The Nuclear National Family : The Fukushima disaster exposed fissures in Japanese society that its familial politics tries to paper over

63rages-social

 

In the history of nuclear disaster, Fukushima stands out in its singularity. There, two kinds of disasters were intermixed: the earthquake/tsunami, and the nuclear explosion. On March 11, 2011, nature and civilization collapsed in the worst imaginable manner. The first catastrophe was tragic enough—with 15,894 deaths, 6,152 heavy injuries, and 2,561 missing persons (as of March 2016). Then came the radioactive contamination. If it had been just the so-called natural disaster, it might have been possible for us to materialize a paradise built in hell or mutual aid society amid the zone of devastation, hand in hand with its natural resilience. But the second disaster instantaneously deprived us of all power to intervene in the radioactive terrain.

This is a new challenge not only for anti-nuke discourses and movements but also anarchism or anti-authoritarian politics in a broad sense. Interviews with Mari, a Japanese feminist, anti-capitalist activist, and writer, can attest to that. When I first interviewed her, on June 12, 2011, three months after the disaster, an anarchic sensibility was dramatically in evidence. The complexity of people’s emotions—grief (over the losses), fear (of the coming devastation), panic (due to uninformed dread), rage (against nuclear capitalism and the state), and even joy (tied to the possibility of a regime change)—generated an affective power that fueled a wide range of grassroots organizing, from everyday struggles such as do-it-ourselves radiation monitoring and voluntary evacuation, to all sorts of anti-nuke actions, including legal actions against Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government.

In the second interview, which took place on July 1, 2016, Mari explains what happened to the affective climate during the time in between. The complexity of the emotions, once collectivized in an ensemble, could have been the strongest weapon for organizing a resistance movement, but by the time of our second interview, they had been overshadowed by the nationalist empathy for the industrial and commercial reconstruction of Fukushima. This is largely due to the conformism that has long dominated Japanese society, wherein the nation is assumed to be a big family ruled by the emperor, to which family, township, municipality, and civil society are deemed subunits. Even the annual Hiroshima commemoration is not totally free from nationalism.

Yet Mari believes that the magnitude of people’s sufferings post-Fukushima sustains the potential of affective politics to decompose this nationalist empathy. To achieve that, however, the struggles must shift their perspective: from shortsighted political goals to aims related to the enduring quality of radiation contamination, both temporally and spatially.

It has been five years since the disaster. How has the situation changed?

It has taken five years for the public to know how criminal the responses of the government have been. In part this has to do with the temporality of the nuclear disaster, which necessitates time for the victims and evacuees to settle in and reflect on their situations. Around 2013, the nuclear disaster was finally acknowledged as a “man-made disaster” by the government. Meanwhile, thanks to journalists’ tireless investigations, the fact was clarified that TEPCO had totally neglected measures to protect against the effects of a tsunami for over 10 to 12 years.

After the earthquake, a tsunami with a 15-meter wave hit the reactors. TEPCO was not unaware of such a possibility. It repeatedly ignored warnings by specialists. In fact, up until four days before the accident, the discussion concerning the need to take measures had gone back and forth between TEPCO and government agencies. The international code for nuclear policy states that it must be prepared for even a situation that may arise once in 10,000 years. TEPCO not only ignored it but also made special efforts to do away with it. Even after the accident, the government has subtly covered up the evasion. All in all, the people realize they have been consistently tricked and deceived by the authorities. It was some independent bloggers, journalists, lawyers, and reporters who strived to reveal all this. With the retrospective revelations, the victims were naturally infuriated. In this sense, the five years have been spent preparing evidence for lawsuits—about 40 cases with over 10,000 plaintiffs. So criminal actions, too, will follow. Although the legal fight has its limitations, this development requires attention.

All in all, the government has done nothing for or even harmed the disaster victims.

In the first place, the government refuses to count the number of—if I may use this term—the refugees. It has to do with its intention not to define who are refugees. The problem is that the category of those who are desperately migrating in fact and the legal category of refugees are not in sync. This is because the Japanese government, if it grasped the actual number, would not be able to deal with it unless it gave up “business as usual.” Therefore, it would rather underestimate the number by refusing to accept the reality. By paying attention only to the forced evacuees, it chooses to ignore the voluntary evacuees from Fukushima, not to mention those from Tokyo, and even treats them like “illegal immigrants.”

Meanwhile, radiation-related illnesses have been increasing, haven’t they?

Yes. Children’s thyroid cancer has evidently increased. Even the government acknowledges it, although adding a strange proviso that more cases may be discovered because of its obsession to nitpick. But we all know that at some point in the future, the government will be forced to admit the reality. So far, it has looked into the situation only in Fukushima but not in adjoining prefectures. So the people have been investigating the cases by themselves; for instance, in Kashiwa City in Chiba Prefecture, there are as many as 173 cases. In addition, leukemia among the nuclear workers has drastically increased. As someone has said, radiation is an ideal poison, because of the difficulty of proving causality in court.

My friends and I, both in and outside Japan, imagined that a radical change would come inevitably. But in five years, the situation is going in the opposite direction, toward the reinforcement of pronuclear and pro-rearmament nationalism. And yet the disaster continues—since March 11, the majority of people have become disaster victims in different ways and degrees. Not only in Fukushima but also Tokyo, an unprecedented number of residents have been and will be affected by radiation. The fact is made more and more invisible, however, buried by inattention. What do you think is creating this situation?

There are many factors on both personal and social levels. Those who live with dangerous contamination don’t want to think about, admit, and confront the fact, though they know it in their subconscious, because acknowledging it would force them to join along with a radical change in all existential dimensions. Reinforcing the denial is the sense of equilibrium that has been socially shared in the postwar period. Among the many things that have been said about catastrophe in the contemporary history of disaster, the most dreadful is the revelation that the seeds of the catastrophe had been embedded in the midst of the everyday life of the highly consumerist society; the possibilities of planetary catastrophe have been so deeply internalized in the high-consumerist and controlled society called Japan. And to say it in reverse, even a catastrophe of this magnitude is quickly absorbed into the everyday process of social reproduction.

When I visit Japan, walk around the city, and watch television, I am shocked by the normalness of consumer life as well as the images of joy in embracing it—of food, technology, culture, and tourism—co-existing with the radioactive contamination. That is to say, tragedy certainly co-exists in various respects. What is the status as well as the features of people’s emotional responses—rage, sorrow, dread, anxiety, and so on?

One thing I can say is this: There are certainly physical losses, such as health, home, family, subsistence, and so forth, but public discourses often emphasize the “loss of home” or “deprived community”—namely, the loss of what cannot be reduced to a monetary value. All in all, these expressions are saying that invisible things that are indispensable for constituting individuals—a place to live and act, mutual relations, and the ways and means of life—are largely destroyed.

What can one do when this happens? There are no formulas to deal with such situations. So people must continue to record what happens, how the situation changes, and how they feel about it. For instance, it took about 20 years for Michiko Ishimure to begin writing her magnum opus Paradise in the Sea of Sorrow, after her engagement with the Minamata mercury poisoning. The power of the novel, which involves real enunciations and events of the victims along with their movement, exists in her persistent documentation and commemoration of the everyday endless purgatory for oceanic lives, animals, children, farmers, fishers, and so on. Only by this strategy of persisting in the unbearable temporality can the events of even an absurdity that refuses interpretation spark resistance from time to time. The Fukushima nuclear disaster, too, is very much an event of temporality and feeling. And our strategy to confront it must be based on collective, persistent recording and memorializing.

In the entirety of social apparatuses, forces are in full gear to make us forget about and nullify all the events around the accident. The coming Tokyo Olympics 2020 is the symbolic machine for a nationwide obliviousness, but in the larger picture, the civilian use of nuclear power has always involved such effects from the outset. Nuclear accidents and the resulting illnesses involve a time lag that does not follow clean-cut regularity, from which oblivion effects are made to develop.

The nuclear disaster doesn’t have an end, and therefore healing by mourning is out of the question at this point. What unites us is rage, which is the basic weapon to organize ourselves to fight against nuclear capitalism and the state. But in the five years after, rage seems to have been replaced by counterparts—apathy and resignation—leading to passive onlooking rather than engagement. Mourning is solidly shared among the earthquake and tsunami victims, who have physically lost homes, families, and means of subsistence. Still, in this case, where the nuclear disaster immediately followed, another spatiotemporal dimension that is unthinkable for us was imposed, spreading like a social cancer and depriving us of any cathartic solution. In the second dimension, mourning is bracketed, because the effects of radioactive pollution are hard to prove as causes. We need time—until an undeniable number of clinical cases appear, probably after 10, 15, or 20 years, and nobody can then deny the effects as data—or the cathartic phase, which involves a full and massive attack against the nuclear regime, won’t come.

At this moment, the cancer patients along with their families focus more on cure than political action—that which can be organized based on a solid causal recognition. For that matter, the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still fighting for recognition even today, more than 70 years after the bombs. They are still suspended in devastation. All in all, for the struggles against nuclear power, the crux is how we manage to confront the unbearably long temporality, based on observations and recordings of the situational and sensual mutation. Therefore, at this moment in the struggle against radioactive pollution, sorrow and mourning seem to be futile.

What are you going to do from now on?

There are many things to be done. But I believe the basis for all projects is to patiently observe what is going on and listen to people’s voices. It seems to me that what is lacking is the will to see through the event: what it involves, where it leads, what are the effects to whom and what … Generally speaking, perspectives of social and political movements are too shortsighted.

After Fukushima, we saw a dramatic upsurge of the anti-nuke movement for two years. But after the Oi nuclear plant was restarted in spite of the mass direct action to blockade it, the movement quickly stagnated. The ultraconservative Abe administration came into power, realizing the reform of the U.S.– Japan security treaty toward Japan’s militarization. Thereafter it has been doing almost whatever it wants to do. No protest movements and no progressive politics have been able to stop it. Its policies are centered on a kind of shock doctrine and the politics of spectacle that constantly shift its ostensible focus in order to fade from our attention. To fight against this, we should not just respond to its moves but also construct multilayered strategies based on the non-spectacular developments of events—such as the increasing number of people getting sick or refugees having lives like fugitives—that are invisible in the media and incalculable in statistics.

Even before Fukushima, nuclear problems were always made to be obscure, as exemplified by the issues of nuclear workers and radioactive contamination. As analyzed in the inspiring book by Olga Kuchinskaya, The Politics of Invisibility, on the political situation after Chernobyl, nuclear politics is based on invisibility instead of open debate on scientific truth. In Japan, various safety standards have been set and reset after Fukushima, which have nothing to do with scientific consideration but are pure political decisions made tacitly for the benefit of nuclear industries.

How would you describe the situation people face in Japan after Fukushima?

A phrase from the book Voices From Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich speaks to it well:

Something occurred for which we do not yet have a conceptualization, or analogies or experience, something to which our vision and hearing, even our vocabulary, is not adapted. Our entire inner instrument is tuned to see, hear or touch. But none of that is possible. In order to comprehend this, humanity must go outside its own limits.

A new history of feeling has begun.

Ungraspability or spatiotemporal indeterminacy exists at the core of nuclear accidents and radioactive contamination. Radioactivity, which is invisible, omnipresent, and everlasting, has come to determine our future. In my adolescence, the so-called no-future thing was in fashion, yet it has now become reality. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, during Japan’s postwar period, an obsession with apocalyptic imagery—such as in Godzilla, Japan Sinks, and Akira—flourished in mass representation. But I think that to confront the post–Fukushima disaster situation, we need a much longer view: a planetary history. In this sense, I am interested in the recent debates on the Anthropocene.

Political discourses circulating around today’s Japan, including those of the sociopolitical movements, even feminism and anarchism, avoid dealing with the crux of the event. I would see an ultimate potency for emancipation if not healing not in these discourses but instead in the rumors and panics—the fundamental power to awe deriving from people’s dread and rage. This is to initiate our thoughts about what is really troubling or unsound. This is the only basis for resisting the status quo, which is constantly seeking to absorb the endlessly expanding accident. As Yu-Fu Tuan stresses in his Landscape of Fear, a community that has lost the power to fear will perish.

Meanwhile, as evident with the so-called anarchists in today’s Japan, claiming to be an anarchist and confronting a life in anarchy are two different things. Those who grasp people’s autonomous actions after the disaster as anarchy and go along with them anarchistically are limited. According to my observation, I can see anarchist practice in those who have been actively engaged in people’s autonomous projects to deal with irradiation rather than those who have organized a large-scale anti-nuke movement.

I myself am a feminist, but when I see those who take care of the health of their families—or more straightforwardly, “mothers”—struggling so radically, I feel embarrassed to think in the name of feminism. Those people who live the anarchic situation don’t know the -isms such as anarchism, Marxism, and feminism.

I see that in the exploitation of these existences, there exists the political core of the Fukushima dilemma. If so, it is necessary to discover the moment in which to transversally connect these modes and practices of existence. Would that be possible? Is patiently recording and observing radiation and illnesses—or a certain strategy of information and collective intelligence—helpful for that?

That has to be done, but we don’t know how to do that precisely yet. But the problem is that the discursive realm on the Fukushima disaster, including journalism, media, and academia, has proved futile in terms of dealing with the invisible exploitation of these existences. It is a sine qua non to break out of the form of conventional method and thought to tackle the problematic and then share the results widely. This incapacity has revealed the institutional limit of discourses. People point out the power of what’s commonly called the “nuclear village,” the network of pronuclear authorities, stretching out in the central and local governments, bureaucracy, companies, industries, academia, and media, which constantly discredits and incapacitates the spreading and exchange of critical information. But according to my observation, a village-like network where all anomalies are immediately silenced or ejected entraps all realms of political and intellectual practice in Japan even before the conspiratorial operations of the nuclear village.

I value the work of some independent bloggers, researchers, and journalists who dedicate themselves to analyzing what is happening. But I feel the need of more collaborative efforts toward building a collective intelligence and information-sharing network to fight against the pronuclear status quo. It is necessary to analyze the present situation, involving the incapacitated sociopolitical movements and the complexity of sovereign power. We need, to repeat, patient observation and sharp analysis. If we can share them, we can rise up for rebellion, together with nuclear workers and care workers. Trusting the potency of the people and sharing information and analysis would be the best means of organizing. It goes without saying that demonstrating and campaigning for election are far from enough. What’s necessary is less about stronger protests than a rebellion on wider, existential dimensions.

