Labor groups protest reopening of rail lines near Fukushima — CounterPunch

” Labor activists have protested the reopening this month of a railway line in parts of northeast Japan where they believe radiation levels are still dangerous.

The Joban Line runs from Nippori Station in Tokyo to Iwanuma Station, just south of Sendai City. It is one of main connections between northeast Tokyo’s major station of Ueno up along the coast through Chiba, Ibaraki and Miyagi prefectures.

This region was severely damaged by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11th, 2011, while the subsequent Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster meant that large areas through which trains pass were contaminated by radiation.

The Joban Line was directly hit by the massive tsunami wave in 2011, sweeping train carriages away. Though parts of the line were quickly reopened that same year, two sections of the line—between Tatsuta and Odaka stations, and between Soma and Hamayoshida—remained closed, with passengers served by buses for some of the stations.

However, the operator, East Japan Railway Company (JR East), and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, have been keen to reopen the whole line as part of the northeast Japan reconstruction efforts. The Joban Line represents a valuable source of income from both passengers traveling between Sendai and Tokyo as well as freight.

Following decontamination measures, rail services resumed from Iwaki to Tatsuta in late 2014. However, north of Tatsuta lies the areas located within a 20km radius of the devastated Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which is widely considered a no-go zone.

In July this year, JR East resumed services on the 9.4-kilometer stretch between Odaka and Haranomachi stations as the evacuation order was lifted for the southern part of Minamisoma City, though few residents are willing to return to a community so close to the contaminated area. Media reports suggest only 10-20% are coming back to live in the area.

On December 10th, the previously closed 23.2-kilometer northern section of line between Soma and Hamayoshida reopened for rail services. It means passengers will now be served by a further six stations on the section, though three of these (Shinchi, Yamashita and Sakamoto stations) had to be relocated inland by up to 1.1 kilometers as an anti-tsunami measure. Along with the construction of elevated tracks, the total cost of the latest reopening is said to be 40 billion yen ($350 million).

By spring 2017, the line will be reopened between Namie and Odaka, and then later in the year between Tatsuta and Tomioka. The final section linking Tomioka and Namie, passing through somewhat infamous areas like Futaba, is set to reopen by the end of fiscal 2019 (end of March 2020).

Local tourist bodies are naturally delighted and are pulling out all the stops to attract people. At the newly reopened stations, passengers are able to buy commemorative tickets, take hiking trips, and even try on historical armor.

Lingering Doubts over Radiation

Official announcements say that radiation levels have fallen and clean-up efforts will remove any health risk. Last August, JR East began decontamination tests on parts of the railway between Yonomori and Futaba stations where the radioactivity remains high. It has reported that falling radiation levels can be confirmed at six inspection points along the line, making it confident that decontamination measures are working.

However, the legacy of the Fukushima disaster is a lingering distrust for government and corporate claims about radiation. Activists allege that authorities and JR East are putting profits and the appearance of safety over the genuine health of rail workers and passengers. Just as with the gradual lifting of restrictions on entering the areas around the Joban Line, reopening the railway is, they say, an attempt to encourage evacuated residents to return and tourists to visit even though health risks may remain.

This pressure to reconstruct the region quickly and maintain an impression of safety to Japan and the rest of the world comes from the very top, as demonstrated by the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s now notorious claim that the Fukushima disaster was “under control” in his speech in September 2013 during the final (and successful) Tokyo bid to win the 2020 Olympic Games. Abe also officiated at the opening of the rebuilt Shinchi Station on December 10th.

Protests Against Reopening

The rank and file rail unions Doro-Mito (National Railway Motive Power Union of Mito) and Doro-Chiba (National Railway Motive Power Union of Chiba) have long protested the ambitions of JR East as part of their campaigns against the operator’s growing policies of rationalization and outsourcing.

On December 10th, around 50 activists from Doro-Mito and associated groups opposed the Joban Line reopening by demonstrating at the Sendai branch of JR East in the morning. A small number of train drivers from the union also went on strike that day. This was coordinated with other protests and actions in Fukushima City and Tokyo at JR sites. At an afternoon protest outside the JR East headquarters in Shinjuku, central Tokyo, around 150 unionists demonstrated.

These are just the most recent examples of actions by this network of medium-sized yet feisty unions, which have waged several strikes and protests since JR East began reopening parts of the track following the 2011 disaster. Unionists have fought to block the reopening in order to protect the well-being of workers as well as the general public.

Other unions and labor groups have apparently remained silent on the Joban Line issue, as have the major anti-nuclear power protest organisations. The mainstream media has also given the Joban Line protests almost no coverage, though the reopening itself was extensively celebrated.

