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On the Frontline of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Workers and Children – Radiation risks and human rights violations

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22 Mar 2019
 
Eight years after the start of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and two years after the Japanese government lifted evacuation orders in areas of Namie and Iitate, radiation levels remain too high for the safe return of thousands of Japanese citizen evacuees.
 
This report summarizes information from Greenpeace’s latest extensive radiation survey in Namie and Iitate, Fukushima prefecture. The survey, conducted during October 2018, focused in particular on the radiation risks to decontamination workers, whose exploitation and human rights violations have rightly become a focus of attention from United Nations human rights experts during the last year.
 
The report also focuses on the failure of the Japanese government to comply with its international obligations to protect the rights of children. Preventing exposure of children to harmful radiation, one of the obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is particularly critical given their higher vulnerability to health effects from radiation. In the case of workers and children, who are in the frontline of hazards resulting from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the Japanese government continues to ignore international radioprotection recommendations

Download PDF (12.03 MB)

https://reliefweb.int/report/japan/frontline-fukushima-nuclear-accident-workers-and-children-radiation-risks-and-human

 

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March 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Unlearned Lessons of Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

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March 20, 2019
Last week, Japan marked the eighth anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that hit the country in 2011, leaving more than 18,000 people dead or unaccounted for and triggering one of the worst nuclear accidents in modern history. A moment of silence was observed across the country at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, the time the earthquake struck. Sports teams interrupted their practice to pray for the souls of those who perished. “We must never let the valuable lessons that we have learned from the enormous damage caused by the disaster to fade away,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a commemorative ceremony.
 
The following day, three former executives of the Tokyo Electric Power Corporation, or TEPCO—which operated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant when it took a direct hit from the tsunami—entered the district courthouse in Tokyo for the final day of their trial. They reiterated pleas of “not guilty” in response to charges of criminal negligence in connection with the disaster at Fukushima. The prosecution is requesting that each defendant serve five years in prison….
… Eight years on, residents of Fukushima continue to feel the impact of the nuclear accident. Much of the surrounding area remains designated as a “difficult-to-return zone,” requiring special permission to enter. Even in parts of the nine municipalities that have been deemed safe since 2014, most residents have yet to return home. An investigation by the Kyodo News service revealed that only 23 percent of registered homes in those areas are currently inhabited.
For citizens affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the process of seeking justice has been halting and uncertain.
Even for areas outside the initial evacuation zone, fears of radiation persist amid a massive, ongoing cleanup effort. One problem has to do with contaminated soil and debris that has been removed and stored in black bulk container bags across Fukushima. There’s still no set plan for their removal, so in many neighborhoods, the bags simply pile up—an ugly reminder of a tragedy that continues to reverberate through the area. In some cases, storage pits have been created, but they are far from a lasting solution, and not sufficient to hold the massive amounts of contaminated material slated for eventual disposal. The government has also installed monitoring posts throughout the affected area, but these sensors often fail to catch radioactive “hot spots”—concentrations of contaminated particles that accumulate over time due to weather patterns…
 
… Concerns over residual radiation are also hampering the recovery of the largely agriculture-based economy in Tohoku, the region that includes Fukushima. In the weeks and months after the meltdown, as many as 54 of Japan’s trading partners, fearing that radiation would reach their shores via contaminated produce, enacted trade embargoes on agricultural products from the region. Many governments have since removed or relaxed these prohibitions, but 24 countries and territories maintain some form of restriction despite repeated assurances from Tokyo that food products from the region are safe. These include major nearby export markets like China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s most widely circulated daily newspaper, reports roughly $6 billion worth of exports are affected….
 
… This reality points to the permanent reputational damage to the people of Fukushima and its neighboring prefectures caused by the nuclear meltdown, which is proving just as hard to clean up. Like other sites of major nuclear accidents—Chernobyl, for example, and Three Mile Island—Fukushima is indelibly associated with nuclear fallout and the stigma that comes with it…
 
… For affected citizens, the process of seeking justice has been halting and uncertain, but there has been some progress. The verdict in the Tokyo criminal case is expected in September, though legal experts point out that guilty verdicts in cases that have been forcibly brought to trial by an inquest panel are rare. Meanwhile, roughly 30 class action lawsuits brought by residents of the Fukushima plant’s surrounding area are working their way through Japan’s legal system. A number of courts in those cases have found both TEPCO and the Japanese government liable for the disaster, awarding substantial damages…
 
… Japan is certainly no exception when it comes to lax and failing government regulation. Nor is it the only country that has prioritized economic growth over safety concerns. But as Japan’s nuclear reactors gradually come back online eight years after the meltdown in Fukushima, the potential costs of failing to learn from its mistakes seem particularly stark.
Read more:

March 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Court absolves government of blame in nuclear disaster

hkjml.jpgPlaintiff Takahiro Kanno, left, speaks about the verdict in Chiba’s Chuo Ward on March 14.

 

March 15, 2019

CHIBA–A district court here on March 14 absolved the central government of responsibility but ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to pay compensation to nine of 19 plaintiffs who evacuated to Chiba.

The Chiba District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay a total of about 5.1 million yen ($45,630) to nine plaintiffs who evacuated out of radiation fears following the nuclear accident triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The 19 plaintiffs were from six households who voluntarily evacuated from Fukushima to Chiba Prefecture. The plaintiffs sought a total of 247 million yen from TEPCO and the central government.

While the presiding judge ordered TEPCO to pay compensation to nine plaintiffs from four households, it denied the central government’s responsibility.

Read more :

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201903150041.html

March 18, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima forests contain ‘most of 2011 accident cesium’

March 12, 2019

A study has found that forests contain most of the radioactive cesium released during the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

About 70 percent of the cesium released into the environment is believed to have accumulated in forests near the plant.

There has been concern that the radioactive substance could spread to residential and farming areas, because little progress has been made in decontaminating the forests.

March 18, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Congenital heart disease operations rose 14% after Fukushima nuclear accident

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March 13, 2019

Murase K, et al. J Am Heart Assoc. 2019;doi:10.1161/JAHA.118.009486.

There was an increase in the number of operations performed on neonates and infants with complex congenital heart disease after the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami that resulted in a nuclear accident at Fukushima, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Although this research focuses on events that occurred in Japan, the potential for nuclear accidents throughout the world is a global health concern,” Kaori Murase, PhD, associate professor at Nagoya City University in Japan, said in a press release. “Our study suggests that a nuclear accident might increase the risk for complex congenital heart disease.”

Researchers analyzed data from annual surveys conducted between 2007 and 2014 by the Japanese Association for Thoracic Surgery. The years that were included in the survey were the 4 years before and after the Japanese earthquake on March 11, 2011. The surveys included information on 45 surgical classifications for congenital heart disease. Patients with congenital heart disease were categorized into two groups based on the time of occurrence during heart development, complexity and the age at operation.

There was a 14.2% increase in the number of operations per 100,000 live births for complex congenital heart disease in neonates and infants. There was no significant change in the number of operations performs in patients aged 1 to 17 years.

The cause of the increase is unknown, but we should consider the influence of the radionuclides emitted from the Fukushima nuclear power plant,” Murase and colleagues wrote. “More specific patient data such as time, location and amount of maternal exposure would be required to determine the cause.” – by Darlene Dobkowski

Read more :

https://www.healio.com/cardiology/pediatric-cardiology/news/online/%7B587ccb11-f924-4ead-aa8f-24b7da911c55%7D/congenital-heart-disease-operations-rose-14-after-fukushima-nuclear-accident

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-03-newborn-heart-problems-surged-fukushima.html

March 18, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-Tepco execs’ lawyers make final plea for acquittal over negligence in Fukushima nuclear crisis

The trial, which began in June 2017, ended on Tuesday. The court is expected to deliver its sentence on September 19.

March 12, 2019
Lawyers for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. called for their acquittal in their final defense plea on Tuesday in a negligence case stemming from the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011.
The defense team said that it was impossible for them to foresee the massive tsunami that engulfed the Fukushima No. 1 power plant and caused fuel meltdowns following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the coastal Tohoku region.
The day after the nation marked the eighth anniversary of the March 11, 2011, disasters, the lawyers for Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, Tepco chairman at the time of the crisis, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, and Sakae Muto, 68, both vice presidents, told the Tokyo District Court they “do not recognize any predictability in the disaster.”
The three men have been indicted for allegedly failing to take measures against the massive tsunami and causing the deaths of 44 hospital inpatients and injuries to 13 others during the evacuations prompted by fuel meltdowns and hydrogen explosions at the plant.
Court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors have called for five-year prison terms for the three, claiming they could have prevented the nuclear disaster had they fulfilled their responsibilities in collecting information and taking safety measures.
Read more :
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/03/12/national/crime-legal/ex-tepco-execs-lawyers-make-final-plea-acquittal-negligence-fukushima-nuclear-crisis/?fbclid=IwAR2diwN8B9xxWiBJU5dy6WbXrgx8tSoW32lwWTqR5Vi6gRuwf04Pmi8Ziq8#.XIhZmMn7Tcs

March 18, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Eight years after triple meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, major problems remain and many impacts are yet to manifest

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Beyond Nuclear Press Release

Thursday, March 7, 2019

TAKOMA PARK, MD — The legacy of the Fukushima nuclear disaster will continue indefinitely, creating long-term problems for human health, radioactive waste management and the environment:

  • Around 1.09 million tons of radioactively contaminated water — used to cool the destroyed reactor cores as well as groundwater flowing across the site —  is being stored onsite in growing tank farms, which are now at capacity. Absent other options, Japanese authorities are looking to dump this radioactively contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean, a move strongly opposed by Japanese fishermen, ocean protection groups and the worldwide environmental community.

 

  • In an effort to downplay or dismiss the health dangers of radiation exposure, the Japanese government has ended financial benefits to Fukushima evacuees, putting economic pressures on these families to return to the region, even though it has not been — and cannot be — adequately or effectively cleaned up and made safe for human habitation. According to noted physicist, Dr. Bruno Chareyron, who has conducted field measurements in the area, “The radioactive particles deposited on the ground in March 2011 are still there, and in Japan, millions of people are living on territories that received significant contamination.”

