- Numerous 3/11/11 second anniversary articles are being posted in the Japanese Press. As Monday approaches, the number of such reports will surely increase, both inside Japan and around the world. At this point, most of the Japanese Press reports focus on re-visiting the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the events of the past two years and the condition of its evacuees. However, for the first time in two years, some Press outlets are addressing the far-worse aftermath of the tsunami. A few outlets are devoting entire articles to the horrors of the tsunami and the condition of its refugees, along with parallel articles on Fukushima. Rather than wait for Monday, the Japanese newspapers are posting 2nd anniversary reports early to try and “scoop” each other. It’s a journalistic feeding frenzy. Tomorrow, we will post a summary of the Fukushima-specific articles, and Sunday a summary of tsunami-specific articles.
- The Tokyo government is reviewing the disaster recovery subsidy policy of the former political regime. The decision was made at a joint meeting of the Reconstruction Promotion Committee and the Nuclear Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters due to pressure from disaster-hit communities. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed the committee and said, “We must speed up recovery efforts and ensure that residents of the disaster-hit areas will enter the next winter, which is the third since the disasters, with some hope. We’d like to do our utmost to make sure that residents of disaster regions will restore their livelihoods.” Under former PM Noda, Tokyo created the “Act for Special Zone for Reconstruction” and appropriated about $21 billion to be spent on Tohoku recovery. Some $15 billion was spent, but much was skimmed off for non-recovery projects. The local Tohoku governments were dissatisfied (obviously) but have also been upset with the restrictions on money use that are in the Act. The committee does not intend to revoke the Act, but rather modify it to better meet the needs of the communities. Reconstruction of land lost to the tsunami is at the top of the agenda. Number two on the list is erecting more than 19,000 public housing units for those who cannot rebuild their houses in the same locations as before 3/11/11. 5,094 units are intended for Iwate Prefecture, 11,250 in Miyagi, and 2,918 for Fukushima. Also, the government will procure land for 8,500 private dwellings in the three prefectures. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- Another of the former regime’s nuclear policies is also under review. This time, it concerns the official timetable for decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi. The new government feels the project’s time-frame can be shortened. A committee has been formed in Tokyo to speed up the work and expedite research into new technologies needed to get the job done. The panel is led by industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi. The group includes TEPCO president Naomi Hirose and presidents from major electrical equipment manufacturers. Motegi said the former regime’s timetable was based on the assumption that the four damaged units have similar levels of destruction and would take similar efforts to decommission them. In fact, the damages are different with each unit. Now, each of the four units will have their own time-table and planning “road-map”. As a result, the staff at F. Daiichi will not have to wait for one unit’s project to be completed before the next project at another unit can begin. Task will be performed in tandem between the four units. (NHK World)
- Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority wants the on-going Fukushima Prefecture health survey to continue indefinitely. The NRA has issued a report which says the program ought to be “continued and sustainable”, adding “The [Fukushima] government should offer continued support [for the survey] on its own initiative to make it a sustainable project.” More than 2 million residents have participated in the program since 3/11/11. This accounts for about 20 percent of the population living in Fukushima before the quake/tsunami hit. The percentage of participants has been disappointing, considering that it costs them nothing. It is believed the widespread distrust of any government program involved with the nuclear accident keeps families from participating. In addition, many Fukushima residents have moved to other parts of Japan and their whereabouts are hard to confirm. Citing the low response rate, the NRA wants the Prefecture to increase its efforts. The report also says, “It has yet to be confirmed whether the level of radiation exposure is high enough to prove beyond doubt that there is an increased risk of developing cancer,” and full participation could help in removing public uncertainty. The NRA has asked the Environment Ministry and other government bodies to allocate funds to pay for program improvements. (Yomiuri Shimbun).
- The NRA says they will not make the mistakes of their predecessor; NISA. At a Tokyo symposium, Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa said, “We will never allow the myth about the safety of nuclear power (that permitted utilities to get away with feeble standards for decades) to be resurrected. That’s one of the most important lessons from the Fukushima disaster.” Law professor Shuya Nomura, member of the Diet’s Fukushima investigative group (NAIIC) said, “It was problematic that the nuclear regulatory and promotional bodies [NISA and METI] existed under the same roof. In that sense, the NRA has been doing its job with a greater commitment to safety.” NRA critic, University of Tokyo professor Koji Okamoto, said focusing on administrative preparedness alone is not enough, “Ultimately, [averting or resolving another crisis] boils down to the management of trained workers and how effectively they respond as a team to a critical situation.” In addition, the NRA says they will not let economics stand in the way of safety. Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has stated, “We are not taking into consideration how much it will cost atomic plant operators. Some power firms could give up on restarting their reactors [because of the prohibitive costs].” (Japan Times)
- Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) drilled a hole in the roof of F. Daiichi unit #6 reactor building on March 18, 2011. This was done to prevent the potential buildup of hydrogen that decimated the upper parts of units #1, 3 and 4. Although unit #6 had been shut down for months for refueling and maintenance before 3/11/11, and the possibility of decay-heat-spawned hydrogen generation was miniscule, Tepco decided to drill the hole anyway. Because the unit has not been restarted and the decay heat rate in the refueled core has now dropped well below that which could bring the fuel to the point of hydrogen generation, Tepco has decided to plug the hole. When finished, the structure will once again be air-tight. (Tepco Press Release)
The Mainichi Shimbun says the government is not doing enough to protect the health of Fukushima residents. The Mainichi fears that the recent WHO estimates of cancer risk will cause officials to relax and “go away happy”. The paper believes such an important project cannot be left in the control of Fukushima Prefecture. Instead, Tokyo should be in control. The Mainichi feels that not enough was done to find out the activities and travels of residents evacuating during the weeks of major radiation releases, so their actual doses cannot be ascertained with accuracy. Now, it’s too late and it’s all the fault of Fukushima Prefecture for not expending enough early-on effort. Despite the WHO report, the paper believes that there will inevitably be some cancers caused by the Fukushima radiation in the future. Unless the central government takes full control, and does it immediately, the ability to find and treat these cancers will be lost.