Fukushima 37... 8/3/12-8/15/12

August 15

  • Japanese researchers have found “very low” amounts of radioactivity in the bodies of Minamisoma residents. This is the first published study concerning a large population from the evacuated region around Fukushima Daiichi. The report will be released Thursday through the Journal of the American Medical Association. “Exposure levels were much lower than those reported in studies even several years after the Chernobyl incident,” said Masaharu Tsubokura of the University of Toyko, who headed the study. Internal exposures for both adults and children were generally less than 1 millisievert, which is the new limit in Japan. There were none found to have received more than one mSv. Using relative risk analysis, this would result in no more than two cancers in the lifetime of the10,000 people tested, compared to the natural number of 3,500 expected cancers from all possible mutagens. However, not all of the people tested had Cesium inside their systems. Of the nearly 1,500 children, only 235 had detectable levels. Of the more than 8,000 adults, about 3,000 were found to have detectable Cesium in them. All the rest, nearly two-thirds of the population, were free of internal Cesium. The study focused entirely on internal cesium exposures since that is the radioactive element of long term concern. David Weinstock of Harvard University calls the measured exposures “approximately zero risk”. On an important related note, Roy Shore, chief of research at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima, Japan, said the critical issue is not radiation, “The psychological impact has been very great and has caused a lot of anxiety.” (Washington Post World)
  • A new poll of opinion on Japan’s energy future shows mixed results. An NHK World poll asked more than 1,000 respondents to choose between the three options posed by the Tokyo government. 36% favor the “zero option” for nuclear energy by 2030, 39% wants the “middle option” of about 15% nuclear, and 15% chose the “high option” of a 20-25% nuclear. The “high option” percentage rose more than 3 points above the same poll last month. The other two options have remained essentially the same.
  • Tepco has taken some extended precautions to prevent future worker’s radiation exposure falsification. One change will be the use protective coveralls that have a see-through chest area, where the Alarm Pockets Dosimeters (APDs) are to be worn. This will allow health physics staff to keep a constant eye on employees to insure the dosimeters are being properly worn. In addition, these visual inspections will be “surprise” to keep workers from only wearing them when inspectors are known to be in their area. Finally, Tepco will compare all APD readings with the other dosimeters worn by workers to see if the APD readings are within 20% (the APD accuracy limit). Tepco will also compare each person’s APD read-out with those of other workers doing similar work in the same radiation field. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The mental health of Fukushima workers continues to become an increasing issue. Hideki Yabuhara, president of Kyoto-based Wamon Inc. (the company performing psychological assistance) said some of the workers have been unable to reconcile the conflicting feelings of both victim and villain. They are victims of the devastating quake/tsunami of 3/11/11 because many family members were killed. They are also seen as villains by many local residents, which causes them more mental anguish than would otherwise be the case. Yabuhara then makes this stunning speculation, "I do not think it's inconceivable that some of them may consider taking their own lives" if proper mental support isn't provided. Yabuhara’s concerns are exacerbated by Tepco’s current economic distress which makes his company do their work gratis. In other words he declines to take any money from the utility for his assistance because "I don't to want be perceived as being under Tepco's control."   This also allows him to speak openly about the impact of the Japanese Press, "This is my personal opinion, but I think because of the harsh bashing by the media, Tepco cannot spend a lot of money (on improving mental support and working conditions)." (Japan Times)
