Japan’s government refuses UN call to stop returning evacuees to irradiated areas of Fukushima

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Japan rejects UN call to stop returns to Fukushima

 
Japan’s government lifted its standard for the acceptable level of radiation to 20 millisieverts per year from 1 millisievert after the Fukushima disaster
 
27 Oct 2018
Japan’s government on Friday (Oct 26) rejected calls from a UN rights expert to halt the return of women and children to areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster over radiation fears.
UN special rapporteur Baskut Tuncak on Thursday warned that people felt they were “being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the government previously considered safe.”
In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s government lifted its standard for the acceptable level of radiation to 20 millisieverts per year from 1 millisievert.
It has been urged to revise that level back down again, but has rejected calls to do so, a decision Tuncak called “deeply troubling.”
“Japan has a duty to prevent and minimise childhood exposure to radiation,” he said.
But Japan’s government rejected the criticism, saying Tuncak’s comments were based on “one-sided information and could fan unnecessary fears about Fukushima,” a foreign ministry official told AFP.
Japan’s government has gradually lifted evacuation orders on large parts of the areas affected by the disaster, which occurred when a massive tsunami sent reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant into meltdown in March 2011.
But other areas remain under evacuation orders because of continued high levels of radiation.
Japan’s government has pushed hard to return affected areas to normal, but has faced criticism that what it refers to as “safe” radiation levels are not in line with international standards.
Around 12,000 people who fled their homes for fear of radiation have filed dozens of lawsuits against the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the stricken nuclear plant.
The Fukushima disaster was the worst since Chernobyl in 1986, though there has only been one death linked to it. More than 18,000 people were killed or left missing in the tsunami that prompted the meltdown.
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Stop forcing the return of women and child evacuees to radioactive parts of Fukushima – UN’s call to Japan

Cathy Iwane:
3 Things:
1. International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) has ALWAYS recommended 1 mSv per year to be ‘safe’ for human living conditions.
2. Japan arbitrarily INCREASED this level 20 TIMES to 20 mSv per year AFTER Fukushima Daiichi blew. Science proves this level DANGEROUS for women & children; thus, the UN calling out this human rights abuse.
3. Japan is funding billions of dollars for 2020 Olympic venues & athletes’ housing in Fukushima; BUT ending support for Fukushima évacuées, forcing many to return to dangerous radiation exposure.
 
 
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Students from Fukushima High School ride a bus and are told by Tokyo Electric Power Co. executive Yoshiyuki Ishizaki, right, about the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant’s No. 1 reactor, which just had a cover removed from its building, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Nov. 18, 2016.

Stop sending women & children back to Fukushima fallout zone, UN expert tells Japan

26 Oct, 2018
A UN human rights expert has urged Japan to reconsider its policy of returning women and children to areas still high in radiation after they were displaced by the Fukushima meltdown.
Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on hazardous substances, criticized the Japanese government’s decision to resettle citizens in areas with radiation levels above one millisievert per year, the threshold of health risk to groups particularly sensitive to radiation, including children and women of childbearing age.
“The gradual lifting of evacuation orders has created enormous strains on people whose lives have already been affected by the worst nuclear disaster of this century,” he said.
Tuncak presented his findings to a General Assembly committee meeting in New York. “Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the government previously considered safe,” he added in a news release.
The Japanese government dismissed his concerns, blaming one-sided information and expressing concern that the statement could stoke “unnecessary fears” about the site of the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
After the earthquake and subsequent power plant meltdown, the Japanese government raised its acceptable radiation levels to 20 millisieverts. The UN last year issued a recommendation to return the level to pre-meltdown standards, but Japan ignored the request.
Over seven years later, radiation levels around Fukushima remain high, as has the apparent level of denial within the Japanese government. They recently announced plans to release about a million tons of wastewater contaminated with radioactive elements into the Pacific Ocean, claiming high-tech processing had reduced the contaminants to safe levels, but was forced to admit that 80 percent of the water remained contaminated after local residents protested the dumping plans.
The government has been removing evacuation orders gradually and plans to repeal all of them within five years, regardless of the contamination level in the areas. Japan was slow to enact the evacuation orders initially – only residents within a 3km radius of the meltdown were told to evacuate immediately after the accident, and four days later, residents 30km away were still being told to shelter in place. However, it was already allowing resettlement in areas within 20km of the plant by 2014.
Tuncak has clashed with the Japanese government before. In August, he and two other UN human rights experts criticized them for putting at risk the lives of those involved in the Fukushima clean-up. An earlier UN report showed that 167 plant workers had received radiation doses that increased their cancer risk.
Only last month did the Japanese government admit that even a single plant worker had died as a result of radiation exposure. The unnamed man, whose job included measuring radiation levels immediately after the meltdown, was exposed to about 195 millisieverts of radiation and developed lung cancer after leaving his job in 2015.
 

