Returnee Fukushima farmers offer taste of rice cultivation in hopes of revitalization

Sustaining the hope of recovery despite the radioactive contamination risk
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University students covered in mud plant rice saplings in a drained paddy in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 19, 2018.
 
June 10, 2018
FUKUSHIMA — University students and others from around Japan are coming to the farming villages of Fukushima Prefecture where evacuation orders from the 2011 nuclear disaster have been lifted, experiencing rice planting and interacting with local residents who are facing a difficult recovery and population decline.
Organized by local municipal governments and residents, the visits by people from outside the region affected by the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster are providing inspiration to farmers, who have seen less than 20 percent of the pre-disaster farmland planted, and few inheritors to carry on the region’s farming industry.
The laughter echoed over the idle farmland of the Sakata district in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, as university students and other participants planted rice by hand in a drained paddy on May 19.
“Everyone looks like they’re having fun,” said Namie resident and farmer Kiyoto Matsumoto, 79, with a smile. “Watching them is pretty enjoyable.”
Students started coming to Namie to experience rice planting two years ago. The idea of the event was to have them learn about the current conditions in areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, and to link the awareness with the revitalization of the region. On that day, roughly 60 students worked up a sweat in the mud of the rice paddies. The students can also take part in the harvest of the crops and sell the rice at a local festival held in the town in November.
“I really got a feel for how hard farmers work, and I also learned about the lack of successors to take over the farms and other issues,” said an 18-year-old first-timer, a student at Waseda University in Tokyo. Matsumoto hopes that “the young people (who participate) will be able to feel something through experiencing agricultural work.”
In areas where the 2011 evacuation order has been lifted, rice production has once again become possible. The Fukushima Prefectural Government has been testing all rice produced within the prefecture, and there have been no cases where the rice exceeded the standard limit of the radioactive material cesium from 2015-2017. Still, even after the evacuation order was lifted, residents have not been returning to their pre-disaster homes, and with the added influence of an aging population and a lack of successors, there are few farmers who have taken up rice cultivation again. Of the farmland across the five villages and towns of Tomioka, Namie, Iitate, Katsurao and Naraha, the Odaka Ward of the city of Minamisoma and the Yamakiya district of the town of Kawamata, for which evacuation orders were lifted between 2015 and 2017, only between less than 1 percent to 14 percent of the pre-disaster farmland was in use this spring.
In the village of Iitate, 73-year-old farmer Masao Aita also held a rice-planting event on May 19 for adults and students alike that attracted 32 participants. Aita and his wife just returned to the village the month before. The couple had given up on cultivating rice out of concern that they would not be able to sell what they had produced, and planned to plant the fields with tulips and other flowers. However, they were approached by a volunteer group. The group recommended the rice cultivation event.
Aita plans to send the harvested rice to each of the participants and have them give it a taste. “If people from the outside come visit the village, then it is bound to spark something eventually,” he said.
(Japanese original by Shuji Ozaki, Fukushima Bureau)
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Fukushima-Daiichi radioactive particle release was significant says new research

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24 May 2018
Fukushima-Daiichi radioactive particle release was significant says new research
Scientists say there was a significant release of radioactive particles during the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident.
The researchers identified the contamination using a new method and say if the particles are inhaled they could pose long-term health risks to humans.
The new method allows scientists to quickly count the number of caesium-rich micro-particles in Fukushima soils and quantify the amount of radioactivity associated with these particles.
The research, which was carried out by scientists from Kyushu University, Japan, and The University of Manchester, UK, was published in Environmental Science and Technology.
In the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, it was thought that only volatile, gaseous radionuclides, such as caesium and iodine, were released from the damaged reactors. However, in recent years it has become apparent that small radioactive particles, termed caesium-rich micro-particles, were also released. Scientists have shown that these particles are mainly made of glass, and that they contain significant amounts of radioactive caesium, as well as smaller amounts of other radioisotopes, such as uranium and technetium.
The abundance of these micro-particles in Japanese soils and sediments, and their environmental impact is poorly understood. But the particles are very small and do not dissolve easily, meaning they could pose long-term health risks to humans if inhaled.
Therefore, scientists need to understand how many of the micro-particles are present in Fukushima soils and how much of the soil radioactivity can be attributed to the particles. Until recently, these measurements have proven challenging.
The new method makes use of a technique that is readily available in most Radiochemistry Laboratories called Autoradiography. In the method, an imaging plate is placed over contaminated soil samples covered with a plastic wrap, and the radioactive decay from the soil is recorded as an image on the plate. The image from plate is then read onto a computer.
“We now need to push forward and better understand if caesium micro-particles are abundant throughout not only the exclusion zone, but also elsewhere in the Fukushima prefecture; then we can start to gauge their impact”. 
Dr Gareth Law
 
