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Fukushima - Political and public anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

The pro-nuclear policies of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have been criticised by four former Prime Ministers.

Junichiro Koizumi told the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo on November 12: "I think we should go to zero now. If we re-start the reactors, all that will result is more nuclear waste." He said the LDP is divided equally between those who want to get rid of nuclear power and those who think it's necessary.[1] "Nobody has had more favourable conditions to achieve a nuclear-free option than Abe," Koizumi said.[2]

Last year, former Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama joined an anti-nuclear protest outside the residence of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.[1]

Naoto Kan, the DPJ prime minister when the earthquake and tsunami hit in 2011, told an audience in New York on October 8 that he had been a supporter of nuclear power, but after the Fukushima accident, "I changed my thinking 180-degrees, completely." He said that in the first days of the accident it looked like an "area that included Tokyo" and populated by 50 million people might have to be evacuated. "There is no other disaster that would affect 50 million people − maybe a war," Kan said. "There is only one way to eliminate such accidents, which is to get rid of all nuclear power plants."[1,3,4]

A fourth former prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, said in an interview published on November 12 that Abe's nuclear energy policy was a "crime" and that he was willing to campaign against it.[1]

On October 28, Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida said TEPCO must give a fuller account of the Fukushima disaster and address its "institutionalized lying" before it can expect to restart reactors. Izumida cited TEPCO's belated admission in July − following months of denials − that the Fukushima plant was leaking radioactive substances into the ocean as evidence that TEPCO has not changed. "If they don't do what needs to be done, if they keep skimping on costs and manipulating information, they can never be trusted," he said.[5]

Izumida effectively holds a veto over TEPCO's plan to restart reactors at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, the world's largest. Even if Japan's nuclear safety regulators approve restart plans for Kashiwazaki Kariwa, Izumida can effectively block them because of TEPCO's need to win backing from local officials.

Izumida said he would launch his own commission to investigate the causes and handling of the Fukushima crisis and whether strengthened regulatory safeguards were sufficient to prevent a similar disaster. He warned TEPCO: "If they cooperate with us, we will be able to proceed smoothly. If not, we won't."[5]

Izumida urged Japan's government to strip TEPCO of responsibility for decommissioning the Fukushima plant: "Unless we create a situation where 80-90 percent of their thinking is devoted to nuclear safety, I don't think we can say they have prioritised safety."[5]

Izumida also called on the government to make the 6,000 decommissioning and decontamination workers public employees. "The workers at the plant are risking their health and giving it their all. They are out in the rain. They are out at night," Izumida said. "The government needs to respect their efforts and address the situation."[5]

And in case Izumida's message was lost on TEPCO, he added: "There are three things required of a company that runs nuclear power plants: don't lie, keep your promises and fulfil your social responsibility."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on November 12: "It's the government's responsibility to ensure a stable and inexpensive supply of energy. There is no change to our policy of keeping nuclear power to a minimum."[1]

A member of the Upper House of the Japanese Parliament has been reprimanded for handing a letter to Emperor Akihito at an October 31 imperial garden party expressing his anti-nuclear concerns. The Upper House steering committee summoned Taro Yamamoto, who campaigned as an anti-nuclear independent in the July 2013 election, for questioning about the incident.[6] On November 8, Yamamoto was reprimanded by the Upper House and barred from attending events with the imperial family.[7]

Yamamoto said. "I, as an individual, only wanted to tell the emperor the truth about the health hazard posed to children and the workers who are exposed to radiation and being abandoned [at Fukushima]. I wanted to explain the plight of children exposed to radiation released after a nuclear accident and people who are working at the facility in the worst conditions."[6]

In 2011, Yamamoto flew to Saga Prefecture and attempted to break into the governor's office to protest the restart of a nuclear power plant.[8]

Protest marches and actions
An estimated 40,000 people rallied against nuclear power in Tokyo on October 13. The protest was organised by three anti-nuclear groups − the Metropolitan Coalition against Nukes, 'Sayonara Genpatsu 1,000 mannin Action' ('Good-bye to nuclear power through action by 10 million people') and 'Genpatsu wo Nakusu Zenkoku Renrakukai' ('National conference on abolishing nuclear power plants') − to express their opposition to the government's push for reactor restarts. After the rally, protesters marched nearby to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry office as well as the head office of TEPCO.[9,10]

About 600 people attended a march on the evening of Wednesday, October 30. Most of the attendees came straight from their offices. Participants marched nearly 2 kms in the business district and passed by the TEPCO head office. The event organiser's aim was to increase the involvement of office workers, who generally hesitate to join demonstrations, in the anti-nuclear movement.[11]

Many 'Fukushima is Here' photo-actions took place around the world on October 19. For more information visit:

Surveys published in the Asahi and Mainichi newspapers on November 12 found 60% and 54% of respondents respectively agreed that Japan should aim to go nuclear-free. The Asahi newspaper polled 1,751 people by phone on November 9-10, the same days the Mainichi polled 966 people by phone.[1]

Citizens targeted in cyber-attacks

At least 33 groups anti-nuclear citizens groups around Japan have been targeted in a campaign of cyber-attacks since mid-September. They have been on the receiving end of a blizzard of e-mail traffic − more than 2.5 million messages since the attacks began. These are known as 'denial of service' attacks because they aim to obstruct the activities of the targeted organisations. Experts said there was little doubt that a computer program developed exclusively for the purpose was used.[12]

The groups targeted include the Women's Active Museum on War and Peace and the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes. One e-mail read: "Unless we kill all of the anti-nuclear believers, world peace will be never achieved."[12]

Lawyer Yuichi Kaido, acting on behalf of citizens groups, said he is considering filing a criminal complaint against the senders of the e-mails on grounds of forcible obstruction of business ... if the perpetrators can be found.[12]

[1] Isabel Reynolds and Takashi Hirokawa, 12 Nov 2013, 'Abe Mentor Koizumi Reignites Post-Fukushima Nuclear Debate',
[2] Ayako Mie, 12 Nov 2013, 'Koizumi calls on Abe to ditch nuclear power',
[3] Karl Grossman, 10 Oct 2013, 'Powerful Presentations on Fukushima and Nuclear Power',
[4] David Biello, 'The Nuclear Odyssey of Naoto Kan, Japan's Prime Minister during Fukushima',
[5] Antoni Slodkowski and Kentaro Hamada, 29 Oct 2013, 'Tepco can't yet be trusted to restart world's biggest nuclear plant: governor',
[6] 1 Nov 2013, 'Anti-nuclear politician under fire for handing letter to emperor'
[7] Elaine Lies, 8 Nov 2013, 'Japan lawmaker reprimanded after emperor letter hits nerve',
[9] 'Thousands mass for antinuclear rally in Tokyo', 13 Oct 2013,
[10] 'Tens of thousands of protesters attend anti-nuclear events in Tokyo', 14 Oct 2013,
[11] 'Office workers march in anti-nuclear demonstration in Tokyo', 31 Oct 2013,
[12] Tatsuya Sudo, 10 Nov 2013, 'Anti-nuclear citizens groups targeted in massive cyber-attack',

(Written by Nuclear Monitor editor Jim Green.)

Fukushima − Exploited workers

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Recent media reports − including a detailed Reuters investigation − have detailed the difficult and sometimes dangerous situation faced by decontamination and decommissioning workers within and beyond the Fukushima Daiichi plant.[1]

Some of the problems arise from the labyrinth of contractors and subcontractors employing a total of about 6,000 people. An estimated 50,000 workers have been involved in the decontamination work since March 2011, and many thousands more will be required in coming years and decades. TEPCO says it has been unable to monitor subcontractors fully. There has been a proliferation of small firms − around 800 companies are active inside the Fukushima plant and hundreds more outside the plant. Legislation regarding Fukushima decontamination work, approved in August 2011, relaxed previous rules and thus contractors have not been required to disclose information on management or undergo screening. Inexperienced companies rushed to bid for contracts and then turned to brokers to round up workers.[1]

Nearly 70% of the clean-up companies surveyed in the first half of 2013 had broken labour regulations, according to a labour ministry report in July. The ministry's Fukushima office received 567 complaints related to working conditions in the decontamination zone in the 12 months year to March 2013; the ministry issued 10 warnings, but no firm was penalised.[1]

For the thousands of non-TEPCO decontamination workers hired by subcontractors, the lure of earning decent money in return for dangerous work has proved an illusion. Once money for accommodation has been subtracted, workers are typically left with a few thousand yen each day (1000 yen = US$10). In some cases, employers withhold danger money.[4]

Workers interviewed by Reuters said wages usually average around US$12 an hour. With poor wages and conditions, there is a deepening shortage of workers, with about 25% more openings than applicants for jobs in Fukushima Prefecture.[1] Seven hundred TEPCO employees have left the company in the past year alone.[2]

Labour brokers have helped to fill the gap, recruiting people whose lives have reached a dead end or who have trouble finding a job outside the disaster zone. This continues the long-standing pattern of cheap labour from itinerant workers known as 'nuclear gypsies'. "Working conditions in the nuclear industry have always been bad," Saburo Murata, deputy director of Osaka's Hannan Chuo Hospital, told Reuters. "Problems with money, outsourced recruitment, lack of proper health insurance − these have existed for decades."[1]

Yousuke Minaguchi, a lawyer who has represented Fukushima workers, says the Japanese government has turned a blind eye to worker exploitation problems: "On the surface, they say it is illegal. But in reality they don't want to do anything. By not punishing anyone, they can keep using a lot of workers cheaply."[1]

The situation has been exploited by yakuza − organised crime syndicates − which have run labour rackets for generations. Nearly 50 gangs, with 1,050 members, operate in Fukushima Prefecture.[1]

Many workers are scared to draw attention to their exploitation for fear of being blacklisted. "Major contractors that run this system think that workers will always be afraid to talk because they are scared to lose their jobs," said Tetsuya Hayashi, a former decontamination worker. "But Japan can't continue to ignore this problem forever."[1]

In some cases, Reuters reported, brokers have 'bought' workers by paying off their debts − the workers are then forced to work for low wages until they pay off their brokers, under conditions that make it hard for them to speak out against abuses.[1]

Yukiteru Naka, a retired General Electric engineer who helped build some of Fukushima Daiichi's reactors, told The Guardian that in the long term, TEPCO will struggle to find enough people with specialist knowledge to see decommissioning through to the end. "There aren't enough trained people at Fukushima Daiichi even now," he said. "For TEPCO, money is the top priority – nuclear technology and safety come second and third. That's why the accident happened. The management insists on keeping the company going. They think about shareholders, bank lenders and the government, but not the people of Fukushima."[3]

Between March 2011 and July 2013, 138 Fukushima workers reached the 100 millisievert (mSv) threshold and thus could no longer be involved in work exposing them to radiation; another 331 had been exposed to between 75 mSv and 100 mSv, meaning their days at the plant are numbered.[4]

Former decontamination worker Watanabe Kai said: "Every penny the company spends in Fukushima is a loss. So the mentality is to save as much as possible, not to ensure good conditions and safety for workers." Justin McCurry and David McNeill note that: "TEPCO's astonishing penny-pinching became evident during the summer of 2013, when the company revealed it was relying on a skeleton crew to monitor a huge plantation of 1,000-ton makeshift water tanks for leaks. Instead of installing gauges, engineers were checking 1,000 tanks visually by standing on top of them."[4,5]

"I'm particularly worried about depression and alcoholism" among decontamination workers said Tanigawa Takeshi, a professor in the department of public health at Ehime University in western Japan. "I've seen high levels of physical distress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder."[4]

In early November, TEPCO announced that it would implement measures to improve the working environment, including wage increases and improvements to on-site facilities including break rooms, catering, cell phone communications and transportation.[6] Too little, too late?

[1] Antoni Slodkowski and Mari Saito, 25 Oct 2013, 'Special Report - Help wanted in Fukushima: Low pay, high risks and gangsters',
[2] 28 Oct 2013, 'Japanese nuclear watchdog tells Fukushima boss to stop messing up',
[3] Justin McCurry, 16 Oct 2013, 'Plummeting morale at Fukushima Daiichi as nuclear cleanup takes its toll',
[4] Justin McCurry and David McNeill, "Japan's Cut-Price Nuclear Cleanup: TEPCO woes continue amid human error, plummeting morale and worker exodus," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 43, No. 2, 28 October 2013,
[5] Mari Yamaguchi, 8 Nov 2013, 'Workers Speak Out About Flawed Fukushima Water Tanks',
[6] WNN, 8 Nov 2013, 'Tepco seeks to improve worker welfare',

(Written by Nuclear Monitor editor Jim Green.)


