The repopulation of the Miyakoji district continues as a hot topic with the Japanese Press. The public release of new radiation exposure measurements followed repopulation and seems too convenient to most media outlets. Since the measurements were taken in September and the results compiled in October of 2013, the Press suspects the results were withheld until after the first repopulation inside the evacuation zone. Also, it has expanded into a wider range of issues, and the international Press has joined in…

  • Most of the Miyakoji evacuees are not returning to their homes. Among the dissidents is Kazuo Yoshida, who says the government should have released the data sooner, but he isn’t going home is concern over contamination washing out of the forests in the district. Another, Yasushige Watanabe, says the radiation levels near his home are higher than the estimates and only two of the 36 families in his temporary housing complex have returned. One who has returned, Tesuzo Tsuboi, says he feels cheated by the government for the data delay. However, another returnee, Hisao Tsuboi, says the new data fits his expectations. He has been growing rice on his property since last year and uses his own dosimeter to monitor radiation exposure. He says that levels do vary with location, but he feels many do not understand that this is the case. NHK World; Residents respond to exposure estimates; April 19, 2014
  • Masumi Watanabe says she won’t return home because she cannot be certain that radiation levels will remain low, “Even if I’m told that the well water has been tested [for radioactive contaminants] and that ‘it’s OK,’ I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road. I also worry about how much decontamination work will actually get done.” A large number of her former neighbors are upset about the great disparity in compensation pay-outs between evacuees like her and non-evacuated residents. Only the Miyakoji district was forced to evacuate from Tamura due to the Fukushima accident and the ~800 evacuees receive large compensation checks every month. Tamura has a total population of nearly 40,000 and the vast majority get little or no money. Some residents say their radiation exposures are greater than those in Miyakoji, and should be similarly compensated. One Tamura political candidate says, “The difference in compensation and other support has made relations among Tamura’s residents pretty awkward.”
  • Russia’s largest news agency, Ria Novosti, has picked up on the issue. The news outlet has essentially posted a re-write of the Asahi Shimbun article we covered on April 17th. The delay in releasing exposure data is not the article’s main focus. Ria Novosti’s emphasis is on much of the repopulated Miyagi district having radiation levels between 1 and 3 mSv/yr, which is more than the long-tern goal of 1 mSv/yr. This seems the basis for the article’s provocative headline, “Fukushima Radiation Levels Drop, Still Dangerous – Report”.–Report.html
  • The Asahi Shimbun may be softening on the posting of exposure levels. On Saturday the Asahi admitted that radiation levels around F. Daiichi have dropped significantly and all dosimeter-based readings are below the international standard of 20 millisieverts/yr for repopulation. Not to abandon the issue entirely, the Asahi says many prospective returnees indicate they will not go home until the goal of 1 mSv/yr is met. It also points out that the forest of Miyakoji district will have a 2.3 mSv exposure if someone stays there around the clock for a full year. Further, some places in Kawauchi village, which might be repopulated as early as July, have 3 mSv annual exposures. It seems the Asahi feels these levels are too high because it scares some people.

