A Campaign to Tackle “Misinformation” about Radioactive Contamination

Masahiro Imamura, Minister for Reconstruction, wants to launch a large-scale campaign, to correct the incorrect information about radioactive contamination of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products from Fukushima Prefecture; as an effort to tackle the issue of “misinformation about radioactive contamination” crippling Fukushima foods. That means more propaganda to come, more lies to hide the real risks of radiation to the people’s health. As if propaganda, to brainwash the people with a large-scale campaign would be the solution to make radiation disappear.

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 Reconstruction chief Masahiro Imamura

Reconstruction chief praises efforts in Tohoku, flags information campaign on radiation risks

Minister for reconstruction Masahiro Imamura has praised efforts to rebuild the devastated Tohoku region but says a large-scale information campaign is needed to share accurate information about radiation six years after the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Imamura outlined the plan in a recent interview in response to what he said was incorrect information about radioactive contamination of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products from Fukushima Prefecture.

It also comes as a growing number of children who evacuated from the prefecture fall victim to bullying.

Massive amounts of radioactive substances were emitted from the plant soon after it was knocked out by massive tsunami from the 9.0-magnitude March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake, which hit hardest in Fukushima and the nearby prefectures of Miyagi and Iwate.

Asked about the degree of progress in reconstructing areas hit by the disaster, Imamura said, “Acquisition of land and other procedures needed for the restoration of damaged infrastructure initially took time, but the pace of construction work was very rapid once it was launched.”

From now, we should focus on the rebuilding of Fukushima,” he said, noting that medium- to long-term measures should be promoted, including decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 plant and decontaminating areas polluted with radioactive fallout.

We want to encourage evacuees to return to their hometowns in Fukushima by presenting future visions for the communities through improving the living environment and accelerating the revival of local industries,” Imamura added.

On how to tackle the incidences of bullying targeting evacuated Fukushima children, Imamura said, “We’ll strengthen information-sharing about radiation. All government agencies should jointly work to compile and launch a campaign for that purpose, while obtaining cooperation from private companies.

This is an issue for not only children, but adults,” he said. “We’ll prepare documents and other materials that are easy to understand in order to eliminate prejudice against evacuated people.”

Imamura said the campaign would also be an effort to tackle the issue of “misinformation about radioactive contamination crippling Fukushima foods.”

I’ll seek cooperation from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well,” he said.

Imamura said he believed the Reconstruction Agency’s efforts to date to rebuild areas affected by the March 2011 disaster have been praised to a certain degree. Still, he pointed to the importance of re-examining whether information on what affected areas need has been properly conveyed to the Reconstruction Agency and other government bodies.

Imamura said Japan’s aging population and low birthrate were also contributing to shrinking communities across the nation — something he described as a structural problem.

It’s important to build a system that generates profits through stepped-up use of information technology and the modernization of factory equipment, even if human resources are limited,” he said.

We need to check again whether communities will be able to smoothly help one another in times of disaster, although lessons from the March 2011 disaster were effectively utilized in a series of powerful earthquakes that mainly hit Kumamoto Prefecture in April last year, and the October 2016 strong quake in Tottori Prefecture,” Imamura added.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/21/national/reconstruction-chief-praises-efforts-tohoku-flags-information-campaign-radiation-risks/#.WNJEq6KmnIV

Asking the tough questions on Fukushima

What a load of spun crap, to be polite: “Moreover, the government is lifting the evacuation order for any areas where annual radiation levels are “no more than” 20 mSv. The International Commission on Radiological Protection told the government that once the situation had stabilized in the affected areas, people could return if radiation dropped to between 1 and 20 mSv, but the lower the better. Exposure to 20 mSv for a short period may not be a problem, but it could have harmful effects in the long run.”

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In the thick of it: Industry Minister Yosuke Takagi (right) is exploring a variety of options to boost agricultural areas near the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant.

In January, regional newspaper Fukushima Minpo interviewed Yosuke Takagi, state minister of economy, trade and industry. While talking about reconstruction plans for areas near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Takagi mentioned resurrecting Dash-mura (Dash Village), a farm created from scratch by boy band Tokio for its Nippon TV series “The Tetsuwan Dash.”

The location of Dash-mura was always secret, lest Tokio’s fans descend on the project and destroy its rustic purity. But following the reactor accident caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake, it was revealed that the farm was in an area declared off-limits due to its proximity to the plant. It was promptly abandoned.