Fukushima Fallout − Crooked clean-up, exasperated evacuees

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

A 16-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission has lavished praise on Fukushima clean-up operations but wants authorities to work harder to convince Japanese citizens to accept higher radiation doses.[1] The IAEA was peddling similar lies in July 2011, when IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said clean-up work was "moving very smoothly".[2]

By contrast, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper has run a series of articles this year under the title 'Crooked Cleanup'.[3] The articles detail a myriad of problems including the involvement of criminal gangs in decontamination work; lax background checks; contractors tipped off about 'surprise' inspections of decontamination work; shoddy work practices such as radioactive debris being dumped in rivers; contractors lying about their decontamination work; Environment Ministry officials failing to act on a flood of complaints about shoddy work; work being concentrated around radiation monitors with little or no work carried out at less proximate locations; and much, much more.

A recent Greenpeace survey found that decontamination work has been effective for houses and many parts of major routes, but some lesser-used public roads still have high contamination levels, as do large areas of farmland and mountain areas. Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace radiation protection adviser, said the decontaminated houses and roads were like "islands" and "corridors" in an otherwise polluted region. It would be "unrealistic" to ask residents to stay off contaminated roads and farmland, he said.[4] Tomoya Yamauchi, a professor of radiation physics at Kobe University, said he found that some decontaminated road surfaces in Fukushima had readings 18 times the target level because caesium had accumulated in cracks in the asphalt.[12]

Securing sites to store contaminated waste is proving extremely difficult. Citizens and local governments have opposed three-year 'temporary storage sites' which the national government wants to establish pending the construction of a mid-term waste storage facility. An Environment Ministry official said: "Given that no prospects are in sight for building an intermediate storage facility for soil and other waste from the decontamination process, people are distrustful and are concerned that such waste could be left abandoned in these temporary storage sites."[7]

As a result, waste is stored under tarpaulins across much of the Fukushima Prefecture, sometimes close to schools and homes.[5] About 150,000 tons of contaminated waste have been left in the open under tarpaulins − about 30% of all waste from the crisis − due to delays establishing temporary storage sites. A total of 372 temporary storage sites are planned, but so far only 139 have been established.[6]


Some evacuees will have to wait up to three years longer before they can return home as clean-up operations fall behind schedule. The Environment Ministry is revising the timetable for six of 11 municipalities in the exclusion zone. The original plan called for completing all decontamination work by March 2014.[8] Decontamination efforts are on schedule in only four municipalities. "I have run out of patience," farmer Muneo Kanno told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. "We villagers are brimming with distrust of the central government and are concerned about whether we can eventually return. We are left deprived of our lives, and our return has been kept on hold."[9]

Meanwhile there is an unfolding discussion and debate concerning the likelihood that some evacuees will never be able to return home because of the difficulty of reducing radiation to habitable levels.[10,11]

Even in locations where decontamination operations have been completed, many former residents are reluctant to return. Reasons include concerns over the lack of jobs, services, and infrastructure; agricultural restrictions; houses being torn down because of extensive mildew; the unstable situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant and concerns about the adequacy of decontamination work.[12]

Reuters reported in August that just over 500 of the 3,000 former residents of the town of Kawauchi have returned and the "same pattern has played out across Fukushima as the nuclear accident turned the slow drip of urban flight by younger residents into a torrent, creating a demographic skew that decontamination is unlikely to reverse."[12]

Referring to a man he met during a visit to Japan in 2011, Gregory Jaczko, former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told an audience in New York on October 8: "There is nothing more challenging than to look into the eyes of a grandfather who no longer sees his children because they had to move on to find jobs. That is the tragedy and human toll that the Fukushima disaster has enacted on nearly 100,000 people in Japan. You cannot put those impacts in dollar terms, but they are very real."[13]

Some ugly victim-blaming is emerging. Nuclear apologist Leslie Corrice says evacuees "don't want to go home because being a Fukushima evacuee is a serious money-making life-style, and they don't want to lose their lucrative income."[14] Likewise, an official from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said some people don't want to return to their former homes because they don't want the compensation money from TEPCO to end. A single mother evacuated from near Kawauchi responded to the official's statement: "There's no jobs, no shops open, nothing. It's become an incredibly difficult place to live and yet they're saying 'You can go home now'. ... It's so unfair to say that. It's not that simple."[12]

[1] 21 Oct 2013, 'IAEA Expert Remediation Mission to Japan Issues Preliminary Report',
[2] Reuters, 25 July 2011, 'Fukushima cleanup going well, according to UN atomic watchdog',
[4] AFP, 10 Oct 2013, 'Fukushima decontamination insufficient: Greenpeace',
[5] 11 Sept 2013,
[6] Japan News, 14 Sept 2013
[7] 11 Sept 2013, 'Ministry angers residents by pushing back Fukushima cleanup',
[8] BBC, 21 Oct 2013,
[9] 11 Sept 2013, 'Ministry angers residents by pushing back Fukushima cleanup',
[10] 12 Nov 2013, 'Fukushima evacuees express anger, resignation at government policy shift',
[11] 4 Nov 2013, 'Debate begins for governments over Ishiba's no-return remark',
[12] Sophie Knight, 14 Aug 2013, 'Insight: Japan's nuclear clean-up: costly, complex and at risk of failing',
[13] David Biello, 'The Nuclear Odyssey of Naoto Kan, Japan's Prime Minister during Fukushima',
[14] 30 Oct 2013, 'The Business of Being a Fukushima Refugee',

More information on the plight of evacuees:


(Written by Nuclear Monitor editor Jim Green.)

The 2020 Olympics, Fukushima and Trust − M.V. Ramana

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
M.V. Ramana − Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, USA.

The recent leaks from the Fukushima nuclear plant demonstrate that the accident that started on 11 March 2011 is by no means over.

When the announcement about Tokyo being selected for the 2020 Olympics came – after the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a strong pitch to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – one of my acquaintances on Facebook reacted with a three-letter acronym that is not used in polite language (Hint: the third letter corresponds to a four-letter word that starts as "Fukushima" does!) What else can one say to the kind of assurances that Prime Minister Abe had offered to the IOC. Witness, for example, his answers to questions by Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg about the recent leaks in Fukushima as well as the 2011 accident. According to Yahoo News, Prime Minister Abe said (in Japanese, of course): "It poses no problem whatsoever. ... There are no health-related problems until now, nor will there be in the future. ... I make the statement to you in the most emphatic and unequivocal way."

This is problematic on so many levels. First, there is little doubt that there will be some health-related problems in the future, for the simple reason that any exposure to radiation comes with an increased probability of developing cancer and similar endpoints. Based on a "comprehensive review of the biology data", the United States National Research Council's Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR Committee) concluded that "the risk would continue in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans".

Estimates of cancer mortality based on early estimates of radiation exposure suggest that there would be something of the order of a thousand victims over the next few decades. Still more would suffer from cancer but are expected to recover due to modern treatment methods. By most standards, cancer incidence, even if successfully treated, should count as a "health-related problem".

Second, the recent spate of leaks at Fukushima demonstrates that the accident that started on 11 March 2011 is by no means over. While the probability of a further large-scale release of radioactivity into the atmosphere has receded, the continued escape of radioactive materials into the soil and the sea means that Fukushima will pose additional hazards to human and marine health. The continued releases also mean that estimates made so far of the likely long-term total health and environmental effects of Fukushima are necessarily incomplete, even if future contributions to the total radiation dose may not – or may – add significantly to the already incurred dose.

Third, it is still unclear whether the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), or the Japanese government, will be able to stop these leaks anytime soon. If the Fukushima reactors had only a few leaks, then it is possible that the problem could be ended if and when they are sealed. However, the plant currently is, in the words of a recent visitor to the site, "like Swiss cheese", i.e., full of holes. And the problem has been ongoing for a while now. The reason for the sudden intervention by the Japanese government, as Jeff Kingston from Temple University in Japan observed, was essentially due to the concern that alarm about Fukushima imperilled Tokyo's Olympic bid as well as Prime Minister Abe's plans to quickly restart nuclear reactors.

It is also unclear how effective the proposed solutions, such as building a frozen wall at the cost of US$470 million, will be over the long term. Not only is the frozen-wall strategy untested on the scale that is being contemplated, it would be vulnerable to loss of power and possibly earthquakes. It is difficult to believe that this complicated scheme would successfully prevent any radioactive materials from ever contaminating the sea, sooner or later. Assessments of the time scale – before the Olympics – for bringing the Fukushima reactors "under control" are likely to be inaccurate.

Fourth, trying to control a hazardous technology such as nuclear power is always linked to the possibility of failures and errors, and events going disastrously wrong. TEPCO's problems offer further evidence for what sociologists like Lee Clarke have argued: often plans for dealing with accidents and emergencies might look good on paper, but could well prove inadequate in the face of an actual accident.

Finally, there is the question of trust. On nuclear issues, there is widespread distrust of Japanese officials, belonging to the nuclear establishment or the government, in that country. A recent poll by the Asahi Shimbun showed that 94% of Japanese believe that the Fukushima accident has not been brought under control. Prime Minister Abe's strong claims about there being no problems at Fukushima, and his emphatic reassurances that there are no health effects only increase the levels of distrust. Regaining that trust is going to take both full transparency and openness as well as a complete overhaul of Japan's "nuclear village". There is little evidence of either of these happening anytime soon.

Reprinted from Economic & Political Weekly, Vol.XLVIII, No.40, 5 October 2013

Fukushima "under control"?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on September 7 that the Fukushima situation − in particular the leakage of contaminated water from holding tanks and the constant flow of contaminated groundwater − was "under control".

A survey by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that 76% of Japanese do not believe the Prime Minister contention that the radioactive water problem is under control.[21]

Senior TEPCO official Kazuhiko Yamashita said the water leaks were not under control. "We regard the current situation as not being under control," he said. "Predictable risks are under control, but what cannot be predicted is happening."[1,2]

Shunichi Tanaka, chair of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), said on September 6 that TEPCO "has not been properly disclosing the situation about the contamination and the levels of contamination." He added: "This has caused confusion domestically and internationally. Because of that, the Japanese government has a sense of crisis and I, personally, feel a little angry about it."[3]

The NRA itself came under criticism on September 30 from a group of intellectuals studying the Fukushima crisis and participating in a review of the NRA's first year of operation.[28] Shuya Nomura, a lawyer who served on a Diet panel that investigated the Fukushima accident, criticised the NRA for its handling of the radioactive water leaks, saying NRA members should go to the plant instead of demanding explanations from TEPCO. Others pressed for reforms of the NRA Secretariat, which is staffed mostly by personnel from the previous, discredited regulator. NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka said he feels the organisation has been given a mandate bigger than its capacity, but that NRA members will try to improve.

Speaking in Tokyo on September 24, Gregory Jaczko, the former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, expressed befuddlement that the issue of contaminated water has only recently come under the spotlight. "This was known from the beginning that there would potentially be these contamination problems," he said. Jaczko said he hopes Japan pours its resources and energy into coming up with ways to function without atomic power: "I think the Japanese people have the ability to do that."[29]

Hiroaki Koide, an associate professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, said: "I was flabbergasted by Abe's speech. The problem of contaminated water is far from being solved. This problem has been going on all the time since the reactors were destroyed. Contaminated water has been leaking into the ocean ever since."[4] Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical doctor who chaired the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission last year, said: "Japan is clearly living in denial ... Water keeps building up inside the plant, and debris keeps piling up outside of it."[24]

The situation in Fukushima "has never done or will do any damage to Tokyo," the Prime Minister said. But radioactive fallout and contaminated food and water are problems that have been felt in Tokyo and beyond. The Mayor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, publicly denounced the Prime Minister by saying that the problem of contaminated water leaks was "not necessarily under control" and that: "The government must acknowledge this as a national problem so that we can head toward a real solution."[5]

On October 3, TEPCO announced another leak − this time 430 litres of contaminated water spilt from a tank. TEPCO said the "contaminated water may well have flowed into the sea". On October 4, TEPCO announced yet another problem with its water treatment plant − known as the Advanced Liquid Processing System − resulting in its temporary shut down. The stoppage came just four days after TEPCO got the system up and running after a breakdown when a piece of plastic clogged the machine.[18]

Then on October 6, the NRA announced that pumps used to inject water to cool damaged reactors at Fukushima were hit by a power failure, but a backup system kicked in immediately. A worker conducting system inspections mistakenly pushed a button turning off power to some of the systems in the four reactor buildings.[22] Earlier this year, TEPCO lost power to cool spent fuel rods at Fukushima after a rat tripped an electrical wire.

