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Booklets touting Fukushima plant water discharge angers schools

A leaflet distributed by the Reconstruction Agency for junior and senior high school students on the three topics regarding tainted water treated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) is shown at the Miyagi prefectural government office on Feb. 21. (Ryuichiro Fukuoka)

March 7, 2022

Complaints from educators have prompted some municipalities in coastal areas of the Tohoku region to stop schools from handing out government fliers to students or retrieve distributed ones that tout the safety of releasing treated water from a crippled nuclear plant into the ocean. 

The government sent a total of 2.3 million booklets directly to elementary, junior and senior high schools across the nation in December in an effort to prevent reputational damage caused by the planned water discharge. 

The school staffers say the leaflets are unilaterally imposing the central government’s views on children. 

“There are both arguments for and against the processed water discharge program, but the materials impose the thought that it is safe on naive children in a one-sided manner,” said a principal of an elementary school in Miyagi Prefecture who described the fliers as “totally unacceptable” in the disaster-ravaged region. 

The processed water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is scheduled to be released into the sea in spring next year, but the plan is facing strong local opposition.

One of the two booklets in question targets elementary school students with the aim of promoting recovery from the nuclear crisis by instructing them on the disaster triggered by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

It was developed by the economy ministry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.

The other was worked out by the Reconstruction Agency to educate junior and senior high school students on the three topics over contaminated water treated with the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS).

They arrived directly in schools along with supplementary textbooks of the education ministry on radiation.

The handbook for elementary school pupils describes the processed water as “so safe that people’s eating or drinking it would pose no health problems.”

Referring to a radioactive substance called tritium in the treated water, the leaflet for high schools states there “would be no health effects” and that kind of water “has already been discharged in oceans all over the world.”

A representative of the Reconstruction Agency said its material was distributed as “supplementary data to provide scientific explanations to prevent the spread of groundless rumors that cause reputational damage.”

Mitsunori Fukuda, a senior economy ministry official, said the leaflets are aimed at providing accurate information about the water discharge based on scientific evidence to minimize possible reputational damage. 

“The ministry has no intention of requiring using the leaflets (at schools) and it is up to local governments to decide how to use them,” said Fukuda, director of the Nuclear Accident Response Office. 

The central government in April last year announced a plan to release water contaminated in the Fukushima nuclear crisis into the sea in spring 2023 after removing most radioactive substances in it and diluting it with seawater.

Suffering negative effects of groundless rumors of contaminated products in the aftermath of the 2011 tremor, local fisheries associations are resolutely opposing the program. Miyagi Prefecture in November demanded the state “research disposal options other than oceanic discharge.”

On Feb. 21, four opposition parliamentary groups in the prefectural assembly submitted a request to the prefecture’s educational board to stop the fliers from reaching students.

“Though the issue is still being discussed, the materials convey information directly to children while presupposing the sea release,” said Miyuki Yusa, chair of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s caucus in the assembly.

Yusa insisted that concerns about the safety of treated contaminated water have yet to be dispelled.

Akiyo Ito, head of the secretariat of the prefectural education board, said the board is not planning to retrieve all the distributed leaflets, but acknowledged that the documents have been “sent directly to schools and have resulted in a mess, posing a problem.”

Many municipalities are embarrassed about the booklets.

In Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, the city education board instructed 23 elementary and junior high schools, except for two schools, to refrain from distributing the leaflets and keep them at the schools. The two schools had already handed out the fliers to students. 

An education board official said the leaflets include contents sensitive to the city where the fisheries industry is essential to the local economy. 

“We need more time to deliberate on how to deal with the issue,” the official said. 

Kamaishi and Ofunato cities in the same prefecture issued similar instructions. 

In Okuma, which co-hosts the Fukushima No. 1 plant in Fukushima Prefecture, officials distributed the fliers at junior high schools but decided not to do so in elementary schools. 

In Iwaki in the same prefecture, the city education board sent a written notice to all elementary and junior high schools on Feb. 4, calling on them to refrain from using them in classes and store them at schools. 

A junior high school teacher said the timing was inappropriate. 

“It is important for children to know the actual situation but it is too early to distribute the leaflets when there are strong criticisms about the planned water discharge,” the teacher said. 

Ishinomaki city in Miyagi Prefecture called on school operators to “cease handing the leaflets to students” because it has not examined the contents thoroughly.

As many people in the fisheries circle in Shichigahama are worried about the water release plan, the town has decided to retrieve booklets already distributed to first-graders at elementary and junior high schools.

“The materials were distributed at a significantly insensitive time in a terribly thoughtless manner,” said a member of the town’s education board. “It can’t be helped that people suspect they were sent out behind the backs of municipalities.”

Nobuo Takizawa, head of the secretariat for Natori city’s education board, pointed out the central government should have notified municipalities in advance.

“The documents were distributed to schools without the education boards being notified,” said Takizawa.

Yoshinori Hakui, a senior education ministry official, showed signs of remorse about the direct distribution of the leaflets to schools during a session of the Lower House Committee on Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology on March 2. 

“We regret that we delivered the leaflets in a manner that was not careful enough. We could have made better coordination with the economy ministry and others,” said Hakui, director-general of the Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau. 

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14556960

March 11, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Schools reopen, but student numbers fail to rebound in disaster-hit Fukushima municipalities

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Four elementary schools in Fukushima Prefecture link up via a teleconference system in February and conduct a joint class on ethics.
March 19, 2019
FUKUSHIMA – Eight years after the March 2011 disasters, elementary and junior high schools have reopened in 10 Fukushima Prefecture municipalities after the lifting of nuclear evacuation advisories. Student numbers have not rebounded.
According to statistics released last May, the number of students stood at only about 10 percent of the level before 3/11.
During the protracted evacuations, many families rebuilt their lives in new locations, leading to the sharp fall in students in Fukushima. As a result, local governments are facing difficulties keeping schools operating.
… A man in his 60s who is a member of a neighborhood community association in the Yamakiya district in the town of Kawamata is disappointed by the steep decrease in the number of children.
“The disappearance of children’s voices is like the lights going out,” the man, who did not want his name published, said….
… The central government is working to improve small-class education in depopulated areas through the use of information and communications technology.
Read more:

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

Reduced number of high schools due to number of kids diving in disaster-hit Fukushima municipalities

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March 15, 2019
8 Years On: Number of Kids Dives in Disaster-Hit Fukushima Municipalities
Fukushima, March 15 (Jiji Press)–In 10 Fukushima Prefecture municipalities where elementary and junior high school have reopened after the lifting of nuclear evacuation advisories, the number of students stood at 758 as of May 1, 2018, about 10 pct of the level before the March 2011 disasters.
During protracted evacuations, many child-rearing families rebuilt their lives in new locations, leading to the sharp fall in the number of students in Fukushima.
Read more :
 
As population declines, Fukushima Prefecture to lose 15 of its 96 high schools
The Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education will reduce its number of prefecture-run high schools by 15 by the end of fiscal 2023 as the region continues to struggle with a dwindling number of students due to a declining birthrate.
The mergers will be implemented over the span of three years from fiscal 2021 and will reduce the number of high schools in the prefecture from 96 to 81.
Twenty-five schools will be merged and reorganized into 13 under the plan, which will integrate schools located in close proximity of one another. Each school will retain four to six classes per grade.
Read more :

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

Few return to Fukushima schools after evacuation lifted

Fourteen public elementary and junior high schools in five municipalities near the Fukushima Daiichi NPP reopened their doors in April for the first time in seven years, but only 135 youngsters showed up. The figure represents just 3 percent of the 4,000 or so children who were enrolled at 21 local schools prior to the disaster…
Those municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted refurbished school buildings and constructed new swimming pools and gymnasiums to attract more children…
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Three first-graders gather at their classroom on April 6 in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, after a ceremony welcoming them to the elementary school.
 
Near-empty classrooms marked the start of the new academic year in municipalities where evacuation orders dating from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster were recently lifted.
 
Fourteen public elementary and junior high schools in five municipalities reopened their doors in April for the first time in seven years, but only 135 youngsters showed up.
 
The figure represents just 3 percent of the 4,000 or so children who were enrolled at 21 local schools prior to the disaster.
The low return rate highlights the daunting task for officials trying to revitalize local communities, given fears that an absence of children offers only murky prospects of survival.
 
Municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted refurbished school buildings and constructed new swimming polls and gymnasiums to attract more children.
 
Schools reopened in Namie, Tomioka, Iitate and the Yamakiya district of Kawamata, where evacuation orders were lifted in spring 2017 with the exception of difficult-to-return zones, as well as in Katsurao, where most of the village was deemed safe to return to in 2016.
 
Those municipalities had set up temporary schools at locations where many residents evacuated.
 
After the lifting of the evacuation orders, the percentage of residents who have returned to their former communities range from 3.5 percent in Namie to 33.9 percent in Kawamata.
Most of the returnees are senior citizens.
 
Younger residents apparently are reluctant to return due to lingering concerns about radiation and also because many have made a fresh start in the areas where they moved to after the disaster.
 

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Radiation levels exceeding state-set limit found on grounds of five Chiba schools

n-kashiwa-a-20170614-870x580.jpgRadiation levels exceeding the state safety limit have been detected on the grounds of five schools in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture.

 

Radiation levels exceeding the government-set safety limit of 0.23 microsieverts per hour have been detected on the grounds of five schools in the city of Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, the prefectural board of education said Monday.

Between late April and mid-May, the board officials detected radiation levels of up to 0.72 microsieverts per hour in certain areas of the schools, including Kashiwa High School and Kashiwa Chuo High School. The areas — including soil near a school swimming pool and drainage gutters — are not frequented by students, but the board closed them off and will work to quickly decontaminate them, the officials said.

Kashiwa has been one of the areas with high radiation readings since the 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

According to NHK, the board of education had been checking the soil on the school premises in Kashiwa after radiation levels beyond the state limit were detected in shrubbery near the city’s public gymnasium. The board will announce the results of radiation tests at other schools in the prefecture around the end of July, NHK reported.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/13/national/science-health/radiation-levels-exceeding-state-set-safety-limit-found-grounds-five-chiba-schools/#.WUAPbjekLrc

June 13, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Burying Radioactive Rubble in the Schoolyard of Primary Schools in Yokohama

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Question: “Why on earth would anyone do this?”

Answer:”I guess it’s better than sitting unprotected in barrels on the school grounds for years until the national govt got around to classifying the sludge as radioactive waste. And burying it on school grounds has a precedent in Fukushima that everyone seems to think is OK. Why would Yokohama be treated any differently? (Please read in sarcastic tone of voice.)

https://mobile.twitter.com/kanakodo5

https://sites.google.com/site/kanakodo5/home

Special credits to Jack Hiro and Beverly Findley-Kaneko for this information and comments.

 

June 11, 2017 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Only 28% of Fukushima children returning to former schools

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Only 28 percent of children are returning to their public elementary and junior high schools in five towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture following the lifting of evacuation orders imposed after the 2011 nuclear disaster, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned. The majority of schoolboys and girls are opting to stay out of their hometowns due to anxiety over radiation exposure and resettlement at evacuation sites.

The trend raises concerns that the number of young people in these towns and villages will dwindle and the survival of the municipalities is at stake.

The five municipalities are the towns of Hirono and Naraha and the villages of Iitate, Kawauchi and Katsurao. They set up temporary elementary and junior high schools at evacuation sites after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster triggered the multiple core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Hirono and Kawauchi reopened their public schools in 2012 and Naraha and Katsurao will follow suit in April 2017. Iitate plans to reopen its schools in April 2018, one year after the evacuation order is lifted.

Once these public schools have reopened, the temporary schools at evacuation sites are shut down, prompting children from the five affected municipalities to choose one of three options — return to their hometowns, commute to their former schools by school bus or other means, or attend schools at evacuation sites.

According to the Mainichi study, 55 percent of 259 pupils and students from Hirono and Kawauchi have returned to their former elementary and junior high schools because the evacuation orders were relatively short. But only 139 students or 15 percent of students from Naraha, Katsurao and Iitate responded to a survey in 2015-2016 that they would return to their original schools. Only three students, or 4 percent, of 74 students from Katsurao said they would return to their hometown schools.

As for students from Naraha, 17 percent of students replied that they would attend their hometown schools but half of them hoped to commute to their hometown schools from outside the town. If young evacuees in Iwaki, a major evacuation destination, try to commute by train and bus, a one-way trip takes one hour. An official of the Naraha board of education expressed concerns that these students are really serious about commuting to their hometowns. A Kawauchi village official says that the returns of child-rearing generations are the village’s lifeline. These municipalities operate school buses to encourage the evacuees to return to their hometowns as a stopgap measure rather than as a permanent solution.

Yusuke Yamashita, an associate professor of urban and rural sociology at Tokyo Metropolitan University, says, ”There are some parents who send their children to temporary schools before eventually returning to their hometowns. If these municipalities reopen their schools hastily, some families may abandon plans to return home (out of safety fears). It is important for the communities to offer as many options as possible by keeping temporary schools.”

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160910/p2a/00m/0na/001000c

September 11, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment