Japan Political Pulse: The truth about Fukushima nuclear disaster compensation

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Of the unknown number of children who have been bullied for being from Fukushima Prefecture, where a nuclear disaster is still ongoing at a power station six years since its outbreak, one boy who evacuated to Yokohama was bullied and extorted by his classmates of 1.5 million yen in total.

Now in his first year of junior high school, the boy wrote when he was in sixth grade, “My classmates said, ‘You get compensation, right?’ That annoyed me, but I was frustrated with myself for not standing up against them.”

Ironically, news reports say that because the family voluntarily evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture, they are not eligible for the high levels of compensation from the operator of the stricken nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), that some victims are entitled to receive.

Those who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture due to the nuclear crisis can be largely categorized into two groups. The first are those who were forced to leave their homes under evacuation orders from the central government, because they lived in areas where annual cumulative radiation levels exceeded 20 millisieverts, or otherwise faced extenuating circumstances as determined by the state. Such people receive a certain lump sum from TEPCO as compensation.

The second group comprises people who lived in areas with radiation levels that did not prompt government evacuation orders, but who evacuated voluntarily out of concern for the health of themselves and their children. As a general rule, these people are not eligible for compensation from TEPCO.

In the case of forced evacuations, TEPCO conducts individual interviews with evacuees to assess the value of their property and homes. But this is strictly to compensate for the assets that people have lost.

What has often attracted attention but remains commonly misunderstood, is the monthly 100,000 yen per person that evacuees are said to be receiving as compensation for emotional suffering. Those who evacuated without orders to do so from the government are not eligible for this, either.

Meanwhile, the provision of compensation for emotional suffering to state-ordered evacuees whose homes are in areas where evacuation orders are set to be lifted will be stopped in March 2018. Whether or not such evacuees will return to their homes in Fukushima Prefecture once the no-go orders are lifted, they face the harsh reality that they will be cut off from government assistance. The government is rushing to rebuild infrastructure, and appeal to the world that they are lifting evacuation orders. But whether to return or to relocate is a difficult decision, especially for families with children.

People who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture have not only been exposed to radiation, but to prejudice and misunderstanding regarding compensation that they may or may not have received.

The false rumor that compensation recipients are enjoying the high life from compensation payments has spread. We can’t deny that some probably indulged in the momentary influx of money and bought property or a fancy car. But because of that, the internet has been teeming with rumors that compensation recipients are tax thieves or calls for them to go back where they came from. And there’s no doubt that such a backdrop of online defamation and scandalmongering emboldened the children who bullied the boy in Yokohama.

The truth is, the family of the boy in Yokohama had evacuated Fukushima Prefecture voluntarily. They received a little over 1 million yen from TEPCO, but the parents said in an interview with an NHK new program, Close Up Gendai, that the money was put toward rebuilding their lives. Voluntary evacuees are exempt from paying rent due to the Disaster Relief Act, but many must restart new lives amid unstable finances.

The abovementioned boy moved to Yokohama with his family when he was in second grade. Shortly thereafter, classmates called him by his name, with the word for “germs” added on to the end. He soon found himself the victim of physical abuse such as hitting and kicking, and once he reached fifth grade, classmates demanded he give them money.

“I was so scared I didn’t know what to do,” the boy wrote. He stole from his parents and gave away a total of 1.5 million yen.

His parents, and other parents of children at the school who realized that something was going on, alerted the school. The school conducted an investigation, but took the bullies’ claims that the boy had given them money willingly at face value, and did nothing to remedy the situation for two years.

I, too, only learned the truth about the case just recently, but I believe the school’s misguided judgment was likely based on ignorance and prejudice toward compensation given to Fukushima Prefecture evacuees.

The boy’s mother had been traveling back and forth between Yokohama and Fukushima. He knew how much his parents were struggling, so he remained silent about the bullying.

What moved the case into a new direction were notes the victim had written in the summer of sixth grade. A message calling on bullying victims not to kill themselves also written by the now first-year junior high school student who attends an alternative school, was also released to the public.

Compensation is given to some victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But there is still too little compassion toward and understanding of the various misunderstandings, discrimination and divisions that disaster victims face.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170326/p2a/00m/0na/003000c

TEPCO to delay seeking end to state control by 2 years to FY 2019

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Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. will delay a decision on whether to seek an end to its state control by about two years to fiscal 2019 amid ballooning costs stemming from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, an outline of its new business plan showed Wednesday.

The move is another sign the utility is struggling to revive its business even after receiving a capital injection of 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) from the government in 2012 to bolster its financial standing. But disaster cleanup costs have continued to rise, with the latest estimate reaching 22 trillion yen.

Under its latest business turnaround plan, which will be the third major revision since the first one was formulated in 2011, TEPCO aims to realign or integrate its nuclear and power transmission and distribution businesses with other utilities to improve its profitability. But it is uncertain whether business will get back on track as planned, with other utilities cautious about such tie-ups.

 

http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2017/03/464967.html

Nuke watchdog critical as robot failures mount at Fukushima plant

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Some Nuclear Regulation Authority members are skeptical of continuing to send robots into reactors in the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to collect vital data on the locations of melted nuclear fuel and radiation levels.

These regulators are increasingly calling for a new survey methodology after recent investigations utilizing robots controlled remotely generated few findings and were quickly terminated.

We should come up with a method that will allow us to investigate in a short period of time and in a more sensible way,” said a senior member of the NRA, the government watchdog.

The suggestion followed the failure of the latest probe from March 18 to March 22 in which a robot was sent in the No. 1 reactor to ascertain the location of fuel debris, information crucial to preparing for the decommissioning.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant, said on March 23 the robot was unable to deliver a camera to planned spots from where images of nuclear fuel debris could be taken.

The utility cited the piping and deposits of what looked like sand accumulating on the piping as impediments that hindered the robot surveyor’s path.

The survey was designed for the robot to reach numerous locations inside the No. 1 reactor to determine the location of nuclear fuel debris and their radiation levels.

The lower part of the reactor’s containment vessel is submerged in water where deposits of fuel debris are believed to reside below the surface after melting through in the 2011 nuclear disaster, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

At one location, the robot succeeded in placing a camera, which is combined with a dosimeter, to a depth 0.3 meter from the containment vessel floor.

The probe measured underwater radiation levels from 3.0 to 11 sieverts per hour during the five-day survey. But it was unable to take images of the debris in the water.

TEPCO and the government hope to start removing molten nuclear fuel from 2021. But they have yet to collect information on the location, amount and condition of the melted fuel.

In a survey of the No. 2 reactor in February, a robot became stuck in deposits and other debris after traveling only 2 meters inside.

Surveyor robots for the No. 1 through No. 3 reactors have been developed by the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning since 2014, a project costing 7 billion yen ($62 million) by the end of March 2018.

It takes time to develop such multifunctional robots, but the surveys centering around the robots so far have failed to produce meaningful results.

No survey has been conducted at the No. 3 reactor.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703240064.html

Japan’s TEPCO looking for international help to clean up Fukushima nuclear plant

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The call for partners follows two robotic failures during cleanup efforts at the plant last month

TOKYO—The Tokyo Electric Power Co. has issued a call for partners to help it decontaminate and decommission the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The nuclear power plant was seriously damaged in 2011 by a tsunami triggered by a powerful offshore earthquake. The subsequent reactor meltdowns led to the release of radioactive material, which remains at high levels inside the plant six years after the accident.

The call for international collaboration follows two robotic failures inside Fukushima’s Unit 2 reactor last month. One cleaning robot was pulled out of the plant prematurely due to higher-than-expected radiation, while another had to be abandoned inside after its crawling function failed.

Earlier this month, Naohiro Masuda, the head of decommissioning at the plant said engineers will need to think ‘out of the box’ to develop robots capable of surveilling the plant.

TEPCO said it is particularly interested in consultants with on-site recycling methods that could reduce the amount of radioactive waste being generated—though it noted there are many other areas of expertise it’s interested in as well.

More details about the collaboration program are available here.

http://www.canadianmanufacturing.com/environment-and-safety/japans-tepco-looking-for-international-help-to-clean-up-fukushima-nuclear-plant-189081/

TEPCO is looking for partners that would realize innovative values and solutions to critical social issues.

Through challenging ourselves with new technology, dealing with various businesses, and making even greater use of the big data stored and created by TEPCO, we contribute to society’s development by creating new value for the lives and businesses of consumers and business people.

Co-creation will open new doors.

By partnering with you, we will be able to tackle issues we could not before. It is our mission to create better future by openly cooperating with everyone as we move forward.

https://tepco.cuusoo.com/#about

The Robot Probe Cannot Confirm Where is the Melted Fuel of Unit 1

24 03 2017

 

Tokyo Electric Power Company announced on February 23 that it had completed a robot probe survey lasting five days in the reactor containment vessel of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Unit 1.

Its goal was to confirm the whereabout of the melted nuclear fuel, but it was blocked by piping and could not put the camera in athe place where nuclear fuel could be seen.

Information necessary for taking out the nuclear fuel to decommission the reactor remains inadequate, and some voices began to question the robot conducted investigation method.

During the 5-day survey, there was also a point where the measuring instrument with an camera and a radiation dosimeter integrated together was hung up in a range from 0 to 3 meters from the bottom of the containment vessel, pipes and debris blocking its path in many points. The radiation dose in the water is from 3.0 to 11 Sv. Per hour. It was not possible to directly check the melted nuclear fuel.

TEPCO and the country are facing the decommissioning of a furnace …

http://www.asahi.com/articles/photo/AS20170323005483.html

Tepco robot failed to capture images of melted fuel in reactor 1

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A photo taken by a robot on Wednesday shows an underwater image of water pool on the bottom of the containment vessel of the reactor 1 at the Fukushima No. 1 plant

Tokyo Electric said Thursday that it failed to get any photos of potential fuel debris during a five-day probe of the primary containment vessel at reactor 1 of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., however, stressed that the investigation was worthwhile because its robot was able to take underwater images in the pool of water at its bottom and gauge its radiation level, which will help it estimate where the melted fuel lies.

The monstrous tsunami of March 11, 2011, tipped reactors 1, 2 and 3 into core meltdowns. The molten fuel rods then penetrated their pressure vessels before apparently dropping to the bottom of the giant containment vessels.

There is about a 2.5-meter deep water pool at the bottom of the primary containment vessel of reactor 1, and Tepco believes most of its melted fuel rods fell into it. Thus the main mission of the robot investigation this time was to capture underwater images.

The robot traversed gratings set up several meters above the vessel’s bottom and lowered a wire with a camera and dosimeter on its tip at 10 locations in the water.

Yet none of the images disclosed by Tepco showed anything resembling fuel debris, while parts of machinery, such as a valve, were captured.

When the robot dangled the camera on spots where Tepco thought there was a higher probability of locating the fuel, it instead found a 90-cm pile of sediment.

Tepco spokesman Yuichi Okamura said the sediment is probably not fuel debris, given the relatively low radiation readings, which ranged from 5.9 to 9.4 sieverts per hour.

Although the readings indicate extreme danger to people, Okamura said the readings would have been much higher had they been melted fuel rods. He said Tepco had no idea what the sediment is but added that there was a possibility it was covering the fuel.

According to Okamura, radiation readings get weaker by a hundredth if blocked by a meter of water. Since the robot detected readings from 5.9 to 9.4 sieverts per hour about 90 cm above the pool’s bottom, there might be something down there emitting strong radiation.

Tepco plans another investigation this month to pick up samples of the sediment.

While no fuel debris was recognized, Okamura said Tepco would review the data and analyze it further. By comparing radiation readings from various locations, the utility might be able to roughly pinpoint where the melted rods lay, he said.

He added that it was an achievement that the robot lasted for five days in the deadly radiation and that Tepco was able to retrieve it.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/24/national/tepco-robot-failed-capture-images-melted-fuel-reactor-1/#.WNQ_hBh7Sis

Yakuza hide IDs to secretly thrive in Tohoku’s disaster zones

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A gang leader says he effectively controls several companies involved in rebuilding projects in the Tohoku region.

A company has been busy dispatching temporary workers for the Herculean task of rebuilding lives in the disaster-hit Tohoku region. But the company’s most important job for survival is to conceal any evidence of its true, sinister nature.

This is a company I established,” said the leader of a gang affiliated with an organized crime syndicate based in western Japan. “I made sure that no signs of any possible association with yakuza organizations were left.”

Although the National Police Agency has tried to prevent gangsters from cashing in on the triple disaster that struck in March 2011, yakuza groups appear to be thriving in the Tohoku region and extending their reach.

Their companies not only dispatch workers and lease heavy machinery, but they are also involved in more traditional services, such as providing prostitutes and dealing drugs, with workers at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and other sites as potential targets.

