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Ken Watanabe to Star in Film About Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

I ‘d like to know who are this movie producers, who are financing it…. Will it be straightforward or will it be just another spinned piece???
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November 19, 2018
‘Fukushima 50’ will tell the story of the workers who stayed at the power plant after a massive tsunami had knocked out its cooling systems.
Ken Watanabe will star as the head of the crisis-hit Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Fukushima 50, from Japan’s Kadokawa Corporation and directed by Setsuro Wakamatsu.
Watanabe will play Masao Yoshida, the superintendent of the plant who was on duty when it was swamped by a tsunami that followed a massive earthquake in Japan’s northeast on March 11, 2011, knocking out the cooling systems. Yoshida ignored orders by his bosses at Tokyo Electric Power Co. and pumped seawater into the overheating reactors, likely preventing a worse disaster.
The following year, Yoshida was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and died in July 2013 at age 58.
The crewmembers at the plant who stayed on to try and prevent the meltdown of three reactors at the nuclear power station were lauded in the international media as the “Fukushima 50.”
Appearing alongside Watanabe will be veteran actor Koichi Sato, who in his 106th career role will play the shift supervisor at the time of the disaster. The film is based on the book On the Brink: The Inside Story of Fukushima Daiichi by Ryusho Kadota.
“I had promised to Koichi that I would play any role in his next film,” said Watanabe. “However, this was a challenging film to be a part of when the people of Fukushima are still suffering such loss and devastation. My hope is that, along with the wonderful cast and Wakamatsu directing, we will make a film that shows the intensity and bravery of these people that prevented a tragedy of epic proportions.”
Said Wakamatsu: “The Fukushima accident shook not only the people of Japan but also around the world. This film is about the power plant workers on the front line who faced an unprecedented crisis and risked their lives to save their families, their hometown and avert a disaster of global magnitude.”
Shooting on the film is set to begin at the end of November, with a release scheduled for 2020.
https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ken-watanabe-star-is-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-film-1162835?fbclid=IwAR1xjr4TVEoSr2Lkbkne9Eh3TVHf127L80HUME1Ip9J3dRb7DA-y0sPi8Zg

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November 25, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Excerpts from Asahi Journalist AOKI Miki’s “Streets Erased from the Map: Post-3.11, the Prohibited Truth”

 

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November 18, 2018
AOKI Miki (青木美希) is a journalist at the Asahi newspaper, one of Japan’s major news companies. Kodansha published her book, Streets Erased from the Map: Post-3.11, the Prohibited Truth(『地図から消される街ー3.11後の「言ってはいけない真実」』), in March 2018. It is the culmination of 7 years of continuous reporting on the 2011 TEPCO nuclear disaster. I have roughly translated and/or summarized some of the stories she documented in this book. (Where she refers to herself in the text, I have translated it as “I”; clarifying annotations/notes are mine).
CHAPTER 1: Local TEPCO Employees Who Can’t Raise Their Voices
Pages 28-39 (summarized):
Before the nuclear disaster, becoming a TEPCO employee was something many people aspired to. People used to say, “For a man to work at TEPCO means lifelong security; women should try to marry a TEPCO employee.” But after the disaster, they were resented. In the evacuation shelters, parents watched as their sons went back to work at Ichi-efu (1F = Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant). Before they left, they would write letters conveying their final farewells. I talked to a father who could not tell anyone at the shelter that his child worked at TEPCO.
I spoke to a young TEPCO worker. He was a local hire with a high school degree. He often went to TEPCO’s public relations museum as a kid, hoping he could one day become part of the future it displayed. When the earthquake happened, he wasn’t worried. The Meteorological Agency estimated that the tsunami height would be 3 meters, so he figured it would be about 1 meter, if it came at all. But as he was working in the reactor building, the power went out. Sea water started gushing in in the darkness. He ran up to the central control room, filled with monitors that would normally display live footage from various sectors of the power plant. But since there was no electricity, there was no information. He couldn’t get any of the pumps to move, since there was nothing to power them. So there was nothing to do but wait. That is where he was when the first hydrogen explosion happened. There were no windows in the control room, so he only heard it—an awful noise. The phones were still working, and he learned from a coworker that reactor 1 had exploded, and was thick with smoke.
About 2-3 hours after the explosion, an older employee said at least all the guys in their 20s and 30s should go to the quake-proof building, which is built with thick steel-enforced concrete [i.e., younger workers should evacuate there because the radiation levels are lower]. By then, more people had come in to work, and there were quite a few present who were in their 40s and 50s. So it was decided that all the younger men would evacuate—about 20 to 30 people total. They put on full face masks, light protective gear, and gloves to protect themselves from radioactive contamination, then ran together to the building, 350 meters away. The area was covered in debris, so they couldn’t use any of the cars onsite. They ended up running about 1 km to avoid getting too close to reactors 1 and 2.
Once they got there, he heard that two coworkers who had been sent to reactor 4 were missing. The building they had evacuated to still had power, so they could use the computers. But they still couldn’t do anything. All they could do was wait. They were still there during the explosion at reactor 3 on March 14th. Then the fuel rods in reactor 2 were damaged. The young TEPCO workers evacuated to a gym at the Daini nuclear power plant. They stayed there until the evening of March 16th, and then were told to go home.
After a week, the young worker was told to come back. His father didn’t say anything, but his mother told him not to go. But he told himself, “Who is there but us? This is happening in the town I grew up in. I need to keep the damage to a minimum.”
He did work like helping other workers out of their protective gear and handling the power switches for various machines at the entrance of a reactor building.
When he had been waiting in the quake-proof building, he had learned that two of his coworkers were missing. Someone started a rumor online that they were just enjoying themselves in Koriyama, drinking and joking about having pretended to be victims of the tsunami. Their bodies were found on March 30th, in one of the lower levels. The cause of death was shock from external bleeding from various injuries. Like him, they had been working in reactor 4 as ordered by their superior when the tsunami hit.
Things started to calm down in fall 2011, and he started to worry about the impact of the working conditions from that earlier period. His radiation exposure levels had not been recorded. He had been working without an APD (active personal dosimeter).
Note: It is industry standard for all workers to carry a personal dosimeter with them to record their external radiation exposure levels. According to a study summarized by the Radiation Work Network (Hibaku Rodo Network), the amount recorded can vary significantly even depending on where the dosimeter is kept on the body. It should also be noted that there are frequent reports of various workarounds to manipulate radiation exposure measurements. Though journalistic reports of the Japanese nuclear industry have suggested that conditions improved when records started being digitally displayed instead of being transcribed by hand, personal dosimeter measurements remain one of the things that are made flexible in a work-related pinch. Some workers who go to areas with high radiation levels are not issued APDs; sometimes a veteran worker might take both his and a subordinate’s APD with him to make that worker’s exposure levels seem lower or higher; etc. (In some cases, workers want their exposure levels to seem lower than they actually are to stay under the exposure limit so they can keep working).
At first, this was because nearly all the APDs were lost in the tsunami. Of the 5000 or so APDs that were onsite, only the 320 or so stored in the earthquake-proof building remained. At first, TEPCO said there would be enough to go around if only one representative from each work team used an APD. But even after huge amount of APDs were sent to 1F from other nuclear power plants, TEPCO kept up with this policy. So about 3000 people continued working without APDs.
Radiation levels varied significantly by location (0.03-0.04 millisieverts/hr in the central control room, versus 1 millisievert/hr+ close to the exhaust stacks where the hydrogen explosions had occurred). But the radiation levels for all members of a team were recorded as the same as that of the team leader.
Note: This account actually understates the extreme degree to which radiation levels can vary onsite. There are small hotspots with extremely high radiation levels, whose locations might change with conditions in the plant. One worker remembered being told to stay away from a particular corner. The radiation levels there were 600-some millisieverts/hour. He was shocked, and said, “600 millisieverts, not microsieverts?” To which he received the dry reply, “That’s right, millisieverts. In microsieverts, it would be 600,000 per hour.” The area was not cordoned or marked off in any way. This was a few years after the meltdown. (For reference, average radiation levels in Fukushima prior to the meltdown were 0.05~0.07 microsieverts/hr; the international standard for the general population’s annual exposure limit is 1 millisievert/year).
On March 31st, TEPCO was issued a warning by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, and subsequently recommenced issuing one APD per person. After that, workers were told that the company would correct its records of their radiation exposure levels. They were asked for details about where they had worked during the first week. But they probably couldn’t do much to correct the numbers, since no one had measurements of the radiation levels in different areas of the site at that time.
The first time they were able to measure their internal radiation levels was in early summer. A bus drove a simplified whole body counter (WBC) to Iwaki city, and measurements were taken. But the data was not shared with the workers. They were told it could not be share with them because it was “personal information.”
After repeatedly asking for it, the young worker finally got his data. He found his internal exposure level had been recorded at 50 millisieverts (mSv). Combined with his external exposure of 30 mSv, he had been exposed to a total of 80 mSv. When he thought about the standards for occupational illness recognition, he became afraid. It’s 5 mSv for leukemia; 25 mSv for a malignant lymph tumor; 50 mSv for multiple myeloma; 100 mSv for stomach cancer or esophageal cancer… He wanted to get married down the road and have kids… What if he got cancer 20 years later?
Note: Radioactive particles cycle through the body at different speeds according to their chemical properties. For example, Cesium-137 and Cesium-134 generally remain in the body for about one month. Additionally, much of the radiation emitted during the early stages of a nuclear meltdown comes from radioactive isotopes with short half-lives. A WBC is unable to measure the amount of radiation that was emitted by particles that already cycled out of someone’s body, nor can it measure the amount of radiation that had been emitted by particles that have already ceased to emit radiation. Consequently, even the figure of 50 mSv is an underestimation of his total internal dose from the nuclear meltdown.
<<Rough translations start here>>
He asked to be transferred, but his superior refused, telling him, “You haven’t gotten to 100 mSv yet. I’ll let out people with high exposure levels first.”
He thought about quitting. His mother encouraged him as well. But, he thought to himself, the reality is that about half of the hires at TEPCO are local people. If we don’t go, who will? Not to mention, all of my neighbors, relatives, and classmates know that I work at TEPCO. If I quit, maybe they will reproach me, asking “Why did you quit?”
It wasn’t just this young worker who thought that way. Many people kept their mouths shut, tortured with worry. Running away was scary; continuing to work was scary.
Every time he left for work, he felt like there was no place for him to run. Some people became depressed a few weeks after the disaster. At first, people were working thinking, “What can you do,” but now that it was fall, he felt like he was becoming depressed…
The young TEPCO worker wondered to himself, as one member of a worksite that tasked itself with providing “the safe energy of the future,” why had things turned out like this for him?
The company created something this dangerous in their pursuit of profit. They ignored the opinions of experts. Why didn’t they implement measures so that even if a tsunami came, they could continue to cool the reactors using the emergency power generators?
There had been times when the president of TEPCO and senior directors came to the site.
“Thank you.”—That’s what they would say. Even though he heard them, he could not feel that he was being thanked for his labor. They were not saying, “I’m sorry that we caused you this hardship,” or “Hang in there.” They said it as though it was entirely someone else’s affair, and he felt the insurmountable distance between conditions on the ground and company headquarters in Tokyo.
Residents of Fukushima often said, “Move your headquarters to Naraha town (where the nuclear power plant is), don’t leave it in the top-class district of Shimbashi [in Tokyo].” Even as a TEPCO local hire, he could understand their feelings.
He feels that people view the circumstances of those like him who are at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant like, “This is where we are; what else is there to do?” But he wants others to know that it’s not that everyone is resting on their laurels. At the very least, he did all he could in the midst of that terror.
His dad said, “It’s the people on the ground that lose.” That’s exactly how it is.
The young TEPCO worker’s request to be transferred was granted after more than a year had passed. But, he was told it was for a “limited time,” and after a few years he was issued another appointment, and returned to Fukushima.
Pages 40-43:
The Reality That 26% of Men in Their 50s Are Without Work
People chose many paths in the life they lived with TEPCO. There were people who stayed at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and there were people who left, seeking a different path. But there are also people who can’t go forward, who can’t help being fixed to one spot. Men in their 50s, who have trouble finding new employment.
A man in in his 50s who had done electricity-related work at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was speaking at an evacuation center in Iwaki city, his face red: “I’m never going back to 1F (Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant).” There was an open one-cup sake can next to him. A man I spoke to in Saitama was also saying, “I didn’t know it was so dangerous.” He was also about 50 years old. But, if they left their jobs, there was no way they were going to find work.
Though not limited to TEPCO-related workers, Fukushima University conducted a survey of the residents of the municipalities of Futaba County, which surround the nuclear power plant, in February to March 2017. There were 10,081 respondents. 31%, the largest percentage, responded that they had “little hope” for their future work or lives. 19% responded that they had “absolutely no hope.” 26% of those in their 50s reported being without work.
Note: She says “TEPCO-related” because the nuclear industry is composed of multiple layers of subcontractors. Power companies contract work out to monolith “zenekon,” or general contractors, like Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Toshiba, and so on. These companies then parcel out jobs to a vast array of subcontractors, who then further distribute the work through their own networks. There have been reports of at most 7 or even 12 layers of subcontractors, though a local expert noted that it would probably be impossible for the lowest-level subcontracting company to break even if the reports of 7+ layers were true.
Many people who worked at the nuclear power plant lived in Naraha town, on the southern side of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
A man who was 48 years old at the time of the disaster, who ran a subcontracting company in Naraha town and worked as a site foreman, went to work in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant right after the accident in March 2011.
The site was wrecked. It completely overturned his sense that nuclear power plants are safe.
He was called to Fukushima Daiichi again in April of that year, but after that he thought, “I don’t want to see that wrecked nuclear power plant anymore,” and went to Saitama prefecture, where his wife and children had evacuated.
In September 2015, Naraha town’s evacuation orders were lifted. Shortly thereafter, he returned to his hometown. He renovated his house, and, wanting his family to return, he left a cumulative dosimeter in the house to measure its radiation levels. After one year, it read 0.1 mSv. He explained to his wife, “The radiation levels aren’t that high. I know because I’ve worked at the nuclear power plant.”
“I don’t want to be close to the nuclear power plant.”
That was his wife’s reply.
While displaced, the man developed diabetes, and in May 2016, he was diagnosed with depression. Since, he has been seeing a psychotherapist.
When I heard his story in April 2017, he was 54 years old. With white hair and a tired face, he looked far older than his fifty years.
His eldest son and eldest daughter are both in their 20s and working. His wife and children already bought a house in Saitama. Before, he would drive two hours and forty minutes one way to be with his family in Saitama. But before he realized it, his visits became rare, and he said he could not remember the last time he went.
Their life over there must be better now…
He wanted to be with his family. He is lonely and sad. He started to drink. Whenever he has time, he drinks. When he drinks, he feels a little better. When he gets sober, he starts to feel sad again. So he drinks again. If he drinks, he gets sleepy. It’s more of a “win” to fall asleep drinking.
But even so, he has fitful sleep, and at the very least he wakes up twice during the night. It’s a cruel cycle.
About 2 months after the national government lifted Naraha town’s evacuation orders, the returnee rate was at the 4% mark. Even later, it did not rise much, and the town stopped publishing statistics with the 11.1% it recorded in March 2017. Instead, it now publishes “town resident percentages,” which include new residents such as new nuclear power plant workers and recovery construction workers.
In the last available statistics on returnees, published in March 2017, 65% were in their 60s or older, and 5% were minors.
In the former site foreman’s neighborhood, only elderly people in their 60s to 80s have returned. He is the youngest in his block. He said to me, “I don’t know what is going to happen at the nuclear power plant so I think I’m going to quit. I want to work a normal job and die normally. It’s not like I can find new work now – what should I do? Right now, we get 160,000 yen per month as compensation, but TEPCO is saying it will stop paying. Are they telling us to die?”
His son was a nuclear worker, too. Their pride in their work, their life with their families, and their health was broken… They don’t have the energy to get back on their feet anymore.
https://jfissures.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/excerpts-from-asahi-journalist-aoki-mikis-streets-erased-from-the-map-post-3-11-the-prohibited-truth/