The scientists say radioactive decay from the caesium-rich micro particles can be differentiated from other forms of caesium contamination in the soil.
The scientists tested the new method on rice paddy soil samples retrieved from different locations within the Fukushima prefecture. The samples were taken close to (4 km) and far away (40 km) from the damaged nuclear reactors. The new method found caesium-rich micro-particles in all of the samples and showed that the amount of caesium associated with the micro-particles in the soil was much larger than expected.
Dr Satoshi Utsunomiya, Associate Professor at Kyushu University, Japan, and the lead author of the study says “when we first started to find caesium-rich micro-particles in Fukushima soil samples, we thought they would turn out to be relatively rare. Now, using this method, we find there are lots of caesium-rich microparticles in exclusion zone soils and also in the soils collected from outside of the exclusion zone”.
Dr Gareth Law, Senior Lecturer in Analytical Radiochemistry at the University of Manchester and an author on the paper, adds: “Our research indicates that significant amounts of caesium were released from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in particle form.
“This particle form of caesium behaves differently to the other, more soluble forms of caesium in the environment. We now need to push forward and better understand if caesium micro-particles are abundant throughout not only the exclusion zone, but also elsewhere in the Fukushima prefecture; then we can start to gauge their impact”.
The new method can be easily used by other research teams investigating the environmental impact of the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
Dr Utsunomiya adds: “we hope that our method will allow scientists to quickly measure the abundance of caesium-rich micro-particles at other locations and estimate the amount of caesium radioactivity associated with the particles. This information can then inform cost effective, safe management and clean-up of soils contaminated by the nuclear accident”.
 
The paper, ‘Novel Method of Quantifying Radioactive Cesium-Rich Microparticles (CsMPs) in the Environment from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant’ has been published in the journal of Environmental Science – DOI:10.1021/acs.est.7b06693
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Total Denial of the Existing Fukushima Radioactive Contamination for Reconstruction’s Sake

 Fukushima tops national sake competition for record-setting sixth year
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Officials and brewers from Fukushima Prefecture, including Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori (second from right), hold bottles of sake during a photo session Thursday at the prefectural government building in Fukushima City. Fukushima sake brands won the largest number of prizes at the Annual Japan Sake Awards
FUKUSHIMA – Fukushima Prefecture is home to the largest number of award-winning sake brands for the sixth year in a row, marking a record in an annual competition, the National Research Institute of Brewing said Thursday.
Nineteen brands from the prefecture won the Gold Prize at the Annual Japan Sake Awards, matching Hyogo Prefecture for the year’s top spot. Judges, including technical officers from the National Tax Agency and master brewers, chose 232 brands as Gold Prize winners out of 850 brands submitted from across the country.
“We achieved the sixth straight year of victory despite a severe situation due to rumors (about radiation contamination),” Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told a ceremony held in the prefectural government’s head office in the city of Fukushima, referring to the fallout from the March 2011 triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“I hope to promote the excellent sake produced in Fukushima both in and outside Japan,” he added.
Among Fukushima breweries, Kokken Brewery Co.’s Kokken won the top prize for the 11th year in a row. Higashinihonshuzo Productivity Improvement Cooperative’s Okunomatsu and Nagurayama Sake Brewery Co.’s Nagurayama won for the 10th year.
Aspiring brewer taps Fukushima town’s hops in bid to boost sagging farming industry
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Hop Japan Inc. President Makoto Honma (right) gives advice to a hop producer on how to plant a seedling in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture.
“I can’t wait to drink delicious beer made from homegrown hops,” Makoto Honma, the president of Hop Japan Inc., told farmers with a smile in April when he visited them in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture.
While his company was originally intended to focus on the production and sale of homegrown hops, Honma is now planning to build a craft beer brewery in the city amid the recent surge in popularity of locally produced beer and unique brewing methods.
Currently, most domestic hops are grown based on contracts with major breweries, but the production outlook is dim due to a dwindling number of farmers in Japan and falling consumption of big brand beers.
The 52-year-old also believes the realization of his dream would help solve problems related to the abandonment of local farms and revitalize rural tourism.
His brewery dream originates from his experience in the United States a decade ago.
While working as a spokesman for Tohoku Electric Power Co. in 2008, the Yamagata Prefecture native decided to take a two-year leave to study English in Seattle. During his stay, Honma developed a fascination with local craft beer and the brewery business.
In 2014, one of his friends asked him to help in negotiations with producers of Tohoku-grown hops, further piquing his interest in the industry.
Honma said the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, and subsequent tsunami and nuclear crisis, had a major impact on his life.
“I want to make hop production sustainable in Tohoku. I would do whatever I can do as we can only live once,” he said, recalling his new outlook on life.
Honma decided to quit his job and launched Hop Japan in Sendai in 2015.
He later learned that Fukushima Bank offers financial aid for startups, leading him to move his company to the city of Fukushima in order to receive the funding.
Honma was later tapped by the Reconstruction Agency to grow hops in Tamura, where farmers sought alternative crops because of the falling production of tobacco leaves.
Tamura officials later asked him to build a brewery in addition to farming hops.
Prompted by the local passion, Honma decided to follow through with the plan, and is set to move to the city by the end of the year, taking further steps toward fulfilling his dream. “By promoting the brewery business, I’d like to realize a society where economic activities from producing and processing to selling, work together in unison,” he said.
This section features topics and issues from Fukushima covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in the prefecture. The original article was published on May 1.

Fukushima Disaster Released Uranium, Unexpected Particles

gate of difficult to return zone march 11 2014.pngThe gate of “Difficult-to-return zone” in Fukushima on March 11, 2014

 
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was believed to have only resulted in the release of gases. But seven years after one of history’s few radioactive disasters, scientists have found that uranium and other solid microparticles were also released into the surrounding parts of Japan.

The particles are a fraction of the width of a human hair – which means they could be inhaled, according to the study in the journal Environmental Science Technology.

Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside the nuclear exclusion zone,” said Gareth Law, one of the authors, of the University of Manchester.

The debris, which included uranium, caesium and technetium, was discovered in the nuclear exclusion zone, several kilometers from the epicenter of the disaster at the Fukushima plant.

Two locations were paddy oils, and an abandoned aquaculture center.

Uranium itself has a half-life of 4.5 billion years.

The previously acknowledged radioactive materials were cesium and iodine, both taking the form of volatile gases. Other gases were released, as well.

But the new information about particles potentially means a longer, bigger cleanup, according to the latest study, led by Satoshi Utsunomiya of Kyushu University.

Having better knowledge of the released microparticles is also vitally important as it provides much needed data on the status of the melted nuclear fuels in the damaged reactors,” said Utsunomiya. “This will provide extremely useful information for (The Tokyo Electric Power Company’s) decommissioning strategy.”

The March 2011 Fukushima disaster was triggered by a massive 9.0-scale earthquake, then a 15-foot tsunami. The Daiichi plant lost power, which prevented normal cooling operations – and caused the meltdown of all three cores at the plant within a few days. The removal of the melted fuel – which could take decades – is not going to begin until 2022.

Eighteen thousand people were killed throughout the whole incident, and 100,000 were displaced. The disaster has widely been considered the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 meltdown at Chernobyl in the Ukraine.

Initial reports indicated that much of the contamination was contained in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster. But coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the meltdown, a report indicated that 10,000 additional cancer cases would be expected in the region of Japan that is most affected. Also in 2015, an American scientist contended that the Fukushima site was uncontrolled, and was leaking radioactive cesium and strontium in the Pacific Ocean. Last year, in advance of the sixth anniversary, the utilities charged with the cleanup announced that decommission of some of the fuel at one of the three damaged reactors had to be delayed, due to increased radiation.

https://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2018/03/fukushima-disaster-released-uranium-unexpected-particles-0

Radiation levels in Fukushima zones higher in 2017 than 2016, and still above government target despite cleanup: Greenpeace Japan

Look how the Japanese media are routinely censoring the news about the Fukushima situation.
In the first article  about the Greenpeace recent report, a short article published in Australia, are clearly stated:
1. Fukushima still has radiation 100 times higher than normal.
2. Greenpeace warned all areas surveyed, including those where people have been allowed to return, had levels of radiation similar to an active nuclear facility “requiring strict controls”, despite the fact that residents had lifted restrictions on access after years of decontamination efforts.
3. “This is public land. Citizens, including children and pregnant women returning to their contaminated homes, are at risk of receiving radiation doses equivalent to one chest X-ray every week.
4. This is unacceptable and a clear violation of their human rights,” Jan Vande Putte with Greenpeace Belgium, and leader of the survey, said.
In the second article about the Greenpeace recent report, a longer article published by the Japan Times in Japan, all those clearly stated 4 points have now disappeared, vanished, having been censored and left out, or spinned down, reduced, minimized such as:
1. “radiation 100 times higher than normal” becomes ” radiation levels higher than the government-set target of 0.23 microsieverts per hour, ranging from 0.2 to 0.8 microsieverts per hour” , meaning 4 times higher than the Japanese government-set target.
This is a typical example that shows you how the Japanese media, unfree from the Japanese government heavy censorship, have been for the past 7 years lying, hiding the true facts of the ongoing yet unsettled nuclear disaster in Fukushima, to the majority of the Japanese population.
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A member of Greenpeace checks radiation levels in the village of Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture last October. | GREENPEACE / VIA KYODO
March 1, 2018
Fukushima radiation still high: Greenpeace
A new report by Greenpeace says Fukushima, the sight of 2011’s nuclear accident after an earthquake, still has radiation 100 times higher than normal.
Greenpeace says towns in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, close to the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, are exposed to excessive levels of radiation.
In a report published on Thursday, Greenpeace warned all areas surveyed, including those where people have been allowed to return, had levels of radiation similar to an active nuclear facility “requiring strict controls”, despite the fact that residents had lifted restrictions on access after years of decontamination efforts.
“This is public land. Citizens, including children and pregnant women returning to their contaminated homes, are at risk of receiving radiation doses equivalent to one chest X-ray every week. This is unacceptable and a clear violation of their human rights,” Jan Vande Putte with Greenpeace Belgium, and leader of the survey, said.
Japanese authorities have said these areas are progressively returning to normality after the massive 9.1-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami which struck on March 11, 2011, triggering the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.
The survey said that in the towns of Namie and Iitate, located between 10 and 40 kilometres from the Fukushima Daiichi plant and where evacuation orders were partially lifted in March 2017, radiation levels continue to be “up to 100 times higher than the international limit for public exposure”.
Greenpeace also noted the “ineffectiveness of decontamination work” in these areas, saying there remained a “significant risk to health and safety for any returning evacuee”, adding that Tokyo’s policy of “effectively forcing people to return by ending housing and other financial support is not working”.
The Japanese government had said radiation levels in the reopened zones posed no risk to human health, noting that its data was corroborated by the country’s medical experts and organisations such as the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.
Considered the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, the accident at Fukushima displaced tens of thousands of people, caused serious damage to the local economy.
Radiation levels in Fukushima zones higher in 2017 than 2016, and still above government target despite cleanup: Greenpeace Japan
Following the 2011 nuclear crisis, radiation levels at houses and areas nearby in a Fukushima village remain around three times higher than the government target despite cleanup work having been performed, an environmental group has said.
In some areas of the village of Iitate and the town of Namie, levels of radioactivity detected at some points among tens of thousands checked in surveys last September and October were higher than they had been the previous year, Greenpeace Japan said in a report released Thursday.
Most of the six houses surveyed in Iitate, located around 40 kilometers northwest of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 complex, logged radiation levels higher than the government-set target of 0.23 microsieverts per hour, ranging from 0.2 to 0.8 microsieverts per hour.
Some areas in the village had seen radiation levels rise from 2016, Greenpeace said. “There is a possibility (the environment) was contaminated again as radioactive materials that had accumulated in nearby forests may have moved around,” it said.
One house, located near a municipal office with slightly wooded areas nearby, marked lower radiation levels compared with the previous 2016 survey but levels at another five houses — which are near forests that have yet to be cleaned up — have remained almost the same.
The points surveyed covered areas in Iitate and Namie where evacuation orders have been lifted as well as some parts of Namie that remain designated as “difficult to return” zones following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which was triggered by the massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The survey also showed that the effects of cleanup work conducted in 2011 and 2012 in the Tsushima district of Namie, located 40 km northwest of the Fukushima plant, had been limited, with one house there logging radiation levels of 5.8 microsieverts per hour at the highest readings and 1.3 microsieverts per hour on average.
The district is among areas designated as special reconstruction zones by the government. The state plans to carry out cleanup work and promote infrastructure development intensively at its expense to make such areas livable again.

New evidence of nuclear fuel releases found at Fukushima

February 28, 2018
Uranium and other radioactive materials, such as caesium and technetium, have been found in tiny particles released from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.
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“Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside the nuclear exclusion zone,” said Dr Gareth Law.
 
Uranium and other radioactive materials, such as caesium and technetium, have been found in tiny particles released from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.
This could mean the environmental impact from the fallout may last much longer than previously expected according to a new study by a team of international researchers, including scientists from The University of Manchester.
The team says that, for the first time, the fallout of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor fuel debris into the surrounding environment has been “explicitly revealed” by the study.
The scientists have been looking at extremely small pieces of debris, known as micro-particles, which were released into the environment during the initial disaster in 2011. The researchers discovered uranium from nuclear fuel embedded in or associated with caesium-rich micro particles that were emitted from the plant’s reactors during the meltdowns. The particles found measure just five micrometres or less; approximately 20 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The size of the particles means humans could inhale them.
The reactor debris fragments were found inside the nuclear exclusion zone, in paddy soils and at an abandoned aquaculture centre, located several kilometres from the nuclear plant.
It was previously thought that only volatile, gaseous radionuclides such as caesium and iodine were released from the damaged reactors. Now it is becoming clear that small, solid particles were also emitted, and that some of these particles contain very long-lived radionuclides; for example, uranium has a half-life of billions of years.
Dr Gareth Law, Senior Lecturer in Analytical Radiochemistry at the University of Manchester and an author on the paper, says: “Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside the nuclear exclusion zone. Whilst it is extremely difficult to get samples from such an inhospitable environment, further work will enhance our understanding of the long-term behaviour of the fuel debris nano-particles and their impact.”
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is currently responsible for the clean-up and decommissioning process at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in the surrounding exclusion zone. Dr Satoshi Utsunomiya, Associate Professor at Kyushu University (Japan) led the study.
He added: “Having better knowledge of the released microparticles is also vitally important as it provides much needed data on the status of the melted nuclear fuels in the damaged reactors. This will provide extremely useful information for TEPCO’s decommissioning strategy.”
At present, chemical data on the fuel debris located within the damaged nuclear reactors is impossible to get due to the high levels of radiation. The microparticles found by the international team of researchers will provide vital clues on the decommissioning challenges that lie ahead.
 
Story Source:
Materials provided by Manchester University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
 
Journal Reference:
1. Asumi Ochiai, Junpei Imoto, Mizuki Suetake, Tatsuki Komiya, Genki Furuki, Ryohei Ikehara, Shinya Yamasaki, Gareth T. W. Law, Toshihiko Ohnuki, Bernd Grambow, Rodney C. Ewing, Satoshi Utsunomiya. Uranium Dioxides and Debris Fragments Released to the Environment with Cesium-Rich Microparticles from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Environmental Science & Technology, 2018; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b06309
 

South Koreans still distrustful of Japanese fish products after nuclear meltdown

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SEOUL, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) — A majority of South Koreans favor banning the import of Japanese fishery products, a survey showed Friday, underscoring lingering safety concerns about possible radioactive contamination.
Radioactive water leaked following the meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011.
The Consumers Union of Korea polled 1,023 adults across the country last year, and the results showed 55.3 percent want stronger import restrictions. Another 37.2 percent said the restrictions should be “very heavy.”
 
   The results of the survey were released by opposition lawmaker Choi Do-ja, who obtained them from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.
South Korea prohibited imports of agricultural and fish products from Fukushima and its adjacent areas after radioactive leaks following the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan.
In 2013, Seoul took a stronger measure to ban imports from fisheries in eight other Japanese prefectures near Fukushima.
Japan took the case to the World Trade Organization, accusing South Korea of discriminating against its exports. The ruling is scheduled in the first half of this year.
According to the survey, 45.5 percent want a complete import ban on all Japanese foods, while 39.6 percent said they want at least a full ban on select products from certain prefectures.
Results showed that 55.3 percent of South Koreans are not buying fish products from Japan. Other shunned items included agricultural products (56.3 percent), dairy products (52.8 percent), cosmetics and processed foods (37.5 percent) and other manufactured goods (35.3 percent).
Among people who said they either do not buy Japanese fishery products or have cut back on such purchases, 79.2 percent said the reason was because they do not feel safe. In addition, 59.2 percent said they will not buy fish from Japan even when there is no trace of radioactive contamination.
The biggest concerns from radioactive exposure included cancer (42.4 percent), newborns with deformities (30.4 percent) and hereditary disease (13.4 percent).
“It has been seven years since the Fukushima accident, but people are still worried about fishery products from Japan,” Rep. Choi said. “There has to be more effort to allay these concerns through imports limits and thorough inspection of radioactive traces in foods.”