Niigata gov’t to handle radioactive mud stored since Fukushima crisis

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January 9, 2019
NIIGATA – The Niigata prefectural government said Tuesday it will dispose of radioactive mud that has been stored since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and ask the operator of the crisis-hit plant to shoulder the costs.
The prefecture in central Japan, located about 200 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, has stored around 60,000 tons of mud containing radioactive cesium and requested Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc since 2012 to dispose of it.
But the operator has refused, saying it is not able to handle industrial waste. The disposal costs are estimated at 3 billion yen and TEPCO formally expressed its readiness to pay in December.
The level of radioactive cesium in the mud is below 8,000 becquerels per kilogram, which could be disposed of by regular landfill operations, and most of it is below 100 becquerels per kg, according to the prefecture.
The local government has stored the mud instead of disposing of it, arguing that TEPCO should take responsibility for the damage caused by fuel meltdowns at the plant triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The Niigata prefectural government has also stored the waste as some local residents were concerned about safety despite the low level of radioactive cesium.
Niigata Gov. Hideyo Hanazumi said at a press conference Tuesday it is “not realistic” to keep asking TEPCO to dispose of the mud and expressed “regret” that it had taken so long for the operator to decide how to handle the matter.
The contaminated mud, produced at an industrial water supply facility that takes in water from a river containing radioactive materials, is growing by 5,000 tons annually and the storage facility could become full later this year, according to the prefecture.
Municipalities other than Niigata have also been grappling with radioactive mud as a result of the crisis at the six-reactor Fukushima complex, with some shouldering the disposal costs.

Niigata gov’t to handle radioactive mud stored since Fukushima crisis

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Niigata Gov. Hideyo Hanazumi speaks at a press conference in Niigata, on Jan. 8, 2019.
January 8, 2019
NIIGATA, Japan (Kyodo) — The Niigata prefectural government said Tuesday it will dispose of radioactive mud that has been stored since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and ask the operator of the crisis-hit plant to shoulder the costs.
The prefecture in central Japan, located about 200 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, has stored around 60,000 tons of mud containing radioactive cesium and requested Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. since 2012 to dispose of it.
But the operator has refused, saying it is not able to handle industrial waste. The disposal costs are estimated at 3 billion yen ($27.5 million) and TEPCO formally expressed its readiness to pay in December.
The level of radioactive cesium in the mud is below 8,000 becquerels per kilogram, which could be disposed of by regular landfill operations, and most of it is below 100 becquerels per kg, according to the prefecture.
The local government has stored the mud instead of disposing of it, arguing that TEPCO should take responsibility for the damage caused by fuel meltdowns at the plant triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The Niigata prefectural government has also stored the waste as some local residents were concerned about safety despite the low level of radioactive cesium.
Niigata Gov. Hideyo Hanazumi said at a press conference Tuesday it is “not realistic” to keep asking TEPCO to dispose of the mud and expressed “regret” that it had taken so long for the operator to decide how to handle the matter.
The contaminated mud, produced at an industrial water supply facility that takes in water from a river containing radioactive materials, is growing by 5,000 tons annually and the storage facility could become full later this year, according to the prefecture.
Municipalities other than Niigata have also been grappling with radioactive mud as a result of the crisis at the six-reactor Fukushima complex, with some shouldering the disposal costs.

China lifts ban on Niigata rice in place since nuclear disaster

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November 29, 2018
China on Nov. 28 lifted its import ban on rice produced in Niigata Prefecture but maintained restrictions imposed since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster on other food from 10 prefectures.
During their summit in October, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to lift the import restrictions on Japanese agricultural and other products.
China apparently examined the distances and wind directions from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and decided to remove the ban on Niigata rice.
Japanese private companies have long hoped to resume rice exports to China, which accounts for about 30 percent of the world market for the staple food.
The Japanese government plans to ask the Chinese government to further ease restrictions on other food products.
The Abe administration has been promoting overseas sales of Japanese food products. It has set a goal of 1 trillion yen ($8.8 billion) as the annual export amount of agricultural, forestry and fishery products, as well as processed food.
But after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, 54 countries and regions imposed restrictions on food imports from Japan.
Although the restrictions have been gradually eased, eight countries and regions–China, the United States, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau–still ban imports of certain products from certain areas of Japan, according to the agricultural ministry.

LDP-backed candidate wins governor’s race in Niigata

A candidate backed by the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party won the Niigata gubernatorial election June 10. TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the Niigata prefecture is the largest nuclear power plant in the world. In December 2017, the Nuclear Regulation Authority completed its major safety screenings of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant.
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Hideyo Hanazumi, a candidate backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, celebrates his election victory in Niigata on June 10.
 
June 11, 2018
NIIGATA–A candidate backed by the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party won the Niigata gubernatorial election June 10, but he remained unclear on whether he would approve the restart of Japan’s largest nuclear power plant.
Hideyo Hanazumi, 60, former vice commandant of the Japan Coast Guard, defeated two other candidates, including Chikako Ikeda, 57, a former Niigata prefectural assemblywoman who was supported by five opposition parties.
The election was held to replace Ryuichi Yoneyama, 50, who resigned in April over a sex scandal.
Yoneyama had shown a cautious stance toward approving the resumption of operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in the prefecture.
In December 2017, the Nuclear Regulation Authority completed its major safety screenings of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant. That shifted the focus on whether the Niigata prefectural government and the two municipal governments of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa would give their consent to bring the reactors online.
However, Yoneyama said he first wanted to find the cause of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Hanazumi, who also received support from Komeito, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, took a cautious stance on the reactor restarts during the campaign.
When his victory became certain on the night of June 10, Hanazumi said: “I will firmly maintain the (prefectural government’s) work (of looking into the cause of the Fukushima accident). Based on the results of the work, I will make a judgment as the leader (of Niigata Prefecture).”
He also referred to the possibility of holding another election when he decides on whether to approve the reactor restarts.
Hanazumi, who was vice governor of Niigata Prefecture from 2013 to 2015, garnered 546,670 votes, compared with 509,568 for Ikeda, who was backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Democratic Party for the People, the Japanese Communist Party, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party.
Another candidate, Satoshi Annaka, 40, a former Gosen city assemblyman, received 45,628 ballots.
Voter turnout was 58.25 percent, up 5.2 points from 53.05 percent in the previous gubernatorial election held in 2016.
During the campaign, Hanazumi kept a distance from the Abe administration and the LDP as criticism mounted against the prime minister over scandals related to school operators Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution.
Ikeda had also pledged to take over Yoneyama’s work concerning the Fukushima disaster, and she blasted the Abe administration for its pro-nuclear stance.
However, she was unable to effectively differentiate herself from Hanazumi over the restarts at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
In Tokyo, LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai told reporters that Hanazumi’s victory is good news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempt to seek a third term in the LDP presidential election in autumn.
“It’s certain that favorable winds have begun blowing,” Nikai said.

Nuclear issue again takes center stage in Niigata election

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The three independent candidates for Niigata governor are, from left: Chikako Ikeda, Hideyo Hanazumi and Satoshi Annaka.
 
May 25, 2018
NIIGATA–The election for a new governor of Niigata Prefecture was triggered by a sex scandal, but the key issue facing voters is where the candidates stand on restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, one of the world’s biggest nuclear facilities.
Campaigning officially kicked off May 24.
The outcome of the June 10 vote could have a bearing on the Abe administration’s moves to bring more nuclear plants back online.
Although the candidates are running as independents, two are supported by political parties.
In early speeches, they all outlined their position on the nuclear plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., but residents are calling on them to be less cautious and state where they truly stand.
“Many people are still suffering (because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster), and there are still many people living as evacuees,” said a female resident, 66. “Some kids have even been bullied. So I really want the candidates to state clearly that Niigata doesn’t need a nuclear plant anymore.”
On the other hand, a 70-year-old female resident argued that local people “cannot flatly oppose the restart of the nuclear plant because of the impact it will have on economy.”
For this reason, she said, “I cannot easily say I am against it.”
The election is expected to come down to a battle between Hideyo Hanazumi, 60, a former vice commandant of the Japan Coast Guard, and Chikako Ikeda, 57, a former member of the prefectural assembly.
Hanazumi is supported by the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, while Ikeda is backed by five opposition parties.
The other candidate is Satoshi Annaka, 40, a former member of the Gosen municipal assembly.
The election was triggered by the April resignation of Ryuichi Yoneyama after he admitted to paying women for sexual favors.
Yoneyama, 50, had taken a cautious stance on restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex.
Hanazumi declared that he would take over an investigation started by Yoneyama to understand the fundamental cause of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 2011, and reach his decision on the issue when the investigation ends in several years.
Ikeda stressed the significance of reviewing the Fukushima nuclear disaster, stating that continuing with the investigation is “the most basic of basics.”
She said the matter must be pursued rigorously.
Ikeda added that she would make a final decision on the restart issue after careful discussions with residents and other parties.
“I will seek a zero-nuclear Niigata Prefecture,” she said.

7 Years On, 40 Pct of Fukushima Evacuees to Niigata Have No Plans to Return

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March 12, 2018
Niigata (Jiji Press)–Nearly 40 pct of evacuees from nuclear accident-hit Fukushima Prefecture to Niigata Prefecture have no plans to return to Fukushima, a Niigata government survey has shown.
 
According to the survey, 39.7 pct of respondents, including those who initially came to Niigata but moved out of the central Japan prefecture later, do not plan to return to Fukushima, home to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
 
Including respondents unable to decide as yet whether or not to return, the proportion of evacuees who are not eager to go back home reached some 70 pct.
 
As reasons, worries about residual radiation’s health effects were cited by 60.6 pct, followed by concerns about children’s future and difficulties in finding jobs.
 
The survey results illustrate how it is difficult to rebuild people’s lives in nuclear disaster-hit areas, pundits said.
 

Local gov’ts of areas hosting nuke plant in Niigata Pref. divided over reactivation

In the meantime, if the reactivation of the atomic power station is to be delayed, there is a possibility that the national government’s grants to the host municipalities will be reduced.
That’s how it works…
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Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, left, talks with Masaya Kitta, second from right, head of TEPCO Niigata regional headquarters, at the Niigata Prefectural Government building on Dec. 27, 2017
NIIGATA — There are no prospects that two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, which have passed a safety review by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), will be restarted in the foreseeable future, as local bodies hosting the plant remain divided over the issue.
The mayors of the city of Kashiwazaki and the village of Kariwa, which jointly host the power station, are in favor of reactivating the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO).
Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama, on the other hand, remains cautious about the resumption of the units’ operations.
Gov. Yoneyama told Masaya Kitta, head of TEPCO’s Niigata regional headquarters who visited the governor on Dec. 27 that the prefectural government cannot agree on the early reactivation of the plant.
“I have no intention of objecting to the decision by the NRA, but our position is that we can’t start talks on reactivation unless our examination of three-point checks progresses,” Yoneyama told Kitta. The governor was referring to his policy of not sitting at the negotiation table over reactivation unless three points are examined by the prefectural government: the cause of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, potential effects on people’s livelihoods as well as health in case of an accident, and safe evacuation measures. He has stated that it would take two to three years to complete the checks of these points.
The governor also told Kitta, “Our examination will never be affected” by the NRA’s judgment that the plant meets the new safety standards. Moreover, the prefectural government is poised to independently examine the outcome of the NRA’s safety review of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station.
Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai and Kariwa Mayor Hiroo Shinada were separately briefed by plant manager Chikashi Shitara on the outcome of the NRA safety review of the facility.
Both mayors have expressed their appreciation for TEPCO’s response up to this point, and Sakurai urged the power company to “make efforts to reassure local residents (about the nuclear plant),” while Shinada urged the utility to “try to provide information in an appropriate manner.”
In the meantime, if the reactivation of the atomic power station is to be delayed, there is a possibility that the national government’s grants to the host municipalities will be reduced.
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is continuing to provide such grants to local bodies hosting idled nuclear plants by deeming them to be running plants in some form. In April 2016, the national government revised its rules on grants to nuclear plant host municipalities and decided to reduce the amount of funding if the facilities are not restarted within nine months after the completion of the NRA’s safety review, which is necessary for reactivation.
The No. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant need to pass two more inspections within a year. If it takes several years to form a consensus among the local governments concerned, however, grants will be reduced in fiscal 2020 at the earliest. The amounts of reductions are estimated at some 400 million yen for Kariwa, about 100 million yen for Kashiwazaki and approximately 740 million yen for Niigata Prefecture.

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