Fukushima’s Radiation Will Poison Food “for Decades,” Study Finds

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Three of the six reactors at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi complex were wrecked in March 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami. The destruction of emergency electric generators caused a “station blackout” which halted cooling water intake and circulation. Super-heated, out-of-control uranium fuel in reactors 1, 2, and 3 then boiled off cooling water, and some 300 tons of fuel “melted” and burned through the reactors’ core vessels, gouging so deep into underground sections of the structure that to this day operators aren’t sure where it is. Several explosions in reactor buildings and uncovered fuel rods caused the spewing of huge quantities of radioactive materials to the atmosphere, and the worst radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean ever recorded. Fukushima amounts to Whole-Earth poisoning.

Now, researchers say, radioactive isotopes that were spread across Japan (and beyond) by the meltdowns will continue to contaminate the food supply for a very long time.

According to a new study that focused on “radiocaesium” — as the British call cesium-134 and cesium-137 — “food in japan will be contaminated by low-level radioactivity for decades.” The official university announcement of this study neglected to specify that Fukushima’s cesium will persist in the food chain for thirty decades. It takes 10 radioactive half-lives for cesium-137 to decay to barium, and its half-life is about 30 years, so C-137 stays in the environment for roughly 300 years.

The study’s authors, Professor Jim Smith, of the University of Portsmouth, southwest of London, and Dr. Keiko Tagami, from the Japanese National Institute of Radiological Sciences, report that cesium-caused “radiation doses in the average diet in the Fukushima region are very low and do not present a significant health risk now or in the future.”

This phraseology deliberately conveys a sense of security — but a false one. Asserting that low doses of radiation pose no “significant” health risk sounds reassuring, but an equally factual framing of precisely the same finding is that small amounts of cesium in food pose a slightly increased risk of causing cancer.

This fact was acknowledged by Prof. Smith in the June 14 University of Portsmouth media advisory that announced his food contamination study, which was published in Science of the Total Environment. Because of above-ground atom bomb testing, Prof. Smith said, “Radioactive elements such as caesium-137, strontium-90 and carbon-14 contaminated the global environment, potentially causing hundreds of thousands of unseen cancer deaths.”

No less an authority than the late John Gofman, MD, Ph.D., a co-discoverer of plutonium and Professor Emeritus of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, spent 50 years warning about the threat posed by low doses of radiation. In May 1999, Gofman wrote, “By any reasonable standard of biomedical proof, there is no safe dose, which means that just one decaying radioactive atom can produce permanent mutation in a cell’s genetic molecules. My own work showed this in 1990 for X rays, gamma rays, and beta particles.”

The Fukushima-borne cesium in Japan’s food supply, and in the food-web of the entire Pacific Ocean, emits both beta and gamma radiation. Unfortunately, it will bio-accumulate and bio-concentrate for 300 years, potentially causing, as Dr. Gofman if not Dr. Smith might say, hundreds of thousands of unseen cancer deaths.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/06/22/fukushimas-radiation-will-poison-food-for-decades-study-finds/

 

 

Trial of Three Key Tepco Executives Starting

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The trial of the three key Tepco executives in charge during the Fukushima disaster began this week. They are charged with criminal negligence, for not taking know safety measures to protect the plant against a large tsunami.
The trial
is finally taking place long after prosecutors in Tokyo refused to prosecute the case, thanks to a citizen group using a legal maneuver to force a case to be brought to trial.

