Northeastern Japan Asks Koike for Tokyo Olympics Support

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Northeastern Japan asks Koike for support

Prefectural leaders from northeastern Japan have asked the Tokyo governor for cooperation in supporting reconstruction of the 2011 disaster-hit region through the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The governors and vice governors of the 6 prefectures handed a letter to Yuriko Koike when they met in Tokyo on Monday.

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They hope the Tokyo Games will help revitalize areas affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The region’s recovery is a key theme for the Games.

The letter calls for the region’s festivals and traditional arts performances to be featured in events held in the run-up to the Olympics and Paralympics.

It also asks that the region’s wood materials be used at the Games facilities and food products at cafeterias in the athletes’ village.

The letter requests the torch relay course pass through the entire region so as many residents as possible will be able to take part in the run.

The governors said they hope the Games will contribute to bringing more foreign tourists to northeastern Japan.

They also said people in the region want an opportunity to express their gratitude to other countries for assisting in reconstruction.

Tokyo Governor Koike said the Games are the best opportunity to show to the world how the region has recovered.

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161128_20/

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Fund for Children with Thyroid Cancer in 15 Prefectures

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A member of a fund that helps children with thyroid cancer explains the prefectures to be covered by its offer to defray medical costs, at an event in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Monday. 

Thyroid cancer fund to defray costs for young patients in Fukushima, 14 other prefectures

A fund supporting children with thyroid cancer said Monday it will pay part of the medical costs for young patients in Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere in Japan.

The fund, called 3.11 Children’s Fund for Thyroid Cancer, will offer up to ¥200,000 to each patient 25 and under in 15 prefectures mainly in northeastern and eastern Japan, including Tokyo.

The regions were selected in accordance with various atmospheric dispersion models for radioactive iodine spread during the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011.

The fund will accept applications between December and March. After review, it will provide ¥100,000 for each case and additional ¥100,000 for relatively serious patients. A second round of applications will be accepted again from April.

The fund was initially promoted by politicians including former Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Morihiro Hosokawa, and supported by celebrities such as actress Sayuri Yoshinaga. It has received ¥20 million in donations from the public since September.

Some Japanese researchers published a report attributing most of the thyroid cancer cases found among children and adolescents after the disaster began to radiation spewed by the triple core meltdown at the tsunami-swamped Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/28/national/thyroid-cancer-fund-defray-costs-young-patients-fukushima-14-prefectures/#.WDz7Dlzia-c

Private fund to help young thyroid cancer patients

A Japanese private foundation will offer financial aid to young people who have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The foundation said on Monday it will provide a lump sum of 100,000 yen, or about 900 dollars, starting next month.

People aged 25 years old and younger who have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, including suspected cases, are eligible for the aid. They should be residents of Fukushima or one of the 14 other prefectures in eastern Japan.

The foundation says it has raised about 20 million yen in public donations to help them.

Fukushima Prefecture has been conducting medical checkups for about 380,000 children aged 18 or younger after the 2011 accident. 175 have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer or are suspected cases.

The foundation’s representative, Hisako Sakiyama, says these young people will have to live with the risk of cancer for many years. She says the foundation wants to provide psychological support as well.

Applications for the financial aid will be accepted through March next year. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161128_17/

Fukushima costs to soar to $176 billion

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Fukushima costs to soar to 20 trillion yen

TOKYO — The combined costs of paying compensation for the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the decommissioning of the plant’s reactors may be double the initial estimate, rising to more than 20 trillion yen ($176 billion), according to estimates by the country’s industry ministry.

At the end of 2013, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry calculated the cost at 11 trillion yen, which has since become the government’s official estimate.

As electric companies other than Tokyo Electric Co. the operator of the crippled plant, will also pass part of the cost on to consumers through higher rates, an increase in the public burden is unavoidable.

According to multiple sources, the ministry has already conveyed its new estimates to members of its expert panel, which is in discussions on reforming the management structure at Tepco and measures to secure funds.

The ministry aims to reach an agreement with the Ministry of Finance during planned discussions over the expansion of an interest-free loan program from 9 trillion yen to support Tepco.

The 11-trillion estimates foresaw 5.4 trillion yen for compensation payments; 2.5 trillion yen for decontamination work; 1.1 trillion yen for the construction of interim radioactive waste storage facilities; and 2 trillion yen secured by Tepco to scrap the reactors.

The new estimates see compensation payments costing 8 trillion yen and 4-5 trillion yen for decontamination.

The cost of decommissioning reactors — a process which will span at least 30-40 years — are projected to swell to hundreds of billions of yen a year from the current 80 billion. That would add several trillion yen to the overall cost.

Combined with the cost of building interim storage facilities, the total cost is forecast to exceed 20 trillion yen.

The snowballing costs are due mainly to the expansion of the number of people eligible for damages and the difficulty of conducting decontamination work, neither of which was fully understood when the initial estimates were made.

http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Economy/Fukushima-costs-to-soar-to-20-trillion-yen

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Cost of Fukushima disaster expected to soar to ¥20 trillion

The overall cost of wrapping up the Fukushima nuclear disaster is now estimated at more than ¥20 trillion, nearly double the previous estimate, sources familiar with the matter said Monday.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which previously put the overall cost at ¥11 trillion, is considering passing on a portion of the costs, including for compensation and the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, to consumers via higher electricity prices, the sources said.

The aged, six-reactor plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., was plunged into a blackout by the March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, leading to three core meltdowns and the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

According to the new estimate, Tepco’s compensation payments will rise to ¥8 trillion from ¥5.4 trillion and decontamination costs will double to around ¥5 trillion.

Trillions more will be needed to decommission the reactors and deal with radioactive water at the plant, on top of the ¥2 trillion earlier estimated, the sources said.

The ministry has been discussing reforming crisis-hit Tepco and is about to draft a plan for the utility based on the new estimate within this year.

Combined with the cost of building interim waste storage facilities, foreseen to remain at ¥1.1 trillion, the total cost is forecast to surpass ¥20 trillion, the sources said.

The government is studying the possibility of expanding a ¥9 trillion interest-free loan program for Tepco that was set up by issuing government bonds to cover compensation payments and decontamination costs in areas hit by the disaster.

It is expected to take up to 30 years to recover the ¥9 trillion through payments from Tepco and other big utilities.

The government also plans to recover the expected increase in compensation payments and decontamination expenses by raising charges for transmission line usage for new electricity retailers.

In principle, Tepco needs to secure funds on its own for decommissioning the plant. The government will manage the funds, which will be established using profits generated by the utility. But it is not clear if Tepco alone can shoulder the cost.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/28/national/cost-fukushima-disaster-expected-soar-%c2%a520-trillion/#.WDz8mlzia-d

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Fukushima nuclear decommission, compensation costs to almost double: media

Japan’s trade ministry has almost doubled the estimated cost of compensation for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and decommissioning of the damaged Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant to more than 20 trillion yen ($177.51 billion), the Nikkei business daily reported on Sunday.

The trade ministry at the end of 2013 calculated the cost at 11 trillion yen, which was comprised of 5.4 trillion yen for compensation, 2.5 trillion yen for decontamination, 1.1 trillion yen for an interim storage facility for contaminated soil, and 2 trillion yen for decommissioning, the report said.

The new estimate raised the cost of compensation to 8 trillion yen and decontamination to 4-5 trillion yen, the cost for an interim storage facility remained steady, and decommissioning will rise by several trillion yen, it added.

The part of the cost increase will be passed on in electricity fees, it added, citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

The ministry could not provide immediate comment.

On March 11, 2011, a massive 9 magnitude earthquake, the strongest quake ever recorded in Japan, created three tsunamis that knocked out the Fukushima-Daiichi plant, causing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl a quarter of a century earlier.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will discuss with the Ministry of Finance a possible expansion of the interest-free loan program from 9 trillion yen, to help support the finances of the Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co’s, the report said.

The cost of cleaning up Tokyo Electric Power’s wrecked Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant may rise to several billion dollars a year, from less than $800 million per year now, the Japanese government said last month.

The Mainichi newspaper reported in October that Japan’s utilities lobby expects clean-up and compensation costs from the Fukushima disaster to overshoot previous estimates by 8.1 trillion yen.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-tepco-outlook-idUSKBN13N03G

Fukushima aftershock renews public concern about restarting Kansai’s aging nuclear reactors

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KYOTO – The magnitude-7.4 aftershock that rocked Fukushima Prefecture and its vicinity last week, more than five years after the mega-quake and tsunami of March 2011, triggered fresh nuclear concerns in the Kansai region, which hosts Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture.

The aftershock came as the Nuclear Regulation Authority approved a two-decade extension for Mihama’s No. 3 reactor on Nov. 16, allowing it and two others that have already been approved to run for as long as 60 years to provide electricity to the Kansai region.

Residents need to live with the fact that they are close to the Fukui reactors, which are at least 40 years old. Despite reassurances by Kepco, its operator, and the nuclear watchdog, worries remain over what would happen if an earthquake similar to the one in 2011, or even last week, hit the Kansai region.

Kyoto lies about 60 km and Osaka about 110 km from the old Fukui plants. Lake Biwa, which provides water to about 13 million people, is less than 60 km away.

In addition to Kepco’s 40-year-old Mihama No. 3, reactors 1 and 2 at the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui are 42 and 41 years old, respectively.

In the event of an accident, evacuation procedures for about 253,000 residents of Fukui, Shiga, and Kyoto prefectures who are within 30 km of the plants would go into effect.

But how effective might they be?

The majority does not live in Fukui. Just over half, or 128,500, live in neighboring Kyoto, especially in and around the port city of Maizuru, home to a Self-Defense Forces base. Another 67,000 live in four towns in Fukui and about 58,000 live in northern Shiga Prefecture.

Plans call for Fukui and Kyoto prefecture residents to evacuate to 29 cities and 12 towns in Hyogo Prefecture and, if facilities there are overwhelmed, to Tokushima Prefecture in Shikoku. Those in Shiga are supposed to evacuate to cities and towns in Osaka Prefecture.

In a scenario put together by Kyoto Prefecture three years ago, it was predicted that tens of thousands of people would take to available roads in the event of an nuclear accident. A 100 percent evacuation of everyone within 30 km of a stricken Fukui plant was estimated to take between 15 and 29 hours, depending on how much damage there was to the transportation infrastructure.

But Kansai-based anti-nuclear activists have criticized local evacuation plans as being unrealistic for several reasons.

First, they note that the region around the plants gets a lot of snow in the winter, which could render roads, even if still intact after a quake or other disaster, much more difficult to navigate, slowing evacuations even further.

Second is the radiation screening process that has been announced in official local plans drawn up by Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures.

While automobiles would be stopped at various checkpoints along the roads leading out of Fukui and given radiation tests, those inside would not be tested if the vehicle itself has radiation levels below the standard.

If the radiation is above standard, one person, a “representative” of everyone in the car, would be checked and, if approved, the car would be allowed to continue on its way under the assumption that the others had also been exposed to levels below standard. This policy stands even if those levels might be more dangerous to children than adults.

Finally, there is the question of whether bus drivers would cooperate by going in and out of radioactive zones to help those who lack quick access to a car, especially senior citizens in need of assistance.

None of the concerns about the evacuation plans is new, and most have been pointed out by safety experts, medical professionals and anti-nuclear groups.

But with the NRA having approved restarts for three Kansai-area reactors that are over 40 years old, Kansai leaders are responding more cautiously to efforts to restart Mihama No. 3 in particular.

It is absolutely crucial that local understanding for Mihama’s restart be obtained,” said pro-nuclear Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa in July, after a local newspaper survey showed that only about 37 percent of Fukui residents agree with the decision to restart old reactors.

Shiga Gov. Taizo Mikazuki, who is generally against nuclear power, was even more critical of the NRA’s decision to restart Mihama.

There are major doubts about the law that regulates the use of nuclear reactors more than 40 years old. The central government and Kepco need to explain safety countermeasures to residents who are uneasy. People are extremely uneasy about continuing to run old reactors,” the governor said earlier this month.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/27/national/fukushima-aftershock-renews-public-concern-restarting-kansais-aging-nuclear-reactors/#.WDu8kFzia-d

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A turbine at the No. 3 reactor of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture is seen on Nov. 16.

Nobel-winning Belarusian writer Alexievich speaks on nuclear disasters and the future of human hubris

Alexievich: “the wonderful civilization turned into garbage” referring to the Fukushima Triple meltdowns…

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Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in literature, called the nuclear catastrophes at Chernobyl and Fukushima events that people cannot yet fully fathom and warned against the hubris that humans have the power to conquer nature.

The 68-year-old Belarusian writer was in Tokyo at the invitation of researchers at the University of Tokyo, where she gave a lecture on Friday. More than 200 people attended.

The Nobel laureate, who writes in Russian, is known for addressing dramatic and tragic events involving the former Soviet Union World War II, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the 1991 collapse of the communist state.

Her style is distinctive in that she presents the testimonies of ordinary people going through traumatic experiences as they speak, without intruding on their narratives.

Alexievich, who visited the Tomari nuclear power plant in Hokkaido in 2003, recalled a remark by an official there that a catastrophe like Chernobyl would not happen in Japan because “Japanese are well-prepared for quakes and are not drunken, unlike Russians.”

But 10 years later, the wonderful civilization turned into garbage,” she said through a Russian-Japanese interpreter, referring to the 2011 Fukushima core meltdowns.

Humans have occupied a position in nature that they should not. It is impossible for humans to conquer nature.

Nature is now rebelling against humans. We need a philosophy for humans and nature to live together,” she said.

Referring to the policies of Japan and other countries to stick with nuclear power even after Chernobyl and Fukushima, she said: “I think that, unless we change our thinking, nuclear power generation will continue.”

Alexievich also said that documenting catastrophes like Chernobyl and Fukushima, whose effects will last for decades, is a big burden for writers. Listening to the voices of people affected by a catastrophe is like being forced to relive it, she explained.

Yet, pointing out that fictional works on Chernobyl, such as novels and movies, have not been successful, she stressed the importance of collecting the voices of citizens.

A catastrophe has not yet been incorporated into culture. The only language that has been able to convey a catastrophe is testimonies (by people who have experienced it), she said.

She cited the story of a Soviet pilot who died of radiation exposure after splashing sand over the radiation-spewing Chernobyl plant. She remembers him as telling her: “I could not understand what I saw with my eyes. You will not understand, either. But you must record it and hand it down to future generations. Then they may understand it.”

Alexievich acknowledged that people today live in a difficult era.

People are looking to the past to find solutions for today’s problems. This trend is testified to by the rise of conservatism. Never before in the past has the vulnerability of democracy manifested itself so clearly,” she said.

Remembering that even German fascism and Soviet communism are gone, intellectuals need to encourage people so that they will not despair.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/27/national/nobel-winning-belarusian-writer-alexievich-speaks-nuclear-disasters-future-human-hubris

On shaky ground: Australian uranium and Fukushima

‘There is a clear chain of consequence from a failed nuclear facility on Japan’s East coast to the back of a big yellow truck at an Australian mine-site.’

~ Dave Sweeney

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THE POWERFUL EARTHQUAKE that struck off the coast of Fukushima prefecture in Japan last week, is a stark reminder of the deep and continuing safety concerns following the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The stricken reactor complex remains polluted and porous and every added complication leads to further contamination.

Closer to home the renewed tectonic instability highlights the need for urgent Australian government action on the industry that directly fuelled the continuing nuclear crisis.

In October 2011, Robert Floyd, the director general of the Department of Foregn Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) confirmed to the Federal Parliament that

“Australian obligated nuclear material [uranium] was at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in each of the reactors.”

Rocks dug in Kakadu and northern South Australia are the source of Fukushima’s radioactive fallout. There is a clear chain of consequence from a failed nuclear facility on Japan’s East coast to the back of a big yellow truck at an Australian mine-site.

The Federal Government has cravenly ignored this fact and also remains resistant to an independent cost-benefit assessment of Australia’s uranium trade, as directly requested by the then UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon in the wake of Fukushima.

To date there has been no meaningful response from any Australian government, uranium company, uranium industry body or regulator. There have been political platitudes and industry assurances but no credible attention or action.

Indeed, instead of the requested industry review there has been a retreat from responsibility and a rush to rip and ship more uranium ore by fast-tracking risky and contested new uranium sales deals, including to India and Ukraine.

Despite Canberra’s irresponsible fire sale approach the Australian uranium sector is facing tough times.

“Rocks dug in Kakadu and northern South Australia are the source of Fukushima’s radiocative fallout.”

In June, BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest miner, confirmed that it scrapped its long planned, budgeted and approved Olympic Dam expansion in South Australia because of the impact of the Fukushima disaster on uranium demand and prices.

BHP says:

Fukushima changed everything.’ 

And the result is clear — nuclear power’s contribution to the global energy mix is shrinking and is being eclipsed by renewables. Uranium operations are on hold, extended care and maintenance or well behind planning schedules and prices, profits, share value and employment numbers have gone south.

IBISWorld’s March 2015 market report shows that less than 1,000 people are employed in Australia’s uranium industry. The uranium industry accounts for 0.01 per cent of jobs in Australia and in the 20131/14 financial year, accounted for a scant 0.19 per cent of national export revenue. Despite the uranium industry’s promises, uranium mining is not and never will be a significant source of employment or wealth in Australia.

Fukushima is a global game changer with Australian fingerprints. Like Japan, the Australian uranium sector is also on shaky ground and is in urgent need of review. This high risk, low return sector lacks social licence and it is time for less excuses and more examination of the asbestos of the 21st Century.

https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/on-shaky-ground-australian-uranium-and-fukushima,9778#.WDuZLkVVYdk.facebook

2nd Fukushima boy speaks up about bullying in new schools

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A junior high school boy from Fukushima Prefecture recounts his experiences of bullying after he moved to Tokyo with his family as a second-grader in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun on Nov. 24

In a troubling development, the bullying of students who fled the Fukushima nuclear disaster is apparently more widespread than the boy whose ordeal in Yokohama recently attracted much media attention and generated public sympathy.

A junior high school boy in Tokyo also has recounted his agonizing experiences of becoming the target of harassment, which continued off and on in his first and second elementary schools in the capital.

Unless a person who experienced it speaks up, a true picture of bullying cannot be conveyed to the public,” the boy, accompanied by his parents, told of his decision to come forward in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun.

When the boy evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture in 2011, following the nuclear accident in March that year, he was in the second grade. All he could take with him from his home in the scramble to flee were a few clothes. He could not bring his school backpack or textbooks.

At his new school, he soon found himself being bullied by his classmates, including girls.

Your germs will infect us,” one said, while another jeered, “What you touch will be contaminated.”

Still another commented, “You are living in a house for free.”

He took down a drawing that was on a classroom wall alongside those of other children after he found some classmates had scribbled disparaging comments on it.

At the school, students formed small groups with their desks when they have school lunch. But students in his group avoided doing so with him.

After the boy tried to join them by pushing his desk toward theirs, a homeroom teacher called his parents to urge him to improve his behavior, saying that their son was “restless.”

The boy finally began to refuse to go to school.

I cannot stand up due to pain in my legs,” he complained to his parents.

His mother decided to transfer him to a new school only several months after he was enrolled in the Tokyo school.

But the boy quickly discovered that the new situation was not much different from his former school.

A teacher introduced him as a Fukushima evacuee in front of the entire school. Soon children asked him how much compensation money his family had received. They also told him that his family must live in a nice home for free just because they were evacuees.

In the face of such bullying at his new school as well, the boy made the wish that he would be strong enough to persevere through the difficulties.

His mother finally took action to help her son when he was a fifth-grader. She brought up his troubles during her talks with his homeroom teacher.

Until then, though concerned, she restrained herself from speaking out in the crowd as several Fukushima evacuees were also attending the school.

If I spoke out in a strong tone, I might have caused trouble for other evacuees,” the mother said of her feelings at the time.

But her patience ran out.

In response to her pleas, the boy’s homeroom teacher asked her to “wait three months,” and the bullying stopped.

But the harassment continued at the boy’s cram school.

A few children from the same school were also enrolled at the cram school, and they, coupled with students from other schools, continued taunting him where the homeroom teacher’s oversight did not reach.

After a child dropped the boy’s shoe in the lavatory basin, he was told, “This is your home.”

The boy mustered the courage to resist when another child, showing him a pet bottle containing leftover food, said the bullying would stop if he consumed it.

The mother, alerted by her son, reported the harassment to cram school officials and the situation improved after that.

The boy said his relationships with his new classmates were good after he entered a junior high school away from his home.

Although he did not reveal that he is an evacuee, he did not become the target of bullying even after his classmates later found out by accident.

I was under the impression that I was not equal to my peers as I was an evacuee at my elementary school,” the boy said. “Children were in an environment that barely accepts individuality and those with differing backgrounds, and an evacuee was viewed as an individual with an abnormal trait.”

The parents said his family, evacuating from outside the evacuation zone, did receive compensation, but only a fraction of the sum a family from the evacuation zone was entitled to.

The family’s access to free housing will end in March.

I am so worried about my future because I have no clue as to our life after that,” he said.

Yuya Kamoshita, who heads a group of evacuees in the Tokyo metropolitan area, said the organization received five other complaints about bullying, in addition to the boy’s case.

He said many children from Fukushima are routinely derided as “a germ” or “dirty” in association with the disaster at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

People around the children who call out those taunts must know about their behavior,” he said. “School officials should make a firm response.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611270040.html

A junior high school boy from Fukushima Prefecture recounts his experiences of bullying after he moved to Tokyo with his family as a second-grader in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun on Nov. 24