  • In a related article, depression because of discrimination against Tepco workers extends beyond the F. Daiichi staff. Workers at both F. Daiichi and F. Daini power stations experience unnecessary depression due to local resident discrimination. Earlier studies revealed discrimination at F. Daiichi, but this is the first to uncover similar issues at F. Daini. Ehime University-National Defense Medical College conducted a survey between May and June last year which found that 191 employees, or 12.8 percent, of the 1,495 polled, received discriminatory treatment. The prejudicial specifics included inability to rent living quarters, denial of medical service, and verbal abuse at evacuation centers. It was also found that mental health problems for those discriminated against are double the rate of those workers not receiving prejudicial treatment off the job. (Kyodo News)
  • Tepco has been working to dismantle the four tsunami-devastated units at F. Daiichi. Over the last week the company has removed the huge, multi-ton dome that seals the internal reactor containment building of unit #4. The dome was lifted by crane from its refueling deck storage pit and placed on the ground, where it will be cut into small-enough pieces for on-site burial. The steam dryer and moisture separator units from the RPV will be the next to be removed and dismantled. Once this is completed, Tepco can begin installing a structure over the building, similar to unit #1, for the transfer of spent fuel bundles from the upper pool to a more secure, less controversial storage location. (NEI Fukushima Updates)
  • A recent study getting considerable news media interest concerns mutagenic effects on Fukushima’s pale grass blue butterflies. The researchers say it could only be due to the radioactive releases from the Fukushima accident. The researchers point out that the effects are “possible” due to laboratory simulations, but they feel they have reached a “firm conclusion” with a relatively high degree of confidence. However, no connection should be made between the butterflies and humans because of the vast organic differences between the two species. Team member Joji Otaki, associate professor at Ryukyu University in Okinawa, says that his team’s results on the Fukushima butterflies should not be directly applied to other species, including humans. Regardless, it is probable that widespread news media coverage of the study will amplify Japanese fears of long-term health effects due to radiation. “Even if there is no impact now, we have to live with fear,” said Sachiko Sato, a mother of two, who temporarily fled from Fukushima. “And concerns will be handed down to my children and grandchildren.” (Japan Today)

August 13

  • F. Daiichi plant manager during the nuclear accident, Masao Yoshida, has gone public with his view of the early days of crisis. In an interview taped July 10 of last year, Yoshida called the early days of the situation “hellish”.  He said the explosions which destroyed the outer walls and roof of three reactor buildings was a surprise and felt “something catastrophic may be happening”. The unit #3 explosion, arguably the most severe of the three, made him feel "I along with my staff might have died in the Seismic-Isolated Building (Emergency Command Center)." As for allegations that Tepco considered complete abandonment of the site, Yoshida stated, "We would never have left the plant. I did not mention withdrawal even once in talks with officials of the head office." The plant manager also praised the plant workers during those early days, "The staff went to work even though they had reached physical limits due to lack of sleep and insufficient food. The plant has recovered to the current condition thanks to them. The most important task is to stabilize the plant further." Yoshida said he held back on release of the interview until all official investigative reports on the accident were completed. However, he complained that the plant workers interviewed often did not get their “real voices” entered into the reports. (Yomiuri Shimbun; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • More information on IAEA findings at Onagawa NPS. The inspectors told reporters they found no earthquake damage to vital safety equipment, and the harm to non-safety equipment was minimal. Their surprise at the findings was because the 3/11/11 quake was 10% greater than the design criteria for the location. The IAEA findings matched those of a Japanese nuclear agency whose analysis was released earlier this week. IAEA says they will also look at other plants rocked by last year’s huge temblor so they can better understand actual earthquake resiliency. (NHK World) comment – A nuke’s accident-related design criteria sets the minimum specifications that must be met, or exceeded, before the plant can be built. Industry experts have long argued that nuke plants are always built to exceed design criteria to insure the facility will meet all legal requirements for operation. All nukes are necessarily over-built and should survive natural calamities many times worse than the minimum design criteria stipulates.
  • The geological cracks found near (or under) five nuclear power stations are not active seismic faults. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) released their expert findings on Friday. The non-seismic conclusions concerned the Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture and Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture; Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture; Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tokai No. 2 plant in Ibaraki Prefecture; and Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture. The results covered three criteria; (1) possibly causing a quake immediately under reactor sites, (2) possibly impacted by fault movement near the plant sites, and/or (3) cause ground motion due to a distant earthquake location. All five sites are not susceptible to any of the three possible scenarios. In addition to these five sites, NISA said that the Hamaoka, Mihama, Takahama and Shimane nuclear stations are possibly susceptible to the third criteria, but more analysis needs to be done for both locations. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

August 10

  • Former PM Naoto Kan is feverishly trying to protect his image by lambasting Tepco for their recent release of video footage taken during the F. Daiichi accident. Kan made his scathing assessment of Tepco’s disclosure at the Japan National Press Club. Tepco’s video apparently makes Kan look worse than he would like, so he’s criticizing the fact that two-thirds of the footage has no audio, implying that Tepcois being non-transparent and essentially out to get him. He neglects to say that the majority of the silent video came from the Fukushima Daiini plant which did not have an audio link-up on their feed from F. Daiichi. A few other instances of silence were “bleeped out” for what Tepco says are proprietary reasons. “It’s so unnatural. TEPCO says there is no sound, but they have said all kinds of things about my visit there, which makes it even more suspicious,” Kan said. “There must be the sound somewhere.” Kan also says there must be more than 150 hours of video in Tepco’s possession. He says the footage should be treated like the recordings of pilots and control towers during an aircraft accident. "The content of the footage is equivalent to exchanges made between the pilot and the airport control tower in the case of an airplane accident...I cannot understand at all why the footage is not being disclosed for reasons such as privacy," Kan asserted. The primary focus of Kan’s criticism concerns whether or not Tepco was going to abandon F. Daiichi on March 14/15. Kan insists he forced Tepco to change their plans, thus he should be hailed as the man who saved Japan. “I said you’re not withdrawing,” Kan insists, “We were on a cliff-edge situation” that could have led to a catastrophe threatening the entire nation. He added that he considered a worst-case scenario involving damage to all six reactors at the plant, another four at nearby Daiini plant and all fuel storage pools at both. It makes no difference to Kan that F. Daiini experienced no nuclear accident and three of the reactors at F. Daiichi weren’t operating before the quake/tsunami hit. It further makes no difference that three independent investigative groups say he misunderstood Tepco’s desire to evacuate non-essential personnel if the situation worsened. (Kyodo News; Japan Times)
  • A new report on the video footage shows that spent fuel pool issues confronted Tepco’s emergency team early-on…but not unit #4 SFP. After the unit #1 explosion on March 12, plant manager Masao Yoshida told Tepco-Tokyo, “We have a problem. The pool at No. 1 unit is now exposed, with part of its building blown off in an explosion, and steam is reportedly coming out. We can’t leave it like that, but we have no water source and I’m out of ideas.” Because pool temperatures on five of the seven pools at F. Daiichi were rising, it was feared they all might dry out leading to overheating and fuel bundle damage. Tepco officials discussed dropping chunks of ice or spraying water from a helicopter to cool them through holes caused by explosion debris. On March 17, the plans materialized when helicopters began airborne water drops and fire companies began spraying cooling water into the open pools of units #1, 3& 4. By that time, electrical recovery allowed the unit #2 pool and common SFP to be cooled using installed systems. (Japan Today)
  • Another new report on the (above) video says some Tepco-Tokyo officials were against using seawater for RPV cooling, but plant manager Yoshida told them he had no other choice. In the footage, one Tepco official tells Yoshida, "You sound like you want to inject seawater right away, don't you? I think using seawater in a hasty way would be wasteful because materials will be corroded. Can we agree that we have the option of waiting as long as possible in order to use fresh water?" Yoshida immediately responds, "We don't have the option of using fresh water. That will cause another delay. When a massive supply of cooling water is needed like it is now, it's very hard to stick to just fresh water. I don't think there's any other way but to use seawater." The Tepco official reluctantly conceded, "I understand that for now," (Japan Times)
  • The IAEA team studying Onagawa NPS says it was “remarkably undamaged” by the 3/11/11 earthquake. 120 kilometers north of F. Daiichi, Onagawa station was physically closest to the temblor’s epicenter of all Japanese nukes, with ground motion at least as severe as Fukushima. However, the tsunami wave at Onagawa was much less then F. Daiichi, so there was minimal flooding. All three units at Onagawa are BWRs. From what I have found, Onagawa’s reactor buildings are Toshiba structures that seem to resemble GE Mark I containments similar to F. Daiichi. (Kyodo News)
  • The entry ban on another Fukushima no-go zone town has been lifted, at least in part. Residents in the ban-lifted part of Naraha began returning home at midnight last night. Residents may come and go freely, but are not yet allowed to stay overnight. However, residents who don’t trust the Tokyo government have stayed away. Some dissenters protested the move at the town’s municipal borders. Signs carried by the protesters asked passing drivers if they feel their children are safe. The demonstrators generally agree that no-one should return until the biological hazards of low level radiation on children are firmly understood. They believe the safety of the area is uncertain as long as their health concerns remain. (NHK World)
  • Wednesday marked the 67th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki and a commemorative ceremony was held. As with the August 6th event at Hiroshima, the psychological effects of the Hiroshima Syndrome held sway. Because of his feelings of an intimate connection between the effects of reactor accidents and bombs, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue pledged support for people whose lives have been upended by meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi and called for a nuclear-free Japan. He emphasized that Tokyo should radically revise their future plans to “set new energy policy goals to build a society free from the fear of radioactivity”. Obviously, Mayor Taue believes fear of radiation is sufficient reason for Japan to outlaw nuclear power plants. (Japan Today)

August 8

  • Tepco has shown the video conferencing recorded during the first five days of the Fukushima accident. A third of the footage has audio recording, but the other two-thirds are video only. The video shows the high degree of tension among the officials at both the Tepco home office (Tokyo) and plant management in the emergency center (TSC) at F. Daiichi. One example is a telephone conversation with Tepco’s liaison to the prime minister at around 7 p.m. on March 13, 2011, Tepco chairman Katsumata said, "It looks like we may be able to open the vent at the No. 3 (reactor). I think that the problem of hydrogen is very small."  But these speculations were quashed when the unit #3 hydrogen explosion of March 14 occurred and plant manager Yoshida shouted, “We have a big problem, a big problem! The number three reactor, it’s perhaps water steam, there was an explosion! 11:01 am!” A calm voice from Tepco headquarters responded, “11:01 am. Acknowledged. An emergency communication,” followed by another voice saying, “Those out in the field have to pull back, pull back!” The second response seems to have been due to home office knowledge that workers were feverishly working outside the plant buildings that were at risk of being injured by flying debris…and some were hurt, as it turned out. Soon after, Yoshido updated status at the plant site, "Exposure doses are reaching their limits. I want you to pay attention to that!" Then-Tepco President Masataka Shimizu responded, "Please keep trying in one way or another!" An early part of the silent footage showed then-PM Naoto Kan venting his anger at Tepco staff because he believed the company was handling the situation in a clumsy fashion and holding back critical information. At 12:30 pm on March 12, Tepco liaison to Kan, Ichiro Takekuro, says, "He (Kan) got really mad very often. You name it. When I gave him a briefing, he told me, 'On what grounds? Can you say things will be alright that way even if something happens?' He was harshly screaming at me." (Japan Today; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • In a western news report concerning the footage, it seemed everyone in Tokyo and at F. Daiichi was taken by surprise and confused by what was happening. The video shows that plant manager Yoshida doubted if Tepco home office people grasped the severity of the situation on March 12 after the unit #1 explosion, "Radiation levels are extremely high. You don't understand because you're not here, but it's really a skin-tight situation. (The workers) can go in only a short while, and they have to rotate." In another part of the video Yoshida suddenly screams, "Headquarters! This is serious, this is serious! The No. 3 unit. I think this is a hydrogen explosion. We just had an explosion. I can’t see anything from here [TSC] because of heavy smoke.” Confirmation of the explosion came from news media footage seen at the Tepco home office while Yoshida and his staff waited for the smoke to clear. Confusion subsequently peaked when Tepco officials openly argued about whether or not the explosion was due to hydrogen. The video also shows that only a few people in Tokyo were familiar with emergency procedures. One example is when Tepco executive Akio Komori instructs Yoshida to conduct radiation monitoring in case unnecessary personnel have to be evacuated (this was already happening at the accident site). Then, another official says he doesn’t know the evacuation procedure or protocols, saying, "Sorry, that's not in my head." Thus, we have our first look at the level of in-house confusion that occurred early-on in the Fukushima nuclear crisis. (Associated Press)
