Impact of Fukushima groundwater bypass eludes Tepco — The Japan Times

” Tokyo Electric Power Co. can’t confirm whether the groundwater bypass operation at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is working, Tepco officials said.

The operation is intended to reduce the tons of radiation-tainted water being generated by the plant each day. The melted reactor fuel at the plant, which was heavily damaged by three core meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, must be perpetually cooled by water that then leaks into the basements and taints incoming groundwater from the hills behind the plant.

In the operation, which started about a month ago, the company pumps groundwater from wells dug near reactors 1 to 4 to intercept it before it can flow into the flooded basements and mix with highly contaminated cooling water. After being temporarily stored in tanks, the pumped-up water is released into the sea after radiation checks.

Tepco began pumping up groundwater in early April and releasing it in late May. More than 8,600 tons of groundwater have been released into the Pacific so far.

The problem is, the water levels in the observation wells near the reactor buildings haven’t fallen that much, officials said. The water levels tend to rise after it rains, they said.

“We will wait patiently until the effects of the bypassing operation become evident,” Naohiro Masuda, head of the reactor decommissioning division at Fukushima No. 1 told a news conference Friday. ”

source

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Japan’s Tepco shareholders demand shutdown — SBS

” Shareholders in the company that owns Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station have protested at its annual meeting, demanding its permanent closure.

Furious shareholders of the company that runs Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power station have joined campaigners to demand the permanent closure of the utility’s atomic plants as it held its annual meeting.

Dozens of demonstrators with loud speakers and banners said on Thursday Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), which wants to restart some of the reactors at the world’s largest nuclear plant, amongst others, must act to not repeat the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

There was pushing and shoving between security guards and demonstrators as they tried to approach shareholders going into the gathering.

Activists from conservation group Greenpeace wore full protective suits and industrial face masks to remind shareholders what families who lived near Fukushima – where three reactors went into meltdown after an earthquake-sparked tsunami – must wear to check on their homes.

Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba town, which hosts the plant, lashed out at supporters of nuclear power, including TEPCO’s management, urging them to put their own ancestral land at risk.

“Why don’t you get exposed to radiation yourself? Why don’t you lose your homeland?” he asked as shareholders filed into Tokyo International Forum for the company’s annual meeting.

His town remains evacuated because of elevated levels of radiation, amid expectations that it will be decades before it is safe to return, if ever.

Idogawa, who bought TEPCO shares last year, said the firm has been slow to offer compensation to those who lost homes, jobs, farms and their communities, and that which has been offered has been inadequate.

“You don’t pay enough compensation and don’t take responsibility (for the accident). I can’t forgive you!” he said.

The sentiment was echoed during the meeting by fellow shareholders whose communities host other nuclear plants.

A woman from Niigata prefecture, where TEPCO hopes to start a major power station, also expressed her desire for the utility to end nuclear energy.

“Are we going to make the same mistake that we had in Fukushima, also in Niigata?” she said.

“Fellow shareholders, please support this proposal of scrapping the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant… and revitalising the site with plans for renewable energy,” she said.

Japan’s entire stable of 48 working reactors is offline, shuttered for safety checks in the months after the 2011 disaster.

The government and electricity companies, like TEPCO, would like to fire them up again, but public unease has so far prevented that, as has a new, toothier watchdog.

TEPCO has argued that restarting selected reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, the world’s largest nuclear power plant, is the key to ensuring the company’s survival as it battles huge costs.

The calls for an end to nuclear power were expected to be rejected by TEPCO, which is majority-owned by a government-backed fund designed to rescue it.

The government has poured billions of dollars into TEPCO to keep afloat a company that supplies electricity to Tokyo and its surrounding area, as it stumps up cash for decommissioning the reactors, cleaning up the mess they have made and paying compensation. “

source

**Fukushima, still bad, still getting worse — Reader Supported News

” Just because meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear site aren’t much in the news of late, it’s not safe to assume they’re under control. They’re not. The 2011 accident continues uninterrupted, beyond control, beyond reliable measurement, beyond honest reporting in most media, and beyond any hope of being significantly mitigated for years and probably decades to come. That’s the best case. Alternatively, radiation levels are rising, especially for Tritium and Plutonium, and much of it goes right into the ocean. Either way, officials in Japan and the U.S. have responded by arbitrarily raising the officially “safe” level of radiation exposure.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) released an 8-page report June 11, based on what it shows was very limited sampling, taken three months (in 2011) and 32 months (in 2013) after the meltdowns. Distributed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the report lacks any useful detail for an exposed public, and its main conclusion is opaque on human safety:

Air dose rates in both “Road and its adjacent area” and “Vacant land lot” have decreased more rapidly than we expected considering the physical half-life of radionuclide in 32 months after the accident.
Who’ll stop the rain? Or the groundwater? Or fuel pool coolant?

