Japanese robot probes the radioactive water at Fukushima’s nuclear reactor to find melted fuel — Daily Mail

” A Japanese robot has begun probing the radioactive water at Fukushima’s nuclear reactor.

The marine robot, nicknamed the ‘little sunfish’, is on a mission to study structural damage and find fuel inside the three reactors of the devastated plant.

Experts said remote-controlled bots are key to finding fuel at the dangerous site, which has likely melted and been submerged by highly radioactive water.

The probe – about the size of a loaf of bread – is equipped with lights, manoeuvres using tail propellers and collects data using two cameras and a dosimeter radiation detector.

Plant operators chose to send the robot inside the containment vessel of the No. 3 reactor because it has highest known water levels out of the the three reactors.

The robot entered the structure at 6.30am JST (10.30 BST, 5.30 ET) through a pipe connected to the containment vessel.

The marine machine, which was attached to cables, then swam to the area just below the reactor pressure vessel inside to take images.

New images taken by the robot show how parts of the system, including the control rod, have been damaged by radiation.

On Friday, the robot will continue its travels to the bottom of the containment vessels, where melted fuel deposits are believed to have accumulated.

In 2011, a 10-metre-high tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 people crashed into Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, leading to several meltdowns.

Five years after the disaster, researchers are still struggling to clean up the highly dangerous radioactive materials in water of the wasting reactors.

It’s estimated that plant officials have only located 10 per cent of the waste fuel left behind after the nuclear meltdowns.

And the damaged plant is believed to be leaking small amounts of the radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean, which could be travelling as far as the west cost of the US.

Researchers are now pinning their hopes on the remote-controlled sunfish robot to locate the lost fuel in order to work out the safest way to remove it.

During a demonstration of the device at a test facility near Tokyo last month, the probe slowly slid down from a rail and moved across the water.

A team operated it remotely, with one guiding the robot while another adjusted a cable that transmits data and serves as its lifeline.

Japan hopes to locate and start removing fuel from the reactors after Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.

In earlier operations, snake and scorpion-shaped robots became stuck inside two reactors.

The scorpion robot’s crawling function failed and it was left inside the plant’s Unit 2 containment vessel.

The other, designed for cleaning debris for the ‘scorpion’ probe, was called back after two hours when two of its cameras stopped working after its total radiation exposure reached 1,000 Sievert – a level that would kill a human within seconds.

The plan had been to use the robot for 10 hours at an exposure level of 100 Sievert per hour.

The swimming robot shown was co-developed by electronics and energy giant Toshiba and the government’s International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning. “

by Daisy Dunne, Mail Online and Associated Press

source with photos and video

Fukushima cover up — CounterPunch

” It is literally impossible for the world community to get a clear understanding of, and truth about, the Fukushima nuclear disaster. This statement is based upon The Feature article in Columbia Journalism Review (“CJR”) d/d October 25, 2016 entitled: “Sinking a Bold Foray Into Watchdog Journalism in Japan” by Martin Fackler.

The scandalous subject matter of the article is frightening to its core. Essentially, it paints a picture of upending and abolishing a 3-year attempt by one of Japan’s oldest and most liberal/intellectual newspapers, The Asahi Shimbun (circ. 6.6 mln) in its effort of “watchdog journalism” of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In the end, the newspaper’s special watchdog division suffered un-preannounced abrupt closure.

The CJR article, whether intentionally or not, is an indictment of right wing political control of media throughout the world. The story is, moreover, extraordinarily scary and of deepest concern because no sources can be counted on for accurate, truthful reporting of an incident as powerful and deadly dangerous as the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. Lest anybody in class forgets, three nuclear reactors at Fukushima Diiachi Nuclear Power Plant experienced 100% meltdown, aka The China Syndrome over five years ago.

The molten cores of those reactors melted down to a stage called corium, which is a lumpy hunk of irradiating radionuclides so deadly that robotic cameras are zapped! The radioactivity is powerful, deadly and possessed of frightening longevity, 100s of years. Again for those who missed class, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) has no idea where those masses of sizzling hot radioactive goo are today. Did they burrow into the ground? Nobody knows, but it is known that those blobs of radioactivity are extraordinarily dangerous, as in deathly, erratically spewing radioactivity “who knows where”?

Fukushima is a national/worldwide emergency that is the worst kept secret ever because everybody knows it is happening; it is current; it is alive; it is deadly; it has killed (as explained in several prior articles) and will kill many more as well as maim countless people over many decades (a description of radiation’s gruesomeness follows later on in this article).

Yet, the Abe administration is talking to Olympic officials about conducting Olympic events, like baseball, in Fukushima for Tokyo 2020. Are they nuts, going off the deep end, gone mad, out of control? After all, TEPCO readily admits (1) the Fukushima cleanup will take decades to complete, if ever completed, and (2) nobody knows the whereabouts of the worlds most deadly radioactive blobs of sizzling hot masses of death and destruction, begging the question: Why is there a Chernobyl Exclusion Zone of 1,000 square miles after one nuclear meltdown 30 years ago, but yet Fukushima, with three meltdowns, each more severe than Chernobyl, is already being repopulated? It doesn’t compute!

The short answer is the Abe administration claims the radioactivity is being cleaned up. A much longer answer eschews the Abe administration by explaining the near impossibility of cleaning up radioactivity throughout the countryside. There are, after all, independent organizations with boots on the ground in Fukushima (documented in prior articles) that tell the truth, having measured dangerous levels of radiation throughout the region where clean up crews supposedly cleaned up.

The Columbia Journalism Review article, intentionally or not, paints a picture of “journalism by government decree” in Japan, which gainsays any kind of real journalism. It’s faux journalism, kinda like reading The Daily Disneyworld Journal & Times.

Based upon the CJR article: “The hastiness of the Asahi’s retreat raised fresh doubts about whether such watchdog journalism— an inherently risky enterprise that seeks to expose and debunk, and challenge the powerful—is even possible in Japan’s big national media, which are deeply tied to the nation’s political establishment.”

Japan’s journalists belong to “press clubs,” which are exclusively restricted to the big boys (and girls) from major media outlets, where stories are hand-fed according to government officialdom, period. It is the news, period! No questions asked, and this is how Asahi got into trouble. They set up a unit of 30-journalists to tell the truth about Fukushima and along the way won awards for journalism, until it suddenly, abruptly stopped. A big mystery ensues….

According to the CJR article, “The Investigative Reporting Section [Asahi] proved an instant success, winning Japan’s top journalism award two years in a row for its exposure of official cover-ups and shoddy decontamination work around the nuclear plant.”

Furthermore, according to the CJR article: “The abrupt about-face by the Asahi, a 137-year-old newspaper with 2,400 journalists that has been postwar Japan’s liberal media flagship, was an early victory for the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which had sought to silence critical voices as it moved to roll back Japan’s postwar pacifism, and restart its nuclear industry.”

And, furthermore, the truth be told: “In Japanese journalism, scoops usually just mean learning from the ministry officials today what they intend to do tomorrow,’ says Makoto Watanabe, a former reporter in the section who quit the Asahi in March because he felt blocked from doing investigative reporting. ‘We came up with different scoops that were unwelcome in the Prime Minister’s Office.”

It comes as no surprise that Reporters Without Borders lowered Japan’s rating from 11th in 2010 (but one has to wonder how they ever got that high) to 72nd in this years annual ranking of global press freedoms, released on April 20, 2016.

Koichi Nakano, a professor of politics at Sophia University in Tokyo, says: “Emasculating the Asahi allowed Abe to impose a grim new conformity on the media world.”

When considering the awards Asahi won during its short foray into investigative journalism, like Japan’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for reporting about a gag-order on scientists after the Fukushima disaster and the government’s failure to release information about radiation to evacuating residents, now that Asahi has been forced to put a lid on “investigative journalism” and it must toe the line in “press clubs,” any and all information about the dangers or status of Fukushima are ipso facto suspect!

The world is dead silent on credible information about the world’s biggest disaster! (Which causes one to stop and think… really a lot.)

The evidence is abundantly clear that there is no trustworthy source of information about the world’s biggest nuclear disaster, and likely one of the biggest dangers to the planet in human history. However, time will tell as radiation exposure takes years to show up in the human body. It’s a silent killer but cumulates over time. Fukushima radiation goes on and on, but nobody knows what to do. To say the situation is scandalous is such a gross understatement that it is difficult to take it as seriously as it really should be taken. But, it is scandalous, not just in Japan but for the entire planet.

After all, consider this, 30 years after the fact, horribly deformed Chernobyl children are found in over 300 asylums in the Belarus backwoods deep in the countryside. Equally as bad but maybe more odious, as of today, Chernobyl radiation (since 1986) is already affecting 2nd generation kids.

According to USA Today, Chernobyl’s Legacy: Kids With Bodies Ravaged by Disaster, April 17, 2016: “There are 2,397,863 people registered with Ukraine’s health ministry to receive ongoing Chernobyl-related health care. Of these, 453,391 are children — none born at the time of the accident. Their parents were children in 1986. These children have a range of illnesses: respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, eye diseases, blood diseases, cancer, congenital malformations, genetic abnormalities, trauma.”

It’s taken 30 years for the world, via an article in USA Today, to begin to understand how devastating, over decades, not over a few years, radiation exposure is to people. It is a silent killer that cumulates in the body over time and passes from generation to generation to generation, endless destruction that cannot be stopped! ”

by Robert Hunziker

source

Japan’s ‘ice wall’ a problematic sticking plaster at Fukushima — The Nation

” Three years ago, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe helped Tokyo win its bid to host the 2020 Olympics by declaring that the situation at the crisis-wracked Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station was under control.

That has turned out to be not quite true.

Japan has yet to resolve a crisis at the plant that has lingered since its 2011 nuclear disaster: Groundwater has continued to flow into the basement of the highly contaminated facility. Even worse, some of that has then flown back into the Pacific Ocean.

The problem has hindered a decommission process that was already set to take decades.

In order to reduce the flow, Tokyo has built a huge underground ice wall around reactor buildings. But the 1.5-kilometre-long and 30-metre-deep barrier has not fully frozen, even though it was supposed to become operational around July. The unprecedented project cost taxpayers about 35 billion yen (Bt11.9 billion).

“They have kept saying they can. But they can’t,” former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi told a recent news conference.

Abe’s “under control” remark was “a lie”, Koizumi said. “I’m just wondering how he can say such a thing.”

The phrase “ice wall” is a bit of a misnomer. Officially called the Land-side Impermeable Wall, the coolant-filled barrier will consist of a layer of soil kept frozen by underground pipes, surrounding reactors 1 to 4.

The ice wall project “has stayed on track”, said Tasuhiro Yamagishi, a spokesman for operator Tokyo Electric Power. He added 99 per cent of the wall closest to the sea has been frozen.

The operator, however, acknowledged this month that rainfall from recent typhoons caused melting at two sections of the ice wall in mid-August, leading toxic water to leak from around the plant.

Nonetheless, no contaminated water flowed into the sea, the operator said.

Such statements have not convinced Hisataka Yamazaki, a member of the Tokyo-based Depleted Uranium Centre Japan.

He says he believed there was some leakage, saying the incident was “very serious”.

“As the Fukushima area was not hard-hit by the storms, the incident gave rise to fears that even heavier rain could cause more melting, allowing more toxic water to flow into the nearby Pacific Ocean,” Yamazaki said.

“At this moment, we are looking into the matter and considering what is the best way” to avoid a recurrence, Yamagishi said.

“We know that temporary measures would not work,” said Hideyuki Ban, co-director at Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre in Tokyo.

“I believe we can say the project has failed.”

In June 2014, the operator started to install equipment for the wall at the plant and completed the work in February. It started to freeze the dirt at the end of March.

“From the beginning, there was doubt whether the wall could be fully frozen,” Ban said.

The water crisis could prolong the decommissioning period, he added.

The Fukushima plant suffered meltdowns at three of its six reactors after a tsunami swept through the complex in March 2011. The operator continues to inject water into the three reactors to keep them cool.

About 100,000 residents have yet to return to their homes near the plant due to radiation contamination.

Koizumi said Japan’s worst nuclear accident led him to revisit nuclear energy issues and came to realise that what experts said about nuclear energy being safe, cheap and clean was “all lies”.

I was ashamed of having believed such lies,” said Koizumi, who served as premier between 2001 and 2006.

Koizumi, who is now an anti-nuclear campaigner, said: “While Tokyo Electric and other power companies are saying they give the highest priority to safety, they actually place priority on profits and put safety on the back-burner.” “

by Takehiko Kambayashi

source

Fukushima backlash hits Japan prime minister — CounterPunch

” Nuclear power may never recover its cachet as a clean energy source, irrespective of safety concerns, because of the ongoing saga of meltdown 3/11/11 at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Over time, the story only grows more horrific, painful, deceitful. It’s a story that will continue for generations to come.

Here’s why it holds pertinence: As a result of total 100% meltdown, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) cannot locate or remove the radioactive molten core or corium from the reactors. Nobody knows where it is. It is missing. If it is missing from within the reactor structures, has it burrowed into the ground? There are no ready answers.

And, the destroyed nuclear plants are way too radioactive for humans to get close enough for inspection. And, robotic cameras get zapped! Corium is highly radioactive material, begging the question: If it has burrowed through the containment vessel, does it spread underground, contaminating farmland and water resources and if so, how far away? Nobody knows?

According to TEPCO, removing the melted cores from reactors 1,2 and 3 will take upwards of 20 years, or more, again who knows.

But still, Japan will hold Olympic events in Fukushima in 2020 whilst out-of-control radioactive masses of goo are nowhere to be found. TEPCO expects decades before the cleanup is complete, if ever. Fortunately, for Tokyo 2020 (the Olympic designation) radiation’s impact has a latency effect, i.e., it takes a few years to show up as cancer in the human body.

A week ago on September 7th, Former PM Junichiro Koizumi, one of Japan’s most revered former prime ministers, lambasted the current Abe administration, as well as recovery efforts by TEPCO. At a news conference he said PM Shinzō Abe lied to the Olympic committee in 2013 in order to host the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan.

