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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

Wild Animals Prefer Nuclear Exclusion Zones to Humans

January 10

The Nuclear Disaster of Fukushima in 2011 was a devastating event, combined with the severe earthquakes and terrifying tsunamis, resulting in the deaths of over 2,000 people in Japan. However, there are now new signs of life within the area, as wild animals are beginning to obtain the land and are reported to be thriving significantly.

The Fukushima Nuclear accident naturally resulted in an exclusion zone being enforced due to the extremely high levels of radiation in the area. This event shares large similarities with the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in 1986, with the immediate and extended areas being entirely excluded to humans.

A further surprising link between the two accidents is the revival of natural wildlife to both surrounding areas of the nuclear accidents. In recent years, there have been numerous reports concerning land, within Chernobyl and Pripyat, of wild animals returning to settle down in the nuclear infested areas.

The University of Georgia have been able to conduct research, where they have collected an estimate of 260,000 images of wildlife living successfully inside the exclusion zone. Their studies conclude that more than 20 different species have been identified.

“Our results represent the first evidence that numerous species of wildlife are now abundant throughout the Fukushima Evacuation Zone, despite the presence of radiological contamination” said James Beasley, an associate professor at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University.

In addition, with the current suffering and loss of wild animals currently taking place on the other side of the globe in the Australian fires, where estimates suggest that one billion animals have lost their lives. It raises the question as to whether wild animals would prefer to be left to their own devices and enabled to thrive, without human interference. In this instance, the human contribution towards climate change is the leading culprit for the events in Australia.

https://www.euroweeklynews.com/2020/01/10/wild-animals-prefer-nuclear-exclusion-zones-to-humans/#.XhoJtCNCeUk

 

January 12, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | 1 Comment

Bee swarm affected by Fukushima radiation

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December 25, 2019
Splendid structure of a bee swarm from the village of Iitate
Bees : 2740 bq / kg
Inner swarm : 16 145 Bq / kg
Outer warm : 15 342 Bq / kg

蜂は2,470bq/Kg
(ハニカム部分)16,145bq/Kg
(外殻部分)15,342bq/Kg

 

Special credits to Cecile Brice & Nobuyoshi Itou

December 30, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Radiation levels in one Fukushima reactor high enough to kill a human in two minutes

serveimage

December 9, 2019

The radiation levels in ‘s unit two reactor are so high they could kill a human in two minutes, according to data collected by a robot.

Tokyo Electric Power, the company which operates the nuclear plant in Fukushima, carried out a robotic survey of the area around the core that melted six years ago, following the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the .

But the scorpion robot Sasori got stuck inside the reactor after its crawling functions failed while climbing over highly radioactive debris and had to be abandoned inside the reactor.

It recorded radiation measures in the area of 210 sieverts per hour, which are lethal enough to kill a human within two minutes.

This is not the first time a robot has become inoperable after entering the reactor.

During a previous survey, another robot designed to clean the debris for Sasori’s passage had to return halfway through when two of its cameras failed after being exposed for two hours to radiation and reaching its maximum tolerance of 1,000 sievert. Such an exposure to  can kill a human within seconds.

Despite the dangerously high levels of radiation, company officials said it was not leaking outside the reactor.

The high radiation and inadequate cleaning of the reactors could also limit the scope of future investigations and the company may have to develop more radiation-resistant cameras and equipment.

The probe was specially developed for surveying the interior of the crippled reactor and collect data that will assist in removing the melted fuel.

But the level of radiation and the presence of debris seem to have brought the decommissioning project to a standstill.

https://insiderfinancial.net/radiation-levels-in-one-fukushima-reactor-high-enough-to-kill-a-human-in-two-minutes.html

December 17, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

British shops to sell radioactive BABY FOOD and other produce from Fukushima under EU plan

BRITISH shops will sell radioactive food grown near the Fukushima nuclear disaster site from next month under controversial EU plans.
 
 
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Politicians are calling for the foods to be properly labelled
 
Nov 27, 2019
Brussels has forged a trade deal with Japan that removes controls over radioactivity levels on foods produced on the island following the 2011 nuclear disaster, The Telegraph reports. As a result, Britain will soon be selling goods from the disaster-hit area including baby food, breakfast cereals, fish crustaceans, meat and green tea. Current plans do not allow for the contaminated products to be labelled, meaning consumers will not be aware the food contains traces of radioactive substances.
In recent years scientists have found faint traces of the radioactive isotopes Caesium 137 and 134 in food grown near Fukushima.
But experts have deemed the food perfectly safe, with radiation levels being stringently monitored by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
Despite the reassurances the food is safe to eat, many have called for the produce to be labelled so shoppers can decide whether to purchase the goods.
Tory candidate Neil Parish, who chaired the environment, food and rural affairs committee from July 2017 – November 2019, said the UK needed to review the policy after Brexit.
He told the Telegraph: “We don’t need this trade. If the Japanese won’t eat this stuff, why should we?
“It may well be safe according to the scientists. But I think people have a right to know exactly what they are eating.
“All of these products should be clearly labelled.
“And I think one of the benefits of Brexit is that we’ll be able to look at this again in due course.”
French MEP Michèle Rivasi also opposes the plans and is set to raise a last minute objection to the lifting of controls at the European Parliament next week.
She said: “If controls are lifted we will have no way of gauging how much caesium is in your rice or your lobster.
“Contaminated goods will swamp the European marketplace from Birmingham to Biarritz.
“At the moment 100 Becquerels of radioactivity per kilo are permissible, even for cereals eaten by children.
 
 
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Foods produced in Fukushima will be sold in the EU
 
“For baby foods it is 50 Becquerels and should be zero.”
The EU deal means radiation inspection certificates will no longer be needed, except for certain fish products, mushrooms and wild vegetables.
In exchange, the EU will be allowed to sell to Japan limitless quantities of reduced tariff French champagne, foie gras, cognac, and wine.
Britain will be forced to replicate EU food regulations until December 2020, as the UK will still be governed by the Brexit transition period.
After this period, if the transition period is not extended, the UK Government will be free it set its own laws.
A spokesman from the Department of International Trade said: “Without exception, imports into the UK will meet our stringent food safety standards.”

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

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: will Fukushima rice and fruits be on the menu?

Japanese officials insist food from Fukushima is safe despite the 2011 nuclear disaster but China, South Korea and the US still restrict food imports from there
Producers are keen to serve local rice, fruits, beef and vegetables at the Olympic Village
 
01
An angler shows off a salmon caught in the Kido River in Naraha, Fukushima prefecture.
 
 
For years, Japan’s government has sought to convince consumers that food from Fukushima is safe despite the nuclear disaster. But will it serve the region’s produce at the Tokyo Olympics?
It’s a thorny subject for the authorities. They pitched the Games in part as a chance to showcase the recovery of areas affected by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.
Government officials tout strict checks on food from the region as evidence that the produce is completely safe, but it remains unclear whether athletes and sports teams from around the world will be convinced.
In the Fukushima region, producers are keen to see their products served at the Olympic Village and have submitted a bid to the organisers.
“The Fukushima region has put forward food from 187 producers and is second only to Hokkaido when it comes to meeting the specified criteria in terms of range of products,” said Shigeyuki Honma, assistant director general of the local government’s agriculture and forestry planning division.
“Fukushima wants to serve athletes its rice, its fruits, beef and vegetables. But the committee still has to decide.”
In the years since the nuclear disaster, when tsunami waves overwhelmed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, strict measures have been in place to screen all manner of local products. And officials say the figures speak for themselves.
Japan allows a maximum of 100 becquerels of caesium radioactivity per kilogram (Bq/kg). The European Union, by comparison, sets that level at 1,250 Bq/kg and the US at 1,200.
From April 2018 to March this year, 9.21 million bags of rice were examined, with not a single one exceeding the Japanese limit.
The same for 2,455 samples of fruit and vegetables, 4,336 pieces of meat and 6,187 ocean fish.
“Only river fish and wild mushrooms have on just six occasions been found to exceed the limits,” said Kenji Kusano, director of the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Centre, in Koriyama, the government’s main screening site.
But the figures have only gone some way to reassuring foreign officials: numerous countries including China, South Korea, and the United States maintain restrictions on the import of some or all produce from Fukushima.
02
Kenji Kusano, director of the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Centre, subjects fish to radiation tests.
 
South Korea, which is currently locked in a dispute with Japan over wartime issues, has been vocal about its concerns ahead of the Olympics, even raising the possibility of bringing in its own kitchen and food.
“We have requested the Olympic organisers to provide objective data verified by an independent third body,” the South Korean Sports and Olympic Committee said in a statement earlier this year.
“Since Japan repeatedly said its food from Fukushima is safe, we have demanded they provide statistics and data to back up their claims,” an official with the committee said.
The position underlines a long-running problem for Japan: while it points to its extensive, government-mandated checks as proof of safety, many abroad feel the government is not an objective arbiter.
 
03
In 2011, tsunami waves overwhelmed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
 
“Generally, Japanese citizens have faith in the government, and we haven’t felt the need to have checks carried out by independent parties,” Kusano said.
But lingering questions have left some officials feeling “perhaps [third-party checks] may be important from the point of view of foreigners,” he added.
The International Olympic Committee said it was still weighing how to handle the matter.
“Food menus and catering companies for the Olympic Village are under discussion and have yet to be defined,” a spokesman said.
The Tokyo 2020 organisers said promoting areas affected by the 2011 disaster remains a key goal.
04
Japanese pear farmer Tomio Kusano shows how he removed the tree skins after the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster at his farm in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture.
 
“Supporting the area’s reconstruction efforts through the sourcing of its food and beverage products is one of our basic strategies; we are therefore seriously considering doing this,” 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya said.
He said rules on what food and drink could be brought in independently by teams were still being reviewed. And, pointing to the strict standards of Japanese checks, he said the organisers “are confident the food we will serve to athletes will be completely safe”.
In Fukushima, producers can only wait and hope for the best.
 
Tomio Kusano, a pear farmer in Iwaki on the Fukushima coast, struggled enormously after the disaster.
“My world really collapsed, but I never thought for a second of quitting,” he said.
And his perseverance is finally paying off, he said.
“I don’t get subsidies any more. My pears are inspected and there are no problems. They are selling well again in Japan, and Vietnam has started to import them.”

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

Chefs to join Team South Korea in Tokyo Olympics

optimizePresident of Korean Sports and Olympic Committee Lee Kee-heung

November 5, 2019

Chefs and food ingredients will accompany the South Korean team and delegation traveling to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics next year. The chefs will prepare food for the South Koreans using homegrown ingredients for the duration of the Games.

Korean Sports and Olympic Committee (KSOC) President Lee Kee-heung, also a member of the International Olympic Committee, unveiled the measures to allay fears over food safety which were raised after Japan announced it would use food products from Fukushima, a region hit hard by a 2011 tsunami and an ensuing meltdown at the nuclear power plant there.

“The KSOC is planning to expand the meal station for Korean athletes during the games to address the food safety issue,” he wrote in a recent written interview with The Korea Times. “Korean food has superb nutritional value and we believe it will help the athletes perform at their best. We will also deliver lunch boxes to the stadiums so our athletes can focus on getting medals,” Lee said.

Earlier, the Japanese Olympic Committee said it would serve athletes food made using ingredients from Fukushima, a region in which water and soil are feared to remain contaminated with radioactivity following the meltdown. South Korea banned rice and vegetable imports from the region immediately after the incident.

The Tokyo Olympics is not the first international sports event where the KSOC has dispatched chefs to prepare meals for athletes. During the 2012 London Olympics, the KSOC sent chefs and nutritionists from the national training center to cook for Korean athletes and staff who craved food from home.

Food safety is among other touchy issues at the Olympics.

The “Rising Sun” flag, a symbol for many in Asia of Japanese colonialism, is another pre-Olympics issue that some South Koreans find concerning. The issue has been raised by Seoul since September after relations with Japan deteriorated following it imposing trade restrictions on certain exports to Korea. In response, Japan said use of the flag does not violate the Japanese Constitution.

Lee said the KSOC has been working to make an Asian alliance to push Japan to not fly it.

“During the 24th Association of the National Olympic Committee (ANOC) General Assembly in Qatar earlier this year, I met with other Asian state representatives and discussed ways to address the issue together. On this issue, our effort to change Japan’s policy will continue and with the support of the government,” he said. ANOC has an annual meeting, and this year’s congress took place in Doha.

Joint Korea team

Lee said he was cautiously optimistic about fielding a joint team between the two Koreas for the Tokyo Olympics, saying the KSOC has continued to talk with the North.

However, another high-level official, who didn’t want to disclose his name because of the sensitivity of the issue, said a joint team may be a distant dream. “Considering what’s going on in inter-Korean relations, it’s difficult to move on a joint team,” he said. He had taken part in negotiations with the North in the past.

A joint team for the 2020 Olympics was agreed in November 2018 at inter-Korean talks held in Gaesong in the North. That year, President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held three summits.

The governments of the two Koreas agreed to form unified teams in female basketball, female hockey, judo and rowing. “The IOC approved this under one condition ― that is the unified teams would start from qualifying matches,” the anonymous official said.

For all sports but basketball, qualifying matches are already underway. “Basketball qualifying matches will begin at the end of the year. Yet, if things go the way it goes now, unifying a basketball team will be out of the question,” he said. But, he added hopes remain in judo. “In judo, individual athletes compete for qualification. We can consider making a joint team with qualified athletes.”

However, the political situation will hold full sway over the joint team and the current circumstances are not very promising.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered the removal of all South Korean-built facilities at Mount Geumgang, including a hotel. North Korea’s aggressive treatment of South Korean football players during their World Cup qualifying game also cast a shadow on the prospects for a joint team.

Despite this, there is still hope for a possible peace gesture during the Olympics.

The official said a joint march at the opening ceremony could still happen. “This has been done several times now, so we could continue to do it.”

North and South Korean athletes have marched together at international sports events 11 times so far. The most recent being the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea ― the Koreas also fielded a joint women’s ice hockey team.

In addition to creating the joint team, the two Koreas also agreed to submit a joint bid to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics, and President Lee said they have a very good chance.

“The Korean Peninsula can be a symbol of peace which will be something we can take advantage of in our campaign for the Olympics,” Lee said, noting that South Korea will host the next ANOC General Assembly. “This will be also a good opportunity to show the sports community that the Koreas are qualified to host the Olympics.”

As an IOC member representing Korea, Lee is at the center of sports diplomacy.

“Now, Korea has two IOC representatives, which has elevated its standing in global sports.” Korea’s sports diplomacy had its heyday in the 2000s when it had three IOC representatives, but in 2017, the number went down to one, raising concern that its standing had weakened.”

Lee viewed the PyeongChang Winter Olympics as demonstrating Korea’s success in sports diplomacy. “This helped Korea get two IOC representatives.”

100th National Sports Festival

With regard to the centennial of the National Sports Festival, Lee said he was saddened by the decreasing public interest. “It will be my job to revamp the festival so that it will recover its lost popularity with bigger public interest and participation.”

The festival started out as an act of resistance to colonial Japan in 1920. In the first year, only baseball was played but other sports were added over the century. This year saw 47 sports including trials of two new ones.

Over the century, the festival served as an incubator for world-class athletes. Figure-skater Kim Yu-na competed in the festival as did Swimmer Park Tae-hwan. The festival has also contributed to developing the infrastructure for Korean sports.

Born in 1955, Lee’s background has been in business, not sports. His first step into the world of sports was with the Federation of the Modern Pentathlon where he served as vice president in 2000. Between 2004 and 2009, he was the president of the Korea Canoe Federation, followed by the Korea Swimming Federation between 2010 and 2016..

He headed the athlete’s team in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou in China and 2012 London Summer Olympics.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/sports/2019/11/663_277969.html?fbclid=IwAR3ix0GrN24HHf7-EtLYzv2xjqBqrdyA5WgmWGZVuCRW9W8maIKubeG-bgQ

November 19, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

At Least 14 levees broke in Fukushima Prefecture

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October 16, 2019
 
News outlets worldwide are reporting that at least 66 residents of Japan have died as a result of Typhoon Hagibis. Our hearts reach out to the people of Japan and the families of the deceased.
 
The news coverage from Reuters caught our attention due to its research that Fukushima Prefecture was apparently the region hardest hit by the typhoon. According to the Reuters story entitled: Rescuers slog through mud as Japan typhoon death toll rises to 66:
 
“The highest toll was in Fukushima prefecture north of Tokyo, where levees burst in at least 14 places along the Abukuma River, which meanders through a number of cities in the largely agricultural prefecture. At least 25 people died in Fukushima, including a mother and child who were caught in flood waters, NHK said…. Residents in Koriyama, one of Fukushima’s larger cities, said they were taken by surprise by the flooding. Police were searching house-to-house to make sure nobody had been left behind or was in need of help.
 
“The river has never flooded like this before, and some houses have been completely swept away. I think it might be time to redraw hazard maps or reconsider evacuation plans,” said Masaharu Ishizawa, a 26-year-old high school teacher …”
 
Fukushima prefecture is very mountainous and largely remote. The radioactive fallout, which spread throughout Japan after the three Fukushima nuclear meltdowns in 2011, is impossible to clean up in these inaccessible mountainous areas that lie throughout Fukushima Prefecture. Even in populous Tokyo, more than one-year after the meltdowns, Fairewinds’ research identified randomly selected Soil Samples Would Be Considered Nuclear Waste in the US, which we discussed in the video on Fairewinds’ website.
 
It is our belief from our ongoing research that the ensuing flooding induced by Typhoon Hagibis is moving significant amounts of radiation from high in the mountains down to cities, towns, and farmland in Japan. Our analysis on several radiation sampling trips to the prefecture proves that there are huge amounts of residual radiation that were previously trapped in the soil.
 
Now, due to the heavy rain, subsequent river flooding, and burst levees (dams) this radioactive soil is moving and being pushed from the mountains down into more populous areas where people live and crops are grown. Once again it appears that government authorities and rescue organizations are ignoring this new, long-term threat, or have not been apprised by the JAEA (Japan Atomic Energy Agency) and nuclear power industry of the monumental health risks involved.
 

October 20, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Slow burn: Dirt, Radiation, and Power in Fukushima

Peter Wynn Kirby

October 1, 2019

Abstract

Amid the radioactive fallout of the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and across what would come to be known as the Exclusion Zone, Japanese members of the nuclear lobby laboured to contain the political fallout of the Fukushima disaster. This article scrutinizes the profuse rhetoric over recycling as mobilized by nuclear boosters and the wider operations of circularity in waste management in Japan. Japanese leant heavily on the notion of recycling to attempt to frame the clean-up in Fukushima in more ideologically convenient terms. This led, for example, to officials trumpeting plans to ‘recycle’ over 16 million cubic metres of radioactive topsoil scraped from hundreds of square kilometres of Fukushima Prefecture, as well as efforts to achieve ‘thermal recycling’ by generating electricity from the incineration of collected irradiated vegetal matter and the large amounts of protective clothing and other material used in the ‘decontamination’ campaign. By scrutinizing this appropriation of recycling rhetoric and its leveraging across Japan’s nuclear waste management apparatus, the article exposes contradictions and distortions in contemporary Japanese policy that have considerable socio-political ramifications. 

Keywords: Nuclear waste, radiation, decontamination, ethnography, Fukushima

1Decontamination work, Nihonmatsu, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

2Radioactive soil depot, Iitate, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

Introduction

The record earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March 2011 ushered in a highly mediated disaster as Japanese grappled with the triple-meltdowns and radiation crisis at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Largely out of sight of international camera crews and probing journalists, the Japanese state and multiple municipalities embarked on the largest radiation response effort in history in an effort to restore hundreds of square kilometres1 covered in radioactive debris. This campaign saw about 70,000 Japanese workers remove over 16 million cubic metres of irradiated dirt2—scraping topsoil off roadsides, meadows, wooded areas, agricultural fields, school grounds, residential zones, shrine compounds, and parklands. Crews swept up radioactive twigs and pine cones, whittled exterior bark from tree stumps, and clipped low-lying branches in an attempt to bring radiation levels down to allow resettlement of tens of thousands of evacuees. Workers garbed in protective gear, joined by volunteers, scrubbed and hosed down streets, pavements, stairways, kerb stones, and storm drains in urban and suburban areas. They also wiped down the exterior of houses, apartments buildings, shops, schools, and other public facilities, using specially treated wipes to clean roof tiles, gutters, window sills, panes, mullions, wall cladding, and doorsteps. Wipes and protective clothing were collected for separate incineration. This campaign allowed state, prefectural, and municipal representatives to record ‘safe’ radiation measurements in areas of Fukushima’s disaster zone—a major Japanese policy priority, particularly with the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon.

 

3Source: Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan; (accessed September 2019).

 

In parallel with these massive efforts to collect, or disperse, the radioactive fallout of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, the pro-nuclear Japanese state engaged in aggressive PR-management to contain Fukushima’s political fallout, working with the nuclear lobby to frame the Fukushima campaign in favourable ideological terms. The scrubbing and scraping of a huge portion of Fukushima’s land area became branded as ‘decontamination’ (josen), despite clear contradictions described below. More telling still was the appropriation of the conceit of recycling to imbue the effort to remove radioactive dirt and other abominated debris with flattering hues of eco-responsibility and resource efficiency. This article3 scrutinizes the decontamination campaign in order to highlight the numerous ways in which the nuclear lobby has leveraged recycling in Fukushima to sanitize and promote nuclear energy throughout its mobilization on the archipelago, with implications for other nuclear purlieux.

 

Chimerical recycling

After spending decades as a perennial environmental villain through the turn of the millennium,4 Japan has transformed into a country where waste issues and recycling are taken very seriously. Japanese municipalities and industries recycle the usual stacks of paper and bins of plastic bottles and glass as well as breaking down and converting about a million tonnes of large consumer appliances (e.g., refrigerators, washers, air-conditioners) a year in highly automated facilities,5 part of what has been called ‘the shredder economy’.6 Every industrial sector complies with Japan’s strict recycling regulations, meaning that all manner of e-waste, from vending machines to pachinko machines, is dismantled, crushed, shredded, and separated to extract precious metals and other materials. These and other projects contribute toward environmental objectives, but Japan’s resource-consciousness derives as much from a fixation on rationalization and efficiency, communicated via catchphrases like ‘industrial ecology’ and ‘zero-emissions’ production. Ironically, there is not much concrete, demonstrable circularity in Japanese recycling.7 Yet circular-economy rhetoric pervades Japanese officialdom. It seems that virtually every ministry white paper, urban development project and metropolitan government report trumpets its concern with sustainability.8 Due to the political ends to which recycling is mobilized in Japan, most egregiously in the radioactive spill of the Fukushima disaster zone, this circularist rhetoric merits rigorous scrutiny.

While examples of discursive overreach vis-à-vis recycling abound in contemporary Japan, the yawning gaps and slippages in Japanese circularity are most evident and striking in the official response to the Fukushima Daiichi radiation crisis, whose determined work crews and complex logistics drive an effort that has been every bit as much of a disaster, in the end, as the earthquake and tsunami that struck Tōhoku in 2011. The Japanese Ministry of the Environment and its partners have branded the Fukushima effort as ‘decontamination’; but as demonstrated below, their use of this term is highly misleading. Instead, I refer to the campaign as The Clear for two reasons. First, ‘clear’ (kuriā) is a term used by Japanese officials and others to declare completion of a project or attainment of a goal, even though its invocation is frequently based on arbitrary bureaucratic targets and massaging of data belied by conditions on the ground (literally, in this case). Next, those involved in the campaign were physically attempting to clear away the radioactive debris that had settled on a huge amount of territory; this was uneven terrain, including steep hillsides, forestland, and residential areas, that would make such a task exceedingly complex and difficult, if not impossible. By declaring ‘clear’ on 31 March 2017, Japanese officials were strongly suggesting that radiation had been cleared away, as it had been ‘on paper’ in ministry documents. Yet as demonstrated in the next section, irradiation of dirt, trees, streams, sandy littoral, and meadowlands is a maddeningly tenacious condition to attempt to reverse, and the rush to clear away Fukushima’s radiation (and burnish its sullied reputation) within a tight, arbitrary timeframe made this Herculean task even more difficult to achieve. By appropriating the terms of exalted recycling to transform these millions of tonnes of radioactive dirt into ‘resources’, the nuclear lobby arguably made promoting this task much easier and more palatable to Japanese communities.

It may be difficult to recall with the crippled Fukushima Daiichi leaking tonnes of radioactive water daily into erstwhile prime fishing grounds in the Pacific, but the conceit of recycling has long bolstered the nuclear sector. Ever since the vaunted promise of limitless energy via fission became destabilized by accumulations of radioactive waste from the 1970s, nuclear elites sought to marshal those parlous residues in a drive toward greater efficiency, as well as discursive control. High-level nuclear waste—usually spent fuel rods from reactors—entered elaborate conversion infrastructures, rationalized as ‘reprocessing’, to transform hazardous, depleted residues into puissant resources. Perhaps the most audacious of these initiatives involved Japanese plans hatched in the 1980s to transform plutonium—arguably the world’s most toxic and dangerous substance, with a half-life of 24,100 years—into the pole star of Japan’s nuclear energy production apparatus. Such a plutonium economy would use fast-breeder reactors to generate energy from the most hazardous nuclear wastes at a time when most nuclear nations were abandoning the technology as unpromising and/or too dangerous. Significantly, this fixation on plutonium developed out of Japan’s long self-perception as a resource-poor nation, a key driver of imperial Japan’s colonialist ambitions through World War II.

Japan’s idée fixe over a perceived scarcity of natural resources has had a profound influence on the nation’s development. The idea of Japan as a ‘small island nation, poor in resources’, or shigen shōkoku nippon, emerged as a powerful discourse from the early twentieth century through the Second World War.9 Japan’s 1960s nuclear policy developed directly out of muscular hydropower initiatives that spanned the trans-war period, where abundant energy resources were seen as critical to ensuring Japan would secure membership in the top rank of great nations.10 Japanese elites seized on nuclear energy as a strategic means to achieve energy independence—paradoxically, of course, while being the only nation to have suffered wartime fallout from nuclear weapons after the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As Japan developed through the 1980s into one of the world’s most pro-nuclear states,11 a powerful domestic nuclear lobby began to promote plutonium as a kind of thermodynamic elixir capable of bestowing the archipelago’s energy needs almost indefinitely. Lest this seem like casual hyperbole, consider an exhibit at the Aquatom museum complex, located near Japan’s showcase fast-breeder reactor, called Monju: ‘Japan is a poor country in natural resources … therefore Monju, a plutonium burning reactor, is necessary because plutonium can be used for thousands of years’.12

Central to this campaign was the concept of circularity. Take the logistics that underpin nuclear fuel reprocessing, which involves both elements that typify ‘recycling’ as well as hazardous externalities which belie its exalted, circularist trappings. Only by ‘closing’ the fuel cycle13 could Japan’s spent fuel residues be transformed into (and re-consecrated as) new nuclear fuel stocks. In this heady policy climate before the radiation crisis of 2011, recycling came to take on a peculiarly talismanic quality when intoned by elite institutions invested with authority and lavish funding, such as the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE). Even the mere invocation of a closed fuel cycle could conveniently rebrand spent fuel rods and other parlous nuclear residues as ‘resources’. Since these radioactive materials were therefore to be reused, and were represented by nuclear boosters as a dizzying thermodynamic bounty, the nuclear industry has largely been able to sidestep the thorny question of, for example, containing such nuclear waste in secure underground repositories—generally considered best practice, if expensive and difficult, by most major nations, with only Finland and the US testing appropriate facilities thus far.14 These so-called ‘final repositories’ for nuclear waste were, at any rate, deemed virtually impossible to establish on the archipelago. Since the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no Japanese prefecture has wanted to host such a permanent nuclear waste repository,15 partly due to the enduring, though largely dormant, stigma of radiation among Japanese after 1945. Moreover, Japan is so seismic that it would be impossible to find a subterranean location capable of remaining stable for up to 100,000 years (a verdict confirmed by an expert panel of the Science Council of Japan, convened after the Fukushima Daiichi crisis unfolded, in 2012)—and therefore the task of convincing a potential host community to accept a final repository was deemed unworkable.16

For nuclear proponents, by contrast, there is practically no such thing as ‘nuclear waste’ due to the pivotal significance of circularity to the whole rationale of nuclear energy in Japan. Radioactive material is instead viewed as resources—valuable ascribed commodities in a sprawling reprocessing apparatus. This strategic posture has furnished Japan’s nuclear sector with considerable latitude to sidestep the very notion of perilous nuclear residues, long one of the costliest and most unpopular facets of nuclear energy globally. Meanwhile, Japan possesses about 17,000 tonnes of spent fuel rods, most of which are stored on site at nuclear power stations in jam-packed pools, above ground, in a highly earthquake-prone nation.17 These pools resemble drab onsen, radioactive versions of the idyllic hot springs for which Japan is famous, though these pools are heated up not by salutary geothermal currents redolent of therapeutic minerals but by the acute radioactivity of the spent fuel rods themselves, recalling the steaming, overheated wreckage of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in the aftermath of the 2011 meltdowns.

The term ‘recycling’ imparts a sense of effortless, perhaps even endless, movement, dynamism, and highly rationalized process, particularly in the context of bold circularist discourse. But the overwhelming reality of Japan’s nuclear regime is that of relative stasis. These pools regularly hold several times as many fuel rods as any reactor, leaving them exposed, beyond standard containment, and therefore vulnerable. Once deposited, they generally lie for years, steeping in makeshift wet storage in the absence of a repository or a properly functioning fuel cycle. (And, after all, only nine of Japan’s commercial reactors are currently in operation anyway, and only a fraction are capable of burning the reprocessed fuel described above.)18 These components of chimerical recycling are sustained by a well-funded and integrated programme of spin—an ironic but appropriate circular metaphor here—along with a multitude of political capital wielded by well-placed institutional powerbrokers. Yet it remains striking how, in a nation celebrated for high-tech innovation and exacting quality control, this recycling apparatus has fallen far short of the circularist grandiloquence propagated by the sector. Most major nuclear nations have faced problems in trying to recycle, or ‘reprocess’, nuclear material—an inherently dangerous and messy set of procedures that in the process creates about 12 times more low-level and medium-level nuclear waste, by volume, than the original volume of nuclear waste that was sent for reprocessing—but Japan’s chequered history with managing nuclear externalities is notable, as explained in these pages, particularly when contrasted with Japan’s longstanding reputation for meticulous quality control and technological excellence.

Japan’s decades-long quest for a closed fuel cycle has not only been exorbitant but plagued by grave safety lapses and technical failures. Here, a few evocative examples of nuclear mismanagement suffice to convey the circularist disarray in Japan’s ‘nuclear village’. The centrepiece of the nation’s audacious plans for energy independence was the aforementioned fast-breeder reactor called Monju, located in Tsuruga on the Japan Sea. Named after the bodhisattva representing transcendent wisdom, the facility operated in a rather more mundane fashion. Completed in 1994, the plant fell offline in 1995 after a serious leak of sodium coolant ignited a major fire, causing extensive damage. A semi-governmental agency’s subsequent bungled coverup brought infamy upon the plant, its operators and regulators, and the nuclear industry generally. Monju was intended to burn, and in turn ‘breed’, plutonium from the spent fuel produced by Japan’s nuclear power stations, but repeated attempts to bring Monju back online within Japan’s aspirational nuclear fuel cycle failed. Having cost about $12.5 billion, the facility was finally slated for decommissioning in 2017 after having produced only a tiny amount of energy. Its decommissioning and dismantling are estimated to cost approximately $3.3 billion more and take until the year 2047.19

Another key component of the nuclear fuel cycle was to be Rokkasho, a sprawling reprocessing facility on a remote peninsula of Aomori Prefecture—the northernmost extremity of Japan’s main island. The Rokkasho plant, embarked upon in 1993, has never been fully operational. Nevertheless, after over $12 billion invested and a quarter century in limbo, Rokkasho has repeatedly been depicted as on the verge of activity. The plant therefore appears to serve as an expensive and unacknowledged semantic deposit on the nation’s whole programme of nuclear fuel recycling. Particularly with Monju slated for decommissioning, over the strident objections of Japan’s nuclear boosters, Rokkasho remains the most compelling symbol of Japan’s aspirations for a closed nuclear fuel cycle. Or in other words, without Rokkasho forever on the reprocessing horizon, the 17,000 tonnes of spent fuel rods languishing in cooling ponds next to Japan’s dozens of mostly idled nuclear reactors would be in danger of unfavourable re-interpretation: not as ‘resources’ to power the nation but as highly toxic and radioactive nuclear waste, a ponderous burden on the nation’s balance sheet and a damper on its circularist aspirations. Significantly, the central government’s agreement with Aomori Prefecture stipulates that no nuclear residues will continue to be stored at the facility if the nation’s reprocessing effort falters.20 This provides additional incentive to keep up appearances, even as Japan’s fuel recycling effort lies in ruins—both figuratively and in some cases literally. (For example, the decades that Rokkasho’s facilities have lain idle have taken their toll, with the vast conversion infrastructure corroding and deteriorating in numerous places due to poor maintenance inspections and general disuse.)21

Copious recycling rhetoric notwithstanding, then, a great deal of nuclear waste in Japan has simply been converted into other forms of waste. Much is left to languish at different material stages due to what might be called insufficient circularity. Without the domestic capacity to achieve its objectives, the nuclear sector has been forced to scrounge elements of this cyclical potential with the help of European allies—a makeshift, stopgap measure that will no longer be workable in any long-term sense.22 For example, of Japan’s stockpile of more than 47 tonnes of weapons-usable plutonium (enough for more than 6,000 warheads), all but 10.5 tonnes are located at reprocessing sites in the UK and France (with about 21.2 tonnes at Sellafield and about 15.5 tonnes at La Hague, respectively).23 Some of the MOX fuel rods, comprised of mixed-oxide uranium and plutonium reprocessed overseas from Japan’s spent fuel, have been burned in a handful of specially calibrated reactors in Japan, but for the most part, the overwhelming bulk of Japan’s nuclear residues remains curiously unproductive—particularly so now that most of Japan’s reactors remain offline in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns. Only through the peculiar rhetorical alchemy of recycling explained above do the piles of spent fuel rods soaking for years in pools within nuclear power station compounds take on the guise of ‘resources’. With the Rokkasho reprocessing facility forever on the verge of becoming operational, Japan’s many tonnes of spent nuclear material are thereby spared the designation of nuclear waste, a classification which would usher in a host of thorny consequences. For instance, Japan possesses far more weapons-usable plutonium than any self-respecting pacifist, no-nukes nation would normally ever dream of having.24 Imperious postwar security guarantor the United States has already signalled its displeasure with Japan’s wildly disproportionate plutonium stocks, manifest most recently via a six-month termination clause in a key bilateral civil nuclear treaty governing Japanese plutonium.25 If the nuclear lobby fails to demonstrate a more plausible justification for this vast stockpile of plutonium, Japan may encounter diplomatic and geopolitical obstacles down the road. This is particularly challenging because Japan has benefitted from a certain strategic ambiguity with regard to nuclear weapons over the years. While remaining officially pacifist and anti-nukes post-1945, Japan has nevertheless for several decades possessed more than enough technological and engineering know-how to produce nuclear weapons. It boasts a well-regarded space agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), that launches missile-like rockets into space. The military and geopolitical ramifications of Japan’s enormous plutonium stockpile have therefore certainly not been lost on prickly East Asian rivals like China and North Korea, who have long been sceptical of Japan’s reprocessing rationale, particularly with regard to plutonium.26

Chimerical recycling has bolstered Japan’s nuclear fuel-cycle strategy for a number of years, but it was only with the advent of the Fukushima Daiichi radiation crisis that more novel forms of nuclear waste materialized on the archipelago, exposing serious inadequacies in the nuclear apparatus and necessitating official response. These include the estimated 100 tonnes of radioactive water that leak into the Pacific Ocean every day from the bowels of the ruined nuclear power station, as well as the nearly 1000 giant, serried tanks of Tritium-laced water slowly filling the 350-hectare Fukushima Daiichi compound as effluent from the facility’s own filtration system—now exceeding a million tonnes in total. (Referring to the highly toxic liquid residues these tanks hold, even the environment minister himself recently stated that ‘The only option will be to drain it into the sea to dilute it’ to alleviate the ever-increasing burden of radioactive water storage there.)27 Leaving aside the wreckage of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station—itself a twisted and heterogeneous mass of nuclear waste requiring at least several more decades of highly specialised work to dismantle and segregate—the trope of recycling has been invoked to mobilize, and justify, the colossal effort to sequester and make efficient many millions of cubic metres of radioactive dirt and other debris brought on by the 3.11 disaster. Ambivalent Fukushima Prefecture has, thus, become a pivotal testing ground for the principles of circularity that have guided Japan’s nuclear sector for decades, offering a useful opportunity to interrogate the core precepts of nuclear recycling in evidence there.

 

4Decontamination work, Nihonmatsu, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

 

5Decontamination work, Nihonmatsu, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

 

6Clean’ dirt ready to spread on agricultural field cleared of radioactive soil, Tomioka, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

 

7Woman with dosimeter taking a break from decontamination work, Nihonmatsu, Fukushima. Image credit: Peter Wynn Kirby.

 

 

Shifting geographies of transcontamination

A crew of seven men and one woman, clad head-to-toe in helmets, face masks, protective clothing, gloves, and rubber boots wielded rakes and shovels to scrape radioactive dirt and vegetal matter from a wooded area around a local shrine in Nihonmatsu, not far from the Exclusion Zone, in autumn 2015. The crew laboured to remove enough radioactive debris to bring radiation levels back down toward levels deemed safe by the Japanese government. This involved clipping off low-lying tree branches and clearing away small bushes and undergrowth. (Elsewhere, in Iitate village, I have witnessed bark removed so aggressively from tree stumps that they had been whittled down to resemble pencil-stubs gnawed by schoolchildren.) Yet in spite of the serious nature of the job and the tragic backdrop of contaminated Fukushima against which they worked, the crew were rather grumpy. Their foreman, Nakayama-san, complained about how low their pay rate was, a paltry 720 yen per square metre compared to more desirable work around residential areas, called jutaku josen, which paid better mostly because it was calculated by weight rather than by area. Having previously worked as an insurance agent, the stalwart, outspoken Tohoku native railed against the government’s standards for calculating radiation safety, which he called too lax. ‘We’re mormotto (guinea pigs)!’, he declared, or test subjects who could be studied for decades. He and his crew worked long and hard to collect huge black bags of radioactive waste for collection as part of a campaign that was called ‘decontamination’ (josen), but they were under no illusions that the area would be free of radiation in the years to come. (Below, I describe how such workers see the decontamination effort as extremely patchy or non-existent in places, belying the campaign’s very moniker.) It also remained far from clear how the problem of radiation stored in these large black bags would ever be adequately resolved.

Japan’s Ministry of Environment announced vague plans for an Interim Storage Facility (ISF) for radioactive material in 2014, to be located in Fukushima Prefecture, with more concrete plans by 2016. The proposed site would occupy already highly radioactive terrain. Encompassing 1,600 hectares in a half-doughnut shape, the facility would literally nestle around the compound of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, perched on Fukushima’s Pacific coast at the heart of the Exclusion Zone. Though proximity to Fukushima Daiichi suggests to a reasonable layperson that the facility would hold high-level nuclear waste such as the slumped uranium fuel located below the power station’s wrecked reactors, in fact the ISF planned to store, for a time, the millions of cubic metres of radioactive soil and other biomass collected from the irradiated territory of Fukushima Prefecture since 2011.

It is central to the political culture of the reconstruction effort that Fukushima’s various storage sites for radioactive material clearly advertise their transitory nature. For seven years, about 16 million huge black bags (furekon), each about the size of a hot tub and weighing approximately a tonne when filled,28 have sat in piles scattered around the Exclusion Zone. These furekon bags are filled with radioactive topsoil scraped from the surface of most of the prefecture’s hardest-hit areas, by crews like that of Nakayama-san, and at first lie in odd, desultory heaps of perhaps two to six bags before being transported by truck to what are known as kari-kari-okiba (third-tier storage, literally ‘provisional-provisional’ depots). After a time, sometimes a year or more, workers will move these bags to further, though still provisional, second-tier storage depots (kari-okiba) located throughout the region. All these sites, clearly blazoned as temporary, keep the bags in motion just enough to sell a rationalized system, but in fact the bags still have nowhere to go. An elaborately designed Interim Storage Facility, its name similarly advertising its impermanence, exists mostly on paper in the form of a series of diagrams and renderings, as Ministry of Environment officials await cooperation of the aforementioned, tetchy absentee landowners who, since 2011, find themselves holding title to parcels of some of the most abominated land on the planet. Significantly, the ISF plan was only signed off on by the prefectural governor on the proviso that all radioactive material stored there must leave Fukushima after 30 years, at which time prefectural and central government authorities hope eventually to begin converting the land to a park. However, such a restored future green space remains far from guaranteed, as does much of the facility itself. By the end of winter 2018, only 52.8 percent of the private landowners had agreed to lease their land to the government,29 meaning that implementation of the plan is largely beyond the power of the state to guarantee. In the meantime, the overwhelming quantity of bags of irradiated material mostly move around the chimerical circle of provisional destinations, somewhat like an intermittent game of pass the parcel. While, for a time, the state could put bags of radioactive dirt almost anywhere during the decontamination process, these bags slowly aggregate in successive particular sites. These sites are generally leased from landowners and therefore generate revenue. 

All this material flux involves long concatenations of logistical steps. Moving millions of furekon bags requires trucks, and the standard Japanese truck can only hold a maximum of six of these bags. Therefore, to transport all the bags from the scattered sites where they were initially collected (gemba hokan) to the subsequent sites of formal storage—and eventually to the ISF—involves over two million truck journeys, a staggering figure.30 Moreover, according to the manufacturer, the bags are meant to last just three years and some bags must also be decanted regularly due to further routine damage, bringing even more stuttering progress. The scale and logistical complexity of The Clear has provided piecemeal work for members of local communities as well as for transplants, with some local companies subcontracted to do scraping, collection, transport, and so on. This is, however, small comfort after the radioactive defilement of hundreds of square kilometres of their home region, the decimation of Fukushima’s agricultural sector (even in relatively unaffected areas distant from the meltdowns), the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents, nearly 8 years of upheaval, and a highly uncertain future.

Improbably, authorities speak of ‘recycling’ all these millions of tonnes of dirt. The most likely scenario I have heard bruited by nuclear clear-up officials involves creating massive anti-tsunami berms along the coastline, with ‘recycled’ radioactive dirt comprising the core of these structures for many miles. Based on my decades of research on this topic in Japan,31 such a strategy is a long way away from what most Japanese associate with the term ‘recycling’. Under rosy scenarios of public use, such radioactive dirt would be sequestered safely within berms, but such strategies incur potential risks of contamination of surrounding land and coastal seas, particularly worrisome given the periodic seismic events that jolt contemporary Japan.

Yet sustainability discourse in Fukushima goes further. Ministry officials are executing their plan to incinerate all the vegetal matter collected across and around the Exclusion Zone, along with all the protective clothing (gloves, coveralls, masks, and so on) used in decontamination operations. Because Japanese incinerators generate electricity from their operations, environmental officials and partners dub this process ‘thermal recycling’. For deeply sceptical informants based in communities around the Exclusion Zone, such rhetoric often falls on deaf ears. Some Fukushima residents feel it is their duty to agitate against the environmental health excesses of this campaign, and I have witnessed the gamut of such protests, from activists banging drums on a street corner in Fukushima City to having a quiet word over tea with a local politician. For many others whose lives were turned upside down by the nuclear plant meltdowns and radiation crisis and subsequent evacuation, the emotional toll has been devastating. As one middle-aged woman put it, referring to the large black bags used for bulk transport in Fukushima, ‘The furekon are filled with our tears’.

Problematically for nuclear stakeholders, the lofty goals of the decontamination programme are undermined by the inconvenient properties of radionuclides, as well as by the uneven terrain of Fukushima itself. For there is no such thing as decontamination when dealing with radiation—there is only transcontamination. As Associate Professor Shinzō Kimura, a Dokkyō Medical University radiation health researcher working since 2011 in Fukushima, explained, ‘Radiation cannot be eliminated. It can only be transported from one place to another…. This is clearly transcontamination, with no easy solutions…. Fukushima’s “decontamination” is a complete misnomer—it’s a con perpetrated against the Japanese people’.

Fukushima’s elaborate decontamination programme is therefore, in essence, a matter of taking radioactive debris from one part of Fukushima and moving it to another part of Fukushima. More precisely, the radioactive material enters stuttered slow motion, moving periodically from one place to another, with no certain final destination. By 11 March 2019, the eighth anniversary of the radiation disaster, only about 15% of the total volume of radioactive soil (2.3 million cubic metres) had been transported to the as-yet only partially realized Interim Storage Facility, with a flotilla of trucks making about 1600 roundtrip journeys each day.32 According to the ISF plan itself, much of the nuclear waste would be on the move again in a few decades. Meanwhile, the supposed clean-up in Fukushima falls short, with too much radiation lingering in ‘decontaminated’ sites in question. Of course, true to form, Fukushima’s custodians like the Ministry of Environment have rationalized and transported a sizable amount of Fukushima’s radiation—but by no means all. After scraping up dirt and other matter, after cutting weeds and clipping low branches, workers spread a layer of ‘clean’ soil from elsewhere in order to be able to take out a Geiger counter and produce a ‘safe’ reading. In Fukushima, safety was a labile concept, with sizeable constituencies ambivalent about the aftermath of the 2011 radiation crisis. A number of the decontamination workers I interviewed and witnessed in action were sceptical that The Clear, across vast expanses of Fukushima, had been wholly successful. They had seen first hand the occasional patchiness of the work, the places where they or others had had to cut corners due to the vagaries of rigid schedules, weather, diktats from up the food-chain, and so on.33 The Japanese government claims that areas are now ‘safe’ due to Geiger counter readings, but activists and others accuse the government of putting their thumb on the scale, so to speak—taking many readings over time and throwing out the undesirable high radiation measures as “failed” tests, thereby keeping only the lower radiation readings. As dodgy as this may sound, I came across a similar tactic used by the Tokyo Waste Bureau during a successful community challenge against the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in a 1999 toxic pollution dispute. The independent scientist who had carried out the atmospheric measurements testified that government officials had warped the data he had carefully compiled, in similar fashion.34 While controversy smoulders over the decontamination effort, weary communities attempt to return to normalcy, unconvinced that the situation on the ground will get much better.

Kimura-sensei demonstrated the absurdity of The Clear, energetically sketching out a rudimentary farm on a white board in his Nihonmatsu laboratory. ‘The decontamination activities are a joke…. [They] scrape the dirt from the agricultural fields, but leave the fringes untouched. Cows then eat irradiated grass, becoming irradiated themselves, and shit radiation onto the “decontaminated” soil. This can then contaminate crops over time…. Both the plan and the implementation are a complete farce’. Radiation remains most acute in the margins, in the neglected areas between sites that have been deemed suitable for decontamination. For instance, in communities like Naraha where only about 15% of the pre-disaster population has returned and resettled in the past couple of years,35 putatively sanitized areas resemble islands and peninsulas surrounded by eddies of higher radiation, particularly in wooded and/or overgrown areas, which the ministry has relinquished to so-called ‘natural decay’. Natural decay entails simply waiting for the radiation to go down by itself, without intervention. Caesium-137, for example, has a half-life of over 30 years, which means that when the proposed ISF is to be shut down in the late 2040s, the Cs-137 in Fukushima’s soil will still be perhaps half as radioactive as when it first hit the ground—still exceeding international standards, as shown below.

Take the northern area of Tomioka Township, which is still designated a ‘difficult-to-return zone’—meaning that, on average, the area continues to emit more than 20 milliSieverts per year of radiation. (For reference, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission mandates a maximum exposure for American communities of 1 milliSievert per year over background radiation.)36 I and collaborator Toshihiro Higuchi conducted ethnographic fieldwork on The Clear, in Tomioka, before the evacuation order was lifted there on 1 April 2017. We explored derelict neighbourhoods and the desolation of its evacuated, overrun, intermittently bag-scattered terrain. We also witnessed the MOE’s clear-up of farms in the region, where they endeavoured to spread ‘clean’ dirt over fields and property to bring down radiation levels. Northern Tomioka is a patchwork of some areas that test relatively low on a Geiger counter and other zones that have radiation many times higher, like thickly wooded areas, hilly precincts, even just the overgrown areas near roadways. This reflects the maddening variation throughout the rest of Tomioka and the entire area around the Exclusion Zone. Forbidding teenagers to wander in the woods or scolding children for digging in the ground, and scraping away surface soil is far from decontamination—this is, instead, decontamination for show, decontamination that is literally superficial. Furthermore, Fukushima remains teeming with irradiated boar and deer who are heedless of the boundaries imposed by human nuclear functionaries, not to mention the multitudes of birds and other creatures who roam the area. Wild boar is a delicacy in Japan, but since Fukushima boar have been found with levels of Caesium-137 over 300 times Japan’s radiation limit for human consumption, boar have morphed from culinary treat into toxic vermin. Tomioka Town has killed many hundreds of boar in recent years, but overwhelmingly as a preventative measure, not for their meat. While Fukushima municipalities attempt to enlist greater numbers of hunters licensed to shoot boar to help control the infestation of these determined radioactive interlopers,37 for example, it is clear that this is selective decontamination by state fiat, finding little purchase on the disaster zone’s intricate non-human ecology.

Granted, one wouldn’t expect Fukushima Prefecture to advertise its radiation travails to tourist visitors and prospective investors. Nevertheless, it is ominous that government proclamations regarding revitalization of the area in and around the Exclusion Zone intone about jobs but seem geared toward a future with relatively few humans. The Fukushima Prefectural Government now promotes a plan, dubbed The Innovation Coast, that would transform the unwelcoming region into a thriving zone of high-tech innovation. Much of the development along the purportedly revitalized Innovation Coast would be directed towards a ‘robot-related industrial cluster’ and experimental zones like the Fukushima Robot Test Field.38 Both in the Robot Test Field and in other planned facilities, engineered runways and surrounding radiation-hit areas would serve as prime territory for testing aerial drones for a range of purposes in various weather conditions—which would be difficult or impossible to achieve elsewhere in relatively densely populated Japan. The planned site for the test field would link with a secluded test area about 13 kilometres due south along the coastline, located closer to Fukushima Daiichi, to coordinate test flights over the unremediated Exclusion Zone’s more or less posthuman terrain.39 Naturally, unlike Fukushima’s human residents, robots and the sometimes highly automated facilities that produce their components would be oblivious to the elevated—but to robots not debilitating—radiation levels found outside the Fukushima Daiichi facility itself. In addition, prefectural officials have suggested that the Exclusion Zone environs could play host to a range of other services that don’t require much human intervention, such as long-term archive facilities.40 

Proud long-time residents of Fukushima, for their part, see all this proposed development as a continued ‘colonization’ of their home prefecture by Tokyo41—namely, a well-worn pattern of outsiders using the zone for their own purposes, as were the original nuclear proponents who built the ill-fated Fukushima Daiichi plant in the first place. Moto, a man born and raised in Fukushima City and educated in an elite Ivy-League graduate programme, lambasted the process. ‘This has been going on for many decades. Again, we have outsiders coming into Fukushima, dictating how to use our land, how to exploit our resources. They need to take account of the wishes of the people of Fukushima, how we want Fukushima to be’.42 Moto and his family, along with neighbours, discovered in 2017 that the Fukushima City Council—facing massive radioactive waste volumes—had arbitrarily decided to use an open green area in the middle of their community as a temporary storage facility for radioactive dirt, without undergoing the usual elaborate consultation process.43 A university history professor commuting to Sendai, Moto humbly proclaims himself an ‘academic from the sticks’ (inaka) with no activist experience. Nevertheless, he proved himself an unusually capable political infighter. He quickly mobilized his extensive local contacts in Fukushima politics to shoot the proposal down within a handful of days, ensuring that the city would think twice before attempting to exploit the site again. Yet the project was subsequently moved not far away to another, less well-off neighbourhood, prompting his wife to say, ‘Yes, we are glad that the project will no longer go forward less than a hundred metres from our home, but the people who live [in the other community] are less enfranchised, less able to protest. I feel terrible…. This shouldn’t be happening. They shouldn’t be doing this to local communities in this way’. Many locals—even those who have benefited from the upsurge in clear-up work after 2011—have grown to criticize the whole project of decontamination. One notable turn of phrase, josen yori osen (‘[it’s] more pollution than decontamination’), caustically juxtaposes ‘decontamination’ (josen) with its near homophone ‘pollution’ (osen), engaging in a form of wordplay common in Japanese.

Naturally, sustainability and recycling figure in the prefecture’s Innovation Coast plan. Promotional materials invoke the circular economy of recycling Lithium-ion batteries from electrical vehicles into other energy-storage products at a newly completed facility in Fukushima; another Fukushima plant promises to produce all the hydrogen needed for fuel cells with renewable energy, and Fukushima Prefecture itself aims to derive 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2040.44 Fukushima stakeholders trumpet the putative synergies created by concentrating these industries in the region; furthermore, all design studios, factories, and staging grounds would be governed by the same strict laws on processing and converting electronic and other wastes as the rest of Japan. But despite the evocations of circularity along the planned Innovation Coast, the scheme flirts with unreality as it brushes aside radioactive threats in Fukushima. The recovering, tsunami-hit region remains at risk. The millions of tonnes of radioactive soil, the large expanses of defiled territory relegated to ‘natural decay’—these, understandably perhaps, remain downplayed in favour of the opportunities presented by a sprawling, relatively depopulated area of Japan available for experimentation with perilous drone technologies and automated systems, as well as abundant cheap land and tax incentives for newly built manufacturing sites. Zooming out from such glossy public-relations portrayals—made with an eye toward the coming 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games—demonstrates the limits of the government’s attempts at rationalization. Where nuclear waste languishes in various stages of inertia/abandonment, the circularist nuclear establishment projects a utopian system, with materials forever floating along tight, efficient loops of eco-conversion to feed a self-correcting market. All the while, the very radiation that necessitates the clear-up helps pull off the PR campaign; due to elevated radiation, the most dangerous areas outside Fukushima Daiichi remain depopulated and therefore little scrutinized. Even the radiation in marginal areas that are legally accessible tends to discourage interlopers.

To be sure, all the dreadful externalities of the triple-meltdowns in Fukushima presented here notwithstanding, there are pollutant drawbacks to other forms of energy production. Toxic air pollution and hazardous tailings associated with exploiting coal energy cause hundreds of thousands of premature deaths around the world annually45 and depredate landscapes. The same goes for other fossil fuel exploitation, such as oil and natural gas/fracking, which due to their vast scale and favourable margin have the potential to warp entire planetary regions.46 ‘Clean energy’ doesn’t get a pass, either. Production of solar panels and wind farms requires energy and material resources. Eventually, this eco-infrastructure will result in e-waste that will need to be handled responsibly. Ditto for electric cars, which, to a degree, will only be as eco as the forms of energy that charge their batteries. Yet the economies of scale triggered by nuclear calamity reach a different order of magnitude, as Fukushima demonstrates. Communities in and around the Exclusion Zone will struggle with radiation for generations, particularly near acutely irradiated areas left to ‘natural decay’. Many of the evacuated communities in Fukushima have been unsuccessful in attracting more than a small fraction of their former populations back for resettlement—usually about 15%—and the whole prefecture must grapple with the stigma of radiation that affects who buys Fukushima produce, who comes as a tourist, who decides to move to the area, and who marries their offspring. Not to mention that Japan has failed to convince its citizenry that obdurate Nuclear, Inc., has truly learned from the triple-disasters about the swift, durable ruin of large-scale radiation events from crippled nuclear facilities and the cost of shoddy management and careless quality control. Though the nuclear lobby seems largely unfazed in its push for return to the status quo ante energy strategy, the Fukushima Daiichi debacle has done rough violence to the illusion of circularity and control that the nuclear industry has propagated over decades.

Given the broad significance of circularity to Japan’s nuclear sector, it is even more striking how recent efforts to ‘recycle’ nuclear waste in public works projects and in agriculture give the lie to the eight-year circularist campaign in Fukushima. In June 2018, the MOE diverged sharply from long-articulated plans to recycle radioactive soil collected in Fukushima. In a recently published outline,47 the ministry instead set out to offload radioactive dirt in road-building and agriculture in various sites throughout Fukushima—prompting vociferous protests from community groups. For instance, along a 200-metre stretch of road in the town of Nihonmatsu, the ministry proposed to place 500 cubic metres of radioactive dirt underneath the roadway. The ministry explains that the dirt, having levels of approximately 1000 becquerels per kilogram, would be covered with ‘clean’ dirt to block the radiation—small comfort to local farmers keen to advertise their produce as free of radiation, not to mention concerned homeowners and casual passersby. (For comparison, the Japanese government maintains a radioactivity safety limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram for foodstuffs for human consumption—though no one intends to directly eat the dirt, the disparity between the levels is resonant in an agricultural area that longs to become a major food producer again.)48 Furthermore, officials intend to use radioactive dirt to grow crops within Fukushima Prefecture. According to the MOE, this ‘recycled’ soil would not, however, yield produce intended for human consumption, representing an (unsuccessful) attempt to alleviate the sharp concerns of yet more local farmers and residents.49 Under Japanese law, soil of up to 8000 becquerels per kilogram can be used for a variety of purposes, a regulatory flexibility that government stakeholders are attempting to turn, gradually, to their advantage. By contrast, the International Atomic Energy Agency maintains a standard of 100 becquerels per kilogram for material containing Caesium-137.50 Opposition to the plan from communities in Fukushima demonstrates the chasm between rosy projections generated by officialdom and what exasperated residents will tolerate. In a society broadly shaped by recycling regimes, it seems that, after 3.11, there are limits to what forms of circularity residents are willing to accept—particularly when the ‘circularity’ of Fukushima’s nuclear waste dead-ends in one’s residential neighbourhood.

 

Conclusions

The colossal scale of the clear-up in Fukushima bears perhaps inevitable comparison with other monumental human endeavours, epitomized by the much-bandied construction of the Egyptian pyramids. The mastaba-shaped waste mesas of Fukushima, comprised of serried stacks of hundreds of thousands of black furekon bags that loom over desolate areas in and around the Exclusion Zone, may not seem as visually impressive as, say, the Great Pyramid of Giza (weighing about 6 million tonnes and having a volume of approximately 2.5 million cubic metres). Yet the eight-year project of gathering up more than 16 million cubic metres of radioactive dirt, transporting it over considerable distances, and eventually constructing enormous ziggurats of furekon bags swaddled with enough tarpaulin to cover all the football pitches in the Premier League many times over does exude a somewhat Pharaonic character. Nevertheless, what is striking about The Clear in Fukushima is that this whole campaign is designed to achieve precisely the opposite result. Instead of constructing a series of monuments out of the most durable materials available, such as granite, to create a lasting memorial—as did the pharaohs—Japanese government authorities instead composed a succession of gigantic (but slowly shifting) depositories that advertise their transitory nature. The vicissitudes of weather and circumstance continue to take their toll, but the most committed destructive force that these structures will face is their very builders. Officials have guaranteed that these radioactive plateaux will be removed from Fukushima Prefecture in less than three decades. As regards the radiation therein, the government has gone to great lengths to disguise, play down, or otherwise diminish the quantity contained in these piles. Whether to line the undersides of roadways, fill mammoth berms along Fukushima’s coastline, or use in reclaimed land or other construction, nuclear officials are determined to find ways to reduce the gargantuan scale of this volume of radioactive dirt until there is virtually no remaining trace—contradicting the profuse recycling rhetoric generated in Fukushima since March 2011. What this decontamination campaign does comprise, however, is a monumental glorification of Japanese models of circularity.

Circularist discourse on recycling tends to express the conversion of residues—either explicitly or implicitly—as a seamless process, free of emissions or other externalities. Moreover, diagrams and other renderings make recycling appear not only effortless but as forever ongoing. Such exhortations of circularity become, therefore, less descriptions of a process than expressions of a worldview, one that through its banality subtly creeps into general consciousness. With both a powerful pro-nuclear lobby and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games looming on the horizon, Japanese authorities will have every incentive to make this radioactive dirt disappear in a range of inventive ways that have nothing to do with recycling. Nevertheless, a veil of circularity will help colour, and obscure, the familiar process of converting nuclear wastes into yet other forms of nuclear waste. This time-honoured exercise in nuclear PR will likely perdure alongside the current revolution in solar power, offshore windfarms, and other sustainable energy sources, many of whose rates already undercut new-build nuclear. The well-funded nuclear campaign to promote circularity in Japan will then increasingly seem like another problematic residue of the Nuclear Age, one that will endure far longer than it really should.

As demonstrated in these pages, the clear-up of the Fukushima disaster zone has itself been a disaster, partly facilitated by distorted circularist propaganda. Yet recycling rhetoric pervades the nuclear industry internationally. We live in what could be described as ‘the environmental century’, with sharp concern over climate change, planetary depredation, profligate lifestyles, and access to resources. Around the world, governments, corporations, academics, activists, and concerned citizens are attempting to decide which forms of energy show the most promise in turning our situation around. By lifting the tarpaulin on Japan’s handling of nuclear residues in Fukushima, we can begin to uncover the manifold ways in which recycling discourse is used to warp the case for nuclear in a range of nations.

 

Notes

1

T. Christoudias et al., ‘Modelling the Global Atmospheric Transport and Deposition of Radionuclides from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Accident’, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 13, 2013, pp. 1425-1438; Majia Nadesan et al, eds., Fukushima : Dispossession or Denuclearization?, [no publication city], 2014, p.103.

2

Environmental Remediation in Affected Areas’. Tokyo: Ministry of the Environment, 2019, p. 7.

3

This article received generous support via a Leverhulme Trust Project Grant (RPG-2014-224). I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the kind help and sharp insight of Dr. Toshihiro Higuchi of Georgetown University, who collaborated on some ethnographic fieldwork on which this article draws.

4

McKean, Margaret, Environmental protest and citizen politics in Japan, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981; Huddle, N., and M. Reich, Island of dreams: Environmental crisis in Japan, Cambridge, MA: Schenkman Books, 1987; Dauvergne, Peter, Shadows in the forest: Japan and the politics of timber in Southeast Asia, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997; Broadbent, Jeffrey, Environmental politics in Japan: Networks of power and protest, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998; Kerr, Alex, Dogs and demons: Tales from the dark side of Japan, New York: Hill & Wang, 2001; Avenell, Simon, Transnational Japan in the global environmental movement, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2017.

5

Shunichi Honda et al, Regional E-Waste Monitor: East and Southeast Asia, Tokyo 2016, pp. 84-89.

6

H. Kalimo et al, ‘Greening the Economy through Design Incentives’, European Energy and Environmental Law Review 21/6, 2012, p. 296.

7

For example, many Japanese manufacturers eschew recycled metal or plastic as substandard; instead, much recycled material tends to be sold overseas. See Kirby, P. W., A. Lora-Wainwright, and Y. Schulz, Leftover Lucre [manuscript in preparation].

8

A comparison of Tokyo, Japan’s largest city, with that of much-smaller Kitakyushu shows a consistent attention to recycling and sustainability in both locations (and in many other Japanese communities). Creating a Sustainable City: Tokyo’s Environmental Policy. Tokyo, 2018 See here (accessed September 2019); here (accessed September 2019); and here (accessed September 2019).

9

Eric Dinmore, ‘A Small Island Nation Poor in Resources: Natural and Human Resource Anxieties in Trans-World War II Japan’. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 2006.

10

Amano Reiko (2001). Damu to Nihon [Dams and Japan. Published in Japanese.] Tokyo: Iwanami Shinsho.; Dinmore, 2006, op. cit.

11

Martin Dusinberre, Hard Times in the Hometown, Honolulu 2012.

12

Gavan McCormack, ‘Japan as a Plutonium Superpower’, Japan Focus 5/12, 2007.

13

A nuclear fuel cycle describes a process whereby nuclear fuel rods are fabricated and then, after use, reprocessed so that some nuclear material that might otherwise have become high-level nuclear waste could instead be reused in reactors.

14

The Finnish final repository, dubbed Onkalo or ‘hiding place’ (still under construction until 2023), will be able to hold all of Finland’s high-level nuclear waste in a network of granite cavities 520 metres underground. By contrast, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) outside Carlsbad, New Mexico, holds only a portion of the USA’s transuranic waste from its weapons programs. These pilot repositories, 660 metres underground, are carved out of a gigantic subterranean salt bed and could be expanded relatively quickly—as salt-rock is far more easily excavated than granite (see here).

15

Japan’s Nuclear Waste Problem’, Japan Times, 21 January 2014; also confirmed by several Japanese environmental officials in interview between 2017-18.

16

Kō-reberu hōshasei-haikibutsu no shobun ni tsuite. [Regarding disposal of high-level radioactive waste.] Science Council of Japan, September 2012; Japan’s nuclear waste problem (Editorial). Japan Times 21 January 2014.

17

Yukari Sekiguchi, ‘Mitigating the Risks of Spent Nuclear Fuel in Japan’, CSIS Policy Perspectives, Washington, D.C. 30 March 2017, pp. 1-2, 4; ‘Japan’s 17,000 Tons of Nuclear Waste in Search of a Home’, Bloomberg 10 July 2015.

18

Nuclear Power in Japan’. World Nuclear Association. (accessed September 2019).

19

Fuel removal work starts at Japan’s Monju reactor. World Nuclear News, 2018, August 30. (accessed September 2019)

20

Confirmed in interviews with MOE officials in 2017-18.

21

Japanese nuclear fuel reprocessing plant delayed yet again: Age-related decay plagues Rokkasho project, stalled for 20 years’, Nikkei Asian Review, 23 December 2017.

22

The UK is no longer an option for reprocessing. The conversion operation at Sellafield, which grapples with dire cost overruns and its own very serious nuclear waste cleanup, has been closing out its contracts and slowly shipping reprocessed waste back to Japan. Areva, which does reprocessing in France at La Hague, has been in severe financial straits and is not nearly reliable enough a partner on which to base Japan’s future nuclear waste policy.

23

Status Report of Plutonium Management in Japan – 2017, Japan Atomic Energy Commission, Tokyo 2018.

24

Gavan McCormack, ‘Hubris Punished: Japan as a Nuclear State’, Synthesis/Regeneration 56, 2011.

25

Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy’ [civil nuclear treaty which came into force in 1988]; ‘Japan Plutonium Stockpile Fuels US Unease’, Financial Times, 25 June 2018.

26

Gavan McCormack, ‘Japan as a Plutonium Superpower’, Japan Focus 5/12, 2007.

27

Fukushima: Japan will have to dump radioactive water into Pacific, minister says’, The Guardian, 10 September 2019.

28

Each bag is designed to hold a volume of one cubic metre.

29

Environmental Remediation in Japan’, Japanese Ministry of the Environment, Tokyo 2018, p. 22.

30

Calculated and confirmed in interview (May 2018) with a Ministry of Environment official in charge of the Fukushima decontamination programme.

31

Kirby, Peter Wynn. Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011.

32

Fukushima grapples with toxic soil that no one wants’, The Guardian, 11 March 2019.

33

This is corroborated, for example, by Justin McCurry, who quotes a clear-up worker describing places where his crew was told just to sweep up the leaves on the ground to make a deadline, leaving contaminated soil behind.

34

See Peter Wynn Kirby, Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan, Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011.

35

Learning from the Lessons of 3/11, Seven Years On’, Japan Times, 9 March 2018.

36

Backgrounder on Biological Effects of Radiation’, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission factsheet, 2017. (accessed September 2019)

37

Wild boars offer challenge for homecomers in radiation-hit Fukushima’. Reuters, 9 March 2017.

38

METI and the Fukushima Prefectural Government Conclude an Agreement on the Development and Operation of Robot Testing Fields and the International Industry-Academia-Government Collaboration Facilities for Robots under the Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework’ news release, Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, 26 January 2016.

39

See here, page 7 image.

40

This was aired last year in interview with officials from the Fukushima Prefectural Government.

41

Norio Akasaka, Tōhokugaku: Wasurerareta Tōhoku [Tōhoku Studies: Forgotten Tōhoku], Tokyo, 2009.

42

See also Kainuma, Hiroshi, Fukushima-ron: Genshiryoku mura wa naze umareta no ka [Debates over Fukushima: How and Why was “The Nuclear Village” Spawned in Japan?], Tokyo: Seidosha, 2011.

43

Disposal of contaminated soil – is this only Fukushima’s problem?’ [Osendo no shobun, Fukushima dake no mondai ka?] Asahi Shimbun, 7 June 2017, p. 14.

44

Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework’, Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry PR materials, Tokyo 2018.

45

Air pollution, climate and health: the calculation is simple. World Health Organization (accessed September 2019)

46

E.g., Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

47

Basic thinking on the safe use of dirt reclaimed [from Fukushima]’, Japanese Ministry of the Environment, Tokyo 2018.

48

Nokuaki Kunii et al., ‘The Knowledge and Awareness for Radiocesium Food Monitoring after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture’, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(10):2289, 2018.

49

A pilot project in Iitate would plant flowers and energy crops in fields with a radioactive soil substrate. ‘Environmental Remediation in Affected Areas’. Tokyo: Ministry of the Environment, 2019, p. 22.

50

IAEA Safety Standards for Protecting People and the Environment: Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources: International Basic Safety Standards. Geneva: IAEA, 2014, p. 126.

Source:

https://apjjf.org/2019/19/Kirby.html

 

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