Police say there is little they can do to shut down the yakuza activities.

The gang leader’s company, which was set up in a city in the Kanto region last December with a start-up cost of 5 million yen ($45,000), appears innocent on the surface.

The president named on company’s registry has no ties with organized crime, and the true leader and members of his family and group are not listed as directors.

The gang leader said he also has effective control over other companies that send workers to contractors involved in an array of projects, including decontaminating areas or dismantling abandoned houses.

I make millions of yen a month, including about 100,000 yen per contractor and siphoning from workers’ daily allowances,” the gang leader proudly said.

Twenty days after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11, 2011, triggering the nuclear disaster, the NPA directed all prefectural police departments to keep gangsters away from the reconstruction projects.

Similar requests were made to the construction industry, Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the nuclear plant, government ministries and agencies and local authorities.

But a number of yakuza organizations are now behind the companies involved in the rebuilding projects.

In some cases, they gain control of legitimate but cash-strapped companies by providing funds.

One crime syndicate reportedly advises umbrella groups on “how to set up a company by keeping others from becoming suspicious.”

Police officials dealing with crime syndicates acknowledge that it is “practically impossible” to thoroughly check for possible ties between subcontractors and gangster organizations.

In some cases, a single project is outsourced to more than 10 subcontractors.

All we can do is check whether individuals connected to underground groups are listed in the registration papers,” a police official said.

Police say they can confirm a yakuza connection only after they scrutinize the company directors’ circle of friends and acquaintances and other relevant data.

Although anti-yakuza ordinances are believed to be depleting the finances of mobsters around Japan, the crime syndicates are systematically running operations in the Tohoku region as if it’s business as usual.

One leader of an underground group said he was ordered by its parent organization “not to lag behind others” in exploiting potentially lucrative projects.

After the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the parent organization began asking all groups under its umbrella to give “regular reports” about rental agents of heavy machinery, dump trucks and other equipment indispensable in rebuilding projects on their turfs.

The move was apparently designed to prepare for the day when they needed to quickly obtain as much machinery as possible.

That day arrived on March 11, 2011.

There is a huge demand for such equipment in a disaster,” a former senior member of a gang group said. “We can lease it at our asking price.”

Crime organizations have also seen a potentially lucrative market in the predominantly male work force at the Fukushima nuclear plant and other reconstruction projects in the Tohoku region.

I came to Fukushima to have fun as an adult,” said an entry, presumably by a female, on a dating site for men. “I am looking for somebody I can meet in Nihonmatsu,” said another, referring to a city in Fukushima Prefecture.

The website, set up by the head of a gangster organization in the Kanto region, targets workers at the stricken nuclear plant and elsewhere.

The gang leader said he takes women who have experience in the sex industry to disaster-stricken areas in his car and stays there for several days.

He sends the women to love hotels or the clients’ vehicles, depending on the customers’ requests. One encounter costs about 30,000 yen, he said, adding that 60 percent goes to the woman while he pockets the remainder.

I am in fierce competition with other underground groups in this line of business,” he said. “But I can earn at least 3 million yen a month.”

Drug deals are also said to be at play in the disaster zone.

I have seen and heard about the use and deals in stimulant drugs at the plant,” recalled the leader of a gang group based in eastern Japan who works at the Fukushima nuclear complex.

He was assigned to the plant just after a hydrogen explosion took place there.

TEPCO and Fukushima prefectural police said they are not aware of any drug use at the plant.

However, a plant worker in his 30s died at a hospital in August 2015 after he complained of sickness on a bus taking him from the nuclear plant.

He turned out to be a gang member, according to police. His urine sample showed possible signs of stimulant drug use, but his cause of death was not determined.

Between 2011 and 2016, police have busted underground groups involved in rebuilding projects in 101 cases.

Fraud accounted for 54 cases. They were primarily gangsters pretending to collect donations for disaster victims or mobsters involved in illicit borrowing.

Twenty-five cases concerned dispatches of workers to assignments that they were not allowed to perform.

In one case, a senior member of a group affiliated with the Sumiyoshi-kai, one of the largest crime syndicates in the nation, was arrested in May 2012 on suspicion of illegally sending workers to the Fukushima plant. Police uncovered that the mobster received about 40 million yen between 2009 and 2011 by sending workers to nuclear plants and thermal power plants across the country.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703230055.html