*Fukushima mothers at UN tell their story — Beyond Nuclear International

” When Kazumi Kusano stood in the CRIIRAD radiological laboratory in Valence, France listening to lab director, Bruno Chareyron, describe just how radioactive the soil sample taken from a school playground back home in Japan really was, she could not fight back the tears.

“This qualifies as radioactive waste,” Chareyron told them. “The children are playing in a school playground that is very contaminated. The lowest reading is 300,000 bequerels per square meter. That is an extremely high level.” (CRIIRAD is the Commission for Independent Research and Information about Radiation, an independent research laboratory and NGO).

Kazumi, a Japanese mother and Fukushima evacuee who prefers not to use her real name, was in France with two other mothers, Mami Kurumada and Akiko Morimatsu — all of whom also brought their children — as part of an educational speaking tour. Morimatsu was also invited to testify before the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, to launch an appeal for the rights of nuclear refugees.

In Japan, seven years since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster began to unfold, the government is requiring some refugees to return to the region. Says Chareyron, whose lab has worked extensively in the Fukushima zone, “the Japanese government is doing everything to force citizens to return to lands where the radiation doses that citizens and children should be subjected to are largely over the typically acceptable norms.”

“People in Japan still don’t believe that the effects they are feeling are due to radiation,” said Kusano during one of the tour stops in France. Indeed, when they took samples in their neighborhoods to be analyzed for radioactive contamination, they were mocked not only by their neighbors but by government officials.

“We don’t take this seriously in Japan,” said Kurumada, who expressed relief to be among those who understand the true dangers, like Chareyron and the French anti-nuclear activists with whom they met. “In our country, it’s taboo to talk about radiation and contamination.”

Both Kusano and Kurumada are among those who have brought lawsuits against Tepco and the Japanese government, seeking compensation for Fukushima evacuees. Several of these have already ruled in favor of the evacuees and have assigned responsibility for the accident to Tepco and the government while providing financial awards to the plaintiffs. (Kusano’s son’s testimony helped win one of those cases — see our earlier coverage.)

The Japanese government pressured evacuees to return to areas contaminated by the Fukushima disaster by withdrawing their government financial assistance. However, many in areas that were not obligatory evacuation zones also left the region, given the high levels of radioactive contamination.

In addition to the visit to CRIIRAD, the mothers also spoke at public meetings in Lyon, Grenoble and Valence where CRIIRAD is located. The short news video below, in French, captures their visit to the lab.

At the UN in Geneva, Morimatsu’s testimony was postponed several days by a workforce strike. But eventually, Morimatsu (pictured with her son above the headline) was able to deliver her speech. She said:

“My name is Akiko Morimatsu. I am here with other evacuees and mothers, together with Greenpeace. I evacuated from the Fukushima disaster with my two children in May 2011. Shortly after the nuclear accident, radiation contamination spread. We were repeatedly and unnecessarily exposed to unannounced radiation.

“The air, water and soil became severely contaminated. I had no choice but to drink the contaminated water, to breast-feed my baby. To enjoy health, free from radiation exposure, is a fundamental principle. The Japanese Constitution states, ‘We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.’

“However, the Japanese government has implemented almost no policies to protect its citizens. Furthermore, the government is focusing on a policy to force people to return to highly contaminated areas.

“I call on the Japanese government to immediately, fully adopt and implement the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council. I thank UN member states for defending the rights of residents in Japan. Please help us protect people in Fukushima, and in East Japan, especially vulnerable children, from further radiation exposure.”

Earlier that month, the Japanese government had responded to its Universal Periodic Review, by stating that it “supports” 145 recommendations and “notes” 72. One of those recommendations from the UN Human Rights Council, and which Japan “accepted”, was the paragraph that states: “Respect the rights of persons living in the area of Fukushima, in particular of pregnant women and children, to the highest level of physical and mental health, notably by restoring the allowable dose of radiation to the 1 mSv/year limit, and by a continuing support to the evacuees and residents (Germany);”

According to Hajime Matsukubo of Citizens Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo, while the Upper House of the Japanese Diet has indicated its willingness to decrease annual radiation exposures from 20 mSv, the Japanese government has only said it would “follow up” on the specific UN recommendation and report back later. There is no timeframe for such a change, hardly surprising since it would presumably mean once more evacuating people the government has already pressured to return to contaminated areas. The practical implications of this happening leave it very much in doubt.

However, Matsukubo believes that even the commitment to follow up “is a strong tool for us to push the government forward.” Aileen Mioko Smith of Kyoto-based Green Action agrees. “Now we have terrific leverage,” she said. Her group, along with Greenpeace Japan will be looking to “keep the Japanese government’s feet to the fire on this.”

by Linda Pentz Gunter, with contributions from Kurumi Sugita and Akiko Morimatsu, Beyond Nuclear International

source with internal links, photos and video

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Fukushima residents fight state plan to build roads with radiation-tainted soil — The Japan Times

” The Environment Ministry plans to use radiation-tainted soil to build roads in Fukushima Prefecture, starting with trials in the city of Nihonmatsu next month.

