De Engelstalige Nuclear Monitor verschijnt 20 keer per jaar. Het is voor honderden milieu- en burgergroepen in de hele wereld een bron van informatie en inspiratie. WISE publiceert het sinds 1978. Op de Engelstalige site staan honderden nummers integraal ontsloten. Hieronder een kleine selectie van artikelen over de ramp in Fukushima.
Nuclear Monitor #775, December 13, 2013
Fukushima Fallout: Updates from Japan - Jim Green, editor Nuclear Monitor
Some of these news items are taken from the twice-weekly updates produced by Greenpeace International. You can subscribe to the updates at: www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/nuclear-reaction or http://tinyurl.com/gp-nukes
Australian public health expert Assoc. Prof. Tilman Ruff has written an important, detailed article, titled 'A Public Health Perspective on the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster', in the Oct−Dec edition of the Asian Perspective journal. It neatly summarises recent (and not-so-recent) research regarding the health effects of ionising radiation and applies that knowledge to the case of Fukushima. We won't attempt to summarise a wide-ranging article here. One point that illustrates the risks: "To provide a perspective on these risks, for a child born in Fukushima in 2011 who was exposed to a total of 100 mSv of additional radiation in its first five years of life, a level tolerated by current Japanese policy, the additional lifetime risk of cancer would be on the order of one in thirty, probably with a similar additional risk of premature cardiovascular death."
Tadamori Oshima, head of the government's task force on disaster reconstruction, says that a target to reduce contamination of land around the Fukushima plant to a level equivalent to annual exposure of 1 mSv may be "informally" relaxed. "After we bring ambient radiation (down) to between 5 to 10 millisieverts and complete the decontamination, we will take thorough measures to manage individuals' dosage and safeguard their health. But a new radiation target would be difficult to publish because it would create a big problem," he said. Radiation levels in the area vary greatly. For example, Tomioka, a township about 12 kms south of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, had ambient radiation levels equivalent to annual doses ranging from 1 to 50 millisieverts by March 2013.
TEPCO said on December 2 it had found radioactive contamination 36,000 times permissible levels in water taken from an observation well. The readings were taken from the well east of reactor #2 and 40 metres from the sea. The contamination measured 1.1 million becquerels per litre. TEPCO says no major changes in the levels of radioactive contamination in the sea have been detected.
TEPCO has also found extremely high radiation levels in an area near a ventilation pipe. TEPCO found the radiation levels − equivalent to exposure levels of up to 25 sieverts per hour − on a duct which connects reactor buildings and the 120-metre-tall ventilation pipe. The estimated radiation level is the highest ever detected outside reactor buildings. A TEPCO official said materials derived from melted nuclear fuel likely entered the piping during venting soon after the accident occurred in March 2011 and have remained there.[4,5]
It has emerged that the water storage tanks that have caused so many problems this year were built in part by illegally hired workers. Workers were told to lie about being hired by third party brokers. "Even if we didn't agree with how things were being done, we had to keep quiet and work fast. People didn't have contracts, so when they weren't needed any more, they were cut immediately," said Yoshitatsu Uechi, a former Fukushima worker who lodged a complaint with labour authorities. His account was confirmed by other workers. One said: "Yes, we did a shoddy job. The quality of what we did was low, but what else would you expect? We had to race to finish up the tanks."[6,7]
A panel established by Japan's industry ministry has warned that plans to deal with the water crisis are still inadequate and that space to store contaminated water will run out in within two years if matters are not addressed. The panel made a number of suggestions including the construction of giant tanks and laying asphalt on the site to help prevent rainwater from entering the ground and flowing into the damaged reactor buildings where it is then contaminated. The panel also warned that some water storage tanks have been built on weak ground that could sink and their stability should be addressed.
TEPCO is currently storing 390,000 tons of contaminated water, growing by several hundred tons each day. There is an ongoing discussion about partially decontaminating the water then releasing it into the Pacific Ocean. It is estimated that it will take at least seven years to partially decontaminate the water already being stored.
Evacuees and decontamination
Japan's parliament passed a bill on December 4 extending the length of time victims of the Fukushima disaster have to claim compensation from three to ten years. The new legislation also says that a person can now claim compensation for any health problems resulting from the accident for 20 years after their symptoms appear rather than for 20 years after the accident occurred as was the case previously.[10,11]
Meanwhile, a science and technology ministry screening panel has compiled a plan to set a cap on compensation to residents who face prolonged evacuation, angering evacuees. The panel on disputes for nuclear damage compensation wants to set limits ranging from 10 million yen to 14 million yen ($97,000 to $136,000).
A survey by Japan's Reconstruction Agency of people who were evacuated from two towns close to the Fukushima plant found that 67% of 2,760 households from Okuma and 65% of 1,730 households from Futaba have said they will not return to their homes. Those numbers are up from 42% and 30%, respectively, in a January survey, which used slightly different wording. Those surveyed cited fears about radiation exposure and the length of time the repopulation process was taking. The latest survey found that only 9% of respondents from Okuma and 10% from Futaba said they want to return.[13,14]
Many of those evacuated from towns close to Fukushima are still living in temporary accommodation. Occupancy rates of the temporary housing built in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures in the aftermath of the disaster are at 85%. "We haven't been making progress in building public housing for disaster victims and acquiring land for projects to relocate entire communities," an Iwate housing official said. "Family members live apart and it's no good. Since we can't go back to our hometown, this is like a living hell. Nothing will change even if we complain," said Yoichi Matsumoto, a resident in temporary accommodation in Iwaki. It is not expected that the situation will improve soon. "There is a strong likelihood that it may take five years or more after the quake to see all occupants move out," said an Iwate official.
By the end of October, only 28.5% of houses, 33.2% of roads and 12.3% of forests around the Fukushima plant had been cleaned, according to the Fukushima Department of Environment. The Japanese government has extended the time-frame fpr the clean-up of the exclusion zone around the plant, initially due to be completed by March 2014, until 2017. Officials have cited several difficulties as reasons for pushing back the timetable, including finding space to store contaminated waste. Endo Kouzou, Supervisor for Decontamination Operations at the Fukushima Department of Environment, said: "It is very hard to earn support from locals in terms of where to put the contaminated materials. This is the biggest problem. Another thing is that, despite various decontamination operations, radiation cannot be eliminated once for all."
State secrecy bill
The lower house of Japan's Parliament approved a state secrecy bill on November 27 that imposes stiffer penalties on bureaucrats who leak secrets and journalists who seek them. The bill was approved after hours of delay due to protests by opposition lawmakers. The bill allows heads of ministries and agencies to classify 23 vaguely worded types of information related to defense, diplomacy, counterintelligence and counterterrorism. Critics say it might sway authorities to withhold more information about nuclear power plants. Under the bill, leakers in the government face prison terms of up to 10 years, up from one year now. Journalists who obtain information "inappropriately" or "wrongfully" can get up to five years in prison.
The legislation has triggered protests from Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Journalists, the Federation of Japanese Newspapers Unions, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and many other media watchdogs. Academics have signed a petition demanding it be scrapped.
Reporters Without Borders accused Japan of "making investigative journalism illegal". It said in a statement: "How can the government respond to growing demands for transparency from a public outraged by the consequences of the Fukushima nuclear accident if it enacts a law that gives it a free hand to classify any information considered too sensitive as a state secret?"
During deliberations in November, Masako Mori, the minister in charge of the bill, admitted that security information on nuclear power plants could be designated a state secret because the information "might reach terrorists."[17,19]
Residents of Fukushima Prefecture are angry over the railroading of the bill through the lower house. At a public hearing in Fukushima on November 25, all of the seven local residents who were invited to state their opinions voiced opposition to or concerns about the bill.
Elsewhere in Japan
More than 1,900 people have joined a law suit against Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) demanding the company permanently shut down its Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, western Japan. The suit was filed with the Kyoto District Court last November.
 7 Dec 2013, 'Record outdoor radiation level detected at Fukushima plant', http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201312070041
 Antoni Slodkowski, 5 Dec 2013, 'Insight - Fukushima water tanks: leaky and built with illegal labor', www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/05/us-japan-nuclear-fukushima-labour-ins...
 10 Dec 2013, 'Panel sets limit on compensation to Fukushima evacuees', http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201312100062
 7 Dec 2013, 'Over 60% of evacuees from Fukushima towns don't plan to return home', http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201312070045
 4 Dec 2013, '1,000 days after Fukushima: residents of crisis zone frustrated by slow clean-up', www.euronews.com/2013/12/04/1000-days-after-fukushima-residents-of-crisi...
 David McNeill, 26 Nov 2013, 'Japan cracks down on leaks after scandal of Fukushima nuclear power plant', www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/japan-cracks-down-on-leaks-after-s...
 Justin McCurry, 6 Dec 2013, 'Japan whistleblowers face crackdown under proposed state secrets law', www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/05/whistleblowers-japan-crackdown-sta...