On October 4, NRA secretary general Katsuhiko Ikeda berated TEPCO over "the inappropriate management of contaminated water", saying the "problems have been caused by a lack of basic checks." He added: "I can't help but say that standards of on-site management are extremely low at Fukushima Daiichi. ... That these leaks occurred due to human error is very regrettable. ... The failure to make rudimentary checks reflects a clear deterioration in the ability to manage the site." Ikeda said the problems at Fukushima raised serious questions about TEPCO's ability to operate its other nuclear plants, like the huge Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant that TEPCO wants to restart.[18,19]

Prime Minister Abe said: "The contaminated water has been contained in an area of the harbour only 0.3 square kilometres big." No it hasn't. There is routine release of contaminated water, in part because the barrier between the 'contained' area and the ocean has openings so it can withstand waves and tidal movements.[6] On July 10, the NRA said it "highly suspected" that the Fukushima plant was leaking contaminated water into the ocean, and TEPCO acknowledged that fact on July 22.[7,8]

US experts urged Japanese authorities to take immediate steps to prevent groundwater contamination two years ago, but their advice was ignored. TEPCO reportedly lobbied against the proposed construction of a barrier – a measure that will now be taken with government funding – because of the high cost.[1]

Princess Takamado – daughter-in-law of the Japanese Emperor – told the IOC: "The Olympic bid has given the young people in the area affected something to dream for, the motivation to move forward with courage ... I know one of the IOC's most important aspects is the legacy a Games leaves. The IOC will certainly remain in the heart of these young people."[9]

Princess Takamado did not explain how newly-built sports stadiums in Tokyo would improve the lives of young people in Fukushima Prefecture, or the lives of the 160,000 evacuees from the nuclear disaster who remain dislocated.

The Prime Minister has contradicted his own statements about Fukushima being "under control" by calling for more foreign assistance dealing with water management and other problems.[23] "My country needs your knowledge and expertise," Abe said on October 6. "We are wide open to receive the most advanced knowledge from overseas to contain the problem."

Former Liberal Democratic Party Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has made a public about-face from his previous embrace of atomic power. In a speech to business executives on October 1, Koizumi said: "There is nothing more costly than nuclear power. Japan should achieve zero nuclear plants and aim for a more sustainable society."[25] He urged the LDP to adopt a no-nukes policy: "We should aim to be nuclear-free. If the Liberal Democratic Party were to adopt a zero-nuclear policy, then we'd see a groundswell of support for getting rid of nuclear energy."[26] A small group of currently-serving LDP politicians is arguing against reactor restarts and calling for improvements in the management of the Fukushima site.[27]

Namie Resolution

The town assembly of nuclear disaster-hit Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, passed a resolution against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on September 20 for declaring the situation "under control." The Namie Town Assembly unanimously passed the resolution stating that there is a "serious problem" with Abe's remarks as they "contradict reality." The resolution states: "The situation has never been 'under control,' nor is the contaminated water 'completely blocked."[9,11]

Regarding Abe's claim that "there are no health-related problems until now, nor will there be in the future," the Namie resolution pointed out that there had been 1,459 deaths related to the triple disasters in Fukushima Prefecture thus far. "We can't help but feel resentment against the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., both of which are disregarding Fukushima Prefecture," the resolution states.

Contaminated fish

Prime Minister Abe's comments to the IOC are contradicted by contaminated fish. Radioactivity levels have been dropping but contaminated fish exceeding safety limits are still being detected.[12,20]

Toshimitsu Konno, a fisherman in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, responded to the Prime Minister's comments to the IOC meeting: "He must be kidding. We have been tormented by radioactive water precisely because the nuclear plant has not been brought under control."[13]

As the string of scandals surrounding contaminated water unfolded, South Korea greatly expanded bans on fish imports on September 6. A ban on fish imports from Fukushima Prefecture was extended to a further seven prefectures.[14]

South Korean fisheries vice-minister Son Jae-hak said that Japanese authorities had failed to provide timely and detailed information about the water leaks and that the ban would stay in place indefinitely. The fisheries ministry said the ban was necessary "as the government concluded that it is unclear how the incident in Japan will progress in the future and that the information the Japanese government has provided so far is not enough to predict future developments".[15] Among other countries, the US, China, Taiwan and Russia also have fish import bans in place.[16,17]

[1] Justin McCurry, 19 Sept 2013, 'Future of Japan depends on stopping Fukushima leaks, PM tells workers',
[2] TEPCO official denies Abe's claim that nuclear crisis is 'under control', 13 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun,
[3] Reuters, 'Fukushima operator slammed', 6 Sept 2013,
[4] AFP, 'Fukushima far from solved, say Abe's Games critics', 10 Sept 2013,
[5] 'Tokyo mayor claims Japan PM lied about Fukushima',
[6] Reiji Yoshida, 10 Sept 2013, 'Abe's assurance to IOC on nuclear plant called into question', The Japan Times,
[9] Peter Lee, 27-29 Sept 2013, 'Did Japan Lie Its Way Into the Olympics?',
[11] 'Namie town assembly protests PM Abe's 'under control' comment', 21 Sept 2013,
[12] 'Radioactive cesium levels drop in Fukushima fish, but strontium remains a mystery', 25 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun,
[13] 'Doubt cast on Abe's assurance to IOC about Fukushima leaks', 10 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun,
[14] John Hofilena, 30 Sept 2013, 'South Korean minister calls Japan 'immoral' for covering up Fukushima leaks',
[15] Justin McCurry, 7 Sept 2013, 'South Korea bans fish imports from Japan's Fukushima region', The Guardian,
[16] 'Int'l probe can address distrust in Japan's handling of Fukushima situation', 28 Sept 2013,
[17] 'Ban on Japanese fish remains in place due to Fukushima accident', 20 Sept 2013,
[18] Shingo Ito, AFP, 4 Oct 2013, 'Japan nuclear regulator berates Fukushima operator',
[19] Martin Fackler, 4 Oct 2013, 'Company Is Scolded for Mistakes at Fukushima', New York Times,
[20] Alex Roslin, 2 Oct 2013, 'Cancer risk linked to radiation levels in fish species after Fukushima',
[21] Asahi Shimbun, 7 Oct 013,
[22] 'Fukushima worker accidentally switches off cooling pumps', 7 Oct 2013,
[23] 'Japan PM seeks overseas help on Fukushima nuclear plant', 6 Oct 2013,
[24] Martin Fackler, 15 Sept 2013, 'Fukushima disaster deepens with new errors'
[25] Martin Fackler, 2 Oct 2013, 'Former Japanese Leader Declares Opposition to Nuclear Power',
[26] George Nishiyama, 2 Oct 2013, 'Fukushima Watch: Popular Ex-PM Koizumi Comes Out Against Nukes',
[27] Asahi Shimbun, 5 Oct 2013, 'Even in Abe's LDP, anti-nuclear sentiment hard to quell',
[28] NHK World, 1 Oct 2013, 'Nuclear regulator criticized for 'red tape' job', 
[29] Kazuaki Nagata, 24 Sept 2013, 'Ex-top U.S. nuclear regulator counsels end to atomic power'

(Written by Nuclear Monitor editor Jim Green.)


TEPCO continues to pay pro-nuclear village
TEPCO donated tens of millions of yen to a pro-nuclear village government in August despite promising to abolish such payouts to accelerate compensation for victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. TEPCO and Tohoku Electric Power Co. paid a combined 200 million yen (US$2 million) to Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.

"The payment is associated with construction of a nuclear plant, and we believe it is different from a donation," a TEPCO official said. The industry ministry, however, said the payment is "close to a donation."

Masaru Kaneko, a professor of public finance at Keio University, said the government should do something to end such actions by TEPCO: "The provision of this sort of money is abnormal, given that compensation for nuclear disaster victims and containment of contaminated water have stalled and that further hikes in electricity rates have been mentioned."

In May 2012, TEPCO said it would stop making donations to local governments. When TEPCO applied to increase its electricity rates in 2012, the company included the payment to Rokkasho into power generation and other costs used as a basis for calculating the rates. However, the industry ministry refused to include the payment in such costs, saying "it is not essential to supply electricity and is, therefore, close to a donation."

Satoshi Otani, 4 Oct 2013, 'As Fukushima compensation stalls, TEPCO continues to pay pro-nuclear village',



Is Fukushima the new normal for nuclear reactors?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Benjamin Sovacool − Director, Centre for Energy Technologies, AU-Herning at Aarhus University; Associate Professor, Vermont Law School

The new crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan saw radioactive water leak again from the crippled facility, raising fears that groundwater flowing into the Pacific Ocean could be contaminated.[1] The Japanese government also raised the international incident level – the scale used to assess nuclear accidents – from one to three out of seven. The original nuclear meltdown following the 2011 Japanese earthquake was scaled seven.

Even if Fukushima was ultimately caused by the 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, accidents such as this beg the question: can nuclear energy ever be truly safe? There are three reasons to think that nuclear accidents are common, and could increase – and it's not because of the technology. Let's have a look at the evidence.

Lessons from history

In the early 1980s, Yale sociologist Charles Perrow argued that the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island was a "normal accident".[2] The crux of his argument was that complicated technological systems have unavoidable problems that can't be designed around.

Perrow's argument − still relevant today − rested on three pillars. First, people are fallible, even at nuclear reactors. Operator error is still a very common factor in incidents and accidents.

Second, big accidents almost always have very small beginnings. Nuclear power plants are so complex that relatively simple things — shirt tails, fuses, light bulbs, mice, cats, and candles — can disrupt the entire system.

And finally, many failures are those of organisations more than technology. Given the right event, all these factors can lead to system-wide failure. Perrow concludes that such high-tech, dangerous systems are hopeless and should be abandoned, as the inevitable risks of failure outweigh any conceivable benefits.

Nuclear reactors do have inherent advantages over fossil fuels, but Perrow's argument raises serious questions about nuclear safety.

Never-ending accidents

Even so, Perrow was writing in the 1980s. Surely things have improved since then? Well, perhaps not.

If you consider the full range of incidents and accidents reported on the International Nuclear Event Scale [3], there have been hundreds of events over the past few decades. One peer-reviewed study identified 105 nuclear accidents totalling U$176.9 billion in damages and 4,231 fatalities worldwide from 1952 to 2011.[4] The International Atomic Energy Agency also reports no less than 2,400 separate incidents since the organisation began collecting data in the 1950s.

Most of these incidents involved no major releases of radiation or fatalities. But three emerging trends still cause reason for grave concern.

First, major modern nuclear power accidents are no longer one-off events. Instead, they can span years or even decades, creating a sort of "continuous accident".

The infamous Chernobyl nuclear power accident may have started on April 25 1986, but it continued into the early 1990s. Secrecy, further accidents, and wildfires in the exclusion zone meant that exposure to dangerous levels of radiation weren't controlled immediately.

We can see this same "continuous" trend with the accident at Fukushima. The triple meltdown itself at Fukushima in March 2011 was just the beginning.

In March 2013 a power outage left four underground spent fuel pools without fresh cooling water for several hours. The same month, it surfaced that a TEPCO crew laying down rat-proof netting caused another outage. In April 2013 regulators discovered that thousands of gallons of radioactive water had seeped into the ground from a leaking system of plastic sheeting.

In May, a fire broke out near Fukushima Unit 3 — ostensibly caused by cardboard boxes catching flame. And most recently in August 2013, regulators announced that 300 tons of radioactive water was found leaking from storage tanks.

New designs, new problems

There is some evidence that newer reactor designs and systems are more prone to accidents. Dennis Berry, Director Emeritus of Sandia National Laboratories, explains that the problem with new reactors and accidents is twofold: scenarios arise that are impossible to plan for in simulations, and people make mistakes.[5] As he put it: "Fabrication, construction, operation, and maintenance of new reactors will face a steep learning curve: advanced technologies will have a heightened risk of accidents and mistakes. The technology may be proven, but people are not."

Former nuclear engineer David Lochbaum has noted that almost all serious nu­clear accidents have occurred when operators have little experience with a plant.[6] This makes new systems incredibly risky.

Lochbaum cites numerous historical examples of nuclear reactor accidents, including Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, which suffered accidents immediately or soon after opening. Only Fukushima seems to have defied the trend; it was opened in 1971 and continued operating until the 2011 earthquake.

Electric pressure

The third problem is electric market restructuring. This puts more pressure on nuclear operators to keep costs low, potentially compromising safety.

The problem is, as former Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Peter Bradford states, "nuclear energy can be cheap, or it can be safe. But it can't be both."[7] And even then, "there's always the possibility somebody will cut a corner".[8]

For example, the pressure to build new generators on existing sites to avoid finding new locations can increase the risk of catastrophe, since there is a greater chance that one accident can affect multiple reactors.

Nuclear waste storage is also becoming more dangerous, with many spent fuel pools packed with more fuel rods to keep costs low, making them hotter and denser.[9] Operators have to add boron to water pool to absorb neutrons, increasing the risk of chain reaction, or criticality, accidents.

The industry has also been trying to tinker with reactor sizes and promote designs that operators have little experience with, making operator training a factor. Some of these new reactor designs use more fuel and create more heat, meaning they have bigger cores containing larger quantities of dangerous fissionable materials, increasing the magnitude of any accident that could occur.

These factors are worrying (to say the least) given the severity of what a single, serious accident can do. Too bad it seems a matter of when, not if, we will see more of them in the future.


Fukushima leaks, lies, cover-ups, Whac-A-Mole

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

A huge storage tank from which about 300 tons of highly radioactive water leaked at Fukushima may have deteriorated as a result of being moved and reassembled, TEPCO says. The tank was first installed at a different location in June 2011 but, after its foundation was found to have cracked after the tank sank in the ground, it was dismantled and reassembled at its current location where the leak occurred.[1,2]

The leak was rated Level 3 on the International Nuclear Events Scale by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) − making it the most serious incident since the March 2011 disaster in the NRA's view. Level 3 can be assigned when there is "severe contamination in an area not expected by design, with a low probability of significant public exposure."

Between July 2012 and June 2013, the NRA made recommendations or issued instructions around 10 times to increase patrols and to install more observation cameras and water gauges, among other measures. TEPCO only upped its patrols from once a day to twice a day, and installed more cameras while still leaving blind spots. Since the revelation of the 300-ton leak, TEPCO has said it will increase patrol staff from 10 to 60 people, boost the number of daily patrols to four, and install water gauges in the tanks.[3]

Previously, TEPCO assigned only two workers to inspect 1,000 water tanks, during twice-daily patrols of two hours each. That meant that each worker took only 15 seconds to inspect each tank, and radiation levels were not measured unless a worker suspected something was wrong. Although workers sometimes saw puddles of water, they generally assumed that they were rainwater, which tends to collect near the bases of the tanks.[4,5]

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi visited Fukushima on August 26 and said: "The major problem lies in that TEPCO failed to manage the tanks properly. ... The urgency of the situation is very high, from here on the government will take charge."[6] He said TEPCO "has been playing a game of Whac-a-Mole with problems at the site."[7]

More than 300,000 tons of contaminated water are being stored at the Fukushima plant, in around 1,000 tanks, with around 400 tons being added every day as water is still being used to cool reactors.

In early September, TEPCO said workers had discovered high levels of radioactivity on three tanks and one pipe. One reading was 1,800 millisieverts per hour (compared to typical background radiation levels of 2−3 millisieverts per year) and another reading was 2,200 millisieverts per hour. It is believed that at least five of the tanks holding contaminated water may have leaked. Officials said that water levels have not dropped in any of the five tanks (whereas the 300-ton leak markedly reduced the level). The tanks were constructed by bolting together sheets of metal, rather than welding them. Welded tanks are more secure but TEPCO chose the bolted type because they are cheaper and faster to construct.[4,10,11,28]

A subcontractor who worked on constructing the tanks said workers were concerned about the integrity of the tanks even as they were constructing them: "We were required to build tanks in succession. We gave priority to making the tanks, rather than quality control. There were fears that toxic water may leak." The life-span of the tanks is only around five years, the subcontractors added, and more contaminated water may leak as they deteriorate.[12,13]

The head of the NRA, Shinichi Tanaka, said there may be no choice but to pump radioactive water from tanks − which are nearing capacity − into the sea but most of the contamination would first be removed. "The situation at Fukushima is changing every day," he said. "Fukushima Daiichi has various risks. The accident has yet to be settled down."[8,9]

Meanwhile, the NRA is urging TEPCO to increase monitoring of seawater to better assess the effects on ocean water as well as fish and other marine life. Shunichi Tanaka said TEPCO's efforts to monitor oceanic radiation levels have been insufficient.[14]

Fishers south of Fukushima Daiichi have not been able to fish commercially since the disaster, while those north of the plant can catch only octopus and whelks. They planned a trial catch in the hope that radiation levels would be low enough to begin sales soon after − but that plan has been aborted in the wake of the recent spills and leaks. Hiroshi Kishi, chair of the Japan Fisheries Co-operative, said: "This has dealt an immeasurable blow to the future of Japan's fishing industry, and we are extremely concerned." Nobuyuki Hatta, director of the Fukushima Prefecture Fisheries Research Centre, said: "People in the fishing business have no choice but to give up. Many have mostly given up already."[15,16,17]


In addition to problems with water tanks, there are ongoing problems with contaminated water in, around and beneath the reactor buildings. On July 10, the NRA announced it "highly suspected" that the plant was leaking contaminated water into the ocean. TEPCO didn't acknowledge what was happening until July 22; a month after initial suspicions were raised.[18,19] The NRA's Shunichi Tanaka said he believed contamination of the sea had been continuing since the March 2011 catastrophe.[20]

In response to the July revelations, Dale Klein, a member of TEPCO's Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee and former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told TEPCO: "It ... appears that you are not keeping the people of Japan informed. These actions indicate that you don't know what you are doing ... you do not have a plan and that you are not doing all you can to protect the environment and the people." [21]

Barbara Judge, a member of the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee and former chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said she was "disappointed and distressed" over the company's lack of disclosure: "I hope that there will be lessons learned from the mishandling of this issue and the next time an issue arises − which inevitably it will because decommissioning is a complicated and difficult process − that the public will be immediately informed about the situation and what TEPCO is planning to do in order to remedy it."[21]

Atsushi Kasai, a former researcher at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, said: "They let people know about the good things and hide the bad things. This culture of cover up hasn't changed since the disaster."[22]

Journalist Mark Willacy described the recurring pattern: "At first TEPCO denies there's a problem at the crippled Fukushima plant. Then it becomes obvious to everyone that there is a problem, so the company then acknowledges the problem and makes it public. And finally one of its hapless officials is sent out to apologise to the cameras."[23]

Still more problems surfaced in August. Three months earlier, TEPCO realised that contaminants apparently leaking from a maze of conduits near the reactors were responsible for a spike in radiation levels in groundwater elsewhere in the plant. TEPCO began to build an underground "wall" created by injected hardening chemicals into the soil but the barrier created a dam and water pooled behind it eventually began to flow over. In August, government officials said they believed 300 tons of the contaminated water was entering the ocean daily.[24] Shinji Kinjo, head of an taskforce, described the situation as an "emergency" and said the discharges exceeded legal limits of radioactivity.[25]

In early September, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government would allocate 47 billion yen (US$470 million) towards dealing with the contaminated water problems, including funding for a massive underground wall of frozen earth around the damaged reactors to contain groundwater flows, and funding to improve a water treatment system meant to reduce radiation levels in the contaminated water.[26]

Mayors from Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka, and Naraha have joined Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato in formally demanding the decommissioning of all 10 nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture, not just those that were damaged in the 2011 nuclear disaster.[27]

Reactor #3 at Kansai Electric's Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture has been taken offline for routine maintenance, leaving just one reactor operating in all of Japan: reactor #4 at the same facility. That reactor will go offline on September 15. For the first time in 14 months and only the second time since 1966, Japan will be entirely nuclear free.


Fukushima Tourism Proposal
A group of authors, scholars, academics and architects has put forward a proposal for a new community on the edge of the Fukushima exclusion zone. Tourists would be able to check into hotels constructed to protect guests from elevated levels of radiation. The village would also have restaurants and souvenir shops, as well as a museum dedicated to the impact the disaster has had on local people. Visitors would be taken on a tour of "ground zero" dressed in protective suits and wearing respirators. The group said they got the idea from the growth in so-called "dark tourism" such as Ground Zero in New York or the "killing fields" of Cambodia.
− Julian Ryall, 19 August 2013, The Telegraph,



Fukushima Fallout: Updates from Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

UN Special Rapporteur's report
In November 2012, the UN Human Rights Council sent Special Rapporteur Anand Grover to Japan to assess the situation in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Grover's report is highly critical of both TEPCO and the Japanese government. For example:

  • It says that by nationalising TEPCO, the government "arguably helped TEPCO to effectively avoid accountability and liability for damages" from the nuclear crisis.
  • It criticises TEPCO for its "attempts to reduce compensation levels and delay settlement" through a complicated and difficult compensation process, as well as failure to protect workers from radiation exposure.
  • It criticises the government for failing to protect children, the elderly, and those with disabilities from the disaster, as well as inadequate use of the country's System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information, which led to some residents being evacuated to areas directly in the path of the radiation plume in the days following the March 11 disaster.

The report urges Japan to avoid repopulating contaminated areas until radiation levels reach one millisievert per year. It stresses that epidemiological experts "conclude that there is no low-threshold limit for excess radiation risk to non-solid cancers, such as leukemia." Currently, Japan allows residents to return to their homes when radiation levels reach 20 millisieverts per year.

Japanese government officials were more concerned about the economic implications of a massive evacuation and the costs of compensating victims after the Fukushima disaster than they were about residents' safety, according to a new exposé by the Asahi Shimbun. Records from government meetings conducted in December 2011, during which attendees were trying to decide the radiation level at which residents could safely return to their homes, show that then Nuclear Crisis Minister Goshi Hosono fought to establish the annual radiation level at which residents could safely return at five millisieverts. However, other attendees insisted on a 20 millisievert per year limit.

UN Special Rapporteur's report:
Beyond Nuclear analysis, 'Can nuclear power ever comply with the human right to health?',
Asahi Shimbun, 25 May 2013, 'Strict radiation reference levels shunned to stem Fukushima exodus'
Asahi Shimbun, 26 May 2013, 'U.N. expert urges help for Japan's nuclear victims'
Greenpeace Nuclear Reaction Weblog, Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update for May 23rd to May 28th, 2013,

Decontamination and waste disposal
Despite public promises by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to complete decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture by March 2014, which would reduce radiation exposure levels there to one millisievert per year or less, Japan's government recently informed municipal officials that they will likely not meet their stated deadline as a result of local opposition to hosting nuclear waste storage sites. Officially, the government is still denying any change to the timeline. Japan's decontamination schedule is already far behind schedule − cleanup efforts have not even begun in five of 11 municipalities that have been declared evacuation zones. Moreover, the Environment Ministry has told local officials that areas that have already been decontaminated but where radiation levels remain high will not be decontaminated again, raising questions about if or when residents will ever be able to safely return.

Asahi Shimbun, 16 June 2013, 'Government secretly backtracks on Fukushima decontamination goal',
Greenpeace Nuclear Reaction Weblog − Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update for June 14th to June 17th, 2013,

Legal claims and compensation payments
TEPCO's legal troubles continue to mount as yet another group filed suit against it. Family members of hospital patients and elderly nursing home residents who died in the process of evacuation, or because staff were unavailable to care for them, are suing the utility for approximately US$300,000 each. The families say that they care less about collecting damages and more about learning the root causes of the Fukushima disaster. However, the case could have far-reaching legal implications for TEPCO if it is decided in favour of the plaintiffs. More than 200 people were stuck in hospitals and nursing facilities following the nuclear accident, and 50 of those died. (NHK World; Greenpeace Nuclear Reaction Weblog, Fukushima Update 7−10 June 2013)

In late May, the Namie municipal government announced that it will sue TEPCO on behalf of over 11,000 residents for psychological suffering. Although TEPCO is already paying victims 1,000 yen per month, Namie officials want to increase that amount to 3,500 yen. (The Mainichi, 3 June 2013, 'Fukushima village residents to receive new compensation over mental damage')

The Japanese government is now considering suing TEPCO. So far, the government has paid 16.5 billion yen (US$169 million) in decontamination costs. Japanese law requires that the government pay those costs initially, and then be reimbursed by the utility. More than two and half years after the nuclear disaster first began, however, TEPCO has not paid any of the costs. (Kyodo News, 1 June 2013, 'Gov't eyes suing TEPCO over unpaid decontamination costs')

TEPCO is again under fire for failure to pay adequate compensation to Fukushima prefectural and local governments that were forced to cover costs of damage, decontamination, evacuation, and other losses. As of April 30, claims total 46.64 billion yen (US$478 million), with further claims expected, but TEPCO has only paid 5.2 billion yen (US$50 million). Some local leaders are threatening to sue, complaining that the utility has been unresponsive to their repeated requests for payment. "No matter what we say, we get no reply," said Takanori Seto, the mayor of Fukushima City. "We'll file a lawsuit." (Japan News, 18 June 2013, 'TEPCO slow to pay Fukushima governments' compensation')

Japan's Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center has made two judgments that could have significant impact on TEPCO's obligations. In the first case, the Center ruled that TEPCO must pay a group of 180 residents from the Nagadoro District of Iitate 500,000 yen (around US$5,000) for emotional distress from high levels of radiation exposure. Pregnant women and children under 18 at the time of the accident were awarded one million yen each. People from that area were not told to evacuate until a month after the nuclear crisis first began to unfold, increasing their radiation exposure. Experts say that the case is sure to encourage other municipalities in similar circumstances to follow suit. (Asahi Shimbun, 3 June 2013, 'Consolation money to place additional financial burden on TEPCO')

In the second case, TEPCO agreed to compensate to the family of a farmer from Sukagawa, who committed suicide after learning that he would be forced to stop selling cabbage from his organic farm. He had worked on the farm for 30 years. TEPCO eventually agreed to pay over 10 million yen (US$100,000) after the Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center intervened. Company officials continue to refuse to apologise to the man's family. (The Mainichi, 3 June 2013, 'Fukushima family, TEPCO reach redress deal over farmer's suicide')

Fukushima films
A number of independent films have been produced recounting personal stories from Japan's March 2011 triple-disaster and its aftermath. These websites provide more information:

  • Nuclear Nation:
  • Surviving Japan:
  • Pray for Japan:
  • Ian Thomas Ash:
  • The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom:
  • The Land of Hope (trailer):
  • Himizu:
  • Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape:
  • Kalina's Apple, Forest of Chernobyl:

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Spain: Garoña plant closer to definitive end?
The nuclear power plant of Garoña (Burgos), the oldest of the Spanish nuclear plants, is a hostage of its owner Enterprise Nuclenor (itself owned by the large enterprises ENDESA and Iberdrola). Garoña, whose reactor is identical to Fukushima Daiichi reactor #1, has been used by the Spanish nuclear lobby to press on the Government.

The first part of this struggle, until December 2012, was public and Nuclenor used Garoña to try to stop the new Law on Fiscal Measures that introduced a tax on the spent fuel of Spanish nuclear power plants. The amount of this tax could be of the order of 1.6 euro-cents per kWh. As it was ordered by the European Commission, the tax was not modified and therefore Nuclenor decided to stop the plant and to put all the uranium into the spent fuel pool on 28 December 2012. So Garoña is now stopped with all the fuel in the pool.

The second part of the argument has been hidden and the citizens have had no information on the discussions. We know that the Industry Minister is preparing a new law covering the electricity sector but we do not know if any of the proposals of the large Spanish electrical enterprises will be taken into account. It is clear, nevertheless, that something has happened since Nuclenor surprisingly asked the Minister to keep Garoña 'frozen' for one more year, thus allowing for the possibility of restarting the plant.

This happened on May 24, only one month and ten days before the definitive closure of Garoña. Minister Soria decided to pass the request directly to the Spanish Regulator, the Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear (CSN). The CSN was heavily pressured by the nuclear lobby and approved an extension of Garoña's licence for one year. Three CSN members voted for the extension, two voted against.

This has damaged CSN's reputation, since it appears as a puppet that is able to approve a request in a very short time under pressure from the nuclear enterprises. Moreover, the CSN gave a new type of authorisation to keep the plant in its present status, with the fuel in the pool, but without starting the decommissioning.

The main spokespeople from Iberdrola, ENDESA and Unesa have been making public declarations that Garoña cannot stop or the investments of these enterprises will move from Spain to other countries like the US if they are not guaranteed by the new law under preparation. The CSN appears ready to accept the schedule imposed by the nuclear lobby.

Once the CSN has given its permission, the Government has only to issue an Order that allows Nuclenor to ask for the prolongation of the life of Garoña. This should have been published before June 6, that is the last day to start studying the documents issued by the CSN to proceed to the definitive stop of Garoña. Strange things happened again, since the Government did not publish such an order! So the CSN sent the documents related to the closure of the plant. Only a very strange and scandalous legal manoeuvre by the Government could avoid the definitive closure of Garoña.

We have a strange contradictory feeling now. On one hand, we are happy since we are closer to the end of this dangerous nuclear plant. On the other hand we have seen how the nuclear lobby is able to modify Government decisions and to press strongly on the regulator. Meanwhile, the public has been excluded from the debate. We would like to start thinking of future development of the area without Garoña.

− Francisco Castejón, Ecologistas en Acción, Spain


UNSCEAR Fukushima propaganda
Since the last issue of the Monitor, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has published a media release, based on an as-yet unpublished report, trivialising the long-term cancer death toll from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. UNSCEAR states in its May 31 media release that: "It is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers."

That tells us nothing we didn't already know: epidemiological studies are unlikely to produce statistically-significant results given the high incidence of cancers in the general population. As discussed in Nuclear Monitor #758 (15 March 2013, available at, early estimates of the long-term cancer death toll range from 130 to 3,000.

The media release says that actions taken to protect the public (evacuation and sheltering) significantly reduced radiation exposures. Wolfgang Weiss from UNSCEAR said: "These measures reduced the potential exposure by up to a factor of 10. If that had not been the case, we might have seen the cancer rates rising and other health problems emerging over the next several decades." Weiss's statement falsely implies that cancer rates will not rise due to Fukushima fallout.

Carl-Magnus Larsson, chair of UNSCEAR, said: "Families are suffering, and people have been uprooted and are concerned about their livelihoods and futures, the health of their children ... it is these issues that will be the long-lasting fallout of the accident." Again, the implication seems to be that radiation exposure is not an issue. Larsson's statement is also an invitation to nuclear apologists and propagandists to trot out tired old lies about how the problem is not radiation itself but fear of radiation. Responding to the UNSCEAR media release, a World Nuclear News item was titled: 'Fear and Stress Outweigh Fukushima Radiation Risk'.

The UNSCEAR media release has still more to offer nuclear apologists and propagandists, noting that additional exposures received by most Japanese people from Fukushima fallout are less than the doses received from natural background radiation. That is certainly true, but UNSCEAR should note that radiation doses below background levels can cause cancer. A 2010 UNSCEAR report states that "even at low doses of radiation it is likely that there is a very small but non-zero chance of the production of DNA mutations that increase the risk of cancer developing. Thus, the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response for the mutational component of radiation-associated cancer induction at low doses and low dose rates."

The 31 May 2013 UNSCEAR media release is posted at
The 2010 UNSCEAR report is posted at
For useful background to UNSCEAR's latest jiggery-pokery, see Dr Ian Fairlie's 25 February 2013 web-post, 'UNSCEAR Attempt to Limit Collective Dose Assessments from Fukushima's Fallout', posted at


USA: San Onofre reactors permanently shut down
Both reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in California are being retired after a long battle. "We have concluded that the continuing uncertainty about when or if San Onofre might return to service was not good for our customers, our investors or the need to plan for our region's long-term electricity needs," said Ted Craver from Edison International - the parent company of San Onofre owners Southern California Edison (SCE).

In January 2012, a fault in one of two new steam generators installed as part of an uprate program of reactor #3 resulted in an automatic shut down when radioactive material was detected coming from a worn tube in the steam generator. Reactor #2 was kept off-line after a maintenance outage because it shares the same steam generator design and also suffered from tube wear and vibration issues to a lesser degree.

A review process by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, incomplete after eight months, will presumably be discontinued in light of the decision by Edison / SCE. The two reactors have licences to operate until 2022.

A well-organised local, state and national campaign fought against the restart of the reactors. Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth US, said: "This is very good news for the people of Southern California. We have long said that these reactors are too dangerous to operate and now Edison has agreed. The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with the safe and clean energy provided by the sun and the wind."

The two reactors — situated along the Pacific Coast in the densely populated corridor between San Diego and Los Angeles — are the largest to shut down permanently in the US in the past 50 years. San Onofre's two reactors are the third and fourth reactors to be retired so far this year in the US − Dominion shut its reactor in Wisconsin in May because of unfavourable economics, and Duke said in February that it would not restart Crystal River 3 because mechanical problems were too expensive to fix.

In other shut-downs over the years, the Shoreham plant in New York was completed in 1984 for US$6 billion but never opened because of community opposition. Decaying generator tubes helped push San Onofre's original reactor into retirement in 1992, even though it was designed to run until 2004. In 1993, the Trojan plant in Oregon was closed years earlier than planned because of cracks in steam tubes.

World Nuclear News, Regulatory delay closes San Onofre, 7 June 2013,
Timeline: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
Friends of the Earth to NRC: Operating San Onofre as a Nuclear Experiment Is Not an Option,
San Onofre insider says NRC should not allow nuclear restart,
San Onofre Nuclear Plant at the Brink,

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Fukushima Updates

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Ohi reactors
On April 16 a Japanese court rejected an application by Green Action and more than 260 people to have two Ohi (Oi) reactors shut down. Ohi reactors 3 and 4 are the only two reactors currently operating in Japan. They are operating without new safety measures designed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. There are active earthquake faults nearby. The court ruled that the reactors are safe until proven otherwise. It also ruled that there is no requirement to be able to shut down a reactor within the required time in the event of an accident/earthquake − even though Ohi received its licensing permit on the premise that it met this shut-down time limit. Green Action is appealing the court's verdict. (Green Action

Meanwhile, Japan's new Nuclear Regulation Authority has begun the process of assessing Ohi reactors #3 and #4. Kansai Electric insists that the plant does not require an anti-tsunami wall, and that there are no active faults beneath the facility. Seismic experts have disputed that statement.

More leaks, accidents and incidents
TEPCO has acknowledged more leaks of radioactive water at Fukushima, bringing the total number of leaks that have been discovered in April to at least five. The leaks have been found in holding tanks and in pipes connecting tanks. Some of the leaks are continuing because TEPCO has been unable to locate their source. TEPCO President Naomi Hirose held a press conference and apologised for the fiasco. He said that TEPCO is building more above-ground tanks and that all water would be transferred by the end of June. A total of 23,600 tons of water needs to be relocated.

World Nuclear News noted that levels of radioactivity in the leaked water were 6 MBq/l and 300 MBq/l − enough to be classified as intermediate-level radioactive waste in most countries.

In addition to the leaks, there have been multiple accidents and incidents in the past month including multiple power losses, radiation monitoring malfunctions, and accidental shutdown of a water decontamination system.

TEPCO has admitted that 14 workers dealing with radioactive water problems were working without dosimeters on April 6 − adding to the long and shameful history of employees and contractors working without dosimeters, or with dosimeters covered up, since the March 2011 triple-disaster.

Fish within 20 kms of the Fukushima plant have surpassed baseline measures of radioactivity, TEPCO said in its environmental monitoring report published April 12. One specimen tested near the port entrance to Fukushima Daiichi was 4,300-times more radioactive than what Japanese officials consider standard. (Greenpeace International 'Nuclear Reaction' weblog; World Nuclear News, 15 April; Bloomberg 15 April)

TEPCO refuses to pay decontaminations costs
Despite the fact that the Japanese government paid one trillion yen to keep TEPCO afloat, TEPCO officials are now refusing to reimburse the government's Environment Ministry for 10.5 billion yen in costs required to decontaminate areas around the Fukushima plant. The Ministry has already requested payment twice, but so far, TEPCO has refused to comply. Because the government did not specify any timelines in the legislation, no interest or fines can be levied against TEPCO for not paying, and if the utility refuses, those costs would be passed along to taxpayers. (Greenpeace International 'Nuclear Reaction' weblog)

IAEA investigation
A group of 12 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) undertook a week-long investigation the Fukushima Daiichi plant in mid-April. Juan Carlos Lentijo, head of the IAEA assessment team, said that decommissioning of the Fukushima reactors may exceed 40 years, far longer than TEPCO's projected timeline. "In my view, it will be near impossible to ensure the time for the decommissioning of such a complex facility in less than 30, 40 years, as is currently established in the roadmap," he said.

There is a long and unhappy history between the IAEA and Japan. There has been a revolving door between Japan's nuclear village and the IAEA. In 2009, a US cable released by WikiLeaks said that over the past decade, the IAEA's department of safety and security "suffered tremendously because of [deputy director general] Taniguchi's weak management and leadership skills." Taniguchi moved to the IAEA after decades working in the private- and public-sector arms of Japan's nuclear village. Another 2009 US cable said: "Taniguchi has been a weak manager and advocate, particularly with respect to confronting Japan's own safety practices, and he is a particular disappointment to the United States for his unloved-step-child treatment of the Office of Nuclear Security."

The IAEA carried out safety inspections at Fukushima in 1992 and at Chubu's Hamaoko plant in 1995, finding a total of 90 deficiencies in safety procedures including "weakness in emergency plan procedures", "insufficient event analysis on near-misses" and "lack of training for plant personnel on severe accident management". The IAEA was not invited to carry out any further safety inspections after 1995 and TEPCO and Chubu resisted the recommendations of the IAEA experts.

Koriyama legal action
Residents are pursuing legal action charging that children living in the town of Koriyama, 55 kms west of the Fukushima nuclear plant, should be evacuated in order to protect them from radiation. The town is home to 330,000 people. The case, originally filed in 2011 on behalf of the children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists, was rejected by a lower court and is now being heard by an appeals court − the Sendai High Court in Miyagi Prefecture. The number of children behind the original lawsuit has dwindled as families left the prefecture voluntarily or the children grew older. Annual radiation exposure in most areas of the town is below 20 millisieverts but there are more heavily contaminated hot spots. Plaintiffs argue that children should not be exposed to higher levels than international standards allow − 1 millisievert per year. (Greenpeace; Japan Daily Press; Associated Press)

Offshore wind turbines
The Environment Ministry of Japan will begin installing two floating offshore wind turbines this year as a way to help diversify the country's generation mix in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Post-Fukushima, Japan is spending approximately $100 million each day on liquid natural gas to replace offline reactors. The Japanese government will take incremental steps to prove the floating offshore turbine technology, testing three additional types of floating turbine technology. The best-performing turbine type may then be chosen to power a larger offshore wind farm − up to 1,000 MW − located off the Fukushima coastline. There are only two full-scale offshore wind projects in the world that feature floating wind turbines, in Norway and Portugal. (

Fukushima anniversary protests and vigils

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Fukushima second anniversary

Actions and vigils were held in an estimated 270 locations throughout Japan to mark the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. On March 10, an estimated 40,000 protesters demonstrated around Tokyo, including in front of the Prime Minister's official residence, ministry offices and Hibiya Park. Weekly anti-nuclear power rallies are still being held in Tokyo, as evidenced by a gathering of some 3,000 people outside the Prime Minister's office one recent cold February evening. The demonstrations are organised by the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes, a body made up of 13 groups as well as individual members.

In Fukushima Prefecture, thousands came out to demonstrate against nuclear power. On March 8, a citizens group called Fukushima Smile Project held its 31st anti-nuclear demonstration; the first was held last August.

Perhaps the largest protests were held in Taiwan. A March 9 protest in Taipei was attended by around 100,000 people, and tens of thousands participated in protests in other major cities. Taiwan is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the same tectonically active region as Japan. Taiwan's three existing nuclear power plants are situated near to the coast on active fault lines. A partly-constructed fourth plant (seventh and eighth reactors) is the subject of intense opposition. A referendum on the fourth reactor is expected to be held later this year, and opinion polls currently indicate majority opposition.

In Germany, around 28,000 protesters rallied at four locations on March 9, expressing solidarity with victims of the Fukushima disaster and demanding a halt to the reactors that are still operational in Germany. In Lower Saxony, many thousands took part in a training exercise based on the scenario that an accident had occurred at Grohnde Nuclear Power Plant. People wearing protective gear washed down the vehicles of evacuees from areas in the vicinity of the plant and students took their pets with them as they evacuated in the training exercise. Protests and solidarity events were held in at least 20 locations in Germany.

In Paris, about 20,000 anti-nuclear demonstrators formed a human chain. The event was jointly organised by 26 anti-nuclear groups. Participants gathered at 18 locations in the city and began to march hand in hand at the same time.

Gatherings in South Korea reflected concerns over nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. In Seoul on March 9, several thousand people remembered the victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and also called for denuclearisation of Asia and the world due to concerns about the growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula with a nuclear-capable North Korea. Among the participants were hibakusha who survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, as well as their descendants.

In London, crowds took to the streets on March 9. The protest was organised by the Sunflower Revolution, CND and Kick Nuclear. Demonstrators, including Japanese expats, wore sunflower garlands and carried an array of sunflower-covered flags and banners as they marched on London's streets.

The website links to actions that were held in many other countries including the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, India, Canada, the USA, Taiwan, and Mongolia.

Fukushima cancer death toll (Jim Green, Friends of the Earth, Australia)

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Fukushima second anniversary

Jim Green

An article in Nuclear Monitor #757 pointed to some preliminary estimates of the long-term cancer death toll from the Fukushima disaster, based on information about radiation releases and exposures (Green, 2013). Specifically, the article pointed to:

  • a "very preliminary order-of-magnitude guesstimate" of "around 1000" fatal cancers (von Hippel, 2011); and
  • a Stanford University study that estimates "an additional 130 (15–1100) cancer-related mortalities and 180 (24–1800) cancer-related morbidities" (Ten Hoeve and Jacobson, 2012).

Responding to the Ten Hoeve and Jacobson (TH&J) study, Beyea et al. (2013) arrive at a higher estimate. They state: "On balance, the net result of adjusting the TH&J numbers to account for long-term dose from radiocesium is uncertain, but the mid-range estimate for the number of future mortalities is probably closer to 1000 than to 125."

In a web-post, radiation biologist and independent consultant Dr Ian Fairlie (2013) estimates around 3,000 cancer deaths − about an order of magnitude lower than those from Chernobyl. Of course the Fukushima figures would be much higher if not for the fact that wind blew around 80% of the radioactivity from the Fukushima disaster over the Pacific Ocean.

A media release accompanying a World Health Organization (2013) report released in late February states:

In terms of specific cancers, for people in the most contaminated location, the estimated increased risks over what would normally be expected are:

  • all solid cancers − around 4% in females exposed as infants;
  • breast cancer − around 6% in females exposed as infants;
  • leukaemia − around 7% in males exposed as infants;
  • thyroid cancer − up to 70% in females exposed as infants (the normally expected risk of thyroid cancer in females over lifetime is 0.75% and the additional lifetime risk assessed for females exposed as infants in the most affected location is 0.50%).

For people in the second most contaminated location of Fukushima Prefecture, the estimated risks are approximately one-half of those in the location with the highest doses.

However the WHO report provides no information on the number of people in each of the exposed categories. It provides no information on total human radiation doses (a.k.a. collective doses) nor does it provide sufficient information for readers to be able to do those calculations. Thus there is no way of estimating the total number of cancer deaths.

The WHO report excludes radiation doses received by workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant. It also does not consider radiation doses within 20 kms of the Fukushima site, ostensibly because most people in the area were rapidly evacuated and because "such assessment would have required more precise data than were available to the panel." A report by Oda Becker (2012) on behalf of Greenpeace Germany found that people within the 20 km zone are likely to have received high radiation doses before evacuation − but Becker does not attempt to estimate the number of people who may have been affected.

Commenting on the WHO report, Ian Fairlie (2013b) states: "Despite the report containing some useful information (and some good members on its expert team) it fails in what should have been its most important task – i.e. to calculate collective doses to the people of Fukushima, to the people of Japan and to the people of the Northern hemisphere from the Fukushima accident. Indeed the phrase 'collective dose' does not appear in the report. ... Not only does the report not contain population doses, it appears to have been designed to prevent independent readers and scientists from doing their own calculations. For example, it tries to blind people with science by giving lots of estimates on organ doses (tables 4 and 5) but none on whole body doses, and lots of worker data (tables 6,7,8,9) but relatively little on public doses."

Contact: Jim Green is editor of the Nuclear Monitor and national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Australia. monitor[@]

A longer version of this article is posted at


Post-Fukushima Japanese Nuclear Energy Policy (Hideyuki Ban, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center)

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Fukushima second anniversary

Hideyuki Ban, Co-Director, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Tokyo.

Establishment of the Nuclear Regulation Authority
The accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant led to reflection on the inadequacy of nuclear safety regulation. Both the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), which was an external bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), as well as the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), which was under the Prime Minister's Office, were shut down and the new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) was established. Moreover, the NRA was put under the Ministry of the Environment (MoE). At long last, nuclear power regulation is an independent system separated from the promotion of nuclear power.


The NRA, which was founded in September 2012, has the authority to grant and withdraw permits and approvals related to nuclear power. Furthermore, the legislation establishing the NRA states that new scientific knowledge can be applied retrospectively to existing nuclear power stations.

As a response to the Fukushima accident, the NRA is in the process of deciding on new guidelines related to nuclear disaster prevention, new nuclear safety standards, and seismic safety standards. A decision on the new standards will be made by July 2013. Then, based on the new standards, each nuclear power plant will be investigated. After the investigations by the NRA are completed, and if approval from local governments is received, operation of the nuclear power plants can resume.

The NRA has focused on two points. One is whether or not as a counter-measure for severe accidents, a base-isolated building and a vent filter should be installed as a condition for the restart of the nuclear reactors. The power companies strongly demand that these conditions be omitted. With these conditions in place, the resumption of operation within the next three years would become impossible.

The other point is the problem of active faults. The Japanese government originally stated that there were no active faults within nuclear power plant sites. However, the evaluation regarding active faults changed in 2006. Whereas once it was sufficient to trace back 50,000 years, it was decided that the evaluation should go back 120,000 years. And now it has changed again to trace back 400,000 years in cases where a clear judgement cannot be made by tracing back 120,000 years.

At the same time, the government permitted active faults if they do not cross the important facilities of the nuclear power plant. If an active fault crosses a major facility, the NRA will not allow the nuclear power station to resume operation. At present, at several nuclear power plants (Ohi, Tsuruga, Shika, Monju Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, and Higashidori), it is being re-evaluated whether or not some major facilities cross an active fault. So far, investigations have been conducted at the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant and the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant. The experts in charge of the investigations acknowledge that there is the possibility of active faults crossing the plants. Despite strong opposition from the power companies, there is the possibility that due to the judgement on active faults several nuclear power plants will be decommissioned.

The attitude of local governments
In April 2012, TEPCO officially declared that it had permanently shut down the four reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power involved in the accident. However, TEPCO still has not decided on the phase out of reactors 5 and 6 at the plant. In opposition to this, the local government and municipalities of Fukushima are demanding that all 10 nuclear power reactors in Fukushima, including the four at the Fukushima Daini plant, be decommissioned.

At the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, in Shizuoka Prefecture, the mayor and council of the neighboring municipalities strongly oppose the resumption of operation of the reactors. The local government, Omaezaki City, welcomes a restart of operation − but since the opposition of neighbouring municipalities is continuing it is difficult for Chubu Electric Power Company to ignore these voices. Meanwhile, Murakami Tatsuya, Mayor of Tokai, declared that he will not approve the restart of the Tokai nuclear plant in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Tokai and Hamaoka both have great problems with emergency planning. The NRA decided to expand the evacuation area to 30 kms radius in the event of a serious accident. Thus Ibaraki governor, where the Tokai nuclear plant is located, has to make evacuation plans for 930,000 people, but the governor states that this is impossible. For Hamaoka an evacuation plan for 740,000 people has become necessary.

