Thursday was the 26th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in the Ukraine. Last year, the Japanese press was loaded with Chernobyl articles on this date, but this year there has been very little coverage. In fact, only NHK World has run anything about it, and merely to acknowledge the date’s passing. What this means or implies remains to be seen, but it might signal that Japan’s Press has come to realize that making comparisons between Fukushima and Chernobyl could be more misleading than informative.

Now, for some updates…

  • The fishing business on the Tone River, just north of Tokyo, has been negatively affected by the new Cesium standards. The new standards issued the first of April place a limit of 100 Becquerels per kilogram for fish. Recently, a single silver crucian carp was caught in the river and tested at 110 Bq/kg. As a result, the prefecture has asked 10 municipalities along the river and 6 fishery cooperatives not to ship fish from the river to market. Officials say they will step up testing and include other species of fish in the sampling plan. The Tone River has the largest drainage area in Japan. The town where the contaminated fish was caught is located about 180 kilometers from the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. (NHK World)
  • The residents of the host town for Oi units #3 & 4 have been briefed on the government’s decision to restart the two nukes. Senior Vice Minister Mitsuyoshi Yanagisawa explained how the 2 reactors have met the government’s safety standards for resuming operations, and why they need to be restarted. Some residents expressed understanding of the nation’s need to restart the two nukes. But some said they were concerned about not having a quake-proof emergency operations center in the community. Others said they doubted the government’s belief that restarts are necessary to avoid power shortages. Town officials will decide whether to approve restarting the reactors now that they have heard what the residents have to say. The meeting was open to town residents alone and about 550 attended. Barred from the meeting itself, anti-nuclear activists from other parts of Japan held a protest outside the meeting hall. (NHK World)
  • In another newspaper’s report, Minister Yanagisawa was quoted to have said, “Since the Tohoku earthquake, we have bolstered safety at the plants. Experts have given them their seal of approval.” However, one resident replied, “We were given similar assurances about the Fukushima plant, but we are all aware of the current situation there.” While many residents seemed satisfied, others said they were not given enough information to make a firm judgment. Opinion on the issue is divided because the town’s economy depends on nuclear plant operation. One commentator on NHK said that if pro-nuclear residents get their way and another disaster happens they feel they would be blamed, while anti-nuclear residents feel they would be blamed if the local economy suffers. The commentator said these reasons are why so few people spoke up at the meeting. (Japan Today)
  • Confusion seems to exist over the government’s new Cesium limits for beef, and for good reason. The new 100 Bq/kg limit has been imposed for nearly all meats and fish, but beef has been exempted until the end of September. Until then, the former 500 Bq/kg limit applies. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry says the moratorium on the new beef limit “is in consideration of beef producers” because the new limit is the strictest in the world. Plus, much of Japan’s beef is frozen for future sales, so some of that which is now frozen might exceed the 100 Bq/kg limit, even though it has been tested to be below the old 500 Bq/kg standard. It is unknown how much, if any, of the frozen beef might exceed the new limit so the Ministry is making a conservative assumption which might not hurt the nation’s beef industry through the summer. “Beef is usually frozen for an extended period of time,” one Ministry official said. “[The instruction] is meant to reduce the amount of beef that is processed and frozen before stricter standards are applied in autumn,” which is itself a confusing statement.  The situation has also confused many cattle farmers. Tokyo says it’s OK to use the 500 Bq/kg limit until September, but some prefectures have requested the immediate voluntary disposal of any beef exceeding the 100 Bq/kg limit. Hideaki Karaki, president of Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts, criticized the ministry’s handling of the revised criteria, “If the government changes rules soon after they are established, it will lose the trust of the public. The ministry has been misled by a tendency to demand zero risk in food.” (Yomiuri Shimbun)

Reporting issue – Japan’s Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) has announced that they will only post new updates once or twice a week because there is relatively little day-to-day Press coverage. JAIF is making a mistake if they believe this indicates the Japanese public and people around the world have lost interest. The amount of activity and level of interest in Fukushima and related nuclear topics remains high across Japan. This site’s activity has slowly increased for months, with ~150 “unique” visitors and more than 400 total visitors now accessing Fukushima updates each day. Each month of this year, the site has experienced over 12,500 readers from roughly 90 countries around the world. It is the top-rated source of Fukushima-related information on the internet. From this blogger’s perspective, it seems the world is still watching…no matter what JAIF and the Japanese Press thinks.