Threat of forced evacuation from Fukushima pushed 102yo to take his own life, judge rules

Threat of forced evacuation from Fukushima pushed 102yo to take his own life, judge rules
Mieko Okubo, shown here in 2013, would regularly visit the home where her father-in-law took his life.
The family of a 102-year-old man who took his own life after being ordered to leave his home following the Fukushima disaster has won a bid for compensation.
Fumio Okubo told his family he had “lived a bit too long” and took his life one day after realising he would be forced out of his home.
His family filed a lawsuit seeking more than $700,000 in compensation, claiming Mr Okubo — the oldest resident of his village 40 kilometres from the tsunami-hit Daiichi power plant — took his life because of the evacuation order.
Judge Hideki Kanazawa said Mr Okubo had lived in the village his entire life and suffered unbearable pain over the evacuation order, as he felt he would likely die before he could return home.
The court acknowledged his suicide was linked to stress at the idea he would have to move and his fear that he would be a burden to his family.
Mieko Okubo, 59, said her father-in-law took his own life because he could not stand to end his life somewhere else.
“It took a long time to get here but I didn’t give up because I am the only one who can let people know how my father-in-law is feeling,” Ms Okubo said.
“I hope he will now rest in peace.”
The family’s lawyer Yukio Yasuda said it was a landmark ruling.
“The court acknowledged the causal relationship between the suicide and the nuclear disaster,” Mr Yasuda said.
Mr Okubo was one of 160,000 people ordered to leave their homes around the plant after the government announced an evacuation.
TEPCO, the reactor’s operator, has been ordered to pay $180,000 to the family and is yet to respond to the ruling.
The operator has been forced to pay damages over two other suicides involving former Fukushima residents who killed themselves after fleeing their homes.
Fukushima operator told to compensate for suicide of 102-year-old
20 Feb 2018,
A Japanese court on Tuesday ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to compensate relatives of a 102-year-old man who killed himself at the prospect of fleeing his home.
The Fukushima District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Co (TEPCO) to pay 15.2 million yen ($143,400) in damages to the family of Fumio Okubo, according to their attorney Yukio Yasuda.
Okubo was the oldest resident of Iitate village, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant on Japan’s northeast coast, which sparked the world’s worst atomic accident in a generation in 2011.
He took his own life after the government ordered area residents to flee in April 2011, a month after tsunami waves sent the plant’s reactors into meltdown.
“I lived a bit too long,” he told his family soon after he learned of the government-ordered evacuation from a news report.
The court acknowledged his suicide was linked to “strong stress” at the prospect that he would have to flee and his fear that he would be a burden to his family, the attorney said.
“It is significant that the court recognised the eldest man in the village who would have lived out his final days in his homeland was hit by such a terrible tragedy,” he told AFP on the phone.
The compensation ordered by the court was smaller than the 60 million yen the bereaved family had demanded, but they do not plan to appeal, he added.
TEPCO said it would examine the latest ruling before it decides on its response
The firm has already been ordered to pay damages over two other suicides involving former Fukushima residents who killed themselves after fleeing their homes.
Iitate was one of a number of areas the central government declared off-limits due to concerns at the effect of long-term exposure to radiation.
The killer tsunami, triggered by a 9.0-magnitude offshore earthquake on March 11, 2011, swamped the emergency power supplies at the Fukushima power plant, sending its reactors into meltdown as cooling systems failed.
Many of the tens of thousands of people who evacuated their homes and farms are unlikely to return to their ancestral properties due to radiation dangers.
While the quake and tsunami killed nearly 18,000 people, no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the atomic catastrophe.
Compensation awarded over 102-year-old’s suicide amid Fukushima crisis
Mieko Okubo, the daughter-in-law of Fumio Okubo, who hanged himself at age 102 after learning he had to evacuate from his home in the wake of the March 2011 nuclear disaster, speaks to reporters in front of the Fukushima District Court on Tuesday.
FUKUSHIMA – A court awarded Tuesday ¥15.2 million ($142,000) in damages to the family of a 102-year-old man who killed himself in the face of an order to flee from his home as the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis was unfolding.
The Fukushima District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, to pay compensation, recognizing the relationship between the suicide of Fumio Okubo and the nuclear disaster.
Three of Okubo’s family members had sought a total of ¥60 million from the utility known as Tepco. The man, who had never lived outside of his hometown of Iitate, was found to have hanged himself in his room on April 12, 2011, a day after learning the government was set to issue an evacuation order for the village.
After a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck the Fukushima nuclear complex on March 11, 2011, the plant suffered multiple meltdowns, becoming the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and prompting the government to instruct neighboring residents to evacuate.
The village of Iitate, located about 30 kilometers northwest of the plant, was designated as an evacuation zone on April 22, 2011. The order was lifted in most parts of the village in March last year as decontamination work has helped lower the level of radioactive contamination there.
Presiding Judge Hideki Kanazawa said Okubo “suffered unbearable pain as he was highly likely to die without being able to return home” if he had been evacuated, referring to his advanced age.
In similar lawsuits in 2014 and 2015, Tepco was also ordered to pay compensation by the Fukushima court over suicides linked to the nuclear disaster.
According to the lawsuit in the latest case, Okubo learned of the impending evacuation order through a television news program on April 11, 2011, and told his daughter-in-law Mieko, 65, “I don’t want to evacuate.” He sat in front of the TV for two hours and also said, “I think I have lived a bit too long.”
The plaintiffs argued that Okubo had lived his whole life in Iitate and suffered mental anguish trying to imagine his life as an evacuee.
Tepco denied a causal relationship between Okubo’s suicide and the nuclear disaster and claimed that even if there was some kind of connection, his poor health condition might have affected his decision to take his own life.
Born into a farmer’s family in the village, Okubo became a farm worker soon after leaving elementary school. He kept cattle and horses, cultivated land, grew leaf tobacco and bred silkworms.
“For grandpa, the evacuation order was the same as being told to ‘die,’ ” Mieko Okubo said. After the ruling was handed down, she told reporters, “We won (the compensation) due to everyone’s support. I will go to grandpa’s grave to report” on the court decision.



