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Japan Diary: Fukushima women

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Mary Olsen – Nuclear Information & Resource Service.

Early March 2016 – I am here in Japan with Arnie Gundersen from Fairewinds Energy Education (, and after leaving Fukushima Prefecture we have begun our speaking tour. People who have fled Fukushima turn up at our events, and side-gatherings are organized for me to meet with mothers and grandmothers who have moved out of contaminated areas. These meetings are called Tea Parties and are somewhat of a snowball! Word is spreading. I have met with Moms in Fukushima City, near Okayama, Onomichi, Kyoto, Maizuru, Osaka, and now in Tokyo ...often a Mom says a friend of hers met with me already.

These refugees from TEPCO's radioactivity are often in conflict. Many have left family members behind, in some cases suffering ridicule and derision from their relatives for leaving. There is a choice-point now that they have left; do they now fade into anonymity? Or do they stand up to say "see me" and fight for justice. Many are engaged in legal battles to win compensation. Some are now effectively homeless and relying on the help of service organizations, churches and help from family. Many are women whose husbands do not support their choice to move their children to less contaminated areas. Divorce due to Fukushima Daiichi is not uncommon.

In the field of physics they say that the act of viewing an event changes it. Here I will tell you that being seen, witnessed, also changes events. These two: seeing, and being seen, are not the same. A large part of what I can offer the radiation refugees is the simple act of being their witness. I met a representative of a service organization that has done interviews with families that were directly exposed when Fukushima Daiichi 1, 2 and 3 melted down ... and by contamination since 2011. When the report comes out, it will say that 80% of the large number of families they have spoken to have health problems. When this report becomes available, we will share it. For now, I will simply say: cancer is not the only harm that comes from radiation exposure.

For me, as a woman who suffered an acute radiation exposure at work at the age of 25 (1984), this is not news. This trip has been a personal gift to me insofar as I have never talked about the immediate and near-term problems I suffered after my exposure, but listening to these women I often say "Yes, that happened to me too. I understand."

Immediate harm includes decimation of the digestive tract, immune system, sensory function (primarily eyes but also sometimes taste and smell), reproductive function and physical depression. Some report becoming reactive to chemicals – something I experienced too. I have heard many reports of joint pain and a startling number of reports of spontaneous bone fracture. There are the nose-bleeds and headaches. It is also typical for people to be consumed by deep, tragic regret and/or rage. In Japan these last are clothed in daily decorum. And yes, thyroid cancer (in all ages) is appearing.

Yes, these symptoms all have multiple causations, but there is a pattern; and those suffering unequivocally know that they did not suffer these problems prior to exposure. The good news is that often these immediate non-cancer problems can reverse if the body is allowed to recover. A physician, one of the few here in Japan openly diagnosing radiation-related illnesses reports that when people move to safer zones, they are improving.

"You are the first person who has come to talk to me about radiation, and how to protect myself." I hear these words from a woman evacuated from her home in Namie, as we leave a Temporary Housing community room near Koriyama. It is nearly incomprehensible to me that I am the first person to talk with these women about the danger of radiation, and small ways they can reduce their exposures. Then, I remember: the invisibility of radioactivity is so convenient.

I meet this small group of women almost five years since they were forced to immediately leave their homes, many with only the clothes they were wearing. None of these women had any idea when they left that five years later they would still not be home. Most are allowed to visit their homes up to 30 times a year, but some of these visits are only for a few minutes because the radiation level remains high. The levels of contamination are a patchwork; some property has lower levels and one of my new friends spends a couple of afternoons a month at home.

Of 12 women I am meeting with, one has been officially informed that she can never go back, the level of radioactivity around her home exceeds any official plan to remediate. She sits quiet, it is apparent that her experience is quite different from the women who believe that the day will come when they can return. I am silently relieved that these women are grandmother-aged ... but I know that some areas are soon to be officially declared "OK" and that families with children are expected to return. If they do not, they will lose what benefits and support have been available to them ... but there is also no-one who would buy their homes. Really a bind.

One woman told me she has moved seven times in these five years. Her husband has died during that time, her children have moved away and she is alone now.

Where are the men? Many have died (those gathered are in their 60's and older). Some were already gone in 2011, and others are here, but prefer to hang together outdoors smoking. The Tea Party is a support group for women. Sometimes a guy will come, but not today.

I want to tell them that I do not think they should go to their house ... even if they are told their house is "OK." But there are many places here, in unrestricted areas of the Prefecture, where our monitoring team has seen levels 50 and 80 times usual background for this area ... and particles that are "through the roof" hot ... I am faced once again with depth of incomprehension that a nuclear meltdown's impacts produce. So, I say nothing.

Radiation reloaded: Ecological impacts of the Fukushima disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Kendra Ulrich from Greenpeace Japan has written a detailed report on radioactive contamination from the Fukushima disaster, documenting the radioactive contamination of forests, rivers, floodplains and estuaries of Fukushima Prefecture, as well as the contamination of wildlife.1

Ulrich exposes flawed assumptions by the International Atomic Energy Agency:

"The IAEA has declared that there will likely be no impacts on wildlife from Fukushima-derived radiation – while also admitting that they did not consider ecosystems or populations, but rather focused narrowly on individuals. Further, it states that its methodology was based on that proposed by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), whose models are largely base upon individuals in laboratory or controlled environment studies.

"However, in recent years the French government-affiliated Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), in its studies of wildlife in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, has found that animals in these natural conditions could be significantly more sensitive to chronic low-dose exposure to man-made radiation than they are in laboratory or controlled environment experiments. It was suggested that this could be due to a number of factors, including, but not limited to, increased stressors and length of exposure times. In fact, IRSN found that wildlife could be up to eight times in more sensitive in natural contaminated ecosystems."

The report is based on a large body of independent scientific research in impacted areas in the Fukushima region, as well as investigations by Greenpeace radiation specialists over the past five years. It draws on research regarding the ecosystem impacts of the Chernobyl disaster and the 1957 Kyshtym / Mayak disaster in the Soviet Union (which involved a chemical explosion in a liquid radioactive waste tank, spreading radionuclides over a wide area).

The report states that studies after the Chernobyl and Kyshtym disasters revealed evidence in contaminated forest systems of a gradual increase in the concentrations of radiocaesium in above-ground plant structures after five years. Uptake via root systems exceeded returns to the forest floor via leaching and litterfall, until a sort of equilibrium was reached. The same phenomenon may play out in Fukushima Prefecture. Declining radiation levels may plateau (or even rise), followed by a very slow decline as long-lived radionuclides decay (for example caesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years).

The greatest enemy of the clean-up efforts in Fukushima Prefecture is gravity. The topography of Fukushima prefecture is characterized by steep slopes, foothills, and flat coastal flood plains. The upper regions are covered in forests and plantations – interspersed with rice paddies, homes and other agricultural fields. Over 70% of Fukushima prefecture is forested, and these areas cannot be decontaminated. Ulrich writes:

"Its climate is highly erosive, with typhoons in the fall and snowmelt in the spring. During significant rainfall events, typhoons, and spring snowmelt, the stocks of radiocaesium in forests, hillslopes and floodplains can be remobilized and contaminate areas downstream – including those that did not receive fallout from the radioactive plumes, as well as areas that have already been decontaminated."

Thus there is an element of futility to the clean-up efforts:

"Over the past four years, a massively expensive and labor-intensive decontamination effort has been underway in the much of the heavily contaminated areas. Workers scrub down buildings, sidewalks, and roads, and remove enormous amounts of contaminated surface soil and debris – which is then packed into bags roughly a m3 in size and piled into up in mountains of temporary radioactive waste storage sites scattered throughout the prefecture. Forests are "decontaminated" in 20-meter strips along roads and around homes in an effort to lower radiation doses. Yet, due to the complexities of these ecosystems and the transfer of radiation within them, this effort is more symbolic than effectual. As such, despite the admirable and dedicated work of the decontamination workers, their heroic efforts in the Fukushima-impacted areas have yielded limited success."

Some of the specific impacts uncovered in the five years since the Fukushima disaster include:

  • high radiation concentrations in new leaves, and at least in the case of cedar, in pollen;
  • apparent increases in growth mutations of fir trees with rising radiation levels;
  • heritable mutations in pale blue grass butterfly populations and DNA-damaged worms in highly contaminated areas, as well as apparent reduced fertility in barn swallows;
  • decreases in the abundance of 57 bird species with higher radiation levels over a four year study;
  • high levels of caesium contamination in commercially important freshwater fish; and
  • radiological contamination of one of the most important ecosystems – coastal estuaries.

There's a saying that old atomic bomb test sites never die. The same could be said of severe nuclear accident sites. Ulrich concludes:

"Unfortunately, the crux of the nuclear contamination issue – from Kyshtym to Chernobyl to Fukushima – is this: when a major radiological disaster happens and impacts vast tracts of land, it cannot be 'cleaned up' or 'fixed.'"

Other reports released by Greenpeace

Greenpeace has released several other important reports to mark the Chernobyl and Fukushima anniversaries. Nuclear Scars: The Lasting Legacies of Chernobyl and Fukushima is a 50-page report summarizing the myriad social and environmental effects of the disasters.2 It's well worth a read and will serve as a useful reference document.

The Nuclear Scars report comments on testing conducted by Greenpeace in Ukraine. Of 50 milk samples collected last year from three villages in the Rivne region of Ukraine, located approximately 200 km from Chernobyl, 92% contained caesium-137 at levels above the limit set for consumption by adults in Ukraine, and all were substantially above the lower limit set for children. Samples of mushrooms had caesium-137 levels well above the Ukrainian limit for human consumption. Forty-two percent of grain samples from the Kyiv region, 50 km from Chernobyl, had strontium-90 levels above the Ukrainian limit for human consumption. Seventy-five percent of wood samples from the Kyiv region had strontium-90 levels above the Ukrainian limit for firewood.

Greenpeace has commissioned a number of other reports which have been released recently:

  • David Boilley, a nuclear physicist and chairman of Association pour le Contrôle de la Radioactivité dans l'Ouest, reviewed current research into the contamination from the Fukushima disaster.3
  • A team of scientists led by Prof. Omelianets, Principal Scientist for the Laboratory of Medical Demography at the National Research Centre for Radiation Medicine of National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine, reviewed the published national and international scientific data and research on the health impacts from the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.4
  • Prof. Valerii Kashparov, the Director of the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology of the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine, and his team reviewed the published scientific research on the extent of Chernobyl's contamination 30 years later.5

Nuclear disasters and sociopolitical change

Greenpeace's Nuclear Scars report comments on the broader political ramifications of the Fukushima disaster, noting that it "triggered many Japanese citizens to rethink their once deferential relationship with state and expert authorities. Fukushima has, in effect, changed the social relationships of Japanese society. This new distrust in authorities has spurred 'bottom-up' responses, including citizen-led science challenging government policies and protesting against government policies. When citizens lose faith in government expertise, they develop other means to protect their lives and health. Following Fukushima, Japanese citizens developed their own technical capacity to assess government safety reassurance, including learning to monitor, share and understand the risk of radiation levels in food and communities. This 'scientific citizenship' is a direct response to the Fukushima disaster. Simply put, due to distrust in government, citizens have come together to develop tools and community networks to protect their health and avoid radiation exposure."2

Naoto Kan, Japan's Prime Minister at the time of the Fukushima disaster, has recently commented on the potential for far more radical changes in the social relationships of Japanese society.6 Reflecting on the first few days of the Fukushima disaster, Kan said:

"From a very early stage I had a very high concern for Tokyo. I was forming ideas for a Tokyo evacuation plan in my head. In the 1923 earthquake the government ordered martial law – I did think of the possibility of having to set up such emergency law if it really came down to it. We were only able to avert a 250-kilometre evacuation zone by a wafer-thin margin, thanks to the efforts of people who risked their lives. Next time, we might not be so lucky."

"The future existence of Japan as a whole was at stake," Kan said. "Something on that scale, an evacuation of 50 million, it would have been like a losing a huge war."6

Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at the time of the Chernobyl disaster, attributes the collapse of the Soviet Union in part to the nuclear disaster. He said, "even more than my launch of perestroika, [Chernobyl] was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later. Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was an historic turning point: there was the era before the disaster, and there is the very different era that has followed."7


1. Kendra Ulrich, March 2016, "Radiation Reloaded: Ecological Impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident – 5 years on",

2. Greenpeace, 2016, 'Nuclear scars: The Lasting Legacies of Chernobyl and Fukushima',

3. Boilley, D. 2016. Fukushima five years later: back to normal?


4. Omelianets, N., Prysyazhnyuk, A., Loganovsky, L., Stepanova, E., Igumnov, S., Bazyka, D. 2016. 'Health Effects of Chernobyl and Fukushima: 30 and 5 years down the line'.

5. Kashparov, V., Levchuk, S., Khomutynyn, I. & Morozova, V. 2016. Chernobyl: 30 Years of Radioactive Contamination Legacy.

6. Andrew Gilligan, 4 March 2016, 'Fukushima: Tokyo was on the brink of nuclear catastrophe, admits former prime minister',

7. Mikhail Gorbachev, 14 April 2006, 'Turning Point at Chernobyl',


Fukushima Reflections: Looking back, looking forward

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Robert Jacobs has a short but powerful piece in the Asia-Pacific Journal on the topic of 'forgetting Fukushima':1

"Forgetting begins with lies. In Fukushima the lies began with TEPCO (the owner of the power plants) denying that there were any meltdowns when they knew there were three. They knew they had at least one full meltdown by the end of the first day, less than 12 hours after the site was struck by a powerful earthquake knocking out the electrical power. TEPCO continued to tell this lie for three months, even after hundreds of thousands of people had been forced to or voluntarily evacuated. Just last week TEPCO admitted that it was aware of the meltdowns much earlier, or to put it bluntly, it continued to hide the fact that it had been lying for five years. ...

"The most powerful legacy of Chernobyl, besides its long-lived radiation, is the widespread use of the word "radiophobia" by nuclear industry apologists to describe the public response to large releases of radiation: fear. Look for this word and sentiment in the many articles being published this month about Fukushima. When you see it, or read the claim that more people were harmed at Fukushima by their own irrational fears than by radiation, you are seeing the work of forgetting turn its cruel wheels. Behind those wheels are the shattered lives and emotional wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people whose communities were destroyed, and whose families were ripped apart by the Fukushima disaster. People whose anxieties will rise every time they or their children run a high fever, or suffer a nosebleed or test positively for cancer. People whose suffering – at no fault of their own – is becoming invisible.

"Soon when we talk about Fukushima we will reduce the human impact to a quibbling over numbers: how many cases of thyroid cancer, how many confirmed illnesses. Lost-hidden-forgotten will be the hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee their homes, in many cases permanently, and try to rebuild their shattered lives. Public relations professionals and industry scientists will say that these people did this to themselves. And the curtain will draw ever downward as we forget them. This is the tradition of nuclear forgetting.

"[W]e should not allow our gaze to remain fixed on the nuclear plants, we must learn to see the deep wounds to society that are left to heal in darkness. We must learn to bring the whole of the population and ecosystem that suffer from radiological disasters into the light of our awareness and concerns. We must grieve for all that has been lost and we must hold government and the TEPCO Corporation responsible for assisting those whose lives have been shattered."

The full article is online.1

TEPCO – a company rooted firmly in denial

Mark Willacy, an Australian journalist and author of the book Fukushima: Japan's Tsunami and the Inside Story of the Nuclear Meltdowns, writes:2

"TEPCO modelled a large offshore earthquake and predicted that it could spawn waves as high as 15.7 metres (about the exact height of the ones that did cripple the plant). But TEPCO would hide its report and do nothing. "Taking extra safety measures would have been interpreted as TEPCO being worried about a tsunami. If we had built seawalls in front of the plant ... it would've made [local residents] worry," TEPCO's Junichi Matsumoto told me.

"I was stunned. Here was one of the nuclear company's top brass telling me they knew a big tsunami could strike, but that they had done nothing about it because they didn't want to spook people living near the plant. Now these people were among Fukushima's 150,000 "nuclear refugees", forced to evacuate their homes for tiny makeshift shelters many kilometres inland.

"I came to believe TEPCO was a company rooted firmly in denial. I would lose count of the number of times a conga line of TEPCO officials would shuffle into a press conference, apologise to the people of Japan for what had happened and then bow deeply. It was too little, too late.

"Last month three former TEPCO executives were charged with negligence over the Fukushima meltdowns. But it only happened after a citizen's panel ruled they should faced trial. Until that point prosecutors had twice dismissed the idea of indicting anyone."

Bottomless depths of corruption

Few people or organizations can say they paid sufficient attention to the corruption in Japan's nuclear industry in the years before the Fukushima disaster. The Tokyo-based Citizens Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) is an honorable exception. Here is a brief excerpt from a 2007 CNIC article titled Nuclear State and Industry: Bottomless Depths of Corruption.3

"A web of falsification and deception in Japan's electric power industry was uncovered late in 2006. On 30 March 2007, all 12 power companies submitted reports to the government. Their reports, covering nuclear, fossil fuel and hydroelectric power stations, identified a colossal 10,646 irregularities. Of those, 455 cases involved nuclear power plants, including 230 at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and 123 at Chubu Electric.

"On April 6th, power companies submitted reports to the Nuclear Industrial and Safety Agency (NISA) explaining how they propose to prevent such problems arising in future. NISA responded on April 20th by announcing administrative proceedings against four companies in relation to seven reactors. The penalty imposed is that the companies must alter their safety provisions. NISA has not demanded that reactors be shut down, nor has it suspended any licenses. With such lenient treatment as this, one can hardly expect that such problems will not arise in future.

"A previous TEPCO scandal came to light in August 2002 when a whistleblower revealed that the company had falsified inspection records and concealed problems at its nuclear power plants. Thereafter, similar problems were discovered at plants belonging to other power companies. On that occasion TEPCO was forced to close down all 17 of its nuclear reactors. Four directors accepted responsibility by resigning and the company promised to work to recover public trust. This time there is little evidence of contrition.

"During the 2002 scandal, the discovery of corruption in the government's periodic inspections showed the hollowness of Japan's nuclear safety system. This time the Minister for Economy Trade and Industry directed that a thorough investigation be carried out to "uncover the truth with no concealment". However, by rights, these problems should have been identified at the time of the 2002 scandal. The root of the problem is that the government, the power companies and the plant makers are all in bed together. What we are seeing once again is the true nature of Japan's nuclear club. ...

"Can we be sure that there are no more incidents to be uncovered? Certainly not. NISA admitted as much during a meeting with politicians and citizens groups on April 13th. It seems that the depths of corruption in Japan's nuclear industry are unfathomable. ...

"It has become clear that we cannot trust the regulator any more than the companies, but even if it wanted to, NISA does not have the ability to properly check what is going on. When representatives of CNIC and other NGOs visited NISA on April 13th, NISA showed not the slightest sign of remorse. The fact that it is located within the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry, which also has the role of promoting nuclear power, does not help of course."

A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission report said of the fatal 1999 criticality accident at Tokai-mura: "The NRC staff agrees with the Government of Japan's conclusion that the general root causes of the accident were: (1) inadequate regulatory oversight; (2) lack of an appropriate safety culture; and (3) inadequate worker training and qualification."4 Sound familiar?

CNIC's highly informative English-language newsletters, pre- and post-Fukushima, are online at

Here is a list of some of CNIC's pre-Fukushima articles:


1. Robert Jacobs, 1 March 2016, "On Forgetting Fukushima", The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 14, Issue 5, No. 1,

2. Mark Willacy, 10 March 2016, 'The ghosts of Fukushima',

3. Yukio Yamaguchi, 11 May 2007, 'Nuclear State and Industry: Bottomless Depths of Corruption', Nuke Info Tokyo 118,

4. U.S. NRC, 'NRC Review of the Tokai-mura Criticality Accident',

Fukushima Fallout: Updates from Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green – Nuclear Monitor editor

Stricken reactors

Cleaning up the Fukushima plant – and in particular the stricken reactors – will take several decades, at least. "If I may put this in terms of mountain climbing, we've just passed the first station on a mountain of 10 stations," said TEPCO's Akira Ono earlier this month.1

TEPCO hopes to begin removal of reactor fuel, and melted fuel fused to other materials, in five years or so. But little is known about the state of the fuel – one of many problems is that camera's fail due to the intense radiation.2

TEPCO has little idea how it might remove the nuclear fuel and associated debris. To put the situation in a positive light, the problem will drive innovation in robotics since current technology is not up to the task. Akira Ono says the aim of decommissioning the plant in 40 years may be impossible without a giant technological leap: "There are so many uncertainties involved. We need to develop many, many technologies."3

TEPCO has no idea what it might do with the nuclear fuel and debris if and when it is removed from the reactor buildings. There is no repository for high level nuclear waste. The Japanese government is considering building a repository under the seabed, about 13 kms off the Fukushima coast. The repository would be connected to the land by a tunnel so it arguably would not contravene international regulations on disposing of nuclear waste into the sea. There is staunch opposition from the fishing industry and many others to the idea of burying nuclear waste at sea in a seismically active area.4

Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa recently questioned whether the plan to remove all fuel and debris will be possible and whether it is the best course of action. "I wonder if the situation would be desired that work is still underway to extract fuel debris 70 or 80 years after," he said, adding that it may be preferable to remove as much fuel and debris as possible and solidify the rest.5

Off-site clean-up

As of the end of September 2015, a total of about nine million cubic meters of contaminated solid and other waste were being stored in about 115,000 locations around Fukushima. Government officials estimate that a total of 22 million cubic meters of contaminated soil will eventually be collected.6

The off-site contamination work has been punctuated with revelations of sloppy work. The latest was the revelation in early February that 310 cubic meters of contaminated wood waste was illegally dumped in a riverbed in the Shiga Prefecture city of Takashima.7

Last September, as many as 439 bags containing contaminated soil, grass and tree branches were swept away when torrential rains hit Iitate Village, Fukushima Prefecture.8 Environment Ministry officials said that nearly 400 bags were recovered but many were empty.9

The government hopes to secure about 16 sq kms to build interim storage facilities for the contaminated soil in the Fukushima towns of Okuma and Futaba. But less than 1% of the land needed for the facilities has been acquired. The plan is to leave contaminated soil at the interim facilities for a maximum of 30 years before processing it somewhere outside of Fukushima Prefecture.6

Another plan being considered is to recycle the material. The government believes that as radioactive decay reduces the hazard posed by contaminated soil, it will eventually be possible to recycle it as construction material for public works projects. In the coming months the Environment Ministry will begin development of the technology and model projects for recycling contaminated soil.10

Contaminated soil exceeding 8,000 Bq/kg is called 'designated waste' under the Law on Special Measures Concerning Contamination by Radioactive Materials. For this waste, the original plan was to build one disposal site in each of five prefectures – Tochigi, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Gunma, and Chiba. But the plans have met opposition and are a long way from being realized.8,11

In Kami, Miyagi Prefecture, residents forcibly blocked Environment Ministry officials from entering a potential storage site. "What is causing our anxiety is that it remains unclear who will take ultimate responsibility in solving this problem and how," said one local resident.12


About 100,000 people are still living as evacuees as a consequence of the Fukushima disaster, comprising about 82,000 who previously lived in designated evacuation zones, and about 18,000 evacuees who acted on their own initiative and fled from the 23 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture that are outside government-designated evacuation zones.13

According to Japan Times, of the 100,000 evacuees (down from 122,000 in January 2015), 56% moved elsewhere in Fukushima Prefecture and the rest moved beyond the Prefecture. The 100,000 evacuees include those staying in temporary housing facilities or taking shelter at relatives' houses and other places; the figure does not include those who have bought houses and settled elsewhere or who have settled in public housing for disaster victims.14

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported last month on the payment of compensation to victims of the disaster:13

"Compensation payments to victims of the nuclear disaster, such as evacuees and affected businesses, come out of a 9 trillion yen [US80 billion; €73 billion] treasure chest provided by the government to TEPCO.

"With its management priority placed on its own early recovery from the consequences of the accident, however, the electric utility has been trying to terminate the payments as soon as possible and keep the amounts within the framework set by the guidelines. The company's compensation policy has been criticized for failing to make the benefit of residents a primary consideration.

"About 10,000 evacuees are involved as plaintiffs in damages suits filed with 21 district courts and branches around the country. This points to the high level of discontent with the compensation payments that have been paid out."

The government's evacuation order is still in place for nine Fukushima municipalities, and the government is expected to lift evacuation orders for three of those municipalities in the first half of 2016.15 The government hopes to lift other evacuation orders by March 2017 provided that the annual air dose rate is no greater than 20 mSv/yr11, but concedes that "difficult-to-return zones" will still be subject to evacuation orders beyond then.16

Associated with the lifting of evacuation orders comes the reduction and cessation of housing subsidies. Evacuees have to decide whether to return to their former towns or to rebuild their lives elsewhere; some will have little choice but to return because of their financial situation. Voluntary evacuees will be the first to face the cessation of housing subsidies.17

The Fukushima-related suicide toll continues to rise, with 19 such suicides in Fukushima Prefecture from Jan–Nov 2015. Police determine if a suicide was related to the Fukushima disaster and subsequent evacuation after talking to bereaved family members. As of February 2016, a total of 154 suicides have been linked to the disaster in the three prefectures most heavily hit by the nuclear disaster – Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate.18


1. Yoko Wakatsuki and Elaine Yu, 11 Feb 2016, 'Japan: Fukushima clean-up may take up to 40 years, plant's operator says',

2. Kiyoshi Ando, 19 Feb 2016, 'Long road ahead for Fukushima cleanup',

3. 27 March 2015, 'Japan faces 200-year wait for Fukushima clean-up',

4. Anna Fifield, 10 Feb 2016, 'How is Fukushima's cleanup going five years after its meltdown? Not so well',

5. Kyodo, 20 Feb 2016, 'NRA commissioner suggests plan to remove all fuel debris at Fukushima plant may not be best option',

6. Yu Kotsubo and Yoshitaka Ito, 14 Feb 2016, 'Little progress made in securing land for interim storage facilities for radioactive soil',

7. 8 Feb 2016, '5,300 tons of radioactive wood waste taken into 5 prefectures besides Shiga',

8. Kazuhide Sueda, 30 Nov 2015, 'Selection of disposal sites for radioactive materials from the Fukushima nuclear plant and designation of some areas as candidate sites should be retracted', Nuke Info Tokyo No. 169,

9. 25 Sept 2015, 'Radioactive soil bags to be moved to high ground',

10. 22 Dec 2015, 'Government estimate: Almost 100 percent of contaminated soil can be recycled',

11. Yukio Yamaguchi, 2 Feb 2016, 'Fukushima Daiichi NPS today- 5 years since the disaster began', Nuke Info Tokyo No. 170, 

12. Yusuke Fukudone, 24 Nov 2015, 'Radioactive waste mounts up as residents resist post-Fukushima disposal plans',

13. 20 Feb 2016, 'Editorial: Extent of suffering key to compensating Fukushima evacuees',

14. 9 Jan 2016, 'Fukushima nuclear evacuees fall below 100,000',

15. 2 Jan 2016, '100,000 still displaced 5 yrs after nuclear crisis',

16. 18 Feb 2016, 'Speakers raise issues haunting Fukushima in finance panel public hearing',

17. Jun Sato, 8 Feb 2016, '‘Voluntary' Fukushima evacuees denounce end of free housing, new assistance plan',

18. Mana Nagano, 28 Dec 2015, 'Suicides rise among Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees',


Third reactor restart in Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green – Nuclear Monitor editor

Kansai Electric Power Co's (KEPCO) reactor #3 in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture restarted on February 1. It had been offline since February 2012 and is the third reactor to restart after two reactors at Kyushu's Sendai plant restarted last year. Forty reactors remain shut down, in addition to those that have been permanently shut down.

The restart of Takahama #3 has been tortuous. KEPCO first applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) for permission to restart Takahama #3 and #4 in July 2013. It subsequently submitted various amendments to its plans. In February 2015, the NRA gave its permission for KEPCO to make the required safety upgrades. The restart process was delayed by an injunction imposed by the Fukui District Court in April 2015, citing safety concerns, but the ruling was overturned in December 2015.

Risk analysis and emergency planning

The Tokyo-based Citizens Nuclear Information Center argued in early 2015 that the safety analysis presented by KEPCO and accepted by the NRA used numerous arbitrary figures and lacked credibility:1

"KEPCO claims that the analysis codes it uses in countermeasure scenarios against severe accidents are appropriate, and the NRA has approved this procedure. ... What this means is that KEPCO has carried out an arbitrary analysis in order to clear the numerical hurdles required by the regulatory requirements, and by saying that the regulatory requirements have been set conservatively, the NRA has then approved the analysis. There are far too many of these arbitrary usages of analysis codes to mention, and this procedure of using codes to whittle away the likelihood of the occurrence of accidents is an extremely serious problem."

The inadequacy of emergency planning is perhaps the most startling problem with the reactor restart process at Takahama and elsewhere. About 180,000 people reside within a 30 km radius of the Takahama plant.

Under the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness, prefectural and municipal governments within a 30 km radius of nuclear power plants are given full responsibility for emergency preparedness and evacuation planning. But their plans are not subject to NRA review.2

Thus emergency planning is uneven and generally inadequate. The Asahi Shimbun reported on 30 January 2016 that local government officials have voiced concern over the Takahama reactor restart as they have yet to map out detailed evacuation plans and to conduct drills.3

Nuclear Engineering International reported on 2 February 2016: "While there are plans on paper to evacuate some Fukui residents to Hyogo, Kyoto, and Tokushima prefectures, many municipalities there have no detailed plans for receiving evacuees. Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada said he did not feel adequate local consent had been obtained, citing concerns about evacuation issues. Shiga Governor Taizo Mikazuki said there was a lack of sufficient disaster planning."4 Likewise, Mayor Ryozo Tatami from the port city of Maizuru in Kyoto Prefecture called for strengthened emergency planning.5

Kyoto-based Green Action said in a 28 January 2016 statement:6

"Nearly 180,000 people must evacuate from Fukui and Kyoto prefectures in the event of a serious accident at the Takahama plant. Small children near the plant remain unprotected. Their parents must battle through congested traffic just to get potassium iodine pills. Green Action as part of a coalition of citizens in the Kansai region has made over 60 visits to cities evacuating and others which are evacuation points. We have learned there is no viable evacuation plan in place for the tens of thousands of people with special needs – inpatients and outpatient at hospitals and various facilities, those in day care, and those with handicaps living at home. When others can flee, there are no vehicles to transport these people nor medical care prepared if and when they reach the evacuation facilities. Restart of the Takahama plant is a human rights injustice toward children and those with handicaps.

"As for evacuation drills, Kansai Electric confirmed back in 2014 that Fukui Prefecture asked for the accident scenario to be sent from the utility to be for a small enough accident so the prefecture's evacuation drills could cope. All drills in the Fukui and northern Kyoto Prefecture region have been grossly inadequate. There is no consideration that there could be heavy snow or an earthquake.

"The government and Kansai Electric has ignored repeated calls by the 8 prefectures and 4 cities of the Union of Kansai Governments which state since they are in the region that can be affected by a serious accident, therefore they should have consent rights when it comes to reactor restart issues."

Green Action noted that the Takahama plant still lacks a seismic isolation emergency control room. Executive director Aileen Mioko Smith said: "Restart of Takahama violates the NRA seismic safety standard. Operating a Japanese reactor without a seismic isolation emergency control room is negligence in the extreme. Tens of thousands of children including babies and those with special needs not being protected under current emergency management planning is an outright human rights violation."6

Fire hazards

According to Greenpeace and Green Action Japan, representatives of the NRA admitted at a meeting held in the National Diet on 21 January 2016 that they do not know whether Takahama 3 and 4 reactors are in violation of their own fire safety regulations, in particular, the integrity of cabling.7

Safety-related cabling in a reactor must be separated to ensure that in the event of fire or other singular incident, critical redundant safety systems and power supplies are not lost. Kendra Ulrich from Greenpeace Japan said on January 26: "This latest example of complete negligence by the NRA just days before the Takahama unit 3 reactor is scheduled to restart is wholly unacceptable. It's like allowing an airliner packed with passengers to take off without knowing whether the fuel lines and the control wires are crossed. If an accident happens, the power and backup safety systems could be taken out at once, and the plane is going down."7

A coalition of NGO's have petitioned the NRA on a ranges of safety issues at Takahama, including safety cabling and earthquake risks. There are 14 petitioners including Green Action, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace Japan, and numerous local NGOs.7

Broader regulatory problems

Some of the problems associated with the regulatory process for KEPCO's Takahama reactors were also seen with the Kyushu Sendai reactor restart process. There are overarching problems, neatly summarized last October by Prof. Yoshioka Hitoshi, a Kyushu University academic who served on the government's 2011– 12 Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations:2

"Unfortunately, the new regulatory regime is ... inadequate to ensure the safety of Japan's nuclear power facilities. The first problem is that the new safety standards on which the screening and inspection of facilities are to be based are simply too lax. While it is true that the new rules are based on international standards, the international standards themselves are predicated on the status quo. They have been set so as to be attainable by most of the reactors already in operation.

"In essence, the NRA made sure that all Japan's existing reactors would be able to meet the new standards with the help of affordable piecemeal modifications – back-fitting, in other words. In practice, they need only to add a new layer of emergency management and some back-up equipment to meet the new standards for emergency preparedness. The estimates for earthquake intensity and tsunami height in each locale have been revised upward, but not to the point where they would necessitate fundamental design changes.

"The second basic problem is that the new standards do not cover all the levels of "defense in depth" advocated by the International Atomic Energy Agency in its seven-stage International Nuclear Events Scale. They extend only as far as Level 4 ("control of severe conditions including prevention of accident progression and mitigation of the consequences of a severe accident"), stopping short of Level 5 requirements for responding to accidents that threaten the surrounding area through significant release of radioactive materials."


1. CNIC, Nuke Info Tokyo, No. 164, Jan./Feb. 2015, 'CNIC Public Comment on the Draft Report for the New Regulatory Requirements Screening for the Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama Nuclear Power Plant',

2. Yoshioka Hitoshi, 23 Oct 2015, 'Time to Stop Nursing the Nuclear Power Industry',

3. 30 Jan 2016, 'Nuclear reactor restart inspires protest and support in Takahama',

4. Nuclear Engineering International, 2 Feb 2016, 'Japan's Takahama 3 begins power generation',

5. Eric Johnston, 29 Jan 2016, 'Third reactor restart spurs fears over shaky Kansai evacuation plans',

6. Green Action, 28 Jan 2016, 'Lessons of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Have Not Been Learned',

7. Greenpeace and Green Action, 26 Jan 2016, 'Japan's Nuclear Regulator: We don't know if Takahama Reactor has significant fire safety violation',

A detailed briefing on the reactor cable separation problem is posted at:


The India-Japan nuclear agreement must be stopped

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Kumar Sundaram - CNDP

On December 12 the Japanese and Indian governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (the MoU) regarding nuclear trade. There is still work to do before a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement is concluded, and no timeline has been provided. There is widespread civil society opposition in both countries − and internationally. The Japanese Parliament may yet prove an obstacle, but probably won't.

Sukla Sen from the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) in India bluntly summed up the politics: "The fact that both Japan and India are at the moment ruled by hard right-wing ultra-nationalist outfits having deep links with the business-industrial-nuclear lobbies has definitely helped to take the negotiations ahead."1

If and when the cooperation agreement is finalised, Japan will face the same dilemma as other would-be exporters of nuclear technology to India, in particular India's liability law which does not provide the blanket immunity that suppliers demand. Public opposition to reactor projects in India, and the capital costs of reactors, are further obstacles. The Hindustan Times noted in November 2014 that India's nuclear program is in a "deep freeze" and little has changed since then.2

Kumar Sundaram from the CNDP summarises the problems with the proposed bilateral nuclear agreement:

The India-Japan nuclear agreement would be an international disaster. It would rehabilitate the global nuclear lobby, which is facing its terminal crisis after Fukushima. They are aiming to use the toothless safety laws and corrupt politicians of India, and the general political apathy for the lives of the poor and the environment in the country.

The agreement essentially does three things:

1. It provides a safe home in India for the international nuclear lobbies, where they compensate for their terminal global crisis post-Fukushima and regain the financial health to bounce back globally later.

The Japanese deal is essential for the reactor projects of the US and France to proceed on the ground as some crucial reactor equipment is manufactured only by Japanese companies. Another reason is that the two major US nuclear giants – GE and Westinghouse – have become Japanese-owned companies.

In immediate terms, the deal means six EPR reactors for Areva and four each for GE and Westinghouse. Japan will only supply crucial equipment and there are no turn-key reactor purchase talks so far, so the financial gain for Japan isn't really all that big, but the US and France have been pushing Japan to conclude a deal with India.

2. This deal implies a serious threat to the people of India, particularly the most vulnerable sections in the rural areas, whose lives and livelihoods are at stake. India is imposing these reactor projects at gunpoint against the wishes of the local communities, in ecologically fragile, geologically sensitive areas with dense human populations.

The people – tens of thousands of farmers, fisherfolk, women and children in these areas – depend on the local ecology for their food and livelihoods. These will be threatened both in terms of forced mass eviction for these projects with compensations only for the landed few, as well as the loss of traditional vocations for a larger number around the proposed project sites.

3. The nuclear supply from Japan to India creates a bad precedent for nuclear disarmament. It practically rewards a country which conducted nuclear tests, defying sane advice from within and outside, at a time when the world is looking towards measures to make the nuclear commerce regime more stringent as the number of potential proliferators increases.

The region has two nuclear-armed nations and any small conflict, often used for domestic political purposes, can escalate into a nuclear exchange.

Apart from the above specific negative implications of the deal, the larger context in which India-Japan relations have taken a decisively militarist turn should also not be missed. The first beneficiary of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy of re-starting military exports to foreign countries is going to be India, which will buy the Shin-Meiwa US-2, the amphibious 'rescue' aircraft. The joint exercises in the Indian Ocean by the Indian and U.S. navies have caused anxieties in Pakistan and China and are seen as a part of the larger U.S. design of propping up a Japan-India axis to counter China in the region.

The nuclear deal with Japan also comes at a time when the nuclear energy plans of India are at an important juncture. The new Indian PM – Narendra Modi – belongs to the Hindu-majoritarian BJP, which places strong nationalist pride both on nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. During his recent overseas visits in the past 18 months to the U.S., France, Australia, Mongolia and Japan, Modi has strongly pursued nuclear commerce agreements.

India's newly appointed Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Shekhar Basu, almost taking a leaf from Modi's zeal for nuclear power, started his sting with a press conference where he announced that the foreign nuclear suppliers should not be made liable for any accident.

The Indian law, the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, provides for a 'right of recourse' against the nuclear suppliers in case of an accident to the state-owned operator Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) under Clause 17(b).

The clause was introduced under pressure from Parliament and civil society by a reluctant Manmohan Singh government. At that time there was a public outcry on liability, following the June 2010 Bhopal judgment that let the accused go almost scot-free. This led to a sensitive debate.

Although the Act capped the total liability at a ridiculously low amount and was criticised for its complicated procedural stipulations, it provided for a very limited hook on private suppliers – both foreign and home-grown.

Attempts to dilute and circumvent the liability norm started soon. These included making supplier culpability dependent on an explicit mention of the liability provision in the bilateral contract between the supplier and the operator.

In addition, the Indian government limited the product liability period to just five years under the Nuclear Liability Rules, 2011, designed to guide the implementation of the 2010 Act. Eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee termed the Rules "ultra vires" (beyond the powers) of the Act and going against its spirit.

In his last foreign trip as PM, when Singh went to the United States, he offered "as a gift" a reinterpretation of the liability law. According to that reinterpretation, the operator has the option of not exercising its right of recourse against the supplier. He assured Obama that the public-owned Indian operator will not sue suppliers.

Evidently, even this failed to assuage companies such as GE and Westinghouse. They were uncertain about future Indian governments abiding by such a promise, especially in the wake of public pressure that would follow any big nuclear accident.

The foreign corporations have also been opposed to the Indian law as it is a departure from the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), which they want the world to adopt as an international template. Ironically, India rushed to sign the CSC in October 2010, soon after it enacted the domestic law. It then started citing that as a reason to amend the Parliament-mandated law.

At that time there were fewer CSC signatories. Only in April this year has the Convention entered into force. India had an opportunity, as an attractive investment destination for the nuclear sector, to actually lobby for amendments to the CSC to ensure adequate liability for people in developing countries. Japan's signing of the CSC gave it the required legal status and now it has become a weapon to push other countries to exempt suppliers from liability.

All peace and democracy loving people across the world must demand scrapping of this nuclear agreement between India and Japan. The two Asian countries should instead focus on alternative energy technologies, learning lessons from Fukushima, and focus on reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons in the 70th year of Hiroshima.

The end of non-proliferation

Muhammad Umar from Pakistan's National University of Sciences and Technology discusses the proliferation implications of India's nuclear power and weapons programs:3

It is a well-known fact that India misused a research reactor, which had been supplied to them by the Canadians under peaceful uses conditions (similar to the current export deal with Australia) to illegally produce plutonium for the production of their first nuclear bomb, which they exploded in May of 1974.

At the time a number of states that were already signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), in an effort to counter future proliferation, acted swiftly to create the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to control the export and re-transfer of materials that could be used to develop nuclear weapons. The United States, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom spearheaded the creation of this multinational body.

There are 48 members of the NSG today, and it is ironic that nine of the 48 that were so committed to strengthening non-proliferation measures that they developed and/or supported the creation of the NSG as a response to India's nuclear explosion are now willing to supply that same country with nuclear materials, helping it continue to vertically proliferate.

The nine NSG member states that currently have a civil-nuclear deal with India include Australia, the United States, Canada, Russia, France, Argentina, Kazakhstan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. There are only two non-NSG member states – Mongolia and Namibia – with a deal to provide India with uranium.

The only major holdout has been Japan but it seems that will likely change by the end of the year as President Abe gears up to visit New Delhi later this month.

The international community led by the US says that they are committed to nuclear non-proliferation but their actions serve as evidence of their hypocrisy. If the US and others want to do business with India and are willing to forego its past as a proliferator, then other weapon states outside the NPT should also be afforded the same privileges.

The Indian case is confirmation that exemptions from the NSG and NPT can be made; in this case the exemptions should be based on criteria and anyone meeting those criteria should be able to conduct business to attain nuclear technology for peaceful uses.

If the criteria-based approach is not doable than the US, along with other states violating their NPT and NSG obligations, should stop talking about norms, morals, and ethics. They should not continue to make a fool out of a more than a hundred and eighty states.

There is no doubt that the Indian case has put the NSG and NPT in dire straits. The short-sighted actions of countries engaging India in nuclear trade have created untold new challenges for international security, and will eventually lead to the collapse of the non-proliferation regime.

There is no doubt in my mind that new nuclear power states will emerge. Having observed the special treatment given to India, it will be easy for them to argue that the NPT no longer holds any power, and is a relic of the past.

When you have countries like the US, Australia, Canada, France, and the UK helping a country like India actively proliferate, it proves that the international non-proliferation regime has failed.

The stark reality is that the idea of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime has been lost to a system of practical geopolitics; all moral and ideological considerations have been tossed aside. There will be no hope for the longevity of the non-proliferation regime if those currently holding out – like Japan – also choose to violate their commitments to the NSG and NPT for the sake of short-term economic incentives. That will truly mean the end of the non-proliferation era.

I foresee a very dangerous future if we continue down this path and let the non-proliferation regime breakdown. This is a future on the edge of a nuclear Armageddon, where more and more states will begin acquiring nuclear weapons as they realise that the non-proliferation regime has collapsed, and NPT and other international treaties and institutions are powerless to stop them from acquiring the bomb.

This failure could be the first domino tile. This should not be acceptable to any of us.


1. Sukla Sen, 14 Dec 2015, 'Nuclear Deal between Japan and India: A Brief Stocktaking',

2. Shishir Gupta and Jayanth Jacob, 30 Nov 2014, 'Govt plans N-revival, focuses on investor concerns',

3. Muhammad Umar, 7 Dec 2015, 'The end of non-proliferation',

More information:


Please sign the petition against the Japan−India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement:

Fukushima Fallout: Updates from Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

Reactor restarts

There were 54 reactors operating before Fukushima, reduced to 43 with the permanent shutdown of the six Fukushima Daiichi reactors and five others. Of the 43 'operable' reactors, the Sendai 1 reactor restarted on August 11 but the outlook for Japan's nuclear power industry remains bleak according to a Reuters analysis.1 The analysis was based on reactor inspection data from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), court rulings, and interviews with local authorities, utilities and energy experts. Reuters predicts the of the 42 operable-but-not-operating reactors, seven will restart in the next few years (half the number predicted in a similar survey last year), nine are unlikely to ever restart, and the fate of the remaining 26 is uncertain. Former World Nuclear Industry Association executive Steve Kidd said in June 2015 that if "more than half of the 43 operable units return to service, it may be regarded as a good result."2

TEPCO's plan to restart reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa − the largest nuclear power plant in the world (seven reactors, 8.2 gigawatts) − remains stalled due to local opposition led by Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida. On August 24, after meeting with NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka, Izumida repeated his stance that a full investigation is needed into the Fukushima disaster before restarts can be considered. He is calling for the NRA to reinstate the use of an emergency response system known as SPEEDI, used to predict the spread of radiation and to facilitate evacuation planning in the event of an accident.3 In October 2013, Izumida said TEPCO must address its "institutionalized lying" before it can expect to restart reactors.4

Decontamination and waste

The clean-up of sites contaminated by radioactive fallout from the Fukushima disaster is proceeding slowly and has a long way to go. In some regions, radiation doses rise again after decontamination because little or no effort has been made to decontaminate surrounding forests, and radioactive materials are transported from the forests by wind and rain.5

Plans to dispose of the vast amounts of contaminated material from decontamination operations continue to face obstacles. Across the entire evacuation zone, workers have already filled 2.9 million bags.6 The government plans to build landfill facilities for final disposal of radioactive waste in five prefectures − Tochigi, Miyagi, Chiba, Gunma and Ibaraki prefectures − which lack the capacity to dispose of such waste at existing facilities.7

On August 29, about 2,700 residents of Shioya, Tochigi Prefecture, gathered to oppose the government's plan to dispose of waste near the town. In Tochigi, waste is currently stored at about 170 different locations on a temporary basis.7 On September 1, residents of three Miyagi Prefecture towns barred the entry of Environment Ministry officials seeking to carry out survey work for waste disposal.8 People in the towns of Kami, Kurihara and Taiwa stalled the officials' plan to conduct geological surveys, holding banners and signs and yelling "Protect children's future!" and "Get lost!" Plans to start surveys near the towns have been stalled since October 2014, when Environment Ministry officials began visiting them.