But in the face of fierce protests from safety-minded residents, the ministry is struggling to advance the plan.

“Don’t scatter contaminated soil on roads,” one resident yelled during a Thursday briefing by Environment Ministry officials in Nihonmatsu.

The officials repeatedly tried to soothe them with safety assurances, but to no avail.

“Ensuring safety is different from having the public feeling at ease,” said Bunsaku Takamiya, a 62-year-old farmer who lives near a road targeted for the plan. He claims the project will produce groundless rumors that nearby farm produce is unsafe.

Seven years after the March 2011 core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Takamiya has finally been able to ship his produce in Fukushima without worry. Then the ministry’s soil plan surfaced.

A woman in the neighborhood agrees.

“The nature and air here are assets for the residents. I don’t want them to take it away from us,” she said.

Under the plan, tainted soil will be buried under a 200-meter stretch of road in the city. The soil, packed in black plastic bags, has been sitting in temporary storage.

The plan is to take about 500 cu. meters of the soil, bury it under the road at a depth of 50 cm or more, cover it with clean soil to block radiation, and pave over it with asphalt. The ministry intends to take measurements for the project in May.

Fukushima is estimated to have collected about 22 million cu. meters of tainted soil at most. The ministry plans to put it in temporary storage before transporting it to a final disposal site outside the prefecture.

The idea is to reduce the amount. The ministry thus intends to use soil with cesium emitting a maximum of 8,000 becquerels per kg in public works projects nationwide.

The average radiation level for soil used for road construction is estimated at about 1,000 becquerels per kg, the ministry says.

The ministry has already conducted experiments to raise ground levels in Minamisoma with the tainted soil, saying “a certain level” of safety was confirmed.

Similar plans are on the horizon regarding landfill to be used for gardening in the village of Iitate. But it is first time it will be used in a place where evacuations weren’t issued after the March 2011 meltdowns.

Given the protests, an official linked to the ministry said, “It’s difficult to proceed as is.” ”

by Kyodo via The Japan Times

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NRA puts stop to plan to reuse contaminated soil — SimplyInfo.org

” Japan’s Environment Ministry had a plan. They were going to solve the problem of the massive piles of radioactive soil but reusing it. One plan they described was using it as the base in roads. They didn’t provide much detail on how this would work or how it would not end up leaching contamination to the wider environment.

Japan’s nuclear regulator (NRA) is required to review any act by another agency that involves radiation exposures to the public. Now the NRA has requested a detailed plan before any review would begin. They want details about how this soil would be prevented from being used in residential areas or where children would be exposed.

This may have effectively put a stop to the Environment Ministry plan. Their goal appeared to be to declassify large amounts of contaminated soil and just make it go away however possible. NRA’s requirements may be too inconvenient to continue with that plan. ”

by Nancy Foust, SimplyInfo.org

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Reuse of radioactive soil approved despite 170-year safety criteria estimate — The Mainichi

” An Environment Ministry decision to allow reuse of contaminated soil emanating from the Fukushima nuclear disaster under road pavements came despite an estimate that it will take 170 years before the soil’s radiation levels reach safety criteria, it has been learned.

According to the revelation, an Environment Ministry panel approved the recycling of tainted soil generated from Fukushima decontamination work despite an estimate presented during a closed meeting of a working group that it will require 170 years for radioactivity concentrations in the contaminated soil to drop to legal safety standards, shelving a decision over whether such soil should be put under long-term management.

The ministry is planning to allow reuse of the tainted soil in mounds beneath road pavements, asserting that radiation will be shielded by concrete covering such mounds. However, an estimate presented at the closed meeting of the working group on the radiation impact safety assessment states that such mounds would be durable for just 70 years, suggesting that the soil would need to be managed for another 100 years after its road use ends.

“There’s no way they can manage the soil for a total of 170 years without isolating it,” said an angry expert.

The working group is a subgroup of an Environment Ministry panel called “the strategic panel for technical development of volume reduction and reuse of removed soil in temporary storage,” and the two groups share some of their members. According to the working group’s in-house documents obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun, the closed meetings were held six times between January and May, with the attendance of over 20 people including eight group members and officials from the Environment Ministry and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA).

Under the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors, the safety standards for recycling metals and other materials generated from the decommissioning of nuclear reactors are set at up to 100 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. Meanwhile, the special measures law concerning decontamination of radioactive materials, which was enacted after the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant crisis, classifies materials whose radiation levels top 8,000 becquerels per kilogram as designated waste, and stipulates that waste whose radiation levels are 8,000 becquerels or lower can be put to ordinary disposal.

According to working group chairman and Hokkaido University professor Tsutomu Sato, the group served as a forum to “prepare itself for theoretical argument” over setting the upper radiation dose limit for reusing contaminated soil at 8,000 becquerels.

The Environment Ministry set forth the plan to reuse contaminated soil in public works such as in mounds beneath road pavements and in coastal levees on the grounds that the “radiation levels can be contained to levels on par with clearance levels” by covering tainted soil with concrete and other materials. During the second meeting of the working group on Jan. 27, a member pointed out, “The problem is what to do with tainted soil after use (in roads and other structures). If such soil is allowed to be dug over freely, it would be difficult to convince the upper limit of radiation levels (for soil reuse).”

A JAEA official presented the aforementioned estimate, saying, “For example, it will take 170 years for radiation levels to reduce to 100 becquerels if tainted soil of 5,000 becquerels is put to reuse. Because the durable life of soil mounds is set at 70 years, a total of 170 years will be required to manage that soil — both when the soil is being used in mounds and after that.”

Discussions on the soil management period never went any further, and the strategic panel overseeing the working group on June 7 approved recycling such contaminated soil on condition that the maximum radiation levels of such soil be 8,000 becquerels and that the levels should be no more than 6,000 becquerels if the soil is covered with concrete and no more than 5,000 becquerels if the soil is planted with trees.

The Environment Ministry is set to begin a demonstration experiment possibly later this year, in which radiation levels will be measured in mounds using soil with different radioactivity concentrations at temporary storage sites in Fukushima Prefecture.

Working group chairman Sato, who also serves as a member of the strategic panel, admitted the existence of the 170-year estimate, but said, “We have discussed the matter but haven’t decided anything. We just presented our initial idea for reuse (of tainted soil) this time, and we will examine the feasibility of the plan later.”

Hiroshi Ono, who headed the Environment Ministry’s decontamination and interim storage planning team, said, “We have yet to decide what to do (with the tainted soil) in the end (after reuse), but the Environment Ministry will take responsibility for that.”

Another working group set up under the strategic panel, whose members primarily comprise those from the Japan Society of Civil Engineers, has presented a view, stating, “It will be in no way easy to secure the traceability (of recycled tainted soil).” “

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25% of Fukushima landowners ready to sell plots for contaminated debris storage — The Asahi Shimbun

” FUKUSHIMA–One in four landowners from localities around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have shown a willingness to sell their plots to allow for construction of a facility to temporarily store radioactive soil from cleanup work.

Many of them agreed to pre-sale land surveys apparently because they doubt they will ever be able to return to live in their homes due to lingering high radiation levels.

The Environment Ministry plans to build the facility on a 16-square-kilometer site straddling the towns of Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture, which co-host the nuclear plant.

Overall, 2,365 people own plots to be purchased.

The ministry said that by the end of July 570 of 850 landowners it had contacted agreed to cooperate with land surveys to evaluate the value of their plots as an initial step toward land acquisition.

The landowners in essence accepted the ministry’s guidelines for compensation with regard to the land purchase.

Ministry officials have been contacting landowners since September last year.

Surveys have been finished for plots owned by 300 individuals. But only five sales contracts have been concluded due to a shortage of ministry workers on the project.

The storage facility is expected to hold a maximum 22 million cubic meters of contaminated soil and debris up to spring 2045.

According to a senior ministry official, it will take “more than 10 years to secure all the land needed.”

The ministry is set to begin the construction work with plots it has acquired, rather than waiting until all the necessary plots are purchased. ”

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Delivery of radioactive soil to interim storage begins in Fukushima — The Japan Times

” FUKUSHIMA – Workers on Friday began delivering soil and other radiation-tainted waste generated by the decontamination work following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis to a makeshift storage yard at a storage facility in the prefecture.

The government plans to build depositories on around 16 sq. km of land in the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which host the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant, to eventually store massive amounts of radioactive waste. But the plan remains highly uncertain amid slow progress in negotiations with landowners.

Contaminated waste was delivered Friday to a section of the site in Okuma, but shipments to the Futaba section were delayed until March 25 at the request of local authorities.

The Environment Ministry decided to move the waste — still being stored near residents’ homes and other places across the prefecture four years after the crisis began — to the temporary storage yard.

“The start of delivery marks a major step forward for the rebirth and reconstruction of Fukushima. I’d like to thank local communities for accepting it,” Environment Minister Yoshio Mochizuki told a news conference Friday.

Over the next year, around 43,000 cu. meters of waste — equivalent to less than 1 percent of the estimated total of 22 million cu. meters created by the Fukushima No. 1 reactor meltdowns — will be delivered, the ministry said.

The government is negotiating with about 2,400 landowners to secure the land needed for the facilities, but many people have voiced strong concern that the storage could end up being permanent if the land is acquired by the state. Others are refusing to sell because the land was owned by their families for generations. ”

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