For a year or two after 3/11, the majority experienced the state of anarchy with fissures running across the social space and everyday life. People were enraged, feeling ferocious, with a desperate need to exert justice. The defeat of the movement was due to the organizers who could not tolerate the state of anarchy beyond their control. They could not deal with people’s power to live, grudge, rage, and panic. They sought to direct the mass impetus toward a well-mannered organization, a civil institution, with enlightened attitudes on politics and science. This was responsible for the stagnation today.

Now it is evident that the waste from the melted core of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors cannot be removed. This has long been known, but now it is being revealed bit by bit by the authority. But the people don’t seem to be infuriated any longer. “Oh, we had known it”—this sense of déjà connu seems to prevail among the public. This is the scariest thing. This is precisely the extension of the mechanism inherent in nuclear power that Günther Anders (1902–92), a German philosopher and antinuke activist, pointed out in terms of “apocalyptic blindness” [Apocalypse-Blindheit]. So it is necessary for us to be shocked, to fear anew. My hope is then to be enraged together—more than ever.

https://thenewinquiry.com/the-nuclear-national-family/

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Learning from Fukushima

9781760461393-b-thumb-fukushima

 

Edited by:

ISBN (print): 9781760461393

ISBN (online): 9781760461409

Publication date: September 2017

Imprint: ANU Press

DOI: 

http://dx.doi.org/10.22459/LF.09.2017

Disciplines:

Learning from Fukushima began as a project to respond in a helpful way to the March 2011 triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown) in north-eastern Japan. It evolved into a collaborative and comprehensive investigation of whether nuclear power was a realistic energy option for East Asia, especially for the 10 member-countries of ASEAN, none of which currently has an operational nuclear power plant. We address all the questions that a country must ask in considering the possibility of nuclear power, including cost of construction, staffing, regulation and liability, decommissioning, disposal of nuclear waste, and the impact on climate change. The authors are physicists, engineers, biologists, a public health physician, and international relations specialists. Each author presents the results of their work.

http://press.anu.edu.au/publications/learning-fukushima

Download for free : http://press.anu.edu.au/node/3873/download

AIPRI Reports on 257 Tons of Corium and 180 Million Curies of Deadly Heavy Metal Poison and Radiation Released From Fukushima

From December 2011, reposting it today so that people won’t think that the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is behind us.

After 280 days of decaying, the 257 tons of lost corium from three of Fukushima’s reactors, which one assumes to have a burn rate of 14GWJ/t (14 kg fissioned per tonne), have produced a probable level of radioactivity of 180.37 million Curies, or 6.674E18 Becquerels (6673.6 PBq). […]

92.17% of this radioactivity is being emitted by fission products, and constitutes 28.07% of overall radiotoxicity. 7.83% of this radioactivity is made by activation products, and constitutes 71.93% of overall radiotoxicity. That is to say that here the radiotoxicity, which according to the eminently official ICRP’s dose factors equals 73.47 Billion potential lethal doses via inhalation and 15.53 Billion lethal doses via ingestion, results chiefly from the activation products, which by and large are alpha emitters.

On the other hand, the radioactivity in this case is produced primarily by fission products, which most often are beta (β− ) emitters. At the end of these 280 days of decaying, the radiation arises primarily from the following elements: Strontium 89 at 2.265%, Strontium 90 at 4.713%, Yttrium 90 at 4.713%, Yttrium 91 at 4.852%, …

…Yttrium 91 at 4.852%, Zirconium 95 at 8.067%, Ruthenium 106 at 9.297%, Caesium 134 at 4.737%, Cesium 137 at 6.209%, Barium 137 at 6.209%, Cerium 144 at 23.744%, Promethium 147 at 13.728%, Plutonium 241 at 5.505%, Cobalt 60 at 1.410%.

Consistent with the rate of decay of these 280 days, in 15 years the fuel will have lost 80.20% of its radioactivity, bringing it to 35.71 Curies – but its long-lived toxicity will be elevated by 13.35%, contrarily, to 83.28 Billion lethal doses. Without question, the overall radioactivity falls but the persistent radiotoxicity increases until 60 years or so later, it commences to decline ever-so slowly after 350 years! (This irrefutable augmentation of toxicity over time is largely due to the increase of Americium-241 – alpha – a daughter product far more toxic than its beta-emitting parent, Plutonium-241. Ultimately, it will take around 350 years for the radiotoxicity to return to its original level…”

 http://www.aipri.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/la-radioactivite-des-3-corium-de.html

The comic strip journalist who reports on the fallout from Fukushima

On the eve of his appearance at a Victoria University event in Wellington, comic book author Fumio Obata talks to Guy Somerset about his ongoing project chronicling the aftermath of the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear disaster.

At art school, Fumio Obata was taught the importance of “the theme, having something of your own, something only you can do”. The theme that has preoccupied Obata for the past five years is one he has truly made his own. He has been chronicling, through striking comic book reportage, the devastating consequences of the magnitude 9.1 earthquake that struck off the northeast Pacific coast of Japan in March 2011, causing a tsunami and meltdowns and radioactive contamination at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Published in Italian magazine Internazionale and on his website, Obata’s comic strips capture the long-term effects of Fukushima and explore some of the knotty social, political and environmental issues raised by the disaster and its aftermath. The strips are destined to become his second book, his first being 2014’s internationally successful graphic novel Just So Happens, for which The Observer reviewer Rachel Cooke praised his “crazily accomplished” storytelling and described him as “a talent to watch”.

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Reviews like that – and there were plenty more where it came from – can bring a writer a lot of opportunities and Obata was no exception, but he laughs: “I haven’t used them very well. Terrible, isn’t it? The good guys who had their debuts the same time as me, they are already on to their third or fourth book. Whereas me, I’m just caught up in this massive theme. Strategy-wise, I’m not very good!”

Obata is at Victoria University of Wellington this week as a visiting scholar in its School of Design. While he’s there, he’s taking part in a four-day international symposium on cultural sustainability, including a free public event with fellow writers Australian Ellen van Neerven and New Zealander Pip Adam.

His trip from the UK, where he has lived since 1991, when his Anglophile parents sent him to boarding school there from Japan, was broken with a stop-off in Tokyo and more reporting from the region around Fukushima, where 19,416 people died as a result of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. There are still 2553 people listed as missing and 123,000 evacuees scattered around the country.

A YouTube video on Obata’s website gives a sense of what such reporting can entail. In it, dressed in a white protective suit, he walks through an eerily desolate ghost town that is about two kilometres from Fukushima and part of the designated exclusion zone.

 

If you become friends with a resident, they have a pass and you can go there with them,” he says. He and his friend wore protective suits, but clear-up and other workers don’t. “They don’t become ill. They say it is fine. Even in the exclusion zone, it’s not all equally radioactive. Because particles are not going to be evenly dispersed. When you walk around with the Geiger counter, you notice that sometimes the figure is very low, then you go several feet away from that spot and the figure jumps up. Even outside the exclusion zone, if you go to the bits closest to the zone you find the figures are very high.”

Obata’s reporting, which he describes as “a kind of journalism, but I’m more doing my philosophical take on it”, begins with him taking photographs and recording interviews.

Because I’m trying to structure a narrative, usually it’s the words I start with. I listen to the interviews I did and write down as much as I can. Then I take out the key words, the phrases I think are important, simplifying it. It’s very important simplifying the information. Because what I’m making is a comic strip. It’s not an article, which allows you to have I don’t know how many words: 2000, 3000. I need the space for pictures so I can’t have 3000 words.

After that, I look at the photographs. Again, I may have about 200 photographs. I have to go through them and use about 10 out of 200. Those photographs are going to be my visual sources. Then I start sketching. All those sketches and rough pictures, they are like pieces of the puzzle. I’ve got a dozen pieces of puzzle with words and phrases and I’ve got the other side of the puzzle with the photographs, and I basically put them together.”

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One of the most affecting stories Obata tells is that of Norio Kimura, whose father, wife and seven-year-old youngest daughter Yūna were lost in the tsunami. While the bodies of his father and wife were found in April 2011, Yūna’s remained missing. After the official search for her ended, Kimura continued looking, taking 1000km round trips to do so. After five years and nine months, a piece of bone was discovered that DNA testing proved was one of Yūna’s.

Yūna was torn apart into small pieces, taken away with contaminated debris, now stored around anonymously,” reads one of the story’s panels. “Had they done the search longer and more carefully from the start, she could have been found a lot earlier, with her body almost intact too.”

The story ends with a panel reading: “A child has been left out alone in the shadow of the reconstruction. And her presence now poses a lot of questions to us.”

This is emotionally momentous material, very different to some of Obata’s other work, be it his 2004 anime of Duran Duran’s song Careless Memories for their then stage show or the short comic about the art of pencil sharpening you’ll find on his website.

Getting it right must weigh upon him, one imagines: these are hugely significant events and he’s almost certainly the only person who’s going to approach them in this form.

Yeah, big pressure,” he says. “It’s very difficult to do. I appreciate people allow me to talk to them. Some say no, of course. I’ve heard tragic stories but they’ve asked me not to write about it. It’s interesting because they wanted to share that with somebody, somebody who’s not shared the same experience they have.

The father I met is very vocal because he’s angry. He’s just full of anger. He’s trying to change something about the law, for the love of his daughter. It’s very moving. That’s why he basically opened up to me. His story is still developing and he’s still searching for the remains of his daughter.”

Another panel in the same story is of a city skyline at night and reads: “The nuclear plant was built to provide electricity to the capital region. By knowing Fukushima today, Tokyo could look arrogant, with all the excess of lights and luxury.”

It’s a point elegantly distilled – even poetically so.

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But Obata is not one to cast simplistic blame. “It is something I have to tell people, especially my students [at the University of Gloucester and other universities around the UK where he teaches as a guest lecturer] when they try to do something about the world. They are angry young men, angry young people, but there are layers to things. There’s no right or wrong; the people are goodies and the people are baddies as well.

When a tragedy happens, we tend to think there’s a victim and there’s an offender. There’s going to be people who get accused and there are victims who get all the sympathy from the public. But sometimes it’s not like that. Sometimes you can’t make things black and white.

What’s happening with nuclear is one of these things. If you start reading just a short history of the nuclear industry, or nuclear technology, you see a lot of people believe in the technology and I can’t blame them, because I can’t prove them wrong. They get accused and the people who accuse them have right things to say and I can’t blame them either.

So basically there are no answers to it and it’s very uncomfortable for the human mind not to have answers. You need a bit of patience and courage to accept that. This is one of the things I am going to say at the end, I think: it’s difficult to accept an open ending but you’ve got to have the courage.”

As for Tokyo: “The consumption of energy really helped to establish today’s Japan’s reputation. And I’m part of it. I can’t really criticise it. I just have to take in the contradiction and try to respond.”

Responding to this and the other contradictions he’s encountered in the past five years still has a way to run for Obata. Asked if he’s going to make the 2018 publication date his website gives for his book, he laughs: “Nah, of course not. I just have to put a lot of energy into it and hope the pictures can deliver the intensity of what I’ve seen.”

https://thespinoff.co.nz/media/09-08-2017/the-comic-strip-journalist-who-reports-on-the-fallout-from-fukushima/

Fukushima Insoluble Radioactive Particles (part 3)

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We are presenting here a transcription of an NHK TV documentary (note1) on insoluble radioactive particles found in Fukushima and in the Tokyo metropolitan region. This is the 3rd part of the 3 parts.

Her is the 1st part : https://fukushima311voices.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/insoluble-radioactive-particles-part-1/

Here is the 2nd part : https://fukushima311voices.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/insoluble-radioactive-particles-part-2/

 

As you can see below, small insoluble radioactive particles are dispersed in the Tokyo metropolitan area. We believe that this represents serious health problems for the population in terms of internal irradiation, since the insoluble radioactive particles remain in the body for a long time. For anybody who would stay in this metropolitan area, further radioprotection against internal irradiation would be required.

 

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Takeda: I will ask Yuichi Moriguchi, who is carrying out investigations on radio-contamination caused by the accident, including the insoluble radioactive particles, how many of such insoluble radioactive particles exist and in what range of area?

Moriguchi: There are many different sizes of particles, but relatively large particles have been found only near the nuclear power plant. On the other hand, we know that the smaller particles were transported far by the wind and reached the Kanto region.

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Kamakura: Please see here for the details.
Mr. Moriguchi and his colleagues have divided the insoluble radioactive particles into two major types.  They are called type A and type B.
Those of type A are comparatively small with a size of 10 micrometers or less. A lot of them are spherical. What is called a cesium ball is of this type. Since they are small in size, these particles are likely to reach the lungs by breathing.
On the other hand, those of the type B are comparatively large, by more than several tens of micrometers, and most of them are of distorted shape. Because the particle is large, it is not possible to enter the lungs, but it may adhere to the skin and mucous membranes.

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Kamakura: Please see here for the details.
Mr. Moriguchi and his colleagues have divided the insoluble radioactive particles into two major types.  They are called type A and type B.
Those of type A are comparatively small with a size of 10 micrometers or less. A lot of them are spherical. What is called a cesium ball is of this type. Since they are small in size, these particles are likely to reach the lungs by breathing.
On the other hand, those of the type B are comparatively large, by more than several tens of micrometers, and most of them are of distorted shape. Because the particle is large, it is not possible to enter the lungs, but it may adhere to the skin and mucous membranes.

The areas where each type are scattered are gradually coming to be known.
A relatively large, heavy type B particle has been found within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. On the other hand, small light type A particles are found in the Kanto region.

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According to the simulation in the paper published by the meteorological laboratory, the type A particles were diffused like this by the wind on March 14-15 immediately after the accident.

Takeda: Smaller type A particles flew to the Kanto region immediately after the accident. Could you explain more?

Moriguchi: This is exactly what we are researching right now. The other day I presented a paper at an Academic society. We knew that radioactive materials had reached the Kanto area on March 15, but we found that there were insoluble radioactive particles among them. We are trying to clarify right now as to why they arrived there. We are coming to know gradually that the radioactive materials are likely to have been discharged at a certain time.

Takeda: Just for confirmation: these are the ones that flew in the period between March 14 and 15?

Moriguchi: Yes, that’s right.

Takeda: Do you have any estimation of the amount that has been transported in the wind?

Moriguchi: As a whole, I still don’t know how much has been scattered, but as for what flew to the Kanto area on March 15, we have the result of another research group, according to which 80% to 90% of the radioactive materials are composed of this insoluble type A particle. I think that it’s necessary to evaluate the influence carefully because it has reached a considerably large area from Fukushima Prefecture to the Kanto region.

Takeda: Mr. Kai, what is your opinion of the health effect of the A type?

Kai: In the case of radiation, there are external and internal radiation effects. According to the report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), the influence of external radiation is larger. Therefore, although it is necessary to review the effects of internal radiation due to the discovery of such insoluble particles, the over-all effects including external radiation do not change much, even when the effects of internal radiation have changed. However, the evaluation of internal radiation needs to be reviewed properly in any case.

Takeda: The UNSCEAR has evaluated that there is no health impact due to the amount of radiation in the metropolitan area. Is there a possibility that this evaluation is reversed?

Kai: In that sense, the influence of the internal radiation exposure will change, but I do not think that their evaluation will be revised, because it is assumed that the influence of external exposure is larger.

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Kamakura: On the other hand, there are people who had been evacuated and recently returned to the vicinity of the nuclear power plant.
What are the reactions of the local governments about this insoluble radioactive particle?
For example, the environmental policy section of Okuma town says: “No special measures have been taken, but when people enter a difficult-to-return area, we tell them to wear a protective suit and a mask, and to be careful not to blow up the dust when cleaning the room.”
As you can see, all municipalities are basically dealing with the protective measures that have been carried out so far such as avoiding adhesion to the body and inhaling radioactive materials.

Takeda: Mr. Moriguchi, the evacuation orders have been lifted near the nuclear power plant, and some people have started to return. What are the points to be careful about?

Moriguchi: The decontamination work is done, and the evacuation orders are lifted because the radiation dose has dropped, but the fact is that the decontamination work was carried out only outdoors. Moreover, even in places where the radiation dose is comparatively low, there are areas where such radioactive particles entered residential rooms immediately after the accident. Therefore, I think it is necessary to take the radioprotection seriously.

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Takeda: There is another problem that researchers are concerned about in the issue of  insoluble radioactive particles. It is a problem called “re-scattering”, that is to say, particles are re-raised and scatted from the areas where decontamination has not been done, including the site of the nuclear power plant. In fact, a case of re-scattering was already observed in the past.
On August 19, 2013, at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, following the decommissioning plan, the debris removal work was on the way at the reactor #3. But… the radiation dose increased on the premises. The workers’ body pollution occurred.

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At this time, Kyoto University’s research group observed an increase in atmospheric radioactive materials at a point about 26 kilometers away from the nuclear power plant. In addition, insoluble radioactive particles were collected at observation facilities between the nuclear power plant and the Kyoto University observation point.

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The research group at Kyoto University simulated the scattering of radioactive particles based on the weather data of the day.  As a result, it was learned that the particles that had been lifted in the debris removal work had scattered over a wide range and reached the observation point.

Takeda: What is your point of view about the health effect of this re-scattering?

Kai: I think that the dose is relatively small, but it is important to take the measurements properly and keep watching. I think that it is especially important to pay attention to measurement results of the round the clock dust monitors installed in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant.

Takeda: How about you, Mr. Moriguchi? What do you think of the measures to take against the problem of re-scattering?

Moriguchi: About the re-scattering, if a big problem happens, most probably it will be in connection with the decommission work. So this is the first thing to be careful about.

Takeda: Another thing: what are the effects of insoluble radioactive particles on the agricultural crops?

Moriguchi: They are actually monitored rigorously. The monitoring in the atmosphere is done as well as the rigorous control of farm products. I think that it is important to diffuse the information thoroughly.

Takeda: You mean that we can trust the products which are put in the market?

Moriguchi: I think that the monitoring is done well.

Takeda: Mr. Moriguchi and Mr. Kai are continuing the research to find out the range of  the scattered particles, and also to evaluate the irradiation dose. They are hoping to have the results by the end of the fiscal year (the end of March).
Researchers are currently trying to clarify the risks of insoluble radioactive particles. And we are going to continue our investigations.
This may cause anguish to some people, but we think that it’s important to receive the information calmly for now.

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Note 1: Close-up Gendai, Genpatsu jiko kara 6 nen, Michi no hoshasei ryushi ni semaru (Approaching radioactive particles six years from nuclear accident) (diffusion: 2017 June 6)

https://fukushima311voices.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/insoluble-radioactive-particles-part-3/

 

Fukushima Insoluble Radioactive Particles (part 2)

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We are presenting here a transcription of an NHK TV documentary (note1) on insoluble radioactive particles found in Fukushima and in the Tokyo metropolitan region. This is the 2nd part of the 3 parts.

Here is the first part.

 

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Insoluble radioactive particles that do not dissolve in water.

This characteristic is supposed to make a big difference when considering health effects.

In the past, radioactive cesium emitted in the nuclear accident was thought to be carried away adhering to water-soluble particles called aerosols in the atmosphere. When it touches the water the particle melts and the cesium diffuses and gets diluted. The same is true when it is inhaled in the lungs; the water-soluble cesium melts into the body fluid and spreads thinly throughout the body. Then it is supposed to be discharged gradually by the metabolic activity, and decreases by half from 80 to 100 days in the case of adults.

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Insoluble radioactive particles, on the other hand, do not dissolve in body fluids. For example, if they adhere to the alveoli at the furthest areas of the lungs, it may take years to discharge. Even with the same amount of cesium, the dose of lung exposure is about 70 times higher than in the case of water-soluble cesium in the case of adults. As for the infants who are more radiosensitive, the dose of exposure is supposed to be approximately 180 times higher.

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In fact, this insoluble radioactive particle has not been identified in past nuclear accidents. Why was it emitted in the accident of the Fukushima nuclear power plant?

Yukihiko Sato, who is doing research on this particle, is focusing on the insulation material that contains glass components. It is used in parts such as piping in the nuclear power plant.

A special electron microscope is used to analyze the proportion of elements contained in the radioactive particles and in the insulation material.

The top is radioactive particles, and the bottom is the insulation material.

The proportion of elements, such as silicon and oxygen, which are the main components of glass, is well matched.

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From this, Mr. Sato thought about the scenario where the radioactive particle formed as follows:

Radioactive cesium was emitted from the melted nuclear fuel in the event of the accident. It first filled the reactor. Then, it leaked into the reactor containment building.

Cesium was absorbed in the insulation material in the building.

After that, a nuclear reactor building blew up by hydrogen explosion.

As the insulation material melts and becomes glass, cesium is taken in. And with the explosion, it became small particles as it dispersed in the blast.

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The radioactive particles found by Sato are in diameter from 0.5 to 500 micrometer. Their shapes vary from a smooth round one to a rugged one.

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Tatsuhiko Sato of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

He simulated the health effects of insoluble radioactive particles using a program to calculate the behavior of each ray. For the simulation, he used a particle of the size which enters the lung, and which is actually found. He compared the simulation of the insoluble radioactive particles remaining to adhere to the same spot on the surface of the organ, and that of the same amount of radioactive material adhered uniformly on the surface.

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In the case of uniform adhesion, even after 24 hours, blue and light blue areas are spread out indicating that the radiation dose is low.

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On the other hand, in the case of the particle, the dose near the spot increases locally and orange and red areas are expanding.

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Even with the same quantity of radioactive materials, the health effect may change.

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In fact, there are data of people who may have inhaled insoluble radioactive particles. This is a survey of TEPCO employees who had a large amount of exposure during the nuclear accident.

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The amount of the radioactive materials in the body is examined regularly, and the graph in red shows that the value of the vicinity of the chest is comparatively high. While the radioactive cesium that had spread throughout the body decreased over time, only around the chest the speed to decrease was slow. The inhaled insoluble radioactive particles are suspected to remain in the lungs.

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However, researchers say that the amount is not significant enough to worry about the health effects, according to the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

Takeda: Mr. Michiaki Kai is a specialist in the radio-induced health damages and radioprotection.

If the insoluble radioactive particles stay in the body, the radiation dose may increase locally. And according to some experts, it is necessary to investigate the health effects. What is your opinion?

Kai: First of all, you know that the dose is a measure of health effects. However, when we compare the dose, you cannot compare the cases of smaller and larger exposures ranges. In general, the greater the exposures range, the greater the health impact is. In that sense, the larger the average dose of an organ or an entire system is, the greater the impact is. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the average organ dose even in the case of the insoluble particle. However, there is a possibility that the dose becomes high very locally, so it is important to evaluate it properly, since some people worry about it. This is why such an evaluation is carried out.

Takeda: The overall exposure more than local exposure is …

Kai: If it is the same dose, the impact on health is larger if the range of exposure is wider.

Takeda: You mean that the impact is larger, but it is also necessary to examine a local exposure.

Kai: I think that it is necessary to examine it properly.

(To be continued in the Part 3)

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Note 1: Close-up Gendai, Genpatsu jiko kara 6 nen, Michi no hoshasei ryushi ni semaru (Approaching radioactive particles six years from the nuclear accident) (diffusion: 2017 June 6)

https://fukushima311voices.wordpress.com/2017/07/14/insoluble-radioactive-particles-part-2/