Now for some other Fukushima news…

  • has posted a comprehensive report on the condition of the tsunami refugees at the third anniversary of the cataclysm. The numbers in this report distinguish between tsunami victims and those displaced by the Fukushima accident. This distinction is almost unique among the reports found in the rest of the Japanese Press. As of February 13, there were still more than 267,000 tsunami refugees, which is a drop of 47,000 from the same time last year. Much of the lower refugee numbers are due to people giving up and permanently moving to other parts of Japan. More than 150,000 continue to live with families or friends and over 100,000 now live in 46,000 temporary housing units across eight prefectures. The effort to rehouse these victims still lags well-behind what had been planned. Much of this problem stems from delays to build permanent “restoration housing” complexes where most refugees formerly lived; only 2% have actually been built. Only 5% of the planned community relocation projects have been completed and 64% are in varying degrees of being built. Local business recovery is faring even worse. While the construction and “haulage” businesses are at 66% and 42% of pre-disaster levels respectively, the food and fisheries sector is only at 14%. Wholesale, retail and service commerce is at about a 31% level. It should be noted that fish catches are at 69% and processing plants at 78%, but restrictions on marketing required by Tokyo due to possible Fukushima contamination has severely hurt income. The lag with business recovery is worse in Fukushima prefecture than in the other four most damaged by the tsunami. However, the good news is that farming in Iwate Prefecture is actually at 101% of pre-disaster levels, Miyagi Prefecture is at 99%, and Fukushima Prefecture is at 85%. The lower percentage for Fukushima is largely due to the remaining no-go areas of the nuclear exclusion zone.
  • Tepco says that 704 fuel bundles have been removed from the unit #4 pool. Last Monday, the total reported was 638, thus the transfer of 66 bundles marks the most of any week yet.
  • The total pay-out of compensation to Fukushima evacuees has climbed to nearly $37 billion. The amount paid to the 85,000 Tokyo-mandated evacuees is just over $15 billion (~$176,000 each), and the money paid to property owners, affected businesses and proprietorships is nearly $17 billion.
  • F. Daiichi’s site manager Akira Ono says they have kept leaks from reaching the sea. He said, “The ultimate purpose is to prevent contaminated water from going out to the ocean, and in this regard, I believe it is under control.” However, he admitted that they have yet to gain full control of the wastewater storage and treatment situation, “It’s embarrassing to admit, but there are certain parts of the site where we don’t have full control.” Ono says the publicized leaks are probably due to the haste with which many of the storage tanks and pumping systems were built, “We were pressed to build tanks in a rush and may have not paid enough attention to quality. We need to improve quality from here. We need to improve the quality of the tanks and other facilities so that they can survive for the next 30 to 40 years of our decommission period.” Ono also said that the ALPS isotopic removal system might not be able to purify all wastewaters by the March 2015 goal.
  • It seems that public opinion is moderating on the nuke restart issue. A Jiji Press poll posted on April 18 showed that nearly 40% favor restarts and 53% oppose. This is in contrast to polls run by other news outlets this year, most showing 70% opposed and one as recent as March 10 (NHK World) saying that 80% are in favor of scrapping some or all nukes. The Jiji poll also revealed that about 63% still want Japan to reduce reliance on atomic energy. (Comment – it should be kept in mind that all of these polls only cover the members of the public that are the customers/audience of each news outlet. Further, those who agree to respond are usually those with the strongest feelings on an issue, thus the Press polls probably contain a disproportionately-large percentage that is avidly antinuclear. On the other hand, last year’s national election and the recent Tokyo governor’s election both witnessed sound defeats of the antinuclear candidates and victories for the mostly nuclear-neutral conservatives. Thus, it seems that ending nuclear energy is not the most important issue with the public at large.)
  • Japan’s trade deficit continues to skyrocket due to the nuclear moratorium. At the end of Japan’s fiscal year (March 31), the trade shortfall had swollen by 70% over 2012. The deficit for 2013 was nearly $135 billion. Japan’s 2013 exports increased nearly 11%, but didn’t stanch the bleeding. The income from exports was about $690 billion, but import costs reached $825 billion. The cost of imported gas and oil to compensate for the nuke moratorium totaled $134 billion, the largest negative commodity on the record. No end to this trend will be possible until nuke plants begin restarting.
  • A new robot for Fukushima accident recovery has been built. The robot, named “Sakuraichigo”, was developed by a group including Nichinan (an appliance prototype company) and Chiba Institute. Sakuraichigo is an upgraded version of the “Quince” machine used since 2011. It is more compact to maneuver in tight areas, but can be unfolded into a larger unit as needed. It has four cameras as well as temperature and radiation monitoring equipment. Sakuraichigo is waterproof so it can function in radioactive liquid. It can be run wirelessly for up to eight hours and can easily climb stairs at a 45o angle. The robot was demonstrated in Tokyo on April 18 and will soon be used at F. Daiichi.
  • Sharp Corp. will build a 2.2 MWe solar farm in Tomioka. It will be the first new industrial facility built inside the 20 kilometer exclusion zone. The company has reached an agreement with the community to start construction in December and the first electricity could be generated as early as June, 2015. Tomioka officials say this could stimulate recovery and repopulation, and become a model for other companies coming to the region.