Tourists in Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Zone to Stay Away!

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English signs along National Road No. 114 on the border between Namie and Kawamata in Fukushima Prefecture

English signs tell tourists to stay away from Fukushima plant

July 4, 2018
NAMIE, Fukushima Prefecture–English signs now appear along roads in Fukushima Prefecture to prevent curious, thrill-seeking or simply ignorant foreign tourists from entering areas of high radiation.
The central government’s local nuclear emergency response headquarters set up 26 signs at 12 locations along the 70-kilometer National Road No. 114 and elsewhere starting in mid-April. The signs carry straightforward messages in English, such as “No Entry!”
In September, a 27-kilometer section of the road opened in Namie’s “difficult-to-return zone” near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant for the first time since the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in March 2011.
The road is mainly used by construction vehicles involved in rebuilding projects and dump trucks transporting contaminated soil to intermediate storage facilities.
Motorists can use the reopened section, but they are urged to refrain from stopping or venturing outside their vehicles. Pedestrians and motorcyclists are still forbidden from the area because of the high radiation levels.
But an increasing number of people from abroad are visiting the area, some to snap photos, according to Fukushima prefectural police.
Many have gotten out of their vehicles or entered the “no-go” zone by motorbike or foot.
Prefectural police asked the central government for help to deal with the trespassers.
“When police questioned foreigners who were taking photos in the difficult-to-return zone, they said they did not know that entering the area was prohibited,” a police official said.
Officials also wanted to avoid any confusion from the signs with technical terms, such as “difficult-to-return zones,” which are the areas most heavily polluted by radiation that remain essentially off-limits even to residents.
An official of the Cabinet Office’s nuclear disaster victim life assistance team, which developed English messages, said they decided to use simpler expressions, such as “high-dose radiation area,” for the signs.
The signs have already produced a positive effect.
“A foreign motorcyclist came here the other day, so I told the person to return by pointing to the English signboard,” said a security guard who monitors the Namie-Kawamata border zone at the Tsushima Gate.

Tourists told to stop taking selfies in Fukushima nuclear disaster zone

Tour guide Shiga and a tourist check radiation levels at Joroku Park, near TEPCO’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Namie town
4 July 2018
Authorities in Fukushima are installing warning signs in English telling thrill-seeking tourists not to stop their cars or pose for selfies in areas that still have dangerously high levels of radiation.
Seven years after the disaster at the prefecture’s nuclear plant, the government’s nuclear emergency response office has placed 26 signs along a 45-mile stretch of National Road 114 and a number of smaller roads in areas designated as “difficult-to-return” for local residents, the Asahi newspaper reported.
One road through the town of Namie was only reopened in September and is primarily used by construction vehicles and lorries removing contaminated waste and debris to landfill sites.
Motorists are able to access the roads, but authorities have installed signs after tourists were spotted getting out of their cars to take photos. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are still banned from entering the restricted zone.
The signs read “No Entry!” for motorcycles, mopeds, light vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, while others warn of “High-dose radiation area” and advise “Please pass through as quickly as possible”.
Fukushima police said they were forced to appeal to the government for help because of the rising number of incidents involving tourists who were unaware that getting out of a vehicle transiting the zone is still prohibited.
The areas that still have levels of radiation that would be harmful to human health lie to the north-west of the Fukushima nuclear plant and were under the plume of radioactivity released when a series of tsunami destroyed the cooling systems of four reactors in March 2011.
Local residents are permitted to return to their homes for brief, closely supervised visits, but the government admits that despite efforts to decontaminate the region, it will be many years before they are able to return on a permanent basis.
Long considered one of Japan’s most unspoilt and beautiful prefectures, Fukushima is today trying to rebuild a reputation among foreign and domestic tourists. A number of other travel firms are now offering tours to some of the towns most severely damaged as a result of the magnitude-9.1 earthquake, the tsunami it triggered and the nuclear disaster.
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Mayor of Namie, near shuttered Fukushima nuclear plant, dies at 69

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Jun 27, 2018
FUKUSHIMA – Tamotsu Baba, mayor of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture, died at hospital in the city of Fukushima on Wednesday. He was 69.
First elected mayor of Namie in 2007, Baba was in his third term. He submitted his resignation earlier this month due to illness and was set to leave office on Saturday.
Baba spearheaded the town’s efforts to cope with the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which badly affected the Tohoku region, and the subsequent nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Namie is located next to the towns of Okuma and Futaba, home to the disaster-crippled nuclear plant.
At the end of March last year, Baba decided on lifting evacuation advisories for Namie residents, except for areas that were recognized as heavily contaminated.

Shopping center opens in Naraha, a disaster-hit Fukushima town

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Shopping center opens in disaster-hit Fukushima town as evacuees return
June 26, 2018
Iwaki – A new shopping complex opened Tuesday in the town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, nearly three years after the government’s evacuation order following the 2011 nuclear disaster was lifted.
The public facility, dubbed “Kokonara Shotengai,” consists of 10 shops including a supermarket, a bakery and a barber’s shop.
The Chinese character meaning “laughter” was used as part of the name as a way to encourage and inspire returning residents.
The new shopping complex is adjacent to emergency public housing, a medical institution and a childcare center. It replaces a makeshift shopping district located elsewhere in the town.
Local residents welcomed the latest development in their hometown.
“I’m so glad that the opening day has come. I have been waiting for this for so long,” said 78-year-old Hisako Ishiyama, who, until March, lived in the city of Minamisoma.
Ishiyama previously had to travel by train or in her friend’s car to neighboring towns just to shop.
“Life will be easier,” she said after buying items such as a sliced raw tuna for dinner.
Evacuation orders and advisories were issued for some areas in Fukushima following the disaster. Naraha was the first on which the government lifted the evacuation order for a municipality whose entire population was ordered to evacuate in September 2015.
Most of Naraha lies within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled nuclear plant, where three reactors experienced meltdowns after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the eastern Japan in March 2011.
As of the end of May, 3,343 of 7,046 registered residents have returned to the town.
 
Fukushima town opens shopping center for returnees
June 26, 2018
The town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, has opened a shopping center for the benefit of residents who have returned following the earthquake and nuclear crisis in 2011, and to encourage others to come home.
The area where the 3,300-square-meter complex is located includes public housing and medical institutions.
Ten businesses including a supermarket, hardware store and restaurants opened their doors on Tuesday.
The evacuation order in Naraha was lifted in September 2015. As of the end of May, nearly half the town’s former inhabitants had come back.
The town has begun operating free shuttle bus services between all its districts and the center to make life easier for those who return.
One woman said she’s happy that the center is accessible and that it will become a place where the townsfolk can socialize.

Evaluating Different Radiocesium Decontamination Practices In A Forest Plantation Near The Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

