Japan acknowledges possible radiation casualty at Fukushima nuclear plant

TOKYO (Reuters) — Japan on Tuesday acknowledged the first possible casualty from radiation at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant, a worker who was diagnosed with cancer after the crisis broke out in 2011.

The health ministry’s recognition of radiation as a possible cause may set back efforts to recover from the disaster, as the government and the nuclear industry have been at pains to say that the health effects from radiation have been minimal.

It may also add to compensation payments that had reached more than 7 trillion yen ($76.3 billion) by July this year.

More than 160,000 people were forced from their homes after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant following an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

– See more at: http://www.safety-reporter.com/articleview/25721-japan-acknowledges-possible-radiation-casualty-at-fukushima-nuclear-plant#sthash.K90hOHgo.dpuf

Full story

Former Japan PM Koizumi defends his newly-adopted anti-nuclear stance

Japan Daily Press
Nov 05, 2013 John Hofilena
Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stood by his anti-nuclear stance on Sunday, verbally defending it from those who say that his suggestions are “irresponsible.” Koizumi came out urging the government to drop its push towards more atomic power in light of the nuclear at the Fukushima nuclear plant that started in 2011. The former premier said during a symposium in Yokohama that it was “more irresponsible” of current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s to continue on the same path towards atomic power and that they “should discuss how to introduce renewable energy that would substitute for atomic power.”


Japan bets on overseas ‘Japantowns’ to boost economy

By Kyoko Hasegawa | AFP
Yahoo News!

Japan is hoping to cash in on its rich culture by recreating fashionable districts of Tokyo in foreign cities, determined that enclaves of vibrant shops, cafes and restaurants can find new markets abroad.
For decades, exports have been the driving force behind the world’s third largest economy with brands like Toyota and Sony becoming household names around the globe.
But a key plank in the government’s “Cool Japan” strategy, which launched last year, is to transplant Tokyo’s trendy districts overseas, taking the shops to the customers instead of bringing the customers to the shops. Read More

Fallout from Japan’s Nuclear Energy Crisis is Snowballing

Ken Silverstein | Apr 30, 2012

The fallout from Fukushima is starting to snowball. Japan now has to make some decisions, namely whether to restart some of its nuclear plants or to rely more heavily on fossil fuels to cool homes this summer.

It depends on how the issue is framed and who is framing it. But it goes something like this: Proponents of restarting some of the nuclear facilities are saying that parts of the country will experience energy shortfalls, leaving not just homeowners to suffer but also the country’s economy as big businesses potentially compensate and reduce production. And, relying on fossil fuels will not just create more emissions but also increase energy costs for those same businesses and consumers.

Opponents of nuclear power power are saying that the way to avoid another disaster is to move on to cleaner energy. Adding renewables and energy efficiency measures would fulfill the energy promises, they say, and cost effectively. Japan, in fact, showed last summer in the early months following the March nuclear disaster that it could cut its consumption by 15 percent.

“You cannot substitute 30 percent of installed capacity overnight,” counters the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development Secretary General Angel Gurria, in a Kyodo News interview. “As a condition of growth policy, you have to have sufficient sources of energy to fuel the economy, households, companies and infrastructure.”

Read more

Japan’s Nuclear Exclusion Zone Shows Few Signs of Life

By AKIKO FUJITA | Good Morning America
Good Morning America, Yahoo

Japan’s Nuclear Exclusion Zone Shows Few Signs of Life (ABC News)
What’s most striking about Japan’s nuclear exclusion zone, is what you don’t see. There are no people, few cars, no sign of life, aside from the occasional livestock wandering empty roads.
Areas once home to 80,000 people are now ghost towns, frozen in time. Homes ravaged from the powerful earthquake that shook this region nearly a year ago, remain virtually untouched. Collapsed roofs still block narrow streets. Cracked roads, make for a bumpy ride.
In seaside communities, large fishing boats line the side of the road, next to piles of debris. Abandoned cars, dot otherwise empty fields. It’s a scene reminiscent of tsunami-battered prefectures Miyagi and Iwate, last March – except those communities have cleaned up a significant amount of the debris since, in preparation for rebuilding efforts.
We had been trying to get our cameras inside here for months, eager to document the fallout from the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, 11 months on.
While workers of the Fukushima plant are bused in daily, the government has maintained a 12-mile no-go zone around the area for everyone else, only allowing for brief, supervised visits home for residents who still have homes here.
Few Signs of Life in Fukushima Exclusion Zone
“There are police cars patrolling every corner,” we were warned. “As soon as they spot your camera, you will be arrested.”
On Saturday, a local driver with a special permit agreed to sneak my cameraman and I in, so long as we didn’t reveal his identity.
We put on thin, white hazmat suits and masks as a precaution, grabbed a Geiger counter and dosimeter to monitor radiation levels, then slipped past police guarding the exclusion zone entrance, onto the main road running through Japan’s nuclear wasteland.
That road, Highway 6, seemed remarkably, unremarkable. We drove past miles of empty parking lots, barren land, closed storefronts. Something you’d expect in any small town, early on a Saturday morning.
Then, the Geiger counter quickly reminded us of where we were. As we approached the road to the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, the numbers ticked up. Less than a mile out, the counter read “27.62 microsieverts an hour” – not a dangerous dose in the short amount of time we were there, but nearly five times the acceptable limit for U.S. nuclear workers, if consumed over a year.
We passed a bus full of Fukushima plant workers, as we drove further away from the reactors. The numbers started to tick down again.
In the the town of Namie, we met Masami Yoshizawa, a rancher who has defied government orders to euthanize more than 200 of his cows. His cattle, raised for premium wagyu beef, used to fetch $13,000 a head. Now they are contaminated with cesium.
Yoshizawa witnessed the reactor explosions from his farm, located just 9 miles from the plant. Radiation concerns forced he and fellow ranchers to evacuate soon after – his, boss opting to unleash all of the cows, thinking he would never return.
Yoshizawa said he couldn’t abandon the cattle, completely. He obtained a permit to re-enter the exclusion zone, so he could feed the animals. He’s been driving an hour and a half from his temporary home every day since, to look after them.
“The government didn’t even try to save the animals,” he told me. “They just wanted to kill them. I am filled with rage.”
He displays the rage outside his ranch, where he’s handwritten angry messages on large, pieces of plywood. One sign placed near a cow’s remains reads “Stop killing our animals.”
The government has said it will take at least 30 years to decommission the crippled reactors. While Yoshizawa insists he isn’t going anywhere, the reality is, this nuclear wasteland may not be livable for decades.
As we hopped back in our car, to drive out of the exclusion zone, our driver asked if he could take us to the town center in Futaba. There was something he wanted to show us.
We drove past the main train station, past small office buildings, and retail stores, until we saw a sign marking the entrance to the main shopping district.
It read, “Nuclear power – the bright future of energy.”

Quake disaster survivors see bleak future as unemployment benefits run out

The Mainichi Daily News
January 11, 2012

Quake disaster survivors see bleak future as unemployment benefits run out

Disaster survivors look for work at a Hello Work employment agency in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on Jan. 6. (Mainichi)

Disaster survivors look for work at a Hello Work employment agency in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on Jan. 6. (Mainichi)

Survivors of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami will start losing their unemployment benefits this month as Japan marks 10 months since the disaster, though many of them are struggling to find work.

Unemployment benefits were earlier extended, but marine processing and other important industries in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures have still not recovered, and for many unemployed survivors, there are no immediate prospects of finding another job. In Fukushima Prefecture, meanwhile, people forced to evacuate due to the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant have had to look for jobs without knowing when — or even if — they will be able to return home.

Among those struggling to find work is 35-year-old Takahito Sato, who is supporting a wife and 4-year-old daughter. Sato was previously employed at a marine product processing firm in the Iwate Prefecture city of Ofunato.

“My unemployment benefit runs out at the end of January, but almost all of the work offered is for people with qualifications or experience using heavy machinery, and there’s nothing that suits me,” Sato lamented.

Officials at the Hello Work employment service center in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, said that the job-offers-to-seekers ratio in Kamaishi and the town of Otsuchi stood at 0.20 in April 2011, the month after the disaster. In September, the ratio increased to 0.50, and in November it rose to 0.56, recovering beyond the level prior to the quake (0.48 in November 2010). However, the effective number of job seekers fell from 3,067 in April 2011 to 2,155 in September, and has remained stagnant since then. A mismatch between available jobs and the type of work people want to do has been blamed for this.

By job type, the job-offers-to-seekers ratio stood at 22.17 for security positions, as openings surged after the disaster. For construction work the ratio was 1.75, but for regular office work, and the sales and food processing industries, the ratio ranged between 0.2 and 0.3.

People affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis have also faced tough employment conditions.

One 41-year-old resident who previously did nuclear power plant-related work in Fukushima Prefecture moved with his wife and child from the coastal town of Namie, to a shelter in the city of Fukushima, which is located inland. His unemployment benefit ends this month, meaning he will have to start digging into his savings to survive.

After the earthquake disaster, he received notification of employment from a recovery-related business in a coastal area of the prefecture, but his daughter has already changed schools twice since the disaster, and is just settling in to her new school. The man tried to look for work that would enable his daughter to attend the same school, but he worried about how soon he would be able to quit if radiation levels decreased and he was able to return to his hometown. He has called for more support from the government.

“My (unemployment) benefit is not something that the government has given me; it’s insurance that I’ve paid for by working. I want the government to further extend the benefit,” he said.

Masaru Hachisuka, who was previously living in a house in Futaba, about five kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, is now renting a home in Koriyama with his 50-year-old wife. The 52-year-old will be covered by unemployment insurance until the end of April, but he has still not been able to find work matching his skills.

“The emergency employment measures offered by local bodies provide only interim positions,” he says. To help find work he spent 150,000 yen attending a driving school and obtained a special license allowing him to work at a construction site.

Hachisuka’s wife worries about their situation.

“If we can’t return home, I want the government to clearly tell us that. What are we going to do if our time limit for renting a place to live expires? I’m also worried about my husband operating a vehicle at a construction site when he is past the age of 50,” she says.

Hachisuka’s reply is short.

“It’s all we can do,” he says.