Schoolchildren co-opted to promote propaganda on Fukushima food safety

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Students tasked with developing dishes using Fukushima produce to promote prefecture’s recovery
Students sample local farm products with the aim of creating their own dishes as part of a campaign to highlight recovery efforts in the prefecture of Fukushima and its capital, on Dec. 16.
January 13, 2019
A group of elementary, junior high and high school students in the city of Fukushima are taking part in an initiative to develop original recipes using local agricultural products as part of a broader project to highlight the city’s recovery from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
The first phase of the campaign, known as the Fukko Project, whereby the students create new dishes, started Dec. 16. It is designed to help the children learn about local agriculture so they will be able to implement their own action plans to assist Fukushima’s recovery.
“I am convinced that the experiences of thinking about and taking actions to better their hometown will serve as a driving force for these children in the future,” said Kimio Suzuki, the director of the municipal Mikawadai Learning Center, the organizer of the campaign.
The dishes they create will be served at several locations, including the cafeteria in Fukushima City Hall.
Eighteen students ranging from fifth grade in elementary school to second grade in high school from five schools are participating in the initiative. Those schools are Sakura no Seibo High School, Sakura no Seibo Junior High School, Gakuyo Junior High School, Mikawadai Elementary School and an elementary school affiliated with Fukushima University.
In February, a group of judges, including Minoru Honma, the head of the city board of education, will select two dishes that will be served by the students who have been divided into two groups.
In addition to city hall, the Kiichigo restaurant located in the Corasse Fukushima complex will also serve the dishes. The building has a store that features regional products. The hope is the children’s efforts will increase the chances that visitors will want to try dishes made from local produce.
On the initiative’s first day, a city official explained to the students about the harmful rumors related to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant meltdowns and about regional specialities such as peaches, freeze-dried tofu and gyōza (dumplings). The students, some of whom were just 3 or 4 years old when the 2011 earthquake happened, sampled some of the products before setting off to plan their own dishes.
“I now understand the thoroughness of the (city and prefecture’s) decontamination and inspection processes,” said Ikumi Nakatsuka, 12, a sixth-grader at Mikawadai Elementary School. “I am amazed by the different efforts done up until this point.”
Mariko Chiba, 16, a Sakura no Seibo High School student, said she is enthusiastic about the project.
“I want to guide elementary and middle school students in this project and complete a menu featuring what the city has to offer,” she said.
After the food project is complete, the learning center is hoping to start another similar project wherein students would devise a plan to attract tourists to local festivals and hot spring areas.
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Chinese residents concerned over imports of rice produced near Fukushima disaster area

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Consumers buy rice at a supermarket in Taiyuan, North China’s Shanxi Province in March, 2018
January 10, 2019
Chinese residents expressed concerns over the safety of Japanese rice produced nearby the Fukushima disaster area, after the Chinese government lifted an eight-year ban on the import of the rice. 
 
Japan’s National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (JA) on Tuesday held a ceremony at Yokohama, Japan for exporting the Niigata rice into China for the first time after the Chinese government lifted the ban on imports of rice produced in Niigata Prefecture, the Japan News reported on Wednesday.
 
China’s General Administration of Customs announced in November that it had lifted a ban on rice imports from Niigata, one of a number of prefectures neighboring Fukushima, home to the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which went into meltdown and released radioactive material in the aftermath of a tsunami in March 2011.
 
The rice will be sold before the Spring Festival, which falls on February 5, a season which will see booming demand for rice in China.
 
An official of JA said he had confidence that the rice is of high quality and safe, and could satisfy Chinese consumers. Niigata rice will have a trial sale of 500 bags totaling two tons to Shanghai, the Niigata Daily reported on Wednesday.
 
However, Chinese residents don’t seem to have much desire to buy the rice.
 
“I actually don’t care much about the production place when I buy rice, but I still won’t buy the Niigata rice out of food safety concern, and I’m more confident about the quality of the rice produced in the Northeast China,” Chinese student Lei Yue majoring in Japanese told Global Times on Thursday.
 
Varieties of Japanese rice can be seen now being sold on Taobao,  many of which are priced higher than those produced in China. 
 
A Taobao shop is selling Japanese rice for 145 yuan ($21.4) per two kilograms, almost twice the price of domestic rice. 
 
The rice is produced in Yishigawa, Japan, 400 kilometers away from Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, implying that the rice is safe. The staff added it is popular due to its good fragrance and taste and has monthly sales of 95 bags.
 
Comparatively, a Taobao shop which sells rice from Northeast China has monthly sale of more than 30,000 bags. 
 
Exports of Niigata rice were permitted after General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China issued announcement in November 2018.

Niigata gov’t to handle radioactive mud stored since Fukushima crisis

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January 9, 2019
NIIGATA – The Niigata prefectural government said Tuesday it will dispose of radioactive mud that has been stored since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and ask the operator of the crisis-hit plant to shoulder the costs.
The prefecture in central Japan, located about 200 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, has stored around 60,000 tons of mud containing radioactive cesium and requested Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc since 2012 to dispose of it.
But the operator has refused, saying it is not able to handle industrial waste. The disposal costs are estimated at 3 billion yen and TEPCO formally expressed its readiness to pay in December.
The level of radioactive cesium in the mud is below 8,000 becquerels per kilogram, which could be disposed of by regular landfill operations, and most of it is below 100 becquerels per kg, according to the prefecture.
The local government has stored the mud instead of disposing of it, arguing that TEPCO should take responsibility for the damage caused by fuel meltdowns at the plant triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The Niigata prefectural government has also stored the waste as some local residents were concerned about safety despite the low level of radioactive cesium.
Niigata Gov. Hideyo Hanazumi said at a press conference Tuesday it is “not realistic” to keep asking TEPCO to dispose of the mud and expressed “regret” that it had taken so long for the operator to decide how to handle the matter.
The contaminated mud, produced at an industrial water supply facility that takes in water from a river containing radioactive materials, is growing by 5,000 tons annually and the storage facility could become full later this year, according to the prefecture.
Municipalities other than Niigata have also been grappling with radioactive mud as a result of the crisis at the six-reactor Fukushima complex, with some shouldering the disposal costs.

Resona bans lending to those developing, making or possessing nuclear weapons

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This screen capture shows a Resona statement prohibiting lending to entities that develop, produce or possess nuclear weapons.
January 7, 2019
TOKYO — Resona Holdings Inc., a major financial group in Japan, has announced a policy of not extending loans to borrowers that are involved in the development, production or possession of nuclear weapons.
The statement, the first of its kind by a major Japanese banking institution, came amid similar moves by an increasing number of European banks and institutional investors following the adoption at the United Nations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017.
Whether other Japanese corporations will follow Resona’s action is a focus of attention for the future. There were other lenders banning loans for the production of nuclear weapons, but the Resona policy prohibits any loans to such companies even when such transactions are for non-nuclear related purposes.
The new posture was incorporated in a document titled “Efforts toward socially responsible investment and loans,” which was announced in November last year. According to the paper, Resona refuses to lend to those that are associated with the development, production or possession of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, or inhuman weaponry including antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions. Entities that can be subject to relevant restrictions or sanctions, or even those with the potential to be hit with such punitive measures, will be rejected as borrowers, the document says.
An official with Resona, which has never lent to companies making nuclear weapons, explained that the banking group decided to introduce the policy “because we thought it important for providers of funds to make such efforts toward a sustainable society.”
According to the Dutch nongovernmental organization PAX, 63 financial institutions had similar lending policies as of October 2017, an increase of nine from the previous year.
A Mainichi Shimbun poll of four Japanese mega banks — Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Mizuho Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings — as well as four major life insurance companies — Nippon, Dai-ichi, Meiji Yasuda and Sumitomo — found that all of the eight companies and groups have policies to refrain from lending and investment over inhuman weapons. Yet the entities did not specify the production of nuclear weapons as a condition to disengage from borrowers.
Officials at Sumitomo Mitsui and Mizuho replied that their companies ban loans to be used in the production of nuclear weapons, while a Mitsubishi UFJ official explained that the company is “making careful judgment in each transaction.”

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Radiation doses underestimated in study of city in Fukushima

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Workers decontaminate land in Date, Fukushima Prefecture, in 2013.
 
January 9, 2019
A nuclear physicist who has drawn attention for tweeting about fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster has admitted that he and a colleague underestimated radiation doses in an article for an international scientific journal.
Ryugo Hayano, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, said the error, which he recognized on Jan. 8, was “unintentional.”
The article, carried in the Journal of Radiological Protection’s online edition in July 2017, listed average radiation doses that were one-third of the actual levels for people in Date, a city around 60 kilometers northwest of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, he said.
Hayano’s admission came after an atomic nucleus expert contacted the journal last year to point out unnatural data carried in the report and call for a correction.
The radiation doses in the article were based on figures kept by Date residents after the nuclear accident unfolded in March 2011.
“Even if residents lived in the most contaminated area of Date for 70 years, the median of the doses would not exceed 18 millisieverts,” the article concluded.
However, Shinichi Kurokawa, professor emeritus with the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, an institute jointly used by national universities, raised doubts about the data presented in some sections of the report.
When Hayano and his colleague re-examined the figures, they found that they mistook a monthly dose recorded on a dosimeter as the figure for three months of exposure.
Hayano said the conclusion of the report still stands.
“Even after the error was fixed, I believe the average of annual doses will be within the 1-millisievert mark,” he said.
The benchmark upper limit for radiation exposure among ordinary people is 1 millisievert a year.
Hayano has frequently tweeted about radiation levels and doses from the nuclear disaster.
He was also involved in another research paper that analyzed radiation doses among people in Date. Kurokawa also questioned the veracity of a chart in the second report.
The second report has often been cited in discussions by the government’s Radiation Council on setting standards for protecting people from radiation.
The two research papers were produced after the Date city government provided Hayano’s research team with data on radiation doses of about 59,000 residents.
But it has emerged that data for 27,000 citizens were provided without their consent.
The city plans to set up an investigation panel to find out why it occurred.
Date has a population of 61,000.

JAPC denies granting local prior consent for Tokai reactor restart

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The Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, which is operated by the Japan Atomic Power Co.
January 8, 2019
Although telling six municipalities they have the right to prior consent before restarting the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant, operator Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) is apparently reneging on that promise.
JAPC reached a draft agreement with the local governments to obtain their consent before restarting the Tokai No. 2 plant reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture, according to documents from Naka in the prefecture.
The documents, obtained by The Asahi Shimbun through an information disclosure request, detail the six years of negotiations between JAPC and the six local governments and a new safety agreement reached in March 2018.
The six are Tokai village, which hosts the plant, and the five surrounding cities of Hitachi, Hitachinaka, Naka, Hitachiota and Mito.
However, when asked by The Asahi Shimbun if the agreement contained a clause that JAPC would obtain prior consent from the six municipal governments on the restart, the company replied “No.” The six municipalities said the right to prior consent had been agreed upon.
JAPC has apparently changed its stance.
The new safety agreement, concluded on March 29, 2018, stipulates that when JAPC seeks to restart the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant or extend its operation, it will effectively obtain prior approval from Tokai village and five surrounding municipalities.
The apparent break from tradition to give surrounding local municipalities the right of prior consent drew widespread attention as the “Ibaraki method.”
The concept of working out an agreement started in February 2012 when the heads of the six municipalities met to discuss nuclear power and local vitalization.
Tatsuya Murakami, then Tokai village chief, talked about the wide-ranging effects from the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
He said that the issue of whether to allow a restart of the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant couldn’t be decided by Tokai village alone and that it was necessary for surrounding municipalities to have the same right.
However, JAPC rejected the proposal, saying that it needed to maintain a consistent approach with another nuclear plant it operates.
The negotiations continued, and in March 2017 the circumstances changed. In a meeting held that month, JAPC President Mamoru Muramatsu proposed a new safety agreement to the six municipalities.
As for their prior consent, he said, “We’ve determined that we can’t restart the nuclear plant until we obtain consent from the municipalities.”
The municipalities asked Muramatsu if that effectively meant they had the right to “prior consent.”
The JAPC president replied, “That’s correct.”
On Nov. 22, 2017, JAPC presented a new safety agreement, which included “effective prior consent,” in a meeting of the heads of the municipalities.
The municipalities again asked whether they had the right to prior consent. A JAPC official replied, “Yes.”
On Nov. 24, 2017, JAPC applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for a 20-year extension of the operation of the nuclear plant. The deadline for the application was Nov. 28, 2017.
On Nov. 7, 2018, immediately after the NRA approved the 20-year extension, however, JAPC Vice President Nobutaka Wachi said, “The word ‘veto power’ can’t be found anywhere in the new agreement.”
The remark caused a backlash from the six municipalities, and Wachi apologized for his remark. However, relations between JAPC and the municipalities have deteriorated.
In the fall of 2018, The Asahi Shimbun conducted a survey of JAPC and the six municipalities. It asked them, “Is there anything in writing that states that JAPC must obtain prior consent from the six municipal governments in the new agreement?”
In response, JAPC said, “No.” A JAPC official explained, “The new agreement is a plan to effectively obtain prior consent from the six municipalities (by continuing to talk thoroughly with them until they grant their consent).”
The Asahi Shimbun told JAPC that official documents have a description that can be interpreted as granting the municipalities the right to prior consent.
The JAPC official said, “We will refrain from making a comment about the content of discussions from closed meetings.”

Niigata gov’t to handle radioactive mud stored since Fukushima crisis

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Niigata Gov. Hideyo Hanazumi speaks at a press conference in Niigata, on Jan. 8, 2019.
January 8, 2019
NIIGATA, Japan (Kyodo) — The Niigata prefectural government said Tuesday it will dispose of radioactive mud that has been stored since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and ask the operator of the crisis-hit plant to shoulder the costs.
The prefecture in central Japan, located about 200 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, has stored around 60,000 tons of mud containing radioactive cesium and requested Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. since 2012 to dispose of it.
But the operator has refused, saying it is not able to handle industrial waste. The disposal costs are estimated at 3 billion yen ($27.5 million) and TEPCO formally expressed its readiness to pay in December.
The level of radioactive cesium in the mud is below 8,000 becquerels per kilogram, which could be disposed of by regular landfill operations, and most of it is below 100 becquerels per kg, according to the prefecture.
The local government has stored the mud instead of disposing of it, arguing that TEPCO should take responsibility for the damage caused by fuel meltdowns at the plant triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The Niigata prefectural government has also stored the waste as some local residents were concerned about safety despite the low level of radioactive cesium.
Niigata Gov. Hideyo Hanazumi said at a press conference Tuesday it is “not realistic” to keep asking TEPCO to dispose of the mud and expressed “regret” that it had taken so long for the operator to decide how to handle the matter.
The contaminated mud, produced at an industrial water supply facility that takes in water from a river containing radioactive materials, is growing by 5,000 tons annually and the storage facility could become full later this year, according to the prefecture.
Municipalities other than Niigata have also been grappling with radioactive mud as a result of the crisis at the six-reactor Fukushima complex, with some shouldering the disposal costs.