areas, 89 per cent of which have been recovered, according to the Reconstruction Agency. Reconstruction tasks have been completed in 64 municipalities over a seven-year period. In Fukushima, an area measuring 371 km², greater than the size of a country like Malta, was affected by the triple disaster.
The writer is currently living in Minamisoma, because of a promise she made and a radio show. In the aftermath of the disaster, under the state of emergency, she started working as a volunteer at a provisional radio station set up by the municipal authority to broadcast information to the population and the armed forces. She used to travel once a week from another part of Japan to do the show. Although only meant to last a year, her stay was successively prolonged until she ended up relocating for good, to fulfil her promise.
Today only 3,000 of the 13,000 residents are still living in her neighbourhood, and more than half of them are over 65 years old. Located 16 kilometres from the nuclear power station, the town now has a bookshop and a theatre. For Yu, culture is an integral part of the reconstruction process.
“In a place where people have lost everything, no one at the neighbourhood meetings organised by the government speaks out to ask for culture. People ask for their basic needs to be covered, such as infrastructure, hospitals or supermarkets. But even if the basic needs are met, can this be called a city? Can this be called reconstruction? Not in my view. Culture is something that enriches you, it is relaxing, enjoyable and valuable in its own right. It can be a book or a secondary role in a play.”
Disasters are also a threat to culture. And yet culture is vital to community identity and expression. In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2015-2030 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which sees culture as playing a key role in reducing vulnerability to disasters, aiding recovery and building peace.
At the end of the performance, the Japanese audience leaves in solemn silence. A young woman from Tokyo says it was important to listen to them. On leaving the theatre, people buy a copy of the book on which the play is based. A dedication penned by the author and playwright stands out as a declaration of intent from Fukushima: “Speak out from the heart of silence.”

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