Fukushima evacuee asks for support at UN

 

 
A Japanese woman who evacuated Fukushima after the 2011 nuclear accident has called for international support at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
 
Akiko Morimatsu delivered a speech at the Council in Geneva on Monday. She moved to Osaka with her 2 children after the accident.
 
Morimatsu criticized the Japanese government for focusing only on policies that encourage former residents to return to the affected areas.
 
She called on the international community for support to protect children from further radiation exposure.
 
A Japanese official said the government will do all it can to expedite reconstruction, keeping in mind that those affected still face difficulty in their daily lives.
 
The Human Rights Council recommended last November that Japan should continue to support affected residents and voluntary evacuees, in line with requests from Germany and other member states.
 
The Japanese government says it accepts Council recommendations related to the accident. But it also says it has been providing necessary support in accordance with laws.
 
Advertisements

Fukushima Mother Calls at UN Rights Body Hearing for Full Implementation of “Fukushima Recommendations” by the Japanese Government

hjklklmlm.jpg
Mother calls for full implementation of “Fukushima recommendations” at UN rights body hearing
GENEVA, March 19 (Xinhua) — The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on Monday adopted the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcome of Japan, but a mother from the Fukushima area pleaded at the hearing for the Japanese government to take measures to fully implement the “Fukushima recommendations.”
“The Japanese government has been ignoring people who want to avoid radiation,” Akiko Morimatsu, a mother, and evacuee from Koriyama in Fukushima, told the HRC.
Seven years after the meltdown of three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) after a massive earthquake hit Japan, the accident is still ongoing, as was recently admitted by Japan’s nuclear regulator, Greenpeace told the HRC.
The NGO said that its radiation investigations in Fukushima recently reported on the high levels of radiation that evacuees will be exposed to if they were to return to their homes.
It said this will pose an unacceptable risk for 40-100 years or more depending on the level of contamination.
At the UPR the Japanese government accepted UN recommendations to provide essential financial, housing and medical support for self-evacuees.
Yet in 2017 the government removed as many as 29,000 Fukushima citizens from the official record as self-evacuees and terminated housing support, said Greenpeace.
Morimatsu, is one of those who was “disappeared by the government,” said Greenpeace.
“I thank United Nation member states for defending the rights of Fukushima citizens and I call on you to continue to help all the victims and evacuees of nuclear disasters and to protect the people of Fukushima and East Japan, especially children, from radiation exposure,” said Morimatsu.
 
Fukushima evacuee asks for support at UN
A Japanese woman who evacuated Fukushima after the 2011 nuclear accident has called for international support at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Akiko Morimatsu delivered a speech at the Council in Geneva on Monday. She moved to Osaka with her 2 children after the accident.
Morimatsu criticized the Japanese government for focusing only on policies that encourage former residents to return to the affected areas.
She called on the international community for support to protect children from further radiation exposure.
A Japanese official said the government will do all it can to expedite reconstruction, keeping in mind that those affected still face difficulty in their daily lives.
The Human Rights Council recommended last November that Japan should continue to support affected residents and voluntary evacuees, in line with requests from Germany and other member states.
The Japanese government says it accepts Council recommendations related to the accident. But it also says it has been providing necessary support in accordance with laws.

Japanese government accepts United Nations Fukushima recommendations – current policies now must change to stop violation of evacuee human rights

March 8, 2018

Tokyo – The Japanese government has announced that it had accepted all four recommendations made at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the rights of evacuees from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. The decision is a victory for the human rights of tens of thousands of evacuees, and civil society that have been working at the UNHRC and demanding that Japan accept and comply with UN principles. The decision means that the Japanese government must immediately change its unacceptable policies, said Greenpeace. The announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was made in a formal submission to the UNHRC*.
 
Japan is to give its formal decision on 16 March at the the UNHRC Universal Periodic Review session in Geneva to recommendations made by Austria, Portugal and Mexico on the need to respect the rights of Fukushima, particularly women and children, and from Germany, which called on Japan to protect citizens from harmful radiation by dramatically reducing permitted radiation exposure.[1][2]
 
Greenpeace08032018.jpg
Akiko Morimatsu, a mother and evacuee from Fukushima standing in front of MOFA with Greenpeace Japan. (c)Greenpeace
 
At an event held in Tokyo today, where two evacuee mothers, a leading lawyer representing Fukushima citizens, Human Rights Now, and Greenpeace, explained the crisis facing many survivors and the multiple violations of their rights by the government of Shinzo Abe and the implications of its decision to accept all the four UNHRC recommendations.
 
