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Japan

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.

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Sunday
Apr272014

"Forced to Flee Radiation, Fearful Japanese Villagers Are Reluctant to Return"

As reported by Martin Fackler of the New York Times, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese national government under Prime Minister Abe's pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) administration are pressuring nuclear evacuees from around Fukushima Daiichi to move back to their radioactively contaminated homes.

The pressure comes in the form of an end to meager yet essential compenstation payments worth $1,000 per month or less, as well the closing of barracks-like emergency shelters where families have had to live for over three years now. TEPCO, forced to pay such meager compensation by the Japanese government, often offers at most half the value of a family's unrecoverable home, or even as little at $3,000.

Such terms have left penniless nuclear evacuees with little choice but to return to their radioactively contaminated homes, like it or not.

“This is inhumane and irresponsible,” said Teruhisa Maruyama, a lawyer who leads the Support Group for Victims of the Nuclear Accident, a Tokyo-based legal organization that helps residents seek increased compensation.

“The national government knows that full compensation could add up to big money, enough to raise public doubts about the wisdom of using nuclear power in Japan.”

“They want to say that everything is back to normal so they can keep their nuclear plants,” said Mr. Satoshi Mizuochi, 57, a nuclear evacuee. “Failing to compensate us for our losses is a way of pressuring us to go back.”

Friday
Apr252014

"U.S. welcomes Japan's pro-nuclear policy in joint statement"

While President Obama played soccer with a remarkable Japanese humanoid robot yesterday, robotic probes sent into the wrecked reactors at Fukushima Daiichi have quickly ceased functioning due to the high gamma radiation doses destroying their electronic circuitry.Kyodo News reports:

"The United States on Friday welcomed Japan's recently decided new energy policy that supports the use of nuclear power despite the devastating accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.

In a joint statement released after Japanese and U.S. leaders held a meeting in Tokyo a day earlier, the United States said it "welcomed Japan's new Strategic Energy Plan, which includes global, peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy and acceleration of the introduction of renewable energy."

The remarks are in contrast to the concerns the United States is said to have expressed when the previous government led by the Democratic Party of Japan, now the main opposition party, decided in 2012 on an energy strategy that seeks to phase out nuclear power."

This pro-nuclear U.S.-Japanese policy statement comes on the eve of the 28-year mark of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, and 37 months after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began. Although Prime Minister In a bid to secure the 2020 Summer Games for Tokyo, Abe assured the International Olympic Committee last year that the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe was "under control." But his flippant words were contradicted just five days ago by a knowledgable insider, as reported by Reuters in an article entitled "Fukushima No. 1 boss admits plant doesn't have complete control over water problems."

Tuesday
Apr222014

Godzilla's Secret History, Atomic Origins

The Huffington Post has published a cultural history, by Kevin Lankes, of Godzilla's atomic origins. The original Japanese film came out in 1954, shortly after the U.S. military's "Operation Castle Bravo" H-bomb "test" at Bikini blanketed a Japanese fishing fleet with radioactivity, contaminating its catch (some of which was then sold and consumed across Japan to unwitting families), and killing one of the crew members of the fishing boat Lucky Dragon 5 within a matter of months (more Lucky Dragon 5 crew died later from their radiation exposures).

The article quotes Charlotte Eubanks, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Japanese at The Pennsylvania State University, on the widespread cultural anxiety at the time of the film's release:

"During the U.S.-led occupation, which lasted until 1952, there was a moratorium on any press coverage dealing with the atomic aftermath in any in-depth way. The thinking was that too much attention to the atomic bombings would derail democratization efforts and would undermine U.S. authority, particularly since the U.S. had already begun using Japanese territory as a base from which to launch bombing raids on Vietnam. With the end of the occupation, some activists and journalists started to deal directly with the atomic bombings, but they were not getting much traction. People were more interested in trying to rebuild. But then there was a real game-changer. The U.S. conducted a nuclear test over the Bikini atoll and a Japanese fishing ship, the Lucky Dragon, its crew, and all their fish were exposed to the fallout radiation. When this hit the newspapers, it ignited an enormous scare, as people throughout the country feared that they had been exposed to nuclear radiation through consuming tainted fish. That was in March 1954, shortly before the release of Gojira, the opening scene of which features a fishing crew exposed to an unexplained, destructive flash of light. So, when that hit the big screens, it touched a real nerve with the Japanese public."

A new American version of Godzilla will hit theaters on May 16th. Although this article doesn't mention, one must wonder what influence the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe has had on the filmmakers.

Sunday
Apr202014

"Fukushima No. 1 boss admits plant doesn’t have complete control over water problems"

A photo showing a part of the ALPS system at Fukushima Daiichi, posted at Enformable.comAs reported by Reuters, although Japanese Prime Minister Abe said to International Olympic Committee dignitaries in Buenos Aires last September “Let me assure you the situation is under control” at Fukushima Daiichi, in his successful bid to secure the 2020 Summer Games for Tokyo, it appears he was mistaken.

“It’s embarrassing to admit, but there are certain parts of the site where we don’t have full control,” Akira Ono told reporters touring the plant last week.

Ono is TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi top manager.

He was referring to recent incidents, including TEPCO directly "203 tons [203,000 liters, or about 53,600 U.S. gallons] of highly radioactive water to the wrong building, flooding its basement. Tepco is also investigating a leak into the ground a few days earlier from a plastic container used to store rainwater. In February, a tank sprouted a 100-ton [100,000 liters, about 26,400 gallons] leak of radioactive water, the most serious incident since leaks sparked international alarm last year."

The ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) was fabricated at Fukushima Daiichi by Toshiba with participation by Areva. It is designed to filter out some 60 radioactive substances from the constant flood of radioactive water at the site, including Cs-137 and Sr-90 contamination. However, apart from some test runs, ALPS has largely sat idle for the past two years. Just two days ago, "a ton [about 264 gallons] of radioactive water overflowed from a tank" in the ALPS system.

Thus, 440,000 tons [440,000,000 liters, or more than 116 million gallons] of highly radioactive water has accumulated in some 1,000 hastily built storage tanks, some of which have themselves failed, overflowed, or leaked, releasing large quantities of contamination into the soil, groundwater, and ocean.

Each week, TEPCO adds another two to three 1,000-ton [1,000,000 liters, or more than 264,000 gallons] storage tanks to deal with the non-stop deluge of radioactively contaminated cooling water needed to keep the melted cores in "cold shutdown," as well as the radioactive groundwater it mixes with in the basement levels of the shattered reactor buildings and damaged turbine halls.

Thursday
Apr172014

"Fukushima towns seek to protect historic sites ahead of hosting waste facilities"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, local officials and historians from Okuma and Futaba -- the host towns of the sprawling, and wrecked, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant -- will don radiation protection suits and comb the countryside. They are striving to document historic (and pre-historic) cultural heritage sites, in an effort to prioritize their preservation.

The national government of Japan is targeting the two towns to host an interim storage site for radioactively contaminated debris generated by clean-up efforts across Fukushima Prefecture.

As the article reports: "According to the central government’s blueprint, the planned site will occupy 16 square kilometers [6.2 square miles] --11 square km [4.25 sq. mi.] in Okuma, or 15 percent of the town’s overall land area, and 5 square km [1.9 sq. mi.] in Futaba...Although the Fukushima prefectural government as well as Okuma and Futaba town halls have yet to decide on the proposed facilities, the central government plans to start shipments of waste in January." (emphasis added)

One ancient cultural heritage site was discovered after a 25 year search:

"Kiyoe Kamata, a 71-year-old historian from Okuma, said he is taking part in the on-site inspection to help preserve Miwatarijinja, a small Shinto shrine."

Ironically, Kamata had organized a sunset viewing event at the shrine, which was to have taken place a week after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe began.

The article reports: "To keep alive the memory of their local cultural heritage, Kamata, who now lives as an evacuee in Sukagawa in the prefecture, published a book at his own expense and gave 500 copies to Okuma residents who scattered across the nation after the nuclear accident. With a flood of requests for copies, 300 more were printed."

“If we can maintain the shrine, the bond between locals may remain strong,” Kamata said.

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