The three key TEPCO executives are :
Tsunehisa Katsumata (ex-chairman)
Ichiro Takekuro (ex-vice president)
Sakae Muto (ex-vice president)

Resilience in Retrospect: Interpreting Fukushima’s Disappearing Consequences

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By John Downer

1. Introduction

The third anniversary of the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns occasioned a new round of US media scrutiny. Among the leitmotifs of this coverage was a story that pertained less to the disaster itself than to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) efforts to manage the public’s  perception of it. Particularly notable in this regard were a slew of internal NRC emails obtained  by NBC reporters via the Freedom of Information Act, which shone a light on the regulator’s response to the unfolding crisis. The emails suggest a systematic effort to obfuscate or downplay implications of the accident that might be detrimental to the nuclear industry’s credibility at home: a high-level decision to disavow prior NRC concerns about the seismic vulnerability of US plants, for instance, and a policy of ignoring questions about the potential effects of meltdowns on US soil.  NBC’s revelations could not have been surprising to most seasoned nuclear observers. As early as July 2011, the Wall Street Journal 

was reporting on private NRC emails suggesting that the industry and its regulators were actively hiding evidence that many US reactors were at risk from earthquakes that had not been anticipated in their design. At the same time in the UK, The Guardian published an archive of internal UK government emails that showed the nuclear industry working closely with civil servants to downplay the Fukushima accident and keep it from delaying proposed plants.

It is easy to see why US and UK nuclear regulators would be concerned by a disaster in Japan. The entire logic of Western nuclear policy, planning and legislation is premised on the idea that meltdowns like Fukushima’s are either: a) literally impossible, or b) so unlikely as to be beyond  political consideration. The US, for example, takes the latter approach. By invoking quantitative risk assessments, it formally categorizes meltdowns as ‘hypothetical’ events that are ‘theoretically possible’ but too improbable to warrant genuine policy consideration much like alien invasions or catastrophic meteorite-strikes. This determination then underpins almost all its discourse around nuclear power. It is implicated, for instance, in formal cost-benefit analyses, which ignore the possibility of accidents when weighing the economics of different energy options (e.g. OECD 2010). It is implicated in its emergency response planning, which is framed around small leaks rather than Fukushima-scale meltdowns. It is implicated in planning decisions, such as the in the ‘clustering’ of multiple reactors in single sites where the failure of one can imperil the others (as was the case in Japan). It is even evident in a substantial body of its social science research, which routinely treats ‘nuclear risk’ as an established property, to be contrasted, or reconciled, with public perceptions of that risk.

The understanding that meltdowns will not (or cannot) occur is so foundational to this discourse that the appearance of three reactor meltdowns in a single week (all at the Fukushima site) could have unequivocally upended the way industrial societies conceive and manage nuclear risks. The accident’s outsized dramas – which upstaged even the momentous earthquake and tsunami that instigated it – only seemed to confirm the intolerability of nuclear disasters, while simultaneously undermining assertions that such disasters were too improbable to merit consideration. Long-standing critics of nuclear power could hardly have looked for a clearer vindication of their fears. It would have been easy to imagine that that atomic energy would have little future post-2011.

For all this, however, the credibility of nuclear energy proved surprisingly resilient to Fukushima. Some nations retreated from reactors after the accident. Japan, for instance, was gripped by a groundswell of public opposition to atomic power, while Germany resolved to

abandon reactors entirely. In most instances, however, dreams of ‘nuclear renaissance’ lived on.

Prior to Fukushima, 547 reactors were either proposed, planned or under construction throughout the world; a year later, this number had increased to 558. In early 2012, the NRC issued approvals for four new reactors – the first since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Around the same time, Britain and France signed a formal agreement paving the way for a new generation of reactors in both countries. In these nations and more, the expert and public consensus on nuclear energy ‘escaped’ the touch of Fukushima, just as it escaped that of Windscale in 1957, Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and countless other brushes with disaster.

The durability of the nuclear industry’s credibility speaks to the flexibility of risk as a concept, and to the nature of the structures in which it is embedded. It was achieved, in large part, through the promulgation of narratives that framed the disaster in two ways:

i)By arguing that Fukushima was ‘exceptional’, and, as such, did not undermine reliability calculations proving that meltdowns should be beyond consideration. and/or…

ii)By arguing that Fukushima showed meltdowns were more ‘tolerable’ events than formal risk assessments had previously imagined (thereby implying that the reliability of reactors is less essential and inviolable).

