**Japan’s new secrets bill threatens to muzzle the press and whistleblowers — The Daily Beast

An ominous new bill in Japan, on its way to becoming law, would give the government expanded powers to classify nearly anything as a secret and intimidate the press into silence.

The best way to deal with foul smelling things is to put a lid over them (臭いものに蓋をする)–Japanese proverb

The Japanese government, which already has a long history of cover-ups and opaqueness, is on its way to becoming even less open and transparent after the lower house the Diet, Japan’s parliament, passed the Designated Secrets Bill on Tuesday. With new powers to classify nearly anything as a state secret and harsh punishments for leakers that can easily be used to intimidate whistleblowers and stifle press freedom, many in Japan worry that the if the bill becomes law it will be only the first step towards even more severe erosions of freedom in the country.

The bill, which can criminalize investigative reporting of the government or its policies, still needs to pass the Diet’s upper house to become law and is meeting some last minute opposition on its way there. In politically complacent Japan, thousands of citizens took to the street in the last two weeks to protest the measure. Diet members are voicing disapproval and news organizations are standing opposed. Even cute Japanese celebrities have voiced their opposition, a sure sign that this is serious business in the land of the rising sun. Last week, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced their disapproval and concerns, noting the “the Secrets bill threatens transparency… (it) includes serious threats to whistle-blowers and even journalists reporting on secrets”.

With only 30% of the public supporting them, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party bloc pushed the legislation ostensibly to “ensure that Japan can share secrets with the US and other countries”. However, even politicians inside the ruling bloc are saying, “It can’t be denied that another purpose is to muzzle the press, shut up whistleblowers, and ensure that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima ceases to be an embarrassment before the Olympics.”

The Special Secrets Bill is based on a failed anti-spying bill proposed by Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone (LDP) in the 1980s. Currently there are already several laws on the books that punish civil servants for leaking secret information obtained on the job. The new law would enact harsher punishment to leakers and ominously would allow journalists who obtained information by “inappropriate means” and whistleblowers to be jailed for up to ten years. The law would also allow the police to raid the offices of media organizations and seize evidence at their discretion.

Under the law government branches other than the defense ministry would have the power to designate information as state secrets. The bill has even grants no longer existent agencies the power to classify secrets.

The law names four categories of ‘special secrets’, which would be covered by protection – national security, diplomacy, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage. Yet, despite the bill’s enlargement of the state’s power over information, it contains no oversight process to act as a check on ministries and government agencies designating large amounts of information as ‘secret’ for capricious or self-interested reasons.

Under the new law, the Ministry of Financial Services could put a lid on the scandal of mega-banks loaning money to the yakuza, Japan’s mafia, by classifying their “business improvement orders” as matters of national security and making them state secrets. The SESC could declare the reasons for delisting a company from the stock exchange “classified” for similar reasons. This is not reassuring of those wishing to invest in the Japanese stock market, which has already been dogged by compliance and disclosure issues.

And most tellingly, Masako Mori, the Minister of Justice, has declared that nuclear related information will most likely be a designated secret. For the Abe administration this would be fantastic way to deal with the issue of tons of radiated water leaking from the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant since the triple meltdown in March of 2011. There seems to be no end to stopping the toxic waste leaks there but the new legislation would allow the administration to plug the information leaks permanently.

As the radioactive water from Japan’s nuclear disaster continues to pour into the ocean and our food supply, it is an ominous sign that the Japanese government refuses to disclose information about the levels of pollution or timely information about the next nuclear accident. And security issues at Japan’s nuclear power plants being, which hold enough plutonium to make hundreds of atomic weapons, including reports that they’re manned by the yakuza, could also be hidden by under the guise of state secrets.

Before Japan was selected to host the 2020 Olympics, Prime Minister Abe spoke at the General Meeting of the International Olympic Committee, where he assured them, “The Fukushima nuclear accident is under control.” This was followed by revelations of large amounts of radioactive water leaking from the power plant, and the remaining water tanks emitting radiation levels so high that anyone working around them would be exposed to a lethal dose within hours. It made Abe look perfidious or clueless or both. He seems anxious not to lose face again.

Mizuho Fukushima, former leader of the Social Democratic Party, compared the bill to the pre-World War II Peace Maintenance Preservation Laws and other Secrecy laws at the time, remarking that there was a time in police-state Japan when the weather reports could be considered “secret.”

““Once you open the door to such kind of laws, the government will have the right to designate anything as a state secret and by speaking about it or mentioning it, you can be arrested and prosecuted.” Ms. Fukushima explained, “Especially during war time, it was very difficult for defendants and lawyers to fight their court cases, because they were not told what exactly what was the state secret that they had been accused of having revealed.”