“Over the last seven years I have seen many different violation of human rights in Japan. The discrimination we are suffering as evacuees is a reflection of the attitude of the Government towards us, but we have been exercising our rights to be protected from radiation. I would like to believe the acceptance of the United Nations recommendations will be the start of a change in our society”, said Akiko Morimatsu, a mother and Fukushima evacuee from Koriyama. Next week she will leave Japan for Geneva, together with Greenpeace, where she will participate at the UNHRC session and give a statement where Japanese government will make its official acceptance of the recommendations.
 
“I cautiously welcome the Japanese government’s acceptance of the UN recommendations. The government may believe that an insincere acceptance is sufficient. They are wrong to think so – and we are determined to hold them to account to implement the necessary changes that the UN members states are demanding,” said Yuichi Kaido, a lawyer for multiple Fukushima accident lawsuits against TEPCO and the Japanese Government.
 
“We welcome the Japanese government decision to accept all the four United Nations recommendations. Now they must apply them in full and without delay. The government policy of allowing people to be exposed to high levels of radiation is incompatible with their acceptance of the 1 mSv recommendation made by Germany. They must now act immediately to change their policies in the interests of radiation protection of Fukushima citizens, particularly women and children,” said Shaun Burnie, nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany.
 
Greenpeace radiation survey results published last week showed high levels of radiation in Iitate and Namie that make it unsafe for citizens to return before mid century, and even more severe contamination in the exclusion zone of Namie. High radiation levels in Obori would mean you would reach your maximum annual exposure in 16 days.[3]
 
The lifting of evacuation orders in areas heavily contaminated by the nuclear accident, which far exceed the international standard of 1 mSv/year for the general public, raise multiple human rights issues. Housing support is due to end in March 2019 for survivors from these areas. The Japanese government also ended housing support for so-called ‘self evacuees’ from other than evacuation order zone in March 2017, and removed as many as 29,000 of these victims from official records. This amounts to economic coercion where survivors may be forced to return to the contaminated areas against their wishes due to economic pressure. This clearly contravenes multiple human rights treaties to which Japan is party.[4]
 
The briefing was held at the House of Councilors office building.Speakers were Ms. Noriko Matsumoto (Fukushima survivor); Mr. Yuichi Kaido (Lawyer for multiple Fukushima accident lawsuits against TEPCO and the Japanese Government); Ms. Kazuko Ito (Lawyer, Secretary General of Human Rights Now); Jan Vande Putte (Greenpeace Belgium, radiation protection expert) Ms. Akiko Morimatsu (Fukushima survivor).
 
 
*The announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/files/000326823.pdf
 
 
Notes
 
[1] Universal Periodic Review (UNHRC website) http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx
 
[2] UN Human Rights Council’s Review of Japan voices serious concerns for Fukushima nuclear survivors (Greenpeace Japan press statement, 14 Nov 2017) http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/press/2017/pr2017111411/
 
[3] A dose of 4.3 micro sieverts per hour in average in Obori at 1m height, is high enough to expose someone to the maximum allowable dose of 1mSv/year in 16 days, following the Japanese government methodology.
 
[4] See Unequal Impact (Greenpeace Japan report) for details http://www.greenpeace.org/japan/ja/news/press/2017/pr201703071/
Contacts:
Chisato Jono, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Japan, email: chisato.jono@greenpeace.org, mob: +81 (0) 80-6558-4446
 
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist, Greenpeace Germany, email: sburnie@greenpeace.org, mob: +81 (0)80-3694-2843 (Currently based in Japan)

 