Two towns in the Futaba area, Okuma and Futaba, have agreed to accept interim storage facilities, and the shipment of radioactive wastes into the area has begun. But there has been almost no progress acquiring land for this, however, and difficulties are expected in negotiations with land owners.5


In mid-2015 Greenpeace conducted a radiation survey and sampling program in the district of Iitate, which covers more than 200 square kilometers north-west of the Fukushima nuclear plant. Even after decontamination, radiation levels are higher than background in some areas, with typical readings equating to annual doses of 10 mSv/year.9

Jan Vande Putte, radiation specialist with Greenpeace Belgium, said: "Prime Minister Abe would like the people of Japan to believe that they are decontaminating vast areas of Fukushima to levels safe enough for people to live in. The reality is that this is a policy doomed to failure. The forests of Iitate are a vast stock of radioactivity that will remain both a direct hazard and source of potential recontamination for hundreds of years. It's impossible to decontaminate."9

Despite the clean-up efforts, only about one-fifth of the 6,200 displaced residents of Iitate are willing to return, according to a recent survey by town officials. The mayor of Iitate, Norio Kanno, admits that farmers will probably not be allowed to grow food in Iitate for many years to come but says the town is drawing up plans to help them switch to flowers and other crops not for human consumption.6

Among regions where the entire population was forced to evacuate after the nuclear disaster in March 2011, Naraha is the first town to allow all of its residents to return permanently. In early September 2015, the government lifted the evacuation order for the town, but only about 10% of 7,368 registered residents are expected to return.10

Resettlement of evacuees

A Cabinet resolution − 'Towards Acceleration of Fukushima's Recovery from the Nuclear Accident' − was passed on June 12, as was a plan to accelerate clean-up work in contaminated zones. The government's plan would allow two-thirds of evacuees to return by March 2017, the sixth anniversary of the disaster.6

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on June 12: "There is no revitalization of Japan without the reconstruction of Fukushima. It is our responsibility to ensure that the over 110,000 people who are still living as evacuees as a result of the nuclear disaster return to their hometowns as quickly as possible and start new lives."11 Abe pointed to the lifting of evacuation orders for Tamura City and Kawauchi Village, and some progress towards the establishment of interim radioactive waste storage facilities. Nevertheless, he said, "there are still many issues that we must address before we can achieve true reconstruction."

On the basis of the June 12 government announcements, three days later the Fukushima Prefecture mapped out a policy of ending the provision of free temporary housing and privately leased housing by March 2017. TEPCO announced on June 17 that it plans to end compensation for psychological damage to residents of the areas for which evacuation orders had been lifted by March 2018.12

Thus evacuees are facing another injustice. Those relying on subsidised accommodation and compensation payments will have no choice but to return to their previous homes − in areas that are still contaminated and are largely bereft of industry, infrastructure and services.

As the Tokyo-based Citizens Nuclear Information Center noted, the government is "attempting to further strengthen policies of effectively abandoning people to their own devices under the nice-sounding names of 'new life support' and 'support for independence and rebuilding of businesses, livelihoods and lives.'"12


More than 10,000 citizens (mostly evacuees) have joined at least 20 class-action lawsuits against the government and TEPCO. Many are seeking more compensation so they can afford to choose whether to return to their former home-towns or to build new lives elsewhere.6

"This is likely to become a long battle where lawsuits go on for several decades or half a century," said Shunichi Teranishi, a professor emeritus of environmental economics at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo.13

In May, the Federation of Nuclear Accident Victims' Organizations was founded. It consists of 13 organizations, including 10 groups throughout Japan and three observer groups. The Federation says its goals are to "obtain an apology to the victims from TEPCO and Japan's government," to "ensure the victims are completely compensated and can recover their lives and livelihoods," as well as "implementation of detailed medical examinations for the victims, with medical security and reduction of exposure levels," and "pursuit of responsibility for the accident."14

The biggest class action, with 4,000 plaintiffs, seeks to hold TEPCO's liable by proving negligence under Japan's civil law, rather than simply proving harm and seeking compensation.13

Another lawsuit involves 534 residents of Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture, who are challenging the legality of the 20 mSv/year radiation dose limit. The government is encouraging resettlement of areas where annual doses are expected to fall below that level, which is 20 times greater than the pre-Fukushima limit of 1 mSv/year from anthropogenic sources (and about 10 times greater than typical background levels).15

Japanese authorities said in late July that they would move forward with cases against three former TEPCO executives. Prosecutors had twice rejected requests to indict the executives, but a review board overruled their decision and ordered that charges be brought. "We had given up hope that there would be a criminal trial," said Ruiko Muto, who leads the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Plaintiffs Group, an umbrella organization representing about 15,000 people, including residents displaced by the accident and their supporters.16

The three executives are Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, the chair of TEPCO at the time of the accident, and two former heads of the utility's nuclear division, Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69. They will be charged with professional negligence resulting in death. A first trial is not expected to start until 2016 at the earliest. The forced disclosure of an internal 2008 TEPCO may affect the lawsuits. The report called for TEPCO to prepare for a worse tsunami than it previously assumed, based on experts' views. The internal document stated: "Considering that it is difficult to completely reject the opinions given thus far of academic experts on earthquakes and tsunami, as well as the expertise of the (government's) Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, it is unavoidable to have tsunami countermeasures that assume a higher tsunami than at present."13

In another lawsuit, Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and General Electric Co. face a claim in the Tokyo District Court lodged by citizens trying to hold them to account for the Fukushima disaster. The manufacturers deny any legal obligation, citing legislation which gives manufacturers immunity from compensation claims, but plaintiffs claim that the law violates the Constitution and is therefore invalid. Under the product liability law and other laws, plaintiffs are demanding a token payment of ¥100 each.7


1. Kentaro Hamada and Aaron Sheldrick / Reuters, 1 Sept 2015, 'Japan nuclear power outlook bleak despite first reactor restart',

For details on the 42 operable-but-not-operating reactors, see Kentaro Hamada and Aaron Sheldrick, 31 Aug 2015, 'FACTBOX − Outlook for Japan nuclear reactor restarts',

2. Steve Kidd, 24 June 2015, 'Japan – what is the future for nuclear power?', Nuclear Engineering International,

3. 24 Aug 2015, 'Tepco bid to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant stymied by governor',

4. Antoni Slodkowski and Kentaro Hamada, 29 Oct 2013, 'Tepco can't yet be trusted to restart world's biggest nuclear plant: governor',

5. Akira Hino, 2 June 2015, 'Fukushima's Educational Facilities', Nuke Info Tokyo No. 166 (May/June 2015),

6. Martin Fackler, 8 Aug 2015, '4 Years After Fukushima Nuclear Calamity, Japanese Divided on Whether to Return',

7. 29 Aug 2015, 'Tochigi town residents rally against selection as candidate site for final disposal of radiation-tainted waste',

8. 1 Sept 2015, 'Miyagi residents physically block officials from surveying proposed nuke waste dump sites',

9. Greenpeace, 21 July 2015, 'Greenpeace investigation exposes failure of Fukushima decontamination program',

10. ABC, 5 Sept 2015, 'Fukushima: Japan lifts evacuation order for radiation-hit Naraha town four years after nuclear disaster',

11. 12 June 2015, 'Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters',

12. CNIC, 6 Aug 2015, 'Accelerated Resident Repatriation Policy', News Watch 167 July/Aug 2015 -Nuke Info Tokyo No. 167,

13. Kentaro Hamada, 17 Aug 2015, 'Fukushima operator's mounting legal woes to fuel nuclear opposition',

14. CNIC, 6 Aug 2015, 'Establishment of the Federation of Nuclear Accident Victims' Organizations', News Watch 167 July/Aug 2015 -Nuke Info Tokyo No. 167,

15. CNIC, 6 Aug 2015, 'Minamisoma Residents File Lawsuit Requesting Lifting of Evacuation Encouragement Points be Rescinded', News Watch 167 July/Aug 2015 -Nuke Info Tokyo No. 167,

16. Jonathan Soble, 31 July 2015, '3 Former Executives to Be Prosecuted in Fukushima Nuclear Disaster',

Summing the health effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Ian Fairlie

New emerging evidence from Fukushima shows that nuclear disasters and their aftermaths kill thousands of people due to necessary evacuations. In future, these deaths from ill-heath and suicides should be included in assessments of the fatalities from nuclear disasters. In sum, the human toll from Fukushima is horrendous: 2,000 Japanese people have died from the evacuations and another 5,000 are expected to die from future cancers.

Deaths from necessary evacuations

Official data from Fukushima show that nearly 2,000 people died from the effects of evacuations necessary to avoid high radiation exposures from the disaster, including suicides.1

The uprooting to unfamiliar areas, cutting of family ties, loss of social support networks, disruption, exhaustion, poor physical conditions and disorientation can and do result in many people, in particular older people, dying.

Increased suicide have occurred among younger and older people following the Fukushima evacuations, but the trends are unclear.2

A Japanese Cabinet Office report stated that, between March 2011 and July 2014, 56 suicides in Fukushima Prefecture were linked to the nuclear accident.3 This should be taken as a minimum, rather than a maximum, figure.

Mental health consequences

It is necessary to include the mental health consequences of radiation exposures and evacuations. For example, Becky Martin has stated her PhD research at Southampton University in the UK shows that "most significant impacts of radiation emergencies are often in our minds".

She adds "... imagine that you've been informed that your land, your water, the air that you have breathed may have been polluted by a deadly and invisible contaminant. Something with the capacity to take away your fertility, or affect your unborn children. Even the most resilient of us would be concerned ... many thousands of radiation emergency survivors have subsequently gone on to develop Post-Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorders as a result of their experiences and the uncertainty surrounding their health."4

It is likely that these fears, anxieties, and stresses will act to magnify the effects of evacuations, resulting in even more old people dying or people committing suicide.

The above sections should not be taken as arguments against evacuations: they are an important, life-saving strategy. But, as argued by Becky Martin, "we need to provide greatly improved social support following resettlement and extensive long-term psychological care to all radiation emergency survivors, to improve their health outcomes and preserve their futures".

Untoward pregnancy outcomes

Recently, Dr Alfred Körblein from Nuremburg in Germany noticed a 15% drop (statistically speaking, highly significant) in the numbers of live births in Fukushima Prefecture in December 2011, i.e. nine months after the accident.5 This might point to higher rates of early spontaneous abortions. He also observed a (statistically significant) 20% increase in the infant mortality rate in 2012, relative to the long-term trend in Fukushima Prefecture plus six surrounding prefectures. These are indicative rather than definitive findings and need to be verified by further studies. Unfortunately, such studies are notable by their absence.

Cancer and other late effects from radioactive fallout

Finally, we have to consider the health effects of the radiation exposures from the radioactive fallouts after the four explosions and three meltdowns at Fukushima in March 2011. Large differences of view exist on this issue in Japan. These make it difficult for lay people and journalists to understand what the real situation is.

The Japanese Government, its advisors, and most radiation scientists in Japan (with some honourable exceptions) minimise the risks of radiation. The official widely-observed policy is that small amounts of radiation are harmless: scientifically speaking this is untenable. For example, the Japanese Government is attempting to increase the public limit for radiation in Japan from 1 mSv to 20 mSv per year. Its scientists are trying to force the ICRP to accept this large increase. This is not only unscientific, it is also unconscionable.

Part of the reason for this policy is that radiation scientists in Japan (in the US, as well) appear unable or unwilling to accept the stochastic nature of low-level radiation effects. "Stochastic" means an all-or-nothing response: you either get cancer etc or you don't. As you decrease the dose, the effects become less likely: your chance of cancer declines all the way down to zero dose. The corollary is that tiny doses, even well below background, still carry a small chance of cancer: there is never a safe dose, except zero dose.

But, as stated by Spycher et al6, some scientists "... a priori exclude the possibility that low dose radiation could increase the risk of cancer. They will therefore not accept studies that challenge their foregone conclusion."

One reason why such scientists refuse to accept radiation's stochastic effects (cancers, strokes, cardiovascular system diseases, hereditary effects, etc) is that they only appear after long latency periods − often decades for solid cancers. For the Japanese Government and its radiation advisors, it seems out-of-sight means out-of-mind. This conveniently allows the Japanese Government to ignore radiogenic late effects. But the evidence for them is absolutely rock solid. Ironically, it comes primarily from the world's largest on-going epidemiology study, the Life Span Study of the Japanese atomic bomb survivors by the RERF Foundation which is based in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.7

Negative lottery tickets

The mass of epidemiological evidence from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 clearly indicates that cancer etc increases will very likely also occur at Fukushima, but many Japanese (and US) scientists deny this evidence.

For example, much debate currently exists over the existence and interpretation of increased thyroid cancers, cysts, and nodules in Fukushima Prefecture resulting from the disaster. From the findings after Chernobyl, thyroid cancers are expected to start increasing 4 to 5 years after 2011. It's best to withhold comment until clearer results become available in 2016, but early indications are not reassuring for the Japanese Government. After then, other solid cancers are expected to increase as well, but it will take a while for these to become manifest.

The best way of forecasting the numbers of late effects (i.e. cancers etc) is by estimating the collective dose to Japan from the Fukushima fall out. We do this by envisaging that everyone in Japan exposed to the radioactive fallout from Fukushima has thereby received lottery tickets: but they are negative tickets. That is, if your lottery number comes up, you get cancer. If you live far away from Fukushima Daiichi NPP, you get few tickets and the chance is low: if you live close, you get more tickets and the chance is higher. You can't tell who will be unlucky, but you can estimate the total number by using collective doses.

The 2013 UNSCEAR Report8 has estimated that the collective dose to the Japanese population from Fukushima is 48,000 person-Sieverts (discussed further below).

Unfortunately, pro-nuclear Japanese scientists also criticise the concept of collective dose as it relies on the stochastic nature of radiation's effects and on the Linear No Threshold (LNT) model of radiation's effects which they also refute. But almost all official regulatory bodies throughout the world recognise the stochastic nature of radiation's effects, the LNT, and collective doses.

Summing up Fukushima

About 60 people died immediately during the actual evacuations in Fukushima Prefecture in March 2011. Between 2011 and 2015, an additional 1,867 people (as of March 2015) in Fukushima Prefecture died as a result of the evacuations following the nuclear disaster. These deaths were from ill health and suicides.9 (In addition, 1,603 people were killed directly by the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima Prefecture, and approximately 1,350 tsunami evacuee deaths occurred in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures: in the latter cases, the evacuations were not radiation-related.)

From the UNSCEAR estimate of 48,000 person-Sv, it can be reliably estimated (using a fatal cancer risk factor of 10% per Sv) that about 5,000 fatal cancers will occur in Japan in future from Fukushima's fallout. This estimate from official data agrees with my own personal estimate using a different methodology.10

In sum, the health toll from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is horrendous. At the minimum:

  • Over 160,000 people were evacuated most of them permanently.
  • Many cases of post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorders arising from the evacuations.
  • About 12,000 workers exposed to high levels of radiation, some up to 250 mSv
  • An estimated 5,000 fatal cancers from radiation exposures in future.
  • Plus similar (unquantified) numbers of radiogenic strokes, CVS diseases and hereditary diseases.
  • Between 2011 and 2015, about 2,000 deaths from radiation-related evacuations due to ill-health and suicides.
  • An, as yet, unquantified number of thyroid cancers.
  • An increased infant mortality rate in 2012 and a decreased number of live births in December 2011.

Non-health effects include:

  • 8% of Japan (30,000 sq km), including parts of Tokyo, contaminated by radioactivity.
  • Economic losses estimated between US$300 and US$500 billion (€260−430 billion).


The Fukushima accident is still not over and its ill-effects will linger for a long time into the future. However we can say now that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima delivered a huge blow to Japan and its people. 2,000 Japanese people have already died from the evacuations and another 5,000 are expected to die from future cancers.

