On Friday, Japan’s Press fixated on whether or not deposed Prime Minister Naoto Kan banned use the term “meltdown” on March 14, 2011. The day before, a third-party investigative panel said Tepco officials were told to ban the term by the PM’s office. This is not a new revelation; in July, 2012, Tokyo’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Committee (NAIIC) said the same thing. Although the evidence makes the charge remarkably clear, Japan’s largely antinuclear Press seems committed to making it a mere “he said…she said” debate. Here’s some examples…

  • The Mainichi Shimbun says that when Tepco released images of the first hydrogen explosion on March 12th “…Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other government officials were furious. Shimizu was called to the prime minister’s office on March 13 and was told to contact the office in advance when announcing important accident information.” In addition, the Mainichi reports, “The removal of a senior official of the then Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency from a public relations position on March 13 after he acknowledged a core meltdown in a news conference without first contacting the prime minister’s office, is also thought to have influenced TEPCO.” The Mainichi adds that then-Minister Banri Kaieda told a Tepco employee, “There doesn’t appear to be a clear definition of a core meltdown, so let’s make it the melting of fuel pellets,” and a fax was distributed within the company saying, “‘Melting of fuel pellets’ is to be used. This is because ‘core meltdown’ conveys the image that the whole core has melted, like the China Syndrome.” http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160617/p2a/00m/0na/013000c
  • Naoto Kan denies he ordered the “meltdown” term banned. Kan says he never ordered Tepco to stop saying it, and further that he never told the now-defunct regulatory agency (NISA) to muzzle itself. Kan says that the new investigative panel was chosen by Tepco, so their allegation is biased. He alleges that his innocence is proven by the tele-conference recordings during the nuclear crisis. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160617_23/
  • Kan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, says they never muzzled Tepco. He told a Press conference on Friday, “The fact that I or then-Prime Minister (Naoto) Kan ordered or requested then-President Shimizu to avoid using the term ‘meltdown’ under any circumstance does not exist.” Edano echoed Kan’s argument that the panel cannot be believed because it was set up by Tepco. He says the panel report defame Kan, the DPJ, and himself, and, the release was scheduled to influence the impending Upper House election. Edano is thinking about pursuing legal action against Tepco and the panel. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160617_20/http://www.businessinsider.com/ap-japan-lawmaker-denies-pressuring-tepco-not-to-say-meltdown-2016-6
  • TEPCO says it will continue the third party investigation in parallel with another panel set up by Niigata Prefecture. Tama University Professor Yasuhide Yamauchi, a member of the Niigata panel, says they want to find out why the term “meltdown” was not used, its impact on society, and whether the omission was intentional. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160617_12/
  • Japan’s largest newspaper says Tepco should have ignored PM Kan’s order. The Yomiuri Shimbun says, “…the [panel’s] probe revealed that TEPCO was paying too much attention to the Prime Minister’s Office’s intentions in responding to the accident.” The newspaper says Tepco was at fault for allowing itself to be muzzled by the prime minister’s office, because the company’s primary responsibility to the public is full, transparent disclosure. Thus, “The operator cannot avoid criticism for having betrayed local residents with this decision. This kind of stance taken by the utility has caused increasing distrust of nuclear power plants.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003026750

Now, here’s some other Fukushima-accident and related news…

  • Kawauchi Village wants to further subsidize single-parent families. The municipality hopes this will boost repopulation. The village is offering up to $8,000 for each family of four that returns, to help buy a car and/or cover other expenses. This will be in addition to the huge compensation paid-out by Tepco every month of more than $8,000 each for every man, woman, and child. One town official said, “It’s possible to live more comfortably in the rural village than in Tokyo and other urban areas.” At this point, 60% of Kawauchi’s pre-evacuation population has returned. About 40% of the returnees are listed as elderly. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160619/p2a/00m/0na/004000c
  • Tokyo lifted marketing restrictions on Fukushima flounder on June 9th. Flounder is a leading food-fish on the Japanese market. Test catches will be made and the flounder checked for radioactivity level to insure that it does not exceed Japan’s 100 Becquerels per kilogram criterion for Cesium. The prefecture surveyed radiocesium content in a total of 1,078 samples of the fish species between March 2014 and May 2016. The results of the survey showed an average concentration of 9.7 Bq/kg, and none topped the 100 Bq/kg limit. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=681
  • The Environment Ministry a 5,000 to 8,000 Bq/kg as a formal limit for reuse of contaminated soils. The proposed policy specifies the levels of radioactivity in soil allowed for reuse, as well as how to use recycled contaminated soil. The levels are designed to keep workers’ exposure at 1 millisievert or less per year. The soils will be used for road embankments, then covered with uncontaminated earth, sand, and asphalt. The ministry says the average level of soil contamination is “6,000 Bq/kg or less.” If road embankments are covered with more than 50 centimeters of uncontaminated earth, sand and other materials, additional radiation exposure to residents in the neighborhood can be restricted to 0.01 mSv/yr or less. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=680
  • NRA allows licensing extension for Takahama units #1&#2. The Nuclear Regulation Authority unanimously accepted an extension of up to 20 years on the condition that operator Kansai Electric Power Company carry out reinforcement work on aging pipes that fail to meet earthquake safety standards. Both of the units were first operated 40 more than years ago. Kansai Electric began checking on possible degradation of plant systems in December, 2014. After finding everything meets the NRA’s regulations, they applied for the extension in April, 2015. Kansai Electric wants to restart the units in October, 2019. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160620_17/http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2016062000566
  • American TV personality Daniel Kahl reports that convenience stores aid disaster recovery. Roughly 2,000 convenience stores were damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, most opened within two weeks. However, a few of the stores remained opened as soon as the ground stopped shaking. Kahl says, “After the tsunami, convenience stores in this region played a critical role in helping people get back on their feet. But that was only possible because of the incredible devotion of the employees and the managers of each and every shop.” http://www.nhk.or.jp/japan311/tmrw3-conv.html
  • The temporary court injunction against Takahama 3&4 is upheld. The “stay-of-execution” request was filed by Kansai Electric Company in March. Interestingly, the Otsu court that dismissed the Kansai motion is the one-and-same that granted the injunction request on March 9th. In fact, it is the same presiding judge, Yoshihiko Yamamoto, as the March injunction. In Friday’s decision, the court said it “cannot conclude that (the reactors) are safe, merely because they have met new regulatory standards on nuclear power plants.” Kansai Electric said, “It is very regrettable that the petition for stay of execution was not approved,” saying its safety measures are thoroughly proven and the court’s decision lacked scientific basis and technological understanding. The injunction has cost the company 300 million yen ($2.88 million) in losses daily. Unfortunately, the annulment plea filed by Kansai Electric will also be heard by Yamamoto’s court, making a successful reversal of the injunction questionable. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201606170022.htmlhttp://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160617/p2g/00m/0dm/039000chttp://www.jaif.or.jp/en/otsu-district-court-upholds-temporary-injunction-against-takahama-34-keeping-it-closed/