UN: Japan Violated Human Rights, Fukushima Evacuees Abandoned

“Why should people, especially women and children, have to live in places where the radiation level is 20 times the international limit?” Sonoda said. “The government hasn’t given us an answer.”
a
Mitsuko Sonoda’s aunt harvesting rice in her village, which is outside the mandatory evacuation zone, before the disaster.
Fukushima evacuee to tell UN that Japan violated human rights
Mitsuko Sonoda will say evacuees face financial hardship and are being forced to return to homes they believe are unsafe
A nuclear evacuee from Fukushima will claim Japan’s government has violated the human rights of people who fled their homes after the 2011 nuclear disaster, in testimony before the UN in Geneva this week.
Mitsuko Sonoda, who voluntarily left her village with her husband and their 10-year-old son days after three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant went into meltdown, will tell the UN human rights council that evacuees face financial hardship and are being forced to return to neighbourhoods they believe are still unsafe almost seven years after the disaster.
“We feel abandoned by the Japanese government and society,” Sonoda, who will speak at the council’s pre-session review of Japan on Thursday, told the Guardian.
An estimated 27,000 evacuees who, like Sonoda, were living outside the mandatory evacuation zone when the meltdown occurred, had their housing assistance withdrawn this March, forcing some to consider returning to their former homes despite concerns over radiation levels.
In addition, as the government attempts to rebuild the Fukushima region by reopening decontaminated neighbourhoods that were once no-go areas, tens of thousands of evacuees who were ordered to leave will lose compensation payments and housing assistance in March next year.
The denial of financial aid has left many evacuees facing a near-impossible choice: move back to homes they fear are unsafe, or face more financial hardship as they struggle to build lives elsewhere without state help.
“People should be allowed to choose whether or not to go back to their old homes, and be given the financial means to make that choice,” said Kendra Ulrich, senior global energy campaigner for Greenpeace Japan.
b.jpg
Sonoda’s son and a friend drinking from a mountain stream before the disaster.
“If they are being put under economic pressure to return, then they are not in a position to make an informed decision. This UN session is about pressuring the Japanese government to do the right thing.”
Evacuees are being encouraged to return to villages and towns near the Fukushima plant despite evidence that some still contain radiation “hot spots”.
In Iitate village, where the evacuation order was lifted this March, much of the surrounding forests remain highly radioactive, although homes, schools and other public buildings have been declared safe as part of an unprecedented decontamination effort.
“You could call places like Iitate an open-air prison,” said Ulrich. “The impact on people’s quality of life will be severe if they move back. Their lives are embedded in forests, yet the environment means they will not be allowed to enter them. Forests are impossible to decontaminate.”
After months of moving around, Sonoda and her family settled in Kyoto for two years, where local authorities provided them with a rent-free apartment. They have been living in her husband’s native England for the past four years.
“We’ve effectively had to evacuate twice,” said Sonoda, who works as a freelance translator and Japanese calligraphy tutor. “My son and I really struggled at first … we didn’t want to leave Japan.”
c.jpg
Sonoda and her family near her home in Fukushima before the disaster.
Concern over food safety and internal radiation exposure convinced her that she could never return to Fukushima, aside from making short visits to see relatives. “It’s really sad, because my village is such a beautiful place,” she said. “We had a house and had planned to retire there.”
The evacuations have forced families to live apart, while parents struggle to earn enough money to fund their new accommodation and keep up mortgage payments on their abandoned homes.
“Stopping housing support earlier this year was an act of cruelty,” Sonoda said. “Some of my friends had to go back to Fukushima even though they didn’t want to.”
Greenpeace Japan, which is assisting Sonoda, hopes her testimony will be the first step in building international pressure on Japan’s government to continue offering financial help to evacuees and to reconsider its resettlement plan.
It has called on the government to declare Fukushima neighbourhoods unsafe until atmospheric radiation is brought to below one millisievert (mSv) a year, the maximum public exposure limit recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
While 1 mSv a year remains the government’s long-term target, it is encouraging people to return to areas where radiation levels are below 20 mSv a year, an annual exposure limit that, internationally, applies to nuclear power plant workers.
“Why should people, especially women and children, have to live in places where the radiation level is 20 times the international limit?” Sonoda said. “The government hasn’t given us an answer.”
 
Fukushima evacuees have been abandoned by the Japanese government
Mitsuko Sonoda says Tokyo is violating the human rights of evacuees by pressuring them to return to the area, even though radiation levels remain high following the 2011 nuclear power plant disaster
I used to live in Fukushima with my husband and our child, in a fantastic natural environment with a strong local community. That was until the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 destroyed coastal communities and killed tens of thousands of people.
The day after it hit, there were constant aftershocks. It gave us another massive scare when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant exploded. We decided to evacuate to Western Japan to protect our child.
The government raised the level of “acceptable” exposure to the same standard as nuclear workers – 20 times the international public standard. My son was not a nuclear worker, but a little boy, more vulnerable to the effects of radiation than adults.
Like my family, many fled contaminated areas that were below the raised emergency level, but higher than acceptable. We have been labelled “self-evacuees”. We have never received compensation, outside some housing support.
Some of the evacuee children have struggled to adjust to a different environment. They have continued to miss family, friends and old schools, and have been bullied by other children in their new residences. There were even rumours of “contagion”.
Many children also really miss their fathers, who have often stayed in Fukushima for their jobs.
Mothers have silently tackled these difficulties, including health problems in themselves and their children. We have sometimes been labelled neurotic, irrational and overprotective, our worries about radiation dismissed. Divisions and divorce have been common.
All the while, we miss our relatives, friends, old community and the nature we used to live in.
In March, the government lifted evacuation orders, and the housing support for self-evacuees stopped. Citizens were pressured to return to Fukushima. Research said radiation levels still exceeded the government’s long-term goals.
Because evacuation orders have been lifted, Tokyo Electric Power Company will also stop compensation for victims by March 2018. We need this accommodation support to continue any kind of stable life.
Before Fukushima, they said a major accident could not happen. Now they say radiation is not a problem. They say hardly any compensation is needed. Why should we have to return to live in a radioactive area? Nuclear victims don’t seem to have the right to be free from radiation.
I’m travelling to Geneva this week to testify at a pre-session for the UN Human Rights Council’s review of Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s resettlement policies are violating our human rights. If the Japanese government doesn’t support the nuclear survivors, what’s stopping other countries from doing the same in the future?
Mitsuko Sonoda is a Fukushima nuclear accident survivor and evacuee. She now advocates for the rights of nuclear disaster victims, and is going to the UN Commission for Human Rights with the support of Greenpeace Japan