UN envoy: Halt children’s return to Fukushima

October 26, 2018
A UN envoy has urged Japan to halt the return of children and young women to nuclear accident-hit Fukushima, calling the government’s radiation exposure limit too lax. But the Japanese side is refuting the advice.
Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Baskut Tuncak on Thursday was speaking to a committee of the UN General Assembly.
The government set the exposure limit at 20 milisieverts per year as a condition for lifting evacuation orders issued for parts of the prefecture after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident.
Tuncak criticized the government for not taking into account the council’s recommendation that the limit be one milisievert.
A Japanese delegate countered by saying the limit is based on a 2007 recommendation by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
He also said the government has been consulting Japanese experts on the matter, and that Tuncak’s reports give Fukushima a negative reputation.
But Tuncak said the experts recommend that the annual limit be one milisievert in normal times. He added that risk remains as long as radiation levels exceed this threshold.
Tuncak urged Japan to apply the principle to children and women of reproductive age.

UN rights expert urges Japan to halt returns to Fukushima

October 26, 2018
GENEVA (Kyodo) — The Japanese government must halt the return of women and children displaced by the March 2011 nuclear disaster back to areas of Fukushima where radiation levels remain high, a U.N. human rights expert said Thursday.
The special rapporteur on hazardous substances, Baskut Tuncak, also criticized in his statement the government’s gradual removal of evacuation orders for most of the irradiated areas as well as its plan to lift all orders within the next five years, even for the most contaminated areas.
“The gradual lifting of evacuation orders has created enormous strains on people whose lives have already been affected by the worst nuclear disaster of this century. Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe,” he said.
An official of Japan’s permanent mission to the international organizations in Geneva refuted the statement, saying it is based on extremely one-sided information and could fan unnecessary fears about Fukushima.
Tuncak expressed concerns about people returning to areas with radiation above 1 millisievert per year, a level previously observed by Japan as an annual limit so as to prevent risks to the health of vulnerable people, especially children and women of reproductive age.
“It is disappointing to see Japan appear to all but ignore the 2017 recommendation of the U.N. human rights monitoring mechanism to return back to what it considered an acceptable dose of radiation before the nuclear disaster,” he said.
In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear incident, the Japanese government heightened the annually acceptable level of radiation to 20 millisieverts, raising concerns for the health of residents.
In August, Tuncak and two other U.N. human rights experts jointly criticized the Japanese government for allegedly exploiting and putting at risk the lives of “tens of thousands” of people engaged in cleanup operations at and around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, a claim Tokyo dismissed.

Japan must halt returns to Fukushima, radiation remains a concern, says UN rights expert

UN reproach oct 26 2018
GENEVA (25 October 2018) – A UN human rights expert has urged the Japanese Government to halt the ongoing relocation of evacuees who are children and women of reproductive age to areas of Fukushima where radiation levels remain higher than what was considered safe or healthy before the nuclear disaster seven years ago.
The UN Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, will present a report to the General Assembly in New York today, highlighting key cases of victims of toxic pollution brought to his attention in recent years that demand global action. The expert said the Japanese Government’s decision to raise by 20 times what it considered to be an acceptable level of radiation exposure was deeply troubling, highlighting in particular the potentially grave impact of excessive radiation on the health and wellbeing of children. 
“It is disappointing to see Japan appear to all but ignore the 2017 recommendation of the UN human rights monitoring mechanism (UPR) to return back to what it considered an acceptable dose of radiation before the nuclear disaster,” he said.
Following the nuclear disaster in 2011, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami, Japan raised the acceptable level of radiation for residents in Fukushima from 1 mSv/year to 20 mSv/year. The recommendation to lower acceptable levels of exposure to back to 1 mSv/yr was proposed by the Government of Germany and the Government of Japan ‘accepted to follow up’ on it, according to the UN database.  However, in the expert’s view, the recommendation is not being implemented.
Japan has a duty to prevent and minimise childhood exposure to radiation, added the UN expert referring to his 2016 report on childhood exposure to toxics. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Japan is a Party, contains a clear obligation on States to respect, protect and fulfil the right of the child to life, to maximum development and to the highest attainable standard of health, taking their best interests into account. This, the expert said, requires State parties such as Japan to prevent and minimise avoidable exposure to radiation and other hazardous substances.
The Special Rapporteur said Japan should provide full details as to how its policy decisions in relation to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, including the lifting of evacuation orders and the setting of radiation limits at 20mSv/y, are not in contravention of the guiding principles of the Convention, including the best interests of the chid.
Tuncak has expressed his concerns at the Human Rights Council in recent years, accompanied by explicit requests and pleas by concerned organisations for the Government to invite the mandate to conduct an official visit. The Japanese Government has a standing invitation to all mandate holders but has not to date invited the mandate on hazardous substances and wastes to conduct an official country visit.
Seven years after the nuclear disaster, actions for the reconstruction and revitalisation of Fukushima are in full implementation process, with evacuation orders lifted for most of the areas, and with plans in place for lifting evacuation orders in even the highest contaminated areas during the next five years. In March 2017 housing subsidies reportedly stopped to be provided to self-evacuees, who fled from areas other than the government-designated evacuation zones.
“The combination of the Government’s decision to lift evacuation orders and the prefectural authorities’ decision to cease the provision of housing subsidies, places a large number of self-evacuees under immense pressure to return,” Tuncak said. 
“The gradual lifting of evacuation orders has created enormous strains on people whose lives have already been affected by the worst nuclear disaster of this century. Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the Government previously considered safe.”
ENDS
The presentation of the thematic report at the General Assembly today will be live-streamed on the United Nations Web TV. 
Mr. Baskut Tuncak is Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes. As a Special Rapporteur, he is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
For more information and media requests, please contact: Ms Lilit Nikoghosyan (+41 22 9179936 / lnikoghosyan@ohchr.org) or Mr. Alvin Gachie (+41 22 917 997 1/ agachie@ohchr.org) or write to srtoxics@ohchr.org
For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)
This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org