The failure of the Basic Energy Plan
The current Basic Energy Plan was worked out by the government in October 2010, half a year before the accident at Fukushima. The Plan was made obsolete by the 3/11 nuclear accident. The 2010 Plan was an outlook to 2030. It highlighted ''placing nuclear energy as a key resource and promoting the nuclear fuel cycle". The plan was to achieve Japan's international CO2 reduction commitment by promoting nuclear power as a key energy source.

This plan was due for revision in 2013, but because of the nuclear accident the revision process was started in 2011. Under the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Government, the Energy and Environment Council (EEC) was in charge of this. First, the EEC conducted a verification of the cost of nuclear power. Unlike previous calculations, the Council added costs such as accident treatment costs and research and development costs. Together, these amounted to 8.9 Yen/kWh. However, this number underestimates some costs.

In regard to the revision of the Basic Energy Plan, the EEC consulted with METI about the selection of energy alternatives and with the Japan Atomic Energy Commission about the selection of alternatives for a nuclear fuel cycle. The selected alternatives were the basis for a national debate.

Energy alternatives
The Fundamental Issues Subcommittee was established within METI and the 25 nominated members started to discuss the energy alternatives in October 2011. The author of this article was elected as a member and took part in the discussion within the Subcommittee. The question of how much electricity should be supplied by nuclear power became the centre of discussion.

After 27 meetings of the Subcommittee, three "Scenarios" were selected, based on the percentage of electricity generated by nuclear power by 2030: 0% (Zero-Scenario), 15% (15-Scenario) or 20-25% (20−25-Scenario). The percentage of renewable energy and thermal power was included in the Scenarios as well. The expectation was that economic growth will be 1% for the next 10 years and 0.8% for the following 10 years. It was assumed that electric power consumption in 2030 will be reduced by up to 10% from 2010. In the Zero-Scenario the ratio of renewable energy will rise to 35%, in the 15-Scenario to 30%, and in the 20−25-Scenario to 25−30% . The rest will be covered by thermal power generation.

National debate
The EEC, which received the report containing the three Scenarios from METI, presented the alternatives to the public and began a public comment program in June 2012. The national debate, which took place in July and August, included public comments, public hearings in 11 places throughout Japan hosted by the government, a deliberative poll, and participation of the government at meetings held by NGOs, industry groups, etc. Several mass media companies also conducted public opinion polls and these were taken into consideration as well.

The total number of public comments was 89,214. Of the comments received, 87% supported the Zero-Scenario and a total of 78% called for an immediate phase-out of nuclear power. At the public hearings, 68% of the participants supported the Zero-Scenario. Further, the result of the deliberative poll was that the more participants considered the issues the more they tended to support the Zero-Scenario. The opinion polls conducted several times by mass media companies showed that besides strong support for the Zero-Scenario, a lot of people also voted for the 15-Scenario.

As a result of the national debate, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which was the ruling party at this time, established the Energy and Environment Investigating Committee. On September 6, the DPJ officially announced its proposal, "Heading for a Nuclear Power Free Society", which became the formal policy of the DPJ. Based on this announcement, on September 14 the EEC released the Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment (New Strategy) in which it stated: "We will mobilise all policy resources, particularly for the "realisation of a green energy revolution," such a level as to even enable zero operation of nuclear power plants in the 2030's."

At a joint press conference on September 18, the three representative Japanese economic organisations − the Federation of Economic Organisations (Keidanren), the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) and the Japan Committee for Economic Development − strongly opposed the decision to phase out nuclear power. However, there are different corporate voices and views, such as the 400 entrepreneurs who established the Network of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs for a Sustainable Business and Energy Future in April 2012.

The confused nuclear fuel cycle
In the three Scenarios, only the Zero-Scenario called for an end to the reprocessing of nuclear fuel. In the other two Scenarios, both reprocessing and direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel are possible. However, discussion on the nuclear fuel cycle was lost in the debate on nuclear energy.

In the New Strategy concluded by the EEC, it says: "The Government will continue its present nuclear fuel cycle policy to engage in reprocessing projects, and will have discussions responsibly in communicating with related local governments including Aomori Prefecture and with the international community." In the New Strategy, decisions on the future of the Monju Fast Breeder and the start of research on direct disposal of nuclear waste were included.

Before the Fukushima accident, Japan's policy on spent nuclear fuel only focused on reprocessing and no research was conducted into direct disposal of spent fuel. However, this might have changed as a result of the discussions on nuclear fuel cycle alternatives. For example, in METI's budgetary request for 2013 the cost for research on direct disposal is included. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, in Aomori Prefecture, which is still not operating because of ongoing troubles, will be able to process the official capacity of 800 ton/year. The construction of a MOX fuel fabrication plant to consume the surplus plutonium produced by reprocessing has just started. Consequently, even with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in power, the trend from reprocessing to direct disposal of nuclear fuel will probably not change.

Japan Atomic Energy Commission
On October 31, 2012 the government established the Council for Revising the Atomic Energy Commission and the Council, in which the author of this article took part as a nominated member, started its investigation. At the sixth meeting on December 12, the work was summed up in a document called "Basic Point of View".

The debate showed that the AEC did not have authority. Practically, several ministries and government offices have jurisdiction over nuclear policy in Japan and the AEC just collects all the information. In the early days of nuclear power development the AEC had a leading role, but with the reorganisation of the central bureaucracy in 2001 this role fundamentally changed.

In the report it says that the function of the AEC is to guarantee the peaceful use of nuclear material. In a 2012 amendment to the Atomic Energy Basic Law, the purpose of nuclear energy was augmented to include the phrase "to contribute to national security". The DPJ government explained that this refers only to the physical protection of nuclear material, but due to the military implications of this wording the amendment was strongly criticised. There were concerns that the explanation given by the DPJ could change according to the political circumstances.

The report comments on the need for a revision of the Atomic Energy Basic Law. If we are heading for a nuclear phase out by the 2030s, it is necessary to eliminate the words "encouraging the research, development and utilisation of nuclear energy" from Article 1, which states the purpose of the law.

Change of Government
In the Lower House General Election in 2012, the DPJ suffered a crushing defeat and the LDP along with the New Komeito Party came into power. In the lead up to the election, many candidates and parties called for a nuclear phase out and nuclear power was one of the main issues. Anti-nuclear citizens' movements also set up a proposal for a basic law for a nuclear phase out. To some extent it was successful, but on the other hand, as the number of parties supporting a nuclear phase out grew, the votes were scattered between these parties.

After the election, the LDP announced that it will not follow the nuclear phase out policy. But given that the majority of the population still wants a nuclear-free society, the LDP-led government will not be able to ignore this completely.

The 10 reactors in Fukushima will be decommissioned, regardless of what TEPCO thinks. In Hamaoka and/or Tokai the opposition of surrounding local governments cannot be ignored. It will not be possible to forcibly restart the reactors just because there was a change of government. Further, there is the possibility that the outcome of the debate about active faults will lead to the decommissioning of more nuclear plants. Decommissioned plants cannot easily be replaced by new construction, as it is difficult to gain the acceptance of local governments for new plants after the Fukushima accident.

As a member of several committees, I felt that even after the Fukushima accident the influence of the so-called 'nuclear village' still exists. Therefore we who desire a nuclear phase out have to join together with different groups and people and continue to demand that those responsible for the accident be held accountable, and to make sure that the memories of the Fukushima accident do not fade away.

Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Tokyo. Email cnic[@]

Fukushima – Citizens' Actions, Two Years On (Meri Joyce)

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Fukushima second anniversary

Meri Joyce, International Coordinator, Peace Boat (Tokyo, Japan)

The second anniversary of the March 11 triple-disaster was marked in Japan and around the world by quiet reflection, looking back on the immense damage and suffering the triple disaster has caused, remembering the thousands of lives lost, and considering the deep impact made on the very foundations of Japanese society. Forty thousand people in Tokyo and many more around the nation also gathered the weekend before to call for an end to Japan's reliance on nuclear power, and for the Abe government to respect the majority wishes of the citizens for a nuclear phase-out − demonstrated for example in the huge turnouts at regular weekly demonstrations, and the tens of thousands of public comments submitted as part of the policy consultation process.

The real damage caused by the Fukushima disaster is not only that which can be simply measured numerically such as radiation doses, but also the more complex and ongoing social impacts. While it is true that at this stage there are no cases of deaths or diseases proven to be caused directly by radiation damage, any appearance of cancers and other diseases caused by radiation is likely to take several years and the future situation cannot be predicted.

The Japanese Government's Reconstruction Agency announced in August 2012 that more than 1,600 people passed away from "disaster related deaths" such as decreased physical condition following the disaster. Of these, almost half were from Fukushima Prefecture, demonstrating the extreme hardship local citizens were forced to bear as a result of the nuclear crisis. Many farmers and others who lost their livelihoods following the disaster have committed suicide. And even today, there are approximately 160,000 people living in evacuation both within and outside of Fukushima Prefecture, forced to live as internally displaced persons, with even their basic human rights neglected.

Such social and economic damage caused by the disaster is enormous, and difficult to fathom, let alone calculate. Little is known about the situation of workers at the nuclear power plants; agriculture, fisheries and dairy farming were dealt a devastating blow; and food safety is now a serious concern for all of Japan. On top of this, the financial and human costs for stabilising and decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant from now on will reach unprecedented amounts. These must all be understood as costs of the nuclear power plant accident.

Yet amidst these overwhelming difficulties, many individuals and citizens groups both in and outside of Fukushima have been struggling tirelessly to address these issues. While immediate activities were focused on emergency relief such as supporting evacuation centres, food provision and so on, the main focus now is on programs for the protection of children, radiation measuring and monitoring, health support, and information dissemination.

The misinformation, deception and confusion following the nuclear disaster has led to a deep-rooted lack of trust amongst citizens towards the government, and serious difficulties still exist regarding access to timely, accurate information. For this reason, groups of citizens have been coming together attempting to monitor and understand the actions of the government and other international agencies active in Fukushima, and ensure that their needs and demands are sufficiently reflected.

For example, in 2012 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that it would establish a research centre in Fukushima in 2013 focusing on decontamination and health management, and hold a Ministerial Meeting on Nuclear Safety in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture on December 15-17, 2012. Upon hearing this, a group of citizens from various backgrounds and different parts of the prefecture established the Fukushima Action Project (, which aims to: "raise awareness about these facts, and to ... enable those affected by the TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster to monitor the IAEA plans in Fukushima, and ensure that their demands are delivered and that the IAEA research activities are conducted to be for the benefit of the people."

Launched in October 2012, the Fukushima Action Project has held several public events together with international experts to share information about the background and track record of the IAEA, produced information booklets, and successfully lobbied the Japanese Government to hold information sessions for residents before the Ministerial Conference and display messages of local citizens at the conference venue, and meet with IAEA officials to convey their demands. While their capacity and resources are limited, such actions are serving the important purposes of demonstrating the importance of local agency, raising public awareness both amongst local residents and in the rest of Japan – in a situation where it is still very difficult for citizens from Fukushima to raise their voices critically − and finally, working towards acting as a watchdog for the IAEA and Japanese Government activities in the future.

Other significant examples include citizens' groups holding regular health consultation sessions, monitoring the activities of the Radiation Medical Science Centre for the Fukushima Health Management Survey, based at the Fukushima Medical University (, including seeking outside expert analysis and evaluation of the survey design and results, observing and broadcasting live online the committee meetings, and helping to provide opportunities for second opinions and medical check-ups for children and their concerned parents.

Since the first reports of radiation, citizens – despite having no prior experience or knowledge in such matters – also began to measure the air radiation level in Fukushima, followed by measurements of food items such as rice and vegetables. The Citizens' Radioactivity Measuring Station, established in July 2011 in Fukushima, has played a leading role in this and the health related efforts, continuing to conduct training, measurements, and provide information on internal and external exposure. There are now at least 26 such stations in Fukushima, and many have also been launched in other parts of Japan. Such efforts have also helped to lead the government to provide monitoring services for citizens and also called attention to discrepancies and problems to do with official measurements, and despite resource related and other difficulties continue to provide a vital service to the people of Fukushima. These efforts are largely conducted through the support of outside donors, many from overseas.

External support has, and continues to be, crucial for the citizens of Fukushima. A rural agricultural area, the region was not home to many civil society organisations or NGOs prior to the accident. Furthermore, radiation concerns meant that very few outside organisations, whether from other parts of Japan or overseas, could enter the area to provide aid and relief following the disaster. This issue continues today, where groups which have mobilised large numbers of volunteers to help in recovery activities are not able to conduct similar programs in Fukushima due to radiation contamination and health concerns.

Such limitations highlight the continuing urgent need for outside support, both in relation to resources but also provision of information, independent analysis, and solidarity for the people of Fukushima – both those still resident in the prefecture and also evacuees who have since moved to other parts of Japan. With the ongoing confusion surrounding information, including how to understand radiation and its effects, continued communication and interaction is crucial.

Furthermore, there is also a need to disseminate more information from Fukushima and Japan to the world, in order to enable such engagement to take place in a meaningful way. One effort towards this is the online portal "Fukushima on the Globe" ( set up earlier in 2013 by the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (, one of the few outside NGOs to set up a headquarters in Fukushima since the accident and which continues to play a lead role in coordination, communication and linking Fukushima citizens with individuals and groups in both the rest of Japan and around the world.

NGOs are also working to support Fukushima citizens in efforts to tell their stories throughout Japan and internationally. One such example is Mr Hasegawa Kenichi, a dairy farmer from Iitate Village, which was entirely evacuated following the nuclear disaster. Mr Hasegawa is this week in Australia for a speaking tour coordinated by Peace Boat and local Australian organisations.

Mr Hasegawa says: "I hope that hearing my story is an opportunity for people to understand more about the ongoing situation in Fukushima. It is important to make sure that what is happening in Fukushima is not forgotten. Two years have passed, but nothing has changed. We are still struggling not knowing what will happen in our future. And we are worried about the children. We are still living in evacuation. Will we be able to return in a few years from now? Ever at all? We have no idea. We must prevent any other place from suffering as Fukushima and Japan have. Human beings have opened a Pandora's Box which should not have been touched, and taken out this thing from uranium. Yet this was something which humans could not control. We need to work together to close this Pandora's Box."

While the media and public interest may be fading, the radiation and concerns of citizens are not. Although two years have passed, continued support and solidarity from medical and radiation experts, human rights advocates, and everyday citizens around the world is needed to deal with the ongoing situation in Fukushima, to protect the lives and health of the citizens there, and to prevent such a disaster from ever occurring elsewhere.

Contact: Meri Joyce, Peace Boat, email meri[@],


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

With the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster approaching, nuclear propagandists around the world are peddling the following dishonest arguments:

  • the nuclear accident was caused by a natural disaster and no-one is to blame;
  • the accident has not caused and will not cause any radiation-related deaths;
  • low-level radiation exposure is harmless;
  • the accident has caused a great deal of psychological suffering but that should be blamed on nuclear critics spreading 'radiophobia'; and
  • lessons will be learned from the accident and nuclear power will be even safer than it already is.

Let's take each of those arguments in turn.

An Act of God?
Spin: "It was therefore a sequence of extraordinary forces unleashed by an unprecedented natural disaster which caused the accident at the reactors, not any operating failure, human error or design fault of the reactors themselves." − Uranium junior Toro Energy, 2011,

The 3/11 earthquake and tsunami were Acts of God but the nuclear disaster was an Act of TEPCO. The July 2012 report of Japan's Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission concluded that the accident was "a profoundly man-made disaster that could and should have been foreseen and prevented" if not for "a multitude of errors and wilful negligence that left the Fukushima plant unprepared for the events of March 11" (NAIIC, 2012).

No radiation deaths?
Spin: "There have been no harmful effects from radiation on local people, nor any doses approaching harmful levels." − World Nuclear Association, January 2013,

Long-term studies are unlikely to demonstrate statistically-significant increases in cancer incidence because of the high incidence of cancers in the general population. Nevertheless, some preliminary scientific estimates of the long-term cancer death toll are available, based on information about radiation releases and exposures, and applying a risk estimate derived from the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) model.

These estimates include a "very preliminary order-of-magnitude guesstimate" of "around 1000" fatal cancers (von Hippel, 2011), and a Stanford University study that estimates "an additional 130 (15–1100) cancer-related mortalities and 180 (24–1800) cancer-related morbidities incorporating uncertainties associated with the exposure−dose and dose−response models used in the study" (Ten Hoeve and Jacobson, 2012).

Better estimates will emerge in future as more accurate (and updated) information becomes available. No doubt there will be higher estimates of the death toll as attempts are made to quantify the many and varied radiation exposure pathways.


The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommend against using collective radiation dose figures and LNT risk estimates to estimate total deaths because of the uncertainties of that approach (even though UNSCEAR itself uses the same approach to estimate up to 4,000 long-term cancer deaths among people who received the highest radiation doses from Chernobyl). (Chernobyl Forum, 2005)

The problem with the recommendation from UNSCEAR and the ICRP is that there is no other way to arrive at an estimate of the death toll from Fukushima given the limitations of epidemiological studies. By all means we should acknowledge uncertainties associated with the use of a risk estimate derived from the LNT model. As the 2006 report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences states, "combined analyses are compatible with a range of possibilities, from a reduction of risk at low doses to risks twice those upon which current radiation protection recommendations are based." (BEIR VII, 2006)

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences makes the important point that the true risks may be lower or higher than predicted by the LNT model − a point that needs emphasis and constant repetition because nuclear apologists routinely conflate uncertainty with zero risk.

Indirect deaths must also be considered, especially those resulting from the failure of TEPCO and government authorities to develop and implement adequate emergency response procedures. A September 2012 Editorial in Japan Times notes that 1,632 deaths occurred during or after evacuation from the triple-disaster; and 160,000 of the 343,000 evacuees were dislocated specifically because of the nuclear disaster (Japan Times, 2012). A January 2013 article in The Lancet notes that "the fact that 47% of disaster-related deaths were recognised in Fukushima prefecture alone indicates that the earthquake-triggered nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power plant caused extreme hardship for local residents." (Ichiseki, 2013)

Low-level radiation exposure is safe?
Spin: "If the most highly exposed person receives a trivial dose, then everyone's dose will be trivial and we can't expect anyone to get cancer." − US Health Physics Society,

The Health Physics Society redefines the problem of low-level radiation exposure as a non-problem involving "trivial" doses which are, by definition, harmless. It would be too kind to describe that as circular logic − it is asinine.

The overwhelming weight of scientific opinion holds that there is no threshold below which ionising radiation is without risk. For example:

  • The 2006 report of the Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation of the US National Academy of Sciences states: "The Committee judges that the balance of evidence from epidemiologic, animal and mechanistic studies tend to favor a simple proportionate relationship at low doses between radiation dose and cancer risk." It states that claims that low-level radiation exposure is beneficial are "unwarranted at this time". (BEIR VII, 2006)
  • A report by UNSCEAR (2011) states that "the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response for the mutational component of radiation-associated cancer induction at low doses and low dose rates."
  • And to give one other example (there are many), a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states: "Given that it is supported by experimentally grounded, quantifiable, biophysical arguments, a linear extrapolation of cancer risks from intermediate to very low doses currently appears to be the most appropriate methodology." (Brenner et al., 2003)

Spin: 'Radiophobia' spread by nuclear critics is responsible for most of the suffering resulting from the nuclear accident.

The spin is disingenuous but we should acknowledge a thin thread of truth − claims that the Fukushima disaster will lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths have no credibility and must be causing some distress in Japan. However, vastly more suffering can be attributed to Japan's 'nuclear village'. As the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission report notes, the Fukushima disaster was the result of "collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO" and evacuees "continue to face grave concerns, including the health effects of radiation exposure, displacement, the dissolution of families, disruption of their lives and lifestyles and the contamination of vast areas of the environment." (NAIIC, 2012)

Lessons learned?
Spin: Lessons will be learned from the Fukushima accident and improvements made. Nuclear power − already safe − will be safer still.

If the nuclear industry learned lessons from past mistakes, the Fukushima disaster wouldn't have happened in the first place. Too often, lessons are learned but then forgotten, or learned by some but not by those who really need to know, or learned too late, or learned but not acted upon. The Chernobyl accident certainly led to improvements but complacency set in as memories of the disaster faded, and the same can be expected in the aftermath of Fukushima.

A report by the IAEA and the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency covering events from 2002-2005 states that "corrective measures, which are generally well-known, may not reach all end-users, or are not always rigorously or timely applied" and "operating experience feedback needs to be much improved in the international arena." (IAEA/NEA, 2006)

There is no clearer example of the industry's failure to learn than Japan's nuclear industry. Countless subsequent accidents, incidents and scandals would have been averted had the lessons of the fatal 1999 Tokaimura accident been properly learned and acted upon (and Tokaimura wouldn't have happened if earlier lessons about the need for adequate operator training had been acted upon). In 2002 and again in 2007, details of several hundreds safety breaches and data falsification incidents were revealed, stretching back to the 1980s (FoE, 2012). But nothing changed.

It has become increasingly obvious over the past decade that greater protection against seismic risks was necessary − especially in the aftermath of the July 2007 earthquake that caused radioactive water spills, burst pipes and fires at TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. But the nuclear utilities didn't want to spend money on upgrades and they weren't forced to act.

Nuclear apologists have learned the wrong lessons altogether. Dr William Sacks (2011) argues that an important lesson from Fukushima is the need to convince people that low-level radiation exposure is harmless. Rod Adams (2012) states: "The lesson that the world needs to take away from Fukushima is that it is okay to build hundreds or thousands of new nuclear power stations and to place them quite close to the backyards of millions of people."

Tell that to the family and friends of the Fukushima farmer whose suicide note read: "I wish there wasn't a nuclear plant."

Adams, Rod, 2012, 'Least informed piece on Fukushima yet',
BEIR VII − US National Academy of Sciences, Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation, 2006, 'Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2',
Brenner, David, et al., 2003, 'Cancer risks attributable to low doses of ionizing radiation: Assessing what we really know', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 25, 2003, vol.100, no.24, pp.13761–13766,
Chernobyl Forum, 2005, 'Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts',
FoE − Friends of the Earth, Australia, 2012, 'Japan's Nuclear Scandals and the Fukushima Disaster',
Hirsch, Helmut et al., 2005, "Nuclear Reactor Hazards: Ongoing Dangers of Operating Nuclear Technology in the 21st Century",
Ichiseki, Hajime, 19 January 2013, 'Features of disaster-related deaths after the Great East Japan Earthquake', The Lancet, Vol.381, Issue 9862,
IAEA/NEA, 2006, 'Nuclear Power Plant Operating Experiences from the IAEA/NEA Incident Reporting System 2002−2005',
Japan Times, 19 September 2012, Editorial: 'Slow road to reconstruction',
MIT − Massachusetts Institute of Technology Interdisciplinary Study of Nuclear Power, 2003,
NAIIC, 2012, 'The Official Report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission',
Sacks, William, 2011, 'Lessons About Nuclear Energy from the Japanese Quake and Tsunami',
Ten Hoeve, John E., and Mark Z. Jacobson, 2012, 'Worldwide health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident', Energy and Environmental Science, June,
UK Royal Society, October 2011, 'Fuel cycle stewardship in a nuclear renaissance',
UNSCEAR, 2011, 'Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Ionising Radiation 2010',
von Hippel, Frank, 2011, 'The radiological and psychological consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi accident', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September/October, vol.67 no.5,

More information on nuclear hazards
Hirsch et al. (see above).
M. V. Ramana, 2011, 'Beyond our imagination: Fukushima and the problem of assessing risk', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
Mycle Schneider et al., 2007, 'Residual Risk: An Account of Events in Nuclear Power Plants Since the Chernobyl Accident in 1986',
International Panel on Fissile Materials, 2010, 'The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Energy', Frank von Hippel (ed.),
Antony Froggatt, 2006, 'Potential Environmental Risks of the Next Generation of Nuclear Power Plants',

Source and contact: Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Australia.[@]