Teaching about radiation after Fukushima

Figure-2-1024x768.jpgAn interactive model at the Decontamination Info Plaza in the city of Fukushima allows visitors to “decontaminate” a house and yard.

At the entrance to the Fukushima Prefectural Centre for Environmental Creation, a friendly hippopotamus-like mascot welcomes visitors while accepting hugs from children. Buzzing with young families, this government-sponsored scientific hub was created to explain the phenomenon of radiation to the population of Fukushima, the victims of the eponymous 2011 nuclear disaster.
 
Inside the main annex, an interactive model explains how external radiation exposure can be lowered. Visitors are encouraged to increase their distance from a radiation-emitting device while making use of shielding, thereby lowering their overall exposure. In another corner, children are learning about the radioactive isotopes released during the disaster, although representations of these perils are anything but threatening. Using posters and comic books, radionuclides such as plutonium‑239 and cesium‑137 are represented as adorable anthropomorphic figures. Each radionuclide has its own characteristics, such as pronounced eyebrows or a distinctive hairstyle. There is no discussion about how exposure to these radionuclides can cause serious bodily harm—an increased risk of cancer, for example.
 
In the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdowns, which triggered a released of radioactive pollutants, the Japanese state initially decided to increase the mandatory evacuation trigger from 1 millisievert of radiation exposure per year to 20 millisieverts per year. In other words, the public was forced to accept a new threshold of safety. While this policy caused much scientific and public controversy, 20 millisieverts per year remains the benchmark for what is considered safe in Fukushima. Places like the Centre for Environmental Creation downplay the controversy of a raised threshold of exposure.
 
Situated in the town of Miharu and opened in July 2016, the center was established by the prefecture of Fukushima, with the financial support of the Japanese government, to conduct research and provide education on radioactive contamination. The center is one of several government-sponsored revitalization projects aimed at rebuilding the trust of people living in Fukushima. Mostly visited by young families, it represents a new approach to risk communication. As a technical advisor explained to me, this approach aims to “deepen the understanding of children about radiation” by allowing visitors to experience information firsthand through interactive games, fun activities, and cute presentations.
 
Past efforts to present nuclear science in appealing ways have often blended education with propaganda. The 1957 Disney TV episode Our Friend the Atom is a perfect example of this. What are the dangers of resorting to such forms of explanations in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster? In 2015 and 2017, I spent a total of 14 months in Japan examining the public’s interactive experience at state-sponsored centers and public activities that explain radiation. I found that while the information on radiation is easy to understand, many aspects of its hazards are carefully concealed. In particular, the government’s educational approach shifts the post-Fukushima Japanese public’s attention away from manmade danger and toward a vision of naturalness, technological amusement, and scientific amazement. In doing so, this approach downplays the risk inherent to residual radioactivity in Fukushima.
 
The naturalness of radiation. One way to neutralize the perceived harmfulness of radiation is to make the phenomenon appear as natural as possible, by emphasizing the radioactivity coming from natural sources. At the Centre for Environmental Creation, one of the most popular attractions is an enormous spherical theater, where visitors are bombarded with sounds and images in a 360-degree multisensory experience that describes radiation as a natural part of daily life. “It can be found everywhere! From the sun’s ray to the mineral in the earth,” claims the theater’s narrator. “Without radiation, no life would exist on Earth!” After these explanations, an enormous Boeing passes above theatergoers’ heads in the cinematic sky, and the amount of radiation exposure received during an intercontinental flight is said to be higher than the level of radiation found in Fukushima. Their necks strained upward, visitors mumble words of apparent relief.
 
What the theater fails to explain, however, is that there is nothing natural about the radioactive isotopes released during the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and that background radiation has little to do with the hazards of breathing or swallowing fission products—which are not rays, but dust-like particles. For instance, strontium 90, if inhaled or ingested, mimics calcium to enter an individual’s bone marrow and cause lifelong radiation exposure. This exposure can cause mutations in living cells—a permanent alteration that can lead to cancers, genetic problems, or immune disorders.
 
It’s all fun and games. Information about radiation is often promoted through an enjoyable experience that conceals disturbing aspects of the phenomenon. In front of a giant interactive screen, for example, children can move their bodies to “block” radiation. By selecting the proper material, they can block either radioactive alpha particles, beta particles, or gamma rays. They pretend that their bodies are thick metal plates used to hamper harmful external exposure. By doing so, they collect points, and at the end of the game, the child with the highest score wins.
 