Outspoken Upper House Councilor Taro Yamamoto, who is known to be a strong supporter of investigative journalism, minces no words: “The path that Japan is taking is the recreation of a fascist state. I strongly believe that this secrecy bill represents a planned coup d’état by a group of politicians and bureaucrats,” he warned.

While his statement may seem alarmist, even a senior official of the National Police Agency agrees. “I would say this is Abe’s attempt to make sure that his own shady issues aren’t brought to light, and a misuse of legislative power.

Ironically, In a country that worships cute celebrities, the first real reporting on the problems with the bill began in September, when Norika Fujiwara, an actress who is also the goodwill ambassador for the Japanese Red Cross, came out against the law on her blog. She indicated it would threaten freedom of speech and democracy itself and urged her fans to pressure the government to kill the bill. When a beautiful celebrity takes up arms against legislation in Japan, even the media takes notice. And after taking notice, they didn’t like what they found.

The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association, the Civil Broadcasters Federation, and most major news organizations in Japan’s have expressed staunch opposition to the bill. In a rare journey into the political arena, even The Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan, which includes both Japanese journalists and non-resident journalists, issued a strong protest against the bill on November 11th. The Japanese media, almost without exception、reported the details of the statement.

“We are alarmed by the text of the bill… relating to the potential targeting of journalists for prosecution and imprisonment. It is at the very heart of investigative journalism in open societies to uncover secrets and to inform the people about the activities of government. Such journalism is not a crime, but rather a crucial part of the checks-and-balances that go hand-in-hand with democracy. The current text of the bill seems to suggest that freedom of the press is no longer a constitutional right, but merely something for which government officials “must show sufficient consideration.” Moreover, the “Designated Secrets Bill” specifically warns journalists that they must not engage in “inappropriate methods” in conducting investigations of government policy. This appears to be a direct threat aimed at the media profession and is unacceptably open to wide interpretations in individual cases. Such vague language could be, in effect, a license for government officials to prosecute journalists almost as they please.”

If history does repeat itself, it would seem very likely that as Ms. Fukushima fears, Japan is about to take a giant step back into its oppressive past. When one also considers Prime Minister Abe’s stated ambition to restart Japan’s nuclear power plants and remove Article 9 from the constitution, the article which prevents Japan from waging war, it seems like the Empire of The Sun may be moving towards darker times. ”

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Typhoons spreading Fukushima fallout — Australia Network News

” Typhoons that hit Japan each year are contributing to the spread of radioactive material from the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the country’s waterways, researchers say.

A joint study by France’s Climate and Environmental Science laboratory (LSCE) and Tsukuba University in Japan shows contaminated soil gets washed away by the high winds and rain and deposited in streams and rivers.

“There is a definite dispersal towards the ocean,” LSCE researcher Olivier Evrard said Wednesday.

The typhoons “strongly contribute” to soil dispersal, he said, though it can be months later, after the winter snow melts, that contamination actually passes into rivers.

An earthquake-sparked tsunami slammed into the Fukushima plant in March 2011, sending reactors into meltdown and sparking the worst atomic accident in a generation.

After the accident, a large number of radioactive particles were flung into the atmosphere, dispersing caesium particles which typically cling to soils and sediment.

Studies have shown that soil erosion can move the radioactive varieties of cesium-134 and 137 from the northern mountains near Fukushima into rivers, and then out into the Pacific Ocean.

Last year, the radioactive content of Japan’s rivers dropped due to fairly moderate typhoons.

However, more frequent and fierce storms in 2013 have brought a new flood of caesium particles.

This is “proof that the source of the radioactivity has not diminished upstream” said Mr Evrard.

Tsukuba University has completed a number of studies on Fukushima since November 2011.

Scientists “concentrated mostly on the direct fallout from Fukushima yet this is another source of radioactive deposits” that must be taken into account, he warned.

Coastal areas home to fishermen or where people bathe in particular face a potential risk.

Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from around the Fukushima plant following the disaster and nearby villages and towns remain largely empty as residents fear the risks of radiation.

The delicate process of decommissioning the site is expected to take decades. ”

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Spent fuel to be removed from Fukushima reactor — NHK World

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” The operator of the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant says it will begin removing highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel from one of its reactor buildings on Tuesday.

On Friday, Tokyo Electric Power Company completed the removal of a cask containing 22 assemblies of unused fuel rods from the storage pool of the Number 4 reactor building to a nearby separate storage pool.

TEPCO says there were no problems with the first round of transfer, but sand and fine particles in the storage pool impaired visibility. The utility says it will use a pump to clear the pool of particles for the next round of transfers.

The next round will involve 1,331 assemblies of spent fuel rods, or nearly 90 percent of the 1,511 assemblies in the pool at the Number 4 reactor building. The spent fuel assemblies are highly radioactive so the operation will require extra caution.

This will be the first removal of spent nuclear fuel from a reactor building since a massive earthquake and tsunami seriously damaged the Fukushima plant in March 2011. “

**Why Tepko is risking the removal of Fukushima fuel rods. The dangers of uncontrolled global nuclear radiation — Global Research

” After repeated delays since the summer of 2011, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has launched a high-risk operation to empty the spent-fuel pool atop Reactor 4 at the Dai-ichi (No.1) Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

The urgency attached to this particular site, as compared with reactors damaged in meltdowns, arises from several factors:

– over 400 tons of nuclear material in the pool could reignite

– the fire-damaged tank is tilting badly and may topple over sooner than later

– collapse of the structure could trigger a chain reaction and nuclear blast, and

– consequent radioactive releases would heavily contaminate much of the world.

The potential for disaster at the Unit 4 SFP is probably of a higher magnitude than suspected due to the presence of fresh fuel rods, which were delivered during the technical upgrade of Reactor 4 under completion at the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The details of that reactor overhaul by GE and Hitachi have yet to be disclosed by TEPCO and the Economy Ministry and continue to be treated as a national-security matter. Here, the few clues from whistleblowers will be pieced together to decipher the nature of the clandestine activity at Fukushima No.1.

Accidents happen

The delicate rod-removal procedure requires the lowering of a steel cylinder, called a transfer cask, into a corner of the pool and then using the crane to lift the 300-kilogram fuel assemblies (4..5-meter-tall bundle of fuel rods held inside a metal cage) one at a time from the vertical array of rods up and then down into the cask. The container can hold 22 assemblies for transfer to a temporary cooling unit built next to Reactor 4 before these are moved to a storage building.(1)

Lifting the 1,533 fuel bundles out of the pool is fraught with danger. If an assembly breaks away and falls, the impact could shatter other rods below, triggering an uncontrolled nuclear reaction. Compounding the threat, many rods are not intact but were fragmented into loose shards by a collapsing crane. In addition, many of the rods likely lost their protective cladding during the two fires that engulfed the spent-fuel pool on March 14 and 15, 2011.

The urgency of this transfer operation is prompted by the warping of the supporting steel frame by the twin fires that followed the March 11 quake. The pool is also tilting. If the unbalanced structure topples, the collapse would trigger nuclear reactions. A cascade of neutrons could then ignite the nearby common fuel pool for Reactors 1 through 6. The common pool contains 6,735 used assemblies.(2)

The Reactor 4 spent fuel pool contains an estimated 400 tons of uranium and plutonium oxide, compared with just 6.2 kilograms of plutonium inside Fat Man, the hydrogen bomb that obliterated Nagasaki in 1945. (While predictions are bandied about by experts and bloggers, there exists no reliable method for calculating the potential sum or flow rate of radiation releases, measured in becquerel or sievert units, after an accident. The tonnage involved, however, indicates only that a large-scale event is likely and a cataclysm cannot be ruled out.)

More than 1,700 tons of nuclear materials are reported to be on site inside Fukushima No.1 plant. (My investigative visits into the exclusion zone indicate the existence of undocumented and illegal large-scale storage sites in the Fukushima nuclear complex of undetermined tonnage.) By comparison Chernobyl ’s reactors contained 180 tons of fuel not all of which melted down.

Despite the looming threat to residents in Fukushima , surrounding provinces and the capital Tokyo , the office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe along with TEPCO hews to the tradition of risk denial and blackout of vital information. No contingency plan has been issued to Fukushima residents or to the municipalities of the Tohoku and Kanto region in event of a nuclear disaster during the SFP clearance effort. A concurrent drive to impose a draconian law against whistleblowers on grounds of national security is reinforcing the cover-up of data and testimony related to nuclear power plants, including the Fukushima complex.

Mystery of MOX super-fuel

A Mainichi Shimbun editorial mentions in passing that the Reactor 4 pool contains 202 fresh fuel assemblies.(3) The presence of new fuel rods was confirmed in the TEPCO press release, which described the first assembly lifted into the transfer cask as an “un-irradiated fuel rod.” Why were new rods being stored inside a spent-fuel pool, which is designed to hold expended rods? What threat of criticality do these fresh rods pose if the steel frame collapses or if crane operators drop one by accident onto other assemblies, as opposed to a spent rod?

Against the official silence and disinformation, a few whistleblowers have come forward with clues to answer these questions. Former GE nuclear worker Kei Sugaoka disclosed in a video interview that a joint team from Hitachi and General Electric was inside Reactor 4 at the time of the March 11, 2011 earthquake. By that fateful afternoon, the GE contractors were finishing the job of installing a new shroud, the heat-resistant metal shield lining the reactor interior.(4)

TEPCO inadvertently admitted to the presence of foreign contractors at Fukushima No.1 up until March 12, 2012, when the management ordered their evacuation in event of a massive explosion during the rapid meltdown of Reactor 2. So far, leaks indicate the presence of the GE team and of a Israeli nuclear security team with Magna BSP, a company based in Dimona.(5)

Another break came in April 2012, when a Japanese humor magazine published a brief interview of a Fukushima worker who disclosed that radioactive pieces of a broken shroud were left inside a device-storage pool at rooftop level behind the Reactor 4 spent-fuel pool.(6) This undoubtedly is the used shroud removed by the GE-H workers in February-March 2011.

A curious point here is that the previous shroud had been in use for only 15 months. Why would TEPCO and the Japanese government expend an enormous sum on a new lining when the existing one was still good for many years of service?

Obviously, the installation of a new shroud was not a mere replacement of a worn predecessor. It was an upgrade. The refit of Reactor 4 was, therefore, similar to the 2010 conversion of Reactor 3 to pluthermal or MOX fuel. The same model of GE Mark 1 reactor was being revamped to burn MOX fuel (mixed oxide of uranium and plutonium).

The un-irradiated rods inside the Unit 4 spent-fuel pool are, in all probability, made of a new type of MOX fuel containing highly enriched plutonium. If the frame collapses, triggering fire or explosion inside the spent-fuel pool, the plutonium would pulse powerful neutron bursts that may well possibly ignite distant nuclear power plants, starting with the Fukushima No.2 plant, 10 kilometers to the south.

The scenario of a serial chain reaction blasting apart nuclear plants along the Pacific Coast, is what compelled Naoto Kan, prime minister at the time of the 311 disaster, to contemplate the mass evacuation of 50 million residents (a third of the national population) from the Tohoku region and the Greater Tokyo metropolitan region to distant points southwest.(7) Evacuation would be impeded by the scale and intensity of multiple reactor explosions, which would shut down all transport systems, telecommunications and trap most residents. Tens of millions would die horribly in numbers topping all disasters of history combined.

Fires last time

The rod-transfer operation from Unit 4 is scheduled for completion by the end of 2014. That estimate is optimistic since it does not take into account the obstruction posed by fragments of shattered fuel rods that were overheated in the two fires that swept through Unit 4 spent-fuel pool on March 13 and 15, 2011, according to NHK television news.(8) Another factor for uncertainty is the impact of the explosion that rocked the roofline of the reactor building.

Basing its analysis on corporate information releases thus far, the Simply Info website states:

“TEPCO has changed their story on Unit 4 multiple times but eventually admitted to a very obvious explosion occurring at Unit 4 (on March 15). No video of Unit 4 exploding exists to date and it is assumed the explosion took place before dawn. One of TEPCO’s later admissions regarding unit 4 is that they think hydrogen leaked into unit 4 from unit 3 via the venting pipes and a faulty valve. No reason was given as to why unit 4 did not then ignite when Unit 3 exploded.”(9)

Soon after the Reactor 3 blast, an explosion occurred on the roofline of Reactor 4, blowing two 8-meter-wide holes through the outer wall. Although tattered, the spent-fuel pool survived the nearby explosion along with the device-storage pool containing the shroud. Photos of the building show holes and damage to a large section of walls and roof slabs on the northeast side of the upper structure (opposite the spent-fuel pool. Hydrogen gas, despite its high combustive energy per kilogram, lacks sufficient density to inflict such damage to reinforced concrete, as would a carbon-bonded gas like acetylene. A logical deduction then is that a cask of new fuel rods left on the roof during the GE-H refit was ignited by neutrons emitted from the SPF fire.

As for the spent-fuel pool, the first blaze broke out on March 14 and died down after several hours. On the following day, the pool reignited and had to be extinguished by firefighters. The nagging question is why the raging fires burned so long, since much of the hydrogen was dissolved in the remaining water at the bottom of the pool or would have burned off within a few seconds. While TEPCO conjectured that hydrogen gas pumped from Reactor 3 to 4, that scenario is a long stretch since most of the volatile gas would dissipated before arrival or ignited along the way.

An alternative possibility is of a tritium-plutonium reaction creating gas plasma inside the spent fuel pool. The condition of the cladding on the rods, which would have been melted by plasma, can indicate the heat source during those two fires. None dare mention are tritium-plutonium inter-reaction because that is the formula for a thermonuclear bomb, that is, the H-bomb. MOX fuel does have the potential to generate sufficient tritium for a thermonuclear, and that is what so rattled Naoto Kan by March 12, 2011.

A Puzzled Civil Engineer

In July 2012, inside the exclusion zone about 14 kilometers south of Fukushima No.1 plant, I had a discussion with a manager with a major construction contractor, whose large team was working at the damaged nuclear facilities. The civil engineer said that the Reactor 4 building was of serious concern because the structure was split, with the halves leaning onto each other. He added that the tilt indicates “structural damage” to the ferroconcrete foundation. Even a 9.0 earthquake could not cleave the strong footing, he stressed.

When asked about what then could crack the foundation, the manager responded: “I am a civil engineer, not a nuclear expert.” Nudged a bit more, he implied that a meltdown of nuclear fuel may have seared through the concrete. The intense heat can reconvert concrete into loose hydrated lime powder and sand, while cutting through rebar steel like a hot knife through butter.

The upgrade of the Reactor 4 shroud may well have involved the test-fitting of some MOX rods, which abandoned on the floor next to the reactor when the tsunami reached shore. In other words, in early March 2011 crane operators completely filled space inside the spent-fuel pool with new MOX rods and then simply left casks of assemblies on the roof and lowered more into the basement. That is the simplest explanation for the damage to the structural integrity of the reactor building. GE is not about to disclose its role in this disaster.

Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times Weekly in Tokyo, conducts independent radiation measurements and dispenses herbal therapy to local residents on his 10 journeys since May 2011 into the 20-kilometer Fukushima exclusion zone.

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Thousands protest in Japan against new state secrets bill — RT

” Thousands of people protested in Tokyo against a bill that would see whistleblowing civil servants jailed for up to 10 years. Activists claim the law would help the government to cover up scandals, and damage the country’s constitution and democracy.

A 3,000-seat outdoor theater in a park in downtown Tokyo, near the parliament, was not enough to contain everyone who came on Thursday to denounce government plans to considerably broaden the definition of classified information.

For more photos of the Tokyo protests, see RT’s Gallery.

According to organizers’ estimates, about 10,000 people crowded shoulder-to-shoulder in the isles of the theater and outside of it, holding banners that read: “Don’t take away our freedom.”

The adoption of the law, proposed by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, would enable the authorities to put civil servants responsible for information leaks behind bars for up to 10 years.

This would seriously threaten the freedom of the press, as Japanese media would face serious problems gathering information on burning issues, because state employees would be reluctant to share information for fear of prosecution.

That’s why a group of Japanese journalists gathered at the Nagatacho District, close to the country’s parliament, to protest the proposed bill.

Currently, long prison terms for whistleblowers only apply to those Japanese citizens who leak classified data that came from the US military.

“The definition of what will be designated as secrets is not clear, and bureaucrats will make secrets extremely arbitrarily,” TV journalist Soichiro Tahara told Japan Daily Press.

Protesting journalists have submitted a petition to the Cabinet Office, calling for the bill to be scrapped.

The proposed law is conceived in such broad terms it allows wide interpretation and could be used for many purposes, for example such as hiding information about the situation at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The bill could be adopted as soon as next week, because the ruling Liberal Democrat Party has a majority in both houses of the Japanese parliament.

“If this law comes to pass, our constitution is nothing more than a scrap of paper,” Reuters reported Yasunari Fujimoto, an activist with the Peace Forum NGO, as saying. “Without the right to know, democracy cannot exist.”

Many Japanese have been suspicious of the legislation, since it reminds them of the tough military secrecy laws that existed before World War II, when Japan’s hardline militarist government was engaged on an expansionist policy throughout Asia, until its defeat in 1945.

PM Shinzo Abe says that the new legislature is extremely important to secure cooperation with Japan’s major ally, the US, as well as other countries.

The data security bill resembles laws targeting whistleblowers in the US, and Abe is also considering setting up an American-style National Security Council, too, Reuters reports.

The protesters do not support Abe’s eagerness to copy repressive foreign laws.

“We have a right to know everything,” said Akio Hirose, a 54-year-old transport worker, adding that the proposed law is “absolutely unacceptable.” ”

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