It is impossible not to be moved by the scale of Fukushima's toll in terms of deaths, suicides, mental ill-health and human suffering. Fukushima's effect on Japan is similar to Chernobyl's massive blow against the former Soviet Union in 1986. Indeed, several writers have expressed the view that the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was a major factor in the subsequent collapse of the USSR during 1989-1990.

It is notable that Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the USSR at the time of Chernobyl and Naoto Kan, Prime Minister of Japan at the time of Fukushima have both expressed their opposition to nuclear power.11 Indeed Kan has called for all nuclear power to be abolished.12

Has the Japanese Government, and indeed other governments (including the UK and US), learned from these nuclear disasters? The US philosopher George Santayana (1863-1962) once stated that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Dr Ian Fairlie is an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment. He has a degree in radiation biology from Bart's Hospital in London and his doctoral studies at Imperial College in London and Princeton University in the US concerned the radiological hazards of nuclear fuel reprocessing. He was formerly a UK government civil servant on radiation risks from nuclear power stations. From 2000 to 2004, he was head of the Secretariat to the UK Government's CERRIE Committee on internal radiation risks.

Reprinted from














Japan: Back to a nuclear future?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green

The Japanese government's draft policy for electricity supply to 2030, recently endorsed by a panel of 'experts' at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, envisages nuclear power supplying 20−22% of electricity in 2030, with renewables supplying 22−24%, coal 26% and gas 27%.1,2 In 2010, nuclear power accounted for 28.6% of electricity generation, while renewables supplied 9.6%, with most of that coming from hydro.

The draft is likely to be adopted as official government policy in the coming months.3

Former Democratic Party of Japan parliamentarian Satoshi Shima said Japan has energy politics but no energy policy. Politics is about making arrangements as to who will gain profits, according to Shima, whereas policy is about deciding the best choice from an overall perspective. "Japan, as it stands now, has nothing more than a sum of stakeholders' lobbyism. Nuclear opponents are no match for pro-nuclear lobbies, which are so influential," Shima said.4

Leaving aside the questionable merits of the draft policy, it is doubtful whether nuclear can reach or sustain a 20−22% contribution. Around 34 of Japan's idled 43 reactors would need to be restarted to reach that figure.5 That is at the upper end of estimates of the number of reactors likely to be restarted. Some anticipate far fewer restarts −  for example Sheila Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, predicts just 10 to 12 restarts.6

To maintain a 20−22% contribution, there would need to be numerous extensions beyond planned 40-year reactor lifetimes, and/or new reactors. An analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) concludes that nuclear will probably supply no more than 10% of electricity in 2030, taking into account costs and the regulatory hurdles required for lifetime extensions beyond 40 years.2

"Overall, the government's outlook appears to be an attempt at reconciling competing goals of achieving a lower-emission generation mix while at the same time protecting the politically favoured technologies of coal and nuclear," BNEF said.7

"The Japanese government faces a twofold challenge," said Jane Nakano, an energy and security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "How many reactors can they restart, and how many new ones can they build to start replacing those aging power plants?"6

Japan's reactor restart process has been "one step forward, two steps back" according to financial analyst Greg Peel from FN Arena.8

Japan had 54 power reactors before Fukushima. Now, the number of 'operable' reactors has fallen to 43, with all six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi permanently shut down along with five other reactors at four plants. None of the 43 'operable' reactors are operating.' Applications to restart 21 reactors have been submitted to the NRA.

Every one of the applications is the subject of a lawsuit by local residents determined to stop reactor restarts.9

Reactor restarts − the Sendai saga

Kyushu Electric Power Company has received the third and final regulatory approval to restart the Sendai 1 and 2 reactors. Kyushu submitted its application to restart the reactors to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) in July 2013. In September 2014, the NRA gave Kyushu approval to make changes to the nuclear plant. In March 2015, the company's modifications − such as installing new piping to enhance emergency core cooling systems, and additional emergency generators − were approved. In May 2015, the NRA approved Kyushu's operational safety plans including emergency response plans. Final inspections are under way, and Kyushu plans restarting Sendai 1 in mid-August and Sendai 2 in late September.10

Kyushu has obtained approval from the prefectural government and from Satsuma-Sendai City for the restart of Sendai 1 and 2. Strong opposition in neighboring communities, who were not consulted, was ignored.

In November 2014, Kagoshima Prefectural Council approved a petition for the restart of the Sendai reactors, while rejecting 31 petitions opposing it in some ways (e.g. outright opposition, calling for caution, demanding more research and the inclusion of more local residents as stakeholders).11

In April 2015, a local court rejected a legal bid to block the restart by residents concerned about the plant's vulnerability to nearby volcanoes.12,13 Residents have appealed the decision. Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai said the ruling was "full of mistakes of fact."14 Lawyers representing residents said in a statement: "With this rejection, the court has abandoned its duty as a fortress of human rights. The cowardly attitude of a judge who does not stop abuse of human rights by government deserves strong criticism."15 More than half of the residents who had sought an injunction dropped their actions after Kyushu threatened to countersue for massive damages caused by any delay.

Kyushu has been required to implement some safety upgrades, but concerns remain. Kyushu has a 'grace period' in which to install certain safety features such as
filtered ventilation systems, and the company has been given approval to use a temporary off-site command center for emergencies while a permanent one is being built.

Kobe University professor and seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi said in April 2015: "Kyushu Electric was allowed to select their own criteria for quakes that could hit the plant and they ignored several as outliers."16

A November 2014 editorial in Japan Times said the NRA's approval of Kyushu's restart plans contained "serious safety and procedural problems" such as inadequate evacuation plans, the lack of a permanent off-site command centre in the case of an emergency, the exclusion of eight municipalities from the approval process, and numerous other problems. The editorial said "a dangerous precedent has been set and many fundamental questions remain unanswered."17

Other reactors

Another saga is unfolding with Kansai's Takahama 3 and 4. Kansai has received most of the necessary NRA approvals to restart the reactors.18 However in May 2015 the Fukui district court upheld an injunction banning the restart of the two reactors, describing the NRA's guidelines as "too loose" and "irrational".19 Residents argued that Kansai underestimated earthquake risks, failed to meet tougher safety standards and lacked credible evacuation measures.20

Apart from Sendai and Takahama, the only other plant to receive preliminary NRA reactor restart approval is Shikoku's Ikata plant. One of the three reactors has received preliminary approval but the future of the plant's other two reactors is unclear. Applications to restart the two reactors have not been submitted, and one of them is nearly 40 years old. Residents filed a lawsuit in December 2011 to close the plant, but a ruling has not yet been made.19

The assessment of seismic risks is delaying some restart approval processes and will likely result in some reactors being permanently shut down:

  • The two reactors at Hokuriku's Shika plant may be scrapped after an expert panel established by the NRA concluded that the plant likely sits above active faults. Hokuriku has applied to restart one of Shika reactors.21
  • One of the two reactors at Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tsuruga plant is likely to be scrapped after the NRA concluded in March 2015 that it sits above an active fault line.22
  • At least two key geological faults under Tohoku's Higashidori 1 reactor are believed to be active. NRA commissioner Akira Ishiwatari said in March: "It is very difficult to judge the situation. This is not a matter on which we can have an answer soon."22

Energy costs

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) estimates that nuclear power will remain the cheapest alternative for Japan over the next 15 years.23.24

METI's estimates of generating costs in 2030 are: "at least" ¥10.1/kWh for nuclear; coal ¥12.9, gas ¥13.4, oil ¥28.9−41.6, onshore wind ¥13.9−21.9, geothermal ¥19.2, hydro ¥11, biomass ¥13.3−29.7, and solar (utility and household) ¥12.7−16.4.23

METI's figures have attracted criticism. The nuclear figures are "fooling no one" according to a piece in Japan Times.24 METI excluded costs such as those associated with reactor decommissioning and the final disposal of reactor waste.23

METI's estimate of the future costs of dealing with nuclear disasters has been reduced on the grounds that stricter safety standards have halved the probability of large-scale accidents.25 By that logic the estimated costs ought to be increased on the grounds that Japan's corrupt 'nuclear village' is back in control just a few years after the Fukushima disaster.26

In a 2011 assessment, the minimum estimated generation costs in 2030 for renewable energy sources were below that of nuclear power. The latest report gives higher estimates for renewables, in part because it includes government-funded research projects on renewable energy.25

The Japanese government is alert to the economic vulnerability of nuclear power and is planning guaranteed prices for nuclear power even as the rest of the electricity industry is liberalized in the coming years.27

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper editorialized last August: "Giving preferential treatment to nuclear power, which the government has promised to reduce under its energy policy, would enable big utilities to keep their nuclear plants running and put these operators at an unfair advantage in competition with their rivals."28

Nuclear waste

There is no end in sight to Japan's efforts to establish a repository for high-level nuclear waste. The Nuclear Waste Management Organisation was set up in October 2000 by the private sector to progress plans for disposal. Municipalities were invited to indicate whether they were interested in hosting a repository. Only the town of Toyo in western Japan indicated interest − but the town's application was quickly withdrawn after the local population expressed strong opposition.

Now, the Japanese government intends to use a top-down approach, identifying "scientifically promising locations" first and then discussing options with local governments. The new policy was approved by Cabinet in May 2015.

The revised policy does not specify a timeframe for building a repository. The cost of building a repository is estimated at ¥3,500 billion (US$28.1b; billion; €24.9b).29

The Science Council of Japan has criticized the government for being "irresponsible toward future generations" by seeking to restart reactors without a decision on a waste disposal site. The council says that finding a site will be difficult "given that public trust in the government, power companies and scientists has been lost" because of the Fukushima disaster.30

IAEA report

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has written a detailed report on the causes and consequences of the Fukushima disaster.31,32

The report was more than two years in the making, and involved 180 'experts' from 42 countries along with several international bodies. The report is to be released to the IAEA's General Conference in September. But Greenpeace has obtained the report and published it online.32 Greenpeace has also released a detailed critique of the IAEA report.33

Justin McKeating from Greenpeace notes that the IAEA creates "a narrative that minimizes the health and environmental impacts of Fukushima, while emphasising that lessons are being learned, including in making nuclear safety regulation more effective. In short, the IAEA is moving to protect the nuclear industry instead of the people whose lives have been destroyed by the Fukushima disaster and those who may be affected by future nuclear accidents."32

The IAEA's primary currency is misleading euphemisms. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said the disaster resulted from "certain weaknesses in plant design, in emergency preparedness and response arrangements and in planning for the management of a severe accident."31 Likewise, the IAEA report states: "The regulations, guidelines and procedures in place at the time of the accident were not fully in line with international practice in some key areas, most notably in relation to periodic safety reviews, re-evaluation of hazards, severe accident management and safety culture."

In fact, the problems went well beyond "certain weaknesses" and a slight misalignment with international practice. Japan's nuclear industry was thoroughly corrupt. Numerous accidents before Fukushima resulted from the industry's serious, systemic failings −  as did the Fukushima disaster itself.34

The disaster "exposed certain weaknesses in Japan's regulatory framework", according to the IAEA, including divided responsibilities and a lack of clarity.31 In truth, the problems went well beyond "certain weaknesses". Japan's nuclear regulatory bodies were in on the game; they were part of the 'nuclear village'. Moreover, the problems that led to the Fukushima disaster are re-emerging; the nuclear village is back in control.26

Greenpeace notes that the new regulator, the NRA, is failing in its job. This is evident in the NRA's handling of the application to restart the Sendai reactors. Greenpeace notes: "Despite warnings of weak nuclear regulation, the NRA is not following international practice, including recommendations made by the IAEA. The NRA review of nuclear plants planned for restart, specifically the Sendai nuclear reactors, has accepted the violation of the post-Fukushima regulations, and thus has approved an inadequate seismic standard essential for the safety of the nuclear plant."33

The IAEA report claims that "no discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public and their descendants." That may be true in that it would be difficult to detect Fukushima-related morbidity and mortality in epidemiological studies. Nonetheless, as the Greenpeace report notes, the number of fatal cancers in the Japanese population can be estimated at roughly 4,800 (based on the UN's collective dose estimate), in addition to non-fatal cancers and non-cancer illnesses.

Ever since the Fukushima disaster, the IAEA has been encouraging the Japanese government to weaken its radiation dose limits for workers and the public − and the government seems happy to oblige. The NRA is to increase the radiation exposure limit for workers in emergency situations from the current 100 millisieverts (mSv) to 250 mSv.35 For members of the public, the internationally accepted limit of 1 mSv has already been increased to 20 mSv, and members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are pushing for the limit to be increased to 50 mSv.36

The IAEA's platitudes about the importance of 'stakeholder involvement' are particularly cynical. In Fukushima prefecture, people have been effectively forced return to contaminated land. The lifting of evacuation orders, and the termination of compensation payments one year later, has forced people to return to places such as Tamura (Myakoji) or Kawauchi, where the evacuation order was lifted last year.33

The platitudes about 'stakeholder involvement' also ignore the fact that the current LDP government has set the clock back 20 years regarding public involvement in the development of energy policy. Dr Philip White, an expert on Japan's energy policy formation process, notes: "A major step toward greater public participation and disclosure of information occurred after the December 1995 sodium leak and fire at the Monju fast breeder reactor. Although public participation was not conducted in good faith, at least lip service was paid. It seems that the current government has decided that it doesn't even need to pay lip service."37

Meanwhile, at Fukushima Daiichi, it's business as usual with a steady stream of radioactive leaks. The latest significant leak, discovered on May 29, involved an estimated 7 to 15 tons of highly radioactive water leaked from a hose that was used to transfer contaminated water from storage tanks to a treatment facility. TEPCO said the water contained 1.1 million becquerels of beta-emitting radioactive materials per liter. The radioactive water made its way to the sea through a ditch, according to TEPCO.38

TEPCO said it did not replace the hose with a more durable one even though it was aware of the potential danger that could result from aging, and had not checked the hose since installing it in October 2013. NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka said TEPCO "should be held deeply responsible" and "lacks a strategic approach in addressing the contaminated water issue."38


1. 3 May 2015, 'The same old energy mix',

2. Chisaki Watanabe, 2 June 2015, 'Japan Government Too Bullish on Nuclear Role by 2030, BNEF Says',

3. 27 May 2015, 'Nuclear power crucial as renewable energy too costly, ministry says',

4. Naohito Maeda, 5 April 2015, 'Why not talk more about a nuclear-free future for Japan?',

5. Chisaki Watanabe and Emi Urabe, 28 April 2015, 'Japan Sees Clean Energy Edging Out Nuclear Power in 2030',

6. Keith Johnson, 8 April 2015, 'Japan Bets on Nuclear, and Coal, for Future Power',


8. Greg Peel, 26 May 2015, 'Uranium Week: Japan's Ups And Downs', FNArena News,

9. 25 April 2015, 'Legal fallout: Court cases frustrate efforts to restart Japan's nuclear plants',

10. WNN, 27 May 2015, 'Sendai reactors cleared for restart',

11. Friends of the Earth Japan, 7 Nov 2014,

12. Reuters, 27 May 2015, 'Nuclear regulator clears two Sendai reactors for restart',

13. Beyond Nuclear, 22 April 2015, 'Local judge denies lawsuit to block Sendai nuke restart as Japanese vow continued resistance to potential atomic volcano',

14. 23 April 2015, 'Anti-nuke activists disheartened over court ruling on reactor restarts in Kagoshima',

15. Robin Harding, 22 April 2015, 'Japan moves closer to nuclear restart',

16. Yuriy Humber, 1 May 2015, 'Japan Earthquake Expert Says Nuclear Watchdog Ignoring Risk',

17. 12 Nov 2014, 'Bad precedent for nuclear restart',

18. Nuke Info Tokyo No. 165, 31 March 2015, 'Green Light Given for Restarting Takahama Units 3 and 4',

19. 20 May 2015, 'NRA approves restart for third nuclear plant',

20. 15 April 2015, 'Japanese court blocks restart of Kansai Electric's Takahama nuclear reactors on safety grounds',

