Tokyo court orders Tepco to pay $10 million in damages over 2011 disaster — Reuters

” TOKYO (Reuters) – A Tokyo court on Wednesday ordered Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to pay around 1.1 billion yen ($10 million) to a group of Fukushima residents, local media reported, nearly seven years after the company’s reactor meltdowns in northeastern Japan.

A group of 321 people residents from Minami-soma in Fukushima prefecture had sought around 11 billion yen in damages in a class action suit, according to the reports.

Minami-soma is a city about 30 km (19 miles) from Tepco’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, where reactors melted down after being hit by a massive tsunami in March 2011. After the disaster, some areas near the plant became no-gone zones, forcing many residents to flee their homes.

A Tepco spokesman said a ruling was made by the Tokyo court today, but declined to comment further.

Tepco has long been criticized for ignoring the threat posed by natural disasters to the Fukushima plant, and the company and government were lambasted for their handling of the crisis.

Last year, a district court in Fukushima ruled in the largest class action lawsuit brought over the 2011 nuclear disaster that the company and the Japanese government were liable for damages totaling about 500 million yen.

A group of about 3,800 people, mostly in Fukushima prefecture, filed the earlier class action suit, the biggest number of plaintiffs out of about 30 similar class action lawsuits filed across the nation. “

reporting by Minami Funakoshi; editing by Tom Hogue, Reuters

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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

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Film focuses on ‘irradiated’ cattle kept alive in Fukushima — The Asahi Shimbun

” OSAKA–For some cattle farmers in Fukushima Prefecture, the thought of destroying their herds is too painful to bear even if they are contaminated with radioactive fallout.

A new documentary to be shown here this week records the plight of these farmers, who continue to look after their beef cattle in defiance of a government request to euthanize the animals.

“I took on this project because I wanted to capture what is driving farmers to keep their cattle. For all the trouble it is worth, the animals are now worthless,” said Tamotsu Matsubara, a visual director who shot the documentary.

Four years in the making, “Hibaku-ushi to Ikiru” (Living with irradiated cattle) is set for its first screening on Aug. 26 at a local community center in the city.

Matsubara’s interactions with the cattle farmers date to the summer of 2011, a few months after the nuclear crisis unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that year. His assignment was to cover a traditional festival in Minami-Soma, which is located near the stricken nuclear plant.

Matsubara, 57, became acquainted with a farmer caring for more than 300 cattle on his land in the 20-kilometer no-entry zone set by the government. Residents in the zone were ordered to evacuate, but the farmer stayed on to look after his animals.

At that time, the government was seeking to destroy the cattle within the no-entry zone by obtaining their owners’ consent, saying animals that were heavily contaminated with radiation from the nuclear accident could not be sold at market.

But some farmers did not want to put their livestock down.

However, keeping them alive costs 200,000 yen ($2,000) a year in feed per head.

Matsubara became curious why the farmers continued to look after cattle that cannot be sold or bred, despite the heavy economic burden.

He soon began making weekly trips from Osaka to Fukushima to film the lives of the farmers, their cattle and the people around them.

After finishing his regular job in promotional events on Fridays, Matsubara would drive 11 hours to Fukushima and spend the weekend documenting the plight of the farmers before returning to Osaka by Monday morning.

He had 5 million yen saved for the documentary, his first feature film. When the money ran out, Matsubara held a crowdfunding campaign to complete it. Shooting wrapped up at the end of December.

About 350 hours of footage was edited into the 104-minute “Hibaku-ushi to Ikiru.”

The film documents the farmers and their supporters who are struggling to keep the cattle alive.

One couple in the film returns to their land in Okuma, a town that co-hosts the Fukushima plant, to care for their herd. They affectionately named each animal and said it would be unbearable to kill them. Their trips are financed using a bulk of the compensation they received for the nuclear accident.

A former assemblyman of Namie, a town near the plant, tends to his animals while asking himself why he used to support nuclear power.

The documentary also sheds light on scientists who are helping the farmers. The researchers believe that keeping track of the contaminated cattle will provide clues in unraveling how low-level radiation exposure impacts large mammals like humans.

Matsubara said the documentary tells the real story of what is going on with victims of the nuclear disaster.

“Not all the farmers featured in the documentary share the same opinion or stance,” Matsubara said. “I would like audiences to see the reality of people who cannot openly raise their voices to be heard.”

Takeshi Shiba, a documentary filmmaker who served as producer of this project, hopes the film will reach a wide audience.

“Matsubara broke his back in making this movie,” he said. “I hope that many people will learn what Fukushima people are thinking.” ”

by Satoko Onuki

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Species decline found in area south of Fukushima N-plant — The Yomiuri Shimbun

” The National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) revealed that the total number of sessile species, such as barnacles and snails, has been decreasing significantly along the coast within 10 kilometers south of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant since the accident there in 2011.

Although the exact relevance to the accident is unclear, according to the institute’s analysis there is the possibility that the mass death of sessile species was influenced by radioactive materials released into the sea.

The NIES gathered sessile species attached to tetrapods from seven survey points 50 centimeters square within the limits in Fukushima, Miyagi and Ibaraki prefectures in May and June 2013. Four of the survey points are located in Fukushima Prefecture. The institute then investigated species numbers among other details.

Concerning the survey points in Fukushima, the numbers at the two sites south of the power plant were much lower than the numbers at the two northern sites. Extrapolated into one square meter, 2,864 sessile creatures were confirmed at the survey point in Okuma, which is 1.2 kilometers south from the power plant. At the survey point in Tomioka, which is 9.5 kilometers south of the plant, 2,404 creatures were confirmed. Meanwhile, the average number of sessile creatures in the other five locations reached 18,592, with 31,728 in Minami-Soma and 5,324 in Futaba, both in Fukushima Prefecture and north of the power plant. ”

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Researchers: No doubt cleanup at Fukushima nuclear plant contaminated rice crops in 2013 — The Asahi Shimbun

” MINAMI-SOMA, Fukushima Prefecture–Radioactive substances that contaminated rice paddies here in 2013 came from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, an international group of researchers said, rejecting a denial issued by Japan’s nuclear safety authority.

The researchers, led by Akio Koizumi, a professor at Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Medicine, reached the conclusion after analyzing radioactive substances and taking spot readings of radioactivity levels around Minami-Soma.

Koizumi presented the final report of the group, consisting of 11 researchers from Japan, Europe and the United States, to local farmers and other parties at a community center in Minami-Soma on Jan. 17.

“The cause of further contamination was the radioactive particles dispersed from contaminated rubble during the cleanup effort at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant,” Koizumi concluded in the report.

Earlier, the agriculture ministry and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) gave different views on the source of the contaminated rice.

In 2013, rice crops from areas of Minami-Soma were found with unexpectedly high radioactivity levels more than two years after the triple meltdown at the nuclear plant located 20 kilometers south of the city.

One theory was that highly radioactive substances were dispersed when workers were lifting and removing contaminated rubble at the Fukushima plant on Aug. 19 that year. Two workers at the plant were exposed to high doses of radiation during the cleanup process.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said the cause of the contaminated rice was “unknown” although it acknowledged “the possibility of the dispersal of contaminated dust.” The farm ministry discontinued its investigation without specifying the source of the contamination.

The NRA, however, said the contaminated rice was not related to the cleanup work at the nuclear plant.

The Minami-Soma city assembly expressed outrage over the NRA’s stance. Some in the city suspected the NRA of a cover-up.

Koizumi and the other researchers digitally recreated an accidental dispersal of contaminated dust from the plant in August 2013.

They used a new analysis system to estimate the amount of radioactive cesium that spread toward Minami-Soma based on radioactivity readings around the city and other factors.

The group’s cesium estimate was more than 3.6 times the amount initially estimated by the NRA.

The research group in September 2014 also collected soil samples from 10 locations around the contaminated rice paddies to determine the amount of strontium 90 in the area.

They confirmed that the ratio of strontium 90 to radioactive cesium in the soil samples was similar to the ratio that would be found near the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Beta-ray emitting strontium 90 is less airborne and tends to remain within close proximity of nuclear weapon testing sites or nuclear accidents. Radioactive cesium is more volatile and can easily adhere to fine dust spread by the wind.

In general, the amount of strontium 90 decreases the farther it gets from a nuclear plant, compared with radioactive cesium. In fact, hardly any strontium 90 has been detected far away from the Fukushima plant.

Based on the amounts of radioactive particles recorded around Minami-Soma, the researchers concluded that a highly irregular plume of radioactive cesium reached Minami-Soma on the third week of August 2013.

“Every single piece of data in the paper supports the fact that contamination by radioactive dust came from the debris at the nuclear plant,” Koizumi said.

Asked about the NRA’s conclusion, Koizumi said: “It seems they were blinded by their estimated amount of dispersed particles, and their choice for the analysis system was misguided. This kind of attitude would only increase the anxiety of residents in the affected areas.”

The group’s findings were published in the international academic journal Environmental Science & Technology last month after a peer review. ”

by Masakazu Honda and Miki Aoki

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Keep your nuclear power, Mr. Shinzo Abe. We can do without a Fukushima. — Catch News

” Big deal

  • India, Japan may sign a nuclear deal during Shinzo Abe’s visit
  • The deal will fast-track the French’s nuclear project in Jaitapur
  • It’ll enable supply of key parts for Mithi Virdi, Kovvada plants

Heavy price

  • Jaitapur plant will wreck one of world’s 10 Hottest Biodiversity Hotspots
  • It’ll also destroy the livelihoods of nearly 40,000 people
  • Areva’s reactors, used at Jaitapur, have been flagged for safety concerns

More in the story

  • Post-Fukushima, why is India alone in a mad rush for nuclear power?
  • Two years ago, Shinzo Abe said Fukushima was “under control”. Latest report: radiation is 4,000 times higher

_____________________________________________________

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe arrived in India on 11 December. He came with a bag of goodies – bullet trains, aircraft and, most importantly, nuclear power.

Do we really want his nuclear power?

No, we definitely don’t. Here’s why.

The proposed India-Japan Nuclear Agreement, to be signed during the visit, is more than just a bilateral deal. It’s an instrument to serve American and French nuclear lobbies.

The deal would fast-track the French nuclear giant Areva’s project in Jaitapur, Maharashtra. It’s also crucial for supply of critical equipment to the American nuclear projects in Gujarat’s Mithi Virdi and Andhra Pradesh’ Kovvada.

But that isn’t its most damaging aspect.

Both Tokyo and New Delhi have been trying to sell the deal as essential for India’s “development”.

The truth is it would lead to the destruction of some of our most pristine landscapes, biodiversity hotspots, prosperous agricultural lands and rich community cultures.

How? Nuclear power plants require large quantities of water as coolant. They are usually located near major highways and not too far from well-populated consumption centres. And such places, all over the world, have economically and culturally flourishing communities.

Jaitapur, for example, is located in the stunningly beautiful Konkan, replete with verdant plateaus, magical mountains and undulating hills, lagoons, creeks, the open sea and infinite greenery. The NPCIL has labelled nearly 65% of the region’s land as barren, which the local people find outrageous.

Konkan is one of the world’s 10 “Hottest Biodiversity Hotspots,” sheltering over 5,000 species of flowering plants, 139 of mammals, 508 of birds and 179 of amphibians, including 325 globally threatened ones.

The region offers prosperous life to its inhabitants. Altogether, the nuclear park would jeopardize the livelihoods of 40,000 people.

The annual turnover of Jaitapur’s fishing villages is about Rs 15 crore. In Nate alone, there are 200 big trawlers and 250 small boats. Nearly 6,000 people depend directly on fishing and over 10,000 are dependent on ancillary activities.

The community is apprehensive that once the project gets operational, the elaborate security arrangements around it would block the fisherfolks’ use of the two creeks of Jaitapur and Vijaydurg.

The fish population will also be affected since the plant would release a huge 52,000 million litres of hot water into the Arabian Sea daily.

Jaitapur has highly fertile land, which produces rice and other cereals, and arguably the world’s most famous mango, the Alphonso. Cashew, coconut, kokum, betel nut, pineapple and other fruits are also found in abundance.

The land is also quite productive in terms of its use for cattle-grazing and rain-fed agriculture.

Ticking (atomic) time bomb

Safety concerns at Jaitapur are not unfounded. Areva, which is verging on bankruptcy after the Fukushima disaster, is building six European Pressurised Reactors in Jaitapur.

The EPR is under the scanner with the French nuclear regulator highlighting crucial vulnerabilities in its design – ironically, in a report released just two days before Modi’s visit to France in April.

Finland canceled its order for the Olkiluoto 4 project this year after recurring delays and cost over-runs.

There are similar stories in Kovvada and Mithi Virdi, where livelihoods and safety of tens of thousands of villagers is threatened by the proposed nuclear plants.

Abe, of all people, should know about these dangers.

Fukushima isn’t yet forgotten, Mr Abe

In his own country, under his watch, the Fukushima crisis is deepening ever further. As per the national broadcaster NHK, the Tokyo Electric Company, which runs the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, has detected 4,000 times higher radiation.

This despite Abe’s declaration two years ago that Fukushima was “under control”.

Mainichi reported yesterday that 4 years and 9 months after the accident, more than 9 million bags of highly contaminated radioactive waste are lying around at 1,14,700 interim storage sites in Fukushima with no disposal plan in sight.

Apart from containing the crippled reactors, managing over 100 tonnes of contaminated water that is pumped daily to keep the molten cores cooled, Abe’s regime is struggling with the issue of rehabilitation.

No less than 200,000 people continue to live in temporary settlements with shattered lives and broken families, amid the constant fear of radiation-borne diseases and even social ostracism.

Contrary to the analogies of car accidents often dished out by promoters of nuclear plants, radioactive accidents are qualitatively different than any other industrial or natural mishap.

In most accidents, relief and reconstruction can start from the next day. In case of a nuclear accident, highly toxic radiation renders that impossible for decades.

For the first time in April, a robot was sent inside the core of the Fukushima reactor for an assessment of the molten fuel. The radiation was so high that it “died” within 3 hours.

Much like Chernobyl, where a 20-km zone around the disaster site remains uninhabitable 30 years of the accident, Fukushima has its own ghost towns such as Namie, Futaba and Minami Soma.

To protest this dire situation, tens of thousands of people have hit Tokyo’s streets, apart from the hundreds who have been demonstrating in front of the Japanese parliament every Friday evening since the accident.

Still, Abe wants to sell nuclear technology to India.

More worryingly, why is India in a mad rush for nuclear power. Particularly, when it’s so insanely costly.

Paying for the rich man’s dream

The price of electricity from the imported reactors is going to be extremely high. Going by the cost of EPRs in Britain, each Indian reactor may cost as much as Rs 60,000 crore.

Indeed, the cost of Jaitapur’s first phase alone equals the total expenditure on science and technology.

Post Fukushima, India is among a handful of countries pursuing nuclear expansion. In 2008, ahead of the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting, India offered its major member states huge nuclear purchases.

The promises – made in exchange for an end to the 35-year-long embargo that India faced for diverting civilian material for making an atomic bomb in 1974 – have meant that India has missed the global shift away from nuclear power.

Essentially, India’s nuclear projects are the price villagers would be paying for the elite’s superpower dreams. India’s nuclear establishment was the first group to be surprised by the nuclear deal with the US in 2005, only to later rationalise it with justifications like inevitability of nuclear power for India.

The inherently unsafe nuclear power becomes much more risky in India owing to the totally non-transparent nuclear sector that has shown scant regard for independent scrutiny and regulation.

India is perhaps the only country in the post-Fukushima world which has proposed a weaker nuclear regulator.

The government is making every effort to do away with already weak legal provisions to hold nuclear suppliers liable for accidents. Bureaucratic apathy and corruption can be relied on for further mismanagement of potential accidents.

Not surprisingly, villagers in Jaitapur will be protesting during Abe’s visit, and many more from outside will be joining them. They are those who care about this country. ”

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