These narratives – which internal correspondences, such as those released by NBC and The Guardian show being framed – were constructed and disseminated at the highest levels, shaping policy discourse and reverberating throughout the mainstream media. This chapter will discuss their logic and their consequences. Section 2, below, begins by briefly outlining and then critiquing the argument that Fukushima was ‘exceptional’. It argues that Fukushima reveals more significant and generalizable vulnerabilities than narratives of the disaster usually suggest. Section 3 is the heart of the chapter. In three parts – each focusing on different ways of construing the disaster Ñ it outlines and critiques the argument that Fukushima was ‘tolerable’.

The accident, it concludes, was more costly and alarming than publics are encouraged to believe. The concluding section of the chapter consists of two parts. The first asserts that it is reasonable to construe Fukushima’s public portrayal as a form of denial, and tackles the thorny question of agency. Drawing on two sociology literatures – ‘Agnotology’ and ‘Science and Technology Studies’ (STS) – it offers different perspectives on how and why narratives about Fukushima have come to be misleading, and considers their relative implications. The second and final part draws on the conclusions of the first to reflect on nuclear resilience. Outlining five ways in which protecting the credibility of nuclear experts from disasters undermines the practices that  protect people, it argues that the resilience of nuclear authority compromises the resilience of nuclear infrastructures.

To read more :

https://www.academia.edu/33274228/Resilience_in_Retrospect_Interpreting_Fukushimas_Disappearing_Consequences

Ex-Officials of Fukushima NPP Operator to Face Trial for 2011 Disaster in June

 

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, are to face trial next month for the March 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto are accused of failing to take appropriate safety measures despite having been able to foresee that the plant would be inundated by tsunami waves.
They have been charged with professional negligence resulting in death or injury.
In 2013, public prosecutors decided not to press charges against the 3.
But they were indicted in February last year by court-appointed lawyers, after a prosecution inquest panel of randomly selected citizens voted to do so.
Preparations for the trial are underway at the Tokyo District Court.
The 3 former executives are expected to plead not guilty at their first hearing on June 30th.
 


 

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Former executives of the TEPCO company, which operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) will come up for trial on June 30 for the 2011 nuclear disaster, local media reported on Wednesday
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — In February 2016, former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two ex-vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto were accused of failing to take necessary security measures in the face of potential tsunami-related incidents at the NPP.
According to the NHK broadcaster, the preparations for the first hearing is ongoing at the Tokyo District Court.
In March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit the Fukushima NPP and led to the leakage of radioactive materials and the shutdown of the facility. The accident is considered to be the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl accident that took place in the Soviet Ukraine in 1986.

Study: S. Korean nuclear disaster would hit Japan the hardest

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The projected spread of radioactive cesium-137 from a disaster at the No. 3 reactor’s spent fuel pool of the Kori nuclear plant in Busan, South Korea (Provided by Kang Jung-min)

A serious nuclear accident in South Korea could force the evacuation of more than 28 million people in Japan, compared with around 24 million in the home country of the disaster.

Japan would also be hit harder by radioactive fallout than South Korea in such a disaster, particularly if it occurred in winter, when strong westerly winds would blow radioactive substances across the Sea of Japan, according to a simulation by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based think tank.

The simulation, based on a scenario of an unfolding crisis at the Kori nuclear power plant in Busan, South Korea, was led by Kang Jung-min, a South Korean senior researcher of nuclear physics, and his colleagues.

At events in Japan and South Korea, Kang, 51, has repeatedly warned about East Asia’s vulnerability to a severe nuclear accident, saying the region shares the “same destiny” regardless of the location of such a disaster.

The Kori nuclear complex is home to seven of the country’s 25 commercial reactors, making it one of the largest in South Korea. Its oldest reactor–and the first in the country–went online in 1978.

Spent nuclear fuel at the Kori plant is cooled in on-site storage pools next to reactors.

But the operator of the plant has ended up storing spent fuel in more cramped conditions than in the past because waste keeps accumulating from the many years of operations.

An estimated 818 tons of spent fuel was being stored at the pool of the Kori No. 3 reactor as of the end of 2015, the most at any reactor in the country.

That is because the No. 3 pool has also been holding spent fuel from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors since their fuel pools became too crowded.

Storing spent fuel in such a manner greatly increases the risk of a nuclear accident, Kang warned.

Kang’s team simulated the series of likely events that would follow if the No. 3 reactor lost power in a natural disaster or an act of terrorism.

With no power, the spent fuel at the No. 3 reactor could not be cooled. The cooling water would evaporate, exposing the fuel rods to air, generating intensive heat and causing a fire.

Hydrogen gas would then fill up the fuel storage building, leading to an explosion that would result in the release of a large amount of vaporized cesium-137 from the spent fuel.

Assuming that the catastrophe occurred on Jan. 1, 2015, the researchers determined how highly radioactive cesium-137 would spread and fall to the ground based on the actual weather conditions over the following week, as well as the direction and velocity of winds.

To gauge the size of the area and population that would be forced to evacuate in such a disaster, the team took into account recommendations by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, a private entity, and other organizations.

The results showed that up to 67,000 square kilometers of land in Japan–or much of the western part of the country–would fall under the evacuation zone, displacing a maximum of 28.3 million people.

In South Korea, up to 54,000 square kilometers would need to be vacated, affecting up to 24.3 million people.

The simulation also found that 18.4 million Japanese and 19 million Koreans would remain displaced for even after 30 years, the half-life of cesium-137, in a worst-case scenario.

Radioactive materials from South Korea would also pollute North Korea and China, according to the study.

Nineteen reactors in South Korea are located in the coastal area facing the Sea of Japan, including those at the Kori nuclear power plant.

Kang said the public should be alerted to the dangers of highly toxic spent fuel, an inevitable byproduct of nuclear power generation.

One ton of spent fuel contains 100,000 curies of cesium-137, meaning that 20 tons of spent fuel would be enough to match the estimated 2 million curies of cesium-137 released in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

An average-size light-water reactor produces about 20 tons of spent fuel in one year of operation.

East Asia is home to one of the world’s largest congestions of nuclear facilities, Kang said.

Japan, China and South Korea, which have all promoted nuclear energy as state policy for decades, together host about 100 commercial reactors.

A number of nuclear-related facilities are also concentrated in North Korea, particularly in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang.

If a severe accident were to occur in China, the pollution would inevitably spill over to South Korea and then to Japan.

That is why people should take serious interest in not just their own country’s nuclear issues, but also in neighboring countries,” Kang said. “Japan, China and South Korea should cooperate with each other to ensure the safety and security of spent fuel and nuclear facilities.”

He said the risks of a fire would be reduced if spent fuel were placed at greater intervals in storage pools.

Ideally, spent fuel should be moved to sealed dry casks and cooled with air after it is cooled in a pool for about five years,” he said.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703300001.html

 

Fulfilling duties to Fukushima must top list in TEPCO reform

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A new plan has recently been worked out for rehabilitating Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), the embattled operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The plan is centered on a bold management reform for enhancing the utility’s earning capacity so it can cover the ballooning expenses related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, including the payment of damages and the cost of scrapping the hobbled nuclear reactors.

TEPCO obviously has the duty to fulfill its responsibility to the people and communities affected by the disaster. But the plan has set profit targets that are anything but easy to achieve, and some of the components of the plan appear unlikely to be realizable any time soon.

There is a need to continue reviewing the plan so it will not end up as simply pie in the sky.

TEPCO came under de facto government ownership after it could no longer keep operating on its own as a result of the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. The utility has since been paying damages and otherwise dealing with the aftermath of the disaster while receiving aid in various forms under government supervision.

It was learned late last year that post-disaster processing would cost twice as much as the previous estimate. The government worked out a framework, wherein about 16 trillion yen ($141 billion), out of the total expense of some 22 trillion yen, would be covered either by TEPCO or with profits from the sale of the government’s share in TEPCO.

The rehabilitation plan, which was revised in response thereto, envisages that TEPCO can come up with 500 billion yen in necessary expenses annually over the coming three decades. It also sets the goal of substantially increasing TEPCO’s profits.

Many questions linger, however.

A restart of the idled Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is expected to be the key instrument for TEPCO’s turnaround, is unlikely to be feasible any time soon. The governor of Niigata Prefecture and others are growing increasingly distrustful of TEPCO, as it recently came to light that the company had failed to inform the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority that one key building on the nuclear plant site is not sufficiently anti-seismic.

The first order of business is to take thorough safety measures. TEPCO should come up with ways for generating the necessary financial resources without relying on a restart of the nuclear plant.

The centerpiece of new measures for enhancing TEPCO’s earning capacity is a prospective reorganization of its operations along segment lines, such as in the field of power transmission and distribution and in nuclear power operations, which would also involve other utilities. That apparently came against the backdrop of the industry ministry’s hopes that TEPCO’s realignment will trigger a reform of the entire energy industry.

Other major electric utilities, however, are wary of the risk of having to play a part in TEPCO’s response to the nuclear disaster. It therefore remains uncertain whether the reorganization will actually take place as envisaged.

The framework for sharing the burdens of post-disaster processing, which the government has worked out as a precondition for the new plan, is in the first place ridden with problems.

The framework envisages that new entrants to the power supply market, who operate no nuclear reactors, will also have to pay part of the disaster response costs. Critics continue to argue such a plan is about passing the bill on to irrelevant parties.

The 4 trillion yen in radioactive cleanup fees are designated for being covered by profits on the sale of TEPCO shares. But that plan could fail unless TEPCO’s earnings were to expand and its share price were to grow significantly.

Using taxpayers’ money to fill the hole would then emerge as a realistic option.

TEPCO was allowed to stay afloat at the expense of taxpayers on the sole grounds that it bears heavy responsibility to the people and communities affected by the Fukushima disaster.

The government would have to take another step forward if TEPCO were unable to fulfill that responsibility. That would also fuel the argument for dismantling the embattled utility.

TEPCO is expected to soon make a fresh start under a reshuffled management. The utility and the government should not forget about the exacting eyes of the public.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705150018.html

As I See It: Six years later, no time for TEPCO personnel squabbles

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Former Hitachi Ltd. chairman Takashi Kawamura, left, who will take the post of the next chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., and Tomoaki Kobayakawa, who has been tapped to be the next TEPCO Holdings president, are pictured here in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on April 3, 2017.

Six years since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima nuclear plant, the utility still faces massive challenges. And yet, what I’ve come to see through my reporting is that efforts meant to help revitalize the company’s finances in order to secure the funds needed to bring the nuclear crisis under control and compensate victims, have been overshadowed by petty feuds over personnel appointments between executives dispatched by the central government — which effectively owns the company — and dyed-in-the-wool TEPCO employees. Rebuilding TEPCO will be impossible if such squabbles are not put to rest.

In March of this year, TEPCO announced an outline of its revitalization plans, with a restructuring of its nuclear power business as a central pillar, as well as a reshuffling of executive personnel. According to the announcement, chairman Fumio Sudo, 76, will be replaced by Takashi Kawamura, 77, the previous chairman at Hitachi Ltd., and president Naomi Hirose, 64, will be replaced by 53-year-old board director Tomoaki Kobayakawa.

After the nuclear crisis began in March 2011, TEPCO was effectively nationalized. The plan has been for TEPCO to increase its earning power by rebuilding its finances under the central government’s management, so that it could secure the funds necessary to decommission the reactors at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and compensate victims of the disaster.

With the nationalization of TEPCO, the government swept the utility clean of all its old executives and in addition to placing bureaucrats from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on the company’s board, in 2014 it put Sudo, formerly of major steel corporation JFE Holdings, in the position of TEPCO chairman. However, when Sudo, with the backing of the government, implemented cost-cutting measures, grumblings were heard within the company that Sudo was seeking too many results too fast and that staff evaluations were changing too dramatically. Sudo’s clashes with TEPCO president Hirose, who had worked up the ranks and was initially considered pro-reform, grew increasingly serious.

There was an incident in the spring of 2016 that could be considered a prelude to current conflicts. Sudo and METI, unhappy with the fact that Hirose would not cut his ties with former management, tried to re-appoint him to the post of deputy chairman. Hirose resisted and, according to multiple sources involved with TEPCO, was able to get the support of a former TEPCO executive who had close ties with the prime minister’s office. As a result, Hirose stayed in his post as company president, but his relationship with Sudo deteriorated beyond the point of repair. “It wasn’t uncommon for the two to criticize each other openly at management meetings,” a senior TEPCO official said.

At the end of 2016, METI announced that the amount of money necessary to deal with the nuclear crisis would be about 21.5 trillion yen, almost twice the amount of an earlier estimate. Because of the need to secure more funds, the government set up an expert panel, which then offered “recommendations” to TEPCO on how to rebuild its finances. When it was revealed that “the passing of authority down to the next generation” was one of the pieces of advice offered by the panel, industry insiders saw it as another government attempt at bringing Hirose down from his post, a source close to the case said.

Hirose is said to have resisted strongly to such renewed efforts. However, Sudo vowed that he would step down if Hirose did, forcing Hirose to bow to the pressure to resign. Some in the electric power industry have described the latest personnel reshuffle a “tie” in that both “camps” made concessions, but discontent is already spreading among career TEPCO employees. According to a senior TEPCO official, new executives, including Kobayakawa and the new president of a subsidiary company, are “all drinking buddies of outside board members who are former METI bureaucrats.”

TEPCO can’t afford to waste time on personnel feuds. In order to come up with the money needed to bring the troubled reactors under control, TEPCO must earn 500 billion yen per year for the next 30 years. The amount goes up further when taking into account the funds needed for capital investment. Meanwhile, TEPCO’s consolidated financial results for fiscal 2016 stood at just 258.6 billion yen in operating income.

TEPCO’s outline of its latest reorganization plan shows that it is aiming to raise earning power by realigning its various businesses, such as nuclear power, as well as the transmission and distribution of power, with other utilities. However, this plan is a carbon copy of the recommendations given by the government-established expert panel. Some long-time TEPCO employees have said the company only included the recommendation into its reorganization plan because the government has been on its back to do so, and that because other utilities will find no benefit to them in restructuring with TEPCO, the plan will never come to fruition. If people in the company remain this divided, TEPCO will never be able to follow through with rigorous reforms.

If TEPCO drops the ball on management reform and is unable to come up with the money it needs, it could lead to further burdens on the public in the form of higher electricity prices. TEPCO, under normal circumstances, would have gone under following the onset nuclear disaster. So if things go further south, not just the utility, but the central government, which allowed the utility to survive by pumping 1 trillion yen from national coffers into the company, will be held accountable.

Kawamura, who will be appointed TEPCO’s new chairman at the company’s general meeting of shareholders in late June, has the experience of having accomplished Hitachi’s v-shaped turnaround through fundamental management reforms. While his appointment was initiated by the government, many TEPCO employees welcome Kawamura’s pending appointment. The latest personnel change may be the last chance for TEPCO and the government to put its differences aside toward the goal of rebuilding the troubled power company.

Looking back at the latest personnel power struggle, a senior TEPCO official said, “I’m embarrassed when asked if any of the people involved (in the debacle) had ‘our responsibility toward Fukushima’ in mind.” The government and TEPCO must not forget its responsibility toward the victims of the nuclear disaster. If they focused on the fact that there are people out there whose peaceful lives in their beloved hometowns were taken away from them, they could refrain from feuds over personnel appointments. (By Daisuke Oka, Business News Department)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170512/p2a/00m/0na/014000c