A different news outlet, Fukushima Minyu, clarified that the revival of Dash-mura is “nothing more than a personal idea of Takagi’s,” but that he intends to discuss it with related parties. An 80-year-old farmer who once worked with Tokio on the project told Minyu that bringing back the farm would be a great PR boost for the area’s agriculture, which is obviously Takagi’s aim. The show’s producer, however, after hearing of Takagi’s comment, tweeted that he knew nothing about the news, adding cryptically that “Dash-mura is no one’s thing.”

The Huffington Post called the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to ask if it had any intention of reviving Dash-mura. A representative only “confirmed” that Takagi had “made such a comment” and said METI had no “definite plan” to that end but might “study it.”

Nevertheless, the idea fits in with the government’s goal of getting former residents to move back to the area. Last week, authorities announced they would further reduce the evacuation zone at the end of the month, which means it will have shrunk by 70 percent since April 2014. The concern is that few people want to return. Some have already made lives for themselves elsewhere and see a lack of opportunity in their old communities.

Many also remain suspicious of the government’s assurances that radioactivity has dropped to a safe level. There is still debate among experts as to whether or not the radiation in the area is dangerous. The government says that the problems caused by the accident are now “under control,” and affected residents can soon go back to their old lives.

One media outlet who has challenged this assumption is TV Asahi’s “Hodo Station.” On March 9, the nightly news show sent its main announcer, Yuta Tomikawa, to Iitate, a village located about 40 km from the crippled nuclear facility. All 6,000 residents were eventually evacuated after the accident.

Standing in front of rows of black plastic bags, Tomikawa reported that, according to the government, decontamination efforts have been a success. A safe annual radiation level is 1 millisievert, but a local dairy farmer told Tomikawa that his own readings showed five times that level, adding that 70 percent of Iitate is wooded and forest land had not been decontaminated yet.

Moreover, the government is lifting the evacuation order for any areas where annual radiation levels are “no more than” 20 mSv. The International Commission on Radiological Protection told the government that once the situation had stabilized in the affected areas, people could return if radiation dropped to between 1 and 20 mSv, but the lower the better. Exposure to 20 mSv for a short period may not be a problem, but it could have harmful effects in the long run.

Tomikawa did not say that people who returned to Iitate would be in danger, but he did imply that the government is manipulating numbers in an attempt to persuade evacuees to return to their homes.

The web magazine Litera wrote that TV Asahi is the only mainstream media outlet to question the government line in this regard. Actually, Nippon TV did something similar, albeit indirectly. Last month, it rebroadcasted an episode of its “NNN Document” series about the married manzai (stand-up comedy) duo Oshidori Mako-Ken’s efforts to come to terms with the Fukushima meltdowns and their aftermath.

The couple belongs to the large Osaka-based entertainment company Yoshimoto Kogyo, but ever since the disaster Mako has attended about 500 related news conferences, making a nuisance of herself by plying Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings employees and government officials with questions the mainstream media don’t usually ask.

In order to gain access to the news conferences, she offered stories to the weekly magazine Spa! Her editor there told Nippon TV that Mako is now respected or resented by a lot of full-time journalists, partly because she’s a geinojin (entertainer) who has proved her mettle as a reporter, but mainly because of her hard-line queries, which put her interlocutors on the spot.

Following the disaster, Mako became suspicious when she saw people fleeing Tokyo in large numbers but heard nothing about it on the news. In order to make sense of the situation she’d watch unfiltered news conferences about the disaster on the internet. She realized only independent reporters asked tough questions, so she started attending them herself as a proxy for average people who didn’t understand what was going on. The more officials obfuscated, the more she studied.

She’s now recognized by some foreign press as one of the most informed persons on the subject — she even received a letter of encouragement from Pope Francis — and yet she’s shunned by the Japanese press. Nevertheless, she has dedicated followers, including workers cleaning up the reactor who often feed her questions to ask of officials. She’s won awards for her work, but from citizens groups, not media groups.