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In an interactive game at the Fukushima Prefectural Centre for Environmental Creation, participants use their body movements to “block” radioactive rays or particles
 
By transforming radiation protection into a game that focuses on blocking external radiation, children do not learn of the risk of internal contamination from radioactive particles such as cesium 137, which was released in significant amounts by the Fukushima disaster. If internalized, cesium 137 gets distributed throughout the body, irradiating soft tissues such as muscles and ovaries. And because the children’s game blocks radiation in “real time,” there is no mention of any delayed health effects of radiation exposure, such as potential harmful genetic changes.
 
At the Decontamination Info Plaza, the government promotes similar activities. Situated in the city of Fukushima, the Plaza was established in January 2012 as a joint program between the prefecture of Fukushima and Japan’s Ministry of the Environment. The Plaza’s purpose is to provide information about radiation in general, as well as explanations about monitoring methods, workshops on decontamination, and advice on contaminated sites. Basic information about radiation is presented to the public in a very accessible, visual, and interactive form.
 
For example, an interactive model helps younger visitors understand the process of decontamination. The model consists of a miniature house in a transparent plastic box filled with small white and red balls. The white balls represent uncontaminated soil; the red balls stand for radioactive pollutants and are found on the house rooftop and in the soil. With a toy shovel, visitors can pick up the red balls and dispose of them in a plastic container, isolating them from the rest of the environment. By playing with the toy shovels and trying to “successfully” get rid of the radioactive pollutants, decontamination acquires a tangibility that feels like a safe game. Children do not have to put on protective suits before separating the balls, and there is no recognition that the decontamination process presents health hazards from radiation, either from external or internal exposure.
 
Radiation is our friend! A third way to downplay the perception of radiation danger is to link radiation with the wonders of science and technology. This was particularly apparent during an April 2016 open house organized by the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, Japan’s leading radiological institute, which is situated in Chiba, east of Tokyo. Titled “I Want to Know More! What Can You Do with Radiation?” the public fair was a popular event at which visitors could see the institute’s research facilities, the latest PET scan technology for medical imaging, and the cyclotrons used in nuclear medicine to produce radioisotopes. A special elevator led down to the Heavy Ion Medical Accelerator, situated in an impressive subterranean facility.
 
As I walked through the underground maze of this metallic behemoth, it became apparent that families were overcome by the scale of the apparatus. Indeed, as one parent said to his child, “It looks like a spaceship, right?” At this institute, manmade radiation was effectively linked to technologies that sustain life. For instance, the open house showed how the radiation-related devices at the institute produce particle therapies to treat cancer.
 
While there was nothing inaccurate about the center’s explanations of radiation as a medical treatment, the information presented was unrelated to the dangers faced during a nuclear disaster. If visitors wanted to hear more about such risks, they had to visit the station called “Impact of Fukushima.” The small station was, however, much less appealing than the other venues. It consisted of four small posters that focused on the decontamination process without explaining the adverse health effects of exposure to manmade radioisotopes. Children were much more interested in learning about the giant particle accelerators. Radiation was emphasized as a useful agent that could penetrate the body and kill harmful tumors, as was demonstrated on medical dummies during the event. In the end, by heavily framing radiation information around a beacon of technological wonder, the public opening day glossed over the danger of radioactive contamination and selectively amplified the beneficial aspects of radiation.
 
Education vs. propaganda. In interviews that I conducted with officials and technical advisors employed at the aforementioned places, I was told that Fukushima is afflicted by “harmful rumors” surrounding the real extent of radiation harm and that this misunderstanding stems from public ignorance of radiological science. It is in this context that government-sanctioned approaches aim to provide “basic information” that will help citizens fear radiation in an “appropriate way,” thereby creating an environment in which people feel they can safely return to Fukushima. While this is a worthy endeavor, the government’s approach emphasizes specific understandings of radioactivity that overshadow the particular risks introduced by manmade radioactive pollutants resulting from a nuclear accident.
 
Ultimately, I have doubts about these education programs. They are selective in their nature, making only certain aspects of radiation tangible through their public activities, while rarely explaining in detail the dangers of adverse health effects linked with residual radioactivity. From my viewpoint, their purpose seems to be dual: While they aim to shed light on the phenomenon of radiation, they are also covertly looking to defuse the threat of widespread societal unrest, to reclaim political control and economic stability, and to pacify a fearful public—and in ways that are perhaps more beneficial to the state than to affected individuals.
 
