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The Rancher Who Refused to Leave: A Fukushima Story

Masami Yoshizawa hauled his radiated cows down to Tokyo, demanding that his animals be studied.
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Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2011

Masami Yoshizawa, who’d driven half an hour up the coast from his ranch in Namie to pick up a few cans of spray paint, climbed out of his truck and headed for the home improvement center’s entrance with a jerky stride that belied his sleepy expression. Eyes half-closed, he seemed to look without seeing. He’d worked with livestock for years—nudging heifers into pens and shoving curious calves away from tractor wheels—and he’d taken on an oblivious, almost animal way of moving. In the Cainz Home store, he took a plastic basket from a stack next to the automatic doors and was wandering an aisle between two tall shelves, a couple cans of spray paint clinking in his carrier, when the quake struck.

The first vibration might’ve been a shiver running down his spine, but soon the towering metal shelves began to sway, tracing wider and wider arcs through the air. A convulsion from deep in the ground seized the building, sending fry pans, plastic buckets, dog food, and bottles of window cleaner crashing to the floor. The store rang with shouts of surprise.

When the tremors stilled he hurried to the front. The clerk in the checkout lane did her best—totaling up the aerosol cans, taking his money, putting his spray paint in a bag—but her hands shook with panic, or maybe because the earth was rumbling again.

A voice came over the PA: “Everyone outside please.”

Masami went for the exit. In the parking lot, waves rippled through the ground. The asphalt swelled without cracking. Above, power lines coiled like snakes. The shaking wasn’t vertical or horizontal but came from all directions at once.

Among the crowd of people who’d run out of Cainz Home, there was one old man who took a portable AM-FM receiver out of his car—there was no cell phone signal—and started tuning it. Gradually, as the convulsions faded, everyone in the lot drifted toward the radio’s staticky crackle.

The announcer was struggling to stay calm: “A large tsunami warning is being issued for coastal Fukushima Prefecture. Please leave coastal areas and evacuate to elevated ground. For the earthquake that occurred at 2:46, strong level-6 tremors are being reported in Shirakawa, Sukagawa, Namie . . . at 3:10 p.m., the forecast is for a three-meter tsunami along the Fukushima coast. Tsunami arrival predictions for Fukushima Prefecture: Iwaki City, Onahama, 3:30 p.m., three-meter waves; Souma City, 3:40 p.m., three-meter waves…”

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It was almost 3:00 p.m. and the highway that led back to Namie and his cattle ranch ran along the coast. Masami’s land was in the hills, away from any waves, but he had no idea if the house or outbuildings were damaged. He couldn’t call Shizue, his sister, who lived with him. He had to get back.

He jumped in his truck, fired up the engine, and whipped out of the parking lot. The road had sunk and cracked in places, and traffic was stacking up. In thirty minutes, a wall of water would crash over the shore and flood the road in three places. The land between the highway and the sea would be inundated, the houses there crushed and washed away. But Masami didn’t know this. As he drove—the gray ocean only a couple kilometers away, a few whitecaps rolling across the otherwise peaceful water—he was thinking only of home.

Yoshizawa Ranch was almost eighty acres in rural Namie. It had started with his father: Masami’s old man had gone to Manchuria during the Second World War as a government-sponsored farm-settler, and, following Japan’s defeat, had somehow survived three years in a Soviet prison camp; he’d returned to Yotsukaido, in Chiba Prefecture, where he started a family and another farm. Masami and his older brother and sister were born there in the Kanto region, near Tokyo, but when real estate grew expensive and the government began dividing the land into smaller parcels—to build freeways and an international airport in Narita—his father, who’d been hoping to buy a bigger plot, sold and moved up north to Namie, in Fukushima. He worked hard to establish a dairy; he was still working the day he was pinned beneath a tractor and killed at the age of sixty-five. Masami’s older brother had taken over the operation, but it wasn’t long before he became involved with a woman who promised him marriage if he gave her a little money and then a little more. By the time Masami intervened—suing his own brother to keep him from selling their family’s acreage—all the heifers had been auctioned off. After his brother left for Kyushu, never to return, Jun Murata, a rancher from nearby Nihonmatsu, had suggested Masami try beef instead of dairy cows. Jun had given Masami forty head and brought him into the M Ranch Company’s operations. It had taken a decade, but by the time the earthquake struck he was responsible for 328 kuro-wagyu, Japanese black cows. Eventually, Masami hoped to have a herd of six hundred.

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To build the two barns where he sheltered his cows he’d learned how to weld, pour concrete, run wiring. As with any product of one’s own hands he knew every imperfection of the cowsheds. The house would be fine, he told himself as he sped down the highway—it had been built with steel-reinforced concrete and had a woodstove for heat—no, it was the barns he worried about.

An hour later, the dirt and sweat and shit smell of the cattle greeted him as he pulled in and saw the cowsheds were still standing, though the quake had split the ground in the main pasture, leaving gashes of fresh dirt in the valley’s grassy floor. The power would be out, the electric fences down, though the cows hadn’t realized this. The small shed he’d built for the well pump beside the house had collapsed; the pipe that sent water from the ranch’s elevated cistern to the cows’ watering troughs was busted.

Shit,” he muttered. The herd drank several thousand liters a day. Even more than hay or grain his cows lived on water.

Without electricity, the main well’s pump was offline, and, anyway, fixing it would take time. He decided to try to get the house’s pump running.

He kept a welding torch, oxygen tank, and generator in the back of a light truck just in case, and he hopped in the mud-crusted Mitsubishi and put it in gear. He backed the truck up the slight slope beside the house and hooked the pump up to the generator, but when he got it running the pressure was weak. Only a trickle came from the barn’s spigots. It would take him hours to fill the troughs. By the time he’d finished the daylight had all but faded.

With the cows seen to, Masami went inside. His cell had no signal, but there was a landline in the house. He dialed Murata-san and told his boss about the damage at the ranch, but adding that with the water back on the cows were fine for now.

After hanging up, he asked Shizue for the keys to her car: “I want to watch the news.”

With the power out he couldn’t watch TV in the house, but he could tune in to digital One Seg channels on her Subaru’s navigation system.

In the parked car, he turned the key so that the dashboard monitor flickered on and on NHK he watched footage from Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, a suburb of Sendai about an hour’s drive north. The video had been taken from the air and showed the tsunami like a black tide of broken boards, burning houses, and swept-up boats, a stain spreading across rice fields, blotting out a greenhouse, chasing a car down a road. He noticed the message scrolling across the bottom of the screen: Those within a three-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant are instructed to evacuate, those within ten kilometers are advised to stay indoors.

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If he stood on the house’s porch and faced the ocean, he could see the plant’s ventilation towers on the horizon. The power station’s name ticking across the bottom of the screen was like a dark cloud he’d long feared appearing on the horizon.

When he first moved to Fukushima TEPCO had already been operating the Daiichi plant in Okuma for six years. Another electric utility wanted to build a new nuclear power station a few kilometers up the coast, on a piece of land that straddled both Namie and Minami-Souma. Locals were fighting the plan and Masami identified with them. Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, he’d come of age during an era of mass demonstrations, as entire swaths of Japan challenged the country’s postwar order. When he was a high school student in Chiba the farmers around Narita had joined forces with New Left groups in Tokyo to fight the construction of an international airport on their land. The riot police’s armored buses passed on the highway in front of his school, while trains packed with protestors from the universities rattled over the tracks behind the baseball field. Seeing the college kids alongside the growers—the former with their glasses and flowing hair, the latter with their jika-tabi work boots and stained undershirts, but all of them wearing hardhats covered in hand-scrawled slogans and standing behind bamboo barricades—had opened his eyes to the possibility of resistance. Later, at Tokyo University of Agriculture, Masami was elected student body president and managed to catch the tail end of the demonstrations against the Vietnam War and the American military’s use of Japan’s ports. Never an academic standout, his proudest moments came during the marches, when he got on the megaphone to denounce the government, or the US-Japanese Security Treaty, or war in general.

After graduating and coming to work on his father’s dairy, he’d taken a similar stance toward the nuclear power facilities in the area. Though he wasn’t a member of any political party, he became familiar with the local leftists; a former Japanese Communist Party candidate gave him an enormous speaker, which he mounted on top of a little Honda van. When the government in Minami-Souma began building a garbage-burning facility he drove out and used it to protest the toxic gases it would release. The night after the tsunami, he decided to take a look at the damage to the town for himself.

He told his sister he was going out and bumped down the driveway in her little Subaru. There wasn’t any power in the town either, and without streetlights the cluster of houses and shops was the same pitch color as the surrounding forest. The few sources of light stood out all the more for the pre-industrial dark, and, as he drove, Masami drifted toward their glow. In front of the fire station, the local officials had put up a huge, white tent and ringed it with floodlights; firemen bustled between stacks of rescue equipment in their navy uniforms. The police station and town office were also lit up and busy with armies of officials. Other than these sights, in the car’s headlights Masami saw cracked walls, broken flowerpots, fissures in the asphalt—but nothing so terrible as what he’d seen in the news.