More time needed for confidence to return on Fukushima produce: Lam

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam
 
Oct. 22, 2018
HONG KONG – More time is needed for Hong Kong to lift its ban on food imports from Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture imposed in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster there as public confidence remains low, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said.
In an interview with Japanese media ahead of her first official working trip to Tokyo since taking office as chief executive in 2017, Lam said that while food safety remains a priority, consumer sentiment is another deciding factor for when the ban should be lifted.
“We will have to continue to monitor the situation and to see when is the right time, especially (for) public acceptance,” Lam said.
She said there’s no point in the government relaxing the ban if the public end up not supporting the move. “They will still not buy the food, so we have to find the right situation with the needed assurance before we change the import restrictions,” she added.
Hong Kong in July lifted the ban on imports of foods including vegetables, fruits, milk, milk beverages and milk formula from the prefectures of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Gunma nearby Fukushima.
But the ban on food imports from Fukushima, which hosts the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, remains in place.
Lam said that since the lifting of the food ban from the four prefectures, individual cases of food imports lacking needed certificates have led to law enforcement activities, which in turn impacted public confidence.
China, which restricted the import of foods and feedstuff produced in 10 of Japan’s 47 prefectures over radiation worries, has informed Japan of its intention to relax the ban through diplomatic channels, it was reported, according to the sources.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to reach a deal when he meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Oct 26.
Defending Hong Kong’s recent moves to outlaw an independence-seeking political party and expel a foreign journalist who hosted a talk by the party’s leader, Lam insisted that the people’s rights and freedoms remain intact.
“I am not suggesting that I should, or the government should put a limit on freedom of speech or freedom of reporting in Hong Kong. I am saying, internationally, there is no absolute freedom per se. If anybody is aggrieved by the executive…they can take us to court,” she said.
Lam said judges from foreign common law jurisdictions, including Britain, Australia and Canada, sitting on the territory’s top court to adjudicate cases is proof that Hong Kong courts are not interfered with or influenced by the Chinese government.
The chief executive will embark on the five-day visit to Japan from Oct 29, a first for a Hong Kong leader since 2010. She is slated to meet with Japanese officials over issues covering government business, trade and investment, education, technology science, tourism and women’s affairs.

Abe and Xi expected to discuss food import ban, but chances of progress uncertain

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to visit Beijing this week, with China’s food import ban on Japan likely to be discussed
 
Oct 21, 2018
China’s import ban on Japanese food introduced following the March 2011 nuclear disaster is likely to be discussed between Japanese and Chinese leaders in upcoming summit talks in Beijing this week, though whether any progress can be made on the discussion is uncertain.
China has taken a cautious approach to relaxing the import regulations due to safety concerns among the public.
China has a ban in place on food imports from 10 prefectures: Fukushima, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Niigata and Nagano. Food products made in other prefectures need to have certificates that confirm they have passed radioactive checks.
China introduced the ban because of concerns over radioactive contamination due to the meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
Japan has been asking Beijing to lift the ban at an early date.
In an effort to make this happen, Tokyo has explained the examination process for food and provided data related to their safety.
But China has stood pat over concerns that lifting the ban could create public backlash. Also behind the inaction were tensions over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by Beijing, informed sources said.
Amid warming bilateral ties and an improvement in the public’s perception of Japanese food, Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang agreed in May this year to start working-level talks for a possible easing of the import regulations.
The focus now is on how much progress can be made at the working level before Abe’s three-day visit to China from Thursday, which comes as the two countries mark the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of their peace and friendship treaty, the sources said.
If the ban is relaxed, Japan is expected to make progress toward its goal of attaining ¥1 trillion in annual exports in the agricultural, forestry and fishery sectors, the sources said.
The nuclear disaster led a total 54 economies to introduce import restrictions or strengthen radioactive checks on Japanese food products.
Of them, 29 had scrapped their restrictions as of August this year and 17 others conditionally resumed imports. China is among the eight that maintain import bans on food made in some prefectures.