Recently the Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO), responsible for the nuclear site, has acknowledged that rain is a problem. TEPCO has thousands of storage tanks filled with radioactive groundwater collected from the site, but rain adds to the water in the tanks and becomes part of the total volume of radioactive water on site and flowing out. TEPCO has suggested a variety of ways of putting a cover, a roof, or a tent over the tanks to keep the rain out. But TEPCO hasn’t done it yet.

The Fukushima nuclear power plants have been shut down for more than three years, but the nuclear fuel is not yet stabilized and the site leaks radioactivity constantly, but at a varying, often unknown rate. The Fukushima disaster is unprecedented in scale, complexity, and consequence. Fukushima’s continuing release of radioactivity long since passed the scale of Chernobyl in 1986. Fukushima releases are now estimated at three times the Russian accident, but with no end in sight for Japan.

There’s no end in sight for Ukraine, either, where the Chernobyl accident may be better contained than Fukushima, but Chernobyl won’t be over till it’s over, either. Reasonably enough, Japan and Ukraine have been working together to launch satellites that will monitor their respective nuclear disasters. A Ukrainian-designed rocket carrying two Japanese-developed satellites is scheduled to launch into orbit from Russia’s Ural space station on June 26. The rocket will be carrying 33 small satellites from 17 countries.

The satellites from Ukraine and Japan are intended to maintain a continuous record of conditions at and around the two nuclear disasters. How governments use and/or share this data remains to be seen. As one Tokyo University professor involved in the project expressed concern over government accountability, “I hope that the data will help Japan and Ukraine correctly acknowledge the impact on the environment near the two plants.” [Emphasis added.]

“I’ve been involved in this Fukushima volunteer for 3 years. Blood splashes out of the skin suddenly, and quite often. This is the reality.”

A Fukushima decontamination volunteer posted that comment on Twitter. (There the translation is rougher: “Voluntary activities [scary internal radiation threat: Fukushima from the third year. This reality that one day, often happen to be suddenly spewing blood from the skin.”) The anecdotal suffering of people affected by Fukushima and the years of inadequate official response goes largely unreported, except by a few like Mochizuki Cheshire Iori, who has maintained his Fukushima Diary since immediately after the meltdowns. He recently reported a massive spike of Cesium in Yaiti City, midway between Fukushima and Tokyo.

Fukushima Diary also posted a report of elevated radiation levels in Tokyo in February 2014. These are anecdotal reports, but there have been other reports of radiation in Tokyo. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen reported personally measuring material in Tokyo in December 2012 that was hot enough to be classified as radioactive waste in the U.S. Japan did nothing about it. There is apparently no consistent, official monitoring of radiation in Tokyo. If there were, and the measurements were high, that might threaten the Olympics scheduled for Tokyo in 2020.

The official Japanese position, expressed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the International Olympic Committee in September 2013, goes like this: “Let me assure you the situation [in Fukushima] is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo.”

Public policy, based on average exposures and estimated “safe” levels, is not all that concerned with personal safety, not even for Olympic athletes. Beat the averages and, officially, there’s no damage. But if you, personally, win the bad lottery and ingest a random “hot particle,” you may have a problem, about which most governments don’t much care.

“We have yet to form the ice stopper because we can’t make the temperature low enough to freeze water,” a TEPCO spokesman said.

To control the flow fresh of water into the Fukushima site, where it gets irradiated by the melted reactor cores before it flows on out to the Pacific, TEPCO’s plans (reports vary) included building a gigantic, underground ice wall to keep the fresh water out. Another reported plan was to build a gigantic, underground ice wall to keep the radioactive water in. A third plan was to build a gigantic, underground ice wall all the way around the contaminated site, keeping the outside water out (except rain) and the inside water in.

TEPCO tried and failed to freeze about 11,000 tons of radioactive water (about 2.6 million gallons) in place in trenches underneath two of the destroyed reactor buildings.

TEPCO also continuously adds to the radioactive water build-up with the water it must pump into the site to keep the melted reactor cores and fuel pools cool enough that they don’t go critical again and spew more radiation.

So far the ice wall plans, which would take a decade or more to complete if all went well, are already behind schedule and not really working out. On June 18, Al Jazeera summed it up in a story under the headline: “FUKUSHIMA ‘ICE WALL’ LOOKING MORE LIKE A DIRT SLURPEE.”

The next day, TEPCO issued a news release saying the earlier media reports, also based on a TEPCO news release, were wrong. TEPCO said the media had confused two different projects, both being carried out by Kajima Corp.: (1) the effort to freeze the ground around Fukushima and (2) the failed attempt to freeze water under only part of Fukushima.

The nuclear-industrial complex is a global power

In recent years, we’ve heard predictions of a global “nuclear renaissance,” which has yet to materialize despite heavy government subsidy of nuclear power in the U.S. and elsewhere. In 2002, by official count, the world had 444 “operating nuclear reactors,” now that number is less than 400. And even that total, a decline of 10%, is an inflated mirage created by the IAEA, which counts Japan’s 48 reactors as “in operation,” even though they are all shut down or inoperable, thanks to the Fukushima meltdowns.

Another nuclear industry promotional organization, the World Nuclear Association, continues to promise “The Nuclear Renaissance,” arguing that:

With 70 reactors being built around the world today, another 160 or more planned to come online during the next 10 years, and hundreds more further back in the pipeline, the global nuclear industry is clearly going forward strongly. Negative responses to the Fukushima accident, notably in Europe, do not change this overall picture. Countries with established programmes are seeking to replace old reactors as well as expand capacity…. Most (over 80%) of the expansion in this century is likely to be in countries already using nuclear power.
American, Japanese, and other governments around the world have long been in thrall to the nuclear industry. Currently the commercial nuclear industry is dominated by three Western-Japanese conglomerates: the French Areva with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and two American companies, General Electric and Westinghouse, with Hitachi and Toshiba, respectively.

The human cost of Fukushima doesn’t come out of their bottom lines, and most governments will also shirk paying for it as much as possible.

TEPCO sends mixed message about how safe Fukushima is

A Fukushima report from VICE (published May 26) notes that the Japanese government continues to try to keep information secret as much as it can. A former Japanese legislator says his government tried to conceal measurements of radioactive Cesium at Fukushima that were 168 times higher than the level at Hiroshima after the 1945 A-bomb attack. The government keeps telling the public that everything is OK.

The 13-minute video covers some of the more familiar Fukushima horrors: radiation poisoning and increasing thyroid cancers; the government allowing the sale of highly radioactive food; inadequate official measurement of Fukushima radiation levels; and the lethal effect of feeding radioactive leaves from Fukushima plants to healthy butterflies. There is a scene of TEPCO officials refusing to talk on camera beyond a short, bland reassurance that everything is OK. There is a TEPCO worker (his identity concealed) who says the equipment at Fukushima is deteriorating and the cooling systems might fail. And there is a dissonant sequence showing a government official wearing no protective clothing leading the camera crew (in protective clothing) inside the Fukushima site – until TEPCO workers (in protective clothing) chase them all away because it’s too dangerous.

When U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy visited the Fukushima ruins, she was unidentifiable under her protective clothing, as was her son with her. Ambassador Kennedy reportedly said that the U.S. would help “in any way that it can,” which could mean no way.

In June, the governor of Fukushima Prefecture was asking the Tokyo Olympics committee to have the 2020 Olympics torch relay run along a road only 2 kilometers from the Fukushima meltdowns that caused more than 100,000 people to be evacuated, most of whom cannot return. The governor is also lobbying for an Olympics training camp 20 km from the meltdowns, in buildings that presently house workers hired by TEPCO to carry out the decommissioning and decontamination that even TEPCO expects to take decades.

Meanwhile there are some things that don’t change: the Fukushima cores are still melting down, earthquakes still happen in the neighborhood (most recently June 16), and President Obama is still pushing to build more nukes. ”

SOURCE

Tepco to transfer unused fuel rods to new location — NHK World

” The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant will alter its plan to transfer the fuel rods from the number 4 damaged reactor building. Some fuel rods will be stored at a new location in the plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company says it will apply for approval for the change of plan to the Nuclear Regulation Authority shortly.

As part of the decommissioning efforts of the reactor, work has been underway since last November at the damaged reactor building to transfer more than 1,500 assemblies of spent and unused fuel rods from its pool to a common fuel storage pool in the compound.

In the run-up to the transfer, TEPCO planned to make space in the common pool by removing fuel rods which had already been stored there. It decided to place them in casks.

But the utility says delayed confirmation of the casks’ safety has prevented it from preparing the rods in time for the planned transfer.

The company says that with the common pool remaining partially occupied, it will be obliged to transfer and store part of the fuel rods from the number 4 building in the number 6 reactor building instead. Specifically, it will transfer the 180 assemblies of unused fuel rods that are emitting comparatively lower levels of radiation.

The number 6 reactor was offline at the time of the 2011 disaster and escaped serious damage.

TEPCO officials say they hope to begin the transfer to the number 6 building in November. They plan to remove all rods from the number 4 building by the end of this year as scheduled. ”

source

Assessing Fukushima damage without eyes on the inside — The New York Times

” A particle that barely ranks as a footnote in a physics text may be about to lift the cleanup of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in Japan over a crucial obstacle.

Inside the complex, there are three wrecked reactor cores, twisted masses of hundreds of tons of highly radioactive uranium, plutonium, cesium and strontium. After the meltdown, which followed a tsunami and earthquake in 2011, most of the material in the plant’s reactors resolidified, in difficult shapes and in confined spaces, wrapped around and through the structural parts of the reactors and the buildings.

Or at least, that is what the engineers think. Nobody really knows, because nobody has yet examined many of the most important parts of the wreckage. Though three and a half years have passed, it is still too dangerous to climb inside for a look, and sending in a camera would risk more leaks. Engineers do not have enough data to even run a computer model that could tell them how much of the reactor cores are intact and how much of them melted, because the measurement systems inside the buildings were out of commission for days after the accident.

And though the buildings may be leaking, they were built of concrete and steel so thick that there is no hope of using X-rays or other conventional imaging technology to scan the wreckage from a safe distance.

To clean up the reactors, special tools must be custom-made, according to Duncan W. McBranch, the chief technology officer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the tools “can be much better designed if you had a good idea of what’s inside.” But “nobody knows what happened inside,” he said. “Nobody wants to go in to find out.”

That is where muons come in.

In the next few days, Toshiba, the contractor in charge of the initial cleanup work, and the laboratory expect to sign a formal agreement to deploy a new technology that experts believe will yield three-dimensional images of the wrecked reactor cores, and will be able to differentiate the uranium and plutonium from other materials, even when 10 feet of concrete and steel are in the way.

The Energy Department has been working on the technology for years, and already licenses it in a less advanced form for a more limited job: A Virginia company is using it in a device that screens shipping containers for smuggled uranium or plutonium that could be used in a nuclear bomb. The lab’s new version will be much more ambitious and will focus on mapping rather than just detection.

The technique takes advantage of the fact that everything on earth is constantly being bombarded by muons, subatomic particles that are somewhat like electrons, though about 200 times as heavy. Muons are shaken loose from molecules in the atmosphere by cosmic radiation. Traveling near the speed of light, they rain down on the earth and can penetrate hundreds of feet into it.

But occasionally, one of the muons will happen to hit an atomic nucleus, and when it does, it will change direction in a way that gives a clue about the shape of the target and the target’s density. The technique of detecting those scattered particles and inferring what it was that they bounced off is called muon tomography.

“There is a similarity to X-ray, but the details of the physics are different,” Dr. McBranch said.

Decision Sciences International, a Virginia company, says it can use muon tomography to screen a 40-foot shipping container in 45 seconds and sense whether there is uranium or plutonium in it, though not in great detail. As altered by the Los Alamos scientists for use at Fukushima, the process requires a much longer exposure — it could take weeks. But the result will be a three-dimensional image; concrete, steel and water will all be distinguishable from uranium, plutonium and other very heavy materials.

“You don’t need a quick image, you just need a good image, and you have plenty of time,” said Stanton D. Sloane, the chief executive of Decision Sciences. Testing will begin later this year, officials say, and final images will be produced next year.

“I would expect to be able to distinguish fairly readily between what would be described as random results from the meltdown, versus engineered structural components,” Mr. Sloane said.

The Department of Energy, which runs the Los Alamos lab, does not yet have a formal agreement with Decision Sciences to produce the necessary hardware, but the company is likely to do so.

Mr. Sloane would not say how much the equipment would cost, but the project is small by nuclear standards. Toshiba will reimburse Los Alamos for its costs, which officials said would come to less than half a million dollars. Los Alamos has spent about $4 million developing the technology. Decision Sciences spent additional money to commercialize it, but has not said how much.

The Los Alamos contribution to the Fukushima project is mostly software. The accompanying apparatus, which has already been tried out on a small, intact reactor, consists of two billboard-size detectors, set up on opposite sides of the building. Each detector is like an array of pipes in a church organ, with each pipe filled with inert gases, including argon, that give an indication when a muon hits. The detectors keep track of which pipes were hit on the way in and on the way out, and at what angle. (It is not possible to “tag” a muon, but by timing the detections, the engineers can tell that they spotted the same muon coming and going.)

The detectors do not have to go inside the reactor building. In fact, they would work less well inside, because gamma radiation coming off the melted fuel would make it harder to spot the muons. Instead, the detectors will be set up a few feet away from the reactor buildings’ outer walls, and will be shielded with four inches of steel, which will stop the gamma rays but makes no difference to the muons.

At sea level, about 10,000 muons will pass through each square meter of the detectors every minute. Only a few of them will be deflected and yield useful data, so the detectors will need to run for weeks to gather enough for a clear picture.

Muon tomography is not completely new; it was used in the 1960s to peer inside the Great Pyramid at Giza. But the current version produces images of much higher resolution, according to Dr. McBranch.

Japan is increasingly turning to other countries for the technology needed to clean up Fukushima. This month, Tepco, the utility that operated the power plant, announced a deal with Kurion, a waste-handling company based in Irvine, Calif., for a mobile system to scrub radioactive strontium from 340,000 tons of contaminated water at the site.

Lake H. Barrett, an engineer who is not directly involved in the muon project, said the technique was certainly worth trying. Mr. Barrett was the director of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission office on site at the cleanup of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pa.; he is now an adviser to the president of Tepco.

Referring to the technology’s use in detecting smuggled weapons fuel, he said, “It’s nice to see the synergy of nonproliferation technologies, on which we in the U.S. have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, applied to another area.”

“How effective it is, we’ll have to wait and see,” he continued. “But we’re all optimistic.” ”

source

*Don’t forget Fukushima — TokyoSpring

TokyoSpring blogs about his experience in Tomioka city and Okuma Town in Fukushima Prefecture on May 31. This post is also available in Japanese here.

” Tomioka is the location for the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant, Tepco owned.
Population in January 2012: 1

Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture, site of Daichi Nuclear Power Plant, Tepco owned, population in December 2012: 104 (allowed to temporarily return)

On Wikipedia it says that Tomioka and Okuma are abandoned towns. I looked up the origin of the word Abandon. The original sense of Abandon was “bring under control”, later “give in to the control of, surrender to”.

We left for Fukushima by bus very early on May 31, from Yokohama. The trip was organized by social activists working with day laborers and the homeless.

I dozed off a couple of times during the ride and the next thing I knew, we were there, almost there. We stopped at a rest area to pick up our guide, the lovely and brave lady Masumi K.

My first reaction when we arrived in Fukushima was: Wow! We are already there? That was quick! That’s close…close to Tokyo, 200 km I think. Then I just started to think about the Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo in 2020 and how obscene the idea of such an event was.

Shame on the Japanese government!
Shame on all the Japanese people who are looking forward to them while Fukushima is dying!
Shame on the Olympic committee for choosing Tokyo as host!

Shame (total lack of it in this case): A painful emotion resulting from an awareness of inadequacy or guilt.

Fukushima was murdered by the combined greed of the Japanese State, Tepco and the greed of a large portion of the indifferent Japanese population.
The 3 monkeys: Mizaru, Mikazaru and Mazaru.

There is a song by Tom Waits called All The World Is Green.
All Fukushima is green, I have never seen so much lush green in my life, and I am just talking about one part of Fukushima prefecture. It’s as if all the green of the world had gathered there in solidarity to fight radiation. All green around us and above our heads a sea of blue sky, I felt like dipping my hand in it. The beauty of it all was suffocating.

In 1986, when the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened, I was a teenager in Yugoslavia, from the images I saw on State TV I found that region bleak, even before the tragedy it always looked bleak, grey sky, grey landscape…so, in a very sick way, it went well with the catastrophe, a good match. In case of Fukushima, Beauty was under siege, it just didn’t make any sense to me that something so horrible could happen in Eden.

At the rest area where we stopped to pick up our guide, Masumi K., a little before Tomioka, light blue protection masks and white shoe covers were handed out to us, I already had my own, quite expensive good quality mask. We arrived at what’s left of Tomioka station and got off the bus, we will have gotten off only twice, for in total of less than one hour. The first question I felt like asking once off the bus was: we are in 2014, right? The area was ETN (earthquake, tsunami, nuclear) struck in 2011, during the 3 years following the calamity no work to fix whatever was done. The railway tracks have disappeared under a fast growing jungle and the whole neighborhood around the station and beyond is…well…broken windows, cracked walls, collapsed walls, collapsed roves, tall weeds, overturned rusting cars, piled up cars, smashed rusting cars in gardens overtaken by wild plants, huge cracks in the streets…
Some say that the zone is too contaminated to bring in workers to clean it up, but a couple of hundreds meters away, in the next neighborhood, there are a few people living and working, running businesses…

On the other side of Tomioka station tracks is a long stretch of land dotted with dozens and dozens of huge black plastic bags containing contaminated soil and tree branches, there are also bulldozers and workers walking about. These huge black plastic bags, 1×1.5 I’d say, are everywhere, the whole area that we visited, Tomioka and Okuma, all the fields around them, are dotted with them, there are places where there are hundreds of them, if not thousands, sometimes all together, next to each other, lined up along the roads or just 3 or 4 next to an electric pole or just sitting in the middle of a green, green beautiful field. It seems that’s how the Japanese government is pretending to decontaminate the area. I also saw places where hundreds of these bags are in turn covered with huge green plastic sheets, and seen from afar, you’d think they are fields, maybe it’s another Japanese government’s way of trying to hide, camouflage, cover up, sweep under the carpet its criminal incompetence and lies. There are places where local farmers, I think, go around piercing holes in them bags because they tend to inflate and explode.

The Japanese government is actually telling internal refugees that some areas, if not all, are safe enough for them to return.

After some more time on the road, we visited an abandoned residential area with empty beautiful houses, gardens turning into something different, our guide Masumi K. told us that the inside of the houses is overran by mice, growing numbers of wild bores feel more and more free and daring to roam the streets, and as if that weren’t enough, burglars are helping themselves with abandoned stuff, household appliances and such…she also pointed out for us the ridiculousness of government’s safety measures by showing us some streets where head high fences have been erected in the middle dividing the contaminated areas from the non contaminated ones in a clear, precise and straight line fashion, the fences themselves were guarded by uniformed guard men, standing all they long there in front of the fences, in the sun or rain, some of them not even wearing a mask. There were traffic lights here and there with a blinking orange light, long, empty, pretty streets with green trees on both sides and eerie silence mixed with total confusion.

According to Masumi san, the population is divided between those who trust the government and the ones who don’t, she gave us an example of the schism, 2 elementary or junior high schools in the same area, two principles, one telling the children and the parents all is safe and under control, the other saying they should leave, if possible, or advising them to be extra careful…

Some of the damaged roads have been patched up. At one point we saw a lot of workers in the middle of nowhere, big bulldozers, trucks from various construction companies with their names displayed on big billboards, we were told they were building a huge parking lot for the cleaners, with mobile latrines and temporary housing units…go figure.

Don’t forget Fukushima are the words spoken to us by Masumi K.

Our guide Masumi K:
She is a lady in her late 50s, early 60s, an anti nuclear activist since ever, her father was a fervent anti nuclear activist, too, he died in mysterious circumstances in an accident on a construction site. Masumi is from Okuma which she fled with her family after the nuclear explosions in 2011, they now live in a temporary housing unit in Aizuwakamatsu. Right after the catastrophe struck, they were all placed in a sports center turned internal refugee shelter where she started publishing a paper about the dangers of radiation and exposing government lies. She has been also battling cancer for some time now, underwent surgery several times. During the ordeal her husband got seriously sick and needed a new kidney, Masumi gave him one of hers. She is also a member/head of a feminist group fighting against the Japanese government’s reassuring lies. She has also been receiving veiled anonymous threats regarding her activism.

After Tomioka and Okuma, we took off our masks and shoe covers, put them in a plastic trash bag and headed back for Iwaki city to some sort of town hall to hear a talk by a couple of cleaners and Masumi K. One worker agreed to talk to us on condition of anonymity, no photos, no name. We were served lunch boxes, I had brought my own food and water. Iwaki city was supposed to be safe, we were told, although it’s next to Tomioka. The anonymous worker told us about their working conditions, the raking and scooping of contaminated soil, the trimming of contaminated tress and filling of those huge plastic black bags. He showed us the “protective” gloves they were given to do the work, the gloves I use to clean houses here in Tokyo are better than his, I believe. He also showed us the “protective” masks…again, the one I had brought with me for a one day visit to Fukushima was way better and more expensive than the masks they use working there all day long, everyday. There are safety…I wouldn’t say rules and regulations…guidelines if you like, nothing is enforced. When they try to complain about the working conditions, they are met by HR people whose job it seems is to pretend to listen to them and do nothing about it. Most of the complaints get lost half way through “the proper channels” which involve dozens of sub contractors. The pay is far from great considering the health risks. Half of the workforce is local, some were dock workers from the ports that were destroyed by the tsunami, the other half form all over Japan, as far away as Hokkaido and Okinawa…Many workers doing the cleaning take off their masks in the middle because it’s too hot or just because of their bad quality they are uncomfortable to wear…

These are just a few things among many others that this young anonymous worker told us, he told us about so many small and big acts of exploitation by top firms and their myriad of subcontractors that…well…one stops listening, not on purpose, but it’s just too much, too overwhelming, it starts sounding normal after a while, I am sorry I can’t remember all of it. At every step in that area one can see or hear or feel the Japanese government’s lies and crimes. To be honest, near the end of the meeting I just wanted to get out of there, I am not proud of myself for saying this but that’s how I felt. I just got tired of being careful not to touch anything around me and if I did, I had to be careful not to touch my mouth…those were some of the instructions we were given before and during the visit. Once back in Tokyo, I wanted to go back to Fukushima. In Tokyo I feel loathing more than ever.

After the young anonymous worker, Masumi K talked again. She told us, again among many other stories of suffering, about the increase in suicides, consumption of alcohol, domestic violence, depression…she also told us how after the ongoing nuclear disaster there was a time when quite lots of people suddenly started having nose bleeds, cats and dogs too, it lasted for some time and then it suddenly stopped.

After her talk someone among us asked her: “What can we do from Tokyo and Yokohama? What can we do to help?
Masumi answered: “Don’t forget us. Don’t forget Fukushima.”

Why did all this happen? Why is it still happening? The answer, at least for me, although too simple for some maybe, is this line from the song Human Error by Frying Dutchman: “it’s all about money, money, money!”

I took a lot of photos of all this, you can see them on my facebook timeline, my tumblr or my google+.

On the way out of ghost city Tomioka to ghost town Okuma, we suddenly saw a house with a family…living there or who had stayed there or who had returned because the government told them it was safe and clean or who had just dropped by to pick up a few of their belongings…anyway, there was a teenage boy standing next to the house, in the driveway, wearing blue shorts, a black jersey with red patterns, bare feet or wearing sandals, I forgot, he was staring at our passing bus…we stared back.

Sulejman Brkic
June 12, 2014 “