By the time he got home it was late. In the dark, the ranch was different; the cattle were quiet in their sheds, the pastures were fields of silence. Still, it wasn’t until he walked into the house that he noticed the distant thudding. He stood in front of the window, facing the ocean and the plant, looking past his own reflection for the source of the sound. He spotted a red dot hovering in the air above the coast: a helicopter.

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The realization that whatever was wrong with the plant was serious twisted through him. Though he’d never believed the claims about the power station’s safety, he’d also never conceived what danger would look and feel like. Unlike the havoc he’d seen on the news, it was right out there, just below that tiny, crimson point of light.

March 12

Like most ranchers, Masami was an early riser. The sun hadn’t been up long but he was already outside getting ready to feed. The nicotine from his morning cigarette and the crisp air were sweeping the last cobwebs of sleep from his mind when three police vans pulled into the driveway, the lights on their roofs flashing, sirens muted. He was sure they would ask him to evacuate.

I can’t go,” he would say. “I have my cows.”

As he walked toward where the policemen had parked on his driveway, a middle-aged officer approached Masami.

« Konnichwa »he said, bowing. “We’re with the Fukushima Police Communications Division. We—we’d like to set up a relay antenna on a corner of your property, if you don’t mind. Our helicopter is filming the plant.” The ranch was elevated, clear of trees and tall buildings, had sight lines all the way to the ocean. “We need to send the footage on to the main office, so they can monitor the situation.”

In general, Masami distrusted authority, but face-to-face with the officer there wasn’t any reason not to cooperate. More than anything, he was glad they weren’t there to force him off his land.

Yes, that’s fine,” he said.

As the officer turned and went back to his colleagues they were already unpacking a generator, a foldout table, and several rolls of cables that were plugged into a dish-shaped antenna, which they pointed toward the plant.

Around the same time Masami was talking to the officer, Prime Minister Naoto Kan was coming up from Tokyo in a Self-Defense Forces helicopter. At 7:11 a.m., Masami wouldn’t notice the slight change in the sound of the rotor-blades as Japan’s head of state flew over the stricken plant. Only later, when he heard about it on the news, would he realize how thoroughly the country’s attention had been drawn to his corner of the world.

But that morning, if he ignored the police, it might’ve been any late-winter day. He used the claw attachment on his tractor to carry one of the 300-kilogram bales from a stack by the driveway to the nearby barn. With a shovel he pushed the dried grass into the feed troughs on either side, and the cattle jostled for position. Soon the barn was loud with their chewing and lows. His sister came outside wrapped in a coat.

What did they want?” she asked, glancing at the police.

He repeated the explanation the officer had given him. “Something strange is happening at the plant.”

Though he hid it well, he felt the same worry he’d heard in his sister’s voice. Without power, information about the plant was hard to come by. Even when he managed to catch a glimpse of the One Seg channels in his sister’s car, the news reports were vague and contradictory. As a rancher, he was tied to the land. He couldn’t simply flee. Murata-san certainly didn’t expect him to abandon the ranch.

Rather than sit with this feeling, he decided to go take a look at the shore, to see if he couldn’t get a better look than he had the night before. He drove down route 114, which cut through the center of Namie, heading for the town’s Ukedo district.

Early that morning, the evacuation zone had been expanded to everyone living within ten kilometers of the plant. Fire patrol trucks had driven around announcing the news, and loudspeakers mounted on telephone and electric poles throughout Namie had relayed the message. As he drove toward the coast the roads were clogged with Self-Defense Forces troop transports, police cruisers, buses, and cars piled with belongings.

After he passed the small downtown, the traffic thinned. Before the tsunami Ukedo had been about 350 houses collected around a fishing port, but when Masami arrived at the coast he saw the district had been decimated.

He could still pick out shapes that resembled houses among the field of debris. The keel of a fishing trawler lay propped against the local fishing cooperative building; a blue-hulled skiff had been thrown into the structure’s second floor and lay upside down on a balcony. Cars were scattered everywhere, their metal crumpled and wrinkled like clothes just out of a washing machine. But no matter how recognizable the shapes, the waves had destroyed any difference between the piles of rubble. The twisted beams were the same as the overturned refrigerators; even the dead bodies buried among the wreckage were just so much more debris. To Masami it seemed like end of the world.

To the south, above a hilly elbow of the coast, he could see the ventilation stacks and transmission towers of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The power lines stretched into the distance, eventually meeting up with the cables that ran above Masami’s property, and led all the way down to Tokyo.

The towers were no longer sending electricity to the capital, a problem that TEPCO and the Kan administration were trying to deal with by asking citizens to conserve electricity. In the hours since the prime minister’s visit that morning, the situation in Unit 1 had gotten worse—the reactor was cut off from power, the tsunami had flooded the backup batteries, and now the water level inside the core was low enough to expose the nuclear fuel. Without water, the fuel rods would grow hotter and hotter until they triggered a full meltdown.

In Okuma, Fukushima Daiichi’s superintendent, Masao Yoshida, was in the plant’s emergency response center, just fourteen kilometers from Masami’s ranch—closer to the situation than either the government officials or his corporate bosses. While fission had stopped in each reactor after the quake, the fuel was still incredibly hot. The rods in Unit 1 were melting, the zirconium alloy that coated the uranium reacting with the water to produce dangerous amounts of hydrogen. The fuel needed to be cooled to keep it from decomposing further and dropping into the bottom of the reactor, where it could burn right through the steel core. But the hydrogen pressure in the vessel was so high even fire trucks couldn’t pump water in. Both Naoto Kan and TEPCO had agreed on the need to vent the reactor, and the prime minister had demanded the venting take place when he flew up. But Masao was the one who had to carry out the procedure, and with no electricity the vents had to be opened manually. His workers would have to venture outside in radiation suits, go into the dark, cramped spaces of the buildings, and operate unfamiliar equipment by hand. It was going to take time.

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As he drove, Masami was aware of none of this. The night before, in the hours after the tsunami, Kan’s Cabinet Secretary had said, “There is no radiation leak, nor will there be a leak,” and TEPCO itself had put out a couple of blandly reassuring press releases. But just that morning the evacuation zone had been expanded, and Masami was anxious. If there was a leak what would happen to his cows?

Back at the ranch, as soon as Masami went in the house, a whiff of miso hit him. He found his sister in the kitchen: On a portable gas burner she was simmering a big pot of hoto soup, and he watched as she stirred the steaming broth, thick with udon noodles, leeks, and thin slices of pork.

For the policemen,” she said, looking up at him. “It’s cold out.”

While he could be single-minded to the point of neglect, his sister was expansive in the care she paid to the people around her. Once the food was ready, he helped her carry the meal outside. He took chopsticks, a ladle, and a stack of bowls, and she brought the big pot.

While he could be single-minded to the point of neglect, his sister was expansive in the care she paid to the people around her. Once the food was ready, he helped her carry the meal outside. He took chopsticks, a ladle, and a stack of bowls, and she brought the big pot.

The men were surprised, and the lead officer accepted the pot, thanking Masami and his sister: “Gochisousama desu.”

Later, as the afternoon’s chill deepened, Masami muscled a woodstove of his own making into the bucket of a front-end loader and drove over to where the police vans were. He caught the eye of the officer he’d spoken to before, saying, “You’ll be cold, out here since the morning. You going to be here a couple more days?”

But the policeman said: “Headquarters has just ordered us to withdraw—finally. Sorry, we have to go.”

Shocked, Masami watched the communication officers pack up the generator, the cables and antenna, their desk, and load them back in the vans. The cop whom he’d talked to thanked him again before getting in one of the vehicles. The lights on the roofs of the three vans were flashing red as they crept down the driveway and disappeared.

Occupied with his work, Masami hadn’t heard the explosion—hadn’t felt the ground move as the Unit 1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi went up in a plume of white smoke. Later, he’d see it on TV. Footage from an NHK camera far from the plant showed the muted blast; the plume seemed like that from a smoke bomb lit next to a model of the building. But when he saw a close-up of the structure—the steel frame still intact but the concrete walls smashed out like the glass from a car window—he understood that whatever had been contained in the core was now in the air all around him.

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At the plant, Superintendent Masao had mistaken the blast for another earthquake. Only when he saw the TV broadcast did he realize there’d been an explosion, though he didn’t understand what had caused it. In the moment, Masao’s staff didn’t stop to debate the reason behind the detonation, and instead everyone turned their attention to the Unit 2 and 3 reactors, where water levels were low. The explosion had damaged the cables his employees had been laying to restore power to Units 1 and 2, and the hoses they’d been preparing to pump seawater into the cores. TEPCO was calling what had happened in Unit 1—what was now going on in Units 2 and 3—“fuel pellet melt,” avoiding the word meltdown, though that’s exactly what it was.