 

  • In order to justify the return of evacuees and claim the region is now safe, Japanese regulatory authorities have raised the allowable radiation dose from I milisievert per year to 20, an unacceptably high rate that is especially dangerous for pregnant women and children. This policy has been cited by a UN Special Rapporteur as having “potentially grave impacts on the rights of young children returning to or born in contaminated areas.”

 

  • Plans by Tepco and the Japanese government to begin removing melted reactor fuel in 2021 are fraught with risk and uncertainty since little is still known about its condition and there is no safe, permanent radioactive waste management plan in place.

 

  • The Japanese government plans to hold two events — softball and baseball — in the Fukushima Prefecture during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a public relations maneuver to “normalize” the situation. However, in addition to unacceptable radiation exposure doses, particularly from hot spots, the discovery of radioactive particles of reactor fuel debris in the area, including uranium and cesium, would put both athletes and spectators at risk.

 

  • The implications for returning populations to the Fukushima region come with dire warnings from the health findings in Macaque monkeys who have lived there continuously. The monkeys have been found to have bone marrows that are producing almost no blood cells, and mothers are giving birth to babies with reduced brain sizes. With a 7% difference in DNA with humans, these outcomes are alarming.

 

  • Scandals surrounding the ill treatment of workers at the stricken Fukushima plant, many of whom are migrants and already low-income, continue. UN human rights experts found these workers to have been exploited and their health willfully jeopardized, with workers coerced “into accepting hazardous working conditions because of economic hardships, and the adequacy of training and protective measures.”

 

  • Despite widespread public opposition in Japan, the Abe government continues to try to restart nuclear reactors. However, only nine of the 42 still operable reactors are back on line (out of 58 originally). The government has instead turned its attention to the nuclear export market, but this took a serious hit when Toshiba’s Westinghouse nuclear division went bankrupt two years ago and Hitachi withdrew from two new nuclear power plant projects in the UK in January 2019.

http://www.beyondnuclear.org/home/2019/3/7/eight-years-after-triple-meltdowns-and-explosions-at-the-fuk.html

March 18, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

‘Fukushima Speaks’ Explores Lives of Survivors

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February 25, 2019
On Saturday, March 9, from 1 to 5 p.m., the Fukushima Support Committee will host the North America premiere of “Fukushima Speaks,” a compelling feature-length documentary by award-winning director and independent journalist Toshikuni Doi.
The screening will take place at Art Share Los Angeles, 801 E. 4th Pl. in L.A’s Arts District.
“It is not enough for a journalist to report facts and news of what is happening, but rather it is the journalist’s duty to expose the ‘human’ underneath it all,” Doi stated. “If we fail to shed light on [universal themes]and just succeed in reporting on facts and news, to the audience, it will come across as just a matter that is happening somewhere far away, unrelated to them.”
Four years in the making, Doi has created a heart-wrenching look into the lives of Japanese residents whose lives were devastated by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Haunting images and video footage of the aftermath are reinforced by 14 personal stories of despair, guilt, and outrage.
“I lost the cornerstone of my life,” Yoko Watanabe, a self-evacuee, said in her interview. “I was determined to bury myself in Katsurao village. That was taken away from me. The reason to live, volunteering, everything was taken away from me in a flash. Now I don’t know anymore what I live for. I wonder if I am really needed in this life, and I don’t know anymore.”
The suffering of Fukushima survivors continue to this day. While the mourning of lost life is obvious, the film also explores the dire realities that are often overlooked: the loss of livelihoods due to the contamination of land and ocean, the life-threatening risks caused by radiation exposure, the emotional turmoil of families being torn apart by the decision to stay or evacuate, and the discrimination that residents now face because they are from Fukushima.
Another self-evacuee, Hikaru Hoshi, expressed indignation: “They want to blame it on us and say it was our responsibility. Whether to leave or stay…. I do not allow them to shift the burden of the accident of enormous scale to individual choices/individual responsibilities…. We lived in the area that needed to be evacuated right away. That fact was concealed from us, and some of us left on our own, or like me, some did not have time to think it through but left anyway. I felt outraged that this country was putting us against each other. The root of the matter lies somewhere else.”
Doi pointed out the urgency of releasing this documentary: “Eight years since the accident, ‘Fukushima’ is being made into the thing of the past,” he said. “As more people focus on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the victims are silenced and their suffering is hidden away behind the news of ‘revitalization.’ However, the wounds of the victims whose lives have been destroyed by the accident are still raw.”
Read more:

 

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

Fukushima The Seal of the Sun 太陽の蓋

February 24, 2019

This February 20th I was invited by my friend Kolin Kobayashi in Paris to the avant-première of the movie Fukushima The Seal of the Sun, followed by a short debate, then to the private reception where Japan ex-prime Minister Naoto Kan was present.

Watching this movie brought to my mind the words of Gregory Jaczko, the former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2011, in his recently released book titled Confessions of a rogue nuclear regulator :

« And what about the problems that no engineer, scientist, or safety regulator can foresee. No amount of planning can prepare a plant for every situation. Every disaster makes its own rules – and humans cannot learn them in advance ».

« Generations of nuclear professionals have never experienced the confusion of a nuclear accident as it is happening. So it is essential that we remember and teach the lessons of Three Mile Island, chernobyl and Fukushima, for reviewing these accidents shows common themes of missed opportunities, human failings, and technological overconfidence. No amount of forgetting can change these simple facts. »

« As I learned in the wake of the Fukushima accident, crises on this scale are often characterized by incoherent communication and conflicting information. Both the Three Mile island and the Fukushima disasters featured contradictory assessments of the state of the reactor, a limited appreciation of the fact that the damage to the reactor had occured very early, and rapidly changing statements from elected officials. To the public, these statements can appear to suggest prevarication or incompetence. But when government officials – imperfect human beings like everyone else – try to make sense of the complicated physics of a nuclear reactor, they will invariably make mistakes in communication. »

Especially as in the Fukushima accident where TEPCO was not straightforward in giving the true facts to the Japanese government, but always prevaricating.

 

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Synopsis of the movie Fukushima The Seal of the Sun
On March 11, 2011, Japan is rocked by an earthquake, followed by a tsunami and the triple nuclear disaster of Fukushima. Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s team is trying to cope with this situation.
What really happened at the Prime Minister’s residence at the time of the worst crisis in the country’s history? Has the truth been fully revealed?

3 questions to the director – Futoshi Sato

How did you arrive on this project and how did you work with the producer and actors of the film?

Born in the area that was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, I wanted to talk about it, but I was wondering what might be the approach to make it a movie. For his part, Mr. Tamiyoshi Tachibana wondered about the possibility of adapting the book written by Tetsuro Fukuyama, Deputy Director of the Cabinet of Naoto Kan. “The Nuclear Crisis – A Testimony from the Residence of the Prime Minister” is a fundamental work that tells the truth of the events that occurred on those days at the Residence.

If this project was able to start and be realized, it is thanks to the total and complete implication of Mr Tamiyoshi Tachibana. The entire project team has been involved in the discussions around the script and during our debates, we thought it was necessary to make a choral film with in the center, the members of the Cabinet, but also with the journalists on the lookout for scoops, the workers of the power plant, as well as the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. As for casting, we managed to bring together actors who were completely convinced of the importance of the subject. We gave them all the information so that they thoroughly understand the issues of the film and their characters.

Was it important to you that the events would be experienced in a balanced way through the politicians and the people directly at the forefront of the disaster?

According to the people who experienced these events, their feeling completely varies. To make it a film capable of witnessing this story in all its diversity, we decided to adopt the different points of view of the protagonists. It was not possible to convey this reality to the public otherwise.

I remember that Naoto Kan told us: “If you represent the truth about the nuclear accident with firmness in the film, you can choose any method of expression.” He wanted the facts to be well presented. I started filming in a direction that was not meant to be easy. Instead, it was necessary to treat with audacity, an atmosphere of crisis due to a management and consequences quite unknown.

Which part of the movie is truth and which part is fiction?

The information, as to the reactions and attitudes of TEPCO following the nuclear accident, and those that have been passed on to the government are all true. We also had to do some research to recreate some scenes. In addition, about what had happened during these 5 days, it was impossible to extract and reproduce the huge amount of data.

For these reasons, and in order to stay true to the facts and to make a fiction easier to understand, we created a fictional character unfolding the story. We have made this journalist a kind of guide, to follow this whole story. The words and situations of certain scenes have been created to cover all events. On the other hand, the politicians, who are public figures, appear in the film under their true identities. Their dialogues and actions are also based on true facts.

3 questions au producteur – Tamiyoshi Tachibana

In 2011, you were close to Naoto Kan, the Japanese Prime Minister. Through this film, was it your intention to restore a truth that the latter experienced during this crisis?

At the time, I was simply a friend, one of his cadets in politics. It was only after the earthquake that I became a real member of his support group. It is not to reproduce the experience of the crisis experienced by Naoto Kan that I produced this film. The media and public opinion, manipulated by the latter, were totally hostile to the Prime Minister, accusing him of having aggravated the accident and amplified the damage. Faced with this rejection, I was plagued by anger and disgust as they led me to make this film to put things in order.

The reactors’ accident could, in the worst case, have caused the evacuation of the entire population living within a radius of 250km, including Tokyo, a total of 50 million people. Naoto Kan was the only one to have guessed the extreme gravity of the accident and to have realized that we were one step away from the collapse of Japan. If he had not been Prime Minister, if the crisis had to be managed by another in his place, the country could have been completely destroyed.

You have kept the real names of the various protagonists. What were the reactions of the people implicated, in particular the leaders of TEPCO, the company that managed the Fukushima power station?

Four politicians appear under their real names. In the history of Japanese cinema, this is the first time that characters, in a fiction film, take the true identity of people who really exist. Thus Naoto Kan is still present in the political life of Japan.

As for the other members of the government, as well as the officials and employees of TEPCO (TOBI in the film), these are not their real names, but we can easily imagine who they are!

However, there was no protest or legal proceedings on their part. I do not know if they saw the movie … or not. If they saw it, they did not want to talk about it publicly. I hope that today, they are a little ashamed of this catastrophic situation of which they are, in part, responsible.

What was the impact of the film when it was released in Japan? Has it sparked a real public debate as Japanese nuclear power resumed its place in the country, as if nothing had happened in 2011?

The accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station inspired the authors of “Shin Godzilla” (the new Gozilla), a movie released in Japan on July 29, 2016. That movie was designed by two of the largest film production companies for a total budget of 13 million euros. Thanks to this film, the producers have earned more than 64 million euros!

On our side, our film was screened in independent theaters. Obviously, this has not been the same success, especially in terms of financial benefits.

Citizens continue to organize weekly independent screenings. It should be noted that the 54 nuclear reactors, distributed among the 18 Japanese plants, were shut down in September 2013.

7 years after the disaster, 9 units restarted. The film has become a powerful vector for citizens who speak out against the restart.

Aujourd’hui, environ 70 % de la population est en effet opposée à l’énergie nucléaire.

Sources :

Synopsis of the movie, provided by Destiny Films, translated by Hervé Courtois (D’un Renard)

Confessions of a rogue nuclear regulator by gregory B. Jaczko, published by Simon & Schuster, New York, 2019

February 24, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear regulator: nuclear is dangerous, a failed technology, not a safe bet for combating climate change

“Jaczko headed the NRC from 2009 to 2012 under former President Barack Obama. During his tenure, he oversaw several of nuclear’s worst battles and disasters, including Yucca Mountain, the proposed nuclear waste depository, and the Fukushima meltdown in Japan. He writes that what he witnessed was an agency overpowered by the agenda of the nuclear industry. Decisions were based on politics, not safety or the public’s best interests. After witnessing several close calls with plants and the aftermath of Fukushima, he’s come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as safe nuclear power.”

 

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Former NRC head disagrees with Bill Gates, says nuclear not a safe bet for combating climate change

How much do you think about nuclear power?
 
If you’re like most Americans, the answer is likely “not often.” Unless you work in the industry, you don’t hear too much about nuclear power these days, as Big Oil and coal face off against solar and wind.
 
The former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wants to change that. In his latest book, Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator, Dr. Gregory Jaczko says that we not only should be thinking more about the consequences of nuclear power, we should be way more concerned about it than we are.
 
The former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wants to change that. In his latest book, Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator, Dr. Gregory Jaczko says that we not only should be thinking more about the consequences of nuclear power, we should be way more concerned about it than we are.
 
Jaczko headed the NRC from 2009 to 2012 under former President Barack Obama. During his tenure, he oversaw several of nuclear’s worst battles and disasters, including Yucca Mountain, the proposed nuclear waste depository, and the Fukushima meltdown in Japan. He writes that what he witnessed was an agency overpowered by the agenda of the nuclear industry. Decisions were based on politics, not safety or the public’s best interests. After witnessing several close calls with plants and the aftermath of Fukushima, he’s come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as safe nuclear power.
 
Why did you decide to write a book?
 
I’d had a unique experience. I learned a lot in the job about the process of how nuclear power plants are regulated. I think it’s important for people to understand the influence that the industry has, that Congress has, and these are lessons that are true in any safety-sensitive industry.
 
The more pressing issue for me right now has developed the last couple years, and it’s the recognition that a lot of people are turning to nuclear as the savior of climate change. I have two kids and I’m extremely worried about climate change, but I’m even more worried that nuclear is a solution that people are pushing.
 
It’s a bad solution. It’s not the cheapest, and it’s a very expensive way to reduce carbon. And it’s an unreliable partner for climate change. You can have accidents and that can shut down plants, and that comes with all the environmental issues with nuclear itself.
 
That brings us to Bill Gates’ end of 2018 letter, in which he says that nuclear is essential for combating climate change.
 
Yeah, I think I actually saw that article, and I worry because I do think the history of nuclear technology shows that it’s not reliable. If you look today at the cheapest ways to generate electricity, it’s solar, it’s wind, it’s geothermal. These methods are a lot cheaper and only getting cheaper.
 
The biggest argument against them is the dispatch problem — you can’t always have them when you want them, but battery storage is also rapidly dropping in price. I look at those kinds of stories, and I scratch my head. I don’t really understand where those new nuclear technologies are coming from. His [Gates/TerraPower’s] technology is unproven and at least one decade, if not more realistically two, out, and they’re strategizing based on tech from China, and because of Trump policies they had to pull back on that project.
 
It’s not there. It’s not a solution. That’s just putting our head in the sand.
 
You are now working in renewable energy projects yourself?
 
I started in the offshore wind space about three or four years ago. Lo and behold, last month, three companies each bid $135 million just for the right to build offshore wind farms off Massachusetts. They think they can produce that power at almost competitive wholesale electricity prices. Even three years ago, we were not predicting that.
 
What’s happening in that clean energy space is dramatic. The tech is advancing so fast and the cost reductions are happening so fast, that’s really where the input should be going.
 
Why do you think Bill Gates and others are still pursuing nuclear?
 
Well, I’ve never met Bill Gates, and I would certainly ask him if we met [laughs].
 
I started my career as a scientist, and there are a lot of technical features to nuclear that make it very attractive. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to come up with better nuclear fission technology, but it’s not going to combat climate change. In the short term, we could work on better nuclear, but if it comes to spending money on nuclear or other renewable energy sources, it would make more sense to invest in the other.
 
We have one of the biggest examples in Fukushima [2011], and my experiences dealing with the accident there. One by one, the Japanese shut down all their nuclear power plants, and you have a country of the Kyoto Protocol with very aggressive climate goals, and they hinged on this fleet of nuclear reactors. And you have one accident, and all this human suffering aside, and this technology has torn apart your goals for climate change.
 
There was certainly the immediate harm, but you’ve damaged your longer-term goals for saving the planet. Their carbon went up as they had to turn to all these dirty fossil fuels, and now they’ve started to come down. And they’ve done a tremendous amount since in energy efficiency. If they’d one this 20 years ago, they wouldn’t be in that situation today.
 
Before stepping into the role, did you have any idea how messy politics in the agency were?
 
I spent time working on the Hill for a congressman and a senator, and I’d had my taste for politics always as a staffer. There is always a difference between a staffer and principal. When I became chairman I was the principal. Then I realized the power that was at stake, the influence that was at stake, and the stakes were so high, it was going to be intense.
 
The nuclear power industry is tens of billions, and electrical utilities are some of the most powerful in the country. My first encounter with [Obama’s chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel, it was a very direct communication style, and it certainly made an impression on me. I realized what was at stake then, all the idealistic aspirations I hoped I maintained were going to run up against some practical and political powers.
 
I was trying to strike balance between public safety and the industries that operate. It was a delicate balance. The Fukushima accident is when I crossed that threshold that my job was foremost health and public safety and that was it. If we weren’t going to do it, who was? And the accident really galvanized that for me.
 
How do you see the future of nuclear power progressing under the Trump administration?
 
Well the thing the president has tried to do the most, coupled with the strategy to keep coal plants operating, has been comparable. He hasn’t gotten as much attention to subsidize nuclear power plants, and thankfully those efforts have been unsuccessful because I think those are mistakes.
 
Coal plants and nuclear plants are just too expensive to operate, and the focus has been on preserving them, but they’re being replaced by solar, wind, some gas, which is not ideal but I think other technologies will catch up and replace gas.
 
To me, the best thing anybody can do in the government, despite what the president says about climate change, is to just stay out of it. In many parts of the country, the market is doing the right thing. In many cases, the right pocketbook approach is the environmental approach. This is one place where the government needs to step out of the way and let the market take over.
 
Knowing what you know now, would you have still taken the job?
 
Absolutely. It was a great privilege to have the job. There was one moment when I was sitting across from my counterpart in Japan [during the Fukushima aftermath], and we both looked at each other and realized that we were both relatively young [around 40]. In that moment, I knew there was a reason we were there, if for no other reason than I could relate to this individual.
 
It was a great experience. It was hard, but at the end of the day, I got up knowing what I was doing and why I was doing it, and I was doing something to help people. And those jobs don’t come often.
 
 
Other interviews of Greg Jaczko to watch and to listen to:

“Nuclear: Dangerous, A Failed Technology” – Former Nuke Regulatory Chief Greg Jaczko Goes Rogue

Greg Jaczko, the former Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has published an explosive new book: Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator.  In it, he gets honest with the American people about the dangers of nuclear technology, which he labels “failed,” “dangerous,” “not reliable.”  He particularly comes down against nuclear as having any part in mitigating the problems of climate change/global warming.  In this extended Nuclear Hotseat interview, Jaczko brings us inside the NRC’s response to Fukushima, the “precipice” on which nuclear safety balances, his own growing doubts about how safe nuclear reactors are in the United States, and how, ultimately, it was that concern with safety that probably brought him down.

Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator

Gregory Jaczko recounted his time with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for which he served as chair from 2009-2012.

January 25, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

The After Fukushima and Japan’s Declining Birthrate, Japan’s Demographics a National Crisis

From Chris Busby:
Japan’s birth rate was declining but gradually, as was the Belarus birthrate. The rate at which it was declining was low. Then after Fukushima it fell of the cliff.
I made this graph from Japan vital statistics data on the web.
In 2005 it was 8.32. So there is a sharp fall in the rate after Fukushima. Same thing happened in Belarus after Chernobyl. Look at the Bandashevsky’s after Chernobyl birth rate graph.
It was expected What I am saying is that the fall in birthrate in Japan is a Fukushima effect in the same way as the fall in birthrate in Belrus was a Chernobyl effect.

chernobyl & fukushima birthrates

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Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe describes demographics as a national crisis
Japan suffered its biggest population decline on record this year, according to new figures that underline the country’s losing battle to raise its birth rate.
The number of births fell to its lowest since records began more than a century ago, the health and welfare ministry said, soon after parliament approved an immigration bill that will pave the way for the arrival of hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers to address the worst labour shortage in decades.
The ministry estimated 921,000 babies will have been born by the end of 2018 – 25,000 fewer than last year and the lowest number since comparable records began in 1899. It is also the third year in a row the number of births has been below one million.
Combined with the estimated number of deaths this year – a postwar high of 1.37 million – the natural decline of Japan’s population by 448,000 is the biggest ever.
The data suggests the government will struggle to reach its goal of raising the birth rate – the average number of children a woman has during her lifetime – to 1.8 by April 2026. The current birth rate stands at 1.43, well below the 2.07 required to keep the population stable.
Crisis
The prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has described Japan’s demographics as a national crisis and promised to increase childcare places and introduce other measures to encourage couples to have more children.
But the number of children on waiting lists for state-funded daycare increased for the third year in a row last year, raising doubts over his plans to provide a place for every child by April 2020.
Japanese people have an impressive life expectancy – 87.2 years for women and 81.01 years for men – which experts attribute to regular medical examinations, universal healthcare coverage and, among older generations, a preference for Japan’s traditional low-fat diet.
But the growing population of older people is expected to place unprecedented strain on health and welfare services in the decades to come. Some of those costs will be met by a controversial rise in the consumption (sales) tax, from 8 per cent to 10 per cent, next October.
Earlier this year the government said 26.1 million – or just over 20 per cent of the total population of 126.7 million – were aged 70 and over.
The number of centenarians, meanwhile, had risen to 69,785 as of September this year, with women making up 88% of the total.
Japan has the highest proportion of older people – or those aged 65 and over – in the world, followed by Italy, Portugal and Germany.
The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo estimated that more than 35 per cent of Japanese will be aged 65 or over by 2040.
See also:

January 7, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

A Multifaceted Fukushima—Trauma and Memory in Ōnobu Pelican’s Kiruannya and U-ko

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By Barbara Geilhorn
 
Abstract
Focusing on Ōnobu Pelican’s play Kiruannya and U-ko-san (2011), this article analyzes documentary theater from the area afflicted by the triple disaster of March 11, 2011. Kiruannya and U-ko provides a rich tapestry of the multiple and often contradictory features of Fukushima Prefecture in the aftermath of the Fukushima calamity, weaving a dense fabric of fictional material, newspaper clippings, and reality. I show that Ōnobu’s play opposes national discourses of a spatially limited disaster, and that it offers keen insights into the highly ambivalent and emotional landscape of those residents of Northern Japan, whose homeland was turned into a disaster zone and/or radioactive wasteland after 3.11.
 
 
 
Introduction
 This article provides a close reading of Kiruannya to U-ko-san (Kiruannya and U-ko, 2011), a documentary play by the playwright and director Ōnobu Pelican (b. 1975)1, which received high acclaim in Japan. Ōnobu lived in Minamisōma, a city heavily affected by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami, located 25 km north of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.2 Parts of the city were evacuated because of radiation, and many of the evacuees have still not returned to their homes. In the meantime, authorities have successively lifted evacuation orders (excluding the “difficult-to-return” zones, kikan konnan kuiki), to allow for the alleged return to normal in the disaster zone.3
 
 
In the first months after the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear catastrophe, Ōnobu felt an urgent need to address the painful experiences of people affected, and decided to make these experiences the topic of his new play.4 This article examines the potentialities of documentary theater as a medium for processing trauma in post-disaster Tōhoku, and analyzes how Kiruannya and U-ko engages in the cultural work of transforming individual suffering into collective memory.5 Documentary plays enact negotiations between reality, its image, and its interpretation, and can thereby open up new approaches to one’s own reality, as Janelle Reinelt has argued.6 In her study on documentary theater, Carol Martin created a list of the functions of documentary plays.7 The following are particularly relevant in the context of this article: “1. To create additional historical accounts; 2. To reconstruct an event; 3. To intermingle autobiography with history.” In other words, besides helping people to overcome trauma, documentaries have the potential to trigger critical engagement and activism.8 I will return to this later.
 
 
In this article, I argue that the playwright constructs a narrative countering images of ‘Fukushima’ as a region of destruction and despair, one that can only be characterized by the disaster and its aftermath. He does this without neglecting contentious issues around the nuclear catastrophe or uncritically supporting slogans for quick recovery. While a critical stance is not rare for theater responding to the Fukushima calamity, Kiruannya and U-ko is unusual in addressing so many conflicting dimensions in response to the disaster. As I show in detail below, Ōnobu’s play allows those immediately affected to construct and re-experience trauma as a first step in assimilating these stressful events. At the same time, the narration addresses those living far away and invites them to relate emotionally to the traumatic experiences addressed. Kiruannya and U-ko criticizes the promotion of economic growth at the expense of the local population’s livelihoods, and leaves sufficient room for them to mourn for what is lost.
 
 
 
A multifaceted Fukushima – Conflicting images of the beloved homeland
Kiruannya and U-ko premiered at the Subterranean Theater in Tokyo in June 2011,9 directed by the author and performed by his troupe Manrui Toriking Ichiza (Loaded Bases Bird King Troupe),10 which shifted its base of activities from Minamisōma to Fukushima City due to the calamity. After the Tokyo premiere, the play was presented in other Japanese cities.11 Kiruannya and U-ko was discussed positively in national theater journals and nominated as “play of the month” by the renowned Performing Arts Network. Subsequently, Ōnobu gained visibility on the Tokyo theater scene, becoming a frequent guest in panel discussions on Japanese theater after 3.11, as well as a participant in round table discussions addressing the Fukushima calamity.
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Ōnobu Pelican Kiruannya and U-ko (Courtesy of Akai Yasuhiro)
 
 
Kiruannya and U-ko centers on the ambivalent emotions of people living in the areas affected by the tsunami and/or the nuclear exclusion zone in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, and provides an account of Fukushima Prefecture’s history, beginning in 2011 and going back to the beginnings of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 1970. The play is a collage of newspaper article readings and quotes from literary texts bound together by a fictive narrative of two women and a man searching for a woman called U-ko. However, each of the three figures in the play, called Man, Woman 1, and Woman 2, seem to be looking for a different person: a childhood friend, an acquaintance met on the World Wide Web, or the chef of a bistro. Her name is written with the U in romanization and the latter half in a Chinese character, but is pronounced Yūko. U-ko lives in a town where the newspaper deliveryman Kiruannya scatters clippings from old newspapers all over town. The nickname, a combination of kiru (cut, kill) and annya (older brother; Fukushima dialectal word for a friendly male who is older than the speaker), refers to this very activity. I will come back to the relevance of both names later.
 
 
The repetitive character of these episodes evokes flashbacks experienced by individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The play evokes the return of a repressed trauma experienced by those who were searching for family members, friends, and acquaintances in the aftermath of the disaster, often unsuccessfully. The term ‘trauma’ refers to an experience of extreme intensity that overstrains the coping capabilities of an individual and causes lasting damage to his/her self-conception. However, what is perceived as a traumatic experience is not the event itself, but the persisting re-experiencing of it.12 A traumatic experience is thus temporally and spatially separated from the triggering event (latency). The ‘embodied’ memory is not directly accessible and cannot be narrativized.13 Narrativizing the dreadful events, and allowing viewers to re-experience and construct their trauma is a major task of the play.
 
 
Ōnobu’s stage design and effects are minimalist. The stage is completely covered by newspaper clippings and is dominated by the model of a village hanging at its center, symbolizing the town where the newspaper deliveryman Kiruannya and U-ko, the person sought in the play, live. Although the two figures are central to the play, they do not appear on stage. Classical music, including famous pieces such as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, set the contemplative tone of the play. Although Kiruannya and U-ko consists largely of characters quoting newspapers and literary material, it is not a static performance. As the man and the two women move around the village model at center stage, the tempo of the figures’ movements and speech increases with their growing despair and desperation, generating a spiral of dynamism. The actors are moving around frantically, calling out U-ko’s name, as well as the dates and places where she was last seen or lost. The affective dimension of the calamity becomes tangible even to audience members who lack direct experience of the dreadful events. The play invites the audience to actively connect with the emotions triggered by the disaster, and hence stimulates them to engage with the trauma. In some audience members, this might be the starting point for re-thinking their own stance towards the use of nuclear power or their private energy consumption.
 
 
 
Ōnobu Pelican Kiruannya and U-ko, revised version (Courtesy of Akai Yasuhiro)
The actors alternatively read newspaper clippings about a person named U-ko that are scattered across the stage. They start in January 2011, and proceed in chronological order. When the man calls out the date of March 11, the review of everyday local events is suddenly interrupted by an Early Earthquake Warning siren evoking haunting memories of the calamity in actors and audiences alike, including the anxiety and uncertainty caused by the numerous aftershocks that lasted for weeks. In his review of the play, Masaki Hiroyuki (b. 1964), the Tokyo-based former editor-in-chief of the journal Theatre Arts (Shiatā Ātsu), writes about his involuntary reactions to the sound of the Early Earthquake Warning, and the shock that gripped his body when he saw the play about six months after the catastrophe.14 When the three actors resume reading the newspaper clippings, they refer to the disaster. Again, it is U-ko who is the protagonist, and who represents the local people’s various reactions and behaviors, such as an evacuee taking neighbors out of the radiation zone in her bus, a mayor encouraging villagers to return and get involved in reconstruction, and a woman complaining to the visiting prime minister about living conditions in temporary shelters. When the actors finally read out the Fukushima Police Department’s list of missing people whose bodies were identified, again, all of them are named U-ko. It becomes ever more uncertain who U-ko is, and if she ever existed at all.
 
 
The quest to find U-ko invites the audience to relive the fraught days after 3.11 as people desperately searched for missing relatives and friends. By making the dominant color of the stage, including the performers’ clothing, white, Ōnobu opens up a wide space for imagination. What is presented on stage is not limited to a specific historical time or geographic place such as “Fukushima.” Audiences are encouraged to imagine themselves in the position of the two women and the man in their search for U-ko. Her name is telling: while U can be read as referring to the unknown, the name’s Japanese pronunciation also suggests the English personal pronoun “you.” Moreover, Yūko is a very common Japanese female name, which can be written with a number of different Chinese characters. U-ko represents the countless people who are still missing to this day, and gives the nameless victims an identity. At the same time, U-ko stands for everywoman: she reminds us that everyone could find themselves in her situation. Thus, in Kiruannya and U-ko, which was first conceived to be performed in front of a Tokyo audience, Ōnobu is invested in the cultural work of creating an imagined community affected by the calamity that is not limited to those living in the immediate disaster zones. Differentiating between individual and collective trauma, Alexander and Breese argue that “for collectivities […] it is a matter of symbolic construction and framing, of creating a narrative and moving along from there. A ‘we’ must be constructed via narrative and coding, and it is this collective identity that experiences and confronts the danger.”15 Events have to be expressed and constructed as trauma to be perceived as such by a group of people. By actively inviting audiences far removed from Tōhoku to imagine themselves in the position of those directly affected, Ōnobu counters national narratives of 3.11 as a geographically limited disaster and a short-term recovery.
 
 
A number of times, the quest to find U-ko is interrupted by readings of citations from local literature, which are distributed among the three actors and establish a new level of involvement with issues related to 3.11. The first reading cites the entire Episode 99 of Tōno monogatari (The Legends of Tōno),16 a record of folk legends that were orally transmitted through the generations in the Tōno region, which is located near the Pacific coast of Iwate Prefecture, one of the areas most severely affected by the triple disaster. Yanagita Kunio (1875–1962), the founder of Japanese folklore studies, collected these legends based on the memory of the Tōno native Sasaki Kizen (or Kyōseki, 1886–1933). The resulting book is a rewriting of local oral history into a literary work that addresses a national audience and engages with the problems of Japanese collective identity in the modern world. Subsequently, Tōno as described in the legends became the canonical representative of the Japanese homeland (furusato)17 in the collective imagination.
 
 
Episode 99 relates the story of Kitagawa Fukuji, who lost his wife and one of his children in the devastating tsunami of 1896. Living in a temporary shelter with his surviving children, he got up one moonlit night and encountered the ghost of his dead wife. While crying about the loss of her children, Kitagawa’s wife also reports that she has found a new partner. Although Tōno monogatari relates the very basic facts of the event fleetingly, it nevertheless succeeds in conveying the emotional vividness of the protagonist. This is even more the case if one reads episode 99 in the context of the Fukushima calamity. Mirroring the situation of recent disaster victims who lost close family members, the text conjures up accounts of wandering spirits of people who died in the tsunami.18 Describing the encounter between the living and the dead, and at the same time hinting at the possibility of finding peace in the afterlife, the scene reveals what survivors of the triple disaster might long for. For those not directly affected, the episode is also deeply disturbing, thereby emotionally drawing spectators far removed from Tōhoku into the play and inviting them to imagine the process of mourning experienced by survivors. Moreover, by adding a passage pertaining to a local disaster from an account from over one hundred years ago, Ōnobu links 3.11 to the past, emphasizing the fact that Northern Japan has a long and tragic history of devastating tsunami disasters, and questioning the unpredictability (sōteigai)19 of the nuclear disaster as frequently claimed to obscure the human responsibility for the Fukushima meltdowns. Tōno and Tōno monogatari, both epitomizing the Japanese homeland, again highlight the relevance of the tragic events beyond the spatially limited confines of the disaster area.
 
 
Kiruannya and U-ko draws a multifaceted picture of Fukushima Prefecture before and after the devastating events via the reading of extracts, not all of which mention the topic of disaster, from various kinds of sources – quoting well-known literary works, as well as local newspaper reports.20 The information mined for the performance mainly deals with local events and politics: agricultural reports, coverage of local sports and cultural happenings, and crime reports. The broad variety of topics is needed, not only to paint a full picture of the locale before the disaster, but also to contrast with the chronological record of significant occurrences in the history of the region’s nuclear power industry – a history that is intertwined in the local reportage. For a post-3.11 audience, the latter stand out against the majority of rather trivial local events. The play traces the prefecture’s development into one of the country’s major energy suppliers, without omitting the attempts of Japan’s most powerful utility and the operator of Fukushima Daiichi, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), to cover up problems in Fukushima’s nuclear reactors.
 
 
Ōnobu also provides information on the region’s overall development, such as the opening of new train routes or school buildings, highlighting the fact that the high-risk technology of the nuclear industry was established in the region to trigger economic growth in a rural, less developed and sparsely populated area. This also hints at the fact that locals might have willingly accepted the dangers of nuclear power in favor of jobs and socio-economic development, which became a source of ambivalence and tension after the disaster. Locals may still be reluctant to criticize the nuclear industry for causing the calamity, since their livelihoods depended on the nuclear plant. What is more, criticizing the use of nuclear power would entail a re-evaluation of their own involvement.
 
 
Kiruannya and U-ko addresses the whole complexity of problems that led to the Fukushima calamity. As the theater critic Masaki has done, the play can be interpreted as showing the author’s embitterment, perhaps even an accusation, towards the inhabitants of Tokyo for heaping the risks in meeting the capital’s energy needs onto the people of Fukushima Prefecture. Certainly, Ōnobu criticizes what has been called gisei no shisutemu (“sacrificial system”)21: companies and policyholders assigning the tremendous risks of nuclear energy to peripheral regions such as northern Japan, whose safety and future are jeopardized for the benefit of the metropolitan center. However, I would suggest a more complex reading of the narrative. Besides taking a critical stance towards parties responsible for the development of the nuclear energy industry in Tokyo and Fukushima Prefecture, the play draws a positive, even affectionate image of Onobu’s home province, with its abundant natural and attractive cultural heritage. For example, the performance touches on the establishment of Oze National Park in 2007, which stretches across Fukushima, Gunma, Niigata and Tochigi Prefectures, and the Sōma Nōmaoi, a designated cultural treasure of Japan, which involves an annual horse race organized by three shrines in Fukushima Prefecture, where the participating riders wear historical costumes. Ōnobu joins other local artists and cultural initiatives such as Wagō Ryōichi and Project Fukushima!22 in an effort to counterbalance post-disaster images of Northern Japan that reduced the afflicted areas to mere disaster zones. Both aim at countering the stigmatization, which reinforces the already existing marginalization of the aging, rural prefecture of Fukushima. However, Ōnobu goes one step further. Via commentary on local politics, festivals and landscape, Ōnobu provides insight into the complex emotional state of the local people: traumatized by loss and bereavement, affected residents are torn between charges against those responsible in the capital, self-accusations, and the love of and pride in their homeland.
 
 
While the Japanese government and the nuclear power industry have targeted such remote, less developed areas that depend on the jobs and subsidies brought by hosting nuclear facilities, local people assented and accepted the dangers of nuclear energy in exchange for jobs and modest prosperity.23 Although national stakeholders pushed nuclear power forward by emphasizing its safety (anzen shinwa), it must be assumed that there was a certain level of willing ignorance on the part of the local community. Having said that, we also have to consider that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a strong anti-nuclear power movement to mobilize citizens did not exist in rural Japan or, indeed, almost anywhere in the world. Now, as a consequence of the nuclear disaster, the homes and livelihoods of numerous people, as well as many of the region’s natural and cultural assets, which were important components of local identity, are lost and might never be regained. The readings of newspaper excerpts intertwined in the play provide local reportage highlighting all these aspects. Kiruannya can be read as the very embodiment of the calamity: kiru, written in the katakana syllabary writing system, hints at two possible Chinese characters, meaning ‘cut’ or ‘kill’, thereby evoking associations comparable for a Western audience to the Grim Reaper wandering about town to collect the dead.24 Spreading the clippings all over town, he also symbolizes the ceaseless process of coming to terms with the complex emotional state of affected residents, as well as the flashbacks related to the experience of trauma.
 
 
Ōnobu highlights the beauty and value of what has been lost, when using the following two poems, which are emotionally charged representations of Fukushima Prefecture, in his play. Fukushima-ken Futaba-gun Kawauchi-mura (Kawauchi Village in Futaba District, Fukushima Prefecture),25 by the Fukushima-born poet Kusano Shimpei (1903–1988),26 presents an idyllic picture of life in the countryside with rich wildlife and a vibrant community, all the while emphasizing the uniqueness of the village. By making the poet’s reed hut and second home a place of exile and retreat from the noisy life of the city, Kawauchi-mura is imagined as an alternative to living in the city. When the poet imagines himself to be back there one day after temporarily leaving for Tokyo, theater audiences are painfully reminded that returning home will no longer be possible for many people displaced by the Fukushima calamity.
 
 
The second poem quoted in Ōnobu’s play, Juka no Futari (Two People Under A Tree), by the well-known poet, sculptor, and painter Takamura Kōtarō (1883–1956),27 strikes a similar chord to Kusano Shimpei’s text. Juka no Futari is a hymn to Fukushima’s natural beauty. The beauty of Mount Atatara and the glistening of the River Abukuma are invoked several times through the poem, acting as a refrain and setting the scene. Takamura links his praise of the region with the treasured memories of his late wife Chieko (1886–1938), a Fukushima-born painter and poet herself, who died from tuberculosis after a long-term mental illness. In the context of Kiruannya and U-ko, the poem, written on March 11, 1923, gains a new meaning. Besides evoking the calamity by the very date of its composition, the inscription of the poem into the performance triggers associations of the survivors’ emotional distress from outliving family members and/or friends lost in the disaster. At the same time, the poem mourns the fact that places deeply linked to the private memories of people living in the afflicted areas are now polluted by radiation for the foreseeable future.28
 
 
Kiruannya and U-ko was not performed in Fukushima City until November 2012, nearly a year and a half after its premiere in Tokyo. At a symposium called the Earthquake Disaster and Theatre: Asking for a New Paradigm for Theatre, held on October 8, 2012 in the Za Kōenji theater in Tokyo,29 Ōnobu talked of his hesitation about staging the play in his home prefecture, and expressed his concerns about finding a different approach to the disaster – particularly, one that takes into account the emotional distress of affected people, without glossing over contentious issues.30 He voiced his concerns that the play might be criticised for contributing to fūhyō higai,31 harmful, unfounded rumors, allegedly spread about affected areas in the aftermath of the disaster. Fūhyō higai is a highly controversial issue persistent in public discourse on the Fukushima calamity. On the one hand, rumors arise when reliable information is unavailable in the event of disaster, and reports on wide areas made virtually uninhabitable by radiation constitute both a substantially pragmatic and emotional burden for locals. However, allegations of fūhyō higai became a powerful tool in the hands of pro-nuclear pressure groups, including the Abe government, to silence critical voices warning of the risks of nuclear power and especially the risks to those returning to the contaminated land.
 
 
In this kind of environment, the danger of self-censorship in the arts is very real. However, experiences in the course of rehearsals made Ōnobu change his mind and present the play in Fukushima City. What initially proved to be emotionally challenging for the troupe, since many people from their immediate environment had died or were forced to live in contaminated places, evolved into a way to overcome emotional distress. The troupe’s experience of emotional healing (iyashi) lent impetus to the idea of performances with the aim of inducing a similar process in local audiences.32 Shows in Fukushima in 2012 were well received with emotional responses.33 Ōnobu was confronted with hardly any of the reproaches of fūhyō higai (harmful rumors) that were voiced so readily in the aftermath of the disaster. A major reason might have been that his play does not overlook the locals’ strong bond to their native land.
 
 
 
‘Fukushima’: progress and disaster
In winter 2013, about two and a half years after its Tokyo debut, Kiruannya and U-ko was restaged in Tokyo and Shizuoka in a slightly revised version under the direction of Akai Yasuhiro (b. 1972).34 The Fukushima City native was the director and head of the Tokyo-based theater Subterranean, where the original and revised versions of the play premiered. In the new version, the original text remains largely unchanged. The only difference was the inclusion of a “woman from 1970,” who makes her appearance in an exaggeratedly happy march to the tune of Minami Haruo’s Sekai no kuni kara konnichiwa (Hello From the Nations of the World), the official theme song of the Osaka Expo of the same year. The song sets the naïvely positive atmosphere of the short scene. The design of the woman’s dress (she wore a white T-shirt with red vertical patterns down both sides of the front and a golden party hat) was reminiscent of Okamoto Tarō’s (1911–1996) Taiyō no Tō (Tower of the Sun), one of the most famous works by the avant-garde painter and sculptor, and the symbol of Expo 70. Part of the Osaka Expo’s central festival plaza, the Tower of the Sun was a representation of the past (lower part), present (middle part), and future (the face) of humankind.35 Consequently, her dress identifies the “woman from 1970” as a personification of the year of the first World’s Fair held in an Asian country and hints at her being a link between past, present, and future in the play. I will return to the latter aspect shortly. Besides Okamoto, numerous other writers, artists and architects participated in shaping the image of the Expo, which was a “locus of both collaborative and contending ideas about the future.”36 “Progress and Harmony for Mankind” (Jinrui no shinpo to chōwa), the theme of the exposition, included praise of nuclear power as a new technology that was supposed to bring about a bright future for the whole world.37
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Ōnobu Pelican Kiruannya and U-ko (Courtesy of Akai Yasuhiro)
 
 
Marching in time to Minami Haruo’s song and providing a cheerful picture of the Expo’s opening ceremony, the woman in search of the future arrives in the town where U-ko and Kiruannya live. However, she does not interact with the characters searching for U-ko, preferring to observe the events that unfold on stage. The “woman from 1970” reads excerpts from the official record of the two Osaka Expo time capsules buried adjacent to Osaka castle, containing 2,098 objects “representing the achievements of our civilization and the everyday experience of the Japanese people,”38 which are to be excavated in 5,000 years. What was once a proud symbol of the cultural and technological advancement of humankind has turned into an icon of the long-term nuclear legacy after 3.11. The woman in the Osaka Expo’s dress quotes at length from a letter by a schoolboy addressed to people 5,000 years in the future. To contemporary ears post-2011, the letter reads like a science fiction fantasy; an idealistic enthusiasm for future potentialities carried to the extreme.
 
 
Short episodes featuring the “woman from 1970” are repeatedly interspersed in the play. She seems to pop up like an unpleasant memory of the careless acceptance of the risks of nuclear power that cannot be suppressed. Akai emphasized her role as a startling intruder by means of lighting. She sits on a little platform in the corner of the stage, occupying the spotlight when quoting from the Expo’s official records. Her naïve cheerfulness is in sharp contrast to the growing despair of the characters in their quest to find U-ko, which underlines the absurdity of her lines. Thus, the “woman from 1970” embodies the naïve faith in science and technology, and is a spirit haunting the future that had been imagined so brightly by her generation.39 Furthermore, by handing over the three literary texts examined above for her fellow actors to quote, she visibly acts as a mediator between different periods of time and hints at how Kiruannya and U-ko integrates the Fukushima disaster into a wider historical frame.
 
 
However, the play casts doubt on whether humankind will be able to learn the lessons of the past. In 1970, man-made disasters such as the Minamata disease were common knowledge. Yet attitudes towards science and technology – specifically as having the answers to all of life’s challenges – have changed little over the last four decades. Moreover, the problems and dangers of nuclear power are not resolved yet. It is only a matter of time until the next nuclear disaster occurs in some part of the world. Akai intended to highlight this universal aspect of Kiruannya and U-ko. Unlike the original, the revised play was performed by a cast of Tokyo actors and a Korean actress, whose role was to provide Korean language; she read the history of four decades of Fukushima Prefecture mentioned above, and Japanese subtitles were provided. By employing the Korean actress, Akai aimed at moving further away from the local focus of the play, and universalizing its subject.40 The problems and risks connected to the use of nuclear power do not end with the Fukushima calamity. Akai wanted to hint at the fact that a similar calamity is not unlikely to happen in one of Japan’s neighboring countries using nuclear energy. Thus, through the combined efforts of the playwright and the new director, the global dimensions of the play, together with the criticism of humankind’s blind faith in technology and science, become more explicit.
 
 
On the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima calamity, the new version of the play was performed in translation in Munich by the German-Japanese theater collective EnGawa, under the directorship of Satō Otone.41 Although an original production in its own right, Kiruannya to U-ko-san – Bruder Sense und Frau U (Kiruannya and U-ko – Brother Scythe and Mrs. U)42 owes many staging details to the Japanese version. Performed in German with only a very few lines recited in Japanese, it likewise highlighted the global dimension of the issues touched upon in the play. The troupe’s cross-cultural performance is also reflected in the title of the play, which keeps the Japanese original with the German translation. As the Munich performance demonstrates, Kiruannya and U-ko has the potential to be shown internationally.
 
 
 
Conclusion
Weaving a dense fabric of fictional material, newspaper clippings and reality, Kiruannya and U-ko provides a rich tapestry of the multiple and often contradictory features of Fukushima Prefecture in the aftermath of the triple disaster. Ōnobu’s play offers keen insights into the simultaneous ambivalence and highly emotional landscape of those residents of Northern Japan, whose homeland was turned into a disaster zone and/or radioactive wasteland after 3.11. Although the numerous cross-references to local issues or literary quotes make the play particularly rewarding for a local or a Japanese audience, it can nevertheless be appreciated by international spectators, as the Munich performance has shown.
 
 
Kiruannya and U-ko works at two overlapping symbolic levels: one level offers local audiences a temporary space to process individual trauma, and experience emotional healing. Interweaving autobiography with history, the play encourages audiences to reconstruct the terrible events, a major function of documentary theater, as Carol Martin has outlined. The other level creates an alternative reading of the calamity, and constructs a narrative resisting the dominant image of Fukushima as a nuclear wasteland and as a geographically limited disaster. Kiruannya and U-ko integrates the March 11 disaster into the larger historical context of Northern Japan as a region known for devastating tsunami disasters, as well as into the establishment of the nuclear industry in Japan, and points to the shared responsibility of national and local stakeholders. The play moves viewers beyond the temporally and spatially limited confines of the disaster to integrate audiences into an imagined collective of people traumatized by this calamity that has its origins far beyond the borders of those areas immediately affected. Opposing national discourses of a disaster limited to a particular area, Ōnobu engages in transforming individual trauma into collective memory, thereby involving the diverse perspectives of Fukushima residents.
 
 
 
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Ōnobu Pelican and Akai Yasuhiro for providing me with DVD material, a recording of the performances, and photos. I am much obliged to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for providing me with the funding to conduct research in Japan. I also thank the reviewers for their insightful and helpful suggestions.
 
 
 
Notes
1
Ōnobu P. Kiruannya to U-ko-san. Shiata Ātsu 48, 2011, pp. 121–138. See also Performing Arts Network (The Japan Foundation). Play of the Month. Kiruannya and U-ko. Pelican Onobu [online] (March 30, 2012). Available here, accessed: July 19, 2018.
2
For further detail on the situation on site, see, for example, McNeill, D. and Quintana, M. Mission Impossible. What Future Fukushima? The Asia-Pacific Journal, 11 (39), 1 [online] (September 30, 2013). Available from here, accessed: October 12, 2018. McNeill and Lucy Birmingham show how local people dealt with the earthquake, tsunami, and following nuclear disaster. McNeill, D. and Birmingham, L. Meltdown: On the Front Lines of Japan’s 3.11 Disaster. The Asia-Pacific Journal, 9 (19), 2 [online] (May 9, 2011). Available here, accessed: October 12, 2018.
3
Fukushima Prefecture provides up-to-date information on the transition process, accessed: October 12, 2018.
4
Sakate Y., et al. Shinpojiumu shinsai to engeki: Atarashii engeki paradaimu o motomete (Tokushū shinsai to engeki). Shiatā Ātsu 53, 2012, pp. 5–6.
5
See DiNitto, R. Narrating the Cultural Trauma of 3.11: The Debris of Post-Fukushima Literature and Film. Japan Forum, 26 (3), 2014, pp. 340–360 for a revealing study of these issues in the context of literature.
6
Reinelt, J. The Promise of Documentary. In: A. Forsyth and C. Megson, eds. Get Real: Documentary Theatre Past and Present. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, pp. 9–11 and pp. 22–24.
7
Martin, C. Bodies of Evidence. TDR (The Drama Review) 50 (3) (T 191), 2006, pp. 12–13.
8
In some cases, the political dimension of documentaries becomes more explicit in film, as in the work of Kamanaka Hitomi. In a recent interview with Hirano Katsuya, she raises similar issues to the ones I will discuss here. However, the scope of her work goes far beyond the realm of the risks of nuclear power. Kamanaka H. and Hirano K. Fukushima, Media, Democracy: The Promise of Documentary Film. The Asia-Pacific Journal, 16 (16), 3 [online] (August 15, 2018). Available here, accessed: October 12, 2018. See also the accompanying essay by Margherita Long.
Long, M. Japan’s 3.11 Nuclear Disaster and the State of Exception: Notes on Kamanaka’s Interview and Two Recent Films. The Asia-Pacific Journal, 16 (16), 4 [online] (August 15, 2018). Available from: https://apjjf.org/2018/16/Long.html, accessed: October 12, 2018.
9
On June 25 and 26 as part of the SENTIVAL! at atelier SENTIO festival. See the trailer here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
10
Ōnobu founded the troupe in 1996 when he was a student at Fukushima University. In January 2015, Manrui Toriking Ichiza was renamed Shia Torie (THEA TRiE). See the troupe’s homepage, accessed: June 19, 2018.
11
Kiruannya and U-ko was then performed in Sendai (September 17 and 18, 2011) and Yokohama (September 24 and 25, 2011), followed by readings in Aomori (January 21, 2012), Kitakyūshū (March 10, 2012) and Fukushima City (November 17 and 18, 2012).
12
Nünning, A., ed. Metzler-Lexikon Literatur- und Kulturtheorie: Ansätze, Personen, Grundbegriffe. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2008, p. 728.
13
In her influential rereading of Freud, Caruth describes this paradoxical nature of traumatic experience as follows: “Trauma is not locatable in the simple violent or original event in an individual’s past, but rather in the way its very unassimilated nature – the way it was precisely not known in the first instance – returns to haunt the survivor later on.” Caruth, C. Trauma: Explorations in memory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1995, pp. 3–4.
14
Masaki H. Sabuterenian purodyūsu ‘Kiruannya to U-ko-san’ [online]. Wonderland, 2014. Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
15
Alexander, J. C. and Breese, E. B. On Social Suffering and Its Cultural Construction. In: R. Eyermen, J. C. Alexander, and E. B. Breese, eds. Narrating Trauma: On the Impact of Collective Suffering. Boulder and London: Paradigm Publishers, 2011, pp. xii–xiii.
16
Yanagita K. Tōno monogatari. Yanagita Kunioshū. Nihon kindai bungaku taikei (NKBT) 45, 1973, pp. 299–300. Tōkyō: Kadokawa shoten. References to the Tōno monogatari also appear in some literary works on the Fukushima calamity. See the forthcoming book DiNitto, R. Fukushima Fiction: The Literary Landscape of Japan’s Triple Disaster. University of Hawaii Press, 2019.
17
Ivy, M. Discourses of the vanishing. Modernity, phantasm, Japan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995, p. 100.
18
Parry, R. L. Ghosts of the Tsunami. London Review of Books [online], 36 (3), February 6, 2014, 1–11. Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
19
For a critical discussion of the alleged unpredictability of the Fukushima disaster, see Samuels, R. 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013, pp. 35–39.
20
Sources are the Fukushima Minpō Shinbun and Fukushima Min’yū Shinbun.
21
Takahashi, T. Gisei no shisutemu – Fukushima, Okinawa. Tokyo: Shūeisha, 2012. For an in-depth analysis of another play invested in this issue see Geilhorn, B. Local Theatre Responding to a Global Issue – 3/11 seen from Japan’s Periphery. Japan Review 31, 2017, pp. 123–139. Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
22
Iwata-Weickgenannt, K. Precarity Beyond 3/11 or ‘Living Fukushima’: Power, Politics, and Space in Wagō Ryōichi’s Poetry of Disaster. In: K. Iwata-Weickgenannt and R. Rosenbaum, eds. Visions of Precarity in Japanese Popular Culture and Literature. London and New York: Routledge, 2015, pp. 187–211. See also the project’s homepage, accessed: June 19, 2018. 
23
Aldrich, D. Networks of Power. Institutions and Local Residents in Post-Tōhoku Japan. In: J. Kingston, ed. Natural Disaster and Nuclear Crisis in Japan. Response and Recovery after Japan’s 3/11. London and New York: Routledge, 2012, pp. 127–139.
24
This is why Otone Sato chose Kiruannya to U-ko-san – Bruder Sense und Frau U (Kiruannya and U-ko – Brother Scythe and Mrs. U) as the title for the German version of the play, which I will briefly touch upon later.
25
Kawauchi-mura is situated in the 20–30 km zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant. While the town was initially subject to mandatory evacuation, it is part of the area that was eventually opened up by authorities. These details are not made explicit to the audience, but will be known to locals.
26
Kusano Shimpei, born in Kamiogawa (Fukushima Prefecture) is one of the major Japanese poets of the twentieth century and particularly known for his lyric poems about nature.
27
Takamura K. Chieko shō. Tōkyō: Shinchōsha, 1967, pp. 65–67. Takamura Kotaro was an outstanding poet of his time and, among others, crucial to the establishment of shintaishi (new style of poetry that was no longer limited to the combination of verse of five or seven syllables common in traditional poetry) in the vernacular language. Two People Under A Tree is part of his most prominent collection of poems, Chieko shō (a selection of writings on Chieko, first published in 1941), which comprises works from the very beginning of their relationship until well after Chieko’s death. For an English translation, see here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
28
The area referred to in this poem is situated outside the mandatory evacuation zones. However, it remains to be seen what long-term effects the radiation exposure will have on residents.
29
Sakate et al., pp. 4–23.
30
Sakate et al., p. 18.
31
For a close reading of Okada Toshiki’s play Genzaichi (Current Location), which addresses the problem of fūhyō higai in a fictionalized form, see Geilhorn, B. Challenging Reality with Fiction – Imagining Alternative Readings of Japanese Society in Post-Fukushima Theatre, in B. Geilhorn and K. Iwata-Weickgenannt, eds. Negotiating Disaster: ‘Fukushima’ and the Arts. London and New York: Routledge, 2017, pp. 162–176.
32
Sakate et al., p. 22.
33
Ōnobu P. E-mail correspondence with the author, November 20, 2015.
34
From November 29 to December 3 at Sabuterenian in Tokyo and on December 5 and 6 at Atorie Mirume in Shizuoka. For further information, see the theater’s homepage, accessed: June 19, 2018.
35
See here, accessed: June 19, 2018, for an image and further details.
36
Gardner, W. O. The 1970 Osaka Expo and/as Science Fiction. Review of Japanese Culture and Society 23, Expo ’70 and Japanese Art: Dissonant Voices, 2011, p. 28. [online] Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018.
37
To be sure, organizers were absolutely aware of the numerous problems around the globe and the Expo’s exaggeratedly positive mode did not escape criticism and ridicule from contemporaries, as Gardner has shown. But critical voices were mitigated and pushed to the margins (see Gardner, p. 38).
38
Panasonic, 2010. Time Capsule Expo ’70. A gift to the people of the future from the people of the present day… [online]. Available from: http://panasonic.net/history/timecapsule, accessed: June 19, 2018. In the list of contents you can find a Plutonium timekeeper, Radioactive carbon C14, Plutonium Pu239, which is used for the production of nuclear weapons, and scientific reports for the future, including one on atomic science, but also records of the atomic bombings. Obviously, the people responsible did not realize the conflict between the remembrance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the promotion of nuclear technology for energy supply.
39
Interestingly, Okada Toshiki’s Unable to See, which was shown at The World is Not Fair – The Great World’s Fair 2012 festival in Berlin, also employs references to the Osaka Expo in what was one of his first attempts to address the Fukushima calamity on stage. However, as a satirical piece displaying strong irony and sarcasm, it is very different in character. For more details, see Geilhorn, Challenging Reality.
40
Masaki, Sabuterenian purodyūsu.
41
The theater collective was formed on the occasion of the Fukushima calamity and has presented related performances on its anniversary since 2012.
42
Ōnobu P. Bruder Sense und Frau U [online]. Aus dem Japanischen von Otone Sato. Munich: Teatralize.company, 2014. Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018. The play was staged between March 13 and 15, 2015, and included a talk after the performance (on March 14) with the director and the following Japanese guests: Nishidō Kōjin (renowned Japanese theater critic and president of the International Association of Theatre Critics), Takahashi Shinya (theater specialist and professor of German studies at Chūō University, Tokyo) and Akai Yasuhiro. The performance was part of a cultural event lasting several days.
For further details, see Leucht, S. Neuanfang unter Kirschblüten. Vor vier Jahren havarierte im japanischen Fukushima das Kernkraftwerk. Zwei Veranstaltungen erinnern im I-Camp an die Katastrophe und weisen in die Zukunft. Süddeutsche Zeitung (Bayern – Kultur), March 11, 2015 and EnGawa. Kiruannya to U-ko-san – Bruder Sense und Frau U. EnGawa [online]. Available from here, accessed: June 19, 2018. See the trailer.
 
 
Source: The Asia-Pacific Journal

January 2, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Prosecutors demand 5-year prison terms for Tepco’s ex-bosses for Fukushima nuclear disaster

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Prosecutors say TEPCO leaders should have known the risks a tsunami could pose to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which sits along Japan’s eastern coast. Here, the Unit 3 reactor is seen this past summer, amid storage tanks of radiation-contaminated water.
Executives In Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Deserve 5-Year Prison Terms, Prosecutors Say
December 26, 2018
The former chairman and two vice presidents of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. should spend five years in prison over the 2011 flooding and meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japanese prosecutors say, accusing the executives of failing to prevent a foreseeable catastrophe.
Prosecutors say the TEPCO executives didn’t do enough to protect the nuclear plant, despite being told in 2002 that the Fukushima facility was vulnerable to a tsunami. In March of 2011, it suffered meltdowns at three of its reactors, along with powerful hydrogen explosions.
“It was easy to safeguard the plant against tsunami, but they kept operating the plant heedlessly,” prosecutors said on Wednesday, according to The Asahi Shimbun. “That led to the deaths of many people.”
Former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78; former Vice President Ichiro Takekuro, 72; and former Vice President Sakae Muto, 68, face charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury. Muto and Takekuro once led the utility’s nuclear division. All three have pleaded not guilty in Tokyo District Court, saying they could not have predicted the tsunami.
The stricken plant triggered mandatory evacuations for thousands of people. Prosecutors attribute 44 deaths to the incident, including a number of hospital patients who were forced to leave their facilities.
The sentencing recommendation came as prosecutors made their closing arguments on Wednesday, more than two years after the executives were initially indicted.
The next step in the case will see a lawyer for victims and their families speak in court on Thursday. But it won’t be until March of 2019 that defense lawyers will deliver their closing arguments, according to Japan’s NHK News.
Hinting at what the defense’s argument might be, NHK cites the prosecutors saying, “the former executives later claimed that they had not been informed, and that the executives put all the blame on their subordinates.”
The case has taken a twisting journey to arrive at this point. In two instances, public prosecutors opted not to seek indictments against the three TEPCO executives. But an independent citizen’s panel disagreed, and in early 2016, prosecutors in the case — all court-appointed lawyers — secured indictments against the three former TEPCO leaders.
Both TEPCO and the Japanese government lost a class-action lawsuit in late 2017, when a court found that officials had not prepared enough for potential disaster at the Fukushima power plant. In that case, the Fukushima district court ordered payments totaling nearly $4.5 million to about 3,800 plaintiffs.
All told, around 19,000 people are estimated to have died in eastern Japan’s triple disaster that included a powerful earthquake off the coast of Tohoku, a devastating tsunami, and the worst nuclear meltdown since the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986.
In September, Japan’s government announced the first death due to radiation that was released at the Fukushima plant.
The region is still sharply feeling the results of the calamity. As of late November, more than 30,000 people who fled the area had still not returned, Kyodo News reports.
 
 
 
Jail term demanded for ex-bosses over Fukushima nuclear crisis
The charges are the only ones to have stemmed from the tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns at the plant that set off the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986
December 26, 2018
DANGEROUS. A staff member of the Tokyo Electric Power Company measures radiation levels between reactor unit 2 and unit 3 (Rear) at the tsunami-crippled Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture.
TOKYO, Japan – A 5-year jail term was sought for 3 former executives at the company operating Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, media reported Wednesday, December 26, the only people to face criminal charges over the 2011 meltdowns.
Former chairman of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro are charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury, and have pleaded not guilty.
They are the only charges to have stemmed from the tsunami-sparked reactor meltdowns at the plant that set off the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
Attorneys, who are exceptionally acting as prosecutors in the trial, said the 3 executives were aware of data indicating the nuclear plant risked being hit by a tsunami with waves exceeding 15 meters (52 feet) – enough to trigger power loss and cause severe accidents.
“They should have halted operations at the nuclear plant” until the company finished anti-tsunami measures, including construction of a breakwater, the prosecutors told Tokyo District Court, according to Jiji Press.
Katsumata, 78, has said during the trial he could not have predicted the towering waves that pummelled Japan’s northeast coast and swamped reactors in March 2011.
The disaster forced tens of thousands to evacuate their homes near the plant. Many are still living in other parts of Japan, unable or unwilling to go back home as fears over radiation persist.
The charges against the ex-bosses are linked to the deaths of more than 40 hospitalized patients who were hastily evacuated from the Fukushima area and later died.
Prosecutors had twice refused to press charges, citing insufficient evidence and little chance of conviction.
But a judicial review panel composed of ordinary citizens ruled in 2015 that the trio should be put on special trial in which designated attorneys accuse defendants and demand a penalty.
Waves as high as 14 meters swamped the reactors’ cooling systems in March 2011 after a 9.0 magnitude tremor.
Although the quake-tsunami disaster left some 18,500 people dead or missing, the Fukushima accident itself is not officially recorded as having directly killed anyone.
A parliamentary report a year after the disaster said Fukushima was a man-made crisis caused by Japan’s culture of “reflexive obedience.”

December 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 2 Comments

5-year prison terms sought for former TEPCO executives

n-tepco-a-20181227-870x343.jpg
Five-year jail terms are being sought for former Tepco executives Tsunehisa Katsumata (left), Ichiro Takekuro (middle) and Sakae Muto for their alleged failure to prevent the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns in 2011.
5-year prison terms sought for former TEPCO executives
December 26, 2018
Prosecutors on Dec. 26 demanded five-year prison terms for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the disaster caused by a tsunami slamming into the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“It was easy to safeguard the plant against tsunami, but they kept operating the plant heedlessly,” the prosecution said at the trial at the Tokyo District Court. “That led to the deaths of many people.”
Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, former chairman of TEPCO, Sakae Muto, 68, former vice president, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, former vice president, are standing trial on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury in connection to the triple meltdown at the plant in 2011.
According to the prosecution, the failure of the three to take countermeasures against tsunami led to the deaths of 44 people and the injuries of many others.
Many of them were hospital patients who were forced to evacuate when the nuclear crisis unfolded.
The defendants have all pleaded innocent. They said they had no way of predicting a tsunami of the height that inundated the Fukushima plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
Prosecutors had dropped the case against the three, but they were mandatorily indicted by an inquest of prosecution committee comprising ordinary citizens.
Lawyers are acting as prosecutors in the trial.
Shozaburo Ishida of the prosecution side said if a nuclear accident occurs, it results in an irreparable situation in which radioactive materials are spread.
He said the three defendants, who were in the utility’s top management at the time of the Fukushima disaster, should be held responsible because they failed to pay close attention to the safety of the plant.
The prosecution accused the three of “postponing” anti-tsunami measures despite learning that an in-house analysis showed that a tsunami of up to 15.7 meters in height could hit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The plant sits on land 10 meters above sea level.
According to the prosecution, the three gave the nod to anti-tsunami measures in 2008 based on a government assessment report about the probability of earthquakes striking Japan.
However, they stalled in taking the necessary steps, the prosecution said.
During the trial, the defendants denied the credibility of the government’s long-term assessment report.
They also said “15.7 meters” was a preliminary figure, and that asking the Japan Society of Civil Engineers to evaluate the appropriateness of TEPCO’s projection does not amount to “postponing” anti-tsunami measures.
5-year prison terms sought for 3 ex-TEPCO execs over nuclear disaster
December 26, 2018
TOKYO — Five-year prison terms were sought for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) on Dec. 26 over a nuclear disaster at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northeastern Japan in 2011.
A court-appointed lawyer who indicted the three — Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, former chairman of TEPCO; Ichiro Takekuro, 72, former vice president; and Sakae Muto, 68, another former vice president — demanded the punishments at a Tokyo District Court hearing.
Prosecutors had abandoned indicting the three former TEPCO executives. However, after a prosecution inquest panel comprising those selected from among members of the general public deemed twice that they deserve indictment, a court-appointed lawyer indicted them in accordance with the Act on Committee for Inquest of Prosecution.
The lawyer said the defendants’ failure to take measures to prevent tsunami caused the accident.
“Even though the defendants were the top-ranking executives of a nuclear plant operator, they failed to do what they should have done, continued to operate the nuclear plant and caused the deaths of many people,” the lawyer said. “If they had obtained necessary information on possible massive tsunami on their own authority and taken appropriate measures, they could have prevented the serious accident.”
Katsumata, Takekuro and Muto are charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the March 2011 nuclear accident. Specifically, they are accused of neglecting to take preventive measures while being aware that a massive tsunami could cause an accident at the plant, forcing patients at Futaba Hospital in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma to take shelter for a long time and causing 44 of them to die.
The key point of contention during the trial is whether the three defendants could have predicted the accident before tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake crashed into the plant.
In 2008, TEPCO estimated that tsunami waves as high as 15.7 meters could hit the Fukushima Daiichi complex based on a long-term evaluation by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion. Nevertheless, the company stopped short of taking countermeasures against such massive tsunami at the plant.
Muto had been briefed of the estimate, but chose to put countermeasures on hold because the company asked experts to re-examine the long-term evaluation.
With regard to this, the court-appointed lawyer pointed out that they delayed countermeasures even though they could have predicted the disaster.
The three defendants argued that they took “appropriate procedures,” and that “it’s only natural that we asked experts to examine the evaluation.”
 
Five-year jail terms sought for ex-Tepco executives over Fukushima nuclear crisis
Dec 26, 2018
Five-year prison terms were sought Wednesday for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. for their alleged failure to prevent the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
At the Tokyo District Court, court-appointed lawyers acting as prosecutors said if the three had collected information properly and prepared necessary safety measures it would have been possible to predict the massive tsunami and prevent the disaster.
Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, chairman of the company at the time of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, and Sakae Muto, 68, both former vice presidents, have pleaded not guilty, arguing the tsunami was unforeseeable and the disaster would have occurred even if they had implemented preventive measures.
A final hearing for the defense will be held next March.
The court-appointed lawyers said it was clear from earlier testimony that the utility had been informed by one of its subsidiaries in 2008 that a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters could hit the plant, but it did not immediately take preventive steps.
“(Muto) prioritized avoiding suspension of the power plant and put off the problem,” one of the lawyers said.
The three were charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury by the court-appointed lawyers in 2016 after an independent panel of citizens mandated they be indicted.
The independent panel’s decision came after Tokyo prosecutors twice decided against charging the three.
The former executives have been indicted for the deaths of 44 people, including patients forced to evacuate from a hospital, as well as injuries suffered by 13 people, including Self-Defense Force members, resulting from hydrogen explosions at the plant.
A total of 34 hearings have been held since last June, during which 21 witnesses, ranging from current and former Tepco officials to earthquake and tsunami experts, were questioned.
On March 11, 2011, the six-reactor plant located on the Pacific coast was flooded by tsunami waves triggered by a massive quake, causing the reactor cooling systems to lose their power supply. The Nos. 1 to 3 reactors subsequently suffered fuel meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing the No. 1, 3 and 4 units.
As a result of the nuclear crisis, the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, around 160,000 people were evacuated at one stage. More than 30,000 of them were still displaced as of late November.

December 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

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

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