 Mari Yamaguchi, 26 Nov 2013, 'Japan secrecy law stirs fear of limits on freedoms', http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_JAPAN_SECRECY_LAW?SITE=AP
 27 Nov 2013, 'Fukushima residents furious at lower house passage of contentious secrecy bill', http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131127p2a00m0na0130...
Nuclear monitor #769, October 10, 2013
Fukushima "under control"? - Jim Green, editor Nuclear Monitor
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on September 7 that the Fukushima situation − in particular the leakage of contaminated water from holding tanks and the constant flow of contaminated groundwater − was "under control".
A survey by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that 76% of Japanese do not believe the Prime Minister contention that the radioactive water problem is under control. Senior TEPCO official Kazuhiko Yamashita said the water leaks were not under control. "We regard the current situation as not being under control," he said. "Predictable risks are under control, but what cannot be predicted is happening."[1,2]
Shunichi Tanaka, chair of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), said on September 6 that TEPCO "has not been properly disclosing the situation about the contamination and the levels of contamination." He added: "This has caused confusion domestically and internationally. Because of that, the Japanese government has a sense of crisis and I, personally, feel a little angry about it."
The NRA itself came under criticism on September 30 from a group of intellectuals studying the Fukushima crisis and participating in a review of the NRA's first year of operation. Shuya Nomura, a lawyer who served on a Diet panel that investigated the Fukushima accident, criticised the NRA for its handling of the radioactive water leaks, saying NRA members should go to the plant instead of demanding explanations from TEPCO. Others pressed for reforms of the NRA Secretariat, which is staffed mostly by personnel from the previous, discredited regulator. NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka said he feels the organisation has been given a mandate bigger than its capacity, but that NRA members will try to improve.
Speaking in Tokyo on September 24, Gregory Jaczko, the former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, expressed befuddlement that the issue of contaminated water has only recently come under the spotlight. "This was known from the beginning that there would potentially be these contamination problems," he said. Jaczko said he hopes Japan pours its resources and energy into coming up with ways to function without atomic power: "I think the Japanese people have the ability to do that."
Hiroaki Koide, an associate professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, said: "I was flabbergasted by Abe's speech. The problem of contaminated water is far from being solved. This problem has been going on all the time since the reactors were destroyed. Contaminated water has been leaking into the ocean ever since." Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical doctor who chaired the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission last year, said: "Japan is clearly living in denial ... Water keeps building up inside the plant, and debris keeps piling up outside of it."
The situation in Fukushima "has never done or will do any damage to Tokyo," the Prime Minister said. But radioactive fallout and contaminated food and water are problems that have been felt in Tokyo and beyond. The Mayor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, publicly denounced the Prime Minister by saying that the problem of contaminated water leaks was "not necessarily under control" and that: "The government must acknowledge this as a national problem so that we can head toward a real solution."
On October 3, TEPCO announced another leak − this time 430 litres of contaminated water spilt from a tank. TEPCO said the "contaminated water may well have flowed into the sea". On October 4, TEPCO announced yet another problem with its water treatment plant − known as the Advanced Liquid Processing System − resulting in its temporary shut down. The stoppage came just four days after TEPCO got the system up and running after a breakdown when a piece of plastic clogged the machine.
Then on October 6, the NRA announced that pumps used to inject water to cool damaged reactors at Fukushima were hit by a power failure, but a backup system kicked in immediately. A worker conducting system inspections mistakenly pushed a button turning off power to some of the systems in the four reactor buildings. Earlier this year, TEPCO lost power to cool spent fuel rods at Fukushima after a rat tripped an electrical wire.
On October 4, NRA secretary general Katsuhiko Ikeda berated TEPCO over "the inappropriate management of contaminated water", saying the "problems have been caused by a lack of basic checks." He added: "I can't help but say that standards of on-site management are extremely low at Fukushima Daiichi. ... That these leaks occurred due to human error is very regrettable. ... The failure to make rudimentary checks reflects a clear deterioration in the ability to manage the site." Ikeda said the problems at Fukushima raised serious questions about TEPCO's ability to operate its other nuclear plants, like the huge Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant that TEPCO wants to restart.[18,19]
Prime Minister Abe said: "The contaminated water has been contained in an area of the harbour only 0.3 square kilometres big." No it hasn't. There is routine release of contaminated water, in part because the barrier between the 'contained' area and the ocean has openings so it can withstand waves and tidal movements. On July 10, the NRA said it "highly suspected" that the Fukushima plant was leaking contaminated water into the ocean, and TEPCO acknowledged that fact on July 22.[7,8] US experts urged Japanese authorities to take immediate steps to prevent groundwater contamination two years ago, but their advice was ignored. TEPCO reportedly lobbied against the proposed construction of a barrier – a measure that will now be taken with government funding – because of the high cost.
Princess Takamado – daughter-in-law of the Japanese Emperor – told the IOC: "The Olympic bid has given the young people in the area affected something to dream for, the motivation to move forward with courage ... I know one of the IOC's most important aspects is the legacy a Games leaves. The IOC will certainly remain in the heart of these young people."
Princess Takamado did not explain how newly-built sports stadiums in Tokyo would improve the lives of young people in Fukushima Prefecture, or the lives of the 160,000 evacuees from the nuclear disaster who remain dislocated.
The Prime Minister has contradicted his own statements about Fukushima being "under control" by calling for more foreign assistance dealing with water management and other problems. "My country needs your knowledge and expertise," Abe said on October 6. "We are wide open to receive the most advanced knowledge from overseas to contain the problem."
Former Liberal Democratic Party Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has made a public about-face from his previous embrace of atomic power. In a speech to business executives on October 1, Koizumi said: "There is nothing more costly than nuclear power. Japan should achieve zero nuclear plants and aim for a more sustainable society." He urged the LDP to adopt a no-nukes policy: "We should aim to be nuclear-free. If the Liberal Democratic Party were to adopt a zero-nuclear policy, then we'd see a groundswell of support for getting rid of nuclear energy." A small group of currently-serving LDP politicians is arguing against reactor restarts and calling for improvements in the management of the Fukushima site.
The town assembly of nuclear disaster-hit Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, passed a resolution against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on September 20 for declaring the situation "under control." The Namie Town Assembly unanimously passed the resolution stating that there is a "serious problem" with Abe's remarks as they "contradict reality." The resolution states: "The situation has never been 'under control,' nor is the contaminated water 'completely blocked."[9,11]
Regarding Abe's claim that "there are no health-related problems until now, nor will there be in the future," the Namie resolution pointed out that there had been 1,459 deaths related to the triple disasters in Fukushima Prefecture thus far. "We can't help but feel resentment against the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., both of which are disregarding Fukushima Prefecture," the resolution states.
Prime Minister Abe's comments to the IOC are contradicted by contaminated fish. Radioactivity levels have been dropping but contaminated fish exceeding safety limits are still being detected.[12,20]
Toshimitsu Konno, a fisherman in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, responded to the Prime Minister's comments to the IOC meeting: "He must be kidding. We have been tormented by radioactive water precisely because the nuclear plant has not been brought under control." As the string of scandals surrounding contaminated water unfolded, South Korea greatly expanded bans on fish imports on September 6. A ban on fish imports from Fukushima Prefecture was extended to a further seven prefectures.
South Korean fisheries vice-minister Son Jae-hak said that Japanese authorities had failed to provide timely and detailed information about the water leaks and that the ban would stay in place indefinitely. The fisheries ministry said the ban was necessary "as the government concluded that it is unclear how the incident in Japan will progress in the future and that the information the Japanese government has provided so far is not enough to predict future developments". Among other countries, the US, China, Taiwan and Russia also have fish import bans in place.[16,17]
 Justin McCurry, 19 Sept 2013, 'Future of Japan depends on stopping Fukushima leaks, PM tells workers', www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/19/future-japan-fukushima-leaks-pm
 TEPCO official denies Abe's claim that nuclear crisis is 'under control', 13 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201309130063
 Reuters, 'Fukushima operator slammed', 6 Sept 2013, http://thepeninsulaqatar.com/asia/251922-fukushima-operator-slammed-.html
 AFP, 'Fukushima far from solved, say Abe's Games critics', 10 Sept 2013, www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130910/fukushima-far-solved-say-abe...
 'Tokyo mayor claims Japan PM lied about Fukushima', www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=118722
 Reiji Yoshida, 10 Sept 2013, 'Abe's assurance to IOC on nuclear plant called into question', The Japan Times, www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/09/10/national/abes-nuke-assurance-to-ioc...
 Peter Lee, 27-29 Sept 2013, 'Did Japan Lie Its Way Into the Olympics?', www.counterpunch.org/2013/09/27/did-japan-lie-its-way-into-the-olympics/
 'Namie town assembly protests PM Abe's 'under control' comment', 21 Sept 2013, http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130921p2a00m0na0080...
 'Radioactive cesium levels drop in Fukushima fish, but strontium remains a mystery', 25 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201309250072
 'Doubt cast on Abe's assurance to IOC about Fukushima leaks', 10 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201309100071
 John Hofilena, 30 Sept 2013, 'South Korean minister calls Japan 'immoral' for covering up Fukushima leaks', http://japandailypress.com/south-korean-minister-calls-japan-immoral-for...