  • Comments from WWII atomic bomb survivors reveals mixed opinions on nuclear energy. It seems all survivors are strongly opposed to nuclear weapons proliferation, but not so with regards to nuclear power plants. Among the antinuclear survivors, we find Sunao Tsuboi (age 87) who says there is no difference between Hiroshima survivors and people who have fled from Fukushima, “In terms of being nuclear victims, we are the same.” In addition, he feels anything nuclear is beyond human ability to safely use, “Nuclear technology is beyond human wisdom.” Sachiko Sato, a Fukushima evacuee, said: “I think we can share the same sadness with people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In my mind, Fukushima is like a third nuclear victim following Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” On the other hand, some survivors believe there are few parallels between 1945 and 2011. “There is nothing to compare to what I experienced,” said Hiroshima survivor Shigeji Yonekura, 79. (Japan Today)
  • An estimated 1.69 million tons of tsunami debris from Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures must be disposed of outside the two states. Disaster minister Goshi Hosono reported the finding made by a group of Tokyo Cabinet Ministers. The announced burnable volume is 900,000 tons less than previously estimated because the government believes much of the rubble in Iwate can be recycled and used for the Prefecture’s tsunami recovery program. Local communities outside Communities from two prefectures have agreed to help with incineration of 370,000 tons, but more than a million tons remains in question, so Tokyo says they are negotiating with 16 other municipalities. In addition to the announcement, revised estimates were released for all tsunami wastes thatremain to be handled - 5.25 million tons in Iwate, 18.73 million tons in Miyagi and 3.67 million tons in Fukushima prefectures, for a total of 27.65 million tons. This is more than 5 million tons greater than prior estimates. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Industry Minister Yukio Edano has advised Prime Minister Noda against meeting with organizers of the weekly nuclear protests in Tokyo. He said the government is already holding public hearings on the nuclear energy issue, so there is no reason to meet with the protesters. This was announced soon after Noda said he needed to postpone the meeting with the protesters scheduled for Wednesday. Official sources said Noda’s schedule was too full to hold talks because of yesterday’s no-confidence motions submitted against him in both houses of the Diet by opposition parties. (Kyodo News)
  • Food from the Tohoku region is selling briskly in Tokyo, and not only seafood. People lined up to buy peaches from Fukushima Prefecture and seaweed products from neighboring Miyagi. These items sold for about 30% below the current market prices in order to promote sales. All items sold out in less than two hours. One person bought 2 boxes of Fukushima peaches and said she wanted to cheer up the people there so the least she could do is buy their fruit. (NHK World)
  • The Fire and Disaster Management Agency says that 21,047 people were taken to hospitals to be treated for heatstroke in July. Last year, there were about 18,000 reported cases for the month. Add to this some 7,000 cases for the week that just ended on Aug. 6. The Japan Meteorological Agency says the current heat wave will last until at least mid-August. (Japan Today)

August 6

  • Nearly 90% of the Japanese public is willing to help dispose of 3/11/11 tsunami debris. This stunning poll-result challenges the popular notion that a majority of Japanese citizens oppose helping with rubble disposal due to radiation fears. According to a recent Cabinet Office survey, 88.3 percent of the respondents said broad-based debris disposal should be promoted, while 8.8 percent disagreed. The survey polled about 3,000 people selected at random. In the survey, people were asked how they felt about assisting Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures in processing the nearly 12 million tons of rubble that has been essentially untouched for more than 16 months after the tsunami of 3/11/11. The survey did not ask people’s opinions on assisting with the disposal of some 10 million tons of tsunami debris moldering in Fukushima Prefecture. Although the minority continues to fret about the possibility of this rubble containing detectable levels of Fukushima contamination, it now seems that most Japanese are willing to assist in tsunami recovery. (Jiji Press) comment – It’s about time!!
  • Workers laboring in the recovery from the Fukushima accident suffer local discrimination. A team of psychologists from the National Defense Medical College have found that F. Daiichi workers face overt discrimination from the very community they are trying to protect. They tell therapists they have been chided by local people and threatened with signs on their doors telling them to leave. Some of their children have been taunted at school, and prospective landlords have turned them away. Jun Shigemura, who heads the investigative team, told the Associated Press , “They have become targets of people’s anger.” Takeshi Tanigawa, an epidemiologist with Ehime University's medical school also says "More than health risk, they are worried about social risk and employment risk." Many TEPCO families in the area now hide their link to Tepco for fear of reprisal. The workers approached by the AP declined to be interviewed out of fear of further public criticism. The situation resembles similar discrimination toward Hiroshima/Nagasaki survivors and their families after WWII, which still plagues many second and third generation descendants of “Hibakusha” (atomic bomb survivors). The Japanese Press has offered the workers little praise, unlike the Western media which has portrayed the remaining band of workers at the plant as heroic. The domestic press has consistently emphasizes how the dangers faced by the workers exemplifies the risks of nuclear power. (Japan Today) http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/fukushima-nuclear-plant-workers-face-stigma-threats )
  • As the summer heats up across Japan, jellyfish swarms threaten to reduce thermal (fossil-fueled) power plant outputs and strain the country’s already-thin electrical supplies. Large numbers of the creatures have been swarming near nine thermal power plants on Ise Bay. Chubu Electric Power Co. estimates that there are close to 24,000 tons of jellyfish swimming in the bay, twice the usual level and the second-most recorded in the past decade. If they make it past existing protective measures, the creatures could block seawater cooling flows through the power plants and reduce power output. In a worst-case scenario, seawater blockage could cause the power plants to shut down. The number of jellyfish near the thermal plants usually peaks in July, August and September. However, this year they started gathering around the plants in May, resulting in reduced electricity output at three of the plants for nine days. We don't know the reason why the number is so high this year, but we need to monitor the situation closely," said Minoru Hamada, 46, an assistant project manager in Chubu Electric's technology development department. (Japan Times)
  • Today marks the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Aging survivors, relatives, government officials and foreign delegates attended the annual ceremony at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park commemorating the US bombing. However, in the continuing effort to keep confusion between bombs with reactors alive, 700 people including atomic bomb survivors and evacuees from the Fukushima area staged an anti-nuclear rally at the same time. In most press reports, the antinuclear rally got the main focus. Kumiko Okamoto, a 38-year-old mother of two, who fled to Hiroshima from northern Japan after 3/11/11, said: “There is no difference between atomic bombs and nuclear accidents.” Toshiyuki Mimaki, 70, an atomic bomb survivor, said “We want to work together with people in Fukushima and join our voices calling for no more nuclear victims.” The Mayor of Hiroshima voiced a plea to eventually stop using nukes to make electricity. Mayor Kazumi Matsui called on the government “to establish without any delay an energy policy that guards the safety and security of the people.” Even Mayor Tamotsu Baba of Namie Town in Fukushima added to the anti-nuclear energy motif by saying he has shared the hardship of being exposed to radiation with atomic bomb survivors. Prime Minister Noda attended the ceremony and said, “We will establish an energy mix with which people can feel safe in the long- and medium-term, based on our policy that we will not rely on nuclear power.” But this was not enough to stop protestors from demanding Noda be replaced immediately. Many chanted, “Noda should quit. We oppose nuclear power.” (NHK World; Japan Times; Japan Today; Mainichi Shimbun)

August 3

  • Angry Fukushima residents want nuclear energy abolished, and they want it now. The ninth of eleven public hearings on Japan’s energy future took place in Fukushima City on Wednesday. All but one of the 30 speakers was in favor of Japan having 0% nuclear by 2030, at the very least. One gray-haired woman said, “I want all the reactors in Japan shut immediately and scrapped…Many people are now aware that the government’s talking of ‘no immediate risk to health’ is tantamount to ‘long-term health risk.’” Another middle-aged woman said, “I’m scared. I’m really scared…I’d like the government to think about why people have gathered in front of the prime minister’s residence every Friday since April. That’s not fashion. That’s not a temporary fever. That’s a heartfelt scream from the public.” Three options that the government has put on the table are to phase out nuclear power completely as soon as possible, aim for a 15% share of the power supply by 2030, or a 20-25% share by the same date. But, sources say it will be difficult to satisfy the thousands of Fukushima residents who live in a state of fear.  Also, it seems the government’s decision to restart Oi units #3&4 has galvanized the national antinuclear demographic. (Japan Today)
  • Many speakers at the Fukushima hearing focused on fear of the impact of radiation on children. "I'm really terrified," a Fukushima woman stated, "I have two daughters. I wonder if it's a good idea to let them lead a life, give birth and stay here." What concerns many parents in Fukushima about children's radiation exposure is an apparent lack of consensus among scientists. Although there is no hard evidence to show the Fukushima levels of exposure will ever harm the children, there is also no evidence to show that it will not. Fear of radiation combined with uncertainty and doubt seem to be the root causes of these anxieties. One other concern is the possibility that Fukushima children will experience the same type of discrimination suffered by the children of Hiroshima/Nagasaki survivors (Hibakusha). Hibakusha discrimination was largely the result of the widely-held belief that radiation sickness is contagious. Many people believed H/N survivors and their children had radiation sickness and could transmit radiation sickness to others. Now, the fear of similar discrimination toward Fukushima children has caused parental apprehension. "I've tried to prepare myself mentally for the discrimination my son may face when he looks for a job or when he gets married, just because he was in Fukushima last March," said 50-year-old woman. A man who called himself Nogi said. "I'm deeply concerned about whether it is OK for my children to marry and raise their kids in Fukushima. Young people (in Fukushima) have to feel anxious and fearful at such joyful moments in life.” (Japan Times)
  • Only 22% of the evacuated Fukushima citizens have participated in the prefecture’s study of health effects following 3/11/11. As a result, the town of Namie wants to issue a “radiation dose book” to all 21,000 residents in order to keep track of their health record. Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba says he doesn’t trust other governments to do the job, so he wants it done by the town itself. Baba said health hazards due to radiation exposure, particularly among women and children, will likely remain a concern for the rest of their lives. "Even if the central government tells us that we will be all right as long as our radiation doses are kept under 20 millisieverts a year, we cannot take it literally," he said. Baba feels the introduction of the health book system would help Namie press for free permanent access to medical treatment under a system similar to that given to Hibakusha. The downside is many parents fear their children having the book might brand them as tainted (unclean). (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Only 0.1% of Fukushima children have detectable levels of radioactive Cesium in their bodies. None of them have concentrations that are in any way hazardous. "Unlike the areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident, where internal exposure to cesium continued after the disaster, the survey results show that children (in Fukushima) hardly took in cesium after the disaster (at the Fukushima nuclear plant) and that chronic internal exposure is at a very low level for most children," said Masaharu Tsubokura, a researcher with the institute who conducted the survey. He announced the results of nearly 6,000 whole-body screenings which revealed levels of cesium above the minimum detection level were found in six children. Three siblings had the highest readings of ~600 Bequerels, which is many times less than international health standards. All three say they ate wild mushrooms, thus Tsubokura feels this was the cause. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A poll taken by Mainichi Shimbun at July’s public hearings shows that 70% want nuclear energy abolished. However, the newspaper admits it will be “hard to predict whether and how ‘public opinion’ expressed at such policy hearings and elsewhere will be reflected in the government's policy decision.” After this week’s two remaining hearings, the government will conduct a telephone poll of randomly-selected citizens on Aug. 4 and 5, followed by a more detailed survey with some of the respondents to the telephone poll. In addition, the Cabinet Office will use its website to collect "public comments" until Aug. 12.
  • Another municipality says it will assist in the disposal of tsunami debris…but not the rubble that remains in Fukushima Prefecture. Tokyo says Kitakyushu will soon accept combustible debris from outside Fukushima Prefecture. Other municipalities are negotiating with Tokyo from six other prefectures in the Kanto, Hokuriku and Kansai regions, including Aomori and Shizuoka. Miyagi Prefecture says some local governments in Tokyo, Aomori, Yamagata, and Ibaraki Prefectures have started to take about 140,000 tons of material…but only if is combustible. It is felt the same restriction will hold with future agreements. Miyagi has about 220,000 tons of burnable rubble remaining. Iwate Prefecture says they have about 240,000 tons awaiting incineration. While this sounds impressive, it is but a small fraction of the total volume of debris to be processed. Miyagi Prefecture has 12.52 million tons of disaster debris, while Iwate has 5.25 million tons, of which 1.14 million tons and 1.19 million tons respectively are designated for disposal outside the tsunami-hit prefectures. A senior Environment Ministry official said, “We'll ask for further cooperation from the local governments that have already started trial incineration and other preparatory work as a step for full-fledged acceptance [of disaster debris from Iwate and Miyagi]." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Ex-Prime Minister Ichiro Ozawa is trying to resurrect his political career using the antinuclear agenda. He has created a new party, Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People’s Lives First), including some fifty lawmakers who have left the ruling DPJ party mostly due to economic dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Noda. The main plank of the new party’s platform will be to end all nuclear energy in Japan in ten years. “After we take power, we will aim to decommission all nuclear power plants and drastically change Japan’s energy policy,” Ozawa said. He believes it is possible to eliminate the nukes within 10 years by improving the efficiency of thermal (fossil-fueled) power generation technology, promoting power-saving measures and mass-producing alternative energy technologies. (NHK World; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • P.M. Yoshihiko Noda says he will meet with the organizers of the weekly Tokyo antinuclear demonstrations. Sources close to the prime minister said he is "positive" about taking part in a meeting with a group representative. This is seen as a move to show he is not ignoring the outpouring of protest from the recent rallies. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimora said Noda has told him "I want to hear the opinions of the public, no matter which side they are on." However, the P.M. remains firm on his decision to restart Oi units #3&4. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Several prosecutors have opened criminal probes into the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The investigations have been spurred by lawsuits filed against Tepco officials, government officials, and ex-PM Naoto Kan. Allegedly, the perpetrators committed acts of professional negligence leading to evacuation deaths, injuries, and exposure to avoidable levels of radiation. The cases are being examined in Tokyo, Fukushima district and Kanazawa district in Ishikawa Prefecture. Sources say the cases may be difficult to pursue due to a lack of concrete evidence. The strongest evidence concerns the deaths of bedridden patients who were improperly treated or abandoned during the chaotic evacuations during the early days of the accident. The complaint relative to Naoto Kan accuses him and five of his staff for delaying the venting of unit #1 at F. Daiichi causing its hydrogen explosion. The Fukushima complaint is signed by 1,000 plaintiffs saying no less than 33 officials should face criminal charges. The Tokyo and Fukushima cases are considered critical to the investigation as a whole. (Japan Times)



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