For Fukushima returnees, security a growing concern in deserted towns

n-fukushimafile-a-20170619-870x577.jpgThe deserted streets of the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, are seen at night after its evacuation order was lifted in this undated photo.

 

Via Fukushima Minpo –  It’s like a dream to once again be able to live in my “home, sweet home.”

That’s what Hidezo Sato, 72, says he feels every day since returning to his fallout-hit hometown of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.

The government partially lifted its nuclear evacuation order on March 31, six years after radiation from the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant forced them to evacuate.

Now, friends come by to chat at his home in the Gongendo district, which is much more comfortable than where he spent the past six years living as a Fukushima evacuee.

But one thing still bugs him — he doesn’t feel safe at night.

According to town officials, only about 300 residents have come back so far.

Many of the houses in Sato’s neighborhood remain uninhabited. So when he spots a car parked in the dark, it frightens him.

If safety and security aren’t ensured, there won’t be more people coming back,” Sato said.

Sparked by returnees’ concerns about security, many recovering municipalities have set up neighborhood watch groups, installed security cameras and taken other measures to increase safety.

In December, two men were arrested on theft charges after spotted by security cameras.

In Minamisoma, City Hall is installing home security systems for returnees in the Odaka district that allow them to alert a security company simply by pushing a button. As of April 27, about 240 households, or 30 percent of the roughly 770 households that have returned, had the system installed by the city.

The number of police officers brought in from outside Fukushima to help patrol the no-go zone has been reduced to 192, or about 150 fewer than five years ago. The police presence is expected to decline further as decontamination progresses, raising concerns on how to ensure security there in the future.

Many municipalities have been funding security costs with central government subsidies, but it is unclear whether that will continue after fiscal 2020, when the state-designated reconstruction and revitalization period is scheduled to end. The Reconstruction Agency is also slated to be dissolved by then.

A top Reconstruction Agency official would only say it will “consider the issue in the future.”

For its part, the town of Namie is expected to spend about ¥700 million in fiscal 2017 to fund the neighborhood watch teams and surveillance systems. But town officials are worried whether they’ll be able to afford the systems once the subsidies dry up.

Reconstruction minister Masayoshi Yoshino, a Lower House politician representing the Fukushima No. 5 district, said in April that he will consider creating a new government entity to take over the work of the Reconstruction Agency.

I want the government to tell us that it will continue to fund” such projects, said Namie Deputy Mayor Katsumi Miyaguchi.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/18/national/fukushima-returnees-security-growing-concern-deserted-towns/

Fukushima may get rice variant that absorbs less radiation

Thank you, now I feel so much safer:

Mutant rice to be introduced into Fukushima prefecture as part of efforts to dispel lingering negative publicity.

Capture du 2017-06-13 18-25-17.pngThe Koshihikari rice variant with low cesium absorption, right, looks almost indistinguishable from normal Koshihikari rice.

TSUKUBA, Ibaraki Prefecture–A new type of the famed Koshihikari rice strain that absorbs just half as much radioactive cesium as the regular variety may be grown in Fukushima Prefecture.

The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization hopes to introduce it into the prefecture as part of efforts to dispel lingering negative publicity after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster of 2011.

Satoru Ishikawa, who leads NARO’s Crop Safety Unit, and his co-workers used ion-beam irradiation to cause a gene mutation in Koshihikari to block the discharge of sodium ions from its roots. That enhanced the concentration of sodium ions in its root cells and suppressed the intake of cesium.

When the mutant was test-grown on contaminated soil alongside conventional Koshihikari, the cesium concentration in the mutant turned out to be 55 percent lower in unpolished rice grains and 59 percent lower in rice straw, both well below the government’s safety limit.

The mutant had about the same number of rice ears and about the same yield of unpolished rice grains as traditional Koshihikari, and its taste was evaluated by an external organization as being “almost equal” to that of the parent strain.

The use of potassium ion fertilizer to suppress cesium absorption has been effective in reducing cesium, but that method is expensive and labor intensive.