Japanese media pushing Fukushima rice as ‘safe to eat’

n-fukushima-a-20181015-870x625.jpgA Honnoriya staff member displays rice balls at the company’s Tokyo Station outlet. Honnoriya offers rice balls made with the Aizu Koshihikari brand from Fukushima Prefecture.

After 16 years, Fukushima’s Aizu Koshihikari still the brand of choice for popular Tokyo rice ball shop

 
Oct 14, 2018
A popular rice ball shop stands near Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Central Gate, drawing long lines of customers waiting to buy products made with rice from Aizu, Fukushima Prefecture, known for remaining soft with a touch of sweetness even when it gets cold.
As it takes less than a minute to make the rice balls, customers don’t have to wait long at Honnoriya, a rice ball chain operated by JR East Food Business Co.
From actors, athletes and comedians to politicians and culinary maestros, many say they are fans of the rice balls. After it was featured on the popular TBS television show “Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai” (“The World Unknown to Matsuko”), a rush of traffic swarmed Honnoriya’s website, temporarily shutting it down.
Sadafumi Yamagiwa, president of JR East Food, said the secret of the chain’s popularity is the quality of the rice — Koshihikari rice produced in Fukushima’s Aizu region.
“It’s because the rice tastes good. The Aizu Koshihikari rice is chewy, making it different from other rice,” Yamagiwa said.
The firm uses Aizu Koshihikari in all of its 13 outlets located in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba. At the main shop in Tokyo, around 7,000 rice balls are sold on busy days. In fiscal 2017, a total of 252 tons of rice were consumed at its 13 stores.
Since Honnoriya opened its first outlet at Tokyo Station in March 2002, it has continued to use Koshihikari brand. Despite having been awarded the top “special A” ranking by the Japan Grain Inspection Association, Aizu Koshihikari is cheap compared with other varieties produced in different regions, Yamagiwa said.
Following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, many consumers avoided produce from the prefecture. The company also received many inquiries about the safety of the rice, and employee opinions differed over which brand should be used.
But as blanket radiation checks conducted on Fukushima-grown rice found no radioactive material, such concern gradually eased, Yamagiwa said.
He stressed that the company has been using Aizu Koshihikari solely for the reason that it tastes good. “It’s not like we’ve been using the rice to support the disaster-hit regions,” he said.
Each year, the company chooses a rice brand after comparing the tastes of different varieties produced in different parts of the country.
For the past 16 years, there has been no rice that surpassed Koshihikari produced in Aizu, Yamagiwa said, meaning that Aizu Koshihikari has consistently won the internal competition every single year.
This section features topics and issues from Fukushima covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on Sept. 30.

Residents in Miyagi file suit to block burning of radiation-tainted waste from Fukushima nuclear disaster

Each Fukushima municipality has one incinerator ongoing (18 if I remember well), trying to reduce the volume of accumulated contaminated debris and soil by incineration,but through it continuing nanoparticles air dispersion as it is highly unpropable that those incinerators filters fully block their release..
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Plaintiffs hold a sign stating their opposition to the burning of radiation-tainted waste as they head to the Sendai District Court to file a lawsuit on Thursday.
Oct 11, 2018
SENDAI – Residents in Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture, filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to prevent a local public association from burning radiation-tainted waste generated by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Osaki, located about 120 kilometers north of the city of Fukushima, has been keeping some 6,000 tons of tainted grass and rice straw containing radioactive substances in excess of state standards, and the association in charge of waste disposal is scheduled to start burning it from Monday.
The residents filed the suit with the Sendai District Court in the hope of suspending the ¥21.6 million budget for the incineration, claiming the association failed to keep an agreement that it would alleviate residents’ concerns.
“The agreement was a strong message that we would protect the environment for future generations,” said 79-year-old Tadaetsu Abe, who is leading the plaintiffs. “The public administration has ignored the residents’ wishes.”
The association, called the Osaki Area Integrated Administration of a Large Region Office Work Association, declined to comment, saying it has not seen the plaintiffs’ claim.
The Fukushima No. 1 power plant, hit by a major earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, suffered three core meltdowns and spewed radioactive material into the air, contaminating wide areas of the prefecture.
The waste stored in Osaki contains radioactive substances of up to 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. Each municipality is responsible for radioactive waste disposal.
Some 170 residents opposed to the incineration requested an audit of the city’s budget on the waste disposal, but it was rejected as of Sept. 13.