November 25, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear Pollution in the East China Sea from the Fukushima Disaster

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November 5, 2018
Abstract
Nuclear pollution has become a new form and perhaps more harmful type of pollution that obsesses coastal regions; it has been of increasing concern after the disastrous Fukushima nuclear leak on March 11, 2011. In order to assess the impact of the Fukushima accident on the East China Sea (ECS), a highly resolved model is set up to simulate the evolution of the 137Cs concentration. Different from previous studies in this regard, here we take into account the radionuclides originally existing in the ocean. It is found that the radionuclides from the Fukushima leak do have reached ECS, though with a concentration far below the harmful level. The major waterways that inlet the radionuclides are Taiwan Strait and the waterway east of Taiwan. The radioactive material tends to accumulate in the ECS until reaching its peak in 2019; afterward, the outflux through Tokara Strait and Tsushima exceeds the influx through the two southern waterways, and the material resumes in 2021 to its original state. The concentration is neither homogeneously nor stationarily distributed; for example, usually in summer, there is a high center over the Subei Bank in the Yellow Sea. This study is expected, should a similar accident happen again, to help decide where to monitor the ocean, and, hopefully, how to get the pollution under control.
Read more at:
https://www.intechopen.com/books/coastal-environment-disaster-and-infrastructure-a-case-study-of-china-s-coastline/nuclear-pollution-in-the-east-china-sea-from-the-fukushima-disaster

November 25, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

So who will foot the bill if another nuclear disaster strikes Japan?

