Attorneys Implore Judge to Keep Sailors’ Fukushima Case in U.S.

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November 14, 2018
SAN DIEGO (CN) – Former Senator John Edwards and his co-counsel implored a federal judge Wednesday not to dismiss claims from U.S. service members who say they were exposed to radiation while aboard U.S. ships sent to render aid after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima, Japan.
“We have 500 sailors who are badly hurt and some of them are dead. We have not been able to ask them a single question under oath … at the end of the day these folks just want their day in court,” Edwards told U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino.
But Sammartino said at the beginning of the nearly three-hour court hearing she was inclined to dimiss the claims against Tokyo Electric Power Co. – or TEPCO – and General Electric for lack of personal jurisdiction.
U.S. sailors filed a class action in the Southern District of California in 2012 claiming radiation they were exposed to following the meltdown of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan while aboard U.S. vessels on a humanitarian mission has caused cancer, brain tumors, birth defects in their children and other rare health problems. Some have even died, according to their attorneys.
If U.S. courts dismiss the two related cases – Cooper et al. v. TEPCO et al. and Bartel et al. v. Tokyo Electric Power Company Inc. et al. – the sailors could bring their claims in Japan under its Compensation for Nuclear Damage Act.
Sammartino did clarify throughout the hearing that she would not waste her or the attorneys’ time by holding a court hearing if she wasn’t going to consider their arguments.
Class attorney Charles Bonner of Sausalito, California implored the judge not to dismiss the litigation, noting that attorneys have not been able to conduct discovery in the case, and that the defendants’ motions to dismiss were “based on legal arguments,” not facts.
Bonner suggested class counsel needed to obtain contracts between GE, which designed and helped to maintain the nuclear reactors for 40 years in Fukushima, and TEPCO, which operated the plant. Bonner said the contracts likely contain a choice-of-law provision that would indicate whether the parties would agree to litigate in the U.S. or Japan.
“Our sailors have already been here five years. They need some resolution in this court,” Bonner said.
TEPCO attorney Gregory Stone of Munger Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles said the case has seen new developments in the few years since Sammartino found it should not be dismissed – a decision affirmed by the Ninth Circuit.
Those new developments include three times as many cases filed in Japan over the nuclear meltdown, which Stone said “demonstrates the Japanese interest in resolving these claims.”
TEPCO has paid 8.163 trillion yen, or $76 billion – one percent of Japan’s total GDP – to resolve claims stemming from the disaster, “a huge amount of money for a government to designate to one incident,” Stone said.
General Electric attorney Michael Schissel of Arnold & Porter in New York told Sammartino Japan’s interest would be most impaired if its laws were not applied to the litigation and that a contract between GE and TEPCO over choice of law “would be completely irrelevant to the government’s interest in having its laws apply.”
If Japanese law is applied to the case, GE would be dismissed.
Edwards again reiterated the class’ desire to begin discovery, saying what they’ve pleaded so far “is what we have read in the newspaper and saw in the news.”
Edwards suggested if the Southern District of California dismissed the cases, the sailors wouldn’t “go to Japan and hire Japanese lawyers.”
Bonner buoyed Edwards’ point, noting a declaration from Japanese lawyers who said the class would not get a fair trial in Japan, where no jury would decide the case’s merits.
“If they want to be fair, let’s have a settlement conference before your honor – the Japanese lawyers representing TEPCO are here,” Bonner said, gesturing to the lawyers in the room.
Stone recognized the recent Veteran’s Day holiday by thanking the handful of service member-plaintiffs present before noting while the “injuries they suffered are unfortunate and regrettable … we don’t think they can prove it.”
Stone also pointed out that the Department of Defense, United Nations and World Health Organization had looked into the health claims on radiation exposure and found the radiation was too low to cause the claimed injuries.
Sammartino took the matter under submission and indicated that she will issue a written ruling.
https://www.courthousenews.com/attorneys-implore-judge-to-keep-sailors-fukushima-case-in-u-s/?fbclid=IwAR3Bhh7MyS0PYcQaa1fqNAGd4agqYnQ7hGF_musSukQCk-s12lx3f_m38vU

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IAEA urges Japan to reach decision soon on handling of radioactive water at crippled Fukushima nuke plant

 

n-iaea-a-20181115-870x521The growing number of tanks storing radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 plant can be seen in February.

 

November 14, 2018
The growing number of tanks storing radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 plant can be seen in February.
A team of nuclear experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency urged Japan this week to reach a decision quickly on what to do with treated water that contains low toxicity radioactive tritium, which is accumulating at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
“We advised the Japanese government that … (a) decision should be taken very rapidly for the disposition path for water which is stored in these tanks,” said Christophe Xerri, leader of the 13-member team, on Tuesday following a nine-day review of progress on scrapping the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The facility was damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“There is space limitation, so some solution has to be decided and implemented,” Xerri said, adding that the volume of treated water containing tritium in tanks is expected to reach the planned capacity within the “coming three to four years.”
As of last Thursday around 970,000 tons of tritium-containing water was stored on the premises of the plant, according to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
The government has studied options for the tritium-containing water, including releasing it into the sea, as it is regarded as not harmful to humans.
The tainted water has been stored in tanks after being produced as a byproduct of cooling the plant’s reactors, which suffered core meltdowns following the 2011 disaster.
But local fishermen and residents have expressed concern about discharging the water, fearing the potential impact on food.
“Controlled discharge to the sea is something which is applied in many nuclear facilities, so it’s not something which is new,” Xerri said.
“Our review was not to advise the Japanese government on one solution or another one,” he added.
“It is up to the Japanese government to decide — in engaging with stakeholders, of course — on the option Japan wants to implement,” he said.
Toyoshi Fuketa, who heads the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has described discharging the water into the sea as the “only” solution.
Tepco has been running the Advanced Liquid Processing System, said to be capable of removing almost all radioactive materials from the toxic water except tritium.
It was the fourth such review conducted by a team of experts from the Vienna-based agency, following two in 2013 and one in 2015.
The IAEA will issue its final report by the end of January 2019.
Xerri said his team was impressed by the progress that has been made at the plant since the previous review, including the full operation of a frozen soil wall around the reactors that has reduced the volume of groundwater that enters the reactor buildings.
But he acknowledged many challenges in the decommissioning process, which is set to take “30 to 40 years or even more,” including the removal of melted fuel from the reactors — seen as the hardest part.
When asked about the possibility of discarding the fuel — the location and volume of which remaining within the reactors is yet to be grasped due to high levels of radiation — Xerri said, “We don’t have enough information to tell you yes or no.”
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/14/national/iaea-urges-japan-make-decision-treated-radioactive-water-crippled-fukushima-nuke-plant/?fbclid=IwAR10h4F1walNk1hOujMjrwNbnuqm7xhkl4Ri91mmLZ6pk-igVMa-TYXvOdE#.W-2FBPZFzIW

Tepco to temporarily stop injecting water at Fukushima reactor

 

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November 9, 2018
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant plans to temporarily stop injecting water into one of its damaged reactors to test the cooling of fuel debris.
Tokyo Electric Power Company announced it will conduct the 7-hour test at the No.2 reactor as early as March next year.
The unit is one of 3 in the 6-reactor facility that suffered a meltdown after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The damaged reactors contain a mixture of molten nuclear fuel and structural parts.
TEPCO officials say water injections keep temperatures stable in the 3 reactors at around 30 degrees Celsius.
The planned experiment is aimed at checking how the debris is being cooled. It will be the first time to halt water injections into the reactor since they were stabilized after the accident.
TEPCO’s assessment says the reactor temperature would rise by around 5 degrees per hour if injections were halted by accident. But it says the rise will be limited to about 0.2 degrees per hour when natural heat radiation is taken into account.
TEPCO officials say they will begin cutting back on water injections by around half to 1.5 tons per hour for about a week as early as in January, before halting them completely in March after checking the results.
TEPCO estimates the 7-hour stoppage may raise the reactor temperature by about 1.4 degrees but says water injections will resume if the temperature rises more than 15 degrees.
Company officials say they want to assess changes in the temperature so they can use the data in future emergency cases, including earthquakes and tsunamis.
https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20181109_10/

Japanese business group decries Taiwan’s continued ban on Japanese food imports in wake of 3/11

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November 10, 2018
TAIPEI – The Japanese business community in Taipei on Friday lamented over Taiwan’s continued ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures imposed in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In its annual white paper, the Taipei branch of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the Japanese business community in Taipei is disappointed that the issue has been manipulated into a “political problem.”
“We are deeply disappointed and think it’s extremely dangerous that the (Taiwan) government continues the ban without any support of scientific evidence,” it said.
The local Japanese chamber, with 471 member companies, urged the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen to make a “cool-headed judgment based on conscience to avoid undermining sound Japan-Taiwan relations.”
It also called on the Taiwan government to re-examine the ban based on scientific evidence. As of August, the Taiwan government had conducted inspections on more than 125,000 units of food products imported from Japan since March 15, 2011, with none exceeding the legal limits for radiation, it pointed out.
Other countries and regions such as the United States, Hong Kong and Singapore have relaxed restrictions on food imports from Fukushima Prefecture and other affected areas, it added.
The World Trade Organization has ruled that Taiwan’s continued import ban on seafood from Fukushima and other parts of Japan as “arbitrarily and unjustifiably” discriminatory measures. China and Japan are also in talks about easing the ban, it said.
The Tsai government proposed easing the ban after coming to power in May 2016, only to back away when the main opposition Kuomintang questioned the new government’s ability to ensure the safety of the imported products.
Kuomintang has initiated a referendum seeking to maintain the ban. The initiative, along with nine others on other issues, will be put to a vote in conjunction with the nationwide local elections on Nov. 24.
National Development Council Minister Chen Mei-ling, who accepted the chamber’s policy proposal Friday, said the Taiwan government must complete all necessary safety assessments and communications with the public before it considers adjusting the policy.
“Then it’ll be just waiting for the right time to lift the ban,” she said.
Despite the absence of diplomatic ties, which were severed in 1972, the unofficial relationship between Taiwan and Japan has remained robust.
Japan is Taiwan’s third-largest trading partner after China, including Hong Kong, while Taiwan is Japan’s fourth-largest trading partner.
Bilateral trade totaled $62.7 billion last year, up about 4 percent from the previous year. Japanese investment in Taiwan last year also increased more than 84 percent from the previous year to $649 million.
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/10/national/japanese-business-group-decries-taiwans-continued-ban-japanese-food-imports-wake-3-11/#.W-b_kfZFzIU

Abe, IOC chief to visit Fukushima venue for 2020 Olympics

 

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November 5, 2018
TOKYO – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach plan to visit the venue in Fukushima for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics later this month, a government source said Sunday.
With a “reconstruction Olympics” being one of the fundamental themes of the Summer Games, the government hopes the visit planned for Nov 24 will increase momentum toward the recovery of the country’s northeastern region, devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Bach will visit Japan to attend a two-day general assembly meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees starting Nov 28, followed by an IOC Executive Board session, both to be held in Tokyo.
The Olympic torch relay will start in Fukushima Prefecture on March 26, 2020, with the flame scheduled to be lit in the ancient Greek city of Olympia on March 12 the same year, a day after the ninth anniversary of the 2011 disaster.
The city of Fukushima will host six softball games including a match played by the Japan team on July 22 as the first event of the Olympic Games.
https://japantoday.com/category/politics/abe-ioc-chief-to-visit-fukushima-venue-for-2020-olympics

Radioactive water threatens Fukushima fishery’s fragile gains

 

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November 4, 2018
Plant operator plans to dump contaminated water into the ocean
TOKYO — Since a catastrophic nuclear accident seven years ago, Fukushima fishermen have made painstaking efforts to rebuild their livelihood, assiduously testing the radioactivity levels of their catches to ensure safety. Now, rapidly accumulating wastewater from the crippled power plant is again threatening this hard-won business recovery.
Faced with the prospect that there will be no more space to store tanks containing radioactive water leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings and the Japanese government are considering diluting the water and dumping it into the ocean.
Even though Fukushima’s fishery has been recovering, the haul throughout the entire prefecture amounted to about 3,300 tons last year, just 10% of the average prior to the 2011 disaster. And even reaching there has not been easy.
Fish markets in the prefecture now house testing rooms filled with equipment. Staff members mince seafood caught every morning to screen for radioactivity. Such painstaking efforts gradually enabled fishermen to return to the sea, with all fishing and farming operations resuming in February this year.
But the trend could reverse if the government goes through with plans to release nuclear wastewater into the sea.
Tepco has been cooling down the molten fuel cores by pumping water into the ruined reactors. The tainted water is later taken out and treated, but the system in place does not filter out tritium, a radioactive hydrogen isotope.
The tritium-laced water is currently stored in tanks within the premises of Fukushima Daiichi, but space is due to run out within five years.
Tritium occurs naturally and is present in rainwater in the atmosphere. The chemical is not known to accumulate within living things, and it is assumed that it can be safely released in the ocean if properly diluted. Nuclear plants in France and elsewhere normally empty treated tritium wastewater into the sea.
Resolving the wastewater issue is a key step in achieving a sustainable fishing revival in Fukushima, according to Shuji Okuda, an official in charge of decommissioning and wastewater management at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.
“I understand that we should cooperate for revival,” one Fukushima fisher said.
“But I’m afraid of the damage to our reputation,” this fisher said. “I don’t want them to dump anything into the ocean.”
The waters off the coast of Fukushima teem with about 200 species of fish and shellfish, such as flounder, saury and surf clam.
Despite such abundant marine resources, demand for Fukushima seafood has yet to fully recover. At Tokyo’s Toyosu market, wholesale prices for fish caught in the prefecture sell for about 30% cheaper than product from neighboring areas, according to a major wholesaler. Some distributors do not stock up on the prefecture’s seafood for fear of driving away customers.
Before the nuclear accident, fishing boats from other prefectures would visit Fukushima harbors. Now, “they have all but vanished,” said a representative at the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations.
Japan’s trading partners are slowly normalizing restrictions on Fukushima exports — Russia lifted its remaining ban in March. But despite the scientific verification of safety, many localities still block Fukushima marine products.
In turn, domestic lobbying groups are resisting plans to discharge nuclear wastewater into the ocean — at least not until there is consensus at home and abroad that the practice is safe. “As a national representative of fishers, we oppose it,” said JF Zengyoren, the nationwide federation of fishing cooperatives.
“The reputational risk is still at hand,” said Tetsuji Suzuki, managing director at the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations.
“Revival should come after disaster recovery,” Suzuki said.
https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Radioactive-water-threatens-Fukushima-fishery-s-fragile-gains

Taiwan: COA, KMT official present opposing views of Japanese food ban

It is odd that only mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea are maintaining the Japanese food ban to protect their population from radiation contaminated food, while ours pass deals with the Japanese gouvernment and even letting them to promote it in special trade shows sponsored by the japanese embassies….
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Taipei, Nov. 3 (CNA) A Council of Agriculture (COA) official and a former Taipei mayor argued the merits Saturday of lifting a ban on imports of food from parts of Japan affected by a nuclear plant disaster in March 2011 ahead of a referendum on the issue later this month.
The two separately argued their positions on the issue in prepared presentations, with COA deputy chief Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) saying Taiwan’s inspection rules for food imports would keep the public safe if the ban were lifted.
But former Taipei mayor and opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who proposed the referendum, said the radioactive substances that still exist in the affected areas in Japan pose a potential threat to consumers and Taiwan’s food safety.
The referendum question, one of 10 up for a vote on Nov. 24, will ask voters: “Do you agree the government should maintain the ban on imports of agricultural products and food from areas in Japan affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster on March 11, 2011, including Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures?”
In arguing the government’s position that the ban should be lifted, Chen said Taiwan has embraced stricter standards than other countries for inspecting food items that could be contaminated by radioactive substances.
The inspection process in Taiwan is transparent, meaning that the government can assure the public that Japanese food allowed to be put on store shelves is 100 percent safe, he said.
Hau argued that the radiation leaks from the Fukushima power plant has damaged the soil, water and the general environment in the area, and if radionuclides such as cesium and strontium affect fish or other agricultural items in Japan, the impact will be felt for a long time.
Once people in Taiwan consume these tainted food items, Hau said, it will be like ingesting poison, in effect posing a risk to food safety in Taiwan.
In particular, Hau said, Taiwan is geographically close to Japan and Taiwanese like to eat Japanese food, meaning the government should have a zero tolerance policy for food safety and continue to ban food and agricultural product imports from the radiation-affected areas.
Taiwan imposed the ban on food imports from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures on March 25, 2011, two weeks after the Fukushima nuclear power plant was battered by a major earthquake and tsunami.
It soon suffered a nuclear meltdown that led to large amounts of radioactive substances being spewed into the environment.
Hau said the public has the right to be free of potential scares from eating contaminated Japanese food resulting from the nuclear disaster.
Chen argued, however, that many countries such as the United States, Singapore and South Korea and countries in Europe have opted to closely monitor high contamination risks related to food imports from Japan rather than continuing to impose a complete ban.
In other words, those countries allow the sale of foods from the radiation-affected areas in Japan if they are determined to be safe through inspections, the official said.
According to Chen, Taiwan and China are the only countries in the world to maintain a complete ban on foods from these parts of Japan, and he said Taiwan should adopt pragmatic measures on the issue.
The Democratic Progressive Party government, which has traditionally had close ties with Japan, has tried to lift the ban since taking power in May 2016 but has yet to succeed because of popular resistance.