A-bomb survivors submit petition for nuclear ban

 

Representatives of Japanese atomic bomb survivors have compiled a petition of nearly 3 million signatures calling for a nuclear weapons ban treaty. The group handed the document to the chair of the ongoing UN meeting on the convention.

The second round of negotiations aimed at concluding the world’s first-ever nuclear weapons ban treaty started on Thursday at UN headquarters in New York.

On the second day of talks on Friday, representatives of atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Toshiyuki Mimaki and Masako Wada presented the petition to the chair of the meeting, Costa Rica’s envoy Elayne Whyte. They say their groups collected 2.96 million signatures over just more than a year since last April.

Wada handed the petition over along with a paper crane, a symbol of peace. She said the signatures represent the voices of atomic bomb survivors and citizens, and thanked the chair for her leadership.

Whyte responded that the main purpose of the treaty is to eliminate the suffering caused by nuclear weapons. The representatives applauded her when she said the signatures are very important for the negotiators.

After the handover, Wada observed that the draft treaty incorporates the Japanese word “hibakusha,” meaning atomic bombing survivor. She said she believes this shows the delegates have recognized the group’s long years of anti-nuclear activities.

Also in New York, atomic bomb survivor Masao Tomonaga from Nagasaki met Japan’s UN Ambassador Koro Bessho to relay a message from the Nagasaki mayor, Tomihisa Taue.

The message described a feeling of disappointment that is spreading among Nagasaki citizens over Japan’s absence from the negotiations.

Tomonaga said Bessho told him he understands their feeling, but Japan cannot decide on its own to leave the nuclear umbrella, and has had to make a difficult choice regarding the ongoing talks.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170617_15/

Fukushima Food Presents “No Immediate Problem”: UN Food and Agricultural Organization Director General

Contaminated food & chopsticks

 

The other day I read a headline at The Asahi Shimbun that made me pause and read the entire article carefully.

Please note that the headline states that the Director General of the UN FAO is “convinced” that Fukushima food is safe to eat.

However, if you read his actual words, as quoted in the article, you will see that he is not in fact arguing that Fukushima food is safe to eat.

Rather, what he is saying is at this “moment” the agency sees “no immediate problem”:

Yukie Yamao. (2017). U.N. food agency ‘convinced’ that Fukushima food is safe to eat. The Asahi Shimbun http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705080043.html
ROME–Food produced in Fukushima Prefecture is safe, but continued monitoring will be needed to ensure that remains the case, according to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization’s top official.

“We’ve been following this issue very closely,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva in a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, referring to the safety of agricultural products and other food items grown and manufactured in the prefecture.

“We are also periodically testing samples to certify that the food presents no danger to human beings. For the moment we are convinced that there is no immediate problem with the food coming from that area.”

He added that maintaining control over the situation is crucial.

Whenever I read “no immediate” risk, I know that there are very likely to be long-term risks.

Long-term risks derive from chronic exposure to elevated gamma, beta and alpha radiation from sources internal and external to human bodies.

Concentration of radioactive isotopes – such as cesium-137, iodine-131, and strontium-90 – in food is a well-established problem and poses risk for internal contamination and bio-accumulation in biological bodies.

Japan has historically had strict standards for radionuclides in food compared to the US, but even low-levels of isotopes in food can create problems over time. For example, strontium-90 ends up in bone and teeth. Most isotopes are chemically toxic in addition to being radioactive.

Monkeys living in Fukushima have been found to have bio-accumulated radio-cesium:

Bahar Gholipour Fukushima monkeys show signs of radiation exposure Livescience.com July 24, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fukushima-monkeys-blood-shows-signs-of-radiation-exposure/

The results showed Fukushima monkeys had lower counts of red and white blood cells, and other blood parts compared with 31 monkeys from Shimokita Penisula in northern Japan. The researchers also found radioactive cesium in the muscles of Fukushima monkeys, ranging from 78 to 1778 becquerels (units of radioactivity representing decay per second) per kilogram, but they didn’t find any in Shimokita monkeys. [7 Craziest Ways Japan’s Earthquake Affected Earth] Exposure to radioactive materials may have contributed to the blood changes seen in Fukushima monkeys, study researchers Shin-ichi Hayama and colleagues wrote in their study, published today in the journal Scientific Reports. Low blood cell counts could be a sign of a compromised immune system and could potentially make the monkeys vulnerable to infectious diseases, the researchers said.

Here is the relevant academic publication and an excerpt from the abstract, that describes cesium concentrations:

Kazuhiko Ochiai , Shin-ichi Hayama , Sachie Nakiri et al “Low blood cell counts in wild Japanese monkeys after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster,”Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 5793 (2014) doi:10.1038/srep05793, http://www.nature.com/articles/srep05793

[excerpted] Total muscle cesium concentration in Fukushima monkeys was in the range of 78–1778 Bq/kg, whereas the level of cesium was below the detection limit in all Shimokita monkeys. Compared with Shimokita monkeys, Fukushima monkeys had significantly low white and red blood cell counts, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, and the white blood cell count in immature monkeys showed a significant negative correlation with muscle cesium concentration. These results suggest that the exposure to some form of radioactive material contributed to hematological changes in Fukushima monkeys.

The study in Scientific Reports detected cesium levels ranging from 78-1778 Bq/kg in monkey muscle.  What are the implications for monkeys bio-accumulating cesium in their muscles?  My guess is that what happens to monkeys is likely to follow what happens to people.

In a 2003 video titled Nuclear Controversies by Vladimir Tchertkoff,Professor Yury Bandazhevsky (former director of the Medical Institute in Gomel), states that based on his research on children exposed to radiocesium from Chernobyl, ‘Over 50 Bq/kg of body weight lead to irreversible lesions in vital organs.’

In a short summary of his work published in 2003, Bandazhevsky described high levels of Cesium-137 bioaccumulation in Chernobyl children’s heart and endocrine glands, particularly the thyroid gland, the adrenals, and the pancreas. He also found high levels in the thymus and the spleen. He found higher levels of bio-accumulation in children than adults. This research demonstrates how radiocesium bioacccumulates within organs and establishes the vulnerability of young people to that process.

Is Fukushima food safe? Based on the monkey research and comments made by the head of the FAO, my conclusion is that Fukushima momentarily poses no immediate risks but long-term consumption could lead to bioaccumulation of radionuclildes, a situation which probably is not, at all, limited to Japan, and poses excess risks for disease and disability.

http://majiasblog.blogspot.fr/2017/06/fukushima-food-presents-no-immediate.html

 

 

U.N. food agency ‘convinced’ that Fukushima food is safe to eat

We certainly would like to know the details about the test methods… This shows very well the stance of the UN toward health issues related to radiation. FAO corroborates with IAEA for food testing.

 

jhkjjok.jpg

Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Rome on May 3.

ROME–Food produced in Fukushima Prefecture is safe, but continued monitoring will be needed to ensure that remains the case, according to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization’s top official.

We’ve been following this issue very closely,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva in a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, referring to the safety of agricultural products and other food items grown and manufactured in the prefecture.

We are also periodically testing samples to certify that the food presents no danger to human beings. For the moment we are convinced that there is no immediate problem with the food coming from that area.”

He added that maintaining control over the situation is crucial.

The Rome-based FAO began conducting checks on food products from Fukushima in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

Da Silva said he is happy with measures that the Japanese government has implemented as precautions for consumers and assistance to local farmers as they comply with international regulations.

His comments came ahead of his first visit to Japan in four years, scheduled from May 9.

In addition to meetings with Japanese government officials, Da Silva is expected to participate in an event organized by the Japanese Foreign Ministry in which attendees will sample desserts made with fruits grown in the prefecture.

Da Silva also said he expects to learn more about the Japanese diet to address the global issue of obesity, which he described as the “most important problem” in advanced countries.

Japan is our best example,” he said of the nation’s lowest obesity rate among the developed world. “We want to learn more about what the Japanese do to avoid obesity. This is part of the culture; your traditional diet is even recognized by UNESCO as a healthy diet.”

Japan’s contribution to the FAO is the second largest after the United States, and its funds have been used to install an irrigation system in Afghanistan.

The FAO, working with Tokyo, is set to increase its number of Japanese staff over a five-year program as the country is under-represented at the organization.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705080043.html