Fukushima fruit exports to Southeast Asia peachy as contamination fears dissipate

Feb 18, 2018
Fukushima Prefecture’s Governor campaigning abroad to push sales of Fukushima’s produce despite the health risks
Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori (right) promotes Fukushima-made peaches with officials from local agricultural cooperatives at a supermarket in Kuala Lumpur in August. | FUKUSHIMA MINPO
Among peaches Japan exported to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia last year, those produced in Fukushima Prefecture led the way, retaining their No. 1 status for two years in a row.
According to the prefectural government, 48 tons of Fukushima peaches were shipped to the three countries in 2017, up 57 percent from the previous year, thanks to efforts by local producers and distributors to acquire new customers.
With bans from the Fukushima nuclear disaster still in place around Asia, however, Fukushima officials said they will continue calling on the central government to negotiate with biggest customers of Japanese peaches, Hong Kong and Taiwan, to encourage them to lift bans on produce from the prefecture.
According to data compiled by the prefectural government based on Finance Ministry trade statistics and transaction data from local farm co-ops, Thailand topped the list of Fukushima peaches importers for two years in a row, with shipments in 2017 totaling 31.1 tons, or 1.5 times higher than the previous year. Fukushima peaches accounted for 94.8 percent of its peach imports from Japan.
Exports to Malaysia reached 15 tons, making up 72.5 percent of its Japanese peach imports, while exports to Indonesia totaled 1.5 tons, or 51.7 percent of its Japanese peach imports. Both amounts more than doubled from a year ago.
In Thailand, the number of stores selling Fukushima peaches rose to 70 from roughly 50, mainly in Bangkok, after the prefectural government entrusted a local importer to take steps to bolster sales, such as by dispatching staff to the stores when the peaches are in season.
Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori visited Malaysia in August to promote the fruit, resulting in a deal to export 15 tons to the nation last year.
Produce other than peaches has been making headway in Southeast Asia as well, especially in nations with high economic development and relatively fewer negative rumors about Fukushima.
Fukushima exported 77 tons of rice to Malaysia in 2017, up from none a year before, and 16.3 tons of persimmons to Thailand.
To accelerate exports of local produce, the prefectural government will put together a new strategy before the end of March. It plans to analyze different preferences and consumers’ purchasing power by nation and region and set target markets for each item.
It will then draw up measures to create production systems that meet the needs of those markets and find ways to promote the products.
“The efforts of people involved, including producers, farm co-ops and importers, have produced good results,” an official with Fukushima’s division for promoting local produce said. “We will continue working on developing effective sales channels to win the support of overseas consumers.”
This section features topics and issues from Fukushima covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. It was previously called Fukushima File. The original article was published on Feb. 2.

Health Effects of Plutonium

Here is a 1997 article by a nuclear fission expert on the health effects of the deadly substance.
Plutonium pellet
By Dr Arjun Makhijani
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
December 1997
Plutonium-239 is a very hazardous carcinogen which can also be used to make nuclear weapons. This combination of properties makes it one of the most dangerous substances. Plutonium-239, while present in only trace quantities in nature, has been made in large quantities in both military and commercial programs in the last 50 years. Other more radioactive carcinogens do exist, like radium-226, but unlike plutonium-239 cannot be used to make nuclear weapons, or are not available in quantity. Highly enriched uranium (HEU) can also be used to make nuclear weapons, but it is roughly one thousand times less radioactive than plutonium-239. The danger is aggravated by the fact that plutonium-239 is relatively difficult to detect once it is outside of secure, well-instrumented facilities, or once it has been incorporated into the body. This is because its gamma ray emissions, which provide the easiest method of detection of radionuclides, are relatively weak.
The main carcinogenic property of plutonium-239 arises from the energetic alpha radiation it emits. Alpha particles, being heavy, transfer their energy to other atoms and molecules within fewer collisions than the far lighter electrons which are the primary means of radiation damage for both gamma and beta radiation.1 Alpha particles travel only a short distance within living tissue, repeatedly bombarding the cells and tissue nearby. This results in far more biological damage for the same amount of energy deposited in living tissue. The relative effectiveness of various kinds of radiation in causing biological damage is known as “relative biological effectiveness” (RBE). This varies according to the type of radiation, its energy, and the organ of the body being irradiated. A simple factor, called quality factor, is used to indicate the relative danger of alpha, beta, gamma and neutron radiation for regulatory purposes. The International Commission on Radiation Protection currently recommends the use of a quality factor of 20 for alpha radiation relative to gamma radiation.2
Once in the body, plutonium-239 is preferentially deposited in soft tissues, notably the liver, on bone surfaces, in bone marrow and other non-calcified areas of the bone, as well as those areas of the bone that do not contain cartilage. Deposition in bone marrow can have an especially harmful effect on the blood formation which takes place there. By contrast, radium-226, another alpha emitter, is chemically akin to calcium and so becomes deposited in the calcified areas of bones.
When it is outside the body, plutonium-239 is less dangerous than gamma-radiation sources. Since alpha particles transfer their energy within a short distance, plutonium-239 near the body deposits essentially all of its energy in the outer dead layer of the skin, where it does not cause biological damage.
The gamma rays emitted due to plutonium-239 decay penetrate into the body, but as these are relatively few and weak, a considerable quantity of plutonium-239 would be necessary to yield substantial doses from gamma radiation. Thus, plutonium-239 can be transported with minimal shielding, with no danger of immediate serious radiological effects. The greatest health danger from plutonium-239 is from inhalation, especially when it is in the common form of insoluble plutonium-239 oxide. Another danger is absorption of plutonium into the blood stream through cuts and abrasions. The risk from absorption into the body via ingestion is generally much lower than that from inhalation, because plutonium is not easily absorbed by the intestinal walls, and so most of it will be excreted.
The kind of damage that plutonium-239 inflicts and the likelihood with which it produces that damage depend on the mode of incorporation of plutonium into the body, the chemical form of the plutonium and the particle size. The usual modes of incorporation for members of the public are inhalation or ingestion. Plutonium may be ingested by accidental ingestion of plutonium-containing soil, or through eating and drinking contaminated food and water. Incorporation via cuts is a hazard mainly for workers and (in former times) for personnel participating in the atmospheric nuclear testing program.
In general, plutonium in the form of large particles produces a smaller amount of biological damage, and therefore poses a smaller risk of disease, than the same amount of plutonium divided up into smaller particles. When large particles are inhaled, they tend to be trapped in the nasal hair; this prevents their passage into the lungs. Smaller particles get into the bronchial tubes and into the lungs, where they can become lodged, irradiating the surrounding tissue.
Other plutonium isotopes that emit alpha radiation, like plutonium-238, have similar health effects as plutonium-239, when considered per unit of radioactivity. But the radioactivity per unit weight varies according to the isotope. For instance, plutonium-238 is about 270 times more radioactive than plutonium-239 per unit of weight.
Experimental data
The health effects of plutonium have been studied primarily by experiments done on laboratory animals. Some analyses have also been done on workers and non-worker populations exposed to plutonium contamination. Measurements of burdens of plutonium using lung counters or whole-body counters, together with follow-up of exposed individuals, have provided information which is complementary to experimental data and analysis. Experiments injecting human beings with plutonium were also done in the United States. Between 1945 and 1947, 18 people were injected with plutonium in experiments used to get data on plutonium metabolism. They were done without informed consent and have been the object of considerable criticism since information about them became widely known in 1993.
Experiments on beagles have shown that a very small amount of plutonium in insoluble form will produce lung cancer with near-one-hundred-percent probability. When this data is extrapolated to humans, the figure for lethal lung burden of plutonium comes out to about 27 micrograms. Such an extrapolation from animals, of course, has some uncertainties. However, it is safe to assume that several tens of micrograms of plutonium-239 in the lung would greatly increase the risk of lung cancer. Larger quantities of plutonium will produce health problems in the short-term as well.
The precise quantitative effects of considerably lower quantities of plutonium are as yet not well known. This is due to several factors such as: the difficulty of measuring plutonium in the body; uncertainties regarding excretion rates and functions due to the large variation in such rates from one human being to the next (so that the same body burden of plutonium would produce considerably different doses); complicating factors such as smoking; uncertainties in the data (as, for instance, about the time of ingestion or inhalation); differing and largely unknown exposure to other sources of carcinogens (both radioactive and non-radioactive) over the long periods over which studies are conducted; failure to study and follow-up on the health of workers who worked with plutonium in the nuclear weapons industry to the extent possible.
One of the few attempts to analyze the effects of microgram quantities of plutonium on exposed human subjects was a long-term study of 26 “white male subjects” from the Manhattan Project exposed to plutonium at Los Alamos in 1944 and 1945, where the first nuclear weapons were made. These subjects have been followed for a long period of time, with the health status of the subjects periodically published. The most recent results were published in a study in 1991.3
The amounts of plutonium deposited in the bodies of the subjects were estimated to range from “a low of 110 Bq (3 nCi) …up to 6960 Bq (188 nCi),”4 corresponding to a weight range of 0.043 micrograms to 3 micrograms. However, weaknesses in the study resulted in considerable uncertainties about the amount and solubility of plutonium actually incorporated at the time of exposure.5
Of the seven deaths by 1990, one was due to a bone cance (bone sarcoma).6 Bone cancer is rare in humans. The chances of it normally being observed in a group of 26 men over a 40-year timeframe is on the order one in 100. Thus, its existence in a plutonium-exposed man (who received a plutonium dose below that of current radiation protection guidelines) is significant. 7 There are data for plutonium exposure in other countries, notably in Russia. These are still in the process of being evaluated. Collaborative US-Russian studies are now beginning under the Joint Coordinating Committee on Radiation Effects Research (JCCRER) to assess the health effects of the Mayak plant to both workers and neighbors of the facility.
1. Gamma rays consist of high energy photons, which are “packets” or quanta of electromagnetic energy.
2. The energy deposited in a medium (per unit of mass) is measured in units of grays or rads (1 gray = 100 rads), while the biological damage is measured in sieverts or rems (1 sievert = 100 rems).
3. G.L.Voelz and J.N.P. Lawrence, “A 42-year medical follow-up of Manhattan project plutonium workers.” Health Physics, Vol. 37, 1991, pp. 445-485.
4. Ibid., p. 186.
5. These aspects of the study are discussed in some detail in Gofman 1981, pp. 510-520 (based on the status of the Manhattan Project workers study as published in Voelz 1979). See J.W. Gofman, Radiation and Human Health, (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1991), p. 516.
6. Three of these deaths were due to lung cancer. It is difficult to assess the significance of this large percentage, since all three were smokers.
7. Voelz, p. 189.
Arjun Makhijani, President of IEER, holds a Ph.D. in engineering (specialization: nuclear fusion) from the University of California at Berkeley. He has produced many studies and articles on nuclear fuel cycle related issues, including weapons production, testing, and nuclear waste, over the past twenty years. He is the principal author of the first study ever done (completed in 1971) on energy conservation potential in the U.S. economy. Most recently, Dr. Makhijani has authored Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy (RDR Books and IEER Press, 2007), the first analysis of a transition to a U.S. economy based completely on renewable energy, without any use of fossil fuels or nuclear power. He is the principal editor of Nuclear Wastelands and the principal author of Mending the Ozone Hole, both published by MIT Press.
Also see: Radioactive iodine releases from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactors may exceed those of Three Mile Island by over 100,000 times, March 25, 2011.

Key figures for the seventh anniversary



February 17, 2018

Translation by Herve Courtois from the ACRO article

All the figures quoted in this article are from TEPCO and the Japanese government. We can safely assume the true figures to be somehow higher, as we know from the past 7 years that TEPCO and the Japanese government have never been straightforward with their figures.


As we approach the seventh anniversary of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, here are some key figures as they appear in the media and official websites. This article will be updated as they appear.

Situation of the reactors

The work is aimed primarily at securing the damaged reactors that are still threatening. Nearby, the dose rates are such that the work time of the workers must be very limited, which complicates the work.

Reactor # 4

The reactor vessel was empty on March 11, 2011 so there was no core melting, but a hydrogen explosion destroyed the reactor building. Since December 2014, the reactor fuel pool has been emptied and work is stopped because it is no longer threatening.

The few dose rates available inside the reactor building are here expressed in mSv / h, knowing that the limits are in mSv / year. They date from 2016.

Reactor # 3

There was a core meltdown and a hydrogen explosion destroyed the reactor building. All top debris were removed using remotely controlled gear. A new building is being finished. Fuel removal is expected to begin this year and end in 2019.

The first images taken inside the containment led to a revision of the core fusion scenario.

The few dose rates available inside the reactor building are here expressed in mSv / h, knowing that the limits are in mSv / year. They date from 2016.

There would be between 188 and 394 tonnes of corium in this reactor, with a nominal value of 364 tonnes for reactor No. 3. The latter contains MOx fuel, which contains plutonium. To know more:

Reactor # 2

There was a melting of the core, but the reactor building is whole. TEPCO has not started removing used fuel from the pool. The company sent several robots into the containment to locate the corium, the mixture of molten fuel and debris.

Several series of images have been put online by the company. Those taken in January 2017 were analyzed and put back online in December 2017. There is a gaping hole just below the vessel, most likely due to the passage of molten fuel.

Those obtained in January 2018 at the bottom of the containment enclosure show what TEPCO thinks is corium and fragments of fuel assembly.

Dose rates inside the containment enclosure are lethal within minutes. The latest results published following the January 2018 exploration are quite surprising: not higher near what TEPCO thinks is corium, but higher outside.

The few dose rates available inside the reactor building are here expressed in mSv / h, knowing that the limits are in mSv / year. They date from 2016.

There would be between 189 and 390 tonnes of corium in this reactor, with a nominal value of 237 tonnes. To know more:

Reactor # 1

There was a core meltdown and a hydrogen explosion destroyed the reactor building. This building was covered by a new structure in 2011, which was completely dismantled in November 2016. TEPCO began removing the debris from the upper part of the reactor, then rebuilding a new structure to empty the pool. fuels.

The dose rates inside the reactor building are here expressed in mSv / h, knowing that the limits are in mSv / year. They date from 2016.

There would be between 232 and 357 tons of corium in this reactor, with a nominal value of 279 tons. To know more:

Reactors 5 and 6

Reactors 5 and 6 were partially unloaded on March 11, 2011, and a backup diesel generator was still functional, which prevented the core from melting. These reactors are now fully unloaded and will be dismantled.

Contamination of the plant

The last dose rates on the plant site published by TEPCO are from February 2017:

Groundwater also remains contaminated. Figures to come.



Contaminated water

The fuel that has melted and drilled the vessels must always be cooled. To this end, TEPCO injects 72 m3 of water per day into each of the reactors 1, 2 and 3 for this purpose. This makes a total of 216 m3 per day. This water is highly contaminated by contact with the molten fuel and infiltrates the basements of the reactor and turbine buildings where it mixes with the groundwater that infiltrates it.

At the beginning of the disaster, the infiltration amounted to about 400 m3 per day, which became contaminated and had to be stored in tanks. Inversely, the water of the basements, highly contaminated, leaked towards the groundwater then the ocean.

To reduce groundwater seepage, TEPCO pumps upstream of reactors before this water is contaminated and releases it directly into the ocean. It has also built a barrier all along the shoreline and pumps groundwater at the foot of the reactors. Part of this is partially decontaminated and released into the ocean. Another part, too contaminated, is mixed with the pumped water in the basements of the reactors to be put in tanks after treatment, waiting for a better solution.

The last barrier put in place is the freezing of the ground all around the 4 accidented reactors, on 1.4 km in order to stop the infiltrations. After many setbacks, the ice wall is finished since November 2017, but the effect remains limited. Even the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, the NRA, seriously doubts the effectiveness of this technique, which it now considers secondary.

A year ago, during our previous assessment, TEPCO pumped 135 m3 of contaminated water daily in the basements of reactor and turbine buildings, in addition to the one it injected for cooling and 62 m3 of groundwater, which made a total of 197 m3 which accumulated daily in tanks after treatment. It’s more in case of rain, or even more during typhoons.

Now that the soil freeze is over, these flows have been reduced. According to the latest report published by the company, 75 m3 of groundwater infiltrate daily in the basements of reactors to which must be added 15 m3 per pumped groundwater too contaminated to be treated directly before discharge to sea. therefore makes a total of 90 m3 per day. These values correspond to a week without rain. In case of heavy rainfall, it is much more, even if TEPCO has paved and concreted all soils to limit infiltration.

The water pumped into the basements is treated and stored in tanks at the plant site. TEPCO removes 62 radioelements, but it remains notably tritium, radioactive hydrogen, which is difficult to separate. The company announces that it has already treated 1,891,070 m3 of contaminated water, which generated 9,219 m3 of highly radioactive liquid waste and 597 m3 of radioactive sludge. Part of this is used for cooling and the rest is stored in tanks. According to the company, the stock of treated or partially treated water amounts to 1,037,148 m3 plus 35,010 m3 of water in the basements of the reactor and turbine buildings. There are nearly a thousand tanks to keep this water that occupy almost the entire site of the plant.

What to do with this treated water? After considering several unrealistic solutions, there remains only the rejection at sea. The concentration in tritium would be one to five million becquerels per liter, which is more than the authorized limit, set at 60 000 Bq / L. But, just dilute, as is done in normal operation. The problem is rather on the side of the total stock, estimated at 3.4 PBq (3.4 billion million becquerels), which represents about 150 years of rejection to the authorized limit.

By way of comparison, the discharge authorization at the Areva plant in La Hague is 18.5 PBq for tritium and the actual releases in recent years ranged from 11.6 to 13.4 PBq per year. The Fukushima tritium stock therefore represents 3 ½ months of discards at La Hague. What make the Japanese authorities jealous!

On the other hand, we do not know the concentration of other radioelements after filtering. This is important for an impact study before rejection. Toyoshi Fuketa, the president of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, has asked for a decision to be made this year, saying that the rejection at sea is the only solution. The preparation of the rejection should take two to three years, according to him, and TEPCO will quickly run out of space.


At the Fukushima daiichi nuclear power plant

From March 11, 2011 to March 31, 2016, 46,956 workers were exposed to ionizing radiation at the site of the Fukushima daï-ichi power station, including 42,244 subcontractors. It is the subcontractors who take the highest doses, with an average that varies from 0.51 to 0.56 mSv per month between January and February 2016. It is between 0.18 and 0.22 for employees of TEPCO.
There are also 1,203 people who have a higher limit to continue to enter the site. Their average cumulative dose since the beginning of the accident is 36.49 mSv and the maximum value of 102.69 mSv.

On April 1, 2016, TEPCO reset all meters. For example, 174 workers who exceeded the dose limit of 100 mSv over 5 years may return. Since then, until December 31, 2017, 18,348 people have worked in controlled areas, including 16,456 subcontractors (90%). It is impossible to know how many of them have been exposed in the first five years. During this period, subcontractors took a cumulative average dose of 4.29 mSv, with a maximum of 60.36 mSv, while TEPCO employees took a cumulative average dose of 1.79 mSv with a maximum of 22.85 mSv. Subcontractors thus took 95.4% of the cumulative collective dose of 74 men.sieverts.

TEPCO has put online many other data on the doses taken, with distributions by age, year …

TEPCO reduced the risk premiums paid to workers because dose rates decreased on the site. This subject would be one of the main complaints of the staff engaged on the site. It could reach 20,000 yen (150 €) per day, even if, for the subcontractors, this premium was punctuated at each level of subcontracting, to be reduced, sometimes, to less than half. In March 2016, TEPCO divided the site of the accident site into 3 zones, red, yellow and green, depending on the level of risk. But for many workers, this zoning is meaningless: debris from the red zone is transferred to the green zone. The dust raised by the machines does not respect the boundaries … Thus, subcontractors wear protective equipment such as masks in the green zone, even if TEPCO does not require it.

About the decontamination sites

In the evacuated areas, it is the government that is prime contractor for the decontamination sites and in the areas not evacuated, it is the communes. The monthly report of the Ministry of the Environment (source, page 16) states:

13 million decontaminators in the evacuated areas and

17 million decontaminators in the areas not evacuated according to the data transmitted by the communes.

These numbers are completely unrealistic. This is probably the number of contracts signed. This means that the authorities do not know the number of decontaminators and therefore do not know the individual doses.

An individual dosimetric follow-up was introduced in November 2013 for the decontaminators (source in Japanese) who work in the evacuated zone and who are subject to the same dose limits as the nuclear workers. Data for 2016 show 36,000 decontaminators. We are far from the millions of decontaminators reported by the Ministry of the Environment. The majority (87%) received a dose of less than 1 mSv / yr and the highest dose was 7.5 and 10 mSv. There is also data by number of sites or by zone.

The most recent data in English, dated January 8, 2018, covers the period October 2016 – September 2017. Doses are reported by period of 3 months while the limits are annual. It is difficult to interpret these numbers. If it appears that the vast majority of decontaminators received less than 1 mSv over 3 months, it is not known how much below this limit over one year. The average annual dose is 0.5 mSv.

Other people exposed

I did not find any official data on the doses taken by those who continued to work in the evacuated area or the many police officers who guard and patrol the restricted areas.


Mapping of radioactive pollution

The latest aerial mapping of radioactive pollution around the Fukushima daiichi nuclear power station was made in November 2016 and is available online at the dedicated site.
The immediate vicinity of the nuclear power plant has not been recontrolled, it seems.



Decontamination of evacuated areas is the responsibility of the government. Elsewhere, where the external exposure could exceed 1 mSv / year, it is the municipalities that have to deal with it. See the latest report published by the Ministry of the Environment:

In the evacuated zone, decontamination is complete, except in the parts classified as “difficult return zones” where the external exposure could exceed 50 mSv / year. Decontamination took place only in populated and agricultural areas, not in forests. The ministry announces 22,000 decontaminated homes, 1,600 ha of roads, streets, lanes …, 8,500 ha of agricultural land and 5,800 ha of forest near residential areas.

In the non-evacuated areas, 104 communes were initially concerned, in Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saïtama and Chiba prefectures and it went down to 92 by simple radioactive decay. The decontamination work is completed in 89 of them and remains to be done in 3 others. The ministry announces 418,582 homes decontaminated in Fukushima and 147,656 in other provinces, 11,958 public facilities in Fukushima and 11,803 in other provinces. There are also 18,403 km of roads, streets, roads in Fukushima and 5,399 in other provinces, 31,043 ha of agricultural land in Fukushima and 1,588 ha in other provinces.

For so-called difficult return zones, the government will decontaminate a center in Futaba and Okuma in order to be able to affirm that it has not abandoned any commune. The end of the work is scheduled for 2022. Who will come back after 11 years of evacuation? This work in a highly contaminated zone will generate exposure of the decontaminators to ionizing radiation. As there is no threshold of safety, the first principle of radiation protection requires the justification of these exposures and this has not been done.

The Ministry of the Environment has budgeted 2.6 trillion yen (24.79 billion dollars) until 2016 to finance the decontamination work. Half is for evacuated areas, without taking into account the so-called difficult return zone and the other half for non-evacuated areas.

Radioactive waste from decontamination

See our summer 2016 report on the problem of waste from decontamination. Organic waste is incinerated and ash must be stored as industrial waste. Soils, for their part, must be stored for 30 years on a site of 16 km2 around the Fukushima daï-ichi plant, the time to find a final solution.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, the decontamination of the evacuated areas has generated 8,400,000 m3 of waste containing radioactive soils to which are added approximately 7,200,000 m3 in the areas not evacuated (6,800,000 m3 in Fukushima and 400,000 m3 in the other provinces concerned).

• Regarding the 16-square-kilometer (1,600-hectare) contaminated soil storage site with a capacity of 22 million cubic meters, the government has only been able to lease or purchase 48.4% of the surface area , knowing that 21% of the land already belonged to the government or municipalities. That was 18% a year ago.

This site will only accept Fukushima waste. The ministry announces that it has transferred 404,773 bags of about one cubic meter to this site in 2017. It is still far from the millions of cubic meters, but it required 67,146 truckings. And it will take as much transport to resume in 30 years … The total volume stored for the moment is 633 889 m3.

To learn more about this storage site.
• For radioactive waste from other provinces, the authorities prefer landfill even if they are struggling to find sites (source).

In the meantime, there is waste everywhere, as far as the eye can see. See the Greenpeace videos.

Evacuated areas

The last evacuation orders were lifted on April 1, 2017 and it remains mostly so-called back difficult areas where access is prohibited.


Cost of the disaster

Official figures for the cost of the disaster were revised upwards in December 2016 to 21.5 trillion yen (216.88 billion dollars) and have not changed since. This includes the dismantling of the Fukushima daï-ichi reactors, worth 8 trillion yen (80.56 billion dollars), 7.9 trillion yen (79.32 billion dollars) for compensation, nearly 4 trillion yen (40.28 billion dollars) for decontamination and 1.6 trillion yen (16.11 billion dollars) for the temporary radioactive waste storage center.

This sum does not include the cost of storing the waste resulting from the dismantling of the damaged power station nor the creation of a decontaminated island in the so-called “difficult return” zones whose sole purpose is the non-disappearance of the villages concerned.

The bill for the nuclear disaster could be 50,000 to 70 trillion yen (520.67 to 719.02 billion dollars), which is 3 times higher than the government estimate, according to a study by the Japan Center for Economic Research.

TEPCo has already received a total of 8,032.1 billion yen (73.76 billion dollars at the current rate) in advance for compensation. This money is loaned without interest.

The government still holds a 50.1% stake in TEPCO.



Media reports de-romanticize the cleanup work on the Fukushima nuclear power plant

Front-line fight: Workers remove protective clothing after a shift at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in November 2011.
Most of the reliable reporting about the clean-up of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant since it suffered three meltdowns in March 2011 has been from on-site workers. Even when articles appear in major media outlets about the situation at the crippled reactor, it’s usually presented through the anonymous or pseudonymous firsthand experiences of the men on the front lines.
Some have become famous. The public would not know much about the situation without Kazuto Tatsuta’s manga series, “Ichiefu” (or “1F” — shorthand for “Fukushima No. 1”), the writings of former letter carrier and cleanup worker Minoru Ikeda, or the books and tweets of a man known as “Happy” who has been working as an employee at the plant.
Because these individuals directly address what they and their colleagues have gone through on a daily basis, the work they do has been de-romanticized. It’s not as heroic as initial foreign media reports made it out to be. If anything, it’s tedious and uncomplicated.
Workers are concerned about those matters that all blue-collar laborers worry about — pay and benefits — which isn’t to suggest they don’t think about the possible health risks of radiation exposure. Last October, Ikeda talked to the comedy duo-cum-nuclear power reporters Oshidori Mako & Ken on the web channel Jiyu-na Radio about potential false reports on radiation levels around Fukushima, although also touching on health issues that have not been reported by the mainstream media. His main point was that serious illnesses may not manifest themselves until years after workers quit the site and thus no longer qualify for worker’s compensation. In other words, the workers understand the risk. They just want to be fairly compensated for it.
In that regard, one of the most common gripes from on-site reporters is the “hazard compensation” (kiken teate) workers are supposed to receive. Recently, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (Tepco), which is both responsible for the accident and in charge of the cleanup, announced a reduction in outlay associated with the hazard compensation, which is paid as a supplement to wages. This compensation can add as much as ¥20,000 a day to a worker’s pay, but now that Tepco says radiation levels have dropped, they will no longer provide the compensation, or, at least, not as much as they have been paying.
A special report in the Jan. 22 Tokyo Shimbun attempted to explain how this change will affect workers and the work itself. In March 2016, Tepco divided the work area into three zones: red, for high radiation levels; yellow, for some radioactivity; and green, for areas that had no appreciable radioactivity. Workers interviewed by Tokyo Shimbun say they’ve never liked this system because they feel it “has no meaning.” Rubble from the red zone is routinely transferred to the green zone, where heavy machinery kicks up a lot of dust, so there’s no physical delineation between zones when it comes to radiation levels. On the ground, this reality is addressed by subcontractors who make their employees in the green zone — which constitutes 95 percent of the work site — wear extra protective gear, even though Tepco doesn’t require it.
But the workers’ main gripe about the zone system is that most of them ended up being paid less and, as on-site workers have often explained, they weren’t getting paid as much as people thought they were. Contractors advertise high wages to attract workers, but then subtract things like room and board, utility fees, clothing and equipment. And it’s been known for years that the hazard compensation was more or less a racket gamed by the contractors standing between Tepco, which distributes the compensation, and the workers, who are supposed to be the beneficiaries. There can be up to six layers of contractors between Tepco and a worker, and each layer may take a cut of the compensation. In 2014, four workers sued Tepco for ¥62 million, saying they worked at the site but received none of the promised hazard compensation.
That situation still seems to be in play, according to Tokyo Shimbun. Several subcontractors told the newspaper they receive the compensation for their workers not from Tepco directly but from the contractor that hired them, and in most cases the compensation has been reduced, sometimes by more than half. One subcontractor said that a company above them actually apologized for the paucity of the compensation they were handing down because their “revenues had decreased.” The man known as Happy told Tokyo Shimbun that Tepco is ordering less work at the site, which means existing subcontractors may cut wages in order to compete for these dwindling jobs. Some contractors have even invested in the robots that are used to inspect the reactor, because they want the work to continue without interruption.
It was common practice to rotate out workers toiling in the highly radioactive areas regularly and quickly and then re-assign them to low-radiation areas. After some time they may have been rotated back into the high-radiation area, where pay is more. The man known as Happy says this sort of system now seems to be on the way out, and that makes sense if radiation is actually decreasing. However, he’s afraid that if there is another emergency that requires a sudden influx of workers, they won’t be available.
Tepco is obviously thinking of its bottom line, and the man known as Happy thinks the work should be managed by the government, which is contributing tax money to the cleanup. However, it seems only the Japan Communist Party is reading the dispatches from the plant. Last May, Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Taku Yamazoe questioned Tepco President Naomi Hirose about the hazard compensation in the Diet, and why the structure of payments to workers wasn’t clear.
Hirose said that while his company intends that the money goes to workers, he cannot say for sure that is the case because of the circumstances surrounding Tepco’s relationships with contractors. With work on the wane, it seems unlikely that those workers will see any of the money that’s owed to them, retroactively or otherwise.

Inside a meltdown-hit Fukushima reactor building

February 17, 2018
Seven years on, Tepco aims to pull fuel out of Unit 3’s rubble-strewn pool
A crane and dome-shaped roof have been erected on the top floor of Fukushima Daiichi’s No. 3 building, in preparation for removing rods and rubble from the spent fuel pool
FUKUSHIMA, Japan — As the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster unfolded in March 2011, a hydrogen explosion ripped through the No. 3 reactor unit. Nearly seven years on, steel framing and other debris still litter the spent fuel pool, along with 566 fuel rods.
The painstaking process of removing the rods is expected to begin sometime in the fiscal year that starts in April. The fuel extraction will be a first for reactor Nos. 1-3 at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings facility, which was crippled by the earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan.
On Feb. 8, reporters from The Nikkei were allowed into the No. 3 building to get a sense of the work that awaits. 
A 20-minute bus ride from the town of Tomioka took us to Fukushima Daiichi. After donning masks and protective clothing, we walked toward Unit 3. An elevator slowly lifted us to the top floor of the building, about 36 meters up. There, a crane for moving the spent rods stood ready, wrapped in plastic sheeting. We peered down into the pool but could not see the fuel, which lies under 4 to 5 meters of water.
Large slabs of rubble that fell into the pool have been removed, but smaller pieces remain.
Other decontamination work is proceeding gradually. Radiation on the top floor was measured as high as 2,000 millisieverts per hour in the disaster’s immediate aftermath, but now it is less than 1 millisievert.
Still, caution is a must. Near the pool, our dosimeters displayed relatively high readings of up to 0.7 of a millisievert per hour. “The reading has climbed, so let’s leave for now,” a Tepco supervisor said. As we moved on, we frequently checked to ensure our exposure would not exceed 0.1 of a millisievert a day. 
Spent fuel has been removed from reactor No. 4, which was not operating when the tsunami hit the plant. But the job will be a challenge at the meltdown-stricken Unit 3. The rods and rubble will be extracted with heavy equipment operated remotely, from a separate administrative building. 
While it normally takes about two weeks to remove spent fuel, Tepco intends to proceed carefully over the course of two years.