3 years on: Events, questions mark Fukushima anniversary — asiancorrespondent.com

” Three years ago an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale struck off the east coast of Japan. The Tōhoku quake was the fifth most powerful earthquake ever recorded and the strongest ever to hit Japan. The resultant tsunami triggered the world’s most severe nuclear accident since Chernobyl. Three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Powerplant experienced level 7 meltdowns, “major incidents” according to the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES).

Three years on and the extent of the environmental, human and economic repercussions of the Fukushima incident continue to reveal themselves. Fukushima “fallout” is both literal in terms of radioactive materials, and figurative on a global scale. The politics and opinions around the nuclear issue are far from settled.

In Japan anti-nuclear sentiment runs high, with protesters recently marking the anniversary of Fukushima with demonstrations on Sunday across the country. A rally in Tokyo featured solar-powered music and a performance by internationally famous composer Ryuchi Sakamoto.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to switch the reactors back on and repatriate some 30,000 residents within two years has come under fire from an industry insider and two former prime ministers.

The insider, a senior TEPCO employee who wishes to remain nameless, is quoted in a piece from ABC Australia’s News:

There are too many systems and they all have problems. For example, too many water tanks with too many lines – it’s very difficult to operate. It’s made worse because all the experienced workers have reached their radiation limits, so TEPCO has to rely on staff that don’t know the site and who aren’t trained.

The other day when contaminated water overflowed from a tank, an alarm was ringing but they didn’t go and check. I couldn’t believe it. It was ringing for nine hours and they thought the alarm was out of order.

The employee considers the Fukushima plant to be unfixable, while former Prime Ministers Morihiro Hosokawa and Naoto Kan believe that turning the reactors back on would be too risky. Most residents reportedly do not wish to return to their homes in the contaminated area.

So far 1,656 deaths have been attributed to the Fukushima disaster, though none were direct results of the nuclear accident. Increased thyroid cancer rates among Fukushima’s children and young people are also cause for debate and concern. While the spike in rates is alarming, it may also be attributed to advance screening techniques and a large increase in testing.

Despite the fact that the plant continues to leak radioactive water, some local doctors claim the actual radiation levels around Fukushima are very low and attribute most health problems to stress rather than contamination. Yet public trust in the government and TEPCO is also understandably low, with many questioning the information coming from official sources.

A special Euronews report on the residents of Fukushima quotes one man who has remained in the contaminated zone in order to look after the many abandoned cats and dogs:

I thought Japanese nuclear power was 100 percent safe. The United States, Chernobyl and Japan have all suffered nuclear accidents. After the explosion nobody knew what to do. Tepco and the government didn’t know how to deal with it. Yet the world still wants nuclear energy, this is ridiculous. The next nuclear disaster will happen in Europe. A clean up cannot be done. Tepco lied from the start. Tepco is a den of iniquity.

Meanwhile, across the Pacific, low-level radiation is expected to “wash up” on the West Coast of the United States next month. Although scientists predict that the levels shouldn’t be enough to cause harm to the environment or humans, no one likes to read about atomic radiation of any sort coming their way. ”


Are the Japanese government lying about the fallout from Fukushima? — Newstalk

” Two years ago I spoke to Alexis Dudden about the unfolding disaster in Japan. At the time she described it as beyond a cover-up and things have not changed for the better

A few days ago, Tokyo’s governor Naoki Inose claimed that the city’s bid for the 2020 Olympic Games would be unaffected by the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Yet, over two years on from the devastating tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster at the Daichi plant, the situation seems to be showing no signs of abating.

. . .

“There is a willful determination that [the government] can get away with it, that they can get away with tricking the masses about the extent of the problem. The former ambassador to Switzerland wrote a letter to the International Olympic Committee, saying that the government lied,” says Dudden of a situation she believes is just as bad as Chernobyl in relation to its long-term impact.

Yet TEPCO has been getting the brunt of the blame – granted it is deserved. The government has described TEPCO’s handling of the crisis as Whack-A-Mole but there is a danger that they could make the company a scapegoat, while washing their hands of responsibility in increasingly radioactive waters.

“They blamed TEPCO for the last two years but they haven’t moved to disband the organization. Shares in TEPCO were doing well until recently so the people in charge profited in the interim. They are lying to the camera,” says Dudden.

In the wake of the disaster, the government allayed concerns about long-term problems with radiation, yet there were signs that contamination of the soil and water in affected was worse than first feared. … ”

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Japan official wants Fukushima operator Tepco to be liquidated — Reuters

” (Reuters) – The operator of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear station, Tokyo Electric Power Co, should be liquidated, as its failure to learn from its mistakes fuels insecurity, says the governor of a prefecture hosting another of the utility’s atomic plants.

Tepco was nationalized last year and receives public funds to pay compensation to the 160,000 people who had to flee their homes after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused three reactor meltdowns in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Hirohiko Izumida, governor of Niigata prefecture north of Tokyo, has been arguing for two years that the utility should not be allowed to restart its Kashiwazaki Kariwa station, the world’s biggest nuclear plant, unless it gives a fuller account of the Fukushima meltdowns.

Izumida, himself a former energy official, is now upping the ante, saying he believes Tepco’s focus on getting the plant’s reactors started to save fuel costs of about $1 billion every month overlooks safety concerns. … ”

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Operator of crippled Japan nuclear plant says tank leaked contaminated water — Reuters

” (Reuters) – Contaminated water with dangerously high levels of radiation is leaking from a storage tank at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, the most serious setback to the cleanup of the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

The storage tank breach of about 300 metric tons of water is separate from contaminated water leaks reported in recent weeks, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co said on Tuesday.

The latest leak is so contaminated that a person standing half a meter (1 ft 8 inches) away would, within an hour, receive a radiation dose five times the average annual global limit for nuclear workers.

After 10 hours, a worker in that proximity to the leak would develop radiation sickness with symptoms including nausea and a drop in white blood cells.

“That is a huge amount of radiation. The situation is getting worse,” said Michiaki Furukawa, who is professor emeritus at Nagoya University and a nuclear chemist. … ”

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