Doro-Mito and Doro-Chiba are the largest groups in a network of militant unions called Doro-Soren, affiliated with the Japan Revolutionary Communist League. Other smaller unions have been established in Tokyo, Fukushima, Niigata and elsewhere. While the overall numbers of unionized workers remain only in the hundreds, organizers hope to create a national union in the future.

The unions have held small strikes on the Joban Line issue alongside their regular strikes and protests against labor conditions, as well as participating in general rallies against the restarting of nuclear power plants in Japan. In this way, the issues of neoliberalism and nuclear power have become aligned in a new and invigorating way.

The Doro-Soren network is also associated with NAZEN, which was formed in August 2011 as a youth group to fight the nuclear industry. The various groups have taken part in annual protests at Fukushima on the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami, regularly mobilizing over 1,000 demonstrators. … 

by William Andrews

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Most radioactive caesium fallout on Tokyo from Fukushima accident was concentrated in glass microparticles — EurekAlert!; Simply Info

” New research shows that most of the radioactive fallout which landed on downtown Tokyo a few days after the Fukushima accident was concentrated and deposited in non-soluble glass microparticles, as a type of ‘glassy soot’. This meant that most of the radioactive material was not dissolved in rain and running water, and probably stayed in the environment until removed by direct washing or physical removal. The particles also concentrated the radioactive caesium (Cs), meaning that in some cases dose effects of the fallout are still unclear. These results are announced at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Yokohama, Japan.

The flooding of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) after the disastrous earthquake on March 11 2011 caused the release of significant amounts of radioactive material, including caesium (Cs) isotopes 134Cs (half-life, 2 years) and 137Cs (half-life, 30 years).

Japanese geochemists, headed by Dr Satoshi Utsunomiya (Kyushu University, Japan), analysed samples collected from within an area up to 230 km from the FDNPP. As caesium is water-soluble, it had been anticipated that most of the radioactive fallout would have been flushed from the environment by rainwater. However, analysis with state-of-the-art electron microscopy in conjunction with autoradiography techniques showed that most of the radioactive caesium in fact fell to the ground enclosed in glassy microparticles, formed at the time of the reactor meltdown.

The analysis shows that these particles mainly consist of Fe-Zn-oxides nanoparticles, which, along with the caesium were embedded in Si oxide glass that formed during the molten core-concrete interaction inside the primary containment vessel in the Fukushima reactor units 1 and/or 3. Because of the high Cs content in the microparticles, the radioactivity per unit mass was as high as ~4.4×1011 Bq/g, which is between 107 and 108 times higher than the background Cs radioactivity per unit mass of the typical soils in Fukushima.

Closer microparticle structural and geochemical analysis also revealed what happened during the accident at FDNPP. Radioactive Cs was released and formed airborne Cs nanoparticles. Nuclear fuel, at temperatures of above 2200 K (about as hot as a blowtorch), melted the reactor pressure vessel resulting in failure of the vessel. The airborne Cs nanoparticles were condensed along with the Fe-Zn nanoparticles and the gas from the molten concrete, to form the SiO2 glass nanoparticles, which were then dispersed.

Analysis from several air filters collected in Tokyo on 15 March 2011 showed that 89% of the total radioactivity was present as a result of these caesium-rich microparticles, rather than the soluble Cs, as had originally been supposed.

According to Dr Satoshi Utsunomiya;

“This work changes some of our assumptions about the Fukushima fallout. It looks like the clean-up procedure, which consisted of washing and removal of top soils, was the correct thing to do. However, the concentration of radioactive caesium in microparticles means that, at an extremely localized and focused level, the radioactive fallout may have been more (or less) concentrated than anticipated. This may mean that our ideas of the health implications should be modified”.

Commenting, Prof. Bernd Grambow, Director of SUBATECH laboratory, Nantes, France and leader of the research group on interfacial reaction field chemistry of the ASRC/JAEA, Tokai, Japan, said:

“The leading edge observations by nano-science facilities presented here are extremely important. They may change our understanding of the mechanism of long range atmospheric mass transfer of radioactive caesium from the reactor accident at Fukushima to Tokyo, but they may also change the way we assess inhalation doses from the caesium microparticles inhaled by humans. Indeed, biological half- lives of insoluble caesium particles might be much larger than that of soluble caesium”. ”

Goldschmidt Geochemistry Conference

source

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Read a similar article by SimplyInfo that sheds more light on the radioactive fallout from Fukushima Daiichi.

30 groups show radioactive soil levels to address Fukushima fears — The Asahi Shimbun

” A coalition of 30 private groups is digging deeper into radiation contamination from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster to address persistent concerns from the public around Japan.

The coalition’s website, titled the East Japan Soil Measurement Project, shows radiation levels in soil samples taken from more than 1,900 sites in Tokyo and 16 prefectures, from northeastern Japan to the Pacific side of the central Japan.

The project was started partly because parents were concerned that local governments were using only airborne radiation levels to determine if outdoor areas were safe for children.

While radioactive contamination in the air decreases as time passes, that is not necessarily the case with radioactive substances in the ground.

The group’s survey of land contamination has found “hot spots,” where levels are significantly higher than in the surrounding neighborhoods, five years after the disaster unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The radiation levels in some of those areas are comparable to those at nuclear reactor buildings and medical institutions that provide radiation therapy, where public access is restricted because annual radiation doses can exceed 5 millisieverts.

Three citizens groups, including the nonprofit organization Fukushima 30-Year Project, created the website after forming an extensive network of private entities in October last year.

The groups conduct the measurements in a unified manner. About 1,000 cubic centimeters of soil samples are taken by digging 5 cm deep in the ground in the shape of a 10-cm-by-20-cm block in residential areas and districts that ordinary citizens are allowed to enter.

Extreme anomalies in the radiation measurements are not posted on the site because the purpose of the project is to show average contamination in local communities.

“We want to prevent viewers from misunderstanding the pollution level of a given community just because of isolated cases of high numbers,” said Hidetake Ishimaru, head of the coalition’s secretariat. “Viewers can get tips on how to avoid risks in daily life by comparing figures that were measured in a standardized manner.”

The highest reading so far was 135,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium detected in a forest near a home in the Hiso district of Iitate village, northwest of the embattled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The soil sample showed 111,028 becquerels of cesium-137 and 23,920 becquerels of cesium-134.

Radioactivity readings at many observation spots in Shizuoka Prefecture, which is far from the nuclear plant, were below the lowest detectable level.

But the survey this year still found sites in the Kanto region, south of the Tohoku region where the Fukushima plant is located, with readings exceeding 10,000 becquerels.

Save Child Iwate, a group in Iwate Prefecture, was the first of the 30 collaborating private organizations to take measurements in the soil.

Save Child Iwate started measuring radiation doses in the atmosphere and radioactivity in the soil throughout the prefecture in spring 2012. Many of the sites were at schools and parks. It has measured doses at 316 spots and publicized the results.

Kazuhiro Sugawara, a 39-year-old staff member of Save Child Iwate’s secretariat, said the group began measuring radioactivity in soil after local governments had insisted that it was safe to let children play outdoors.

Local officials cited low radiation doses in the air in their safety assurances.

But the group remained skeptical because the evacuation order for residents from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster was issued in part based on the extent of ground contamination.

Sugawara’s daughter was 10 years old and attending an elementary school in Iwate Prefecture when the disaster started at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Like other parents in the area, Sugawara was most concerned about the safety of the children.

“We cannot feel safe without data on soil contamination because children play with earth, wipe the mouths with their dirty hands and inhale dirt blown up by wind, exposing themselves to the risk of internal radiation exposure,” Sugawara said about why he undertook the project. “If local officials would not bother to measure soil contamination, we decided to do so on our own.”

The highest land contamination figure Save Child Iwate recorded came from samples from private property in Kanegasaki in the prefecture in June 2012.

At that spot, the radiation level in the air was 0.24 microsieverts per hour, while radioactivity in the soil sample exceeded 4,500 becquerels.

The coalition accepts sample soils sent by concerned citizens for free measurements using funds provided by businesses and donations from the public.

It currently lacks sufficient data from Niigata, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures.

“Part of the reason we cannot enlist cooperation from groups in the three prefectures, where agriculture is thriving, is that they fear possible negative publicity,” Ishimaru said.

The coalition plans to hold workshops for citizens around the nation on how to gather samples to broaden support for the endeavor.

Tetsuji Imanaka, a researcher with Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute who has been monitoring land contamination in Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere, stressed the importance of gaining data from soil.

“Since numbers on land contamination are basic data needed to study the scope of pollution in a given region, detailed surveys are necessary,” he said. “Ideally, local officials should do the task. I am hoping that the coalition will play a significant role.” ”

by Masakazu Honda

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Japan presses Singapore to ease restrictions on Fukushima imports — The Times of India

” TOKYO: Japan pressed Singapore to ease its ban on Fukushima food imports, following the European Union’s move to relax restrictions on imports from the area, according to media reports on Sunday.

Japanese agriculture minister Hiroshi Moriyama said the Asian financial hub would take “proactive” steps to meet Tokyo’s request, after holding talks with Singapore’s minister for national development, reported Jiji Press.

On Saturday the EU began easing restrictions on Japanese food imports imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Under the previous rule, the EU required all food products, excluding alcohol, from Fukushima prefecture to come with radiation inspection certification.

The EU continues to restrict the importation of items such as rice, mushrooms and some fishery products, however.

Singapore has banned imports of certain Fukushima products since 2011.

“I explained the EU’s step to ease” its restriction, Moriyama told Japanese journalists in Singapore.

“I asked for easing of the restriction based on scientific evidence,” Moriyama said, according to Jiji. ”

source

Japan to allow removal of ‘designated waste’ label from Fukushima crisis — Chicago Tribune

” TOKYO – The Environment Ministry plans to issue rules about what must be done to remove materials tainted with radioactive substances produced by the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant from the list of “designated waste,” according to ministry sources.

As nearly five years have passed since the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, radiation levels of the designated waste are believed to have declined. According to an estimate, the amount of designated waste whose radiation levels have fallen below criteria for the designation stands at more than 3,000 tons.

When contaminated with radioactive materials and its concentration level of radioactive cesium exceeds 8,000 bequerels per kilogram, waste is defined as designated waste. Most of it is incinerated ash, sludge and rice straw. Following the designation by the environment minister under the Law on Special Measures Concerning the Handling of Radioactive Pollution, the central government becomes responsible for its disposal.

When such entities as local governments apply for the removal of the designation to the central government, and the waste stored in their areas is recognized as fulfilling the requirements for removal of the designation, the material in question can be delisted. After that, the waste can be disposed of in accordance with rules applied to regular waste. This will likely lead to a reduction in the total amount of designated waste currently stored at temporary sites across the nation.

Though the designation standards are stipulated in the Law on Special Measures Concerning the Handling of Radioactive Pollution, which came into force in August 2011, there are no rules concerning the removal of the designation. Therefore the ministry plans to revise the ministerial ordinances under the law to deal with the matter.

As of the end of September, the designated waste stored in Tokyo, Tochigi, Chiba, Miyagi, Fukushima and seven other prefectures totaled about 166,329 tons. Fukushima Prefecture stored the greatest amount at 138,000 tons.

Except for Fukushima Prefecture, which said it will accept a central government plan to set up a landfill site, local governments remain unsure about the final disposal of the waste in their areas.

Among types of radioactive cesium that are used as evaluation standards for the radiation concentration level, cesium-134 is said to have a half-life of about two years. The total amount of designated waste whose concentration levels have already gone below the standards was estimated to be 3,172 tons as of the end of June, which accounts for more than 10 percent of the total waste currently stored in Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures – the five prefectures with which the central government is struggling to settle talks about where to construct the final disposal facilities to store the radioactive waste for the long term.

The ministry determined how the designated waste should be handled following the 2011 disaster, but without anticipating that the nation would struggle hard to find disposal sites and that radiation levels would decline during the struggle.

It plans to allow the removal of the designation when local governments and others apply to do so and required conditions are met, such as 1) radiation concentration levels are confirmed to have declined enough in reexaminations and 2) a final disposal facility to accept the waste is decided.

The central government will decide the details of disposal measures by taking the local governments’ wishes into consideration. It is also considering shouldering some disposal costs even after the removal of the designation.

But one likely factor in local governments’ decisions about making the application is that they will become responsible for the waste once the designation is removed. ”

source

Cancer on the rise in post-Fukushima Japan — Arnie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education

” In Fairewinds’ latest update of the ongoing nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima Daiichi, Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen presents two reports that confirm the direct link of numerous cancers in Japan to the triple meltdown. Based upon data from Japanese medical professionals and utility owner of the meltdown site, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Arnie concludes that heavy radioactive discharges will be the cause of enormous spikes in cancer in Japan.

TEPCO’s press release confirms the leukemia diagnosis for a TEPCO worker due to his ongoing exposure during the last four years to radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown. Sadly, during the early months of the Fukushima Daiichi emergency, most TEPCO workers did not wear the required dosimeters required to measure each employee’s exposure to radiation, which has made accurate assessment of the radiation doses received by TEPCO employees impossible.

The second report, provided by esteemed Japanese medical professionals, reveals that the incidence of thyroid cancer is approximately 230 times higher than normal in the Fukushima Prefecture.  This disturbing number for the people of Japan is solely due to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster and the ongoing radioactivity emanating from the decimated nuclear site.

In this video, Arnie recounts his presentation from 2013 at the New York Academy of Medicine where he forecast continuous radiation releases from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and also the devastating health effects for the Japanese people, despite the chronically underestimated radiation exposure levels propagated by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the Japanese government. ”

source with Arnie Gundersen’s video and podcast