21. Toshio Kawada, 14 May 2015, 'Panel says faults under Shika nuke plant may be active',

22. WNN, 26 March 2015, 'Tsuruga 2 sits on active fault, NRA concludes',

23. Osamu Tsukimori, 28 Apr 2015, 'Japan's electricity cost estimates by power source in 2030 − METI',

24. Philip Brasor, 23 May 2015, 'Lowball nuclear pitch is fooling no one',

25. Tomoyoshi Otsu, 28 April 2015, 'Nuclear energy cheapest power source due to reduced disaster risks, ministry says',

26. 19 March 2015, 'Japan's 'nuclear village' reasserting control', Nuclear Monitor #800,

27. Reuters, 21 Aug 2014,

28. 23 Aug 2014, Asahi Shimbun, 'Special support for nuclear power operators at odds with market liberalization', Editorial,

29. WNA, Japan's Nuclear Fuel Cycle, updated May 2015,

30. 22 Feb 2015, 'Editorial: Nuclear waste disposal problem',

31. IAEA, 14 May 2015, 'IAEA Delivers Major Report on Fukushima Accident to Member States',

32. Justin McKeating, 1 June 2015, 'Greenpeace releases confidential IAEA Fukushima-Daiichi accident report',

33. Jan Vande Putte, Kendra Ulrich and Shaun Burnie, 28 May 2015, 'The IAEA Fukushima Daiichi Accident Summary Report: A preliminary analysis',

34. Friends of the Earth, Australia, 2012, 'Japan's nuclear scandals and the Fukushima disaster',

35. WNN, 21 May 2015, 'Japan to raise worker emergency radiation exposure limits',

36. 22 May 2015, 'LDP wants to let evacuees move back to areas tainted with 50 millisieverts or less by March 2017',

37. Philip White, 24 Jan 2014, Japan goes back to the future to affirm energy 'foundation', Nuclear Monitor #776,

38. 4 June 2015, 'NRA rebukes TEPCO for failure to contain radioactive Fukushima water',


Japan's 'nuclear village' reasserting control

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

Public opposition to reactor restarts, and the nuclear industry more generally, continues to exert some influence in Japan. Five to seven of the oldest of Japan's 48 'operable' reactors are likely to be sacrificed to dampen opposition to the restart of other reactors, and public opposition may result in the permanent shut down of some other reactors.1

However, slowly but surely, the collusive practices that led to the Fukushima disaster are re-emerging. The 'nuclear village' is regaining control.

Energy policy

After the Fukushima accident, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government commenced a review of energy policy. After deliberations in a committee that included more or less equal numbers of nuclear critics, proponents and neutral people, three scenarios were put forward in June 2012 − based on 0%, 15% and 20−25% of electricity generation from nuclear reactors. These scenarios were put to a broad national debate, the outcome of which was that a clear majority of the public supported a nuclear phase-out. The national debate played a crucial role in pushing the DPJ government to support a nuclear phase-out.2

After the December 2012 national election, the incoming Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government repudiated the DPJ's goal of phasing out nuclear power. The LDP government also revamped the policy-drafting committee, drastically reducing the number of nuclear critics. And the committee itself was sidelined in the development of a draft Basic Energy Plan. "From a process perspective, this represents a step back about 20 years," said Dr Philip White, an expert on Japan's energy policy formation process.2

"A major step toward greater public participation and disclosure of information occurred after the December 1995 sodium leak and fire at the Monju fast breeder reactor," Dr White wrote in Nuclear Monitor last year. "Although public participation was not conducted in good faith, at least lip service was paid. It seems that the current government has decided that it doesn't even need to pay lip service."2

The Basic Energy Plan approved by Cabinet in April 2014 contains nothing more than a meaningless nod to widespread public anti-nuclear sentiment, stating that dependence on nuclear energy will be reduced 'to the extent possible'.

Junko Edahiro, chief executive of Japan for Sustainability and one of the people removed from the energy policy advisory committee, noted in November 2014: "Now what we have is a situation where government officials and committees are back to doing their jobs as if the March 2011 disasters had never occurred. They have resumed what they had been doing for 30 or 40 years, focusing on nuclear power. ... In Japan we have what some people refer to as a "nuclear village": a group of government officials, industries, and academia notorious for being strongly pro-nuclear. There has been little change in this group, and the regulatory committee to oversee nuclear policies and operations is currently headed by a well-known nuclear proponent."3

'An accident will surely happen again'

Yotaro Hatamura, who previously chaired the 'Cabinet Office Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of TEPCO', recently told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper that pre-Fukushima complacency is returning.4

"Sufficient investigations have not been conducted" into the causes of the Fukushima disaster, said Hatamura, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at the University of Tokyo. The Cabinet Office Investigation Committee report called on the government to continue efforts to determine the cause of the nuclear disaster, but "almost none" of its proposals have been reflected in recent government actions, Hatamura said.

He further noted that tougher nuclear safety standards were introduced after the Fukushima disaster, but with the exception of this "regulatory hurdle ... the situation seems unchanged from before the accident."

"It does not appear that organizations to watch [government actions] are working properly," Hatamura said. "There could always be lapses in oversight in safety assessments, and an accident will surely happen again."

Hatamura questioned the adequacy of evacuation plans, saying they have been compiled without fully reflecting on the Fukushima accident" "The restarts of reactors should be declared only after sufficient preparations are made, such as conducting evacuation drills covering all residents living within 30 kilometers of each plant based on developed evacuation plans."

Japan Atomic Energy Commission

In September 2012, the DPJ government promised that a review of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) would be conducted 'with its abolition and reorganization in mind'. The government established a review committee, which published a report in December 2012. After taking office, the incoming LDP government shelved the report and commenced a new review.5

The second review recommended that the JAEC no longer produce an overarching Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy. But an LDP committee has reportedly decided that the JAEC will be tasked with putting together a nuclear energy policy that would effectively have equivalent status to the Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy.5

Two reviews, very little change − and far from being abolished, the JAEC retains a role in framing nuclear policy. Moreover, the government has proposed that the JAEC, a promoter of nuclear power, could acts as a 'third party' in the choice of a final disposal site for nuclear waste. Some experts who attended a ministry panel meeting in February questioned the JAEC's independence.6


Many have called for TEPCO to be nationalised, or broken up into separate companies, but the LDP government has protected and supported the company. The government has also greatly increased financial support for TEPCO. For example in January 2014 the government approved an increase in the ceiling for interest-free loans the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund is allowed to give TEPCO, from 5 trillion yen to 9 trillion yen (US$41.2−74.1b; €39.0−70.2b).7

The government will also cover some of the costs for dealing with the Fukushima accident which TEPCO was previously required to pay, such as an estimated 1.1 trillion yen (US$9.1b; €8.6b) for interim storage facilities for waste from clean-up activities outside the Fukushima Daiichi plant.7

The government has also amended the Electricity Business Act to extend the period for collecting decommissioning funds from electricity rates by up to 10 years after nuclear plants are shut down. The amendments also allow TEPCO to include in electricity rates depreciation costs for additional equipment purchased for the decommissioning of the Fukushima plant.8

Media censorship and intimidation

Japan has steadily slipped down Reporters Without Borders global ranking for press freedom since the Fukushima disaster, from 11th in 2010 to 61st in the latest ranking.9,10

Journalists have been threatened with 'criminal contempt' and defamation suits, and Japan's 'state secrets' law makes investigative journalism about Japan's nuclear industry perilous.11 Under the law, which took effect in December 2014, the government can sentence those who divulge government secrets − which are broadly defined − to a decade in jail.10

Benjamin Ismaïl from Reporters Without Borders wrote in March 2014: "As we feared in 2012, the freedom to inform and be informed continues to be restricted by the 'nuclear village' and government, which are trying to control coverage of their handling of the aftermath of this disaster. Its long-term consequences are only now beginning to emerge and coverage of the health risks and public health issues is more important than ever."11

Reporters Without Borders stated in March 2014: "Both Japanese and foreign reporters have described to Reporters Without Borders the various methods used by the authorities to prevent independent coverage of the [Fukushima] disaster and its consequences. They have been prevented from covering anti-nuclear demonstrations and have been threatened with criminal proceedings for entering the "red zone" declared around the plant. And they have even been interrogated and subjected to intimidation by the intelligence services."11


1. 30 Jan 2015, 'Reactor restarts in Japan', Nuclear Monitor #797,
2. Philip White, 24 Jan 2014, Japan goes back to the future to affirm energy 'foundation', Nuclear Monitor #776,
See also: 16 March 2013, 'Abe purges energy board of antinuclear experts',
18 Oct 2013, 'Pro-nuclear voices dominate energy policy committee',
3. Junko Edahiro, November 2014, 'Toward a Sustainable Japan: Fukushima Accidents Show Japan's Challenges', JFS Newsletter No.147,
4. 10 March 2015, 'Ex-panel chief says Japan still hasn't learned lessons from Fukushima crisis',
5. Philip White, 10 July 2014, 'Reform of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission: as if Fukushima never happened', Nuclear Monitor #788,
See also: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Jan/Feb 2015, Nuke Info Tokyo No. 164,
6. Kyodo, 17 Feb 2015, 'Government explores options on how to store nuclear waste in the long term',
7. Kyodo, 15 Jan 2014, 'Gov't OKs new business turnaround plan for TEPCO, to give more aid',
8. Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Oct 2013,
9. Reporters Without Borders:!/index-details/JPN
10. Toko Sekiguchi, 13 Feb 2015, 'Japan Slips in Press Freedom Ranking',
11. 12 March 2014, 'Japan – Nuclear lobby still gagging independent coverage three years after disaster',

Fukushima Fallout: Four years on

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

Almost four years have passed since the 3/11 triple-disaster. Around 160,000 people were relocated because of the nuclear disaster and very few have returned to their homes. Apart from the radioactive contamination, there is little for them to return to.

A steady stream of reports detail the misery faced by evacuees from the triple-disaster. The latest of these reports concerns the number of evacuees who have died in solitude. At least 145 evacuees from the triple-disaster have died in solitude since March 2011. It is believed that prolonged isolation damages their health.1

The clean-up and decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi site will take decades to complete − but no-one knows how many decades. There is little precedent for some of the challenges TEPCO faces, such as the robotic extraction of damaged nuclear fuel from stricken reactors and its storage or disposal ... somewhere.

Last October, TEPCO pushed back the timeline for the start of the damaged fuel removal work by five years, to 2025. Dale Klein, a member of TEPCO's Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, says the decommissioning schedule is pure supposition until engineers figure out how to remove the damaged fuel.2

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report

The IAEA completed its third review of the Fukushima clean-up operations in mid-February.3 The 15-member IAEA team released a preliminary report and the final report will be released by the end of March.4 The report does not consider contamination and clean-up operations outside the Fukushima Daiichi site.

"Japan has made significant progress since our previous missions," said IAEA team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo. "The situation, however, remains very complex, with the increasing amount of contaminated water posing a short-term challenge that must be resolved in a sustainable manner. The need to remove highly radioactive spent fuel, including damaged fuel and fuel debris, from the reactors that suffered meltdowns poses a huge long-term challenge."3

The preliminary report notes that the safe decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi "is a very challenging task that requires the allocation of enormous resources, as well as the development and use of innovative technologies to deal with the most difficult activities."

Achievements since the last IAEA mission in 2013 include the complete removal of nuclear fuel from reactor #4 (1,533 new and spent fuel assemblies); progress with the clean-up of the site; and some progress with water management. Challenges include persistent underground water ingress and the accumulation of contaminated water; the long-term management of radioactive waste; and issues related to the removal of spent nuclear fuel, damaged fuel and fuel debris.

Water management

A large majority of the 7,000 workers at Fukushima Daiichi are working on problems associated with contaminated water − groundwater that becomes contaminated, and cooling water that becomes contaminated.5

An estimated two trillion yen (US$16.7 billion; €14.8b) will be spent on water management alone, which is 20% of the estimated cost of decommissioning the entire site.6 (In 2012, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers provided a "rough estimate" of US$500 billion (€447b) for on-site decommissioning costs, clean-up of contaminated lands outside the Fukushima plant boundary, replacement power costs, and compensation payments.7)

The IAEA report states that achievements since the last IAEA mission in 2013 include:

  • Improved and expanded systems to clean contaminated water;
  • The installation of new, improved tanks to store contaminated water (fully welded tanks replacing bolted flange type tanks), construction of dykes around the tanks with enhanced water holding capacity, and provision of covers to deflect rainwater from the dykes; and
  • The installation and operation of a set of pumping wells to reduce the flow of groundwater towards the reactor buildings, sealing of sea-side trenches and shafts, and the rehabilitation of the subdrain system. Groundwater ingress has been reduced by about 25% or 100,000 litres per day.

The installation of additional measures to reduce groundwater ingress, such as a frozen (ice) wall, is ongoing. The partially-built ice wall will enclose the area around reactors #1−4 on both the sea-side and the land-side. Whether the ice wall will effectively prevent the ingress and contamination of groundwater has been the subject of debate and scepticism.8

According to the IAEA report, the rehabilitation of subdrains (wells built around reactor buildings) and the construction of a treatment system for pumped subdrain water, are nearly complete. As the subdrains are placed in operation, they are expected to further reduce the groundwater ingress by about 150,000 litres per day, and to near zero following the installation of the land-side ice wall (if it works as hoped).

As of February 2015, about 600 million litres of contaminated water was stored on-site, of which more than half has already been treated to remove some radionuclides (including most caesium and strontium, but not tritium) and TEPCO expects to complete the treatment of the remaining water in the next few months.

Nevertheless the situation remains "complex", the IAEA report states, due to the ingress of about 300,000 litres of groundwater into the Fukushima Daiichi site each day, and the ongoing use (and contamination) of water to cool stricken reactors. The IAEA states that not all of the large number of water treatment systems deployed by TEPCO are operating to their full design capacity and performance. One of the many remaining challenges for TEPCO will be to seal leakages in reactor and turbine building walls, which it plans to tackle after controlling groundwater ingress.

Leaks and spills are still occurring. On February 22, sensors detected a fresh leak of radioactive water to the ocean. The sensors, rigged to a gutter that directs rain and groundwater to a nearby bay, detected contamination levels 50−70 times greater than normal, falling to 10−20 times the normal level later that day.9,10

On February 24, TEPCO acknowledged that it had failed to disclose leaks to the ocean of highly contaminated rainwater from a drainage ditch even though it was aware of the problem 10 months ago. The ditch receives run-off from the roof of the #2 reactor building. TEPCO said it recorded 29,400 becquerels of caesium per litre in water pooled on the rooftop, and 52,000 becquerels per litre of beta-emitting radionuclides such as strontium-90.11

The governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Masao Uchibori, said the incident was "extremely regrettable". Masakazu Yabuki, head of the Iwaki fisheries cooperative, said he had been "betrayed" by TEPCO. "I don't understand why [TEPCO] kept silent even though they knew about it. Fishery operators are absolutely shocked," Yabuki said.12 The National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations said: "The anger among local fishermen who have been waiting to resume their business is immeasurable."13

Fishing industry and ocean dumping

A Fisheries Agency survey released in February revealed that the fishing industry has been slow to recover in coastal prefectures affected by the 3/11 triple-disaster. Only 50% of the surveyed companies in five prefectures said their production capacities have recovered to 80% or more of the levels before the disaster, with Fukushima Prefecture recording the lowest figure of 25%. Selling the catch has also been problematic. In the Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, only 28% of the fish processing businesses have seen their sales rise to 80% or more of the pre-disaster levels.14

In January, the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations called on the government not to allow the release of contaminated water into the sea.15 Yet the IAEA report reiterates earlier advice to do just that. According to the IAEA, TEPCO's present plan to continue storing contaminated water in tanks, with a capacity of 800 million litres, is "at best a temporary measure while a more sustainable solution is needed."