“That was a lie,” Mr Koizumi told reporters when asked about Mr Abe’s remark that Fukushima was “under control,” Abe Lied to IOC About Nuke Plant, ex-PM Says, The Straits Times, Sep 8, 2016. The former PM also went on to explain TEPCO, after 5 years of struggling, still has not been able to effectively control contaminated water at the plant.

According to The Straits Times article: “Speaking to the IOC in September 2013, before the Olympic vote, PM Abe acknowledged concerns but stressed there was no need to worry: “Let me assure you, the situation is under control.”

PM Abe’s irresponsible statement before the world community essentially puts a dagger into the heart of nuclear advocacy and former PM Koizumi deepens the insertion. After all, who can be truthfully trusted? Mr Koizumi was a supporter of nuclear power while in office from 2001-2006, but he has since turned into a vocal opponent.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo, Mr Koizumi said: “The nuclear power industry says safety is their top priority, but profit is in fact what comes first… Japan can grow if the country relies on more renewable energy,” (Ayako Mie, staff writer, Despite Dwindling Momentum, Koizumi Pursues Anti-Nuclear Goals, The Japan Times, Sept. 7, 2016).

Mr Koizumi makes a good point. There have been no blackouts in Japan sans nuclear power. The country functioned well without nuclear.

Further to the point of nuclear versus nonnuclear, Katsunobu Sakurai, mayor of Minamisoma, a city of 70,000 located 25 km north of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, at a news conference in Tokyo, said: “As a citizen and as a resident of an area affected by the nuclear power plant disaster, I must express great anger at this act… it is necessary for all of Japan to change its way of thinking, and its way of life too – to move to become a society like Germany, which is no longer reliant on nuclear power,” (Sarai Flores, Minamisoma Mayor Sees Future for Fukushima ‘Nonnuclear’ City in Energy Independence, The Japan Times, March 9, 2016).

In March of 2015, Minamisoma declared as a Nonnuclear City, turning to solar and wind power in tandem with energy-saving measures.

Meanwhile, at the insistence of the Abe administration, seven nuclear reactors could restart by the end of FY2016 followed by a total of 19 units over the next 12 months (Source: Japanese Institute Sees 19 Reactor Restarts by March 2018, World Nuclear News, July 28, 2016).

Greenpeace/Japan Discovers Widespread Radioactivity

One of the issues surrounding the Fukushima incident and the upcoming Olympics is whom to trust. Already TEPCO has admitted to misleading the public about reports on the status of the nuclear meltdown, and PM Abe has been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, but even much worse, lying to a major international sports tribunal. His credibility is down the drain.

As such, maybe third party sources can be trusted to tell the truth. In that regard, Greenpeace/Japan, which does not have a vested interest in nuclear power, may be one of the only reliable sources, especially since it has boots on the ground, testing for radiation. Since 2011, Greenpeace has conducted over 25 extensive surveys for radiation throughout Fukushima Prefecture.

In which case, the Japanese people should take heed because PM Abe is pushing hard to reopen nuclear plants and pushing hard to repopulate Fukushima, of course, well ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics since there will be events held in Fukushima Prefecture. After all, how can one expect Olympians to populate Fukushima if Japan’s own citizens do not? But, as of now to a certain extent citizens are pushing back. Maybe they instinctively do not trust their own government’s assurances.

But, more chilling yet, after extensive boots-on-the-ground analyses, Greenpeace issued the following statement in March 2016: “Unfortunately, the crux of the nuclear contamination issue – from Kyshtym to Chernobyl to Fukushima- is this: When a major radiological disaster happens and impacts vast tracts of land, it cannot be ‘cleaned up’ or ‘fixed’.” (Source: Hanis Maketab, Environmental Impacts of Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Will Last ‘decades to centuries’ – Greenpeace, Asia Correspondent, March 4, 2016).

That is a blunt way of saying sayonara to habitation on radioactive contaminated land. That’s why Chernobyl is a permanently closed restricted zone for the past 30 years.

As far as “returning home” goes, if Greenpeace/Japan ran the show rather than PM Abe, it appears they would say ‘no’. Greenpeace does not believe it is safe. Greenpeace International issued a press release a little over one month ago with the headline: Radiation Along Fukushima Rivers up to 200 Times Higher Than Pacific Ocean Seabed – Greenpeace Press Release, July 21, 2016.

Here’s what they discovered: “The extremely high levels of radioactivity we found along the river systems highlights the enormity and longevity of both the environmental contamination and the public health risks resulting from the Fukushima disaster,” says Ai Kashiwagi, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.

“These river samples were taken in areas where the Abe government is stating it is safe for people to live. But the results show there is no return to normal after this nuclear catastrophe,” claims Kashiwagi.

“Riverbank sediment samples taken along the Niida River in Minami Soma, measured as high as 29,800 Bq/kg for radiocaesium (Cs-134 and 137). The Niida samples were taken where there are no restrictions on people living, as were other river samples. At the estuary of the Abukuma River in Miyagi prefecture, which lies more than 90km north of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, levels measured in sediment samples were as high as 6,500 Bq/kg” (Greenpeace).

The prescribed safe limit of radioactive cesium for drinking water is 200 Bq/kg. A Becquerel (“Bq”) is a gauge of strength of radioactivity in materials such as Iodine-131 and Cesium-137 (Source: Safe Limits for Consuming Radiation-Contaminated Food, Bloomberg, March 20, 2011).

“The lifting of evacuation orders in March 2017 for areas that remain highly contaminated is a looming human rights crisis and cannot be permitted to stand. The vast expanses of contaminated forests and freshwater systems will remain a perennial source of radioactivity for the foreseeable future, as these ecosystems cannot simply be decontaminated” (Greenpeace).

Still, the Abe administration is to be commended for its herculean effort to try to clean up radioactivity throughout Fukushima Prefecture, but at the end of the day, it may be for naught. A massive cleanup effort is impossible in the hills, in the mountains, in the valleys, in the vast forests, along riverbeds and lakes, across extensive meadows in the wild where radiation levels remain deadly dangerous. Over time, it leaches back into decontaminated areas.

And as significantly, if not more so, what happens to the out-of-control radioactive blobs of corium? Nobody knows where those are, or what to do about it. It’s kinda like the mystery surrounding black holes in outer space, but nobody dares go there.

Fukushima is a story for the ages because radiation doesn’t quit. Still, the Olympics must go on, but where? ”

by Robert Hunziker

source

Former Japan PM accuses Abe of lying over Fukushima pledge — The Guardian; The Denver Post

The Guardian: ” Japan’s former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi has labelled the country’s current leader, Shinzo Abe, a “liar” for telling the international community that the situation at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is under control.

Koizumi, who became one of Japan’s most popular postwar leaders during his 2001-06 premiership, has used his retirement from frontline politics to become a leading campaigner against nuclear restarts in Japan in defiance of Abe, a fellow conservative Liberal Democratic party (LDP) politician who was once regarded as his natural successor.

Abe told members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Buenos Aires in September 2013 that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was “under control”, shortly before Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games.

IOC officials were concerned by reports about the huge build-up of contaminated water at the Fukushima site, more than two years after the disaster forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

“When [Abe] said the situation was under control, he was lying,” Koizumi told reporters in Tokyo. “It is not under control,” he added, noting the problems the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), has experienced with a costly subterranean ice wall that is supposed to prevent groundwater from flowing into the basements of the damaged reactors, where it becomes highly contaminated.

“They keep saying they can do it, but they can’t,” Koizumi said. He went on to claim that Abe had been fooled by industry experts who claim that nuclear is the safest, cleanest and cheapest form of energy for resource-poor Japan.

“He believes what he’s being told by nuclear experts,” Koizumi said. “I believed them, too, when I was prime minister. I think Abe understands the arguments on both sides of the debate, but he has chosen to believe the pro-nuclear lobby.”

After the Fukushima crisis, Koizumi said he had “studied the process, reality and history of the introduction of nuclear power, and became ashamed of myself for believing such lies”.

Abe has pushed for the restart of Japan’s nuclear reactors, while the government says it wants nuclear to account for a fifth of Japan’s total energy mix by 2030. Just three of the country’s dozens of nuclear reactors are in operation, and two will be taken offline later this year for maintenance.

Koizumi, 74, has also thrown his support behind hundreds of US sailors and marines who claim they developed leukaemia and other serious health problems after being exposed to Fukushima radiation plumes while helping with relief operations – nicknamed Operation Tomodachi (friend) – following the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

In 2012 the service personnel launched a lawsuit accusing Tepco of failing to prevent the accident and of lying about the levels of radiation from the stricken reactors, putting US personnel at risk.

Most of the 400 plaintiffs were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that was anchored off Japan’s north-east coast while helicopters flew emergency supplies to survivors of the tsunami, which killed almost 19,000 people.

Medical experts, however, said the sailors would have received only small, non-harmful doses of radiation; a US defence department report published in 2014 said no link had been established between the sailors’ health problems and their exposure to low doses of Fukushima radiation.

Koizumi, who met several of the sick servicemen in San Diego in May, plans to raise $1m by the end of next March to help cover the sailors’ medical expenses.

“I felt I had to do something to help those who worked so hard for Japan,” he said. “That won’t be enough money, but at least it will show that Japan is grateful for what they did for us.”

Despite his opposition to Abe’s pro-nuclear policies, Koizumi was complimentary about his performance as prime minister during his second time in office in the past decade.

“As far as nuclear power is concerned, we are totally at odds,” Koizumi said. “But I think he’s reflected on the mistakes he made during his first time as leader and is doing a much better job second time around.”

In political longevity terms, Abe’s performance could hardly be worse. He resigned in September 2007 after less than a year in office, following a series of ministerial scandals, a debilitating bowel condition and a disastrous performance by the LDP in upper house elections. ”

by Justin McCurry

source

* * *

Read a similar article by The Denver Post

**Fukushima and nuclear power: Does the advertising giant Dentsu pull the strings of Japan’s media? — GlobalResearch

This article is a MUST READ.

” French journalist Mathieu Gaulène describes the business practices of Dentsu and its competitor Hakuhodo, the biggest and the second biggest advertising companies of Japan respectively. Specifically, it examines how their close relations to the media and the nuclear industry play out in the wake of the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. Focusing Dentsu, Gaulène discusses how the marketing and public relations (PR) giant has dominated major media which large advertising contracts from the nuclear industry. The article is particularly timely as Dentsu unveils its deep ties to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid and the Panama Papers. Regrettably, however, with rare exceptions, there is little media coverage of the influence of Dentsu in mainstream Japanese newspapers and magazines.

According to the author, a partial translation of the French original was made by Kazparis (username), and quickly received more than 70,000 views on Twitter. Then, Uchida Tatsuru, a specialist in French literature, and HACK & SOCIETAS published two other Japanese translations. Soon after, Tokyo Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun published long articles about Dentsu. SN

Dentsu, the fifth largest communication group in the world, holds a large share of the Japanese advertising market, which impacts media freedom in Japan. This is particularly true in relation to the nuclear power industry.

– Dentsu and information on nuclear power

– Indirect pressures on press journalists

– The 2016 comeback of nuclear advertisements and the resignations of TV journalists

The moment remains famous. On the eve of Japan’s Upper House elections, former actor Yamamoto Taro, an anti-nuclear power candidate supported by no party, campaigned on Twitter to win an upper house seat in the Diet. Censored by the media, the young candidate, famous for his verve, had mainly campaigned against nuclear power, but he also called out the big media, accusing it of being in the pay of sponsors and thus of electric companies and of systematically censoring critical information on nuclear power.

A television channel granted him an interview at the end of a program, but only after presenting a journalist to defend his profession. On screen, the young senator was given only one minute to respond. “I will take a simple example. Food can now hold up to 100 becquerels per kilogram; that means even just via eating we are irradiated. It is never said on television… ” Yamamoto had to stop. The ending jingle started, and the presenter at the studio announced, bantering, that the show was over, before launching an advertising page.

The video, which was available online for 3 years, was removed on May 16, 2016 shortly after the publication of this article. 

” Advertisements in Japan are literally everywhere: a veritable hell of posters or screens in trains and stations, giant posters on buildings, bearers of advertising placards or lorries with huge posters and loud PA systems in the streets: even advertising displays mounted atop urinals in some restaurants. In this advertising empire, the media are no exception. In the press, naturally, as in France, major companies pay for full page advertisements. But, above all in television. An entertainment show generally starts with the announcement of sponsors, and is interrupted every five minutes by numerous short advertising spots, where we often find the same sponsors. There is virtually no time for thinking, most TV channels offer programs close to the world of pachinko: garish colors, constant noise, and frat humor even of the most vulgar kind.

In this immense television arena, advertising is orchestrated by one of the global giants, Dentsu, the 5th communication group in the world and the number one ad agency. With its rival Hakuhodo, 2nd in the archipelago, the two agencies nicknamed “Denpaku,” combine advertising, public relations, media monitoring, crisis management for the largest Japanese and foreign companies, the local authorities, political parties or the government. Together they hold nearly 70% of the market. A true empire that some accuse of ruling the roost in the Japanese media.

A figure allows sizing up Dentsu’s reach: in 2015, the group secured nearly 7 billion euros in revenue, second only to the French Publicis with 9.6 billion euros during the same period. Most of its business is in TV advertisements. For example, Dentsu has created a commercial series for Softbank for almost ten years: the famous “Shirato” family characterized by a white dog as the father; an American black actor as the older brother; and Tommy Lee Jones as a housekeeper.

In July 2013, the group expanded internationally by acquiring the British Aegis for 3.7 billion euros to establish the Dentsu Aegis Network in London. This international network, consisting of ten advertising agencies in more than 140 countries, allowed the Japanese to beef up their activities, particularly in digital marketing, and to secure a position in the international market which accounts for more than half of its total global business (54.3% in 2015). Dentsu employs 47,000 people worldwide, including 7,000 in Japan.

Dentsu and information on nuclear power

Located in the business district of Shiodome, not far from Nippon TV, Fuji TV and the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the Dentsu tower dominates the skyline with its imposing beauty. Designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, its gentle curves and perfect glass walls soothe the eye. Inside the building, Mr. Kannan Shusaku, communications director of the group, receives us, all smiles for a visit of the site. The ground floor is filled with contemporary art, like a white chessboard by Yoko Ono. From there, a noria of lifts takes employees towards different floors and rigorously separates departments. The group’s customers are the top 5 in each industry, and “everything is done so that employees working for competing enterprises never meet each other.” Mr. Kannan assures us. Dentsu obviously prizes transparency, but is its image that stainless?

In a book published in 2012, Honma Ryu looked into some of Dentsu’s backstage, and its tight control over the media, especially on behalf of one of its major clients: Tokyo Electric Power Company, Tepco. Honma is not alien to advertising circles; he worked for 18 years at number 2, Hakuhodo, then after one year imprisonment for fraud, he began writing, first about his prison experience, then about his years of advertising and the methods he used to coax the media. In 2012, his book Dentsu and Nuclear Coverage became a bestseller within a few months, despite almost universal media blackout.

Honma meticulously described the mechanisms by which Dentsu, the inevitable intermediary, implicitly imposes on media what can or cannot be written on nuclear power, and under what conditions. “Dentsu occupies a special position since the agency holds 80% of the market for nuclear advertising in Japan,” he reminded us during an interview in a coffee shop at Ueno Station. In 2010, in this huge advertising market, Tepco, a regional firm, indeed ranked 10th in terms of advertising expenses, next to power plant manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. That year, on the eve of the Fukushima accident, Tepco had spent more than 2 million euros on advertising. The overall advertising expenses of the 10 regional electrical power companies amounted to 7 million euros.

For decades, especially since the 1990s when public opinion began to become critical of nuclear power following several accidents, Tepco and other power companies stepped up commercials and advertorials in the press.

On television, the advertisements can be enough in themselves to overwhelm criticism. Big groups often sponsor TV programs, talk shows or series for an entire season. Sometimes, entire documentaries are produced by Denjiren, [the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC)], a key player in the nuclear lobby, to promote the industry. Any dissenting voice is unwelcome for fear of losing sponsors. After Fukushima, Yamamoto Taro paid the price; appearing regularly on TV as a tarento [talent] until then when he suddenly became persona non grata on TV and even in cinema for having expressed opposition to nuclear power. This is hardly new since the great figures of the anti-nuclear movement, best-selling authors such as Hirose Takashi or Koide Hiroaki are almost never invited to appear on TV, especially after the Fukushima accident. This “control by media” denounced by Honma Ryu obviously is not limited to the nuclear power industry. Thus, he reminds us of the case of the millions of Toyota vehicle recalls due to a defective accelerator pedal. It was necessary to wait until the Toyota CEO apologized to the U.S. Congress before that affair really appeared in the Japanese press. “No doubt the advertising agency had succeeded until then in preserving the image of its client, but when the scandal became too big and was in the public eye abroad, the media had no choice but to reveal the affair” he states. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that apart from some programs such as “Hodo Station” on TV Asahi, which provide good quality information, sometimes being critical of the government, most TV news in Japan rarely address subjects that can offend one or another group, relaying communications from the government without critically stepping back, and not introducing international news except when the subject involves Japanese citizens.

Amid all these private media groups, only NHK escapes this advertising empire and can claim to be independent, receiving its funding directly from viewers. Alas, the situation at NHK is even more disastrous, its president Momii Katsuto having said without embarrassment on several occasions that the chain had to be the spokesman for the Abe government. In a recent statement before 200 retired NHK employees, he even seemingly acknowledged having ordered NHK journalists to confine broadcasts to reassuring communiqués from the authorities about Kyushu earthquakes and potential risks they pose to nuclear plants and instructing them not to interview independent experts.

Indirect pressures on the press

What about the press? Dentsu has long had a special relationship with the two news agencies Kyodo News and Jiji Press: the three entities formed a single information group before the war. If information in the press is more difficult to control, Dentsu not only advertises, but provides after-sales customer service — media monitoring, advice on crisis management, and indirect pressure on newspapers.

Whereas in France, the acquisition of media companies by large industrial groups is the prelude to direct pressure, in Japan pressure comes via advertising agencies that act as true ambassadors for the groups. “I know very well how this happens, as Honma Ryu amusingly relates, I did the same thing when I was at Hakuhodo. If an incident occurs in a factory or a plant and the press reports it, Dentsu directly intervenes and visits the business department of the newspaper in question.” Things are done in the “Japanese” way. “We ask them politely to try to speak less about the case, not to put the article on the front page, or to publish it in the evening paper which is less read.” Such messages are directly transmitted by the business staff of the journal to top management.

Journalists will never know, but the next day their article will be relegated to the inside pages, or sometimes simply not published, or, for example, claiming lack of space. But, suspicions are numerous, and, Honma reports, after the publication of his book, many journalists came to see him confirming cases of censorship. Advertisements of nuclear power are mainly distributed in weekly and daily newspapers. Since the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, they stopped; but for Dentsu, a profitable new business emerged: promoting agricultural products from Fukushima. Since 2011, with the participation of star singers, Fukushima Prefecture has never skimped on promoting its peaches, rice, or tomatoes, with slogans like “Fukushima Pride” or “Fukushima is well!”

All this thanks to the help of Dentsu and Dentsu Public Relations (PR). “Dentsu PR also works for the METI [Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry],” explains Ms. Fujii Kyoko, Director of communications at Dentsu PR. “We organized free tours of Tohoku for foreign journalists, such as Thai and Malaysian journalists, to show that the region is recovering from the disaster.” And to expunge the surrounding radioactivity?

Dentsu thus occupies a very special position in the promotion of nuclear power, beside Tepco but also the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), both clients of the advertising company. Under these conditions, can Dentsu not be considered to actively underwrite the “nuclear village”? To this question, Mr. Kannan Shusaku, who received us in his office at the top of the Dentsu tower, answered without beating around the bush. “We have no power to influence the media and we do not practice politics.” Yet when asked why Dentsu is a member of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF), the main organization of nuclear lobbying, along with Japanese electric utility companies and EDF [Electricity of France, Électricité de France], Mr. Kannan became more circumspect. “I do not know this association… Really, are you sure?” he replied, slightly annoyed, before reaching for his smartphone. “Oh, yes, we are members. But, you know we are members of many associations. People ask us to send someone and sign, that’s all.” Apparently unconvinced by his own argument, he finally found a getaway and suddenly exclaimed: “You see, Hakuhodo is also a member!” obviously happy about not being the only one enlisted in the lobby.

The 2016 comeback of nuclear advertisements and resignations of TV journalists

For Honma Ryu, this is a sign of a resumption of promotion activities of nuclear power. “Hakuhodo has actually been a member of the JAIF for two years,” he explained, after the Fukushima accident. Obviously, having been sidelined for several decades from this gold mine of nuclear advertisements, the rival agency wants to restore its share in the promotion of nuclear power in the post-Fukushima era. These ads had, however, completely disappeared since the accident on March 11, 2011. After a final full page apology in the press and broadcast on television by Tepco, the plant operators and manufacturers had chosen to keep a low profile, not broadcasting advertisements on nuclear power for five years.

But, although plant restarts have been hindered by dozens of lawsuits, some victorious as in Takahama, and the general population has generally been reluctant to see resumption of reactors, promoting nuclear power has again become intense. After restarting one plant in 2015, 2016 is the year of a discreet comeback for nuclear advertisements. These appear in the press and on local television of the prefectures with power stations. Honma Ryu reports that since February 2016, full-page advertisements have been published in Fukui Shimbun by the Kansai Electric Power Company, where the Takahama plant was closed a month after its restart due to a lawsuit filed by citizens. Tepco advertisements for restarting Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have also appeared in the Niigata Nippo and on local television in a particular context: the current governor is firmly anti-nuclear and opposes any restart, but elections will be held by the end of this year when his term ends. This resurgence of Tepco nuclear advertising, however, has raised the ire of Niigata citizens, especially refugees from Fukushima who have launched a petition to stop them.

The message of all of these advertisements is identical, revealing the hand of Dentsu behind the scenes. Electric companies promise to make every effort to ensure the safety of power plants, while photographs highlight the plight of nuclear workers who are often poor and sometimes dependent on jobs in the nuclear industry. According to Honma Ryu, these advertisements are certainly only the tip of the iceberg. They are part of a campaign to closely monitor all information published on nuclear power, as well as the quasi-guarantee that local newspapers will limit the voice of opponents.

In a report on press freedom released in April 2016, Reporters Without Borders ranked Japan 72nd, behind Hungary and Tanzania. Six years ago, it ranked 11th. Visiting Tokyo, a United Nations rapporteur alerted the country to the growing pressures on Japanese journalists who work for private media or NHK. This is because of increasing government pressure, exacerbated by the entry into force in the past year of a law on state secrets, including nuclear related matters. A law with vague outlines threatens journalists with imprisonment for disclosing “secret” information. A sign of the times is that three television journalists known for their independence announced their resignation at the beginning of the year. Among them is Furutachi Ichiro, presenter of “Hodo Station,” which, according to Honma Ryu, was targeted by Dentsu for several years because of his critical views on nuclear power and the Abe administration. No doubt Dentsu, privileged ambassador of the largest industrial groups, will continue to play its role in the great media lockdown ongoing in Japan. ”

by Sachie Mizohata, Translation from French and Introduction

Original French article in INA Global

Japanese translation by Uchida Tatsuru (see May 15, 2016)

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