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From left: The No. 1 to No. 4 reactors of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in May 2012
November 1, 2018
The government is trying to wriggle out of overhauling the way compensation should be paid out for damages caused by a nuclear accident.
A working group of the government’s Atomic Energy Commission had been considering ways to bolster the system, including raising the amount of losses covered by insurance, but failed to produce a formal proposal. The commission apparently failed to obtain support for these ideas from the electric power and insurance industries.
The panel started reviewing the system in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Nearly eight years have passed since the catastrophic triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, yet serious problems and flaws remain unaddressed with the current system. The government clearly has no intention of tackling them anytime soon.
The Abe administration and the power industry are pushing to restart offline reactors, which is a very irresponsible move.
The current system for compensation requires operators of nuclear plants to sign contracts with both private-sector insurers and the government to finance payouts related to nuclear accidents.
But these contracts are good for only up to 120 billion yen ($1.06 billion) per nuclear plant. This is way too small, given that compensation payments related to the Fukushima disaster have already surpassed 8 trillion yen.
In the case of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima facility, it quickly became clear that the company could not raise the necessary funds on its own. This prospect prompted the government to create a makeshift program to support such payouts.
Under this system, the government first pays compensation and then recovers the money over a period of decades from TEPCO and other major electric utilities.
The government’s rationale is that utilities must work together to fork up funding for the system in light of the massive sums required. This system is supposed to swing into action if another major nuclear accident occurs.
But it is hard to claim that a system based on mutual aid among competitors is sustainable, given the growing competition due to the liberalization of the power retail market.
It is time to find an answer to the weighty, complicated question of how the financial burden of preparing for nuclear accidents and paying compensation for losses should be shared among electric power companies, their stakeholders and the government.
Operators of nuclear power plants have an obligation to provide against nuclear emergencies.
As a first step, insurance coverage for accident-caused losses should be sharply raised.
The government needs to continue working with related industries to work out a specific plan.
It should also consider how to deal with the prospect of a power company going under in the event of a serious accident. If such a thing were to happen, the government would probably have to play the leading role in paying compensation. But it would still need to get the shareholders and financial institutions involved to cough up their fair share of the burden.
Increased insurance premiums paid by major electric utilities could cause electricity bills to rise. But it would help make more accurate assessments of the real costs of nuclear power generation, which both the government and the power industry have claimed to be lower than those of alternative energy sources.
At the root of the troubled history of policy efforts to address the issue of compensation is the ambiguous nature of the government’s nuclear power policy. This is borne out by the way it took the initiative in promoting nuclear power plants operated by private-sector companies.
Should nuclear power generation continue despite the potential risks and social costs? If another severe nuclear accident occurs, who should take the responsibility for dealing with the aftermath and in what ways?
These are just some of the fundamental questions about nuclear power policy raised by the need to revamp the compensation system.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Ex-TEPCO Executive Downplays Role in Fukushima Nuclear Meltdown

Three TEPCO leaders are on trial for allegedly delaying tsunami preparation measures.
 
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TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, center, Vice President Takashi Fujimoto, second from left, Sakae Muto, second from right, and others bow before a news conference at the company’s head office in Tokyo, Japan (March 30, 2011).
October 31, 2018
Prosecutors at Tokyo Metropolitan District Court continue to piece together the timeline that led Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to hold off on securing the plant against its worst-case tsunami scenario.
Despite TEPCO staff being assigned to calculate the extent of the tsunami threat, their findings were ignored. Top TEPCO officials are now fighting criminal negligence charges for allegedly neglecting tsunami prevention initiatives.
Experts say the impact of the devastating tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011, triggering the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, could have been prevented if sufficient countermeasures were taken. The lengthy criminal trial finished its 32nd session in late October, revealing contradictions in the managerial awareness of the long-term tsunami risks and a controversial shift in the company attitude toward installing appropriate measures.
Former CEO Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, and former Executive Vice Presidents Sakae Muto, 68, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, were indicted two years ago on charges of professional negligence resulting in death. All three have pleaded not guilty based on the uncertainty of predicting an “unthinkable” earthquake, which could occur once every thousand years.
Muto bowed his head in front of the judge and offered an apology to those who lost their lives, their families, and those forced to evacuate. From the outset, his initial apology seemed like an admission of responsibility. But it didn’t take long for Muto to maintain his innocence, saying he didn’t recall being briefed on a destructive earthquake or the need for new safety steps.
However, the cross-examination of witnesses at previous court sessions exposed holes in Muta’s pre-hearing affidavit and his statements made in court. TEPCO official Kazuhiko Yamashita, in charge of anti-earthquake measures at the time, gave evidence saying all three officials joined an imperial court meeting in February 2008, where they acknowledged the prediction of a 7.7-meter high tsunami and instructed the building of a 10-meter seawall. The meeting is said to have stressed that new tsunami measures were needed at Fukushima Nuclear Plant based on the long-term evaluation of the country and a hard copy of the report was also distributed to officials. However, in Muto’s affidavit, he originally claimed there was “absolutely no report” and vehemently denied tsunami countermeasures for Fukushima Nuclear Plant were a topic of discussion in the meeting,
An unexpected policy shift away from tsunami preparedness materialized when the TEPCO civil engineering team recalculated the tsunami height risk to 15.7 meters. The team reported the findings to Muto in June the same year. Rather than accelerating earthquake resistance plans, however, as construction proposals ballooned from original estimates and with the risk of unwanted attention on the nuclear power plant’s safety prospects, Yamashita says he was given orders by Muto to scrap the plans. Muto then consulted the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to reassess the findings for a second opinion.
Muto explained in court that he was uncertain of the report’s credibility and that it was natural to gather information on the many aspects he couldn’t make sense of. He repeatedly denied that the move indicated a desire to postpone new safety measures but said it stemmed from lack of alternatives. According to Muto, he didn’t have authority to make decisions over the company in that way.
The Great Eastern Earthquake of March 2011 knocked out power supplies and damaged back up generators, causing vital cooling systems at the nuclear plan to fail. Three reactor cores overheated and began to leak radiation. Seven years on, some 40,000 residents who were forced to flee their homes in Fukushima prefecture are still unable to return to their houses, which have fallen to ruin in the no-go zone. The ongoing trial, propelled largely by a group of Fukushima plaintiffs, offers a small chance at gaining closure and much needed background into the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tsunami Couldn’t Have Been Foreseen, Says Fukushima Plant Operator’s Ex-Chaiman

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30.10.2018
MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Tsunehisa Katsumata said in court on Tuesday that a devastating tsunami that led to the 2011 accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant could not have been predicted, NHK reported.
During the hearing, the former TEPCO chairman said that he was briefed in 2009 on the possibility of a tsunami by a TEPCO official who sounded very skeptical, adding that he believed in the quality of work of the Nuclear Power and Plant Siting Division and did not doubt existing safety measures, the NHK broadcaster reported.
Katsumata and ex-vice presidents of TEPCO Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto were accused of professional negligence resulting in death and injury, but all of them denied the charges.
The prosecutors argued that the top management was fully responsible for ensuring security at the nuclear plant, the broadcaster added.
The court hearings will proceed with statements by the families of those whose deaths are linked to the nuclear accident.
In March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude offshore earthquake triggered a 46-foot tsunami that led to the accident and shutdown of the plant. The accident is considered to be the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Putting tsunami countermeasures on hold at Fukushima nuke plant ‘natural’: ex-TEPCO VP

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 Ichiro Takekuro, a former vice president at Tokyo Electric Power Co., enters the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward in this June 30, 2017
October 20, 2018
TOKYO — A former vice president at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) told a court here on Oct. 19 that it was “natural” for the utility to put tsunami countermeasures at the plant on hold while it consulted experts.
Ichiro Takekuro, 72, is under indictment on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the nuclear disaster that broke out after tsunami hit the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011. His testimony at the Tokyo District Court backed fellow defendant Sakae Muto, 68, who made the decision on the tsunami countermeasures.
TEPCO estimated in March 2008 that tsunami waves up to 15.7 meters high could hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, based on a long-term evaluation made by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002. While being aware of the company’s estimate, Muto put tsunami countermeasures on hold in July 2008 and instructed subordinates to ask experts to evaluate the reliability of the long-term evaluation.
A key point of contention in the trial is whether the Muto’s decision constituted “postponement” of countermeasures.
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 Sakae Muto, a former vice president at Tokyo Electric Power Co., enters the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward in this June 30, 2017
 
Muto told earlier court hearings that he had informed Takekuro in August 2008 of the company’s maximum tsunami height estimate. However, Takekuro told the Oct. 19 hearing that he had no recollection of that, adding that he heard the estimate from another subordinate sometime in April or May 2009.
With regard to the government’s long-term evaluation, Takekuro said, “I heard that it wasn’t supported by specific proof. I thought thorough discussion was necessary if there were unclear factors,” again justifying Muto’s decision.
As to TEPCO’s estimation that 15.7-meter tsunami waves could hit the power station, Takekuro said he “didn’t feel any sense of urgency.”
Takekuro is standing trial along with Muto and former TEPCO President Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, over the nuclear crisis.
Prosecutors had abandoned indicting the three. However, court-appointed lawyers indicted them after a prosecution inquest panel deemed twice that they deserved to stand trial.

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

Four Japan firms used foreign trainees to clean up at Fukushima plant after nuclear meltdowns: final report

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The government concluded Friday that four companies had used foreign trainees to perform work cleaning up radioactive contamination after the March 2011 tsunami triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The headline figure from the final report on a survey conducted by the Justice Ministry, the labor ministry and the Organization for Technical Intern Training was the same as that in the interim report, released in mid-July, which reflected results of surveying fewer than 200 companies with foreign trainee programs.
Officials visited a total of 1,018 such companies with facilities in eight prefectures in eastern and northeastern Japan, interviewing technical interns there to confirm the situation, after the issue came to light in March.
Of the four companies, one in Iwate Prefecture has been banned from accepting foreign trainees for five years. It was found to have neglected to pay allowances for decontamination work, amounting to a combined ¥1.5 million, to three trainees.
The government has issued a similar ban for three years to a firm in Fukushima Prefecture for not paying a total of ¥180,000 to three interns for overtime work.
A company in Fukushima and another in Chiba Prefecture received warnings because foreign trainees there engaged in decontamination work, albeit for short periods of time. The names of the four companies were not revealed.
Justice Minister Takashi Yamashita told a news conference that the government gave guidance for improvement to three related regulatory organizations over insufficient inspections of companies with foreign technical interns.
“We will continue to work with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Organization for Technical Intern Training to guide regulatory organizations and companies that accept technical interns, so they will not let them engage in decontamination work. We will take proper measures when we find inappropriate cases,” Yamashita said.
In March, a Vietnamese trainee at an Iwate Prefecture-based construction firm revealed he had been assigned to take part in radioactive decontamination work without being given sufficient explanation of the tasks involved.
The government announced later that month that it would not allow companies to use such foreign trainees for the removal of radioactive contamination, as such work is not consistent with the purpose of the program.
The technical trainee program was introduced in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to developing countries. But it has drawn criticism both at home and abroad as being a cover for importing cheap labor for industrial sectors, including manufacturing and construction, where blue-collar workers are in short supply.

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

Distrust of TEPCO Hampers Decommissioning

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Friday, October 19
A major challenge at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is disposing of water containing a large amount of radioactive tritium. The Japanese government proposed diluting and releasing the water into the sea, but many fisheries in Fukushima are voicing strong opposition to the proposal. Disposal of the tainted water is a must for scrapping reactors at the plant. So, what should the government and TEPCO officials do?
 
Doing away with tritium-tainted water is essential
Every day, more than 100 tons of radioactive water builds up. Despite various measures taken since the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi, groundwater continues to enter the reactor buildings, mixing with water which is being used to cool the reactors.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company uses a system called ALPS to treat the water. Officials have been saying that the system’s high-performance filters can get rid of most radioactive substances, except tritium.
TEPCO is not allowed to dispose of that water because its tritium levels surpass the limit set by the government.
That’s why the utility is storing 920,000 tons of the water in more than 800 tanks. The water is expected to increase by up to about 100,000 tons a year. The government and the firm say that in a matter of years, Fukushima Daiichi will run out of space for tanks.
PowerPoint プレゼンテーション
A government panel of experts has been discussing what to do with the water. The experts concluded that the technology for separating tritium cannot be put into practical use yet. They instead put several options on the table such as:
1) Diluting and releasing the water into the sea
2) Heating and evaporating the water
3) Burying the water deep underground
A report later compiled by the panel said releasing the water into the sea will make the most sense. Experts say this is the cheapest and quickest way among all the options. The question is, is it safe?
Tritium exists in the atmosphere. The government, TEPCO and the Nuclear Regulation Authority say tritium emits a weaker form of radiation than other radioactive substances. They say that even if tritium enters the human body, it will be incorporated into water and quickly released outside. Officials say therefore, tritium is likely to pose few health risks if its concentration is low.
In the past, nuclear power plants across Japan actually released water containing tritium after confirming its readings were below the limit.
NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa has been calling on the government and TEPCO to make a quick decision, saying releasing the water into the sea after its tritium level falls below the limit is the only viable option. He thinks the approval process for the proposal is unlikely to take long, so it will have limited impact on the work to scrap the reactors.
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Mounting distrust among fisheries
After the expert panel compiled its report, the government held public hearings to make a final decision. At a hearing held in the town of Tomioka in Fukushima Prefecture on August 30th, the proposal came under fire mainly from people in the fishing industry.
The head of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations said the proposed move will be a devastating blow to the local fishing industry. He said its past efforts will go to waste, and it will deprive the industry of its motivation for rebuilding businesses.
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Fishermen in Fukushima suspended their operations after radioactive materials exceeding the government-set limits were detected in seafood caught off the prefecture following the 2011 accident. But in recent years, no fish from the area have been found to be highly radioactive. Now, fishermen can catch and ship most kinds of fish.
However, some consumers still hesitate to eat marine products from Fukushima. Fish landings are still about one-tenth of levels before the accident. Local fisheries fear that if TEPCO releases the water into the ocean, they will have to delay their plans to resume operations at full capacity and struggle again to make ends meet — even if the water is deemed safe.
The underlying problem is distrust towards the government and TEPCO. There have been numerous instances in which TEPCO withheld the fact that tainted water had leaked into the sea. Locals saw them as acts of betrayal. They fear that once TEPCO begins dumping the water into the sea, consumers may refrain from purchasing fishery products from Fukushima Prefecture even further.
Suspended Fishing Operations At Ports As Fukushima Leaks Prompt Government to 'Emergency Measures'
Public distrust further deepened during the hearings. It came to light that the water stored in some of the tanks contains levels of radioactive substances, such as iodine that exceed the limit. This contradicts the explanation given by the government and TEPCO — that the water treatment system can reduce all radioactive substances to a level below the limit, except for tritium.
My understanding was that tritium was the only radioactive substance in the tanks that exceeds the government-set limits. I was not the only one who was confused. Other participants also expressed concerns that TEPCO may have been concealing the facts.
TEPCO officials explained that levels of some radioactive substances could exceed the limits if the water treatment filters are used continuously. They said that’s not a problem, adding that the goal is to reduce the risk of radiation exposure, and that they have been making the data public on their website.
After hearing this, I checked TEPCO’s website once again. There, I found the iodine levels, but they were buried in a massive amount of data, making it very difficult to find. TEPCO officials didn’t seem eager to provide a full explanation of what has happened so far.
But TEPCO’s claim that this isn’t a problem differs with the public’s view. Its attitude is worsening the problem.
TEPCO officials tend to make decisions based on technical considerations, which often fail to sufficiently acknowledge the concerns of the locals. The officials also appear reluctant to release information that is inconvenient for them. Unless they change their mindset, they will not be able to regain the public’s trust.
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Steps TEPCO must take to regain trust
First and foremost, the government and TEPCO must provide thorough explanations and responses to the questions and opinions expressed in the hearings. They need to clarify why they didn’t proactively explain the level of radioactive substances and provide their exact levels and how they will deal with them.
In addition, the government should hold public hearings at various other locations and communicate more with the public. The latest round of public hearings was held only in Fukushima and Tokyo and this didn’t seem sufficient to regain public support.
Decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is a prerequisite for the reconstruction of areas devastated by the nuclear disaster. To this end, treatment of contaminated water is a must, and it needs be done swiftly. However, there will not be progress, no matter which method is taken, without the consent of the people affected by the nuclear disaster.
TEPCO and government officials must offer truthful updates as soon as they happen. While this sounds obvious, it’s the only way to regain people’s trust and resolve the problem of the accumulation of tainted water.

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

Denials dominate 1st trial questioning of ex-TEPCO VP over tsunami-triggered nuke disaster

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Former Tokyo Electric Power Co. Vice President Sakae Muto
 
October 17, 2018
TOKYO — Denials of allegations dominated the questioning on Oct. 16 of former Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) vice president Sakae Muto in the criminal trial he and other ex-TEPCO leaders face over their responsibility to predict and prevent damage caused by the 2011 tsunami that triggered an unprecedented nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan.
“The charge that I delayed (tsunami countermeasures) is outrageous,” said Muto, 68, during the questioning at the Tokyo District Court. He repeated emphatic rebuttals against the prosecution’s argument that the damage could have been avoided if he had taken appropriate actions earlier.
Muto and two other defendants — former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, and former vice president Ichiro Takekuro, 72 — stand accused of professional negligence resulting in deaths and injuries of evacuees from the nuclear disaster. They were indicted in 2016 by lawyers serving as prosecutors after public prosecutors refused to do so twice and the prosecution inquest committee shot down those refusals.
A massive tsunami caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011 hit TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, cutting the facility off the power grid and ruining emergency power generators. The prolonged blackout made it impossible to cool down the nuclear fuel cores at three reactors, triggering their meltdowns and the release of massive amounts of radioactive materials into the atmosphere. As a result, hundreds of thousands of nearby residents, including elderly patients, were forced to flee, with dozens dying and others getting injured in the process.
During the questioning on Oct. 16, Muto replied “Not at all” on many occasions when defense lawyers asked him if he procrastinated on introducing measures to protect the nuclear station from potential high tsunami waves three years before the 2011 incident.
When asked by lawyers serving as prosecutors about the exchange he had with his subordinate at the time tsunami countermeasures were discussed, Muto insisted, “I do not recall.” When his answer was cut short by the prosecution, Muto indicated his dissatisfaction, crossing his arms with a big sigh.
According to past testimonies in the trial that began in June last year, Muto and other top TEPCO officials heard reports from subordinates about the need for tsunami countermeasures at the Fukushima plant, and they approved those steps. Muto, however, told the court that the top-level meeting was “for information sharing” and not for decision-making. The defendant also denied that he was briefed on such measures.
The former TEPCO vice president did apologize at the beginning of the questioning, saying, “To the many people who lost their lives, their family members or those who were forced to evacuate their homes, I have caused you great trouble that cannot be expressed in words.” Muto, clad in a dark suit, then stood up, bowed deeply and stated, “I extend my deepest apologies. I am very sorry about what happened.”
(Japanese original by Mirai Nagira, Science & Environment News Department, and Masanori Makita, City News Department)

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

Ex-TEPCO VP apologizes but denies being told of need for tsunami steps

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Former Tokyo Electric Power Co. Vice President Sakae Muto.

