Until the Fukushima accident, Japan had 55 operating nuclear reactors as well as enrichment and reprocessing plants which had suffered a series of deadly accidents at its nuclear facilities resulting in the deaths of workers and releases of radioactivity into the environment and surrounding communities. Since the Fukushima disaster, there is growing opposition against re-opening those reactors closed for maintenance.



SEVEN YEARS AFTER: Overburdened staff rebuilding Tohoku face even grimmer times

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun:

Half of the local governments in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima--the three hardest-hit prefectures in the March 11, 2011, disaster--expressed concerns about the physical and mental health of their employees.

“Although projects to rebuild are proceeding, the burden of each civil servant is increasing” due to a shortage of staff, said a local official, echoing the desperation shared by many others.

Questionnaires were sent to the 42 cities, towns and villages in coastal areas of the three prefectures between January and February. The municipalities included those ordered to evacuate following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, triggered by the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

According to the study, the number of backup employees was 1,358 in fiscal 2012, 1,353 in fiscal 2017 and will be 1,072 in fiscal 2018.

The article continues:

According to the ministry, the number of backup employees dispatched under its initiative in fiscal 2017 was 1,330, a year-on-year drop of 12 percent.

As of January, the number was 210 fewer than what the disaster-hit municipalities said they needed.

The study also showed that overtime work was increasing in 19 municipalities.

Eight of the 19 municipalities said their busiest workers were clocking 100 to 150 hours a month, beyond the central government’s 100-hour-a-month threshold for acknowledging the risks of “karoshi,” or death from overwork.

Five local governments cited 150 to 200 hours a month.

Nakayuki Fujiwara, a 43-year-old official at the Minami-Soma city government in Fukushima Prefecture, said he works more than four hours of overtime almost every day.

Parts of Minami-Soma are located within the 20-kilometer zone of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Fujiwara oversees dozens of central government-subsidized rebuilding projects, such as construction of a certified nursery school and agricultural facility within the 20-km zone.


Disaster is no stranger to residents of the Tohoku region

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun:

March 3 marked the 85th anniversary of the Sanriku Offshore Earthquake disaster that left more than 3,000 people dead or missing.

March 11 is the anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake that struck the same Pacific coastline in 2011, generating towering tsunami that left about 22,000 dead or missing.

The latter is also the start date for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe seven years ago, which is ongoing and has no end date (radioactive Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 have hazardous persistence lasting around 300 to 600 years -- 10 to 20 half-lives -- contaminants which have blanketed the region). 

Of course, there are critics who pointed out the risk of building nuclear power plants in such a seismically active area in the first place. One such person is Harvey Wasserman, who warned, in joke form, at an anti-nuclear event held in South Bend, IN in 1997 that future generations would look back at Japanese atomic reactors as earthquake fault line markers.


Former students return to school 7 years after nuclear disaster

As reported by TAKUYA IKEDA in the Asahi Shimbun.

Although the article does mention radioactivity decontamination efforts, it does not specifically address contamination levels on items the former students are retrieving and taking home from their abandoned elementary school.


TEPCO defends Fukushima ‘ice wall,’ but it is still too porous

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun.

The so-called "ice wall" has already cost $322 million.

The article reports:

It costs more than 1 billion yen [$9.5 million] a year in electricity fees to keep the wall frozen.

Despite these steep subsidies to Tokyo Electric by the public for its recovery operations from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe it caused, the ice wall is only partially effective, if that!


SEVEN YEARS AFTER: Fukushima fish sold overseas for first time since nuclear disaster

As reported by KAZUMASA SUGIMURA in the Asahi Shimbun.

The article reports:

Seafood from the prefecture has since then only been permitted to be shipped after having its safety confirmed through radiation level checks.

Prefectural officials said no seafood had been found to show radiation levels higher than the national standards for almost three years.

However, no details re: the exact methodology of "radiation level checks" is provided by the article.

Testing food for radioactive contamination requires sophisticated methodology. Simply passing a hand held radiation detector over fish, for example, could easily miss contamination that is present, incorporated into the fish flesh.

Internal exposure to ionizing radiation carries even more hazard than external exposure. This is especially true if the hazardous radionuclides then incorporate themselves into human physiology, after the person eats contaminated food.

As Dr. Rosalie Bertell warned decades ago, bio-accumulation (also known as bio-magnification, and bio-concentration) of radioactive contamination up the food chain is a major concern, as in the aftermath of a nuclear power plant catastrophe like at Fukushima. Humans are at the top of the food chain, at risk of receiving concentrated hazardous radioactivity doses, as by eating contaminated seafood.

The fishing cooperatives of the area, however, have led the effort to prevent Tokyo Electric from dumping around a million tons of radioactive waste water, severely contaminated with tritium, into the ocean -- as a supposed "dilution" or disposal method. As Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes put it at an anti-nuclear gathering in Chicago in June 2010, "Dilution as a solution for radioactive pollution is a delusion!"