The Reality of Fukushima Radiation Pollution Exposure

From Kennichi Abe

june 12 2018

“When people nationwide will know about the reality of radiation pollution exposure after 3.11, there are no people who will come to Fukushima prefecture.
There is no report as to the fact that it can be dangerous. There is no news in Fukushima except that it doesn’t matter.”
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‘Everything is fine and delicious in Fukushima’ according to the director the Fukushima Reconstruction Promotion Group at the minister’s secretariat of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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Fukushima, seven years on
by Hideyasu Tamura
May 21, 2018
More than seven years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011. A successful decommissioning of the plant and reconstruction of Fukushima is one of the most important missions of the government, especially the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Since 2016, I’ve been involved in the ministry’s special unit on Fukushima reconstruction, and mainly charged with a mission to eliminate reputational damage.
After the accident, the government set very stringent standards on the level of radioactive substances in food (in principle, 100 becquerel/kg: 10 times stricter than the Codex radionuclides standard), and any food product exceeding that level is prohibited for market distribution. Food products from Fukushima have undergone stringent monitoring, including all-volume inspection on rice and beef. Since 2015, not a single grain of rice or any piece of beef has been found with radioactive substances exceeding that level.
Nevertheless, around 12 percent of consumers in Japan tend to avoid agricultural and fishery products from Fukushima, according to a Consumer Affairs Agency survey. Since such reputational damage lingers even at home, the popular perception gap concerning Fukushima is likely even more serious overseas. With a view toward bridging that gap, I would like to highlight the following facts.
First, in the 12 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture where evacuation orders were introduced after the nuclear disaster (Futaba, Hirono, Iitate, Kawamata, Kawauchi, Katsurao, Minamisoma, Namie, Naraha, Okuma, Tamura and Tomioka), the number of companies in the industrial estates has doubled from 35 before the disaster (in December 2010) to 70 in January. Some of the companies that have newly launched operation there engage in business that are relatively new to this area, such as the recycling of lithium-ion batteries and the production of internet-of-things devices that are wearable.
The establishment of the new companies have been facilitated by government incentives, including subsidies on investments that cover up to three-quarters of the investment cost, as well as the development of industrial infrastructure, such as the Fukushima Robot Test Field in Minamisoma and Namie. The test field, where any entity can use an extensive site (approximately 50 hectares) for demonstration experiments of robots and drones, is the core facility of the Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework.
This shows that the areas of Fukushima hit by the nuclear disaster have already become safe enough for businesses to operate. Private-sector companies never launch operations in locations where their employees’ safety is not ensured, even when the government provides most favorable incentives.
Second, as another proof of the area’s safety, the current situation of the Fukushima No. 1 plant should be highlighted. Today, workers can enter 96 percent of the site without any special radiation protection gear because the air dose rate has significantly decreased compared with right after the accident.
In addition, through multi-layered measures (e.g., the construction of frozen soil walls to suppress the inflow of groundwater as well as the pumping up of groundwater), the generation of contaminated water has been significantly reduced and prevented from leaking into the ocean. As a result, the concentration of radioactive materials in the sea water surrounding the plant has declined from 10,000 becquerels per liter as of March 2011 to below the detection limit (less than 0.7 becquerel per liter) since 2016.
The successful management of contaminated water has resulted in the improved safety of Fukushima’s fishery products. No marine products caught off Fukushima has exceeded the standard limit (100 becquerel/kg) in monitoring surveys over the fiscal years from 2015 to 2017.
Third, evacuation orders were lifted in many parts of the 12 municipalities by April 2017, and areas still under such orders account for approximately 2.7 percent of the prefecture’s total space — compared with 8 percent when the zoning was set in 2013. In several municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted up relatively early (such as the city of Tamura and the village of Kawauchi), around 80 percent of local residents have returned to their homes. Even in the areas where evacuation orders remain in place, efforts to improve the living environment have begun to pave the way for return of residents at the earliest possible time.
Needless to say, many challenges remain toward the successful reconstruction of Fukushima. The decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 plant is expected to take 30 to 40 years. To carry out the decommissioning, the retrieval of the melted nuclear fuel debris will be a major hurdle, and efforts to probe the inside of the reactor structures just started in 2015. In several towns where the evacuation orders were lifted only last year, less than 10 percent of local residents have returned to their homes. The improvement of living environment is an urgent task for those towns in order to encourage more residents to return.
Despite these challenges, the safety of Fukushima both in terms of its food products and the living/working environment in most parts of the prefecture has been proven. It is a pity that several countries/regions still impose import restrictions on Japanese food products (including those from Fukushima) and some people still hesitate to visit Fukushima for tourism or business. I wish that more people will visit Fukushima to taste the delicious and world’s safest rice, peaches and fish, and that more companies would be interested in utilizing advanced facilities/infrastructure such as the Fukushima Robot Test Field, and invest in Fukushima by taking advantage of the most favorable incentives in this country. Peaches will be harvested every year, but subsidies and other incentives will not last forever — so, the fast-movers will get the advantages.
Hideyasu Tamura is director the Fukushima Reconstruction Promotion Group at the minister’s secretariat of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Fukushima Quote of the Day