Ex-TEPCO VP apologizes as defendant questioning begins in Fukushima nuclear disaster trial

October 16, 2018
TOKYO — A former vice president of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) apologized on Oct. 16 during court questioning of three ex-TEPCO top officials indicted on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Defendant Sakae Muto, 68, said, “To the many people who lost their lives, their family members or those who were forced to evacuate their homes, I have caused you great pain that cannot be expressed in words, and I extend my deepest apologies. I am very sorry about what happened.”
The questioning of Muto at the Tokyo District Court over the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in northern Japan is scheduled to continue until the evening, with plans to resume on Oct. 17.
The other former executives indicted in the criminal trial are 78-year-old former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice president Ichiro Takekuro, 72. This trial marks the first time that the three top officials will be questioned in detail in a court of law about their responsibility for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
According to the indictment, while the three were aware of the possibility of a large tsunami hitting the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Plant, they neglected to take countermeasures, leading to the March 2011 accident. As a result, they are thought to have caused the deaths of 44 patients who had to evacuate from Futaba Hospital in the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, near the power plant for a long period of time due to the accident, among other charges.
At the first hearing of the trial in June 2017, Muto said, “Looking back now, there was no way of predicting that such an accident could occur. I do not believe we are responsible.” The other two defendants are also maintaining their innocence in the matter.
Former vice president Takekuro will be questioned on Oct. 19, followed by former chairman Katsumata on Oct. 20.
(Japanese original by Masanori Makita, City News Department, and Mirai Nagira, Science & Environment News Department)
 
 
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Sakae Muto, former vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., in January

Ex-TEPCO exec denies being told of need for tsunami steps

October 16, 2018
A former vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. refused to take any responsibility for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, testifying in court Oct. 16 that he was never made aware of the possibility of destructive tsunami striking the facility and, therefore, did not authorize countermeasures.
Sakae Muto, 68, is on trial on a charge of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the March 2011 catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, along with Tsunehisa Katsumata, a former TEPCO chairman, and Ichiro Takekuro, another former TEPCO vice president.
Towering tsunami generated by the Great East Japan Earthquake inundated the coastal complex, knocking out cooling systems and triggering a triple meltdown.
Muto denied in the Tokyo District Court that he and the two other top executives once gave the green light for countermeasures against a powerful tsunami three years before the disaster occurred.
“We were never notified that such a thing could happen,” Muto stated.
To prove negligence, prosecutors must show that top executives could have reasonably predicted the scale of the tsunami that swamped the plant, setting off the most serious nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Muto’s testimony followed oral statements given in a previous court hearing by Kazuhiko Yamashita, head of TEPCO’s center tasked with compiling anti-earthquake measures.
In the statetments, Yamashita said he notified Muto, Katsumata and Takekuro in a February 2008 meeting that the height of a powerful tsunami predicted to hit the site would be at least 7.7 meters.
Yamashita’s team arrived at the figure using a simplified calculation based on the long-term assessment of the probability of major earthquakes released by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002.
Yamashita said in his statements that he took it that the three executives understood his team’s projection was based on a government assessment and that they approved taking anti-tsunami measures.
Yamashita’s statements were made to prosecutors between 2012 and 2014, when he was under investigation in connection with the nuclear disaster. The court accepted them as evidence.
A TEPCO subsidiary’s civil engineering team came up with a figure of 15.7 meters after conducting a more detailed study.
The update was conveyed to TEPCO executives in June that year. But Muto, who was deputy chief of the company’s nuclear power and plant siting division, instructed subordinates the following month to shelve the anti-tsunami measures, according to witnesses who testified in previous hearings.
Asked about the February meeting, Muto denied that he was notified destructive tsunami could strike, or safety steps were required.
“No such topics were raised during the meeting,” he stated.
Muto also characterized the meeting that included Katsumata and Takekuro as “not one to make a decision as an organization, but one to share information.”
With regard to the projection of 15.7 meters, Muto said, “I was briefed that the (government’s) long-term assessment is not credible and thought that no new scientific expertise was available.”
He also rejected suggestions that he postponed taking anti-tsunami measures.
“I simply thought it would be difficult to come up with a design for a strong sea wall straight away,” he said.
Asked whether it was possible that his division alone was empowered to halt plant operations in anticipation of encroaching danger, he emphatically denied this was so.
He said a decision of such gravity is “too weighty in terms of business management that the nuclear power and plant siting division’s decision alone cannot make it happen.”
Muto went on to state: “It would have been necessary for the division to consult with not only many divisions and sections of our company, but also other utilities and central and local governments and explain to them the grounds and the need to halt operations.”
He started his testimony by offering a “deep apology” for causing “trouble beyond description” to people affected by the nuclear disaster.
The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant’s reactor buildings sit on elevated land 10 meters above sea level. The tsunami spawned by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake reached 15.5 meters around the reactor buildings, according to traces left there.
Prosecutors had initially declined to press charges against the three former executives, citing insufficient evidence. However, a committee for the inquest of prosecution twice concluded that the trio should be indicted.

October 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Whether tsunami predictable, damage avoidable focus of TEPCO nuclear disaster trial

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The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) headquarters building in the capital’s Chiyoda Ward is seen from Shiodome City Center in Tokyo’s Minato Ward in this file photo taken on Aug. 24, 2011.
 
October 15, 2018
TOKYO — The criminal trial of three top former Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) officials indicted on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster will reach a climax as the defendants will begin to answer questions from prosecutors and their defense lawyers on Oct. 16.
They will face these two focal questions: Was it possible for them to predict the massive tsunami that triggered the triple core meltdowns at the TEPCO plant in the northeastern Japan prefecture of Fukushima, and was the damage from the natural disaster avoidable?
The three former TEPCO executives to undergo questioning are former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto. All of them essentially answered no to those two questions in the opening session of the trial in June last year; that they could not foresee the tsunami, and therefore have no criminal responsibility for the damage caused by the natural disaster leading to the nuclear accident.
This unusual trial took several years to come to the Tokyo District Court as prosecutors’ two refusals to indict the three ex-executives were overridden each time by the committee for the inquest of prosecution. As a result, the defendants were forcibly indicted by lawyers serving as prosecutors.
The trial’s eight months of cross examinations of various witnesses that ended on Oct. 3 gave rise to the view that the former management essentially postponed taking sufficient countermeasures against the level of tsunami that hit the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Station on March 11, 2011 out of cost considerations.
The gushing seawater sent to the Fukushima shore by the Great East Japan Earthquake halted diesel power generators at the plant, making it impossible to cool down the nuclear fuel cores that melted down to the ground and resulted in the release of a massive amount of radioactive materials into the surrounding environment. This nuclear disaster forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents around the plant, and many of them are still unable to return to their homes seven years after the incident.
— ‘Management first, countermeasures second’?
In the 24th session of the trial on Sept. 5, an affidavit given to the prosecution by a former top TEPCO official in charge of tsunami countermeasures was read out: “Our business environment was deteriorating because of the Niigata Chuetsu offshore earthquake of 2007 that halted the Kashiwazaki-Kariha nuclear power station, and we wanted to prevent the Fukushima No. 1 plant from stopping by all means.”
The statement said that the former management once decided to introduce measures to protect against possible tsunami damage but decided to postpone them after finding out that they were more costly than expected, implying that managerial decisions were behind the delay.
Earlier, all TEPCO tsunami countermeasure officials who testified before the court had agreed that such steps must be taken in response to a 2002 government estimate that “a massive tsunami could occur off the Fukushima coast.” Their testimonies, however, did not explain why the process was delayed.
According to the affidavit, the three defendants including Katsumata approved countermeasures at a top-level TEPCO meeting in February 2008 after a report was presented to the meeting that an estimated wave 7.7 meters high or more could hit the Fukushima facility. But more detailed calculations showed that the potential maximum height would be 15.7 meters, and it was reported to Muto, the former vice president, that it was now estimated to cost tens of billions of yen and take more than four years to complete the countermeasures. Following this estimate, Muto decided to ask experts to re-evaluate the reliability of the 2002 government estimate, effectively shelving steps to mitigate damage from tsunami.
Implementing tsunami countermeasures could mean a halt to the Fukushima nuclear plant as construction work could not be completed in time. If that was the case, it was better to work behind closed doors and influence regulators so that they would clear the facility as safe, according to the testimony by a former tsunami countermeasure official presented in September this year.
If the management really postponed measures to curb tsunami damage as explained in the affidavit that would fit with the argument by the prosecution — as highlighted by designated lawyers in the special trial. Another focal point of the trial would be how the three defendants would explain this point.
Moreover, it is still not clear what Katsumata, the then chairman, and Takekuro, another vice president back then, were thinking about the results of tsunami damage estimates reported to the February 2008 meeting. The level of involvement by these two defendants is also a highlight of the questioning session starting Oct. 16.
According to the 2002 government estimate, there was a 20 percent chance that a magnitude-8 earthquake could occur along the Japan Trench off the northeastern Japan coast of Sanriku and the eastern coast of Boso during the next 30 years. Fukushima lies alongside this area, which triggered three major tremblers that caused massive tsunami during the past 400 years as shown in historical records.
Professor Fumihiko Imamura of Tohoku University, a tsunami dynamics specialist, questioned the validity of the government evaluation during the trial saying, “It cannot be ignored but has many issues,” siding with the three defendants. But professor emeritus Kunihiko Shimazaki of the University of Tokyo, a seismologist who headed an expert panel that compiled the 2002 estimate, testified that the panel’s conclusion didn’t face any objections from panel members. “It was a consensus conclusion. The (2011 nuclear) accident could have been avoided if countermeasures were taken according to the long-term evaluation,” Shimzaki said. His testimony indicated the defendants failed to act properly.
In class action damages suits filed by evacuees from the 2011 nuclear accident and others, five district courts have ruled that the massive tsunami that triggered the core meltdowns could have been foreseen based on the 2002 estimate. But criminal trials require stronger proof and sometimes end with different conclusions than civil suits.
Meanwhile, about the question of whether the damage caused by the tsunami was avoidable, a former TEPCO employee at the time of the nuclear disaster said in the trial that “damage from tsunami could not be prevented even if countermeasures were taken.” The superior of the employee testified that “countermeasures, if implemented, could be too late, but I think something could have been done.”
A former employee of the Japan Atomic Power Co. testified that his company constructed soil embankments around its Tokai No. 2 nuclear power station in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture to the south of Fukushima, to fend off a tsunami to a height of 12.2 meters. This measure was based on the 2002 government estimate, and the facility was spared of damage from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The prosecution argues that such a measure would have prevented the Fukushima nuclear facility from causing the devastating damage.
(Japanese original by Ei Okada, Science & Environment News Department, and Masanori Makita, City News Department)