Meanwhile, subsidiaries of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom are working on plans to build a demonstration plant to test technology for tritium removal from contaminated water.16 However the demonstration plant would not be operational until early 2016 and it is doubtful whether it could be deployed before the existing tank storage capacity is full.

The Prince of PR

The IAEA's latest report is one part substance, one part public relations. It is silent about the miserable situation faced by evacuees, sub-standard working conditions at Fukushima, the government's disgraceful secrecy law17, and much else besides.

Prince William's visit to Japan in late February was used for more pro-nuclear PR by the Japanese government. Escorted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Prince William visited Fukushima prefecture, ate local produce and went to a children's playground. However they drove straight past a village where some of the Fukushima evacuees are still living as refugees.

Tokuo Hayakawa, a Buddhist priest who lives near the Fukushima plant, said: "I think Abe is using him. It's true that you can find children playing outside, and you can eat some Fukushima food. But to take that as the overall reality here is totally wrong. If I could, I would take him to these abandoned ghost towns, and to the temporary houses where people still live, so he could see the reality that we are facing."18

Worker accidents and deaths on the rise

Shortly after the third anniversary of the triple-disaster, Fukushima workers rallied outside the Tokyo headquarters of TEPCO, complaining that they were forced to work in dangerous conditions for meagre pay.19 Little has changed over the past year.20,21,22

The number of serious work-related accidents at Fukushima Daiichi doubled in 2014. Nine serious accidents occurred between March 2014 and January 2015, resulting in two deaths and eight serious injuries. The total number of accidents at Fukushima Daiichi, including heatstrokes, has almost doubled to 55 this fiscal year (which ends on March 31). "It's not just the number of accidents that has been on the rise," said labour inspector Katsuyoshi Ito. "It's the serious cases, including deaths and serious injuries that have risen."22

On January 19, a worker died at Fukushima Daiichi after falling into an empty rainwater tank, and the following day a worker at the nearby Fukushima Daini plant died after being hit on the head by a piece of heavy equipment in a waste treatment facility. In March 2014, a worker died at Fukushima Daiichi after being buried by gravel while digging a ditch.

Just one week before the two deaths in January, labour inspectors warned TEPCO about the rising frequency of accidents and ordered it to take measures to deal with the problem. The rising accident rate is partly due to the increased number of workers involved in the clean-up of Fukushima Daiichi − now around 7,000, more than double the 3,000 or so that worked there in April 2013. But other factors are at work. TEPCO acknowledged after the deaths in January that there has been a "lack of continuous safety enhancement activity, such as listing up danger zones and eliminating them." The company also noted that "because of strong pressure to comply with the schedule, accident recurrence prevention activity was not thorough, and the range of inspection and measures was restricted."21

Hazard payments

TEPCO President Naomi Hirose announced in late 2013 that the daily hazard payment for Fukushima Daiichi clean-up workers would be doubled to about US$180 (€161). But many workers are not receiving the promised pay increase. TEPCO has declined to disclose details of its legal agreements with the 800 contractors and subcontractors who employ almost all of the Fukushima workforce. Only one of the 37 workers interviewed by Reuters from July−September 2014 said he received the full hazard pay increase promised by TEPCO. Some got no increase. In cases where payslips detailed a hazard payment, the amounts ranged from US$36−90 (€32−80) per day.23

Two former and two current workers have initiated legal action against TEPCO to reclaim unpaid wages, in particular unpaid hazard payments. The four workers are seeking a total of US$543,000 (€485,000).24

In November 2014, TEPCO acknowledged that that the number of workers on false contracts has increased in the past year. Survey results released by TEPCO showed that around 30% of those workers polled said that they were paid by a different company from the contractor that normally directs them at the worksite, which is illegal under Japan's labour laws. A similar survey in 2013 found that about 20% of workers were on false contracts.25

Yet another controversy emerged on February 18 when a construction firm executive was arrested for sending a 15-year-old boy to help clean up radioactive waste outside the Fukushima plant. Japan's labour laws prohibit people under 18 from working in radioactive areas. The boy was ordered to lie about his age. He said he was paid just ¥3,000 (US$25.1; €22.4) per day and was hit when he did not work hard enough.26

A New York Times editorial in March 2014 stated: "A pattern of shirking responsibility permeates the decommissioning work at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. ... It was the Japanese government, which had been leading the promotion of nuclear power, that made the Fukushima cleanup TEPCO's responsibility. The government kept TEPCO afloat to protect shareholders and bank lenders. It then used taxpayer money to set up the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, which provided loans to TEPCO to deal with Fukushima. This arrangement has conveniently allowed the government to avoid taking responsibility for the nuclear cleanup."27

The government passes responsibility to TEPCO, and TEPCO passes responsibility to a labyrinth of contractors and subcontractors. The government and TEPCO shirk responsibility for the Fukushima clean-up, just as they shirked responsibility for the March 2011 nuclear disaster.


1. 1 March 2015, '44 evacuees die alone in temporary housing in ’14', Yomiuri Shimbun,
2. 7 Feb 2015, 'Mission impossible: An industrial clean-up without precedent',
3. IAEA media release, 17 Feb 2015, 'IAEA Team Completed Third Review of Japan's Plans to Decommission Fukushima Daiichi',
4. IAEA, February 2015, IAEA International Peer Review, Preliminary Summary Report: Mission on Mid-And-Long-Term Roadmap Towards the Decommissioning of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units 1-4,
5. Justin McCurry, 14 Nov 2014, 'Fukushima £11bn cleanup progresses, but there is no cause for optimism',
6. Mari Yamaguchi / Associated Press, 12 Nov 2014, 'Japan's Fukushima cleanup 3 years on: little key work done',
7. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, June 2012, 'Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct: The ASME Presidential Task Force on Response to Japan Nuclear Power Plant Events',
8. 2 May 2014, 'Nuclear expert doubts ice wall will solve Fukushima plant leaks',
9. AFP, 22 Feb 2015, 'Fukushima nuclear plant detects fresh leak of radioactive water',
10. Nuclear Regulation Authority, 25 Feb 2015, 'Possible Flow of Contaminated Water to the Outside of the Controlled Area of Fukushima Daiichi NPS',
11. 25 Feb 2015, 'Fisheries 'shocked' at silence over water leak at wrecked Fukushima No. 1 plant',
12. Arata Yamamoto, 25 Feb 2015, 'Radioactive Fukushima Water Leak Was Unreported for Months: Official',
13. Kazuaki Nagata, 27 Feb 2015, 'Fisheries group lodges protest against Tepco's failure to disclose leak of radioactive rainwater',
14. 13 Feb 2015, 'Recovery slow in disaster-zone fish processing industries',
15. 27 Jan 2015, 'Fishermen oppose dumping radioactive water into sea',
16. WNN, 18 Feb 2015, 'IAEA team sees improvements at Fukushima Daiichi',
17. Toko Sekiguchi, 13 Feb 2015, 'Japan Slips in Press Freedom Ranking',
18. Gordon Rayner / Reuters, 26 Feb 2015, 'Prince William in Japan: controversial visit to Fukushima during visit',
19. Agence France-Presse, 14 March 2014, 'Fukushima nuclear workers rally against plant operator over low pay, dangerous conditions',
20. Yu Kotsubo and Akifumi Nagahashi, 17 Feb 2015, 'TEPCO vows safety first in training program for workers at Fukushima',
21. WNN, 3 Feb 2015, 'Tepco resumes work after contractor deaths',
22. Antoni Slodkowski, 19 Jan 2015, 'Fukushima worker dies after falling into water storage tank',
23. Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski, 8 Oct 2014, 'Nuclear workers kept in dark on Fukushima hazard pay',
24. Justin McCurry, 9 Sept 2014, 'Fukushima fallout continues: now cleanup workers claim unpaid wages',
25. Aaron Sheldrick, 28 Nov 2014, 'Fukushima workers still in murky labor contracts: Tepco survey',
26. 18 Feb 2015, 'Construction firm exec arrested for sending teen to help Fukushima cleanup',
27. Editorial, 21 March 2014, 'Fukushima's Shameful Cleanup',

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Children's lives after Fukushima

At the end of October 2014, I visited the Futaba area in Fukushima Prefecture, observed classes, met with the children and learned of the distress in the schools from teaching staff, including principals and assistant principals, and also from related officials such as the local superintendant of schools.

In April 2011 (April is the beginning of the academic year in Japan), a total of 70 schools in Fukushima Prefecture were temporarily closed because they were unable to restart, or had been temporarily relocated. Of these, 38 were elementary schools, 20 were middle schools, 11 were high schools and one was a special-needs school. With the exception of one elementary school, all of these temporary closures or relocations were due to the nuclear power station explosions. A total of 8,013 students and 1,582 school teachers and staff were affected.

Three years later, in April 2014, schools which are still not able to restart and remain temporarily closed are four elementary schools and two middle schools run by Namie Town. The teachers and staff have been reassigned to "additional posts" in different schools all across the prefecture. The number of Fukushima schools that have returned to the original location and have reopened is 15 elementary schools and eight middle schools. Besides these, 19 elementary schools and ten middle schools have borrowed classrooms in other schools, have been closed through amalgamation with other schools, or have reopened by relocating temporarily to private facilities.

Many of the schoolchildren who remained in Fukushima Prefecture are living in temporary housing and are spending an hour to 90 minutes each way in school buses getting to and from school. They leave their homes before 7 a.m. and return in the early evening or sometimes after nightfall. Fatigue is accumulating among the younger elementary school children. Sports activities are limited due to lack of or insufficient school yards. Moreover, the long commuting times mean that all kinds of activities cannot be carried out satisfactorily. Some of the teachers and school staff commute more than 70 km each way to their schools. This was supposed to happen for only one year, but already more than three years have passed. The teachers lamented the fact that there does not seem to be any end to this situation in sight.

− Yukio Yamaguchi, Co-director, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (Tokyo). Abridged from Nuke Info Tokyo No. 164, Jan/Feb 2015,


"New" Japan Atomic Energy Commission inaugurated

Revisions to Japan's Act for the Establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission were made in June 2014 and went into effect on December 16. That day, the chairman remarked, "We are launching new Atomic Energy Commission activities." Never mind that it is called "new," the three committee members it comprises were appointed and began their activities in April, prior to the revisions. This is a strange way to arrange affairs, but Japan's government has become more disorderly since December 2012, when the Abe administration came into power, so this is par for the course.

The Atomic Energy Commission was shrunk from five members to three, and its operations were downsized on the basis of reconsiderations made by the previous administration, which we explained in NIT 152. Even though the administration changed hands, legal revisions were made in accordance with the previous administration's views.

Two of the three commission members are clearly supportive of nuclear energy, and they make no effort to hide it. The third specializes in uses of radiation. While she does not actively promote nuclear power, she expresses her ideas poorly. The chairman, Yoshiaki Oka, is a nuclear engineer and is on record in "Chairman's Remarks" at the beginning of his term as saying, "It is important that the excellent nuclear technology our country has cultivated and the hard-earned experience gained from TEPCO's accidents in Fukushima be utilized not only in Japan, but worldwide. Japan should lead the world in the field of nuclear energy."

Instead of creating new general principles for nuclear policy as the previous commission did, the Atomic Energy Commission drafted "Basic Concepts." The "Observations Used in Drafting the Basic Concepts" presented by Chairman Oka at the December 24 meeting of the commission, contains the statement, "How about a motto of ‘Leading the World' (in top-notch R&D and world-class projects)?"

Vice-Chairman Nobuyasu Abe hails from Japan's foreign Affairs Ministry, with expertise in disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, but he exhibits a surprisingly low level of awareness. At the annual meeting of the Japanese branch of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management on November 22, 2014, Vice-Chairman Abe blithely remarked, "It is said that the increasing amounts of plutonium are a problem, but even if money in a bank increases, the risk of theft stays the same. This is a makeshift solution, but the amount of plutonium in storage is tallied at the end of the year, so it would be okay to begin reprocessing in January and use the plutonium before the end of the year so that the amount is reduced by year end."

Reprinted from Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Nuke Info Tokyo No. 164, Jan/Feb 2015,

Areva's 2014 revenue down 8%

Areva says its 2014 revenue was €8.34 billion (US$9.5 billion), down 8% from the previous year.1 The company is expected to post a 2014 loss of at least €1 billion, perhaps much more.2 Areva CEO Philippe Knoche said: "The year of 2014, particularly the second half, was a hard time for Areva."3

Areva's mining group took the largest hit in 2014, with revenue down €420 million (US$479 million) on the previous year, with sales volumes down 28%. Revenue also fell at the back end of the nuclear cycle, with a 12.1% drop in the business area dealing with spent fuel and reprocessing.3

Areva warned that it expects to book significant write-downs of assets in its 2014 accounts. The company did not elaborate, but the troubled EPR reactor project in Finland is a likely candidate.1

Areva is reportedly drafting a plan to let EDF take a stake in some of its units (namely reactor exports and spent fuel reprocessing), thus providing a capital boost. The French state has an 87% stake in Areva and 84.5% in EDF.4


EU court adviser says German nuclear tax compatible with EU law

A German nuclear fuel tax is compatible with EU law, a European court adviser said on February 3, in a preliminary decision that could thwart efforts by utilities to recover billions of euros. The provisions of EU law "are not against such a tax", the adviser to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) concluded. The Court follows the opinions of court advisers in a majority of cases.

Last year, a Hamburg court declared the fuel tax illegal in another preliminary ruling, but requested advice from the ECJ. So far, German utilities have paid about 4.6 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in nuclear fuel taxes.

Vietnam delays nuclear reactor program, again

The government of Vietnam has pushed back the date for breaking ground on its first nuclear reactor by two years from 2017 to 2019. This delay comes on top of an earlier postponement that set the 2017 date. Other reports give a 2020−2022 start date.

Hoang Anh Tuan, head of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Agency, said the delay is necessary because the government isn't ready to manage the project, nor does it have a mature and independent nuclear safety and regulatory oversight agency.

Russia's Rosatom has a contract to build the first two of four planned 1200 MW VVER nuclear reactors at a Ninh Thuan, a coastal site. Most of the financing will be provided by a Rosatom loan. Vietnam also has an agreement with Japan Atomic Power to plan the development of a second 2200 MW power station in the same region.

Nuclear Resister

The latest issue of Nuclear Resister is out now, with information about anti-nuclear and anti-war related arrests and peace prisoner support. Stories featured in the latest issue include:

  • Villagers and supporters on Jeju Island (South Korea) were arrested and injured during a crackdown and demolition of a protest site.
  • On January 29, Eve Tetaz and Nashua Chantal stood trial before US District Judge Stephen Hyles in Columbus, Georgia. The two had crossed onto Ft. Benning during the annual demonstration to close the School of the Americas. Tetaz received a $5,000 fine while Chantal was sentenced to five years of probation.
  • On January 5, four protesters were arrested inside RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire while protesting the continuing use of armed drones.
  • Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, turned herself in to the federal prison camp in Lexington, Kentucky on January 23. She will serve a three-month sentence for her June 1, 2014 protest of drone killings at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
  • On January 17, activists from the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action blocked the main gate and staged a mock funeral to "mourn the death of the earth after nuclear annihilation" at the US Navy's West Coast Trident nuclear submarine base. Ten men and women were removed from the roadway and arrested. 
  • On January 17, peace activists stood in front of the Lockheed Martin complex in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Five people blocked the main driveway entrance and were later cited for disorderly conduct by the police.
  • On January 10, Witness Against Torture and Code Pink marked the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Prison with a torture protest on Dick Cheney's lawn. Two protesters were arrested on trespassing charges.
  • On January 16, a judge found Henry Stoever not guilty of trespass during a protest at the Honeywell nuclear weapons plant in Kansas City, Missouri. The plant makes, procures and assembles 85% of the non-nuclear parts of nuclear weapons.

To read more and to subscribe to the Nuclear Resister e-bulletin or the print edition, visit:

Meanwhile, anti-militarists are organising a mass lockdown at the Burghfield nuclear arms facility in the UK on March 2. The blockade is part of the non-violent direct action and campaigning against a new nuclear arms program. British nuclear arms are produced, maintained and stored in an Atomic Weapons Establishment in the village of Burghfield, located near the city of Reading. AKL, the Union of Conscientious Objectors Finland, is organising a bus trip to the event from Finland, picking up passengers from various cities including Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg and the Hague.

More information:,

Reactor restarts in Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

No power reactors have operated in Japan since 16 September 2013 but the slow process of restarting reactors is in train and the first restarts − Kyushu's two reactors at Sendai − will likely occur in the first half of this year. Next in line are Takahama #3 and #4.

Twelve utilities have applied to restart 21 reactors, and further applications will follow (Japan has a total of 48 operable reactors). The World Nuclear Association cites a 'high case' scenario developed by Itochu Corporation, with about 10 reactor restarts annually and a total of up to 35 restarts within five years.1

The Japanese public remains sceptical. A November 2014 poll by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that twice as many respondents oppose reactor restarts as support them (56:28).2 More than 16,000 people gathered in Tokyo last September to protest against the decision to approve the restart of the Sendai reactors.3 Of the 18,711 comments on the government's draft basic energy plan, 94.4% opposed reactor restarts, while only 1.1% were in favour.4

On the other hand, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party comfortably won the December 2014 election, and the government is intent on reactor restarts. Public opposition will delay many reactor restart approval processes and it may force the closure of at least a few reactors (in addition to those already slated for closure).

The government/corporate collusion that was a central feature of Japan's pre-Fukushima 'nuclear village' is re-emerging (if it ever went away). Junko Edahiro, chief executive of Japan for Sustainability, noted in a November 2014 speech: "Before the Abe administration, I was a member of an energy committee, an advisory body for the government charged with providing input on energy policies until 2030 for Japan. We had 25 members, of whom myself and seven others were not in favor of nuclear power. It was a small contingent, but this was still a huge departure from the past because citizens and experts against nuclear power have never been assigned as members of a governmental advisory body. The new administration, however, restructured the committee, eliminating anyone against nuclear power. ... In Japan we have what some people refer to as a "nuclear village": a group of government officials, industries, and academia notorious for being strongly pro-nuclear. There has been little change in this group, and the regulatory committee to oversee nuclear policies and operations is currently headed by a well-known nuclear proponent."5

With the nuclear village back in charge, familiar patterns are re-emerging. A November 2014 editorial in Japan Times, commenting on the Sendai restart approval, said the "move contains serious safety and procedural problems" such as inadequate evacuation plans, the lack of a permanent off-site command centre in the case of an emergency, the exclusion of eight municipalities from the approval process, and numerous other problems. "As the seemingly last key hurdle for the restart of the Sendai nuclear power plant is lifted," Japan Times editorialised, "a dangerous precedent has been set and many fundamental questions remain unanswered."6

One post-Fukushima reform that has not yet been destroyed is TEPCO's outside advisory committee, the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, chaired by former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Dale Klein.7 Klein said late last year that TEPCO should convene a panel of foreign operators to review safety standards.

"I would like to see what I call a readiness review," Klein told Reuters. "You've got regulatory aspects – Do you meet everything? Do you have right training? – and then, I think, because of Fukushima Daiichi, the Japanese public would feel better if another group came in and said operationally they are ready. I have been pushing for that."8

So, might TEPCO appoint an outside committee to review safety standards and supplement the work of the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee? A more likely outcome is that the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee itself will be abolished.

Permanent reactor shut-downs

A minimum of five reactors will be permanently shut down (in addition to the six Fukushima Daiichi reactors).9 The five reactors are Kansai's Mihama #1 and #2, Japan Atomic Power's Tsuruga 1, Chugoku's Shimane 1, and Kyushu's Genkai 1. All are relatively small (320−529 MW), and by October 2015 all will be more than 40 years old. Another two reactors, Kansai's Takahama #1 #2, which began commercial operation in 1974 and 1975, may also be shut down although Kansai may fight to restart them.

Other reactors may also be permanently shut down. Cantor Fitzgerald forecasts that in the long-term 32 of the 48 reactors will restart and the other 16 shut down.10 One of the other candidates for permanent closure is Tsuruga #2 − Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority disagrees with Japan Atomic Power Corporation about seismic risks.11

TEPCO's plan to restart reactors #6 and #7 at the Kashiwazaki−Kariwa plant (badly damaged by an earthquake in 2007) is meeting stiff resistance from the governor of Niigata province, Hirohiko Izumida. The governor says TEPCO must address its "institutionalized lying" before it can expect to restart reactors.12 He wants TEPCO executives held accountable for the negligence that led to the Fukushima disaster, but government prosecutors have refused to bring charges against TEPCO executives.13

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear industry, is reportedly considering revising accounting rules to lighten the financial burden on utilities that decommission nuclear reactors, with decisions expected by March.9 In other words, the government is planning to do what the government does best: throw taxpayers' money at the nuclear industry.

Among other smoke-and-mirror tricks:
•    Reactors are limited to a 40-year operating life ... but utilities can apply for a 20-year extension.
•    Government and industry are not (yet) promoting the construction of new reactors, but efforts are being made to move ahead with reactors under construction before March 2011. Expect double-dipping and triple-dipping: the closure of a small number of reactors is being used to quell opposition to reactor restarts, then the closure of the same reactors will be used to quell opposition to the completion of reactors under construction and reactors in the planning stages.

Debates over the future of the Monju fast reactor and the Rokkasho reprocessing plant will add spice to Japan's nuclear debate this year. Monju may be doomed, but Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd hopes to begin operating Rokkasho in early 2016.1

2. 6 Jan 2015, 'Editorial: Consensus-building process needed for nuclear policy decisions',
3. 23 Sept 2014, 'What's your anti-disaster plan?' Thousands protest Japanese nuclear revival',
4. Atsushi Komori, 12 Nov 2014, 'Energy plan overlooked flat-out opposition to nuclear power, analysis shows',
5. Junko Edahiro, November 2014, 'Toward a Sustainable Japan: Fukushima Accidents Show Japan's Challenges', JFS Newsletter No.147,
6. 12 Nov 2014, 'Bad precedent for nuclear restart',
8. Kentaro Hamada, 2 Dec 2014, 'Japan's Tepco needs safety review from foreign nuclear operators − adviser',
9. 11 Jan 2015, '5 old nuclear reactors headed for decommissioning scrap heap',
10. 1 Jan 2015, 'Japan turns ignition key on efforts to restart its nuclear fleet',
11. 20 Nov 2014, 'Nuclear watchdog panel: Fault under Tsuruga reactor is active',
12. Antoni Slodkowski and Kentaro Hamada, 29 Oct 2013, 'Tepco can't yet be trusted to restart world's biggest nuclear plant: governor',
13. Reuters, 22 Jan 2015, 'Prosecutors won't indict former Tepco execs over Fukushima',

New UNSCEAR Report on Fukushima: Collective Doses

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Dr Ian Fairlie

NM785.4385 Below is Dr Ian Fairlie's preliminary response to a recent report by the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), focusing in particular on the issue of collective radiation doses from the Fukushima disaster. Dr Fairlie, a radiation biologist and independent consultant, is currently examining the report in more detail.

On April 2, UNSCEAR published its long-awaited Report on Fukushima.1 Of prime importance are its estimates of collective doses to the Japanese population. Page 60 of Annex A of the UNSCEAR report contains the following table 8 on estimated collective effective doses and collective absorbed doses to the thyroid for the population of Japan (approximately 128 million in 2010):

Exposure duration

Over first year

Over ten years

Up to age 80 years

Collective effective dose

18,000 man-Sieverts (Sv)

36,000 man-Sv

48,000 man-Sv

Collective absorbed dose to thyroid

82,000 man-Gy

100,000 man-Gy

112,000 man-Gy

These estimates are slightly higher than in the draft UNSCEAR report in November 2013. For example, the 80 year whole body dose was 41,000 man-Sv and thyroid dose was 110,000 man-Sv in last year's draft.

In an early preliminary view, these are realistic collective doses, as they are relatively consistent with some independent estimates in Europe. For example, the most detailed model used by the Report published by IPPNW Germany in late March 2013 estimated 95,000 man-Sv2: i.e. the UNSCEAR 48,000 man-Sv estimate is within a factor of two of this, which is good agreement given the uncertainties in the IPPNW's methodology and in this area generally.

My own estimate in early March 2013 for Fukushima Prefecture (the most contaminated region) alone was 34,000 man Sv.3 If I were to add an estimate for the rest of Japan of ~13,000 man-Sv4, this would total 47,000 man-Sv – very close to UNSCEAR's estimate of 48,000 man-Sv. In fact, the agreement is slightly unnerving!

In terms of the fatal cancers these doses would cause, the new UNSCEAR estimates imply (via the Linear No Threshold theory) that in future ~5,000 people in Japan will die from Fukushima's fallout, if we applied a fatal cancer risk of 10% per Sv. (This is because the UNSCEAR report, like the previous WHO reports, no longer applies a dose rate effectiveness factor of 2 to risk estimates.)

However a more detailed scrutiny will be required of the methodologies and assumptions used in the new UNSCEAR report before a final view can be given.

P.S. The UNSCEAR report on page 60 adds that "The collective effective dose to the population of Japan due to a lifetime exposure following the [Fukushima] accident is approximately 10-15% of the corresponding value for European populations exposed to radiation following the Chernobyl accident. Correspondingly, the collective absorbed dose to the thyroid was approximately 5% of that due to the Chernobyl accident." From this, one can work out what UNSCEAR now thinks the whole body collective dose to Europe was from Chernobyl: i.e. 320,000 to 480,000 man-Sv, leading to ~32,000 to ~48,000 fatal cancers. This has never been stated before by UNSCEAR. These estimates are close to the 2006 independent TORCH report's estimates of 30,000 to 60,000 fatal cancers.5

References and notes:




4. UNSCEAR estimates the average whole body dose to the rest of Japan outside Fukushima Prefecture was ~0.1 mSv. Multiplied by 126,000,000 people outside Fukushima gives a collective dose of 12,600 or 13,000 to two significant figures.


From WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor #785, 24 April 2014

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Fukushima books

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Mark Willacy
ISBN: 9781742612959
March 2013
RRP A$32.99
Macmillan Australia
Also available as an e-book

'Fukushima' is the story behind the twin catastrophes of the tsunami and nuclear meltdowns, seen through the eyes of witnesses and victims – from the mother patiently excavating the mud and debris left by the tsunami as she looked for the remains of her daughter, to the prime minister of the day, Naoto Kan, to the plant director of Fukushima DaiIchi and his senior engineers, to the elite firefighters who risked their lives to avert the ultimate nuclear nightmare. The book is written by Mark Willacy, a Tokyo-based correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Villains are identified, including the "nuclear village" of power companies, politicians and bureaucrats, aided by a compliant media. And heroes are identified, including the nuclear plant's manager, the 'Fukushima 50' who stayed behind and the 'samurai firemen' who worked to prevent an even bigger disaster, along with the individual officials, scientists, journalists and others who battled against a complacent establishment.

"There's this view that you're either pro- or anti-nuclear in covering this disaster, and I'm not either," Willacy told Japan Times on July 27. "My reporting is about exposing official corporate and regulatory failings. The government ignored repeated warnings from their own panel members, their own seismologists and their own committees. I find it horribly ironic that TEPCO of all people had the closest, most accurate simulation of anyone − their 15.7-metre tsunami wave forecast was the closest anyone got to what actually happened on March 11."

Willacy argues that Japan has much to learn from the nuclear disaster, including the need for independent regulators, an end to 'amakudari' jobs for bureaucrats in nuclear companies and reform of the 'kisha club' media system that helped prevent scrutiny. He warns that another Fukushima is possible if the lessons of the disaster are ignored.

Nuclear Disaster at Fukushima Daiichi: Social, Political and Environmental Issues

Edited by Richard Hindmarsh
Also available as an e-book

Informed by a leading cast of international scholars, including Japanese scholars on the ground as the disaster unfolded, this collection of essays sets the Fukushima disaster against the background of social, environmental and energy security and sustainability. It provides insights into its background and the disaster management options taken and the political, technical and social reactions as the accident unfolded, and critically reflects on both the implications for managing future nuclear disasters and the future of nuclear power itself.

Contributors note that a history of pro-nuclear government policies led to safety, siting and construction of nuclear reactors compromised in a number of areas that inadvertently invited natural disaster. Post-disaster, the book probes the flawed disaster management options taken as radioactive pollution began spreading; and the political, technical, and social reactions as the meltdown unfolded.

The book is edited by Assoc. Prof. Richard Hindmarsh, an Australian academic and co-founder of the Asia-Pacific Science, Technology and Society Network.

The essay titles are as follows:

  • Nuclear Disaster at Fukushima Daiichi: Introducing the Terrain
  • Social Shaping of Nuclear Safety: Before and After the Disaster
  • Social Structure and Nuclear Power Siting Problems Revealed
  • Megatechnology, Siting, Place and Participation
  • Environmental Infrastructures of Emergency: The Formation of a Civic Radiation Monitoring
  • Map during the Fukushima Disaster
  • Post-Apocalyptic Citizenship and Humanitarian Hardware
  • Envirotechnical Disaster at Fukushima: Nature, Technology and Politics
  • Nuclear Power after 3/11: Looking Back and Thinking Ahead
  • The Search for Energy Security After Fukushima Daiichi
  • The Future Is Not Nuclear: Ethical Choices for Energy after Fukushima
  • Nuclear Emergency Response: Atomic Priests or an International SWAT Team?


Fukushima comic

World Nuclear News reports that a former worker at the Fukushima Daiichi site has created a manga comic of his experiences. Kazuto Tatsuta won a manga competition held by large publishing company Kodansha.

Why would World Nuclear News report this? It seems the content is quite bland, "an unusual and sober depiction of the accident site and of normal people who continue to work without extreme apprehension about radiation." Workers are shown "going through strict safety and security routines, working among the water storage tanks and relaxing in the basic facilities."

WNN, 1 Nov 2013, 'Manga shows Fukushima worker's experience',

Who wrote the anti-nuke novel?

A novel released in September illustrates the resurgence of Japan's corrupt 'Nuclear Village' in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. The book, 'Genpatsu Whiteout: Another Reactor Explosion Is Inevitable: Indictment from An Elite Bureaucrat', tells a story about a rush to restart reactors shut down after March 2011, with government officials and politicians wielding powerful personal connections to fight off opposition from local leaders, activists and the media.

A guessing game is underway over the identity of the author, who appears to have an insider's knowledge of the industry. The novel says the author, Mr. Retsu Wakasugi (a pseudonym), is a graduate of the Tokyo University law department and currently works at an unidentified government ministry.

"A search for the culprit is on," Taro Kono, a politician from the governing Liberal Democratic Party, wrote in a Twitter post on September 17: "Suspected: 'someone who is a senior official at the energy agency with considerable career experience but now with lots of free time maybe as a result of being sidelined.'" Kono himself may be the inspiration for one character in the novel, described as a "lone wolf of the conservative party" with an anti-nuclear stance.

Yuka Hayashi, 19 Sept 2013, 'Fukushima Watch: Who Wrote the New Anti-Nuke Novel?',