Formal restart approval of tsunami-hit Tokai N°2 nuclear plant near Tokyo

Tokai No. 2 nuke plant passes tighter safety checks introduced after 2011 quake

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This July 17, 2018 file photo shows the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant, front, in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture.
26 sept 2018
TOKYO — The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) officially determined on Sept. 26 that the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant north of Tokyo meets new, more stringent safety standards introduced after the March 2011 triple core meltdown and massive radiation leaks at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Tokai plant operator Japan Atomic Power Co. intends to restart the reactor and operate it 20 years beyond its original 40-year lifespan.
The only nuclear power station in the greater Tokyo area became the first nuclear power station to pass the NRA screening among those affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, which triggered the nuclear disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima No.1 plant in northeastern Japan.
Restarting the 1.1-million-kilowatt Tokai No. 2 plant in the village of Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 160 kilometers northwest of central Tokyo, is no easy task, however. Japan Atomic needs to obtain approval from neighboring municipalities to resume reactor operations. Devising an evacuation plan in case of an accident for the some 960,000 residents living within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant is also a major challenge.
To get permission for the 20-year reactor life extension, Japan Atomic must also obtain government approval for relevant construction and extension plans before Nov. 27 this year, when the reactor will turn 40. The construction plan and the operational extension screening is almost finished, and both will be approved before the deadline.
Japan Atomic plans to complete safety enhancement work by March 2021 and then restart the plant at a later date. The work will cost some 174 billion yen, and Japan Atomic is depending on financial support from TEPCO and Tohoku Electric Power Co. to cover the outlay.
Tokai No. 2 became the eighth nuclear power station, and the 15th reactor, to pass the NRA safety screening. It is the second boiling water reactor after TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station certified as meeting the new safety standards. The reactors are a similar type to the ones at the Fukushima No. 1 plant that suffered core meltdowns.
(Japanese original by Riki Iwama, Science & Environment News Department)
 

Tsunami-hit nuclear plant near Tokyo wins formal restart approval

 
Tokai Reactor #2, Hit By March 11, 2011 tsunami gets NRA approval to reopen but needs approval of surrounding communities to do so. NRA sounds just like NRC.
Sept 26, 2018
The nuclear watchdog on Wednesday formally approved the restart of an almost 40-year-old nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo that has sat idle since it was damaged during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, which also caused meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The Tokai No. 2 plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, operated by Japan Atomic Power Co., is the first nuclear plant affected by the disaster to clear screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
The earthquake on March 11, 2011, left the plant without an external power source, and a 5.4-meter tsunami incapacitated one of its three emergency power generators. The plant managed to cool down its reactor over three and a half days after the disaster as the two other power generators remained operational.
The Fukushima plant, which used the same boiling water reactor as the Tokai plant, suffered core meltdowns and spewed out a massive amount of radioactive material after losing its external power supply and emergency power generators in the calamity.
Still, it is unclear when the Tokai plant will actually restart as construction work to enhance its safety will not be completed until March 2021. Also, it needs to obtain consent from all of its surrounding communities. It is the only nuclear power plant in the country to need consent from local governments beyond its host municipality.
In addition, the sole reactor in the complex turns 40 years old in November and faces two more screenings to extend its operation by up to 20 years beyond the normal 40-year limit. It is expected to pass the screenings.
It operator must also compile an evacuation plan covering the 960,000 residents within a 30-kilometer radius of the plant — the largest number of potential evacuees for a nuclear plant in the country due to its location in the metropolitan region.
In Tokyo, protesters gathered in front of the NRA office in the morning and shouted slogans against the restart.
Some civic group members submitted to the watchdog a letter calling for a decision against the plant’s resumption with the signatures of some 8,000 people. “A plant that passes a lax screening is not safe,” the document said.
Sengetsu Ogawa, 54, a local anti-nuclear activist in Ibaraki Prefecture, said, “I have doubts about the way the NRA conducts screenings as it is believed to rubber stamp operators’ applications (for restarts).”
“Japan has been rocked by major disasters such as floods and earthquakes for the past two months. Based on these circumstances, the NRA should conduct a screening again,” he said.
Tokai No. 2 is the eighth nuclear plant approved by the NRA to restart under stricter safety rules introduced after the Fukushima disaster.
Among plants with boiling water reactors, it is the second to be given the green light following the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the crisis-hit Fukushima plant.
Japan Atomic Power applied for the restart in May 2014 with a plan to construct a 1.7-km-long coastal levee, predicting a potential tsunami as high as 17.1 meters.
With costs for safety measures at the plant estimated to reach some ¥180 billion ($1.6 billion), the operator, whose sole business is nuclear energy production, has struggled as none of its reactors has been online since the 2011 disaster.
Tepco and Tohoku Electric Power Co., which receive power supply from Tokai No. 2, have offered to financially support Japan Atomic Power.
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Japan vows to cut its nuclear hoard but neighbours fear the opposite