October 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

An insider’s perspective on Fukushima and everything that came after

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Ars chats with Naomi Hirose, who became TEPCO’s CEO after the Fukushima meltdown.
Naomi Hirose, vice chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO).
 
October 5, 2018
The meltdown of the reactors at Fukushima Daichi has changed how many people view the risks of nuclear power, causing countries around the world to revise their plans for further construction and revisit the safety regulations for existing plants. The disaster also gave the world a first-hand view of the challenges of managing accidents in the absence of a functional infrastructure and the costs when those accidents occur in a densely populated, fully developed nation.
Earlier this week, New York’s Japan Society hosted a man with a unique perspective on all of this. Naomi Hirose was an executive at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) when the meltdown occurred, and he became its CEO while he was struggling to get the recovery under control. Ars attended Hirose’s presentation and had the opportunity to interview him. Because the two discussions partly overlapped, we’ll include information from both below.
The accident and safety
During his presentation, Hirose noted that the epicenter of 2011’s Tōhoku earthquake was only 180 kilometers from Fukushima. But initially, safety protocols kicked in; called a scram, the protocols led to control rods being inserted into the reactors to shut down the nuclear reactions and bring the plant to a halt. Since this had happened previously in response to earthquakes, Hirose said people were feeling confident the situation was under control.
But the earthquake itself had damaged the power lines that fed the plant, leaving it reliant on internal power to run the cooling pumps. And the source of that power was swept away when the tsunami generated by the quake inundated all six of the reactors on the site. This left the plant unable to cool its reactors; several melted down, and the hydrogen they generated ultimately led to explosions that wrecked the buildings that housed them. Hirose suggests that these explosions were likely sparked as things shifted and fell due to aftershocks.
This has led countries around the world to tighten their rules regarding backup equipment and to re-evaluate the infrastructure they assumed would be available to help manage the accident. We also got a chance to ask Hirose about how he viewed the risks of nuclear power after this experience:
We learned that safety culture is very important. We saw that we were probably a little arrogant. We spent a huge amount of money to improve the safety of that plant before the accident. We thought that this was enough. We learned that you never think this is enough. We have to learn many things from all over the world. 9/11 could be some lessons for nuclear power stations—it’s not just nuclear accidents in other countries, everything could be a lesson.
So we learn: “Do not stop improving the safety.” This is a technical matter, a scientific matter, and we can make these risks as small as possible.
Re-establishing control
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, what had gone wrong in some of the reactors wasn’t even clear; contaminated groundwater was a massive issue, and a substantial exclusion zone forced the evacuation of thousands of residents nearby. Just to do anything on the site required huge amounts of safety gear.
“[In the] first several years, we didn’t have a really clear plan, because it’s troubleshooting,” Hirose told Ars. “Many, many things took place, so we had to settle down these things. Now the condition of the plant is very stable.”
With the stability, one of the first steps chosen was to remove spent fuel, which was stored in elevated tanks in the reactor buildings. Reactor four shut down when the earthquake struck, and more than 1,500 fuel rods have since been safely removed. At reactor three, rubble covering the spent fuel pool has been cleared, and a new roof incorporating a crane has been built, paving the way to remove the spent fuel there.
But the melted-down reactors pose a much larger challenge. “We don’t know exactly the condition of the debris, so we developed several different types of robotics and let them go into the reactor building,” Hirose told Ars. “Now the robotics are taking movies, collecting all the data—temperature, radioactivity. Now we are planning how to attack, how to go to those debris. So maybe it takes a few more years; it depends on analyzing the situation.”
Meanwhile, decontamination work and time have reduced the onsite risk so that workers only need to wear exposure-tracking badges. The area of the exclusion zone with above-background radiation levels has also shrunk considerably.
“There are only two towns left in the evacuation zone—it’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller,” Hirose said during our interview. “Even those two towns—they are planning to develop a new city hall, new spaces for commercial [activity]. Since it’s been 7.5 years already, all the people will not come back. Kids start going to school in the places they went. Each has different situations. But we’d like to have those towns available for everybody. Still, those two towns are prohibited to come back, but we’d like to have that situation cleared.”
Bearing the costs
None of this comes cheaply. When we were discussing risks, Hirose acknowledged, “Once there is a serious accident, the costs of these things is enormous. And we understood that, and everybody realized that.”
But who carries that cost? In the US, the government steps in once costs exceed $12.6 billion. That’s not the case for TEPCO. “Japanese law—it’s called nuclear damage compensation law—clarified that no matter what the size of the damages, it’s singly the nuclear operator that has all the responsibility without fault. So even if we did [make any] mistake, the operator has to pay. The Price-Anderson Act in the US stipulates the limit in the damage. Maybe we need that kind of limit. It’s been discussed in Japan, and it’s a really difficult point.”
(“I mean, we had the accident, so maybe we shouldn’t say anything about this,” he said at this point.)
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, this pushed TEPCO’s finances to a very bad place. Once the site stabilized, so did the costs, but they remain enormous. During his public discussion, Hirose said that they’re running at about $5 billion a year, and that’s expected to continue for 30 years. “We’ve made enough for the past three years, but we have to do it for 27 more,” Hirose told the audience. That will fundamentally limit the actions the company can take for the next several decades.
Japan’s future
What’s that energy economy going to look like? Prior to Fukushima, Hirose was a big advocate of increasing electrification of energy use. He brought that up in our discussion as well.
Electrification definitely will expand—like electric vehicles and heat-pump technology. Those things are much, much more efficient compared to combustion engines or conventional heating systems. Electric vehicles are very efficient, so they don’t use a lot of electricity. Based on our calculations, even if all the automobiles turn into electric vehicles in the Tokyo area, our demand for electricity only goes up 15 percent or so. So it’s not a big, big potential transition.
And still, the total energy consumption would decline very, very much, because we don’t use any gasoline. And if that electricity is provided by renewables or nuclear, carbon dioxide would decrease dramatically. I think electrification is one of the things that will decrease the total demand for energy. It’s just how to generate that amount of electricity, which depends on if it’s nuclear, solar, wind… Electrification and decarbonization are the two key things.
Any increased demand due to electrification, however, will take place against a general decline in energy use in Japan. While already a very efficient society, the Japanese managed to curtail energy use even further as all of the country’s nuclear plants were shut down in the wake of Fukushima. “Have you been to Tokyo? Shops are very bright, very, um, shining with lights. It’s gorgeous—maybe you need sunglasses,” Hirose suggested. “But people started thinking that maybe that was too much.”
Critically, what might have been temporary measures have produced what appear to be permanent changes. “The consumption of electricity has not come back yet,” Hirose told Ars. “Maybe it never will, because the population of Japan is declining. I don’t know if in the long term the demand for electricity goes up.”
Still, the country will need to continue to produce electricity while decarbonizing its grid to meet international agreements. And the government’s plans for doing so include continued use of nuclear power. “The Japanese government set a target: 20-22 percent is generated by nuclear in 2030,” Hirose said. “In order to keep this number, we need to develop new nuclear power. So far, all the electric power companies and operators focus on the restart of the already existing nuclear power plants. Everybody is not in the mood to build a new one, because they are busy handling the restart of the existing plants.”
If the new plants are ever built, Japan will get the chance to see if it can avoid the massive cost overruns that have plagued projects elsewhere.
But that’s a very large if, and during Hirose’s presentation, an audience member pointed out that more than 60 percent of the Japanese population would like to see the country eliminate nuclear power. Other low-carbon sources, however, face significant hurdles in Japan. “Solar is very popular. Wind is possible, particularly offshore wind. But the Japanese Sea suddenly becomes deep, so it’s not like Northern Europe,” Hirose told Ars. “It’s a little technically difficult. Geothermal is very possible. Unfortunately, all the possible places are in national parks or hot-spring towns, so there aren’t many good places. But technically, it’s possible.”
All of which leaves Japan’s long-term energy future unsettled. But, in the immediate future, attention will remain on the restart of the existing nuclear power plants and the identification of the melted fuel on the floor of the remaining reactors.

