Children's lives after Fukushima
At the end of October 2014, I visited the Futaba area in Fukushima Prefecture, observed classes, met with the children and learned of the distress in the schools from teaching staff, including principals and assistant principals, and also from related officials such as the local superintendant of schools.
In April 2011 (April is the beginning of the academic year in Japan), a total of 70 schools in Fukushima Prefecture were temporarily closed because they were unable to restart, or had been temporarily relocated. Of these, 38 were elementary schools, 20 were middle schools, 11 were high schools and one was a special-needs school. With the exception of one elementary school, all of these temporary closures or relocations were due to the nuclear power station explosions. A total of 8,013 students and 1,582 school teachers and staff were affected.
Three years later, in April 2014, schools which are still not able to restart and remain temporarily closed are four elementary schools and two middle schools run by Namie Town. The teachers and staff have been reassigned to "additional posts" in different schools all across the prefecture. The number of Fukushima schools that have returned to the original location and have reopened is 15 elementary schools and eight middle schools. Besides these, 19 elementary schools and ten middle schools have borrowed classrooms in other schools, have been closed through amalgamation with other schools, or have reopened by relocating temporarily to private facilities.
Many of the schoolchildren who remained in Fukushima Prefecture are living in temporary housing and are spending an hour to 90 minutes each way in school buses getting to and from school. They leave their homes before 7 a.m. and return in the early evening or sometimes after nightfall. Fatigue is accumulating among the younger elementary school children. Sports activities are limited due to lack of or insufficient school yards. Moreover, the long commuting times mean that all kinds of activities cannot be carried out satisfactorily. Some of the teachers and school staff commute more than 70 km each way to their schools. This was supposed to happen for only one year, but already more than three years have passed. The teachers lamented the fact that there does not seem to be any end to this situation in sight.
− Yukio Yamaguchi, Co-director, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (Tokyo). Abridged from Nuke Info Tokyo No. 164, Jan/Feb 2015, www.cnic.jp/english/newsletter/nit164/nit164articles/01_fukushima.html
"New" Japan Atomic Energy Commission inaugurated
Revisions to Japan's Act for the Establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission were made in June 2014 and went into effect on December 16. That day, the chairman remarked, "We are launching new Atomic Energy Commission activities." Never mind that it is called "new," the three committee members it comprises were appointed and began their activities in April, prior to the revisions. This is a strange way to arrange affairs, but Japan's government has become more disorderly since December 2012, when the Abe administration came into power, so this is par for the course.
The Atomic Energy Commission was shrunk from five members to three, and its operations were downsized on the basis of reconsiderations made by the previous administration, which we explained in NIT 152. Even though the administration changed hands, legal revisions were made in accordance with the previous administration's views.
Two of the three commission members are clearly supportive of nuclear energy, and they make no effort to hide it. The third specializes in uses of radiation. While she does not actively promote nuclear power, she expresses her ideas poorly. The chairman, Yoshiaki Oka, is a nuclear engineer and is on record in "Chairman's Remarks" at the beginning of his term as saying, "It is important that the excellent nuclear technology our country has cultivated and the hard-earned experience gained from TEPCO's accidents in Fukushima be utilized not only in Japan, but worldwide. Japan should lead the world in the field of nuclear energy."
Instead of creating new general principles for nuclear policy as the previous commission did, the Atomic Energy Commission drafted "Basic Concepts." The "Observations Used in Drafting the Basic Concepts" presented by Chairman Oka at the December 24 meeting of the commission, contains the statement, "How about a motto of ‘Leading the World' (in top-notch R&D and world-class projects)?"
Vice-Chairman Nobuyasu Abe hails from Japan's foreign Affairs Ministry, with expertise in disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, but he exhibits a surprisingly low level of awareness. At the annual meeting of the Japanese branch of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management on November 22, 2014, Vice-Chairman Abe blithely remarked, "It is said that the increasing amounts of plutonium are a problem, but even if money in a bank increases, the risk of theft stays the same. This is a makeshift solution, but the amount of plutonium in storage is tallied at the end of the year, so it would be okay to begin reprocessing in January and use the plutonium before the end of the year so that the amount is reduced by year end."
Reprinted from Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Nuke Info Tokyo No. 164, Jan/Feb 2015, www.cnic.jp/english/newsletter/nit164/nit164articles/07_nw164.html
Areva's 2014 revenue down 8%
Areva says its 2014 revenue was €8.34 billion (US$9.5 billion), down 8% from the previous year.1 The company is expected to post a 2014 loss of at least €1 billion, perhaps much more.2 Areva CEO Philippe Knoche said: "The year of 2014, particularly the second half, was a hard time for Areva."3
Areva's mining group took the largest hit in 2014, with revenue down €420 million (US$479 million) on the previous year, with sales volumes down 28%. Revenue also fell at the back end of the nuclear cycle, with a 12.1% drop in the business area dealing with spent fuel and reprocessing.3
Areva warned that it expects to book significant write-downs of assets in its 2014 accounts. The company did not elaborate, but the troubled EPR reactor project in Finland is a likely candidate.1
Areva is reportedly drafting a plan to let EDF take a stake in some of its units (namely reactor exports and spent fuel reprocessing), thus providing a capital boost. The French state has an 87% stake in Areva and 84.5% in EDF.4
EU court adviser says German nuclear tax compatible with EU law
A German nuclear fuel tax is compatible with EU law, a European court adviser said on February 3, in a preliminary decision that could thwart efforts by utilities to recover billions of euros. The provisions of EU law "are not against such a tax", the adviser to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) concluded. The Court follows the opinions of court advisers in a majority of cases.
Last year, a Hamburg court declared the fuel tax illegal in another preliminary ruling, but requested advice from the ECJ. So far, German utilities have paid about 4.6 billion euros ($5.2 billion) in nuclear fuel taxes.
Vietnam delays nuclear reactor program, again
The government of Vietnam has pushed back the date for breaking ground on its first nuclear reactor by two years from 2017 to 2019. This delay comes on top of an earlier postponement that set the 2017 date. Other reports give a 2020−2022 start date.
Hoang Anh Tuan, head of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Agency, said the delay is necessary because the government isn't ready to manage the project, nor does it have a mature and independent nuclear safety and regulatory oversight agency.
Russia's Rosatom has a contract to build the first two of four planned 1200 MW VVER nuclear reactors at a Ninh Thuan, a coastal site. Most of the financing will be provided by a Rosatom loan. Vietnam also has an agreement with Japan Atomic Power to plan the development of a second 2200 MW power station in the same region.
The latest issue of Nuclear Resister is out now, with information about anti-nuclear and anti-war related arrests and peace prisoner support. Stories featured in the latest issue include:
- Villagers and supporters on Jeju Island (South Korea) were arrested and injured during a crackdown and demolition of a protest site.
- On January 29, Eve Tetaz and Nashua Chantal stood trial before US District Judge Stephen Hyles in Columbus, Georgia. The two had crossed onto Ft. Benning during the annual demonstration to close the School of the Americas. Tetaz received a $5,000 fine while Chantal was sentenced to five years of probation.
- On January 5, four protesters were arrested inside RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire while protesting the continuing use of armed drones.
- Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, turned herself in to the federal prison camp in Lexington, Kentucky on January 23. She will serve a three-month sentence for her June 1, 2014 protest of drone killings at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
- On January 17, activists from the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action blocked the main gate and staged a mock funeral to "mourn the death of the earth after nuclear annihilation" at the US Navy's West Coast Trident nuclear submarine base. Ten men and women were removed from the roadway and arrested.
- On January 17, peace activists stood in front of the Lockheed Martin complex in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Five people blocked the main driveway entrance and were later cited for disorderly conduct by the police.
- On January 10, Witness Against Torture and Code Pink marked the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Prison with a torture protest on Dick Cheney's lawn. Two protesters were arrested on trespassing charges.
- On January 16, a judge found Henry Stoever not guilty of trespass during a protest at the Honeywell nuclear weapons plant in Kansas City, Missouri. The plant makes, procures and assembles 85% of the non-nuclear parts of nuclear weapons.
To read more and to subscribe to the Nuclear Resister e-bulletin or the print edition, visit: www.nukeresister.org
Meanwhile, anti-militarists are organising a mass lockdown at the Burghfield nuclear arms facility in the UK on March 2. The blockade is part of the non-violent direct action and campaigning against a new nuclear arms program. British nuclear arms are produced, maintained and stored in an Atomic Weapons Establishment in the village of Burghfield, located near the city of Reading. AKL, the Union of Conscientious Objectors Finland, is organising a bus trip to the event from Finland, picking up passengers from various cities including Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg and the Hague.