 Justin McCurry, 7 Sept 2013, 'South Korea bans fish imports from Japan's Fukushima region', The Guardian, www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/06/south-korea-fish-japan-fukushima
 'Int'l probe can address distrust in Japan's handling of Fukushima situation', 28 Sept 2013, http://english.donga.com/srv/service.php3?biid=2013092899788
 'Ban on Japanese fish remains in place due to Fukushima accident', 20 Sept 2013, http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_09_20/Ban-on-Japanese-fish-remains-in...
 Shingo Ito, AFP, 4 Oct 2013, 'Japan nuclear regulator berates Fukushima operator', http://tinyurl.com/afp-fuku
 Martin Fackler, 4 Oct 2013, 'Company Is Scolded for Mistakes at Fukushima', New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/world/asia/fukushima-nuclear-plant-in-japan.html
 Alex Roslin, 2 Oct 2013, 'Cancer risk linked to radiation levels in fish species after Fukushima', www.straight.com/life/497651/cancer-risk-linked-radiation-levels-fish-sp...
 Asahi Shimbun, 7 Oct 013, http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201310070064
 'Fukushima worker accidentally switches off cooling pumps', 7 Oct 2013, www.worldbulletin.net/?aType=haber&ArticleID=120000
 'Japan PM seeks overseas help on Fukushima nuclear plant', 6 Oct 2013, www.smh.com.au/environment/japan-pm-seeks-overseas-help-on-fukushima-nuc...
 Martin Fackler, 15 Sept 2013, 'Fukushima disaster deepens with new errors' www.chinadaily.com.cn/sunday/2013-09/15/content_16970506.htm
 Martin Fackler, 2 Oct 2013, 'Former Japanese Leader Declares Opposition to Nuclear Power', www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/world/asia/former-prime-minister-declares-opp...
 George Nishiyama, 2 Oct 2013, 'Fukushima Watch: Popular Ex-PM Koizumi Comes Out Against Nukes', http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/10/02/popular-ex-pm-koizumi-come...
 Asahi Shimbun, 5 Oct 2013, 'Even in Abe's LDP, anti-nuclear sentiment hard to quell', http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201310050040
 NHK World, 1 Oct 2013, 'Nuclear regulator criticized for 'red tape' job', www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131001_12.html
 Kazuaki Nagata, 24 Sept 2013, 'Ex-top U.S. nuclear regulator counsels end to atomic power' www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/09/24/national/ex-top-u-s-nuclear-regulat...
Nuclear Monitor #769, October 10, 2013
TEPCO continues to pay pro-nuclear village - Satoshi Otani
TEPCO donated tens of millions of yen to a pro-nuclear village government in August despite promising to abolish such payouts to accelerate compensation for victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. TEPCO and Tohoku Electric Power Co. paid a combined 200 million yen (US$2 million) to Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.
"The payment is associated with construction of a nuclear plant, and we believe it is different from a donation," a TEPCO official said. The industry ministry, however, said the payment is "close to a donation."
Masaru Kaneko, a professor of public finance at Keio University, said the government should do something to end such actions by TEPCO: "The provision of this sort of money is abnormal, given that compensation for nuclear disaster victims and containment of contaminated water have stalled and that further hikes in electricity rates have been mentioned."
In May 2012, TEPCO said it would stop making donations to local governments. When TEPCO applied to increase its electricity rates in 2012, the company included the payment to Rokkasho into power generation and other costs used as a basis for calculating the rates. However, the industry ministry refused to include the payment in such costs, saying "it is not essential to supply electricity and is, therefore, close to a donation."
Source: Satoshi Otani, 4 Oct 2013, 'As Fukushima compensation stalls, TEPCO continues to pay pro-nuclear village', http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201310040060
Nuclear Monitor #767, September 6, 2013
Fukushima leaks, lies, cover-ups, Whac-A-Mole – Jim Green, editor Nuclear Monitor
A huge storage tank from which about 300 tons of highly radioactive water leaked at Fukushima may have deteriorated as a result of being moved and reassembled, TEPCO says. The tank was first installed at a different location in June 2011 but, after its foundation was found to have cracked after the tank sank in the ground, it was dismantled and reassembled at its current location where the leak occurred.[1,2]
The leak was rated Level 3 on the International Nuclear Events Scale by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) − making it the most serious incident since the March 2011 disaster in the NRA's view. Level 3 can be assigned when there is "severe contamination in an area not expected by design, with a low probability of significant public exposure."
Between July 2012 and June 2013, the NRA made recommendations or issued instructions around 10 times to increase patrols and to install more observation cameras and water gauges, among other measures. TEPCO only upped its patrols from once a day to twice a day, and installed more cameras while still leaving blind spots. Since the revelation of the 300-ton leak, TEPCO has said it will increase patrol staff from 10 to 60 people, boost the number of daily patrols to four, and install water gauges in the tanks.
Previously, TEPCO assigned only two workers to inspect 1,000 water tanks, during twice-daily patrols of two hours each. That meant that each worker took only 15 seconds to inspect each tank, and radiation levels were not measured unless a worker suspected something was wrong. Although workers sometimes saw puddles of water, they generally assumed that they were rainwater, which tends to collect near the bases of the tanks.[4,5]
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi visited Fukushima on August 26 and said: "The major problem lies in that TEPCO failed to manage the tanks properly. ... The urgency of the situation is very high, from here on the government will take charge." He said TEPCO "has been playing a game of Whac-a-Mole with problems at the site."
More than 300,000 tons of contaminated water are being stored at the Fukushima plant, in around 1,000 tanks, with around 400 tons being added every day as water is still being used to cool reactors.
In early September, TEPCO said workers had discovered high levels of radioactivity on three tanks and one pipe. One reading was 1,800 millisieverts per hour (compared to typical background radiation levels of 2−3 millisieverts per year) and another reading was 2,200 millisieverts per hour. It is believed that at least five of the tanks holding contaminated water may have leaked. Officials said that water levels have not dropped in any of the five tanks (whereas the 300-ton leak markedly reduced the level). The tanks were constructed by bolting together sheets of metal, rather than welding them. Welded tanks are more secure but TEPCO chose the bolted type because they are cheaper and faster to construct.[4,10,11,28]
A subcontractor who worked on constructing the tanks said workers were concerned about the integrity of the tanks even as they were constructing them: "We were required to build tanks in succession. We gave priority to making the tanks, rather than quality control. There were fears that toxic water may leak." The life-span of the tanks is only around five years, the subcontractors added, and more contaminated water may leak as they deteriorate.[12,13]
The head of the NRA, Shinichi Tanaka, said there may be no choice but to pump radioactive water from tanks − which are nearing capacity − into the sea but most of the contamination would first be removed. "The situation at Fukushima is changing every day," he said. "Fukushima Daiichi has various risks. The accident has yet to be settled down."[8,9] Meanwhile, the NRA is urging TEPCO to increase monitoring of seawater to better assess the effects on ocean water as well as fish and other marine life. Shunichi Tanaka said TEPCO's efforts to monitor oceanic radiation levels have been insufficient.
Fishers south of Fukushima Daiichi have not been able to fish commercially since the disaster, while those north of the plant can catch only octopus and whelks. They planned a trial catch in the hope that radiation levels would be low enough to begin sales soon after − but that plan has been aborted in the wake of the recent spills and leaks. Hiroshi Kishi, chair of the Japan Fisheries Co-operative, said: "This has dealt an immeasurable blow to the future of Japan's fishing industry, and we are extremely concerned." Nobuyuki Hatta, director of the Fukushima Prefecture Fisheries Research Centre, said: "People in the fishing business have no choice but to give up. Many have mostly given up already."[15,16,17]
In addition to problems with water tanks, there are ongoing problems with contaminated water in, around and beneath the reactor buildings. On July 10, the NRA announced it "highly suspected" that the plant was leaking contaminated water into the ocean. TEPCO didn't acknowledge what was happening until July 22; a month after initial suspicions were raised.[18,19] The NRA's Shunichi Tanaka said he believed contamination of the sea had been continuing since the March 2011 catastrophe.
In response to the July revelations, Dale Klein, a member of TEPCO's Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee and former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told TEPCO: "It ... appears that you are not keeping the people of Japan informed. These actions indicate that you don't know what you are doing ... you do not have a plan and that you are not doing all you can to protect the environment and the people." 
Barbara Judge, a member of the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee and former chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said she was "disappointed and distressed" over the company's lack of disclosure: "I hope that there will be lessons learned from the mishandling of this issue and the next time an issue arises − which inevitably it will because decommissioning is a complicated and difficult process − that the public will be immediately informed about the situation and what TEPCO is planning to do in order to remedy it."
Atsushi Kasai, a former researcher at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, said: "They let people know about the good things and hide the bad things. This culture of cover up hasn't changed since the disaster."
Journalist Mark Willacy described the recurring pattern: "At first TEPCO denies there's a problem at the crippled Fukushima plant. Then it becomes obvious to everyone that there is a problem, so the company then acknowledges the problem and makes it public. And finally one of its hapless officials is sent out to apologise to the cameras."
Still more problems surfaced in August. Three months earlier, TEPCO realised that contaminants apparently leaking from a maze of conduits near the reactors were responsible for a spike in radiation levels in groundwater elsewhere in the plant. TEPCO began to build an underground "wall" created by injected hardening chemicals into the soil but the barrier created a dam and water pooled behind it eventually began to flow over. In August, government officials said they believed 300 tons of the contaminated water was entering the ocean daily. Shinji Kinjo, head of an taskforce, described the situation as an "emergency" and said the discharges exceeded legal limits of radioactivity.In early September, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government would allocate 47 billion yen (US$470 million) towards dealing with the contaminated water problems, including funding for a massive underground wall of frozen earth around the damaged reactors to contain groundwater flows, and funding to improve a water treatment system meant to reduce radiation levels in the contaminated water.
Mayors from Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka, and Naraha have joined Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato in formally demanding the decommissioning of all 10 nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture, not just those that were damaged in the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Reactor #3 at Kansai Electric's Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture has been taken offline for routine maintenance, leaving just one reactor operating in all of Japan: reactor #4 at the same facility. That reactor will go offline on September 15. For the first time in 14 months and only the second time since 1966, Japan will be entirely nuclear free.
Nuclear Monitor #758, March 15, 2013
Fukushima – Citizens' Actions, Two Years On - Meri Joyce, International Coordinator, Peace Boat (Tokyo, Japan)
The second anniversary of the March 11 triple-disaster was marked in Japan and around the world by quiet reflection, looking back on the immense damage and suffering the triple disaster has caused, remembering the thousands of lives lost, and considering the deep impact made on the very foundations of Japanese society. Forty thousand people in Tokyo and many more around the nation also gathered the weekend before to call for an end to Japan's reliance on nuclear power, and for the Abe government to respect the majority wishes of the citizens for a nuclear phase-out − demonstrated for example in the huge turnouts at regular weekly demonstrations, and the tens of thousands of public comments submitted as part of the policy consultation process.
The real damage caused by the Fukushima disaster is not only that which can be simply measured numerically such as radiation doses, but also the more complex and ongoing social impacts. While it is true that at this stage there are no cases of deaths or diseases proven to be caused directly by radiation damage, any appearance of cancers and other diseases caused by radiation is likely to take several years and the future situation cannot be predicted.
The Japanese Government's Reconstruction Agency announced in August 2012 that more than 1,600 people passed away from "disaster related deaths" such as decreased physical condition following the disaster. Of these, almost half were from Fukushima Prefecture, demonstrating the extreme hardship local citizens were forced to bear as a result of the nuclear crisis. Many farmers and others who lost their livelihoods following the disaster have committed suicide. And even today, there are approximately 160,000 people living in evacuation both within and outside of Fukushima Prefecture, forced to live as internally displaced persons, with even their basic human rights neglected.
Such social and economic damage caused by the disaster is enormous, and difficult to fathom, let alone calculate. Little is known about the situation of workers at the nuclear power plants; agriculture, fisheries and dairy farming were dealt a devastating blow; and food safety is now a serious concern for all of Japan. On top of this, the financial and human costs for stabilising and decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant from now on will reach unprecedented amounts. These must all be understood as costs of the nuclear power plant accident.
Yet amidst these overwhelming difficulties, many individuals and citizens groups both in and outside of Fukushima have been struggling tirelessly to address these issues. While immediate activities were focused on emergency relief such as supporting evacuation centres, food provision and so on, the main focus now is on programs for the protection of children, radiation measuring and monitoring, health support, and information dissemination.
The misinformation, deception and confusion following the nuclear disaster has led to a deep-rooted lack of trust amongst citizens towards the government, and serious difficulties still exist regarding access to timely, accurate information. For this reason, groups of citizens have been coming together attempting to monitor and understand the actions of the government and other international agencies active in Fukushima, and ensure that their needs and demands are sufficiently reflected. For example, in 2012 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that it would establish a research centre in Fukushima in 2013 focusing on decontamination and health management, and hold a Ministerial Meeting on Nuclear Safety in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture on December 15-17, 2012. Upon hearing this, a group of citizens from various backgrounds and different parts of the prefecture established the Fukushima Action Project (npfree.jp/english.html), which aims to: "raise awareness about these facts, and to ... enable those affected by the TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster to monitor the IAEA plans in Fukushima, and ensure that their demands are delivered and that the IAEA research activities are conducted to be for the benefit of the people."Launched in October 2012, the Fukushima Action Project has held several public events together with international experts to share information about the background and track record of the IAEA, produced information booklets, and successfully lobbied the Japanese Government to hold information sessions for residents before the Ministerial Conference and display messages of local citizens at the conference venue, and meet with IAEA officials to convey their demands. While their capacity and resources are limited, such actions are serving the important purposes of demonstrating the importance of local agency, raising public awareness both amongst local residents and in the rest of Japan – in a situation where it is still very difficult for citizens from Fukushima to raise their voices critically − and finally, working towards acting as a watchdog for the IAEA and Japanese Government activities in the future.
Other significant examples include citizens' groups holding regular health consultation sessions, monitoring the activities of the Radiation Medical Science Centre for the Fukushima Health Management Survey, based at the Fukushima Medical University (www.fmu.ac.jp/radiationhealth), including seeking outside expert analysis and evaluation of the survey design and results, observing and broadcasting live online the committee meetings, and helping to provide opportunities for second opinions and medical check-ups for children and their concerned parents.
Since the first reports of radiation, citizens – despite having no prior experience or knowledge in such matters – also began to measure the air radiation level in Fukushima, followed by measurements of food items such as rice and vegetables. The Citizens' Radioactivity Measuring Station, established in July 2011 in Fukushima, has played a leading role in this and the health related efforts, continuing to conduct training, measurements, and provide information on internal and external exposure. There are now at least 26 such stations in Fukushima, and many have also been launched in other parts of Japan. Such efforts have also helped to lead the government to provide monitoring services for citizens and also called attention to discrepancies and problems to do with official measurements, and despite resource related and other difficulties continue to provide a vital service to the people of Fukushima. These efforts are largely conducted through the support of outside donors, many from overseas.
External support has, and continues to be, crucial for the citizens of Fukushima. A rural agricultural area, the region was not home to many civil society organisations or NGOs prior to the accident. Furthermore, radiation concerns meant that very few outside organisations, whether from other parts of Japan or overseas, could enter the area to provide aid and relief following the disaster. This issue continues today, where groups which have mobilised large numbers of volunteers to help in recovery activities are not able to conduct similar programs in Fukushima due to radiation contamination and health concerns. Such limitations highlight the continuing urgent need for outside support, both in relation to resources but also provision of information, independent analysis, and solidarity for the people of Fukushima – both those still resident in the prefecture and also evacuees who have since moved to other parts of Japan. With the ongoing confusion surrounding information, including how to understand radiation and its effects, continued communication and interaction is crucial. Furthermore, there is also a need to disseminate more information from Fukushima and Japan to the world, in order to enable such engagement to take place in a meaningful way. One effort towards this is the online portal "Fukushima on the Globe" (fukushimaontheglobe.com) set up earlier in 2013 by the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (www.janic.org/en), one of the few outside NGOs to set up a headquarters in Fukushima since the accident and which continues to play a lead role in coordination, communication and linking Fukushima citizens with individuals and groups in both the rest of Japan and around the world.
NGOs are also working to support Fukushima citizens in efforts to tell their stories throughout Japan and internationally. One such example is Mr Hasegawa Kenichi, a dairy farmer from Iitate Village, which was entirely evacuated following the nuclear disaster. Mr Hasegawa is this week in Australia for a speaking tour coordinated by Peace Boat and local Australian organisations.
Mr Hasegawa says: "I hope that hearing my story is an opportunity for people to understand more about the ongoing situation in Fukushima. It is important to make sure that what is happening in Fukushima is not forgotten. Two years have passed, but nothing has changed. We are still struggling not knowing what will happen in our future. And we are worried about the children. We are still living in evacuation. Will we be able to return in a few years from now? Ever at all? We have no idea. We must prevent any other place from suffering as Fukushima and Japan have. Human beings have opened a Pandora's Box which should not have been touched, and taken out this thing from uranium. Yet this was something which humans could not control. We need to work together to close this Pandora's Box."
While the media and public interest may be fading, the radiation and concerns of citizens are not. Although two years have passed, continued support and solidarity from medical and radiation experts, human rights advocates, and everyday citizens around the world is needed to deal with the ongoing situation in Fukushima, to protect the lives and health of the citizens there, and to prevent such a disaster from ever occurring elsewhere.
Contact: Meri Joyce, Peace Boat, email meri[@]peaceboat.gr.jp, www.peaceboat.org.