A
June 25, 2018
Owing to an earthquake and the resulting tsunami that occurred on March 2011 in central-eastern Japan, the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant was damaged by several hydrogen explosions.
This accident released a vast amount of radionuclides, including caesium 134 and 137 (ca. ratio 1:1). Initial fallout contaminated cultivated soils (mainly paddy fields), forests, water bodies, residential areas, asphalt and concrete surfaces. Since then, a variety of decontamination practices have been completed, reducing the ambient dose rates.
In a recent study, published in Environmental Pollution (available online since April 19, 2018) and conducted by Prof. Yuichi Onda (University of Tsukuba, Japan), Dr. Manuel López-Vicente (EEAD-CSIC, Soil Management and Global Change Group), and staff of Onda’s Laboratory and Asia Air Survey Co., eight decontamination practices were evaluated in a forest plantation located 16 km southwest of the power plant and within the exclusion area. The stand is composed of a forest plantation of Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) and natural understory vegetation. This plantation has an age of 58 years (in 2017) and is located on a steep hillslope (average slope gradient of 25⁰) near Kawauchi village, in the Fukushima Prefecture. Ten runoff plots were installed and managed by the Fukushima Prefectural Forestry Research Centre.
B
Radiocesium (Cs-137) concentrations and activities were calculated in soil and litter samples over 27 months (May 2013 – July 2015) and after decontamination practices. One plot was devoted to litter removal; two plots to tree thinning without litter removal (Th_1 with logged area, and Th_2 under remnant trees); two plots to tree thinning with litter removal (Th + LR_1 with logged area, and Th + LR_2 under remnant trees); and three plots to clearcutting with litter removal (CC + LR_1 without matting, CC + LR_2 matting with seeds, and CC + LR_3 matting without seeds). Finally, two plots (Co_1 and Co_2) remained as control plots without application of any decontamination practice.
Differences were statistically significant, and researchers distinguished four homogeneous groups. Tree thinning and litter removal greatly reduced the radioactivity. Tree thinning, clearcutting with litter removal, and litter removal also had higher discharge rates than those rates in the control plots. We only observed low rates in the two plots with matting (soil conservation practice). The temporal variability was explained by (i) the different rainfall depths registered during the measurement intervals (with heavy rainfall events and typhoons: accumulated precipitation from 14 to 361 mm during the measurement intervals); and (ii) the fluctuations of the total ground coverage (canopy and surface).
The vegetation recovery after the countermeasures triggered a reduction of hydrological connectivity in all compartments of the forest plantation. This fact explained the decreasing trend in radiocesium concentration that was very high in 2013, high in the first half of 2014, moderate in the second half of 2014, and low in 2015. This tendency will reduce the possibility of secondary pollution of the neighboring residential and/or agricultural areas. The average proportions of the contribution of Cs-137 discharge by soil and leaf fraction were 96.6% and 3.4%.
C
These findings are described in the article entitled Radiocesium concentrations in soil and leaf after decontamination practices in a forest plantation highly polluted by the Fukushima accident, recently published in the journal Environmental Pollution. This work was conducted by Manuel López-Vicente, Yuichi Onda, Junko Takahashi, and Hiroaki Kato from the University of Tsukuba, and Shinya Chayama and Keigo Hisadome from Asia Air Survey Co.
This research was funded by the project “Development of techniques for migration control against radioactive substances in forests (2012-2016)” of the Japanese Forestry Agency; and was carried out by Dr. Manuel López-Vicente during his postdoctoral stays at the University of Tsukuba (Prof. Onda Laboratory) in 2015 (Research Fellowships Program of the Canon Foundation in Europe, call 2014) and 2016.

Japan touts completion of Fukushima cleanup at tripartite environment meeting in China

Lies, lies… and more lies!!!
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Jun 24, 2018
SUZHOU – Environment Minister Masaharu Nakagawa told his counterparts from China and South Korea on Sunday that radioactive decontamination work following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is “all done” except for so-called difficult-to-return-to zones.
At the 20th Tripartite Environment Ministers’ Meeting held in Suzhou, in eastern China, Nakagawa also used the opportunity to again request the lifting of food import restrictions from prefectures hit by the Fukushima disaster.
Beijing has banned food imports from 10 prefectures surrounding the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, while Seoul has blocked Japanese seafood imports from eight prefectures.
Nakagawa explained to Chinese Ecology and Environment Minister Li Ganjie and South Korean Environment Minister Kim Eun-kyung that Japan has strict food safety standards in place that exceed international requirements. “Environmental regeneration in Fukushima is progressing steadily,” he said.
The three ministers also agreed on a policy to discuss the problem of plastic microparticles and their effect on marine pollution at a Group of 20 ministerial meeting on energy transitions and the global environment for sustainable growth in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, next June.
In addition, they adopted a joint statement including a pledge to promote information sharing on the problem of venomous fire ants, which have over the past year repeatedly been brought to Japan in containers shipped from China.
The ministers also decided to hold next year’s tripartite meeting in Japan. It has been held annually in rotation among the three countries since 1999.