Nowadays, Mako and Ken do more free lectures on Fukushima No. 1 than they do comedy shows. One of their main themes is that media reports tend to confuse the public rather than inform them, but that’s really the fault of the government, which would like nothing better than for people to feel as if nothing ever happened.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/18/national/media-national/asking-tough-questions-fukushima/

Fukushima laden with piles of radioactive soil that can’t be moved into storage

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Masaaki Sakai faces his home, which remains standing in the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate, on Feb. 15, 2017. In some spots the level of radiation exceeds 1 microsievert per hour, and Sakai has decided to have the structure demolished. (Mainichi)

FUKUSHIMA — As decontamination planned in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster nears an end this fiscal year, focus is shifting to the massive amount of radioactively tainted soil that has piled up during decontamination work. But the construction of interim storage facilities that are supposed to hold this waste within Fukushima Prefecture for up to 30 years before it is finally disposed of has been delayed.

As of the end of February, only about 20 percent of the 16,000 hectares earmarked for interim storage has been acquired through land contracts. It thus appears inevitable that provisional and onsite storage that was only supposed to last for three years will drag on for a long time. The situation casts doubt on the prospects of finding a final resting place for the waste outside Fukushima Prefecture within 30 years.

Six years after the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate remains completely evacuated. With the exception of a so-called “difficult to return zone” in the south of the village, the central government plans to lift the evacuation order upon completion of decontamination work at the end of March.

Masaaki Sakai, 39, who now resides in the city of Fukushima, has a home in the Komiya district of Iitate, right next to the village’s “difficult to return” zone. A dosimeter during a recent visit showed the area around the 60-year-old, snow-covered farmhouse stood at more than 1 microsievert per hour. The level equates to more than 5 millisieverts per year — five times the 1 millisievert exposure limit for a regular person.

Sakai points out that level of radiation is sometimes higher. “Today the level is low because there is snow,” he says. In the near future he plans to have his home pulled down, as the deadline for applying for the government to cover the cost of doing so is approaching.

“Even if I want to return to Iitate, if they say, ‘Decide now’ then the only thing I can do is decide not to return,” he murmurs.

One of the reasons behind Sakai’s decision not to return is the radioactively contaminated soil that remains in the village. Walking around the village, one can see mounds with green covers over them, concealing flexible containers that hold contaminated soil. According to the Ministry of the Environment, the amount of tainted soil stored temporarily like this, as of the end of January, totals roughly 2.4 million cubic meters for the village of Iitate alone, or enough to fill the Tokyo Dome baseball stadium twice.

So far, however, only about 6,000 cubic meters of soil have been transported to interim storage facilities, while the amount due to be transported next fiscal year stands at about 22,000 cubic meters. At this pace, under a simple calculation, it would take over 100 years to transport all of the waste to interim storage facilities.

“There’s no way I’m going to live surrounded by mountains of contaminated soil,” Sakai says.

Makeshift storage of radioactive soil in areas that have not been evacuated also looks likely to be prolonged. In areas that aren’t under evacuation orders, it is the local municipalities, not the government, that handle the decontamination work. In five municipalities including the cities of Fukushima and Koriyama, the contaminated soil left after decontamination work is mostly buried onsite.

Six years have passed since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and in many cases people have asked for the waste to be removed so they can extend or rebuild their homes or resume farming activities, but the delay in building interim storage facilities means the only solution for the time being is to change the spot where the waste is buried.

It costs several hundred thousand yen to rebury waste in a single case, but until now the Ministry of the Environment has not allowed funds to be used for the reburying of such waste, on the premise that it is supposed to be stored for only a short period of time. Local bodies have still billed the central government by quietly tacking on the cost to the fee for other decontamination work, but this will become more difficult to do next fiscal year when decontamination work is completed.

In January, the Ministry of the Environment adopted a new policy of granting funds for the reburying of waste if the original location hindered the construction of a new home. An official at one local body commented that the move was a relief, but there are outstanding issues. As a rule, the government collectively bills Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, for the cost of decontamination work, but it is unclear whether TEPCO has to pay for the reburial of tainted soil.

Separately, decontamination work has also been carried out in prefectures besides Fukushima — extending to 57 municipalities in seven prefectures, including Tochigi and Miyagi. The amount of contaminated soil in these cases stands at about 320,000 cubic meters. In about 95 percent of cases, the soil is stored onsite. But since interim storage facilities are designed for contaminated soil from Fukushima Prefecture alone, it has not even been decided what should be done with this waste.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170309/p2a/00m/0na/019000c

After Fukushima disaster, Japanese mothers don lab coats to measure radiation

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IWAKI, Japan, March 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – At a laboratory an hour’s drive from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, a woman with a white mask over her mouth presses bright red strawberries into a pot, ready to be measured for radiation contamination.

Six years after a massive earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered meltdowns at three of Fukushima’s reactors, local mothers with no scientific background staff a laboratory that keeps track of radiation levels in food, water and soil.

As some women divide the samples between different bowls and handmade paper containers, others are logging onto computers to keep an eye on data – findings that will be published for the public to access.

The women on duty, wearing pastel-coloured overalls, are paid a small salary to come in for a few hours each day, leaving them free to care for their children after school.

“In universities, data is handled by qualified students, who have taken exams qualifying them to measure radiation. Here, it’s done by mothers working part-time. It’s a crazy situation,” laughed Kaori Suzuki, director of Tarachine, the non-profit organisation that houses the mothers’ radiation lab.

“If a university professor saw this I think they would be completely shocked by what they see.”

Tarachine was set up 60 km (40 miles) down the coast from the Fukushima plant, in the city of Iwaki. After the magnitude 9 quake struck on March 11, 2011, triggering a tsunami, authorities declared a no-go zone around the plant.

Iwaki lay outside its 30 km radius, with lower radiation levels compared to the rest of Fukushima prefecture.

But with public announcements advising locals to stay indoors in the aftermath of the worst nuclear calamity since Chernobyl, the “invisible enemy” of radiation has continued to worry the mothers working at the lab.

NOTHING TO SEE, SMELL OR FEEL

“As ordinary citizens we had no knowledge about radiation at all. All we knew was that it is frightening,” said Suzuki.

“We can’t see, smell or feel radiation levels. Given this invisibility, it was extremely difficult for us. How do we fight it? The only way is to measure it.”

To supplement readings by the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that manages the nuclear plant, Tarachine publishes its own findings every month.

With donations from the public that helped them buy equipment designed to measure food contamination, the mothers measure radioactive isotopes caesium 134 and 137, and collect data on gamma radiation, strontium 90 and tritium, all of which were released during the Fukushima disaster.

Strontium-90 gravitates toward the bones when absorbed by breathing it, drinking it in water, or eating it in food. It can remain for years, potentially causing bone cancer or leukaemia.

Tritium goes directly into the soft tissues and organs of the human body. Although it is less harmful to humans who are exposed to small amounts of tritium every day, it could still be a hazard for children, scientists say.

The mothers say other parents trust the lab’s radioactivity readings in local food more than those from the government.

“This issue is part of everyday life for these mothers, so they have the capability to spot certain trends and various problems rather than just accumulating expert knowledge,” said Suzuki.

To handle potentially dangerous materials, the mothers have to study for exams related to radiation and organic chemistry.

“At the beginning I was just completely clueless. It gave me so much of a headache, it was a completely different world to me!” said Fumiko Funemoto, a mother of two, who measures strontium 90 at the lab.

“But you start to get the hang of it as you’re in this environment every day.”

As the lab only accepts items for testing from outside the exclusion zone, most results show comparatively low radiation levels.

But Suzuki says this is an important process and is especially reassuring to the parents of young children. The women also measure radiation levels in sand from the beach, which has been out of bounds to their children.

“If the base is zero becquerels (unit of radiation), and there is, say, 15 or 16 becquerels of caesium, that’s still higher than zero. That means there is slightly more risk,” Suzuki said.

“There are also times when you’re like, ‘Oh, I thought levels were going to be high there – but it’s actually ok’. The importance lies in knowing what’s accurate, whether it’s high or low … unless you know the levels, you can’t implement the appropriate measures.”

MINIMISING THE RISKS

Since official screenings began following the nuclear accident, 174 children in Fukushima prefecture have been diagnosed with – or are suspected of having – thyroid cancer, according to figures from Fukushima’s local government.

Despite the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)reporting in 2015 that an increase in thyroid cancer is unlikely, the mothers insist there is value in their work.

The first pictures from inside the nuclear plant were released by TEPCO in January, announcing it may have found nuclear fuel debris below the damaged No. 2 reactor – one of three affected by the 2011 disaster.

“In general, the issue of nuclear power is not really talked about much these days. It was talked about after the accident for about a year or so, but today, conversations mentioning words like ‘radiation’ don’t happen anymore,” Funemoto said.

“But I think the reality is different. The radiation isn’t going to go away. That’s why I’m doing this. So many places are still damaged. This idea that it’s safe and that we shouldn’t be anxious doesn’t really add up.”

Ai Kimura, another mother agrees. “My parents think I’m a bit paranoid. They keep saying, ‘it’s okay isn’t it?” she said.

“But what if there’s a chance that in 10 or 20 years time, my own child gets thyroid cancer? And I could have done my bit to minimise the risks. My children are mine and I want to do whatever I can to protect them.”

http://uk.reuters.com/article/japan-women-radiation-idUKL8N1G66K0

As evacuees move back, Fukushima cleanup faces daunting obstacles

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Workers decontaminate a forest near Fukushima in Japan.

 

TOKYO—Six years into a decommissioning effort expected to last into the 2050s, an official leading the work on the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant claims that cleanup crews are making “steadfast progress.” But thorny technical obstacles must be overcome.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake off Japan’s northeast coast on 11 March 2011 triggered one of the history’ s most devastating tsunamis. The one-two punch killed nearly 16,000 people, left more than 2500 missing, and wiped out infrastructure in coastal communities.

The tsunami also knocked out Fukushima’s systems for cooling its nuclear reactors, causing core meltdowns in three of the plant’s six reactors. Hydrogen explosions blew out the walls and roofs of the buildings housing units 1, 2, and 3, releasing massive amounts of radiation. Much of the contamination was swept into the Pacific Ocean, but winds deposited fallout over parts of northeastern Japan. Some 160,000 people living near the plant were evacuated or fled on their own.

On the eve of the sixth anniversary of the disaster, officials took pride in what they view as successful efforts to minimize the health threat to surrounding communities. Radiation from the crippled reactors is no longer having an impact outside the plant, Naohiro Masuda, head of decommissioning for Fukushima owner Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), said today at a briefing here. He noted that evacuated residents are returning to their homes as decontamination work reduces exposure levels below thresholds. At the power plant, radiation levels are now so low that the 6000 workers slowly demolishing the damaged reactor halls need only wear typical construction site safety gear except when working near the three reactors that suffered meltdowns. And radiation levels just offshore remain below the limit for drinking water set by the World Health Organization, Masuda said. Given the progress, he reiterated that TEPCO is confident they can stick to a previously set roadmap that envisions completing the decommissioning 30 to 40 years after the accident. But doing so won’t be cheap. Last December, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry revised its estimate of the total cost of decommissioning up to $188 billion.

Stemming ocean contamination has been a thorny challenge. Since early in the crisis, crews have circulated water through the damaged reactors to prevent overheating that could lead to further fuel melting. That water, and groundwater flowing through the site is heavily contaminated and TEPCO has struggled to keep it from seeping into the Pacific. Schemes to divert groundwater away from the plant and freeze a wall of soil around the reactors down to bedrock—to contain contaminated water—have minimized leaks, Masuda said.

In the meantime, TEPCO has accumulated 960,000 tons of contaminated water stored in 1000 10-meter-tall tanks at the site. TEPCO has removed cesium, strontium, and more than 50 other radionuclides from that water. But they have been stymied by tritium, a radioactive hydrogen isotope in the water. Several experimental approaches to removing the tritium “were judged to be impractical,” Masuda said.

Tritium occurs naturally in water but in minuscule concentrations. Simply releasing the tritium-laden water, perhaps after further dilution is one disposal option, Masuda said. Another would be to evaporate the water, releasing some tritium into the atmosphere, as was done at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania after its 1979 accident. An advisory committee is now studying the problem and will hold discussions with local communities “so TEPCO will be able to act in a responsible manner in dealing with the tritium,” Masuda said.

Another major hurdle is determining the condition and location of the melted fuel, much of which is believed to have dropped to the bottoms of the containment vessels where high radiation levels preclude human entry. Robotic investigations are proving problematic. In January, the camera on a robotic probe sent into the Unit 2 containment vessel was fried by radiation, though it did return important images before its demise. Then last month, a small robot on tanklike treads was sent through a 10-centimeter-diameter pipe into the vessel to investigate the presumed location of the damaged fuel. But it got tangled up in debris and was abandoned.

TEPCO is now thinking it might need a robot able to jump over debris. And they are planning robotic investigations of the units 1 and 3 containment vessels in preparation for a planning session this summer to set a policy for recovering the melted fuel. 

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/evacuees-move-back-fukushima-cleanup-faces-daunting-obstacles