Poor region of Japan is now very dependent on Rokkasho nuclear recycling project
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Japan Nucle­ar Fuel Ltd.’­s plant in Rokka­sho, Japan , Aug. 2, 2018.
Japan has amassed a large stockpile of plutonium and neighbours fear that the country may decide to build more nuclear weapons.
25 Sept  2018 

More than 30 years ago, when its economy seemed invincible and the Sony Walkman was ubiquitous, Japan decided to build a recycling plant to turn nuclear waste into nuclear fuel.

It was supposed to open in 1997, a feat of advanced engineering that would burnish its reputation for high-tech excellence and make the nation even less dependent on others for energy.

Then came a series of blown deadlines as the project hit technical snags and struggled with a Sisyphean list of government-mandated safety upgrades. Seventeen prime ministers came and went, the Japanese economy slipped into a funk and the initial $6.8 billion budget ballooned into $27 billion of spending.

Now, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd, the private consortium building the recycling plant, says it really is almost done. But there is a problem: Japan does not use much nuclear power anymore.

The country turned away from nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and only nine of its 35 reactors are operational.

It is a predicament with global ramifications. While waiting for the plant to be built, Japan has amassed a stockpile of 47 metric tons of plutonium, raising concerns about nuclear proliferation and Tokyo’s commitment to refrain from building nuclear arms even as it joins the United States in pressing North Korea to give up its arsenal.

In August, North Korea’s state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper accused Japan of accumulating plutonium “for its nuclear armament.”

Japan pledged for the first time this past summer to reduce the stockpile, saying the recycling plant would convert the plutonium into fuel for use in Japanese reactors.

But if the plant opens as scheduled in four years, the nation’s hoard of plutonium could grow rather than shrink.

That is because only four of Japan’s working reactors are technically capable of using the new fuel, and at least a dozen more would need to be upgraded and operating to consume the plutonium that the recycling plant would extract each year from nuclear waste.

“At the end of the day, Japan is really in a vice of its own making,” said James M. Acton, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

“There is no easy way forward, and all those ways forward have significant costs associated with it.”

A handful of countries reprocess nuclear fuel, including France, India, Russia and the United Kingdom.

But the Japanese plan faces a daunting set of practical and political challenges, and if it does not work, the nation will be left with another problem: about 18,000 metric tons of nuclear waste in the form of spent fuel rods that it has accumulated and stored all these years.

rokkasho fuelA stora­ge facil­ity for spent fuel rods at Japan Nucle­ar Fuel Ltd.’­s plant in Rokka­sho, Japan­, Aug 2018.

 

Japan’s neighbours, most notably China, have long objected to the stockpile of plutonium, which was extracted from the waste during tests of the recycling plant and at a government research facility, as well as by commercial recycling plants abroad.

Most of this plutonium is now stored overseas, in France and Britain, but 10 metric tons remain in Japan, more than a third of it in Rokkasho, the northeastern fishing town where the recycling plant is being built.

Japan says it stores its plutonium in a form that would be difficult to convert into weapons, and that it takes measures to ensure it never falls into the wrong hands.

But experts are worried the sheer size of the stockpile — the largest of any country without nuclear weapons, and in theory enough to make 6,000 bombs — could be used to justify a nuclear buildup by North Korea and others in the region.

Any recycling plan that adds to the stockpile looks like “a route to weaponise down the road,” said Alicia Dressman, a nuclear policy specialist. “This is what really concerns Japan’s neighbours and allies.”

Japan maintains that its plutonium is for peaceful energy purposes and that it will produce only as much as it needs for its reactors. “We are committed to nonproliferation,” said Hideo Kawabuchi, an official at the Japan Atomic Energy Commission.

But the launch of the Rokkasho plant has been delayed so long — and popular opposition to restarting additional nuclear reactors remains so strong — that scepticism abounds over the plan to recycle the stockpile.

Critics say Japan should concede the plant will not solve the problem and start looking for a place to bury its nuclear waste.

“You kind of look at it and say, ‘My God, it’s 30 years later, and that future didn’t happen,’” said Sharon Squassoni, a nonproliferation specialist at George Washington University.

“It’s just wishful thinking about how this is going to solve their myriad problems.”

Ikata NPP’s reactor to restart as Hiroshima court judges volcanic erution frequency to be extremely low

Ruling puts onus on anti-nuclear plaintiffs citing volcanic risks

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Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai, center, explains the Hiroshima High Court’s decision on Sept. 25 to lift a temporary injunction barring operations of the Ikata nuclear plant.
September 26, 2018
HIROSHIMA–The Hiroshima High Court has significantly raised the bar for plaintiffs seeking suspensions of nuclear plant operations on grounds of a possible volcanic eruption.
In a ruling handed down on Sept. 25, the court overturned a temporary injunction order that had halted operations at the Ikata nuclear plant, saying the plaintiffs must present highly credible evidence of the risk of a catastrophic volcanic eruption.
The plaintiffs argued that Shikoku Electric Power Co. must suspend operations of its Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture because of the dangers posed by Mount Aso in central Kyushu, Japan’s southern main island.
They said a pyroclastic flow from the volcano would reach the plant about 130 kilometers away in the event of an eruption on a scale similar to one that occurred about 90,000 years ago.
But the high court dismissed their argument by referring to “socially accepted ideas.”
“The frequency of such an eruption is extremely low,” Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki said. “The government has not taken any measures to deal with it, and a large majority of the public don’t see the risks of a major eruption as a problem, either.”
He added, “Unless the court is given reasonable grounds for the possibility of a major eruption, it is a socially accepted idea that the safety of a facility will not be undermined even if measures are not in place to prepare for such a scenario.”
The ruling was based on an assessment issued in March by the Secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority that risks to nuclear facilities from a catastrophic volcanic eruption are within a socially acceptable range.
Kenta Tsunasaki, one of the plaintiffs, said he was appalled by the ruling.
“We are again witnessing the exact same attitude toward a massive eruption of a volcano,” he said, referring to the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that caused the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. “The judiciary must have forgotten about the Fukushima disaster.”
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, has argued that the scale of the tsunami that struck the nuclear complex could not be foreseen.
Many volcanologists agree that catastrophic eruptions rarely occur.
But Yoshiyuki Tatsumi, professor of volcanology at Kobe University, questioned the court’s dismissal of the possibility of a huge eruption.
“The low occurrence does not assure safety,” he said. “A catastrophic eruption is one of the worst disasters in terms of the degree of danger, which is calculated by multiplying the expected number of victims and the rate of occurrence.”
Tatsumi also said it is difficult to predict when Mount Aso will have a major eruption because its eruption cycle is irregular.
(This article was compiled from reports by Sotaro Hata, Toshio Kawada and Shigeko Segawa.)
 

Reactor can restart in Japan after little risk seen from volcano

Shikoku Electric plans to resume operations at the Ikata plant in October
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The No. 3 unit at the Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture
September 25, 2018
OSAKA — A Japanese court ruled Tuesday that a nuclear reactor operated by Shikoku Electric Power could restart, clearing the way for it to join the small handful of nuclear facilities that have resumed operating following a catastrophic earthquake in 2011. 
The Hiroshima High Court overturned Tuesday its own provisional injunction from December, accepting the utility’s claim that a volcano in the vicinity poses little risk.
Following the decision, Shikoku Electric said it will restart the No. 3 unit at its Ikata power plant in Ehime Prefecture on Oct. 27.
High courts have often overruled suspensions handed down by district courts. Examples include the Nos. 3 and 4 units at Kansai Electric Power’s Oi and Takahama plants in Fukui Prefecture. With the Hiroshima high court’s decision, all reactors that had temporary suspension orders on them are able to restart.
The chief issue in the Ikata case was whether a nearby caldera of Mt. Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture is at risk of erupting.
“No proof has been shown of the possibility that a large-scale, catastrophic eruption will occur, and the likelihood that [lava flows] will reach the reactor is sufficiently low,” the court said in its ruling Tuesday.
But the restart could be stopped again by an Oita District Court decision due Friday on another provisional injunction to halt the Ikata unit.
The 890-megawatt No. 3 reactor is one of five across three plants nationwide to restart under standards introduced after the 2011 tsunami. It resumed operations in August 2016, but was halted in October 2017 for routine inspections. The shutdown has cost Shikoku Electric about 30 billion yen ($266 million), the company said.

Hiroshima High Court signs off on restart of reactor at Shikoku Electric’s Ikata nuclear power plant

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Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata nuclear power plant is seen in Ehime Prefecture.
 
Sept. 25, 2018
HIROSHIMA – The Hiroshima High Court on Tuesday accepted an appeal by Shikoku Electric Power Co. allowing it to restart a halted reactor at its Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture, saying worries over a volcanic eruption damaging the plant are groundless.
The decision is an about-face from its earlier provisional injunction that demanded the utility halt the No. 3 unit at the plant until the end of this month, citing safety risks associated with potential volcanic activity in a nearby prefecture.
The temporary suspension order, issued last December following a request from a local opposition group, marked the first case in which a high court had prohibited operations at a nuclear plant since the 2011 triple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant led to a nationwide halt of such plants.
Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki said in the ruling, “There is no reason to believe in the possibility of a destructive volcanic eruption during the plant’s operating period and there is only a small chance of volcanic ash and rocks reaching the plant,” which is about 130 kilometers away.
Following the court’s decision, Shikoku Electric said it will reboot the No. 3 reactor on Oct. 27. The unit has been idle for maintenance since October last year.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority, the country’s nuclear watchdog, said, “Drawing on the lessons learned from the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, we will continue to impose strict regulations based on scientific and technical knowledge.”
Separately, residents in nearby Oita, Kagawa and Yamaguchi prefectures have also been seeking to stop the reactor in pending court cases. The Oita District Court is scheduled to hand down a decision on Friday.
In addition, a request to extend the period of the injunction beyond Sunday has been filed with the Hiroshima District Court.
In the injunction, the high court had said the power company underestimated the risks of heated rocks and volcanic ash reaching the plant if a big eruption occurs at Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture.
That decision constituted a major victory for the nation’s anti-nuclear movement and dealt a blow to the central government and utility firms, which are hoping to bring more reactors back online.
Shikoku Electric claimed in the appeal that it believes there is a “low possibility” of the volcano having a large-scale eruption while the reactor is in operation.
Plaintiffs, however, argued that the resumption of operations at the plant is “unreasonable” because of a “high risk of an accident.”

Fukushima Radiation causing U.S. Insurance Companies to EXCLUDE all Coverage for Radiation Claims

REPOST from February 2014
February 2, 2014 — (TRN) — Insurance Companies in the United States have begun notifying customers they will no longer have ANY coverage whatsoever for anything relating to nuclear energy claims. Fallout, radiation sickness, property damage from radiation – all EXCLUDED. This begs the question: If the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant in Japan is as harmless to Americans as the government and “scientists” are telling us, why are Insurance companies specifically EXCLUDING coverage for nuclear energy related claims? (Hint: The government is lying about the danger.)
TRN has a PDF of one such notice being sent by Traveler’s Insurance Company. You can read it for yourself below.
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Letters being sent by U.S. Insurance companies are notifying policy holders of an important change to their coverage. Letter sent by one major insurance company read as follows:
Dear Policyholder;
Thank you for choosing Travelers. We are providing advance notice of changes affecting your renewal policy or notification of renewal premium. Please consult Travelers Service Center for guidance in reviewing the information contained in this notice.
Your renewal policy will provide changes in coverage because of underwriting judgment based on an evaluation of your
individual risk exposures and/or loss history.
The following is changed on your renewal:
Coverage Change Details
IL 00 21 09 08 NUCLEAR ENERGY LIABILITY EXCLUSION ENDORSEMENT FORM HAS BEEN ADDED TO YOUR POLICY
The accompanying paperwork gets very specific about what they mean. It says, in part:
1. The insurance does not apply:
A. Under any Liability Coverage, to “bodily injury” or “property damage”:
B. Under any Medical Payments coverage, to expenses incurred with respect to “bodily injury” resulting from the “hazardous properties” of “nuclear material” and arising out of the operation of a “nuclear facility” by any person or organization.
2. As used in this endorsement:
“Hazardous properties” includes radioactive, toxic or explosive properties. “Nuclear material” means “source material”, “special nuclear material” or “by-product material” . . . . Spent fuel . . . . Waste . . . . .
The letters further make clear:
“Property damage” includes all forms of radioactive contamination of property.”
That last item, about radioactive contamination of property, THAT’s the “biggie.” THAT is the issue that will shortly become evident to people who live on the west coast of north America. One day, when folks in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego wake up and hear evacuation orders on radio and TV telling them to run for their lives because the radiation levels from the Pacific Ocean have made their homes uninhabitable, THEN all those folks will understand the implications of this nasty little change in Insurance coverage.
The Turner Radio Network has been warning people about the coming radiation from Fukushima. For months, we have been issuing radiation alerts when local background radiation levels start “spiking.” For months, we have been closely monitoring developments at the Fukushima disaster site and publishing news stories about those developments and the dangers they pose to North America.
Sadly, for months, critics have claimed our coverage was “sensationalism” or “designed to scare people.” That was never the case, but it didn’t stop the critics from claiming such.
So here we are, February, 2014, and Insurance Companies are now specifically EXCLUDING coverage for radioactive contamination of property. Let’s be clear about what this means; if you have to move away from your home because the area is contaminated with lethal levels of radiation, don’t bother calling your insurance company. YOU HAVE NO COVERAGE AT ALL for this type of event. Of course, you still have to pay your mortgage for the house you can no longer live in, but that’s your problem, right?
Now, stop and think for a moment about other types of disasters. Homes in “Tornado Alley” in the USA routinely suffer horrific destruction from tornadoes. Have any insurance companies stopped covering such damage? No. They may charge a higher premium in those geographic areas, but they don’t flat-out EXCLUDE coverage. How about places that routinely suffer wildfires? California, Arizona, New Mexico come to mind. Have you ever heard of any insurance companies specifically EXCLUDING coverage for wildfires for people who live in those area? Nope!
So why, if the government and so-called “experts” are all publicly telling us that the radiation from Fukushima will be diluted by the Pacific Ocean and will not harm us, are Insurance companies beginning to absolutely and specifically EXCLUDE coverage for radiation-related damage, injuries and claims?
Could it be that the radiation from Fukushima, which has been spewing into the Pacific Ocean since March 11, 2011, is not nearly as “diluted” as the government and “experts” would have us believe? Could it be that the Insurance companies know (maybe from their pals in government) that entire STATES on the west coast of North America may have to be evacuated because of the incoming radioactive water in the Pacific? Does this start to make more sense to you now? Such events would utterly wipe out Insurance companies. You know it, the government knows it and the insurance companies darn sure know it. THAT is why insurance companies are excluding coverage; they KNOW what’s coming and they don’t want to be wiped out by it. Can’t blame them, but where does that leave you?
Some advice: If you live on the west coast of north America, sell your house fast and cheap to some illegal aliens. Get whatever you can for the house, take the money, and run like hell.
Whatever you get for the house will be more than you’ll get from your insurance company once the radiation arrives. Oh, about the illegal aliens to whom you sell . . . . well . . . . who cares what happens to them, they shouldn’t be here anyway!
Click HERE to read a PDF of the actual notice being sent to policy holders by Traveler’s Insurance Company

 

 

Japan Has Enough Nuclear Material to Build an Arsenal. Its Plan: Recycle.

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After decades of delays, a plant in Rokkasho, Japan, is almost ready to start turning nuclear waste into nuclear fuel, its builders say. But Japan doesn’t use much nuclear power any more.
 
Sept. 22, 2018
ROKKASHO, Japan — More than 30 years ago, when its economy seemed invincible and the Sony Walkman was ubiquitous, Japan decided to build a recycling plant to turn nuclear waste into nuclear fuel. It was supposed to open in 1997, a feat of advanced engineering that would burnish its reputation for high-tech excellence and make the nation even less dependent on others for energy.
Then came a series of blown deadlines as the project hit technical snags and struggled with a Sisyphean list of government-mandated safety upgrades. Seventeen prime ministers came and went, the Japanese economy slipped into a funk and the initial $6.8 billion budget ballooned into $27 billion of spending.
Now, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., the private consortium building the recycling plant, says it really is almost done. But there is a problem: Japan does not use much nuclear power any more. The country turned away from nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and only nine of its 35 reactors are operational.
It is a predicament with global ramifications. While waiting for the plant to be built, Japan has amassed a stockpile of 47 metric tons of plutonium, raising concerns about nuclear proliferation and Tokyo’s commitment to refrain from building nuclear arms even as it joins the United States in pressing North Korea to give up its arsenal.

Dairy farmer resumes operations 7 1/2 years after Fukushima disaster

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Tetsuji Sakuma, right, unloads a cow from a truck in the Fukushima Prefecture village of Katsurao on Sept. 13, 2018, as he resumes operations at his dairy farm for the first time since the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster.
September 19, 2018
KATSURAO, Fukushima — A 42-year-old man resumed operations at his dairy farm on Sept. 13 with the arrival of eight cows at his barn, after an evacuation order for the 2011 nuclear crisis was lifted in most parts of the village here.
Tetsuji Sakuma, who is aiming to ship milk for public sale from the beginning of next year, restarted his business for the first time in 7 1/2 years after the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster. He did not give up hope of resuming his work even after being forced to evacuate and losing all his cattle as a result. “I hope to restore my finances and to lead this area (to recovery),” said the farmer, taking one step toward the reconstruction of his hometown.
Sakuma unloaded the cows from a truck into his barn with the help of his 68-year-old father Shinji. Sakuma laughed bitterly as he suddenly felt old, realizing he had “lost strength after not doing such work for 7 1/2 years,” but flashed a smile as he watched the cattle graze.
Sakuma took over running the ranch when he was just 20 years old. He successfully increased the number of cows and barns, and was raising a total of 129 dairy cattle before the nuclear crisis struck. He grew corn and grass to feed the cows, which he raised from when they were calves, and brought them up in a stress-less environment to produce large quantities of high quality milk. The cows were like members of the family and he used to ship the largest amount of raw milk among farmers in Fukushima Prefecture.
After the deadly quake struck on March 11, 2011, a tanker did not come to collect his milk the next day, forcing him to discard it. Dairy cattle can die if they are not milked and Sakuma thought that “cows sacrifice themselves to produce milk, and throwing it away is like wasting their lives.”
Everyone in the village was advised to evacuate on the night of March 14, 2011. Sakuma let his wife and child evacuate to Gunma Prefecture while he took shelter in the city of Fukushima with his parents. Ten of his cows were found dead when he returned on May 18.
Some 25 of his young cows were sent to a ranch in Hokkaido in June that year and the rest were shipped off to be culled for their meat following inspections. “People can evacuate, but cows have nowhere to escape,” the distressed farmer thought as he apologized to the cows.
Sakuma moved into a temporary housing complex in the town of Miharu in Fukushima Prefecture with his wife and child. He helped his friend’s civil engineering work while serving as a village assembly member, and waited for a chance to start farming again. Restrictions on shipments of milk were lifted in December 2016, half a year after the easing of the nuclear evacuation order. Sakuma rushed to prepare for the reopening of his dairy farm, such as repairing milking machines.
The excited farmer bought eight dairy cattle at an auction in Hokkaido on Sept. 11, exactly 7 1/2 years after the Fukushima disaster. Sakuma will check the level of radiation in the cows’ milk once a week, to accomplish his goal to ship milk for public sale from the beginning of next year. His future dream is to have 300 cows graze on his farm.
His wife gave birth to three more children while they lived as evacuees and this spring, the family moved into a new home he built in the place where their old home used to stand in the town of Katsurao. The father of four feels proud every time his eldest son Ryoji, 13, says he wants to “become a dairy farmer.”
Sakuma never once thought of shutting down his dairy farm. “I don’t want to be perceived as someone who quit in exchange for compensation. If I stop farming, I would feel like I have lost to these circumstances,” he stated. Sakuma has to repay a 100 million yen loan he took out to resume operations at his dairy farm and to work to eliminate damage caused by harmful rumors, as well as face many other challenges. “This is the point of no return,” said Sakuma, as he rolled up his sleeves to start his difficult journey.
(Japanese original by Rikka Teramachi, Fukushima Bureau)