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“We achieved the sixth straight year of victory despite the severe situation due to rumors about radiation contamination”.

Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori, speaking at a ceremony after the National Research Institute of Brewing awarded Fukushima Prefecture the national sake title for an unprecedented sixth straight year.

Amount of food with radioactive cesium exceeding gov’t standards ‘dropping’, so they claim

So they say…..But why should we believe such study coming from the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry research team to be true? Especially when we know that their main policy has been a constant denial of the existing risks for the past 7 years…..
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March 22, 2018
The number of cases in which radioactive cesium exceeding Japanese government standards was found in food items dropped to less than 20 percent over a five-year period from fiscal 2012, a health ministry study has found.
 
The government standards for radioactive cesium came into effect in April 2012, which assumed that half of distributed food products contained the radioactive element generated by the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. It is set at 100 becquerels per kilogram for common food items, 50 becquerels per kilogram for baby food and cow milk and 10 becquerels for drinking water.
 
Based on central government guidelines, 17 prefectural governments, counting Tokyo, check food products in which radioactive cesium is likely to be detected, including items that have been distributed, for the radioactive element. Other local governments have also been independently inspecting such food products to confirm their safety. A Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry research team analyzed data compiled by local governments, excluding that of beef, which has an extremely low detection rate for cesium, as well as products that go through bag-by-bag inspections such as rice from Fukushima Prefecture.
 
As a result, the number of cases that exceeded the threshold set under the Food Sanitation Act totaled 2,359 of 91,547 food products inspected in fiscal 2012. In fiscal 2013, it was 1,025 out of 90,824 products, 565 out of 79,067 in fiscal 2014, 291 out of 66,663 in fiscal 2015 and 460 out of 63,121 in fiscal 2016.
 
Broken down by categories, 641 cases of food items among agricultural produce were found to have exceeded the government standards for radioactive cesium and 1,072 cases were detected among fishery products in fiscal 2012, but the figure had dropped to 71 and 11, respectively, in fiscal 2016. For fishery products, this is believed to be attributed to the reduction of cesium concentration in the seawater as the element had diffused in the ocean. It is also believed that the concentration in agricultural items had dropped as a result of decontamination work and other efforts.
 
At the same time, the number of cases exceeding national standards totaled 493 for game meat in fiscal 2012, and 378 in fiscal 2016. Researchers suspect that because wild animals continue to feed on wild mushrooms and plants with high concentrations of radioactive cesium growing in forests that have not been decontaminated, the figure does not drop among game meat products.
Almost all the foods that exceeded the government standards for radioactive cesium had not been available to consumers as the contamination was detected during inspections before being shipped to markets. However, Akiko Hachisuka of the National Institute of Health Sciences Biochemistry Division who headed the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry research team says game meat and wild mushrooms need to be prioritized in inspections for the time being and also in the future.
 
Among wild mushrooms and other products that had been distributed to markets, 19 cases exceeding government standards were reported in fiscal 2012, seven in fiscal 2013, 11 in fiscal 2014, 12 in fiscal 2015 and 10 in fiscal 2016.
 

Sanitising the Fukushima nuclear waste situation: Japanese newspaper succumbs to pressure

 

The Great Train Photo Robbery
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Despite one newspaper’s effort, Japan can’t make its radioactive waste “disappear.”
From information provided by Kurumi Sugita, Jon Goman, and Fukushima 311 Voices.
 
After the disastrous events of the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear meltdown in Japan, France-based Kurumi Sugita, a retired Japanese social anthropologist, and her American partner, Jon Goman, started a website for the French citizens group, Nos Voisins Lontains, 311 (Our Far Away Neighbors 311.) At first published only in French, it is now also published in English and Japanese at Fukushima 311 Voices.
 
In a particularly revelatory article last October, the pair highlighted the extent to which efforts to “normalize” the devastating consequences of the nuclear disaster are pervasive in Japan.
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Tomioka train station when it was still closed due to high radiation levels
They detailed how the Mainichi Shimbun ran a story about the reopening of a stretch of railway line that had been closed since the Fukushima accident. The photo that accompanied the piece showed a train in the background. But the foreground of the picture was dominated by row after row of black trash bags filled with radioactive waste. (Shown in headline photo at the top of the article.)
 
Apparently, the radioactive trash bags photo at the train station caused some public (or possibly corporate) protest. The photo abruptly vanished from the Japanese online version of the paper (but not the English language one), to be replaced by a picture showing cheerfully smiling train personnel and passengers on the station platform.
 
Rows of such radioactive waste-filled bags now litter that region of Japan, sometimes stretching as far as the eye can see. Watch RT’s extraordinary drone footage of waste bags.

 

They are a reminder of the impossibility of effective “cleanup” after a radioactive accident. In a desperate attempt to restore confidence among exiled residents, top soil and other debris was scooped up intro trash bags in the name of “cleanup”. However, all this achieves, if the bags are ever “disposed of,” is to move the radiation somewhere else.
 
The story is one small example — but nevertheless a poignant one — of the extent to which the Japanese public are being subjugated, silenced and even threatened into an acceptance of the widespread radioactive contamination of their country.
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Rows of trash bags containing radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster now litter the area.
Here is the original October 30, 2017 blog post from Fukushima 311 Voices, published in English and Japanese.
 
Newspaper changes an “annoying” photo
 
When we are outside of Fukushima, or of Japan, it is difficult for us to realize to what extent it has become difficult to speak of radio-contamination and the risk of exposure.
 
福島の、いや日本の外にいると放射能汚染や被ばくリスクについて語ることがどれだけ難しくなっているかがわかりません。
 
To illustrate this, we are reporting on the case of a photo replacement in the Mainichi Shimbun. This took place only in the Japanese edition. The original photo seems to have remained in the English edition.
 
その例を示すために、毎日新聞の写真差し替えの件をレポートしたいと思います。なお、写真差し替えは日本語版だけのようです。
 
On October 21, the Mainichi Shimbun reported the reopening of a part of the JR East line under the title: “JR East partially reopens line halted since 2011 nuclear disaster”. In this article, the Mainichi published a photo of a train leaving the newly opened Tomioka station. (If it is impossible to open the article, here is the web archive).
 
毎日新聞は10月21日付でJR常磐線富岡ー竜田間の再開を報じました。この中に富岡駅を出る電車の写真が掲載されています。(リンクが切れている時にはこちらのウェブアーカイブをごらんください。)
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At left is the original picture (used also in the Japanese 1st version) with the caption : “A train leaves Tomioka Station in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, after services on the JR Joban Line were resumed between Tomioka and Tatsuta on Oct. 21, 2017. (Mainichi)”.
 
As you can see, the picture clearly tries to attract the attention of the readers to the black bags containing contaminated waste. In fact, the Japanese caption mentions also: “In the foreground, a temporary storage site of bags containing decontamination waste”. You can see other pictures here by the same photographer.
 
上が差し替え前の最初の写真とキャプションです。
 
「JR常磐線の富岡駅と竜田駅間の運行が再開され、富岡駅を出る上り電車。手前は除染で出た廃棄物を入れた袋の仮置き場」=福島県富岡町で21日午前8時32分、西本勝撮影
 
The photo above received a large number of complaints and protests. People basically complained: “why stain the joyful event with such a picture?”.
 
この最初の写真は、おめでたいことなのにこんな写真をどうして使うのかという苦情と抗議にさらされました。
 
Here is the link to the togetter (in Japanese) through which you can see in what kind of language these people protesting against the first picture express themselves. They are pointing out crudely “the malicious intention” of the Mainichi Shimbun to devalue the event and the reconstruction of Fukushima.
 
こちらが批判の声をまとめたtogetterです。直裁的な言葉でオープニングイベント、さらには福島の「復興への悪意」を指摘しています。
 
The result is that the Mainichi Newspaper replaced the original photo with the one below.
 
その結果毎日新聞はもと写真を下の写真と差し替えました。
 
Replaced train photo
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The replaced photo is now only available on the web archive).
こちらが変更済みの写真を掲載した毎日新聞の記事です。(リンクが切れている場合はこちらのウェブアーカイブをご覧ください。)
Read more about Kurumi Sugita and Jon Goman and their Fukushima 311 Voices blog: https://fukushima311voices.wordpress.com/about/

 

Fukushima tourism finally rebounds from 2010’s triple disasters

Proving that covering-up, disinformation and censorship are working very well. Those tourists are certainly unaware that they might bring back from Fukushima more than just wrapped souvenirs….wrapped inside their body.
5 March, 2018
Nearly seven years after the triple disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown virtually crippled Fukushima’s tourism industry, the number of foreign overnight travellers has recovered to levels last seen before the disaster.
In the first 10 months of calendar 2017, a total of 78,680 foreign visitors spent at least one night in the prefecture, surpassing the 77,890 visitors in the same period in 2010. Final statistics for the full year are not available, but prefectural authorities expect the 2017 figure to eclipse 2010’s figure of 87,170 foreigners who stayed in the prefecture.
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Tourist visiting Ouchijuku Village, a former post town along the Aizu-Nishi Kaido trade route in Fukushima
 
Visitor numbers collapsed in the months after the March 11 earthquake and a mere 23,990 foreigners stayed in calendar 2011.
“We have been working with the Fukushima government to promote the prefecture at international events, focusing on events in countries where we have already seen visitor numbers recover, such as Taiwan, Thailand and Australia,” said Kazuhiko Yoshioka, director of overseas promotion for the Fukushima Prefecture Tourism and Local Products Association.
Yoshioka shared that the organisation plugs the prefecture’s samurai history, onsen, fruit, scenery and seasonal highlights as part of overseas promotion. Information on the destination is also shared online.
“Getting the message across can be difficult,” he admitted. “We have found that the best way to overcome worries about safety is to ensure that up-to-date and accurate information is accessible and then to share that information as widely as possible.”
Travel operators concur that visitor numbers have bounced back strongly.
Paul Christie, CEO of Walk Japan, said the company’s walking tour in the footsteps of famous poet Basho in Tohoku are “selling very well – so well, in fact, that they are sold out months in advance.”
“We have found that whatever problems happened in Fukushima seven years ago are no longer in the forefront of people’s minds,” he said. “I have been quite surprised, but it is really not an issue for the vast majority of people.”
At Nippon Travel Agency, Kaho Mori, assistant manager of the inbound division, observed: “There is interest in Fukushima Prefecture as part of our tours of the Tohoku region. We are getting a lot of interest in that part of the country from visitors from North America, although less from European countries.”

Fukushima makes anime to counter ‘harmful rumors’

 

Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture has produced animated films stressing the safety of its agricultural and fishery products to dispel overseas rumors about radioactive contamination from the 2011 nuclear accident.
The prefecture has been trying to expand the international markets for its farm produce and seafood. The main challenge is to refute the negative rumors that have persisted since the nuclear accident.
The 5 “anime” films, each lasting about 4 minutes, are aimed at promoting the safety and quality of local peaches, rice, beef and other items.
In the films, high school girls play the roles of the food items and work hard together to improve their taste.
The prefectural government also plans to make available English, Chinese, Spanish and French versions, which will be shown for the first time at an event in Hong Kong in March.
These versions will also be posted on the Internet.
A prefectural official says the films represent the aspirations of food producers in Fukushima and will convey the safety of their products on an affable note, mainly to younger generations abroad.