Plaintiff Takahiro Kanno, left, speaks about the verdict in Chiba’s Chuo Ward on March 14.
March 15, 2019
CHIBA–A district court here on March 14 absolved the central government of responsibility but ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to pay compensation to nine of 19 plaintiffs who evacuated to Chiba.
The Chiba District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay a total of about 5.1 million yen ($45,630) to nine plaintiffs who evacuated out of radiation fears following the nuclear accident triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
The 19 plaintiffs were from six households who voluntarily evacuated from Fukushima to Chiba Prefecture. The plaintiffs sought a total of 247 million yen from TEPCO and the central government.
While the presiding judge ordered TEPCO to pay compensation to nine plaintiffs from four households, it denied the central government’s responsibility.
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The Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, in July last year
March 15, 2019
Tokyo Electric Power Co. and other utilities are taking a huge gamble by providing hundreds of billions of yen (billions of dollars) to restart an aging nuclear power plant in need of safety upgrades.
Japan Atomic Power Co. intends to resume operations of the one reactor at the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant in Ibaraki Prefecture in January 2023, but 300 billion yen–nearly double the initial estimate–is reportedly needed to ensure its safety.
TEPCO, which will be provided with electricity from the Tokai plant, will offer 190 billion yen, or two-thirds of the total cost. Tohoku Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co. and Hokuriku Electric Power Co. will also offer financial support.
But it remains unclear whether municipalities around the plant will approve the plan to restart the reactor.
If Japan Atomic Power fails to win consent from the local governments and is forced to scrap the Tokai No. 2 plant, TEPCO and other power distributors could suffer big financial losses.
TEPCO was effectively turned into a state property after the crisis unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011. With taxpayers’ money injected into it, TEPCO’s plan to offer assistance to another operator’s nuclear facility that has no clear prospects of restarting will inevitably provoke controversy.
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Supporters for the plaintiffs hold banners that read “Unjust ruling” and “Have you forgotten Fukushima?” after the Iwakuni branch of the Yamaguchi District Court rejected a plea to halt a nuclear reactor in Ehime Prefecture, on Friday in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
March 15, 2019
YAMAGUCHI – A district court on Friday rejected a plea by residents to halt a reactor at the Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture.
The decision by the Iwakuni branch of the Yamaguchi District Court is in line with rulings made by other regional courts and allows the No. 3 reactor to continue operating. The plant is managed by Shikoku Electric Power Co.
Unit No. 3, the sole remaining reactor at the plant, passed the state safety screening process that was revamped in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis. But concerns remain about its safety, which led residents to turn to the courts to seek an injunction.
Of the more than 30 reactors in Japan, excluding those set to be decommissioned, only a few are in operation.
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A radiation monitoring post in Fukushima city.
March 14, 2019
Despite government claims, radiation from the 2011 nuclear disaster is not gone.
Fukushima, on the other hand, is dealing with the release of radionuclides, which are fission products from nuclear power plants. These radionuclides are not rays, but dust-like particles that can stick to the body and be inhaled or ingested. Weather factors like wind and rain have displaced many radionuclides like cesium-137, which accumulate in patchy locations, such as ditches, drainage areas, or playgrounds. Because of this uneven dispersion, monitoring posts often overlook the presence of hot spots, places where the level of radiation is significantly greater. Dissatisfied by state-sponsored monitoring, many citizen scientists have collectively tracked and monitored residual radioactivity in Japan, legitimizing the presence of hot spots.
To measure radiation levels in Fukushima, the Japanese government has installed monitoring posts that display the current atmospheric level of radiation on an electronic board. Measurements of radiation levels in the air are taken at different locations and compiled to create an average level of radiation for the cities of Fukushima.
Monitoring posts are also strategically placed and their surrounding areas cleaned so that the levels of radiation remain lower. No monitoring posts are present in forests and mountains, which represent more than 70 percent of the area of Fukushima prefecture.
On top of such problems, radiation posts only measure radiation in the form of gamma rays. Yet the disaster has also released radionuclides that emit ionized particles, that is, alpha and beta particles. These ionized particles are not taken into account by state monitoring posts, even though they are dangerous if inhaled or ingested. Consequently, the data accumulated by monitoring posts is partial and unrepresentative of the extent of radioactive contamination.
Levels of radiation have also decreased due to a massive state-sponsored program of radioactive decontamination in the urban and rural areas of Fukushima. The process of decontamination consists of collecting and removing radioactive pollutants. Radionuclides are then contained in vinyl bags, so as to impede the risk of rescattering residual radioactivity. As a testament of the government-led decontamination, mountains of black plastic bags, filled with contaminated soil or debris, can be seen in many parts of Fukushima, forming a stark contrast against the emerald-green mountains of the region.
As such, decontamination does not imply that radiation has vanished; it has simply been moved elsewhere. Yet in rural regions, where many of the bags are currently being disposed, far away from the eyes of urban dwellers, residents are still forced to live near the storage sites. Many rural residents have criticized the actual efficacy of the decontamination projects. For instance, vinyl bags are now starting to break down due to the build-up of gas released by rotten soil. Plants and flowers have also started to grow inside the bags, in the process tearing them apart. With weather factors, residual radioactivity inside the bags will eventually be scattered back into the environment.
In the end, state-sponsored monitoring and decontamination are remedial measures that manage the perception of radiation in the environment. However, this does not imply that radioactive contamination is gone – not at all. When we look at the official maps of radiation of northeastern Japan, levels are low, but there are many ways to make them appear low. With overall lifespan that exceeds hundreds of years, radionuclides like cesium-137 or strontium-90 will continue to pose a problem for decades to come. However, with the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it is doubtful that the Japanese state will ever acknowledge this reality.
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March 12, 2019
A study has found that forests contain most of the radioactive cesium released during the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
About 70 percent of the cesium released into the environment is believed to have accumulated in forests near the plant.
There has been concern that the radioactive substance could spread to residential and farming areas, because little progress has been made in decontaminating the forests.