At the Ranch, the cops’ departure had unsettled Masami. Though he’d heard there’d been an explosion he didn’t know what that meant for him, and he decided to see what the farmers at the local dairy collective were thinking. Yoshizawa Ranch had been a dairy for years, and he was familiar with the kumai’s meeting hall, just five minutes up the road. In the meeting room he found a handful of farmers gathered around the television. The power was back on there.

What are we going to do?” one of the men was asking.

Another answered, “Koko mo dame da ne.” This place is done for.

Without power the dairymen couldn’t milk their heifers. If nothing changed their cows would dry up. Those who were making do with gas generators still faced customers afraid to buy milk from the area. They might as well toss their production.

Masami listened to the farmers and took the opportunity to charge his cell phone. Then, a few minutes before 6:30, Naoto Kan appeared on the broadcast. As the prime minister walked to a podium a map of the tsunami damage flashed red, yellow, and green in the corner of the TV. He wore a blue jumpsuit instead of his standard suit and tie and spoke slowly as, off-screen, camera shutters clicked like cicadas:

. . . We are putting the safety of local people first and taking the appropriate precautions. With regards to the Unit 1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi, I’ve been listening to the latest update from my cabinet secretary and, because of present circumstances, following the evacuation of residents within ten kilometers of the plant, I am now ordering the evacuation of residents within twenty kilometers of Fukushima Daiichi.”

The extended zone fell over his ranch—his cattle, his land, the house. All of it lay within the red semi-circle being drawn on maps of Japan the world over. It was worse than he’d ever imagined. Yet, even as he heard the words Masami knew he wouldn’t flee. He would stay. He would outlast this.

March 14

The thought of his cows’ empty stomachs was what got Masami moving in the small hours. Even when his body was stiff it got him out of bed. With the woodstove it was warm in the house, though it’d been days since he’d had a hot shower.

The day before, he’d gone to see Murata-san at the M Ranch Company’s main office in Nihonmatsu. Masami had no plans to leave, but the cattle didn’t belong to him alone, and they needed to talk over what was to be done with the herd.

There weren’t a lot of options. They could try to ship the beef cows to one of M Ranch’s customers, and Jun could distribute the younger heifers among his ranches outside the evacuation zone. But the mature cattle hadn’t been slated for sale for a few months and were still lean from the winter. Moving them was a big operation, and that was if they could find anyone willing to buy cows from the evacuated area in the first place. Murata was dealing with these decisions in several iterations: Out of the seven ranches in his company, four were within twenty kilometers of the plant; of the M Ranch’s 1,200 or so cows, more than a third were on these properties. With each animal liable to ask $13,000 at market, he had roughly $6.5 million of stock at risk.

Sono uchi nan toka ni naru,” Murata had said. Something will happen before long.

On Monday, in the early light, Masami started up the generator that powered the well pump and was relieved to find none of the pipes had frozen. A cold front had moved in overnight, and it felt like it might snow.

At the emergency response center at Fukushima Daiichi, Superintendent Yoshida was also feeling worn. His workers were strung out from sleeping in hallways and conference rooms with a single blanket each, wearing the same clothes for days, rationing water, and eating two meals a day—crackers and boxes of vegetable juice in the morning, rice and curry or canned food at night. In the smoking room, Masao passed out cigarettes to support his team.

After the explosion of Unit 1, their attention had turned to reactors 2 and 3. Though they’d hooked a fire engine to Unit 3 and were pumping seawater into the core, the instruments in the control room didn’t show the water level rising. The day before they’d vented the containment three times, and they tried again that morning, but the pressure kept climbing. On top of this, while reactor 4 had been offline for maintenance when the tsunami hit, the temperature was now rising in its spent fuel pool, a tank that stored used uranium rods as they cooled. The fuel under the water in the Unit 4 building had been removed from the reactor months before, but it was still incredibly hot. If the water boiled off the fuel would be exposed. Masao needed to find a way to get water into that pool.

At 11:00 a.m., on the ranch, Masami was in his cowshed finishing the morning feed. The scrape of a shovel on concrete, the cows chewing hay, the slurp of their long, gray tongues on the salt blocks—and then all sound shattered by a clap of thunder, like a firework detonating above the barn.

He knew where the sound had come from and hustled over to the house. A pillar of smoke was rising from the plant. His phone buzzed in his pocket. When he answered it was Murata-san.

There was just an explosion.”

I know. I heard it,” Masami said. “Dou shiyou?” What are we going to do?

But there was no answer for his question. He almost thought he could feel the radiation washing over him, and, of course, his cattle were being bathed in the same particles.

At the plant, Masao Yoshida was scrambling—he didn’t even understand what’d happened. The Self-Defense Forces’ Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon Unit had just arrived in three vehicles when the blast ripped through the plant—gray dust surrounded the soldiers like a fog as they tried to gain their bearings, chunks of concrete came in showers, and four of the men retreated, limping and clutching their injuries. The fire engine Masao’s team had been using to pump seawater into the reactor was damaged and several TEPCO employees were hurt. The Unit 3 building was a smashed, smoking, skeletal ruin. Unlike Unit 1, the upper half of the structure had collapsed in. The blast had been felt as far as forty kilometers away.

At his ranch, Masami watched the rounded blast cloud floating up, the gray smoke trailing beneath, the plume moving across the sky like an enormous jellyfish—seemingly slow, and yet fast for something of its size. He began to realize that this wouldn’t be a temporary evacuation. There were no stopgap measures that could save his herd. The hope that had held his world together faded with the same sickening speed as the haze of the explosion.

March 17

There was no food left in the house. He had used up his diesel running the generator and without fuel he couldn’t pump water for his cows. The gas stations nearby were all closed. Following discussions two days before, his sister had fled, while Masami stayed behind. This was his home after all. Now, he was truly alone.

He’d returned to the ranch a day ago. After entering Namie he ran into a police checkpoint on highway 114, the road back to his ranch. The police had blocked the inbound lane with a blue van, and an electronic message on the roof read, Entry Prohibited. The cops were waving cars through the outbound lane, but when he pulled up the officers motioned him to a stop with their orange-and-white traffic batons.

He rolled down his window as a man in a blue uniform and white helmet came around the front. The cop was young and polite, and after Masami explained that his property lay a few kilometers down the road, the boy calmly said, “I see you’re trying to get through, but I’m stopping you. I know the lives of your cattle are important, but men’s lives are important too.”

I’ll take responsibility for myself,” Masami said. “If I leave them they’ll die.”

After a moment’s hesitation the police waved him through.

He eased the truck back into gear and rolled into Tsushima. Passing through the district he saw Self-Defense Force tents and clutches of refugees huddled around fires. It was like the scene behind the frontlines of a war.

He saw cars turning in to the middle school, and he could imagine the overflowing parking lot, the crowded gym, the rectangles of cardboard on the basketball court heaped with winter blankets, shoes in the aisles. On TV, he’d seen the miserable evacuees, who had nothing but what they’d been able to grab from their homes as they fled, and now could only count on a bowl of rice from the authorities each morning. The temperatures were still dipping down near freezing at night, and the walls in those old schools buildings were thin. Shizue had been against evacuating to Tsushima. She’d kept saying she didn’t want to go to one of those gyms. “I just don’t want wind up in a taikukan.”

After arriving at the ranch he’d fed and watered the herd. He kept hearing explosions echoing out of the plant. There were reports that TEPCO might pull its people out, and the Kan administration was getting more involved by the hour. On top of all this, earlier in the day Murata had called with bad news.

Torihiki ha kotowareta.” The customer they’d hoped to send the cattle to had refused to take the delivery. “It’s all over now.”

That’s it then.”

Later that day, from the second floor of the house, he watched the twin-rotor helicopters circling the plant through an old pair of binoculars he had once used to look at the stars and track satellites across the sky. Standing on the balcony, he saw them bailing water from the ocean in enormous buckets, and dumping it over the reactor buildings. They were trying to replenish the spent fuel pool in Unit 4, but the wind caught most of the water, turning it into curtains of mist that blew away from the building.

In their dedication, the Self-Defense Forces reminded Masami of the kamikaze pilots who’d sacrificed themselves for the country during the War. The TEPCO engineers might abandon their posts, but the Self-Defense Forces wouldn’t flee. They would all die there. He was sure of it.