(Use of the mutant suppresses cesium uptake) more effectively when combined with the use of potassium fertilizer,” Ishikawa said. “We hope introduction of the mutant will be considered as an option in areas where farming is going to be resumed.”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706130005.html

Contractor overcharging Iwaki, Tamura for decontamination workers’ lodging expenses in Fukushima

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A construction company on Friday disclosed that has been padding the lodging bills of the decontamination workers involved in decommissioning work related to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

Hazama Ando Corp. said an internal probe had found that one of its employees instructed a subcontractor to overcharge the Iwaki and Tamura municipal governments by a combined ¥80 million (around $724,770) and to make it appear that more workers were involved. Receipts for their lodging expenses were found to have been altered.

The central government is helping prefectural and municipal governments decontaminate areas tainted by fallout from the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011.

The contractors secure related work orders from both sectors, but the main contractors customarily shoulder the expenses of the subcontractors, after which the state reimburses them and asks Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. to foot the bill.

Toshiaki Nomura, president of the Tokyo-based construction company, apologized for the incident, which involved the padding of bills related to both decontamination and radiation monitoring in the two cities, which are both around 40 km from the crippled complex.

The company was found to have overcharged Iwaki by an estimated ¥53 million and Tamura by around ¥27 million and to have overstated the number of workers mobilized.

Hazama Ando charged Iwaki ¥7,500 per overnight stay instead of ¥5,000, and stated that around 15,000 workers were involved instead of the actual 11,000.

The Tamura Municipal Government was charged ¥5,500 per person for accommodation, or ¥500 higher than the actual amount, and was told that 10,000 workers were involved rather than 5,600.

Hazama Ando is looking into why an employee instructed a subcontractor to overcharge for accommodations and make it appear that more workers were involved. The employee in question has told the company he had acted “haphazardly.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/09/national/contractor-overcharging-iwaki-tamura-decontamination-workers-lodging-expenses-fukushima/#.WTxByzekLrc

Fukushima Farmers Struggle

The technology to fully decontaminate a contaminated land has not yet been invented. Despite of all their efforts and hopes, those farmers’ struggle is just beginning and will last for ages…

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Farmers in Fukushima are struggling to revive their livelihoods. The 2011 nuclear accident and subsequent evacuation devastated farms — the area’s main source of jobs.

Some areas, like the village of Iitate, have lifted most of their evacuation orders. But getting back to normal is taking some time.

More than 200 farmers used to raise cows in this region. But 2 months after authorities lifted their evacuation order, few farmers have tried to return to raising animals.

Six cows were released into a paddy field to graze. It’s a step to revive the farm work that was widely seen in Iitate village.

One farmer is using his cows as an experiment that could bring hope to others.

After the animals eat these fields for 2 months, they’ll have their blood tested to check if they have been influenced in any way by radioactive material.

“It’s finally starting. For those who are worried or not confident about resuming cattle raising, I hope what I’m doing will encourage them,” says the farmer, Takeshi Yamada.

Before the accident, farmers in Iitate used to cultivate some 2,300 hectares of land. But this year, only 20 are being used to grow rice and buckwheat.

Some 60 farmers plan to resume farming this year — a small fraction of the previous total.

A major concern behind the slow uptake is the uncertainty farmers have about being able to sell their produce. Surface soil in the area was removed to help decontaminate the ground, but doing that also lowered its fertility.

Another challenge according to farmers is weakened community bonds.

“We used to work together. We were ready to take on whatever tasks we had. But it’s been 6 years, and the motivation to work is low. Nobody now says ‘let’s work together,'” says farmer Koichi Aoki.

To counter their plight, farmers are doing small things.

They formed a group of volunteers to remove weeds. They’re planting flower seeds to beautify the land and keep weeds from coming back. And there’s an even bigger benefit.

“We’ve been protecting our farmland. We want to keep it from turning to wasteland. And by working together, we’ll be able to form human bonds again. That’s our main goal,” says farmer Masuo Nagasho.

It will take time, but people here are hopeful these small steps are just the beginning.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/editors/3/fukushimafarmersstruggle/

 

Thyroid Cancer Plagues Fukushima Evacuees, But Officials Deny Radiation to Blame

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Seven more young Fukushima Prefecture residents have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, according to a prefectural government statement on Monday. All of the patients were 18 or younger at the time of the 2011 nuclear reactor meltdown.

This bumps the number of Fukushima residents diagnosed with thyroid cancer up to 152. Although many times higher than the national average, the thyroid cancer rates are “unlikely” to have been increased by the reactor accident, according to vice chair of Fukushima’s medical association Hokuto Hoshi. 

“Those thyroid cases have been found because we conducted the survey, not because of the radiation,” concurred Akira Ohtsuru, a radiologist who examined many of the patients. “The survey has caused over-diagnosis.”

One of those suspected of having cancer is a 4-year-old boy who hadn’t even been conceived yet when his parents fled Fukushima.

The prefectural government has been conducting thyroid checkups on evacuees every year since 2013.  The number of cases continuously rises every time they do so: five additional cases in 2014 and two additional ones in May 2015. This means more and more evacuees are metastasizing the illness.

Fukushima University researchers have also found that evacuees have markedly higher rates of diabetes, liver and heart disease and obesity than the national average.

A May 2017 study from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research found that the Fukushima nuclear disaster had spread additional radiation across the entire planet, with the same amount of radiation as a single x-ray hitting the average person. 

That same month, Penn State Medical Center published a study linking the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster of 1979 to higher rates of thyroid cancer near the Pennsylvania reactor.

https://sputniknews.com/asia/201706071054381393-fukushima-evacuee-thyroid-cancer-epidemic/

Fukushima Remains “A Nuclear Radiation Nightmare”, In Pictures

“This is an accident that does not exist in the past tense, but in the present progressive form,” exclaimed Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori earlier in March, criticizing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for not explicitly the disaster in his annual speech. “It’s not possible to avoid using the important and significant terms of the nuclear plant accident of nuclear power disaster.”

As IBTimes’s Juliana Rose Pignataro notes (and exposes in the images below), it’s been an uphill battle for the coastal prefecture of Fukushima, Japan, since an earthquake and tsunami devastated the region in 2011, causing a nuclear disaster at its power plant.

Six years later, workers are still battling to decommission the plant, where radiation is deadly. Officials expect the cleaning won’t be finished for decades.

20170605_fuku1_0In this handout provided by TEPCO, the deformed grating vessel of Fukushima’s No. 2 reactor is shown Jan. 30, 2017.

 

20170605_fuku2_0Workers remove nuclear fuel rods from a pool inside the No. 4 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, Nov. 18, 2013

 

20170605_fuku3_0TEPCO employee looks at the destroyed reactor in Fukushima, Japan, Feb. 25, 2016

 

20170605_fuku4_0Personal items were left behind in Fukushima, Japan, Feb. 26, 2016.

 

20170605_fuku5_0A wild boar roams in barren, Fukushima, Japan, Mar. 1, 2017

 

20170605_fuku6_0The damaged No. 3 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan is shown Feb. 25, 2016.

 

20170605_fuku7_0A deserted home is shown in Fukushima, Japan, Mar. 11, 2016.

 

20170605_fuku8_0Workers stand near the deserted nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, Feb. 25, 2016.

 

20170605_fuku9_0The barren landscape of Fukushima, Japan sits empty, Mar. 11, 2016.

 

Despite the ongoing decommissioning, increasingly high levels of radiation and wild boar problem, officials have begun welcoming some evacuated people back to their homes. It’s unclear how many residents will choose to return.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-06-05/fukushima-remains-nuclear-radiation-nightmare-pictures

Fukushima town, Namie, to receive compensation

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NHK has learned that a town near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is to receive compensation for a drop in the value of its land that was caused by the 2011 nuclear accident.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, will pay Namie Town 2.5 billion yen, or more than 22 million dollars.
This is the first time that the operator has agreed to compensate a municipality for assets that were affected by the accident.
In June of last year, Namie officials asked the company to pay about 104 million dollars in compensation for damage to 262 hectares of land owned by the town. Evacuation orders for parts of the town remained in effect for over 6 years.
The officials say they will negotiate with the power company over the remainder of the requested amount.
The Fukushima prefectural government says the town of Futaba has made a similar request and that other municipalities may follow suit.
Tokyo Electric is paying individuals and businesses compensation for damage to properties located in areas where evacuation orders were issued.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170606_03/