October 8, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Touching from a Distance: The workers of Fukushima Daiichi

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A hill looks out over Unit 2 (left) and Unit 3.
By Andrew Deck | Posted on September 28, 2018
Our tour van came to a stop in the pass between the Unit 2 and 3 reactors. The gap, once consumed by radioactive rubble, had been cleared several months before our visit to the Fukushima Daiichi plant in June. “You’ll have 10 minutes outside before we move onto the next location,” our guide announced to the vehicle, a portable Geiger counter in hand. We buckled our construction helmets, tightened the strings of our face masks and stepped out onto the open road. The Pacific coast was no more than 200 meters in front of us and on either side were nuclear reactor buildings. While Unit 2 was weathered but structurally intact, Unit 3 showed visible scars from the explosion it had suffered seven years earlier, marked by protruding support beams and fractured cement walls.
Since our day began at the edge of the exclusion zone in Tomioka, Fukushima, we had passed through half a dozen security checkpoints and received a full-body scan to measure internal radiation, a baseline reading for later comparison. Now, at the power plant, facing the shells of two nuclear meltdowns, our observation time was further regulated to minimize exposure. A visit to this part of the plant came with the understanding that just steps away were structures housing melted nuclear debris, the epicenters of one of the largest nuclear disasters in history.
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There were no hazmat suits or gas masks, the biohazard uniform most would imagine for this portion of the tour. Pants and a long-sleeved shirt was the required outfit, a protective layer augmented by gloves, a helmet and what could pass as a kafunsho (hay fever) mask. We were directed to tuck our pant legs into four layers of neon blue socks, which we slid into black ankle-cut rain boots. A personal Geiger counter was placed in the chest pocket of our mesh vests. It would set off an alarm when it reached the tour’s daily allowance for radiation exposure, 100 microsieverts, equivalent to a roundtrip flight between Narita and JFK. In our meticulously planned day-long tour, these counters wouldn’t reach more than 30 microsieverts.
The optics of this moment, standing in plain clothes next to two nuclear reactors, were not lost on Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates Fukushima Daiichi and facilitated Metropolis’ tour of the 3.5km² power station, known internally as 1F. Our guide remarked that they often bring visitors to this spot. Safely getting up close to one of the reactors, even if only for 10 minutes, is a gesture they hope will show conditions at the plant have improved substantially since the 2011 disaster.
In the past year, TEPCO has expanded the number of power station tours for journalists and the general public. These tours are an effort to increase transparency and educate the public on the plant’s status. They are also an effort to build goodwill for a company that is still maligned by many for its culpability in the disaster. Three retired TEPCO executives, Ichiro Takekuro, Sakae Muto and former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, are currently on trial for “professional negligence resulting in death and injury,” a criminal charge for ignoring internal reports that Fukushima Daiichi was at risk from a debilitating tsunami wave. The indictment was brought by a civilian judiciary panel, overruling prosecutors who had twice declined to press charges. The criminal trial follows a string of civil suits, including a ruling by a Tokyo court last year that ordered TEPCO to pay ¥11 billion (100 million USD) in damages to the residents of Minamisoma, Fukushima.
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As part of these tours, TEPCO is promoting what they consider major improvements to working conditions on the plant. Currently, 96 percent of 1F can be accessed with the “regular uniform” we wore during our tour. One of the most advertised portions of the plant is Sakura Dori, a roadway at the edge of  1F that has been specially maintained in order to match regularly-occurring radiation levels in Tokyo. Before the disaster, families of plant workers and local residents would gather under the road’s 1,000 blooming cherry blossoms trees for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) every April. This past year TEPCO invited journalists to Sakura Dori for a photo-op of the 380 trees that remain.
These entwined motivations of public education and public relations valence any visit to 1F, including Metropolis’. But even a manufactured look behind the power plant fences provides insight into the personal and working lives of the 5,000 people who are employed at Fukushima Daiichi daily. Their roles are diverse, from nuclear engineers and security guards, to bureaucratic liaisons and cafeteria servers. Decontamination workers stand alongside janitorial staff. There is even a fully-stocked Lawson convenience store tucked away in an administrative building with cashiers working the registers. Each of these workers wakes up every morning and must pass into the Fukushima exclusion zone on their way to work. Some even enter reactor buildings, earning their livelihood by putting themselves in proximity to dangerous nuclear debris.
As we walked down Sakura Dori towards our tour van, we passed a couple dozen workers; some matched us in attire, others wore blue TEPCO-issued coveralls, others wore anorak body suits and full-face masks, used in the plant’s most radioactive areas, or “R zones.” It was a muggy summer afternoon with grey clouds forecasting heavy rain. We were told heat stroke is a common problem when wearing full-body protective gear, one motivation behind efforts to make 1F more accessible with regular clothes. Without fail, though, each worker shared a hearty “otsukaresama” as they passed one another. The greeting is used to offer thanks for hard work; its literal translation addresses “someone who is tired.” Unlike PR officers, TEPCO executives and Diet legislators based in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, it is 1F’s decommissioning workers who must walk Sakura Dori every day — not just when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. In some form, they will likely be walking this road for decades.
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On March 11, 2011 at 3:27 pm, a tsunami wave 13 meters tall crested over the six-meter seawall of Fukushima Daiichi’s complex, flooding the grounds with a force that crippled the nuclear power station’s vital cooling systems. Without electricity required to pump water into the reactors, the waterline dropped below the core rods in Units 1, 2 and 3, instigating a nuclear meltdown in each. Inside these reactor walls, boiling pools of stagnant water produced volatile amounts of hydrogen gas (a Zirconium-steam reaction). Within days Units 1, 3 and 4 (connected to the Unit 3 building by pipes) had all suffered explosions, carrying nuclear fallout over the Pacific and inland, disseminating across the towns of eastern Fukushima Prefecture. The nuclear fuel in Units 1, 2 and 3 soon melted through their primary containment vessels (PCVs) and pooled in the cement basements of each respective building, where it remains to this day.
Masahiro Yamamoto, 42, was there on March 11. In fact, he’s been at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant for over 20 years, his first and only job since university. Born in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, where southernmost Honshu meets the tip of Kitakyushu, Yamamoto enrolled in a TEPCO-affiliated high school. Trained as an engineer, the feeder program placed him at the Fukushima plant back in 1994, where he worked a steady engineering job and raised his three children in Futaba. One of two towns that border 1F, the evacuated municipality currently has an actual population of zero.
“Before the disaster, I worked just like an average salaryman. But as disaster struck and the situation worsened, it was as if I was dropped right in the middle of a battlefield,”  he says. We don’t dwell on this difficult time, but Yamamoto shares some fragmented memories. “The monitors for the reactors started to show signs of abnormality, and I thought to myself, ‘what is going to happen now,’” he remembers. “My family lived nearby and I wanted to check their safety, but I had no way of communicating with them so I didn’t know whether they were swept away by the tsunami or injured by the quake. I had many worries, but I had to bury my feelings and focus on my duties. I managed to control myself up to that point.”
The Self-Defense Force came first; then other government agencies arrived — “When I was walking down the aisle to go to the restroom, the Prime Minister passed right by me.” Yamamoto’s workplace in a quiet seaside town had overnight become ground zero for a Level 7 nuclear accident, matched in severity only by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. He describes himself and his team as co-workers that were suddenly required to be soldiers faced with daily life-threatening work. “When Unit 1 exploded, I was wearing my mask to go outside and work onsite at the reactors. I felt [the blast] blow across my face. Things took a turn for the worse and every time we had to go near the reactor buildings, our team was assembled knowing that there may be an explosion and we might die. We had to go through that many times, and it was psychologically hard on me.”
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Seven years later, the realities of working at Fukushima Daiichi have changed dramatically for Yamamoto. Along with 750 other TEPCO employees, he lives in company dormitory housing in the town of Okuma, just outside the exclusion zone. His family evacuated during the disaster and they have been living in Tokyo’s Otsuka neighborhood ever since. Long train rides on weekends are the only way he spends time with his wife and three children before returning to his duties at the plant.
“There’s nothing special about my job,” Yamamoto says, despite all signs to the contrary. “I think any work is hard and challenging.” He describes his average day, far removed from the emergency response. Early mornings begin with weight training; nights are spent studying eikaiwa (English conversation). He’s working to improve his English skills, in part, to share his experiences at the power plant and dispel fears about visiting Fukushima Prefecture. “I’d like many foreigners to come to Japan to learn not just about the fun things, but also about [Fukushima Daiichi] and the reality.”
Yamamoto currently serves as Team Leader at Units 5 and 6, two reactors that were spared from nuclear meltdowns but are set for decommissioning. While important work, this is only one part of an elaborate operation that also aspires to full decommissioning of Units 1, 2, 3 and 4 by 2050. Now seven years into this proposed timeline, some critics have questioned its feasibility. According to Daisuke Hirose, a TEPCO spokesperson who debriefed Metropolis on the state of decommissioning, there are three major priorities in fulfilling the plan as scheduled.
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The most complex is the location and extraction of nuclear fuel debris. Hundreds of tons of melted fuel remain buried deep within Units 1, 2 and 3, the exact locations of which remain unknown. Rubble and fatal radioactivity levels have rendered these parts of the reactor buildings inaccessible to humans, leaving remote-controlled robots the most viable method of investigation. Only minimal fuel debris in Unit 2 has currently been identified and the means of extraction have not been finalized, but Hirose says TEPCO will meet a 2021 benchmark for initial fuel extraction. Alongside the handling of nuclear debris, the plant must confront a rapid accumulation of contaminated water on site, perhaps the most urgent task facing the operation. 
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Despite the pressing and complex problems facing the project, Hirose argues that improving the safety of the plant must rank above all other priorities, “Decommissioning is something done by people. Our most important task is improving conditions at 1F for decommissioning workers.” Yamamoto, for one, insists he does not worry about his health while working at the plant. “At the time of the disaster, I couldn’t comprehend all the issues about contamination and radiation exposure, so I was very worried back then,” he says. “I don’t have those worries now.” Yamamoto’s duties at Units 5 and 6 include routine exposure to radiation, but he does not currently conduct work in the plant’s most radioactive locations. While we requested to speak to an employee with work duties in the R zone, TEPCO declined the request citing the priority for these employees as decommissioning work. “Of course, to be honest, there are some people who’ve suffered health damage, as has been reported in newspapers, so it’s not a zero,” he adds. Currently, 17 employees at 1F who’ve developed cancer have applied to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for compensation as a work-related illness. In September, the Ministry acknowledged the first death related to radiation exposure at 1F, a subcontractor in his 50s who died of lung cancer.
Once a meishi (business card) that held tremendous social capital, TEPCO is now a company irrecoverably associated with the disaster. To many, the workers of Fukushima Daiichi are the face of this institution. Yamamoto shares stories of coworkers’ doors being vandalized with graffiti and trash being dumped in front of their homes. It is difficult to find sympathy for the TEPCO workers at 1F when considering the continued injustices suffered by the residents of Fukushima, but the victims of the nuclear disaster and the rain boots on the ground at 1F are not necessarily distinct populations. Around 60 percent of the employees at Fukushima Daiichi are from Fukushima Prefecture, a number that TEPCO says may be underreported since it only includes those born in the prefecture. In many instances, including Yamamoto’s, the workers at 1F are working towards recovering their own communities in the entwined futures of decommissioning and Fukushima’s restoration.
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Our coach passed the border of the “difficult to return zone,” a government-designated boundary that separates areas of Fukushima deemed habitable from those deemed uninhabitable. Suddenly we were facing the Fukushima “ghost towns” of popular imagination. While Fukushima Daiichi is ground zero, the heart of this disaster is in the abandoned towns of the prefecture: homes and businesses and schools left behind in an instant, hard evidence of the 160,000 residents that were displaced by the disaster. Abandoned vehicles, shattered windows, hollowed-out storefronts, a dilapidated pachinko parlor and seven years of weeds rising from cracks in the cement — they all passed by the coach windows on our approach to Fukushima Daiichi.
We were not the only vehicles on this highway, trucks rumbled past us and cars lined the road. Calling these “ghost towns” is a misnomer: these towns may be uninhabited, but they are not unoccupied. Many of these vehicles belonged to a decontamination project that spans the original 20km exclusion zone and beyond. It is not operated by TEPCO, but rather a web of government agencies and municipalities. Their job, first and foremost, entails the mass removal of dirt, stripping entire towns of topsoil and manually washing down rooftops and other surfaces that were doused in radioactive particles in an effort to clean away radiation. Fields of black refuse sacks, millions of which are filled with contaminated soil, now litter the prefecture without plans for their permanent storage or removal. Regardless of this work’s efficacy, it is an undertaking that requires a massive labor force; Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare reports that more than 46,000 were employed in Fukushima decontamination work in 2016.
The harsh reality is that the disaster has disrupted the industries that once thrived in Fukushima Prefecture — fishing, agriculture and service jobs. Currently, only half of the region’s 1,000 fishermen are going out to sea and they face highly reduced demand. The decontamination industry is one of the few thriving seven years later, but this line of work is not without its risks. In early September, the UN human rights division released a statement warning of possible worker exploitation in the recovery effort, both within the prefectural decontamination projects and on the 1F site. “Workers hired to decontaminate Fukushima reportedly include migrant workers, asylum seekers and people who are homeless,” wrote three UN Special Rapporteurs. “They are often exposed to a myriad of human rights abuses, forced to make the abhorrent choice between their health and income, and their plight is invisible to most consumers and policymakers with the power to change it.” Japan’s Foreign Ministry responded by calling the statement “extremely regrettable.”
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We met Yamamoto in the parking lot of the plant after our tour. His TEPCO uniform had been exchanged for pants and a graphic-T. It is the second time we’d met that he had worn this particular gray short-sleeved shirt with a Ghostbusters logo emblazoned on its chest, one of his favorite movies as a child. Outside the plant, Yamamoto sheds his professional facade to reveal a youthful energy. During the night ahead we would visit an izakaya (Japanese pub) in Iwaki City and share stories over local sake and sashimi (sliced raw fish), once celebrated Fukushima products that have since been cast off supermarket shelves as new associations and stigmas took hold of the prefectural name.
There are many people who shoulder the burden of the nuclear disaster: parents sending their children to school with Geiger counters on their backpacks, farmers who have lost their livestock and livelihood, elderly left to care for deserted towns as the young set roots far from Futaba-gun, multi-generation Fukushima lineages that have been forced to abandon their familial homes for prefabricated temporary housing units. Yamamoto carries one small burden of this sweeping tragedy, as do the other workers of Fukushima Daiichi, as do those who labor in irradiated fields without other means of income. They are trying to extinguish a danger that can’t be seen, but its presence is felt in every aspect of their work. At times the job they’ve been assigned feels beyond comprehension, but Fukushima is not a supernatural disaster and Yamamoto is no ghostbuster. This disaster is deeply human, founded in both nature and negligence. “If you think in terms of decades, the long road ahead and the abstractness of it all will crush you,” says Yamamoto. “But just as with any other work, if you split up big projects into smaller pieces, the feeling of accomplishment from each small victory will keep you motivated.” Inside the exclusion zone, we witness the people of Fukushima trying to take their land a few steps closer to normal.
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October 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima prof., residents seek to establish an archive of nuke disaster lessons