In a community where dangerous residual radioactivity has become a public everyday concern, coming to grips with serious contamination requires more education than ever before. The important word here is education. Not state propaganda disguised as education. There is a fine line between these two, but it is a line that needs to be clearly drawn. While Japanese state approaches are innovative in their interactivity and freedom from jargon, they are less so in their content.
 
I strongly agree that the existence of state-sponsored educational programs is better than to simply ignore radioactive risk. But mobilizing specific explanations that downplay the real risk faced by citizens is not sustainable. Doing so will reproduce the ignorance, secrecy, and values that led to this disaster. Public well-being, democracy, and science cannot thrive in such context. An unbiased effort to educate people about the specific hazards of radioactive contamination, and correct misunderstandings about the risk of radiation exposure, does not have to be delivered in a dry and clinical manner. It can be as fun and engaging as anything the Japanese centers, exhibits, and public days are already doing.
 
There is one scene from my time in Japan that I cannot forget: the unadulterated smile of the happy child who had won the contest of blocking radiation. While the kid had learned much about radiation, he had learned little about the complexity of radiation hazards. I could not help thinking of Major Kong straddling the bomb in the film Dr. Strangelove, enjoying the nuclear ride without thinking about it too much, shouting “Yee Haw!” at the top of his lungs.
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Japan’s Reconstruction Agency to air ad for Fukushima products on TV, online and at cinemas

‘Reconstruction Agency’ means Propaganda & Denial Agency

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Feb 8, 2019

The Reconstruction Agency said Friday that it will run a television commercial advertising farm, fishery and forestry products made in Fukushima Prefecture for about a week from Saturday.
The 30-second spot is aimed at dispelling harmful rumors about the safety of products from the prefecture following the nuclear meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No.
The agency has also created a section on its website to explain the current conditions in Fukushima Prefecture, helping visitors to learn about radiation and progress in reconstruction efforts.
The agency hopes to capitalize on rising interest in Fukushima Prefecture ahead of the eighth anniversary of the disaster on March 11.
The commercial, which will also highlight tourism spots in the prefecture, will be broadcast nationwide.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/02/08/national/japans-reconstruction-agency-air-ad-fukushima-products-tv-online-cinemas/

Is pushing contaminated product and poisoning people the ‘right’ path to Fukushima reconstruction?

The South Koreans did not want their food and banned it. The WHO and the UN upheld that they would import food from Fukushima. One of the guiding factors was that the US imports the Fukushima food. How much deeper can corruption go when it is all about the economy?

“Fascism should not be defined by the number of victims but by the way they were killed”. Jean-Paul Sartre

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Fukushima group holds food campaign in Brussels
December 3, 2018
BRUSSELS (Jiji Press) — People from Fukushima Prefecture living in Europe have started in earnest to campaign in Brussels to dispel concerns about foods from the northeastern prefecture following the 2011 nuclear crisis there.
The move by groups of Fukushima people in Britain and three other European countries, excluding Belgium, comes as the European Union maintains import restrictions on some Fukushima food products more than seven years after the meltdown at the tsunami-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
As part of the campaign, sake brands from across Fukushima were served to guests at an event to celebrate the Emperor’s 85th birthday on Dec. 23, held by the Japanese Embassy in Belgium in late November.
The Fukushima groups and the prefectural government ran a joint booth at the celebratory event, offering more than 10 local sake brands while showcasing progress on reconstruction in Fukushima after the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The sake brands included Adatara Ginjo of Okunomatsu Sake Brewery Co., based in Nihonmatsu in the prefecture, which won the top sake award in the 2018 International Wine Challenge competition.
The Fukushima sake brands were well received by guests including foreign government and company officials, according to Japanese sources.
The groups of Fukushima people aim to strengthen direct lobbying of the EU to abolish the import restrictions, planning to set up a similar group in Belgium, where the EU is headquartered.
“We’ve renewed our recognition that it’s necessary to give information about postdisaster reconstruction more actively, while promoting sake and fruit [from Fukushima],” said Yoshio Mitsuyama, who heads the British group of Fukushima people

2020 Olympics being used to put a nice gloss on nuclear industry, and Fukushima nuclear catastrophe

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December 2, 2018
Bach: Olympics will show Fukushima’s recovery
The president of the International Olympic Committee says the Tokyo Games will be a chance to show the world how far people affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami have recovered.
 
Thomas Bach spoke to reporters in Tokyo after being briefed about preparations for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
 
He said he cannot remember seeing a host city as prepared as Tokyo in all respects.
 
He also referred to his first trip to Fukushima City, where the baseball and softball events will be held. He met with local high school students during the trip.
 
He said that he was very impressed that sport is helping young people recovery psychologically from the disaster.
 
Bach said some people have criticized the decision to hold the events in Fukushima, saying it will hamper the recovery work. But he said local people told him they are looking forward to the events.
 
Bach indicated that he wants to visit Hiroshima when the Olympic flame arrives in the atomic-bombed city.

Japan’s new reconstruction minister trumpets ‘safety’ of Tohoku region and pushes plans for 2020 Tokyo Games

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Hiromichi Watanabe
 
Oct 18, 2018
New Reconstruction Minister Hiromichi Watanabe wants the world to know that, seven years after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Fukushima Prefecture and other disaster-struck areas of the Tohoku region are now safe.
“I know that outside Japan (radiation) stigma still lingers and I believe it’s our mission to destroy,” that notion, Watanabe said in an interview with The Japan Times and other media organizations Wednesday.
In the wake of the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant many countries around the world imposed import restrictions on vegetables, fruits and other food products from Fukushima and neighboring Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Gunma prefectures.
But in recent months the European Union, Brazil and several other countries have eased import restrictions and China reportedly intends to relax the ban. Taiwan is set to hold a referendum next month on whether to keep the restrictions in place.
“First, I want people to learn about the situation in Fukushima, I want them to taste farm and marine produce and last but not least, I want people to visit Fukushima” to see for themselves how it has rebounded, Watanabe said, responding to a question about lingering concerns over safety and slow progress in recovery.
Watanabe believes the 2020 Tokyo Games will be “a golden opportunity” to showcase the disaster-hit region’s advancement.
He referred to a large-scale project in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, where construction work has already started for what will be one of the world’s largest hydrogen plants.
The plant will use solar power and other energy sources to extract up to 900 tons of hydrogen each year from water for storage and supply.
The hydrogen generated at the plant will be used for fuel-cell vehicles and other purposes during the Olympics and Paralympics.
“Using Fukushima-generated hydrogen in Tokyo would be a great display” of the region’s progress, he said.
“Given that the Olympic torch relay will start in Fukushima, I wish we could use hydrogen to light up the torch as well,” he added, noting that such ideas are being considered.
When the Reconstruction Agency was established in 2012, the government set a 10-year period of intensive efforts to rebuild the devastated areas.
Watanabe said that recovery of housing and public infrastructure is nearing completion, except for in zones with restricted access closest to the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
Watanabe admitted that progress is slower in some areas and he wants to speed up the rate of reconstruction ahead of the Summer Games.
“To better grasp the situation, I will make it my priority to go to those areas. It’s my basic strategy to listen to all requests and demands directly from those regions and to try to respond to them,” he said.
The government will draw up a concrete action plan to complete rebuilding efforts before disclosing them by year-end.
For Watanabe, the clock is ticking as the agency is scheduled to fold in 2021.
“There are only 2½ years left and during this period I am motivated to do the utmost to complete rebuilding,” he said. “Obviously reconstruction of areas devastated by the nuclear disaster should be seen from a long-term perspective and even after the agency is abolished, Japan should make concerted efforts to act on the aftereffects (of the nuclear disaster).”

Japanese media pushing Fukushima rice as ‘safe to eat’

n-fukushima-a-20181015-870x625.jpgA Honnoriya staff member displays rice balls at the company’s Tokyo Station outlet. Honnoriya offers rice balls made with the Aizu Koshihikari brand from Fukushima Prefecture.

After 16 years, Fukushima’s Aizu Koshihikari still the brand of choice for popular Tokyo rice ball shop

 
Oct 14, 2018
A popular rice ball shop stands near Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Central Gate, drawing long lines of customers waiting to buy products made with rice from Aizu, Fukushima Prefecture, known for remaining soft with a touch of sweetness even when it gets cold.
As it takes less than a minute to make the rice balls, customers don’t have to wait long at Honnoriya, a rice ball chain operated by JR East Food Business Co.
From actors, athletes and comedians to politicians and culinary maestros, many say they are fans of the rice balls. After it was featured on the popular TBS television show “Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai” (“The World Unknown to Matsuko”), a rush of traffic swarmed Honnoriya’s website, temporarily shutting it down.
Sadafumi Yamagiwa, president of JR East Food, said the secret of the chain’s popularity is the quality of the rice — Koshihikari rice produced in Fukushima’s Aizu region.
“It’s because the rice tastes good. The Aizu Koshihikari rice is chewy, making it different from other rice,” Yamagiwa said.
The firm uses Aizu Koshihikari in all of its 13 outlets located in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba. At the main shop in Tokyo, around 7,000 rice balls are sold on busy days. In fiscal 2017, a total of 252 tons of rice were consumed at its 13 stores.
Since Honnoriya opened its first outlet at Tokyo Station in March 2002, it has continued to use Koshihikari brand. Despite having been awarded the top “special A” ranking by the Japan Grain Inspection Association, Aizu Koshihikari is cheap compared with other varieties produced in different regions, Yamagiwa said.
Following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, many consumers avoided produce from the prefecture. The company also received many inquiries about the safety of the rice, and employee opinions differed over which brand should be used.
But as blanket radiation checks conducted on Fukushima-grown rice found no radioactive material, such concern gradually eased, Yamagiwa said.
He stressed that the company has been using Aizu Koshihikari solely for the reason that it tastes good. “It’s not like we’ve been using the rice to support the disaster-hit regions,” he said.
Each year, the company chooses a rice brand after comparing the tastes of different varieties produced in different parts of the country.
For the past 16 years, there has been no rice that surpassed Koshihikari produced in Aizu, Yamagiwa said, meaning that Aizu Koshihikari has consistently won the internal competition every single year.
This section features topics and issues from Fukushima covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in Fukushima Prefecture. The original article was published on Sept. 30.

What is tritium and why is its disposal difficult?

Another propaganda piece to justify Tepco and Japanese goverment’s decision to dump the 7 years plus accumulated radioactive water into the sea. Mind you in that water it is not only tritium but other types of harmful radionuclides are present.
Look how they phrased their B.S. :
1. “water containing tritium” used when talking about the treatment of contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).” Of course not mentioning the other contained radionuclides, lying by omission!!!
2. “Tritium emits beta radiation that has weak energy, and will mostly pass through the body if drank. Its effects on the human body are said to be minimal compared to radioactive cesium.” Said to be, does not mean it to be true!!!
 
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In this July 17, 2018 file photo, tanks containing water contaminated with radioactive materials are seen on the grounds of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture
 
September 6, 2018
The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about the characteristics of tritium, and why it is hard to dispose of water containing the radioactive element.
Question: I heard the term “water containing tritium” used when talking about the treatment of contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).
Answer: It refers to treated water including tritium. The element cannot be removed using the current purification method used at the crippled nuclear power plant. The government and TEPCO are considering ways to dispose of the liquid, which is continuing to fill waste water tanks at the plant.
Q: What kind of substance is tritium?
A: Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen containing one proton and two neutrons while the ordinary hydrogen nucleus contains just one proton. It has a half-life of about 12.3 years, which is the time required to reduce half of its radioactivity.
Q: Is tritium found only in the treated water from the damaged nuclear plant?
A: Tritium can also develop when oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere react to cosmic neutrons. Around 70 quadrillion becquerels appear naturally per year, and around a total of 223 trillion becquerels are contained in Japan’s annual rainfall, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). Coolant in normal operating nuclear reactors also carries tritium. At the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, tritium is generated in groundwater pouring into the buildings that house reactors, and in water used to cool melted fuel debris.
Q: Why is it difficult to dispose of tritium?
A: Other radioactive substances can be removed using specific disposal equipment for filtration and absorption to levels below the allowed ceiling. However, separation is very hard for water containing tritium because its characteristics, including the boiling temperature, are similar to those of normal water.
Q: What about the impact it will have on human health, as it is radioactive?
A: Tritium emits beta radiation that has weak energy, and will mostly pass through the body if drank. Its effects on the human body are said to be minimal compared to radioactive cesium. Nuclear power plants around the world are disposing water containing tritium according to regulations, in oceans and other places, once it has been diluted to a radiation level that falls below standard limits. According to METI, Japan released into oceans around 380 trillion becquerels of tritium per year on average for five years before the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
(Answers by Riki Iwama, Science & Environment News Department)