Still, no matter what the troops did they couldn’t save his animals, and even if he kept his cows alive no one would buy them. It had been nearly a week since the disaster had started, though he had no idea what he or his cattle had been exposed to. The government had a system called SPEEDI that assessed the spread of radioactive releases, but the system relied on the plant’s measuring equipment, which was still offline. If SPEEDI couldn’t predict how much radiation was being released then it could at least calculate what direction the plume was moving. But claiming that the partial reports would only cause confusion, the government hadn’t released them, and so the evacuees from Namie who’d gone to Tsushima didn’t know they were fleeing into the worst of the radiation. Like Masami, they could only guess at the winds and the ions in the air. The land he’d fought for, had toiled so hard make a profit on, was now just eighty acres of the disaster zone.

There was nothing left for him there.

That afternoon, for the first time, it dawned on him that he would leave. He might never see the ranch again. He decided he would go to TEPCO’s head office. He’d seen it on TV: a boxy, gray building in downtown Tokyo with an enormous, orange antenna jutting out of it. He’d take the speaker car and find someone, make them listen.

There wasn’t enough gas in the van’s tank, so he went around the ranch siphoning fuel from the other vehicles into a washbasin and funneled it into the Honda. Before he left, he took the spray paint he’d bought on the day of the earthquake and, in giant letters, big enough for the Self-Defense Forces to see from the air, on the waste silo and the bucket of his biggest tractor he wrote, kesshi kyumei, danketu! Unite, save lives or die trying!

When he arrived in Tokyo, making himself heard would prove harder than he had expected. He would spend days sleeping in his car, denouncing the authorities, causing a disturbance in front of TEPCO’s headquarters until the police came to restrain him. When a representative from the company did finally agree to speak to him, his story would bring the man to tears, but it wouldn’t change anything. Not really.

In the coming years, as he became more and more involved in the anti-nuclear movement—hauling his radiated cows down to Tokyo or to prefectural capitals, demanding compensation and that his animals be studied, giving speeches and leading marches of leftists, continuing to live on the ranch even when the government barricaded the roads and caught him coming or going and tried to make him promise not to return, watching his neighbors’ animals starve to death until their hides and bones were scattered across the land like deflated balloons—he would hold the memory of the days after the quake to himself, a precious energy that perpetually burned inside him.

But as he flew down the Tohoku Expressway his future was still uncertain. He knew nothing of what was to come. He drove toward Tokyo and his heart beat like the flashing light of the countless police cars and fire trucks that passed him, heading the other direction.

https://catapult.co/stories/the-rancher-who-refused-to-leave-a-fukushima-story

 

June 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s Radiation Will Poison Food “for Decades,” Study Finds

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Three of the six reactors at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi complex were wrecked in March 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami. The destruction of emergency electric generators caused a “station blackout” which halted cooling water intake and circulation. Super-heated, out-of-control uranium fuel in reactors 1, 2, and 3 then boiled off cooling water, and some 300 tons of fuel “melted” and burned through the reactors’ core vessels, gouging so deep into underground sections of the structure that to this day operators aren’t sure where it is. Several explosions in reactor buildings and uncovered fuel rods caused the spewing of huge quantities of radioactive materials to the atmosphere, and the worst radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean ever recorded. Fukushima amounts to Whole-Earth poisoning.

Now, researchers say, radioactive isotopes that were spread across Japan (and beyond) by the meltdowns will continue to contaminate the food supply for a very long time.

According to a new study that focused on “radiocaesium” — as the British call cesium-134 and cesium-137 — “food in japan will be contaminated by low-level radioactivity for decades.” The official university announcement of this study neglected to specify that Fukushima’s cesium will persist in the food chain for thirty decades. It takes 10 radioactive half-lives for cesium-137 to decay to barium, and its half-life is about 30 years, so C-137 stays in the environment for roughly 300 years.

The study’s authors, Professor Jim Smith, of the University of Portsmouth, southwest of London, and Dr. Keiko Tagami, from the Japanese National Institute of Radiological Sciences, report that cesium-caused “radiation doses in the average diet in the Fukushima region are very low and do not present a significant health risk now or in the future.”

This phraseology deliberately conveys a sense of security — but a false one. Asserting that low doses of radiation pose no “significant” health risk sounds reassuring, but an equally factual framing of precisely the same finding is that small amounts of cesium in food pose a slightly increased risk of causing cancer.

This fact was acknowledged by Prof. Smith in the June 14 University of Portsmouth media advisory that announced his food contamination study, which was published in Science of the Total Environment. Because of above-ground atom bomb testing, Prof. Smith said, “Radioactive elements such as caesium-137, strontium-90 and carbon-14 contaminated the global environment, potentially causing hundreds of thousands of unseen cancer deaths.”

No less an authority than the late John Gofman, MD, Ph.D., a co-discoverer of plutonium and Professor Emeritus of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, spent 50 years warning about the threat posed by low doses of radiation. In May 1999, Gofman wrote, “By any reasonable standard of biomedical proof, there is no safe dose, which means that just one decaying radioactive atom can produce permanent mutation in a cell’s genetic molecules. My own work showed this in 1990 for X rays, gamma rays, and beta particles.”

The Fukushima-borne cesium in Japan’s food supply, and in the food-web of the entire Pacific Ocean, emits both beta and gamma radiation. Unfortunately, it will bio-accumulate and bio-concentrate for 300 years, potentially causing, as Dr. Gofman if not Dr. Smith might say, hundreds of thousands of unseen cancer deaths.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/22/fukushimas-radiation-will-poison-food-for-decades-study-finds/

 

 

June 22, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Trial of Three Key Tepco Executives Starting

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The trial of the three key Tepco executives in charge during the Fukushima disaster began this week. They are charged with criminal negligence, for not taking know safety measures to protect the plant against a large tsunami.
The trial
is finally taking place long after prosecutors in Tokyo refused to prosecute the case, thanks to a citizen group using a legal maneuver to force a case to be brought to trial.

The three key TEPCO executives are :
Tsunehisa Katsumata (ex-chairman)
Ichiro Takekuro (ex-vice president)
Sakae Muto (ex-vice president)

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Resilience in Retrospect: Interpreting Fukushima’s Disappearing Consequences

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By John Downer

1. Introduction

The third anniversary of the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns occasioned a new round of US media scrutiny. Among the leitmotifs of this coverage was a story that pertained less to the disaster itself than to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) efforts to manage the public’s  perception of it. Particularly notable in this regard were a slew of internal NRC emails obtained  by NBC reporters via the Freedom of Information Act, which shone a light on the regulator’s response to the unfolding crisis. The emails suggest a systematic effort to obfuscate or downplay implications of the accident that might be detrimental to the nuclear industry’s credibility at home: a high-level decision to disavow prior NRC concerns about the seismic vulnerability of US plants, for instance, and a policy of ignoring questions about the potential effects of meltdowns on US soil.  NBC’s revelations could not have been surprising to most seasoned nuclear observers. As early as July 2011, the Wall Street Journal 

was reporting on private NRC emails suggesting that the industry and its regulators were actively hiding evidence that many US reactors were at risk from earthquakes that had not been anticipated in their design. At the same time in the UK, The Guardian published an archive of internal UK government emails that showed the nuclear industry working closely with civil servants to downplay the Fukushima accident and keep it from delaying proposed plants.

It is easy to see why US and UK nuclear regulators would be concerned by a disaster in Japan. The entire logic of Western nuclear policy, planning and legislation is premised on the idea that meltdowns like Fukushima’s are either: a) literally impossible, or b) so unlikely as to be beyond  political consideration. The US, for example, takes the latter approach. By invoking quantitative risk assessments, it formally categorizes meltdowns as ‘hypothetical’ events that are ‘theoretically possible’ but too improbable to warrant genuine policy consideration much like alien invasions or catastrophic meteorite-strikes. This determination then underpins almost all its discourse around nuclear power. It is implicated, for instance, in formal cost-benefit analyses, which ignore the possibility of accidents when weighing the economics of different energy options (e.g. OECD 2010). It is implicated in its emergency response planning, which is framed around small leaks rather than Fukushima-scale meltdowns. It is implicated in planning decisions, such as the in the ‘clustering’ of multiple reactors in single sites where the failure of one can imperil the others (as was the case in Japan). It is even evident in a substantial body of its social science research, which routinely treats ‘nuclear risk’ as an established property, to be contrasted, or reconciled, with public perceptions of that risk.

The understanding that meltdowns will not (or cannot) occur is so foundational to this discourse that the appearance of three reactor meltdowns in a single week (all at the Fukushima site) could have unequivocally upended the way industrial societies conceive and manage nuclear risks. The accident’s outsized dramas – which upstaged even the momentous earthquake and tsunami that instigated it – only seemed to confirm the intolerability of nuclear disasters, while simultaneously undermining assertions that such disasters were too improbable to merit consideration. Long-standing critics of nuclear power could hardly have looked for a clearer vindication of their fears. It would have been easy to imagine that that atomic energy would have little future post-2011.

For all this, however, the credibility of nuclear energy proved surprisingly resilient to Fukushima. Some nations retreated from reactors after the accident. Japan, for instance, was gripped by a groundswell of public opposition to atomic power, while Germany resolved to

abandon reactors entirely. In most instances, however, dreams of ‘nuclear renaissance’ lived on.

Prior to Fukushima, 547 reactors were either proposed, planned or under construction throughout the world; a year later, this number had increased to 558. In early 2012, the NRC issued approvals for four new reactors – the first since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Around the same time, Britain and France signed a formal agreement paving the way for a new generation of reactors in both countries. In these nations and more, the expert and public consensus on nuclear energy ‘escaped’ the touch of Fukushima, just as it escaped that of Windscale in 1957, Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and countless other brushes with disaster.

The durability of the nuclear industry’s credibility speaks to the flexibility of risk as a concept, and to the nature of the structures in which it is embedded. It was achieved, in large part, through the promulgation of narratives that framed the disaster in two ways:

i)By arguing that Fukushima was ‘exceptional’, and, as such, did not undermine reliability calculations proving that meltdowns should be beyond consideration. and/or…

ii)By arguing that Fukushima showed meltdowns were more ‘tolerable’ events than formal risk assessments had previously imagined (thereby implying that the reliability of reactors is less essential and inviolable).

These narratives – which internal correspondences, such as those released by NBC and The Guardian show being framed – were constructed and disseminated at the highest levels, shaping policy discourse and reverberating throughout the mainstream media. This chapter will discuss their logic and their consequences. Section 2, below, begins by briefly outlining and then critiquing the argument that Fukushima was ‘exceptional’. It argues that Fukushima reveals more significant and generalizable vulnerabilities than narratives of the disaster usually suggest. Section 3 is the heart of the chapter. In three parts – each focusing on different ways of construing the disaster Ñ it outlines and critiques the argument that Fukushima was ‘tolerable’.

The accident, it concludes, was more costly and alarming than publics are encouraged to believe. The concluding section of the chapter consists of two parts. The first asserts that it is reasonable to construe Fukushima’s public portrayal as a form of denial, and tackles the thorny question of agency. Drawing on two sociology literatures – ‘Agnotology’ and ‘Science and Technology Studies’ (STS) – it offers different perspectives on how and why narratives about Fukushima have come to be misleading, and considers their relative implications. The second and final part draws on the conclusions of the first to reflect on nuclear resilience. Outlining five ways in which protecting the credibility of nuclear experts from disasters undermines the practices that  protect people, it argues that the resilience of nuclear authority compromises the resilience of nuclear infrastructures.

To read more :

https://www.academia.edu/33274228/Resilience_in_Retrospect_Interpreting_Fukushimas_Disappearing_Consequences

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-Officials of Fukushima NPP Operator to Face Trial for 2011 Disaster in June

 

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, are to face trial next month for the March 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto are accused of failing to take appropriate safety measures despite having been able to foresee that the plant would be inundated by tsunami waves.
They have been charged with professional negligence resulting in death or injury.
In 2013, public prosecutors decided not to press charges against the 3.
But they were indicted in February last year by court-appointed lawyers, after a prosecution inquest panel of randomly selected citizens voted to do so.
Preparations for the trial are underway at the Tokyo District Court.
The 3 former executives are expected to plead not guilty at their first hearing on June 30th.
 

 

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Former executives of the TEPCO company, which operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) will come up for trial on June 30 for the 2011 nuclear disaster, local media reported on Wednesday
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — In February 2016, former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two ex-vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto were accused of failing to take necessary security measures in the face of potential tsunami-related incidents at the NPP.
According to the NHK broadcaster, the preparations for the first hearing is ongoing at the Tokyo District Court.
In March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit the Fukushima NPP and led to the leakage of radioactive materials and the shutdown of the facility. The accident is considered to be the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl accident that took place in the Soviet Ukraine in 1986.

May 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Study: S. Korean nuclear disaster would hit Japan the hardest

hjhklmmù.jpgThe projected spread of radioactive cesium-137 from a disaster at the No. 3 reactor’s spent fuel pool of the Kori nuclear plant in Busan, South Korea (Provided by Kang Jung-min)

A serious nuclear accident in South Korea could force the evacuation of more than 28 million people in Japan, compared with around 24 million in the home country of the disaster.

Japan would also be hit harder by radioactive fallout than South Korea in such a disaster, particularly if it occurred in winter, when strong westerly winds would blow radioactive substances across the Sea of Japan, according to a simulation by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based think tank.

The simulation, based on a scenario of an unfolding crisis at the Kori nuclear power plant in Busan, South Korea, was led by Kang Jung-min, a South Korean senior researcher of nuclear physics, and his colleagues.

At events in Japan and South Korea, Kang, 51, has repeatedly warned about East Asia’s vulnerability to a severe nuclear accident, saying the region shares the “same destiny” regardless of the location of such a disaster.

The Kori nuclear complex is home to seven of the country’s 25 commercial reactors, making it one of the largest in South Korea. Its oldest reactor–and the first in the country–went online in 1978.

Spent nuclear fuel at the Kori plant is cooled in on-site storage pools next to reactors.

But the operator of the plant has ended up storing spent fuel in more cramped conditions than in the past because waste keeps accumulating from the many years of operations.

An estimated 818 tons of spent fuel was being stored at the pool of the Kori No. 3 reactor as of the end of 2015, the most at any reactor in the country.

That is because the No. 3 pool has also been holding spent fuel from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors since their fuel pools became too crowded.

Storing spent fuel in such a manner greatly increases the risk of a nuclear accident, Kang warned.

Kang’s team simulated the series of likely events that would follow if the No. 3 reactor lost power in a natural disaster or an act of terrorism.

With no power, the spent fuel at the No. 3 reactor could not be cooled. The cooling water would evaporate, exposing the fuel rods to air, generating intensive heat and causing a fire.

Hydrogen gas would then fill up the fuel storage building, leading to an explosion that would result in the release of a large amount of vaporized cesium-137 from the spent fuel.

Assuming that the catastrophe occurred on Jan. 1, 2015, the researchers determined how highly radioactive cesium-137 would spread and fall to the ground based on the actual weather conditions over the following week, as well as the direction and velocity of winds.

To gauge the size of the area and population that would be forced to evacuate in such a disaster, the team took into account recommendations by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, a private entity, and other organizations.

The results showed that up to 67,000 square kilometers of land in Japan–or much of the western part of the country–would fall under the evacuation zone, displacing a maximum of 28.3 million people.

In South Korea, up to 54,000 square kilometers would need to be vacated, affecting up to 24.3 million people.

The simulation also found that 18.4 million Japanese and 19 million Koreans would remain displaced for even after 30 years, the half-life of cesium-137, in a worst-case scenario.

Radioactive materials from South Korea would also pollute North Korea and China, according to the study.

Nineteen reactors in South Korea are located in the coastal area facing the Sea of Japan, including those at the Kori nuclear power plant.

Kang said the public should be alerted to the dangers of highly toxic spent fuel, an inevitable byproduct of nuclear power generation.

One ton of spent fuel contains 100,000 curies of cesium-137, meaning that 20 tons of spent fuel would be enough to match the estimated 2 million curies of cesium-137 released in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

An average-size light-water reactor produces about 20 tons of spent fuel in one year of operation.

East Asia is home to one of the world’s largest congestions of nuclear facilities, Kang said.

Japan, China and South Korea, which have all promoted nuclear energy as state policy for decades, together host about 100 commercial reactors.

A number of nuclear-related facilities are also concentrated in North Korea, particularly in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang.

If a severe accident were to occur in China, the pollution would inevitably spill over to South Korea and then to Japan.

That is why people should take serious interest in not just their own country’s nuclear issues, but also in neighboring countries,” Kang said. “Japan, China and South Korea should cooperate with each other to ensure the safety and security of spent fuel and nuclear facilities.”

He said the risks of a fire would be reduced if spent fuel were placed at greater intervals in storage pools.

Ideally, spent fuel should be moved to sealed dry casks and cooled with air after it is cooled in a pool for about five years,” he said.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703300001.html

 

May 22, 2017 Posted by | South Korea | , , , | Leave a comment

Fulfilling duties to Fukushima must top list in TEPCO reform

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A new plan has recently been worked out for rehabilitating Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), the embattled operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The plan is centered on a bold management reform for enhancing the utility’s earning capacity so it can cover the ballooning expenses related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, including the payment of damages and the cost of scrapping the hobbled nuclear reactors.

TEPCO obviously has the duty to fulfill its responsibility to the people and communities affected by the disaster. But the plan has set profit targets that are anything but easy to achieve, and some of the components of the plan appear unlikely to be realizable any time soon.

There is a need to continue reviewing the plan so it will not end up as simply pie in the sky.

TEPCO came under de facto government ownership after it could no longer keep operating on its own as a result of the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. The utility has since been paying damages and otherwise dealing with the aftermath of the disaster while receiving aid in various forms under government supervision.

It was learned late last year that post-disaster processing would cost twice as much as the previous estimate. The government worked out a framework, wherein about 16 trillion yen ($141 billion), out of the total expense of some 22 trillion yen, would be covered either by TEPCO or with profits from the sale of the government’s share in TEPCO.

The rehabilitation plan, which was revised in response thereto, envisages that TEPCO can come up with 500 billion yen in necessary expenses annually over the coming three decades. It also sets the goal of substantially increasing TEPCO’s profits.

Many questions linger, however.

A restart of the idled Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is expected to be the key instrument for TEPCO’s turnaround, is unlikely to be feasible any time soon. The governor of Niigata Prefecture and others are growing increasingly distrustful of TEPCO, as it recently came to light that the company had failed to inform the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority that one key building on the nuclear plant site is not sufficiently anti-seismic.

The first order of business is to take thorough safety measures. TEPCO should come up with ways for generating the necessary financial resources without relying on a restart of the nuclear plant.

The centerpiece of new measures for enhancing TEPCO’s earning capacity is a prospective reorganization of its operations along segment lines, such as in the field of power transmission and distribution and in nuclear power operations, which would also involve other utilities. That apparently came against the backdrop of the industry ministry’s hopes that TEPCO’s realignment will trigger a reform of the entire energy industry.

Other major electric utilities, however, are wary of the risk of having to play a part in TEPCO’s response to the nuclear disaster. It therefore remains uncertain whether the reorganization will actually take place as envisaged.

The framework for sharing the burdens of post-disaster processing, which the government has worked out as a precondition for the new plan, is in the first place ridden with problems.

The framework envisages that new entrants to the power supply market, who operate no nuclear reactors, will also have to pay part of the disaster response costs. Critics continue to argue such a plan is about passing the bill on to irrelevant parties.

The 4 trillion yen in radioactive cleanup fees are designated for being covered by profits on the sale of TEPCO shares. But that plan could fail unless TEPCO’s earnings were to expand and its share price were to grow significantly.

Using taxpayers’ money to fill the hole would then emerge as a realistic option.

TEPCO was allowed to stay afloat at the expense of taxpayers on the sole grounds that it bears heavy responsibility to the people and communities affected by the Fukushima disaster.

The government would have to take another step forward if TEPCO were unable to fulfill that responsibility. That would also fuel the argument for dismantling the embattled utility.

TEPCO is expected to soon make a fresh start under a reshuffled management. The utility and the government should not forget about the exacting eyes of the public.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705150018.html

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

As I See It: Six years later, no time for TEPCO personnel squabbles

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Former Hitachi Ltd. chairman Takashi Kawamura, left, who will take the post of the next chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., and Tomoaki Kobayakawa, who has been tapped to be the next TEPCO Holdings president, are pictured here in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on April 3, 2017.

Six years since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima nuclear plant, the utility still faces massive challenges. And yet, what I’ve come to see through my reporting is that efforts meant to help revitalize the company’s finances in order to secure the funds needed to bring the nuclear crisis under control and compensate victims, have been overshadowed by petty feuds over personnel appointments between executives dispatched by the central government — which effectively owns the company — and dyed-in-the-wool TEPCO employees. Rebuilding TEPCO will be impossible if such squabbles are not put to rest.

In March of this year, TEPCO announced an outline of its revitalization plans, with a restructuring of its nuclear power business as a central pillar, as well as a reshuffling of executive personnel. According to the announcement, chairman Fumio Sudo, 76, will be replaced by Takashi Kawamura, 77, the previous chairman at Hitachi Ltd., and president Naomi Hirose, 64, will be replaced by 53-year-old board director Tomoaki Kobayakawa.

After the nuclear crisis began in March 2011, TEPCO was effectively nationalized. The plan has been for TEPCO to increase its earning power by rebuilding its finances under the central government’s management, so that it could secure the funds necessary to decommission the reactors at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and compensate victims of the disaster.

With the nationalization of TEPCO, the government swept the utility clean of all its old executives and in addition to placing bureaucrats from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on the company’s board, in 2014 it put Sudo, formerly of major steel corporation JFE Holdings, in the position of TEPCO chairman. However, when Sudo, with the backing of the government, implemented cost-cutting measures, grumblings were heard within the company that Sudo was seeking too many results too fast and that staff evaluations were changing too dramatically. Sudo’s clashes with TEPCO president Hirose, who had worked up the ranks and was initially considered pro-reform, grew increasingly serious.

There was an incident in the spring of 2016 that could be considered a prelude to current conflicts. Sudo and METI, unhappy with the fact that Hirose would not cut his ties with former management, tried to re-appoint him to the post of deputy chairman. Hirose resisted and, according to multiple sources involved with TEPCO, was able to get the support of a former TEPCO executive who had close ties with the prime minister’s office. As a result, Hirose stayed in his post as company president, but his relationship with Sudo deteriorated beyond the point of repair. “It wasn’t uncommon for the two to criticize each other openly at management meetings,” a senior TEPCO official said.

At the end of 2016, METI announced that the amount of money necessary to deal with the nuclear crisis would be about 21.5 trillion yen, almost twice the amount of an earlier estimate. Because of the need to secure more funds, the government set up an expert panel, which then offered “recommendations” to TEPCO on how to rebuild its finances. When it was revealed that “the passing of authority down to the next generation” was one of the pieces of advice offered by the panel, industry insiders saw it as another government attempt at bringing Hirose down from his post, a source close to the case said.

Hirose is said to have resisted strongly to such renewed efforts. However, Sudo vowed that he would step down if Hirose did, forcing Hirose to bow to the pressure to resign. Some in the electric power industry have described the latest personnel reshuffle a “tie” in that both “camps” made concessions, but discontent is already spreading among career TEPCO employees. According to a senior TEPCO official, new executives, including Kobayakawa and the new president of a subsidiary company, are “all drinking buddies of outside board members who are former METI bureaucrats.”

TEPCO can’t afford to waste time on personnel feuds. In order to come up with the money needed to bring the troubled reactors under control, TEPCO must earn 500 billion yen per year for the next 30 years. The amount goes up further when taking into account the funds needed for capital investment. Meanwhile, TEPCO’s consolidated financial results for fiscal 2016 stood at just 258.6 billion yen in operating income.

TEPCO’s outline of its latest reorganization plan shows that it is aiming to raise earning power by realigning its various businesses, such as nuclear power, as well as the transmission and distribution of power, with other utilities. However, this plan is a carbon copy of the recommendations given by the government-established expert panel. Some long-time TEPCO employees have said the company only included the recommendation into its reorganization plan because the government has been on its back to do so, and that because other utilities will find no benefit to them in restructuring with TEPCO, the plan will never come to fruition. If people in the company remain this divided, TEPCO will never be able to follow through with rigorous reforms.

If TEPCO drops the ball on management reform and is unable to come up with the money it needs, it could lead to further burdens on the public in the form of higher electricity prices. TEPCO, under normal circumstances, would have gone under following the onset nuclear disaster. So if things go further south, not just the utility, but the central government, which allowed the utility to survive by pumping 1 trillion yen from national coffers into the company, will be held accountable.

Kawamura, who will be appointed TEPCO’s new chairman at the company’s general meeting of shareholders in late June, has the experience of having accomplished Hitachi’s v-shaped turnaround through fundamental management reforms. While his appointment was initiated by the government, many TEPCO employees welcome Kawamura’s pending appointment. The latest personnel change may be the last chance for TEPCO and the government to put its differences aside toward the goal of rebuilding the troubled power company.

Looking back at the latest personnel power struggle, a senior TEPCO official said, “I’m embarrassed when asked if any of the people involved (in the debacle) had ‘our responsibility toward Fukushima’ in mind.” The government and TEPCO must not forget its responsibility toward the victims of the nuclear disaster. If they focused on the fact that there are people out there whose peaceful lives in their beloved hometowns were taken away from them, they could refrain from feuds over personnel appointments. (By Daisuke Oka, Business News Department)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170512/p2a/00m/0na/014000c

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s nuclear disaster gave everyone on Earth extra radiation

« …Researchers still believe the overall exposure to have been negligible in the grand scheme of things… » A nicely turned lie in the grand scheme !

« …Of course, the robots sent in to do the dirty work haven’t been nearly as lucky… » Yes, no joke !

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Japan’s nuclear disaster gave everyone on Earth extra radiation

It’s been over half a decade since Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant suffered a catastrophic meltdown due to the effects of a tsunami which struck the island nation, but scientists are only just now confirming its far-reaching effects. After conducting the first worldwide survey to measure the ultimate radiation exposure caused by the reactor meltdown, researchers at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research finally have a figure on exactly how much extra radiation humanity was exposed to.

According to the group’s data, over 80 percent of the radiation that was released by the meltdown ended up in either the ocean or ice at the north and south poles. Of the remaining radiation, each human on the planet received roughly 0.1 millisievert, which equates to about “one extra X-ray each,” according to the team.

That amount of radiation isn’t likely to have much of an effect on humanity, however, and in comparison to the normal amount of radiation each of us receives over the course of a year, which can be as high as 3.65 millisieverts on average, it’s hardly anything. In fact, as NewScientist notes, a typical CT scan exposes you to 15 millisieverts on its own, and radiation sickness doesn’t occur until you reach the 1,000 millisievert threshold.

Obviously, those living the the vicinity of the reactor, especially in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, can expect to have received a good deal more radiation as a result, but the researchers still believe the overall exposure to have been negligible in the grand scheme of things. Of course, the robots sent in to do the dirty work haven’t been nearly as lucky.

https://www.yahoo.com/tech/japan-nuclear-disaster-gave-everyone-earth-extra-radiation-154756561.html?.tsrc=fauxdal

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

‘Yoshida’s Dilemma: One Man’s Struggle to Avert Nuclear Catastrophe’: But for him, Fukushima could have been much worse

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Hero: Masao Yoshida disregarded orders to abandon the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The actions of him and his team are credited with averting further disaster.

Disaster response, even at its most heroic, can fall to people who would rather be somewhere else.

So it was for Masao Yoshida, who, while helming the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant during the disaster in 2011, gave the groan, “Why does this happen on my shift?”

But in some ways Yoshida, an industry veteran of 32 years, was the right man to handle the crisis. His leadership during those days on the edge, at times in defiance of orders from the top of the utility that employed him, is at the center of Rob Gilhooly’s new book “Yoshida’s Dilemma: One Man’s Struggle to Avert Nuclear Catastrophe.”

Gilhooly writes from the eye of the storm, putting the reader in the plant’s control room with almost claustrophobic immediacy. One of his challenges was to render the emergency in real-time. How much can prose, moving forward in measured steps, convey a lethal technology unraveling in extremis? How do you convey the breakdown of machinery without getting mired in technical detail?

“It was difficult,” says Gilhooly, who spent almost four years researching and writing the book. “What struck me about the plant workers — it sounded like complete chaos. My decision was not to make it sound orderly. I wanted it to appear chaotic, without the writing becoming chaotic itself. I tore my hair out over the technical details, because I wanted the book to be readable.”

In the end, the book is a cumulative experience — an intense ride that rewards endurance. Gilhooly weaves in the history of nuclear energy in Japan, interviews with experts and re-created conversations among the plant workers.

“Yoshida was a straight talker from Osaka — a larger-than-life personality,” says Gilhooly, who interviewed the superintendent off the record. “He was different from the other superintendents, more prepared to stick his neck out. He was sharper, more bloody-minded. When tipping his hat to authority, he may have done so with a quietly raised middle finger.”

This attitude might have saved lives, when, after a hydrogen blast at the No. 1 plant, Tepco HQ in Tokyo ordered staff to evacuate. Yoshida knew that the executives had little idea of what was actually happening at the plant. Going behind the backs of his superiors, he contacted then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, insisting that leaving the plant would be reckless. The utility also ordered that seawater not be pumped through the reactor as coolant, since that would render it useless for energy generation in the future. Exposed to life-threatening levels of radiation, Yoshida and his team defied the order, scrambling to cool the overheating reactor with seawater.

The desperate move worked. The team managed to cool the reactor, and later the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, which was authorized by the Diet, concluded in its report that “(Yoshida’s) disregard for corporate instructions was possibly the only reason that the reactor cores didn’t explode.”

In Western media coverage of the Fukushima disaster, much was made of Japanese groupthink. A culturally ingrained obedience and a reluctance to question authority was blamed in part for the disaster. Still, the responses vary, and some staff put safety concerns over company loyalty.

“I didn’t want to editorialize,” says Gilhooly, who writes with a calm, thoughtful voice, avoiding the temptation of melodrama. “But yes, Yoshida — and others — refuted the stereotype that was used to explain parts of the disaster.”

Gilhooly is talking to a Japanese publisher, but thinks a translated version may prove difficult: His sources spoke freely about the events at the plant assuming the interviews wouldn’t be published in Japanese. Still, Gilhooly, who takes a stand in the book against using nuclear energy, hopes to fuel the ongoing debate in his adopted home.

“I just wanted to know the truth,” he says. “There is a discussion that needs to happen about nuclear power — about disaster un-preparedness in Japan. I wanted to contribute to that argument. It’s six years on and already we are airbrushing some things out.”

The book points out the gulf between rural Fukushima and the large cities consuming the energy it produced. Gilhooly talked to Atsufumi Yoshizawa, Yoshida’s deputy at the plant, who recalled the first home leave with his boss, a month after the disaster:

“Tokyo was … as though nothing had happened. They were selling things as usual, women were walking around with high heels and makeup as usual, while we didn’t even have our own clothes (which had been contaminated). I remember thinking, ‘What the hell is this? How can it be so different?’ I realized just how useless it would be to try and explain the situation at the plant to these people, what we had been through and the fear we had faced.”

It is a punch in the gut, then, to read about Yoshida’s death from esophageal cancer at age 58, just two years after his exposure to radiation. It’s one of the many elements of the Fukushima crisis that stirs anger, demanding a change that honors the lessons and sacrifice.

Gilhooly points out that, unlike Yoshida in the stricken plant, Japan has the chance to make positive choices about the future, choices that should be informed by the suffering in Fukushima.

“We should think more about how we use energy,” he concludes. “There are things we can do better, with small changes in lifestyle.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2017/04/29/books/book-reviews/yoshidas-dilemma-one-mans-struggle-avert-nuclear-catastrophe-fukushima-much-worse/

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May 1, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization?

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Summary of the book:

The Fukushima nuclear power plant explosions and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings are intimately connected events, bound together across time by a nuclear will to power that holds little regard for life itself. In Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization? contributors document and explore diverse dispossession effects stemming from this nuclear will to power, including market distortions, radiation damage to personal property, wrecked livelihoods, and transgenerational mutations potentially eroding human health and happiness. Liberal democratic capitalism is itself disclosed as vulnerable to the corrupting influences of the nuclear will to power. Contributors contend that denuclearization stands as the only viable path forward capable of freeing humans from the catastrophic risks engineered into global nuclear networks. They conclude that the choice of dispossession or denuclearization through the pursuit of alternative technologies will determine human survival across the twenty-first century.

Contributing editors to Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization? are Majia Nadesan, Antony Boys, Andrew McKillop and Richard Wilcox. Harvey Wasserman, Christopher Busby, Paul Langley, Adam Broinowski, Christian Lystbaek, and The Fukushima Five have also contributed chapters. Cover artwork by William Banzai7.

Proceeds from the book:

Proceeds from the book will be donated to the Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial Team, a team of lawyers who are fighting in the courts in northern Japan to have children in Koriyama City, quite badly contaminated with radiation after the March 11, 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, evacuated to safe areas at government expense. Please see:

http://www.fukushima-sokai.net/ (English)

The group also has a (Japanese) Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/fukushimasokai

We very much hope that you will consider purchasing and reading the book, firstly for the insights it may give you into the significance of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and also to make a donation toward this important trial to help evacuate children to safer areas.

In fact, the group has now decided to link up with the Matsumoto Fund Boarding School Project for Fukushima Kids in order to take practical action to evacuate children from contaminated areas of Fukushima. Please see an English explanation a

http://www.kodomoryugaku-matsumoto.net/?page_id=614

Electronic copy: http://www.lulu.com/shop/nadesan-boys-mckillop-wilcox/fukushima-dispossession-or-denuclearization/ebook/product-21800492.html

Print copy: http://www.lulu.com/shop/nadesanboysmckillopwilcox-editors/fukushima-dispossession-or-denuclearization/paperback/product-21798972.html

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Lack of proper facilities forced disabled evacuees to move from shelter to shelter after 3/11

FUKUSHIMA – Disabled people have been forced to move to various evacuation shelters since the March 2011 calamity due mainly to the shortage of barrier-free facilities, a survey conducted by support group showed Saturday.

Among the 147 physically and mentally disabled people surveyed, mainly in Fukushima Prefecture, 118, or 80 percent, were moved at least three times, the survey said. Around 40 percent complained that their disabilities got worse.

The survey was conducted between 2015 and 2016.

Given the acute lack of availability in shelters with welfare services and functions in 2011, four people transferred a total of nine times in search of a better environment.

Only 16, or 11 percent, stayed in the first evacuation shelters they landed in, typically public gymnasiums and community halls. On average, the disabled people surveyed were moved four times.

After the meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Mieko Matsumoto, 58, moved to three evacuation shelters with her 26-year-old son, Yuta, in the space of four months.

Matsumoto said she could not feel relaxed because Yuta, who had cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair, occasionally made loud noises and she always had to be mindful of the other evacuees.

Many respondents said they faced difficulty using the toilet or when they wanted to take a bath, since the shelters were not equipped to handle wheelchair users.

In 2013, the government compiled guidelines stressing the importance of having welfare evacuation shelters and installment procedures, urging municipalities across the nation to take steps in accordance with the lessons learned from mega-quake and nuclear crisis.

But similar problems emerged after Kumamoto Earthquake rocked Kyushu last April.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/22/national/lack-proper-facilities-forced-disabled-evacuees-move-shelter-shelter-311/

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Show 10 – Fukushima 311 Watchdogs – Fukushima Disaster

Sorry folks for my thick french accent in this interview, but most important is the message itself, not the bearer. Plus this is quite new to me…

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Link to the podcast show : http://ahk42.com/podcast/show-10-fukushima-311-watchdogs-fukushima-disaster/

 

About Herve  Courtois:-
Because my 30-year-old Japanese daughter was living in Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 11 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant disaster abruptly awoke me to the dangers of nuclear and also to the omnipresent omerta in the mainstream media exerted by the powerful international nuclear lobby and various governments.

Visiting my daughter in Iwaki just 3 months after the start of the catastrophe, I was surprised by how the people on location were kept ignorant about what was really taking place, about the gravity of the dangers they faced, and about the possible protective measures they should take to minimize the risks to their life.
After a one-month visit, returning home to France, I looked for information and knowledge on the Internet and on the social networks, then became active myself in sharing that information and knowledge with others, and active in the French and International Anti-Nuclear movements. 3 and a half years later, the Fukushima catastrophe is still ongoing, and its cover-up has been partly exposed, but we still have to struggle to make the truth prevail over their many lies. 3 years later I am still here sharing information.

From June 2011 to July 2012, I was the main administrator of the Fukushima 311 Watchdog FB group, its FB page and its first blog. In July 2012, after a very intensely active first year, I burned-out, so I closed the FB group and its Internet blog, keeping only its FB page going up to the present:

In August 2012 I founded a new group, The Rainbow Warriors FB group which is still active:

I chose the alias of D’un Renard (“from a fox” in French) so as to not be identified by the Japanese government for my anti-nuclear activities, and eventually blacklisted as an undesirable alien, which would prevent me from entering Japan and continuing to visit my daughter.
I believe it is time for me to open again a new Fukushima 311 Watchdogs blog now, as the Fukushima catastrophe still goes on, to reach more people with our information, for people to learn about Fukushima and its continued spitting of contamination into our environment worldwide through the Jet Stream, the constant dumping of radioactive contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean, and its contamination of our food chain, with all the health consequences that we may predict.

Governments are unwilling to learn the lessons from Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima. The people’s lives are always secondary to government priorities, economics and political expediency. People must learn to protect themselves as no one informs them of the true facts nor protects them.

Fukushima is here with us.

The Rainbow Warriors group on Facebook

The Fukushima 311 Watchdogs page on Facebook

WEBSITE LINK

Media for the show:-

The Facebook page about the documentary film Les voix silencieuses (The silent voices) they have 3 versions, one in Japanese, one in french, one in English. LINK

Silent Voices Website LINK
About the documentary film “Fukushima the silent voices” LINK

http://ahk42.com/upcoming-guest-fukushima-311-watchdogs-herve-courtois/

April 13, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

The fallout of a damaged reactor versus the fallout of an atomic bomb

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Translation from french by Hervé Courtois

By AIPRI, the International Association for the Protection against Ionizing Rays.

The purpose of the AIPRI is to provide scientific disclosure in the field of nuclear physics and the radiological hazards of internal contamination.

While it is undeniable that the fallout to the ground during the few hours following the explosion of an atomic bomb is conducive to cause acute irradiations for a few days, more than the fallout of a damaged reactor, it is equally undeniable that the fallout from a damaged reactor causes a considerably higher number of deferred victims for the simple reason that it releases a much larger and more toxic mass of “lasting” fission products than does a single atomic bomb and also more heavily contaminates a much larger territory.

Clearly, Chernobyl scattered at least 24.6 kilograms of cesium 137, while a plutonium device of 22 kt disseminates 47.6 grams. Chernobyl dispersed more than 16 kilograms of plutonium 239 into fine particles, while a device with a 10% fission yield dropped 11 kg in the environment (The bombs only work in excess of their fission output and spoil a lot of the goods, which is why they disseminated 50 tons of “unconsumed” plutonium nanoparticles during the nuclear weapon tests).

To count only the few hundred early victims of the acute irradiations of each one is to demonstrate a satanic malfeasance and an infatuation unparalleled for falsification and death for it is tantamount to spitting out an abject gall on the countless liquidators who prematurely disappeared to whom we owe our lives and to eradicate the millions and millions of anonymous, proven, programmed and calculated victims of this endless nuclear tragedy.

Yet this is known. An atomic reactor is continuously fissioning and accumulates more lasting” fission products every day. A reactor saves and in fact continuously grows its secular toxic capital. On the other hand, a bomb fission instantaneously but without ever accumulating anything.

This is the reason why the fallout from both of them if they are for the whole made of the same radioelements are not however at all in the same proportions and therefore do not have the same lasting radiotoxicity which is of course the most dangerous because it acts over centuries and centuries.

Comparing one to the other is thus already in itself a somewhat hazardous exercise, moreover, to take into account only the victims of the acute irradiations of both to confront the dangerousness is a criminal scam whose ultimate goal is the concealment of the millions of deferred victims of this modern civil and military nuclear tragedy.

Post scriptum:

Cs137 by kt for a load of Pu239
1.444E + 23 at./kt * 6.58% Rdf = 9.50E21 Cs137 * 7.312E-10 λ = 6.947E12 Bq / kt either 6.95 TBq or 187.82 Ci / kt for 2.16 g / Kt

http://aipri.blogspot.fr/2017/03/coup-de-gueule-atomique.html

April 5, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Testimony from Disaster

MINES Paris Tech is the leading institution, at the heart of the french nuclear lobby, a state within the State.

Crisis management students in France are hoping to learn from a first-hand account of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Franck Guarnieri, a researcher in risk and crisis management at one of France’s leading institutions, MINES ParisTech, has been studying the accident.

Guarnieri and his team have interviewed nearly 30 government officials, experts, and employees at Tokyo Electric Power Company who were active during the aftermath of the 2011 disaster.

He is particularly interested in the actions of the late Masao Yoshida, the plant manager at the time.

Some months after the disaster, Yoshida told the government about what he did. The transcript, titled the Yoshida Testimony, was released in 2014.

When Guarnieri saw it, he decided to publish it in French.

The job of rendering Yoshida’s entire 28-hour testimony into French was recently completed. The translation takes up 3 volumes, 2 of which are now in print.

“This is the first time the testimony of a plant manager has been made public. In the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents, the plant managers did not give testimonies,” says Guarnieri.

Rather than simply focusing on the events and facts of the disaster, Guarnieri and his team are especially interested in Yoshida’s emotional and psychological state, as the person in charge of the accident response.

These are some of his statements:

“There was no manual for this situation. To put it bluntly, I realized I’d have to rely on my intuition and judgment.”

“If we had stopped injecting water into the reactors it would have been catastrophic, so I decided to continue.”

Guarnieri’s team says those words indicate that Yoshida had to make decisions based on information that was potentially incorrect. They say the Yoshida Testimony is quite different from other official accounts, which tend to include little regarding the human element.

France now operates more than 50 nuclear power plants, which supply 70% of the nation’s electricity. To date, there haven’t been any major nuclear accidents.

But Guarnieri believes the officials at these French nuclear power plants need to read Yoshida’s testimony.

Recently, he met with Jean-Marc Cavedon, the director of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission on the outskirts of Paris.

Guarnieri stressed the unique importance of the Yoshida document, and urged them to devise safety measures for extreme situations.

“There will be no progress in risk management unless we learn from other people’s experience and improve as human beings,” says Cavedon.

“Nuclear power plants need to improve their risk management, by facing up to the disastrous events in Fukushima,” says Guarnieri.

Two years after the nuclear accident, Yoshida died of cancer.

Guarnieri is now intent on spreading the lessons of Yoshida’s testimony, to make sure such a tragedy never happens again.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/editors/5/20170403/

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April 4, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment