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Fukushima, a ‘coordinator’ for the nuclear-stricken area, takes a cue from the U.S. to break away from reconstruction dependent on the government


March 6, 2021, 18:07 (Kyodo News)
 On March 6, a private organization called Fukushima Hamadori Tridec was established to serve as a coordinator between industry, government and academia in the areas affected by the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. In order to promote the reconstruction that the coastal residents of Fukushima Prefecture desire, the organization aims to unite the demands of the region and take the brunt of negotiations with the government and other parties.
 The 43 founding members include local business people, researchers, and politicians. The organization will be incorporated as a general incorporated association and will invite individual and corporate members. Takayuki Nakamura, vice president of East Japan International University (Iwaki City), who will serve as the secretariat, said, “We will break away from our traditional stance of depending on the government. We will decide our own fate,” he said of the founding principles.

https://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/89939?fbclid=IwAR0IVgauLUBacHECWFx2axSSV7o5CUqvtvxw6KcLJtZ6A1bqoHtwcQ-cEl8

March 23, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima, a ‘coordinator’ for the nuclear-stricken area, takes a cue from the U.S. to break away from reconstruction dependent on the government

March 6, 2021, 18:07 (Kyodo News)
 On March 6, a private organization called Fukushima Hamadori Tridec was established to serve as a coordinator between industry, government and academia in the areas affected by the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. In order to promote the reconstruction that the coastal residents of Fukushima Prefecture desire, the organization aims to unite the demands of the region and take the brunt of negotiations with the government and other parties.
 The 43 founding members include local business people, researchers, and politicians. The organization will be incorporated as a general incorporated association and will invite individual and corporate members. Takayuki Nakamura, vice president of East Japan International University (Iwaki City), who will serve as the secretariat, said, “We will break away from our traditional stance of depending on the government. We will decide our own fate,” he said of the founding principles.

https://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/89939?fbclid=IwAR0IVgauLUBacHECWFx2axSSV7o5CUqvtvxw6KcLJtZ6A1bqoHtwcQ-cEl8

March 6, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , | Leave a comment

Farmers in Fukushima plant indigo to rebuild devastated town

March 2, 2021

MINAMISOMA, Japan — Because of radiation released by the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster a decade ago, farmers in nearby Minamisoma weren’t allowed to grow crops for two years.

After the restriction was lifted, two farmers, Kiyoko Mori and Yoshiko Ogura, found an unusual way to rebuild their lives and help their destroyed community. They planted indigo and soon began dying fabric with dye produced from the plants.

“Dyeing lets us forget the bad things” for a while, Mori said. “It’s a process of healing for us.”

The massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, caused three of the reactors at the nuclear plant to melt and wrecked more than just the farmers’ livelihoods. The homes of many people in Minamisoma, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the plant, were destroyed by the tsunami. The disaster killed 636 town residents, and tens of thousands of others left to start new lives.

Mori and Ogura believed that indigo dyeing could help people in the area recover.

Mori said they were concerned at first about consuming locally grown food, but felt safe raising indigo because it wouldn’t be eaten. They checked the radiation level of the indigo leaves and found no dangerous amount.

Ten years after the disaster, Mori and Ogura are still engaged in indigo dyeing but have different missions.

To Mori, it has become a tool for building a strong community in a devastated town and for fighting unfounded rumors that products from Fukushima are still contaminated. She favors the typical indigo dyeing process that requires some chemical additives.

But Ogura has chosen to follow a traditional technique that uses fermentation instead as a way to send a message against dangers of modern technology highlighted by nuclear power.

Mori formed a group called Japan Blue which holds workshops that have taught indigo dyeing to more than 100 people each year. She hopes the project will help rebuild the dwindling town’s sense of community.

Despite a new magnitude 7.3 earthquake that recently hit the area, the group did not cancel its annual exhibition at a community center that served as an evacuation center 10 years ago.

“Every member came to the exhibition, saying they can clean up the debris in their houses later,” Mori said.

Ogura, who is not a member of the group, feels that a natural process is important because the nuclear accident showed that relying on advanced technology for efficiency while ignoring its negative aspects can lead to bad consequences.

“I really suffered during the nuclear accident,” Ogura said. “We escaped frantically in the confusion. I felt I was doing something similar again” by using chemicals.

“We seek too much in the way of many varieties of beautiful colors created with the use of chemicals. We once thought our lives were enriched by it, but I started feeling that wasn’t the case,” she said. “I want people to know what the real natural color looks like.”

Organic indigo dyes take more time and closer attention. Ogura first ferments chopped indigo leaves with water for a month and then mixes the result with lye which is formed on the surface of a mixture of hot water and ashes. It has to be kept at about 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) and stirred three times a day.

Part of the beauty of the process, Ogura says, is that it’s hard to predict what color will be produced.

With the support of city officials, Ogura started making silk face masks dyed with organic indigo.

She used to run an organic restaurant where she served her own vegetables before the disaster, but now runs a guesthouse with her husband in which visitors can try organic indigo dyeing.

Just 700 meters (2,300 feet) from Ogura’s house, countless black bags filled with weakly contaminated debris and soil are piled along the roadside. They have been there since after the disaster, according to Ogura’s husband, Ryuichi. Other piles are scattered around the town.

“The government says it’s not harmful to leave them there. But if they really think it’s not harmful, they should take them to Tokyo and keep them near them,” he said.

The radiation waste stored in the town is scheduled to be moved to a medium-term storage facility by March next year, a town official said.

https://www.startribune.com/farmers-in-fukushima-plant-indigo-to-rebuild-devastated-town/600029579/

March 6, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima poll: 74% say nuclear disaster work not promising

A cemetery in a district in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, on Jan. 20 is surrounded by solar panels installed on former farmland after the evacuation order was lifted.

February 24, 2021

Only 19 percent of residents in Fukushima Prefecture believe the work to decommission the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is showing “promise” nearly 10 years after the triple meltdown, a survey showed.

Seventy-four percent of respondents in the telephone survey said the situation was “not promising” at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s nuclear plant.

The survey, jointly conducted by The Asahi Shimbun and Fukushima Broadcasting Co. on Feb. 20 and 21, is the 11th since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami caused the nuclear disaster in March 2011.

The first was conducted in September 2011, followed by surveys on February or March every year from 2012.

The central government and TEPCO have set a goal of completing the decommissioning work “in 30 to 40 years,” but their efforts so far have been hit with various problems and delays.

Although evacuation orders have been lifted, many residents who fled the disaster have not returned to their homes near the plant. Still, the government plans to entice people to move into municipalities around the nuclear plant.

According to the survey, 21 percent of respondents viewed the new settlement policy as “promising” for revitalizing the area, compared with 72 percent who said it was “not promising.”

One constant problem in the decommissioning work is the continual stream of contaminated water that must be stored in tanks at the site of the plant.

With space running out, the government’s policy is to treat the water and dump it into the sea, even though the process will not remove all radioactive substances.

Thirty-five percent of respondents approved this policy, up from 31 percent in the 2020 survey, while 53 percent opposed the policy, down from 57 percent.

However, 87 percent of respondents said they were worried about damage caused by rumors over the dumping of the water into the sea, such as overexaggerated claims about the effects. Of them, 48 percent were “greatly” worried while 39 percent were worried “to a certain degree.”

The government continues to hold explanatory briefings about the water-dumping policy at local sites, but the effort has not reduced the people’s concerns.

The respondents were also asked whether the government should be held responsible for failing to prevent the nuclear disaster from occurring. Eighty-four percent agreed, including 33 percent who said the state has “great responsibility” and 51 percent who cited “a certain degree of responsibility.”

Forty-five percent of respondents in their 60s and 44 percent aged 70 or older said the government was “greatly responsible.”

Twenty-eight percent of respondents gave high marks to the government’s response so far to the nuclear disaster, while 50 percent had low evaluations.

As for TEPCO, 39 percent said the utility has acted responsibly over the 10 years since the accident, compared with 43 percent who said, “It hasn’t.”

And only 32 percent of respondents said the country has learned lessons from the nuclear accident, while 57 percent said it has not.

All nuclear reactors in Japan were shut down following the Fukushima disaster. Much tougher safety standards were established, and some reactors have been brought back online.

Sixteen percent of the Fukushima residents approved restarts of nuclear plants while 69 percent said they should remain offline.

Nationwide, 32 percent were in favor of the restarts and 53 percent were against, according to a phone survey conducted on Feb. 13 and 14 that showed opposition is higher in Fukushima Prefecture.

Half of the Fukushima respondents said restoration of the prefecture was on track, including 3 percent who said “greatly” and 47 percent who said “to a certain degree.”

In the 2012 survey, 7 percent said restoration was on track. The ratio jumped to 36 percent in 2016.

In the 2019 survey, conducted a year after most of the decontamination work was completed in the prefecture, the figure increased to 52 percent, but it has since remained at around the same level.

Sixteen percent of respondents said they feel “great” anxiety over the effects of radioactive materials released in the accident on themselves and their families, while 48 percent felt a “certain degree” of anxiety.

The overall ratio of 64 percent was down from 91 percent in September 2011 and 68 percent in 2016. But the latest figure was up from 56 percent in 2020.

By sex, 69 percent of female respondents and 59 percent of males felt anxious about the radioactive fallout.

In addition, 79 percent of all respondents were worried that the public will lose interest in the plight of the victims of the nuclear accident. Of them, 34 percent were “greatly” worried and 45 percent were worried “to a certain degree.” Nineteen percent were not worried very much or not at all.

Fifty percent think the image of Fukushima Prefecture has been restored to the pre-disaster level, but only 4 percent “largely” believe this is the case.

The overall figure has improved from 30 percent in the 2016 survey.

But the nationwide survey on Feb. 13 and 14 showed that only 40 percent believe that Fukushima Prefecture’s image has been restored.

The survey used home phone numbers for voters in Fukushima Prefecture, excluding some areas, selected at random by computer. It received valid responses from 1,049, or 54 percent, of the 1,955 voters contacted.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14216668?fbclid=IwAR2cqON5NaBoFCyZKyaOy-V5vrkU6p7NvquIs3n435yW4N8AXfw9LVZeDFc

February 25, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Ten years on, economic growth is faltering in disaster-hit areas

Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, was hit hard by the disaster on March 11, 2011, and an evacuation order remained in place for the subsequent six years

February 11, 2021

While Japan will soon mark the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the economy of affected areas is showing signs of faltering.

The prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate have been shored up economically by public investment involving reconstruction projects since being devastated by the disaster on March 11, 2011, and the subsequent nuclear power plant meltdowns.

The three prefectures, however, are seeing reconstruction demand pass its peak.

As the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant continues to cast a shadow over the coastal areas, the three prefectures now face the challenge of achieving autonomous economic growth orchestrated by firms and others in the private sector.

In the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, an evacuation order issued shortly after the nuclear accident was partially lifted in March 2017. Although industrial complexes have been built and restaurants have opened their doors to customers once again in Namie, there are also many empty plots of land in the town, which shows that some former Namie residents had their houses torn down after giving up on returning from where they had been evacuated.

“Sales halved from before the disaster,” said Yasushi Niizuma, who reopened his restaurant in the town.

Meanwhile, some companies that were not doing business in Namie prior to the disaster have made inroads into the town.

“I don’t expect immediate changes, but I think the situation will be quite different 10 to 30 years from now,” Niizuma said with a sense of hope.

Prefectural gross product data show that the economy has recovered in the three prefectures since the disaster.

In 2011, the year of the disaster, the combined prefectural gross product in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate plunged ¥788 billion from a year earlier in nominal terms. But public investment increased sharply from 2012, with many restoration and reconstruction projects being implemented in disaster-affected areas. As a result, the combined gross product in the three prefectures in 2018 increased some ¥3.9 trillion from the 2011 level.

Noting that the region’s economy has been pushed up by public investment over the last 10 years, Yutaro Suzuki, economist at Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd., said, “It was not a self-sustaining growth.”

The three prefectures are seen to have suffered negative economic growth in 2020, chiefly reflecting a decrease in public investments and the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“An industrial recovery is crucial” for further economic growth in the region, Suzuki said.

Coastal areas in the three prefectures hit hard by the disaster are facing a serious population outflow. This is, in areas around the Fukushima No. 1 plant, including the town of Futaba, primarily due to the evacuation order still placed on some locations with high radiation levels.

“There are many areas (within Fukushima) that are nowhere near being restored,” Risa Ueda, head of the Bank of Japan’s Fukushima Branch, said.

While the central government is currently attempting to attract new industries to the region, the effects of such an initiative on the local economy are still unknown.

“Corporate performance has not recovered to the levels prior to the disaster at half of affected businesses,” Sachio Taguchi, president of Bank of Iwate , said. “We are still halfway down the road to reconstruction.”

Hiromi Watanabe, chairman of the federation of chambers of commerce and industry in Fukushima Prefecture, called on the Japanese government to look at the actual state of local economies and introduce precise measures, rather than end its support measures altogether.

As the economy has yet to recover to levels before the disaster in many parts of Fukushima and the coronavirus pandemic is also hitting the prefecture hard, Watanabe said, “What we need the most are job opportunities.”

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/02/11/national/quake-disaster-economy/

February 14, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Only 30% of Fukushima residents happy with disaster recovery progress

January 1, 2021

Nearly 10 years after the 2011 earthquake-tsunami and nuclear disasters in northeastern Japan, only 30 percent of Fukushima Prefecture residents say reconstruction has been sufficient, a Kyodo News survey showed Thursday.

The figure was notably lower than 80 percent in Miyagi and 66 percent in Iwate prefectures, which were also affected by the natural disasters.

Photo taken Dec. 23, 2020, from a drone shows rows of public houses for residents who lost their homes in the disaster in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.

The low number in Fukushima reflects how the nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and subsequent evacuation orders have slowed reconstruction work.

Face-to-face surveys were conducted in November involving 100 residents in each of the three prefectures to ask about reconstruction of the communities where they lived when the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit the region March 11, 2011.

A total of 176 people, or 59 percent, across the three prefectures said reconstruction was “progressing” or “progressing to some degree,” while 123 people, or 41 percent, said there had not been enough progress. One person did not answer.

“My hometown is full of vacant plots of land,” said a man in his 50s who evacuated from Futaba, which hosts the Fukushima Daiichi plant, to Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture. “I cannot imagine the town becoming a place we can return to.”

Many respondents appreciated the rebuilding of infrastructure, but some said it has taken too much time. Among Fukushima residents unhappy with the reconstruction progress, many said they are disappointed that they are still not allowed to return to their hometowns due to radioactive contamination and that townscapes have not been restored.

Photo taken on Sept. 26, 2020, in Okuma, northeastern Japan, shows the disaster-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant where decommissioning work is taking place

Across the three prefectures, 66 percent said their lives were back on track as they were able either to move to public housing for disaster victims or build new homes. By prefecture, the rate was 80 percent in Miyagi and 70 percent in Iwate but significantly lower at 49 percent in Fukushima.

The cost of rebuilding homes and a decrease in income have also been a burden for residents.

“To reconstruct my house, I needed to get another loan (in addition to that for the home destroyed by the disaster). I won’t finish the payments until I’m 80 years old,” said Toshiyuki Naganuma, 58, who runs a construction firm in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture.

The local government in Natori declared the completion of the city’s recovery in March 2020. More houses have been built and tourists are returning. But Naganuma said that while “it may look like the city has recovered, reconstruction is not finished.”

“Jobs are still gone. My income is unstable,” said a man in his 40s who changed jobs three times after the disasters. He used to work at a restaurant in Rikuzentakata, Iwate, but sales dropped when construction workers and others engaged in work to rebuild the city left.

Yukihisa Ojima, 49, who operates a home appliance store in Rikuzentakata, worries about the city’s declining population. “Public facilities were rebuilt but things are slack for businesses here,” he said.

For those affected by the disasters, recovery means “getting back one’s life before the disasters,” said Jun Oyane, a professor at Senshu University and head of the Japan Society for Disaster Recovery and Revitalization.

“The next step after restoring infrastructure will be to focus on the varying needs of individual residents and to stand by them in rebuilding” their lives, he said.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2021/01/13fd3540b365-only-30-of-fukushima-residents-happy-with-disaster-recovery-progress.html

January 9, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

New hotel boom in Fukushima capitalizing on reconstruction

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July 13, 2020

Areas close to the site of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster might seem like the least likely prospect for a hotel construction boom, but as the region slowly begins to recover, demand for places to stay is at a premium.

Hotel operators are not expecting to cater to people with a morbid fascination for the facility that went into a triple meltdown following the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, but to accommodate those involved in reconstruction projects, and later, business travelers and other visitors.

Coastal areas of Fukushima Prefecture were the first to experience a rush in new hotel construction, mainly facilities offering 100 or so rooms.

This fall, the wave of hotel openings will even extend to Futaba, a town that hosts the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Over the past nine years since the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, hotels have mostly been occupied by construction workers.

However, hotel operators are expecting a more diverse clientele to develop in the future.

Hotel Futabanomori, located in the town of Namie about nine kilometers north of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, is expected to open on July 15.

The hotel has 95 rooms, most of them singles that cost 6,500 yen ($ 61) a night, including taxes, or 9,000 yen with breakfast and supper thrown in.

It is situated not far from the No. 6 national road that rumbles for much of the day with heavy trucks going to and from construction sites.

An evacuation order was lifted in the central part of the town in March 2017. Currently about 1,400 people live there, which accounts for less than 10 percent of the pre-disaster population.

But new businesses are moving into the town. In March, top-level facilities for research and development of robots and hydrogen production were established in Namie as a part of a national project.

Takashi Shiga, the 47-year-old president of Hotel Futabanomori, said he hopes his hotel will create an opportunity for residents to “get together with relatives and old classmates who left their hometown and moved far away back to return to Namie.”

He also said he wanted the hotel to provide workers involved in reconstruction projects “with a sense of comfort.”

Prior to the disaster, towns near the nuclear power plants used to be dotted with small inns and hotels catering to beachgoers, surfers and workers at nuclear and thermal power plants.

After the disaster, residents within a 20-km radius of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were ordered to evacuate.

Hirono town, located about 20 km south of the facility, offered the main venue for places to stay for workers involved in cleanup, decontamination and reconstruction projects.

I received so many phone calls from workers desperately looking for a place to lie down and get some sleep,” said Minoru Yoshida, 64, who runs an inn called Iwasawaso in Hirono.

Yoshida evacuated to Tokyo temporarily immediately after the disaster. But within two months, he started taking in guests.

Parts of Iwasawaso were damaged by the earthquake, but Yoshida opened his own home, which was adjacent to the inn and emerged unscathed, to let guests stay.

He also turned a banquet room in the inn into a space for workers to spend the night.

In 2016, Yoshida built a business hotel with 102 rooms, Hotel Ocean Iwasawa, nearby.

Prior to the disaster, he managed two buildings with 83 rooms. Now, he manages four buildings with 211 rooms.

An average of 150 to 200 guests stay at his properties each day.

This is my hometown. That’s why I want it to be rebuilt,” Yoshida said. “I wanted to help these people who came here to work for the rebuilding by letting them stay.”

In Futaba town, where the No. 1 nuclear power plant is located, a new business hotel with 134 rooms, “ARM Futaba,” is slated to open this fall.

In March, an evacuation order was lifted for 4.7 percent of the town.

A new museum dedicated to explaining the damage from the March 2011 disaster and the lessons learned from it is also slated to open in the town this fall.

Expectations remain high that former residents will start returning two years from now to live in Futaba.

Arm System, a Hokkaido-based company that manages the new hotel, hopes that evacuees from the town will stay at the property during temporary homecoming visits.

Industrial complexes are also under construction in the area.

We expect strong demand from business travelers and museum visitors and foresee a sustainable business in the future,” a company representative said.

Tomioka town, about 10 km south of the nuclear power plant, along with surrounding areas, has witnessed a rise in new apartment buildings for single people and company dormitories since April 2017, when the evacuation order was lifted.

In October that year, Tomioka Hotel with 69 rooms was opened by eight residents who ran food and clothing stores in the town.

The hotel has maintained an average 70 percent occupancy rate since then. Most of the guests were engineers and businesspeople visiting the town for reconstruction projects from the Tokyo metropolitan area.

But Tsukasa Watanabe, the 61-year-old president of the hotel, admitted to “feeling nervous about the future,” citing the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic that caused visits by business travelers to dry up.

The hotel has relied on a central government subsidy that supports two-thirds of a hotel construction fee, and other initiatives.

But we can’t just continue to rely on such (support),” said Watanabe, who desperately feels the need to come up with a strategy to bolster his hotel’s competitiveness.

Kota Kawasaki, an associate professor of town planning at Fukushima University, noted that the trend of hotel occupancy by construction workers had reached its peak more or less.

“Competition among hotels will increase from now on,” he said. “Each hotel will have to devise more strategic management skills to stay in business.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13541099

July 16, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

In Fukushima, Olympic torch relay faces cool welcome from nuclear evacuees

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March 2, 2020

FUTABA, Japan (Reuters) – Dressed in protective plastic coveralls and white booties, Yuji Onuma stood in front of the row of derelict buildings that included his house, and sighed as he surveyed his old neighborhood.

On the once-bustling main street, reddish weeds poked out of cracked pavements in front of abandoned shops with caved-in walls and crumbling roofs. Nearby, thousands of black plastic bags filled with irradiated soil were stacked in a former rice field.

It’s like visiting a graveyard,” he said.

Onuma, 43, was back in his hometown of Futaba to check on his house, less than 4 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which suffered a triple meltdown in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami, leaking radiation across the region.

The authorities say it will be two more years before evacuees can live here again, an eternity for people who have been in temporary housing for nine years. But given the lingering radiation here, Onuma says he has decided not to move back with his wife and two young sons.

Most of his neighbors have moved on, abandoning their houses and renting smaller apartments in nearby cities or settling elsewhere in Japan.

Given the problems Futaba still faces, many evacuees are chafing over the government’s efforts to showcase the town as a shining example of Fukushima’s reconstruction for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

While there has been speculation that the global spread of the coronavirus that emerged in China last month might force the cancellation of the Olympics, Japanese officials have said they are confident the Games will go ahead.

The Olympic torch relay will take place in Fukushima in late March – although possibly in shortened form as a result of the coronavirus, Olympic organizers say – and will pass through Futaba. In preparation, construction crews have been hard at work repairing streets and decontaminating the center of town.

I wish they wouldn’t hold the relay here,” said Onuma. He pointed to workers repaving the road outside the train station, where the torch runners are likely to pass. “Their number one aim is to show people how much we’ve recovered.”

He said he hoped that the torch relay would also pass through the overgrown and ghostly parts of the town, to convey everything that the 7,100 residents uprooted of Futaba lost as a result of the accident.

I don’t think people will understand anything by just seeing cleaned-up tracts of land.”

UNDER CONTROL”

In 2013, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was pitching Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Games to International Olympic Committee members, he declared that the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant was “under control”.

The Games have been billed as the “Reconstruction Olympics” – an opportunity to laud Japan’s massive effort to rebuild the country’s northeastern region, ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami, as well as the meltdowns at the nuclear plant owned by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

After the disaster, the government created a new ministry to handle reconstruction efforts and pledged 32 trillion yen ($286.8 billion) in funding to rebuild affected areas.

 

kkmùùYuji Onuma, an evacuee from Futaba Town near tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, walks next to a collapsed shop on the street in Futaba Town, inside the exclusion zone around the plant, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan February 20, 2020.

 

Signs of the reconstruction efforts are everywhere near the plant: new roads have been built, apartment blocks for evacuee families have sprouted up, and an imposing tsunami wall now runs along the coastline. An army of workers commutes to the wrecked plant every day to decommission the reactors.

In March, just days before the Olympic relay is scheduled to be held across Fukushima, Japan will partially ease a restriction order for Futaba, the last town that remains off-limits for residents to return.

This means that residents like Onuma will be able to freely come and go from the town without passing through security or changing into protective clothing. Evacuees will still not be able to stay in their homes overnight.

After a few years bouncing between relatives’ homes and temporary apartments, Onuma decided to build a new house in Ibaraki, a nearby prefecture. His two sons are already enrolled in kindergarten and primary school there.

You feel a sense of despair,” said Onuma. “Our whole life was here and we were just about to start our new life with our children.”

When Onuma was 12, he won a local competition to come up with a catchphrase promoting atomic energy. His words, “Nuclear Energy for a Brighter Future” was painted on an arch that welcomed visitors to Futaba.

After the nuclear meltdowns, the sign was removed against Onuma’s objections.

It feels like they’re whitewashing the history of this town,” said Onuma, who now installs solar panels for a living.

The organizing committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

 

BACK BURNER”

Other residents and community leaders in nearby towns say the Olympics may have actually hindered the region’s recovery.

Yasushi Niitsuma, a 60-year-old restaurant owner in Namie, said the Olympics stalled local reconstruction projects because of surging demand and costs to secure workers and materials ahead of the games in Tokyo.

We need to wait two years, three years to have a house built because of the lack of craftsmen,” said Niitsuma. “We are being put on the back burner.”

Fukushima’s agriculture and fisheries industries have also been devastated.

I was astonished by the “under control” comment made in a pitch to win the Olympic Games,” said Takayuki Yanai, who directs a fisheries co-op in Iwaki, 50 kilometers south of the nuclear plant, referring to Abe’s statement.

People in Fukushima have the impression that reconstruction was used as a bait to win the Olympic Games.”

A government panel recently recommended discharging contaminated water held at the Fukushima plant to the sea, which Yanai expects to further hurt what remains of the area’s fisheries industry.

At a recent news conference, Reconstruction Minister Kazunori Tanaka responded to a question from Reuters about criticism from Fukushima evacuees.

We will work together with relevant prefectures, municipalities and various organizations so that people in the region can take a positive view,” he said, referring to the Olympics.

Local officials also say they are making progress for the return of residents to Futaba.

Unlike Chernobyl, we are aiming to go back and live there,” Futaba Mayor Shirou Izawa said in an interview, calling the partial lifting of the evacuation order a sign of “major progress”.

There were a lot of misunderstandings about the radiation levels in the town, including the safety of produce and fish from Fukushima, Izawa said.

It would be great if such misunderstanding is dispelled even a little bit,” he said.

Radiation readings in the air taken in February near Futaba’s train station were around 0.28 microsieverts per hour, still approximately eight times the measurement taken on the same day in central Tokyo.

Another area in Futaba had a reading of 4.64 microsieverts per hour on the same day, meaning a person would reach the annual exposure upper limit of 1 millisievert, recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, in just nine days.

Despite the official assurances, it’s hard to miss the signs of devastation and decay around town.

The block where Takahisa Ogawa’s house once stood is now just a row of overgrown lots, littered with concrete debris. A small statue of a stone frog is all that remains of his garden, which is also scattered with wild boar droppings.

He finally demolished his house last year after he failed to convince his wife and two sons to return to live in Futaba.

Ogawa doubts any of his childhood friends and neighbors would ever return to the town.

I’ve passed the stage where I’m angry and I’m resigned,” he said.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2020-futaba-insight/in-fukushima-olympic-torch-relay-faces-cool-welcome-from-nuclear-evacuees-idUSKBN20P03M?fbclid=IwAR0G7Exv5bLjdYCHCdmV5PA7L15qoZ3KpCScZIa8F8_TU9AAzNBvSW9aKvE

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo ‘Recovery Olympics’ offer scant solace to displaced victims of Fukushima nuclear disaster

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An abandoned elementary school classroom remains cluttered Dec. 3 with school bags and other belongings left by students as they rushed out after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the nearby Fukushima nuclear power plant in Futaba.
December 18, 2019
FUTABA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Nine years after an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster devastated wide areas of the prefecture, the torch relay for the 2020 Summer Games will kick off in Fukushima.
Some baseball and softball games will also be held in the prefecture, allowing Tokyo organizers and the government to label these games the “Recovery Olympics.” The symbolism recalls the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which showcased Japan’s re-emergence just 19 years after World War II.
But tens of thousands still haven’t recovered in Fukushima, displaced by nuclear radiation and unable to return to deserted places like Futaba.
Time stopped in the town of 7,100 when disaster stuck on March 11, 2011.
Laundry still hangs from the second floor of one house. Vermin gnaw away at once intimate family spaces, exposed through shattered windows and mangled doors. The desolation is deepened by Japanese tidiness, with shoes waiting in doorways for absent owners.
“This recovery Olympics is in name only,” Toshihide Yoshida said. He was forced to abandon Futaba and ended up living near Tokyo. “The amount of money spent on the Olympics should have been used for real reconstruction.”
Japan is spending about ¥2.8 trillion ($25 billion) to organize the Olympics. Most is public money, though exactly what are Olympic expenses — and what are not — is always disputed.
The government has spent ¥34.6 trillion for reconstruction projects for the disaster-hit northern prefectures, and the Fukushima plant decommissioning is expected to cost ¥8 trillion.
The Olympic torch relay will start in March at J-Village, a soccer venue used as an emergency response hub for Fukushima plant workers. The relay goes to 11 towns hit by the disaster, but bypasses Futaba, a part of Fukushima that Olympic visitors will never see.
“I would like the Olympic torch to pass Futaba to show the rest of the world the reality of our hometown,” Yoshida said. “Futaba is far from recovery.”
The radiation that spewed from the plant at one point displaced more than 160,000 people. Futaba is the only one of 12 radiation-hit towns that remains a virtual no-go zone. Only daytime visits are allowed for decontamination and reconstruction work, or for former residents to check their abandoned homes.
The town has been largely decontaminated and visitors can go almost anywhere without putting on hazmat suits, though they must carry personal dosimeters to measure radiation absorbed by the body and surgical masks are recommended. The main train station is set to reopen in March, but residents won’t be allowed to return until 2022.
A main-street shopping arcade in Futaba is lined by collapsing store fronts and sits about 4 km (2.5 miles) from the nuclear plant, and 250 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo. One shop missing its front doors advertises Shiseido beauty products with price tags still hanging on merchandise. Gift packages litter the ground.
Futaba Minami Elementary School, where no one died in the evacuation, has nonetheless been untouched for almost nine years and has the feel of a mausoleum. School bags, textbooks and notebooks sit as they were when nearly 200 children rushed out.
Kids were never allowed to return, and “Friday, March 11,” is still written on classroom blackboards along with due dates for the next homework assignment.
On the first floor of the vacant town hall, a human-size daruma good-luck figure stands in dim evening light at a reception area. A piece of paper that fell on the floor says the doors must be closed to protect from radiation.
It warns: “Please don’t go outside.”
The words are underlined in red.
“Let us know if you start feeling unwell,” Muneshige Osumi, a former town spokesman, told visitors, apologizing for the musty smell and the presence of rats.
About 20,000 people in Tohoku died in the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami. Waves that reached 16-meters-high killed 21 people around Futaba, shredding a seaside pine forest popular for picnics and swimming.
A clock is frozen at 3:37 p.m. atop a white beach house that survived.
Nobody perished from the immediate impact of radiation in Fukushima, but more than 40 elderly patients died after they were forced to travel long hours on buses to out-of-town evacuation centers. Their representatives filed criminal complaints and eventually sent former Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. executives to court. They were acquitted.
When Tokyo was awarded the Olympics in 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured International Olympic Committee members that the nuclear disaster was “under control.” However, critics say the government’s approach to recovery has divided and silenced many people in the disaster-hit zones.
Under a development plan, Futaba hopes to have 2,000 people — including former residents and newcomers such as construction workers and researchers — eventually living in a 550-hectare site.
Yoshida is unsure if he’ll return. But he wants to keep ties to Futaba, where his son inherited a filling station on the main highway connecting Tokyo and Tohoku.
Osumi, the town spokesman, said many former residents have found new homes and jobs and the majority say they won’t return. He has his own mixed feelings about going back to his mountainside home in Futaba. The number of residents registered at the town has decreased by more than 1,000 since the disaster struck, indicating they are unlikely to return.
“It was so sad to see the town destroyed and my hometown lost,” he said, holding back tears. He reflected on family life, the autumn leaves, and the comforting hot baths.
“My heart ached when I had to leave this town behind,” he added.
Standing outside Futaba Station, Mayor Shiro Izawa described plans to rebuild a new town. It will be friendly to the elderly, and a place that might become a major hub for research in decommissioning and renewable energy. The hope is that those who come to help in Fukushima’s reconstruction may stay and be part of a new Futaba.
“The word Fukushima has become globally known, but regrettably the situation in Futaba or (neighboring) Okuma is hardly known,” Izawa said, noting Futaba’s recovery won’t be ready by the Olympics.
“But we can still show that a town that was so badly hit has come this far,” he added.
To showcase the recovery, government officials say J-Village and the Azuma baseball stadium were decontaminated and cleaned. However, problems keep popping up at J-Village with radiation “hot spots” being reported, raising questions about safety heading into the Olympics.
The radioactive waste from decontamination surrounding the plant, and from across Fukushima, is kept in thousands of storage bags stacked up in temporary areas in Futaba and Okuma.
They are to be sorted — some burned and compacted — and buried at a medium-term storage facility for the next 30 years. For now they fill vast fields that used to be rice paddies or vegetable farms. One large mound sits next to a graveyard, almost brushing the stone monuments.
This year, 4 million tons of those industrial container bags were to be brought into Futaba, and another million tons to Okuma, where part of the Fukushima plant stands.
Yoshida said the medium-term waste storage sites and the uncertainty over whether they will stay in Futaba — or be moved — is discouraging residents and newcomers.
“Who wants to come to live in a place like that? Would senior officials in Kasumigaseki go and live there?” he asked, referring to the high-end area in Tokyo that houses many government ministries.
“I don’t think they would,” Yoshida added. “But we have ancestral graves, and we love Futaba, and we don’t want Futaba to be lost. The good old Futaba that we remember will be lost forever, but we’ll cope.”

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

Evacuated Fukushima town begins efforts to have produce restrictions lifted

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People are seen planting produce during a cultivation test in the Morotake district of the town of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on Sept. 2, 2019, in this photo provided by the Futaba Municipal Government.
September 9, 2019
FUTABA, Fukushima — Vegetable cultivation trials began in September in this town, which has been completely evacuated since Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station melted down following the earthquakes and tsunami in March 2011.
The prefectural government has been putting on the trials with cooperation from the town office as well as farmers who were based in the town in northeastern Japan.
At a full staff meeting of the town assembly on Sept. 5, it was explained that if the crops can be confirmed to be safe, then the aim will be to have shipping restrictions removed on a part of the town whose evacuation orders are expected to be lifted next spring. It is thought that doing so will help revive farming in the area.
According to the town office, seeds and saplings for five produce items, including broccoli, cabbage and spinach, were planted at three locations in the Morotake district on Sept. 2. The district is currently classed as an area preparing for the lifting of an evacuation order, from which orders may soon be lifted.
It is the first planting in the town to produce food since the onset of the nuclear disaster in March 2011. Harvesting is expected to take place from late October to mid-November, but because the aim is to confirm data, all of the crop will be disposed of and not distributed.
If the inspection can confirm that the radiation dosage is lower than the national standard of 100 becquerels per 1 kilogram, then the prefectural government will make a request to the national government to have the shipment restrictions on the area removed.
Shipment restrictions are aimed at leafy and non-leafy headed types of vegetables, as well as mustards such as broccoli, and turnips. Immediately after the start of the nuclear disaster, these items all across the prefecture were under restrictions, but as areas have each confirmed the safety of their crops, they have been lifted.
Excluding areas deemed “difficult-to-return” zones, only the parts of Futaba that are classed as preparing for the lifting of evacuation orders remain as areas yet to have the restrictions removed.
(Japanese original by Tatsushi Inui, Iwaki Local Bureau)

September 14, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese government to send staff to disaster-hit Fukushima towns to help restart farming production

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Yoshiyuki Takahashi(left), the head of an agriculture promotion association in Fukuoka Prefecture, examines vegetables produced in the prefecture at a grocery in Tokyo’s Minato Ward in March
Sep 3, 2019
The agriculture ministry said Tuesday it will send officials to 12 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture that were hit by the 2011 nuclear disaster to help farmers there resume agricultural production.
From April 2020, one official will be stationed in each of the 12 municipalities near Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, including the facility’s two host towns.
The ministry officials will create teams with prefectural government and local agricultural cooperatives officials.
The teams will hold discussions with local farmland owners and farmers hoping to expand their operations in order to devise and implement farming resumption plans.
The ministry hopes to consolidate abandoned parcels of farmland in cooperation with local agriculture-related organizations and start large-scale farming there using advanced equipment.
Due to the nuclear disaster, farming had been stopped on a total of 17,298 hectares of land in the 12 municipalities. As of the end of March 2018, farming had resumed on 4,345 hectares, only a fourth of the total.

September 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Supermarket opens in Fukushima’s Namie town

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July 14, 2019
A supermarket has opened in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, which was devastated by the nuclear disaster in 2011. It is the first supermarket to operate in the town since the accident. Evacuation orders were partially lifted two years ago.
Major supermarket chain Aeon opened the new outlet in Namie Town on Sunday, drawing many shoppers.
The town now has just over 1,000 residents. That is about five percent of the population before the disaster.
The store stocked items including sake produced by a brewer who was forced to relocate because of the disaster, as well as seafood hauled in at a port nearby.
One shopper said she used to have to travel more than 30 minutes for shopping, and if she bought ice cream it melted on the way home.
Store manager Shunsuke Nihongi said he hopes to support those who have returned to the town and will choose the stock according to their requests.

July 16, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

‘Reconstruction Olympics’ theme said not to have gathered momentum

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Azuma Stadium in the city of Fukushima in March 2017, will host the baseball and softball competitions during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Feb 27, 2019
AOMORI – Half of 42 municipalities in northeastern Japan hit by a massive earthquake in 2011 said the public is not fully aware of the government’s efforts to showcase the region’s recovery from the disaster through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a Kyodo News survey showed Wednesday.
The heads of 21 local governments in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures said in the survey that the “reconstruction Olympics” theme has yet to fully catch on among the public.
Asked whether the slogan has gained public attention, two mayors said “it has not” while 19 mayors said “it mostly has not.” Eighteen said “it has a little” and two said “it has.” The remaining municipality — the Fukushima city of Soma — did not answer.
“The phrase ‘reconstruction Olympics’ was thought up but no substantial progress has been made and the affected areas feel left behind,” said an official of the town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture. “We have limited manpower and cannot spare personnel for Olympic events.”
“The sporting event will be held under the banner of the ‘reconstruction Olympics’ but venues are centered on Tokyo,” said an official of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture.
Asked what they expect from the Tokyo Games in a multiple-choice question, the biggest group, of 36 mayors, picked “promoting our progress toward recovery,” while 20 mayors, mainly from Fukushima, chose “overcoming reputational damage.”
“We want to use the Olympics as a chance to regain sales channels for our farm products,” said an official of the Fukushima town of Namie.
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March 1, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Tohoku disaster reconstruction to miss ’20 deadline for completion

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A resident in the Yuriage district of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, returns to her home after shopping. The housing complex was built after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
 
December 19, 2018
Reconstruction of areas devastated by the 2011 triple disaster will not be completed by fiscal 2020 as initially scheduled, and Fukushima Prefecture residents could be hit hardest by the delay, the Reconstruction Agency said.
Agency officials said Dec. 18 that further measures would be needed after fiscal 2020 to help areas affected by the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, as well as municipalities heavily damaged by the tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
The government had set a 10-year reconstruction period as its basic policy, with the first five years described as an “intensive reconstruction period” and the second five years labeled as the “reconstruction and revitalization period.”
The Reconstruction Agency will also be eliminated at the end of March 2021, meaning the government will need new legislation to designate an agency that will handle the reconstruction effort in the Tohoku region from fiscal 2021.
Reconstruction Agency officials conducted studies in the five prefectures of Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki during the current fiscal year to determine the extent of progress as well as what support measures should be continued beyond fiscal 2020.
The officials said some public works projects were taking longer than expected because of delays in buying land for those projects and revisions in reconstruction plans.
Although no specific project names or locations were revealed, the officials said all of those public works projects would not be completed by the end of fiscal 2020.
Under the government’s plan, the need for temporary prefabricated homes will no longer exist at the end of fiscal 2020.
However, elderly people who move out of such housing will still require care and supervision especially if they live alone and are suffering from psychological damage stemming from the natural disaster.
The situation looks especially dire in the locales most seriously affected by the nuclear accident.
Mountains of decontaminated soil will be moved outside of Fukushima Prefecture, but the relocation is not expected to happen for another 20 years. That means support measures for evacuees as well as Fukushima farmers and fishermen still dealing with negative publicity about their harvests will have to continue well beyond fiscal 2021.
A total of 32 trillion yen ($285 billion) has been set aside for the reconstruction effort. Whatever is left can be carried over after fiscal 2021 for still-incomplete projects.
At the end of fiscal 2017, 4.6 trillion yen had still not been spent. Reconstruction Agency officials did not say if additional budgetary measures would be needed.

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

Total Denial of the Existing Fukushima Radioactive Contamination for Reconstruction’s Sake

 Fukushima tops national sake competition for record-setting sixth year
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Officials and brewers from Fukushima Prefecture, including Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori (second from right), hold bottles of sake during a photo session Thursday at the prefectural government building in Fukushima City. Fukushima sake brands won the largest number of prizes at the Annual Japan Sake Awards
FUKUSHIMA – Fukushima Prefecture is home to the largest number of award-winning sake brands for the sixth year in a row, marking a record in an annual competition, the National Research Institute of Brewing said Thursday.
Nineteen brands from the prefecture won the Gold Prize at the Annual Japan Sake Awards, matching Hyogo Prefecture for the year’s top spot. Judges, including technical officers from the National Tax Agency and master brewers, chose 232 brands as Gold Prize winners out of 850 brands submitted from across the country.
“We achieved the sixth straight year of victory despite a severe situation due to rumors (about radiation contamination),” Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told a ceremony held in the prefectural government’s head office in the city of Fukushima, referring to the fallout from the March 2011 triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“I hope to promote the excellent sake produced in Fukushima both in and outside Japan,” he added.
Among Fukushima breweries, Kokken Brewery Co.’s Kokken won the top prize for the 11th year in a row. Higashinihonshuzo Productivity Improvement Cooperative’s Okunomatsu and Nagurayama Sake Brewery Co.’s Nagurayama won for the 10th year.
Aspiring brewer taps Fukushima town’s hops in bid to boost sagging farming industry
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Hop Japan Inc. President Makoto Honma (right) gives advice to a hop producer on how to plant a seedling in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture.
“I can’t wait to drink delicious beer made from homegrown hops,” Makoto Honma, the president of Hop Japan Inc., told farmers with a smile in April when he visited them in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture.
While his company was originally intended to focus on the production and sale of homegrown hops, Honma is now planning to build a craft beer brewery in the city amid the recent surge in popularity of locally produced beer and unique brewing methods.
Currently, most domestic hops are grown based on contracts with major breweries, but the production outlook is dim due to a dwindling number of farmers in Japan and falling consumption of big brand beers.
The 52-year-old also believes the realization of his dream would help solve problems related to the abandonment of local farms and revitalize rural tourism.
His brewery dream originates from his experience in the United States a decade ago.
While working as a spokesman for Tohoku Electric Power Co. in 2008, the Yamagata Prefecture native decided to take a two-year leave to study English in Seattle. During his stay, Honma developed a fascination with local craft beer and the brewery business.
In 2014, one of his friends asked him to help in negotiations with producers of Tohoku-grown hops, further piquing his interest in the industry.
Honma said the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, and subsequent tsunami and nuclear crisis, had a major impact on his life.
“I want to make hop production sustainable in Tohoku. I would do whatever I can do as we can only live once,” he said, recalling his new outlook on life.
Honma decided to quit his job and launched Hop Japan in Sendai in 2015.
He later learned that Fukushima Bank offers financial aid for startups, leading him to move his company to the city of Fukushima in order to receive the funding.
Honma was later tapped by the Reconstruction Agency to grow hops in Tamura, where farmers sought alternative crops because of the falling production of tobacco leaves.
Tamura officials later asked him to build a brewery in addition to farming hops.
Prompted by the local passion, Honma decided to follow through with the plan, and is set to move to the city by the end of the year, taking further steps toward fulfilling his dream. “By promoting the brewery business, I’d like to realize a society where economic activities from producing and processing to selling, work together in unison,” he said.
This section features topics and issues from Fukushima covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in the prefecture. The original article was published on May 1.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment