Shopping center opens in Naraha, a disaster-hit Fukushima town

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Shopping center opens in disaster-hit Fukushima town as evacuees return
June 26, 2018
Iwaki – A new shopping complex opened Tuesday in the town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, nearly three years after the government’s evacuation order following the 2011 nuclear disaster was lifted.
The public facility, dubbed “Kokonara Shotengai,” consists of 10 shops including a supermarket, a bakery and a barber’s shop.
The Chinese character meaning “laughter” was used as part of the name as a way to encourage and inspire returning residents.
The new shopping complex is adjacent to emergency public housing, a medical institution and a childcare center. It replaces a makeshift shopping district located elsewhere in the town.
Local residents welcomed the latest development in their hometown.
“I’m so glad that the opening day has come. I have been waiting for this for so long,” said 78-year-old Hisako Ishiyama, who, until March, lived in the city of Minamisoma.
Ishiyama previously had to travel by train or in her friend’s car to neighboring towns just to shop.
“Life will be easier,” she said after buying items such as a sliced raw tuna for dinner.
Evacuation orders and advisories were issued for some areas in Fukushima following the disaster. Naraha was the first on which the government lifted the evacuation order for a municipality whose entire population was ordered to evacuate in September 2015.
Most of Naraha lies within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled nuclear plant, where three reactors experienced meltdowns after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the eastern Japan in March 2011.
As of the end of May, 3,343 of 7,046 registered residents have returned to the town.
 
Fukushima town opens shopping center for returnees
June 26, 2018
The town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, has opened a shopping center for the benefit of residents who have returned following the earthquake and nuclear crisis in 2011, and to encourage others to come home.
The area where the 3,300-square-meter complex is located includes public housing and medical institutions.
Ten businesses including a supermarket, hardware store and restaurants opened their doors on Tuesday.
The evacuation order in Naraha was lifted in September 2015. As of the end of May, nearly half the town’s former inhabitants had come back.
The town has begun operating free shuttle bus services between all its districts and the center to make life easier for those who return.
One woman said she’s happy that the center is accessible and that it will become a place where the townsfolk can socialize.
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Evaluating Different Radiocesium Decontamination Practices In A Forest Plantation Near The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

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June 25, 2018
Owing to an earthquake and the resulting tsunami that occurred on March 2011 in central-eastern Japan, the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant was damaged by several hydrogen explosions.
This accident released a vast amount of radionuclides, including caesium 134 and 137 (ca. ratio 1:1). Initial fallout contaminated cultivated soils (mainly paddy fields), forests, water bodies, residential areas, asphalt and concrete surfaces. Since then, a variety of decontamination practices have been completed, reducing the ambient dose rates.
In a recent study, published in Environmental Pollution (available online since April 19, 2018) and conducted by Prof. Yuichi Onda (University of Tsukuba, Japan), Dr. Manuel López-Vicente (EEAD-CSIC, Soil Management and Global Change Group), and staff of Onda’s Laboratory and Asia Air Survey Co., eight decontamination practices were evaluated in a forest plantation located 16 km southwest of the power plant and within the exclusion area. The stand is composed of a forest plantation of Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) and natural understory vegetation. This plantation has an age of 58 years (in 2017) and is located on a steep hillslope (average slope gradient of 25⁰) near Kawauchi village, in the Fukushima Prefecture. Ten runoff plots were installed and managed by the Fukushima Prefectural Forestry Research Centre.
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Radiocesium (Cs-137) concentrations and activities were calculated in soil and litter samples over 27 months (May 2013 – July 2015) and after decontamination practices. One plot was devoted to litter removal; two plots to tree thinning without litter removal (Th_1 with logged area, and Th_2 under remnant trees); two plots to tree thinning with litter removal (Th + LR_1 with logged area, and Th + LR_2 under remnant trees); and three plots to clearcutting with litter removal (CC + LR_1 without matting, CC + LR_2 matting with seeds, and CC + LR_3 matting without seeds). Finally, two plots (Co_1 and Co_2) remained as control plots without application of any decontamination practice.
Differences were statistically significant, and researchers distinguished four homogeneous groups. Tree thinning and litter removal greatly reduced the radioactivity. Tree thinning, clearcutting with litter removal, and litter removal also had higher discharge rates than those rates in the control plots. We only observed low rates in the two plots with matting (soil conservation practice). The temporal variability was explained by (i) the different rainfall depths registered during the measurement intervals (with heavy rainfall events and typhoons: accumulated precipitation from 14 to 361 mm during the measurement intervals); and (ii) the fluctuations of the total ground coverage (canopy and surface).
The vegetation recovery after the countermeasures triggered a reduction of hydrological connectivity in all compartments of the forest plantation. This fact explained the decreasing trend in radiocesium concentration that was very high in 2013, high in the first half of 2014, moderate in the second half of 2014, and low in 2015. This tendency will reduce the possibility of secondary pollution of the neighboring residential and/or agricultural areas. The average proportions of the contribution of Cs-137 discharge by soil and leaf fraction were 96.6% and 3.4%.
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These findings are described in the article entitled Radiocesium concentrations in soil and leaf after decontamination practices in a forest plantation highly polluted by the Fukushima accident, recently published in the journal Environmental Pollution. This work was conducted by Manuel López-Vicente, Yuichi Onda, Junko Takahashi, and Hiroaki Kato from the University of Tsukuba, and Shinya Chayama and Keigo Hisadome from Asia Air Survey Co.
This research was funded by the project “Development of techniques for migration control against radioactive substances in forests (2012-2016)” of the Japanese Forestry Agency; and was carried out by Dr. Manuel López-Vicente during his postdoctoral stays at the University of Tsukuba (Prof. Onda Laboratory) in 2015 (Research Fellowships Program of the Canon Foundation in Europe, call 2014) and 2016.

Japan touts completion of Fukushima cleanup at tripartite environment meeting in China

Lies, lies… and more lies!!!
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Jun 24, 2018
SUZHOU – Environment Minister Masaharu Nakagawa told his counterparts from China and South Korea on Sunday that radioactive decontamination work following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is “all done” except for so-called difficult-to-return-to zones.
At the 20th Tripartite Environment Ministers’ Meeting held in Suzhou, in eastern China, Nakagawa also used the opportunity to again request the lifting of food import restrictions from prefectures hit by the Fukushima disaster.
Beijing has banned food imports from 10 prefectures surrounding the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, while Seoul has blocked Japanese seafood imports from eight prefectures.
Nakagawa explained to Chinese Ecology and Environment Minister Li Ganjie and South Korean Environment Minister Kim Eun-kyung that Japan has strict food safety standards in place that exceed international requirements. “Environmental regeneration in Fukushima is progressing steadily,” he said.
The three ministers also agreed on a policy to discuss the problem of plastic microparticles and their effect on marine pollution at a Group of 20 ministerial meeting on energy transitions and the global environment for sustainable growth in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, next June.
In addition, they adopted a joint statement including a pledge to promote information sharing on the problem of venomous fire ants, which have over the past year repeatedly been brought to Japan in containers shipped from China.
The ministers also decided to hold next year’s tripartite meeting in Japan. It has been held annually in rotation among the three countries since 1999.

Japanese firms shift to clean energy despite state’s cling to nuclear power

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A 150-meter marine wind turbine is seen being towed off the coast of Awajishima Island. It is being used for an experimental study on offshore wind generation
June 2, 2018
TOKYO – While Japan’s government clings to atomic power even after the Fukushima nuclear crisis, its private sector is moving ahead with more use of renewables to power their operations amid growing international awareness of global warming.
Daiwa House Industries Co, for instance, became in March a member of both RE100 (Renewable Electricity) and EP100 (Energy Productivity), two global initiatives by the Climate Group.
RE100 is a global, collaborative initiative of influential businesses committed to using 100 percent renewable electricity, while EP100 brings together companies committed to doubling energy productivity to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Among RE100’s 136 members are U.S. General Motors Co and Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever.
Printer maker Ricoh Co, the first Japanese firm to join RE100, was followed by five firms such as online stationery retailer Askul Corp and retail giant Aeon Co., aiming to meet the electricity needs of their global operations with renewable energy between 2030 and 2050.
Daiwa House says it is the world’s first company in the construction and housing sectors to join both campaigns and the first to declare it is taking bold action as part of EP100 among Japanese firms. Currently, there are 15 EP members. Daiwa aims to achieve the both by 2040.
Katsuhiro Koyama, general manager of Daiwa’s environment department, spurred debate to achieve the targets after returning to Japan from the COP23 global climate round in Germany last November.
He had previously taken a cynical view of such tech giants as Apple Inc, Google Inc and Microsoft Corp participating in the RE100 clean energy initiative, seeing it as an “atonement for their sins” of consuming huge amounts of electricity.
But Koyama, one of the Japanese delegate members to the global conference, said he was “inspired” by the firms’ “serious aspirations to leverage clean energy producers” after hearing various discussions.
The Osaka-based Daiwa group has invested an estimated 46.6 billion yen (about $424 million) in the construction of its own solar, hydro and wind power plants nationwide since 2007, producing power equivalent to about 60 percent of the group’s annual use of 481 million kilowatt hours. Meanwhile, it doubled its electricity use efficiency in fiscal 2016 compared to fiscal 2005.
Japanese businesses became much more aware of renewable energy in the wake of the Hokkaido Toyako summit in 2008 in which the Group of Eight countries set a long-term target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, which triggered the suspension of all nuclear power plants in Japan, also sparked public concerns over the country’s energy mix.
The ratio of renewable energy to the nation’s entire power output capacity has risen from 10 percent in fiscal 2010 to 15 percent in fiscal 2016, according to the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, boosted by a feed-in tariff system that obliges utilities to buy electricity generated by renewable energy at fixed prices.
The scheme has attracted businesses large and small, even individuals, to pour money into the photovoltaic field as it requires less effort to install and operate in a shorter period of time compared to other types of energy sources, said Yushi Inoue, a research director at Mitsubishi Research Institute, a think tank.
Individual power producers are actively trying to connect with grids in northeastern Japan, and sought to supply “more than three times what we can accept” in a recent offering, said a spokesman of Tohoku-Electric Power Co, the regional utility.
The region, part of which was devastated by the mega quake seven years ago and the subsequent nuclear disaster, has a number of favorable locations for wind power plants. “A vast majority of the seekers are renewable-energy oriented,” he said.
Meanwhile, a similar scheme in Europe that utilizes renewable energy certificates under a guarantee of origin of electricity generated from such sources has gained momentum among environmentally conscious firms, particularly after the 2008 summit on Japan’s northernmost island.
The tradable green certificate proves “environmental added value” created by renewable energy producers and can be purchased by electricity users.
Despite the financial burden, Ajinomoto Co switched its energy source to renewable energy for its entire annual electricity use of 4.5 million kilowatt hours at the Tokyo headquarters and major sales bases at home in the business year to March 2018.
Japan’s major seasoning and food maker extended the move to its four group arms in April, aiming to boost its renewable energy use to 50 percent of the group’s total energy consumption by fiscal 2030.
The targeted figure is part of various non-financial targets compiled for the first time in its three-year business management plan that started in fiscal 2017, said Mototsugu Shiratsuchi, general manager of the environment management support group of Ajinomoto.
Although the size of renewable energy certified is fairly small relative to the entire clean energy output in Japan, it has been steadily on the rise, reaching 378 million kilowatt hours in the year to March 2018, according to the Japan Quality Assurance Organization, the accreditation body.
Japan Natural Energy Co, the leading certificate issuer, has over 150 firms as long-term clients, such as Sony Corp and Asahi Breweries Ltd, and about 300 customers on a one-time contract basis.
The company is the pioneer in the field with about an 80 percent market share, according to the accreditation body.
President Masaru Terakoshi said that one of Japan’s global carmakers employed the certificate as part of its corporate social responsibility policy for 15 years but terminated a contract with the issuer two years ago.
The automaker, however, is set to repurchase the warrant this year following re-examination of how it can apply the certificate to its production activity.
Terakoshi declined to specify which automaker but indicated how Japan’s multinational corporations are becoming more aware of taking leadership roles in the fight against climate change.
“Otherwise, companies face a risk of losing clients,” he said, as the most of the world backs the landmark Paris accord of effectively reducing net CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions to zero in the second half of this century.
The tradable certificate is widely used. Some hotels, for example, buy the warrants to claim their banquets are sustained by clean energy.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry drafted the latest energy mix plan due to be finalized this summer, calling nuclear power “an important baseload energy source.” This stance appears to conflict with public opinion which shifted after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. In addition to public sentiment against nuclear power plants, the government’s tougher safety standards led to the shutdown of all the countries reactors.
In the fiscal year through March 2017, fossil fuels accounted for 83 percent of Japan’s electricity output capacity. Renewables are currently at 15 percent.
The ministry proposes nuclear power should account for 20-22 percent of the country’s power source and renewables 22-24 percent in 2030, which still lagged behind the equivalent figures of major European nations in 2015.

‘Green Lawn’: Pundit Suggests Fukushima Prefecture May Remain Without NPP

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24 June, 2018
Following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant core meltdown, the Fukushima No. 2 plant, which survived the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, may be decommissioned. The president of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), Tomoaki Kobayakawa, announced this in an interview with the governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Masao Uchibori.
The statement that the company is considering this option was made for the first time the Janapese Times (Nihon Keizai) reported.
Before the accident, Fukushima No. 1, with its six power units with a total generation capacity of 4.7GW, was considered one of the 25 largest nuclear power plants in the world. While there are only four power units at Fukushima No. 2, they were all shut down after March 2011.
Although there were serious problems with the emergency cooling system after they were shut down, the temperature of the reactors and the situation at the nuclear power plant could be quickly brought under control. The emergency situation at the power plant was lifted on December 26, 2011. However, since then, it has not resumed work.
According to TEPCO estimates, the closure of the Fukushima No. 2 power plant will require approximately 280 billion yen. In addition, another 22 trillion yen will go to the ongoing cleanup of the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Japanese media have reported that the company was forced to take such a radical step because of the concerns of residents of the prefecture and the demands of local authorities. The potential dangers caused by natural disasters on the Japanese islands were also taken into consideration.
Just this week, after an earthquake in Osaka, all the nuclear power plants located in relative proximity to the epicenter were inspected.
Expert Mikhail Rylov from the Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety told Sputnik that it would be difficult to relaunch the Fukushima No. 2 plant.
“I think this is, first of all, a business issue. For several years the equipment at the NPP [nuclear power plant] hasn’t been in use, and if it worked, it was not in the normal operational mode. To restart the power plant after so many years is troublesome and time consuming. Having estimated the technical condition and residual life of the power units, the company realized that even after restarting the nuclear power plant, in a few years the resource will need to be extended. And this is a very expensive task, requiring considerable intellectual and monetary costs. Surely they also took into account the issues of infrastructure, logistics, potential natural disasters, highly qualified personnel, etc. Like other nuclear power plants in Japan, [they] have already been tired of inspections after the Fukushima No. 1 disaster.”
Mr. Rylov noted that the decommissioning of the power plant is the best option in the current situation despite the fact that dismantling the plant is also a hard process.
“It takes several years to dismantle a nuclear power plant to the state of a ‘brown lawn,’ when not only equipment that was not intended for further use, but all the radioactive waste is removed from the site. The site can be used for other purposes, including for the needs of nuclear energy. But to bring the site of the former nuclear power plant to the state of a ‘green lawn’ will take several decades. ‘Green Lawn’ is a complete dismantling of reactor facilities, buildings, and disposal of radioactive waste with the complete elimination of all traces of NPP activities. Ideally, the final stage of the decommissioning process of a reactor should be a ‘green lawn,’ which means it would be safe for a public park or to build a kindergarten. How far will the Japanese company go, it’s hard to say. After all, there was still no official notification about the closure of the station,” the expert concluded.
The  No. 4  unit at the Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture restarted operations last week after it met all the requirements imposed after the Fukushima No. 1 plant accident. It became the ninth nuclear reactor to be restarted after new tougher requirements were introduced. A demonstration was held against the resumption of operations and people demanded that the country’s energy policy be changed.

Rokkasho Election Results

Unfortunately: pro-nuclear fuel cycle incumbent mayor was reelected…
 
June 24, 2018
The mayoral election took place in Rokkasho, Japan, on Sunday June 24th.
Here are the results :
The number of inhabitants having the right to vote: 8637
The number of votes: 5379
Invalid votes: 35
Voter turnout: 62.28%
M. Mamoru Toda, pro-nuclear fuel cycle incumbent mayor was reelected with 5021 votes.
Ms Junko Endo, anti-nuclear fuel cycle candidate gained 323 votes.
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The results show the extreme difficulty of anti-nuclear movements in local elections. However, thanks to the courage of Junko Endo, 323 voters were able to express their desire to stop the nuclear fuel cycle, and many people in the world became aware of what is happening in Rokkasho Village.
Thank you Ms ENDO for your courage!
Thanks to all of you who sent encouraging messages to Ms Endo that were gratefully forwarded to her.
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Let’s keep on following events in Rokkasho from all over the world!
 
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TEPCO to gauge radiation in reactor N°2 building

 

June 21, 2018
The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant intends to send a robot into the No.2 reactor building as early as next week to measure interior radiation levels in detail.
It is a key step toward removing all 615 nuclear fuel rod units that remain in a storage pool in the building, and eventually decommissioning the reactor.
The pool is located on the top floor of the building. The No.2 reactor experienced a meltdown after the major earthquake and tsunami that hit eastern Japan in 2011.
Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, plans to transfer the fuel units to reduce the risks posed by possible earthquakes and other factors.
TEPCO needs to map radiation levels and other detailed conditions inside the building before retrieving the fuel units.
The utility on Thursday finished breaching a wall of the building to allow entry to a robot and heavy machinery. Work on the 5-meter wide and 7-meter high hole started last month.
TEPCO plans to send a robot fitted with a camera and a radiation measurement device through the opening as early as next week.
And TEPCO could start removing the fuel around fiscal 2023 based upon the survey results.
TEPCO also seeks to begin retrieving nuclear fuel from the No.1 reactor around fiscal 2023 and from the No.3 reactor as soon as this autumn. Both reactors had a meltdown following the natural disaster.