‘Green Lawn’: Pundit Suggests Fukushima Prefecture May Remain Without NPP

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24 June, 2018
Following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant core meltdown, the Fukushima No. 2 plant, which survived the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, may be decommissioned. The president of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), Tomoaki Kobayakawa, announced this in an interview with the governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Masao Uchibori.
The statement that the company is considering this option was made for the first time the Janapese Times (Nihon Keizai) reported.
Before the accident, Fukushima No. 1, with its six power units with a total generation capacity of 4.7GW, was considered one of the 25 largest nuclear power plants in the world. While there are only four power units at Fukushima No. 2, they were all shut down after March 2011.
Although there were serious problems with the emergency cooling system after they were shut down, the temperature of the reactors and the situation at the nuclear power plant could be quickly brought under control. The emergency situation at the power plant was lifted on December 26, 2011. However, since then, it has not resumed work.
According to TEPCO estimates, the closure of the Fukushima No. 2 power plant will require approximately 280 billion yen. In addition, another 22 trillion yen will go to the ongoing cleanup of the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
Japanese media have reported that the company was forced to take such a radical step because of the concerns of residents of the prefecture and the demands of local authorities. The potential dangers caused by natural disasters on the Japanese islands were also taken into consideration.
Just this week, after an earthquake in Osaka, all the nuclear power plants located in relative proximity to the epicenter were inspected.
Expert Mikhail Rylov from the Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety told Sputnik that it would be difficult to relaunch the Fukushima No. 2 plant.
“I think this is, first of all, a business issue. For several years the equipment at the NPP [nuclear power plant] hasn’t been in use, and if it worked, it was not in the normal operational mode. To restart the power plant after so many years is troublesome and time consuming. Having estimated the technical condition and residual life of the power units, the company realized that even after restarting the nuclear power plant, in a few years the resource will need to be extended. And this is a very expensive task, requiring considerable intellectual and monetary costs. Surely they also took into account the issues of infrastructure, logistics, potential natural disasters, highly qualified personnel, etc. Like other nuclear power plants in Japan, [they] have already been tired of inspections after the Fukushima No. 1 disaster.”
Mr. Rylov noted that the decommissioning of the power plant is the best option in the current situation despite the fact that dismantling the plant is also a hard process.
“It takes several years to dismantle a nuclear power plant to the state of a ‘brown lawn,’ when not only equipment that was not intended for further use, but all the radioactive waste is removed from the site. The site can be used for other purposes, including for the needs of nuclear energy. But to bring the site of the former nuclear power plant to the state of a ‘green lawn’ will take several decades. ‘Green Lawn’ is a complete dismantling of reactor facilities, buildings, and disposal of radioactive waste with the complete elimination of all traces of NPP activities. Ideally, the final stage of the decommissioning process of a reactor should be a ‘green lawn,’ which means it would be safe for a public park or to build a kindergarten. How far will the Japanese company go, it’s hard to say. After all, there was still no official notification about the closure of the station,” the expert concluded.
The  No. 4  unit at the Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture restarted operations last week after it met all the requirements imposed after the Fukushima No. 1 plant accident. It became the ninth nuclear reactor to be restarted after new tougher requirements were introduced. A demonstration was held against the resumption of operations and people demanded that the country’s energy policy be changed.

As Fukushima residents return, some see hope in nuclear tourism

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Posters promoting fukushima sightseeing at the Fukushima prefectural government office in Fukushima city
June 21, 2018
FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) – On a cold day in February, Takuto Okamoto guided his first tour group to a sight few outsiders had witnessed in person: the construction cranes looming over Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Seven years after a deadly tsunami ripped through the Tokyo Electric Power (9501.T) plant, Okamoto and other tour organisers are bringing curious sightseers to the region as residents who fled the nuclear catastrophe trickle back.
Many returnees hope tourism will help resuscitate their towns and ease radiation fears.
But some worry about drawing a line under a disaster whose impact will be felt far into the future. The cleanup, including the removal of melted uranium fuel, may take four decades and cost several billion U.S. dollars a year.
“The disaster happened and the issue now is how people rebuild their lives,” Okamoto said after his group stopped in Tomioka, 10 kilometres (6.21 miles) south of the nuclear plant. He wants to bring groups twice a week, compared with only twice a month now.
Electronic signs on the highway to Tomioka showed radiation around 100 times normal background levels, as Okamoto’s passengers peered out tour bus windows at the cranes poking above Fukushima Daiichi.
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Tourists from Philippines & tour guide Takuto Okamoto, Futaba town, May 17 2018
“For me, it’s more for bragging rights, to be perfectly honest,” said Louie Ching, 33, a Filipino programmer. Ching, two other Filipinos and a Japanese man who visited Chernobyl last year each paid 23,000 yen ($208.75) for a day trip from Tokyo.
 
NAMIE
The group had earlier wandered around Namie, a town 4 kilometres north of the plant to which residents began returning last year after authorities lifted restrictions. So far, only about 700 of 21,000 people are back – a ratio similar to that of other ghost towns near the nuclear site.
Former residents Mitsuru Watanabe, 80, and his wife Rumeko, 79, have no plans to return. They were only in town to clear out their shuttered restaurant before it is demolished, and they chatted with tourists while they worked.
“We used to pull in around 100 million yen a year,” Mitsuru said as he invited the tourists inside. A 2011 calendar hung on the wall, and unfilled orders from the evacuation day remained on a whiteboard in the kitchen.
“We want people to come. They can go home and tell other people about us,” Mitsuru said among the dusty tables.
 
Okamoto’s group later visited the nearby coastline, where the tsunami killed hundreds of people. Abandoned rice paddies, a few derelict houses that withstood the wave and the gutted Ukedo elementary school are all that remain.
It’s here, behind a new sea wall at the edge of the restricted radiation zone, that Fukushima Prefecture plans to build a memorial park and 5,200-square-metre (56,000-square-foot) archive centre with video displays and exhibits about the quake, tsunami and nuclear calamity.
LURING TOURISTS
“It will be a starting point for visitors,” Kazuhiro Ono, the prefecture’s deputy director for tourism, said of the centre. The Japan Tourism Agency will fund the project, Ono added.
Ono wants tourists to come to Fukushima, particularly foreigners, who have so far steered clear. Overseas visitors spent more than 70 million days in Japan last year, triple the number in 2011. About 94,000 of those were in Fukushima.
Tokyo Electric will provide material for the archive, although the final budget for the project has yet to be finalised, he said.
“Some people have suggested a barbecue area or a promenade,” said Hidezo Sato, a former seed merchant in Namie who leads a residents’ group. A “1” sticker on the radiation metre around his neck identified him as being the first to return to the town.
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“If people come to brag about getting close to the plant, that can’t be helped, but at least they’ll come,” Sato said. The archive will help ease radiation fears, he added.
SPECTACLE
Standing outside a farmhouse as workmen refurbished it so her family could return, Mayumi Matsumoto, 54, said she was uneasy about the park and archive.
“We haven’t gotten to the bottom of what happened at the plant, and now is not the time,” she said.
Matsumoto had come back for a day to host a rice-planting event for about 40 university students. Later they toured Namie on two buses, including a stop at scaffolding near the planned memorial park site to view Fukushima Daiichi’s cranes.
Matsumoto described her feelings toward Tokyo Electric as “complicated,” because it is responsible for the disaster but also helped her family cope its aftermath. One of her sons works for the utility and has faced abuse from angry locals, she added.
“It’s good that people want to come to Namie, but not if they just want to get close to the nuclear plant. I don’t want it to become a spectacle,” Matsumoto said.
Okamoto is not the only guide offering tours in the area, although visits of any kind remain rare. He said he hoped his clients would come away with more than a few photographs.
“If people can see for themselves the damage caused by tsunami and nuclear plant, they will understand that we need to stop it from happening again,” said Okamoto, who attended university in a neighbouring prefecture. “So far, we haven’t come across any opposition from the local people.”
($1 = 110.1800 yen)