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In this July 17, 2018 file photo, tanks containing water contaminated with radioactive materials are seen on the grounds of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.
 
September 12, 2018
KATSURAO, Fukushima — A Fukushima University professor and his team are gathering materials for an archive project to pass on the lessons learned from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster in this prefecture in northeastern Japan.
In a March 2017 plan finalized by the Fukushima Prefectural Government, the archives will be inaugurated in the summer of 2020 at a cost of approximately 5.5 billion yen in the town of Futaba, which has been rendered “difficult to live” due to radioactive fallout from the triple core meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011. The facility will have a total floor space of 5,200 square meters with areas for exhibitions, management and research, storage, training sessions and holding meetings. The design was modeled after a similar center in the western Japan city of Kobe that was built to store records of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, but with more focus on the nuclear disaster than the quake itself.
Professor Kenji Yaginuma of Fukushima University’s Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization and his team are visiting places affected by the nuclear accident and collecting testimonies of residents, documents, pictures and images for the project.
Yaginuma recently interviewed Tetsuyama Matsumoto, 61, who used to be a cattle breeder in the village of Katsurao, to hear his story about how his cows had to be slaughtered after the nuclear accident.
“I can’t believe they killed the cows without running any tests first,” Matsumoto fumed about the action taken after the central government decided that all cattle inside the no-go zone, within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled plant, had to be culled. All eight cattle Matsumoto was keeping had to be killed because his farm was inside the zone. “The cattle were supporting me and my family,” Mastsumoto said as he looked over pictures of what happened after the disaster.
Yaginuma listened to Matsumoto’s tale intently, using a video camera to record the interview. “The value of relevant documents goes up with testimonies,” explained the professor.
On the same day, he also visited the village’s board of education as well as the former municipal Katsurao Junior High School to confirm the existence of whiteboards with plans for March 2011 written on it as well as what was written on the blackboards at the school. The school held a graduation ceremony on March 11 that year, the day of the quake disaster. According to the professor, sometimes it takes months for some residents to build up enough confidence to give him some important papers they have.
Yaginuma’s team is collecting just about anything that shows the daily lives of residents before the quake, or items that show what happened in the disaster and the ensuing nuclear accident, as well as materials indicative of post-disaster situations.
In November 2017, Yaginuma and his team visited the prefectural Ono Hospital in the town of Okuma, which is just 4 kilometers away from the nuclear plant and is still included in the “difficult-to-return” evacuation area designated by the government.
On the day of the earthquake seven and a half years ago, the hospital accepted many people injured by the jolt and the subsequent tsunami. But all patients and medical staff needed to evacuate at 7 a.m. the next morning using buses and ambulances after an evacuation order due to the nuclear accident was issued. Near the clinic’s entrance, papers with patients’ names and conditions are posted on a whiteboard. Stands to hang intravenous drip bags are also scattered around, reminiscent of the tense atmosphere of the time.
“We want to make it possible for people to look back on and study the earthquake and nuclear accident from every angle based on these documents,” said Yaginuma.
(Japanese original by Takuya Yoshida, Mito Bureau)

September 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment