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Fukushima Prefecture Announces New “High-Quality” Rice, Branding

September 4, 2020

With the announcement of a new variety of top-tier rice, Fukushima hopes to further unravel the unfair stigma of the 2011 tsunami.

On Monday, Fukushima Prefectural Governor Uchibori Masao stood before the gathered press and held aloft an indigo-blue print. The painterly, dark-blue brushstrokes depicted rice fields, mountains, and farmers planting and harvesting grains. Below, in the same vibrant indigo, were the words 「福、笑い」: Fuku, Warai, or “Luck, Laugh.” This was the just-announced official design for Fukushima Prefecture’s new high-quality rice cultivar. Fittingly for Fukushima (福島, literally “Lucky Island”), the brand would bear that same “lucky” kanji in its name.

The global image of Fukushima, of course, is not one most would describe as “lucky.” Indeed, the vast prefecture – Japan’s third-largest by area – is often intrinsically associated with the 3/11/2011 nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Infamously, the disaster resulted in a zone of exclusion which forced 165,000 residents from their homes. Early government mismanagement of the crisis resulted in a Japanese populace who often distrusted official statements about local food safety. With the name “Fukushima” appended to the plant, the reputation of the entire prefecture and its people suffered.

This was doubly true for those who worked in Fukushima’s vaunted agricultural sector.

A Prefecture Recovering, an Industry Besmirched

Nearly a decade on from the disaster, the zone of exclusion has shrunk dramatically. Villages, once ghost towns, are reopening. Less than 3% of the prefecture remains off-limits. (In fact, at its greatest extent, the ZOE covered less than 6% of the prefecture.) Years of stringent testing have long proven Fukushima-grown produce to be safe. Yet, still, the stigma lingers. The South Korea Olympic Committee announced last year that it planned to bring radiation detectors and Korean-produced food to the (now-postponed) 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They aimed to avoid athletes consuming any Fukushima products.

Such fear-mongering has been especially difficult for farmers in Fukushima. This is in part because the prefecture was actually famous for its high-quality produce previous to the disaster, Fukushima produced 20.6% of the country’s peaches and 8.7% of its cucumbers. The prefecture’s real agricultural showstopper, however, is its rice.

Lucky Island, Lucky Rice

Fukushima is a mountainous land. In particular, parts of the western Aizu region have nary a flat plain in sight. Here, snowmelt from the mountain peaks runs down into regional rice paddies. This pure water helps to give Fukushima rice its high-quality flavor.

The soil, too, assists in producing good rice, as do the prefecture’s hot days and cold nights. Popular rice cultivars like Koshihikari and Hitomebore are grown, as well as numerous sake rice varieties. Fukushima rice is of such high-quality that it famously trades off taking first place with neighboring Niigata in national rice flavor competitions most years. Recently, Fukushima rice was honored three years running. The Japan Grain Inspection Association Rice Taste Rankings awarded multiple Fukushima rice brands its “Special A-Class,” leading the prefecture to take first place in 2017 through 2019.

The high-grade rice also yields high-quality sake (日本酒; nihonshu). The perfect combination of rice and water, paired with breweries with long years of experience, has resulted in some of the country’s best rice wines. Subterranean rivers flowing from Mt. Bandai; water sourced from the Abukuma-do cave; Aizu snowmelt; all these waters serve to help make Fukushima’s sake special. In 2018, Fukushima sake won the coveted National Research Institute of Brewing title for an unprecedented sixth year in a row. Breweries like Suehiro, Okunomatsu, and Kokken are just a few of its renowned sake producers.

Yet the perception of Fukushima rice – even that produced in Aizu, more distant from the nuclear disaster than parts of other prefectures – as being potentially contaminated continues to damage the Fukushima agricultural industry. Governor Uchibori almost certainly had this in mind as he sought to create excitement around Fukushima products with the announcement of the prefecture’s new cultivar.

The Birth of Fuku, Warai

Despite the timeliness of its announcement, the prefecture in fact first began designing this new rice strain 16 years ago. According to the rice brand’s official website, “Niigata no.88, descendant of Koshihikari, is its mother; prefectural cultivation-type Gunkei 627, descendant of Hitomebore, is its father.” Quality and taste-testing repeated since 2006. In 2019, the prefecture official decided to promote the rice. After the rice was announced, 6,234 Fuksuhimans submitted possible names for the cultivar; the government chose “Fuku, Warai” so that it might “bring a smile to the faces of those who produce it, those who eat it, and make them all happy.”

More than that, the prefecture announced an even loftier accomplishment. “Through these 14 months and years, we’ve put our all into creating the ideal rice. We’ve arrived at a new rice, brimming with “Fukushima Pride.”

In a promotional video produced by the prefecture, Sakuma Hideaki, head of the horticulture department of the Fukushima Agricultural Research Center, had the following to say regarding the new rice strain: In terms of its flavor, the grain is quite large and possesses a sweet quality. It has a distinct aroma. You could say it has a soft texture as well. These are special qualities that distinguish this rice from previous Fukushima Prefecture original products up until now.

Ritzy Rice

The new cultivar is being produced as a premium rice, meant to compete with the most luxurious rice strains in Japan. The aim is to have the rice on specialty store shelfs by next fall, following a special preview harvest conducted on 6/6 hectares by 13 specially-picked rice producers.

The new packaging announced on Monday was illustrated by Yorifuji Bunpei (寄藤文平), well-known for his “please do it at home” public service posters on the Tokyo metro. Koriyama-native Yanai Michihiko handled the art direction. Regarding the design, Governor Uchibori said, おいしさや魅力がより伝わるよう、関係者と力を合わせてプロモーションに取り組む。 We’ve put together this promotion by joining with those involved in order to properly convey [the rice’s] deliciousness and value.

With any luck, Fuku, Warai will help with the continued rehabilitation of Fukushima’s impressive agricultural industries. Better yet, it may indeed serve as yet another point of pride for the people of Fukushima.

Sources

(2020年09月01日). 福島県オリジナル米「福、笑い」パッケージ青基調 先行販売へ。Fukushima-Minyu Newspaper.

Official Fukushima Prefectural Fuku, Wari Website.

Sternsdorff-Cisterna, N. (2015). Food after Fukushima: Risk and Scientific Citizenship in Japan. AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, Vol. 117, No. 3, pp. 455–467,

September 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Low Dose Ionizing Radiation Shown to Cause Cancer in Review of 26 Studies

These results contradict the claims of the Japanese authorities who keep repeating that there is no impact observed below a dose of 100 mSv.

The US National Cancer Institute has dedicated an entire volume of its scientific journal, Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs, to the impact of low doses of radiation on cancers. The articles are open access.

 

jncmon_2020_56cover

July 13, 2020

An international team of experts in the study of cancer risks associated with low-dose ionizing radiation published the monograph, “Epidemiological studies of low-dose ionizing radiation and cancer: Summary bias assessment and meta-analysis,” in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on July 13, 2020.  

It is well established that ionizing radiation causes cancer through direct DNA damage. The general public are exposed to low doses of ionizing radiation from medical exposures like computed tomography (CT) scans, naturally occurring radiation (emitted from bedrock with the earth’s crust and cosmic rays emitted by the sun), and occupational exposures to medical, aircrew and nuclear workers. A key question for low-dose exposures is how much of the damage can be repaired and whether other mechanisms, including inflammation, also play a role. This critical question has been long debated for radiation protection standards.

After combing data from 26 epidemiological studies the authors found clear evidence of excess cancer risk from low dose ionizing radiation: 17 of 22 studies showed risk for solid cancers and 17 of 20 studies showed risk for leukemia. The summary risk estimates were statistically significant and the magnitude of risk (per unit dose) was consistent with studies of populations exposed to higher doses.

A novel feature of the research effort was the investigators’ use of epidemiological and statistical techniques to identify and evaluate possible sources of bias in the observational data, for example confounding, errors in doses, and misclassification of outcomes. After a thorough and systematic review, they concluded that most did not suffer from major biases.

The authors concluded that although for the most part, absolute risk of cancer will be small, the data reinforce the radiation safety principle to ensure that doses are “as low as reasonably achievable” (ALARA).   

Additional research is needed to explore risks for cardiovascular disease (CVD) at low doses. Because CVD is a very common disease, even small risks at low doses could have important implications for radiation protection and public health.  

The 26 epidemiological studies were published between 2006 and 2017 and included a total of 91,000 solid cancers and 13,000 leukemias. Studies were eligible if the mean dose was <100 mGy. The study populations had environmental radiation exposure from accidents, like Chernobyl, and natural background radiation, medical radiation exposure like CT scans and occupational exposure including nuclear workers and medical radiation workers.   

Reference:

Epidemiological studies of low-dose ionizing radiation and cancer: Summary bias assessment and meta-analysisExit Disclaimer,” JNCI Monographs. Volume 2020. Issue 56. July 2020.

https://academic.oup.com/jncimono/issue/2020/56

https://dceg.cancer.gov/news-events/news/2020/low-dose-monograph

September 1, 2020 Posted by | radiation | , , , | 1 Comment

Fukushima’s Olympic makeover: Will the ‘cursed’ area be safe from radioactivity in time for Games?

26/06/2020

By: Constantin SIMON | Aruna POPURI | Ryusuke MURATA

In a year’s time, the Olympic Games, dubbed the “reconstruction Olympics”, should allow Japan to move on from the Fukushima tragedy. The region, a symbol of the 2011 disaster, has officially been cleaned up but many problems remain, such as radioactivity and “forbidden cities”. Over the course of several months, our reporters followed the daily lives of the inhabitants of this “cursed” region.

In recent months, Japanese authorities have been working hard to finish rebuilding the Fukushima region in time for the Summer Games. This huge reconstruction and decontamination project is never-ending and is expected to cost nearly €250 billion.

Although the work undertaken over the past 10 years is colossal and the region is partly rebuilt, it’s still not free from radioactivity. The NGO Greenpeace has detected radioactive hotspots near the Olympic facilities. And at the Fukushima power plant, Tepco engineers continue to

battle against radioactive leaks. They also face new issues such as contaminated water, which is accumulating at the site and poses a new-fangled problem for Japan. Our reporters were able to visit the notorious nuclear power plant.

They bring us a chronicle of daily life in Fukushima, with residents determined to revive their stricken region.

https://www.france24.com/en/asia-pacific/20200626-fukushima-s-olympic-makeover-will-the-cursed-area-be-safe-from-radioactivity-in-time

July 10, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Nine years on, Fukushima’s mental health fallout lingers

Wired Magazine ignores the reality of radiation for Fukushima residents. It’s one thing to stigmatize the mental health of those living there, but it’s an entirely different to act as though radioactivity is not, in fact, a real threat!

Beneath the obligatory ‘subsiding’ spin, there are some heroic citizen scientists at the heart of this article…
& more than mental health ‘still’ at risk

Mizue Kanno, 67, a Fukushima evacuee and anti-nuclear activist, recalls Yamashita telling an audience in Japan just eight days after the accident, “Radiation does not affect people who smile. It affects people who worry.”

His comments caused furore. “My friend and I took a photo of us smiling at the evacuation centre when he said that. And we both still got cancer,” says Kanno, pulling down her turtleneck to show a neat scar across her neck. “They took half my thyroid.”

 

1The road from Namie (pop. 1,238) to the Fukushima plant

 

If it were not illegal, Ayumi Iida would love to test a dead body. Recently, she tested a wild boar’s heart. She’s also tested the contents of her vacuum cleaner and the filter of her car’s air conditioner. Her children are so used to her scanning the material contents of their life that when she cuts the grass, her son asks, “Are you going to test that too?”

Iida, who is 35, forbids her children from entering the sea or into forests. She agonises over which foods to buy. But no matter what she does, she can’t completely protect her children from radiation. It even lurks in their urine.

“Maybe he’s being exposed through the school lunch,” she says, puzzling over why her nine-year-old son’s urine showed two-and-a-half times the concentration of caesium that hers did, when she takes such care shopping. “Or maybe it’s from the soil outside where he plays. Or is it because children have a faster metabolism, so he flushes more out? We don’t know.”

Iida is a public relations officer at Tarachine, a citizens’ lab in Fukushima, Japan, that tests for radioactive contamination released from the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Agricultural produce grown in the area is subject to government and supermarket testing, but Tarachine wants to provide people with an option to test anything, from foraged mushrooms to dust from their home. Iida tests anything unknown before feeding it to her four children. Recently, she threw out some rice she received as a present after finding its level of contamination – although 80 times lower than the government limit – unacceptably high. “My husband considered eating it ourselves, but it’s too much to cook two batches of rice for every meal. In the end we fed it to some seagulls.”

Tarachine is one of several citizen labs founded in the wake of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, which obliterated a swathe of the country’s northwest coast and killed more than 18,000 people. The wave knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggering a meltdown in three of the reactor cores and hydrogen explosions that sprayed radionuclides across the Fukushima prefecture. More than 160,000 people were forced to evacuate. A government decontamination programme has allowed evacuation orders to be lifted in many municipalities, but one zone is still off limits, with only short visits permitted.

Driven by a desire to find out precisely how much radiation there was in the environment and where, a group of volunteers launched Tarachine in Iwaki, a coastal city that escaped the worst of the radioactive plume and was not evacuated, through a crowdfunding campaign in November 2011. It is now registered as a non-profit organisation, and runs on donations.

In a windowless room controlled for temperature and humidity and dotted with screens showing graphs, two women sort and label samples, either collected by staff or sent in by the public: soil from back gardens, candied grasshoppers, seawater. In the beginning, mothers sent in litres of breastmilk. Tarachine initially charged a tenth of what a university lab would charge to make the testing accessible to as many people as possible; last year, they made it free.

To test for caesium-137, the main long-term contaminant released from the plant, staff finely chop samples and put them inside a gamma counter, a cylindrical grey machine that looks like a centrifuge. Tarachine’s machines are more accurate than the more commonly accessible measuring tools: at some public monitoring posts, shoppers can simply place their produce on top of a device to get a reading, but this can be heavily skewed by background radiation (waving a Geiger counter over food won’t give an accurate reading for the same reason). Tarachine tries to get as precise readings as possible; the lab’s machines give results to one decimal place, and they try to block out excess background radiation by placing bottles of water around the machines.

Measuring for strontium, a type of less penetrative beta radiation, is even more complicated: the food has to first be roasted to ash before being mixed with an acid and sifted. The whole process takes two to three days. Tarachine received training and advice from university radiation labs around the country, but the volunteers had to experiment with everyday food items that scientists had never tested. “There was no recipe like ‘Roast the leaf for two hours at so-and-so Celsius’, you know?” says Iida. “If it’s too burnt it’s no good. We also had to experiment with types of acid and how much of the acid to add.”

Japanese government standards for radiation are some of the most stringent in the world: the upper limit of radioactive caesium in food such as meat and vegetables is 100 becquerels per kilogram, compared with 1,250 in the European Union and 1,200 in the US (the becquerel unit measures how much ionizing radiation is released due to radioactive decay). Many supermarkets adhere to a tighter limit, proudly advertising that their produce contains less than 40 becquerels, or as few as 10. Tarachine aims for just 1 becquerel.

“How I think about it is, how much radiation was there in local rice before the accident? It was about 0.01 becquerel. So that’s what I want the standard to be,” says Iida.

 

2Ayumi Iida in the Tarachine radiation testing lab

 

Nine years on from a disaster known locally as Japan’s 9/11, victims continue to deal with the ongoing aftermath of the nuclear accident. Tsunami survivors in other prefectures are moving on. But few in Fukushima feel the crisis is anywhere close to resolved.

Some radiation experts would say women such as Iida are unduly worried about radiation – paranoid, even. Global agencies charged with creating radiation guidelines and advice – the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) — have said that radiation levels in Fukushima have been much lower than in Chernobyl and predict no discernible increase in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases as a result of the accident. Estimated internal doses, based on reconstructions, are much lower than among those affected by the 1986 Chernobyl accident, which has been attributed to comprehensive food testing and lower consumption of wild or foraged food.

The secondary effects of the disaster seem more lethal than the radiation itself: although no one was killed by the initial explosion, the hurried evacuation of hospitals and nursing homes led to 50 deaths, due to hypothermia, dehydration, and lack of support for medical problems such as renal failure. Countless people trapped in the rubble after the quake and tsunami likely died as a result of the rescue effort being called off as the radioactive plume spread. And, in the years since, a prolonged evacuation – so long that some say evacuees have more in common with refugees than disaster survivors – has been linked to suicides, heart disease and other illnesses that have caused 2,286 deaths – more than those killed by the tsunami in the prefecture. Diabetes and other lifestyle diseases have spiked alarmingly. Overstretched medical staff and social workers are suffering from burnout, insomnia and other stress disorders.

Under current international guidelines, the radiation released meant that the initial evacuation was unavoidable. And while the Japanese government has tried to move people back to evacuated areas as soon as possible by hiking the legal annual exposure limit for ordinary citizens in Fukushima from 1 millisievert per year to 20, previously the limit for nuclear plant workers, the move has enraged the public. Not only does the new limit mean some re-opened areas would be classed as uninhabitable elsewhere in Japan and the rest of the world (the ICRP recommends a public dose limit of 1 millisievert per year on top of regular background radiation levels), the government also uses it as justification for cutting off financial aid to former residents once evacuation orders are lifted. A special rapporteur from the United Nations Office of the Higher Commissioner on Human Rights has urged Japan to stop its relocation policy to protect the rights of children and women of reproductive age.

The government also raised the limit for nuclear workers from 20 millisieverts per year to 250 millisieverts, a level permitted by the IAEA for emergency situations.

 

3Michiko Sakai, whose husband worked at the Fukushima Daiichi plant

 

“It was this unthinkable level! My husband was so angry,” says Michiko Sakai, whose husband, Hiroaki Sakai, worked at the plant. He was summoned a week after the accident to go up in a crane to inspect the damage to the fourth reactor, and received a dose of radiation equivalent to half the new annual limit. He was later diagnosed with salivary gland cancer.

Some workers have been awarded compensation after Japan’s health and labour ministry recognised their leukaemia or cancer as a “work-related” health issue. The first was 41 years old, and had received an accumulated dose of 16 millisieverts — well under 100 millisieverts, the level beyond which international agencies say a statistically significant increase in cancers is observable.

“They say it’s nothing to do with the radiation. But it makes you think. My husband says we can’t know,” says Sakai. “People around him say, why don’t you sue? But he says, there’s no proof. We just can’t know.”

The precise relationship between doses of ionising radiation and their effect are the subject of fierce debate. Some scientists believe the dangers have been exaggerated, while others believe that even low doses over time may induce cancer.

After the accident, Fukushima Medical University set up the Health Management Survey, a study consisting of four parts to track the physical and mental health of the two million people who had been in Fukushima at the time of the disaster. One part is a screening for thyroid cancers among those who were children at the time of the accident, as a higher incidence of these cancers was the biggest physical health impact observed after the Chernobyl disaster. From the outset, Dr. Shunichi Yamashita, a government-appointed radiation risk management adviser who led the screening, emphasised that the survey was primarily being conducted to assuage anxiety about radiation.

To date, 186 cases of thyroid cancer among children have been found. Doctors at FMU contend that these are likely due to the “screening effect”, in which widespread testing of a population – 300,000 children, in this case – turns up diseases that would otherwise have remained undetected. They add that thyroid cancers only appeared to increase four years after the Chernobyl accident, and in Fukushima most were found in the first round of screening, with fewer diagnoses each round. The age pattern of children with tumours in Fukushima is also different to that in Chernobyl, where incidence was higher amongst younger children.

But some activists and doctors reject these explanations, arguing that doctors in the USSR missed tumours in the early years because they were diagnosed by hand rather than ultrasound. They also note that thyroid doses have only been estimated based on reconstructions, rather than actual measurements taken immediately after the accident.

Mizue Kanno, 67, a Fukushima evacuee and anti-nuclear activist, recalls Yamashita telling an audience in Japan just eight days after the accident, “Radiation does not affect people who smile. It affects people who worry.”

His comments caused furore. “My friend and I took a photo of us smiling at the evacuation centre when he said that. And we both still got cancer,” says Kanno, pulling down her turtleneck to show a neat scar across her neck. “They took half my thyroid.”

Data from Chernobyl shows that the incidence of thyroid cancers rose only in people who were exposed to high doses of radiation as children, making it unlikely that Kanno’s tumour was caused by the release at the Fukushima plant. Nonetheless, to Kanno and others, Yamashita’s remarks have become a symbol of what they perceive as the medical establishment’s callous arrogance.

In response to parents’ concerns, Tarachine opened a clinic in 2013 where anyone – even adults – could have their thyroid checked, or get a second opinion. “In Japan, everyone has a lot of respect for doctors and sees them as kind of superior, so people don’t find them very approachable and they find it hard to ask questions,” says Iida. Since radioactive iodine, which causes the thyroid tumours, has a half-life of just eight days and was fully decayed within a few months of the accident, the government screening only covers children born before the accident. Iida has had her three children born since the accident tested anyway.

“I think we just can’t know for sure,” she says. “You often hear, ‘Statistically, this number of people in Fukushima will get sick’. But mothers can’t relate to that. I have a child right in front of me, that’s who I’m concerned about.”

 

4Masaharu Tsubokura, a radiation specialist at the Soma Central Hospital in Fukushima

 

Sakai and her husband’s home in Namie was swept away in the tsunami. “Completely obliterated. There was nothing left. Only the concrete foundations,” she recalls. Because of radiation levels, it was three years before she was allowed to go back to see the devastation for herself.

By then, her family had been broken up: her husband was working at the plant and living in a company dormitory nearby, while her mother-in-law moved into temporary government housing to be close to her former neighbours. With her son at university, Sakai and her daughter moved inland to Fukushima City.

“If we had been pulled apart by a natural disaster, I think we would have been able to knit the family back together. But because of the radiation, we were separated,” Sakai says. She lost friends after her village community was scattered during the evacuation. “I had no sense of who was dead and who was alive. Even if I heard they had died [in the tsunami], I had this feeling that they’d just evacuated elsewhere. The realisation that they were dead didn’t hit.”

Some of the few community ties that remained have been aggravated by enmity over compensation money. Evacuees have even been bullied for receiving compensation – to the extent that Sakai didn’t tell her new neighbours where she was from, not wanting to invite resentment.

“What the radiation broke was my heart,” she says. “It’s not about my body being exposed. You can measure that. But the emotional pain it causes – you can’t see that.”

Indeed, the impact of the nuclear accident goes well beyond worries about the physical impact of radiation: in 2017, fewer than two per cent of callers to a mental health helpline for Fukushima evacuees touched on radiation-related concerns, in contrast to other health issues, which were discussed in 80 per cent of calls, and family issues, which came up in a third.

 

5The motorway exit for the site of the Fukushima Daiichi plant

 

The accident forced tens of thousands out of their homes, shattering communities, wrenching apart families, and robbing them of their jobs. Evacuees have lived in limbo for years, not knowing when they will be allowed to move home, or even whether they want to, given the shrunken and now inconvenient towns that await them.

“The consequences of the radiation accident is not purely about exposure to radiation. It’s also not purely psychological. It’s changes in lifestyle, family issues, changes in society, hospitals closing, stigma, bullying, money,” says Masaharu Tsubokura, a radiation specialist at Soma Central Hospital in Fukushima. “Hardly anyone here talks about radiation. Those people don’t come back.”

Those most concerned about radiation fled as far as they could, and stayed away; some even moved to Okinawa, the island prefecture south of the Japanese mainland. Some 30,000 evacuees still live outside Fukushima prefecture.

Over the past nine years, as background radiation levels fall and evacuation orders have gradually been lifted, the government has encouraged — or pressured, through the withdrawal of financial aid — people to return. But the longer it took for the evacuation orders to be lifted, the fewer people came back. Towns have been left frozen in time, and still lack supermarkets, schools, hospitals and clinics — not to mention citizens.

In Okuma, once a picturesque town of 11,500 people, curtains are blowing through broken windows. Huge, grand houses nestled into golden hillsides have been ruined with mildew, and are too contaminated to live in. There is a small patch where decontamination has beaten background radiation back enough to meet the government standard. Here, a tight cluster of grey identikit prefabs have been built for former residents. Across the road are similar units for those who work at the nuclear plant or in decontamination.

In an airy, high-ceilinged cafeteria, bearing the faintly plasticky smell of fresh construction, men in work clothes queue up with trays. “I never usually come here. There’s nowhere to meet friends,” says Masumi Kohata, a local council representative. “They’ve built a bar, but that’s only for workers — the residents are all elderly and don’t go out drinking.”

Only between around 10 to 15 per cent of former residents of towns close to the plant, like Okuma, express a desire to return, and actual returnee rates are even lower. Shrinking and ageing populations are a problem all over rural Japan, but in the towns affected by radiation, the effect is particularly acute. The nuclear accident functioned like a second, ageist tsunami: the plume dragged everyone out, but the riptide of government policy deposited only the elderly back. Those over 60 feel more intensely a traditional obligation to be close to their ancestors’ graves. Younger people tend not to come back due to a lack of work opportunities, schools for their children, or because they have settled elsewhere.

 

6Kazuma Yonekura, a psychiatric nurse who works at a clinic in Minamisōma

 

In many cases, men stayed behind for work in Fukushima while their wives and children moved elsewhere in Japan. Such stresses led to the break-up of so many marriages that a new word was coined: genpatsu-rikon, or nuclear divorce. Other families were split along generational lines as younger members moved away. Even those who evacuated inside Fukushima were often separated from their communities, leading to the disintegration of the social fabric. On average, evacuees have moved four to five times; eight moves is not unusual.

“The extended evacuation meant people couldn’t settle down and come to terms with what had happened. They didn’t know whether to make a decision to move back, or to put it off. They were – some still are – living in limbo,” says Kazuma Yonekura, a psychiatric nurse at Nagomi, a clinic in Minamisōma that is part of Kokoro No Care, a mental health organisation that has been set up in the wake of disasters since the Kobe earthquake in 1995.

Compensation money and the loss of work meant people smoked more, gambled more, and drank more; in 2014, one in five male evacuees and one in ten female evacuees in Fukushima were considered problem drinkers. Those who had lived active lives were suddenly cooped up in cramped temporary housing units; the change in lifestyle and diet, compounded by stress and inactivity, has triggered a massive rise in diabetes among the middle-aged and elderly. Some 10,000 people are considered at risk of depression.

Yonekura recalls one nuclear plant worker in his 40s who took sleeping pills with alcohol, knocking himself out for such long periods that he got bedsores. “We realised that medical treatment could only go so far,” says Yonekura, who brought the man to soup kitchens and fetched hot water from a local bathhouse when he couldn’t pay his gas bill. “Doctors can give out prescriptions, but then it’s left to people to change their lives.”

After waiting for so long, returnees often become depressed upon encountering the reality of their unrecognisable hometowns: suicides spike in towns after the evacuation orders are lifted.

The stress of seeing one’s old life wiped off the map can be equally distressing. “My friend decided to move back here and build a new house to make a fresh start,” says a waitress named Aiko Watanabe in a cafe in Tomioka. “But when she watched her old house being demolished, she had a heart attack, and died.”

Not all such deaths are included in the official count of “disaster-related deaths”, which now stands at 2,286 — compared to 469 in Iwate and 928 in Miyagi, the other two prefectures also affected by the tsunami. The nuclear accident has drastically complicated Fukushima’s recovery. Due to the scale and complexity of issues that victims still face, Kokoro No Care will continue to operate in Fukushima for 20 years in total, even though it was wound down after five years in Miyagi and Iwate.

But staff at Kokoro No Care and other relief workers, such as civil servants and medical staff, are overstretched. Three years after the disaster, nine per cent were considered at risk of suicide, and 18 per cent had symptoms of depression. “People working in support roles have too much work but they feel they can’t quit. Citizens are depending on them, but they feel stuck and can’t cope,” Yonekura says.

“That’s what the radiation accident caused. A loss of purpose. The loss of feeling at home, the feeling of being connected. There’s many people who suffered from that. And a lot of people suffered from the perception that they or their products were contaminated.”

 

7Masahura Maeda, a professor at Fukushima Medical University’s department of disaster psychiatry

 

Stigmatization is one of the reasons doctors want to quell concerns around radiation. Children and adults from Fukushima have been bullied because of where they are from; some evacuees were initially refused entry to friends or relatives’ homes because they were perceived as being a danger.

“Some friends said we were still contaminated. I wasn’t offended, I think they were right,” says Kanno. “In Osaka, I felt like a mouldy orange. You know when an orange rots in a cardboard box, it spreads the mould around? That was me… I thought a mouldy orange should stay put and not spread the contamination around.”

Some 30 per cent of people in Fukushima believe the effects of radiation exposure are hereditary, with 15 per cent of people thinking it is “very likely” – in spite of the Life Span Study tracking 86,000 survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki finding no evidence of this.

“Many people believe that these women should not get married or reproduce. That’s really worrying,” says Masaharu Maeda, a professor at Fukushima Medical University’s (FMU) Department of Disaster Psychiatry who has led the mental health response for evacuees. The stigma is even worse outside Fukushima: in one survey of 1,000 people in Tokyo in 2019, 40 per cent thought the effects would be transmitted to the next generation.

Maeda says that concern has fallen in Fukushima due to public education campaigns, pointing to a survey showing that just under a third of respondents in Fukushima now believe that effects are hereditary, down from half in 2012. But he and other doctors are worried about the small group of people – the 15 per cent – who still believe that they or their peers are genetically contaminated, despite official reassurances. In a survey of evacuees, Maeda and his colleagues were shocked to find that the biggest risk factor for “severe distress” was increased perception of risk from radiation exposure and the belief that it would affect one’s children or grandchildren.

“That’s the tricky thing about radiation,” says Koichi Tanigawa, vice president of the FMU and senior director of the Radiation Medical Science Center. “Someone’s way of thinking or what they believed [before the accident] has quite a big influence on their understanding of the issue. Scientific figures or research isn’t going to do much to change their mind.”

The full impact of the accident will take years to emerge – and even then, assessments will differ. Deaths caused by radiation-induced cancers may well be under- or overestimated, due to the difficulty of isolating radiation as a cause amidst a tangle of other lifestyle factors. Deaths from diabetes as a result of the evacuation may never be counted.

“A manmade disaster is much harder than a natural disaster,” says Maeda. He notes that after natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Kobe, it usually takes around five years for people to “recover”. One marker of this is the construction of a memorial, which allows people to begin mourning. Another is when the majority of those affected no longer consider themselves victims. “If you look at Fukushima,” Maeda says, “it’s nowhere near. The disaster is still ongoing.”

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/fukushima-evacuation-mental-health

 

 

 

July 10, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Evacuation orders to be lifted even before radiation purged

hjhkllDecontamination work continues in a part of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, prior to the lifting of an evacuation order in April 2017.

June 3, 2020

The government is planning to create new rules to allow the lifting of evacuation orders in areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster before they are thoroughly decontaminated, according to sources.

The move comes in response to requests by local municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture. But it also reflects the slow pace of the decontamination process, now in its ninth year following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Evacuation orders were issued for wide areas in the prefecture after the nuclear crisis triggered by the earthquake and tsunami disaster. They remain in place for seven municipalities classified as difficult-to-return zones because radiation levels remain high.

Government officials are still mulling how to best proceed with the new option. Lifting the evacuation orders would come with certain conditions. For example, the area in question would not be used for residential purposes and the municipal government would have to first decide that decontamination is not necessary.

The central government pledged to take responsibility for decontaminating areas before allowing residents to return to their homes.

This new proposal would be the first exception created to the procedures for the lifting of evacuation orders.

Officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear power industry, along with the Environment Ministry and the Reconstruction Agency, have all agreed to allow lifting evacuation orders for areas where decontamination is not complete, the sources said.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority will be tasked with issuing safety recommendations for lifting the orders in areas not yet purged of radioactive materials. The government headquarters that deals with the aftermath of the nuclear disaster is expected to then approve the change as early as this summer.

Evacuation orders were issued for areas where annual airborne radiation readings were higher than 20 millisieverts.

Currently, there are three main conditions that must be met before lifting the orders: annual airborne radiation levels must fall under 20 millisieverts; restoration of social infrastructure, such as the water supply, as well as decontamination, must have progressed to a reasonable degree; and sufficient discussions on the matter with the local municipal government need to have first taken place.

The revision would leave those conditions untouched and introduce a new option to allow for speeding up the process to lift the orders.

New conditions, still being discussed, would be established for areas where natural reductions in radioactive materials led to radiation levels falling under 20 millisieverts.

The evacuation order could be lifted in places not yet fully decontaminated if no residents or workers will live in that area in the future and if the local municipal government requests lifting the order.

Another condition being considered is whether municipal governments have plans for using the area, such as building parks or distribution warehouses.

Under the new proposal, the municipal government would be allowed to decide if it will require full decontamination before the evacuation order is lifted.

The central government began considering the new option after the village of Iitate submitted a request in February.

The village is located about 40 kilometers northwest of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The Nagadoro district in the southern part of the village is still classified as a difficult-to-return zone. The village government asked that the evacuation order be lifted for that entire district in 2023.

Under the central government’s plan, 17 percent of that district is designated as a special zone for reconstruction. Decontamination efforts would be concentrated on that zone to allow the evacuation order to be lifted in 2023.

But with more than 80 percent of the district still under an evacuation order, and with no foreseeable date for completing the cleanup of radioactive materials there, village officials worried that partially lifting the order would drive a new wedge into what had long been a single community.

Village government officials want to construct a park in the remaining area to serve as symbol of the community’s unity.

Village officials also confirmed with the 11 households located in the area outside the special zone that they had no intention of returning to their homes, even if the evacuation order is lifted. Central government officials also learned that radiation levels for much of the Nagadoro district have fallen under 20 millisieverts.

Just like Iitate, other municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture will likely also face difficult choices. Like the Nagadoro district, other municipalities have also seen radiation levels fall under 20 millisieverts.

The slow pace of the decontamination process until now has led many evacuees to decide to remain where they are, rather than return to their homes.

Even in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, only about 20 percent of residents had returned as of April.

Central government officials also acknowledge that the importance of decontamination has waned over the years, since relatively few residents have returned–even after the huge amounts of money spent to make communities habitable again.

About 3 trillion yen ($28 billion) has been spent on decontamination efforts to date.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13426557

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

The wrong crisis stopped the Olympics

Excellent article from Linda Pentz Gunter of Beyond Nuclear

olympics-slider-lpg

April 5, 2020

Radiation risks couldn’t kill the Games, but Covid-19 has

The Japanese government allowed 50,000 people to cluster around the Olympic flame, then hesitated to postpone the Games, until the IOC (and a reluctant Abe) called them off until 2021. Now those concerned about the persistent radiological contamination, which could harm athletes and spectators, have one more year to organize to stop the Tokyo Olympics altogether.

By Linda Pentz Gunter

On Saturday, March 21, 50,000 people queued up at Sendai station to see the Olympic flame displayed in a cauldron there. Packed together, not all of them wearing masks, the eager spectators waited as long as three hours to glimpse a flame that should have been extinguished in Japan months ago. 

Sendai is just 112 kilometers up the Japanese coast from the stricken Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear reactors that exploded and melted down on March 11, 2011.

Around the same time that those 50,000 people, and the authorities who govern them, failed to take the novel coronavirus pandemic seriously, Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was making lukewarm noises about maybe possibly postponing the Olympic Games.

After some skillful negotiating designed to spare Japan embarrassment, that decision was finally made on March 24, when the International Olympic Committee, and the Abe government, each announced that the Games would be postponed until the summer of 2021.

hghijlThe 50,000 who queued to see the Olympic torch in Fukushima will not see Japanese Olympians or any others this summer.

 

Yes, it was beyond stupidity to have continued contemplating an event that would have brought tens of thousands of corona-carrying athletes and spectators to Tokyo and beyond. But it was worse that the persistent radiological contamination of Japan in the now 9-year long aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster didn’t cancel the Games months ago. Or better still, disqualify Japan’s bid in the first place. Things in Japan won’t be significantly better in that regard one year from now. But radiation remains untouchable as a topic.

Japan needed the Games for one compelling reason; to cover-up and sanitize the world’s worst, or second worst, nuclear disaster — arguments still abound as to whether Fukushima will end up being worse than the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine, whose long-term health effects now pass down generations.

That’s why Japan gave the Games, the “Recovery Olympics” moniker, to prove that Fukushima wasn’t all that bad after all and that everything is back to normal. Which is, of course, a big and unforgivable lie.

Just to press their point, the Japanese Olympic committee had the torch relay start in Fukushima Prefecture, and the opening event of the Games was to have been a women’s softball match between Japan and Australia, also played in Fukushima. (Australia, along with Canada, announced it would boycott the Games, before the postponement announcement was made).

Wrote Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace International in early February, before the added coronavirus threat became apparent: “The route of the Olympic Torch relay in all the municipalities of Fukushima prefecture includes the districts of Iitate, Namie, and Okuma where Greenpeace Japan’s Nuclear Monitoring & Radiation Protection Team has discovered radioactive hotspots, both in the open areas as well as in the remaining radiation exclusion zones, that remain too high even by revised governmental standards.”

Burnie was featured in an HBO documentary on the topic in January.

hhlkmlkNo one will be flying to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but the Games are still scheduled in radiologically contaminated Japan for 2021.

 

The refusal to cancel the Games because of the radiation risks prompted a group in Japan called Citizens’ Group for Appealing against Danger of Tokyo Olympics, to produce a book warning against going forward. What Endangers Tokyo Olympics — Clear and Present Radioactivity and Health Damage, details a host of reasons to have called off the event long before the cancelation was forced on the Japanese government by the covid-19 pandemic. (The book is in Japanese but there is an introductory summary in English.)

The book is edited by Etsuji Watanabe, a member of ACSIR (Association for Citizens and Scientists Concerned about Internal Radiation Exposure) who also relates that activists opposing the Olympics have faced harassment by police.

The book urges athletes, visitors and spectators planning to attend the Tokyo Olympics not to trust any Japanese government propaganda “claiming that Fukushima and Tokyo ‘are 100% safe now’, ‘have no risk of radiation exposure’, or ‘radiation exposure won’t cause any health effects’.”

The authors ask that people “recognize the real risks of radiation exposure from visiting the Fukushima and Kanto regions including Tokyo, even for short stays, and to reconsider their plans of attending the Tokyo Olympics by applying the precautionary principle.”

hhlkjmlkùThings are by no means all cleaned up and back to normal in Fukushima.

 

The authors hoped that by drawing attention to these risks, many people, especially the international community, would start to pay attention to the heartless actions of the Japanese government who are masking the termination of all financial support for Fukushima evacuees behind a large scale mass-media propaganda smokescreen. The financially forced return of Fukushima evacuees to still contaminated areas where they face radiation exposures as high as 20mSv/ year is, the authors say, tantamount to ”a crime against humanity”.

And they add: “Based on the Japanese government risk factors, though greatly underestimated, the early-death rate for returnees in lifetime is estimated at 5-15%.”

The coronavirus death rate is about 4% world average, some lower, some higher,” observed Beyond Nuclear’s radiation and health specialist, Cindy Folkers. “Compare that to the 5-15% death rate Japan is demanding its citizens endure.”

Despite this, Japanese authorities and others have routinely downplayed the risks of radiation exposure, never wavering from their claim that the levels are “low”. But beyond the persistent radiological contamination, there is the additional risk of exposure to errant “hot particles” — such as those detailed in Folkers’s earlier story on Beyond Nuclear International.

These could, Watanabe says, “entail so serious a biological danger or 4,500 times that of the external exposure, that only one small particle, say with 1Bq in each, breathed and deposited in one’s lung, could cause a lifetime threat to one’s health.”

It is now even emerging that authorities covered up Japan’s own covid-19 epidemic in an effort to keep the Olympic Games on track. This has effectively sacrificed yet more innocent lives in the name of secrecy and reputation.

These ever-present dangers — far worse of course for the permanent residents of Japan than the temporarily visiting Olympic fans and competitors — were never enough to prompt any kind of rethink from any country about sending their athletes or spectators to the Tokyo Olympics. 

Now the coronavirus has given activists one more year to organize around stopping the Tokyo Games altogether.

https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2020/04/05/the-wrong-crisis-stopped-the-olympics/#like-7820

 

 

April 6, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

New problem at Fukushima site; sandbags found to be radioactive

jmùmùùSandbags sunk in the basement of a high-temperature incinerator building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant shortly after the 2011 nuclear crisis flared

 

March 31, 2020

Sandbags placed as an emergency measure to lower radiation levels of contaminated water in the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear disaster now turn out to be so highly radioactive they pose an obstacle to the decommissioning of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

A recent survey showed that the materials are in such a hazardous state that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. is having to postpone its program to discharge the contaminated water.

The sandbags should be removed, but that will not be so simple,” said an official of the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

TEPCO is struggling to find ways to safely remove 26 tons of sandbags in the basements of two buildings near the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors, where a triple meltdown occurred. They were packed with a mineral called zeolite to absorb radioactive cesium.

They are emitting radiation levels of up to 3 to 4 sieverts per hour, which would kill half of the people exposed to the high reading for an entire hour.

Soon after the nuclear crisis began to unfold, TEPCO used the two buildings as substitutes for tanks to temporarily store a huge volume of heavily contaminated water produced on the plant site.

In doing so, the zeolite-packed sandbags were installed on the floors of the buildings’ basements to absorb radioactive substances in the water.

Interest in the sunken sandbags waned as the years passed, but the issue surfaced again in December 2018 when TEPCO measured radiation levels in the two buildings’ basements in preparation for removing radioactive water there.

Significantly high radiation levels were detected just above the floors.

A zeolite sample collected from the sandbags recorded a cesium concentration of about 130 million becquerels per gram.

TEPCO has been forced to delay the water removal procedure at the two buildings to fiscal 2023 or later. It initially planned to finish the process by 2020. If it doesn’t have countermeasures in place when the water is released, the highly radioactive sandbags will be exposed to air.

TEPCO is now weighing ways to safely dispose of the contaminated materials. One idea is to suck up the zeolite from floors above ground and store it in other receptacles, and the other is to pack the material in different containers in water for temporary storage.

But officials acknowledge that those measures will not eliminate all safety risks.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13228942?fbclid=IwAR2RbS-u0J2gHvhVpUEwKkU9M93X6cyioDvmXrnmA6A_3_taYijWsbHgzRs

April 6, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics: New dates confirmed for 2021

_111474685_gettyimages-1208605047Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori (centre, at table) made the announcement at a news conference on Monday

 

30 March 2020

The Tokyo Olympic Games will start on 23 July, 2021 and run to 8 August after being postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) executive board met on Monday to make the decision.

The Olympics will still be called Tokyo 2020 despite taking place in 2021.

The Paralympic Games, originally due to start on 24 August, 2020, will now take place between 24 August and 5 September, 2021.

IOC president Thomas Bach said: “I am confident that, working together with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Government and all our stakeholders, we can master this unprecedented challenge.

“Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons added: “When the Paralympic Games do take place in Tokyo next year, they will be an extra-special display of humanity uniting as one, a global celebration of human resilience and a sensational showcase of sport.

“With the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games 512 days away, the priority for all those involved in the Paralympic movement must be to focus on staying safe with their friends and family during this unprecedented and difficult time.”

If that is moved back exactly a year it would clash with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham which is set to take place between 27 July and 7 August.

“We support the new 2021 dates for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. This gives our athletes the time they need to get back into training and competition,” World Athletics said in a statement.

“Everyone needs to be flexible and compromise and to that end we are now working with the organisers of the World Athletics Championships in Oregon on new dates in 2022.

“We are also in discussions with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and the European Championships.”

Chief executive of the CGC David Grevemberg said his organisation is “fully committed to hosting a successful Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, during 2022”.

He added: “Over the coming days, we will continue to work collaboratively with our international federation partners to ensure the XXII Commonwealth Games maintains its position and stature on the global sporting calendar.”

Olympic organisers hope the delay will allow sufficient time to finish the qualification process which will follow the same mitigation measures planned for 2020.

It has previously been confirmed that all athletes already qualified and quota places already assigned will remain unchanged.

Purchased tickets would be valid for rescheduled events or a refund could be requested when the new dates were set, organisers previously confirmed.

On 24 March, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said the Games would be held in their “complete form” and no later than summer 2021.

Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Yoshiro Mori said he had proposed the 23 July to 8 August timeframe to the IOC, and that Bach had agreed, following consultations with the international sports federations.

“A certain amount of time is required for the selection and qualification of athletes and for their training and preparation, and the consensus was that staging the rescheduled Games during the summer vacation in Japan would be preferable,” Mori said.

“In terms of transport, arranging volunteers and the provision of tickets for those in Japan and overseas, as well as allowing for the Covid-19 situation, we think that it would be better to reschedule the Games to one year later than planned, in the summer of 2021.”

It is the first time in the Olympic Games’ 124-year modern history that they have been delayed, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916 because of World War One and again in 1940 and 1944 for World War Two. Cold War boycotts affected the summer Games in Moscow and Los Angeles in 1980 and 1984 respectively.

BPA “praises speed” of decision

The British Paralympic Association (BPA) has “praised the speed” with which the Tokyo 2020 Games have been rescheduled and hopes it will give athletes the “certainty they need to refocus on achieving their goals”.

Mike Sharrock, chief executive of the BPA, said: “”We recognise many challenges still lie ahead in the battle with the global Covid-19 pandemic and athletes will not be able to return to their training schedules for some time yet.

“The clear priority now is stemming this public health crisis and ensuring people follow the Government advice to stay safe and well.”

Sharrock added he believes Tokyo 2020 “has the potential to be the biggest and best Paralympics in history”.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/amp/olympics/52091224?__twitter_impression=true&fbclid=IwAR3S3H025anfAA1-br0-j33e3w8kmdSWEJP8hOjGDDtQ3s8yckRjM7EFZK8

 

April 6, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Study: Cesium levels in fish in Fukushima lakes, rivers differ

hklmThe Otagawa river, which runs through Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, and elsewhere, was surveyed for cesium levels in fish following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. (Provided by the National Institute for Environmental Studies)

 

March 27, 2020

A team of scientists discovered that radioactive cesium released from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accumulates in freshwater fish differently in lakes and rivers.

How easily cesium is taken into bodies is determined by what the fish consume in lakes, although factors associated with water quality–such as the ratio of mud particles–are more important for those inhabiting rivers, according to the researchers.

The findings are expected to help predict the cesium concentration in aquatic creatures more accurately even when all of them are not examined individually, the researchers from the National Institute for Environmental Studies said.

The discovery could be used for estimating how the cesium level has lessened in each fish species,” said Yumiko Ishii, a senior researcher at the institution’s Fukushima Branch.

Higher radioactive cesium levels are reported in freshwater fish than those in the ocean in regions contaminated by the nuclear accident that started to unfold at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant in March 2011 following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

While cesium remains mainly in the flesh, how the substance is ingested differs greatly depending on the species, habitat and other elements.

Sweetfish, char, landlocked salmon, carp and other species are still banned from shipping in certain areas, even nine years after the nuclear accident.

The research team studied how cesium accumulated in different species in areas of Fukushima Prefecture, targeting 30 kinds of fish in lakes Hayamako, Inawashiroko and Akimotoko as well as the Udagawa, Manogawa, Niidagawa, Otagawa and Abukumagawa rivers two to four years after the accident.

The results revealed that cesium levels could change in lakes if the fish consume differing foods. Higher readings were measured for landlocked salmon, char and other creatures preying on small fish, likely because cesium becomes concentrated in their bodies by eating tiny creatures.

On the other hand, the kinds of food they consume do not affect the cesium concentration in fish species living in rivers.

The findings showed cesium accumulates more easily when the water contains a smaller amount of tiny mud particles and carcasses of living creatures. The higher the ratio of those particles, the lower the cesium level becomes.

The researchers said the reason is apparently that cesium in water is absorbed into those particles, making it difficult for cesium to remain in the fish bodies as the substance is discharged in the particles through feces.

Meanwhile, higher cesium levels were detected for larger species both in lakes and rivers.

The discovery has been published in the international magazine Journal of Environmental Radioactivity at: (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0265931X1830715X).

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13188720?fbclid=IwAR2fFLnJup-lrp-uzD6XA9_iXMs5zc1wFj5kN4Ugk-o1GM0hAqxuAGWb9yo

 

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo 2020 Olympics postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus

Those 2020 Tokyo Olympics should never take place, if not a gigantic PR operation by PM Abe and its government in their efforts to whitewash and normalize the ongoing Fukushima disaster in the eyes of the whole world…

 

tepco_2020_olympicsBye-bye Tokyo 2020 radioactive-coronovirus Olympics

 

Report: Tokyo 2020 Olympics postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus

International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound tells USA Today “the Games are not going to start on July 24.”

March 23, 202

Huge numbers of sporting events have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. And now it looks like the granddaddy of global sporting events, the Tokyo Olympic Games, set for this summer, will join them. On Monday, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA Today the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be postponed, likely to 2021.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound told USA Today. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.” Details are yet to be worked out, the newspaper reported.

When asked if Pound was speaking officially for the IOC, the organization replied only that, “It is the right of every IOC member to interpret the decision of the IOC EB which was announced yesterday.”  The decision referred to is the IOC announcement that it will study different scenarios regarding the future of the 2020 Games. That statement goes on to say the group will finalize discussions within four weeks, and that cancelation is “not on the agenda.”

While the Olympics have been canceled in the past, for World War I and World War II, they have never been postponed to a different year.

Also on Monday, Reuters reported that Japan Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita said he was considering postponement, reflecting the most recent comments from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. US President Donald Trump tweeted that he will back whatever decision Abe makes: “We will be guided by the wishes of Prime Minister Abe of Japan.”

Even if the event were to take place as scheduled, Canadian and Australian athletes wouldn’t compete. On March 22, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee announced that their teams won’t head to Tokyo and urged that competition be postponed for one year. The Australian Olympic Committee’s executive board also unanimously agreed not to send a team and encouraged athletes to instead prepare for a summer 2021 event.

And on March 20, USA Swimming, the national governing body for competitive swimming, sent a letter to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee urging the group to postpone the Summer Games to 2021.

The virus came close to the Olympics on March 19, when it was announced that Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori, 82, attended a March 10 meeting with Kozo Tashima, the deputy head of the Japanese Olympic Committee who later tested positive for coronavirus. Mori has no symptoms and hasn’t been tested. The men were seated about 10 meters (about 32 feet) apart.

The Olympics are huge, both in numbers of people involved, and in billions of dollars spent. More than 11,000 athletes from 206 nations are hoping to compete in 339 events. Many thousands more are planning to work in some part of the games, from food and souvenir vendors to hotel clerks to trainers and coaches. NBC had been set to broadcast the games in the US, even offering a dedicated streaming Olympics package for those who want to watch as much as possible, with no ads. And as evidenced by the fact that tickets sold out last July, thousands more were planning to watch the events, whether traveling from across town or across the planet.

The 1916 Summer Games were canceled due to World War I. The 1940 and 1944 Games, both winter and summer, were canceled due to World War II. (Japan was the country affected back then, too — the 1940 Games were set for Tokyo and Sapporo.) Other games have been affected by boycotts. By contrast, in 2016, the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, played out as scheduled despite scientists’ warnings about the Zika virus.

The next Olympics after Tokyo are the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, followed by the 2024 Paris Summer Games, and then the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina, Italy.

https://www.cnet.com/news/report-tokyo-2020-olympics-postponed-to-2021-due-to-coronavirus/?fbclid=IwAR30Cwk5A9Fux51OlK_jSJlS538PNHWQeDd8COtCtVZfvCmSQ4v5XHT0l4A#ftag=COS-05-10aaa0i

 

PM Abe says Tokyo Olympics cannot be held under current circumstances

March 23, 202

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday this summer’s Tokyo Olympics cannot be held under current circumstances due to the new coronavirus pandemic, suggesting for the first time that the games may have to be postponed.

“If I’m asked whether we can hold the Olympics at this point in time, I would have to say that the world is not in such a condition,” Abe told a parliamentary session, adding he hopes to hold talks with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach over the issue.

“It’s important that not only our country but also all the other participating countries can take part in the games fully prepared,” Abe said.

The premier’s comments came a day after the IOC said it will study alternative plans for the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to open on July 24, amid the global outbreak, and make an assessment within the next four weeks.

The Japanese government will soon tell the IOC it will accept a postponement if the organization decides on it as a precaution against the coronavirus, a source familiar with the plan said.

Tokyo Olympic organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori said he supports the IOC’s decision to review existing plans, adding representatives from Japan and the IOC will hold discussions to examine possible scenarios closely.

“Japan is in a critical state, and the situations in the United States and Europe have been abnormal,” Mori said. “We are not so foolish as to say we will do it under our first (plan).”

Abe, who has previously said he aims to hold the major sporting event in its “complete form,” told the parliamentary session, “If it is difficult to hold the games in such a way, we have to decide to postpone it, giving top priority to (the health of the) athletes.”

“Although the IOC will make the final decision (on the matter), we are of the same view that cancellation is not an option,” Abe said while vowing to work closely with the IOC and the Tokyo metropolitan government.

The IOC on Sunday officially admitted the possibility of pushing back the quadrennial event, saying it will examine various scenarios, adding that it will finalize discussions “within the next four weeks.”

“These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the games,” the IOC said in a statement.

Speaking at a press conference, organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said reviewing the possibilities, including postponement, is “not easy” and the organizers are open to “all options.”

Mori said some of the challenges organizers will face in terms of postponement include handling the costs of delaying and the availability of venues.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters, “(The IOC) clearly stated that cancellation will not happen, and I am glad to share that view.”

“There are lots of issues, but I would like to discuss possible scenarios over the next four weeks with the IOC and the organizing committee,” she said. “The Tokyo Games now have another goal, to defeat the novel coronavirus.”

Mori said local organizers will decide in the coming days whether to go ahead with the opening of the domestic leg of the torch relay in Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday, as developments surrounding the pandemic have been changing rapidly.

Mori added that Bach told him that the Japanese organizers have the authority to make decisions about the domestic leg of the torch relay.

Members of the organizing committee revealed Monday they may drastically reduce the scale of the torch relay, including canceling the participation of members of the public.

Under modified plans, the Olympic flame may be carried by car in the initial stages of the relay.

Muto and Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto each said Monday the relay will proceed as planned for the moment.

Mori also revealed that Abe is now reluctant to attend the kick-off ceremony since the Japanese government has been requesting people refrain from holding large events to prevent the spread of the virus.

Olympic torchbearers in Japan expressed concerns over the IOC’s new direction.

“Both runners and spectators of the relay would be half-hearted. I wonder whether they will let us run again if (the sporting event) is postponed,” said 66-year-old Yumiko Nishimoto, who is scheduled to run in Fukushima on Thursday as one of the 10,000 torchbearers in Japan.

The 121-day Japanese leg is scheduled to kick off at the J-Village soccer training center, which served as a frontline base of operations to battle the 2011 nuclear crisis caused by the March 11 quake-tsunami disaster that year.

A decision on postponement “should be made before the torch relay starts,” Nishimoto said. “I have mixed feelings as I feel that we are being messed around.”

The global coronavirus pandemic has cast a cloud over the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics from July 24 to Aug. 9 and the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sep. 6. In recent days, national Olympic committees in Brazil, Norway and the Netherlands have called for postponements.

Japanese government officials have repeatedly said preparations are under way for the games to go ahead as scheduled, and the flame for the Olympics arrived on Friday in Japan.

During a videoconference with other leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations earlier in the month, Abe secured support for holding “complete” games, meaning they should be held with spectators and without any downsizing.

“I think U.S. President (Donald) Trump and other G-7 leaders will support my decision,” Abe said in the parliamentary session.


https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/03/c6332013fc1d-urgent-abe-hints-at-possibility-of-postponing-tokyo-olympics.html

 

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Thousands flock to see Olympic flame in Japan despite COVID-19 fears

If you want a definition of denial, this is it. “More than 50,000 people on Saturday (Mar 21) queued to watch the flame displayed at Sendai station in Miyagi, chosen as part of the “Recovery Olympics” to showcase the region’s revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.” Yes, this despite covid-19, and despite the fact that, incredibly, the Abe government is only “considering” not holding the Olympics, a decision that should have been taken months before the outbreak, given the level of radiological contamination in some regions, lingering on long after the March 2011 nuclear disaster. 

 

ghjlklmlTens of thousands queued at Sendai station to see the Olympic flame

 

March 22, 2020

SENDAI: Tens of thousands of people flocked to a cauldron with the Olympic flame in northeastern Japan over the weekend despite concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flame arrived in Japan to a scaled-down welcoming ceremony on Friday as doubts grew over whether the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will go ahead on schedule as the deadly virus causes chaos around the world.

The pandemic has already shredded the global sports calendar, with top sports leagues suspended and major tournaments postponed.

More than 50,000 people on Saturday (Mar 21) queued to watch the flame displayed at Sendai station in Miyagi, chosen as part of the “Recovery Olympics” to showcase the region’s revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

Some had to stay in a 500m queue for several hours, local media said.

Many of them wore masks as they took pictures with the cherry blossom-shaped cauldron.

“I queued for three hours but watching the Olympic flame was greatly encouraging,” a 70-year-old woman told public broadcaster NHK.

 

jkjmmùOrganisers are under pressure to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Games because of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

But organisers, concerned about the bigger-than-expected gathering, have warned the viewing event could be suspended if a crowd becomes “extremely dense”, local media reported.

The nationwide torch relay begins on Mar 26, starting from the J-Village sports complex in Fukushima that was used as a base for workers during the 2011 nuclear disaster.

But organisers have been forced to scale back the relay, closing daily ceremonies to the public and urging spectators to “avoid forming crowds” along the route.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/olympics-flame-covid-19-crowds-tokyo-2020-japan-12564712?fbclid=IwAR1AOdgsAiK0W_gqaJ6CWMQqRCJnxrtLNM9WCTTF0zLWYvpsywDi1NBRJ4M

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

IOC must face coronavirus reality and postpone 2020 Olympics

ghgkjllNew York Post back page

 

March 22, 2020

We are all, all of us, going through various stages of denial where sports are concerned. We are entering Week 3 of our games-free world and we are all here to report that the sun still comes up every morning, it still sets every evening, and every single time they replay the Duke-Kentucky game from 1992, Rick Pitino still doesn’t guard the inbounds pass.

(Perhaps he was distracted by the Iona job 28 years in his future.)

There is a part of us, all of us, that has to beat down the delusional optimist lurking inside. Logically, we know that it’ll be awhile before we see a live sporting event, but even as we start to dream of ordering $12 Heinekens at a ballpark, we turn on the television and there is Gov. Cuomo, saying plainly of COVID-19: “It’s going to work its way through society. But it’s going to be four months, six months, nine months. We’re in that range. Nobody has a crystal ball, no one can tell you.”

Four months. Six months. Nine months.

It’s hard for that potential reality to sink in.

It’s exponentially more fun to see Bill James, the godfather of modern baseball analysis, post on Twitter as he did this weekend: “Pick the day on which you think the major-league baseball season will begin. My pick: May 15.”

(Unless he meant May 15, 2021. That seems more reasonable.)

Of course James, like the rest of us, is a fan. We are allowed our spasms of optimism, even when that bleeds into delusion. There is, after all, nothing rational about living and dying with a hockey team; why should there be anything rational about wanting to SEE a hockey game?

It’s different when you’re talking about the people who run things. We saw a lot of that two weeks ago, when the folks who run sports leagues and basketball tournaments and other such operations came to slow, deliberate and ultimately regret-filled (but proper) decisions to shut things down. The absurdity of that St. John’s-Creighton game going on for a half is something the Big East, specifically commissioner Val Ackerman, will have to answer to in time, when we hold public and private inquests on how all of this went down.

And now there is the International Olympic Committee, which should already have reached the sad conclusion that the upcoming Tokyo Games should be, at least, postponed a year. The U.S. swimming and track and field committees have already called for that. So has a growing number of nations.

Forget the dubious possibility that the world will feel properly scrubbed and sanitized by July 24, when the parade of nations and 11,000 athletes are scheduled to march into Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremonies. Let’s say the optimists among us prevail, and we start seeing live sports again sometime in late June or early July.

Even that makes the notion of an on-time start silly. Only 4,000 of those 11,000 athletes have properly qualified for the Games. The trials that would determine the competitors have largely been postponed already, or are certain to be. Travel restrictions are fluid, at best. The Olympics, in optimal times, are a logistical quagmire; amid a global pandemic they would be catastrophic.

Yet the IOC reiterated Sunday that it will wait as long as four weeks before deciding what to do about the Games, with postponement until 2021 the likeliest alternative. And even that concession was only reached after the mounting pressures of local Olympic committees begging the IOC to do the right thing — but before the Canadian and Australian Olympic and Paralympic committees declared they simply won’t send contingents to Tokyo this year, in the strongest show of force — and common sense — yet.

Sometimes, the right thing is simply obvious. It is here. The Olympics, after all, have mostly known their place in world affairs. The 1916 Summer Games were canceled because of World War I, and both the summer and winter games of 1940 and ’44 were canceled due to World War II. The IOC should probably have halted the ’72 Games after terrorists bloodied the Munich Olympiad, but it has had to answer harsh questions about that for 48 years, and rightly so.

Now?

Look, this falls in line with everything else. Everything about our world stinks right now, from our daily small sacrifices (staying home, staying away from friends, honoring quarantines and social distance) to our greater concerns, the workers losing their jobs, the victims felled by this insipid virus, the heroic doctors and nurses and EMTs fighting it on the front lines.

We grapple with these things every day. We bargain in our brains how to cope. It stinks to go through that every day. But we do, all of us, every day. The IOC must do the same, and be quick about it, and smart about it.

Delusion in these times is neither a good strategy nor a good look.

https://nypost.com/2020/03/22/ioc-delusional-by-ignoring-2020-olympics-coronavirus-fate/?fbclid=IwAR1jQ95_ZwsulenegjwDFsMCSUXG5-GCHEWwh_Jg6RwTfCT65v1ejCn3MOU

 

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Nine years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster: back to normal towards a bright future?

Translated by Hervé Courtois

 

1

 

Episode 1: radioactivity, return to the abnormal

March 9, 2020

A look back at the ninth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster – following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. Today in Fukushima, the authorities are encouraging the return of refugees, without much success.

 

2The restaurant “Atom Sushi” in Tomioka, one year after the reopening of the village, has still not reopened.

 

The decontamination works will last more than 40 years but around the power plant, the exclusion zone is “only” 341 km², and the roads and villages formerly condemned are reopened one after the other by the authorities – anxious to a return to normal.

 

3Everywhere in the town of Fukushima, 80km from the power plant, they try to make people forget bad memories and make tourists coming back.

 

Except that villages like Iitate about fifty kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are still hopelessly empty.

 

4In the countryside near IItate, monitors are present everywhere in the landscape measuring radioactivity in microsieverts per hour.

 

How do we live there? The sociologist Cécile Asanuma-Brice, a researcher at the CNRS has been returning to the area every month for nine years. Ito-san travels the region with a Geiger counter and a shoulder strap dosimeter. Because as soon as we move away from the main axes, the future suddenly looks less bright.

 

5Nobuyoshi Ito returned to live in the previously evacuated area and collects data on environmental contamination

 

Episode 2: living with radioactivity

 

6Mr. Ito is always equipped with his dosimeter, to record the radioactivity accumulated in the reopened area.

 

Authorities are talking about a return to normal, and residents must get used to living with radioactivity. There are only two villages left in the 340 km² that are still too radioactive. Stations will be reopened in decontaminated pockets within these areas, but they will be fully automated to avoid irradiation of employees.

 

7Throughout the city of Fukushima, signs display the countdown of the days before the opening of the Olympic Games

 

And the Olympic flame will leave at the end of the month from the J village, about twenty kilometers from the power plant, and will even pass right by it – but according to a timed route to avoid too much exposure.
Everywhere they want to send the message that the page has been turned: “Forget the radiation, and think about the bright future of the Olympic Games”.

 

8

 

Except that to the rare refugees (no more than 20%) who returned to live in the reopened areas, it is something else that is been asked: to learn to live with radiation, on a daily basis.

 

9In the region, everywhere, radioactivity detectors are omnipresent, to reassure the population.

 

To get used to be living with a radioactivity detector. This is why the company Tepco, responsible for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, now speaks of “revitalizing” the area rather than about a return: it is because it had to be admitted that the original inhabitants would not return there.

 

10At Tepco’s headquarters in Tokyo, the company was nationalized after the disaster and announces 30 to 40 years of decontamination work.

 

Episode 3: Fukushima nine years later, it is impossible to turn the page

 

11On the Johoban highway that crosses the Fukushima area, an unbroken line of trucks transports radioactive waste to a disposal center. The soil measured at less than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram will be scattered everywhere.

 

March 11, 2020, 9 years to the day of the Fukushima disaster. And if the country has recovered from the magnitude 9.1 earthquake and tsunami that caused nearly 20,000 deaths, the area around the nuclear power plant is a wound that is far from being closed.

 

12Along the Tohoku coast, a tsunami-proof wall blocks the horizon

 

The radioactivity is still there and the evacuated residents still do not return. More than 44,000 refugees are still missing even though. Despite the radiation that will be there to last, the authorities want at all costs to use the Olympics this summer as an opportunity to turn the page on this regrettable incident. And that’s kind of the message that Tepco wants to give, when it opened a few months ago in Tomioka, a brand new information center, an interactive museum located 10km from the nuclear plant, to tell its version of the story. And necessarily, their version of the story is a little biased.

 

13In Tomioka, Tepco has just opened a museum to tell its side of the story and highlight all its efforts to revitalize the area.

 

No more than 20% of the evacuees returned to live near the plant, and almost exclusively elderly people like Ms. Kimiko. 9 years later, we are still far from the revitalization of Fukushima.

 

14Mrs. Kimiko returned to live in Tomioka 10km from the nuclear plant three years ago, she no longer recognizes her environment.

 

Episode 4: mothers of Fukushima

Nine years after the earthquake, the nuclear disaster is not over. Many are not content with orders to return to normal, given the abnormality of daily life around Fukushima – punctuated by radioactivity measures and prohibited areas. And even outside this perimeter, many associations mainly led by women and mothers, act daily for more transparency.

 

15Kaoru Konta is a medical doctor, she detects thyroid cancer.

 

For example, the MamaBecq, with a “Becq” like Becquerel, who inspect schoolyards with their Geiger counters. Or the Happy Island association, which organizes free screening for thyroid cancer in children. Happy Island is a funny name for such association, but you know how to say “happy island” in Japanese? “Fukushima”.

 

16Marie Suzuki is president of the association “Happy Island”

 

https://www.franceinter.fr/environnement/neuf-ans-apres-la-catastrophe-nucleaire-de-fukushima-retour-a-la-normale-vers-un-avenir-radieux?fbclid=IwAR3bm-4JHogTKj5a9ECW8en4e7X1g2WK4fsVlHo5F5N2o7IlcZOAlZvlIsQ

 

 

 

 

March 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Radioactivity on the move 2020: Recontamination and weather-related effects in Fukushima

ghjkl;m

9 March 2020

Tokyo, Japan – Greenpeace Japan’s latest extensive radiation survey

has found evidence of recontamination caused by 2019’s Typhoon 19 (Hagibis) and Typhoon 21 (Bualoi), which released radioactive caesium from the forested mountains of Fukushima Prefecture. 

The survey, which was conducted over three weeks in October and November of 2019, observed concentrated radiation levels throughout Fukushima Prefecture. These localised areas were where radioactivity was observed at higher levels than in previous years, as well as a reduction in levels in some areas, and recontamination elsewhere. 

The survey identified high-level hotspots throughout Fukushima Prefecture, including in Fukushima City. This ongoing and complex radiological emergency in parts of Fukushima Prefecture runs directly counter to the narrative of the Japanese government which continues to push its propaganda of normalization in Fukushima and the effectiveness of its massive decontamination program.

Typhoons no. 19 & 21 deposited large volumes of rain across Japan, including in Fukushima Prefecture. In recent years, scientists have been reporting the effect of heavy rainfall leading to increased migration of radioactivity from mountainous forests through the river systems. 

The results of our 2019 radiation survey demonstrate the complex and persistent nature of radionuclide mobilization and recontamination in areas of Fukushima Prefecture. The mountainous forest regions of Fukushima prefecture, which have never been decontaminated, will continue to be long-term sources of recontamination. The findings from our recent radiation survey definitively disprove the myth of a ‘return to normal’ in parts of Fukushima.” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Japan.

The main findings of the Greenpeace Japan investigation include:

  • Hotspots measured in all areas surveyed; including Okuma, Naraha (J-Village), as well in Fukushima City.
  • Significant variations in radiation levels from previous years in certain zones that cannot be explained by radioactive decay. 
  • Likely remobilization of radioactivity in the soil and weather-related effects resulting from heavy rainfall was also identified in the reopened area of Iitate, with significant changes in radiation levels comparing across the five year period for which we have data.
  • Along the Takase river in the newly reopened area of Namie, and where the government claims it is safe to live, 99% of radiation levels averaged 0.8 μSv/h with a maximum of 1.7 μSv/h, with 99% exceeded the government’s long-term decontamination target of 0.23 μSv/h measured at 1 meter and were twenty (20) times higher than pre-2011 levels.
  • In a period of four hours, the survey team identified forty-six (46) hot spots in the around Fukushima City central station, eleven of which equaled or exceeded the Japanese government decontamination long term target of 0.23 μSv/h measured at 1 meter; including observed levels of radiation that 137 times higher than the background radiation levels measured in the Fukushima environment prior to the 2011 nuclear disaster. 
  • In an area close to a former school and kindergarten in the reopened area of Namie, annual dose rates would be between 10-20 mSv based on the Japanese government methodology and between 17-33 mSv based on sustained exposure over a full year; which are between 10 and 33 times above the international recommended maximum exposure for the public.
  • Near the new town hall in the newly reopened area of Okuma, and within a few hundred meters of the planned Olympic torch route, radiation hotspots were measured to be of 1.5 µSv/h at 1 meter and 2.5 µSv/h at 10cm (62 times above the background levels of 0.04 µSv/h before the nuclear accident in March 2011).
  • The evidence from earlier typhoons and resulting data strongly suggest that there was a substantial increase in downstream contamination from October 2019. Greenpeace intends to return later this year to further investigate and substantiate the hypothesis of major weathering effects in Fukushima.

The radiation hotspots we found in public areas along the pavements and streets of central Fukushima City, including tens of meters from the entrance to the Shinkansen train line to Tokyo, highlight the ongoing scale of the nuclear disaster in 2011. The hotspots we found are at a level that they would require a special license to be transported and in the category of Dangerous Goods. The government is using the Olympics as a platform to communicate the myth that everything has returned to normal in Fukushima. They falsely claim that radiation has either been decontaminated or is under control. Our radiation survey clearly shows that the government propaganda is not true.” said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist of Greenpeace Germany.

Mizue Kanno, a resident of Namie who cooperated on the Greenpeace radiation survey said, “I hope the world knows the real situation in Fukushima. Radioactivity is washing down from the mountains due to heavy rain and flowing into the decontaminated areas. The radiation levels found around my house are higher than ever before. Once a nuclear accident happens, it looks like this, and soon we are going to have the Olympics and pretend that everything is okay. It’s not. ”

ENDS

Notes:

Full report in English, here


Photos and videos, here

https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/29250/radioactivity-on-the-move-2020/

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | 1 Comment

The price of staying

akemi-shima-slider

March 9, 2020

Evacuation was not mandatory for these now suffering Fukushima victims

By Akemi Shima

This is a statement of opinion that I,  a resident of the city of Date, Fukushima Prefecture, presented to the Tokyo Regional Court as part of an on-going lawsuit.

We had the desire to raise our children in an environment close to nature and enriching. That’s why we moved from Fukushima City to buy land in the town of Date, where we currently live, to build a house. Loan repayments were heavy but, we lived simply and we were happy.

Eight years after the construction of our house, on March 11, 2011 the accident of the power plant occurred, and our family life was turned upside down. My husband and I were 42 years old, my son was in elementary school 4th grade (12 years old) and my daughter was in elementary school 3rd grade (10 years old).

At that time, I had no knowledge about nuclear or radioactive substances. If I had had some knowledge in this area, by running away from it we probably could have avoided being irradiated. I am burdened by this regret. Without any financial leeway, with my sick children and my parents who are here, I could not resolve myself to get away from Date.

From the 11th of March all life lines were cut and I had to go to the water stations where I took the children. To find food we had to walk outside sometimes soaked in the rain. After several days as we still had no water, we had to go to the town hall to use the toilet, where the water was not cut. It was then that I saw a group of people dressed in white protective suits entering the town hall. We thought that they were probably coming to help the victims of the tsunami. But now, I understand that the radioactive pollution was such that protections were necessary and we, without suspecting anything, were exposed.

It was the time for the graduation ceremonies at the elementary school and we went there on foot. I think the information we were given was false and because of that we were irradiated. At the time I was convinced that if we were really in any danger, the state would warn us. I later learned that the doses of radioactivity in the air after the accident were 27 to 32 μSv (micro sieverts) per hour. There was no instruction about any restriction to go outdoors. And that is extremely serious.

In June 2011, I went to the funeral of my husband’s grandmother. I took my children with me. On the way we noticed that the radiation level was very high and that inside the car the dosimeter showed in some places 1.5 micro-sievert per hour. The officials of that area had asked the nearby residents to not cause problems even if the radioactivity was high. From what I heard, the reconstruction vehicles had to be able to continue to use that road. Likewise, the Shinkansen bullet train and the Tohoku highway were not to be closed for these reasons. Despite a level that exceeded the allowable dose limits, instead of being alerted to the dangers, we were assured that we were safe.

The risk of this exposure was not communicated to us. In June 2011 my son had so many heavy nosebleeds that his sheets were all red. The children with the same symptoms were so numerous that we received a notice containing recommendations through the school’s “health letter”. During a medical examination at the school, my son was found to have a heart abnormality and had to be monitored by a holter. My son, who was 12 at the time of the accident, was also suffering from atopic dermatitis. During the school spring break he had to be hospitalized after his symptoms worsened. Today we still cannot identify the symptoms that cause him to suffer.

One year after the accident, my daughter complained of pain in her right leg. In the hospital, an extra-osseous osteoma was diagnosed and she had to undergo bone excision the following year. In her first year of junior high school in the winter term, she could not get up in the morning. She had orthostatic dysfunction. In agreement with her we decided that she would go to school three times a week in a system with flexible hours.

My husband’s favorite hobby was fishing, but since the nuclear accident, it’s now out of question to go to the sea or to the river.

Before the accident, we were growing flowers in our garden and we also had a vegetable garden. In the summer, we had family barbecues and we would put up a tent so the kids could sleep outside. Now it’s absolutely impossible.

 

date-map-2Date is about 60 kilometers from the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.

In this highly contaminated environment today, cell DNA would be severely damaged. In addition, the effects of exposure we have already experienced are indelible even if we move now. Whenever I think that children are particularly vulnerable to radiation, my heart is torn apart. As a parent, as an adult, it is heartbreaking and unbearable.

I am also concerned about the current situation of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. My daily routine is to watch out for natural disasters such as earthquakes and to check the condition of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Because today I will not hesitate to evacuate. I changed my job so I could get to my kids quickly if necessary. I had to give up a full time job and it is financially difficult, but the priority is to be able to leave quickly at any time. After verifying all sorts of information, I realized that the government’s announcements were different from reality.

Living in a radioactive environment requires you to be vigilant tirelessly, whether for shopping, eating, or drinking water, and evaluate the situation yourself to make choices. We had to make up our minds to accept an abnormal lifestyle so that we could continue to live on a daily basis.

Whatever I do, all pleasure has disappeared from my life. I discovered that there were some hotspots of more than 10 μSv per hour near my home on the way to my children’s school. I reported it to the town hall, but they did not do anything. The reason given is that there is no temporary storage to store it. I had to remove the contaminated soil myself and I stored it in my garden. The city of Date decided on its own decontamination policy and also introduced a standard of 5mSv per year at the end of 2011.

In my case I wanted to reduce the radioactive pollution as soon as possible and I decontaminated my garden myself. The city encouraged people to decontaminate on their own. I did it too. And that represented 144 bags. The following year I did again. The radioactive debris bags resulting from the decontamination until March 2014 remained in my garden for two years, and were then taken to the temporary storage area.

 

shima-gardenAkemi Shima had to decontaminate her own radioactive garden.

But since then, the other decontamination bags have not been accepted and are still in my garden. So we do not want to go there anymore. The contamination of our carport amounted to 520 000 Bq (becquerels) 5 years ago, with 5 μSv / h, but it did not fit the criteria required for cleaning. Decontamination only includes the ground around the home, but the roof and the gutters are not supported. As a result, we can not leave our Velux windows open.

Claiming to be concerned about the health of the inhabitants, the town of Date provided all residents with dosimeters. We were then invited to undergo examinations, during which our data was collected. Without the authorization of the residents, this data has been entrusted to external researchers who have written reports. These reports have been prepared on the basis of personal information obtained illegally, and furthermore falsification of the data is suspected.

Based on inaccurate data the report concluded that even at doses of 0.6 to 1 μSv / h per hour in the air, the individual dose received would be less than 1 mSv (millisievert) per year and therefore it was not necessary to decontaminate. This is an underestimation of exposure, and clearly a violation of human rights against the population. This case is still ongoing.

In this same region, leukaemias and rare cancers of the bile ducts are appearing. I cannot help thinking that before the accident it did not exist.

Even today, while the state of nuclear emergency is still official, this abnormal situation has become our daily life. I fear that the “reconstruction” advocated by the state, violates the fundamental rights of residents and that this unacceptable life is now considered normal. Our lives are at a standstill.

This suffering will continue. My deepest wish is that through this lawsuit, the responsibility of the State and Tepco that caused the accident be recognized.”

https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2020/03/09/the-price-of-staying/?fbclid=IwAR1wlw3RWVz9DZQLl6QAd5zo4q9U3oa2JoCk_KHE_eaa7SLPOt80Fwmd-bk

 

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment